Thursday, February 28, 2013

Food Trucks, Photos and Bloggers

The Bay Area Food Bloggers got together (to Meetup) at the SoMa StrEat Food Park on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Tea Time joined this group in order to get tips and hints about the blogging world. This meetup was nominally about food photography, and while there was a photo contest (Tea Time got a prize!) our group talked a lot about what we were interested in doing during future meetups as well as getting the scoop on other members' blogs! We have Lots of photos from this meetup event, but we won't torture you with "4 Different Views of a Sandwich."

The StrEat Food Park is open Every day!
Tea Time was pretty hungry, so we left the group chatting and went to forage some food. We ended up at Little Green Cyclo and picked up some of their crisp and flavorful sweet potato tater tots! Tea Time Loves sweet potato fries, and these tater tots filled up the same spot, especially dipped in the spiced ketchup. We were lucky and the truck chef gave us their other dipping sauce free since neither J.K. or Angela had ever tried the tamarind. This sauce turned the tots into a dessert treat, with the hint of sweetness in the sauce bringing the "sweet" of the potatoes to the fore.

 Next time we're getting the Bahn Mi too!
We sacrificed a few tots to fellow bloggers, but that was good, 'cause it gave us more room for munching. Our second walk around brought us to the Old World Food Truck. Homemade Potato Chips!  Pierogi!!

We can't resist fresh made potato chips, and neither could the photography judges. These chips were dusted with paprika for a smoky taste that paired well with the crisp fresh chips that Angela had to share. JK snapped the photo and our entry won "Most Hospitable." Luck was with our pierogi (potato and goat cheese, with pepper relish, caroway sour cream, dill and fried onion) dish as well since it tied for Most Tantalizing photo, though the picture itself was taken by Anh with his fancy SLR camera. In addition to looking the part of "Most Mouthwatering" these pierogi had great flavor and texture. We definitely recommend the Old World Food Truck! 
Our prize-winning photo, grab 'em before they're gone!
Our Potato and Goat Cheese Pierogi
All around winner in taste and presentation (our photo).
The Kraken from Adam's Grub Truck is a long-standing Tea Time favorite.
The Kraken is a very messy sandwich but well worth the trouble. Tea Time has a weakness for cole slaw in all its forms, and Angela has a craving for bacon. J.K. sorely misses the jumbo soft shell crab "sandwich" (Giant crab sitting on white bread, huge sides of cole slaw and fries. Her childhood friend orders a lobster roll without sides and they still have fries left over.) at Jimmie's in Savin Rock, CT, so this is an all-around success with us.

We also have some photos of other bloggers' food truck choices. The contest was co-hosted (and judged) by our organizer Jerome and Ezen from NuffnangX, a website (and mobile app--iGadget and Android) that allows you to get the 411 on all your favorite blogs in one spot! Now, while we didn't get pictures of everything that got eaten this day, we're so happy to have met other people who enjoy getting nerdy about food! The photo that tied for the big prize of Most Mouthwatering was taken by Meghan. Thanks to all the rest of the members of the meetup who participated (Alanna, AmarjaBenoitCarmelita, Debbie, EllenJenn, JenniferJoy, Phyo, QuinnRyan, Sonia, Stacey, and Suha) and Jerome who is organizing a lot of fun things for the future. If you're a Bay Area blogger (or interested in starting a blog!), come out and join the fun!

Little Green Cyclo Fried Brussel Sprouts.
Full menu at Old World Food Truck
Rueben from the Old Word Truck.
Falafel Gryo from Sunrise Deli. Melissa won Most Amusing with a photo incorporating their truck.
Deconstructed Gyro, Ezen shared her bounty with us, thanks!
Beef with bok choy and runny egg.
Adam's Menu. We don't know why we read it--
We always get the Kraken!
Adam's professional close-up of the Kraken
Tea Time also brought dessert. Who brings food to a place where you buy lunch? Well, US. Because we can. And also, because there were too many Death by Caramel brownies for us to justify keeping them to ourselves. Look for them at the next FoodSwap. Bring something good to trade!!

Death by Caramel Brownies. Go to Heaven with One Bite*

*All rights reserved on this Hil-larious tag line we thought up. And it's gonna be copyrighted. So keep your sticky caramel covered mitts off our ideas. ;)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

LittleJohn's making homemade candy for you!

Welcome to town Littlejohns Candies! Tea Time is so happy you're bringing homemade candy, chocolates and confections to Market street in SF. We got distracted by the window displays as we walked inside, since our visit was a few days before that one Holiday in February. J.K. had never been to their store, and Angela had only gawked from her bicycle while riding down Market street. As soon as we stopped loitering in their doorway, soaking up the picturesque caramel hearts and other candy visions, we were offered a sample of their English Toffee. It was quite tasty featuring rich buttery toffee enrobed in chocolate and dusted with nuts.

Tweets for all!
Wide windows for staring!
Please buy this for me. (Angela)
Tea Time stood and goggled at the vast panorama of candies and chocolates laid out on trays in front of us. A couple other customers came in and snagged a toffee sample, perhaps they were frequent customers, as they pointed and named their preferred treats. Once we had wandered all around the store, pointing and poking each other when we saw something the other person likes, we finally got down to the business of picking our own goodie bags.

Their seasonal heart shaped toffee is the same kind as the samples.
Lollis, barks, logs, rolls, they've got it All and more.
Not to mention dipped fruits, nuts, caramels and confections.
Yes, we need to have caramel apples available every day!
The mind boggles at the choices.

 J.K. chose chocolate covered orange peel and even tried a slice of chocolate covered orange, as well as a chocolate covered mint stick, while Angela focused on the caramels. Number one on the list was Bacon Caramel (she got two, but only one piece made it into the picture). Then came salted caramels, chocolate covered caramels and a turtle. The caramels were all good. Chewy, firm but moldable, they melt in your mouth. We purchased pieces from the trays with pricing by the pound.

J.K.'s loot. Very orange-centric.
Angela's dreamy caramels. L to R sea salt, plain, bacon, choco sea salt, turtle, plain choco

Tea Time also took a minute to peruse their candy making facilities. While not much was going on during our visit, we did see all the contraptions and tools that help create the tasty wares they sell here at Littlejohns. They pride themselves on their open kitchen which allows customers to see the magic happen.
A clean work space=good candy!
J.K. needs to invest in one of these fancy caramel/candy cutters!
Apparently, down in LA, you can visit a Farmer's Market and enjoy loads and loads of Littlejohns English Toffee. Tea Time is happy to just journey downtown and do the same. Check out their store/factory on Market street if you need to impress someone with a gift, or just want to treat yourself. Maybe you'll even get to watch them make some candies while you're shopping for treats. Make sure to ask them for their caramel recipe while you're there and then email Angela!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Monday BunDay--Asian Dumplings

This month's cookbook is Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen. Tea Time was very excited about making our own bao. We coerced our friend Stephanie to help us and took over at J.K.'s house to take advantage of her gadget and appliance collections. After measuring the ingredients for the dough for our bao, we poured them all into her bread machine so we could concentrate on the fillings.

The scale! A most important part of the dough equation.

Bread machine all loaded up and ready to start.

After the kneading cycle, we placed the dough in a clear glass bowl so we could watch it rise.
Make sure you choose the correct recipe, there are two: Steamed Dough (p95) or Baked Dough (p97).
Now we're ready to mix the stuffings and sauces. We decided to make both a meaty filling (Char Siu Pork p100) and the veggie filling (Vegetable and Tofu p101). There are also other options that had shrimp or chicken! Each recipe came with its own sauce and thickener (cornstarch based) which Stephanie was in charge of mixing up. Angela sauteed the various ingredients on the stovetop and then we played the waiting game while they cooled and the dough rose. Full Disclosure: We ate Dim Sum while we waited.... Angela had also got some combo steamed buns, shrimp pai gau and a few other choice morsels when she picked up the pork. Who can resist??

Char Siu Pork from (one of) the Chinese spot(s) by Angela's house. 
Sauce mixin's.
Pork and scallions, FTW.
Veggies, ready, set cook!
The cabbage all cooked down. Next time we'd cut the veg smaller.
Pork on right, Veggie stuffing on left.
Dough cut into (more or less) even pieces.
We didn't have mini rolling pins, so Angela cut up a dowel and we treated it with 'wood butter' before rolling out our "egg" shaped dough cradles. We made sure to follow directions and leave the 'pillow' in the middle.

This is our interpretation of the "fired egg" shape you need to make dumplings.

Pork filling before being closed for baking/steaming.
Edges pinched together and tucked under.
We didn't have a proper steamer, so we used J.K.'s spaghetti pot.
Pork steamed bun.
Veggie baked bun.
We all enjoyed our bun making. Plans are in the works for a 'soup' dumpling Monday, and Tea Time is ready to master (??) the art of getting their buns sealed. This cookbook is a bible if you'd like to become a Dim Sum Savant, however Angela and JK are content to spend $3 around the corner and get what we need without a lot of planning. If ever we move away from easy to find, easy to buy Chinese goodies this cookbook will jump to the top of our list. It's definitely boosted our respect for the men and women who make those perfect packages that we see baked, steamed and fried behind the Chinese bakery/Dim Sum counter. In fact, a new spot has opened on Clement that lets you stand outside and watch the 'bakers' working their dim sum magic by wrapping the fillings up in dough. Professionals!! We bao to you and your experience and love to eat the fruit of your labors. Thanks! If you aren't lucky enough to live in SF (or any city with a Chinatown) grab and 'cook the book' Asian Dumplings. You'll be very popular, we promise.

They may not be so pretty, but they were a labor of love.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Afternoon Tea in Vegas @ english's Gastro Pub

We found Afternoon Tea in Vegas! Tea Time visited english's Gastro Pub (apparently it is also known as english's Quintessentially British ) which is located in the English's Town Square. Our group managed to arrive for our reservation on time, even though we wandered around a bit trying to find the pub (hint: it's upstairs on the second floor across a walkway). We were greeted at the main desk by a small knight holding brochures. He wasn't very talkative, but we figured out to head down the hallway towards the modern pub area of the restaurant.

A mini suit of armor awaits its knight errant.
This must be the spot.
The hostess sat us down with menus and we talked about teas. We ordered their cream tea which includes finger sandwiches, scones and dessert. There was some discussion about what was mixed in the "mint tea fusion." Our table ordered 4 pots of hot tea including the mystery mint tea fusion, dragonwell, wild blackberry and green tea tropical. We also had our choice of packaged sugars and sugar substitutes along side the milk which we could add to make our "nursery tea" if we so chose. We talked and laughed, trying to look up how to read tea leaves on our smart phones.

A simple table setting with a warm cuppa.
Our tea service arrived, featuring three classic sandwiches with crusts off (of course!). They included salmon/cream cheese, cucumber/cream cheese and egg salad. We shared around to get the ones we liked best. Their scones for the day were cream scones (aka 'plain') as well as cranberry scones. These baked treats are served with berry jam and whipped cream as spreads. english's also presented us three flavors of housemade desserts. Each had a graham cookie crust but the flavors on top varied from "peanut butter and jelly" (peanut butter flavored mousse with berry topping) to coffee and chocolate.  During our meal we swapped teas, and each person seemed to have their own favorite. The wild blackberry had the most followers though, 2 out of 5 people.

The Tea Tray!

Two types of scones (though there was a majority of one kind)

Berry Jam and whipped cream for scones.

Our group had fun chatting up the personable staff of english's and this modern pub is the spot to hit if you want to enjoy an anglophile happy hour (or any hour...they love to give away a free pint!) away from the hustle and bustle of the strip. There is also a lot of shopping in the same area as well as a movie theatre! We tried to get the english's team on our tea leaf reading band wagon, and perhaps they'll consider your fun tea themed suggestions as well. We didn't really figure out what the future held, but the present was more than enjoyable with good company and conversation centered around food, tea and fun.

What do you see in the future?

Later during our Las Vegas trip we ventured down to the old part of the strip and enjoyed a different sort of classic era. NEON. I wonder what the Victorians would say about afternoon tea happening at a modern pub in the Wild West of the neon dessert that's Vegas? Have you gone on vacation and found afternoon tea in an unlikely (but most welcome) location?