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Savor(ing) Seattle: Pike Place Market

5 Sep

Space NeedleI’m back from my 6-day trip to Seattle with my mom. It was our first time and honestly we had a romantic vision of the city from watching movies like “Sleepless in Seattle”. (Who doesn’t  love Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as a romantic movie pair?)

Yet though I had this romantic notion, I was also wary of the old rumor that Seattle gets a lot of rain. By the way people talk about it I was expecting Seattle to be raining all the time. In fact, I learned from the captain of the Argos ferry to Blake Island that Seattle doesn’t even rank in the top 10 of the most rainiest cities in the U.S. In reality it ranks 44th!

San Francisco gets roughly 19.7 inches of rain per year with 63 out of 365 days being rainy. Seattle gets 38 inches of rain per year. Unfortunately, Seattle is rather cloudy and drizzles more days of the year: 158 days in a year. I even experienced this little drizzle last Tuesday when for 5 minutes the dew-like raindrops drizzled upon our heads just as we went underground the streets of Seattle. (We were part of Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour.)

But who knew Seattle was drenched ALL the time right? I mean, poor Seattle, it gets such a bad rap.

If you want to know the explanation of the bad rumor, follow this link: The Explanation!

After the Underground Tour, Mom and I went to Pike Place Market for our Savor Seattle food tour. We went to visit 11 different stores/shops/restaurants at the market place, tasted the product they’re most famous about, learned about the history of the market and of the shops, and then received a handy dandy VIP card that gave us 10-15% off of over 25 stores at Pike.

Here are some of the photos of the samples with links to the various places we visited.

1. Daily Dozen Doughnut Company

The doughnuts were made fresh right at the food stall. Plus the doughnuts were delicious and came in a variety! What more could a person ask for?

Daily Dozen Doughnut Company's mini doughnut

A mini cinnamon sugar doughnut. Excuse the fingers....

2. Wild Harvest

Wild Harvest's Huckleberry Cheese Cake

Huckleberry Cheese Cake

I had no idea what huckleberries were but the sign caught my attention. It read: HUCKLEBERRY. Well, I lie. That’s not the whole sign. I think it actually read: HUCKLEBERRY SMOOTHIES but I can be certain because as soon as I saw the word “huckleberry” my mind thought of the book by Mark Twain. Then after my nerdy brain switched into foodie mode, I thought about my Uncle who said he grew up eating huckleberry pies in Idaho.

But I still had that lingering question: What’s a huckleberry?

When I searched the food stall I found pictures of actual huckleberries displayed next to Wild Harvest’s huckleberry jams.  I was surprised to see that they looked just like blueberries, I kid you not.

Then I thought, “Is a huckleberry just a fancy term for a blueberry?”

Before I could ask Caroline or the workers behind the counter what a huckleberry was, we moved on. Later that night I looked up what huckleberries were and found out that they were their own species. However, they are related to blueberries so you can think of them as blueberries’ closest cousins.

3. Market Spice

The Market Spice sells spices like the ones shown in the picture but it also specializes in teas. We tried the fragrant Market Spice tea (yes, that’s what it’s called).

The tea reminded me immediately of cinnamon infused with orange (or is it the other way around?). Caroline said that there were three ingredients. A person offered cinnamon. Correct! Another guessed orange. Correct! But what was the last spice? Cloves!

Market Spice's spices

There were about 20 more shelves segments like these two.

4. Pike Place Fish Market

Flying fish, random yells from fishmongers, and delicious smoked salmon are the three things that come to mind at Pike Place Fish Market. This world famous market, which gave itself this title, is now actually just as well-known as its title suggests.

Pike Place Fish Market store front

It's always crowded here!

I don’t usually like salmon. Salmon burgers? Nope. Salmon jerky? Nope. Salmon sushi? Not a favorite. Salmon puffs? Pass.

Ah, but this place made salmon delicious. While on the tour we were given samples of their original smoked salmon, lemon pepper smoked salmon, and salmon jerky. I didn’t care for the jerky, but the smoked salmon was so tasty.

Original Smoked Salmon

Original Smoked Salmon

It was so tasty that two days later, Mom and I came back to buy a pound each of the original and lemon pepper flavors.

Tour guide Caroline with Fishmonger

Tour guide Caroline with Fishmonger

4. Frank’s Quality Produce

“Quality” is their middle name!


Delicious eggplant

How to Choose Eggplant

How to Choose Eggplant: look for a small 'dot' underneath eggplant. The smaller and more circular the dot is, the more likely the eggplant is male and therefore has less seeds and more flavor. (Male shown on right.)

Fresh Rainier cherries and blueberries

Fresh Rainier cherries and blueberries

Local figs

These local figs were so sweet (literally and figuratively!).

5. Pike Place Chowder

The chowder here is amazing and it better be if it won the Monterey National Clam Chowder three years in a row. My only complaint is that they need better sourdough bread bowls. Seriously, the bread had the look and texture of Wonder Bread. There was a slight sour taste but it didn’t complement the delicious chowder well. I guess I’ve been spoiled by Boudin’s sourdough.

On another note, I suspect that the bread was not great because the starter wasn’t good or perhaps the bread just wasn’t baked properly. If you look on Savor Seattle’s website, the bread bowl has a great looking crust so maybe we just went there on a bad day.

Special of the Clam Chowder of the Day

Special of the Clam Chowder of the Day

But if  great chowder is what you’re looking for, then this place has it! My favorite was the original New England style. My mom’s was the Seafood Bisque chowder. Ironically the large bread bowl shown was of their special clam chowder of the day, which was good but not as good as our favorites. We bought this before the tour – whoops.

Sample Clam Chowders

Sample Clam Chowders: Seafood Bisque (red) and Original (white)

6. Beecher’s Homemade Cheese

The cheese is made on-site even for the public’s viewing. Signs and pictures even describe the cheese making process. Then turn around and the counter to buy the cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, and famous macaroni and cheese is right there. Brilliant store planning.

Cheddar Cheese that tastes like Gruyere

Beecher's cheddar cheese tastes like gruyere. Goes well with the whole-wheat seeded cracker.

As I munched on the cheese, I whispered to my mom, “This tastes like gruyere”, and gruyere is one of favorite cheeses after I first used in my baking two years ago. Carolina the tour guide then announced that the cheese was in fact cheddar but that Beecher’s used gruyere cultures. How a cheese can be one kind of cheese when it uses another cheese culture beats me but I was happy that I was correct. It made me feel I was truly becoming more cultured as a foodie!

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

The macaroni and cheese was a tad spicy but too cheesy for my taste. How did I ever eat macaroni and cheese when I was younger? I ate the Kraft version at least once a week. I even cooked it myself and for my mom as lunch sometimes. She ate it and even added tuna and chicken sometimes. That’s what I call love. I don’t find Kraft appetizing any more and now real mac-n-cheese is too cheesy. Whatcha gonna do?

7. Pear Delicatessen & Shoppe

Pear Delicatessen & Shoppe sign

The deli man and the woman whose family owns this delicatessen are fondly known as the perfect ‘pear’. (Cue the aw’s!) The deli man’s name is Brian Jones and he worked at many famous restaurants all over the world. He finally settled in Seattle and joined the family business. Together they renamed the deli to its current name to show that it has entered a new stage.

More about the history behind the deli: here.

Not only does this pair have a cute love story, but the pair also serves delicious sandwiches! We all sampled the ham sourdough sandwich with glazed onions and greens. I’m glad to say that this deli had much better sourdough.

Ham Sourdough Sandwich

Ham Sourdough Sandwich

8. Etta’s

Etta's crab cakes

Etta's crab cakes (the mini version)

Writing an introduction for this one is hard. I could talk about the award winning chef Tom Douglas who established this and other popular restaurants  (Dahlia Restaurant, Dahila Bakery, Lola, Serious Pie, Cuoco, etc.) each with their own specialty.

It’s nice to know Etta’s is a Tom Douglas restaurant because then you can assume that the food is good. But if you don’t know who Tom Douglas is, then knowing that this is his restaurant offers no insight into Etta’s.

I could tell you it has a fancy atmosphere and that the prices are steeper than other smaller food stalls at Pike Market. This, however, may just deter you from checking it out though.

But if you’re going to a restaurant then you will want to know one thing: how the food tastes.

And let me tell you, the crab cakes at Etta’s are to die for. I only had a small sample of the crab cakes – a mini crab cake to be honest – but if you are  a fan of crab cakes or wish to convince someone that crab cakes are delicious then go to Etta’s.

I didn’t eat anything else at the restaurant, but if the appetizer is this good then the entrees must be good here. It’s faulty logic that would never make it into math or philosophy books but you’ve got to trust me on this one.

If you’re not willing to gamble and go for a full meal, then go for the crab cakes. My suggestion is to take out the crab cakes and then hang out at this grassy area across the street. You’ll get a nice view of the water and boats on a nice day.

Grassy Field

By the way, if you’re wondering if I recommend this 2 hour, walking tour, I would have to say that since the price isn’t steep ($39 per person), it’s a acquaint little way to be introduced to the market place. It was definitely nice getting the inside scoop from the tour guide. Our tour guide’s name was Caroline so if you can request guides, ask for her. She was friendly, knowledgeable, and the store clerks all liked her. She even memorized all 15 of our names!

Savor Seattle also has other tours: Gourmet Seattle (3 hrs), Chocolate Indulgences (2 hrs), Craving Capitol Hill (2.5 hrs), Gourmet Kayak (3 days), and private events for groups. All tours are also by foot so bring a water bottle. They provide the napkins and food as well as nifty personal radio sets to hear the tour guide wherever you go. And if you ever get lost, look for the pink umbrella as each guide carries one – rain or shine!

Back from a Road Trip

30 May

Just came back from LA. Took a road trip with my mom and family friend Eric. I was supposed to help drive, but Enterprise car rental won’t allow drivers under 21 to drive on long distances.

La Brea Farmer’s Market

Since we arrived at our hotel in Fullerton late Wednesday, we basically relaxed in the hotel until the next morning. On Thursday, we braved the crazy freeways to get to La Brea. Our original plan was to see the La Brea tar pits but we accidentally got distracted at The Grove mall and Farmer’s Market.

I was amazed by everything there. I loved the little food stands everywhere and how tucked away everything felt.

Nuts, nuts, and more nuts!

Confetti Popcorn

Confetti popcorn, anyone? Besides this kind, there were at least 5 other varieties.

The French Crepe Company

The French Crepe Company's cute painting. Lately I've been hearing a lot about the historic World Fairs.

Japanese Teapots

Japanese Teapots. Did you know there are only 3 Japan Town's in the whole United States? There's one in San Francisco, another in San Jose, and a third in downtown Los Angeles.

Cute sign

Because we live on one big green planet!


Would you like jam?

Ordering ice cream

Ice cream stand. Too many choices to choose from!

Vanilla-Chocolate Swirl Ice Cream

Perfect for a warm summer day.

Cajun Menu

Never did get to try that gumbo...

Veggie Chips

Veggie Chips. What doesn't this company make?

Candle Cupcakes

A store even had candle cupcakes.

Fresh Pasta

Fresh Pasta

Veggie Market

We got fresh strawberries, cantalope, plums, and bananas. I bet this market would have even more for better prices during the summer.


We ended up mixing this with the ice cream. A delicious combination!

 From Restaurants: Foxy’s and California Ramen

Fish Taco

Fish Taco from Foxy's Restaurant in Burbank

Fresh dinner rolls with sea salt

Fresh dinner rolls with sea salt. The inside of the dinner roll is made up of strips of bread.

Ramen with grilled chicken and fresh veggies

Ramen with grilled chicken and fresh veggies. The cauliflower were purple and orange, but the waiter assured us they were natural.

Made by Family

Chocolate Loaf Cake

My Aunt Pat made this for me to celebrate my graduation. It's chocolate-y but not dense or fudgy. It has a light crumb and moist texture. The key ingredients: pudding and Bailey's and Vodka. :)

Overall, the trip went well – especially the part beyond the realm of food. :)

My Time at Davis

1 Aug

Well, the trip is officially over. I am back from Davis and this time to stay. (I came back for the July 4th weekend and last weekend as one of the YSP fieldtrips).

Looking back I have to say that I had a good time. Originally, I was nervous and very unprepared for the unexpected. I was almost ready to call the director and tell him that I had changed my mind, especially since I felt that I was going to miss out on baking internships/jobs/classes. But you know what? I’m glad I went to Davis. There are no regrets.

The research part of the program was especially interesting. I was able to work with tomato seeds all the way from the beginning. I chose the little seeds from the tomato library in the Plant Science building with my lab partner, Jina. We counted ten seeds per tomato introgression line (IL). And for those who don’t know what an IL is – and don’t feel bad because I didn’t know what it was until I got to Davis – is a domestic tomato genome that contains a small, known genetic region from the wild tomato (S. pennilli).
The project was to germinate the IL seeds to see what the wild tomato region in the domestic tomato genome produced. Previously, the lab had already categorized the traits that belonged to the domestic tomato and the wild tomatoes so they could compare the IL’s physical traits to the known traits. If the IL exhibited a trait that belonged to the wild tomato, then the IL was said to contain a quantitative trait loci (QTL), which contains that gene responsible for the physical trait. It’s kind of confusing, I know, but if you’re truly interested in more of the research just comment and I’ll go into depth further.

Once I had the seeds, I put them into sterilized plates that contained a nutrient-rich agar media so we didn’t have to open the plates and risk contamination. I kept the seeds in there until seven days after germination and scanned the plates daily.

Basically the results of the experiment was that certain IL seeds did contain QTL responsible for a specific trait. In the future, the lab will work on genetically identifying the genes within the QTL to establish a gene-to-gene relationship network within the wild tomato. This network will detail how genes interact with other genes, and and how transciption factors and promoters affect gene expression (phenotypes).

Wild vs. Domestic Tomato

A- Wild tomato(left) and domestic tomato(right) B-domestic tomato; contains three cortex layers and linear xylem cell structure in middle C-wild tomato; contains two cortex layers and clumped xylem cell structure

IL seeds on microscope slides

IL seeds on microscope slides. The seeds were made transparent using chloralhydrate so I could count the number of lateral roots (emerged and initiated).

Analyzing lateral roots

Analyzing the IL roots for lateral roots (emerged and initiated).

Planting the IL Seeds

Transfering two IL seeds from the sterilized plates to plastic containers

IL seeds planted

IL seeds planted. Containers are placed in a special plant chamber that provides 16 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness.

The whole IL family

The whole IL family in the plant chamber.

So these are the photos that I am allowed to put up. It kind of gives you a glimpse of what I’ve been doing these past few weeks. It was very nice to work in a lab especially with this project because it was brand new. The lab researchers were literally just starting the project when I got there so these are the first big batch of ILs (36 ILs out of 72 ILs). I set up the experiment, gathered the data, analyzed the data, and then presented the data and conclusions at my program’s symposium on July 30th.

As far as the presentation goes, I was really stressing out for it. Maybe I wasn’t “stressing” per say, but I was panicking on the inside. I made sure my powerpoint was decent enough and then wrote out my transitions from slide to slide because otherwise everything just seemed awfully incoherent. Because of the number of times I practiced, I actually ended up memorizing my slides and what was on it. I didn’t memorize word for word and I didn’t write everything that I was going to say on the slides so the presentation actually turned  out alright.

My presentation was after lunch so I told myself that I shouldn’t eat too much before it because I knew that when I started getting nervous, I’d get the butterflies in mystomach, and when my stomach is full, I’d get a stomach ache. But, I ate anyway. A lot. Like a lot more than I usually do because it was the last time I’d be in the Dining Commons for lunch. I ended having to wait for my mom and family friend  (Eric) at the dorms because they didn’t know how to get to the lecture hall. This kind of made me more nervous. And then once we got to the hall, we had to wait outside for the presentation inside to finish. Once inside, I sat down near the back but I moved forward because I was up after the guy that was speaking. But then, my researcher (Mily) comes and takes me out of the hall to tell me that my data was somewhat inconclusive for the lateral root counts and that I’d have to mention that in my presentation. I basically nodded my head and said that was fine and went back in. Three minutes later, it was my turn.

I got up out of my seat with an already flushed face from the heat, running around, and nervousness. I thought about my best friend and how she always smiles during class presentations and I figured I’d be okay. Once in front of everyone, I just opened my powerpoint and then looked at everyone. There must have been at least 50 people (39 of which were the YSP scholars like myself). I kinda smiled and told myself, “This is it. Showtime”.

Once I saw my slide and started my introduction, the words just flowed. I glanced at my slides when I needed to and when I was changing topics. I was dreadfully nervous up there though because the seats are ascending so the people in the back are not only far away but really tall. I tried to do hand motions but that kind of failed so I just kept still most of the time, and it turned out okay.

After each presentation, there are about five minutes for questions so when I ended, I waited for questions. Surprisingly, I understood the questions so I could answer them. I felt really accomplished after the presentation because I’m not much of a public speaker. I have a soft-spoken voice – so I’m told – and big crowds can just be a little intimidating. But it worked out, so I’m glad. Best of all, my mom was extremely proud of me. My whole research team and friends even greeted afterwards. Pictures were taken to capture the happy (relieved) faces of all of us who were done presenting.

With friends after my presentation

Hanging with my friends after my presentation. Check out all our spiffy outfits!

I also wrote a paper on my research, but I might submit it to a scientific journal so I can’t reveal anything on it really. All I can say is that it had to look like a published scientific journal and mine came real close. I had the all the parts (abstract, introduction, materials and methods, discussion, etc) and the right format (two columns with headers and footers). It looks really nice, “looks” being the keyword. :)

But enough of the research, the friends I made in the program are hopefully friends for life. I know that I’d love to keep in touch with them if they’d be willing to too. After all, friendship is a two-way street. Now, I’ll be posting up some photos of our fieldtrips, adventures around town or in our dorm, and anything food related.

Plant Life Science Building Potluck

Theme: Food Inspired by Scientists and Their Discoveries

Theme: Food Inspired by Scientists and Their Discoveries

Photosynthesis Salad

Photosynthesis Salad

Indian Rice

Corn Bread

Corn Bread

Allie and Da Hae preparing the pasta

Researchers Allie and Da Hae preparing the pasta

"Mold" Jello
“Mold” Jello. It’s supposed to be how we spread yeast over plastic plates/slides.

Berry Tartletts

Berry Tartlets

My plate of food

My plate of food :)

Making Brownies in My Dorm (Rm. 312)

The set-up and ingredients

The set-up and ingredients

Mixing, mixing, mixing

Mixing, mixing, mixing

Brownies in the oven

Brownies in the oven

Brownies all done

Absolutely perfect for dorm brownies :)

Tahoe Fieldtrip

Tahoe Research Center

Tahoe Research Center

In the Tahoe Researh Center

In the Tahoe Researh Center

Ice Cream Shop at Tahoe

Ice Cream Shop at Tahoe; friends Jina and Ben are shown walking :)

Making wishes at a wishing well

Making wishes at a wishing well

Wish Description

Wish Description

Tahoe Beach

Choosing a spot at the Tahoe Beach

Tahoe Beach 2

Group Photo

YSP Group Photo ... missing a couple of people

Group Photo - full

All of us :)

Professor’s BBQ

The infamous peahen

The infamous peahen that woke up us all up at 5 am.

Jina (lab partner) and Coline (best roomie ever)

Jina (lab partner) and Coline (best roomie ever)

My plate

My plate: portebello burger, chicken alfredo, salad, fruit salad, etc

Professor's tomatoes

Professor's tomatoes in her backyard

Trip to San Francisco & Alcatraz

Ferry ride

Ferry ride

The Alzatraz Tour

The Alzatraz Tour - had to wear funky headphones

Boudin for lunch

Boudin for lunch - the breadbowls were so good! And the tomato soup was actually a good match for the sourdough too.

At Fort Point under the Golden Gate  Bridge

At Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge - it was so windy and cold. Don't we just all look wind whipped-lashed?

Move-Out Day

Saying the last goodbyes

Saying the last goodbyes with friends (Ben, Jina and Daniel)

With all these photos, I’m sure you’ve gotten a pretty good view of my time in Davis. There were definitely some crazy moments of pure randomness – my roommate Coline can vouch for that – as well as times of pure scholarly chaos with turning in journals to counselors, writing research papers, and making it to rooms before room curfew. :) But these moments are probably what made my time at Davis the best. And these moments couldn’t have existed without the people there. For sure I’ll never forget anyone from that program let alone the people I spent a lot of time with. Like I mentioned before, the friends I made are friends for life.

Here’s a video my friend Ben made.

YSP 2010 from Ben Yang on Vimeo.

Moving to the Countryside … Temporarily

30 Jun

Hi there.

I’m not too sure if you’ve noticed, but your email inbox (for you, subscribers) has been void of any updates from me. It’s not that I didn’t want to post, but time has just flown by without me knowing.

You may or may not remember that I wrote about how I’d miss the Bay when I went to Davis.

Well, I miss it.

Farmer's Market Archway

Not extremely as much as I thought, but there are certain things that I miss about the city. Corner bakeries, restaurants and shops being open on Sunday, a nice couch to kick back and relax in, my baking ware just to name a few.

Most importantly, an easy access to the internet. It’s been terrible having to go down a floor to use the computer lab (an empty dorm furnished with six Apple desktops) or head into the common lounge to hook my laptop up with a cord to the router. At the moment, I’m sitting in the computer lab with a cord. There’s no wireless in the dorms.

I don’t think I mentioned why I am here. In a nutshell, it’s a science research based residential program for students my age. We listen to one  long lecture every morning from 9 am to 11:30 am, and then go to our research lab from 1pm to 5pm for the first two weeks. No dozing off during lectures either because there is a lecture exam the Thursday after July 4th. Fun, I know.

By next Tuesday, I’ll be working in the lab full time from 9 to 5. I guess you could say I have an internship. Sort of.

In the lab I’m working in, I am analyzing tomato roots and the genes that control the physical appearance of it. I’m also comparing the wild to the domestic tomatoes. I haven’t officially started my own project yet; I’ve only been helping the Grad students with their projects.

Anyway, here are some photos of my trip to the local Davis Farmer’s Market last Wednesday.

Apple Tarts

Davis Wine

Sweet Onions

Davis Creamery Sign

Davis Central Park

Worm Products

Fresh Bread

Fresh Fruits

Fresh Produce

Hopefully, I can keep you all updated on my whereabouts and scientific discoveries.

Until the my next post, hope you have fun celebrating July 4th!

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.


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! :)

Omnivore Books and Peter Reinhart & Friends

5 Mar

This is one of the days that I actually like my school administration. Giving the students a day off while the faculty are discussing the future plans was a great idea. (Thanks, Mr. Scudder and Dr. Hogarty!)

As you know if you read my last post, I wrote about how nervous I was for the anticipated trip to Omnivore Books to hear Mr. Peter Reinhart talk about the art of bread baking. Not to mention the fact that I had no idea what to make!

Recipe Story: The Applesauce Cake with Oatmeal Streusel

Last night I hastily did an inventory check in my apartment kitchen to find that I had no nuts, no raisins or cranberries, no gruyere cheese, or sour cream. I was completely at a loss of what to do. I mean, there went all my ideas for cinnamon rolls, gruyere puffs, and blueberry buckles. I took out all my baking books flipping madly trying to find a recipe that I could actually make when I saw it:  Applesauce Cake with Oatmeal Streusel.

“Brilliant!” I remember thinking as I remembered having applesauce somewhere in the fridge.

I read the directions which consisted of four simple steps, then began to measure out the ingredients. I took out the flour, sugar, baking power, applesauce, etc. I made the streusel part and then proceeded to make the cake part. I had everything prepared and sifted when it came time to add the applesauce. I opened the jar and frankly, my stomach lurched in disgust.

The applesauce was no longer applesauce. It was pink, fuzzy, and I think it winked at me.

However, I did not come all this way to give up, so I chopped up four medium apples, softened them in a microwave, added about 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and then swiftly pulsed them in a food processor. Ta dah – homemade applesauce!

Two cups of that went into the batter and it was ready to go. Lucky for me, it was well-received (and eaten) at the Omnivore Bookstore.

Omnivore Books – the one and only food bookstore in SF!

Omnivore Books on Food
3885a Cesar Chavez Street
San Francisco, CA 94131
Tel: 415.282.4712
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12-5
Omnivore Books Sign

Speaking of Omnivore … I was excited to head to this bookstore. How could I have not heard about a food bookstore in San Francisco? It is the only one of its kind and it escaped my knowledge. Before I had arrived, I browsed through the website and instantly felt that I was going to like this place. It had new books, old books, signed books, and pictures of a cute and well-lit bookstore in a vibrant and friendly neighborhood on Caesar Chavez Street.

I was not disappointed.Omnivore book shelves

Though I arrived late (I blame the alarm clock for not going off properly!), I somehow fit into the packed little bookstore. I  dissolved into the mass of people sitting in chairs and on the floor and the others leaning against the back bookcases quite easily. I was 20 minutes late, but as I always think “better late than never”. I was just thankful that my mom and I found parking only a block away.

As Mr. Reinhart was talking, I couldn’t help but notice how cute the bookstore was. I do not know if Mr. Reinhart chose this place or the bookstore invited him or a combination of a mutual agreement, but it was definitely the perfect location.

Owner of Omnivore Books: Mary

Owner of Omnivore Books: Celia

It was big enough to accommodate all 30 (or so) of us, yet it was small enough to have this familiar, cozy atmosphere. It was as if all of us had gathered humbly to hear an experienced baker and philosopher talk about his life findings and point of view. We all had crowded in together captivated by the eloquent speaker.

If an outsider had looked in, we probably looked like a family in a home because that is how it felt like: a home.

After Mr. Reinhart finished his lecture, I was able to meet the owner of this bookstore: Celia.

Assistant: Samantha; Owner of Omnivore: Celia

After talking to her, I knew that this was a bookstore I would be coming back to whether it was for the upcoming events, new baking books, or simply to visit a familiar place.

This is a must visit place for any foodie living or visiting San Francisco.

Like Omnivore? Check out their upcoming events here.

Peter Reinhart and Bread as More than a Symbol

I know that I am young so I cannot say with any truth at least “I have seen it all”. I have actually embraced the opposite outlook in life. I am so excited to explore the world around me, meet new people, and learn about new and different things.

Having said that, I’m sure that it comes as no surprise that when I walked into Omnivore and saw Mr. Reinhart, heard him talking about the 12 step process of bread baking, the techniques of professionals and tips for home bakers, and relating the literal process of bread baking to the spiritual transformation, I was completely stunned.

I could not believe that the man I had seen on the back flap of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice was there. This was the same man that I had written a letter to and emailed back and forth to! And there he was standing right in front of me. I was blown away.

As I listened to what he was saying what interested me the most besides the actual bread making techniques was his comment of the four layers of transformation especially how the basic literal level is usually over-looked.

Peter Reinhart lecturing

To paraphrase what he said, “I always knew that bread was a symbol, but I never considered that the actual process of bread baking in the oven was in itself a transformation”.

If you think about it, what he said is true. He went on to say that though the yeast dies when the center of bread reaches 140 degrees, the outcome of the soft, vulnerable living dough is a beautiful, tasty, crusty bread. The theme that he was talking about was “from death comes life” like a rebirth, or in religious terms, the Resurrection.

A religious interpretation from Mr. Reinhart might be expected from him since he was once a brother. (Even at the brother’s house, he worked as the cook there). But, his insight offers another view on the simple task of bread making. Bread has truly been a staple for many cultures all over the world throughout history. There must be a reason why. And Mr. Reinhart gave his interpretation that does indeed make sense.

The parallels between baking bread and Christianity do seem quite numerous. Whether or not it was intended to be so, I did enjoy Mr. Reinhart’s perspective and will most likely be sharing this revelation with my friends.

The book written by Peter Reinhart from a  Theologian’s perspective: Brother Juniper’s Bread Book.

*He also mentioned that he is in the process of writing another theological book as well due to come out in a few months.

The Other Noteworthy People: Wolfinger & Cohn

Eric Wolfinger - photographer and bakerAfter Mr. Reinhart finished talking, the event broke out into “casual mingling mode”. We were all encouraged to try the baked goods that the other guests brought including Raisin Bran Muffins, pecan(?) tartlets, puffs, and my coffee cake.

While walking around, I was able to meet some really cool people like Eric Wolfinger, a baker at Tartine, and Allen Cohn, photo secession baking assistant of Artisan Breads Every Day.

Talking to each of them made me feel that I could work as a full-time baker. I’m sure there are certain things in life I would not be able to do like perhaps buy a mercedes-benz every two years, but I realized that maybe I don’t mind being a “starving baker” (what an oxymoron, right?) If he could live out his passions for photography and baking, then so could I.

For Eric Wolfinger’s Website on photography and baking, click here.

Originally from Los Angeles, Eric Wolfinger explained to me that he actually majored in Political Science, but then took on baking because it was his passion. Mr. Reinhart recounted a story from his book Artisan Breads Every Day in the Epilogue of when Eric brought a “smoky, crisp flaky crust[ed]” French bread to a dinner that made Mr. Reinhart stop in his tracks.

Calling himself “The Wandering Cook”, he currently works as a baker at Tartine where he and the other bakers produce the same french bread that caused time to stop still for Mr. Reinhart. Once I found this out, I was so surprised at who I was surrounded by in Omnivore. There were so many professional bakers in my midst! Being able to talk Mr. Wolfinger was such an honor that I was delighted with the few minutes we stood and chatted.

Tartine's Pumpkin Bread, Fruit Bread Pudding, Blueberry Cake, and Banana Cake

The other man who I had the honor of meeting was Allen Cohn, one of two the photo session baking assistants for Reinhart’s book Artisan Breads Every Day.

Talking to him, I realized that there are other things that I can do to enhance my knowledge of baking. He was kind enought to write down in my notebook (yes, I actually brought a real notebook to take notes) the list of things that I should look up.

I believe the first thing he asked me was, “How do you measure your ingredients?”Allen Cohn

I knew where this was going because I had read that weighing the ingredients is much more accurate than using measuring cups since everyone measures things differently.

I responded and smiled guiltily, “With measuring cups”.

“You should really buy a scale. They’re only $40. I held a class one time and asked each of my students to measure out 1 cup of flour, and they each came out with flour weighing from 3.5 ounces to 4.5 ounces. It should weigh 4 ounces”.

As I was talking more to him, so much useful information was being tossed out that I had to ask him to write in my notebook. In it, he wrote down several links including links to The Bread Bakers Guild of America and The Bakers Dozen. He also recommended Bread by Hammelman Bread Science by Emily Buehler, and Bakwise by Corrher.

As you can see, I’ve so much to catch up on! But first things first, buy the MyWeight kd7000 scale, or else I would be failing Mr. Cohn and the integrity of bread making would be soiled!

For Allen Cohn’s Baking Website, click here.

The Summary

I am glad that I went today and that my mom was kind enough to take the day off to take me. (Thanks, Mom!) I am glad that I did not hide my applesauce streusel cake at the last minute. (I had whispered to my mom, “Take it back to the car. No one is going to eat it”. She refused after seeing me work so hard last night). I am glad that I met so many wonderful people, including Celia and Samantha from Omnivore. (Celia was Omnivore’s photographer, I think, who was the first one to dare to try my cake! After she gave it a thumbs up, others followed suit).

Meeting other people like Eric Wolfinger and Allen Cohn made me realize that my dream to become a professional baker is possible if I just keep on baking. I was so lucky to be in the presence of so many experienced bakers who were willing to share their knowledge and experience with me.

I felt so honored to be mentioned by Mr. Reinhart in his formal talk ‘on stage’ in front of everyone too. At least five different people came up to me asking what my blog’s name is. (“Notebook Worthy”, I proudly replied with a smile). I’m also very thankful for Celia from Omnivore for tweeting about me to her 1,600 followers!, and Heidi Swason from 101 Cookbooks for re-tweeting her tweet! (ah, the beauty of the internet) Most of you are probably here because of her! :)

Also seeing Mr. Reinhart as a theologian and not just the bread baker was a nice experience too. Hearing him relate bread to religion was quite an experience, something I will take with me.

Hear Peter Reinhart Talk in the Taste3 Conference Here

Most of all, I was happy to be surrounded by people who shared my passion for baking. I have to admit that I do not run into too many student bakers at my school.

I have learned a lot about myself and the possibilities of the future because of the people I met today. It truly is rather exciting.

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. :)

Out of the City: The Marin French Cheese Co & Pete’s Henny Penny, reviewed

8 Jan

Well as a last hoorah before I had to go back to school, my Uncle decided to treat my mom and I to a nice breakfast/lunch in Petaluma at this home-style restaurant: Pete’s Henny Penny. The ride up was nice enough with light traffic and the Golden Gate Bridge looking at spectacular as any bridge could look. I had my earbuds in listening to a mixture of Owl City and Taylor Swift (my two current favorites).

Pete’s Henny Penny, reviewed

4995 Petaluma Blvd N
Petalum, CA 94592

I have to say that I was delightfully surprised at Pete’s Henny Penny. Located just off Hwy101 and 116, this restaurant has no real competition except for Cattlemens Restaurant and Denny’s, which is right across the street from Pete’s. Why anyone would go to Denny’s except for Pete’s seems crazy to me.

Sausage Lentil Soup (cup size)

Pete’s Henny Penny is a wonderful, casual, home-style restaurant that serves breakfast all day. Best of all for those with children 12 and under, with one paying adult, one child (12&under) can order a free meal. There’s a special menu but it basically has all the typical foods like hamburgers, spaghetti, grilled cheese, breakfast items, and more. This restaurant is definitely dirt cheap – they serve a lot for the money. Your dollar will go far here.

Chicken Noddle Soup (yumm!)

This brings me to Pete’s next great point: large portion sizes. So maybe you’re traveling through Petaluma on Hwy101 and you want something to eat. You could go to Cattlemens, which I hear is a great steakhouse or if you have a craving for home-style meals, you can eat at Pete’s. Pete’s serves true American food like steaks, hamburgers, halibut filet, numerous sandwich varities, and great breakfast selections. The menu is so large, the portions so plenty, that you will leave stuffed and your wallet fuller. If you don’t want to have such a large portion, they even have specials that are half the size, and half the price. I think their motto should be “Have it your way” except I believe that that slogan is already taken. :P

A House Specialty: Fried Chicken - a must try!

As an added bonus, Pete’s customers and waiters/watresses are friendly and down to earth. The whole atmosphere is relaxing and casual. And now, Pete’s is open 24 hours! Great service all day and all night. It’s simply perfect for road trips. I am definitely stopping by if I ever go past Petaluma again. And as a rule, you must must must try their Fried Chicken. It is simply divine: crunchy, crispy, flavor-packed but not too spicy, and the chicken is moist and tender. Their Charbroiled Chicken is tasty too.

Another House Specialty: Charbroiled Chicken

The Marin Countrysde & M.A.L.T.

So after we had breakfast-lunch at Pete’s Henny Penny, the Uncle took us through the Marin countryside where the farms were under the protection of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT). The terms of the MALT consist of “an agricultural conservation easement [which] is a legal agreement between a landowner and Marin Agricultural Land Trust that prohibits non-agricultural residential or commercial development, subdivision, and uses or practices which would be destructive to the agricultural value of the land. The easement is recorded, and future owners are bound by its terms in perpetuity. The land remains privately owned and on the tax rolls.” The whole idea behind the MALT organization established in the early 1970s was to prevent any commercial development in that area. Personally, I’m glad that the Marin ranchers and environmentalists did this because without MALT, I would not have been able to see the beautiful, breath-taking landscape.One Lane Road in Main Countryside

Marin Farmhouse

Laguna District School Est. 1906

Laguna District School Est. 1906 - one room schoolhouse

It’s a beautiful thing that the MALT has done. I felt as if I had traveled back in time. Who knew Marin had these farms tucked and hidden away? I mean, it’s not often that you see a “Cattle Xing” sign.

The Marin French Cheese Co.

7500 Red Hill Rd., Petaluma, CA 94952

The Marin French Cheese Co.Well, when we finally neared the end of our tour in the countryside, we stumbled upon The Marin French Cheese Co. famous for its cheese tours. Unfortunately, it was a Saturday when we came so there were no tours. (Tours are usually Mon-Fri only).

I have to say that we were caught so off guard when we saw the giant sign sticking out in the distance. When we approached the sign, we saw that it was on a property that also contained a medium-sized man-made lake with picnic tables, a simple farmhouse, and then a long building in the back. The Uncle recognized it immediately.

“It’s the Marin Cheese Factory! I’ve only been here one other time about 10 years ago. I could never figure out how to get back here!”

He immediately pulled over and before I knew it, we were inside asking if they had their daily tours. Unfortunately, as I have said, they did not because it was a Saturday. Darn. But their store was very interesting too. The store was quaint and sold different kinds of cheeses that they personally make there as well as several shelves of jams and jellies, a small room with historical pictures of the cheese-making process and fresh bread and bread supplies. It was heaven.

Between the three of us, we ended up buying a small wooden cheese cutting board engraved with their logo, a small cheese knife, a tall glass jar with a sourdough starter inside, a bread bag, a tote bag with a cow on it, and one of their famous cheeses. We had crackers at home and we were planning to veg out that night with our new goodies. :)

James and Jellies at Marin Cheese Co.

Homemade Cheeses from Marin French Cheese Co.

French Bread at Marin Cheese Co.

A Hidden Gem in Mill Valley: Mountain Home Inn & Restaurant, reviewed

13 Aug

Today was just so full of surprises. And I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t like surprises, not from most people at least. Only certain people know exactly what I want and can surprise me real good. However, this time, it was a pleasant surprise.

I made plans to have lunch with my Uncle today, but we had agreed to go a new local Bay Area favorite (Seal Rock Inn Restaurant) that I had found that served good food that was well-priced, had plenty of free parking, and was located near the Ocean Beach. I was prepared to go there, but when my Uncle showed up today, he told me that he had decided to take me to a new place near his home in Mill Valley. At first, I wasn’t too thrilled about it because I had been ready to try the Turkey Burger at the ocean favorite.

Halfway into the drive, my mind wasn’t about to be changed either. It was a nice view of beautiful trees and a view of the bay and ocean, but I was still sulking about the Turkey Burger and the convenience near my home. I didn’t let on though because my uncle was super excited to bring me here. He started talking about all the different hikes and backpacking trips he’d been on when he was in his 30s.

Mountain Home Inn

810 Panoramic Hwy
Mill Valley, CA 94941

Once I saw the restaurant (and you’ll know when you see it because it’s the only restaurant in the area), I was completely surprised – in a good way. It looked like a modern cabin though I knew for sure that it was not a new place because my uncle had eaten there 10 or so years ago. I was quite astonished.

The restaurant inside was small with a bar a about two small areas with tables, but the best place to sit outside on a sunny day like today was outside on the deck. Since it was a clear day, we had a beautiful view of the bay near Mill Valley on one side and another view of beautiful trees in the state park (not sure which one) near Mt. Tam on the other side. I was impressed (and relieved because I was starting to get a bit dizzy from the winding trail we took), but not quite won over yet. The restaurant could be as picturesque as it was, but serve crappy food.

The view of the front of the inn from the deck
The view of the front of the inn from the deck
The view of the bay and trees. I angled it badly, but from other tables you can see the bay better too

The view of the bay and trees. I angled it badly, but from other tables you can see the bay better too

The one-sided menu was simple and straight ford with a bits of variety here and there. There was about 3 different kinds of salads from your classic ceasar to an asian pear salad to their house salad. For lunch, the menu seemed to focus on their Niman Ranch hamburgers that, for extra, you could add bacon, sauteed mushrooms, or even onions. The hamburger starts off at $12 with fries so it’s up to you to add anything else. Here’s their lunch menu, but this is actually slightly different from what they had today.

We were served water in a beautiful wine bottle with a mint leaf in it. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Mint Water served in a wine bottle

Mint Water served in a wine bottle

Mint Water Leaf Close-Up

Mint Water Leaf Close-Up

I ended up ordering their Soup of the Day: Corn Chowder and their Turkey Club (not on the online menu above).

Corn Chowder -- $7
Corn Chowder — $7

Turkey Club Sandwich (comes with cole slaw and house potato chips) -- $10
Turkey Club Sandwich: served on thick, toasted Texas toast; comes with cole slaw and house potato chips; house salad for extra $2.5— $10

My uncle decided to order their Niman Ranch Burger with french fries. I didn’t try the burger, but it looked so good with the grilled cross-lines on it and everything! Take a look!

Niman Ranch Burger with fries, fruit, and pesto mayo --- $12

Niman Ranch Burger with fries, fruit, and pesto mayo --- $12

If you’ve read the description of the Niman Ranch Burger, then you’ll realize that I said “pesto mayo”. You may find that interesting or just plain disgusting. If that’s so, then you’ll be glad to know that this is not their usual mayo. For those of you who love pesto mayo or who’d like to try it, then you’ll be glad to know that you can ask for it. The waiter will tell you that they don’t serve it, but that they have their homemade pesto sauce and that you can mix it with the mayo on the side. Do this and you’ll get a lovely pesto mayo.


the experience at the Mountain Home Inn was a pleasant surprise. Their lunch was very good. All of this for $28 including tax. I couldn’t believe the price (after experiencing three bad sandwiches and two desserts at Mel’s Drive In for $68; no, I didn’t eat it all myself either :] ). The menu was simple but definitely satisfying. It embodied all the essential parts of any menu. It’s like a fancy restaurant menu stripped down to the bare – but delicious – core.

The drive is only 25 minutes from the city part of Mill Valley and about 45 minutes – 1 hr away from Sea Cliff and Outer Richmond in San Francisco. It’s also an inn obviously hence the name “Mountain Home Inn” and if you stay, you get a complimentary breakfast too! So, if you’re looking for great food, hiking near Mount Tam, or a romantic weekend getaway, go here.

Another Eventful Day: UC Davis and Lunch at Caffe Italia

19 Jul

I never really get a break now do I? School ends and I somehow always figure out how to stay busy. Such is life :)

Today I left my house at 9 am to meet a friend at U.C. Davis. It was a long drive and the hot weather was daunting, but I’m so glad that I went.

My friend toured me around her school wanting to show off all the great hang outs places, the dorms, and the cafes and little restaurants. It was all fun and exciting, but the heat just got the better of us. After walking around for about 2 hours – yes, we were crazy enough to walk around in 108 degree weather – , we decided that this was enough. By 2 pm I think even my friend was getting tired of her school so she decided to finally take me to the restaurant that she and her other friends go to to relax and chill. “Besides the food,” she confided, “which is very good, it has air conditioning.” At that point, that was all I cared about. I could have just been happy going into a McDonalds as long as there was air conditioning.

Boy, was I going to take that back once we had eaten there.

She ended up taking me to this Italian restaurant called Caffe Italia about a 3 minute car ride from the campus.

The ambiance was cozy and home-like. Definitely perfect for friends, family, and even dinner dates. The seating was wooden booths like Outback’s Steak House, but they had another room full of tables and picnic blankets over them. There were little “witty character signs” like this one:

Note for above: not my picture; from yelp.

I know it's a crappy photo. But it was dark in that room and I was looking through glass. I figure that they open this room during dinner time when it gets really busy.

What was really cool was that you can draw on the tables. Well, actually, the white paper that covers the table. You can be a kid here. In fact, the server writes their name on the white table-paper. Kinda cool though by the time I had gotten there I was basically a sweating city pig with a sunburned nose and raccoon eyes. I was in no shape to draw.

Note: This is not my photo, but instead, a photo I got from the yelp photo album.

So when we finally got to ordering,
we decided to share their Chicken Strips and Garlic Bread.

This is the only picture that I could take before the chicken strips were gone. It’s another bad photo (I’m sorry! But when you’re hungry and the heat is ever present, you do some funny things). The chicken strips were so gone. The batter was homemade and the seasonings/spices were unique.

The garlic bread was made out of french bread that had a slightly crunchy crust and a soft middle. They toasted/grilled the top with olive oil and garlic so that it was it crusty as well. My rating: 3.75/5 I only give it this much because I’ve tired so many other different garlic breads. Nothing was wrong, but it wasn’t anything spectacular.

For my main meal, I settled on their large Spinach Salad. It came with fresh spinach, crumbled boiled eggs, bacon bits, white mushrooms, black olives, and rotisserie-styled chicken. (The chicken was an extra $2).

The before…

The After…er…Midway…

The Spinach Salad was good. I rate this a 4.5/5. I usually go to Pasta Pomodoro in the city when I can because I love their spinach salad. However, this salad beats it. I’m not a very big fan of sauces (especially since I found out how much calories they pack into sauces. Why waste precious calories of those when I can save room for dessert or something better? But anway,) Caffe Italia’s Spinach Salad had a light vinaigrette dressing, which I love. The spinach leaves were crisp, fresh, and slightly cold (to my delight)!

I also ended up ordering their Half-Size Spinach and Cheese Ravolli. Guess what I’m into lately?)

Came with about 6 raviolis for $6. Not too bad, I guess.

The Inside. As you can see, it was quite thin.

Another inside view. Kinda messy by now, but just as delicious.

And, well, it just didn’t last long. :)
My rating: 4/5. After my friend pointed it out, the actual ravioli was not that great tasting; it was their sauce. The sauce had so much flavor that I eagerly ate the entire thing.

Now for the dessert…

I was told by my friend that I couldn’t miss out on their signiature dessert. In fact, I think it’s their only dessert.

Featuring: Whipped Cream, Chocolate Shavings, Chocolate Syrup, Vanilla Ice Cream, Toasted Coconut Walnut Brownie-Cookie

A beauty, isn’t she?

Looking back now, I realized that we didn’t get our chocolate shavings, but believe me, there’s enough chocolate in this thing that you don’t even need it.

We’re all taking our “second-wind”. The advertisement on the table is what got us. :)

(By the way, that’s my friend’s boyfriend across the table, in case you were wondering who that was).


Oh, the delicious, mess. :D

The Chocolate Lasagna Supreme gets a 5/5 because of the taste, originality, and presentation. The toasted coconut on the brownie/cookie gave it a great taste and the walnuts complimented it wonderfully. The ice cream was not high quality. I could tell it was the French Vanilla Ice Cream from Safeway, but it was pretty good. It would have been better with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. The whipped cream and chocolate sauce were just added bonuses. :)

The ending result for Caffe Italia? The price is reasonable, service is great, and the ambiance is quirky (in a good way!). Go there if you live near by or are ever in the area. I hear they have a superb breakfast menu (I saw it and there is quite a lot of variety) and the dinner is even better than the lunch. In fact, based on some reviews, the lunch is ‘disappointing’ compared to the dinner. The next time I visit my friend we are definitely going there for dinner because we were impressed with their ‘disappointing’ lunch.