Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Travel: Snacking for the Soul Around San Francisco

As you might have all heard that San Francisco is a food haven? I completely agree to that statement. Also don't miss out on walking around as you never know what cool shops you might find. Though this time round I didn't get to try as much various type of cuisine as I have hoped, nevertheless I did eat to my heart content. My palate has been "teased" with various flavours, be it savoury or sweet. Don't think I would ever be able to settle for something less. LOL..
First stop, Warren Pears. Boy..oh! boy.. I couldn't stop thinking about these bad boys till right now. From my very first bite into them at the Foodbuzz Tasting Pavilion; where the oh! so sweet, juiciness and squidgy firmness of the pear still lingers in my mind and mouth till this very day. I actually went to a supermarket and bought a couple more to devour in these lovely pears. The only sad thing, is that they do not ship the Warren Pears internationally [sigh..] Hopefully they will one day and the cost wouldn't kill me.

Next, to something more savoury. Perhaps a typical American staple food I would say. But..but.. it's just so sinful and delish that I believe I could definitely go back the next day and have another. What is this? Do I sense some guess? If you guess it to be the Hamburger, you are absolutely right!
In and Out: Double Cheese Burger
Bonnie came over and took me out for a late night supper. She brought me to In and Out Burger. Oh yeah! it's going IN alright and not coming out. I will have to let you know that I am not use to late night supper but since I am on a vacation, I couldn't care-less about all those calories or thoughts like"oh! will that add more bulk to my hips?!?" I just know that it was so good that I clearly told Bonnie that I am not sharing the burger with her. But I did share my fries and soda. Okay, I had the Double Cheeseburger, and my friends; though I know America is a fast food nation, and how fast is this food prepared a not, I have not seen myself devour a hamburger that fast. The smokey-ness of the char grilled beef pati, topped with pickle, shredded lettuce, thinly sliced big red onion, melted cheese, their secret sauce and sandwiched in between fresh juicy burger buns was delightful. Did I mentioned I had this Double Cheeseburger at 11:30pm? So now you know.
Mitchell's Ice Cream
Hmm.. what's next or should I say before the Hamburger? Bonnie and I decided to switch things around just for fun. Instead of ending the meal with dessert, we started our hunt of late night supper with dessert. I could still recall, that night was pretty chilly and the crazy two of us went to Mitchell's ice-cream parlour. What can I say.. I am a sucker for desserts and I was after all craving for some good ol' ice-cream. If you asked me now, I believe I had the Chocolate Caramel Crackle and Butterscotch Marble and the combo if I say so myself, is absolute winner. Some crunch in the ultra rich creamy soft ice-cream gives that perfect balance of texture don't you think? If you are a traveller like myself, don't be shy to ask to try all their flavours. When I saw Dulce de Leche, I definitely tasted that one, and it was just so good. Slightly salty-sweet burnt caramel. Yummmm.. yummmm......
Chocolate and White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl Ice-cream
Another ice-cream that is a must try or to be in your to-do list is Bi-Rite Creamery. I first took note of them while I was watching the Food Network channel back home and there was this lady who swears by their Sam's sundae from Bi-Rite Creamery. Since then, I knew this is one ice-cream parlour that I ought to check out while visiting San Francisco. Bi-Rite Creamery is on 18th on Guerrero Street. So it's perfect, cause there are more good food on this street.While I am not so adventurous to try Sam's Sundae, as you are to drizzle fruity olive oil over the rich chocolate ice-cream, I chose a safer route to something I know I will enjoy as much. Now why is the ice-cream so good? They use Strauss Cream to make their ice-cream and all their ice-cream is made fresh on their premises. Naturally I went with the classic flavours which are Chocolate and White Chocolate Raspberry swirl ice-cream. I really love how the Chocolate ice-cream is semi-bittersweet, rich and creamy and the raspberry add that extra zing into the lovely silky smooth which chocolate ice-cream. It came to my surprise that their ice-cream is not overly sweet. Perfect! Just how I like it.

Make sure to jot down this street peeps which is 18th on Guerrero Street. Apart from Bi-Rite Creamery, I felt like I hit a jackpot. Right across the street from Bi-Rite is Delfina and Pizzeria Defina, then on the same row of Defina right in the corner is Tartine Bakery and Cafe. If you love pastries, you must go to Tartine. Grab their eclairs or freshly baked butter croissant. It is flaky and really delish, and their eclair will satisfy your crave if you are in need of a choux-pastry, filled with fresh piped vanilla bean cream and coated in chocolate. You will notice that if you talk to any San Franciscan, these are some of the places named.
Since I am rekindling my fond memory on 18th Street, let me now show you what a great meal I had in Delfina. Delfina is a casual fine dining place, with a menu which I think they update on a monthly basis. I noticed on their menu, which is a piece of paper with all the good food listed, has a month and year printed on the top left corner. The restaurant is a little small and seating is close to one another and is usually full house [from what I heard]. So make sure to make a reservation before heading there. Luckily for Larissa and myself, we managed to get a seat since we just walked in without any prior reservation made before hand. Lucky us! Since there was only just the two of us, we decided to order 2 different main course and share them. The beauty is make sure to mention to your serving waiter/waitress of the day that you are sharing, so when they serve your dish, it would had been equally split between 2 people.

Big question.. what did we order? We ordered the Veal Raviolli with Citrus Sage Brown Butter Sauce and Roasted Liberty Duck. Let me see how should I put it down in words for you.
Veal Raviolli with Citrus Sage Brown Buttersauce
These little pockets maybe small, but they are filled in full on flavour. The filling which is a mixture of veal and possibly some pork, is just so tender and seasoned really well. The raviolli is cooked just to perfection and the sauce is absolutely divine. You cold taste the brown butter, lemon zest, and sage. It was so good that I think to satisfy my crave, I will need to at least have 20 of these little devils.
Roasted Liberty Duck
Well I never had the chance to cook duck breast. And if I ever have the chance, this is definitely one dish that I would love to re-create. The duck breast is lean, and if over cooked, it will be rubbery and dry. However, this Roasted Liberty Duck is fantastic. The pomegranate sauce drizzled over this crackling juicy tender duck gives that extra zing. Makes it all light yet wholesome. You could just taste everything that is put into this dish. The balance of crunch from the slightly salted duck skin really gave it texture and topped with some fresh pomegranate, adds that little juicy pops. The combination of POM juice used is just brilliant. A classy dish indeed.

Lets continue walking together with me in my memories right now and another place to take note of is Union Street and Chestnut Street. From Japan town, walk two blocks towards Filmore Street and grab bus no. 22. While you are in the bus, absorb some of the view and look out for Union Street. There are some nick knack shops, small boutiques and if you are as crazy like me over Cream Puffs, then you are at the right place.
There are two little gems to check out while you are on Union Street. One being Pacific Cream Puff. This quaint little corner shop in blue, only specialises in Cream Puffs, or giant size profiteroles in my eyes anyway.Sadly I didn't take a photo of my Cream Puff, as I just couldn't wait to sink my teeth into it. By the time I was done, it hit me that I didn't snap a photo for you. No worries, I think the photos above is good enough. Be sure to pop over to get yourself some lovely piped fresh cream puffs if you're there. Yummm... [Why am I drooling while describing my food adventure to you? Oh! my.. I got to go home and make me some puffs.]

Another place I heard which was good and if you are into cuppies, is Take That Cake. It's along Union Street too. Not to despair, I have a cuppie prepared to share with you. See how much I go through to write this food journal for you [can you support me a little more now?..LOL]. Not complaining at all, since the walking burnt off pretty much what I ate before I hit the next stop [or so I thought..hmmmm]. The other cupcake shop I hunt down was Kara's Cupcakes on Scott Street .
Fleur De Sel
I never had cupcake as breakfast before, and let me tell you this is the first of such by myself. I walked in, and couldn't decide which to choose. So what's the hype over Kara's Cupcake? I think what I am drawn towards to is their light, fluffy and super moist cupcake. I think I could hear myself going.. mmmmMMmm..oooOOoooo...mmmMMMMMmm, and chomp away my cuppie. I chose Fleur De Sel. It's a chocolate cupcake with caramel filling, dark chocolate ganache frosting and fleur de sel. Sprinkled on top of the dark chocolate ganache frosting is some sea salt. What a perfect balance. It just tones down the ultra richness of the cupcake..finger licking good. It's pretty orgasmic.
Well, all good gastronomy do have to come to an end. After a long day of shopping and walking around along Chestnut Street, I thought of having tacos at first. Instead I walked in Pacific Catch. I am certain I made an absolute right choice at the end, because on my very last day in San Francisco, I went back there to grab my lunch since I know I will not be coming back anytime soon. I am sold by their idea of combining bold sauces, spices and cooking preparations of Asia, Latin America and Hawaii with local California ingredients to create a new kind of fish house. The end result, divine, delish and left me wanting for more.Needless to say, I am now hooked to their secret spicy rub covered sweet potato fries, and still crave for them. And they serve it with Jalapeno tartare sauce. One word, YuMMMMMmmmmie!!

I have to say though, my San Francisco gastronomy trip is coming to a close. But wait.. wait.. I am not done, because this is something that I think should be talked about solely on the next post and perfect to conclude my trip. So stay tune!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Travel: Meeting Nami from Just One Cookbook and Japantown (8th November, 2011)

I am so excited to share with you this post as I have been planning this a long time with Nami @ Just One Cookbook. I'm sure her name is NO stranger to all of you food bloggers. If you don't know her, no worries. It's time for me to introduce her to you and do pop over her lovely website for some wicked Japanese and other Asian dishes recipes. Her recipes and step by step photos are easy to follow for any of you who is interested in Asian dishes.
Nami & Myself
A little about Nami and how it all began. I spontaneously dropped Nami an e-mail wondering if she will be attending Foodbuzz Festival 2011 and asked if she would love to meet up. Of course I looped in Elisabeth in this meet up as Elisabeth was staying back in SF for another 2 days. When she replied my e-mail, I was thrilled to know that she agreed to meet. So many e-mails sent to one another back and forth, and we nearly didn't even have the chance to meet up as Nami's daugther suddenly caught a cold. Nevertheless, all went well even though it was only for two hours and the meet up session was on.

The moment of meet, greet and get to know one another has left me constantly thinking of her. Few words to sum up Nami. She's a real sweet lady, courteous and genuinely friendly. I am truly honoured to have met her. Wished we had more time right Nami?
Elisabeth & Myself
Naturally, we went to a nearby bakery, have a cuppa and some freshly oven baked pastries and chat away. We walked to La Boulange Bakery, a French inspired bakery which is about 2-3  blocks walk up hill from Hotel Tomo.
It's like a "halo" shining above the sweet treats.. oh! my..

Left to Right: Cherry Raspberry, Hazelnut, Lemon, Chocolate, Coffee, Strawberry, Vanilla, Passionfruit Mango
I just couldn't resist. Had to snag a juicy plump tuna cheddar sandwich and box of  french macarons to try. I really liked them a lot. Especially the tuna sandwich. Maybe because it's one of my favourite sandwich of all time and it is served in a sour dough bun. A perfect breakfast of quick lunch. Delish!
Oh! I nearly forgot to tell you that I checked Elisabeth and myself into Hotel Tomo, in Japantown. To be specific it's located on 1800, Sutter Street. This is quite a quirky hotel, where each room interior decor is inspired between a cross of  what you see in IKEA with some hint of Japanese element.
Just another random shot I snapped..
Simple, comfortable, clean line furniture adorn the room. The focal wall on each room has a different anime themed wall paper. That to me was the unique part of the room. Plus after much hotel review reading from Trip Advisor, this hotel is highly recommended by a lot of families with children as they have a stay quiet along the corridors starting at 11:00pm policy and the area is generally a safe neighbourhood. Do take a note of this though. Hotel Tomo is not located in the middle of the city. There's a bus stop right outside the hotel and, you can take bus no. 2 or 3 which takes you down back to the city. Alternatively, you just walk 2 blocks to the right of the hotel towards Filmore Street and grab a bus no. 22 which takes you to Union Street, or all the way to Chestnut Street. There are lots to do and my favourite past time, is trying new food places. If I were to choose, I wouldn't mind staying in Hotel Tomo the next time round while I am in San Francisco. The staff is friendly and I am fortunate enough to have become close friends with Larissa, who's the customer service hotel manager. She a real sweet heart and we did manage to squeeze in some food adventure. Larissa, if you are reading this post, this is a shout out to you too!

Well, I hope you peeps have enjoyed my San Francisco posts so far. There are a couple more to go.. and I think those will interest you a lot too. Till then!!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Travel: Colours of San Francisco (7th November, 2011), Part 2

The building above is another iconic San Francisco Building. In fact it is one of their tallest sky scraper. That's the TransAmerica building. If you watched a lot of Hollywood movies, you definitely have seen this building before. On my flight back to Malaysia, I watched a movie titled "Going the Distance" acted by Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. What a coincidence I tell you. It's about juggling long distance relationship where the guy is based in New York City and the lady, has to return to San Francisco, and she's a student with Stanford University. That made me giggle like a mad person in the plane, as I was still suffering from the San Francisco Rush.. LOL.. In my mind I was just thinking, how coincidental is that? Naturally a lot of movies are acted in the streets of San Francisco. I'm unable to name a couple right now. When the time comes, I might be able to add on.
Anyways along the way, I snapped a lot more photos. I did hesitate as I wasn't sure if I should upload them here for you because my posts journals has been really long lately [do forgive me.. just so much to share]. After much thought, I decided that you should really see San Francisco through my eyes. You might notice that I am attracted to interesting art works, old school automobile or anything that is colourful.
Hello! Yup.. we are listening.. psst.. what did you say??
Another view of the Bay Bridge.. notice how the current is so calm.

Me, trying to squeeze with Mr See, Hear and Speak No Evil. I shall be Grin No Evil. Photo courtesy from Angela @ Fab Find Foodie 
Wished I had a Tele-Zoom lens.. the best shot I got of Coit Tower
After all these photo taking, I sure have built up quite an appetite. We didn't walk very far to look for food, and since it was chilly, a cup of hot soup sounds absolutely delicious. Elisabeth and I selected "The Original Soup Man" to rest and replenished our energy. And so happen the soup of the day was Clam Chowder. Yummmm.. Before deciding, you do have the option to have some taste test. So don't be shy to ask if you could try their soup. I tried their Lobster Bisque, and it was rich and flavourful.
Since the soup of the day came with melted grilled cheese sandwich, obviously that would be the best option. Not only you get soup, you have a nice warm toasted grilled cheese sandwich to soak up all the goodness. Plus you get to choose your desired cheese. I went with Swiss Cheese this time. Yummmm..We selected the cup size, and please don't be fooled by the portion. Clam Chowder is rich, creamy and is packed with loads of fresh ingredients like carrots, potatoes, and clams of course and served with 2 packets of crackers. What a hearty comforting brunch.
Fisherman's Wharf
I really like how the Old Trams looked. Probably this is what you see in the 50-60s?

I was told by a lot of locals that Fisherman's Wharf  is over hyped and is just a tourist filled area. Since I'm a tourist, I have no comments over their remarks. Okay peeps! That pretty much ends this day and our tour of San Francisco city. You're not going to believe whom I had the chance to meet up with. I believe you adore this blogger as much I do. That all will be in the next post.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Travel: A Beautiful Day in San Francisco (7th November, 2011), Part 1

What's the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions about San Francisco? Will it be The Golden Gate Bridge, Napa Valley, China Town or it's a foodies nation?

Being able to travel to San Francisco was another dream came true and was certainly memorable. I LOVE to travel and this is one dream that I wish I don't have to wake up from sometimes. I have met so many wonderful ladies and new friends that made my trip colourful. There was a lot of humour, laughter, witty remarks and we sure talk one same language which is FOOD.

Right now, I would like to share with you my experience and I hope you find joy in reading through or browse through my photos.
On this very day, Elisabeth and I had to check-out of the Grand Hyatt. So I suggested that we check-out early and head towards our Concierge to get more information on the San Francisco City Tour Hop-On and Hop-Off buses where we kept seeing for the past three days while we were staying in the city.

This is one that I would strongly recommend to put under your To-Do List. Not only you get to see as many places that you probably wouldn't go there alone, and you also get to Hop-Off, walk around and wait for the next tour bus to come along and get right on to your next pit-stop.

First off, we went along with the Tour Bus company that has the Big American Flag banner on the double-decker bus. You get two options to choose from. A 24-hours tour or 48-hours tour. What it means is that you get to use this tour for a whole day or in 2 days. For example, if you chose the 24-hours tour, and purchase your ticket at 10:00am, your ticket will be valid to the next day 10:00am.

The tickets cost about USD $31.00 if booked directly via hotel concierge or USD $35.00 if purchase directly from the Tour Bus. Also if recalled correctly, 48-hours tour costs around USD $38.00 when booked via hotel.

This is a good deal, as it covers a lot of grounds and places to see within the San Francisco city and around the Bay Area. Don't worry about not getting a pick-up from the next tour bus, as there will be one on it's way every 15-minutes. Pick up a headset from the tour guide and just make sure to return it back to them, as each place is narrated by the tour guide. Most importantly, make sure to pack a jacket, cap or a scarf to tie round your neck to keep yourself warm, as the weather can be slightly unpredictable in San Francisco. Dress comfortably and wear comfortable walking shoes if you choose to walk a lot. This way you will be all set and have fun snapping. Trust me you wouldn't want to miss a single shot.
Our pick-up point was at Union Square, just right across from Macy's and is only 2 blocks walk down from the Grand Hyatt towards Geary Street. This is where the site-seeing begins. You will notice that San Francisco has lot to offer. From both new and old. It has huge diversity of culture.

Like myself, I will walk as much possible whenever I travel, so that I get to remember every little nity detail I see along the way. It's also a perfect way to experience where the locals go to.

The double-decker bus ride was an adventure. In fact I highly recommend to finish the entire tour. If you're into building architecture or graffiti, do keep a look out. My mind and eyes tend to attract towards colours, and love to snap on anything that I find interesting. Having travelled to many places, and as I grew older, I appreciate anything from old and new. I feel that there is a story behind every photo.
Asian Art Museum
City Hall
Here is what I notice. A lot of the buildings facade is from the Victorian period. So are the Victorian homes where they are maintained really well and every one seem to have them painted in really interesting colours. A sense of history, classic architecture with new coat of paint of vibrant colours stands out when the sun light shines against the building.
Another thing that goes through my mind constantly is "how do they park their car?" I wonder if any cars roll backwards before? Yes, I know there are hand breaks in our car, but still, how does that car stay stationary on a steep hill? That is just something I think a lot while I was there..LOL. Some roads or should I say hills are so steep that you couldn't even see the other end of the connecting road. It's really like a roller coaster ride.
Alamo Square with SF city view at the back
This is part of the beauty of San Francisco. You will definitely recognise the photo above. I remember how it was when I was younger while I watched the comedy series "Full House". It looked exactly the same. What I particularly like about the photo above is the San Francisco city view at the back drop.

Here are more photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. I just couldn't stop snapping. When the bus drove us acrossed The Golden Gate Bridge, I experienced a San Francisco Rush. My heart was beating with joy, and when the sun and cool breeze touches your skin, the feeling is unexplainable. It is like another sense of accomplishment, a reward to myself for my effort and time put into my hours of work.
Driving towards The Golden Gate Bridge
Alcatraz aka The Rock
A spectacular view of The Golden Gate Bridge
The last photo above, is where I bid Farewell to The Golden Gate Bridge. Perhaps for those who constantly drive pass this bridge every single day, might feel like this is another bridge. But at the end of the day, we all know that this is one of the iconic mega structure.

During the ride acrossed the bridge, I managed to squeeze in a lot of soul thinking and I know that as long I stay true to myself, and persevere in life, eventually it will bear fruits. Typing this post for you, has brought me back to that very moment on the bus. I could still remember every single minute of it. Bright sunny day, gentle cool breeze running through my hair, and light tingling warmth sensation from the sun light.

I am going to leave you now to have a quiet moment to think, and stay tune as more of San Francisco to come. Have a good week ahead everyone!!

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