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Top Eight Favorite Dim Sum Plates

February 16, 2010 2 comments

From savory dumplings dipped in soy sauce and chili paste to sweet deep-fried sesame balls, here are my top eight picks for my favorite dim sum plates. What’s on your list?

Dumplings and Bao

1. Har Gow — shrimp dumpling

2. Spinach shrimp dumpling

Har Gow (Shrimp Dumpling)

3. Chicken feet with black bean sauce

4. Bee’s nest taro puff — fried taro dumpling

Bee's Nest Taro Puff

5. Shiu mai — pork dumplings with diced mushroom

6. Char siu bao — steamed barbecue pork buns (click here to learn how to make baos from scratch)

Char Siu Bao

7. Custard tart

8. Deep-fried sesame seed ball with sweet red bean paste

Deep-fried Sesame Ball

Where can you enjoy fresh and great-tasting dim sum in the Bay Area?

Koi Palace
365 Gellert Blvd
Daly City, CA 94015
650.992.9000
koipalace.com

Yank SIng
101 Spear Street between Howard Street and Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
415.957.9300
yanksing.com

City View
662 Commercial Street between Kearny Street and Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
415.398.2838

Shopping for Char Siu in Chinatown

February 10, 2010 1 comment

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Shopping in Chinatown is always an adventure.

Chinatown San Francisco

The oldest in North America and one of the largest outside China, Chinatown is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating neighborhoods in the city.

The adventure starts once you get on the 30 en route to Stockton where you’ll be greeted by an energetic mob of Chinese ladies eager to get the best seat on the bus. It starts to feel distinctively Chinese once the bus maneuvers its way through Union Square and goes through the Broadway tunnel. And once you step off the bus at Stockton, you’ll definitely feel you have entered an entirely different world.

I had two things I wanted to buy last Wednesday: some char siu and a bamboo steamer. I was going to make my very first char siu bao, buns filled with barbecue flavored char siu pork.  The buns can be either steamed or baked but I was going to steam them so I was also on the lookout for a bamboo steamer. Crate & Barrel downtown carries bamboo steamers but I wanted to get one from an Asian store and, besides, I was certain I could get a cheaper one in Chinatown.

I intentionally did not have a solid plan on where to get the two items in my shopping list. I guess that was part of the fun. I had just one thing in mind, I was going to rely on people I meet on the street to give me the leads. So where did I start? I was a bit hungry for a snack and went straight to Golden Gate Bakery.

Chinese Sweet Treats at Golden Gate Bakery

They have the tastiest Chinese sweet treats this side of town, from yummy deep fried sesame balls to creamy custard tarts. I grabbed my flaky melon cake wrapped in a brown paper bag and a tip to go to Yee’s Restaurant a block away along Grant Avenue for some char siu pork.

Shopping for Char Siu in Chinatown

A true Chinese hole-in-the-wall with take out, Yee’s has everything from roasted duck, chicken, and goose to barbecued pork. A half a pound of char siu for less than 4 bucks was the deal of the day. The friendly butchers at Yee’s then referred me to Ginn Wall Hardware Company down the street for my bamboo steamers.  The plan was working out.

I got so excited when I saw the bamboo steamers all lined up in the store’s window display but got so disappointed when I found out that the hardware is closed on Wednesdays! After checking out five other Chinese bazaars along Grant Avenue that carried steamers that were either too big or too small, I started to get a little frustrated. I’m in Chinatown! They should have steamers in every corner, I thought. But I finally stumbled upon The Wok Shop where I got myself a sturdy 8-inch bamboo steamer. It was exactly what I wanted.

Chinatown San Francisco

With char siu pork in one hand and bamboo steamer in the other, I was ready to go home and make some yummy char siu bao. I looked up, admired the beautiful red Chinese lanterns and noticed that it was laundry Wednesday.

Laundry day in Chinatown

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Here is more information about the restaurants and shops mentioned in this blog.

Golden Gate Bakery
1029 Grant Ave between Jackson Street and Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133
415.781.2627

Yee’s Restaurant
1131 Grant Ave between Pacific Avenue and Jack Kerouac Alley
San Francisco, CA 94133
415.576.1818

Ginn Wall Hardware Company
1016 Grant Avenue between Jackson Street and Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133
415.982.6307

The Wok Shop
718 Grant Avenue between Commercial Street and Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
415.989.3797
www.wokshop.com

Tasty Kitchenette Lunches in the Dogpatch

February 1, 2010 2 comments

Kitchenette is one of the many cool things about the Dogpatch.

Across the street from the old warehouses in Pier 70, Kitchenette serves tasty lunches out of a garage door along Illinois Street. Run by chefs who have worked with the likes of Thomas Keller and Alice Waters, the food is organic, local and delicious.

Kitchenette's Pastrami Sandwich

I’ve had memorable lunches at Kitchenette since we moved to the Dogpatch.   Their house smoked pastrami sandwich (Marin Sun Farms beef smoked over fig wood with apple-caraway mustard and braised cabbage) and their beef and pork polpette sandwich (meatballs in amatriciana sauce with parmesan cheese) are really yummy.

Kitchenette's Polpette Sandwich

But the most memorable by far is their bacon snickerdoodle.  I think it’s genius. It’s an excellent example of how bacon can make anything, like a simple snickerdoodle, extra special.

Kitchenette's Bacon Snickerdoodle

Kitchenette’s lunch-to-go menu changes everyday, so its best to check out what’s for lunch the day before on their blog and tweets.  They are cash only.

Crabs in Clement and Crab Cakes in the Castro

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Where do you get Dungeness crabs in the city?

The first place that comes to mind is, obviously, Fisherman’s Wharf teeming with seafood street vendors and restaurants.   But the Wharf gets extremely crowded most of the time unless you go on a rainy weekday.  A great alternative is the city’s Asian supermarkets.  There’s certainly Chinatown, but there are two new cool neighborhood discoveries I recently made: Clement Street in Inner Richmond and Manila Oriental Market in Excelsior.  Start at Clement and Arguello, walk westward down Clement and you’ll hit a goldmine of all things Asian.  And there’s Manila Oriental Market along Mission Street in Excelsior, a place that definitely reminds me of home with aisle after aisle of Asian goodies like oyster sauce, tapioca starch, bibingka mix, dumpling wrappers, saba bananas, fresh whole fish and, of course, live crabs.

Manila Oriental Market in Excelsior

And if you feel like indulging in Dungeness crab cakes but don’t have the luxury of time to make them, where do you go for crab cakes in the city?

Here’s another surprising discovery: the Castro.  Instead of taking the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf, hop on the Muni and head over to the Castro and enjoy delicious crab cakes either at Woodhouse Fish Company along Market Street or Anchor Oyster Bar along Castro Street.  Their cakes are fresh and tasty.

Crab Cakes at Woodhouse Fish Company

Here are more information about the supermarkets and restaurants mentioned in this blog.

Where to buy Dungeness crabs

Wing Hing Seafood Market
633 Clement St between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118
415.668.8986

Richmond New May Wah Superemarket
707-719 Clement Street and 8th Aveue
San Francisco, CA 94118
415.221.9826

Manila Oriental Market
4175 Mission St between Ney and Trumbull Streets
San Francisco, CA 94112
415.337.7272

Where to enjoy Crab Cakes

Woodhouse Fish Company
2073 Market St between 14th and Reservoir Streets
San Francisco, CA 94114
415.437.2722

Anchor Oyster Bar
579 Castro St between 18th and 19th Streets
San Francisco, CA 94114
415.431.3990

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Night

January 19, 2010 2 comments

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I have found the best fried chicken.

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken

It’s in Yountville in Napa Valley fifty miles north of the Golden Gate.   It’s served every other Monday night in Thomas Keller’s amazing Ad Hoc. The fried chicken is by far the best I have had.  The skin is crispy, the meat is moist, the chicken is perfectly fried with an incredible aromatic flavor, which I was told comes from lemons, the key ingredient used in the chicken brine.  They brine their chicken overnight before they are coated in buttermilk and spices and then deep fried.

Ad Hoc offers a topnotch 4 course family style menu that changes everyday using the freshest, local and seasonal ingredients.  The wine list is accessible and outstanding.  The staff is accommodating and friendly.  The dining room is casual yet elegant: hardwood floors with tables lined with a metallic top that beautifully reflects the light toward the ceiling.  Our dining experience truly reminded us of the warmth of dining at home.

The buttermilk fried chicken was amazing but there were also other noteworthy highlights throughout the evening.

Ad Hoc Salad Course, Mixed baby Greens

Our fried chicken night started with a salad of baby mixed greens: living watercress, shaved brussels sprouts, 
red radish, nantes carrots, polenta croutons
 and sweet fennel vinaigrette.  The greens with a light drizzle of the sweet fennel vinaigrette was refreshing but the real star of this dish is the polenta croutons, which is simply fried polenta, a delightful discovery.

The chicken was served family-style with roasted cauliflower and carolina gold rice, hot smoked pork and 
cranberry beans.  The roasted cauliflowers came with 
capers, golden raisins, and pine nuts.  The dish was so simple yet so delicious.  And the rice, pork and beans dish was amazing as well.

Ad Hoc Roasted cauliflower with Capers, Pine Nuts and Raisins

Ad Hoc Rice, Pork and Beans

The cheese course was Pedrozo Dairy Northern Gold
 with sweet butternut quickbread.  And a trio of cupcakes, devil’s food, lemon curd, red velvet nicely capped off the evening.

Ad Hoc Trio of Cupcakes

Ad Hoc is an hour and a half away from the city but saying that it’s well worth the drive is seriously an understatement.  I highly recommend the place to both locals and visitors alike.

Fried chicken night is every other Monday night.  You can check out Ad Hoc’s daily menu at their site to find out what’s for dinner.

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Vibrant Winter Colors in Napa Valley

January 14, 2010 3 comments

Tired of the gray?

Where can you find the most vibrant winter colors?  Napa Valley.

Vibrant Winter Colors in Napa Valley

It’s mustard season in Napa.  It’s the season when the grapes take a winter break and the yellow wild mustard flowers bloom.  Driving down Highway 29 is a delight.  Winter is a great time to go visit when the crowds are low.  You can see rows upon rows of yellow wildflowers in between bare grape vines.  The scenery is truly picturesque.

The Napa Valley Mustard Festival starts January 30th and runs through March.  Click here for more information.

Aside from the incredible scenery and, obviously, the wonderful wine, there is also one other thing that makes a trip to Napa, particularly to the town of Yountville, worth while.

It’s fried chicken.

Vibrant Winter Colors in Napa Valley

Lelenita’s Nicaraguan Tres Leches (Three Milk) Cake in Bernal Heights

January 13, 2010 2 comments

If you find making your own tres leches is a bit daunting there’s a Nicaraguan bakery in Bernal Heights that makes this seriously delicious sweet treat.  Check out Lelenita’s Cakes.

Nicaraguan Tres Leches at Lelenita's in Bernal Heights

Lelenita’s makes delightful tres leches cakes and other Nicaraguan baked treats like the Pio Quinto, a Nicaraguan rum cake with walnuts and dark rum.

Many people believe that tres leches, a popular Latin American cake, originated from Nicaragua.  There are actually two types of tres leches.  One is the deliciously moist traditional sponge cake soaked in a glaze made of three types of milk, and the other is a sponge cake with a fruit filling, usually strawberry, which is not soaked in a milk glaze and is less sweet.  Both are topped lavishly with meringue instead of the more common whipped topping.  Meringue actually makes their cakes truly Nicaraguan.  But if meringue is not your thing, Lelenita’s can bake you a cake with either a vanilla or chocolate flavored whipped topping.  They also make delicious and detailed decorated cakes for weddings and all occasions.

A slice f Lelenita's Tres Leches.
Lelenita’s Cakes is in Bernal Heights.
3743 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
415.282.2253

Discovering the Dogpatch

January 4, 2010 6 comments

Two old cranes loom large over the Dogpatch. You simply can’t miss them.

Cranes with Graffiti in the Dogpatch

I actually think these old cranes are very cool.  Well, I think the Dogpatch is very cool.  It is a bit rough but, definitely, in a good way.  Old Victorians and old industrial and commercial buildings that survived the 1906 fire and earthquake mixed with new and modern loft apartments and cool cafes and restaurants give this tiny nine-block neighborhood a really interesting character.

The Dogpatch is an enclave of industrial worker’s housing in the once-booming San Francisco Central Waterfront district.  The city recognized it as a Historic District in 2003.  It still feels industrial but it also feels neighborly.  It was recently hailed as one of America’s best neighborhoods by Men’s Journal and recently featured in the New York Times.

I love its dog-friendly Esprit Park surrounded by quiet streets where dogs can run and play.  I love its 260 sunny days in a year, on average.  And I love its burgeoning dining scene. Fried eggs and cornbread with strawberry jam for breakfast at Just for You.  House-smoked pastrami sandwich with bacon snickerdoodle for lunch at Kitchenette.  A cup of Blue Bottle Coffee at Piccino Coffee Bar.  A bottle of Malbec with cheese and olives at Yield Wine Bar.  And a plateful of fried chicken with red beans and rice and yams for dinner at Hard Knox Cafe.

And if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, the equally cool 18th Street in Potrero Hill is just a quick brisk walk away. Hop on the T to get to downtown or on the 22 to get to the Mission. The choices are endless.

T Line at Mariposa in the Dogpatch

Here is a link to read more about the story behind the city’s working class historic district.  It is a great resource about the history and architecture of the Dogpatch.  And here are more information about the restaurants mentioned in this blog.

Just For You Cafe
732 22nd
415.647.3033

Kitchenette SF
958 Illinois
Twitter, @kitchenettesf

Piccino Coffee Bar
801 22nd
415.824.4224

Yield Wine Bar
2490 3rd
415.401.8984

Hard Knox Cafe
2526 3rd
415.648.3770

Blue Moon in San Francisco

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Blue Moon Rising Over San Francisco Bay

If round things are a symbol of good luck and prosperity then I think there will be lots of it in the New Year.  We may just need to work doubly hard to find it.

Here’s hoping for the best for everyone. Happy New Year!

12 Round Shaped Sweet Treats for Good Luck: A New Year’s Tradition

December 29, 2009 6 comments

Every New Year’s Eve, it has been my mom’s tradition to gather 12 round fruits to bring us good luck in the coming year.  It has to be twelve, she says, one for each month of the new year.  And it has to be round-shaped for prosperity, abundance and wealth.  So she buys grapes, oranges, melons and even watermelons to ring in the new year.

This year, I’m starting my own tradition. I’m gathering 12 round shaped sweet treats to welcome the New Year!  These are my San Francisco favorites culled from past blogs plus teasers for future posts.  It’s definitely not a comprehensive list since I can only cram twelve.  And I guess, that’s what the New Year is for, a whole new year to try new tasty treats!  Send me a note and let me know what’s on your list.

And by the way, I define round shaped very loosely here.  It can be spherical or circular in shape or served in a spherical or circular container.

Fried Dough.

1. Dynamo Donut’s maple glazed bacon apple doughnut. “The saltiness of the little chunks of crispy bacon complements the sweetness of the maple glaze very well, which makes the maple glazed bacon apple an instant favorite.”

Dynamo Donuts Maple Glazed Bacon Apple

2. I Preferiti di Boriana’s bomboloni. Italian doughnuts filled with chocolate ganash and tossed in sugar. Pure bomboloni bliss.

Bomboloni with Chocolate Ganache

Street Sweets

3. Creme Brulee Cart’s Cap’n Crunch Creme Brulee. “But as he sprinkled colorful Cap’n Crunch pieces on my cup, for some reason, I got so excited. I knew I was in for a sweet treat!”

Cap'n Crunch Creme Brulee

4. Wholesome Bakery’s Sweet Potato Pie. Healthy baby sweet potato pies that actually taste great.  No need for sugar since the sweetness of the sweet potato shines.

Wholesome Bakery Sweet Potato Pie

I Scream for Ice Cream

5. Bi-Rite Salted Caramel Ice Cream. “One of the best things in life is real good ice cream. And Bi-Rite Creamery’s artisanal ice cream is beyond good.”

Bi-rite Ice Cream

6. Humphry Slocombe’s Ice Cream. Yes, you read it right: salt-n-peppa ice cream. Crazy, one-of-a-kind and out-of-this-world, yummy flavors are what makes Humphry Slocombe truly special.

Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream

Cupcake Heaven

7. Kara’s Cupcakes. “A pink box full of Kara’s pumpkin spice cupcake, moist carrot cupcake, and banana cupcake with caramel filling, all topped with Kara’s silky smooth cream cheese frosting, makes me extremely crazy, stupid happy.”

Kara's Cupcakes

8. Baked’s Red Velvet Cupcake. This small bakeshop in Potrero Hill is a real neighborhood find with baked treats like cookies, peanut brittle, and delightful red velvet cupcakes.

Baked's Red Velvet Cupcake

Filipino Finds

9. House of Silvanas Bakeshop’s Ube Silvanas. “They are best enjoyed frozen. The crunchy wafers and the yummy buttercream just delightfully melt in your mouth.”

Ube Silvanas

10. Hilda’s Hopia. Hilda’s Filipino favorite bean filled pastry is flaky, buttery and sweet.

Hilda's Hopia
Breakfast Bites

11. Dottie’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes. “The neighborhood may be dicey and the wait may be long but breakfast at Dottie’s is always a treat. The food is simply scrumptious.”

Dottie's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes

12. Tartine’s Bread Pudding with Apples. There are so many tasty treats to try at Tartine (and a lot of alliterations, too); from delicious croissants and tarts to amazing bread pudding.

Tartine's Cup of Bread Pudding with Apples

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