Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gather Indeed a Nice Place for Gathering

2200 Oxford St, Berkeley, CA
(510) 809-0400

We received a gift card from our friend Kirk and Ei-lun for Christmas for Gather and thought it would be nice to use it soon. So, I made reservation for last night at Gather for my boyfriend and my early anniversary dinner. I trust Kirk and Ei-lun's tastes in food very much, they know where to go for good food all the time! I was excited and really looked forward to it.

When my bf and I arrived for our reservation, it was pretty packed already but no one waiting. We were seated right away. Our server introduced himself, gave us some water and went off. It took awhile for him to come back to take our orders. I felt like they were short on staffs, but the server still tried their best to attend to their tables. There were many tables since they were placed pretty close together, close enough such that people had to squeeze themselves to get out.

Gather is known to support and serve fresh food from local producers. Their menu consists of carnivores, vegetarian, vegan as well as gluten-free food, made perfect for everyone. This place looked very recycle friendly, with tables and chair made out of unpolished wood, and couch attached to the wall made out of belts. The bottle they use to serve water in was milk bottles from Strauss Farm. They use part of their menu to wrap around a glass filled with a fake reuseable candle on the table.

My boyfriend ordered a housemade soda, and our server recommended me the Kombacha Botanica, a Chinese herbal inspired drink. For starters, my boyfriend and I wanted to try both their artisanal platters, afterall, they are artisanal! One of the artisanal plate was House Cured Meat and the other was Vegan Platter. Another starter we ordered was Sardines with Brussel Sprouts. I know, it sounded weird and unique, and that was why we wanted to try it. My boyfriend ordered a Abalone Mushroom Soup as a side and Seared Fort Bragg Rock Cod as his entree. I ordered a Young Chicken Under a Brick as my entree. We ordered a LOT of food, lots of delicious food.

Vegan Platter - (clockwise from left top corner) 1) Romanesco broccoli, baby turnips, breadcrumbs, "aioli", parsley. 2) Roasted blue kabocha squash, Jerusalem artichoke potato salsa. 3) Oyster mushroom ceviche, avocado, shaved radish. 4) Mendocino Black Trumpet bruschetta, fava leaves, cannellini puree. 5) Smoked tomato porcini pate, grilled radicchio, walnuts.  

Everything in this platter was so, so unique! Grilled French bread was serve with this. My favorite was the Oyster mushroom cev, avocado and shaved radish. The avocado made it very refreshing. My least favorite was the Mendocino Black Trumpet brucschetta. It was very bland, I couldn't taste any mushroom, only taste the cannellini puree.

House Cured Meat - Seasonal accompaniments, roasted garlic, roasted vegetables, bread

This plate was very meaty. The meat was pretty fatty also. One of them was made and cured with cheese, so it was pretty heavy. I could not finish it.

Local Sardines - Marinated egg yolk, jalapeno mint puree, crispy brussels sprouts leaves, grilled bread

This was my favorite plate out of the whole night! The fried brussel sprout was so good.  It tasted good eaten by itself or with the sardine. The jalapenos mint puree toned down the fishy taste of the sardine, so it tasted pretty pleasant. Highly recommend this!

Abalone Mushroom Chowder - Mendocino Nori, Espelette chili "Tabasco"

It has mushroom in it? I'll take it! Wow this soup tasted really good. Usually chowders are really salty, but this was not the case. I could taste the mushroom and it is a mouthful in very spoon. I couldn't really taste any abalone. I didn't even know if there was any because I didn't feel the chewiness of abalone. But the soup was still good.

Rock Cod - Heirloom squash, currants, capers, olives, pistachio pesto.

The presentation was very pretty. The fish was golden brown on the exterior, and was very tender. The vegetables that accompany the fish made the fish taste very light and sweet.

Young Chicken Under a Brick - Fennel sauce, kamut, fried onion vinaigrette

Hmmm, yummy! The chicken, both the thigh and breast, was tender and juicy. The skin was roasted perfectly. Very aromatic. The grain that came with the dish was pretty hard and seemed uncooked.

Kombacha Bontanica - Wow this non-alcoholic drink smelled a bit weird at first but tasted really good. It tasted a bit like light beer without the bitter taste at first. Then after several sip, it tasted more like sparkling pomengrante juice. The waiter said this is rich in antioxidant and is very good for the body. I really like this drink. If I wasn't so full, I was going to order one to go.

A lot of the plates at Gather are pretty big, which are perfect for sharing. Also, it has such a nice atmosphere that it is a perfect place to meet up with big and small groups of friends. Make sure you carpool though because parking is hard around that area.

Quickly Is Oh So Slow

Okay, I just have to let this out. No matter which Quickly I go to, the service is so, SO slow! They totally contradicttheir name. Anyhow, I think this mostly have to do with the amount of staffs they have. I notice most Quickly only has one staff that works the cashier and drinks, and one in the kitchen making snacks. So on really busy days, the front staff is basically doing two or three people worth of work.

I really hate waiting so long for mediocore and already pre-made drinks, but it is so cheap for a milktea. Tonight, I waited over 5 minutes for someone to come out of the kitchen to take my order. If it wasn't because they are so close by, I don't know if I would go there. Oh yes, they have sesame drinks and small tapioca. I never like tapioca until my sister introduced me to the smaller version that I couldn't find anywhere else but Quickly.

When I need some caffeinne, I order the Bubble Milk Tea or Jasmine Milk Tea. They are pre-made but only cost about $1.50 without tapioca. When I don't want the caffeine, I order the Sesame Milk. This is the drink that I can't find anywhere else close to my house. I love black sesame ice cream, and so, definitely like this Sesame Milk drink too. I once asked the cashier what kind of milk they use, and she said a milk cream. I don't know what she meant, but the sesame flavor is so strong that I couldn't tell what kind of milk base they use, even though most likely it'll be powder. Oh yes, I love how it didn't taste milky at all because I hate the milk taste.

If you really want certain things like Quickly like me, then yes, you should wait. Otherwise, go elsewhere.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Paradise Kabab House

2653 Broadway St, Redwood City, CA
(650) 306-0238

My coworkers and I went to Paradise Kabab House earlier this week for a farewell lunch. We went there around 11:40, because it usually fills up during lunch time. Upon entering, we were greeted by the owner and his wife. They were super nice and welcoming. They immediately gave us water and our menu, as well as some flat bread and greek salad. Everytime they look at us, they have a big smiles on their face; for some strange reasons, I felt very warm, like home.

My boss asked the owner what's popular and the owner gladly suggested a couple options. On top of that, he said he could change it if we did not like it later. We all ordered and he kept coming back to ask if we want more food or rice. When we were boxing our leftover, he asked us if we wanted more rice with that also.

I kept it simple by ordering Chicken Kabab with chicken breast (the house also has chicken thigh), and their Hot Persian Tea that comes with a piece of Baklava. I was surprised to see the owners themselves were doing the cooking as well as serving. Geez, this is some serious authentic home-style Persian cooking. When the food order came out, I had a taste of one of my coworkers' order of Kashk-e-Bademjun, and Lamb Shank Stew on top of my very own order.

Chicken Kabab (with chicken breast) - The chicken breast was marinated in some kind of spice

Even though it was breast meat, my chicken kabab was pretty tender. The grilled tomato that came with it was really juicy and good. The type of rice used was long and grainy, but it was very tasty. I think apart of it was cooked with some yellow spice and butter. Delicious!

Hot Persian Tea with Baklava - Freshly brew black barooti tea with rose water

I could distinctively tell the rose flavor because I drink rose tea at home very often. I never had barooti before but it tasted very similar to roobio tea I had. The combination is pretty soothing. The baklava looked very homemade. It looked very different from the ones I had before. This one did not consist of layers, but rather, more like phyllo dough covered the sweet cinnamon and mixed nuts. The baklava was very, very sweet, and chewy, but that's pretty typical.

Kashk-e-Bademjun - Grilled eggplant mixed with tahini, garlic, olive oil, spices garnished with mint and whey

Wow, this tasted like babakolush but grilled. It was also much thicker. The grilled flavor was strong and it lingered. I had to eat it with the flat bread, which suppressed the strong taste a bit. Otherwise, very flavorful.

Lamb Shank Stew - Lamb shank slow cooked in tomato onion, sundried lemon, split peas, saffron and cinnamon

I am never a fan of lamb because it is so gamey. But I was brave enough to try some, and to my surprise, it was not gamey at all. The saffron and the tomatoes definitely helped cover that gamey taste. The lamb was very, very tender. The meat comes off the bone really easily.

I was very satisfied with my lunch at Paradise Kabab House. Great food and phenomenal services. I would go back any time.

I Love Macarons!!! (Compile of Some Places I've Tried)

This is such a long overdue post. Ohhhhhhhh!

They're tiny and round! They're crunchy yet light on the outside and chewy and creamy in the inside! They are sweet and colorful! They're macarons! Macarons are different from macaroons but sound similar. These tiny French cookies are to die for. Unlike macaroons which are made with shredded coconuts, macarons are made out of almonds. The ingredients in macarons are little and simple, but making them is another story. It is hard to get the chewy texture right considering the cookies are pretty thin. And since they are so hard to make right, I treasure them and appreciate the bakers and the cookies very much.

Here are some of the places I've tried so far.

Bouchon Bakery
6528 Washington St, Yountville, CA and
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV

I know I said macarons are tiny cookies, but at Bouchon, they are known for their big ones. Even though they are bigger, they are still very chewy! I think of all the places I've tried, Bouchon has the biggest macarons but also the sweetest, probably from the very rich buttercream! The cookies are pastel colors. Bouchon's macarons are at the pricer since they are bigger, costing $2.50/ each.

I have tried both locations, and found that the one in Las Vegas has more flavors!

Miette Patisserie
1 Ferry Building #10, San Francisco, CA

I love Miette's hazelnut flavored macaron! Another one of my favorite is their pistachio. It tasted so different from all other pistachio ones I have...the pistachio and the almond compliment each other so well. Unlike most macaron shops, I can split Miette's macaron in half without making a mess with crumbs. It is so in form, chewy and dense. Also, you can distinctively see the almond crumbs in the cookies itself.

Miette's macarons are regular size, which is about 1 1/2 inch. Miette doesn't use food coloring in their macarons, so they are of whatever color the ingredients are. Couple of the flavors look very similar, but still different by a bit. Miette's macarons are super chewy and not as sweet as others, which is perfect for my taste buds. They are only $1.75/each!

9466 Charleville Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA

Paulette's macarons are thinner and lighter compared to other ones I've tried. Maybe because it is thinner, it is also not as chewy.

The shop also offers many, many flavors. Some are very interesting flavors such as Earl Grey Tea, New Orleans Praline, Pumpkin and Caribbean Chocolate.

La Boulange
2325 Pine Street, San Francisco, CA

La Boulange offers about ten seasonal flavors including their standards such as chocolate, strawberry and coconut. The strawberry macaron is jam filled instead of cream filled. Their macaron is also not as chewy and more airy. So one bite, and the cookie cracks.

The macarons at La Boulange is also at the less pricey side, costing about $1.50 each.

Pamplemousse Patisserie et Cafe
2401 Broadway St, Redwood City, CA

Okay, I must start off saying that Pamplemousse really know how to make their sandwiches, cake-formed desserts. One thing that they are not so good at though, is their macarons. Despite the many flavors of macarons they offer (35 flavors!), they are by far one of the not so good ones I  had. The macarons are indeed cruncy on the outside but not chewy in the inside at all. The cookie is so airy that holding it was a problem. It just breaks because it's hollow beneath the thin cunchy layer. There is a huge air space between the outter edge and the inner edge of one macaron cookie. With that said, biting into it just cause the whole cookie to crumble. The thing that makes the macarons okay at Pamplemousse is the filling. The filling tasted like what the flavor supposed to be. Oh yes, and it also have a pretty crusty edge compared to other places.

The Bakery at Andronico
1200 Irving Street, San Francisco, CA
Well, just to make things clear, the bakery was not meant to sell macarons, they are just there for the variety and choices. The macarons from Andronico are not very good. It is crunchy on the outside and just slightly chewy in the inside. The turn off for the macarons from Andronico is that, it doesn't taste the flavor that it is said to be. Also, the cookies seem like they have been in the display for a long while. The bakery also lack flavor choices, which I don't really blame them since they have so many others cookies and bakery items to make.

Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe
2123 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA

Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe is known for their chocolates! I walked in to get their hot cocoa, and unintentionally saw that they have chocolate macarons! So I just had to buy some to try. I can sense that both my hot cocoa and the macarons are going to be very rich in chocolate flavor since I am in a chocolate cafe! The macaron is made out of non-chocolate cookies with a chocolate buttercream. Like I expected, it was very chocolatey! It is also crunchy and chewy, but very sweet! I love the chocolate tastes, but I think it would go great with black coffee instead of a hot cocoa though, just to tone down the sweetness.

Cake House
3250 Olympic Blvd Suite 103, Los Angeles, CA

Cake House has many nice pastry and dessert, nonetheless, macarons too. There are many to choose from and they are all individually packaged. I tried the mocha and the pistachio ones. They are both pretty dry and not chewy at all. Height-wise, Cake House has tall and bulky macarons. Anyhow, the cookies were okay. The buttercream was okay, it didn't taste like what it was supposed to be, especially the pistachio one.

Cocola Bakery
3251 20th Ave, Ste 186, San Francisco, CA

Wow, Cocola's macarons are almost as big as Bouchon but still not big enough. I couldn't settle for which flavor to get, so I ended up buying a box of smaller assorted flavors...Rose, Raspberry, Chocolate, Mocha, Pistachio and Orange. The package is so cute and colorful, it makes a perfect gift. The macarons from Cocola is breakable on the crust, but filled with chewiness in the inside. The exterior of the macaron is on the very crackable side but it still retains the chewiness inside. The buttercream so good and rich! It tasted exactly like whatever the flavor named. The raspberry one is super fruity and the rose flavor one tasted very floral.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sens Restaurant

4 Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level, San Francisco, CA
(415) 362-0645

Every January and June of last two years, I would take advantage of the Dine About Town menu that many San Francisco restaurants have to offer. This January was no exception.

Last night, my friends and I went to Sens Restaurant located in the financial district of San Francisco. First off, parking was super easy because the restaurant does validation for 4 free hours.

The scene at Sens is pretty business casual. I am not sure is it because we went after work on a Tuesday night, but almost everyone there was in business attire. In my "smart casual" attire as proposed by the Dine About Town site, I walk to our table. The service was pretty good. We were seated and menu was individually given to us. Our water was filled.

Four out of five of us ordered the Dine About Town menu with some overlaps.

I ordered a Kakavia as my starter, which is a greek fisherman's stew made with sea bass, squid, mussels, clams, and gulf white prawns in a fennel-ouzo tomato broth. The Kakavia broth tasted a bit bland for me. It reminded me of light can soup. I am not saying it taste like light can soup, but rather like light can soup, the tomato taste is strong when you first put into your mouth, and then every flavor is gone right when you swallow and after you swallow it. The seafood in it was decent. A lot of it retained its own flavor but barely absorb the tomato broth flavor.

My friends ordered the Free Range Lamb Tartare, in which they said it did not taste game-y at all. I did not want to try because I am not a fan of lamb, let alone raw lamb.

One of my friends and I tried the Pan-Roasted Group Filet as my second course or entree. The dish was made with a grouper filet crusted with coriander, and garnished with braised broccolini, jasmine and wild rice pilaf plated on a citrus brown butter sauce. I love ordering fish as an entree even though a lot of times, the fish can be super dry and flaky. Well, it was not the case at Sens. My fish was seared perfectly. The crust was golden brown and the meat was soft and tender. Even though the fish is cooked right, the plate as a whole was too buttery for both my friend's and my taste. From the fish to the broccolini to the rice, all we could taste was butter and more butter. We cannot taste the fish, the vegetable and the rice at all. I felt a little disgusted after awhile and only finished half of my plate with no doggie bag. I felt bad but I just could not eat it because I felt like I am eating straight up butter.

Now onto the best part of any meal--dessert! I ordered a Citrus Tartlet (picture all the way up), which was pretty simple and good, and tasted just like any ordinary citrus or lemon tart. My friend orderd a Frozen Pistachio Honey Nougat (picture left), and that was really delicious. It was very, very light, chewy but light. It was very unique. I totally recommend that.

It was a pretty good night. We got really good service and pretty good food (minus that overly buttery fish). Oh yes, even though the restaurant claimed to be mediterranean, and it really doesn't seem to mediterranean to me, maybe a fusion of it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ya-Hoo for Moutain Dew Throwback!

So lately I kept hearing about Mountain Dew and Pepsi Throwback, which use REAL sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup in the recipe. I don't really like drinking soda, but this I got to try, especially with the red line on the can that says "limited time only".

The packaging does not stand out. If my boyfriend did not point them out for me, I would not have see it as I walk down the store. The packaging does not impress me either. It totally reminds of Christmas, and it seems really outdated. The can resembles those candy packaging from early 90's. But, never judge a book by its cover right?
I usually prefer drinking diet soda because even though the aspartame and splenda may be bad for me, it's calorie-free! Also, I dislike regular sodas because they taste super sweet to me, a bit sweeter than diet ones. Although I must say, it always leave a weird feel on my tongue that regular soda will not. Whenever I drink regular soda though, I cannot finish the whole can. I think the high fructose corn syrup makes me full. With that said, I popped open a can of Mountain Dew Throwback today.
My gosh, Mountain Dew Thrownback is delicious! It tastes different from the high fructose corn syrup ones! It was so good, I finished half a can without even noticing it, and I went on to finish the other half! I also felt like if I wasn't pacing myself, I could have finish the whole can in just several gulps. The carbonate did not bother me either. I was so entrigue by the taste that I totally forgot about the carbonate. The soda was sweet but it wasn't overly sweet as I expected.
I think I would drink this over diet any time!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tea Eggs

Have you ever see a rice cooker filled with black colored eggs that send off some strong aroma at a tapioca or tea shop? Those eggs in the pot are tea eggs. I see them very often here in the bay area.  These eggs are a very popular snacks in China and Taiwan, and are sold by street vendors as well as convienent stores. I also remember seeing that when I was growing up in Hong Kong. I used to hate that smell when I was younger, but as I got older, this smell became a pleasant aroma.

makes 6 servings

6 eggs
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 bags of black tea
1 cinnamon stick or 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
2 star anises
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon peppercorn (option)
1 dried tangerine peel (optional)


1. Place eggs in a pot of water, and turn on the heat to boil.
2. After bringing the water to a boil, let eggs simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
3. Take out the eggs, and let it cool.
4. Meanwhile, in a new pot, boil enough water to cover all the eggs but do not place eggs in.
5. When water is boiling, add in all ingredients but the eggs.
6. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, gently crack them with the back of a spoon. Create marble pattern on the shell, enough so that peel won't come off.
7. Add the marbled eggs to the boiling tea mixture.
8. Turn the heat to low, and let the eggs simmer for 30 minutes.
9. Turn off the heat and cover the eggs and tea mixture with a lid.
10. Let it stand for an hour or overnight.

Tea Egg after one hour of soaking in tea mixture.

The longer you let the eggs sit in tea mixture, the stronger the taste and the darker the marble patterns are.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shiitake Harvest Take One!

I am so happy because apparently three of the fruiting bodies decided to grow and be harvested early, they were ready in 5 days in compared to a week or two. While the other ones are still growing, I am eager to turn the three that I harvested into some deliciousness!
Nothing can bring out the taste of Shiitake mushroom other than cooking it the most simple way possible. I enjoy Shiitake in shabu shabu very, VERY much! Just boil the mushroom in water or a soup base and eat it by itself or with a little ponzu sauce or soy sauce. Yum! I removed the stems because they are bitter and rough. So for one of the caps, I decided to just boil it in dashi. Quick and simple! Oh my gosh, I am not sure if I am overly excited or this fresh mushroom that was only harvested 1 day ago tasted so much better than those fresh ones bought from supermarket.

Shiitake in Bonito Ponzu - Simmered in dashi, and drizzled with ponzu and topped with bonito flakes.

I wanted to show how gorgeous the shiitake is in color and how spongy the shiitake is in feel. So I also decided to make something that show its inner color. I decided to slice them and make a cold salad out of it. I used edamame. I feel like shiitake and edamame go well together, and I always think of them when I think of Japanese greens and veggies.

Sliced Shiitake Mushroom Salad with Edamame - Shiitake simmered in dashi, edamame and egg flower broth. Drained and marinated in rice vinegrette and sesame oil.

After making two Asian inspired dishes, I decided to add an American one to this early harvest. There are a whole list I wanted to try but I will save some of these ideas for the next harvest. For now, I'll keep it quick and simple by just using cream and puff pastry. I used half and half instead of heavy cream because one, I don't want the dish to overload with fat since puff pastry already contains lots of butter. Second, I don't want the cream taste to overpower the Shiitake.

Shiitake Puff Pastry - Shiitake in a cream reduction, stuffed in a puff pastry. Decorated with lettuce, cranberries and gorgonzola cheese.

I was surprised because the Shiitake mushroom taste was stronger than the puff pastry. In addition to that, if eaten with cranberries, it added extra sweetness, but seemingly overpowering the mushroom. If eaten with cheese, the cream sauce gets richer. I like eating it with the lettuce because the leaves balance out the buttery puff pastry and the cream.

I can't wait to harvest more later and make more Shiitake inspired dishes.

Alexander's Steakhouse

10330 N Wolfe Rd
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 446-2222

My friends and I went to Alexander's Steakhouse for my friend, Mark's birthday. Alexander's Steakhouse is an Japanese influenced steakhouse. Stepped into the steakhouse, and I was greeted by shelves of steak and another counter of steaks and explanation of where they came from. Right away, I knew I was at the right place.

The waiting area was very classy and dim with a few lounge chair and wine shelves. Our party of 12 was seated pretty fast, of course with a reservation. The waiter immediately gave us water and our menu.

Alexander's Steakhouse drink menu consists of many wines and a couple of signature cocktails and beers. The waiter recommended the Asian Pear cocktail, which made with sake and organic pear juice. They have many wines to choose from and a in-house sommelier to help give suggestions. The food menu was filled with sections of food starting with appetizers to cold plates to share, to hot plates to share, seafood and then steak. I was happy I went with a big group, which meant more to share and sample.

The Hamachi Shots is a very popular appetizers, and so, we ordered three of them. It comes with 6 shots each.
Hamachi Shots - Grade 5 Hamachi drizzle with truffled ponzu sauce and topped with chili, avocado, frizzled ginger & cilantro

We also ordered Truffled French Fries to share, which was very light but aromatic. My boyfriend ordered Ohitashi Spinach, which is a salad, as his starter. The spinach dish is made with cooked spinach, marinated octopus and maguro sashimi drizzled with ponzu sauce and topped with bonito flakes. The spinach was light but the whole dish was overpowered by the bonito flakes and ponzu sauce. My friend Mei ordered the Tuna Tartare as her starter. It is made with "Nicoise" flavors, green beans, kalamata olive foam and topped with a raw quail egg. She mixed up everything on the plate and served. The tuna tartare was very light and was not fishy at all. I could not taste the quail egg at all, which could be a good as well as a bad thing.

Since our party was quite large, there were quite a lot of entrees. I will focus on a few that really stood out to me. First all, let me started with my own. I was not too hungry to begin with, so I ordered a 6oz Filet Mignon, grilled to medium rare.

Filet Mignon - 6oz filet plated with a tarragon-mustard beurre blanc, demi glace.

My steak was grilled to perfection, char-broil liked exterior with flavor reminded me of Asian beef jerkey, and a very, very juicy and tender center.

My friend Philip ordered the New York Trio. The trio consisted of Japanese A5, Australian F1 and American certified Angus beef. This was one of the pricer entree, priced at $135.

New York Trio  - American certified Angus beef, Australian F1 and Japanese A5.

The steaks from the New York Trio, from left to right, American, Australian and Japanese. The Japanese A5 is clearly much fatter and the Australia F1 is more of a fusion between the American and Japanese steak. A small piece of Waygu is just good and enough for me-- it melted in my mouth like butter. I cannot imagine eating 4 ounces worth of butter. The Australian New York steak, nonetheless, has the best flavor and consistency.

I ordered a side of Kabocha Squash, which was roasted with maple syrup and sage. It was delicious. I never had squash this way before. The maple pairs well with the squash since the squash is not too sweet but starchy.

My friend Kirk ordered a Mushroom Risotto. One spoon and it was blasted with mushroom and cheese flavor. Even though I'm a big fan of mushroom, I did not enjoy this very much because it was too cheesy.

Another friend of mine ordered a Mac 'N Cheese with White Truffle Oil. Again, it was too cheesy and I couldn't really taste the truffle oil.
The unique thing I like about Alexander's Steakhouse is that before you start your meal, they give you a chef's complementary jump starter. For the night we went, it was Mushroom Bread Pudding. It was a very small piece but it was perfect because it was creamy. I love it because the mushroom flavor really stood out. Before our entrees were served, the waiters brought out a bite -sized palette cleanser, something sweet after all the salty food. That was very thoughtful. I believe it was sliced blueberry over cranberry gelatin. It was served on a tiny silver spoon. This might look small but it was filled with sweetness, it definitely chased away the salty taste in my mouth.

Lastly, the best part of the night...dessert! I was a little disappointed because the dessert selection looked pretty simple and lack of selection. But that was okay because with every meal, the steakhouse gives out cotton candy to end the night. The flavor we got that night was banana. I heard that they make 16 different flavors of cotton candies. Banana flavored cotton candy was surprisingly good and definitely satisfied my sweet tooth. On the second page of the dessert menu was a cigar menu. Alexander's has many, many cigar selection for those who want to hang outside the bar after their meal.

Alexander's Steakhouse was pretty pricey, but they do serve good quality of food. I am discouraged to go back because of the price, but would definitely not mind going back because of their delicious and unique fusion of Japanese and American steakhouse food.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What's Cooler Than Chia Pet? Mushroom Mini Farm!

I lovvvvveee fungi! Well, those that produce fruiting bodies aka mushroom in particular. I like studying about fungi as well as eating them of course. If it has mushroom in it, I'll order it. So my "fetish" with mushroom is well known among my friends, so for Christmas, my friend Diana bought me some mushroom mini farm from Far West Mushroom located at the SF Ferry Builiding. Thanks Di!

The sprawn she gave me is Shiitake. I love fresh shiitake mushroom, especially in shaub-shabu. I am not a fan of dried shiitake mushroom because there is always this tiny bitterness to it if it's not cooked right, and it's hard if it's not soaked or cooked enough. But I must say that dried shiitake has a stronger flavor.

I am growing the sprawn at work since I don't have room on my desk at home. I am going to track the growth process day by day except for weekend.

The Shiitake Sprawn comes in a wrapped plastic bag that is filled with air and moisture.

Day 1 & 2 - Look exactly the same, with a decrease in moisture in the bag since holes were puncture to allow air in.

Day 3 - First signs of fruiting body! Woohoo! It's beautiful! The harvest is going to take a week or two according to the bag. I am super excited!

I will update more on this later, hopefully the first harvest will consist of many!

Ohh! I just saw a pair of Blue Jay outside in the backyard. They're gorgeous! I feel inspired!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Out of Makeup Remover? No Worry!

Have you ever run out of makeup remover or spend tons and tons of money on makeup removers that are made with chemicals that you can't even pronounce?

NO WORRY! You can still remove your make up without heading out of your house or spending a lot of money...that is if you have olive oil at home!

Yup, that's right! Olive Oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil in particular.

Olive oil is filled with anitoxidant, and it is very gentle on skin. It can clear out other oil (like those secreted by the skin) and it won't clot your pores (since the molecular is bigger than pores).

Here are some of the benefits of olive oil as make up remover:
1. It's natural! Say bye bye to those many unpronounceable ingredients in makeup remover!
2. Save you money! You can a whole 20oz bottle for about ten or less than ten dollars! One 4-5oz eye makeup remover averages around $5.
3. Dual purpose -- You can remove makeup and use it for cooking!
4. Mosturize! It is a great mosturizer as well as a conditioner, which means it will leave your skin and eye lash soft and smooth!

Before: Layers of dark brown, gold and burgundy eye shadow. Waterproof black eye liner and waterproof mascara.

After: All clean! And I only use about a penny size of olive oil on a cotton pad, and check out how much make up I removed (below)! Also it leaves my eye lash very smooth and shiny, and skin very hydrated.

Penny size olive oil on a cotton pad.

Viola! Very dirty cotton pad!

Oh yea, olive oil is also a really great mosturizer for hair and nails. Just put some olive oil in a spray bottle and spray over your hair and run your hand and fingers through, wait a bit and then rinse under water. For nails, gently dip your hand into a bowl of olive oil or you can just brush some onto your nail. Wait a bit, and rinse with water.