Alternative Lifestyle

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"I am not a complete vegetarian. I eat only animals that have died in their sleep".- George Carlin

Let me be completely honest: I am not a vegetarian or any other combination. I could say that I am quasi-vegan as dairy and I have parted ways. I still like cheese though.

I'm blaming it on my sister's boyfriend who became a vegetarian a few months ago. I was shocked as he was a big carnivore and Cheeburger champion. He's a bit of a zealot now and won't allow his roomies to bring meat back into the house. Yikes. Thank God I don't live with him. As I said, I'm not a vegetarian. I know a few people who are. I respect that and their lifestyle. Just don't push it on to me. 

On occasion, I feel like eating vegetarian. The question is where are the good veggie restaurants? My sister had introduced me one, Sipz Fusion Cafe. Sipz is a vegetarian place (no meat on the premise) that has different types of Asian cuisine on its menu- hence that type of fusion rather than mixing Asian cuisine with something Western. They also love spicy dishes so I had less options. I opted for a rice bowl- walnut "shrimp" and brown rice ($1 extra). The walnut shrimp is a "crispy battered shrimp and walnutz (their spelling, not mine) glazed with a mayonnaise based sauce". This dish is quite common in Chinese restaurants. I suspect that this dish does not exist in China but I could be wrong. 

The dish was wonderful and authentic. I forgot that I was not eating actual shrimp. Not sure what the "shrimp" was made out of- seitan? Tempeh? Doesn't matter. It was excellent. Tip- if you plan on paying with cash, get the mango iced tea. It's free if you pay with cash. Well worth it. 

My second time there I tried the seaweed salad and the crunchy "chicken" chowmein with veggies in a savory brown sauce. The noodles were eggless and delicious. This dish was similar to ones that I have had in Chinatown in San Francisco and LA. The veggies were quite typical of an Asian stir fry: broccoli, baby bok choy, button mushrooms, baby corn, and bamboo shoots. 

My third time there I had the cashew "chicken" rice bowl. It was similar sauce wise to the chowmein- brown sauce and same veggies.

Last weekend, I decided to try another vegetarian place, VegNOut. This place is known for its burgers. I thought it was ironic that it was next door to Lefty's Chicago Pizzeria which was featuring their meaty pizzas. (I will try Lefty's another day.)

I was delighted to see a fairly large menu, burgers, sandwiches, and veggie dogs. It took me a while to decide upon the 30th Street Classic, "meaty patty topped with Cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, and our homemade Thousand Island dressing". I opted to have the onions grilled (just can't do raw onions) and without pickles. The cashier suggested I get the sweet potato medallions which I did. I got water which was infused with cucumber. Found it light and refreshing. The cucumber flavor was subtle which I enjoyed. 

My burger was huge! The last time I had a veggie burger in a restaurant was probably when I was in high school.They were tiny back then. The bun was wheat and held up pretty well. I enjoyed every last bite although the Thousand Island refused to stay put and ended up migrating onto my hands and the basket. 

The sweet potato medallions were also large but tasty. The server gave me a side of chipotle dipping sauce. I tried the smallest bit. Too hot for my delicate tastebuds.

I will most likely go back there in a couple months. 

It's fun to try something new but don't expect me to give up my carnivore lifestyle anytime soon. If you have ever had the Carne Asada fries at Lolita's Taco Shop or the filet mignon at Carvers, you'll understand. 

Until next time!

Oktoberfest- Part 2

"Everybody has to believe in something.....I believe I'll have another drink."
-W.C. Fields

Yesterday, Betty and I had decided to try going to the Ocean Beach (OB) Oktoberfest. It was the first time for either of us to check it out. The information I had originally was pretty scarce. I knew that there was a $3 admission charge and it was by the OB pier. It was fairly small but the beer garden was huge. We had to pay $3 each to get into the garden and then buy our drinks ($6 each). I was a little disappointed in the beer selection and went with Blue Moon. Blue Moon is a Belgian-style wheat ale. I've had it before and like it. Betty had a cheap beer- I want to say it was Coors Light.

The food options were a bit disappointing. It seemed to be a mini version of the Del Mar Fair. There were only 2 brat stands. There was a pizza stand, Japanese food, Mexican food, corn dogs, fried foods, Belgian fries and waffles, kettle corn, boba stand, and a potato pancake place. There were several jewelry and trinket stands.

Betty and I decided to share some Belgian fries which are fried twice, crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. The fries came with a choice of ketchup, aioli, and mayo. I opted for the aioli. These fries were hot, golden, and delicious. I'm not sure why there are not more places that serve these Belgian beauties. The aioli was distinctly garlicky and were complimentary.

We moved on to sample a potato pancake which was not cooked to order but had been warmed up. As Betty put it, it was like "a thick tater tot". The pancake came with sour cream and applesauce. The applesauce resembled and tasted more like an apple glaze sauce.

We walked around some more and then ordered a brat with grilled onions. The bun was overly doughy and we ended up eating the brat and onions. The brat had a bit of a kick towards the end. Luckily for my sensitive palate, I could eat the brat without crying.

Finally, we decided to visit the fried food stand and try some beignets. We opted for powdered sugar and caramel on the top. I was (again) disappointed with the beignets. While they were made fresh, the dough was heavy and soggy, instead of light and airy.

It wasn't long until we ended up walking away from the event. I was in a quest for some bottled water that did not cost $6 (2 for $3 each at Oktoberfest). We found a hole-in-the wall Mexican restaurant that had bottled water for $1. Sold. Betty and I overheard a couple of French tourists trying to decide what to order. Turns out their friend was local and ordered a torta for the Frenchwoman. A torta?! It's a sandwich, for crying out loud. Betty was annoyed and said that they should have gotten a burrito or a taco. I agreed but the guy told us that she likes the tortas as she had had one recently. We certainly meant well. I wish I knew enough French because I would have steered her towards rolled tacos or maybe a chicken quesadilla.

We kept walking and then ended up going into an Irish pub. Of course, it was faux Irish. The only thing Irish was the name. Betty and I ordered Shandies or Shandy. A shandy is a beer mixed with 7-Up at least that is how I've seen it at other pubs in town. The bartender smiled and looked blank and asked us what was in there- vodka? No- beer and 7-up. That was the first time I've had a bartender not know what a drink was.

Later as we were chatting, we noticed green jello. The bartender was busy making jello shots. Jello shots in a bar?! I thought only college kids had those or at least people at house parties. I would not be caught dead ordering a jello shot. To each their own.

Betty had mentioned red velvet cupcakes at a bakery called Azucar. Betty is a cupcake fanatic. She knows where all the good cupcakes are in town. Betty is acquaintances with one of the gals who works there and they were chatting about a workout class. I was perusing the menu which sounded intriguing. There was one panini that practically screamed "Viva La España!". This panini, Berto, had these ingredients: Serrano ham, manchego cheese, arugula, drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Hmm, mental note: must try the Berto soon.

Betty had had the Cubano panini before, slow roasted Cuban style pork, thinly sliced ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, pickles. It sounds good but I'm not a pickle person. She reassured me that the pickles make the panini good. Perhaps another time, after the Berto.
We saw three flavors of cupcakes: coconut, pumpkin, and the red velvet. We ended up getting a pumpkin and a red velvet cupcake each.

I tried the pumpkin cupcake after dinner (Thai fried rice). It was moist, fluffy, spiced, and just sweet enough. I really enjoyed it. I can't wait to try the red velvet tonight.

Oktoberfest- Part 1

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."- Ben Franklin

It's that time of year again: pumpkins, falling leaves, beer and brat. I speak of course of the wonderful event known as Oktoberfest. I had decided to partake in a couple different Oktoberfest events. The first was a 5 course meal at Wine Vault & Bistro. Originally, I had invited Ellie and Betty. Ellie's on a strict diet so she had to decline. We invited Betty's friend, Daniel, to join us that evening.

I have to apologize in advance for the quality of my photos. I took pics with my new smartphone and the room was a bit dark. A couple of my beer pics didn't load.

The first course was: Local Yellowtail, Stone Crab, Beer Battered Shallots, Julian Apples 2 Ways: Raw + Roasted Aioli served with Sünner Kölsch beer. The appetizer was clean, refreshing, and light. My favorite was the stone crab which was savory and flavorful. The beer battered shallots were crispy and genius. I love shallots as they have a delighfully mild onion flavor which was complemented by the beer batter. The apples were less successful to me but they added a little sweetness and texture.  (No photo of the beer.)
The Sünner Kölsch beer was fantastic! It's a regional specialty of Cologne, Germany. It is "clear, bright straw yellow color with a prominent floral hoppiness and a mild bitterness. . . . The result is a clean tasting beer not dissimilar to a Pilsner, but with more fruity esters and a lighter bitterness" (Wine Vault & Bistro menu).
1st Course: Yellowail with Stone Crab, Shallots and Apples

The second course was one of my favorites. We had marinated local mussels with San Marzano tomatoes with carmelized garlic and ricotta on top of ciabatta. The mussels were in a flavorful broth. What brought the dish together for me was the creamy ricotta and the San Marzano tomatoes which were slightly tart. The beer we had was Franzikskaner Hefe Weisse. The beer has "distinct banana, pear, and bubble-gum esters along with mild clove aromas mark this as a classic Bavarian hefewiezen. The fruitiness of the palate is complemented by mild wheat flavors and a light, dry finish" (Wine & Vault Bistro menu).

When the beer expert (sommelier doesn't seem right) mentioned bubble gum, I was a bit skeptical and nervous. Sure enough, I could tell there were definite hints of bubble gum but it was not cloying sweet. The beer was good but not something I will seek out.

2nd course: mussels, tomato, garlic and ricotta on ciabatta

Franziskaner Hefe Weisse
The third course was another favorite: Housemade Shelton Farms Chicken "Sausage", Tomato Mostarda, Root Vegetable Slaw with Caraway. The reason the chicken "sausage" was not a true sausage is that there was no casing. In fact, the chicken "sausage" was in a fun circular shape.
It was my first time having chicken "sausage" and I enjoyed it. The meat was moist, juicy, and well-seasoned. The tomato mostarda was also something new. It is a typical Italian condiment- fruit and mustard. I also thought the root vegetable slaw added a nice textural contrast as the veggies had been julienned and were crispy.
3rd course: Chicken sausage, mostarda, with slaw

The beer, Spaten Oktoberfest, was "an amber colored, medium bodied beer with roasted malt flavors balanced with the perfect amount of hops. Its richly textured palate has a hit of underlying sweetness true to tradition". This beer was a balance of light and dark beer which supposedly would appeal to the most beer drinkers. While I liked it, it was not as good as the first beer. (No photo available.)

The fourth dish was Wagyu Brisket "Pot Roast" with Tuscan Kale, carrots, turnips and their greens in Roast Jus. The concept was clever putting some of the best beef in the world and treating it as pot roast. Unfortunately, my Wagyu was mostly fat. Seriously, big white chunks of lumpy fat with perhaps 3 small bites of actual beef. I was rather disappointed to have such a measly edible portion of the beef. The Tuscan kale was quite good if a little bitter. I'm not that familiar with kale but I thought that it was a good foil to the beef. The other veggies were nondescript. Another first- a turnip. I honestly think that turnips don't have a distinct flavor which makes them forgettable to me.
4th dish: Pot roast and veggies

The fourth beer was Schneiden Hopfen Weise which unfortunately none of us liked. We each took one sip and promptly left our glasses full. It's extremely hoppy and I discovered that night, I am not a fan of the hoppy beer. Sorry to those of you who are.
Schneider Hopfen Weise
Finally, our 5th and final course was Basil Tres Leches with Brown Butter Ice Cream and Valrhona White Chocolate and Espresso Crumble. (I got mine sans ice cream as I can't eat it anymore.)

Now, the basil tres leches was one of the most intriguing desserts that I have ever had. Tres Leches I have had before and enjoy the caramely sweetness of that moist cake. But the basil had added a surprising twist cutting into the sweetness. In fact the tres leches was almost savory with the addition of the basil. I would have like to try regular tres leches alongside the basil version to see which was better. The first bite was iffy. Then it grew on me.
Having the white chocolate and espresso crumble added both texture and flavor to the dish. Valhrona is one of the best chocolates in the world and is rather pricey. Of course, if you are going to use the chocolate as a garnish or in a similar prominent matter, you want high quality chocolate that is silky not chalky.
5th course: Basil Tres Leches cake with ice cream

The beer was Weihenstephaner Korbinian which is in the "double bock" style. It was a dark and strong beer. We found this more palatable than the previous beer. "This smooth, creamy, medium-to-full bodied beer offers complex, roasted malt aromas of coffee, chocolate, caramel, bread and raisins, and delivers plenty of malt with notes of peppery spice, alcohol and hop bitterness. At the same time, this is eminently drinkable and highly regarded by lovers of the style" (Wine & Vault Bistro, menu).

Weihenstephaner Korbinian
It was a delightful meal but had a few flaws. I did learn a lot about beer that night.


Trying new things

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.  ~Voltaire

Greetings friends! I know it's been a long time. Well, I have been busy working, dating, and socializing.

I did have a good food day yesterday so I thought I would share with you while my impressions were still fresh in my mind.

One neighborhood that I have been checking out more is Point Loma, a seaside neighborhood. I wanted to have a nice lunch at Tender Greeens before going grocery shopping at Fresh and Easy.  Tender Greens is a great place for when you want something healthy and delicious. I have heard about it but hadn't had the opportunity to go there.

Since I got my smartphone, I have been all about Foursquare. Several users mentioned a few must try items: Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, Hibiscus tea, and the steak sandwich. I was a bit overwhelmed at the menu. There are salads, big and simple, and the option to make any protein into a sandwich, a hot plate(entree), or a salad.

The daily special was a chicken sandwich with roasted red peppers. I probably should have written the ingredients down but I didn't think about it until much later. I ordered the chicken sandwich, a side of the Yukon Gold, and the Hibiscus tea. The sandwich was on toasted ciabatta, perfectly toasted and crisp. The aioli was just enough to accentuate the chicken and peppers, not overpowering. It was served with a simple salad with large thin slices of apple and a light vinaigrette. The potatoes were creamy, smooth, and flavorful. I'm not sure if there was butter, cream, or some broth for flavor. 
I like the Hibiscus tea which I have had at Mexican restaurants (AKA Jamaica). It's a bit like cranberry. I probably would have gotten a little sugar with it next time.
My lunch was a little pricey, close to $20 but I think it was worth it. Next time, I''ll get the steak or chipotle BBQ chicken with the Yukon Gold potatoes. 

I had met up with my friends, Ellie and Betty, for dinner and drinks at Princess Pub in another great neighborhood, Little Italy. Ellie had mentioned their Fish & Chips Burrito. I'm sold. Betty and I had ordered a great drink, Shandy, a mix of 7UP and Lager. 

The Fish & Chips burrito was absolutely fabulous. I had the beer battered fish version which was wonderfully crisp and airy. The burrito also had avocado slices, shredded lettuce, and diced onions.  I would definitely order it again. I also got their apple crumble which I was a bit disappointed with as parts of the crumble were overbaked. Services was spotty and disappointing as our waitress was gone for over half an hour. Other than that, it was a great and casual experience.

I'm meeting Betty for dinner tonight at Pamas Bar & Grill in Kearny Mesa. It's the first day of San Diego Restaurant Week. I love this time of year as many excellent restaurants have a prix fixe dinner (and now lunch). We had gone to Pampas last year and I was really pleased with my meal and the service. I'll try to remember to take some pictures this time. 

Until next time, bon appetit.

Since I've Been Gone

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else." -Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Late Happy New Year! And Happy (Early) Chinese New Year!

My life has changed dramatically since my last post. My husband, Lauderdale, and I have separated and our divorce will be finalized soon. I ended up moving to a completely different part of town. I started a new job.
I have a new outlook on life.

Since I moved to a much smaller place, I had to get rid of a few culinary items which was sad for me. I have lost a good-sized kitchen but have gained access to many new and nearby restaurants. I am centrally located to some of my favorite haunts. I discovered that many restaurants deliver to my new place which is a precious privilege that my old place did not offer.

This is my year to try new things, culinary and otherwise. I discovered a new favorite sandwich shop called Which Wich. There are several main categories (e.g. Chicken, Beef, Pork, Classics, Vegetarian), choose your bread, cheese (optional), mustard, mayo, spreads, onions, veggies, oils and spices. You fill out a paper bag which serves as your menu and tells the staff what you want on your sandwich. 

I have tried 5 different sandwiches and have enjoyed them all immensely. Although I had pork tenderloin today which wasn't like the ones I have had on a plate but still good. I still have to try some more categories: beef, vegetarian, seafood, classic, and comfort). I appreciate the fact that they have the frequent buyer club so eventually I'll have a free sandwich.

That's all I have to say about food for now. For more of my non-culinary adventures, please check out my friend's dating blog, Date and Tell, where I am a guest writer.

Until next time!

"Mmm...bacon."- Homer Simpson

Sunday, August 29, 2010

One of my dear friends, Emily, has recently started a food blog about bacon. Bacon is one of my favorite foods and a guilty pleasure.

When I came across this recipe, I thought it would be a great addition to both our blogs.

For those of you who don't like bacon, you can substitute chopped pecans for the bacon. I haven't made this recipe yet. Perhaps I will once the weather cools down considerably.

This recipe is dedicated to all adventurous and curious foodies, bacon lovers, and dessert lovers.

Pumpkin Caramel Bars with Bacon

Makes 24 bars. Total time: 1 hour + cooling

For the bars:
  • 8 oz. bacon, diced
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional)
 For the Frosting:
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Sea salt, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.

Cook bacon in a saute pan over medium heat until crisp; drain on a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside. Reserve 2 Tbsp. drippings.

Whisk together pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, egg, melted butter, bacon drippings, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in flour mixture and pecans, if using.

Spread pumpkin batter evenly into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick comes clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

Boil 2 cups brown sugar, water, and a pinch of salt for the frosting in a large saucepan over high heat, 5 minutes, gently swirling occasionally to prevent scorching. Whisk in cream and butter pieces. (Mixture will bubble furiously; keep whisking.) Boil 2 minutes more.

Transfer caramel to the bowl of a stand mixer; whip on high speed until sides of bowl are cool to the touch and caramel is thick, 8-10 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add cream cheese, 1 cube at a time, until frosting is smooth. Frost cooled bars.

Finely chopped cooked bacon (or pecans) and sprinkle onto frosted bars with sea salt. Store bars in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

Recipe from Cuisine at Home magazine, October 2010, Issue 83.

Birthday calories don't count

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." ~James Beard

 Yesterday was my birthday. It was a time of reflection, gratitude, and of course, good food. Although my life is quite different now, I have different blessings and new friends. 

My parents came into town to visit me. The hubs was working so it was the three of us. We went to one of my favorite restaurants, Cheesecake Factory, where portions are huge and the menu is long. I was super excited to see more dishes added since my last visit. 

One of my new friends, Orange Blossom, wisely said at her own birthday party, "Birthday calories don't count". I wholeheartedly agree. I had fun looking at the menu both online and in-person. One of my absolute favorite appetizers is Ahi (Tuna) Tartare.

I'm not sure when I started enjoying this refreshing dish but I've been hooked ever since (pun intended).

I can sum up this great dish in this equation: Ahi + avocado = bliss.

They had some special items that weren't featured in the regular menu. I had this wonderful dish called Chicken Bellagio. It had parmesan crusted chicken, angel hair pasta in a cream and basil (?) sauce, topped with arugla and prosciutto. 

For dessert, I already had chosen my cheesecake: Wild Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake. It was light, smooth, creamy, and wonderful.

After my parents left, I decided to go to Nordstrom for some new makeup. I had just enough time to change into my new dress and heels.

I had invited several friends to an outdoor Mexican restaurant called Hacienda De Vega. I had discovered this restaurant online and decided it would be fun to try someplace new. It is a beautiful, tranquil place. 

My friend, Freesia, and I ordered Mango Mojito Margaritas were as fun to say as they were to drink. My other friends, Peony, and Orange Blossom, got a Strawberry Margarita, and a Mojito Clasico. 

After much (inner) debate, I had decided to try the Enchiladas Tlaxcala. I have to admit I was clueless about the pronunciation. Four years of high school Spanish doesn't quite cover foodie terms. The food was good although their tomatillo sauce was not mild in my opinion. I probably will try something else next time.

We had a great time, filled with stories, "me too"s, and laughter. 

All in all, it was a vast improvement over last year's disappointing dinner elsewhere.

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