Location visited: Namyangju City, South Korea
Asian desserts. For some they are a welcomed treat. For others, I’ve heard words like strange, confusing and not appealing as descriptors or reactions. I will take a stab at this topic despite not being a huge sugar-goodies fan and say that one of the main causes for this seesaw result is the source of the sweetness within many Asian desserts. That being azuki beans. I think for most westerners, the concept of sweet tasting beans is unusual and hard to comprehend, given that beans are generally used more for savory dishes in North American cuisine. This juxtaposition is a concept that for some, that I think is hard to overcome. Its perhaps more a mental hurdle than anything else, that perhaps more experience can help people overcome.
When it comes to after-meal sweets in Korea, one of the things that pops into my mind right away is the summer favorite known as patbingsu. In English, I’ve seen it being referred to as red bean sherbet. But really, its a compilation of shaved ice, ice cream, diced fruit (strawberries, banana, etc.), jelly, bits of rice cake as staple elements and toppings. And for added texture, some places even add in some dry cereal flakes. I’m sure there are even more creative approaches and touches that some places add, but these seem to be the standard set from my own experience. Of course, the a fore mentioned sweet azuki beans are always involved.
The Lions Den Cafe
651 E 15th Ave
Adjective: Deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources.
That single word that I feel best sums up what The Lions Den Cafe is all about, with its unusual combination of Caribbean and Japanese food menu items (based on the married couple proprietors’ backgrounds), the unmissable large stuffed lion that hangs on the wall inside and the complete freestyle approach to the service. On first glance, it may seem like your regular neighborhood diner, but delving in deeper you soon realize its quirky and unique is its own special way, that should appeal to some and perhaps confuse others.
The day of our visit was a bright sunny weekend late morning. Following a morning jolt at The Elysian Room, we headed on over to Kingsway for a bite to eat. The hot weather resulted in all of the tables inside the establishment being brought outside for diners, and the place was busy by the time we arrived but were fortunate to get a table immediately. After perusing the menu – initially I thought I’d try something fusion – our waitress inquired if we’d be interested in drinks and with that, I opted for one of these sweet Grace bottled beverages. High on sugar but with ice, it was on the refreshing side.
Pizzeria Delfina – two locations
3611 18th St, San Francisco, CA. (415) 437-6800
2406 California St, San Francisco, CA. (415) 440-1189
[Note: Foodosopher's previous post on Pizzeria Delfina here]
The San Francisco Bay Area is usually considered one of the top cities in the country to eat pizza. Of the many well-regarded pizza places (A16, Piccolo, Pizzaiolo, Tony’s, Pizzetta 211, Dopo, et al.) Pizzeria Delfina is considered amongst the best, with a style that is typically described as Napoletana-inspired.
Taking a cue once again from my colleague aka the Foodosopher, I thought I’d jot down some random thoughts from my past two weeks of eating in South Korea, as I slowly begin the process of recovering from the time zone switch as I’ve landed back on North American soil.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel throughout the country this time (and not just bogged down in Seoul), hitting the metropolitan area of Seoul and neighboring province of Gyeonggi-do, as well as venturing through the central parts of the country (Chungcheongbuk-do), and the eastern province of Gyeongsangbuk-do. Almost made it down to the major southern city of Busan, but with the havoc being raged by Typhoon Dianmu, we elected to retreat northward.
538 Seabright Ave.
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
California has a long tradition of Italian immigration beginning in the 19th century. Although New York is probably more closely associated with this wave of newcomers, in the mid-1800s California had the most Italian immigrants of any state. In Santa Cruz and elsewhere along the coast, northern Italians quickly became very prominent in the fishing industry. They also played important roles in developing California’s vegetable, fruit and wine industries.
Even today, one can see the imprint of this immigration (e.g. Del Monte foods, Ghirardelli chocolates). Perhaps this explains this state’s strong ties to Italian cuisine – indeed, California cuisine in my mind is primarily rooted in Italian sensibilities with French, other European and some Asian techniques and ingredients thrown in for good measure. Despite this, it’s only been in the last decade or so that authentic regional Italian food has been widely available.
Russian River Brewing Company
725 4th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
A few years ago, I unwittingly developed a taste for American IPAs. From years back I enjoyed the IPA from Bridgeport, the rather enjoyable brew pub in Portland, OR whose killer app is the aroma from its non-stop pizza ovens combined with a variety of decent beers. But for whatever reason, a couple of years ago, I went from occasionally enjoying an IPA to suddenly finding it to be my favorite style of beer – well, provided it’s a west coast IPA, which I find to be cleaner, more focused and stylish than its Pacific-removed brethren. The recent evolution of IPA (as the story goes) took a step forward when Vinnie Cilurzo, then at Blind Pig in San Diego, jacked up the regular IPA with even more hops, and balanced the extra bitterness with more sweetness from malt, which inevitably led to more alcohol. And thus the double IPA was born. <Cue the manna from heaven sound effect.> Now Mr. Cilurzo is co-owner (with his wife) of the Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, CA, smack in the middle of California’s tourist – sorry, wine – country.
O’Tray (Tianjin Flavours)
2285 – 8181 Cambie Road
The topic of street food often comes up in discussion amongst this city’s food-obsessed. We longingly look to Asia where street food has been elevated to artform. Or even a few hundred kilometers south to the city Portland deemed a streetfood mecca by the American food press. Portland has hundreds of street carts serving fairly mediocre, but sometimes great streetfood. “Why do we have to settle for hotdogs and chestnuts?”, we ask rhetorically. Now that the City of Vancouver’s street food initiative is underway, we finally have some hope. But if you look hard enough, you will find street food here….but not on the street. Street food lives in the city’s Asian food courts.
Those who have been to Singapore know the story well. The city (perhaps my favourite city in which to eat) used to have thousands of quasi-legal food carts and stalls that served often sublime (but inexpensive) food. In the spirit of modernization, the Singapore city government forced all these stalls to operate within government regulated “hawker centres” or food courts. Many of these are built into the parking stall levels of mid-rise residential buildings.
This turned out to the biggest disappointment on my most recent visit to Portland. Nong’s Khao Man Gai – the now famous Thai-style Hainanese Chicken food cart at the cart pod at 10th and Alder had just closed as I walked up to it. Next time.
With Vancouver’s street food scene starting to warm up, my visit gave me a chance to observe what Portland is “doing right” in its own cart scene. Since it is very early into the City of Vancouver’s fledgling street food initiative, I am hoping the Vancouver regulators recognize certain key factors which I believe are responsible for Portland’s impressive cart scene.
A brief stay in Japan’s capital city before heading westward for two weeks in South Korea…
123 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003-8319
I’ve discussed my never ending obsession with French Fries many times before, so i’ll endeavor to keep this short. In my experiences with Belgian Fries from Vancouver, and and Duck Fat from Maine, i’ve developed a pretty clear understanding of what im looking for in a french fry. Crisp outside, fluffy inside, flavourful, and a bit meatier than thin fries. On reputation alone, Pommes Frites in New York is often mentioned as one of the best.
I used to wander by this tiny storefront in the East Village all the time. It’s square on my walking path from Ippudo, to Katz’s Deli and Russ and Daughters. With Caracas around the corner, there wasn’t a hope that i’d ever have the room left in my stomach to try it. Then i heard it was really good, so i figured before Arepas, after Pastrami, Akamaru Modern, and some Lox, i’d share some fries with a friend.
1600 Westheimer Road
People will argue that Mexican food gets better the closer you get to Mexico. While this makes sense in theory, it doesn’t always work in practice. Texas, for example, is right across the border but has adapted Mexican food and made it their own – the birth of Tex-Mex pretty much means that real Mexican is difficult to find. Great Mexican? Even more difficult.
In the Westheimer area in Houston, Hugo’s Restaurant is trying to change that perception. Serving high quality Mexican cuisine that represents the best of all regional cuisines, I have to admit, I’m a bit skeptical. Places that try to represent too many different cuisines have a tendency to be good at all, but master of none.
From the large gated doors to the vaulted ceilings and chandeliers, the space is 1925 traditional with elements of contemporary. I don’t see the supposed elements of “chic” they are aiming for, but it’s a reasonably nice atmosphere characterized mostly by the slightly uncomfortably large gaps of space between tables.