Saturday, February 26, 2011

Davis: home-cooked lunch

For Saturday lunch last weekend in Davis, my mom made her fantastic potstickers with chicken and shrimp filling, served alongside three different stir-fries of various vegetables and tofu.  It's meals like this one that I remember the most fondly, enjoy the most when I'm at home, and will miss the most when I leave for med school.

You have not had potstickers until you've had my mom's.  They are life-changing in the best way possible.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Davis: dinner at Jade Garden

Last Friday night, my parents, E and I went to Jade Garden for a relaxed dinner.  Jade Garden is my family's go-to Chinese restaurant in Davis, to the point where we jokingly call it our family cafeteria.  For this meal, after a rigorous back-and-forth with the waitress to ensure that there would be absolutely no MSG or bouillion used in our dishes, we started with sizzling rice soup with chicken:

Next, flounder fillets with vegetables.  I really like this dish because it's both simple and flavorful, and relatively healthy:

Vegetable chow fun.  Is there anyone who doesn't enjoy chow fun?  Wide rice noodles are awesome.

Broccoli, snap peas, and mushrooms:

Lemon chicken, the otherworldly neon yellow-ness of which complemented the aforementioned vegetable dish:

Flavors weren't particularly strong because of our insistence on no MSG, no bouillion, and also less salt, but that actually made everything taste more comfortable from my point of view.  The four of us ended the meal with the usual pleasantly nonsensical fortune cookies, then went home and shared a plump pomelo and plenty of college stories before calling it a night.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Weekday dinner: basa with blood orange mustard sauce

Alec originally sent me this link for an almond-crusted tilapia.  It sounded great and I wanted to make it, but I didn't have (nor did I want to buy) breadcrumbs, and while Mollie Stone's didn't have tilapia last Monday, basa was available.  I also had blood oranges from the tree at my parents' house, so I decided to turn a few of them into a sauce.

I supremed three oranges and roughly mashed the segments, then whisked in some Dijon mustard, a little red wine vinegar, and some sugar.  In fact, I forgot how strong Dijon mustard is, so I added too much of it, but the result was still pretty good when used judiciously.  The basa fillets, smeared thinly with mustard, were sauteed on both sides until opaque, then drizzled with the sauce and sprinkled with toasted almonds.  I served the fish with rice, broccoli and romanesco.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Davis: lunch at Zen Toro

Elyse and I drove to Davis on Wednesday evening.  On Thursday, my 22nd birthday, I dropped her off for the start of her interview day and then sat at Crepeville for a while, sipping tea and finishing a book.  At 11:30am I got myself a table at Zen Toro, where the lunch menu is both appealing and reasonably priced.  The restaurant was relatively empty at the start of the lunch service, but nearly filled up within half an hour.  Given the cold rain and wind outside, I was looking forward to something warming.

Accordingly, I ordered a lunch combo of tempura udon and spicy tuna roll.  First came some green tea and a little bowl of "Asian coleslaw," which was.  The udon came in a generous portion with one tempura shrimp and some vegetables, with three big pieces of tuna roll alongside.  All of this was $8.75 ($11 with a nice tip), which I think was an excellent deal.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Weekday dinner: pasta with yogurt, onions, and carrots

My inspiration for this pasta was Amanda Hesser's pasta with yogurt and caramelized onions.  She calls for sheep's milk yogurt and cheese, neither of which I had, but I did have Greek yogurt, carrots, and eggs.

So that's what went into this dish: a chopped and caramelized red onion, steamed carrots, some pasta, two eggs and some Greek yogurt (beaten together, forming a thick sauce that cooked quickly and became creamy once stirred into the pasta and vegetables).  Sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper to finish.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekend breakfasts, with daisies

One of my current favorite foods is Greek yogurt, which Trader Joe's does very well.  With some lemon curd and toasted, slivered almonds, consumed alongside a cup of tea and a good book (Waiter Rant, lent to me by E), there aren't many better breakfasts out there.  This was last Saturday morning.

Last Sunday morning, I picked up an almond croissant from the Farmer's Market, along with some pink Gerbera daisies.  I can count on one hand the number of times I've bought myself flowers, but these were so peppy that I couldn't resist.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Davis: Taste of Thai

Pad thai and sticky rice

The weekend right after Chinese New Year, I drove home to spend a Saturday with my parents.  We had lunch at a relatively new Thai place in Davis called Taste of Thai.  Note: Davis really didn't need another Thai place; seriously, what's with having eight Thai restaurants in a single college town downtown, three of which are on the same street and within a 5-min walk of each other?!  Anyway, redundancy aside, Taste of Thai occupies a historic building that used to house a Chinese restaurant called Noodle Express.

Rad nah

Since it was lunchtime and caffeine wouldn't be a problem, I ordered some Thai iced coffee, which I always forget is sweeter than I prefer, but still enjoy.  My parents decided on pad thai and rad nah, which is sort of like pad se ew with more and more varied vegetables.  I chose the green curry (medium spicy) with chicken, along with sticky rice.

Green curry with chicken

We enjoyed all our dishes, which had flavors distinct enough to be complementary; I was especially happy that my curry had big pieces of bamboo shoot instead of puny slivers as is often the case.  Portions were quite generous, service was prompt, and the atmosphere was peaceful.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chocolate and dessert wine tasting

Happy Belated Valentine's Day!  Tonight's post is about a chocolate and dessert wine tasting that I attended almost two weeks ago, at the home of gracious hosts Aaron and Marie.  The evening consisted of a starter of Ballatore Spumante, followed by five chocolate/wine pairs:

1. Milk chocolate with BV Muscat de Beaulieu.  I liked the muscat, but less so the milk chocolate.  Apparently muscat grapes are also used in sparkling wines - time to check that out!

2. 70% dark chocolate (Whole Foods) and 85% dark chocolate (Alter Eco Dark Blackout) with Broadbent Madeira.  Alter Eco Blackout is one of the best dark chocolate bars there is!  I received a bar as a gift some time ago, and was happy to see the same label at the tasting.

3. Spicy dark chocolate (Theo Spicy Chile) with Graham Six Grapes Port.  Theo bars are pretty unique, and this one has a pretty balanced burn; I would definitely consider buying this the next time I'm looking for a bar with some heat.

4. White chocolate (Whole Foods) with Rosenhof Welschriesling Trockenbeerenauslese 2001.  White chocolate doesn't qualify as chocolate in my book, but riesling is nice :-).

5. Bacon chocolate (Mo's Bacon Bar) with cream sherry.  This pairing was awesome!  Strangely, I'd never had bacon chocolate before this, though I know it's anything but a new trend.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Layer cake for Hunger & Homelessness Auction!

I will be donating a homemade, 9-inch layer cake for the Hunger & Homelessness Auction, organized by my friend Kareem, to take place on April 9.  Cake, frosting and filling flavors, as well as decorations, can be discussed and then customized to your preferences.  Please consider contributing by placing a vote once the auction starts, either for my cake or for any of the other items!  For more information:

Here are some of the cakes that I have previously baked:

Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting

Chocolate chip banana cake

Chocolate cake with raspberry filling/glaze and coconut trim

Carrot cake with whipped cream frosting and lemon curd filling

Interior of carrot cake

Saturday, February 12, 2011

World Peace Cookies

After reading SmittenKitchen's post about Dorie Greenspan's "World Peace / Kurova cookies," I knew I had to try making them myself.  And now I'm writing a post about them, too, even though SmittenKitchen's pictures and commentary are way better than mine (which is why I want to make pretty much everything she's blogged about).  Here's the little I have to add: these cookies are indeed magical.  You should make them, and know that you definitely don't need a stand mixer.  I used my hand mixer for the initial creaming, but then just used my hand to knead in the flour/cocoa mixture.  It worked just fine, even though it was a little messy.

In the near future, I'm going to make a double batch of this cookie dough, just so I have a few logs on hand to slice and bake whenever I feel like it.  The recommended bake time of 12 minutes is spot-on; I baked my first batch for closer to 13 or 14, and they were a tiny bit dry the next day, but I actually timed my second batch, and they were exquisite.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sunday bread and brunch, with lemon ricotta pancakes

 On the Sunday morning that P was in town, I got up at a reasonable hour and headed to Town and Country for a few groceries at Trader Joe's, two books from Books Inc., and two loaves of bread from Mayfield Bakery.  One loaf was the levain epi, which looked burnt and turned out to be a dark wheat; E and I weren't fans, but P seemed to enjoy it.  The other bread was a country white, about $6 for a hefty loaf that I cut into thirds (two of which I froze).  This bread has proved to be a perfect breakfast bread once toasted.  It's crusty enough to be satisfying, but also chewy and tender.

I picked up E on my way home, and P joined us soon after for a girls' brunch.  Ever since P and I had those delicious lemon ricotta pancakes at Leopold's in DC, I've wanted to make them myself.  This brunch was a suitable occasion, and so I decided to follow Cupcake and Cashmere's lovely example and use Bobby Flay's recipe.  The recipe was easy, and the result - eaten while hot - was delicious.  Brunch also included a fantastic Tea Spot black tea called "Reveil Energetique" (pu erh with chocolate!), courtesy of E, and fresh fruit.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Carmel: Cantinetta Luca

Every late January or early February, my lab makes a day trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea for the Western Society for Pediatric Research.  Lunch during our most recent Carmel day was at Cantinetta Luca, an airy restaurant with attractive dark wood tables, plenty of seating, and a semi-open kitchen.  First, two small loaves of good bread were set down with a tapenade of olives/olive oil/sun-dried tomato, if I recall correctly.

Friend/colleague Alec and I decided to share a pizza and a pasta, since both categories sounded pretty tasty.  Our pasta was the pappardelle alla bolognese, and it turned out to be some of the best pasta I have ever had.  Luca serves fresh handmade pasta, and the precise texture (a balance of elastic and chewy) was displayed at its best in pappardelle form.  The bolognese was zesty and also a little bit creamy.  Perfect!  The pasta portions here aren't huge, but I actually found this one perfectly adequate, even when shared.  After finishing the pasta, the remaining pool of bolognese provided an excellent dip for some more bread :-).

We also had the broccoli pizza, which was a thin-crusted pizza with broccoli, potatoes, bacon, and broccolini.  The middle of the pizza was pleasantly droopy, and there was a tangible but not overpowering amount of grease.  I think a salad would have been a better pairing for this pizza, which was a little too heavy - and also a little outshone - next to the stellar pasta.  (Even I have my limits!)  Two other people at our table did share and enjoy a salad + pizza combination.

Carmel is one of my favorite places to visit, and the town's profusion of wonderful restaurants certainly contributes to that designation.  Along with Dametra Cafe, Luca has just been added to my must-return-to list.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Redwood City: Paradise Kabab House

 To commemorate dear Paras' visit to the Bay Area two weekends ago, we had a group dinner (kindly arranged by Kareem) at Paradise Kabab House in Redwood City.  Our table of six started with shared appetizers of kashke bademjan (grilled, smoked, and pureed eggplant with spices), flatbread, and sabzi khordan (fresh herbs, radishes, walnuts, and feta cheese).

For entrees, Justin and I shared the fesenjun, a traditional Persian stew of ground walnuts, pomegranate, and chicken.  It's served with rice, and it's a fantastic - and labor-intensive - dish: tangy but sweet, velvety, and difficult to stop eating.

We also shared a chicken breast kabab, which was well-seasoned and thankfully not dry.

Kareem ordered the koobideh, which is the traditional ground beef kabab.

As far as Persian food goes, Shalizaar in Belmont is certainly more refined and thus better for special occasions.  In contrast, Paradise is reminiscent of my beloved Cafe220, and so is a place that would be comfortable to return to for casual meals with friends.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Boston: Dessert, pho, and more dessert

On my last evening in Boston, Anna and I met up at Longwood and then took a packed M2 shuttle to Harvard Square, where we made a beeline for L.A. Burdick Chocolate and met up with Ida.  This chocolate shop is extremely pretty and has ridiculously tempting displays.  In order to get to the counter selling hot chocolate, you have to walk through two tall shelves of boxed truffles, bars, and beautiful bon bons.

Burdick sells three sizes of hot chocolate, and we went for the smallest size since we knew dinner and more dessert was coming up.  I ordered the regular dark hot chocolate, and Anna got the milk.  This is a potent brew - it definitely feels like drinking melted chocolate, especially once you go outside and the drink starts cooling down very quickly.  The smallest size was perfect; even if it wasn't functioning as an appetizer for the evening, I can't imagine drinking one of the larger sizes.

We then walked to Le's Vietnamese.  Fresh summer rolls, followed by the "special" pho (the typical variety of beef cuts) with added meatballs, made for a very comfy dinner.  I'm not a pho expert, but Le's was as good as any I've had in the Bay Area.

Our last stop of the evening was Finale Desserterie, where Anna and I met up with Amy.  We shared the 9-item dessert sampler along with the molten chocolate cake.  SO GOOD!!!  The dessert sampler was gorgeously plated and consisted of creme brulee, apple spice cake, "Manjari Mousse," a little hot fudge brownie sundae, cheesecake, Boston cream pie, two little whoopie pies, apple cranberry tart, raspberry sorbet, and mango sorbet.

Everything on the sampler plate was awesome, though my favorite was still the molten chocolate cake: it was rich but not too sweet, had a toothsome crust, and came with coffee gelato and chocolate-covered almonds.

Wataru was able to join us as well, and he ordered some cheesecake.  The desserts were fuel for an intense, thought-provoking catch-up and advice session.  I've wanted to go to Finale's ever since visiting Harvard in the spring of my senior year of high school, and almost five years later, I finally enjoyed this palace of desserts - along with some other Boston culinary delights - the best company I could have asked for!