Saturday, December 26, 2009

Naked Lunch at Foodbuzz Open House

Kat was visiting for the weekend and it just happened that Foodbuzz (where she is a featured publisher) was having an Open House on Friday, so we decided to stop by and meet some of the folks at Foodbuzz as well as other bloggers. I saw from the invitation that they were going to bring in sandwiches from Naked Lunch, which I've never been to before, but I figured that Foodbuzz people must know their food. Sure enough, neither disappointed. We met a lot of fun people who are true foodies, and we chatted about our favorite restaurants over delicious sandwiches. Kat and I split two different sandwiches so we could sample both - one was the Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwich and the other was a Chorizo Sandwich. We tried the Grilled Cheese first. The sandwich didn't quite look like a typical grilled cheese, i.e. with melted cheese oozing out, but it was very flavorful and light. I was surprised to find that it was filled with chevre cheese, which is a type of goat cheese so it gave the sandwich a stronger flavor. Combined with oven roasted tomato, pesto, and spinach, the sandwich was refreshing and I probably could have eaten another one!

Then we moved onto the Chorize Sandwich. The Chorizo Sandwich was good but it paled in comparison to the Grilled Cheese. I was expecting the chorizo to be a little spicy but it didn't really have the kick I was looking for. Nonetheless, based on the quality of the sandwiches, Kat and I figured that it would be worth it to check out Naked Lunch, which is not too far from the Foodbuzz offices. We had heard that Naked Lunch has this foie gras sandwich that is finger-lickin'-good, and we can never say no to foie gras. Unfortunately though, we were having so much fun chatting with the people at Foodbuzz that by the time we left their offices, Naked Lunch had run out of the foie gras sandwich. Oh well, I'll try again next time.

Thanks Foodbuzz for a fun open house and introducing me to a delicious lunch spot!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Epicurious Entertains NYC

Epicurious Entertains NYC is "a one-of-a-kind event with daytime demonstrations and celebrity chef dinners in a homey pop-up space" that took place from Sep 30-Oct 4, 2009 in a cute loft near Union Square in NYC. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a couple of the events, including the Opening Day "Ultimate NYC Lunch Break" on 9/30 and "Cutting-Edge Cuisine: A Paul Liebrandt Dinner" event on 10/1.

For the "Ultimate NYC Lunch Break," Epicurious assembled some of New York's best lunch spots and food vendors to come together under one roof. I sampled everything from lobster rolls from The Mermaid Inn to chicken wraps from Tabla to brownies and other desserts from The Treats Truck, all well-known local favorites. I was impressed that many of the chefs were cooking and manning their own stations, including Seamus Mullen from Boqueria, who is currently competing on Food Network's Next Iron Chef. The highlight for me was meeting Anita Lo, who became quite popular after her appearances on Top Chef Masters, who was making chicken dumplings for her Rickshaw Dumpling outlet (she also owns Annisa, which is a great restaurant). Being the chef groupie that I am, I promptly introduced myself to her and got my picture taken with her. She was very nice and gracious about it.

At the dinner event with Chef Paul Liebrandt the next night, we started off with a cocktail hour with tasty canapes including "Egg Yolk Creme Bagel" (mini, and I mean mini, bagels with a tiny egg yolk) and "Gougère Spiced with Harissa" (a small pastry with cheese and harissa, which is a North African hot sauce). While we were munching and drinking away, they showcased a very cool demo video conferencing Paul directly into his kitchen at his restaurant Corton to talk with his staff and pastry chef. All of this was made possible by Intel technologies of course (who was the sponsor of the dinner). His pastry chef then showed us how he makes a really nifty dessert with alcohol in liquid nitrogen. (As he explained it, alcohol doesn't normally freeze so you can only do it with liquid nitrogen.) The demo made us all very hungry and we were really looking forward to dinner.

Paul certainly did not disappoint. We started off with an amuse bouche of "Pumpkin Velouté, Pecorino, Shiso." We were told by the serving staff that this was pumpkin soup, but that did not do it justice at all. It was creamy with complex layers of flavors, and you can clearly taste the pumpkin, the pecorino cheese, and many more herbs and spices. They only brought out a small cup (since it was an amuse) but I would drink the whole pot! The first course was a "Pressé of Duck Leg and Foie Gras Sphere," which was basically a pate made with duck leg meat but the star is really the foie gras sphere. Anybody who knows me knows that I'm a huge fan of foie gras, but typically I like seared whole foie gras versus foie gras mousse or terrine. The foie gras sphere (sometimes called foie gras "cherries" at Paul's restaurant Corton) was basically foie gras mousse covered in a thin layer of cherry-flavored coating, where the sweetness offsets the fattiness of the foie gras. There is actually a video on Food Network that shows how Paul makes this and it's pretty cool (select Paul Liebrandt when the video player comes up).

So far everything was really good and I was impressed, since I've often experienced that for large events such as this, the food usually would not be as good since they were made in large quantities. But Paul obviously knows how to manage all of that and still deliver flawlessly - a true sign of a top chef. Our main course was Braised Veal Cheeks and it was so tender that I liked it more than any of the Kobe beef, Wagu beef, etc. that I've had. The veal cheek was very well-seasoned, and a harmony of different flavors danced in my mouth. Again, I would have licked the plate and eaten every veal cheek in Paul's kitchen if I could! I will have to go to Corton the next time I'm back in NYC.

Epicurious did an amazing job putting together the events and getting some of the best chefs from NYC. I really hope that they'll bring this to SF next year!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

SF Chefs. Food. Wine.

The SF Chefs. Food. Wine. event brings together some of the best restaurants and wineries that the Bay Area has to offer. What better way to enjoy all the delicious dishes and tasty wines from the area than attending this event? With everything under one tent, it is truly a foodie's paradise. In addition to food and wine sampling, there were also cooking demonstrations, chef book signings, and educational seminars.

I went on both Saturday and Sunday, and since different restaurants/chefs were featured on each day, I got to try many dishes. It's wonderful that everyday I got to enjoy something different. I also learned by the second day to pace myself and not to get any drinks until I consumed some food (because I still have not mastered the challenge of holding a drink and eating off a plate at the same time). The strategy worked out brilliantly and I got to sample pretty much every restaurant showcased.

The cool factor about the event is that many of the executive chefs and/or sous chefs were actually at their own station preparing the food so one could actually meet and chat with them. Many of the table displays were also gorgeous, such as the one from Luce featuring heirloom tomatoes. Even though I've been to many of the restaurants showcased at the event, I also discovered a number of new ones that I can't wait to try.

After we filled ourselves with plenty of food and wine, we waited in line to get our French Laundry cookbook signed by Thomas Keller. He was extremely nice and gracious. I had remembered to bring my menu from when I dined at French Laundry for him to sign, but my sister forgot hers. He told her simply to mail it in and he would be happy to sign and send back. We also went to his seminar in the afternoon, where he, Charles Phan from Slanted Door, and Douglas Keane from Cyrus discussed what it takes to create a successful restaurant. It was a splendid event filled with wonderful food and wine and unique opportunities to meet some of the top chefs in the country.

San Francisco Filipino American Jazz Festival

One of the reasons I love living in SF is there are always plenty of events on any given weekend. Another reason is the rich diversity of cultures in the city. This weekend was a great example. I had already made plans to attend the SF Chefs. Food. Wine. event in Union Square (see post), but I also saw signs all over the city advertising the Filipino American Jazz Festival taking place at the Yerba Buena Gardens. A smile came across my face when I saw that they were heavily promoting the fact that the festival had no entrance fee (as compared to the SF Chefs. Food. Wine. event, where the passes cost $150 per day). Given the economy, this was a great way to attract people who don't want to spend a small fortune. Of course the food and shopping was not free, but the prices were reasonable.

When I had passed the Yerba Buena Gardens earlier in the day, delicious smells of food from various booths tempted my nose so I really wanted to come back to check out the festival. While I had a break from the main events at Chefs. Food. Wine., I made my way down to the Filipino Festival. Even though there were many things that I would have loved to try, such as lumpia (Filipine egg rolls), BBQ skewers etc., I was quite stuffed from Chefs. Food. Wine. Instead, I settled on a nice cool drink/dessert since it was such a hot day. The Halo Halo, which is a mixture of crushed ice, coconut milk, and red beans among other items, was calling out to me from the stands. Most stands were very crowded but I was able to get it without any problems. The Halo Halo wasn't very sweet and was a bit watered down, but it served its purpose of cooling me down from the sun. We couldn't stay too long because we had to go back to Chefs. Food. Wine. for our afternoon seminar, but at least I got to check out the Filipino Festival for a bit. I'll definitely come back next year on an empty stomach!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bi-Rite Creamery (San Francisco)

Bi-Rite Creamery is definitely one of my favorite places for ice cream in SF. I'm very addicted to their ice cream, and I would go even more often if the lines aren't so long most of the time, especially when the weather is nice. To avoid long waits, the best times to go would be when it is raining, which I have been. You can get in and out within minutes. Understandably, most people want to go on a sunny or warm day, and one can expect to stand in line for over 1/2 hour. Still, it is definitely worth the wait. They change their flavors constantly, but my favorite flavors: Salted Caramel, Honey Lavendar, and the Ginger Caramel, are usually available. The flavor that I often buy for my freezer is the Salted Caramel because it has that delicious slightly burnt flavor while the salt offsets the sweetness of the caramel nicely. Recently I went on a warm day and the ice cream was a bit melted but it still tasted great. Feel free to ask for samples so that you can find the right flavor for you. Keep in mind though that sometimes when it gets too busy they may forgo sampling. Don't forget to get the frequent buyer card!