Showing posts with label lamb. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lamb. Show all posts

Monday, December 27, 2010

Croquer: Mission Chinese Food

San Francisco is a kick ass food town, this we know. So when in Rome, how does one pick a dinner destination when there is only one slot to fill? How can you ever decide? Well, apparently just ask Lessley Anderson. She seems to always be right, and suggested without hesitation Mission Chinese Food. Once the popular Mission Street Food, the owners took their popular dishes indoors. A funny "in-the-know" type of joint, Mission Chinese Food is a pop-up inside of another restaurant - the divey Lung Shan Chinese Restaurant. Both menus are served, but the waiters seem to know which menu to drop by the table.
Perhaps due to their name and surroundings, the Mission Chinese chefs are careful to disclaim their craft, plainly labeling their offerings "Americanized Oriental Food." They are quick to bolster the term, stating: "Though we'll focus on Chinese food, we're leaving ourselves the freedom to incorporate other Asian flavor profiles. Our use of the term "oriental" is not meant to be offensive. The word is derived from a root meaning "eastern," which represents a Eurocentric orientation to Asia, and it was most often used in a bygone era when Europeans viewed the regions east of the Mediterranean as exotic lands full of "romance and intrigue." For us, as Asian-American cooks, using this loaded term is an indictment of the Eurocentricity of fine dining, but it's also meant to desensitize the term in that transcending-racism-by-not-interpreting-every-single-thing-as-racist way. You know, like the "queers" did." (cite)
This open approach to the cooking has brought an intoxicating array of atypical dishes to the menu. Selecting was near impossible. We decided to start with the tart and spicy Szechuan Pickles - Salted pickled cabbage, cucumber, roasted peanut, fresh coriander, and chili oil.
The slow-cooked Char Siu Pork Belly with tea smoked egg, ginger scallion, rolled noodles, and cucumber was melt-in-your mouth rich. Indulgence that can't not bring a smile to your face.
The Thrice Cooked Bacon was smoky and spicy - Thick cuts of meaty bacon tossed with rice cakes, bitter melon, tofu skin, scallion, black bean, and chili oil. A contender for favorite, the texture was as interesting as the flavor profile. Where have stir fried rice cakes been all my life???
The Westlake Lamb Dumplings -my other favorite- were handmade several feet away from our table. The lamb was terrifically spiced, steamed in freshly made rice dough, served with braised peanut, coriander, dill, and brown rice vinegar. Shockingly toothsome.
Lastly we sampled Lung Shan's Vegan Delight with shitake and oyster mushroom dumplings in miso soup. The light dish worked well as a palate cleanser after such a rich and incredible meal.
We sat in blissful awe, finished our beers while laughing, the soft chopping and forming of dough on the wood counter behind us. The hushed sound of happiness being wrought into consumable form.
*Mission Chinese Food donates seventy-five cents from each menu item to the SF Food Bank.

2234 Mission St.(Lung Shan Restaurant) San Francisco, CA 94110; 415.863.2800
missionchinesefood.com
Mission Chinese Food on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 22, 2010

Foodbuzz Blogger Fest: Day 2

Nothing wakes you up early on a Saturday morning like the word PORN emblazoned across a giant hotel conference room screen. Day 2 of the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival and off to a sniggling start. My first breakout session of the day explored lighting, composition, and tips for photographing food, lead by [No Recipes] and The Cooking Photographer.
Following the workshop, Border Grill's Mary Sue Milliken demoed variations on the fish taco using fresh Alaska Seafood. A charming interlude to... lunch? Unfortunately not yet. 
The Food Blogging Guide to Success (Whatever That Is!) panel was an interesting one. Featuring the bloggers Lick My Spoon, Kitchen Corners, and Carrots 'N' Cake, discussion topics spanned recipe ethics to personal safety. In the end, Lick My Spoon made me smile commiserating about her massive, shelved French Laundry post... (the beast we ALL have as bloggers that we can never seem to finish and get out there!)
A short walk downtown followed, leading to the Tasting Pavilion at the Metreon's top floor.
479 Popcorn was my first stop, with a wooing Chipotle Caramel & Almond corn.
Next door were some poached gulf shrimp and chile-gazpacho from Miss Pearl's Jam House
Three Twins sampled their smooth mint confetti and strawberry ice creams.
Prather Ranch Meat was popular, grilling sausages in their cheeky t-shirts.
I enjoyed Tyler Florence's roasted butternut squash & apple soup with parmesan herb savory shortbread.
Other highlights included Annie the Baker's peanut butter cookie, Ledgenear Farm's literally drinkable maple syrup, INNA jam's raspberry preserves and jalapeño jelly, a wistful Macadamia nut blossom honey from Royal Hawaiian Honey, and spicy pickled vegetables from Pick-A-Peck.
And let's not forget the booze. It may have been midday, but I was sure tasting the many varietals dressed to the nines in JAQK Cellars' clever designs. An example of gambling gone right.
The Watermelon Wheat Beer and Fireside Chat Winter Spiced Ale from the people over at 21st Amendment came giftwrapped in 6 pack boxes - a novel idea! I was also impressed by the distinguished Bison Brewing Organic Chocolate Stout , but most (surprisingly) of all by the wines from Far Niente
in Napa. The overdressed gilt labels on their Estate Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon bottles deemed them missable, but both wines were so down to earth, nuanced and drinkable I had to retract my judgemental claws. Their Dolce late harvest Napa dessert wine was a proverbial cherry on top. 
But it was the ladies at the Jacob's Creek tasting booth that saved me from the poker face of the pavillion. Tall pours -and always a mischevious smile- made me return to their booth again, and again.. and again.
After a small wine nap break, dinner was served at the incredible church de gourmand - the Ferry Building.
Like something out of a dream, the thorough way of the closed complex was transformed into a sprawling dining room, light arches overhead bracing the length of our hungry mob.
Most of all it was the company at our table is what made this such a fabulous experience. I had the pleasure of dining (and drinking copious amounts of wine before dinner) with the sassy j e t s e t WISDOM, Culinary Herbalist and wonderful conversationalist Pat Crocker, my buddy the Wind Attack, the charming Tomato Tart next door, our team captain Casey Angelova, and the très hip Warm Kitchenette.
The meal we were about to enjoy was presented by the Cooking Channel and featured wine pairings by Bonny Doon Vineyard.
Dinner started with a Roasted Golden Beet Tart with crimson beets, feta, currants, wild arugula, and basil puree. A 2009 Bonny Doon Vineyard Albarino (very familiar to me by this point in the weekend) was poured alongside.
The second course may have been my favorite - Seared Scallops with Bonny Doon Vineyard Verjus Beurre Blanc served over braised fennel and garnished with fried fennel fonds. A lovely 2007 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc made the near perfect dish sing.
I was impressed that the entrees were dropped around the room at once, hundreds of Rosemary and Garlic Infused Racks of Lamb with local wild mushrooms, pinot noir sauce, and butternut squash puree, all cooked to a sultry medium rare. The components all worked wonderfully together, a warming toast to the season, paired with the 2006 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant.
(I have never seen a group of diners so uniformly and ferociously tear meat from bone like us hungry bloggers. It was a carnal and beautiful site!)
Dessert was a Tarta de Almendras - A buttery almond cake with oranges, figs, Spanish sherry sabayon and parmesan crisp. The pairing was a delicious 2008 Bonny Doon Vineyard Vinferno fortified dessert wine.
Following the satisfying meal, Angelova championed our group in the after dinner Foodbuzz Twitter scavenger hunt. Several blocks away after her third capture, a cab was flagged. Deja vu, there was not enough room for everyone in our group - All but one could fit. I looked up at the clear autumn night sky between high rises, considered my full belly, wine buzz and put my trust again in fate.
"It's alright," I told them, a sudden chill curling my lips into a smile. "I think I'm going to walk."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Croquer: Sitka & Spruce

The sun had come out, but the cool Northwest breeze charged up the streets of Capitol Hill, nipping us in the shady stretches. One last meal in the city, and I'm so glad Nicole decided to take me to the very special Sitka & Spruce, nestled into the corner of an airy Seattle warehouse marketplace. Like the hearth of a cozy European home, one could easily mistake the hazy sunbeams to be filtering in off the Mediterranean.
I've seen open kitchens before, but this is serious. We were seated at the chef's table... and I mean AT the work table (see those white chairs below), a foot or two away a few aproned cooks tenderly arranged plates of sliced tomatoes, fruit, cheese, and olives from a mélange of clay and china bowls covering the work space. 
S & S's lunch offerings are "cold", meaning that the prevailing brick wood oven is not utilized. Save for a fry pan or two on the stove to warm certain dishes, the menu is made up of fresh cold dishes such as rye berry salad, burrata, and tuna mousse.
Nicole and I decided it was the perfect hour for bubbly, so started with a glass of sparkling Grüner Veltliner and the Columbia City bread and soft butter. Paying for a bread plate might seem ridiculous, but I won't lie, the fresh chewy slices and airy salt-sprinkled butter were worth every cent.
Our first dish was a Yakima chickpea puree with carrot salad and harissa. Again, hummus you may think, hmm how pedestrian. No, in fact this was my favorite dish of the lot. Perfect texture, moderate harissa fire, and succulent blanched carrots far surpassed any expectations.
The La Quercia ham with sheepsmilk feta & watermelon was late summer on a plate. Farm fresh yellow melon and smooth salty cheese melt in the mouth between layers of thin-cut ham, dynamic flavors fused by fruity olive oil and red pepper flakes. Sublime simplicity at its best.
We finished with the lamb kofte, fresh flageolet, & a fried egg. Though flavorful and hearty, it was hard to beat the previous two dishes. But we still enjoyed it to the last bite!
The cheese, berries and honey an arm's reach away looked so so delicious, but we regretfully declined a dessert course and instead perused the small mercantile on the way back outside into the distinctly Seattle sunshine.

1531 Melrose Ave. Seattle, WA 98122; 206.324.0662
sitkaandspruce.com
Sitka & Spruce on Urbanspoon