Sunday, March 29, 2015

San Francisco: Cool Tea Bar

Back in February, I dragged my family to yet another of my work events in San Francisco.  After a day of helping people with their naturalization applications, we took advantage of being in Chinatown by first getting egg tarts at Golden Gate Bakery (which was actually open for once) and then pearl tea at Cool Tea Bar:


















Cool Tea Bar is more than just drinks.  You can sit inside the restaurant and actually order food.  Or if you're doing a hit and run like we did, just order at the window and peace out once your drinks are done.

My sister got the jasmine milk tea while I went the roasted milk tea route ($3.50 each, plus $0.50 per topping).  We both wanted pearls, but were told that they'd run out.  We decided to be adventurous and try their cool balls:























So.  Weird.  Imagine popping a tiny liquid-filled plastic ball and then having to deal with the leftover casing.  Which has the texture of milk skin.

Ugh.

The milk tea itself was very good, but I just couldn't get over those damn cool balls.

Both my parents wanted something hot, so we got them the hot taro milk tea ($5.50):























Quite steep for a simple drink, yes, but man, that was the most legit taro milk tea I've ever had.  So legit that the girl who took our order felt obliged to warn us that the tea is made with real taro and thus to expect it to be on the chunky side.  And indeed it was super thick and super delicious.  I'm not a huge taro person, but even I can admit that shit was amazing.

If you're looking for fake fragrant watery stuff, go elsewhere.  But if you know what's up, then head on over to Cool Tea Bar.  Immediately.


Cool Tea Bar
728 Pacific Ave #118
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 781-8312
http://coolteabar.com/

Friday, March 27, 2015

Oakland: À Côté

I finally made it into 2015!  I mean, my blog finally did.

You know what I mean.

Back in January, I met up with SY and VT for Restaurant Week at À Côté after work one night:


















Finding parking in the area was horrendous.  It took SY and I longer to find a spot than it did to drive there.  Argh.

When we arrived, VT was already there waiting for us.  She'd scored a cozy little booth in the back of the restaurant.  The place was swanky aka it was dark with lots of mood lighting:


















À Côté's Restaurant Week menu allowed you to choose between two appetizers, two mains, and two desserts for $30.  SY, VT, and I all have similar tastes because we chose all the same dishes except I went for a different dessert.

I apologize for the poor quality of my photos.  I gathered as many faux candles as I could, but it didn't really help and the last thing I wanted to do was bother other patrons with my obnoxious flash.

For the appetizer, we all elected the parsnip leek soup with chive oil over the romaine and radicchio salad:


















The parsnip made the soup slightly sweet and the creaminess was lovely.  Too bad the bowl was basically a plate.  Way too shallow.

For our main, we turned up our noses at the kabocha squash gnocchi and instead went with the seared scallops with beet risotto, golden beets, and tangerine buerre blanc:























While everything tasted great individually, I honestly just wanted a bit of salt to sprinkle on top.  All the components on the plate were slightly sweet from the beet risotto to the golden beets to even the scallops.  Sweet parsnip soup, sweet scallops...then dessert...what happened to savory meals?

For dessert, both SY and VT chose the coupe À Côté, which was a pecan praline and caramel brownie with bittersweet chocolate ice cream, hot fudge, and caramel cream.  I, on the other hand, went with the ganache glazed caramel pots de creme made with salted caramel and paired with a pecan lace cookie:























Go decadent or go home, right?:


















The chocolate ganache was uber rich, as was the salted caramel creme.  Each spoonful felt like a sin, but in the best way possible.  The caramel was slightly bitter, which helped the cut down the overall sweetness.  It was my favorite of the night.

I know you're not supposed to judge a restaurant by its Restaurant Week menu.  But I can't help it.  I'm judgmental like that.

À Côté?  It was aight.  The food was good, but nothing to write home about.  Or write in a blog about.  I left feeling like I could still eat more.

Like 20 piece chicken mcnuggets and a large fry.


À Côté
5478 College Ave
Oakland, CA 94618
(510) 655-6469
http://acoterestaurant.com/

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Seattle: Pie

So the plan after brunch at Serious Pie & Biscuit was to do a bit of sightseeing, maybe get a flight of beer, have dinner with our hosts, and then bye bye Seattle early Sunday morning.

We were leaving Gas Works Park on our way to the Fremont Troll when my father suddenly suggested that we skip dinner and just leave for home that afternoon.  There was a bit of balking from the rest of us.  We had already made plans with our hosts.  (My father replied that they would actually be glad to get us out of their hair and enjoy their Christmas holiday as a family.)  This would mean driving through the night.  (My father said he didn't mind doing it.)

Ultimately, he won us over.  Driving home Saturday meant that we would have all of Sunday to recover from our trip.

After a phone call to our hosts letting them know of the change in plans and a very brief stop at the Fremont Troll (where we didn't care nearly enough to wait for a turn to take a picture posing on the sculpture), we made another pit stop just a few blocks down at Pie:


















We figured it would be shady as hell to stop back at our hosts' house to pick up our luggage and sneak out while they were out without leaving behind a token of our appreciation.

Pie, very aptly named, offers, well, pie.  The first thing you see upon entering the tiny shop is the display case filled with all sorts of goodies:


















There are savory pies and sweet pies.  The menu changes daily.  All come in mini pie form.

We got our hosts a box of four sweet pies:


















Clockwise from the upper left: caramel apple, banana cream, berry awesome, and cranberry key lime.

The fruit pies cost $4.75 each, while the cream pies were $4.95.  Pie also offers mini-mini fruit pies for $1.50.  The mini-mini pies are so small that they're basically a bite each.

We ordered a separate box with just the berry awesome pie and the cranberry key lime pie to tide us over on our road trip back to California.  The berry awesome was tangy and very berrylicious.  My favorite, however, was the cranberry key lime pie.  I'm a sucker for key lime pie.  The addition of cranberry didn't throw me off at all.

Pie was cute, but the pies themselves were just alright.  I wouldn't go out of my way to get them.  (Whereas I would definitely go out of my way to get to the Pie Hole in LA.)

We left the box of pies in our hosts' fridge along with a thank you note.  Then, we packed up our stuff and off we went.

The weather was pretty heinous on our way through Oregon.  The rain was coming down so heavily that it was difficult to see the road.  We left Seattle around 3:30pm and got home around 4:00am.  So ended our family Christmas Seattle trip.  It ended just as abruptly as the idea to go came to my father.

Speaking of my father, props to him for driving like a beast!

...And for buying the selfie stick that provided us with so much entertainment throughout our trip.


Pie
3515 Fremont Ave N, Ste B
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 436-8590
http://www.sweetandsavorypie.com/

Friday, March 20, 2015

Seattle: Serious Pie & Biscuit

My family was very obliging and let me pick all the places to eat at in Seattle.  For breakfast our second morning there, we went to Serious Pie & Biscuit, another Tom Douglas restaurant:


















We lucked out and found a parking spot just down the block.

Serious Pie & Biscuit is known for two things: pizza and biscuit.  Both are offered in the restaurant, just at different times.  Biscuits are available in the AM and early afternoon hours, while pizza starts at 11:00pm and goes til closing.  We were there early for the biscuits.

My first impression of Serious Pie & Biscuit was that I could easily imagine it in Chicago.  It just had that laid back, communal, hipster feel.

We lucked out in that we got to sit in the upper level:


















The reason being this view:


















I love having a view of the kitchen.  It feels like getting a sneak peek behind the scenes and I'm all about that behind the scene stuff.

We ordered four biscuits.  We got the daily special, which included some kind of fish hash:


















I honestly don't remember anymore.  I just remember that after all four of us had a turn at the dish, my sister exclaimed that she never got any fish.  Heh.  I just rhymed.

We also got the ham, egg, cheddar, and apple mustard biscuit sandwich ($10) because my mother is a ham fanatic:


















Slightly sweet, the mustard was the best part of the sandwich.

The fried chicken with tabasco black pepper gravy ($10) is apparently Serious Pie & Biscuit's most popular biscuit sandwich:


















We could have chosen to add bacon and a fried egg for an additional $3, but we didn't really feel like it.

Besides biscuit sandwiches, Serious Pie & Biscuit also offers wood-fired skillet baked eggs.  We got the local cascade mushrooms with roasted garlic and pesto ($10):


















Hands down, the best thing we had that morning.  The biscuits were a bit on the dry side, so having the baked eggs to dip them in was a blessing.

Second favorite?  You can probably guess it.  The fried chicken with gravy.  Same reasoning apply.

Friendly staff, relaxing atmosphere, affordable prices, awesome view of the kitchen...we quite enjoyed our time at Serious Pie & Biscuit.  The food was good, though not exactly mind-blowing.

My father's one complaint was the poor ventilation inside.  I wasn't bothered by it, but my father has always been ultra sensitive to air flow.  The rest of us just kind of roll our eyes and let him lecture on...and on about the importance of ventilation.


Serious Pie & Biscuit
401 Westlake Ave North
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 436-0050
http://www.seriouspieseattle.com/westlake

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Seattle: Piroshky Piroshky

You can't miss Piroshky Piroshky when walking through Pike Place:


















Even if you don't see the sign, you find the long line that winds around the corner.  It moves quickly, though.  So no worries.  In no time, you'll be peeking into the interior of the bakery:


















Pictures of the different baked goods line the windows, so you can kind of get an idea of what you want before you get to the counter.  Once you're there, don't expect time to figure things out.  Just point and point and move on to pay.  Ain't nobody got time to wait for you to make up your mind.

We got the potato and cheese:


















The smoked salmon pate:























And the beef and onion:


















Word of advice: eat them while warm.  We waited until we got to the Olympic Sculpture Park to eat ours and by then they were cold.  They still tasted good, but the bread wasn't as soft or the cheese as...melty as they could have been.

Piroshky Piroshky is definitely worth a try, but I probably wouldn't wait in line for it on a regular basis.  Though if I was ever in Seattle again, I would go back once more so that I could try something from their sweets.


Piroshky Piroshky
1908 Pike Pl
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 441-6068
http://www.piroshkybakery.com/

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Seattle: Rachel's Ginger Beer

Right down the block from Pike Place Chowder is Rachel's Ginger Beer:


















I like ginger and my sister likes beer, so we figured why not?

The interior was bright and cheerful:


















RGB offers an interesting menu of cocktails.  Unfortunately, only the non-alcoholic drinks can be taken to go.  A 12 oz cup of one of RGB's special flavors of handcrafted ginger beer will set you back $5.  Special flavors include blood orange, blueberry, white peach, and hibiscus among others.

We got the pink guava and the cucumber tarragon:


















I liked the cucumber tarragon quite a lot.  As I expected, it was bright and refreshing.  The pink guava wasn't bad either.  Both had that spicy ginger tang.

Not exactly cheap, but the RGB special flavors are interesting enough for merit a cup or two...once in a long while.  If you're nowhere near Seattle, you can also order 32 oz "growler" bottles from their website and have them shipped directly to you.


Rachel's Ginger Beer
1530 Post Alley
Seattle, WA 98101
http://rachelsgingerbeer.com/

Friday, March 6, 2015

Seattle: Pike Place Chowder

From Dahlia Bakery, took made a little detour to Bed Bath & Beyond to make use of their facilities (shameless, I know).  Then it was off to Pike Place.  We browsed through the little craft and artisan stalls.  We gasped at the price of seafood (my father was appalled).

And when we figured we'd walked and digested enough, we made our way to Pike Place Chowder:


















The line was around the corner, but it went pretty quickly.  Probably because just about everyone was only ordering chowders and it doesn't take very long to grab a bowl and dump a ladle full of the stuff into it.

Place your order at the counter, grab your tray of chowders, and then fervently hope that a table magically becomes available just as you need it.

Not a lot of seats inside:


















So most people were braving the cold and sitting outside.

Pike Place Chowder isn't called that for no reason.  You can find all sorts of chowders there.  Sure, you can get plan old New England Clam Chowder, but you can also find Manhattan style chowder, Don't like seafood?  There's southwestern chicken and corn chowder.  Don't like meat?  There's vegan chowder.  

Since there were four of us, we decided to order four chowders, each of which came with a slice of white bread:


















My family definitely loves our seafood, so we didn't even consider the chicken chowder.  Or the vegan chowder.  If I'd even tried to suggest that one, I would probably have been disowned then and there.

Pike Place Chowder's New England clam chowder was apparently voted "Nation's Best" at some chowder cook-off, so of course we had to order a large one ($7.95).  The seafood bisque had also been voted "Nation's Best", so we got a large of that as well ($8.95).  Both were delicious, but I think I enjoyed the seafood bisque a bit more.  It was a creamy tomato-based broth with cod, salmon, bay shrimp, and crab.  Then again, I didn't really get much of the clam chowder because my mother HOGGED THE BOWL.

To try something new, we also got a medium bowl of the seared scallop chowder ($7.45)  The chowder was flavored with dill and lime juice.  The first spoonful was amazing, but the subsequent sips became less and less appealing.  It bit too much lime juice for me.

The smoked salmon chowder ($6.75 for a medium bowl) was also also delicious at first.  Then the cream cheese and smoked salmon flavor just got to be a bit much.

Nothing some free Andes mints won't fix though:


















We may have grabbed more than we should have.  Heh.

Pike Place Chowder got the thumbs up from my parents, which let me tell you, is not easy.  So go, you, Pike Place Chowder.  Keep doing what you're doing because you're killin' it.


Pike Place Chowder
1530 Post Alley
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 267-2537
http://www.pikeplacechowder.com/
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