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mizducky

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

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The belly is now resting (and pining for the fjords? Sorry, couldn't resist--a misspent youth watching way too much Monty Python). Soon will come plating, and devouring! :smile:

Just think: you could have eaten crispy-fried Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam instead. :wink:


Joie Alvaro Kent

"I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

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Oh yeah--I have a few pictures from my supermarket run this afternoon that I thought would be fun to share.

After striking out at my first two markets, I wound up at the local Albertson's:

gallery_28661_3_497762.jpg

This place has got one of the more haphazard layouts I have ever seen in a supermarket. It's as if they're trying for marketing cool, but in a rather odd and semi-amateurish way:

gallery_28661_3_168179.jpg

Nothing says Superbowl party like a humongous wall of Pepsi :rolleyes: :

gallery_28661_3_107213.jpg

Just what the world needs: a bunch of pre-cut stewing vegetables all glommed together in their own vacuum-sealed bag:

gallery_28661_3_351508.jpg

I am so not ready to be hit over the head with huge displays of cheap Valentine's Day candy:

gallery_28661_3_198406.jpg

But this store does have some very redeeming features, like significant amounts of ethnic food products:

gallery_28661_3_40542.jpg

Hey torakris, are you following along? Look--Pocky! :smile:

gallery_28661_3_23291.jpg

Anyway, enough fun and games--I hear a piggy belly calling my name ... back in a flash ...

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Carving...

gallery_28661_3_372404.jpg

Plating...

gallery_28661_3_280836.jpg

Tasting: the rub really did its work--the pork doesn't really need a dipping sauce after all (which is a good thing, because I kinda ran out of steam on making one). However, I still need some work on the skin bit--it's crunchy alright, but it's also a bit too hard. Ah well, if I hadn't had a brain fart about slashing the skin... But like I said, it's a learning experience, and it still tastes terrific. And the chopped salad came out nice too. In fact, I think it's time for seconds... :smile:

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Good Morning! I couldn't wait to get up and sign on to see the outcome of your dinner last night. We definitely have to try this at home.

I have never seen anything labeled pork belly in a supermarket or butcher shop. I've used, in cooking other dishes, "side meat" (pork) my whole life. The pieces come in packages and weigh about a half to three quarters of a pound. Would a big one of these be belly? I'm thinking of going to a butcher and asking for it.

I hope you're sleeping well and having sweet dreams, even as we --on the right coast -- speak!


Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Good morning, all!

Well, it looks like my bod has voted to sleep in again this morning. So, an easy start to the day, and a chance to catch up on a couple of previous comments:

The belly is now resting (and pining for the fjords? Sorry, couldn't resist--a misspent youth watching way too much Monty Python). Soon will come plating, and devouring! :smile:

Just think: you could have eaten crispy-fried Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam instead. :wink:

Heh. If I really needed to get some fried chopped re-formed pork product, I could always avail myself of this local establishment: Da Kine's Plate Lunch. I haven't had a chance to hit this place yet--again, they're in the middle of the busiest stretch of Pacific Beach, which I usually try to avoid. mmm-yoso, as an expatriate of Hawaii, finds them a little uneven, but I still want to check them out some day. And I'd probably get a side of the spam musubi, if they have it, just for grins.

Good Morning!  I couldn't wait to get up and sign on to see the outcome of your dinner last night.  We definitely have to try this at home.

I have never seen anything labeled pork belly in a supermarket or butcher shop.  I've used, in cooking other dishes, "side meat" (pork) my whole life.  The pieces come in packages and weigh about a half to three quarters of a pound.  Would a big one of these be belly?  I'm thinking of going to a butcher and asking for it.

Hi Susan! By all means, give this a shot at home. But bear in mind that I obviously haven't gotten my method perfected on this one yet. I mean, I enjoyed it fine, but frankly if I had been serving that belly for guests, I'm afraid I would have had to carve the skin off first, as it really was still a bit too hard and chewy to serve as-is in good conscience. 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.

As to what the cut of meat is called: yep, it is also known as "side meat" among many American butchers. That's in fact what the butchers at Iowa Meat Farms called it when I asked for pork belly. Dunno about the small pieces you've been seeing it sold as--they would probably work fine for roasting, though the increased surface area might mean even more shrinkage than I witnessed, so if you could get a bigger chunk I think that would be better. This is also the cut of meat that is used to make American-style bacon. Are there any Asian markets at all near you? I don't recall seeing any on my brief visits to Daytona, but then I wasn't deliberately looking for them at the time.

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Ah ha! The belly!

I have hazy memories of my mother using a little flour along with the salt on the scored skin to "crackle" it. I have much clearer memories of the resulting product! :biggrin:

It looks good...I was surprised to find it skin-on though, can you buy it that way in supermarkets, or is the skin just another reason to shop at Iowa Meats?


Edited by helenjp (log)

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Ah ha! The belly!

I have hazy memories of my mother using a little flour along with the salt on the scored skin to "crackle" it. I have much clearer memories of the resulting product! :biggrin:

It looks good...I was surprised to find it skin-on though, can you buy it that way in supermarkets, or is the skin just another reason to shop at Iowa Meats?

Thank you!

Myself, I have yet to see uncured pork belly by any name in any mainstream American supermarket around here--but then, said mainstream supermarkets don't actually have proper butcher departments anymore. All their meat comes in pre-packaged from a central commissary or something, and you hardly see any cuts other than super-standard chops, roasts, etc. :angry: When I've seen pork belly in big Asian supermarkets like the 99 Ranch chain, it's been in a variety of forms, skin-on and skin-off, as big 2lb-plus uncut pieces and also pre-cut into large (around one-inch) chunks. And like I said, while Iowa Meat Farms did have it, they didn't have it fresh but in their freezer, suggesting that it's not one of their high-priority items. The situation, however, may well be different in other parts of the US, such as Florida where Susan is.

Meanwhile, I'm making note of the flour tip. I also find myself wondering if giving the skin-side a light coating of oil somewhere in there would have helped. I'd also seen a two-step process in which, instead of just pouring boiling water over the skin, you start out by giving the whole piece a short par-boiling before applying the various saltings/rubs/etc. Oh dear. I suppose I will be forced--forced, mind you--to buy more pork belly to conduct further experiments. :wub::laugh:

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I can tell you are just gonna hate doing those experiments! (and their side effect of heating the apt).

That's a fascinating salad. Was it as good as it looked?


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Hey torakris, are you following along? Look--Pocky! :smile:

gallery_28661_3_23291.jpg

We should make it a new rule that a foodblog isn't complete until you eat Pocky! :biggrin:


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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Up until a few years ago our local markets occasionally carried "fresh side", fresh pork belly sliced like bacon. I love it pan fried until it is starting to crisp.

I've never seen a big chunk like that around here. Will have to check the Mexican market next time I go.

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That's a fascinating salad.  Was it as good as it looked?

Well, I sure think so. :smile: It's even better the next day, too. Pico de gallo is normally served more as a fresh salsa-type garnish with tacos etc., but I simply cut my veggies into bigger cubes and eat it straight as a salad.

I vary the ingredients based on whim and what looks good in the market. I've even added daikon on several occasions with great success--I love radishes, and daikon not only has a really nice mellow radish-flavor but it's much more efficient to chop up than the cute little round red radishes. I've also used a nice flavorful red wine vinegar instead of lime juice when I don't happen to have any limes in the house.

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And like I said, while Iowa Meat Farms did have it, they didn't have it fresh but in their freezer, suggesting that it's not one of their high-priority items.

I suspect it's more an issue of pork belly not being a big seller rather than an issue of priority. To have it fresh might mean having to price it higher in order to cover an loss incurred on unsold fresh product. Ergo, put it in the freezer case, price it reasonably (or at least reasonably for Iowa Meat Farms) and satisfy the small number of customers that actually come in looking for it.

You might talk to them about getting some fresh product. I've talked to them about special orders on occasion and they're actually quite ammenable to them. They don't stock fresh foie gras but they can, and do, get it fresh upon request. Bet they'd be willing to do the same thing with pork belly.

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Up until a few years ago our local markets occasionally carried "fresh side",  fresh pork belly sliced like bacon. I love it pan fried until it is starting to crisp.

I've never seen a big chunk like that around here. Will have to check the Mexican market next time I go.

Could you remind me where you're located, BarbaraY? I'm always fascinated by the cultural geography of various foodstuffs, especially those associated with specific regional and/or ethnic cooking traditions.

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Okay, I'm off to play Church Lady with my alterna-groovy Unitarian friends. I've got my camera with me, so at the very least I'll show you the kitchen set-up in our social hall. And I'm hoping to sneak another cheep eatz hit in there somewhere. Looking forward to fielding more of your comments when I get back...

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Mizducky - If you're looking for Spam Musubi; L&L will do just fine. In addition, perhaps a little closer to you; right down Garnet in the same mall as Great News cooking store(which will keep you occupied for quite a while); and Lotsa Pasta.

Hawaiian Island Barbecue

1768 Garnet Ave

San Diego, CA 92109

http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/2005/0...ian_island.html

In addition, I've had Spam Musubi from Nijiya as well. For a plate lunch I think at this time that Da' Kitchen makes the best - right up the 15, Carroll Canyon Road exit.

Da' Kitchen

9823 Carroll Canyon Rd.

San Diego, CA 92131

Open Mon-Sat 10am - 8pm

http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/2005/1...tchen_fina.html

I'll pass on a funny story about World Sushi; it's right up the street from where we live. I once dropped by and decided to have some Sushi (they do pretty good tempura and stuff). My usual drill with the Itamae is to first order a few nigiri, so I had some Maguro(what I call buffet grade fish), Hamachi(lousy), Hirame(decent), Albacore(lousy). Then asked the Itamae(real quiet Vietnamese Guy) what is good today? He tells me "The California Roll is really good tonight!" WHAT! Was he even paying attention to what I was eating? Since then I've stayed away from the Sushi at this Vietnamese owned Japanese Restaurant. The other Japanese style dishes are pretty good and that's what I stay with.

Nijiya will sometimes have okara, it'll be close to the fish and sushi! It may be hard to come by; but since Nijiya has their own brand of tofu, sometimes they do sell this tofu by-product. Next time I'm there I'll ask if they still carry it.

Kirk

http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/

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There was a bit of a sardonic rant on Unitarian potlucks on CBC radio the other day. The announcer was complaining that all the food had too much cumin in it. I'm not a Unitarian, but I found the piece over the top. I got the impression she was making goofy insults while people were trying to enjoy their meal.

If you can't stand the cumin...stay out of the church kitchen, I say.

I have been to some amazing potlucks in my life, and haven't noticed an overabundance of cumin, myself. What I am noticing more recently is a divisiveness between the vegetarians and the omnivores at potlucks. Oh and the vegans. They usually just eat their own dish. :unsure:

Looking forward to a little Unitarian grub and gossip!

Zuke


"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted."

--Mae West

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[ 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.

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.


Cheers,

Anne

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There was a bit of a sardonic rant on Unitarian potlucks on CBC radio the other day. The announcer was complaining that all the food had too much cumin in it. I'm not a Unitarian, but I found the piece over the top. I got the impression she was making goofy insults while people were trying to enjoy their meal. 

If you can't stand the cumin...stay out of the church kitchen, I say.

I have been to some amazing potlucks in my life, and haven't noticed an overabundance of cumin, myself. What I am noticing more recently is a divisiveness between the vegetarians and the omnivores at potlucks. Oh and the vegans. They usually just eat their own dish. :unsure:

Looking forward to a little Unitarian grub and gossip!

Zuke

It's funny you should bring all that up, Madame Zuke, because I was just reflecting on how, when I first joined the Unitarians, one of my (many) issues to sort out was concerns about their foodways. Yeah, they were refreshingly eclectic and open-minded in their spirituality, but I feared they might still be mired in tired old church-supper cuisine. And, well, some of their congregations do have that problem. But many more put together potlucks and dinners fully as eclectic as their worship services, and the bunch I hang with here in San Diego do seem to know how to cook up a storm when they put their mind to it. My bunch also seems to handle the vegetarian thing pretty gracefully--they just accept it as a given that they will provide veg and non-veg options at all congregational food events, and nobody fusses at anybody else about the matter.

So--I got down there tonight to discover that there were several events going on simultaneously, two of which at least having need of the main kitchen (there is a second kitchen attached to one of the larger Sunday school classrooms--that's where I wound up making felafel a few months ago for a children's world religions class that was in the middle of a unit on Islamic culture). Anyway, in addition to the lecture reception that I was there for, the youth group was having a meeting and dinner, but we all shared the space with good humor:

gallery_28661_3_524.jpg

And the big bad mysterious coffeemaker that everyone was afraid of turned out to be a real pussycat:

gallery_28661_3_349283.jpg

It already has a connection for water, so all you have to do is turn on the heater, plop in the filter and a couple of pre-measured packets of coffee, wait for the "ready to brew" light to switch on, and then flip a switch and voila: coffee!

Meanwhile other folks were getting the refreshment table set up in the social hall adjoining the main kitchen:

gallery_28661_3_211039.jpg

And then there was nothing to do except slip into the meeting house to catch the tail end of the lecture, and then wait for the teeming hordes to descend on the goodies.

Alas, cookies and crudites do not a dinner make, so after it was all over I headed out to grab some real food. Since I was feeling a little overdosed on meat, I decided to go for a meat-free meal, so I headed back to my neighborhood of Clairemont Mesa and one of my favorite vegetarian joints, Sipz Fuzion Cafe:

gallery_28661_3_493329.jpg

Other than its overly cutesy name, I really like this place. The core of their menu is from the venerable Asian Buddhist vegetarian cooking tradition, in which soy products and gluten, along with terrific technique, are used to fashion foods that resemble meat products in both flavor and texture. When done really well, the results are not only fairly convincing, but really tasty. More importantly for a sometimes-frustrated carnivore like me, their foods have a really satisfying mouthfeel, capturing that chewy-yet-tender combo that I really love. The "fuzion" in the cafe's name refers to the fact that their dishes draw from a variety of different Asian cuisines, and also includes vegetarian takes on selected European dishes like lasagna and such.

Their dining room is simple and casual, and tonight full of twenty-somethings along with a couple of families with young kids:

gallery_28661_3_526135.jpg

I order an appetizer of "chicken" drumsticks, and an entree bowl of Thai curry "chicken." The appetizer:

gallery_28661_3_427091.jpg

These are soy protein formed around a wooden stick in a drumstick shape, wrapped in a thin layer of what I think must be yuba (bean curd skin) and then deep fried. They are hot out of the fryer, juicy and flavorful, with a great slightly chewy texture. The dipping sauce has got a lovely balance of sweet/sour/salty/spicy that goes well with the drummettes.

The entree:

gallery_28661_3_177718.jpg

The coconut-milk curry sauce on this stuff is absolutely wonderful, thick and creamy and spicy--I asked for it super-mild and it still has a bit of a kick to it. The sauce is chockful of chunks of very convincely-textured soy "chicken," sliced bamboo shoot, straw mushrooms, bell pepper, baby corn, potatoes, and other assorted veggies. Oh, and as you can see, a big scoop of fluffy rice is plopped right on top. The bowl is huge, but the sauce is so excellent that I wipe up every last bit of it with every last bit of the rice. This entire meal set me back about $14, including tax. Not bad at all for such a huge quantity of food.

And now I'm home and trying to warm up--the heat's been off and the house is like an icebox!


Edited by mizducky (log)

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Hi Mizducky! No matter how busy I am (CNY just round the corner), I simply must read your blog. Yup, enjoying myself tremendously.

Guess what? I've been to your neck of the woods and back (early Dec) and I got a TAN!!! You know, Malaysia is sunny almost every other day of the year and I don't really get a tan. Just 2 weeks in LA and I'm all toasty. You should have blogged before I visited. Now my kids have been deprived of Hoddad's, although they had a good share of Carl's Jr, In-n-Out Burgers, Burger King, and, etc...

:wub: Loved your produce, but good authentic chinese food was really, really hard to find...

p/s...oh, I would've suggested making char siu with your pork belly, coz you can use the leftovers to make a good tasty rice or char siu baos.


Edited by Tepee (log)

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

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Hiya Kirk! Thanks for the great update on the local kine grindz! :biggrin: As well as for this info:

Nijiya will sometimes have okara, it'll be close to the fish and sushi! It may be hard to come by; but since Nijiya has their own brand of tofu, sometimes they do sell this tofu by-product. Next time I'm there I'll ask if they still carry it.

Cool. I would like to play with the stuff, just to see what it's about.

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.

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...

Guess what? I've been to your neck of the woods and back (early Dec) and I got a TAN!!! You know, Malaysia is sunny almost every other day of the year and I don't really get a tan. Just 2 weeks in LA and I'm all toasty. You should have blogged before I visited. Now my kids have been deprived of Hoddad's, although they had a good share of Carl's Jr, In-n-Out Burgers, Burger King, and, etc...

:wub: Loved your produce, but good authentic chinese food was really, really hard to find...

p/s...oh, I would've suggested making char siu with your pork belly, coz you can use the leftovers to make a good tasty rice or char siu baos.

I may be totally off-base here, but I think your tan and our great produce are related. No, really! The connection I'm guessing at here is the fierceness of the sun. I'm not sure why, possibly some combination of a nearby ocean and sorta-nearby rocky desert for sunlight to bounce off of, but the sunshine here is astonishingly fierce--I have to really be achtung about hat, sunglasses and sunscreen at noon on hot sunny days or else I get totally scorched (not to mention close to the edge of heat prostration--YIKES!). And all that abundant sunshine, plus the mild weather year-round, (plus a monumental amount of irrigation, to be sure) allows for Cali's major produce production. Or at least that's how I figure it.

As fast food burgers go, Carl's Jr. and In-n-Out have definitely got it going on. Burger King's alright--I'd definitely take them over McDonald's (ick). Of the big national chains my personal favorite is Jack in the Box (terrific funny TV ads too). But I'd take a Carl's over a JITB any day.

Oh--and char siu, that's another fun cooking project to add to the list. Man, I'm gonna be the Mistress of Pork Belly by the time I'm done. :wub:

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Up until a few years ago our local markets occasionally carried "fresh side",  fresh pork belly sliced like bacon. I love it pan fried until it is starting to crisp.

I've never seen a big chunk like that around here. Will have to check the Mexican market next time I go.

Could you remind me where you're located, BarbaraY? I'm always fascinated by the cultural geography of various foodstuffs, especially those associated with specific regional and/or ethnic cooking traditions.

I'm in the middle of the Mother Lode Gold Country in Central CA. I think the fresh side is more a Mid-western or Southern thing than local.

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Miz Ducky, thank you for a wonderful blog! The pork is (or was) a thing of beauty, and your pictures are most enjoyable. DEEE-licious! :wub:


"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Good morning, everybody! Once again, I totally appreciate everyone's appreciation. :wub: This has been a really fun project for me, not only as a food nut, but also as a writer (not to mention an enthusiastic but still obviously rather amateur photographer).

I've got to get a slug of paying work done today, but I've got one last blast planned for your blog-reading pleasure. I'm going out for a blog-finale dinner this evening, and while originally I had it exactly fixed in my mind where I'd be doing that dinner, I realized this morning that it would be a lot more fun to turn this into another Audience Participation thing and let y'all decide where I'll eat.

So--here are the two main choices I am contemplating:

1) Ba Ren -- you've heard me wax poetic about this place before. Terrific Szechuan food in a modest and friendly setting. I've witnessed lots of discussions both here on eGullet and in "real time" about what the heck "authentic" means with regard to various ethnic restaurants, but without fretting about it too much, I'd say Ba Ren has got to be one of the more authentic purveyors of this style of food that I've had the pleasure of tasting. Also one of the spiciest! -- although they do have a number of milder dishes on the menu. Since I'll be dining alone due to circumstances beyond my control, if this winds up being tonight's choice I will be forced--forced, mind you :smile: -- to over-order so that I can show you folks a couple different items from their lengthy menu. No worries, though, their food is great as leftovers.

2) East Buffet -- yes, a buffet. But what cheep eatz survey would be complete without including a buffet of some sort? And East Buffet is actually a darn good one as buffets go: a big flashy Disneyland of mainly but far from exclusively Cantonese-influenced food, including a chef station doing Mongolian-grill-style stirfries while you wait. Yes, the other stuff is sitting around in steam tables--but with the huge volume of business they do (they're directly across the street from MCAS Miramar), the food is freshened frequently. And while it's not haute cuisine, it's actually quite yummy when accepted on its own terms. I was especially interested in trying out their seafood hotpot buffet, which they only offer Mondays through Thursdays (I've only been there on weekends before).

So there you go: Sorta highbrow vs. solidly lowbrow dining. A place I've already reviewed here on eGullet vs. one I have not yet done. Risking my tummy with hurts-so-good Szechuan spiciness vs. risking my tummy with all-you-can-eat excess. High end of cheap eats cost scale vs. more modestly priced end of scale. So--what do you all think? Which of these do you want to be your vicarious dining experience tonight?

Meanwhile, I'm contemplating a really mild low-key food day the rest of today, in order to be properly prepared for tonight's blowout, whichever it shall be. :biggrin:


Edited by mizducky (log)

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One vote for the buffet!


"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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    • By Panaderia Canadiense
      Wow, this is my third foodblog for the eGullet….  Welcome!   I'll be with you from Palm Sunday through Holy Sunday to give you all a taste of the veritable food festival that is Easter in Ecuador.  As usual, I intend to eat on the streets, visit a plethora of small shops and vendors, and talk about (and eat copious amounts of ) the specialty dishes of the holiday.
       
      A bit of background on me and where I am.  I'm Elizabeth; I'm 33 years old and since the last foodblog I've ceased to be a Canadian expat in Ecuador, and become a full-fledged Ecuadorian citizen.  I run a catering bakery out of Ambato, and I deliver to clients on the entire mainland.  I've got a large customer base in nearby Baños de Agua Santa, a hot-springs town about an hour downslope of me to the east; I'll be visiting it on Wednesday with close to 100 kg of baked goods for delivery.  Ambato, the capital of Tungurahua province, is located almost exactly in the geographic centre of Ecuador.  It's at an average elevation of 2,850 meters above sea level (slightly higher than Quito, the capital) - but this is measured in the downtown central park, which is significantly lower than most of the rest of the city, which extends up the sides of the river valley and onto the high plain above.  We've got what amounts to eternal late springtime weather, with two well-marked rainy seasons.  Ambato has about 300,000 people in its metro area; it's the fourth largest city in the country.  But maybe the most important thing about Ambato, especially to foodies, is that it's a transport hub for the country.  Anything travelling just about anywhere has to pass through Ambato on the way; it gives us the largest, best-stocked food market in South America.  I have simply staggering variety at my fingertips.
       

       
      This view, which was a teaser for the blog, was taken from my rooftop terrazzo.  It is a fraction of the panorama of the river valley that I see every morning, and since Easter is traditionally somewhat miserable weather-wise, the clouds stick to the hilltops.  The barrio you can see in the middle distance is Ficoa, one of the most luxury districts in the city.  Ambato is notable amongst Ecuadorian cities for having small fruit farms (300-500 m2) still operating within city limits and even within its most established barrios - it's from this that the Ambato gets one of its two sobriquets: The City of Fruits and Flowers.  The tendency for even the poorest barrios to take tremendous pride in their greenspaces gives the other: The Garden City.  My barrio, Miraflores Alto, is a working-class mixture of professors and labourers, and my neighbours keep a mixture of chickens, turkeys, and ducks in their yards; someone down the hill has a cow that I frequently hear but have never seen.  Consequently, if the season is right I can buy duck eggs from my neighbours (and if the season is wrong, entire Muscovy ducks for roasting.)
       

       
      Today, I'll be doing my largest fresh-food shopping at the Mercado Mayorista, the largest market of its kind in South America - this place covers nearly 30 square blocks, and it exists to both buy and sell produce from across the country.  Sundays and Mondays it also opens up to a huge, raucous farmer's market where smaller quantities are available for purchase.  Sunday is the day of the freshest food and the largest number of vendors.  And I'm going to cross more than half the city to get there - I've moved since the last blog, and my new house, on the slopes of the river valley is further away than the old one on the high plain.  I promise to take many pictures of this - particularly close to the High Holy days, the Mayorista is alive with vendors and there will be special sections cordoned off for sales of bacalao, truly enormous squashes, and if it follows the previous years' trends, a festival of Hornado (about which more later).  Apart from mangoes, which are just finishing up their season, it is harvest time across the country, and the Mayorista will be well stocked with all manner of fruits and vegetables.
       

       
      To start us off, I'll demystify one of my teasers a bit.
       

       
      The Minion head that peeks out of my cupboard every day belongs to my jar of ChocoListo, the Ecuadorian equivalent of chocolate Ovaltine.  Since I gave up coffee for Lent, it's my go-to morning beverage.  ChocoListo normally comes in the plain white jar with orange lid that you see in front of the Minion; that's now my hot chocolate jar because I just couldn't resist when the company came out with the specialty jars.  I firmly believe that one is never too old to have whimsical things!
       

    • By therese
      Good morning, y’all, and welcome to the party chez Therese.
      As per the teaser, this week’s foodblog does indeed come to you from Atlanta, where I live with my two children (hereafter known as Girl and Boy) and husband (hereafter known as The Man). Girl is 11, Boy is 14, and The Man is old enough to know better.
      Atlanta’s huge: the total metro population is about 4 million, and there are no physical boundaries to growth like rivers or mountain ranges, so people just keep moving (and commuting) farther and farther out of town. Atlantans can be divided into ITP (inside the perimeter) and OTP (outside the perimeter), the perimeter referring to the interstate freeway that encircles the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods, separating it from outlying suburbs. The politically minded may note that these areas could be designated red and blue. I’ll let you figure out which is which.
      We’re about as ITP as it gets, with home, work, school, and restaurants all in walking distance. The neighborhood’s called Druid Hills, the setting for the play/movie “Driving Miss Daisy”. The houses date from the 1920s, and because Atlanta has so little in the way of “old” buildings the neighborhood’s on the National Register as a Historic District. Charming, sure, buts lots of the houses need some updating, and ours (purchased in 1996) was no exception. So we remodeled last year, including an addition with a new kitchen, and this week’s blog will look at the finished product.
      So, some encouragement for those of you presently involved in kitchen renovation, some ideas for those who are considering it.
      But never mind all that for the moment: What’s for breakfast?


      Dutch babies, that’s what. And even better, these Dutch babies are produced by my children, the aforementioned Girl and Boy. The first picture is right from the oven, the second is after the somewhat messy job of sifting powdered sugar on top. They are delicious (the Dutch babies, I mean, not the children) and a great weekend treat.

      The Man drinks coffee in the morning whereas I prefer tea. He's not up yet, having played poker last night. I'm hoping he makes it out of bed in time for dinner.

      I also eat fruit whereas he prefers, well, anything but fruit. This is not such a bad thing, as it means that I don’t have to share the fruit. Pomegranates are a pain to eat, but not so bad if you’re reading the newspaper at the same time. This one’s from California, but you can also grow them here if you’ve got enough sunshine (which I don’t).
    • By Shelby
      Good morning, everyone and happy Monday!  
       
      It's me again....that girl from Kansas. 
       
       
      This is VERY spur-of-the-moment.  I was sitting here yesterday thinking of all of the canning etc. that I needed to do this week and I thought, well, why not ask you guys if you want to spend the week with me while I do it?  I got the ok from Smithy so away we go!
       
      This will not be nearly as organized as my first blog was.  But, really, when does a sequel ever measure up to the first?     
       
      Most of you know all about me--if you missed my first blog you can read it here.
       
      Nothing much has changed around here.  Same furry babies, same house, same husband  .
       
      Right now we have field corn planted all around the house.  In the outer fields we have soybeans that were planted after the wheat was harvested.  Sorry for the blur....it was so humid the camera kept fogging up.
       

       
      I just came in from the garden.
       
      I snapped a few pictures....for more (and prettier) pictures you can look in the gardening thread.  I always start out saying that I will not let a weed grow in there.  By August I'm like..."Oh what's a few weeds" lol.
       
       
       
      Here's a total list of what I planted this year:
       
      7 cucumbers
      8 basil
      23 okra
      4 rows assorted lettuce
      20 peppers-thai, jalapeño, bell, banana
      4 rows peas
      5 cilantro
      1 tarragon
      2 dill
      many many red and white onions
      7 eggplant
      3 rows spinach
      57 tomatoes
      5 cherry tomatoes
      7 rows silver queen sweet corn
      11 squash
      4 watermelon
      2 cantaloupe
      6 pumpkin
       
      I killed the cantaloupes...and I tried damn hard to kill the squash lol.....sigh...squash bugs came early this year and we sprayed with some kind of stuff.  WOW the plants did not like it, but they've come back and are producing.
       


      I just love okra flowers

      Found some more smut   
       

       
       
       
       
       
       
    • By Pille
      Tere õhtust (that’s „Good evening“ in Estonian)!
      I’m very, very, very excited to be doing my first ever eGullet foodblog. Foodblogging as such is not new to me – I’ve been blogging over at Nami-nami since June 2005, and am enjoying it enormously. But this eGullet blog is very different in format, and I hope I can ’deliver’. There have been so many exciting and great food blogs over the years that I've admired, so the standard is intimidatingly high! Also, as I’m the first one ever blogging from Estonia, I feel there’s a certain added responsibility to ’represent’ my tiny country
      A few words about me: my name is Pille, I’m 33, work in academia and live with my boyfriend Kristjan in a house in Viimsi, a suburb just outside Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. I was born and schooled in Tallinn until I was 18. Since then I've spent a year in Denmark as an exchange student, four years studing in Tartu (a university town 180 km south), two years working in Tallinn and seven years studying and working in Edinburgh, the bonnie & cosmopolitan capital of Scotland. All this has influenced my food repertoire to a certain degree, I'm sure. I moved back home to Estonia exactly 11 months and 1 day ago, to live with Kristjan, and I haven't regretted that decision once Edinburgh is an amazing place to live, and I've been back to Scotland twice since returning, but I have come to realise that Tallinn is even nicer than Edinburgh
      I won’t be officially starting my foodblog until tomorrow (it’s midnight here and I’m off to bed), but I thought I’ll re-post the teaser photos for those of you who missed them in the 'Upcoming Attractions' section. There were two of them. One was a photo of Tallinn skyline as seen from the sea (well, from across the bay in this case):

      This is known as kilukarbivaade or sprat can skyline A canned fish product, sprats (small Baltic herrings in a spicy marinade) used to have a label depicting this picturesque skyline. I looked in vain for it in the supermarket the other day, but sadly couldn’t find one - must have been replaced with a sleek & modern label. So you must trust my word on this sprat can skyline view
      The second photo depicted a loaf of our delicious rye bread, rukkileib. As Snowangel already said, it’s naturally leavened sour 100% rye bread, and I’ll be showing you step-by-step instructions for making it later during the week.

      It was fun seeing your replies to Snowangel’s teaser photos. All of you got the continent straight away, and I was pleased to say that most of you got the region right, too (that's Northern Europe then). Peter Green’s guess Moscow was furthest away – the capital of Russia is 865 km south-east from here (unfortunately I've never had a chance to visit that town, but at least I've been to St Petersburgh couple of times). Copenhagen is a wee bit closer with 836 km, Stockholm much closer with 386 km. Dave Hatfield (whose rural French foodblog earlier this year I followed with great interest, and whose rustic apricot tart was a huge hit in our household) was much closer with Helsinki, which is just 82 km across the sea to the north. The ships you can see on the photo are all commuting between Helsinki and Tallinn (there’s an overnight ferry connection to Stockholm, too). Rona Y & Tracey guessed the right answer
      Dave – that house isn’t a sauna, but a granary (now used to 'store' various guests) - good guess, however! Sauna was across the courtyard, and looks pretty much the same, just with a chimney The picture is taken in July on Kassari in Hiiumaa/Dagö, one of the islands on the west coast. Saunas in Estonia are as essential part of our life – and lifestyle – as they are in Finland. Throwing a sauna party would guarantee a good turnout of friends any time
      Finally, a map of Northern Europe, so you’d know exactly where I’m located:

      Head ööd! [Good night!]
      I'm off to bed now, but will be back soon. And of course, if there are any questions, however specific or general, then 'll do my best trying to answer them!
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