Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell 2009; Hello 2010!

Overall, 2009 was a pretty good year - I started my legal career, met someone special, and adjusted to balancing the best of suburbia and city living. I wish my health had been better (I'm staying in for New Years Eve because I caught another cold), but I'm crossing my fingers for next year!

I also started getting into the mentality of simplifying my life, omitting the inconsequential and unnecessary so I get more time with the good stuff. As a student, I had the time, means, and desire to juggle too many things and people at the same time, but perhaps part of "growing up" and being in "the real world" means learning to focus on the important things.

2009 foodie collage [click for larger view]

And one of the important things to me is still FOOD! My top five foodie moments from 2009:
1. Foodbuzz-sponsored food tour in SF
2. Foodbuzz 1st Annual Food Blogger Festival in SF
3. My birthday dinner at Chapeau
4. Foodbuzz Community Table at Bushi-Tei
5. Watching Julie & Julia

My resolutions for 2010 - (1) reduce computer use (beware of carpal tunnel!), and (2) bake more. Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and yummy new year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Pumpkin Bundt Cake

For the recent holidays, the boyfriend and I tried our hands at making a pumpkin bundt cake, which actually turned out pretty well! Thanks to for the recipe.

Pumpkin Buttermilk Bundt Cake

For cake:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing bundt pan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15-oz can; not pie filling)
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs

For glaze: (or substitute your own glaze recipe!)
2 T butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1-3 T cream or milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour bundt pan. Combine together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla in another bowl.

Beat butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, then add eggs and beat 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is just smooth.

Spoon batter into pan. Shake a few times to be sure to remove any bumps, then bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and re-invert cake onto rack. Cool 10 minutes more.

To make glaze, heat butter until melted. Stir in sifted powdered sugar. Mix in cream or milk 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency. Drizzle over cake while it is on a wire rack so excess falls through.

That's it! Happy holidays to all!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sam Adams Utopia - America's Strongest Beer

"Dizzyingly high-alcohol beer made headlines last week when Samuel Adams announced the release of its new Utopias. At 27 percent alcohol by volume, it's the strongest beer in America and also one of the most intriguing — the product of 53 different barrels and several unusual ingredients."

Get the full story here:

Sounds like one strong and sweet beer!

Monday, November 30, 2009


Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving! I joined the boyfriend's family for an American-style meal, complete with the big bird and sweet potato pie. I'm still recovering from eating way too much!

Time to get in the mood for the next holiday! Jingle bells!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

Whenever I tell people I have a food blog, they often follow with the question, "So how'd you get into food blogging?" To which I usually give a quick, cookie-cutter answer somewhere along the lines of "I love to eat, and I started taking photos of stuff I ate, and voila! The food blog was born."

The longer answer to how I got into food blogging is a bit more interesting than that, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share a more personal story and give thanks to those who have inspired, and continue to inspire me to write and shamelessly indulge in food.

I've always loved writing; this most likely developed during my childhood years as I spent too much time immersed in books and journal-writing in an effort to get out of ESL class and bring my English up to par with the kids in my grade level. I briefly entertained the idea of becoming a journalist, but I couldn't shake the desire - unwavering since fifth grade - of going to law school. (There are days when I question the sanity of my decision, but for the most part, I find legal practice to be a compelling career. Plus I have a bit more leeway in my Fine Dining Fund.)

I've never been a picky eater, and growing up in a family that almost always had Chinese food for meals made dining on any other kind of cuisine seem like a special occasion. Sad to say, I've had my share of craptastic food before I knew any better. And even when I studied abroad in Japan when I was 19 (which would be flavor heaven for me now), many of my meals consisted of packaged ramen, Yoshinoya beef bowls, and cheap alcohol. When I trekked over to the Tsukiji fish market one chilly morning, I didn't even think to order toro or uni or hamachi (although the sashimi I did have was still out of this world).

My introduction into the foodie world began when I came back from Japan and moved in with a young married couple who still had a lot of contacts at UCSD. The year and a half I lived there was an apprenticeship of sorts -- Mr. Lauren Leung gave me a foundation from which I learned to appreciate food, wine, and other indulgences. From him, I also picked up the habit of photographing particularly delicious-looking dishes, but I never did much with the pictures besides sharing them with friends or posting a couple on my personal blog at the time.

As I started taking more photos and developing more opinions about what I tasted, I toyed with the idea of starting a food blog. I had been following some well-known blogs for awhile, but starting my own seemed like a daunting commitment, especially as a stressed-out law student. The usual questions popped up: Will anyone read this? What if the photos aren't great? Do I need a theme? Isn't Yelping good enough? How often can I realistically update this thing?

Then during a semester externship gig, I met Passionate Eater and became addicted to her blog. I figured if she had the time to do something that great, I should at least give it a try. So I started this blog and have, thankfully, stuck with it for over two years now. Thanks Passionate Eater!

What I love best about food is how it brings people together. While I enjoy a quiet meal by myself now and then, everything always tastes a little better when you're in good company. So I think of blogging as an extension of that desire to share good eats with others. Plus it's kind of neat to think that if you mention a specific dish at a particular restaurant, someone you've never met will know exactly what you're talking about.

I never cease to be inspired by other foodies and food bloggers out there, including all the ones linked in the right sidebar. Some are old friends (Alex Eats World); others are new connections from Foodbuzz (Kitchen Wizard). It's pretty sweet dating one too (WongCo Food)! Thanks to everyone who has ever given me a foodie moment.

And with that, I'll sign off by saying Happy Thanksgiving! Eat well and be well!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Foodbuzz Community Table 10.27.09 - Bushi-Tei

I'd been meaning to try Bushi-Tei ever since I went to their newer bistro, so I jumped at the chance to attend this Foodbuzz Community Table last month. I'm usually skeptical about fusion fare (it's either hit or miss for me), but Chef Wakabayashi's French-Japanese combinations were surprisingly approachable, with the European and Asian flavors balancing nicely. Plus the setting was gorgeous!

Our table

Expression 39 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Domaine Wm Fevre Champs Royal Chablis

Expression Wines served an excellent pinot from the Anderson Valley that had been released just four months earlier. The wine was stored first in new, medium-toast French oak barrels, then one year-old barrels, and finally two plus year-old barrels ("neutral barrels") for storage and further oxygenation. The result is a complex pinot with bold cherry and toasted wood flavors with more tannic structure than I would expect from a pinot. It paired perfectly with the beef tenderloin main course.

The chablis was pretty good as well ... I personally hate most California chardonnays because they either taste too artificially acidic and/or buttery, but I love the French style of crisp, mineral-y chards where you can actually taste the fruit and the oak. This particular wine was a good choice for the ankimo course.

Ankimo Torchon
with snowcrab salad, spicy fish roe potato mousseline, julienne vegetables and parsley coulis

This pretty dish was executed quite nicely. Fresh, creamy ankimo (monkfish liver) balanced with the sweetness of the snowcrab, the slight spice from the fish roe, and the crunchy veggie strips for contrasting texture.

Slow Roasted Natural Beef Ternderloin
with matsutake mushroom risotto, english peas, pinot noir reduction and espresso oil

The risotto was disappointing; it tasted bland and was nowhere near creamy enough. The matsutake mushrooms were from Oregon and apparently are quite pricey. The beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender and flavored with a sweet pinot reduction ... mmm heavenly!

Peach Melba
with daiginjo sake-kabosu cube

Forget the jello shots -- this sake cube was a strong shot of alcohol! The cool peach perched atop the warm almond cake was a tantalizing contrast of temperatures, and a nice way to end a great meal.

1638 Post Street
San Francisco, CA 94115

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Foodbuzz Festival - Day 2

And the feasting continued! We began the second day of the festival with an olive oil tasting seminar, which was a completely new experience for me. We were told to hold each cup in our hands, swirl, sniff, and sip the oils, paying attention to aroma, flavor, density, and aftertaste. Sounds just like wine-tasting ... and after this seminar, I believe that there are just as many nuances to olive oils as there are to wines! (For more info, check out the UC Davis Olive Center website.)

Olive oil samples. My favorite was the middle one in the top row...

...which was perfect, because it was the bottle we got to take home!

We then trotted over to the Metreon for the afternoon Tasting Pavilion -- a roomful of vendors with plenty of special food and drinks to offer some hungry foodies.

Oils, chutneys, and fruits

Wines from Jessie's Grove from the Lodi region (a great place for zinfandel)

Shrimp ceviche with Peruvian chilies
From Chef Jesse Perez of Fuego

Vanilla cupcakes from Mission Minis - you can't have just one!

Assorted sweets from Gateau et Ganache
Left: Passionfruit ganache
Right: Vanilla, pumpkin, and cranberry candied marshmallows

A Palo Alto-based store that makes small, seasonally-appropriate batches of rich chocolates and confections from local ingredients. I loved the delicate candied marshmallows ... think I'll have to go get myself a box soon!

California Sparklers seminar with Alder Yarrow, author of

Chocolates from Neo Cocoa - the richness made it my fave chocolates for the day!

Annie the Baker

Annie's catchphrase is "for those who love the cookie dough more than the cookie," and it's easy to taste why. Her handmade cookies have a moist cookie dough texture, which makes for super soft and decadent treats. The toffee milk chocolate chip is an example of what cookie-makers everywhere should be trying to emulate!

Beer-braised pork over polenta from the Mezzetta booth

Kerrygold cheeses

My favorite was the Ivernia, a hard, sharp-flavored Italian cheese that would pair nicely with red wines.

Dinner was in the Greenleaf Produce Warehouse to give us the farm-to-table feeling, with the folks from Namu and Outstanding in the Field teaming up to create a Korean fusion meal from fresh, local ingredients.

Our dinner courses were paired with a variety of wines from Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz. I have to admit that I wasn't impressed when I went tasting at their winery, but a few wines really stood out at dinner. This 2007 Le Cigare Blanc, a combination of roussanne and grenache blanc, was both earthy and slightly sweet, with a silky texture and smooth finish. Also noteworthy was the 2005 Le Cigare Volant, the red counterpart to Le Cigare Blanc.

Mushroom dashi, maritaki, shimeji, enoki mushrooms
A light broth with earthy mushroom flavors

Udon, grilled Monterey calamari in a browned butter ponzu reduction, cucumber, kaiware, frisee & yellow pear tomato with chojang and sesame vinaigrette

Wow, I had to look up what some of these ingredients were. Kaiware are sprouted daikon seeds, frequently used as a garnish in Asian dishes. Chojang is a sweet and spicy vinegar-based sauce common in Korean cooking, which added a nice kick to the udon noodles.

Soy-braised beef cheeks and oxtails, baby carrots and fingerling potatoes

My fave dish from dinner. Juicy, tender, perfectly seasoned oxtail meat with subtly sweet soy flavors. Time to make some variations to my mom's oxtail recipe...

Since this is on the footer of my blog, I had to take a photo :)

Thanks again to Foodbuzz for a wonderful event! I can't wait until next year's blogger festival!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Foodbuzz 1st Annual Blogger Festival - Day 1

Many thanks to Foodbuzz for holding its first annual food blogger festival this past weekend -- what an AWESOME event! Free food, drinks, demos, and gifts to take home, plus the chance to network with so many fascinating bloggers from across the nation/world! It was so wonderful to meet folks who share the same passion for food and who don't give weird looks when you photograph every dish that comes your way. I felt so accepted and understood :)

We heart Foodbuzz!

At the welcome reception! WongCo Food + Taste Tests

The tasting event from that night featured the best of San Francisco street food, with a lineup of some impressive mobile eateries that have re-defined gourmet meals.

Mission Minis

These gourmet cupcakes pack a lot of sweetness in a small size! The red velvet was divine; the chocolate was rich and gooey; and the cinnamon horchata brought back college memories of late night runs to Mexican joints in San Diego.

Tacolicious - delish indeed with locally sourced ingredients!

The Pie Truck

Steak & gruyere pie from The Pie Truck

Tender morsels of steak and melted gruyere tucked into this cute little pie made it my second favorite street food of the night.

My first favorite? This amazing porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti, a gourmet mobile rotisserie committed to using sustainably-farmed meats and veggies. Porchetta is a savory marinated pork roast that hails from Italy, and it was presented here with crispy pork skin, organic herbs, and onion marmalade. The combination was moan-inducing -- savory, sweet, with a balance of textures and flavors competing for my taste buds' attention. This is the sandwich to dream about.

Porchetta sandwich

Roasting the pork...

Shucking demos and raw oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company

Flatbread crisps with tomato and avocado from Alive Vegetarian Cuisine

They serve food that is all raw, organic, and vegan. Great concept, but I thought their stuff was a bit bland.

Pomegranate cheesecake from Alive Vegetarian Cuisine

Far west fungi vol au vent from Spencer on the Go

This was basically a bunch of juicy mushrooms over a puff pastry with cream sauce. Loved the mushrooms and sauce, but the pastry became disappointingly soggy real quick.

Making some pizza pies...

...and the final product from Pizza Politana!

Pilsner from Thirsty Bear & basil gimlet courtesy of Skyy Spirits

Our gift bag full of goodies!

Coverage from Day 2 to come soon!