Archive for the ‘Disappointment’ Category

Guest Post: Rainbow Doodle Cake!

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

My stick figures are as true-to-life as it gets.

While Janet was in Japan getting her cultural heritage on with R2 in tow, I spent my days baking a beautiful cake.   Ok, it was only 2 days, and the cake is by no means beautiful.  But it has a great personality.  Sort of a butterface, or in this case, a butterfondant.  

This seems to happen to me a lot.  I love baking, and the stuff I make tastes really fucking good, but I’m kind of a failure when it comes to decorating.  Case in point: Giant Cuppycake.  That one tasted bad too, but whatevs.  A couple months ago I went crazy for a party Logo and I were hosting and made a shit-ton of desserts and the results were astoundingly lovely.  Alas, that was not the case this time.   

I decided to make this cake after a request from Eggroll to make a glorious dessert for a weekend away in Arrowhead for the Tough Mudder and Lisa’s/David’s birthdays.  For those who don’t know, the Tough Mudder is a ridiculous display of manliness and stupidity under the guise of a 10 miles race with obstacles.  Obstacles like diving in ice water and running through electrical wires charged with 10,000 volts.  SUPER FUN!!!!1!  

My inspiration for this cake was the amazingly beautiful Canuck cake blog Sweetapolita.  That woman makes some gorgeous cakes.  And gorgeous babies, just look at the pictures of her children on there!  And she married a gorgeous man.  Some people have all the luck.  I figured it would be fun to make a fun, surprising cake and have everyone write all over the pristine, smoothly fondant-ed outside. 

Not my cake.

I made the cake part of the cake the Wednesday before the weekend because I didn’t want to bake at high altitude–tried that in Mammoth without making adjustments and the cake was deflated and dry.  Still edible, but this one had to be gorgeous and thus I baked the cakes early and froze them.  The recipe is super easy.  I used cake flour instead of regular flour because I wanted to and mine says it’s expired so I need to use it up.  Apparently cake flour is treated with chlorine so it’s really soft and results in a lovely, soft, light crumb.  I subbed 1 c. + 2 T. of cake flour for each cup of regular flour and it worked out fine. 

Rewind to my initial preparations for this cake.  I went to the only cake decorating supply place in West LA, Gloria’s (silly side note: their URL spells it “suplys” hehe).  I think it was under construction because the right side of the store looked like a bomb had exploded.  Still, the place had everything!  I enjoyed rummaging immensely and spent a lot of time looking at the gel food colors.  SO pretty.  Ended up with the Americolor “school training kit,” so I’ll be set if I ever go to cake school.  AND I got these awesome food coloring markers so everyone could draw on the cake. 

Pretty colors!!

There was no way I was going to make my own fondant so I bought a fancier-looking one than Wilton because Wilton is the cake decorating devil and they’ve taken over everything with their cheapy fondant cutters and shit!  I made a good choice, too, because this fondant was actually tasty instead of tasting like sweet plastic. 

Fancy French name means it’s better.

After making the batter, you have to weigh it and then split it into 6 bowls for dyeing.  I thought this would be pretty difficult but it went quickly, though I used all of our cereal bowls and all of our forks for stirring the colors.  Logo was like “what happened I just did dishes?!” and I was like “Sorrrryyyyyy……”   Good story, huh?  Here’s a picture of the pretty batter.   Some of it, at least.

 Blue + yellow = green.  Lessons in color chemistry.

And here’s a couple pictures of the cakes cooling.  The layers are super super thin so I was glad I parchment-papered the bottoms of the pans to prevent any cake-butt loss.  The blue layer is missing because I had to rescue it from overcooking due its runtiness.  I’m like the mom that pushes aside that baby that won’t make it because it’s too small.  But the purple layer looks blue so pretend it’s both blue AND purple!  Yay! 

I obviously didn’t bake them in rainbow order.

Ignore the finger gouge in the green. 

I wrapped each layer in plastic wrap after cooling and realized when I stacked them that one of my cake pans was actually a pie pan and was slightly less than 9″.  So two layers were littler than the others on top of blue being super thin and yellow having a weird hump.  Not an auspicious beginning.  At least the colors are vibrant, right? 

Always use protection.

Fast-forward to assembling the cake: everyone was at the Tough Mudder except me and Stosh.  We went to breakfast (I had chicken-fried steak and eggs–I won) while the layers defrosted and then I made cream cheese frosting–Lisa’s favorite!–and frosted the cake.  I forgot to take pictures of this part, probably because I was having major issues getting it smooth because the layers were so lopsided.  Eventually I gave up, figuring that it didn’t have to look good since I was just going to cover it in fondant.  That was a poor decision.  Just so you know, fondant will form to whatever shape is underneath it.  Even weird cake lumps and gooshy frosting.  

The P-sug went into every crevice of the wooden table.  Whoops.

I did ok rolling the fondant out because it was very pliable and easy to work with.  But then when I put it on the cake, I didn’t cut off the excess soon enough and the bottom slowly ripped off, leaving a large hole in the fondant.  I tried using the remaining fondant to make another layer, but I didn’t have quite enough. 

First layer.  Not as ugly with flash.

That’s when I got the brilliant idea to make a bow!  It didn’t turn out half bad, but while I was making it the fondant already on the cake continued to settle and got lumpier and lumpier.  Eventually, the bottom of the cake looked like cellulite and when I tried to smooth it, the frosting underneath would squish out around the bottom.  Grossssss and delicious on my fingers nom. 

Ghett-bow!  Punny.

Everyone else said the cake was lovely, but they’re just nice friends.  They dutifully signed it and drew some fun pictures, including a lovely peen drawn by Eggroll’s brother. 

Complete with veins and hair.

Please compare my decorating skillz to those of my sister-in-law, who made the cake below for her friend’s wedding.  It’s breathtaking–all buttercream!!  Such sharp edges!  But then I learned that it took like 27 hours to do and she ended up crying in the kitchen more than once and I felt better about my 3-hour cake.   I could make it perfect if I spent 27 hours too!   

The story of this cake’s inception would make a good chick flick.

We FINALLY got to cut into the cake after all those hours of labor, and it was truly beautiful.  All the nasty fondant was forgotten and the cake was deliciously sweet and vanilla-ey.  With everyone getting drunker as the evening progressed, appetites increased and the cake slowly disappeared.  Aftermath.  Looks nom.

Ultimately, it was a success.  A delicious, colorful, lumpy success.  Make this shit for a fun time and an impressive reveal.

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


O hai.

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Well, shit. All of November went by without a single post. My bad. I was traveling to three different cities, was interviewed by over thirty-three people in total, and got a brand new study off the ground. Science waits for no one.

But I have to admit this puts the pressure on me. What could possibly be good enough to serve as a grand re-entrance after an entire MONTH?

I wish I was Allie. She would draw some silly picture that involved an animal and attach a hilarious narrative of her crazy life. IF I were Allie, it’d go a little something like this:

1. Weird, candy-cane shaped limbs.

2. A face and eyes that look like this.

3. I chose these colors because I’m Asian.

4. This is Buttins so I made it a Scottish fold.

5. Her cat eyeballs tend to be like this. See?

But alas, I’m nowhere near her level of genius. So I will stick with nice pictures of food attached to totally non-food related anecdotes, with “fuck” and “balls” and “nom” thrown in liberally.

Many, many of those to come. Stay tuned, and thanks for visiting despite my protracted silence~

Go read the always brilliant Hyperbole and a Half, and fuck YES I am tagging this in the “Art” category.

Espana Part II: Toledo

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

“Holy Toledo” is what R2′s FB status was when we went here. Toledo was a relatively spur-of-the-moment stop for us – we wanted to stay in a parador (a state-run converted castle) and this one was the closest one to an AVE (high speed train) stop. Just thirty minutes south of Madrid, the Parador de Toledo is on a hill outside of the main city with fucking KILLER views. The picture above, taken with the panorama function on The Kraken, barely got taken because both R2 and I were subject to a sudden spider cloud ambush. Horror and squeals. Except R2 was taking a photo of some English tourists for them at the time, one of whom said “You’re one hundred times bigger than that spider!” so he couldn’t squeal at the monstrous arachnid dangling from his elbow. [He kind of just stopped breathing and trembled until I rescued him and killt it.]

This was the view from our balcony. Our room was clean and bright and atmospheric and had a canopy and warm tile floors and I loved it.

The city proper (the entire city has been declared a national monument) is two winding miles away and everything you want in a vacation spot. Tiny streets barely the wider than most of your flat screen TVs, all cobblestoned and meandering down and up and down and up with charming doorways and stores and – SMACK! Right into the most gorgeous cathedral I’ve ever, ever, ever been in. The Toledo Cathedral does not allow photographs, unfortunately, but even compared to later cathedrals (Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Catedral) that are bigger and more famouser, this one was just breathtaking. It was all I could do to not burst into flames, it was so beautiful and spiritual.

Plaza de Zocodover is the main square in tiny Toledo, and all roads lead back to it. We stopped at a cafe on the square and I had my first experience with churros.

We did it wrong, totally.  They had clearly been sitting out forever, and were cold and salty (?) and I didn’t get a hot chocolate as one was supposed to so I was dunking them in cafe solo (black). I huffed a little and wished I was at Disneyland but then realized I was in fucking SPAIN so I snapped out of it.

Across the street to Santo Tome, purveyor of Toledo’s specialty, mazapan (marzipan). All these online reviews say their website is great, and it should be, since they’ve snagged mazapan.com.

I adore almond flavoring. I also adore nondescript globs of things. From soft (flan) to hard (Lemonheads). As I type this now, I’ve had to text “I WANT MAZAPAN” to R2. Twice.

We then went, based on Rick Steves’ recommendation, to Cafeteria Cason Lopez de Toledo. It’s the cheaper version of the fancy restaurant “located upstairs in an old noble palace,” specializing in “Castilian food, particularly venison and partridge.” The cafeteria version, “…while called a ‘cafeteria,’ is actually a quality restaurant in its own right…where the locals dine, enjoying the fancy restaurant’s kitchen at half the price.” Sounds great!

We showed up at eight, apparently too early for them, for the restaurant was empty and the waitstaff kept rolling in for work after we were practically done. But methinks the restaurant was empty for other reasons…

They had a 11 euro prix fixe deal, and our amuse (?) was the mussel … ceviche? Shown above. Ceviche doesn’t technically contain raw fish, since the acid from the lemon/citrus “cooks” it. These looked pretty raw, however.

R2 picked one up and noticed a bunch of hairy … things coming out of the blowhole of one of them. He (with effort – shudderrr) yanked them out, and not knowing what to do, threw the hairy bundle onto the ground. I didn’t tell him at the time for reasons that will become apparent, but it reminded me of a particularly horrific wart I got on my toe in middle school in moist and humid Tokyo. The Japanese name for that type of wart is uwonome, which in English means fish eye. My specific wart, though, looked just like the thing in the mussel – a circular ring with skin formations that looked like tiny hairs poking out the center. I just vommed a little thinking about it.

Anyway, I ate one and thought “FISHAY!” R2 went for the now-de-haired one but I stopped him. He put that one aside and picked up another one and popped it into his mouth.

“I still can’t get over how beautiful that cathedral was. And it’s crazy to think that it’s tucked away here in this random cit–”

I looked over to R2 at that moment and stopped talking, because R2′s face had gone from his usual Jew-pale to an ashen, translucent putty color, streaked through with green.

“ARE YOU OK?”

“GULP.”

“NOOO DON’T SWALLOW EET!”

He swallowed it. And proceeded to look shaken for the rest of the meal (I think he was actually shaking), with perspiration at his hairline. Poor thing.

He also had the bad luck to have ordered gazpacho, which in this case apparently meant salmon gazpacho. Cold soup when you feel like you want to mon (the opposite of nom get it?) is not great, but an intensely fishy cold soup with cheese on top…R2 is only a man, after all.

I told him he didn’t have to finish it and offered him some of my salad, which came with white asparagus, which I love (this is the nicest thing I can say about this place – that they happened to serve something out of a can that I like) but also with tuna mixed throughout the lettuce. This resto really loves their fishy meme.

The server, noticing that R2 had barely touched his soup, grew concerned. She asked if he wanted a salad like mine? Did he not like his soup? What else would he like instead? and R2, in a trembling voice, insisted “…me…me gusta!”

I had to give it to him – he delivered this lie without crying.

Bad luck upon bad luck, R2 had ordered a fish dish as his entree. I stole it quickly away from him. The fish wasn’t bad – it was just normal.

In return, I gave him my scalloped beef with potatoes. Again, it wasn’t fabulous, but the potatoes settled his tum I think. After this was flan and bread pudding, which R2 tore into to wash the whole tragedy of a meal down.

As we walked (he, shakily) out of the restaurant, we decided we could not end our night on that note (they didn’t even have the promised venison OR partridge, jyerks!), so we decided to go to a wine bar, once again recommended by Rick Steves.

Adolfo Vinoteca is the wine bar of the highly respected local chef Adolfo, who runs a famous gourmet restaurant across the street. His hope: to introduce the younger generation to the culture of fine food and wine. The bar offers up a pricey but always top-notch list of gourmet plates and fine local wines per glass – don’t economize here. Adolfo’s son, Javier, proved to me the importance of matching each plate with the right wine. I like to sit next to the kitchen to be near the creative action. If the Starship Enterprise had a Spanish wine-and-tapas bar on its holodeck, this would be it.”

Guess, just GUESS which part of that description sang to R2.

We went, and had to double check that it was still open, since it, too was empty. But they had both partridge AND venison on their menu, so we ordered both (both came as stews; the partridge dish was described as partridge with discolored beans lol). We asked, in accordance with Rick, for them to pair a wine with it, and our server was like, “???” and we said, you know, what wine would go well with the dishes we’ve ordered? and he was like, “?? Well, we have red wine and white wine.” And we said no, like, what specific wine would go with the partridge and the venison? and he finally, seemingly haphazardly, said, “this wine is very good.”

They first brought out what we encountered often in Toledo – a potato salad sandwich. Just the thought churns the stomach, and this one had cooked soft carrots which I found highly displeasing, and it was all on one of those airplane-esque yucky rolls. Particularly on the heels of our prior meal and on a full stomach on top of that, I couldn’t enjoy it (but you better fucking believe I ate it).

Who knew discoloration was so delicious? I heard from my friend Saxy that beans help cure nausea (this came up at a chili cook-off when she was in that particularly pukey stage of pregnancy) and perhaps this was why I fished out and ate most of the beans. The partridge tasted like any other bird, though tender and flavorful.

I knew even before I ate it what word was going to come out of my mouth after I ate the venison: gamey. Of the two, I liked the partridge better than the venison.

But I realize as of Saturday that I had no inkling what gamey meant until I had a slice of ostrich at the Bellagio buffet. Holy shit that’s like the Cranium of meats right there.

Anyhoo, it really was a shame that we didn’t just come here, as we didn’t have the stomach space or fortitude to truly enjoy their offerings.

We walked out, back to the Plaza, a little bit scared now that it was very dark and the tiny streets were so confusing. Rick Steves said Toledo’s “medieval atmosphere” was vibrant and “wonderful after dark.” I am looking down at my iPhone notes and I believe right about then is when I typed “Rick Steves needs to check his shit.”

The following day we decided to take full advantage of our parador and swim, laze around, sun, read, and lunch at the parador’s own restaurant before taking the AVE to Barcelona. We were seated in the midst of three Japanese dantai tours – each with over 20 middle-aged, chatty, beer-drinking Japaneezy tourists. I love how my people booze it up at every meal – lunchtime and even the tiniest of little ladies was three-drinks deep.

OMG not here too! High brow though the little tart cups may have been, it was still the same god-awful potato salad shit.

I mean, I confess I’ve dipped my KFC biscuits into my KFC mashed potatoes before (hasn’t everyone?) but starch on starch does not a pleasing bite make!

My app was roasted red pepper cradled around fish mousse. R2 the amnesiac scarfed it up, while I was a little bit turned off by the fishiness (why the hell were we eating so much seafood in land-locked Toledo anyway? God we suck.)

R2′s app was a salad of some sort; overdressed and with canned (?!) mushrooms at the bottom; not my favorite and until I figured out they were mushrooms, I paranoid-ly thought that it was a squeaky, chewy, sour fish of some sort.

I just kept working through the half-bottle of white wine that I ordered.

His entree was something I want to eat when I’m drunk, with beer. It was their special – the Don Quixote, with over-easy egg, chorizo, and fried bread crumbs. R2 loves eggs, LOVES chorizo, and LOVE LOVE LOVES Don Quixote (for his thirteenth birthday he asked only for a copy of Don Quixote, which his dad got him – used – for $6.95).

Against ALL common sense, I had ordered pulpo a la plancha (that’s grilled octopus) for my entree.

My reasoning was this – octopus isn’t fishy. If anything, it’s reminiscent more of chicken, or even pork. Plus – can you say blogworthyyyy?

Something I learned in Spain – octopus needs to be grilled for a long time to render out the very very thick layer of fat between the skin and the meat. I started at the tip, which was salty and crunchy and the tiny suction cups popped in my mouth like crispy caviar. Awesome and tasty. As I ate my way up the tentacle, however, I encountered said fat and the shiver started from my toes and took a full 10 seconds to work its way up into my eyebrows. I mean, unrendered fat is gross. Fishy unrendered fat – even grosser. Packaged in a very raw-looking, giant slab of slime – it was very hard not to faint on the spot.

Am I losing my foodie mojo? I wondered.

I refuse to think that. I think Toledo is just a food wasteland. Definitely, definitely go, but stick to bocadillos and for the love of god avoid anything with tendrils coming out of it.

Up next…Barcelona!

Iguanas Burritozilla

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Well, golly. Let’s have a warm round of applause for our two guest posters, DJDeer and Tinx! I’m quite impressed and was literally LOLing throughout most of their posts. I clearly need to step up my game. My 9 month plan has left me complacent. Those two guest posts are tough acts to follow – I’ve neither a creepy mermaid ballet and fries that look like poo adventure, nor have I a gaycation complete with a bacon-draped bloody mary tale to tell. In fact I have nothing draped with bacon at the moment. Woe is me.

What I do have, though, is a story of the FUTURE! Ha! You doubt me? You can see for yourself in the picture above, I ate a burrito on 25/45/2165. While I can’t tell you much of what is going on in that time (you know, the whole space-time continuum thing), you can at least figure out that 12/21/2012 is NOT the end of the world. Sorry Mr. Cusack!

How did I come to find myself in the future eating a burrito of no ordinary description? Well I was in San Jose with Vic for our good friend Twin’s wedding, and via Man v. Food had heard of an epic burrito to be had at Iguanas Burritozilla. The burrito itself was aptly named Burritozilla; it is 18″ and weighs in at just over 5 lbs (!) of pure burrito deliciousness. Pair it with a drink and the two items round out nicely to about 20 buckeroos.

Maybe it is a giant silver poo from Gozira himself

If you look closely you can see that the burrito was LONGER than the diagonal of the tray. Even then Vic and I had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into. After unwrapping it, we just thought of it as just another burrito.

Put me in your mouth!

Nommmmm. The ingredients were not groundbreaking, just your standard Carne Asada, Rice, Black Beans, Cilantro, Tomatoes, and Avocado.  Standard they may have been, but no less delicious.

Armed with knife and fork, Vic halved the beast and we started in on our respective parts. Let me tell you, that first 5 or 6 inches were heavenly. The ingredients were distributed evenly throughout, so there weren’t just bites of rice or beans. I could hardly stop stuffing my face with it. Vic seemed to holding his own, and we had garnered the attention of a few locals. “FOODIE STARDOM!” I thought. If I had only seen through the carne asada induced haze, I would’ve realized that their smiles were ones of pity and not kindness. After those first 6 inches, DEAR LORD the pain. The feeling of fullness hit so quickly I wanted to roll over and die. Since I figured my half of the burrito was 2.5lbs and I had managed to eat over half of it (1.6lbs or so) in about 30 minutes, I deserved a break.

Me: Dude, I need a breather. This sucker is expanding inside of me.
Vic: Me too man… how do you like it so far?
Me: It’s pretty good. The meat is cooked well and there’s a lot of flavor coming through.
Vic: …I should tell you that I had a big lunch 2 hours ago.
Me: Say what?!

That’s when it truly spiraled into a pit of doom. or maybe the pit of my stomach. That place. Anyway, Vic assured me that he would do his part to eat as much of the burrito as possible considering his situation, and that I shouldn’t worry. At most I’d have to eat maybe an inch or two of his half. AT MOST?! With 2 inches left on my side, I already wanted to die. Still, the AZN inside of me said that I couldn’t waste the food (the RICE! YOU CAN”T WASTE THE RICE!) and in the next 30 minutes I powered through to finish my half, bite by painful bite. I could see from Vic’s face that he was also to the point where he was in pain yet dutifully finishing his food.  With 2.5lb of burrito inside of me already, I anxiously watched him, fearing the worst. And with about 2.5 inches of burrito left, the worst happened. He tapped out.

Vic: I can’t do it anymore, man.
Me (almost hysterically): Oh come on, just a few more bites see?!
Vic: No dude, you’ve gotta finish it for me.

The AZN took this moment to once again scream (THE RICE! EAT IT. SAVE IT. DON’T WASTE IT. WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE WE DIDN’T HAVE MUCH …). The AZN seems to share a timeline with my father. Curious, that. So I went for it. I grabbed my fork and dug in, had two bites, and needed a breather. 5 minutes after that I started in earnest. Only to stop 5 minutes after that.

I can feel it gloating, basking in its victory.

Vic bravely managed about a half inch more, but we were done. All in all I had roughly 2.7lbs of burrito and I was near tears from eating too much. The mere hint of a thought trying to finish made me throw up a little in my mouth. We clearly were not fit to live in the future, eating future burritos. We stood up, threw the remainder away, and made the obscenely long waddle (seriously felt like waddling) back to our hotel 3 blocks away. I think I died a little that day. On a happy note, the overall weekend was awesome as Twin was a perfect bride and I could not be happier for the lovely couple.

Anyhoo, if you ever find yourself in San Jose OR the future swing by Iguanas. The burrito was tasty and if that is any indicator of the rest of the food, then you’re still in for some good stuff even if you don’t take on the Burritozilla.

Iguanas Burritozilla
330 S. 3rd St, Ste A
San Jose, CA 95112

Portland Report(land)

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

I heart it when conference organizers choose proper cities that (a) are walkable and (b) are a random foodie oasis.  I was recently in Portland for exactly such a conference, with my dearest friend and OG Foodie Sharisa, and found my new favorite restaurant…

Ping

Ping was named Rising Star Restaurant of the Year by the Oregonian’s Diner Guide.  I was excited about their Baby Octopus Skewer (marinated in lime, chiles, garlic, fish sauce, and cilantro).

Mostly I was enticed by the price – TWO BUCKAROOS for all you see above!  Loverly.

Our server was the cutest hapa girl, which Sharisa appreciated as she is a hapa herself.  She guided us to good cocktails and handled our frantic and impassioned ordering with style.

In addition to the octo-bebehs, we ordered a red potato skewer (salt roasted and grilled, served with spicy mayo sauce – $1!), a salapao (thai-style steamed bun stuffed with sweet shredded pork, fried shallots – $2.50!)…

deep-fried tiny fish ($2!), chinese tea egg (steeped in black tea, soy sauce, ginger, star anise, & cinnamon – $2!)…

…house-made pork meatball skewer (Thai-style, dipped in sweet chili sauce – $2.50!), house-made fish ball skewer (same), yam yai (Thai-style green salad with lettuce, boiled egg, peanuts, onions, prawns, chicken, bean sprouts, pickled garlic, scallions, cilantro, cucumber and tofu topped with a peanut dressing)…

And THESE.  Quail egg skewer (wrapped in bacon, with spicy mayo sauce).  Every neuron in my noggin was trilling with joy.  We ordered another as soon as the first hit our respective mouths.  Think smooth plus crunchy, shot through with spicy cream.  Not that I chewed to register the crunch.  I gulped them down cartoon-style – a delicious Adam’s apple!

We should have stopped there, but the fucking curiosity killed the cat (‘s palate).  We spied chicken butt - brined with fish sauce, garlic and sugar, grilled and served with sweet chili dipping sauce and ordered it.  Two thoughts, both related to R2, popped into my head.  (1) R2 told me that the a bird’s butt-al area is called its “vent” which is gross and reminiscent of wormy farts; and (2) no one loves a slanted rhyme more than R2, so I promptly texted him “What’s up?” and he texted back, just as promptly, “Chicken butt.”

Excellent.

Chicken butt is fucking disgusting.  Think of the gristliest bit of chicken that you’ve ever accidentally eaten, then shoot it through with sickly-yellow chicken fat, and then genetically hybridize it with  bouncy ball and that’s what you get.

Thinking about the chicken butt is bad.  Thinking about chicken butt while watching the episode of Man vs. Wild where he…well actually, any episode will do, but this one is the one where  he drinks his piss (which he has deposited into the skin of a rattlesnake) and then he’s eating skunk that he’s recently beheaded and describes it as “steak rubbed in dog feces…” anyway yes blogging chicken butt plus Man vs Wild is making me green about the gills.

Despite the chicken vent, I was so happy to be full-up with good food and hanging out with Sharisa again.  In fact, it was this very conference, six years ago, where Sharisa earned her nickname from our ESL Chinese friend who could not pronounce her real name and called her Sharisa (“Sharisa I have your wine!” she said about the vodka and champagne we had purchased to pregame – every kind of alcohol is called “wine” to her apparently) and called me “Janeee.”

My happiness was shot to berserk levels of happy when our server set down our check and we discovered her name was Charissa.  ”HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE YOUR NAME!!” we shrieked at her, and she said “Sharisa.”  More shrieking!  What a perfect end to the night.

Except it didn’t end!  Because we next rolled ourselves over to…

Voodoo Doughnut

Voodoo Doughnut is a Portland mainstay.  The guy behind the counter was a burly, bearded, world-weary Portlandey dude who would periodically sigh “Can I get anyone anything.”  I had, natch, the bacon maple bar, which I thought I could handle being the sweet-savory queen.  No.

Others got the apple fritter, which was a triumph.  Crisp, light as air, and the size of a large frisbee.  Many grabby grabby hands tearing off shreds and nomming with gusto.

The next day we went to…

Navarre

Navarre also had glowing reviews, so we went.  I don’t know what to say about this place.  It does everything right (local, organic, la la la, small plates big plates etcetera).  Ambiance is cool, good wine list.  But none of the dishes sang.  Good, not great.  Not always due simply to underseasoning, per se, just…boring.

Save for this one dish, which was off-limits to cheese-hatin’ Sharisa.

Pardon the awfulness of the photo.  Did I even need to show it to you?  It’s basically a huge thing of fried cheese.  We manhandled this shit like there was no tomorrow.  Shattery, sticky cheese that squished out pleasing salty grease liquid, oh lord.

At more than twice the cost of Ping and with less than a tenth of the elation, NOT WORTH IT.

The following day I went for lunch with an old advisor to…

Veritable Quandary

VQ was a medium-schmancy joint where everyone from the conference ended up for lunch.  Sharisa showed up, too, with her advisor.  I could only take a couple quick pictures because I do NOT want any of my former advisors to know about this little blog overflowing with f-bombs.  Anyway, here it is:

Vegetarian biscuits and gravy with mushrooms and poached egg.  I am laughing to myself as I look at this photo, because I could not have (a) inhaled this faster; or (b) paid less attention to my advisor.  I hope I am still shiny in his eyes after this lunch.  I couldn’t help it!  The biscuit was perfectly crisp at the edges, and the yolk that yin-yanged into the extremely rich gravy was just so drop-dead fucking (see? f-bomb!) scrumptious. Lickety lickety.

Sharisa and I ditched the rest of the conference and went on a walk of Portland that moved me to exclaim, more than once, “This is like the fucking ODYSSEY!”

We started out walking along the river, where we happened on a huge fair.  Apparently this happens every week?  But it covered several blocks and I counted three different live bands!  Sharisa and I lamented that we were both full and couldn’t partake in any of the lovely fair food, fun stuff like bentos, gyros, curry!  Also, there was a cool artist who painted with numbers.  Not by numbers, but with numbers.  From far away it looks normal, but up close it’s like 1′s and 2′s and 3′s (well, you know what numbers are) that, like pointillism, from far away comprise a picture.  Pretty nerdy cool.

We kept walking and stumbled upon a city block that was crowded with loud people in wacky wacky costumes that walked that line between jolly and frightening.  A little too loud and drunk and homeless-looking.  Sharisa and I stood on the edge of the block, breathing hard and gathering courage to walk on.  We did, and encountered a guy dressed as the Last Supper (he was Jesus in the center with cutouts of the others, with a full-on table with bread and stuff on it slung around his neck.  Then a crusty looking guy ran up, grabbed a baguette from the table, and started wacking cardboard Judas with it, causing Jesus to get pissed and yell HEY HEY HEY HEY at increasingly menacing decibels.  Sharisa and I scampered right out of there.

Next, we passed Cupcake Jones.  Donuts are the new cupcakes and we had been there, done that, but we stopped nonetheless to pick up a baby cupcake each.  She: vanilla (flecked through with real vanilla bean and topped with a preshus edible pearl).  Me: red velvet (topped with a darling edible flower petal).

Blood sugar restored, we went to the world’s largest Anthropologie, which was a bit meaningless because I can never find anything that looks good on me there and Sharisa already owns all of it.  Next to Anthropologie was…

Powell’s City of Books

Goodness Gracious.  Truly a city.  I stepped in and I was shell-shocked.  I was on a hunt to find a used Edgar Rice Burroughs book for R2, who is collecting all the ones with Ace covers.

Usually he’s lucky if he can find any ERB books at a used bookstore.  Here, there was not only one book, not only one bookshelf, but three and a half bookshelves FULL of ERB books!  I breathed “Ohhhh he’s gonna die…” and whipped out my phone to call him and gloat.

I picked up two books to add to his collection, read through a Bon Appetit that said photographing one’s food was rude and should be outlawed (gulp!), texted Sharisa to find her, and left in search of a cocktail.

And I spied this thing!

EEEEEEEE!

Our final stop in Portland, recommended to me by a Portland native, was…

Clyde Common

The new home of noted mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler, we were excited to try some weird cocktails.  First we cooed at the impossibly cute dog outside, who looked like a pig and cow and puppy rolled into one.  No picture, sorry.  I suck at taking animal photos, remember?

We got one Copper Penny: Old Overholt rye, Clear Creek pear brandy, Punt e Mes, apricot, one B.M.O.C.: bourbon, raw ginger syrup, Angostura, soda water, one Tonga-Tonga: Smith and Cross Jamaican rum, lime, grapefruit, Trader, and one Beginning of the End: Boca Loca cachaca, lime, amaretto, egg whites, apple butter.  The latter was my favorite due to my intense love of egg whites which was further thickened with the apple butter – captivating!

And thus, we said goodbye to Portland in the best possible way – slightly-beyond-tipsy.

Mini post for mini avocado

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

With common household items for scale.

I love my CSA box, but are you fucking serious me?  Lamest pit/meat ratio ever.  I eated it anyway.

Chez Panisse Cafe

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

YEEEEES.  Chez Panisse (Cafe).  On someone else’s dime, best part!  Of course, any proper foodie knows about Alice Waters and her Slow Food movement.  Absolutely, clearly, the most famous, basic knowledge that any proper foodie knows.  [I am not, by any means, wiki-ing it right now.]

OHHHH ok.  Apparently it’s “Slow” food in contrast to fast food.  So, basically, a movement toward, well, wait damnitall I’ve already forgotten.  Cut and paste:

“Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. To do that, Slow Food brings together pleasure and responsibility, and makes them inseparable.”

I get it – like putting on a condom.

Well anyhoo, this is the mecca of foodie food, so I was jumping out of my seat with excitement.  My stomach was also chock full of nothing but caffeine and I was mistaking that gnawing nausea as hunger.  The bread was not warm but the butter was thick like cheese so I forgave.

I did not forgive the appetizer – a fish concoction pictured top.  [I was with new people and they are work people so I couldn't be in 100% blogger mode and thus "fish concoction" is the best you're gonna get with the food descriptions.]  The greens – overdressed.  The tapenade-esque glop on top – overdressed.  The dollop of fish – exceedingly pleasing in terms of texture with the crostini, but yech!  Soooo fishy!

My friend Checkers got an arugula salad and I stole one bite and froze.  The sodium from the dressing had made every neuron in my body have an action potential and I was momentarily incapacitated.  Not too incapacitated to not notice our neighboring table sending theirs back.

Off their game? Coasting on Alice’s name and cred? Or were my expectations impossibly high?

I told our server that I was contemplating the quail, and he told me that I should definitely order it and that everyone would be jealous.  That’s exactly the tone I wanted to strike with new co-workers (be jealouszors of my food betches) so I ordered it.

Amusing side story #1: I had brought Service Included to lend to one of my new co-workers to try to win her over.  She left it sitting on the corner of the table in a very conspicuous manner, completely un-diabolically (she is sweet to the core) but I was LOVING the glances and double-takes we were getting from the entire front of house staff.  Fully three servers asked us what the book was, and indeed, as a result, our service was five-star stellar. Good pointer for eliciting good service at any resto, though it requires a waitstaff that gives a shit.

Amusing side story #2: Checkers, who I gave a ride back to SF, is Nigerian. She told me many stories on the way home, but my favorite was how she likes to eat chicken bones and quail bones but understands that it can weird people out.  She told me about how in her office at Harvard, which she shared with an officemate, she would eat the chicken part and then nonchalantly wait until her officemate left to consume the bones.  On one chicken day she noticed her officemate getting distressed.  Upon asking what the matter was, her officemate said, “Checkers, I know you are embarrassed about eating your chicken bones so I try to leave when you’re having them for lunch.  But today I’m so busy and I have a deadline and can’t leave.  So please, go ahead and eat them in front of me.”  LOLit (lol, literally).

My quail was really good.  No one was jealous (just Checkers’ eyes bugging out, which I now understand was because she wanted to nom on my bones [winkety winkety]).  I couldn’t help but think, however, that putting a crunchy, deep-fried batter on anything will make it delish, whether or not it was part of a Slow Food movement and prepared lovingly by Alice.

Dessert - Meyer lemon sherbet with moscato dAsti and a tuile.  [I have this description because they are serving it tonight and thus on the website.] I had seen the magic (from the Berkeley farmer’s market) that Kashiwase Farms casts on their fruit, and indeed the taste of this captivating little dessert was intense and enchanting. A lovely cleanse of my palate given the…less than exceptional meal so far.

Gosh, I hate to be one of those downer blogs where they love to trash famous places.  But that salad was inexcusable, even for, like, a McDonald’s.  I should have stopped at the butter and basked in the good service, which was enough to fill me up.  This is an annual dinner so I’ll be back in five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred miiiiinutes and see if this night was a fluke.  Stay tuned (for a very long time)!

Chez Panisse Cafe
1517 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, California 94709
510.548.5049

SF Street Food Festival

Monday, August 24th, 2009

I try not to be too big of a hater. So this…post…will…be…difficult. Read my prose and imagine it all said between clenched teeth.

The SF Street Food Festival was Saturday, and I had been looking forward to it since I moved here. An entire city block, shut down and filled with street food vendors and FREE ADMISSION? Be still my heart!

Then I got there and talked to my pal Venus on the phone, and she was like, “I’m in the beer garden! Find me!” A BIERGARTEN?!? Heart, be even stiller!

As I walked through the festival, however, I started to get alarmed. I saw only about ten tents set up and lines about fifty to sixty people deep, and lots of “XXXXX”s over items that were sold out. X’s are never good unless there are only three of them. Good thing I had a pluot, a string cheese, and a white nectarine in my system so I wasn’t too hangry (even though I lied and put on my FB status that everyone was hangry).

I found Venus and her crew and quickly slurped down a contraband Bud Lite that her cousin had brought. Then I waited for everyone to get ready to go eat and realized that there would indeed be no eating for these peeps, just drinking. That’s how they roll and they are hardcore.

So I stole Venus away and we went to the first tent (Poleng Lounge) and waited. For CLOSE. TO. AN. HOUR. The morsel we got as a reward at the end of the wait was a Balinese lamb and pork satay sampi on lemongrass skewer (they were out of their Vietnamese style BBQ oysters with rendered bacon-scallion oil and lemon pepper sauce cry cry cry), which was $3 for one and $5 for two. We each got two, and the guy handed them over, and Venus kept waiting for more. I was like, “I think this is it, Venus,” and she’s like, “NO, we got a double order,” and I said, “No, this is it – see? Two skewers,” and she said, “Are you fucking serious?” and the guy piped in and said, “Sorry” in a non-sarcastic, genuinely apologetic manner.

It was just that Venus was already feeling ripped off because she had come expecting carts. Street food carts, you know? Bacon-wrapped hot dogs and shit.  In fact, these vendors seemed all from schmancy real restaurants, not genuine street food.  Her indignance was contagious and I started to feel jipped too. “HEY YEAH! WHY AREN’T THERE SOME MOTHERFUCKING CARTS ON THIS MOTHERFUCKING STREET!!!” I yelled.

Anyway, we took our food, which was provided to us on a nice green leaf (cute touch) and got in line for the second stand, which was Sabores del Sur serving Anticuchos Chilenos -Marinated New York Strip and Beef Heart with Potatoes. They were sold out (natch) of their empanadas but I was lusting after the skewers after seeing a number of people tearing the shit out of some beef heart earlier. (“Imma eat everything in skewer form today!” I declared irrationally.) But as soon as I walked toward the line, they sold out of their last one. Balls balls.

I would have to make do, for now, with my one tiny morsel of food from Polang. And what a bite it was. The yellow curry sauce it was made my tastebuds sing – it was sweet with a tiny bit of heat and coconut-y smooth and savory. I sucked on that lemongrass skewer like one of those starving abandoned tiger pups that they cross-foster to a housecat mom, which is to say I sucked on it like crazy, hoping to get just one more drop of the sauce.

Meanwhile, I got in line for elotes (grilled corn) from Los Cilantros while Venus waited at El Buen Comer. Ideally, Venus and I would have waited in line together (I even recall saying something tender like, “My priority is to spend time with you! Let’s wait in line together!!”) but that shit flew out the window right quick when the low blood sugar kicked in.

El Buen was, naturally, sold out of their Torta con Mole Verde which broke my by-now very still heart since I adore mole. But Venus trotted over (after 45 minutes) with two Tacos de Guisados with Rajas con Crema, which were actually quite tasty. It was all veggie, but grilled, hearty, meaty veggie, and the cool and creamy sauce against the pleasant sandpapery-ness of the corn tortilla was interesting and addictive.

The corn line was atrociously long. I waited in it anyway like a dumb bum. Sure, the corn was grilled to brown-and-yellow spotty perfection. Sure, the mayonnaise slathered on the outside made my nerves trill with excitement at the gross decadence of it. Sure, the spicy chili powder mix that was sprinkled on the mayo was unexpectedly and delightfully complex. But what fucking idiot waits AN HOUR in line for grilled corn?

To add insult to injury, a guy pushing an ice cream cart chose that moment to wade through the crowd and offer me ice cream. No line for ice cream (which I despise). Smart entrepreneur, that one.

Venus and I looked at each other and she said, “Let’s go, like, EAT.” So we went and had a proper dinner at a real restaurant. So long, clusterfucky SF Street Food Festival!

The Many Uses of Otter Pops

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Should you pick up a huge box of Otter Pops at Costco containing 200 Otter Pops as we did when we went to Maui, you might be at a loss as to what to do with them.  Particularly since our consumption was time-limited, since we couldn’t carry-on back to the mainland all the leftover pops due to the 3 oz rule…

So here’s a list of things we decided to do:

(1) Have an Otter Pop eating contest – first to 50 (ie., 200 divided by the four of us) wins!  We kept track of this on a piece of paper magneted to the fridge.

After the first day, the paper looked like this:

Simon: ||||
DJ Deer: ||
Janet: ||
Tinx: |

It was clearly time to consider other uses since we even more clearly weren’t going to hit 50 each.

(2) Use to flavor coffee. The condo was super stocked, but it didn’t have sugar and we neglected to buy milk.  So, to flavor my coffee, I decided to use an Otter Pop.  But what flavor?  It was a quandary.  I ended up using two reds (cherry?) and the end result was…interesting.  Not good.  Sweetened, but also sour-fied.

(3) Use in marinade for chicken. Acid and sugar and flavoring, kind of like those folks who cook with Coke and whatnot, no?  We squeezed out two greens (LIME!) onto our chicken, which was already sitting in a bath of soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, etc.  By this time the Otter Pops were frozen, so they just sat on top of the chicken in a sad little equals sign.  The chicken turned out dynamite, though it could have had nothing to do with the Otter Pops and everything to do with us being starving from snorkeling all day and grilling it fresh and hot on the poolside grill.

(4) Use as mixers. DUH!  Why did it take so long for us to realize this?  We created quite a number of combinations – blue and purple, green and purple, red and red, mixed in with a double shot of ice-cold vodka and a splash of pineapple juice.  Definitely a WIN, based on the many smashed and nonsensical videos that resulted…

Ooter Poops [it is essential that you pronounce them this way]
Your freezer (you prolly have some in there)