homeabout me


@jp3g makes delicious lasagne for the sick girl!

@jp3g makes delicious lasagne for the sick girl!

delicious but overrated.

Manhattan is one of the most renowned food meccas of the world, and rightly so. Still, the Californian in me believes that San Francisco has some of the best, most approachable, diverse, and least pretentious food in the world, and even Tom Douglas, a Seattle based restauranteur from the East Coast agrees!

Which leads me to my next question - is food in Manhattan really all it’s cracked up to be? In my seven months here, I’ve sampled a few things that have been buzzed about and while they were good, I just can’t justify the price for some or the hype for others.

Case Studies

1. DB Bistro Moderne - The Original DB Burger ($32)
This is a sirloin burger filled with braised short ribs, foie gras and black truffle, and served on a parmesan bun. Foie gras has recently been banned in California so I was really excited to have encountered it here in New York (one strike against California), but $32 for a burger? In all honestly, the short ribs, foie gras, and black truffle didn’t really add to it. These are all great items by themselves, and the need to combine all three into a burger is a little excessive. This really made me appreciate an honest and traditional burger, where the only addition you really need is a nice pickle.

2. Gotham Bar & Grill - Gotham Chocolate Cake ($13)
This isn’t an expensive dessert, but for how much hype it gets, I just don’t see what it’s all about. It’s your standard chocolate cake, people. Even as a chocolate person, this is too rich and one note.

3. Scalinatella - Truffle Papardelle Pasta ($180?)
I went here with a client for work so I didn’t pay or even see the bill and this is the kind of place that certainly doesn’t put prices on the menu. Scouring the internet, I can deduct that this dish might cost around $180. Eating here is a real dining experience - sure, it looks a little outdated on the outside and you walk down to this dark basement restaurant with semi cheesy Italian decor. But there is fresh fruit and veggies on display everywhere and there are at least 5 waiters to every customer, which at first seems a little excessive but once you start eating you see why. The waiters put all the finishing touches on your dishes right in front of you, put all the shared food on your individual plates, and even bring you little appetizers you didn’t order. The truffle pasta was good, but definitely more of a production - the waiter brings out a bowl of a bunch of black truffles sitting in raw rice grains and shaves it over your papardelle, which has already been cooked with truffle oil and cream. Delicious, yes, and there aren’t many places you can get shaved truffles on something, but for $180? Ouch. Thank God that wasn’t on my wallet.
image
I’ll be moving to Brooklyn next month, and while I’ve dabbled a little, I’m looking forward to eating in a borough that in general has less hype surrounding it, by chefs who are just making their way in the culinary world, and for half (or more) the price.

a sandy lobster dinner.

How do you pass the time in the middle of a hurricane blackout? Cook a big ass lobster dinner. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York a few weeks ago, I was in the process of making a nice romantic dinner with my boyfriend when the power outage struck Lower Manhattan, sending my Lower East Side apartment into darkness. Luckily my stoves are gas so we were still able to boil some lobsters my parents had brought me when they visited earlier that weekend on a business trip.

We had no choice but to make it a candlelit dinner. We dipped the lobster in melted garlic and parsley butter, and ate it with some roasted asparagus, garlic mashed potatoes, and a bottle of white wine.

I’ll always remember this particular dinner, not only for the rather unique circumstances it was under but also because of how good the lobster was. One thing I will give to the East Coast over the West Coast (a.k.a. the best coast) is their lobster. The Maine lobsters we have over here on the East Coast are so much better than the spiny lobsters we typically eat on the West Coast. The cold shallow water on the East Coast really does seem to make a difference in the taste, giving lobsters a sweeter and more delicate flavor than West Coast lobsters who live in deep warm waters. Also, the West Coast spiny lobsters don’t have claws, which in my opinion are the best part. People go crazy over the tails and while delicious, they are a bit more tough since the lobster actively uses it to swim.
image
I was able to post these terrible pictures of our epic lobster dinner to Instagram right before the internet and cell service went out at my apartment, and days later when Lower Manhattan was restored to normalcy, my friends teased me about my priorities being skewed since I decided to post pictures of my food instead of sending final notes to my friends and family before my communication was cut off from the world. Anyone who knows me should know that if I’m posting pictures of good food (which is often), I must be safe and I am most definitely happy.

strukli struck me.

I was blessed this summer with the gift of travel, which invariably translates to the gift of food. One of the places I ventured to was Croatia, a country I was drawn to for its untouched splendor, unique Balkan culture, and of course tales of epic parties. The country lived up to my high expectations, surpassing them even, and I’ll always look back on Croatia with fond memories, especially since its where I met my lovely boyfriend. But that’s a tale for another time (or not…this is a food blog after all).

One of the things that struck me most was how different the culture among regions was even though it was all part of the same country. I know this is characteristic of any country that has different regional characteristics and historical backgrounds, and is not surprising considering what Croatia’s long and tumultuous history looks like. Having spent a majority of my time along the Dalmatian Coast (Split, Dubrovnik, and a number of Adriatic Islands), when I ended my trip at Zagreb in Northwest Croatia, I felt like I was in a completely different country. The Dalmatian Coast definitely has a more Mediterranean feel, similar to Greek or more generally Ottoman culture, whereas Zagreb is heavily influenced by Slavic culture. This was undoubtedly apparent in the food.

Although I grew up in California’s Mediterranean climate which means a natural inclination towards Mediterranean style foods, I did want to spotlight a dish I had in Zagreb called strukli. While Strukli is officially the National Croatian Dish, it is really only popular in Northwest Croatia and was made popular by the Regent Esplanade Hotel in Zagreb. Unknowingly, my friend Lauren and I stumbled upon this place on our last day in Zagreb and decided to try it.

What is it, you ask? It’s basically cottage cheese and eggs baked or boiled inside a kind of puff pastry. I think what was most confusing to me before I tried it was that I didn’t know quite how to categorize it. Was it sweet or was its savory? Was it chunky from the cottage cheese? Was it like a quiche or a soufflé because of the eggs? Was it like spanikopita because of the puff pastry? The answers are yes, but the answers are also no. I think that’s the beauty of trying new food - there aren’t always mental categories for some things just yet, and for some things there might never be.

While traditionally strukli is boiled, most chefs prepare it baked so as not to compromise the flavor or texture. Today, the Esplanade’s strukli is said to be unique because it is steamed and cooled before baking, then topped with sour cream and breadcrumbs. Fun fact - the Esplanade chefs responsible for this Croatian dish are Belgian and Maltese (no, not the dog).

Strukli is an interesting little pouch of deliciousness. The cottage cheese is made fresh and mixed with a ton of cream, so it isn’t at all chunky or unappetizing looking. The eggs bind without being too much like a soufflé or frittata, but there are still some similarities. The pastry is less thin and crispy than a traditional puff pastry, especially when it’s topped with the sour cream. It is mostly savory but has some sweet undertones that come from the cottage cheese. In my humble opinion, I would have loved to put a bit of roasted garlic in there, and maybe when I recreate this recipe myself, I will. Orson Welles has been said to have polished off a dozen of these bad boys in one visit to the Esplanade, which I find especially impressive because of how heavy and filling strukli is.

image

When the Belgian born Esplanade chef Fontentelle was learning how to make strukli for the first time, people tried to describe it to him by saying it resembled lasagna. After he went around Croatia learning the traditional technique, he rejected this comparison and said it might be more similar to a soufflé. I reject this comparison too, and I reject my initial comparisons to a quiche or a frittata or a spanikopita or a moussaka. Strukli is just strukli, and I’m okay with the fact that I still can’t put it into any sort of mental category.

My weaknesses have always been food and men - in that order.
- Dolly Parton

Quick and Painless: Recipe #1.

I’m a generally lazy person, yet admittedly a little elitist when it comes to home cooked meals. In order to stay true to these conflicting parts of myself, I’ve become pretty good at churning out easy meals that still taste great! This will be the first in a series of quick and painless recipes, most of which are made with random items sitting in my fridge and thrown together with no precise measurement.

Recently I’ve become lazier than usual and don’t want to take the time to defrost meat so I’ve been experimenting with vegetarian meals by default. By no means am I vegetarian (proven by the below) but I can appreciate a good dish sans meat.

Spinach and Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Peppers

Main ingredients:
- Fresh spinach
- Quinoa
- Mini sweet peppers (you can use bell peppers if you want)
- Onions
- Garlic
- Cheese (any kind works, I just happened to have some sharp white cheddar on hand)

Use however much of each ingredient you want - I don’t really believe in measuring.

Preheat oven to about 400 degrees.

1. Cook the quinoa according to box instructions. I especially like quinoa because you can cook it in the rice cooker and don’t need to fuss over it.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, finely chop the garlic and onions and de-seed the sweet peppers.
3. In a sauté pan, cook the garlic and onions in some olive oil until the onions are translucent and soft.
4. Add a hearty handful of spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat.
5. Mix cooked quinoa and grated cheese into the spinach, garlic, and onions. You can season this mixture any way you want - I chose to add some salt, freshly ground pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, pesto, and a bit of lemon zest.
6. Stuff into the sweet pepper cavity. If you want, you can also brush the peppers with olive oil and sprinkle some sea salt and pepper over it for added flavor.
7. Pop into the oven until the peppers are soft (maybe 10-15 minutes).

Voila! A quick and healthy vegetarian dish you can pair with a salad or even turn into a side dish to complement some meat. Now wasn’t that easy?

More cheese, please.

If you ever find yourself in Pescadero (and you likely won’t - it’s not like one simply stumbles into this rural San Mateo County town that has a whopping 643 people living in it), you can’t leave without stopping at Harley Farms.

After a weekend getaway at Costanoa Coastal Lodge, we decided to stop here on the drive back to San Francisco. Finding this place was a challenge but that was only because as city dwellers we were not expecting the actual “downtown” area to be so…nonexistent. Luckily there were little signs to help guide us.

Goat cheese happens to be my favorite kind so I especially liked this place. Chevre, feta, ricotta, and fromage blanc - Harley Farms encourages you to try every kind. Which is fortunate because when I got down to business, I had very little self-restraint. I grabbed one of the cute little woven baskets that lined the entrance wall to hold all the cheese I was about to buy.


Their famous Monet chevre is laden with herbes de provence and embellished with pansies, calendula, and cornflowers - all edible flowers grown in the farm’s backyard. No wonder they named it the Monet - it looked too good to eat! But of course I did.

They also have olive oil, honey, jam, chocolate, and even skin care products!

The bill:
2 blocks of feta ($20)
1 apricot pistachio chevre medium round ($8)
1 tomato basil chevre medium round ($8)
1 garden chive chevre log ($8)

I’ve never felt better about spending $44 on cheese; getting cheese of this quality at a Whole Foods in San Francisco would probably be double the price and only half as fresh. Plus, Whole Foods doesn’t have cute little baby goats! Or kids as they’re lovingly called.

Cheese can stay fresh for up to one month in an airtight container in the refrigerator and up to six months in the freezer. But good luck trying to hold on to this cheese for that long. I’m already halfway through my tomato basil chevre round and my only regret is not buying more.



For more info, visit the Harley Farms website. For impeccable cheese, simply visit Harley Farms in Pescadero. It will be well worth the drive and the calories.

Mustache March.

I’m not entirely sure why or how the mustache thing started, but it did. Maybe it had to do with supporting my friends doing Movember or having recently dated a man with a mustache (cue the mustache ride jokes). Either way, I’ve been known to don a mustache from time to time and I guess the word was out.

So for my birthday, my coworkers took it upon themselves to stache out my desk.

The mustachery continues throughout the day.

The icing on the cake (or rather the icing on the mustaches) came later in the day. There’s a hair in my cake!

With this recent inspiration and with Mustache March in full swing, I’m working on growing my very own this month. For updates on my progress, check out my Mustache March page.

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.
- Charles M. Schulz

Redemption is Tasty.

I don’t watch much TV but when I do, it’s reruns of Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and Top Chef. While I’m not a religious Wednesday night Top Chef watcher, I always, always watch it OnDemand later. I refuse to talk to people about it unless I’m fully caught up and I will get seriously pissed if someone tries to talk to me about who got eliminated in the recent episode if I haven’t seen it yet.

So when my friend Aric announced he was having a holiday party catered by former cheftestant Tyler Stone, I was stoked. Who is Tyler Stone, you ask? The reason you might not know him is because he was on the first episode of Season 9 for about 2 minutes before he was eliminated. Take a look. Try not to feel too bad for him. (Sorry about the pre-roll ad - I place those pesky things for a living)



So he didn’t get a chance to prove his talent on national television, but this would be a chance for him to prove his talent to me (which is almost equally important) and luckily I’m always ready to judge. Unfortunately it was just small bites so I can’t give a completely fair assessment of his skill but overall I was pleased!

Hors d’oeuvres
Phyllo pastry cups filled with whipped brie cheese and jam
Gruyere cheese, ham and mushroom sandwiches on brioche
Tuna tartare with roasted beets, shallots, chives and lemon vinaigrette on yucca chips
Brioche toasts with quail egg, smoked salmon and creme fraiche
Selection of gourmet cheeses, crackers, fruits, nuts and olives

Dessert
Raspberry mousse in chocolate cups
Lemon cream cups with meringue
Liquid nitrogen homemade vanilla ice cream

PhotobucketPhotobucket
If anything, the man is an entertainer. He prepared liquid nitrogen cocktails all night and definitely made a live show of it. Later he just started liquid nitrogen-ing whole shots of vodka, and then the party really got started. He even went out to the clubs with us afterward!
Photobucket
My girlfriends and I get a little sloppy from the liquid nitrogen cocktails but Aric’s dog Maddox does not look amused. That’s one tough little judge.