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Aloha Festival in SF

9 Sep

Here’s another old event that never got posted. Bear with me, still procrastinating uploading of new pictures because I don’t have my card reader. We went to the Aloha Festival in the beginning of August! I have always wanted to go to Hawaii when I was little and I still do. The opportunity to go hasn’t come yet so I settle for learning more about Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian FOOD. So many things to try! Plate lunch? Mochiko chicken? Real shaved ice? Desserts?! Someone take me to Hawaii!

How about some teriyaki chicken on a stick?

Or a bowl of loco moco? Loco moco is hamburger patty and fried egg over rice liberally doused with gravy. I’ve seen it described as heart attack in a bowl.

The Flavor Station for shaved ice looked fun but they were all “American” flavors.

I went for the more authentic flavors at a different stand.

I got a mix of guava and li hing mui (misspelled on the menu). The ice wasn’t shaved fine enough so the syrup pooled to the bottom and the top half of the ice wasn’t sweet enough. It was better once it melted down quite a bit. Not a great idea to have shaved ice on a chilly day in SF.

I tried some other Hawaiian food from an authentic Hawaiian grocery, Takahashi Market, that ships food fresh from Hawaii into San Mateo, CA. I got the Kalua Pork Quesadilla, which was tasty. The dish was basically kalua pork and LOTS of cheese grilled inside tortillas with chipotle sauce and scallions sprinkled on top. It could have been improved by adding some veggies (peppers and onions) or simply had more scallions as the cheese was slightly overwhelming.

This is not very traditional Hawaiian food so I’m looking forward to going back for their plate lunches next time I’m in California. I also tried some lilikoi iced tea and li hing mui sour applemelon candy. I didn’t think the lilikoi iced tea was anything special but that candy was addicting! Turns out I really like li hing mui flavored stuff. Li hing mui is a dried sour plum (see wiki link above) and they sell it in powder form! I wish I got some from this market because it’s great sprinkled on popcorn.

I took a lot of pictures of the Hawaiian dancers at the Aloha Festival but they’re on Brian’s camera. Sorry I can’t share! 😉

Do you know of any Hawaiian restaurants or groceries in NYC?

Le Croissant Cafe

4 Sep

I found some old pictures from California that I still want to share. It also helps that I left my card reader in California so I can’t transfer my new photos to my computer, therefore, these are the only photos I have at the moment.

One Saturday morning we didn’t have the energy to go sailing so we slept in and went out to have a lazy brunch. Brian took me to Le Croissant Cafe in Burlingame, CA.

It’s a cute little hole in the wall with a small menu but their breads were fresh and they have a case of pastries to choose from. We went for savory sandwiches rather than pastries but I saw a chocolate croissant that looked good. They also serve coffee drinks but we ordered an earl grey tea latte.

I got the egg salad on croissant. It was delicious! The egg salad was rich and creamy with excellent egg flavor. It complemented the tender, crispy croissant and the tomato and lettuce added the perfect lightness to the sandwich.

Brian got the chicken salad on baguette. The salad had a nice dill flavor but the chicken was shredded and seemed like it was from a pouch or can rather than freshly shredded. Overall, it was a good sandwich but I liked the egg salad better.

We also ordered an earl grey tea latte to drink. It was very light, which Brian liked but I would have preferred it with a stronger tea flavor and richer milk.

The service is great here. They served us everything even though it’s not a restaurant and we were sitting outside. The sun is on the wrong side of the street in the morning so it was a bit chilly sitting outside but I guess it was an unusually cold summer in the bay area anyway. The prices were a bit high but worth it for a nice slow brunch. Afterwards, we strolled around the shops nearby and enjoyed the weather.

Yume-ya Japanese Izakaya

2 Aug

I thought I knew Japanese food. I love Japanese food and eat at Japanese restaurants quite often. Turns out I’ve never eaten izakaya style food. Izakaya is like a Japanese bar that serves small plates of food (like tapas in Spain). Yume-ya in Sunnyvale, CA is a cross between an izakaya and a sushi joint. We went with a friend who regularly goes and can order in Japanese so I got to try several new dishes. Don’t be scared of this next picture.

First, we got raw squid that had been marinated (fermented?) in its own gut juice (ika no shiokara). The dish looked pretty disgusting. It was very salty with a hint of lemon and the texture was slippery and soft. I couldn’t chew what I assume was the skin layer. I probably won’t order this again.

Next we got garlic shoots with fatty pork belly. This dish was shining with oil but tasted good. The greens were crisp and had excellent onion flavor. The pork was melt in your mouth (because it was mainly fat). I only wish it could be made with less oil.

We also had beef tongue and takoyaki. The beef tongue was grilled nicely and was tender. The sweet vinegar dipping sauce paired nicely with the salty meat. The takoyaki was fresh and hot with the octopus inside not being overcooked. Nice presentation but could have had more bonito flakes, I didn’t taste them at all.

Two orders of uni nigiri and a giant seaweed onigiri came next. Uni is sea urchin and I love it. These tasted great and were creamy. Yum! The rice in the onigiri was cooked perfectly but I didn’t love the spicy filling.

We also got sweet shrimp nigiri, which is raw shrimp. This was my favorite new thing to try. I’ve never had raw shrimp before and it was so creamy and delicate. The wasabi in between the shrimp and rice was great burst of flavor combining with the shrimp and roe in your mouth. This is a must try.

Lastly, we shared a bowl of chazuke, which is rice and fish roe in hot tea. I would have preferred salmon to the roe because I don’t like cooked fish eggs, but it was a comforting finish to the meal.

There were two dishes that we tried but I didn’t get a picture of before they got eaten (I’ve linked to pictures I found on google). One was mackerel, or saba, sashimi. This fish had a nice salty and fatty flavor. The other was fried shrimp heads, which was creepy to me at first due to the large eyes staring at me. I was converted once I bit into the crunchiness. It was a tasty bite.

Last of the Farm Shares

28 Jul

Our nine weeks of fresh vegetables from Two Small Farms ended last week. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to participate again next summer. We could have continued our subscription (awesome since California weather is so great for extending the growing season) but I’m leaving the west coast soon and Brian would not have the time, skill or physical ability to cook and eat all those veggies each week by himself. If you live in the Bay Area, I highly recommend Two Small Farms’ Community Supported Agriculture subscription. You really get your money’s worth and the vegetables (and strawberries!) are delicious.

Here’s what we got on week 8 and week 9.

CSA share 8

Week 8:
young walla walla onions – delicious
parsley root
butter lettuce
giant scallions – YUMMY!!
heirloom tomatoes – each tomato is so unique in look and taste
turnips – pretty good with pork belly! wish I could make it Chinese style with beef.
romaine lettuce

CSA share 9

Week 9:
carrots – big ones!
young walla walla onions – they were so dirty/muddy this week.
corn !!!! so lucky we got corn in our last share!
new potatoes – yay!
purple cabbage – super heavy head
butter lettuce
heirloom tomatoes

Gilroy Garlic Festival

27 Jul

We went to the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, CA on Sunday. It was hot! And really sunny! I’m getting super tan this summer even after many applications of sunblock. I need to get sun proof clothing that won’t make me sweat to death.

The festival was really big and had lots to see. There were many, many food booths with all types of garlic infused foods as well as carnival foods (funnel cake!). There were craft booths selling all types of things including garlic related items like garlic roasters, garlic olive oil, and garlic shaped hats. The air was infused with garlic though Brian said it smelled stronger last year.

Amanda (right) and I in front of a flaming garlic!

The festival was a great place for garlic lovers and families with kids. They had a great kids section with carnival rides, crafts like spin art and wax hands, carnival games, and a live sing-along. For adults, there was a cook-off hosted by Fabio and Mattin who were both former Top Chef contestants. Since they’re not professional MCs, they didn’t really do a good job of letting us know what is happening with the 2.5 hour cook-off. Fabio kept giving away free stuff including random vegetables and flower arrangements that were decorating the stage. It was pretty amusing. We didn’t stay long because our section had no shade.

The cook-off on stage. Secret ingredient was mushroom.

Fabio talking with an organizer.

Even though the food smelled good, it was so hot that we didn’t have a big enough of an appetite to wait on the long lines for real food. Plus we snacked on goodies like FREE garlic ice cream samples.

garlic ice cream in a cute mini cone

I remember Bakerella was looking for cones like this recently. I want some too, they were adorable and would be super cute with cake balls. The garlic ice cream was great. Sweet with a good garlic flavor and even a bit of bite at the end that you get from raw garlic. We also got garlic fries. The garlic and herbs were on the bottom. These were really good. They also sold sweet potato garlic fries and crab fries.

Did you know that California produces 90% of the garlic in the US? More and more often though, you’ll find garlic from China so check the label/package if you care about buying local. Christopher Ranch is the largest garlic grower in California.

Brian likes to make silly faces when I try to take pictures.

After buying a large garlic braid, we finished off our garlic-filled day with a fruit smoothie before we left. Super long straws for the win!

Strawberry, banana, peach fruit smoothie.

Visiting Wine Country

26 Jul

I haven’t posted in over a week! I apologize for that but I’ve been keeping busy and having fun with life rather than updating the blog. I’ve also been slightly stressing about having to return home because I’ll have to deal with school and the real world again. I keep my mind off it by reading the great books I find at the library.

grapes soaking up the sun, upper house in the distance

One of the highlights of this trip was when I got to visit a private estate vineyard in Calistoga, CA, which is in the Napa Valley. Brian’s friend’s family owns this vineyard and we got to visit them for a relaxing weekend. They were really kind to host us and we had a beautiful weekend there. The dogs and cats had free range of the property and were adorable. We got to swim in the man made pond, relax on the hammocks, have a picnic by the pond, grill up some delicious steaks, catus, veggie kabobs, enjoy wine, be with good company and simply take in the views. There’s nothing like looking out your window to see mountain tops, looking down the hills to see fields of green grapes, or star gazing in pitch darkness.

I’m posting these pictures without naming the vineyard because it is a friend’s home so I want to respect their privacy. It’s so beautiful that I had to share.

part of their wine cave

the gorgeous pond we went swimming in

I made and brought hummingbird muffins so we would have breakfast/snacks. Hummingbird muffins have banana, coconut flakes, pineapple and walnuts. I used this recipe and substituted the oil for a cup of apple sauce and 1/4 cup olive oil. The only thing we had to make was a big pot of coffee. On Sunday, we did make whole wheat buttermilk waffles for breakfast. They were so satisfying.

hummingbird muffins

We didn’t do much touristy stuff like go on wine tastings or eat at fancy restaurants so I’ll have to go back another time for all that. On the way home we stopped at Pizzeria Tra Vigne in St. Helena, Ca for a casual linner (lunch-dinner). We ordered a Ducati pizza (mozzarella, marinara, capicola, mushrooms, spicy Italian sausage and sun dried tomatoes) and Fettuccini alla Bolognese. Both were good but I’ve had better pizza. We also had a mandarin orange Italian soda, which was so good we stopped at BevMo to get the Torani syrup and seltzer water to make our own.

We also stopped in Yountville, CA to walk around the main strip. They had amazing art exhibits. When I get a nice big house I will come back here to get paintings to decorate. We grabbed a snack of French macarons at Bouchon Bakery. They were the biggest macarons I’ve ever seen. Really freaking good.

vanilla and hazelnut macarons

Touristy Things with Gary

16 Jul

On Monday, Gary and his family were visiting SF. They drove up from LA after spending some time in Las Vegas as well. I took the Caltrain and Muni up. This time I took an express bus (8X) instead of what I did last time around and it went a lot faster. Got there in about an hour total. Mass transit here is SO expensive though. Getting there and back would have been $12.50. My trip was even more ($14.25) since I had to go to Mountain View afterwards to meet up with Brian. We walked around Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf all the way to Ghirardelli Square. We had lunch at Pier Market Seafood Restaurant, which wasn’t bad for a touristy restaurant. The waitresses kept trying to up sell everything. Gary was kind enough to treat me to lunch. Thanks! It was yummy; the bannock was surprisingly soft and pillow-y. Matched the delicate salmon well.

grilled salmon on bannock (Native American fried bread)

what looks to be a Chinese Junk style ship

On the way to Ghirardelli Square, we passed by a huge crowd surrounding a spray paint artist. We stopped and saw him finish a gorgeous painting that sold immediately for $10. Gary really wanted one so I told him to ask the guy to paint another one. He did and we got to watch the whole thing. The end result was gorgeous and totally my type of thing (sci fi). He used a paint scraper to etch in the golden gate bridge and part of SF’s skyline including the Trans America building. It was done super fast!

Lombard St.

Finally, I took them uphill to see Lombard St. and then I had to leave to meet up with Brian.

Brian and I had to rush down to San Jose to wait in line for the screening of Inception (starring Leonardo DiCaprio). We were there at around 5:50 but the line was really long already. We made it in but there were only really crappy seats left in the front. Luckily, the theater guy yelled at everyone to move in and two seats freed up, which we grabbed. They were literally the last two seats together with a good view. We were super lucky (lucky with parking too, right by the entrance). The movie started at 7pm so we sat around for half an hour watching people trying to look for seats. Finally, they packed the theater to capacity and the movie started. It was so good I need to see it again to catch all the details. The cast was strong, there was a novel story line and the special effects were realistic. Only bad thing was that the story line was so complex it was hard to understand how everything worked. Awesome.