The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma, CA

The Girl and the Fig
110 W Spain St
Sonoma, CA

We came here for breakfast during our Sonoma/Napa weekend. This is a local favorite and has become one of our all time favorite brunch places in the Napa/Sonoma region. They have a variety of dishes and they all taste delicious. For appetizers, Joe of course ordered the steak tartare and I had the risotto. The quality of the meat really shined in this dish and the risotto flavor was elevated by the ramps and green onions. Then Joe had the poached eggs dish, the eggs were poached perfectly and had that nice yolk consistency that flowed like lava over our food. I had the croque madame, which is far superior to the croque monsieur as demonstrated by the presence of the fried egg. I am a sucker for croque monsieur/madame sandwiches. It is just the perfect sandwich, you have the tangy from the dijon mustard, the savory from the gruyere cheese and the slight sweet from the ham while enjoying the crunch of the toasted bread.

steak tartare

steak tartare

risotto

risotto

poached eggs

poached eggs

croque madame

croque madame

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Eating adventures in Asia

We went to Seoul and Taipei in July! What were we thinking? It was in the 90s and so freaking humid! My hair was like Monica’s from Friends, when they all went to Barbados in the 10th season, and her hair kept getting bigger and bigger. Throughout the day, you could just see my hair growing! Reminds me of why I got cornrows that one summer in Philly (but I digress). Just walking around outside, we would get drenched in our own sweat.

Luckily, our  Westin Chosun hotel in Seoul was next to Lotte  dept store so on the days we didn’t feel like walking in the dreadful humidity, we went to the food court! Our first night in Seoul, we were really jetlagged and so this was the most convenient option but it also turned out to be amazing! When you think of a department store, you don’t really imagine a bunch of restaurants and a humongous food court. Actually, the thing that amazed me was that the department stores had 7 or 8 floors and they’re huge!

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Every counter was super crowded, we managed to grab 2 seats at the sushi counter. The sushi wasn’t out of this world, but the experience was cool and relaxing. We could pick up dishes as we wanted at our own pace.

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One of the things that I was amazed by was how there was chicken, pork and fish everywhere but a huge paucity of beef.  Where’s the meat! I can’t live without meat! I would seek out restaurants to get beef like at Bon Bibimbap, a place known for their rice dishes in stone pots.  I ordered a bulgogi dolsot bibimbap and was shocked by how little beef came out with our dish. From what I’ve been told, because Korea doesn’t have much land, there aren’t very many cows. Not sure if it’s the truth, but sounds good to me.

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Versus the pork dishes we got, like this donkatsu we got at Coex Mall in Gangnam, a part of Seoul in Korea. I know donkatsu is originally a Japanese dish but we got so overwhelmed walking around the largest mall in Seoul, that I had no idea where to eat. By the time we started walking around the restaurants, there were super long lines. This particular restaurant had a short line so we ate here. I’m glad we did, this was one of the better donkatsu’s I’ve ever eaten. My biggest complaint is usually that the pan isn’t hot enough and so the batter absorbs a ton of oil, this one was not oily!

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Or this chicken portion, we went to a super famous place known for their Samgyetang (ginger chicken stew) at Tosokchon restaurant. It was amazing, we really enjoyed it despite us sitting on the floor. The chicken was so tender, it literally fell apart at the slightest touch of my spoon. I did bite into the cooked ginger and was amazed with how much flavor it still had.

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We did manage to find some good meat at Gangnam Myun Oak restaurant. We got to eat this amazing galbijim dish thanks to our local resident’s recommendation. There was a ton of meat! The flavor of the meat was amazing! The soup had a lot of depth.

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Anywho, so I was freaking out about eating food from questionable sanitary conditions in this heat and humidity a.k.a. street food. However, we went to Taipei which is famous for its night markets and Seoul, which had lots of random streets with hole in wall establishments (I kid you not, the majority of places we walked by had like 4 or 5 seats). So walking around in Korea was a bit harder for us because my speech and comprehension is essentially non-existent. I can read and write thanks to many years of Korean school and Korean course in college, but when it comes to asking for good food, we were on our own. But in Taipei, Joe could at least speak and understand Mandarin but he couldn’t read any of the signs or menus at the restaurant.

IMG_8063We tried to go to as many night markets as possible while in Taiwan. They were so crowded! And so hot! We got Hot Star chicken which is well known for their fried chicken.  We mainly walked around from vendor to vendor, eating as we went. It was a little difficult to eat dishes while standing, especially with my humongous camera. Joe said that I’m not a real foodie because I wouldn’t let myself eat anything too crazy or too out of the ordinary. He kept trying to use arguments like all the great chefs Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain come to night markets in Taipei and gorge themselves.  Well, I may not be that adventurous with my GI system, but I certainly have not missed out on seeing a country because of food poisoning! Anywho, we got some dumplings, seafood and stinky tofu! The food was delicious but the ambiance was a bit much for me.

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There was no way we could visit Taipei without eating at Din Tai Fung, we couldn’t go to the original site but there was a Din Tai Fung near our hotel at Taipei 101. We got the pork soup dumpling that they are famous for, which lived up to its reputation. But even better, was the pork truffle soup dumpling! I could eat those all day long, they were so rich! We also got some of their pan-fried dumplings, and wontons in chili oil. Their noodles with ground pork in soy sauce was also very good.

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Although Din Tai Fung was clearly my favorite meal out of all the restaurants in Asia, I had a close second favorite restaurant which was also in Taipei, called Kaifun. It was on the 7th floor of the Hankyu department which was connected to the lobby of our hotel the W Taipei. We had pork tossed in pepper and apples, mapo tofu (Joe’s favorite, I wasn’t really in the mood), and chicken tossed in chili peppers (called “mala” chicken which is literally translates to “numbing”). I think out of everything, the mapo tofu was the most numbing for my mouth. My favorite of the three was the chicken dish but the pork dish was the runner up. The apples were so crisp and sweet which was a nice contrast to the spicy pork.

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For my final thoughts on our eating adventure in Asia, we went to Chingye-Shinleyuan which is a 3 room Taiwanese food buffet restaurant. There was a wide spread of food, with an entire room dedicated to vegetable dishes. There were stations to with made to order dishes, such as oyster omelets.

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All in all, we had an excellent trip with many memorable meals. However, what sucks for tourists was that we also got suckered into some meals I wish I could forget. There were certain restaurants we went to, mostly in food courts, out of convenience that were just awful. The only good thing about these restaurants was that they were all very affordable. I found that a lot of the really amazing restaurants we went to were based off of the recommendation of a local. For example, there was this one noodle shop that we were trying to find in Taipei and we kept walking by and not finding it until Joe asked a random woman and we discovered that it was on the 2nd floor of the building we were standing outside of (times like this where I really wished Joe could read Chinese). This tiny hole in the wall had about 20 seats and 8 tables which was amazing for the tiny space that we were all crammed into. The food was cooked on another floor and an elevator was able to deliver 1 tray of food at a time. Joe ordered Taiwanese beef noodle soup which was one of the best ones I’ve ever tried but again, probably wouldn’t have found this place in the sea of tourist traps that we found ourselves in.

 

 

 

 

 

RECIPE: Chocolate peanut butter cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle (I skipped this)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of two 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

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2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in buttermilk and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 2 prepared cake pans.

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3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.

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4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top.

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Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Antoine’s in New Orleans, LA

Antoine’s
713 St. Louis St.
New Orleans, LA

This restaurant is one of the oldest in the country. When you walk in, the walls are covered with photos of famous people who have dined there (including previous centuries). I was in a huge bind because I had made dinner reservations 4 months in advance for graduation weekend and even then, I didn’t get my first choice. Then my mom decided the night before coming to New Orleans, that she wasn’t in the mood for one of the best steakhouses in town and so I was forced to scramble for a dinner reservation. I literally called about 50 restaurants in New Orleans, all answered with laughs when I asked if they had any availability for a party of 8 on graduation weekend……..Luckily, Antoine’s was available. I think it’s because it’s a huge space and not very popular among local residents.

oyster rockefeller

Our waiter was very informative and experienced (he said that he had been working there for over 30 years), and was able to make excellent recommendations off the menu. It wasn’t like one of those pushy waiters that are intrusive on the ambiance of your dining experience, it was more like a concerned mother goose, advising us on certain dishes. This was one of them, the oyster rockefeller, which was created at this very restaurant. Apparently the ingredients are kept top secret, but it was said to be so rich that they wanted to name it after the richest guy in America at the time, Rockefeller. It did taste different from other oyster rockefellers I have had around town.

spicy shrimp

we started off with the spicy shrimp which was a little disappointing because the shrimp was chilled.

seafood gumbo

We started off with a bowl of seafood gumbo which was pretty good.  After a while, a ton of restaurants serving gumbo, it all tastes quite similar. Not sure if any one place really ever stood out except for Emeril’s.

steak

I had the grilled prime tenderloin topped with lump crabmeat in a butter sauce. It was soooooooo good. I’m so glad our waiter recommended the lump crabmeat topping for our dishes.

pompano ponchartrain

the grilled filet pompano fish also had a lump crabmeat topping which my brother devoured.

baked alaska

Our waiter was so nice to get one huge baked alaska dessert for our entire table of 14 people. It was quite impressive, but you can’t really appreciate the size in the photo though. But this dessert was very yummy and perfect after my steak.

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Emeril’s Nola in New Orleans, LA

Emeril’s Nola
534 St. Louis St
New Orleans, LA

Being my family’s final weekend in New Orleans, I knew we had to pay tribute to the man who brought New Orleans cooking to the masses, Emeril. Bam! My mom is a huge fan of Emeril, she  has all of his cookbooks and used to try his recipes all the time until she realized how unhealthy it all was. But since this was my graduation weekend, we decided to splurge.

bread rolls

We started with the oh-so-famous jalapeno cornbread and a regular sourdough bread. Of course the jalapeno cornbread was the favorite of our table. Kudos to this restaurant, there’s an elevator that takes you to the 2nd or 3rd floor. Since we had a larger group, we sat on the 2nd floor. We told our team of waiters at the beginning of the meal that we were in a rush and needed to leave within an hour (dam graduation ceremony). They were amazing about it, everything came out together and we did not feel rushed at all and was in and out within 50 minutes!

BBQ shrimp

Being in Emeril’s restaurant, I had to try a trademark dish such as BBQ shrimp. We asked the waiter to bring out the appetizer with our main entrees because we didn’t want anything staggered (and hence, waiting around). The BBQ shrimp was alright, but not as savory as Mr. B’s Bistro.

shrimp and grits

My mom had the shrimp and grits which had sauteed shrimp, grilled green onions, smoked cheddar grits, apple smoked bacon, mushroom and Abita-butter sauce. This was really good but usually all of Emeril’s southern dishes are delicious.

duck confit and fried egg pizza

This dish was the least impressive out of everything we watched. There was barely any duck or fried egg on the pizza, just a ton of arugula. I wish there was more flavor from the truffle oil or pecorino cheese.

Nola burger

My brother had the Nola burger with 10 oz ground chuck burger with black pepper bacon, cabot sharp cheddar, arugula and house-cut fries. My brother devoured this dish! He loved it so much that he ate it in a few minutes.

buttermilk fried breast of chicken

Joe had the buttermilk fried breast of chicken with with bourbon mashed potatoes, country ham cream gravy, and sauteed sugar snap peas. He really enjoyed his dish.

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Bayona in New Orleans, LA

Bayona
430 Dauphine St
New Orleans, LA

We sat for dinner in the little outdoor courtyard area and oh my gosh, the bugs! I’m not sure what kind of bug they were, some sort of gnat or fruit fly except they were like a blue-gray color. There were like hundreds of these flies above our table alone. We tried to tolerate it for as long as we could but when they started landing on our plates, we knew we had to move inside.

shrimp appetizer

One of my friends got the grilled shrimp with black bean cake and coriander sauce. She really enjoyed it. It looked beautiful.

Bayona salad

My other friend got the Bayona salad, with balsamic vinagrette, and blue cheese. He really liked it, said it was refreshing. The portion size was huge!

scallop appetizer

I had the scallops with curried cauliflower, I really liked this dish. The curry flavor offered a combination of warmth and savory and perfectly coated the scallops which were cooked to a juicy bite.

grilled chicken

My friend had the grilled poussin (aka chicken) with spinach souffle and french fries with aioli. This dish smelled delicious.

fish

My other friend had the grilled swordfish with caribbean rice, and local greens. He seemed to enjoy his dish immensely.

duck entree

I decided to go with an entree on their signature menu. I got the Covey Rise Farm duck breast and confit crepe, with date molasses and pistachios. I had gotten it medium and the duck was a little on the chewy side, my bad. But it tasted delicious, especially the confit crepe. I loved wiping the date molasses with the confit crepe. So good!

dessert

For dessert we had the chocolate caramel hazelnut tart with earl grey ice cream and blueberries. This was so yummy and refreshing!

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One Restaurant in New Orleans, LA

One Restaurant
8132 Hampson St.
New Orleans, LA

ambiance

I haven’t really had the opportunity to venture out on Hampson St in New Orleans soooo I was ecstatic when my friend suggested eating at One restaurant. I love the interior sophisticated yet intimate ambience. Especially when you can look into the kitchen and see what’s going on.

oysters

My friend ordered the chargrilled Louisiana oysters with Roquefort cheese and red wine vinagrette. These were delicious, especially the roquefort cheese.I loved how there were so many oysters on this! Practically an entree size.

crabcake

The crabcakes weren’t memorable but the mirliton fries with roasted garlic aioli were delicious! I couldn’t stop myself from stuffing my face with these.

Grilled gulf fish

My friend had the grilled gulf fish in a shrimp, lime, and coconut broth served with mushrooms and basmati rice pilaf and baby bok choy. I tried a bite of my friend’s and I loved the refreshing combination of lime and coconut.

grilled beef tenderloin

The grilled beef tenderloin was very juicy with the warm beef shoulder rillette. The cheese glacage were deep fried and so delicious!

One Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

 

Shogun restaurant in New Orleans, LA

Shogun
2325 Veterans Memorial Blvd
Metairie, LA 70002

toro

Joe and I decided to try the toro here since this restaurant had such good reviews on yelp. That’s the problem though, we need an Asian person’s perspective for when it comes to sushi. Shaking fist in the air at yelp! The toro here was not pleasant.

Uni

I wanted to try the uni here but the uni had a rotten fish to smell to it, this should’ve been my clue to stay away from this dish. After I ate it, I was in fear all night for what my bowels would do in response.

snow crab roll

I feel like Joe and I always order the snow crab roll no matter what sushi restaurant we eat at, it’s one of our all time favorite rolls. Something about the deep friend tempura batter covered crab with rice. So delicious!

specialty roll

We got one of their specialty rolls, it was like a philadelphia roll (cream cheese and fried shrimp) with imitation crabmeat and tuna on top. This was by far my favorite dish of the night.

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Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans, LA

Mr. B’s Bistro
201 Royal St.
New Orleans, LA

ambiance

I had avoided this restaurant earlier because I was under the impression that it was a tourist-y place but then I found out that a lot of locals love the BBQ shrimp here and so we decided to make the trip over.  We got really lucky with parking on Canal st but then again it was early for Sunday brunch.

BBQ shrimp

As soon as we sat down, we ordered the BBQ shrimp as an appetizer. I’m so glad we did because as soon as we finished ordering our main entrees, the BBQ shrimp smelled delicious! And it came out with a loaf of bread cuz we were taking turns soaking up the sauce with the bread. Usually I don’t like to peel shrimps but this was well worth it. I’m so glad they brought out plastic bibs for us because it got messy!  and it tasted delicious!

shrimp and grits

Joe had the bacon wrapped shrimp with grits. I love grits! I kept stealing bites of his grits. I tried one of his shrimps which was also succulent with a nice bite from the bacon. Delicious!

filet mignon with truffle eggs

I got the filet mignon and was surprised by how small it was. What really drew me to this dish was the scrambled eggs made with truffle oil. It tasted especially good with filet mignon on the fork. This dish wasn’t as stellar as the shrimp and grits.

 

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