Monday, May 24, 2010

Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream

It's strawberry season! Nothing smells better than fresh ripe sweet strawberries. I was surprise when I heard strawberry tastes good with balsamic vinegar. But after testing some, it's quite true (but of course, only with sweet ripe strawberries). The sweetness and tanginess taste good together! If you like tangy food like me, feel free to add more balsamic vinegar or strawberries!


Ingredients:

2 cups strawberries (halves)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
3 egg yolks

Instruction:
1. Mix the strawberries in balsamic vinegar and sugar and let sit for 15 minutes.
2. Cook the mixture in a sauce pan until balsamic started to caramelize.
3. Place the strawberries and the caramelized strawberries into a bowl and chill in the fridge.
4. Heat the milk and sugar in a sauce pan until it almost boils.
5. Reduce the heat to low. Add a little bit of the milk mixture to the eggs to temper them.
6. Pour the egg mixture into the sauce pan. Cook at low heat until it coats at the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil.
7. Strain the mixture and put it in the fridge to chill.
8. Mix the milk mixture, cream and strawberry mixture together.
9. Freeze the mixture according to the instructions for your ice cream machine.


For strawberry bowl:
1. Slice some strawberries up.
2. Line a glass bowl with saran wrap, then line the sliced strawberries on it.
3. Let it freeze in the freezer for two hours or so.
4. Remove saran wrap when ready.
5. Let it chill a bit before eating.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rick & Ann's Catering

2922 Domingo Ave, Berkeley, CA
(510) 649-0869

My friends, Tim and Agnes, planned a surprise engagement party for my other friends, Kirk and Ei-lun awhile ago, and lucky me, I got to attend. The night was filled with interesting conversations, fun game, great friends and food! The food Tim and Agnes ordered were from Rick & Ann's. The food looked amazing and many of the dishes tasted amazing as well!

They have many choices on their catering menu, and a lot of them are very pretty and classy in their presentation.

Duo Satay Platter: Chicken & Flank Steak - With two dips: spicy peanut and cilantro-jalapeno

I really like the chicken satay because it was very tender. The beef was a bit rough probably since it was oven roasted. I also really like the dips--both had some kicks to them.

Puff Pastry with Wild Mushroom and Gruyere

I love mushroom, but this dish was okay. The mushroom flavor didn't really stand out. I think what would make it better is if the mushroom could be a bit more saucey. The puff pastry was also not very flaky.

Stuffed Potato Platters with Sour Cream and Bacon Crumbles

I am not a fan of potato but this dish was finger-licking good! The little red potatoes roasted in olive oil, garlic, and rosemary, then stuffed with stuffing of choice, which in this case sour cream and bacon. I really like it because the potato wasn't too grainy or soft, so the sour cream and bacon gave it that contrast of creaminess and crunch. It definitely reminded me of baked potato but served cold.

Crostini with Rosemary-Fig Compote with Prosciutto and Shaved Manchego

Yummy! This is another one of my favorite. The rosemary-fig compote made this dish very interesting. Its sweetness toned down the saltiness of prosciutto and the cheese, so the flavor was just perfect. The crostini was toasted but it lost a bit of its toastiness.  

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables Salad - Orzo pasta with roasted eggplant, red and yellow peppers, caramelized red onion, fresh basil, pine nuts, and feta cheese in a fresh lemon vinaigrette.


I never really like bell peppers but for some reasons, they tasted so good with the cheese and orzo. I also like how refreshing this dish is. Everything is in bits and pieces so it was very interesting when chewing them together. You can taste all the ingredients distinctively.

Orecchiette with Prosciutto & Asparagus Salad - Little ear pasta salad with crispy prosciutto, asparagus, and ricotta salata in a lemony dressing

Okay, I love this salad. I like how the pasta was cooked perfectly. I like the crunch of the prosciutto, and I love the lemony dressing. This salad was a little spicy, so that was an extra plus for me! Despite the prosciutto and cheese, this salad was light and refreshing also.

Finger Biscuit Platter with Chicken Salad with Apples and Walnuts and Deviled Egg Salad with Red Bell Pepper
The finger bisuits were really cute, but they tasted just okay. The biscuit was pretty dry and breaky. The deviled egg salad was pretty tasteless. For some reasons, I couldn't taste the bell pepper at all. The chicken salad on the other hand was tastier, but the whole buttery biscuit flavor was just too strong to taste the chicken.
Thanks Tim and Agnes again for such great time and great food. It was super duper fun! Ask for Rick & Ann's, it is pretty nice because they have tons of items and choices to choose from, and a lot of the food are very tasty and unique!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quick Salad - Avocado Tuna Salad

Tuna is a hard fish to work with. There are only four recipes I can think of when it comes to using raw tuna...tuna sashimi, seared tuna, tuna tartare and ahi poke. Cooked or canned tuna is another story. It is much harder because cooked tuna is very dry and fishy. I can only think of covering cooked tuna with lemon juice or mayo or other thick dressing to hide the fishy taste.

Anyhow, I had some left over raw tuna and decided to make a salad out of it since I want to try something new. I know tuna tartare always taste great with avocado, so in this salad, I added avocado. Tuna tastes great with sesame oil in ahi poke. Raw tuna also taste pretty okay with lettuce like spicy tuna handroll made in some restaurant. Iceburg lettuce is the best since the crisps of the leaves add contrasts to the mushy texture of raw fish. And of course, raw tuna tastes good when it's spicy like spicy tuna maki or like sashimi with wasabi; so for the salad dressing, I decided to use chipotle mustard and olive oil...wasabi should work well too! 


Quick Avocado Tuna Salad
Ingredients: (Add Amount to Your Liking)
Raw Tuna
Iceburg Lettuce
Avocado
Chipotle Mustard
Olive Oil
Sesame Oil
Sesame seeds

Instruction:
1. Clean and dry some chopped iceburg lettuce and place them on a plate. 
2. Dice up the raw tuna and mix it with a tiny bit of sesame oil. Then put it on top of the bed of lettuce.
3. Dice up some avocado and put it on top of the tuna and lettuce.
4. Mix together 2 portions of chiptole mustard to 1 portion of olive oil to make a dressing (for thinner dressing, add more olive oil)
5. Drizzle dressing on top of the salad.
6. Lastly, sprinkle sesame seeds.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rotunda High Tea

150 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA
(415) 249-2720

Rotunda is located on top floor of Neiman Marcus in Downtown San Francisco. The restaurant is very bright in the afternoon since there is a pane glass skylight. After getting seated, the waiter brought us the menu and a small cup of chicken consomme, which is a clear chicken broth. The chicken broth is delicious! It tastes very fresh and rich and doesn't taste like MSG at all. It totally start your appetite. Wish they will serve this broth under the soup section.

Popover with Strawberry Butter

The popover is served as a complimentary if you order anything from the main menu, this excludes the high tea menu. I ordered this on the side for $2.50. The popover is listed on the 7x7.com Big Eat SF List, but it was nothing to "wow" about. It was quite dried and hollow.

High Tea Platter with Sweet and Savory Finger Food

The high tea platter was very, very cute, especially with the variety. But it was quite pricey for the amount of tea and food you get. The above portion is for one person, and if you want to share, there is a surcharge. The sweet and savory finger food was also very simple. The breads from the ones that are savory were very dried. The cakes were super sweet, but I guess they suppose to make the tea sweet.

Sauce Dish with Lemon, Cream Cheese, Citrus Aioli, Jam and Honey

To make it fancy, they give you a bunch of sauces with the platter, which I rarely used at all since everything was either covered with cream cheese, sour cream or frosting already. I felt like it was there just to make everything looks fancy.

I did not enjoy the high tea and service at Rotunda at all. The waiter was rude since my friend and I just wanted to share everything since we went awhile after lunch and were still full. The waiter immediately said there is a surcharge and the tea is not enough to share. When I asked for the popover, he immediately said there is a charge for it. It's not like I won't pay for it, I just asked for an order of it. So to me, everything is just about money and not enjoyment...not cool.

I don't think I want to go back to this place, especially after the rude service and mediocore food.

5A5 Steak Lounge


244 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA
(415) 989-2539
http://www.5a5stk.com/

I really like the atmosphere at 5A5. It is very classy and modern. The colorful ceiling was beautiful. I couldn't stop staring at it as I dine. The seats were very spacious and comfortable. The restaurant as a whole was very spacious also. It also turns into a lounge on Saturday night, and diners gets in for free. The service was okay. Our server was quite busy, so it took awhile for my friends and I to get our drinks. Also, the steaks took awhile to cook, so we waited quite long for them.

Tuna Tartare, Niçoise Flavors, Paddlefish Caviar

The tuna tartare was okay. I didn't understand why there are so much on top of the tuna. The escargo and tomato couldn't mix in with the tuna. The caviar and the quail egg white didn't really enhance the tuna, because the tuna was overpowering. It was just okay.

Truffle Fries with Sriracha Aioli, Truffle Oil

This is by far the best truffle fries I had so far because they were very generous with the truffle oil. I could taste it well--the amount was perfect. The sriracha aioli was very good. It wasn't spicy to me at all though.

6oz Filet Mignon with Savory Shiitake Mushroom Sauce

I asked my filet mignon to be cooked medium rare, and indeed it was medium rare. It was very tender and juicy. The shiitake sauce complimented it very well. I think the size was perfect after the appetizers.
Mmaitake, Golden Enokitake, Eryngii, Honshimeji, Sherry wine, and Garlic

Hmm hmm, MUSHROOMS! I like how it has a combination of mushroom in this dish. It is not oily and tasty. Love it!

I really want to go back for their filet mignon and mushroom. For the quality and taste, they aren't expensive at all, totally worth it!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Aziza

5800 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
(415) 752-2222

Spacious and dim, Aziza is located at the much quieter side of Geary. The restaurant looks small upon entering but it actually has several rooms, each with candle lights and decors.

One memorable thing about Aziza is their menu...not the food items that are on it, but the way the items are lay out on the menu. Each item has one bold word in the beginning, that word being the main attraction of the dish. This goes for both the food and the drinks menu. The waitress said that don't look at what's in the dish, rather look at the bold word and see what jumps at you. This is especially helpful with the drink menu since the drinks are organized by the main liquor that is in it. The waitress said most of the drinks are served mojito-liked...crushed fruits or herbs of some sort, so pick the bold fruit or herbs that you like.

Kiwi Cocktail with Grapefruit, Fleur de sel, Tequila

The kiwi taste was very subtle, so was the grapefruit. I could really taste the tequila though. It wasn't something too exciting.



Meatballs with Grape, Jícama, Herb Vinaigrette

This dish is recommended by the 7x7.com Big Eat SF List: #63 - Meatballs with grapes at Aziza. It was indeed very good. I never realized grilled grapes could taste this good! The meatball was very tender and herby. The meatball tastes different when eaten by itself and when eaten with the grapes. The meatball was herby and salty, and with grapes, it is much sweeter.


Salmon with Argula Pesto, Salmon Roe and Olives

The salmon was very smokey. The argula pesto was very interesting. Unlike basil, the argula was more subtle and not bitter at all. I didn't really like the olive though because the salmon was already salty, and the olive was super salty.

Chicken with Pork Jowl, Wheat Berries, Carrot, Snap Pea, Horseradish

I really like this chicken! I wish the portion could be bigger. The chicken skin was so crispy and the chicken was so, so juicy!!! It tasted super good with the pork. The wheat berry soaked up some chicken juice so it was delicious!

Hazelnut Dacquoise, Strawberry, Burnt Honey Ice Cream

The dessert was good and interesting. The burnt honey ice cream pretty sweet but it tasted so good with the crushed hazelnut. The hazelnut dacquoise and the strawberry is another story. It was very light and it reminded me of baklava, but less gooey and sticky. I want more!

Despite the small portion, Aziza was very satisfying. Presentation was awesome, the service was very nice also-waitress was beyond helpful. Utensils and plates get changed and taken away after each course, and my water was always full even though I drank a lot of it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Coco500

500 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA
(414)543-2222
http://www.coco500.com/

Came in on a weekend to try their fried green beans for 7x7. The It is located sort of in the middle of nowhere, by a bank and gas station, and pretty close to bay bridge. But despite the middle of nowhere-ness, the restaurant was packed! The place is also dim but modern. I hung around the bar as I waited for my table to be ready. The space between tables were pretty tight, so you can hear your neighbors' conversation if you pay attention.

The service was pretty good. Our waitress let us know the specials and came to check on us once in awhile. She recommended us the bell pepper soup.

Red Bell Pepper Soup with Proached Egg and Panchetta

I am not a fan of bell pepper unless it is stew with curry. The soup didn't contain curry but it was very light and the bell pepper flavor was not overwhelming. It wasn't creamy at all either, but not brothy. I like it, something new.

Battered Fried Green Beans with Meyer Lemon Aioli

Almost every table order the Battered Fried Green Beans. This was listed under 7x7.com Big Eat SF List (#75 Fried Green Beans at Coco500). The batter was very, very light and flakey; it reminded me of the fried taro ball from Chinese restaurant. The only thing I disliked was that it was still very oily, the bean and the plate. Nevertheless, it tasted mighty good by itself as well as with the aioli. The aioli was not sour at all. It was sweet and lemony. The dish is definitely something I would go back for.

Spaghetti with Clams, Black Mussels, Crushed Tomatoes and Garlic

The seafood was pretty tasty with the broth. The spaghetti was cooked aldente! Despite the freshness of the seafood and chewy pasta, the dish was super salty. The spaghetti was salty by itself already, and the sauce was salty too...so it was just super salty!

Spicy Sausage Pizza with Sweet Peppers, Basil, and Mozzarella

The pizza was delicious! I really like the sausage because it wasn't salty at all. It wasn't spicy either though. The pizza was good but nothing special.

The food at Coco500 was pretty okay. I don't think it is anything too special besides the beans.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sunrise Deli & Cafe

2115 Irving St, San Francisco, CA
(415) 664-8210
http://www.sunrisedeli.net/

I was stuck finding dinner alone one night after a long tiring work day, so I decided to go order take out. First place came into my mind...that mediterranean place I always wanted to try on Irving. Upon entering Sunrise Deli & Cafe, a very strong aroma of roasting schwanma and frying falafel rushed toward my face. Smell really good but at the same time, I worried because food odor on myself is my number one pet-peeve.

The owners were super duper nice. I ordered a chicken kabob platter that comes with two sides. I asked a couple questions about the sides, and he let me sampled them. He also explained to me what they are. In the end, I ordered a chicken kabob platter with hummus and babaghanouj and one falafel (Yes, one! It's only 50 cents for one or $2.50 for half a dozen!)

When I got home, I found that my chicken was placed nicely on a bed of lettuce and the platter also came with a side of marinated olives and daikon radishes. Also, the owner gave me TWO falafel and only charged me the price of one. He must have felt bad that I have to eat alone.


Falafel - deep fried ground chickpeas with parsley, onions, garlic, and various spices

The falafel was super flavorful. I could definitely taste the spice. The only thing I don't like about it though was that it was still pretty oily when I got home. But then again, it was still steamy hot since freshly taken from the fryer, so maybe no time to drain out some of the oil.

 Chicken Kabob with Babghanouj (puree of grilled eggplant, parsley and tahina sauce) and Hummus (group chickpeas and tahina sauce), served with Pita Bread

The chicken was so, so juicy and tender! Again, they grilled it when I ordered it, so still steamy hot and good! The marinated olives and radish were too salty for me, I couldn't eat it by itself. The hummus was thick and creamy, but also too salty for me. The baghanouj was so good, it didn't possess that overly grilled bitter taste. It was smooth, creamy and not salty at all but still tasty.

Sunrise also sells Mediterranean desserts like baklava. They also have many Mediterranean grocery items and prepacked desserts. With the great service and fast (but not Panda Express fast), fresh and delicious food , I definitely will go back to Sunrise any time! Oh yes, I heard their fresh sesame ring bread is good. I haven't try it yet, but I should next time I go back.

Free Breakfast at Subway on May 11, 2010!

Confirmed for 2010! Subway is venturing into the breakfast arena with egg-mcmuffin-type sandwiches and to try to help spread the word, participating Bay Area Subway restaurants are giving away free breakfast sandwiches and free coffee on Tuesday, May 11, 2010.
Free Breakfast Day at Subway
San Francisco Bay Area

When: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 - 7am to 10am
- Free English Muffin Melt
- Free 8 oz. Beverage / Coffee

Where: All participating Northern California & Reno Subway restaurants (SF Bay Area, Sacramento, Reno, Fresno, Salinas, Eureka, etc… everywhere but Chico for some reason…

How: No coupon or purchase necessary

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Honey Lavender Ice Cream

I got a bundle of dried lavender flowers at the Farmer's Market a few weeks ago, and I haven't done anything with it since, besides decorating the room with it. The smell of lavender is super soothing as well as the taste if it is use in right amount, otherwise it gets super strong and bitter. It was sunny today, and so I decided to make honey lavender ice cream! The sweetness of honey goes great with the strong and bitterness of lavender. And feel free to reuse the lavender from the recipe for steeping more milk for milk tea. You can also toast the used ones and use for decorations. Also, feel free to adjust the honey and lavender amount to your own taste.

~ make 1 pint

Ingredients:
4 egg yolks
1/2 pint milk
1/2 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoon dried lavender

Instructions:
1. Pour milk and dried lavender into a saucepan and bring it to boil slowly on low heat.
2. When boil, stir in honey, and then close the lid, set aside and let it steeps for 10 minutes.
3. Pour mixture into a strainer to get the lavender out. Pour the milk mixture back into saucepan.
4. In a bowl, beat and mix egg yolks until thick.
5. Pour about a cup of the honey lavender milk mixture slowly into the egg mixture and whisk for a bit.
6. Turn the heat on low and re-heat the milk mixture in the saucepan.
7. Then pour the milk and egg mixture into the remainning milk mixture in the sauce pan. With a wooden spatula, stir and do not let the mixture boil. The mixture should thicken a little bit. When a film of mixture form over spoon, remove from heat.
8. Pour mixture into another bowl. Cover in saran wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator for couple hour or until cold.
9. When mixture becomes cold, take it out of the refrigerator and stir in cream.
10. Pour into ice cream maker and follow your ice cream mixture instruction.
11. Scoop ice cream out into an air tight plastic container, place a saran wrap over and close lids and refrigerate.

Creme Brulee Cart

One dessert that I like to order after a nice meal at a restaurant is creme brulee. I love the rich and creamy custard. Although it is awfully weird to go into a nice restaurant, sit down and just order a creme brulee, and so that's when the Creme Brulee Cart man comes in!

Street vendor carts have been getting very, very popular in San Francisco, and one of the very first street carts I have ever heard of last year was the Creme Brulee Cart. It is a street vendor of creme brulee that usually hang around the Mission area in San Francisco on weeknights and weekend. He has also been spreading his track occasionally to Palo Alto during lunch time on Friday now. The creme brulee from the Creme Brulee Cart is made with organic eggs, and come in many classic flavors as well as unique ones ranging from vanilla, lavender to corn flakes, ritual coffee, coconut, chocolate grand marnier and more! The creme brulee man keep them fresh in the cart, and sprinkles sugar and caramelizes it after you order, so the caramel is still warm when you eat it right away. 


Chocolate Grand Marnier, Lavender and Coconut Creme Brulee

You can follow the Creme Brulee Cart by checking his twitter site at www.twitter.com/cremebruleecart.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tapioca Express

1707 Decoto Rd, Union City, CA
(510)487-1887

Late Saturday nights, skipped dinner, two empty stomaches...what do you do? Go Tapioca Express! Tapioca Express is known for their tapioca drinks and fried snacks, and with it opens until 3am, it's perfect place for a late night snack.

I'd been craving for takoyaki ever since SF Japantown Cherry Blossom Festival, so when I found out Tapioca Express' other store, Yogurt Train, serve them...I headed right in! My order actually took awhile to get done, longer than the microwave ones...so I am guessing they actually make it fresh.

Takoyaki aka Grilled Octopus Ball -- Piece of octopus wrapped with pancake batter, topped with mayo, seaweed powder and bonito

Tapioca Express is also well known for their Crispy Chicken, which my boyfriend and I got...along with Crispy Fish. You can choose the level of spiciness (chili and pepper). We had tried level 3 and 4 before, and so, we ordered level 5 for the chicken and level 4 for the fish. The Crispy Fish was not fishy at all. Like the Crispy Chicken, the batter was very light.  

Crispy Fish

I did not only want to eat fried food, so I also ordered the only non-fried item off the snack menu--cold noodle. The noodle is like typical Taiwanese style cold noodle. It contains shredded cucumber, carrots, chicken on a bed of cold noodle, and serve with a light soy and sesame sauce. Delicious!

Cold Noodle in a Package
Cold Noodle after Mixing

Oh yeah, besides food, I really like their milk tea because they actually made with real tea and not powder. Also I high recommend their snow bubble drinks, which is like a blended smoothie. Unlike Quickly's lumpy snow bubble, Tapioca Express' snow bubble drinks are finely blended, thus taste very fluffy like snow!

Really sucks how San Fransisco has so few Tapioca Express. For location near you, check http://www.tapiocaexpress.com/.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen

2261 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA
(510) 548-6900

I first heard about Angeline's from my friend a year ago. I was suppose to have dinner there with her before a show at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, but traffic ruined it for me. So, this weekend, on a sunny day in Berkeley, my boyfriend and I decided to go there for lunch, since he and his coworkers are regulars there.

I was craving some jambalaya, but my boyfriend highly recommend the Angeline's Gumbo. He said it's one of the most popular dishes there, so he ordered a cup with his roast beef sandwich (and I ordered jambalaya). By the way, the sadnwich comes with either homemade potato salad or side salad, but you can substitute for a cup of gumbo or red beans & rice for $2.50. Suck huh? But still cheaper than ordering it on the side.

Angeline's Gumbo - Okra Androuille, Tasso Ham & Shrimp

It was pretty good. The only gumbo I ever had came from a can, so this was by far the best one I had. It tasted like gravy, very comforting. The rice definitely add a different texture in contrast to the mushy okra, the rougher ham and shrimp.

Roast Beef Au Jus with Horseradish Mayo & Swiss Cheese

Wow, this roast beef sandwich is good! I think what made it so good is the bread. The bread is very soft to begin with, but when you dip it in the au jus, it soaks out like a sponge, but doesn't get overly soggy or break apart. The sandwich also contains a generous amount of swiss cheese, which makes this super yummy.

Jambalaya with Sauce Piquant, Roasted Chicken, Tasso Ham & Andouille Sausage

So the jambalaya is very similar to the gumbo in ingredients wise, but differ in the broth base. The gumbo is salty and savory, but the jamabalaya is more sweet and sour because there is tomato sauce at the bottom. I am very used to jambalaya that is salty and not tomato-y, so this was very different. Also, I thought it would be spicy, but it wasn't spicy to me at all. I added some hot sauce in it myself later. The sausage was a bit rough. I couldn't taste it by itself much since most of the flavor went into the rice and sauce. The roasted chicken was shredded and stew in with the rice, thus very, very tender. The dish as a whole was pretty good overall, but I would choose the gumbo over this because I don't really like the tomato sauce at the bottom.

Angeline's atmosphere was pretty nice. The front of the dinning area was pretty bright since it was near the window, whereas the back in dimmer. The service was very friendly. I would definitely come back here just for the atmosphere, but of course, the food too.