Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

New Years Resolutions: Twenty Chop

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Happy New Year! As Daniel mentioned, I’m gonna try hard to push Twenty Chop (11 <– chopsticks) instead of the horrible five-syllabic Twenty-Eleven. A second option that I will accept is simply “eleven” like when we said “ninety-seven” to tell people when we graduated from high sch– I mean kindergarten?

Anywayanyway. Thank you to Daniel at the end of 2010 for covering my ass. January in Twenty Chop is also crazay but I am pausing to put out my resolutions to hold myself accountable.

But first, let’s check back on how I did for Twenty Dime.

1. Finish Dogs That Should Be Named Oreo Post. Hurm. [Shifty eyes] Welp. I did a teeny bit of work on this in the 365 days I had. See above. This is Bella, a.k.a. Bella-Bee –> Bella Bean –> Beano. R2 and I dogsat her right before Christmas and I LOVED it. Although she is an Oreo dog, I can’t help but devote an entire post to her. Forthcoming.

2. Wake up when the alarm goes off. I think I did just EXCELLENT on this! In fact, I had a series of interviews for faculty positions on the east coast, so I prepped for it by getting on east coast time. Every week for a month I woke up an hour earlier. So by X minus 1 week I was going to bed at 8:30 and waking up at 4:30. Waking up early was exciting! First – so many extra hours to work! Then! The extreme sense of superiority as you see others’ lights turn on one by one. To the point where I was like, “Goddamnit sun you need to set your ass  I’m enjoying this.”

50% success is still an F in academia, so…fail.

I’ll try better on my TWENTY CHOP ones:

1. Start reading the print version of the New York Times. [PRINT version I'm not even going to hyperlink to the online version so there.] Dave Eggers once referenced a study that I can’t find showing that print media compared to online media engages our stress system less, and when it comes down to Dave Eggers vs. my scientific skepticism (even if I am an actual stress researcher), I go with the Staggering Genius. SO. This is part of my grownupification. If a dozen trees have to die and be only partially recycled for it, so be it.

2. Use ten exposures theory to learn to like the following foods: (1) ice cream; (2) cooked salmon; (3) Israeli couscous. Shudder. My strategy with ice cream is to gateway with salty-sweet. Salted caramel maybe. The final goal will be chocolate ice cream – my nemesis. Cooked salmon should be easy in theory, because I looove love love salmon sushi and smoked salmon. It’s the cooked shit though that gives me the willies. And Israeli couscous – I love regular couscous and I like boba. Israeli couscous is just one step along that continuum. But like teenagers, the medium-ness of it is horrifying.

3. Be the first to pick up things that people drop. This is a self-bettering type of resolution, inspired by R2. He is so nice and is exactly that kind of guy that will pick up, for example, a piece of paper that a stranger has dropped, even if a gust of wind blows right as the paper is dropped and blows it down the street into the path of an oncoming car, up all the way to the top of Divisadero, and then out to sea where there are both sharks and horny sea lions.

5. Get my faux squishable onto their website. I don’t want to link to it because I don’t want them to see the trackback, but for my hatchday Daniel HAND SEWED (!) me a giraffe Squishable. The giraffe is my favorite Squishable, because by virtue of making it into a Squishable you have negated the identifying characteristic of a giraffe. My giraffe is actually called a Girmath because of the extreme math that it took for Daniel to figure out how to sew a sphere. Note: Sometimes he is called Girmouth or Girmouf because Daniel had to teach himself how to embroider to do the mouth area. Anyway, on the Squishables site is an area where consumers can submit pics of themselves with their new squishables, so I’m going to take a picture of me with my Girmath and submit it. Heh heh. Fools.

6. Finish Dogs That Should Be Named Oreo Post.

Top 10 Posts of TWENTY DIME!

Friday, December 31st, 2010

AHA! Thought you’d sneak by and end the year without hearing from me again? Sorry friend(enemy?), but you’re out of luck. Janet is busy doing important work pertaining to the real world so I’ve been asked to step up and close out the year by rounding up the top 10 posts of 2010. I’m drunk with the sheer power of it! Or you know, just drunk. Anyway, I present to you, our faithful readers, Twenty Dime’s top 10 posts!

1. Bootie: Without a doubt the best post EVAR that fulfills the “More Than” part of MTFB, with probably the best aminal pic skills to date. R2 commented, “It’s a quintessentially creative synthesis of two of my favorite things – MTFB and the Boot – and a reflection of my two favorite ladies.” Well said!

2. Fucking ENCOUNTER restaurant: Because when else were we gonna get the chance to eat there?! Verdict: Go for the free short-term parking… stay if you want to miss your flight.

3. Susiecakes vs. Kara’s: Because we understand that choosing the right cupcakery is serious business, and the last thing we want is for our readers to be paralyzed with indecision. Also, because I am unabashedly proud of my/our first foray into macro food pics.

4. Portland Report(land): A giant crab. A City of Books. Voodoo Doughnut. Baby octopi. And The Beginning of the End. I guess Oregon isn’t just about bowling and Chocobeer.

5. Iguanas Burritozilla: Because it’s a story of the future… and the past! More importantly, it’s proof that I actually contribute to MTFB. And because I ate nearly 3lbs of burrito in one sitting. I hurt just thinking about it.

6. Espana Part II: Toledo: Between the two of them, R2 and Janet nominated almost all the parts of the Spain series for top 10 status. I didn’t go to Spain, so what’s a guy to do but pick the one with castles? Because castles are effing cool, amiright?! Seriously though, you should read all of the Spain posts here. Muy Bueno.

7. Segway Tour of San Francisco: Because you haven’t experienced San Francisco until you’ve seen it from atop a Segway named Special Sauce.

8. Raku: Because you know it’s good when Janet spends an entire paragraph describing just the tofu. And because it’s apparently the first time “Janet = warm & fuzzy & feeling like a real blogger.” Taste the happy!

9. Lemon Blender Pie: Because what good is a food blog if we don’t occasionally throw in a recipe now and then? This one is SUPER easy!

10. Alembic: Because it’s the top post that should have made the top 10 posts of 2009 but was written in 2010. And because not everything goes right in foodie land, no matter how much you love the pink quail eggs.

There you have it! Please remember that today is the last day you can refer to the current year as “Twenty Dime”, so try to drop it into every sentence you use. I’ve found that whispering it creepily at the end has been astoundingly effective. Rumor has it that we’re going to make a push to call next year Twenty Chop (because the 11 looks like a pair of chopsticks), so keep an eye out for that, too. And now Janet and I (and the rest of the MTFB team of contributors) wish you a safe and happy New Year!

Paxti’s

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

We recently went to Paxti’s -the one in Hayes Valley- for Charlize’s hatch day. “Say ‘PAH-cheese!’” it says on their banner. I had been to the one in the Marina with R2, just after it opened. I remember that night as it was the first time I watched Star Wars V with R2, who shyly at first and then with locomotive-status enthusiasm peppered the home screening with SW trivia.

I remember this night because there was an epic discussion of Patxi’s vs. Zachary’s. None of the party guests had been to Paxti’s before, so they asked me to describe it. “Well, it’s crust with toppings on top, but there’s also cheese and then tomato sauce.” I then realized I was just describing pizza. “I guess I’m just describing what pizza is,” I said. They agreed.

So I’ll try to do better here. It’s Chicago style pizza. The first thing that means is it is a serious, serious pizza. If you get takeout, the box will weigh about ten pounds when you get it. Maybe more. It’s thick crust – very. The crust was so flakey and tender it was more like a croissant/biscuit hybrid. Dangerous. The toppings and cheese are then placed on top, and the whole shebang is covered with a thick layer of tomato sauce – probably a quarter inch or more, so it’s like pizza-ey soup, which I love.

We got one large “Favorite” with pepperoni, mushrooms, and black olives. Birthday girl hates olives, and her husband hates mushrooms, so this was a curious choice, but they picked out their respective nemeses and ate/slurped it up. We also got “Spinach Pesto” with spinach, basil-garlic pesto and parmesan, which came out looking like a normal pizza, not green like I anticipated.

We also got an antipasto plate, choosing prosciutto, Genovese salami, and chorizo. The “artisan” cheeses that accompanied were the true winners – each sharper than Ben Folds’ critiques of the groups on the Sing-Off that packed a punch even with the uber-polite teeny slivers that everyone was taking.

Back to the debate. The whole thing is funny if you know that Tina had gotten Charlize a gift certificate to Zachary’s as her birthday gift.

Tina: [Inexplicably suddenly  a big fan of Zachary's] Well, nothing beats ZACHARY’S OF COURSE!
Charlize: [Feeling awkward like her guest didn't like her choice of dinner location] Well, I think this pizza is great! [Now, emphatically] Yeah! Patxi’s is WAY better than Zachary’s!
Tina: [Beginning to worry more about her gift choice] REALLY? Have you HAD Zachary’s recently?
Charlize: [Along with all the other dinner guests minus Tina's husband who is just giggling at this point, starting to wonder why Tina is shouting about Zachary's] I guess I haven’t had it in a while, but I still think this is better! [Recklessly] I want another slice! I’m gonna have another slice!
Tina: Well…ok fine well… Happy Birthday! [Proffering giftcard]
Charlize: OHHHHH! Thank you I LOVE Zachary’s!
Me: lol.

I, too, have had Zachary’s, and need to dig up those pictures, but my take on things is that they’re the same. The first three bites or so are thrilling in their density, flavor, and smooth and juicy fattyness, and from then on it’s just a fucking battle. There is no way to get out of this meal without a distended belly, which is a plus for me but a minus for less gluttonous others. Perhaps it’s time to have a direct taste-off; both places offer par-baked pies to finish in one’s own oven. That will have to wait until this round of pizza digests…probably in another three months or so.

Patxi’s – many locations so just go to their website; maybe avoid the Marina one


Fucking ENCOUNTER restaurant

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Are you from the LA area? Then you know about Encounters restaurant – that thingie in the middle of LAX that looks like a spaceship. The only other people I know who have been there are my parents, when the went to UCLA before I was born. So…late 1990′s? jkjkjk like the SEVENTIES!?

It was closed a couple years ago, I thought for renovations, but seeing the multitude of lava lamps in there (honest to goodness – if you dare to go to their terrible terrible website, you will believe me) I looked it up and it turns out that a THOUSAND POUND CHUNK fell off the top. Jeez. Scary as that is, I don’t think that warranted a 12.3 MEELYON dollars pumped into it.

Anyway. I was in LA for 24 hours so Daniel and I decided to do the most blogworthy meal ever. Bonus that it ended up being next door to mine and every other LAX traveler’s terminal. We pulled up in front and parked in one of the four parking spots that had absolutely no restrictions posted. So, in the future if you want to park for a short time at LAX and not pay, you might as well sneak into one of these spots.

Then, we went into a very early-80s looking lobby into the elevator…

…where the lights dimmed and crazy old school space music blasted at us for the duration of our lift. “oh. Em. EFF. GEEEEEEE!” I said in a crescendo.

We got out and saw the aforementioned lava lamps everywhere, and it was very empty. We were led to a perfectly fine 2-top and opened the menu. Whooooo. Pricey. I guess that’s what FIVE fucking dollar signs means, but still, the sticker shock! I had $64 to spend thanks to my per diem, so we got lemon parmesan french fries to start, and then he got the Flame Broiled Prime Flat Iron Steak served on garlic whipped potatoes, sauteed broccolini, and topped with a black diamond truffle and chive butter [$27] and I had some sort of lamb chop thingie, also served over the whipped potatoes.

The french fries were fine. I don’t know that I would pair fries with lemon, but whatevs. Twas preceded by nice, warm bread. Carbovores.

My lamb chop thingie was fine, I guess. Very tender. But it was suuuch white people food! Brown gravy, breading on the chop. And – fucking MASHED POTATOES OUT OF THE MOTHERFUCKING BOX what the fuck? I did NOT spend $27 plus tax and tip to have fucking box potatoes.

However, every single review online said this exact same thing about how it was NOT worth the outrageous prices for this insanely mediocre food and sadness-inducing decor, so I wasn’t surprised. My favorite part  was the side broccolini of Daniel’s and also my asparagus which stank up my urine and the plane bathroom later.

The carrot cake we got as a dessert was my second favorite part (see top). It looked like it was secreting goopy blood eyeballs but the cake was moist and the cream cheese frosting totally passable.

With two glasses of wine, our total bill was $120. OMGWTFBBQDONK1EBALLS.

God, the whole thing was so half-assed! The decor, the service, the food, even the continuity of the space theme. The sides are titled “The Sides of the Moon” but the appetizers were just called appetizers, and the entrees were just called entrees, and the salad section was just “salads.” The only other themey thing we noticed was “Any Spacecrafts with an Interstellar Crew of Six or More shall have an Automatic Docking Fee of 18% (In other words, an 18% gratuity will be added to parties of 6 or more).” Neato. Not. I’m really glad I downloaded and installed Evernote solely to take notes on this meal but then transcribing that one sentence from the menu tired me out so I have no good notes on our dinner. Not.

Oh, and I’m REALLY glad I missed my flight. Not. I was lulled into complacency by my proximity to the gate, but when my mobile phone boarding pass link didn’t work and I went to the kiosk to print my pass it was already within the 45-minute limit (at this point: I had 25 minutes to departure time). So they made me wait in another line until it was TEN minutes to departure time, at which point the guy was like, “You should try making it! RUN! RUN!” So I ran just until he couldn’t see me anymore and then I slowed down. Because there was no way in hell I was getting through security and onto the plane in 9 minutes. The United lady at the re-ticketing booth seemed amazed at my lack of annoyance/upsetness but at the point when I cajoled Daniel into going to fucking Encounter I gave up all complaining rights.

Except this – why is there no “S” at the end of Encounters? Unacceptable and weird!

Why would you ever go? OK fine here’s the address:
In the middle of LAX, LA.
Phone: [wait, why would you ever CALL them?? OK FINE!]
310.215.5151


Nopalito & Humphrey Slocombe

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

“Janet, what is your favorite restaurant in San Francisco?” people always ask. I usually respond “HA! HA! Yeah, did you know how funny lolcats are?” Or, if that fails to change the subject, “HEY! Well! My favorite part in Elf is when Narwhal says ‘Bye, Buddy! Hope you find yer dad!’” and the one-two punch randomness of those statements usually buys me time.

Because there are SOOO many restaurants, great ones, in SF. I recently posed this question to R2 and he said King Foot Subs. I have mocked him for this but (don’t tell him) good god, they do make a mean motherfucking meatball sub.

I don’t even LIKE meatball subs but this one keeps me up at night with lust. The bread is stellar, and the meatballs are SO soft. And, it doesn’t even need to be saucey to be juicy. GOD it’s good. Good choice R2. [Note: don't get seduced by the kalbi sub, which sounds great but is mediocre.]

But anyway, I would like to announce that I now have a go-to “favorite,” even though that is WAY too difficult of a question. If I had unlimited funds, it would be Fleur de Lys. Bang for buck would be Saigon Sandwich at $3 a pop. But the resto that (a) is consistently awesome; (b) reeks of foodie cred; (c) could ostensibly be any SF-ite’s favorite  is Nopa. I just checked our search field and apparently I have not yet blogged it. That should be remedied!

This is not that post.

This post is about Nopalito, Nopa’s offshoot that opened in the past year. When Daniel was visiting, the two of us with R2 went for lunch. I had very. very. high expectations, because people all over the place were saying they liked Nopalito more than Nopa.

I realize now that these people were just saying that to be hipster cool, and that objectively there is no way that anyone can actually think that.

Because what Nopalito is is: a cute place that serves above-average, very fresh Mexican food. Pictured top is the seasonal Gazpacho Estilo Morelia – a salad of late summer melons, orange juice, queso fresco, chile, and hot sauce. Not sure if it counts as cooking, but I really liked the contrasting sweet/salty/sour/spicy thing that was happening. But any fool with a melon baller could make this (though, perhaps, not conceive of it).

Along with my gazpacho, I had one Taco de Pescado al Pastorseared fish in adobo, chile ancho, orange, onion, cilantro and salsa de morita y tomatillo. Such a fresh, simple three bites! I loved it. The Pac-man looking thing in the back is a Gordita Campechana – a fried tortilla pocket, braised grass fed brisket, chorizo, cabbage, onion, cilantro and salsa taquera de tomatillos. I was a bit concerned when, instead of shattering under my knife like I expected it to, it squishily bent and oozed out oil. When I took a bite, however, it was not stale-oily but satisfyingly meaty and brightened like the sun with a hit of lime. Yum!

Note: When you are there, you must go to the bathroom. Don’t be sketched by the fact that you have to go out of the restaurant and halfway down the block to get to it. It’s the nicest bathroom evar, and hanging above is a cool sculptural piece made of dozens of chocolate stirrers for the mole (you rub the stick end in your palms).

Next, we went next door to the schmancy grocery store, the back of which was DeLessio’s Market and Bakery, which carried Humphrey Slocombe ice cream. I always know when I am catching a cold because I start to crave sweets. I was on the tail end of the cold I caught in Minneapolis, and ice cream sounded amazing to me (!) not to mention blogworthy, so I sidled up to the counter and got the weirdest flavor I could find.

This moody-looking ice cream is LEGIT. It’s called Secret Breakfast. I thought I was being all foodie-brave and cool by getting it, as it contains cornflakes, bourbon, and butter, but apparently it is their most popular flavor. Being-counter-culture fail on my part.

The little gristly, gritty bits of stuff in the almost gelato-ey melty (bc of the alcohol perchance?) were just! so! scrumptious! I thanked the billions of virus/bacteria that were staging a coup in my body for letting me, for once, appreciate ice cream – normally a food that makes me shudder. The coolness soothed my throat, the flakes made it seem more healthy, and the bourbon provided a nice buzz as I drove myself home, sick, in a teeny car, in the rain.

Nopalito & DeLessio
306 Broderick | SF

I drank beer out of a boot and other stories

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Someone once said on a blog to not apologize for not blogging and just fucking blog. But I do feel I owe you readers an apology for being delinquent. I was out of town for a full week, which was really fun but exhausting, and now my froat hurts where my nostrils connect to my mouth cavity.

So. I was in Madison Sunday through Tuesday and then Minneapolis Tuesday through Sunday (palindrome?) – a conference extravaganza!

But, you guys! I has something important to report! Trees located in states outside of California seem to be infected by some horrible tree disease. They all have the same symptoms: (a) discoloration [I saw yellows, browns, and even reds]; and (b) leaf loss – they were in various stages of it but they were very much all losing their foliage and making a mess on the ground. I saw children being terribly insensitive to this devastating epidemic and making mounds of the infected leaves and jumping in the piles. Assholes.

Anyway, here are some notable things I did in Madison:

(1) Drank beer and ate popcorn at Memorial Union Terrace on the campus of U Wisconsin, overlooking the lovely Lake Mendota. With the unseasonably balmy weather and unreasonably salty popcorn, this was pretty much my idea of heaven. But then I was startled out of my reverie by a terrifying siren/alarm that blared across the campus and lake. Since I’m Japanese, it is in my DNA to expect a Fat Man or Little Boy to detonate after such a siren. When I looked around to see if anyone else was as frightened as I was, however, I spotted no other Japanese person, and in fact, no other Asian person even, so I had to suffer my fear alone. It turned out to just be the daily notice at dusk for the boats to come back in off the lake.

(2) Drank beer out of a boot at the Essen Haus. It was a giant glass boot filled with two liters of beer. I believe it is tradition to drink Spaten Lager, so we did. The main rule was that the second-to-last person to drink had to buy the next boot. Another rule was that you couldn’t put the boot down. Anyone who did had to put $1 toward the next boot. The brainpower of seven Ph.D.s put together realized that neither of these rules had much bite during the last round, when there was no fiscal consequence of being the penultimate drinker. So we altered the rules to state that the second-to-last person to drink on the last round had to buy the first round when tab-settling time came. Brilliant.

Another thing to watch out for, besides not leaving enough beer for the person to your left to finish off, was the big air bubble. A third rule was that you had to drink it toe facing up, which at a certain critical amount of beer would result in air rushing into the toe, creating a huge POP and foam and beer in one’s face. It sounds sexy but it’s not. Super fun, though, and I’m happy to report that yours truly paid nary a cent on the final bill. Do you has a proud?

Here are some things I did in Minneapolis:

(1) Ate at Taste of Thailand, pictured top. I ordered green curry, which is not on the menu but available. What I liked: the Thai eggplants, which were golf-ball sized and reminiscent of okra, and the peas. What I didn’t like: the curry was super sugary. I guess if you have to cater to midwestern gaijin sensibilities, that’s what you end up with, but you could have put the liquid on pancakes and it wouldn’t have seemed out of place.

(2) Gaped at the zombies for the annual Zombie Pub Crawl. Tagline: It just won’t die. We were warned at the conference that we should expect zombies to be milling about town “being weird.” lol. I learned that “Zombie Bride” is a totally played-out costume. The best one I saw was Zombie Ronald McDonald. No Grimace, though.

(3) Had a hotel room party in our suite. Liz was on the conference committee, which netted us the awesome suite with windows comprising two of four walls AND fifteen bottles of wine. We (OK, just me) thought it would be awesometastic to fill the bath tub with ice to chill the Pinot Grigio and Prosecco. Liz humored me and helped me go to the ice machine and back. After three or four million trips, I finally conceded “That’ll do pig” and snapped a picture of it with my new Droid R2-D2 phone!

(3) Ate at 112 Eatery where Liz had the foresight to book rezzies a month in advance. It’s been deemed the best restaurant in Minneapolis several times over. I couldn’t convince anyone to order sweetbreads, but otherwise I was blissfully happy with a number of standouts, in particular the tagliatelle with fuckin foie gras meatballs, and Nancy Silverton’s Butterscotch Budino.

(4) Went to Gay 90′s. I ordered two drinks – one for me and one for my partner in crime, Kurt. The bartender plopped them on the counter and said, “Two dollars.” Me: “Two dollars?!” Bartender, in a duh voice: “Yeah, it’s Thirsty Thursday. There’s a drag show too.”

!!!!!!!! Danger zone. I knew it but utterly failed to self-regulate. The two of us ended up buying and smoking an ENTIRE pack of cigarettes, sneaking into the back room [you have to go through the men's room] to gape at the gay porn beamed onto the wall, poking a drag queen’s sweaty boobies because we thought they were so beautiful onstage, and realized that was the wrong drag queen and stalked the one with the actual beautiful boobies and poked those too. Soft.

Bushi-tei

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

I’m proud to say that all these pics are better than the craptastic ones on their website

Feastery is having a special Bushi-tei tasting special, but you has to buy it by Friday at noon, so I’m going to quickly blog my own trip there recently.

It was on my radar because it is R2′s friends’ (Inigo and Sagan) favorite restaurant in all of SF.

I looked it up on Yelp and it’s a $$$$, and it’s French California Fusion. Thrilling!

We drove up to the restaurant, and something just didn’t seem to fit. I mean, there was a freaking fluorescent “ASAHI” sign in the window.

“How many four dollar sign places have beer ads in their window?” I asked R2.

“How many four dollar sign places HAVE??”

“How many four dollar sign places has beer ads in their window?”

We walked in and figured out that we were at Bushi-tei Bistro, not Bushi-tei proper. Although they are sister restaurants, the hostess at BT Bistro didn’t know where the other one was (?!?). The bartender piped up to say that it was just down the street.

BT proper is chic and sleek, and apparently the bathrooms have the fancy Toto Washlets, which I greatly regretted not experiencing but played it off by saying “DUH we like had those in Japan like from the early nineties, shoot.”

Three of us plunged in for the tasting menu, which, even though I knew about it from Yelp, still gave me sticker shock at $100 per person. Yowza.

Make sure you eat the mustard tentacle – best part

I apologize in advance for not having schmancy descriptions of these, but they were plonked on our table with the breeziest of explanations so I didn’t quite catch the details.

The amuse was a teeny puff pastry filled with tuna. It was not spectacular or innovative, and a bit reminiscent visually of Toledo scariness, but I popped it in my mouth and chirped a surprised MMM!

Next was ankimo (monkfish liver) nestled inside a raw scallop. It’s pictured top. It was very, very important, nay VITAL, that you compiled the perfect bite for each foray into the dish, or else it got…creepy. I mean, how big is the actual monkfish if a sliver of your liver is hockey-puck-sized? [Fun fact: "kimo" is slang for creepy in Japanese - so apropos.] I haven’t had ankimo in ages so I liked it, though I think the decadence of scallop AND liver, while an A++ combo if goose, gets a little fishy-intense when it’s fish liver. The whole dish, though, was brightened by the sublime green sauce, which I may or may not have dragged my fingers through and into my mouth.

Then, the pate pictured above, surely made out of exciting and luxurious bits of things, but I has now forgotten/couldn’t parse our Israeli (?) server’s English in the first place. Around here I started grooving to Bushi-tei and what Chef Waka (Waka waka! I’m sure he never gets that) was getting at. Once again, combining every element on the plate netted just rewards, with that tiny *crunch* of the microgreen nailing it.

All others’ risotto contained bits of crustacean, but mine was mushroom due to my powerful and annoying allergy. This was so delicious that the bowl may as well have been the tip of the world’s largest spoon, for I ate it in one bite. The skin was crackling, the anonymous fish was quiveringly tender, and the risotto lingered intoxicatingly at the back of my tongue.

Next came a spoonful of yuzu sorbet to cleanse the palette. Why don’t we do this at home? It’s so civilized and kinda awesome because it’d feel like having a bite of dessert in between each course.

Finally, Washugyu top sirloin with potato mousseline, haricot vert, and perigueux. This dish was the triumph of the night and also what you will get if you take advantage of the Feastery offer (except porcini instead of green beans even wow-er!).

No wacky camera angle please – I’m naturally fucking delicious-looking

Do yourself a favor, and if you ever see perigueux sauce on a menu, order it. Because it is a rich brown sauce made from MADEIRA and TRUFFLES. Magnificent. Possibly the work of the devil.

The beef, too – unholy. Outrageous! Mind-bogglingly delicate and buttery soft. Just the weight of the knife dragged across the surface cut right through. Excruciatingly delectable.

Dessert was standard issue chocolate souffle; I won’t detract from the beef description to talk too much about it.

Was it super awesome? Yes. Would I pay $100 for it? Probably not (thanks, R2!). Luckily, the Feastery offer is the whole shebangaroo for $50, so you should jump on it. If you’d like an invite to Feastery, comment or message me. I believe I has three invites to give away.

Bushi-tei
1638 Post Street (Jtown)
SF CA 94115
415.440.4959

For Inigo and Sagan: Hee hee.

Meritage at the Claremont

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Having a food blog, even if it is more than a food blog, has its drawbacks. For example, if your work colleagues get ahold of it and realize that your favorite word is not “science” but rather “nom” followed by “fuck.” Another example is that everyone turns to you for restaurant recommendations, which can be slightly pressure-ey.

Especially when you have not done your duty and fully explored the lovely East Bay offerings, except for one. Oh, and another. And another. And of course this. OK but my point is that when I had to organize a work dinner for six, I was quite at a loss, because Chez Panisse Cafe had no openings, so I had to pick the backup. I had a budget of $64 per person with tax and tip included, which meant I could click on the “$$$$” in Open Table. That was fun. But then, I confess I haphazardly chose the Meritage at the Claremont just because opentable said “You’ll get 1000 points for this!” (as opposed to the usual 100 points). Not that I even quite understand what points on opentable will net you, but it seemed like reason enough.

My choice was seconded (PHEW) by one of my colleagues, who was distant friends with the new chef (Chef Josh). Also, this dinner was to welcome three new colleagues, so we began with a cocktail on the Claremont’s lovely patio overlooking their insane view of the bay. I had a yummy white grape martini.

We were then seated at a big round table, in between a table that went through two seatings both with cute but fussy children and a table that was occupied by two distinguished, white-haired grownups all dressed up.

Our server was Mario who was awesome and cheerfully rolled with our rowdiness and excessive talk about poo.

First poo story: I shared the fact that Obama doesn’t like beets, and someone else (of course) piped up saying that they didn’t like beets either, at which point I talked about Ten Exposures Theory, wherein research shows that humans will learn to like any food after ten exposures, as long as it’s not rotten animal protein or feces. ReeRee’s friend is trying it – see this silly vid.

Tomatoes are still in season this year, and there was a special tomato tasting menu. Chef Josh said “No season for me is more eagerly anticipated than heirloom tomato season Purple Cherokees, Green Zebras, Striped Germans, Banana, Brandywines: The names are so tantalizing & varied as their flavors. Among the recipes here you will see instances where we use different parts of the tomato separately. It is worth taking the trouble to prepare them differently, to transform them into something special.”

Despite his three punctuation errors, I was liking this guy.

You know those team-building exercises where you have only some rope and maybe a ball and you have to get people or objects across a thing without touching the floor, etc.? The culinary equivalent of that is the Meritage menu. (Side note in what is kind of a side note already – they pronounce it “Meri-tahj” like Taj Mahal, even though the grape varietal that I suspect they are named after is pronounced “Meri-tage” like rage. Heh heh losers.) There were so many delicious-sounding options (e.g., Sonoma Goat Cheese-Potato Terrine: slow roasted coke farm’s baby beets & aged balsamic syrup or California Lamb “Tagine”cous-cous, black mission figs, toasted almonds & marinated olives), and each came as either a small or large portion, and we were instructed to order two smalls and one large each. Six people x three dishes x 18 menu items x two size options / one vegetarian / one pescatarian / one ethical eater who won’t eat foie / one crustacean allergy x we don’t really know each other all that well x we want to share everything = potential clusterfuck or brilliance, with all of it taking forever to be decided.

[Note: it was indeed brilliant, with the total tab at the end of the night coming to $63.58 each without us even thinking about it or calculating anything!!]

Two of us gave up and just went with the tomato tasting menu. The others also kind of gave up and just ordered what sounded good, in some cases creating two-person contracts for sharing but nothing more complicated than that.

Second poo story: We were talking about animals, and someone brought up the winner of the Darwin award a while back – a guy who died when an elephant defecated on him, and he suffocated (I helpfully piped up “That’s more like DROWNING, isn’t it?”). The others didn’t believe this was a true story, and it’s unclear, but still.

My meal went like this: Amuse – Green Zebra tomato and watermelon “skewer” (pictured middle) which tasted just like the two components should, but more intensezors. Commanche Creek mixed tomato “gazpacho” soup with Haas avocado and cucumber. Well, we can add the gratuitous use of quotation marks to the list of Chef Josh’s punctuation foibles. This gazpacho was heralded by Mario as “the best gazpacho you will EVER have in your life.” Hyperbole. It was good, and the cheese cracker thing was crispy and creamy. Heirloom tomato salad, with “crispy” North Beach pancetta, buffalo mozzarella, basil, and infused EVO. Ignoring the “” for now, this dish was beautiful (see top, and also sorry for the dearth of pictures it was a night where blogging was not really a legit focus lol). I had issues with the mozzarella being in cube form, also not enough of it, but the olive oil sang and the pancetta, despite its natural advantage as fatty animal protein, was upstaged by the sheer transcendence of the tomatoes. Brandywine tomato risotto & seared sea scallops – “petite” herb salad, baby arugula, brown butter vinaigrette. Alright the quoties are bordering on annoying now, but that’s the last one. Normally I don’t love acid with scallops, and the risotto on its own was weirdage, but when you constructed the perfect bite, for which the “petite” herb salad was mandatory, you started to understand what Chef Josh was getting at. Finally, yellow tomato “sorbet” (I lied) with sweet corn creme brulee. I confess I ate this dessert in two parts. First the sorbet, which I thought was refreshing and lovely but that could be because I dislike sugar. I think I forgot along the way that the creme brulee was sweet corn, or else I might have eaten more of it. It tasted like normal, so I just boldly ate only the top of it and left the messy bottom for all to see.

Other standouts were the goat cheese and potato dish mentioned above, and the other version of seared sea scallops - yukon gold potato puree, farmer’s market mushrooms, & braised leeks.

I’ll leave you with Poo Story #3, which was about how one of us (the family doctor) had to perform “manual disimpaction” (the physical removal of impacted stool using the hands) on kids sometimes, to which one of my new colleagues asked, aghast, “WHICH HOLE?” to which we all asked, equally aghast, “WHAT??”

The Meritage at the Claremont
41 Tunnel Road
Berkeley, CA 94705
800.551.7266

CIA at Greystone

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Solar flares are so hot right … well more like 2008

“Something…to do with…waiters packing heat? Menu decryptions? Like…we had to code-break the menu in order to order? Its sister restaurant is Hoover’s and it’s a drag club? ‘This is your menu, should you choose to accept it’ you know like Mission Impossible 2 intro?”

These are the jokes that R2 was trying out in the car before arriving at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus/restaurant in Napa Valley. Then Tron came up with “I’d tell you the specials but I’d have to kill you” and R2 was shamed, and then he also came up with “The food is to die for,” which shamed him even further. Which was itself a shame because out of the two, only R2 would have ACTUALLY gone through with it and hassled the poor server.

Yelp says the food is good but the service is shit. I thought the service was fine – a little slow, and our food came way before our wine which wasn’t ideal, but I thought of it as Top Chef Restaurant Wars and all was well. Also, our server reminded me of Jon I Only Speak The Truth Leguizamo.

Before, during, and after Sookie Stackhouse sex

I got a flight of wine that contained both white and red (and a rose that I tolerated) since our appetizer was fish and my entree was beef. The official, unwieldy title of this restaurant is Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant of the Culinary Institute of America, and indeed I thought this flight of wine was lovely, particularly on a gorgeous patio with one’s favorite friends.

Our app was Monterey Bay Sardines with Yukon Gold potatoes, frisée and herb salad, and salsa verde, and it came with a wine pairing – two ounces of Miner Rosato, 2009, local from Mendocino County.

I choked on the dill but that’s not their fault

What a perfect dish for this setting!  Fresh, light, textbook char on the sardine, inventive, interesting textures, utterly yummy. I would eat this again and again, and it’s now almost a month later and it’s still on their “updated weekly” menu so perhaps I should.

R2 got caught, as he always does, in the gravitational pull of the halibut entree, but at the last moment I successfully lured him away by mentally dangling scallops in front of him. Specifically, Day Boat Scallops – pan seared with sweet white corn, mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and basil pesto.

Peas are pissed at the corm for being sweeter than they are, despite the “sugar” in their name

The sear here was also textbook, but unforch the scallop was more than raw in the middle. I heart a raw scallop, but not a seared raw scallop, the middle of which made me realize the hard truth that scallops, rather than being marshmallows of the sea, are fishy muscle tissue that giant clams use to open and close their shells. G-ross.

Isn’t this the best part of having a boyfriend? Making them eat the lesser of the two dishes you couldn’t decide between? I promptly forgot all about the scallops and dug into my entree:

The pink flower is an angel heralding oral heaven

So tender. Beyond tender. Daniel calls this “tendyond,” though he uses the term for when people are being schmoopy sweet to each other. I was only provided with a butter knife, which I thought was a student-in-training error, but may have been Greystone just showing off.

This dish sparked a beef revival in me (dirty), and now the protein that I unfailingly used to skip over on every menu now automatically makes it onto my Top 3 contenders list. Also, I understand why spaghetti sauce is so delicious, because it’s basically everything you see in the photo above, just chopped into bits and simmered forever.

I was in a terrible situation, where I wanted to savor the flavor and draw out the pleasure of my entree for as long as possible, but my hands and jaw were in shovel and paku-paku mode, respectively. The net result of this was that no one even noticed my panic because I finished my plate at the same time as everyone around me.

For dessert, we ordered the give-us-whatever dessert, and ended up with:

I only tasted the liquid ones because I thought they might have alcohol

You know me. I’m not a dessert gal. I did, however, deeply enjoy the schmancy root beer float, maybe because it was more beverage than dessert. Also, the panna cotta was liquid-ey-er than it should have been and thus, for the same reasons, pleasing.

This was a great way to start a day of wine tasting – it served the dual function of padding the tum to prevent drunkenness too early and making us feel civilized (to buffer our minds against the truth which is that we were going to drink ourselves silly and perhaps puke on strangers). Greystone has yet to have a mayor, so Foursquare folks – get on it.

Thank you to R2 for being DD.

Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant
2555 Main St
St Helena, CA 94574
707.967.1010

Susiecakes vs Kara’s

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Daniel visited me a couple weeks ago, and I was like, “I has a Daniel nao wat i do wit it?”

We already had plans to do a super schmance dinner (Michael Mina) and we already had plans to dress up like we were in a dance krew and go to Step Up 3-D, so I was at a loss.

Then – inspiration.

“Do you want to has a cupcake-off between Kara’s and Susiecakes?”

“YES!”

So we went to Kara’s first, and decided we needed to taste-off the basics for sure, so we got a regular with vanilla frosting. Specifically, the fancy name: Sweet Vanilla – vanilla cupcake with sweet madagascar bourbon vanilla frosting. We also got a passion fruit one – vanilla cupcake with passion fruit filling and vanilla buttercream.

We carried the box down the street to Susiecakes, where the chick eyed our pink package but didn’t say anything. There, we got vanilla, Luscious Lemon, red velvet, and mint chocolate. I am not sure why we got four here as opposed to two there.

Oh, an important note: Daniel is now the proud owner of a fatty macro lens. Yessss. Now MTFB can be a legit depth-of-field-ey type blog! I mean, LOOK what he did with Payback’s ears!

And our mimosa at Squat and Gobble!

So yeah. We were as excited to photograph our new purchases as we were to eat them. I knew that they would look smashing on my kitchen table, which is ice-green/blue and reflective.

Oh, Daniel is now explaining that we chose the vanilla and red velvet first, and then he wanted to try the chocolate mint as a mini, but they didn’t have any, so he got the big one, and then I was like you should get another to fill the box, so we got the lemon one for Tinx (who was driving up from LA later that night). [Note: Apparently she never ate it, as when I asked her for comments for this post she said "I liked the Kara's one but I only had one bite I don't even remember what kind it was." Kara's - ie not the lemon one we got her. Fail.]

[in Heidi voice] Let’s start the show.

Not bad, Daniel.

As for the competition-

Box: Kara’s wins, because (a) it is a cuter color; (b) the sticker is used strategically to close the box; (c) the box is designed better – the flaps fold into itself, whereas Susiecakes the flaps stick out and they use janky scotch tape to keep the box closed; and (d) -

Cuppycake holsters so they’ll stay upright. Susiecakes just rolled around – ugh a pet peeve of mine.

Selection: Although both Kara’s and Susiecakes’ have t-shirts and big cakes, Susiecakes also has whoopie pies, silky and rich-looking puddings, mini cupcakes, and  cheesecakes. So Susie wins.

Cake: Kara’s wins. Moist yet light and vanilla-ey; neither of these described Susie, though “buttery” did.

Frosting: Susiecakes pulled this one out, though it could have been because we tasted four rather than two. So, not a fair matchup. But the Luscious Lemon frosting hit that perfect note of tart and sweet and toe-tingly.

Store decor: Kara’s is cute and sleek, not to mention they have a sweet-ass van that rolls around the neighborhood, frustratedly looking for parking all the time. Susiecakes is all pastels and whites, which is fine I guess.

Convenience: Kara’s has the aforementioned van, not to mention curbside service, and they are open for more hours. Derr.

Yumminess when drunk: Based on the carnage the following day, perhaps a draw.

Lasting power: But the next morning, we thought that Kara’s tasted almost as lovely as they had the day before – not so with the dried out Susiecakes.

Overall taste: Kara’s.

Overall weeeeener~! Kara’s!

I will leave you with Daniel’s master shot of the day - this gratuitous picture of a single sprinkle in focus~

Gratuitous!

Susiecakes
2109 Chestnut St
SF CA 94123

Kara’s Cupcakes [thank you for not making your name "Kupkakes"]
3249 Scott St
SF CA 94123
[Note: I do approve of you calling it your "Karavan."]