Thursday, June 21, 2007

Duan Wu

As part of my program to make all my non-Chinese friends celebrate Chinese holidays (aka Mei-lin'gs Chinese Assimilation Program), I had some people over for Duan Wu Festival also known as Dragon Boat Festival. As this was mere days post my BarBersQ gorging, I wasn't (and still am not) at a point where I could stand the idea of heavy food. As zhong zi are mounds of swticky rice with meat and such and not exactly known for their lightness, I decided to have simple veggies on the side.

Here's the Chinese broccoli I sauteed up with a bit of coarse salt and lots of crushed garlic.
I bought at Ranch 99 some marinated mustard greens with edamame and dreid tofu.

And also some seaweed salad.

I had briefly toyed with idea of making my own zhong zi. But was glad I decided to go the lazy route and buy pre-made. I can't begin to imagine making these when under Kobe Cow Bloating disease. I had gotten two kinds - Taiwanese and Cantonese, both savoury. The Taiwanese had pork, peanuts, mushroom. The Catonese had pork, duck egg yolk, and sausage.
Here's a closeup of the inside of the Taiwanese kind.
The Taiwanese style had more flavour and darker colouring of the rice. It also had more contrast in flavour and texture between the meat, mushroom, and peanut. This is not to say that we didn't enjoy Cantonese version. But I think if push comes to shove, we agreed we'd take the Taiwanese. And it wasn't biased because I'm Taiwanese.

The most shocking part of the meal came when I presented my guests with... dessert! Yes, you heard right. I, Miss Anti-Dessert, bought dessert for this occasion. On my way out of Ranch 99, I saw the display case at Sogo and was intrigued. I ended up buying a slice of their tiramisu and a slice of their mango mousse. I have a pre-conceived biased against zhong zi as being one dimensional and heavy so I think I wanted to introduce some other flavours in the coursing of the dinner.
Both dessert were light and airy. Pretty damn good for being a dessert! I do like how pretty they looked with their striped foil wrapping.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Visiting BarBersQ (aka The Kobe Cow Experential Project)

First off, I have never in my life been so over-indulged that two days later, I still can barely look at food. Secondly, I need to document the fact that Wil and I on Sunday late afternoon, for the very first time in our collective gastronomically indulgent lives, turned down prosciutto. Thirdly, I want to thank the man that made all this madness possible... our fav chef, our Ole Miss... Chef Stephen Barber. Without him, Maggie, Wil, and I would have never klnown what it feels like to be a kobe cow/duck for foie. We gorged and drank like we were being prepped for slaughter.
For those of you who do not know, Stephen has recently opened his restaurant, BarBersQ, in Napa. The concept is American BBQ, heritage cuisine elevated with artisnal, local ingredients with some modern flourishes. Stephen set us up with a tasting menu of sorts made up of dishes from the regular menu.

Course 1: BBQ'ed Oyster and Fried Key West Shrimp.
We liked the saucing on the oysters and never had BBQ'ed oysters that are smaller and more concentrated in flavour as these. I personally find the big, fleshy oysters one usually encounters for BBQ sort of gross and mealy. We LOVED the shrimp. Fried to perfection and sweet as August Jersey corn. The panko crust was crispy. The tartar sauce had just enough kick to contrast nicely with the sweetness of the shrimp. Fresh, good quality shrimp can be such a revelation!

Course 2: Mini sandwich sampler
Stephen has meal size sandwiches on the menu but in order for us to try them all, we got the baby version sampler platter - pulled pork, short rib, and lamb (from left to right on the photo). The saucing and the tenderness on the pulled pork could not be beat. I was liking the horseradish sauce on the short rib sandwich, and Maggie raved about the freshness and spicing of the lamb. I only tried the Carolina style vinegar sauce (which I liked). Wil, Maggie -comments on other sauces???

Course 3: Beef Brisket with Onion Rings

While I generally prefer pork over beef for BBQ, we were silent from eating for this rendition of beef brisket. The red onion rings were crispy and light. The meat so tender one really didn't need teeth for the dish.

Course 4: Biscuit with country ham and pepper jelly

We have gone over this before... I hate bread; but biscuits are another story. Full of flavour and brightened by scallions, I could eat these all day if I had the four stomachs of a real cow. Country ham - the real deal. Tastes like prosciutto (which is a honorific label if there ever was one) with the pepper jelly that had the perfect wisp of heat. This was also the last dish we finished every morsel of. Going forward, we couldn't polish off the plates as we knew we needed to pace ourselves.

Course 5: Babyback ribs

These were meltingly tender, spiced from a dry rub with a thin coat of saucing for finish. The smoke rings and color on these were beautiful - almost like the rich hues of sepia, burnt umber, and dusty pink of sediment layers found in red rocks. We each had two or so pieces and really wanted to eat more. But this was when Stepehen informed us that he had fired a whole chicken that was coming next. We had to hold off. I was hitting the marathon eating wall.

Course 6: Mac'n'cheese
I'm a pretty tough critic of mac'n'cheese (just ask anyone who's had my version). This was good in that the pasta still had some bite to it. Pretty browning on the top. And the peas and country ham bits really added dimension and smokiness. Despite the high caliber of this rendition, Wil and I could only manage a bite each. Maggie, the true champ that she is, soldiered on.

Course 7: Cornbread with honey butter

I had a smidge. Was similar to the ones I had from Stepehen before. But one can really taste the sweetness of the corn. They have their own corn meal milled from fresh. No wonder...

Course 8: Vinegar Chicken
We all agreed the most succulent chicken any of us ever had. There was still crispiness to the skin despite the saucing. And the vinegard sauce just made us want to lick the platter. Alas, I could only manage to eat one piece. I think Maggie and Wil both did two pieces. Wil was devouring the left-over of these later around midnight.
Move over Zuni... there's a new chicken god in town!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Course 9: Key lime pie
Refreshing and tart with an airy whipped cream/creme fraiche. I also like the graininess of the crust. But again, I'm not a good judge of dessert.

We were all stuffed. Wil and I joked about purging. Maggie, our eating champ, had prepped for this by having a decent sized breakfast as ready her stomach capacity. We're a bunch of sick, food obsessed maniacs. I am not even going to go into our dinner of appetizers and drinks at Press and a whole charceuterie and cheese board/tray from Dean and Deluca except to say that this was not the end of the force feeding/drinking.

Thanks again to Stephen, the evil genius farmer/owner of Kobe Cows Wil, Maggie, and Victoria (pictured below looking so innocent with his lovely girl, Tiffany).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I visited Piqueo for the first time over the past weekend. It's a cute place up in Bernal Heights in the old Moki's space and has the same owners as Mochica.

I really liked the feel of the space and the small neighborhood vibe of the restaurant. We decided to order a bunch of small plates to share washed down with a pitcher of sangria. Below are my fuzzy, camera phone pics.

Choritos a la Chalaca

Humita Dulce con Shrimp Curry Sauce

Bolitas de Yuca Relenas con Queso

I have to say my favourite was the yuca balls. The unexpected combination of yuca with cheese was really great. They were also fired to perfection and not greasy at all. Heaven!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Saha with Sherri

Sherri has a deck of restaurant discount cards that we wanted to test drive and decided to check out Saha which we've heard quite a lot about. Sometimes hotel restaurants seem too corporate but this was really charming. I was all about the fabric they hung up on the ceilings to create "magic carpets."

The lighting fixtures were also very cool. Up on the ceiling were recessed lights that were made to look like sky lights. But going to the food.... I think I am not a fan of Middle Eastern fusion. The falvours of sweet with fish and nuts was just not great for me. Especially some of the sweet was sort of pungent. We had a salmon baklava, a chicken appetizer dish that I couldn't really taste the chicken of, and a sea bass entree.

Catching up with NOPA

I haven't posted in a couple of weeks and need to play catch-up a bit. A couple of Saturdays ago I went to NOPA with E and some friends from London. Our reservation was on the later side, but I do like eating dinner out late on weekends. Reminds me of NYC. This was the third time I've been to NOPA. I love the space - airy, open, and bustling. Makes me giggle when I think about how I used to walk by this place all the time and G and I would talk about what it would be like if we opened a lounge there.

E had the lamb entree.

Anyway, I was sad to see no lamb riblets. That had been my favourite dish there. But I got over my disappointment quickly enough after we got our wine. We had a flatbread appetizer and some other one that was forgettable enough now that I cannot recall what it was. Overall I felt somewhat blase about the appetizers we had. For entrees we had the follwoing (really bad camera phone pics):

E had the lamb entree and T had the roast chicken.

A had the fish.

And I had the pork chop.
My pork chop was juicy and succulent. Just barely pink with clear juices. There was a honey sauce on top that made it extra divine. The entree saved the meal for me. Now if only the pictures were better.