Ecco the Oasis

Both times that we wandered about this perpetually sunbathed town, we found ourselves drifting to the corner of Marcy and Washington for some perpetually melting sweets. Without Ecco Espresso & Gelato, I don’t know if I could have made it to O’Keefe museum the first day. Ice cream is my life source. They have 20 flavors each time we’re there, rotating the rarer avocado, boysenberry and guava while keeping the common but ever-endearing chocolate and lime. As they claim, “what’s in [their] gelato case changes too quickly for [them] to post” on the website; I fantasize that Ecco’s gelataios just wake up and churn whatever ingredients they dream of the night before. There were always a few magenta red raspberry things in the case, and at least among the three of us, raspberry appears to be one of the most popular flavors to pair: with sake, with lime, with cherry, and with chocolate. I can eat chilled mashed avocado (with or without sugar) as a hefty dessert for 70 years straight, but like taro ice cream, avocado gelato may sound weird to the American palates that [...]

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Popping boba for the new year

Forget the champagne, these tiny balls, each as big as a champagne grape, set off some pretty flavorful firework on the tongue. We’ve driven by this Orange Leaf many a time but always when we’re heading for some green waffle at Century Bakery. For some reason reasonable only to the designer’s aesthetics, there is a fence encompassing the vicinity of Orange Leaf and Lemon Grass, separating the two from the Grand Century Mall, even though they’re practically in the same block. Needless to say, the fence inconveniences anyone who parks in Grand Century lot and wants to go to Orange Leaf, or vice versa, because you gotta walk all around and out to the street and back in again on the other side of the fence. Nobody has attempted to climb. A lot more, like myself I’d imagine, have said the heck with it and gone to only one or the other. For us the 50/50 odds has disproportionately favored Grand Century in the past. Then one day Mudpie pouts and says “I want waffles and yogurt”. The setup at Orange Leaf is [...]

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Down the Aisles 5: It’s It

Two oatmeal cookies sandwiching a scoop of vanilla ice cream, everything encapsulated by a dark chocolate shell. Chocolate shell with ice cream isn’t really my thing, because stuff breaks and spills, like you’re eating a hamburger and look down and see a salad on the burger’s wrapper, except now the melting ice cream replaces the lettuce and mayo. Oatmeal cookie is another not-my-thing, as it’s just too crumbly. But somehow this combination works. The chocolate keeps the oatmeal cookies from turning into oatmeal, and the oatmeal cookies are soft and chewy enough that they don’t push ice cream out in the back (as much) when you take a bite. No wonder It‘s survived since 1928. It predates the Golden Gate Bridge by 9 years. [...]

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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.

Down the Aisles 0 – Happy Thanksgiving

Appetizer: green waffle The batter is flavored with pandan leaf (lá dứa) extract and coconut milk. Mudpie first discovered them at Century Bakery in Little Saigon, San Jose, and that’s where we’ve been getting them since, in increasing amount. The most recent deal is buy 10 get 1 free, warm and prepackaged in a nice paper box. Then I had green waffle for breakfast for 3 days straight. Each waffle is about $1-1.50, rather costly if you think about how a banh mi costs only 2.50. But it’s delicious, fluffy and sweet. Main course: Mo’s Bacon bar You can have bacon with breakfast pancakes, and in BLT (bacon-lettuce-tomato) sandwich for lunch, so might as well stuff it into your chocolate for a late night snack, right? The lady who discovered the magic of bacon-chocolate combo had 6 years of culinary study, and she got it right: chocolate goes with everything, and so does salt. The bar isn’t a slab of bacon coated with chocolate (which is kinda what I hoped for). There are only tiny bits of bacon, even more scarce than in a simple salad. An [...]

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Ice-queue at Ici

There is this little ice cream store on College Avenue. Somehow everyone knows about it, and forms a line from the cashier inside all the way out to 30 feet of sidewalk from the door. On a Thursday night, at 9:30 sharp, an employee went out and stood at the end of the line, kindly preventing more customers from queuing up. We felt guilty sitting on the bench nibbling at our treats while people patiently hunched their neck into layers of scarves and collars, ignored the chilly wind, waited for their turn to get into the store. Life’s rough to some. The menu changes daily to whatever the chefs’ hearts desire. That day’s popular affairs seem to be orange-almond-nutmeg and cardamom-rose, which we got. We also couldn’t resist those little crème-fraiche-Amarena-cherry-and-chocolate at the bottom shelf. (The innocent employee later revealed that those 5 cute things had sit idly there all day, and that he’s glad someone finally got one. Guess we did the chefs a favor.) The cherry flavor was oddly artificial. The chocolate shell was a major challenge for a plastic spoon. The best [...]

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Rosie’s Pho – part 2

Vietnamese The pho was good. The broth was beefy and the noodle was brothy. Every twirl you manage to pick up with the pair of disposable bamboo chopsticks was worth inhaling a deep breath for the flavor to soak your taste buds and dally with your turbinate. The tripe and the sweet onion rings texture-wise taste about the same to me (see, tripe tastes just fine!), which is good, since I’m soft-tongued and those little zings of spiciness can easily bring me to tears. Tendon and Flank were, frankly, tender, but still a good change of texture from the lean brisket consistency and the rice noodle naivete. Rosie’s Pho does not serve just pho. It serves a whollota things. Mudpie once amusedly predicted that one day its menu will include pizza and hamburgers. But no, it has stopped expanding, at a menu large enough that I had to carouse over for 5 minutes to find my order amidst various noodle and rice dishes. But my dad didn’t take that long, and he didn’t even have glasses on. So here’s his order: [...]

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Kem ống (Tubular ice cream)

Vietnamese Around noon time, in front of the smaller-than-a house’s door gate of the old Pho Thong Nang Khieu high school (notice they don’t show you the gate in that picture…), came an ice cream man. The typical street vendor, with a big styrofoam box on a bike, maybe a couple of buckets on the sides, I’m not sure if I remember correctly the details here. He sold kem ong, i.e. ice cream tubes. It’s something I’d never had before and possibly will never see again. His ice cream had a skinny tubular shape, about a foot long, stick to a long skinny bamboo stick. The ice cream is actually contained in aluminum tubes, from which he quickly pulled out when we asked to buy. I usually went for the jackfruit kind (kem mit), where you have little strips of jackfruit hidden inside the ice cream, quite a treasure to chew as the vanilla milky bits melt on your tongue. For VND1000 a stick, the kem mit was sold out within 15 minutes or so. He also had kem dau xanh (mung bean ice cream), kem dau do (red bean ice cream), and [...]

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