Tuesday, April 28, 2009


i've heard a lot of good things about dopo and it's even on the 100 best restaurants list.  since i also heard it can get busy, i called the restaurant before we left the house.  i found out they don't take reservations for groups smaller than 5 people, but they said they could seat us now.  we got there around 8:30 and noticed all of the tables were full.  there wasn't an obvious host station so we just kind of stood their awkwardly for a few minutes until someone came to talk to us.  

the host said we could wait for 30 minutes for a table in the dining room....or.....there's outdoor seating around the corner.  it was kind of chilly but he said it's tented and heated and there are blankets so we could tuck ourselves in.  we were skeptical about this "outdoor seating" but we followed him to this little sidewalk right next to the restaurant.  our table was actually pushed up next to the outside wall and there were little blankets, folded and draped over the back of the chairs.  the host said some people like to eat out there because it's a lot quieter.  our hunger is what made us sit down at the table in the little alley.  we were kind of chilly out there, and the blanket was small so it only covered my lap. 

the double-sided wine list was organized geographically, not by type of wine like usual.  on one side of the list, names of red wines were arranged around a map of italy; white wines were on the other side.  since they were all italian wines, i didn't recognize some of the names but the server was very helpful.  he asked me what kind of wine i like...full-bodied whites...and he gave me a couple suggestions and described each one.  i forgot what it was called, but it sure was full and crisp!

after the server took our drink orders, the host came back to check to see if we had any questions about the menu.  i asked him what ciccioli is and he proceeded to give us a VERY detailed description.  he said it's pork, slow-cooked with thyme until it's spreadable....like a pork butter.  he went on to explain how the french's version is chunkier and how they make it in house and how good it is and a few more details.  as he walked away, my quotable friend looked at me and said 

"you had me at pork butter." 

at first, the ciccioli reminded us of tuna.  but once we slathered enough on bread, the flavors began to sing: definitely pork, olive oil, salt and pepper.  

we ate the "salad of north carolina white shrimp ceci beans and trapani pesto" next.  it was brown and pretty unattractive.  my first bite was tangy and rich.  the slice of lemon on side was begging to be included.  bite #2 was even better than the first due to the extra acidity.

although the "fusilli with hoffman farm hen" was rich and buttery and cheesy, it wasn't very special.  my girl said she felt she's had that meal at somebody's house before.

the eden farm bone-in pork chop was huge.  i like more seasoning on my meat, but it was nicely cooked.  um, i hate to go there, but there's something you should know.  there is an unfortunate detail about the way this dish looked. the red sauce that was poured generously over the chop reminded me of blood, so by the time i finished eating, i felt like a cannibal.  gross, i know, but i had to warn you.

the "carrots, sugar snap peas and mint" was the best dish of the night!  crisp-tender, slightly sweet vegetables, tangy pickled onions.  i didn't taste the mint but i didn't miss it at all.  i secretely cheered when my girl announced she was full, because i proceeded to finish every last morsel on the plate!

when we read the dessert menu, we noticed two important things missing: 1. cake and 2. chocolate. i was trying to figure out what was wrong with these people until the server explained what diplomatico is: chocolate mouse cake with chocolate shavings.  whew!  again, we didn't especially like the way the dish looked, but it was cool and refreshing.  be careful though, i think there was more espresso than chocolate.  the picture above is from italy in sf, who wasn't impressed with the dessert.  what do you think about the presentation?

the day after our dinner, i read that dopo is supposedly well known for their amazing pizza.  oops.  oh well, i'll put that on the list for next time.

if you go...
-be ready to wait or ask for 2 blankets.
-ask the host to describe the ciccioli.
-ask the server to help you choose a wine.
-order the carrots if they're on the menu.
-try not to look at the food before you take a bite.
-order a pizza.

4293 piedmont ave
(510) 652-3676

Sunday, April 26, 2009

very happy hour

i went to the farmer's market on saturday and ran into a friend.  he talked me into going to happy hour at easy lounge, down the street.  it was a beautiful day and i was intrigued by the farmer's market cocktails they serve.  they get fresh fruits and vegetables at the market and turn those into cocktails.  these drinks are $6 during happy hour (2-5pm, saturdays).

this was the menu when i was there:
-off with her head - fresh tangerine juice topped with proseco
-drink me - skyy vodka, triple sec, fresh carrot juice, fresh blood orange juice, served up
-whooo are yooou? - beefeater gin, fresh cucumber, ginger syrup, topped with soda and ginger ale

all 3 drinks were refreshing and tasty but my favorite was "drink me."  the carrot juice was sweetened slightly by the blood orange juice and it was garnished with a mint leaf.  i nibbled the leaf and then took a sip of the drink.  mmmmm....even better!  if i made the drink, i would try to incorporate the mint into the drink itself, not just as a garnish. 

i always see a long line of people waiting to buy kettle corn at the farmers market, but i've never tried it.  maybe it's all that smoke billowing out of the little tent that discourages me.  well easy also has complimentary glasses of kettle corn  for people to snack on.  it was soooo good!  the freshly popped corn was sprinkled with sugar and salt.  it surprised me because i wasn't expecting the sweetness.  i guess that means i'll have to stand in the long line to get more....or i can just go get a cocktail.  :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

pineapple upside down cake day

i woke up on monday morning and checked my twitterberry.  i'm following foodimentary, a one man operation run by john-bryan hopkins.  he sends out interesting quotes and facts about food several times a day.  according to him, april 20 was pineapple upside down cake day.  i've never heard of this day but i got a serious craving and ended up baking before work.

i used canned pineapple slices, like i did before, but it was kind of chewy this time.  one can is convenient because it has the right number of slices for 2 eight inch cakes.  when i first learned this technique, i started making all kinds of upside down cakes: peach, blueberry, apple.  i think next time i make pineapple upside down cake, i'm going to try fresh pineapple, not canned.

i adapted a recipe from my mom's old betty crocker's cookbook from 1988.  it's a basic 1-2-3 cake that's pretty good.  with the brown sugar glaze, it's very moist.  i'm still looking for recipe for a yellow cake that's moist, even without a glaze.  does anybody have a good recipe?  

3/4 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup pineapple juice
2 cups all purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs

heat oven to 350 degrees.  grease and flour 2 eight inch round cake pans.  in a small pan, melt the 3/4 stick of butter and brown sugar.  let cool slightly.  sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  in the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the 1/2 cup butter and sugar for a few minutes, until it's light yellow.  add the eggs, mixing after each one.  add vanilla.  add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix.  add 1/2 of the pineapple juice and mix.  continue until everything is mixed together.

spread brown sugar mixture in the bottom of the cake pans.  top with fruit.  spread cake batter on top.  bake for 35-40 minutes or until done.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

vegan soul kitchen

my full review of this cookbook is on cityflight.

when i get a new cookbook, i first turn to the dessert section.  although i'm very impressed that bryant managed to find a way to make a vegan chocolate pecan pie, i wasn't brave enough to try it.  please let me know if you do.  after reading through the dessert section, i started back to the beginning.  i turned down the corners of all the pages that looked interesting and narrowed it down to a manageable challenge.  

i tested 5 recipes from bryant terry's new cookbook for sunday dinner.
1. citrus collards with raisins redux
2. sauteed jalapeno corn
3. garlic broth-braised brussels sprouts
4. sweet sweetback's salad with roasted beet vinaigrette
5. california slurricane

i love to eat corn, brussels sprouts and beets but i've never cooked them before.  it took a few hours to cook everything but i enjoyed the process.  my friends (who are not vegan) were skeptical, but willing to participate in the taste test.  

my adaptations are in italics; for bryant's full recipes, buy his book!

citrus collards with raisins redux

course sea salt
2 large bunches collard greens, ribs removed, cut into a chiffonade, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest

in a large pot over high heat, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. add the collards and cook uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes until softened. meanwhile, prepare a lar
ge bowl of ice water to cool the collards.

remove the collards from the heat, drain, and plunge them into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking and set the color of the greens. drain by gently pressing the greens against a colander.
in a medium-size saute pan, combine the olive oil and the garlic and raise the heat to medium. saute for 1 minute. add the collards, raisins and 1/2 teaspoon salt. saute for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

add orange juice and zest and cook for an additional 15 seconds. do not overcook (collards should be bright green). season with additional salt to taste if needed and serve immediately.  i accidently added too much salt so i added some vegetable broth and let it cook out for 2 more minutes.

has anyone else ever put raisins in dark green vegetables before?  bryant terry says, "the defining ingredients, the ones that would perplex people when they heard the name of this dish, would be the thompson raisins and freshly squeezed orange juice."  i saw a tv chef put raisins in a broccoli dish a few years ago s
o i've been adding this touch of sweetness for a while now.  so i wasn't "perplexed" when i first saw this recipe.  it was good!  although the recipe only calls for orange juice, i a
lso added about a teaspoon of orange zest (like in the cookbook photo).

sauteed jalapeno corn

course sea salt
3 cups fresh sweet corn, from about 6 ears
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced
freshly ground black pepper

bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a medium pot over high heat and add 2 teaspoons of salt. add the corn, immediately remove from heat and let sit for 30 seconds. drain in a colander.

in a
 medium-size saute pan over medium heat, combine the olive oil, garlic, cumin and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and saute, stirring often until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
add the corn and jalapeno and cook, stirring
 frequently until thoroughly mixed, 3 to 5 minutes.
season with salt and pepper to taste.

now, i didn't start to like corn until last year.  whenever this vegetable appeared in my mom's kitchen, i avoided it like the plague.  i saw a demo online where bryant made this recipe.   it looked so delicious and easy, i had to 
make it.  

after shucking the corn, i tried to cut the corn off the cob like bryant did in the demo.  unsuccessfully.  there was more corn on the floor than on the plate!  i was about to get 
frustrated when i suddenly remembered a tip i read or heard somewhere (i think it actually might be rachael ray).  i put cob in the middle of an a
ngel food cake pan and tried to cut the corn off again.  this tim
e, the corn gently dropped into the pan.  

this dish was pretty easy and fast to put together.  smoky and earthy yet fresh and sweet. ...and spicy!

garlic broth-braised brussels sprouts

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed of 
stems and cut in half lengthwise
1 cup vegetable broth
coarse sea salt
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons minced fresh lemon thyme
black pepper

coat a large saute pan with the olive oil.  saute garlic for 1 minute.  the brussels sprouts, arranging them cut side down, making one snug layer.  turn the heat to medium-high and saute until the cit sides are lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
add the vegetable broth and 1 teaspoon salt.  bring to a boil and stir well.  immediately reduce the temperature to low, cover tightly and braise for 15 minutes.  add the white wine and the lemon thyme, stir well, cover, and braise 5 minutes more, until the brussels sprouts are meltingly tender. remove from heat season with additional salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

i had no idea brussels sprouts grew on a stalk like in the picture!  i wonder how it looks on the tree or bush.  instead of making garlic broth, i bought a box of vegetable broth.  i minced a cloves of garlic and sauteed them before adding the brussels sprouts.  also, i couldn't find thyme at the supermarket so i just used lemon thyme.  delicious!

sweet sweetback's salad with roasted beet vinaigrette
4 medium beets, scrubbed, tops trimmed, root tails left intact (i used a mixture of golden, red and striped beets)
course sea salt
4 tablespoons plus 6 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon agave nectar
black pepper
5 cups baby arugula

combine the beets, 3 quarts cold water and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium pot over high heat.  boil uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the beets are easily pierced with a knife.  drain.  peel the beets by holding them under cold running water and rubbing their skins off with your fingers or a clean towel.
preheat oven to 400 degrees.
trim the tails off the bottom of the beets.  reserve two of them for the vinaigrette and compost the others.  cut the beets into a 1/4 inch dice.  in a medium bowl, toss the diced beets with 4 teaspoons of the olive oil.  transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to ensure even cooking.  remove the beets from the oven, transfer them back into the bowl just used, and toss with 2 tablespooons of red wine vinegar.  return to the baking sheet and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  set them aside to cool.

in a blender, combine the reserved roasted beet tails with the remaining red wine vinegar, mustard agave nectar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.  blend while slowly pouring in 4 tablespoons of olive oil.  if needed, add more salt to taste.
place the arugula pieces in a large serving bowl, add the roasted beets on top.  immediately before serving, toss well with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat.

this recipe took a long time to make, but it was very tasty!  i was surprised at how easy the skins came off after they were boiled.

california slurricane
1 cup light rum
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup freshly squeezed navel orange juice
1 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons agave nectar

stir all the ingredients in a pitcher.  fill glasses with ice.  pour over ice.  

my only problem with this recipe is the song.  i have to say, i think bryant really didn't come through with this one....probably because he's only been living in oakland for a little while.  i'm not from the town, but i must have a few more years on him....this was a no brainer for me.  listen to the song i played while i was making this drink and tell me it's not perfect.  :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

deviled eggs

like a lot of kids, i used to dye eggs for easter when i was little.  after the easter egg hunt, it was always my job to make deviled eggs.  

i found myself wondering where the name came from, and what different recipes are out there.  after a little research, i found some answers. i guess heavily seasoned foods were called "deviled" in england.  if that's the case, most of what my family cooks would be deviled. "traditional" deviled eggs usually have mayonnaise and vinegar.  what i make is called "southern" deviled eggs.  my family is from the south but from my point of view, our recipe is traditional.

now i use the word "recipe" very loosely.  my family doesn't measure with teaspoons and cups.  we measure by sight, smell and taste.  so that means, it's next to impossible for me to give a detailed recipe for our deviled eggs.  the way to learn one of my mom's "recipes" is to actually make the dish with her.  she explains all the steps and shows me what to look for.  we taste the dish constantly and add different ingredients as necessary.  

i started cooking at a young age.  the first time i made this recipe, i might have been 5 years old.  it's actually very easy.  all you do is mix everything up and taste.  if it needs more mustard, add a couple squirts.  mix again.  taste.  if it needs more pepper, grind a little over the bowl and mix again.  proceed like that until you're satisfied with the filling.  

i know it would have been easier for you if i measured everything, but i made it the way i always do it.  if anyone wants to really learn my recipe, we'll have to spend time in the kitchen together.

deviled eggs
you can make as many deviled eggs as you want to.  the beauty of this recipe is, you can modify it for any situation.
hard boiled eggs

slice the eggs in half lengthwise.  take out the yolks and mash with a fork in a bowl.  mix with mayonnaise, mustard, relish and pepper.  taste and add whatever  is missing.  repeat as much as necessary.  put a small spoonful in each egg white half.  sprinkle with paprika.

Monday, April 13, 2009

chicago dog

chicago may be well known for its deep-dish pizza, but there are more hot dog stands than wendy's, mcdonald's and burger kings combined

before my trip, i did some research on chicago hot dogs.  traditional dogs are made with the following ingredients: pickle spear, yellow mustard, sport peppers, relish, diced onions, fresh tomatoes, hot dog, steamed poppy seed bun.  chicagoans are very serious about their hot dogs and say that real hot dog stands don't use ketchup and some even laugh at you if you ask for it.

after all the research i did, we ended up running out of time and we ended up stopping by maxwell's on the way to midway airport.  this is the hot dog i had on the plane.  i'm not proud to say the sport peppers were too hot for me.  after taking those off, i thouroughly enjoyed my first chicago hot dog.  but i'm going to have to try a few more to understand this creation.  i don't necessarily want to eat the most famous, just the most delicious.  does anybody have a suggestion?  where can i get the best hot dog in chicago?

Thursday, April 9, 2009


someone told me medjool means "date" in arabic. a friend and i went to medjool on a friday night.  i had heard a lot of good things about this restaurant.  my first thought when i walked in the swanky dining room was "this would be a great place for a date."

the small plates menu is arranged geographically: middle eastern, north african and european. we started off with drinks: a pear cocktail for my friend and a pomegranate margarita for me.  i was happy with my tart drink and she said hers tasted like a pear jelly bean: her favorite flavor.  after placing our order with the friendly server, someone brought over crispy pita chips, tangy hummus and sweet olives.  

the roasted beet salad (middle eastern) arrived at our table first; it was absolutely gorgeous.   Red and golden beets were thinly sliced and dressed with the cara cara orange vinaigrette.  we recognized halloumi cheese as the one that can be cooked without melting.  the medjool kitchen seared thin slices of halloumi until golden brown.  a festive chiffinade of mint completed the plate and made me smile.  this salad was an excellent example of how the sum is greater than its parts.  if we tasted a couple ingredients together, the salad was refreshing.  it wasn't until i took the time to put EACH component on my fork (beet, orange, tiny piece of cheese, mint) when i understood the dish.  the ingredients played off each other to make a complete taste experience: sweet, salty and fresh.  what a way to start a meal! we were more than ready for the next dishes to arrive.

we were served the braised short rib (north african) next.  the sauce was cinnamon sauce with medjool dates was dark, thick, sweet and savory.  it was delicious!  unfortunately, when we got to the inside of the meat, there wasn't much flavor.  a couple mini twice baked potatoes were cute and creamy, but flavorless.  we found ourselves looking for a salt shaker.  both the lobster ravioli and the fish needed salt as well. they were ok, but lacking in flavor and imagination.  

"excuuuse meee!" my friend had to track somebody down to order a glass of wine that arriveda few minutes later without a  stem and the medjool logo. impressive.  ok medjool...go on with your custom wine glasses.  the friendly server that took our order in the beginning was nowhere to be found after we started eating.  several different runners brought our plates as they were ready, but nobody checked on us.  instead we had to flag people down every time we needed something: a glass of wine, the dessert menu, the check. 

for dessert, we decided to try the carrot cake with citrus frosting and golden raisin compote.  unfortunately, the menu didn't mention the snow storm of walnuts that landed on top of the cake.  by the way, i don't like walnuts.  after maneuvering my fork past the nuts, i noticed the moist cake was iced with cream cheese frosting, not the citrus as promised.  it took a few minutes of searching to find the compote between the layers of cake.  i couldn't get past all those nuts so i flagged somebody down again to order the ginger cake with orange caramel sauce instead.  This time, the warm cake was served with a lukewarm apple, golden raisin sauce - no orange caramel sauce - and ice cream.  i started to wonder if any other customers noticed the inaccurate dessert menu.  the ginger cake was just ok, but i ate the whole thing because i was still hungry. after paying $50 for my portion of the meal, i didn't want to have to eat again later.

i love looking at restaurant pictures on other food blogs but  i couldn't bring myself to mess up the sexy vibe with a flash.  i'm working on an idea that will let me share my experience more without having to take pictures.  by the way, the medjool logo above is from their website. 

if you go...
-bring a date.
-order a drink.
-try the roasted beet salad.
-ask for a salt shaker.
-don't expect attentive service.
-ask for detailed description of desserts.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

sunday dinner

i recently started making sunday dinner for my close friends. i decided to start the tradition when i realized how nice it iss to get everyone together in one place and check in with each other (i go to another friend's house when she cooks on wednesday nights - more on that later).  

food is the perfect vehicle. 

family dinner is casual and fun. life can get crazy busy, we have to remember to keep in touch with people we care about.

this week, i decided to make chicken and shrimp fajitas. i'm going to attempt to write a recipe from memory, but please only use it as a guide. the recipe is for chicken but you can adapt it for any type of meat. you can also make this a vegetarian dish by leaving the meat out. i created this recipe a couple years ago and it is now part of my rotation. it's fast and easy and fresh - perfect for a weeknight dinner. once, i also made fresh pineapple salsa to go on top.

chicken fajitas (from memory)
1 pound chicken tenders
onion powder
garlic powder
olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 orange bell peper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1/4 - 1/2 cup chicken broth or water
flour tortillas
sour cream
1 lime, quartered

season the chicken with onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large pan and place chicken in pan. flip chicken after a few minutes, making sure both sides are golden brown. take the chicken out and let rest on cutting board. drizzle a little more olive oil in the pan and throw in the onion to give it a head start. next, add the peppers and stir occasionally for about 15 minutes or until carmalized. after the chicken has rested and cooled, slice into strips (like the veggies). it's ok if the inside isn't cooked through because you're going to put the chicken back in the pan with the veggies. pour the chicken broth or water over everything. after the water comes to a boil, cover and turn down the heat to low. simmer for a couple minutes, until chicken is cooked through. heat up the tortillas for a few seconds in the microwave. serve fajitas with salsa, sour cream, cheese and lime.

Friday, April 3, 2009

does bacon make everything better?

have you seen iron chef america on food network? iron cupcake is a meetup group where people in the bay area participate in a monthly bake off with a "secret ingredient." this month's ingredient is breakfast so i decided to make my "banana pancakes cupcakes" again.

i first made this cupcake for my friend's birthday in august. i used a banana cupcake recipe from everyday magazine but made mini cupcakes instead of standard size. i topped them with 3 different frostings: cream cheese, strawberry and maple. there wasn't a clear winner with my friends but my favorite was the maple. 

iron cupcake was fun. it was nice to meet other people that like to bake and experiment.  everyone sets out their cupcakes and we get one of each. this is my plate. there was a savory "cupcake" this time. it was a crepe with a mushroom and herb mixture rolled up. the "frosting" was creme fresh and chives sprinkled on top. very cute and tasty but if i was a judge, i think i might disqualify it because it's not technically a cupcake. there was a brown sugar cupcake with a waffle on top, very cute. french toast, waffles, pancakes, latte...and bacon. some were tastier than others...most were very cute. i went through the 13 cupcakes, filling out the little score card at a steady pace. when i got to #7 my whole system fell apart. 

this cupcake had an apple filling (which i didn't understand at first), maple frosting and homemade bacon bits on top. this cupcake made me close my eyes and "mmmmmmm" escaped from the back of my throat. the apple paired nicely because the bacon was apple wood cured. i've heard of bacon in cupcakes before and i thought it might work...but this really exceeded my expectations. i was very happy when this cupcake won first place.

it got me thinking about other bacon sweet treats i've heard about recently: maple bacon doughnut, maple bacon lollipops, bacon chocolate bar, maple bacon snickerdoodles. i like bacon but i'm wondering if have people have gone too far. does bacon really make everything better?