Monday, March 28, 2011

Kabocha Dessert

I'm a huge fan of kobocha. I'll eat them anyway you serve them--they're like my green eggs and ham. But I've become especially fond of them in dessert form, and recently I dug up an old recipe for a Kabocha dessert "soup", if you will.
And it goes a little something like this...

Cut the kabocha in to quarters and steam for about 20-30 mins or until they are fork tender. (You can also peel them and then boil them in about 2-3 cups of water, but I found steaming to be easier for me).

Meanwhile, boil 3 cups of water with 1 brown sugar cane bar (you can find these in your local Asian market--pictured above. Let cool. If they're not available, substitute with a half cup of light brown sugar)
Let the kabocha cool and then scrape off the skins with the back of a spoon. Throw the kabocha into a blender with 2 cups of the sugar water to start. Blend until smooth. Gradually add the rest of the sugar water until mixture becomes a puree, a little bit short of baby food consistency (pictured below).

Pour the mixture into a pot, heat gently, and stir in 1 cup of milk until it becomes silky in texture.
Serve with evaporated milk for a tastey dessert!

Aperitifs and Digestifs

I don't want to say I'm addicted, because I'm not. I'm not out throwing back bottles of Lillet and Aperol as I escort my fully inebriated and barely conscious self to an AA meeting. But I am (more than) willing to fork over $20+ for a bottle of an aperitif wine, mostly because I've become a snob stuck in the 1920's (?) and all I want to do is turn my nose up and sip my light, aromatic, citrusy wine in a smoked filled room, wearing a flapper's outfit. Just give me a Cruella De Ville cigarette and a long fur coat to satisfy my imagination.

And that is exactly what that one night at The Fat Lady has done to me. When this phase will pass I don't know, but as one band once wisely wrote, "[I've] got stuck in a moment, and now [I] can't get out of it." But I guess my moment is a little less depressing and a little more fun.

Random note: I discovered Lillet at La Scoula in Walnut Creek and then quickly went to a wine shop to snag me a bottle. Something to enjoy over a second viewing of The Illusionist? Absolutely.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Fat Lady

I'm drawn to places that feel like an old gentlemen's club. A place with Victorian decor, dark lighting, stained glass lamps, and lots of dark wooden furniture. A place where a wealthy world traveler would stop by and have a beautiful, scantly dressed woman serve him a strong drink. I know it sounds strange, but there's something about that kind of atmosphere that I really enjoy.

I suppose it's really the history of the place that interests me. If you read about who The Fat Lady is and about the history of the building, you'll learn that this used to be a place of ill repute and it was owned by the fat lady. All the more intriguing, no? It's a place I'd imagine Sherlock Holmes spending his spare time.

Not only does The Fat Lady have a lot of history in Oakland, but now it's also a place where you'll find great old fashioned (and strong!) drinks and delicious food.

Yep, that's her. The fat lady in all her glory. I'm not sure how accurate this drawing is, but there also a larger painting of her in the picture below. Can you spot her?

Zucchini fries
Crispy on the outside, soft and juicy on the inside, and topped with generous shavings of fresh parm.
Best part of the meal, hands down.

Matt's flank steak

My risotto with seared scallops

Discreet Charm
After reading the Orangette, I have to admit that I've built up a curiosity about Aperol. This spritzer, if you will, is a mix of Aperol, St. Germain, and champagne.
I'm sensing the bloom of a beautiful relationship.


The sampler dessert
(for those of us who's eyes are bigger than their stomachs and for those of us who cannot decide)
Espresso creme brulee, chocolate torte, almond shortbread, macaroon, clove cookie,
and panna cotta.
Really, we just ordered this for the panna cotta because it's not part of their regular menu, but everything on the plate was spectacular.

Save the best for last: For all the ladies, if you do happen to stop by this place and use the little girl's room, look up, because someone might just be playing peeping tom.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Psycho Donuts

Really, we stumbled on Psycho Donuts by complete accident.

After going to the San Jose Tech Museum to see the Body Worlds exhibit Matt and I wanted to hide away in a cafe and enjoy a steamy cup of coffee with a side of people watching and rain.

On a side note, Body Worlds is a fascinating exhibit! I encourage everyone to pay a visit even if you're not an anatomy geek, you'll learn a lot from all the artful displays. I half expected that they wouldn't allow photography but I was still disappointed by the "No photography allowed" sign at the entrance of the exhibit. Though, I must admit it made the experience more meaningful because instead of focusing on getting a good picture, I really took the time to examine the art and read all the descriptions. Honestly, I learned more from this exhibit than I ever did in any biology class!

Initially, Matt and I completely walked past this place. We were heading towards Phil's(?) but there were hoards of SJSU students studying inside, so we decided to turn around and walk back to Psycho Donuts. I'm glad we did.

It was something out of a donut horror movie. There were eyeball lights, crazy looking donuts, and a strawberry red haired girl in a nurses outfit standing behind the counter. "Would you like some bubble wrap to pop?", she reached out with two little squares of bubble wrap. I like this place already!

Art on the table

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, there were Capt'n crunch berries ALL over my donut clinging on by a healthy spread of marshmallow fluff and dusted with powdered sugar.
It's the cereal killer donut.

And this is the Apricotology donut.
In a nutshell it's an apricot fritter. And despite finding a hair in our first one, the second one was rather tastey (especially the top and the edges). It didn't really taste much like apricot, but it was a good fritter.

This place was pretty good. It's really just a novelty donut place that is an interesting"stumble upon" find, but I really wouldn't go out of my way to get a donut here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

WingTown Cafe--Oakland

"Let me at 'em!" If you could read my mind while I'm in the presence of WingTown's wings, this is what you'd hear me say.

It's disgusting really, my obsession for these wings. They're just so irresistible. Maybe it's the way their inferno wings aren't drowning in overly vinegary buffalo sauce, maybe it's the tang of their lemon pepper wings, maybe it's the way the smell of the wings make me salivate uncontrollably as I'm driving my to-go order home, or maybe it's because they're so crispy, but never greasy making me feel less guilty about eating nearly a dozen of them in one sitting--Ok, now I'm just defending my inner (yet ever present) fat kid.

Friday, March 18, 2011


These days seem to be going by rather quickly. Which is why it's nice to getaway once in a while to a place where time seems to stand still. A place surrounded by rolling green hills, nature, wine, great food, and extremely friendly people. This past weekend, Matt and I took a relaxing trip to the North Bay to explore Yountville and other parts of Napa. (The above picture was taken behind the Yountville Dean & Deluca. Looks like something out of the French countryside doesn't it?) This is going to be a rather long post, since I have so many pictures to share.

Speaking of Dean & Deluca, I had been pestering Matt about coming here since we started planning the trip. I don't know what my obsession is with this store, it's probably because I'm notorious for being willing to pay gross amounts of money on "specialty" food items, especially cookies and candies. That, plus I just really enjoy the layout and the feel of the store.

I was hard to resist picking up some cold cuts for a nice little picnic since we were lucky enough to catch the good weather, but we had to save our appetite for what would be a delicious and very hearty lunch.

I adore the presentations of their desserts! They're so creative and just so darn cute.

Ok, so we did walk out of the store with a few things--cheesecake caramels and nougat.

We probably could have stayed at Dean & Deluca for a little while longer but to avoid buying anymore goodies, we made a quick getaway and left with about 10% of what we had originally had in our hands. Matt and I made it to our lunch spot a little early, so we walked around the property to look at some of the small lettuce and herb plots they had growing around the side of and behind the restaurant. We even found a tree swing! That pretty much occupied our 15 minutes before the restaurant opened.

I really like the concept of Farmstead. They feature farm to table meals using seasonal and local ingredients in each dish. From the veggies, to the herbs, to the meat, everything comes from either Long Meadow Ranch or other local purveyors. To me it was like cozy, hearty, farm house food but dressed up. I could totally see myself becoming a farmer if this was fed to me on a daily basis.

"Potted Pig"
This was such an amazing appetizer. It was a pork riette with a fat cap on top served with honey mustard and crispy, buttery crostini. I could have seriously sat here all day drinking wine and eating potted pig.

I had the gnocchi with beef ragu.
Very well prepared gnocchi with tender beef and tangy, rich tomato sauce.

LMR Burger.
Best burger ever. Both Matt and I have had our fair share of $15+ burgers that weren't worth their money, but this burger is a different story. I could taste the burger before I even took a bite. It smelled so rich and beefy--it was delicious. And the potatoes with the fried sage were also amazing. I'm definitely a French fry person, but these potatoes really caught me off guard and I didn't miss the fries at all.

Lunch was so filling that we could barely fit anything else in our bellies...including wine. But we were in Napa, and this is what we came for--the food and wine.

We tasted some really great local olive oils, sauces, balsamic vinegars, and many different types of imported salts. We even picked up a few jars of heirloom tomato sauce and butternut squash sauce. Both were well worth it.

Robert Mondavi
I know you see Robert Mondavi everywhere. It's no secret that it's massed produced and some even talk down on the quality of wine. But like it's other mass produced competitor, Gallo, they were among the first to produce wine in Napa Valley and that deserves a great amount of respect and recognition. Plus, if you're a fan of the pricey Opus One wine you'll be surprised to learn that Opus one is a joint venture between Robert Mondavi and Baron Phillippe de Rothschild.

Robert Mondavi has a beautiful property, with hectares and hectares of vineyards located at the foot of Napa's rolling green hills.
It's a great way to enjoy a glass of wine and maybe a picnic...if we weren't so full.

After all that food and wine we were experiencing a serious food coma and decide to go back to the hotel to rest up before dinner at Bouchon.

The moment that I had been waiting for all day, Bouchon! A visit to Napa wouldn't be complete without a visit to a Thomas Keller creation, right? It's no French Laundry, but we're slowly (VERY slowly) eating out way up the restaurant hierarchy.
I love brasserie food. I guess what I really mean is that I love a good steak frites.

The seating is a bit snug, but not quite as snug and uncomfortable as Les Halles in New York. And the food was much better, especially the fries.

A bottle of Chateauneuf-du Pape that we brought with us, and thank goodness we did because a bottle from the same estate would have cost us double at Bouchon.

Lobster Bisque.
This had really deep lobster flavor, and the lobster croquette was so good. I don't know if it's just because I haven't had lobster in a long time of if this was really THAT good. But we pretty much licked the plate clean.

Matt had the Berkshire Pork Loin

And I of course had the Steak Frites.
The flat iron steak was cooked to a perfect med. rare, and maybe even a little under that which was great. And there was a MOUNTAIN of perfectly cooked fries. I don't know if Thomas Keller would be insulted by this, but they were like McDonald's fries that held their crisp better. I was in French fry heaven.

Pot du Creme with Lime Curd
Delicious. I'm a sucker for custards and really any dessert with an eggy taste, and this went really well with the thick, tangy, lime curd cap.
I usually don't drink coffee (mostly because Starbucks' sour coffee has turned me off to all coffee), but if it's at a nice restaurant I'm usually compelled to get a cup because I know I won't be disappointed.

I have to say, this was a rather successful trip!
I have a feeling we'll be going back to Napa real soon.