Celebrating a Year in Oakland: La Parisienne

La Parisienne is a cute, bright French bakery located on Grand Avenue in Oakland. It celebrated a one-year anniversary this weekend. 

When you walk into La Parisienne, you are confronted with a display of artful desserts. When you follow the window display down the side, you will find many other French baked goods. Part patisserie and part boulangerie, the founders and chef comes directly from Paris, France.
The first visit I made to La Parisienne was shortly after they opened. I had coffee and was introduced to chouquettes. Chouquettes are made from light pastry dough and topped with pearl sugar. The sugar doesn’t melt and stays in form. When you bite into a chouquette, you start out with a little crunch and then the texture becomes slightly soft, airy, and eggy where it is hollow inside. These are bite sized deliciousness.

I have tried three types of croissants at La Parisienne – regular, chocolate, and almond. I found the almond croissant to be quite special. I usually get them warm because they make small batches and sell out fairly quickly.  
Today I picked up one of the beautiful individual desserts to bring to visit my sister. She enjoys fruit, so I selected the berry tart. I had a bite and thought the custard filling was deliciously creamy and light.  
I am happy that La Parisienne is celebrating a successful year. With prices a bit higher, I wasn’t sure it could stay afloat. It’s not a place I would frequent all the time, but I like to support the small businesses in Oakland. There are plenty more variety of desserts to try.

Alameda’s Pacific Lighthouse for Dim Sum

This is my first post for 2017 and I thought I would share the New Year’s resolutions I made for myself.  The first one is to purge and organize. The second one is to try some new sports for exercise. And my third New Year’s resolution is to eat more dim sum. I took my grandma out of Assisted Living on New Year’s Eve to “Yum Cha,” or “Drink Tea,” aka eat dim sum, and she was happy about it.

It was my first visit to the new upscale Chinese restaurant in Alameda called Pacific Lighthouse to have dim sum. The Yelp reviews haven’t been too favorable, but I wanted to give it a fair assessment. It’s not unusual to have a wait for dim sum and not wanting my 99 year old grandma to wait, we arrived before the noon rush.  

Pacific Lighthouse is located by the marina with great harbor views if you are lucky to get a window seat. We had a table in the center of the restaurant under the golden chandelier. We ordered many of the basic dim sum items such as these:

Pork dumpling

Shrimp dumpling

Daikon cake


Shrimp rice roll


Steamed chicken feet


Steamed pork buns

 

In general, these dim sum items should taste the same whether you get them from one restaurant or another. I base the quality by the freshness of ingredients, the temperature which tells me if it just came out of the steamer or if it’s been sitting in a cart for awhile, and cooking time which can affect the texture.  Their homemade hot sauce was also on point.


We also tried some additional dim sum that I don’t always get to order or eat.  We picked up some delicious steamed black bean pork spareribs over rice noodles. The overflowing sauce made it quite easy to slurp down the noodles. I also liked that it came with taro pieces and black olives.


This was my first time trying the daikon pastry. It’s similar to eating steamed daikon but this is wrapped in a warm pastry shell. I liked the crispy outer shell and having a savory soft filling inside.


Pacific Lighthouse serves a sweet custard bun which I haven’t had since I was in Canada. This one oozes a melting custard. The version here when opened looked oily, but it was quite delicious. You can watch my video on Instagram at @510foodie.
I enjoyed my visit to Pacific Lighthouse and would definitely make a return trip. It’s nice to have another East Bay restaurant serving dim sum to add to the repertoire.  

La Estacion: Awesome First Meal in Puerto Rico

I’m trying to end 2016 with a bang. My friend and I decided that we both needed some fun and relaxation so we planned a trip to warm Puerto Rico. This would be my second time to Puerto Rico, but it’s been almost a decade since my last visit. I have never been to Fajardo, which is the small city we would be staying at. It’s located where the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea meet. We spent the afternoon having a pina colada and a snack and trying to get acclimated around El Conquistador, the large resort we were staying at.   
It was time to find a place to have dinner so it was a good thing that I struck up a conversation with an employee while riding up on the funicular from the beach to the hotel. We wanted local food so he suggested an offsite restaurant across the resort called La Estacion. Not only is the resort large, but it isn’t well lit so we would have to pay a driver $10 each way to take us. As my BFF always says “YOLO,” (You Only Live Once).  

The menu at La Estacion had a good variety of appetizers and entrees and meats and seafood. It seemed to specialize in BBQ, but not quite the same definition as what we are used to in the mainland. We had outdoor seating and we could smell the lovely scent of grillIng meats and seafood. After discussing the menu with my friend, we decided on ordering a few things. We would get the ceviche which is mahi mahi marinated in local citrus, onions, chilies, and fresh herbs. It came with arepa de coco, which is Puerto Rican bread with a hint of coconut flavor. The ceviche was fresh and delicious and a good match for the tasty fry bread.
My friend and I both like chicken wings so we ordered the Caribbean chicken wings. I think we were expecting something more like jerked chicken, but these were great. The chicken wings had a nice honey glaze with a subtle coconut flavor. It was paired with three sauces – tabasco-like, spicy passion fruit, and ranch. My favorite was the spicy ranch which was a mix and spicy and sweet.
I was eyeing the churrasco for an entree which is a sofrito marinated skirt steak, grilled with a guava BBQ sauce, and topped with a cilantro lime chimichurri. It came with a cole slaw and sweet corn bread. The meat was tender and flavorful. Every bite blew me away. This was also a generous portion so we were glad we only ordered one entree.
We were quite full but shared the tembleque for dessert. Tembleque is a coconut based dessert resembling a pudding topped with toasted coconut and a hint of chili flakes. We were able to scoop clean this light dessert.  
The meal at La Estacion was wonderful and it was just the first stop. I am looking forward to eating my way through Puerto Rico.  

Teni East Kitchen: Fresh California Burmese

Teni East Kitchen is a newish Burmese restaurant located in North Oakland that opened this past May.  With a focus on Burmese, it has a California twist.  I had my first lunch here in October and went back for dinner in November. It can be fun to be one of the first to discover a new restaurant, but I also think that there is great benefit to give a restaurant some time to work out any recipes or kinks.  
During my two visits, I sampled a good variety of the menu and want to highlight my favorites. The pea shoot salad was quite extraordinary. I loved the use of fresh raw pea shoots with peanuts, shallots, chickpeas, garlic, lime, and fish sauce. The fresh ingredients plus the variation of textures made this an absolute winner.  


I enjoyed the roti with curry dip. It is very similar to Malaysian roti which incorporates fluffy layers that soak up the spiced sauce.


The cumin pork belly had a pleasantly surprising preparation. The pork belly is sliced thin and wok tossed with fresh basil, shallots, and spices. It had an abundance of flavor.


The restaurant serves a coconut rice which is really tasty and goes well with the entrees I had. The rice is soft and fluffy, but has a hint of creaminess. If you aren’t opposed to coconut, I highly recommend it.


My favorite dish at Teni East Kitchen is the crispy spicy catfish with tamarind and dried shrimp relish. This is the one dish responsible for my return visit and future visits. With the catfish perfectly battered and deep fried and spiced, I just can’t get enough of this dish.  


All you need is to save a little room for dessert at the end your meal. The only offering is ice cream and your flavor choices are ube (purple yam), buko (young coconut), pistachio, coffee, and chocolate.  


Overall, I would consider Teni East Kitchen as one of my new favorite spots. The restaurant space is very warm and inviting and the food is excellent. It’s a place I can dine at for a casual weekday dinner or a celebratory dinner. I might even order the catfish as “take out.”  

Follow me on Instagram @510foodie to see what I’m eating next.

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


Mignardises


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.