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Everything posted by Lexica

  1. I like good buffets for the variety, as Gifted Gourmet mentions. I'm not a very big eater, and with a buffet I can taste as many things as I want and still avoid wasting food. (On a first pass through the buffet line, my plate tends to wind up with about a tablespoon of each item - just enough to sample.) We used to pass through Reno a couple of times a year and always considered the buffets one of the better parts of the trip. A little research ahead of time is a good idea, of course. Closer to home, we rarely go to any of the local buffet restaurants. Quality matters, and Hometown Buffet and the like don't appeal to me. There are a number of acceptably good Indian restaurants with lunch buffets that we go to, though, plus the Coriya Hot Pot City in the Pacific East Mall in Richmond. I'm sure Coriya would have an extra strike against it for some folks - not only is it a buffet, so you have to get your own food, but you even have to cook it yourself!
  2. I love Acme's pain au levain - it toasts up so nicely. Most often, we buy our bread at Arizmendi (city bread, baguettes or baguette pieces, wolverines, chocolate things, cheese rolls... mmmm). As a fallback for when Arizmendi's not open, there are also the baguettes at most of the Asian groceries lining International Blvd. between the lake and about 14th Ave, but they're a bit fluffier than I really like. Excellent for banh mi, of course, but for eating as is I like a bread that gives my teeth a bit more to do.
  3. If it's just the two of us, F2F. If we're at a nice restaurant, we like being able to look at each other; if we're at the taqueria or our favorite pho place, sitting across from each other means we can each have a book on the table. If we're out with friends, himself and I sit next to each other so we can look at the friends. At home, space limitations force us into either a 90-degree arrangement (kitchen table) or side by side (on the sofa, watching a DVD while eating).
  4. In Oakland, Huynh is very good (as mentioned above). I love their house special chicken dish, which unfortunately goes by the fairly non-descriptive name "Ga Saigon". It has what I'm guessing is a caramel-based sauce, and is served on top of fresh spinach (which wilts from the heat) with a small dish of thin sauce that seems to be lemon juice, black pepper, and sugar. Plus a generous serving of steamed rice. So, so good. I'd love to go there with someone who really knows Vietnamese food so they could try it and tell me what to look for in a recipe if I want to try to recreate it. And since mom&pop is one of the categories, I also want to recommend Anh Dao on East 18th between Lake Merritt and Park Blvd. (roughly opposite the Merritt Bakery and the under-construction Albertson's store). The pho is excellent, in my opinion - good depth of flavor and not too greasy, unlike some other local pho restaurants. Anh Dao also has better hours than most of the other pho joints in the area. Many of them seem to close at 6:00 PM, which makes dinner impossible. Anh Dao is open until 9 or 10, I think. I don't recommend adding meatballs to the pho, as I dislike their texture -- it makes me think of a slightly crunchy superball. My husband would disagree, though, so mileage varies.
  5. It seems to be one of those untranslateable/indefinable words. This is from a post on Shiokadelicious! in which Renee gives a sort of tour of kueh for the readers: Like "dim sum", the concept of "kueh" seems to cover a lot. I'd love to have an illustrated pocket dim sum or kueh guide, but since I don't I usually just point and say "Um... that one, please?"
  6. The Berkeley Bowl had bergamots when I stopped by this afternoon. Now I have 2 sitting in the kitchen and am trying to decide how to use them. At the moment the Eighteenth Century cocktail is in the lead. They also had Meyer lemons, which will likely wind up in a lemon drop, I think. I wonder how they'd be in a Sidecar?
  7. Lexica


    They may have been better 30 years ago, but the current version is still far and away better than any of the other frozen "treats" commonly available in the freezer cases around here. If it's a choice between a not-as-good-as-it-used-to-be It's-It and a can't-believe-it-was-ever-good Good Humor product, I'll take the It's-It.
  8. Rice vinegar tastes a bit more delicate than white or white wine vinegar - the bottle says 4.1% acidity. I was a fluffy liberal arts major, tho', so I don't know what the actual pH is.
  9. Lexica

    Making Pizza at Home

    I read somewhere* that rolling out a pizza crust compresses the dough in a way that stretching doesn't. Also that stretching allows the crust to develop a "skin", which is important for the texture. *One down side to being a voracious reader is that I frequently forget where I read something. <sigh>
  10. Try the Melitta tea filters. I used to keep a box of the filters and a tin of yerba mate in my desk drawer at work, and was perfectly satisfied with how it turned out. And they're so much more convenient than a tea-ball...
  11. Coca-Cola will dissolve years of accumulated seasoning/gunk/light rust off cast iron pans. I know this first-hand, as I've used it to do so myself. (Line an appropriately-sized trash can with something waterproof, put your gunky cast iron pans into it and pour in enough Coke to submerge completely. Wait overnight, and when you pull the pans out they won't require more than a good swipe with a paper towel to get down to clean metal. Proceed to re-season according to your preferred method.) I figure that there's only so much sugar I should be consuming over the course of a day, and I'd much rather get it in a form other than sweetened fizzy flavored water. Plus I think that as time goes by we're going to learn that high-fructose corn syrup really is bad for health (at least in the quantities it's consumed in the US), as well as not tasting very good.
  12. When I was a kid, we always made extra popcorn which would be set aside without butter or salt. In the morning, a bowlful of cold plain popcorn with milk over the top made a nice alternative to cereal. I liked the contrast of how crunchy the popcorn was while dry with the way it seemed to melt away when the milk touched it. Never tried dunking it, though...
  13. Lexica

    Smoked Turkey Legs

    We found one Thanksgiving that turkey skin makes an excellent faux-bacon. We had brined and roasted a bird, and before roasting I had carefully made sure to separate the skin from the meat everywhere I could without tearing it. Most of the people we were feeding that day were fat-and-skin-averse, so I removed the nice large piece of roast skin from over the breast and set it aside before carving. When we were cleaning up after everyone had left, my husband broke off a bit of skin and started munching on it. "I saw you prepare this, so I know there's no bacon in it, but.... wow!" he said.
  14. Mm, Chez Panisse is a bit of a walk from the BART station (I used to do so regularly, as my acupuncturist is two blocks farther up Shattuck). It can be a pleasant walk, depending on the weather, but still a walk. However, as far as I know there are taxis waiting outside the Berkeley BART station all day and all night - certainly during the hours that BART runs.
  15. The SF Chronicle printed a recipe last January for pan-roasted salt & pepper crab with garlic noodles that my husband and I really liked. It was the first time either of us had ever dispatched a live crab, and the experience was, um... interesting. Worth the excitement, though.
  16. My grandfather used to look around the (silent) dinner table and say, "It must be good - nobody's talking!"
  17. I realize the "every room is different" problem applies here, but are there any rules of thumb for how long a bottle should spend in the fridge to cool down? It would be great to know that if the air temperature is 70F, it'll take X minutes to come down to a good temperature for drinking, but if the air temperature is 80F, it'll take Y minutes.
  18. If you go to East Bay Restaurant Supply, know what you want before you go. I took a mostly-non-cooking friend there to help get him set up with a few basics. As we were looking at knives, one of the EBRS employees asked if he could help us. "Yes, thanks," I said, "I'm helping my friend get his kitchen set up, and we need to get some knives. I'm thinking that a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife will get us started. What would you recommend?" The only knives he seemed interested in showing us were the ones in the $450 6-knife set that included a knife block. I understand upselling, and I don't really mind it if it's within reason. In this case, though, it was so far out of range of what I'd asked for that it seemed clear he wasn't actually listening to what we were saying. "Thanks anyway," we said, then waited for him to walk away before we turned back to the knives and decided which 3 to get. On the other hand, the stuffed polar bear near the cash registers is worth seeing. Wow, that's a big animal...
  19. Gee, a topic dangerously close to religion, or maybe politics. Starbucks bad, in my book, if for no other reason than the predatory way they place new locations. If they really were going into neighborhoods without decent coffee options, it'd be fine. In my experience, though, what they do is set up a new shop across the street, or half a block away from an existing independent coffee shop. Here in Oakland, they opened one on Lakeshore Ave kitty-corner across the street from the Jahva House (independent, coffee + live music kind of place). The Jahva House wound up moving downtown, and it's unlikely that Lakeshore will get another independent coffee place. Who'd be that reckless, given the existing Starbucks? They also opened one directly across the street from Gaylord's on Piedmont Ave, less than a block from Peet's and two independent diner/doughnut/coffee shops. Piedmont Ave is long enough and gets enough foot traffic, they could have chosen a different site and still have counted on enough business to make a profit. (In fact, they could even have benefited the neighborhood by helping to draw more people to a currently not-busy-enough section of the street.) Grr. I haven't given Starbucks my money in at least 5 years, and I intend to keep it that way.
  20. Lexica

    Turkey Leftovers

    Enchilada casserole was always our post-Thanksgiving favorite. Sauté diced onions in a little oil until soft, then layer in a casserole dish with corn tortillas, shredded turkey, enchilada sauce, and your cheese or cheeses of choice. Serve with a generous amount of chopped cilantro.
  21. I'm always a bit boggled when I meet someone who proclaims (proudly? it almost seems so) that they don't like vegetables. Okay, I can see not liking certain vegetables. I have my own list of veg to avoid (green bell peppers, brussels sprouts...). But all vegetables? There are so many vegetables that are so very different from each other, how can you dislike them all?
  22. Lexica

    Turkey Brining

    The first time we brined a turkey, something about the combination of ingredients in the brine (I seem to recall spices, molasses, and maple syrup being involved) resulted in the turkey skin coming out almost like a wonderful crispy bacon. It was one of those situations where I had to threaten my husband with a wooden spoon to get him to stop picking at the bird before I could carve it. The only problem we have is that he has an aversion to juicy poultry. Luckily, he prefers white meat and I prefer dark, so I cook it until the dark meat is done and avoid doing anything (other than the brining) that might ordinarily help protect against overcooking the breast. It does make it easier - no concerns about starting it breast-down or on its side and then having to wrestle with turning a hot bird. I'm a little puzzled by this. Does it mean that once you have the proper salinity, you shouldn't add any further salty ingredients? Or is it saying something else?
  23. Lexica

    Roasted Cauliflower

    Undercooking works for me. When I'm planning to use it on a pizza later, I'll pull it out 10 or 15 minutes short of what I'd usually consider "done". The first time I tried it, I didn't do this, and we had blackened bits on top of the pizza. (Still fairly tasty, but not terribly attractive.)
  24. For discrete or newly-developing traumas, cooking is comforting. Yesterday was a day for comfort food, with mac & cheese making up dinner. And as soon as I've caught up with the forums, I'm going to go bake cupcakes. When dealing with long-term or ongoing sadness or difficulties, I cook less. One of the ways I know just how bad my last bout of depression was is how rarely I cooked! The idea of coming home from work and needing to come up with dinner was almost overwhelming. We ate a whole lot of burritos, pho, and take-out Thai food. When I start feeling better, however, cooking helps me improve. Knowing that I'm feeding myself and my husband, and knowing that I can pull things together enough to do so, helps ward off the depressive thought pattern of "I can't do anything right - I can't even feed myself."
  25. A pilaf of some sort served in a hollowed-out pumpkin or squash is tasty and attractive, and it's flexible enough to be adapted to fit whatever else you're serving. [edited to add:] Found a couple of recipes on the Vegetarian Times website. I think I made the quinoa-and-wild-rice-stuffed squash one year - if I'm remembering the right recipe, it was a hit with the omnivores and vegetarians alike. There's also a recipe for delicata squash stuffed with curried wild rice and one for stuffed Thanksgiving pumpkins.
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