Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Sticks to your ribs

Fried chicken. Carnitas. Milk. These are the things you crave at odd times of the day when you know that your beans and rice are providing a complete protein but you're still hungry as hell for some animal fat. As an american I'm so used to getting huge gobs of lipids in my system every couple hours that when I don't get them I feel unexplainably hungry all the time.

It seems the Chronicle finally realized that good weather means ribs weather.

Yes, I stole this picture from sfgate. It was in the paper this morning, taunting me with ideas such as "Everyone can have ribs but you. Everyone can have cigarettes but you. Everyone can eat and drink all they want except YOU!" I get it already. I am supposed to eat refined sugar, trans-fatty acids and BEEF, otherwise I'm a terrorist.

Well, I don't want to be on the wrong side of the law. This memorial day weekend I may just have to make up a huge batch of ribs and live a little. For my own extraordinary pork rib sauce, check out the entry "Re-habs" below.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Hail Seitan (a.k.a. Devil's Food Fake)

I totally eat these. And I ate them the last time I was Vegan. This is a step for me. When I was a kid, my mom used to force us to go to seventh day adventist summer camp (why?? I don't have a clue), where we were introduced to the wide world of meat substitutes that the early 1980s had to boast. Let's just say the industry has come a long way since then.

INGREDIENTS: Non-GMO vital gluten (wheat protein), water, naturally brewed soy sauce (water, non-GMO soybeans, wheat, sea salt), expeller pressed canola oil, licorice root, unrefined evaporated cane juice, yeast, sea salt, natural vegetarian spices. No MSG.

The company that makes these is pretty hippy-dippy, I'll admit, but what do you expect? I do think it's important not to eat genetically modified foods, if that is even possible any more. Did you know that a few years ago some scientists tested corn from a field that was planted with non-GMO seeds and it came up as GMO? Pollens, baby. We are expediting the apocalypse. M'lord seitan is pleased.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Every once in a while, even the vegetarian Iguana decides to chomp down a few bugs or a slow-moving lizard. So it is with your meaty host. I have decided to go vegan again for a period of about three months, both for my general health and to lose some weight. Hopefully this will culminate in a SCUBA trip at the end of the summer, so I want to be looking good for that.

Let's get something straight: I don't care about the poor little animals. I don't care that we invade bees' homes and steal their food just so we can make toast taste better. I have no qualms running over a squirrel in my car if the alternative is to cause an accident. I don't believe that veganism is even a healthy lifestyle - more like an eating disorder.

Humans' gut size is too short for us to extract nutrients from, say, grasses and tree bark. On the other hand, it's too long for us to be carnivorous because the meat stays too long in the intestines, rotting and causing cancers. I knew one guy who was on an archaeology dig with me last summer in Japan who was convinced that the way to go was to adhere to a 'caveman diet'. This essentially meant not cooking any food, not seasoning it, and hardly eating vegetables of any kind. His pores oozed meat juice day and night, and it was a truly disgusting sight to see him chowing down on a plate of raw horse meat day after day. This is the opposite extreme of veganism which just goes to show that any extreme diet practice can become a disorder.

A total dream date.

Now here's the part where I describe my crazy disorder. I am into the small meals diet. Humans' gut size also suggests (rightly so) that we came out of the trees as hunter-foragers, stuffing our faces with about a handful of food every couple hours. Our metabolism is set up to operate optimally with this amount of caloric intake. The small meals diet works like crazy - I've lost five pounds in the past week and a half. Combine it with low-fat vegan (i.e. you can't just have potato chips six times a day) and a lot of exercise and you've got a winning combination. This site has a lot of great information on the small meals plan (and unlike all the other fools out there, they are not selling anything).

As I said, I don't care about the cute little animals. I will be cheating on the vegan part of the diet whenever the mood strikes me. But, so far I've been pretty good.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

A Mutha of a Meal

As I've done for the past couple of years in a row, I had my nuke-yoo-lurr family over for Mother's Day dinner. I'm not going to say that I don't usually go all-out with my cooking, but for this meal I went all out.

The first part of the meal conssted of soup and apps, namely Tom Yum Goong and Meang Kum. Meang Kum you will recognize from earlier posts as being one of our favorite appetizers and inexplicably hard to get at certain restaurants even though it's painfully simple to make. Next came the tamarind crab:

Tamarind crab is prepared in a wok after it is deep fried. To its left you can see my new signature dish, pomegranite curry, steaming away in a large saucepan. Their presentation at table was something to write home about:

The family feasted upon these armored delights of the sea while I busied myself with the final dish: ginger pork with black fungus and scallions. It was my first attempt at making this dish and the first time I'd cooked with black fungus. I can safely say I love them both.

The picture is a bit out of focus but I can assure you nobody's forks were when I brought this baby out. Serve it over a little black rice and you're set. We ended the meal with two cheesecakes from Harry and David and sent everyone home full of food.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Chow-DUH! (Masu Full of Saké part III)

Sweet Irony!

It started raining. Hard. We were in shorts and tee-shirts. We considered for a moment the purchase of the cheapo San Francisco Rain Slickers® that all the Minnesotans and Nebraskans were shelling out 17 bucks apiece for, but instead we ducked into Walgreen's, the place that always has good deals on cheap vestments. A couple of three dollar sweatshirts later and we were set.

We strolled around the pier for a while until E decided that she needed to take me to Hooters. Yes, there is a Hooters on Fisherman's Wharf. And, though my statistics may be skewed by the fact that the test group is populated by only one subject, I'd have to say it's the best Hooters I've ever been to. After being seated by our paid-to-be-flirty waitress we ordered a couple of beers. E decided that the clam chowder here would be better than at Alioto's. It was kind of a dare. So I took the bait and we ordered it.

A big mistake

Ladda mussy, that was the wrong thing to order. It reminded me of the days when I worked at Nation's as a teen. The day we did clam chowder was the day no one ordered the soup. So it would sit in that huge vat just simmering slowly all day, as if they were trying to render it down to clam chowder stock. This one had been in the pot so long that the potatoes were disintegrating! We pushed it aside laughing, and our waitress was kind enough to take it off of our bill (go Hooters!). Since E had the camera she thought I should get a photo with our waitress. Our waitress thought I should get one with her and a couple more girls. So they crushed themselves to me while another employee tried in vain to work our camera. By the time he got the shot they were well pissed at having been made to reverse-cop-a-feel me for so long! I won't publish the picture so that I can protect the innocent.

Hooters is an interesting place. There are a lot of guys there who just come to have a meal (or a few dozen beers) all by themselves. If you're lonely or your wife is out of town this would seem to make sense. Also if you are into standard-as-it-comes dinner fare, you could do worse. This guy's cheese steak looked pretty damned good, and I don't even like beef!

We figured that the best thing to eat there for our tastes would be the wings. We ordered them extra, extra spicy and that's how they came. Just thinking about how spicy they were makes my glands tighten now. It was nice that there were a few drumsticks in there too.

Having had enough of opaque leggings and light beer, we made sure our waitress got her tip (she was going off-shift) and left out the place, E commenting that she didn't see why other women get so upset about the place. It's just some chicks in shorts and tees that are barely even revealing and padded from head to toe. It's not liquor in the front, handjobs in the back; it's rough-hewn wood paneling, girls in knee-high socks, cheap beer and fried food. A friend of mine was talking about renting out this particular Hooters for his birthday, and his girlfriend of three years almost left him! Of course he was doing it to piss her off, but the insecurity that shows must run pretty deep.

We headed back towards Pier 39 to see how we could round out our day. After the rain let up, there was renewed interest in the combination bungee-and-trampoline on the boardwalk. Having the benefits of a)working out every day b) being full of beer c)having grown up with a trampoline next door and d) having trapeze experience, you know I was down for a whirl. Six bucks and I was trussed up and doing backflips while people looked on. I think I sold the next six people on trying it. They sucked, but at least they had fun.

We decided to try Chic's, an upstairs affair on the pier and pretty unremarkable from the outside. It has a very long bar inside, and Maîtresses D' who think they are in Broadway shows, prancing around in furs and singing to themselves. The bartender on this particular night was pretty cool and treated us like we didn't look like we'd just been washed in by the tide. We ordered - what else - clam chowder. Honestly, it was the best cup of the day, although possibly the worst photo I took all day:

Note the massive tip from the huge spender on the guest check at top left. We left this guy a nice tip and called it an evening.

Now, the only thing left to do to mark ourselves as true tourists was to ride the cable car. We just made one and took it back to Powell station. The ride was great. The conductor let E ring the bell at every stop (though she could barely reach it) and there was a nice couple from Vancouver that we told about how I'd lied at the aquarium that morning telling them I was an international student from Canada to get the discounted passes.

We had stowed our bags at the hotel for the day so of COURSE we had to go back there and have a drink at La'zeez. We vowed to retun soon although we haven't, but I have a feeling that will change in the near future. I may even start to enjoy visiting this city on a more regular basis.

Friday, May 06, 2005

I left mad tips in San Francisco (Masu full of Sake part II)

I love San Francisco. It's set up to be welcoming and easy to navigate.

Mr. Sign, where is Coit Tower?

Seriously though, the good times continued in SF the next day. E and I hiked through Chinatown on our way to the Wharf, sampling this and that along the way. The first thing that we ate were some affordable char siu bao (steamed pork buns) purchased from the same baker that I've bought them from for the past 15 years. One thing that Chinatown is definitely renowned for is its affordable food. In addition, its affordable implements for creating such food live up to their reputation.

I wanted to buy every knife on this rack, especially the leaf-shaped cleaver at top left. The next time I'm there it's the first thing I'll do. We ended up finding some excellent composite knives at We Be Knives on pier 39 later on but have no photographic evidence.

Our first official food stop was at E's family's old favorite, Hunan Houses.

I was afraid this was going to be a memory-for-emotion experience since E had always come here with her family as a child. Mercifully I was wrong, and even though we only ordered apps, all the dishes I saw go by looked and smelled excellent. The pork ribs we got were quite generous and a meal in themselves at only $6.95 or so. We were halfway through them when we remembered the camera:


Washing it down with our Taiwan beers, we headed out on foot towards the wharf. We made the mile or so journey on foot in what seemed like very little time. Upon arrival at pier 39, we realized that to anyone but native San Franciscans, we didn't really look like tourists. The tourists who were there were hilarious though, and we captured them in all their tourist poses in several unpublishable photos.

One thing that is always fun in a touristy area is eavesdropping on people who speak other languages, because most Americans simply don't bother to learn them so they think they won't be understood. I studied French for ten years, speak reasonably good Japanese and understand Spanish O.K. So, if I'm in a sushi bar that employs short order cooks and is popular with French people, I'm set! The photo below we took for the blog but didn't realize it would come out the way it did:

Mon dieu! Regarde ce serpent-la!

Exactly what is it of mine that this fat old French woman is staring at? Whatever it was, she and her companion were busily tearing apart a loaf of San Francisco Sourdough and alternately devouring it and discussing its crappiness. They would be right to--any bread you're going to get on the wharf is probably not as fresh as what the French are used to, especially if they are from a metropolitan area.

After visiting the aquarium on the wharf, which was a lot better than we thought it would be, we decided to hit up some of the famous restaurants in the area and see what they had to offer. Taking a cue from a book in the aquarium's gift shop, we decided to try Alioto's . The approach to the restaurant says it all:

These crabs gave up their lives so that we might ~sniff~ feast upon them.

Before I say anything else about Alioto's I have to point out that we got very special treatment. We had the camera on hand and were taking photos of everything that moved (and didn't move). We think they thought we were from Fodor's or some such organization. I supposed the whole concept of blogging hasn't really trickled down to these old guard places yet, so if you've got an expensive-looking camera and spend your meal talking about food that equates to critic status in their minds.
The first thing we did was set up our drink order. See if you can guess how many of the drinks in the photo below are mine:

Only the bottom right beer is mine, a draft they called "Alioto's Amber". I asked our waiter, a class act if I ever saw one (he must read Waiter's Rant) if they were the ones who produce it and he said yes. Lo and behold when the beer arrived it tasted exactly like anchor steam. This is not a problem and the waiter may not even be aware of it, though I doubt it (he's too good for that).
We both thought we'd try out the clam chowder since it was SF and the area was famous for it. The chowder arrived with dispatch:

This chowder was really not bad at all. I don't think it will win any awards or anything, but it's very much what you'd expect from chowder except that it lacked bacon. I am OK with a lack of bacon, but E, a reformed vegetarian, wouldn't hear of it. "No bacon! Why don't they just fill it up with celery!?" was her analysis. How right she was.
Next we ordered apps and a couple of drinks. The steamers are always a good way to test the kitchen of a seafood restaurant. We had a couple of problems with them though when they arrived:

First, they were not, as the menu indicated, manila clams. I cannot identify what type of clam they were. But this would not generally serve as any great impediment to my consuming shellfish. What did stop us, however, was the fact that each of them contained an upturned boot's worth of sand, which rendered them completely inedible. I told the waiter "I don't want to be contentious or anything, but these clams are really sandy. Do you think there are any more back there?" To his credit, the waiter repaired to the kitchen and came back with the news that went something like "I think no matter what clams you order they're going to be sandy today." Like I said, a class act. This guy knew we'd just be sending the next round of sandbags back. So, we ordered the escargot, which is pretty hard to mess up.
In the meantime we spent a bit of time people watching. A group of immense tourist women sat down at a table near ours and began their ordering process. I shit you not - four of the six women ordered cheeseburgers, one (identifying herself as a "vegetarian") ordered simply french fries (ou "Frites de la Liberté" comme on dit à Wisconsin) and the sixth ordered the BAY SHRIMP LINGUINE. I'm sure this midwesterner thought herself the adventurous one of the bunch.

Avez-vous du poupon gris?

This was some of the funniest behavior exhibited by tourists that we saw that day. We felt like Steve Irwin and his wife observing the eating habits of some strange species. Of course it's each person's right to like what they do and not what they don't, but if you don't like seafood what the hell are you doing on fisherman's wharf in an INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN SEAFOOD RESTAURANT? Why not just go to Panda Express and order a hot dog? Better still, go to a kosher restaurant and order a ham and cheese sandwich. See how far you get.

Our snails came up and we chowed down. These were larger than the ones I've usually seen, meatier as well. They were quite good and within minutes we were ordering more beer to wash down the butter and garlic:

Look at that 'S' Car Go!

By now the wait staff was thoroughly convinced that the reputation of the restaurant lay in the hands of a couple of drunk bloggers. When the check came, all of the food had been comped. Both being ex-foodservice workers, though, we weren't going to let the waiter get shafted on his tip. We left him a twenty, which he tried to break for us and we wouldn't let him.

On the way out, a man who could only be the owner or a relative of the owner thanked us for our patronage. We replied with profuse thanks for the dining experience. As long as someone thinks that you've got a soapbox, you may as well let them know that if you did, you'd be singing their praises. If we go back to the wharf, Alioto's will get another visit, and this time we'll leave the camera at home.

Next: Chow-Duh!