Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Happy Hollandaise!

Hey sorry for the bad Christmas/food pun but I've had one too many bottles of Sapporo and Sake. Just came back from a stellar sushi dinner at Sushi Zo and I'm about to pass out. Anyway, I wanted to thank all the fellow LA foodbloggers and loyal readers for supporting my low-budget site. I've had a blast this year. I'm leaving for Hong Kong and Taiwan this week and have a plethora of food to eat and write about. Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year. Let's give it up for food!!! As always, thank you for reading. Regards, ED&BM. Read more!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Salmon Makes For A Good Snack

Happy Saturday everyone. Just wanted to post on a snack I had one Saturday. The difference between raw and cooked salmon is night and day. Cooked salmon becomes fishy and dry. But it's the best when raw... so sweet and somewhat similar in fattiness/softness to hamachi (yellowtail).

I think salmon sushi is probably the most beautiful looking out of the common dishes. Ikura (salmon roe) is also nice to look at. The lines in salmon remind me of the marbling on a nice juicy steak. Mmm. Sometimes when I'm at Mitsuwa or Marukai, I'm tempted to buy a block of salmon and just eat it like a sandwich.

I got this block at Mitsuwa for like $5 and yielded nearly 18 small pieces of nigiri sushi. I put too much wasabi in between the rice and fish. Nose-hair fire!

What's your favorite kind of sushi? Read more!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cha Gio Recipe - Good Things Come in Pairs

Back in the Sichuan hot pot posting, I explained a little about Chinese 'hot air' and how you should balance out the scalding hot food with cool drinks. The chinese feel it is a sub-category of the 'yin and yang' ideology – that everything has a complementary opposite. If you're tormenting your body with fried chicken on a hot, blistering day, your body is going to whine and moan... "give me a freaking cold drink right now." If not, you won't be doing the body any good. There are endless things that work well in pairs in our universe. But the only one I, and you as a food blog-reader, really care about is food. And the 'yin and yang' ideology somewhat applies. What's a peanut butter sandwich without jelly, carne asada tacos without a
Jarritos bottled-soda
, franks without beans, a chili dog without a roll of toilet paper, etc.

This brings us to one of my favorite sidekicks of Vietnamese pho. At places like Golden Deli or Saigon Flavor, it is rare to see a table occupied solely with piping hot bowls of pho. Sharing the real estate is 'cha gio' of course, Vietnamese egg rolls. Eat one egg roll, eat some pho, eat another egg roll, kill the bowl of pho. It's a rollercoaster ride of delicious food. Oh the joy.

I've been wanting to make 'cha gio' for a while but could never find the right skin at the markets. The only kind available to non-chefs were Chinese-style egg roll skins. When these are fried, you don't get the nice bursting skin on egg rolls I've grown to love. After a few minutes of staying out in room temperature, they become flat and soggy. Not so good. Golden Deli, Saigon Flavor and Vietnam House are all San Gabriel-based sister restaurants which make my favorite egg rolls. Pho 79 in Alhambra is damn good too. I think most pho restaurants make the majority of their profit from egg rolls because the ingredients are cheap.

One day while I was at Golden Deli, I decided to approach the owner and ask him. I had heard before that the recipes within these three restaurants were cryptic and top-secret. You basically had to marry into the family to get your hands on the blueprints. I can see it already... a big, cult-like ritual inducting a new family member in. Heart-pounding bongos and drums banging... the tempo increasing as the main event nears, flames rising from pits, snakes wrapped around vines, people with face paint circling around you in attack mode. The whole nine yards. For these egg rolls and pho recipes, it might even be worth a big chicken-bone-through-the-nose piercing and a ritual neutering.

Me: "Excuse me?"
GD Guy: "Yes."
Me: "Do you guys make your own cha gio skin?"
GD Guy: *stares at me*
Me: "These are the best. I'd like to --"
GD Guy: "It's rice paper."
Me: "Oh. I thought you guys made your own skin."
GD Guy: "No, just soak the rice paper in some warm water for a few seconds. Let it air really quickly, and roll your filling."
GD Guy: "Nice."

Quite painless. For a minute, I thought I had struck a wrong nerve. He knew very well that I wouldn't be able to replicate his prized dish. Course not. But it wouldn't hurt to try.

I headed over to 99 Ranch and bought 1.5 lbs. of ground pork, wood ear mushrooms, bean thread vermicelli, romaine lettuce, red/green chilis, mint and rice paper (7" size). Total cost... under $10. You can make at least 25 of these.


Party time:

(1) First soak the bean thread vermicelli and wood ear mushrooms in separate bowls of water. Both come in dried form, water rejuvenates them. Should be ready to go in 10 minutes. Chop the bean threads into 1/4" to 1/2" cuts and roughly mince the mushrooms.

(2) Use salt and white pepper to season the ground pork. Add a little bit of Shao Xing rice wine in to tenderize the pork. Add vermicelli and mushrooms (carrots are optional) and mix everything well. Let them sit and party for about 10 minutes.



(3) Prepare a bowl or pot of hot water for soaking the rice paper. Dip the rice paper in for at least 10 seconds and pull it out, laying it flat on a cutting board. Place about 2 tablespoons of filling on the rice paper and fold it like origami. Bring the sides in, bottom over the filling and keep rolling. Lost yet?

That's why I've prepared a quick "Cha Gio For Dummies" instruction manual. The phallic/fecal-shaped representation of the pork filling is purely a combination of midnight blogging and lethargy.) Everyone knows the Japanese are masters of Origami, but its the Vietnamese that have adapted clever techniques of making paper cranes into digestible food. That's good thinking. I'll take an egg roll over a heart-shaped dollar bill any day.


"Cha Gio For Dummies" Manual


Figure A - This is based on 7" rice paper. Place about 2 tablespoons of filling and shape it into a rectangle as shown in the diagram.

Figure B - What appears to be an angry baseball with eyes and eyebrows is actually Figure B. Grab A and B flaps and fold them right where the filling is placed, as straight as possible. Careful not to mash the filling.

Figure C - While holding A and B with your fingers, use your thumbs to grab part C of the rice paper and fold it over the meat and A & B flaps. Tuck flap C right under the filling, making sure the rice paper isn't loose.

Figure D - As you start to roll everything, make sure you're tucking the filling into the skin. The egg roll shouldn't be loose nor super-tight. Because your soaking the rice paper in water, there is no need for an egg wash because the rice paper will adhere to itself.

Back to the cooking.

(4) Heat up a pan, pot or deep fryer with vegetable or canola oil over medium heat. Never use EVOO – too low of a burning point. Make sure the oil is hot enough by dropping in a piece of soaked rice paper. If the oil is TOO HOT, air will fill in the egg roll and separate the rice paper from the filling and you'll lose the familiar shape of an egg roll.

(5) These take a long time to cook, probably 12 minutes. The skin may still be somewhat white yet edible. If you can achieve the golden look, all the better.


These tasted so good. The skin was super crispy and the filling had a good ratio of meat to mushrooms/vermicelli. I've left out a few things in my original recipe that are unnecessary, like fish sauce and sugar in the filling. The condiments should be doing all the work. Next time, I will try adding grated jicama and minced shrimp. I simply wrapped them in romaine lettuce, sliced cucumber, mint and dipped it in freshly made 'nuoc cham' (fish sauce mixed with water, sugar, chilis, garlic and lemon). I ate about 8 of them and suffered minor blistering on the roof of my mouth because they were so damn hot. Well worth the agony. Thanks for reading. Read more!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dear Green Onions... Get Well Soon

Sad day, green onions from Salinas, California have been traced with strands of E. coli (Escherichia coli). Several people have fallen ill in the Northeast from eating green onions. Taco Bell has removed green onions from all of their 5,800 restaurants. Taco Bell is also investigating the facility that provides other produce for their food. Ready Pac Produce supplies Taco Bell with lettuce, tomatoes and onions. I'm sure most of you have heard of Ready Pac salads. They are the ones that sell the 'triple-washed' packages. I've never trusted that. Always wash vegetables efore eating.

E. coli along with other diseases such as Hepatitis C come from food handlers that DO NOT wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Not #1... #2! Nasty.

Yesterday, I was at 99 Ranch and walked by the green onions in the produce section. I stared at them and shook my head in pity. I cannot survive without green onions. I was planning on making Chinese beef noodle soup this week but MUST have green onions. I'm sure they are safe to buy, but I'm not going to risk getting ill until its clear. Just wanted to make sure everyone was aware of this issue. Green onions... please come back soon haha. Read more!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Din Tai Fung & The Dumpling Factory - Din Tai Fung, Arcadia

In a land far far away (far, if you're from the SF Valley and Orange County), there exists a place that beckons people from all over Southern California to experience its culinary treasures - the Valley of San Gabriel. It's a long and arduous 45-minute journey through wicked, poisonous smog, reckless face visor-wielding and glove-wearing drivers speeding at a whopping 25 mph and seas of red lights. The Valley of San Gabriel is heaven for the hungry and sees tens of thousands of travelers every week. Here, fragrant orchids smell of Vietnamese egg rolls. Lush forests are abundant with dim-sum berries. Grassy hills made of Crispy Beef Chow Mein and Beef Chow Fun. Flowing rivers filled with the wonderful Vietnamese pho broth. (Ok, this is getting gross. But just play along.) And there is one place that produces a highly coveted treasure: the Xiao Long Bao (shao loong bao - which literally means 'little basket buns'.). A treasure so powerful and delicious that it causes midgets, centaurs, leprechauns and unicorns to do the riverdance to, in unison. A place many consider as the Chinese version of Pink's, Tito's, Philippe's and the like. It's called the Din Tai Fung factory and its known for its skill in making delectable Xiao Long Bao. Xiao Long Bao comes in the form of a juicy, steamed pork dumpling. So juicy that if one were to eat hot off the plate, could cause serious burns/blisters in your mouth. One must not be so greedy when encountering this treasure.

Although XLB's come from the Southern provinces of China, including Shanghai, DTF is a Taiwanese establishment. Din Tai Fung originated from Taiwan in 1969 and has graciously offered its treasures to people all over, including locations in Canada, Japan, Singapore, Korea and Indonesia. Fortunately, my trip to the DTF factory is under 20 minutes, not a 16-hour flight. The original founder of DTF was a man named Yang Bing Yi. He ran an oil business at a shop called Heng Tai Fung, but was soon forced to find other means of making money b/c of the introduction of pre-canned oil. And dumplings would soon be his key to success. He opened up DTF in respect to the man who gave him the job at Heng Tai Fung and helped keep his family afloat.

My friend SK and I finally decided to make the journey up to the DTF factory and experience world-class dumplings. When we got there, we found ourselves in a crowd of about 50 people, as well as the midgets, centaurs, leprechauns and unicorns doing the riverdance. They were annoying. I walked up to the hostess and put my name down for two.

Me: "Hi, table for two, please."
DTF: "45 minute wait. Is okay?"
Me: "Sure."
DTF: "Take this menu and make order!"


I walked out and joined the disgruntled crowd. They provide seats and parasols so people don't pass out. I came here during the summer and it was punishing. Anyway, we made our order and held on to it. ( They provide english translations too.) 45 minutes later, we were called on the loud, muffled Aiwa-microphone.

As soon as we walked into the DTF factory, our eyes widened with amazement. For those that haven't seen the inside, you're in for a killer treat. I was able to sneak in my camera.

Wow, XLB's are really harvested in trees and plants. I always thought they were made by humans with ground pork, ginger, green onions and freshly-made wrappers and then steamed in metal/bamboo baskets. Guess I was wrong. Amazing!

We were careful not to walk under the XLB tree in fear of them dropping down on us. It would be tragic to die in this juicy manner.


We saw many Oompa Loompas breaking out into chorus while harvesting the XLB's. Here they are doing a routine to a techno-remix of Celine Dion's "Titanic" song. Awful.

A close-up of a greedy customer. Proof that XLB's can be addicting and turn you into a wild beast. She thought you could chew XLB like gum and quickly snagged it off another group's table. Little biatch!

This brat was throwing XLB's all over the place. The XLB's exploded against the walls like water balloons. Din Tai Fung was furious and immediately had the boy caned. If I'm ever in a food fight, I'm running straight for XLB's aka Chinese Pork Juice Grenades.

Because the sun shines more brightly in the Valley of San Gabriel, it is advised that you equip yourself with one of these face visors. Only $5.99. Warning: wearing these will result in bad driving, a rather notorious characteristic of the SGV.

I was able to sneak into one of the rooms where they prepare the harvested XLB's. Here, they seem to be singing a song as they work, but it's in Taiwanese. So I'm helping you sing along by providing a karaoke version with the bouncing ball. Oh joy.

Another look at the meticulous preparation. DTF is pricier than most Chinese restaurants but they have to pay the 15+ servers and 25+ kitchen workers. We finally found a grassy area to sit and an Oompa Loompa came out with our order right away. That's the good thing about submitting an order early. You wait long to get in, but eat right away. Works both ways.

DTF's Xiao Long Baos are average in size. The ones pictured here are the standard pork dumplings. 10 pieces for $6.50. Most Chinese places are 10 for $4.50. The crab version at DTF is 10 pieces for $8.00 but I never order those. Something about the crab meat that soaks up all of the juices.

There are a few ways I've seen people eat the XLB. Your main concern is not to tear any of the dumpling skin or the guts will come out and you'll get boo'd by your fellow diners.

The Crater Technique
This is common of first-time XLB eaters. They'll take a bite of the XLB, like a crater-sized bite, learn that it's hot and drop all the juice over the plate. Lost cause.

The Double Meal Technique
Carefully select your XLB with chopsticks, only grabbing by the 'head' of the dumpling. Since it is twisted there, the skin is sturdier. Take a little bite on the side and pour the juice into the spoon. If you can get 20-50% of the spoon filled with pork juice, you've got a good XLB. I've been to places where it was completely dry - so disappointing! Next, you drink the soup and dip the XLB in the vinegar/ginger provided and devour it. See, 2 meals in 1.

The Commando Technique
This is the way I eat it. In order to do this, you have to let the XLB's cool down in the steamer. After like 3 minutes, you're good to go. I add vinegar and ginger slices on the spoon, carefully place the XLB in the spoon and eat it all once. Boom! Pork Grenade!

This next dish is what I think separates DTF from other Chinese restaurants. They offer this special dish only on the weekends. It's the same concept of XLB's, only they give you 20 mini versions of it. In addition, a beautiful bowl of chicken broth with shredded egg and green onions. You're supposed to put the XLB in the spoon, dip the spoon into the bowl for soup and take one bite. An even bigger pork grenade. I love it. $10 I believe.

The total damage with 2 baskets of XLB's (regular and crab) + 2 side dishes came out to like $23 without tip. Still not bad. I like DTF but it's not the best XLB I've ever eaten. There are a few places on Valley Blvd. that serve decent XLB's for much less. Green Village and Mei Long Village in San Gabriel aren't bad. One of my favorite XLB places is in New York, at a place called Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown. And they serve you XLB's on steroids. Each one of these dumplings can fill 1.5-2 spoonfuls of pork juice. They are simply massive and require small tongs to pick them up. I think they sell 6 pieces for $6. Thanks for reading.

Din Tai Fung
1108 South Baldwin Ave.
Arcadia, California 91007
(626) 574-7068
www.dintaifungusa.com Read more!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sichuan Hot Pot & the Chinese Ideology of "Hot Air"

The winter season is something everyone looks forward to. Things get fuzzier and people are nicer during the holiday seasons. Some people can't wait for the first drop of snow and go boarding/skiing. Fashionistas start hopping on websites for online clothing shopping. People with nothing better to do run around the neighborhood, harassing civilians with annoying christmas songs. But for the Chinese people, winter only means one thing: hot pot. In chinese, we call it 'huo guo' which literally means 'fire pot', or 'da bean low' in cantonese. The concept of hoarding over a pot with a smorgasbord of fresh vegetables, seafood and thinly-sliced meat originated in Mongolia. Just imagine big, nomadic people in armor with shields/swords throwing a campfire sans marshmallows. It is absolutely freezing in the desert! Korean-style bbq and Japanese yakiniku bbq also originated from Mongolia. They would grill meat on their metal shields and use their helmets to boil soup. Genius. The same shield that is stained of blood also serves as a culinary gadget. Maybe it adds flavoring.

My college friends and I get together once in a while to shoot the sh*t and we love to do it over a big communal meal with beer. I headed over to 99 Ranch Market to acquire the goods. I love buying stuff for big meals. Everyone stares at you like your a pig because you're pushing around a 100-lb cart of grub. Oink.

Every one has their preference of hot pot ingredients. You can pretty much put anything in there. We ended up getting nappa cabbage, enoki/oyster/king/maitake mushrooms, egg dumplings, fish and pork balls, vermicelli, shrimp, tofu, quail eggs and about 6 lbs of meat for the 10 of us. I of course, bought way too much food. The nice thing about hot pot is that everything will be boiled and is pretty much good for you.

We had to kill some time to let the water boil in the 4 pots we had. I grabbed some of the fish balls we had and skewered them. I made a quick marinade using satay bbq sauce, soy sauce, white pepper, sugar and water and basted the fish balls. Threw them on the grill for a few minutes till they were lightly charred. Mmmm, these were so good. Just how I had them in Hong Kong.

While I grilled, I had a cool bottle of Taiwan Beer. I love the name - so simple and generic. Although the label proclaims it as World Class Beer, I think it's a little too light. Very crisp and refreshing though, like Korean Hite beer. This still tastes better than Tsingtao beer which I think of as bottled urine.

There are many different sauces you can use for the hot pot. I just do the cantonese style which is pretty much the same as the fishball marinade. I take 2-3 tablespoons of the satay bbq sauce and add one raw egg, soy sauce and a little sugar. Mix that up and you're good to go. For a nice kick, add thinly sliced green onions, cilantro and green chilis. So good! Hot pot can be done with plain old water. After about an hour of cooking the meats/seafood/veggies, you'll get a nice rich broth which can be seasoned with salt for soup. Talk about double dinner in one sitting. We just used a 1 can of chicken broth and 2 cans of water and added shrimp and daikon into the pot. You can start eating once the water boils.


Here are two of the three platters we compiled. The sliced beef, shrimp and vermicelli are not pictured.


Because we had four pots, we decided to designate two for the Lava Pot, also known as "Sichuan-style Hot Pot" (Ma-Lah-Huo-Guo). 'Ma' means numbing and 'lah' means spicy. And that's exactly what it is. Ladies and gentleman, you are looking at the inside of a volcano. Sichuan-style hot pot uses a lot of red chili peppers and spices. And lemme tell you, it's lethal. My friend and I took a whiff of the broth and immediately teared. Our nose hairs felt like they were just singed. Wow, some potent stuff. But it tasted fabulous. My friend W was at the market and didn't know which flavoring pack to buy and had to call his mom up. She told him to look for the bottle with the "ugly old woman" on it. Some of you may know about Chinese packaging. It's so vain of the creators to smack their face on the label. But thanks to the "ugly old woman", we loved it. The spiciness of her sauce must reflect her self-hatred for the lack of beauty. Caution: Sichuan-style hot pot will cause the "Ring of Fire" or "Sting Ring" if you know what I mean haha.



It was time to start and everyone dove in for the food. Within 15 minutes, you can hear people sniffling and see them wipe sweat off their foreheads. That Sichuan pot was destroying us. One of my friends filled up a 64-oz cup of water and I ended up refilling my water cup 3 times. After about 45 minutes, I started to slow down. My stomach was hurting with goodness and my mouth felt a little numb and swollen.

I was starting to have the symptoms of "yeet hay" or "huo qi da" which literally means "hot air". Although there is no medical explanation for this in English, the term is widely-used in Chinese. Some people say it's similar to a canker sore but really it is an imbalance in the immune system. The Chinese believe in "yin and yang" which is the ideology that everything has a complementary opposite. And it applies to food as well. Ever eat fried chicken or something oily on a hot day? Yeah, you don't feel too good after that. Chinese will balance out a hot meal with a cold cup of tea and eat a cold meal when it's hot. Makes sense. They will rarely eat hot, fried food on a hot day. Symptoms of 'yeet hay' are bumps on the tongue and inside the mouth, sore throat and possibly bloody noses. Basically, this is a term that reminds people to keep a healthy diet, get lots of rest and do things in moderation. It made sense when I ate the food, it was just way too spicy and scalding-hot for me, but drinking water helped balance things out.

After the hot pot, we all sat down on the couch with food coma. It looked like a cemetary of gluttons. We stared at each other like zombies but it was ok, we just had great food. I love the feeling of eating something good and relaxing. That's what hot pot is all about. The whole meal cost about $180. MUCH cheaper than going out to a restaurant to eat. Hot pot is something usually done at home. Good seeing you guys! Thanks for reading.

Check out the Japanese version of hot pot done by Oishii Eats here - shabu shabu. It's good sh*t! Read more!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sonoma: Off the Beaten Path

J and I headed up to San Francisco again to visit her brother. This was my third time up here this year and I love it more and more each time. We chose to fly instead of enduring the 4.5 hour drive. I've never flown to NorCal, so this was going to be a more relaxed trip. We arrived around 10 at night and grabbed a quick bite to eat. Tomorrow we would be going to Sonoma instead of Napa because we had heard that the region was perfect for making Pinots. I'm all for Pinot Noir because it is typically less tannic, fruity and smooth.

We started driving up the 101 into Sonoma's wine country around 9:30 am, accompanied with 4 other friends. The day started off extremely hazy and cold and we wondered if it was worth driving up there. Sonoma wineries are known for beautiful estates and Flickr-worthy scenery. After about an hour and a half, we arrived in Sonoma County.

We couldn't go wine tasting without a little padding and made reservations at a restaurant called El Dorado Kitchen. We settled on this place after three cancellations on reservations. We found out that the chefs of EDK worked under the tutelage of Thomas Keller. Okay, we are so there.

EDK is located in the Sonoma town square and neighbors the El Dorado hotel - a cozy, boutique hotel. We walked into the restaurant and were instantly transported to a West Elm catalog. (Page 82 of the Winter issue) Brown and white colors contrasted the dark colored wood furniture throughout the restaurant and made it a perfect place for Sunday brunch. Enough about ambiance, here's what we had:

Blueberry Muffin and Jam
I didn't have this but everyone loved it.

Biscuits & Gravy
Our friend had this said that it was too rich and salty. Minus all that, it was still a nice take on an American favorite.

French Toast
At last, we see a glimpse of Thomas Keller's influence. Beautiful, thick pieces of bread fried to a nice golden brown and topped with créme fraîche. Kind of wish I tasted some of this.

Eggs Benedict and Beef Bourguignonne Hash
Food envy kicked in once I took a bite of this. The eggs were beautifully poached and laced with a velvety hollandaise sauce. I thought the idea of using wine-braised beef in the hash was pure genius. This was awesome.

Fried Egg & Sopressata Salami Pizza
This was a case of misinterpretation. My eyes lit up when I saw this on the menu because (1) I love pizza and (2) I love eggs. I first saw this concept on a food special in Aspen. The chef of the ski resort made a pizza, and right before it was finished, cracked an egg on top of the pizza. It looked sick. When I got this, I was quite bummed. It was merely 2 things put together.. a pizza and 3 fried eggs. An interesting thing about this was the type of eggs used. I think they must have been from a special ranch or something because they were RICH and GOLDEN YELLOW like the eggs of Japan. I took a few bites of the fried eggs and had to set it aside. I just couldn't handle it.

Forest Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Truffle Oil Pizza
J ordered this and was turned off by how rich it was. The mushrooms and goat cheese served as nice toppings but the pizza was just drowned in truffle oil. It was sickening. I love truffle oil but only in moderation. Truffle oil is very high in demand and currently a hot trend. Chefs, for some reason think they can boost up the price of the dish if they add more truffle oil. It isn't THAT hard to find it in LA. Trader Joe's has a poor man's version for $10 and I think it works fine. Moderation! We tried to eat this a few hours later and still couldn't handle it haha.

Overall, the food is rich at EDK but still a great place to stop at before getting smashed bourgeois-style. If you eat here, I highly recommend sharing an entree with someone. Every one of us had doggy-bags by the end of the meal. I'm definitely coming back here again.

It was time to wine taste now. We ended up visiting four wineries in four hours. Last time we were in Napa, we stopped at seven wineries in 2.5 hours! It was fun winery-hopping, but this time, we wanted to take our time. Here's where we stopped at:

Sebastiani - very average wine. Although it's a Sonoma favorite, I didn't try anything that knocked my pants off.

Buena Vista - nice stuff. Smooth and enjoyable.

Gundlach Bundschu - wow, definitely my favorite. Unfortunately, at $36+ a bottle, we walked out of the winery with sad faces. = (

Cline - stellar wine at stellar prices. Wine ranged from $11-$30. This place was packed even an hour before closing and we really enjoyed it. The people were extremely friendly and didn't charge for tastings. Five for Free! I ended up buying 4 bottles of wine and parked it on the bench with our group. We drank 2 bottles and got really buzzed. At about 5 pm, we took off back into San Francisco. After all the rich wine and food, nothing sounded better than a fresh, cold cut of salmon, yellowtail and uni. We ended up at a very average sushi joint but didn't care because it was so refreshing to eat something light. If I were to choose between Napa and Sonoma, I'd pick Sonoma because the wineries are mainly family/privately owned. You don't see too many of the corporate big boys out there and there are definitely less tourists. Stay tuned for J's writeup on our San Francisco eats.

Thanks for reading. Read more!

Friday, November 17, 2006

San Francisco: Weekend Escape

Have a great weekend everyone. I'll be up in SF with J visiting her brother. We'll be back hopefully with good photos and food reviews. Hurray for FOOD. Read more!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Mmm... Death Pockets!

Once upon a time, I relied on canned corn, corned beef hash, Shake & Bake, Cup O' Noodles, soy sauce, Sriracha and Spam as a source for sustenance. Canned was the way to go back then when you were constantly broke. I made the most out of everything. Some days, I would have Nissin Ramen without the soup, topped w/ sliced spam and canned corn. Shake & Bake-coated Spam with rice and eggs. Chili dogs consisted of Albertson's franks in a bun with a nice glob of Sriracha chili. Gross I know. I died a little during my college years. But on the paydays from working the on-campus, non-taxed jobs, I'd be able to treat myself to... Hot Pockets!!!

Weighing in at 4-5 oz, these are monumental achievements in the world of trashy food. Each one contains 403 calories, 22 g fat, 52 g cholesterol and 906 mg sodium. Nice stats. Unwrap, slap on the sleeve, nuke and enjoy. Who couldn't resist this buttery pastry filled with MEAT and CHEESE. Thanks to the innovative technology of the cardboard sleeve... you can simulate that deep fried taste. You had to time these perfectly in the oven... 15-20 seconds over the suggested oven time, and you'd get molten lava coming out of there. Watchout! I've burned the roof of mouth many a drunken nights.

Which Hot Pockets did you guys eat? It seems that Ham & Cheese and Philly Cheesesteak are always the ones included in the 8 for $10 deal.

I recently watched this hilarious clip on "Hot Pockets" - performed by comedian Jim Gaffigan. The whole Jim Gaffigan CD is a fun look at food and things related to it. Check out the clip by clicking on the image.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=i4Z_eTJq3bY

Thanks for reading. Read more!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

An Evening of Excessive Estrogen

As a birthday treat for my friend HL, I offered to cook her dinner at her own place in WeHo. The last time I had dinner with her was nearly a year ago and felt it was time to wine & dine as we used to. Last week we discussed what kind of food would make her belly full. She proudly stated that she is not a picky eater. I proposed a few dishes and heard this in return...

"No squashes."
"No peppers."
"No mushrooms."
"No scallops."


Great, those are only four of my favorite things to cook and eat haha. After democratic discussions, we settled on a menu. Saturday, J and I spent the afternoon foraging for our culinary ingredients. As soon as we got home, we quickly prepped as much as we could. Although I'm used to bringing my whole kitchen to a client's place for catering, I really wanted to travel with the least amount of things. Cooking is never the hard part, it's the loading, unloading and cleaning that make it a strenuous task. We loaded up my plates, knives and food and drove down to WeHo.

HL's place is seriously a great place to have a dinner party. It really looks like a showroom from one of those West Elm catalogs. The kitchen was wide open and made moving around easy... and the guests were within sniffing distance. It's always a good thing to cook food near guests and stimulate their senses.

And just when I thought her place couldn't be more feminine, HL started to light candles. Like, more than you really needed haha. I counted... 1, 2, 3, 4... and a few more in the living room. Whoa. I felt like any minute, a seance would commence. It was me versus three girls.

As soon as we unloaded the groceries, HL and her friend M started pouring the wine. With nearly 6 bottles set on the table, there was going to be some serious drinking tonight. J had never met HL & M before but as most girls do, immediately started chatting away. While I cooked to the sound of sizzling hot oil and overhead fan whirring, I was slowly tuned out of their conversations. I could hear bits of pieces....

"Where'd you get those earrings?"
"I like your hair!"
"Forever 21."
"Make-up."
"Manicure."
"Sample sales."
"Romantic comedies."
"Oh boys."
"Oh my god."
"Cute!"
"I love white wine!"

No offense HL, but I was so outnumbered. I could feel my b*lls slowly shriveling haha. I should've cooked in a football jersey and taken beer bongs every 15 minutes. After about an hour of prepping/cooking and many glasses of wine... we were all buzzed and ready to eat.

Seared Ahi Tuna with Yuzu & Miso Vinaigrette Salad
The first dish was a lightly-seared Ahi Tuna salad with miso vinaigrette. I started by seasoning the fresh block of tuna with salt, freshly ground pepper and coated it with black roasted sesame seeds.

Seared Ahi Tuna with Yuzu & Miso Vinaigrette Salad
Before serving the Ahi Tuna salad, I added a few drops of yuzu juice to the tuna for the final kick to the groin. This was a simple, yet tasty dish that even salad-haters would enjoy. The tuna was nicely seared... warm on the outside, cold and soft in the middle. Also, the addition of thinly-sliced scallions brings out the greens.

Sauteed Shrimp with Thai Coconut Curry
I really enjoy indian food, but cannot eat much of it because I can't eat too much spicy food. I decided to use a Thai-style curry instead, which tastes milder and sweeter. The sauce was made with coconut milk, curry powder, ginger powder, finely chopped cilantro, fish sauce and sugar. The shrimp was marinated in olive oil, garlic, cilantro, lemon juice and S&P and quickly sauteed. The garnish is japanese red ginger and chopped cilantro. This was tasty. Next time, I'd like to grill the shrimp instead of sautéing it to get the nice charred taste.

New Zealand Lamb Ribs with Mango & Mint Relish and Saffron Cous Cous
I love lamb, but never get the opportunity to cook it often because my family and friends aren't big fans. Such a pity because lamb fat has such a refined, unique taste. Mmmm. Back at my apartment, I spent a good 30 minutes removing the lining on the lamb bones... a long and arduous task that my catering boss once told me, meant the difference between a good and bad cook. I thought hard about a sauce that would work well with the lamb in case it was 'too gamey' for the guests and read that lamb & mint go together like peanut butter & jelly. To make the dish sweet, I added mangos and jalapenos for another kick to the groin. I salted and peppered the lamb and added a spice rub I had made consisting of coriander seeds, ginger powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne and cinnamon. The aroma hit me as soon as I seared the lamb rack. Even the drunken chatterbugs stopped in their tracks to say so... and quickly resumed into more chattering. "Ok, so what were we talking about just now...?" I served the lamb medium over sauteed asparagus and saffron cous cous. Saffron rocks! The cous cous was light and fluffy and reminded me of cornbread. I liked this dish so much I helped myself to another 5 lamb ribs.


After 4-5 bottles of wine, we were still going. To top the night of estrogen with even more estrogen, HL served champage with blackberries. I had a sip and jumped back to my red wine. (I want to have children, someday.) Overall, I had a great time doing this dinner party and can't wait to do another one. Since then, I've regained my normal level of testosterone. Happy Birthday to HL and thanks for letting me do this! Thank you also to J for her knack for stellar food photography. I can always count on you to shoot.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Gluttonous Night with Daily Gluttony & Friends...

First off, I want to apologize to Mrs. Daily Gluttony for taking so long to write about her special evening. I've been meaning to, but work has been EXTREMELY crazy. Anyway, we had our local LA food blogger dinner a few months ago at Manna Korean BBQ in Koreatown. She asked if I would like to cater her wedding party and I gladly accepted. After all, Daily Gluttony is one of the funniest personalities in the food blog world and simply enjoyable to be around. Don't be fooled by her potty mouth and sometimes, brash writing... she's really great haha.

A few months later, the event really felt like it was just around the corner. With the help of J and Yoony of Immaeatchu, this was going to be a fun and smooth night. Pam decided on two seafood dishes and two vegetarian. Ugh. We were both irritated by the fact that we had to throw in some kind of veggie dish. No matter what, it was good practice. Things could be worse... I could be dealing with vegans and non-glutens. The good thing is, I could pretty much go outside of my place and collect all my ingredients.

"Yes, this dish is made especially for you. I've deep-fried this oak leaf in panko flakes and topped it w/ bark that I've braised in soy sauce, garlic and cilantro. The garnish of freshly-mowed grass should really bring out this winter's flavors. Enjoy."


Yoony met up with J and I on a Saturday afternoon and we were simply fascinated by Pam's place. It really had the Brooklyn loft feel that you see a lot in movies. The place was huge and could easily hold a 100+ people. We immediately set up our post in her large kitchen. With two fridges and a 6' foot fold-out table, we had an ideal setup. In addition to that, the bartender was set up right in front of us, forming a blockade from nosey, finger-happy guests. Two hours later, the guests started to pour in. Music on, food being cooked, drinks pouring.... party time.

Ahi Tuna Poke with Yuzu and Green Apples on Wonton Crisps
I'm no longer making the avocado mousse wonton crisps. This version blows it out of the water. The microgreen garnish adds a nice bitter taste that balances with the sour green apples and sweet fish.

Crabcakes with Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade
I don't think I can bury this dish just yet. I've made them smaller and used a different panko crust and it's now edible in one crispy bite.

Truffled-Edamame Hummus on Parmesan Crisps
This was my first time dealing with parmesan crisps. I cannot stand baking but had to try this dish out sometime. The crisps had a nice cracker-like texture to it and made a nice appetizer. The truffle oil really brings out the tastes of the garlicky hummus and cheesy crisps. Unfortunately, this dish takes FOREVER to make. Goodbye, off the menu for good haha.

Yoony's Harissa Dip on Pita Crisps (Not Pictured)
My photo was so lousy and blurry that it wasn't worth putting up. Zteve of Gastrologica did a nice interpretation of the dish. Sorry Yoony! I first had this dish at AOC and fell in love with it. I could not stop eating it. Yoony was kind enough to help me out and prepare this dish at home and it was awesome. Spicy and flavorful... a good kick to the bunch.

Victor of Zarape Tacos
Pam's genius idea of hiring a taco guy really made the party fun. Who doesn't love tacos? Victor had a nice choice of carne asada and pollo asado with all the fixins. After cooking for two straight hours, the last thing I wanted to eat was anything I cooked. I treated myself to three tacos. Yum.




It was a really great experience catering for someone that first got me into blogging. Thank you Pam for giving me the opportunity to do this. I was really stoked to be able to cook for you as well as our other food blogging friends there that night... Jonah of LA Foodblogging, Best of LA and Gastrologica. Colleen Cuisine, where were you??? J, Yoony and I had a blast. Hope you don't mind that we were all buzzed from drinking on the job haha. Congratulations again to you and Mr. Daily Gluttony.

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