Categories
Filipino Oakland reviews

Pulled Pork Adobo Sandwich at Cafe Gabriela – Oakland, CA

Pulled Pork Adobo Sandwich

Cafe Gabriela has been open for around seven months and it’s a couple blocks from my office, but I never thought about going there until my friend Luis told me they served a pulled pork adobo sandwich. After I read that tweet, I immediately left the office to go get some lunch.

The adobo is cooked long enough so that the pork pulls apart easily, and flavorwise, I really liked that you can actually taste the vinegar. It’s served topped with onions and any juices are absorbed by a perfectly toasted baguette. Owner Penny Bee, who named the business after Philippine heroine Gabriela Silang, developed the recipe herself and says she’s gotten several requests for a chicken adobo sandwich, as well.

Aside from their signature adobo sandwich, Cafe Gabriela’s other menu options include a turkey cranberry sandwich and an heirloom tomato salad. They also make a point to showcase some of the East Bay’s best businesses, including The Bread Workshop, Blue Bottle Coffee, Arizmendi Bakery, and Pepples Donuts.

I’ve been desperate for Filipino lunch options since I started working in downtown Oakland in February. With Cafe Gabriela and the newly opened No Worries vegan Filipino restaurant just a few blocks in the other direction, my Filipino lunch cravings are finally satisfied.

Cafe Gabriela
988 Broadway
(between 9th St & 10th St)
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 763-2233
Facebook

Categories
Northern California Oakland reviews sandwiches

Eating Downtown Oakland – Cam Huong and Battambang

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written, and I could offer any number of excuses for my hiatus, but I’ll go with this one…

After more than five years of working in the sleepy suburban town of Livermore, CA, I started a new job in downtown Oakland last month, and this change of scenery has led to several adjustments to my daily life. I no longer drive my car to work and am happily commuting via BART. This requires both my wife and I, who are notoriously late risers, to wake up a lot earlier than we’re used to so that I can catch the train every morning. While the drastic reduction of our overall fuel consumption has been good for the soul, my new office has been excellent for my stomach. It’s location at Oakland’s 12th Street City Center puts me blocks away from dozens of great lunch options, a world away from the limited options available to me in Livermore.

Before my first day of work, I began compiling a list of recommendations from friends who knew the area well and I combined them into this Google map.

I was most excited to be near Oakland Chinatown, which is smaller but generally better than the larger “tourist trap” Chinatown in San Francisco. Ironically, my two favorite places in Oakland Chinatown aren’t Chinese.

Cam Huong

Cam Huong is a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese deli that serves up a variety of hot and cold Chinese and Vietnamese dishes, but I go there for the bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwiches) and fresh spring rolls. I went back the other day and got the #1, which is a cold cut combo with pate (hold the cilantro because I can’t stand the stuff). With the fresh bread, delicious meats and the pickled veggies inside, this is a perfect sandwich.

#1Cam Huong’s #1 is aptly named.

I always supplement my sandwiches with a three-pack spring rolls, and I really like the variety pack with goi cuon, bo bia and bi cuon (summer roll, sausage roll, shredded pork roll).

Spring Rolls - Cam HuongA spring roll three pack.

The sandwiches are all under $3, and when you include the spring rolls, I get out of there for just under $6. This makes the Subway $5 Footlong look like a bad deal. Next on the agenda is the grilled pork and cha gio bun, one of my all-time favorite Vietnamese dishes. I hope there’s a table open next time I’m there.

Cam Huong Cafe
920 Webster Street
Oakland, CA
510.444.8800

Battambang

Battambang is a Cambodian restaurant just a few blocks down the street, and it’s already one of my favorite lunch spots. This is the dish that got me hooked…

Grilled Chicken Skewers - BattambangMoarn Aing – grilled chicken skewers.

…and this is what I ordered on my return:

Grilled Combo - BattambangLunch Combo – grilled chicken, beef, and shrimp skewers with fried rice.

I haven’t had a lot of Cambodian food, and I’m sure there’s more to the cuisine than grilled meat, but I’d seriously consider forsaking all other skewered meats to settle down with either of these dishes. If I had to choose, I’d stick with the combo for variety and the fried rice, but the spicy lime sauce it’s served with really pulls both of these dishes together. When I first saw it, I thought it was going to be similar to Vietnamese nuoc mam, which is one of my favorite things, but I really like the spicy lime sauce a whole lot more.

Looking over their menu, there’s a lot of other dishes I want to try, but the grilled meats keep me happy for now.

Battambang
850 Broadway
Oakland, CA
510.839.8815
Web site

I’m thinking of making Eating Downtown Oakland a running series, and there are a bunch other places around here that are worth discussion. Cam Huong and Battambang were fast favorites, and I can’t wait to see what else I can find in my new urban playground.

Categories
Ad Hoc cookbooks reviews steak The French Laundry Thomas Keller

Cook the Book: Ad Hoc at Home – Asparagus and Steak

Ad Hoc at HomeI’ve never been genuinely excited about a new cookbook release, but Ad Hoc at Home marks the first time I’ve had a real personal connection to the recipes in a single cookbook. Inuyaki readers know that I’m a fan and regular diner at Thomas Keller’s casual dining restaurant, and the Ad Hoc Menu Archive is one of the most popular features of this site. My wife and I have been to Ad Hoc 30 times in the last 2½ years (it’s our favorite restaurant) and have always come away wishing we knew how to make some of our favorite dishes, desserts, and condiments at home. I’m very happy to report that Ad Hoc at Home delivers the goods.

The cookbook’s arrival coincided with my birthday, and to celebrate, I invited some friends over for dinner last weekend so that my wife and I could cook for them. From the book, we chose the grilled asparagus and marinated skirt steak and supplemented the meal with polenta topped with a mushroom ragout and SavorySweetLife’s chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

The grilled asparagus, which includes prosciutto, fried bread, poached egg, and aged balsamic vinegar, is pretty easy to put together. After removing the woody bottoms and peeling the asparagus stalks, simply season a couple bunches of asparagus with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and canola oil and then grill them for a couple minutes per side until tender.

AsparagusGratuitous Asparagus Porn

I had some issues poaching the eggs. I know this sounds silly, but they weren’t coming out as pretty as we wanted, so those eggs became snacks. Inspired by our meal at Commis in Oakland a couple nights before, I decided to have some fun and make 63-degree eggs. How is a 63-degree egg different than a regular poached egg or over-easy egg? The answer: texture.

63 Degree EggA 63-degree Egg

At 63-degrees Celsius, egg whites are just barely set and the yolks have a pudding-like consistency. To achieve this goal, eggs are cooked in a 63C waterbath for about an hour. The precision is important because at 65C, according Harold McGee, the egg whites become “tender solid” as opposed just barely set at 63C. It’s possible to maintain a consistent temperature using a pot on the stovetop, but I have an immersion circulator, which makes things a lot easier. :)

63-degree Eggs
The immersion circulator in action.

The eggs went on the plate last, so my friends got to see these beautiful eggs emerge from a freshly cracked shell. My wife gets credit for the plating of this dish, which is loosely based on the picture in the book.

Grilled Asparagus, Prosciutto, 63-degree Egg and Torn CroutonsThe fried bread croutons are awesome, too.

The marinated skirt steak isn’t a difficult preparation either. I substituted the skirt for flap steak, which is similar to skirt steak and a cut of meat I’ve used before in my Bistek Tagalog. It’s marinated for at least four hours in a mixture of olive oil, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, peppercorns, and garlic. The meat is seared in a thin layer of oil for about 90 seconds total, adding thyme and butter to the pan and basting the meat after flipping it halfway through. After searing, the meat is placed in a 350 oven on a roasting rack and cooked for 8-10 minutes until the internal temp of the meat is 125F. Rest the meat and slice it vertically against the grain before serving.

Marinated Skirt Steak

That meat looks perfect doesn’t it? There was just one problem. I forgot to season the meat with salt and pepper before I seared it, so it was underseasoned. There was still flavor from the marinade, but the meat was definitely lacking flavor. I was crestfallen. My wife saved the dish by making an impromptu beef/mushroom gravy, but I was so disappointed with myself.

We paired this with some Fra’Mani polenta (sold exclusively at Costco) topped with a trumpet and baby shiitake mushroom ragout. I know polenta is pretty easy to make, but as fans of Paul Bertolli’s Fra’Mani sausages, we had to give his polenta a try and it’s really good. My wife added some strong English cheddar to the polenta for some extra flavor and topped it with the mushrooms.

Fra'Mani Polenta and Mushroom "Ragout"

Aside from the underseasoned steak, which was totally my fault, this meal was a huge success and a testament to Ad Hoc at Home’s accessibility for home cooks. It’s a tribute to Keller and his love for good, homey food, as well as chef de cuisine Dave Cruz, whose influence is present in every meal in the Ad Hoc kitchen. According to Ad Hoc general manager Nick Dedier, Ad Hoc at Home is projected to surpass the 10-year-old French Laundry cookbook’s total sales in just three years. With food like this, it should surprise no one when it actually happens.

Categories
cookies reviews

The Twitter Chocolate Chip Cookie Smackdown 09

I went on a baking spree last weekend because two of my favorite bloggers, Alice of Savory Sweet Life and Ashley of Not Without Salt, started talking smack on Twitter about who had the best chocolate chip cookies. Since they both live in Seattle, there was no way I was going to be able to try their cookies and make up my own mind unless I made them myself.

Cookies!

Lorna Yee from The Cookbook Chronicles also threw her hat into the ring, but she hasn’t posted her recipe yet, so I haven’t had the chance to make them. But Lorna did show off her cookies last week, as well as provide a thorough breakdown of Alice and Ashley’s recipes. Inspired by Lorna’s analysis, I decided to compare their recipes to my favorite recipe, Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc Chocolate Chip Cookies (courtesy of Food Gal Carolyn Jung), and the Original Nestle Toll House recipe.

Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home Chocolate Chip CookiesMy attempt at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc Chocolate Chip Cookies

With a few exceptions, the ingredients and techniques are basically the same, so it’s interesting to see how the proportions vary from cookie to cookie.

ingredient
Ashley
Thomas Keller
Alice
Toll House
butter
8 oz., softened
8 oz., unsalted,
cold, cubed
8 oz., salted,
softened
8 oz., softened
sugar
2 oz.
(1/4 cup)
3/4 cup
1/2 cup
3/4 cup
turbinado sugar
2 oz.
(1/4 cup)
brown sugar
12 oz.
(1 3/4 cup)
1 cup, packed
(molasses preferred)
1 1/2 cup
3/4 cup, packed
eggs
2
2
2
2
vanilla extract
1/4 oz.
(2 tsp.)
2 tsp.
1 tsp.
all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups
(1 lb.)
2 1/3 cups
plus 1 Tbsp
3 cups
(12 oz.)
2 1/4 cups
baking soda
1 1/2 tsp.
3/4 tsp.
1 1/2 tsp.
1 tsp.
baking powder
1 tsp.
salt
3/4 tsp.
1 tsp. kosher
1 tsp. sea salt,
small/medium coarse grind
1 tsp.
chocolate
16 oz. chopped
10 oz. chopped
16 oz. chips
12 oz. chips

Ashley’s cookies could easily be called “pound cookies” since they contain a pound of flour, a pound of sugar and a pound of chocolate. They’re crispy on the bottom and dense and chewy in the middle and reminded me of the Ad Hoc cookies. Her use of chopped chocolate instead of chips allows the chocolate to pool inside the cookie so that you get huge bursts of chocolate in every bite. As Ashley says in her “last chocolate chip cookie” post, the dough is really only there “to hold the chunks of chocolate in place.” The addition of turbinado sugar gives the cookies a nice crunch and texture, as well. I didn’t have 16 oz. of chocolate to make the cookies since I had sort of eaten away at the Scharffen Berger stash I got at BlogHer Food 09, but 12 oz. was still plenty of chocolate.

Not Without Salt's Chocolate Chip CookiesAshley’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was a little worried when I made Alice’s cookie because the dough was much lighter and airier than Ashley’s, and it showed in the final product. I couldn’t find my usual Guittard chips at Whole Foods, but Ghirardelli’s semi-sweet chocolate chips were a nice substitute. The cookies came out thin and fluffy with crispy bottoms and reminded me of the classic Toll House recipe. When paired with milk from Straus Dairy, possibly the best-tasting milk I’ve ever had, I was transported straight back to elementary school.

Savory Sweet Life's Chocolate Chip CookiesAlice’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know you’re probably wondering which cookie I liked better, and my extremely political answer is this: I think Ashley’s cookie is a grown-up, sophisticated cookie, while Alice’s is capable of illiciting an Anton-Ego-in-Ratatouille kind of revelation, so it really depends on what you really want out of your cookie. I’m eagerly awaiting Lorna’s entry into this smackdown, but after this experiment, I may be off cookies for a while. :)

Categories
New York reviews

wd~50

WD50

Our New York trip started with a bang at wd~50, Chef Wylie Dufresne’s Lower East Side playground of science and food. Dufresne’s reputation as the mad scientist of American cuisine is well deserved, but what matters at the end of the day is the food, and wd~50’s tasting menu, despite one small unexpected bump, simply rocked.

The meal started with basket of super-addictive, paper-thin sesame flatbread that was great sans any adornments.

Sesame FlatbreadSesame Flatbread

Our first course was the Cobia with mustard seed, mung bean and cucumber. This is probably the first time I’ve eaten a mung bean that wasn’t in mungo, a Filipino mung bean stew. This was a nice light way to start off the meal.

CobiaCobia

The next course was a take on the classic Everything Bagel, except in this dish, the bagel is actually ice cream made with everything bagels and is served with smoked salmon threads, pickled red onions and piece of crispy cream cheese. To understand the origins of this dish, watch Dufresne break it down at Metromix.com.

Everything BagelEverything Bagel

The third course was Foie Gras, a terrine of foie gras filled with passion fruit puree served with Chinese celery. This was the only real disappointment of the night. No one at our table enjoyed the combination of passion fruit and foie gras. As separate entities, they were fine, but if chocolate and peanut butter exemplifies “two great tastes that taste great together,” then this was the exact opposite.

Foie GrasFoie Gras

The Scrambled Egg Ravioli was next and served with charred avocado, kindai kampachi and fried little bits of potato. Breaking open the egg “ravioli” cube reveals a perfect, steamy, slightly runny scrambled egg, and combining all of these elements in one bite was a great combination of flavors and textures.

Scrambled Egg RavioliScrambled Egg Ravioli

The table was split on the next course, Cold Fried Chicken with buttermilk ricotta, tabasco and caviar. My friend Teresa didn’t like the fried chicken because she thought the texture resembled processed meat, and I think she would have preferred it if it chicken was warm. She did agree with us on the other elements of the dish, especially the awesome Tabasco honey, which tied it all together.

Cold Fried ChickenCold Fried Chicken

If there was one perfect dish of the evening, it was the Eggs Benedict. It’s not on the tasting menu, but we added it as a supplemental course. English muffin-crusted cubes are filled with an incredibly smooth and delicious Hollandaise sauce and fried. When you cut open the cubes, the Hollandaise spreads all over the plate. They were served with paper-thin Canadian Bacon strips and poached egg yolks. This was easily the best course of the night.

Eggs Benedict (supplemental course)Eggs Benedict

The next dish was the beautifully plated Perch with kohirabi, “dirty grape” and cocoa nibs. This wasn’t the most memorable dish, but I remember the fish being perfectly cooked and pairing nicely with the grapes and coco nibs.

PerchPerch

The thinly pounded duck leg with popcorn pudding, kalamansi, and lovage resembled a tuna dish we had a couple days later at Le Bernardin. I always love seeing kalamansi represented at high-end restaurants, but the popcorn pudding was the talk of the table. Its flavor was weird but familiar, almost like the buttered-popcorn flavored Jelly Belly the first time you tasted it.

Duck LegDuck Leg

The last savory course was the Lamb Loin, a perfect piece of seared meat served with a black garlic romesco, pickled ramps, and dried soybeans. The lamb and romesco were great together, especially if you got bit of seared fat in the bite.

Lamb LoinLamb Loin

The first dessert course was vanilla ice cream filled with aged balsamic vinegar reduction and coated with raspberry streusel. Aside from being really pretty, the marriage of vanilla ice cream and the sweet balsalmic was really nice while the streusel added a little texture.

Vanilla Ice CreamVanilla Ice Cream

The chocolate hazelnut tart was perfect and our favorite dessert of the night. It was topped with a little salt and served with a chicory foam some coconut powder.

Hazelnut TartChocolate Hazelnut Tart

The last dessert was the caramelized brioche with apricot, buttercream and lemon-thyme sorbet. The brioche and the buttercream were really good, but I wasn’t really into the lemon-thyme sorbet. I also don’t think basil should be an ice cream or sorbet flavor so that might explain it.

Caramelized BriocheCaramelized Brioche

The meal doesn’t really end until you get the chocolate shortbread and cocoa packets. The shortbread was really the coating for a small piece of milk ice cream and was kind of like an Oreo bonbon. The cocoa packets look like ketchup packets, but they’re edible and filled with cocoa. I think the coolness factor outweighs the flavor factor with the packets, which was enough for me since we were all really full at the point.

Cocoa Packets and Chocolate ShortbreadChocolate Shortbread and Cocoa Packets

We took a little tour of the kitchen after dinner, and they were in the process of cleaning up for the night. Teresa was so full that she had this strange look on her face and Dufresne asked her if she was “in pain” (she was, but in a good way). The coolest part of the kitchen was what I dubbed the “Wall of Magic.” If you look carefully on the top shelf, you’ll see a bottle of Sriracha up there, along with other interesting things. :)

The Wall of MagicThe Wall of Magic

Of course, no kitchen should be without a disco ball…

Every Kitchen Needs a Disco BallThe Disco Ball

…and say goodbye to the Wylie Care Bear on your way out.

The Wiley Care BearThe Wiley Care Bear

The cool thing about wd~50 is that unless they have other engagements, both Dufresne and head pastry chef Alex Stupak are working the line every night. This is the best way for chefs to ensure that their culinary vision is presented accurately, and it comes through loud and clear at wd~50. There are plenty of oddities on the wd~50 tasting menu, and it’s easy to see how their food might not be for everyone. For the most part, we had a lot of fun both eating and enjoying these dishes.

INFORMATION
wd~50
50 Clinton Street
New York, NY 10002 map
212.477.2900
Web site

Categories
French reviews Southern California

Ludo Bites at BreadBar

Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s pop-up restaurant experience known as Ludo Bites ends its run at BreadBar tonight. If it weren’t for some prior obligations, we would have been in LA this weekend for one last meal. (We actually had reservations this weekend but had to cancel when I was reminded of a prior engagement.) We only went to Ludo Bites once, but the meal was so good that we became instant Ludo fans and can’t wait to see where he sets up shop again.

Menu

Ludo’s food may be rooted in French tradition, but everything on the menu is playful and inventive. Of course, this means you might not like every dish, but you still come away respecting what Ludo was trying to accomplish.

We started with a Porcini Veloute that featured porcini ice cream, egg, crispy sage, tobacco powder. My wife wanted this one because she loves mushrooms, while I’m just starting to get over my disdain for them. The combination of the veloute, ice cream and egg made for luscious and rich starter, but I still found it a little too mushroomy for me. My wife loved it and probably would have finished it, but she couldn’t get past the flavor of the tobacco powder.

Porcini VeloutePorcini Veloute

Next up was the Foie Gras Black Croque Monsieur, a play on a traditional croque monsieur that uses squid ink bread and adds a piece of foie gras to the mix. I’ll let the picture speak for itself. :)

Foie Gras Black Croque MonsieurFoie Gras Black Croque Monsieur

The Creamy Polenta and Oxtail might be one of my favorite dishes of the year. It’s such a simple dish and doesn’t look like much when it’s brought to the table, but after the first bite, we were hooked. The polenta, with Cantal cheese and bits of black truffle, was great on its own, but it’s the oxtail that brings the dish home. This isn’t the most appetizing picture, but it still makes me yearn for the dish.

Creamy Polenta and OxtailCreamy Polenta and Oxtail

Another one of the evening’s highlights was the Pork Belly with Frisee and Mustard Ice Cream. That’s right…mustard ice cream. Basically, the savory mustard ice cream was just a frozen dressing for the frisee, so while waiting for that to melt a bit, we worked on a perfect piece of glazed pork belly.

Pork Belly with Frisee and Mustard Ice CreamPork Belly with Frisee and Mustard Ice Cream

If you saw Fried Chicken in Duck Fat on menu, you would order it right? I knew you would. It was accompanied by some perfect roasted fingerling potatoes, tapenade and are really good red pepper ketchup.

Fried Chicken in Duck FatFried Chicken in Duck Fat

At this point, both of us were pretty full, but dessert was on the horizon, so we buckled down. Our first dessert was the Chocolate Cupcake, but this was no ordinary cupcake, featuring candied bacon-almonds, maple syrup, and a foie gras chantilly frosting. If foie gras frosting sounds intimidating, it is. We ate around it for the most part because it was way too rich and savory for our taste. The rest of the cupcake was really good.

Chocolate CupcakeChocolate Cupcake

Our second dessert was the Vanilla Panna Cotta, another challenging but ultimately successful dish. It was served on a pool of caramel and topped with caviar, which may seem odd, but when its briny saltiness was combined with the caramel and the panna cotta, it works perfectly.

Vanilla Panna CottaVanilla Panna Cotta

The last dessert, Strawberry Cream Pop Rocks, intrigued me when Ludo first mentioned it on Twitter (follow him @ChefLudo). It was simple concoction of with strawberries, whipped cream and that old childhood favorite, Pop Rocks. We were so full that we weren’t going to order it, but Ludo’s wife Krissy brought some out for us, since I had expressed so much interest in it already. It was the perfect way to close our meal.

Strawberry Cream Pop RocksStrawberry Cream Pop Rocks

Most of you probably know Ludo as the intense, cocky, foul-mouthed French chef on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters who lost to the show’s eventual winner Rick Bayless. But in person, Ludo is a really cool guy who loves cooking. We had a nice discussion about food and blogging, and I found out that Ludo loves Korean food when I told him about the Korean BBQ tacos I was making the next day. (It’s my next post…I swear).

Both Ludo and Krissy take the time to greet all of their guests and make sure they’re enjoying themselves, and overall, Ludo Bites was just a fun place to eat. Ludo told me that he worked in fine dining most of his career and after the Ludo Bites experience, he never wants to work in a fine dining environment again. I think this suits his personality, his food, and the City of Los Angeles, just fine, and I can’t wait to see where Ludo pops up next.

Categories
Ad Hoc Foodbuzz fried chicken reviews Thomas Keller waffles

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Fried Chicken and Waffles

When the prospect of participating in Foodbuzz’s monthly 24, 24, 24 arose again a couple weeks ago, the first thing that popped into my head was throwing a chicken and waffles party. Fried chicken and waffles is one of my favorite meals in the whole world, and being from Southern California, I was first introduced to this combination at the world-famous Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Hollywood. Personally, I think Roscoe’s waffles are much better than their chicken, and the real secret to Roscoe’s greatness is in their amazing syrup.

thigh and waffleRoscoe’s Chicken and Waffles

When I moved up to the San Francisco Bay Area 10 years ago, it was hard to find a decent substitute, and the Roscoe’s that was in Oakland at the time was a substandard knock off of the L.A. original. Over the last few years, chicken and waffle options in the Bay Area have improved, especially when the Home of Chicken and Waffles, which was originally slated to be an official Roscoe’s franchise before the owners decided to do their own thing, opened a few years ago in Oakland’s Jack London Square. It still isn’t Roscoe’s, but it satisfies the craving.

A classic combinationHome of Chicken and Waffles

The most decadent versions of chicken and waffles I’ve had have been at Sunday brunches at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Yountville. Ad Hoc’s fried chicken is so popular that it has developed a cult following and is the featured entree at the restaurant on alternating Mondays. The recipe was first published in Food and Wine magazine a couple years ago and my post about making the fried chicken is one of the most visited pages on this site.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken and WafflesAd Hoc Fried Chicken and Waffles

On a recent trip to Williams Sonoma, I stumbled upon a display featuring the Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Kit, a recent expansion of Thomas Keller’s exclusive line of products for the retail chain…

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Kit

…that also includes the Bouchon Bakery line of products.

Bouchon Waffles

When I saw the Bouchon Bakery Yeasted Waffle mix, I decided that this 24, 24, 24 event was going to turn into a throwdown: the Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Kit v. Ad Hoc fried chicken from scratch and the Bouchon Bakery Yeasted Waffles mix v. the Best (and Easiest) Yeasted Waffle by Sheryl at Crispy Waffle.

I met Sheryl on Twitter after she started following me, and her blog immediately got my attention because I had been looking for a good waffle recipe since inheriting a Krups Belgian Waffle Maker last year from a friend. Her “Easiest, Crispiest, Yeasted Waffle” recipe really lived up to its name and it’s the recipe I always turn to when I get a waffle craving. (See my Crispy Waffle post from March.)

Chicken Showdown
I deviated from both recipes instructions by cooking the chicken sous vide before dredging and frying. I do this because I’m paranoid about undercooking chicken, and cooking it sous vide for an hour at around 140F/60C ensures that the chicken is cooked and helps keep it juicy. This allows me to focus solely on the color of the fried chicken when it’s frying in the oil.

Water bathVacuum sealed chicken taking an hour-long, 141F/61C(ish) “bath”
Post-Sous Vide chickenIt doesn’t look that appetizing fresh out of the water bath, but after dredging and frying, it’s heaven.

On the surface, both batches of fried chicken I made looked identical, but on flavor, the scratch recipe beat the kit by a mile. The main difference between the scratch recipe and the kit is in the brine. The scratch recipe’s brine calls for fresh herbs and spices, honey and lemons, and these flavors really come through in the final product.

Fried ChickenThe “scratch” batch of fried chicken.

The fried chicken kit relies on a brine packet of dried spices and seasonings instead of fresh, but the most glaring omission was the lack of lemons. As a result, everyone who tried the kit’s fried chicken said it had a strong pepper flavor. I wonder if lemon powder could have made a significant difference, but I think the inclusion of fresh lemon zest and juice into the brining liquid would have been a pretty simple step for most home cooks.

Waffle Throwdown
Although we were dealing with two yeasted waffle recipes, there were a couple differences in how they’re put together. Sheryl’s recipe uses dry instant yeast and calls for a refrigerated overnight rise, while the Bouchon mix uses active dry yeast that is proofed for 10 minutes before mixing the batter and has a rising time of 90 minutes. Sheryl also adds a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract to her batter.

The Bouchon Bakery mix produces waffles that are incredibly light and more delicate than Sheryl’s waffle, which can be good or bad depending on your preferences. Personally, I found them to be a little too airy, but I was still astonished at how light and crispy they were.

Bouchon WaffleBouchon Bakery Waffle

That doesn’t mean Sheryl’s waffle was heavy by an means. It was still light and crispy but had just a little more weight and texture (dare I say gravitas?) than the Bouchon Bakery waffle, as well as a creaminess in the middle that every good Belgian waffle should have.

IMG_0677Sheryl’s Crispy Waffle

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Belgian waffles, preferring the thinner traditional waffles like the ones they serve at Roscoe’s. I even picked up a traditional waffle iron to test out some buttermilk and cornmeal waffle recipes to serve along side the yeasted waffles, but I couldn’t find one that I liked enough to feature alongside the fried chicken. Sourdough waffles are generally served at Ad Hoc, but I didn’t have a sourdough starter on hand (or the time to start one), so I tabled that for another time.

If there’s one thing I learned during my research, it’s that I really like Belgian waffles now, especially the yeasted variety, and I am now in the market for a better Belgian waffle iron, preferably one that flips. I think I’ll save the traditional waffle iron for moffles.

Thanks to Foodbuzz for helping to make this event possible. I had a lot of fun researching and cooking one of my favorite meals for my friends. Plus, we generally have a hard time getting this group of friends to come up to Ad Hoc with us, so this was a way that I could bring a small piece of our favorite restaurant home for them to experience. But most of all, I hope it inspires you to seek out fried chicken and waffles wherever you live, or better yet, make it yourself! :)

Categories
Ad Hoc reviews The French Laundry

Memorial Day Maine Lobster Rolls at Ad Hoc

Yeah, yeah…another Ad Hoc post. I know. I’ve been meaning to write about some of the cooking I’ve been doing, including baking my first brioche or my thoughts on liking traditional waffles more than Belgian waffles, but when Ad Hoc’s daily menu email update arrived in my inbox yesterday morning, the words “Maine Lobster Rolls” jumped out at me.

Maine Lobster RollsThis was the full portion for two people.

Ad Hoc recently started doing barbecue nights on non-fried chicken Mondays, but for Memorial Day, they decided to offer the Maine Lobster Rolls to give dinner more of a picnic vibe. Now, I’ve never had an authentic New England lobster roll, but I think I may have spoiled myself by having this one, which features lobster from the same purveyor that supplies The French Laundry, a custom sweet roll from Bouchon Bakery, shaved celery, red onions and garlic aioli.

Maine Lobster RollsThe sweet, housemade pickles were excellent, too.

The meal started off with fried French Laundry chickpeas that were like fried, salty edamame—an amuse bouche of sorts, but they don’t use words like that at Ad Hoc. :)

French Laundry Fried Chickpeas

The leek salad featured more French Laundry vegetables and some crispy Jamon Iberico, what Bac-O’s aspires to be when it grows up.

TFL Leek Salad with Jamon Iberico

The cheese course featured Rogue Creamery’s aged and creamy Caveman Blue, raspberry-vanilla jam and beer flatbread.

Rogue Creamery's Caveman Blue with raspberry-vanilla jam beer flatbread

The toasted lemon pound cake with chantilly cream and macerated blueberries ended the meal on a surprisingly light note.

Toasted Lemon Pound Cake

I was content to spend Memorial Day chillin’ at home and watching Game 4 of the Lakers/Nuggets Western Conference Finals battle, but since the Lakers ended up playing poorly and losing, I’m glad I spent my time up in Yountville enjoying the sublime comforts of a great meal instead of stressing out at home yelling at the TV.

Categories
Korean reviews Southern California street food

Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go: The Twitter Chronicles

Kogi BBQ‘s now-famous Korean taco trucks have eluded me on my last three trips home to SoCal, but this weekend, I was determined to hunt one down. Kogi has two trucks, Roja and Verde, and I met up with Roja yesterday at 9th and Hope in Downtown LA.

Let me just say upfront that I think Kogi’s food is great. We really liked everything we had, especially the Kogi Sliders and the Kogi Dog. But our first Kogi experience was a logistical disaster. It took two hours from the time we got in line to the time we got our food and left and they ran out of kalbi right before my order was fulfilled, so we missed out on their signature meat.

Since Kogi relies on their twitter account (@kogibbq) to keep their devoted followers updated about their whereabouts, it’s appropriate that this review contain my tweets about my first Kogi experience (follow me @inuyaki).

Watch how things progress by checking the timestamps of each tweet. (Timestamps from the Tweetie iPhone app.)

12:15pm Line for @kogibbq isn’t too bad right now (9th and Hope in Downtown LA) http://twitpic.com/4cnnw

kogi1.jpg

12:17pm mic_dee @inuyaki d00d! aare they quick to serve at least?
12:18pm 3ND14P3 @inuyaki O_O that line “isn’t too bad?” ?? LOL Wow. I hope it’s moving quickly
12:20pm The @kogibbq line isn’t moving yet because they haven’t started serving. Will see how fast it goes when they start.

A few minutes after this tweet they started taking orders.

12:43pm LadyDucayne @inuyaki is the kogi anticipation still going strong? What’s ur place in line? red or green?
12:52pm @LadyDucayne I think it’s roja. Line is moving slow but steady. I’m actually hungry right now. :)
12:55pm @LadyDucayne I think we’re about 25 people back.

1:18pm The @kogibbq line is moving so slow. I wasn’t hungry when i got here but now I’m starving

1:28pm The people that wait 4 @kogibbq at night are either dedicated or crazy. Don’t know if I would do this again unless I was near the front.
1:31pm LadyDucayne @inuyaki both times I have been first in line. I like kogi, but not enough to wait in line for more than ten minutes…
1:36pm 90 minutes later…Finally near the front :) http://twitpic.com/4cu8t

kogi2.jpg

1:50pm A tow truck just showed up. Minor panic. Dudes just wanted food. http://twitpic.com/4cvfi

kogi3.jpg

1:51pm hsiawen @inuyaki bastards better not have gotten cutsies

A couple minutes later we placed our order: 1 kalbi burrito, 2 kalbi tacos, 1 spicy pork taco, 1 chicken taco, 1 tofu taco, 1 order Kogi Sliders, 1 Kogi Dog, 1 brownie with Chinese spiced nuts. I ordered the Kogi Dog because they said they didn’t have enough kimchi to make the Kogi Kimchi Quesadilla. I should have known we were in trouble then.

1:59pm They just ran out of short ribs…for my order and beyond. Not very happy now, just give me my food please! @kogibbq

They also announced that they were putting a limit of one burrito or three tacos per customer. There were probably a hundred people behind me at that point.

2:03pm So @kogibbq was expecting a regular lunch crowd and weren’t prepared for all the people that showed up, which led to logistical failure

I think the people at the front of the line were buying lunch for their respective offices and depleted Kogi’s supplies right off the bat. My wife said she saw people leaving with bags of food. If this is true, it explains why the line moved so slowly and why they ran out of kalbi.

At this point, I stopped tweeting because I was focused on getting my order completed. We were supposed to be at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles at 2:30pm to donate blood platelets for my friend’s daughter, and I was getting annoyed because I didn’t want to be late. Donating platelets is by appointment only because the process takes a couple of hours, but apparently, so does Kogi.

They called me to the window to ask what other meat I wanted since they were out of short ribs. I got the spicy pork instead and changed the burrito order to a second brownie. I thought that I might as well get another dessert out of this. I told the guy expediting orders that I needed go to the doctors and that I needed to leave ASAP.

The tow truck guys were seen leaving with food five minutes after they arrived.

2:06pm @hsiawen they did get cutsies
2:08pm hsiawen @inuyaki that’s BS that means they got your ribs!!!

Actually, the guy in front of me, who almost got out of line because it was taking too long, got the last of it. He only had to substitute spicy pork for part of his order.

But were the tow truck guys the reason I didn’t get short ribs? We’ll never know. Damn you, tow truck guys!

A couple minutes later, we had half our order and were waiting on Kogi Sliders and a Kogi Dog. The guy in the party that ordered after me got his complete order, which included a Kogi Dog and Kogi Sliders, before I did, which was really annoying. I reminded the expediter that I had an appointment.

At around 2:15 were in the car and on our way to CHLA, two hours after we arrived. I snapped a couple quick pics of the food before leaving the area, and we ate our food while driving over to CHLA. The Kogi Dog was especially challenging to consume…good thing I don’t drive stick.

Kogi DogKogi Dog
Kogi SlidersKogi Sliders

We got to the CHLA blood donation center about 10 minutes late. The last three tweets are from when I was in the chair giving blood.

3:01pm While I’m a little bitter about my @kogibbq experience, the food was really good. Had to sub kalbi with spicy pork
3:05pm kogibbq @inuyaki – hopefuLLy the experience was both bitter and sweet. or at the very least, meat. MEATY…! ::drools::
3:22pm @kogibbq kogi dog was great and i liked the spicy pork. brownie with spiced nuts were nice. just sad you guys ran out of kalbi.

If you’re still reading, I commend you for sticking with this epic ordeal. :) Like I said, I think Kogi’s food is great, but I feel like the experience is incomplete because I didn’t get to try the kalbi. I’m also sure they’ll learn from these logistical snafus as they and their fanbase continues to grow. Some people might not give Kogi another shot if they endured a similar experience, but I think what Kogi is doing is worthy of a return visit. It all comes down to planning and understanding, a responsibility that belongs to both Kogi and their customers.

Personally, I won’t wait more than 30 minutes for Kogi again, so I’ll have to do my homework and be more diligent the next time I seek them out. I hope Kogi does the same so that they’re prepared to get bumrushed every time their trucks open for business.

INFORMATION
Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go
Web Site
Twitter

Categories
Ad Hoc breakfast reviews Thomas Keller waffles

Ad Hoc – 4/12/09 (Easter in Yountville)

It was another beautiful spring day in California, a perfect backdrop for Easter in Yountville. Of course for us, that means a visit to Bouchon Bakery to pick up some goodies before brunch at Ad Hoc. We really need to explore more of the area, but it’s hard when you can drop into Bouchon Bakery and get an Easter egg-shaped Thomas Keller Oreo.

We were also lucky enough to score one of the last chocolate doughnuts in the shop. It’s a brioche doughnut filled with chocolate custard and then dipped in chocolate frosting laden with crispy chocolate balls. These are usually gone pretty early in the morning, but apparently they did a second batch for Easter.

Ad Hoc is debuting a new brunch format next weekend (I’ll write a separate post about this soon) and Easter was kind of a “soft opening.” It started with a mixed berry yogurt parfait with warm banana bread. The banana bread was great…lightly toasted and topped with a really nice honey butter.

Instead of the whole main entrée being family style, every diner got their own entree, corned beef hash and poached eggs, but the waffles were served family style.

Two poached Alexandre Dairy hen eggs topped a hash made of perfect, crispy potato strands mixed with Snake River Farms corned beef brisket. The eggs were nice and runny and were great when mixed into the hash.

Dessert was a brownie with vanilla ice cream and salted butterscotch sauce.

Overall, it was another fabulous Ad Hoc brunch, and I’m excited to see how the new brunch format works out. We’ll be back in Yountville next weekend to find out. :)