All Hail Darn Good Bread.

As a foodie my one weakness tends to be good bread. In my family we are aware we tend to be snobs when it comes to bread, orange juice and chocolate. There are some other things we are picky about but that is only because we plain and simply love good food.

Upon deciding to spend the summer hanging out in SF I looked into some options of working with food. After getting an email from my favorite foodie website, Tasting Table, I read about Josey Baker, a cool guy that was doing what he loves, baking GREAT bread! I contacted him in hopes of helping him out but my summer in SF ended up being a few weeks, so we will save that adventure for when I live on the California Coast. This, however, didn’t stop me from sampling his raved about bread.

From what I understand, his whole approach to baking bread started as word of mouth from his friends and others who fell in love with his talent of crafting amazing breads. He now has a blog, http://joseybakerbread.blogspot.com/, that supports his CSB, Community Supported Bread! He sells the bread fresh and hot in various locations around the city and when it is gone, it’s gone. Wednesdays and Thursdays the bread arrives at Bi-Rite Market at 5pm and usually lasts until 7pm, if you’re lucky! Bi-Rite is a quick ride from Cow Hollow, so last Thursday my sister and I decided to venture out for good, hot bread, and that is exactly what we returned with.

Bi-Rite is a narrow grocery store filled with exquisite foods including a deli, bakery, organic and local produce, as well as all jams, jellies and spreads you could imagine. Their chocolate section was also mouth-watering as you are waiting in a line as long as the store itself. Upon arrival at approximately 5:15pm there were three different kinds of Josey’s bread piping hot and ready to be purchased. We choose the recommended walnut bread which was a great decision. As a kid I never liked sourdough breads and always opted for the stained white “french” bread that is not always the healthiest choice. This sourdough however, was addicting and had us both at its mercy the whole way home where we arrived with only half a loaf, oopsy!

The next morning we toasted the bread and smothered it in our favorite spreads like Peach Butter or Fig Preserve with Ginger from the California staple, Arcangeli Grocery Co. in Pescadero. Unfortunately and embarrassingly this loaf only lasted us two days after adding it to all of our meals. Wednesday is only two days away and I know where I will be when 5pm rolls around!

Bon appetit to darn good bread!

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Tacos and Ice Cream!

Since the San Francisco fog was staying far away I decided to hop around the city and hit some of my favorites for lunch. First up was Nick’s Crispy Tacos on Polk. Nick knows his tacos and anytime your there for their signature crispy tacos the music is playing and the line is long. They come with two and you can choose to mix and match between Pollo, Carne Asada, Pesce y mas. I choose one chicken and one steak made the way Nick got famous with one crispy corn tortilla held by another soft tortilla. The meat is juicy and grilled to perfection but any taco you order is amazing. The fish taco is my absolute favorite with the wow of cilantro and other outstanding flavors. Other than tacos I have not sampled anything else, besides the guacamole, but I am sure whatever your favorite Mexican dish is Nick will serve it up just right.

  

Next up was a stop at Swensen’s because what goes better with tacos than ice cream, nada! Swensen’s was first open in 1948 by Earle Swenson himself in order to change the world with his creamy and adventurous ice cream flavors. I used to go here with my dad when we visited the city and it hasn’t changed a bit over the years. Once you walk in your are bombarded with a wall full of flavors to choose from and sample. After trying the Almond Chocolate Malt, Black Raspberry Marble, Bittersweet Chocolate, and Green Tea I ended up with Swiss Orange Chip!! This flavor has the rich dark chocolate I obsess about with hints of orange rind, a step above my favorite Orange Custard Chocolate Chip flavor from the UW-Madison Union’s Daily Scoop. The sun was shining and the wind was calm so I took my ice cream and ventured through the hills of San Francisco.

  

 

Bon Appetit to your hearts content.

Grill masters and french chefs!

My first meal back in SF was well over a week ago but still so tasty with my dad as the ultimate Grill Master and my stepmom as a French Chef with tasty treats from her world travels. After feasting at my favorite SF hot spot, Blue Barn, we decided to make a divine din din at home. Blue Barn is a small restaurant on Chestnut that allows you to sample their creations of sandwiches and salads or Create Your Own. I made my own delicious salad complete with falafel and oodles of veggies. This was definitely something that I missed while traveling through China, VEGGIES!

This also opened up the theme for din din. My dad is an amazing griller and whipped up some grilled zucchini, squash, and chicken legs. We also served a tomato salad and munched on pretzels and mustard straight from Germany. While I was hopping on a plane in China Victoria was coming back from a quick trip to Germany. The pretzels were heated up and served with three different and delectable mustards.

  

  

Finally to finish up a dinner of favorites we sampled Justin’s famous organic peanut butter cups. Justin’s offers an endless supply of different nut butters and chocolate fixings. These were the best I have sampled and would beat Reese’s in a comparison contest any day!

Bon Appetit!!

Sweet Home SF Sunshine!

     

    

When the sunshine early summer in SF and the weather is hot you take full advantage of this and soak up every second. For some reason mother nature has granted the northern west coast with a full week of hot sunshine and perfect breezes. The back garden is cozy, quiet and perfect for catching some summer rays so that is exactly my plan. After a morning full of yoga I ran home to juice cucumbers, fresh OJ and make some toast, my mother would be proud!

Bon Appetit to summer loving!

Get off that Grid.

Tonight we did exactly as the title states and went to ‘Off the Grid’. Off the Grid is a collection food trucks that gather in central location to sell food to hungry foodies. Tonight and every Friday during the summer it is at Fort Mason only ten minutes from lovely Franklin Street. The weekly markets are found at various locations in the Bay Area during the week just check out their website for directions and times, http://offthegridsf.com/. There are typically about thirty different trucks that are usually the same with music playing and people chilling.

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We meandered around and then Pops and I settled on 3-Sum Eats!! This was amazing and the menu was, and I quote, INSANE! My dad chose the Rice Krispies Crusted Fried Chicken Sandwich with sweet corn and snap pea succotash along with a spirachi aioli. While I, coming straight from China only hours ago, sampled the TsingTao Braised Briskey Sandwich with truffled edamame hummus, black garlic aioli and watercress. We splurged at this truck because the line was long and the things coming out were mouthwatering. The cantaloupe, ginger, basil and mint lemonade was perfect for cleansing the palate and allowing you to end with the Miniature Crack Pie!! This desert was my favorite goodie of the night and was made with a chocolate crust topped with caramel, peanut butter nougat, and pretzels ohh la la yum yum!!

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Next up was more food… correction, more deserts!!

These are from the Creme Brulee Cart where we sampled Dark Chocolate with Grandmanier, Lavender and ‘Si, Por Favor’ a nutella and balsamic strawberry heaven!

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Drumroll please… more deserts, please no judgement until you’ve been!! Coming up next are cupcakes from ‘A Mobile Cupcakery’. Even though we were on the edge of a food coma we decided to sample three 🙂 The first was there best seller, Salted Dulche de Leche, then Ginger Lemon and also a Spicey Mexican Chocolate. SO AMAZING!

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It was now time to take the long walk home and burn off all our nummy treats but if you are ever 50 miles from San Francisco make sure to get cash and make the trek to Off the Grid, I promise you it is more than worth the trip.

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Bon Appetit on the streets.

Tea Time in Chengdu.

After traveling through China I have a new appreciation for tea and have learned it proper characteristics as well as how to sip like royalty. The Chinese culture classifies tea as drinking it at different times between the day and you can find many natives with their own thermos that is being filled up from the streets, in convenient stores, restaurants ect. On our way to the Muslim Quarters in Chengdu we stopped at a part of the old city that is still in its original architecture which is my favorite part of China but also very sparse. We sampled three different teas and then spent time listening to ancient music instruments in the court yard. There is someone at the head of the table who brews the tea and you all get a small cup in order to sample many different kinds. It is also customary to offer tea to guests in your home so during interviews in many of the villages we were served cup after cup of fresh and exotic teas. I purchased one that had hints of chocolate and had been grown and picked in the Hakka village outside Xiamen where I was.

Free Cuba out of the Amazon.

Xiamen was by far my and many more on the trips favorite city to explore through. Arriving in Xiamen was at the end of two and a half busy busy weeks. Xiamen is also located on the shores of the lovely Pacific ocean nestled in  a subtropical yet bustling city. Unfortunately we were not here for much time, but it was used to our fullest advantage. As described in one of the previous posts I was deathly ill because of what I choose to eat in Xiamen, but this doesn’t mean that I also had other amazing foods that settled well and kept me craving more.

Xiamen as you probably know by now is home of seafood and knows how to cook it well no matter how ill oysters tend to make people hahah #choops. Our first meal in Xiamen was of course in a hotel and filled with many other foreigners. Our tour guides change every city and we have to remind them again and again that we are not their usual tourists and wish to be taken down dark allies to be fed in dives that serve China’s best and wildest meals! This is at least what I would request 🙂 Dreux however took a few of us to the island Gulongru one night to dine of delicious seafood. We wandered around for about an hour and a half between the narrow ally ways searching for a restaurant that looked pleasing and still open as it was a Sunday night. I guess the idea of things closing early on Sundays is universal!! We stationed ourselves at a classic seafood restaurant with tables outside and took our time in hand picking out what sea monsters we wanted to eat. They were cooked up and served piping hot. We sampled three different crabs, clams which were amaaaazing, and some other vegetables and tofu dishes. I packed some tissues which came in big handy for the whole table as we sat in the center of a bustling ally filled with shops, restaurants and bartering foreigners. This island is very touristy but much like Fisherman’s Warf a good kind of tourism that is tranquil and eclectic specific to that area!

Xiamen was full of traveling and in between day one and three we traveled out to Chengwu to see one of the last walled cities in China. This used to be very common in China and with the spread of modernization the walls are either torn down or expanded. This sit has been of course altered in order to suit foreign tourists, but was gorgeously landscaped. After touring for a while many of us spent the rest of the afternoon as mermaids on large rocks boarding the Pacific Ocean.

Back in Xiamen we now have one day left to enjoy our favorite city and a few of us decided to hope back over to Gulongru, the island. I was reluctant throughout the trip to repeat visits because when you are only in a country for a month there is only so much we can see, however, we loved the island, plain and simple. Fei, Stephanie, Mary and I ventured to the island in search for Hong Guar a restaurant in the home of a couple located tucked away in the hill. Here we sat on their second story porch over looking the rest of the old architecture talking about how fast the trip has gone by and sipping on fresh mango and papaya juices. We opted to choose from the hand written menu a cluster of dishes to share. There was a superb squid that was cooked to perfect, small clams in a sauce with a little kick, a fish ball soup, shredded soil beans (or potatoes) and for dessert we munched on individual pumpkin “cakes”. We walked to the streets and ended up at a small cafe, Marron Cafe, for drinks and air conditioning! This cafe was so unique and adorable with small post-its covering the walls. We all spent time drawing our own post-its to add to the decorations. Here is where the title of the post comes from. Mary and I ordered drinks ‘Free Cuba’ which was indeed a Rum and Coke, while Mary had an ‘Out of the Amazon’. While day dreaming and drawing I wrote our drinks on a post-it that come out as ‘Free Cuba out of the Amazon’, quite clever I know 🙂

The rest of the night is explained in detail in my previous post. They were a little out of order but when you live in a cave-esque hotel room the internet is rough so you get what you get!

The next day was back to Beijing where the trip had a very fast ending, but every minute was lived out fully, as always.

Bon appétit .

Dining divinely… or dangerously?

In our last night in Xiamen I have already given much detail on how wondering the night was and how lovely the island of Guloungro is and I most definitely found myself realizing I wouldn’t be upset if we happened to miss the last ferry back to the mainland. This island is also located a mild ferry ride from Taiwan, my possible future home? Life plans aside this post is about the death of me on so many levels.

The island is Xiamen is filled with seafood stands that keep your mouth watering next to the fresh fruit juice stands catering to whatever tropical treat pleases you. After having a great night on the island we decided to walk around for a while observing the island night life. In China there are endless amounts of venders selling jewerly, music, clothes, and all sorts of odds and ends. In one of the larger squares my friend was about to purchase some fun summery dresses when the island police stormed through having venders rush off gathering what they could of their products. This was exciting to be in the middle of and I felt as if I was a part of some riot that was getting busted. However, I was only a tourist swarmed by more tourists… not as exciting as my mind imagined.

After all the commotion I stumbled upon a vender that had grilled oysters swimming in a minced garlic sauce. I hesitated as my dads voice of reason warned me to stay away from street food. However my rationality  allowed me to justify that we were on an island so they must be fresh and obviously caught this morning. They were grilled so that meant they were fully cooked and of course everyone else was eating them so they must be delicious!! I even conviced my friends to get some and later we all dined on another after walking around for another half hour. We gave this man good business and he appreciated our forgieng ability to enjoy good food!

Come 7am the next morning I was not in good shape. I never though i was on my death bed until experiencing something so horrible. A few hours of misery and some Chinese herbal medicines later I was passed out on the plane and off to Beijing. The Chinese medicine here is absolutely horrific but does the job unlike anything I have taken for an illness before. My stomach was in knots and hating me for overdosing on the devilish oysters the night before. After popping six small brown balls of what tasted (and smelled) like legit motor oil and also a powder that attacked me leaving me chugging all the water I could get my hands on I was ready and kicking. The next day I woke up semi recovered but alive and speaking, everyone in the group was pleased that Amy survived!

This event definitely taught me a little lesson about how adventurous I can allow myself to be when eating foods in China. Moral of the story the things that happen to be the best may be the most dangerous but all in all I am still figuring out if I regret eating them. They were divine and small morsals of heaven that completed the trip making that night of the best food nights I have had yet in China and possibly my life. Who knows if it was worth though… too much of a good thing can definitely mean TOO MUCH!!

Bon appetit… wisely.

Traveling through China…

This post is about traveling because part way through the trip that is exactly what we did. Between Xi’an and Xiamen we were all over the place. After leaving Guangzhou we were off to Xiamen but first made a few stops in Rural China. The first day we actually ventured to the Hakka Villages about 2 to 3 hours outside Xiamen. The Hakka people came from northern China later than many other Chinese people because they forgot their wallets and needed to make some returns home, jokes jokes but the rest is history and covered over one of our many lectures. Besides all the nonsense their historical backgrounds are very interesting and throughout the years of Chinese development they have been viewed as foreigners and are live a slightly different Chinese culture than the rest of Mainland China. Their villages are built in large circles that hold an entire clan with a courtyard in the middle. This area is open to many tourists today which at first glance is upsetting and made me upset with modernization. The Hakka villages are however where we were granted the opportunity to collect information from interviews and after hours of conversation with the locals I learned to appreciate the gifts of tourism. This area that we toured and observed is affected by tourism in a positive way allowing people in the villages to stay here and have a flourishing life. The man we talked with from the Ke clan explained how in the past the families were barely able to produce enough food for their families but today the government contributes so much money to their land that they are able to prosper and do not have to move to the city in order to survive. This experience was a wonderful one as we sat in a small alcove in the Hakka village owned by the Ke clan drinking cup after cup of divine tea.

I guess to be fair we came into Xiamen with a good attitude and were most likely going to enjoy any experience thrown at us. Following our adventures in Hakka village we stayed a night in Dragon’s Platform in order to break up the travels and of course to observe more of China’s rural history. Our time in Dragon’s Platform also happened to lapse with one of our own’s twenty-first birthday! This of course called for a celebration and lucky us there was a flashy KTV attached to our fancy dancy hotel. KTV is Karaoke and big big big in China, these clubs are the place to be any day of the week. A few of us who survived the days travels dressed up and headed downstairs. You are placed in your own private room so the more the merrier and wilder! Since only of us has strong Chinese heritage we definitely stuck out like American college kids… allowing us to get taken advantage of, and that are exactly what happened. A woman met us as we walked up to the entrance screaming in Chinese the “rules” to KTV and showed us to our room, Fei (the only one who can speak Chinese) explained that she was the owner’s daughter and also happened to be hammered. She set us up with drinks and snacks so at first all seemed to be going well. About an hour and a half later we were stuck in a stuffy KTV room with a strobe light blasting away to Chinese music as our drunkie skunkie friend screaaaaamed Chinese lyrics into the microphone. Her male friends started to join us and things got weird… haha Fei decided to venture out and find her “father” who also supposedly owned the club. The manager stormed in livid that these imposters were of no relation to him, drank our beers and rained on our birthday celebrations. Writing about this night does not do justice to the actual event but if you can imagine sitting in a KTV room with William Hung on full volume… #roughlyfe.

Not to fret the next day we were on our way to Xiamen but made a “quick” stop at another museum, which happened to be outside in 109-degree weather. I have never experienced myself sweating so much especially when you are simply standing still… now I guess I know what it is like to be cooked alive. The past few cities including Guangzhou and Xiamen are very far south and hotsy totsy as all hell!

Next up in the lovely and most adored Xiamen, this post wasn’t about food (how shocking) but that does not mean we missed the odds and ends of the culture via digestion.

Bon appétit.

 

Sharing in Xi’an

As I have stated in other posts the way to enjoy Chinese food properly is of course with chop sticks and also with many people. The time our group spends the most together is around a large lazy susan gushing about the day or eager to start a day. Dishes are brought to us the second we sit down and don’t stop until we are about to explode! As each city is introduced to me I am more and more enthralled in its adventures and cuisine. Thus I bring you ‘Sharing in Xi’an’… my new favorite city in China or at least it is higher on my list than poor Beijing. We arrived in Xi’an at 4:30 in the morning and we were woken up by bright lights and loud Chinese chatter. The beds were not comfortable and using my bumpy lumpy backpack as my pillow did not make it any better of an experience but that is exactly what it is… an experience.

Upon arrival at the hotel the room wasn’t ready and the breakfast buffet wasn’t set … so we sat. This was not the worst since all of us were too tired to function anyway. The breakfast was served hot and fresh at 7:00 am and we were a few of the firsts to be in line. Breakfast in China consists of various vegetable dishes, with staples like hard boiled eggs soaked in tea and grease sticks to dip in sugary warm milk. This buffet also offered a yogurt drink that is like plain yogurt you slurp out with a straw, it doesn’t sound like anything amazing but I always found myself downing at least two for breakfast along with mini Chinese cucumbers. All the food here is amazing but my body craves fresh veggies every once in a while and this buffet hit the spot.

Xi’an food had its ups and downs as our tour guide decided to take us to a “Chinese” buffet. This was in an elaborate looking hotel, which should of belonged in Disney Land. There was also nothing traditional about this meal and that was apparent by the swarms of foreigners rushing to get fed as well as the rough translations of the meal choices. Mashed potatoes were labeled as Soil Bean Mud and after examination it could make sense that a potato which didn’t originate in the Chinese culture could be considered a “soil bean” but where the “mud” came from … no one knows! There was also a meat with “burnt potatoes” dish which were really only in an orange colored sauce that tasted like some kind of Salsberry Steak sauce, but at least they labeled the correct vegetable. The “Various Vegetables with Fungus” dish was appetizing despite the name, which was really only a veggie and mushroom stir fry. Finally to top it all off located next to the French fries (is that necessary?) there was speghetti and the sauce was called “Meat and Ketchup” or also commonly known as meat sauce! To say the least, we did not dine here again or anything similar to the likes.

A true specialty we found in Xi’an was a small stand about a block from our hotel that served hot and fresh grease sticks that were almost a foot long. The woman working there also served us a milky porridge that is served with them for dipping. We decided to wake up early one day and head over there for some breakfast and brought some back for the girls who couldn’t wake up in time. It may not have been the healthiest choice but it was most definitely worth the alarm to be set ten minutes earlier 🙂

Xi’an is also where we sampled our first hot pot, on our way to the Muslim Quarters. This was nothing like the hot pot in Chengdu, but was still a tasty meal. We were all given our own individual hot pots with boiling water and were able to combine whatever we wanted. My hot pot consisted of every vegetable on the table and eggs, which you cracked into the hot pot and waited for it to become like a hard boiled egg… yum yumm yummmmy! There were also some meats sliced thinly, some pork and mutton, these were very good with all the other flavors. A sauce was also composed to dip the hot pot contents in after they were cooked, I loaded mine with garlic and ginger, of course! To end the meal we had fried bread that is like a little donut that we dipped in a phenomenal frosting …this actually ended up being condensed milk… still simply amazing!

There were many more amazing meals that wowed my taste buds but this is all for ‘Sharing in Xi’an’… bon appetit!