Palm Springs

5 01 2014

Happy New Year!

You might think, oh, she hasn’t blogged in a few weeks, she is probably just being typically neglectful of her beloved blog. Wrong! I was on vacation, nerds.

good morning

good morning

Since I often speak in math: I wanted to go somewhere warm for the holiday break + I booked to late = Hawaii and Mexico were outrageously expensive + Florida is kinda far away + I’ve never been to Palm Springs. If you carry the one, it works out. Trust me, I’m an engineer.

So, Palm Springs it was! Four days at a resort outside of town and three days at an cutesy boutique in town just off the strip. Pools and hot tubs. Desert hikes. Food. And lots and lots of sleeping. It was awesome. I read a book. A whole one. And wore bathing suits — plural (not at the same time). I wore a dress on New Year’s Eve (covered entirely by a coat, of course). Vacation: achieved.

Summaries of food in both places: La Quinta Resort and Spa (outside Palm Springs) and Palm Springs:

La Quinta Resort and Spa (a Waldorf Astoria resort in the town of La Quinta)

One thing I was worried about going to a proper “resort” (this was my first time) was the food. The resort wasn’t all-inclusive, so we could have gone “off-campus” for food if necessary. But it would have put a damper on our sit-around-and-do-absolutely-nothing vacation, so we were hoping the seven on-site restaurants were suitable. When we arrived, we found that only three of the restaurants were open for dinner. We subsequently tried all three, returning to one of them twice.

The food was great. Like, unexpectedly above average. Like, “I’m a snooty foodie from San Francisco and I approve of this food” good. I was impressed and relieved. And I ate this food and was happy. Quick summary:

Twenty 6: Casual American food in an upscale pub-ish atmosphere. I enjoyed: house made veggie burger, flat breads, crab cake, and (my fav) the pickled purple cauliflower. I wanted to try more. It was all surprisingly good considering they have hundreds of people trapped on site who will eat this food no matter what.

(terrible picture of) adorable pickled purple cauliflower!

(terrible picture of) adorable pickled purple cauliflower!

(terrible picture of) crab cake with huge chunks of crab

(terrible picture of) crab cake with huge chunks of crab

Adobe Grill: Mexican food, just upstairs from Twenty 6. We had some tamales one night that were pretty good, but the appetizer patio dining is what got me hooked. We had the best nachos ever. Fine, maybe not the absolute best, but they were really, really good. And nachos are so easy to mess up that I was immensely impressed. Also, the grande margarita was GRANDE indeed.

(mediocre picture of) really really good nachos

(mediocre picture of) really really good nachos

margaritas may be larger than they appear

margaritas may be larger than they appear

Morgan’s in the Desert: Fancy American food with a James Beard Award-winning chef. Lots of seafood, salads, and great appetizers. I didn’t take any photos because I was feeling classy*, but the lightly fried artichoke hearts and accompanying dip were amazing. The Caesar salad was perfect, and both the salmon and black cod were tender and delicious. I wanted to try every single one of the sides (but restrained). Their take on a s’mores dessert was fab.

*Actually, I was more feeling self-conscious since I was in a dress. Same thing, right?

Palm Springs

We stayed at Korakia Pensione, an adorable Mediterranean/Moroccan boutique hotel in the heart of Palm Springs. The rooms are luxurious, the atmosphere is mellow and relaxing, the two pools are literally over 90 degrees in temperature (AMAZING), and the breakfast is included. And whole dang place is so picturesque it kinda hurts. So. Relaxing.

panoramic view of pool and surrounds from outside our room

panoramic view of pool and surrounds from outside our room

panoramic view of our room

panoramic view of our room

breakfast the second day (french toast the first day featured above)

breakfast the second day (french toast the first day featured above)

For NYE, we booked late but snagged a spot at Zin American Bistro. It was a fixed menu, three courses, and I would say the food was mediocre. My leek soup was yummy, but my friend’s trio of tartars was not good. The mains (fish and steaks) were good, but nothing super special. Dessert was meh. I’m not sure if it was just the pressure of putting on a holiday dinner, or if it’s always like that, and I’m sure I’ll never know. Either way the company was good.

(terrible picture of) the company

(poorly lit picture of) the company

Our last night in town we went to Copley’s. This place was good. And we finally found a place where the size of the dishes was inversely proportional to the cost. We had ordered too much time and again in La Quinta because we thought the dishes would be smaller for the price. Fortunately, we weren’t starving, the bites of food were delicious, and we were happy. I would definitely recommend this place for a nice dinner (or lunch) in PS.

Oh yeah… I will mention our first lunch in Palm Springs. We arrived at about 1pm starving. We tried to go to one place we found on Yelp, but it was a 30 minute wait. We went across the street to a seemingly popular place called Trio. After being seated (or, rather, before), we realized we were one of the only straight couples in the entire restaurant. We were woefully out of place, but with nothing else to do but order from our flamboyant waiter (who was very sweet), we ate. I didn’t love my grilled fish sandwich, but my companion’s sandwich was yummy and the rest of the food at other tables looked quite good. And, if you’re going to Palm Springs, there’s no escaping the prominent gay culture. So, why not get immersed for one lunch?





Le Bernardin

6 08 2013

Last month I went to New York City. While in Manhattan for five days, my food-loving friend, Jon, and I agreed to go to at least one world-class super schmancy restaurant and spend a ridiculous sum of money on food. Mission accomplished: we went to Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin. Please let me describe to you the most expensive meal I have ever eaten.

Inside Le Bernardin -- from website le-bernardin.com

Inside Le Bernardin — from website le-bernardin.com

Le Bernardin is a seafood restaurant. Their motto is “the fish is the star of the plate”, which, imho, could use some work, but they seem to be doing fine even with a sorta cheesy tagline. In 2009, Le Bernardin was voted 15th best restaurant in the world in the Restaurant magazine Top 50. Le Bernardin is one of only seven restaurants in New York awarded three Michelin stars, and is the restaurant which has held four stars from The New York Times for the longest period of time, having earned the ranking in early 1986. In 2013, Zagats ranked it the #1 restaurant in New York City*.

Needless to say, our hopes were high.

Hopes = High

Hopes = High

You can order a la carte or you can order a tasting menu. As I didn’t feel up to making all kinds of decisions, we ordered the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu. $150 each. BAM. Or $241 if you were to get wine pairing, which we did not. (Just FYI, the alternate Chef’s Tasting Menu is $195 per person, or $333 with wine pairing. Good lord.)

Our tasting menu included five dinner courses, two dessert courses, and complimentary bread, appetizer, and additional dessert. I was thinking I may make it out of there still hungry due to the nature of the uber-fanciness (and hence small plates of food), but I was wrong. We were totally stuffed when we left. Here’s how it went down. I will be descriptive; prepare your scroll wheel.

We started with a glass of Reisling each. It was delicous, one of the best I’ve ever had. It was $13 a glass, which isn’t nearly as outrageously priced as the food, really. We each ended up having two glasses over the course of the meal (insert cash register “cha-ching” noise).

Food:

Complimentary Appetizer: A trio of tasties including an oyster, a lobster bite, and a shot of warm gazpacho puree. I don’t typically like oysters. But when it’s some fraction of my $150 meal, I’m not going to pass it up. It was surprisingly delicious. It was very tender, not chewy and upsetting like they normally are, and it was in some sort of broth that made it very savory and delicious. The lobster was in a nice butter sauce, and the gazpacho was also quite good.

Complimentary Appetizer

Complimentary Appetizer

???????????????????????????????

First Course: Tuna - layers of thinly pounded yellowfin tuna, foie gras, toasted baguette, chives, and extra virgin olive oil. This was really like a tuna carpaccio-type thing — the tuna was raw. It looks weird, but it was delicious. Big faux pas for a such a fancy restaurant, however — when we sat down, the waiter asked if we had any dietary restrictions. I explained that I didn’t eat meat other than seafood. And so, when we ordered the tasting menu, I didn’t make a point to say “no foie gras” on this particular dish.

When they delivered the plates, they recited the ingredients to us again. Since our waiter had a strong accent (French?), I didn’t entirely understand him. “Did he say foie gras?” I asked Jon after the waiter had left. Yes, he definitely did. I flagged down a waiter and told them this. They apologized profusely and took my plate. They returned it a few minutes later with no foie gras. Normally, I’m totally forgiving to wait staff, mistakes, etc., and I almost never send anything back. But when I’m paying this much, I expect more. At least they corrected it quickly and didn’t serve me any other non-seafood meat.

Tuna

Tuna

Second Course: Scallop – barely cooked scallop, brown butter dashi. This was delicious. They say you cook a scallop for two hours or two minutes, otherwise it’s super tough. This was a very, very tender and flavorful scallop, and the waiter said it was cooked for two minutes. My only wish was that I had had ten of them instead of one.

Scallop

Scallop

Third Course: Lobster – pan-roasted lobster, charred baby leeks, sea bean and mango salad, lobster-lemongrass broth. This was definitely good, but not as good as I expected, oddly. I guess I don’t have a lot of lobster experience, but this dish didn’t totally blow me away like some of the others. The leek was really good though.

Lobster

Lobster

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Fourth Course: Monkfish – pan-roasted monkfish, tarragon scented pea puree, morels, Armagnac-black pepper sauce. This one was definitely yummy. The pea puree beneath the fish was very flavorful. The fish was very tender and meat-y.

Monkfish

Monkfish

Fifth Course: Striped Bass - wild striped bass, Bhutanese red rice, green papaya salad, ginger-red wine sauce. Good lord this one was tasty. That Bhutanese rice was amazing. So much so that when the waiter came over, we asked, “What is this rice?!” like the middle-class turds that we are. It was delicious. And the bass was as rich and tender as I’ve ever had.

Sea Bass

Sea Bass

They put my sea bass in a  different sauce since the regular sauce was beef-based. Thanks guys.

They put my sea bass in a different sauce since the regular sauce was beef-based. Thanks guys.

First Dessert: Raspberry - olive oil emulsion, swiss meringue, raspberry sorbet. Let me decode: this was a scoop of raspberry sorbet, a couple syrup-y raspberries, some raspberry foam stuff, and a couple pieces of raspberry meringue all in a tiny bowl with a gigantic rim and in a pool of olive oil. That’s right, olive oil. Jon was not a fan of this dish, particularly the olive oil. I really liked all the flavors (even the olive oil was fine); the raspberry-ness of the sorbet was very intense. I thought the whole thing was a nice, light, and refreshing after dinner dish.

Raspberry

Raspberry

Giant-rimmed plate/bowl!

Giant-rimmed plate/bowl!

Second Dessert: Dark Chocolate Parfait – candied Marcona almonds, dulce de leche, milk sorbet. Now, I wouldn’t have been quite as excited about the previous dessert if it hadn’t been followed by this one. Chocolate! Absolutely necessary. This dessert was great. The candied almond-covered thing is the parfait — like a dense chocolate mousse. The ice cream was amazing — how was it just milk flavored? The scattered brownie bites, caramel syrup, and candied almonds made the whole thing super interesting and dynamic.

Parfait and friends

Parfait and friends

Third (Apology) Dessert: Chocolate Popcorn - Madagascan chocolate ganache, candied peanuts, popcorn ice cream. To apologize for messing up my tuna carpaccio, they gave us yet another dessert. They must know me. Apology accepted. This was also delicious and extremely rich and smooth.

Ganache

Ganache

Complimentary Dessert: Last but not least was the complimentary dessert (we obv hadn’t had enough dessert already), which was an assortment of bite-sized sweets. We ate them carefully in a strategic order, trying to save the best one for last. They were cute and fun and tasty and a nice end to our billion dollar meal.

Complimentary dessert

Complimentary dessert

The whole meal took about an hour and a half, and I was actually a bit nervous through it. I was always just mildly self-conscious that I wasn’t going to know some protocol or do something inappropriate, so I was a bit more sweaty-armpitted than normal. But, we made it through.

And then they gave us the bill.

Final tally: $380. $150 each for dinner, $26 each in wine = $352 + tax. Then we had to obviously pay 20% tip on that, so we were up to $460. And since Jon is trying to empty his Chinese bank account, we paid in cash like pathetic drug dealers. Good drug dealers would have paid in c-notes. We paid in twenties. Good show, Hayward, good show. Anyway, they couldn’t kick us out ’cause we were leaving anyway, so we took our leave of the most expensive dinner I’ve ever had, and moseyed back to our hotel like it ain’t no thang.

My final conclusions are that it was good. It was really good. I’m glad we went. I’m glad we spent all that money for a (nearly) once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was fun and exciting and interesting. And the food was good. But. I live in SF. We have damn good food here. I would say, in my totally unprofessional opinion, that our billion dollar dinner at Le Bernardin could be easily rivaled in quality and taste by any number of restaurants in SF for about a third of the price. Which is a conclusion that might irritate some people after paying so much, but since there was no way for me to really know than to try it, I’m happy that I did. Now I’ll happily go back to my Wayfare Tavern, The House, The Corner Store, and State Bird Provisions, thankyouverymuch.

*All stats per the Wikipedia page.

Le Bernardin on Urbanspoon





Spain: We’re not just hungry, we’re Americans.

23 09 2012

I went to Spain in late August for a week with my friend Mala. We met up with four other people (only one of whom we already knew) in Valencia in the southeast of Spain, threw some tomatoes, then headed to Barcelona for a few days with just the two of us. It was rad. A whirlwind trip, for sure, but definitely fun and definitely worth all the flying (2 stopovers on the way there!).

Seafood paella in Valencia, Spain

You might imagine that we ate food while we were there. It was pretty much a main activity. Since I could type about this all day, and I have about a billion photos, I’ll give a summary below and then you can scroll through the pictures until the rolly wheel on your mouse breaks. Enjoy.

  • Valencia is not my fav. We did have some good food there, but the city is mostly either touristy and cheesy, or sorta run down and Hayward-esque. They do have a strange area with a bunch of rad buildings housing museums and the like, and a cool beach area that’s super touristy but still nice. And it definitely was an AWESOME place to rent an apartment with five other rad people. And provided good access to the aforementioned tomato fight.
  • Barcelona is rad. Super touristy in the main part, but it’s beautiful, has great restaurants and shops, a nice wharf and beachfront area, and lots to do. Def way better on the gourmet food front. Mala and I felt like we were home here.
  • When you order wine, you order “vino tinto” or “vino blanco” (at least in Valencia). It’s funny. There typically isn’t a wine list (again, at least at all the places we went), and I have no idea what kind of wine I’m drinking. You just choose red or white. I thought it was funny.
  • Tapas. They’re everywhere. Lots and lots and lots of tapas restaurants, all boasting their own form of paella, which I think are all exactly the same. We never found great paella, unfortunately, and ended up getting pretty sick of tapas pretty fast, sadly. But we still had plenty, and they were usually pretty good. Here’s  a typical tapas menu:

Tapas menu in Valencia, Spain

Ok, now for food.

Tapas Hall of Fame

Calamari. I know, I love calamari. There were often many types of squid offered on any one tapas menu, and I never could figure out which one was the one I wanted (above). Sometimes I got grilled (still good) or big onion-ring sized rings (not as good). The smaller pieces of fried squid (above) was my fav kind.

Bravas. These are fried potato pieces slathered in an aioli sauce. When they were good, they were really good.

Russian salad. It’s everywhere. We finally mustered the balls to try it. It was delicious. Apparently it’s common in many regions, but the Spanish version typically consists of: minced boiled potato, minced boiled carrots, canned tuna, minced boiled eggs, peas, roast red pepper strips, green olives, and mayonnaise. The weird breadsticks are just there as an obstacle, as far as I can tell.

Tortilla. Yeah, it’s not like a Mexican one. This is like a potato quiche. It’s really good. And, I find it funny that they make tortilla sandwiches. In case you want some carbs with your carbs. Totally yum though.

Those were def my fav tapas. We ordered them again and again, while also trying to branch out each time. We tried paella a variety of times, and it was good, but it was never great. So much so that I’m not even going to include it in this post, except as the cover photo to make you think I’m going to talk about it. Trickery.

Other Good Food

When we got to Barcelona, we immediately made reservations at a fancy restaurant. It was necessary. And delicious. Mala powered through a bout of food poisoning from the day before, and we bought the crappiest umbrellas known to man to handle the pouring rain to make it to this schmancy Barcelona restaurant. This is the tuna tartare. Totally worth it.

This chocolate mousse (from aforementioned schmancy Barcelona restaurant) was amazing. It was light and fluffy and made almost completely of air somehow. The taste was incredible. We were mesmerized.

We found a vegetarian restaurant in Barcelona. We almost ordered everything on the menu. Then we didn’t. This was a good decision. These fried rice balls were bomb.

Pasta from vegetarian restaurant: good.

Chocolate fondue from the vegetarian restaurant. Mala was excited.

And, for the season finale, Mala and I found a nice place to have a full English breakfast. I’m not sure if you can tell how much food is on that table, but we each had 2 eggs, potatoes, baked beans, a grilled tomato, grilled mushrooms, bacon, toast and jam, and a blueberry pancake. We ate every bite. (She ate my bacon, I ate her tomatoes and much of her beans.) The Aussies next to us were impressed. Because “we’re not just hungry — we’re Americans”. Booya.

:)





China

23 05 2012

I went to China. Hi, I’m back.

I ate food there. And I didn’t get any food poisoning as I am wont to do on vacation. Yeay! Even though I can’t exactly provide the same restaurant reviewing service about places in Beijing, I can still show some juicy pics and tell tales of some of the neato stuff I ate while I was there. And because I can, I will.

Picture of food so you’ll keep reading.

I will start by saying that we mainly ate at “Western” style restaurants in Beijing. This is not to say that the food at these restaurants isn’t Chinese or that it’s not authentic — it just means that the facility operates in a Western style. Typically, these restaurants are large, and you’re seated at a table by a hostess. The menu is typically very expansive and full of pictures. Your order is taken by a waiter/waitress. Sometimes this person speaks some English, often not so much. The pictures are helpful for this. Your food is brought to you and is typically meant to be shared among the people at your table. You use chop sticks. The facilities are clean and the food is of high quality like you might expect in, say, San Francisco.

You can get a $1 meal at a street vendor, which is certainly an “authentic” experience, but I don’t eat at the hot dog stands here, so I’m not sure why I would do it there. Not that I’d chide someone who did do that, but I’ve had my taste of food poisoning in a third world country, and I’m not willing to be as risky as I perhaps once was. So. We went for the classed-up places. And since we knew a local, he showed us to the best of the best.

Ok, I’ll shut up and get to the pictures:

First: pizza. Yeah, pizza in Beijing. What were we thinking? We were thinking that it was really good, that’s what. Also, deep fried Oreos. Ridiculous and not as good as I wanted them to be. But, there they are.

Amazing pizza from Kro’s Nest in Beijing. This pizza was like 30″ in diameter; half cheese, half veggie with white sauce. It was really good.

Deep fried Oreos are not as good as they sound.

Next up: wood ear mushrooms. These are all over the place (like, in food, not just on the ground) in Beijing. They’re delicious.

Wood ear mushrooms! Yum!

And then we had one of our first “fancy” Chinese dinners, which was totally worth the exorbitant price.

Eggplant with melted cheese in a bread bowl. Genius.

Veggie food stuffs in a banana leaf. Hard to eat, but delish.

Not-as-spicy-as-it-could-have-been mushroom dish. I was glad for the lack of spicy.

Next stop was a grungy dumpling restaurant waaay out behind a bunch of blind masseuse shops. (Your guess is as good as mine.) The dumplings were very good.

Cold dish of tofu skins (or something). A bit sweet, very tasty.

Dumplings! All veggie, of course.

Then on to the famous duck restaurant in Beijing where there is always a wait if you don’t have a reservation. We didn’t. We waited. Everyone liked the duck. I tried it; it tasted like chicken. This other stuff was way better.

Egg stuffed tomatoes. Weird. Good.

Stir fried bamboo shoots. But not the yucky ones they put in chow mein here. These might have been the best thing I ate the whole time.

These pot-sticker-sized balls of flavored tofu were soft like hummus. It was very hard to pick up, but really, really good. I wanted to spread it on a sandwich. I still do, actually.

We took a cooking class where we made this stir fry:

Stir fry of egg, carrots, cucumber, wood ear mushrooms, garlic, leek, lily flower ,and ginger. They added pork to the non-veggie one.

Then Jon and I ate food in Shanghai. We started off the weekend right by ordering way too much food. This restaurant had amazing light so my photos actually look good (finally).

The menu said fried bran or something weird, but it was really some sort of cold tofu or gluten dish. It was a bit sweet, had a spongy consistency, and was quite tasty.

The real deal: sweet and sour shrimp. This sweet and sour sauce was indeed both sweet and sour. It was creamy with mustard undertones. It was very good but also very rich.

Eggplant dish. Good but not great. So pretty though. And tongue-singeing hot (temperature, not spicy).

There it is: Chinese noodles. This wasn’t called “chow mein” on the menu, it was just called noodles. (Which is what it was.) I liked it.

We were having a harder time finding places to eat in Shanghai just because we didn’t do the appropriate research and didn’t have a local to point us in the right direction. This Italian place was right on the river and had good reviews (ah, the joys of traveling with a smart phone). This pizza was fab.

Yeah, another pizza. This one was really, really good. At “The Kitchen” on the east side of the river in Shanghai.

At the YuYuan Bazaar in Shanghai (crowded as ALL GET OUT. no, seriously, I wished everyone would get out…) there were a million dumpling shops. Some of them had immense lines. Few of them had any signage in English at all, though many had pictures (but you can’t see what’s inside the dumpling?!). We got all rogue and stood in front of the stock tray and pointed to some tubs of dumplings. No food poisoning + delicious dumplings = win.

Shanghai dumplings!

And if you’ve made it to the bottom of this post, kudos to you. Your prize will be a dumpling. I will give you a gift certificate for the place in Shanghai. Redeem at your leisure.





B&C Hits Chicago, Discovers Pizza

12 06 2011

Extra, extra, read all about it…

Deep. Dish. Pizza. As a California native, I’ve heard these words before. But until last week, I had never truly tasted them. Cue montage sequence of me packing my bags, flying to Minnesota, enjoying a wedding, then flying to Chicago. When the little airplane follows the arched red line to the dot on the map marked “Chicago”, fade to me enjoying this pizza:

chicago pizza

Chicago deep dish pizza from Giordano's

Literally the first thing we did in Chicago was seek out Giordano’s Pizza in downtown Chicago, at the recommendation of a friend who used to live there. May we forever be in debt to him for leading us to this heavenly pizza. Like ambrosia on our lips, it enlivened us from the fatigue of our travels, it healed us our ails, and it relieved us of our sins, past, present and future. That’s how good the deep dish pizza is. I’m only hardly exaggerating.

Pizza.

Love.

The process seems to start with a thick, flaky crust upon which is placed a cheese so wonderful that it does not bear resemblance to other petty cheeses found on pizza in your home town, nor those available at your local grocery. Embedded gently in the cheese is a succulent variety of “toppings” (though they do not “top” the pizza in this case), which are, of course, yours to choose. Upon this is placed another thinner layer of flaky, buttery crust which will itself be fully covered in the most delicate pizza sauce your lips have ever tasted. Some 40 minutes after ordering, an angel will fly down to your table and deliver a heavenly, steaming, overflowing, 20 pounds of food that will satiate you in three bites though you will continue to gorge yourself past that point until your belly bulges in fabulously contented defeat.

And this is the glory that is Chicago Deep Dish Pizza.

I highly recommend trying it… even if you have to fly for 4 hours to get it*.

Commandment.

Pizza commandment.

*Additionally, if you’re feeling like a true American and want all the delicacies of the world brought soundly to your doorstep, Giordano’s actually offers the ability to order a pizza and have it shipped to your home. At which point you cook the pie and enjoy everything Chicago has to offer in the comfort of your own kitchen, for only about twice the price you’d pay in-store. We have yet to try this, but I think we may have to give it a go, if only to discover how ridiculous we can be. Anybody want to come over for a pizza party?








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