A few months ago we went to Maui for a few days. Sam and I have never been to Hawaii, and before moving to California we never really had a desire to. There were (are) so many other places in the world we’d love to wander. But, there were so many friends here who told us it was worth the short skip and jump to the islands. And, we were pleasantly surprised. Despite not being island-y, beach-y, sand-y people, we had a ball. We also pretended to relax on the beach a bit too. Breakfast buffet at Ka’ana Kitchen. Not pictured: a plate of smoked salmon, cream cheese, and capers with bread. On our way to Pipiwai Trail…To see the magical bamboo forest…and Waimoku Falls.A quick stop to Pa’iola black sand beach before heading home… On our way to home we stuffed ourselves at Da Kitchen Cafe. Potato mac salad and deep fried Spam musubi. Notorious B.I.G. Loco Moco with hamburger, egg, chili, portuguese sausage, spam, bacon, cheese, onions, and mushrooms over rice. Their burger special and direct line to Sam’s heart – kimchi teriyaki burger with special sauce. This is all Sam wanted to eat for the rest of the trip. After a morning on the beach, we ate nearby at Cafe O’Lei, before heading up Haleakala Crater. Spicy blackened mahi mahi with papaya salsa; sweet maui onion soup; cheddar bacon avocado burger; mango papaya crab cakes. Before we left for the summit, we decided to have a second late lunch at Eskimo Candy Seafood Market & Deli, just in case we got hungry later. They’re known for their variety of poke – I couldn’t get enough!Fish and chips – all their seafood was freshly caught that morning. During our few hours on Haleakala we saw rain clouds, rainbows, a breathtaking sunset, and millions of stars. The next day we went snorkeling at Black Rock on Lahaina Beach. I forgot my camera, but thankfully I was able to snap this beauty with my iPhone. We also ate at an underwhelming touristy restaurant in Old Lahaina Town for brunch. For dinner however…Star Noodle. I couldn’t get over how fresh the sashimi was in Maui. This poke with avocado was melt-in-your mouth incredible.Pork belly buns. Not as good as Momfuku’s, but still very tasty. Hapa Ramen: Pork Broth, Roast Pork, Poached Egg, Choi Sum, Kamaboko, Bamboo Shoots, Mayu, Spicy Aka Miso.Malasadas with chocolate and butterscotch caramel sauces. Our last day was filled with eating. We started the morning as we did each day, with a fresh mango, pineapple, guava, and strawberry smoothie on the beach. Then, off to the famous Geste Shrimp Truck. I opted for no rice and double crab mac salad. This was really incredible. Immediately after shrimp we had our second lunch at Da Kitchen again. These braised shortribs with kimchi slaw was spectacular! My mouth is watering as I’m looking at this photo. Kimichi crabcake and mac salad. I was obsessed with Hawaii’s mac salads.And of course Sam wanted his beef teriyaki kimchi burger. It was definitely good enough to order again.We spent the afternoon indoors due to the rain and waited for the time to pass so we can eat dinner at Mama’s Fish House. We were not even slightly hungry, but we rallied and brought our A game. For starters, lobster guacamole with house made sweet potato and taro crisps.Three Fish Sashimi: Ono with calamansi citrus and Molokai pink sea salt; Ahi with ponzu, red shiso and Kukui nut salt; Onaga with charred pineapple, pomegranate and Hawaii Island black sea salt. Mahi mahi stuffed with lobster and crab, baked in a macadamia nut crust.And Liliko’i Crème Brûlée, a perfect way to end our stay in Maui. Aloha!
It’s been a while. This leisurely Saturday morning I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich – black mission figs roasted in balsamic vinegar, applewood smoked bacon, and brie between rustic slices of whole wheat levain – grilled in bacon fat on a cast iron skillet. It was delicious. I’ve been eating well but a bit lazy about sharing these transcendent experiences that come in the form of a simple meal. In the past several months, I’ve traveled a few times to spend time with family. On our way to Palm Springs to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday, we made sure to make a pit-stop in LA, especially Koreatown. Our first meal upon arrival, Kang Hodong Baekjeong for Korean BBQ. I imagine that pretty much any random Korean BBQ place in Koreantown will be great, and Kang Hodong Baekjeong was no exception. The steamed eggs and corn and cheese was a novel and very Korean addition to classic BBQ.Even the stews and sides were spectacular. Eating Korean food in LA made us angry. We’ve eaten Korean in LA countless times when Sam was living in Southern California, but it had been at least a few years. I just cannot understand why the Korean food in Southern California is so far superior than in Northern California. LA’s Grand Central Market. We only had a couple days in LA, so we had to make each meal count. For breakfast, a ridiculously simple and ridiculously delicious sandwich from eggslut: hardwood smoked bacon, over medium egg, cheddar cheese and chipotle ketchup in a warm portuguese bun. Some green juice to balance the meat and carbs we planned on eating that day. Because we started the day a bit late, lunch was pretty much immediately after breakfast. For the past 5 years, we have tried to find a lomo saltado that even came close to Mario’s in Hollywood. Honestly, it wasn’t quite as mind-blowing as we remembered, but it’s still the best lomo saltado we’ve ever had. Though we’ve got so much love for Daikokuya and Orochon, we opted to try Silverlake Ramen for the first time with some old friends who lived in the area. And this dish, spicy tuna on crispy rice, made the trip worthwhile. And, my ramen go-to, spicy tonkotsu. After having experienced southern California for a few years, Sam and I have become those northern Californians who consider the north side the best side. LA is so sprawling and huge, but I must admit, there are pockets of beautiful things throughout this huge city. Including…Korean pork ribs…and Korean pork neck soup at Ham Ji Park in Koreatown. This was our last meal before heading to Palm Springs.My anger burns as brightly as this spicy squid with noodles. Why, San Francisco, do you pale in comparison? In Palm Springs, the whole family stayed at a house with a beautiful salt water pool and spa, and most days we ate in. I failed to take photos of the Korean short ribs, pork ribs, and other delicious things we made.We visited Joshua Tree National Park. It was gorgeous, and the first time in Sam’s parents’ 70+ years of life they saw flora quite like what we saw in Joshua Tree. I went to ATL to surprise my cousin Janet with our two best friends. We were each coming from all different corners of the country, all to keep her company shortly after she gave birth to her second baby boy, Jonah. Also, to totally freak her out and give her a heart attack, which we successfully accomplished. We took zero photos together. None of us particularly like photos, so nobody remembered or cared. It was for the best, each day we only left to pick up carry out in our pajamas. Showering was optional.
There are a lot of Koreans in the Atlanta area. Where there are Koreans, there is good Korean food. Our first meal was Dan Moo Ji, where they serve Korean comfort food in the form of kimbap filled with stuff like tuna, friend chicken, and kimchi. Also, shown above is this amazing kimchi fried rice with roe, served with corn and cheese. This is bibim-mandu: fried dumplings with cabbage, bean sprouts, and spicy sauce. I’m pretty sure we also ordered ddukboki (spicy rice cakes), but I neglected to take photos. I also forgot to take photos of these huge dumplings from Mega Mart that were spectacular and a hot pot place with an unparalleled sauce bar, Mini Hot Pot 2. I did not, however, fail to photograph my favorite meal in Atlanta, Chai Pani, where they serve Indian street food. Every single dish was a taste explosion. This dish was one of those transcendent moments in life where I eat something delicious I never had the privilege of tasting before – sev potato dahi puri (SPDP). Savory puffed flour crisps (puris) stuffed with potatoes, onions, cilantro & crunchy chickpea noodles (sev), drizzled with sweet yogurt, tamarind & green chutneys.
Mixed vegetable Uttapam – savory crepes made from rice & lentil batter topped with carrots, peas, onion, cilantro, ginger & chillies. Served with sambar & coconut chutney.Kale pakoras – Indian style savory kale fritters made with curried chickpea batter. Served with green chutney & sweet yogurt.Sloppy Jai (Kheema Pav) – spicy lamb hash simmered with tomatoes, ginger and aromatic spices. Garnished with onions & cilantro, green chutney, sweet yogurt and served on two toasted buns.Samosa chaat – samosa served on spicy garbanzo bean stew with sev (crunchy chickpea noodles), onions, cilantro, topped with tamarind & green chutneys and sweetened yogurt. Every single dish blew my mind.Since this would be my last meal before heading back to SF, we did the obvious – ate two lunches. After Chai Pani, we had pizza for dessert at Antico Pizza. As you can see, it was totally worth it. Besides, there’s always room for pizza. Always. I couldn’t get over how much cheaper and larger the restaurants in Atlanta were compared to SF. No waiting, plenty of seating, and affordable unpretentious food. And for our second dessert, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream near Star Provisions where I got a perfectly simple prosciutto and butter sandwich on a baguette for the flight home. Also, I’m a sucker for lavender in my ice cream. Around Christmas last year, I went back home to Detroit for my cousin’s wedding. When in Detroit, you have to eat Middle-Eastern food. My cousin took my sister and I to this wonderful chicken shawarma joint, Bucharest. We also had the Hamtramck gourmet hot dog with kielbasa, braised red cabbage, bacon, and spicy mustard; falafel with hummus; and sliders. Next stop, Great Lakes Coffee. Our family cannot live without coffee, and we have some serious coffee game. A couple current and former baristas, and probably at least six different ways to brew coffee among the Yo clan. We also ate Detroit-style pizza multiple times. I was obsessed with Buddy’s and couldn’t get enough. Michigan in the winter is stark, cold, tough, and beautiful. Ending where we began… home is where the Korean food is.
According to some random real estate site, Bernal Heights is the hottest neighborhood in America. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I really do love my neighborhood. Though there’s a lot more to Bernal Heights than food, this post will mainly be a bunch of photos of some of the delicious places near our new home. And, this will not be the last post featuring Bernal Heights eats. There’s a semi-permanent pop-up restaurant at 903 Cortland Ave. When we first moved in, it was mostly a Japanese-Vietnamese fusion deli. At some point it was the beginnings of Sandbox Bakery (which I will be sure to dedicate to another post), and now it’s more permanently housing a fancy farm-to-table new-American placed called Kinfolk. Sadly, we only had one opportunity to eat 903’s solid tonkatsu and spicy miso ramen.Sam and I have had our fair share of disappointing ramen, so we approached 903 with skepticism. We were more than pleasantly surprised. Since moving to California, tacos are my new pizza. (I still got all the love for pizza as you’ll see below). I am always in the mood for tacos – for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and late night snack. Now that I have Tacos Los Altos one block away, I can eat tacos anytime. I’m a sucker for chorizo and I always want cheese, sour cream, and guac; my inner fat kid wouldn’t have it any other way. This chorizo egg scramble with potatoes is exactly the type of breakfast Sam loves – sausage, scrambled eggs, potatoes. When I saw it on the menu, I correctly predicted this is what he would order. Now, Tacos Los Altos isn’t the best tacos in the area, a couple places in the Mission are much better, but the convenience+quality equation satisfies me just fine. Of course one of the best perks of living in Bernal Heights is easy access to Bernal Hill – my personal favorite view of the city. Meg loves it too. When I wasn’t working, I pretty much went up there every day for Meg’s walk. The red rocks, passing fog and dozens of dogs make this place feel like another world. A solid Italian place that’s authentic, welcoming, and not too expensive for no real reason is a rare gem. Though Vega is known for their pizzas, its the pastas that shined. broccoli rabe, italian sausage, pecorino romano, mozzarella.homemade tomato sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto, artichoke, mushrooms, egg. Pappardelle al Ragu: Handmade pappardelle with slow cooked ragu made with grass-fed beef, Berkshire pork and Superior Farms lamb, topped w/ Parmigiano Reggiano. Rigatoni al Forno: Baked Rigatoni w/ mozzarella, parmigiano, basil, in tomato sauce.Gnocchi alla Boscaiola: Homemade gnocchi w/ mushrooms, Italian sausage, parmigiano and a touch of white truffle oil. This dish was spectacular. After a long day, this is a great dish to order to go and devour at home while wearing sweatpants. What about brunch, you say? Bernal’s got that covered. We’ve been to Liberty Cafe a few times, a neighborhood staple, with mixed experiences. They do have a solid few dishes though that are worth coming back for, including the house-made corned beef hash. Their dinner menu looks appetizing, but we’ve yet to try. Here’s Sam again with a bacon, chorizo, sausage scramble with roasted potatoes (also delicious – how could it not be?). And, beignets. I really liked these; though they were more like traditional doughnuts than beignets. Regardless, I haven’t met a fried dough I did not like. And, one of my favorite brunch places, The Front Porch is a 10 minute walk away. They serve Southern home cooking. This here is the best grits I’ve ever had (even better than grits I’ve had in Savannah, GA), made with wild gulf shrimp, garlic, shallots, poached egg & andouille sausage red eye gravy. I strongly encouraged/bullied Sam into ordering the chicken fried steak. I remember fondly and embarrassingly on my elementary school years when I looked forward to chicken fried steak days on my school lunch calendar. At the time I didn’t realize other kids thought it was gross (only pizza and chicken tenders were acceptable hot lunch dishes), because to a chubby immigrant kid gravy and fried meat was/is freaking delicious. And, of course, beignets again. There are quite a few more placed we’ve tried in our ‘hood, but I didn’t want to bombard you with too much in one post. After exactly one year in San Francisco, I’m still quite smitten. ❤
This Thanksgiving was my first away from home in the big mitten. Several families from church invited us over to their homes; it was nice to know we weren’t going to be orphans this Thanksgiving. We went to a home that has a holiday tradition of unseemly amounts dungeness crab and lobster, because ’tis the season. I’ve never eaten so much and such delicious shellfish in my life. One huge dungeness crab per person plus lobsters. I used to think the only reason I enjoyed crab and lobster was because I loved butter. Like bagels (only ones that are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside) are a medium for cream cheese, claw chunks and leg meat are a salty vehicle for liquid gold — clarified butter. But, I don’t think I’ve ever had really good lobster or dungeness crab. And, now I have. I made a couple vegetable sides because I recently acquired porchetta fat from my my new local butcher, Avedano’s Meats. I made crispy roasted potatoes with rosemary and truffle salt. And, Brussels sprouts roasted in porchetta fat with crispy shallots, pancetta, and pomegranate seeds. I was in the mood to make a seasonal dessert, so I turned to my trusty friend Deb Perelman. This is a hard to mess-up buttery and tart sweet treat. I used Meyer lemons instead of oranges because it’s what I had at home.
Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices (from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, plus more at room temperature for the pan
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
- 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
- 3 cups fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, and butter the sides and the parchment. In a large, widish bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and spices. With a pastry blender or fork, work the chilled butter and the egg into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pat half the crumb base into the bottom of your prepared pan; it will be thin.
In the bowl of a food processor or blender, briefly pulse the filling ingredients until the berries are coarsely chopped but not pureed. Spread the filling over the crumb base. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs evenly over the cranberry mixture.
Bake cookies for 30 to 35 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Cool completely before cutting into squares.
And, our friend, who like me doesn’t care for baking, successfully executed a gorgeous and delicious Magic Chocolate Flan Cake. Perhaps next year I’ll bring some of these dishes back home to Michigan…
I’ve been getting a little homesick lately with the holiday season, no real change in seasons here in SF, and my binge watching of Parenthood. Sam and I went on an impromptu trip to Vancouver to visit the in-laws and his newborn niece Karis – they share the same birthday! Though there’s no place like Michigan, Canada is a nice home away from home. Sam’s parents live in a prayer house on a farm in Surrey, BC. On the farm, Sam’s parents grow a variety of vegetables they use to make 반찬 (banchan – Korean side dishes) for the family, including 김치 (kimchi) from scratch. Our first meal was dumpling and rice cake soup. Here’s Sam’s dad finishing up the fall harvest and preparing the field for the next harvest. We were minimally useful by picking the last of the acorn squash before the nightly frost got to it first. Sam’s mom made sure to make Sam’s favorite meal – Korean pork ribs. She taught me how to make these this summer when they visited San Francisco. Sam’s dad loves oxtail soup and Sam’s mom cooks it regularly, and we benefit. Sadly, I forgot to photograph Sam’s mom’s spectacular and abundant 갈비 (kalbi – Korean beef short ribs) on our last night in Canada.
Our short trip was focused on spending time with family, but we briefly rendezvoused at one of our favorite restaurants in Vancouver, Kingyo Izakaya. First, super slow stewed ultra tender pork belly, served with “onsen tamago” poached egg, and dijon mustard Japanese mayo. Then, to balance the rich fatty goodness, ahi tuna and avocado carpaccio with wasabi-mayo and soy dressing. Deep fried chicken Kara-age with three types of salt. Kanazawa curry with cabbage and pickled onion. This curry was sweeter and had a deeper flavor than the Japanese curry I’m used to. Salted caramel tiramisu. Delicate and lightly sweet, as Asian desserts should be. And for our second dessert, classic POUTINE from Mean Poutine with fries, gravy, cheese curd, and green onion. It’s hard to stay homesick when you’ve got little rascals, whether newborn or nine, like this one, filling your days. Goodbye Vancouver, we’ll be back soon.
It was Sam’s birthday recently, and we ate burgers for 5 consecutive meals, including a free burger at Red Robin. Sam loves burgers. In our several months in San Francisco, we have had our fair share… but we’ve only just begun. From the top:
Rickbobby’s: Beef and Bacon Burger – beef & bacon ground together, american cheese, house mayo, ketchup, onion and pickles on the side. The photo I captured was of the burger almost entirely consumed.
NOPA: grass-fed beef burger. grilled. no frills. cheese and bacon optional. housemade brioche. very. very. good.
Mission Beach Cafe: prather ranch beach burger with caramelized onions, winchester gouda, mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, and garlic aioli. MBC is a solid brunch place with a solid burger.
Umami Burger: truffle burger – house truffle cheese, truffle glaze, and garlic aioli. the house burger – parmesan crisp, shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, and housemade ketchup. Umami burgers are good, but for the size (small) and the price (big) the taste didn’t wow us enough to keep us coming back.
Super Duper Burger: Super Duper Burger is a fast food burger at its finest (well, In-N-Out and Shake Shack are better). The two 4 oz beef patties come crusty on the outside and pink on the side with a wide range of burger fixings to your liking including blue cheese and bacon, my preferred burger toppings.
Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers: Another slow fastfood place like Super Duper, Pearl’s offers a solid burger with a variety of meats including kobe and buffalo burgers. It’s a good burger, but not particularly memorable.
Griddle Fresh: I previous blogged about Griddle Fresh as a great place to have pancakes. We have since discovered they also make a mean burger. Our first foray into Griddle Fresh burgers was actually at their sister restaurant Mymy Coffee Shop – also Korean-owned if it wasn’t obvious from the restaurant’s name. We got the Ultimate Roasty Burger: grass-fed beef, roasted bell peppers, pesto, gruyere, roma tomatoes, greens, and garlic aioli and the Big Papa Burger: grass-fed beef, salty onion strings, roasted jalapeños, bacon, cheddar, and chipotle aioli; both with a sweet and soft pan de mie bun.
We ate at Marlowe for Sam’s actual birthday, specifically to try Chef Jennifer Puccio’s famous burgers. The beef-lamb (80/20) burger is topped with caramelized onions, cheddar, bacon, and horseradish aioli. We started with the deviled eggs with aged provolone, bacon, and pickled jalapeños, and crispy brussels sprout chips with lemon and sea salt. All decadent; all delicious. My main course was the New York steak frite with red wine and porcini au jus. I got the smokey baked cauliflower topped with bubbling provolone and smoked cheddar as my side. And for the birthday dessert, an unassuming upside down strawberry crisp with bourbon ice cream & brown butter caramel sauce that blew our minds. We aren’t even dessert people. It tasted and felt like an ice cream-cheesecake hybrid. Prather Ranch’s burgers were climbing to the top of our best burger list. Prather Ranch Meat Co. is a meat shop with several locations and their Eatery is located in the Ferry Building. Each of their burgers are 6 oz dry aged beef, cooked medium on an Acme sesame roll. Served with farmers lettuce, shaved red onion, special sauce & a dill pickle spear. I ordered the Roasted Garlic Burger: with roasted garlic & maple bacon mayonnaise, sharp cheddar cheese, grilled onion, and wild arugula… with a fried egg on top. Sam got the Range Burger: with cheddar & american cheese, maple bacon, crispy onion rings, and BBQ sauce. During another visit we also tried their sausages with the Chuck Wagon Chili Dog: all beef hot dog with chuck wagon chili, sour cream, scallions & cheddar. Everything was spectacular. Even still… of all the burgers consumed, our favorite burger thus far in San Francisco:
ROAM. We’ve had their Sunnyside burger, Heritage, French and Fries, and Pacific Blue — so about half their burger menu. And every single burger was phenomenal. The quality of the meat, the deliciousness of their toppings, and price point all come together to make Roam our favorite burger joint in SF… thus far. Delicious shakes like Blue Bottle Coffee topped bruleed marshmallows, as pictured above, doesn’t hurt.And, the Fry-Fecta – russet fries, sweet potato fries, and zucchini & onion strings all in one bowl of fried goodness.
I’m looking forward to amending this post with more SF burgers to come…
The best pancakes of my life were made by the hands of a Korean couple who recently opened a brunch place in Noe Valley – Griddle Fresh. Above is their banana-mascarpone souffle pancakes with vanilla curd, fired bananas, and candied walnuts. I imagine heaven tastes like these pancakes. I don’t even particularly like pancakes, but I do like delicious. Sam and I like to spend our Monday mornings exploring popular brunch places without the usual Saturday lines. Now, I want to go to Griddle Fresh every time.
The lemon-ricotta souffle pancakes with macerated strawberry coulis were equally delicious. These tasted brighter and lighter than the banana-mascarpone pancakes, which were proudly decadent. I’ll let the rest of the menu speak for itself. Somehow, knowing Koreans made these dishes made me brim with pride and adoration.Tex-Mex Scramble: chorizo, garlic, roasted jalapenos, onion, roma tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, chipotle aioli, pico de gallo, and avocado. All on a bed of hash browns. Smoked Salmon Tartine w/ Neufchâtel, Avocado, Chive Omelette & Lemon Dill Aioli on a Brioche Bun. With a side of fried potato wedges. Spicy Pulled Pork Scramble: house made chipotle pulled pork, onion, roma tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, with salsa verde. and, look at those hashbrowns! like a large extra fine latke. Six-Hour Corned Beef Hash with Beef Brisket, Red Potatoes, Wasabi Dill Crema & Poached Eggs. With a side of fried potato wedges.