Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Brazil Cafe

2161 University Ave. (& Oxford)
(510) 845-8011

Brazilian Sandwich Shack in Berkeley

L: Taken from Yelp , R: Taken from my phone

In honor of Spare the Air Day, Stacy and I took a long lunch and trekked to Berkeley for free! It was hot and I was craving something outdoors... which to me means Brazil Cafe! This place is known for their Tri-Tip, which is smothered in this incredible cilantro garlic sauce. It's like heaven in the form of a sandwich. The tri-tip is definitely the winner, but their other sandwiches are pretty good too (Mike likes the chicken salad). They have student specials, too - for $7.99 you can get a tri-tip sandwich and mango smoothie. Yummmmyyyyyyyy.


Friday, August 24, 2007

An Experiment with Mochiko & Pluots/Plums

So I've been wanting to replicate Citizen Cake's Ume Mochi Cake from a few years ago, but haven't been able to find any remotely similar recipes, save for a few for a traditional Hawaiian butter coconut mochi cake. The Demolition Desserts cookbook also isn't out until October, so no luck there.

Luckily I have an Asian mother, and she just happened to have two boxes of mochiko and a can of coconut milk lying around. I also helped my little sister move into Berkeley last weekend, and the super DC happened to have really sweet plums and pluots (they never had such good fruit when I went to school! Shafted!). I happen to use a very large purse, and the 14 plums/pluots I took (not stole - I could've theoretically eaten them all in one sitting...) fit nicely, albeit a bit heavily. So I was super ready to make my plum mochi without spending a dime! Except for some plum wine I got from J-town after my coworker suggested using it.

So I made 3 versions: the traditional butter-coconut that had an actual recipe, a cake based on that but instead of using coconut milk using pluot puree (the pluots were sweeter than the plums) + heavy cream + choya, and another using less puree and more cream & choya. The 2 plum versions are pictured above, but unfortunately one of my roommates really liked the coconut one and ate it all!

I also bought black sesame seeds and toasted/grinded them with some sugar and water to create a paste = YUMMY. I LOVE LOVE LOVE black sesame and kept eating it while I was making it. So good.

So I'm not sure how I feel about the plum mochi. I don't really like it! The version that used less puree was better, mostly because I don't really like the sweetness that the baked fruit brought (I think sweetness from fruit is different than the taste of sugar). It tasted almost artificial, despite the fact that it wasn't at all! I thought about reversing it and doing a black sesame mochi cake (as opposed to a mochi ball with black sesame filling) and a plum sauce, but that's so... typical...and not what I was going for (i.e. Citizen Cake). Hmm I don't know!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

mascarpone cheesecake with pomegranate champagne glaze

Yummy. Mascarpone is ridiculously expensive, but it makes cheesecake so much lighter (which I prefer). $5 for 8 oz?? Apparently you can make it pretty easily, which I may try....


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Liver in the East Bay, or Picnic at the Marina!

So Katherine and I had a bottle of Reisling and a can of foie gras we've been meaning to devour so we finally came around to doing so this weekend. I'm not completely certain of how Katherine prepared the liver since I was busy foraging Emeryville for toothpicks (see below) but I think she just pan fried it with a little salt and pepper and a few knobs of butter. Spread on crunchy Acme bread that was molested with garlic (couldn't help it, I think it's funny how foodies frequently relate food and eating to something sexual), it tasted buttery and creamy and... livery. It was good! We also took fresh figs and stuffed them with Castello blue cheese, wrapped them in prosciutto di Parma, stabbed them with a toothpick and pan fried them in olive oil. They were tasty, had the whole sweet and savory thing that I like... I don't think you can really offend any sane person by handing them something that's wrapped in bacon. I think Katherine liked them a little more than me... there's something about the simplicity and beauty of just good bread and fatty meat that made me prefer the first course... or maybe I'm just a caveman.

The company was nice, the food was good, and the sun was out. What more could you want?

*** Edit by Kathy: The foie was canned, which I bought in France about a year ago (it's supposed to last for 4 years). Mike is right - I just browned it in lots of butter (not that there isn't already enough fat... just for the flavor), and mashed it up with some salt and pepper. This picture isn't the best (Mike's camera phone because his normal camera was acting funny), but the foie is pictured spread on the bread since it looks kind of gross by itself (didn't have anything to garnish it). Yay for picnics on nice days! How cliche.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

red velvet cupcakes

One of my roommates thought the cream cheese frosting was too powerful, but I prefer it that way (and I just use less). I garnished with cocoa nibs, but she also suggested using something orange. I refuse to use sprinkles, and I don't think candied orange zest would compliment it flavor-wise (would it?). Any other suggestions?

These look perfect unfrosted. I should really invest in a pastry bag + tips!

Edit: I just wanted to add another picture of the inside to show the color.


Monday, August 06, 2007

rosemary & olive oil cake

Took this from the Babbo cookbook, which you can find online here. I used supposedly great quality olive oil (I have no idea really, but that's what the person who gave it to me said). I thought it was from Italy, but after actually looking at the label, it's from California (Balzana - does anyone know anything about it? Of course the website says good things about it...).

So I really liked how it turned out texture-wise. It was crunchy on the outside and spongy inside (my roommate's mom said it was the "best" cake she's ever tasted. I think she's just very nice haha). I think it's best eaten right after it cools after baking, because it kind of lost its moisture pretty easily. As for the flavors, I think the rosemary was a bit too much - I'd probably use only one tablespoon instead of two next time. I couldn't really pick out the olive oil despite putting in a little more than what the recipe called for. Maybe my palate just isn't sensitive enough to its flavor?

Regardless, this is a very simple cake with good results. I didn't make anything creamy-ish to eat it with, although it kind of needs that kind of accompaniment. Figs are in season... but I don't feel like shelling out for them. =P


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Oliveto Cafe

This is an addendum to my review of Oliveto Restaurant (upstairs). I went here for lunch today with a friend I haven't seen in years (those meals are always fun). My experience today was pretty comparable to last time. We shared a small plate - stewy broccoli rabe, artichokes, potatoes, olives, and other veggies. Great for eating with their pillowy bread. We also shared a large pizza with buffalo mozzarella, slices of garlic (yummy), and very light tomato sauce. The crust was incredibly thin, which I believe is characteristic of [Sicilian?] pizza - kind of like Gaspare's but a lot better. It would've been nice to have a little more substance to it (the cheese was very sparse), but I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they're staying true to tradition instead of catering towards my American tendencies towards gluttony.

Anyway, I really like this place, and it's cheap (relatively)! We had coffee/tea afterwards and our total was $15/person.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

White Peach Tart w/ Pistachio Frangipane

This weekend my roommates and I did a massive kitchen cleaning, which included throwing out ~7 bags of old food that used to occupy three fourths of our fridge/freezer/kitchen table. One of the girls had some white peaches that were getting soft - they hadn't gone bad yet, but they were going to soon. I happened to have some pistachios on hand, and I was enamored by these photos a little while back, so I decided to make a tart.

So the outer crust is kind of burnt, and that's because the rice I was using to weight it down during the first baking ended up absorbing most of the heat so the middle didn't bake as quickly, so I decided to keep it in longer = overbaked edges. My pictures look totally different than the originals - I don't know how her peaches stayed white?? Mine look like they're apples. Oh well! Perhaps it's because hers are mini tarts so they were baked in less time...? I have some leftover dough and frangipane so I'll try minis later and see how those turn out.

** Edit: After talking to a pastry chef, the problem with the bottom of the tart being undercooked is apparently common in most home ovens, and can be solved by using a pizza stone (which should be around $12). Also, the problem with the browning of the peaches, she said, can be solved by poaching them beforehand. I will have to try this next time!


Zuni Cafe

1658 Market St (between Franklin & Gough)
(415) 552-2522

Mediterranean/Californian in Hayes Valley

I went here on a fellow foodie's recommendation, and I was extremely disappointed! The ambience is great - right on Market, with big glass windows and a woodsy feel - very classic. This place is definitely happening, and popular for its oyster bar. Yes, the oysters were good. However, the rest of the food, was not so much. I don't quite remember what we had, but I remember getting the sea bass, which wasn't anything special. Risotto was actually pretty good - not too cheesy (risottos are usually too cheesy for me), and shinie's poultry (I think it might have been hen... not sure) was nothing special, either.

Go for the ambience, but don't expect anything spectacular from the food (except for the oysters).

** Edit: I wrote this original review about over a year ago and gave this place 2 stars. However, after a recent visit, I've increased it to 3 because this time the food was very good. My friend and I shared their 1 hr chicken (roasted to perfection) served with these giant crouton-like pieces of toasted and buttery bread and some greens. Other people had veal which was amazing (but the beans accompanying it were kind of an off-putting grainy texture), and someone had the salmon which I didn't try but they liked. We also shared marinated olives where the oil was great for dipping.

The service, however, was questionable. I originally made the reservation for a party of 4, then changed it to 5, then when we got there, we changed it back to 4 because we thought one person wasn't showing up, but she decided to show up after all! So understandably, the staff might have been a little frustrated, but after that, our waiter wasn't nearly as friendly. He was almost snotty which definitely didn't make me feel at ease. It might have just been me, but despite the fact that I've been to very nice restaurants, the waiter made me feel like I didn't belong here. He even served us our chicken (which he had beforehand made it a point that it be "presented" to us) while we were in the bathroom. Rude! Whatever.

But yes, the food has been redeemed since my first visit. I really liked it and it would've been worthy of more than just 3 stars, except that I'd have to go again to actually know for sure since my first time sucked so badly.