Thursday, April 30, 2009

There's Something About La Ciccia

La Ciccia is one of the best spots in town these days with its ever-changing, inventive yet rustic menu, friendly vibe, and good wines. Our latest visit was no different. This grilled sardine dish was aromatic and the drippings were to die for. We sopped up every drop with bread. I love fresh sardines.

Pasta with squid ink. Full of umami. Almost to the point of too salty but not there. It takes you right to that brink of fullness in flavour. The firm pasta was a great carrrier for the intense sauce.
Prawns with pureed white bean. The prawns were sweet and meaty. There was little done (or needed) to distract from the freshness of the prawns.
Sauteed red cabbage. Solid version that is less acidic than the German variety.
All washed down with a bottle of a great barberra. Just heavenly....

Hot Potting at Home

Hot pot is something that we almost never go out for anymore. If you have the butane stove and can make a decent broth, it's much easier, tastier, and inventive at home. Plus, living in San Francisco, we have ideal hot pot weather most of the year. The fog rolls in - time for hot pot! This version was a ma la type. Hot pot always goes best with Taiwan beer.

Beef and lamb slices
Shrimp and chives wontons
Oyster mushrooms
The set-up

Monday, April 27, 2009

If It's Good Enough for Yao Ming...

We finally made it the much discussed on Chowhound, Beijing Kitchen, on an odd looking corner in Exelesior/Glen Park. The walls were filled with photos of Yao Ming, who apparently comes here to dine every time he's in the Bay Area. We got down to business and ordered some of their specialty items. The shredded potato salad with chili oil was one of the hits of the meal. Crunchy and without that weird taste that raw or undercooked potatoes have.

Tomato and egg soup - delicate taste and perfect egg flower.
Lamb dumplings - this was delicious. The lamb intense lamb flavour without overbearing gamey-ness. The skins were on the thinner side but had a lot of bite. The amount of juice in these dumplings far surpasses what most Bay Area XLBs have.
3 Flavoured Stir Fried Flour Ball - I loved the subtle flavouring of this dish. I've always had flour balls shaped bigger and in soup. These were more like tiny cubes. The size made this dish hard to eat. The texture of the very firm dough cubes, corn, veggies, shrimp, chicken, and fish made it a very unusual combination. A nearby table of Spanish speakers pointed at our table with this dish to copy in ordering. Glad we were able to provide cross-cultural food experimentation.
Jiao Liu Pork Meat Balls - This dish was the hit of the meal. Crunchy on the outside, soft and almost mousse-like on the inside. Topped with a very subtle, savoury sheer sauce. It reminded me of recipes of Beijing/Northern meatball that were a mix of pork and soft tofu then fried which is what I think how the texture is achieve here as well.
The carnage - Once again, way too much food for two people. Lot's of leftovers.
I particularly enjoyed the meal because it combined textures in each dish in surprising ways. I also loved the flavours... not the "hit you over the head" variety, but the kind that builds as you have successive bites. I also appreciated the light hand at saucing. The food may not be every one's cup of tea... especially for those who prefer ma la or associates Chinese food with strong spicing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bliss in a Bottle and on a Shell

Kermit Lynch's Oyster Bliss XVIII was a wonderful time of wine and oysters. It's one of those days when I really experience, in the moment, how lucky I am to live in the Bay Area.

Beat The Heat with Peruvian

Another hot evening was enjoyably spent hiding out at La Mar and catching up with Jean. I love the three sauces they give with their sweet potato chips. Peanut, cheese, and red pepper were the flavours from left to right. Since it was a warm, we ordered a ceviche and a tiradito (the Peruvian version of sashimi).

Cebiche Mixto 16
Mahi Mahi, calamari, octopus and habanero pepper in ají amarillo leche de tigre with cilantro, red onion, Peruvian corn and yam. The saucing on this was really something. Tiradito Clásico 15
Corvina, ají manzano, lime and cilantro leche de tigre. We never had sea bass sashimi before and suspected it would be fishier, but this was very silken and not fishy at all.Tequeños de lomo saltado
Peruvian Lomo Saltado spring rolls with peanut ocopa sauce. 12. Lomo saltado goodness in a roll. And fried. really how can anyone go wrong with that?Jalea
Crispy Mahi Mahi, calamari and octopus with plantains, yucca,Peruvian corn and red onion, tomato, cilantro Chalaca salsa. 16. This was like a fritto misto. Someone really knows how to use the fryer.
The surroundings were beautiful and breezy. I felt transported to South America. La Mar - need to come again.

Kebab Me

As there is a gyro place near my workout spot to reward myself for tough workouts, I've been having kebab on the brain more lately. The Midddle Eastern place on 25th Ave in San Mateo provided a nice rendition of kefka bebab. They also had a yummy goat cheese with olive oil and balsamic dip for their bread.

Beat The Heat with Cocktails and Offal

It's been too scorching hot for SF. Hello, can someone please let the Universe know this is not Hotlanta! Wil and I avoided the kitchen and our stoves by going to Alembic for some cold cocktails and tasty bites. We started with the hot weather classic, the mint julip.

Our octopus crudo.
Blood sausage spring rolls
Pig trotter terrine
Beef tongue sliders

I didn't realize this before, but somewhere in the last year or so, Alembic's menu has morphed to become quite offal based and very intriguing.

Simple Spring Dinner

A couple of weeks ago I had a craving for peas. The ribeye at the market was also on special. A bit of salt and pepper on the meat and a quick searing on the grill pan. The peas were gently boiled then dressed with ta tiny pad of butter and some salt. The whole meal took 10 minutes to make and was immensely enjoyable. Sometimes simplicity does it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Carnitas y Chicharrones

I think I need help with Mexican Food 101. I always thought that carnitas are kind of braised or saucy pork and chicharones are fried pork pieces with mostly skin. I went to Los Jarritos last month for a Mexican food fix and as we were in a pork mood, ordered both.
This was brought out by the wait staff as the chicharrones. Huh? Saucy? And even confirmed by their menu as "pork skins and meat sauteed in a homemade, red mild salsa"
Then they brought out the carnitas. Dry? Fried? Also confirmed by the menu as "tender chunks of marinated fried pork."
Wiki defines chicharrones as "a dish made of fried pork rinds" and carnitas as "a type of braised or roasted (often after first being simmered) pork." Okay so what gives with Los Jarritos' renditions? Well, regardless, both were pork-tastic.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Everything Is Better With Bacon!

Mission Street Food has added bacon soup dumplings (aka XLBs) to their menu. Now usually I am a stickler for good wrapping and thin but supple skins. These puppies weren't even close in what I usually ask for given the sloppy assembly, thickish gummy skins, and the "cheat" of using mini silicone cupcake molds. But all is forgiven and forgotten when that delicious bacony soup and filling enters your mouth. The smokiness and umami of it all. And yeah, there is a lot of soup. This is inspiring me to make XLBs again...