The Great Taco Tour

The blog lives! Here’s a rundown of a taco tour my friends and I went on this Saturday. H did some research to narrow the taquerias in The Mission down to seven contenders, and we spent four hours bouncing around the neighborhood and gradually reaching our maximum capacity for crispy pork bits wrapped in corn disks. From worst to best:

OHIO

Getting a phone with a better camera was supposed to increase the amount of photos I take, but I didn’t realize it would kill this blog. There are so many restaurants I want to update with, but the photos I have don’t do them justice. After I move this weekend, I’ll be more conscious of bringing the camera out. Until then, here’s what my phone saw in my recent trip to Ohio.

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After a day of coffee and plane crackers, I got off in chilly Columbus and was ready to eat. So happy to get my hands on some vegetarian Greek stuffed peppers in the Short North district (the only place in Columbus that doesn't feel like Ohio).

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J goes to OSU and has been talking about how much I'd love Jeni's ice cream ever since she discovered it. The best part about fancy ice cream in Ohio is that there's not much competition, so Jeni's really pulls out the stops on their flavors and has like five locations now.

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Cake batter and berry cobbler for those of us who like ice creams masquerading as baked goods.

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The next morning, a nice walk through Short North again, to visit the market, filled with gourmet food vendors.

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A stop at Chocoholique, where we had a nice chat with a native Californian salesgirl.

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Cinnamon rolls and cookies happened here. We also got to crash the chili festival.

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I'm really bad at capturing the interesting things that happened on this trip, like reuniting with my old elementary school friends and visiting two long-time penpals and going out at night.

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Every time we passed this cafe called Northstar, it was brimming with people and blasting indie music. Finally, tried it for brunch and as soon as I walked in I felt like I was home. Here's my gorgeous bowl of rice, beans, avocado and veggies.

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Old friends took me to the Powell district, where we grew up. This was the middle school where I spent a very awkward year. Didn't get a shot of my elementary school, but it looks just like this, but was turned into a community center.

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My old house, no different than I remember. There's a patch in our front yard that always yields four leaf clovers.

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Quite a few of my friends worked at frozen custard shops when they were in high school. I was finally able to try this Midwestern delight. After waiting five years, let's just say I was underwhelmed.

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Spent lots of time at mirror lake at OSU when I was a bebe (before I became Beebe).

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Their library gives Berkeley a run for its money.

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The view.

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But not when it comes to dining hall food. This is a German vegetable pastry smothered with the kind of gravy that scares kids. Fun facts: Ohio has the largest population of Somalians outside of the actual country, a huge German population, and the third highest percentage of gay people per capita. If you're all three, I think you get the key to the city.

To see what’s sucking up all the food photos that should be coming here, visit my tumblr.

most days

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i eat stuff that’s embarrassing to share with people. i’ve probably had this plus vegetables for lunch every day for weeks.

900 Grayson Birthday Brunch

The day after my birthday, the amazing Y and J got me brunch at oft voted Best Brunch in Berkeley, 900 Grayson. Not a breakfast food lover, but love this place for its location in the middle of (what used to be) nowhere. It’s unassuming industrial name and building. Its arrogant owners. Its fervent loyalty to local bread, meat, coffee, dairy, furniture, forks. Gritty, smug, super crowded, one-hour waits, servers who judge what you order–It’s a Berkeleyan’s wet dream. Just don’t come in search of vegan chicken and waffles, because they still haven’t brought it back.

The Demon Lover made a double appearance at our table, with syrup and gravy. I tried a piece this time and YES. Half of that chicken is actually bold, peppery fried batter. It tasted so much like something from my childhood that I still haven’t put my finger on.
My seared Ahi burger with a side of hash browns instead of fries, even though I asked for home fries. These were tastier. The tuna is lightly flavored, making this a great place to load on the condiments. I wish it had some tartar instead of the fancy wasabi aioli, but doctored it up with their great homemade hot sauce. I couldn’t get into the bun, which was probably from Acme. Dry and spongy with papery skin. Maybe this is what people like, since they won a best burger contest, with ostensibly the same bun. 

Even though I don’t love most of the things on their limited menu, this place is fun. They even have a meal for Hobbits!

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Little Baobab Birthday

After a three month drought, it starts raining buckets the day before my birthday. After considering several nicer restaurants, S and I decided to go with something near the bar we would go to later on, so Little Baobab it was. This Senagalese Restaurant is a magnet for West Africans, and people who enjoy their fried yucca and plantains, peppery curries and grilled fish. Part restaurant, part dance hall, it’s a dark little building in the middle of The Mission with plenty of happy people and twinkle lights to brighten us up.

Avocado stuffed with tuna salad and fried yucca (6). Between the briny tuna, smelly cumin and hot whiter pepper, my mouth was not having fun. If my mouth had eyes, they would’ve cried. I enjoyed its avocado husk. I felt supremely cultured to have these yucca fries, but couldn’t help thinking that there IS a reason we don’t have yucca in America, unrelated to the fact they’re not native–potato fries rock so much harder. I also couldn’t help wishing they provided some ketchup, because despite its deceiving appearance, the house-made hot sauce was NOT like ketchup. It killed me. Ugly, uncouth American, party of one.
“It’s like paella!” I said to S when they described the special of the evening. Because apparently I was not done showing off my worldly charms to the waitstaff. Actually, it’s ceebujen (16), the national dish of Senegal. Tilapia boiled in tomato sauce and served on rice cooked in the tomato-fish broth, with stewed vegetables. Comforting, flavorful, and healthy. I just don’t usually get stewed food at a restaurant, because it’s not freshly prepared. But nit-picking aside, the servers were really fun and hooked me up with some birthday chocolate cake a la mode, and a song. As I was contemplating what to wish for, one of them tried to teach me how to blow out the candle. I’m culturally challenged, not stupid.

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Earlier that day…a nice birthday lunch at a killer new Mexican place with the editorial girls.

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Holy Land Mediterranean Restaurant

All my years at Berkeley, I’d heard about the city’s best falafels at Holy Land. I’m so pleased to have finally tried it today and say that it is not an exaggeration. Light, crispy patties of flavor are born out of this dank, randomly placed shop. They’re piled with fresh vegetables and drenched with tangy yogurt sauce, then swaddled in a hot, handmade pita. In Holy Land, you will call out Christ’s name.

The salad combo plate sustained me through two meals. With a mix of pureed and whole chickpeas and an ungodly amount of tahini, their hummus is reason enough to pay a visit. And show some love to the owner, a sweet old man.

 A falafel sandwich bursting with sauce, and nice condiments just in case you want even more flavor.

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A few other bites from the past month…
imageOsha Thai is the place for late-night food in the city.

imageFound a great papusa and tamale place next to work. The burritos are just okay.

imageA customized salad from the popular Mix’t Greens in Union Square did not impress.

It’s been a good month for food. My sponge cake recipe has been improving each week too, which I’ll post about soon!

Asian Bakery Cake for a New Year Birthday

My dad’s birthday is 1/1/1958. His brother’s is on 1/1/1956. Both of their names end in yuan, meaning New Year.

The past few years, we’ve been apart for his birthday, so this time I decided to do something special for this guy who doesn’t want presents. Dad is a human dustbin, but my mom is very picky about food. She loves the slightly sweet cakes at Chinese bakeries so I found the best looking recipe online, and tried out my first birthday cake. It’s good, but not as soft and fragrant as the real deal (the price you pay for not using artificial flavors and emulsifiers) I have at least five other variations to try, so we probably won’t see this one again.

See the rough crumb? I was trying to avoid that.

Although they looked and smelled great fresh out of the oven.

Here's the very simple recipe I followed. Other than that, I just whipped some cream and sugar and pureed strawberries to top it.

Even though it wasn’t perfect, this cake is full of eggy flavor and sturdy enough to pair with anything from chocolate ganache to custard filling to shredded coconut. The best part is that I can control how much sugar goes in. The worst part is that there aren’t enough people around to eat it while it’s fresh. I might have to freeze some.

Happy New Year!

Holiday Eats

Having a decent cellphone camera is the best and worst thing to happen to this blog.The photos aren’t great but at least I can save all the meals that would otherwise fall through the cracks. Most places I have been going to are random or repeats, but soon I’ll feature some good vegetarian restaurants I’m really excited to try. Until then, these are the salvaged crumbs of the past two weeks, mostly from work lunches and my trip to Southern California.
imageVegan spring rolls with tofu and shrooms from Saba. Not amazing.

imageCarne asada fries from Filiberto’s, the only Mexican restaurant open Christmas day in Encinitas. Shockingly, fries and guacamole aren’t a good combo.

imageShabbat and Hannukah

imageKorean banchan in Torrance–finally an amazing meal!

imageBibimbap with crunchy rice bits.

imageChinese breakfast in Walnut, with vegetable sticky rice and soymilk. The Chinese can keep their breakfasts.

imageMondo German pretzel. Not my thang.

imageTofu banh mi from Saba. Yep I have the frequent buyer card now.

imageRed tofu curry from Lucky Thai House in Berkeley.

image Indian restaurants getting into the spirit.

Kabila Indian Restaurant

A full work week after a long weekend can feel like eternity. When Saturday rolled around I couldn’t wait to meet up with S and kick it like the old days. After a fun day in Berkeley, where every event (Cafe Med, Ici, Jeremy’s, the Lawrence Hall of science and Berkeley Bowl) felt like a journey down memory lane, we headed back to our abandoned neck of the woods for Indian food at Kabila. Indian and Mexican are the only good cuisines found around here, but I ain’t complaining.

Inside the warehouse building is a warmly decorated space with a case of Indian sweets, a buffet table, and a gang of attractive waiters waiting to usher you to a good meal. It’s not surprising that I was expecting heaven on earth.

A basket of papadum and dipping sauces while we waited for our main courses. Apparently I'm still queasy around these after my overdose in England years ago.

Kabila leans towards Northern Indian food with lots of meat options and heavy cream sauces, but I was excited to see a few thali (11) and combo options hailing from Southern regions. I chose a dal stew (medium hot, but I'd ask for spicy next time) which came with saag paneer, salad, rice, naan and chutney. S chose an individual entree of the same paneer and we both thought that everything was too salty--even the rice and yogurt. For those of you who are sick of hearing me complain about salty food, too bad. I found solace in the plain raw vegetables and amazing naan. Kibala has a massive bread menu so I doubt one can go wrong there.

As long as I can ask for less salt, I’ll be returning here. I liked that the waiter asked how our food was, which happens too rarely. Which reminds me, I should start referring to this blog on my receipts.

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The 42nd annual mushroom festival we dropped in on prior to dinner to whet our appetites.