Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wedding Food Tasting

The Santaluz Club |

A few posts ago I announced that EHK and I would be getting hitched. It was quite an arduous task finding a venue. My bridesmaids, close friends and EHK can attest to my frustration at the limited amount of options available that presented a reasonable balance in cost, aesthetics and decent food. I had hopes for a June nuptial so of course the pressure was on to find a venue that was free and met our criteria. That proved quite a challenge as venue after venue we visited were either out of our intended budget, not free this June (we were looking last May so what the heck?) or there was just something off about the venue. We finally came across The Santaluz Club, a country club inside the Santaluz community after months of searching and it measured up to what we were looking for. Plus it was pretty close to home... 6 miles away. Why didn't we think to visit sooner?

A while back we visited Santaluz to do a meal tasting (Sorry no photos of the venue since it was pouring rain and we were more interested in getting under a roof at the time). We were pretty happy with all the items below with the exception of the tomato basil bruschetta so I think we'll be switching that out for something else. I really liked the salmon as the fish still came out with the glaze instead of just tasting glaze. I was also a big fan of the crispy dumplings. The manager claimed it was all veg but it tasted meaty. Either way, I'm sure the guests will like it and not miss the meat if there really was no meat. Coconut shrimp wasn't bad either, plump and not too heavily battered. We'll be having a mashed potato bar too but its not pictured. Who doesn't like mashed potatoes though and the option to mix it with your choice of toppings? Now, I just hope I get to enjoy a few bites on our big night.

{tomato basil bruschetta}
{chicken satay with peanut sauce}
{crispy vegetable dumplings with soy dipping sauce}
{coconut shrimp with sweet chili sauce}
{caprese salad}
{mixed greens salad}
{cedar plank salmon with citrus glaze}
{carving of fillet mignon}
{grilled asparagus}

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou: San Diego, CA

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou | 3904 Convoy St. Suite 108, San Diego, CA 92111 | (858) 277-8822

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou (YYK) is where you'll normally find us kicking off our weekend. We realized its become sort of a start of weekend tradition to enjoy a meal here after noticing we come here just about every Friday night (barring plans with friends) since they opened. We used to be big fans of Yakitori Yakyudori (YY) but have since found the quality and service severely disappointing since they opened their new place on Convoy St. and the old place in Hillcrest we used to frequent and rave about has recently changed management and names. YYK is a little on the pricier side for sure ($3.99 for 1 beef tongue skewer?!?) but we feel that the quality of the meal and level of service we receive is leaps and bounds above YY and is therefore justified. We developed quite a big appetite for this particular meal as you can see by the amount of photos we took below. However, we normally don't order this much. Our must order list for YYK does include beef tongue, chicken skin salad, chicken karaage, chicken thigh, and grilled rice ball with miso soup, chicken gizzard (for EHK, I'm not a fan of gizzard). We think these items best highlight the skill of the chefs and we've always been more than happy with them. Here are a few photos from one of our latest meals. Enjoy!

{EHK's foamy Asahi draft, the shot of milk they offer to ward off hangovers, Liz's grapefruit Can Chu-Hi}
{the chef hard at work}
{deep fried chicken crackers}
{chicken skin w/ponzu sauce salad}
{omakase skewers}
{beef skewers}
{deep fried free range chicken thigh/chicken karaage}
{potato salad}
{chicken gizzard}
{pork with shiso}
{chicken soba noodles}
{end the meal with piping hot cup of green tea}
Yokohama Yakitori Koubou
3904 Convoy St. Suite 108
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 277-8822
Tu-Su: 5pm-2am

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Shaved Asparagus Salad and Grilled Rack of Lamb

Its the beginning of October which brings to mind green leaves turning golden and amber, warm apple pie and colorful scarves to keep one warm. Well, its currently low-mid 70's in sunny San Diego. Not quite nippy weather that calls for cocoa and scarves ehh? On a recent warm evening perusing our fridge for a dinner idea... I spotted asparagus and rack of lamb. When we do food shopping we tend to buy things that appeal to us when we see it and not necessarily shop for a recipe. Thus the oh... we have asparagus and rack of lamb in the fridge so lets figure out what we'll do with it tonight. So we decided to make shaved asparagus salad and grilled rack of lamb.

Shaved Asparagus Salad

  • ~ 1lb of asparagus
  • 2-3 scallion stalks
  • ~ 1/4 cup toasted marcona almonds
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • shaved Parmesan cheese
    1. Clean and chop off the woody ends of your asparagus.
    2. Starting from stalk end of asparagus, shave off ribbons of asparagus with a vegetable peeler. Try to use a peeler in which the blade is flush (or close to flush) with the work surface when you hold the peeler against it. You'll find that you can shave much more of the asparagus with such a peeler.
    3. Finely slice scallions.
    4. Roughly chop the toasted marcona almonds. We adore marcona almonds for the sweeter flavor and more delicate texture.
    5. Toss the shaved asparagus, sliced scallions and chopping marcona almonds with juice of 1 lemon (adjust to your acidity preference), a few dashes of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
    6. Finish the salad with shavings of Parmesan cheese.
    {clockwise: our favorite olive oil, shaved asparagus and marcona almonds}

    Grilled Rack of Lamb

    Rack of lamb is always a favorite treat of ours for dinner. We find that lamb can be a polarizing meat... one loves or hates. Surprisingly, its for the same reasons: its slightly gamy, rich and fatty. Fat is flavor so if you're in the "hate lamb" camp then try trimming off some of the fat and give it a try again. I find that its an elegant alternative to the usual steak, fish or poultry one might have for dinner. So why deprive yourself of an option which is rather easy to prepare and easy to wow your dinner guest?

    EHK is the meat guru of our duo so he's usually in charge of handling the protein portions of our meal. He rubbed the rack with some olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic and fresh chopped rosemary. Heated up half the gas grill to high. Seared one side of the rack on the hot side of the grill for 3 minutes then moved to the "cool" side for 5 minutes then flip and repeat process with other side of meat. Of course you can adjust your cooking time for your desired crustiness and doness. We just prefer our meat on the rare side. Dinner is served!

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    Seattle, WA: Dahlia Lounge

    Dahlia Lounge | 2001 4th Ave. Seattle, WA | (206) 682-4142 | hours vary depending on day, call or check website for hours |

    {Gaspacho dugeness crab, cucumber and watermelon} 
    On our last evening, we went to Dahlia lounge to enjoy a nice sit down dinner. It only seemed appropriate we patronize a Tom Douglas establishment given that he's pretty much an institution in the city. Chances are if you're walking around the downtown area, you've like passed by one of his restaurants... he owns 12 establishments. Serious Pie which we visited twice during our visit is another one of his establishments. I think the menu at Dahlia Lounge is what you'd think of when you think Pacific Northwestern with some Asian influence. Its fresh, and bright with with some Asian undertones.

    We arrived early enough to enjoy the happy hour. And what a lovely hour it turned out to be: and ode to the tomato. We ordered the gaspacho, anchovies, and squash blossom which all prominently presented the tomato as a star ingredient. I think of the three appetizers, the gaspacho was my favorite. The watermelon was a unexpected surprise and dungeness crab added a nice touch. Being from the Bay Area, dungeness is king of crabs to me.

    EHK and I usually order different dishes when we dine out so we can try different dishes and this meal was no different. He also usually lets me choose the 2 entrees we dine on. The roasted five spice duck is what brought me in the door and the pappardelle caught my eye when I perused the menu. Chinese BBQ style roast duck is probably my guiltiest pleasure. All the flavor and textures in the meat, fat and skin? How can one resist??? It would most likely be my last meal if I could request one. So I was all excited about this 5 spice roast duck but maybe it had too much expectation to live up to. I was underwhelmed by the flavor and doneness. It was a little blander than I expected and dryer than I prefer. I actually think the best part of that dish was the rice which reminded me of the scent of coconut. I was more happy with the pappardelle dish. Late summer in Seattle... I couldn't think of something so appropriate to eat. It looks like such a bright and happy dish with all the colors. I felt equally as happy and bright to consume all the fresh ingredients and homemade pasta. I'm a sucker for pasta made in house. If its made under the same roof I'm going to consume, I almost always order. EHK was craving fries. An odd thing to crave given the other items we ordered right? It was ok. Not the most amazing fries I've had and not the worst. I probably felt underwhelmed since it didn't really go with the entrees we ordered.

    Dessert? Ahh... the doughnuts fried to order is the second item that brought me in the door. If you haven't had a doughnut still hot and blazing to your fingers then you're missing out. As a child I loved doughnuts and I was so delighted when my parents were weighing the option of purchasing and running a doughnut shop. They even went to learn how to make doughnuts with a local mom and pop shop. My parents can make a decent glazed doughnut. Alas, they gave up that dream and went with laundromat instead... a better choice given today's economy and that people tend be more health conscious in their eating choices nowadays compared to 15 years ago. Doughnuts usually don't make the top 5 healthiest breakfast choices. One could probably give up that daily doughnut but give up the weekly wash? Back to these doughnuts. I can ignore the doughnut police for this case. As expected, they were piping hot heavenly light pillows of dough tossed in extra fine sugar. They were served with ramekins of vanilla marscapone and fresh peach jam. Oh I was delighted to make little warm peaches and cream sandwiches. I like an interactive dish every now and then.

    Come here for an overall lovely meal. Not all the elements of the meal were perfect but we had a great evening and were delighted with the experience.
    {Astoria anchovies ceylon tomatoes in virgin oil, giant green olives, garlic toast}
    {Squash blossom linguica stuffed zuccini flower, fresh tomato sauce, parmesan}
    {Pappardelle pasta, alvarez farms summer squash, zucchini blossom, crushed tomato, parmesan, basil}
    {Side of fries}
    {Rotisserie roasted five spice duck, aromatic jasmin rice, house kimchee rapini, soft duck egg, cucumber quick pickle}
    {Doughnuts, fried to order with vanilla mascarpone and fresh peach jam}
    {fish lamp, flight of rosés, dahlia on menu cover}
    Dahlia Lounge
    2001 4th Ave. Seattle, WA
    (206) 682-4142
    hours vary depending on day, call or check website for hours

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Home is my favorite steak joint...

      I was asked what my favorite steak place was a few weeks ago at work. Honestly, I have to say its home. I feel blessed to be marrying a steak artist (EHK) soon. I think really nice cuts of meat can be found in markets nowadays and with a little practice you too can make a restaurant worthy steak.

    For this particular meal we purchased 2 generously portioned Prime rib eyes from Costco for about $27. Why Prime? Well its the highest grade assigned by the USDA. Below is the hierarchy of beef grades in descending quality.
    • Prime
    • Choice
    • Select
    • Standard
    • Commercial
    • Utility
    • Cutter 
    • Canner

    The Prime grade marks the finest quality. It has the highest degree of marbling and is the most tender, juiciest and flavorful. This grade can be found in the nicer restaurants and some meat markets (such as Costco). Its also priced significantly higher than its grade counterparts since its assigned to only a little under 3% of beef being sold. Choice graded beef is what you'll find most commonly as its graded for in about 50% of beef sold. Its got less marbling than Prime but its sufficient for taste and tenderness. Select is the lowest grade commonly sold and less flavorful, juicy and tender compared to ChoiceStandard and Commercial have nearly no marbling and therefore even less flavor. If a package of meat is sold without a grade it is like one of these. UtilityCutter and Canner are the lowest grades and least likely to be found in the market. They are generally used by processors or canners for soups, and other canned foods containing beef.

    My favorite cooking method is seared stove top in the cast iron oven. The Kirkland Signature 6.5 qt French oven is my favorite pot to cook in right now. Its the ultimate multipurpose tool for the kitchen.  We've played around with the Staub 7 qt oval cocotte and though it sound cool to say you own a Staub... we really couldn't tell the difference in results compared to the Kirkland other than the extravagant price of over $200. I'll take my Kirkland's comparable performance, also produced in France, also nippled lid, sub-$100 and Costco satisfaction guarantee any day. 

    So heat up the oven to high. As the oven is heating up, rinse, dry and season the steaks with some oil, salt and pepper. When oven is piping hot, sear on one side for 2 mins, then cover for 3 mins and sear on other side for another 2 mins. This produces a lovely crusted medium rare steak given our oven and stove stop. Adjust your cooking time given your equipment and preferred meat doneness. Sides? We drizzled some button mushrooms and asparagus with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled some salt and pepper and popped in the top rack of the oven to broil till desired doneness. Dinner is served!

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Shiro's Sushi Restaurant: Seattle, WA

    Shiro's Sushi Restaurant | 2401 2nd Ave., Seattle, WA 98121 | (206) 443-9844 |
    5:30pm-10:30pm everyday, no reservations for bar seats |

    {2 sweet shrimp on display to their eaters}
    To say that EHK and I love sushi would be an understatement. A sushi meal has always been a nice treat for us or something we look forward to for a special occasion meal. Seattle being known for it's seafood, we knew we had to dine on some seafood while in town. Then, CD highly recommended Shiro's sushi to us... a very well established, respected and tradititonal style sushi restaurant in the Belltown area of Seattle. Hmm. Seafood, sushi, traditional? We're in!

    EHK called ahead to try to reserve bar seats; however, we discovered they don't reserve those seats. We are big proponents of sitting at the bar for sushi since it gives you an opportunity to intimately interact with the chef and maybe even get some advice on what to order. So we made our way to the restaurant and luckily there was only a 15 minute wait for a pair of bar seats.

    Once seated we noticed the trays holding our eating implements for the evening. What's up with the trays??? I really wanted to ask someone. It just seems kinda clumsy and its one extra thing for the house to buy, clear after service, clean and store. Seems terribly impractical and nonessential to me.

    We had intended on ordering omakase (chef's choice) meal and it appears everybody else sitting at the bar had this in mind as well. So we had an opportunity to preview our meal as all the parties were in different stages of their meals. Once thing we noticed over and over again was that a party's respected chef would dangle their sweet shrimp in from of them and park it on top of the case just staring right back at their eventual consumer till it was preparation time. I'm not bothered by seeing my food in its whole form before consumption but it just seems like an odd ritual to me. Almost gimmicky and another unnecessary thing part of service.

    We are accustomed to receiving a meal filled with items prepared in a myriad of ways when we ask for omakase... whatever the chef believes is the best way to prepare the star ingredient of the course for that evening. However, we received almost all nigiri. A little disappointing. The seafood was of good quality; however, the knife skills on some of the fish in a few of the courses seemed a little off as the fish fell apart in a weird way/prematurely during consumption. We like to socialize with the chef over beers/sake as well but I guess buying for the chef is not allowed here. We were rejected when we attempted to buy a beer for our chef. None of the chefs wore name tags and there didn't seem to be an opportunity to ask for our chef's name. He seemed a little distant.... only conversing with us to introduce the next course. Maybe the awkwardness was due to us being newbies here?

    Overall, I would rank this a solid establishment and the meal above average. I didn't feel wowed by the knife skills but I've had worse sushi meals. It was a good experience overall. I would recommend if you're in town looking for a traditional sushi meal.
    {clockwise: 1. tray set up, 2. one of our neighbor's chu-toro, 3. tempura shrimp roll going to the general dining room}
    {the chefs}
    {local kumamotos}
    {salmon two ways}
    {giant clam and scallop}
    {albacore, marinated tuna, o-toro}
    {our sweet shrimps waiting for us to be ready}
    {sweet shrimp}
    {fried sweet shrimp heads}
    {squid: raw tube and grilled tentacles}
    {fresh water eel}
    Shiro's Sushi Restaurant
    2401 2nd Ave.
    Seattle, WA 98121
    5:30pm-10:30pm everyday, no reservations for bar seats

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Serious Pie: Seattle, WA

    Serious Pie | 316 Virginia St. Seattle, WA 98121 | (206) 838-7388 |
    11am-11pm every day, no reservations |

    {slice of sweet fennel sausage, roasted pepper, provolone}
    Lets start the recount of our Seattle adventure at the place we literally went to right after we dropped our bags off at our room. Serious Pie! Why would a food so ubiquitous make us so excited? Well after hearing so many accounts of how gosh darn awesome the pizzas coming out of this place were and how long people were willing to wait in line to get some of this deliciousness... we just had to join in on the party too.

    We had been warned that wait times at this place can be atrocious and we were careful to plan our visit to avoid popular meal time. So we arrived around 2:30pm and the wait was only 20 mins. Thats awesome considering I've heard waits can get up to 3 hrs and people end up ordering takeout due to overwhelming hunger.

    They really don't have many pies on the menu- like 7 and 1 special of the day. There's actually more offerings to drink than to eat. There's some starter offerings as well but why start with a non-pizza starter when the place is known for pizza? I'll start my pizza meal with more pizza! The roasted chanterelle and truffle cheese immediately caught my eye as well as a soft egg, coppa, arugula. The soft egg, coppa, arugula was good but terribly messy with the soft yolk getting all over the place. I probably wouldn't recommend that pizza if you don't like most of the food ending up back on the plate as you try to eat it. But the roasted chanterelle and truffle cheese was oh gosh... out of this world *drool*. Crust was perfectly crispy and not terribly weighed down with topping. It was actually a good topping to crust ratio and uhh the truffle perfume emanating from the truffle cheese. Need I say more?

    The roasted chanterelle and truffle cheese pizza was so memorable we decided to come back for lunch the next day again. This time we ordered the sweet fennel sausage, roasted peppers and provolone to go with it. This second pizza was good like the soft egg, coppa, arugula from the day before but not good enough to beat out the roasted chanterelle and truffle cheese. It just hit the spot. It was everything I had ever wanted in a pizza - crispy, good topping to crust ratio, aromatic and pretty to look at.  I wouldn't have minded coming back to Serious Pie everyday just for some roasted chanterelle and truffle cheese pizza but there were so many other places we wanted to visit during our short trip so 2 visits would have to do. *Sigh*... I'm thinking about it now as I write this post. 

    Serious Pie is kinda pricey for a meal. $16-$18 depending on the pizza you get, $8-$10 for starters, ~$8 for a sweet and ~$10ish for a drink then tack on 10% sales tax... don't be surprised if you get a little bug-eyed when the bill comes.  But we agreed it was probably the best pizza we've ever tasted... and its a relatively small splurge in terms of all the other things you'd spend money on while on vacation. I would recommend just getting the pizza and a drink here since its about enough to satisfy the average adult and if you've got a sweet tooth after your meal then head to one of the shops by Pike Place Market for your sweet fix if you want to avoid bill-shock. If you're in Seattle and not gluten allergic then GO! Trust me... you'll get hooked. Crack-pizza...

    {a view from the waiting area into the dinning room}
    {in house canned pepers}
    {yes that's slices of potato being placed on dough}

    {sweet fennel sausage, roasted pepper, provolone}
    {roasted chanterelle mushroom, truffle cheese}

    {watermelon lemonade}
    Serious Pie
    316 Virginia St.
    Seattle, WA 98121
    (206) 838-7388
    11am-11pm every day, no reservations

    Ratings and Recommendations by outbrain