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eG Foodblog: mizducky - San Diego: A (Really!) Moveable Feast

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#181 mizducky

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 03:16 PM

Poking my head in to see how the voting was going, and I must say I am pleased at the egalitarian buffet-embracing spirit being exhibited so far. :smile: God knows I've seen my share of mediocre buffets, but I've long thought the buffet was a much over-maligned and misunderstood dining category, capable of fine eating experiences if approached with the proper attitude. But voting's still open until it gets sort-of-around dinner time here (or until I can't hold out any longer) so keep chiming in, folks!

Which one has better soup? That's my vote.

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Y'know, I'm usually not much of a soup eater in restaurants, especially if I'm saving tummy-room for dishes I find more exciting, so I haven't tasted the soup at either of these places. :blush:

#182 Kouign Aman

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 03:25 PM

Another vote for buffet. (Self interest disclosure - its close to where I work)

And thank you for your blog. Its been a treat to experience San Diego thru your unique way with words.
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#183 Honkman

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 05:58 PM

I vote for Ba Ren.

#184 mizducky

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 06:10 PM

Okay, it looks like I got 6 votes for the buffet, 1 vote for Ba Ren, and one vote for soup. :smile: So I'll be maxing it out at the Big Buffet for your virtual dining pleasure tonight. But never fear, Ba Ren fans--I'm sure there will be many Ba Ren visits in my future, so now that I've got my spiffy little camera-toy I'll make sure to post photos of my next visit there.

I'll be departing shortly to do a couple work-related errands, and then ... time to feed. :biggrin:

#185 barolo

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 06:14 PM

According to Marcus Wareing in The Cook's Book the secret to crisp cracklings is to score the skin, rub it with salt and oil, roast at high temperature for the first 15 minutes and do not baste at all. He's cooking a shoulder of pork, so the cooking time is much longer than for yout pork belly, but the principles still apply. It seems that you were on the right track, except for your minor memory lapse.

In the accompanying photographs the scores are deep parallel lines about a finger width apart and what looks like a good 2 or 3 tablespoons of salt is rubbed all over the skin.  The roast is cooked for 15 minutes at 425 deg F, then lowered to 300 deg F for the remainder of the roasting - 3 hrs and 15 minutes for a 7 and 3/4 pound roast.  The finished product has crispy, dark caramel brown cracklings that are cut off the roast and served alongside the slices of meat.

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Thank you barolo, that's incredibly helpful! And reassuring to know that I was at least in the right ballpark. So now I'm ready for the next go-round...


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You are very welcome. I'm loving your blog and now I'm inspired cook up some pork with cracklings myself :wub: .

Lead on to the Big Buffet
Cheers,
Anne

#186 Ben Hong

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 09:07 PM

By the way--all feedback and suggestions about how to improve this (I mean, in addition to remembering the danged steps I spaced on :blush: ) are heartily welcome; there *has* to be a way to do this right, and I want to figure it out.



Mizducky, I am really enjoying your blog and please allow me to offer some hints.

If you refer back to the Chinese Board about 3-4 months ago to the "five blossom" pork thread, you will see that the recipe I posted called for a) piercing the skin after the scald, b) deeply scoring the meat side of the meat to a depth of halfway through(allows for max. drainage of fat) c) apply the marinade to the meat side and then allow it to dry for a few hours skin side up(very important to have dry skin :wink:) d) when roasting, slightly prop up the meat on one side so the fats can drain off (sitting oil on skin will prevent blistering, and you DO want blisters) e)my marinade usually includes a dollop of hoisin sauce , the s&s taste of hoisin will offset the greasy taste of the "five blossom pork" (my paternal grandfather coined the phrase).

#187 mizducky

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 09:21 PM

Mizducky, I am really enjoying your blog and please allow me to offer some hints.

If you refer back to the Chinese Board about 3-4 months ago to the "five blossom" pork thread, you will see that the recipe I posted called for a) piercing the skin after the scald, b) deeply scoring the meat side of the meat to a depth of halfway through(allows for max. drainage of fat)  c) apply the marinade to the meat side and then allow it to dry for a few hours skin side up(very important to have dry skin  :wink:) d) when roasting, slightly prop up the meat on one side so the fats can drain off (sitting oil on skin will prevent blistering, and you DO want blisters) e)my marinade usually includes a dollop of hoisin sauce , the s&s taste of hoisin will offset the greasy taste of the "five blossom pork" (my paternal grandfather coined the phrase).

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Thanks, Ben! Dang, I wish I'd remembered that it was your post where I had read the whole "five blossom pork" thing! All I had in my brain was this trace memory that there was this interesting hunk of info out there, somewhere... heh, isn't the brain a funny place? Okay, how about: isn't *my* brain a funny place? :biggrin: Oh well--now I'll definitely know for next time.

Just got back from dinner, and boy was it fun! Gotta upload some pictures, and then I'll be right back...

#188 mochihead

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 09:44 PM

Thank you so much for your week of blogging! I haven't had much time to post this week, but I thoroughly enjoyed your anecdotes, the pictures of the markets and especially the kitchen and fridge!

#189 racheld

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 09:55 PM

Yeah--both those ideas have definite possibilities! :biggrin: I am reminded of a wonderful moment towards the beginning of the one-woman play "The Belle of Amhearst," in which Emily Dickinson explains her celebrated brown bread recipe--as this is a formula for making a bazillion loaves all at once, the quantities are huge, and the image this evokes of this little (seemingly) mild-mannered spinster-woman wrestling with this huge vat of raisin-and-molasses goodness made the whole audience break out in a fit of giggles. If I can get that kind of giggle-fit out of people with gravy or meatballs, I'd count the piece a definite success.


What a lovely memory!!! We went to see Julie Harris as Miss D. about 900 years ago...the recipe was for her "Black Cake"---I remember distinctly, because it must have been the recipe which fed the five thousand. DS#2 happened into the doorway one night when I was watching B of A on PBS, got interested, and we watched it again every time it was on that season. So, when the traveling troupe hit Memphis, the whole family went.

THEN, we cut the recipe down down to 1/8 size, bought enough black strap molasses and raisins to feed an army, chopped and sifted and stirred and baked, and lo, we had black cake aplenty to eat and give away and freeze for future generations.

And it was BLACK---the darkest cake I've ever seen, outside a devil'sfood or two. And it was interesting. Not particularly tasty or memorable, except in the context of something you'd try so as not to hurt the cook's feelings. Like I would imagine that piece of wedding cake from the D&D of Winsor they auctioned off several years ago must have originally tasted. (Or after sixty years; take your pick).

But it was fun, and the last I remember was when the boys cut the last loaf into hunks, tied each piece to a tree branch, and the birds had a suety, molasses-y, mouth-clogging Winter feast. There was probably enough body-warming energy in each piece to see them through a blizzard.
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#190 mizducky

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 11:23 PM

They got meat and potatoes, they got beans and rice,
they got good country gravy make you go back twice ...
--Eric "Two Scoops" Moore, Seattle-based blues singer/songwriter, "The Big Buffet"


Well, East Buffet doesn't do potatoes or country gravy, but what they do serve did make me go back twice ... or more.

I take another favorite shortcut of mine, Kearny Villa Road, northbound right through the heart of MCAS Miramar, thus avoiding the horrendous rush-hour traffic on the I-15, winding up on Miramar Road within a few blocks of my destination:
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(Dang, I gotta get a tripod or something for these nighttime outdoor shots, I can't seem to hold the camera still enough to avoid the long-exposure blur blues.) Anyway, as you can see, East Buffet is lit up like Christmas--or perhaps Chinese New Year? :smile: Actually, it's always got that red neon going on. Inside it's just as flashy:
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You can't quite see it from this angle, but that fountain is full of koi. Beyond it you can see the open kitchen island where the sushi chef and the mongolian barbeque chef ply their trades. And beyond them are several buffet islands with all the hot and cold prepared dishes:
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On one of these islands they've set up a couple dozen containers of raw items for the hot pot buffet. I talk with the waiter for my section (who remembers me from last time--he seems to be on buddy terms with a number of regular customers), and he gets my table set up with a gas burner and bubbling hotpot tureen:
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As far as I can make out, that's just water simmering away in there, though as I proceed to cook things in it, the water gradually becomes more broth-like. I am also provided with a little wire-mesh scoop and a ladle.

I head back to the hot-pot bar and pick up my first assortment of raw goodies to dunk:
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Let's see: we've got half a blue crab; some meat balls and fish balls; whole cleaned baby squid; shucked oysters; shrimp with shells, tails, and heads all intact; sliced sea cucumber; thin-sliced beef and lamb; yuba (bean curd skin); cubes of pork blood; mizuna greens; and snow pea pods. Definitely not an Americanized assortment. :smile:

The waiter demonstrates that I shouldn't be shy, just slide the whole lot at once into the boiling pot, and then fish out the food as soon as it's done, i.e. when the meats change color and so on. Here's the first batch after their little bath:
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Note the two bowls of dipping sauces in the background. One is a tangy and only slightly sweet "sate" sauce (at least that's what they're calling it); the other is a tofu-based spicy sauce that, to my taste, has a liverish flavor undertone. I find I prefer the sate sauce, and start merrily dunking and eating. The seafood is very fresh and clean-tasting. The crab actually has a bit of roe in it, which turns bright coral-pink after its dip in the pot. This is my first time tasting congealed pork blood--cooked, it tastes a bit like liver too (wonder if they put some of it in the spicy dipping sauce?) The lamb, glory be, actually has a pronounced lamb taste, which I like. I think my favorite items, though, are the baby squid--but then I always love squid.

Second round:
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This time, in addition to getting seconds on some of my favorite items, I also get a few baby clams in the shell, and some enokii mushrooms. The clams are apparently alive--they're closed when I dump 'em into the pot, but pop open in just a minute.

Now I go get a sampling of some of the non-hot-pot items in the buffet:
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What we've got here: a sampling of different little dim sum-type items--shumai, har gow, crystal dumplings filled with bean paste, sticky rice in lotus leaf wrap; a nice big juicy chunk of roast duck; some humongous yet surprisingly tender fried squid rings; battered fried frog's legs; a couple each of shrimp and crawfish; a very interesting-looking bright-green salad that I thought would be seaweed and turned out to be rice vermicelli; and a few edamame. There were a huge number of foods I passed on, including several stir-fried and stewed dishes, a whole bunch of shellfish, slices of fried fish, and a few concessions to the more American-identified eaters (i.e. the inevitable steamship round of beef, etc.)

I take one more brief fling at the hot-pot items, then reluctantly declare myself full, but not before I get a little dessert:
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I'm no expert on either egg tarts or moon cakes, but these both taste very fresh, with nice flaky pastry, and not-overly-sweet fillings.

All around me, other dining parties are also happily going to town on the food. Some people are also doing the hot pot thing, some are sticking to the regular buffet (the hot-pot option costs $2 more and includes access to the regular buffet items). Some people get a smattering of everything, others focus on one or two favorites, fetching back whole platefuls of just king crab legs or just crawfish, for instance. There's a mix of Asians and non-Asians of various nationalities--on previous evenings, I've seen huge parties of a few dozen obviously out for a family celebration complete with balloons and cameras flashing madly, and overheard snatches of conversation in a variety of languages. Like I said, this place isn't haute, but it's definitely a party.

And my whole bill, including a couple of big glasses of Pepsi (cola is my secret weapon for preparing the tummy for the buffet onslaught) comes to a mere $16 and change, including tax but before tip. (I tip this waiter big, by the way--he's a real sweetheart).

This was an incredibly cool meal. As I told the waiter as I prepared to depart, "This is fun! I *like* playing with my food!" :biggrin:

Edited by mizducky, 24 January 2006 - 01:59 AM.


#191 mizducky

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 11:29 PM

What a lovely memory!!!  We went to see Julie Harris as Miss D. about 900 years ago...the recipe was for her "Black Cake"---I remember distinctly, because it must have been the recipe which fed the five thousand.

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Geez, my memory is doing all kinds of funky tricks recently, innit? I think I must have recalled the raisins and molasses, glommed it onto a general image of New England, and stored the whole memory under "brown bread" rather than "black cake." Kudos to you for trying out the recipe--boy, does it ever sound old-school New England-y! :smile:

#192 Rebecca263

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 11:57 PM

MizDucky, hotpot! It COULD become a soup, heehee. I hope that your tummy is fine, and I really enjoyed following you around all week. Thank you for being such a sunny spot here on eGullet, not just this week, but all of the time!
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#193 Zucchini Mama

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 12:14 AM

Oh gosh that buffet looks like fun. I don't think we have any restaurants here that serve dim sum at night. Those crab legs are beautiful colors. If I visited San Diego, I would go there in lieu of the zoo. That place looks like an eGullet party waiting to happen!

Thanks for a great blog Miz Ducky. I wish many blessings on your life in your new abode.

Gung hay fat choy, eh!

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#194 mizducky

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 01:03 AM

. . . Well, it's about time to close . . . I hope you've had as much fun as we have. Don't forget the jam session Sunday . . . MANDY TENSION will be by, playing his xylophone troupe. It's really been a lot of fun. Monday night is the dance contest night: THE TWIST CONTEST . . . we're gonna give away peanut butter & jelly & baloney samwiches for all of ya. IT REALLY HAS BEEN FUN. I hope we've played your requests . . . the songs you like to hear . . . LAST CALL FOR ALCOHOL! Drink it up, folks. Wonnerful.
--Frank Zappa, "America Drinks and Goes Home," Absolutely Free, 1967


Well, folks, as you recall, our Master of Ceremonies SobaAddict70 said this thread will stay open until 12 noon EST tomorrow ... but since that's 9am around here, and I'll actually be not asleep but scrambling out the door for an early (for me) appointment at that time, I'll say my formal blog farewell now.

Once again, let me tell you how much your positive feedback throughout this blog has meant to me. As a writer, I often get little or no immediate feedback on my work--all too often I see a story simply languish on some editor's desk, or if it does get published in some obscure literary magazine, it gets read by maybe three people before it sinks below the waves never to be heard from again. That's one of the many reasons I originally turned to spoken word events--at least I get *some* kind of immediate feedback. But doing this blog for you all, in many ways, blows even the spoken-word experience right out of the water. Not only can I share with you stuff that I happen to be passionate about, but I can do so in picture as well as story--and best of all, it's interactive. We can have a dialog, we can teach each other, we can make each other laugh, we can inspire each other to greater creativity ... or at least to greater waistlines. :wink:

So, I thank you all for being such an appreciative audience for my whimsical wanderings, and for your encouragement as I puttered about my life showing you the simple kinds of things that really turn me on. I hope it's been inspiring to you all. I know for a fact that it's been majorly inspiring for me.

I'll probably stick my head back in here a time or two more before I turn in for the night. In the meantime, cheers, y'all--and don't take any wooden wontons. :smile:

Edited by mizducky, 24 January 2006 - 01:04 AM.


#195 Pan

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 01:33 AM

Wooden wontons -- sounds painful!

It's been a pleasure. Enjoy not having to report on all your food tomorrow. :biggrin:

#196 IrishCream

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 03:39 AM

Thank you, for a wonderful blog. I'm just sitting here stunned that I visit SD at least 5 times a year (elderly parents) and I've never eaten at any of these places. A buffet that has King Crab legs? And all that raw shellfish? I am so there. Hodad's, too.

But thank you most for your expansive and welcoming writing style. You made me feel like your guest and it felt good. You're a treasure!
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#197 EllenC

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 08:05 AM

Thank you for the blog mizducky. It was every bit as wonderful as I thought it would be.

#198 MarketStEl

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 09:40 AM

No San Diego Trolley shot :raz: , but everything else about the week you've shared with us has been absolutely wonderful.

As my own preferences run towards the spicy, I'd vote for the Szechuan place. But I also get the impression that you, like me, are about value for money, so with that as a criterion--and the old adage, "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom," as a guide--you should do the buffet.

Thanks for taking us through your food life, Ellen. But I do have one question:

Is that really a church you went to on Sunday? Must be a fabulously wealthy--OK, quite affluent--congregation, judging from that kitchen and the art-gallery-like appearance of the church social hall.
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#199 Pam R

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 09:49 AM

Mizducky! Your vote yesterday certainly turned out well (lucky you) ... what an amazing buffet. I haven't been to your neck of the woods in over 15 years, but should I return a visit to a hot-pot buffet will be on the list of must-dos. What a fantastic idea.

I really enjoyed your blog - thanks so much for sharing with us. Please do it again! :smile:

#200 Megan Blocker

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 11:03 AM

Thanks for the fabulous blog, Ellen - good luck in your new place! :smile:
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