#WeekendCooking A trip down Highway 1

The weekend before Thanksgiving we took a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping the first night in the lovely seaside town of Cambria and then in Ventura in Southern California.

Here are some foodie highlights!

The main reason for this road trip was to try it out in our EV! We’ve driven down Highway 1 to Big Sur before, but not further than that. Usually we take the I-5 down to LA and beyond but it is one hell of a boring straight road. So it is so much more delightful to take the curvy winding roads of the 1, with the sea on your right and lots of vista points to stop and take photos at.

We arrived in Big Sur before 11, too early for lunch at the Big Sur Bakery, and the guy there, while friendly with the kids seemed to suggest that we would find more kid-friendly fare back down the road, “if you want scrambled eggs and things”. Um, not really, but I can take a hint. Instead, we kept going further down south to Ventana Inn, and ate at The Sur House (also, supercharger).

The food at The Sur House is nothing impressive, at least at lunch time, but you can’t beat that view!

I had a Gulf Shrimp sandwich which was tasty. The kids burger was well, a good enough burger, and the husband’s fried chicken sandwich had a nice hint of Thai spiciness and herbs.

But that view!

We kept heading down that beautiful highway to Cambria, our first stop for the the weekend.

We stayed at Pelican Inn, right across the road from Moonstone Beach which has a nice boardwalk and some tide pools to check out. After spending some time at the beach, it was time for an early dinner (also it was getting dark).

So just down the street from the inn is Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill. And there was already a short line of people outside the restaurant at 5pm, when it opens. We joined the queue and were given a nice window-side table, which of course would be more useful if anything were visible outside. It’s a touristy place so I wasn’t really eating there with high expectations, but I liked that the kids’ menu had fried clams on it. And the 8yo was extremely excited to have clams (strangely my kids like mussels and clams, something I wasn’t expecting. And don’t get me started on my 6yo who would eat all the smoked salmon and salmon sashimi if he could). The 6yo went with spaghetti. And I had the seafood pasta, the husband picked vongole. The service here was really great, efficient, friendly but not too much. And they even gave out little toys to the kids (who also got ice-cream).

The broth that the pastas came in was delicious and seafoody.

 

We continued our drive down south, stopping in the cute Danish town of Solvang. It’s very touristy of course, lots of shops selling random knickknacks, a horse-drawn trolley, lots of Scandinavian-style buildings, although it was too warm to feel like we were in Denmark. The best part of our little stop there was finding Mortensen’s Bakery and buying some treats for teatime.

 

This pistachio square was delicious!

 

And I hadn’t seen a Sarah Bernhardt cookie before and it was yummy. It’s mocha buttercream sandwiched between two almond meringue cookies.

 

We finally reached our stop for the night in Ventura, the Ventura Beach Marriott, a newly refurbished hotel, and I loved how the room looked. Also a plus for the sliding barn bathroom door!

For dinner, I found an Italian restaurant, Spasso, not too far from the hotel. The service was a bit slow (there was one waiter and one manager) in this small restaurant (the elderly couple at the table next to us came with books, making me wonder if they were regulars and expecting it to be a leisurely meal). But the food was really good.

We started off with an antipasti platter and I had a Campari martini, which was delightfully refreshing (and very strong).

The husband’s vongole (yes again!) was the “proper” kind, he said, not sitting in a pool of broth (which, while delicious, isn’t the vongole he was used to). And also, had a liberal sprinkling of chill flakes which made for a great spicy meal.

I had the carbonara. I love carbonara but most places make it with cream and it becomes too rich and just overkill. I make it at home sometimes but my kids don’t like it much (they’re very much bolognese fans). And so I was looking forward to this one, and it was just right!

The kids had lasagne and salami pizza.

That was a delightful dinner. We don’t have fantastic Italian food in our city (have to drive across to Mountain View or Palo Alto or the city for that), so I’m always happy to eat good Italian food.

Our road trip was coming to an end and we were due to head back north the next day. But first, a stop down to LA to meet friends for lunch.

They decided to take us to Porto’s which is apparently an LA institution. It’s a Cuban bakery and cafe and it’s expanded to several branches.

It was impossible to find parking though and we later found out why as the lines inside are insane (and stretched out the door). And this was on a Monday!

The cakes and pastries looked amazing but I didn’t want think cakes would survive the long drive back to the Bay Area. So we bought some cheese rolls (surprisingly, not a savoury thing but sweet – the cheese being more like a cream cheese), potato balls (papa rellenas), chicken empanadas, meat pies (pastel de carne). You also can order cooked food there so we had a ham and cheese croissant sandwich for the kids, a Cubano, and a steak plate. The eating area was so crowded! But the food was great.

The pastries were eaten on the drive back and the kids really liked the potato balls. The empanadas were good but I thought that the meat pies didn’t have enough filling in the puff pastry.

And that was a very delicious road trip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Royal Holiday made me do it #WeekendCooking

I was so thrilled to see Jasmine Guillory’s Royal Holiday while browsing the ‘new arrivals’ shelves at the library and quickly snapped it up before anyone else could. Of course there was no one else near said shelves except a rather elderly man but who knows, maybe he too was a fan of Jasmine Guillory. Her books are such a fun escape after all. Maybe he too enjoys the light romance and those ‘could it be? really?’ moments. Or those oh, hello, it’s you, type things. Or maybe it’s all that food she mentions in her books. Like burgers. Tacos. Doughnuts. More doughnuts.

And so here we are with scones.

Because it’s a book set in England! And opening in Sandringham Castle (where the Royal Family holidays at Christmas) in Norfolk no less! For Vivian Forest’s daughter is dressing a member of the Royal Family, and Vivian gets to tag along for a holiday. And it’s in Sandringham Castle that she meets Malcolm, who is the Queen’s private secretary. And sparks fly and all that. Also, lots of scones are consumed.

So I just had to make some!

I’ve been making scones for a while but it was only in recent years that I found the best scone recipe ever. It’s from The Bread Bible by Ruth Levy Bernanbaum.

Maybe it’s all the letter folds that she calls for, that is, where you fold the rolled out dough in thirds like a letter, one third on top of the other, giving you three layers of dough. Previously none of the scone recipes I tried ever asked for that, it was more of a roll out the dough and cut it kind of recipe. After one letter fold, the dough is turned 90 degrees and folded again. And one more time after that.

Does that make a difference? I like to think it does. That’s after all how puff pastry is made. All those letter folds.

Whether it is a result of letter folds or the ingredients used, this makes for a beautiful, buttery scone. Which can even be eaten on its own. It is that good. No need to slather in anything to disguise any dryness!

I love scones and since I live in suburban USA, there aren’t many to be found.

 

 

 


(All this was from one high tea set, for three people)

 

 

When I make my annual visit back home to Singapore, one thing I always do is hit a high tea. Singapore has many wonderful places, usually hotel cafes, that serve gorgeous high teas. Some places offer lavish buffets, others have lovely multi-tiered high tea trays serving up delicate treats. Sometimes scones are in the mix. And sadly, while most of the rest of the food is great, often the scones are not. So I’m just happy to have found this amazing recipe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Eating Singapore 2019 #WeekendCooking

Warning: This is a post full of photos!

Because Singapore is a country full of amazing things to eat. Not just the local food but cuisines from all over the world. And Singaporeans love to eat.

Something that has been very popular in Singapore over the past couple of years or so is the well-known hotpot chain from China called HaiDiLao. It’s known for its amazing service especially when you have to wait for a table (which we didn’t). While waiting for your table, they provide all kinds of snacks and fruits and drinks. And at some outlets you can even get a manicure while you wait. The service inside the restaurant is great too – for instance, they provide bags for your phone, cribs for your babies, and if you are dining alone, you can be seated with a large stuffed toy.

And you have to get the hand-pulled noodles just so you can watch the guy do his noodle dance!

 

 

 

 

A lovely salad from PS Cafe at Ann Siang Hill.

 

 

I have loved these egg tarts from Tong Heng for years. And now they’ve gone all fancy!

 

 

 

My friend took me to Hans Im Glück, a Munich burger chain that’s surprisingly popular in Singapore. They have a great meat-less (and also meat-y) burger menu. I got a beef burger and my friend got a burger with an olive patty. My side of choice was a German cabbage salad which was delicious.

 

 

 

Ramen is everywhere in Singapore. And this chain, Hototogisu Ramen, is from Japan. It has a Michelin star! Each outlet in Singapore seems to have a unique ramen – this one at Great World City has an oyster broth which was so delicious and briny.

 

 

 

 

I happened to find online a local izakaya, a few minutes from my in-laws’ place in the east of Singapore where we were staying. I adore izakaya style food, which are a lot of yakitori (grilled skewered meats) and other snack-like foods for eating while having drinks. This one, called IZA, has some more “Singapore” style dishes like a otak tamago. Otak is a spicy fish paste and tamago is the Japanese word for egg. So it’s an egg omelette wrapped around a spicy fish paste. Quite good. They also had a nasi lemak onigiri. Onigiri being a rice ball, this one grilled. And nasi lemak is a local coconut rice dish, often eaten at breakfast time, and it’s served with fried fish, (sometimes fried chicken), cucumbers, and delicious spicy sambal.

 

 

 

Another local flavour, this time from an ice-cream place. This is Creamier and it’s located in an old army barracks area that’s turned into art galleries. The ice-cream flavour is ‘white rabbit’ just like the White Rabbit candy I loved as a kid. White Rabbit candy is a milk-based candy that’s wrapped in an edible rice paper. I also had a kaya toast flavour – kaya toast being a toasted bread with coconut jam and butter inside. The ice-cream even had bits of toasted bread (or at least it tasted like toasted bread!) within.

 

 

One of the best eclairs ever. It seriously even beats the one from Bouchon. This is from Rive Gauche. 

 

 

One of the most popular things to do in Singapore in 2019 was to visit the new Jewel at Changi Airport. It’s really just a mall but it has some unique places like the gorgeous waterfall and the country’s first ever Shake Shack. Now I know that Shake Shack is an American thing but it also just recently opened in the Bay Area in Palo Alto and we hadn’t been to it yet. So here we were in Singapore eating at an American chain. And it was, well, underwhelming. The burgers were not bad but I wasn’t a fan of the soft bun. Also I am not fond of crinkle cut fries.

 

 

Local kueh bought by a friend who invited us to their lovely home. All kinds of yummy coconuty and steamed goodness.

 

 

We last had some awesome Thai food in Los Angeles but I’m always up for more. This is in the Golden Mile Complex, a slightly more gritty shopping centre in Singapore that is full of Thai eateries and shops. I was excited to see green mango salad, which I can’t seem to find in the Bay Area.

 

A favourite local breakfast is at one of the kopitiams like this Killiney kopitiam.  They have a variety of dishes like noodles but my favourite is the kaya toast set with tea and soft-boiled eggs.

 

 

I was dying to have nasi Padang, which is a plethora of dishes one can pick to have with your rice. This is at Rumah Makan Minang in Tampines. And it was so good. We had sayur lodeh (a coconut gravy with vegetables like cabbage, carrots and green beans), beef rendang (a dry spicy beef curry of sorts), begedel (fried potato patties) and a tofu tempeh dish. Their green sambal is unique and very tasty. And strangely reminded me of tomatillo salsa.

 

 

Roti prata is a must-eat breakfast for me.

 

 

Satay! We ate so much satay over our three weeks. This one was the best – from Haroun Satay.

 

My family is part Teochew (also known as Chiu Chao), as in some of our ancestors originated from the Chaozhou prefecture of China. And we love Teochew food like braised goose and orhnee, a delicious yam paste dessert served sometimes with pumpkin or gingko nuts like in the photo. This was at Paradise Teochew at Vivocity.

 

 

See what else I’ve eaten in Singapore over the previous years’ visits:

Weekend Cooking: Eating Singapore part 1

#WeekendCooking Eating Singapore: Whitegrass at Chijmes

Eating Singapore: Set lunch at Grissini

Seafood high tea at The Westin Singapore

 

 

 

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

#WeekendCooking Black Sesame Ice-cream recipe

I’m back again with another ice-cream recipe!

This one was the husband’s idea. I was just asking him what ice-cream flavour I should make next and he said black sesame. If you’ve not had it before, it sometimes can be found at Japanese restaurants and Japanese supermarkets. And it’s always black sesame, not white sesame.

Black sesame ice-cream is not pretty. In fact, it looks a bit like cement. But it is very delicious. It has an almost nutty flavour, without the nuts of course.

It was a bit harder to find a black sesame recipe and to be honest, after trying a coconut ice-cream recipe online that did not work at all, I’m wary of online ice-cream recipes. So far the ice-cream recipes I’ve used are from David Leibovitz’s book The Perfect Scoop, or adapted from there. And once you get that custard recipe down, you can try experimenting with different flavors, and that is what I did here.

I did check out recipes online for how to get that sesame paste and while some of them recommended making your own, I didn’t have a food processor and wasn’t quite sure that my immersion blender would do a good job with grinding up the sesame. So instead I went to my local Asian supermarket and looked for black sesame paste. It wasn’t the kind recommended by blogs like Just One Cookbook who used a Japanese brand.

What I found was a Taiwanese-made paste and for some reason, several different kinds of sesame powder. Apparently black sesame drinks are a thing in Taiwan (and it seems in Korea too). In Singapore you can find a hot Chinese dessert that is called Black Sesame Soup, where the sesame is ground fine and often thickened with rice. Black sesame paste is also found in sweet rice flour dumplings called tangyuan. And looking up black sesame recipes, I found this intriguing Black Sesame Porridge recipe, made with rice and black sesame.

And here is my Black Sesame ice-cream recipe

4 tbsp Black Sesame powder
3 tbsp Black Sesame paste
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
5 egg yolks
120g brown sugar
Big pinch of salt

Warm the milk, sugar and 1 cup of the heavy cream in a medium saucepan. Stir in the Black Sesame powder and salt. Do not boil.

Place remaining 1 cup of heavy cream in large bowl (I use a big pyrex measuring cup). In a medium bowl, whisk yolks. Slowly pour some of the warmed milk mixture into the egg yolks to temper them. And then add the warmed egg and milk mixture back into the saucepan.

Keep stirring over medium heat until the custard forms. The custard should coat your spatula and I test this by running my finger down the spatula and if that little line my finger makes remains, you’re all done. Remove from heat.

Pour the custard into the cream. Usually I put a strainer over the cream and pour it through but I wasn’t sure if that would sift out the black sesame! So I skipped that bit.

Stir in the Black Sesame paste, making sure to scrape the bottom.

You can cool this in an ice bath or cover with plastic wrap and pop into the fridge. Chill it thoroughly for a few hours at least. And then follow your ice-cream machine’s instructions.

 

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

#WeekendCooking Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie

I love chocolate chip cookies. I have tried several chocolate chip cookie recipes over the years. One of the best I’ve ever had is this one from Serious Eats – it makes for an amazing (seriously AMAZING) chocolate chip cookie – but sometimes I feel the need for an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just trying to trick myself into thinking it’s a healthier cookie.

But I do also like that chewiness that oatmeal cookies have.

Anyway, the first time I made this recipe, the cookies spread a bit too much so I adapted the recipe slightly. Please refer to King Arthur Flour for the original recipe.

  • 227g (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 220g light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 50g whole-wheat white flour
  • 170g All-Purpose Flour
  • 120g quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 3/4 teaspoon regular table salt
  • 300g semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper
  2. Using a mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth.
  3. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  4. Whisk together the flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and add to the butter mixture in the bowl.
  5. Mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and mix briefly.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2″ to 2″ between cookies.
  8. Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until light golden brown, with slightly darker edges. 
  9. Remove the cookies from the oven, and when they’re set enough to handle, transfer them to racks to cool.

 

 

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Eating at Universal Studios Hollywood

Theme park food is generally pricey and junky. Hot dogs, burgers, popcorn, pizza, churros, ice-cream, all kinds of cold drinks and sweet things.

Luckily at the Wizarding World there is the Three Broomsticks

I went with the bangers and mash. I love how there was so much vegetables – peas, cabbage, grilled tomato and of course the mash.

 

The husband ordered the Sunday roast and that was a surprisingly large piece of prime rib. I felt that it could have used more salt though!

 

The building itself is a beautiful space!

 

 

And can you say that you’ve been to Wizarding World if you haven’t had a Butterbeer? It’s like a root beer with some butterscotch notes to it.

Right next to Wizarding World is Springfield and other than Krusty Burgers and Duff Beer (both of which are available for purchase!) the other iconic Simpsons refreshment is the Lard Lad Donut. It is humongous (the size of a cake really) and comes in several flavours but we went with the traditional pink with sprinkles. It was surprisingly light for a doughnut and so worked well with the frosting. Of course it was shared by six of us but we had a nice sized piece each.

 

There are quite a few options for food around the park, especially in the Springfield area – Cletus’ Chicken Shack, Luigi’s Pizza, Bumblebee Man’s Taco truck, Sud’s McDuff’s Hot Dogs. We ended up in the Despicable Me area, and ate at Gru’s Lab Cafe, which had rotisserie chicken, meatball subs and this noodle salad thing I decided on, which interestingly had banana chips, watermelon cubes, lettuce, peppers, sprouts.

 

 

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Eating LA #weekendcooking

One great thing about Los Angeles is all that amazing food that’s on offer. I always feel like the Bay Area is so far behind LA when it comes to food trends and such.

So when in LA, it’s important to do lots of eating.

Of course we were also there for Universal Studios but that’s another story.

Mama Lu’s Dumpling House in Monterey Park

153 E Garvey Ave, Monterey Park

Confusingly, there are two Mama Lu’s close to each other. You want the one on East Garvey, not West. They’re known as a dumpling house but personally I thought the dumplings were just average. Instead, their other cooked dishes were really tasty (and cheap). We had beef chow fun, pork ribs with Peking sauce, garlicky pea sprouts, salted fish vermicelli and more.

Also, please don’t ask me about Singapore noodles, which sadly, yes, this place offers. Singapore noodles may exist around the world, but we Singaporeans do not eat vermicelli with curry powder. So please don’t go to Singapore and expect Singapore noodles!

 

Thai Patio in Thai Town

5273 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027

We were staying at a lovely vacation rental in the Hollywood Hills, and not far from there is Thai Town. I’d never been before and was pretty excited as I LOVE Thai food. A friend had recommended a place but we were unable to find parking close by. But we did grab a street lot outside Thai Patio, which is located in a small strip mall full of other Thai eateries. Ruen Pair has lots of great reviews and 4 stars on Yelp but there was a wait so we decided to just try Thai Patio which had open tables. But I figured that whatever we ate at Thai Town would probably be better than anything in our own city, which has a few Thai restaurants, but nothing like this.

These fish cakes were the spiciest I have ever had, and they were really good!

The papaya salad was nice and refreshing. I would have preferred it more spicy but we had to keep it to medium heat for my in-laws’ sake.

Tom Kha (like Tom Yum but with coconut milk)

 

Bhan Kanom Thai

5271 Hollywood Blvd

Next door was Bhan Kanom Thai, which specializes in Thai desserts. I really wanted to come here after seeing that they have Khanom Buang, a crispy pancake filled with coconut cream and grated coconut.

It was crispy and coconut-ty and so delicious. The last time I had this was in Bangkok and that was years ago, so I was delighted to be able to eat this again.

 

Ttu-Rak

125 N Western Ave, Los Angeles

Woah the spiciness level here is high. We ordered the octopus galbi stew with a level 3 spiciness and it was definitely spicy. I don’t think I could go to a level 4 and eat it comfortably…but it was just really tasty (and still spicy) at level 3.

 

This was probably the first Korean restaurant I’ve been to that didn’t serve kimchi, instead there was pickled cabbage that wasn’t spicy. How odd.

After you’re mostly done with the stew, they will make a fried rice with your remnants! You can add vegetables or cheese. Of course we had to pick cheese. It was so tasty!

 

 

Exploring the nearby Korean supermarket – a banchan bar!

 

Mimimyunga

450 S Western Ave, Los Angeles

On our last night, we headed back to Koreatown, this time for soba. I’ve only eaten soba at Japanese restaurants so was curious when I found this Korean soba place.

Everyone ordered a cold soba and I wanted to try one hot one just to see what the soup would be like. So this is the mackerel with hot soba.

Tempura cold soba was refreshingly delightful. Unlike Japanese soba where you are given the dip on the side, this soba was immersed in the cold broth. It was really very tasty.

Don’t worry, they also have udon and ramen if that’s what you prefer. Turns out Mimimyunga is the first US outpost of a Korean chain.

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs