Monday, March 27, 2006

from bad to worse

Below, we have a picture of my chocolate hazelnut cake that I made yesterday. The picture doesn't look so great because my camera died. Mr. Cupcake took the picture with his new cell phone. Although, for a camera phone, it's not terrible.



I'm pretty pissed off right now and here's why. I've been a loyal Canon consumer for many years now. My Canon S410 was my third Canon camera. I have always been happy with the quality of their products. However, after tonight, I'm going to vow to never buy a Canon product again. My camera has the dreaded "E18" error in which the retractable lens will not go back into the camera and it is totally non functional. This is a known problem and yet from what I've read tonight, Canon will not address it. Instead I will have to pay to have it fixed, but with what it costs, I can just buy another camera.

The point of my story is don't buy a Canon! I definitely won't as it appears I'm in the market for a new digital camera. Maybe with a new digital camera my food pictures will be appear more luscious! Maybe it was Canon keeping me down this whole time and that's why my food pictures sucked! Yes, I know this probably isn't the case, but I just feel like blaming them for all my problems. Therefore, I'm going to blame Canon for Five being so damn fat.

Okay, now I'm off my soap box and can talk about more important things such as my chocolate hazelnut cake. It was an interesting process because I had to toast and shell the hazelnuts. I toasted whole hazelnuts with the shells on for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Afterwards, I took them in a dish cloth, twisted the top, and rubbed the hazelnuts together. The shells didn't come off as easily as I anticipated. In fact a lot of them were pretty stubborn. I gave up for awhile, and the hazelnuts cooled off. I found the shells came off easier cooled even though my directions said do it straight from the oven.



This was one of the last pictures taken with my POS Canon before it died. I hope the debris will come out of the dish cloth. I'm way behind on laundry so maybe I'll find out tomorrow.

The cake was somewhat difficult to make. I had to grind up the hazelnuts and add it into this very thick chocolate and egg yolk mixture. I then whipped up some egg whites to a stiff peak, and I had to fold it in without deflating the whites. This was tricky because the chocolate mixture was so dense and heavy. I wasn't sure how the whites really fared because it took a lot of work to fold them in. I tried to be gentle, but felt the chocolate batter was fighting against me.

Anyway, after baking, the cake had to sit for three hours, but I went to see "American Fusion" last night. It was the last film playing in SF Asian American International Film Festival. Mr. Cupcake stayed home, but didn't eat any since I started the cake so late. We sampled it tonight. I really liked the inside of the cake. It was dense and very chocolatey. I could also really taste the hazelnuts. Hazelnuts always remind me of Italy and gelato. I love nocciola gelato, so whenever I smell hazelnuts it always brings back happy memories.

The cake did have issues because the outer rim was somewhat dry. The crust on top was a little hard which Mr. Cupcake didn't particularly care for. I guess I left it in the oven a little too long. My problem with over baking has to do with the fact I don't have toothpicks, so I generally try to guess. Bad idea. Sometimes I use a chopstick, so there will be a big hole in the cake. I always forget to buy toothpicks and if I'm going to continue baking, I really need to buy some. I did attempt to buy a box at Safeway not too long ago, but it's impossible to find anything in that store. I loathe Safeway and I try to avoid it whenever I can. The problem with this strategy is that I still don't have toothpicks and my baking suffers. I will have to buy toothpicks this week for sure.

This cake was more like a torte than a cake. I get the impression that Mr. Cupcake isn't a big fan of tortes. I made a chocolate torte on Valentine's Day, and he wasn't thrilled about that one either. In the future, I'm going to try baking other stuff instead. For starters, I think I will make some coconut cupcakes this week. I love coconut, and I've never made coconut cupcakes. My Baking Illustrated looks like it has a good recipe. Though, I've been reading a lot of recipes from the Magnolia Bakery in NYC (I think). With all the raves, I'm going to have to try that too. Another day.

Five has eaten his last tortilla chip. He snored all last night, and it kept waking me up. I'd push him in the hopes that he'd stop, but no such luck. This usually happens when he puts on weight. Sometimes his snoring is so loud, it's like I'm sleeping next to a person. Ah well.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

lactose strikes again

Yesterday, I spent the day shopping with A. and E. Throughout most of the day I was parched. I'm thirsty a lot since I've been out here and my skin is always flaky too. Anyway, We opted to go to Jamba Juice and get a drink. I decided on the Berry Fullfilling which is one of their "Enlightened Smoothies". I figured a smoothie would be so refreshing after a long afternoon shopping. I was wrong. There was a flavor that overwhelmed the smoothie. I think it was the "lower calorie dairy base". Whatever it was, it coated my tongue and made me even thirstier. A. had the same problem with her drink, so we both ended up throwing them out.

We continued on, but I was still thirsty. I needed something that would get the coating off my tongue, so we hit the Nordstrom Espresso Bar. I decided to get a nonfat iced vanilla chai. A. was smart and went with bottled water. I expressed to them how it needed to be nonfat, and they assured me that they always are. The chai was tasty, and I was pleased with my purchase. That is until my stomach started to gurgle. I sometimes get that feeling when there's something wrong and I should stop drinking because a lactose attack might strike, but I haven't had one in so long, that I just ignored the signs. Bad bad bad.

Later that evening, J. joined up with us for dinner. After a long debate, we eventually decided upon Evvia in Palo Alto, which is apparently the sister restaurant to Kokkari in San Francisco. The decor was very similar to Kokkari. However, I couldn't get super excited for it. On the drive to the restaurant the lactose intolerance attack came on with a vengeance. My stomach was gurgling and I was starting to see spots. It was pretty freaky because usually when I see stars it only lasts for a few minutes. These spots lasted up until dinner arrived.

Anyway, back to dinner. The group decided to order a plate of dolmathes. I had to pass because dolmathes usually have a pretty strong flavor and I didn't think I could stomach it. I did eat quite a bit of bread which was awesome. It was crusty and soft and chewy in the inside. It definitely help settle my stomach a bit.

I ended up ordering the salata epohis and spanakotiropita, which was pretty much the same as what I ordered at Kokkari. I needed something a little lighter which is why I passed on all the meat dishes. Oh, and the special was petrale! I slightly cringed when he said that. I'd never heard of petrale before the other night, and now the fish seems to be following me.

I wasn't really wowed by the salata epohis. It was made with kumquats, dandelion leaves, something I don't remember, and a blood orange vinaigrette. The only thing that stood out were the kumquats. They still had the skin on and were very sweet. I've never eaten a kumquat before, so it was good.

The spanakotiropita was really good. It was flaky and the filling had very nice texture and flavor. I think these were better than the ones at Kokkari. I was very pleased, so I'd definitely order them again.

I was telling the group how I like it when restaurants use the crumb scraper. I don't know why, but maybe it's because I always make a mess and I like it when they clean up after me. It's usually a nice touch. Evvia has butcher paper on the tables, so when they pulled out the crumb scraper, it just wasn't the same. I guess I like the smoothness of the linen table cloths with the fluid motion of the crumb scraper. It just wasn't there with butcher paper.

I decided to pass on dessert because my lactose problems were acting up again. It kept coming in waves so sometimes I'd feel okay, and other times I didn't. However, by the end of dinner, I was feeling on the not so okay side.

The total bill was a few cents shy of $100 for four not including tip. The overall menu was very similar to the items at Kokkari but cheaper. I'd definitely go back to Evvia. I'll have to take Mr. Cupcake because I'm sure he'd enjoy it. I bet I'd enjoy it more if I felt better too. Stupid lactose intolerance. Even stupider Nordstrom Espresso Bar. Stupidest fake nonfat iced vanilla chai. Never again!

Mr. Cupcake was eating tortilla chips this morning and Five is a tortilla chip fanatic. He's so obsessed that he tries to bat it out of our hands when he sees us with tortilla chips. Mr. Cupcake gave in to Five's weakness.

Friday, March 24, 2006

visitors no more

I'm taking a break from skinning hazelnuts. The smell of toasted hazelnuts was making me hungry, so I'm making rice to eat with my leftover chicken korma. I'm making a chocolate hazelnut cake from my new Baking Illustrated book. I'll have more on that another day.

It's been a pretty busy week. SK came to visit and we went all over. It was also a weekend of beauty. We had manicures and had our eyebrows threaded. I prefer threading over waxing because I think it's more precise and also looks more natural. For those of you who are new to threading it's where they take a piece of thread (think sewing) and pull out the hair. It was SK's first experience, and she didn't find it as pleasant because of the pain. I don't really think it's painful, but I've had experience with it before. I thought the lady did a good job though, so I'll be back.

On SK's last night, she wanted reasonably priced seafood in San Francisco, and after consulting with the Chowhounds, I settled on Sam's Grill and Seafood Restaurant in the Financial District. We were seated right away, so that was nice. However, they squeezed us into this table that had two men on each side of us, and neither one wanted to budge. It was cramped until one of them left, and SK scooted the table back so we had more room. The place was actually filled with a ton of old people. Even the waiters were old. I felt like I needed to age another 50 years to fit in. Now, don't get me wrong, I love old people, but I had to wonder if maybe they were going to bring our food out pureed.

When we sat down, there was already a half a loaf of sourdough waiting for us. It was crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside. I love it when a place offers a good loaf of bread. Anyway, after looking over the menu, I chose the charred petrale (some kind of sole fish) and SK wanted the halibut. We also decided to split a caesar salad. Unfortunately, when we gave our order to our waiter, he informed SK that they were out of the halibut. She ended up going with the petrale as well.

The salad came out and it didn't really wow me. I think it was a huge salad, but they split on two plates for us.


The salad was all lettuce. I didn't really get that many croutons, but I did notice SK had a lot, so it was an uneven separation. That's okay though. The few croutons I did eat weren't that exciting. It was an $11.50 salad, but not really worth it.

Sorry, I should have listened my gut and used my flash like I did with the other pictures, but my LCD deceived me again! Anyway, the petrale came with a couple of roasted potatoes. The petrale was light and flakey, but didn't really taste like anything. Well, you could taste the char, but that's about it. It's not something I'd order again. Well, maybe if they deep fried it next time, I'd consider it. Not likely. SK really liked the potatoes though. I gave her one of mine. I agreed that they were good, but I had eaten too much bread and my stomach was too full.

We spent $29 each including tip. It was so-so to me. I'd maybe go back if I had some old people with me. Maybe if my mom ever decides to visit, I'd take her there. She works in a nursing home, so she'd feel at home.

SK and I also went for dim sum that was so lame that I don't think I'm going to even review it. We went to Dynasty Chinese Seafood Restaurant in San Jose. Actually, food wasn't so bad, but the service was heinous. The dessert cart kept coming by, but that's about the only one. Maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt because it was in the middle of week. Perhaps they don't go all out during the week compared to the weekend.

I think the cooking club that Mr. Cupcake and I joined has dissolved. I've been thinking the last few days that maybe I'd start my own. I'd like to find some foodie types who really enjoy cooking and food in general. I want to find people who love Ina, Paula, and Giada like I do, but also loathe Sandra Lee and Emeril! We'll see.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

toilet calls

I'm suppose to be cleaning the toilet right now because SK will be here soon, but I hate cleaning the toilet. It's the last thing I have to do before she arrives. I'd rather be smacked in the face with an airbag again than clean the toilet. Okay, maybe not that, but whatever. I figured I'd procrastinate longer and blog; it's more fun that way.

I haven't had too many food adventures recently. I've mostly been hiding at home since the accident. It's no fun to go out when you're temporarily disfigured. I want to tell people that it's not my fault I look like cretin when they look at me funny, but I refrain. My wounds are pretty much gone now though, and I think scarring will be very minimal if any.

I have been drinking a lot of Naked Juice recently. The stuff is expensive, and I wouldn't pay for it on my own, but Mr. Cupcake sometimes brings them home from work. I really want to like Naked Juice, but everytime I drink one, it reminds me of unpleasant experiences such as drinking cough syrup. However, their marketing sucks me in everytime. The label claims it has a pound of fruit in every bottle, which makes me think I have to drink it! I take a sip expecting sweet, delicious liquid fruit, and then usually lose control of my facial muscles and make a bad face. Yet, I can't bring myself to dump it out, so I usually just put them back into the fridge. I mean, come on, it's a pound of fruit in every bottle! I think we have 3.96 pounds of fruit in our fridge now.

I made rice pudding for Mr. Cupcake the other day. He's a rice pudding addict. I'm pretty sure he'd do anything you want if you offered him rice pudding. It's Mr. Cupcake's mom's recipe. I made it late in the afternoon, so I guess it wasn't fully chilled/set by the time we ate it. It was okay, but not amazing. We ate more the next day, and it was a lot better. Mr. Cupcake was pleased.

What's that? You say my picture of the rice pudding is da bomb dot com? Don't worry, there's plenty more where that came from.

I want to send a shout out to all my peeps in Kentucky reading my blog! I've noticed there's a lot of you now. SwatchMan told me he spilled the beans. Mr. Cupcake thinks it'd be fun if I put inappropriate pictures on my blog for you guys when you're browsing at work. No worries though, I won't let The Man get you.

I think SK and I are going for Dim Sum this week. I love me some dim sum. Oh delicious pan fried pork dumplings! How I love thee! I will take pictures. I'm not sure which place we'll hit up yet, but I will report. A. also told me about a place that has great XLB in Cupertino. I've only had XLB once that I know of, so I'll definitely have to check it out. She's an XLB connoisseur, so I look forward to it.

Okay, the toilet beckons. :(

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Oooh Oooh Ah AAAAHHH

It's been pretty busy lately. We've been eating out a lot because Mr. Cupcake's sister and SwatchMan are visiting and we're doing a lot of sightseeing. We really haven't had anything I feel like reporting about though.

I did make monkey bread for Mr. Cupcake's sister a few days ago. She said she'd been craving it. I've made monkey bread a handful of times, but all different recipes. Mr. Cupcake likes gorilla bread where the bread pieces are filled with cream cheese. It's a little too rich for me though. I ended up making a Pillsbury recipe. I made a few assumptions because I felt like the recipe left me hanging. For the topping, I melted the butter in a sauce pan and then added the sugar. I stirred it over low heat until the sugar was completely dissolved and looked like a thick caramel sauce. There was extra cinnamon and sugar, so I sprinkled some of the excess into the pan. I also omitted the walnuts and raisins. Baking time was only 31 minutes.

The monkey bread was gooey and oh so good. Mr. Cupcake's sister gave it her seal of approval as did the others. I think I will stick with this recipe for all future monkey bread requests. I like it because it uses the refrigerated biscuit dough which makes it very simple to make.

You'd think a day that starts off with monkey bread would be a great day. We were going to spend the day in San Francisco. The plans changed when a big piece of diamond plated steel flew off a glass truck and hit my car. My airbags went off and smacked me in the face. There's nothing like having your face feel like it's on fire. Ahhhhhhhhh. The left side of my nose, cheek, and upper lip ended up swelling and I now have fairly large cuts on my face. I kind of looked like a monkey while my face was swollen, but fortunately most of the swelling is gone. At least no one was seriously injured.

My poor car is now in the shop. It has over $7000 worth of damage. Our insurance is going to cover it all though, and I get to drive a Kia in the meantime. It's like driving a toy car. I think the body shop loves us. Mr. Cupcake and I have figured out that we've given them over $15,000 worth of business since we've moved to California.

Anyway, enough car business. SwatchMan left this morning, and I think he had a good time. Mr. Cupcake's sister liked to make him worry. At Alcatraz, she'd go into places where there were "Do Not Enter" signs and he'd start to stress out. Poor SwatchMan.

I have decided that Mr. Cupcake and I need to detox our bodies after everyone leaves. Eating out all the time makes me feel like a sausage spilling out of my casing. I will refocus though and eventually have some good things to report. I want to visit a 99 Ranch Market out here soon, so that will be interesting.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

fat cat

This post is unrelated to food. I was visiting my normal choice selection of websites this morning and came across this picture:

My cat is a fatass, but nothing like this. This cat weighs 33 pounds and has a 31.5 inch waist. Five is only 20 pounds. I want this cat.

Mr. Cupcake just woke up. He asked if I was going to eat it since I was blogging.

*update*

Everyone else seems to think that Five looks just as fat as the other cat, so Mr. Cupcake took a picture of Five and me to compare.

I guess I don't need the other cat.

Friday, March 10, 2006

pizza pie

Last night, SwatchMan and I went to Vito's Famous Pizza in Sunnyvale. It was described to us as NY style pizza by C. the night before. Mr. Cupcake is a pizza addict and loves NY style pizza. However, he didn't go because he chose to play poker instead. We have been to Amici's which is the local east coast style pizza. I think it's terrible. I can't believe people qualify it as great pizza. I would probably rather eat Papa John's which I don't particularly enjoy either. I just think Amici's is sparse with toppings and greasy. The crust is flat too and not chewy like east coast.

We arrived, and noticed that Vito's doesn't seem to place emphasis on appearance. There were some cheap looking booths in orange and brown decor. Since it was raining, and the restaurant didn't look all that inviting, we opted to do take out. We took some time looking over the menu and decided on a large pizza - half pepperoni and onion, half tomato and onion. Tomato and onion are my favorite pizza toppings. We also ordeded a couple of tossed salads (not that kind, jeesh). There were three guys who were working the counter. They were friendly and efficient. We only waited about 20 minutes for our order.

The pictures to the left are Swatchman's pizza slices. I like my pizza cooked with cheese, but I don't like to eat it with the cheese on it. If it's cooked with cheese, it makes the crust soft on top. I then peel it all off. It drives Mr. Cupcake crazy. I'm just not a fan of melted cheese. Mr. Cupcake likes to think I'm just eating a big breadstick. I am a crust lover though.

I thought the pizza was pretty good, but not amazing. The sauce was lacking in flavor. I think they could add a bit more spice and give it a little more character. The crust is pretty good though. It's chewy and and much closer to NY style pizza compared to Amici's. It's not the best pizza I've ever had though, but decent.


The salad wasn't anything special, and I'd probably skip it next time. It was just a regular side salad with romaine lettuce and a couple of slices of tomato. It was pretty small too.

Mr. Cupcake ate our leftover pizza this morning. He ate the first slice and decided he liked it, so he ate another one. It's the closest to NY style pizza that we've had since we've been out here. He thought the crust was a little too puffy though, and wants to go back for a fresh pizza. He thinks it's hard to judge since it was reheated in our toaster oven.

I'm pretty sure we'll be back. Mr. Cupcake loves pizza and definitely misses NY style pizza. This is the the closest we've come. It wasn't the best, but definitely not bad.

I should have some more reviews coming up. We're going to be spending some time in Berkeley and San Francisco this weekend and next week with SwatchMan and Mr. Cupcake's sister. We don't eat out this much normally, but since people are in town we're running around a lot.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

we have a winner.

Yesterday, SwatchMan (yep, he gets his own alias) came to California to visit us from Kentucky. He's never been here before, so we're going to show him a good time. Mr. Cupcake's sister is coming on Friday, so our place will be uncharacteristically full.

After SwatchMan arrived, we headed to San Francisco to meet up with MM. who is also from Kentucky. She came with her boyfriend, C. who had to attend a conference. SwatchMan, MM., Mr. Cupcake, and I use to work together in Kentucky, so it's very strange that we're all on the west coast at the same time. Anyway, SwatchMan, MM., and I did some sightseeing before eventually meeting up with Mr. Cupcake and C. for dinner. MM. did some research and made a reservation for us at Kokkari. She is a big fan of Greek food.

Our reservation was set for 8:30. When we arrived, the hostess told us it'd be a few minutes because they were waiting for a group to leave, but it shouldn't take long. After about 20 minutes, the manager came up to us and apologized profusely. Apparently the group occupying the table had paid a half an hour ago, but didn't leave. He then brought us a basket of bread and some olives. We all thought this was a nice gesture and were very happy to see the bread because everyone was starving.

We were seated about five minutes later, and the manager promptly sent out an order of Dolmathes (grape leaves stuffed with rice, currants, and pine nuts) and the Epiros Feta (Greek feta) on the house. We were definitely impressed with the service. I really liked both of these dishes. I don't enjoy cheese all that much unless it's hard like Parmesan. I liked the feta because it was dry and crumbly and had a very nice flavor. It went well with the crusty bread that was provided. I also enjoyed the dolmathes. It seemed as though this was going to be a very promising meal, so we ordered a couple more appetizers.

We ordered the Aginares Souvlaki. It was grilled artichokes, onions, and eggplant that came with a side of Greek yogurt (orange stuff). I'm not sure what the orange stuff was on the yogurt, but it was very nice. The yogurt was very thick and went great with the grilled vegetables. My only nitpick was the onions were a little over powering.

Here we have the Saghanaki. MM. was very excited for this dish. It's fried Kefalograviera cheese with lemon and oregano. Everyone loved this dish except for me. The outer crust was amazing. It had the perfect outer crust that was light and very crispy. I just didn't like the texture of the cheese. I guess I have a love hate relationship with cheese. It has to be perfect for me to like it, and that usually means not melted. I'm not sure if rubbery is the right way to describe it. However, I was the only one who didn't like it, so my opinion doesn't really count. If you like cheese, then you'd probably love this dish.

Kokkari offers a lot of lamb and fish for their main courses. I wasn't feeling it, so I decided to get a salad and another appetizer. By the way, my pictures suck again. I decided I needed the flash, but missed that they were blurry.

Anyway, I ordered the spanakotiropita which is phyllo, spinach, feta, leeks, and dill. This was very good. The phyllo was so light and crispy. I made a mess because the phyllo went flying everytime I cut into it. I enjoyed it.

I also ordered the Portokalosalata. It's a blood orange salad with rose water, dates and walnuts. When it came out, I was surprised by the way it looked. I was expecting some actual lettuce. However, it was incredible. These were the best blood oranges I'd ever eaten in my life. They were so sweet and juicy. I never knew a blood orange could taste that good. The dates were also very complimenting. I really loved this salad and would order it again in a heartbeat.


Mr. Cupcake ordered the Kokinisto me Manestra. It was a braised lamb shank with orzo. He really liked his dish. He said the meat was moist, tender and very good. Though afterwards, he said he'd hoped it'd be a little more "Greek" with olives and that kind of stuff. However, he still enjoyed it a lot.

SwatchMan had the Moussaka (eggplant, lamb, potato, and yogurt bechamel casserole) and MM. and C. shared the Galeos (halibut with lentil-black olive salata, chanterelle and artichoke tapenade) and Portokalosalata. All of them felt the meal was very impressive and enjoyable.

We decided to order dessert. I'm a sucker for baklava, so I ordered it again. Based on my meal thus far, I thought the baklava would be amazing. I figured it had to be so much better than the Afghan place we went to last week.

The ice cream that came with the baklava was excellent. I'm not sure what flavor it was, but it overshadowed the baklava. The baklava itself was underwhelming. The phyllo to nut ratio was off. It was very heavy on the nuts and the phyllo wasn't light and crispy like I was hoping. I was disappointed with the baklava, but was very happy with the ice cream.

Our waiter was the best. He looked like Dustin Hoffman. You could tell he enjoyed his job and didn't take it too seriously. Anyway, he advised Mr. Cupcake that there'd be a lot of dried fruit in the rice pudding, and it wasn't going to be typical. Mr. Cupcake cannot turn down rice pudding though. It's his weakness, so he ordered it anyway. It turned out that our waiter was right; there was way too much dried fruit and it was too overpowering for the rice pudding. He still finished it off though.

I'm not sure what SwatchMan, MM. and C ordered for dessert. I took the dinner menu, but not the dessert. I have pictures, but I've decided I can't write about every detail because it takes too much time. I also can't describe their experience either, so I'm going to focus on my experience and Mr. Cupcake's. I don't mind speaking for him. Though, I do encourage MM. to start her own blog since she's passionate about food. :)

The total tab not including tip was about $180 for the five of us. MM. was nice and took care of the bill. The overall consensus was that dinner was amazing. It's probably the best meal I've had since we've moved out here. The service was also impeccable. I don't know what our server's name was, but try to get the guy who looks like Dustin Hoffman. He was great. I'd highly recommend Kokkari if you're in the city and like Greek food.

I think the food gets progressively better the closer you get to the city. I haven't been blown away by the restaurants in the south bay/peninsula area. I feel like I've been to a good number of restaurants now. It's hasn't been that long since we've moved out here though, and there's lots of places to try yet. I'll still keep an open mind.

Tonight, SwatchMan and I went to Vito's Famous Pizza in Sunnyvale. It's suppose to be NY style pizza. C. told us about it at dinner, so we were definitely intrigued. I'll review it tomorrow because it's past my bed time. SwatchMan is passed out on the couch as I type this, so maybe I should let him actually go to bed. Besides, we have an action packed day tomorrow including the Computer History Museum (Mr. Cupcake has been wanting to go since we moved here) and Ikea. Woot.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

longest.post.ever

Last night Mr. Cupcake brought food home from work. Why is this significant? It's not really, but the cafeteria is somewhat famous for its interesting variety. Not to mention it is all organic. I was surprised when he presented me with seared ahi tuna. Yep, that's caviar on the tuna. So strange.


Today is my birthday. I feel old, but really I'm not. I had a nice day though. I was going to make a chocolate hazelnut cake, but it seems like all the elements were fighting against me. I ended up buying the wrong kind of chocolate at Trader Joe's. I was suppose to have bittersweet chocolate but instead I bought bittersweet chocolate with nuts. Gah. Then, someone called this morning and wanted to do a phone interview at 3. I said sure why not? (I bet you didn't think I was actually looking for a job did you? I am, but I have to say, staying at home isn't a bad gig either.) Anyway, I made cupcakes instead. I didn't do any fancy pipe work because lack of time. I made dark chocolate cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream frosting. We had some leftover vanilla beans, so I used it, and man does that stuff smell amazing. Normal vanilla extract smells good, but there's nothing like a real vanilla bean. I haven't eaten one yet. I finished around the time I had to start getting ready for dinner. They're still sitting on the counter. They look kind of boring too.

Tonight, Mr. Cupcake took me to dinner. I knew he was taking me out, but I didn't know where. He ended up picking Chez TJ in Mountain View which is described as contemporary French cuisine. There was a recommendation board at work that picked this place as the "best romantic restaurant in the South Bay". I've had French food before, but haven't really been blown away. Perhaps I'm not sophisticated enough.

Anyway, we went to the restaurant and there were two options available. The first was a four course prix fixe meal, but none of the options looked all that appetizing. The second choice was the "Chef's Special" or something like that where the chef picked 12 dishes. It was only $20 more, so we figured we'd go all out. I think Mr. Cupcake is starting to get used to my crazy picture taking ways. We were the only people in the room, so I didn't feel too self conscious about whipping out my camera and taking pictures of each course. Just, so you know, this is going to be a longggggg post.


This was the first amuse bouche. It was a puff pastry filled with marscapone cheese. It was nice. I always want marscapone cheese to taste like cream cheese, but it always reminds me of a white butter.

The second amuse bouche was an avocado flan with caviar with an oyster lasagna. The avocado was pretty good. It was just like a creamy avocado flavored flan. The oyster was gross. It was very salty which was too overwhelming.

This was oxtail and foie gras wrapped in radicchio. The three dots were a very thick balsamic vinegar. This was good. The oxtail reminded me of BBQ brisket. I guess a lot of things seem to remind me of BBQ brisket lately. We didn't really taste any foie gras, so Mr. Cupcake thinks they lied.
This is octopus with some kind of green on top. There was also hearts of palm and a citrus oil based dressing. I about died when they brought this out. I hate seeing tentacles because it seems like they should be moving. These also had rather large suction cups towards the top. It just really creeps me out. However, since we were paying for this, I felt I needed to at least try it. I managed to suffer through this one. I ate about half the octopus, but eventually had to throw in the towel. It was pretty rubbery and definitely not my favorite. I did like the hearts of palm though.

This was a carrot soup with crab and uni (sea urchin). I recall Mr. Cupcake eating uni with R. while eating sushi. R. likes uni, but his friend hated it. She described it as chewing on a wet tongue or something to that effect. She was right. This was the first time I'd had uni and it was like chewing on a slimy tongue. It doesn't seem to have that much flavor, so all you get is the texture. Fortunately, I ate it all in one bite, and will remember never to order uni when I go out for sushi. I did like the carrot soup a lot because it was like eating a liquid carrot. It was served cold and very refreshing.

Here we have foie gras and oysters wrapped in a noodle. The frothy sauce was made out of red lentils. There might have been octopus too. The waiter kept talking about the octopus for some reason, but we didn't see any. This was probably my favorite dish of the night. The foie gras was seared so it was a little bit crispy. The sauce was a nice touch, but Mr. Cupcake wasn't a fan of the froth. Mr. Cupcake also ordered the wine flight. There were only two courses that I felt the wine really married well with the food, and this was one of them. Mr. Cupcake was upset because the entire wine flight was all white wine except for one course. He said if he had known that he probably would have skipped it.

This was a ceviche. Y-U-C-K. This was the worst course out of the whole bunch. It was a poached egg on top of some kind of chopped up fish. The egg oozed into the fish and was pretty gross. It was basically an egg yolk fish soup. I couldn't eat very much of it.

Along with egg fish soup came homemade brioche. It was very buttery and light. I much preferred this over the ceviche.

I told Mr. Cupcake that I wanted some shrimps. That's right, I said shrimps! Low and behold, what comes out next is shrimp and the marshmallow of the sea: sea scallops. It came in a vanilla butter sauce with a couple of different greens. We could see and taste the vanilla. I don't really like vanilla with seafood; it just doesn't do it for me. The shrimp and sea scallops were also underwhelming.

This was my second favorite course. It was mandarins with a mandarin orange flavored sorbet. It's hard to mess up sorbet though. The mandarins were in a simple syrup type concoction. I enjoyed that as well, and my palate felt cleansed. I probably could have made this at home though.

Here we have the main course. It was duck on top of huckleberries and red cabbage. The item next to it was a duck confit with a turnip on top. This was Mr. Cupcake's favorite course. I wasn't a fan of the layer of fat on the duck. I guess that's normal though. I didn't like the huckleberries either, but the duck did taste good with the red cabbage. We both felt the confit was missing some fat. I probably should have transferred the fat layer from the slices onto the confit.

This is the smelly feet course according to Mr. Cupcake. He loathes strong cheeses like this and others like blue cheese. I'm not a big cheese fan, but I can sometimes stomach these types of cheeses. There was also a very soft date. The date went really well with the wine. It was only the second course to do so, and also the last.

Our first dessert was a caramel ice cream on top of a caramelized banana. This was very good. It's hard to mess up ice cream though. Mr. Cupcake loves bananas too, so he approved. The thing in the cup was a chocolate soup. It was thicker than hot chocolate, but you know how you get towards the end of hot chocolate and it becomes a little bit thicker because everything settled? That's what it tasted like but with a better chocolate than the Swiss Miss stuff. There was also a sweet cracker that went with it.

On the left is a lemon mousse covered in a fancy lemon rind. I think they soaked the lemon rind in a sugar syrup or something because it wasn't bitter at all and you could eat it. I didn't particularly care for it though. On the right was a white balsamic ice cream on top of a chocolate chip. The chocolate chip was hard like toffee. We didn't like it so much, but the ice cream was good. It went really well with the balsamic vinegar dots. I could have eaten more of the lemon mousse.

Finally they gave us a sugared pear and a chocolate truffle. The sugar pear was deceiving because as soon as you picked it up it felt squishy. It was weird. I debated whether or not to eat that first or second because chocolate is almost always a winner. It was good choice because the chocolate had some kick to it. There was cayenne or some similar type of pepper in there that gave it a very soft burn. The pear wouldn't have tasted right if I had eaten it second.

Our total bill was over $300 including tip. Yep, that's probably the most expensive meal I've ever eaten, and not anywhere close to the best. Mr. Cupcake and I decided we would not go back there because there are much better meals to be had. I told him about French Laundry. I'm sure it's a great meal, but I'm not sure I could appreciate it in all its glory. Maybe I could. I'd just hate spend over $200 a person and be disappointed. Maybe someone out there can convince me otherwise.

Happy birthday to me! :)



Monday, March 06, 2006

commander cupcake?

I'm suppose to be job hunting right now, but Mr. Cupcake showed his friends my little blog and they had some feedback. I felt it was blog worthy - that and I feel like procrastinating. They think Mr. Cupcake should be called Commander Cupcake because Mr. Cupcake isn't masculine enough. I have kind of grown fond of Mr. Cupcake's alias, but I could consider changing it. Afterall, it's not like I'm Mrs. Cupcake. I don't really like the term Mrs. anyway. It sounds old and matronly. Although, if I started calling him Commander, could people still tell we're together? Not that it really matters, but would it be confusing in any way? Who is this Commander Cupcake that Madame Cupcake speaks of?

Then there was the code name request form. I didn't even consider giving other people real aliases. I was just being lazy and used first initials. Perhaps I should give them aliases as well? I could stick with the cupcake theme. Perhaps A. and S. could be Chocolate Cupcake and Dulce De Leche Cupcake? I dunno. I'll have to think about this some more. I've only been blogging for about two weeks now, so this is new territory.

All this cupcake talk and I didn't even make cupcakes yesterday. Booo. Mr. Cupcake err.. Commander Cupcake and I kind of wasted the day away. We did end up cleaning and I watched the Oscars. I think I'm going to bake a cake tomorrow instead because I will officially be old. I have been looking into making a chocolate hazelnut cake. I love the chocolate hazelnut flavor combination i.e. Nutella ever since we went to Italy. I have found a couple of recipes, so I'm trying to decide which one is a winner.

By the way, I don't know about this Commander Cupcake thing. I've noticed it takes a lot more energy to type out compared to Mr. Cupcake. We'll have to wait and see if it sticks.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

holla!

I think it's funny when kids say "holla!", so I'm sending a holla! to anyone who reads this blog. Yeah, I'm lame.

Last night we went to Kabul with A. and S. It's an Afghan restaurant, and when we arrived, it packed to the brim. We met at 8:00, and all of us were surprised that there was a wait. It wasn't too bad though; maybe 20 minutes or so. A reservation is probably a good idea on the weekend.

This time, I decided I'd be all smart and write down what we ordered in attempt to do a good review. However, I failed at taking quality pictures. The pictures looked pretty good without a flash in the LCD, but when I put them on my computer they looked terrible. I am still trying to figure out how to take a good picture in low light, and haven't succeeded yet. Unfortunately, the pictures will be limited this time around.

Once we were seated, we looked over the menu and decided to order a few appetizers to begin with. We decided on Aushak and Mantu. The Aushak was amazing. It was a dumpling with minced lamb in the middle. It was smothered in yogurt, tomatoes, and a few vegetables. I think this was my favorite dish of the night. The Mantu was also good. It was another dumpling dish that was filled with leeks and onion, and smothered in meat sauce. The filling was pretty sparse, but I liked the noodle. If I ordered again, I would probably only go with the Aushak.


Mantu

Aushak

For the main course, I went with the vegetarian platter. It included kadu (pumpkin topped with yogurt), gulpi (cauliflower cooked with tomatoes and onions), sabsi (cooked spinach), and a large place of challaw (rice). I really liked the kadu. It was very sweet and the yogurt was a nice accompaniment. I wasn't very fond of the sabsi because it was sort of bitter. The gulpi was okay. It had a lot of spice and the cauliflower was very soft. Again, it was just okay.

Mr. Cupcake went with the Kebab-e-Kerai. Even though the menu called it a kebab, it wasn't. It was chunks of lamb in a tomato and green pepper sauce. I tried it, and it reminded me of brisket, but with more of a tomato base instead of BBQ. Mr. Cupcake enjoyed his meal.

S. ordered the kebab combination plate which was a bunch of skewered meat. A. had some kind of lamb dish with carrots and raisins. She was hoping for caramelized carrots, but unfortunately they weren't. She still liked it though. When it came out, it kind of frightened me. It looked like a dome covered in wet, shredded carrots and raisins. My first thought was ants on a log. I know, ants on a log have nothing to do with carrots or lamb. It was covered in raisins though, so I guess that's where I made the correlation. If only my picture came out; maybe you would see it too!

Dinner also included a salad. The salad was iceberg lettuce, a tomato, and a lot of ranch dressing. There was also a black spice that was sprinkled all over, and at first glance, it looked like pepper. It definitely wasn't pepper though, and really married well with ranch dressing if you can believe. I'm not really a fan of ranch dressing, but the spice definitely added to it. We couldn't identify it though.

Finally, we decided to get dessert. I went with the baklava and Mr. Cupcake, A., and S. went with the firnee (described as pudding made of milk, cardamom, rose water, sliced almonds, and topped with pistachios). I have fond memories of having baklava at this place in Lexington that is now defunct. I loved the crispy layers drizzled with honey and the nutty goodness inbetween. Last night, was the biggest piece of baklava that I've ever seen before, and unfortunately did not bear any resemblance to the baklava that I remember. It was not crispy, but instead soggy. I don't recommend it if you've ever had good baklava before. Everyone seemed to like the firnee though. I think they were under the impression it was rice pudding. It tasted like it, but just lacked the rice. It was also gelatinous, but the almonds gave it a very nice texture. Overall, it seemed to grow on everyone by the time they finished.

Our final bill not including tip was about $85 for four people. It was an interesting experience, and Afghan food is pretty good. I'd like to try more in the future. There's another place in Sunnyvale called Afghani House. We may hit it up eventually, but our list of places to try keeps growing. By the way, Mr. Cupcake and I ate the leftovers for dinner tonight, and I think it tasted better than last night because the flavors had time to meld together.

Anyway, we had a good day today because our Girl Scout cookies came! The cutest little girl came by last month and sold us some cookies. How can anyone say no to a cute little Girl Scout? Actually, now that I think about we've said no to a lot of Girl Scouts. They're in front of just about every store these days trying to get the innocent shoppers to buy their crack. Our cute girl scout isn't that way though, so now we have a box of Thin Mints, Caramel Delights, and Cartwheels. So bad for our waistlines, yet so tasty.

I'm not sure what the next review will be. I'm thinking about making cupcakes tomorrow. If I do it tomorrow then Mr. Cupcake can take them to work and we won't eat them all. I have to do some deep cleaning and watch the Oscars though, so I'm not sure if it will get done. We do have restaurant plans for next week, so I'll work on taking better pictures.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

hmmmmm

Last night Mr. Cupcake and I went to Gochi with a group of people whom we didn't know. There were suppose to be 7 of us, but 2 cancelled about a half an hour before. We ended up with five total. When we arrived, I told the hostess/waitress that our party had downsized. She was upset because she had turned down a bunch of other reservations. I felt kind of bad, but it was out of my control. It was good to have a reservation though. It was Wednesday at 7:30 and the place was packed! I was surprised how busy it was.

This review isn't going to be super helpful if you're looking for a lot of details. Since we were meeting new people, I felt like a tool for taking pictures of the food. Most of them weren't the foodie type, so they didn't really get it. I kind of rushed everything, so I'll try to go by memory which will probably be a bit vague. I don't have names, and my pictures suck too. I need to work it more so I can have those beautifully artistic pictures that other blogs have. Someday.

Anyway, it started out with four of us and one other guy ended up getting lost, so we decided to do some starters. The first thing we ordered was these crab cream cheese puffs. We decided to get two orders since each one only came with three puffs per order. Our waitress recommended them. They were pretty good and were nice in size. The outside was light and crispy and the inside was very rich and creamy. It was almost too creamy for me, but one guy liked it that way. Also, the side sauce was very thick. I thought it was going to be like soy sauce, but it was a lot thicker.


The next thing we ordered was a pizza. Yeah, it's pretty weird to have a pizza at Japanese tapas, but the waitress said it was their specialty, so we decided we must try it. I honestly don't remember what was on the pizza other than a couple of types of fish and some cheese. I know there was more, but my memory is failing me. If only I had a menu; I could pick it out. The pizza had A LOT of flavor. It was definitely bursting with each bite. The crust was very thin and crispy. It was also pretty cheesy, and I'm not a big fan of cheese. I usually pull the cheese off my pizza. I don't know, melted cheese from pizza just sits weird in my stomach and it makes me feel uncomfortable. It was not really my favorite. However, it was Mr. Cupcake's favorite item of the night.


As we were eating, our fifth person arrived. Once our appetizers ran out, we decided to order some more food. It was pretty hard to pick because Gochi has over 100 items on their menu. It's a little crazy, and hard to choose among everything. Below is tofu. I actually liked this. The tofu was soft and was in what was maybe soy sauce and seaweed. I liked the texture of the tofu.

I really wanted to order some carpaccio. They had a handful listed on the menu. I remember having some amazing carpaccio in Italy. Now, of course this is a Japanese restaurant, so it's not going to be exactly like Italy, but this was very different than what I was expecting. I believe it was halibut and it had a pesto like sauce on it. In Italy, the carpaccio was razor thin and so delish. This was more like sashimi with a weird pesto sauce over it. No one really liked this dish all that much.

Finally, we ordered a noodle dish. It was noodles with chicken in a broth. There were also some vegetables that I couldn't identify. Some of the vegetables sort of disintegrated in my mouth which wasn't all that appealing. The noodles were very thin like vermicelli. I took a picture, but it was so washed out that it wasn't worth posting. I was also disappointed in this dish.

Our total bill was $90 including tip for five tapas, two beers, a pot of green tea, and a 7-up. Overall, I wasn't too impressed with Gochi, which is disappointing because I was looking forward to it. We probably picked the wrong dishes. Since there were over 100 items to choose from, I have to believe there are really good things on their menu. We just missed them. One guy J. had been to another place called Saizo which also serves Japanese tapas. He said it was better. I definitely want to visit more izakayas in the area, so Mr. Cupcake and I will definitely go. J. said he'd be willing to go too, which is cool. Mr. Cupcake and I thought he was pretty funny, and he seemed to be into food.

Tomorrow night we're going to Kabul in Sunnyvale with A. and S. It's Afgani food, which I've never had before. It should be interesting. I will have a more detailed review this time fo' sure.

It seems like we've been going out a lot. This is fairly unusual, but we're trying to be a lot more social. I like to meet new people. It's not Mr. Cupcake's favorite thing to do, but he goes along with it. It's definitely weird though. It's sort of like dating because you either want to see the person again or you don't. It's all about making a connection; just not romantic.

Next week we're taking a break because we have visitors! Yay! We'll be eating out even more I imagine. Hopefully we'll find some great places. We're suppose to go to this Greek place in San Francisco next week, and I want to go back to the Golden Gate Bakery. I love that place. Mr. Cupcake is a total sucker for their custard tarts. I'm not such a fan though. I know it's what they're famous for, but I'm just not big on egg tarts. I prefer their coconut stuff. It should be a fun couple of weeks.