22 January 2009

Currently eating...

spinach, bacon and mozzarella omelette with sourdough toast

21 January 2009

Great Lakes Chocolate and Coffee Company in Ann Arbor

Tried out a new study place today, at the instigation of a friend. It's a little out of the way for us--not downtown, not north campus, not by any stores we would typically go to. I think our friends go there because it is quiet. And for the hot chocolate, which was very good! It's made with real chocolate. Same as their mochas; they do also have a regular mocha, but at a chocolate shop, you have to get the one with real chocolate!

The hot chocolate was even good with soy milk! I had the soy milk in my coffee too and I was happy with it. I think some cafes use soy milk that's made for cold drinks and when it gets hot, it tastes funny.

The coffee was decent. I don't think I'm much of a coffee connoisseur. I just know that sometimes I don't like stuff and sometimes I do! They did ask if I wanted mild or bold so that was nice.

The workers were also very friendly. They had memorized the orders of some of the regulars and gave one guy extra syrup because they knew he liked his coffee as sweet as possible.

Also, the bathroom was clean.

I only wish they had more food options. I saw sandwiches, bagels, and a sign for oatmeal. They looked okay but I was not excited to try any of it.

Oh and free wi-fi of course.

Teriyaki Time in Ann Arbor

This name of this restaurant doesn't sound promising, does it? It's been open for about a year and I've had no desire to go. We ended up going with a vegetarian friend though and it is good enough to go into rotation. It's a good value as far as portion size and pricing.

I had the teri chicken and gyoza combo ($6.50), Kea had the teri beef and katsu combo ($8), and our friend had (I believe) the tofu teriyaki ($6) and also ordered the vegetable tempura skewer ($2). I think her food was the best deal, now that I'm looking at the menu! I was glad to have gyoza and I think the only time I would have it is in a combo--because I usually don't need an appetizer! The katsu was good, though the sauce was not the best. The sweetness of teriyaki is not my favorite, but the teri chicken was fine. It tasted like simple home cooking. All our meals also came with rice and a side salad (not the best, but I'm always grateful for veggies--and it came with a great miso ginger dressing).

I'd like to try the dolsot bi bim bap, "spicy bits" (described on the menu as "lightly deep fried chicken bits w/ spicy teriyaki sauce"), yakisoba (which I'm not sure I've seen anywhere else in Ann Arbor or East Lansing), and kim bap. Not sure about the sushi as there are only two places in Michigan I will eat fish (Ajishin and Marnee Thai).

I think Teriyaki Time is an especially great place for vegetarians; that's why it's one of our friend's favorites! It's also a good place for vegetarians and omnivores to eat together.

(Photos from Teriyaki Time website)

20 January 2009

Lactose-Free Blueberry Muffins

Had some blueberries in the freezer I wanted to use up. I think we are over blueberry pancakes and prefer banana or chocolate chip. Thought muffins would be a good idea but my lactose intolerance has been a problem lately. It flares up from time to time... maybe due to stress? Seems to also flare up in the winter/spring and then settle down in the summer too. So not sure what that's all about.

Anyway, I was unsure about this recipe--just because anytime you alter traditional recipes, you just never know. Plus, as I was making it, I realized that though lime juice and vanilla are listed in the ingredient list, they aren't mentioned in the directions! Sketchy! (I ended up just adding them right before the blueberries.)

They came out great though! And I even subbed lime zest for juice since the lime I bought was dry. Seriously no juice. It was silly--a very silly failure of a lime. I think these are so great because they are heavy on the blueberries. One muffin I had this morning had all the blueberries on one side and the side without was kind of sad. :( The sugar sprinkled on top are also great--a bit of crunch.

Oh and regardless of the directions, do not fill muffin liners to the top! I just evenly distributed the batter into 18 cups (as it also says) and that worked very well.

18 January 2009

Curry sauce for Curry Fries

I belong to--I think we're calling it a Dinner Party Cult--with some folks in my program. Every event (occurring approximately once a month) has a theme. First month was Stacks (stacked food), second was Breakfast for Dinner, there was supposed to be an Oktoberfest in there, and this month was British. I thought this month was hard! Kea found out that curry fries are British though so we paired up with someone who does not have to drive an hour to the location so we could make the curry and she could make the fries.

*sigh* This was an adventure. I guess Googling a recipe is always a risk. And I figured this one looked sketchy, but I chose it cuz it claimed to be British and it didn't have chunks in it. (I figured chunks of veggies or meat would be hard to pick up with french fries...)

Anyway, as written, I think this recipe is made to mix with like already cooked chicken and poured over rice or something. It's a really small recipe though. It would only feed like one or two. Even just as sauce for fries, I thought we needed more so I kept trying to stretch it with tomato puree and water, and then thickening as needed with cornstarch. It started losing flavor so I added more spices... but... something was still missing... I think probably to make more, it would be best to start by doubling (at least) the recipe. Onion and garlic was stuff I couldn't just add more of later.

So... I ended up throwing in a jar of Trader Joe's Curry Simmer Sauce. haha... it was Kea's (brilliant/cheaty) idea. That made it taste much better!

(Oh and just so you know, cardamom is expensive! So I subbed cinnamon instead. And I didn't know what "dried chilies" meant so I just used red chili pepper--you know like the kind at pizza restaurants.)

17 January 2009

Giada's Spicy Baked Macaroni

As with hamburger mac, pasta bake's are not Kea's favorite either. I think he will like this one though. I chose this one over some others I've made before because it has mushrooms and doesn't have mozzarella on top. Previous times I've done pasta bakes, the mozzarella on top is kind of a pain. Maybe it's better if you do a real thin layer, but otherwise it is difficult to cut. (Or maybe it's cuz I use generic cheap-ass mozzarella?)

Anyway, I also added ground turkey to this because we like meat. I just browned the meat and seasoned with salt and pepper, then removed from pan before doing the veggies. Then I ended up adding a bottle of spaghetti sauce because when I mixed everything together it looked like it needed it. I think I also seasoned the veggie mixture with salt and pepper at one point because it didn't have any.

I also subbed rotini for macaroni because that's what I have.

And I didn't use butter because the lactose intolerance is crazy these days. For the bottom, I used olive oil--more because I was worried about the pasta sticking to the pyrex. And because of the lack of oil, the top didn't brown.

Anyway, it's awesome!

14 January 2009

New Discoveries

Foodzie, described by this blogger as "an edible Etsy" sounds awesome! I haven't had a chance to check it out yet but the images on the front page look promising.

I was happy to stumble across Savor the Thyme too. I'm especially interested in her Lemony Chicken Orzo soup, which has lemon rind in it!

06 January 2009

Ozoni attempt

Had some mochi in the fridge and didn't think I could eat it all fried so decided to attempt ozoni. Went to the market in search of:
  • kamaboko,
  • araimo,
  • mizuna,
  • konbu,
  • shiitake, and
  • carrots.
Had to sub out some white stem cabbage or bok choy or something for the mizuna. Same thing. I was looking for dried konbu like my mom uses (pictured above), but could only find this other stuff (pictured below). I don't know what you call it. It looked fresh, but it wasn't in the refrigerator section or anything. And had little grains of salt on it.

I poured four cans of chicken stock into a big pot. It didn't look like much but the time I put in everything else, it was a lot!

I peeled the araimo with a potato peeler and then cut into thin slices. Put that in first so it could cook through. Figured it should cook for about 30 minutes. Put in shiitake and mochi next. The mochi started puffing up. It was cool! Then the bok choy, carrots (sliced thin like coins) and kamaboko (also sliced thin).

The kamaboko smelled funny as I was slicing it--even though it looked right--the bright pink half moon on the little piece of wood. It was way too fishy. I ended up picking it out. I might go look for more tomorrow. The kamaboko was frozen at the store, which I thought was weird, but I don't think it would affect the taste like that.

The soup was also way too salty--from the konbu I'm sure. I should've soaked it first. The instructions said that was an option but I figured I'd just throw it in. I ended up fishing all of them out too and tried to water down the soup.

Mochi dissolved a little more than I'd like. Next time I think I will put the mochi in maybe 5-10 minutes before I'm ready to eat.

I'll taste it again tomorrow and water down more if needed.

02 January 2009

Green Food Tips from the Current Issue of Bon Appetit

I read my magazines at the local Borders, which I suppose can be seen as green in its own way. Anyway, the current episode had a long list of green food-related tips. Some that were new to me and that I can actually use include:
  1. Buy fair-trade coffee. I already follow their other tips on coffee (using a travel mug and a French press--I think the French press may be more about being able to make coffee as yummy as the coffee houses'), but for some reason have always focused on either buying the cheapest beans or asking my mom to send Kona. They also provided this website as a place to find 100% fair-trade coffee.
  2. Make stock with leftover veggies. I have a hard time using up fresh veggies--especially green onion, celery, and fresh herbs (Are they veggies? Well, whatever), and I am always making soups and stews so this is a perfect tip for me.
  3. And the easiest one: water for tea doesn't need to go until it whistles. As soon as it boils, it is fine, and letting it go further can actually make it too hot.

01 January 2009

Old Siam Thai Restaurant in San Francisco

Heard about this place from others at the conference. Some of them ate lunch here everyday I think! It is located near the Hilton so I will definitely be back for my next conference in March. Anyway, I ordered a special they had: pumpkin curry with chicken and bell peppers. I'd never had pumpkin curry before and it was awesome--it was the Japanese pumpkin with dark green skin. The curry had the perfect amount of heat for me also. I ordered it with sticky rice, which came wrapped in tin foil. I thought that was a little strange--I guess it was to keep it moist? The sticky rice also was either hard in some spots (like too hard to cut with my spoon) or got hard as I ate (and I ate fast I swear). Still yet, overall, I was very happy and look forward to going back.

Oh also there is a sign on the building that says that in case of earthquake, the structure is not reinforced so... uh... yeah.

San Sun in San Francisco Chinatown

SP and I ended up here the first time on a hunt for pho. We were originally headed for Joy Hing BBQ Noodle House next door, which Yelp recommended for chicken pho, but the signs at San Sun indicated they also had pho and we decided we preferred beef to chicken.

So, as Yelp says, San Sun has a picture menu and closes at 7 pm. I underestimated the size of the picture menu--it has more than 200 items! I was nervous about getting pho at first because I thought with all the Chinese items on the menu, maybe this was a better place to get Chinese food. The pho was good though. Again, maybe my standards are low after being in Michigan so long. Seriously, this could be the worst pho in San Fran and I'm sure it would be better than what we get in Ann Arbor. The first good sign was the huge plate of bean sprouts, lemon, and basil they brought out. (Um, in Ann Arbor you have to ask for basil. Yeah, that's how bad it is.) The meat came stacked up in the bowl so that parts of it were still rare--I never seen the meat come so rare so that was also impressive. I think it had a good amount of meat and also the meat had great flavor--again, compared to the tasteless meat I've had in Ann Arbor pho. The broth was a little greasy, but not enough to bother me.

Oh, and if you are into it, you can get fish balls and/or tendon in your pho.

With so many items on the menu, I was eager to come back again and got the chance a couple days later. After two expensive dinners, CC and QD wanted dinner for under $10. Remembering that most of the items at San Sun were $5-$7, I suggested it and we were off. After minor drama after realizing they only take cash, we figured it out (there is an ATM nearby) and then took forever looking at the menu. I finally decided on black bean beef and bittermelon with chow fun. Chow fun is my favorite (see the fat noodles in the picture) and I can't find it in Michigan! I also wanted bittermelon since I only eat it when my mom cooks it. The weird thing with this place was that I ordered by number since I thought that's why they number the items--to make it easier, but they messed up my order that way! So maybe it is better to order by description. Still yet though--even with the confusion--the food came out super fast. And the waiter didn't give me a hard time about it either.

CC ordered chicken lo mein which looked kind of beige and I think he was a little disappointed. He was like, "So is this what Chinese food is like?" I think he meant like real Chinese food. I was like I guess.

QD ordered sweet sour chicken I think, which is not my favorite.

They both thought my dish looked pretty--the bittermelon was really bright green. I offered that they could try it and I thought I warned them about the taste but maybe not enough. They didn't say much about the bittermelon. haha... but then I told them to try the noodles and I think they liked that. Anyway, I couldn't even finish my dish and ended up taking it back to the hotel and finishing it a few hours later.

Akiko's Sushi Bar in San Fran

To be fair, my sushi standards may be low after being in Michigan for so long. And the sushi did seem to be good everywhere we went in San Francisco, but I enjoyed the sushi here. Only sampled a few pieces of the negihama and Swamp Roll my friend ordered. We both really liked the negihama. I am not usually a fan of hamachi--but maybe I am branching out. I am just really picky when it comes to fish and slowly breaking out of the same old same old ahi and salmon. I really liked the green onion. The Swamp Roll had ocean salad on top and spicy tuna and--if I remember correctly--avocado inside. The avocado was the best. I didn't even realize how much I missed having it. Couldn't really taste the spicy tuna with all the ocean salad. It was definitely a roll on the heavier side. Not sure if I would order it again, but it was fine.

We also really enjoyed the complimentary tea (I believe it was genmaicha--my favorite!) and cabbage salad. It was sort of like Japanese coleslaw--shredded cabbage with sesame seeds and light vinegar. So yummy.

What I didn't like was the udon. I know, why do I order udon at a sushi bar? I just love udon so much. But here, I ordered the veggie udon and was really disappointed with the flavor of the broth. It was just meh. On the plus side, it did come with a lot of nice cabbage and shiitakes on top.

Oola in San Francisco

When I go to conferences, fancy restaurants are not high on my list. Conferences are usually in big cities (or at least bigger than Ann Arbor--which is not hard), which tend to have cheap food that is much better than I can get in Ann Arbor--and that is good enough for me! I am always open to a fancy restaurant though, if others are into it. So that's how I ended up at Oola.

A fancy grown-up (aka a professor) was planning and I was told that anywhere she picked would be expensive, but probably worth it. I think I can mostly go along with that.

First off, this is a fancy restaurant in an unfancy neighborhood. Five inch rats (plus the tail) running around in the street and all. Yikes. Being done with my job interviews and on my last night in town, I was not too bothered by dropping $10 on a fancy cocktail. It had gin in it and was reminiscent of a mojito. It was great!

We ended up crowded around a table slightly too small for our group and I don't think the staff made too big a stink about it, so props to them.

Again, I was sort of disappointed by the menu. I don't know... maybe I am just not into the gussied-up "simple" American food in so many restaurants these days? Anyway, I had the Chicken Grandmere... something... I remember the waitress said it meant "chicken like your grandma used to make it." Presentation was pretty cool--little potato balls on the bottom, the size of pearl onions, a bone-in piece of chicken on top, some delicious mushrooms (shiitakes maybe? If not, something with a similar firm texture) and madeira wine sauce filling it out. I was worried about eating bone-in chicken in a fancy restaurant (um, I suck at cutting food gracefully) but it was mostly okay. Just a bit of meat at the end that I gave up on.

My friend CC ordered the house-made pasta with house-made sausage. I think he was a little disappointed. The waitress was really sweet in explaining to us that the presentation was great, with the pasta coming out of the onion, but when it came, JR commented that it looked like the onion was throwing up.

For dessert, I had a bite of the grown-up in charge's lemon cheesecake. It was light and yummy, but overall... not that special. And I think that would be my overall summary: pretty good, but nothing really special.

Roxanne Cafe in San Francisco: Not so good

The menu at this place looked good, but the food was only mediocre, there were some definite service issues, and--really--we should've known better when it was the only place in the area with no wait for a table! Ended up here on a mission for a place where we could get food and hard liquor in a big group. The hard liquor was a lie. This exchange should've been a tip off:
Me: Do you serve hard liquor?
Waitress: No, we have wine, sparkling wine, and mixed drinks.
M: What kind of mixed drinks?
W: Like margaritas, bloody marys.

I was confused about the lack of hard liquor and the ability to make margaritas and Bloody Marys. Based on what my friends who ordered Cosmos and Cape Cods said, they tasted pretty much like juice. Oh, and they cost $7.

Food was inconsistent. Three or four people in our party ordered the mushroom ravioli and some of them looked different than others--probably spent different amounts of time under a heat lamp. I had penne primavera, which was fine, but nothing special. (I don't know how special penne primavera can get, but nothing on the menu really captured my attention anyway. Too much cream sauce.) Oh, and my friend ordered mussels and some that didn't open in cooking were served to her. Apparently this means they died before being cooked or something like that. (I don't know as I don't eat them.) And isn't complimentary bread customary at an Italian restaurant?

On the plus side, there were some polenta fries or something that were pretty good.

But then it gets bad again. Tiramisu was served with Hershey's syrup on the plate. And then they said they couldn't split the check--that it would take half an hour to run several credit cards. Really? Apparently this is more common in San Francisco restaurants that (think they) are fancy as we had the same problem as another restaurant, but here, they were pretty rude about it. When the manager ended up taking care of it, he didn't even apologize for the problem or anything. I thought that was what managers did!

*sigh* Anyway, don't waste your time.