Friday, December 29, 2006

Homemade: Molten cake

My first stab at a recipe from the book The Essence of Chocolate (as so kindly bestowed upon me by Jason) was the molten cake. From its description, the cake sounded like a version of the warm brownie/chocolate cake-with-the-soft-center-paired-with-ice-cream dish usually found on the dessert menu of so many restaurants. Original? Probably not. Amazing? Always!

Similar to several other chocolate cake recipes I've seen, the molten cake only required: chocolate (70% cocoa), butter, sugar, eggs and just the tiniest bit of flour. It's a little frightening to think that the cake is basically melted chocolate and butter, but what would life be like if we had self-control?

The preparation was surprisingly simple: you first melt the chocol
ate and then basically combine it with everything else, mix it all together and finally bake the batter in little ramekins at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. The result is a warm and gooey cake, bittersweet and strong in chocolate flavor. Fabulous!

Rating of recipe: 9.7/10 (heavenly)

Restaurant Review: Boulettes Larder

I cannot lie. Winter break is here and gluttony is in the air. Well actually winter break is half way over and the gluttony is now perfected to an art. Whatever the case is, here is another restaurant review.

Cindy and Mel came up to San Jose (pronounced "hO-sey" as Cindy so perfected) last wee
k to visit. After taking 30 minutes to show them around our 'hood, Jessi and I brought them to a better
place, a place called San Francisco. We took the BART to the Embarcardero station, which is situated in the financial district of the city and more importantly, next to the Ferry Building, a mecca for foodies everywhere.

This was a first visit to the Ferry Building for all of us and we were astounded by the great number of specialty food stores offering high end chocolates, cheeses, olive oils and various other delectables. We perused around a b
it and finally decided on the restaurant Boulettes Larder for lunch.

Though every restaurant in the building looked fantastic, we finally settled on Boulettes because of the enticing aroma wafting from their open kitchen (see right). The whole of their restaurant consisted of a fully-staffed kitchen and a long adjacent table for guests. Eating at the long table was practically like eating in someone's home, where all the preparations were done just mere feet away from you! Or so I imagine. We actually sat just outside the restaurant at a table of four, which was still very good. Boulettes (meaning "little bowls"--awww) practices the philosophy of cooking with the freshest produce in season and (taken straight from their menu) "the ingredients [they] source are grown with principles that are respectful of taste, the environment and social justice." Wow. And we thought we were just getting lunch. (...Little did we know of the socioeconomic ramifications of our appetite!)

From left to right, top row first: romaine lettuce with radish salad, fennel asian pear and avocado salad, Acme bread (the La Brea counterpart in Norcal), and pulled pork sandwich. I ordered the pulled pork sandwich despite my usual aversion for pork. Instead of barbecue sauce (mmm), the meat was marinated in the restaurant's signature "pimenton de la vera", which I think, was a salt rub of some kind. In any event, the pork was tender, smoky and thoroughly tasty. I was immediated converted to a fan. All the other dishes we ordered were fresh and full of flavor. Social justice never tasted so good!

I would definitely go to Boulettes again--perhaps for brunch, since it is said to be very popular. Or
again for lunch since their menu changes daily.

Price: ~$14 a dish (w/o tax and tip)

Rating: 9/10 (delicious)

Boulettes Larder
1 Ferry Building Marketplace
San Francisco, CA 94111

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Restaurant Review: Nook

Cindy and I had visited Nook for the first time over the summer. As the name of the restaurant implies, it's location is literally tucked away in the corner of a plaza. Sandwiched between a carpet store and a cell phone store (I think), you would have never guessed that a restaurant of moderately chic decor resides in the same neighborhood. I say "moderately chic" because the interior sports the modern wood-and-metal design yet the ambience gives no discriminating airs.
My apartmentmates and I arrive for our 6:30pm reservation were promptly seated. Nook remains to be a small restaurant and we were able to snatch one (the better, I say) of only two booths. Remembering how good the food was from the summer, Cindy and I had recommended to the other two flatmates that Nook be the place of our end-of-fall-quarter-"suck it, finals!" dinner celebration. I was excited to try the fall menu and pretty much knew what I was going to order from a study of the menu days before. Yes days.

From left to right, starting from the first row: crab cake appetizer, chicken paillard (paillard means something that is pounded flat), gulf shrimp and sausage, pork chop and finally artic char (a type of fish). I ordered the artic char, a fish that I had never seen nor tasted before (I was going to post a picture of the fish but decided not to after seeing how unremarkable it looked on google images). Anyway, it was panfried and served on a pool of Tabasco butter. The char had a flakey texture and tasted like a combination of salmon and a white fish (let's say mahi mahi for fun). Tabasco butter gave a nice kick in the flavor and the overall preparation was very satisfying. Everyone in the party was stuffed by their generously-sized entrees. We bitched and moaned about feeling too full for a bit. Then naturally, we proceeded to order dessert--their chocolate/banana bread pudding. Dessert was excellent. I'm not normally a big fan of bread pudding because of its sheer density but I was a fan of this one. Maybe it's something about melted chocolate that just makes everything it touches amazing.

Overall, I highly recommend Nook for their cozy atmosphere, reasonable prices, and large portions.

Price: ~$25 (+tax, for entree only)

Rating: 9.5/10 (delicious +)

11628 Santa Monica Blvd #9
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Monday, December 18, 2006

Restaurant Review: Tender Greens

There was a time when I couldn't deem a salad as a complete meal. Now, after being brainwashed Whole Foods-style, I embrace a simple dish of uncooked vegetables. Not to mention, I am fairly closed minded to most meats and am pretty much a pseudo-vegetarian (read: picky and annoying eater). Anyway, sharing my love for leaves and food aversions (albeit substantiated by actual food allergies), Ashley joined me at Tender Greens in downtown Culver City.

Situated next to Ford's Filling Station (new "gastropub" owned by Harrison's Ford son. i didn't know he had a son either!) Tender Greens is largely an outdoor establishment. The menu is simple and mostly consists of a list of popular salads with occasional variations on the original recipes. I order the Nicoise salad (as shown on left, doi) which has seared ahi tuna, tomatoes, red lettuce, fingerling potatoes, olives and the smallest eggs I've ever seen (quail? maybe) tossed in a Dijon mustard vinagrette. The taste was definitely refreshing and completely reliant on the freshness of the ingredients. Ashley and I both agreed that the tuna was cooked well as you could taste the grilled flavor and light seasoning.

The service was super nice to boot. Ashley's napkin fell and a waiter quickly asked if she wanted another without either of us gasping and raising hands to our forehands in the
exaggerated fashion of Victorian ladies. Ok, with the sarcasm removed from that last sentence, service was indeed very pleasant and helpful.

Price: ~$11 (+tax)

Rating: 8.7/10 (delicious)

Tender Greens
9523 Culver Boulevard
Culver City California 90232