Thursday, December 27, 2007

Real Pie Company: Seasonally Inspired Pastries

Real Pie Company
1201 F St
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 446-2885

The Real Pie Company is great. How many other websites can proudly proclaim, "Our crusts are made with all butter..."? The other great thing about them is that, "...we follow the seasons and source most of our produce from local small farms..." Is there anything worse in the food world than eating food that is out of season or shipped from 1000 miles away?

I was watching Anthony Bordain on A Cook’s Tour the other day and he commented that we try to make food consistent across the US. Food should be local to ensure that it is fresh, high quality and supports the local economy. I could not agree more.
So local ingredients + butter = heavenly.

"Chicken pot pie
It’s hefty and loaded with chunks of chicken, oven-roasted carrots, mushrooms and potatoes (and sautéed onions, red bell peppers and peas!) -- all bathed in a creamy house-made gravy and encased in crispy pie dough. Weighing in at almost a full pound, it’s enough to satisfy even the hungriest of our customers. "

I had heard about these from other people and was interested in trying one out. I was pretty lucky that day. I ordered the last two chicken pot pies. First you have to try the crust. It was crunchy, tender, light, buttery and flaky all at the same time. These people have some skills and you could literally taste the care they put into the crust.

As you can see, there was just enough broth to keep all the ingredients moist without making the bottom of the pie soggy. The chicken was perfect; moist and tender. The carrots, peas, potato and chicken flavors complemented each other well. The little bit of broth at the bottom was delicious as well from absorbing all the flavors of the chicken and vegetables in it. It was by far the best chicken pot pie that I have ever had.

"Quiche of the Day
We fill our quiches with fresh vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, asparagus, onions, bell peppers and tomatoes – the combination changes daily. The all-butter crust also contains chunks of ham, and feta and cheddar cheeses – and, it’s made with non-fat milk, not cream, so you don’t have to feel guilty eating it (plus, we think it tastes better that way). "

Sorry, quiche, I should have tried you first. The crust was similar, but not the same as the chicken pot pie. This one was a spinach quiche. Overall it was good, but it was not in the same league as the chicken pot pie.

Satsuma Orange Chocolate Tart

This was interesting. The tart crust was very crunchy tasted of bittersweet chocolate. The orange custard on the top was tart and not too sweet. The flavor combination was good, but not great. I brought this to a friend at work. I think it would have been better if I was able to heat it up and serve it warm with a side of vanilla ice cream.

Next time, I will have to try one of their pies.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Michigan Ave in Chicago

My old backyard

One of the lions in front of the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago

Palmer House Hilton hotel Christmas tree

Monday, December 17, 2007

House of Nanking

House of Nanking
919 Kearny St - Btwn Jackson St & Pacific Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
415 421-1429

If you look online there are a lot of mixed reviews of this place. Reviews either love it or hate it. Go figure? The trick I learned later is to do what some "higher end" places do; order the chef's menu. Basically you say, cook me something good! We ordered off the menu and from what I had this place has some real potential.

Alas, I did not know about that option until we were a good portion done with our meal. C'est la vie next time.

As you can see, the tea is pretty and different, but good. The first thing we started with was the won ton soup. Sounds pretty vanilla eh? I have to say that is some of the best soup I have had period. The broth has layers and layers of flavor. I could taste the soup stock, the vegetables that were added, lemon, and the spices. The broth had a perfect consistency (great mouth feel); not too watery and not too thick. That was just the soup.

The next thing we ordered was the sesame chicken and it came with sweet potatoes. This dish was good; the chicken was moist, crunchy and not too sweet. Like I said it was good, but not spectacular. The next time I will definitely let the chef pick and choose my meal for me.

Hot tea

Won Ton Soup
Nanking sesame chicken

Sunday, December 16, 2007

San Francisco Chinatown:Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company

Golden Gate Fortune Cookies
56 Ross Alley (at Jackson St)
San Francisco, CA 94108

This is just a neat place to see; not spectacular. I love commercialism! There is now a sign that if you want to take a pictures of the young women making the fortune cookies; it will cost you a $1. Well this is America. You can get regular fortune cookies, chocolate fortune cookies and unfinished fortune cookies. Just plain and round with not fortune inside them. If you have never been here before I would make sure that you map directions to go. I have been here a few times, but there are so many little alleyways that it is a little tough to find it just based on your memory.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

San Francisco Chinatown Self Guided Foodie Tour

Life is a little busy now, so I'll just provide a pictorial tour of some time I spent in Chinatown in San Francisco about a month ago.

The Wok Shop

718 Grant Avenue

San Francisco, CA 94108

Here they sell you guess it! Woks and other cooking tools used in Chinese cooking. I have been in here once before and it a very densely pack shop. I have never bought anything norcan I comment on the quality of the tools purchased here. I do not cook too much Chinese food and I do not think that my burner has enough muscle to heat up a wok properly.

Where they make fortune cookies.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!!!

Rander says, "Be safe!"

Display at Teuscher Chocolate in San Francisco

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Zinfandel Grille: Gold RIver

Zinfandel Grille
2220 Gold Springs Ct
Rancho Cordova, CA 95760

Kobe steak

Pork Loin

Bread Puddin

I started of the night with a glass of wine. I feel lucky that there are so many good wineries in California. The Zinfandel Grille features local wines, this is one of the things I really like about this place.

The wine I had was:


“Our Pinot Noir was harvested after a long mild growing season just perfect for this varietal. This resulted in a wine that has an explosion of vibrant cherry flavors with a delicious hint of milk chocolate. Lengthy barrel aging in French Oak for over 18 months gives the wine structure and vanilla tones. This food friendly Pinot Noir will be a very pleasing accompaniment to almost any entrée from almond encrusted salmon to duck in cherry reduction sauce.” Link

This was a nice wine. It was smooth with a little bit of the cherry. I could not taste the milk chocolate because I do not think my palate is that sophisticated or they have a very imaganitive author. J It was very drinkable and went well with my pork loin.

These are the entrees we had:

Grilled Kobe Steak with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and baby summer squash. The steak was seasoned an cooked perfectly as requested, medium. It may be time to change the menu soon, baby summer squash in late October? Hmm. Nonetheless this was a good dish.

Grilled Niman Ranch Pork Loin: Served with creamy Parmesan polenta and baby green beans.
Topped with roasted nectarines.

I ordered this minus the polenta and substituted the garlic-mashed potatoes. I had a very bad experience with polenta once so I try to avoid it. I just do not like polenta or risotto. This was delivered as requested: medium rare. I like my pork medium-rare. The picture does look quite pink, but it was cooked just to perfection. The roasted nectarines sweetness complemented the pork and the green beans were cooked al dente. Another good dish.

White Chocolate & Cherry Bread Pudding warm and moist bread pudding. With fresh cherries and the perfect touch of white chocolate. Served with vanilla gelato.

Can we make it three in a row? Yes. Warm bread pudding with chunks of white chocolate mixed in…yum! The chunk of white chocolate provided a nice textural contrast to the bread pudding. The cherry gave just little extra tartness/sweetness in every few bites. Topped off with a vanilla bean gelato pulled the whole dessert together.

I am not quite sure why this place is not packed on a Saturday night. I suppose everyone goes downtown to have dinner. I have always been happy with the rustic, simple, properly cooked food at the Zinfandel Grille, both this one and in Sacramento.
My rating = 15/20 = Very Good. I would miss a Chicago Bears game to eat here.

Zinfandel Grille - Gold River on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lime Tree, San Francisco

Lime Tree
450 Irving Street
San Francisco, CA, 94122

These are the dishes we had:
Chicken Satay: grilled skewered chicken marinated in Lime Tree's special sauce served with fresh vegetablesThese were tender and tasty, albeit a tad undercooked. I got mild case of food poisoning from this. C'est la vie.
  • Pork Spareribs in Tangy Soy-Vinegar Sauce served on a bed of spinach with jasmine rice. The pork spareribs were braised until they fell off the bone. Soy-vinegar sauce? That sounds like my country's adobo. It was good though. The spinach I could have done without. The vinegar made it too sour.
  • Singaporean Curry Noodle glass noodles with shredded chicken in our special curry sauce.
  • My friend is from Singapore and she said it tasted like nothing she ever had back home. I thought it was OK. The flavor was kind of even, nothing standing out.
  • My impression 11/20 = average. I may or may not dine here again.

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    Chicago Fire Folsom

    Chicago Fire
    614 Sutter St
    Folsom, CA 95630
    (916) 353-0140


    This is the pizza made famous by restaurants like Lou Malnati's, Uno's and Gino's East. The rich, flaky crust is pressed into and up the sides of a deep pan. The cheese goes down first, sealing the crust. The toppings are then placed over the cheese and covered with our sauce, made from premium plum tomatoes. Please allow approximately 35 minutes to prepare.

    Italian sausage, pepperoni, green pepper, onion, mushroom

    These wings are made to order from scratch. You'll taste the difference! Please specify Mild, Medium, Hot or Extra Hot. Served with ranch or blue cheese, & celery.

    I am a native Chicagoan, so it is nice to have a little piece of home every once in awhile. I ate at all the great pizza joints in Chicago; Gino’s East, Lou Malnati’s, Pizzeria Uno, Giodano’s, etc…
    I have been here 3 or 4 times and I think it is a good tribute to Chicago pizza. They have your thin crust, pan pizza and stuffed. Their deep dish could be just a touch thicker, it would be closer to Gino’s East and Uno’s. The toppings are generally good. They use crush or diced tomatoes not tomato paste/sauce and or sausage they spread it in a layer, not chunks of sausage like some other places. This is almost like Gino’s East where you can get sausage patties on your pizza.


    The only real thing I long for is a touch of cornmeal in the crust and room for dessert. I still have not had a chance to eat the chocolate chip pizza!

    I would rate it 14/20 = Good, I would recommend eating here.

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    India House in Folsom

    India House
    2776 E Bidwell St
    Folsom, CA 95630
    (916) 817-4356

    Vegetable Biryani

    Veggie Samosa
    Two crispy patties stuffed with potatoes and peas

    Mango Lassi

    Free Stuff!

    Chicken Tikka

    Boneless breast chicken marinated in herbs and spices

    Masala Dosa

    Crepes filled with spicy potato & onions

    Indian "pickles"

    We started off the evening with some veggie samosas. They are sort of like empanadas as far as the pastry is concerned and where stuffed with mainly potato, some peas and seasoned with an array of spices. I do not cook Indian food, so I could not tell you what spices were in it.

    The next thing we had was the a masala dosa. As described by wikipedia,” A masala dosa is made by stuffing a dosa with a lightly cooked filling of potatoes, fried onions and spices, originating in Mysore. The King of Mysore hosted a big festival, after the festival there was a lot of food left over , he ordered his cook to think of somethig to make, so nothing is wasted. The cook came up with the brilliant idea of stuffing a plain Dosa with potatoes and spices.Hence originated the Masala Dosa.”

    It was a huge (18 inches in length) crepe and had the potatoes, onions and spices. It was good, it could have been a tad bit crispier. My friend said at a place near her, they make it really crispy almost like a taco.

    The drink I had was mango lassi. Lassi is a traditional North Indian beverage, originally from Punjab made by blending yogurt with water, salt, and spices until frothy. It was tangy and sweet at the same time. It was refreshing and help cut some of the heat back during the rest of the dinner.

    The entrees we had were veggie biryani and chicken tikka. The biryani was good with a lot of vegetables and properly cooked rice. The chicken tikka was cooked nicely and not dried out. The orange red sauce was thick and had a ton of flavor. It matches with plain white rice vs biryani. The flavors do not try to compete so much. I wonder if they made the tikka with chiken thighs or wings? Maybe I will try that at home sometime.

    The last thing that our waiter asked if we wanted to try was Indian “pickles”. Of course, I will try almost anything. It consisted of mango chutney; slices of tomato and japaleno, a lemon wedge and a curious pickled “something” I tried that something and was intrigued/shocked at the texture and flavor. I found out it was pickled lemon. As someone who eats and enjoys lots of weird food; pass on this.

    Otherwise, the meal was solid with lots of good flavor and texture. I would give it 13/20 = Good. I would recommend eating here.

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Chicago Ethnic Grocery Tour Last Stop

    The next two stops were Fresh Farms and Patel Bros on Devon. As you walk into each of these store you are bombarded with the scent of spices, it almost knocks you over. They had things that I had never seen like fresh red and white (no blue) tumeric, black radishes and fresh dates. From looking at the freezer sections, it seems that you can get just about any mainstream Indian dish to take home and enjoy or pass off as your creation at the next potluck.

    Being a line cook in my former life and a displaced Chicagoan, I was still able to learn a lot about the neighborhoods, some history, and different foods associated with different kinds of culture. For $35 you get to have a fun 4 hour tour, learn some new things, enjoy great company and best of all eat and experience new food. To top it off Evelyn drives so this is a great value. I would highly recommend this experience.

    Fresh Dates

    Red and white tumeric

    Monday, October 8, 2007

    Chinois City Cafe

    I have been here a few times in the past and thought the food was pretty good. I am not sure what happened, but this last meal was awful. I am not sure how this happens in a Chinese/Asian place, but my rice was CRUNCHY! That is something that is inexcusable in my opinion, but let me rewind.

    For an appetizer, we started with a Mushu pork wrap. Not exactly your traditional Mushu pancake, but it was decent. Not a whole lot of pork in the wrap, but plenty of flavorful vegetables such as cabbage and carrots.

    Next is one of the main entrees; lacquer duck. It was supposed to be something like Peking duck. It was nothing like that. You can see in the picture that the duck is a dull brown. It tasted like it was deep-fried and finished in the oven; dry and overcooked. Though not dry enough to get the skin crispy like with traditional Peking duck. The rice flour buns that came with the dish must have been cooked with the crunchy rice that I got. This shows a true lack of caring. They were cold and dry.

    The Mongolian beef we got was very OK, nothing really bad or good about it. The last dish was the seasonal vegetable medley. Someone please tell me how canned mushrooms are seasonal?
    I think the vegetables may have all been frozen they definitely did not taste fresh.

    The only real thing I liked was the white chocolate covered fortune cookies, that is it. Until the quality improves, I cannot see recommending this place. Got to either Hoi Cin or New Canton.

    My Rating 8/20 = Poor. I would not eat here for free.