Easy to Make Jerk Chicken Wings

It has been two years since I joined the cooking club “Foodies by the Bay.” The theme last night was Jamaican cuisine. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Jamaican food is jerk chicken. Since I love chicken wings, I decided to make jerk chicken wings.   
I stopped by Minto Jamaican Market in North Oakland this past Friday after work. I was looking for a jerk spice rub and found an imported bottle of Grace Jamaican Jerk Seasoning in a bottle. It is more like a paste and the ingredients include Jamaican scallions, salt, hot peppers, pimento, brown sugar, black pepper, thyme, garlic, vinegar, spices, and vegetable oil. My experience with jerk chicken is that it could be really spicy, so I bought mild.
The instructions on the bottle said to use 1-2 tablespoons of seasoning per pound of chicken. I massaged 6 tablespoons of seasoning into the 4 pounds of chicken wings. I then transferred the chicken into a gallon size Ziploc bag and left it in the refrigerator for 24 hours. 
Grilling is probably the ideal way to make jerk chicken, but I used the oven for ease.  When it was time to cook, I spread the wings onto a large pan and baked them in a preheated oven of 400 degrees. After 25 minutes, I turned the wings over and cooked for another 20 minutes. The sauce had caramelized and left golden crispy patches onto the chicken wings.
The party (including our host pictured below) agreed it was one of the top dishes of the evening and wanted to know what sauce I used. I highly recommend Grace Jamaican Jerk Seasoning. I made the right decision to use the mild sauce because it was still quite spicy. This is one of the easiest dishes I have ever made and the results are juicy and mouth watering goodness that packs a punch.  Yeh Mon!

Noodle Theory Provisions: Oodles of Noodles

Noodle Theory Provisions is an Asian fusion noodle shop that opened a few months ago in North Oakland. It borders the City of Emeryville and is a haven for noodle lovers like me. Noodle Theory Provisions is chef/owner Louis Kao’s second restaurant after many years committed to Noodle Theory on Claremont Avenue. I have dined at Noodle Theory Provisions (Provisions) twice since it opened and the food has been impressive both times.
On the appetizer list, I wanted to be healthy and tried the seaweed tofu salad with bean sprouts and mung bean noodles. This cold noodle dish pleasantly surprised me. I enjoyed the cold appetizer and found it refreshing especially for a warm day. I may even try replicating this dish this summer.
Provisions has a list of soup noodles as well as saucy and sautéed noodles. The soup noodle bowl I enjoyed was the grilled Niman Ranch spicy pork loin ramen in a peanut lime cilantro broth. For some funny reason, the bowl brought back fond childhood memories of eating Top Ramen at home with leftover pork chop. Of course this tasted a million times better, but the comfort felt the same.

On one occasion, I had the Panko crusted Cod over warm ginger scallion noodles. Ginger and scallion produce two of my favorite flavors and together it creates the perfect harmony for the noodles to sing in. With that said, the cod was slightly overcooked and left me a little disappointed.  

After eating the grilled Korean marinated short rib over a kimchee chow mein the first time, I ordered it again on my second visit. I will probably have it on every future visit because it’s so good. I mean, who doesn’t love Korean BBQ short ribs? It is a perfect combination with the spicy and tangy kimchee noodles. I often see kimchee fried rice, but kimchee noodles is genius.  

On my second visit, I had dessert which was the Calamansi Lime Icebox Pie. The extreme cold and creaminess gave it the feel of a frozen ice cream, and the citrus flavor and graham cracker crust reminded me of a key lime pie. The blackberry sauce added another dimension. I was amazed at how delicious this was.  

If you are a noodle fan, check out Noodle Theory or Noodle Theory Provisions.  

The Best Corn on the Cob comes from Brentwood

I drove out to Brentwood yesterday afternoon, the city in Northern California, not the Los Angeles neighborhood. It was about a 50 minute drive East of Oakland. There was an event called Brentwood Harvest Time Festival. Brentwood is well known for their agriculture and farming. Summer time is when I think about Brentwood because I crave their crops of cherries and corn.  

The Brentwood Harvest Time Festival is a small community event held in the historic part of town with wine, beer, food booths, and other activities. I searched and searched for cherries, but there was none to be had. Apparently, I was five weeks too late. I guess the window for Brentwood cherries is small and I missed out. Luckily, the cherries from the State of Washington are plentiful and just as sweet.
Corn on the other hand was all over the festival. There were corn shucking competitions as well as corn eating competitions. I knew I had to get my hand on some corn from the food vendors.  

My first corn was from a food truck called Elisa’s Catering – Flavors of Cali. Their special of the day was Mexican southern street corn. This version has a buttermilk mayo herbed dressing smeared on it and then sprinkled with cotija cheese and southern spices.  

I have had plenty of elote asado and have even been successful at making it which I posted on my blog. The fresh and crispness of this Brentwood corn shined through with all the flavors. I ended up cutting it off the cob and enjoying mouthfuls of goodness.
After a very short break, I was on to my second cob. I went to the main vendor selling roasted corn on the cob. It was nonstop roasting happening in a cool mobile roaster.  
There were a couple of varieties of butter to choose from.  Fresh from the roaster and out of its husk, I was excited as the vendor glazed the cilantro lime butter on the corn.  
The aromatics of this corn on the cob filled the air. The cilantro and lime flavor was very subtle which I appreciated because I didn’t want the natural sweetness of the corn to be overpowered. The butter infused the crisp kernels with a creaminess to it. It was hands down the best corn of my life. I look forward to an abundant corn season this summer.

Hike, Lunch, Hike, Ice Cream: My Kind of Day

One of my favorite things to do is hike and I feel fortunate to live where I do and have access to the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD). EBRPD operates 65 parks that cover more than 120K acres and includes over 1,250 miles of trails that run through Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.  

courtesy of EBRPD

On Saturday, my friend and I hiked a portion of the 7.65 mile one way Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail. Starting from Moraga Commons, a local park, we hiked northeast toward Downtown Lafayette which was about 5.5 miles. It was a warm and beautiful day and we were ready to have lunch. With lots of restaurants with outdoor seating in Lafayette, we agreed on Chow.  

My vegetable platter was a beautiful vibrant hodgepodge of a plate. It came with sautéed mushrooms, grilled zucchini and tomato, corn salad, avocado, tomato purée, and tzatziki sauce. I made it even more of a hodgepodge by substituting polenta for mashed potatoes. I consumed all of this delicious summer plate, except for most of the mashed potatoes. I didn’t want to consume so many Weight Watcher points. It was my bad to have made the substitution.  

After lunch we had to return to the trail and hike back the 5.5 miles to return to the car. I am not intending to make this sound like it is a difficult hike at all. It is completely flat, but long. The only reason to call it a hike is because it’s on a trail. It is more like a walk. I did it in tennis shoes. Actually, this is a better trail for biking or running.  

So after our eleven mile walk on the Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail in the heat, we needed to get a snack to cool us off.

Thanks to Yelp, I discovered Guanatos Ice Cream in Walnut Creek. This family owned business makes fresh ice cream and other treats with a Latin flare. They have traditional ice cream flavors, but I was more excited about the unique flavors like rose petals, Mexican hot chocolate, and chongos zamoranos. I got a scoop of tequila ice cream on a waffle cone. It was super creamy and had a light hint of tequila flavor. Mentally, I was thinking I was enjoying tequila. It was a novel idea.

My friend ordered a scoop of horchata in a cup. The ingredients of rice, cinnamon, and milk make for a good flavored ice cream.

Guanatos was an awesome find and I look forward to trying the other flavors that they offer. They have shops in Bay Point, Concord, and Oakley as well.  

Gather in Berkeley

Today is day 7 of me rejoining Weight Watchers. I am carrying some extra weight that I hope to shed. I have been carrying those extra pounds even through running my recent half marathon. I realize that if I lose those pounds, I could PR! (Personal Record or beat my previous time.) My first experience with the Weight Watchers Program was over four years ago and it was a good one. What I like about Weight Watchers is that I can still eat good food, but in moderation.  

A large portion of my daily points today was consumed during brunch at Gather in Berkeley. Gather is a restaurant focused on sustainability which was the perfect location for my bookclub to discuss Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us.” The book makes you think about the carbon footprint we leave behind.  
Since I was doing pretty well the past week and was combining breakfast and lunch, I ordered a Bloody Mary. It was a nice treat and thought it was well worth the five points.  
Our group decided to share a breakfast pizza which included bacon and eggs, caramelized onions, and oregano. This was my first time having pizza at Gather. I requested a slice with egg and enjoyed the runny yolk. It definitely felt like breakfast. I was pleasantly surprised by the slight kick. I also liked the shape and edges of the pizza crust which left for more crispy opportunities. 
For my main, I was looking for something that didn’t have too many carbohydrates. I decided on the hominy & bean soup. This was both vegan and gluten free. I actually enjoyed the flavors very much. Honestly after having the one slice of pizza, the soup was both filling and satisfying.  
One of my friends had the shiitake mushroom scramble which came with crispy potatoes and a wonderful shallot herb buttered toast. She mostly enjoyed it as the eggs were a bit overcooked.
Two of my friends at the table ordered the walnut French toast with fresh berries and house made mascarpone. The plates were left clean, so I know how they felt about their French toast.  I had a small bite to taste and loved the flavor, but was not fond of the density.  

I thought the Amber wheat pancakes that my best friend ordered was the star of brunch. It came with poached apricots and house made ricotta. After a sample taste, I decided to eat the last bite when my meal was over because it was like ending with a fabulous dessert or a sweet note.
I estimated 5 points each for the Bloody Mary, the small slice of breakfast pizza, and the hominy and bean soup, and 1 point each for the small sampling of pancake, French toast, and herb buttered toast. That totals 18 points which isn’t too bad for an event where I was combining breakfast and lunch.  All in all, it was a great place to Gather.  I would just need to be mindful about dinner.

KaSoy Pop Up: Mien Noodle Soup

A month ago I attended a pop up dinner at the home of my Instagram friend @dishingoakland. The theme was Mien food cooked by Instagrammer @laneylaneyfong.  
Our appetIzer was a broiled chicken wing with asparagus spears and came with an unforgettable Mien sauce. The sauce had very similar ingredients to a fresh Mexican salsa, but used roasted tomatoes that really made it pop.  
The main was KaSoy which was the reason for having the pop up. KaSoy is a popular and traditional Mien noodle soup. The dedicate and flavorful broth used for KaSoy is cooked with bone marrow for a number of hours, way before we arrived. The bowl of rice noodles, beef balls, vegetables, and fabulous broth is topped with a signature saucy ground pork mixture. There was a communal plate of chopped green onions, cabbage, bean sprouts, and cilantro if we wanted to add more. Individually we were also given chicharrones and a lime wedge to add to the KaSoy.
Chef Laney also prepared our soup bowls with hot chili sauce. I definitely thought it was spicy, but not so much that I couldn’t handle it. There were two diners that needed their bowls prepared with less spice. We recommended that this be self administered in the future.
At the end of our meal, our host baked some cupcakes and quickly whipped up some homemade strawberry frosting for dessert. It was light and was a nice treat to end the meal.
I was fortunate to attend this small pop up dinner where I was able to experience KaSoy noodle soup for the first time. As a noodle soup lover, I enjoyed it very much.  It was also great fun to meet others that enjoy good food. Follow @dishingoakland or myself at @510foodie on Instagram to find out about potential KaSoy pop ups in the future.  

My First Half Marathon: Post Race Meal

I ran my first half marathon exactly one week ago. I participated in the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon San Diego with two friends whom I went to college with at San Diego State University over twenty years ago. It felt gratifying to be able to complete 13.1 miles in under two and a half hours. I trained for ten weeks, increasing my distance every two weeks.  

I enjoyed running through the various neighborhoods of San Diego, being cheered on by strangers, military folk, and high school cheerleaders, and being met at the finish line by friends. I felt a great accomplishment that deserved a celebration meal.

I made reservations for dinner at Juniper & Ivy (J & I), a Richard Blais restaurant. Chef Blais is well known from the TV show Top Chef and introducing the mainstream to molecular gastronomy. I walked into the restaurant proudly wearing the three medals I received. I obtained the first medal from running the 5K on Saturday, a second medal from running the half marathon on Sunday, and a third medal for running both. The staff at J & I brought each of us a free glass of champagne. It was such a nice gesture and definitely made me feel special.

One of my friends pulled a nice bottle of wine from her “cellar” at home and packed it into her suitcase so we could enjoy it after the race. The vintage 2007 Le Chanceux Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was delicious and a nice treat.

J & I’s menu is categorized by snacks, raw, pasta, toast, small plates, and plates. There were four of us and we decided to share a variety of items. I have never had a deviled egg like the ones at J & I. The filling of yolk mousse and mustard seed caviar are piped into a meringue shaped to look like egg white. It was a super cool concept, but I personally prefer my egg whites boiled instead of whipped.

My tablemates enjoyed the foie gras cookies as I declined to eat them for principle’s sake. I haven’t had foie gras since the California ban in 2012. Although the law is in appeal, I have decided to give it up. However, I was informed that the cookies were amazing.

The green beans were tempura fried and complimented with a ramp ranch dip. This was pretty boring, but the only reason we ordered it was to substitute the littleneck clams that had run out.  

The pea “socal fredo” was a pea linguini with charred shrimp and soft boiled egg. As it was being tossed, I could already envision the luxuriousness of this dish I would soon enjoy.

The burrata was accompanied by golden tomatoes, Persian cucumber, and croutons. This was light and refreshing.  

We ordered the stone crab toast which was like an open faced crab sandwich that came with beefsteak tomatoes and avocado. Even after cutting the toast into fours, I felt I was getting a significant amount of fresh and flavorful crab.  

The chicken liver came with cherry pecan bread, pickled cherries, and candied pecans. I thought it was overly sweet and the bread was too dense.

Another beautifully presented dish was the Spanish octopus. It came with black eggplant purée, shishito peppers, fennel, and green chickpeas. It was one of my favorites. 

I put in the order for the New York Strip. It was prepared with confit Alaskan potatoes, marinated tomatoes, blue cheese butter, and chimichurri. It was perfect for sharing four ways as it was a large plate.  

We shared two desserts. We had the “banana cream” which had caramelized pineapple, vanilla wafers and banana curd and the “almond joy” which was made with soft chocolate, marcona almonds, coconut sorbet, and pavlova. Both desserts were awesome and a perfect way to end the special meal. 

Although I didn’t think everything we ordered was perfect, it was the exact way to enjoy a shared meal with friends. Dinner at Juniper & Ivy was a fun and enjoyable experience.