Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dim Sum at Imperial Garden - Fresno, CA

Imperial Garden
6640 N Blackstone Ave, Ste 108

Fresno, CA 93710
Yelp reviews here.

Ate with my parents and Uncle Chris and Auntie Jill on 06/19/11 (Father's Day).

I've written about some of their dim sum here when I posted about their general dining food. This is one of my family's favorite Chinese restaurants in Fresno. We run into people we know every single time we eat there, and they're almost always busy. We love the place so much that my grandparents had their 50th anniversary party there. Anyway, on to the food! Unfortunately, I can't list the names of everything pictured, so you can just take a peek. The best dim sum I've had outside of Fresno was in Oakland, CA (San Francisco also has good dim sum, depending on where you go).

One of the dim sum carts (you tell the lady or man which one you want, and (s)he gives it to you and makes a note on your bill:

 Taro root, some kinda dumpling (see below), greens, and thick rice noodles covered in a soy sauce-based sauce with either pork, beef, or shrimp in the middle (we chose shrimp, which I only eat when fried or in this noodle dish):

I love the texture of this one (it's like mochi on the outside with a hot meat mixture on the inside), but overall the flavor of the meat inside tastes like the smell of an old Asian market (not a good thing). I don't know how else to explain it. It tastes like old musty Asian spices that don't taste or smell so good. If you live in Fresno, walk into R-N, and that's the smell I'm talking about.

 One of our favorites (rice dumpling filled with chives?):

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dinner at Pixar Studios!!

Pixar Studios
Emeryville, CA

February 2011 - When their theme was Toy Story

<< Isn't that the coolest visitor sticker?!

I went to a conference in San Francisco in February and was fortunate enough to stay in Berkeley with Steve, one of my favorite people in the world. I've blogged about him here before. Steve's buddy works at Pixar and invited a few of us to join one of their monthly employee/employee friends & family dinners and movie showings (it wasn't a Pixar film; it was Unknown) in their theater.
What an opportunity!! I was soo so excited. I still get excited thinking about it. I also kick myself for not knowing the names or faces of the Pixar stars/employers/artists/creators. Apparently the creator of Russell, the boy scout kid in Up, was walking around (not the kid who does his voice...the adult who created him!!) and I didn't even know it.

Here's a peek inside where people were eating (note the Woody to the left lol):

Here's my food and beer (they had food buffet-style with plenty of wine, beer, soda, etc.). The food was good but greeeeaasy!! Pizza, chili, fried mushrooms, fried potatoes, etc.
But who cares? You're at Pixar!

 The employees' kitchen (should have taken more pictures!! They had loads of peanut butter, jelly, bread, milk, soy milk, olive oil, cereal, etc.):

The image they use for the women's restroom (so very appropriate...although unrelated to food):

The light turns on at night!! So cool!:

Picture below: You're supposed to sit in that giant chair and see what it feels like to be a toy. lol!

Whole Wheat Garlic Knots

Joy the Baker. If you like using recipes from food blogs, you're gonna wanna bookmark her site. She has delicious recipes, she updates frequently, she has fantastic pictures, and she's hilarious and down-to-earth. I found this recipe for whole wheat garlic knots and knew I had to try it. I LOVE GARLIC. AND BREAD. See recipe below (reformatted so that it's easier for me to read and follow). Anyway, I was worried about the raw garlic being too strong, but my parents, Blake, Scott, and I loved these rolls. I need to make them again! As long as you have the patience to work with yeast and the kneading process, this is a pretty easy recipe.

Note: I learned that you can forget the salt and sugar and add it after the dough has risen as long as you re-knead it and then let it rise all over again. Try not to make that mistake though.

Whole Wheat Garlic Knots

See Joy's original recipe here (with pictures!)

* ~10 garlic knots (I made 11 but want to try making smaller ones next time)
1 package active dry yeast (~2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water (just warmer than body temperature)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar

Garlic mixture:
4 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

(1) In a small bowl, dissolve yeast & sugar with warm water.  Let sit for 5 minutes until yeast is frothy.
(2) In a large bowl, whisk together flours & salt. Create a small well in the center of the flour mixture. (3) Pour in the yeasty water & add oil
(4) With a fork, mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients (If the dough is too sticky, add more all-purpose flour; dough should be slightly sticky but not stick to your hands too much)
(5) Knead dough on lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes
(6) Place dough in large greased bowl
(7) Flip dough over to coat it in oil
(8) Cover with plastic wrap & a clean kitchen towel and leave it to rest in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour, or until the dough is doubled in size (in Fresno's summer heat, it will rise in about 20 minutes)
**At this point, you can make the garlic knots or let the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight.  Just bring the dough to room temperature before rolling it out.
(9) When ready to prepare the garlic knots, roll out dough on lightly floured surface
(10) Roll into a 10-inch by 10-inch square (doesn’t have to be perfect)
(11) Use a pizza cutter or long knife to slice 10ish 1-inch stripes
(12) Tie a knot in the center of the dough & wrap the ends under & around the knot (just do whatever as long as you end up with tucked-in ends)
(13) Cover with clean kitchen towel & let rest for 30 min
(14) Place racks (I ended up only need one cookie sheet on one rack) in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F
(15) Line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper
(16) Place dough knots (haha like "donuts") on prepared baking sheets & bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown
(17) While bread bakes, in a large bowl whisk together minced garlic, butter, olive oil, parsley& salt
(18) When rolls come out of oven, immediately toss them in the garlic butter mixture & toss until coated. Remove from the butter bowl.  Serve rolls warm.
** Joy's notes: "Rolls are best served the day they’re made, but will last for 3 days if well wrapped.  Just reheat in a piece of foil in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Grape Stomping @ Ficklin Vineyards

Ficklin Vineyards
30246 7.5 Avenue (Yes... 7 1/2)
Madera, CA 93637
Website here.

I did this with my mom and I did this WAY back in 2009, and I just never blogged about it until now. Part of the reason was laziness, and the rest was the fact that I was waiting for the wine that all of the stomping created to come out. Well, it did come out in December-ish of last year (2010), and yet I am only now posting about it. My bad. Soooo here are a few pictures!

Me stepping on grapes and probably a zillion spiders and other bugs. You just can't think about that.

 It was like a big party. People of all ages were stomping, and everyone seemed to be having a blast. First, they rinse off your legs. Then you stomp/dance to Michael Jackson songs. Then they rinse you off again. Then you eat a yummy lunch buffet and enter possible names for the wine that all of this stomping ended up producing. The winning name? TOE-Riga (the type of grapes stomped was Touriga, and we stomped the grapes with our toes...haha). The final product is below. I'm not a fan of red wine (I've tried many times, and I'll keep on trying to like it), so you can't really ask me what I think. Mom said that it's sweet (it's a dessert wine). What a cool experience!

Mm... Lamajoon!!

Also spelled "lahmajoun" according to some websites.

I love this. I've heard it described as an Armenian pizza. Makes sense. I need to learn how to make it. My family buys these things in bulk and freezes them. :)

What's in them? Here are the ingredients from one recipe:

1 1/2 cup yellow onion chopped fine
1/2 cup green bell pepper chopped fine
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon of fresh sweet basil chopped
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Allspice, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Beard Papa's Green Tea Slush

Beard Papa
Little Tokyo Shopping Center (other locations)
333 S. Alameda Street, #106
Los Angeles, CA 90013

I'm picky about my green tea slushes. I only ones I've truly loved so far have been the green tea slush latte at Pearl Tea House in Fresno (I thought I posted about it, but I can't find the link!!! Must find that picture!!!) and the one at Cha For Tea in Irvine. Anyway, so this Beard Papa one was a disappointment. They did use what looked like matcha powder, but it was too much or something. It had that strong tea taste that's almost bitter and tastes kinda like old lady feet. Sorry. I can't really describe it in a different way. lol Oh least Beard Papa has other awesome things like their pumpkin cream puff, their green tea cream puff, and their plain cream puff. They are DELICIOUS! So creamy and wonderful. Oh--and I got this after visiting my friend, Bonnie (from my undergrad days at UC Berkeley), in LA right before I drove home after finishing my first year of graduate school at UC Riverside. What a feeling.

Lula's Lund's Chocolates: Sea Salt Caramels

THESE ARE SO GOOD!!!!!!!! They're all chocolate-covered caramels, but each one has a different salt flavor (e.g., Chili Verde, Himalayan Pink, Lemon Twist). Sometimes salted caramel products are too salty, but these had just the right balance between sweet and salty (like this). My dad's cousins stayed over and gave us these delicious chocolates.

 Um...yes. There is one caramel missing. I have another box to open, so I'll take another picture with all of them there.


Vermicelli Salad (Bun) @ Pho Vinam - Riverside, CA

Pho Vinam
1201 University Ave, Ste. 107
Riverside, CA 92507

Alex ate a pork vermicelli salad, and I had a chicken one. Both of us enjoyed our salads (I LOVE vermicelli salads!! They're extra awesome on hot summer days...kind like Japanese somen salad). I'd go there again (this actually was my third time there), but it's not one of my favorite places. This was one of the better v. salads I've had, but it wasn't the best. I need to discover more Vietnamese places. I only know of two, and the second one was closed when I tried getting dinner the other day for Alex and me.

I've had their vermicelli salad and pho. Their pho was too salty when I had it, although it's possible that that was a fluke. Catherine said she liked her pho. Anyway, their vermicelli salad was pretty good, although the best I've had were at Pho Saigon in Berkeley and at the little Healthy Asian Foods (I don't know what the real name was) place in the Bear Cave on UC Berkeley's campus. I don't even know if that's still there or not. When I was just leaving Berkeley, they were having protests ( about whether or not they should move this small business out and move a Panda Express in. I hope that little place is still there. Anyway! Off topic. Pho Vinam is always busy, so maybe that says something, although out of 132 Yelp reviews, the average rating is three stars out of five. To me, that's not good. That's like...average. I'd say that I'd give their pho two stars out of five and their chicken vermicelli salad four stars out of five. The pho places in Fresno win hands-down for best pho. It's the cheapest, tastiest, fastest-served pho ever. Wow. I don't think I've ever talked about Fresno, Berkeley, and Riverside all in one food post.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tapas & Sangria at Sevilla in Riverside + A Funny Story

Sevilla (Riverside's location)
3252 Mission Inn Ave
Riverside, CA 92507
Website here.

* Updated while watching Julie & Julia (movie about a girl who spends a year cooking through Julia Child's recipes).  :)

 Part of the menu:

White sangria - "White wine with fruit and liqueurs" (toooo strong for me):

Alioli & Fresh Baked Bread - "Homemade alioli & Andalusian tomato sauce"/"Kalamata olive or French loaf (serves 2)" - Best bread and dips I've had in awhile. That alioili was good, but the red pepper whatever that was was my favorite.

"Tortilla Espanola" - ("Sundried tomatoes, roasted garlic, goat cheese") - apparently a "tortilla" is like a potato omlette in Spain. yum! Melissa got this, and we actually tried looking for a tortilla.

Chicken Empanada (olives, golden raisins, & Chorizo) and Cheese and Chicken Empanadas (Imported Manchego cheese & Chorizo Riojano):

Three types of sausages (Grilled Spanish Sausages - "Chorizo, Riojano Longaniza, & Morcilla") and meatballs (Sauteed Meatballs al Jerez - "Sherry garlic sauce"). The sausages were SO delicious but sooo oily and rich. The dark one was my favorite. The meatballs were way too salty--even for Melissa, who likes salty food.

The inside of my Chicken Empanada (olives, golden raisins, & chorizo). Delicious. Can't really taste the raisins much, but maybe that's a good thing. Subtle sweetness can be good in savory dishes in my opinion.

Funny story time: Mia, Melissa, and I went to Sevilla for their happy hour to celebrate the end of finals/the end of our first year of graduate school. The food was delicious but rich, and then I went home and lost it all in the toilet. Lovely. It wasn't food poisoning because I shared food with M&M, who were fine. Anyway, the funny thing is that our research team wanted to celebrate the end of the year as well, and where did we end up going? To Sevilla for tapas and sangria. Hahaha Hilarious. It's okay though...I just avoided over-eating and over-drinking (not that I over-drank the last time; I didn't have much at all) and didn't eat the too-salty meatballs or the sausage at all because I could not stop thinking about the oily sausage just before and just after I barfed it all up. :P  Anyway, here are the tapas we had (and I had a red sangria this time):

The Brava Sauteed Potatoes ("Spicy tomato sauce" - far right below) were really good! So flavorful and not TOO spicy. I could have eaten way more than I actually did.

Sevilla Fried Calamari: