Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Redeeming "Bee"

I don't know why it seems China Bee gets such a bum rap for Taiwanese fare on the Peninsula. Their shrimp fried rice definitely has that TW taste. And they even have a pretty good version of Hakka small fry (pictured below). I think maybe it's because most people want beef noodle soup and oyster pancake when they want Taiwanese?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mission Street Food Take 2

The last time I went to MSF, they ran out of food and by the time we got a table, I was drunk. This time I was determined to do differently. We got there at 6:30 to put our names on the list. We didn't get a table until 9PM. Crazy. At least they didn't run out of food. We had meant to only order three things and a dessert but ended up with more. Lager-Braised Sausage with cannelini beans, scallions and garlic confit - $8.5 pictured left. I loved the beans here.

PB&J: Berkshire Kurobuta Pork Belly and marinated Jicama with pickled jalapeno and cilantro aioli - $6.5. This was one of the dishes that we didn't need but added as our tablemates' looked so good. One of MSF's signature dishes for a good reason. Porky goodness all around.

Scallop Crudo with Beer-Carbonated Pomelo, Fennel, and Upland Cress - $8. We also didn't order this one but was given to our table. I didn't love this dish and usually I love raw-ish scallops. The beer infused pomelo slices were just weird and the strong raw beer taste on the scallops wasn't good either. A miss.

Caramelized Maitake Mushrooms with Farro, Grape, Walnut, and Malt-Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette - $8. Sherri liked it. It's mushroom and she liked it. 'Nuff said.

Brown Ale Brisket, with potato pancake and caramelized onion compote - $10. This was divine. And that onion compote- tasted like a sour cream and onion chip!

Buttermilk Pannacotta with Coney Island Lager Funnel Cake and Malt powdered sugar - $7. This was delicious and too bad we were too full to really enjoy. The pannacotta was melt-in-your-mouth. And how can you go wrong with fried batter?

A Pig for Taiwanese

I woke up Saturday thinking... slow braised pig trotters. Luckily, David's birthday gave me an excuse to indulge. We went to Taste of Formosa as it was the closest place to find such fare. My other recent jaunts to Taste of Formosa had been rather disappointing but this time it redeemed itself. Chittering stuffed with sticky rice was perfect. I liked the peanuts inside.

Oyster pancake. Gooey perfection. The addition of sprouts, although unorthodox, didn't detract.
Sesame oil chicken soup was really comforting and healing on a cold, blustering day. Lots of ginger too.
A-tsai sauteed with garlic. Clean and crisp counterpoint to all the heavier dishes.
The object which we came for - braised pig trotter. Falling apart good yet still some Q-ness to the skin. I like ones that have a bit more star anise flavour to them but this was still nice.

It's Da Wings!

We've been craving Kezar wings and our cravings were satisfied on St Pattty's Day. The puppies are juicy yet crisp on the outside with a sauce that is fantastic and not too vinegary.

Monday, March 16, 2009

High End Burger At Home

After my cooking injury, I wanted a comforting burger but it seemed silly to pay $15 for a good burger in this economy. I convinced Angeles we could make it at home (well, she could do the actual cooking) for a fraction of the cost. Looks pretty good, huh? This was easy... 80% lean ground beef and brioche buns from Trader Joes. We added half a packet of onion soup mix and an egg to the meat and made two honking patties. Cooked on the grill pan til medium with a bit of white cheddar on top. Oh, and the fries are from McDonald's bought fresh from the fryer when the burger was almost done.

That Injury Inducing Dinner

I accidentally seared the palm of my hand while searing pork chops. Cooking - it's a dangerous activity. So while I'm sidelined from my kitchen for a bit while my burn blisters mellow into battle scars I can be proud of, let's recap the meal that incurred the damage. We wanted to make a low-key and delicious dinner which means for us... no recipes, no long hours of prep and actual cooking, and no days of brining. We decided to make pork chops a la NOPA with some red kale and an appetizer of fried chicken livers a la SPQR.
The prep for the chicken livers before frying. It was potato flour mixed with panko and finely chopped sage leaves, slat, and pepper. The livers were double dipped before frying. Oh, and we "washed" the livers with left over Chinese matou liqueur that we deemed too firewater-ish to drink to cleanse any stinkiness away.
The delcious fried result: livery goodness sprinkled with a bit of lemon juice!
Our beautiful kale before saute.
I soaked the pork chops in a can of apple cider for a bout 20 minutes before cooking.
The result: double thick pork chops pan seared and finished in the oven with a light sauce by deglazing the pan with a bit of Morgon and reduced with balsamic vinegar and honey. It was served on a bed of sauteed kale.

Monday, March 9, 2009

My Own BNS

Due to the lack of good TW style BNS around and the torrents of rain lately, I decided to try my hand at making my own. Not bad, not bad at all. I could work on the broth next time as I took the lazy way out and used canned. But the meat I got down. The trick is to start with a whole beef banana shank. I cooked it for two hours on low heat with the following:
Dark Soy
Shaoxing wine
5 spice powder
Rock Sugar
Star anise
I then chilled the meat for easier slicing. The meat came out tender and full of flavour. It had the necessary fat, melted tendon, and meat composition. The noodles were fresh yang tsuen noodles I got from Ranch 99 in the refrigerated section. I took some of the stewing liquid to add to beef broth (canned), tossed in some sour pickled cabbage, and a little scallion on top.

Trial and Error

A friend of mine is opening a new restaurant, A5 Steak Lounge, in the old Frisson space. They were having a "Friends and Family" trial dinners so Wil and I decided to check it out. The space looks pretty much the same as when it was Frisson except they got rid of the cool orange upholstery and changed u pthe fabrics a bit. Our first course was the hamachi shooters (above, left). The glass they came in were too tall to really shoot them. All the staff raved about them as being "amazing" (as did A5's shillers on Yelp). We thought they were just okay.

Next dish was the side of broccoli rabe. This was done very poorly. No carmelization of the vegetables and topped with cheese.

This was the crab poppers (sorry poor pic). The frying was just right - light and crisp and the crab remained succulent. The sauce was nice and tangy too. But please do something with the name. So far in the meal, we've had a "shooter" and a "popper" - I feel like I'm eating at TGIFridays or Applebees with the nomenclature.

The seabass was delicious. The fish was flakey and juicy. The bit of fried shallot on top was just the right textural contrast. The saucing was a tad saltly for me, but we won't nit pick.

Finally our rib eye. Odd that they pre-slice for you. But I guess maybe as a bar bite. The done-ness was right (medium rare), but can you see the piece of gristle right in the middle of our steak? Yep, that middle piece is all gristle! WOw, for a steak place, someone is not trimming the meat properly or using meat that should be scrapped. Also the salting on this piece of meat was intense. I felt like I needed a kidney flush after eating a piece. In fact, we ordered beers to help quell the saltiness.

The restaurant needs a lot of polishing before they are ready for primetime both in the food preps but also the service - it was hilarious amateur hour.

Pisces Power Birthday Brunch

It's a classic meal for anytime, but for the last three years Wil and I have celebrated our birthdays (yay, Feb fishies) at Zuni Cafe with bloody marys, oysters, and burgers. This time the burgers were better as the soggy, greasy foccaicas were replaced by buns. Even though the buns were not very traditionally "bun-like", they still handled the fat from the meat better. Wil still likes Nopa's burger better and I still like Cafe Rouge's the best, but there is something about Zuni....

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Q, Spa, and Gravy

The eating for my birthday weekend up in Napa and Calistoga was decadent indeed. Intense eating interspersed with drinking and spa treatments - we once again rivaled the Kobe cows. Lunch was at Barber's Q. Malia and Sherri ordered pulled pork sandwiches pictured left.

Mac'n'cheese for the table
My beautiful half a rack of baby back ribs.
The towering ice cream with hot fudge sundae
After hours of drinking, massaging, and skin rejuvenating, we had dinner at the restaurant of our spa resort, Solage, called Solbar. Their bread basket was fantastic and I'm not one for bread usually. The cheese biscuits we had to ask for extras.
We ordered and order of sliders as appetizer for the table. They weren't exactly "mini". But the onion sauteed down was almost like a chutney is melted consistency.
My entree of crispy skin chicken with root veggies was perfectly done.
Malia and Mary Ann both got the NY Strip
Sherri's pan seared salmon
Unfortunately, the dinner pictures didn't come out too well and it wasn't even my camera phone but my old trusty Canon Powershot. Maybe it's time for a new camera?

Breakfast was all about sausage gravy for me. I had the country fried steak.
We also ordered a side of biscuits and gravy for the table.
Needless to say, I am on a strict veggie diet this week and working out everyday to rectify the caloric damage done by the weekend of eating. But oh, it was worth it.... A moment on the lips, forever on the hips, bu also forever in my memory and soul.

More Northern Style Noodling

Another recipe from Wei Zhong's Sister's Military Village Food (偉忠姐姐的眷村菜). The great thing about theses recipes is that because they are from military villages in Taiwan from a time when people didn't have much money or resources right after WWII, they are perfect low cost meals for the current economic climate. This dish is called ruo si gan ban (or shredded pork dry mix). The "mix" is is mixing the ingredients with noodles over a dry wok. Easy to make, delicious, and very comforting.

.25 lb of pork cut into tiny strips
2 big handfuls of spinach leaves
1.5 Tb of pork fat or rendering ( I used duck fat)
2 eggs beaten
1 package of fresh ramen or pulled noodles
3 Tb of chopped scallions
Soy sauce paste and salt to taste
Cooking oil (I used canola)

In a wok or skillet, heat a drop cooking oil to cook the beaten egg as if you were making an omlette. Cook until barely set and remove from pan. In another pot with boilign water, add the noodles, pork, and spinach and cook until just done (about 3-5 minutes). The the wok or skillet, heat up the pork fat and toss in the scallions and soy sauce paste. Saute until fragant. Slice the omelette into strips. Strain out the noodles, pork, and spinach from the water. Add all the ingredients into the wok. Toss until even and serve.