Sunday, December 30, 2012
I've been threatening to re-make and re-write about my all time favorite breakfast/lunch/dinner bread - the amazing popover - and maybe even sneaking in a savory filling or two to mix things up. After agonizing all week about my failed and overcooked Christmas popovers and why the hell I tried a different recipe that had them in the oven for 35 minutes (wtf?), I decided to whip some up this morning. Why I tried a new recipe for Christmas, I'll never know, as the recipe published in this blog is really pretty foolproof and fast. Most say to bake them for 30 minutes or more. These are done in just under 15, which means as your hungry family laps them up with jam and butter, or better yet, bacon and eggs (!), you can already be whipping up and baking batch number two before they're done! To make them extra special, I used bacon drippings instead of butter in the muffin tins.
A word though, these "popovers" don't blow up into a dome of air, but have puffy sides and a nice custardy center - more of a preference of mine for filling with savory and sweet goodness. I suppose a glass door on my 1970's era electric oven could have prevented the overcooking on Christmas. Remember, don't open the oven door while they're in (well, you can take a little peak...). Please see my posting from December 31, 2010 for my favorite version!
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
I had remembered reading about this soba/yakitori house a few years ago when working on my business plan. In fact, I referenced them as one of the newest non-sushi serving Japanese restaurants to open in a sushi denominated scene. So let's just say, I knew to expect excellent dashi (broth) and other cooked dishes, but had no idea I would be stepping into a cultural space warp when i approached the wooden front door, with the requisite noren curtains wavering over the threshold and heavy wooden interior.
Almost immediately I knew i was in for something special. Expectations aside, the stand up only sake bar with an opening facing the street for a quick sip of sake, soju or plum wine would have been enough to draw me in. Pleasantly surprised by the ambience is an understatement.
Tatami matted climb-in seating with small families and kids crawling around lined the right wall, and private booths occupied the left side of the long narrow room. A few seats were available at the tiny noodle bar in the back, the place where one would expect to see a sushi counter, but instead, was teaming with a few young Japanese looking guys sweating below a large hood sysem that is only meant to cover a smoke and steam producing cooking surface. Yup, no sushi here!
I was already "in love" before the food arrived. The rough hewn booths, naked wood, funny wicker lampshades, long skinny bowling alley feel, dark and timeless - could have been 50 years old or just opened last week - right up my own "alley."
The soba set arrived, with pickles and shichimi, as well as the tori-shiso maki, with tempura dipping sauce. The cucumbers made it to my table a few minutes later, which was all fine, since i was in lust and this restaurant could pretty much do no wrong - all predetermined before any food morsel had even hit my tongue. Such a sucker for ambiance!
The food, however, did not disappoint. It's two days later and I can still imagine the taste of the dashi marinated chicken breast and perfect crunch of the tempura outer crust. Its simplicity partnered with originality and succulence would call me back for that dish only.
I found myself not wanting to leave, but unless imbibing in their great sake and soju list was on the agenda, there was no solid reason to stay. I visited the bathroom on the way out, to find cool LED lit bottles the only light source which made the area outside the bathroom sexier than any bathroom area should be in the light of day... Once inside my trip to Japan was complete, as the warm Toyo toilet seats, replete with a warm front and back wash bidet, pretty much put me over the top. For $28 bucks, less than the cost of a round trip shuttle ride to the airport, the trip to Japan in Berkeley was worth every cent.
|Tori no shiso|
Thursday, January 5, 2012
So when said cafe owner mentioned vietnamese sandwiches, I suddenly felt at a loss. I mean, I've heard of these wonders: layered meats with pate and some sort of greenery on a traditional sandwich roll, and read some great reviews of some places off of Clement in the City, but felt sort of ashamed that I hadn't yet partaken of one, being the self proclaimed eater that i am. However, since moving (way up) to Petaluma almost 2 years ago, my culinary experiences have taken a bit of a nose dive, often even giving way to late night snacks at Applebees. Yes, Applebees (and only because the sidewalks roll up around her at 9pm).
Wanting to try a Bahn Mi from the City instead of busting my cherry on a potential lesser version from the only Vietnamese restaurant in town, I popped down there a few weeks ago to get a firsthand taste of this eponymous sando.
A chef friend suggested I try Saigon Sandwich on Larkin Street near Turk. As I was en route to a catering gig and didn't want to risk the line, I called ahead. That proved sort of ridiculous. They asked me what kind and I said, "the most popular." She gave me the Vietamese version of "do not understand" - and so because I had no idea what was on their menu, and was scrolling through yelp reviews while driving on Lombard to try to make a quick decision, I settled on the pork. I wanted to make sure it had the pate, cuz' please understand, I have never ordered one of these buggahs and wanted to be sure to get the whole shebang. Unfortunately though, my non-english speaking phone companion "computed" my request as "no pate?" Then I said "yes, pate" and then another "discourse" ensued on mayonnaise vs. no mayonnaise. I said "yes, mayonnaise" and she responded "no mayo?"... By the time I got off the phone, I had no idea what the hell I would be getting but was okay with that.
Wrapped up in a tight paper wrapper with a red rubber band to hold it all together, I was out of there and on my way for a quick last minute Christmas shopping jaunt in Japantown.