burgers French sandwiches Seattle

IFBC, Seattle Food Porn, and the iPhone 4

Octopus at Bastille
Grilled Octopus with Chickpea Panisse and Preserved Lemon at Bastille in Seattle,
taken with an iPhone 4.

I was in Seattle last weekend to attend the 2nd annual International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC), but I was a very bad food blogger because I forgot to bring my trusty Panasonic Lumix LX-3 with me on both days. This meant that the only camera I had on me was my iPhone 4. Since it’s always with me, my iPhone 4 is the most convenient camera that I own. When light is plentiful, the iPhone 4’s built-in 5-megapixel camera takes beautiful pictures. The new built-in flash helps in low light, but you really have to work to get a great shot.

lx3 iphone

As much as I love the idea of owning a fully loaded digital SLR, I don’t want one because they’re bulky and heavy, and I like to travel light. The LX-3 is a fantastic point-and-shoot camera that’s great in low light and has a 24mm ultra-wide-angle lens that makes it easy to capture fully composed plates of food at restaurants. It also has a ton of manual features, but in general, I just put the thing in “Food” mode, flip the “Macro” switch and go to town. We bought it as our restaurant camera before our trip to New York last year, and nearly every picture on this site since late 2009 was made with that camera.

One of the first questions budding food bloggers ask about cameras is something along the lines of “which digital SLR is the best for food blogging?” While a good camera definitely helps and you’ll need one to take your pictures to the next level, if you don’t have a good eye, then the camera doesn’t matter.

Inspired in part by my fellow IFBC attendees and Saveur Magazine photographer Penny de los Santos, whose images and overall dopeness in the photography session inspired all of us to starting “making” pictures instead of taking them, here are some of my favorite iPhone 4 pictures from the weekend.

Pre-IFBC Eats

We arrived Wednesday night and went to Wallingford for ice cream at Molly Moon’s and burgers at Dick’s Drive-In. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of ice cream because I was too busy eating it, but here’s a picture of the Dick’s Deluxe Burger, shot using only the typical available lighting you’d find at a burger stand at night. It’s not the most attractive burger, but it’s a pretty good macro shot considering the circumstances.

Dick's Deluxe Burger
Dick’s Drive-In’s Deluxe Burger

The next morning, my wife and I walked from our friend’s house to Anita’s Crepes in Ballard, and I had one of my favorite things on this trip, the Lemon Sugar Crepe. Fresh lemon juice and the crunchy bruléed sugar made it seem like I was eating candy for breakfast. In this picture, sunlight was coming in from all around but mostly from the right.

Anita's Lemon Sugar Crepe
Anita’s Lemon Sugar Crepe

After Anita’s, we headed over to Top Pot Doughnuts in Queen Anne for my favorite doughnuts in the world. I played around with the composition a little here with my Ovaltine latte and lemon old-fashioned in the foreground and my wife’s cup of soy milk in the back.

Top Pot Lemon Old Fashioned
Top Pot’s Lemon Old Fashioned

After crepes and doughnuts, we needed to walk around, so we headed downtown and ended up at Pike Place Market where I spotted these colorful hanging peppers being sold by a street vendor (presumably to tourists). :)

Hanging Peppers
Colorful Hanging Peppers at Pike Place Market

We headed up to Woodinville to partake in one of The Herbfarm’s 100-Mile dinners. All the good dinner pictures were taken with the LX-3, but I did manage to get a nice picture of The Herbfarm’s sign before we went inside for the meal.

The Herbfarm
The world-famous Herbfarm

On Friday, we went to Ballard’s Lunchbox Laboratory, a place that destroys any expectations you have of burgers, fries and shakes. The burgers might be excessive and messy, but they’re delicious, and the perfectly fried tater tots with sea salt and pepper are killer. I paired the burger below with a dark chocolate and orange milkshake.

Lunchbox Laboratory
Lunchbox Laboratory’s “Homage to Dick’s” burger
with 1/2 pound dork patty (duck/pork) and tater tots


You’d expect us to eat well at a food blogger’s conference, and you’d be right. On the first day of the conference, some of Seattle’s best chefs came out to prepare lunch for us. The marinated octopus dish below is the similar to the dish at the top of this post, which my wife ordered the next evening when we went to Bastille with our friends.

Bastille Octopus
Marinated Octopus with Chickpeas, Preserved Lemon and Chorizo Vinaigrette
by Chef Shannon Galusha of Bastille
Lunchbox Laboratory
Beef Tartare by Chef Daisley Gordon of Campagne
Salmon Carpaccio
Salmon Carpaccio by Chef John Howie of Seastar

I wasn’t sated after lunch, so I skipped a session and joined an IFBC splinter group that ventured up to Paseo Caribbean Food on my suggestion for some of their famous sandwiches. I was a little late to join the group, and they had already ordered when I got there, but one of them inexplicably (and thankfully) ordered two separate dishes and offered to share her food with me. We took our food down to the Buckaroo Tavern, a Harley bar a couple doors down that’s closing after 72 years in business, so we could sit down and have a beer. The table was crowded and filled with food and beer, but I managed to get off a quick shot before scarfing down half of this incredible grilled pork sandwich.

Paseo Sandwich
Paseo’s Grilled Pork Sandwich with a Black Butte Porter

I ended up tweeting this picture, which got more than a few conference goers a little jealous. :) And FYI, if you’ve been to Paseo but haven’t tried their Smokin’ Thighs dinner plate, make sure you order that next time you’re there.

Some of Seattle’s best food trucks served us lunch on Sunday of the conference, which partially made up for the fact that I missed the Eat Real Fest in Oakland that was going on concurrently. I was really happy to see Skillet Street Food there, but I forgot to buy a jar of their famous bacon jam before I left.

skillet slider
Snake River Farms slider by Skillet Street Food

Kaosami Thai Food served up Larb Gai in a Thai taco, something I’d never even I’d never considered before. I thought the Larb Gai was good but it was served on a dismal corn tortilla that made it seem like an afterthought. Despite this, I chose this picture because I’d been inspired by all the overhead shots Penny showed us in her slideshow.

Thai Taco
Larb Gai Taco by Kaosami Thai Food

Hallava Falafel seemed to have some logistical issues to sort through when lunch started (in otherwords, their line was slow), but they made a pretty good falafel. I like this picture because it shows that the iPhone 4 camera actually has some depth-of-field capabilities.

Hallava Falafel
Falafel by Hallava Falafel

I left IFBC after lunch to meet up with my wife and friends and have an early dinner at Bastille (the eating didn’t really stop for five days). Aside from the octopus we had at the top of the page, two of the more photogenic dishes were the Pork Cheek Terrine and Grilled Heirloom Eggplant.

Pork Cheek Terrine
Bastille’s Pork Cheek Terrine
Pork Cheek Terrine
Bastille’s Grilled Heirloom Eggplant

Final Thoughts

Most of the pictures I posted above were taken in the daytime in broad daylight or in restaurants where we were seated by a window. This is essential if you’re taking pictures with a mobile device like the iPhone 4 because a lot of light is required to properly expose the picture.

An hour after I posted this, Apple announced support for HDR photos in its iOS 4.1. In a nutshell, it takes three pictures—one normal, one underexposed, one overexposed—and then merges them all together. Wish I had that feature this weekend. ;-)

As mobile devices get more advanced, they’re likely to include some form of built-in high-resolution camera, which makes them ideal for the food blogger on the go who might not have their camera with them at all times but wants to take a good picture. Since I’m so forgetful, I definitely fall into this category.

Filipino pork recipes sandwiches

Homemade Pork Tocino

A few weeks ago, I got this urge to make my tocino, the sweet cured pork that’s a staple Philippine breakfast meat. It’s probably most commonly served as tosilog, which is portmanteau of tocino, sinangag (garlic fried rice), and itlog (eggs). (I discuss “silogs” in my Best Breakfast Ever post from a few years ago.)

Tosilog - Cherry Garden
Tosilog — the breakfast of champions (from Cherry Garden in Fremont, CA)

My first attempt at tocino used the simple salt/sugar/achuete cure from the book Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Chef Romy Dotoran and Amy Besa of New York’s famous-but-now-closed Cendrillon. but that recipe didn’t work for me at all. The tocino ended up being way too salty, and it was almost inedible. (There’s a good chance that the recipe’s failure was my fault, so I’ll have to revisit it one of these days.)

While discussing my tocino plans with a couple other food bloggers on Twitter, Mark Manguerra of No Special Effects said that he’d always want to try Simply Anne’s tocino recipe, so I decided to give it a shot. In short, the recipe is good and with a few adjustments, the tocino was exactly what I wanted.

Pork Tocino

(adapted from Simply Anne’s.)

3 lb. boneless pork shoulder roast
1¼ cups pineapple juice
½ cup ketchup
½ cup lemon-lime soda
1/3 cup light soy sauce
2 cups brown sugar
1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Freeze pork shoulder roast for an hour or so to firm it up so that it’s easier to slice. Cut 1/4-inch slices of pork shoulder and place in a one gallon zipper-lock plastic bag.
  2. Mix the rest of the ingredients in bowl and then add to the meat. Seal the bag, doing your best to remove excess air. Let the pork cure in the refrigerator for a 4-5 days, flipping over the bag every day or so.
  3. After curing, you can either cook the meat or portion them off into smaller bags and freeze them.
  4. To cook the tocino, add a little water, marinade and a few slices of meat to a skillet. Over medium heat, let the liquid boil off and then fry the meat for a couple more minutes to caramelize it. There’s a lot of sugar in the marinade so make sure you don’t burn the meat.You can also grill the tocino, which is my ideal method, by searing both sides on a grill over high heat and then letting them finish cooking over low or indirect heat. You can replicate this method indoors using a grill pan to sear and a low oven (around 250F) to finish.
Grilled Tocino
Pan frying tocino is traditional, but I prefer it grilled.

There’s a lot of tocino in that picture, isn’t there? I’ll show you what I did with it in my next post… :)

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.

Cam 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 Huong
A 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


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 - Battambang
Moarn Aing – grilled chicken skewers.

…and this is what I ordered on my return:

Grilled Combo - Battambang
Lunch 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.

850 Broadway
Oakland, CA
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.

beef recipes sandwiches

The Pastrami Project

Short Rib Pastrami
Pastrami made with a short rib slab. (second attempt)

Pastrami is one of my favorite things to eat in the whole world, but it never occurred to me that I could actually make it myself until I read Asian Jewish Deli’s Pastrami Reuben post. What caught my attention was that AJD used a slab of short ribs instead of the more traditional brisket or beef plate that is used to make pastrami, and short ribs are my favorite part of the cow.

Pastrami (brisket)
Pastrami made with brisket.

A couple months later, I was reading through Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio and in the chapter on brines, I saw a recipe for corned beef with an additional pastrami variation. I decided I would give that version a shot, especially since the dutch oven bread I made previously from Ratio turned out to really well. Ruhlman recently posted his version of short rib pastrami using regular boneless short ribs, but I kinda took the wind out of his sails a bit when I mentioned AJD’s version to him on Twitter a couple days before it went online.

Pastrami (short rib)
Short rib pastrami made with a standard cut
of boneless short ribs. (first attempt)

The pastrami-making process is broken down into three steps: curing, smoking, and steaming. Curing is basically how you make corned beef. When you smoke and steam corned beef, you get pastrami. In fact, if you bought a prepackaged corned beef at the market, you could easily make this into pastrami, but I’d bet that doing it yourself will yield a better result.

Curing takes four days and is usually done with a wet cure, i.e. brine. Ruhlman prefers brining, especially for larger cuts of meat like a brisket. I also saw some examples on other Web sites where a dry cure didn’t penetrate all the way to the middle of the meat, so I decided to stick with a brine. After brining, the meat is rinsed, dried and then coated on all sides with a ground pepper/coriander rub before it is smoked and steamed.

Pastrami (brisket) sandwich
Brisket pastrami sandwich (first attempt).

The first pastrami I made used a brisket point, and it was good, but not as salty as I expected it to be. I also had a couple pieces of boneless short ribs that I threw on the brine, and those smaller pieces of meat were closer to the flavor I was looking for. Upon reviewing the recipe in Ratio, I found a typo in the recipe that affected the ratio of water to salt. I guess I could have figured out the math since tere is a specific ratio for brines, but math was never my strong suit. ;-) I mentioned the discrepancy and verified the correct ratio with Ruhlman via Twitter and proceeded to make a second pastrami a couple weeks later.

Since my goal at the outset was to make short rib pastrami, I set out to find some a slab of short ribs for the second attempt. I found one at Baron’s Meats in Alameda, but if you can’t get your hands on one, you can simply use boneless short ribs since these are easy to find at your market or butcher. Also, since boneless short ribs are smaller, they’re much easier to handle than a short rib slab or an unwieldy brisket.

adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio
This version of the recipe corrects the typo in the first edition of Ratio and converts the corned beef recipe into dedicated pastrami variation.

1 4-5 pound brisket, short rib slab, or boneless short ribs.

2 liters water (half gallon)
25 grams of pink curing salt* (1 ounce or 5 teaspoons)
50 grams sugar (1¼ ounces or scant ¼ cup)
100 grams kosher salt
10 cloves garlic, flattened with the flat side of a knife
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon whole allspice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick, crushed or broken into pieces
3 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger

* The key to preserving pastrami’s familiar red color is using pink curing salt (i.e. sodium nitrite). You can order it online at You can omit it, but the pastrami will be brownish gray instead of red.

Dry Rub
Equal parts ground pepper and ground coriander, preferably freshly ground (enough to cover the meat)

In a pot large enough to hold the entire piece of meat, combine all the brine ingredients in a large pot. Simmer and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before refrigerating. When the brine is completely chilled, place the meat in the pot. Use a plate to keep the meat submerged, if necessary. Refrigerate for four days.

Remove the meat from the brine and rinse well. Dry the meat and then cover completely it in the pepper/coriander rub. Smoke the meat until the internal temperature of the meat is 165F. This will take a couple hours or so. After smoking, steam the meat for a couple more hours until tender.

If you’re eating the pastrami right away, you can remove it from the steamer and start slicing it up. If you’re not serving the pastrami right away, you can let it cool and then wrap it up in plastic wrap and refrigerate it. Cooling the pastrami also makes it easier to slice thinly if that’s how you like it. Whether you keep it whole or slice it up, steam the pastrami for 5-10 minutes to warm the meat and give it a bit more moisture before serving.

I normally prefer a traditional New York-style sandwich of pastrami on rye bread with brown deli mustard or a pastrami reuben with melted and sauerkraut (as pictured above).

dessert reviews sandwiches Southern California

Afternoon Tea at Gordon Ramsay at The London

We’re currently in Southern California visiting my parents, and as I was researching places to eat, I found a Chowhound post detailing afternoon tea at Gordon Ramsay at The London West Hollywood. Having afternoon tea had never really been on my radar but I knew my wife would be interested, and it seemed like a great way to see what Ramsay had to offer, especially after it was awarded a star in the 2009 Michelin guide.

The main dining room at Gordon Ramsay is a really beautiful space. In the daytime, it’s bright and has a decent view considering its located in the middle of West Hollywood. In relation to the picture below, we were seated at the farthest table in the blue booth where the window meets the wall.

bacon OMG recipes sandwiches

Peanut Butter and Bacon Sandwich

When my group leader at work told me that she made it through college by eating peanut butter and bacon sandwiches, I was immediately intrigued.

Peanut Butter and Bacon sandwich

My version was made with Niman Ranch bacon and some Trader Joe’s organic crunchy peanut butter. It was really good, but I really want to try this with some creamy Skippy….you know, for that true “after-school snack” vibe.

musings OMG sandwiches

Canned Horror (a.k.a Cheeseburger in a Can)

Some of you might remember my previous post on the infamous Cheeseburger in a Can. They’re sold by a company in Germany, and they weren’t taking direct orders directly from America. A couple months ago, my wife told me she had a friend in Germany that could order this oddity for us. I asked for two cans, and they arrived earlier this week. Why two cans? One was for our collection of weird food, and one was…to eat.

Here’s how the product looks according to the Trekking Malhzeiten Online Store:

cheeseburger in a can

Looks appetizing, right?

Did the actual canned cheeseburger possibly resemble that picture? Not even close.

bakeries chicken fried chicken Northern California reviews sandwiches

Bakesale Betty

Our first trip to Bakesale Betty was kind of an accident. We had about 45 minutes to kill before our reservation at Pizzaiolo, and Bakesale Betty was still open, so we decided to walk over and see what was happening over there. We’d heard about their famous fried chicken sandwiches, but with dinner looming, we decided to have dessert first. Nothing wrong with that, right?

We split a really big strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. It was nice and light, and we didn’t want to fill up before dinner. I had to get a chocolate cupcake and it was pretty good. The cake was a little dry, but the chocolate buttercream was great, extremely light and perfect (buttercream is usually a big turnoff for me). I washed it down with a lemon ice that was nice and tart, just the way I like them.

[pictobrowser type=”flickr” userID=”arndog” albumID=”72157605674925254″]

We also got some pastries for breakfast the next day (pear ginger scone for my wife, lemon raisin scone for me), and two handheld chicken pot pies. The scones were excellent, but I want to talk about the chicken pot pies. You just pop them in the oven for 45 minutes and you’re rewarded with an amazing handheld meal. I never knew a chicken pot pie could be this good…it was one of the best things I’ve eaten in weeks.

We had Betty’s famous fried chicken sandwich on our next visit and when paired with a lemon ice and some cookies, it’s a perfect summer lunch. The bread is fresh and the perfect boneless fried chicken breast is topped with a really nice vinegary cole slaw. It’s a very messy sandwich and you could argue that there’s a little too much slaw, but overall, it’s an excellent combination. The egg salad sandwiches are pretty good, too, but if given a choice, the fried chicken sandwich wins every time.

barbecue dessert drinks Filipino pork reviews sandwiches Southern California

The Oinkster

The OinksterWhen I’m home in SoCal, heading out to Eagle Rock isn’t normally on the agenda, especially for food. But when some friends told me about The Oinkster’s house-cured pastrami sandwiches and ube milk shakes, Eagle Rock started sounding mighty nice.

The Oinkster is the brainchild of Andre Guerrero, a Filipino American chef who’s a veteran of the Southern California restaurant scene. His other restaurant, Max in Sherman Oaks, offers contemporary Pan-Asian fine dining that’s a stark contrast to The Oinkster’s laid-back, order-at-the-counter vibe. (We also took my parents to Max for a Mother’s/Father’s Day dinner, so basically it was an Andre Guerrero weekend.) We ended up going to Oinkster twice in four days and were able to try a good cross section of the menu.

The Oinkster Pastrami sandwich is a thing of beauty—pastrami with Gruyere and a red cabbage slaw. The pastrami is cured for two weeks (the old-fashioned way) according to a recipe Guerrero developed over a period of two years. It’s not a melt-in-your-mouth pastrami like they have at Katz’s in New York, but it’s definitely the some of best pastrami I’ve had on the West Coast.

Oinkster Pastrami

Aside from the sandwiches, the pastrami also tops the Royale burger, and it’s also featured in their excellent chili. If you’re from Southern California, you’ve likely had a chiliburger at one of the many Original Tommy’s hamburger stands that are down here. Tommy’s chili is legendary in L.A., so it may be blasphemous of me to say this, but…The Oink’s chili is so much better. In fact, I don’t know what I really saw in Tommy’s chili other than the novelty of it. I went back to Tommy’s with my wife a few months ago, and on its own, the chili reminded me of dog food. It really needs to be paired with fries or a burger. The Oink’s chili can definitely stand on it’s own, and it has a freshness that you’ll never get from Tommy’s chili.

bacon Best of Inuyaki eggs sandwiches

The B.E.P. (Bacon, Egg & Pepper Jack)

When I walked in the door tonight, my brilliant wife presented me with this amazing sandwich of fried egg topped with two slices of bacon and melted Pepper Jack cheese on a Dutch Crunch roll.

The B.E.P.

My wife grilled the inside of the bread with some butter, filled it with the bacon, eggs and cheese, and then put it in the toaster oven to melt the cheese and toast the bread. She made the whole thing up on the fly, but it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. Bacon and eggs are a given, but I really loved the spicy kick from the Pepper Jack.