Steak Search 1 – The Alley

Once a Texan, you’re always a Texan. Earlier last week I exchanged a few words with my friend about our food logging endeavour, and I got reminded of steak. (Yes, Sarah, you’re responsible ;-)). I thought it was gone. That evil desire of eating an innocent cow who just a few days ago was wandering the meadow with dreamy eyes. It has resurfaced. Granted I recently enjoy the occasional meatballs from Ikea, a Whopper at the Burger King on San Pablo, and various Top Dog‘s sausages, I haven’t had a chunky slab of steak for months. Now that’s serious. When I’m in Houston, we go to Potatoe Patch almost every other week. When I’m in College Station, I can always rely on Sodolak’s for a hearty fill. Where can I go in Berkeley? Yelp reveals a gargantuan list of six “steak” locations in the area (for comparison, Humble (TX) has twelve, and Humble is half the area of Berkeley). So starting today I will eat at and blog about every steak house East of the Bay, alphabetically. First stop: The Alley. Continue reading Steak Search 1 – The Alley

A taste of Jamaica at Mango Caribbean

Being a grad student foodie means two things: 1. you’re always on a tight budget, 2. you have to make the most of every chance you get to eat out. Ultrahigh end restaurants are certainly off limit. Popular chains, no matter how tasty, are unbloggable and reserved for rare occasions when the cravings go mad. The more popular types of food, like pastas and sandwiches, would require a lot more skill and creativity to pen down, hence also preferably avoided. What’s left are the locally owned kitchens with ten or fifteen tables, one or two waiters, and something off the beaten path. It could be a strange item on the menu, or the lack of menu, an interesting name, a worn sign, a long line, an always-closed wooden door… For me, it’s the type of cuisine. If I haven’t had it, I’d insist on getting it, predictably with numerous disappointing turnouts. The thrill of trying new stuff aside, it’s something to brag about, you know. “I’ve had Azerbaijan” somehow just sounds cool. Childish, I know, but every new bite feels like a little culture seeping into the brain, and I […]

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When the blossoms bloom

One Saturday we shove our homework into a corner and make a dash for San Francisco before another spring storm takes over the bay. Parking is as easy as hiking with a twisted ankle, but all that matters is we find a spot, then stroll a mile to the food bazaar on Webster street, Japan Town, arriving just a little bit before noon. Up from the steep sidewalk we see rows of white tents and white chairs, smoke rolling above the grills covered with beef and pork riblets, a line getting long on one side of the conglomeration. It is still early in the first morning of the Cherry Blossom Festival. The carnivore instinct leads me right to the grill. It’s never too early to eat meat. The first booth whips out rice bowls with either ribs or unagi, braised eel cut into palm long chunks. We don’t feel like filling up with a rice bowl just yet, so we walk further down the row eying signs, then back track to the Nihonmachi Little Friends’ booth for three skewers of grilled beef at a mere five bucks. Continue reading When the blossoms bloom

The avocado’s sweet side

Who do you think is more confused about his identity, the penguin or the avocado? The penguin is the prime example of a bird that can’t fly. The avocado is the most commonly known fruit that doesn’t taste like a fruit. It lacks the citric hint of berries and oranges, the crunch of apples, the pulpiness of peaches and plums. If I were an avocado I’d ask myself several times a day, why did mom and dad make me taste like butter and different from every other fruitie at the market? A good avocado mom tree, like all good moms, would say “Av, being different is a good thing!”. – But I don’t get to hang out with the other fruits, they say I’m fat. – The other fruits can’t make Ice Cream by themselves. They’re only side flavors. You can become Ice Cream all by yourself. – If Sugar helps me. – Sugar is nice, but you also have what it takes to be a good Ice Cream. And think about what you can do for others if you learn from Butter and Cheese, you have their smoothness too. If I were an avocado, […]

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Some crepes are better than others

My cravings fluctuate from time to time, and it’s not always rational. One time I bought two kilos of prunes, ate some for a few days, now the rest are sitting patiently in my pantry. Then I used to have a crush on chocolate bars, the result is an almost complete collection of Endangered Species Chocolate wrappers, but a few bars have been on my desk for over six months. As of late, I’ve grown a crepe tooth. A matchbox kitchen fifteen-minute leisure walk from Sather Tower, called Crepes A-Go-Go, is to blame. A quick drop of sound sizzles when the spatula folds and presses the fluffy layer. The oversize pancake lies supine. The heat is low. The quiet, stout chef casually sprinkles some Swiss cheese and some pineapple; he seems bored, or maybe I’m just too excited. I like my crepe soft and thick. Heck, I even like my banh xeo soft and thick, no matter how many people tell me that a qualified Vietnamese sizzling crepe should be crispy and paper thin. I watch the cheese melt. The chef lets the doughy pancake rest a […]

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Down the Aisles 2: April’s Fool… or not?

Uh oh, it looks like ink. The color is just screaming fake, real taro is faintly purple. My palm stains with indigo dye as I scoop the ice cream out of its cheap plastic tub. Sigh, I take a spoon. Divine. Coconut milk sweeps across the mouth. Nutty and grainy taro filters out all troubled thoughts. I thought taro yogurt with brownie bites at Yogurt Land was unbeatable, but this tops it. I read the ingredient list on the label. No coconut milk.