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ed davis

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Everything posted by ed davis

  1. Just a couple notes. One thing that I have learned to love as an alternative to beer/sodas/gatorade/etc is selzer. Nowadays, they have flavored selzers available in most groceries. The fizzy bubbles make me feel like it is something special, but there are no calories, no caffeine, no alcohol (OK, so it's not a perfect beverage ). Also, someone asked about cooking wine. I think what the questioner was referring to are those abominations of heavily salted wine that are labeled "cooking wine." I suspect the stuff was first made during prohibition, so that chefs and foodies could still cook with wine, but wine so salty and nasty nobody would want to drink it. Chinese cooking wine does not have all that salt etc added. It's just that it is wine used primarily for cooking and not for drinking. Anyway, I'm enjoying the blog. Except that the dinner at Ba Ren sounds so scrumptious, and I wasn't there to help you folks eat
  2. Hey Ellen - good to read your blogging. What type of bun was that at Saigon? Kirk has gotten me eating bun bo hue, which is spicy with sliced beef, pig foot (sometimes) and blood (which I ask them to omit). But I've also had bun that was thin vermicelli with no soup topped with veggie stuff and wonderful things like grilled pork. One then dumps like standard Vietnamese dipping sauce (water, fish sauce, sugar, chilies, lime juice) over everything. But yours looks more like bun bo hue, but with other ingredients. Also it is interesting to read about "choi sum." My local Cantonese place uses that term for all of the various leafy chois, like yu choi or on choi. But they distinguish between choi sum, gai lan, and bok choi. Go figure. ed
  3. ed davis

    Oregon Pinot Noir

    Recently, I was able to taste several different Oregon pinots at friend's dinner party. The A to Z was one of those tasted (I believe the '03, but I wasn't taking notes). While good, it was far from the most impressive. I have had many Oregon pinots over the years that I thought were better. I did want to point out that Oregon is a large state. While many good Oregon pinots are labelled "Willamette Valley," often the best ones are from Yamhill County. Pinots from Umpqua County and Lane Country do not seem as good in my humble opinion. A wine simply labelled Oregon could contain juice from a wide range of areas in the state. So in addition to paying attention to vintage years, a careful buyer should also check out vineyard locations as well.
  4. A few interesting names I've run across: There is a Pho King in Seaside CA also An old time (dating from the 20s) Chinese place in Portland OR is/was called Hung Far Low In San Diego there used to be a small Chinese place that was either Mr Sho's or Mrs Ho's - one was never sure by the sign which was correct. In Monterey CA there used to be an excellent place called Beau Thai.
  5. You (and Kirk) are no doubt right. I've been with him to Pearl and it is outstanding. But Pearl is way the heck out of the way and I am pretty sure that Emerald is still better than Jasmine and much better than anything Kai can get in Frankfort. I also don't believe Kirk has been back to Emerald recently, so it is possible that Emerald has worked out the post-fire kinks. After all, it and Pearl share ownership. I didn't notice anything awry on my one visit to Emerald since the fire though I am not as demanding as Kirk when it comes to dim sum. But mostly I was trying to steer Kai in the general direction of excellent Asian food. A visitor could spend a couple of weeks in San Diego eating on or about Convoy every day and still not try all the interesting places thereabouts. ed
  6. It's nice to have more information about you. That makes it easier to give you good advice. Kalypso is in my mind most knowledgeable about San Diego restaurants in general, but you seem interested in Asian food, I thought I would add a couple more good options and discuss a couple that I have already mentioned for Asian choices there. Convoy Street is the center of a large Asian restaurant area north of central San Diego. It runs north/south in the triangle north of where Hwy 805 and 163 cross over each other. Thus it is easy to access via the freeway net. Balboa exits will take you to the middle of the street; Claremont Mesa which also has exits is the east west cross street at the north end of the Convoy Street area. On Convoy itself is a fine stylish Hong Kong style restaurant called China Max. The food, atmosphere and service are all good. Jasmine is a huge Cantonese style place that is not my favorite, but still good. Emerald, harder to find at the southern end of Convoy is better in my opinion and I have had good dim sum there as well. Convoy also has two excellent Vietnamese places. Phoung Trang is perhaps San Diego's finest all around Vietnamese place. Not much atmosphere, but great prices and a large selection of Vietnames dishes. Convoy Noodle House focuses more on noodle soups, but a good bowl of pho makes a wonderful quick lunch. There are numerous other good Asian restaurants along Convoy as well. But I wanted also to mention two that are not on the street, but are in the area. Buga Korean is at the Claremont Mesa exit off of the 805. It has a wide range of Korean barbecued meat choices (some excellent beef is served there) all accompanied by many side dishes of pickles and prepared vegetables. I don't know whether you have ever had kimchee, but imagine really spicy sauerkraut made with large pieces of Chinese cabbage. Yum! A little further west (on Diane just to the north of Claremont Mesa) is Ba Ren. This is not a stylish restaurant, but it serves some very authentic Szechuan style food. The owners and chef are from Szechuan, so expect many different kinds of spicy dishes lit up with the taste of chilies and the tingly Szechuan peppercorns. Also of interest there are the cold appetizers, including such items as sliced pig's ear and husband and wife (two kinds of beef with chilies and Szechuan peppercorns). If you like Thai food, most folks in town think that Celadon in the Hillcrest district serves the best in town and I have had many good meals there. Hope this is some help. Have a great vacation. ed
  7. Again, depending on what you like, Kai (Wo in Deutschland wohnen sie?), you have tons of wonderful choices. But throughout California there is wonderful Asian food. In San Diego, for example, you can get truly authentic and unbelievable Szechuan Chinese at Ba Ren, great Korean at Buga, outstanding Japanese and sushi at Sakura or Sushi Ota. And it is hard to beat a steaming bowl of pho or a banh mi sandwich from a Vietnamese place. Of course, San Francisco and LA have thousands of fine Asian places as well. I'm not sure if comparable restaurants exist in Germany - I know they didn't 40 years ago when I was there. If you have more questions, just post. ed
  8. Hi to all. Thanks for starting this post, Ellen! Great thread. Now that I no longer live in SD, I am real dependent on postings like these. But I did want to toss my few cents worth in. Pho Pasteur is interesting. I need to try it again. Did you notice the dishes using game? I believe they serve alligator and venison (?). I didn't think the pho was as good as some other spots, but there is something about the seedy ambiance that I like. I tried Arirang years ago and did not like - but they have had grand opening signs up for the last year or so and maybe they have new owners. But there is so much good Korean food around, that I am not too tempted to use up a precious SD meal on a buffet. Do Re Mi used to be a good cheaper alternative to other Korean spots, but again, it's been years since I've been there. Somebody also needs to mention Ba Ren on Diane off of Claremont Mesa. Nothing fancy, but incredible Sichuan food at great prices. For banh mi, I like a little sandwich place Kim Chan which is, if memory serves, in the back of a strip mall at 47th and El Cajon. Great to see a useful SD thread. ed
  9. As a former local, I pretty much agreed with your previous post - though I am sure that Sam did have a decent meal at Abolonetti's. I also know folks that have had good meals at Domenico's. But I also know folks who felt ripped off - overcharged and poorly served - at both spots. And one of the worst experiences I've ever had on the peninsula was at Blue Moon which is/was a Pisto restaurant on Cannery Row (yeh, I shudda known better).
  10. This is my response to a previous query about Monterey that I have added to and edited slightly for your question: As a former local (I lived in the area for 12 years) and still a regular visitor, the following are my current favorite places in Monterey and Pacific Grove. I should add that I am a Professor at a community college, so budget is always at least a partial consideration: Passionfish - not super fancy, but imaginative preparations of sustainable seafoods and a wonderful, reasonably priced wine list. Great value. Make a reservation. Taste Bistro - interesting food, good prices, varied menu, not touristy at all. Red House - usually packed; much like Taste, but located in an old red house in downtown PG. A bit fancier is Robert's White House, the latest restaurant by Robert Kincaid who founded Fresh Cream and was its chef in its glory days. Very nice atmosphere in an old Victorian in PG. Massaro & Santos - the food here is not great, but is typical old style Monterey cuisine. This is my favoriste "view" restaurant, located on the coast guard pier between Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row. I prefer it to any of the places on Fisherman's Wharf or Cannery Row. But since it is between these two spots, without much foot traffic, it is primarily a locals place. And the clam chowder is the best anywhere. And I have eaten chowders all over the West Coast. For truly fine dining, all my friends say that Bouchee in Carmel is now one of the area's best venues for a truly gourmet meal. It is on my list for my next visit. Sea Harvest - Simple fresh fish preps at good prices. Asian is not a strong point in Monterey; in particular, there is no real good Chinese. On the other hand, India's Clay Oven is decent and I like Krua Thai and Barn Thai, while Pho King has reasonably good pho. Mexican is more prevelant. There are a lot of standard Mexican places. Zocalo (sp?) is probably the best; Peppers in PG has sortof Cal/Mex dishes, but often good seafood preps. My favorite superauthentic spot is Garcia's Taqueria, which is between a Domino's and the Latino Market on Broadway in Seaside. But it is mostly for take-out and has no pleasant atmosphere. But if you ever wanted to try cabeza or buches or lengua in tomatillo sauce . . . If you will be in town for the Farmer's Markets (Thursday at MPCC and Tuesday (I think) downtown) they are amazing for the range of produce. As a chef, you would enjoy, and the downtown one is also quite a party atmosphere with prepared foods to eat etc. Much better than a trip to Earthbound Farms. Be sure to drive down to Point Lobos (3 miles south of Carmel) for some walking and wonderful scenery. Congrats on the Garretson gig. Paso is a very interesting place that is producing some wonderful wines. Good eating! ed
  11. In Arizona, you can bring wine (or beer even) to an eating establishment that has no liquor license as long as the establishment lets you. So we often seek out new places without licenses or hole in the walls (or taco trucks) as party places. I even have stemware that I keep in its original cardboard packaging to facilitate swooping down on some of my favorite spots with wine. And in fact, my friends and I have had several feasts at my favorite local hole-in-the-wall Cantonese eatery. However, once a restaurant gets a liquor license, it is against the law to bring in your own beer or wine. Thus, there are some places that we used to patronize because even if the food wasn't great we could make up for it with decent wine. But now those same places are serving some lousy wine, so we no longer feel a reason to go there. Anyway, though we have figured out how to make the law work for us, it is still pretty damn stupid.
  12. At first, the title of this thread had me scared. Paso is one of my favorite spots, and as an occasional visitor with no financial interest in the place, I hope that it does not get too napafied in the near future. I can still remember 20 years ago when Paso was a pretty simple cowtown with no restaurants of note and fewer wineries with tasting rooms than I have fingers. Now Paso is (imho) just right. A person can stay there for 4 or 5 days, have a different good meal each evening, taste at different wineries each day, and still find a cheap motel for maybe $30 a night. And still feel like there is more to see. It is also amazing to see how the variety and especially the quality of the local wines have improved. But as I said earlier, I worry that once vast quantities of folks find out about the area, the prices of everything will go up, there will be lines at the wineries, and Hwy 46 will look like a two lane version of the 405 in LA at rush hour. Thank God they filmed “Sideways” elsewhere.
  13. ed davis

    Bottle Blarney

    Another type of bottle blarney is the constant creation of new "brands" by the same old wineries. Gallo, in particular, constantly changes their brands in order (in my opinion) to keep selling overpriced swill to suckers. Remember Gossamer Bay. Well after most casual wine consumers discovered that this was noxious crap, the brand disappears. Now we have Redwood Creek and Frei Brothers. And when consumers discover that those brands are plonk, Gallo will come out with two or three new ones. Each of the brands takes off with ubiquitous advertising and then disappears into limbo. The purpose of brands originally was to allow consumers to recognize the products they liked so that they could purchase them again. Thus we have all kinds of laws that protect the sanctity of brand names. Now, however, it seems that some companies use brands to fool consumers; they use them as a way to disguise product that consumers already know they don't like.
  14. As a former local (I lived in the area for 12 years) and still a regular visitor, the following are my current favorite places in Monterey and Pacific Grove. I should add that I am a Professor at a community college, so budget is always at least a partial consideration: Passionfish - not super fancy, but imaginative preparations of sustainable seafoods and a wonderful, reasonably priced wine list. Great value. Make a reservation. Taste Bistro - interesting food, good prices, varied menu, not touristy at all. Red House - usually packed; much like Taste, but located in an old red house in downtown PG. A bit fancier is Robert's White House, the latest restaurant by Robert Kincaid who founded Fresh Cream and was its chef in its glory days. Very nice atmosphere in an old Victorian in PG. Massaro & Santos - the food here is not great, but is typical old style Monterey cuisine. This is my favoriste "view" restaurant, located on the coast guard pier between Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row. But since it is between these two spots, it is primarily a locals place. And the clam chowder is the best anywhere. And I have eaten chowders all over the West Coast. For a good, but not gourmet, southern European style meal, I really enjoyed a dinner last visit at Norma Jean's, a small place located on Fremont in North Monterey. Again, definitely not a tourist spot. For truly fine dining, all my friends say that Bouchee in Carmel is now one of the area's best venues for a truly gourmet meal. It is on my list for my next visit. Sea Harvest - Simple fresh fish preps at good prices. Good eating! ed
  15. The first part of this post will simply describe the game and its rules. For those who are interested, the rest of the post will explain how I developed the game and my response to it. The game is to remember your first, earliest unique food taste memory. But 1. This has to be a single experience memory, not some taste that you had over and over in your childhood. 2. This has to be a memory about taste, not about experiences. You may still remember spilling a plate of sweet and sour chicken all over your nicest dress when you were 8 years old, but that is not relevant - unless you remember the specific taste of that plate of chicken. Memory is a strange and elusive thing, particularly when you get to be over 40. Although I have been accused by some friends of remembering every meal I have ever eaten, of course I have forgotten myriad meals. A few years ago, I began thinking about all the wonderful things I ate as a child – from the first cherries of the early summer that I would climb the tree to snag and devour to all those favorite meals of my childhood (roast duck at the Chinese restaurant, my grandmother’s hand cut spaetzle with lentils, breaded veal slices in my mother’s wonderful mushroom and wine sauce, etc.) I can even remember virtually the entire menu of the best restaurant in the small town in which I grew up: veal sweetbreads, veal scallopini, double cut lamb chops, breast of capon, New York steak, prime rib (only Friday and Saturday evenings), and lobster both Thermidor and Newburg. But remembering meals that I had eaten over and over was easy. I then began to try to focus on what was the earliest specific, unique food taste memory that I have. In other words, what is the earliest single taste experience in my life that I can remember? That was much harder than remembering tastes that I had experienced over and over. At first I thought about a duck breast in cherry sauce that I had at a lunch prepared at a cooking school in Columbus, Ohio around 1977. But I was already an adult by then. I also remembered a tournedos of beef in a dark sauce that I ate at a special meal in Eugene, OR around 1969 or 70. Better, but still not a childhood memory. After thinking about this for a while (months, if not years), I finally have discovered what I think are the earliest specific taste memories – the only unique taste memories from my childhood. Probably the earliest (perhaps) was the time when I was about 8 (or younger?) and was with my parents at an Italian restaurant. We were sharing antipasti. Along with the salami, the cheeses, the pickled veggies, breadsticks etc, there were these dark green shriveled looking pods about 1-2” long that my mom and dad were sticking whole into their mouths. “What are those?” “Oh, try one, Eddie,” so at that moment I picked up an Italian peppercini by its stem, stuck it into my mouth and started chewing. For an instant my nose and mouth detected the sour flavor, but then suddenly all I could sense was hot green FIRE. I had never eaten anything remotely that spicy in my life. I’m not sure exactly what happened after that: maybe tears streamed out of my eyes, maybe I screeched or coughed, maybe I even spit the damn thing out. I do remember that my parents thought it was very funny and laughed like hell. It is amazing that I ever ate anything weird or spicy again. My other early childhood unique taste memory took place when I was around 10 (1957 or 58) and was with my parents on a family vacation to the Oregon coast. My parents had heard about this fancy resort restaurant and wanted to try it. All I remember was that the restaurant was up on an ocean-side cliff with huge glass windows that showed the Pacific ocean and the surf. And I also remember one thing from the meal that day. My parents ordered caviar – and made a big deal about it, which is probably why I remember it. I can still recall eating the tiny salty gray-black pearls prominently perched on the milky white sour cream spread on the tip of a wedge of what I thought at the time was some weird toast without a crust. It was not an overwhelming or truly amazing taste (which was sort of what I was expecting), but it was subtly fishy and unlike anything I had ever eaten before. And I wanted more of it. Maybe it is this experience that explains why I have continued to seek out weird food and try tastes I’ve never had before. So, once again, what is your earliest single food taste memory?
  16. Let me try to explain my position a bit more. The hot spice flavors are meant to integrate with the other flavors of the dish. The dishes are whole entities, not assemblages of interchangable parts. The chillies (and Sichuan peppercorns) in the cuisine are not there just for heat; they are there for flavor. In some dishes the flavor comes from white pepper, in some from dried chillies, in some from pickled chillies, in some from fresh chilies, in some from Sichuan peppercorns, and in some from various combinations of spices etc. Let me also add that most of the dishes there are not burningly hot. I certainly have eaten Thai food that was much hotter. But I have never eaten Thai food in which the chillies were so much a part of the flavor of the dish. In other words, if you order Chong Qing Hot Pot with little heat, you are not getting Chong Qing Hot Pot. You would be missing essential components of the taste. It would be like a vegetarian ordering lamb stew without the lamb. The people at Ba Ren are very friendly and accommodating. If you go there, I am sure that you and the wife will enjoy. I would only suggest that you just make sure that the dishes you are ordering are not the hottest dishes on the menu. Many items on the menu are not hot at all and even among the dishes marked as spicy, many are no hotter than much Mexican food. Ask for Wendy (she's there every day except Thursday) and when you order explain that you do not want to order dishes that are overwhelmingly hot. I think this is a better approach than to ask them to change the way they prepare the food. good eating, ed
  17. I don't know if they would/could reduce the heat in their hot dishes. Often times, chefs working in particular cuisines will feel that a dish should be made this way, so I usually try not to make special requests. But some of their best dishes - the crispy rice crust dishes, for example - are not hot at all. There are some others that are mildly hot (fish flavored eggplant). If I were there sharing with someone who didn't like hot, I would order the milder dishes rather than trying to get the kitchen to change how a particular dish is flavored. Plus, I would hate for them to think that non-Chinese customers can't stand the heat. That leads to the "Oh, you no like this" syndrome, which fortunately Ba Ren does not engage in. We need to make sure that they don't start dumbing down the cuisine for those of us who do not speak Mandarin.
  18. Ba Ren is an awesome restaurant, and a lot of us have to thank Kirk and his missus for finding it and trying it in the first place. What amazes me is the range of great dishes there. You have to try the 3 treasures rice crisp. Just incredible tastes and textures and usually a nice milder contrast to the spicier dishes. And Tong-Nan Tai-An fish fillet which is actually several fish fillets served in a spicy sauce full of bright scarlet chilies. Chong Qing Hot Pot which is crammed with meats and veggies with tons of chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. Or frog legs with pickled peppers, or braised fish flavored eggplant casserole, or dry cooked lamb, or boiled fish fillet in hot sauce . . . the range of dishes that I have had there that have been tasty and memorable is wonderful. In addition to the appetizers already mentioned, the pig's ear, and the seaweed (I've actually had two different seaweed apps) are also good. Ummm pig's ear. OK, enough salivating before lunch. If you are in San Diego or even near San Diego, this place with not just worth trying but worth eating at again and again.
  19. Thanks for the notes - unreliable as you think they might be. I recently shared a bottle of the Maculun Pino & Toi (probably the 04, but I wasn't paying close attention) and we were all very impressed. As someone who is a bit tired (OK, very tired) of chardonnay, it is always nice to find a good, affordable white.
  20. I agree with Kalypso that Sakura may be what you are looking for. The street address is 3904 Convoy. There is no exterior signage. Both sushi and cooked dishes can be quite excellent. His uni is always very good and fresh. While most patrons speak Japanese, both Kazu and his waitstaff know English. It is a small place and can get very busy. I usually try to show up around 6:30, so I can talk with Kazu and find out what is interesting and unusual.
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