London Calling: Borough Market

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I arrived in London yesterday at 7am. I was told that Saturdays were the best day to visit Borough Market, so after checking into our hotel, we took the Tube to get there. Borough Market is full of artisanal foods. Vendors were selling their homemade products such as cheese, breads, and cured meats.
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A bread shop called Bread Ahead was promoting that they had the best donuts in the Country. It would be our first donut in the UK. They offered two flavors which were vanilla and orange cardamom. I had to try the orange cardamom. It was a nice airy donut filled with delicious scented cream.
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Another stall called Roast was selling sandwiches with their freshly roasted meats. We were watching them carve meats and put together sandwiches and they looked so good. My friend and I decided to share the pork belly, crackling and applesauce sandwich. The pork was tender and flavorful and was well complimented with the applesauce. Some parts of the crackling were really crisp, but other parts were a bit too hard. I enjoyed it well enough.
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I was looking forward to some fresh summer farmer’s market fruits. We tasted some really good cherries and decided to buy some fruit to take back to the hotel. We settled on the three red fruit- cherries, strawberries, and raspberries from Chegworth Farms.
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It was raining and I felt somewhere between Pike’s Place in Seattle and the Ferry Building in San Francisco. For a first stop, Borough Market was a good one.

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DIY: Festive Cake Pops

Today my mom celebrated her 70th birthday with family and close friends. Last night, my niece and I decided to make festive cake pops as party favors.

We bought all the ingredients and supplies to make a yellow cake pop covered with chocolate and candy sprinkles.

Here is a list of ingredients and supplies:
Store bought yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 tablespoons of store bought vanilla frosting
12 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon of vegetable shortening
Candy sprinkles
Cake pop sticks
Styrofoam
Container for cake pop (optional)

Instructions:
Pour the cake mix, eggs, oil, and water in a large bowl and mix until smooth. Pour into a pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. When you can pull a toothpick or fork out of the cake and it comes out clean, your cake is ready. Let the cake cool completely.
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Remove the cake out of the pan and into a bowl. Use your hands and break the cake into crumbs. Add the frosting to the mix and blend. Divide the mixture into even proportions and roll into balls. We used about 1.5 tablespoons and made about 25 balls. Place the balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for approximately 30 minutes.
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After the cake balls have set for 30 minutes, melt a small amount of chocolate chips (less than 1/4 cup) in the microwave oven. Dip the tip of a cake pop stick into a cake ball. Repeat and then put the baking sheet in the refrigerator for about an hour.
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After the sticks have set into the cake balls for an hour, melt the rest of your chocolate in a double broiler or a bowl over boiling water. When melted, add a tablespoon of vegetable shortening. This thins out the chocolate and makes your chocolate look shiny after it is set. Evenly coat melted chocolate over a cake ball.
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Now add candy sprinkles over the chocolate. Place the bottom end of the stick into some styrofoam. You can buy this from a craft store, but I recycled some from a tv box. Repeat until done.
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Wait another hour and the chocolate should be completely dry and technically they are done. However, we placed them back on the lined baking sheet and back into the refrigerator. Having the chocolate a bit harder and chilled makes the cake pop taste much better.
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For my mom’s 70th birthday, we placed the cake pops into small boxes to make our favors. They came out very pretty and enjoyable.
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Foreign Cinema: Two Thumbs Up

It wasn’t a holiday. It wasn’t a special occasion. It was just a Friday and my friend and I were going to have dinner at Foreign Cinema in the Mission District of San Francisco. We didn’t have reservations so we had planned to eat at the bar. I arrived first and ordered a Manhattan with Bourbon on “a” rock, after all it was a Friday night.
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I was restaurant gazing as I waited for my friend to arrive. It was my first time at Foreign Cinema. I never really had the desire to go there before because the restaurant is known for showing Foreign Films. I always thought that was a bit cheesy. If you are going out for a nice dinner, the last thing I would want to do is focus on a movie, especially a foreign one.

When my friend arrived, she checked with the host and got us a table in the balcony. So that is my first tip. You can always try to walk-in without a reservation.
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My Manhattan was starting to hit me, so I was ready to eat. With the help of our waiter, we agree to start with half a dozen oysters and two appetizers.

We got a selection of oysters from Canada, Seattle, and the Bay Area. That’s how I ate them, going from North to South. I like small delicate oysters and all three were great with a splash of lemon and mignonette sauce.
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The first appetizer was a duck liver mousse on grilled lavain with a green salad, balsamic vinegar and peaches. The combination of flavors and textures were perfect.
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Our second appetizer was the grilled calamari with chick peas, potatoes, and a tomato-habanero sauce. This was cooked in a iron skillet and served with tortilla chips. I loved the spiciness in this dish.
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We decided on sharing entrees as well. We went with a surf and turf combination. We ordered the sautéed Petrale sole cooked with tiny clams, radishes, yellow romano beans, and fingerling potatoes. I really enjoyed all the accoutrements that came with the dish more than the fish itself.
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The “turf” part of our meal was the mixed lamb grill which came with a chop, sirloin, and a sausage. The meats were served with fava beans, baby carrots, quinoa, and a romesco sauce. This was outstanding and if I were to have only one item at Foreign Cinema, I would go straight to this dish especially having such a great variety.
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The food was so amazing that we didn’t want to end our experience. We ordered the plum granita and boysenberry sorbet. This was a little bit sweet as well as tart. I enjoyed the fruit flavors and it was a nice palette cleanser.
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We also got the butterscotch crème brûlée which came with a pepita macaroon. I could pass on the overly sweet macaroon, but leave my spoon so I could indulge in the amazing crème brûlée.
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We are barely halfway done with the year, but this is definitely the best meal so far.

Hard Water: Easy to Enjoy

Today is National Best Friend’s Day so I am writing about last night’s outing to celebrate my best friend’s birthday. She had been wanting to try out a place called Hard Water at Pier 3 in San Francisco. We had dinner reservations for three at 7:15pm. My sister, my BFF, and I showed up about fifteen minutes early prepared to have a drink at the bar. To our surprise, the restaurant pretty much is set up like a bar. About a third of the seating surrounds the bar that is located in the center of the room. Another set of seating is counter space on the right and left walls. There are two community tables in the front of the restaurant on the right and left side. The coolest thing was the back wall filled with hundreds of bottles of whiskey.
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The place was packed so we waited about ten minutes before we got seated at the bar. With the strange set up, we were happy to be seated there. The cocktail list was quite attractive to me. My sister’s first drink was the Pimm’s Cup which had gin, vermouth, amari, cucumber, strawberries, and bitter lemon soda.
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In celebration of the Belmont Stakes, my first drink was the Mint Julip. This was made with bourbon, gum syrup, crushed ice, and loaded with mint and served in a cute stainless steel cup and straw.
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The birthday girl had a craft bourbon flight that included two local ones. I was happy she didn’t order the $250 flight! The one that stood out for her was the Brimstone from Texas that smelled of campfire.
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Our second round of drinks included more cocktails and beer. My sister got a pretty pink drink (no photo) called Roffignae cocktail made of Redemption rye, lemon, grapefruit, red hembarig syrup, and soda water. My BFF ordered an Abita Amber. I got the Presbyterian which was Wild Turkey 101 bourbon, lemon, ginger, and soda. It was delicious and I loved the candied ginger on top.
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We did have food to go with our drinks. We ordered three appetizers to start. The Dirty Rice had ground pork and chicken liver. It was delicious especially with their homemade hot sauce. Oddly, it seemed to have mellowed off the spiciness in the rice. The secret to the hot sauce is chilis from Fresno.
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Another appetizer we ordered was the cornmeal crusted alligator with aioli. It was actually my first time having alligator, aside from a piece of alligator jerky I’ve tried. The alligator was fried so I couldn’t make out any unique flavor.
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The third appetizer was the one I was most looking forward to which was pork belly crackling with a Cajun spice, lemon, and scallions. They were a combination of piping hot, crispy, fatty, and flavorful pork. They were amazing!
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We picked one entree to share and agreed on the shrimp and grits. The shrimp and sauce blended well with the creamy cheesy grits. It was a great choice.
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Birthday girl chose the chocolate cream pie for dessert. It was made with a peanut butter ganache and a peanut butter crumble. With the first spoonful, we were all in heaven. It was supercalafragalisticexpealidocious!
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We thoroughly enjoyed the experience at Hard Water. I may have walked in a bit skeptical, but I walked out a happy customer.

Ode to the Ice Cream Sandwich

I don’t know what it is about the ice cream sandwich that I love so dearly. I grew up on two types of them. The It’s-It is a frozen treat of ice cream that is sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies and dipped in chocolate. I didn’t realize until I was an adult that they are made right here in the Bay Area. I would pass it on Highway 101 South on my way to the San Francisco International Airport. I still occasionally eat these today.
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The other type is the Nestle Carnation Ice Cream Sandwich that uses a thin rectangular shaped chocolate wafer cookie on the top and bottom of ice cream (I like vanilla). My last bite always leaves me with some wafer cookie stuck to my thumb and index finger. Today I have upgraded what is in my freezer to Julie’s Organic Ice Cream Sandwiches. It’s the same idea but better quality ice cream and cookie.
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In the East Bay, I am lucky to be able to have artisan ice cream sandwiches easily assessable to me. One day my BFF and I walked over to Kwik Way Drive-In from her place when we noticed that they sold ice cream sandwiches. We both got the vanilla bean with chocolate cookies. This square shaped ice cream sandwich was frozen solid which was a bit difficult to eat. It was also about three inches thick so we both only got through half. Since it was very frozen, I was able to save the other half for another day. It seemed tastier the next day. At $3.50, it’s a great value.
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Miette in Jack London Square is in the business of selling baked goods and candies. Not many people know they sell delicious gourmet ice cream sandwiches. I recently walked over there during lunch and picked up one made with creme fraiche flavored ice cream and their own graham cracker cookies. I scarfed it down within a few blocks. At $5, it’s nice to treat yourself once in a while.
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My favorite ice cream sandwich can be found at Ici in Berkeley. I wouldn’t expect less from my favorite ice cream shop. They have the best flavors of ice cream as well. On warm days, expect to wait in lines with over twenty people. The great thing about getting ice cream sandwiches here is that you can bypass the line if you aren’t getting their ice cream scoops. Yesterday there were at least twenty people in line, so me and my party decided on getting the sandwiches. We got two earl grey ice cream sandwiches and a Meyer lemon ice cream sandwich. Both flavors are excellent. At $4.25 and being able to bypass a line, these are worth every penny.
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