Chocolate, Santa Cruz

Unless a restaurant we used to love had gone downhill, I rarely bothered with the ones we didn’t like. But this experience was so jarring, I felt the need to warn all parents with young children to stay away from this place.

There should have been a sign up front the restaurant that stated “No kids allowed”,  then i won’t have come in to experience the single worst restaurant encounter ever.

We were on our way back from a long weekend in carmel. It was a Sunday, we decided to grab a bite in Santa Cruz. We arrived around 1pm. and Chocolate happened to be the first restaurant we saw, we liked the menu and we walked in. The place was mostly empty, only 20% of the tables were occupied out in the patio. Inside it was nearly empty. We were a party of 4 adults plus our 2 year old. Anyone who has been close to a 2 year old knows that they are never easy. Especially when they are hungry.

Shortly after we sat down, the curtain rod crashed down on top of my son! These were the lacy long curtains draped over the seat, maybe he accidentally pulled on it as he stepped over the seat. Thank God, my son wasn’t hurt! The waitress was very quick to pick up the curtain and the rod, she said “don’t worry about it, it happens all the time”.

The food came, my son sat down and started eating quite properly. When we just started to enjoy our meal. the most unbelievable thing happened. The owner marched to our table and started scolding us for “pulling” down the curtain. Shouldn’t we be the ones complaining them having unsafe decoration that fall on the top of a toddler?! I would imagine any other restaurant owner would be most concerned with the wellbeing of the child!  This owner has the guts to whine to us how difficult it is to put the curtain back up! Then the owner proceed to complain our son made too much noise.

If Children is not allowed, WHY didn’t this place has a sign up front? It is a restaurant. If i want quiet and peace, i would either eat at home or i would shell out $300 to eat at French Fucking Laundry.

We’ve eaten at far classier places with Noah in and around San Francisco and have never had such an awful experience.

I’m never coming back to this place, with or without my son, ever.

I don’t believe the owner of this place understands the meaning of “hospitality”. He has no business running a restaurant.

I always thought people in Santa Cruz are those who are into peace and love. In reality, i guess maybe it is just snobbery in disguise.

What a shame!

“We want red food!”

Meal menu at our company cafes are color coded. Green means healthy. Red means unhealthy, Yellow means somewhere in the middle. The cafe in our building happens to be one of the healthiest among them all. It means when you walk in there, most days you see only green and yellow colored items on the menu.

We had some engineers from an Asian partner company coming and working with us for a week recently. By the third day, they had the color code figured out. When their host, to save time, took them go the cafe downstairs, they solemnly demanded, “We want red food! Red means delicious!”

Tani’s Kitchen

It has been almost two years since Jennie recommended this little hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant in Daly City to us.  We finally made it in on Friday for lunch and we loved it!

I had chicken teriyaki and tempura combo. ZM had Unagi Donburi.  He said it is the first Unagi Don he had in the bay area that actually cooked the Unagi in open fire. On my end, I’ve never seen chicken teriyaki cooked this way before. It was boiled with lots of ingredients, so it was like a stew but minus the soupy part. The meat was very well cooked that they fell out of the bones. Yum. I liked their tempura too.

Next time maybe i will try their “Japanese Beef Hamburger” or teriyaki beef. We saw them on other customers’ plates, and they look yummy!

Very reasonable priced, and huge portion!

Oh and it is run by Japanese. 🙂

32 Park Plaza Drive
Daly City, CA 94015-1301

4th of July Trip Report (1) – Three Perfect Meals in Seattle/Vancouver

Spent the long weekend up north with Alice and James. All of us are into good food, and we were non-stop feasting throughout the holiday. Yum.

Perfect Meal #1: Basque Tapas in Seattle

Harvest Vine @ Seattle

Harvest Vine @ Seattle

When i first told Alice that we are coming to visit during July 4th long weekend, she started planning the “feeding menu”. She said Seattle has the best tapas she has ever tasted. Friday evening we tried out her 2nd favorite restaurant (Her number one favorite closed after we made a detour at REI flagship store) – The Harvest Vine. I was pleasantly surprised that it was actually a Basque style restaurant. Because the best tapas in ZM and my memory was from in a little Spanish town – Girona. That was also Basque style tapas.

The food was delicious. Our favorite was the last course – grilled lamb loin with garlic, and caramelized onion. We finished the dish in mere seconds.

During the day, A&J took us to a cute little store called Paseo for lunch. Alice’s order was the best – seared scallop.

4225 Fremont Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 545-7440
Hours: Tue-Sat. 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

The Harvest Vine
2701 East Madison
Seattle, WA 98122
Reservations: (206) 320-9771
Hours: 7 nights a week from 5pm to 10pm

Perfect Meal #2: Dimsum and Crab Rice Pot in Vancouver

Feasting in Vancouver

Feasting in Vancouver

We told the Canadian custom officer at the border that “the purpose of our trip” was to eat because Vancouver has the best Canton style Chinese food on Westcoast of the American continent. He just laughed and waved us in.

We had dimsum at Fisherman’s Terrace. It is the 2nd best Dimsum place on Alice’s list. The number 1 dimsum place –Kirin Restaurant– told us that the wait was 3 hours and we should have made reservation 2 days in advance.

Fisherman’s Terrace. is located in a shopping center called Aberdeen: a 100% replica of a HK mall. It was filled with Chinese style shop/brand. Dimsum was excellent. I don’t usually eat chicken feet. But these place’s chicken feet is really sensational. Tripe and Seafood dumpling in soup were also very yummy. The only disappointment was the duck tongue and taro cake, everything else was delicious.

We started the “crab count down” since mid-afternoon. Because Alice and James loved their crab rice pot dish – Ho Yuen Kee – they had it everytime they came to Vancouver. it was very very delicious. We made the right decision to call in and made a reservation too. Crab was better than the lobster, ROI-wise.

We also had good coffee at Caffe Artigiano(Hornby, because they have a special coffee press that’s hard to find) and good cocktail at the Cascade Room.

Fisherman’s Terrace
4151 Hazelbridge Way #3580
Richmond, BC V6X 4J7
Tel: 604-303-9739

Ho Yuen Kee
6236 Fraser
Vancouver, BC V5W 3A1
Tel: (604) 324-8855

Caffe Artigiano
763 Hornby St,
Vancouver, BC, V6Z 1S2

The Cascade Room
2616 Main Street
Vancouver, BC V5T 3E6, Canada
(604) 709-8650

Perfect Meal #3: Ballard Farmer’s Market and Home Cooking at A&J’s

Ballard Farmer's Market & Home Cooking at Alice&James'

Ballard Farmer's Market & Home Cooking at Alice&James'

Sunday morning, we went shopping at Ballard Farmer’s Market. Bought fresh salmon fillet, raspberry, mint, apricot, lots of cheese. Had brick oven pizza that was baked on location in the market, and blue cheese and caramel ice cream. Alice and James cooked dinner. Everything was delicious, home grown veggie, baked salmon, and raspberry and mint desert that Alice invented on the spot…

The entire weekend was hot and sunny, summer-like weather that’s rare to come by in the Bay area. We sat on the porch, ate and enjoyed the evening breeze and wine, chatted…

Ballard Farmer’s Market
Ballard Avenue, between 22th Ave. NW and 20th Ave. NW
Every Sunday Rain or Shine
Hours: 10-3pm

Sake Nomi
(Pioneer Square)
76 South Washington Street (btw 1st Ave & Alaskan Way)

Mysterious Force At Work

Due to some strange force of Cosmo, we had a succession of baby visitors (and their parents) to our house recently, aged from 11 months to 3 years old. Our cats and these little humans shared mutual fascination toward each other. It was also interesting to observe how each baby reflects his/her parents’ temperament so accurately. Even at such tender age.

I forgot how i stumbled onto littlevanities photostream. But i’ve been following her creations for a while. Loved her photos and what’s more, her commentaries under the photo. I’m a word person afterall.

Read the commentary at this photo today: Only such pleasures as are prudent and modest, where she quoted a passage from Mila Kundera.

“In everyday language, the term ‘hedonism’ denotes an amoral tendency to a life of sensuality, if not of outright vice. This is inaccurate, of course: Epicurus, the first great theoretician of pleasure, had a highly skeptical understanding of the happy life: pleasure is the absence of suffering. Suffering, then, is the fundamental notion of hedonism: one is happy to the degree that one can avoid suffering, and since pleasures often bring more unhappiness than happiness, Epicurus advises only such pleasures as are prudent and modest. …

The first phrase that caught my eyes was “pleasure is the absence of suffering”. I couldn’t believe my eyes as i read, re-read, and re-read it. How pessimistic one must feel to say something like that! Then as i finally forced myself to get over this phrase and read on, i realized pessimistic was the wrong word. Melancholy was a much better expression.
This, i can agree, although with much reluctance…

“Epicurean wisdom has a melancholy backdrop: flung into the world’s misery, man sees that the only clear and reliable value is the pleasure, however paltry, that he can feel for himself: a gulp of cool water, a look at the sky (at God’s windows), a caress.”

– Milan Kundera, Slowness, p.7-8

Making good progress at my birthday gift book stack. Finished “Predictably Irrational” (from Gui) last week (very interesting, recommended), started reading “The Europeans” by Luigi Barzini (from sis). On p65/267. It has been a hilarious read so far.

It has gem like this sprinkled on every page.
Starts with the United State’s “alarmingly optimism”… [keep in mind this book was published in 1983]

The United States must always simplify complex issues so that the common ill-informed man may understand them. Ill-informed men include those who are extremely well informed in their particular fields but innocent of anything just outside their perimeters, and unfortunately also at times certain inexperienced political office holders, including a few presidents…The United States may appear uncomfortably tactless and arrogant at times. It is the arrogance of the man who knows that he is right, that the problem at hand has only one possible solution for a righteous man, and that anybody who disagrees is wrong.

Europe has the contrary defects. It is pessimistic, prudent, practical, and parsimonious, like an old-fashioned banker. It has learned not to rush into anything, even if it is the obviously necessary or advantageous thing to do. It always prefers to wait and see. It enjoys delving into the complexity of things; the more complexities it can find the better. Europe looks for nuances, the bad side of anything good, the good side of anything bad. It believes the devil is never as ugly as he is painted, the future is never (or seldom) as appalling as one fears, but never, never as wonderful as one hopes. ..It is sagacious, and its frequent miscalculations are often the product of its excessive sagacity.

or this…on how “free flow of armaments” tempt some countries to start wars.

As soon as they acquire enough armaments, credit, a patchy ideology, and a Great Invincible Leader, they invade one of their neighbors. There is not even the need to find a valid excuse. Anything will do. Journalists and historians will later invent suitable philosophic, historical, or economic motivations. That’s their job.

I just finished the chapter on “The Imperturbable British”, can’t wait to read about “The Mutable Germans”, “The Quarrelsome French”, “The Flexible Italians”, “The Careful Dutch”, and “the Baffling Americans.” Here is from the ending paragraph on the British.

Still today, when one asks a Briton, any Briton, pointblank, “Are you European?” the answer is always, “European? Did you say European? Er, er” — a long thoughtful pause in which all other continents are mentally evoked and regretfully discarded –” yes, of course, I’m European.” This admission is pronounced without pride and with resignation.

Holiday Feast!

We’ve been cooking up a storm at home during this holiday season. I got some easy recipe on line for bread baking. So freshly baked bread has been a huge hit, too. I love it when the house if filled with freshly baked bread aroma. heavenly! On New Year’s Eve, Gui and Matthew joined us and Gui and ZM each cooked a bunch of delicious dishes. On New Year’s day, mom made lots of Chinese goodies from scratch, such as meat pie, dumpling and pot-stickers. I’m drooling again as I typed these… Yum!

Happy 2009!

More photos: Holiday 2008 Feast

Cities and Ambition by Paul Graham

I first read Paul Graham’s essay “Cities and Ambition” a while ago. I loved it so much I remembered distributing to all my friends and got into a high energy discussion with my sister, both violently agreeing with Paul Graham’s assessment of many cities in his essay.

Today the link showed up again on, and I read it again. Still love it. Can’t believe i didn’t blog about it the first time around.

Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder.

The surprising thing is how different these messages can be. New York tells you, above all: you should make more money. There are other messages too, of course. You should be hipper. You should be better looking. But the clearest message is that you should be richer.

What I like about Boston (or rather Cambridge) is that the message there is: you should be smarter. You really should get around to reading all those books you’ve been meaning to.

When you ask what message a city sends, you sometimes get surprising answers. As much as they respect brains in Silicon Valley, the message the Valley sends is: you should be more powerful.

That’s not quite the same message New York sends. Power matters in New York too of course, but New York is pretty impressed by a billion dollars even if you merely inherited it. In Silicon Valley no one would care except a few real estate agents. What matters in Silicon Valley is how much effect you have on the world. The reason people there care about Larry and Sergey is not their wealth but the fact that they control Google, which affects practically everyone.

Here is one where my sister couldn’t agree more about berkeley. She should know, she lived there for 10 years.

I’d always imagined Berkeley would be the ideal place—that it would basically be Cambridge with good weather. But when I finally tried living there a couple years ago, it turned out not to be. The message Berkeley sends is: you should live better. Life in Berkeley is very civilized. It’s probably the place in America where someone from Northern Europe would feel most at home. But it’s not humming with ambition.

even though sis is thoroughly disappointed at Berkeley being so lack of ambition, it actually sounds like the ideal city for me. In my mind, San Francisco/Bay Area is largely that way too. At least the part of the bay area that matters to me, they are all sending me the same message “live better.” yay!

I found the following couple of paragraph intriguing.

A city speaks to you mostly by accident—in things you see through windows, in conversations you overhear. It’s not something you have to seek out, but something you can’t turn off. One of the occupational hazards of living in Cambridge is overhearing the conversations of people who use interrogative intonation in declarative sentences. But on average I’ll take Cambridge conversations over New York or Silicon Valley ones.

A friend who moved to Silicon Valley in the late 90s said the worst thing about living there was the low quality of the eavesdropping. At the time I thought she was being deliberately eccentric. Sure, it can be interesting to eavesdrop on people, but is good quality eavesdropping so important that it would affect where you chose to live? Now I understand what she meant. The conversations you overhear tell you what sort of people you’re among.

Although in real life, I don’t have much dependency on eavesdropping. Maybe cuz i’m a rather anti-social person, i find interesting/passionate conversation with a couple of close friends a lot more satisfying, which is more essential to me.

Here is the message from LA.

The big thing in LA seems to be fame. There’s an A List of people who are most in demand right now, and what’s most admired is to be on it, or friends with those who are. Beneath that the message is much like New York’s, though perhaps with more emphasis on physical attractiveness.

Last but not the least, Paris and London. I’ve actually seen more bookshelves (full of books) in Paris than in any other city (granted, i’ve never really visited anyone in Boston, so i don’t know what the bookshelves density is like there.)

Paris was once a great intellectual center. If you went there in 1300, it might have sent the message Cambridge does now. But I tried living there for a bit last year, and the ambitions of the inhabitants are not intellectual ones. The message Paris sends now is: do things with style. I liked that, actually. Paris is the only city I’ve lived in where people genuinely cared about art. In America only a few rich people buy original art, and even the more sophisticated ones rarely get past judging it by the brand name of the artist. But looking through windows at dusk in Paris you can see that people there actually care what paintings look like. Visually, Paris has the best eavesdropping I know.

There’s one more message I’ve heard from cities: in London you can still (barely) hear the message that one should be more aristocratic. If you listen for it you can also hear it in Paris, New York, and Boston. But this message is everywhere very faint. It would have been strong 100 years ago, but now I probably wouldn’t have picked it up at all if I hadn’t deliberately tuned in to that wavelength to see if there was any signal left.

Autumn in San Francisco

What a beautiful weekend we just had! The quality of light in the Fall is always the most gorgeous. Today was especially golden and warm. One’s heart can’t help but melt in such times.

Things that’s worth noting:

  • A Book “The Man Time Forgot”: Extremely interesting material, but not very satisfactorily told. Mainly the characters are not fleshy enough. Too much like reporting the long forgotten facts, not enough details to make it a real biography. characters stayed flat. The story stayed as a longer version of journalistic creation.
  • A Movie “The Religulous”: Like a longer version of Bill Maher show, not as entertaining.
  • A Restaurant “Aperto” on Potrero Hill in the City. Lovely neighborhood! Lovely Restaurant. Finally a local Italian restaurant that i’d like to go back to. Yummy Lamb Shank! and Chocolate souffle. Quite a few good restaurants on the little block, and a very nice bookstore called Christopher’s.
  • A Climbing Gym in Crissy Field “Planet Granite”: Unbelievable view of the bay and the city through its giant floor to ceiling windows. So many boulder walls. Too bad it is so far north in the city, too hard to get to. Would have been nice when we were living on Cole. But maybe we could pick a weekday morning, since it opens at 6am? We shall see.
  • An Air Show “Blue Angels”. Enough Sad. Especially in a day as beautiful as this…

Life is good. [sigh]

The Perfect Sunday

To seize and enjoy the last sunlight of the summer, Matthew and Gui came up with the perfect idea for a sunny Sunday.

We are to drive to Crissy Field in the morning, and Gui and I bike across Golden Gate Bridge while Matthew ran along on the other side of the bridge, have some delicious food at a seafood restaurant in the waterfront of Sausalito. Then we catch a Ferry back to the City.

Everything went perfectly. Even though on the City side, the bridge was in the fog, and it was windy and cold as we peddled across. It was sunny and breezy in Sausalito. The restaurant we went to is called Fish, it turned out to be a lot further away from the touristy section. We sat on the patio and admired the Bay and many sail boats docked by in the marina. The crabroll was buttery and the crab was fresh. Fries crispy and hot. Beer was chilled and light. Life was so good.

When we got back to downtown Sausalito, 3pm Ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf just started boarding. The view from the deck of the ferry was breathtaking. Just like last time when Mi and I took the ferry from Sausalito back, the scenery in the sunlight reminded me of Istanbul again. The upper deck was filled with tourists, we could hardly hear one word in English.

The killer of the day came at the end, as we biked away from Fisherman’s wharf toward Crissy Field. It was cold and windy, and we are tired. Then we saw the steep uphill that separated Fisherman’s Wharf and our car. by the time we made it to the top, my legs were like jelly. We checked out SF big book sale in Fort Mason. All books are at priced at $1!

The day ends with a hot bath, hot tea, and fried rice.
iphone was a great help, we could always look up where we are. No more getting lost and no need for a stack of printout either. Technology is sweet.

351 Harbor Dr.

Z&Y Under New Management

Just added this to Yelp.

Z&Y Restaurant 御食园
655 Jackson Street (@Grant)
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 981-8988

Supposedly the new management took over in early Aug’08. They kept the English name.

This is the first time we eat here, but the food is phenomenon. If the food stays this good in a consistent manner, we will never have to drive south to San Mateo or Fremont for authentic Sichuan food any more! Yay!

There were four of us, and we ordered the following dishes, all excellent!

Pancake With Beef
— This is absolutely delicious and unique. This is a dish we don’t see very often on restaurant menus, and when they do have it, it will come in with loose beef and green onion plus some sauce stuffed in a thin skinned half bun, similar to a sandwich. But at Z&Y, they layered the beef and green onion and sauce in between roti like thin pancakes, then it gets rolled up, and cut into bite size. It is lovely.

Couple’s Delight
– a signature sichuan appetizer, and it could be used to measure a sichuan restaurant’s authenticity. This is by far the best Couple’s Delight we’ve had in the entire bay area, better than Spice II on Clement, and better than Spicy Town in Fremont. The beef and tendon are sliced paper thin, the spice and numbing pepper are plentiful, the sauce was sophisticated but not too oily (even though it might look very red).

Yunnan Style Steamed Chicken Soup in Clay Pot
– Recommended by the restaurant owner, and it is yummy. There are goji berries and diced ham in the soup. Reminded me of catalan stock pot we had in Barcelona. It is like Chinese stock pot. 🙂

Spicy Fish with Flaming Chili Oil
– This dish is THE reason we are here. My hubby had lunch a few days ago and saw a neighboring table ordered this dish. He was instantly impressed because it looked like exactly the way that modern Chinese sichuan restaurants cooks it in China: After the waitress cleaned out the thick layer of chili pepper floating on top, the fish fillet is floating in clear soup. Most time when you visit Sichuan restaurant in the US, the soup is never clear, mostly filled with red oil, and in the worse quality ones, they covered the fish with starch. But not here. This place is cooking the fish the modern way, just like in today’s China. Finally. and the fish and the bean sprouts in the bottom of the soup are so delicious.

Tan Tan Noodle – solid, yummy and authentic. I liked it that it has some sesame sauce. But hubby is a bit disappointed that it is not spicy enough.

Dry Sauteed String Beans – this is not bad. but comparing to the rest of the dishes, it seemed to be just okay. We cleaned all the plates except this one.

We also got a small bowl of desert soup that’s made of fermented rice soup with sticky rice ball. good flavor.

Total came to $84 plus tip.
similar to the price range of Spicy Town in Fremont, but the food quality is definitely superior.

Parking: When the total order is over $30, you get 2 hour validation parking at Portsmouth Square Garage.


The first Michelin 2 star restaurant i’ve ever been to.

Manresa Restaurant

320 Village Ln
Los Gatos, CA 95030
(408) 354-4330

We all ordered the “seasonal and spontaneous” tasting menu. The servers served them in synchronized motion. Two plates for the ladies, all landed in front of us at the same moment, then the other three for the gentlemen. We washed down the full 15 courses with one bottle of champagne and one bottle of Rhine wine (Chateauneuf-du-Pape, from Domaine Vienux Telegraphe). Even the portion looked tiny, we were surprisingly full by the time deserts started to show up. It lasted four and half hours (5:30-10pm), probably the longest meal i’ve ever sat through (weddings excluded).


I’m definitely coming back, and willing to pay out of my own pocket.

More photos here…

Panda Country Kitchen

Just wrote this review on Yelp! 🙂 Keeping a record here:

Panda Country Kitchen
4737 Geary Street (at 11th Ave.)
San Francisco, CA94118
(415) 2210-4278

We have been going to this place at least once every week since Nov. 2006, sometimes 2-3 times a week, and we’ve never been disappointed, by either the food or the wait-staff.

My husband is a big fan of szechuan food. Ever since he left New York for SF, we’ve been hunting up and down the peninsula for an authentic Szechuan restaurant. For a few years, we settled on Spices (辣妹子) on 6th Ave. and Clement.

Then we found Panda Country Kitchen! There is no turning back. After we’ve tasted the more authentic version of Szechuan dishes at Panda Country Kitchen, we couldn’t endure Spices’ super grease any more. At the end of May we were surprised at seeing the restaurant putting up a “closed for one week annual vacation” sign. We went back a couple times to check on it in the following weeks, it stayed closed. Oh No! We lost our favorite restaurant in the city!

Today we drove by on our way to a different restaurant, and discovered it was back! 🙂 Too happy, we promptly changed our plan and had our usual feast at Panda Country Kitchen. Yumm!

Panda Country Kitchen’s chef originally worked at the New York szechuan restaurant 五粮液 (it borrows the name from a famous Chinese hard liquor), which is popular among New York Chinese.

You could see the difference in the dish’s look, it is professionally made Szechuan style, not the imitator-style at Spices. One obvious visual cue is the lack of the sea of red spicy oil that drenched every dish (for certain dish, such as spicy boiled tender fish, yes, the fish fillet is usually served in a sea of red spicy oil. But often in other Chinese restaurants claims to serve szechuan food, all their dish tend to rely on the spicy oil for flavor, resulted in over-greasiness that are neither authentic nor necessary). At Panda Country Kitchen, the dish tasted just right, with plenty szechuan peppercorn’s numbing and the varied pepper style spiciness.

Our favorite dishes include:

– Dry Sauteed Shredded Beef (干煸牛肉丝)
This is our favorite dish here. The beef were full of flavor and it was slightly dried on the outside which gave it a very nice chewy texture, and it was still tender inside. Plus the fresh pepper and veggie that accompanied the beef added extra layer of taste to the dish. What a treat!

– Frog Leg with Fresh Home Made Pepper (剁椒田鸡)
Enough said, “Home Made Pepper” is a special kind of fresh pepper that are diced in this dish. Try it if you like Frog Legs. and you won’t regret it.

Sizzling Rice Tender Pork (锅巴肉片)
This is one non-spicy dish we order from time to time. The sizzling rice added more texture to the dish, and the Pork and the Sauce are very tasty.

Sauteed String Beans Szechwan county Style (绍子豇豆)
This is another non-spicy dish. It is made with diced string beans(previously sauteed) and ground pork. Little Szechuan down in San Mateo had a similar dish, but we think this one is better.

Spicy Noodle Cooked with Ground Pork (担担面)
VERY Spicy. The most authentic Dan Dan Mian we’ve had outside of China. yum yum yum!

Live Fish Cooked in Szechwan Bean Sauce (豆瓣全鱼)
Okay, you can skip this dish if you don’t like to see a fish head on a dish.
Otherwise, this is a lovely dish. The sauce explodes in your mouth with all sorts of spiciness, and the fish is oh so tender. drool…

My favorite desert dish here is:
Yum Pancake (金沙苕饼)
it is a sticky-rice-like cake, except it is made with yum flour, red bean filling, and the little cake is fried to golden brown. Delicious!

Breakfast at Q

Since we live within walking distance of Haigh-Ashbury, we haven’t tried any breakfast places outside of our neighborhood (dimsum excluded). For dinner, we frequent Clement Street for its asian cuisines.

Then there is Q, on Clement, between 3rd and 4th Avenue.

It looks like an happening place during dinner time, but we are rarely in the mood for American food at dinner time. The weekend when we went to get our new cellphones from the Chinese run cellphone store on Clement, we walked by Q. It is serving breakfast, too!

So we checked out Q’s breakfast the next day, armed with our newly acquired cellphones.

The decor was cute and fun. I especially liked their various designed tables. The portion was huge! We thought Pork Store Cafe had large portions. This place’s entry could feed a cow. I didn’t feel slightest hunger until 7 or 8pm that day. I liked my breakfast burrito. ZM liked his omelet. But unfortunately they don’t seem to serve ZM’s favorite breakfast item: sausage. 🙁 So i’m afraid we won’t be coming back any time soon.

225 Clement St (@3rd Avenue)
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 752-2298
* Mon-Fri 11am-11pm
* Sat 10am-11pm
* Sun 10am-10pm

More cellphone photos at Q: Picasa Album

Here Comes the Tapas!

Two more cafes opened on campus this week. One of them is a tapas place! I was estatic when i learned that. Here is the description of the tapas cafe.

Pintxo – Pronounced PIN’-cho, which is a pinch “en Espanol”. Here you will find an adventurous concept as we tackle the tapas, small plate’s concept, and incorporate small portions from around the world. We of course will start with exploring the Catalonian region of Espana and will take you beyond heights ever experienced! Your taste buds are in for a ride…are you ready? One strategy recently discussed; come with a few of your friends, split up, skip the lines, grab a few different dishes and meet at your pre-determined table. Then, share your dishes “family style” and enjoy!

So the first day was Catalonian region, second day Corsica region, third day South and Southwest of France.

I managed to remember bringing my camera on the third day, so i can share with you some of those lovely sights in my tray:

Chilled Pepper Soup with Softshell Crab
The Basque country close to Spain flavors its food with spicy Piment d’ espelette, which is used for this soup, with
A side of Parmesan Reggiano Crispy Soft Shell Crab,
Strauss Creamery Lemon Yogurt, Sumac,
Yellow Tomato Concasse, Basil infusion.
Loved the crab, not too sure about the soup though.

Cold Tapas
Fried Taro chips, couscous, sauteed green beans,
Foie Gras Pate,
Smoked Trout on a salad of fennel, Braeburn Green apples, and pistachio with preserved lemon yogurt.
The smoked trout was especially tasty.

Premium Gold Angus Beef Hangar Steak
Bordeaux Sauce with crispy shallots
Desert on the side:
Rose Water Marshmallows
Macerated Blackberries and Nectarine.
Steak was tender, and the sauce gave it a surprisingly fruity flavor. Every bite was a pleasant surprise. It was like a dry red wine managed to leave a fruity aftertaste in your mouth, entirely unexpected and very lovely.

Seared Tuna with Lemon Zest
toasted pinenuts, Yuzu Infused Oil.
Loved this one, the crest on the edge of the tuna is SPICY, Yum!

Petaluma Farms Chicken Truffle Mousse Canneloni
Trumphet Mushroom Beurre Blanc
Even though this plate looked less attractive than the rest, I was very glad i didn’t pass it off. The mushroom sauce was rich and delicious, and the chicken mousse combined with the canneloni flour wrap provided an enjoyable, almost cake like texture.

Ah, what a satisfying meal! It looked like a piece of art, too!

See larger photos here.

Food Heaven!

I thought I just died and woke up in heaven!

Last week i went to a new cafe at lunch time. It is called Cafe 7 (because it is the 7th cafeteria the company opened so far). The food didn’t look that superb when i got them. Maybe cuz they were in massive containers and doesn’t come in the decorative presentation that you see in a upscale restaurant. But when i had my first bite! Oh My! I felt like i was hit by a train headon. I couldn’t believe it. It was up scale French Bistro quality food. I could easily pay $50 per person in a yuppie restaurant in the city over the weekend and still won’t have as good food as this. The soup was heavenly, the fish was tender and flavorful, the veggie was fresh and tasted like nothing i had experienced, the pasta made me moan, the table bread made me drool, and the desert was decadent. I cleaned my plate and wished i didn’t become full so fast.

Here is a typical menu at Cafe 7 (they change daily):

Café -7 / Lunch Menu for Thursday, August 17, 2006

Table Bread Baskets
Assortment of Artisan Breads
Russian Rye, Assorted Pretzels, Salted Bread Sticks, Sour Wheat, Kalamata Olive, Walnut-Cranberry-Raisin. If you have nut or seed allergies, avoid table breads.

Today’s Bread Basket Spread:
*Saffron Aioli Saffron, Egg Yolks, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, White Wine, Salt and Cayenne Pepper


Composed Salad of the Week
Taste of Japan!
Mixed Organic Greens, Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna Marinated Cucumbers (Rice Wine Vinegar, Sugar), Carrot, Enoki Mushrooms, Wakame Seaweed, Asian Vinaigrette, Crisp Wontons

Create Your Own Salad
Lettuces: Organic Field Greens, Chopped Baby Romaine, Baby Spinach

Salad Toppings:
Roasted Skinless Chicken Breast Strips, Housemade Pickled Vegetables, Grilled Sweet Corn, Balsamic Figs, Citrus Sections, Kidney Beans, Hard Boiled Egg, Edamame Beans, Navy Beans, Olive Oil Croutons, Cottage Cheese, Spicy Peanuts

Chilled Pasta Salad of the Day
Farfalle and Tuna Salad: Chilled Pasta, Flaked Tuna, Mayonnaise, Pickle, Red Onion, Celery, Herbs, Spices, Lemon, Bell Pepper, Grated Egg

Today’s Dressings:
*Creamy Non-Fat Basil (Yogurt, Basil, Garlic, Agave Syrup, Shallots,White Balsamic Vinegar)
Citrus-Lobster Vinaigrette (Lobster Oil, Fresh Citrus Juice, Shallots, Garlic,
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
**Balsamic Vinaigrette
Classic Caesar


*Chilled Curried Carrot Soup
Pureed Carrots, Celery, Onion, Thyme, Bay Leaves, Ginger, Tomato, Curry, Apple, Milk
Garnished with Sweet Milk and Kaffir Lime Foam

Golden Chanterelle Mushroom Soup
Sliced Chanterelles, Chicken Stock, Onion, Fresh Herbs and Spices, Garlic, Madeira
Garnished with Black Truffle Crouton

Mussel and Corn Chowder
Steamed Mussels, Sweet Corn, Onion, Garlic, Celery, Carrot, Fish Fumet, Clam Juice, White Wine, Fresh Herbs and Spices, Brandy, Milk
Garnished with Fresh Corn, Potato, Basil Oil

Russian Beef and Cucumber Soup
Cubes of Tender Beef in a Rich Veal Broth with Onion, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Mushrooms, Pork Sausage and Black Olives
Garnished with Lemon Crème Fraiche, Dill and Caraway Seeds


Sandwich of the Week
Claudia’s BLT (Yes, Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato!)
Sliced Bread, Crisp Applewood Smoked Bacon, Mixed Organic Greens,Heirloom Tomatoes, Basil Aioli, Smoked Salt and Black Pepper
(Available at the Delicatessen or in the Grab & Go’s)

Create Your Own Sandwich
Assorted Artisan Breads, Sliced Tomato, Romaine, Red Onion, Bread & Butter Pickles, Dill Pickles, Pepperoncini, Fontina Val D’ Aosta Cheese, Cheddar Cheese, Sliced Mozzarella Cheese, Cave Aged Emmentaler Cheese

Avocado, Grilled Vegetables, Roast Tomatoes, Balsamic Portobello Mushrooms, Smoked Turkey, Roast Beef, Black Forest Ham, Assorted Salami


*Herbed Spaetzle
Housemade Herbed Dumplings, Caramelized Onions, Grain Mustard-Crème Fraiche, Butter

**Curried Lentils
Lentils cooked tender with Sweet Onion, Garlic, Madras Curry, and Tomato and Fresh Herbs

**Three-Grain Pilaf
Red Rice, Black Rice and Bulgar Wheat, simmered with Sweet Onion, Vegetable Stock, Fresh Herbs and Spices

**Pea Sprout Sauté with Grilled Corn
Wilted Pea Sprouts, Grilled Corn, Cumin, Black Truffle Oil

**Vegetable Medley
Warm Daily Summer Produce Tossed Lightly with Apple Vinaigrette
(Steamed Preparation Available)

Main Plates

Grilled Scallop Brochettes
Two-each Jumbo Scallops, Cremini Mushrooms, Peppedews, Chipotle Glaze

Mini Duck Sliders
Whole Ground Duck Meat, Sautéed Onion, Garlic, Herbs, Spices, Fontina Val d’Aosta Fondue, Baby Bun

Cantonese Roasted Chicken Breast
Roasted (Skin on) Breast of Chicken basted with a Sauce composed of Honey, Rice Wine Vinegar, Ginger, Sherry, Hoisin and Five Spice
Garnished with Sliced Scallions

Brick Oven

**Archie’s Veggie Pizza
Classic Crust, Housemade Tomato Sauce, Spiced Firm Polenta (Fennel Seeds, Garlic, Basil, Parsley), Wild Mushrooms, Pistachio Creamless-Cream

Smoked Chicken, Pesto and Sausage Pizza
Classic Crust, Classic Pesto, Smoked Chicken, Assorted Pork Sausage, Roasted Peppers, Fontina Val d’ Aosta, Sweet One Hundred Tomatoes,Red Onion

Sweet Corn, Ricotta and Spinach Calzone
Masa (Corn) Crust, Seared Onions, Tomato-Marsala Sauce,
Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese, Sautéed Corn, Wilted Spinach, Basil Leaves

Piazzon’s Italian “Hoagie”
Soft French Roll with Sautéed Wild Mushrooms, Onions, Sliced Salami, Ham, Provolone Cheese, Mozzarella, Rosemary, Oregano
Served with Tomato Sauce on the Side


*Cinnamon Crème Brûlée
Creamy Custard Infused with Cinnamon, Turbinado Sugar Topping

**Earl Grey Poached Apricots and Plums
Sweet Plums and Apricots Poached in Aromatic Earl Grey Tea Syrup, With Hints of Lemon and Orange
Flourless Chocolate Brownies with Chocolate Chips
Pecan Sandies with Apricot

Frozen Yogurt!
Caramel Pecan or Vanilla Frozen Yogurt with the Following Toppings:
Heathbar, Chopped Almonds, Peanut Butter Cup Crumbles, Butterfinger Crumbles

Confetti of Candies

Just when i thought Cafe 7 is “as good as it gets.”

Today i found out we just opened the 8th cafe, and it is clled “The American Table,” which “will be serving regional American cuisine with a focus on Native American ingredients utilizing methods taken from the different cultures that settled each region.” I went there today and I knew, Cafe 7 got competition, and the quality of my life just went up another notch. Life could be this good! I must have done something right to deserve this. Everyone who had come to our cafe before should consider taking a number and getting in line, you have no idea what you have been missing. This is the kind of restaurant that you would make reservation 3 weeks ahead of the time, had to put up with snooty service, expensive parking, waiting in long lines before sitting down, paying $50+ plus and might still not get the right entry and felt cheated. With Cafe 7 and 8, i guarantee you won’t be disappointed. This is what heaven really meant to be, i hope. And it is FREE!

My lunch consisted of:
Corn bisque with shrimp
This didn’t make it to the chef’s menu that he sent out today, but it is so so so good.
Fried Frogs Legs with Crystal & Fine Herb Butter
Buttermilk battered legs with crystal hot sauce and tarragon, chives, and parsley, bearer blanc.
Pan Roasted Pork Chops
with Mashed Potatoes & Fancy Creamed Corn with a Herbed Pork
(The best pork chop i’ve ever had, never though pork chop can possibly be this tasty)
Southern Polenta Spoon Bread
With onion broth, red peppers, and fresh thyme.
Sweet Potato Cakes with Trufflata
Sweet potatoes, goat cheese, eggs, thyme, shallots, and flour. With roasted chanterelles, oyster mushrooms and truffle oil garnished with fresh herbs.
(Oh My God! Someone pinch me now, is this for real? explosive with flavor? I feel guity eating it.)
Almond Bread Puddin
With a creamy huckleberry Anglaise
(hM! hM! HM!)

The dishes that i would’ve tried if have had a backup stomach.
Coriander Crusted Tuna with Braised Summer Veg
Seared tuna and veg to bolls that have been braised in ver jus, olive oil, thyme, bay leaves, and roasted lemons.
Summer Veg & Tofu Pot Pie
Patty pans, onions, wax beans, Yukon potatoes, and tofu in a light Creole cream sauce with parsley, chives, and a drop of truffle oil topped off with puff pastry.
(This was covered with a thick layer of puffy filos. highly recommanded by my co-worker but i was too full to try it. :()
Duck Confit Salad with Baby Arugula
Fresh blueberries and with balsamic vinaigrette
(I didn’t even make it to the pizza/salad counter, but saw this after i came back from lunch and reviewing the menu)

“The American Table” the full menu of 8/17/2006:


Fried Frogs Legs with Crystal& Fine Herb Butter
Buttermilk battered legs with crystal hot sauce and tarragon, chives, and parsley, bearer blanc.

Coriander Crusted Tuna with Braised Summer Veg
Seared tuna and veg to bolls that have been braised in ver jus, olive oil, thyme, bay leaves, and roasted lemons.

Pan Roasted Pork Chops
with Mashed Potatoes & Fancy Creamed Corn with a Herbed Pork


*Summer Veg & Tofu Pot Pie
Patty pans, onions, wax beans, Yukon potatoes, and tofu in a light Creole cream sauce with parsley, chives, and a drop of truffle oil topped off with puff pastry.

*Southern Polenta Spoon Bread
With onion broth, red peppers, and fresh thyme.

*Sweet Potato Cakes with Trufflata
Sweet potatoes, goat cheese, eggs, thyme, shallots, and flour. With roasted chanterelles, oyster mushrooms and truffle oil garnished with fresh herbs.


Quail Fig & Arugula
fresh pizza with brown sauce and goat cheese.

Crawfish Roasted Corn
topped with red bell peppers, onions red sauce and white cheddar.

Pork Po Boy Sandwich
With Swiss cheese and coleslaw.


Butter Lettuce Salad
Point Reyes blue cheese tossed pecans, summer pears and bacon.

Duck Confit Salad with Baby Arugula
Fresh blueberries and with balsamic vinaigrette

*Mirliton Salad with Vine Ripened Tomatoes Onions & Dill

Pickled Shrimp Salad
Fresh cucumbers, and red onions. The shrimp is pickled with spices, lemon juice and champagne vinaigrette.

**Water Melon Salad with Watercress
Red bell peppers and red onions.

Hot and Sweet

Almond Bread Puddin
With a creamy huckleberry Anglaise

Strawberry Clafoutis
A Thick flan cake with fresh Santa Cruz strawberries and a strawberry caramel

Cold & Creamy

Chocolate Tart
With cinnamon whipped cream

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

When time go bad, when we can’t afford to have this kind of free lunch, instead of closing them down or making them suffer in quality, i wish they would turn these cafes into restaurants and open them to the public. I would pay to come and eat here.

A Pig’s Heaven

Summer heat.
Spare the Air Days.
High Gas Prices.

One needed to be reminded of the good moments in life, so when looking back, we won’t forget life used to be so good. And Good Days don’t last. 🙁

I’ve decided to take advantage of the company shuttle stops at my neighborhood (actually, it is more like the neighboring neighborhood cuz it is 10 blocks away from my apartment), I changed my daily schedule a bit.

Getting up at 7am (okay, 7:15am), leaving home at 7:25am, walking across the park to the other end of the Cole Street, taking the 7:45pm shuttle, arriving at work at 9am.

This morning i suddenly realized that i could take advantage of such a early arrival by picking up breakfast, which usually serves till 9:30am that used to be too early for me.

At 9:10am this morning, i sat at my desk, drinking a papaya smoothie, devouring foofoo stuff like “Low Country Crab Cake Benedict”, crispy Nitrate–free Bacon, and a piece of heavenly pastry that has caramelized almond on top, with custard in the middle of foamy bread (does that sound good? it is GOOD).

I’m very proud of myself, because i could so easily stuff myself up like a pig. Here is why:

Oasis Breakfast Menu 7-17 until 7-21

Smoothie Bar

Chef’s Recommendations

Wild Strawberry
Blue Monkey
Angel’s Tropical Paradise

Create smoothie of your own

Hot Cereals
**Scottish Steal-Cut Oats
*Stone Ground Grits

Hot cereal condiments:
Brown sugar, toasted nuts, butter, cheddar, golden raisins, & dried apricots

Low-fat, fat-free, soy milk, or rice milk

Tropical Treats
1 or 2 weekly yogurt, fruit, nut, & grain parfait
Fresh organic seasonal fruit (on platters)

Sunrise Grill
Daily Offerings

Farm fresh organic scrambled eggs
Scrambled egg whites
Tofu scramble (available on request)
Egg Beaters (available on request)
Roasted organic breakfast potatoes
Chicken-apple Sausage 2-oz link
Vegetarian Sausage Patty
Nitrate–free Bacon
English muffins

Weekly Specials

(Chorizo, whole eggs, green onions, potatoes, queso fresco, cilantro)

Low Country Crab Cake Benedict

Johnny Hash
(Ground turkey, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, yellow onions,
jalapenos, taro root, tomato juice)

With The Grain
Assorted Bagels
Assorted breakfast breads
Assorted Scones & Muffins
Assorted Danishes

Extra Touches

Smoked salmon platter (capers & shaved red onion)
3 seasonal organic fruit jams, compotes, or marmalades
Cream cheese & Lite cream cheese, Low-fat cottage cheese
Low fat flavored cream cheeses: 3 daily from Izzy’s
Ketchup, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream

Margarine & Whipped Butter
Whipped TangerineCompound Butter

Isn’t this worth getting up early for? Anyone interested in coming in for breakfast? 🙂

Boulange de Cole Valley

I’m a chocoholic, especially dark chocolate. I still remember the solid swirl shaped chocolate nugget from my childhood’s China. Those were the only kind available no matter how rich you were (I guess since it is a communist community, no one was supposed to be really rich). I love chewing it piece by piece. It was pretty hard, so I couldn’t bite off too big a chunk anyway. The teeth mark left on the chocolate formed lovely shinny surfaces as if those polished jewel stone. They were very bitter.

Sunday afternoon, we finished watching another film in Red Vic and felt a little hungry for snacks. We turned off the bustling Haight Street, walked along Cole Street toward Cole Valley.

At the little corner cafe, we spotted some various flavored puffy cookies with fillings inside. The last time we saw those kind of cookies was in La Maison du Chocolat’s store in New York City. We remembered its lightness of the cookie and heavenly bitter chocolate cream inside. Without much hesitation, we ordered one of each to sample. The cookies weren’t as good as those we had from La Maison. But some of its novel flavors won me over nonetheless. The winners were: Lavender, Peanut Butter(or is it hazelnut? It is the kind that has sesame seeds on the outside), Strawberry, and Raspberry. The other two–chocolate, lemon–are too heavy and sweet.

Afterwards, I got curious, and started researching its name and origin. Turned out they are called French Macaroon. At the cafe, we also ordered another piece of pastry, which turned out to be soaked with rum! yum! Google tells me it is called French Brioche.

Some reference articles if you are interested in further reading:
The Macaroon – A Mouthful of Heaven
Boulange de Cole Valley & Cole Valley Neighborhood
Elegant French brioche fills any need

The Ultimate Cookie Book

Went to Yoga with Gui and Matthew last night, picked up a big bag of birthday presents from their home, too. 🙂 Counted my treasures when I got home: one novel by an Indian-American female author that we both enjoyed but I could never pronounce her name; one travel book by Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari, Overland from Cairo to Cape Town, which caught Mi¡¯s attention right away; and ¡­.[drum rolls] THE ULTIMATE COOKIE BOOK! I spent the entire evening browsing through all the receipts. Colorful inserts made me drool. Yumm! Going to shop for materials and cookware for cookie making. Let¡¯s see what will happen in our kitchen this weekend.

I can never resist the fragrance drifting out of a kitchen; let it be the homely smell of dinner being cooked, or the warm and sunny smell of coffee in the morning, or rich and happy smell of baking in a weekend afternoon.

Guess I¡¯m true to my nature: a pig. And from this pig¡¯s point of view, heavenly smell comes out of a kitchen == civilization.

Alice’s Cake

In addition to being a ¡°hard-working¡± Ph.D. candidate in AI, my sister is also a rather fabulous pastry chef. Based solely on my description, one of my co-workers still remembers one desert entry produced by Alice for our Thanksgiving feast three years ago. It was poached pears with lots of goodies stuffed in those fruits, and lots of red wine was involved in the process.

She made me a Queen-bee butter cake for my birthday. It is probably the most delicious cake I¡¯ve ever tasted. Absolutely professional grade! The sponge cake was soaked in rum syrup, with a dark chocolate cover; nutty crest made from toasted almond, sugar, and royal honey was on the side. There were even handmade/hand painted marzipan bees to go with it. One of those bees fell off from its pastry stick, and was hungrily drinking the honey by a ¡°honey well¡±. I laughed, ¡°That is me!¡±

The Slanted Door

This sounds delicious:
The Flavors of Vietnam, Captured in a Pot, By MARK BITTMAN, NYT 04/07/2004.

“My first idea was to open a shop and make Vietnamese rice-style crepes,” he said. “But then I thought to open a Western-style restaurant, one that looked good and treated people well. And I wanted to keep the menu small. I was inspired by the cafe at Chez Panisse, where they do a few items, but do them really well. I hadn’t seen anyone do that with Asian food before.”

“When we first moved to San Francisco, we started cooking like we did at home,” he said. “That was the food I began with when we opened the restaurant, but basically I just kept taking dishes and cooking them over and over until I got them right.”

His dishes are spectacularly full-flavored. Much has been made of the French influence on Vietnamese cooking, but Vietnamese cooking was terrific before the French colonized the country. For centuries, a huge variety of fresh herbs and greens made its cuisine distinctive. Those light, fragrant flavors are offset by chilies, garlic, shallots, ginger and, of course, fish sauce, nuoc mam (you may know it by its Thai name, nam pla).

Fish sauce, countered by lightly caramelized sugar and fortified by a host of typical spices, is the backbone of clay pot, a classic Vietnamese dish. It’s a childhood favorite of Mr. Phan, one he has on his menu at all times.

Although, after checking with citysearch, it seemed the resturant has doubled its price and halved its service ever since it made the move from “the Mission” to S. Beach. :(It would be a shame if that is the case. 🙁

Pork Store Cafe

Saturday we woke up to a typical foggy morning of San Francisco. It was Mi’s first morning in our new apartment. I suggested that we could walk to a cafe in Haight-Ashbury. I read about it in CitySearch and it serves all American breakfast we enjoyed in the Greek Diner whenever I went to NY to visit him: eggs, pancakes, sausage, etc.. It turned out to be a long walk since I didn’t remember the name of the cross street and not even the exact name of the restaurant. I was confident that I would know once I saw it. Half the walk was in the panhandle where ancient trees grew tall and the grass was green with dew in the cool fresh morning air. I’ve never seen Haight street this quiet before, though. I guess 9:30am was a bit early for the colorful gangs, who were probably still nursing the alcohol from the night before.

Just when Mi started doubting my memory and suggested maybe we should turn back and drive to Clement, I spotted the line of customers across the street waiting under the old stain glassed sign that says “Pork Store Cafe”. “That’s it!” I happily announced and we ran across the street to take our spot at the end of the line. People in line looked like either regular locals or tourists. “None of them spoke English with an accent!” Mi marveled, “And no one is wearing black!” Ha, New Yorker! The place looked small, we could see every table and estimate where next available table might be. Meanwhile, I was trying to get over my surprise at seeing any restaurant open before 10am on a weekend morning. Having lived in the suburb for too long, I forgot that San Francisco, no matter how small it is comparing to New York, is still a city. And I am officially a city dweller!

The host was a big guy wearing a blue t-shirt, looked more like a bouncer at a club rather than a server at a breakfast joint. Through the glass windows, we watched him cleaning up newly vacant tables, set down napkin and forks neatly and placed enough copy of menus, before ran out to the front and called in the next lucky group. As we were rapidly approaching the front of the line, and more people came from both ends of the streets to line up behind us, the host struggled to open the front door again with a pot of fresh coffee, a stack of paper cup, and a box of creamer. We were the first lucky customers in the morning chill to be served hot coffee that morning. He asked us to just pass the creamer to people behind us when we were done. But the group of young women behind us mistook Mi for a server, extended their coffee cups to him and let Mi serve them cream along side of the host. Ha.

The host thanked Mi for helping him and sent us to the end of the counter when two spots opened up there. We watched the two amigos making breakfast with lighting speed: pork chop, fresh patty sausage, scrambled eggs, spinach, etc. etc. were cooked on the open fire grill and placed onto their platters. Every ingredient looked fresh and juicy. The portion was huge and our smiling server kept our coffee mugs full at all times. I had Banana Pecan pancakes, and Mi had scrambled eggs with patty sausage plus fluffy biscuits. During the meal Mi chatted up with an elderly looking guy with a middle-eastern accent who came in from the back door and we suspected that he might be the owner, who introduced us to the manager Mike, who seemed to know every customer around us. At the end of our meal, Mi offered to cook there if they were shorthanded. To my horror, they laughed and actually encouraged him to go behind the counter!

As they were being cooked, we’ve identified quite a few entries for our future brunch. We know we’d come back often. I wonder how many neighborhood restaurants like this we would find in our newly adopted neighborhood? Ah, I love living in the city.

Pork Store Cafe

1451 Haight St
San Francisco, CA 94117
Cross Street: Ashbury and Masonic streets
Phone: (415) 864-6981
Mon-Fri 7am-3:30pm
Sat-Sun 8am-4pm
Customer Review at City Search
History and more info fro GoCityKids

Scharffenberger Chocolate Maker

Could you imagine living in Europe during the days before the Spaniard landed in Mexico? To live without the heavenly creature called ¡°chocolate¡±? Never.

Among a small circle of friends and co-workers I was known to be the chocoholic. Not merely because of the quality of chocolate that I consume but also because of the sheer quantity I could devour in the most efficient manner. I used to have a co-worker who always checked the floor under my desk whenever he came to see me, ¡°Where are you hiding the wrappers? I know you have them!¡± I used to have a stack of Toblerone boxes right next to my monitor, in all colors. People used to be astonished to find out they were all empty. I¡¯ve since hidden them.

So there was no surprise that I jumped at Gui¡¯s suggestion of a free factory tour in a local chocolate maker: Scharffenberger. Even though I¡¯ve never heard of this brand of chocolate before, I was curious about how chocolate was made.

Not only did I enjoyed learning how ignorant I had been about this lovely ¡°food¡±, but also found myself fall in love with Schenffenberger chocolate. Schenffenberger specializes in extra dark (70%-82%) species which are my all time favorite. In addition to the rich bitter taste of coca, the sample Schenffenberger chocolate we were given during the tour also had a strong citrus flavor, like mini-explosions in ones mouth. Pleasant surprises.

A few surprises:
1. the cacao fruit grew directly on the trunk of the tree like a football shaped tumor.
2. cacao beans need to be fermented prior to roasting, similar to wine making
3. Scharffenberger was founded in 1996!
4. ¡­by a winery owner and a physician!
5. Everyone could make chocolate using the following household appliances in her kitchen: A hair dryer, coffee grinder, and mortar and pestle.

If you are a chocolate lover and find yourself in the bay area, you might want to consider taking an hour out of your schedule and checking out this lovely factory tour. They are in Berkeley, and the tour is free.

Making Sherry

In my Chinese weblog, FZ asked me about sherry. Her description got me interested and I did some search on the net. Found a little interesting article on the making of Sherry, along with it a brief history of Sherry was given as well.
Making Sherry

The fact that sherry requires “aged sherry … to ‘educate’ a younger wine” sounded familiar to me. I remember hearing a similar process while visiting Champagne cellars. But I don’t believe that is how Champagne is made. I wonder if there is another wine that goes through this similar process by using an aged wine to educate a younger wine. Whiskey, perhaps? If not, then one of the cellars I visited must have been producing sherry on the side! :O But which one?

Now i’m curious…

Then again, it probably won’t be called Sherry. It sounds like Sherry has a similar geographical prestige/restriction just like Champagne.

The Most Poetic Festival

Last Wednesday (June 5, 2003) happens to be the Chinese Double Fifth Festival. In Chinese it is called Duan Wu (¶ËÎç). Since all Chinese festivals are marked by some special food, this one is associated with Zong Zi (ôÕ×Ó). Each piece of Zong Zi is a small tetrahedron of sticky rice wrapped inside a large bamboo leaf. Depends on the local custom, the sticky rice could be mixed with red beans(sweet version, it is supposed to be eaten after dipped in sugar), or marinated pork chunck(salty version).

When we were living in San Francisco, our landlord lady used to give us a plate of their homemade Zong Zi every year when Duan Wu came around. Their Zong Zi was the Cantanese variation. It contained not just marinated pork, but also salty egg yoke, peanuts, and Chinese sausage. Eaching our landlady’s Zong Zi was like unwrapping a small bundle of treasures. One never knew what would be in the next bite.
Continue reading