after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

In Ina We Trust

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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.

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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:

extreme close-up!

extreme close-up!

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.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

28 August 2016 at 1:45am

A Seattle Interlude

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t says:  We took a trip to Seattle a while ago, and I realized that I never updated the blog!  It was g’s first time (I had been there only briefly before), and we met up with a and v for a good ‘ol-fashioned get-together.

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Our first night there, we arrived rather late.  After group hugs at the airport, the hunger set in.  Fortunately, g’s cousin told us we had to go to Mezcalaria Oaxaca.  I have no pictures, but I assure you that the food was fantastic – as good as any of the tacos I’ve had on the west coast thus far (warning: we haven’t had many tacos on the west coast yet).  They were open late, so it was the perfect way to get over the airplane-stuffy-tired-ick feeling.  Margaritas were fabulous (good sour punch – not just sweetened nonsense).  We ate ’til we could barely walk.

 

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Next up, we ate at this interesting restaurant called “Nue”.  I have to say that the menu was a little all-over-the-place, which usually makes us afraid, but with a large group and limited options for a last-minute lunch, we wandered on in and ordered.  Well, above you see their version of Shakshuka, which was really good – g had it, and it was cmoparable to that of Kanella.  Maybe not as rustic as Kanella’s, but a bit lighter on its feet (vibrant tomato, vibrant feta).

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Meanwhile, I went for the Chengdu chicken and waffles.  Now THAT was amazing.  The spices were a perfect addition to the well-crisped chicken, and the sweet syrup.  The waffles could have used a bit of work (they were mo Eggo-like than fresh-made), but were a reasonable vehicle for the chicken.

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The above is mint ice cream.  And not just mint ice cream, rather, “the best mint ice cream ever”.  It was a bold claim, but when we happened upon Kurt Farm Shop, and the ice cream dude boasted, “it’s pretty much the best mint ice cream you’ll ever have”, I had only one response: “challenge accepted”.  He was right.  When you think of mint ice cream, you normally think about mint chocolate chip.  Well, this didn’t need the chocolate chips, so exile those from your imagination.  Imagine just the mint ice cream – you might imagine it tasting “minty”.  Fine.  But this ice cream didn’t taste “minty”.  This ice cream tasted like actual mint.  Straight-from-the-ground mint.  This was followed by an uber-luxurious, uber-creamy aftermath that was quite a complementary flavor.  If you’re around them, totally do it.  It’s very-nearly Bi-Rite Creme Brulee good …

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Ok.  So dinner.  There was one place we were told to go to by multiple people.  It seemed like every website sent us there.  Every person we asked confirmed it as a safe bet.  We went to Kedai Mekan.  First, we had to play their stupid-reservation game (you can get in on the list early if you just show up early and talk to them).  Additionally, the phone number in google actually connected us to some lady in the South (?Texas?), who got used to people calling her for reservations (coincidentally, she had eaten there before, and she, too, praised it!  a very nice lady!).  Ok, enough about that – let’s talk about the food.  It. was. unbelievable.  I don’t know what the hell anything was (I think we let a choose a bunch of stuff?), but it all blew my face off.  It’s like the first time you went to Han Dynasty, but instead of the spice-high, this was a full-on parade of flavors and textures.  The above thing was used with the lettuce to make a ssam-style bite.

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Meanwhile, we also conquered much of the rest of the menu, including the famous spicy pork ribs.  With each thing we ate, it’s like we had a new favorite dish of the evening.  I can’t tell you the names (which are meaningless to me), and as I sit here looking at the pictures, I have no idea what any single dish was actually comprised of.  But as a smile creeps across my face, I can tell you one thing: it was absolutely incredible.

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We finished up our evening with a dessert at Hotcakes.  Featuring a variety of molten chocolate cakes, I knew that I’d have tough time picking just one option.  Above you see the PB+chocolate one.  And I have to say: it was “good”.  But definitely not great.  Why?  Well, it was made in that cute little cardboard cup, and it just didn’t have quite the love of a restaurant-made one.  I can’t say I was sad … but it’s not like I dream of it in my sleep … or at least, not as much as I dream of our dinner at Kedai Makan … 

 

Written by afterdinnersneeze

13 August 2016 at 9:03pm

A Missing Month!

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t says:  Holy cow!  It’s been a whole month since our last post!  How shameful!  I guarantee that we’ve been eating – it’s just that I didn’t have time to eat and type!  So it’s time for a photostorm!!!!

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We’ve eaten a LOT of Long Bridge pizza.  It’s a bit insane to think that this is our “local pizza place”, as it’s definitely something that we would typically reserve for a weekend (given cost and fancy-ness).  However, when faced with just how good it tastes, g and I happily splurge on these two: the meatball pizza with the calabrian chili is to crazy-good, and the kale pizza special.  Hell – we’ve been guilty of ordering a large (or two) and freezing the rest for those lazy weekday nights when all we can muster is the strength to reheat a slice or two.

 

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For our anniversary, we ventured to Flour + Water.  This was my first time and g’s nth time.  Given the difficulty in securing a reservation and how much our friends had loved it, I knew it was going to be good – definitely anniversary-worthy.  We also pulled out a bottle of ’08 Detert Cab Franc (in the background) to mark the occasion – and boy did the sparks fly between the wine and the food!

 

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This pork rind and pickled tomatoes and ?polenta-corn-something-or-other? were an incredible way to start the meal.  I didn’t realize how hungry I was until taking these first bites.  I swear that these pictures just do not do justice to just how yummy these items were.  Given the excess of pork rinds, we held a moment of silence for kp: we miss you! come back!

 

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This salmon-filled pasta pouch was a complete mind-twist.  It was served with a clear [tomato?] broth, that when combined with the pasta gave the mouth a sensation that was as deep and full of flavor as any soulful cioppino or seafood stew that I could imagine … but it was a simple ravioli-ish thing in a clear broth!  Crazy!

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The rabbit tortellini ripped my head clear off my shoulders.  In some kind of buttery sauce, it sang for minutes on the palate with a delicate-but-unctuous presence that combined with the cab franc just so!  I mean, the other dishes were amazing as well that night (we’ll spare you the photos of pasta on pasta on pasta), but this one was the one I’ll remember [until my next time].  I do want to say that Flour + Water’s showing that night was superior to SPQR’s pasta menu because the flavors are homier, but just as profound, which we think make for a more craveable experience.  Don’t get me wrong – they’re both tasty – and SPQR rides the “unique” train (beet+beef + pasta!) – but as I daydream of pastas, it’s going to be F+W’s that come to mind.

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This picture is NOT from F+W, rather from Foreign Cinema.  Let me just get it out of the way right now: Foreign Cinema was underwhelming.  The “movie” that you’re supposed to be able to watch was a lie – it wasn’t even started when we got there, and we were seated far out of the way.  I guess you have to request a seat out in the garden?  On top of that, the food was quite forgettable.  I mean – I forgot what anyone else had already.  Even this dish, a pasta with bitter greens, cheese, and breadcrumbs should have been an easy homerun (I mean, if g and I can kill it at home with these ingredients, a restaurant should do better, right?), but it was “meh” at best.  The rest of the meal was similar – nothing remarkable – all quite snooze-worthy.  We sat, we ate, we left, and we proceeded to forget …  We did, however, go to Butter for Karaoke Sunday.  Pictures are not included to protect the innocent.  We’d definitely go back (with friends).

 

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During a trip to Napa, we hit up Redd Wood in Yountville.  Now this was redemption after the previous night’s snoozefest at Foreign Cinema.  The pole beans were a pretty boring looking item on the menu, but let’s just say that the char on these was fabulous.  I’m never eating steamed beans every again – burn mine forevermore!  We also did an obligatory four-cheese pizza (with an egg), a cheese plate, and a squid salad – but my sis claims that the pole beans were the best.  The rest of us can’t believe that she’d dis’ a four-cheese pizza like that, but I guess the bottom line is that Redd Wood delivered in spades, and might be my new favorite Napa lunch!  (Better than Addendum?  Maybe …)

 

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I have but a single picture from a dinner at Statebird Provisions.  A crime – I know.  Above is a japanese egg custard topped with kimchi and uni.  Go ahead and imagine that for a second.  Well this was even better than what you’re imagining.  It was rich and somehow light.  It was spicy and somehow flavorful (i.e. it wasn’t just a mouthful of spice).  It was a perfect bite.  Yes, Statebird had a lot of other wonderful dishes, from dumplings, to fried rice, to a crazy good kung poa sweetbreads, to burrata – and while it seems ridiculous to omit all the description of the variety that we had, I think you’re better served by this summary: if you want an “interesting”, “delicious” meal that’s an “experience”, then this is your place.  If you’re prone to hesitation or fear or food restrictions or sefishness (i.e. can’t share with tablemates), then don’t even bother.  Your interaction with hearing about food, choosing food, eating food, and groaning about deliciousness takes center stage here – so if that doesn’t appeal to you, then SBP isn’t going to be fun.  Now me: I love this place.  g “likes” it, but it’s not going to win over her heart of hearts – she wants less fuss, less “show”, less pressure to choose between plates that arrive at the table in random order – just give her delicious food and that’s it.

 

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Oh Zazie.  You sly dog.  We roll in there on a Tuesday and you blow us away with delightful food, a BYO policy, and tip-includedness.  You can do no wrong.  Seafood stew (above)?  Done.  Lamb?  No problem.  Pork?  Piece of cake.  Now if only you were closer …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

5 July 2016 at 11:22am

An Instant Philly Fave!

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t says:  I’ve been holding back on this review for a while because I couldn’t figure out how best to do it.  Normally, for a restaurant that was this delicious, I like to do a dish-by-dish review.  But the lighting was so low that the photos all came out terribly.  So now what?  And I don’t have the gift of word necessary to carry you through an entire multi-course meal.  So I decided to keep it tight:

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First, I wanted to prove to you how terrible the photos were.  I mean look at this thing!  It looks disgusting!  What’s that supposed to even be?  There is simply nothing I could say at this point to make you want to try the above dish … which would be a shame … 

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… because then you’d miss out on the best Boeuf Bourgignon that I’ve ever had – which is a lot of Boeuf!  For me it could not be any better: the beef was braised to perfect tenderness, and it was accompanied by the perfect consistency of the vegetables and the perfect depth in the sauce.  Sure other people had things on the table that I tried and also enjoyed (the fennel salad was spot-on, the spice goat was actually spicy, and the shakshuka was Kanella-good), but that Beef will haunt me until the next time I can have it again …  Gawd I want some right now …  I will mention one caveat – it was frickin’ snowing in April, so the Boeuf also gave me the psychological hug I needed to give me the strength to go outside again …

 

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Did I mention that the desserts were also delicious?  This is a huge plus in my book.  In a world where people are half-assing their desserts, I’m glad to see some with actual creativity and execution – good job Neuf!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

22 May 2016 at 3:33pm

Sous Buerre and Souvla – an exercise in opposites

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t says:  There’s no reason that Souvla and Sous Buerre Kitchen should be in the same review.  They feature different cuisines.  They’re in different neighborhoods.  They are entirely different concepts (restaurant vs. order-and-sit).  Really, the only thing keeping them in the same post is that they both begin with the same-sounding first syllable: “soo”.  But if you look deeper, maybe there is a point, because one’s failing is precisely the reason why the other is a success.

 

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Take Sous Buerre.  Referred to us by a server at Neuf in Philly (which was AWESOME – review coming …), we thought that it would have been a slam dunk.  It was more of a lay-up.  It got the job done, but it wasn’t spectacular.  Above is the sous vide pork loin.  You look at it on the plate and it looks like it has the potential knock your socks off.  Then you begin tasting: pork tastes like a good pork, the asparagus tastes like good asparagus, the jus is tasty, the kale leaf is weird.  And you put it all together and it just doesn’t quite sing.  It tasted like a pork with a side of veggie.  Not bad – but not great; the sum of the dish was not above its components.

 

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And this is the last photo I’ll share: the dessert.  Once again – lots of components strewn across the plate … but there was no synergy – which was surprising as hell because it was all bait! (chocolate, marshmallow, etc).  Unfortunately, the rest of the group didn’t have much else to praise (the gnocchi seemed like they were well-received, but no one shouted out: “OMG – you have to try this!”).  Fortunately, the company we had was awesome, and more than made up for the food.

 

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Meanwhile, look at Souvla.  Here, I ordered the lamb wrap …

 

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… and g got the pork salad.  And they were CRAZY-good.  It took them all of 10 minutes to construct (and that’s probably because they were so backed up) and I just couldn’t understand why it tasted so good; basically it was meat-and-veggies arranged in different proportions depending on if you wanted it in a salad or wrap .  It was one of those things where they mashed a bunch of ingredients together and it just really “worked” – every ingredient had a contribution in the final perfect bite, every aspect was balanced, and it was incredibly not-fussy (i.e. there weren’t signs on the door saying “world’s best souvlaki”).  The end result was a craveable sandwich/salad that was reasonably priced and we’d be happy to have again!  Now I understand why the line is always so frickin’ long!  The dining experience was a bit frustrating (they take your order … but you still have to vie for a seat – so it’s better to walk in and get a seat first and THEN order), but if you need to grab-and-go in Hayes Valley, this is the way to do it.

UPDATE:  OH NO!! Sous Buerre Kitchen has just closed!!!  Read about it here: http://sf.eater.com/2016/5/18/11701524/sous-beurre-kitchen-closed-mission-san-francisco.  I guess our review wasn’t far off from the truth!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

15 May 2016 at 3:16pm

A Word about Crenn

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t says:  g and I literally just ate at Petite Crenn last night … and it. was. fabulous.  Really.  Every dish.  Now, on one hand, we should expect it to be fabulous, as Dominique Crenn was just honored as “Best Female Chef” in the WORLD – the WORLD!!  (and the DLROW, too, for all my neurology friends)  But she really delivered!

Now, this post has no pictures – g was exceptionally self-conscious that evening, so photos were vetoed.  But take my word as to why I think that this is the first SF restaurant we’ve gone to that’s worth the fixed price meal:

  1.  Service was prompt and courteous.  You think that that would be a “given” – but it was nice to see people serving us who appeared to be excited by the food – it was contagious!
  2. The room is casual enough to make you feel at ease.  No white tablecloths.  No excessive silverware.  A higher-than-usual volume in the dining room allowed for more of a fun-night-out feel than a worship-at-the-altar-of-food feel.
  3. The wine list was reasonable.  Ok – I take that back; I’m sure that it’s marked-up by a bajillion percent – but they’re bringing in things that are unconventional, so I’m ok with it (it’s like paying a “finder’s fee” for interesting wine).  g had an actually wonderful rose cava (that I can’t find anywhere else in the U.S. except one retailer in San Jose …), and I had a Sauvignon Blanc that rode this very interesting line between New Zealand power and French austerity.
  4. Each dish was excellent.  From the bread course, to the oyster, to the gnocchi, to the fish, to the salad (salad!!!  the SALAD!), I was hooked.  It was like this magical mix of Little Fish and Talula’s Garden and Ottolenghi, where the hits just kept on coming.  The “weakest” course might have been the dessert, which was a mixed berry galette – but you know what – after so many other wonderful dishes, a humble berry tart which was nicely executed, was all I needed.
  5. We saw Dominique Crenn.  Sporting her short hair, tattoos, and [we think] a dog in a pet carrier, it was like seeing Bradley Cooper in the wild (there’s more to this joke).

Even g loved the dining experience – and she’s as anti-fixed-price as they come.  She has decreed: “yea … I’d come back … how about for my birthday?”.  ‘Nuff said.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

8 May 2016 at 4:07pm

Double-brunch in MB/Dogpatch!

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t says:  There was this curious little frontage called “the Lab” in Dogpatch – we’ve seen it on numerous ventures to Piccino.  Each time we peered into the windows and read the posted flyers we were intrigued; we had stumbled upon one of the sites of “Feastly”, which is essentially an organization that conducts pop-ups all over the country.  As far as the Dogpatch site, I would say that it is reminiscent of “Cook” in Philly, but less “instructional” (i.e. you’re not all up in the chef’s business the entire night), and more like a venue that is forever a pop-up restaurant.  Each night (nearly every night), there’s a different chef and “theme”.    Hoping to be one of the cool kids, I dipped my toe into the water by making a brunch reservation for a Saturday.

April 2016, Saturday Brunch, Party of 2.  The space is pretty simple.  The tables are simple.  The chairs are simple.  They aren’t going to win any awards for decor … but we got the feeling that that wasn’t the point.  This was not a showcase for “the next super chef” or “chef that’s so hot right now” (even though that’s what the website is espousing), rather, this was a space for some chefs to share their independent creations with a bunch of random people.  The theme for the morning: crepes.

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There was an open kitchen adjacent to a dining room of about 20 seats among two communal tables.  We arrived precisely on time and had the whole table to ourselves, but as you can see, by the time we left, it was getting full (lesson: early bird got the worm … with more elbow room)

 

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It started with a savory crepe – this one featured mushrooms, onions, and egg, and it was amazing.  The buckwheat added this grainy texture and savory, bittery flavor as a backdrop to the shrooms and sweet onions.

 

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The ham and cheese was similarly awesome – I mean – yes, a saltier ham might have been nicer, but there was something about it that really brought me back to breakfasts with my family at Verona in Vineland.  All smiles here.

 

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And then there was a dessert crepe.  Yours truly ventured the nutella crepe (above) while g ventured the salted caramel.  They were both the homiest sweet hug that you could get in the morning.  And because it was paper-thin, you were free to rationalize, “no, this is way better for me than eating a slice of cake for breakfast …”.  Exceedingly complex?  No.  Mouthwateringly delicious?  Absolutely.

 

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Above is a single shot of the pancakes at Cafe Reveille.  You read it here first: these are bite-for-bite as delicious as Plow’s pancakes.  And there’s no line to wait through.  ‘Nuff said …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

8 May 2016 at 3:01pm

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