Friday afternoon, Bistro 1491

The sky is grey. The ipod plays Gustav Mahler’s piano quartet in A minor. One hand turns the page to Der Prokurator. The other hand maneuvers the fork into a stack of three pancakes. Oozing chocolate chips and a thick strip of bacon. Bistro 1491 sits, in fact, at 1491 Solano Avenue. Somehow I keep thinking that the name is 1941. It feels so. The burn orange walls, the abstract paintings, the white-haired ladies by the window. The pancakes are fluffy, soft, good at first, the bacon is at the right saltiness. The maple syrup errs on the watery side, or maybe it’s just overwhelmed by what’s supposed to be dark chocolate but turns out too sweet. About 60% dark. A heavy feel sets in after the pancakes are gone, what’s left on the plate are messy streaks of brown chocolate and faint yellow syrup. It could almost make a hasty painting. But hasty does not suit this scene. Address: Bistro 1491 1491 Solano Ave (between Santa Fe Ave & Curtis St) Albany, CA 94706 (510) 526-9601 Breakfast at noon: dark chocolate & bacon pancakes – $8.65 Continue reading Friday afternoon, Bistro 1491

Bánh bèo tips from Mrs. Tự

A couple of millimeters thin, chewy, savory, bánh bèo, the waterfern-shaped appetizer, is as familiar to the Vietnamese dining tables as crab cakes to Americans. But not everyone makes it at home because it takes more time than its worth: make the rice flour batter, steam the banh, make the toppings, mix the fish sauce. In fact, I’ve had homemade bánh bèo only once, and it was at my friend’s family restaurant. That said, there are skilled and dedicated grandmas who insist on making everything from scratch for the best bánh bèo. One of them is Mrs. Tự, and Little Mom happened to see one episode of her cooking show on TV last week. So below are some tips on bánh bèo from Mrs Tự, collected from the show Nghệ Thuật Nấu Ăn Bà Tự (The Cooking Arts of Mrs Tự) on Global TV Houston. 1. Texture: The thinner bánh bèo is the better bánh bèo. Of course, resilience is a must, it should not be as chewy as a mochi, but it should have enough strength to hold itself together as the eater picks it up with chopsticks. How to make a thin but resilient […]

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Slice of Happiness and Houston food truck events

If you’re a student, you know the significance of frozen pizza. It comes only second to instant noodles, i.e., packaged ramen, and on some days I might even argue that it’s better than instant noodles in terms of efficiency. There are three sections that I always check when I go to the groceries: the noodles, the ice cream, and the frozen pizza. Yesterday when I first learned of Annie’s, I went to their website and found out that Berkeley Bowl carries their product, so I’ll be looking for it, but if you’re in Houston and got some time to kill this weekend, why not beat me to a slice of “the first-ever-certified organic rising crust frozen pizza”? Annie’s will hold their “Slice of Happiness” tour during lunch hours at four Whole Food locations from this Friday to next Monday: 4004 Bellaire Blvd – Friday, March 23 (11 am – 2 pm), 11145 Westheimer Road – Saturday, March 24 (10 am – 1 pm), 701 Waugh Drive – Sunday, March 25 (10 am – 1 pm), and 2955 Kirby Drive – Monday, March 26 (11 am – 2 pm). The tour will feature their […]

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FIVE and a Flavor Giveaway

Dressed in black and white patterns from walls to chairs, FIVE spots a slightly older, more refined atmosphere for casual hotel dining just above the Berkeley BART station. I meant to go here after someone said that he finally understood the rave behind “chicken and waffle” after he had it during FIVE’s After Hour Happy Hour. If that dry white meat and cake-like bread at FIVE was that good, then surely the other things wouldn’t disappoint. Now nothing on the regular dinner menu costs 5 bucks like the Happy Hour (7-9 pm) nosh, but I got hungry before 7 pm, so I dashed in on what seemed to be a busy night. The hotel is hosting some conference. Nobody wanted to eat with me today, but one beauty of going alone is that you can always get a table. That said, if you have a party of 4 or less and would like to raid FIVE, which you should, I have a FIVE Vip Card “valid for a 20% discount in FIVE” to give you. Here’s how to get it: Leave me a comment below by midnight March 31, and if […]

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Sencha and Mochi

Sencha in yunomi, a typical Japanese thick, tall teacup, whose name I’ve yet to find out, accompanied by a matcha mochi, whose fillings include: satsuma sweet potato, red bean paste, orange juice and walnuts. (Thanks Masaaki for telling me the name of the cup in Japanese.) The mochi, handmade and delivered by a mochi lady every week to Teance, is refreshing both in look and in taste. The green tea flavored chewy coat is cool and light. The filling, although dominated by red bean, is not too sweet. I opted for one with less nuts because I didn’t think that I would want such contrast in texture. The mochi lady is a small, timid Asian lady, who smiled so happily when I described her mochi as “refreshing”, and who showed me that I should dip my fork into tea or water before cutting the mochi so that it would not be sticky. Yes, it worked, the fork went straight through with such ease. Now it makes sense why we can chew without the mochi sticking to the teeth. This is my second time having sencha, if we don’t count the time I had […]

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The spiciest soup I’ve ever eaten

A while ago, I was fairly convinced that of all the different types of spiciness, I can handle the Korean spiciness. Take kimchi for instance, it usually looks scarier than it tastes, and the scorching can be quickly washed away with corn tea. Not an eye was bat when I saw the garnet broth of Il Me Jeong‘s specialty. It’s just loads of shredded beef, sesame leaf, glass noodle, green onions, etc., in a thin soup. Then tears rained down. No more yuk gae jang (육개장) for Mai. Ever. Il Mi Jeong has good unagi don and bossam though. 😉 Go for those instead.

Time well spent at Ippuku

“Ippuku” means “break” or “to take a break”. It doesn’t surprise me that this place made it into the Top 100 of the San Francisco Chronicle last spring, I surprised myself that I had’t taken a break here all this time. How can I call myself a Berkeley food blogger without eating at Ippuku? Maybe it’s the signless entrance that camouflages the izakaya in the dark, minus the dimly lit sake bottles on the side and the closed door, which I can never open correctly from the inside. Maybe it’s my distrust of Yelp reviews. But I brushed through the cotton curtains to enter that long, dark, narrow, stark simple structure, saw the half-shadowed faces immersed in quiet enjoyment, and the wooden platform, on which you can sit seiza style (flat kneeling) or dangle your feet under the table like a true Westerner; from that moment, I decided that it’s a lovely place, no matter how the food was. Of course, the food was good. The most written thing about Ippuku must be the collection of all-part chicken edibles. Every single […]

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