Dinner at Frances

A few weeks ago, Jan and Peter managed to get reservations at [Frances](http://www.frances-sf.com/), which turned out to be one of the best restaurants I've ever been to. I'm told that it is nearly impossible to get reservations, so they must have had a last-minute cancellation! Highly recommended. After I got home, I made a couple more reservations on Open Table. The first slot available was 5 weeks out.

Oh hai! (Food in Japan)

I love food in Japan. The kaiseki at our hotel in Shibu Onsen was incredible. Even the rice was delicious -- the best rice I've ever tasted: perfect mouth feel. We had some rice at a restaurant in Kyoto just now which paled in comparison, so the variation in quality is extreme.


Wasabi! I wish it were this easy to get in the States.


I don't know what this was, but it was AMAZING. Tasted like a green onion wrapped around ginger.


Looks amazing, doesn't it? Fooled ya'! It's plastic!

All of the food looks exactly like its prominently-displayed plastic counterpart (not that the kaiseki meals had any plastic models shown).

Chez Panisse, celebration


Geoff and Livia at Chez Panisse
[Geoff](http://slsq.com) and [Livia](http://liviasohn.com) took us out to Chez Panisse tonight to celebrate the events of the last week. We went to the restaurant downstairs, which was wonderful, as expected. Highly recommended!


Incredible dessert at Chez Panisse: Cognac and bittersweet chocolate ice cream meringue tartlet


Jack's happy brush is sad!

Flash-fried shishito peppers

Here is my first attempt at flash-fried shishito peppers (I found them at the local farmer's market). I am happy to report that they were every bit as tasty as the ones I had in Japan!

Hamura Saimin Stand, Lihue, Kauai

When I [met Martin Wong](/journal/2010/04/17/kozyndan-giant-robots-and-editorial-directors/) a few days ago and told him I was headed to Kauai, he asked if I was going to check out "that saimin place that everyone goes to." I replied that I had no idea what he was talking about, but that if there was a famous saimin place in Kauai, I'd find it. Today, Jennifer Penner happened to write to me on Facebook to ask if I had been to [Hamura Saimin Stand](http://www.yelp.com/biz/hamura-saimin-stand-lihue-2) in Lihue, which apparently won a James Beard award despite its official status as a hole-in-the-wall.


Hamura Saimin Stand in Lihue

Pam and I ventured out to Lihue tonight to find Hamura's. When we arrived and walked in, we stood around for awhile before we realized that we were supposed to seat ourselves. The old women who run the place were in motion continuously, taking to-go orders, accepting money, and delivering food to hungry patrons. They were EXPERTS at avoiding eye contact -- quite impressive, actually. It took us quite some time before we were able to get one of them to come take our order, and when she finally came over, Pam asked, "What's in the special?"

Wrong move.

She immediately walked away, grabbed a menu from behind the cash register, and plopped it down in front of us. We had missed our opportunity to order, and we were unsure when we'd get another chance to do so.

Eventually, we flagged another woman down and was able to place an order. Nothing was written down, so I assumed that she had an incredible memory... but I was wrong again. I figured out that if we asked for something and it wasn't brought to us immediately, it was probably never going to arrive. Just keep on asking until it arrives.


the "Special" saimin at Hamura's

The saimin at Hamura's had been written about so much that I was expecting something magical, but as someone whose bar of noodle excellence is a good Japanese ramen place, I wasn't totally blown away. I was, however, satisfied; it is a solid noodle house, and is fast and cheap. We wanted to try the lilikoi chiffon pie, but they were out of it (took 10 minutes to figure that out).


saimin craziness -- they are *fast*

The service at Hamura's is what you'd expect, which is to say that everything is optimized for speed. I'm used to going to Asian establishments with good food and functional service, so I felt at home.

At some point, this Swiss guy walked in and started asking questions like, "Is that saimin?" He tried to place a complicated order that involved tempura (fail).


Swiss guy takes a seat

A few of us tried to help him, but he wasn't reacting in a way that was productive, so we left him to fend for himself. He eventually managed to get some food, but it was not a pretty scene.

Anyway, if you find yourself in Kauai and want to check out a local eatery, I recommend going! I'll probably return, but not until I explore the rest of the island.

Ramen at Ippudo with Douglas and Emily


With Douglas and Emily at Ippudo in New York
While I was at Beneath the Sea in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Douglas Seifert and Emily Irving were enjoying all 9 Beethoven symphonies in Manhattan. They managed to drag Marit Miners away for dinner one night (although, dinner with Douglas and Emily is a vegetarian nightmare), and Susy and Stan Waterman for a night of music.

I didn't get to see Douglas and Emily until Monday; we met at Ippudo for an 11am bowl of ramen and heavenly pork buns, elbowing our way past an entire busload of Japanese tourists to get our table.


My eating buddies.

I don't get to see them enough these days.

I almost took the entire weekend off


first attempt at butternut squash soup
It was so beautiful here in San Francisco this weekend that we spent most of it outside, wandering around. We read on the beach in Pacifica, wandered around Burlingame, Millbrae and San Bruno looking for the best view of planes from SFO, had a delicious brunch (baking in the heat) at Universal Cafe, hiked the Lands End Trail, had Chinese gelato at Marco Polo, and made soup for the first time.

It was butternut squash soup. More specifically, it was Butternut Squash Soup with Star Anise and Ginger Shrimp from Epicurious (minus the evil shrimp, but plus the ginger that was supposed to be on the shrimp), and it was DELICIOUS! I might even go so far as to say that it was as good as any butternut squash soup I've ever had, bowls from restaurants included.

We made a huge mess of the kitchen, however, and the blender almost exploded when I started it (filled half way with nearly-boiling squash and soup). Thankfully, I had placed a towel over the top of the blender and was pushing down firmly on the lid. Oh, and we had to make a run to get butter because the butter in my fridge was 4 months expired.

Below is photographic evidence of my culinary exploits because otherwise, no one would believe me.

I *almost* made it to the end of the weekend without doing work. After dinner, I sat down at my computer and before I knew it, 5 hours had passed. I'm going to bed.

[smugmug url="http://photos.echeng.com/hack/feed.mg?Type=gallery&Data=10096133_SWgoj&format=rss200" imagecount="100" start="1" num="100" thumbsize="Th" link="lightbox" captions="true" sort="true" size="L"]

Macarons from Ladurée, Paris


Rainbow macaron heaven
Macarons from Ladurée, a patisserie just a few blocks from Musée d'Orsay. We cut our museum time short for a special trip there to get macarons.


I didn't need the fancy designer boxes, but I guess some people do


luckily, there was only a short line to get in


entering Ladurée

Food / socializing / food / socializing

These days, dinner = contact with other people. Had Korean food awhile ago with Bill, Juan, and Felicia. Bill and Juan really enjoyed the little yogurt drinks they give you at the end. Also, got to see Zandra for the first time in over a month, which was nice. We explored the Japanese restaurant inside the Metreon, which was decent (nothing special, but totally fine). Finally, dinner with Pam -- and my favorite affogato!

What happened to Taqueria Cancun?

I went to Taqueria Cancun last night (the one at Mission/18th) with Jake, and found a taqueria I nearly didn't recognize. There was no free water, and during our entire dinner, only 3 Latinos came in to eat. Instead, it was a bunch of well-dressed folks -- Caucasians and Asians, mostly -- plus the occasional rail-thin hipster in a striped sport coat and funky hat.


the good ol' burrito mojado

However, the burrito mojado was as I remembered it to be, as was the nasty ambient smell, which only materialized after a yuppie asked a staff member to close the door because it was too cold outside.

Can anyone recommend a good taqueria in SOMA? I know there is a Taqueria Cancun at Market/6th, but it doesn't seem like there are many more in the area.

Slow Club with Susan and Brad Brown


susan and brad @ universal cafe
Brad (of Cracottes dolphin fame) and Susan Brown drove up a couple of weeks ago to have brunch with me at Slow Club. It was really great to hang out with Brad and Susan; I hadn't seen them since the Digital Shootout 2007 in Bonaire.

I love brunch in Portrero Hill. I like the food, ambiance, parking availability, and the relative lack of hipsters when compared to some other areas (like the area I happen to live in now).

Anyway, you can see some of their work. They are good shooters!

It's chicken, stupid!

On the way back from seeing Vienna Teng perform at C. Donatiello winery in Healdsberg, Bill and I stopped to have dinner with Mandy, Elliot, and Aaron at a Mexican restaurant in West Portal. Halfway through dinner, we got to the bottom of one of the small baskets of chips, and I noticed something dark beneath one of the chips. I discovered a single rat turd. The waitress came over, and I pointed out the turd to her. She removed the basket quickly and told us story about the chips being cooked on something where they also warm tortillas and cook chicken. "It's chicken," she said.

Now, I'm no chef, but I know what chicken looks like. More importantly, I know what chicken doesn't look like. Specifically, chicken doesn't look like rat turd. The poop piece was 100% a canonical rat turd -- tapered ends and slight bend. And even if it was chicken (it wasn't), we had two vegetarians with us at the table. It turns out that vegetarians don't want chicken in their chips.

Synsepalum dulcificum makes things taste sweet


Synsepalum dulcificum and citrus

A year and a half ago, my aunt in Taiwan gave me a little dried fruit to taste. After chewing on the pulp, I ate some sour citrus fruit, and to my surprise, it converted sour to sweet! I've been telling friends about it since then, but had never found a mainstream article about the fruit hitting the States until now. The taste twist is due to a protein called miraculin, which is sort of a lame name. People are calling the experience "favor tripping."

The miracle fruit, Synsepalum dulcificum, is native to West Africa and has been known to Westerners since the 18th century. The cause of the reaction is a protein called miraculin, which binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids, according to a scientist who has studied the fruit...

Full article is at New York Times: A Tiny Fruit That Tricks the Tongue

I also just noticed that the NYT website overrides double clicks and turns it into a site search for that term. Argh.