Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Los Angeles: Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles

Like Britney, my comeback has had its setbacks. I still have my hair... for now. When the tests ended, it was holidays, my yearly respiratory infection, applications, and more holidays. I hate personal statements. I'm fabulous and I'm insane enough to make chemistry a career... what more do these schools want?

Apparently, a coherent message about my goals and experiences. If it weren't for good friends answering panicked pleas for editing help, I would have submitted some craptastic essays to some fairly prestigious schools. Yikes.

I'm going to blog regularly after the apps are done in early January. Until then, I'm going to close out 2008 with a visit to a place of legend and lore.

There are many great food pairings, but one of the greatest is fried chicken and waffles. It's baffling to the uninitiated and very few would utter "waffles" when asked for a compliment to fried chicken, but it works. It works incredibly well. I bow to the altar of fried chicken and waffles and the place to worship is Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, with several locations in the Los Angeles area.

Last Sunday's visit with D., Teej, and Krazo took place at the Pasadena location. D. and Krazo ordered the Carol C. Special with one fried chicken breast and one waffle. D. noted that Roscoe's was a smidge pricey for its portion sizes, but it's best to price the dishes per calorie. That way, it appears downright cheap.

Teej ordered the Jeanne Jones Omelette with a waffle, while I ordered the 'Scoe's with gravy and onions. My chicken, all dark meat, was fried to perfection. The crust stayed crispy even drenched by the gooey gravy and onions. Crispy, however, didn't translate to my waffles, which were a little underdone and soggy. I was slightly disappointed, especially since Roscoe's was the place that turned me on to the classic waffle. After a crisp and thin waffle from Roscoe's, I swore off Belgian-style waffles forever and bought a classic waffle maker.

Service was excellent and the atmosphere is dive-ish, but comfortable and fun. Fried chicken and waffles... don't knock it until you've tried it. Happy New Year!!

Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles (Pasadena location)
830 N. Lake Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91104

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cookbook Series: Bœuf bourguignon, Potatoes Gratin from Thomas Keller's Bouchon

So... I'm back.

It took a while to recover from the Chem GRE. Imagine having brain freeze for about a week or so. Even though it's not the longest nor the most comprehensive test, it's definitely one of the most brutal. My version of the test was 130 questions with 170 minutes to answer them. Do the math and that leaves roughly 0.76 minutes or 45.6 seconds per question.

45.6 seconds for p-chem?! As if.

I managed to look at and think about all of the questions, which is supposedly a small victory in and of itself. How did I do? I don't know... I was numb walking out, both from the mental lashing and the freezing test center.

Then, it was time for the regular GRE, which is a lot like the SAT. To my vague horror, I realized that I would be taking the GRE almost 10 years to the day of my last attempt at the SAT. Geez, I feel old.

Anyway, we're here to discuss food.

D. was traveling and, for his return, I decided to make Keller's bœuf bourguignon. D. has eyed the recipe for a while and with fall rolling in (although it was beach-worthy weather in San Diego), it seemed like a nice dish.

Anyone who has ever cooked a Keller recipe can tell you that the man is nothing if not detailed. I found this old article about
Bouchon and I have to agree that it's fussy, it's crazy, but the result is so utterly worth the effort that one bows reverently to King Keller and makes more of his recipes.

It starts with boneless beef shortribs, which I stupidly overbrowned. Instead of turning into tender stew meat, it came out a bit tough.

However, I'm a little ahead of myself. The bourguignon really begins with a red wine reduction. Red wine cooked with a ton of aromatics until it had reduced into a thick sauce. After the reduction is complete, more aromatics are added and topped with a cheesecloth. The browned meat is added on top of the cheesecloth. Keller apparently dislikes debris clinging to the meat, so he recommends using the cheesecloth as a "basket" for the meat. The meat cooks in the reduction, aromatics, and beef stock for a couple of hours, then the meat is lifted out and the veggies strained and discarded.

After removing the meat and discarding the aromatics, the broth is strained over and over. In the end, I strained this lovely broth eight times. Eight. Keller would be proud. That might make up for the massive sin I commit against his greatness: I use store-bought beef stock.

That thud you heard was Keller hitting the ground.

Anyway, I'm too lazy and lack enough foresight to make stock ahead of time. One of these days, I'll make a ton of stock and freeze it. Overall, the broth was excellent and clear as a summer's day.

The vegetables are cooked separately, but with enough herbs and spices that they taste like they were cooked with the meat. It's fussy, but the vegetables stay bright, vibrant, and firm, just like Keller said.

D. loves potato gratin, so we made Bouchon's recipe. Lots of thyme and Emmentaler make it fabulous. Keller uses panko crumbs for the topping, which creates a more delicate crust.

Our table, complete with the epi baguette from San Diego's Bread & Cie.

Posting the recipes, even abbreviated versions, would take forever. So, buy the book and pay homage to the fabulousness that is Thomas Keller.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Still alive...

Just a note to say that I'm still out there. In the last 6 weeks, I've started the application process for a doctorate in chemistry. This Saturday, I will confront the demon that's been consuming my soul since.

The Chemistry GRE.

Imagine 4 years of undergraduate study crammed into 140 multiple-choice questions. If anyone out there has taken physical chemistry, you know that p-chem was never meant to be multiple choice.

Once the test from hell is over, I will be back. Not doing a lot of cooking or good eating, since I'm still on this blasted diet. There have been some great projects, too, including a very successful stab at pho.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Urban Solace: JL's visit and Goodbye MT

I've written about Urban Solace several times and it's become a regular in our rotation. Nice enough for entertaining guests and celebratory occasions. Unfortunately, it's also a fitting place for send-offs and I'm rather melancholy. Since 2005, friends have been slowly trickling away from San Diego and we're down to a small little group. While it's awesome that my friends are finding new jobs, going to grad school, and pursuing new lives, I'll have to channel the father from My Big, Fat Greek Wedding and wail, "Why you have to leeaaavve meee?!" Because Michael Constantine totally rules.

One of our old friends, JL, left SD for Philly and returned for a visit. When he left, Urban Solace hadn't opened yet, so it was one of the first places we headed to. I had just started my weight-loss project, so I attempted to have a light meal.

Warm spinach salad with bacon-sherry vinaigrette, Sonoma goat cheese, sauteed red onions, and boiled egg. Paired with their tomato-fennel soup, it's a healthy, yet filling, choice.

Then, it was time to say goodbye. MT was moving back to his home state and we headed to Urban Solace's bluegrass brunch. One tip: show up at 10am and skip the wait entirely. We settled on the patio and the band started up. I don't know much about bluegrass, but this sounded really good to me.

The guest of honor had the hangar steak benedict with a smoked ancho chili hollandaise, while I oscillated between sweet breakfast items and savory lunch items. Finally, I settled on a sandwich, the first I'd ever had at Urban Solace.

Roasted pork loin, fresh arugula, grain mustard, and caramelized fennel served on a fresh egg bun. It was perfectly done. The sweet potato fries, which are legendary, were amazing.

As always, a great setting for all occasions as we bid adios and good luck to an old friend.

Read about past visits to Urban Solace here.

Urban Solace
3823 30th Street
San Diego, CA 92104

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mmmm... bread.

Why Bear can never be on the Atkins Diet.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Jeong Won Korean BBQ

***Within an hour of this posting, we made another visit to Jeong Won and the quality has gone considerably downhill from our previous visits. Before today, our most recent visit was three weeks ago. Since the change is quite sudden, I feel it is worth noting. The panchan and the quality of the meat are not the same. I strongly suspect some of the meat was kept past its prime. Portions have gone from small to downright skimpy.***

When I started working with my personal trainer, she asked me what I usually ate for lunch. I had to sheepishly admit that I occasionally indulge in outings to all-you-can-eat restaurants with my carnivorous, all-male company.

Trainer: "Well, first off, stop eating with the men."

In terms of metabolism, this makes perfect sense. I'm a woman, smaller in stature, and formerly more sedentary. There's absolutely no need to consume as many calories as an average-sized male and it would only mean more excess weight for me. On the other hand, I really didn't want to be the one who begged off an eating contest in favor of a salad. Hey, dignity's (or is that machismo?) important.

Anyway, Jeong Won Korean BBQ is new to the Convoy St. area of San Diego. Since its opening, it's become a company favorite. For about $18 (including tax and tip) per person, one could eat as much meat as possible from a menu of 10 dishes. Six of the dishes are marinated or unmarinated pork, beef, or chicken. Cow's stomach, squid, shrimp, and pork belly made up the rest.

Speaking of pork belly, some of you out in the great interweb might have noticed that Garrett
and I know each other offline. That's because he's part of the crew that my trainer doesn't want me to dine with. Pork belly's his favorite.

Pork belly, better known as very thick slices of bacon. Anyone want to guess Garrett's cholesterol count?

The panchan is extensive and replenished often. It's one of the better panchan sets I've seen in San Diego. Service is excellent and they keep our motley crew watered and fed.

Meat on the grill. Mmmm... picture's a bit blurry because of steam and smoke. The portions are not large, allowing plenty of mixing and matching. For six of us, we can easily go through the menu once with two or three extra dishes.

There's no way I'd turn this down in favor of something healthier. Apologies to my trainer.

Jeong Won Korean BBQ
4690 Convoy St. #104
San Diego, CA 92111

Monday, September 15, 2008

100 Chinese Foods to Try Before You Die

The Omnivore's 100 has been making the rounds in food blogs, but I cheered when I saw Diana Kuan's version with Chinese foods. Let's see how I did (some of the numbers didn't bold with the words):

  1. Almond milk
  2. Ants Climbing a Tree (poetic, not literal, name)
  3. Asian pear
  4. Baby bok choy
  5. Baijiu
  6. Beef brisket
  7. Beggar's Chicken
  8. Bingtang hulu
  9. Bitter melon
  10. Bubble tea
  11. Buddha's Delight
  12. Cantonese roast duck (My world revolves around roast duck)
  13. Century egg, or thousand-year egg
  14. Cha siu (Cantonese roast pork)
  15. Char kway teow
  16. Chicken feet
  17. Chinese sausage (More by-products than an American hot dog, but oh-so-very good)
  18. Chow mein
  19. Chrysanthemum tea
  20. Claypot rice
  21. Congee
  22. Conpoy (dried scallops)
  23. Crab rangoon
  24. Dan Dan noodles
  25. Dragonfruit
  26. Dragon's Beard candy (You haven't lived until you've tried this stuff)
  27. Dried cuttlefish
  28. Drunken chicken
  29. Dry-fried green beans
  30. Egg drop soup
  31. Egg rolls
  32. Egg tart, Cantonese or Macanese (I've had both, actually.)
  33. Fresh bamboo shoots
  34. Fortune cookies
  35. Fried milk
  36. Fried rice
  37. Gai lan (Chinese broccoli)
  38. General Tso's Chicken
  39. Gobi Manchurian
  40. Goji berries (Chinese wolfberries)
  41. Grass jelly (I'm terribly addicted to this stuff)
  42. Hainan chicken rice (A family specialty)
  43. Hand-pulled noodles
  44. Har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings in translucent wrappers)
  45. Haw flakes
  46. Hibiscus tea
  47. Hong Kong-style Milk Tea
  48. Hot and sour soup
  49. Hot Coca-Cola with Ginger
  50. Hot Pot
  51. Iron Goddess tea (Tieguanyin)
  52. Jellyfish
  53. Kosher Chinese food
  54. Kung Pao Chicken
  55. Lamb skewers (yangrou chua'r)
  56. Lion's Head meatballs
  57. Lomo Saltado (Peruvian-Chinese food?! YAY!)
  58. Longan fruit
  59. Lychee
  60. Macaroni in soup with Spam
  61. Malatang
  62. Mantou, especially if fried and dipped in sweetened condensed milk
  63. Mapo Tofu
  64. Mock meat
  65. Mooncake (bonus points for the snow-skin variety) (True to my Hong Kong roots, I will eat nothing but the Cantonese-style mooncakes... sorry, Diana. :))
  66. Nor mai gai (chicken and sticky rice in lotus leaf)
  67. Pan-fried jiaozi
  68. Peking duck
  69. Pineapple bun
  70. Prawn crackers
  71. Pu'er tea
  72. Rambutan
  73. Red bean in dessert form (This makes me a bad, bad Chinese-American, but I can't stand hong dau saa or red bean soup)
  74. Red bayberry
  75. Red cooked pork
  76. Roast pigeon
  77. Rose tea
  78. Roujiamo
  79. Scallion pancake
  80. Shaved ice dessert
  81. Sesame chicken
  82. Sichuan pepper in any dish
  83. Sichuan preserved vegetable (zhacai)
  84. Silken tofu
  85. Soy milk, freshly made
  86. Steamed egg custard
  87. Stinky tofu
  88. Sugar cane juice
  89. Sweet and sour pork, chicken, or shrimp
  90. Taro
  91. Tea eggs
  92. Tea-smoked duck
  93. Turnip cake (law bok gau)
  94. Twice-cooked pork
  95. Water chestnut cake (mati gau)
  96. Wonton noodle soup (drool, drool... one of my favorite dishes)
  97. Wood ear
  98. Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings)
  99. Yuanyang (half coffee, half tea, Hong Kong style)
  100. Yunnan goat cheese
83 out of 100. Not bad for a Los Angeles-raised ex-pat kid, eh? My score would be a helluva lot lower if the parental units tried to Americanize our eating habits or if I didn't live in immigrant-heavy L.A.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Day of Squash Blossom Quesadillas

While walking through the Hillcrest farmers' market this morning, I was drawn by a sign advertising squash blossom quesadillas. D. decided to add crispy tacos to my order and we had breakfast.

The tacos were yummy and the quesadilla delicious. I didn't take a close-up of the quesadilla because the entire flower was nearly enveloped by cheese. However, the flower was used whole, leaving a soggy spot where the little zucchini nub had softened.

I had an insatiable craving for more tacos and wanted to go to Aqui es Texcoco. It's been a Chowhound darling for a while and I have yet to visit. D. and I called M.T. and M.S. and we were on our way.

It's a bit of a drive to Chula Vista, even from North Park, but it was worth it. We kicked things off with a cup of lamb broth (me) and ensalada de nopales (M.T.).

I don't have a lot of experience with nopales or cactus paddles, but the salad was light and the cactus perfectly cooked. In my sparse exposure to it, I've noticed that it can have a unsavory mouthfeel if poorly prepared. Think slimy and rubbery.

For my entree, I chose two quesadillas. I thought the menu indicated that it was a quesadilla with huitlacoche, squash blossoms, and mushrooms, but it turns out that it's "OR" and not "AND". So, I received a lone quesadilla with huitlacoche and, when the friendly owner popped by with a squash blossom quesadilla that he thought we ordered, I asked if we could keep it.

Huitlacoche was really interesting. In fact, I loved it. Woody like a mushroom, but with the bulbous texture of a really soft grape, it did look and feel a bit like a disease. Which it is. Tasted fantastic, though.

The squash blossom was cooked to perfection and diced, so there was no soggy spot. The owner also plied our table with a variety of salsas, which I loved. I finished off with a barbequed lamb taco, which was awesome. A plain tortilla filled with shredded grilled goodness.

Yummy. The lamb was juicy and fantastic. Saved the best for last, it seems.

It was a fairly heavy meal, so three items plus the lamb broth made a big lunch. It was also very inexpensive, with tons of food for 4 people coming out to $34.

Hillcrest Farmer's Market
3960 Normal Street (at the Hillcrest DMV)
San Diego, CA 92103
Taco stand is across the aisleway from Charlie's Best Bread that specializes in salsas, tacos, and tamales

Aqui es Texcoco

1043 Broadway, Suite 108
Chula Vista, CA 91911

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chowdown at Sab-E-Lee Thai Restaurant

First, a great big thanks to Lillian for organizing this C-down and to Pat and Angie for the great company!

I like Thai food, but I don't know anything about it. Hell, if I did, I would have given up that coconut milky-goodness known as green curry a long time ago. My new Thai love: catfish larb. What is larb, you ask? It's ground protein, roasted almost to a jerky, that's marinated in lime juice, chilis, and herbs, and topped with rice powder.

For further edification, I leave you in the capable hands of Kirk (make sure to follow the links at the post's end to his past entries about Sab-E-Lee). In fact, it was at Sab-E-Lee that I ran into him. Hi, Kirk!

We ordered many dishes, but I was so busy eating that I'd forgotten to take pictures! Hence, there are only 3 photos from the whole shebang. Anyway, we ordered pad see-ew, which D. is rather particular about.

I really enjoyed it and I don't normally like pad see-ew. The flavor was great and there was clearly excellent
wok hei, as Kirk mentioned. D., however, thought that Bangkok Thai in the Emery Bay Public Market does it better.

Lillian wanted to try the spicy mint leaves on steamed pork leg. I think they meant basil when they said mint, but I love herbs, so why quibble over semantics?

I liked the dish, although the pork could have been a bit more tender. Other dishes not pictured included the mixed vegetables, panang curry (excellent with less coconut milk than most typical Thai places), and a fiery papaya salad.

It's been a few weeks since the Chowdown, but I'm still thinking about that larb. Yum.

2405 Ulric Street
San Diego, CA 92111

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Chocolate Whopper Malted Drops

These were good. Well, bake Whoppers (chocolate-covered malted milk balls) into chocolate cookies with bittersweet chunks and there's little chance it would not taste good. The batter had a frosting-like consistency, resulting in light and almost cakey cookies.

Brought to you by Confessions of a Tangerine Tart and found on page 85, it was a delightful treat, albeit a rich one. I was a little surprised to see that the baking temperature was omitted from the recipe, but it turns out that 350 degrees F works just fine.

It turns out that Whoppers caramelize when baked, leading to a chewy and toffee-like little hunk in the cookie. I envied the bakers who had better access to Maltesers, which I have a hard time finding here in Southern California.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Eating Locally, Eating Well

I've been MIA. As I mentioned in a TWD post from a million weeks ago, I'm on a diet. Believe it or not, I think it's working. After gaining over 30 pounds in the last 4 years, I was done with hating what I saw in the mirror. Since I already had a little-used gym membership, I decided to upgrade to a plan that included personal training. This isn't just about losing weight, it's about feeling fit and better about myself.

After 3 weeks, I've lost some fat, gained some muscle, and found that my clothes fit a hell of a lot better. However, I haven't been much of a food blogger. My food intake has dropped dramatically and has become a bit monotonous. When I reach maintenance, I'll be much more liberal in my food choices, but right now, I'm being a bit paranoid about what and how often I eat, which isn't much to write about. Well, unless there are people interested in my protein bar taste tests.

Eating healthfully fits very well with eating locally. I'm lucky to live very close to the farmer's market in San Diego's Hillcrest neighborhood, so D. and I usually visit to pick up vegetables. Also, my backyard has produced tomatoes and some herbs, so I've had an opportunity to actually use them for a few things.

Grilled corn and veggies:

The corn's from the farmer's market and the squash and carrots are from our CSA. We have since stopped our CSA subscription, but it was fun while it lasted. The thyme? Courtesy of yours truly.

I'm a little flabbergasted at how well the tomatoes turned out.

Our plant looks a bit raggedy, but it's producing fruit. Given my astronomical failures of the past, I'm happy with production. I also learned that a little plant food goes a long way.

What to do with these tomatoes? My basil was also doing very well, so I decided to make bruschetta.

The last CSA box had some cherry tomatoes on hand, so I threw those in. My favorite little touches? Meyer lemon olive oil and fresh thyme. They give an interesting twist to a classic bruschetta.

Moo's Bastardized Bruschetta
(amounts are not exact... feel free to adjust them to taste)

8 small tomatoes (or 4 handfuls of cherry tomatoes), roughly chopped
1 cup loosely packed basil, chiffonade
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (if using a flavored oil, use 1/8 cup flavored oil mixed with 1/8 cup unflavored extra-virgin)
5 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, stripped off the stem

Mix everything together thoroughly, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve by heaping small spoonfuls on slices of fresh, lightly-toasted baguette.

With leftover baguette, I decided to make one of my favorite sandwiches: basil, brie, and tomato. The brie, naturally, isn't local, but everything else is. The baguette comes from my favorite San Diego bakery, Bread & Cie.

Basil was also a recurring character in our CSA summer boxes, along with arugula, so pesto was an obvious answer to using up large quantities of both leafy greens. I tossed the pesto with linguine and more tomatoes.

The following isn't exactly a recipe, but more like a layout to my version of a decent and easy pesto.

Moo's Pesto Framework
(Adjust amounts to taste)

2:1 basil:arugula
small handful of nuts (I prefer pistachio, but pine nuts are traditionally used)
olive oil
lemon juice

Place the basil and arugula leaves in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add nuts and pulse until everything is chopped and combined. With the processor running, slowly dribble olive oil through the addition chute until the mixture forms a pasty suspension. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

I love cookies. I especially love cookies that contain some of my favorite things: peanut butter, oatmeal, and chocolate. This week's TWD is hosted by Stefany of Proceed With Caution and the recipe's on page 73.

With a busy Labor Day weekend away, I mixed the dough last night and baked some this morning. As the diet doesn't really permit lots of cookies, this morning's batch is going to work. Since I'm scrambling to write this post before I go, it's going to be short and sweet.

A spring-loaded scoop is an OCD cookie fiend's best friend. I like my cookies round and the scoop allows that without too much work.

Dorie calls for chunky peanut butter, but I had plenty of smooth peanut butter on hand, so I used that. The texture isn't as rustic as I would like, but it's still delicious. I also went for a mixture of semisweet and bittersweet chocolate chunks, as dictated by my pantry.

Mmmm... so diet unfriendly.

On a side note, we're done with the first season of The Tudors, so Henry VIII returns for more TWD and salacious acts in October.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Izakaya Sakura

There's no sign for the restaurant and it's in the same strip mall as the Original Pancake House and next to a military recruiting office. It looks like you're heading in to enlist, but you're heading into an izakaya or Japanese pub.

I've only been twice, but the food has been consistently excellent. The chirashi above was incredibly fresh and filling. The oyster was perfect, the shiso leaf a nice touch, and I even liked the uni (sea urchin), which I don't normally prefer.

All I can say is try it. I intend to return ASAP... anyone want to join me?

Izakaya Sakura
3094 Convoy St. #121
San Diego, CA 92184

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bite, revisited

Note: Bite has closed.
I haven't been since my first and previous visit to Bite and the happy hour has been so good that my friends and I have returned several times since. The patio's an awesome place to sit, sip, and catch up with each other. Our first visit was rather fortuitous, as we planned to have margaritas at Baja Betty's, but it was both packed and done with happy hour. Bite's next door, so we dropped by.

Champagne/sparkling wine cocktails are $4, which are a light and refreshing way to end a workday. My favorite is the Spring Bellini, which is prosecco with a scoop of strawberry sorbet in it.

The happy hour menu changes slightly, but one staple is this lovely puff pastry topped with caramelized onions and nicoise olives.

The CWG likes to order pates, which have been excellent. The following is a duck liver pate with dried cherries and pistachios. Accompaniments include the traditional mustards, capers, onions, and
cornichons, or pickled baby gherkins.

During subsequent visits, she's ordered a duck liver mousse with a port-based glaze on top, which has been absolutely fantastic. No photos, but that's definitely a perfect dish for patio-seating and people-watching. It's decadent, pungent, and still very light.

Another great appetizer is their grilled flatbread with a white bean and roasted garlic hummus. The hummus falls a little flat, but the bread is warm, tender, and flavorful.

Tirrone ordered the restyled caprese salad, which was gorgeous. Check out those dark cubes... balsamic
gelle. Who makes jelly out of balsamic vinegar? It's pretty fabulous.

1417 University Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Los Angeles: Pho Ly Truong Kiet, Sinbala

During our last visit to Los Angeles, my mother wanted to introduce us to Pho Ly Truong Kiet, a Vietnamese restaurant specializing in pho ga (chicken noodle soup). Imagine a big bowl of noodles in fresh chicken broth, served with poached chicken.

I think poaching chicken in its skin is a great method of preparation. If done well, the chicken stays incredibly moist. Even though it can be bland, Vietnamese preparations always serve the chicken with a pungent and/or spicy dipping sauce.

My mother had befriended the delightfully sweet owner, who runs the establishment with her family. She recommended that we order bowls of plain noodles in broth with half of a chicken to share, which would be cheaper than individual bowls of pho ga dui, which is the chicken noodle soup accompanied by chicken with skin/bone.

Mom also wanted to try their version of Hainanese chicken and rice, which was good, but the rice was a bit bland.

Also, their banh cuon, a rice flour mixture cooked into thin wrappers, then wrapped around a mixture of ground pork and woodear mushrooms.

Cooked bean sprouts, cha lua (Vietnamese pork sausage), and fried scallions top the dish. I'd say this was the weakest dish. The wrappers were overdone and the filling bland. The overall effect was a limp rice noodle roll.

Later that day, we finally found ourselves with a table at Sinbala. It's a Taiwanese restaurant with a healthy following, but I wouldn't know how the food is because we're not willing to wait ages for a table. Following a huge dinner at Chang's Garden, we crossed the strip mall in hopes of having dessert at Sinbala. Good thing we did, because I've been craving shaved ice like no other.

$5 buys five sweet items to pile the shaved ice on. I picked boba (tapioca balls), grass jelly, almond jello, flan, and some other gelatinous sweet that I can't remember. Yes, I tend to go for the jellies and not the taro, lychee, etc. On goes the shaved ice with a hefty drizzle of simple syrup and, my favorite, condensed milk.

Take that, Sno Cone.

I'll be back soon for some savory eats.

Pho Ly Truong Kiet
303 E. Garvey Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91755

651 W. Duarte Rd., Ste. F
Arcadia, CA 91007

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream with Michael Phelps

I'm on a diet.

Don't laugh, I really am.

It's more like an aggressive mission to lose the ungodly amount of weight I've put on in the last 5 years. Hence, there hasn't been much to say about food lately. However, that'll change once I find myself on a better eating routine. Right now, food is energy and I need to limit how much energy I consume. I hate that outlook, especially since I find food so fascinating.

To keep myself from going completely crazy and risking a total binge, I'm sticking to TWD and keeping my skills honed. Hopefully, I'll find some volunteers to consume the products. Since cooking and baking are stress-relievers for me, I'll focus on enjoying the journey instead of the destination.

This week's TWD is Blueberry Sour-Cream Ice Cream (page 434), brought to you by Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity. Dorie Greenspan calls it the "summeriest of summertime ice creams" and I can't help but agree. It's as light and refreshing as a sorbet, but with the heftier weight of a regular ice cream. She says a hand-crank ice cream maker is perfect for this recipe, which is good, because I have a hand-crank maker with a cylinder that is frozen the night before.

Of course, one should not leave the ice cream in the cylinder and wander off to watch the fabulous Michael Phelps win yet another gold medal. The ice cream froze up nicely, but I didn't aerate it very much, so it's a little dense.

It's also more lemon than blueberry. Dorie calls for the juice and zest of 1/4 lemon, but I have lemons that are either ridiculously tiny or giant mutants. I used the giant mutant and added too much lemon juice. The taste is awesome, but it isn't quite blueberry. There is a nice tartness reminiscent of the berries and sour cream, which goes really well with the acidity of the lemon.

We watched Henry VIII without dessert this week, but I'll have to reunite him with TWD soon. However, the light and quasi-diet-friendly dessert is totally Olympic-worthy. To stick to my portion sizes, I busted out our smallest spring-loaded scoop (about 1 tablespoon total volume) and put scoops in cute square Crate & Barrel pinch pots.

Good dessert, good TV, and for this ex-swimmer, a chance to see her sport in the spotlight for a change. Go Phelps!