Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Chocolate for lunch! Cook the Book July

If you know one thing about the Tea Time Adventurers it should be that we Love Chocolate*. So lunch this month shouldn't be a surprise. I will admit that this months tome is the most daunting one we've perused for Cook the Book thus far. First of all,  Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America is big (even the name). Oversized and Thick. This plus the fact that the print is sepia tone (not a sharp contrasting black) and there are few full color photos meant I had to delve deeper to find recipes that spoke to me. But they are there!!

You'll see from our photos below that we ate well and heartily. Our drink from Costa Rica (Costa Rican Hibiscus Wine p339), our meat from Argentina (Short Ribs in Black Sauce with Chocolate and Cacao p713), San Salvador style pupusas (Basic Pupusas p402), Rolls inspired by tropical flavors (Garifuna Coconut Bread p593/4), and a cocktail "dessert" from Mexico (Spicy Prickly Pear Cocktail p376). Stephanie rounded out our meal with a Shrimp Louie salad and Gabi brought some wine. The four of us talked and ate, savoring both the meal and each other's company.

Ribby Ribs Ribs. Chocolate Ribs! Lots of tender meat with rich flavorful sauce perfect for dipping.
HIbiscus wine
Coconut bread rolls baked, not grilled.
Frying up the cheese Pupusas--second batch
I learned several things cooking these recipes. Highlights below:

1. Meat can be expensive! (but there was lots of leftovers for lunches)
2. Pupusas fry better after the batter has set up for a while. (I made the rest of the batch after our meal had ended and the rested batter did not leak the cheese like the first go round.)
2a. Latin America makes some good cheese. (Also, I am glad to have the big bag of Masa, because making pupusas is so simple, just add cheese/veggies, fry, eat!)
3. The Hibiscus wine recipe will go in my recipe file so I can use it to mull my wines and make sangrias! (This recipe is a keeper!!)
4. I have now "mastered" the cactus plant as food. Next challenge vegetable please! (Last month we ate the leaf and this month the fruit as dessert.)
5. I like an unknown cookbook to have photos. (This seems not to apply when I buy them from library book sales or thrift stores though–perhaps it is a time frame connundrum?)

Lunch plated pre salad.
I was particularly excited to try this Prickly Pear "cocktail," but I decided to serve it as dessert instead of an appetizer (Maricel E. Presilla, the cookbook author, suggests serving this with a shot of aged tequila.) I felt like it needed a little jazz added in order to pass the dessert muster, so I garnished the martini glass with fresh ripe blueberries and a dollop of honeyed greek yogurt. The sweetness of the blueberries and the smooth dairy contrasted perfectly with the slightly spicy, slightly crunchy, and very limey cactus fruit. This dessert would be great for a special occasion as it's simple to prepare, but looks beautiful. If you wanted to add a Mexican cookie I think it would be a tasty addition too.

Dessert 2.0


We've become the ladies who lunch, thanks to Cook the Book. Are you ready to get together with a group of friends over food? Do you plan potlucks or take turns hosting the meals? You can join us in cooking the book next month if you need some food for thought and inspiration!

Grab some salad and a glass of wine.

*Although considering our recent eating habits, perhaps we should rename our blog "Anything Fried with Cheese is Good" Opinions?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's time for a Picnic (Where's Summer?)

This Picnic is at Bat Tartine! Surprise, we're not out at Golden Gate Park (in the fog) trying to see our food and getting dripped on by the trees. If you don't live in the lovely city of SF you may be unaware that we don't really have seasons! No snow, No big thunderstorms, No heat waves, just weather. Mostly the same weather which features either fog or mild sun depending on your microclimate/location in the city.

So it's Summer! Which is one reason why Tea Time was excited about this Picnic, 'cause we need red checked cloths and watermelon and pie, OH! the pie. Plus Bar Tartine donated the proceeds of this all day picnic to local charity Conductive Education Center of San Francisco, a school for children with motor disabilities that was co-founded by Tartine owner Elisabeth Prueitt. J.K. and I love to be able to support local food and charity at the same time! (We can't wait for the SFSFF in La Cocina.)

Bar Tartine can be a bit tricky to find the first time you walk down Valencia, but we'd been here for the Blogger's meetup last year, so it was an easy mark this visit even with different decor. We got there at lunch time and missed the face painting and other fun in the evening (darn work!), but the feeling was festive nonetheless.

Look for the resto with no sign!


Picnic to go. Can I get another piece of pie?

The menu that we got was a prix fixe featuring a sausage with homemade bun, a corn on the cob drenched in butter and a hefty slice of watermelon. J.K. and I opted to add on a slice of pie, although once we tasted this delight it was hard be restrained and not share another piece. Condiments for your sausage were on the side table and we used them liberally. The sausage was rich, meaty and fit snugly into the tasty bun. The corn was sweet and buttery perfection while the watermelon was a great juicy compliment to the meal. Tea Time liked the corn a lot, it's hard to find good sweet corn in the city. But the pie wins this round. The pie (tart?) was meltingly sweet peaches with a flaky crust that made us want to lick the plate.

Traditional mustard/kethcup combo for Angela (with relish).
Everything plus extra sauerkraut for J. K. (See the butter pool under the corn?)

Summer, right on a plate! Who needs the sun?
 The picnic at Bar Tartine is over, but maybe you can still catch some pie! Darn, we should have gotten some to go. Let us know where your favorite summer food is happening; we need to get our seasonal dose before it's all gone. Mmmmmm, floor pie.

*warning many!!! exclamation points were used in the making of this post, but none were harmed.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Gioia Pizza

Dorothy and I were looking for a pleasant lunch in the neighborhood and decided to try the San Francisco outpost of Gioia Pizzeria on Polk Street, which has been getting rave reviews. The Scoutmob lunch discount didn't hurt, either.

The menu isn't extensive, but it has a wide enough range for varied tastes.

We didn't have to ask for extra plates to share.
We started with the antipasti salad. This is so much tastier than a plate of separate ingredients.

Antipasti Salad
Our pizza wasn't spinning at the table, but the stand elevated it and kept it from crowding us at the small table. It was a little salty, but the cheese was evenly distributed and there was just the right amount of sauce.

14"Cheese Pizza
Our server was friendly and attentive. He was already heading for the plates when I asked for clean ones for our pizza.

We probably wouldn't get the pizza again, but the salad was excellent, as was the service. Have you tried Gioia? What did you think of this restaurant?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Give me sushi or Give me death

I think there is a saying that "You can't miss what you don't know." Anyhow, I was thinking along these lines today as I stopped in at the Nijiya Market to get myself a Japanese themed picnic lunch. I was born and raised in Kansas, where we ate catfish, bluegill, crappie, whatever came from the pond. It wasn't until college that I ate some fish that came from the ocean. Now I've been living on the West Coast for around 8ish years and I would totally miss Sushi, even good quality salmon, if I lived anywhere but along a coastline!

Okay, this photo is a bit dated, but I get something to go about once a month!
For lunch today I got Seaweed salad, Takoyaki, an Unagi "bowl" and a chocolate cream puff. This only cost me $11! Price is another reason I love this Japanese Market because when you cut out the overhead of the restaurant business, you get great quality foods at a much lower price. Not to mention that you get to watch butterflies and bees in the grass while you eat your picnic in the park. 

Seaweed Salad, a heaping portion.

Cream Puffs are a very popular dessert at Nijiya.
Some things have changed in the to go section of the market since my last visit. One thing I am happy about is my favorite Takoyaki, which is new and improved. They used to be little triangley dome shaped things, but now they are hearty round balls with 2-3 pieces of octopus in them, not just one. A definite improvement without raising the cost!

Takoyaki comes with mayo on the side for "dipping" and bonito flakes sprinkled all around.
I chose the Unagi tray instead of the Unagi sushi because they cost the same price, but I get 3 more pieces of Unagi in the tray! YUM. That's a deal I can't refuse. It's a little strange that I hate the idea of eel when it's alive, but love the taste when it's cooked and served Japanese style. (I have never butchered an animal personally, but I have gutted a fish. I was not so good at it. I have also defeathered chickens-they do fly without their heads!) The sauce used on the eel is so very umami, and when you add a little bit of pickled ginger and/or wasabi it just hits the spot.

Unagi with rice and egg. Pickled Ginger and wasabi on the side.
Nijiya is actually a chain Supermarket, so maybe there is one nearer to you than you think. I visited a branch in L.A. and it had tasty seafood/sushi to go, the main difference was you could see the cooks making it in the back room! The market in SF has a special offer on the 29th of every month when they give customers 20% off most meats (excluding ham and bacon, I think). I got a nice piece of duck breast to cook for dinner (splurge!) and it was quite tasty. Are there any foods you miss? Something that just isn't quite right, or you can't find? I recently went to a Thai place that served Crab Rangoon. I guess I was always looking in the wrong spot, checking out the Chinese menus, because back in Kansas, Crab Rangoon was a Chinese food thing. I don't care what cuisine made them up though, cause I'm just happy I don't have to miss them anymore.*

I leave you with this last picture. The story of this picture comes about because San Francisco passed a bag law. This law costs consumers 10 cents for each bag 'purchased' from the business. The 10 cents goes to the business to offset the cost of making sure their bags follow the new guidelines of being reusable, recyclable or compostable. If/when you bring your own bags you can avoid this cost entirely. This 10 cent reminder is sometimes a shock to people, but since I have been trying to reduce my bag usage (although if I have to start buying cat litter bags, I'll be sad) I often had my own bag before the law went into effect (and I'm happy to see it remind others to be more aware of what they use).

At the Nijiya Market in Japantown, they don't give you a bag if you don't want one, but the day I shopped they used produce bags to secure your food. I was happy to have a bag for my duck breast (just in case, since it was raw), but it seemed they wanted to stick all my picnic items into separate bags. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and creativity in getting around the law, however, I'll just continue to use less plastic whenever possible. Do you carry your own bags to reuse when shopping? Or just go along with the consumerist society we've become and take a bag for your one item? Just curious....

*The Crab Ragoon doesn't taste the same though. Too much crab and not enough cream cheese! hahaha

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Palace of Afternoon Tea- Garden Court

Are you looking for a "Special Occasion" Afternoon Tea location? Tea Time found the Garden Court at The Palace Hotel to be a beautiful place to enjoy afternoon tea. It's available only on Saturdays, between 1:00 to 2:30pm, so make a reservation in advance. They can accommodate a large or small group. We saw families and duos, ladies with red hats and friends having fun. When Tea Time arrived at the hostess pulpit we were directed to a side table that gave us a great view of the room. We settled in with our tea menus and listened to the piano man play. The sun was bright, shining through the glass dome over the courtly room, and it made us wonder if we could get a view from the top. But a sneak peek down onto the top of the dome would have to wait for another day; we were hungry!

Your fine china and silver service awaits

This restaurant is a lovely place to enjoy the sun.
Flowers and greenery abound here at the Garden Court.
We ordered our tea and chatted. We both chose to get The Garden Court Tea, but if you would like to make your tea Tipsy, you have the option of a Sparkling Wine Tea, The Royal Tea or Tea for Two. There is  even a Prince and Princess Tea (12 and under) which includes a crown(!) and scepter, plus their choice of hot chocolate. The Garden Court tea service has a small list of teas that covers all the bases. If you're caffeine free you could try an herbal mix, or fruit tea. They also have several traditional black tea options along with a white tea and a green tea. It was easy to pick two different teas and share (as we usually do). They were the White Tea, Pai Mu Tau Silver Typ and Red Fruit (Elderberries, black and red currants, hibiscus). There is a set seasonal menu for afternoon tea at The Palace Hotel, so if you have allergies or dietary needs, let them know when you reserve!
Red Fruit Tea

Gimme that Cuppa!
Our tray  has arrived!
The tea tray arrived with the standard plates featuring desserts, sandwiches and scones. Sometimes Tea Time likes to start sandwiches first (when we're Hungry) so we dove into the plate which featured (top L to R) Asparagus with Chive Mousse, Cucumber with Green Goddess Creme, Late Summer Squash with Red Pepper Mousse, Dijon Ham with Brie Butter and Apple and also Smoked Salmon Roulade with Dill Cream. The most exotic ingredient was the white asparagus, which is grown in complete darkness.

Seasonal Sandwiches, check the website for menu updates.
After our tea sandwiches, we were ready to try the housemade scones. Happily they provided all three condiments we require with our scones: lemon curd, a red berry jam and cream. This trio of spreads make the world of afternoon tea complete. (Sometimes Tea Time feels a bit incomplete when one is missing from our afternoon tea experience.) The tea tray comes with four scones, two of each flavor so we divvied those up and nibbled them down.

Ahhh, Afternoon Tea is complete!
Our favorite trio ready to serve

Currant and Plain scones.

Finally, on to dessert. The hunger monster had been tamed, so we were free to call a waiter for more water (our only suggestion is bigger tea pots!) and linger over our sweets. There were plenty to savor including a chocolate torte triangle, mini fruit tart, eclair, passion fruit cake slice, lemony tart with a blueberry and even a chocolate covered strawberry! The strawberry was our favorite, with the fruit tart coming in a close second for Angela. Of course J. K. wished for more chocolate torte!
Tea Time loves dessert and this plate has variety and flavor to spare.
One interesting device at our table had us talking the entire tea time. The Garden Court provides an unusual tea strainer. Our server suggested a specific way to use it as the strainer tends to fall off the cup, but by the end of tea we had figured it out! This silver strainer, made by D.W. Haber & Sons, NY, sits low in your cup when you hook it on the side properly, so perhaps that is the other reason the server suggests to hold it above your cup when you pour.

Ready for the proper pour.

The Palace Hotel Garden Court is a great spot to enjoy afternoon tea in San Francisco. If you have the time to check out the Pied Piper Bar (also in the hotel), you may get a glimpse of the famous Maxfield Parrish painting of the same name if it's back from being cleaned and restored. It's an awesome sight, right above the bar.  Tea Time wants your suggestions! Is there some place you'd like to suggest we visit and write up our experience as an Afternoon Tea blog post? Let us know! We've got a few spots up our sleeve, but we'd like to know if we've missed your favorite afternoon tea spot.

Get a little Tipsy at the Garden Court Afternoon Tea!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lunch With Beth \ Ebbet's Good To Go

Beth has been telling me about the Cuban from Ebbet's Good to Go for quite a while now, and they were finally in range, at Truckstop S.F., on a day we were meeting for lunch, plus I had a BOGO from Chinook Book, so The Time Was Right. The coupon was for the "combo," which includes a soft drink or bag of chips, for $11.00.

The sandwiches are neatly wrapped and sealed with a cute sticker that features a picture of their truck. I got my sandwich without aioli and with a root beer. Beth chose aioli and chips. Otherwise our sandwiches were the same. A large pile of Niman Ranch pulled pork, artisan ham, gruyere cheese, jalepeno relish and chipotle aioli, served on on a crusty Acme roll.

Wrapped Sandwich

With aoli and chips

without aoli
There is permanent seating at this location, outside 50 Fremont Street, so you don't have to worry about your food getting cold while you look for a place to plunk yourself down. If you're coming from north of Mission, enter on Fremont Street at the big "50 Fremont" sign. The trucks will be to the left of the tables, and there's a step up to their level. Truck Stop is open from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and features different trucks every day. There's a complete list here, but the schedule isn't posted on the website. Check Truck Stop's Facebook page or Twitter feed to find out when your favorites will be there.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bring on the Mootz @ Mozzeria

Welcome to Mozzeria! They first wowed us with their offering at last year's Street Food Festival (an amazing La Mia Oca Burrata ), and we finally made it to the resto to eat our way down their menu. Mozzeria is a smallish cool, clean and quiet place to grab a thoughtful well-made dinner. J.K. and I were waiting outside at 5:30 on a Wednesday evening when they opened so we got a table, even without a reservation. Phew!
Mozzeria has wine and an array of non-alcoholic drinks. So I opted to get a Pink Lemonade with Thyme to start the meal. It was pink and delicious, just see for yourselves.While waiting for our food to arrive, we perused the art and decor (and fellow diners).

Housemade Pink Lemonade with Thyme
Party of one? Welcome!
Money trees!
Original Art.

Old School, New School Pizza Tools.
 We were doubly lucky since Mozzeria has a $20 3-course special menu available on Wednesday nights. This includes your choice of an appetizer, a pizza and a dessert. How could Tea Time resist this deal? We didn't! We chose one $20 dinner and then opted to order a second appetizer and a pasta main dish. Somehow we also ended up with two desserts!

If you've been a faithful reader, you won't be surprised that we got the Fava Leaf Salad as one of our appetizers. It's got so much going for it, just in the name! Salad (we love it!) and Fava Leaves–my chance to introduce J.K. to these flavorful and luscious greens. This salad takes it up a notch, as you can see we had to leave two photos in our post just so you can get a look at all the goodies hiding in this creative presentation.We also got the Mozzeria Bar, which is a slab of Mozzarella in a golden, crunchy deep fried shell with Pomodoro sauce and basil. This happily paired with our healthy salad and we were in appetizer heaven. Our new motto at Tea Time is "Can't go wrong with fried cheese!"

Avacado schmear, fava greens, pink grapefruit

Goat cheese, toasted nuts, thin sliced beets!

Oooey, Gooey yummy Cheese.

Mootz with red sauce.

We chose the Pizza Margherita for our $20 dinner entree. This is foldable pizza, the kind with the wood-burning oven crisp crust and the perfectly light toppings of red sauce and cheese. It's a big size, but with a thin crust that makes it not too overwhelming on the carb front. The Pea Agnolotti  pasta dish was right up our alley as well, featuring white beans, plump two bite raviolis, crispy pancetta, basil and fresh tomatoes. Our server poured a rich broth over our pasta dish tableside.

We're going back to try the Duck Pizza, but we started with the classic Margherita for our first visit.
Pea Agnolotti-- a new to us pasta dish with broth.
As for dessert, we picked the Bombolini which are simply the best doughnuts ever. Our dessert plate came with a schmear of dark rich chocolate and little clouds of whipped cream to contrast these hot sugary delights. This was the dessert which we chose for the $20 meal (fava salad/pizza/bombolini). Then, somehow, J. K. and I ordered a second dessert. Really, we didn't mean to! But luck and chance brought us the Mozzeria Brownie. Which isn't just a brownie! This dessert dish features a plethora of ingredients to mix and match. Caramelized banana, vanilla ice cream, a slightly spicy brownie, fruity sauce, whipped cream and nuts!

Bombolini -- lemon  / cinnamon / chocolate anglaise

This dessert is just labeled "Brownie" on the menu, but it's so much more!
The staff and chefs at Mozzeria are friendly and fun. Overall each dish was presented in a thoughtful and lovely fashion, in addition to being quite tasty. Their webpage suggests you make a reservation, and while Tea Time got lucky with a table, if you want to eat there on a weekend, make sure to get your name on the list!

Our Pizzaiolo Poses With The Oven
Fold your pizza, it's the polite thing to do.

After all that food (especially the two desserts) we decided to walk most of the way home. On the way, we saw many interesting sights, including a (literally) handicapped parking meter and a fancifully decorated car.

San Francisco is an awesome place to live (and eat). You never know what you'll find around the corner. It took us a while to find Mozzeria, but they certainly lived up to our memories of the SF Street Food Festival* dish they had on offer at last year's event. Let's hope they choose to participate again! But even if they don't J.K. and I are already planning our next trip to the Mission to get some more Mozzeria!

*Hey,  if you're ready for a day of eating, let us know! We'll be there... walking up and chowing down all day at the food festival on the 17th of August. Make sure to get your passport to flavortown!


We finally made it back to Mozzeria, this time for lunch, and our long-awaited duck pizza. We started with salad, of course. Specifically their Kale Salad featuring:  squash / blue cheese / pumpkin seed / grapefruit and dressing schmears on the side. They make everything picture perfect at this resto!

Our work of art salad, delicious and beautiful!

This is a cheese-less pizza, served with hoisin sauce and greens on the side. If you add the veggies, folding your slice is a must, to keep them from falling off. We were delighted to find Mozzeria open for lunch! Their pizza is a perfect meal for an hour lunch break, since it's hot out of the oven in just a few minutes. It's an awesome deal as they're currently knocking down the price of your pizzas, some are only $10 each. So don't worry about a reservation for dinner when you can choose your seat for lunch!

Duck Pizza!
Gussied-Up Slice