Thursday, July 30, 2009

Michelle + Nick

Photo by Danielle Gillett

A few weekends ago I had the honor of making a few desserts for Michelle and Nick's wedding in the woods of Nestldown. It was one of the most beautiful, deeply moving and personal celebrations I have ever witnessed, let alone been a part of! Moreover, every dessert was deliberately chosen with meaning to the couple. My absolute favorite idea was the mango cupcake with coconut frosting - the minis were coated in fluffy domes of shredded coconut, just like her dog, Mango! Sweetest. Bride. EVER.

Menu (post-morning-ceremony, so short and simple)
- Mango cupcakes w/ coconut frosting
- Matcha cupcakes w/ white chocolate cream cheese frosting: both the bride and groom are half Japanese, hence the matcha
- Lavender cupcakes w/ lemon buttercream: the couple met in Japan and took a trip to some lavender fields. Romantic!
- Fruit tarts: I tried to keep the colors mostly white and green with white nectarines, kiwi, gooseberries, raspberries (accent and something more familiar), and white wild strawberries. <3 Berkeley Bowl
- Almond citrus biscotti: the bride is half Italian!
- Chocolate edamame cookies: threw it in because, well, why not?


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mix Mix

As I mentioned before, I made some leche flan for a tasting over the weekend, and it was for a dessert inspired by halo halo. It is not actually halo halo since there is no shaved ice, ice cream, red bean, etc etc... but the concept of mixing a bunch of stuff together is pretty much the idea behind this dish, except a bit more pared down and simplified. It's essentially coconut tapioca/graham crumbs/leche flan/mango/candied rice krispies/basil lime syrup. Because the basil lime syrup has such a strong flavor and mango has a very subtle one, I kept most of the other components pretty neutral so there wouldn't be too much competition. It's still a work in progress though, so suggestions are welcome!

Thanks to Mike for the photos! <3


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hello, Goodbye

It's been over a month since Mike moved into his new condo, but we finally introduced ourselves to his hood by having a food crawl down Piedmont Ave. We started at Adesso, Dopo's semi-new sister bar with quite a selection of salumi and other small plates. Very well aware that they have happy hour with free food from 5-7pm, we clocked in just before it ended but I guess they stop serving food around 6:30pm. My wallet was sad, but that didn't stop us from ordering.

One of the absolute best things about Adesso is the integrity of their menu. In both the drinks and food we tried, you could taste how each individual flavor component contributed to the dish/drink as a whole. It was straight and simple - transparent and exactly what you expected.

Salumi was essentially a similar experience to Dopo, rabbit pate was a bit dry, sardines w/ mozzarella were refreshing and not fishy at all, and the risotto balls w/ pork ragu in the middle were AMAZING. Good thing they only gave us 5 because I could eat them endlessly.

The drinks were also really tasty. They have a large selection of wine and beer in addition to their cocktail and aperitif menu. From the five we tasted, they were all deceptively strong and incredibly delicious. The pisco sour left a lasting impression on Mike - he was still talking about it the day after. The pisco sours I've had in the past usually have more of a frothy egg white on top, but this one was so thick that it almost seemed like they were whipped with some sugar. It was also topped with a sprinkling of spices that made me think of vanilla chai. The strawberry-cucumber-mint cocktail was my favorite. It was just a perfect summer drink, as girly as it may be.

Despite our hefty bill (about $100 for 2 ppl, inc. tax and tip), I would definitely return. The quality of the food is very high, and the atmosphere is still down to earth and chill. Too bad it's so far for me, because I would otherwise try to get there at 5!

After our delicious experience at Adesso, we somehow thought it would be a good idea to ruin it by going to Cesar. I'd been once before to the Berkeley location years ago (my 21st birthday, when my palate newly discovered a taste for "fine" food) and it was a terrible experience, but Mike had never been so we figured we'd stop in for some more tapas. The food was warm and comforting, with a lot of spreads, stews, and essentially anything you can dip your bread into. While satsfying, it was still another case of a menu far exceeding the actual execution of the dishes. Mike likened the atmosphere to Cheesecake Factory, but I wouldn't go that far. It was indeed much larger than its intimate Berkeley counterpart and the techno music didn't really help, but hey it's Piedmont. You can't be that picky. =)

We ended the gluttonous evening with, of course, Fenton's. I'm actually not a huge fan of their ice cream, but its popularity really stems from being a long-established institution of the community. Oh yeah, and I guess Up. Regardless, I enjoyed my second ice cream of the evening, coffee + cookies!

The next day, we also stopped into the new Berkeley Bowl (West) and its adjoining cafe. My first time was actually last week when I was picking up some fruit for a wedding, but this was my first time actually exploring it in its spacious glory. Selection is comparable, but it just feels like more because the warehouse is so Costco-like. The cafe is still working out many kinks in efficiency and menu (mostly sandwiches and salads), but the old burrito and Panda-Express-quality "Chinese" food is still available in the market-side.

So while we said many hellos this weekend, there were also many goodbyes. My absolute favorite shop and ice cream store closed its doors this weekend. The normally friendly chef-owners of Sketch were visibly stressed and not in the mood to chat, so it was a sad goodbye. I did leave with sweet memories and some nectarine sorbet swirled with vanilla bean ice cream, before the onset of our Piedmont run.

One of Mike's childhood friends is also leaving SF, so we said goodbye to him with lots of food including Little Star, fried chicken, lots of sangria, and much much more. I made some leche flan for a tasting earlier that day, and brought the leftovers with me. The ultimate compliment: tastes like a Filipino person made it. Success!

It was a bittersweet weekend, full of happy and sad moments, but great food wherever we went. RIP Michelle.


Monday, July 20, 2009


This new spot has the perfect location for a work lunch that is tasty and affordable. The black structural piece thing on the ceiling is interesting, albeit a bit suffocating and makes the space look small. After reading an article about the food however, I was really excited to see how their menu would be executed.

We started with the wings - I think most of us agree that Point Reyes blue cheese can make anything taste good - creamy, rich, tangy, but not too overpowering.

Alice gave her squid salad a thumbs up, despite her usual dislike for frisee. The fried green tomatoes were perfect and sweet - summer is truly the best season ever!

The "pulled" lamb was so juicy and tender, and the watermelon vinegar only enhanced the flavor. The accompanying slaw had a bit too much mint for my taste, but it gave nice contrast in texture to the sandwich.

The fish sandwich (I don't think it was the po boy on their online menu) and the BBQ chicken sandwich weren't as memorable, but still satisfying. The desserts also sounded much better on the menu than they were executed. The Japanese pear pie with aged gouda sounded so delicious, but the final product left us wondering if there was any point to the ingredients they used. It tasted great - warm and comforting, but it was barely distinguishable from a traditional apple pie. The spices overwhlemed the delicate flavor of the Asian pear, and the gouda got lost in the pectin from the fruit once baked. The crust, however, was perfectly flaky, so props to them on that. The inverted root beer float was also a fun concept, but it was not for me.

Overall, Wexler's has some winners here, and is a great place for a warm break from work.


Il Cane Rosso

Not much to say since it just opened. They have plenty of seating, including bar stools inside the kitchen. Their menu sounded quite promising, but what we ordered ended up not being what was expected. Grilled peach sandwich was more of an open-faced canape on some too-toasted bread ($9). Rotisserie chicken salad was about a half cup serving ($12.50). Egg salad sandwich was simple, but we were given what felt like half of a sandwich (pictured.. the entire sandwich = half of a sandwich for $9). Polenta ($5, not pictured) was the best and the safest.

Summary: very small portions and pricey. Maybe Daniel Patterson is too used to Coi-sized servings and forgot that people usually only order one item for lunch. I would consider going back to try their porchetta, and potentially other seasonal dishes of interest in the future.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gigi's Wedding

Here are photos of a dessert table I did for Gigi's wedding. We went for light flavors, and a yellow-peach-salmon color palette. Menu:

- Peach tarts/vanilla pastry cream/pate sucree shell
- Grapefruit raspberry mousse/lemon poppy seed cake
- Mascarpone cheesecake/lychee white wine mirror glaze/black tea sugar tuile
- Coconut tapioca/passion fruit mango gelee/basil lime syrup
- Trio of tea-infused chocolate truffles: earl grey (lollipops), jasmine green tea (lollipops), chamomile (rolled in chopped almonds)
- Coconut mochi cake
[more for decor, round sugar cookies and mini cakes]

Photos courtesy of Gigi's cousin.

I think this is the only photo where you can actually tell that there's a view... really great background of the bay in Sausalito!


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Maybe Tomorrow

* Update 09Jul09: no tomato salad today (corn salad). Ryan Farr is up and running - chicken beer sausage -- best part was perfect toasted bun:dog ratio. Namu lines are getting longer than Tacolicious....

A few months ago I posted about the new Thursday market at the Ferry Building, something I've been looking forward to. Well, last week it finally came, and what an unexpected clusterfk it was! Eight word reaction: Ferry Building "street food" with Ferry Building prices. Apparently, Daily Candy was the primary source of the yuppie mob (I didn't know people actually still considered it relevant) and Tacolicious was the unfortunate target. I felt so terrible for them because they were clearly unprepared for the unending line, and the gusts of wind kept blowing their tickets away. I was one of the many victims of the lost tickets, and had to wait patiently as they scrambled around their tent.

The tacos were street-size, but the filling was pretty skimpy for $3.50/taco. I would only consider getting the short ribs again (mmm cola-braised) but I'm not sure I would wait in the ridic line for those prices. Maybe once they smooth things out.

Saturday's most popular truck, Roli Roti, was serving up some steak sandwiches (no porchetta, unfortunately) which were a little too chewy... should've been cut into smaller pieces. Their simple tomato salad was the highlight of the entire market -- fresh basil and cleanly dressed in olive oil and a little salt. Really the epitome of summer produce! No frills needed when you have tomatoes that sweet.

Namu's booth had prices more reasonable than their restaurant. Okonomiyaki - at $7 (still overpriced), it could've used a lot more filling/seafood, since it was mostly batter. "The real Korean 'tacos'" were the best deal, but were pretty much just ssam using nori, so don't expect a Kogi rival here. They tasted great, but the signage was a bit patronizing. They ran out of kimchi fried rice even before the peak lunch hour began, but it was fine with me since I didn't need to spend $8 on a cup of that.

With all that said, Thursdays have great promise once they work out the kinks. Tacolicious, please put weights on your tickets. Namu, please lower your prices or justify them by giving more food or more value in the amount of protein you put in your dishes. I'm excited to see what/who else will join the market, but in the mean time, I think I'll let the crowds die down a little. Or not. See you Thursday?


Monday, July 06, 2009


560 Divisadero (& Hayes)
(415) 864-8643

American in Western Addition/ "NOPA"

**Update 27Sep09: OK after visiting a few more times, I must say that their pork chop, flatbread, and blue bottle martini are my go-tos. They will never fail!

*Update 06Jul09: I've been meaning to go back for awhile, especially since seasonal restaurants are always better in the summer. I finally understand the hype because this meal was sooo much better than the last! Flatbread was seasoned perfectly, with a nice char and crunch. Burger, chicken, and white beans were all pretty good, but the real star was the brined pork chop with grilled peaches. I'm a sucker for grilled peaches, but the juicy pink chop is what won me over. The cornmeal cake was really dry, but the Blue Bottle martini was the perfect ending to a great meal.
[28-Jan-08] Went to Garrett's hood on a rainy Thursday, and this place was still packed! We couldn't get a reservation so we just tried walking in, and had to wait about an hour. Service was friendly, and the space is pretty nice. "Barnyard"-like is how Garrett described the roof, but I'd say it's more rustic. The ceiling is high, and there are very long windows - I'd imagine it'd be great on a nice day with the sun pouring in!

The food was solid, classic American fare. Nothing blew my mind, but I did enjoy my meal. We had the crispy duck leg to start, which was very meaty for this type of fowl. As for entrees, I had the cod which was eh, and Garrett's pork chop was a very juicy cut. We also shared the donuts as a dessert, which were fine, although you can't really go wrong with anything fried.

So overall, the restaurant was decent, but nothing special.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Top 5: Vietnamese Sandwiches

It's pure coincidence that Gene from Hoodscope just wrote about Saigon Sandwiches in his SFE column (which of course tops my own list)! I've been slowly eating my way through the city's banh mis for awhile, and finally visited the last on my list! Props to bsze, Saigon Sandwiches new #1 fan and my partner in crime.

This is a direct comparison of a combo pork banh mi, ie. pate, roast pork, headcheese or some sort of meat jello at each place. That's just what I always get - it's yummy! It's no surprise that Saigon was my favorite since it's everyone's favorite... but people say it's the best for a reason! At the end of the day, it's all about personal preference, but I think big flavor will always win out. This list is also purely SF - I'm sure if you threw in the entire bay into the mix, SJ would dominate fo sho.

1. Saigon Sandwiches
Mounds of salty pate, loaded on top of rich pork goodness. Now I want one.

L: Saigon Sandwiches (a bit manhandled, but you get the idea), R: Wrap Delight

2. Wrap Delight
Yelp calls it "Wrap Delight," but I couldn't see a sign that actually said that; the awning just said "Vietnamese Sandwiches." Overall really tasty with juicy cuts of roast pork - the only real edge Saigon has over it is the amount of pate. I would totally go here again, except that Saigon is only a block away... maybe if it was closed? Or if I was in a rush and didn't want to wait in line?

Baguette Express - note the pork looks like char siu

3. Baguette Express
Great balance, and added flavor with the BBQ pork.

Lee's - my messy room in the background
4. Lee's
Not to be mistaken with the chain in Financial, this Little Saigon location is almost like a fast food restaurant, except baking their rolls daily. They take their branding seriously. Fresh, crunchy baguette, but just too much bread for my taste.

5. Little Paris
Tasty pate, but overall a bit small and not as satisfying as the others.

Others I've visited around town:

Irving Cafe + Deli
Definitely Chinese style in the flavor of the meat, but proximity is a huge plus (for people in the avenues).

Les Croissant
Close to the Embarcadero, but definitely a bit out of proportion. Cucumber was in huge huge pieces that when it actually stayed in the sandwich that was all I could taste. The meat was also mostly headcheese, so there wasn't much flavor aside from the carrots.

Cafe Dolci
Closest to where I work, and consistent with FiDi prices ugh ($5). Very Western-friendly and dumbed down (their combo was "ham and pate"... and that was literally it). A little bit of ham and a lot of pickled veg.

L: Les Croissant - cucumber madness, R: Cafe Dolci