January 15, 2011

San Diego Foodie Tourism

I went to San Diego for a few days for a liberry conference. It felt like a loooonnnngg trip since I didn't have my best liberry foodie buddies with me. I passed the downtime scoping out restaurants. I feel like I hit every eatery within walking distance, and some that weren't. How else would I spend my time? Reading books?

Some of the highlights:

  • Breakfast is served.

  • Cafe 222 The Mission at SoMa

    Peanut Butter and Banana Stuffed French Toast at Cafe 222. How could that be bad? I've since been on a peanut butter + banana bender, eating sandwiches made with that combination every day for lunch. Truthfully, when I tried this I thought what would make it even better would be to mix peanut butter with with some cream cheese, and go heavier on the peanut butter filling. I intend to test this hypothesis soon. At The Mission, I ate Chicken apple sausage, with crispy rosemary potatoes, grilled rosemary bread, and eggs. I do love rosemary!

  • Eating my own weight in seafood.

  • Taka Sushi
    Fish Market Fish Market

    I heard Ted Danson speak at the conference. He was there to plug his book about saving the world's oceans. The main things I remember about that were that he said "literally" in every other sentence and that he said not to eat swordfish or tuna or other things I probably want to eat. So immediately following his session, I ate the best sushi roll I've ever tasted at Taka Sushi, that said with the caveat that I haven't eaten that much sushi, but I do like it. The special battera roll has fresh tuna, shrimp, crab, seaweed, rice, and orange caviar, then it's topped with black caviar and green onion. I went to The Fish Market the night before, where a friend and I tried Mesquite-grilled Ginger Lime Prawns with Cilantro Sauce, Swordfish with Roasted Vegetables and Parsley Potatoes, and Seabass with Roasted Vegetables and Cole Slaw. Take that, Ted Danson.

  • Mashed Potatoes on Pizza?!?

  • Basic Pizza San Diego
    At Basic Pizza, they serve New Haven-style pizza, whatever that means. I understand the difference between Chicago and New York-style, but beyond that, I probably couldn't tell the difference. I opted to try the White Pie with Mozzarella, Mashed Potato, and Bacon. That's right, mashed potatoes. The pizza was heavier on grease and salt than taste. Nice place, tho.

  • Old Town San Diego Mexican Food

  • Casa Guadalajara
    Casa Guadalajara
    I went to Casa Guadalajara in Old Town, which had some remarkable fish tacos. I also tried Carne Asada Tacos with Chile Colorado Sauce, because I'm a glutton. I think the waiter even felt it was his conscientious duty to tell me that I ordered too much food for one person, but I proceeded anyway. Hey, I made two meals out of it. I also got horchata and they had some chips and salsa to munch on that were very good. I also thought the pictures I took here were some of the prettiest food pictures I've ever taken. They kind of put my point and shoot camera pics above to shame.

    The desserts I tried will get a separate post. You didn't think I'd skip dessert, did you?

    January 14, 2011

    Gnocchi a la Parisienne for Two

    Gnocchi. A word that's hard to spell or pronounce correctly. And if you asked me, hard to make at home correctly, too.

    I recently started dating someone new, and I usually worry about how long I need to date someone before revealing the full brunt of my cooking and food obsessions. First dates usually consist of me interviewing the guy about food tastes and preferences, favorite restaurants, food allergies, etc. Maybe I'm the only person who sees picky eating habits as a bigger barrier than old relationship baggage, divergent political views, or whatever the deal breakers are these days.

    I wondered how I was going to explain why I was spending a couple of hours on a weeknight after a long day at work on a random recipe to New Guy, who probably had never eaten or even heard of gnocchi. I invited him over for dinner, but I didn't get home until 7:30, then I needed to clean the kitchen workspace, and do some prep for the recipe.

    Me: Are you okay with a really late dinner? Or should I make you something quick?
    Him: Dinner won't be at 10 o'clock, will it?
    Me: Uh, hem, hah, stammer...

    Plus dinner was gnocchi, but he didn't complain. I used Dorie's recipe, which is incredibly similar to pâte à choux. Surprisingly there are no potatoes in this gnocchi. You boil the gnocchi, then top it with a bechamel sauce and cheese and bake it.

    I didn't have great luck with this recipe. My bechamel was too thick; my gnocchi were crazy shapes and sizes. I blame New Guy for distracting me. (Sappy!) I even forgot to season the bechamel with salt, pepper, and nutmeg before putting it in the dish. Luckily, New Guy is super helpful in the kitchen. He stirred the bechamel and grated cheese for me.

    Gnocchi a la Parisienne

    I scaled the recipe for 6 down to make it for 2 people instead. And guess what time dinner was served? 10 o'clock.

    Gnocchi a la Parisienne Gnocchi a la Parisienne

    This recipe got some mixed reviews from us. The bechamel was never quite right, even after baking. The dish as a whole felt really heavy. Come on, it's eggs, milk, and cheese! But I think with some added herbs, maybe vegetables, it could shine more.

    Moral of the story: even if your recipe's not a winner, eat dinner with one.

    January 7, 2011

    French Fridays Paris Mushroom Soup

    Paris Mushroom Soup

    Today's French Fridays with Dorie recipe was the Paris Mushroom Soup. With a base of 1 1/2 large onions and 1 1/2 pounds of white mushrooms, you might have a few picky eaters that bow out of tasting this soup, but I really enjoyed it.

    The hardest part for me was chopping the onions, simply because I'm very sensitive to them and they make my eyes tear up and swell shut. Pretty attractive!

    I used an immersion blender to purée the soup in the cooking pot, so that I didn't have to deal with moving hot soup to and from a blender. That went a long way towards making this an easy recipe.

    I did make a couple of substitutions. One of my perennial New Year's resolutions is not to waste food. Once again this year, I vow to be better at using ingredients I have on hand and not let things get pushed to the back of the fridge to spoil. For that reason, I didn't buy rosemary, chives, or crème fraiche for this recipe. I subbed a bit of dried thyme for the rosemary and some sour cream for the crème fraiche. I also would have preferred to use all chicken broth in the soup, but I was caught in a pinch and had to use 1/3 broth and 2/3 water. Fortunately, Dorie's recipes always seem to handle spontaneous substitutions well.

    Everyone that tried this soup liked it... I only had one conscientious objector abstain on the grounds that he doesn't eat "rabbit food." Next time, I'll serve it with a beef tenderloin and see if that wins him over.