Thursday, July 28, 2011


How charming is this place?  One girl woman-ing the kitchen in a place that barely seats four on bar stools over looking the open kitchen with two small picnic tables outside.

If you ever drive by and think to yourself, "Huh, that looks like a cute place to stop by for food."  My advice is...GO!

Originally, we came out to get food to go since we had driven by this several times and it seemed like the perfect grab-n-go place.  But a picnic table opened up outside and we thought, "Why not?".  So we braved the cold, Matt in his basketball shorts and I of course, also not dressed for the weather, in a t-shirt.

Fried anchovies with sweet and spicy sauce.

I'm really not a huge fan of fish bones, and surely anchovies are full of tiny, throat sticking fish bones.  But the sweetness of anchovies is something that I absolutely cannot pass up.  If you've never had fresh anchovies, they're quite a treat.  It's definitely not something that I would eat everyday, but it's nice to be reminded once in a while of how sweet fish is supposed to taste.

My only complaint is that I would have preferred the fish be fried a little longer; they were a little limp.  I thought they were going to come out stiff as french fries, but that was definitely not the case.  Nonetheless, they were really addictive and the sauce was really tasty as well.

The second little package to arrive at our table was the slow cooked pork.  It was literally fall apart soft.  And the barbecue sauce that was gently brushed on top and served on the side was sweet and make the perfect companion to the pork.

And can we talk about the slaw for a second?  That was probably one of my favorite parts of the meal.  It was slightly tangy and it cut through any kind of fat that the pork had, making you want to take endless bites of the pork.  Phenomenal.

This was by far the best part of the meal.  The fried potato balls.  Lightly fried balls of smooth mashed potatoes, really?! Who came up with this?  It was so incredible.  The mashed potatoes almost had the consistency of peanut butter--stick to your mouth creamy and thick.  It was just so unbelievably simple but it was so darn good.  I think we're going to put the fryer that I got for Matt a year ago back into commission and the first thing going in the hot oil will my my recreation of these.

Done. Deal.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Honey Panna Cotta

I guess I could lie and tell you that I made the most amazing panna cotta there ever was, but then that would be so inaccurate that even I couldn't bring myself to tell it.

You know, you never hear about the recipes that have gone awry, do you?  Every recipe ever documented in the history of mankind seems to be perfect and delicious.  But as it turns out, the only thing not perfect and delicious about it is you recreating the recipe.  Well, isn't that just...perfect. 

I've been meaning to make panna cotta for a very long time now.  After all, it is one of my favorite desserts.  I'm really quite predictable when it comes to eating out: I always get the dessert menu.  If panna cotta is on it, in any shape or form (especially if it's vanilla bean), I have to have it.  If panna cotta isn't on it, then I can do without dessert...that is all of course only the rule of thumb if we're not at some celebrity chef, ritzy place where I MUST try everything.  

Anyways, I thought I'd try my hand at making the darn thing since everyone had been telling me how simple it is to make.  To be quite honest, I was intimidated by the thought of ruining my favorite dessert.  Can you imagine the devastation? (Yeah, I's all too real).

I guess I'm making it sound far more dramatic than it actually is.  

It's edible, even slightly enjoyable, but it's definitely not what I had in mind. 

The good news is that I know exactly what I'm going to change about the recipe the moment I lick clean that very last ramekin.  

Even though this isn't my favorite recipe, I thought I'd just tell you about it anyways since you may like rich panna cotta that is on the firmer side.

So here goes, Honey Panna Cotta (recipe taken from Tartelette): 

Makes 4-6 servings
(about 15 minutes of active prep)

1 Tbs powdered gelatin (or two sheets)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
garnish with your favorite fruit or preserves

Dissolve the gelatin in the water and set aside
Pour the heavy cream and the honey into a saucepan and let it come to a simmer
One the cream mixture is hot, remove from heat and whisk in the gelatin until dissolved
Add the buttermilk and gently whisk
Pour the panna cotta mixture into ramekins and let cool at room temperature for at least 20 minutes
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to allow the mixture to set

Kona and I waiting eagerly for the panna cotta to set.  He was probably a little less excited than I was...

I topped it with fresh blueberries and chopped raw pistachios.

Like I said, it wasn't that bad!  It just had a different texture and flavor than what I had in mind.  In fact, this was a smooth, milky dessert that was perfectly perfumed by the honey.  It was incredibly simple to make and clean up was also very easy.

For round two of the panna cotta trials, I'm going to nix the buttermilk and go either skim milk or half and half and I'm definitely using less gelatin.  The buttermilk made the panna cotta too heavy and taste far too rich and it set up a little too firm for me; I wanted it to be slightly leaning towards a custard or a pudding instead of a jello.  Live and learn.

I'm definitely looking forward to making this again and hopefully it will turn out as delicious as ones that I've had on dessert menus!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pizza and Vegan Paparadelle

There are just some foods that never get old.

We've walked by Gather in Berkeley several times, we always make a mental note and then that mental note gets lost in oblivion and it's like Gather never existed.  But a recent craving for pizza and wine brought us back to this always-packed-vegan-friendly restaurant right near UC Berkeley.  

Yes, I did say "vegan friendly".  Ok, so I'm not the biggest fan of vegan food.  I've probably mentioned this more than enough times for you to get the picture but hey, if every vegan restaurant you went to slapped you with a $30 per person bill and you left still hungry and wanting a huge slab of cow, you wouldn't be a huge fan either.

Let's start with the pizza first and then I'll tell you the story of how two very carnivorous people ended up with a vegan pasta.

I'm a sucker for eggs, bacon, pizza, and funny looking foods that smell delicious.  Well then, I guess I just gave away all the shining details of Gather's Nepalese style pizza.

This was both Matt and my first time trying pizza with an egg on it.  We've definitely been meaning to either try it at a pizza place or make one ourselves but I'm almost certain that Gather has convinced us that as good as pizza is, it with out doubt is made better topped off with an egg baked right into the cheese and the sauce.  Normally, I'm a die-hard for thin crust pizzas.  I feel cheated when most of my pizza is dough and not toppings but this dough was amazing (that of course is minus the burnt parts)--it had the sweetness of well-made bread and it was light and airy.

Don't judge, but I even considered not finishing the pizza so that I could have it again for breakfast...that thought only lasted a brief second before I engulfed the final slice of pizza and walked out with the rest of the crust as we hurried to our car whose meter was about to run out.

Surely, this would have made an excellent breakfast.

So this is where the non-adventurous/ suckers for paparadelle get scammed: it was vegan.  I guess scammed is the wrong word to use since that usually implies that those who got scammed were not happy with the result, but we, on the other hand, were incredibly amazed and pleased with the outcome.

See vegan pasta means no eggs, and since pasta usually translates to dough made with eggs, the chef at Gather got creative and the "pasta" was actually strips of bean curd sheets cut into the shape of paparadelle.  Impressive, huh?  I am a huge fan of bean curd, and although the price was a little high for bean curd strips it was definitely a surprisingly good one time experience.  Not to mention the vegetable ragu was so flavorful that I forgot I was eating vegan.

If there was one thing I regret not trying at Gather it would be the squash blossoms.  The thing is though, if you regret not ordering something that regret will tend to steer you back in that restaurant's direction. So, I guess I'll be seeing you again very soon, Gather.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


It's definitely been a while since I've cooked but every time I do, I love it. 

Cilantro chimichurri on skirt steak with garlic lime broccolini. 

I had this crazy craving for chimichurri and skirt steak that just would not go away and the only way to cure that craving was to start cooking.  The thing that I love about chimichurri is that it's incredibly flavorful and easy to make--just pop a few ingredients into a food processor and the outcome is an amazing sauce.

2 1/2 cups lightly pack cilantro, most of the stems removed (I find that adding the stems often times gives the chimichurri and off-putting bitterness, especially if the cilantro has thick stems)
5 large cloves garlic
2-3 scallions (if they're larger then two will do, but if they're small then I'd opt for three)
6-7 large leaves of mint
1 jalapeno (I like to leave the seeds and the membrane so that it has a little more of a kick, but you can remove it if you want a milder spice)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
the juice of 1/2 a juicy lime (or to taste)
the zest of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste

1 avocado

Roughly chop the cilantro, mint, scallions, jalapeno and the garlic. (I find that it blends better when you rough chop the ingredients first)
Add to food processor along with the juice and zest of the time
Turn on the food processor, if you choose to add an avocado, cut it into quarters add in
Puree the ingredients and slowly add the olive oil until it comes together almost like a salad dressing

I've also made a different version of chimichurri before here without using a blender or a food processor, so its definitely possible but it takes a little more elbow grease.  After making this version, I think I like the texture of the more "rustic" version.  To make the sauce without a food processor, finely chop all the ingredients, put them in a bowl, add the olive oil and the lime juice and zest, stir, and let it sit out at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes (or while you're making the protein) so that the flavors can come together and serve.

This is an incredibly healthy way to add tons of flavor to your meal.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


We had a great time in Sonoma this past weekend, and though I've been fighting my phone to get so-so quality photos from the trip, I finally got them.  Well, some of them.  I'll save you the sad details and jump right into a few photos from Sonoma.

I didn't believe it when people told me that I would like Sonoma a lot more than Napa, but I think they're right.  The crowd in Sonoma is much younger, the restaurants are more open to experiment with different flavor profiles and combinations, and most of the wine tastings are complementary.  What could be better than that?  Be warned though, that if you visit Sonoma during the summer, it is hot.  But it's much better than this cold weather we've been having in the city.  Summer in Sonoma seems like the perfect place for a picnic and a great chilled wine.  

The view from the Arrowwood Winery balcony

White chocolate truffle with Himalayan sea salt and fleur de sel chocolate caramels at HKG
(Chocolate and wine pairing.  We got a voucher from our first stop at VJB)
I was thoroughly impressed by both the food (since all the chocolates, desserts, and savory foods are made in-house) and the wines at HKG.  The salt on the chocolates really brought out the flavor of the chocolate and the wines and I've had a serious fleur de sel craving ever since.

Squid ink ravioli with chorizo and halibut

We couldn't resist but to bring a few thing back from Sonoma.  We'll definitely have to go back since this time we didn't have dinner and there are so many other wineries we would love to try.  O and the Glen Ellen Market is definitely a place I want to go back to.

Salami, olives, and cheese from the Glen Ellen Market

The fleur de sel chocolate caramels and white chocolate truffles with Himalayan sea salt from HKG winery.

Sugo Baldoria from VJB.  We got a few other things as well but we haven't unpacked them from the tissue paper yet so I thought I'd just shoot this one first.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pakistani Food

This past weekend Matt and I went to Sonoma for the first time and had an amazing experience--the sun was out, it was hot, the people were young and friendly, and it was just a great day trip.  We had no idea that most of the tastings were complementary.  Definitely good reason to go back.  Anyways, that was supposed to be the post for today, but I'm having trouble taking the photos off of my phone so it's going to have to wait until tomorrow.  Until then, I wanted to post a few photos of what we had for dinner tonight because I was so impressed by the food.  

We actually haven't had Indian food or Pakistani food in a really long time and it's because we ate way too much of it in Orange County.  I always get a food coma afterwards which is why I always end up choosing something else.  But after attempting to eat healthier (this would be diet day numero uno) and then thinking about chocolate cake and panna cotta all day, today felt like a good day for something very substantial like naan, paratha, and curry. 

Matt had been talking about this place that he and his dad went to for Father's Day.  He raved about the curry and had been wanting to take me there ever since, but again, one can only eat so much curry in a month.

Kabana in Berkeley.  

I have a thing for green sauces

Mango Lassi 

Crispy fried bread.  I think I prefer this to naan, but of course Matt disagrees.

Potato and Eggplant Curry

I think the only way I'd survive vegetarianism is if all I ate were flavorful curries.  When people ask me if I'd ever become a vegetarian or a vegan, I usually say, "Nope, not a chance. There's probably a greater chance of me winning the lottery. HA"  I could never go without meat, how could you go through life not eating perfectly med-rare steaks, salumi, and bacon? Insanity.   

Well, now I know how.  You come here, and you eat curry.

Goat Curry

Call me crazy, but I have a thing against goat meat.  It's a very strong and passionate thing. 
All throughout high school, I volunteered at the children's zoo, and it's really not because I think goats are cute and cuddly and that's why I don't eat them, but it's more that they (like goat or sheep's cheese) taste like the way they look and smell--old and barnyard-y.  Have you ever been to a petting zoo? 

Anyways, that's why I'm highly turned off by any type of meat from that family of animals.  But like always, even knowing I'm not a huge fan, Matt plops a piece of goat meat on my plate and I don't have the heart to turn it down.  I bite the bullet and try the goat thinking that I would just hold my breath, chew really fast, and swallow before it ever gets the chance to touch my taste buds. To my surprise, it was very meaty but it had not a single old, goaty flavor at all--it was actually really good.  Once I got past the, "'s smelly goat..." psychological aspect of it, I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of goat meat in that curry.  And on top of that, the curry itself was perfectly spicy, balanced, and full of flavor. 

As I was telling Matt though, this place doesn't have me fooled for one second.  I still have not been converted to eating goat meat but if there were ever a place I'd have it again, it would only be here.


Friday, July 8, 2011

4th of july family barbeque

We had a small 3rd of July barbeque at the house this past weekend instead of a 4th of July one because my parents had another barbeque with friends on the 4th.  It was a grilling bonanza. 
Our fridge is still filled with grilled chicken wings, steaks and veggies.  But who am I to complain?

It was a nice, relaxing Sunday.  We sat out in the sun and ate from 3pm until the sun went down, there's really nothing better than that.  I think I also got sun burned, which never happens! I never get sun burned.  I used to sit out in the sun for hours on end in southern California and there wouldn't be a red patch of skin on my body.  But for some reason, this time, in San Francisco, I get sun burned.  Strange. 
Chicken wings, zucchini, and a test skewer of chicken gizzard.  I love all things skewered.  Although a little dry, I still thought the gizzard turned out well.  But we decided that we would much rather save them for another day and make drunken gizzard instead.
The view from half way up the stairs in my backyard.  I'm deathly afraid of heights, especially when I have to walk up stairs with gaps in between them.  And I guess it's not so much the height that scares me, it's the thought of having to come back down that I'm terrified of.  But anyways, isn't it nice?  If I had climbed up a little higher you would be able to see a little bit of the ocean--the top of the stairs is an excellent place to watch the sun set. 

Moscato D'Asti that I picked up from work.  It's perfect for sipping outdoors, and it was a hit at the barbeque.

Even though the 4th of July has long passed, it's never a bad time to grill so I thought I'd throw in our family's chicken wing marinade.  It's really simply, flavorful, and affordable--it's made from ingredients that are staples in every Chinese household.

11/2 lbs chicken wings, rinsed
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbs sesame oil
2 tbs brandy
11/2 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
pinch of white pepper
2 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs minced ginger
1tsp fish sauce

You can marinade the wings for as little as 1 hour to as long as over night. 
For as long as I can remember, we've been using the same marinade recipe for grilling chicken so it's very nostalgic for me whenever we fire up the grill and throw these wings on.