Thursday, October 4, 2012

Soup Freaks



Oh. My. God.  Hangover Soup!

If you're hung over, sick, tired, stressed, cold, or otherwise in the mood for a spicy soup, then WOW do I have the place for you.

Soup Freaks on Mission (at 3rd) is a cavernous place that I've often walked by but never visited.  It seemed far too large for a soup and sandwich place, and in the evenings without a lunch crowd I found this place really hard to understand.

But at lunch on a weekday, it makes total sense.  Even more so after trying this soup.

They start with a big wedge of white or wheat bread, add a layer of generous chunks of roasted (Rosie!) chicken, and ladle in chicken broth from their chicken/matzoh soup.  After adding red onion and cilantro, they lace the broth with a giant dollop of Sriracha.

I'll definitely be back for another round!


Monday, September 10, 2012

The Sentinel

When I'm not sure where to go for lunch, I usually set out for a wander, and end up wandering right to the Sentinel, on New Montgomery.  Though it's a short sandwich menu, it's filled with quality ingredients and thoughtful flavor profiles. I always think of these delicious sandos when I need nourishment for the mind.

On Friday I tried what may be my favorite Sentinel selection yet:  chicken salad.  This version had big chunks of white meat, tossed in a bit of mayo, with roasted pumpkin seeds and a slight suggestion of apricot.  I haven't seen this on the menu before but I certainly hope I see it again!

Speaking of which, it's lunchtime, and it might be time for another wander...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Soup Junkie


Yesterday was a bit cold and gloomy in the Financial District, and I've been fighting the flu, so it seemed like the perfect day to try out Soup Junkie, a little walk-up on Market at Fremont that serves a couple Vietnamese soups, sandwiches, and the ever-tempting Dynamo Donuts.

I had to try the bun rieu, their #1 soup on the menu and the most-hyped.  A crab and tomato broth, with plentiful noodles, several pieces of crab omelette, and a couple meatballs besides.

I loved how they served it in thoughtful to-go packaging, with chopsticks, a disposable soup spoon, and the broth set aside to pour over the noodles at your destination.  My coworker ordered the beef pho, and the beef was thinly sliced and just slightly undercooked, to finish with the hot broth.

This was a hearty portion of soup and quite filling.  And while I normally prioritize the main ingredients, in this case I actually most enjoyed the broth, which carried the tang of tomatoes and the depth of crab flavor, but was impressively balanced and not too rich.

I'm totally into this place; I almost can't wait for another gloomy day to go back!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Saigon Sandwich

I finally made it to Saigon Sandwich, the place that sets the standard for banh mi in the city. I had never found it that convenient to get to the Tenderloin for lunch.  But yesterday, with the luck of a metered spot right out front, I finally got to try the sandwich I've heard so much about.

As soon as I walked up to the door, they called out for my order.  No time to weigh your options at this rapid-fire operation.  I ordered the roast pork (although next time I will get "fanci pork and pate") and watched the three-woman team work smoothly, one slicing the freshly baked French bread, one assembling sandwiches, and the other on register duty and general crowd control.

Toasted bread, that delivers a crispy bite but doesn't cut your mouth.  A slather of mayo.  Flavorful, non gristly roasted pork.  Pickled veg (carrots, jalapeno, and green pepper) and a pile of fresh cilantro.  All the makings of a delicious banh mi, but especially at $3.50 a sandwich.  I think I'll be eating in the 'Loin more often!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

1833 in Monterey

If you're in the Monterey area, 1833 is an absolute win for cocktails and appetizers.

In a restored old adobe house (curiously from the 1840s), the bar and lounge space take over the rooms of the lower level while diners eat in one of the various small rooms upstairs.  We had intended to go only for a cocktail before another dinner reservation, and wound up canceling to stay and continue tasting from the fantastic menu.

In the library room downstairs, we perused a long list of spirits and carefully crafted cocktails offering a nod to the pharmacy that resided in the building in the 1840s.  We chose drinks called Penicillin #1 (scotch, honey, lime, ginger, and a bourbon floater) and Penicillin #2 (tequila, agave nectar, ginger, soda, and a mezcal floater), both garnished with candied ginger and both balanced and delicious.  We also ordered bacon cheddar biscuits for a nibble, served with maple chili butter and a dish of sea salt.  When we closed the bar tab, the check was delivered in an antique canvas-bound book, whose pages we signed with a healthy flourish.

Instead of leaving, then, we requested a table upstairs and wound up in a stylish booth near a fireplace.  We shared an array of starters, including crispy pork trotters, hamachi with pickled jalapeno and avocado, and a stunning English pea soup. Although we tried a couple of main plates that were totally decent, they were not worth choosing over the widely pleasing appetizers we enjoyed.  I would absolutely go back, for cocktails, shared plates, and the chic ambiance old town Monterey has been missing.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Xiao Long Bao

Vegetarian dumpling (left); pork xiao long bao (right)
My must-have food in Hong Kong was xiao long bao, the Shanghai-style soup dumpling.  I could not get enough of these delicate mouthfuls of chewy wrapper, minced meat, and a dose of broth sealed inside, dipped in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and fresh ginger.  I know I am late to the party in enjoying these, but I promise to make up for lost time. Where do you all love in San Francisco for xiao long bao?


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Private Kitchens in Hong Kong

An interesting counterpoint to Hong Kong's ostentatious fine dining scene is that of the private kitchen.  These speakeasy-like restaurants are a hidden haven for some of the city's finest and most innovative food.

Lafe and I were able to join friends at one of three tables in a private kitchen called Yin Yang, tucked away in a small corner of the Wan Chai district on Hong Kong Island.  Over several hours we enjoyed tastes of about fifteen dishes from a fixed menu, that started in a very experimental, modern way and progressed to more rustic mains.  Some of the highlights included:

  • Pressed tofu with tomato pulp
  • Hard boiled organic egg with farmed fresh coriander
  • Organic carrot prepared to the consistency of a slice of cheese
  • Grilled calamari with peanuts and chiles
  • Chicken prepared in a komodo oven, accompanied by bits of crispy chicken skin
  • Roasted red pig
  • Iron pot fried rice
  • Water spinach sauteed with garlic
  • Carrot and lemongrass sorbet
This kitchen definitely offered up a yin/yang balance of experiment and tradition, of urban and rustic, that in a way anchor the extreme cosmopolitan nature of Hong Kong to its cultural roots.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dining at Aqua in Hong Kong

Photo credit: Trip Advisor
Aqua in Hong Kong is an example of the city's fine dining scene, a place to see and be seen that includes far more than great people watching.  The glassed in view from the 30th floor of One Peking Road offers a priceless view of Hong Kong's dazzling skyline.  We were lucky enough to arrive for dinner in time for the Symphony of Lights (the waterfront's nightly light show) as well as that night's vibrant electrical storm, and watched the lasers as well as the lightning bolts dance.

While some call Aqua Italian-Japanese fusion, it is not fusion cuisine so much as a place where both cuisines coexist.  The AquaRoma section of the menu meets the AquaTokyo half, allowing dinners to jump freely from sushi to pizza and back to yakitori.  I think the underlying concept is more that in Hong Kong, those with a little money to spend have a lot of choice in swanky ways to spend it.  

Dinner was excellent, but in the future I'll come by for a cocktail and to drink in the view.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Barbacco

If you haven't found it yet, Barbacco is a fun and reasonably-priced place to go downtown for a glass of wine and a few shared bites.

The service was a little spotty, but the flexible menu of small plates, focus on seasonal ingredients, and convivial atmosphere made up for it.

After asking a few questions about the wine list, they kindly brought me out several tasting glasses to make sure I was happy with my choice.  I ended up choosing a hearty Aglianico, but after all that, they forgot to ask for my friend's wine order.

We started with a cauliflower saffron soup, executed in a way that brought out the creamy consistency of a veloute without the overly rich addition of cream.  We shared a farro salad, with spring onion and asparagus, which was a totally delightful reminder to self that farro isn't just a grain for a fall dish.  And finally, a poached tuna plate with orange and fennel that was absolutely the star of the table.

I'd look forward to sampling even more of the menu. (The brussels sprouts fried in duck fat more than piqued my curiosity, but alas, my appetite is only so big.)  I'll definitely make another stop here for an evening out in the FiDi.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Four Barrel Morning

Good morning, and happy moment of sunshine to all!  I am finally emerging from my flu-induced cocoon and thought I would enjoy this spring morning at Four Barrel coffee.

With a cup of drip in hand and a cheddar bacon scone to nosh on, I perched in the parklet out front, watching bicycles and cars whizz by on Valencia.  Not a bad start for a Thursday.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Memphis BBQ


Hey folks. It's my first night in Memphis, and I'm diggin' it.

Our first stop was for BBQ, at Corky's, about a half hour's drive outside of downtown.  Their dry-rub ribs were ridiculously good (while the choice of "wet" or "dry" ribs is apparently a classic one in Memphis, they are pork-centric all the way).

My plate came with pulled pork, normally a hands-down favorite, but tonight totally back seat to those killer killer ribs.  Next time I'm going with a full plate of dry ribs and not wasting any time.

It's a big, sloppy plate, so get your hands dirty.  It's worth it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Southern Pacific Brewing Co

Tucked away on Treat near 19th Street is a gem of a place called Southern Pacific Brewing Company.  Inside a warehouse, you scarcely see it from the street.  But walk through the metal gates, across their picnic-tabled outdoor patio, and into a multi-level, bustling gastropub.

The high ceilings are riddled with skylights, lending fresh air, natural light, and an outdoorsy feeling that you can enjoy even on a chilly 50 degree day in SF.  The furniture is Parsons-style natural steel and reclaimed wood (Room & Board, I would know you anywhere).  Super cool space and they sure packed a lot of people inside for the middle of a Saturday afternoon.

I had a couple IPAs and this lentil burger, which was a satisfying and tasty start to a Saturday afternoon of fun with the girls.  I am eager to go back for a second round!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Deli Board

Have we talked about Deli Board yet?  We need to.  Their sandwiches are pretty mindblowing: meaty, melty, and creative.  And if you're more of a soup or salad type, there are killer options for you as well.

First, I have to say, they make the best brisket sandwich I have ever eaten (the Munsoned is also a 7x7 love, hitting this year's updated Big Eat list).  It took all my willpower to try something new when I popped in for lunch today.

I ordered the Lawrence:  chicken salad, provolone, jalapenos, bacon, pickles, thousand island, french roll. The chicken salad was made with tender chunks of dark meat -- JACKPOT!  I consider it a delicious reminder that I should continue to try new things on their menu (especially when I can always take a bite of Lafe's brisket sandwich, too).

My advice:  Get to Deli Board, soon and often, and definitely go with friends.  Now that's the good life!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Winter Squash Soup



It may not feel like winter with these gorgeous sunny days we are having, but it's still a great time for a winter squash soup.  I improvised this recipe based on ingredients I had on hand in my kitchen.  That's one of the beauties of soup; once you know a couple basic techniques, you can play around a lot with ingredients, seasoning, and textures.  Add a tablespoon of curry to the onion mixture and garnish with green apple slices? Add cayenne to onion mixture and garnish with queso fresco instead of goat cheese?  Get creative - it's all yours!

Winter Squash Soup
active prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes
serves 6-8

Ingredients:
1 acorn squash
1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
salt, to taste
crumbled goat cheese, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Halve the squashes and scoop out the seeds. Rub the flesh with one tablespoon of the olive oil and place the halves, cut side down, in a pyrex dish.  When the oven is ready, roast about 40 minutes or until squashes are fork-tender.  (I pulled out the acorn squash at about 40 minutes and roasted the butternut for nearly an hour.)

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and started to sweeten, at least eight minutes.  Add the minced ginger and cook for another minute.  Remove from heat.

When the squashes have cooled, scoop the tender center out of the skins and add directly to your saucepan.  Add the chicken broth.  Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender, in batches), puree to combine until smooth.  You may need to add water until soup reaches desired consistency.

Return saucepan to stove over medium heat.  Add butter and salt, stir thoroughly and taste.  (You may need to add more butter, or more salt, but add in small increments, stir and continue to taste.  You will be amazed at the depth of flavor a little butter can add at this stage.  This technique is a must for potato leek soup as well.)

Serve with a sprinkle of goat cheese for garnish, and enjoy.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mimosa time

There are so many ways to enjoy gorgeous weather and a hilarious weekend with friends.  Mimosas on the lake (Tahoe, of course) are definitely one of them.  Hope you all got outside and into something amazing this weekend!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Curbing the Diet Coke addiction

On my list of resolutions for this New Year, I finally decided to drop the daily Diet Coke.

I stopped because something about the way I would hightail it to the soda fountain every day felt, let's just say, not-quite-right.  Something about putting away 16 ounces in mere minutes, and still being thirsty afterward, made me a little uneasy.

I have tried to quit before, but I really think I have broken the habit for good.  There are more effective ways to quench my thirst (water!), more delicious beverage choices (wine?), and more pleasant rituals for a caffeine fix (Philz!).  And in case I waver, here are 8 more reasons to curb the addiction.

It's been nearly two months, although I am actually not really counting.  So long, Diet Coke!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Locanda

I am getting seriously excited for another dinner at Locanda.  I made my next reservation on my way out of the last one.

Their pastas are seriously off the charts.  I think I am most looking forward to the tortelli with crescenza cheese, hen of the woods mushrooms, pine nuts, and mint.

Give me the dish - what's your favorite there?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Healthy Sunday

It's Sunday afternoon, and after a long run, I think it's time to dish up a healthy snack.  I'm having Greek yogurt, whole wheat flakes, and raspberries.  Totally delicious!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Apple Oat Scones

I don't know what is inspiring this recent interest of mine in baking.  I used to bake a lot as a child, under the gentle encouragement and tutelage of my grandma when she visited.  She never liked to let me eat sweets - "Honey, that will spoil your dinner ..." - but somehow our joint projects were often exempt.  I spent many hours with her in the kitchen, learning the proper way to measure flour, her tips and tricks for a perfect pie crust.  I spend most of my kitchen time now on savory dishes, but have been dabbling again in baked goods.  Maybe it's just that I really miss her.  I was certainly thinking of her while making these scones. 

I saw this recipe for apple and oat scones in Martha Stewart's Living (February issue), and had to give them a shot.  The recipe, while dish-intensive, is pretty straightforward but I did make a few adjustments.  After thoroughly mixing the dry ingredients, I grated in the butter, which is a great technique for dealing with frozen sticks of butter in a pinch.  I added the apples and buttermilk to form the dough, patted it into shape on a floured surface and cut squares with a pizza cutter.  Not being a true baker, I did not have parchment paper on hand, but used ungreased padded cookie sheets with no problem.

The end result was a light and airy breakfast bread (not your dense coffee shop variety).  Not overly sweet and in fact, a little too good an afternoon snack!  I might have just spoiled my dinner... 


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Izakaya Sozai

Feeling a little sniffly this evening, I thought I would pick up some take-out ramen from another place I have been dying to check out: Izakaya Sozai, on Irving at 16th Ave.

Well, they serve take-out but they don't serve take-out ramen.  However, it seemed like a reasonable idea to post up at the bar and eat.  I mean, I found parking in the Inner Sunset, so why not!

One bowl of tonkatsu ramen and one plate of tsukune skewers later, I was a happy girl.  It was too much food but I found it impossible to pass over the yakitori section of the menu.  The bite sized tsukune - or chicken meatballs - were grilled and then daintily brushed with a soy glaze. The ramen broth was rich but not overly so, and the noodles nicely chewy.  The kitchen was busy sending out many tempting things I wasn't able to order: bacon wrapped enoki mushrooms, garlic sauteed shishito peppers, sake steamed clams, and agedashi tofu.

I can't wait to go back for another meal at Sozai.  Next time, I'll surely go with a table of friends!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ginger Molasses Cookies

I am not much of a baker, to my grandmother's chagrin.  But, I have a recipe for the most gorgeous, delicious, foolproof ginger molasses cookies.

My mother shared this recipe with me, pulled from a Good Morning America holiday cookie contest in 2002.  This contest-winning recipe originally comes from Elisa Leverton.

They bake up in a perfect circle, with a lovely crackle top, and are nicely chewy every time.  Time to get baking!

Crinkle Top Cookies
(recipe by Elisa Leverton)

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg beaten
4 tablespoons dark molasses
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 level teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups flour

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
2.  Cream together shortening, sugar, and egg until smooth.
3.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix.
4.  From into walnut-sized balls and roll them in granulated sugar before placing them on an un-greased cookie sheet.
5.  Allow room for the cookie to spread.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, being careful not to overbake.  (they will not be chewy if overbaked)



Sunday, January 8, 2012

Best of 2011

*photo via John Kim*
I love to take a moment to reflect on what I've learned from the year behind, before I lay out hopes, dreams, and resolutions for the year ahead.  In my favorite annual blog post, here is my best of 2011:

10.  BICYCLES.  The wind in my face, sun on my back, and the whimsy of seeing the world on two wheels.

9.  PARKLETS.  I am delighted to see all the parklets cropping up around town!  Every new bench, tree, and bike rack makes me smile.  Thank you, SF, for these mini urban sanctuaries.

8.  FRANCES.  Best meal of the year, hands down.

7.  SUNDAY DINNER.  I love the simplicity of winding down the weekend with good friends over a shared meal.

6.  RUNNING.  A little over a year ago, I decided to start running an hour a day to see where it took me.  While I imagined it would take me countless times around Golden Gate Park, I did not anticipate the spiritual journey.  Nor did I imagine I would develop a new favorite hobby!  I trained for (and completed) my first marathon and learned so much about mindset, discipline, and goal-setting.  But more surprising (and infinitely more delightful), I also found a wellspring of gratitude and appreciation for the world around me, and my ability to be an active participant in it.

5.  GRATITUDE.  Gratitude can propel you through 26.2 otherwise exhausting miles.  (Tired?  Look around and find something beautiful to appreciate.)  Great tactic for marathon training, but a phenomenal tactic for daily life.

4.  THE PLAYA.  This year on the playa I embraced with honesty all that I am, and with boundless imagination what I can be.  I try to carry the spirit of the playa with me every day, in big and small ways.

3.  RECONNECTING.  I have reconnected with childhood girlfriends and am amazed at the strength and longevity of these very special friendships.  Also a special thanks to my playa campmates - old and new friends - for sharing with me that amazing week in the desert.  It is incredible to have relationships that anchor you across so many phases of life.

2.  TAKING RISKS.  This year I took a major career leap and find myself inspired, stretched, and challenged on a daily basis.  What was I waiting for?

1.  LOVE.  I am ever grateful for the love of my sweetheart, my friends, and my family.  With thanks to all of you for the year behind and best wishes for the year ahead.

XOXO,
ali

Baja

I'm back from Baja, which was an amazing way to recharge and ring in the New Year with loved ones.  We shared a lot of laughs, adventures, and tortilla chips.  And of course, there is nothing more refreshing than a Pacifico on a breezy seaside afternoon.

I hope you all enjoyed the holidays and wish you a very happy year ahead!