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Back at school. Finding a place to live was a little frustrating. Moving back to where I wanted to live required more persistence than previously thought. Overall now, I am quite content with my living situation, and it just makes a whole lot more sense. The quarter has started and I am knee-deep in research and 'riting and reading-- the three Rs. Maybe when work calms down a bit, I shall find the time and energy for a real post. But in the mean time, this is apricot cake from The Royal Market and Bakery on Geary.

The apricot frosting could be described as a mix between whipped custard, cream, and frosting. A little too sweet for my taste the custard-like buttercream frosting, but it complemented well the cake that erred on the dry side. Russian cake!
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I'm still alive-- just eating my way around Europe. am in Hamburg now, essen fischbrotchen und scholadentorte! Ö sehr gut! ja ja ja!!  Ü shall update when I arrive home in about 10 days! a bientÖt!
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Lately, my time in the city has been quite enjoyable albeit GRE and Fulbright worrying; I would much rather live here than in La Jolla, because while daily pressures are greater there, the food choices and quality are also lesser. I like to make choices where marginal benefits equal marginal costs, not the latter being greater. 
After ballet class, I met up with A. at Sunrise Deli for lunch. I used to get falafels here all the time. Craving protein, I opted for a lamb shwarma this time.

Protein, I got. However, the meat was dry and close to being flavourless, and the pita could have been toasted. For what it was, I would much rather eater 2 euro doner kebabs in East Berlin that exceed in taste, quality, and ingredients infinitely. Speaking of which, Berliners are the only people I have chanced upon that are cool enough to have doner parties. (sehr gut!)

Adri. came into the city one day and we met up for lunch at Taqueria Pancho Villa because D. wanted to revisit.
I got a super shrimp taco, although there was nothing super about it. Should have stayed with the vegetarian tacos that I order out of habit. 

A few hours later, after lolling in the park in the sunshine, I met up with Z at DeLessio for some pastries and GRE-studying, because sugar and brain usage go hand-in-hand.

Their key lime meringue was sub-par relative to the rest of the delicioso DeLessio selection. The meringue was not dense enough, and noticeably missing a bit of corn starch. They key lime custard tasted very eggy, which I quite liked. 

And there came forth the cake.

Chocolate carrot cake with orange buttercream and spiced orange caramel. Smaller in real-life, but tastes larger than life. I quite recommend this delightful dessert on your next visit!

Sunday morning, could not be more well spent than...

Chasing the lightrail in the heavy mist to meet up with your good friend at La Boulange de Cole. Y. tried the vegetable croissant and the apple tart, whereas I had a financier with coffee. Though the hazelnut base was delightfully different, I prefer Patisserie Philippe's more, as it is more moist and flavourful, and comes with a healthful dose of fresh berries inside. 

Because I was too lazy to boil another pot of water for my wonton (i.e. Asian ravioli), I thought I would put them in my simmering borscht.

Beware of dramatic colour change! They came out looking like goldfish of some exotically red breed. Fun!

Speaking of red nourriture...

I found a punnet of some really red and fresh strawberries at the market by my house, and bought some to make pavlova for dessert. 

After a day of adventures in the city with I-House friends, we stopped at Thai Restaurant in the Castro for some dinner.

We ordered seafood yellow curry, pad mee kao with beef, and seafood pineapple fried rice to share amongst the three of us (lost one to Oakland along the way). Very delicious meal, especially the rice noodles (pad mee kao). 

Earlier in the day, we stopped by Mitchell's because Y. wanted to try it, to we trekked all the way out to San Jose Avenue.

I got the ube, or purple yam, which looks dangerously radioactive. 

And is capable of melting with quickness!


I much prefer the avocado flavour to this, but then again, if I did not try different things in my day-today life, I might as well live in surburbia for the rest of my life, where choice is not option! Three cheers for monotony!

While walking down Valencia today, I found a fried sesame dumpling, which is Y.'s favourite dim sum of all, which is why I found it odd sitting on a parking meter right after we had talked about it!

A few weeks prior, some of my other friends and I found three slices of toast, also on a parking meter-- offering to the metermaids?

Brunch at Boogaloos.

I opted for something light-- lemon cornmeal pancakes.

Breakfast from the other day...
 
I had these limes and a large amount of leftover cream and so I thought I would make some lime curd-- bad idea with replacing ingredients, in this case, limes with lemons. The lime gave an astringent quality to an otherwise sound recipe. A happy finding happened when I paired it with homemade strawberry jam, as the two complemented each other very well, and on a slice of toasted sourdough pugliese, one would never ever want to skip breakfast again!

addresses to come shortly!
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This summer, I have found the perfect formula for balancing good company with good eats. I cannot tell you the equation, nor will plugging in A, B, C, D, or E work as GRE books advise; I think it varies from person to person. It should come with time. 
So Thursday morning, I woke up feeling broken from the previous day's ballet class; I needed "soul food" for a speedy recovery. A tuna melt to me, is sweet potato casserole to you, or macaroni and cheese, or minestrone soup...So anyway, I met up with an old friend, across from where she works during the summer, and down the street from where I dance, how perfect- Cafe 98. My tuna melt:

Greasy and sinfully delicious, a tad bit carcinogenic, but makes for a delightful lunch, especially in the company of a good friend. And yours only $4.07 including tax. 

I spent the rest of the day going to the optometrist, only to have gotten nothing done there. I stood and stood, and waited and waited, and customers came in and out and I was put on hold about every 3 minutes (no joke). Feeling the need to regain some sanity, I headed over to Cafe Madeleine to grab some coffee and plop down with my GRE book. I don't understand whatsoever why the cafe does not have reusable, ceramic coffee cups, only paper. In our day, you would think that restaurant establishments and the like would think about being more environment-friendly.

Viennese blend (quite good) coupled with analogies fun...

And then onto real fun. The next day, Yuka and I planned for an adventure day, seeing as she will not be in the city for much longer. We took the N to the Mission, and to our dismay, all the neat stores and the delicious  destination ice creamery opened at 11 a.m. at the earliest. We went through the alley of murals for a healthy dose of "San Francisco flavour"  before heading over to Taqueria Pancho Villa for a burrito. Because burritoes are not that photogenic, I will spare you the details. After lunch (at 11 a.m.!), we walked over to Tartine where we shared a delicious banana cream tart and an almond rocher. Right before the cashier rang us up, Yuka suggested a slice of chocolate cake as well. Because such an ambitious request should not receive a 'negative', we went ahead for the chocolate cake.  Oh goodness!

If you have never had Tartine's banana cream tart, I do not believe you need consider twice before getting it. The architectural plans are as follows: flaky crust lined with chocolate, pastry cream layered with banana chunks and a not-too-cloyingly-sweet caramel, a luscious whipped cream, and topped with shaved chocolate and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Whoever said happiness cannot be bought, is trying to keep you away from this banana cream tart. Okay, that was a very perverse way of looking at the notion of buying happiness, and I still stand as a firm believer that it cannot be bought, so please still read my foodblog.

Sinfully rich.

Yuka said the chocolate cake was not as good as anticipated. I like eating all kinds of chocolate cake straight from the fridge, because then, the ganache is solid like a truffle, and the cake tastes denser than it really is. But Tartine serves their Devil's Food Layer Cake at room temperature, because they believe all the flavours present themselves best as such, so I will play along. Good pastries and good conversation about living in International House for this past year make for good times. 

After checking out some shops in the Mission, we headed over to Bi-Rite Creamery.

They have a relatively new flavour, orange cardammom, which is different and refreshing, but my favourite still is the honey lavender.

We gave Saturday a rest and met up for lunch Sunday afternoon. I suggested Arizmendi for some organic pizza. Tomato, arugula, and pesto pizza was the pie of the day:

Miam!

And because we are on the same page when it comes to dessert, I really wanted Yuka to try Schubert's, as it stands as my favorite bakery in San Francisco.  

We picked the Swedish Princess and the Italian Rum to share. For some reason, I felt like their Italian Rum declined in a little in taste and a lot in presentation, compared to this gem, that was devoured (by Lorraine) a year and a half ago:

But anyway, Yuka admitted that she did not think it was possible to find good cakes in the U.S., but upon a taste of Schubert's, she consequently changed her mind. 

Swedish Princess:

Contentment on a plate. So between bites, we talked about why American cakes in general are sub-par compared to their Asian and European counterparts. Because Schubert's still uses Germany recipes as well as  "old world techniques and modern day technology", they have the recipe for success, and our cake loyalty.
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Cafe 98 
98 7th Street

Tartine
Guerrero and 18th Street

Arizmendi
9th Avenue and Irving

Schubert's Bakery
521 Clement Street. 
 
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So one more thing. After the raved-about New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe yielding mediocrity, or a modest success at best, the Neiman Marcus "urban myth, modern folk tale" recipe caught my attention.  
 
If given the choice between the two, I would opt for the Neiman Marcus one. Less sweet but also less chewy, I cannot put my finger on what exactly makes this a more superior cookie, albeit tradeoff. I sent the NYTimes batch off to my Belgian flatmates in La Jolla, to which they responded, "tes coooookies - AMAZING! Meme pas brûlés - je me demandes comment tu as fait..." and also, "HAAA j'ai recuuuuu WOUW!! ils sont tres bons tes cookies". But seriously, I cannot take credit; the USPS must have somehow worked their magic while delivering my cookies 500 miles south. And I was so worried that they would arrive stale! I used the latter recipe and gave some to my friends, which they seemed to like as well. But because this was not a controlled experiment, I cannot offer a second opinion on the different recipes. However, on the whole, neither was mind-blowing, like this chocolate chip oatmeal recipe that I once used, that blows every cookie recipe out of the water. I need to dig up that recipe again, and use it, and I shall post it here, with the recipe, so you too, can experience the zenith of cookie existence. 

In the meantime, I shall leave you with the NM recipe, should you want to bake up a batch of not-so-sweet cookies. My friends, they spent a good Friday night with Jose Cuervo, Coke, and my cookies; they said they liked it because it was again, "not-too-sweet". 

Recipe:

Yields about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
½ cup (one stick) butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Place the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in the work bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla for 30 seconds longer, until well combined.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to the mixer, while beating on slow speed. Beat for about 15 seconds, stir in the chocolate chips and espresso powder, and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Prepare a cookie sheet with about 2 tablespoons of shortening (or use a non-stick spray). Using a 1-ounce scoop, or using a 2 tablespoon measure, drop the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet in dollops about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into 2-inch circles; there should be room on the sheet of six or eight cookies at a time. Transfer to the oven in batches and bake for about 20 minutes or until the cookies are nicely browned around the edges. Bake for a little longer for crispier cookies.

Once I get my hands on some butter (I know, too busy to grocery shop), I shall make the oatmeal cousins of the chocolate chip cookie, and share with you the recipe.
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I said I would not blog again for sometime, but this surpasses my benumbing GRE book, as least in entertainment value (for myself). I shall let such notions as the difference of squares, unfamiliar voacabulary (unctuous, obdurate, modicum), and watching out for incorrectly "fused sentences". 
Anyway, I met up with my grandpa for lunch after ballet, and I suggested Ha Nah Ninh in the Tenderloin, known for its cleanliness.

But goodness, what a mistake. I ordered the raw beef with tendons noodle soup, only because I tried to order their weekend special, that was neither on the menu nor posted, but supposedly they have it. Our waitor refused to speak, though I doubt he was mute, but because he refused to answer my question of, "Do you have the bun bo hue?" only to receive a slight shake of the head. Please elaborate. Anyway, I just got what the same as my grandpa out of ease; the broth was unflavourful, the beef overcooked, I think the saving grace was their addicting XO-laced hot sauce. Though it was a clean diner, I do not presume coming back in the near future, as there are better pho places in the Tenderloin, with better service and tastier offerings. Should have known given that the restaurant was empty at 12:15 pm on a Saturday. 

Lorraine stands as a long and trusted food buddy; we love going on food adventures and have done so in two different continents! However, discussing food for us can ressemble discussing politics, we have our favorites and thus cannot agree upon what is "better". For example, she swears by the chicken tacos from La Taqueria on Mission and 24th. After trying their burritos and tacos on different occasions, I still do not comprehend the hype. I convinced her to try one of my preferred taquerias in the city, Tacqueria Cancun on Mission and 19th. Because she is particular about burritos, we got the super chicken spectacular (or something to that effect).

One super burrito is definitely enough to share with a friend. I usually get their vegetarian one, which I believe to be better, but this one was decent too. However, after having this lobster burrito from Cafe Ventanas (school cafeteria!) with sundried red peppers and whole lot of another deliciousness in the mix, and also the most tender and filling fish taco from Ranchos in North Park, this chicken burrito does not live up to its San Diegan counterparts. However, the overarching theme of this restaurant visit was to convince L. that Taqueria Cancun is better, and while she agreed that they make better burritos, she is still sticking with La Taqueria for their chicken tacos ("with everything"). I do not know, I mean, I thought about it. Maybe we can pull through our differences, and make this friendship work. I hope so ;)

After lunch, we headed over to Mitchell's on San Jose for some delicious. You take a number and wait for about 15 minutes before you get called to the ice cream window-- slightly faster than the way the passport agency on Hawthorne Ave. used to operate. Anyway, good thing for good company, because we passed the time by discussing ice cream flavours, because it's a heavy subject you know...


I opted for the avocado ice cream, because it does not get rarer than that, avocado and ice cream, in one! I do not understand the hype about this place either; there are very many ice creameries in more central locations with more exotic flavor selections and better quality ingredients. Granted my ice cream was only a little icy, I am staying true and sticking to my Bi-Rite, unless they stop using organic Straus Creamery and other local ingredients in their frozen delights.

So one day, I was trekking through the Tenderloin again, and stumbled upon rather notorious Baguette Express. Having not eaten lunch yet, I opted for the #1 pork combination sandwich:

I ate half when the baguette was delightfully hot and saved the rest, which I later toasted again at home. A satisfying lunch (and a half) for under $3 puts Sheng Kee's ready-made, soggy banh mi  to shame.

Ming Tai Wun-tun Noodle, shrimp dumpling noodle soup:

There is also a lot of hype about this hole-in-the-while. While their noodles were of commendable texture, they put questionable pork products in the dumpling, which ostensibly makes the dumpling more mysterious, but because I had to pick out these rather large bits, I would pick the place on Irving over this joint, and of course, I would pick almost any place in Hong Kong over their SF cousins.

Sunday Brunch at Suppenkuche. At 11 a.m., lacking the crowd of people waiting and just sight of people in general, I thought they were closed. But luckily, they were not. And thus, I present to you my German ravioli scramble with lamb sausage and onion, with a side of refreshing cucumber salad studded with dill. Or if Sie sprechen Deutsch, then it's "Geröstete Maultaschen mit Zwiebeln, Ei und Gurkensalat".

It may look like a benign scramble, but this protein overload kept me full until past 9pm, at which point, I opted for fruit. Literally, no dinner needed! 

When I finally regained my appetite the next day, I stopped by Sunset Bakery, to try a slice of their custard tart.

Only until I started eating it, did I realize that it pretty much was a Chinese egg tart in sliced form. Perhaps as big of a mistake as the aforementioned pho experience-- don't do it! Notwithstanding the silky texture of the custard, their crust left a lot more to be desired. I could not discern what they used. Had they used butter, it would have been crispily golden-- negative; had they used crisco, it would have broken off in crispy shards-- also negative. The crust, burnt on the bottom yet not thoroughly baked on the inside, tasted strangely of a barbeque pork bun, which only leaves me to believe they used lard as the binding fat. Seriously, lard in baked goods in 2008? Our predecessors expected so much more. 

After ballet class, A. and I cavorted across the street. Falafel salad was waiting to be had by A.

Whereas I had a sample of their falafels, kept warm by a steamer, which did not live up to their superior Sunset cousins at Sunrise Deli. There, you get freshly fried, parcels of chickpea and spices and a seemingly more delicious falafel experience, for the same price. However, for $5, it makes for a quick and easy lunch when the food trucks make on appearance the Farmers' Market on Wednesdays at the UN Plaza.

Thus, I opted for a Waffle Mania experience. Ich liebe Liegl Waffeln!

Doughy and yeasty, with bits of caramel, it made for a delicious "lunch". I had some fruit and leftover roasted beets later on.

And the pièce de résistance:

It's reverse "Chinglish" and upon its discovery (i.e. being translated for me) I laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more. If you asked me to tell you the story in person, I would probably laugh before I finished the story. So apparently, a neighbor lost his cat. However, the first three words in bold, red Chinese (phonetically kuet dieu mao) does not translate to 'Missing Cat', or rather vice versa, which is what cat-owner Gary had thought. I immediately thought of how, perhaps, he fed the English words to an online translator, because the first two Chinese characters as I understand, though I cannot read them, mean "lacking" or "insufficient" and are used to describe some other scenario like an iron-deficiency, and not a feline-deficiency. Insufficient cat, surely. Because it greatly confused the madre for example, imagine how befuddled real Chinese literates would be!


  
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and then some. As an early disclaimer, this blog is not for weak stomachs-- I warned you (!) Anyway, I grew up eating a lot of seafood, and really enjoy it, whereas some of my friends cannot stand the sight of mussels and fish. I consider myself quite lucky to not live in a landlocked country where salt-water, and even freshwater, offerings are sparse. Growing up, the 'rents would make the drive to some oyster farm to pick up 100 oysters when we had company for dinner. More often than red meat, we'd often have crab or clams or mussels-- coastal living at its most sumptuous!

Hog Island!

Every now and then, I like to go with the madre to Hog Island and get oysters at the Ferry Building, always opting for a seat outside along the banks of the bay. Pictured here is a dabob oyster, from some deep, cold water bay up north. Nice and briny, they went so well with their mignonette sauce and a hint of lime!

Here they are, three dozen of them, in all their glory.
 
She thought such a lowly number would fail to sate us; I beg to differ. However, this guy behind us, an avid oyster-eater, boasted a record of 150 oysters in one sitting; this time around, he stopped at around 120. Caloriffic cholesterol, pulmonary hypertension!

Lately, restaurants of sorts have been closing, and new ones have quickly taken their place, albeit obvious in their protrusive unfamiliarity. Such applies to King Wonton and Noodle. The madre and I, intending to go to PPQ for some pho, decided on this cafeteria-esque joint instead, because firstly, we didn't have to endure a long wait, and secondly, they proudly display a picture of a chef wielding a giant bamboo stick (presumably as a rolling pin) and making the noodles sans machine (ostensibly authentic, just like in Hong Kong)!

We both got the dumplings with noodles instead of wonton, because of a shui gow's superiority in filling ingredients. The dumplings left more to be desired, as the wrapping was rather undercooked in some parts, as were some chunks of gray-coloured shrimp (is that kosher?), along with chunks of pork fat that I, without hesitation, picked out. The chives in the soup made a pleasant addition, and the noodles themselves in all honesty, the best I have ever had-- here or in Hong Kong. One would not truly know unless one has, in fact, experienced; thus the next time around, when the occasion arises, I shall order the noodles alone, and ideally have an enjoyable meal. 

"Why would you order seafood in a restaurant that doesn't specialize in seafood?" my friend asked. Because, when oysters are prepared à la Louisiane, one just does not forgo the opportunity. The oyster scramble with bacon, a biscuit, and the creamiest grits you'll ever have, at Brenda's:

Our first attempt at dining at this restaurant largely failed, because they were enjoying a two-week vacation-- totally understandable and modest compared to 1 to 1.5 month-long vacances d'été of my friends from la Belle France. Anyway, the subsequent Saturday, we tried again after ballet class, and were seated after about a 30-minute wait that was spent ambling in the neighborhood, avoiding the most troublesome bits. So back to my scramble, the oysters were fried in a cornmeal crust, which no restaurant in the Bay Area does anymore, or ever really; I really appreciated this extra detail and it goes to show how authentic Brenda's French Soul Food is. Their biscuits are delicious, but not for the faint at heart, as you must prepare your stomach in order to consume a whole, of course, with their strawberry compote (thankfully made with minimal sugar) to taste the full glory of this sensation. Together, this dashing duo gives PB&J a run for its money. The grits, as aforementioned came creamy and wholesome, none like I have ever tasted, you must try to realize this level of achievement in grits concoction. Corn porridge perfection!

Because ballet and eating exist as my two sole preoccupations (kidding), this mussel experience comes from yet another post-class food adventure:

Pompei mussels, in a cream sauce with white wine, shallots, lardons, and gorgonzola. Most tender mussels I have eaten to date (and I started young), as my friend exclaimed, "Wow, these mussels are so smooth!" Agreed!

With all these aforementioned positive experiences, there always exists a rotten one of the bunch. And hence, I introduce you Weird Fish, a restaurant you are probably better off not knowing. My "peacemaker" with a cup of clam chowder:

My lunch was nothing short of weird. I walk into this tastefully decorated hole-in-the-wall on Mission and give my order at the cash register, in a Crepevine/Frjtz/Squat&Gobble mindset where one would do the same. The waitor/maitre d'/cashier assumed 'to-go' and I corrected him, only to receive a "Uhhh, okay? ...Do you want to pay now?" What kind of question is that anyway, but  I go to pay the amount indicated on the register anyway and he disappears, as I left the money awkwardly sitting on the counter. He comes back, asking, "Do you want to sit at the counter? Do you want to sit at the counter?" Really, did you have the ask the same exact question twice in a row like a parrot? Because the counter was not really a counter, but a 9-inch ledge, ostensibly not even large enough to fit a plate, but before I could even respond, he disappeared again without saying anything, which always counts in my book as weird service, especially in the middle of conversation. He suddenly reappears again, and I ask if I could sit by the window (to people watch) to which he responds, "Uhhh, I guess not?" Given that it was a request within reason, I found it to be an unreal response, only in this case, he confronted me with the very real and ugly truth. So I sit between two tables of older people, who were situated too close for comfort, and who were engaged in conversation too heavy for the lunch table (read: re. divorce to the left and abortion to the right). As I read my outdated issue of Time on Putin and Russia, my mind was in this confused state; I would have enjoyed mindlessly looking at people by the window as I awaited my meal (!) Finally, my plate comes. The chowder was decent and maybe two steps above canned clam chowder. The sandwich, moreover, was Mediocre; the oysters curiously unfresh and the bun too soft for my tastes (think oversized hotdog bun that was sitting neglected in a plastic bag).  Dismal lunch with a 5% health surcharge. I mean, maybe I do not fully comprehend hipster culture, but seeing as San Francisco is becoming increasingly gentrified, in a "normal" context, this experience was just plain weird.

Back to positive seafood experiences! Vietnamese-style clams in soup.

A light lemongrass and fragrant basil broth, starring Manila clams. Delicious.

And forward came the crab, prepared with "salt and pepper":

Its presentation of onion, scallion, pepper, butter, and basil only to be received with open hands. A delightfully exquisite experience that engaged the senses of taste, smell, and to some extent sight. Yummy Yummy. A must-go if you are a crab fan, and by the way, that's the name of the restaurant-- Yummy Yummy, and it sure was!

The padre is temporarily back from Vancouver, and this is what he discovered there:

steamed crab with garlic and sesame oil. Very subtle, yet very fulfilling. Rather bizarre having your dinner look up at you like this...I'm just saying.

A's last night in the city and I suggested Ti Couz; I can never tire of it! Here is mon crepe avec coquilles:

scallops, not marshmallows, for you anglophones. It was a buckwheat crepe with scallops, some creamy seafood sauce, and chives. With the accompaniment of pear cider (cidre poivre), such made for a very satisfying meal. Yay for good company and good eats!

After that Weird discourse, I am blogged out; must go catch up on life before I write another entry!


 
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Most friends of mine will think I am crazy if I ever proposed taking the light rail and a connecting bus just to get to a bakery, when bakeries are densely plentiful in San Francisco. But not Z. So onward we marched to a part of town where old warehouses have been converted into hip office buildings, and cultural displacement has taken shape in the form of Patisserie Philippe. Roughly one year ago, two other friends and I made the trek out here, via the T Third and on foot, but the character of Patisserie had not yet fully developed. In fact, to this day we still reminisce and laugh at how our one friend had her "second most terrible day" because we had to walk, and walk, and she did not know when we could finally stop (!!) Anyway, I remember my pistachio macaron tasting rather dry, and brittle, like a meringue, but rougher, so a cross between a meringue and a green-coloured Fruit Loop. That was what it tasted like to me, and I felt it inauthentic. Since then, they have come up with the motto "a taste of Paris in San Francisco". Not that such enticed me to go again; I read it on their business card when I slipped one into my wallet. Anyway, here is their passionfruit macaron with poppyseeds no less.  
 
Not sure how poppyseeds go together with passionfruit, or if the patissier chose this combination for the alliteration...but anyway, the buttercream was amazingly light and tart and their macaron has since improved, with a chewier, more almond-tasting cookie. Compared to my rosewater macaron experience about a week ago, this one far surpasses the former, in size and in taste. Miam!

Now onto the not-so-Paris part. 
"And I would also like a financier, please."
"a what?"
"oh, a fie-NANCE-seer."
While they promised a taste of Paris, I guess the lingua franca did not transcend.

Nonetheless, almost if a bite-sized hazelnut financier, with black and blueberries. I cannot describe how wonderful it was in words, the freshness of the hazelnut meal, along with the tartness of the berries, just made for a very enjoyable five bites. So enjoyable, in fact, I may return at the end of this weekend to pick up a parcel of these and drop them off at my grandpa's when I visit him. He will not know what hit him. Only he will, because I shall enclose the message "a taste of Paris" and he shall be enlightened, if not by my slightly cryptic scribbles, than by the actual financiers themselves. Will update on this!

And lastly, but by no means of lesser importance, is Z's breakfast pudding, eaten on a sunny afternoon.

Looks delectable! Was it so in real life?

In sum, Patisserie Philippe may be one of the closer derivatives of a true Parisian patisserie in San Francisco. Mais on ne parle pas le français la-bas (!) I am flirting with the idea that their macarons are better than that of La Boulange, as well as their tea cakes in general, but for sure, the latter wins for ambience and location (i.e. Cole Valley and sometimes Lower Pac Heights). I guess Patisserie's boondock location works alongside self-discipline well-- out of sight, out of mind. Only, I have these [cursed] pictures to remind me. Woe is pastries!!

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Patisserie Philippe
Townsend St. x 7th Street
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Before immersing myself in foodie culture, the way in which I approached food was noticeably different. Throughout my highschool years, making turkey (lunchmeat) and tomato sandwiches on whole grain bread with a smear of mayonnaise or a bagel with brie, I considered myself independent and capable of producing nourishment of ostensibly higher quality and requiring greater skills than that of cafeteria food, and the corresponding food service workers, such as the ever-difficult tasks of cranking can openers and defrosting frozen burritos. 
To a certain extent, though, I do not hold food in the same esteem as I did in highschool. When cross-country races or ballet training mandated a diet of mainly carbohydrates and protein, my main goal became achieving this balance. However, taste and quality goes a long way in my book, as of recently. Call me a food snob, go ahead. For this random lunch, I opted to pair my cheeses with bread, the way winos pair their nectar with their cheddar. Brie obviously would go well with a hatch chili loaf bread, as both have more 'bite'. Sheep's milk gouda and parmigiano would get along with Morrocan Olive Pugliese better, as all have their subtleties, such as the flavour of the olives having seeped into the dough, and the Dutch accent of the gouda. The sharp and salty temperament of the parmigiano requires a European butter (Kerry's Gold being my preferred when Lurpak goes on vacation), to mellow it out. Apparently, it's what the foodies across the Atlantic do. On another note, I try to eat fruit that is locally sourced, and organic when possible. I'm not so sure I prefer having revenue from my Chiquita bananas and Chilean grapes go towards the funding of weapons for paramilitary groups. It's logical, to counter the guerillas, and also, to feed the gorillas. So in that case, they can have my share of Chiquita bananas. I'll just resort to seasonal fruit. Pluots, berries, and watermelon, anyone?


Gourmet food bar, makes for good grubbin' post-ballet class exertion:

I got some spiced potatoes because they looked flavourful, and they were, and some Thai-barbequed chicken because it looked succulent, and it was. I even snatched a wedge of banana-nut bread French toast because it looked rich and dense, and yup, that lived up to expectations too. Eating balanced meals does not always mean having a Luna bar and drinking a smoothie, even though one can probably acquire 1002% of daily Vitamin C requirements, as well as essential Zinc, Iron, Vitamin B12, and so on. One can eat well without that much extra effort, and the folks at DeLessio can help out. Moreover, I even helped the Devil in convincing A. to share a chocolate fruit tart with me, but her self-discipline is through the roof, except when it comes to ice cream, then it's entirely different, because it helps her lose weight. Naturally. I decided to go back for it later, but after this luscious meal, common sense told me dessert would only marginally benefit me slightly, as the meal satisfied me so much already. 
And there you have it, lunch-- same meal, two different takes. Bon appetit!
* * *
-olone! or Bomboloni... I Preferiti di Boriana cannot decide, so they sometimes spell it 'bombolone' and at other times, opt for 'bomboloni'. But nevertheless, here is an Italian doughnut, filled with extremely tart raspberry jam:
  
At around 7 pm and after sitting in a fiberglass case all day long, they became slightly dry (nice way of saying 'stale'). One can only imagine what they were, at their full potential, at 7 am, 12 hours prior. However, at that early hour of the morning, I was still in bed, realizing my slumber potential,  so there are costs and benefits, i.e. the cost of a less-than-fresh bombolone comes with the benefit of unforgone (and much needed) sleep. 

_________
I Preferiti di Boriana
Ferry Building, Embarcadero

* * *
* * *
When I discovered a relatively new tea place on California street, I had to make some free time to check it out. Alexa became my victim; I coerced, she graciously accepted. Tally-ho, Tal-y-Tara!

As we caught each other up on life and happenings, we shared a pot of silver earl grey. Pity it was rather flavourless, despite minutes and later, hour[s] of steeping. 

Alexa ordered the motorloaf with fruit and cheese as I opted for the English trifle.

Spiked with brandy! The motorloaf bread was very dense and nutty. The food did not impress me that much, as I've had way better (InterContinental comes to mind), but its rustic charm somehow reminded me of genuine tea fare. One can choose between outdoor seating (as we did), or indoor seating, surrounded by all the different tin cans of tea and equestrian gear. Because the environs of California Street are highly residential, you'll hear babies crying and dogs barking as you take your tea. I guess the foxhounds did come with me when I yelled "Tally-ho!"

 
* * *
Leftover pizza. 

This kind of pizza just cannot be eaten cold. Yesterday's lunch, today's lunch. Mysterious foaming in the Roquefort region. Someone or thing has rabies, call the CDC!

A sorry slice of carrot cake.

Forgotten in the fridge until now. I wish cream cheese frosting weren't so sweet in general, because then I would actually eat it.

Life at home gets monotonous, with the television and staticky radio constantly (and often simultaneously) on, and the same long-term (i.e. having been here for the past two years, and will at least for the next two) house guests stepping on only the creaky floorboards, in addition to talking at 96 decibels, going out is a breath of fresh air, unless one counts econ. class. In which case, stale air. Anyway, sitting cross-legged and hovering above my GRE book (what movie scene comes to mind?), I decided I had enough and left the house 2h15 premature of my intended time. I took the light rail downtown, hoping to catch intelligent conversation somewhere along the way, replacing my forgone GRE studying opportunity. Instead, I stumbled upon some super-innovative architecture (picture to come another time), and Schoggi, Swiss-German for "chocolate". Anything that will bring me back vicariously to Geneva! Given, they do import their chocolates (and most likely chocolate powder) and macarons, my carbon footprint just got larger. But let's analyze the situation at hand structurally, employing lacking-U.S.-ratification Kyoto Protocol, the math stands as such: taking a Muni Zero-Emissions hybrid bus to and from econ. class M-F (+10 carbon credits, thereinafter cc), walking to buy groceries (+3 cc), occasionally taking a Muni bus from the 80s, to some corners of town (-4 cc), taking the light rail to everywhere else in the city (+22 cc). Therefore, I still have 31 carbon credits that I can use whichever way. Let's import Swiss chocolates, even with the CHF stronger. Or one can conversely argue, because the CHF has gained momentum, one cannot afford to make weekend trips to Geneva, or Zurich and Bern, and thus, has to settle at Schoggi. But really, one cannot complain:

Dark hot chocolate, with frothed milk and a dash of cocoa powder, and a rosewater Luxeburglei. The chocolate drink contained hints of cayenne pepper, which became evident only when I saw some specks floating and which definitely gave a certain spice and body to the chocolate. Lightyears away from Starbucks, greasy diners, and instant cocoa mix. This is the real European deal-- no GMO, no pretense, just genuinely good, the way all food should be. In between sips of chocolate, I took bites of my tiny, but wonderfully-texured Swiss-German version of a macaron. The rosewater was faint but discernible, unlike your grandmother's overpowering perfume. Anyway, fastforward to ballettklasse and everything was on, even my double pirouettes both en dedans and en dehors. I have not had such a good class in a while that it was almost surreal to realize. One thing came to mind: Schoggi was the deviation in my daily Monday routine. It must have been the Swiss-imported caffeine and energy boost, it must have.

A little past 8, I stumbled upon this beauty on the way home:

A sunset in the Sunset. How unreal. 

* * *
Joyeux Anniversaire, Amérique!

For better or for worse le brouillard obscured our view. From what I could see, the fireworks were the best to date, albeit covered by the fog. Tant pis!

I asked my mom if she wanted to grab lunch in the SOMA, and upon her positive response, I made reservations for two at Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant. Only about two days prior, she backed out on me so I messaged a friend seeing if she wanted to go. Affirmative! She even said, "Glad to be your lunch back up!...I'm in!" Huzzah!

A little trek out to Rincon Hill, as this new gentrified patch of the SOMA is now called, and I was there. They failed to offer mussels on their menu, as they were only serving brunch (at close to 1pm on a Saturday!) and so I settled for their potato, applewood smoken bacon, and roquefort pizza. Quite heavy and I felt like the potatoes could have been sliced thinner, or salted to be made more flavourful. 

Our two woodfire pizzas.

The service was exemplary; they kept refilling our water. I think this is more of a place to go for dinner, as that's when they have an extensive wine list.

After a super-filling late lunch that ended around 2pm, I took the light rail home, to meet up with the madre who stepped in the door 10 minutes after me, and together, we walked to Wells Fargo to resolve some issues, i.e. my credit card account disappearing, and the name on my check card wrong for the past three years. Nothing works still, what a failure, Wells Fargo! Anyway, we stumbled upon this gem* while walking around the 'hood. "Special Portuguese Style Curry Fried Crab 14.95". The restaurant door open, we walked in as my mom called out to the other end of the restaurant, "Excuse, sir? Sir? Excuse me!" as some unidentifiable human slept lying across three chairs. All of a sudden, another guy to my left pops up, also from sleeping on three chairs to said, "HUHH?! CLOSED!!...CLOSED!!!" Oh really, why was your door wide open? It was a very zombie-esque moment, and initially shaken, I began laughing. out loud. I am horrible.
 
So we went back when they were open and ordered their curry crab. This is the amazing view from Macao Friends. Excellent urban planning you see-- a hardware, home-supply store right next to a restaurant. Also, the grass is greener on the other side. The bank is greener across the street. Oh how I wished I banked with HSBC; they even have locations in Abu Dhabi and Marrakech! So convenient, so versatile!

Curry bake with broccoli and mushrooms. They lied about the mushrooms; they said they would be straw mushrooms, which are far superior in tast than their button cousin.

Whereas this dish looks super heavy, the 'gratin' was mainly cornstarch with zero cheese/cream and minimal curry. underneath the top crust, there was maximum water and minimal taste. 

We wanted to order rice with our curry crab, also inferior Mainland Macanese cousin:

But the waitress tricked us into getting the porky bun, which is a roll sliced into four meager wedges and toasted crouton-dry, only they priced it at $2. Usually at restaurants, bread comes free. Only this was mawkishly dry toast, for $2! Oh, how the French would protest at the Bastille! But then again, they would have more taste than to walk into this 1/2-star restaurant.

Having spent a week eating guiltful-yet-pleasurable food items such as Indian take-out and 4th-of-July barbeque, Sunday is detox day!

Three cheers for whole milk yogurt, blueberries, strawberries, and a drizzle of honey!

 
* * *
Lately I've been spending too much time in the foggy parts of the city. There is light at the end of the tunnel, there is radiance in the city-- you just have to know where to find it. Cupcakes, coffee, and conversation, an afternoon well-spent!
 
* * *
Germany lost the Eurocup title to Spain in a very tenacious game, even involving Ballack-ian head trauma. Et j'en suis triste! I then traipsed off to Crepevine to meet up with some old ballet buddies for brunch. 
Crepevine used to supply my powerhouse all too frequently in high school, when study sessions with friends in the Inner Sunset occurred more often in my schedule than sleep. A demure-looking bistro on the outside, the inside always looks much larger once one enters, kind of like Alice opening the tiny door to the magical garden. Only Crepevine falls short of fantasy.
Below is my New Orleans Benediction (consisting of crab cakes, poached eggs, spicy bechamel sauce on multi-grain bread), after much unnecessary confusion. The server brings me eggs benedicte, and says "[uncomprehensibleutterancedelsoluncomprehensibleutterance.]" "What was that?" "Eggs benedicte!" "Okay, that would be mine. Thanks...no wait, what is this?" "Del Sol." "But I ordered the New Orleans." "Yeah, this is the New Orleans." I look at my plate with a lot of spinach and diced, processed ham, wondering where the crab cakes were. Falsifier!!

I finally got the correct order, but what a hassle! The crab cakes were heavily spiced, almost felt like licking a salt wheel, only I'm not a hamster. They substituted multi-grain bread for english muffin halves, and they burned it. The house potatoes were undercooked, leaving a crunchy center. Either my expectations have gone up since high school, or their standards for bistro fare have diminished. However, shabby service still stands as a continuity. 

A little back-logged, but dessert and tea at Steps of Rome.

decent tiramisu, but not as good as the homemade crisper concoction in the previous entry. 

Another eatery from my teenage years. When downtown, one does not have that many options for a cheap, quick, non-food court meal. A. had a flight to catch so I decided for us CreepO Chocolat. Woops, I mean Crepe O Chocolat. The fact that 'O' substituted 'au' bugs me. Anyway, they have done away with their savoury crepes and replaced such offerings with omelettes. We decided on this omelette, with prosciutto, carmelized apple slices, and gruyere, only the prosciutto was cooked (sacrilegious!!) and the carmelized apples were neither cooked nor carmelized. The omelette came a little runny, as in runny egg whites, which to me is a culinary conundrum. How does one manage to cook an omelette with melted cheese and cooked prosciutto but leave the actual omelette not fully cooked? Anyway, the green salad with beets was decent.

One of those experiences you have to try once to see. And then only once. 

Their signature "crepe o chocolat".

A, and I also shared this. I always compare the quality of restaurant crepes to those in France or that of my own, which is being only a little vain, but standards are good to have. The actual crepe was a little too dry and rubbery for my discriminating palate-- kind of an echec when that's the restaurant's specialty. 

dinner at Axum (city in Ethiopea) Cafe.

The mushroom "stew" is my favourite, along with the Tibsie Lamb, which was a little dry this time. They subsituted Iceberg for Romaine-- lame! The six of us shared a platter for five, and still had plenty left over. We ate and ate and ate some more as we watched Critical Mass bike by; two of our high school teachers were in the mix. 

A very late Fathers' Day dinner, at The Old Clam House, as suggested by mi madre. Said to be the oldest restaurant in the city (circa 1861), it stands as one of the oldest restaurants in my dining experience as well. My parents and I used to come here quite often back in the day.


Curious as to what "clam strips" are, I asked our waiter, who pointed all over the menu, from appetizers to dinner and dessert. Still not having a clearer understanding from before, I ordered them anyway:

Pieces of chewy clam, battered and fried. Artery-clogging goodness.

A bucket of steamed clams with garlic and a hint of white wine will set you back $17 or so.

My dad always brings his out-of-town friends to dine here; a few weeks ago, he brought his friends from Hong Kong. Coming from a seafood-heavy food culture, they even approved of the clams here, so much in fact that they became clamorous. Did I just go there? Oh, yes I did!

Still full from crepes, I opted to share the "Clambake" with my mom.

The mussels were not so fresh, while the crab legs and scallops were good. While The Old Clamhouse is a trove of nostalgia, other seafood restaurants far surpass The Old Clamhouse in terms of quality and service (i.e. Hog Island Oyster Company). Located in the boondocks of San Francisco, one plus is that if you sit by the window, you get a good view of traffic on Bayshore Boulevard, consisting of  "souped-up" lo rider cars streaming on the boulevard incessantly. Mainstream calls it ghetto, I call it resourceful. A meal at the Clamhouse reminds me of visiting elderly folk in their dilapidated homes and who give you three-year old M&Ms stored in a tin can (not that I know that many); some things remain constant and at the same time, a little time-warped, as the world outside passes by and by.

 
* * *
* * *
The first week of summer vacation went off with a promising[-ly productive] start. Mulloy, Benedicte, and Marion came up to visit Saturday night. Having eaten a lavish feast of lobster, clam, crab, and shrimp (pity, I forgot my camera!) with the extended family (always uncomfortable), I suggested a sushi bar + restaurant to the lovely trio as they pulled into the city late Saturday night.
Firecracker salmon roll from Pacific Catch, belonging to Mulloy. It was inventive and fresh-tasting, but not as flavourful as I had hoped. Still good.

Then 11 p.m. rolled along and none of us wanted to leave the cool ambience of the bar, so we pooled together our marketing talents to get Benedicte to order the following dessert, which she was on the fence about in the first place. Hi ho hi ho, onto dessert we go!

Dulce de Leche "Spring Roll" they called it; she approved.

Since 9:30 a.m. was a little ambitious for a Sunday morning, we ended up meeting at 11 for brunch, or closer to 11:20. 

I suggested Tartine, naturally and it was well-received by everyone, from the muesli to the espresso, the morning buns, bread pudding, croissant, tea and coffee. It's always a nice way to start off a Sunday morning-- sitting at a sidewalk table and watching passers-by, from the pedestrians who blast Spanish music from their boomboxes to the little girls who roar at their parents for attention.

AidsWalk San Francisco threw a hullabaloo for their favourite (read: key) volunteers. They picked a really fun place in the recently developed SoMa district, which used to be highly industrial and devoid of cool architecture. Tres Agaves, my friends:

The evening was filled with guacamole al tres agaves, costillas de puerco, torta al pastor y margaritas. Wow, that's a lot of Spanish for someone who has only a neglible amount of Iberian linguistics knowledge-- exhaustion! 

After a very exciting ballet class Saturday morning (read: dancing with professionals), Angela and I went to Japantown to check out the craft fair. We stopped at Mifune for lunch, albeit slow-service and crowdedness both givens.

I ordered the okame(fishcake) soba, which my stomach did not agree to. I can eat street food in the polluted streets of China and drink mango lassis on the roads of Delhi, why oh why, God Ebisu, did you not warn me that the catch of the day was to be avoided?

Manju, Japanese sweet.

The leaf tasted just like ume, or Japanese sour plum and Angela confirmed it. 

It's Sunday afternoon, the Alice's Summerthing concert was an afternoon well-spent with good company and a good picnic. However, alone time is much appreciated after a week of visitors (from France, China, Korea, Italy, and more France) and pullingeconteeth class, which by the way, is more elementary than the macroeconomics class I took in high school-- good thing I have still remembered the econ. logic and transition mechanisms, which are too advanced and thus inutile for this course anyway. Whatever, I have to do it for posterity; I should stop complaning and count my blessings that I'm in school(!) Anyway, lychee black tea with madeleines for you to enjoy in two-dimensional format, Proust-inspired.

Next week is another week.

By the way, econ. class has to be worth something and thus I leave you with this dialogue (would only happen in San Francisco):
[professor in explaining consumer goods]
"consumer goods...yanno..bling bling, BLING BLING...yanno rings and alla that fancy stuff...what the hip hop generation is into."
[girl meticulously taking notes]
"Say that again!"

 
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