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Shoulda Had an Inkling…

13 Oct

When my mom picked me up from school today and she handed me the box of candy, I should have known what was up.

The sweet smile and the bag of peaches should have been the second clue.

The third bag with Asian characters on it should have been the third clue.

 

Unknown to me, dinner was going to be really unique. It had definitely stained my memory.

 

This is the first time anything so raw, so squishy, and so natural has appeared on Notebookworthy. Take a good long look at it because I think this may be the only post about these little guys. They’re just so unappetizing to look at! Geez – they have a giant eye!

But if you’re wondering what exactly my mom did with them and how it turned out, I have got to say that when she cooked it, the squid turned into familiar calamari bits. I didn’t see any more eyes.

She sauteed it with vegetables so the dinner wasn’t completely unappetizing. I can’t say it was my favorite meal nor would I want it again any time soon, but it really wasn’t that bad. It sure was inky though!

But I will continue to eat squid just as grilled Ika (Japanese for “squid”) at sushi restaurants and deep-fried calamari at The Bitter End, an Irish pub on Clement Street. I swear that The Bitter End has THE BEST calamari and dip. Better than any calamari I’ve ever tasted.

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Back from Los Angeles: Yogurtland, Kabuki Restaurant, Foxy’s Food

11 Apr

That’s right! I am back. I bet you didn’t even know I was gone, but that’s okay. I would just like to share some tidbits of the places I visited there while I was spending time with my Aunt and her family who live in Burbank. (For pictures of my family, please visit the About Me page).

As much I dislike Los Angeles because of the yellow smog, suffocating traffic, and the expanse of malls, I have to admit that I like to stay at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Glendale because it’s walking distance from little stores and shops much like Filmore Street or Hayes Valley in San Francisco.

Yogurtland

The first day my mom and I arrived and we unpacked, we headed straight outdoors into the sunshine down the familiar street. We laughed and pointed out the places we had gone to months before – like Burbank Pastry – and sadly reminisced about the places that didn’t pass the test of time – a local Mexican restaurant closed. Before we knew it, we had arrived at my favorite dessert place there.My cup at Yogurtland

Now before, you say, “That’s an outrage! What kind of true foodie are you? You’re supposed to be for the small guy!”, I would like to say that we all have our weaknesses. This is mine: Yogurtland.

I know I have been blogging about independently-owned businesses, restaurants, bakeries, and the such, but I have this soft spot for Yogurtland. It’s partially because of the fact that there are no franchises in San Francisco – the closest Yogurtland is in Berkeley. I mean, just recently an Asian-chain called Quicklys has begun serving soft-served yogurt with basic toppings, but nothing quite like Yogurtland.

The second reason I love this Yogurtland is because this is where my mom and I ate Thanksgiving night when we came to Glendale (Los Angeles). We had celebrated Thanksgiving the night before at our place with my Aunt and then flew to LA on Thanksgiving day so that my Aunt could spend time with her autistic son. We wanted to give them space for their own private Thanksgiving so we decided to explore the boulevard where we found Yogurtland. We had never seen anything like it before and the $.30 per ounce of yogurt and toppings was a completely novel idea to us that we were hooked.

You can literally order exotic flavors like taro root or you can opt for more traditional flavors like strawberry, chocolate, and cookies-n-cream. Not sure of what to get? You can always ask for a sample cup.

So how it works is that you fill this large cup with whatever flavors of yogurt you want from soft-serve style machines and then top it with whatever you want. Then the cashier weighs it on their scale. (Unfortunately, they include the weight of the cup so I always feel slightly cheated. I wish they would zero the scale out or somehow subtract the weight of the average cup from the total weight at the end). My mom and I always choose the fresh strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and a couple of mangoes. Occasionally, if the peaches are fresh (and not frozen), we pile on those too. Almonds make a very nice garnish as well.

It’s also nice to note that the spoons and napkins are biodegradable; they offer free water; and the place is air conditioned.

Have I convinced you yet?

Perhaps not, but it’s quite the experience to go to one so if you ever see one, I suggest you try it especially if the weather in 90 degrees and the sun is beating down on you relentlessly.


Kabuki Restaurant

The Dynamite at Kabuki

The Dynamite

For lunch on Friday, my mom and I stumbled across this Japanese restaurant called Kabuki. We had passed by it several times but every other time in the past years, it had been closed. Looking for some cold buckwheat or soba noodles, we entered it.

Salmon Nigiri and Saba NigiriChicken and Beef Teriyaki

Almost immediately, the cool air made us tingle all over before a hospitable young Asian woman greeted us with the expression, “Party of two?” We were seated in five minutes and had menus in our hand in less than six menus. The quick service was definitely impressive.

Unlike what we had originally wanted, we decided to get something different. I ended up getting the lunch combination of chicken and beef terriyaki. (Original, I know). My mom, however, ordered something more interesting: the Dynamite, Saba (Makerel) sushi, and Salmon sushi.

The Dynamite consists of baked clams, scallops, mushrooms, and vegetables in a special Kabuki mayo sauce. It has this spicy kick that makes you eat more of it. But the spice is not overpowering nor are the ingredients over cooked either. It’s a masterpiece of balance.

I’m sure I don’t have to mention it, but every dish was absolutely delicious. The beef was so tender and the sushi was so fresh.

One of the interesting things I noticed was the different rices you can order on the side: brown rice, sushi rice, and white rice.


Last Minute Mention: Foxy’s Restaurant

Since I was only in Los Angeles for three days and two nights, I didn’t have too much time to check out many foodie places of interest. I think we ate mostly at the hotel and at this family run business called Foxy’s, which had familiar home-style cooking. I wish I had brought my camera that night because it was a nice restaurant. It’s always the one restaurant we go to when we’re there.

The atmosphere is so cozy as well. The restaurant has two large fireplaces on either side of the cabin-like house and a nice courtyard for sunday brunch. Parking is also available so no looking for street parking.

My favorite is their grilled tilapia with garlic sauteed spinach. The roast chicken dinner is also very good. They also specialize in Mexican-style dishes. Truly this place is a restaurant of all trades.

So, I guess that’s it for my trip. Glad to be back for sure.

Never did get to plant my squash because it was raining when I wanted to, but look at this little guy! He bloomed while I was away! I planted him last year I think, but nothing ever started growing since January of this year.

Yellow Daisy

Yellow Daisy stretching to window

Welcome, Spring! :)

Rainy Adventure to San Francisco’s Ferry Building

24 Jan

Since my mom and I went to the Ferry Building two weeks ago, I could not wait to go back there again. When we first went, it was the Monday before school started back up again so there was no farmer’s market or arts & crafts tents. Plus it was mostly deserted. But, not this time.

This time there was the Walk for Life peace demonstration so the entire Embarcadero and Ferry Building area was jammed packed. The crowds were probably from the demonstration and because it was simply a Saturday. Weekends are when the farmers’ market and arts & crafts fair are set up and roaring to go. The rain did not prevent people from traveling to the Ferry Building either – it sure did not prevent us – it only forced all the crowds that would have been lounging outside into the building. It literally felt like walking through a New York subway! My head was spinning trying to take into the different sights, smells, and sounds.

Once inside and my head stopped spinning, I began to enjoy it. There were so many different kinds of people there: tourists (mostly Asian and Europeans), wet demonstrators, families with little kids and grandparents, and the young couples in their 20’s and 30’s. There were so many good smells coming from everywhere: the Ciao Bella gelatto place, Cowgirl Creamery’s Artisan Cheese Shop, San Francisco Fish Company, Farm Fresh to You, Far West Fungi, Stonehouse’s California Olive Oil, Imperial Tea Court, ACME Bread Company, Miette, and so much more. The whole directory can be found here.

I was actually surprised how busy and alive the Ferry Building was compared to the time we went there. The storekeepers of all the food shops were giving away samples like how Costco does. This one moment came when the flow of people stopped and across a couple of walking lanes I saw the Farm Fresh to You (grocery store). This older gentlemen with an apron on stood there next to a table with some kind of chocolate treats. He smiled and waved over my mom and I. It did not take much to attract us: it was simply the chocolate

.

Farm Fresh to You & CJ’s Bitz

CJ's Bitz: Hand Rolled in Toffee Chips (Original); sold at Farm Fresh to You

The grocer handed us a piece of toffee chocolate pretzel (the original flavor) and then when we smiled, nodded our heads that it was delicious, he handed us the peanut butter version which was the same thing but the pretzel was filled with peanut butter. As we stood there with our mouths glued shut with peanut butter, he proceeded to tell us about the white chocolate version with the peanut butter and without the peanut butter. Before we knew it, we agreed that the Original Flavor and the Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate versions were the best. And indeed, they were! Which is why we bought a small bag of each kind for $5.99 each, which is a $1 cheaper than their online price here.

After we left the Farm Fresh to You with their delicious organic fruits and vegetables, we headed outside equipped with umbrellas where the real produce stands were. Unfortunately, none of the pictures that I took came out well because of the rain, but I have to say that it was a nice variety. There were organic pastas, breads, vegetables from all over the Bay Area, and even a rotisserie chicken place!  This I got a picture of. (I am a big fan of rotisserie chicken, by the way. I always buy one at my local Lucky’s).


DELICA: A Japanese Delicatessen

After coming back inside to dry off, it was about 11:30 am so everyone was lining up at all the restaurants. We already knew that we wanted to go to DELICA – rf1, a Japanese Delicatessen. (On their sign, it reads more like “Deli CA”). They serve what the Japanese call “bentos”, which are basically like lunch combinations for a special price. The original Japanese bentos consist of rice, chicken, beef, or pork, seaweed, and fruit. It is much like a school child’s lunch.

They do serve various deli items such as Roast Beef sushi, Organic Agedashi (“ah-geh-dah-she”) Tofu Steak, and a Chicken Dumpling with Sweet Chili Sauce. Their salads are superb fusions of their original counter parts. I tried the Hijiki and Soybean Salad, Spicy Burdock Salad, and the Spinach and Sesame Salad. Their Carrot Ginger soup had a delicious taste and slightly thick texture. They had samples of this soup, which is why we bought a cup of it. They also have different sushis and fried items, but we did not try those. If you want the full menu (PDF), go here, or (HTML) here.

Here are the photos our lunch.

Hijiki Rice Ball & Salmon and Sesame Rice Ball - $2

Lunch Plate Combination Displays (Food displays are a typical Japanese custom)

Cold Cases of Deli Items and To Go Foods

Roast Beef Sushi in the Deli case; Tofu and Chicken Patties got cut off

My take-out box: spinach and seasme salad, Hijiki and Soybean Salad, and Tofu-Chicken Pattie with Miso Sauce

Mom's Take Out Box: Spicy Burdock Root Salad, Steamed Rice, and Chicken Dumpling with Sweet Chili Sauce

Chicken Dumpling with Sweet Chili Sauce

Carrot Ginger Soup

Lunch Time Music: Jazz, courtesy of the Man with the Oboe

I tried to get a picture of the little girl, but at the last moment, the woman with the stroller moved in the way. But, just look at everyone's smiles!

While we were enjoying a delicious meal from DELICA, my mom and I opted to sit outside where we were shaded by the roof. Surprisngly, there were still a good number of people seated at similar wire tables and chairs. The best part of the lunch and the view was the beautiful jazz music played by this man on his oboe.

I am not too sure if he was homeless or if he was just playing to play, but he was nonetheless talented. He seemed to be in his 50’s, but his heart was of pure gold. He was smile and laugh as little kids were captivated by his music. When in the presence of any little kid, he usually switched from his jazz tunes to children tunes like “Old McDonald” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. He even made one little boy who was crying so loudly to quiet down and actually giggle. I am sure that the parents of the little boy were so happy. Another little girl was so delighted with him and his music that she started dancing in front of him. Her parents stood by watching their daughter interact with the friendly man.

ACME Bread Company

Because I knew that I could not pass up trying the ACME Bread Company because it was reccomended by Mr. Peter Reinhart himself, we headed there next even though we were quite full from DELICA’s lunch. But, I did try to save room so I was able to squeeze in one of their Teeny Rolls, a palm-sized piece of bread.

It should not come as a shock to know that when we got there, there was a line forming. We quickly go into line and waited to step up to the counter where all the bread displays were. While waiting, I was watching the bread makers in the back punching the dough, rolling it out, and then using the super-sized, commercial ovens.

Once at the counter, I was dazzled by the different types of breads that they were selling. I couldn’t really choose which ones to buy, but somehow the words “onion bread”, “pumpkin bread”, and “three teeny rolls, please” came out. While walking around, we munched on a teeny roll. It was the best bread I have ever tasted. It was not like a sourdough or a sweet french roll. It was soft, moist like a cake but not sweet, with a hint of salt. I swear that it was just like dessert except that it was a piece of bread.

Sur La Table

Here’s just a quick area of where I ended up. (Predictable, aren’t I?)

Oh, and just for you who do not know what “Sur La Table” is, it is a cookingware and bakingware store. I’ve taken classes at the Sur La Table downtown. It’s a good place to go.

I saw this linen napkin and couldn’t help but smile when I saw it too …

The Wrap Up

If you go to San Francisco’s Ferry Building, then you have you try these places:

I did not write about all of them, but these are my personal favorites. Of course do not forget the Weekend Farmer’s Market.

So, if you ever come to San Francisco, come to the Ferry Building. It is a foodie’s heaven! It’s better than Disneyland. :)

Eatting Out Asian Style: “On the Bridge”, “Balboa Teriyaki”, and “Pagan Restaurant”

24 Jul

If you’ve been reading my other posts, you’ll realize that the other two restaurants (Caffe Italia and Perry’s) are Italian and American. “Where are the Asian restaurants?” you might be asking. And well, here you go. :)

After a tired night of working, my friend and I decided to eat out in SF’s Japantown on the bridge at the “On the Bridge” restaurant. (I do love the name, don’t you?)

On the Bridge (Literally)


SF Japantwon

Ambiance:

Not my photo, from yelp.

It’s fun and ‘hip’, but good for all ages. The chairs are all different neon colors, Japanese comic books line one of the walls, Japanese stuffed animal sit on the back counter, and Japanese movies (with subtitles) always playing on the tvs overhead. Counter seats and tables for two and four are available.

What We Ordered:

Well, the food always come in great presentation. See more photos here.

Grilled Plate: Vegetable Saute – $9.95

Served on a sizzling hot plate with rice.

Mhm…Yummy… :)



Vegetable Curry with Rice – $10.95

Basically the same ingredients as the sizzling vegetable saute, but with a medium spicy Japanese curry sauce. If you’ve never had a Japanese curry, I’ll try to explain. it’s a mild curry compared to Indian and Thai curries; it’s more mild, but there are different levels of spiciness. Medium is best. Mild is good for young kids. There is no strong smell and no strange after taste. The best curry to me.
Overall:


This is one of my favorite places to go. I’ve been going here since I was four.I don’t think I’ll be stopping any time soon. :)

But honestly, it’s a pretty good price for the amount that you get. There was no curry leftovers, but there was for the sizzling plate. Good service, very friendly and prompt. Cute ambiance and good selection of foods like Japanese pastas (Neapolitan spaghetti and salmon roe noddles, I think) some kind of Japanese pizza, Au Grains, and traditional Japanese selections. I’ve yet to try the Au Grain and Pizza, but I’ve heard it’s good. I love the menu.

Balboa Teriyaki

The Outer Richmond’s Version of Japanese Cuisine

I call it fate or perhaps even destiny that the next day my other friend – who was also taking the summer school course earlier with me – wanted to go have lunch at a Japanese place. I wanted to laugh over the phone when she asked me because I couldn’t believe my luck. However, when she suggested Balboa Teriyaki I knew that I had nothing to fear.

Recently under a new management, this place has only gotten better. With the new management, the menu was the same with the addition of more sushi, don buri, and bento box options. The outside changed too; there’s now a lit picture menu like at the McDonald’s Drive Thru menu. This was slightly strange to me, but as long as the food is good, then it’s fine with me.

Ambiance:
Japanese style booths are available as well as tables for four. Japanese decor and the uniforms of the waitresses too. Good for dates, I suppose. But not a fine dining restaurant.
Ambiance: 4/5

Service:
Wonderful! We were given their Spicy Tuna Roll, Fried Shrimp Skewers, and Edamame (soft-shelled Japanese beans) for free! The waitress was nice and very accommodating too. I’ve gone here before and gotten free green tea ice cream for our party of three. This time, it was a party of 6. The more people you bring the bigger free items you get…so I hear. :)
Service: 5/5

What We Ordered:

Edameme Beans

Shrimp Skewers

Bento Box: Chicken Teriyaki + Beef Teriyaki – $8.50

Ha..Ha.. Why’s the chicken and beef naked? Well, that’s my fault. I don’t like sauce so I asked for it on the side. Otherwise, the presentation would have looked a lot better.
The bento box comes with your choice of two items, four California rolls, a salad, and miso soup, all for $8.50 at lunch time.

Chicken Katsu – $7.95

From Balboa Teriyaki

Unagi Don – $7.95

Try comparing this to the On the Bridge’s Unagi Don pictured above.

Spicy Tuna Roll

Overall:
Go here. And quickly. Run! The food is great, service is wonderful, and you never know what kind of free food they’ll give you. Decently authentic Japanese food. Good portions for price.

The bad thing I noticed was that my chicken and beef were pretty scrawny if you look at it.

I’d expect for meat please!

Pagan Restaurant
(at 3199 Clement Street, SF)

This is another good Outer Richmond restaurant. It’s like a hidden gem in this residential neighborhood. On the more quieter side of Clement Street, this restaurant is located on a strip of Clement that has two other small cafes, the Lincoln Golf Course and Playground, and a few other shops and restaurants including a belly dancing restaurant. It can be said that in time, this once quiet street will be bustling with tourists and others from all over the city as this restaurant is discovered.

Ambiance:
The dress is casual, but it still feels like a nice restaurant. Definitely good for dates and groups 12 people or less.

There is a big room (shown) and smaller, more private area too.

What We Ordered:

Ginger Salad (Thai) – $7.95

When the salad comes to the table, all the ingredients are separated and the server will explain each one and then toss it right in front of you. Seeing the swirls of colors go ’round and ’round are quite the crowd pleasers, but the taste is exquisite. This particular salad has dried soy beans/edamame beans, peanuts, fried ginger, and fried garlic slices. It’s a very “crunchy” salad with a ginger flavor that doesn’t overpower it. — 5/5



Chicken Thai Fried Rice
$7.50

Tasty and delicious. It’s not too oily, but this is fried rice so it’s not completely out of the ‘oil’ woods. However, definitely not too much oil. I have no complains. –4.75/5

Spicy Eggplant w/Beef, Bell Peppers, Basil, Garlic -$8.25

Simply the best thing that night. This paired with the rice was great. All the Thai spices with the beef, eggplant, bell peppers, green chilis – you can ask for mild – and the basil make a wonderful dish. —- 5/5

Low Carb Pad Thai – $7.95

The only difference between this dish and their regular Pad Thai is the noodles. I’m not how to explain it, but I’ll try. These seem like the same “glass noddles” that are in the Filipino pancit bihon noodles. But anyhow, if you’re not picky about your noodles, then the dish is basically the same; nothing else has changed.

Personally, I like Pad Thai, but sometimes there’s just too much oil used in the general process. Here is no different but there’s not a large amount either. It’s your typical oil amount.


Overall:
Good prices for the amount. For all those dishes plus two hot teas, the bill was about $46 (not including tip). I have yet to explore the curries and other appetizers like the platha. (I have tried the samosas which is good. No photo though). With a separate Thai menu and Burmese menu, there is a whole lot to try. Great for all ages.

For dessert, they also have a typical fried banana with coconut ice cream. ($4.50)

I hope this helps you when you go out to eat “Asian style” in San Francisco. Overall, my favs were On The Bridge and the Pagan Restaurant though the freebies from Balboa Teriyaki wasn’t too bad either.