lobsta dinner

recently SW saw a ‘deal’ on lobsters on one of those deal sites.  he decided to surprise me and order 7 maine lobster tails.  they ended up not being so much of a deal, but it did finally give me a chance to try making lobster for the very first time 🙂

they arrived Wednesday night..still frozen of course.  I thawed them out..

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looked online for ways to prepare them, and it sounded easy enough–just pull them out of the shell, spread some seasoning/butter mixture on top, and then broil.

so, i carefully cut the first shell open and then realized it wasn’t as easy as i thought it would be!  it was sort of hard to pull the raw lobster tails out of the shell.  I was very careful in trying to not rip or damage the tail, and also to not crack/break the shells.  eventually, i starting cutting a strip of the shell off and that made it easier.

I found a seasoning online to baste the tails in which included, melted butter, paprika, garlic powder, and white pepper.

spread it all over the meat..

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approximately 9 minutes in the broiler..

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and they were done!

since i’ve never prepared lobster, i was scared it might be under/overdone, but luckily they came out great!  with a nice chewy texture, and not rubbery.  phew!

made some fully loaded baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and some salad, and all in all (aside from the cutting the lobsters open and pulling the meat out), everything was really easy to prepare.

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[and of course, there was some drawn (clarified) butter + lemon wedges on the side for flavor]

one check off of my list of items to make

🙂

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thai red curry chicken, made by me!

i’ve been meaning to make some thai food for ages…i’ve had the curry paste & coconut milk sitting in the cabinet, but whenever we order delivery (which is maybe once a month?), it always happens to be thai food, so this has been put off.

yesterday it had been awhile since our last thai delivery so it seemed to be the perfect time to finally make it.

on the menu:  red curry chicken + haricot verts (french green beans) with dried shimp and thai shrimp paste.

i find this meal pretty easy to make, because i actually eye ball it, rather then tediously measuring all the ingredients.  normally i’m a stickler for sticking to the recipe! 😛

i decided to use both breast and thighs, and after cutting into small pieces, i browned them first…

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then added half a can of red curry paste, one can of coconut milk, buttom mushrooms (quartered), some fish sauce, and brown sugar.  Usually palm sugar is used, but, i just substitute brown sugar 🙂

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towards the end, i also added a can of baby corn (SW likes baby corns) and some frozen peas for a little bit of color..i like peas!

image_3for the green beans, i boiled them for about 4 minutes first, then stir fried them for a few minutes in the wok and added dried shrimp, chili garlic sauce, and Thai Shrimp paste.

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green beans all done!

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some of the ingredients that i used:

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dinner is served!

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tbd..

no bball for SW on Monday night, so we went in search for a nice meal instead.  AQ’s casual sister restaurant TBD just opened a week ago, and we were able to snag some last minute reservations.

TBD 2

1077 mission street, san francisco ca  415.431.1826

http://www.tbdrestaurant.com

“TBD {”to be determined”} is the philosphy behind our restaurant. Everything on the menu is determined by seasonal availability of local products. The result is a dynamic, frequently-changing menu inspired by primal means of cooking with live fire.”

I’ve heard good things about AQ, but have yet to try it.  The concept of TBD is interesting because everything is cooked over a wood burning grills..you can smell the aromas from outside before you even enter.  no gas or electric here.  they are cooking food medieval style!

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the ambiance was nice, very open and airy.  we were seated at our table, and then told everything we need is located within the drawers.  how cool!  it reminded me of the desk we had in elementary school.  there were all the utensils needed + a cool little menu + a napkin neatly folded underneath it.  oh and complimentary sparkling water–always a plus in my book!

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 the menu is broken down into different categories..

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the dishes sounded both creative and inventive.

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this sort of pricing system reminds me of dim sum!

 We had a spunky, hipster waitress who was really good at describing all the dishes and giving suggestions.  the “grilled lemonade” sounded interesting and it was exactly how it sounds.  They grill the lemons, and then make lemonade out of them!  I decided to order one and it was tart, but refreshing.

And after her suggestions, we decided to start with:

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from the PLANCHA section:  “arepa, aged jack, maitake mushrooms”
arepa = is a flatbread made of ground maize dough
i’m always a sucker for mushrooms.

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from the RAW section:  “autumn lettuces, butcher’s vinaigrette”
i really enjoyed this salad and it’s dressing

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from the HEARTH + EMBERS section: “young potato, sea urchin, jalapeño, scallion”
this was a different combination of components to go along with uni!

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larger entree plate from the PLANCHA section: “sole, spinach
walnut & lemon”
it was a pretty generous serving of sole, and it came in a huge bowl..one of the sauces was a bit sweet, and i usually wouldn’t think to add walnuts to fish, both made the dish different. good dish

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larger entree plate from the GRILL section: “beef sirloin, brussel kraut, pastrami”
meat was cooked perfectly, a nice med rare. the ‘brussel kraut’ however, i wasn’t a huge fan of–super tart, i think i made a sour face when i ate them

normally SW isn’t enticed by desserts, but this caught his eye:

soft serve ice cream → different flavor every week

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from the SWEETS section: “Orange Spice Soft Serve + Caramel Peanut Brittle”
interesting flavor..tasted a bit like orange creamsicle but with some licorice spice. i liked the brittle.

Overall, a pretty cool spot.  they seem to have everything running pretty smoothly having only been open for one week.  i forgot to mention they were all wearing uniforms–nice chambray oxford shirts with a black apron and it was cohesive with the rest of the restaurant’s vibe.

the food was good and i really liked the concept of live fire cooking.  and you might think the restaurant smelled of BBQ because of the cooking, but nope- it didn’t!

who i admire

happy friday everyone..or just to the 3 people out there who read my blog heh

i only just read earlier today the bio & FAQs section on insidescoop.com for one of the people i admire, part inspiration for this food blog, and who’s job i would love to steal–Mr Michael Bauer.  i’m a bit dumbfounded that i’ve never read it before..i have, however, tried to find out what he looks like online in case i spot him one day 😛  so far..no luck on positively id-ing a photo of him.

he’s been at it for over 25 years and ..”is the executive food and wine editor and restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle where he is in charge of the largest food and wine staff on any newspaper in the United States.”

impressive!

not surprisingly, i found the FAQs really interesting and it really gave a good perspective of how food critiquing works.  from it, i learned that he not only visits a restaurant many times, but he does appear to try to remain anonymous so that he can give a truly unbiased review, he desires no special attention!  I also liked how the first question asked is a funny one–asking him if he weighs 300 pounds.  I’d be wondering the same thing!

Anyhow, today I’d like to share the FAQs section.

BTW..Mr Bauer, if you ever should happen to stumble upon this blog, i’d love to dine with you any day 🙂  you name the time and place and i’ll be there!  pronto.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Posted on 04/26/2006 at 12:33 pm by Michael Bauer in General

Here’s a list of frequently asked questions readers have sent me over the the years both about me and my job.

Q: So do you weigh 300 pounds?

A: Actually I carry about 220 pounds on my 5’7″ frame and have a thick dark beard. Honestly, one of the three is correct.

I do work to try to keep my weight down so I don’t weigh 300 pounds. By exercising every day, I can eat out every night.

Q: Do you announce when you’re coming to a restaurant?

A: No. I never use my name when booking a reservation, and I have credit cards in other names.

Q: Are you really anonymous?

A: I try to be, but when you’ve been in a city as long as I have, it’s hard to keep from being outed. However, I play cat and mouse with the best of them, sometimes sneaking into the restaurant after the rest of my party is seated. In case I’m recognized, I always follow service at a table or two across the room to see if the portions are the same and service is consistent.

One sure way to recognize me: I’m the one who’s always looking around the room rather than staring into the eyes of my dining partner.

One sure way to know it’s not me: If you see someone taking notes. If you’re a critic, you should be able to remember what you ate without resorting to covert note-taking under the table (which any astute waiter can identify).

Q: Can a restaurant really change what they do if someone recognizes you?

A: A chef can’t suddenly become more talented, but the kitchen can make sure everything is the best it can be. On the service side, poorly trained servers aren’t going to suddenly understand the finer points of their craft. In many cases when I’m recognized, the experience deteriorates because everyone tries too hard.

Q: How many times do you visit a restaurant?

A: The Chronicle begins the review process after the restaurant is open at least a month, and we visit a minimum of three times. Previously reviewed restaurants that appear in 96 Hours are often revisited only once. The thinking is that these places have already had a full review, so we’re already familiar with what they offer. We’ll go back two or three times if the situation warrants it.

Q: What makes you decide to revisit?

A: Often a revisit is warranted when there’s a chef or ownership change. Other times we’ve heard that a restaurant has declined or improved. Sometimes we revisit because it’s been a long time since the initial review.

Q: Why do you wait a month?

A: We realize that reviews affect people’s livelihoods and frankly, you generally won’t get the best experience if you go in the first month. In many cases, it takes a restaurant three to six months to work out all the kinks. A month is a good compromise. Just so we aren’t behind the news, we go to restaurants the week they open and do a preview in the What’s New column page of the Food section.

Q: Why do negative reviews?

A: If we go to a corner mom-and-pop place and find that it’s not very good, we won’t write a review. In most cases, the place is inexpensive and will live or die by neighborhood traffic. However, any restaurant with a well-known chef, a big-budget interior, public relations support and high-profile name is fair game.

Dining out is getting more expensive each year, and it’s now difficult to get out of even a “moderately” priced restaurant for less than $100. My job is to tell you what you’ll get. There’s no such thing as a “money-back guarantee.” In most cases when you sit, you pay. We try to let people know what they can expect, both good and bad.

Q: Can’t you close a restaurant with a bad review?

A: I’m not sure a bad review will close a place; it might just hasten its demise. The dining public makes up its own mind. I realize that the owners often sink their life savings into the place and employ people who are trying to support families. I try to be fair, but in the end, my allegiance has to lie with the diner. It’s kind of survival of the fittest; not every place that opens will survive, and I’d rather throw my support to a place that’s serving great food.

Q: Do you dine alone or take people with you?

A: I always take others, from one to three people, depending on the menu. After all, I have to order the food, so I need the mouths to consume it.

Q: Do you ask their opinion?

A: I’m always happy to hear what my dining companions have to say, but in the end I can only defend my own palate. In the end, the opinions are mine.

Q: Who pays for your meals?

A: All meals are paid for by The Chronicle.

Q: How many times do you eat out during the week?

A: I’m out virtually every night. Aside from the weekly Chronicle Magazine review and 96 Hours updates, I’m also working on the Top 100 restaurants, Bargain Bites or other related restaurant coverage.

Q: Do you ever get tired of eating out?

A: Almost never. Dining is theater, and each restaurant is like going to a new play. How can you get tired of excellent food and being waited on? Even if the food isn’t that great, the experience usually is.

Q: What’s your favorite restaurant?

A: That’s one of the most difficult questions to answer because it depends on my mood and the occasion. I return most often on my own dime to places such as Foreign Cinema, Yank Sing and Delfina in San Francisco; and Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa.

Q: If you had one last meal, what would it be?

A: Caesar salad (with anchovy, raw egg and nutty Parmesan), roast chicken with preserved lemon; french fries, grilled asparagus and for dessert, coconut cream pie. At least that’s what it is this week; ask me next week and it might be different.

Q: What was your most memorable meal?

A: For years, my benchmark meals were both at Freddy Girardet near Lausanne, Switzerland, which was taken over by his protege, Philippe Rochat, about six years ago. However, that meal was rivaled in December 2003 by a lunch I had at the French Laundry. The soft-boiled egg with truffles and a truffle sandwich; the quail stuffed with foie gras (and more truffles); and the hand-cut pasta with white Italian truffles are forever branded in my memory. And I’m not even normally that wild about truffles.

Q: Is there anything you won’t eat?

A: Like everyone, I have my preferences but being a critic, you have to be game for just about anything. However, I might draw the line at live monkey brains.

Q: How do you evaluate something you don’t like?

A: Being a critic is like being a psychiatrist; you have to open yourself up, acknowledge your personal preferences, bring them out into the open and compensate. Just because I don’t like roasted peppers, for example, I won’t criticize a dish that uses them if all other elements are balanced and work in harmony with one another. I will criticize the preparation if the peppers are acrid or poorly cooked. Subjective analysis is the starting point of any review; it’s not just personal preference. In fact when I look at a menu, I generally have no personal preferences. Through 25 years of reviewing, I’ve learned that you can’t crave beef if you have to order fish.

Q: But what if you’re tired and don’t feel like going out that night? Won’t that affect the review?

A: The goal is to be professional. Again, a reviewer has to know how he’s feeling – whether he’s had a bad day at the office, for example – and then let it go.

Q: What makes you qualified to be a restaurant reviewer?

A: My friend, cookbook author and home cooking expert Marion Cunningham claims I have the best qualifications of anyone. From the time I was 5 or 6, I ate in restaurants almost every night. My father owned a meat market in Chanute, Kansas, and sold meat to most restaurants in town. He believed you should support people who support you, and that meant eating in their restaurants. I loved being out so much that it seemed like punishment to eat at home.

I also worked summers as a meat cutter and made the sausage, rotisserie chickens, ham salad, cheese spread and chile con queso that we packaged and sold in the market.

In college, I went into journalism at the University of Kansas and then to graduate school at Kansas State University in Mental Health Mass Communications, a program that trained journalists to be behavioral science reporters.

My first full-time job was at the Kansas City Star, where I wrote behavioral science features. After five years of writing about how a person copes with a dying spouse, divorce and destruction, I switched to food. I became food editor of the paper – my background in meat cutting and in side-line catering helped – where I wrote the stories and tested the recipes that appeared in the section.

After three years, I got a call from the editor of the Dallas Times Herald, and soon I was running a section called Gourmet, as well as being the restaurant critic and wine editor. In 1986, after five years in Dallas, I left for San Francisco.

I learn every day on the job, building up a “taste memory” of what I’ve eaten, learning about new ingredients and observing the scene. My biggest qualification at this point is experience. If I do my job well, I’ll be a better critic tomorrow than I am today.

Q: Would you ever like to own a restaurant?

A: No, because then I’d have to put up with critics like me. When my father retired from the meat market, he offered to turn it over to me. When I told him no, he grinned and said, “Good. Don’t ever go into the food business, because the hours are long, the markups are low and the meat you leave on the bone is your profit.”

It’s truly one of the toughest businesses around. I’m lucky to be on the fun side of it.

Q: What are your dining pet peeves?

A: I’m not going to make it easy for you – read the blog, shoot me an e-mail, and we’ll have some great discussions about all of that.

tank q dinner

SW helped me with some chores last weekend, so i wanted to thank him and treat him to a nice dinner.  he said no.  so, instead i picked a place that would still be fun and he once gave rave reviews about:

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3198 16th St. @ Guerrero, San Francisco – 415.621.2211

http://www.andalusf.com

this place is also the scene of his best ‘ambush’…i was out to dinner with a group of friends, when he showed up unexpectedly with his friend, and sat down nonchalantly at the table right next to us.  we’ll just leave the story at that 😛

onto the food!

“Andalu combines an outstanding selection of eclectic small plates with a festive and informal atmosphere to create a sensational dining experience. The cuisine explodes with flavor in every dish.”

tapas.  great for variety and trying a bit of lots of dishes.

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Ahi Tartare Tacos with Chili and Lime, Mango Salsa

the taco shells tasted exactly like potato chips!

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Duck Confit Dumplings with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

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Hearts of Palm Salad with Grapefruit, Avocado, Mache, with Cirtus Vinaigrette

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Crispy Mac and Cheese with Herb Tomato Vinaigrette

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Miso Glazed Sea Bass in Lettuce Cups with Sweet Soy

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Beef Cheeks – Green Peppercorn Sauce on Mashed Potatoes with Green Beans

and lastly, one of the dishes that is almost always on every tapas menu..

garlic-y shrimps!

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Shrimp “Pil Pil” with Garlic, Tomato, Sherry, Red Pepper 

i liked pretty much every tapa we got.  not only was each dish unique, but they each had such different flavors!

are you loco???

in my last post, i mentioned one of my favorite foods, today, it’s all about one of SW’s all time favorite foods..(it’s probably also no surprise as i’ve blogged about it several times) — LOCO MOCO.  he’s talked about making it at home, key word here is ‘talked’ haha.  So the other day, i finally decided to turn all this ‘talk’ of making loco mocos into reality.

i went online and looked up some loco moco recipes..and found this one by Ming Tsai that looked pretty good:

http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/11/02/caramelized-onion-and-beef-loco-moco-recipe

it includes caramelized onions in the sauce..mmm…onions.  but, SW likes things ‘simple’, so i followed the recipe for the burgers so there would be a little extra umph in the patties, but used a more plain recipe for the sauce:

http://bigislandgrinds.com/2006/09/loco-moco-recipe/

this 2nd recipe seemed pretty legit.  i really got a kick out of the fact that the word ‘yumyums’ is used in the recipe..those crazy hawaiians!! 🙂

Anyhow, I got all the ingredients, and mixed up the ground beef with the seasonings.  This, might I add, was the first time I’ve made burgers myself (watched them made many times in the past, but have never done it).

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I normally don’t mind touching food, but I wasn’t particularly looking forward to touching gooey mushy cold meat.  Not to mention my hands were coated with grease/oil/fat? afterwards.  It was like I had some extra moisturizing cream on my hands! lol

into the dutch oven (giggle giggle) to get a nice, crispy exterior..

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the  dutch oven worked great!

then, it was time to incorporate the ‘yumyums’ (or the leftover meat juices & seasoning) into the making the sauce.

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i added a bit of cornstarch to thicken it…

oh, i forgot,  loco moco isn’t complete without hawaiian mac salad…which i think really just means lots of Best Foods mayonnaise!

Quite easy to make as well.

lastly, fried a few eggs to go on top..and here we have loco moco + mac salad!

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nom nom nom..

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7 courses of beef

it’s no secret that one of my favorite foods is pho.  i would like to go to Vietnam one day just to eat.  not joking when I say this….last week, for a change, i thought it would be nice to have a different variety of Vietnamese cuisine — 7 courses of beef.  There are two well known places for this in the city, Pagolac & Anh Hong.  SW and I decided to go to:

Pagolac

655 Larkin St San Francisco, CA 94109‎

(415) 776-3234

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it’s like a simpler version of a multi-course meal 🙂

first up…

a beef carpaccio..loved the flavors, especially the tartness and mint.  very tender.

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Ba Tai Chanh — thin slices of rare beef marinated in lemon juice seasoned with chopped mints & peanuts

2nd course:

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Bo Nhung Dam — slices of beef cooked in an onion vinegar firepot

along with the meat comes a big plate of veggies, including lettuce, basil, mint, cucumbers, bean sprouts, carrots, & pickled daikon, to make your own spring rolls and nuoc mum (fish sauce) to dip them in.

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3rd course:

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Bo Nuong Vi — marinated raw slices of beef cooked over a grill at your own table

there’s just something really enticing to me about sizzling meat on a hot hot grill…

4th, 5th, & 6th Course:

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Bo La Lot — grilled beef sausages wrapped in wild pepper leaves an a skewer
Bo Cuon Mo — grilled beef wrapped over scallions on a skewer
Bo Lui — marinated bbq beef skewers

these come already cooked for you..no more self-cooking necessary!  again..you can eat them off the skewers, or make more rolls.

7th and Last Course:

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Chao Bo — vietnamese rice porridge with minced beef, green onion and cilantro

 mmm…the hot soup, a perfect way to end the meal!

The last time, I went, it was only $16 per person which seemed like a pretty good deal, but now it’s increased to $18.50.  I guess it’s still not bad.  Next time, I’d like to try Anh Hong and see how it compares.  better or worse?

🙂

umami burger finally here!

umami finally opened on King St just recently week and we were able to check it out last week with 2 friends.  I previously posted about this at umami is moving in! a few months ago.

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242 King St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
t. 415.904.8626

http://www.umami.com/umami-burger/eats/umami-soma/

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the menu

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SW trying to get creative while we wait for our food…can you guess who he’s drawing?

sides come first.

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skinny fries with truffle cheese.  so delish.  we ended up ordering a 2nd order.  the fried pickles were interesting.  being fried, it decreased the sourness of the pickles.

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I really like the tempura batter..nice and crispy!

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no brainer that i would order the truffle burger.  such a cute, little burger.  the truffle flavors actually weren’t overpowering.  the bun was a soft sweetish, fluffy bun stamped with their signature “U” on it.  loved it!

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SW ordered this very classic burger and he really liked it.  guess, he enjoys the simpler things, or so he claims 😛

Our friend ordered the Ahi Tuna burger, which looked quite good as well for non-meat eaters.

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yum-o.

quick & easy

after eating somewhat poorly earlier in the week, i told SW last night that I would be serving him a just a sliver of salmon for dinner haha  you know, like when you go a fancy restaurant, and it’s a tiny piece?..’just a sliver’.

anyways, i realized, the salmon i bought actually wasn’t tiny, and was a somewhat generous portion.  a little nugget would never do!  but anyhow..made a quick and easy dinner last night with some sauteed spinach and mushrooms.  all very basic ingredients and seasonings (the usuals) including:  fresh ground pepper, kosher salt, minced garlic, + minced onions for the veggies.

for the salmon, i did a rub after coating with EVOO, consisting of garlic salt, season salt, pepper, & brown sugar.  normally i would have added paprika, but was disappointed to see there wasn’t any left.  oh wells.

bon appetit!

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korean short ribs

a few weeks ago, i mentioned that i stopped by an Asian supermarket and may have gone a bit overboard.  I also happened to buy a pack of short ribs, most commonly used to make kalbi or Korean short ribs.

i finally decided to make them the other night..

i prepared all the ingredients for the marinade, which included:  lots of garlic, jalapeno, green onions, and minced yellow onions..

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and then added soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, korean chili flakes, & sesame oil.  Usually I try to follow a recipe, but this time i got sort of lazy and decided to just eyeball it.  i figured it should be a-ok!

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all done and ready to soak in the marinade for a few hours…

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i also bought a cucumber, thinking it would be a good salad/side..and what do you know.  i just happen to have all the ingredients to make a korean ‘cucumber kimchi’.  perfect!  would go great with my kalbi!  i found this recipe, by celebrity chef David Chang, owner NYC’s uber popular restaurants group Momofuku.

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/quick-kimchi-cucumbers

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finaly, it was dinnertime!  and time to cook ..unfortunately, i haven’t yet stepped near a grill, and just used my handy Calphalon pan (courtesy of MissD).

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all done and ready to be served..

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along with a some rice + broccoli..(sort of like Sorabol heh)

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dinner is served!

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the cucumber kimchi gave out great.  the flavors were pretty spot on, and I’m glad it didn’t require lots of time to ferment, like regular napa cabbage kimchi.  the kalbi had a good flavor, and luckily was marinated just long enough (only 3 hours)…although the cuts of meat weren’t that great.  😦  I suppose this is why I think quality at chinese markets are bit lacking.  probably shouldn’t have bought the pre-packaged ones. doh :X  oh well, next time, only korean markets for meatS!