Bahn Mi Me

What is a bahn mi?  A bahn mi is the Vietnamese version of a po’ boy.   These sandwiches are filled with a choice of meat and tons of goodies.  The french roll is filled with vegetables that include a mixture of pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, cilantro, and jalapeno peppers.  The most popular bahn mi is probably the pork combo which is cold cuts smeared with pate’.

Living in Oakland with a large Vietnamese population, it’s easy to find a shop that sells bahn mi.  I’ve eaten quite a few in my lifetime and the place I go to for a consistently good one is Cam Huong.  There are actually two Cam Huong shops in Oakland, one is in Chinatown and the other is on International Blvd. in East Oakland.

Why do I enjoy bahn mi sandwiches?  In addition to them being inexpensive, they are tasty.  I enjoy removing the colorful rubber band, unwrapping the paper, and biting into a crusty roll filled with flavorful meat and crispy veggies.  Being that the one in Chinatown is a good walk from work, I can easily pick up one for lunch.  They are also a great choice for taking on a picnic, on a hike, or to the ballpark.

For those that haven’t been to the Cam Huong located on International Blvd., this is my favorite shop.  It is more spacious and lines are much more organized.  The location in Chinatown is typically crowded and makes me feel stressed.

Today I picked up the following:  bbq chicken, pork combo, and grilled pork.  I wanted to do a taste test.  I thought they were all very good, but different.  If I had to choose, I think it would have to be the bbq chicken sandwich.  But when I haven’t had a pork combo for a long time, I can’t think of anything more satisfying.

Where do you get your bahn mi?

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Charmed in Baltimore

I had a blast last weekend in Baltimore and the highlight was the Charm City Food Tour that a friend a mine had recommended.  Walking around learning about a neighborhood and eating good food?  Sign me up!  I had originally wanted to go on the Fells Point Tour, but it was sold out.  I signed up for the Federal Hills Tour which is one of Baltimore’s most historic neighborhoods. 

 

I ran late and missed the first stop which was Big Jim’s Deli in the Cross Street Market.  My tour guide was nice to have saved me half a tuna fish sandwich.  I had previously indicated I couldn’t eat beef so I was the only one that didn’t enjoy a pastrami sandwich.  I have to say the tuna fish was pretty good.  The market has a lot of different food stalls including seafood stalls which I wrote about last week and Utz Potato Chips which to me is the Lays Potato Chips of the area.  

 

Next stop on the tour was Nichiban, a local sushi restaurant.  The chef made us a few sushi rolls to try that included ones with fresh salmon and crab.  It was fun to sit at the sushi bar and enjoy a small snack.

 

To quench our thirst, our next stop was Metropolitan Coffeehouse & Wine Bar.  We each got a glass of a local brew called Flying Dog.  The owner also gave us a small sampling of their chili and a Scottish egg.  They apparently have some of the best chili, which I did not try.  I was able to eat the Scottish egg.  I knew what a Scottish egg was because I had one at the Eat Real Festival in Oakland earlier this year.  It is a hardboiled egg that is wrapped with pork sausage, breaded, and then deep fried.  It was tasty and filling and definitely good with beer.

 

We continued a few blocks and stopped at the Scarborough Fair, a bed and breakfast, for a sweet treat.  The owner had made us some chocolate cupcakes and some warm apple cider.  I really liked the cider which we were able to take with us as she trekked up to Federal Hill for the amazing views.   

 

Federal Hill was the site for thousands of people to celebrate Maryland’s ratification of the “federal” constitution in 1787 giving it its name.  I really enjoyed walking around the neighborhood filled with two and three story brick homes that have lots of charm. 

 

After this short trek, it was time again to stop for a snack.  We visited Trattoria Annamaria for a meatball loaded with sauce.  This was great and I wish I had some bread to dip into the remaining sauce. 

 

The most famous cookie in Baltimore is the Berger cookie.  This is a shortbread cookie topped with chocolate fudge.  Our final stop was Dangerously Delicious Pies for a slice of the Baltimore Bomb which brings the Berger cookie to a new level.  These cookies are smashed and melted down into a pie.  Tasty!

Charm City Food Tours are great and I highly recommend it if you are in the area and have a few hours to spare.  I want to answer a question that I had before I arrived into this City.  Why is Baltimore known as Charm City?  In the 70’s the mayor hired someone to come up with a campaign to increase tourism and came up with the name Charm City.  Visitors would receive a charm bracelet and be able to tour the various attractions collecting different charms.  Unfortunately, the city could no longer afford the charm bracelets, but the nickname stuck.

This Weeks Crab War: Dungeness vs. Blue

Iron Chef Michael Symon just started a new show called Food Feuds where he goes to restaurants in a region that claim to have the best of something.  This blog is my attempt to do something similar.  Who does crab better?  East Coast or West Coast? 

One of the most well known and popular places to eat crab in the Bay Area is Crustacean in San Francisco and it wasn’t until last week that I first tried it.  We ordered the roasted crab which is a whole Dungeness crab with garlic sauce and spices. 

I spent the weekend in Baltimore and was on a mission to eat their famous crab cake.  With the help of various websites, I found Faidley’s Seafood inside the Lexington Market and had a lump crab cake.  Unlike other crab cakes that I have tried, lump crab cakes don’t use a lot of breading and it has big chunks of crab meat.

Which crab reigns supreme?  My opinion is East Coast crab.  Although the flavors of the crab at crustacean were very good, I thought the crab was overcooked.  At Crusteacean, you wear a bib and work for your food.  In my opinion, this should add to the experience and make it fun.  But having done all this work to get to overcooked crab, it takes the fun out of it.  You can tell when you crack into a crab that it is overcooked when the meat doesn’t come out in large chunks, but rather smooshed.  I was disappointed.  On the other hand, the Faidley’s crab cake was perfectly cooked, had plenty of meat, and had absolutely no work at all.  At first sight, I thought this was going to be so rich and I wouldn’t be able to eat it all.  Faidley’s lump crab cake has no filler, just very good flavor and seasonings.  Apparently, Faidley’s is going to be featured on an upcoming episode of Food Feud.  My money is on them to win.

Another discovery in Baltimore was Nick’s Seafood Restaurant inside Cross Street Market.  This place was awesome.  Football fans were there to watch the Ravens against the Patriots.  Although their team lost, the fans knew how to enjoy themselves.  Shrimp, clams, oysters, and more adorn the market.  I ordered the Maryland crab soup and ½ lb of steamed jumbo shrimp.  The crab soup had crab, lots of vegetables and Old Bay seasoning.  I also watched them pour the Old Bay seasoning over the shrimp and onions before putting it in the steamer.  Actually, they love the Old Bay seasoning in Baltimore.    I overheard someone ask for more “Old Bay” to pour on their cheese fries. 

There is something special about seafood in the East Coast. 

More to come on Baltimore on next week’s blog…

Popovers: Serve Them at Anytime of Day

After having dinner at Wayfare Tavern a few weeks ago, I was inspired to make popovers.  Popovers are light hollow rolls made from an egg batter.  I’ve only been served these at dinnertime, but I think breakfast is a great time to serve them.  I had an occasion to make them.  I was in charge of bringing breakfast for a work meeting and I didn’t want to bring the lackluster bagel and cream cheese. 

I needed more inspiration; I needed a real popover pan.  I went to Sur La Table and found a mini popover pan that would make a dozen popovers at a time.  When I went to the counter to pay, the cashier asked for my last name.  She then asked if I had a “professional” card.  I said, “No.”  She apparently asked because there was a person in the system with my last name that has a professional card.  I asked what it was and she said it’s a card for professionals in the food industry and provides a 15% discount.  She then asked if I was a professional.  I started to feel like this woman wanted me to say yes.  I said, “I’m a food blogger, does that count?”  She said she would consider that a professional, but she would have to doublecheck with her manager who was assisting someone else.  The manager said, “Of course that counts.”  I am now the holder of a Sur La Table Culinary Professionals Discount Card.  Right on!

So I went on the internet to search for a recipe for popovers.  I found a simple one on King Arthur Flour’s website.  I had previously used one of their recipes to make crumpets and they came out well.  This was a website I could rely on.

 Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs, warmed in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes before cracking
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tbsp melted butter

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450°F.
Spray mini popover pan thoroughly with cooking spray.
Beat eggs, milk, and salt with a whisk.
Add flour to mixture and use a hand mixer for 1-2 minutes getting all the lumps out. 
Add melted butter, and mix thoroughly
Pour batter into the popover cups about ¾ full.B
Put the pan into the lower shelf of the 450°F oven.
Bake for 12 minutes and reduce heat to 350°F, never opening oven.
Bake an additional 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and serve .

I served the popovers with butter and jam and they came out very well.  With a new pan and recipe, I’m sure to make these a few more times.  These popovers can really be eaten at any time of day.  In addition to having them as part of breakfast, I was thinking of making some type of beef roast and serving these as Yorkshire pudding.  I can’t wait to dip the popover into some au jus.  Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.

In My New Hood: Bellanico

I moved to the Glenview district about a month ago and I absolutely love it.  Glenview is a small quiet community with a commercial district that spans a few blocks.   The district has various businesses including notable restaurants.  I have been wanting to go to the Italian restaurant Bellanico since they opened about two years ago.  I have friends that live close by and always had rave reviews about Bellanico.  This is the restaurant that got my attention because I couldn’t stop hearing about their farro salad.  There was no more excuse not to finally eat here.

My friends wanted to celebrate my new neighborhood with me, so we had dinner at Bellanico on a weekday evening.  I was very excited to try this place.  I had already been a fan of Bellanico on Facebook for several months and enjoyed hearing about their specials and what they were cooking up in their kitchen.  It was before 6:30 on a weeknight and the three of us could not get a table, so we were seated at the bar.  Bellanico has daily tasting menus.  They serve a three course lunch for $18 and a four course dinner for $24.  One of my friends was going to order off the tasting menu and the rest of us were going a la carte. 

I had to try their infamous farro salad to start.  I had to start believing what I was hearing.  The organic farro salad came with escarole, sungold tomatoes, cucumber, toasted hazelnuts, and hazelnut vinaigrette.  I have to say that this farro salad blows any other farro salad that I’ve consumed all year long and I’ve had my share of good ones.  I’ve made them, my friends have made them, and I’ve eaten one at another Oakland restaurant.  Each ingredient plays a significant role in this salad and it was delicious.  I loved all the flavors and textures.  I especially enjoyed the toasted hazelnuts.  I believe. 

Bellanico claims to use local, sustainable and organic products when available.  Whenever I see this, I still have to be careful if I order beef, as that disclaimer doesn’t always mean I’m going to get grass fed beef.  Their braised shorts ribs are from Prather Ranch, so I was able to order it as my entree.  It was tender and mouthwatering; another thumbs up. 

The dessert I ordered was a vanilla affrogato.  It was a very large scoop of ice cream and the espresso coffee they use comes from McLaughlin Coffee which is also the distributer to Cole Coffee which is where I get my coffee from.  The quality is excellent.

My friends had also ordered some delicious items, but there were two absolutely amazing items that I must mention or I am doing a disservice.  These two were actually part of the tasting menu, the cicchetti (small snack, before the first course) and the primi (first) courses.  The cichetti that my friend ordered was a crochetti di riso, salsa rossa.  We only could translate that as a fried rice ball.  It appeared black in color.  As you bit into it, it started to ooze cheese.  It was simply scrumptious and I will always look for this one on the menu. 

The primi ordered was a parmesan sformatto (molded custard), heirloom tomatoes, peaches, and del Monaco olive oil.  This was not only beautiful, it was delectable.   The heirloom tomatoes and peaches were wonderful, but it complimented this custard so well.  It was creamy and amazing.  I can’t recall ever having anything like it.  I will be keeping an eye on this one in the future as well.

Bellanico is the epitome of a neighborhood restaurant and I’m proud to have it in my hood.  The owners actually have another restaurant Aperto in the neighborhood of Potrero Hill in San Francisco that has been open for about 18 years.  I enthusiastically look forward to not only eating at Bellanico again, but trying out Aperto.