Eat Real Festival, Oakland

The smell of food is in the air and you can’t avoid it when you’re at the Eat Real Festival in Jack London Square in Oakland.  This weekend was the second annual event.  The tagline for the Eat Real Festival is “Putting the food back in fast,” meaning you don’t have to give up quality when you eat fast food.  It’s a free event and everything is $5 or under.

I missed most of the festival because I was out of town, but I decided this afternoon to go to the Festival and have a snack.  My sister and I walked around the various food trucks and stalls to see what was available.  We passed the Korean taco truck, the Argentinian Parilla truck, a pizza stall to name a few.  Thousands of people were in attendance.  What kind of snack would we pick up?  Which vendor would we stop at? 

4505 Meats had me at “Chicharrones.”  They were serving something called a zilladog, which is a beef hot dog with kim chee topped with crispy chicharrones.  The other offering was their cheeseburger.  I inquired about their beef and my ears were happy when they said their beef is grass fed and comes from Sonoma County.  My sister and I decided to get one of each to share. 

This was my first beef hot dog in many years, so my expectations were pretty high.  I didn’t think the hotdog itself was that great.  It was definitely missing the juice when you bit into it.  I thought the kimchee was an interesting and worthy substitute to the traditional sauerkraut, but the star was the chicharrones that topped it as they were light and crispy.  

While I was waiting for my food, two different people came back to ask about their burger.  “Is this cooked?” and “Can I get this cooked well done?”  The gal at the booth told them both that all their burgers are cooked medium rare.  I agree that the perfect burger is medium rare and my burger from 4505 Meats was perfect.  The burger was glistening as it came right off the grill.  It was juicy and melted in my mouth.  Wow! 

I also give kudos to 4505 for being well organized.  They had a good system and the lines went really quickly.  Some of the other booths had more than 50 people in it and they didn’t seem to move either.  4505 appeared to always have about 8-10 people in line consistently. 

 If you missed Eat Real and if you missed the booth at 4505 Meats, they are at the Ferry Building farmers market on Thursdays and Saturdays.

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Chicken Noodle Soup: Asian Style

It’s the end of August and Summer in the Bay Area has practically been non existent.  I’ve been accustomed to being awaken by the sun in the mornings, this summer I wake up to dreary mornings and the sun doesn’t peak until the late morning or early afternoon.  I’m not sure if its global warming, but I do know that these days make me crave something warm and comforting – chicken noodle soup: Asian style. 

Pho Ga Huong Que Café is a little dive in East Oakland that is known for their chicken noodle soup.  I think their version is fusion with a combination of influence from Vietnamese, Chinese, and Singapore cuisine. 

Simple goes a long way and that is true in this noodle soup dish.  You have a choice of chicken on or off the bone and you have a choice of noodles.  To really enjoy the flavors, I typically order chicken on the bone and request wide rice noodles. Chopped scallions surround the bowl of soup.  The broth is so rich in flavor that it makes your insides feel so good.  Lastly, each bowl of noodle soup, comes with your own sauce plate of amazing ginger scallion oil.  This is a really simple condiment.  My mother makes a version of this at home and it is made up of minced ginger, scallion, salt, and hot oil.  Only at home, I don’t get my own sauce plate. 

So when it’s a gloomy day or when you don’t feel well, Pho Ga Huong Que Café will hit the spot and for under $6.  Pure comfort!

On the Road to the Sierras: Pie and Ravioli

My BFF and I had plans to spend a couple days at my friend’s cabin in the Sierras.  It is nice to get away from the hustle and bustle, do some hiking, see some wildflowers, and eat and cook good food.  There is never a lack of good food with these friends of mine.  These trips to the cabin typically involve Bay Area grocery shopping prior to leaving town.  This was not the case on this particular trip.  We were assigned a main entrée and a dessert for Saturday dinner.  My BFF had suggested a stop to Vinciguerra Ravioli Company in Jackson.  Her friend had brought her some of these raviolis before which left a good taste in her mouth that reminded her that this needed to be a stop when on Highway 88.  Entrée?  Check.  Dessert was still in question.  I did a quick yelp search for pie near Jackson and was intrigued by the pie at Clements Ridge in the town of Clements, which was also located off Highway 88 in the town of Clements which was on the way to Jackson.  Dessert?  Check. 

We hit Clements Ridge first and there was a lot of pie to choose from, including chicken pot pie.  We asked the guy at the counter which pie was his favorite and he recommended the blackberry pie.  We picked up a take and bake frozen pie so we could bake at the cabin.  Since we hadn’t had lunch yet, we shared a chicken pot pie and a slice of strawberry pie.  The individual sized pot pie was quite tasty, and also dense and filling.  The strawberry pie was an amazing cold pie that hit the spot.  The strawberry filling and the whipped cream brought a sweet and delicate mouthful.

On to Jackson we drove to pick up our ravioli.  Vinciguerra Ravioli Company is a shop where you order your frozen pasta and sauce from a window.  The owner Jim is a very friendly man.   After talking to us for awhile, he invited us inside the shop to show us the ravioli machine.  This hand cranked machine is a one of a kind that he purchased from San Francisco many years ago.  Jim learned to make ravioli from his grandma Teresa.  Grandma Teresa immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1913.  Her husband was a miner and she ran a boarding house in the area.  You could tell that Jim enjoys sharing his pasta with others.  We picked up a box of mushroom ravioli, a box of cheese ravioli, and plenty of marinara sauce.  We followed Jim’s instructions for cooking the pasta and they came out wonderful.  Since we cooked both kinds of ravioli together, it was a bit difficult to distinguish the two.  The texture was similar, and they both were very creamy.  I slightly enjoyed the cheese variety more.  Thank you Jim for sharing!

After baking for one hour, the smell of blackberry pie filled the cabin.  Did it taste as good as it smelled?  Yes it did.  The blackberries were a good balance of sweet and tart.  I took home the last piece of pie and look forward to eating it and reminiscing about the great weekend full of fun, relaxation, and good food and company.

Fried Green Tomatoes

I learned a bit more about unripe green tomatoes this past week.  I learned you could ask a farmer to bring you some green tomatoes to the local farmers market.  I also learned you don’t necessarily need a garden to grow tomatoes, you could grow them in a pot.

Although I had no luck last week finding green tomatoes at the farmer’s market, a friend of mine  was able to find them at the San Leandro farmer’s market.  She picked up some for me, so this was a good excuse to make fried green tomatoes sooner than later. 

My niece Ashley hates tomatoes, but she was going to be a good sport and help me make the fried green tomatoes.  We were going to borrow the recipe from the Neely’s for the tomatoes and borrow a recipe from Epicurious.com for a garlic lemon aioli.  

Preparation
Slice green tomatoes ¼ inch thick and add salt and pepper
Mix ¾ cup flour and 1 tsp of garlic powder into a bowl
Beat 4 eggs and 2 tbsp milk into a bowl
Mix 1 ½ cup panko bread crumbs with a pinch of paprika
Heat oil in a deep flyer or pot to about 350 degrees

Directions
Line up all the bowls and take the tomatoes, dip it into the flour mixture, then place it into the egg mixture, and then dip it into the panko.  Taking a few at a time, slowly place it in the hot oil for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Flip them over with some tongs a few times.  When golden brown, remove them from the oil and drain onto paper towels.

Making the Aioli
Mix 1 cup of mayonnaise with 5 garlic cloves, the juice of ½ lemon, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp of hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.   

Finishing Up the Dish
Plate the tomatoes and top with the garlic lemon aioli and chopped scallions.

The fried green tomatoes were actually quite easy to make, but messy to clean up.  They came out delicious and were very similar to the ones I had at Pizzaiola recently.  Even Ashley gave them a try and loved them, especially with the aioli.

Just for fun, I decided to re-watch the 1991 film with Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Mary-Louise Parker.  Fried green tomatoes is definitely a dish you would enjoy best with good friends. 

My Pizzaiolo Inspiration

My Food Companion (FC) and I had a late weeknight dinner at Pizzaiolo in the Temescal area of Oakland earlier this week.  Pizzaiolo is known for their wood fire oven pizza.  I’ve always had good food here.  It is delish and in my opinion the best neopolitan style pizza in Oakland.  They recently opened up a sister restaurant in the Lakeshore area called Boot and Shoe Service.  This is also a very solid restaurant serving similar menu items.  Matter of fact, these are two of the hottest restaurants in Oakland.   It is not a surprise that the owner Charlie worked in the kitchen of Chez Panisse for eight years. 

Since it was pretty late, we decided to share a pizza, a salad, and an appetizer.  The salad was made up of green beans, almonds, and pecorino cheese.  This was fresh and tasty.  My FC is a vegetarian, so we decided to go with the margherita pizza.  The pizza had the perfect balance of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil. The appetizer we ordered was fried green tomatoes with aioli.  This was the highlight of the evening for me.  It was the best fried green tomatoes I have ever had.  It came out piping hot, crisp and light. I think they used panko to bread the tomatoes instead of bread crumbs.  For days I couldn’t stop thinking about the delicious fried green tomatoes.  I did a search and found a recipe by the Neely’s of the Food Network that also used panko.  The users reviewed it and gave the recipe 5 out of 5 stars.  That’s it…I was going to attempt to make the fried green tomatoes.  I was naïve in thinking I could just walk into a store to buy green tomatoes.  The farmers market, Berkeley Bowl, and Farmer Joes did not carry it.  Green tomatoes are unripe tomatoes and I couldn’t find it sold anywhere.  The produce guy at Berkeley Bowl told me I had to grow it myself.  I guess I wasn’t going to recreate this dish anytime soon.  If it has to go on the bucket list of things to make, it will.  Let’s say this blog is to be continued…