Friday, May 30, 2008

the last picnic

well, today was shutdown-the-sf-office-day. i didn't go in as i cleaned out all of my stuff last week. i did go to the picnic in golden gate park though. it was a gathering of those who had worked at this office at some point in its history. in true typical golden gate fashion...it was freaking cold and overcast. i didn't want to take any pictures as that would mean taking my hands out of my pockets. i grabbed a ride to and from the event from BF. yet, once BF dropped me off in front of an entrance to embarcadero, i decided to make a little detour.

i decided that i wanted that wickedly good chic-chic donut. the bombolini. you know, the one that i've been craving for a couple of days now. i think that after the drama that has been going on recently, eating one of these donuts seemed like a really good idea.


you know, it went from being a good idea to an excellent idea when i decided to buy not one, but two donuts...just for my greedy little self.


one raspberry filled and one custard filled.



one to eat now

and the other to eat later.


sometimes it is good to think ahead and be a planner.

then i decided to head for another favorite location, stacey's. this is my favorite downtown sf bookstore. it never fails, when i walk in...i feel instantly calm. it relaxes me. it comforts me. i walk through the aisles thinking and wondering about all of the stories, ideas, voices, people, and legacies within the pages of these bound spines....realizing that here lies, in one place, more knowledge than i can ever hope to acquire...more stories than i could ever hope to discover...and, oddly enough, that feels very comforting. it is like being wrapped in a super soft cashmere blanket.

stacey's also has a wonderful selection of books on and about food....which is a credit to whomever their food buyer is.




the food writing section is particularly extensive.


as it looks like there will be a strong chance that i will be going to the uk for 10 days very soon, i decided to pick up a few books for the trip...


as i was leaving stacey's and getting onto bart, i kept thinking....this was just want i needed. donuts and books.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

fire. WTF. I mean, really, now fire?

you know, it wasn't all that long ago when i was awakened at 5:30am to a broken pipe and major water damage. it also wasn't that long ago that my internal moral fiber was tested by a wacky atm. so what happened today?

FIRE HAPPENED.

you know, it all started like a typical day. i had been up and working since about 6:45am as my first conference call started at 7:30am. then at about 10:30am the meetings died down a bit so i thought i'd hop into the shower real quick. about two minutes into the wash, i started smelling smoke...this was quickly followed by my building manager yelling "Fire. Everyone out of the building! Fire." now, gotta give credit to the building manger who is typically a real quiet kind of guy. big guy, but still real quiet sort. he banged on every door and used his pass key to make sure each resident was notified. no one was hurt.

so, i there i was, a few minutes later, bare feet...standing outside of my building in my damp PJs looking up at smoke flying out of it. at that moment, i was feeling nothing but fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. there were three fire trucks and a few police vehicles that were blocking the street to any traffic. stern faced firefighters were moving in synch like a well practiced ballet...it was all very surreal. was i watching someone else's life?

details were shared among the neighbors...it would appear that one of the residents had the bright idea of smoking while using cleaning solvents. i know i live in berkeley and all, but this particular resident was not a young student. he was an adult and has lived enough scores to have absolutely positively known better. a moment of thoughtlessness and selfishness that could have cost many people their homes, mementos, and maybe their health.

after a while we were all allowed back into the building. my unit, for which i am very thankful, was untouched. yet, i was very cognizant of what i might have lost. to mark the occasion, i took a photo of the fire trucks as they were packing up.


at the urging of my soon to be ex-boss but always a friend, i decided to take a break and get outside. i pretty much just walked around downtown and really looked at things, including flowers growing in random places.


i really wasn't hungry. odd isn't it? for the foodie hunter who seems to be always munching on something...to not be hungry. however, by this point, it was well into the afternoon and i hadn't eaten anything all day. as i walked back to my place, i found myself drawn to oscar's. i decided to stop into oscar's for a bit of comfort in a form of a bacon cheeseburger with fries.

fresh mangosteens in oakland's chinatown...

i received an inquiry today about where i purchased the fresh mangosteens i blogged about a few days ago. i thought i'd go ahead and share this with everyone.

i have found mangosteens at two places in oakland's chinatown: cholon moi market and khanh phong super market.

cholon moi market located at 378 8th street (near webster). when you step inside the market, they are right by the cash registers....well, at least that is where they have been the last couple of times i went to cholon moi. here is a picture of the storefront:


khanh phong super market is located at 429 9th street between broadway and franklin. here is a picture of the store front:


the mangosteens are typically outside by the front door. in the picture below...the mangosteens are located just below the bundles of water spinach.

well, good luck. happy hunting!

ichigo daikuku

despite my interesting experience with a mugwort pastry a few weeks ago, when i came across this package in a local market, i decided to buy it and try it...without (gasp!) looking it up first. i pretty much thought that this would be a safe bet because, well, it has a picture of a strawberry on the front.

of course, my expectations were that there would be red bean paste inside. sometimes, i really gotta learn to stow those expectations.


it wasn't until after i took a bite that i realized that there wasn't a red bean anywhere near this little mochi sweet.

it appears that there is a mochi outside, followed by a layer of marshmallow (yup i said marshmallow), with a center of completely artificially candy-like strawberry gel-paste. i turned the package over to take a better look at what the name of these little things are....


interestingly enough, the package reads ichigo daikuku....and not ichigo daifuku. well, that explains a lot. there isn't red bean paste because there isn't suppose to be red bean paste. well, duh. a bit belatedly i also decided to look at the ingredients. well gee, what a surprise... no mention of "red bean" anywhere on the ingredients list. yet, two ingredients seemed to particularly stand out: agar agar and strawberry powder. this too, is quite elucidating (i.e., artificial strawberry gel-paste).

despite the artificial flavor, these things are pretty good. soft, chewy, sweet and slightly tart. i think that i'm actually a fan.

i think these sweets are more in the "candy" category. i will eat definitely them accordingly....and with the proper expectations.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

craving bombolini

i should really be going to bed soon. i've been working on a project that i'm trying to wrap up before i leave my current company....my last day is the 3rd. yet, here i am, in the wee hours of the morning craving a bombolini. i first heard about bombolini from DB. while i usually go to frog hollow in the sf ferry building for my pastry fix, DB was all about the bombolini.

i didn't understand why until earlier this week.

on monday, DC and i met up to do some eating, shopping, and more eating. we stopped by both frog hollow and boriana's (the wine bar and tuscan foodstuff place that sells the
bombolini).

DC went for the chocolate filled and i went for the custard......after one bite...(i can still remember even a day or so later) i said "hmmmmmm. donut. hmmmmmmm. chic-chic donut. hmmmmmm. good donut." now, those are some big shoes to fill...especially at this time in the morning. sigh.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

ici ice cream

soooooo, i had a very odd errand today. i went to quest diagnostic labs to do a drug screening. when the hr rep at my soon-to-be-new-employer mentioned that drug testing was a part of the pre-employment process, i almost made a smarty pants comment about the irony of doing drug testing in berkeley...but then decided against it. it is a kin to making jokes about terrorism while in the tsa line at the airport....not a good idea. yet, what was a good idea was stopping by ici after my errand was complete. it was a perfect treat and incredibly convenient as it was only a couple of blocks away from the lab.

ici, for those of you who haven't been, is an incredibly cute ice cream shop.


they also serve blue bottle coffee and sweets such as peppermint marshmallows, brittle, and meringues. their ice cream flavors change periodically...so, it is best to go without having one's heart set on a particular flavor. today's flavors included cherry chocolate chip, chicory cinnamon, hazelnut, chocolate, and meyer lemon.

given my odd errand today and having a moment of decidedly odd humor, i ordered a scoop of the meyer lemon and sat on the bench outside.


the meyer lemon flavor was pretty subtle.....and interestingly enough...not as bright yellow as the scoops on display in the case. while the lemon flavor was subtle, what you could taste was a super duper rich cream. this is definitely not the kind of ice cream one finds in pints in the average grocery store...that is for certain.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

at last

for many years i have been searching for a good bowl of bún bò huế. for many years, the bowls that arrived looked something like this:

this was not the bún bò huế i was looking for.

the broth was often not spicy enough, rich enough, or red enough...and often times, the variety of different cuts of pork and beef was missing. or sometimes, you'd get a really odd bowl that had rice vermicelli noodles in it instead of the thick round rice noodles...that give the soup some additional teeth to it. yet as the years passed by, i still kept trying it at different places and was continuously disappointed...until today.

i didn't really have high expectations walking into Kim Huong (on 10th off of harrison in oakland). the outside of the building is quite nondescript...almost anything could be inside....it is difficult to tell that it is a restaurant. yet, i was pleasantly surprised when i walked inside.... it was pretty clean, particularly for a place in oakland's chinatown.

i was there during off hours, so it was pretty empty. these days, i do this on purpose to avoid crowds. i suppose i've become a bit anti-social these days.


well, i should clarify...i'm not so anti-social that i can't be nice to the folks that work in the restaurants i go to. the lady that handed me the menu was pretty nice...and i ended up just handing it right back to her and said "i'd like the bún bò huế please and a coke." she asked if i'd like the medium or large bowl...and i thought, what the heck "i'll have the large bowl please". it arrived shortly thereafter.....and yup, it was a large bowl...huge actually. it was the size you typically get in san jose when you order a large.

when it arrived, i thought...."could this be it? could this be what i've been searching for? it has the right look....it has the right smell....oh my goodness!"


as i happily slurped my way through the gigantic bowl i could hear etta james singing "at last" in my head... sigh. it had been so long that i wondered if i had forgotten what it was suppose to taste like. thankfully not.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

summer's around the corner

when i think of the arrival of summer, i think of juicy and fragrant stone fruits, strawberries, sun dresses, and a slew of silly summer action flicks. all things that i am a fan of. yes, i'm one of those. i find absolutely no internal conflict at enjoying limited release art house indie films and being one of the horde that lines up to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull . The latest Indy movie was cute, fluffy and filled with the requisite moving vehicle stunts, riddles, evil villains (cate blanchette was deliciously evil btw), and things that go "boom". hence, i knew from the combo of seeing my first "summertime" movie and the eating my first ca grown peach.... that summer is right around the corner.

this week, i was very happy to purchase my first ca grown peaches of the season. i knew the peaches were ready when their heady fragrance filled the air...that fragrance seemed to tell me "hey, we're sweet and juicy now....it would be a good time to eat us." i naturally complied. after taking a browse through what i had on hand, i decided to assemble a dish that would be fruity, sweet, creamy, and with a bit of crunch.

i began by grabbing a ripe peach, some strawberries, and a handful of blueberries and raspberries


then i sliced the strawberries and the peach


and began to arrange them on a plate


and grabbed a small buttery palmier

and crumbled half of the cookie on top of the peach and strawberry slices


then i spooned about a tablespoon or so of crème fraîche and added the blueberries, raspberries and the rest of the palmier crumbled...


yum yum.
it was decadent, wonderful, and absolutely signaled that summer is on the way...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

bittersweet revelations: zesty mangosteen tangelo compote with sponge cake

so i woke up sad this morning.

yesterday, i went to the sf office for the last time. although i hadn't worked regularly from that office since november, i still had a lot of stuff that i needed to ship to the chicago office before the official shut down. also, it was bittersweet because i gave my official notice earlier this week. it is interesting how quickly things can change. a few weeks ago, i was all set to continue in my current job as i was not professionally impacted by the sf office shut down...well, no more than cleaning out the desk i still had there.


yet, there i was yesterday, cleaning out the desk...thinking about change and how quickly it can come....when you are not looking for it...or when you least expect it.

for my last lunch in the office, cman and i decided to bring our lunch on the roof ...



and i wanted to take a shot of the view....


it was one of the hidden perks of the office.

i was actually very surprised to wake up sad this morning. toward the end of the year last year, i really disliked going into the office. it became too annoying to be around whiny people that did little work when i was busting my bum making deadlines. not everyone was whiny and did little work...but there were quite a few. so what did i do this morning? i did what i usually do when i'm trying to work out some internal emotional rumblings. i decided to cook...well, in this case, assemble a dish that reflected my internal thoughts and feelings.... something bittersweet and tart.

i perused my kitchen and pulled out a minneola tangelo, a fresh mangosteen, a lime, and a hunk of sponge cake that i bought recently at a chinese bakery.


i extracted some zest from the lime and tangelo



then peeled and sliced the tangelo


and scooped out the fresh mangosteen.....


and then cut the mangosteen segments in half to match the size of the tangelo segments. next, i sliced off a piece of the sponge cake and added some agave to the tangelo and lime zest....


and then assembled everything....


it fit my mood perfectly...and interestingly enough...it was kind of healing as well. maybe it helped that i was able to express what was going on internally...or maybe it was all of the sugars from the fruit, cake, and agave. either way, i did feel better after i made the dish and slowly savored it. every bite was slightly different. one bite would be the the punchy tart flavors of the tangelo only slightly tempered by the cake and agave. another bite would be the more subtle mangosteen underscored with agave and slightly bitter zest. although there were only a few ingredients, there was a lot of complexity going on. i think overall, it was quite appropriate.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

fresh mangosteen

unfortunately, i haven't had the opportunity to travel to southeast asia yet. so, until very recently, i had only tried canned mangosteens. as fresh mangosteens are slowly making their way into stores, i was thrilled to be able to grab a couple of pounds. i absolutely wanted to discover what fresh ones tasted like.

right away you can feel how the purple vermilion skins are very hard...almost like touching an outside of a nut or smooth tree bark. if you shake one you can also hear and feel the fruit inside moving about.


using a knife, i carefully cut around the circumference...making certain that i didn't cut too deep as that would cut into the fruit. then, i peeled the top half away...



as you can see, the ivory fruit is divided into segments...much like an orange. the consistency of the fruit is similar to lychee or a super duper ripe mango. it is slippery. the flavor is subtle...sweet with a slightly tart finish....and pretty tasty. i have heard some folks describe them as "custard-y", but i don't really find that to be the case.

Monday, May 19, 2008

mortification for lunch

foodie hunter note: i wrote this during my flight to Chicago and decided not to post it until now.

i've been a bit reluctant to post about the lunch at out the door a few weeks ago. my reluctance had nothing to do with the food...the food was...as usual...very fresh, authentic, and lovely. we ordered the duck,
the Gỏi đu đủ (green papaya salad) and Bún thịt nướng (rice vermicelli with grilled pork and veggies topped with Nước chấm)....

and unlike some other places, out the door is very clean.


my reluctance to post about this experience, until now, stemmed from something far more personal.

i promised myself when i started this blog that i would be honest. by nature, i am typically only this honest with my closest friends. yet the words you see on these pages...are me. they are not a "character", or someone i pretend to be, or a cartoonization of me. it is just me.

those closest to me have said that when they read these pages, they know it is me. they can actually hear my voice in their heads. my best friend, in particular, is quite amazed that someone as private as i am in everyday interactions, is willing to allow people to see who i am.

i think the semi-anonymity helps. trust me, it helps a lot.

so it has been a tough year (major understatement). it has been an absolutely fucking awful year (better). because this year has been so challenging in so many ways, the best friend and the heart sister were both very insistent about going out for the b-day this year...hence our all day extravaganza of eating, drinking, and more eating.

one of the stops was out the door. i had been looking forward to this quite a bit. i was thrilled when the slanted door folks opened this location. i have been many times and have recommended it to many people. it seemed appropriate that we would all have lunch here and i thought it would be a visit like any other....yummy fresh food and a great visit with loved ones.

well, let's just say that my central nervous system experienced quite a bit of a jolt when our server arrived at the table. my oh my...he was quite the cutie...dark hair, dark eyes, lovely tan olive skin, a great smile.... and obviously ...quite...ah..."fit", had on some great accessories (i.e., stainless steel watch and thick silver rings), and well, guess what? not gay! i conferred with the others later and they also came to the same assessment (i.e., not gay). well, this is san francisco. i'd say eight times out of ten...if you see a hot guy... he's totally gay.

i think that there are a couple of things that i found particularly attractive...one was the way he carried himself...such confidence...particularly when he talked about food. he talked about it like he liked it...not just like he was knowledgeable about it. he also had very interesting scars on his inner arms. they looked like burn marks from cooking...now that absolutely positively got my attention. the combo of looks, confidence, and he cooks too? oh jez.

now, i don't think i was totally obvious or disrespectful in my completely checking him out... (this too, i confirmed with the table)...and i kept praying to the gods that my cheeks wouldn't get so flushed every time he refilled my glass of sparkling water.

see...this is the reason why i haven't talked about the out the door lunch until now. here i am...totally crushing on this guy that i know nothing about. what am i? thirteen years old? thirteen was forever ago and i never ever wanna re-do thirteen again.

yet, you wanna know what the most mortifying part about this whole thing was? i think he knew.