Food Politics

Image

 

As a child, my parents always gave me and my sister a snack with our lunch. It was something small, but it was still there. I remember having friends in school whose parents would only give them a sandwich and fruit, without a snack. I always thought that their parent were no fun for that. But which parents are right?

 When I become a parent, I believe I will do as my parents did for me. I understand healthy living and eating, but what’s fun about being a child if you can’t enjoy the fun things in life? We were fed very healthy and balanced meals and were rewarded for being good kids with treats. We did not eat a bunch of fast food and, as my previous interview blog said, I didn’t even have McDonalds until I was 5 years old! I understand the artificial ingredients in many different foods, but as long as other healthy and natural foods balance out the unhealthy, there isn’t a problem to indulge once in awhile. Letting children be children and allowing them to eat some snacks while continuing to feed them otherwise healthy allows them to make a decision on their own as to how they want to live their lives when they are older. Forcing children to only eat healthy may cause them to go the opposite way when they get older, only choosing the unhealthy route.

I believe that a balanced diet, snacks and sweets included, are what make for a healthy lifestyle for children. It leads to better food choices in the future and brings about a continued healthy lifestyle for generations to come. I hope to take after my parents when I have children. If I can be half as good a parent as they have been, I’ll be pretty lucky. 

Advertisements

Gourmet Ghetto

Bitter and nutty, extremely pungent in smell and taste. Chalky and unusual. I wanted to spit it out. This was definitely no chocolate I’ve ever had before. That’s because it wasn’t. At Chocolaté Alegio, we tasted 100% cocoa and were warned prior to eating it that it would NOT taste like any chocolate we were used to. And boy was that the truth. It was not sweet, but tart and harshly strong. Bitterness crawled from my tongue, down the back of my throat. Next, we tried 80% cocoa; still very strong and bitter. I did not enjoy it. Then was 75%, still bitter but with hints of sweetness, something more along the line of what I enjoy in a dark chocolate. We tasted chocolate with cocoa nibs in it, and one with candied orange peels, each not to my taste. Finally, the most delicious of them all, a chocolate covered coffee bean with 70% dark chocolate. Although the chocolate was still quite strong and unsweet, the coffee bean lent a flavor to the chocolate that melded together to form a compliment of sweet, espresso, and mocha-like aromas.

Chocolaté Alegio was one of the many stops on our class trip to the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley. Although the cocoa that we ate was not my favorite of the stops, we ate well during our 3 hour walking tour through the streets of this gourmand area, where Berkeley’s hippie-like streets meet restaurants with unusually delicious flavors and dishes.

Poulét Roast Chicken

Our first stop was Poulét, an American restaurant that specializes in roast chickens, salads, and other healthy yet flavor-filled sides. We were greeted by the owner with Adobo chicken, a roast of chicken covered with red spices and packed with flavor – juicy, sweet, and garlicky, with a hint of sweet at the end. Unlike any other chicken I have ever had, it is in a category of its own. We were fortunate enough to try 2 of their best-selling salads: healthy grains salad and shaved brussel sprout and orzo salad. The healthy grains salad was a mix of many different grains and seeds, combined with edemame and other finely chopped veggies and lemon vinaigrette. Yummy is an understatement. Fresh, crunchy, tangy, and making my mouth water as I explain! I like healthy foods, but am not one to shop for grains or use them in my cooking. This salad may have changed my mind about that. The brussel sprouts and orzo salad was also crunchy and fresh, with a combo of shaved raw brussel sprouts (crazy, right?), peas, orzo pasta, and slivered carrots, lightly dressed. I am quite the fan of brussel sprouts, but never raw. This showed me that there are other ways to use vegetables that I am not used to. Overall, 10/10 – I will definitely be back.

Love at First Bite

Our next stop was a bit sweeter: cupcakes. The smell of sugar, cake, and the warm sensation of the ovens working tediously was present as we walked in. I instantly became hungry even though my stomach was not empty. After a short introduction to the cupcakery, we each got to choose a mini cake to try. I chose red velvet, one of my favorite cakes and a way that I can judge a good cake shop. It was tiny, like a mini ball of red fire, topped with a dollop of cream cheese frosting and red sprinkles. I pulled off the cupcake liner, and bit in. It was moist, moister than any red velvet cake I had ever had, sweet and chocolaty, followed with extra sweet from the cream cheese frosting. There was just enough frosting. Not like most cupcake shop where there is more frosting than cake, but just enough to get a cheesy, sweet taste with each bite of cake. The owner of the shop told us her secret to a moist cake: oil instead of butter. Especially in cakes that are known to be dry, it is important to not use butter as that can dry it out even further. I will definitely use that tip as I bake my next cupcakes. Like Poulét, 10/10 or more. Best cupcake ever.    

Lush

One of our last stops was called Lush, an Argentinean Gelato shop. The only time I have ever had gelato was in France, so Argentinean gelato was something I had never heard of before, but I was interested to try it. We each got to taste 2 flavors before choosing what we wanted. I first tried the Salted Stracciatella, which was vanilla gelato accompanied with salted chocolate chunks. Very yummy, sweet with a hint of salty from the chocolate. I then tried a flavor, I forget the name, which had chunks of graham crackers in it. I didn’t much care for it, as it was strong and had a mild sour cream vibe to it. Now it was my turn to choose what I wanted. For some odd reason, I chose Pear, a flavor that I did not taste test. But one of the girls in my class tasted it and said it was delicious, so I chose it (very trusting, I know). The pear sorbetto had small brown specks in it from its skin. It was cool, sweet, and refreshing. It tasted just like a Bosc pear, but frozen. It was smooth but interesting with the pieces of skin throughout. A very good choice, I must say. Another 10/10 for the gourmet ghetto.

We visited a couple of other restaurants along the way, like Soop, where we had some Thai red lentil soup, and Grégoire, where we had their famous potato puffs with chipotle aioli (excellent dish). We also visited the very popular cheeseboard, where we had garlic and mushroom pizza, paper-thin almost like a flatbread. We were able to visit the very first Peet’s coffee, where there is a small museum in the back containing pictures and other memorabilia of the chain over the years. We also had a ham and gruyere sandwich from the The Local Butcher Shop, another familiar yet well done dish. I definitely give the Gourmet Ghetto their props for having such simple yet addictingly good food. It is a place that I had never been, yet want to return so soon to.     

      Image

 

Image

My Dad, the Chef

Questions Answered by Carol Parker, Mother

(also answered on behalf of Brad Parker, Father-family primary cook)

I was a lucky kid. I was not only exposed to all types of food, but I grew up in a household where my parents cooked full, balanced meals every night for dinner. Whether it be a complex dinner with a meat, vegetable, and a starch, or something simple like homemade pizza (which were always my favorite nights), my sister and I were fortunate enough to experience true family time at dinner. My Dad was always the one to cook dinner, with my Mom occasionally cooking her specialties.

 When we got the assignment to interview the person who cooked for us growing up, I immediately felt overwhelmed and upset, because I lost my Dad suddenly in 2012. I decided that I was not going to allow myself to be upset, because my Mom also cooked for us and could answer on behalf of my Dad, since they were married for 34 years. Below are the questions with answers, as I spent this special moment discussing memories with my Mom.

 How did you start cooking? What made you want to start?

Dad moved away from home at the age of 18 so if he wanted to eat, he had to cook something! Living away from home made him want to start cooking.

 What is your favorite meal to make?

As you know, Dad was a fantastic/gourmet cook who had many favorites but if I had to choose one, I would say crab cakes.  He found a terrific recipe in the SF Examiner newspaper years ago (where he found many delicious recipes that became our favorites).  Ingredients included: lump Dungeness crab meat, bound together with jumbo prawns along with shallots and other ingredients. Crab cakes were definitely a favorite of family and friends, especially when he would make sandwiches that he grilled sliced sourdough bread, like Raymond’s or Santa Cruz(?) brands, with lettuce and tomato.  Absolutely delicious, actually award-winning in my opinion and could have been served at any restaurant at SF Fisherman’s Wharf.

 What did your parents cook?

Dad’s family cooked traditional American comfort foods such as meatloaf/mashed potatoes, casseroles, baked chicken and fairly simple dishes that were not highly seasoned. My family also cooked traditional American comfort foods but they were highly flavorful and seasoned, with garlic and black pepper since my family was from Louisiana. In addition, my family also cooked lots of southern comfort food dishes such as gumbo, dirty rice (rice with sausage), black-eyed peas with ham hocks, pork chops or chicken or steak with gravy along with rice and vegetables. Years ago, everyone in the South cooked the same comfort food dishes.  My family also baked lots of southern specialties like fruit (peach or blackberry) cobbler, pineapple upside down and other cakes, sweet potato pies, all made from scratch, including the pie crusts.  My maternal Grandmother “Gram” also made homemade sweets for us every day when we got home from school. Her specialties included homemade popcorn balls and pecan pralines. Gram timed making these yummy treats so they were still piping hot when we arrived home from school.

 What are your favorite food memories of me growing up?

Dad and my favorite memories of you are many, being our first born child.  We absolutely adore you and of course your sister Amanda when she came along – in terms of food, you were the little girl that always loved vegetables and grocery shopping with you was lots of fun.  Like most children, you would ask for apples, oranges, grapes, kiwi, strawberries and other fruits but you would also always ask us to buy lots of vegetables, especially brussel sprouts!  Other shoppers would look at us with a double take and say, did she just ask you to buy brussel sprouts?  Dad and I always got a chuckle out of other shopper’s response when you asked us to buy them. People couldn’t believe a child (especially when you were a toddler even up to pre-teen) so young would ask for something with such a strong flavor as brussel sprouts since many do not prefer eating them due to their strong taste. Dad would peel off the outer leaves from each sprout and steam them until soft but still firm, then add melted butter and sprinkle on parmesan cheese. The parmesan cheese would help to offset the strong flavor of the brussel sprouts and they were really yummy. In recent years, Dad would flash boil the sprouts and cook them in browned butter – wow…delicious!! 

 Do you regret cooking or feeding me anything? (Any type(s) of food that you tried to give me and I didn’t like? Funny stories?) 

No regrets on feeding you anything since we always cooked well balanced, nutritional meals each night. You really loved most food and weren’t picky. As mentioned, you especially loved vegetables as well as salads.  You would also try everything at least once – I guess you were quite an adventurous foodie from a very young age.  J  Although there are many, one funny story is your quest to eat food from McDonald’s.  Neither Dad nor me were ever fast food lovers (except maybe In N’ Out in recent years) so we didn’t feed fast food to you or your sister if we could avoid it.  We took you girls to nice restaurants with tablecloths from a very young age.  However, you would always see the McDonald’s TV commercials and ask often if we could go there. You wanted the happy meal toys and whenever we would drive by a McDonald’s, you would plead with us to stop there to eat.  Again, since fast food was never a first choice for us, we would always avoid going there. Once when on the road, you girls were hungry and we were stuck in traffic for about an hour and a half with more than hour drive (to a Sacramento family visit) still ahead of us. We had been successful up to that point keeping you girls out of fast food restaurants but we needed to get you girls some food and fast.  The time had come – your first visit to McDonald’s, the place you had been asking about almost since you could talk. LOL.  You were almost 5 years old, Amanda was about 2-1/2.  You girls were telling us how hungry you were and of course asked to eat at McDonald’s.  Dad exited the freeway and as you were asking about going to McDonald’s, he pulled into the lot. I still remember the look on your face when your jaw dropped open and your eyes were open quite wide and you asked, “are we finally going to eat at McDonald’s?”  We told you that it was a special treat day and yes, we were going to McDonald’s, you screamed with joy and had the one of the biggest smiles on your face that I’d ever seen.  J   Your dream finally came true and you girls got your happy meals with chicken nuggets and…the toy!  You hardly ate any of the food as you were both too excited about playing with the toy. You girls never really ate much of the food but always wanted a toy.  Great marketing by McDonald’s because they make their restaurants look like lots of fun with delicious food and a place where kids get toys.  It was really cute to see how excited you were on that first visit although you then really tormented us to eat at McDonald’s whenever we would see them on the road!  However, we still kept visits to Mickey D’s to a minimum and that is still the case to this day.

 What did I love eating as a child?

You really loved fruits, vegetables and salads. In particular you loved tomatoes.  You loved tomatoes so much that if they were left on the counter, you would get the stool to climb up and grab one or two and eat them like it was an apple. We had to keep them out of reach or you would eat too many of them and get a tummy ache.

 Is there a special food that reminds you of me?

Steak with A1 steak sauce!  It’s one of your favorite things to eat and you never tire of having it.

 How would you rate yourself as a cook?

As you know, Dad was a fantastic cook and produced restaurant quality food.  He could make simple delicious dishes as well as gourmet/fancy food too so I would rate him a definite 10 of 10.  Me on the other hand, I’m a good cook but not so fancy.  I cook more traditional comfort food dishes like fried chicken with mashed potatoes or one of your favorite meals, cube steak with gravy, rice and cabbage cooked with bacon or maybe teriyaki chicken and shrimp fried rice.  I would rate myself a 7 out of 10.

 Have you ever had any kitchen disasters? (Or did Dad?)

I wouldn’t say that either of us ever really had kitchen disasters but we both have overcooked/burned dishes.  This usually comes from leaving the kitchen and not standing over what you are cooking.  Time goes by very quickly when cooking and if you get busy doing something else, the food continues cooking…and can easily burn.

 What do you hope I’ll cook when I have my own family?

Well balanced, nutritional home cooked meals – what you cook is not as important as you just cooking. It would be great if you could cook some of Dad’s yummy recipes like: waffles (Dad’s recipe was so fluffy, light yet crunchy-just delicious!) crab cakes, slow cooked green beans with slab bacon, slow cooked chickens (with his patentable dry spice rub) and some southern dishes/recipes from my family such as: pop-over muffins that my Dad used to make, black-eyed peas with ham hocks, gumbo, peach cobbler, sweet potato pies and during the holidays, home-made egg nog.

 Do you enjoy cooking, or do you do it because you have to?

Dad truly loved cooking and that’s why he did it so well.  He was always on a quest to find new yummy recipes to cook for us and was very pleased when we loved the dishes.  I like to cook but really didn’t have too much since Dad cooked every night so I guess for me, I cook because I now have to.  When I asked him if I could help prepare meals (chop up ingredients or whatever), he always said no.  He said it was just easier for him to prepare the meal.  He would enjoy a beer, turn on the radio, listen to the SF Giants, Niners, Warriors or really whatever sports game that was on while he cooked.  It was his relaxation and he truly loved cooking for his family and also friends…and we all really enjoyed eating what he made. 

Image

My Dad, sister, and me at my sister’s sweet 16 two years ago.

 

Olivia the Chopped Champion

Open up your basket – and the ingredients are: Blue cheese, powdered sugar, and spicy mayonnaise. Yuck, I thought to myself. How am I going to make one cohesive dish with these crappy ingredients? Chopped, on the Food Network, is a competition between 4 chefs where the contestants must make a cohesive dish with 4 secret ingredients. These ingredients can range from meat, to seasonings, to things as crazy as cotton candy or other sweet treats. So since this is a class about food, why not have our own Chopped-like assignment, except not a competition.

Everyone seemed to get ingredients that made sense, like fruits with meat or vegetables with garlic, but I, of course, had to pull blue cheese, powdered sugar, and spicy mayo – 3 things that absolutely do not make sense. The first thing I did was call my Mom and ask her what she thought. She suggested a Monte Cristo-like sandwich, with powdered sugar on top and a blue cheese spicy mayo spread. I settled for this idea since I had given up on any possible dishes. I also put a status on Facebook asking for suggestions. 99% of my friends said I should do a salad. This made sense because of the blue cheese. But I did not want to settle for simple; I wanted to wow my Professor. Then I got a great suggestion from a friend on Facebook: sweet and spicy wings. Brilliant! Little did I know, blue cheese dressing was a mixture of mayonnaise and blue cheese crumbles with some other accoutrements for flavor. So I then knew that this idea was a go, and that I needed to get moving.

I looked up many different hot wings recipes, with most calling for strange ingredients that would not pair well with powdered sugar or blue cheese dressing. I finally found a recipe from Bobby Flay that called for honey – Bingo. I knew this could work. I went to Safeway, got all my ingredients and got started.

I mixed together my ingredients, drenched my chicken in the sauce, and baked them for about 45 minutes. Along the way, my Mom decided to turn the oven from bake to broil because the chicken was not browning. This was a horrible idea because minutes later, the house smelled as if it were burning down and the chicken’s coat turned to a dark charred complexion. I decided it was time for them to come out, as they were burned enough as is.

It was the moment of truth. I told my Mom and Aunt that we all needed to try a wing to see if I could in fact be a Chopped champion. We each grabbed a wing, dipped it into my homemade tangy blue cheese sauce made with spicy mayo, and took a bite. We were initially confused as to what exactly the mix of flavors was – VERY sweet, tangy from the dressing, with a slight kick of spice in the back of our throats. We decided to try another. This time they actually tasted a bit better, getting spicier with every wing we ate. We continued to eat the wings as we did not want them to go to waste.

Moral of the story is, would I try this recipe again? Probably not. I think that if I were to do it again I would leave out the powdered sugar, the definite curveball of my secret ingredients. I would tame down the sweet with spicier, and I would not allow my Mom to touch the oven and burn the chicken. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised that I made a coherent dish that had a decent taste. I definitely hope that I never have to do a Chopped challenge again, which is why I want to be a Doctor and not a chef 🙂

Image

Top: Chosen Ingredients – Blue Cheese, Powdered Sugar, and Spicy Mayonnaise; Right: Glazed Chicken Wings; Bottom: Tangy Blue Cheese Dressing; Left: Final Product!

  Chicken Wings with Sweet and Spicy Glaze with Tangy Blue Cheese Dressing

Ingredients:

For the Wings (from foodnetwork.com)

1 tablespoon hot sauce – 1 cup hot sauce (dependent on amount of spicy you want)

1/3 cup honey

1 cup powdered sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

A few shakes of granulated garlic (to taste)

Salt

Pepper

24 chicken wings, tips removed

For the Sauce (From leitesculinaria.com)

1/4 cup Greek-style nonfat yogurt

2 tablespoons spicy mayonnaise (2 tbsp mayo + a few shakes of Tabasco)

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

  1. Set oven to 375° on bake.
  2. Wisk together hot sauce, honey, powdered sugar, melted butter, granulated garlic, salt and pepper.
  3. Coat chicken with a generous amount of sauce; place chicken in pan with sides, as the sauce will bake off of the chicken.
  4. Bake chicken for about 45 minutes or until brown.
  5. Mix together Greek yogurt, spicy mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, and blue cheese, crushing any large crumbles of blue cheese.
  6. Place cooked wings on a platter, dip into blue cheese dressing, and enjoy!

The Not-So-Experienced Baker

One day I got the marvelous idea to attempt (and I mean attempt) to make cake pops. See, cake pops are a new fad where a small ball of cake is on a stick. They are good for kids’ birthday parties and for those who want just a small taste of dessert. Starbucks has these salted caramel cake pops – chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, white chocolate decoration, caramel and sea salt. They are a favorite of many, so I thought that these would be a good, simple flavor to try.

So I followed the recipe as I read it…bake cake, crumble cake, mix in frosting, ball up cake, dip into melted chocolate. Simple, right? I seemed to think so. I did fine until the dip into chocolate part. Since I like to believe that I am an experienced baker, I knew that in order to melt chocolate without burning it, you need to use a double boiler. But, for some odd reason, I asked my Mom (a not experienced baker) the best way to melt the chocolate. She advised that I place a small pot filled with the chocolate chips inside of a larger pot of boiling water. Why I did not think it would burn, I still to this day do not know. But it did…instantly. And for those who do not know, once chocolate burns, there is no coming back. Annoyed, I threw the coagulated chocolate out and opened a new bag.

This time I thought I would try the microwave, because the microwave would not be as hot, right? Wrong! My chocolate came out of the microwave silky and beautiful, but instantly coagulated from overheating as I stirred it. Overly excited that my 2nd batch of chocolate burned, I tossed it and looked for a 3rd bag. Of course, we were out of chocolate. I now had to go to the grocery store late at night to finish these cake pops that I thought were a brilliantly simple idea.

After returning from the store, I tried for a 3rd time. This time I knew I could not screw up. I poured the chocolate into a CORRECT double boiler NOT touching the boiling water and turned the burner on low. I let the chocolate slowly melt to its silky smooth perfection and began dipping. Little did I know that the cake pops should be set in the fridge for some time to allow the cake to firm and be able to withstand the heat. So, as I dipped my first pop into the perfectly melted chocolate, it breaks in half, falling into the bowl of chocolate, leaving only the stick in my hand. This happened for half of my remaining cake pops, leaving the others sloppy and goopy looking.

At this point, I did not care. My simple cake pop recipe idea turned into an all night affair, leaving me annoyed and exhausted. All of my family who tasted the few surviving pops thought them to be delicious, but I was not convinced. Maybe next time I will do a little bit more research before believing myself to be such an experienced baker.

 Salted Caramel Cake Pops Recipe:

1 Box Devil’s Food Cake Mix (follow recipe on back)

1 container of milk chocolate frosting

1 bag milk chocolate chips, melted (not burned!)

1 bag white chocolate chips

Caramel Sauce (Optional)

Sea Salt (Optional)

  1. Bake cake according to recipe on box and let cool
  2. Crumble cooled cake into small pieces; mix ½ of the frosting into the cake, forming a paste
  3. Form paste into balls, as large or small as you want; place on a cookie sheet
  4. Place cookie sheet in fridge for at least 1 hour, or freezer for 20 minutes (DO NOT FORGET THIS STEP OR YOUR CAKE POPS WILL FALL APART!)
  5. Melt (not burn) milk and dark chocolate using separate double boilers – NOTE: a double boiler is not a pot directly placed on boiling water. Pot with chocolate canNOT touch boiling water or it will burn
  6. Dip tip of cake pop stick in chocolate and then halfway into the cake pop
  7. Dip entire pop into melted (not burned) milk chocolate, followed by melted (not burned) milk chocolate
  8. Optional: drizzle caramel sauce over top of pop; sprinkle sea salt on top
  9. Let dry, and enjoy!

Image

Field Trip #2 – Japantown

Image

Indian food is not what first comes to mind when I think Japan town. My mind tells me sushi…lots of sushi. But I was wrong, sort of. On our class trip to Japan town today, our tour guide Lisa brought us to authentic Japanese restaurants, many of which are decades old. Lisa wanted our group to experience many dishes that the locals of Japan would eat on a regular basis.

New People – Onigiri

Our first stop was a cafe/clothing store called New People. Here they sell sandwiches, salads, pastries, and onigiri – a rice ball wrapped with seaweed and stuffed with different fillings. We sat around long rectangular tables and waited for our onigiri experience to begin. Lisa mentioned that onigiri was something that the Japanese eat quite often due to its simplicity yet variance in fillings. Lisa brought our onigiri to the table as she noted that Japanese culture tends to be very secretive and the chefs at these restaurants were not comfortable with being seen or questioned by us. Anyways, the onigiri offered were spicy shrimp, kale, and Hijiki (black seaweed). I chose the spicy shrimp. The creaminess of the shrimp with slight hints of spice, the crunch of the seaweed and the firmness of the brown rice came together to form flavors that were familiar yet excitingly new and fresh. My onigiri resembled a pyramid, solid and triangular, yet felt light and not too heavy. I enjoyed every bite of the onigiri along with the clean and bright ambiance of the New People café. As we were content from the delicious flavors of our newly experienced Japanese favorite, we moved onto the next stop of our food excursion.

Mifune Don – Okonomiyaki

Inside the Japantown mall, we passed many restaurants, shops, and other Japanese stores until we arrived to a little restaurant called Mifune Don, where we tried okonomiyaki, a savory pancake-like dish with different meats and vegetables. Looking at it reminded me of what we know as a Frittata, bound together with eggs. This fluffy okonomiyaki contained shrimp, pork pickled ginger, and topped with Bonito flakes, okonomiyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise. The smokiness of the okonomiyaki sauce, sweetness of the mayonnaise, and bitterness of the Bonito flakes mixed together to form flavors that I was not fond of. This frittata-like dish had so much potential to be a go-to for me, but the assortment of unfamiliar flavors was off-putting. I would be interested in trying okonomiyaki with different ingredients to see if I enjoy it any better.

Yakiniq Café – Sweet Potato Latte

Following Mifune Don, our group went to Yakiniq Café, the café to Yakiniq Korean BBQ restaurant. This homey, free Wi-Fi, comfy couch café was opened by a Korean woman who wanted to make her guests feel at home. To do this, she incorporated decorations from her own home – plates, bowls, statues, etc. As a girl growing up in Korea, her mother would make her a sweet potato latte, so what better than to serve this at her café? This warm drink containing pureed sweet potato, milk, and simple syrup (sugar and water). Simple enough, right? And very delicious! The nutty tones of the sweet potato with the slight sweetness of the simple syrup made for a warm, relaxing treat. This silky smooth, coffee-less experience is something that I would love to make in the future for a night at home, cozy on the couch.

Dosa – Dosa with Sambar

Our final taste of Japantown was an Indian restaurant – an interesting choice for a tour of Japantown, right? Well, Lisa reminded us that India is a part of Asia! We stepped into the beautifully decorated, classy restaurant. Dark like a slowly flickering candle, yet open and warm. We met Emily, the Southern Indian owner of Dosa. She shared that we would be eating Southern Indian Dosa – an Indian crepe made of lentils and filled with a variety of fillings. Each family has their own recipe, and she wanted to share hers with us. Accompanying our Dosa was a bowl of Sambar, a curry-based soup with vegetables, and 2 chutneys – coconut and tomato. Emily took us on our Dosa journey – pick up Dosa, dip once into Sambar, once into coconut chutney, and once into tomato, taste, and repeat. And boy was this good advice! The Dosa absorbed all of the curry and other Southern Indian spices. A bite of the Dosa gushed the potato filling out of the other end like a jelly filled donut. Already filled to the brim, I could not resist the crunchy, flaky Dosa and its curry accompaniments.

I am so excited that we were able to experience not only Japanese food, but Indian as well. I attended high school just blocks away from Japantown but learned more in my food excursion today than I have in all of my 4 years of high school. I cannot wait to go back to Japantown for more new experiences!         

Mission District – Field Trip #1

Local Mission Eatery (LME) uses local Californian farmers, ingredients, and vendors to craft quality food for the Mission district and surrounding local communities. The mix of flavors and freshness of the dishes makes it a Mission District favorite. For our first fieldtrip, to the Mission District, we visited the LME as our first stop.

Upon walking into LME, indoor locally grown plants decorated the right wall, spilling over their sacks of soil. Long rectangular wooden tables and plastic ivory chairs set a relaxed mood for our visit. Local wood tiles and pictures of 24th street over the years covered the wall across from the small, open kitchen. A cookbook library covered another wall for those who are interested in checking out these books. Knead Patisserie, a bakery, inhabited the back of the LME, displaying all of its fresh and locally made breads, rolls, and other pastries. LME prides itself on their windowed walk-in refrigerator, where they pickle their own vegetables, make jams, and other homemade products.

The smell of fresh bread and other delicious aromas greeted us as we made our way to the open kitchen, for a taste of one of LME’s dishes. After the chef explained what LME is all about – local, fresh ingredients in the local Mission community – he set platters of their Grilled Cheese Sandwich on the bar-like table off the kitchen. Wagonwheel cheese with apple compote and caramelized onions on fresh baked bread, grilled to perfection. I took my first bite and the cheese stretched out of the section I bit, the onions squishing out of the opposite end. The butter from the bread dripped down my fingers. The cheese was strong, yet delicate, with sweetness from the apple and caramelized onions. Slight saltiness hinted at the end of my bite from the mix of the ingredients.

My sandwich was gone in no time and I licked the remaining butter off of my fingers. We thanked the chef and said our goodbyes, taking business cards on our way out. Our tour took us to many other restaurants including Roxy’s Café, Humphrey Slocombe, Pig & Pie, and Wise Sons Delicatessen. Of all of the visited restaurants, LME was my favorite. The relaxed vibe and delicious, local food are what I am all about. It is casual yet classy, with everything homemade. I will definitely be back to the Local Mission Eatery.

My Most Memorable Meal

In 2009, for my High School Graduation, my parents and Aunt took my sister and I to Paris, France. For our last meal in the beautiful city, we indulged in a true Parisian dinner at a fancy restaurant. We walked about a half a mile from our hotel, Le Meridien Montparnasse.

As we walked into the restaurant, the aroma of wine and dim lighting set the laid back mood for the evening. Locals chatted with friends quietly as their dogs calmly lay next to them – something I was not used to in the States. A friendly waiter walked us to a small, round table, and attempted to communicate with my non-French speaking family and I. We looked through the menu and promptly ordered, as we were all famished from our long day of touring the city. The food was prepared in no time. My plate was placed in front of me – veal atop a bed of braised carrots and pearl onions, served on a square, brown, plastic, yet classy, plate. Served with my meal was a glass of wine – another unfamiliar gesture to me as I was only 17 years old. I took a bite and instantly fell in love with the tender, juicy piece of meat and its accompaniments. I ate and ate and ate until there was no more.

Filled to the brim, I decided to order dessert: chocolate lava cake – a personal favorite of mine. It was served with a homemade pirouette cookie and a small scoop of vanilla bean gelato. Just as my main course, it was delicious. The velvety and gooey cake melted in my mouth with a slight chill from the gelato. The pirouette’s crunchy, yet delicate, texture added an extra delight to the already amazing dessert.

Overall, my Parisian dinner was a highlight of my trip to France. To share a moment of fun, relaxation, and great food with my family, especially with my recently late Father, is something that I will forever hold as special in my heart.

Chocolate Lava Cake

                                                                           Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Bean Gelato