I've eaten some great things while I've been in California these past few weeks (since 12/16/06). I have been on vacation from vegetarianism.
Aloo tikki and masala dosa from Vik's Chaat House.
At Sarah's solstice party, a great spread of all kinds of familiar, wonderful Solstice party foods: "Swedish meatballs" (they turned out to be Italian meatballs from Costco baked in butter); Gretchen's wonderful traditional red cabbage, cooked till tender (water, white wine vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and butter); roasted new potatoes with dill, Sarah's homemade white chocolate peppermint bark with peppermint candies AND peppermint oil, and dark chocolate with salted chopped pistachios; cold, plump boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce; slices of cucumber; slices of crisp apple with caramelly brown Norwegian Gjetost cheese; tangy pickled herring with paper-thin slices of lacy Havarti on those cardboardy whole-wheat crackers; anise-flavored kerosene, aka shot glasses of aquavit; champagne, Martinelli's, both traditional and mango-flavored; gorgeous brownies with whole tiny candy canes pressed into the top of each one (great idea, but I didn't try it).
At Dad's house: Cauliflower roasted in a pan with just olive oil, salt, and pepper, until brown and nutty. It was so delicious we kept eating it with our fingers until it was almost all gone.
Some other lovely dishes at Dad's house, too many to count: lentil hummus, crunchy Fuyu persimmons, home-made crackers with a delectable Brie, vegetable chowder from the Deborah Madison Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone cookbook, black cherry jello mold with walnuts, cherries, and celery embedded inside for a lovely crunch. A fragrant, buttery pear from Harry and David's. Pan-fried masala dosas from frozen packages from Vik's. Pink, juicy grapefruits sprinkled with sugar. Peet's coffee with half-and-half or vanilla soy milk, waiting for me when I came to the table each morning. Another loaf of no-knead bread from the New York Times, which we had the day after it was baked, so it was chewy rather than crispy.
Three! generous pieces of unagi on rice, miso soup, and salad, for about $10, with Leah and Martin at Mifune in Japantown. Did I mention it costs about twice as much for unagi donburi in Bloomington? I don't know how much they give you, but I seriously doubt it's six whole pieces of fish, and I don't think they include the sides of soup and salad, either. Also some nice salted edamame.
Dad took me out to Lalime's as a Christmas present. We ate:
- Caesar salad: crisp, beautiful baby romaine lettuce, full of sweet flavor, dressed with a complex, creamy anchovy dressing and unfortunately large, sparse, crunchy croutons. The salad would have been perfect with a larger number of smaller croutons.
- Wild mushroom stroganoff--creamy, with wonderful wild mushrooms and perfectly cooked al dente fresh pasta. It came with a tiny kabocha squash gratin on top.
- Rich, luscious mud pie with frozen coffee? hazelnut? ice cream, frozen whipped cream, chopped toasted almonds, and a dark chocolate sauce with little chocolatey wafers on top.
Dad had some kind of Mexican-inspired fish with a roasted green pepper sauce, and a mixed greens salad with roasted golden and red beets and a huge piece of runny, pungent blue cheese, which he kindly shared with me.
Patty got locked out of the house for three hours that night--she was home dog-sitting and left the keys in the house when she took Jeb out for a walk. Unfortunately, their neighbors John and Betsy were out, and Jeb would lunge at people if they came near, so Patty couldn't bring him to some random neighbor's house. She ended up huddling in the laundry room for warmth and going through the trash at the high school to find a paper plate for Jeb to drink water out of. I had already felt pretty guilty about eating the wonderful meal without her, without the thought of her shivering in the cold while rummaging through dumpsters.
We went up to Napa for Christmas Eve and dashed back down Christmas Day for Patty to go to dinner at her sister's house with the aforementioned black cherry Jello mold in tow.
For Christmas dinner, we had some wonderful oldies-but-goodies. Roasted turkey, brined for two days until it was unspeakably luscious and juicy. A bite of the sticky rice (loh mai) stuffing straight from the bird, all crisp and brown and savory at the edges, studded with sweet sausage and mushrooms. Honey-roasted ham, crunchy and brown along the slashed, broiled edges. White wine from New Zealand, red wine. Yams with marshmallows on top. Soft, doughy garlic bread with the crust all crunchy from the oven. Roasted carrots and potatoes and who knows what else. Roasted cauliflower with capers and anchovies (the plain roasted stuff we made at Dad's was better, though). Green beans. Salad. Is it bad of me not to remember the vegetables very well? Roasted whole yams, perhaps left over from the casserole dish. Last but not least, a stunning buche de Noel that Juliana made, with cocoa-dusted meringue mushrooms on top, a dark ganache icing, and yellow sponge cake rolled with a pastry cream/whipped cream mixture, served with a scoop of coffee ice cream. Grandpa got sick that night and said the buche de Noel had done him in.
Latkes with applesauce and sour cream at Saul's, with Mike and Christy.
On the 29th, Will's wedding, and Will and Nikki provided, of course, an amazing feast. They were married in the basement of the CIA in St. Helena. We had stopped by Dean and Deluca on the way over and enjoyed window shopping for beer toffee and nuts in honey. In the basement, when we first walked in, there was a bar serving Nutella hot chocolate with dishes of banana and espresso marshmallows. I had one of each.
We walked between the giant wine casks and the towering stone walls all draped with white, starry lights, and sat down to watch their wedding take place against burgundy velvet curtains. It was a lovely ceremony, and they danced away from the altar to the tune of "I Feel Good."
Next came hors d'oeuvres: rather dry breaded balls of duck confit topped with a candied kumquat, perfect little Chinese soup spoons full of creamy mac'n'cheese topped with bacon bits, and Patty's favorite, crisp crackers seemingly made completely of nori, topped with a slightly spicy tuna tartare and masago. We had these with crisp, fizzy, delicious glasses of cava--my favorite alcoholic beverage of the evening.
Upstairs, I was seated at Table 1 with Michael, Yvette (who has moved to New York), and Valerie, Will's best man Reed and groomsman Geoff, Reed's girlfriend (I forgot her name--something with an M), and Will's cousin Leigh, who sang a Sarah McLachlan song in the ceremony. We had:
Huge, juicy, crunchy pan-seared day boat sea scallops on a bed of roasted cauliflower puree, with roasted cauliflower pieces and a crispy fried caper vinaigrette. Incredibly good.
Handmade fettuccine with roasted butternut squash puree, shavings of Romano cheese (grana padano?), onion soubise (that is, finely minced caramelized onions) and big slices of crunchy fresh black truffles. I was surprised to find that I liked the fresh truffles--their earthiness is better restrained when they're fresh, not cooked or infused into oil. This was such a wonderful dish--my favorite was either this or the scallops.
Beef short ribs with shallots, young haricots verts with peeled orange and gold baby carrots, thinly sliced potatoes layered into a crispy-topped cheesy gratin, and fat, meaty pieces of Maine lobster poached in butter and served with a lobster reduction sauce.
The wedding cake, a hazelnut dacquoise that turned out to be essentially a big heap of hazelnut buttercream with a few little nutty crunchy bits here and there.
A cheddar cheese croissant and a puffy sugar-topped brioche from the bakery in Stanford Shopping Center. While Mom and I were sharing the croissant, we saw a security guard for the mall zip by on a Segway.
Mom's meltingly tender beef short rib stew served over noodles.
Slices of canard a' l'orange with Ken and Sarah at a French restaurant in Los Altos, served with chewy Thai red rice, and probably also some kind of vegetable, broccoli perhaps. I mainly remember the seemingly endless stack of slightly red coin-shaped slices of duck piled on my plate.
At a restaurant in Milpitas, on the left-hand side of the mall as you face Ranch 99: Salt and pepper Dungeness crab, soothing silken steamed tofu with shrimp in it, steamed spinach with chopped bits of pork and black mushroom.
A couple of pieces of salty preserved lemon or plum, from Tsang Po Po--who knows, really, what those fruits are in the end. It's the salt/sour/sweet punch in the mouth you really crave.
Big cubes of fried stuffed tofu from Canton Palace or whatever it's called, on the street across from Marina Foods. It's fried so the skin is chewy, but the inside is still silky, there's a big lump of shrimp meat in the top, and a savory brown sauce coats the whole dish. Also cooked romaine lettuce or nappa cabbage, with a soy or oyster sauce.
Dim sum at Koi Palace in Daly City: ha gao, siu long bao, beignets (sai yong), lo mai fan. I remember the siu long bao filling was coarsely knife-chopped and they weren't very full of broth.
My New Year's Eve dinner: decent, but not exceptional, paneer tikka masala and aloo naan from the curry place on Curtis and Solano. The free chai was really good, though, I have to say. Later, at Robert and Sara's, between bouts of rabbit-pestering in Rayman with Mike and rocking out with Guitar Hero 2 with Willis, I enjoyed some champagne, a cocktail of whiskey and ginger ale, some utterly delicious melty queso (cheddar with cream, tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, and who knows what else) with tortilla chips, a banana (!), and lemon-ginger cream sandwich cookies.
New Year's Day lunch with Lee and Mary and Molly at Daimo: cheung fun with shrimp, cheung fun with you tiu inside, lo bak go, chow fun, crunchy tsin mein, and salt and pepper tofu with fantastically crunchy, salty outsides. I have to say it beats the salt and pepper Dungeness crab we ate in Milpitas a few nights earlier. It's great to just enjoy the crunch without having to pick through shells to extract the tiny bits of meat.
Lo bak go fried with scrambled egg, Vietnamese iced coffee, and a small #1 bowl of noodles at TK Noodle, an old favorite that we abandoned for years after TSS saw someone sneezing into the soup. I think we went back because it's under new management. The broth is so soothing and is full of thin rice noodles, beef balls, slices of beef, bean sprouts, tiny crunchy pork rind pieces, and cilantro.
A bacon waffle with maple syrup from Pancake House in Los Altos with Mom, TSS, Serena, and Tsang Po Po. I tried one of Mom's sausage links--the sausage was really sweet and moist and tasty.
A bowl of pho with tendon and steak from a place on S. Murphy, aka Downtown Sunnyvale. I had forgotten how much I loved all the fixings: squeezing in the tiny wedge of lime, dropping in the sliced green peppers, tearing the Thai basil into the soup, and stirring in handfuls of wet, crunchy bean sprouts, their white echoing the white of the rice noodles.
God, this is a lot of stuff already, but I'll add anything noteworthy I think of later.