Sunday, May 28, 2006

A week in the USA had gone past. The meals were mostly for subsistence but more memorable ones are as follows:

1) Cafe Esin
2416 San Ramon Valley Blvd. Suite 140
San Ramon, California 94583

Do not wrinkle your face at the combination of grilled salmon and goat cheese. Not when the salmon was fresh and grilled to a medium well, just to my liking. Really, that was one hell of a salad, perhaps the best I ever had. The bitter greens were tossed with the lightest of dressing and sprinkled with toasted and crunchy pinenuts; segments of sweet navel oranges rounded off the palate. Wonderful.

Having said that, the cafe is actually well known for its desserts. I did not taste any but all who did seeked forgiveness for their sins.

2) Zarzuela
2000 Hyde @ Union, San Francisco CA

My randomly-picked restaurant of choice for the last dinner in USA - tapas. I wanted to de-flower myself from tapas experience. Little did I know we would have to wait in a dungent-like corridor for about 20 minutes because the little quaint restaurant was packed. While walking into the waiting area, I noticed sangria flowing freely from every table and little plates of delicious food. Asparagus spears stood out like a diamond in the sky across the dining room and not to my surprise, it was rattled off as one of tonight's specials.

We had to order that of course, together with mixed funghi sauteed in olive oil, fried potato with tomato sauce, mussels with a saffron sauce and shrimp with garlic oil. For the two of us, it was just about enough food. We ate them with thick slices of toasted French baguette. The sauces were slightly salty and pungent with garlic, perfect with the bland white bread and good enough to deter my efforts at stopping at one slice. Instead, I wanted to mop up all the sauce but luckily I still had a bit of self-control and stopped at two.

It was a wonderful meal and not as horrendous as I had imagined having a one-to-one dinner with my boss to be. I felt even better when she treated me.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Ess-a-Bagel from NYC

I am so jet-lagged from my journey I wonder how I would survive my day today. In any case, I am up early at ungodly hours and decided to pass time online and blog while I am at it.

No prizes for guessing what the picture shows. I cannot tell you how long I have dreamt about having a bagel in NYC. While my airport shuttle bus was on the streets, I kept trying to look out for familiar deli names but to no avail. The number of delis here in the city is just so amazing huge so I had to rely a little research on the internet to find the best of the best.

Touted as one of the top 10 bagels in the city, Ess-a-bagel had an outlet just one street away from my hotel so I headed over to grab the bagel of my dreams.

I had originally wanted to eat in the deli but seeing the greying skies and given I was tired, I got it to-go. This whole wheat bagel cost me US$1.89 (or US$2 w/ tax) with cream cheese (vs US$.75 w/o) but don't be fooled by the picture; this bagel was not only humongous but I also did get a whole lot of cream cheese inside.

As soon as I was comfortable in my hotel room, I unwrapped the still-warm bagel. It was oh-so-delicious and every bit I had imagined it to be - a nice crust, chewy texture unlike the sandwich bread and really required a bit of mouthwork. The whole wheat flavour was masked by a subtle sweetness, which I am guessing was from molasses given the dark appearance, but anyhow, I can safely proclaim this to be the best bagel I ever had!

Unfortunately, my NYC eating adventure ends here but at least it ended on a (really) high note.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Visit to Uncle Sam

Despite all the mad last minute preparation for my business trip to the US, I still managed to eat a good lunch with my parents at Crystal Jade. The sea bass with broccoli was delicious as the fish remained juicy and the vegetables crunchy; just perfect with the just-cooked and really fluffy steamed rice. I finished the entire plate myself; don't ask me why I am still skinny :P

So I will be going away for over a week; hopefully I will be able to blog soon. Stay well.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day

My family just came back from a simple Mother's day dinner at the nearby cze char. Nothing beats enjoying food in good company. Of course, it helps if the food was good too. But as expected, quality was slightly compromised due to the overwhelming crowd but we still ate well.

But the celebration started late last night, when we had cake. I mean, what's a special occasion without the obligatory cake? So hereby I present you a snapshot of a really good chocolate chestnut cake, recipe from Nigella Lawson's "How to be a domestic goddess". The cake was really moist, sort of a hybrid between pudding and cake, and not at all overly sweet. It was easy to put bite after bite into our mouths and I had to resist a second helping at 10:30pm at night. The cake was simply presented as it was and I have to admit it was a tough having to resist putting on a finishing coat of chocolate ganache but my mom prefers her cakes unadulterated.

Anyway, just want to wish all the women out there, happy mother's day. Hope that you had a wonderful day being pampered and fed.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Whatever Cafe

The cafe is on my to-try list for much too long and I am glad to strike it off finally, but not forever, as the cafe transit to my to-revisit list instead.

This vegetarian cafe is a subset of a yoga center and strangely situated in a rather seedy part of Chinatown. Having said that, its unique location is an attraction by itself, at least to me.

The menu is rather simple but everything sounds delicious and healthy that I did have a difficult time making a choice. I decided to go for their roasted vegetable with mustard sandwich (S$8.90), which also came with a slightly more than decorative portion of mixed greens salad that was appreciatively not excessively dressed.

The sandwich was composed of a couple slices of thick walnut bread, with nicely roasted vegetables (peppers, zucchini, eggplant, pumpkin) snucked in between and spread with a sweet honey mustard sauce all over. The bread itself deserves a few sentences as it was really good! A nice crispy crust, the insides hid a decent mount of walnuts that seemed strategically located such that they appear every couple of bites. While the outside was crisp as a result of a short stay in the toaster, the insides remained fluffy and soft. Put together, that was one good sandwich though I did wished they went easy on the sweet mustard. I must find out if they baked their own bread or which bakery they procure from.

My friend ordered the quesadilla (S$11.90), which was filled with good amounts each of mushrooms and cheese. There were also 2 different sauces served - yogurt and tomato salsa - for us to dip the quesadillas in. Although the salsa appeared and tasted more like a tomato sauce, it was tasty. The same side salad was served as well.

Whatever Cafe also specialises in a wide variety of desserts catered for the allergy-prone folks. We tried a slice of their lemon cheesecake (S$8.50), apparently wheat-, sugar-, and gluten-free. It was not bad at all; texture was not as dense as a regular NY cheesecake but more of a hybrid between that and the lighter, souffle-like, Japanese cheesecake. Only upon swallowing did the mouthful of cake leave a slight hint of lemon behind. Albeit expensive, it would make a dessert for the target audience. Everyone deserves good dessert. Anyway, Whatever the location, I am sure to be back.

Whatever Bookstore & Cafe
20 Keong Saik Road S(089127 )
Tel : +65 6224-0300

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mother's Day Special Treat - Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Mom will be going for her alumni mother's day luncheon later, to be followed by a session of karaoke.

She was going to buy some snacks for the afternoon so I offered to her my cupcakes, specificallly coconut cupcakes just because I think no one, especially ladies their age, can really resist coconut-themed cakes and snacks.

These cupcakes are really easy to make; I have made them in its bigger whole cake form once before and found them to be really fragrant (kudos to the coconut cream!) and delicious by itself without any additional frosting. But I wanted to top off with a bit of toasted dessicated coconut so hence the frosting as a sticking agent.

The choice of a cream cheese frosting was made more on the basis that the block of cream cheese is nearing its expiration, than any other reason.

But brown on brown did not turn out too eye-appealing so I had to whip out the colorful thousands and thousands to brighten up the looks of those little babies.

I also used slightly smallish cupcake holders to make 18 instead of the usual 12 cupcakes. Taking health into consideration, I think little bits of indulgence would be more healthy for mom and her friends. I hope the ladies will enjoy them later.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Tempura at Ten-shin

That was actually my second trip to Tokyo, Japan but the first one just purely for pleasure. Since I was there free-and-easy with no specific agenda, I ate around my destinations. The trip did not turn out to be a foodie-oriented one, though I must admit I initially envisioned it to be but budget constraints and wanting to be a tourist too, led to eating on the spur, which turned out to be rather interesting too. Since this is afterall a food blog, I shall blog about some good food (as a budget traveller) during this trip.


Coincidentally, my first meal this trip was exactly the same as the first meal last trip - tempura from Ten-shin. Specifically, we got a tempura udon and a ten don, both under 600Yen if I remember correctly. My colleague based in Tokyo introduced me to this tempura fast food chain the last time and I was assured of its quality of food, eating environment and price, all of which were acceptable. Of course this meal could not be compared to top-end tempura specialty restaurants but for what I reckon to be at least 1/10th of a specialty temupura restaurants's price, Ten-shin made a might good substitute for decent tempura anytime!

The ten don had a generous mound of white rice in the bowl, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and a few pieces of tempura sitting on top of it, comprising of eggplant, pumpkin, 2 french beans and a prawn, drenched with a delicious, sweet tempura sauce. The batter on each piece of tempura was not overwhelmingly thick and surprisingly held up its crisp even though there was a coating of sauce. Now, that sauce was a low-carb-diet killer, slight salty but just perfect with the unseasoned Japanese short-grain rice. Each mouthful, together with toasted white sesame seeds that added a bit of fragrance and crunch, was bliss and I truely understood why Japanese could finish each grain of rice, because I did so myself too.

The tempura udon soup was decent as well. A large bowl of springy udon noodles with plain soup topped off with loads of spring onions was comfort in itself because of its warmth as we ate that in the comfort of the store, away from that particularly cold night's chill outside. As expected, the tempura was served on the side, together with dipping sauce, with similar items given in the ten don, with an additional piece of fried fish. I wonder how the Japanese can achieve that non-oily result despite deep-frying but in any case, we had a good dinner for our first night in Tokyo.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Yokoso Japan!

Apologies to all for the long absence. I'm back from a week-long vacation in Tokyo, Japan. Stay tuned for more regular postings. In the meantime, here are some shots of the food I ate while in Nihon; Enjoy!

keiseiki breakfast from the ryokan

keiseiki dinner from the ryokan