t says: g and I are psyched for our first trip to Hawaii (coming in January 2017!). I have to go to a conference (time to nerd out!), but g’s going for the sun! This will mark our first island trip since our honeymoon (St. Lucia 2007!); bathing suits in winter, here we come!
To prep for the trip, we just had to check out one of SF’s latest brunch sensations, Aina. I have to confess that I was a little hesitant, as one of my Hawaiian colleagues felt that it was “not as good as it is in Hawaii” … however, I imagine that Korean food in SF is not as good as it is in Korea, either, so I still had hope (especially after a recent tasty soondubu outing). Located in Dogpatch, I was ecstatic that it was only a short walk away. While there was a wait involved, the hostess was friendly and, more importantly, accurate with her projected wait times, allowing us to do a little bit of pre-gaming at Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous (yum!). So on to brunch:
So brunch at Aina was pretty good, but I can’t say that it’s Plow-good. What I’m really looking forward to, however, is dinner; I’ve heard it’s amazing. As I look at the dinner menu, I have to say that I see a ton of potential. There’s seafood and kimchi everywhere! That gnocchi dish looks crazy! So we’ll have to pay them a revisit soon … even if the doughnuts were heart-breakingly sad.
t says: When thinking about what SF is best at, I am often tempted to say: “separating you from your money”. If you have $10, $100, or $1000 in your wallet, SF will have innumerable options on how to spend it … all of it. Consequently, g and I have had to show a little more restraint when it comes to eating out. In what I will now call “The Midatlantic Years”, we’d go to dinner, blow $100 at some of the “best” restaurants in town and be super-satisfied that we pretty much got “the best” of whatever was available. Now, in the “The Bay Area Years”, we are a little bit more cautious. There’s always some chef somewhere who wants to find a way to squeeze in a little bit of foie, or truffle, or saffron, to bump prices. Or they want to use the chicken they raised in their backyard along with the fish they raised in their bathtub. Or they want to use the fruit that was hand-harvested by blind, armless monks. Fortunately, SF also has a ton of answers to the tasting menu insanity, with an abundance of reasonably priced places weaved throughout the wallet landmines. For g and me, ramen is one of these answers. For g, it’s like pasta … a nice al dente pasta … which really tugs at her South Jersey Italian heart strings (which are right next to her adopted kimchi-loving Korean heart strings). For me, it’s the way something that’s supposed to be so “homely” is so full of persnickety precision – an existential crisis in food. And we both love that it’s never over $18 (or if it is, we refuse).
As we mentioned last time, we hit up Itani Ramen in Oakland. It was ok, but you could probably gather from my tone that I wasn’t as pleased with it as I had hoped. And now, after a bit more “research”, I can say without a doubt that it is the worst ramen we’ve had in SF (coming second even to the ramen food truck). Welcome to our ramen showdown …
t says: Over the past few weeks, g and I have had quite a few dinners featuring Korean and Japanese cuisine, so I figured I’d put them all here in one post. Sure – it’s scatter-brained, but would you have it any other way?
An interesting conversation topic came up during our meal at Sushi Hon. It went something like this:
t says: Would we ever eat at Jiro’s place in Tokyo?
g says: No.
t says: Why not?
g says: How much is it?
t says: I don’t know – $300 for 20 minutes of eating.
g says: Definitely not. <As she gets ready to play a pre-emptive future-wife-veto>
g smiles: <insert smile here> –> translation: “Wife-vetoes are awesome.”
t says: I’ve entered an interesting phase of my time here – one that has a substantial amount of down-time! Yay!! Exciting, right? I know that g and I are excited. So excited that we picked up the pace on our restaurant explorations – almost with the same oomph that we had in Philly when we first started this blog!! The difference, this time, is that we’d go “backwards” in our restaurants searches. In Philly, we’d just pull up eater or foobooz and see what was the latest hip place that we should check out. In SF, with the insane cornucopia of restaurants that grows by the week, we wouldn’t stand a chance. So instead we ask: “what do we want to eat tonight?” and go from there …
Here are some highlights:
I’ll have to call it a night for now, but I guarantee we have more coming – some ramen, some soondooboo. Good times had by all.
t says: Living in Mission Bay has its benefits: it’s generally sunnier and warmer than the rest of the peninsula, which is a huge bonus. A downside, however, is that there really isn’t an immediate “neighborhood” – you have to go up to China Basin, east to Potrero Hill, or down to Dogpatch to really get to the neighborhood essentials (cafes, restaurants). As a result, g and I have been guilty of repeatedly going to a few of the nearby restaurants due to laziness. Fortunately, we have friends like k and cm who invite us to all kinds of places … like Cafe St. Jorge.
t says: A while ago, g got me some bananas. For some unknown reason, these bananas went un-eaten (very unlike me). But I had no fear … because when bananas go bad, g shifts into banana bread mode … and life gets good.
This particular month, she let me choose the recipe – and choose I did. You see, for me, the only thing banana bread is missing is chocolate, so when google revealed an Ina Garten recipe, it was a done deal. Here’s the copy-pasted recipe.
For the bread:
– 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 3/4 cup granulated sugar
– 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (3 to 4 very ripe bananas)
– 1/4 cup sour cream
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the streusel topping:
– 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
– 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
– 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
– 3 tablespoons sliced blanched almonds
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8x8x2-inch square baking pan.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low, beat in the egg, vanilla, banana, and sour cream and mix until combined. Don’t worry—it may look curdled. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ones. Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
For the streusel, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a medium bowl and pinch the ingredients together with your fingers until the mixture makes crumbles. Add the chocolate and combine.
Distribute the streusel evenly over the batter, sprinkle the almonds on top, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan and serve warm or at room temperature.
How’d it turn out? Take a look:
How’d it taste? Heaven. Seriously. Pure heaven. Even g agrees that it was “holy crap” good, not hesitating to mention this recipe to friends immediately. Throw out anything you might have thought about banana bread, and instead replace it with something more like banana “cake” … with a crazy good topping. Super-moist, flavorful, accented with just the right amount of chocolate (I went with 60% cacao – the bitterness with a nice foil to the sweet cake) – it was one of the first times that I didn’t wish for something else to add (we did use pecans instead of almonds in the topping, however – they were on sale). Is it blog-worthy just to put up someone else’s recipe and rave how good it is? I have no idea – I put it here just so I can find the recipe more easily when it comes time to make it again. Speaking of which: have we made it again (it’s been about a a month since we made it last)? Hell no. Why not? Because I’d eat it all by myself … in a single sitting … sorry g.