Monday, April 25, 2005

A masu full of saké helps the sunomono go down

So, the dinner, whose menu and ingredients are posted below, was a smashing success. I of course took zero photos and thus have nothing of substance to share with you other than my word that it went off great.
However, to make up for it, E and I spent a couple of days in San Francisco and took pictures of EVERYTHING. Yep that's right, we did the tourist thing in our own backyard.
We hate the city. HATE IT. Wouldn't live there if we were being paid to. But it is, after all, a pretty fun place to go once or twice a year. So we booked a room at the Metropolis and prepared to chow down all over the place.
The first place we hit was the hotel's restaurant, La'zeez. It's an Asian fusion place, remeniscent of Berkeley's Xanadu restauraunt that went out of business a few years ago. Xanadu was awesome; unfiltered sake flowing from bamboo containers, truly diverse Asian and South Asian fusion food, which is what La'zeez aspires to be. Its problem is that it's in the middle of beat-down downtown S.F. where no one is likely to frequent it except for strippers and the homeless. The restaurant's one Sri Lankan waiter, Tony, was an awesome guy.



Tony

For the two days that we spent in the city, Tony was our pal. We would walk into the bar and order drinks and just chat. For his own part, Tony drank almost as much as we did! The only thing we ate at La'zeez was the momo. Naveen, the manager, was Nepalese so we figured the momo would be right on. They were pretty good, but they were designed to be treated as pot stickers (would you like them steamed or fried?) and had the pot sticker squished-together-taco shape.

Next we headed downtown to hit some bars and do some shopping. The famous bar on Union Square called the Gold Nugget (or is it the gold dust? I never walk in there at a baseline, so I can't be sure). Gold Nugget, you suck ass nuggets. They take no form of payment but cash, so they have a pimpbot at the front of the joint that charges $2.50 for withdrawals. We thought we were lucky to hit the happy hour, $2.95 margaritas and beers. I got a margarita; E got one and a beer. These were the filthiest, nastiest, weakest margaritas ever. I thought of a joke that I didn't use with the waitress: "I've had better margaritas in MEXICO!" Dig the irony. I wasn't sure she'd appreciate it. So we downed 'em and after a quick romp shopping we went back to the hotel.

After a shower and another quick drink at La'zeez, we decided to head out for some dinner. We figured Japantown would be worth the hike because we're so rarely in the city. After a couple of blocks we hailed a cab. I used to do that death march every day from the Powell St. Bart station to Japantown for Japanese classes - I felt no need to do so again when I had a few beers in me!

Disembarking at J-town, we headed for my most favorite Izakaya-style restaurant, Maki. Izakaya are what I miss most about Japan; they are midway between bar and restaurant with none of the BS of either. They have the best saké, the best apps, the best atmosphere. Somehow Houston, Texas has a great Izakaya, but San Francisco, California, with its huge Japanese poplulation has only two (and I won't tell you where the other one is). My reigning favorite saké for the past few years has been Shirakawago Nigori Genshu (Nigori-zaké). It is an unfiltered sake produced by monks in the Hida-Takayama region of Honshu and when it is fresh it is absolutely lovely. Even seasoned sceptics appreciate this kind of sake. This summer, my love of Shirakawago drew me to the village of its namesake, tucked in a remote valley.






Heaven on earth?

The Shirakawago village (literally, "white river village") is a UNESCO world heritage site, and home of some of the only gassho-zukuri ("praying hands made") houses left in all of Japan. When the Japanese government outlawed non-corporate production of liquor, they tried to force these people to abandon production of their nigori-zaké. However, they sued and won on the basis that the local priests use it in their ceremonies. It's still illegal to make it at home, but the temples are allowed to.

Once when I was at Maki wth a friend years ago, we ordered a bottle of Shirakawago. As we drank it and waxed nostalgic about things Japanese, an older guy at the bar motioned to us. "Do you like this saké?" Why yes, we did. "I am the one who imports it into America." WOW. That codger was cool, and we ended up talking to him for a while, even getting his meishi (business card). I don't have his card any more but what I do have are very fond memories of traveling to Shirakawago.




I have swum in the white river. I have touched the face of god.

I swam in the white river of the legend I created for myself. It was absolutely beautiful and as refreshing as the saké that bears its name. Incidentally, in the village itself, they sell three kinds of nigori zaké (well, actually, dozens of kinds, but three kinds of this particular brand). One that is totally clear; one that needs to be shaken up like a snowstorm ball (the kind that is sold in the US) and one that is totally white like milk. Yes, I tried them all, and even managed to bring two bottles back to the U.S.

So it follows that Maki and Shirakawago hold special places in my heart. Put the two together, and I'm sailing. Eating izakaya food is a special treat; but eating it stateside with your favorite saké is a party! The Maîtresse D' of the restaurant, a young Japanese exchange student, was oh so pleased that I was able to speak to her in her native tongue, and we got treated pretty well. We ordered "autumn leaves falling on snow" (which is one of my specialties at home: ikura over grated daikon), chilled tofu with dashi, nori, and other fixins, crab and cucumber sunomono (which also came with bay shrimp - yuk!) and a ten zaru udon dish.




Delish. Click the picture to enlarge.

A masu full of saké helps the sunomono go down in the most delightful way. Even if there are bay shrimp in it. After one more order of Ikura, we bade goodbye to our lovely Maki, vowing to one day return.

Tune in next time for day 2 of our San Francisco treats!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like the Creative Process

Here is the unedited string of recipe/ingredients for what I plan to make tonight, as sent in e-mail to E (she graciously volunteered to do the shopping):

From: Dr. Five Pints
To: Undisclosed-recipients

Here come the list:
meang kum:
spinach
Galanga (in the veg. section wrapped up, sometimes called 'white ginger'
fermented shrimp paste (this'll be on the thai aisle above your head next to the crab paste. if someone else is buying, get both.)
shallots
cocount (dry or fresh if you want to dry it)
dry roasted peanuts
ginger
palm sugar (get the kind that looks like nilla wafers - also on the Thai aisle)
coco milk
tamarind crab:
two big crabs - check make sure they have their legs
peanut oil or kimbo oil - whatever you want to use for deep frying. kimbo is that cheap oil in the yellow container that I always get.
garlic
baby/regular leeks

Tom Yam Goong:
1# fresh Tiger prawns
garlic
kaffir lime leaves
lemongrass
traw mushrooms (canned are fine for this)
Thai chilis (get the small green ones bagged, near the lemongrass)
4-6 limes
Black Chili Paste (nam prik pow)
cilantro (if you think your parents can take it)
suggestions: get Nam Prik Pow and kaffir lime leaves at the Thai mart.

Ingredients consolidated:
Vegetables:
lemongrass
thai chilis (green, bagged, small)
4-6 limes
cilantro (maybe)
ginger
galanga ('white ginger')
peanuts
shallots
garlic
baby/regular leeks
spinach
Fish:
2 crabs
one pound fresh tiger prawn

Container items:
Nam Prik Pow (black chili sauce)
Coconut milk (get a LOT pls.)
Shrimp Paste/Crab Paste
Palm Sugar (in a plastic jug or bag)
Cocount (plastic bag)
peanut / Kimbo Corn oil
Kaffir Lime Leaves (in the frozen section in Thai market)
Would be really nice -> Kaffir Lime
That should do it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Don Xuan part II

Note: part one can be found below!

When we entered Yummy we both still had a decent beer buzz going on. So, we were boisterous as can be expected. The staff was really trying to get out of there (it was 9:30 by now) and told us if we ordered right away we could stay. God, did we want to stay, so we cobbled together an order right quick: salt and pepper tofu, half a roast tea duck, “crab” (k-rab) meat won-tons, and spare ribs with bitter melon. Two Tsing Taos, please, we need something to wash this down.

The food was impeccable. I mean really great. The bitter melon with the spare ribs was an excellent pairing, and I’m embarrassed to admit that it was my first experience with bitter melon. However in my defense I had been wanting to try it for a while. E and I agreed that it’s definitely an acquired taste, but one that we would be happy to spend time acquiring. I made sure the spare ribs were pork and since they were indeed it was chow-down time.

The fake crab meat won tons didn’t fail to impress; I don’t think they ever have anywhere I’ve had them (usually at the Long Life Vegi [sic] House); and they are the only thing that I ever eat with the barbarian (sweet-n-sour) sauce that many palefaces seem to want to drown everything in. This reminds me of an anecdote from rural Washington when I was up there doing a web site. We went out for Chinese food and I was vegan at the time. Having California Chinese cuisine as my experience to draw from, and having been thwarted in attempts at veganism by Chinese restaurants that call hot and sour soup vegetarian and then fill it full of egg, I figured I’d head these small-town purveyors of the middle country’s finery off at the proverbial pass, and made sure they would not be putting egg in the soup. Sure enough, the soup arrived with no egg in it; for we wouldn’t want to mix cow and egg and make it non-kosher. Indeed, the soup had about a steak’s worth of boeuf; something I don’t eat anyways, much less when I’m doing a three month cleansing. Joke’s on me.

E was really into the salt and pepper tofu, not just because she loves tofu, but because it was very, very good. We ordered another round of Tsing Taos and tore into the duck. That crazy quacker was one of the best examples of his species I’ve consumed in a very long time, and the simple rice flour buns were piping hot out of the steamer. We finished what we could pack away, tipped the staff heavily, and headed home with food boxes a-swingin’ in a plastic bag. I took all the bones from the duck home with visions of soup stock dancing in my head. The waiter almost couldn’t believe it; it was probably the first time he had seen white folk do such a thing. When we explained what we planned to do with it, he softened. “My mom does that all the time!” he exclaimed.

That was Friday. By Sunday, we had decided that what we needed to do with our paychecks was hit the town again. So, after a few Oranjeboom Dutch Lagers, we headed to the Berkeley marina for some kite flying. After we reeled in the kites, we headed over to Skate’s for some drinks and apps. I had a Mojito; E, a Bloody Mary. We ordered the calamari, and while it wasn’t excellent, it was plentiful, and we were hungry. We had a beer each and then headed over to 4th street for some real paycheck burning.

I don’t believe I’ve gone off on the virtues of Café Rouge’s meat market yet. Their charcuterie is so good that even as a lowly East Bay Vivarium employee I used to frequent it (what the hell, it was a block from my job and they have BEER there!) E and I also enjoy oysters at the bar there from time to time (not so much anymore since we’re on our going out diet). We wanted to have some of their Kumamotos but they were all out. Bummer. Since they know us though they gave us a sample of some hog islands. We weren’t impressed. So instead of throwing away my money on oysters, I hurled it at the bar. Our friend Sean who was with us got to get away without buying any drinks because I made him buy us one of the charcuterie’s excellent rotisserie chickens to be eaten later. We also laid hands on two rabbit-basil sausages and two boudin blancs. One hour and three drinks later and it was time for a breather, so we walked it off before piling into the wagon again. It was another five pint day.

The dénouement of this story may be more interesting than the rest of it; for it is with the climax of the plot that we can get down to the business at hand: that of the food-making. Let’s start with the base, a very good place to start.

Initially I decharned the rotisserie chicken and reserved the bones, which I cracked to allow access to the marrow. Then I removed my duck bones, fat still clinging to them, from the refrigerator, as well as the remainder of the pork spare ribs (about 10 tiny riblets) and some of the bitter melon as well. Into the roasting pan these went, along with the trimmings from one bunch of fennel, several carrots, one onion, a bunch of basil, and a shallot. I roasted them at 450 for about 20 to 30 minutes to bring the flavor out. When they were ‘bout ready, I put them into a large Dutch oven and covered them with water. As I brought them to a boil, I roasted some peppercorns, cumin seed, and sesame seeds in a little bit of truffle oil. These I added to the mix.

I have written many a post on how to make stock so I’ll save it this time. What is important, however, is that this stock came out so god damned well, I surprised myself. Then, in a pan on the stove, I began cooking up the meaty part of the fennel, the onion, a huge shallot, the four sausages, and several carrots using the just-made stock. I was at a loss because even with the mushrooms I had (which I reserved for later so as not to make them too squishy), I still had not enough mass to compensate for their being drowned in all that stock. So, I took two cups of Thai black rice and two cups of mushroom stock (organic, store-bought) and cooked the rice in the rice cooker. The careful reader will notice that this is half the amount of liquid required to cook any hard-skinned rice; rightly so, for what I planned was paella.

Without resorting to clichés, I can only describe the taste of the finished product as nothing short of awesome. I just ate a bowl of it an hour ago and already I want more. If you like paella, I highly recommend your making it with a fresh, homemade stock; it’ll increase its flavor tenfold.

Don Xuan part I

This post (in two parts) ends with a "paella" recipe. It begins with a drunken romp through El Cerrito's gourmet ghetto.

What is love? Is it something you feel when you walk into a hearth-warmed cabin out of the snow? Is it something that washes over you when you just know you’re with that special someone and you don’t have to work at it, it just comes naturally? Or is it a sentiment associated with someone giving you a basket of puppies, or a big fat bottle of Dom for free?

I think it’s something as grounded in common hate as it is common interests. E and I both hate mediocre food. We even hate the mediocre food at the restaurants that we love. Many times, we can size up a restaurant just from the look of it. They say don’t judge a book by its cover (hell, if we did that, a lot of the places we love we’d NEVER frequent); but with restaurants it’s often a safe bet, especially with Japanese establishments. It may seem racist, but I’m relatively certain most people of Asian derivation would agree with me: sushi bars are better when they’re Japanese-run. How to tell? Look around. If there is sriracha on the table, they’re not. If the name of the restaurant is a misspelled English word, they’re probably not. If the name of the restaurant is a badly-Romanized Japanese word, they’re definitely not.

Such is the case with Yammy (sic.) sushi in the EC Plaza. They are a ‘sushi’ bar/Japanese restaurant that specializes in temaki of various levels of authenticity. This is a good place to take your grandmother if you just really want some sushi because she’ll be able to have a teriyaki steak or some such truck. I have not been able to determine the specific race of the owners; I usually do so by rattling off a few Korean or Mandarin words and seeing if I get a response. Apparently, however, they wish to convey to us that their food is characterized by sweet potatoes; so much so, in fact, that they named the restaurant after this Yamminess of theirs. About the only benefit of this place is that its saké is cheap enough that you can get just toasty enough there to be sufficiently brave to go to the Mel-o-dee lounge (on the same side of the plaza as Yammy’s front door) and enjoy their incredible magenta/burgundy velour walls, seats, and drapes.

So, in a case of nomenclaturate emotive transposition (yes, this is an undeclared variable), E and I have always avoided a restaurant that we shouldn’t have, Yummy Chinese Restaurant (at 10264 San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito) simply because of its nomenclaturate association with Yammy above. We were foolish to never try it out when we used to live two blocks from it, but that is partly due to the fact that we were too busy playing patrons to our favorite place, Yuet Foo, two blocks north on San Pablo. Yuet Foo is what made me wax lovey above(y); whenever we walk into Yuet Foo we feel like we are really somewhere we should be. The décor is deplorable; the élan is MIA; the tables, chairs, and restrooms are usually dirty; even the method of construction of the building is an embarrassment (painted cinderblocks chest-high topped by a cheap wooden frame). But, they’ve got six acrylic salt tanks stuffed full of living frutti di mare for your perusal, and they are happy to cook up anything you ask for. Their élan is apparent in their food wrangling, not in their place settings.

But on to the new blood. E and I prepared for a sortie last Friday night because we were in a Yuet Foo mood. We had already done our April going-out-and-eating in spades, but felt like it anyway, on the condition (E’s) that we “order only dishes that we’d not had before” (not including the fried oyster appetizer). Beers in hand, we marched the road to Yuet, hoping for a taste of fried oyster. But when we got there, the place was absolutely packed. Normally that wouldn’t stop us; we’d walk right in and have two large Tsingtaos waiting for us by the time we sat down. But there was something different about this crowd. They OWNED Yuet Foo, and you could tell. Sure enough, as we approached the front door, we spied a sign begging the patrons’ forgiveness for the restaurant was closed for a private banquet all night. Would we like take-out?

The thought of walking fried oysters home ten blocks unappealing to us, we decided to go for peking duck at choice #2, the ghetto-ass but always good Golden Dynasty about three blocks down. To shorten a lengthy anecdote, we got the Gwai Lo treatment there; walking in at 9:20 and being told they were closed. Huffily we decided to go for our last-ditch choice, Yummy. I am so glad we did.

Tune in next time for the rest of our heroes’ campaigns in southwest El Cerrito!

Foul-er Palace

The votes are in. People from both sides of the Pacific have informed me that Hong Kong Flower Palace isn't worth the good luck cat smiling at you in the foyer. Apparently if you are in the business of eating dim sum in south city, Koi Palace can't be beat.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Thai Feud

It's official: I am a Thai food snob. That's why I write this blog, so I can help you, the readers, avoid the crap and skip straight to the cream. So you'll probably not be surprised when I say that I take food pretty seriously, even when it's something as inelegant as a grilled cheese on sourdough. When it comes to Thai, I've been cooking it so long and am so specialized in it now that if I'm going to go to a Thai restaurant it better be pretty damn good.

Some restaurants aren't all that hot and they know it. Some restaurants have excessive decor where the menu is lacking; others have a great selection and dirty bathrooms. The worst ones out there are the ones that don't know they suck.

As I have discovered today, Thai Stick of Millbrae (www.thaisticksf.com) is among these. This is your typical turn 'em and burn 'em human cattle run style lemongrass-scented feed bag. You can tell a lot from this restaurant's web site, in fact; the shoddy web design is a perfect digital representation of the lackluster quality of the establishment. Let's turn for a moment to the name as well. What kind of lame Cheech and Chongery is that, splayed along the side of the building, its cold, nonfunctioning neon tubes proclaiming that this is a restaurant where you, gentle reader, may find yourself with the desire to take a bunch of weed and tie it to a stick. My co-worker, who loves this restaurant, is a speaker of English who adds the English equivalent of chez to everything. That is, for any place she wants to go there will invariably be an apostrophe-s ending appended to it. Ironically, she is the one who introduced me to Specialty's®, itself an offender of this particular law of English grammar. So when she brought up the restaurant she of course called it "Thai Stick's", as if we were headed out to Chez Thai Stick. Or perhaps she meant Thai Sticks, as in there are more than one of them; or maybe it's meant to convey that Thai Stick is something, as in "Thai Stick's fucking awful!"

Now, before anyone says "Why would you go there if you thought it would be bad?" I'll let you know that I had no choice in the matter. My punk-ass coworker (who I don't believe cooks much Thai food) wanted to go to this restaurant, citing its wondrous cuisine and how it's great every time. I didn't put up a fight, and I did go to the restaurant with an open mind, hoping that it would be good. Hell, it was on the company anyway (first free lunch in my 8 months on the job!), so why not?

We entered the place. The first thing I noticed was that the menu sucked. When you don't pay attention to your menu, it's a good bet you're not concerned with your customers either. The appetizers were abysmal; the only one that caught my eye was "My Aunt's Eggrolls". Thankfully someone else ordered the appetizers so I was free from the conundrum. We got two orders of fried tofu which was not bad at all. When the tofu first came out, it had a wonderful texture and was nice and warm. There was a sauce with it (in the menu called a tamarind dip) that did not taste of tamarind at all. As the tofu cooled it got much less tasty, and with everyone trying to be polite and not hog the tofu it had all the time it needed to get cold.

The next sign of trouble was when I asked the waitress if they made Chu-chee curry. Chu-chee is my current holy grail of curries, because no one seems to know how to make it, but it's on lots and lots of Thai menus. In fact, if I could read Thai I'd have a great recipe for it right now, as my Thai friend sent me one as a joke. So, wherever I go I order it, as it is one of the few menu choices at most Thai restaurants that I can't easily make myself. Enter the waitress: "Do we have what?" "Chu-chee curry." "I never hear before." OK. Brick wall. But, I consoled myself, they do have massaman curry, which is close to the same thing. I ordered me up a pork massaman and prepared to enjoy the deliciousness of the irony of ordering a halaal curry with pork if not the deliciousness of anything else. The person seated to my left, who also hates this restaurant, ordered padt thai, which I think we both tacitly acknowledged was a safe choice in any unknown Thai spot.

One shelter in any storm, I have found, is my newfound love for spicy-ass Thai chilis. Most self-respecting restaurants, if you ask, will bring you a variety of peppers, from wagon wheel jalapenos to crushed dry red chilis. My favorite right now are the birdshit/bird's eye chilis (depending on who you talk to) cut into rounds and floating in vinegar. I can usually put away a couple of spoonfuls of these with any given meal. Thai stick was surprisingly great about this and brought us a veritable cornucopia of ruminant-vexing bounty. Their birdshit chilis shared their vinegar with tiny pieces of lemon. The lemon was awesome! It was so good I will begin curing it at home. Now, THIS is what Thai food is all about. The condiment tray said it all. For salty, you had the soy sauce or nam pla in the middle. All about it were the savory (the ubiquitous Chinese 'wet' red chili sauce) spicy (the birdshit chilis) and the aromatic/sweet (the lemons). I don't know what category the jalapenos fall into, but they definitely completed the color scheme quite well.

Back to Ms. Brick Wall. This was one of the rudest and least capable waitresses I've ever seen--and she's obviously been on this job a long time. When I had exhausted my water supply due to the large amount of chilis I was eating, I started looking around hopefully for her. She swooped in and began doling out the H2O to my table. I had my hand on my glass and my eyes on hers trying to indicate that I wanted water. What did she do? She poured for everyone BUT me. I know, I know, it is pretty funny, but you wouldn't think so if you were the one clutching the glass. She blustered past me and I had to go chase her down just to git my whistle whet. Next, she and someone who looked like a relative started jumbling tables and chairs around next to our table. Now, I know that it was lunchtime and the place was packed with people in golf shorts and Donna Karen all trying to elbow their way to a table, while the small but stalwart Thai staff had to do whatever they could to wrangle these whiteys around. But please, don't just hit people in the back with chairs (this happened to my coworkers who were seated to my left) as you rummage around arguing loudly. It is painfully obvious that these people don't care about their customers at all, since they have a captive audience every day of the workweek. They don't have to impress them, because half these people go home and eat Kirkland Signature genetically modified products anyways. These are the kind of folks that will become convinced that a restaurant like this is sometheing that needs to be revered, respected, and revisited; and by the way, I don't like driving that far just for some crappy food.

Millbrae is not without its good restaurants, of that one can be sure. I saw two restaurants on the way in that now I'm dying to try out. The first is Seafood Harbor Restaurant at 279 El Camino Real that looks like it would be a contender with Yuet Foo. The second is the literally palatial Hong Kong Flower Lounge, which apparently serves great dim sum and peking duck. All is not lost for Millbrae, I just happened to go to one of its worse restaurants.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Appe-Thai-Zers

E. and I are on a going out diet, which means we can only go out and spend a hundred bucks on dinner once a month. Yeah I know, poor us. But according to my bank, I've cut my restaurant spending in half while keeping the same rate of grocery expenditure.

The long and the short of this is that we get creative with our going out to eat. Something we discovered that we liked in Monterey is the drive-by appetizering. It can be cheap if you give it a shot. Also, if you are not on foot as we were in Monterey, you're encouraged not to spend a lot on drinks.

So, E. and I decided to give the San Pablo Thai restaurant crawl a try, just for appetizers. We thought we'd hit two places, but then I remembered that E's never been to Krung Thep. Interestingly Krung Thep constitutes the first two syllables of Bangkok's formal name, one of the longest place names in the world--I think the longest one is in Wales. Krung Thep at 11224 San Pablo in El Cerrito has been around for quite some time. When I was in college I went there once or twice for the officially-closed-but-we're-open-for-our-regulars $15 all-you-can-eat-and-drink feed, which was great. But I hadn't been there in a very long time so I surprised E. with it.
We ordered two appetizers that were dangerously close together in theme - prawns rolled in egg roll wrappers and deep fried, and prawns and calamari battered and fried. Sure, you could have gotten these types of things at H. Salt or Long John Silver's; but I can assure you these were of haute qualité. We each quaffed a Singha (asked if they had Chang, and they still don't) and headed out, vowing to return for lunch sometime soon.

Next in the sights was Sa-Wooei (10621 San Pablo Avenue in EC ). Sa-Wooei has always been a very warm and friendly place with fake flowers and real smiles. After that fried food, we were in the mood for some vegetables, and had a hankerin' for meang-kum (the Thai appetizer that resembles the Chinese dish "Ants Crawling on Tree"). We make Meang-kum at home, and it is incredibly easy to do. It wasn't on the menu but we thought we'd ask anyway. I've never just walked out of Sa-Wooei before, but the cold, flat 'no' we got when we asked about it was enough to push us over the edge. Put some damned galanga, lime, coconut, peppers, shrimp, onions, and sauce on some spinach already! We would have paid eight bucks for the three dollars it would have cost them to make it. All, however, is not lost. We'll probably try to visit their satellite location on Solano the next time we do the crawl.

Our last stop was Thep-Naree (977 San Pablo Avenue in Albany), or as E. calls it, 'Boobie Thai'. It is boobie indeed...there is a gigantic mural inside featuring Thai demigoddesses that resemble mermaids but their legs are enshrouded in wings instead of scales. The resemblance doesn't stop there...they are each endowed with a pair of mammalian breasts which are not covered. The attention paid to detail on each of the holy racks is impeccable; no two pairs alike. We often comment that the murals in Mexican restaurants such as Gordo's on Solano and El Taco Zamorano on Foothill in Oakland lack detail and the women's breasts, while exquisite, are far too uniform, as are the moustaches on the men and the shingle-like teeth.

At any rate, Thep-Naree is usually our default meeting place for afternoon Thai. They make an incredible galanga-covered roasted duck that is reasonable at 6.95 or so. I was able to identify every ingredient but one in it. The daytime waitress disclosed it to me but on the condition that I not disseminate it. We have never been there for dinner, and are still curious about the karaoke night they have there (Krung Thep is doing karaoke now too-it's spreading like avian flu). So we dropped by for appetizers and Singhas. E. ordered meang kum (now was that so hard?) and I ordered angel's wings, the old familiar chicken wings stuffed with mung bean threads and pork. When I met her, she was a vegetarian. We even did four months of veganism together. But now she is down with the swine, so I thought she would like this dish. She didn't very much, so I got to eat a lot of wing and she got more meang-kum. The meang kum was really nice but it was the already-assembled kind. Whenever I serve it, I serve it unassembled and guests love to put them together themselves.

Having dropped about sixty bucks we figured it was time to head in and did so. I still heartily endorse all three of these restaurants but will probably not be going back to Sa-Wooei soon. I am much more interested to see what Krung Thep has to offer as far as dinner fare goes.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Re-habs

Last night I made an incredible batch of ribs, with a kickass BBQ sauce. I need to record it before I forget what I put in it:

A few tablespoons of honey
1/2 cup Kagome Okonomiyaki Ketchup (available at Japanese grocers)
1/2 cup Thai Spicy Chicken sauce (available everywhere)
A few tablespoons of pomegranite syrup (available at middle eastern grocers)
Two heads of pickled garlic (available at Asian grocers)
One large purple onion, peeled
1/2 to one cup Korean Pepper Sauce (KPS is about as specific as I can get with the name)
1/4 cup brown sugar
Dash of coarse grain sea salt
Dash of whole peppercorns
Dash of garlic powder

This is about as simple as meals get at Dr. Five Pints' house.



First I combined some of the less gooey ingredients with the honey and microwaved it. This was a good way to get all of it out of the jar. I tossed this mixture into my food processor. Then I threw in the pickled garlic, the onion, and the rest of the ingredients and blended it well.
When it was approaching soupiness, I added enough water to double its volume. I ended up marinating the ribs in this sauce overnight. The next day (last night) it ended up being too cold outside to barbecue. So I built a fire inside and boiled the ribs in the sauce on the stove. When they were cooked, I removed them and reduced the sauce (adding a little more pepper sauce and chicken sauce). When it reduced down to somewhere between honey and ketchup-like consitency, I figured it was time to test it out. I've uttered these words several times in the past year, but this is the BEST rib sauce I've ever made. Believe it or not, this actually represents far fewer ingredients than I usually use, and the simplicity helps it. I've got six ribs in my lunch for today and thus will be evading the Specialty'es'ies' monster once again.

Thank you, Easter Bunny...

Another of the Xtian holidays has come and gone. Easter dinner this year came in the form of a lot of ham and lamb (but no spam or jam). Barely visible in the photo below (due to the extreme crappiness of my digital camera) is a cheese tort that E. made (she made the crust too):


The night before, we'd been experimenting with yorkshire puddings again. I rendered down a bunch of lambfat in a pan:



This I used instead of the requisite butter in the 'popover' pan when cooking the puddings. The result was good tasting, but the fat didn't provide the nonstick quality that butter imbues to the puddings. I am thinking of using lard since many people do and seem to like its results.

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, I haven't had a plethora of exciting meals of late.