Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Give up? They're Chinese moon cake molds! I received them as a wonderful gift from my sweet and generous friend and can't wait to use them!
Plus, these molds will come in handy because I'll need lots of cake and pints of melted chunky monkey to get over my latest heartbreak by my "once future husband," Mayor Gavin Newsom. If you haven't heard, the Mayor of San Francisco is embroiled in a disgraceful sex scandal: he engaged in an extramarital affair with the wife of his campaign manager!
You are a moral abomination Gavin! . . . But, will you still be the father of my babies? Unfortunately, for die-hard Newsom fans, I'm sure this only contributes to his political appeal. Err, not that I am speaking from experience or anything. . .
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
He said he would call me back, but given that it is already Tuesday, I am not holding my breath.
Well, some good has come out of my earlier post. One of my friends whose company regularly frequents One Market is encouraging her company to boycott One Market and has successfully dissuaded her colleagues from patronizing One Market and Roy's at least one time this week.
I too have my own boycott goin' on, but people who work at my "company" can't really afford to go there anyway, so the my boycott might not have as much influence or impact on Roy's and One Market as I'd like to think.
Well, if you are interested, enjoy the emails below, where I definitely rehash my tirade against One Market.
From: [Passionate Eater]
Sent: Friday, January 26, 2007 3:39 PM
To: [Friend A]; [Friend B]; [Friend C]; [Friend D]
Subject: Vindication! Against One Mkt!
[About our lunch together at One Market last week:]
. . .
[Friend A] and I were talking on Thurs about how it was odd that the skate wing came without any sides or even garnish. However, we eventually dismissed it as being no big deal and thought that since [Friend C]'s chicken dish had only chicken, that the skate would have only skate. (Maybe One Market regularly serves the main dishes without the sides.) Well, later in the evening, I looked on Yelp, and discovered to my utter dismay that the meal was actually supposed to come with spinach and mashed potatoes. See the post for more details: http://passionateeater.blogspot.com/2007/01/dine-about-town-2007-part-three-one.html
It really irked me that they treated us unequally. Someone else who had the same exact DAT lunch menu was served differently. I know there are going to be inconsistencies in the things they serve and that sometimes they run out of things, but they are not going to run out of potatoes and spinach.
. . . [Later, after talking with everyone who went to lunch,], we then discovered that there were a lot of things that each of us individually dismissed as being not a big deal. When adding all of our complaints up, it became a very BIG deal.
First, [the consensus was that] the food tasted pretty nasty. The chicken [Friend C] had and the pasta that [Friend D] had were both "overly" salty. Also, both [Friend A], [Friend D], and I agreed that the dishes that came with bacon didn’t really come with bacon as we regularly know it, but their bacon was these substantial, gross, coagulated hunks of straight-up fat. Just fat. No meat. Also, the pasta was overpowered with the strange taste of "earth." Remember when we were kids and used to put sand or soil in our mouths? Like that! It tasted "like dirt" or "the weird taste of moldy grapes." [The skate tasted like a dried-up Gordon's fish stick that had been microwaved too long, and the sauce was nothing special.]
Second, [Friend D] noticed that he was kinda rude to us. . . When our entire table just ordered water, our server didn't seem to like that. He also gave the "eyebrow lift" to us, on at least one occasion, just as he was turning away from our table. Also, he slammed the Ginger Ale on the table, and took a really long time bringing it out. But worst of all, did any of you notice that the service was really slow, and we were being served our dessert after the dining room was almost cleared of the patrons?
From: [Friend D]
Sent: Friday, January 26, 2007 3:48 PM
To: [Passionate Eater]
Subject: RE: Vindication! Against One Mkt!
I am seriously tempted to write a letter to the manager with this story. I don't expect (nor do I really want) to get anything out of it, I just think s/he might want to know that we noticed, and that they probably should not participate in DAT next year.
Unfortunately, I think my DAT days are over. I'd rather save my money for restaurants I really want to try and then order exactly what I want.
From: [Friend C]
Sent: Friday, January 26, 2007 3:57 PM
To: [Passionate Eater]; [Friend D]; [Friend B]; [Friend A]
Subject: RE: Vindication! Against One Mkt!
Agreed. It would take some convincing to set foot into another DAT meal. And wild horses would not drag me back to One Market.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
And today, Passionate Eater was scorned.
I "Dined About Town" for lunch at One Market this afternoon with a group of four friends. One of my friends and I ordered skate wing for the main dish, and as our plates were placed on the table, my friend and I jokingly remarked at how sparse the food on the plate was. It was just a solitary fillet of skate, and nothing else.
Well, after our time together and a few snapshots of our meal, I eventually went home and began to type up a blog post on our lunch.
As I was downloading the pictures, I realized that unfortunately, I forgot the exact titles of the dessert we had on the Dine About Town menu. First, I tried to find the title of the dessert on the official One Market site, but after scouring the site, I came up empty-handed. Next, I decided to try Yelp (because sometimes Yelp raters will list menu names of what they ate) and I was sure to find a post or two with someone who ordered off the Dine About Town Menu. Although I usually don't look at Yelp "after" I eat at a place (I usually look before), I was glad that I consulted Yelp, for it proved to be a useful resourse.
You can only imagine my surprise when I read a Yelp review, posted on the same day that I ate at One Market that stated, "I had the Dine About Town 2007 lunch . . . skatewing [sic] with mashed potato and spinach . . ."
WTF?! Steam shot out from my ears and Passionate Eater's "pissed off factor" was off the charts.
You people at One Market are un-friggin'-believable! You gave one person the same entree but with extra mashed potatoes and spinach and gave me and my friend nothing?
Worst of all, the Yelp review was posted exactly on the same day I had eaten at One Market.
I was so infuriated, that I immediately signed up for a Yelp account and posted my very first entry:
I wish they had negative stars, or a bit*h slap option on Yelp for times like this.Harsh words, but now you know that there ain't no restaurant that wants to piss off Passionate Eater! Hey, you don't give me and my friend mashed potatoes and spinach, then I don't give you love. It is as simple as that.
I ate off the Dine About Town lunch menu with several of my friends, and we all thought the food was mediocre. Like Michelle H (in an earlier review), I too ordered the sunchoke veloute, the skate wing, and the butter pear tart. First, the soup was a few tablespoons of creamy liquid with these horrifying bites of coagulated bacon fat, the skate wing was dry, overcooked, and coated with an allegedly high-end sauce that tasted like Wendy's honey mustard dipping sauce. Worst of all, is that the skate (which my friend and I ordered) came naked on the plate, without the spinach and mashed potatoes that came with Michelle H's meal. C'mon now, you guys think you could get away with giving some patrons less? Funny too, because my friend and I thought it was weird that the main dish was literally just a piece of fish with nothing else. We all walked away hungry and dissatisfied. Also, I should note that we were probably the only ones that ordered off of the DAT menu, and it showed--they served us last, and we were probably the last stragglers out during the lunch hour. All of the other high-profile financial district power people were served first.
Way too expensive for crappy and discriminatory service.
Reading the other Yelp reviews (for "One Market" in addition to those for "One Market Restaurant"), I realize that I am not alone. As Ben Folds Five sang in the Song for the Dumped, "Give me my money back, you bit*h."
Now that I am in the "sharing" mood, I might as well let my words flow from my furious lips. You wanna know more? My absolute worst Dine About Town experience--no wait, make that the worst dining experience ever was at Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine Restaurant in San Francisco. If there is any restaurant in this world that I absolutely despise, "that" would be the one. Even if you gave me a free meal, I would rather have flaming molotov cocktail and a plastic bag full of dog turds thrown in studio my than ever set foot into "that" place again.
I ate at Roy's for Dine About Town in January 2004, and I returned there again in January 2005 to use a $100 gift certificate the beau ordered from American Express. (The first time was "meh." The second time was "hell on earth.") As luck would have it, the beau didn't the gift certificate in time for our reservation, which happened to fall on the last day of Dine About Town.
For our second time at Roy's, we made early dinner reservations for around 6:30pm because I needed to get home early. (I had an important engagement the following morning and at that time, I lived in Berkeley, not San Francisco.)
We didn't get seated until around 8:09pm. For a reservation at 6:30. Not kidding.
No sorries. No acknowledgement. Not even a stinking glass of water.
Worst of all, when we asked the hostess around 7:30pm when she anticipated us getting seated (for the third time), she said in a bitchiest tone (most likely her natural voice), "Look. If you think that you are going to get seated any faster by repeatedly asking, then you are oh-so-wrong."
I should have left then. But like a friggin' stupid-@$$, I stayed.
Then, the steady stream of crappy events kept on crapping all over us.
Since my three companions that evening wanted to try the three seafood Dine About Town options, for variety, I decided to try the fourth, least appealing selection: some sort of braised brisket.
Again, as luck would have it, my dish was the worst of the evening. I should have taken a cue from everyone around me, because no one at the surrounding tables was ordering the brisket. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way with my tastebuds (and my gag reflex), because the brisket was dry like jerky dried in the Sahara desert and over-the-top salty. Even my friend (who douses every thing he eats with a combo of super-sodium intense fish sauce, oyster sauce, shrimp paste, and soy sauce) said it was like sticking his tongue inside a salt shaker.
Well, I could keep on going and going, but since it is late, I am going to stop. I am going to say one more thing. I am done with Dine About Town (for now) and am definitely done with places like One Market and Roy's.
Oh, and the pictures of what we ate at One Market below? I enhanced them (before I read the Yelp review), so they honestly didn't look this good in real life.
Yea, the sunchoke veloute (with black trumpet mushrooms, hazelnuts, applewood-smoked bacon) was creamy, but so what?
This is the farmer's market salad with seasonal greens and vegetables. (By the way, you could get a gargantuan tub of this from Costco for under $4. Here, at One Market, it costs over $8.)
This is the skate wing with cheap mustard grain and honey sauce I was telling you about.
At least the pear brown butter tart with berry puree and vanilla ice cream was "okay."
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
I know. You're right. But the beau took me out this last Friday with a group of friends, and because he paid, I am still "technically" within my budget for 2007!
Honestly though, I am still serious about keeping a semblance of a budget, and unfortunately, my weak attempt at being money-wise seems like a token effort.
It is the times when I am looking at my seven-page credit card bill or the mountain range of restaurant receipts piled up on my bed sheets that I vow to secure a well-paying corporate job at Microsoft as Bill Gates' personal assistant (where I could at least get my meals comped) or to be the next Asian Oprah Winfrey. Or even Judge Judy! I heard that woman rakes in substantial dough.
Thankfully, I was given a "get out of debt for a night" card for the night, and I was able to enjoy a wonderful meal at Fringale with a close group of friends.
Since Zileel, one of our friends, already posted a wonderful description of the evening and the food from that night, I'll just direct you to her blog for the details and keep my post to a minimum! In other words, I am just going to post pictures and the names of the dishes from the menu!
The beau and I each enjoyed the three-course Dine About Town menu of the evening, which included a first course of either:
A chilled beet salad with chevre, or
sautéed prawns in pastis with sun-dried tomatoes
The second course included a choice between:
Lamb osso bucco daube on a bed of mixed root vegetables, or
Steamed Petrale sole served with spinach and mashed potatoes in champagne beurre blanc
Finally, the dessert included either:
The hazelnut roasted almond mousse cake, or
A warm chocolate gourmand with seasonal berries
So readers, will you help me to cook more at home and keep to a reasonable budget? I hope you will! My wallet needs time to recuperate from being a passionate eater!
Sunday, January 21, 2007
The shell of a thousand-year-old egg has hardened into pale gray patina, and is flecked and studded with coffee-colored splatter stains. Perhaps it is my love for the thousand-year-old oeuf, but to me, the simple decorations on its calcified exterior rivals the ornate artwork on an enameled Faberge.
An elaborate process is involved in the making of a "thousand-year-old egg." Chicken or duck eggs must be packed in an alkalized pickling plaster of potent black tea leaves, earthen clay, coarse granules of salt, dry lime, and a harmonious blend of pine wood and charcoal ashes. The delicate eggs are cushioned by rice husks and straw, and entombed in an airtight container, where they remain, to age one thousand years, or until fully preserved, and ready to be served in a steaming rice porridge.
Through the preservation process, the egg white congeals into a custard form, and the clear, viscous gel transforms into a glassy, copper-colored jelly, as translucent as broken chards of obsidian, and as dark as steeped black tea.
Similiarly, through the aging procedure, the supple, marigold-yellow yolk metamorphosizes into a milky gray, velvet meringue, delicately colored with greenish overtones. The yolk of a thousand-year-old egg is said to closely emulate the whipped consistency of a ripened avocado or creamy marscapone cheese, and echos the flavors of a hard-boiled egg, but in a more concentrated package. The eggs emit a panoply of aromas, perhaps the piercing of which is the faint odor of ammonia.
Fortunately, the sheltered consumer can bypass the lengthy "preserving ordeal" and simply purchase the eggs from the local Asian supermarket, where the eggs arrive in industrial, machine-packed pallets and are themselves tightly insulated in diminutive plastic baggies within sterilized styrofoam containers.
You'll either adore it, or detest it, but either way, I hope I have piqued your interest on thousand-year-old eggs. Don't wait one thousand years to try them!
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Just like the classic comic strips, each time I open my wallet to pay my portion of the restaurant bill, little gnats humiliatingly fly out of my wallet and buzz around my head as if I hadn't showered in several days.
But just before I am done dining out for 2007, I want to relive a meal that I enjoyed at a retirement party at Faz Restaurant in San Francisco just this last week. Perhaps that way, I can later look back at 2007 not as the year that I blew my "dining out" spending limit in the first month, but as a year (or month) that I ate pretty darn well.
Eating "darn well" included starting with Faz's organic salad of mixed greens which helped to refresh and ready my tired palate for my second course: pomegranate chicken. The dish included a sizable half of a fire-roasted chicken, bronzed and caramelized from the glowing coals and dancing oven flames. The chicken was served in a thick pool of reduced pomegranate sauce and was garnished with crunchy and nutty pomegranate kernels which exploded their abundant juices into my mouth with each bite. The chicken also came with paper thin-skinned, roasted fingerling potatoes which were steaming and creamy on the inside; and crisp and verdant haricot verts.
Last course? A fluffy, cream-saturated mattress of tiramisu, adorned with two angular strawberry spears and crunchy chocolate chips. The tiramisu was topped off with a generous dusting of superfine powdered sugar and equally ample drenching of a luscious creme anglaise.Although I hit my spending limit relatively early this year, because I also hit my waist-size limit, I consider myself victorious!
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Until then, I wanted post some photos of a meal I recently enjoyed at B44, so that you can feast your eyes (and imagination) on the roasted flavors and vivid red colors of Catalan cuisine. I hope these pictures are help you to travel in mind, spirit, and stomach to Spain, via the Passionate Eater Express!
What better image to start you on your journey to the picturesque Spanish countryside, than an image of a rustic dish of morcilla blood sausage, soft baby white beans, and herbed aioli? This sausage dish immediately evokes images in my head of a lively, local, family-owned tapas restaurant with aged, cured meats hanging in the windows with tightly-raveled butcher twine.
Now, briefly depart from your stay in the Iberian peninsula, to visit the Balearic Islands, by visually sampling tender monkfish, shrimp, clams, and mussels, all harvested from the rich ocean waters encapsulating the islands, and swimming in a pureed tomato and pine nut picada.
Your journey in the pristine and abundant Mediterranean waters is not finished without a visual taste of a romescada or operetta of plump shellfish with romesco sauce. By visualizing this dish, one can gain a better understanding of the crucial role that seafood plays in the Catalan cuisine.
But remember, although that Catalan dishes focus heavily on the bounty of the sea, the dishes are not just seafood-oriented. The best way for you to remember this is through a picture of roasted rabbit with a hazelnut garlic picada. Such an image will help you to envision rolling grass fields and dense, forested areas that supply the inland Spanish region with wild game, mushrooms, and truffles.
How could any visit to Spain be complete without the saffron-infused paella and chockful of fresh shellfish, roasted peppers, and spicy chorizo? Simply put, it couldn't.
And of course, crema catalina, a crème brûlée imbued with the warm spiciness of cinnamon, helps one to appreciate the prolific Spanish dairy farms which produce fine, smoky-flavored cheeses which are paired perfectly with fruity Spanish wines from local vineyards.
Add a stamp of hunger on your passport, you've just traveled with me to Spain! Now if only we could get frequent flyer miles for trips on the Passionate Eater Express!
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
I wanted to take the time to answer three questions that new readers asked me in the comments section of my site. The questions go something like this (by the way, I've taken my own liberty in completely rephrasing the questions, because I am blogging via a modem connection, and am encountering a really slow download to the comments pages):
1. Do you have any Dine About Town restaurant recommendations for an out-of-towner visiting San Francisco during the Dine About Town season? What about Rubicon?
Rubicon is an excellent choice, and you can see what Rubicon served for Dine About Town 2006 here on Passionate Eater. In considering Rubicon, you are definitely thinking correctly. Dine About Town is the time that you eat at places that are otherwise "through the roof" expensive. You want a high return on your investment, so I recommend that you pay particular attention to participating restaurants that are designated as three to four dollar sign places on OpenTable. (Rubicon is one of the few $$$$ establishments in the Dine About Town program.) For an out-of-towner like yourself, I would also look to nationally renowned restaurants that reflect the unique culinary atmosphere in San Francisco and the Bay Area. For instance, Rubicon has an amazing wine selection because it is supplied by its sister winery in Napa Valley, so you would definitely get a "uniquely Northern California" meal at Rubicon. Also, I would steer clear of "chain" restaurants (such as Roy's) or restaurants in notoriously dangerous neighborhoods such as the Tenderloin. As a tourist, experiencing San Francisco is just as important as the food, so try to find a restaurant where you have a great window seat to the City. (Thus, you might consider the Waterfront or other restaurants near the Embarcadero area of the Financial District.)
2. Are there prix-fixe programs similar to San Francisco's Dine About Town program in other localities?
There definitely are! Almost every metropolitan city will have what they call a "restaurant week" or month, and various corporations including San Pellegrino, American Express, and Visa sponsor such programs. Check out OpenTable, a site that allows you to make online restaurant reservations at relatively upscale establishments, for information about these prix-fixe programs in your area.
3. Any advice on how to make the chocolate mousse they make in restaurants?
I have not personally made mousse before, but I have seen it being vigorously whipped up on television. For a mousse-making novice, I highly recommend recipes from Cooks Illustrated or Alton Brown, a host of a show on the Food Network. Here are two recipes that I found on the Food Network site that seem particularly descriptive, and would help put you on the right track to making an incredible chocolate dessert.
4. Why did you post some random image on today's post?
One of the more delicious meals I had this past holiday season included pan-fried tilapia fillets that had been marinated in achiote and vinegar. I wanted to take the opportunity to share this creation, and a quick recipe rundown of how to make it by its creator! Unfortunately, I took the above picture after the fish had already been partially eaten, and you can find better pictures on the creator's site.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
We decided to enjoy a leisurely brunch at Campton Place in the Union Square district of San Francisco. Allow me to describe our meal in detail, so that you may be transported to San Francisco and taste the same flavors that I did this morning.
My beau started with the kampachi sashimi with blood orange, which featured black trumpet mushrooms and Szechuan peppercorns. Szechuan peppercorns are known for their subdued, almost citrus-like flavors. Szechuan peppercorns are not as fiery as the regular spicy peppercorns that are traditionally used in Western cuisine. Although I didn't personally taste the peppercorns, I was able to taste one slice of my beau's sashimi. Unfortunately, the raw fish was surprisingly soggy and disappointingly gelatinous. It wasn't firm like the sashimi found in high-end Japanese restaurants. The sashimi dish was accompanied by a dollop of foamy puree that tasted almost like a blended emulsion of strawberries, but the "red stuff" was touted in the menu as actually being made of blood orange.
I started with the creamy celery root soup. Tiny, cubed squares of celery root floated gently in the viscous bisque and the soup was topped with poached cauliflower florets. The soup was infused with ras al hanout, a Moroccan spice mixture that is comprised of the finest, most aromatic ingredients that a spice merchant can offer, and was drizzled with olio nuovo, a green-hued extra virgin olive oil that is imbued with pungent and sweet olive flavors.
My second course was the Fulton Valley Farms chicken breast. The chicken breast meat was good, but I honestly wasn't that impressed. It tasted exactly like the chicken that I can purchase from the Chinese barbecue joint on the corner of Chinatown for less than $5.00 bucks. Yes, the skin was crispy and the white breast meat relatively juicy, but nothing worthy of "high-end restaurant praise." However, I was impressed by the tender sunchoke quarters, for not an fibrous centimeter existed on the perfectly pruned and groomed artichoke bodies. The maitake mushrooms that accompanied the dish reminded me of chantrelles or enoki mushrooms, because the mushrooms were presented in natural bundles of spaghetti-thin stems and tiny mushroom caps. The mushrooms had sponged up the intense beefy flavors of the deglazed chicken au jus and the nettle puree that adorned the plate of my dish. Finally, the entire dish was decorated with three satisfyingly bitter, mandoline-thin slices of raw watermelon radish.
My beau ordered tai snapper for his second course. His snapper fell off into fish flakes when prodded with a fork and was gently wrapped in a crisp, crackly, and caramelized fish skin. The snapper included the side components of cauliflower, erbette chard, and lemon consomme.
Finally, both the beau and I ended our meal with a classic, non-pretentious sundae with oval scoops of malted ice cream (which had a powerful malt overtones reminiscent of Ovaltine) and a rich chocolate sorbet. The two supple spoonfuls were accompanied by a candy-stripe drizzling of viscous caramel and broken crumbles of hazelnut praline.
As we polished off our elaborate three-course prix-fixe meal, my beau and I gave each other high-fives in the air. Our meal had the dual purpose of celebrating Blogs of Note and San Francisco's Dine About Town program! In other words, it was a resounding success!
I hope this post has inspired you to take advantage of the special restaurant programs in your city or even to cook an elaborate meal so that you can enjoy the pleasures of passionate eating!
Saturday, January 06, 2007
But I like to add two non-traditional twists.
Before I assemble the ingredients into a sturdy baking dish, I like to sauté garlic and scallions in olive oil and add this herbed mixture in with the potatoes. The scallions impart a warm and deep flavor of "comfort" throughout the potatoes. I also like to purposely "misarrange" the thin slices of potatoes, so that the dish seems less rigid, unyielding, and institutional.
Finally, for a uniquely "American Mac 'N Cheese" type feel, I like using a comfortable sharp cheddar cheese rather than the typical dry cheeses such as asiago, parmesan, or romano.
After combining the ingredients and baking the gratin in the oven until the cheese is blistered and bubbling, the end result is a substantial, layered bed of fluffy and fork-tender potatoes which have fully absorbed all flavor elements of the cream and cheese bisque-like concoction. Now that is what I call "transformative!" ... Or at least "bastardized!" Enjoy and bon appetit!
Friday, January 05, 2007
I just want to say, "Thank you, I love you, you're wonderful" to the person at Blogger who thought my blog was worthy to be featured as a "Blog of Note!"
Please accept these pictures of my celebratory lunch of Pad Thai, Red Duck Curry, and Calamari Salad as a token of my sincere appreciation! Nothing I could communicate over the medium of the internet can fully express my feelings of immense gratitude except for pictures of my favorite things: food and movies!
In the wise words of Wayne and Garth, "It's party time! It's excellent!" Thank you again Blogger!