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Great food for solo woman near Union Square [San Francisco]

I thought I'd write again to say two things: my second meal and my attempt at cooking those dumplings I loved at Z and Y.

First of all, after an evening of trying to spot the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog (vaguely successful), I arrived in Belden Alley at about 9:20. I went to Plouf, and decided - crazily - to order the whole crab. It was delicious. It claimed to be chili, but I scarcely tasted any spice. The butter for it was very good. Because of a quinoa intolerance (red, puffy skin), I went with the horseradish cheddar grits. They tasted of sweet corn and horseradish; no cheddar. I ate regrettably little of them. Overall a pleasant experience, and no problem eating alone.

One thing I must say is that I wonder where I could find microbrews in San Francisco. At home in Victoria, nearly every place has microbrews on tap - as in, multiple - and it was strange to be offered Coors and Heineken.

Now for the wontons! When I arrived home, I googled Z and Y's online menu, and did a google of the Chinese title of the dish: 紅油抄手. It's called "Wontons in Red Oil," and is actually relatively easy to make, although I did have to buy an assortment of unusual (for me) spices. I dutifully made the "red oil" using peanut oil, Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilis, star anise, black cardamon and cinnamon (as I could find no cassia bark).

I let the oil cook at too high a temperature, and all the chilis burned black. I don't believe this had a deleterious effect on the oil. The oil was very strong on the Sichuan peppercorn flavour, which my boyfriend likened to pine trees. I will be diluting the oil with additional peanut oil in future use.

I followed this recipe for the oil.

As I was making the chili oil this time, I elected for store-bought dumplings instead of homemade. Using this recipe, I made the "vinaigrette" for the dumplings. Unfortunately I went from memory and added twice as much red oil as the recipe called for, much to my and my boyfriend's misfortune.

Overall, the dish was fantastic, and not too hard. The red oil can be used for many Sichuan dishes, so I will have a fun time experimenting in the coming months. Also, it feels fantastic to make something so authentically Chinese with my own hands.

Great food for solo woman near Union Square [San Francisco]

So I went into Chinatown and was going to go to Bund, but then someone walked out of Z and Y as I walked past and I smelled the greatest smell. So I went there.

I ordered the Wontons in Peanut Sauce, Tiger Skin Jalapenos, and Chicken with Exploding Chilis.

The wontons tasted very like a dish I had in Chengdu 8 years ago. At least, I think they did. I honestly can't remember the exact taste, I just remember thinking they were the best dumplings I'd ever eaten. And these were amazing. The peanut sauce consisted of a peanut oil-chili oil blend with garlic and peanuts and a little ma la. I might go back to get more before I leave.

The Tiger Skin Jalapenos were delicious, and the spiciest thing I ate today.They were just pan-fried jalapenos in a delicate sesame-soy sauce. Very delicate. The chicken was battered in a paper thin batter and deep fried, then wok-fried with about 18 million dried chilis. The chicken tasted of very fresh ginger, and was fantastic. Because every dish was spicy, I avoided the chilis as the chicken cooled my mouth down.

All in all, an utterly fantastic meal. Authentic Sichuanese food is not available in BC, and so this was the best Chinese food I've had since I was in China in 2005. My only issue was a general lack of ma la, but I feel that may be their way of catering to Westerners. That said, I have to run to Walgreen's to get some heartburn medication now.

Z & Y - what to order? [San Francisco]

Are the Tan Tan traditional, with minced pork and a black sesame / vinegar sauce, or are they sesame peanut style?
I'd love to find Dandan like I had in Chengdu.

Great food for solo woman near Union Square [San Francisco]

We have good Chinese food where I'm from but no one makes XLB. Sadly.

For the second meal... I'd say West Coast? Or maybe really good Italian. We only have one decent Italian place.

Actually, I'd like to have some really great seafood. I'm more into refined flavours in a brasserie style than, say, huge portions or intimidatingly formal.

I hope that makes sense...

Great food for solo woman near Union Square [San Francisco]


I am travelling to San Francisco for a conference, and staying at the Grand Hyatt near Union Square.

I would rather go into a "sure thing" restaurant than walk into one that looks interesting - which I'm sure they almost all will.

I will have 2 dinners, and am ok taking a cable car from my hotel to a place, or walking, although I hear your hills can be brutal. I have a budget of $40 per dinner, including tax/tip/drink. I don't have to spend that much money, though - I just want to eat great food.

I do love Xiu Long Bao, but am a little concerned about going to get it alone... If I can get a group of people from the conference to go for Dim sum with me, I'd be okay with Yank Sing. But are there any places I can get great XLB where I can comfortably eat alone? I'm ok with a hole in the wall.

Thanks for any help you can give!

Pani Poori and Snack Stall next to Thattukada (London)

I am visiting London next week and I have no idea where all these place names are. Can someone tell me the street and Tube stop and line, please?

I'm really excited to try Indian food in London; it's not very good where I'm from in Canada.

Jun 01, 2010
miss_bennet in U.K./Ireland

Fruit-on-the-bottom Yogurt: To Stir, or Not to Stir?

I just enjoyed a delicious fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt. That is to say, I ate the yogurt off the top, and left the "fruit" in the cup.

Does anyone else do this?

Is it just me, or is it different from plain yogurt? I think it's gently flavoured with the flavour on the bottom. I've always eaten yogurt this way. I just love that light, fruity tartness only the top of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt can give me!

Does anyone know why it's so good? Is it actually different, or I am just crazy, and it's plain yogurt? (I really don't care if I'm crazy; it's good eats.)

Feb 13, 2009
miss_bennet in General Topics

Ultimate Top Chef

My ultimate Top Chef would have new rules that basically allow previous challenges to count so it's less "Top Meal" and more "Top Chef."

Basically, my scheme includes a scoring system like Iron Chef (creativty, exceution, presentaion and taste being the parameters). The quickfires and EC would be judged using that. Then to find out who to eliminate, it would be the person with the lowest score. The QF would be weighted at 25%, and the elimination challenge at 75% for the first challenge.
Every subsequent EC would be measured as: 25% for QF, 50% for EC, and 25% aggragate of previous scores. Prizes for QF and EC winners would still be given.

Basically, I'm angry about Jaime and Tre. The numbers don't have to be exactly what I suggest, but I think it's a good starting point.

Feb 13, 2009
miss_bennet in Food Media & News

Top Chef-Last Meal (Spoiler)

My favourite part of the episode: When Carla said the squab was overcooked, Tom agreed with her. Then, Jacques disagreed with Tom and DEFENDED CARLA'S FOOD! How cool would that be for a chef? Jacques Pépin says he could die happy after eating your food, then he defends that food when another chef criticizes it?

Carla for the win!

And if Carla doesn't win, I hope someone gives her a cooking show. That I would watch.

Feb 13, 2009
miss_bennet in Food Media & News

Top Chef: Le Bernardin - Spoilers

Toby Young's "witticisms" make me think of the insipid character Mr. Collins in "Pride and Prejudice." While some of these supposedly clever comments are likely made up on the spot, TY must think of specific, injurious phrases to use, then apply them to whatever sitution presents itself. (I should go get the book to find the exact quote.)

Feb 06, 2009
miss_bennet in Food Media & News

Top Chef: Le Bernardin - Spoilers

Since the producers have spent a lot of time making Stefan seem like a jerk, I think it's kind of funny that he won the prize. I wonder if Chef Ripert will become as frustrated with Stefan as Hosea has become?

(I feel certain, however, that Chef Ripert would thoroughly enjoy spending a week with Carla.)

Feb 05, 2009
miss_bennet in Food Media & News

"have you been here before? well, we recommend. . . ."

I agree that the sale is all in the delivery. A great waiter (or salesperson) can sell you something without you even realizing your being upsold.

However, the bottom line is, you are in a restaurant. A restaurant is a business, and they make money by selling food. Waiters are salespeople, and yes, the larger the bill, the larger their tip.

The important thing is that we are able to air our grievances here. Unless they are pressing the point (see Miss Needle's margarita example), servers do not deserve to have an outside source directly questioning how they do their job.

Having worked in the service industry, I was very good at the upsell. I would politely offer something, people would say yes or no, and I'd move on accordingly. Just as the customer would say yes or no and move on accordingly. I have had a few people who have sworn at me, saying something like "No I don't want the f-ing large." That is much more tacky, inappropriate and disrespcetful than me offering a larger size.

Nov 13, 2008
miss_bennet in Not About Food

Going "green" or being sneaky cheap?

I have to say that a calling a company cheap for making efforts to help the environment is somewhat inappropriate. Who cares what their motives are? They are saving raw resources and energy!

My work just changed our napkins from bleached, white things to unbleached, recycled-material napkins. We had to invest in new dispensers, which dispense only one napkin at a time. The only reason we changed was so that we could use less of a better product and reduce waste. For the environment. The side effects, such as lower cost, less to clean up, less usage, are fringe benefits to helping the environment. That is the bottom line.

Basically, what I'm understanding here is that it's only ok to help the environment if people get some kind of financial reimbursment. I can't even think of words to describe how wrong I think that is.

Oct 22, 2008
miss_bennet in Not About Food

How to deal with food complainers?

When I went out for food with one of my boyfriend's best friends and girlfriend, she made a comment casually near the beginning that she hates it when people blow their nose at the table. As I was eating spicy, I was sure to only wipe during the meal. The same thing might work. Just say, before she can get anything in, "Did you know that governments want to force restaurants to put calorie counters on menus? I don't want to know how much fat is in my pasta; I just wnat to enjoy it!"

Oct 19, 2008
miss_bennet in Not About Food

Where are they hiding the garlic NOT made in China?

I pay $13.99/lb for local organic garlic, because it's that, or stuff from China. I choose local, because I can.

Sep 29, 2008
miss_bennet in General Topics

Here comes the new look!

Please add my vote to the "white background makes posts VERY hard to read" group. Please go back to red! I need to leave now; my eyes hurt.

Sep 27, 2008
miss_bennet in Site Talk

What would you do if a restaurant wouldnt cook your Burger to Order?

From another viewpoint, I live in BC, Canada. When some children died in Washington State in the '80s, my provincial government made cooking ground beef to less than 170 degrees F illegal. For 25 years, the idea that a burger with even a touch of pink is unsafe has been ground into my head, and consequently, pink burgers horrify me. I love tartare, I can't eat steak anything more than medium rare (and I've taken enough food safety to know that there's a risk there), but pink burger? A restaurant served my BF and I rare burgers in the past year, and I tried, but I couldn't bring myself to eat it. Rare burgers give me the heebie jeebies. As for self-ground meat, I don't even think I could do that.

In answer to your question, the customer is always entitled to take their business elsewhere if they can't get what they want. I think it's dishonorable to get angry with any establishment that is trying to uphold a law, but I don't think that was the case, it was just the restaurant policy. But because of my "nurture," if I went to a restaurant that served burgers rare, I would be reluctant to eat anything there. I mean, if they take that risk, what else are they doing?

Sep 27, 2008
miss_bennet in Not About Food

Met Opera - Do they serve cake?

Thanks! It seemed a bit unlikely!

Sep 17, 2008
miss_bennet in Manhattan

Met Opera - Do they serve cake?

I heard a rumor that when you go to a gala at the Met, they serve white cake for guests. Is this true, or is it just a rumor?

If it is true, is the cake free? What kind of cake is it?


Sep 16, 2008
miss_bennet in Manhattan

Grocery Store Manners

My provincial autoplan company had the greatest commercial campaign about a decade ago about the evils of aggressive driving. They took bad driving habits and applied them to other areas of life. My favourite was one with tailgate walking. That's right; tailgate walking. Absolutely ridiculous.

Anyway, there was one about grocery shopping where a woman who is pratically running down an aisle makes it to the end of the aisle. When she reaches the intersection of aisles, she t-bones another cart and everything goes flying. The way the other shoppers look at the now-sheepish crazy woman is pricelsss. The shock and disdain on their faces... I wish the ads were on youtube.

Sep 12, 2008
miss_bennet in Not About Food

Grocery Store Manners

You're not crazy; you're ballsy! We all wish we could say that without feeling horrible!

Sep 12, 2008
miss_bennet in Not About Food

Grocery Store Manners

I grocery store nearish to me (not the closest) has these new carts that are like suitcases. They have long handles and wheels, as well as a normal handle. I love them.

Sep 11, 2008
miss_bennet in Not About Food

Parksville and Qualicum, BC recs

I guess this will teach me to give specific reviews; i.e. Lefty's is good for sandwiches and other lunch foods. I have never eaten dinner there.

food prep tragedies

I was 9 or ten. My mom had bought a frozen pie crust, but I was making the lemon filling and meringue from scratch for the first time. I zested and juiced the lemons. I patiently waited for the cornstarch to turn the filling into gel, and I was very careful not to let it burn. The filling was very pretty when the pie came out. I then made the meringue, using two extra egg whites. I made the most beautiful peaks I had ever made. I opened the oven door, and started to move the pie to the oven for its final bake.

And the cheap, tin pie plate folded under the weight, and the pie slipped from my hand and landed face down on the linoleum. I kind of screamed when it happened. My grandfather was a couple of feet away from me doing dishes, and after he failed to catch it, I ran to my room crying. Even though my grandfather gave me a glass pie plate the next day, I have never baked a lemon meringue pie again.

Sep 02, 2008
miss_bennet in Not About Food

Hwy 4 from Nanaimo to Ucluelet and Tofino

Slightly off the road in Qualicum and Parksville is Lefty's. They specialize in fresh food. They have a selection of sandwiches with your choice of soup or salad, I believe. Here's a link.

Slight correction: the J & L Drive-In in Port Alberni. Their burgers are excellent, and the drive-in aspect is fun. The #4 takes you through Port Alberni. Just make a left onto Gertrude and the J & L is two blocks down. I usually just get a burger, a shake and split onion rings. It is truly a Port Alberni institution.

Also, you can stop at Naesgaard's Farm Market just outside of Port Alberni for peaches and cream corn for the BBQ, and sweet peas for snacks. As you leave Port, there is a marina on the left, the you follow the Somass river on your left. Naesgaard's is on the right.

Soft-serve ice cream on BC ferry

I'm pretty sure they both use the exact same base mix, provided by Island Farms. The reason they're both so good is because unlike most soft serve ice creams in North America, they use real cream.

While Beacon Drive-In instills a more iconic sentiment in me, I think that the ferry's ice cream is just as good. I also think that the ice cream is the only edible food on the ferry. But I am a sucker for the candied apples at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Tsawassen.

Dabbing on some makeup at the dinner table...

A guy did that in one of my college classes. It took all of the willpower I possess not to scream at him. I'm surprised the prof didn't. That is my most hated noise in the whole world. Just thinking about it... Yuck!

Aug 16, 2008
miss_bennet in Not About Food

Dabbing on some makeup at the dinner table...

That's what I'm thinking, because if you powder your nose at the table, what to you say when you need to use the "powder room?" Eek! Powdering your nose was the elegant excuse!

Aug 15, 2008
miss_bennet in Not About Food

Parksville and Qualicum, BC recs

The only place I can recommend is Lefty's. They make casual, fresh food. My family has had delicious lunches there.

Parksville and Qualicum, BC recs

FYI - Being an Islander, I would no consider Deep Cove Chalet, Blue Bayou or the Merridale Cidery as Parksville/Qualicum places. The Cidery is about an hour and a half south, and the other two are on Saanich Peninsula, about 2 and a half + hours from Parksville.