Monday, March 24, 2008

Yelpers Unite

Photo Taken By: Richard Tamayo

On Friday after our workout, Justyn and I went to dinner at a nearby pho restaurant so I could finally satisfy my craving for that Vietnamese Noodle Salad, done the right way. Damn that stuff is good. It was perfect for a warm evening. After that, we went to a local dive bar to have drinks and shoot some pool. The evening ended nicely...

On Saturday, Donoho met at our house and we went to Falafel Drive-In for lunch with a group of Yelpers ( I normally don't like eating vegetarian so I skipped the falafels. Instead, I ordered a gyro salad. The meat was nicely seasoned and served in chunks rather than thinly sliced. I felt the salad was over dressed with their tahini dressing, but I had eaten earlier in the morning so I wasn't very hungry. Justyn helped me finish it. Justyn's falafel was delicious. I'm still kicking myself for not ordering it. The place has falafel in their name, why didn't I get it!? Argh... Anyway, we met some really cool Yelpers there before driving over to the movie theatre to watch the live action version of Death Note.

Why does Justyn look so sleepy? Hrm...

Funny and not so funny story here.. We pulled up to the gate of the parking lot where I didn't pull up close enough to the ticket dispenser. Donoho graciously volunteered to get out of the car and get it for me. He handed me the ticket from outside of the car and as soon as I handed the ticket to Justyn to hold, I started to drive off. Stupidly, I didn't wait for Donoho to get back in the car and the door hit him in the chest. :( I felt really really stupid.

Enough of that misadventure though. We got our tickets at Camera 12 which were held at will call and then went to Starbucks for some coffee. I had already seen the movie so I wasn't really jazzed about seeing it again, but I manned up for it since Justyn and Donoho hadn't seen it yet. 2 hours later, Justyn hated it and Donoho thought it was OK. Oh well...

Afterwards, Yelp held an after party at the Fahrenheit Lounge. Ah.. again, the perks of being Elite Yelp! Without sounding too prententious, they had shut down the entire club and had a couple free drinks (Red Stripe & Smirnoff Ice) as well as passed hors d'oeuvres (beef and chicken sate and some other stuff which I didn't try). It was an awesome event! We even got to chat with the chef/owner Danny. Thanks Yelp!

We went home after that and hung out for a bit before going to dinner. I don't remember the name of the restaurant, but I had a cheeseburger that well exceeded my expectations albeit was a little underseasoned. Justyn and I made a bet regarding the ranch sauce that came with his onion rings. He insisted that it was Hidden Valley, but I begged to differ. Finally, the waiter came by to resolve our dispute. I won the bet! Woo hoo! Justyn bet that if I lost, we would have to work out everyday after work. Since I won, we only have to work out twice this week. Haha....

Donoho had to go home and finish moving, so Justyn and I went to Christine and Nick's house for a little gathering. What a day!

Needless to say, Sunday was spent sleeping in and relaxing.

Friday, March 21, 2008

New Garage Door & Cooking for March 14th

Yesterday I worked from home so The Garage Door Guy (awesome contractor, btw) could install our new garage door. This is 1 of 2 remodeling jobs that we've done to the place so far. We had all the windows redone with double pane to block out road noise and now with the new garage door it's so much more quiet inside. Here's Ron hard at work along with pictures of the old and new door.

I also wanted to cook a special dinner in honor of March 14th. If you don't know what day that is, shame on you. Hehe... Justyn requested blue cheese topped steaks and potato latke (or pancakes). I decided to up the ante by including a salad in a bacon bowl. I was a little intimidated by the menu since I've never made any of these things. It turned out fairly easy though. I made the bacon bowls first by weaving the strips over a couple aluminum pot pie cups. Unfortunately the bacon was on the thick side so they didn't come out as nice as the ones I saw on

While the bacon bowls were in the oven I prepped my room tempurature steaks by seasoning them with salt and pepper. I also prepped the blue cheese topping by mixing together crumbled blue cheese, panko breadcrumbs and chopped parsley. Onto the potato latkes to which I grated a yellow onion and three regular baking potatoes. Salt, pepper, egg and flour were added so they would stick together.

After all that, I sweated my choped shallot, onion and thyme before adding a mixture of beef broth and wine for the steak sauce. I put that to the side and added my seasoned t-bones to sear before the were topped with the blue cheese mixture and broiled for a couple minutes.

I fried up the latkes and gave them a taste. Wow! I didn't expect them to be all that good for a first time recipe. Nice sweet onion flavor with carby potatoes. Yum!

I arranged the salad on the bacon bowl/plate (they didn't hold up well due to the thickness of the bacon), potato latkes got a dallop of sour cream and sprinkling of chives and the steak got a drizzle of the sauce I had made. I thought it was way too much food, but Justyn dove in without a second though. He loved it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cooking: Vietnamese Rice Noodles

Ah yes, Vietnamese Rice Noodles. I order them whenever I go to pho restaurants which is kinda odd since I should be getting pho right? Well, no. I love Vietnamese Rice Noodles (VRN). It's got the perfect balance of savory, sweet, salty and freshness. What's not to like? It touches every part of the tongue. You also have varying tempuratures too. The grilled meat is sweet but hot off the grill which balances perfectly with the cool herbs (cilantro, mint & basil) and rice noodles. You've also got the light crunch of the roasted peanuts. It was time that I made my own.

I have tried to make this once before with absolute failure but now that I have more cooking experience, this should go pretty smoothly. How hard is it to cook up some marinated meat, boil noodles and prep herbs and vegetation? Well..... here goes.

I started out by using my microplane to grate up a couple cloves of garlic and lemongrass. I added 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. I mixed that around and gave it a taste. Woo! Salty!! I quickly added some more sugar to balance out the flavors. It tasted close enough so I added the thinly sliced beef. Ah crap... the recipe did not say to add one chopped scallion to the mix so I did that.

While the meat was marinating, I prepped my herbs and vegetation. Easy enough. After that, I boiled the water for my noodles. Alright, no problem there. Finally, the all important sweet and salty fish sauce mixture that you pour over the noodles when serving. I grated garlic and thinly sliced a serrano pepper (they didn't have thai bird chilies at Lucky). Sugar was added along with more of that potent fish sauce. A squeeze of lime juice and all should be perfect. I gave it a taste and woooooah too salty! So I added some honey to it. Ah, much better.

Time to cook the beef. I heated my wok on high heat to get some good carmelization and added the beef in. I got the perfect loud sizzle as the cold beef hit the very hot wok. Success! Or so I thought. The beef was too wet to achieve any kind of nice deep brown color. Fuck! (Scuse my language heh) Oh well, I carried on anyway as I didn't have anymore beef to start over. About 7 minutes of stir frying and the beef was fully cooked. I tasted a piece of it and it was WAY salty AGAIN!! *cries* Since the honey worked for the fish sauce mixture, I added a bunch of that to the beef. That calmed down the saltiness a bit, and tasted edible enough but I was unhappy with the end result.

I got the recipe from Sarah of The Delicious Life ( I'm not here to discredit her or the recipe she posted. Vietnamese cooking may look easy, but you've got to find a perfect balance of flavors or the whole thing goes to shit. I just suck at this kind type of cuisine. Ah well... at least you guys have a couple pretty pictures to look at. Oh yeah, bonus too. Included in the photos are a couple bottles of this really yummy juice infused sparkling sake from Sake2Me (check There are actually four flavors which include Green Tea, Asian Pear, Yuzu Citrus & Ginger Mango (a personal favorite). They should pay me for this plug because this stuff is THE BOMB. Anyway... here you go.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Leftover Cooking: Irish Pastries and Soup

I had a ton of leftovers from my Irish Weekend cooking, so what better way to use up some of it than to fill some puff pastry and re-heat the soup? I simply put the leftover broth from the Corned Beef & Cabbage, which consisted of a bottle of Guiness and beef broth, into a pot. While that was re-heating on low, I got to work on my puff pastry.

The puff pastry has to defrost for about 40 minutes before you can work with it, but once that's done, you can have fun with it. I cut out 6 circles from 3 sheets of puff pastry and filled them with a couple chunks of beef stew with a tiny bit of sauce. I also mashed up some corned beef with my fingers and topped it with half a slice of swiss cheese for variety. Once the puff pastries were filled, I beat up an egg and sealed the pastries and folded them over to make half moon shapes. I poked holes on top and then sealed them by using a fork for the seams. Egg wash on top and then you're done! They baked in my oven at 400 degrees for 13 minutes, but in retrospect, I should have baked them at 350-375 because my oven was way too hot. Most of the puff pastry pockets were a little burned on top.

Here's the end result and I tell ya.. they were so good, Justyn devoured them like a starving beast haha! We still have a couple left and I was supposed to bring them into work for lunch today, but I forgot them at home! Oh well, I guess we'll have them for dinner!
This picture is special. Can you spot my little project in the works? Hee hee...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Irish Weekend and More...

Friday, I decided that I would be cooking Irish meals for the weekend. Justyn wasn't feeling well so we weren't able to celebrate March 14th, but we will just have to postpone that. Hee hee... Anyway, Ken came over to hang out so we just drank, talked and played Dead Rising on his XBoX 360. It's a pretty cool platform especially on our new 50" DLP TV. The graphics are awesome! Here are a couple pictures of Ken's drink which is a Coke Slurpee with Mount Gay (heh) Rum.

Oh yeah, here's a picture of my new cute purse. I can't tell you how much it was because Justyn bought it for me, but I LOVE IT! I also got a matching wallet to go with it.

Saturday, I did some grocery shopping for Irish Beef Stew and Corned Beef & Cabbage. Luckily most of the ingrediants for both dishes are similar so I didn't have to wander around Lucky looking for stuff. (Even though I know that store like the back of my hand)

For lunch we ate at my favorite sammich shop called La Villa (Bertucci's). I had been massively craving their mortadella sammich so I ordered that with some potato salad and Justyn got their roast beef sammich. We did a little sammich swapping, but I was full after half of my Mortadella sammich and Justyn's roast beef did not taste good. Their potato salad was also kinda bland but I didn't care. Eating lunch on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Willow Glen rocks my socks!

Ken came over again for dinner and we played more XBoX. A couple of his friends (Nick & Christine) came over as well and we just hung out for the rest of the night. Oh yeah, not to mention watching Boondock Saints for the billionth time. I mean, if I'm going to make Irish Beef Stew, you gotta have an Irish movie to go along with it. "Everybody's Irish on St. Patty's Day."

On Sunday, we got woken up by the Comcast guy at 8:00am. Since we changed our plan for the cable, Comcast insisted that we get a land line installed even though we don't need it. The installation only took a little less than half an hour, so I prepped the Corned Beef & Cabbage before getting ready for lunch. We were going to have lunch with Jusytn's mom at Curry House (a really cool Japanese bistro), but they were really crowded so we went to Za Zang instead to have noodles and dumplings. When we got home, I checked the Corned Beef & Cabbage mixture to make sure everything was OK. After that we had to help Donoho move some really heavy objects but everything went smoothly. We got home around 7:15pm and had dinner. The Corned Beef & Cabbage came out really nice. I didn't even have to adjust seasoning. With tons of leftover, we had Ken come over to pick some up since he likes it so much. Now, I'm totally tired and I'm going to bed! Good night foodies! :)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cooking: Zite with Onions, Sausage & Fennel

OK, go ahead. Call me a copycat.

I'm a regular visitor at I love his colorful posts, stories and write ups. And now that Adam has gotten famous on the Food Network, a lesser more amateur must take his place right? OK, maybe not. Anyway, I saw his post on this particular recipe and it immediatly caught my eye. Who doesn't like pasta with sausage, onion and fennel? It sounds so easy too. I had to honor the title of the recipe which should say "ziti" instead of "zite" too. Haha... I'm not even sure if it should be "zite" or not. It sure looked funny though.

I went to Lucky to pick up my ingrediants which were onion, fennel, sausage and tomato paste. I actually forgot to get the cheese, so Justyn picked some up for me while he was out getting his new truck washed. Can you spot the flat panda? :)

I started out by boiling water for the pasta.

Then I browned off the sausage.

I pushed the sausage to the side and added my onions.

I made an "uh-oh" here. I had drained off almost all the water from the cooked pasta which I needed to make the sauce, so I just used a glass full of water after I added the fennel, chili flakes and tomato paste. I also added some garlic which was not part of the original recipe.

I added the sauce to the pot of pasta and mixed that all around.

Add the rough chopped fennel fronds and mix more.

Top with grated parmesan romano and dinner's ready!

Absolutely perfectly easy for a week night dinner, not to mention delicious! Justyn ate two bowls of it.