Category Archives: appetizers

Roasted eggplant and garlic dip

 

Roasted eggplant and garlic dip on French bread slices

 

Vegetables. There’s something so terrible about them when you’re young, and something fearfully boring about them when you’re older. But add the word “roasted” to any veggie, or to any food at all really, and your brain just perks up immediately. Roasted vegetables have a rustic sophistication that conjures thoughts of that warm smoky aroma with the velvety lusciousness and richness of the texture that sets them completely apart from their un-roasted counterparts. If I could eat all of my vegetables roasted, aside from perhaps leafy greens and cucumbers for a salad, I think life would be just wonderful. Let’s not gloss over the fact that roasting vegetables could be one of the easiest, healthiest, and most bang-for-your-buck ways of preparing vegetables. Add the phrase “roasted [vegetable of choice]” to any dinner menu and it instantly kicks up the classiness of the dish by a factor of 3, which suddenly makes roasted vegetables any dinner host or hostess’ new best friend.

My friend was having a birthday potluck a couple months ago, and I was thinking about what I could bring that would be quick and easy to put together for a group of 20 people yet still be unique and delicious. I had just read about an appetizer on Serious Eats (one of those websites that I must visit at least once a day to feel complete), which was called “eggplant caviar“. It intrigued me, and sounded so simple. “Caviar”, I thought, “now that sounds classy!” But… how exactly does one get eggplant to taste like caviar? I mean one is a mild flavored vegetable that is soft when cooked right, and one is… small flecks of saltiness. I read the recipe, and decided that it really didn’t sound like it would be in any way similar to caviar, but it did give me the idea to make a dip based on roasted eggplant. I could envision the seasoned smooth pulp of a roasted eggplant being just the right consistency for spreading on crackers and slices of French bread. But how to make it more indulgent? Well, with garlic of course. And since I have been singing the praises of roasted vegetables, it shouldn’t surprise you that I decided to pair the roasted eggplant with roasted garlic, oh the roasted garlic that makes me weak in the knees! The best part? The recipe is still easy as pie. No, easier than pie by a lot, and I will show you how to roast a head of garlic anytime, with no effort at all. Wait no, maybe the best part is that it’s dip made from roasted vegetables and so isn’t bad for you. Or maybe the best part is that the ingredients cost all of $3 to feed 20 people. Or that when you run of out bread and crackers to spread it on, you can just eat it straight up. Or, or, or…oh hell, just try it :)

 

Roasted eggplant and garlic dip with French bread

 



Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Dip (serves 20)

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium globe eggplants (approx 2 lbs total)
  • 2 large heads of garlic, roasted (see below for how to roast garlic)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • red pepper flakes

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the eggplants in half length-wise and rub the flesh with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

2. Place the eggplant halves with the cut side down in a large baking pan, and bake, together with the garlic (see below for preparation) for approx 45 minutes until the flesh is very soft. A knife should slip easily into the tough stem of the eggplant when they are ready.

 

Eggplant after roasting

 

3. Remove from oven and allow to cool until it can be handled. Spoon out the flesh from the eggplant halves, and place in a large bowl. Using a fork, stir and mash the eggplant flesh until it is a smooth puree.

4. Mash the roasted garlic on the side, and combine with mashed eggplant.

 

Mashed roasted garlic

 

5. Stir in 2 tbsp of olive oil, and season as desired with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. For a richer taste and texture, you can add more olive oil as needed.

 

Roasted eggplant and garlic dip

 

6. Garnish with basil and serve with freshly sliced French bread or crackers. Can be enjoyed warm, at room temperature, or chilled.



How to Roast a Head of Garlic

What you need:

  • 1 large head of regular garlic (not the elephant kind)
  • olive oil
  • aluminum foil
  • Optional: muffin pan, if roasting multiple heads of garlic

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel away most of the dry layers from the outside of the head of garlic.

2. Chop off the top of the garlic, such that you expose the flesh of the cloves. You may miss some of the shorter cloves, so you can break their tops open with your fingers.

3. Wrap garlic with aluminum foil, leaving the ends to meet at the top. Drizzle the top of the garlic generously with olive oil (approx 1 1/2 tbsp per head of garlic).

 

Garlic prepped for roasting

 

4. Seal the aluminum foil at the top and place in a slot of a muffin pan if using one. Otherwise, just place the wrapped garlic with the opening facing up (of course) into the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The garlic will look nicely caramelized and smell amazing.

 

Roasted head of garlic

 

5. Remove and cool slightly before peeling at the garlic and using a small fork to pick out the garlic cloves. The cloves should be soft and have a nice golden-brown color on the outside. You can mash them or use them whole in cooking as desired. So easy!

 

Roasted cloves of garlic

 


Caramelized onion and goat cheese phyllo tarts with fresh basil

Summer is in full swing, and the basil plant that I acquired a month ago has been reminding me of its bright and refreshing flavor with its bountiful jewel-green leaves. Ever since I got this plant, I’ve been in love with fresh basil. I tear up a leaf or two and sprinkle it on top of my rice when I eat my meals, and it adds a hint of fresh flavor that reminds me of eating at a Thai restaurant. When I water my basil, the smell of the leaves always reminds me of delicious appetizer skewers of cherry tomatoes with balls of mozzarella and basil leaves, all drizzled with the most luscious balsamic vinegar. And one of these days, I am going to harvest a big handful of basil to make the freshest, most flavorful pesto sauce, mmm.

fresh basil

Last week when my boyfriend was in town visiting for the July 4th long weekend, we were discussing options for a night of cooking in when I remembered a recipe for goat cheese tarts with sweet onions and thyme that I saw on the Serious Eats French in a Flash column. They sounded like the perfect appetizers to go with a pasta dinner that we were planning. I was particularly excited about the goat cheese, as I had just recently bought a small pyramid of spreadable Chavrie (goat’s milk cheese) and had not thought of a good way to use it yet. And instead of thyme, the thought of the bright taste of fresh basil paired with this tart made my mouth water. The original recipe also calls for using frozen puff pastry for the tart bases, but I had some frozen phyllo dough that I’ve been wanting to use instead, which I thought would add a dimension of lightness to the appetizer as well. My inspiration for adding honey to the tarts came from the multiple experiences I have had with restaurant appetizers that wonderfully pair the salty creaminess of cheese with the sweetness of fruit and honey, such as with baked brie and sheep’s milk ricotta. So thus was born the concept of crispy flaky squares of phyllo dough topped with soft caramelized onions, basil, goat cheese, and a drizzle of honey to bring all the flavors together.

In execution, this recipe is actually pretty straight-forward. But do plan ahead, as it takes about an hour to make these tarts, although most of the time is spent waiting, with some stirring here and there, so it is definitely an appetizer that is great to make alongside your main dish and it will be piping hot and ready to serve just when you are finishing up your cooking. If you have never used phyllo dough before, fear not! This recipe was my first time using my frozen phyllo dough as well, and although the directions on the box sounded scary and involved, the actual preparation of the dough was very easy. It would help immensely if you have a pastry brush to brush the phyllo layers with oil, but if you are a poor student like me, the back side of a big soup spoon will do just fine too :) These tarts were so good hot out of the oven, even my boyfriend who doesn’t like cheese enjoyed these. The flavors come together to be savory, the textures of the soft cheese and onions contrast with the crisp phyllo dough, and the hint of richness from the goat cheese is balanced by the brightness of the basil and the touch of honey. I will be keeping this recipe for the future when I want to serve French hors d’oeuvres at a dinner party, and I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do!

caramelized onion and goat cheese phyllo tart with fresh basil



Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Phyllo Tarts

with Fresh Basil (makes 6 small tarts, serves 2-3)

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced into bite-sized strips
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil, about 20 leaves
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 oz spreadable goat cheese (Chavrie brand is the easiest to find at grocery stores)
  • 20 sheets of 9×14″ frozen phyllo dough, freshly thawed and cut in half (approx 9×7″, or 4 oz. by weight)
  • grape seed or olive oil for cooking and brushing on phyllo
  • honey to garnish

Directions:

1. In a skillet on medium heat, gently saute onions with 1/2 tbsp of grape seed oil, stirring often, for 15 minutes.

2. Tear up the leaves from 1 sprig of basil (about 10 leaves) and add to skillet along with brown sugar. Stir to mix well, and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes. Turn down the heat slightly if the onions are browning too quickly.

3. Remove onions from heat and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Prepare thawed phyllo dough on a clean cutting board. Layer one sheet of phyllo on top of the next, brushing each layer with a light coating of grape seed oil (it does not need to coat entire sheet, but do brush enough to ensure that each sheet adheres to the next. When all 20 sheets have been layered together, use a sharp chef’s knife and cut into approximately 6 squares.

5. Line a baking pan with foil, and spread phyllo dough squares into pan. Top each square with onions, then the goat cheese.

assembled tarts ready to bake

6. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F until the phyllo bakes to a golden color.

tarts done baking

7. Remove tarts and serve warm, drizzled with honey and garnished with torn fresh basil. Enjoy!

And just for completeness sake, this was the delicious main dish that followed the appetizers,  made by my boyfriend. A hearty whole wheat penne with chicken thigh, onions, mushrooms, and basil in a vodka sauce. Such a good dinner… I think he should come visit and cook for me more often :)

chicken with whole wheat penne in vodka sauce


A Patriots fan’s visit to NYC on Superbowl weekend

Before I forget, happy belated Chinese New Year to all! I didn't get to do anything special to celebrate, and I didn't have any of the necessary ingredients to make classic Chinese New Year desserts (I only had a navel orange in the fridge… that counts right? haha), so unfortunately, as much as this blog is related to Chinese food most of the time, I don't have anything to post about CNY. I'll try to make up for that with a post about my visit to NYC on Superbowl Sunday :)

So last Sunday I woke up bright and early at about 5am to pack and drag myself to the Boston bus terminal to ride the Greyhound bus down to NYC. I have to say, 4.5 hours is a long time to be cramped in a chair, with the sun shining in your eyes the entire time. Still, I got to the Big Apple just before noon, and met up with my hung over friend Zheng to grab brunch near his apartment haha. I've been on a brunch roll lately, it's almost like I've uncovered a whole new cuisine altogether (I guess there were benefits to never eating breakfast!). At this place, whose name I can't remember but I know it's located on 9th Ave, I saw that eggs benedict was $9 (hah, no way I'd pay that price now!). What sparked my interest however was the large assortment of omelettes that the cafe served, and with a choice of whole eggs or egg whites.

Feeling like I should eat healthy, I settled on an egg white Irish omelette, which had corned beef, onions, and peppers in it, topped with swiss cheese. It was served with a side of smashed and seasoned potato chunks and whole wheat toast. I have to say, it being the first time I've ever had egg white omelettes, it was really tasty! In fact, I would definitely choose it over whole egg omelettes simply for the health benefits, because I honestly thought it was just as good as the real thing. I think the swiss cheese helped give it a lot of savory flavor that perhaps the plain egg whites would have been lacking. The corned beef was also really tasty with the egg whites, something a little different from the usual ham or sausage meat additions. The potato side was not very interesting though, but I suppose it was nice to rotate amongst the different foods on the plate. And as you'd expect things to be in NYC, the price tag was steeper than I would see in Boston. This brunch platter cost me about $9 before tax and tip, and I only got water to drink on the side.

Later that afternoon, I walked with Zheng through the city to get to his friend's apartment for a Superbowl party. Having grown up in the Northeast, there is no way I could be anything but a Patriots fan, and I was a bit intimidated that I would be the only one at the party who wasn't rooting for the Giants. Luckily I was wrong, because otherwise it would have been really hard to watch the last few minutes of the last quarter by myself heh. Anyway, on my way to the party, I was taking in all the sights and sounds of the city, and then I remembered that I've always wanted to try the frozen yogurt phenomena known as Pinkberry. Since Pinkberry stores are only located in CA and NY, I was set on getting a taste before I left. Zheng informed me that we'd be walking by "Koreantown", which is literally just one block of the city with all sorts of Korean and Japanese restaurants and stores, and that Pinkberry was located there. Apparently Pinkberry is a Korean frozen yogurt concept, which was news to me haha. Anyway, we made our little detour there and I was all giddy and snapping pictures because I've heard so much hype about this place and how celebrities love it. I have to say, the interior decor was nice and hip, very Korean-cutesy. I bet a lot of the people just come here for the decor alone, to be able to say that they hang out at the "cool" fro-yo place lol.

They had these big round white lights hanging from the ceiling, with undulating wave patters on them. Certainly very eye-catching and chic. On the walls were printed names of many famous lovers (Zheng was asking me what half of them were heh), although I'm not sure how it has anything to do with frozen yogurt or Pinkberry… I associate neither with… love haha.

There was a long line from the cash register going all the way to the front door, all people waiting to be served on a winter's Sunday afternoon. Amazing. Notice the cutesy pastel things on the right side wall? I don't even know what they were supposed to be… but definitely your typical Korean cutesy items. The one thing about the way Pinkberry operates (btw all their staff was non-Korean) that annoys me is that they don't tell you anything before you get to the cash register. On the back wall are the prices (and damn, this stuff is over-priced!), which say that a small yogurt is $3, and each topping you'd like to add is an additional $0.95. That's all it really says about the frozen yogurts. I figured out eventually that there were three yogurt flavors: original, green tea, and coffee. They don't tell you what the toppings are at all… how the heck was I supposed to order my $0.95 toppings?!? So when I got to the front of the line, I ordered a small original yogurt with 2 toppings, but the cashier said I needed to specify the toppings. Well you didn't have a list of them!! So I had to run up to the counter where they were serving the yogurt, which is like 7 feet away from the cash register, to observe which toppings were available in the serving bins. Normally that's not a big deal, but when there's like 15 people in line behind you, you feel terrible having to step out of line to figure out what toppings are available before coming back to order. What a poor system. Anyway, I chose cookies & cream (oreo crumbles) and mango chunks for my toppings, which made my small Pinkberry yogurt a grand total of $5 plus taxes. What a ripoff, seriously! For that price, I could buy a whole half gallon of premium ice cream at a grocery store!

So now that I've got my Pinkberry in hand (and I had to leave the store to eat it because all the seats were taken up), what is the verdict? Like many people, I had thought the "original" flavor, since it was white colored, would taste like vanilla. But it didn't… in fact it had a very distinct but very familiar taste to me, something I had often tasted while growing up in China. It was the taste of fresh yogurt… the kind that is sold in small bottles in China where the yogurt is partially liquid and partially soft curds, and you shake it up so that you can drink the thing with a straw. That's exactly the kind of thing that Pinkberry tasted like, except it was in a soft serve form. If you've never had the yogurt drink I've mentioned, I can only really describe Pinkberry as sour – not citrusy but more of a mild tartness that is accompanied by a hint of sweetness. It's not really creamy at all, which is what makes Pinkberry a refreshing and healthier alternative to ice cream. It's kind of an acquired taste, I think. Personally, I loved it because it brought back all my childhood memories of those yogurt drinks that I really enjoyed, but I think if you've never had such a flavor before it might be a shock to associate it with frozen yogurt. As tasty as the yogurt is though, I felt like the toppings didn't add anything to the experience… this isn't ice cream, there's no point in topping it with the traditional toppings aside from ripping customers off (honestly… $1 per topping?!?!). So while the flavor of the yogurt itself is appealing to me, I will definitely not be going back often due to the exorbitant price tag. When I go to China this summer… I'll just have my fill of my little yogurt drinks for a few pennies each :)

Moving on… the Superbowl itself was a pretty intense game to watch, and it was a lot of fun with a room nearly split 50/50 Pats fans and Giants fans. Zheng's friends had an enormous apartment (they had an entire floor of a building to themselves… with 2 bathrooms, 4 bedrooms, and a giant living room with kitchen. In fact, and this was exciting to me haha, the elevator of the building opens right up into their living room when you hit their floor button. How cool is that?!? Okay… sorry haha I clearly am easily excitable. We had the usual pizza and wings and chips and beer at the party, and then we stuck around for a while after the game since there were riots going on in Times Square (near where Zheng lives). We walked through some of that on the way back, and Zheng, a Giants fan, high fived a lot of random people in the streets haha. I saw policemen sitting on horses, trying to keep the order, but everyone was screaming and shouting and cars were honking (I almost got run over crossing the street). It was pretty crazy and a little scary too I have to admit, although I guess we've had our fair share of riots up in Boston for the Red Sox too heh.

The next night for dinner, I went with Zheng to a little French-Italian fusion restaurant on 9th Ave called Nizza. Zheng wanted to get dinner from the Olive Garden, and I was having none of that chain restaurant stuff while out traveling, so we settled on this small but nicely decorated restaurant with decent prices (entrees $12-16 each). After being seated, the waiter came and told us about the menu, and informed us that the food here was a fusion of French food from the area of Nice and Italian cuisine. He also told us that the portions at this restaurant were about 3/4 normal entree portions at other places (no wonder it was priced cheaper than most places I saw), but that worked out nicely for us since neither of us can eat big portions anyway.

We started off the meal with two appetizers, which the waiter told us were tapas-style and great for sharing. We got the warm calamari with potato salad, and a plate of prosciutto crostini with sheep's milk ricotta and balsamic syrup. (Sorry for the pictures with flash, it was just too dim in the restaurant).

The calamari (right) was not fried as I had expected, instead it was naked and tender, probably braised. It came with little jalapeño pepper slices and grape tomato halves that were so sweet and juicy, in a savory vinaigrette sauce, on top of a small bed of skinned and cubed potatoes. I'm not a fan of spicy, so I let Zheng eat all the peppers, and he's not a fan of seafood, so he let me have most of the calamari (oops! I forgot he hates seafood and he didn't tell me not to order it when I suggested it). But in any case, the squid was just so tender, with that warm and perfectly soft chew that fresh and lightly cooked squid has.

On the left is the prosciutto crostini with sheep's milk ricotta and balsamic syrup. It was soooo good. The prosciutto was fresh and lean, sliced very thinly so that it pretty much melted in my mouth. The flavor was wonderful too, not too salty, not too bland. It paired perfectly with the creamy sheep's milk ricotta, which was much milder than I thought it would be, but I thought that was nice, because it would have competed too much with the prosciutto otherwise. And then, with the sweetness from the balsamic syrup on top of a crunchy slice of French bread, I was in heaven with each bite. I really liked the ricotta, it was nothing like cow's milk ricotta with its gritty texture. This cheese was so smooth and creamy I could have sworn it was a different cheese altogether. What a perfect pairing of fine flavors and textures!

Next came the entrees. Zheng ordered something that was pretty much like spaghetti with marinara sauce (it's not on the online menu right now), which wasn't interesting enough for me to waste a flash photograph on :P I ordered the crab ravioli, which came in a lobster cream sauce with fennel and parmesan.

I think the thing about Nizza that impressed me the most was the freshness of everything they served. The ravioli blew me away with how tender and fresh the pasta skin was. It was this pillow-soft texture that I had never ever experienced eating ravioli or any kind of pasta before… simply amazing. The crab meat filling was silky and subtle, with the lobster cream sauce giving it most of its flavor. I really liked the added kick from the fennel in the sauce, which gave the creamy flavor an edge that made it memorable. The portion size was perfect, each ravioli was two bites, and I felt just satisfied after dinner. I had room for dessert, but none of the dessert options (of which there were 4 or so) interested me, so we left to grab dessert at a bakery on the way home. I would definitely come back to have dinner at Nizza again, the appetizers were fantastic and the portions were surprisingly just right (there's something to be said about being able to eat your whole meal and not feel too full or not full enough). The price tag with 2 appetizers is a little steep (I paid about $27 including tax and tip), but that ends up being about on par for dining in NYC, as I was seeing a lot of restaurants advertising prix fixe menus at $24-27 per person before tax/tip.

So then on our way back to Zheng's apartment, I stopped by a busy little bakery called Amy's Bread, which had some tasty looking cakes on display, as well as a lot of sandwiches and breads. Apparently everyone else waiting in line was getting some of their fresh handmade bread to take home, too bad I'm not a big fan of bread. What caught my eye from the street were their red velvet cupcakes, complete with lots of whipped cream cheese frosting on top. It was no Magnolia, but it looked just right for dessert (although $2.50 for a cupcake is steep!).

Truth be told, it was my first time eating red velvet cake, and it's true that there is nothing special about how it tastes (it's really just red cake), but I guess it's something of a visual experience not to be missed out on in your life hehe. The frosting was just great, it wasn't sweet and overpowering like most cupcakes that use royal icing or even buttercream. This frosting also wasn't thick and heavy like cream cheese frostings. I really liked its lightness, which most resembled the kind of frosting that whipped cream cakes tend to have, with a bit of butter in it. Of course, with cakes that have this much pretty frosting on it, it's hard to eat properly without getting frosting all over your face, so I'll remember not to get such a thing when I'm out with important guests :)

So those were some of my food exploits on this trip, yummy and pricey as always! Until next time, NYC!


Reunited with an old friend

Whenever I come home for breaks, I make it a point to meet up with old friends from high school, since most of us have traveled to various corners of the country for college and rarely get to see one another except for during breaks when we are all back in town. My friend Reid and I have kept up this tradition for five years now, getting together a few times a year, catching up, enjoying each other's company when there's nothing else to do in my hometown, and sharing some good times of course. As I look back fondly on our times in high school, we have certainly grown and changed a great deal since going to and finishing college. But there are aspects of ourselves that never change, and then there are those aspects of us that grow together. I'm glad to have the chance still to continue to nurture this friendship and watch us step out into the real world and fend for ourselves.

Last night, Reid and I went out for the night, stopping first at pretty much the only Thai restaurant in my hometown for dinner. The pad thai there was flavored just right, but the noodles were much too mushy for my preference. I enjoy a little chew to my noodles. I tried to order duck pad thai, but the waitress insisted that it wouldn't taste good (um… that must be why I love getting duck pad thai elsewhere…), so I stuck with chicken. After spending nearly 2 hours in the restaurant chatting away, we headed out for dessert at Friendly's. It's a pretty popular haunt in my hometown, because it's located everywhere, and has both food and dessert at a very reasonable price. Surprisingly, there are no Friendly's in Boston, which made me a little sad. Anyway, I was craving a brownie sundae, so I ordered their fudge brownie sundae, which came with chunks of dense brownies that were not heated up, layered between scoops of chocolate ice cream and hot fudge. I think that was a bit too much chocolate, as I was completely chocolated-out by the time I finished it haha.

Then we went to a movie theater to watch Charlie Wilson's War, which was actually pretty entertaining. I was little bit lost at first, as the film moves fast with brisk dialog and lots of history and politics spun in, but I found the movie to be quite witty and as always, I loved Tom Hanks. You almost start to forget that this was based on a true story, and it's not until the end of the movie that you realize how relevant the content of this movie is to the present state of the world, and then you feel a little sad that so much has resulted from one political mistake at the end of the Cold War.

We didn't quite want to call it a night, so Reid took me to a tapas bar in town that he really liked, called Bocado. It was a trendy, semi-upscale lounge type of bar, and I really liked the atmosphere inside: ambient, busy but not too noisy, roomy, with an air of sophistication but not snootiness. I had never had tapas before, since they tend to run on the expensive side, but we just got an appetizer, which was a roasted garlic, spinach, and feta dip served with warmed pita wedges. I got a sparkling mojito and he got a mango flavored Sangria, both of which were delicious.

The appetizer was also great, although I wish they had given us more pita wedges to go with all the dip we got. It was definitely a nice place to go and relax, and probably also a great first date place as well, which is surprisingly difficult to come upon in my hometown.

Finally, in noting that my glass is empty in the picture below, I would just like to add that I have the rare but coveted resistance to Asian glow :) I have no idea how, as both my parents tend to turn red, but I'm certainly not complaining haha.


Basking in the California sunshine

So the past few days I've been visiting California to interview at Stanford and to see some college friends. The weather was amazing, it felt like Boston's spring. The sunshine was warm, there were palm trees, and dusty mountains in the distance everywhere I went. Stanford itself was the most extravagant campus I have ever seen. They really spend a lot of money spoiling their kids lol (maybe me one day?). The sunny happiness of the students being in a country club-like campus and a relaxing curriculum was really infectious. They were literally all smiles, and every student I met couldn't seem to shower the school with enough praise. I have yet to see a school where the students were this much in love with their school (Rochester and Dartmouth are distant seconds).

 


After seeing Stanford, I had time grab dinner with my friend Tony near the school. We walked up and down the main street with restaurants, and finally decided to stop in at a place called University Cafe, which served American food at a moderate price. First came a bread plate with a tomato-based dipping sauce (I couldn't figure out why it was orange, but it was similar to a marinara I guess). The bread itself was too hard on the outside, and a little soggy in the middle, but it still tasted fine because we were both starving lol.

For my entree I got a chicken pot pie with tossed greens on the side. It was the type of pot pie that has a cap of puff pastry on top of the liquid pot pie, and I really like this kind of pot pie because it was the kind that Baker dining used to serve all the time. The pot pie filling itself was delicious, as it was sort of like a cream of mushroom soup, with asparagus, mushrooms, onions, peppers, corn, peas, and chicken chunks. The flavors came together really well, and even though I was starving when I came in, I was definitely satisfied afterwards. The greens on the side were tossed in a vinaigrette that contrasted nicely with the sweet creaminess of the pot pie. It was jazzed up comfort food, and it definitely hit the spot.

Tony wanted to get a 12 oz steak au poivre, but the waiter got confused and gave him a steak salad instead lol. The steak tasted like it was marinated with teriyaki sauce, which I thought was kind of interesting. It came on top of a bed of stir fried vegetables and some salad. Not quite what he wanted, but at least it wasn't a bad replacement heh. (Sorry, pic is a little blurry, I blame Tony because he took it lol).

And for dessert, we went across the street to a Japanese-European fusion bakery called Satura Cakes, where after trying some free samples of a very rich and dense chocolate cake, we decided on sharing a bread pudding together. For the life of me I can't remember right now what type of fruit was in the bread pudding, but I know the dessert itself was a great way to end the meal. It had the spiciness of a pumpkin pie, with the soft-crunchy chunks of fruit like an apple pie, combined with soft bread and a creamy mousse-like filling, all topped with whipped cream. It was light and refreshing, and although it was cold, the flavor of the spices made a warm impression on me. It was a quintessential autumnal dessert, even though autumn has already passed.

The following day for lunch, I went out with Tony and another friend, Linda, for Shanghainese cuisine at an Asian strip mall. The food was amazing, and reminded me of all the Shanghainese dishes that I've eaten growing up. We ordered "jiao bai" (water bamboo) with peppers and pork, "nian gao" (rice ovals) with napa and beef, pork liver in brown sauce, and "xiao long bao" (Shanghai meat buns). Everything was delicious, and the cooking style was light and clean, just like Shanghainese cuisine is great at when it wants to be. When I had this meal, I realized just how sick I was of the greasy, fried food of Cantonese cuisine up in Boston's Chinatown. They're not kidding when they say that Chinese food is better in California (there are so many Asians here!).

And finally, a picture of me and my friend Tony (I'm almost embarrassed to post this because I look so stupid here, but I guess what the heck, it's for the memories right?). I wish I could have stayed a little longer, and done some more "Californian" things heh, but there's always next time!


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