The Trappist: Beer and More

20130127-214503.jpg
The Trappist is a specialty beer cafe located in Old Oakland. They specialize in beers from Belgium. They have been around for awhile, but it has been too long since my last visit. A lot has changed. They’ve expanded to more than twice their size, recently opened a new location in Rockridge, and now serves food. The Trappist was participating in Oakland’s Restaurant Week. For $20 you could get a pre-fixed menu including one of their beers on tap.

My friend and I went straight from work Friday evening and it was already quite busy. After reviewing the three course meal they were offering as part of Restaurant Week, we decided to order a la carte.

I’m not going to pretend to know beer. I can enjoy an ice cold beer on a warm day and I can enjoy a beer that pairs well with food. I would consider the menu at the Trappist to pair well with beer.

I did a little research before going to the Trappist. I asked my colleague to help me pick a beer according to my tastes. He recommended the Allagash White Ale with a 5% ABV for me. It’s one of their lightest beers, but still has character and a good fresh taste. My friend got some help at the bar. The bartender gave her a taste of the St Bernardus Tripel and she liked the flavor and creaminess. She returned with a glass of the St Bernardus Tripel as well as a bag of chicharrones from 4505 Meats. This would be a great snack to hold us over before our food arrived. The chicharrones had a very strong pork taste that surprised me. I wasn’t expecting that strong of a flavor because it came out of a plastic chip bag. The fresh chicharrones also kept sticking to my teeth. The novelty was still fun.

20130127-214519.jpg
My friend and I shared a salad and a sandwich. The salad we chose was the Greens, Farro, and Pears. It came with a red wine vinaigrette and sprinkled Point Reyes blue cheese. It was a nice combination and I especially liked how they julienned the pears.

20130127-214638.jpg

The Trappist Reuben is a grilled corned beef sandwich with gruyere cheese and sauerkraut. This was a delicious sandwich. It came with a few of their house pickled vegetables that I enjoyed. The pickling spice was a little too hot for my friend.

20130127-214915.jpg
I was intrigued by the almond beer brittle for dessert, but maybe next time as my friend is allergic to nuts. We decided to head next door to Tamarindo for something sweet.

If you love beer, the Trappist is a great choice for you. And if you get hungry, there is probably something tasty on the menu that would compliment that beer in your hand.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Tara’s Ice Cream

20130120-220640.jpg
I try not to buy too many Groupons and Living Social Deals, but sometimes it’s too good a deal to pass up. I bought a Living Social Deal for Tara’s Organic Ice Cream last year and noticed the expiration date was coming up quick. Although you can still redeem expired coupons for the value paid, I figured I should redeem it for the full deal. I took my niece with me to Tara’s on Telegraph Avenue in the Temescal area. The other shop is located on College Avenue in Berkeley.
20130120-221105.jpg
I suggested we each get our own to eat now and then bring back a couple of pints for the rest of the Lau kids. Although the flavors seem to change daily, they do not offer very many flavors. It is a small shop so the number of selections may be reasonable, but I was a bit disappointed that more than a third of those flavors were running very low.
20130120-220712.jpg
I love the cardamom flavor that the brand Three Twins make, but there didn’t seem to even have enough for me to get a small cone. I decided on the classic strawberry. I wasn’t disappointed. It was really good.
20130120-220815.jpg
My niece tried a sample of molasses, but didn’t like it. She ended up getting chocolate. Tara’s uses a dark chocolate from Italy. She thought it was the best chocolate ice cream ever.
20130120-220854.jpg
As I mentioned the choices were limited especially for the pint size to bring home. I went for the vanilla and the strawberry agave sorbet. The combination was perfect.
20130120-220932.jpg
All the kids loved it and didn’t even complain about the small portions they were receiving. There was still plenty of leftovers.
20130120-221023.jpg

Meatball Sandwich, Vietnamese Style

20130113-215452.jpg
It was only last year that I discovered Banh Mi Ba Le, a Vietnamese Deli in East Oakland. The first time I went to Ba Le, we bought food for a hike. The deli sells a variety of prepared Vietnamese food including bahn mi sandwiches, rice plates, rolls, and other sides.

20130113-215744.jpg
The food we purchased was good, but one thing that really stuck with me was their warm fresh soy milk. My mom used to buy large bottles of soy milk from Chinatown and it was a treat to have it while it was still warm.

20130113-215516.jpg
Since the first visit to Ba Le, I have been going back here and there for food, but not without a bottle of soy milk. They closed for almost a month during the holidays for some remodeling and I was having fresh soy milk withdrawals.

20130113-215623.jpg
Ba Le reopened earlier this week. I have been hearing (reading) a lot about their meatball sandwich with a fried egg. Yelpers are quoted as saying “sooooo friggin good”, “sooo yummy”, “the bomb!” about the meatball sandwich. I picked one up yesterday and have to say those Yelpers are all right.

20130113-215839.jpg
The meatball sandwich with fried egg is #13 on the menu. The ground pork meat with the perfect not so overly easy egg, fresh pickled vegetables, on this fresh crusty soft roll was delicious! The flavors were dancing from sweet to savory to slightly tart and then all over again. I cut my sandwich in half and couldn’t believe how quickly both halves went.

Next time I go back to Ba Le, I will remember #13, I just hope I don’t forget to pick up the soy milk.

Cooking Cuban

My trip last month to Southern California brought me back to my favorite Cuban restaurant in Los Angeles. Versailles is no frills, just good flavor and inexpensive prices. Their pork and chicken is cooked in a delicious lemon garlic sauce. This sauce is so good that they even bottle it. I decided to buy a bottle of the sauce so I can try cooking some Cuban food at home.

20130106-203255.jpg
Recently, I used that bottle to cook a Cuban meal for a few friends. I marinated some pork overnight and in the morning turned on the slow cooker. By the time I got home from work, my apartment was smelling great. I had to start on the rice and plantains. One of my friends introduced me to Goya canned black beans so I wasn’t going to spend time on making black beans.

20130106-203335.jpg
I wanted to make a Cuban white rice or arroz blanco. If you are wondering what makes white rice Cuban, it is the added garlic flavor. I found a simple recipe from Food and Wine.

I bought some green plantains from a Mexican supermarket in Oakland to complement my meal. I was a little intimidated to work with the plantains, but Alton Brown published an easy recipe for fried plantains.

20130106-203430.jpg
My friends and I loved the meal. Even the canned black beans were good. I was impressed with myself and have added “cooking more” as a New Year’s Resolution.

20130106-204412.jpg