On The Menu

Lazy Sunday Links

Comments (0) | Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's a lazy Sunday. We got pulled pork going in the slow cooker which is almost done. I got a big pot of Chao Ga (chicken congee) cooking as well. That should make about 3-4 bowls of it so I can have breakfast this week at work.

Here are some links I've found in the past couple of days I'd thought I'd pass along:

*A list of kitchen essentials. (latimes, courtesy of Dine or Death)

We have the dutch oven and creme brule torch as wedding gifts and while we love and use the former quite a bit, we haven't busted out the torch just yet. We also have a rather boring (but effective) thermometer, but I really want one of these. At nearly $100, I haven't yet justified the costs. We have a few of the other items as well, like the microplane and the nice knives, but our roasting pan was really cheap and is very useful and our nonstick pans were expensive (more wedding gifts) and I'm very, very careful with how we use them. The mortar and pestle is something we've been wanting for a while too to make guacamole with.

*In case you love burritos and never saw the calorie counts. (divinecaroline)

*Some really cool food art. (noupe)

*This brought back some memories. I might have to ebay the Star Wars tumblers as an early b-day gift to myself. (miami new times)

*For those of you who hate Wal-Mart (which I personally love), the produce apparently can compete with Whole Foods. (lifehacker)

*Food from Hong Kong. (cnngo)

*Again, more proof America is behind in Vending Machine technology. (phoenix new times)

*McDonalds from around the world. (like me)

*Bourdain on Yo Gabba Gabba (EW)

Read More......

San Francisco Treat 2 (Gary Danko, Turtle Tower)

Comments (1) | Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gary Danko

I was a little nervous about our reservations for Gary Danko, a Michelin rated restaurant and listed on countless top 50 restaurants in the USA lists. I didn't pack any really nice clothes or any other shoes than my dirty Pumas. Then as we were driving to the restaurant, I remembered that I was in California and that the locales consider putting on an Ed Hardy shirt with plaid shorts as dressing up and I'd be fine in my button up shirt and jeans and sneakers. (After we were sat a customer was seated near us wearing a hoodie and hat, so I really had nothing to worry about.)

We ordered a few drinks and while we were looking over the very extensive menu, our amuse came. It was a fried piece of hen over potato salad. Now the potato salad was actually very good but the fried meat on top, which I would not be able to pick out of a meat line up, had a batter that reminded me of Van De Kamps Fish Sticks. Needless to say, this was not a good start.

As I said before, the menu is quite extensive. Probably the neatest part about Gary Danko is that the 3, 4, or 5 tasting menus are really up to the customer to create. Even though the selections are separated into starters, fish, meat, cheese and dessert, you can choose any combination you liked. If you want only fish, you can pick 5 fish dishes. Likewise if you only want dessert, then you can get 5 desserts.

After we all ordered, some very boring bread came to our plates. This didn't matter as I wasn't going to be dining on bread alone.

Abby started with the "Dungeness Crab Salad with Grapefruit, Asian Pears, Mint and Yuzu Rémoulade" and I went for the "Pancetta Wrapped Frog Legs with Garlic Purée, Potato, Lentils and Parsley". Both were great starters. Abby's had huge pieces of crabmeat and the Asian Pear was a nice touch. My frog legs were tiny, but was enough for a nice starter. The pancetta gave the frogs a nice salty bite and I had to try the hardest not to pick up the little legs and eat with my hands. I was given a small plate for my "refuse". (The waitress could have just said "bones" but she didn't. I don't know why I found this so funny, but I did.)

My brother-in-law's starter was the "Seared Ahi Tuna with Avocado, Nori, Enoki Mushrooms and Lemon Soy Dressing" and definitely had the best presentation of the night. The seared tuna was laid out like wings of a butterfly.

Next Abby got the "Horseradish Crusted Salmon Medallion with Dilled Cucumbers and Mustard Sauce" and I went for the "Roasted Pork Belly and Tenderloin with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, Parsnip Purée and Maple Cider Glaze". The tenderloin was cooked perfectly and had great flavor, but the pork belly was the star of this plate. It had a nice seared crust and melted in my mouth. The only problem with my plate was the brussel sprouts and jalapenos that the pork was placed on. It just didn't make sense to me. The sprouts were cooked well and I can kinda get the fact that BBQ sometimes has hot sauce but the plate just seemed halfway there. Abby thought her salmon was "very good".

For our third course, Abby got the "Lemon Pepper Duck Breast with Duck Hash, Celery Root-Garlic Purée and Cardamom Poached Pears" and I got the "Seared Filet of Beef with Spaetzle, Butternut Squash, Crimini Mushrooms, Bone Marrow Butter and Shallot Marmalade". Abby's duck was fantastic, with the duck hash being the best part. My steak was cooked perfectly and the Spaetzle (a very fun word to say) was a nice side. I just couldn't taste the Bone Marrow Butter that I assume was melted over my steak. I think when I saw the menu, I just assumed a shank of roasted bone marrow was going to accompany the filet. Oh well, it was still a great dish and I was definitely getting full.

Our final course was next and Abby got the "Trio of Crme Brlée with Assorted Cookies" and I went for the "A Selection of Farmhouse and Artisanal Cheeses Presented Tableside". Abby's dessert portion was huge. I was expecting three shot glass sized creme brulee, but three full size desserts came out. They all had a great crispy top and Abby had no complaints. My brother-in-law got the same dessert and likewise was pleased with his choice. My sister went with the "French Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches with Three Sauces" which looked really cute on their plates. I would have just eaten them with my hands, but she tried to use the knife and fork and they just broke apart when she tried to cut them neatly. I had to go with the cheese though, because I saw the Gary Danko cheese cart earlier in the night and I really wanted a runny, stinky cheese to finish my meal. I forget the names of the cheeses I got, but I don't think I could have gone wrong with the selection.

Finally we were presented with a small plate of sweet treats and the ladies were given some sort of cheesecake treat to take home. While I was stuffed, I still ate most of the little desserts that varied from chocolate peanut butter to lemon squares.

I could easily see myself coming back to Gary Danko. There are endless combinations one can have while choosing their tasting menu. I'd love to taste the venison plate I saw or the red pumpkin soup. Overall, a very good dinner with great company. I give Gary Danko a 4 out of 5.

Gary Danko on Urbanspoon

Turtle Tower

(Doesn't the name just make you want to scream, "Turtle Power!" No? Must just be me.) Anyway, Turtle Tower has the best Pho Ga I've ever had in the states. They specialize in Hanoi-style Pho, which means no bean sprouts and no hoisen sauce apparently. (This didn't surprise me after reading it on the menu because the best Pho Ga I've ever had was in Hanoi.) My sister and brother-in-law were raving about this place since we arrived and it was only after my mom gave it her seal of approval that I really wanted to try this place out. (My mom of course said that while the noodles were good, she believes she can get the same noodles in San Jose.) Anyway, the noodles were as good as advertised, though maybe a little softer than I would like. The broth though was incredible. So chicken-y (only way I can describe it) and so fresh. I only squeezed some lemon and added a small squirt of siracha. I love me some pho and this was one of the best bowls I've ever had. Immediately I was jealous that Turtle Tower was only a couple of blocks away from my sister's condo.

I give Turtle Tower a 4 out of 5.

Turtle Tower on Urbanspoon

Read More......

San Francisco Treat (R&G Lounge, Alembic, Pancho Villa Taqueria, Brenda's and Burger Meister Reviews)

Comments (0) | Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Some quick hits on our recent trip to San Fran.

R&G Lounge

Seen on Bourdain's show, my oldest brother Kim suggested we hit this Chinatown spot for lunch. We were seated downstairs right by the fish tanks.

We had to order the famous Salt and Pepper crab and it lived up to it's billing. The crab was for the most part cooked perfectly, though I did have a few bites that were a bit over done. The best part though was the crispy fried bits on the shells. So yummy. And the crabs were broken apart before frying so that the guts and everything were fried too. This meant fried crab roe! Amazing!

The rest of the dishes weren't as great. I'm pretty sure we could have gone to any other Chinatown restaurant and have gotten pretty much the same thing. The R&G Special Beef was nicely cooked but tasted very much like meat on the stick you can get anywhere else. The Princess Chicken wasn't anything to write home about either. The chicken barely had any meat on it. The snowpea leaves with garlic was a nice veggie dish, however I'm sure I could get that same dish in Boston.

My adorable nieces, the wonder twins, seemed to enjoy the meal very much.

If I lived in the area I'd probably come back for the crab from time to time. I give R&G Lounge a 3 and 1/2 out of 5.

R & G Lounge on Urbanspoon


A small and narrow gastropub with a really laid back feel, the Alembic was definitely a surprise to us. We sat at the bar, after kindly asking two ladies to slide over to make room for the 5 of us, and received the cocktail menu. While we were all waiting to order, we were able to witness the bartenders and their meticulous manner of making cocktails. It's a lost art, it seems, for a bartender to really pay attention to details and make a drink the right way. (Maybe it only seems that way because the bars I go to in Boston where the bartenders are trying to turn as many drinks as possible because the bar is crowded 4 deep.) The bartenders at Alembic could care less if there are customers leaning over the bar trying to order; they are just going to have to wait until the correct number of stirs or the right amount of mint is added to the current drink the bartender is making is completed. When we finally ordered, Abby went for their supposedly famous Mint Julep and the rest of our group ordered various cocktails from the menu. I went for the beer, for no other reason than I really wanted a beer. Abby's Mint Julep came in a metal container with a lot of ice and a big handful of mint. She said it was delicious.

The menu at Alembic is very limited, but each item is very intriguing. We went with the duck hearts and a pork slider. I'd never had duck hearts before, and I'm so glad we ordered this dish. Multiple duck hearts were skewered and cooked to perfection. I was expecting a chalky consistency, but it was juicy and flavorful and tasted like duck. Fantastic! The pork slider likewise was very juicy and had a nice special surprise: little pork rinds! I love me some pork rinds and I just wish there was more.

Alembic is the classic "I wish this place was in Boston". I'd come back for the cocktails alone, but the menu would make me a regular. I give Alembic a 4 out of 5.

Alembic on Urbanspoon

Pancho Villa Taqueria

We just left the Warriors game (where we got to sit in box seats) and just downed a couple of very large beers. We entered Pancho Villa with empty stomachs and a slight buzz. Instead of doing like my sister and her husband and sharing 3 tacos, Abby and I ordered 3 each. These were not small tacos. The carne was definitely the best, but the carnitas was not that far behind. Prices weren't bad for all 3, but did seem expensive if you just ordered 1 taco.

If I lived in the neighborhood, I'd come back routinely. I give Pancho Villa Taqueria 3 and 1/2 out of 5.

Pancho Villa Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Brenda's French Soul Food

Located in the Tenderloin neighborhood, right around the corner from my sister's condo is a very small restaurant apparently known as one of the best breakfast spots in all of San Francisco. Of course we had to try it out. We started with the flight of beignets, which consisted of a plain, an apple, a chocolate and a crawfish beignet.

We only ate the plain and the crawfish ones, and were not disappointed at all. (We had the other two wrapped so I could bring my dad something.) While they were not as light and fluffy as I thought they were going to be, the beignets were still perfectly cooked and very good. Especially the crawfish flavored one, which I could easily see myself eating 3 or 4 of them for lunch. Salty, with a nice hint of heat and with a crawfish filling was better than I had expected. Great start so far. For our main breakfast, Abby went with the adouille omelet and I went with the biscuit and gravy special.

Both were very filling and with great flavor. The gravy was had a nice hidden sweetness to it and when placed over the biscuit made for a delicious breakfast. Abby had no complaints on her dish at all, other than the potatoes were just above average. However, as much as I can gush over how great our dishes were, I cannot tell you how good their homemade strawberry jelly was. (So good in fact that we wanted to purchase some, but were sadly told they don't sell the jelly yet. I'll have to have my sister get a jar for me when they do start selling the jelly.)

Come to Brenda's and have a great breakfast. Hell, come for lunch were their specials included a crawfish and andouille pot pie (which I wish I could have ordered). Just make sure you get a biscuit and some of their jelly. Plus, the music playing was great: nothing like some old Ray Charles to start your day. I give Brenda's a 4 out of 5.

Brenda's French Soul Food on Urbanspoon

Burger Meister

A good burger and a good milk shake. Nothing more, nothing less. A 3, bordering on 3 and 1/2.

Read More......