Category Archives: EATING

Homemade Ricotta & Fava Beans for Isabella + Other Weekend Food

My friend Amy’s daughter Isabella turns one this week and we celebrated her birthday on Saturday. She’s exactly one month older than Enzo and a much better eater than him.
Don’t get me wrong, he will try anything you put near his mouth. Even things I don’t intend for him to eat, such as the edge of a table, coasters, the handle of a shopping cart, the soles of our shoes. Enzo still wants his foods mashed and pureed. Real solids get hamstered into his cheeks until he can’t hold them any longer, and then they end up in random places around the apartment. Or else he sprays them all over the himself, the table, into his crotch. The seat of his booster & high chairs are constantly in need of scraping.
Isabella is able to stuff her mouth with food and eat it like a regular human being.
I made her ricotta and fava beans, which is a pretty classic combo.
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For the ricotta you need good quality whole milk, vinegar, and salt.
About 1 quart of milk = 1 cup of cheese.
Bring milk to a simmer and add salt.
Add vinegar, about 2 Tbsp per quart. This is purely a guess, I have no idea how much I usually use.
Give a quick stir and let sit for about a minute, then strain through cheesecloth.
I stupidly tossed the leftover liquid, called whey, but you should save it as it’s super healthy and can be used for a variety of things.
Enzo did not like this concoction. However, I did roast some beets, and then I mashed them with some Martone cheese that we got in our Quinciple box this week. It’s a cheese made from goat and cow milk and isn’t that great on its own, but it’s a good “food” cheese to eat in a dish. He ate it up because beets are sweet. Surprise.
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That is my sandwich on the side, a healthy “California” sammy made with beefsteak tomato, avocado, sprouts, Gruyere, and mayo on multigrain toast. And an IPA to wash it down with.
On Sunday mornings, I let dad sleep in. Today I tried to let Enzo feed himself something other than Cheerios.
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The situation deteriorated quickly. Apparently this involves smashing all the fruit onto the tray, putting his mouth on the edge of it, then sweeping them onto the floor. Not wanting to waste the fruit (nectarines are so sweet right now!) I quickly salvaged some and fed him by hand.
For lunch we got pho at Thai Son. I ordered the Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup) because I figured shredded chicken would be easy for him. I chose poorly. The chicken I got was the pre-boiled old man ear chicken and he hated it. The broth was tasteless and I was mad for making us stray from our usual spot.
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We went to Chinatown Ice Cream Factory afterwards and I fed him black sesame & pandan ice creams because I’m a good mom.
We also got spicy cucumbers from Xi’an Famous Foods, which have a slight kick. So of course the kid ate some of those. What a weirdo.
Because we are moving out of our neighborhood in a few weeks, Ryan wants to do a “bucket list” restaurant tour of our favorite spots. We LOVE Speedy Romeo so we headed there tonight.
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To start, we ordered the grilled octopus in romesco sauce & housemade mozzarella crostini with watermelon gazpacho, grape tomatoes, and pickled cucumbers. I know what pickles are, these were pickled cucumbers.
Though the octopus was super tender & lightly smoky and the mozz was very soft, the kid wouldn’t swallow anything. He kept letting me feed him, but after a few minutes he’d SPPFFFFFFT all over himself and the seat.
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Then he tried to play ring toss with my pizza.
I don’t eat my crusts, so I gave them to him. He enjoyed the crap out of these until it came to swallow time. And then he spit them in his crotch.
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For dinner we were given white chocolate mousse with balsamic amaretti cookies at the bottom, topped with cherries. Also an olive oil cake with raspberry-rhubarb & orange zest. Kid ate all the fruit product and some of the cake. Of course. But at least he ate fruit, including the raspberry seeds.
I fear he is a little behind in the whole eating thing. I’m scared to let him really try to feed himself mostly because if he decides to throw something, it will land on books, photos, sofa, rug, and anything else within infant-tossing distance because our living room/dining room/play area are one and the same, and about 10×10. In short, there is just not enough room to make a food mess. Also, he is going through this casserole of nonsense right now. For real, they should call them wonder months and not weeks. We had a puke-mergency last night.
We are moving in a few weeks to a much larger apartment. I will have a real kitchen with real storage (there is ONE drawer in our kitchen right now) and real counter space. There’s a separate area for eating and a separate area for hanging out. There is room to put a GD tarp down to catch all the baby mess. We can eat together like a real family instead of placing the high chair in between our TV trays as we eat from the couch. Cannot wait, but I will be sad to leave this quiet, beautiful neighborhood, where I have been the past 8 years.
Until next time, keep grindin!

EATING: The Scorpio Birthday Edition

What do you get for your chef boyfriend who never really asks for anything? Except maybe for FIFA 2014 which I refused to get him? Well you have an entire weekend of gluttony, of course.

Friday night Ryan bought some clams, shrimp, and cod to make a tomato-based seafood stew. Garlic, onions, and fennel went into it, and stock was made using shrimp shells.

Saturday morning, we went to the Grand Army Plaza Farmer’s market to gather ingredients for a full English breakfast. Also some sourdough bread which I sliced and froze and some tiny round Lakemont (green) and Mars (dark purple) grapes. The books are from the library – I’ve been inhaling them.

Grand Army Plaza Haul

I cooked breakfast mostly in the oven:

Full English
The potatoes I cooked in a cast iron skillet – in duck fat on the stove first, then finished in the oven. Baked beans came from a can. Tomatoes and sausage got the olive oil-salt-pepper treatment and went in the oven. The portobellos got the same, but also a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Mushrooms are like sponges, so I had to salt them a lot.

We had been wanting to see Gravity, so we picked UA Court Street in downtown Brooklyn because we wanted to eat at PokPok. Food first, always. So we biked out to PokPok and got a few salads – eggplant and duck. But the real winner was the pork belly & pork shoulder curry. It’s got roots in Burma, which tends to have a tangy-er and not overpowering curry flavor. Suuuuper good. Unfortunately we sat next to an uber high maintenance girl on a date, who was asking such things as “Is your coconut juice in a real coconut?” and “Is your Thai tea sweetened?” and “Can you wait like 20 minutes before bringing our soup?” “Can you wait like 5 minutes more? I just want it to be hot.” and “Can you leave the crispy noodles off?” and “What’s in a whiskey sour?” Girl. Just be quiet and enjoy the food! Anyway just order the pork belly curry when you go – it is delicious.

PokPok

After dinner we went to Whiskey Soda Lounge for more drinks and the fried pig ears. Which are better in Portland, where they are not fried to shit. But they were still tasty. I also had the rice whiskey which was infused in-house with fresh pineapple. It was like drinking juice! Delicious!

Gravity was a good film. Fraught with tension of course, but also frustration at having to listen to Sandra Bullock’s awful panting and whinging, especially after learning that she was using up her O2 faster by said panting and whinging. I would’ve preferred an epic non-dialog soundtrack like Explosions in the Sky or Music for Airports. But hey, I am not the filmmaker, nor the vox populi.

On Sunday we did our usual dim sum excursion, then dinner at Minetta Tavern. This time we strategized properly and did not leave hurting. For our appetizer we had the bone marrow fort.

Bone Marrow Fort at Minetta Tavern

Ryan got the Black Label Burger, and I had the seabass special which had brussels sprouts, chanterelles, leeks, and shaved black truffle. Also a very light cream sauce.

Birthday Dinner

We finished every bite then shared the chocolate souffle for two. They have Innis & Gunn again, my favorite beer. So next time I’m having some steak, marrow, and a shitload of I&G. Last meal status!

As for presents, I tried not to go too crazy:

PRESENTS

Yup, those are meat socks.

Happy birthday, other stomach.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Pacific NW Edition

So we are back from our vacation. We ate a lot of food but in the interest of sanity I will only post my favorites here. The rest can be found in my Flickr set.

So here goes:
Vancouver, BC
Dim sum at Sun Sui Wah
Sunday dim sum at Sun Sui Wah with my cousin, aunt, and uncle. We went to the East Van location which was walking distance from where we were staying. The clams with black bean and char siu so were better here. They also have more rice dishes. It’s a nice restaurant, with lots of sunlight. But no carts! Here we introduced Ryan to Lee Kum Kee’s XO sauce which trumps all hot sauces as it has ham, dried scallops, and dried shrimp in it. Our bottle is en route, in the mail from Seattle. I hope.

Lumpia Sariwa
Lumpia Sariwa, made by my Ama (grandma). I’ve eaten this as long as I can remember. Ama makes this with carrots, cabbage, green beans, fish tofu. It takes a whole day to prepare, with all the different components that go into it. It’s served deconstructed, so you can make it how you like it. The romaine lettuce keeps the lumpia wrapper from getting soggy, and you top the vegetable mixture with thinly cut scrambled eggs, dried seaweed, a garlic and vinegar mixture, peanuts crushed with sugar, cilantro. Mom also toasted some sesame seeds this time.
It pains me to live so far from my grandma, who in her day had her own dress-making company and also played soccer and basketball, like Ryan. When I was with her I was too young to learn to cook, and now I am too far away to help her in the kitchen.

Seattle, WA
Dinner at Ma's
My mom and uncle’s business does business with Uwajimaya in Seattle, so on our drive down from BC we stopped in so that she could do a sales stop, and we could get groceries. They have a TON of fresh seafood, including oysters. We got a dozen each of kusshi and kumamotos which Ryan shucked at home. I made sinigang using bangus (milk fish).

Breakfast at Odd Fellows
Breakfast at Odd Fellows in Capitol Hill, which is also situated near Everyday Music, Totokaelo, and Elliot Bay Books. Ryan got the bacon and egg biscuit which was surprisingly delicious. The eggs were soft scrambled with a lot of cheese and some chives. My brioche French toast was about two inches thick, served with housemade strawberry preserves on the side.
We of course went to Pike Place where once again we were reminded of how shitty New York produce is. Picked up chanterelles and other veggies for dinner at home.

Oysters & Cocktails at The Walrus & The Carpenter

Amai, Calm Cove, Tomales Bay, & Glacier Point #oysters
Happy hour at The Walrus & The Carpenter. We had some cocktails made with gin, absinthe, and celery to start, as well as a mixture of the four oysters on offer that day. Amai, Calm Cove, Tomales Bay, and Glacier Point. Amai and Calm Cove were our favorites – creamy and briny. The Tomales Bay oysters, which we thought would be our #1, tasted disappointingly flat in comparison. We also ordered a tuna tartare special that had salmon roe mixed in that was very luxurious-feeling, and a lackluster and bitter salad of artichoke hearts, anchovies, and a shit ton of walnuts.

Pho In & Out, last meal in WA
Such a huge array of pho spots in the Pac NW. This is Pho In & Out, near my mom’s office in Kent. We ate this for breakfast, then headed to the shooting range nearby where Wednesday’s special was free gun rentals. So we busted through 2 boxes of ammo and 2 different guns before boarding the Amtrak to Portland.

Portland, OR
First dinner in PDX: Sen Yai
First dinner in Portland, at Sen Yai. This is Pok Pok’s noodle house, on SE Division Street a few blocks from Pok Pok and Whiskey Soda Lounge. More on those later. Ryan had the Lat Na, which were stir fried noodles with gravy and egg, and I had the Yen Ta Flo which had seafood and choice of noodles in a tomato-fermented tofu broth. Both delicious. On the side, the red fire water spinach and rice. For dessert we ordered the pandan ice cream but were disappointed with the chalky texture. So we went across the street to Salt & Straw where I had Jenn Louis’s Mint Leaf + Uni Meringue ice cream, and Ryan had strawberry-honey-balsamic.

Dirty Fries close up at Lardo East
On Thursday we had pie for breakfast at Lauretta Jean’s, then rented some bikes to ride around the city on. In my opinion, the best way to experience a new place. You can hop on and off easily, you can hear and see things better, and it’s easy to stop for photo ops. After biking around a bit we ended up at Lardo, which is celebrated for its sandwiches. Have I mentioned that Ryan makes gourmet subs for a living? We got the BLAT and Cold Fried Chicken sandwiches, which failed. Hard. Not delicious at all. BUT since I am posting only the best stuff we ate, here is a close up of the dirty fries, which are hand cut potatoes fried with huge pieces of lardons, then tossed with pickled cherry & banana peppers, fresh rosemary, and parmesan cheese. I want this dish whenever fries are an option.
I don’t have any photos of Thursday’s dinner, because I didn’t want to be THAT person. We did the five-course tasting menu at Le Pigeon, which was super filling and delicious. They offer a seven-course tasting but we correctly assumed that we wouldn’t be able to handle it. Our five courses included albacore crudo with tomato water, avocado, and radish; tempura-fried halibut with passionfruit tartare and house made tots; rabbit flank poached in milk and truffles with walnuts, green beans, and chanterelles; beef cheek bourgignone atop gruyere mashed potatoes and grilled onions; almond financiers with blueberries, cheesecake, creme fraiche, and motherfucking foie gras profiteroles with salted caramel sauce. I want to eat that all the time – we considered asking recently married friends if any of them received ice cream makers as presents, and bribing them with the promise of meat liver ice cream, but not sure who would take the bait.

Danish Marys at broder

broder
Broder was a spot that was on my list, and we happened to pass it as we were taking a different route into the busier part of town. I called out to Ryan to stop and after waiting about 30 minutes we sat down to what will probably the sleeper hit of the trip. We ordered Danish Marys, made with Aquavit and garnished with pickled deliciousness. I had the smoked trout hash with eggs and Ryan had the lost eggs, basically eggs baked with cream, bacon, and spinach topped with panko and parmesan cheese. I had to fight him for bites of the dish, promising to replicate it at home.
Our hosts mentioned that Portland does breakfast really well. I can only guess that this is because it used to be a busy port and industrial area, and for blue collar workers breakfast is the most important (and largest) meal of the day, none of that tea and toast BS. Am I close?

5 spice #pigears with black vinegar supper. A very Andy Ricker vacation.

pok pok PDX
We had a very Andy Ricker dinner our last night. After putting our names in at Pok Pok we headed to Whiskey Soda Lounge to wait and have snacks. At WSL we had the 5-spice pig ears and wings, along with more cocktails. For dinner we tried to order things not available in Brooklyn. Namely, the rotisserie Cornish hen and boar collar served with chilled mustard greens. Both winners. We also ordered the catfish noodle dish we love and a side of corn on the cob cooked with coconut milk and kaffir lime. I’m gonna go ahead and say PokPokPDX is way better than PokPokNY. It’s in an old house and there are a lot of twists and turns to get to tables and bathrooms and kitchen, and the staff and food are just so on point. NY has a bit of catching up to do.
The kaffir lime gin & tonic is delicious, as is the Apple Gin Rickey, which is made with apple cider som (drinking vinegar). I’m usually a whiskey/bourbon drinker but for some reason this trip, I was feeling gin.

Salt & Straw round 2
After Pok Pok, back to Salt & Straw where Ryan had TWO scoops of that strawberry balsamic ice cream, and I tried the Hawaiian PB&J. Because vacation.

Last #brunch of vacation
On Saturday we rented a Zipcar and headed to Olympic Provisions for brunch. We were the first ones there at 10am.

Viking Mary with aquavit & white anchovies on the left, Olympic Mary with salami swizzle on the right. #brunch #bloodymary #helpmeeee
Holy shiiiiit the cocktails. I got the Viking Mary (with Aquavit, again) and Ryan got the Olympic Mary. Please see the swizzle/garnish sticks. I know places can get really crazy with these but they don’t always taste delicious – the bacon is cold and congealed, the pickled whatever is falling apart, etc. These did. And we got both bread & butter AND dill pickles. For garnish.

Olympic Provisions
We ordered the Italian board which came with house made coppa, mortadella, fresh sausage, soppressata, and finnochiona. Also Taleggio cheese. We also ordered a serving of the Loukanika, a Greek salami made with cumin, garlic, and citrus zest. Also the kielbasa hash, which was served with potatoes and topped with a poached egg and gravy. ALSO a green bean salad with pickled yellow squash, blue cheese, and toasted almonds. Gahhhhh. We have had some of these salamis before and they were good, but not as delicious as eating them “fresh” and not packed with extra preservatives. In Portland they were softer, fattier, and almost creamy-feeling to eat. I wanted to go back there for dinner before our flight, but Ryan put the kibbosh on that. So instead we went to Cheese Bar and had more cold cuts.

Nothing else matters. Only charcuterie.

We also tried a couple of donut places – Voodoo Too (the less crowded location on the east side) and Blue Star, downtown. Voodoo Too’s maple bacon donut didn’t disappoint. We got the same at Blue Star, which tasted anemic in comparison. Also their creme brulee Cointreau donut was a disappointment, too much dough and not enough custard. And it was runny at that. I’m not saying they were BAD donuts. The actual donut part itself was good, but the toppings weren’t as good as others I’ve had. They reminded me of less-greasy Dough donuts with their size and fluffiness.

Yes we did
YES WE DID.

Must return. Rinse. Repeat.

The Hangover

First I have to preface this by saying that we were pretty hungover on Sunday and therefore did not have all our brains on deck. My coworker had a small get-together at his place on Saturday as a pre-birthday party for his girlfriend, and I may or may not have almost helped him finish an entire bottle of Black Maple Hill Bourbon. The problem (is there a problem with drinking too much bourbon??) was that Ryan and I were sharing a glass, and we felt like we had to keep up with each other. So we kept drinking until about 2am.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Dim sum at Nom Wah. Out of the 8 things we ordered, I only liked two: the shrimp and snow pea leaves dumplings and the pork shumai. Everything else was just blah: taro dumplings, original eggroll, jar leong, crab claw encased in shrimp paste (whyyyyyyy), soup dumplings, and scallion pancakes. Did we order the wrong things? You tell me. The space itself is cool, and I really wanted to like it. The food wasn’t bad at all but East Harbor is just so much better. And they have better desserts.

@bhonnyc I finally did it! #aurareading #auraphotography #icanseeyourauraanditspurple #what #purple
Over to Magic Jewelry to get aura readings. They were pretty accurate, considering she had no prior knowledge of us and we didn’t tell her anything about ourselves. So maybe there is some truth to it. Basically, I will have some good luck coming to me soon (money or good relationships) and Ryan will be working his ass off and be stressed out. We both have stomach problems (no shit, after all that bourbon), as well as weakness in our backs and legs (sedentary job, standing in a kitchen all day, busted ACL….) so she suggested smokey quartz to help out. Any excuse to buy more crystals is a good one to me!

The new Chinatown Fair
We watched a couple of urban soccer league games in Chinatown then headed to Chinatown Fair. It was awful, just awful. Fruit Ninja?? The best games they had there from its former self were Time Crisis and Marvel VS. Capcom. Lame.

Coleman Playground Skatepark
Ryan surprised me with a trip to a skate park I had no idea existed, under the Manhattan Bridge.

Nooo Stuart Little!
Then he pointed out something else to me.

Uni Ikura Soba at Soba Koh
Massages, then dinner at Soba Koh. Uni Ikura Soba pictured. I got the Goma Dare Soba, expecting to pour the sobayu into the sauce. They didn’t bring it! So sad.

Baohaus
Baohaus for dessert. The pork belly is perfect, especially with the sweet sugar peanuts that taste like my childhood (Google “lumpia sariwa”).

Came home to watch Game of Thrones, drink tea, eat Momo Milk Bar cookies, and RELAX. All those Manhattan people stress. Me. Out.

Yumcha 4 Life

All my life I’ve been eating dim sum, or yumcha in my family’s dialect. I grew up eating it almost every Sunday at Mao’s Palace in California (in Milbrae??) or at Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Burlingame (where upon a recent visit in 2008, the maitre’d recognized me after not having been there for 15 years). Ryan and I continue that today, heading to East Harbor Seafood Palace in Dyker Heights/Bay Ridge, which is the Chinatown of Brooklyn.

We go so often that the clams/tofu fah lady knows us and beelines for us after we sit down to serve us clams in black bean sauce, then knows to come back later to serve us the fresh soft tofu with ginger syrup. We know to get there on the earlier side, before she runs out.

We recognize other regulars such as the hapa (half caucasian/half asian) man with his Chinese wife and in-laws, who do not talk to him beause of the language barrier. It’s been a while and I’m assuming it’s because the last time we saw them, wife was pretty pregnant, and they must be busy with the new baby. So this definitely isn’t something I read about in L magazine or on the Serious Eats blog – this is family time.

And it’s great because after we eat we head to Fei Long market, where we buy meat, seafood, snacks, and other groceries for the next couple of days.

Below, our yumcha adventures:

Dim sum at East Harbor Seafood Palace
Our first time about a year and a half ago, with David & Laurea. Before this the spot was Jing Fong in Manhattan, which by comparison is greasy and not as fresh.

Dim sum
The aforementioned clams. Tofu fah and tan tat at the ready – I think we were scared of these running out. The tan tat at East Harbor is the best I’ve had, especially when they’re fresh and still warm. The custard is soft and pastry shell is buttery and flaky.

Dim sum
Obligatory crowd shot. The trick is to get here by noon at the latest to get all the good stuff.

Dim sum
Pork on pork. The other dishes belong to the people across from us.

Yumcha Sundae
I think this is one time we ate with Mimi.

Yumcha Sunday
That one time I tried to eat a serving of chicken feet all by myself.

Yumcha Sunday
The usual, with some rolled rice noodles – these are not that good, I think there is chicken and vegetables inside. The thing to get is the one with pork spare ribs on top.

Char Siu So
One of my favorite things, Char Siu So. It’s flaky pastry stuffed with char siu. Sometimes it counts as dessert.

Ryan's bday dim sum
Yumcha on Ryan’s birthday. We got salt & pepper squid and beef tendon, among other things.

Dim sum desserts
That time we cheated on East Harbor on my birthday to eat dim sum at the racetrack. The food is fresh and decent. But the tan tat is nowhere near as good. Also those are durian puffs on the top right which look delicious but taste like farts. Or what I imagine farts to taste like – sweet onion cream.

The other time I tried to eat an entire serving of chicken feet. The caucasian couple across from us wanted to know WTF the jar leong was (after he edumacated her to the fact that hargow and shumai were “the things to get”), so we encouraged them to order it. I invited them to try some chicken feet, to which they politely declined, the female saying, “That’s great that you’re eating it though.” Um, that’s great that you’re a condescending a-hole.

The time we sat down across from a family of six who mean mugged us the whole time because we got this spread within two minutes of sitting down. My other favorite thing at the bottom, fried taro dumplings stuffed with pork and mushrooms (wu gok).

The time I insisted we start getting vegetables because all that fried food was making me sick. AKA the time I saved my stomach from dim sum.

I swear we only do this because we get groceries down here. #dimsum #yumcha
Today’s dim sum. We kinda went all in.

The thing that’s fun about dim sum is even though we go almost every week, it’s always a different experience based on what we eat, where we sit, and who we sit with. I never get char siu bao because that takes up too much space in my stomach.

Today we got oxtail at Fei Long to make ragu for some chestnut ravioli I picked up at Paisano’s. So I guess you’ll be hearing about that next.

Birthday monster eats

I have a twin who was born a few years and about 9 months after me.

This is what we ate his birthday week, which also happened to coincide with the hurricane that tore up the Northeast.

Uni special from Taro
On Wednesday, sushi delivery from Taro. After several days of homecooking, pizza, and leftovers, we decided to get delivery. We ordered the sushi dinner for two and the uni special. Normally this is just two pieces, one from CA and one from ME. Tonight they had uni sashimi in the uni shell. Unfortunately, it was rancid and tasted of iodine overdose.
The other uni was fine, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Thursday night, we had a drink at Tooker Alley while waiting for our table at Bar Corvo. We’ve learned to stick to the pastas there, as the entrees usually fall short.
We started with the roasted beet and ricotta salad and “crispy beef tongue.” Which was basically fried pieces of beef tongue, crispy on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside, served with horseradish-black pepper aioli. Seriously one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while. If you are around, GO THERE. ORDER THIS.
We also had the semolina gnocchi with oxtail ragu, which was baked like a mini casserole. The gnocchi was soft and polenta-like, ragu fatty and rich.
To contrast this we had the cavatelli with wild mushrooms and kale, accented with lemon.
No pictures – too dark to bother.

Lamb Kimchi Chigae
On Friday I made kimchi chigae, with lamb. We had leftover dashi (bonito and kombu boiled in water, then strained – the base of many Japanese soups) and tofu, as well as kimchi from Mimi’s mom.
I browned some garlic, then cut up the lamb rounds into small pieces and browned it in a pot along with the bone pieces. I added shiitake mushrooms cut into thick slices as well as the bottom (root) sections of a bunch of scallions and a drizzle of sesame oil. Then I added the dashi (about a quart) and two more quarts of water. After bringing it to a boil I added a huge scoop of miso, a couple of handfuls of kimchi, and firm tofu cut into large cubes. Salt and white pepper as needed. I simmered this for about 45 minutes and served it over rice with some chopped scallions on top.
As expected, the lamb taste was a bit strong, but not overpowering. A really good, hearty soup for this new cooler weather we’re having.

Ryan's bday dim sum
Birthday dim sum – salt & pepper squid, veggie-pork-peanut dumplings, beef tendons, char siu sa, shumai, turnip cakes, tofu fa, egg custard…

Bone Marrow & Oxtail Marmalade at Blue Ribbon Brooklyn

Dinner at Blue Ribbon
…And birthday dinner at Blue Ribbon in Park Slope. We had reservations at Quality Meats in midtown but with the transportation situation we decided to stay on foot.
Bone marrow with oxtail marmalade and Greek salad to start; NY strip, steak tartare, and kanpachi usuzukuri for dinner. Creme brulee for dessert. With all the usual alcoholic accompaniments.
Not mind blowing but solid.
I have to add here that we were also seated next to the most annoying, loudmouthed, crass individual. We could hear her side of the conversation word for word, and she tried talking to us a couple of times, even though we were not very receptive to her drunken advances. To say the least, it was uncomfortable.
We ended the night by heading to the theater on Court St. in downtown Brooklyn to catch RZA’s The Man with the Iron Fists – stupidly entertaining, as expected.

Football food
Brunch at Tom’s (the usual corned beef has though this time with carcinogen-laced burnt up homefries) and a football snack of crostini topped with butter-cucumber-English Tickler cheddar and Dijon-duck rillettes from BKLYN Larder.
Ending the night with leftovers, The Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire, and knitting. This past week I’ve made two hats and am working on making our Christmas stockings and some knit trivets. It’s hibernation time.

Happy birth week, Ryan.

…and the sky is gray

So we are back from our CA trip and have had a full weekend to regress back to the BK grind. The stress leading up to the trip really made us appreciate our getaway – to most people 10 days is a long time, but we were so sad to leave and come back to our new apartment. And work, of course!

We ate a lot of really good things but I’ll just give you the most excellent highlights. Apologies to those of you who follow me on Instagram, as there are a few repeats. I need to stop doing that!

Blue Bottle Mocha
We stayed in a gorgeous bedroom in an old Victorian apartment one block from Alamo Square, which is about a 10-minute walk from Hayes Valley. So we hit Blue Bottle up for mochas. When BB opened in Williamsburg I was super excited – I don’t drink coffee but their mochas are delicious. However I was super disappointed in them – Wmsburg’s mochas are lukewarm, anemic, and bitter. I don’t know what they do to it. So I was really happy to have a cup of this on a foggy morning.

Poached eggs and duck confit at Foreign Cinema
My cousin Andrea organized a mini reunion at Foreign Cinema for brunch. This carnage is my plate of poached eggs and duck confit. Really solid brunch here, and they make their own pop tarts! We ordered both the nectarine and plum, which came in flaky crusts. So good. It’s located right in the Mission, which was recently named more hipster than Williamsburg by Forbes of all sources. Yay!

BBQ Pork, beans, cornbread foam
The same night (Sunday) we had dinner at AQ. I wanted something that was quintessentially “California” but didn’t want the usual foodie traps like Chez Panisse or Cafe Zuni. Both are delicious to be sure, but I wanted something newer and less traveled. Plus this was a rec from Lynda, who I’m growing to trust more and more with food recs. 3/3!
The idea at AQ is local and seasonal (blah blah blah) but they do it really well, even changing the interior decor. When we went it was the end of summer. We started with the cucumber and scallop appetizer, which was topped with fennel foam. Our waiter suggested the grilled watermelon app to complement it, which came topped with a cannelle of iced buttermilk and honeydew. I can’t really decide which one I liked better but it was great alternating between sweet/refreshing and savory/creamy.
For entrees we ordered the BBQ pork, pictured above, which had two different preparations of pork, beans, and CORNBREAD FOAM.
Our other entree was the grilled seabass, served with heirloom peppers, chorizo marmalade, smoked eggplant, and poached egg yolk:
Grilled Seabass, BBQ Pork at AQ
For dessert we split a small cheese plate that came with honeycomb. I swear I got it just for that honeycomb.
All in all a really delicious meal. Our waiter was great too – we asked him to take a photo of us against the wall (they had these awesome succulent planters behind me) but he instead led us downstairs to the wine cave and snapped a photo of us looking very full and unfortunately, very challenged. So that one will never see the light of day.

Sticky Morning Bun from Tartine
The following day was Monday, and we were scheduled to pick up our rental car. But we needed breakfast beforehand so we went to Tartine, in the Mission. Aside from their gourgeres, we also got a morning bun, which was fresh out of the oven. Warm, flakey, and GOOEY, tasting of cinnamon and sugar and a slight hint of citrus. I don’t eat many pastries or carbs in NYC but I chowed everything down like a champ.
We ate on a bench at the Dolores Park tennis courts – it was a really pretty day and the park was empty.

Coconut rice, shrimp curry, garlic noodles
For lunch we met Lynda at Burma Superstar. This was our first time meeting face to face, after countless mass emails and stories via common friends. We ate the two famous salads – Tea Leaf and Rainbow, shrimp with Burmese curry, coconut rice, and garlic noodles with duck. I couldn’t decide which salad was my favorite so I’m going to cheat and say both were equally delicious.
Burmese curry to me is similar to Penang curry – very mild in the actual curry flavor but still super savory. There might be a touch of tamarind in it though? Something slightly tart and mouth-watery.
It was great to finally meet Lynda in person – she’s super sweet with stomach to match ours and an even bigger heart.

Hog Island View
The next morning we said a sad goodbye to SF and were on our way to the rest of our vacation. I reserved a picnic table at Hog Island Oysters in Tomales Bay. For $5 a person, you are guaranteed a spot by the water. You purchase oysters there, and bring food and drink with you. There are shared grills in case you want to grill your shellfish (WHY???) as well. We were the first guests to arrive and we started off with a dozen each of kumamotos and small sweetwaters, Ryan’s and my favorites, respectively.
Kumamoto, Sweetwater
HIO provides all the shucking tools and toppings you need – different kinds of hot sauce (we preferred Crystal), lemon wedges, mignonette sauce. As we plowed through nearly two dozen oysters each, more parties began to arrive, most notably a larger party of 10+ which turned out to be a post-wedding celebration. First of all, awesome idea. But half the people there didn’t eat raw oysters. Friendship fail! Delete delete delete!! Just kidding but why would you do that to yourself/them?? Also, none of them had ever shucked oysters before. Which is fine, everyone has to have a first time, but why wait until you’re required to shuck oysters for a group of 10+ people?? ANYWAY.
We left soon after and took scenic Hwy 1 all the way back to the Bay Area, then headed due east to Burson.
I was taking Ryan to a farm.

Lockeford Sausage
I spent most of my childhood summers on a farm in Calaveras County. I used to ride horses competitively from ages 6-19 but that is a whole other saga – I’ve been to Mexico, Canada, all over Asia, Australia, New Zealand… Anyway this farm belongs to my childhood trainers Butch & Lu, who I’ve known since I was about six. I’d promised Lu that we would cook dinner for them so we stopped at Lockeford Sausages for a few links: apple, basil, bacon, and their bratwurst. We got seven sausages, totaling $10.54 – mind blown again! The Meat Hook in Brooklyn is comparable I guess, but we would have spent 3x that there.
We made an herb salad with dill, parsley, chives, red grapes, and pistachios. Also a tomato-onion-mushroom saute. With some white wine and baseball on TV, we stuffed ourselves silly.
Extra bonus: their son Guy came home for dinner that night too so it was another mini-reunion. Like having a real big brother, we used to beat each other up (okay he used to beat me up) and jump off hay bales into sawdust shavings, tear around paddocks on bareback ponies, ride his dirtbike around, and just generally goof off on the farm. So it was really great to see him again.
We also got a tour of the farm on a little four-wheeler. They’d bought a bunch of surrounding property and had turned it into paddocks for horses, cows, and bulls. As in, rodeo bullsClick here to see a video of Butch and Pat working the sheep.

We drove up to wine country the following day to meet up with Ryan’s family. The whole purpose of this trip was to attend his sister’s wedding in Healdsburg, so we made a vacation out of it. Most of our time there was spent relaxing and hanging out with family. I got to meet a lot of extended members (TWSS <- click on that please) of the clan which was great. We took it way easy – mostly because I got sick after our first night there and spent the entire next day in bed, like a useless lump. Not sure what it was but I didn’t want to get too crazy before the big day.
The wedding was at Arista Winery and it was perfect. Carie and Robyn did a really great job of planning a small, intimate wedding from over 3000 miles away. There were thousands of details to keep track of, from wedding favors to herding guests, making sure the wedding party was accounted for at all times, itineraries, decorations, and keeping everyone on the same page.
Flower arrangement
There were beautiful flower arrangements at each table, which was also set with huge industrial-looking candelabras.

Wedding favors
These are the wedding favors, hand-spraypainted with chalkboard paint and filled with fall candy.

Our flight home was on Tuesday morning, so we drove back to the Bay Area on Monday afternoon to spend the night closer to the airport. On our roadtrip down, we planned to make a pitstop at La Michoacana in Sonoma, where we went last year. We were craving horchata and ice cream. On the way there Ryan said he really wished we’d been able to find good tamales at the farmer’s market, so I turned to Google and found El Molino Central, right on Hwy 12. It was literally a five-minute drive from where we wanted to go anyway so we stopped in and ordered tamales with cheese & green chile and entomatadas.

Pit stop in Sonoma at El Molino Central
BOOOOOOOMMMM! That is the sound of my mind being blown once again. It was so good we’re banning ourselves from eating Mexican food for as long as possible. The entomatadas are basically enchiladas made with queso fresco and red sauce, served with refried black beans on the side. When we first sat down, we both attacked the tamales since that’s what we’d been craving. But once Ryan tasted the entomatadas he completely ignored the tamales so I knew they had to be good.
The beans were creamy from being slow cooked for hours, and flavored with pork. And the red sauce, which is tomato-based, was made with local Early Girl tomatoes. The tamales were steamy and soft, with gooey cheese and mild chile sauce. Everything was really fresh and good, and it was the simplest of dishes.

I walked back to the car happy and full, and we headed to La Michoacana where I purchased a Big Gulp-sized cup of the smoothest horchata.
Big gulp of Horchata from La Michoacana
I’d been dreaming of it since last year. Nothing in NYC comes close – it’s always too gritty, too watery, too sweet, not sweet enough. It looks and feels creamy but there is no dairy in it. Food magic!

Last night in Cali: dinner at Fat Wong's
For our final meal in SF I turned once again to Lynda, who suggested a whole list of places and dishes to try. We picked Fat Wong, which was close to our hotel in San Bruno. They’re famous for their rice noodle dishes, so we ordered one with dried shrimp and chives, as well as fried pork with sweet corn sauce and yuchoy with garlic.
Again this was really simple and good – after eating out for 10 days we were ready for some homecooking, and the two meals we ate on our last day really hit the spot.

Breakfast
Bonus: rice krispie treat for breakfast

Over all I had a great time back in my home state. The pace of life is more relaxed, people aren’t as selfish or rude. The produce and food is of a much higher quality, and it seems like there is ultimately more love and care that goes into food prep out there. And my god the seafood. Yes, I am moving back here. It’s been a long time coming but I think I’m finally ready to close the buffer zone. Don’t tell Mom.