Monday, December 25, 2006

as big as my head!

Originally uploaded by starchmouse.
The night before my qualifying exam I received a good luck package from my dear friend Odile. When Odile and I were roommates, I often had cravings for a cookie the size of my head. As a good luck gift she sent me this caramel apple the size of my head. Not only is it the largest caramel apple I have ever seen, it is definitely the most delicious I have ever eaten...double-dipped in caramel, drizzled in dark chocolate, then smothered in almonds. I saved it for after my exam (I passed! Now I'm a PhD candidate!) and although it feeds 17, my family of four polished it off pretty well...thank you so much Odile! I can't wait to see you in January!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

if you are one of the three people who read this blog...

wish me luck! And send me happy thoughts tomorrow. Tomorrow at 11am I will undertake one of the more painful experiences in my PhD Qualifying Examination. Three hours of grilling by 5 faculty members about why they should let me get a PhD. Three hours of grilling me on my research methods and my project theory and my knowledge about bioengineering in general. Studying for this thing has been so stressful I haven't felt hungry for the last THREE WEEKS. Yergh.

Friday, November 24, 2006

whatever you heard, it's alllll true...

pretzel croissant
Originally uploaded by starchmouse.
Having grown up in Minnesota and northern California, LA has always seemed like a slightly unreal place to visit. This is by no means an LA-hating post. The only reason I don't think I could live there permanently is because it's so damn flat. But the food....ooh, the food. Childhood visits always included stops at Koreatown for various banchan, and soft tofu stew or buckwheat noodles or rice cake soup. Thanks to my latest hobby of foodblog-reading (I haven't been keeping up lately thanks to a little annoyance called the-qualifying-exam-from-hell) I was able to do a little research about what to scout out on a recent weekend trip. Given the fact that our trip was going to be very short, I decided to pursue just one thing...the pretzel croissant.

Whatever you may have heard about it, it's all true.

You'd think with all that advice I would have bought more than three. :(

So I thought I'd just chime in on the pretzel croissant love: it is so good it makes a San Francisco girl want to move to LA. Well, that, Hurry Curry, and 35 cent cookies. [sheepish grin]

Thursday, October 26, 2006

beard papa cream puffs are very dangerous...

...and I don't just mean in the I-could-eat-four-in-one-sitting-and-clog-my-arteries way. Each comes dusted with a very fine powdered sugar that when you open your mouth in preparation to take one oozy creamy bite, you inadvertently end up inhaling this very fine sugar, which instead of melting on your tongue, tickles the back of your throat and makes you choke, much to the amusement of passers-by. Last night as I was doing some last minute birthday-shopping (tomorrow the boyfriend enters his late 20s) in the new SF shopping center I took one bite and nearly hacked up a lung. The way to get around this is to flip the cream puff over and eat it upside-down. Eating foods upside-down is mildly uncomfortable to me, having been raised with the notion that things are better when you follow the rules (it's not the right way to eat it!) but if it means I can eat my cream puff and not die, so be it.

Monday, August 28, 2006

help me! i think i have a spending problem... mother belongs to one of those book clubs where you buy one book at "full" price and get a whole bunch free. Kind of like BMG. Lately they've been having a $9.99 sale - all books are ten bucks! So I started browsing and clicking and whatnot, and suddenly the screen is telling me that I can only add so many books to my cart at a time and I've ordered too much. So I try to pare it down as best I can, and end up with eight selections. Eight selections that if I had bought at normal, non-grad-student prices, would have cost me nearly $300. Yup.

So here is what I got:
The Professional Chef
Ripe for Dessert (I just made the gingerbread upside-down cake with some pluots and peaches I bought at the Alemany Farmer's Market...yum!!)
Mangoes and Curry Leaves
The Cooking of Southwest France
On Food and Cooking
The Quick Recipe - I initially put this in my shopping cart not realizing it was put together by the Cook's Illustrated folks...I think it will become a very important addition to my cookbook collection. Already just leafing through I've found many recipes that I want to try for "everyday" cooking (let's be honest - while some of the other books I bought are gorgeous and have delicious-sounding recipes, it is not every day I'm going to attempt scallop souffles or osso buco) and for some reason my boyfriend loves to flip through it even though it has waaaay fewer pretty pictures than the other books. I'm debating buying a bunch more as presents for people.

Anyways, these books could not have come at a worse time, when the gray weather makes me want to do nothing more than bake desserts or spend all day making risottos or roasting meats. Except I really need to get cracking on this whole PhD thing. Gah.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

hee hee...

Reading this this morning reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother last summer on a hot day...

Me: God, it's so hot. Ooh, you know how there's iced coffee? I wish people made iced hot chocolate!
Brother:'s called chocolate milk, you idiot!

Monday, July 31, 2006

why not having cable might be not that bad...

I have cable. Of course. I couldn't live without the food network (which a lot of the time I don't even watch, it's just on as my soothing background noise) or bravo or jon stewart. The boyfriend (who I will now refer to from here on as Hottie McHotterson, or McH for short) does not have cable. However, this makes him very loyal to the few shows he actually can watch, such as Hell's Kitchen and better yet, Check, Please!
Now, I'm generally not a quiet person. Okay, that's not true, I'm inherently asian enough that one could describe me as quiet. But if I feel comfortable enough around you I'll tell you anything. In fact, it becomes hard to shut me up. And most of the time I'll talk about food. I think this intimidates people who aren't so "into" food. Numerous times I have found myself choosing the restaurant or even the dishes we order because I'm "into" food. Not McH. From our very first date he's never been shy about suggesting a place or a dish to try. For some reason I find this very attractive. But I digress. When we decided to go out to a nice dinner to celebrate a quarter-year's time of dating and still liking each other, he suggested Antica Trattoria, having seen it reviewed on Check, Please!
Because I have cable, I don't think I would ever watch that show. But I'm soooo glad he does. Because Antica Trattoria was pretty much the *perfect* place for us to have our celebratory dinner. Everything was delicious (or "yummy" as we kept getting asked by the server and the hostess) and the atmosphere was great - cute, small, not too quiet or loud, and full of other people who were clearly enjoying themselves. We started with beef carpaccio and a porcini mushroom salad - this salad was amazing. Crack crack crack. We each had pasta (wild boar for me, squid ink angel hair for him) because now that we've been dating for more than two months we can eat pasta in front of each other. Ha ha, remember in high school when your friends told you to never go to an italian restaurant on your first date because of the potential for food/sauce-related embarrasing mishaps? Or that if you had to go, order something like tortellini. No? Okay, maybe that was just me. We finished with the tiramisu, which is one of his favorite desserts. Again, "yummy." (We found it slightly amusing that all these serious-seeming people kept throwing the word "yummy" at us.)
Hm, I wonder where we'll go to celebrate four months...

Monday, July 24, 2006

so so hot...

Originally uploaded by starchmouse.
I'm sure most of you in the bay area know how sweltering it was this past weekend. I just moved into a larger room in my apartment that has its very own deck! So I've been taking advantage of the sunshine and eating my breakfast outside. Yum - steel cut oats cooked in my rice cooker with blueberries, flax, and bananas.

Friday, June 23, 2006

kitchen disasters, or how to rescue a broken ganache...

I'm impulsive. Often I will be standing in Trader Joe's, waiting to buy eggs and milk when a recipe I've seen earlier that day will take over and I find myself buying goat's milk yogurt or heavy cream or pizza dough. This happened to me a month ago after reading a particularly inspiring post where Sam discovers chocolate mint and makes some very delectable-sounding/looking chocolate-mint truffles. I came home with a pint of heavy whipping cream, ready to enjoy some chocolatey goodness later that night.

Unfortunately, my impulsiveness means I sometimes skip over major details, like reading a recipe closely. Oops. Having never made truffles before, but seeing Alton Brown do it on TV, I figured it couldn't be that hard, right? But apparently, ganache can be finicky. Especially if you disregard all helpful directions and plow ahead from excitement. And you end up with this:

A grainy, separated mess! Too much heat will cause the cocoa butter to pool out and you'll see a layer of oil separate out from your formerly lovely chocolate-cream mixture. But I'm stubborn, and I didn't want to give up and throw the mess out. So I did a little googling to see if I could fix it. And you can! First you break out your trusty candy thermometer. Then you divide the mess in half. You heat one half to 130 degrees, and cool the other half to 60 degrees. Then you slowly whisk the hot half into the cool half. This supposedly averages out the temperature so that the fat droplets in your ganache become evenly suspended.

Hard to believe that this mess actually somehow became a yummy ganache! I had steeped the cream with cinnamon stick, a chile, cardamom, and cayenne. Then I mixed some ground cinnamon and cayenne into the cocoa powder for rolling. The result? A very delicious truffle, with just the right amount of kick. It was pronounced "yummy" by the boyfriend and the roommate.

Moral of the story? Read the directions! But also, don't get flustered and give up...with a little bit of patience (or perhaps desperation?) you can fix most kitchen disasters into something palatable and even delicious!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A delicious korean dinner...

One of the nights we were in Korea my uncle took us to a restaurant known for its mountain vegetable set meal. I love this kind of stuff - when we went last May we had gone to a restaurant that dealt with lettuce wraps. Koreans are big on using lettuce to wrap up rice and meat and pickles and making a meal out of it. This place had all sorts of different lettuces - from sweet to bitter and herbal. My mother loves this place and so my uncle told us he would take us somewhere similar.

There are many mountains in Korea, and as a result, many different types of plants that grow on these mountains. There are all sorts of leaves and roots that are used in korean cooking that I wish we had access to here. Although this meal had no meat (we had two or three small broiled pieces of fish shared among the five of us) I felt completely full and satisfied from nibbling away at the various plants and pickles. And I felt like I had done something good for my body, which is pretty difficult to achieve in Korea what with all the baked goods and rice cakes and fried snacks I find myself eating every day!

Below is a slide show of that meal - you can click on any picture to get a description of what it is!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

16 hours ahead...

I'm in Korea right now, living the good life. Lots of good eating. And we're not necessarily going out! My grandmother's just good like that. Plus, how can you complain when your mother fills the shopping cart with lots and lots of bread and whipped cream-covered sweet rice flour doughnuts?

I'll have lots of pictures when I get back, which is Monday. Then four days later I head to Massachusetts to watch my baby brother graduate from college. Sniff sniff...

Sunday, April 30, 2006

food and family...

gourmet carousel
Originally uploaded by starchmouse.
It's not very hard to figure out my family. If you ever want to get in good with them, tell them you love food. Not just love food, looooove it. Then eat lots of it in front of them.
I don't know how we became such food-lovers. Growing up, I don't remember food playing as obvious a role in our daily lives as it does now. Sure, we went out to eat, but never because we wanted to try something new or exciting. And we were *never* told to finish our plates - ours was the "if you can't finish just leave it!" household.

I've learned a lot about my family through food. My father subscribes to the if-there-are-lots-of-people-inside-it-must-be-good school of thought when it comes to choosing a place to eat. It doesn't matter if it's a dingy little place - as long as there are tons of people inside they must know something we don't. I suppose it's because he really wants to see the best of everything and everybody, and has a lot of faith and trust in others. A common phrase that will come out of my mother's mouth is "you are *exactly* like your father!" and if you see us in a restaurant, it's true. We're the ones who will try something new because it seems silly to order something you've already had, even though it's good. My mother, on the other hand, takes comfort in what she knows to be good. It takes a bit of a wrestle to get her to try something we've never ordered before. It makes sense - she needs order, organization, and cleanliness to function. She loves cookbooks and trying to cook new things - yet she'll rarely try new recipes unless she's seen a food network chef successfully execute it on TV first.

It was food that helped me appreciate my parents more. It first hit me in a restaurant in Paris. There was an amazing place tucked away on a little side street near our apartment - crowded, smoky, and a slight risk because everything was in french. But we loved it so much we went three nights. On the third night, I just shook my head in amazement - there sitting in front of me were two people who at the tender age of 25 hopped on a plane, each carrying two babies adopted by families in the US (crazy - four babies on a 12 hour flight!), so that their tickets would be $200 instead of $2000. They landed in Minnesota and went to school (all over again) so that they could have two kids and move them out to sunny California. All they knew growing up were the soups and stews and pickles of postwar Korean cuisine. They could have stopped right there, but they were not content to be immigrants who just got by in a new country while feverishly clinging to the only customs they knew. They really embraced what they thought to be the american spirit - trying new things not for trend's sake (which is typically Korean) but really because you had the opportunity to. And here they were in Paris, devouring moules, poisson gratin, aubergine caviar and fried anchovies. They had an organic garden waiting for them back at home. I never understood the significance of what my parents had went through to get here until I saw how they took that opportunity and ran with it. And while I'm normally proud of my parents, at that moment I wanted to burst with it. And that was just the beginning. There was curry eaten off of banana leaves in Singapore. Glasses of cider and plates of tapas while tottering around San Sebastian. Haggis in Edinburgh. Churrasco in Brazil. Guacamole in Mexico City.

My brother and I are so lucky - we could have been pulled in so many different directions, trying to assimilate to a culture foreign to my parents and living life the way my parents had when they were young. Instead, we were shown that whatever you decide to do you should just throw your whole self into it while keeping the best parts of your past experiences.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Looking closely at the Chronicle's Top 100 list and their Bargain Bites list, I noticed that I've eaten at more Top 100s than Bargain Bites. Interesting. I swear, I'm still a struggling grad student. I guess my priorities are just not typically that of a starving student...

Yummy birthday eating...

It's only fitting that as a birthday princess, I should eat a princess cake.

My weekend of yummy birthday eating started at Luna Park. After months of harping "I wanna go there! I wanna go there" my roommate took matters into her own hands (I was a little resistant to the whole celebrate-my-birthday idea) and made reservations. I had been ogling the goat cheese fondue for some time and it didn't disappoint - in fact, I may have drunkenly told my friend Liv that I wanted to slather it all over my body and lick it off myself. That was the pomegranate cosmo talking. She also marveled at how little I ate, and again, I blame the cosmo. I also blame the cosmo for nearly reducing me to tears at the bar when I opened my birthday presents. (But what girl wouldn't cry when she unwraps a long-coveted food grinder attachment for her stand mixer?) In fact, I blame that one drink for anything crazy that may have happened later that night (although nothing did.) I stumbled into bed at around 2am and slept so soundly that night I didn't even notice when Liv rolled over me. But getting back to slathering food all over my body, I might have done the same with the chocolate part of the s'mores. And with the marshmallow, if it wasn't so sticky...

On Saturday I went to my parents' house and brought my birthday cake with me - Swedish Princess cake from the Schubert Bakery on Clement. We cut it open and it was so yummy-looking it enticed even my mother, who is seeing an acupuncture therapist and is under strict orders to not eat wheat, pork, chicken, coffee, dairy, and pretty much anything that tastes good.

Sunday night we went to Delfina. I'm always nervous about going to places that I've wanted to go to for a long time - I guess there's a fear that I'll have built it up so much in my mind and then it will disappoint me. But everything about our meal was amazing. First of all, if somebody had told me they had the most crispy, greaseless fries EVER I would have made it a point to go there much sooner. And if that somebody had also mentioned the fried sage and rosemary leaves mixed in...well, I would have kissed that somebody many times. Many many times. We ordered the green garlic sformantino with black trumpet mushrooms to start. "That sounds good!" my mom said, and I agreed. Basically, nobody had any idea what a sformantino was but "green garlic" sounded good. Then they bring a bright green flan to the table and much confusion ensues. "Did they make a mistake or are they giving this to us just because?" my mom whispered. So I asked "um, what was this again?" "Flan!" replies the server as she scurries away. We dig in, and it is the most creamy version of garlic I have ever tasted. The next 20 minutes were spent trying to figure out how we could make it at home. I'll let you know if I ever succeed.

After a weekend of drinking my one little glass of Dolcetto d'Alba left me tottering about, so I ordered an espresso with our buttermilk panna cotta. Still not sober enough to drive, I took my parents to Tartine and we ogled the breads. I caved and bought a half loaf of sesame (there's a parmesan panini with my name on it for dinner later, yum!) and a small serving of bread pudding for breakfast next day. And with that, my weekend of birthday debauchery comes to an end. Phew. Now to catch up on some sleep....
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Sunday, April 02, 2006

When you gotta have it, you gotta have it...

This morning I woke up after a mere 4 hours of sleep with a desire to eat carbs. Lots of them. Taped to my fridge is a recipe from the last time I had this same desire - a recipe for Ina Garten's sour cream banana pancakes. Yum. Who wouldn't want to eat that? Nice and lemony and tangy. I even had an extra large lemon to zest.
For some reason I decided to add a spoonful of poppy seeds. I've been on a poppy seed kick lately - those suckers are so nutty and flavorful even though they are tiny. I stirred them into my dry batter and decided, heck! Why not through in another spoonful? Mix mix mix. Then I somehow wake up and realize....I've put in black mustard seeds!!
Do I throw the whole thing out and start all over again?? Oh no no no. First, I don't have another lemon. Second, I'm stubborn. So I park myself in front of the TV with bowl and strainer and start picking out those suckers one by one.
I kid you not. See for yourself:


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Dine About Town....

I actually did Dine About Town three times this month! Here's some quick notes:

Aziza - my father and I intended to do DAT but after looking at the menu we decided we weren't actually saving that much money, plus we'd now be able to order whatever we wanted. Already we were off to a bad start because our water tasted "funny." I guess my dad doesn't think cucumber in your water glass is very refreshing. First up, "giant lima beans oven baked in a ras el hanout tomato purée, covered in shaved french feta, tuscan olive oil" - deemed too salty by my father. I think the feta was overkill, plus I don't like lima beans. Mine, "willey farm bloomsdale spinach & feta fingers alongside fleur de sel sprinkled greens, caper-pine nut swirl" was just okay. A little too ordinary. Now here's the part that is sad. I completely forgot what my father ate. Eek. Bad food blogger. But my dish definitely made up for the first half of the meal - "kumquat enriched niman ranch lamb shank - bergamot infused dried fruits, cranberry couscous, grilled green onion" - the lamb was amazingly melty and the bergamot was not too overpowering, which I was worried about because I don't like earl gray tea. Although I was full, I couldn't pass up the "bowl of bliss - the most heavenly cayenned dark chocolate custard & a cup of hot cocoa with black pepper marshmallow." I'm not a marshmallow that girl but that black pepper marshmallow was so yummy I'm inspired to crack black peppercorns into my s'mores from now on. The dark chocolate custard could have been more cayenned. But that marshmallow...

Frisson - this place left a bad taste in my mouth. The food was okay, I suppose, but they ran out of one of the two DAT offerings and didn't offer a substitute at all. This was okay for me because I like salmon, but my dining companion who doesn't was a little screwed. Plus, we're grad students so it's not like we could afford a three-course (or gah, even a two-course) meal here just for kicks. But we had already waited about 25 minutes for our reserved table and as it was nearly 9pm we weren't about to get up and leave to find a pizza. I won't even really talk about the food since I think it was way too pretentiously priced and not at all memorable, plus our waitress kinda sucked.

Rubicon - this place made up for our bad experience the week before. Wow wow wow. First, it was remarkable how efficient this place is. Everything was well-timed and perfectly orchestrated. And then there's the food. Oy. I couldn't stop making little "mmm" noises as I ate my soup. And I ordered the pork belly. This after I've totally been getting on my boyfriend's case about his love for all things fatty and how he should get his cholesterol checked. And I've been blaming him for the extra jiggle around my belly. But the pork belly....oooh. I've never been so happy eating a slab of fat, and that's saying a lot because as you know, fat and I have issues.

Wow, a lot of detail goes missing when you decide to write about something a month after you do it. At least my life is getting in the way of my blogging, and not the other way around. :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

zucchini pancakes...

I got home last night at 2:30am and a busy day at lab meant I didn't have time to buy groceries. As everything I ate yesterday was deep-fried, I felt I needed some vegetables today. But what do you do when you just got home and it's already 8:30, you're very hungry, and you only have two shrively-looking zucchini in your drawer?

Make zucchini pancakes! It took five minutes to prepare and they're pretty healthy too! Look how easy:
1. Wash a medium zucchini or two small ones and cut into 2-in chunks. Put in food processor. Throw in half a small onion and pulse pulse pulse. Add some salt and pepper, crack in three eggs, and add in a couple tablespoons of a binder. I used Bisquick and flaxseed meal (gotta get those omegas!) but you could use flour or breadcrumbs.
2. Pulse pulse pulse. Drop like pancake batter onto a nonstick skillet greased with Pam or olive oil cooking spray. They won't bubble like pancakes but you can check the undersides after a few minutes to see how brown they are. Flip. Eat.

This was inspired by a korean egg pancake-like thing that's made with veggies, fish, and eggs. You could make these coin-sized and eat it that way - with rice and kimchee. Or you could make them pancake-sized and top them with shredded cheese and salsa, which is what I chose to do tonight. Yum!

Thursday, January 12, 2006


One Diestel turkey: $25
Three pounds of cranberries: $5.50
Two bunches of celery: $1.20
Three large onions: $0.75
Two pounds of swiss chard: $6
Two pounds of butter: $5

Impressing your mother with your first solo Thanksgiving dinner effort and having your family all together in your first "grown-up" apartment:


I know, several holidays have gone by since Thanksgiving, but what can I say, I'm waaay behind. The above concoction is a fennel and beet salad I put together as an appetizer for my Thanksgiving dinner. I tossed some fennel with a citrus vinaigrette a la Thomas Keller, and had my brother place overlapping slices of roasted beet on top. I gave him a cave-aged gorgonzola to crumble on top. Unwittingly, it turned out looking like the MasterCard logo.
As I am too lazy to post other pictures right now (and I have a lab presenation tomorrow, but have yet to start!) I will link you to my brother's blog where he has chronicled our dinner...