My birthday in Los Angeles

I feel a little behind in blogging, partly because I skipped last week and partly because I wanted to share some of the things I ate on my birthday, which was exactly a month ago today. My best friend and I spent my birthday in Los Angeles and aside from traffic, it was perfect.We started the morning with donuts. Sidecar Donuts originally opened in Costa Mesa and opened its second shop in Santa Monica which is where we went. I was charged from friends well in advance to get the Country Ham and Egg donut. The plump savory donut was filled with a poached egg, ham, and a house made basil hollandaise sauce. Sharing half felt lighter than I expected and was like eating a soft airy sandwich. 

We also enjoyed a salty caramel donut which had a nice caramel glaze and topped with sea salt. The lemon donut gave us the texture of cake similar to what you would get from an old fashioned. I was happily satisfied with my 1.5 donuts.

From there we made our way to the Getty Villa in Malibu. It has been about two decades since I had last visited this museum tucked away off Pacific Coast Highway. The Greek and Roman art is housed in the incredible re-creation of a Roman country house. We spent a few hours exploring the architecture, the antiquities, and the gardens. The museum is free, but you need to make reservations in advance.

Since we were still on the west side of town, we made our way to Venice Beach to grab a bite and geocache. We wanted something light for lunch so we discovered Poke Poke. We both got poke bowls, a Hawaiian delicacy. Poke bowls are actually quite popular these days. It’s a pretty healthy option, especially next to Muscle Beach. The original flavor at Poke Poke has ahi tuna marinated in onions, green onions, shoyu, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. I substituted the ahi tuna for salmon and got it over rice.  
We spent some time geocaching not only in Venice Beach, but also in Santa Monica. After quite a bit of walking, birthday drinks were calling my name at Shutters on the Beach. The hotel bar here is very popular, but we were lucky and got a table within a few minutes. With a blender in tow, we ordered pina coladas. Something about pina coladas make you feel like you’re on vacation.
Dinner reservations were for Hinoki and the Bird, which is located in Century City. The restaurant has a cool vibe and the cuisine labeled as American has a Japanese twist.  
The food is served family style, so we shared several plates. We started with the kale salad which includes both raw and crispy kale, spiced cashews, pecorino cheese, and a red wine vinaigrette. I loved the duo of prepared kale.
We ordered the Jidori chicken dumplings. There were five pan fried dumplings stuck together which is something I have never seen before. Crispy and succulent, I could keep eating this deliciousness.
I usually go for anything with uni in it. The uni carbonara with guanciale and pecorino was no exception. The creaminess and depth in flavor of this dish left me extremely pleased.
The crispy suckling pig was served with accoutrements like butter lettuce, a variety of herbs, and sauces. It’s meant to be eaten like a wrap or a taco which I found to be fun. The pork was moist with crispy skin.  
One side dish we ordered was the sake steamed mushrooms with sea salt and soy sauce. This was cooked and served in parchment paper which prominently infuses the flavors in the mushrooms.  
The other side dish we ordered were the brussels sprouts with lemon and furikake. These were a generous portion and could not have been roasted any better.
For dessert, my best friend eyed the mochi green tea affrogato. It was cool to watch the server prepare the matcha from a powder and water with a brush.  
We also ordered matcha donuts which were warm and fluffy. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the sauce that came with it.
The restaurant also provided a complimentary dessert to wish me a Happy Birthday!
I had an incredible birthday dinner at Hinoki and the Bird which made my already awesome day even more special. Thanks Jeannette!

What I Ate Before and After the Berkeley Half

Today was the Berkeley Half Marathon and my second half marathon this year, actually it’s my second half marathon ever. It was pretty brutal because it rained. I was getting really soaked by mile 10 and could feel my feet getting soggy. I persevered and actually made a personal record shaving off six minutes from the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in San Diego earlier in June. My finish time was 2:20:23.  At this point, I am exhausted and I hope I won’t feel this way tomorrow. But I thought I’d share my pre and post race meals.  

So they tell you that the night before a race you should carb load. I love my carbohydrates so it was something to look forward to. Pasta is usually a good choice for carbs, so I decided on take out from Lo Coco’s on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. They sometimes have a papadelle with porcini mushrooms and I was in luck since it was available. I decided to also get a side of meatballs so I can also have some protein. I ate about half of everything and thought it was a satisfactory meal.  

My friend who was there to support me through the race had asked me where I wanted to eat after the race. I said dim sum so we made our way to Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant in Richmond since we were pretty close and it’s one of my favorite places for dim sum in the East Bay. We got a good variety of items.  
I am a very lucky person because I have at least one adopted family that are very generous and welcome me to their home for holiday meals or just because they made something they know I like. This family was having visitors in town so they invited me for Sunday dinner and I agreed. It was a trek, but I made my way to Broadway Prime in Burlingame. I had my prime rib medium rare with creamed corn and a loaded baked potato. It also came with a fresh popover. It was family dinner for them, but a great post race meal.

Petit Crenn: One for the Books

Women and girls all over the Country were disappointed this week that the highest and hardest glass ceiling did not break. In the restaurant industry, women are continuing to fight this battle. Just a few weeks ago, Michelin Stars were announced and some observations were made that Atelier Crenn, Dominique Crenn’s fine dining restaurant in San Francisco should have received three stars, the highest rating. Dominque would have been the first female chef to earn that accolade, but it did not happen and the restaurant remains with two stars.
My good friend from New York came to visit two weeks ago and took me out for a birthday meal. We thought about Atelier Crenn, but with a price tag of $298 per person, we opted for Dominque’s other restaurant Petit Crenn in Hayes Valley in San Francisco. The restaurant is focused on seafood and vegetables. The preparations were very French, but with a California freshness.  

The menu is a set menu that is served family style and here is what we had that evening:

Complimentary Gruyere gougeres with pickled onion gelee

Shigoku oyster and heirloom tomatoes.

Tartine of grilled mussels

Fluke, grilled squash, and gnocchi with mushrooms

Little gem salad

Poached pear galette


I appreciated that the food at Petit Crenn was delicious, innovative, and on the lighter side.  I was filled by the end. The presentation contributed to the overall experience that I will savor. The meal is one for the books. 
Women like Hillary and Dominique are indeed breaking glass ceilings, being role models, and fighting for equality. I found this Ted Talk with Dominque Crenn on her experience and how she measures success, and I continue to be inspired.

An Evening with the People’s Kitchen Collective

Last weekend, Chef Marcus Samuelsson was promoting his new cookbook The Red Rooster Cookbook and participated in events around the Bay Area. On one evening, he collaborated with the People’s Kitchen Collective to provide an unforgettable dining experience.

“This is a meal from Harlem to Oakland. Of Red Roosters and Black Panthers. This is a story of the pots pans, spices herbs, hands and recipe that give us home. These are recipes for comfort. This is a meal to bring our people together in celebration of resilience and diaspora. These are dishes that keep our communities and our histories alive.”  -People’s Kitchen Collective

Based in Oakland, the People’s Kitchen Collective is a group of passionate people that come together to cook delicious meals and gathers their community together to share it. On this evening at Alena Studios in West Oakland, fifty people including myself gathered for a family style meal inspired by Chef Marcus’ Red Rooster Cookbook.

We wined and dined and at the same time we connected to our neighbors.  We met everyone that contributed to the meal including the farmer who provided produce to make the food, the artist that made the pottery that held the fruit that would be broken, and the chefs that spent days creating the meal.

Yucca Fries with Green Chili Salsa

Teff Biscuits with Chicken Liver Butter

Killer Collards

Creamy Coconut Grits

Black Eyed Peas

Panch Phoran Carrot Pickle

Doro Wat

Breaking Night

Spiced Almond Rum Cake

There was something very special about the evening. Chef Marcus was there, but that wasn’t it.  The food was one of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten, but it was more than that.  I felt like part of a community.  I felt heart and soul in every minute of the evening.  It was a movement.  It is the People’s Kitchen Collective.

How I Got to Cook with Chef Marcus Samuelsson

Chef Marcus Samuelsson just released his new cookbook The Red Rooster Cookbook, named after his restaurant in Harlem. With this release began his cookbook tour with the first stop in the Bay Area. I signed up to get tickets to his cooking demonstration held at Macy’s in Union Square in San Francisco. The department store has a Culinary Council made up of well known chefs throughout the United States and includes Chef Marcus.  

Sitting in the center of row two with my best friend, we had prime seats to watch Chef Marcus cook. The first item he was going to demo was a squash salad with crunchy quinoa and pumpkin seed vinaigrette. He asked for a volunteer and I hesitated. A woman in the first row was selected to come up and help. She was doing really well prepping the salad and I was regretting not raising my hand to volunteer. About halfway through the demo, the audience got to taste this salad that was obviously prepared earlier. I really enjoyed the toasted quinoa. Chef Marcus stressed the importance of crunch, texture, and using seasonal ingredients. Towards the end of the demo, the volunteer cut her finger. I imagined that would be the end of volunteering.

The next dish Chef Marcus started to make was Double Dragon Rice with Grilled Shrimp. A few minutes later, he announced there would be no cutting involved, but he needed another volunteer. My hand shot up and I was selected to cook with Chef Marcus. I felt a bit nervous at first because I felt like I was being interviewed. We discussed a fried rice dish that I make using chicken livers. Although it may have looked planned because they actually had chicken liver, I vow that it was not. My sous chef handed me a ramekin filled with chicken liver and Chef Samuelsson asked me to mix in half of it into my pan. The rice was prepared with loads of other goodies that contributed to the overall success of the dish. I especially liked the crispy pieces of golden browned rice, the fresh head-on shrimp, and the squeeze of lime that added acidity. I was given a nice portion of the Double Dragon Rice with Grilled Shrimp that Chef Marcus and I made. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it. But here is a photo of me cooking it.

I was still pinching myself when Chef Marcus called a third volunteer to assist him in making Uncle T’s Meatballs. The sample we received was a bit dry which is probably because it was made much earlier and may have been sitting around. 
I’m excited to try some of these recipes and others from my new personalized autographed copy of The Red Rooster Cookbook by Chef Marcus Samuelsson.  

Double Belly is Double Trouble

First came Belly and then came Sweet Belly. In Uptown Oakland, you can find this pair of playful eateries to fill your belly.
Belly is located at the corner of San Pablo Avenue and 19th Street and serves up what I consider a fusion grill. There is a focus on Mexican, Korean, and Japanese cuisine. With an ordinary menu of items like tacos, burritos, burgers, salads, and sides, it’s what they do with it that makes them interesting.  

So I grabbed lunch “to go” with a friend recently. I ordered the popular steak and egg taco which is filled with house marinated sirloin steak, French fries, chipotle aioli, garlic aioli, and topped with a fried egg. Yes, I said French fries and a fried egg. You might call this fusion on steroids. I actually found it to be quite simplistic and enjoyed the flavors and textures.
I also ordered a side of classic fries with chipotle ketchup. These fries were shoestring fries, thin and crisp. They stayed crispy even with the ten minute ride back to the office, so it passed that test. The chipotle ketchup was a great complement to the fries.  
My friend ordered the Korean fried chicken bowl which is a rice bowl topped with spicy fried chicken, slaw, pickled cucumbers, red onions, jalapeños, and of course a fried egg. The chicken had a thick gooey batter, but was somewhat soggy in texture. To me it felt like an unsuccessful bibimbap. Neither of us would recommend this dish.
I went back to Belly with another friend last week to try something else. We both wanted burgers. I ordered the Belly Burger which is a house marinated patty, red onion tempura, sautéed mushrooms, house pickled cucumbers, cheddar cheese, garlic and kimchi aioli, on a brioche bun. The burger was super juicy and tasted amazing. Every ingredient was on point and melded together perfectly. The tempura onion made my burger sing.
My friend got the West Coast Burger combo which came with fries and a drink. Her burger had bacon, avocado, tomato, cheddar cheese, mixed field greens, garlic aioli, and chipotle ketchup. She enjoyed her burger just as much as I did. No doubt Belly knows how to grill up burgers and fries. I am now tempted to try their Belly Cali Fries or their Korean Cali Fries. I’ll let you look that up yourself. 
If you travel about three blocks east on 19th Street, you can find dessert at the recently opened Sweet Belly by the same owners of Belly.  I am sure lots of people were unhappy when Lanas, a long time operating fast food Chinese take out closed, but the opening of Sweet Belly in its place is sure to fill some void.  

On my first visit, the soft serve flavor being served was strawberry. I topped my strawberry soft serve with fruity crunch cereal and an earl grey Valrhona dark chocolate fudge donut. All three items were great. The soft serve was thick like custard and had a subtle strawberry flavor. The cereal was a homemade version of Fruity Pebbles and was light and crispy. The donut was warm and texturally tasted like an old fashioned.  
On another visit, Sweet Belly was serving Matcha green tea flavored soft serve. This time I chose chocolate drizzled popcorn as my topping and a Matcha green tea donut. I actually enjoyed the strawberry soft serve slightly better, but would order either of them again or some variation of them. About a five minute walk from my office, I feel an addiction coming on.

What I ate after the East Bay 510K

photo by @cwpiequeen

It was a perfect October morning in Berkeley to run the East Bay 510K. This morning, about 2,000 runners started at the Northeast end of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park in Berkeley to either run a 5K or 10K. 5K runners began at 7:35am while 10K runners began at 8:05am. I ran the 10K with two friends. We ran a loop around Cesar Chavez Park, down towards the Berkeley Marina, headed south on Frontage Road, made our way across the pedestrian overcrossing to the other side of Highway 80, down Bolivar Drive connecting to Berkeley Aquatic Park to Shellmound Street, which lead us to the finish line located at Bay Street Mall in Emeryville.

photo by @cwpiequeen

I completed this race last year for the first time and earned my very first medal. Today I have a personal record that I am ecstatic about. According to race officials, here are my stats:

  • Overall position: 366 of 1,322
  • Female position: 138 of 845
  • Total time: 59:41
  • Average time per mile: 9:37

With a medal and t-shirt showcasing the Port of Oakland with cranes and containers, designed by Oaklandish, the East Bay 510K is a cool race to participate in.
After running 6.2 miles this morning, we deserved a good brunch, right? With the help of Yelp, we walked half a mile to Doyle Street Cafe in Emeryville for pancakes. The waitress mistakenly seated another party of three ahead of us. I didn’t make it a big deal because it was only a few extra minutes that we waited and my party had passed the three women walking when we arrived. Luckily we got there when we did because the restaurant had to start putting names on a list. It seemed we weren’t the only runners that made their way to Doyle Street Cafe after the races.
I am not a huge fan of pancakes, but once in awhile I get in the mood for it. The offering of pumpkin pancakes at Doyle Street Cafe set me in the mood on this October Sunday. We all got the combination plate which also included eggs and bacon or sausage. I ordered bacon and thought it could have been cooked to a better crisp. The texture of my pumpkin pancakes were thick, fluffy, and moist. They were topped with whipped vanilla cream and powdered sugar.  The flavors were robust and gave me the sense of Fall. The combination breakfast at Doyle Street Cafe was satisfying to all of us after a successful race day.