Foodie Friday: Pampas Palo Alto

My family’s love of churrascaria, or what Americans know as Brazilian restaurant started in San Diego where I made my yearly pilgrimage to the San Diego Comic-Con (not any more sadly. I can gloat that I was there when Hall H became Hall H and left when SDCC became bombarded with Hollywood. Color me hipster) at a place called Rei Do Gado. I was super surprised to find small churrascarias during my stay in Japan (that was before I learned that there is a large Japanese community in Brazil). Suffice to say it’s been a while that my family have gone to eat Brazilian barbecue together so for my mom’s birthday we went over to Palo Alto’s Pampas

Love the downtown Palo Alto area.
Love the downtown Palo Alto area.

I was really impressed with the layout of the restaurant. Very classy yet not stuffy that you felt at odds if you came in jeans and a shirt. The service was the same as any other churrascaria. If you ordered the rodizio, waiters come around with a skewer of delicious meats and you say yay or nay if you want a slice or not.  The food was delicious, both the meat and the side bar, but what I really remember of that night was not the meat, but my aunt’s drink:

Behold! the Cosmo do Diabo
Behold! the Cosmo do Diabo

My aunt and I were intrigued with the ingredients: infused pepper vodka, pineapple, and passion fruit.

Peppers? Challenge accepted! But oh man, the look on my aunt’s face after a teeny sip. I almost thought she was bluffing, until I took a sip. Holy Batman. This drink is a sneaky one too! I tasted the fruit first and thought ‘pshh, this ain’t so bad!’ then as it slowly went down my throat the pepper and the alcohol burn creeped up on me and burned my mouth like a volcano. That drink was the best surprise of the night. My aunt said the heat goes down once the pepper flecks sink to the bottom and it was easier for her to drink it. It’s definitely a drink I didn’t expect to like, but if I ever came back to Pampas, I would be tempted to order this beast.

Pampas

Foodie Friday: Gussie’s Chicken and Waffles

I keep telling myself next time I go to a southern food restaurant I *will* try something new. Like a meal with collard greens or black eyed peas or something. But no, since I rarely go to southern food restaurants, I tend to get the same, bad-but-oh-so-goood  weird but awesome combination: chicken & waffles. While hanging out in the city with my brother, he pointed this place out: Gussie’s.

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chicken & waffles, a romantic meal..?

 

I was surprised at the low-lighting, almost romantic setting of the restaurant. Hope I don’t come off as a food racist (foodist?) or anything, but southern food, or at least chicken & waffles don’t give me that romantic dinner for two vibe. I’ve always imagined southern food as the ultimate comfort food where you just enjoy mom’s/auntie’s cooking, calories be damned.

When I was looking at the menu and tempted to try other non-waffle things, like collard greens and black eyed peas, I saw Gussie’s signature sweet potato waffles. Sweet potatoes. Waffles. I was doomed from the start. And of *course* I had to add the fried chicken. Pretty sketch of them to not automatically add the chicken, but whatever.

 

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Gussie’s signature sweet potato waffles + fried chicken

 

I wish the chicken had a bit more meat in them, but the star of the show for me were the waffles anyway and they were amazing. And pretty big (that’swhatshesaid, sorry I had to). My brother and I shared jalapeno hush puppies while I washed it down with some southern sweet tea.

The sweet potato waffles alone are worth going to Gussie’s, but you can probably get more portion for your buck elsewhere. The place is definitely good enough that I’d want to try other food on the menu. Just don’t let me look at the chicken & waffles section. You can check out the website here: Gussie’s Chicken and Waffles

Foodie Friday: Clover Bakery & Cafe

One thing that surprised me when I lived in Japan was the number of bakeries around. Not only for their sheer number (think Starbucks-around-every-corner-of-the-city number), but also the popularity. Like most Asian countries, rice is a central part of a meal, and in most Japanese’s minds, bread is associated with western countries. Then again, in Japan one is always on the go, whether from commuting or staying out late working. It’s a quick, cheap, and very portable meal to bring with you when traveling or rushing to work. Vie De France, one of the more famous bakery chains, was a usual go-to for my Peach sisters and I before heading out to travel.

Bakeries. Another reason why Japan is a dangerous for me and in my top ten of things I miss about Japan. Which is why I was sooo dismayed happy  to find Clover Bakery & Cafe: a Japanese bakery which is next to a Japanese supermarket and Kinokuniya no less.  Saratoga just got *that* much more dangerous.

 

Clover Bakery ♧
♧Clover Bakery ♧

 

Unlike America where you just go up to the counter in the bakery section of a supermarket and order what you want, a Japanese bakery tends to use a more cafeteria-like approach when purchasing your carby goodness:

 

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#1: Grab your weapon and shield! I mean tray and tongs!

 

Next…the hardest part…for me anyway:

 

Choose your poison~
#2: Choose your poison~

 

In addition to the standard fruit pastries, anpan (red bean-filled bread) and cream pan, Japan truly makes bread their own when baking savory types including カレーパン、or curry pan (bread), mentaiko pan (ew), the odd corn and mayo pan (honestly, what is UP with the corn+mayo combo Japan?!) and the ultimate carb selections like spaghetti, yakisoba, or okonomiyaki bread. Let’s not forget the cute Anpanman, Hello Kitty shaped anko bread too! If you go to a lot of bakeries, ahem like me , you’ll notice bakeries tend to usually sell the same things. If you’re lucky they might sell artisan breads for a slightly high price. Of course in addition to bread, bakery/cafe combos including Clover sell your standard coffee/tea/juices. When I went with my aunt we both ordered a matcha latte, which was so-so to be honest, but we didn’t go there for the drinks!

Clover was a home away from home for me. It reminded me of the little bakery in my little town in Okayama. Sigh, good times. If you have the chance to visit a Japanese bakery, DO SO. And eat a cute face-shaped bread for me. Oh and if anyone knows some good bakeries let me know! I’m a sucker for bakery/cafe shops.

For those around town and would like to try:

♧ Website

♧ @Cloverbakery They post deals on their twitter. Sadly they’re on weekdays from what I’ve seen.

Foodie Friday: Tofu Cuban Sandwich

I am a sandwich fiend. I don’t know what makes sandwiches so awesome— they’re so…portable. And you can’t really mess it up. Plus I’m always a sucker for anything with bread.

Well, I tried this recipe right off the Food Network Magazine: a Tofu Cuban Sandwich. Alas I didn’t make the jicama sticks due to a lack of them at my grocery stores. The result, besides the burnt bread (>_>) , was tasty and pretty easy to make. It’s definitely a nice change from the standard, dull turkey or chicken sandwich. One of these I’ll definitely make some time on a Sunday and prepare it for a work lunch because eating out in San Francisco, as tasty as it is, is pricey.

I burnt the bread. I fail in life
I burnt the bread. I fail in life

 

Tofu Cuban Sandwich

Ingredients:

1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu
1 small onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 oranges

4 small whole-wheat hoagie rolls, split

1/4 cup yellow mustard
1 1/4 cups shredded low-fat low-sodium Swiss cheese (5 ounces)
2/3 cup chopped roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed
1/2 kosher dill pickle, chopped (about 1/4 cup)

I pretty much copied the recipe —minus the bits about the jicama sticks— which you can follow here .  After cutting the tofu into 8 pieces, soak it with the onion, garlic, OJ, and olive oil for about 5-10 minutes. Cook the tofu on a nonstick skillet until golden on both sides then add that plus the rest of the mixture/other ingredients on the bread roll and cook again on the skillet until the bread is toasted to your liking. In my case, the bread toasted *really* fast… If I ever find those darn jicama I’ll give that a go, but until then maybe I might put the chili powder that is meant for the sticks to the sandwich instead for a bit of kick? The peppers and juice give the tofu and sandwich a nice flavor, but might be plain for some without that “oomph.” This sandwich was kinda fun to make, burnt bread and all.

Foodie Friday: Mochimochimochimochi

Good news: I got a job. Huzzah!

Kinda sorta bad news: The commute leaves me zombified which I just trudge to my room and pass out to start the process all over again.

Good news: I’m pretty much eating my way through San Francisco so I’ll possibly have more Foodie stuff to post about. Huzzah!

About a month ago I was doing my usual Amazon book splurge and I finally decided to purchase a mochi recipe book I had my eye on for a while, thanks to Deb Aoki, a manga critic/ foodie who I kinda stalk on Twitter. So.

Put a face on any food and it becomes the cutest thing EVER
Put a face on any food and it becomes the cutest thing EVER

I *loooove* mochi and with my new baking, I figured why not? Doesn’t seem too bad. And it isn’t. Well, Jenn Fujikawa’s way anyway. She puts a lot more than just anko in her recipes—I tried a PB&J and sweet potato mochi (separate recipes of course). The PB&J mochi was hard since the book doesn’t state how much mochi to tear off and fill. Apparently I suck at guestimating so I ended up with gigantic ones and ones where it was ooozing with peanut butter and strawberry jam deliciousness. And you know what? That’s fine with me! The sweet potato was just a mix-and-bake deal. To be honest I’m not really sure if I did it correctly since the top of the “mochi” had a crispy exterior and had the feel and texture of a chewy bread than what I usually envision when I think of mochi, but it tasted good (so my friends say). Sad to say I think I forgot to take a picture of the sweet potato mochi. All in all, I like this book and will try the other recipes, especially the savory ones. I just wish there was more detail on the measurements and timing. Pictures for every recipe would have been nice too.

 the best looking ones of the lot
the best looking ones of the lot. Er, don’t mind the color

 

Foodie Friday: Erik’s DeliCafe

Sad story, but true: due to my mom’s diabetic and kidney condition, she gets hospitalized. A lot. Ironically, the only food places around the hospital are Carl’s Jr.s and Jack in the Boxes. Fortunately, I found through Foursquare a little cute cafe/deli that sells tasty soups sandwiches and tempting baking goods. May I present, Erik’s Deli Cafe.

Turkey walnut pesto sandwich

The cafe is a bit on the pricey side, but I feel like I’m paying for the quality of the food. The best deal you can get is the half and half combination so I got the turkey walnut pesto sandwich and butternut squash soup. Man I forgot to ask them to take out the sprouts, but the turkey, avocado, jack cheese, walnut pesto aioli on the 9-grain wheat bread make up for it.

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The store had cabin, antique feel to it. It’s cute

 

The only complaint I have is that they messed up my order the first and second time I went there, which is a bit annoying, but their food is tasty so I forgive them. Let’s hope third time’s the charm!

 

Foodie Friday: Pancake Shots on Christmas

It’s not as bad as you think. Really. Well, unless you don’t like your shots sweet and have you craving for sausage, bacon, and orange juice afterwards. Who says you can’t have hard liquor for breakfast?

For a shot with whiskey in it it went down incredibly smooth. Maple syrup with a burn.

The poison:

DeKuyper Buttershots (butterscotch schnapps)

Jameson Irish Whiskey

chaser (optional): orange juice, but you might drink it anyway just because what’s breakfast without the OJ?

Breakfast of champions
Breakfast of champions

Enjoy the rest of your holidays everyone!

Foodie Friday: Cranberry Nut Bread

Always forget to take the pic *before* chowing down
Always forget to take the pic *before* chowing down

I can’t believe I’ve only eaten real, legit cranberries a week ago. I’m addicted to Ocean Spray Craisins, but I know that doesn’t really count. So I was really shocked at how *tart* cranberries really are. Jeezus. Well anyway, I checked the back of the package and there was a recipe for a cranberry nut bread. Cranberries + bread must = amazing.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2  tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup orange juice (used Simply orange juice with mango because that’s what I had)
2 Tbsp veggie oil
1 Tbsp grated orange peel
1 egg, well beaten
1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans because again, had extra from the Soul Sweet Taters recipe)

9×5 inch loaf pan

1.  Heat oven to 350 F. Mix the dry stuff (flour, sugar baking powder, soda, and salt) in a medium mixing bowl.

2. Stir the orange juice, oil, peel and egg and mix until well blended.

3. Stir in cranberries and nuts.

4. Pop in the oven and bake for 55 minutes until it clears the toothpick test.

Results:

With my oven it took about 53 minutes I think. The bread was soft and kind of came apart after slicing so I’m not sure if that’s how it’s supposed to be or not. I’m not much of a fan of orange in my baking stuff, but I have to say it went really well with this bread and was tasty to eat for breakfast. Definitely keeping this recipe.

Foodie Friday! Afternoon Tea @ The Fairmont

I kind of have an obsession with British afternoon tea, thanks to my trip to London(a post about my trip there can be found on my other blog here). I thought I would never have afternoon tea outside of England, but crazily enough there are places in the US that do it. There are a few in Vegas, one which I’ve tried and it was meh. The next one I tried was in The Fairmont hotel and my sis and I took my aunt there for her birthday. Lucky for me she likes British things too and always wanted to experience afternoon tea.

Similar to my experience in London, the food was pretty much decided and you just choose your tea. I chose maple maple while my aunt and my sis had a jasmine and a berry tea respectively.

First came the savory stuff.

egg salad, salmon, cucumber sandwiches and prosciutto crepe
egg salad, salmon, cucumber sandwiches and prosciutto crepe

The proscuitto crepe had fig jam and though good was way overpowering.

Next, the moment of truth: the scones.

seasonal scones served with lemon curd and Devon cream
seasonal scones served with lemon curd and Devon cream

My only complaint that for the amount we paid we just got two tiny scones. Delicious though. I think one had cranberries in it.

The last part of the meal, the dessert, was the one I felt like it was out of place. Don’t get me wrong it was tasty as heck, but I didn’t really get this fancy dessert in any other afternoon teas. I guess I would’ve preferred more scones ^_~  Maybe it’s a perk for having it in The Fairmont?

I almost didn't want to eat it, it was so pretty
I almost didn’t want to eat it, it was so pretty

I really liked the cassis mousse….

My aunt enjoyed our little tea session though we all agreed it was worth doing only once. Especially at $32 a head. The hunt for a decent scone and cup of tea continues. Sigh.

EXTRA CREDIT: I made scones for my aunt as her birthday present and bought her devon cream at World Market.

Deformed, but tasty imho
Deformed, but tasty imho

Foodie Friday: What I’m thankful for

I hope everyone had a good turkey weekend last week and good hunting with the Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays that actually  last all week/month! Just when I was on a roll with blogging, sigh, family had to get in the way. And Wreck It Ralph (which is awesome by the way go see it!). Tsk tsk. Then again, last Thursday was my first Thanksgiving back in the states so I was really grateful that I was here to celebrate with my family. And eat turkey again, *man* did I miss the convenience of eating turkey whenever I wanted to! No surprise that Japan doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but for some reason the fact that they didn’t know the awesome food-fest of whole roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and pie really saddened me. I would show pictures of a typical Thanksgiving dinner to my students and their eyes would just pop out! And the look on their faces when I show them what the heck a turkey is! Although they do have a word for that odd bird (七面鳥、しちめんちょう, or 7-faced bird…kinda), you don’t see them around the neighborhood, let alone on their dinner plate (except at Subways). Japan’s a porky nation. But despite the food setbacks, my fellow ALTs and I made do (you can see my Turkey Day adventures on my Japan blog here) That is why this Thanksgiving, I was thankful for turkey.

thanksgiving 2012

Mmm…turkey how I’ve missed you

In addition to the Soul Sweet Taters I made, I brought cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory thanks to my discount at Barnes & Noble. I split the cake so the family could get a chance to try a majority of the cheesecake flavors like chocolate, pumpkin and the original. My favorite was the red velvet cheesecake.

thanksgiving 2012 2

I nearly died after eating a whole piece, it was so rich! I even scraped off a majority of the cream. Well if I did die, death by red velvet doesn’t sound like a bad way to go.