Sunday, June 29, 2008

not in kansas anymore...

"you're not in kansas anymore" is what the lady said to me as she handed me my conference bag and completed my conference registration. i found it ironic that here is this lady, in san antonio, texas....saying that i'm not in kansas anymore. somewhere out there.....a mastiff named toto is laughing at the irony with me.

being a ca native does not prepare me for the heat of the south. i dislike the heat almost every time i visit the south...whether it be lousiana, alabama, north carolina, south carolina, and now, i can add san antonio texas to my list. it is an oppressive heat...and i only arrived after 5pm. i am not looking forward to the truly oppressive mid-day heat. it is a wonder how anything moves here...outside of the hot wind whirls around you.

after my registering for the conference, i decided to take a look around, get something to eat, and pick up some drinks to keep at my hotel room. i walked a couple of blocks until i saw a shopping-like complex. i remember thinking....i bet that building has air conditioning.

right before i entered the rivercenter mall, i saw a bunch of people getting onto boats. there was something cartoonish about the site. i would expect something like that at disneyland.

everything in the mall portion was pretty much closed. yet, i decided to walk around the air conditioned building and eventually heard some music playing was a courtyard-like area....

and well, look-eeee here, there was an ice cream place.

i guess i had found my dinner spot.

i ordered a black cherry ice cream with a mix-in of more cherries.

this ice cream kept the heat bearable as i explored more of the area and stumbled across a place that sells blue bell ice cream! if only i'd seen that earlier. oh well, i guess i'll be making a trip to this place later on in the week....

i also stumbled upon the alamo....

i noticed that there are actually quite a few snow cone places around the alamo. i bet they due a brisk fact, this one started to crowd up in the limited time i was taking shots.....

as i headed back to my hotel, i couldn't believe my eyes...

if the heat didn't confirm that i was no longer in california, then these antlers surrounding the texas ranger museum would have done it....

being practically bespelled by the antlers, i almost missed the street convenience store next door.

they had a couple of things in there that i hadn't seen before. yet, i remember someone who spent a lot of time in texas said i should try the "sweet tea". i had no idea what that meant before today. the sweet tea was pretty close to the carbonated sangria. i decided to buy the sweet tea along with some perrier. i may actually go back and buy a bottle of the carbonated sangria just to photograph it.

now, i'm sitting here in my nicely air conditioned room, the newly acquired beverages are sitting on the dresser,

and i am typing away at this posting instead of doing more prep work for the conference.

yet, i can't help thinking that in some alternate reality...where, you know, toto really was a mastiff....i imagine myself clicking my flip flops together, saying "there is no place like home", and pouf...i would be in a supershuttle on my way back home.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

eccolo: no longer banned

"you should post on your blog that our waiter is quite sweet",
declares mp with her infamous mona lisa smile as we settled into our table at eccolo.


i am very glad that i had the chance to have lunch with mp before taking off on my next...well...seemingly longish 2+ week tour of the states via san antonio, atlanta, boston, and then back to the bay area. as i picked where we lunched last time, this time mp decided upon eccolo.

i was a bit surprised at her choice because i remembered her mentioning that she didn't have the most pleasant of experiences there when it first opened. it didn't have any vegetarian options at the time. before anyone goes all "anthony bourdain" on me about vegetarian options...let's review a few facts:
  • eccolo is located in berkeley (where there are probably more vegetarians and vegans per capita than any other city)
  • eccolo is located on 4th street in berkeley --- perhaps the most chic-chic commercial district in berkeley
  • restaurants in eccolo's building historically didn't have a very long life
  • one of the staff's response to her inquiry about the lack of vegetarian options was "italians don't eat vegetables"...a statement that doesn't warrant further comment on
while the chef made her something off menu that was very good....i didn't think mp would hearken eccolo's front door ever again. yet, she mentioned while we were walking toward eccolo that she had pretty much already eaten her way through the pasta shop and tacubaya and was in the mood for something new. plus she had already checked out the menu and they seem to have expanded their vegetarian options. this was fine with me. i was absolutely open to trying some place i'd never been.

after reviewing the lunch menu, mp decided upon the "
four cheese panino with mozzarella, gruyère, mimolette and cheddar" then and i decided upon the burger....i ordered the burger because it came with a whole head of roasted garlic. i mean, how often can you order a head of roasted garlic? we also decided to split some fries and a side of spinach.

while we waited for our lunch dishes to arrive, we munched on some acme bread and caught up with what has been going on in our lives....

and then our order seemed to arrive very quickly.....

i think they are well prepared for the busy lunch crowd. as we were leaving, it looked like the place was full. as mp and i said our good-byes and i headed home...i was thinking about what i liked the most about the meal. i'd have to say it was the pickles. there were these really good thin slices of pickle next to my burger. the side of pickles was a bit of a surprise since they weren't listed on the menu...but it was what i liked the most about the dish. odd isn't it? overall, i think mp and i were happy with our visit. i think eccolo is officially off the "banned" list.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

leftover toast transformed

it all started with leftover toasted upstairs bread that i didn't get a chance to eat yesterday...and well, the toast was still on the baking sheet on top of the stove this afternoon. i looked at that toast and tried to semi-ignore it as i did the dishes and cleaned all of the kitchen bits around the toast. as i was cleaning, i was trying to figure out whether i could use the leftover toast in something. by the time i finished wiping down the counters, i had pretty much decided upon a bread pudding with medjool dates, a ca grown nectarine, and sliced almonds. with that decided, i gathered the ingredients.....milk, eggs, agave, medjool dates, a couple of nectarines, sliced almonds, crème fraîche, plugra butter, and of course, the leftover toasted upstairs bread.

to begin, i chopped up the toast into bite size pieces...watching little crumbs flying everywhere...and this such a good idea after all? yet, i soldiered on.

i then pitted and chopped the dates...

followed by chopping the nectarine. once i chopped one...i decided that one would be all that i really needed.

once all of the chopping was done and put aside....

i moved on to whisking the wet ingredients (i.e., milk, eggs, softened butter, vanilla, agave, and a big tablespoon of crème fraîche).

after the whisking of the wet ingredients was complete, i then placed the bread cubes, dates, and nectarine pieces in a glass pie plate.

then i slowly poured the wet mix on i was trying to figure out if i had too much liquid...yet, it turned out that i had just the right amount. how lucky is that? then i topped it all with sliced almonds and about two tablespoons of brown sugar. the brown sugar was a last minute decision. i was hoping that the brown sugar would give the bread pudding a nice color.

i placed the bread pudding in a preheated 400 degree oven and waited for about an hour. while it was baking...the smell was absolutely tantalizing. as i was taking deep breaths...i kept thinking "well, i hope it tastes ok. it was kind of a random set of ingredients."

then i took it out of the can click on the picture (or any of them actually) for a close up...

after i took a moment or two to admire the dish....i then plated anticipation of tasting it grew with each step....

i was about to start eating and then thought, why not a bit of crème fraîche? turns out that was an excellent idea.

i'm eating the bread pudding right now and oh my goodness. it is sooooo good. it is moist with the nicely sweet flavors of the brown sugar, nectarine, and dates. yet it isn't overly sweet. each bite of the pudding is different...sometimes there is a chunk of warm fruit paired with toasty almonds...sometimes the bite includes the moist caramelized bread with a bit of cool crème fraîche. hmmm. so good. so comforting. a perfect treat for an overcast day.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

food, family, and friends

these days my life revolves around the three "f"s.

while abstractly, i have always known that my chosen family, dear friends, and delicious food were important to me, yet it took this last uk trip to remind me just how important. there is something about leaving the country of your birth to work in another....there is a sense of isolation, wonder, and desire. it is a desire to adapt to a new culture very quickly. perhaps this desire is also driven by fear....for if you do not adapt quickly then your work effectiveness drops considerably. fortunately, i have visited the uk and europe many times over the past decade or so. yet, those visits were leisurely ones rather than work-related. there is quite a difference. as i have posted previously, i missed the three "f"s a lot. oddly enough, since i have been back i have been able to share a few meals with friends and family...and i found myself still "missing" them. i think the "missing" was more of the realization that i'll be on the road a lot more with this new job and due to time zone will be challenging to ensure that i don't miss out on what is happening in their lives.

when did this realization really hit me? well, there were multiple times actually.

one of the times was watching and sharing JB's contentment at trying new flavors at yak and yeti kitchen (nepalese place) in the elmwood area in berkeley. neither of us had momos (steamed dumplings) or bhuteko (a type of stir fry) before...both of which were very yummy. i also ordered the khasi (goat gurry) daal bhaat. "daal bhaat" according to the menu is a "traditional nepalese meal consisting of dal (lentils), sabzi (chinese mustard), chutney and basmati rice." this too was very tasty.

another time was with the family in japan town this past weekend.... JC running up with his 4-year old legs and giving me a big hug; everyone crowded around a table at mifune with EC sitting on my lap and figuring out how to eat whatever she could using all of her senses....particularly the tactile ones; and DC and i wandering around
nijiya market trying to figure out what to try and snack on (AC wasn't with us at the market, so we weren't able to ask him to translate). DC and i had different strategies at figuring out what to try. ever since my mugwort experience, i try to look at labels. DC decided to look at what other people had picked out. i think both strategies worked out pretty well.

then the most recent time was monday evening with VF and GC. GC was in town from ny and we all decided to go have a bit of nosh at À Côté. it was very nice to have a mellow evening and catch up. i think we were all a bit tired and stressed from our various work/study environments. yet, the tiredness didn't impede upon enjoying the food or each others' company.

we ordered many things including small plates of
morel mushroom & fava bean crostini with pecronio,

arrabiata orecchiette, ricotta filled squash blossoms, a rabbit, pheasant & duck terrine with cherry-cipollini onion relish, grilled duck sausage with polenta

and calabrese sausage flatbread

everything was yummy in a very grown up sort of way.

i think one of the reasons why i am feeling a bit maudlin is because i'll be hopping on a plane again very soon...almost too soon. on sunday, i'll be leaving home again for a couple of weeks...this time, i'll be making stops in san antonio, atlanta and boston. i feel like i can't really settle down at home as i'll be leaving again very soon. it makes me tired just thinking about it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

fizzies, crisps, and sweeties...

even within the states there are different terms for soda (i.e, of the corn syrup variety) or spritzers (i.e., of the fruit juice and sparkling water variety) i shouldn't have been surprised when i heard the term "fizzy" when i was in blackburn. in the blackburn area it seems that anything with bubbles was called a fizzy.i tried a few flavors of fizzies while i was in blackburn.....i had a coke or two (which tastes different in england for some reason...not as carbonated or not as much of a bite) as well as some fizzies that consisted of fruit juice and sparkling water. i had to look very closely at the labels as many of these kinds of drinks had aspartame in them. i am so not a fan of aspartame.

these were some of the fizzy flavors i bought at at one of the stores in blackburn and kept at the dunk.....

i think my fave of the bunch was the lychee.

i also wanted to show you some of the other "crisps" (i.e., chips), "sweeties" (i.e., candy), and various other snacks that i had squirreled away in my hotel room.

interestingly enough, when i brought snacks to the blackburn office, i raised a few eyebrows with the amount of snacking i did all day.

speaking of snacks and pantry goods....i wanted to show you a few more shots from blackburn market. see? it isn't over yet. this time, here are a few shots of dried food stuffs from one of the blackburn market vendors. you can click on any of them to see them better...

btw...the "spice jars" are chocolate and coffee bean wild is that?

now, these all of these shots are rather precious as the very young adolescent male vendor got a bit aggressive when he saw me taking pictures

yet, he calmed down when i told him that i was from the states and explained that we don't get a lot of this candy in the states.

in his extremely deep burr, he said "eh, you from 'merica? well, that's 'll 'ight then.dinna know what ye were about. n'ver seen f'lks takin' shots of me stuff."

in some ways, i did feel like i was an ambassador or something. no pressure or anything. i got the impression that most folks in the blackburn area don't see a lot of tourists from the states.

Friday, June 20, 2008

a nice suprise....biryani house

it is hot.

i also haven't gone to the grocery store since i've returned from the uk.

the combo of these two things aren't helping my lack of motivation toward cooking. i think that i'll actually be more motivated this weekend after i buy some veggies and can actually step away from my computers for an extended amount of time. i must say that there won't be a lack of things to do with this new job...that is for certain.

i actually decided to brave the heat twice today. the first was around lunch time. what did i have for lunch? plain frozen yogurt from yogurt harmony. yeah, i know. but it was hot and i wasn't in the mood to walk all the way to south side for a salad from intermezzo intermezzo was prob crazy crowded. the second time was at about 6ish when i decided to take a break from this project i'm working on to grab some food. it was imperative that it be

1) not expensive ...i'm still suffering from sticker shock at paying for things in pound sterling...and it will be a few weeks before i'm reimbursed
2) very close is still hot...and i don't want to walk that far...
3) have some sort of spice

after pondering my criteria, i decided to visit the biryani house. i've been eye-balling it for a couple of months now. the location is on the corner of shattuck (the shattuck square part) and university...local folks know that this corner is a bit cursed. restaurants seem to come and go...and none seem to stick. yet, after a couple of months, bh was still around and consistently had people inside is huge seating area. i decided to give it a shot.

the inside was a bit nicer than i expected. it was also substantially cleaner than i expected.

the staff was also super nice....which seems to be a rarity in berkeley. i decided to order a mango lassi, the palak paneer, plain rice, and a garlic nan. they also provide chai for free.

surprisingly enough, the food was pretty decent. the portions were also pretty large. there were enough leftovers for me to have another meal. is it better than adjanta? no. adjanta is really good and higher end. but is bh better than some of the khana peena off shoots around berkeley and albany? absolutely positively.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

peach habanero sorbet

report on foodie hunter's overall status

location: finally home from uk
language: transitioning to american english
physical status: bone tired
mental status: ??? what time zone am i in again?
what i missed in the uk: loved ones and my pets
what i miss about the uk: candy variations
new fave: peach habanero sorbet from ici
new fave description: slightly sweet and slightly spicy. it was super duper yummy. i was obviously enjoying my cone as i left ici today. as a result, a guy asked me what flavor it was and seemed quite horrified when i told him. whatever. he has no idea what he is missing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

a curry in darween...

it is about 12:30ish am here.

i am tired, wired, and a teeny bit cranky.

i've just finished packing. i got a late start packing because i attended a business dinner with MR, right after work. we "went for a curry" as the brits like to say....and ended up in darween at a place called sukhi's. the folks there were very nice and i decided to ask MR if he would be offended if i took a picture of dinner...i felt perfectly comfortable asking him this because he isn't an executive....nor is he anywhere in my reporting structure. in other words, i had nothing to lose by asking him. i also promised that i wouldn't include him in the picture.

i had the balti lamb tikka done in the madras style as well as the bhindi (okra) baji.

for those in the states, i think you'll notice the table heaters right away. i think they take up an awful lot of table space. yet, it is an interesting concept isn't it?

anyway, here is closer shot of the food that i spooned onto my plate...

overall, my sense is that this place is as much as an "indian" food place as taquerias are mexican in the that i bet it was more of a uk place that takes inspiration from india. at some point, i think i would like to visit delhi, mumbai/bombay, and goa...and taste the food of those regions first hand. who knows? the company is looking at india as a i may get a chance to visit at some point.

Monday, June 16, 2008

potato overload

i am winding down and getting ready for bed. bedtime is a bit deceptive here as it is after 11pm in the evening and it just recently got dark. one of the funny things about my hotel room is the view i get in the morning and in the evening before dark....

i don't think i've ever stayed in a place where cows hang about in the morning and evenings. you can almost set your clock by them.

before i go to sleep, i just wanted to blog about the dinner i ordered from room service last night...

my starter was a broccoli stilton soup and the entree was the cheddar mushroom omelet with potatoes. it seems that every entree comes with potatoes.

while it was nice and filing, i have a feeling that i'm not going to be eating potatoes for a long time after i leave the uk. btw: did you know that the brits call baked potatoes "jackets"? so if you want a stuffed baked potato with broccoli and would be a "broccoli and cheese jacket". i think this is a perfect example of how americans and brits may speak english...yet, the way we use words to express ourselves can be remarkably different.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

late impromptu tea

after a while, i figured that housekeeping was done cleaning my i headed back. it is a bit more comfortable to work from the room. plus, it gave me an opportunity to have an impromptu tea ...

the raisin scone was one of the things i picked up at the blackburn market yesterday.

unlike a lot of scones i've had in the US, these scones are really light and not mini-bricks.

when i was wandering around the blackburn market yesterday, i came across a bakery stall called "crusty corner".

they were still stocking the bread onto the shelves. here are some shots from their wares....

i bought some scones and a "dustbin" bread from them....

in anticipation of wanting to snacks available in my room. i'm glad that i did. it doesn't appear that there are many shops or bakeries within walking distance of the dunk.