Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sushi Ota

Belated photos from a San Diego trip a few months ago, during which I made a visit to Sushi Ota, one of my favorite sushi places in all of California yup, I think it's that good! Time to reminisce and drool...

Ankimo (monkfish liver)

 Mmm so rich and creamy...

 Tamago (egg omelet)

Sashimi trio - hamachi (yellowtail), maguro (tuna), and sake (salmon)

Salmon belly

Unagi (freshwater eel)

Otoro (tuna belly)

Uni (sea urchin)

Hamachi belly

Sushi Ota
4529 Mission Bay Drive
San Diego, CA 92109

Friday, November 25, 2011


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, since you can eat, shop like mad on Black Friday, and look forward to Christmas fast approaching. And it's a great time to get into the habit of counting your blessings, instead of focusing on what you might be missing.

My family tried combining Asian and American dishes for Thanksgiving dinner this year and left the table happily stuffed. On the menu:
  • Butternut squash with basil (It was my first time cutting and peeling butternut squash, and it was terribly unwieldy. I'll have to research some techniques next time so I don't have to throw my weight onto the cutting board or risk losing any fingers.)
  • Brussels sprouts with garlic and prosciutto
  • Soy sauce chicken, courtesy of our local Chinese BBQ store
  • And of course, pumpkin pie!
And adding to my list of blessings plenty of leftovers. Happy Thanksgiving!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Braised Cabbage à la Tyler Florence

A few weeks ago at the annual Foodbuzz Festival, I watched Tyler Florence cook pork chops and braised cabbage for a dinner demo, and was inspired to try making a variation at home. I was particularly interested in the cabbage, since the flavor profile just screamed Thanksgiving. The ingredients Tyler used: chicken stock, apple cider, brown sugar, caraway seeds, salt and pepper, and a bay leaf. 

Unfortunately I couldn't find any caraway seeds at my grocery store, so I had to do without those. I quickly sautéed about a pound of red cabbage in a stock pot and then threw in all the other ingredients, guessing at the amounts to put in (bold, I know). I let the cabbage simmer for about 15 minutes in the liquids, and it came out tasting the way I imagined sweet from all the brown sugar and apple cider, but still savory thanks to the chicken stock and bay leaf infusions. 

Paired with some pork chops (using Tyler's brown sugar pork rub) for a hearty, autumn-flavored meal! Though I still think I need to visit his restaurant for a comparison!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Foodbuzz Festival 2011

Ah, my favorite foodie event took place last weekend at the third annual Foodbuzz Festival in San Francisco. Food bloggers from near and far flocked to various venues for tastings, fabulous meals, workshops, and scintillating chatter about our favorite topic FOOD!!

The Welcome Reception at the Terra Gallery was sponsored by Sabra Hummus, so all the hors d'oeuvres featured hummus in some fashion. Totally fine by me since I'm a huge fan of hummus, and there were enough variations to keep things interesting. I highly recommend Sabra's roasted pine nut hummus and their holiday flavor, "Season's Finest"  featuring the winning combination of rosemary, olive oil, and sea salt. Mmm.

The Reception was followed by the Awards Dinner, where awards were presented to some of the best bloggers out there today, while we devoured pork belly and day boat scallops cooked to order, and selections from a gourmet buffet. The desserts were the stand-outs, in my opinion, particularly the heirloom pumpkin tarts and festively-themed macaroons.

The next morning, after a series of helpful photography workshops, we headed over to the Metreon for the Taste Pavilion to sample food and drinks from various vendors. Every year I say I'm going to pace myself, but I always end up rolling out of there feeling like a stuffed tomato.

Some of my personal faves this year:
  • Pumpkin patch truffles and pumpkin spice coffee from Godiva Yay for autumn flavors!
  • Cupcakes from Mission Minis A hit every year ... I probably had at least 5 of these.
  • Organic beers from Bison Brewery Can't go wrong with seasonal beers like honey basil ale, pumpkin ale, and gingerbread ale!
  • Grass-fed beef from Estancia Yummy, healthy, and sustainable.
  • Artisan syrups and extracts from Sonoma Syrup Co. Vanilla extracts should always taste this good.

After stuffing ourselves for 3 hours, we proceeded later that evening to the Grand Hyatt for the Gala Dinner where more food was waiting. Somehow I still managed to eat a bunch of canapés, a super leafy bibb lettuce salad, a tasty filet mignon atop creamy celery root purée, and a trio of cute desserts.

The best part of the night, though, was an awesome cooking demo from Chef Tyler Florence, who made the audience rightfully drool as he prepared pan-seared pork chops, braised cabbage, and spätzle (Scandinavian dumplings) which all comprise one of the entree dishes from the menu at his SF restaurant, Wayfare Tavern.

Here's a video of Chef Tyler making his spätzle:

Finished product I'm totally going to try his pork chop and braised cabbage recipes! Maybe after trying them at his restaurant ... just so I know what they're supposed to taste like.

Thanks again to Foodbuzz and all the event sponsors for another wonderful festival! I'm already looking forward to next year!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cinnamon Raisin French Toast

My mom and I are big fans of French toast, so I decided to make some this morning for her birthday. Of course, whenever I do anything in the kitchen that involves more than two steps, my mom can't help but fuss around me while I'm cooking - moving dirty dishware, cleaning inadvertent drips, and asking what I'm doing every five minutes. I suspect these habits will never change.

I picked up this recipe card from my local Panera Bread and used their cinnamon raisin bread for the French toast, but you can probably use any bread you like. The perk about using cinnamon raisin is that the bread is already sweetened, so you can't really screw up on the flavor, and it was sweet enough that we skipped the maple syrup when serving.

  • 8 slices of half-inch thick Panera cinnamon raisin bread (or other bread)
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. For the French toast custard, combine and whisk together the milk, heavy cream, eggs, honey, vanilla extract, and salt. This custard can be made well in advance. Give a brisk stir before making the toast.
  2. Transfer the custard to a casserole or open shallow dish for dipping.
  3. Dip one slice of bread into the custard and turn over after about 15 seconds. Transfer the slice to a plate while dipping another slice into the custard.
  4. Place a large skillet on a medium fire. Allow the pan to heat thoroughly before pouring 1 tablespoon of the melted butter into the pan.
  5. Place both slices carefully into the skillet and cook on each side until golden brown or about 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Repeat steps 3 to 5 until all the French toast is cooked.
  7. An optional step is to place each finished French toast onto a baking sheet in a preheated oven until all are ready to serve. 
  8. Serve warm with maple syrup, if desired. Makes four servings.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I attended my good friend's wedding at the UCLA Faculty Center last weekend, which was beautiful, romantic, and had surprisingly good food catered by the university. By that, I don't mean the "decent for a wedding and the open bar helped" sort of food, but food that I actually remembered and inquired about afterwards. I may also have dived after some caterers to get to a plate of lamb chop appetizers. But you can't be shy about running after good food!

This was also my first wedding hustling around behind the scenes to help out with random things (this is probably common knowledge, but there should definitely be waterproof makeup, champagne, and flip flops for the bride on her big day) and giving a toast, which should've been easy given how often I write. But truthfully, it took several hours and multiple drafts before I had something that I (and luckily, the bride) thought sounded acceptable, and a couple glasses of liquid courage on the big day before giving the toast so that I wouldn't totally freak out.

So like most weddings, it was somewhat hectic, but everything worked out in the end for a lovely time. Maybe that's a reflection of marriage too?

People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other's personalities. Who wouldn't? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that's not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner's faults honestly and say, "I can work around that. I can make something out of that."? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it's always going to be pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you. **

** Book credit Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert. A tip for toast-writers: If you ever need inspiration, use book quotes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Afternoon Break

My idea of a perfect afternoon? Visiting the SF Ferry Building and grabbing a latte from Blue Bottle Coffee and some macarons from Miette! Simplicity can be a blessing sometimes. (P.S. While I usually prefer more complex flavors and colors, the vanilla macaron was my favorite today!)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Back to School: California Culinary Academy with Chef Martin Yan

Blogger dinners are one of my fave kinds of foodie events you get to eat, drink, and meet people who are just as passionate about food as you are, and the conversations revolve around things like street food festivals, the best place for dumplings, and how to properly make coq au vin. So I was very excited and honored to attend a small media dinner earlier this week at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, with Peter Lee, the president of the school, and Chef Martin Yan the iconic legend behind Yan Can Cook.

There is much to be impressed by when you consider Chef Yan's history and success. Being a Chinese-American myself, I of course applaud him for elevating Asian food and culture to mainstream media. He was personal friends with Julia Child, and even cooked for her in her kitchen the same one that's now on display at the Smithsonian. He's authored 30 cookbooks (with more to come!), opened a chain of restaurants (M.Y. China opening next year in San Francisco), and inspired budding chefs in classes and commencement speeches around the world. His new show on the Asian Food Channel, True Passion, showcases how to pair Chinese food with wine a question that has definitely baffled oenophiles such as myself. (The answer, according to Chef Yan: Treat a Chinese banquet like a tasting menu, with a wine for each flavor profile. My experiments will continue.)

And Yan's culinary skills are no less impressive. We tagged along for a presentation he was giving to CCA students, and his demonstration had most everyone in the room with or without a chef's jacket dropping their jaw in shock or whistling appreciatively. We saw him de-bone a whole chicken in 19 seconds and parallel-slice bell peppers into tissue-paper-thin wisps, then stir fry everything amidst a savory and sweet, almost caramel-like sauce. Check out the below video to see Chef Yan's knife techniques!

But when you talk to Chef Yan, it's apparent that beneath the fame, media hype, knife flourishes, and international connections, is a pure, undiluted passion for food and cooking, and for sharing that passion with others while having a good time. That, I guess, is the most magnetic part of his appeal, because when you truly love what you do people notice, and they want to come along for the ride, too.

After the demo, CCA Executive Chef Michael Weller gave us a tour of the school and an overview of the culinary programs. I admittedly don't know much about culinary institutions, although I think it's great that students at CCA are cross-trained; for example, pastry students receive culinary training, and vice versa, so that graduates are versatile in their skill sets. The curriculum, split into lecture, research, and hands-on components, push students to "learn how to learn," according to Weller, which makes it no different from any other educational program. They even have single-day MasterChef classes for amateur cooks who just want to improve their skills in the kitchen.

After that time for dinner the best part! Proudly prepared and served by culinary students in the CCA's restaurant, Technique, as part of the last six weeks of their program. Keeping in mind that these folks are still students, some plates were great, while others needed more work not so much in terms of flavor, but in the cooking time of certain dishes. They all aced plating though, in my opinion!

Some highlights from the meal:
  • Blue cheese with honey and white truffle arugula (1st row, middle): All good things, and even better combined. Will definitely try making my own version.
  • Chinoise salad (2nd row, middle): The albacore tuna was seared perfectly, and the ginger soy dressing was refreshingly sweet with a slight kick.
  • Spiced pear sorbet (2nd row, right): I actually asked for a substitute to the tomato sorbet with basil oil and sea salt that was originally on the menu, and lucked out with this delicious concoction! The texture was more like a snow cone than a sorbet, but the flavor was amazing. I could drink this stuff.
  • Apple-oat crisp with cinnamon-yogurt anglaise (3rd row, right): Tart and sweet, warm and cold, yum and yum.

    And to top it all off, I took home a copy of Chef Yan's newest cookbook, Martin Yan's China, which has gorgeous photos from his travels in China and a ton of mouth-watering recipes. Guess I'll be cooking more Chinese food now!

    The entire night really got me thinking about what it means to be a chef, and I think part of the beauty of that profession is being able to create. In his pep talk with the CCA students, Chef Yan emphasized that you can create a multitude of dishes from just a couple simple ingredients, and that everyone will end up with a different dish even while using the same ingredients and recipe. Because when you're creating, you're infusing your own personality and identity into the final product. That, in my opinion, is why chefs are similar to artists, and just as inspirational.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Miniature Food!

    Read this blog post today on Shay Aaron, an artist who makes miniature foods from clay on a 1:12 scale. Simply amazing. Check out his etsy shop too!

    I have to admit that I'm tempted to buy some cupcake earrings, macaron pendants, and waffle rings just for kicks everything looks so yummy! Although I might start chewing on them...

    Friday, September 30, 2011


    One of the things I miss about living in San Francisco is the Little Saigon area. I was never far from a satisfying bowl of phở, a ridiculously cheap bánh mì, or some tasty spring rolls ranging from hole-in-the-wall places (Turtle Tower) to trendier upscale venues (Le Colonial). So I'm glad I discovered Élevé in Walnut Creek; I became hooked on this restaurant after working in the area. Modern, "elevated" twists on classic Vietnamese fare, with super fresh ingredients and pretty presentation.

    Shrimp Spring Roll | soft rice paper, lettuce, cucumber, mint, vermicelli, peanut sauce

    Càri Chicken Sandwich | curry spice rub, lemongrass, cayenne, toasted french roll

    Summer Squash Vermicelli | yellow crookneck, eggplant, tomato, cashew, caramelized plum, toasted peanut

    Roasted Chicken Salad | cabbage, red onion, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro

     Even good for take-out!

    All the above photos were taken and edited with the Camera+ app on the iPhone. It's a great app for getting decent food photos when you've left your regular camera at home!

    1677 N. Main Street
    Walnut Creek, CA 94596

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Napa Trip Part 2: Redd

    Continuing with the Napa goodness ... photos from dinner at Redd, run by chef Richard Reddington, who has credentials from Masa's, Jardiniere, and Auberge du Soleil under his belt. The boyfriend and I each got the $80 five-course tasting menu, and were delighted that the chef gave us each a different dish per course, so we basically tried 10 different dishes! 

    With the fairly reasonable prices and delicious, contemporary food, this place has landed a spot on my list of fave restaurants in the Napa area!

    Our wine for the night -- Jarvis 2007 Merlot

    Yellowfin tuna tartare, asian pear, avocado, chili oil, fried rice crackers

     Caramelized scallop, cauliflower puree, golden raisins

    Hamachi sashimi, edamame, sticky rice, lime ginger sauce

    Sole and clams in frothy broth

    Glazed pork belly

    Roasted chicken with polenta

    Hangar steak

     Duck breast, bean cassoulet, bread crumbs

     Raspberry sorbet and peach shortcake

     Chocolate beignet, caramel ice cream, caramelized banana

    Complimentary fruit snacks to finish!

    6480 Washington Street
    Yountville, CA 94599