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.

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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.

Big Eat Day 14-Going Gluten-Free Pt. 1

I am on a quest to 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. After the success of my epic Birthday Big Eat it was decreed that among our friends we would stop doing birthday parties with gifts, cake etc and instead... well Big Eat for everybody's birthdays. My friend Debi recently had to go gluten-free so for her birthday, we set out on the very first gluten-free Big Eat.

Debi-Livin la Vida Gluten Free

#40-Rice Burger at Sandbox Bakery

Rice Burger at Sandbox Bakery

Sandbox Bakery is located in Bernal Heights which I somehow have never been to. A tragedy indeed because 1) it's adorable and 2) Sandbox Bakery is there. The Bakery itself is adjacent and full of intoxicating smelling pastries there were most defenitely not gluten-free but the rice burger was gf heaven. The flavor was excellent and the texture of the tofu reminded me of fois gras (sans guilt). It was creamy and rich and asianly delicious.

Verdict: Rice Burger, I'm not going to play coy. I've been thinkin on you.

Carnitas Taco at La Taqueria

#41 Carnitas Taco at La Taqueria

I'm going to level with you. I do not know why this is on the list. Was it good? Yeah. Did it change my life? Not in the least. I'm not sure if we went on an off day or if the list-compilers have a sentimental fondness but none of us found this taco to be extraordinary in any way. Solid? Yes. Would I eat it again? Sure, but you don't drive around on a scavenger hunt to eat average tacos, not in California and certainly not in the Mission.

It makes me wonder if this is an institution or if there is some sort of ambiance that I missed out on? I wasn't able to go inside because it is located on one of those chunks of Mission St. where it's almost impossible to drive let alone park. We ended up dropping someone on the curb in a hysterical flurry and then eating these double-parked packed in the car. Our universal reaction was 'meh'. I feel that eating food in the car was a more exciting event than these tacos. Plus they had pinto beans in the tacos. I do not approve of pinto beans in my tacos.

Verdict: Carnitas taco, you left a taco-shaped whole in my heart.

Why on earth are these tacos so mediocre?

Deflated by the bad weather (drizzly-boo San Francisco!), the fact that our next stop (Mission Chinese) was closed and the feeling that this day was not living up to the level of Birthday fun that I wanted for Debi we stopped to re-group. And by re-group, I mean eat Salted Caramel Ice Cream at Bi-Rite and buy random stuff at Tartine. Ooh, Aaah.

Afterwards we were revived enough to eat... more dessert. More on that next time. ;)

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

Big Eat Day 13-Double Date with Jordan Knight

A few weeks ago I called my friend Lisa with some good news. "I got us tickets to go see our boyfriend perform in SF. Be prepared to Big Eat beforehand." This made Lisa very happy. I submit Photographic Exhibit A.

Obviously our boyfriend is Jordan from NKOTB. I know that many of you do not understand my love for them. Judge me as you will. We've been in an imaginary relationship for 20+ years now. It's safe to say I'll be loving him forever. Ahem.

"Emily you are so awesomely notorious baby. I'm so glad you are my imaginary girlfriend. You are a rockstar. Now I will sing you a sex-ay song in my falsetto voice."

I am just sane enough to realize that my "relationship" with Jordan is almost entirely in my head so I have no problem stuffing myself with food before hooking up for our annual visit. This is the best part about imaginary relationships. No worries about garlic breath or distended stomachs.

#38 The Little Star at Little Star Pizza

My friend Jeannie hypothesized that Little Star was the reason she gained 20 lbs when she moved to the city. My formative research shows that this is a strong probability. Quality deep dish pizza is few and far between on the West Coast and Little Star shines in our barren deep dish pizza wasteland.

The pizza itself has all the important components. Pleasingly oozy? Check. Chock-a-block with fresh ingredients and flavor? Check! The crowning glory was the amazing cornmeal crust that tasted light and crunch and airy like it was made out of the freshest croutons in the world. Lisa and I spent 20 minutes discussing its merits and frankly I'm not sure that was enough time.

Verdict: Go eat pizza. Bring your stretchy pants.

#39 Puka Punch at Smuggler's Cove

Waiting around for concerts to start is a waste of my limited leg power so we decided to have a little Sunday night happy hour at Smugglers Cove. I was disconcerted as I dragged Lisa to a building that had no markings, blacked out windows and a very uh "suggestively" dressed woman entering the building. She was not going to be pleased if I accidentally dragged her into a brothel. She hates it when I do that.

Despite our concerns we entered the creepy building.  Our jaws immediately dropped open like cartoon characters. Smugglers Cove is like crossing the threshold from San Francisco to Pirates of the Carribbean. It is three stories of Captain Jack Sparrowness.

The specialty at Smugglers Cove is rum (duh) and the menu is like a textbook on rum with little piratey drawings. We were instructed to try the Puka punch which was both giant and satisfying but what I really wished we could try was a drink that was being set on fire behind us. FIRE! Cinamon scented FIRE!

Verdict: Who cares what you drink there? This place is an ex-per-ience and there is rum! Toss some back until you are just punch drunk enough to walk yourself safely to see your "boyfriend". Not too much though. The girl next to me at the concert was drunkenly slurring "I just NEED Jordan in my LIFE" to the security guards. My friends, that is amusing but way too drunk. No more rum for her.

Posted on March 20, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.

Noodlemania Week #6-DanDan Noodles

DanDan NoodlesThere are certain types of days when one craves healthy foods. For me those days usually fall into two categories: 1) The day after a party or a Big Eat or 2) A sunny day when my optomism is overflowing

Last Sunday did not fall into either of those categories. Last Sunday was a mess,  It was overcast, I didn't feel good, the batting average for my toddler's dry sheets in the morning was alarmingly low, I had terrible nightmares all week and we found out that there was a possibility that a wave of layoffs would hit our family.

It was not a day for virtue or platitudes about not hiding feelings with food. It was a day for stop-gap measures and burying your head in the sand.

It was a day for Dan-Dan Noodles followed by a nap.

I first learned about Dan-Dan Noodles from Fuschia Dunlop's excellent book on Sichuanese cooking. Ever since then I've been thinking about them, longing for them, imagining them etc. etc. The basic ingredients boil down to primal basics: carbs, chile, red meat, salt and fat. They are wonderful and decadent.

They are also tricky little beasts. A steady hand is needed when you are using extrmely volatile chiles, sichuan pepcorns, high heat and ludicrous amounts of soy sauce. I have messed up DanDan Noodles more times then they have come out perfect but if you do it right these noodles are heaven: salty enough to cure a primitive survival need, slick with sesame and bursting with chile to burn away your worries for a little while.

Last Sunday mine weren't perfect, but they were good enough to get the job done. We slurped them down in a frenzy of self-pity and they induced a carb coma of the most comforting variety. Two hours later I woke up ready to face the world. This weekend we're feeling like fresh veggies, but I have sichuan peppercorns on reserve, just in case. :)

Get Fuschia's recipe here.

 

Posted on March 15, 2012 and filed under Noodlemania 2012, Project EAT.

Big Eat Day 12-Sactomofo

I’m eating 100 Items off of 7 X 7s SF Big Eat List. You can see the rest of entries to this series here. Sacramento has a burgeoning food truck scene and every few months a local group has been organizing a mobile food festival called Sactomofo. The third incarnation was located within walking distance of my house. Even better? There was a Big Eat venue on the list of out of town attendees. Thank you so much Sactomofo organizers for bringing Chairman Bao to me!

#37 Pork Belly Bun at Chairman Bao

The upside of this scenario is that I did not have to figure out how to find this truck on a random day in San Francisco, the downside is that Sactomofo is crazy busy with hour-long lines at all the trucks. Not exagerating at all, Sacramentans are food truck crazy.

By the time we got to the front of the line everyone around me was getting grumpy. "This better be worth it" grunted the guy behind me. I couldn't help thinking the same. I was hungry cold and very concerned that I would be dissapointed.

I needn't have worried. It was extraordinary. Chairman Bao does a modern take on buns. They have two kinds baked and steamed. The baked are split in half like a sandwhich and the steamed are rolled up like a puffy taco. If I had to choose one to love forever in domestic partnership I would go with the Big Eat list and pick the pork belly. The pork was absolutely luscious and piled with pickled daikon to cut the richness. The bun itself was both toasted and soft. I feel jealous of myself just by looking at the picture. Memories....

This is an example of a steamed bun, I don't remember exactly what these were. One was tofu and one was, uh, something else delicious? It was all so good that everything dissapeared before I had the chance to store the wonder of each one in my long term memory.

Ugh, more mystery deliciousness. I'm sorry dear readers. I've failed you! I have no idea what kind of bun this way, all I can say, is eat it!

Verdict: I waited in line for an hour to eat this and I didn't get pissed. Instead my friends and I shoved them in our faces with a glee that is almost indecent. If that's not a glowing review, I don't know what is.

Posted on March 11, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.

Noodlemania Week #5-Domino Soba

Many of you who visit the design blogs fondly remember the dearly-departed Domino magazine. I was quite infatuated with the first issue I got in the mail and an amazing looking soba recipe that was featured. It was touted as a cleansing respite from the indulgences of the holiday season. After the delicious yet insane festivities from our SuperBowl fry-fest I was looking for some delicious penance.

Bless me father for I have eaten too many fried pickles.

 

We all make mistakes my child. Please eat a bowl of soba and medidate on your mistakes.

I wanted so badly for this to be a triumph but my bowl of soba came out... mediocre. I am not sure if the ramen restaurant near my house has elevated my taste for japanese soup or if it was the fact that I forgot a key ingredient for creating the broth (I didn't have mushroom stems because I accidentally bought caps only) but I found it to be only so-so. That is not to say that I didn't squirt it silly sriracha and eat it all over the course of the day happy as a clam. Please. I may be a sinner but I don't waste food and quite frankly there are very few things that hot sauce can't save.

Can I get an amen?

Posted on February 28, 2012 and filed under Noodlemania 2012, Project EAT.

Noodlemania Week #4-Learn from my Mistakes

Much as I would like to pretend that everything I turn out in the kitchen is perfect/edible this is not the case. Week #4 doesn't look so bad on the plate, but it was not that enjoyable on the palate. It was dry and not too tasty and did I say dry?

I'm learning over time that one of the most important techniques to master in noodles dishes is balancing the sauce to noodle ratio. Too much and everything is soup and the noodles get soggy, too little and you get Week #4 noodles, dry and tasteless.

You might be wondering why I am bothering to post about noodles that tasted terrible. I want everyone to remember that learning to cook is always a process and the mistakes you make are as important as the successes. I have made the sauce/noodle mistake several times in several different ways already (see Pad thai round two) but each time I learn something new not to do and develop a deeper understanding of what to do.

So on week four here's to celebrating mistakes made and lessons learned! What's the most recent/most interesting/most instructive mistake you've made in the kitchen?

PS-Also, here's a list of common mistakes. I've made most of them multiple times. I am an impatient and slow kitchen learner.

Posted on February 22, 2012 and filed under Noodlemania 2012, Project EAT.

Big Eat Day 11-Birthday Big Eat Part 5 of 5

I’m eating 100 Items off of 7 X 7s SF Big Eat List. You can see the rest of entries to this series here. On my birthday my friends took me to the city to make some hard-core headway on this list, it was fun. I wish you had been there with us. :)

Our original plan for my birthday was to eat a little, walk around a little, eat a little etc. We totally followed the plan, except for all the parts that didn't involve eating. We literally ate all day. I'm sure you can see from the pictures that we didn't have any fun at all.

At this point we were feeling full which is natural. If you don't leave the Ferry Building full of delicious food, you did something wrong. We decided it was time to take a break from regular eating. It was time for tea and snacks.

#35 Soup Dumplings at Shanghai King

I had never tried soup dumplings before but my two friends with Chinese affiliations were very excited about them. Betty was actually very excited about the whole menu at Shanghai King and in charge of the ordering. This resulted in us somehow accidentally ordering a whole "pre-dinner" meal at Shanghai King. That Betty, she's so bad she's good!

Soup Dumplings are exactly what they sound like, steamed dumplings filled with soup. You eat them very strategically with chopsticks to hold the dumpling and a spoon to catch the soup.

They are not only fun to eat but they are delicious with a capital D. I usually do not care for brothy soups, but this liquid was just like heaven. I swear I heard the Cure playing as I bit into the first one.

Verdict: Eat them please. You will be smiling like these two if you do.

#36 Pistachio Meatballs at Flytrap at Zaré

After "tea" we had to haul-ass to meet our dinner reservation at the only "fancy" dining establishment on our agenda. We reasoned that after a hard day of non-stop eating it was time to have a relaxing sit-down dinner. Zare is a sort of Persian/Mediterranean style restaurant that is decorated in a very classic San Francisco style. It's all about moldings, candles and burgundy walls. A perfect end to the night.

The task of eating pistachio meatballs somehow devolved into the bone-marrow, pulled lamb, pisco sour, pomegranate martini, deconstructed lemon meringue pie scenario as pictured below. To be quite honest I cannot recall much about the meatballs specifically but Zaré as a whole was a lovely experience. The service was perfect and the ambiance was classy yet relaxing. It was a perfect end to a perfect day.

Verdict: I think the insane aftermath of our meal will tell you all you need to know about Zare. Go there. Eat anything and enjoy!

Thanks so much for following along on this culinary adventure. I hope that it gives you some great ideas for the next trip you take to San Francisco!

Posted on February 19, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.

Noodlemania Week #3-Pad Thai

Pad Thai Pad thai is an accommodating meal. It has a huge dose of carbs to give you the happies (albeit temporarily and a sauce that holds sugar, salt and sour in perfect balance.

Did you want some crunchiness? It has peanuts!

Did you need something succulent? Shrimp for you!

Do you have celiacs? Welcome to pad thai's gluten-free universe.

Homey? Two words: fried egg.

It is truly everything to everyone and a snap to make. I've tried out some different recipes but I really like this one which describes the dish as "pleasantly funky with fish sauce and comes from acclaimed Portland restaurant Pok Pok. Even my kid ate it! Thank you pad thai, you complete me.

Side Note: Despite putting on a heroic effort, I could not procure sweet preserved radish. The dish was still very good without it. Also, make sure that you soak the noodles enough to soften them completely, otherwise they will soak up too much sauce and be overly dry. I mean, I'm just guessing. I definitely didn't get overexcited and make a second batch and was in too much of a hurry and made dry pad thai. I would never!

Posted on February 14, 2012 and filed under Noodlemania 2012, Project EAT.

Big Eat Day 11-Birthday Big Eat Part 4 of 5

I’m eating 100 Items off of 7 X 7s SF Big Eat List. You can see the rest of entries to this series here. On my birthday my friends took me to the city to make some hard-core headway on this list, it was fun. I wish you had been there with us. :) #33-Ahi Burger at Gott's Roadside

Ahi Burger at Gott's Roadside

Gott's roadside is when the crazy-town eating started to kick in. I don't remember being hungry at this point, which is not to say that I didn't want to eat more! Gott's is a hamburger import from Napa, it's kind of a farm to fast food kind of place. The ahi burger was refreshing, the tuna was seared well and the Asian flavored slaw gave it nice texture. On a normal day I would've been super-happy eating a sandwhich of this caliber, but... it was Big Eat day. A strange day when good food, suddenly seems... average.

Verdict: The ahi burger is good. I would eat it any day, but it did not change my life.

#34-Warm Egg Salad Sandwhich at Il Cane Rosso

During the process of procuring the Ahi Burger my friend Betty was left unsupervised in the Il Cane Rosso line where she was tasked with getting the Egg Salad sandwich. Despite the fact we had already eaten about 3 full meals she still came back with the sandwich AND a panzanella salad. What can I say? She can't be tamed.

If none of us was blown away by the Ahi Burger, the blame can be placed on the Egg Salad Sandwich. It was so unique. The bread was almost like a focaccia crouton and the creamy salad was perfectly seasoned with tarragon and other (hmmm, it's good, but what is it? fresh herbs). In a million years I would never have chosen to order this menu item. Quite frankly, I thought it sounded gross but it's discoveries like these that make this adventure worth it. It's so exciting to try something new and love it!

Verdict: Yes it sounds gross but it's not, it's the opposite of gross. It is marvelous!

PS-The panzanella was rockin too.

 

Posted on February 12, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.

Noodlemania Week #2-Perez Improv Noodles

Perez Improv NoodlesPerez Improv Noodles

There's lots to love about Asian Marts: reasonable prices, endless aisles of sauces and live fish tanks. To my mind though the festive atmosphere is a distant second to the lack of mainstream values regarding physical space. Old ladies plow straight into you at the Asian marts and I love it! I think it's fun to shove my way through crowds. I've woven my way to the front a lot as a short girl so having a place where this behavior is culturally acceptable warms my heart.

I'll tell you though that Lunar New Years Eve at the Asian Mart was not my favorite. It was packed with people carrying roast duck which instantly filled me with unrequited envy. Plus, and no offense to all non-asians as well as 1/2 of myself but there were so many non-Asians there and they were not acting right! I felt extremely annoyed at all the good-natured white people wandering around the aisles, carefully reading labels and making chatter with their friends. "No, we need THICK SOY SAUCE" they'd shout to each other across the aisles. I wanted to shake them "NO, no, no. Stop behaving like this at the Asian Mart. You are supposed to bump people out of the way and grab things quickly!"

This of course is extremely hypocritical on my part becuase this is exactly how I act at the Asian Mart. It's not like I can read Chinese so I'm pulling the same shenanigans myself, spending 20 minutes looking for frigging preserved Tianjin vegetables.

It's a confusing cultural conundrum, or maybe it's not. Maybe I was just dripping wet from the rain and in a ridiculous rage because it wasn't my day to eat roast duck and get red envelopes from doting aunties. Poor, poor me.

The chaos at the Asian Mart was such that I spent 30 minutes there and still came home with only 80% of the ingredients needed for my dish. By this point I was wild-eyed with hunger  and residual duck rage was threatening to spill out of my eyes in a self-indulgent sob fest. (Am I the only one who gets this upset when hungry? No? Just me and my toddler?) So, this week you won't be reading about pad thai as I originally planned you'll be reading about the noodles that I made up with the random stuff I bought. I present to you "Perez Improv Noodles"

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of noodles (I used fresh shanghai noodles)
  • 3 shallots
  • Lots of chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbs curry paste
  • frozen shrimp (defrosted)
  • 1 carrot-julienned
  • 2 Tbs of fish sauce
  • 2 Tsps of brown sugar
  • Green onions to taste ( I like a lot)
  • Cilantro for topping

Instructions

  1. Cook noodles. Duh.
  2. While noodles are cooking heat up the oil, it should be not-messing-around-hot. Add the garlic, shallots and curry. Stir fry for about two minutes or until fragrant. Pay attention. Don't burn it!
  3. Throw in shrimp, brown them, but don't overcook. Rubbery shrimp is a gross waste.
  4. Add carrots, fish sauce and sugar; bring to a boil.
  5. Divide noodles between serving bowls and mix in portions of your topping. Top with green onions and cilantro.
  6. Forget about the roast duck debacle. Slump in your chair with clear eyes and a full belly. Nap (optional-but suggested for rainy days)
Posted on February 7, 2012 and filed under Noodlemania 2012, Project EAT, Uncategorized.

Big Eat Day 11-Birthday Big Eat Part 3 of 5

I’m eating 100 Items off of 7 X 7s SF Big Eat List. You can see the rest of entries to this series here. On my birthday my friends took me to the city to make some hard-core headway on this list, it was fun. I wish you had been there with us. :)

#32 Sweetwater Oysters at Hog Island Oyster Co.

The SF Ferry Building is paradise. What is better than eating delicious food while looking out at the Bay Bridge? But scary things lurk even in paradise and when we came upon Hog Island Oyster Co. I knew my moment of reckoning had arrived.

Sweetwater Oysters from Hog Island Oyster Co

I'm not an oyster virgin (I had some crazy deliciousness when I was in NOLA) but I do have a tendency to develop food neurosis. This happened immediately prior to eating these beauties.

As I got ready to slurp the oyster my brain went crazy like this

"OMG. Are these things alive? Is it going to start wiggling in my mouth. I can't handle that. Maybe it will wiggle down my throat. Holy crap! I have to eat it anyway, it's on the list. I'm supposed to be brave and try new food experiences. EAT THE OYSTER. JUST DO IT WUSS."

Obviously, it was a very calm moment. Get ready to experience it in picture format.

Verdict: The experience was very harrowing. I have no idea if they were good but I ate one!

Posted on February 5, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.

Noodlemania Week #1-Jamie Oliver's Chicken Goujons with Noodles

Chicken Goujons with NoodlesChicken Goujons with Noodles

I usually get home at 5:30 and turn out dinner by 6:00 pm. I am quite lit-er-ally (insert Rob Lowe's Park and Rec character voice) on the 30 min. meal plan. Jamie Oliver said that this meal would take 4 minutes and 41 seconds to make. To that I say "Sign-me-up-Señor Oliver"

This meal was outrageously delicious considering how simple it was to put together. I think the secret is the onions and honey together, asian dishes are so good at balancing savory and sweet. As a bonus I had all the ingredients in house. No shopping necessary.

Party time. Excellent.

Let's go.

Chicken Goujons with Noodles

Adapted from Jamie Oliver's cookbook "Jamie's Dinners"

Ingredients for 2 servings: 8 oz egg noodles (use what you like, I used DanDan Noodles because I keep them on hand), 2 Tbs oil, chicken thighs (throw in as much as you want to eat, a typical portion is 4 oz. per person), 1 small piece of ginger, peeled and sliced, 1 fresh red chile (sub red chile flakes if you don't have them), 1 tsp five-spice powder, 3 green onions (sliced-I used way more than three because I am an unrepentant onion lover), splash of soy sauce, 1 Tbs of Honey, cilantro and lemon

Cook the noodles. While they are cooking heat up oil then add the chicken thighs (cut in smaller pieces) ginger and chile. Toss together then add the five-spice powder. Once the chicken is browned, add the green onions, soy sauce and honey. Drain the noodles then add them to the pan along with the cilantro. Squeeze with lemon if you like. Sit down on the couch and eat greedily with someone you love, or the TV. Either will do.

I'm making noodles once a week until the end of 2012. Have a recipe I should try? Send me the link! 

Posted on January 31, 2012 and filed under Noodlemania 2012, Project EAT.

Big Eat Day 11-Birthday Big Eat Part 2 of 5

I’m eating 100 Items off of 7 X 7s SF Big Eat List. You can see the rest of entries to this series here. Everything on the Big Eat List (so far) has been good, but some items are revelatory. They are so good, you have to talk out your feelings after eating it for days. Scream sorbet is like that, it's a game changer.

#31-Seasonal Flavors at Scream Sorbet

Scream Sorbet
Scream Sorbet

We found Scream Sorbet at the Ferry Building Farmers Market. All my life I've thought of sorbet as the cheap second I have to consume since I don't digest dairy well. It's possible that I might even hold an illogical grudge against sorbet. Why can't I just have ice cream? It's all your fault sorbet!

Scream sorbet has mended the fences and then some.

After a short sampling my posse decided the only logical course of action was to order all six flavors. The next 20 minutes were spent eating, moaning and generally falling in love with sorbet. There were three fruit flavors and three nut/chocolate flavors. They all changed my life.

Scream Sorbet is special because it's made in a Paco Jet which can micro-puree anything. The guy at the stand told us he could put a chair in and make chair sorbet with a paco jet. I'm not interested in chair sorbet, but hazelnuts micro-pureed into the most amazing dairy-free treat I've ever tasted are welcome any day.

Verdict: It's called Scream Sorbet for a reason. Go get yours.

Posted on January 29, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.

Big Eat Day 11-Birthday Big Eat Part 1 of 5

I’m eating 100 Items off of 7 X 7s SF Big Eat List. You can see the rest of entries to this series here.

For my birthday last fall my friends took me to the city to Big Eat for a day. We thought it would be a kind of leisurely day. We'd eat, wander around see some stuff and eat some more. We totally followed that plan, if you cut out everything but the eating.

#28-Apple Fritter at Bob's Donuts

In a nod to normal eating patterns we thought we'd start with pastries. Bob's donuts is a small hole in the wall on a street that I don't think I've ever seen before which is weird seeing as I grew up around these parts. At first bite the apple fritter was relatively unremarkable, but as we kept sampling it something weird happened. It got better? Perhaps it made the list because it has magic properties of persuasion?

Verdict: It was good, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it.

Donuts at Bob's Donuts

#29-Egg Custard Tart at Golden Gate Bakery

Big Pastry Box-Little Door

Golden Gate Bakery is an institution and it's Egg Tarts are legendary. So much so that you will buy a dozen of them for 5 people and ignore the cranky Chinese ladies behind the counter when they throw a Cantonese hissy fit cause you didn't see the "Don't take pictures sign".  The lingering shouts of "Respect the sign. Don't take pictures" will fade into the distance as you bliss out in egg tart heaven. The crust is incredibly light, you can practically feel the individual layers, while the custard somehow tastes like egg without being off-putting. I am not a huge egg fan but I had to stop myself from hoarding all 12 for myself.

Verdict: Don't take pics. Just bring cash and your appetite.

Egg  Custard Tarts from Golden Gate Bakery

#30-Hamburguesa at Don Pisto's

From Golden Gate in Chinatown it's a short walk over to Don Pisto's in Little Italy. We were planning our first "meal" of the day to be brunch at Don Pisto's which is kind of a hipster Mexican place. Everything there was good. We should know because we tried about half the menu.

Breakfast Delights at Don Pisto's

The crowning glory however was the Hamburguesa, a burger that is marinated in bacon and onion. Yeah, you heard me right, marinated in bacon. When it arrived at the table it seemed unassuming compared to the chilaquiles and tacos and other fancier food we had just eaten. Upon reflection I believe that it's humble appearance is all part of the hamburguesas devious plan to charm you. The second you get close to that thing the intoxicating pull of bacon hits you in the face. The smell is crazy town and I mean that in the best possible way.

I would show you pictures of  us eating hamburguesa but our facial expressions are indeecent.

Verdict: Hamburguesa, where have you been all my life?

Hamburguesa at Don Pisto's

Did that seem like a lot of food? Probably, but we haven't even scratched the surface. This is a FIVE part series. :)

 

Posted on January 24, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.

Noodlemania for the New Year

Happy New Year Everybody. It's officially the year of the dragon and the launch of a new Food Project at Casa Perez. For 2012 I wanted to mix things up a bit and I thought hard about what kind of food I would be excited about eating every week for a year (you know besides tacos). I thought of investigating my father's culinary roots and cooking filipino food for a year, or going healthy and cooking through a vegan or other "healthy" cookbook for a year. There were so many possibilities but in the end no cookbook seemed right. I guess that a Rick Bayless cookbook is a hard act to follow! Instead I'm trying something new. Every week this year for the rest of the year I'm going to be cooking up: asian noodles!

My love for noodles is probably unhealthy and unnatural. Whenever TV characters are eating chow mein takeout I feel irrationally jealous and sometimes I page thorugh the my cookbooks just to gaze longingly at the noodle recipes. Strangely these procliviites have never really translated into actually cooking noodles.

2012 is going to put an end to that foolishness. No more longingly watching the Big Bang Theory gang dig their takeout cartons. This year I am making pad thai, pancit and dan dan noodles with wild abandon. To get started I went through all my cookbooks and flagged every single noodle recipe. You can help me too! Do you have  a favorite noodle recipe I should try? Is there a blog post you saw somewhere that you are drooling over and I should be the guinea pig? Let me know! Like the Bayless recipe I commit to being truthful about the ups and downs and because I won't be pulling recipes exclusivley from one source I'll feel better about posting the actual recipes more often. I'm excited about starting another project and something about the Year of the Dragon feels right. Let's go!

 

Posted on January 22, 2012 and filed under Project EAT.