Tuesday, February 28, 2006

ramen and daffodils make a nice day

Yesterday, a friend of mine had a friend come to town. I have chatted with R.'s friend C. online a few times, but never met him in person. He's interviewing at a local company where Mr. Cupcake happens to work. C. was only suppose to come in for the day, but the company can be somewhat disorganized and asked him to extend his stay overnight. Having never been here before, R. encouraged C. to give me a call. R. happens to know that since I'm currently job hunting, I'm always looking for an excuse to get out, so I'm glad he called.

Anyway, C. and I decided to meet up for lunch and have coffee before his interview. We headed to Ramen House of Ryowa for some ramen. I've been here a couple of times before, and like it. It's always busy though, so we decided to meet when they opened at 11:30. C. arrived before I did, and was able to get one of the two tables. Everytime I've come I've had to sit at the bar which is an interesting experience. It's good that we decided to go early because it didn't take long before there was a large wait.

We both ended up ordering the 'A' lunch special. It's their house flavor. I'm not blown away by this flavor, but there were only three lunch flavors to choose from. I think the other two were shoyu and buttered corn or something like that. I've had both and prefer the house. I do like their miso flavor the best I think, but that wasn't an option. I'm definitely not a ramen connoisseur, so I really can't go into that much detail other than I like noodles. Though I will say that the pork was kind of fatty this time around, and that the broth was kind of bland. However, they offer a handful of spices on the table to help it out. The lunch is nice because you also get three gyozas and a choice of fried or white rice for $7.50. It's definitely not a bad deal. I didn't eat any of the kim chee that sits in a container on the table, but it's usually pretty good. Maybe next time.

I'll go back. Having a big bowl of ramen is so nice when it's cold outside. It wasn't really cold today, but in general. I will eventually branch out and try other ramen places, but this place wins because it's so close.

Afterwards, we went to the Red Rock Coffee Co. which is just across the street. I like to go there because they have free wifi. Anyway, C. and I chatted it up. He's a nice guy and I can see why he and R. are friends. Hopefully his interview went well. It'd be great to know more people in the area. Plus he and his gf love food apparently. Always a plus in my book. ;)

This weekend Mr. Cupcake and I went to Trader Joe's. How I love that place. Mr. Cupcake picked up a small bunch that looked like asparagus. It turns out they were daffodils that hadn't bloomed yet. The instructions said just put them in water and watch them bloom. For only $.99 he figured why not. After two days, they looked like this:



They are so pretty and just make my day. Plus, they smell really good. It reminds me of spring. Another reason to love Trader Joe's. Ignore all the junk in the background.

Mr. Cupcake is starting to feel normal again. He still has a gurgly stomach, but is feeling a lot better. Hopefully he'll be well enough to partake in our table for six dinner tomorrow night. It's a dinner where you get six people together and go out to dinner. They're all 20 to 30 something professionals. Sometimes there's a theme; it just depends on the person hosting. I'm hosting, so it should be interesting. Our table of six is actually seven because I didn't want to turn people away. I don't know anyone other than Mr. Cupcake, but I think it's important to put ourselves out there. I'll have a report hopefully on Thursday.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Baking Extravaganza

Yesterday, I baked away. I made two chocolate-apricot tarts for the dinner club, and profiteroles for fun. It was interesting, but for all that work I'm disappointed in the outcome.

The profiteroles were unlike anything I've made before. It's the first time I've ever had to pipe and of course I don't have the right tools. Instead I used a ziplock bag like the people on the food network except I was missing a tip. The recipe came from The Silver Spoon Cookbook. I like the cookbook, but the directions can be vague. I think they lose some in the translation.


Baked profiteroles

They didn't puff up as much as I thought. I'm not sure if that was my error because of the way I made the dough or if I just didn't make the mounds high enough. I kind of wish the cookbook had pictures, so I could tell if I'm heading the right direction.

I also made a custard to fill the profiteroles with. I thought it'd be more interesting than just whipped cream like the recipe called for. The cookbook just said milk and we only drink skim, so that's what I used. The custard was lacking and I think it's because there wasn't enough fat. It was just missing some richness that I think whole milk would have given it. That was my error. Sometimes skim milk will work in things. I made a bechamel sauce with skim milk for a lasagna and it was really good. However, I don't think skim is an adequate substitute for baking.

Anyway, I used a chopstick to poke a small hole into the profiterole and then piped in the custard. I really could have used a tip to steady the custard. Then I used some of the chocolate ganache from the tarts, and dipped the profiteroles.


The finished product

Mr. Cupcake and I weren't super thrilled with the outcome. He thought it wasn't sweet or rich enough, and I agreed. I want to buy a proper baking book like Baking Illustrated from the Cooks Illustrated people, so I can learn more techniques.

The other thing I made was two chocolate-apricot tarts. I made the dough the night before and let it sit in the fridge. When I went to roll it out, it was incredibly stiff and hard. I didn't have enough muscle to flatten it out, so Mr. Cupcake came to the rescue.


This recipe was also vague. It said use a heart shaped tart pan, but didn't give any indication how big. I ended up buying two normal sized tart pans because a heart shaped one would only be used once, plus I doubt I could find one. I figured two tarts would be good because it's better to have too much than too little. There's an apricot layer made with apricot sauce and powered sugar melted together, and then the chocolate ganache was poured on top. Well, it turns out we had too little ingredients with the first batch, so we had to double and triple up for each tart. I had to eyeball it because of the limited ingredients, but if we had only followed the recipe there would have been very little filling. It was also hard because the chocolate ganache had to be poured at the perfect temperature, so there were timing constraints. Here's the finished product:

Notice the shell pulled away from the pan during baking. Grrrrr.

We served one from the fridge and one room temperature. The tart from fridge had rock solid chocolate, while the room temperature tart had a much better texture. I also felt there was too much chocolate. It would have been better if the chocolate had a thinner layer instead. Oh well. I think people liked it, but who knows? I wasn't all that impressed. It's not something I'd make again. However, I would like to work on making better crusts. It's really hard to find that perfect balance because pastry dough can't be worked very much otherwise it won't have that light, flakiness too it. Maybe another day.

Poor Mr. Cupcake was so sick last night after the cooking club dinner. It's the sickest I've ever seen him, and we've been together for a long time. I'm not sure if he had food poisoning or some kind of virus. He's better today, but still feeling pretty awful. I haven't checked to see if anyone else was sick from the dinner. Hopefully he'll feel better for our dinner on Wednesday. I'm still looking to post my first euphoric food review, so maybe this will be it. I also decided I'm going to bake some chocolate cupcakes, and pipe them with a real tip. After making what I felt were disappointments, I need to make something good so I can massage my baking ego a little bit. Then I'll move on to something more challenging again.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

No Bread

Mr. Cupcake and I went to the Polish Deli today as planned. I was starving and ready for a kielbasa sandwich. Unfortunately, when we arrived the owner informed us he wasn't preparing sandwiches today because he didn't have any bread. I've read he gets his bread from some bakery, so it was a semi bust. I was also excited for perogies, but he was out of potato. He had blueberry and plum. I haven't had sweet perogies before but I wasn't in the mood to try. I was hoping that they were homemade and frozen, but alas, they were some kind of manufactured perogies, so we passed.

We did end up buying a couple of kinds of kielbasa because Mr. Cupcake was craving kielbasa and cabbage. Oh, and if you don't know what kielbasa is, it's a Polish sausage. So, we asked the owner for some kielbasa, and he responded with "What kind?". We kind of looked at each other and were like, "Uh, I don't know". Normally when we buy kielbasa, there's only one choice. However, at this little deli there were a number of choices. He flies the kielbasa in from Chicago, and was nice enough to let us sample before we bought. Unfortunately, we weren't thinking, didn't pick up a flier, and now can't remember the names, so we have no idea what kind of kielbasa we bought. We did try a chicken kielbasa, but it was lacking depth, so we passed. Mr. Cupcake was trying to be healthy, but it wasn't worth it.

In the end I would recommend the Polish Deli to at least try. The kielbasas are very flavorful, and the owner is super friendly. He's also a good salesman. At one point Mr. Cupcake said he liked spicy food and we ended up taking home some "Super Extra Hot Mustard". Four kielbasa links and a jar of mustard were around $16. We'll definitely be back so we can try a cooked kielbasa sandwich.


Mr. Cupcake's homemade kielbasa and cabbage. I need to work on more artistic photos.

Since kielbasa was a bust for lunch, we decided to get food somewhere else. We saw a large crowd standing outside of Joanie's Cafe on California Street. When there's large crowds in front of a restaurant, we assume it has to be good unless it's the Olive Garden or Cheesecake Factory. Anyway, we get on the list and the lady said it'd be at least 30 minutes. She wasn't kidding. We waited forever, but we finally did get a table. I mulled over the menu for awhile as many things looked good. They had large breakfast and lunch selections. It was around 1:30 in the afternoon, but Mr. Cupcake and I decided on breakfast.

Mr. Cupcake's waffles, scrambled eggs, and sausage


My eggs benedict, hash browns, and fruit

I felt the presentation was lacking. If it tasted amazing, I could be more forgiving. However, my eggs benedict was overly salty because they used ham instead of Canadian bacon. The hash browns were nice and crispy on the outside, but mushy on the inside. They needed to be smashed down further. The fruit didn't taste like much either. It makes me glad I passed up the big box of strawberries at Costco earlier this week. They always look so good, but taste like water. Mr. Cupcake wasn't excited by his food either. He was hoping for a Belgian waffle.

We probably won't be back. Our two meals plus coffee and orange juice was around $27 including tip. It's a tad expensive for a not so thrilling meal. Plus, the wait is insanely long. I really enjoy breakfast a lot, but I've yet to find a breakfast place around here that I'd want to be a regular. The search goes on.

I didn't do my big baking extravaganza today. We ran errands which took a lot longer than I anticipated. However, I did start a crust for this Heart Shaped Chocolate-Apricot Tart. We joined a cooking club and we'll be making two of these for the dinner tomorrow night. Oh, and they won't be heart shaped. I had difficulties finding a tart pan let alone a heart shaped one, which surprised me. I threw out my old tart pan because it was rusting, and I didn't want to serve extra minerals to people I don't really know. Anyway, I'll finish the tarts tomorrow and hopefully make profiteroles in the afternoon. I just really want to test where my baking abilities lie. If they turn out well, I may take them to cooking club because Mr. Cupcake and I cannot eat a couple of dozen profiteroles.

Finally, I know where my next review will be. We're going to Gochi in Cupertino. It's a local izakaya that serves Japanese fusion tapas and sake. I'm really looking forward to it for a couple of reason: 1. the food and 2. because we're going with a bunch of people we don't know. It should prove to be interesting, but I'm always up for new things though, so why not?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cupcake?!

I let Mr. Cupcake read my blog for the first time yesterday, and he's not impressed with his alias. He wants something more "badass". Yes, Cupcake is a little cutesy as an alias, but it wasn't really meant to be. Let me explain myself. When I first decided to do a blog, we were walking around California Street in Palo Alto. We walked into the Palo Alto Baking Company, and saw these delectable chocolate cupcakes. Oddly, I'd been thinking about cupcakes for the past few days. I really like to bake, but I don't enjoy the calories that go along with it. Therefore, I tend to stay away from baking, but when I read blogs that have posts like this, the images stay in my mind. This is where Cupcake came from. When I signed up for blogger it was the first thing to pop in my head. Besides, I do want to stay somewhat anonymous.

The sad thing is that I never ate the chocolate cupcake at the bakery. Instead I ate cream puff, which inspired my weekend baking fest.

For now, we will remain as Mr. and Madame Cupcake, but who knows, it might change once I have a different craving.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

omg... and not in a good way

Last night, we went to the Crown and Rose Pub in Palo Alto with A. and S. for the fish and chips and trivia night. I was very excited to go because I read great reviews on Jatbar, and let's be honest, fish and chips are da bomb dot com. The night started off rough because work caused Mr. Cupcake to run late and I was none too pleased. We ended up being about a half an hour late meeting A. and S., but we finally made it.

When you get there, you have to order at the bar. We looked over the menu, which was small but had stuff on front and back. I had a hard time deciding how hungry I was. Sometimes Mr. Cupcake and I will share, but last night he wanted his own. He wanted the prawns, and I wanted fish and chips, but he wanted to have fish and chips too, so I ordered a three piece. You can order 1, 2, or 3 pieces. I think the 3 piece was around $10.


Mr. Cupcake's prawns



My fish and chips

I wasn't very excited by the presentation because the batter seemed dark, but that could have been the lighting. I like my fried food to appear lightly golden. Anyway, the fish was pretty much flavorless. The batter was nothing special and not particularly crunchy. The fries were soggy and the tarter sauce was thick and gloppy. I was pretty disappointed in the whole thing especially since I had heard this was was suppose to be so great. Normally I can tear through french fries no problem, but these were flavorless and limp. I left them for Mr. Cupcake to eat, but he eventually pushed them away as well.

I thought the meal was pretty bad, but unfortunately, it was just the beginning. We were waiting for trivia to start and all the sudden I started having stomach pains. I didn't ask what kind of fish they served but whatever it was, it was fighting to get out by trying to rip a hole in my stomach. I don't think the problem is with the restaurant, but with fish and chips in general. I had similar stomach problems after I ate fish and chips at the last place, and that place was fabulous. I guess my body is trying to reject all the fatty goodness, but I keep telling it to eat it anyway.

If you want fish and chips, I'd recommend The Bay Fish and Chips. It's run by a little Asian couple, so it's not what you expect when you first walk in, but oh man is it good. I think the stomach pains might be worth it. I dunno though, I'm going to have stay away from fish and chips for awhile.

So, I still haven't picked a pastry recipe yet. I received The Silver Spoon Cookbook for Christmas. It's like a Joy of Cooking but for Italians. They translated it in English. There's lots of interesting pastries in there, so I think I might still go profiteroles. I may modify it though because the filling is just whipped cream. I was dreaming of a custard of some sort. We'll see.

Also, this weekend we're going to a Polish place because Mr. Cupcake loves Polish food. Maybe it's because he's part Polish. There's a little place called Polish Deli in Palo Alto. He found it on chowhound. We tried to go on Monday, but it was closed probably because of the holiday. Our plan is to go on Saturday. I'm a little disappointed because I've read they only have frozen perogies, but it has to be better than Mrs. T's in the grocery store. I'll have a report.




Monday, February 20, 2006

Obsessed

So, I've been reading a lot of food blogs lately. I love them. I especially love the ones that have pictures. It makes me feel like I'm part of the experience, or I at least want to be. I know that's really weird, but I love food. I have long been a fan of the chowhounds. They rarely tell a lie, and because of them, I've had many wonderful food experiences.

Anyway, I decided that today was the day that I would start my own food blog. You see, I use to live in Kentucky, and out there, there isn't much in the way of food. However, Mr. Cupcake and I have since moved to the Bay area and have found a plethora of culinary delights. I have decided now is the time to document those adventures.

By the way, if you're ever in Midway, KY (near Lexington) , I'd highly recommend the Holly Hill Inn. It's by far the best restaurant in the area. Mr. Cupcake and I would go about once a month because they changed their menu up monthly. We're picky eaters, so we cooked more often than we went out. I always hate going to a restaurant and have a mediocre meal because I know I could have made something better at home. However, we always made it a point to visit this restaurant. If you live there, try it; you won't regret it.

I'm looking forward to blogging about my food experiences. I've always enjoyed cooking and eating, so I'll write about both. I've also decided that this upcoming weekend Mr. Cupcake and I are going to embark on a baking journey. I love pastries. My love intensified when Mr. Cupcake and I went to Italy. There were so many beautiful pastries in the cafes, and since then I've always wanted to try and make some. This will be my first attempt. I have to pick a subject first. I'm thinking maybe profiteroles. I have to thumb through some cookbooks first before I make a master plan. Should be fun. :)

Anyway, my first excursion that I will write about is tomorrow night. I'm going to the Rose and Crown Pub in Palo Alto. I've been there before but only for the Trivia Night. I've read on the internet that they have amazing fish and chips. I enjoy fish and chips, but the last time I had it, I had the worst stomach pains. Even still, that won't keep me away. There's definitely good fried food, and there's fried food that is blah usually because it's heavy and greasy. I'll review on Wednesday hopefully.