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.
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.
One of my best friends since childhood abandoned her husband and first-born in Chicago to spend some time with me in foggy San Francisco. We would not be best friends if she was not similarly obsessed with food. Maria’s preferred foods are like her: intensely flavorful, comforting, and unpretentious. They are also usually high in fat and calories, which she is not. I took her to some of my favorite spots, and we got to explore new places together.
Our first meal was Hawaiian brunch at Grindz. Like Hawaii, Maria loves Spam. Our meal: Chicken and Waffles – chicken tonkatsu with spam+cheese buttermilk waffles. Spam musubi. Loco moco.
After exploring Bernal Heights, the Mission, and Lands End, we ended our day with some casual fish and carnitas tacos Nick’s way (using one hard shell and one soft shell in their tacos is genius) and elote con queso at the Taco Shop at Underdog’s. I’ve tried to recreate their elote without success. Like everywhere in the Bay Area, the guacamole is killer.
The breathtaking view from Bernal Heights Park. Mission Delores Park is a popular spot for a reason. I’ve been to Tartine Bakery at least 5-6 times since my move to San Francisco. Each time, I discover something new and amazing. This here is a coconut cream tart, which we got by default because the banana cream tart was sold out. I thank God for this divine encounter. We enjoyed it with Sightglass coffee at the modern bakery/coffee shop Craftsman & Wolves. And, we were fortunate to have some sun on my side of town for the evening and experienced the spectacular sunset in Lands End. The next day: Napa Valley.
On our way to Napa Valley we stopped by Kirby Cove for the breathtaking view of Big Red.Maria has a real, actual bucket list – small and big feats she wants to experience in her lifetime. One is making a 3-point shot and another is drinking wine in Napa Valley. We found a winery, Clos Du Val, that allowed picnics and brought our own bread, salami, cheeses, olives, blueberry jam, olive oil, fruit and chips+guacamole which we purchased the day prior at Bi-Rite Market. Clos Du Val was the perfect first Napa Valley experience – quaint, quiet and gorgeous grounds nestled in rolling hills. Clear blue skies and a cool breeze didn’t hurt either. Next stop – Yountville for dinner. That evening, Thomas Keller’s ad hoc was not serving their famous fried chicken, so we decided on Bouchon for some relaxed french bistro fare. The flatbread, lamb with au jus, trout, and steak all included decadent doses of butter. The evening drive home was something to behold. Pastel skies to bright city lights. The next day was filled with comfort Asian food: Porkbelly and Coca-Cola braised pork buns at Chairman food truck (along with other Off The Grid food trucks), spam katsu sliders at Volcano Curry, and dumplings from Shanghai Dumpling King. Maria and I love chocolate. And the best chocolate ice cream I have ever tasted is the Tcho 60.5% chocolate ice cream at Smitten Ice Cream. Smitten ice cream makes made-to-order ice cream using liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen makes the ice crystals in the ice cream smaller than regular freezing which creates the smoothest, creamiest ice cream you’ve ever tasted. On the last night of Maria’s visit, the fog thwarted my plans to see the sunset from Twin Peaks. However, per usual, near the Bay, there were clear skies and a beautiful view of the Bay Bridge lights. Goodnight San Francisco! On our last day together, we had a casual lunch at Cafe Bunn Mi for some banh mi sandwiches. This turned out to be Maria’s favorite meal of the trip! So much so, it basically ruined her ability to have other banh mi sandwiches elsewhere ever again.
Cafe Bunn Mi’s sandwiches aren’t your traditional banh mi – they include crispy duck, pork belly, and lots of extras including hard boiled eggs. They bake their own french rolls, and their fried imperial rolls are spectacular. Maria’s not a fruit gal, but she loves watermelon. So, of course, we got the watermelon slush, which really tastes exactly like sweet watermelon in a cup. I wasn’t sure if this place was “special” enough to include in our escapades, but I had a feeling this was just the right balance of Asian-casual-unique-fatty-fresh-fried-spicy to cater to Maria’s palette.
Maria’s visit reminded me again that a good meal tastes infinitely better with good company.
our new home.