Posts filed under Project EAT

Big Eat Day 16 - Empanda University

I am on a quest to know become an encyclopedia of deliciousness. As part of this quest I am eating 100 items off of 7 X 7s Big Eat list in San Francisco. It’s hard work but someone’s got to do it. During Labor Day weekend my family traveled to SF for the weekend: gluttony ensued. Going to the city? Need first hand recs? Then click here. #48 Argentinean Beef Empanadas at Venga Empanada

Empanadas are one of those specialty foods that drive people made with lust. To be in this category the food should be a) portable b) relatively hard to procure and c)something that people beg you to bring around based on your ethnic heritage. See also: Lumpia. Whenever I tell people I'm half filipino the next words out of their mouths are "Oh my God. I love lumpia. Do you love lumpia? Can you bring some over?"  If you aren't filpino you have said that to a filipino friend/ acquaintance/stranger you met on the street. Don't be ashamed, I don't hold it against you. I love lumpia too! And I have done the same thing with empanadas a million times.

It started in high school when my friend's Mom introduced the whole concept. She is an amazing cook. Even in Chile I almost never had empanadas as good as hers. I still dream of them. Each country makes empanadas differently so when my family found ourselves in the Mission we decided it was business time. There was only one empanda listed on the Big Eat but we sampled them at three places... for the blog of course.

First Stop: Empanada del Pino at Chile Lindo

Chile Lindo is a sweet little stand selling the relatively hard to come by Chilean empanda. (My first empanda love!) Chilean empanadas are large (2 would be a complete meal) and four-sided. The most common, the empanda del pino is filled with a savory ground beef mixture, raisins, a slice of hard-boiled egg and an olive. They are baked not fried.

I studied abroad my junior year in Chile and I think back on this time fondly as the no empanda left behind tour. Chile Lindo brought back some nice memories and made a solid empanda del pino. I liked the pebre (salsa) they served with it too. Recommended.

Next up came Venga Empanadas which was on the list. We had a spaz attack while ordering and tried three empanadas including the recommended argentine beef, a walnut and bleu cheese (!),  a mushroom empanada, hibiscus drinks and some alfajores for good measure.

Venga empanadas is small, cute and clean. I'm guessing it's relatively new. Argentine empanadas are generally half circles baked with a crimped edge. The empanadas were served with chimichurri (green parsley-olive oil salsa) sauce. I'd classify that chimichurri as bomb-ass delicious. That's technical food taxonomy terminology.

My friend Dahlia described the meat empanada as having more Italian spices than the Chilean del Pino which makes sense since there are tons of Italians in Argentina. My son described it as "Can I have an alfajor if I eat all my empanada?" I liked it well enough but I prefer the flavor of the pino empanda from Chile Lindo. I think the places where Venga Empanadas excelled are the non-traditional offerings such as the blue cheese and walnut and the mushrooms. I recommend the alfajor cookies too. Fresh and not too sweet. Those cookies crumbled perfectly.

Verdict: Go to Venga Empanadas for variety, kick ass chimichurri and perfect alfajores. Go to Chile Lindo for pino/ground beef.

Our last stop was El Majahual for Colombian empanadas. To get there we smushed too many people in the car like clowns and made some illegal U-turns. Arnold said this was to "complete the Colombian experience." Heh.

Like most countries Colombia has many different varieties of empanadas. At El Majahual they serve empanadas vallunas which come from Cali, Colombia. Empanadas vallunas are made with a yucca-flour based crust and filled with red meat and mashed-potatoes. They are deep-fried, delicious and fit in the palm of your hand. Usually they are served with a Colombian salsa called aji. Like most things Colombian, I love them. As K-Stew would say "I love them. I love them. I love them."

On that slightly snarky note I'll conclude South American empandas 101. Any questions? Favorite empanada-related wisdom to share?  Leave 'em in the comments.

Posted on September 30, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.

Big Eat Day 16 - La Super Chile en Nogada

I am on a quest to know become an encyclopedia of deliciousness. As part of this quest I am eating 100 items off of 7 X 7s Big Eat list in San Francisco. It’s hard work but someone’s got to do it. Arnold is a teacher which means that Labor Day weekend marks the division between the easy living of a one-working parent family to a two-working parents family. Usually we spend the weekend stewing in the dread of our lives going from easy living to exceedingly hectic. Not this year. This year I got smart and booked an escape to the city. It was time to go on our very first family Big Eat.

#47-Pierna Enchilada Torta at La Torta Gorda

La Torta Gorda is a gem. It's tucked away on 24th street near the top of the Mission and from the moment you walk in its obvious that it is a restaurant run with heart. The space is sweetly decorated with a pale pink ceiling, serious San Francisco style moldings and a lovely back patio.  We elected to enjoy the outdoors and ordered the specified torta, a "vampiro" (beet-orange juice combo) and on impulse a new-to-us dish that I saw in the window called chile en nogada.

The "vampiro" came out first. Did I totally order this based on the name? Yes. The "vampiro" came in a plastic goblet larger than my child's head and was deliciously beet-y and refreshing. Also? You get to feel saintly when you drink beet juice. This is important to your psyche when you are about to get crunk with your meal plan.

Next up came the Torta. I am a torta fan and this one was good. The bread was soft yet crunchy. The fillings were fresh and on point but I believe the pork filling is what got this one on the map, it was heavenly. Crisp and fatty and salty and everything that pig aspires to be. It was mixed in with small chunk of pineapple which kept everything in perfect balance. We got the "Jr." size and it was more than enough.

It's obvious to me that the people who put the torta on the list have not tried the chile en nogada because the moment I saw it my torta became irrelevant.  I mean that sincerely and I am a person who is very reverent with tortas.

chile en nogada la super torta

Chile en nogada is a poblano chile filled with the world's most delicious picadillo of ground beef and fresh and dried fruit. On top of this amazingness is a creamy sauce made with walnuts and sherry. The top of the dish is coronated with pomegranate seeds and parsley. Chile en nogada is a dish to eat when you are ready to blow-it-out! Mexican food expert Lesley Tellez from the M'ija Chronicles described it as baroque which is perfect. It is Liberace style food. Decadent and wonderful and everything that you did not know you needed.

Verdict: Go to La Super Torta and bow down to the queen. Tell her you were sent by her most loyal servant La Notorious MLE.

PS-For a more detailed description (and recipe!) for chile en nogada check out Lesley's wonder blog here.

Posted on September 17, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.

Big Eat Day 15-House of Prime Rib

I am on a quest to know become an encyclopedia of deliciousness. As part of this quest I am eating 100 items off of 7 X 7s Big Eat list in San Francisco. It's hard work but someone's got to do it. # 46 Prime Rib at House of Prime Rib

About a year ago my friend and I were both at the tail end of lengthy and frustrating job searches. At some point during the process we decided that we would celebrate (our eventual) new jobs by hitting up a SF institution. When we both locked down great new positions we made it happen. The House of Prime Rib has been serving up insane amounts of red meat since 1949. It was time for us to find out what all the fuss is about.

The ambiance of House of Prime Rib is really interesting. It's very fancy and homey and old school but also strangely dated. Our booth sported a pink and mauve fresco featuring kitty cats picnicking in a forest green+mauve color scheme. In a way though the datedness makes it even more endearing. Fancy but not stuffy it is obviously a place for a special jtreat (many around us where celebrating family birthdays). The House of Prime Rib feels like a well-loved piece of furniture, well-made and not pretentious.

The first thing that House of Prime Rib serves you is some A+ Plus sourdough and restaurant butter. You KNOW what I mean by restaurant butter. It's the butter that compels you to slather it on with an abandon you would never use in your own home. I loved the bread. Sourdough in the city just feels right.

At House of Prime Rib you don't choose between entrees. You choose what size of Prime Rib you think you can handle. The sizes range from very large to insane. After you've eaten a loaf of bread and some (ahem) butter it's time for prime rib! The servers come by with this extremely alarming... uh meat transporter thing? Wait, it's a mobile carving station. Yay vocabulary!

Sorry for these pics, they are from my phone (camera fail). These pictures make it look really gross, it was strange but not gross. It is fun/scary to watch them slice off your Prime Rib. I am not too faint of heart when it comes to ingesting either meat or fat but I swear I felt my arteries closing up when I saw how large my serving (smallest size available) was.

Did I mention that it was served with dinosaur sized-sides including Yorkshire pudding, bakes potatoes, creamed spinach etc? I feel a little alarmed just looking at the pictures again. It was a TON of food. If you have friends that rejoice in large quantities and friendly service by all means take them here! I thought I would pass out waddling to the car.

Verdict: Overall I am really glad we went there. It was a fun outing and the staff were fantastic. I feel that it is an experience kind of like Medieval Times, a fun time, but not necessary to repeat. It's obviously an institution and I enjoyed trying it out. I think ones experience of this restaurant greatly depends on their wish to eat large quantities of Prime Rib. Me, not so much, but maybe you want to! If you do, I can't think of a better place.




Posted on August 27, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.

Nailed It-The True Story of a Culinary Cooking Monster

Most of the time when I blog about something I cooked it looks like this...

Yum. Are you jealous of my culinary prowess? You shouldn't be. There's a reason blog food usually looks good in pictures.  Most bloggers use a sophisticated strategy called "I don't take pictures of my ugly food". I know I do. I have made some appalingly ugly concotions... this week! Don't even get me started on my baked goods which almost always reflect the meme below:

This doesn't stop me from trying over and over to achieve pinterest-level baking perfection. With my mixer at my side the epic battles to make delicious and fugly baked goods continues unchecked. Since I am so good at making baked goods that come out in aesthetically unexpected ways today I am going to teach you one of the only solid baking tricks I know: how to "salvage" a good cake gone bad. Get ready for it!

Photography by Jamie Chung for Bon Appetit Magazine

Last Easter I decided I was going to make an eight-layer coconut cake from Bon Appetit magazine. When my friend Lisa expressed concern that I might be out of my league I was insulted. What does she know?! I have a mixer and a subscription to Bon Appetit. Nothing can stop me.

And bake my cake I did. Oooh, it smelled amazing. Just like heaven. Take that Lisa!

Next, I attempted to remove the cakes from the pans. I really showed Lisa who's right! Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaarggggghhhh!

The worst part about this devastating moment was the absolute deliciousness of the cake. It was the best cake I've ever made! Light and fluffy and just the right amount of sweet. Actually scratch that, the deliciousness was the best part of that moment because facing this massacre was much easier after eating a bit of stuck-in-the-pan cake. Renewed by the sugar, coconut and southern comfort coursing through my veins I reached for my secret weapon: the trifle bowl! Do you have one? You should. Especially if you like to try ridiculously complicated recipes before important public occasions.

Armed with 1000 design blogs floating in my coconut-addled brain I decided to attempt a ombre effect with my trifle. Failure can't hold me down!

I busted out my stupid-toxic(yet somehow FDA approved) red food dye and fiddled around with my frosting until it seemed pleasing.

Then I started layering the trifle. It was, well, not as pretty as I had hoped but also not horrendous.

Culinary overconfidence restored to proper level: adventurous amateur who promises to bring cakes but always shows up with a "trifle".


There is a moment when you need to suck it up and remember you live in the real world; a place where you have a full-time job that is not entitled "baker". Would it be awesome to bring beautiful 8-layer cakes to parties? Yes! Is it the end of the world if you bring a smushy but delicious trifle instead: not at ALL. I packed up my trifle with (bruised) pride and carried on with enjoying Easter with my family and friends.

The truth is that baking can be a crapshoot. Unlike cooking you have to follow directions precisely and even then you can be sunk by an oven that is not calibrated or has hot spots, the humidity in the air or the quality of the ingredients that you use. It's not like cooking where things might just get a little charred or mushy if you do things wrong. When you bake, a small mistake or deviation can sink the recipe. Don't be deceived by how effortless the internet makes baking seem. Baking is hard and there is no shame in trying hard and not coming out totally on top. Now go bake something! I'm hungry for trifle.



Posted on August 21, 2012 and filed under Notorious Know-It-All, Project EAT.

Big Eat Day 14-Going Gluten-Free Part 2

  I am on a quest to know become an encyclopedia of deliciousness. As part of this quest I am eating 100 items off of 7 X 7s Big Eat lists in San Francisco. It's hard work but someone's got to do it. This is Part 2 of a trip to eat Gluten-Free Big Eats in San Francisco for my friend Debi's birthday. Part 1 can be found here.

One of the most interesting things about the gluten-free life is the joy when you find something that is "suprise gluten-free" like... macarons! Yes! Macarons are gluten-free. So, we ate a lot of them.

#43 Macarons from Paulette Macarons

With Ginger Elizabeth's Macarons located directly across from my dentist (the cruelty!) I am spoiled rotten and often dissapointed when I try macarons in other venues. Once I had them at Miette and they were terrible. Paulette's passed the test though. Each flavor was distinct and we had fun judging each of them reality-show judge style. We ate so many I can barely remember which was which so I'll let the pics do the talking.

Verdict: Eat the rainbow.

#44-Kelvin Made Ice Cream at Smitten

Did I mention it was not warm the day we went? Of course it wasn't, SF is fickle like that. After our epic macaron throw down no one was particular excited about ice cream, especially not since we were shivering in our wind breakers but sometimes it's like Lord of the Rings. You must push further than you think possible!

Because you will be rewarded, and richly with some of the best ice cream I've had. Smitten Ice Cream is made to order with liquid nitrogen.  It is fresh, creamy and deliriously delicious. I can't even recall what flavor it was, something about rosemary, lemon or caramel? We had a few different flavors. I do remember that despite the fact I was shivering and high off macarons that I really, really, really wanted more of that ice cream.

Verdict: I am smitten with you Kelvin.

Duck Larb at Les Ros Thai

#45-Duck Larb at Les Ros Thai

After four straight desert stops a palate cleanser is in order and what better than some blow your face off hot thai food, am I right? Les Ros Thai has an outpost in Hayes Valley and we made it the last stop of our day. The ambiance is pleasant, the service is exremely attentive and the food is much more economical than the storefront would imply. The Larb was pretty intense in terms of the spice and flavor but it was balanced nicely by the richness of the duck fat. I can imagine that this salad would be really appealing on a sunny hot day.

Verdict: A nice way to cap off the sugar rush.

Posted on June 10, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.