Tuesday, August 23, 2005


A very mean person not worthy of any thought just came to my office to yell at me and made me cry. It wasn't worth crying over - this guy is very unreasonable and a little delusional, but I'm pretty stressed out about work so I probably would have cried at the drop of a hat today. What makes me mad is that he did this in front of all of my labmates. And I started doubting myself - did I do something wrong? Why would he come over here to attack me? Luckily my labmates were able to comfort me - I know I didn't do anything wrong, this guy just has a lot of problems.
What was nice is that Dan, the newest member of our lab, came back a little while later with one of my favorite cookies. It was really sweet, and will definitely make my day a little easier to get through. I have tons of work to pile through, then I have to go home and somehow do laundry and clean up and pack, because tomorrow I'm off to....New York!

I just have to say, that thanks to all you food bloggers out there, I don't have to ask the question "hmmm, where to eat?" Unfortunately, there are about 15 places I want to visit, but only about 6-7 meal slots free. Yergh.

Monday, August 22, 2005


In celebration of my little brother taking the MCAT we went to Pearl. Wow. Amazing food. My brother's description sums up my feelings, so here I will give you some pictures.

Spicy Smoky Fries with Aioli ($6)

Two-of-each oyster plate ($27) - I was well into my glass of wine so I've forgotten one of the selections. We had Eld Inlet, Hama Hama, Fanny Bay, Hog Island, Kumamoto, and one variety that looked like a clam.

Tartare Trio ($10?)

Bruschetta ($10) - that's grilled peach, goat cheese, carmelized red onions, and hazelnuts. My favorite dish of the evening.

We also had crispy local squid with thai slaw ($10) and crabcakes ($11) - the squid was excellent but I'd pass on the crabcakes and order more oysters...or try one of the salads if you are experiencing seafood overload. All the salads that passed by our table looked great.

5634 College Ave.
Oakland, CA 94618

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Why I'll gladly pay $1.50 for one of these...

Disclaimer: sorry if the formatting is off. I'm still getting used to my lovely new Mac Mini...

You have no idea how much I'm kicking myself for not eating any macarons when I went to Bordeaux. To be honest, they looked like they would be dry, bland, and not at all interesting. Argh. I tried one a few months ago and fell in love - how could I have callously rejected these little bits of cookie heaven? Gah.

Okay, enough with beating myself up. The only thing that prevents me from going out and buying one every day is the $1.50 price tag. Yeesh. Seems like a lot for a cookie that is about an inch and a half in diameter. As I flipped through my Bouchon cookbook (which gets a whole post on how much I love it, but I'll spare you) last week, I found a recipe for vanilla macarons. Yeah! On Saturday I brought various ingredients and supplies to my parents' home in Lafayette (to take advantage of the KitchenAid stand mixer) and set to work.

First off, acquiring the ingredients put a dent in my wallet. The cookie part calls for 5 cups of almond flour and seeds from 2 vanilla beans. Since I only had 3 cups of almond flour and I was pressed for time, I caved and went to the local (expensive) grocery store to buy blanched almonds and vanilla beans. I also needed a dozen eggs and a pound of butter, since my parents were low. Oh, and then I needed to buy pastry bag tips.

I mixed together the 5 cups of almond flour and 5.75 cups of powdered sugar and was rather alarmed by the amount of dry ingredients:

Hrm. Even more alarming - this whole bowl of dry stuff needed to somehow fit into this much smaller bowl of 8 whipped egg whites:

Okay, okay, the scale is off, but lets just say that as a scientist, I was pretty sure that if it happened I would have defied many basic laws of physics.

I added the dry ingredients little by little and to my utter amazement, it all fit! Look!
Pretty spiffy, no? My arms aching, I started the difficult task of piping the very stiff and sticky batter into circles of the exact same size. This was frustrating. Plus, I had a star tip instead of a plain tip so they didn't come out as round circles. Thomas Keller says to draw out the circles before you start. I didn't do this, so I was pretty cranky by the time I drew out all the cicles on the parchment paper. This took a while. Then, after piping out all the batter, you have to let the circles dry at room temp so they form a nice skin. I did this for about an hour, and they definitely felt dry, but I can't figure out if this was too much time or too little time, because some of the baked circles had a puffy skin that was crunchy but also was very thin and fell off. Here are the cookies, taking over the family room table:

If you're ever crazy enough to bake these yourself at home, remember to put lots of space between your traced circles. The batter will spread a little, and if it touches other circles while baking it's a b*tch to separate. The cookies are pretty sticky in the middle. Plus, make sure you have lots of cookie sheets. I didn't have enough, and I used one of those cushionair sheets, which meant most of that batch was ruined because the bottoms didn't bake enough and we couldn't peel them off the parchment without totally mauling them. My mom happily ate those with a little buttercream.

Speaking of buttercream, I made that too. Damn, butter and sugar are good together. Except my mom doesn't have any granulated sugar at home, just some organic less-refined stuff from Trader Joe's I had bought when we made creme brulee. We stupidly attempted to make the sugar syrup with this and it was a mess. I ended up dumping a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar into the mix and I think it came out okay. I had to stop my mom from eating spoonfuls of it.

At this point, my brother had come home from taking the MCAT and we went out to dinner, which you can read about here. I'll post pictures later, but my brother's description pretty much sums up my feelings as well.

Well fed and slightly tipsy, my brother and I tackled the macaron assembly, where we had to restrain ourselves from eating each one after we assembled. We managed to restrain ourselves and ended up with about 25:

So basically, considering all the money and time that went into the process, I no longer have any qualms forking over the six quarters for this precious treat. Not that the homemade ones weren't delicious - they were amazing and by successfully making them I consider myself a pastry goddess (ha!) - but those five hours would be better spent elsewhere.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Now I have no excuse...

As of 7:42 this morning, my new apple mac mini is on a FedEx vehicle for delivery. I already have my new flat panel monitor, speakers, and USB hub, and tomorrow I get my keyboard. This means....more blogging! Okay, maybe not more, but at least now I can put more pictures up. I guess this means I have to take more pictures. And I should learn how to use my digital camera. Yergh.

Monday, August 15, 2005

What is General Tso's Chicken???

Having lived on the east coast for four years, I think I am allowed to be one of those annoying people who talk about how wonderful California is all the time (there are some who do this but have never set foot outside the state. These people are just obnoxious.) I won't go in depth, because that's about a novel's worth of stuff to say, but occasionally, I do get twinges of missing things you can only get on the east coast. Like pretty fall colors. Right now it is the middle of August and I walked to school in the freezing fog/rain. Eww. The other thing is General Tso's chicken.

Now, I don't know exactly who General Tso was or what his chicken dish is supposed to taste like, but I can tell you this - every time I've had it on the east coast it is damn frickin' good. Deep fried chicken cubes and broccoli, smothered in this wonderfully spicy but also sweet sauce. I've ordered it in fancy restaurants, from roach coaches, at 3am from the local takeout place, and it has never disappointed me.

Until I tried to find it in California. I've tried all sorts of imitations - some not spicy enough, most didn't have broccoli, and none of them had the right sauce. What is going on here??

Last night my family went to our favorite chinese restaurant in SF - Gourmet Carousel. We've been coming here since I was seven. We love it. It's good (if you know what to order) and cheap and hits the spot. I was in lab so I met them a little late - they had already ordered. No big deal, we usually get the same thing each time so I wasn't worried. Until my mom said "oh, and your brother wanted to try the general tso's chicken so we got that too." Whaaaa?? Usually my brother doesn't commit such huge errors in judgment, particularly when it comes to food. He must really be missing the east coast right now (he's an undergrad at Amherst.) "Idiot!" I said to him. "You know you can't order that anywhere but the east coast!"

And I was right. Even our beloved Gourmet Carousel wasn't up to the challenge. The texture of the chicken was okay but there was no broccoli. And even though there was a generous amount of dried chilies in the sauce, absolutely no heat whatsoever. A weird citrusy sweetness. Blech.

Does anybody know why we can't get east coast-style General Tso's chicken here? What's the deal?

I know I just dissed this dish, but that shouldn't deter you from eating at Gourmet Carousel. What to get:
*peking duck - wonderfully crispy skin and oily meat, comes with 12 steamed buns (not pancakes) and green onions for what my family calls "duckburgers." Only 16.95 (whole duck) and you don't have to preorder or anything.
*clams with black bean sauce, pan fried flounder, mixed seafood in a nest, baked crab with ginger and scallions
*beef chow fun, chinese tender greens beef, long bean beef
*gourmet chicken, crispy fried chicken, salt baked chicken
*mandarin spareribs, gourmet combination clay pot
*sauteed dry string bean, pea sprouts in garlic sauce

Do not get:
mongolian beef, mu shu anything, batter-fried dishes (although I think they may have changed their batter, the old stuff was horrible.)

Each meal comes with a free bowl of their house wintermelon soup. Yummy stuff!

Gourmet Carousel
1559 Franklin St (corner of Pine)
San Francisco, CA

Thursday, August 11, 2005

still buzzin'....

...from the rockin' show I saw last night. Arrested Development was at Slim's. Now, I remember a few of their songs from, hm, when was it, middle school? And I like them, but I didn't truly appreciate their musical talent until I saw them on a super cheesy (yet awesome) show called Hit Me Baby One More Time. In this show, groups and performers from way back when (think Wang Chung, Vanilla Ice, Flock of Seagulls, Tiffany!) perform one of their hits and a cover of a current hit, and then the audience votes on who performed the best and that group gets to donate some money to their favorite charity. Well, Arrested Development won. They can really belt it, plus they have great performance energy. So I was super psyched when I found out they were touring and would be in SF.

The location of the venue gave me the perfect excuse to try out a restaurant I've heard good things about but have never gotten around to - India Garden. Funny side story: I heard about this place because my first roommate in SF went on a date here, where at the end of the night they shared the most (in her words) flaccid good-night kiss ever, but he apparently didn't think so because as he pulled away he said "mmm, deadly" - she of course ran immediately upstairs to share this information with me, we had a good bout of sidesplitting laughter, and have referred to him as "deadly" ever since, so much so that I can't remember his real name.

Okay, enough of the side stories. This place is good. We had a really hard time narrowing down our choices. I definitely wanted to try the vegetable korma, but then that left us with only one other entree spot. We toyed with the idea of ordering three entrees for two people but we probably would have hated ourselves in the middle of the show when we were instructed to jump up and down. We debated between the lamb coconut curry and something called "velvet chicken" - the lamb won. We also ordered vegetable samosas, justifying this by telling ourselves we could since we didn't order the third entree. Yow.

You know something is made right when it's deep-fried but leaves you feeling hungry for the rest of the meal. I've always wondered why people order deep-fried appetizers - so many times they are greasy and just make you feel all clogged up for the rest of the meal. Done right though - ahhh, yummy. These samosas were perfect - nice and crispy on the outside, not at all greasy-feeling, with the perfect amount of spice in the filling so that you didn't feel the need to douse it with cilantro chutney to give it flavor. After gobbling mine up I bounced around in anticipation for the rest of the meal.

Our dishes, along with rice and nan, came out a little later. Already things looked promising - the texture of the korma looked fantastic, and neither dish had those awful little pools of oil you sometimes see in other restaurants. The vegetable korma was amazing - nice big chunks of carrot, summer squash, cauliflower, peas, and bell pepper, with crunchy nuts. The lamb curry was also good - the texture of the lamb was much better than some of the other dry, tough chunks I've eaten in the past. It could have used a little more coconut and a little less salt, but I think saltiness in lamb dishes must be inherent - I have not yet had one single lamb korma, curry, or vindaloo that hasn't been very salty. Hm. I wonder why that is.

We were stuffed, and there was even some leftover to take home. I had the beginnings of food coma which did not bode well for the rest of the evening but eventually, the energy of the show pulled me through and I could dance the night away.

Go here!
India Garden
1261 Folsom St (btw 8th and 9th)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

not food-related

Does anybody have an opinion on the apple mini mac? I'm looking for an inexpensive desktop computer to keep at home (my laptop is permanently at work) and I really don't need bells and whistles. But I've been a PC person my whole life and have always had some sort of problem with all the PCs I've owned and feel that maybe by getting a mac I won't deal with that sort of thing, like viruses and crashing and reformatting. Is this wishful thinking on my part?


I went to Lafayette last night to say hi to my grandma who just flew in from Korea. Waiting for me (other than an amazing dinner, of course) was my new baby - the Bouchon cookbook! I spent a good hour oohing and aahing over the yummy-sounding recipes and pretty pictures. Unfortunately it was too big for me to lug around in my backpack as I BART and bike all over the bay area, so I have to wait until Friday to install it permanently under my pillow and have dreams filled with macarons and onion soup and salmon rillettes. In the meantime, I have just ordered an ice cream maker off of amazon (one day sale made it 9.99 which is 83% off!) and am anxiously awaiting the first time I make ice cream. The Bouchon book has an apple and calvados recipe based on creme fraiche. I can barely contain myself...

Monday, August 01, 2005

things i love right now...

*scrambled eggs made with creme fraiche

*my nalgene "easy sipper" - did you know you can spike a mild fever from being dehydrated? i've been trying to drink out of my wide-mouth nalgene but i'm so darn clumsy i spill water all over myself. this thing is a marvel of engineering.

*a large bottle of asahi, shared with your little brother over a dinner of sushi and soba

*talking about everything and nothing while drinking coffee and people/dog-watching, on a sunday morning