Friday, December 23, 2011

231 Ellsworth

231 Ellsworth
San Mateo, CA

I came here twice and tried different items each time. The restaurant was dim and spacious. Tables were set far apart from each other, and the furniture was very rustic and old fashioned, which brought out the elegance of the place. The food is pretty good. I chose the 3 courses the first time, and 4 courses the second time...and both time I left with a super full but happy belly.

Diver Scallops
I recommend the scallop, braised beef short ribs and the foie gras. The scallop was very fresh and sweet. The roasted beet made the scallop even sweeter when eaten together.

Pan Seared Artisan Foie Gras
 I had the foie gras twice, once with peanuts and one without (due to friend's allergy). I actually prefer the one without the peanuts because the foie gras is heavy enough already.

Braised Beef Short Rib
The short rib was divine. It was so tender that it breaks apart with a scrape of a fork. The sauce is very rich and a bit salty. The white beech mushroom is so good with it. They were very generous with the Italian butter beans and yellow wax beans that lies underneath the beef. I couldn't finish all of it.

The service was very nice. I really like the amuse bouche they bring out in between some of the courses, and of course, the candy cart that the waiter rolled out toward the end of the night. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. The wine pairing was pretty worth it for the pre-fixe menu, you get to try a different half glass of wine for each course of the meal.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ruth Chris Steakhouse

1601 Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 673-0557

Aside from the infamous House of Prime Rib in San Francisco, I kept hearing about Ruth Chris Steakhouse when the topic of steak comes up. I came here on a Saturday night for table of 6. Upon entering, the restaurant was lit dimly, was filled with rustic decors and smelled buttery and meaty.

I ordered the economy meal from their menu, which I get the choice of salad or soup, choice of an entree, and a chocolate cheesecake. I decided on a spinach gorgonzola salad and a filet mignon from corn fed Midwestern beef with vegetable.

The food at Ruth Chris was exactly like how I described the restaurant. The food lacked colors since everything was either grilled with loads of butter or covered in cream. Our waiter even warned us that the hot plate is covered with butter, and then more butter was poured over the steak when served...because everything taste better with BUTTER! I tried to be healthy and ordered vegetable side, but I failed because the veggie was covered in oil also.

The food was delicious since it was overly greased. My filet mignon was thick and super juicy and tender. But I was done after eating half of it since it was quite heavy.
After I was bloated, the chocolate cheesecake arrived! It was thick, richy and creamy. As
full as I was, I ended up eating half of that cheesecake because it was delicious! The fruit with the belvarian cream was a nice balance.

Overall, the experience was great. Our waiter was nice and helpful. The food was heavy but delicious, but I would think twice before I ever go back since it was too much food and grease for me.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


615 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60606(312) 377-2002

The streets of W Randolph was super quiet on a week night. After the comedy club, my friends and I stopped by Avec for a late night dinner. The entrance of Avec is on the side, and once entered, I felt like I was in a well-lit wooden box. The walls and chairs were all wood, and green glass bottles were lined again the holes on the wall as decors.

We started with Chorizo-stuffed Medjool Date, which was phenomenal! It was nicely seared on the outside, and meaty and flavorful in the inside.

Chorizo-stuffed Dates

Then we had the hanger steak, which was very tender and juicy. The asparagus on the side was delicious!

We then moved onto a very heavy entree...Whole Roasted Foie Gras with apricot and citrus salad. The tartness of the fruit definitely help with the overly rich and creamy foie gras, but it was just too much. A couple bite and I was done with it.

Whole Seared Foie Gras
The most memorable dish of the night for me was the Chitarra made with pork neck ragu, charred fennel, radicchio, nicoise olives and parmesan. It's a homemade fresh pasta, and everything just makes it so creamy and filled with flavors. 

Chitarra Ragu
We ended the night with a panna cotta with fruits. It was pretty ordinary.

Avec was definitely nice and memorable. It's really fun to share the big plates as well as tapas with friends on a late quiet night.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


953 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 226-0858

Next is a Chicago restaurant opened early this year by Grant Achatz, an notible owner and chef of the famous Alinea Restaurant. Chef Achatz opened Next with the creative idea of changing the restaurant theme and menu every three months. Next also has an unique reservation system that operates much like or a theatre in which customers buy tickets with specific date and time online. These tickets get sold out very quickly and people tend to resell them at a much higher price.

I visited the restaurant for dinner earlier this month for the Taste of Thailand theme. As a Thai food lover who feeds on Thai food almost once a week, I was harsh when I was judging the Thai food that was served to me at Next. But then I remember that I must critique it with an opened mind and empty canvas, and remember that the chef took the theme as an inspiration and a sort of infusion--his takes on the cuisine.

The presentation of the first course--the Thai street food was very colorful and fun. I didn't know where to start if the server didn't advice my friends and I to start on the buns since it's hot. That was just okay. The bun wasn't as fluffy as I'd like it and the mushroom inside was super earthy. A little more bun would definitely tone out that earthy richness. The starter also consisted of roasted bananas, sweet shrimps, prawn cakes and fermented sasuages.

The Tom Yum soup was hearty. The Thai one is much lighter and sour compared to this one. The Tom Yum broth at Next contained pork shoulders and tasted so good. I wish they would serve noodles or ramen with it! The only downside was that it had a bit too much sodium because I downed a glass of water after it.

The sides that came with the steamed rice was creative and delicious. The rice was nicely scooped into these mini bamboo basket with lid. The duck eggs paste was divine! Do they even have that in Thailand? Because wow, it was good. I could definitely make a meal out of it.

The Catfish in Caramel Sauce was just okay. It was a bit too fishy for me. Also the fish seemed like it was sous-vided so it lost a bit of its flaky texture, quite slimey and smooth. I didn't really enjoy that. I couldn't taste the caramel either.

The next course was a mouth dropper for me--Beef Cheek in Panang Curry. The curry in the panang curry tasted more like a Thai green curry to me, it was flavorful but I didn't care much for it. The beef cheek that sat in it though, was mouth watering goodness.

It was so tender that the meat comes off with a scrap of the fork. It was very flavorful by itself. Love it!!! I couldn't stop looking at it and shoving more of it in my mouth even though I was full.

The Young Coconut dessert was my favorite. Even though I was full, my stomach immediately made room for it. It was so light and refreshing, and almost too pretty to eat. The coconut flavor was not too overwhelming so that I could also taste the tapioca and mango in it. Divine! I really wanted to ask for second.

Followed the coconut dessert was the dragon fruit with rose syrup. A rose was brought out for us to take a sniff of its floral scent. The dragon fruit was covered by a thin layer of rose syrup, but it retained its natural taste. The rose flavor was very subtle. I accidentally found that if I take a sniff at the rose before I eat a piece of the rose infused dragon fruit, the rose flavor gets a little bit stronger.

The meal ended with Thai Iced Tea in a bag, like how the street vendor in Thailand would serve it. The server said they used cane sugar. It was refreshing and perfectly sweetened to my taste.

Like many fine dining restaurant, the service was great! My water glass was never empty and my finished dishes were taken away pretty quickly. And unlike most fine dining restaurant, the servers at Next were also very funny and entertaining. It totally loosen up the diners, and making fine dining fun and enjoyable while still keeping the food admirable.

The only down side to the meal was the bill. It seemed a bit overpriced for the kind of food that was served. Of course Next serves organic produces and sustainable meat but I don't think each course should cost that much.

Despite the price, I do wish to go back and try whatever the restaurant serves NEXT.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Congrats Meiling & Marcus!

My friends Meiling and Marcus got married on August 28th, and I'm so, so happy for them. They are so perfect for each other! They have such strong loves, bonds and chemistrys for each other that any bystanders can see they are one happy couple. Did I mention they both are very stylish? Check out Meiling's wedding gown and Marcus' cool shoes!

Anyhow, I was very honored that they had ask me to bake 100 mini cupcakes for their dessert table at the reception. I was super excited because this was my very first large cupcakes order, all done at home. But it was amazing that after I lined them up, they all could fit on the island in my kitchen. So they weren't that big afterall...maybe a little.

The cupcakes were vanilla velvet with a lavender cream cheese frosting to match her purple wedding theme. It was super making them and fun frosting them.

Meiling made these super cute labels for the cupcakes and they looked so cute and perfect! They definitely added a lot of cuteness to the cupcakes.

Tatah! The dessert table with yummy kettle corn, cookies from Anthony's Cookies in San Francisco (which I loved and reviewed before), assorted purple candies and mini cupcakes. I love the dessert table. It's so fun and classy, and it definitely made me feel like a kid at a candy store.

The wedding ceremony was beautiful and the reception was amazing. Best wishes for the lovely couple!

Friday, July 29, 2011

I Scream You Scream, We All Scream for Loards Ice Cream!

699 Lewelling Blvd

San Leandro, CA 94579
(510) 357-7400

Rich, creamy and flavorful, Loards Ice Cream offered everything in a scoop that keeps my tummy happy. Their ice cream contains more fat than regular store-bought ice cream, so it was dense and fluffy. There are so many flavors to choose from, which makes choosing one flavor super hard. I am never a fan of waffle cone, but there's something in Loard's homemade cone irresistable.

My personal favorite is ube. It's rich in color and super rich in flavor. It also have bits of ube in it, so it adds texture to the creaminess.

My half eaten pretty ube ice cream

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cake on a Stick!

They are chocolatey on the outside and soft and rich in the inside, and they are all conveniently secured on lollipop sticks. They are cake on a stick or better known as cake pops!

I made my first cake ball when I was nine, but I never thought about putting them on a stick! Sixteen years later, Angie Dudley, also known as Bakerella, geniusly put them on a stick. She then published a book calls Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats, and cake pops got fun and popular since then! Super!

A ready to eat cake pop

Two months ago, my friend, Mei, asked me to make some cupcakes and cake pops for her sister, Meiling's, bridal shower. I was beyond excited because I love baking cupcakes and I always want to try making cake pops. Cupcakes are going to be easy for me, but cake pops will be a challenge since I have never made it before. Since the cake pops look super easy to make, I did not bother trying it out until the day before Mei coming over to pick them up.

I baked the cake and made the frosting the night beofre, but I accidentally added too much frosting into the cake, so in the end, I had to remake everything the next morning. The frosting added to the crumbled cake is an important step! Add a little bit of frosting at a time!. Adding too much frosting will make the pops too wet and adding too little will make the pops too dry--both result in the cake balls not holding their shapes.

I was running behind since I messed up on the mixture, so by the time Mei came over, I still had much to do. Mei was a big help! When it was time to cover the pops with chocolate, I realized I was totally wrong about this simple pop. This part took forever!Good thing we have four hands! So one of us ended up dipping the pops into the chocolate while the other put some sprinkle on and stick them into a styroform box to let dry. So the trick for us is to avoid all excessive movements that will make the cake ball fall off the lollipop stick. So instead of trying to tap off the excess chocolate, we just leave it. The cake pop still turned out good and the outer layer of chocolate is still thin.

1 - 13 X 9 cake (from scratch or box mix)
8 oz of frosting (from scratch or ready made tub)
2 bags of candy melts
1 - one tablespoon measuring spoon
50 lollipop sticks
1 giant styroform block

Instruction:1. Bake your cake and make your frosting. Allow the cake to cool and frosting to be in room temperature.

2. Once the cake is cool, crumble it in a big bowl or pan.

3. Add 8oz of frosting into the crumbled cake and mix to combine.

4. Use the one tablespoon measuring spoon and scoop the mixture. Roll mixture into a ball.
5. Lay the rolled ball onto a parchment paper or a Silpat. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.

6. With a small bowl, melt a little bit of the chocolate. Dip the lollipop stick about 1/4 inches into the melted chocolate.

7. Stick the lollipop stick into the cake ball half way in. Repeat with all the cake balls.

8. Place the cake balls into a fridge and let it cool for 15 minutes.
9. Meanwhile, melt the rest of the chocolate in a large narrow bowl.
10. Dip the cake pops into the melted chocolate. Optional: Tap gently with hand to rid access chocolate.
11. Stick the wet cake pop into the styroform block to dry. If wish to use sprinkles, add them while the pop is still wet. The cake pop will look glossy when it's still wet, and look matte when dry. (Styroform block is not needed if wish to dry upside down. Just place the pop upside down onto a parchment paper).
A wet cake pop

12. Ready to eat or package when dry.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nijo Castle

39888 Balentine Dr
Newark, CA 94560
(510) 657-6456

One of my bosses from Delaware came to visit my team and I today. So the team went to Nijo Castle for dinner together. My boss who had been to Nijo Castle several time ordered omakase for each of us. It was a colorful and delcious meal.

We started with assorted pickled vegetable. The dish was very pretty and vibrant. I always thought Korean cuisine has the most pickled vegetables, but never realize there are so many kind of Japanese pickled vegetables also.

The waitress then served each of us a bowl of sushi rice with tobiko, ikura and uni in it or so to speak, flying fish roes, salmon roes and sea urchin. The roes are very salty but they go very well with the sweet sushi rice and toasty flavor of the seaweed and sesame. I'm not a sea urchin fan, so after a bite, I gave my uni away. It's too fishy for me.

After that, we were served with one of my favorite Japanese dishes--Hirame Sashimi!!! I love it because the hirame is a very sweet fish. The sashimi was sliced thinly and was paired with a ponzu sauce. Delicious! It takes skills to cut the fish so thin and transparent.

After the delicious hirame, we were served namako or sea cucumber sashimi. It looked very slimey. I never had raw sea cucumber before, and being adventurous, I decided to try one. The first couple bite was chewy, kind of like raw squid, then as I chewed, the texture got mushy and globby. The more I chewed, the fishier it got. It was quite disgusting in texture. I forced myself to swallow it. I don't think I'll try that again. I didn't have the acquired taste for it.

We were then served with oysters and sashimi! The presentation was very grand--the colorful fishes were served on a bowl made of ice, keeping the sashimi fresh and cool. I love how they gave us two different cuts of hamachi because the textures are different among the two. The sashimi was very fresh, colorful and delicious. None of them tasted fishy at all.

 Next, we had nigiri or sushi. Again, the presentation was really pretty and everything was really fresh. It was amazing how the fish on the rice all looked very uniformly cut! The only thing I dislike about it was the rice. It was a little too mushy for sushi.

After the raw part of the omakase, we were served with cooked food. I was pretty full by now, but cooked food sounded really good especially after eating all the cold raw fishes.

Several sushi rolls were served along with the bacon wrapped scallops topped with house special sauce and tobiko. I usually don't like bacon, but that tasted really good. It was better than steakhouse made bacon wrapped scallops. Like the raw food, the cooked items were also very colorful and nice in presentation.

A lot of the cooked items were deep fried, like the deep fried mushroom, which was also served with the house special sauce and tobiko. It was also orangy in color, but really great in flavor! I was really full at this point, but I wanted more of the mushroom after eating one.

The last dish before dessert was grilled salmon collar. It was flaky but it was a little bland after eating all fried food covered in the house special sauce. My coworkers and I couldn't finish it because we were stuffed!

We ended our dinner with green tea ice cream and many thanks to our bosses for the delicious meal!

The service was great and the food was delicious! I would definitely want to come back again and again, especially when I want some good quality and fresh fish.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Simple "Cool" Snack

It's summer and it's hot! Nothing like a ice cold snack after work to cool the rest of the day off. The mint lemon cocktail and the watermelon salad I had in mind was quick and easy, although a little preparation is needed ahead of time.

Start by grinding up some fresh mints and lemon juice in a food processor. Do not dilute the mixture with water. After that, freeze the mixture in a ice tray for several hours. They are ready to use after that. These juice ice cubes come in handy for any quick cocktails or mocktails. A lime and mint combination is great for a cocktail like mojito or a mocktail with cranberry juice.

When done, place several ice cubes in a martini or cocktail glass. X. Add a shot of my favorite gin, Hendrick, and fill the rest of the cup up with tonic water. Other gin or vodka works well too.

Since a cocktail is meant to be enjoyed slowly, so as the lemon ice cube melts, the flavor enhances.

To pair with this cocktail is a simple watermelon cucumber salad. The lemon, mint and watermelon combination is divine! And it's super simple to make.

Make sure the watermelon and cucumber are cold. Cube some watermelon, and thinly slice some cucumber and chop some mint. Stack the watermelon and cucumber together and drizzle some balsamic vinegar over it. Lastly sprinkle some chopped mints. Serve while it's still cold.

Try taking a bite with both watermelon and cucumber, and try to take sips of the lemon mint cocktail with it. The lemon would enhance the watermleon and cucumber flavor.

Time to chill-lax!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Mei!

My friend Mei is turning 30 this year and to celebrate her prime in coming, she is hosting a Roaring 30 party based on the roaring 1920 theme. She asked me to make her birthday cake, and I was more than happy to. She gave me my full control and creativity of the cake, since all she said was "surpise me!"

To start, I wanted to make her cake based on the color theme of the party, pearl black and red. Then I want to make something elegant yet fun. A month before her birthday, I ordered all the ingredients and decorations I needed.

I also decided to incorporate the color them into the cake too! So for the bottom tier, I am going to make a chocolate cake with mocha buttercream to match the black theme, and for the top tier, a red velvet with cream cheese frosting to match the red theme.

Chocolate cake with mocha buttercream
 To make it elegant, I used lace ribbon and edible diamonds. To make it more fun, I added some ostrich feathers and a big 30.

I wish I had more time. I made the cake after work one day, then frosted it and decorated after work the next day. I didn't want to frost it too early because I want to keep everything fresh. Even though it didn't turn out as perfect as I want it, it was super fun making it. I am super happy I got it done on time and that Mei loved it!

Let the party begins!!


Happy Birthday Mei!!