Mom Interview

SMASH!! Goes my plate right onto the floor. Once filled with spaghetti, the red sauce and long strings make a complete mess all over the dining room. This is how I spent most of my dinners when I was very little, eating a few bites and then creating artwork all over the floor. According to my mother, who cooked for me every night when I was very young, I was a true rebel when it came to dinnertime. Although I soon grew out of my messy habits, I like to reminisce about being a nonconformist eater.

Generally speaking, I was a normal kid when it came to dinner. As I grew up my mom would always cook my siblings and I ‘kid friendly food’ including pasta, chicken nuggets, and rice dishes. When my family would eat at home, which was almost every meal, we would have a main course for everyone along with fresh vegetables and fruits on the side. About twice a week we would also go to one (and only one) fast food restaurant, McDonalds. This was due to the fact that my uncles owned about twenty or thirty of these franchises in Colorado. My dad was staying loyal to the family business.

As I started to get older (ten to fifteen years), one activity in particular shaped my palate: travel. Although I was young and did not realize it at the time, moving to London when I was fourteen changed my view on foods forever. Even before the big move, my parents would love to go to new countries and make me try new foods. Even if there were nothing that I liked on the menu, I would eat or go hungry. This philosophy forced me to try new and unusual foods that I would not have done so otherwise. One of my mom’s fondest memories of this was when we were in Hungry. It was a cold winter day (sometime around Christmas) and my family all went out for lunch. After looking at almost every single meal in the entire food bazaar, I realized that there was not one item that I recognized. This was the first time I tried goulash, a soup or stew of meat, noodles and vegetables, seasoned with paprika and other spices. And I loved it.

I was lucky to have such an experienced life, of which I have to thank my parents. Without their help I am sure that I would not have the same palate that I have today. The most interesting thing about my mom’s stories about when I was younger was how comparable her eating experiences were to mine. She was not a very picky eater herself, and her mother made her try new things all of the time. When my mom got to college, just like me she loved to cook. Pastas, eggs benedict and fresh Italian food were her favorite. However, once kinds and work started to be more and more present in her life, the cooking stopped. I can understand why she had to put her culinary talents on hold, but I hope that I will be able to cook for the rest of my life.

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Oakland’s Personality

When you think of Oakland, what comes to mind… Crime? Music? Culture? One thing that I never particularly thought about was the food. Last week I went to Telegraph Ave. (between 45th and 50th Street), with about 25 other students. We went to a cheese shop, an Ethiopian restaurant, and a coffee boutique (just to name a few). The cuisine at each place was very scrumptious, but what stood out to me the most were the owners and how they shaped each restaurant in their own image. My two favorites, The Juhu Beach Club and The Sacred Wheel Cheese Store, stood out above the rest.

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The Juhu Beach Club:

This fine establishment was bursting with personality. Owner and chef, Preeti Mistry, envisions her Indian eatery as street food, while keeping the feel of Oakland. No creepy white table cloths and gold chains, but instead the location is covered in pink and yellow walls that give a vibrantly casual atmosphere. Our group was delighted to taste a deep fried potato sandwich. Cilantro, ginger, and turmeric could all be found in the ghost pepper chutney that sprawled across the sandwich. Although the food was delectable, listening to Preeti and how she came to be the owner of Juhu Beach Club made the meal memorable.

 

Sacred Wheel Cheese Store:

IMG_0954This specialty foods shop was distinct. Bottles of truffle oil, the fragrance of milky cheese, and the hustle and bustle of the employees gave the impression that this bistro was something different. Owner and operator, Jena Davidson, spoke with our group briefly about how her family put in their entire savings to buy this location. As we ate a wacky, but delectable version of tomato soup (with PBR!!) and mac and cheese, Jena told us her abut her inspirations to own a restaurant. She was a true entrepreneur, with a go-getter mentality. My favorite part of the meal was the cock sauce, not only because it has an awesome name, but also the only two ingredients were sriracha and honey. This sweet and spicy sauce dribbled over the mac and cheese, giving my palate a wonderful assortment of flavor.

“My food is moving”

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“My food is moving… Holy **** am I actually supposed to eat that?? Well I guess everyone else is eating it so why not?”IMG_0895

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Upon our second to last stop in Japantown, San Francisco, our class was delighted with a dish that I never imagined eating in my entire life. Although the inside of the keish-like dish was filled with a random assortment of seafood, the top was covered in moving slivers of fish. And when I say moving, I mean these shavings were dancing. The taste wasn’t too bad, but it was definitely not something I would eat on a daily basis. I am glad that this memory was the one that stuck out to me most on the trip. The dish was called ‘Okonomiyaki’ and we were told that it translated to ‘Grilled Stuff’, awesome. It was an interesting ride, and along with this wacky meal one other experience stuck out more than the rest.

 

 

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The last stop on our visit, Adosa, was an authentic Indian restaurant. It was definitely  my favorite. Our class enjoyed a South Indian crape with truffle oil. Lentils and rice flower made up the crunchy, but soft pancake. The owner came over and talked to us about how Americans perceive curry incorrectly. After living in London for four years, I ate curry on multiple occasions. (Interesting fact, curry is the national dish of England!) She told us that curry is not one flavor or one type of food, but it is the name for a soup-like dish with spices, meat, potatoes, etc. Americans on the other hand think of curry as one flavor that is incorporated in one dish. Let me tell you, I have had some BADD curry in my life and this was not an example of that. It all depends on the balance of flavors. This place definitely had the balance of heat, but sweet at the same time.

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One other food that I need to give a shoutout to is the mochi at Benkyoto co. Because I had never even heard of this food before going to Japantown, it was a nice surprise to have a sweet, gooey, sticky piece of cake.

 

Overall Japantown was an experience to say the least. Although it was my least favorite food trip, it definitely enhanced my food knowledge and tastes.

Chopped Adventure

What the hell is turmeric…!? This was my first thought when I received the three mystery ingredients. After doing a search online, I found out that Turmeric is: an Indian perennial herb of the ginger family with a large aromatic yellow rhizome (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). So basically, along with my two easy ingredients, potatoes and cheese, I was supposed to add this funny tasting root to my meal. Things just got a bit complicated. After having no luck finding the root in a few different produce stores, I decided to go with the ground version of the spice. It has a reddish-brown color and smells like a lighter version of ginger mixed with pepper.

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When deciding what to make, I remembered having an amazing meal a few years ago in Austria. It was a traditional dish that added sautéed onions with potatoes, meat and cheese. Without much luck I looked up a few recipes online, and ultimately decided to make the meal from my own knowledge and memory.

IMG_0927Starting out with the onions, I added some olive oil, turmeric, and yellow mustard seeds to the sauté pan. The mustard seeds seemed like it would give a lighter taste to the pepper flavor of the turmeric. Alongside the sauté, I wanted to add one of the most versatile meats in the world, bacon. Bacon would be able to give my potatoes and onions a nice salty and juicy flavor. After cooking for about ten minutes, the smell of the bitter turmeric filled the air. It completely covered up the smell of the cooking bacon, something I was a little taken back by.

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After the onions were about two thirds caramelized, I tossed in some diced potatoes along with the cooked bacon to the mixture. This is where the fun began. All of my components began dancing in the pan together. The three separate ingredients, along with the seasonings, were all becoming one. I also added some pepper flakes and a pinch of salt to give it a little bit more heat. Once the onions were completely soft and the potatoes

IMG_0935had a lightly golden brown on the outside, I added a hefty amount of medium cheddar cheese. The cheese began to ooze around the more solid pieces in the pan, melting and mixing with very little effort. From start to finish, it only took me about an hour to complete the entire cooking process.

IMG_0938As I served one of my roommates, Chase, and myself a hefty portion of this concoction, I noticed that the darkened colors of the potatoes, onions, and bits of bacon were offset well by the light yellow color of the cheese.  As for the taste, the potatoes were nice and soft with a mild spice flavor, the onions had completely caramelized and the turmeric added a very nice kick to the overall meal. Yet, the two most imperative features in dish were the bacon and the cheese. The bacon gave a salty and familiar flavor. Who doesn’t like bacon??? And lastly, the melted cheese was able to take the individual ingredients and grip them all together, contributing to a creamy taste with each adventurous bite. IMG_0944

My (over)Cooking Disaster

B. U. R. N. T. Burnt! That word pierces my mind like a screeching chalkboard. Burning food is the most annoying way to take a meal from being delicious to completely inedible in less than five minutes. My father, who prides himself on being a pizza cook earlier in his life,  would constantly make pizza and calzones for my family when I was little. When dad is cooking, you know it is a special meal.A few months ago I started becoming very ambitious with my cooking abilities, and figured that some of my dad’s Italian cooking genes passed down to me. I was wrong. As I attempted to copy my dad’s pizza recipe, I first gathered all the ingredients and rolled out the dough. After adding the sauce, toppings and cheese, my slightly lopsided pizza actually looked like it could be a success. Lastly, I put it in the oven, hoping that all of the hard work was over.

This was the moment where everything started to go wrong. Not only did I have no clue how hot the oven should be, but I also placed it directly on the bottom rack in fear of the dough not cooking fast enough. Only a few minutes in did I realize that I had put way too many toppings for the size of the base. The cheese look like it was about to completely boil over and take every topping with it off the sides of my crooked circle.  I placed the pizza on a large pan to keep the toppings and cheese from melting off the sides.

Although opening the oven every thirty seconds to check if it was done seemed like a good idea at the time, I think that it may have stunted the cooking process. After what seemed like hours had passed (it was probably more like twenty-five minutes), I noticed that the middle of the pie had not fully cooked, but the outsides started to look dark brown. I took out the pizza, checked  the bottom, and all I saw was a dark black hockey puck right where my light fluffy dough used to reside.

 

Pizza Recipe:

Fresh Dough

Flour

Toppings (Onions, peppers, pepperoni…)

Pizza Sauce

Mozzarella Cheese

**Pay more attention to the expert**

Restaurant Tour In The Mission

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I’m not going to say that I went to the WRONG station (16th and Mission), but I seemed to have taken a different route than the rest of my class… Mission Minis was our first stop on the tour, and upon arrival I was startled to see such a bright sign in the middle of this gloomy street. Entering the shop, bright pink and yellow colors jumped out with delight. I decided to try the ‘coffee crunch.’ The delicate sweet icing had a hint of mocha flavor, yet there was no overpowering coffee taste.

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The next stop, Wise Sons Deli, put a twist on the traditional Jewish deli. Outside of just the food, one of the two owners told our group that he also wanted to act as a host, by giving their customers a full experience in a city of such hustle and bustle. As we viewed the pictures of their families that lined the walls, we were surprised with a piece of their famous pastrami sandwich. It was toped with fluffy white rye bread, spicy mustard, and a layer of flawlessly steamed pastrami.

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Local Mission Eatery is all about being transparent and buying local ingredients. The restaurant included an open kitchen, see-through freezer, bakery, and cookbook library. We consumed a vegetable sandwich that featured ricotta, braised kale, pumpkin butter spread, and green apple and reddish slaw.

IMG_0827This remarkable eatery was clearly very tedious with their preparations. (Most of their ingredients are sourced from the Local Mission Market)

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Balmy Alley: a trip down the world of expressive graffiti art.

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Twinkie shaped baking pans and chalkboard style menuslined that the walls of Pig &Pie. This juicy meat shop turned restaurant served us (sustainably farmed) veal and pork bratwurst topped with spicy beer mustard,homemade coleslaw, and soft pretzel like bun. I also enjoyed a very refreshing Arnold Palmer while relaxing to the song ‘What a Wonderful World.’

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Next we enjoyed el pastor tacos, (translated into “Shepard’s taco”) at El Farolito (“the lighthouse”). The cafeteria-style restaurant included counters with yellow tabletops and blue benches.The pineapple based marinade made the meat ooze with juices. With a line out the door, the staff was forced to begin howling out orders in Spanish to get the customers attention.

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La Palma, which prized itself as a ‘mexica-tessen’, specializes in making hand pressed tortillas and masa dough. This family run business was teeming with employees while at the same time serving Mexican style street food.

An ice cream shop called Humphry Slocombe was the last stop. Started by pastry chefs, the owners wanted to push the boundaries of normal ice cream flavors. They rotate about 10 flavors at a time out around 100, some of which include Vietnamese coffee, secrete breakfast, carrot mango, smoked sea salt, and Jesus juice.

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After being completely full and tired from a long day of eating, I was able reminisce about the unique eateries that I hope to visit again.

Most Memorable Meal

As I walked down the beach towards dinner, the smell of the salty water filled the air. The soft sand beneath my feet made it feel as though I was walking on a cloud. The restaurant is located less than thirty feet from the ocean, and overlooks the waves as the sun falls out of the sky. The outdoor seating area was filled with happy travelers, chatting as if there were no worries in the world. The slanted table with cheap silverware was sinking into the sand by the minute. Yet no one seemed to care, and it actually added to the uniqueness of the mealSea_shell_(Trinidad_&_Tobago_2009). Although the waiter spoke with very broken English, he was able to convince my family to try the fresh conch, a local delicacy. Never eating conch before this day, I was very skeptical of what I was about to consume. When the platter first came, the lightly fried conch looked like a ball of strange meat. I was able to overcome my doubt, and to my surprise the slightly chewy inside reminded me of the lobster that I would eat as a kid back on Cape Cod, where I would spend every summer as a boy. Even the slightly cheesy decor and musty scent of the sea began to bring me back to the times my family would gather to share meals together. So although we traveled hundreds of miles away and out of the country for vacation, it felt as though I was actually back at home all along.