Category Archives: travel

Mission Chinese Food in SF

I was in SF for a wedding last fall and tried Mission Chinese Food (MCF) in the Mission District. My friend was kind enough to treat me to a delicious lunch after church on a bright Sunday afternoon. The funny thing about SF is that summers are overcast/chilly and fall may actually have better weather.  You can tell who the tourists are because they’re usually wearing shorts and t-shirts (and freezing) and the locals are dressed in layers. Thankfully, it was a beautiful Sunday walk-the-dog kinda afternoon in October.

Cupid’s span in Embarcadero; has backdrop of the Ferry Building (my fave)

From the outside, MCF looks like a nondescript Chinese restaurant. Prior to MCF, it was a food cart called Mission Street Food and became so popular they hosted pop-ups at this location. Check out this article for the full backstory.

MCF fascade

MCF dragonWe came around 1:30pm or 2:00pm for lunch and were seated right away. My friend was telling me that dinner can be a bit of a wait. I recommend that you come during the day and avoid the waiting game. Also, there are so many good eateries in this area including Bi-Rite ice cream, Tartine bakery, and Mission Beach Cafe (great brunch spot).

MCF fried rice

salt cod fried rice ($12)

MCF fried wings

Chongqing chicken wings ($11)

MCF lamb dumplings

grandma’s spicy lamb dumplings ($9)

I enjoyed their funky, salty interpretation of Chinese food. Overall, I found the food to be on the salty side but their flavors were very addicting. I particularly enjoyed the chicken wings which were buried under a pile of Sichuan peppers which looked spicy but wasn’t overly spicy (like Southern Thai food). The seasonings were an intriguing blend of salty/sweet hint of brown sugar, spice from the peppers, and vinegar flavors that were dancing in my mouth. The fried tripe was also a nice surprise. The salt cod fried rice was also delicious and very addicting. The lamb dumplings I wouldn’t order again. They weren’t memorable and left me with an oily aftertaste and not much flavor. In the tradition of Chinese restaurants, I appreciated that they provide you with a pot of tea to help wash down the oily, salty food.

Given that I’m not a huge fan of Chinese food, I found this interpretation a good twist (although on the salty side). I would go back to try their pork belly and a few other dishes but it’s a bit on the heavy side.

Check out another blog post documenting my Bay Area visit where I talk about the Ferry Building and other good eats.

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boston: part 1 (good eats)

I was in Boston for about a week earlier this month for a work conference and came the weekend prior to explore/play. My friends (and talented colleagues) and I hung out and had some amazing food. I have so many pictures to share that I’ll devote another post to the sights of Boston. It was actually my second time here but first time really experiencing it on foot. Here are some food highlights:

Our first night in Boston, we took a short bus ride to this Asian fusion restaurant, Myers+Chang. I’m a bit weary when I hear fusion but it was a much needed pick-me-up after a 5+ hour plane ride. Our favorites were the papaya salad, Indonesian fried rice (below, top right, bottom left), and their dan dan cold noodles in a peanut sauce. Despite being a busy Friday night for the restaurant, we had ice waters (noticeably sweating from the humidity we’re not accustomed to) and seated at the window within 10 minutes.

The highlight was meeting Chef Joanne Chang as she came by and asked us how the food was!!! She even liked MY Instagram pic! I’ve been a big fan ever since she beat Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s  Throwdown with her signature sticky buns (keep reading).

We went to Cafe Luna for Saturday brunch in Cambridge (top left, bottom right). I ordered their lemon ricotta stuffed mascarpone pancakes with lemon curd. Probably one of the best brunch dishes I’ve ever had. These were so light and fluffy, perfect for the hot day with my iced chai latte. Julie had the lobster eggs benedict (bottom right). Doesn’t it look savory and decadent? She was saying how fresh the lobster was in her dish. We were very impressed by this small sidewalk cafe (which was packed on a Saturday morning, as good ones should be). The owner was so friendly and kind to us as we learned he’s originally from OC.

brunch and meyers

Day 2 continued: Flour Bakery in Cambridge. A few blocks from Cafe Luna is one of 3 Flour Bakery locations. The first one opened in 2000 and has become an integral part of the city. Chef Joanne Chang has not only the bakeries, her restaurant, and also 2 cookbooks to her empire :). Despite our stuffed bellies, we HAD to sample their desserts. They’re famous for their sticky sticky buns (below). OMG! Very gooey and a generous amount of pecans. I also had a chunky lola cookie (choco chip oatmeal cookie w/coconut and pecans), which was even better! I found the cookie recipe online and baked them last weekend (foolproof!).

I bought home some goodies from this bakery including coffee beans and their signature granola, both taste so good I wish I bought more. My parents really liked their coffee beans for a smooth taste (says a hint of chocolate, but I can’t tell). What’s interesting about Chef Joanne’s background is she graduated from Harvard w/a dual Bachelors in economics and mathematics to work as a management consultant only to realize her true passion was becoming pastry chef. If you’ve ever baked, you understand the art and science of baking. How cool is that?

flour bakery

We also explored the South Boston as our conference was a short walking distance to this up-and-coming area (NPR just did a story on this area). We found this gem of a restaurant, Sportello, one of Chef Barbara Lynch’s restaurants (she has 8 or 9 eateries and mentored the last Top Chef winner). The concept of the eatery is casual Italian diner with countertops covering most the restaurant and an open kitchen + bakery. It’s so cute and inviting. Most notable was their handmade gnocchi and tagliatelle with bolognese sauce. The simplest dishes are the hardest to pull off and they make it look effortless. Shout out to our server Ethan who was amazing.

sportello

I love exploring new cities because you stumble upon places that locals frequent like Barrington Coffee Roasting Company, a few doors down from Sportello. A simple cafe with high quality coffee. Their iced coffee hit the spot on those hot summer days. We also made room for cannolis at Mike’s Pastry in the North End after a full meal. $3.50 for a pistachio cannoli in a small, always crowded Italian pastry shop (cash only).

mike's pastry

Hope this gives you a little taste (no pun intended) of good eats in Boston. Stay tuned for Boston part 2 later this week. Too much good content to cram into one post.

interview with maya meinert of shopeatsleep

I’m excited to feature my interview with Maya Meinert of her shopeatsleep blog as she features  trendy hotspots, including restaurants, hotels, and retailers around Los Angeles and beyond.  What I enjoy about her blog is her beautiful pictures and being able to vicariously experience a variety of restaurants.

The funny thing is I haven’t actually met Maya in person as we initially were connected through work as she graciously agreed to be a panelist for a workshop I’m hosting and I stumbled upon her blog (serendipity, right?).

Hope you enjoy the interview; also be sure to check out her facebook page. If you missed my prior interviews, you can find them here and here.

photo taken by christianna reinhardt

What inspired you to create your blog and how long have you been blogging? How would you describe your blog?

I started the blog about three and a half years ago after losing my last newspaper job. It was a tough time for everyone – this was 2009 – so I knew I needed to keep myself in the game somehow. Since I had been covering the L.A. retail, dining and hospitality industries at my last job, I had quite a few contacts I could pull from and decided to keep myself busy by continuing to write about these businesses on my own. At my last job, I was a business reporter, but I decided to change the focus of my blog to the consumer, which has turned out to be really fun and broadened my audience.

What is your background and how has that impacted your style of blogging?

I have a master’s degree in print journalism from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Most of my journalism career has been in trade publications, but I have experience in everything from hyper-local, community reporting to the business of law firms. I’ve transitioned into communications, and I now work as an editor and writer for the USC School of Social Work, where I write internal news articles and manage the school’s social media efforts.

My approach to blogging has changed over time, but I always strive to be as transparent and honest with my readers as possible, something I bring with me from my journalism days. If I accept a free meal and write about it (and I often do, as I wouldn’t be able to afford to try as many restaurants as I do without doing so), I’ll clearly state that in the post.

saffron pappardelle from piatti restaurant in la jolla, ca

saffron pappardelle from piatti restaurant in la jolla, ca

From reading your blog, I get the sense you’re a serious foodie. When did you fall in love with food? Do you have any childhood memories you associate with certain foods?

I wouldn’t call myself a serious foodie, per se; I just like to eat!

Growing up with a Chinese parent, food has always been a big part of my life, as it seems to be for a lot of people with Asian backgrounds. Most of my childhood food memories revolve around Chinese foods, and I find a lot of my comfort foods are dishes like congee rice porridge, soy sauce eggs, pearl meatballs (steamed pork meatballs rolled in rice) and Taiwanese pork chops.

What has been your favorite restaurant meal this past year and why?

Though this probably isn’t fair, my favorite meal last year was lunch at the three Michelin-star Jean-Georges in New York. That place deserves its Michelin stars. I’m still drooling over the confit suckling pig!

confit suckling pig

Your blog photos, especially of food, are so vivid. What kind of camera do you use and do you have any tips on taking high quality food photos?

I use a Canon G12, but you don’t necessarily need an expensive camera, though it helps, to take nice photos. Just learn how to use your camera properly. I’m still learning how to use mine! Basically, make sure you have enough light, and be sure to white balance. Also, don’t underestimate the power of the macro button.

aria hotel in las vegas

aria hotel in las vegas

What are 3 random, interesting, fun facts about you?

I’m a huge Steelers football fan, I have two pugs named Sushi and Zelmo, and I’m biracial.

i resolve to…

2012 was a busy year! Between traveling for work(mostly) and fun, changing jobs, and connecting w/new and old faces, it’s been a fun ride. I’m looking forward to 2013 as I hope to expand my culinary chops, meet other bloggers, and to post more often. You may have noticed from recent posts that I’m blogging about a wider range of interests and will even include giveaways (check back next week!).

Thanks for coming along for the ride. I really appreciate that you take a few minutes out of your day to check my blog and even more appreciate comments and encouragement when you try out the recipes!

More memories from last year that I didn’t get around to blogging (isn’t the iphone camera pretty awesome?!).

collage 2012

Top row (left to right): meeting blogger, Joy Cho, with Christine of Feed My Sole; experiencing the miracle berry (and a mini lecture from Prof. Diana C.); trying Hawker Fare in Oakland.

Middle row: chicken wings from the Ludo truck; visiting the Atlanta aquarium; baking class at the Cordon Bleu in Hollywood.

Bottom row: hiking in Laguna Beach; piano concerto at the Segerstrom in Costa Mesa, wine tasting and discovery an amazing winery in Santa Barbara County.

Seattle

Last November, I booked a flight to Seattle after seeing a great deal on JetBlue ($49 each way from LBC to SEA/TAC) and easily convinced my sister since it was MLK weekend that we both wanted an excuse to see the Emerald City. I hadn’t been to Seattle in a decade and she had never been, what the heck, let’s go! Check out some highlights from our trip.

The Seattle Public Library. Sigh. If only all public libraries were this cool. No wonder they’re voted one of the most book loving cities. I wasn’t thrilled with the exterior but the interior was so modern and inviting. Interestingly, an entire floor is completely painted in red. We also found this cool used bookstore in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Imagine a B&N-like bookstore where all the book are half off (and in great condition).

Seattle Public Library (the red floor)

We enjoyed some wine at Purple Cafe and Wine Bar in walking distance from the library. A beautiful, hip, yet intimate restaurant. Check out that winding staircase wine rack!

Purple Wine Bar and Cafe (loved their wine and spiral wine case)

fish market

What Seattle trip would be complete without a visit to Pike Place Market? So cool! I love the fish throwing dudes and the street performers but what I love most is the food! Hands down my favorite was Le Panier’s almond croissant and coffee (Seattle knows good coffee). Ah… the simple joys in life. It was so good, we went back the next day. I also really enjoyed Russian meat pastries and creamy mac & cheese at this place. I’m warning you; this place is carb heaven. We didn’t even have room for the donuts or other foods on a stick. I wanted to try fresh oysters but it was way too cold for this SoCal girl! I even bought wool hiking socks, yeah that cold.

honey

mac and cheese seattle

Beecher’s mac and cheese (taken by alice)

Seattle coffee is bar none! Latte from Panier.

$4 croissant was worth every penny.

We also enjoyed brunch at Portage Bay Cafe with their delicious whole wheat pancakes and toppings bar. What a cool idea!!!

20120216-143546.jpg

During brunch, it started snowing! I felt like a little kid mesmerized by snow in the city! For real!!! We just happened to be in Seattle during the first snowstorm of the winter. NICE 🙂 Except that all the buses, taxis were out of commission. We were standing out in the street, waiting for a bus to arrive as it’s snowing. Only 30 minutes later did we realize that the buses had stopped. Seattle is a bit hilly and so they fear driving in snowing conditions (and they take issue with using salt; well, at least prior due to environmental reasons).

snow!

We also enjoyed pizzas at Serious Pie and sushi at Umi Sake House in downtown. These folks know how to eat!!! Next time, I’ll visit Bainbridge island and tour the Theo Chocolate Factory. The Pacific Northwest is without a doubt breathtakingly beautiful and has some of the nicest people. Seriously, even the bus drivers were super nice and hospitable.

Adieu Seattle! Until we meet again.

good eats in san diego

San Diego may not be known for being a foodie town like SF or LA but I’ve done my fair share of scoping out the good eats having gone to UCSD and since then for weekend trips. What can I say? The company and the picturesque landscape just makes the food taste that much better.

It’s one of the most awe inspiring and somewhat hidden spots in La Jolla, check it out when you’re in the area. And while you’re at it, grab brunch at The Mission and try their french toast or rosemary potatoes (Hash House is so overrated).

And this Moroccan treasure, Cous Cous in Hillcrest (sorry about the dark pic)

And of course, there’s always room for dessert, right? Tantalize your senses at Extraordinary Desserts. I love their beautiful/decadent cakes and gourmet teas.

The Mission | 1250 J St, San Diego, 92101

Cous Cous | 3940 4th Ave, Suite 103, San Diego, 92102

Extraordinary Desserts | 1430 Union St, San Diego, 92101

*Claire De Lune Coffee Lounge | 2906 University Ave, San Diego, 92104

The last one isn’t pictured but I love it’s funky Alice in Wonderland feel. It’s the kinda place where you can sit for hours and no one will bother you 🙂

:: Check out my foodie friend, Cindy’s blog post about SD food.

paris

It’s been crazy busy this fall with work, church, volunteer commitments and whatnot. So much so that I’m feeling a bit under the weather, stuffy nose and all. To reflect on happier moments, I wanted to share some photos from my Paris trip this past summer.

Sounds so cliche to say that Paris is gorgeous but it really did take my breath away. Every street corner is postcard picture beautiful! I think my fav memory is picnicking in front of the Eiffel tower with bread, cheese, wine, and strawberries. So quintessentially Parisian! I felt like the little rat in Ratatouille where he’s taking a bite of the strawberry and cheese and feels moments of elation at the combination of flavors exploding in his little rat mouth. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but you get my drift.

The quality and artisan work that went into growing and producing the everyday cheese, strawberries, loaf of bread just blew me away. Sad to say I have no photos to show for. I was wiped out by that point in the trip to be lugging around a DSLR (sigh of regret). But I do have these to share:

Tunisian crepe in the Marais district at a charming restaurant on a cobblestone side street next to an old cathedral. drool..

Notre Dame cathedral with flying buttresses and all. We saw so many cathedrals on our trip through Spain but there was something unique and interesting about this one. My fearless traveling buddy, HY and I. Can’t believe we’ve been friends for a decade!

young. creative. fresh.

What trip is complete without trying French macarons? Tried this famous one near the Luxembourg Gardens. Hope to try the famous Laduree next time.

Surprisingly, the French were really nice people. Two instances where we were trying to get directions or catch the right train and locals were whipping out their iphones to look up the schedules, overall so kind to what is probably an annoyingly common occurance, lost tourists. Haha.. I was crossing the street once and accidently bumped into a young woman who reacted with a oh la la!  I promise I’m not making this up 🙂