Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lucky Foods For The New Year

New Years is a time to ring out the old and ring in the new. It's a time to forget the past and make a clean start. It's a time for resolutions! Instead of depending on fate to increase your good fortune why not enjoy a meal to give you some good luck!
There are a variety of different foods you can eat on NYE & New Years Day to improve the odds that next year will be a good one. Of course this varies from culture to culture.
Here are the six major categories of auspicious foods.
GrapesNew Years revelers in Spain consume 12 grapes at midnight - one grape for each stroke of the clock. This dates back to 1909. Each grape represents each month, so for instance if the 3rd grape is a bit sour then March might be a rocky month. For most the goal is to swallow all the grapes at the last stroke of midnight, but Peruvians insist on 13 grapes. 1 for good measure.
Cooked Greens
Cabbage, collards, kale, and chard are consumed at New Year in different countries. Their greens look like folded money and are symbolic of economic fortune. The Danish eat stewed kale sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, the Germans eat sauerkraut (cabbage), while in the Southern US, collard greens are the greens of choice. It's believed the more greens one eats the larger one's fortune next year.
Legumes, including beans, peas and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seed like appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In Italy, it's customary to eat sausages and green lentils, just after midnight - pork has its own lucky associations! Germans also eat pork and legumes, usually lentil or split pea soup with sausage.
In Brazil, the first meal of the New Year is usually lentil soup. In the US its traditional to eat black-eyed peas or cow peas in a dish called hoppin john. This all traces back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas and the legume was thereafter considered lucky.
Pass the bean's please.
Pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Roast pig is served for New Year's in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria - Austrians are also known to decorate the table with miniature pigs made of marzipan. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the US, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.
FishCod has been a popular feast food since the Middle Ages. Long before refrigeration and modern transportation, cod could be preserved and transported allowing it to reach the Mediterranean and even as far as North Africa and the Caribbean. The Danish eat boiled cod and Italy eats baccala, or dried salt cod. Herring is consumed at midnight in Poland and Germany. Germans also enjoy carp and have been known to place a few fish scales in their wallets for good luck. In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life, and dried sardines for good harvest.
Cakes and baked goods are always served from Christmas to New Year's around the world, with a special emphasis placed on round items. Italy has chiacchiere, which are honey drenched balls of pasta dough fried and dusted with powdered sugar. Mexico's rosca de reyes is a ring-shaped cake decorated with candied fruit and baked with one or more surprises inside. In Greece, a special round cake called vasilopita is baked with a coin hidden inside.
Cakes aren't always round. In Scotland, there is a tradition called "first footing" in which the first person to enter into a home after the new year determines what kind of year the residents will have. The "first footer" often brings symbolic gifts like coal to keep the house warm or baked goods such as shortbread, oats cakes, and a fruit cake called black bun, to make sure the household always has food.
Just like there are lucky foods for the New Year there are also some unlucky foods to avoid.
Lobster - they move backwards therefore can lead to setbacks
Chicken - the bird scratches backwards, which could cause regret of dwelling on the past. Another theory warns against eating any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.
In Germany, it's customary to leave a little bit of each food on your plate past midnight to guarantee a stocked pantry in the New Year. Same with the Philippines.

So I hope this New Year Eve your grapes are very sweet, your greens are full and bring you good fortune, your black-eyed peas bring you lots of luck, your pork chop keeps you moving forward, your shrimps are large and succulent for a long life, and your "first footer" brings you lots of yummy cakes so your pantries will be full all year in 2011!
Whether you are superstitious or not just enjoy your New Year's celebration what ever it may be. Eat what you want, as much of it you want, and when you want. After all, I will see you at the gym New Years day. Or really January 2, 2011 once the hangover wears off.
Have a Happy New Year and thank you for the support in 2010. 2011 is looking very promising & tasty.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Another Kung Pao Christmas

I absolutely love this time of year. We all get to surround ourselves by those we love the most. Everyone must eat, but the meaning of what, when, how and with whom we eat with are all cultural inventions. In America, the food of ones ethnic group symbolizes tradition and community. Hanukkah came and went to early this year, but I don't mind! In fact I like when Hanukkah does not fall on Christmas. I can not see myself eating Latkes (potato pancakes) on Christmas.
I am Jewish and I celebrate Christmas. I get just as excited about it as anyone else. Like most who celebrate Christmas I surround myself with those I love the most, but my choice of food is Chinese Food. I have to have it either on Christmas Eve or Christmas. I am not sure how this Jewish tradition started but I think it has to do with Chinese food restaurants being just about the only restaurants open on Christmas. Its a tradition I love and cherish and Christmas would not be the same to me with out it. Of course we always end the evening with a Golden Globe nominated movie.
This Christmas Eve I went with some very close family friends of mine who are Jewish as well to eat Chinese Food and see a movie. Normally we would have ventured to the trendy China Max. One of my favorite Chinese Food places. We would of ran into others from "the tribe" and enjoyed our meal but this year I wanted to try someplace different. I wanted a Kung Pao Christmas Adventure.
Some good friends of mine who are foodies and have amazing palates had suggested to me to try Spicy City. It is located in the same shopping center as China Max which was a perfect plan, in case the Spicy menu scared us away. So I took their suggestion and we went. Spicy City was slammed. Every table was filled with families and this place is authentic. There was not another Jew in the place as they for sure were all at China Max. We put our name on the pad of paper and there were 6 ahead of us. We waited 45 minutes and during that time the paper filled up with others waiting behind us for a table. 2 sheets were full of names. I knew Spicy City had to be good. We are all so excited to eat and had the dishes we wanted to order picked out by the time we sat down.
Now just about everything on the menu is spicy. After all Spicy City is the name of the restaurant. On the menu they have 1, 2 or 3 chili's listed next to the name of each menu item to distinguish how spicy the menu item is. There are very few without chili's, but don't worry we found a few. None of us are too crazy about really spicy food and we wanted to be able to eat the food and taste the flavors so we told our waitress we don't want anything to spicy. It was almost as if our waitress new what to expect from us. Most of us from "the tribe" cant handle all that spice but a rare few can. I admire you.
Many of the menu items we picked were suggested to us by my friends and thank god for them. Great suggestions!
We order the Green Beans. I don't know what kind of spice they were mixed with but they were amazing! It was like a sweet browned garlic & soy sauce. Not spicy at all and so flavorful. A favorite for sure. They were cooked to a perfect crisp.The Kung Pao Chicken was so good. It had the perfect amount of spice and the flavors were amazing. Like no other Kung Pao Chicken I have ever had before. None of us dared to eat those spicy red peppers but that didn't effect the dish at all! YUM!Eggplant with Garlic Sauce was my personal favorite. I love Chinese eggplant and this dish was sweet and delicious. Not too spicy at all. I loved it!
The Beef Chow Mein was delightful. So good!
The last dish is the Special Fried Shrimp. The perfect amount of breading and the shrimp cooked to perfection. It was the best fried Shrimp I ever had, but it lacked flavor. It would of been nice with a dipping sauce or something to go with it. After all the flavors we tasted from the other dishes this was bland and mediocre.If you love spicy food this is the spot for you. I was so happy to know that those who don't love spicy food can still partake in amazing Chinese food and Spicy City will make it how you like. No attitude here at all. Spicy City is my new favorite. Goodbye China Max.
After dinner we went to see the movie True Grit. It was a perfect Christmas Eve. Amazing Chinese food followed by an amazing movie with amazing people. I hope you too have a Merry Kung Pao Christmas. Celebrate how you like with those you love the most. That's what this time of year is all about.
Now off to celebrate Christmas Day with my second Family. They are Italian and are serving homemade pasta & lasagna at 2:00 pm. I LOVE Christmas!
Spicy City
4690 convoy street ste 107 san diego ca. 92111

Friday, December 17, 2010

You Gonna Eat Your Tots?

Chef Rich Sweeney recently took over the space in Hillcrest that was formally known as Busalacchi's on Fifth. Sweeney was the former Executive Chef at Confidential downtown and was a contestant on Bravo's Season 5 of Top Chef.
At R-Gang Eatery Chef Sweeney proves that Retro-American food can be gourmet with out being snooty. Most of the classic dishes on the menu are twisted around and refueled, which left me saying "yuuuuuuuuum" and left me feeling the way comfort food makes you feel. Damn good!
We started with the House Made Tater Tots. I can't remember the last time I ate Tots, but I know never had Tots like this before. We got the Traditional Tots - Cheddar and Chive Tots served with Chipotle Ranch. They were so good. The outside was crispy and in the inside oozed cheese and chives.
Also on the menu are Philly Tots - Stuffed with Grilled Steak, Sauteed Peppers, Caramelized Onions and served with a Cheese Wiz Sauce. I heard from Chef Sweeney himself that White Trash Tots might be back on the menu soon - Stuffed with Spam & Velveeta and served with Ketchayo (ketchup & mayo). As if plain Tots aren't trashy enough? Gotta love it! Also he mentioned a Top Secret Tot that he will be featuring on his New Year Eve menu. I can only imagine what that would be.
For the main course we shared a vegetarian dish Quinoa Stuffed Pepper - Roasted Bell Pepper stuffed with Southwestern Quinoa and served with a Marinated Grilled Vegetable Skewer and Garlic-Thyme Balsamic Reduction. I loved this dish. Quinoa is my new favorite grain so I love seeing it used in different ways. The veggies that were stuck on the rosemary sprig skewer included brussel sprouts, mushrooms, zucchini, and onions. It was delicious!
We also shared The Not-So-Short Short Rib. This is absolutely no lie. I had no idea how big a bone could be and it was at least as big as my forearm. After all size is everything right? (Sorry, I had to throw that in.)
This meat-falling-off-the-bone slow braised bone-in beef short rib is served with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Honey Glazed Carrots, Goat Cheese Demi-Glace and Fried Onion Strings.
The only complaint about this dish is the carrots could of been a little more cooked. To much bite for my liking. But who needs carrots when you have a bone that size on a plate in front of you?
To wash it all down, or more like stuff us all up, we had to try the Smoked Gouda Mac n Cheese with Toasted Butter Cracker Crumb Topping. I thought this mac n cheese was good. We ate the whole thing but I am sucker when it comes to mac n cheese. Really anything with pasta. Was it my favorite and the best I ever had? Probably not, but I had to try to see. I will continue my search for the best.
As if I wasn't full enough we ordered dessert. It was some sundae with chocolate covered bacon. Not my first choice but I tried it. I wont be trying it again. I like my meat left out of my dessert thank you. The people next to me had the S'mores Casserole and it looked great. That is what I will get next time. I love s'mores & casseroles! What a combo!
R-Gangs food shouts FUN and that is exactly what you get. The restaurant is casual and inviting. The staff was extremely friendly and seemed really excited about every dish on the menu. Rightly so as some are really off the wall. You can check out the full menu here. Overall expect a good meal and a good time.
I would go back to check out their brunch. I hear they have bottomless Mimosas!!! How FUN will that be?!?!
Food & Fun, Refueled
R-Gang Eatery
3683 5th avenue san diego ca. 92103

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Holiday Cookie Monster

The Holiday's are here and if this isn't the time of year for baking cookies then I don't know what is.
I think anyone who loves food and sweets gains the holiday 5 pound muffin top this time of year...some of you maybe more some of you maybe less? I am carefully trying to not let mine get to out of control, but hey its the one time of year where we get to indulge so why not do it right and enjoy it. The new year is coming and there is plenty of time to work it off before bikini season. So make sure you enjoy this time of year and eat, drink, be merry & bake cookies. Lots of them.
If you are looking for some amazing holiday cookie recipes then look no more. Here are some from my favorite blogs that I follow.
Sparkling Ginger Snap Cookies

These tiny bit size cookies by 101 Cookbooks are made with 2 kinds of ginger and shaved chocolate. Also you can mix them by hand so no need to dirty your mixer. You can read more about them and find the recipe here.
Swedish Rye Cookies

These not-to-sweet shortbread cookies are powder-kissed with confectioners sugar and made with a blend of rye and whole wheat pastry flour. (which can be substituted for unbleached all-purpose flour if you prefer). The secret ingredient is a butter / cream cheese combination for the dough rather then just butter. Her inspiration for that was the love of toasted rye bread with cream cheese. Not a bad combo. Another one by 101 Cookbooks. You can read more here.
Ice Cream Cones & Santa Sugar Cookies

These cookies from Bakerella are so cute I had to share them with you. If you bake then I am sure you have made sugar cookies before. She used a chocolate sugar cook recipe from the book Cookie Craft but you can probably just look one up on-line. To see how to decorate them and learn more click here.

She even included a PDF that you can download and use a template for those who of us who art not artistic.
All you need is one cookie cutter in the shape of an ice cream cone.

Flip it over and its a Santa. Love!

Pistachio Meringues

I wish I had a box of these meringues by Chocolate Shavings right now. To see the recipe click here.
Also found on Chocolate Shavings is this next recipe adapted by Giada De Laurentiis.
Ricotta Lemon Cookies with Lemon Glaze

The ricotta keeps the cookies moist, them lemon give them a a little sour punch and the sweetness of the glaze is the perfect combination for me. They are on the top of my list to make this holiday season.
Click here to see the whole recipe.
Coconut Chocolate Bars

I don't think I fulfilled & satisfied all the chocolate lovers so I had to add one more.
These bars also by Chocolate Shavings look to die for. Who doesn't like toasted coconut and chocolate. Another amazing combination. You can see the recipe here on Chocolate Shavings.

Embrace the Holiday Cookie Monster in you. I know I am.
Happy Holiday's

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Creamy Roasted Garlic & Red Pepper Hummus

Once you make this homemade hummus you will never purchase store bought hummus again. It's light and creamy and last about 1 week after making it. Hummus seems to be my favorite snack right now and this vegetarian appetizer is made for garlic lovers. You can use less garlic if you prefer so don't fear the full head of roasted garlic it calls for. Also the base of the recipe is yours to do what ever you want with. You can substitute the red peppers for roasted poblano peppers with cilantro, roasted eggplant, or you can keep it simple not add any veggies at all. It's fantastic for just plain hummus. If you do decide to make plain hummus make sure to include garlic. About 6 cloves and no need to roast them.
This recipe makes 4 cups so feel free to cut this recipe in half.
3/4 cup water from the canned chickpeas
1/2 cup tahini (sesame-seep paste)
1 whole head of roasted garlic
4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
kosher salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 (19 ounce) cans unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans) rinsed & drained. Reserve the water.
2 red peppers
Preheat over to 400 degrees
Cut the top of the garlic clove off so all the cloves are exposed. Drizzle with a little olive oil and salt and pepper and wrap in foil.
de-seed red peppers and cut in to large chunks brush with olive oil and put on a baking sheet lined with foil with the garlic and roast the peppers for about 30 minutes. Just so the edges turn black and peel starts to blister. Leave the garlic in for about 45 minutes.
When done take out and let cool. Once red peppers have cooled peel the outside skin off. Squeeze out the garlic cloves from the head of garlic.
Place water, tahini and garlic in food processor; process until smooth. Add juice and remaining ingredients except the peppers. Once blended until smooth check the consistency. You might need to add a little more water at this point to get the right consistency. Also add about 1/2 tablespoon of salt. Blend and taste. You might have to keep adding pinches of salt until you get the flavor you are looking for. Once you have the flavor and saltiness you want add the peppers and blend until smooth and creamy. Taste one more time to make sure the seasonings are good. Serve with pita chips!
Enjoy your homemade hummus!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

Almost one year later after my culinary frenzy in San Fransisco I attempted a recipe that I discovered one night out with my cousin at Zuni Cafe. As soon as we sat down at our table and ordered a bottle of wine my cousin put in our order for the Zuni Roast Chicken. It takes 1 hour to make so you have to order it as soon as you get there.
On our way out I saw the Zuni Cafe Cookbook for sale at the bar. I swear it had a glow around it. As I thumbed through it looking for only one recipe, The Zuni Roast Chicken, I found it. That is when I decided this cook book had to be mine.
With my cousin being in town from San Fransisco for this past Thanksgiving I decided to bring Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad from San Fran to So Cal. It came out exactly like Zuni Cafe and all I kept thinking was why did I wait one year to make it. Probably because the recipe in the book is 5 pages long. But don't let that discourage you from making it. Its mostly filled with helpful tips which will perfect this recipe which has minimal ingredients that you might have stored in your pantry. I will try to take the most important parts of the recipe & method for you and simplify it as much as possible but the more you read the recipe the better luck you will have with it.
The bread salad is amazing but optional as the chicken is so versatile and appealing you will want to serve it often accompanied by your favorite side dishes. The first time you make it you have to make the warm bread salad. It's quite decadent and rich and that is the only side dish you will need. Well that and a good bottle of Pinot Noir to wash it down of course.
The Zuni Roast Chicken depends on 3 things, beginning with the size of the bird. I couldn't find birds smaller then 4 pounds and those seem to work great but the smaller you can find the better. I suggest calling your butcher ahead of time to see who has the smallest pasteurized birds.
The second requirement of the method is the high heat used to roast the chicken. Using 2-3/4 to 3-1/2 pound bird will flourish at high heat, roasting fast and evenly, with lots of skin per ounce of meat they are virtually designed to stay succulent. Make sure you get a whole fryer.
The third requirement is salting the bird at least 24 hours in advance but I salted ours 3 days ahead. This improves flavor, keeps it moist and makes it tender. No trussing is necessary as you want the skin to blister and color and no extra fat is needed on the chicken. The skin of the chicken has enough.
The chicken is the method and the bread salad is the more about the recipe. Its a scrappy extramural stuffing, it is a warm mix of crispy, tender, and chewy chunks of bread, a little silvered garlic & scallion, a scatter of currants and toasted pine nuts, and a handful of greens, all moistened with vinaigrette and chicken drippings. That's right...CHICKEN DRIPPINGS!
You have to get chewy peasant-style bread with lots of big and little holes in the crumb. I went to Bread & Cie and bought Ciabatta bread. It was perfect!
You use a half loaf per chicken. Stay clear of sour dough bread as it is way to rich for this recipe.
For 2 to 4 servings
For the Chicken:
One small chicken, 3-3/4 to 3-1/2 pounds
4 tender sprigs of one of the following: fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary, or sage, about 1/2 inch long (I used thyme)
Kosher Salt
about 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
For the Salad: Generous 9 ounces slightly stale open-crumbed, chewy, peasant-style bread
suggestion-ciabatta (not sour dough)
6-8 tablespoons mild-tasting olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
Salt & freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon dried currants
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or as needed
1 tablespoon warm water
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2-3 garlic cloves, slivered thin
1/4 cup slivered scallions (about 4 scallions) include a little of the green part
2 tablespoons lightly salted chicken stock or lightly salted water
A few handfuls of arugula, frisee, or red mustard greens, washed & dried
Seasoning the chicken: (1 t0 3 days before serving: for 3-1/4 pound chickens at least 2 days)
Removed & discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside & out to avoid the chicken steaming.
Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets and use your finger to loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using a finger, shove an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.
Season the chicken liberally all over with salt & pepper (3/4 teaspoon salt per pound of chicken) Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.
Starting the bread salad (up to several hours in advance)
Preheat the broiler
Cut the bread into a couple of large chunks. Carve off all the bottom crust and most of the top and side crust. Brush the bread all over with olive oil. Broil very briefly and crisp and lightly color the surface. Turning once. Trim off any badly charred tips. Cut into bit size wads (2-to-3-inch), you should get about 4 cups.
Combine 1/4 cup of olive oil with Champagne vinegar and salt & pepper to taste. Toss about 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette with the bread chunks in a wide salad bowl. The bread will be unevenly dressed. Taste one of the more saturated pieces. If it is bland add a little salt and pepper and toss again.Place the currants in a small bowl and moisten with the red wine vinegar & warm water. Set aside.
Toast the pine nuts in a skillet on the stove. Set aside.
Roasting the chicken and assembling the salad:

Preheat over to 475 degrees. (depending on your oven you may have to adjust the heat to as high as 500 degrees or to as low as 450 degrees) If you have a convection function on your oven, use it for the first 30 minutes; it will enhance the browning, may reduce overall cooking time by 5 to 10 minutes.
Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger then the chicken, or a 10-inch skillet with a metal handle. Preheat roasting pan in the oven or skillet on the stove. Wipe the chicken dry to prevent sticking and set breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.
Place in the center of the oven and it should sizzle and brown within 20 minutes. If it doesn't raise the temperature until it does. The skin should blister. If the chickens begins to char or fat is smoking, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees. After 30 minutes turn the bird over. Roast for another 10-20 minutes, depending on the size, then flip back over to re crisp the breast skin, another 5-10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour.
Place a spoonful of the olive oil in a small skillet, add the garlic and scallions, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until softened. Don't let them color.
Scrape into the bread and fold to combine. Drain the plumped currants and fold in with the pine nuts. Dribble the chicken stock or lightly salted water over the salad and fold again. Taste a few pieces of the bread. If its bland, add salt, pepper and or a few drops of vinegar and toss well.
Pile the bread salad in a 1-quart baking dish and tent with foil leaving the sides open; set the salad bowl aside. Place the salad in the oven after you remove the chicken from the oven.
Finishing and serving the chicken & bread salad:
Remove the chicken from the oven and put the bread salad in for 15 minutes. Let the chicken cool a bit before serving it. This will make the meat more tender and succulent. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set aside on a plate. Carefully poor the clear fat from the roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add the drippings to a saute pan with about a tablespoon of water and place over medium-low heat. Make sure to scrape all the brown bits a stir them to make them soft.
Remove the bread salad and add it to a salad bowl. (It will be steamy-hot, a mixture of soft, moist wads, crispy on the outside but moist in the middle wads, and a few downright crispy ones) Drizzle and toss with a spoonful of the pan juices and add the greens and a drizzle of the vinaigrette and fold well. Taste again.Cut the chicken into pieces, spread the bread salad on the warm platter and nestle the chicken in the salad...and serve.I know you will enjoy every bite and DO NOT wait 1 year to make this recipe. It's to good to do so.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Kiss For Katsuya

I went this past Saturday night to Katsuya in Brentwood located in Los Angeles. One of the four locations of Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi who creates the most amazing Japanese food I have ever had. The fish was beyond fresh the flavors combined with it were like nothing I have ever had before.
We called 2 weeks ahead to make a reservation but they were totally booked. With the help of my friend Ben, who used to be the Sous Chef there, a phone call was made and we were in.
Thanks Ben! I had no idea we were in for such a culinary treat that excited every single taste bud in my mouth.The restaurant was packed and the crowd ranged from casual families to hipsters dressed to kill of all ages.
The menu which you can see here has so many options. We decided to stick to sushi and not try any of the entrees from the Hot Kitchen but they looked incredible.
We started with Edemame which was served warm and lightly tossed with salt. We also started with Sauteed Shishito Peppers. I got lucky and didn't eat any that were too hot but someone at our table did was just about blowing fire out of her mouth. We had no warning about how hot they could be which was disappointing. We asked our waiter to take them away as they didn't do much for any of us.
Shortly after the peppers disappeared from the table, what was about to be my favorite sushi dish I have ever had appeared...and they kept coming. Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna - This dish was amazing, the most flavorful and what Katsuya is famous for. The spicy tuna is served on rice squares that are crispy on the outside and hot and soft in the inside and topped with a jalapeno slice. Do not pass this dish up! I think I had 5 pieces to myself and could of kept eating them all night.
Yellow Tail Sashimi with Jalapeno
- Fresh Yellow Tail that melts in mouth with ponzu and Jalapeno. This was also a table favorite and it was a very small portion for 6 of us. All you really needed is a little taste though to excite your taste buds. Left me wanting more which is exactly how good sushi should make you feel.Baked Crab Handroll - Baked snow crab lightly kissed with Chefs signature sweet sauce wrapped with rice and soy paper. We each got our own and we each ate every bite.
Spicy Albacore Sashimi with Crispy Onion - The albacore was so fresh but was covered with tiny crispy onions that over powered the fish. I would of liked to really taste the fish more and found myself taking the onions off. I enjoyed it but wouldn't order it again. Next time just Albacore Sashimi for me.
Special Katsuya Roll - I loved this roll. Perfect for a hot summer day and since its November and still summer in California this roll hit the spot. Different types of sashimi, salmon, yellow tail, scallops, tuna and a small amount of rice wrapped in cucumber and served with a ponzu sauce. One word...Refreshing.Last and certainly not least. Rock Shrimp Tempura Roll - By the time this
roll came I was so full but I did get to try one. It was the perfect way to end the meal. We were told to order it with a spicy tuna roll instead of the original version which has rock shrimp inside the roll. So that is what we did and I am sure glad our waiter suggested it. A spicy tuna roll topped with sizzling hot rock shrimp tossed in Chef's dynamite sauce. I really don't needs to say more then that for you to grasp the richness of this dish. It was like dessert.

The next morning when I woke up and before I even thought about breakfast, I decided wanted to go back to Katsuya for lunch. I was planning the dishes I would order again in my head. That's when you know you have had some damn good sushi.
But for now, I will blow a kiss at Katsuya, until my next trip to LA.
11777 san vicente blvd. los angeles ca. 90028

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rancho La Puerta Power Punch

In my Healthy Cuisine class I learned about Spa Cuisine. So you might ask, "What is Spa Cuisine"? Its a method of treating your mind, body & soul. Along with treating the body came the idea of using food to heal the body from the inside out. Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico was one of the first spa's that started "Spa Cuisine".
Among all the recipes I learned, this smoothie is one of my favorites. I am not a huge fan of smoothies as most are not so good for you. This Power Punch is simple to make and I love all the ingredients. You can modify it anyway you like too. Throw in some black berries for some extra antioxidants but don' t overload on the fruit because of all the sugar. The tofu, (yes I said tofu) gives it that creamy texture and you really can't taste it at all.
This is a smoothie to sip when you return from the gym or big work out, a crucial time to replenish spent nutrients. The protein-rich tofu will give your brain a boost as it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can guard against some of the negative effects of aging.
I hope you enjoy your weekend. Get outside for some exercise and enjoy your Rancho La Puerta Power Punch. Bring some spa cuisine right to your own home.
Power Punch Ingredients
1/2 cup soft silken tofu
1-1/4 cups pear nectar
1/2 frozen banana, sliced
1/2 frozen diced pineapple
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Combine the tofu and pear nectar in a blender. Add all all the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.
Makes about 2-1/2 cups, serves 2.
Per Serving: Calories 170; calories from fat 18 (10%); total fat 2 g; saturated fat 0.5 g; cholesterol 0 mg; carbohydrates 38 g; fiber 3 g; protein 3.5 g; vitamin A i.u; beta-carotene 0 mg; vitamin B6 0.2 mg; vitamin B12 0 mg; vitamin C 11 mg; vitamin D 0 i.u; vitamine E 0.2 mg; folate 12 mcg; calcium 30 mg; iron 1mg; magnesium 35 mg; phosphorus 51 mg; potassium 281 mg; selenium 1 mcg; sodium 10 mg; phytochemicals: isoflavones, phenolic acids.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Holy Hidden Gem!

I stumbled upon the most amazing restaurant I have been to in a long time! Tao a small gem on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights has only been open for 1 year and I am so glad I found it. I tried to eat there last Thursday night and there was a 25 minute wait. Now I was even more intrigued. It was jam packed.
They only take reservations for 6 or more and my friend and I crossed our fingers and went back to Tao last Saturday night. With luck and Halloween being on our side we got a table right away.
Tao feels like the kind of place that will be around for years. Kind of like your favorite mom & pop Italian food restaurant. It has a casual atmosphere and the all the walls are covered in writing by past guests who dined there. Most of the messages on the walls are rants and raves about how amazing the food is.
We were overwhelmed with the menu as there are so many amazing choices.
Our sweet neighbors sitting next to us were regulars and made some recommendations. Turns out they work for the Department of Environmental Health and were not working but enjoying what was about to be my favorite meal I have had in a long time. Observing the meals being served at the tables around us I knew we were in for a treat!
The food at Tao is Vietnamese and Japanese Cuisine. Two of my favorites cuisines combined into one? Is this even possible? The owner & chef is Chinese & Vietnamese and has a Japanese grandmother so this is the real deal when it comes to Asian fusion comfort food. His wife was our waitress and she was such a doll.
Shortly after we sat down and ordered our drinks a complementary salad was served to us. Mixed greens, a sweet fruit vinaigrette, chopped walnuts and tofu. It was delicious but what caught my attention was the tofu. It is HOMEMADE daily and simply melts in your mouth. I don't think I can eat tofu anyplace else. The tofu is what they are known for as many of the dishes include it. In fact they use all 100% soy oil, no MSG and a totally separate cooking compartment for preparing all the vegetarian dishes.
We started with one of the 20 soups on the menu. The Pho Beef Noodle Soup (rice noodle, thin slices of beef, onion, scallions, cilantro, basil, bean sprout, lemon & herbs). The next time I have a cold I will be forgetting chicken noodle soup which is the Jewish penicillin. I am now going to eat Pho the Vietnamese penicillin. The only thing is the temperature could of been a little hotter but the flavors were fantastic and it didn't stop us from eating it.
I ordered the the Eggplant Tofu dish. (Japanese eggplant, breaded tofu with garlic sauce) The spicy level I ordered was a #6 and our waitress stopped me as a #6 is considered really spicy. So I dropped down to a #4 and it was perfect. Also when ordering the rice that comes with most of the entrees you get a choice of steamed, brown or half & half. I went with the half and half and I love that they offer that option. Although next time will order all brown. It was a mix of brown and wild rice. I loved it. This dish was awesome! The eggplant and tofu were a great combination the sauce was spicy and sweet. Amazing!
My friend had the Hainanese Chicken Rice Pot (shredded boneless chicken, shitake mushroom, broccoli, onions, garlic, ginger, scallion) It was incredible. Everything was cooked to perfection and the flavors were amazing. I mean how can anything be bad when served in a clay pot?
To top it off they bring you homemade complimentary ice cream. The flavors of the evening were green tea and pineapple coconut. We got both. They came drizzled with a strawberry sauce, fresh mango & strawberry slices. I mean really? Was this evening all a dream?
As if the evening couldn't get any better our bill was only $42.00. That includes wine and beer.
My friend Jen described Tao as being a Hybrid Vigor restaurant.
(Hybrid Vigor - the increased function of any biological quality in a hybrid offspring. It is the occurrence of a genetically superior offspring from mixing the genes of its parents.) I think that sums it up. Take Vietnamese & Japanese with touch of Chinese and you get a Superior Offspring called Tao. It is SUPERIOR!
3332 Adams Ave. San Diego 92116

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cueva Bar

Cueva Bar just opened last Saturday in University Heights and its only a few blocks away from my house. Hallelujah! If you don't live in the area this is a great tiny, quaint, new restaurant & bar that you should visit. Once they get their liquor license this place will be rocking and rolling. They will be serving wines from Spanish speaking countries and Portugal. Also they will have 6 local california micro brews on tap. They will also serve bottles of handpicked artisan beers from around the US and world.
The ambiance is nice and I love the space they picked. It could be a little darker in there with maybe some candles to give it that cave like ambiance. After all Cueva means cave in Spanish... but I have to give this place a break as they opened up 4 days ago.
One thing I don't have to give them a break on is the food. It was delicious. They serve Argentinian Tapas and they are fantastic. You can check out the full menu here.
We started with the Pita Bread & Veggie Plate served with hummus & guacamole. The pita bread was served piping hot and is baked when you order it. I have never had such fresh pita bread before. The guacamole was really good too. I like my guac with chips but this pita is so fresh you can dip it in just about anything and it will taste good. Who would of known? Loved it!
We also had both of the two salads offered.
Spinach with apples & cherries served with an apple cider vinaigrette and Mixed Greens served with blue cheese hazelnuts served with an apricot vinaigrette. If I had to pick my favorite I would say the Mixed Greens did it for me.
We ordered the special Guela Patty's Potato Soup which is a family recipe of the Owner & Chef Osvaldo Blackaller. It was so good! It was thick, hearty, and had a peppery kick to it. It was the favorite of the evening. Oh and they served it with some more fresh hot pita bread. Got to love that!We also ordered the Chicken Empanadas & Beef Empanadas. They were gold and toasty on the outside and the inside filling was generous, flavorful and juicy. Delicious! They were served with a homemade chimichurri that I couldn't get enough of.
One of the items I didn't get to try was one of the flat breads. I noticed the table next to ours getting theirs and was so jealous. We were just to full to eat anymore. Its all good though, now I have something to go back for.
Cueva Bar
2123 Adams Ave. San Diego CA. 92116

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Indian Spiced Carrot Soup with Ginger

One of my favorite things about fall is making home made soups. I can eat soup every night of the week on a cold fall night especially if its home made. There is nothing better.
This recipe I learned in my cooking class and is by Molly Stevens. It's easy, fast, healthy and delicious! I was surprised how this exotically spiced soup has an incredibly velvety texture and absolutely no cream is called for in this recipe. I love creamy soups but feel so guilty after I eat them because of all the calories & fat. If you love creamy soups, love Indian food, but sometimes feel guilty after eating them then you will love this recipe and you won't feel one ounce of guilt. I promise.
Indian Spiced Carrot Soup with Ginger
2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon curry powder (preferable Madras)
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled, sliced into rounds (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime peel
5 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Plain yogurt (for garnish)
Grind coriander and mustard seeds in spice mill to fine powder. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add ground seeds and curry powder; stir 1 minute. Add ginger; stir 1 minute; Add onions, carrots, lime zest. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes.
Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until carrots are tender; about 30 minutes.
Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree in blender until smooth. Return soup to pot.
Add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if too thick. Stir in lime juice; season with salt & pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls, Garnish with yogurt, lime wedge & serve.
per serving: 163 calories, 8g fat (1g saturated) 0mg cholesterol, 140mg sodium, 19g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 6g protein

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Take 2

The owners of Neighborhood, Noble Experiment & El Dorado recently opened up a new gastropub and cocktail lounge called Craft & Commerce in Little Italy. I recently had dinner there but this was my second attempt as my first attempt didn't go over so well. On my first attempt my friend and I got there around 7pm on a Friday night. They don't take reservations so we figured we would wait at the bar, have a drink and then dine. When we arrived we had a hard time finding the hostess and the hostess stand. So we went straight to the busy bartenders who were slammed at the overly crowded bar where people were eating and others were yelling over their head to order drinks. My friend was one of those yelling over the patrons dining at the bar and asked if we could check in and get a table for dinner. We were told to write our name on the chalk board and it would be at least an hour wait. It was complete chaos and instantly were turned off. We decided that we didn't want to self write our name on a chalk board listed with 20 people ahead of us and decided to get out of there and go someplace else. It seemed so unorganized.
I really wanted to try the food and give this place some time to work out the kinks so I went back a second time. This time I went on a Wednesday night at 5:30. I knew it would be easy enough to get a table at that hour. This time I was seated right when I showed up.
The menu is nothing to out of the ordinary but has many gastropub options which always sound good to me. Some of the items included:
Apple Wood Bacon Cracker Jacks, Fries & Pickles, Cheese Board & Cured Meat Board, Candied Apple Salad, Brisket Sandwich, Heritage Burger, Hot Dog Trio, Mussels w/ Fries, and Fried Chicken.My friend and I had the Mussels w/ Fries to start. The muscles were really good. Not to many small ones in the bunch. The fries where shoestring fries which I love. The sauce that the muscles and fries were in were a little on the buttery side but tasty.We also ordered the Citrus Avocado Goat Cheese Salad. It was okay. The goat cheese was fried but served cold which was odd, and the citrus over powered the salad. There was maybe two pieces of avocado and when I order a salad with avocado I want more then 2 pieces. I didn't love it.
The Fried Chicken was the best. Served with Buttermilk Slaw, Garlic Green Beans, Fingerling Potatoes, and Red Chile Vinegar. The chicken was crispy on the outside and moist in the inside. The potatoes were heaven on a plate. I asked the waitress what they were made with and she said magic. Good answer for the moment but I really think she had absolutely no idea what they were made with. Educating your waiters might be a good idea.The decor was a bit confusing. I got a southern/western American vibe from the way the bartenders and waiters were dressed, the blues music playing in the back ground and the rough wood tables. Not sure I know what the stacked old books were about. Vintage library perhaps? They had a book on tape playing in the bath room which was different.I think its a bit over the top and the restaurant has somewhat of an attitude. Its the "I'm the cool kid" attitude. Not sure I was feeling it and felt like I needed to be wearing a fedora and suspenders like the bartenders in order to fit in.
As it got later into the night I noticed the bar starting to fill up. People walking in confused looking for the hostess, the patio filling up with hungry impatient men in business suits just wanting to sit down and order a burger. The chalk board was filling up as well and we were paying our bill getting ready to leave. The next people who sit down at our table will be so glad to have a table and not a seat at the bar with people ordering drinks over their heads. I don't think I will go back to this place to eat but would go back and try some of the amazing looking cocktails they had on the menu. Who knows, maybe I will be ordering it over your head while you are eating some down home amazing fried the bar?
Craft& Commerce 675 w. beach st. san diego ca. 92101

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"Just The Biscuit"

This morning I went on a 4 mile walk through San Diego's Embarcadero and downtown with good friend of mine. I actually felt like a tourist in my own city seeing things I have never seen before and taking in the beautiful scenery. It felt so good to do that and made me appreciate the spectacular city I live in.
After climbing the stairs at the convention center multiple times we headed back to the main event of the mornings activities.
The stop was restaurateur Terryl Gavre's Cafe 222 downtown located on 2nd & Island. Cafe 222 has been open since 1991 but I had never been before and so it was about time I tried it. The restaurant decor had a quirky feel to it. Bright lime green walls, bright colored gerber daisies & chandlers made out of coffee cups and spoons. I was excited to see what the quirky menu had to offer.
The staff was super friendly and very accommodating. We were seated almost immediately even though there seemed to be a big crowd. I loved how they offered free coffee to those that were waiting. A nice touch.
We wanted to order something from each category on the menu so we could see what this place really had to offer and keeping in mind we needed to try savory & sweet dishes and we did just that.
We ordered...
Eggs Italia - scramble of tomatoes, goat cheese & pesto served with potatoes and focaccia toast
In House Specialties
Tamales & Eggs - Two pork tamales and two eggs topped with Mexican gravy served with griddle potatoes & toast (minus the toast adding "The Biscuit" made with Gruyere cheese & green onions)Griddle
Peanut Butter Banana Stuffed French Toast - featured on The Food Networks "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" with Bobby Flay.At first everything tasted so good and I don't know if it was just because I was hungry from a good work out or having a late 10am breakfast. (I tend to get up early and be half way through my to-do list at this time) Either way we started to process the flavors and food we were indulging in and I started to hear us saying things like. "Should the eggs be hot"?
The flavors of the Italia Scramble were great and I liked how it was dotted with melted goat cheese. Also the bread was good too. It was one of the dishes I liked the most but it was lukewarm. I would of liked it more if it was piping hot.
The tamales & eggs were okay. I think that San Diego has so many great Mexican food restaurants and if you are going to serve Mexican food it needs to taste authentic. The Mexican gravy was a bit over powering and the pork inside was salty and over flavored too. I didn't really taste the pork but I tasted Chili...and lots of it.
The Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast was okay too. I maybe took two bites of this dish. The first to taste and the second to make sure I didn't like it. I was expecting rich and wanted rich. I wasn't getting it. As my friend keep eating it I saw that it was picked over and torn apart and she realized that she wasn't eating it because it was good but was searching for the peanut butter wanting it to be better then it was too. There was not much peanut butter at all. We expected some hot french toast with hot peanut butter oozing out as we cut into it. It was more like sugary dry sandwich with a minimal amount of peanut butter and slices of banana, again served warm not hot.
When we were done with the main event of the morning we were driving home and talking about all the food we just tasted. My friend asked me, "So what did you like about the place"?
I simply replied with "Just The Biscuit". It WAS served HOT and so good. Everything you would want in a biscuit and more and I love myself a good biscuit. Who would of thought, the substitute, the side dish, the after thought, the biscuit would be the favorite?
I will be going back just for them and maybe a side of hot eggs along with another stroll through The Embarcadero.
Be a tourist in your city for a day and hopefully you will find "The Biscuit" too.
Cafe 222
222 Island Ave. San Diego CA.