Check out my foodie adventures at Foodspotting and Foodgawker

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Zaftig's Delicatessen, Boston

I feel incredibly lucky to live in a city with such amazing foodie choices that it is rare that I feel city envy...unless we are talking about cities outside the U.S. and then I start to ache for a simple baguette from Paris or café con leche from Spain or...whoa, let's not get sidetracked talking about foods and restaurants around the world (I should get to bed soon since I have to go to work early tomorrow!). Anyway, where I was going is that, while I am loyal lover of San Francisco, I have been known to have a small love affair with Boston (although the flame has cooled considerably in the past year)...but the flame is always revived a little when I think about this little jewish deli that warms my heart...and their slogan "Let us be your Jewish mother" always ropes me right in! (and if you do a wikipedia search for the meaning of Zaftig, you will be redirected to "Big Beautiful Woman" beautiful. "Beautiful" is the perfect way to describe this place, this food, this charm, this family...

Oh, Bean Town! If you ever visit Boston (or live there ) and have not yet stumbled upon the amazingness that is Zaftig's at Coolidge Corner (335 Harvard Street) in Brookline, you must, oh you must go there!! It's a typical Jewish deli that, despite having some non-traditional dishes, has all the classics (rueben sammies, blintzes, knish, potato pancakes, matzo ball soup, etc.). Every time I visit Boston I take everyone I know there...and it inevitably becomes a favorite spot. When you sit down they immediately bring you a plate full of their homemade bagel chips with a herbed cream cheese dip...

My "go-to":

Banana Stuffed Challah French Toast in a Bourbon-Vanilla batter served with strawberries and blueberries and a side of homemade date butter....
I am at a loss for words to describe the flavor and texture combo of this dish, but it is nothing short of chewy, warm, sweet perfection...No matter what time of the day it is (and despite their extremely broad menu), I always end up getting the French Toast because, yes, you guessed it--breakfast is served all day. Breakfast. Served. All. Day. Those four words really make a girl smile...You could post a sign up with those words and attract breakfast lovers like moths to a flame...(I cannot even count how many times I have had waffles or pancakes for college--Occidental College--used to host "midnight breakfast" where you could show up in your pajamas from 10 pm 'til midnight and have a buffet line of breakfast foods to get you through studying during the wee hours of finals...the word "treat" doesn't even come close to describing the elation and fondness everyone feels for midnight breakfasts). Breakfast for dinner.

Now, I have managed to try a few dishes at Zaftig's besides the French Toast: the Macintosh Apple and Vermont Sharp Cheddar Omelette is excellent (Joe's Special--House-made ground turkey sausage, mushrooms, spinach and egg--is good too, but the apple omelet is better) and I also liketThe Empire Eggs--Two poached eggs, spinach and smoked salmon on potato pancakes finished with hollandaise sauce--is also amazing, but a little too rich for my taste (but my friends will attest that this, plus a mimosa, makes for a flawless hangover cure)...

Zaftig's. Do it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Medovník from Klub Architektu in Prague

We have been friends long enough for me to divulge the truth. I have never been a huge cake fan. I'm sorry. If you are too upset, we don't have to talk about it. Okay, I admit that there is always the occassional homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting that really makes me smile. But cake has never been something that really made me swoon...until I went to Prague (Praha) and became completely bewitched by a traditional treat known as Medovník. Just the thought of it makes me want to sqeal Medovníííííííííííík! It's a honey cake with layers and layers of what can only be described as light fluffy layers of spiced romance.
Prague is full of little foodie addictions that you just can't bring yourself to shake because the urge to indulge is stronger than anything you have ever imagined...and suddenly you are drunk on strawberry juice and quickly shoveling Krokety (small round potato croquettes usually made from potatoes, eggs, flour, butter, and salt) into your mouth by the countless handful...But let's not get sidetracked. We came here to discuss the honey cake, didn't we?!

It all started with Jara...oh, Jara, I blame you! (I also blame you for exposing me to bread with a thin layer of butter and salt on it, which is just wicked on so many levels and you have to promise me you won't hold such admission against me...You see, my Czech friend, Jaroslav (fondly known to me as Jara), worked as a waiter at my favorite Czech restaurant, Klub Architektu, at Betlemske Namesti, 5a...and if you ever make it to this charming city, I hope you will take it upon yourself to find it...It's a quaint restaurant tucked away underground in a dimly lit cellar with gorgeous ceilings...and I am so eternally grateful for the many people who have catalogued the amazingness that is this little underground restaurant... Ah, Medovník. It's like the alluring layers of honey and nuts in baklava, only it's been turned into a soft...moist...cake. *sigh* I desperately miss those layers upon delicate layers of honey cake crumbs, finely chopped walnuts, creamy icing and what is most likely opium to account for why it is so damned addicting!

Jara said that the honey cake is usually made by one bakery in Prague and then carted around to all the places that sell it (which is fantastic because you can count on its consistency and quantity). There is a company that claims to make the true original Medovnik, but I cannot be sure that it is the supplier of all the honey cake in Prague...

Seek it out, my friend! I am sure that you, too, will be overcome by honey cake fever...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Eliza's Chinese Restaurant, San Francisco

I want to know why the little Portrero Hill nook called Eliza's Chinese Restaurant gets such good reviews...It was even rated in the "Top 10 Best Chinese Food of 2007"...I cannot figure it out. I didn't hate it or anything extreme, but Top 10?!!? I think not. This is San Francisco, people! Still, it was tasty....and I appreciated (read: was highly amused by) the "slummy new wave" decor--bright, neon and out of place. And while not traditional, they seem to attract a loyal following by cutting down the grease and offering lots of fresh veggies and tofu options and brown rice...

Fried Crab Meat Rangoon: Terrible. and waaaay too much cream cheese.

Hoisin String Beans: Some of the best I have *ever* had...Wok-cooked, sauced perfection!

Honey Walnut Prawns: I happen to really love this dish, but it's tough to find a place that really knows what they are doing....this dish was decent at Eliza's, but I have had better....I really did not like the batter--texture or flavor--and the sauce drowned out the flavors...

Chow Mein: Decent. Vegetables were delicious, but I didn't like the texture of the noodles...

I am looking forward to trying my vegetarian friend's recommendation: Shangri-La--100% vegetarian Chinese. Fancy that.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ode to Blueberries!

Oh, blueberry, you are so fresh, ripe, sweet and sour!
My perfect soluble fiber snack. My perfect round button with stars...
I like you raw, baked, frozen, or juiced! You have lots of antioxidants!
You gorgeous blueberry, you!!!
Everyone who knows me knows that I looove fruit. I could eat fruit all day, at any time, and in really large quantities...A friend once pointed out that some fruits might trigger a sensitive stomach and tried to explain that fruit (including 100% fruit juice) is really high in sugar and I argued that no one, and I meant no one, could get me to give up fruit (plus don't even get me started on the difference between fructose and sucrose)!
...and if you aren't able to get local blueberries, chances are you will easily find blueberries imported from Chile...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Apricot Almond Bran Muffins!

Sometimes I wake up craving a fresh batch of muffins for breakfast, but, let's face it, I generally only have time for baking on the weekends because I can barely manage to eat my oatmeal, get dressed and get to work on time! But I came across the most amazing healthy line of muffins mixes that allow me to whip up some awesome muffins in less than 20 minutes! Hodgson Mills makes lots of great whole wheat pastas (including whole wheat cous cous!), flax seed products, organic flours, breads and soy products! You should be able to find this stuff in your local grocery store, but if not, it is worth it to order some online!

I particularly fell in love with the Hodgson Mills Bran Muffin Mix because it is low in fat and sugar and uses whole grain stone-ground whole wheat flour and wheat bran and it is absolutely delicious! It is also such a reliable and versatile base mix for making all sorts of variations...and one box only costs $1.10 for 6 amazingly yummy and healthy muffins!


* 1 box Hodgson Mills Bran Muffin Mix
* 1/4 cup applesauce
* 1/2 cup soymilk
* 1 egg (I used 1/4 cup fat-free egg substitute)
* 1 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey (optional)
* 1 Tbsp. milled flax seed
* 1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
* 1/4 cup raw almonds, chopped


* Mix all ingredients in a bowl except for the nuts (those are reserved for the topping!)
* Divide into 6 greased muffin cups.
* Top each muffin with some chopped almonds.
* Bake at 400 degrees for about 15-18 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean)

Suggested Variations:

* blueberries and honey
* chopped apples and walnuts
* grated carrots and orange zest
* raisins and walnuts
* pumpkin and pecans
* dates and honey
* bananas and cinnamon
* oats and honey

Trust me, as far as ready-made mixes go, these are a *winner*!!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gary Danko, San Francisco

Tonight I had the occasion to try out Gary Danko, which is consistently rated as one of San Francisco's finest restaurants...I wanted to compare it with my experiences at one of its rival restaurants, Aqua. I love Aqua, but Gary Danko was also phenomenal. But I won't pick favorites between Aqua and Gary Danko, because I will always feel lucky to be indulged by either...Although I did think the service was notably better than Aqua--someone at Gary Danko beat me to the restroom to open the door and turn the lights on for me...My wine glass was removed the second I took the last sip ((we got a 2005 Pinot Noir by Walter Hansel Winery, which was FANTASTIC!)...The staff was friendly, educated about their food and wine, and attentive with an effective team of people assigned to every table...I was impressed, to say the least.

Since it was a business dinner, I did not get to take photos of everything, but my 3-course menu consisted of:

* Risotto with Lobster, Rock Shrimp, Winter Root Vegetables and Sage Oil
* Roast Maine Lobster with Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Edamame Beans and Tarragon
* Baked Chocolate Souffle with a Vanilla Creme Anglaise and Belgian Chocolate Sauce

um....YUM! Enough said.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche Cups

It's true--I learned a lot on how to cook from my mom. She's half Portuguese and half Chinese, which essentially means that she doesn't use recipes. Ever. And so, in turn, I never really used recipes and learned to cook mostly through experimentation (which probably led to my current habit of adapting recipes even when I do use one). In fact, part of the reason why I wanted to start this foodie blog in the first place was that my friends and family kept asking me for recipes of things I made and I always shrugged my shoulders and said "I don't have a recipe, but if you come back over to my place, I will make it for you again..." But then I would make an amazing dish--by accident, of course--and never be able to recreate it because I never wrote down what I did that worked out so well...and so, this blog is partially a challenge and incentive to myself to try to keep track of what I am doing in the kitchen (so perhaps you can benefit from it someday by following an easy recipe!).
That said, I made these quiche cups this weekend without any recipe, so I have to rely on my memory of a similar recipe...but quiche is actually really easy to make and quite delicious, so I recommend trying it sometime with your favorite ingredients...There are soooo many quiche recipes out there and I find that they vary widely on the egg to milk ratio, but I have experimented with different ratios and, as long as the eggs are equal to or greater than the quantity of milk, it will work out fine and it just depends on your taste preferences (whether you like quiche to be really eggy or...not so much)--just be careful not to put too much milk! I made these ones with fat-free egg substitute just to see how it would turn out--and it was delicious!

I really like cafes that serve a wedge of warm quiche with a side of mixed green salad...I find that there is something innately cozy about quiche...don't you?!


* 1 small onion, chopped
* 5 or 6 button or cremini mushrooms
* 1 cup fresh spinach
* 1 frozen pie shell, slightly defrosted
* 1 cup of shredded cheese (mozarella, fontina, cheddar, jack, colby, etc.)
* 3 eggs (I used a fat-free egg substitute)
* 3/4 cup of milk
* salt & pepper to taste


* Sautee onion and mushrooms until softened.
* Add spinach and cook until it wilts.
* Use pie shell as is or re-shape it into 3 smaller oven-proof ramekins.
* Bake pie crust for 5 or 6 minutes.
* While crust is baking, mix together eggs, milk, and salt and pepper.
* Take crust out of oven.
* Add alternate layers of veggie mixture and cheese into the pie crust.
* Fill with egg mixture without letting it overflow! (there may be some egg mixture left over)
* Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes if using pie shell or about 18-20 minutes if using smaller ramekins or until set (i.e.: the egg business doesn't jiggle if you gently shake the pan).
* Remove from oven and let sit and cool.

Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas

A healthier and unique twist on enchiladas!


* 1 packet enchilada mix (I use McCormick's--it's fat free, not spicy and flavorful)
* 1 8-ounce can of low sodium, fat-free tomato sauce
* 1.5 cups of water


* 5 whole wheat tortillas
* 1.5 cups low-fat/fat-free cheddar, jack or colby, shredded
* Fresh spinach, steamed (and pressed to get all the excess water out!)
* 1 small onion
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 tsp. taco seasoning (optional)
* 1 can of black beans (again, pick a low sodium one!)
* Fresh cilantro (optional)


* Mix water, tomato sauce and water and heat over medium-high heat until sauce thickens...Makes about 2 cups of sauce--Use one cup for the inside of the enchiladas and one cup for the top. Set aside.
* Spray pan with a nonstick spray or one of these nifty oil pumps.
* Sautee garlic and onion in pan over medium heat until cooked. Set aside.
* Steam spinach, drain and (when cool) squeeze out the moisture by hand. Set aside.
* Warm tortillas in pan (or microwave).
* Divide all of the ingredients into 5 portions (I divide one cup of cheese between all 5 tortillas and reserve the remaining 1/2 cup for the top!).
* Roll them up, burrito style! (sauce, beans, onions, spinach, cheese, cilantro)
* Pour a little bit of sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.
* Place enchiladas in tray.
* Cover them with the remaining cup of sauce and 1/2 cup of remaining cheese.
* Cover with foil and bake in oven for 30-40 minutes.
* Remove foil and bake another 8-10 minutes until sauce bubbles and cheese browns a little.

Serving Suggestions:

* Serve over a bed of shredded cabbage and chopped tomatoes
* Squeeze a lemon wedge over the enchiladas.
* Mix 2 Tbsp. of fat-free sour cream (or I use plain fat-free greek yogurt as a sour cream substitute) and 1 tsp of Cholula hot sauce and serve with enchiladas.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Banana Rum French Toast in a Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Batter

My significant other finished taking the California Bar Exam this week! Since I know from personal experience what a tremendous triumph this is, I decided to indulge him this weekend with all sorts of fun surprises and activities...Since he is a huge specialty beer aficionado, this includes an afternoon trip to Monk's Kettle, but first--a breakfast treat!!

This french toast involves soaking sticky cinnamon bread in a vanilla rum batter and then grilling them to crisp perfection with a coating of mashed bananas...seriously, people, what could be better?!


* 3 eggs (I used egg substitute)
* 2 Tbsp. heavy cream or half & half
* 1.5 Tbsp. dark rum (I used Meyers)
* 1 tsp. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla (never use fake extract! you will know the difference when you use the real thing...)
* 1 banana, cut in half (use one half for the batter and one half for topping)
* 5 or 6 slices of sticky cinnamon bread
* 1 big handful of pecans, toasted


* Whisk together the first 4 ingredients.
* Add the half of banana and mash it into the batter.
* Soak the slices of cinnamon bread until thoroughly coated.
* Place on a hot griddle or pan and cook till done.
* Top the slices french toast with slices of the rest of the banana, toasted pecans, and, of course, maple syrup and powdered sugar for garnish if you feel like being naughty!

Serves 2 naughty, indulgent people on the weekend! :)