Monday, 30 July 2012

Moscato and sweet wines

I've started pairing home-cooked dinners with wines lately. Sometimes I buy reds and whites to match the food I'm making, but other times I succumb to buying my favorite moscato and sweet wines. It doesn't help that I have a sweet tooth!
Just listing a few of my favorite sweet bottles so far (not exclusive to dinner-pairing, we drink these while watching movies) : Martini Asti, Firefly Ridge Moscato (only $5.99 from Safeway, what a steal!), Barefoot Moscato (only $4.99 from Walmart), etc.
I also like Choya Umeshu plum wine -- the original one with plums and the new black sugar version are really good. There is also the royal honey one that I only found at the Singapore airport which is pretty tasty as well.
Sangria's delicious too, maybe I should learn to make my own sometime.
I'm really thankful we live in California and close to Napa Valley, so wine is cheap. Safeway and Trader Joe's (this also has its own housebrand bottles) are good places to buy good quality but inexpensive wines.
Just saying. Now back to work

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Sakura Teppanyaki (Redwood City)

Came here for a late dinner after watching the newest Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises!
This was only our second time at a teppanyaki restaurant, and it was pretty entertaining. The waiters and chef were quite funny, so dinner was a pleasant experience. The food was good too. We ordered two dinner sets -- fillet mignon and tuna. Each set came with soup, salad, fried rice, shrimp appetizer, some onions and cucumber, and main course. 
The soup and salad were so-so; the soup tasted like water + MSG + onions, while the salad had some sauce we didn't like. The rest of the food was nice though. The first hot dish was fried rice, which was quite delicious. Shrimp appetizer comprised of two succulent pieces of shrimp, and our order of medium-cooked meat was quite well-made. We liked the fillet mignon better than the tuna, due to the tenderness and flavor, although we must say that both portions were hearty enough. Every dish was cooked with both oil and butter, although one should simply eat without thinking about the fat content and just enjoy the enhanced flavors. In addition, two dipping sauces were provided, ponzu and some diluted thousand island -- i liked the latter better since its taste wasn't too strong to mask the original flavor of the food.
The couple next to us ordered a seafood lovers set, which consisted of scallops, shrimp, and lobster. Their food looked really good, so we might try that on our next trip!
All the food prior to cooking

Performance by chef where he put alcohol and oil into some onions and set it on fire

Tuna and shrimp appetizer

Fillet mignon

2198 Broadway St

Redwood CityCA 94063

Friday, 27 July 2012

Salmon baked rice

Made salmon baked rice last night! I made the cream sauce from scratch for the first time too. Here's what I did (sorry we don't have any photos this time, since we were too hungry):

1. Rice (I cooked 1 cup)
2. Half an onion, chopped
3. Chopped mushrooms
4. Vegetables (I used broccoli last night)
5. Some cheese (I used mozzarella last night)
6. A deep dish

1. Cook rice, and leave to warm.
2. Pan-fry some onions and mushrooms, before adding the vegetables. Cook until the onions and mushrooms are fragrant, and the vegetables are half-cooked.
3. Beat some eggs with black pepper and some salt, and mix evenly into the warm rice (see comment here).
4. Add the egg-coated rice to the pan, and pan-fry until the egg is mostly cooked. Add some cheese so that it's nice and stringy inside the rice.
5. Pour everything into the deep dish.

1. Rub over with some black pepper and cajun powder.
2. Pan-fry with some oil, until the fish is half-cooked through.

Cream sauce:
1. 1/2 stick of unsalted butter
2. 3 medium cloves of garlic
3. Half an onion, finely chopped
4. 1 teaspoons of salt
5. 0.5 teaspoon of black pepper
6. 1 cup heavy cream

1. Melt the butter at medium heat in a pot or pan.
2. Fry up the garlic and onions just before they are fragrant
3. Add 0.5 teaspoon salt and all the black pepper to the garlic and onions. Fry it up till fragrant.
4. Stir in the heavy cream and let boil. Add the remaining salt (this is to enhance the flavor of the sauce. Add at your own discretion).
5. The sauce will thicken as the water evaporates. Take the pot off the stove once you are satisfied with the sauce thickness.

Making the baked rice:
1. Pour half of the cream sauce onto your rice that is already inside the deep dish. Sprinkle some cheese on top of the rice and sauce.
2. Place the salmon in the middle of the dish. Add the remaining sauce and cheese, so that the whole dish is covered in cheesy goodness. I used 2 cups of cheese in total for this dinner (we really love cheese on baked rice)
3. Place everything in an oven set at 350F. It doesn't matter whether you preheat the oven or not, the cheese takes time to melt anyway.
4. Your meal is ready when the cheese is all melted and forms a brown (not black!) crust! You will also notice that the cream is bubbling from under all that cheese, so be careful when you're removing it from the oven.

Afterthought: Most of the cream sauce drained through and was absorbed by the rice while baking. If you like to see a layer of sauce on top of the rice when you eat, you can make a higher sauce:rice ratio, or make a thicker sauce.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Sura sushi (Mountain View)

Sura is one of our favorite sushi restaurants in the Mountain View area! We like how their fish is really fresh, and it's never crowded. Their salmon is really really nice and their rolls are yummy.
My boyfriend likes their lunch bentos since it's cheap and generous. I didn't realize how big the lunch bento was till yesterday! It came with a salad, miso soup, and 2 or 3 items (depending on what you order). I could barely finish half of my bento, but it was pretty good. I ordered california roll, grilled saba, and tempura. I think the tempura breading was a little thick, but everything else was nice.

My lunch bento minus one california roll

Some of my favorite sushi!

2000 West El Camino Real  

Mountain View, CA 94040

Golden Island Cafe (San Francisco)

We were in the area for a haircut and decided to try this place while passing by. 
Yelp reviewers said that the fruit here is fresh and the mango sago is especially popular. Indeed it lived up to the reviews. We are fans of sago, and this didn't disappoint! I also had the steamed/curdled milk with ginger, which was nice too. It was a little soft, but that was ok! Not too expensive for dessert, at $4 for each item. The menu looked pretty authentic to Hong Kong cafe cuisine, so we will probably try the food next time!

1300 Noriega St
(between 20th Ave & 21st Ave) 
San Francisco, CA 94122
Neighborhood: Outer Sunset

(415) 759-9118

Dinner at home (Fried rice)

After spending 4 weeks away, I really missed cooking in my own kitchen!
So on Sunday my boyfriend and I made soba, mushrooms sauteed in oyster sauce, pan-fried salmon, and asparagus! It was our first time cooking asparagus and it turned out pretty well. All we did was to mix together some olive oil, black pepper and garlic, drizzle that over a line of asparagus (tough ends chopped off), and placed it in the oven at 400F.

On Monday I made fried rice, broccoli and mushrooms in oyster sauce, and black bean chicken. 
For the chicken I used black bean sauce from Lee Kum Kee, and just steamed it. 

This is how I make fried rice:
1. wait for the rice to finish cooking in the rice cooker, leave to keep warm
2. stir-fry onions, garlic and carrots in the pan 
3. beat 1 or 2 eggs, add some white pepper and soy sauce
4. loosen the rice in the rice cooker
5. pour the raw egg over and rice and mix well. This will help to coat every grain of rice with egg, instead of having lumps of egg in your fried rice
6. Before the egg gets cooked by the hot rice, pour it all into your pan with the vegetables (add more oil if necessary), and fry everything up

Merlion Restaurant (Cupertino)

This is a Singaporean restaurant in Cupertino, which we haven't noticed till now. We walked in with no expectations, except being very amused by the two spouting merlions surrounding the front and back of the restaurant. The decor was nice, and the restaurant spacious enough to allow one to have a peaceful meal without having to listen in to the neighboring table's conversations.
Foodwise, we ordered roti prata, belachan kangkong, and coffee spareribs. The roti prata and kangkong were authentic to taste, the former being nice and crispy. The coffee spareribs were a little bitter though, tasted a little burnt, and were hard to tear apart. Never in our lives had we to use a knife to cut spareribs, as we did here. We also had coconut rice (very coconut-y, yum!) and chicken rice (the rice was a bit too yellow and tasted weird).
We wouldn't hesitate to return here in the future, except that we both had stomach upset (I even had to vomit out my dinner) a few hours later.
=/ oh well.

19628 Stevens Creek Blvd 
Cupertino, CA 95014 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Carmel Belle (Carmel-by-the-sea)

Came here for a late lunch after hiking at Big Sur, and it was delicious! It's a small cafe tucked inside an artsy shopping center, but a real gem indeed. It's my second time here so far, and it hasn't disappointed yet. I had a Berkshire Pork sandwich, and the pork was so tender with the right amount of sauce and fat, while the ciabatta bread had the right external crunchiness and internal softness.
My friends had a mushroom sandwich, salmon/half-boiled egg/baguette, cheddar and bacon sandwich, and cheddar and ham sandwich. Everyone found their food very good too, so we were happy patrons =)

Doud Craft Studios
Ocean Ave & San Carlos
Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA 93921

Wiener Mobile

Random Wiener Mobile spotted at Pacific Grove, looks pretty posh inside! Nevertheless still hilarious

Relaxing on the beach on Sunday

Relaxing on a small beach in Pacific Grove with my friends!

Lappert's Ice cream shop (Pacific Grove)

Walked into this shop for some ice-cream, and what a surprise! The owner appears to be some hyper-hippie, and the entire shop was plastered with LPs by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis, etc. The flavors were pretty unusual too -- guava with cheesecake?! I had a relatively normal praline pecan and it was pretty good. Quite an interesting find in a small seaside town.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Pacific Thai Cuisine (Pacific Grove)

I came here for the second time this trip, for lunch and ordered their lunch special of thai basil fried rice. It was pretty good I must say. The rice was flavorful enough with the many basil leaves they fried into the rice, and the pork went quite well with the flavors. There was a good proportion of vegetables as well, so at least there was some balance. The portions were big enough for me to be satisfied and left enough for a big lunch tomorrow. I also liked the Tom Kha soup that came with the lunch special, which was sour and spicy enough with a hint of coconut milk.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Crystal Fish (Pacific Grove)

What I learnt this trip is to not place so much trust in Yelp reviews, especially in touristy areas. A bunch of us came here for lunch yesterday, seeing that it was 4* on Yelp, and were pretty disappointed.

We all ordered lunch specials -- most people ordered nigiri lunch (5 pc nigiri, 6 california rolls), and I ordered the bento with tempura and sashimi. About my dish first: the portions looked hearty, but the quality was only ok. I liked the salad but it was pretty much soy sauce and sesame, so nothing much could go wrong there. The tempura was ok -- the breading was slightly thick, and the eggplant was so thin I couldn't tell what was eggplant or breading. The shrimp and carrot were good though, but I was really looking forward to sweet potato, which was absent (!!). The sashimi (1pc salmon, 2pc tuna, 2pc yellowtail) was relatively fresh, but the cut wasn't great, since the only salmon piece I had was full of tendons and I had to turn it over in my mouth to chew on it, something I rarely have to do with fresh fish. Another sign was my friend's salmon nigiri falling apart from the fat/tendons, so I'm not too sure about the cut.... The rice in the bento was a little hard too, hmm =/

It was a reasonable deal for a $9 bento box though I wouldn't recommend it for someone who's looking for good seafood next to the ocean.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Max's Grill (Pacific Grove)

came here for dinner with a friend today after seeing that it was 4 stars on yelp, but it was only ok.

We both ordered the 3-course dinner for $25 each, and I chose crab cakes, sand dabs with white wine cream sauce, and vanilla ice-cream with chocolate sauce.

I wasn't sure if the crab cake was fresh enough, but it definitely didn't taste as great as what I've had before in the Bay Area/San Francisco. Now that I think about it, I don't even remember tasting crab! It was also too salty... I actually had to squeeze on some lemon to muffle the salt and enhance the other flavors of the crab, something that I never do!
The grilled sand dabs were nice, and were slightly different from what I had at Vivolo's, although the texture was consistently soft. The cream sauce went well with the fish, but the saffron rice was a little dry, and could use some extra sauce. I did like the asparagus a lot though.
The ice-cream was good, but how wrong can you go with that?

All being said, I'm not sure if I will return.

209 Forest Ave

Pacific Grove, CA 93950

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Sushi Tomi (Mountain View)

We came here for sushi today! We ordered tonkatsu (came with miso soup, salad and rice), and special sashimi (3 pc tuna, salmon, yellowtail, white fish, and 2 pc toro). Everything was delicious!
The sesame salad dressing was light and brought out the freshness of the lettuce. The tonkatsu wasn't oily and the breading was just the right thickness. The price of $15.90 for this dinner set was reasonable for the two pieces of pork cutlet. 
The sashimi was also fresh, the fish having the right texture. The toro was nice too. The only fish we didn't like was the white fish (no idea what it was), which had lots of fibers and was chewy, with a fishy aftertaste. The only other issue I found with the sashimi was the lemon slice they placed between some pieces, such that I couldn't really taste the fish besides the lemon. Something that I don't really like about sushi places in general.
All being said, we do like this restaurant!

The boyfriend was quite liberal with the tonkatsu sauce! Check out the two big chunks of pork cutlet

Nice tendons in the pork

Thick sashimi cuts
635 West Dana Street  
Mountain View, CA 94041

(650) 968-3227

Making beer

We made beer in lab last week! It was pretty easy -- just add roasted grains, hops, and activated yeast to water. It took some time to boil a large pot of water, make the tea with molasses and hops, and then boiling for another hour, before leaving to cool and adding the yeast. Nevertheless it was fun! 

Making the tea to start the brewing process

Adding molasses and hops, before boiling for another hour

Leaving in a sealed bottle to ferment for 2 weeks

Making sauerkraut

We made sauerkraut in lab today! You just need some chopped cabbage, water, salt and an airtight jar. Sauerkraut is the result of the fermentation of the cabbage by lactic acid bacteria that is halophilic and acid-tolerant. Lactic acid produced by the bacteria not only gives the characteristic sour taste, but also prevents the growth of other bacteria that are sensitive to acidic conditions. The high salt also selects for lactic acid bacteria since other bacteria will not be able to withstand the high osmotic pressure.

Compact the salted cabbage in water to remove any air (fermentation is an anaerobic process).

Completely fill jar, and leave the cap slightly loose to allow for the escape of produced carbon dioxide

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Thai Bistro II (Pacific Grove)

Went to this restaurant near the marine station today, and it was ok. I'll give it 3 out of 5 stars. I had the $9 lunch special of pad thai, which came with tom kha soup, vegetable dumplings and some salad. It was nice for them to provide tom kha soup, instead of some random liquid like other restaurants, but it was mediocre and had no depth in taste, though there was lots of coconut milk. The vegetable dumplings were the best thing out of the entire lunch, and the pad thai was only slightly sweet but shallow in taste otherwise. The peanuts were soft and stale, bleah. The thai iced tea was not bad though. 
So yeah, next time I would go to the other thai place, Pacific Thai Cuisine at Lighthouse, where I tried the pineapple fried rice on my second night here and was pretty good. 

Update on 21 July: I came here for lunch again, earlier in the week out of convenience, and ordered their lunch special of panang curry with fish. I must say I was pleasantly surprised this time. The tom kha soup tasted much better, with the right sourness and spiciness and just a hint of coconut milk. I liked the curry too, although it was overwhelmingly spicy (note that I grew up eating spicy food in Singapore). I guess they went heavy on the chili (you could see the flakes all over my curry), since I told the waiter I like spicy food (long story). The dumplings and salad were nice too, as was the thai iced tea. The only thing about the restaurant is that it's manned by a single waiter so service can be pretty slow.  

159 Central Ave
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
(831) 372-8700

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Super low tide

I wonder if this blog will eventually become something that's not purely about food, but I wanted to share this photo of the extremely low tides this morning, due to the full moon. Look at the places where lots of the marine plants and barnacles have been exposed.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

First Awakenings (Pacific Grove, CA)

This is a breakfast and brunch place near the Hopkins Marine Station, and my two experiences here have been good so far! Their portions are more than generous and quality is pretty good too. I had the pulled pork sandwich (with mushroom, onion and cheese) for lunch, which came with potatoes, fruit and salad (celery, mesclun greens, onions, tomatoes). It was good value for a $12 meal, and the pork was tender but not flaky. Yum!

125 Ocean View Blvd
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
(831) 372-1125


I used to think that bagels are too dense, but recently developed a liking to them. We get them every morning at the course, and they taste great with cream cheese! My favorites so far are sesame and whole wheat.

You can also do fun math-y stuff with them! e.g. making them into two linked halves or a Mobius strip

Some nutritional information about bagels: a bagel has 300 calories wheras a slice of white bread gives only 90 calories (it's a pretty dense bread after all), 1.9g protein, and 0.6g fiber. I would suggest eating wheat bread since that would have 3.6g protein and 1.9g fiber with the lower calorie count,

update on 14 July: I realize that I can only eat a quarter of a bagel before my jaw gets tired of chewing

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Vivolo's Chowder House (Monterey, CA)

We came here famished from kayaking and had the New England chowder on sourdough bread and garlic cheese lid, fisherman's platter, and sand dabs. The chowder and garlic cheese bread were delicious on their own, but didn't really complement each other. The chowder was definitely fresh though and we found ourselves scooping out every last bit of it. The main dishes were generous too -- the platter had fried white fish, scallops, shrimp, and fries. The scallops and shrimp were big and succulent but the fish was normal. We really liked how the sand dabs almost melted in our mouth, with a twist in texture provided by a thin layer of breading. I would come back for more!

Update (4th July): I came here again today with a friend, and we had the sand dabs, chowder and scallops provencale! It was absolutely delicious and the waitress actually remembered me! The scallops were huge and succulent, while the cream sauce was nicely complemented by the tomatoes and olives.

127 Central Ave
Pacific Grove, CA 93950

(831) 372-5414