August 24, 2006

deja vu

I went to dinner last night with coworkers from the San Mateo office of my company, to some unnamed restaurant in San Mateo, and amusingly I found myself walking in the door of Joy Luck Place, the exact same restaurant I ate in the night before only in a different town. On my recommendation we ordered the shrimps in mayo, which were devoured before I got any, which was fine since I was macking down the very excellent sauteed pea pod stems, which were the tenderest I've ever had, and some nice tofu/seafood/roasted garlic clay pot, and a smoked glazed sea bass (also with mayo), and some tasty scallops in hot bean sauce with broccoli, among other things. The seafood and vegetable dishes are better than the meat dishes (which are respectable enough), so I would recommend you focus your order toward the fruits of the sea. Again I forgot my camera; I suck.

Posted by foodnerd at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2006

shrimp fried in a mayonnaise crust can fix just about any day

I am in Cupertino, California, which is a horrifying wasteland of strip malls and concrete, and frankly the circumstances of my arriving here were more than a little frantic, with multiple cell phone calls at the same time and rental car counters without any cars and general mayhem. So it was most gratifying to finally meet up with MissLudmilla for dinner and chow down on some high-quality west coast chinese food.

Which is in and of itself a saga of some magnitude -- I'd read an article some years back in one of the food rags about a constellation of fantastically great Chinese restaurants tucked away in the strip malls of Silicon Valley, and at the time I'd thought, damn, I'd really love to eat in some of those restaurants, but when the heck will i ever be in Silicon Valley? Lo and behold, I finally get sent to a client site out here, but I can't dig up the damn article ANYWHERE. I enlisted my Bay Area food minions, and the power librarians at the Chicago Public Library, and some searches of Google and Epicurious, all to no avail. Finally I went nuclear on the situation and called up the editorial offices of Gourmet Magazine and left a message on their generic voicemail box. Within an hour, the article was on my fax machine. Hot damn.

We chose a strip mall here in Cupertino, since it had a wide selection of options and happened to be right around the corner, a bonus since we were both ravenous and it was already 8pm. After casing the place -- and deciding that I need to go to Porridge Place for lunch one of the days I am here for congee, yum -- we settled on Joy Luck Place, for two reasons. 1) it was full of chinese people who seemed happy, and 2) it served shrimps with mayonnaise and walnuts, a dish that has fascinated me with its transcendent unlikeliness since I first heard of it, though I've never had a chance to try it. (The place also serves Buddha Jumps Over The Wall, but you have to order in advance for that.)

The shrimps were awesome. Big sweet fresh shrimps, coated with mayonnaise, dusted with cornstarch and deep fried. Yum. The walnuts were only lightly sweetened, with a dusty nutty taste to them that was very pleasant, and nice with the shrimps or alone. A completely insane set of ingredients to combine, and yet it totally works. MissLudmilla said it was one of the nicest versions of the dish she'd had, more subtle and less goopily sweet than many, so bonus for us.

We also got some beef in XO sauce with enoki & button mushrooms, which was fine, some mustard green with a bland sauce and some shreds of delicious Yunnan ham, and an appetizer plate of lusciously fatty roast duck with perfectly crisped skin and a pile of slightly sweetened beans of some sort, maybe adzuki. There are all sorts of classic luxury foods on the menu, including a whole section of shark fin dishes, not least of them a $50 soup of shark fin and abalone, and the place did seem to be full of people in the market for celebratory and/or showy dishes -- we were totally out of place with our elbows on the table and casual conversation, but it was late enough in the evening that we didn't cause any trouble, and the staff pretty much started cleaning up around us as we finished up.

The shrimps are fantastic and worth the trip. The boiled spiced peanuts that arrive as amuse bouche are also pretty addictive, so watch out. The rest of the dishes were merely good, but after the wastelands of Chicago's chinese cuisine, merely good is fine eating indeed.

10893 N Wolfe Road, Cupertino

Posted by foodnerd at 01:46 AM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2006

baby stewie

The Alliance Bakery on Division (just west of Ashland) has iced cookies in the likeness of baby Stewie's head, from Family Guy. They totally rule. Definitely gets my vote for Most Creative Use of Football Shaped Cookie Cutter. Heh.

While I'm at it, their kolaczki are very tasty soft cookies filled with cheese (yum) or fruit, but their multigrain bread is kind of squishy and not so hot. I guess they are best at sweets, as they have very good chocolate macaroons also, and sitting out at one of their sidewalk tables with a coffee and the Reader is a splendid way to pass an early weekend hour.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:09 AM | Comments (1)

August 17, 2006

a perfect plate

Feast your eyes on this:

Have you ever seen something so completely appealing? A plate of rice, with beans and salad, topped with steak, capped by a fried egg, and garnished with fried plantain and a glorious curve of crisply fried pork belly.

Tallasiandude ate this at a new mexican/guatemalan place in downtown Waltham called Guanachapi (273 Moody St.) and said it totally kicked ass. His Latina-American dining companion said the food was just like her mom makes. I just think the photo is food porn at its finest.

And I am comforted to know that I will not have to totally give up my addiction to high-quality family-style Mexican food when I finally leave Chicago. *whew*

Posted by foodnerd at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2006

sausages at mixed signals

Remember all those sausages I got for the big summer party? Well, I grilled 'em up to wild approval, but we didn't even come close to eating all of them. This was a year of somewhat lower attendance at the party, which happens some years, and we were stocked up for the fullest of onslaughts. So I gave some away, tallasiandude and I ate a few meals' worth of sausage, and froze the rest.

The ones we did eat were awesome. My favorite was the Hungarian wieners with garlic and paprika -- they were juicy and savory with all those spices. The smoked Italians were a big hit with partygoers, and they *were* rather good, just a touch smoky on top of the usual Italian spices. I ended up somehow with an extra five pound box of the veal brats, so it's a good thing they are tasty, mild, white li'l guys. And the fresh brats cooked in beer disappeared in the blink of an eye. Garlic knockwurst and chive-studded bockwursts, just as good as last year.

Posted by foodnerd at 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2006

random bar thoughts

Beer Bistro: very good $2 burgers on Tuesdays, an extensive and high-quality beer list, and Tater Tots. 'Nuff said.

Cobra Lounge: had the potential to be so very, very awful, and instead is totally awesome. It does have whiffs of pretentious hipsterism, but when the wings are the best I've had in years, and there is Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Ramones on the jukebox, and every one of my preferred bourbons is behind the bar, I can more than live with that. Bonus points for being within stumbling distance of home.

The Hideout: Low rent deteriorating vintage interior tucked in behind warehouses and truck lots, with good cheap drinks. Heaven. High hipster quotient, but what can you do?

Posted by foodnerd at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2006

resi's bierstube

My friend Bar comes to Chicago for business, and for once I was actually in town when she was here. I'd been hankering to try out one of the beer gardens we have here, so we trundled over to Resi's Bierstube on Irving Park, wandered through the deserted bar and found a seat in the back yard under a tree.

If only all bars could be like this.

A wide and excellent selection of German beers on draft, including dark wheat beers, which I've never even seen before and enjoy very much. Affable indy-rock waitresses. And enormous portions of pork -- we had a smoked chop and a weiner schnitzel -- that come with sides of bland sauerkraut, gorgeously vinegary german potato salad studded with bacon, and rye bread with butter. We could have stayed there all night, and more or less, we did -- when they closed the beer garden, we stayed another hour at the bar until the rest of the patrons left, and when the staff let us know they wanted to close up early and head home, we wandered out into the warm evening, happily full of pork and beer and good will.

And had a bit of schnitzel and potato salad left over to medicate the hangover next morning.

Posted by foodnerd at 07:27 AM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2006

why life is worth living

from an email my dear friend B sent to me on his return from a trip last week -- this was just too utterly perfect not to share.

"We just returned from a fabulous week in Nova Scotia, at the hunting lodge of a friend, who bought a couple square miles of pristine northern wilderness there last summer.

We thought of you often during the week, because we ate things like Finnan Haddie made with beautiful fresh smoked haddock from the neighbor’s smokehouse down the road, dozens of oysters we gathered ourselves freshly from the sea, blueberry pancakes with blueberries we gathered on their land, freshly caught catfish and eel from their lake, daily salads of lettuce peas and beet greens fresh from the garden, and local strawberries which were the best I’ve eaten since my days in Iowa.

We gathered chanterelles and ate them on freshly baked sourdough toast points, and closed off the week with a stunning lobster bake, done over a fire in layers: potatoes covered with seaweed (the kind that has the bubbles in it, to provide steam) covered with corn covered with seaweed, covered with gorgeous lobsters covered with seaweed, all served with more oysters and some excellent wine.

We hiked, swam in our friends’ private lake, blazed a trail to their second private lake, tubed down their private river, cooked, read, loafed, drank, talked and played hours and hours of viola quintets and string sextets....It was a lovely vacation, and each day contained some lovely food or wilderness item that made me think of you with love."

Is there any wonder this is one of my very most favorite people on the entire planet? Thank you, B.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)