Posts Tagged ‘Sharisa’

Salty and Slow San Antonio

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Let’s be honest. I’ve been in hibernation mode. The grueling nature of the past five months has taken its toll, and hibernation is an apt metaphor because eating was not a priority, and neither was writing breezy posts filled with f-bombs about said eating. Just sleeping and being furry.

But then I felt it. The glorious warmth of the sun, which drew me out of my stupor. Quite literally the sun in sunny Texas, but also the heat and life-giving power of the best breakfast taco I have ever eaten. More on that later.

First, I should explain that I was in San Antonio for a conference. They must have been doing some sort of tax firesale, since fully three conferences that I go to are in San Antonio this year. Having done Round 1 in January, I was NOT impressed with the food-related offerings of the city. I really liked the Riverwalk, mostly because (a) it reminded me of Disneyland and  (b) the daredevil-ness of not having a single fence or railing made me feel like I was in a slightly dangerous Disneyland, which strikes me as a pretty awesome thing. But the food? No.

The second time, however, I was armed with a secret weapon: Sharisa. My secret weapon was armed with her own secret weapon, a little zygote that sent constant “EAT! EAT!” messages to its host. Their combined power was unstoppable, and Sharisa had unearthed tons of culinary gems that my own research had not.

The first night, however, we went to the hotel restaurant, Sazo’s. This was mostly out of exhaustion, desperation, laziness, and giant-groupness, not because it was on any of our lists. It was here where the “Slow and Salty” meme was born, because everyone’s dishes were almost inedibly salty, and it took us 45 minutes from the time we laid down our credit cards to when we got them back to sign. WTFBBQ (literally on the BBQ part). I won’t waste any more time on Sazo’s.

The following day we went to Boudro’s for lunch. Boudro’s was on everyone’s “I heard that place was good” list, but it was also (a) in the hotel room “Where to Eat” guide, (b) on the Riverwalk, and (c) on my fucking BOARDING pass as a “local attraction!” so I was skeptical.

We were seated at a lovely outside table in partial shade, looking out over the cute lazy river. Pictured top is my Prickly Pear Margarita -tequila, triple sec and fresh lime juice, frozen and layered with prickly cactus pear puree. A more beautiful margarita there never was. The rim was some sort of smoky salt concoction with a tamarind hit. Beauty and booze blended to make this a very intoxicating drink indeed.

Pictured just above is our tableside guacamole. Tableside guacamole is a big, big thing in San Antonio. I’m sure one restaurant started it and all the others were like “Goddamnit look whatchoo’ve done” and followed suit. This one was – you guessed it – salty. I appreciated the unique touches, though, like roasted serrano pepper and orange juice instead of lime. I also enjoyed listening to the table next to us lecturing their server on how they make their guacamole, and I thought to myself “the poor servers must get that all the fucking time.”  In that tone of voice but not with the same words, the beleaguered server said, “Yes, it’s so interesting hearing everyone’s home recipes!”

My entree was actually an app – the Texas Tapas: skewer of pork tenderloin al pastor with pineapple, grilled Hill Country jalapeno sausage, smoked duck, spicy marinated vegetables, corn pudding and barbeque sauce. The spit-cooked pork was oh so tender and my favorite part of this dish. The sausage was fine – too salty with the BBQ sauce and nothing special besides. The corn pudding was perfect when I slapped on a button-sized amount on everything. The duck slid off the bone in what could only be described as a seductive manner. I merely poked it with my fork and suddenly it was on my plate all wet with BBQ sauce. The whole dish was pretty refined for a Riverwalk joint. A+.

That night I was already back in San Francisco, since I had a thing I had to be at for work the next day. The third night I ate at the TGIF in the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport on my stopover while flying back.

The fourth day we went to lunch at the Monterey, a place that Sharisa had found. Right before we left the hotel were were talking to a very distinguished prof, and when we excused ourselves for lunch he said “Is the restaurant logo a big M?” and we chirped an amazed “Yes, actually!” but then it turned out he was being an asshole and suggesting we were going to McDonald’s, so there was a lot of confusion which all eventually concluded in anger all around.

I suggested we take a cab, but there was a giant St. Patrick’s day parade going on, so Sharisa and our other dining companions (including Betty!) forced me to go on what ended up being an almost-death march in the 85 degree heat in conferencey clothes. My kneepits were dark with sweat stains, gross! And right after I had hotel-dry-cleaned these pants!

We got to the restaurant, which is super cute, but most of the seating is outdoors with no semblance of shade, partial or otherwise. The owner, Brad or Chad I can’t remember, was very friendly. Betty had a flight in 1.5 hours so she ate quickly and jetted…or tried to, except the cab didn’t come for FORTY FIVE minutes and BradChad had to finally get on the phone with the cab company and yell “GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE!”

Sharisa and I ordered basically everything on the menu, beginning with grapefruit soda, continuing onto Double-order French fries with crystal hollandaise, then fried green tomato, Benton’s bacon, soft eggs, crystal hollandaise, and then a Po’boy with fried oysters and pork jowl, and then finally their special of the day, which was a short rib hot dog. Scary Larry got French toast with pork belly and strawberries, which sounded like a neato combination.

These french fries were. the. best. They were very clearly properly twice-fried, so crispy on the outside that we might have been biting into apples. Note that they are not sweet potato fries; they are actually that golden brown. The dipping sauce had a smoky streak in it, which was nice.

I guess “pork jowl” just means fatty bacon. Maybe I happened upon not the freshest oyster, because this guy made me a little queasy. A fishy oyster wrapped in a thick armor of batter right up against not-rendered pig fat was a bit much for me. Thank goodness the bread was crusty and toasted or else I might have fainted mid-chew. Sharisa really loved it, so maybe it was just my particular oyster or else her baby is controlling her brain like this. [For the love of god, don’t watch 0:50 onwards!]

Here are the fried green tomatoes. I really loved the book and have always wanted to try them. It was hard to discern their flavor since they were covered in yolk and similarly-colored hollandaise with bacon to boot. Mostly I would describe this dish as a fun fatty texture bomb.

Here’s Scary Larry’s weird thing. I believe that was espresso syrup underneath it all. I have been burned one too many times by under-rendered pork belly, so I was worried for him. But as you can see, it was properly almost-burninated and I reallllly wanted to lean over and steal a bite, but he was sick and besides, I hate French toast.

In sum, I was pleasantly surprised to see such interesting food tucked away in a little corner of San Antonio, and while I didn’t love absolutely all of it, absolutely none of it was oversalted like the rest of the damn town, which automatically nets Monterey an A+.

I think we are growing up, because none of us got obliterated in the customary way at the conference banquet on Saturday night. This was a good thing, because I had the wherewithal to go on another death march with Sharisa Sunday morning to a breakfast taco joint called Taco Haven a bit out of the way. Ever since the little one implanted in her uterine lining, she has been most ravenous in the mornings, so breakfast tacos were high on her agenda.

As we walked toward the door, we spied through a window a worker bee making tortillas from scratch. Good sign. Also a good sign: they were recently voted “Best Breakfast” in Food Network Magazine. I ordered one Torres special – refried beans, cheese, bacon, and guacamole (above), one chorizo and egg breakfast taco, and one chorizo and potato breakfast taco.

Our kind server asked me whether I wanted flour, corn, or whole wheat tortillas. I opted for corn for the breakfast tacos, since that’s how I like them at Tacos Por Favor, and went with flour for the special. Sharisa got flour for all.

Right now I want to shove my lappie aside and run around my apartment yodeling, because that is the magnitude of emotion that I experience whenever I think about these tacos. This “bi-winning” high, though, is quickly followed by a devastating low when I think about the fact that eating them again isn’t something in my near future.

The tortillas – the TORTILLAS! I have been trying to come up with an adequate description for days. “Pillowy” is a good start. Just enough chewy to make them addictive. I want to make a full bedding set (including bedskirt) out of these tortillas so I can just roll myself into a Janet burrito and eat my way out, taking naps as needed.

Sharisa very sensibly ate her tacos in parallel, rotating between the three. I snarfed up my entire chorizo and egg one and was scolded by her. “What if that’s the best one?!” she asked. Good point. And it was. Womp-womp. I wasn’t too sad, though, because the chorizo and potato one was super, and the flour tortilla from my Torres special was, as I mentioned, soft round heroin. I scooped out half of my Torres fillings and filled it up with the chorizo and potato, and that was even more ecstasy-inducing. I realized then that a flour tortilla + chorizo & egg would be the most scrumptious thing on the planet, and that realization made me really, really sad. Because we would fly away from this glorious place without me ever reaching breakfast taco Nirvana.

As we walked back, we were both pretty despondent to leave. Sharisa tried to brighten my mood by asking what we should eat for dessert, except I said “More breakfast tacos” to deflate her attempt. This made her slow down and say, “Should we go back?” and I stopped and said “SHOULD we?” and she said “SHOULD WE?” and I said “SHOULLLD WEEE?!??” but we didn’t.

We should have. Stupid.

Boudro’s on Riverwalk
421 E Commerce St
San Antonio, TX 78205

The Monterey
1127 S St Mary’s St
San Antonio, TX 78210

Taco Haven
1032 S Presa St
San Antonio, TX 78210

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, fris̩e and herb salad, and salsa verde, and it came with a wine pairing Рtwo 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

Espana Part I: Madrid

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Listen up!  In Spain there is a magical thing called jamon iberico. It’s cured ham made from pigs that are fed only on acorns. In my head, there is a magical lush green expanse where pink, pink pigulets trot around flipping smooth rocks over with their snouts and crunching on acorms that they ferret out from underneath.

In reality, I’m sure it’s just as horrifying as this episode of This American Life where they do nothing but eat and hang out in a concrete box and squirt out baby pigs thereby making sound guys vom.

How did I get there? I was intending on talking about our first stop in Spain, Madrid. We got our feet wet by going to the most Americaney joint in town, Casa Botin. But wait, there was a REASON why we went there – because it is the World’s Oldest Restaurant, certified by Guinness Book. Further, we were told about its specialty – roast suckling pig, which has crackling skin and is allegedly so tender that they slice through them with plates rather than knives, purportedly just to be fucking showoffs.

We walked into the resto barely before closing time – in SPAIN, where 9 pm is an afternoon snack. Go us. The kindly gentleman at the front led us to a charming corner table upstairs, squarely in between American couple #1 and American couple #3 (we were #2). Couple #1 was having a fight. The chick was a real gooshbag and was picking at her poor boyfriend. Apparently her friend had called him while the two of them were broken up and she JUST didn’t understand that. She said, “I guess I don’t have girlfriends because I’m not close to my mother.” He kinda grunted, and she said, “I JUST had a MAJOR breakthrough and YOU don’t! even! care!” and he, who must have noticed me and R2 INTENTLY listening while trying not to appear so [R2’s mouth was open and he was straight up staring, so it was obvy] said, “I don’t care! Why are you telling me this! If we were on our first date I would think you were CRAZY!”

On the other side was a couple where the guy was, in R2’s words, a classic B-level frat guy (who still spoke more Spanish than we did *shame*) who we played the Drunk or Douchebag game with. We both decided on Drunk, and I thought it was rather cute how she would pick up her sangria glass and he would pound his fists on the table and shout “Drink! Drink! Drink!” and adoringly haze her.

We ordered garlic soup with egg, artichoke hearts with jamon, baby squids in their own ink, and the aforementioned pig.

The squids were beyond tender. Like chewing gum when you’ve had it in your mouth for three hours – but in a good way. The ink was umami-licious, and my Japaneezy palate didn’t even register that my food might be Fear Factor-ey to R2, who later confessed that he was scared of it. He who eats EVERYTHING! Shocked.

“Beyond tender” is a good descriptor for the suckling pig, as well.  I stole bits of it away in the most wonderful way – by making tiny roast suckling pig burritos where the innards were swine and the “tortilla” was crackling, crispy fatty pig skin.

And if you know me, you know that I instantly snapped off the pig tail and crunched it up. It tasted exactly like a pork rind.

At midnight, we toasted R2’s hatch day with a swig of sangria that tasted like four-times concentrated Kool-aid, which he loved of course and made me shudder for a good minute.

The next day, we went to the Palace, which was, well, palace-y. Which unless you see it you don’t really understand just what it means that there’s a fucking HUGE palace where, like, two people were meant to live, and the whole thing is gaudy and gorgeous and gratuitous. We were not shown the kitchen (nor the aseos) but we did get to walk through the Smoking Room, which was designed to look like a Chinese opium den (Chinese things were very trendy at the time of Isabella and Ferdinand) and there was no furniture – just pillows that lined the entire floor. You don’t have to be a cat to be thrilled with that idea.

We lunched at the Palace cafeteria, where we had our very first bocadillo (sandwich).

Pardon the chewed-up-ness of this. I just tore into it and was almost three inches deep when R2 said gently, “Did you want to blog that though?”

We also had a Kas, which tasted like a Sprite.

This made me angry, because I went to Europe to get AWAY from sugared drinks and there wasn’t an agua con gas (fizzy water) in sight.

From there we meandered to Plaza del Sol, where we got some gelato and sat by the fountain where all the pickpockets in Madrid converge. We came up with a new abbreviation for them: “pee-po” and turned it into a verb “did you get pee-po-ed?” “nope, I didn’t get pee-po-ed yet” and watched a costumed character Homer Simpson walk around, along with a Winnie the Pooh. Winnie is already obscene in that he doesn’t wear pants, but THIS Winnie didn’t even have a shirt!

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by an awesomely atmospheric (dingy, dark, dirty, dotted with old video game machines here and there) cafeteria for a coffee, which was staffed by a big, burly, debonair man who looked so out of place – probably was a spy/assassin/spysassin on his off hours. R2 sidled up to the bar and, without betraying a quiver in his voice, said, “Dos…cafe…UNO…con…leche” and sat back, quite proud of himself. Spysassin said, “Skfj a;lkerja lwekjral skjdf ?” and R2 said, “?” and Spysassin said, “Do you speak English?” and R2 said, dejectedly, “Yes. Two coffees, please, one black and one with milk.” Fail.

So, quite awesomely, Sharisa and her hubby Tron were in Madrid at the same time as us, for one night only. Since neither of us had cellphones in Spain, we had made plans two weeks earlier to stay in the same hotel and meet in the lobby at 4:30 on the 18th after their train got in. But, R2 and I couldn’t get our act together (meaning we couldn’t wake up till 1:30 in the afternoon) and so I left a note at the front desk telling them to meet us at 7 pm instead. But when we got back to the hotel at 6, I spied the note in the cubbyhole for room 204 still sitting there. The attendant confirmed that they had not picked up the message. PANIC! They didn’t get it?! Did they wait for us at 4:30 and then give up and leave? Were R2 and I going to spend his hatchday sadly picking through delicious tapas with just the two of us??

I wallowed and then called their room to at try to leave a message. No answer. Dejection. I ignored common sense and immediately called again. And then – ! “Hello?” “SHARISA?!” “Hii Janay!”

YEEES! It turns out that they HAD gotten the message. In fact, hotel staff had typed up my (rather silly, tilde- and heart- and obscenity-filled) handwritten message and somehow beamed it onto their TV screen?

Reunited happily, the four of us went to La Latina, a cute neighborhood chock full of tapas bars. Our first stop was a place that I can’t remember the name of – Google Maps makes me think it was Taverna Txakoli but hard to tell for sure since they don’t have Street View here yet I guess. Perhaps Sharisa will enlighten us in the comments.

I. Was. SO. EXCITED! My first tapas bar – and a pintxo bar at that – where yummy things sitting on small slices of bread are out for the taking.

This was their “hamburger” pintxo – jamon, mustard, quail egg, and a cute french fry spear on top!

Why didn’t we get this? We’re stupid Americans, for god’s sake! Instead we veered away and got the following.

Sharisa’s spidey sense tingled. She said, “morcilla…I can’t quite remember what that is…” and trailed off and didn’t eat any of it. R2 and I dug in mightily. Couldn’t tell what any of it was but we liked it. We also had a classic pintxo with bacalao (salt cod) and red pepper on it, another one with tortilla con jamon y bacon (not tortilla like we know but an egg dish, kind of like a fritatta),  and tinto de verano (red wine mixed with sparkling water/Sprite, depending) all around! [Thank you guys for teaching us this drink, as we drank it as if our life depended on it for the rest of our trip.]

Buoyed by the wine and company and sheer relief that we actually managed to meet up with Sharisa (who was walking around on a SPRAINED ANKLE! Way to rally, my dear), I was in the mood to make a sweeping gesture at the entire line of pintxos, shout “ONE OF EACH – FOR EVERYONE HERE!” and take off my top, but  instead we went next door to Cafe Lucas.

Here, we got an English menu, where it said morcilla again. We asked our server what that meant and he said “blood sausage” to which Sharisa and Tron visibly blanched. I was rather shocked because Sharisa is the OG Foodie. The waiter also took notice and said, “This is my favorite thing!” so we ordered it, along with one we got that had pork and corn mousse on top with a soy glaze and some chicken one. The morcilla didn’t look like sausage at all – it looked like black sloppy joe. We all took a bite and made high-pitched “hmm!” noises. I quite enjoyed it, even the potentially icky lingering metallic taste at the back of my tongue.

We then went to Chato, but it was closed. So we went to the parakeet place, which had parakeets in a cage outside. Sanitation be damned! It worked really well – not a soul walked by without cooing, and the boids netted about 30% of passers-by when it came to actual people walking in and ordering.

Here we ordered my most favorite tapas dish in all of spain – bread with mojama (wind-dried tuna, which tasted like a softer, fishier turkey jerky) and a deep-fried almond on top. It sounds like nothing but was truly a revelation. We also got smoked cod with fresh tomato, which was intensely fishy but I didn’t mind.

We then meandered to another bar, which struck Tron as too claustrophobic, so we went to another place, more wine bar than tapas bar, but we weren’t feeling it so we left. But then we decided to go back, where the sort-of miffed bartender became even miffier when we asked for a tinto de verano. He only had REAL wine, apparently. Which was fine with me, as I was kiiiind of starting to perish from the sweetness of the TDVs. We all ordered riojas, and then, even though none of us is a smoker, and just because we could, had a cigarette INDOORS! What a country, what a country.

Next, we lolled our way into an open square and sat down to have a TDV al fresco. THIS server didn’t frown upon us for ordering our un-manly refreshment, and in fact served them to us with bendy straws. <3 Here, we talked about our favorite cities (cities that came up: San Francisco, Vancouver, and Sharisa’s favorite city in the WHOLE WORLD, Sevilla).

But then we realized that everywhere with food closed at midnight, so we scurried back down the street to find one last joint. We did, in the nick of time at 11:59, where a very growch man hacked off some slices of the hallowed jamon iberico and threw some patatas bravas into the microwave.

You see, each place has a huge leg of jamon on display, and that’s where they cut off the thin slices. And when an intruder comes in, you also have a handy and delicious weapon.

We then jumped in a cab, hoping to make it to a sherry place that Tron had gone to some night prior and loved – La Venencia, I believe. We walked in only to be told that they were closed, and no amount of imploring in mangled Spanish could change the owner’s mind. A pity, because my heart was pitter pattering seeing the old sherry bottles lining the walls, some with dust a centimeter thick covering them. Cooooooool.

Instead we went to a bar where they played Beyonce.

When we tired of that, we retired to our hotel, where we played with Tron’s iPad and Sharisa iced her ankle. We were so sad to see them go, but we were onto our own adventures, sans any Spanish ability and friends to hold our hands.

Up next…Toledo.

Pops Chicago

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Sharisa: Pops!
Others: [Not listening] Where should we grab a drink?
Sharisa: Popospopspopspopspops!
Others: [Still not listening] Can we go somewhere other than the damn lobby bar? I’m sick of martinis.

So, she wasn’t hicupping. She was trying to communicate that we should go to Pops, which is a champagne bar in the Magnificent Mile (that sounds dumb. Miracle Mile is so much cooler) area of downtown Chicago. It was barely a three-block walk from our hotel, on the way to our dinner rezzies at Frontera (post forthcoming!) Grill, and just perfect.

Drew, who wasn’t going with us because she had a date with a Chicago “friend” (in quotation marks because he was one of those friend-who-so-dearly-wants-to-marry-you-even-though-you’ve-told-him-a-thousand-times-you-have-a-boyfriend friends … one of those friend-who-texts-you-multiple-stanza-poems friends … one of those “Oh, you now need me to pick you up at Pops? Ok, well make sure you stay in the upper floor near a window because the lower floor of that restaurant doesn’t get any cell reception and I want to be able to reach you when I pick you up at 8:55 on the dot” friends), decided she couldn’t miss out and came with us.

The menu is extensive. We obv skipped the Jacquesson 1990 Avize Grand Cru Dégorgement Tardif since I didn’t bring enough cash to spend $1250, and settled on a relatively cheapie cheap Prosecco. We fretted to our server (whom Liz called “attractive” and we all jumped down her throat. Attractive if you’re Charlotte from Sex and the City, maybe) over whether to get the half bottle or a bottle or a half bottle or a bottle do we have time for a whole bottle probably not but will half a bottle be enough etc. for a long time, and instead of taking the easy up-sell, he said “We can surely work out a half bottle for the four of you.” and eased our mental suffering.

This on top of the bouncer getting us a prime table in the window (we seated Drew immediately adjacent to the window for maximal cell reception) even though we yelled “WE’RE ONLY HAVING ONE DRINK!!!” as we were walking in. Very nice, these Chicagoans.

Liz got some sort of peach bellini with peach foam. She gave me a taste. Lordie. When I was a kid, I was allowed to have the foamy head only off of my parents’ beers. I sucked Liz’s foam the way I imbibed said beer foam as a child – like my life depended on it. Delish!

When Drew’s “date” pulled up (we all wondered what sort of car he [hedge fund lawyer] would drive – I kept a lookout for either a Mercedes or an unmarked van) in a BMW and she scampered off, probably mortified that we were waving at her date SO HARD with cheesy grins on our faces. Cuteness all around.

Pops for Champagne
601 North State Street at Ohio

Temecula Wineries~

Monday, August 13th, 2007

I’m not a wine snob! To prove it to you, I went to Temecula to go wine tasting. See?

Sharisa, in her special Sharisa way, found an incredible deal online and booked the three of us (me, her, Debbie) a villa at South Coast Winery for a fucking steal. We wanted a fourth, but after several “Um, I have WORK on weekdays?”-type bitchy responses we gave up trying to add party poopers to our fiesta.

I put an ad up on Facebook to hire a designated driver for $10 an hour. ((Debbie was skeptical that we would need one. When she was totally incoherent later, the only coherent thing she said was, “I’mm glraad weeee gut rrr DD.”)) Amazingly, I got probably a trillion replies. Many were from horny guys who were probably hoping to score with a carful of drunk chicks (I also weeded out a particularly aggressive-looking lesbian). After sorting and sorting, I found the PERFECT d-driver, who was a cute Asian girl from Temecula and offered to get us winery recommendations from her friends and parents. Score! But then she couldn’t do it (Gasp!) but then she got her best friend to do it (Yes!), who was perfectly lovely. She brought a friend (which ended up being a fabulous idea since it would have been awkward for her to stand around while we got sloshed) who had the same name as her. I’ll call them the two Josephines.

So as not to waste time, we met the Josephines at our first winery, VR La Cereza Winery (today I am being lazy and am not giving you addresses – they are all on one street [Ranch California Rd] so it’ll be easy enough to find). I only had one (ONE!) chicken soft taco in my system, so I felt it right away.

LC is famous for its Girlfriends wine, which was inspired by this cigar-smokin’ old lady that the winery owners met in…Mexico? I could have sworn they said Mexico, even though they are a Spanish winery. It was spunky and fruity and perfect, of course, for a girl’s night. I also tried their raspberry sparkling wine, their award-winning Zin, and Summer’s End, which was one of their most expensive and sweet wines. I think my blood sugar was low because I was digging the glucose in it.

The Josephines showed up after we had explored every corner of the gift shop once and one particular corner four times. I was still cogent enough to provide a brief tutorial to Josephine on how to drive a Prius, and we sped off to Hart.

Hart was one of the only Chowhound-approved Temecula wineries according to Sharisa. I suspect this is simple-minded, robotic snobbery because Hart is an anti-sweet wine winery that focuses on reds. I believe this winery (already) was the tipping point where we passed from buzz to drunk, or at least in the car after this winery. I thought all the wines were good, very dry, but I did have to pour out half of my Tempranillo because I just couldn’t handle it.

At some point some folks from Cougar Winery (which was not on any of the main Temecula-area free maps) came to taste the Hart wines. They were debaucherous, and one of them named Michael handed me a card and insisted that we go and find a guy named Brett at Cougar and give him a hard time. He also demanded that we ask Brett “Are you two-fisted?” Which I initially interpreted him to be saying “Are you two-fisting?” but apparently Two-Fisted is his nickname.

[Interim Epilogue – we didn’t make it to Cougar; we were far too wasted. But, as I look on the back of Michael’s business card I see, in my handwriting, “bring pole for pole dancing.” What?!?]

P.S. Why is Hart’s website when is available, and even is available?!??

Okay, after that we were SERIOUSLY in need of some lunch. We decided to stop at Mount Palomar because they had a deli. I was desperate for a sandwich. We stumbled in, only to find the deli abandoned. “Oh, the woman who runs the deli is on lunch,” said some lady. WTF? Why would you go ON lunch, DURING lunch? What irresponsible behavior. We decided to just raid their refrigerated buyables, and put together an okay but completely unsatisfying lunch of crackers, cubed cheese (which even extreme cheese lovers like me and Debbie could not really handle), and hummus. The hummus, at least, was passable.

Mount Palomar is the opposite of Hart – they had an entire dessert wines section. I decided I was going to taste all of the dessert wines, and that would be my dessert for lunch. I started with the Solanus late harvest Semillon, and quickly realized if I went ahead with my plan I would die from sugar overdose and vomit out my entire insides. So I switched to Shorty’s Bistro Red and the Meritage, and then tried again with the medal-winning limited reserve port and, finally, the Cream Sherry. The cream sherry was yummy.

In the confusion at the end of the day, I ended up with the other Josephine’s wine list, and I should report that she has smiley faces next to the Sangiovese, Bistro Red, Zilah late harvest Zin, and the cream sherry. Solanus late harvest Semillon is crossed out vigorously. She also has the words “pretty,” and “bathrooms suck!!” written down.

Incoherence had set in by this point. So I did not appreciate the incredibly bright interior of Ponte Winery (who, by the way, has a very stylish website). Neither did I appreciate the over-the-top smarmy flirtiness of our wine dude. Debbie and I were hurting, and Sharisa started giving us shit, even using the word “pussies.” Meooow.

I couldn’t tell you anything about the wines here, except that I chose by cute names and got: Graciela, Fiorella, Juliet, and Isabel. I cheated and pretended I had had a fifth tasting when I didn’t. I think this later saved my life.

Debbie and I were almost KO-ed, but Sharisa and the Josephines got belligerent and forced us to go to Wilson Creek Winery of almond champagne fame, which if you remember I have blogged before. Throughout the day we kept hearing about the Almond Joy at Wilson Creek, which is chocolate port in a chocolate cup, mixed with the almond champagne. We ordered one each and the lady said, “That’ll be three dollars each.” And then she went away, and then came back and said, “Oh, wait, no, it’s TWO dollars each.” Weird but score! We first got a shot of the champagne, then a shot of the port, and then the almond joy. It was gimmicky but fun, not that I remember any of it.

I do remember stealing a glass off of a table outside on my way out (we got our glasses free at every winery except here since we technically ate ours). Josephine #2 made me do it.

Finally, time to go to the villaaaaaaa~! BUT, we had a free tasting coupon from South Coast since we were staying there, so we parked the car and all dragged ourselves through the grapes to the tasting room across the property. In my haze, I lost everyone but I got to the counter and slapped down my free tasting card. The lady gave me 5 poker chips, one for each tasting. Classy!

I looked to the left and saw the Josephines doing a tasting. I guess they were there the whole time? I chatted with them. Then I called Debbie to see where they hell they were. She said, “We’re in the bafroooooooooooom!” So I went in there and discovered Sharisa lying down on the floor. Of the bathroom. So much for not being a pussy. She said, “I lost the keeeeeeey!” Sigh.

We got another key at the front desk (“Don’t worry, this happens a LOT” said the guy) and ran through the grapes again. I stopped to eat some and they were soooo delicious. I was probably just reacting to the H20 in them, though.

Sweet, sweet bed~! I flopped down, feeling the mother of all headaches coming on. Somewhere from the floor, Sharisa exclaimed “I FOUND THE KEY! IT WAS IN MY BOOOOOOB!” Good one.

Sharisa, feeling victorious, changed into a bikini to check out the jacuzzi. She threw one at me, too, so I put it on. Debbie was rolling around on her bed in nauseous agony, so we left her alone. Then all three of us promptly passed out.

We woke up two hours later. Debbie said, “You two look so sexy lounging around in bed in bikinis.” lol. We were excited to order pizza to the villa, but every place we called was closed or didn’t deliver to us. I called the front desk and discovered that only one pizza place delivers to South Coast, so we ordered from them. I hate monopolies so I’m not going to publish the name of the place we ordered from. It sucked balls anyway.

Our room came with a free bottle of wine, which Sharisa opened and insisted we drink. We didn’t. Debbie was so green she couldn’t even eat any of the pizza (just the carrot slivers on the salad), and my head hurt so bad that I couldn’t see straight. Debbie finally gave up and went into the bathroom to try to vomit. I was ready to puke, not from nausea, but from sheer pain. Debbie came out later, not successful. She said miserably, “I thought of everything gross that I could, like the cubes of cheese at Mount Palomar, but I couldn’t puke!” Sad. I nodded into my wet pillow. I didn’t know if the liquid on my face was tears from my headache or juice from my exploded eyeballs.

The last thing I remember Sharisa saying was, “Well, there was probably an hour in there where we had fun.” Temecula, I never want to see you again.


Friday, June 22nd, 2007

The girls took me to Musha for my hatch day last December. Back then, the blog and my camera were both new, and I was much too wasted off of sake to take any decent pictures. So when we decided to go for Sharisa’s birthday I was on a mission. A diehard, take focused-yet-no-flash pictures under terribly low light mission.

I was a bit late which meant I got to sit down and immediately start eating the dishes others had ordered. Win-win. Our first was the Green Beans Salad – boiled green eans to the perfect crispness, tossed woth sesame-peanuts dressing topped with crisp bacon. I’m transcribing the descriptions exactly as they are spelled and grammatificated.

I created a small microcosm of the dish on my plate. As promised, the green eans were perfectly crisp. Woth the dressing, which was appropriately light-touch, and thinly sliced radishes, it was ravishing. I didn’t even need the bacon (gasp!) for this to be totally satisfying.

Next was the Aski – wok sauteed asparagus & assorted mushrooms of shiitske, shimeji, enoki, etc twith soy sauce, butter, and garlic. I think this hand-written-looking menu is actually not, and that the typos are merely evidence of a careless typist. Because there’s no way a bonafide Japanese person would spell it “shiitske,” but they might type it that way. Just like we aren’t good at driving, we might not be so good at typing, especially on an American keyboard.

Others raved over the asparagus, which was cooked with the same skill twith which the eans were cooked in the previous dish. I was dissatisfied because it was a tad salty and there were no enoki mushrooms in sight – inexcusable LIES!

Next was the Negitoro Tuna Croquette – minced tuna with chopped green onion, garlic, pepper, & hijiki seaweed, flattened & breaded to deep fry, it’s Japanese version of popular Spanish tapas dish served with graded daikon-mayo sauce.

I don’t know what “grade” they gave the daikon-mayo sauce, but I gave it an A+++!

You see, since I’m Japanese, I get to make fun of the Japanese. You dig?

This is one of the classic Musha dishes, along with the MFC (Musha Fried Chicken – chicken marinated with soy sauce, sake, ginger & garlic served with 2 kinds of grated daikon radish & ponzu sauce), which we also got but I did not photograph. Fried + mayo = good no matter what, and while the texture of the tuna resembled hamburger more than anything else, this dish disappeared in no time flat.

Also not photographed was my favorite dish of the night, the Takotama – “this is the Musha’s signature dish two layers omelette with chopped octpus, leeks, red ginger and bonito broth to ghives you the taste also covered with the original thick dark sauce.” Good choice, Sharisa. It’s barfood in Japan, but exotic in this context, and the sweet and savory “thick dark sauce” a perfect complement to the yakisoba noodles that are nestled within the two egg layers. They didn’t skimp on the octopus, which was not chewy at all and a great textural counterpoint.

Anyway, the next photographed dish was Musha’s Risotto – Italian dish with Japanese creation Lapanese grain brown rice cooked with chicken broth then panfried with chopped prosutto, onion, & touch of soy milk serve in a bowl of whole cheese to your table. Debbie said it best when she said that she wished it wasn’t brown rice. The whole concotion should have been smooth and creamy, and yet the rice made it way chewy/crunchy and it took away from the decadence of the cheese and milky soy. Also, it was too salty.

Above is the Ebimayo – a bitsized shrimp tempra glazed with Musha’s original sweet & spicy mayo sauce when sweet & spicy matched with tempra texture, you’ll say “AHH~”. I’m super allergic to shrimp, but others all around me definitely were saying AHH~. The dish was also the prettiest of the night, don’t you think?

Next was Itame Somen – Japanese angel hair noodle called “somen” pan fried wiyh garlic, sesame oil, garlic chive, sake, & soy sauce one of our original creation. Musha has problems with the word “with.” Three times misspelled, each in a different way.

This was salty, too, but the slices of garlic rocked! And the texture of somen is even better than angel hair, I think.

At the eleventh hour, Sharisa ordered Anago Meshi – glazed sea eel, hijiki seaweed & mitsuba leaf mixed rice then grilled in a hot stone bowl topped with sea eel, “nori” seaweed, & egg. I forgot that she likes eel as a dessert, since it’s sweet. I lied before – THIS was my favorite dish of the night. The bits of eel were interspersed at perfect intervals among the sweet rice; this sweetness was further enhanced by the hijiki.

The only thing that I didn’t like was the reason why I hated anago as a child. Eel bones are so thin that eels are virtually impossible to de-bone, and thus are not. So there were thin, razor-sharp bones hidden throughout the rice, which brought back nightmares of getting eel bones stuck in my throat as a child. The common remedy for this situation recommended by parents is to eat a mouthful of rice without chewing it, ostensibly to catch the bone and scrape it away into your stomach acid. This never worked, and one time I had to take a pair of tweezers and tweeze out a bone from halfway down my throat. Hott.

ANYWAY, we wouldn’t let Sharisa go without a real dessert, and so the chef sent out a chocolate cake-ish type of thing. The cake was standard, but I really liked that they turned out EVERY SINGLE LIGHT in the restaurant (some people got honestly scared) and then lit the candle in the pitch black. Very special and very romantic.

Musha finishes your meal with their version of a happy ending: hot tea (I think hoji?) with a crunchy umeboshi at the bottom. No handjob aside, Musha’s service is excellent from start to finish – a GREAT place to celebrate a birthday, because you feel so coddled. How long till December?

424 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Sunnin Lebanese Cafe

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

My favorite hapa pal “Sharisa” and my favorite dogowner “Debbie”A phonetecized adaptation of “DB” which stands for data blaster – I thought I should explain cuz when Debbie reads this she is going to be like, “Why the fuck did she call me DEBBIE?? went to Sunnin Lebanese Cafe. There has been soo much written about Sunnin (even the back of their menu has a restaurant review printed on it) so I don’t know how much I have to add.

I guess I shall amalgamate all the other reviews and add my own 2 yen. People fucking RAVE about Sunnin. My guess is that it’s because Sunnin has authentic food but is in a piece-of-crap hole in the wall space, and they use disposable paper Pepsi cups for your drinks, and your food comes on styrofoam plates. The incongruity! How exquisite! It’s good food in a crappy setting! How fresh and unexpected! This must be the best restaurant ever!

I think it’s pretty good, but nothing to blog about (too late). I had the vegetarian combo, which came with one piece each of fatayer (homemade dough stuffed with spinach, onions, and pine nuts) and rekakat (filo dough stuffed with feta cheese, onions, and parsley) and two pieces each of falafel and warak enab (grape leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables – basically dolmades). Sharisa had lebanese salad (I think?) and kebbeh makliyeh (ground beef with burgul [what is burgul?], stuffed with minced beef, onions, and nuts). Debbie sensibly (she is always sensible!) went with the falafel platter.

The best part of my combo was the fatayer and rekakat. The dough on the fatayer was chewy, though the texture was a little bit like bread that has been microwaved. The inside was delicious, though it was lacking a tang that would have been filled nicely by some feta. But, maybe fatayer never, ever has feta in it and I have committed some sort of blasphemy by suggesting it. Hope not.


Not my specific fatayer, but fatayer nonetheless. 

The rekakat was the best of the best, with filo so crispy it exploded into a billion shards as soon as I bit into it. The parsley came across very strong, which I suspect might have turned lesser mortals off but it was completely delightful for me. And there was feta in it, which tied everything together beautifully. Pity I cannot find a picture for “rekakat” on Google.Pity I don’t have a camera yet. I want to go ahead and buy the FujiFilm FinePix Breast Cancer edition, which is PINK! but James says there is a big camera show happening soon where companies will debut their new models, thereby putting their older models on sale. Sigh. So please wait a little longer for food pictures of the actual food to accompany these restaurant reviews.

Maybe my Asian ass just can’t get into any rice that’s not Japanese sticky rice (kinugoshi at that), but I thought the rice inside the warak enab wasn’t cooked through enough, so it was a little gritty. I tend to prioritize texture over taste (which James finds verrry weird, and I kind of agree), and so I was so distracted by the rice that I couldn’t really appreciate the flavor. I think there was mint (?) in it? So in the end I think liked it because it was very refreshing.


I was expecting some amazing fucking falafel but it was not to be. In fact, the falafel here made me want to upgrade my opinion of the falafel I got at Piknic. I think the problem was that there was only a tiny drizzle of tahini sauce when what I wanted to do was drown my plate in it and pour the whole mess down my throat. I was SO jealous of Debbie’s entire plastic cupful of tahini, but not jealous enough to dish out 75 cents for my own extra cup. What I did instead was make tidy bites of falafel with a wisp of tahini and combined it with a chunk of pickled turnip relish and it ended up being pretty yummy. For $5.95, I would eat this plate every day for lunch, for sure.

I should hope that all CM readers would know what falafel looks like. 

I’m not a dessert gal, but I LOVE me some rice pudding. We got a large to share and it came, of course, in a styrofoam bowl. It was sprinkled with cute green crushed pistachio chunks and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon. Usually I don’t really like cinnamon (I even had to look up how to spell it exactly), but in the context of exotic rice pudding I LOVED it. I kept surreptitiously dragging my spoon across the top of the pudding, stealing what was rightfully Debbie’s topping. I don’t think she liked it though, so it’s OK. I liked it. I liked it so much that I tore up my lips on the edge of the (plastic) spoon from eating too voraciously. Owie.


A gourmet version of what our pudding looked like. 

So, even though Sunnin wasn’t the blissfest that I expected it to be, it was pretty good, and there were lots of other things on the menu that I’d love to go back and try. On top of this, Sharisa and I were over 30 minutes late to meet Debbie (fucking LA traffic!) and Debbie had to hold our table (1 out of 5 in the restaurant) and fend off the table vultures, and right before I left I dropped my cup on the table and spilled water EVERYWHERE, so I applaud Sunnin for putting up with my shenanigans.