Sunday, April 11, 2010

{bar tartine, review of the pork belly sandwich}

my husband and i recently took a vacation up to northern california {cambria, san francisco, napa}. for part of the visit, we visited my friend lydia. she had mentioned to one of her bosses (a foodie) that i was coming, he was super kind enough to come up with a list of recommended places to eat! since much of the vacation centered around food (my husband kindly obliged), i have much to blog about! (although i did not forget that i need to share with you my eating adventures on abbott kinney soon)....

one of the restaurants highly reviewed was bar tartine in san francisco, famous for their open faced pork belly sandwich. the picture of the sandwich looks quite delicious right? pork belly can be amazing and i've had a few in my life. but, i sadly have to say that after slicing into the pork belly, it looked more like the fried by-products of liposuction sitting on a piece of bread. {ok that is a disturbing image buuut it seriously was 3 large greasy chunks of fat with a faint sliver of pork, and i mean sliver}. where was the PORK? i do realize that pork belly can be quite fatty, but this was above and beyond in my opinion...

i'm not that health conscience and adore bacon and fries, but this was a plate serving a heart attack, with a side of a coronary artery bypass. i'm not sure if we had unusual pieces (although we ordered two of them and it was the same) since i'm surprised that anybody could comfortably eat that dish without getting grossed out, even if it tasted good. maybe the people who enjoyed the dish had more pork on the pork belly?? granted, the flavor of the sliver of pork was delicious.... and there were other redeeming parts of the dish--the yummy shoestring fries and the avocado, egg salad, and pickled jalapenos and onions on the bread. needless to say, ordering 2 of those dishes was not ideal for the pocket & arteries and we left most of the "fat" belly on the plate. booooo...

i'm sure there are other great dishes at this restaurant and the ambience is nice. i think i'll give the restaurant the benefit of the doubt and say that the dishes we received that day were just a mishap....but i must say that i must missed the boat on what is so great about this pork belly sandwich.....

interestingly, they added a 4% surcharge to the bill to provide healthcare for their employees. apparently, not unusual in restaurants in san francisco so i was told?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

{adventures on abbot kinney road}

i saw some pictures of Abbot Kinney Road in Venice California posted on a blog recently and decided to venture there with my husband this past weekend. uber cute street with cool architecture, trendy restaurants, and unique boutiques. i'll review each place i ate at over the next few weeks, but i'll give you a little taste of our adventure in venice! :)

the night before, we had planned on trying one of the restaurants along Abbot Kinney, but as we started walking, we immediately noticed a parking lot filled with food trucks! the koji truck!! a hot dog truck! a vietnamese sandwhich truck! i had been wanting to try the koji truck! i just never mustered the energy to drive into LA to try it. fun!

developing quite a thirst after eating at the koji truck, we wandered into the store lemonade for a quencher. along one wall was a glass bar filled with these delicious looking unique ready-made salads and potroasts. in the back, i saw a row of colorful liquids dripping down these containers. yeees, so many flavors of lemonades to choose from!

after sipping our lemonade, we gave our tummies a break and started strolling through the streets. there was a store called bountiful, lined with vintage furniture that quickly caught my attention. when you step into the store, you'll see the ceiling dripping with sparkly chandeliers and shelves overflowing with beautiful vintage cake stands of all different sizes and colors. i L.O.V.E. cake stands.

i had read about this well-reviewed bakery that sold macarons, called Jin's Patisserie. if you've been a follower of my blog, you'll know that i love macarons. so, that was a must-try....after purchasing the macarons, we stopped at one last place. N'ice Cream gelatos and sorbets. ooo, i'll blog about that later, but...drooool....

after a day of fun, we drove off to our friend's house who just had a little baby boy, with a bag of macarons as a gift. cute hungry yet sleepy little man!

Monday, March 1, 2010

{review of the alcove cafe & bakery in los angeles}

meandering down hillhurst in los angeles, you'll see nestled into the street, this cute old bungalow called the alcove cafe and bakery, with a large outdoor patio filled with lively chatter, colorful chairs, and the look of happy people eating brunch. walking up, you'll see a long line out the door and quickly discover that you're standing in line to place your order for the food. when you finally are able to grab a menu, you'll see a lovely offering of everything from farm egg omelettes, french toast, freshly squeezed juices to a display case of freshly baked goods. it was definitely a little hectic inside to try and squeeze your way through the crowd, but once you place your order, you grab your number and find a seat indoors or outdoors.

as i stood there staring at the menu, i began to have the recurrent epic brunch battle in my mind--sweet or salty? sweet or salty? heehee. do you have that debate as well?

i usually have to tell myself, make a decision girl! so i did. sweet won that day (sort of). so i chose the brioche french toasts topped with blueberries with vermont maple syrup and creme fraiche. great thing about it was that the french toast was not smothered in butter. the blueberries-as you can see from the picture, had the appearance of thawed out frozen berries. (not sure if thats how it was prepared though) overall, the french toast was well made and it was a good dish, but, not mind blowing, especially for the hefty price tag of 10.95 with no sides.

ok ok, so the sweet did not totally win that day. i caved and ordered a side of salty. i chose the side of two potato pancakes with caramelized apples and.... creme fraiche (it appears again!!) for $3.50. yay for salty. the potato pancakes were a yummy version of hashbrowns. the "caramelized apples" "interesting" flavor combination with the potato pancakes . it tasted like dehydrated chewy apples seasoned with cinnamon and maybe brown sugar? the potato pancakes sat on a bed of arugula, which was a nice compliment to the salty crunch of the potatoes.

and, finally, my hubster ordered the smoked salmon breakfast stack, which included two potato pancakes, topped with smoked salmon, poached eggs, and....wait for it...wait for it.... Creme Fraiche (!!!) and fresh dill, and a side of seasonal fresh fruit. haha. who knew creme fraiche could be soo versatile...(or not!). he enjoyed his dish, except wishing that there was not creme fraiche poured all over the dish. i unfortunately, did not take a bite of it, so i can't comment on it other than the fact that it looked delicious.

overall, i would say the place has a wonderful ambience and an enticing menu list. its a great place to go on a date or to hang out with your friends over brunch. my dishes were good, but probably not on the top of my list for brunch food. i would definitely go back though to try a few other dishes and to just enjoy the lively atmosphere.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

{review of Kellogg's Fruit Crisps}

As a perpetual snacker and always on the hunt for new snacks, I've been noticing the commercials for these Kellogg's Special K Strawberry Fruit Crisps. Anything with the word "Crisp" in the snack catches my attention. I happened to find a coupon for these babies and decided to buy them. When i ripped open the package, each crisp looked amazingly similar to another favorite 100 calorie snack packs of mine (Newton's Fruit Crisps - Apple Cinnamon), except for the frosting drizzled across the top. I enjoyed it. Crispy outer shell. Sweet strawberry filling. It reminds me of a crispier, healthier, lighter version of a strawberry pop tart. I personally wouldn't have minded if they left out the frosting, but I'll bet that most people prefer it since it makes it a little more decadent and its still delicious. So all in all, a great snack. I would buy it again :) (I think the hard part is just limiting yourself to one pack in one sitting, which would defeat the whole purpose of limiting your calories for a snack if you opened a few packs at once. hehe.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

{paulette's macaroons review}

macarons, oo how much i love thee...why? its this delicious round cookie with a crispy outer shell, chewy inside, and a delicious filling. what is the best part of these lovely creations? the flavors!!

over the holidays, Alice mentioned a little gift was coming my way. {ooooo-what was it?! so exciting! i love surprises!}. after receiving the gift, i gently untied the ribbon to discover a giant box of macarons from Paulette {a macaron bakery in Beverly Hills that i've been meaning to try}. can we say thoughtful?! {big nod-nod} it was a box of 24 cute little vividly colored macaroons that were like powerful flavor explosions for my tastebuds-framboise, carribean chocolate, coconut, caramel, lemon, columbian coffee, madagascar vanilla, sicilian pistachio, earl grey tea, violet cassis, passion fruit, and rose. wowie!! the fun part, was taking a bite of each macaron and guessing what flavor it was...{its like eating a box of chocolates and biting each one to see what flavor it is!} my favorites? ooo so hard to choose, but i loved the caramel, earl grey tea, coffee, coconut, violet,...oh i listing all of them? heehee.

i attempted making these bad boys once a few months ago and found it to be labor intensive but well worth the work. {but, it is definitely a skill to make macarons and to have them come out perfect. needless, to say, its a skill i need to work on. {grin}. here's the link for pistachio macarons {link: Chow Chaser} if you're interested in attempting to make some. :)

thanks alice, my dear friend, for this wonderfully satisfying gift!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

{cold wintery nights with a steamy bowl of chipotle-chocolate chili}

as the days become colder, the more i begin to crave a big steaming bowl of chili for dinner. i've made chilis a few times in my life, but, there's always something lacking...although don't get me wrong, they were quite tasty. i've tried ones with beer, ones in a slow cooker, ones over a stove top... i can never seem to get it quite to my liking. in my continual quest to find new chili recipes, i stumbled upon this recipe for chiptole chocolate chili on a food blog...exotic sounding. hm! I figured i would try the recipe and review it on my blog.

now this chili is quite spicy. be prepared! so, for the faint of heart, consider cutting down the spicy ingredients {chipotle sauce, chili powder, cumin}. I used nearly the exact amounts the recipe called for, except that i left out the red wine vinegar since i didn't have any on hand and made notes along the side of the original recipe if i made any changes. the only other thing i changed was that i added a smidge of a 1:1 flour/water mixture to thicken the sauce and then cooked it for a bit to get rid of the raw flour taste. why? because i love thick chili and despite cooking it for a long time, it never thickened.

i actually really enjoyed the recipe, as well as my family. there is depth to the flavor profile of this chili. the chocolate is a subtle note on your tongue. and honestly, it is not something you would notice immediately if noone told you that it was in the recipe. the heat from the chili is powerful. and it tastes even better with time. i'll definitely make it again...maybe for care group? :) if you serve this, i recommend making it with a side of the Trader Joe's Cornbread mix. Easy and a-must-compliment to the chili!

if you have any recommendations of other awesome chili recipes, please leave me a comment with a link to the recipe. i'll give it a whirl!

Chipotle Chocolate Chili {taken directly from Our Best Bites}

1 lb. lean ground turkey {i would consider making it with beef next time}
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans {no salt-added} diced tomatoes
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can beef broth
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. chili powder {i added only 1 to 1.5 Tbsp}
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (NOT Nesquik! That would be very bad!)
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
Chipotle sauce (from the can of chipotle chilies) {i could only find the san marcos chipotle peppers in adobo sauce}
1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate (1/2 unsweetened baking cube), chopped (optional; use to taste as needed; be careful, because too much will make your chili bitter)
Light sour cream
Chopped green onions
3-4 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Shredded cheddar cheese

-Heat some olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute onion, garlic, bell pepper, and ground turkey until meat is cooked through.
-Add salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, brown sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder {i would add the seasoning first to the meat, before you add the liquid. i'm not sure if it flavors the meat more..but in my mind, it would}
-Add tomatoes, beans, and beef broth.
-Add all of the chipotle sauce from a small can of chipotle chilies. Heat to boiling and then reduce to a simmer (uncovered), stirring occasionally, until thickened as desired (I like it about 30-40 minutes). If desired, add some chopped chipotle chilies.
-Add 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar and a small amount of chopped chocolate at a time until desired richness is reached. If necessary, add more red wine vinegar to cut the sweetness of the chili. This is where you can play around a little with the flavors.
-When thickened and seasoned as desired, serve with chopped onions or green onions (green onions, though not pictured, are better, in my opinions!), sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

{i heart red velvet cupcakes}

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. {drool}. i served them at my wedding in lieu of wedding cake because of my love for red velvet cupcakes. the proverbial question is "what is in red velvet cake?" i like to see it as a hybrid between a vanilla and chocolate cake. its composition includes cocoa powder, vanilla extract, buttermilk, red food coloring. there is a frightening amount of red food coloring that is used...brushing your teeth after eating one of these babies looks like your spitting out blood. hehehe. ok, maybe thats a little dramatic. but, here's an interesting factoid though-red dye (natural food coloring) can be made from extracting a dried female cochineal insect. {will you ever think of red colored foods the same again?}

A friend, Natalie C, received a tin of Sprinkles red velvet cupcake mix as a gift. Delightfully, she decided to come over for the holidays and make this with me, using my trusty fire-engine red KitchenAid mixer. Surprisingly, the mix turned out exactly like the ones at Sprinkles. It is a little cheaper than going to Sprinkles, but you have to buy quite a bit of ingredients. And why do their cupcakes taste so yummy? Butter! A little twist on their frosting recipe was that I added a touch of vanilla bean paste to the cream cheese. Not only yummy, but also looks nice with the bean specks! Anyways, its a fun gift and the results were...delish! and they even come with those adorable colored dots that taste like cardboard!! :)

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