Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bella's First Cookie! and Wedding #2

This past weekend, I had the utmost privilege to cater Karen and Vinny's wedding! Prep started right off of my plane from Taiwan, so you can imagine how huge and dark the bags under my eyes got! Oh man I slept so much last night.

The wedding arrangements were crazily last minute, so the goal was a simple and intimate event. I tried creating a menu that reflected that, but I wanted to keep a little flair to the desserts since it was still a wedding after all.

The menu:
- Cocoa nib + caramel cookies
- Hazelnut biscotti dipped in chocolate
- (homemade) Thin mints
- Oatmeal cherry cookies
- Matcha green tea cupcakes w/ white chocolate cream cheese icing
- "le kit cat" -- crunchy chocolate peanut butter bottom w/ chocolate mousse layer on top
- Tiramisu cake
- Fruit tarts (vanilla pastry cream, pate sablee crust)
- Chevre panna cotta cubes w/ strawberries and basil lime syrup

What didn't make the menu:
- Blood orange bars + lavender crust: like lemon bars... I used the same recipe... but they just didn't turn out well, so I left it at home!
- Cocoa creme fraiche cupcakes w/ raspberry icing: I didn't have enough time

Bella, the couple's daughter, isn't allowed to eat sweets. BUT yesterday Karen let her since it was obviously a special day... so she had her very first cookie! And it was mine! What an honor. =) I don't know which one she had though, but still. That makes me feel so special =)

I don't have Julia's pictures yet (she did the wedding photos), but here are my crappy ones... after the jump!

I remembered to take pictures of prep this time. My sister's wedding was too stressful so I wasn't able to capture the madness that it was, so this time I made it a point to do that even though I didn't document everything.

One out of the 20 blood oranges that went to waste, thin mints sausage style!, matcha batter ready to bake

Panna cotta grid, the super cute labels Rhonda made!, chocolate mess = the day of the wedding, I hand-dipped the thin mints one by one and froze them so there was (still is) chocolate all over the kitchen and my face/glasses

Mary brought the rice krispies and brownies

I really need to work on my piping skills (or get some, rather)

The plate saved for the bride & groom

The happy family!


Friday, March 28, 2008

Berkeley in 36 hours (an eating schedule)

Stacy pointed me to this nytimes article about travelling in Berkeley. Let me just say... LAME. This writer doesn't know what he's talking about. I mean, Blake's??? C'mon now. We aren't juniors in undergrad anymore. With Stacy's input, here are some MUCH better suggestions.

Note: the photograph on the right has no relevance (it used to be my wallpaper after I saw it on BBC a long time ago. It's showing celebrations of an Indian holiday - Basanta Utsav I think?)

Day 1 (College Ave)
Breakfast: Rick and Ann's
- You can walk around the Claremont hotel area. There are some cute shops to look at while you wait.
- Theoretically you could go to the spa at the Claremont like the article suggests, but who really has that much money to throw away?
Lunch: Zachary's
- The wait for dinner is way too long, so lunch is a better option.
- You can walk down college towards Rockridge where there are a ton of boutiques like Pretty Penny.
Dinner: A Cote
- While you're in the Rockridge area anyway, you must dine here!
Alternate Dinner choice: Trattoria La Siciliana
- Cute family-owned Italian restaurant
Dessert: Ici
- They have some interesting ice cream flavors and there's ALWAYS a line.
- There are also a lot of great shops to peruse around the Elmwood area (like Jeremy's), as well as a movie theater.

Day 2 (Shattuck)
Breakfast: La Note
- Go before 10am!
Lunch: Brazil Cafe, + Cheeseboard + Gregoire
- Grab a tri-tip sandwich to go, then head over for a slice of pizza and potato puffs!
- This is a must in Berkeley. Squat on the island and listen to some nice jazz while enjoying your food!
- This area is a nice walk to the Berkeley Rose Garden.
- It's also close to the original Peet's on Vine.
- Guerilla Cafe is another great coffee shop close by.
Dinner: Chez Panisse
- The epitome of Californian cuisine.
Alternate Dinner choice: Rivoli on Solano
- Obviously not everyone can eat at Chez Panisse.
- Not in the same area, but not too far away. Also close to the Indian Rock.
Dessert: La Farine (one on Solano, and one on College)
- This French bakery closes at 7pm, so it's best to get the pastries ahead of time and save them for dessert

Day 3 (University/San Pablo)
Breakfast: Can't Fail Cafe
- Diner with an edge in Emeryville. I think it's owned by one of the members of Green Day.
- They have a great veggie burger (if you want burgers for breakfast)
Lunch: Thai Temple
- Thai food made by Buddhist monks only on Sundays! How more Berkeley can you get
Dinner: Vik's
- Authentic Indian food (very large Indian community in Berkeley)
Dessert: Sketch
- Head over there early because they have weird hours.
- The 4th Street area also has a lot of great boutiques and the exotic animal store.

Hmm... you can't see all of Berkeley in 3 days! So here's a bonus:

Day 4 (Campus life)
[No Breakfast because by then you'll be tired and will want to sleep in]
Lunch: Intermezzo
- Get a nice fresh salad to balance out all the glutton of the days before
- Can take a stroll around campus, down Telegraph (Momoca is a Japanese boutique and one of my faves)
- Hike up to Tilden
Dinner: Durant food court (aka Asian ghetto)
- Steve's, Meesha's, Gypsy's... it's all good and cheap
Post-Dinner snack: Top Dog, Fat Slice, La Burrita
Dessert: Quickly/Sweethearts/Papamingo
- Read: boba/frozen yogurt

Ta da! And that's how you really do it in Berkeley. Silly New Yorkers.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

To Taipei and Back: Top 5

So I'm starting this post on my last evening in Taipei - my mom brought her laptop so we've been connected, and I am so incredibly stuffed that I don't want to get up.

SOOO a lot of my friends have gone to Taiwan regularly throughout their lives because of family and such, but this was my first time. My mom was born and raised there, and immigrated to the US for grad school. Since immigrating, she's gone back 3 times, the third being 25 years ago, or when she was pregnant with me! So times have been a changin' since her last visit. Anyway, since all my friends go here quite often, I heard many things about the food - mainly that it is amazing. I came with high expectations. I don't know if that was to my detriment, because as I'm nearing the end of my trip, I am excited to go back to Bay Area food.

But before I dive into my food experiences, here is my TOP 5 foods of Taipei:

1. Shaved Ice @ Ice Monster
2. Beef noodle soup @ that one place.... (see below)
3. the fake zwa bing
4. Lemon jelly drink
5. Large fried chicken

What am I talking about?? Sorry Alice, Jason, Kevin, Jess et al... but Taiwan's food AIN'T ALL THAT! At least not what I had. I talked it over with my mom, and I think it's just cause the Bay Area has such great food already... that it's pretty comparable... so I was expecting better and it wasn't necessarily. Granted, most of the food I had was Northern Chinese cuisine and I didn't have that much actual Taiwanese food... but I don't think that matters. My mom and I have come to the conclusion that... the food there is good, no doubt. But we're lucky to live somewhere in the US where the same food is just as good, or even better.

Sooo what did I have is the million dollar question. I obviously couldn't try everything, but I tried to at least cover what was hyped:

- peking duck at the Howard Hotel: this was pretty good. Not particularly special, but I did like it more than Great China. Because they left some of the fat on (not all of it was scraped off), it was more flavorful

- unique chinese banquet food: I've been to more than a fair share of banquets, and this was the first time I (and my mom) saw some of the dishes there, like a honey glazed pork with fried tofu skin wrapped in a wrappy thing

- Hello Kitty sweets: I didn't eat here, but this was right across the street from my hotel (my landmark for remembering where we were staying). This picture is really for Alice, since she LOVES all things Hello Kitty <3

- lots of guava, dragon fruit and starfuit: nothing new here, except that I had actually never seen actual dragon fruit opened (I had previously only had dragon fruit flavored things like in vitamin water, or seen the fruit unopened at grocery stores)

- all kinds of bing (bing!): hm I'm not really sure how to translate these phonetically... but we had many variations - tsong yo bing LOL... uhh that's supposed to be the green onion pancake. a leek one I don't know the Chinese name for... a beef one I also don't know the name for... and ... zwa bing? So, the "zwa bing" we had really wasn't zwa bing. I don't know if I've ever had the real thing, but although this one was very good (off the street), it was really just a tsong yo bing fluffed up, whereas real zwa bing is supposed to puff up naturally when it cooks (according to my mom)

- shaved ice @ Ice Monster: this was definitely good, and you can't get it in the US really. Well, Yogurt Harmony in Berkeley has some, but it's not nearly as good. At the same time... how hard is it to make shaved ice? My mom used to make it at home - all you need is... ice... condensed milk, some tea-syrup, and fruit. Ta da! But I wouldn't definitely not go out of my way to crank out that ice.

- Mochi thing off the street: best when eaten hot. Not good lukewarm

You can see the soup weighing down the skin on the left

- Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) @ the wildly popular Din Tai Fung: I didn't like it, sorry. I think Joe's Shanghai or even Shanghai Dumpling King in my hood are better!

- these peanut and black sesame filled rice cakes: made by a deaf man, which threw me off because my interactions with him weren't far off from me communicating with a Chinese person who wasn't deaf

- beef noodle soup: this was another highlight - there are two noodle shops right next to each other that are well-known, and the one on the right (while facing the store fronts) is the good one. The beef is the key, and it was really soft and sooo good. The rest was whatever - noodles eh, and soup was good. This is going to sound blasphemous, but my mom and I both really like Panda Express' beef noodle soup, at least at the location near my parent's house in Fremont. Their beef isn't good, but they have good soup, and it was kind of like that but spicier. I have probably lost all credibility now. Ha!

- ro zou fan, kind of: so that's supposed to mean like this pan-fried ground beef/pork? in a certain sauce... there's this place in Fremont called Little Taipei that my mom always gets this at, and it's one of my favorites. But, people make things differently, and this was actually neur ro fan, not ro zou fan. Wow, I'm even butchering Chinese in writing, not just orally. At this same place, their pan fried ground meat was actually soupy and with noodles... before we knew what it was my mom asked if we could have it with rice and they absolutely refused. I guess it's no different than American chefs wanting to have their dishes eaten a certain way and not customizable

I tried to catch the sausage stuffed in the sausage (middle), but it's not a good picture

- lemon jelly drink: by the time I got to the Shilin night market, I was so full from my lunch that day that I just couldn't eat anything. I did manage to down two of these though. It's just lemonade with Chinese jelly in it, but it was just what I needed

- fat on a stick @ Shilin: there was this sausage stand where everything just looked amazing (or amazingly dripping with fat) that I had to force myself to eat something. I watched almost everyone in line get this big sausage cut in half, doused in sauce, ginger, and other condiments, then stuffed with another smaller sausage! Although I was curious, I knew I would pass out if I got that so I just got a small sausage which I took two bites out of then threw away

*** EDIT ***
So Jason said that the "bigger sausage" is actually rice in sausage casing. That definitely makes more sense! Less of a heart-attack-waiting-to-happen

- "large fried chicken" @ Shilin: this was another highlight. It was like eating popcorn chicken (Chinese style) times 10000!

So that wasn't bad, right? I thought I had a good share of what Taipei had to offer. There were definitely some things I liked, some things I wish I had tried... but overall, I'm not sad I'm leaving because I know I can get food just as good back home.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cute Cakes, and Happy Birthday to Jess!

Miette's lemon cake + lemon buttercream (I didn't know there was a Hayes Valley location!)


Monday, March 03, 2008

Asian Food in the Sticks

At Geoffrey's request, here is my list of Asian food in the Richmond/Sunset

- shanghai dumpling king (balboa & 34th): good xiao long bao (ghetto and dirty)
- shanghai house (balboa & 38th): hand-cut noodles
- oyaji (clement& 33rd): japanese tavern food
- burma superstar (clement & 4th): burmese - super trendy, long wait, but good!
- mandalay (california & 5th): burmese - less trendy, no wait, still good! and cheaper than burma superstar. the "special noodles" are really good
- tofu house (geary & 11th): korean tofu soup
- brothers (geary & 3rd i think): korean bbq
- taste of formosa (clement & 26th i think): taiwanese
- kitaro (geary & 18th i think): cheap japanese/sushi
- mayflower (geary & 27th): chinese - good for specialty dishes (and more expensive), supposedly good dim sum

- san tung (irving & 11th): korean chinese, good dry fried chicken, dumplings, spicy peanut noodles
- "korean restaurant" (taraval & 40th i think): don't know the real name, but there's a sign outside that says "korean restaurant"
- cheung hing (irving & 30-something?): good BBQ pork
- PPQ (irving & 19th): pho and other vietnamese food
- pho hua (irving & 19th): I like their pho better, but some of my friends don't agree
- south seafood village (irving & 15th): decent dim sum
- ebisu (9th? & irving): decent sushi (a bit on the expensive side)
- hotei (9th? & irving): decent udon