Thursday, September 27, 2012

Banh Mi, Bun Mee, Bunn Mi

When Cafe Bunn Mi opened on Clement Street we didn't run right over. We thought we had the Mecca of  Vietnamese Sandwiches over in the TL, Saigon Sandwiches. In fact, whenever we eat at a new place that serves Banh Mi, it gets compared to Miss Saigon. Considering the price, crusty bread and tasty choices a new-to-us purveyor usually falls short (sometimes they win in the service area though. Saigon is not big on people skills).

One big plus for Cafe Bunn Mi is their array of menu choices! In addition to sandwiches ($4-$6 depending on fillings) they have soups (pho), platters, salads, fresh juice/smoothies and desserts. Anyone can custom make their meal here, be it gluten-free, vegetarian or meat-centric. The to-go service is quick and you can also call ahead for pick-up.

While we love all variations of this Vietnamese Sandwich. Our choices for today were:

5-spice Chicken with the works!--$4

 Now it may seem from the picture below that Angela has a lot of carrots and veg, but that is because of how a banh mi is built. The crusty crispy french bread is split and then spread with Mayo (possibly also pate). Your main meat or veg is shoved down into that crevasse. Next up is your crunchy fresh carrots, jalapenos, cabbage and cilantro, (these veg are pretty traditional, but can vary) which are crammed on the top so that each bite gives you a bit of crust, crunch and full flavor! Angela has come to love 5-spice (although she doesn't like gingerbread, go figure) and it makes chicken taste rich with deep character. Especially if you use it in a marinade or sauce.

Lightly breaded Crispy Duck (no mayo, no jalapeno) --$6

J.K. usually gets pate, but decided against it today, so nothing would compete with the flavor of the duck. The lack of mayo and jalapeno had nothing to do with the duck. She just doesn't like mayo. Or anything too spicy. The duck was excellent, and, as you can see, the veggies were more evenly distributed than Angela's. J.K. is now considering making "5-spice" bread for Christmas, along with the traditional gingerbread. We'll let you know whether this was a good idea.

If you come to visit SF, we'd love to take you on a tour of Vietnamese Sandwich shops. Do you have a favorite sandwich shop or food truck where you live?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Opera and picnic in GG Park 2012

An annual tradition for nearly 40 years, I have been attending Opera in the Park (a free event, Thank You SF Opera!) for about 6 years total though maybe not all in a row. I was introduced to this fine time to wine, dine and listen by a former flatmate. We now use this as an occasion to catch up and enjoy the late SF Summer weather as we absorb the local opera culture, people watch, sing along, eat a lot and drink some. (Open container rule breakers ignored, but please no one get too rowdy or they might crack down!)

For our picnic spread this year I made a Chicken and Potato Salad (in blue bowl of picnic spread photo). I also offered up a 4 Berry Faux Trifle. My roommate had given me a lovely serving dish and I needed to Use it or Lose it, so it hosted my mix of greek (honey flavored) yogurt, mini-vanilla wafers and summer berries. I garnished with some lemon curd, balsamic vinegar and caramel on top.

Needless to say we were satiated by the end of the afternoon. Filled to the brim with culture, conversation and comestibles. Do you have a favorite place to picnic? I never leave home without my soft cooler and carrying a blanket. What makes or breaks your picnic?

Ta-da, here are the pictures and recipe for the cold chicken potato salad I made.

Cut and boil potatoes with salt. Stick 'em with a fork easily and they're done.

Remove (most) fat and (all) skin from chicken (I used 6 thighs from butcher) to prep for poaching.

This pot contains the cleaned chicken thighs plus 1 medium roughly chopped onion and Tablespoon of salt in enough water to cover. Learn from the poaching professionals here.On a side note, if you can hear the chicken sing, then you are a lucky one!(I couldn't find the real link to Chef Pepin's TV show, but basically, the chicken fat clairfies and there is a swooshing/singing noise from the oven letting you know it's done... only when you're roasting though, so don't wait for your poached chicken to sing!!)

I put the steamy potatoes in with my (treated with lemon overnight) raw kale to soften it a bit more.

These lonely veggies were crowding up my fridge so I threw them in too. Raw carrots, broccoli, mushrooms and celery got chopped to add into the mix. 

After my chicken was poached, I took it out to let it cool a bit, then rough chopped it. (The chicken broth is used to make stew for the post Quinoa for Kat.)

A heaping Tablespoon  of mayo and a overfull teaspoon of whole grain mustard lubricate the salad.

I decided it needed more flavors to back it up, so I peeked in the pantry and culled this guy. He's got a lot of punch! Just one teaspoon is needed. You should certainly personalize the salad to your tastes. You may have different veg in your fridge or use fresh (or dried) herbs to give it a kick. Whatever you choose will be delish, I trust you. Enjoy your end of summer picnics and time with friends!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gussie's Chicken & Waffles

Tea Time Update: If you're looking for Gussie's check them out in the East Bay now. All the good stuff is moving to Oakland.

Let's talk about this picturesque lunch at Gussie's Chicken and Waffles when it was still in the Fillmore, off Eddy St.

We scored this feast for a very discounted price. Angela had a 'takeout' coupon, $5 for $10 worth of food from Living Social and JK had a Scoutmob deal which gave us 50% off the total for the rest. All in all our check would have been $30 for this assortment of choice eats, but we only paid $16ish (plus tip on the original total). Our waiter was very accommodating and had no issues with us eating in for the entirety of the meal, which was much easier than half of it going home as "take out." Other patrons were happily eating around us, either ordering from the menu or picking up plates from their lunch buffet.

Our appetizer:
A HUGE portion of fried okra with roasted red pepper dipping sauce. Crunchy and perfectly cooked.

Chicken breast strips with Waffle Fries. Waffle Waffle Waffle. Don't be on the fence about these guys, dip 'em in ranch or bbq sauce and inhale them! Angela's fave part of the meal. Yummy.

 Got to have our greens! Salad that is...with balsamic dressing on the side.

Sweet potato waffles drowned in syrup and butter? Why thank you. Their texture was more soft like pancakes, not crispy like a belgian waffle, but the slight sweetness from the potatoes made it a-ok in our book.

Can't go to a chicken waffle place without making a chick/waffle sammich. So good! Our waiter is obviously not used to bloggers, the look of confusion that came with our refilled water glasses as we took this picture was priceless itself.

We were both Stuffed by the end of this smorgasbord meal. Check out Gussies the next time you're in the Fillmore. You won't be disappointed! Chicken and Waffle restos are popping up everywhere in SF. Are they taking over your neighborhoods and towns as well?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Quinoa for Kat --Angela

Quinoa has recently become a main grain in my life. It's very simple to use in salads, soups and stews. In this post I'm going make a Quinoa stew using chicken broth, fresh veg and black quinoa from our local co-op Rainbow Grocery. Quinoa is most commonly cooked in a similar manner to rice. 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water. Boil, let it sit until water is absorbed. Very simple and delicious. You can use plain water with salt or any flavored broth you like, I chose homemade chicken and onion broth from the poached chicken used in the Cold Chicken and Potato salad we ate at Opera in the Park.

I skimmed off the fat from the poached chicken broth before adding the quinoa. (I also removed the poached chicken, but tossed in a bit that was chopped up.) I brought the quinoa to a boil and then turned it off until I was ready to add the next ingredients.

skim the fat
putting in quinoa

I tossed in a cup of dried veggie mix to help add flavor and absorb the extra broth.  This included garlic, tomatoes, carrots, celery and potatoes, you can find a mix like this online or at a co-op. I bought it as part of my pretend earthquake kit, but I like to use it even when the earth isn't shakin'.

I brought the dried vegetables and quinoa back up to a simmer. The germ of the quinoa was showing, so I knew it was technically done cooking, but it's a hardy grain so it could stew in the pot (ha!). You can see the little curls below, those c-shapes are the germ.

Per usual I had to add some veggies to give it texture and further develop the flavor profile. In this case, eggplant (which I chose because it breaks down when you cook it), broccoli (I like to rough chop it so some of the mini florets swim around), celery and a 'challenge' vegetable, fava beans.

I asked around to find the best way to cook fava beans as the last time when I got them from the farmer's  market, they tasted bitter and ruined my meal. Turns out I overcooked them, which leached the bitterness into that stew. Knowledgeable and prepared, this time I tossed them in on top to steam After I simmered the other ingredients until they were cooked. They are quite tasty. I also learned you can steam them in their pods like edamame.

The finished stew, served with an heirloom cherry tomato garnish. It made a potful, which I have been taking to work for lunch. It just seems to get more savory and filling everyday!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

An Abundance of Pears --Angela

I'm very lucky that this year our pear tree has been so fruitful. (bah dum dum)

view from my window of the pear tree

Especially since it has been inspiring my roommate to make Pear Crisp. (She used to be a Pastry Chef, so she doesn't use a recipe, but more for professional reasons than simple laziness like me.) Here is a basic recipe you can use that would be similar. The nice thing is that a basic Crisp recipe can feature any fruit (or multiple fruits) that are in season.

My real reason for posting (besides to brag that my roommate shares baked sweets with me) is because of my choice of toppings. This serving of Pear Crisp features Vanilla Bean Salted Caramel Sauce from Meredyth and Creme Fraiche from first name twin Angela S. These were both items from the SF Food Swap (see previous blog post) and they helped make my dessert for dinner all that more delicious. The caramel sauce melted smooth and creamy over the warm pears and the creme fraiche stayed a cool counterpoint. I can't wait to try it again; let's hope pear season never ends.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Food Festival part 4

Here we are to say Good-bye... It's the final installment of our SF Food Festival (Version 2012) series of blog posts. Let's finish up this day of gluttony.

Good Foods Catering. Jambalaya and Strawberry Basil Lemonade. This Lemonade was The Best drink that we had at the festival hands down. We were all sad we hadn't tried it first and gotten it 3 more times.The Jambalaya was lightly spiced and the rice had a full robust flavor.

Neo Cocoa Brownie. Fudgy Milk Chocolate with Caramel.  Heavenly. What more can we say?

Melissa's choice from the famously popular Slanted Door. Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce. She stood in line while J.K. and I noshed down the brownie. This really needed more sauce to be a pudding. It was more like a mellow piece of french toast with a crisp outside and soft middle. We enjoyed eating it anyhow.

As the day winds down we head to the take home standby of  Kettle Corn from Endless Summer Sweets. Small, medium and large sizes. Mel took the medium, J.K. had the small and Angela coveted the large, but she knew we'd pop the top to snatch out handfuls of  the large one right away since it was still hot from the kettle. Salty sweetness always a treat!

Our last official stop is Rice Paper Scissors again. We can't miss the Beef Pho Roll. This is a cross between a Chinese stuffed rice noodle (cheong fun, usually served warm) and a spring roll (usually served cold). This one was "room temperature," probably due to the heat of the day. Wrap anything in a Rice Noodle and J.K. will wolf it down. The beef was savory and tender within its noodle home, the perfect two bite size.

What? We still have coupons left? Money to spend? How will we eat another bite? Dan to the rescue! In addition to being our wheel man, he got to happily eat 4 more (unpictured) items that Angela scrambled to find (well, hello Root Slaw, we were looking for you earlier!) so she could use up our passport monopoly money. J.K. also got us an additional free 'small bite' from any vendor for completing the passport book scavenger hunt by collecting signatures at different booths all day.

Props to La Cocina as the 2012 Festival was the best organized one yet! Vendors we visited were prepared to serve their first-class offerings and we didn't see anyone run out of food until after 4pm. (Festival was from 11-7) We were only truly disappointed once, and considering the amount of food we tried, that's amazing! The three of us visited 20+ booths and tasted over 25 items in about 6 hours, so breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunch and dinner were covered, including our take home popcorn snacks! This impressive festival is a must for anyone who wants to be able to try out old favorites, scope the hype on famous places, find new choices, enjoy ample people watching and simply appreciate a wonderful day with friends.

Next year please join us at version 2013! Come hungry.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Not your college Ramen

If you're visiting the Inner Richmond, or zooming down Geary Street towards the ocean feeling a little peckish, stop to eat at Genki Ramen. It's tucked in the middle of the block between 3rd and 4th avenue across from the Salvation Army.

We stopped in here for a late lunch one foggy afternoon, so it was the perfect time for soup. We also happened to get there a few minutes before 3pm so we took advantage of their happy hour menu and ordered two starter items for $3 each. The Fried Yam Sticks (JK said, "Like sweet potato fries, right?") and my favorite Takoyaki.

The menus were immediately followed by a complimentary plate of kim chee which was crisp and lightly pickled.

For our main dishes we tried the Seafood Ramen and the Karaage Ramen.

The seafood ramen came with  imitation crab meat, shrimp, squid, scallop, mussel, fish cake and  shelled edamame in a miso base. The seafood was perfectly cooked and did not get overcooked sitting in the hot broth. Or maybe it was so scrumptious that J.K.didn't let it sit there long enough to let it continue cooking.

The fried chicken (karaage) was crisp and juicy, a delight to dip in the flavorful Ramen broth. This bowl also came with seaweed and cut corn in addition to the tender noodles. We were too stuffed to finish the noodles and broth, and it hurt my Kansas heart to let them take it away. I've learned it's okay not to take leftovers, but I still feel sad when they're so delicious. Bye Bye for now delicious Ramen, we'll be back soon!

If you want to visit Genki Ramen (sister restaurant to my favorite Genki Crepes) try to go during their happy hour(s). Between 3-6 and 10-close they have some great deals on food and drinks. Our server was very attentive and thoughtfully filled our water glasses 1000 times.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Food Festival part 3

Here we are again. Still eating at the SFSFF 2012. Right now we're eating More Dessert! 

We weren't expecting much from Clairesquares' fried caramel pop, served with raspberry sauce, so we were pleasantly surprised by the warm and gooey inside. It went well with the raspberry, even though the raspberry sauce unfortunately didn't fix the Virgin Hibiscus Sangria (see Food Festival, part 2).

Then our mouths met with Hella Vegan Eats Pad Thai Spring Rolls with sauce, plus also a Green Curry Paleta. The green curry paleta was another big hit. None of us knew what a Paleta was, and even though we like green curry it was a no because our tummies were reaching capacity. Then Angela saw it was really a frozen popsicle and the Paleta was our new best friend! It got 3 smiles with a nice blend of sweet and savory so charming we didn't even mind the curry texture. The 'spring' rolls had pleasing crunch and the flavor profile of  a noodle-y plate of pad thai! We did have some questions if they qualified as 'spring' rolls since they were fried. Anyone know the definition?

Mozzeria's La Mia Oca Burrata: Hand pulled fresh mozzarella with creamy ricottta wrapped inside, garnished with cherry tomato, basil oil, balsamic vinegar and crispy crostini. We all voted that if there was enough room in our tummies later we would eat this again (and again). Angela is not usually a fan of boring old ricotta, but the pairing helped balance the 'no flavor' flavor of this cottage cheese competitor.

Onigilly: Spicy Shrimp, Teriyaki Chicken and Vegan Eggplant, washed down with Ginger Green Tea Lemonade. Onigiri are super easy to make at home! This Food Fest Onigilly had some scintillating  flavor options and the edamame were a marvelous bonus snack. The tea was palatable.

Also featured, our fork stash. Yes Stranger, you are welcome to share a fork. If you want our cooties!

La Victoria's Tres Leches Goat Milk Blueberry Parfait. We sauntered past this booth noting how appetizing their menu looked, but when we walked the strip a second time dessert was on the menu (again). Creamy, fruity, light and cool this would be a yummy treat any day. Since we had a Mission Summer Day of Sun to celebrate along with the smorgasbord of food at our fingertips this layered confection was a hit! We couldn't wait and took the first bite before our photographer was ready.

How can we have consumed any more food at the San Francisco Street Food Festival (version 2012)? Well, we did a lot of walking too!! Really. Urban hiking. Come back for the last toothsome morsels to be posted as part 4 in a couple of days.

 Have any of these pictures inspired you to try a new recipe or restaurant? Let us know what you think about this outrageous day of gluttony.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Food Fans at Food Social

One of our favorite things is when people love the food they cook. We understand the feeling! The pride in serving something you truly believe in, whether it's at an intimate dinner party or work potluck or even if  you've given up your life to have your own restaurant. Food Social allows new local vendors to showcase their food enthusiasm and draw you into a new taste or food pairing.

We arrived on time (in SF this means we were 'early'), but that's good, because that means we get to eat  before it gets crowded! Mel, J.K. and Angela practiced the purchase and share technique we have perfected at various functions over the years. J.K arrived just in time to get the last bite of our first culinary adventure which was a chicken & waffle sandwich. The chicken was good. The maple syrup was wafting around the room when we arrived so we bee-lined over to their table. Sadly, the waffles were premade, so ours were not crisp, but soft and even more sad, the sandwich didn't have any maple syrup taste. The coleslaw was flavorful and crunchy though. Soul Groove brought us this version of the now ubiquitous chicken and waffle. We would be happy to try this sandwich again with Crisp fresh waffles!

We plopped J.K. down on a stool to hold some counter space and went to forage for more treats from the 12 vendors at this event. Next in line was Under a Brick grilled cheese sandwiches from GrilledCheezGuy with a 'shot' of tomato soup (for dipping, good idea!) and a grilled peach for dessert. The grilled cheese sandos were cooked literally under an aluminum foil-covered brick. The grilled peach was the highlight from this menu. The guys behind the table were very friendly and generous, giving us 3 half sandwiches (instead of the one sandwich cut into 3 which we requested/paid for) and repeated admonishments that they use Acme Bread. (Which is very tasty.)

This Real Crab slider was on a Hawaiian style dinner role. Sliders with a kick has a good idea going on with the crab and slaw together.

Vendors in this kind of venue/atmosphere must do a lot with little equipment and space. Our next comestible was a gourmet corndog from Sticks. We tasted a sample and we were sold, not to mention that it was a very reasonable at $5 and made to order! The batter was thick and rich, the hotdog was a delight with artichoke and garlic inside. There was also a selection of dipping sauces, and we didn't have to choose just one. The vendor had a lot of pride and excitement to share over his great idea and flavorful food. Trust us--this tastes much better than it looks! (insert your preferred lewd comment here)

Considering our interest in salads and greens we had to try another slider, this one on is an Arugula Salad slider with beef short ribs as the meat. Crumbly blue cheese (again, more for Angela when you people turn up your nose) made this combo creamy when partnered with the bite from the arugula and rich savory beef.

Dessert was a matcha green tea ice cream sandwich on kouign amann from Frozen Kuhsterd.(Angela voted for them in the SFFF Local Forager contest) J.K. had been wanting to try pastry ever since reading Dara Goldstein's Baking Boot Camp. Ms. Goldstein's recipe seemed too complicated to try, but after tasting this one, we did a search and came up with a recipe from David Lebovitz that seems doable. We'll let you know how it turns out. If they're half as good as this ice cream sandwich J.K. will be forced to slave all day making these delightful flaky, buttery desserts. The rich custard and flaky pastry were a perfect compliment and the size would be great for one person, but also worked for sharing. 

We will see you again food Social, and Happy First Birthday! If you'd like any more info about these vendors, or how to participate click here.  Were there any vendors you think we should have tried? Let us know and we'll hit them up next time they're in our food sights.