Thursday, July 29, 2010

Kendall-Jackson Wine Center

5007 Fulton Road, Fulton, CA

I always want to go wine tasting just because I live in vineyards-filled California, and just because I never even been to any winery! A couple months ago, I started getting into wine. I love how they taste when pair with certain food, and I love the knowledge behind growing, making and tasting them.

Hold and behold, my very first visit earlier this month was to a winery that I bought the most bottles from (whether for myself or as gifts)--that winery is Kendall-Jackson in Sonoma. I don't know how it becomes one that I often buy, maybe because the name sounds good to me.

The experience and service at the estate was superb! I know I can be a little bias since it was my very first wine tasting, but all in all, I really enjoyed the estate as a whole. One, the estate offers a food and tasting menu. Two, the people working at the estate really take their time to explain their wine (okay, maybe all estates do that). Three, there is a garden outside the estate where they grow ingredients that goes into the food tasting menu, and it is opened to the public! The garden really enhanced my experience there, especially since they have so, so many varieties of edible plants there!

Okay, onto the food! As mentioned previously, I had the food and wine pairing.
Johnny Cake with Trout Roe and Sour Cream (to serve with 2007 Highland Estates Camelot Highlands Chardonnay)

Kendall-Jackson is known for the Chardonnay. So according to the chef, the rich mouth feel of the sour cream goes well with this full bodied wine. I was suprised how corn cake goes really well with trout roe! Then I was suprise how the sweetness of the corn and the saltiness of the trout roe totally sweeten the the wine, turning it from a bit sour to a nicer finish. This 2007 Highland Estates Camelot Highlands Chardonnay was my favorite in the whole tasting menu--the aroma and taste of this wine was really, really good!!

Crostini with Delice de la Vallee Cheese, Fresh Beans, Radishes and White Verjus Vinaigrette (to serve with 2009 Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc )

The Sauvignon Blanc was a bit strong in acidity or sourness. But after eating this crostini, the acidity was toned down a little bit, probably by the cheese. The crostini was interesting. All the greens on it made it tasted very green and earthy, if it wasn't for the cheese, I don't know if I can eat it, especially the sprouts.

  • Buckwheat Crepe with Smoked Ham Hocks and Bellwether Farms Carmody Cheese (to serve with 2006 Highland Estates Seco Highlands Pinot Noir)

  • Sweet Tea Brined Niman Ranch Pork Belly Slider with Syrah BBQ Sauce (to serve with 2006 Highland Estates Alisos Hills Syrah)

  • Korean Style Kobe Beef Lettuce Wrap  (to serve with 2005 Highland Estates Trace Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon)
This next course was pretty grand considering it had both crepe and kobe beef! So I finally understand why people usually pair red wine with meat, especially steak or other fatty meat. All the red wine was quite bitter from the tanin at first, but after each bite of food, it tasted so much better since the fat rid some of the tanin flavor. 

The buckwheat crepe was amazing! I could eat more if they offer more! The ham was flavorful but it didn't cover the flavor of the cheese. The light Pinot Noir that served with it did not get covered by the rich ham and cheese neither, it actually enhanced it.

The pork belly slider was good because it's fatty and it has hoisin sauce in it. But yes, the fatty pork is so fatty and tender that it definitely helps rid the tanin of the syrah, a wine that I usually don't drink (that my dad drinks a lot).

Lastly, the kobe beef lettuce wrap was amazing also! The beef was not too heavy, but heavy enough to be balanced with the lettuce. It was so good that I wanted to go Korean BBQ afterward. But anyhow, the heavy BBQ flavor and the beef definitely helped rid some of the tanin with the full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, which was the strongest wine in this whole tasting menu.

Onto the last course...dessert!! For this course, I actually looked forward to the the wines more than the desserts because I love the color of white wine and the wines listed for the tasting were late harvest wines, which I never ever tried I was super excited!

  • Mama Frischkorn's Caramel Corn (to serve with 2006 Late Harvest Chardonnay)

  • Arborio Rice Milk Panna Cotta with Blood Orange Curd and Marinated Citrus (to serve with 2007 Late Harvest Riesling)
Okay, the caramel corn was super duper sweet for my taste. I could only finish 1/3 of it. The Chardonnay on the other hand was much sweeter compared to the 2007 Highland Estates Camelot Highlands Chardonnay from the first course, but not as sweet as the caramel corn. I am guessing that the caramel corn suppose to make it sweeter by enhancing the sugar in the wine.

The Panna Cotta was super creative, especially since it was made with Arborio rice. At the beginning of the tasting, the chef asked for my favorite wine, and I said Riesling. So kindly at the end of the meal, he brought out a regular Riesling that he had at the estate to let me compare it to the late harvest one. The Late Harvest Riesling was nothing like the regular riesling I usually drink. The Late Harvest Riesling was extremely sweet, it was like drinking a moscato or syrup! I couldn't finish my glass. Although I must say, the milder taste of the panna cotta was just perfect for the wine since the wine was so sweet already.

The grapes weren't ripe yet when I visited in early July. I think I will go back around September so that it will be riped by then. Also, the chef said the food and tasting menu change as the season change...count me in for that!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Old Town Cafe

4288 Dublin Blvd, Unit 109, Dublin, CA
(925) 833-8300

I love Asian cuisine, and so whenever I go visit my boyfriend in the East Bay, we usually end up going to Old Town Cafe in Dublin for Singaporean food. After going there and ordering the same stuff so many times, I must say, the quality is very consistent.

Roti Canal with Red Curry Sauce -- Grilled Indian-style multi-layered flat bread served with curry dipping sauce

I had roti canal at two other restaurant before, and none of them were similar to each other. Old Town's Roti Canal is thicker and rounder but also flaky. The last time I went though, it was a bit more burnt compared to the other times I was there; nevertheless, it's delicious whether I eat it with or without the curry sauce.

Laksa Noodle -- Delicious rice noodles bathed in spicy coconut-curry broth topped with prawns, fish cakes, bean sprouts and egg.

My boyfriend likes the Laksa do I actually, but since he orders it, I usually then order something else. The curry broth was very rich. It looks oily but it doesn't really feel oily when eating it. The noodle is rice noodle that is round, a bit chewy and slippery. It doesn't absorb the broth too well, but eating them on the spoon with the broth gives off a very flavorful bite! My favorite thing in this whole bowl besides the noodle is the fried tofu that comes with it. It soaks up the curry, so when you bite into it, all the curry broth leaks out into your mouth. Yum!

Hokkien Mien -- Singapore style yellow noodles and rice vermicelli wet stir fried with seafood, pork, chives, sprouts and eggs in rich stock.

This is what I always order when I am at Old Town. I had had Hokkien Mien at two other places also, and none can compare to Old Town's. The Hokkien Mien at other places were either drench in excessive oil or excessive soy sauce, thus very oily and salty!! This one is good--still a bit salty but good! I like the noodle combination, the yellow noodle is chewy and the vermicelli is slippery and much mushy.

Overall, Old Town Cafe is a pretty good place to eat at. The service is just okay--the waiters and waitresses come when you wave at them, but that never keeps me from going back.

Orange Raspberry Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes awhile ago and decided to make some mini ones for potluck at work. These are inspired by Giada DeLaurentiis' Todd's Orange and Raspberry Cake recipe. I tried this recipe both in cupcakes, mini cupcakes and regular cake form. They all worked very well.

I also modified the recipe bit just a tiny bit. Instead of using creme fraiche, since it's hard to find sometimes, I use Greek yogurt. The texture of the frosting still turned out very smooth, velvety and tasty.
Here is the recipe from Giada if you like to try it out! Its super easy and delicious!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Honey Lemon Cupcakes

I was inspired to make this cupcake when I saw a photo of cupcakes with some candy bees in Women's Day magazines. I was really excited to make the bees more than the cupcakes actually, haha.

I used yellow peanut M&M's for the bees. In the magazines, they use toosie roll for the stripes, but I am not a big toosie rolls fan, so I used chocolate.  I melted some chocolate and with a fork, I put eyes and stripes on the bees. For the wings, the magazine used clear spice drop candy, which I had no idea what it is, so I used sliced almond instead.

The frosting for my first batch was  super duper sour. So I tasted the frosting as I mix the second one. Working with lemon is tricky since they are so sour.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tomato & Mozzarella

One of my favorite thing about Italian food...or maybe two...are tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese! They are a match made in heaven! Put them in anything and viola--deliciousness! So not long ago, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella was on sale in the supermarket, and I just could not turn out such an opportunity to fulfill my taste bud in a money saving way.

So with the two ingredients I made a pasta dish and a salad dish. Both recipes are very simple and easy.

Tomato and Mozzarella Penne:

serving size: 2

4 oz of Penne Pasta
6 Cherry Tomatoes
1 Zuchinni
1 Cup Broccoli, chopped
1.5 oz Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
3 Leaves of Fresh Basil, shredded
1 Clove of Garlic
Chili Flakes
1/2 tsp Olive Oil

1. In a pot of boiling water, boil the broccoli and zuchinni briefly until soft. Drain.
2. In the same pot, cook the pasta until aldene. Drain.
2. In a frying pan, add in olive oil and garlic. Cook until brown.
3. Stir in the pre-cooked zuchinni and broccoli.
4. Add in the pasta and stir. After combined everything, add in tomato and stir.
5. Lastly, add about 3 tablespoon of pasta water into the frying pan.
6. Place everything on a plate, add mozzarella, basil and chilli flake, and serve when hot.

Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

Serving Size: 1
1/2 Big Tomato, sliced
1 1/2 oz of Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, sliced
1 Cups of Baby Spinach
1 Slices of Bread (optional)
2 Leaves of Basil, shredded,
2 Tsp of Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar

1. Toast a piece of bread and place onto a plate. Spread Dijon mustard on top of it.
2. Place spinach on top of toast.
3. Assemble tomatoes and mozzarella in alternate fashion. Slice by slice.
4. Top of shredded basil.
5. Drizzle balsamic vinegar on top before serving.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Roadside BBQ

3751 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA

Going down the 2010 SF Big Eat List, Roadside BBQ was probably the only non-Mexican and non-fancy grilled place. I was a little eager to try it since I pass by it all the time and it's easy on my wallet.

Memphis Pulled Pork Sandwich--Slow-cooked and served lean and tender. Served “Memphis Style” —topped w/ homemade cole slaw

The Memphis Pull Pork Sandwich was the item to try on the list. The bread is very soft, and the pulled pork was tender but not too flavorful. I had to add some BBQ sauce to enhanced the flavor. There is a bit of cole slaw in the sandwich but I felt like it would taste better if there are more. If only they add more cole slaw for the extra crunch, because otherwise, I felt like I am eating a sloppy joe but of course, with better meat.

Smoked BBQ Chicken--Marinated, seasoned and slowly cooked for 4 hours until tender and juicy

The chicken was just was a bit dry. Other than the skin, the meat was not very flavorful. The vegetables on the other hand was very moist with grilled flavor. The corn bread broke apart very easily and was too soft to my likely.

I was a little disappointed with the BBQ meat there, but at least they have a couple of BBQ sauces to choose from--spicy one, honey mustard, etc.

I think I would only go back convienent-wise, otherwise I'll go elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Turtle Tower

5716 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA
(415) 221-9890

I hate how it's so sunny where I work and so cloudy once I get back home into the city. Every gloomy, cloudy or even hangover days (don't really experience much of those anymore)...I crave for a hot bowl of noodle soup, specifically a bowl of pho.

I know pho is rice noodle in Vietnamese but in my head, pho is the kind of rice noodle that is thin, but not as thin as vermicelli, and chewy but not as chewy as ramen. Pho reminds me of noodle you will find in a plate of Pad Thai. Little did I know, different pho restaurant uses different type and shape of rice noodle.

Turtle Tower's Pho Ga (Chicken Pho) was on the 2010 SF Big Eat List, so I knew I had to go try it. So on a windy cold San Francisco night, I went to Turtle Tower on Geary. They have another location in the Tenderloin if you are around there. I got to the restaurant around 8pm. Once I sat down at the restaurant, I ordered a Pho Ga right away. The place closes at 8:30pm, so be sure to order before then.

Pho Ga

Simple enough, it looks the type of chicken noodle from another restaurant near my house, which later I found out is also a Vietnamese noodle restaurant. The Pho Ga soup from Turtle Tower was very rich in chicken flavor. It tasted like it was made from a whole chicken, but with more salt or MSG because I left quite thirsty. The noodle was very smooth and chewy, definitely better than the other place I'd tried. They gave you a decent amount of chicken. The chicken was just like typical shredded chicken.

The restaurant is pretty clean, and the service was okay. The pho ga was pretty cheap, about $6 for a small and $7 for a large. The Pho Ga was good but I don't think I will specifically go back just for it when there is one near my house. If I am in the area though, I'll definitely stop by.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fran's Chocolate

1325 1st Ave., Seattle, WA--(206) 682-0168,
2626 NE University Village St, Seattle, WA -- (206) 528-9969,
10036 Main St, Bellevue, WA --(425) 453-1698

They are gooey, sweet...stick to your teeth and has a tint of saltiness--I'm talking about salted caramel. Okay, when it comes to salted caramel, I heard some about Fran's Chocolate. Ever since my friend Ei-lun tweeted about it and my friend Mei posted a picture on her tweetpic. I knew I had to try just one (because I am not really a caramel fan...besides Twix). Then I found out Fran's Chocolate offers a milk chocolate caramel with smoked salt and a dark chocolate with grey salt...then I knew I had to try two!

When Mei's birthday and my coworker Dezirae's birthday came around, I knew I had an excuse to actually order them. I made it sounds dreadful orderng them just for myself because Fran's Chocolate is located in Washington. So the only way for me to get them is to order them online with a shipping fee, since it has to be 2 days or overnight shipping to ensure freshness! But yup, I am willing to do that if it's for someone else. Yay!

The packaging is amazing--very fancy and green. The salted caramel? Delicious! The chocolate coating was thin and light, and I love how the chocolate wasn't too sweet since the caramel center is already sweet enough to compensate. The salt was not overly salty either--so it was well balanced with the chocolate and caramel. By popping the whole piece into my mouth, or eating it bite by bite, I can still taste the chocolate, the caramel and the salt distinctively.

Maybe if I'm ever in Washington, I will try their other chocolate product as well. For now, the salted caramel is enough to keep my sweet tooth happy!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Michael Mina

335 Powell St, San Francisco, CA
(415) 397-9222

My best friend, Victor, took me to Michael Mina for my birthday back in June (Thanks Vic!), so this is quite an overdue post. Even though though it's a month or so ago, some of the food I had at Michael Mina remains quite memorable.

When I think of Michael Mina, I think of lobster pot pie because that what the restaurant is known for. Other than that, when I think of Michael Mina, I think of a food theme that gets serve three ways, so it keeps the palette interesting. You'll see what I mean in a bit. Michael Mina is received one-star from Michelin and 4 stars from the San Francisco Chronicle in July 2004, along with these accomplishments, he earned many, MANY other recognitions and awards for his 17 restaurants and lounges opened across the United States.
Located in the luxirious Westin St. Francis hotel in Union Square San Francisco, this restaurant is easy to miss if you don't walk into the hotel or know it whereabout. Upon entering, business men and women in business wear as well as some people like me, who get off work and put on a dress and go; nevertheless, the atmosphere was very dim and elegant. The service was superb! They made sure my water cup and wine glass is filled at all time. They explained every dishes that we ordered. Fabulous!

Michael Mina offers Prix Fix menu as well as tasting menu. Vic and I ordered from the Three Course Tasting Menu, which allowed us to choose one of the selections for each of the three courses. Here are some of the things I'd tried:

Chef's Complimentary Amuse Bouche -- Lobster Bisque, Poached Shrimps with Apples and Crab Cake Ball (I think)

The lobster bisque was a bliss! It was warm and creamy and suprisingly light! The poarch shrimps was very good as well, I really like the poachy shirmp contrast with the crisp apple. Asked for the crab cake ball, it was so flavorful! Yum!

Shellfish Trio ~ Fennel Bulb
• Dungeness Crab, Roasted Shallot, Grilled Country Bread
• Island Creek Oysters, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Fennel Rémoulade
• Catalina Island Abalone, Grilled Abalone Mushroom, Pernod Emulsion

Oh my gosh, I love sandwiches, especially when it's grilled! I could really taste the crab in it. The oyster was interesting because I never really had so much in an oyster before other than raw or grilled with lemon juice and tabasco or fried. So this is definitely something different and good. I am never a fan of abalone because of the fishy taste and rough rubbery texture. Although the one I had here was very tender but still, not my favorite.

Ahi Tuna Tartare -- Scotch Bonnet Pepper, Bosc Pear, Sesame Oil

Ah! One of my favorite appetizer is tuna tartare. Michael Mina's was in the 2009 Big Eat List, so I definitely wanted to try it when I saw it. I love how light it is even though it usually is mixed with sesame oil. I could see the tuna is very fresh because the color of the fish is translucently gorgeous! I love how Michael Mina's added pine nuts to it, so it definitely adds a little crunch to the mushy tuna. They serve it with toast, which was just okay. I felt like they needed a bit more toasting.

Brandt Farm Beef ~ Fava Beans and Spring Potatoes
• Filet Mignon, Laratte Potato Purée, Ramp Jus
• Grilled Ribeye, Crushed Fava Bean, Potato Gaufrette
• Braised Ox Tail, Morel Mushrooms, Herb Salad

I had beef as my entree. I love filet mignon and I could not passed on this selection. This filet mignon was really, really good. It was so juicy and tender and it was grilled perfectly! The ribeye was so fat and juicy that it semi-melted in my mouth. The potato gaufrette was so crispy and light. Oh wow, the ox tail was delicious! It was so, so flavorful and tender that it breaks off with a touch of my fork. I love mushroom but the morel was a bit too salty for me.
Maine Lobster Pot Pie -- Brandied Lobster Cream, Seasonal Vegetables

Yum yum yum! Lobster in a pot pie,what could get better than this! Michael Mina's Lobster Pot Pie made it to SF Big Eat List this year and I must say it was well deserved. If you order the Lobster Pot Pie, it is a $35 extra on top of your pre-fix menu, but it was worth it considering you get another two course, a show and a whole Maine lobster to yourself! The waiter brought out a pot with the pot pie crust still on it. He then popped it open, laid it on a plate and reassembled the lobsters that was in the pot onto the plate. Lastly, he poured the lobster cream and vegetables onto it. The preparation and presentation was like a grand show. The lobster was very flavorful--it soaked up all the cream and vegetable juice.  Tt was a very filling dish.
Catherine Schimenti’s Dessert Trio
• Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta, Rubarb
• Chocolate Mousse Cake, Salted Caramel Ice Cream, St. Germain
• Goat Cheese Cake, Poached Rubarb

Onto dessert! I chose the Catherine Schimenti's Dessert Trio just because instead of one dessert, there are three! The panna cotta was interesting, it was very light. I could barely tasted the rubarb reduction though.The chocolate mousse cake was such a contrast to the panna cotta becaues it was so much sweeter and richer. The salted caramel ice cream was delicious! Onto the last one...eck, I dislike goat cheese very much. I have yet to acquire that taste, so I didn't really like it. But must give prop for using goat cheese for a cheesecake.
Michael Mina’s Signature Root Beer Float  with Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Vic ordered the root beef float. It was pretty refreshing and sweet enough for a dessert. The warm chocolate chip cookies are so, so warm and gooey but overwhelmingly sweet. I was crying for salty things after one bite...but it was gooey and good!

Raspberry Macarons and Chocolate Truffle

Before we asked for our check, our waitress brought us some raspberry macarons and chocolate truffle. At this point though, I was so bloated that I could only take a bite of each. The raspberry macaron was not that great. It wasn't chewy nor airy. I could taste the raspberry jam though. Like the chocolate cookies, the chocolate truffle was again, too sweet for me.

I left Michael Mina happy and satisfied. I am amazed at what the menu offer. The dinner was like an art show. I was never bored because there were so much going on to all the food of each course. Even though the portion looked small, oh my gosh, it was actually a truck load! So go in an empty stomach and order the pot pie!

My Favorite Pho Restaurant in the City--PPQ

Pho Phu Quoc
1816 Irving St, San Francisco, CA
(415) 661-8869

Okay, I don’t know why I never review this place even though I come here very often. PPQ is my favorite pho place in the city so far because it never fails and I know I will always get the consistent and delicious bowl of pho. My family and I found this place because it was conveniently close to where we live and there are always a lot of people waiting outside for seats. When my boyfriend discovered the curry noodle on the menu, oh my gosh, it became one of the restaurant that we visit a lot and keep going back to.
Imperial Rolls - Crispy fried rolls filled with ground pork, taro, carrots, and silver noodles. Served with lettuce, mint leaves and cucumber with nuoc mam/ fish sauce

The imperial roll here is really good. Crispy outer wrap and meat filled but mushy and hot inner fillings. I could taste the taro roots in the imperial roll; it adds a strong delicious flavor to the roll. I like how they give you lettuce to wrap it just so that you can have a more balance mouth-feel for the fried roll and fresh lettuce combination.
Curry Chicken Vermicelli Noodle Soup - Tender chicken breast nuggets in PPQ’s signature spicy coconut milk curry broth with pho

One of my favorite pho has to be this curry chicken one. It supposes to come with vermicelli noodle but my boyfriend and I always request it to be served with pho noodle. I prefer the pho noodle because it is chewier and absorbs and holds the curry soup better. The curry is a spicy red curry and coconut milk, thus very creamy and comforting. They give you generous amount of curry and chicken breast. The chicken is very tender and taste great with the curry.

Papaya Salad with Shrimp - Julienne papaya, basil, and carrots tossed and topped with poached shrimps and peanuts and fried shallots. Nuoc mam dressing.

I also like to order their Papaya Salad with Poached Shrimps. I like how simple, refreshing and light Vietnamese style papaya salad is. It comes with fried shallot and fish sauce. I have had better ones elsewhere, but PPQ’s is not too bad. The only thing is that be careful how much fish sauce dressing you add to the salad because the fish sauce that comes with it is super duper salty.

Another cold "salad" I like from them is the Five Spices Chicken Vermicelli. It is a noodle salad that is served with generous amount of chicken, vermicelli, lettuce, carrots, mints, bean sprouts, peanuts and fish sauce. It is my alternative to a hot bowl of pho on a hot day.

The service at PPQ is pretty okay. My table usually get attended to, and the wait for my food to be served was never long. Just beware that you will most likely walk out smelling like pho noodle though.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sonoma Lavender Festival

8527 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, CA
(707) 523-4411

I think lavender is one of the prettiest herbs out there. It smells and tastes great both fresh and dried. Dried ones last a long time since it is such a strong herb to use in food. I bought a bundle of dried ones to make lavender ice cream and salmon couple months ago, and I still have over half a bundle left.

I was lucky that I caught the very first annual Lavender Festival in Sonoma this year! The festival was a fundraiser for VOICE Youth Center ( and was held at a lavender barn in Kenwood, CA, just right below Chateau St. John winery. The lavender barn was made available to the public only for that weekend of the event. The admission was $20 for 5 food tickets, OR $20 for 8 wine tasting tickets at the door (originally it was listed $30 for 5 food tickets and $40 for wine and food on the website). My boyfriend and I bought 2 sets of food tickets and one set of wine tickets. It was well worth it since it is for charity.
The restaurants that participated were Girl & the Fig, Hana Sushi, Kenwood Restaurant, Sea Thai Bistro, SIFT, Sugo Trattoria, Sur La Table, Syrah, Viola, Kenwood Yacht Club, Sonoma Cheese, Sonoma Lavender Chef.

Many wineries participated too. Since it was really, really hot there, so all I could say is that I enjoyed all the wine there were chilled and didn’t really care too much about the vintage, acidity, sugar content and so on. I will elaborate more on the wine when I am better at it. Asked for now...just food! I could clearly remember them all or at least how they looked or tasted.

I started off with a chilled carrot bisque that was infused with lavender. I forgot which restaurant it was from but it was thick and creamy. It was very delicious and refreshing since it was a hot day. It was my favorite dish at the festival.

My boyfriend started off with Poke Rice from Hana Sushi. The dish tuna supposed to be infused with lavender, but I think the sesame oil was overpowering the flavor. It was a refreshing dish but nothing too special.

I then had the lavender poached salmon, which was served with grilled veggies and lavender infused sauce. The salmon was cooked perfectly. It was juicy and very tender! The sauce was good, but a little too bland. I couldn't really tell what herb was in the sauce.

We went got a Thai Lettuce Cup from Sea Thai Bistro. I like it very much too. The noodle and cashews were crunchy and so was the crispy lettuce. The noodle and cashews were drizzled with lavender infused sweet and sour good!
Next I went to grab a plate of Lavender and Lamb Ragu with Lamb Polpette and Lemon Couscous from Santa Rosa's Sur La Table. The dish was divine! I don’t like lamb because it’s so gamey, but it was not gamey at all! The couscous was very light and delightful. The lemon kept the dish very refreshing even though it was served warm. I am definitely going to pay more attention to Sur La Table’s recipes and a trip to check out their cookwares because of this dish.

My boyfriend went to get a bruschetta plate while I was at Sur La Table’s table. I believe the bruschetta is from Sugo Trattoria since the restaurant itself has a selection of bruschetta. The bruschetta was covered with a layer of goat cheese and topped with balsamic marinated strawberries. I am sure there is lavender is part of the recipe, but I couldn’t taste it at all since both goat cheese and balsamic vinegar are strong ingredients. The bruschetta was sweet and heavy loading, but I am not a fan of goat cheese so even though it was good, I didn’t enjoy it too much.

After all the appetizers and entrée dishes, it was time for DESSERT! We had four tickets left by then, so we decided to just get two of the desserts offered at the two dessert tables. One of them was the well known crème brulee from Girls and the Fig restaurant. They served it in a jar, thus they called it Lavender Pot de Crème with Lavender Infused Strawberries. Lavender is an herb that goes very well with cream, and indeed it was good. I could taste the lavender in the crème brulee but not so much in the strawberry. Delicious!

Next, we got two Lavender Cupcakes from Sift. The cupcakes were beautifully assembled with edible sprinkles on the frosting. They were also very heavy in weight. We decided to split one because they looked super sweet. The cake was very dense and very moist, to the point that it might seem a little under bake. My boyfriend did not enjoy it but I must say, it was probably the moistest cupcake I ever had. I could see that the cake batter was infused and had lavender pieces in it, thus it tasted super lavender-liked...a bit too strong that it was overwhelming at some point (another reason my boyfriend didn’t like it). The frosting was a bit too sweet. I could only finish half the cupcake. But I must say the texture of the cake was so moist that I want to go to Sift and try other flavors that they have to offer.

So I emailed one of the events coordinater the other day and she told me that they raised $13,000 for VOICE, which was over their target. I'm glad I contributed a little and had a fun and delicious day!

They already started planning next year and it should be around the same time. Keep an eye for it!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cherry Pie!!

 My friend gave me a bag of freshly picked cherry from the orchard at the start of cherry season. Like blueberries and grapes, I like to eat them raw as snacks. After a couple cherries, I decided to make something quick out of them also since they are fresh. Here is a super duper quick prep semi-homemade cherry pie recipe.

~make 4 mini pies


Store bought puff pastry dough
1 cup of pitted and halves cherries
1/4 cup of cream
1 tablespoon of sugar

1. In a saucepan, sauteed and mix cherries with sugar.
2. When the cherries begin to soften a bit, add the cream.
3. After the cream starts to reduce and simmer, turn off heat, set aside to cool, and place in refridgerator until cold.
4. Preheat oven to 375F.
5. Meanwhile, place and wrap the puff pastry on the mini pie or tart tin. Use a fork to poke gently onto the pastry dough.
6. Place chilled cherries mixture into the puff pastry.
7. Cover with another sheet of puff pastry, roll in the side to seal the pie.
8. Bake in oven for 30 minutes.

Let cool and enjoy! Try serving it with some chocolate ice cream!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mayes Oyster House

1233 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 885-1233

My friend Elaine is going away for her rotation and we both been craving for some seafood, so we ended up chilling at Mayes Oyster House. The place is small, dim, and very modern with a fire place. The place has a bar in which people can sit, watch sports as well as dinning there.

Elaine and I started with two cocktails. Lets just say you get your money worth with the alcohol because they are oh so strong!...But nasty at the same time. Two of us, and we could only finsih half of each cocktails that were served in standard size martini glasses.

We ordered two appetitizers: oyster shooters and ceviche.

Kamikaze Soyter Shoot - Sake & Japanese mirin with tobiko and spicy pickled Japanese carrot

First look at the menu, and the oyster shooters look like a steal. Two for only the price of $5! But yes, after a shot of it, this shooter was too sour for me. I couldn't taste the sake or the mirin, I could only taste sourness. Oh yes, do not forget to stir your shooter around before you take a shot at it...the oyster might get stuck at the bottom.

Lobster/Scallop/Prawn Ceviche - Ceviche cured with fresh citrus, house made pico de gallo, avocado, house made tortilla chips

The ceviche was pretty refreshing and not super sour like most ceviche I'd had. The meat was a little rough. The chips tasted pretty ordinary, but definitely added a crunch to the meaty texture of the seafood.

Bodega Bay Dungeness Crab Cakes - Basil marinated tomatoes, micro arugula salad

The crab cake was fried golden brown. The exterior was very crispy and the interior was filled with crab meat. It tasted very good with the sauce and basil marinated tomato. I am not a fan of micro arugula or sprout, but I think the green taste of the veggies definitely help tone down and balance the fried dish a bit.

Seared Canadian Salmon - Buttermilk garlic potatoes, sauteed baby spinach, roma tomato cream

I love, love, love the garlic potato. It was mashed and plated underneath the salmon and spinach. I never really like mashed potato but it was so good! The spinach was ordinary. The salmon was pretty ordinary also, but I must say, the marinated diced tomato on top added so, so, SO much flavor to the fish. It made the fish so much better.

The meal at Mayes was decent overall, none of these four dishes really jumps at me besides the marinated tomatoes with salmon. I don't think I would particularly go back, but wouldn't mind if someone want to.