Sunday, December 9, 2007

Truffle Cheese

Petit Brillat Savarin with Truffles

I really enjoyed this cheese... black truffle coated fresh triple cream cow's milk cheese. The cheese itself is very smooth rich and mellow. But the fats in the cheese help the beautiful truffle flavor to linger in your mouth better - Very nice combination indeed...

Boschetto al Tartufo Stagionato

This cheese is made from pure sheep’s milk by the master cheese maker at Il Forteto. It is supposed to have white truffles in it but all the truffles looked very dark to me (may be do to the aging process?) It did have a light aroma of truffles but it didn't have the depth of truffle flavor I wished for. I would rather use white truffle butter to add intense truffle flavor to a dish (If you don't have a fresh truffle). This cheese remind me of aged sheep Gouda. It could be sliced or graded over pasta or risotto.

Truffle Butter

After tasting 7 course fresh Italian white truffle dinner at my favorite restaurant in Venice (I want to keep it secret...), I was not sure if my palette was developed enough for truffle. I asked the chef to slice me white truffles so that I can taste it by it self. I did like plain truffle but I think the truffle's job is to decorate other ingredients in the dish. In other word, truffles shine when there is a beautiful background food. It is like a beautiful flawless diamond (white truffle) on a beautiful woman without any makeup (scrambled eggs, pasta, risotto...without any other spice).
I wanted to incorporate truffles in to my daily diet... so I ordered truffle butter.

I really loved intense flavor of white truffles in this butter (see left). It has very simple ingredients -100% French butter, white truffle, natural white truffle extract, sea salt. It had just enough sea salt to enhance the flavor of truffle.
It is made by Fabrique Delices which I associate with great quality high end food. I had great experiences with their Pâtés, Foie Gras, and sausages as well.
I used this butter on bread, on crunchy fresh green beans, and boiled fingering potatoes.

I also purchased black truffle butter from D'Artagnan. They were not as good as the white one from Fabrique Delices. It did have bigger chunk of truffles but it was not as flavorful as the other. Yes I know, it is black truffle which has less aroma than white but it had other, "off" ingredients such as soy sauce...

It is better to cook black truffle a little so I used this black truffle butter in my ravioli dish.

Risotto with white truffles, shrimps, artichoke and mushrooms topped with Boschetto al Tartufo Stagionato (white truffle cheese). It was very nice match!

Bulgarian Feta

I'm so into sheep's milk these days. I really like cheese made of sheep's milk. They taste more flavorful than cow milk but more delicate than goat milk.

I was not a big fan of Feta cheese. I thought they taste chalky and salty without depth in flavor.

I found this Bulgarian Feta (Sireneon) on and I realized I was wrong about Feta. This feta was creamy but crumbly at the same time. It was not too salty nor too acidic but had very mild milky sheep flavor. I really loved it.

Interesting article about Feta on SF Gate FOCUS ON FETA
Now I feel embarrassed that I said "I do not like Feta" without trying Feta from countries other than Greece.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Argentina - Beef

Argentinians are very proud of their beef and I think they should be. Argentinian beef tastes great and Argentina has the world's highest consumption rate of beef, at 68 kg a year per capita (Wikipedia).

I am a big believer of eating meats which was raised natural way. I mean natural by animals that eat only non processed food and live without being caged. Of course no hormones and no antibiotics. -the way animals suppose to live. I think they taste way better. On top of that, I feel healthier eating healthy animals.

Open pastures grass diet is still the most popular way of raising beef cows in Argentina. I believe 100% grass fed beef has more depth in the flavor. They do not have marbled fat through out the muscle but it can sustain moisture through dry cooking method. I used to only eat stake with marblelized fat such as Matsuzaka and Kobe beef, but now I also appreciate more lean red grass fed beef as well. My favorite cuts are ojo de bife (rib-eye) and lomo (tenderloin). Only issue I had was that Argentinians like to eat stake more cooked than rare. At many restaurants, they served me medium stake when I ordered it rare.

One place I had great rare stake was at Cabaña Las Lilas. It is very famous Parrilla (grill restaurant). They have their own ranch to raise their cows. Their "branded" meat is very popular in Buenos Aires. I saw their meat sold at super markets there. I think Las Lilas is one of Must Visit for Buenous Aires. We arrived at the restaurant over 1 hour late but they were very accommodating. They served us warm traditional homemade Empanada (beef, green pepper and boiled eggs) with glass of Mendoza sparkling while waiting for our table. I ordered chinchulines (beef Chitterlings -very common appetizer in Argentina) and lomo stake. They serve appetizer tray, extensive bread basket and desert tray with all the dinner menus. Their Italian influenced appetizer tray was mediocre, but other than that, they were all delicious. I was pleasantly surprised that the chitterlings did not have any gaminess and was not chewy... I really loved great clean beef fat flavor with grill taste. Overall, the restaurant was touristy but I enjoyed 3 hour meal there.

Cabaña las Lilas
Alicia Moreau de Justo 516, Buenos Aires
At Villaflor in Dique 3
Phone: 11/4313-1336

I also enjoyed Milanese de Carne (breaded beef) in Argentina. I saw the dish listed on menus at may restaurants and I saw beef already coated in bread crumbs sold at many butcher/egg stores as well.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


I enjoyed eating Empanada. I did not have great experiences with Empanadas in the US, and I was delighted by the wonderful taste of freshly made Empanadas in Argentina. They were sold at many small shops through out the city... also at bakeries and pizzerias.

There are many different variety of Empanadas such as Carne - Pollo - Jamon y Queso - Jamon queso y Roquefort - Queso y Cebolla - Humita - Capresse - Espinaca ...

My favorite is Carne. Coarsely grounded beef, green and red sweet peppers, and chopped boiled eggs. I was invited to an Argentinian home one night, and homemade Empanada there was unforgettably good.


I really liked grilled Chorizos in Argentina. I saw many sausage shops throughout the city.

I didn't like Morcilla (blood sausage). They tasted too sweet to my taste and the texture reminded me of blood too much. I prefer Spanish version of Morcilla and Irish /English Black pudding better.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


I had a great time (one of the best trip) in Argentina. I loved people, nature, penguins, whales and tango...

I was little disappointed with my culinary experience in Argentina. Yes I did experience great beef cooked at Parrilla, Chorizo from local butcher, homemade Empanada and Wine from Mendoza. Oh, they also had great sandwiches and ice cream too. My problem was I am not a big beef eater... And other than things mentioned above, there were not many good choices. I had sushi but it had no rice in it. It seemed they do not have many fish choices either other than salmon. I had risotto but it was overcooked and not creamy (Skate fish on the same plate below tasted very good)...

Friday, November 30, 2007


Just a thought... Traditional Japanese food is not spicy (I do not consider wasabi spicy). Danish food is not spicy. Argentinian food is not spicy. But Mexican, African, Indian and Thai food are spicy. What's the common denominator? If the country is located near the equator with hot weather or not. I think when there were no refrigerator or air conditioners, spices were added to the dishes to 1. increase appetite in the hot weather, and 2. hide taste of unfresh food.

Interesting link I found... Science of Cooking

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Spoonful of Happiness at Koo

Uni (Sea Urchin) and Uzura (Quail) yolk topped with Tobiko (Flying Fish roe) in Ponzu sauce

This is one of my favorite one bite dish.

I love the sweet flavor and creamy texture of West coast Uni. The day I visited, the chef used Fort Bragg Uni. The sweet and rich flavor was enhanced by raw quail yolk - It is very understandable why Quail eggs are commonly used to top Uni sushi. The Tobiko added texture. The acidity and saltiness of Ponzu added clean balance to the spoon.

408 Irving St
San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 731-7077

Koo has a nice sushi bar with 3 Japanese Sushi chefs and all Japanese waitress/waiter. It is very rear to find all Japanese staffed restaurant in San Francisco. I think their sushi is very authentic.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

American Caviar

In September 2005, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service banned the import of Caspian Sea Beluga caviar and in January 2006 they banned Beluga caviar from the entire Black Sea.
(Article on BBC NEWS 1 ) After the ban, caviar from sustainable farming methods became very popular.

In January 2007, this ban was partly lifted but they still have quota of 96 tons. It is still very expensive and difficult to find caviar from Black Sea. (Article on BBC NEWS 2) Of course I like Iranian & Russian Caspian Sturgeon Caviar the best but I have nothing against American Caviar. They are very affordable (about $35 -$90 per 1 ounce) and taste great!

My favorite place to have American caviar is at Tsar Nicoulai Cafe. Their caviar come from sustainably farm raised sturgeon in California.

Tsar Nicoulai Cafe
1 Ferry Building #12
San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 288.8630

My favorite thing to have there is Sparkling Wine & Caviar Flight — $50
(1) 2002 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs with California Estate Osetra Caviar
(2) 2001 “J” Vintage Brut with Hackleback Sturgeon Caviar
(3) 2002 Domaine Carneros Brut with Paddlefish Sturgeon Caviar

*Do not get Whitefish eggs at Tsar Nicoulai . Many Americans call them caviar, but I do not like to consider them as caviar. They are much much cheaper, usually under $10 ounce, and has much different taste. They have much thicker skin, they are smaller and they taste a little bitter. (Also called "Tobiko" in Japanese/Sushi term)

Also I love eating caviar (including Caspian Sturgeon Caviar) at Ritz Carlton Terrace in San Francisco. I know the head chef Chang Sivilay. He is a native-born Laotian with extensive culinary experiences. In addition to their caviar selections I also like their Lobster and Eggs (soft scrambled eggs, Maine lobster, mascarpone cheese). They have very nice wine list also. I think their Sunday brunch is one of the best buffet I ever had (I am not big fan of buffet). Their buffet include good quality American sturgeon caviar and salmon roe. Only problem I have is that they call the brunch "champagne" brunch and serves California sparkling. I have no problem with California sparkling. I actuary think J and Mirabelle taste better than some of the French sparkling from Champagne reason. My problem is calling a California sparkling a Champagne. Champagne have to come from Champagne, France. I really do not like people abuse terms such as Parmigiano Reggiano and Kobe beef...

Ritz Carlton Terrace
600 Stockton Street at California Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Phone: (415) 296.7465

I received American Caviar from my friend Liz. They were from Florida.

I liked the texture of this paddlefish caviar, but they had little fishy after taste. I usually eat Caviar with blini and crème fraiché only. However, I thought this caviar needed some kick, so I added finely chopped onions on top. I paired it with Laurent-Perrier. It was lovely.

I remember First class on International flights used to serve caviar. They usually served caviar with bunch of other stuff to fill up space on the serving dish. They had finely chopped boiled eggs (both white and yolk), chives, White onions, crème fraiché, lemon ... But I believe that the best way to eat caviar is by itself or with blini and crème fraiché. If you put onions or lemon, how can you enjoy the beautiful sweet delicate flavor of caviar. Eggs, lemon and/or onions are needed when the caviar is not fresh or has higher salt content(for longer self life = cheaper).

I liked this American Hackleback caviar. They were very small but had great texture and nice almost nutty sweet flavor. I ate it on blini with crème fraiché only. I paired it with Mirabelle, California sparkling wine. Mirabelle (55% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir64% Napa, 20% Mendocino, 13% Sonoma, 2% Marin, 1% Monterey) is one of my favorite reasonable California sparkling. This sparkler has a wonderfully crisp acidity with hint of citrus and green apple. Very clean finish. I discovered this wine when it was recommended at Napa Valley Winery Exchange.

Napa Valley Winery Exchange
415 Taylor Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 771-2887

Soft scrambled Marin Sun Farms fresh eggs with chives topped with American Hackleback caviar and Crème fraiché. Served with aged Italian provolone La Brea Bakery baguette.

*Crème fraiché is different from sour cream. I think sour cream is too acidic and too dense to be served with delicate taste of caviar.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What I bought in Barcelona

I'll blog about them as I eat them

Barcelona Cooking Class

Teacher Bego Sanchis at Cook and Taste Cooking School in Barcelona

I attended a few cooking classes in Barcelona. I believe Cook and Taste was the best one.

We learned to make Paella. It was surprising to me that rice used for paella have to be short grained rice. The name of traditionally used rice is called "BOMBA" and they are very expensive. I really think it makes big difference in texture. I never saw it in the US before so I brought it back from Spain. It was very difficult for me to find Bomba in Barcelona. I went to 3 regular super market but I couldn't find it. I finally went to a gourmet food shop in El Corte Ingles to find it.
For some reasons, Japanese people believes that we have to use long grained lice for paella and Pilaf. We Japanese tend to think short grain lice is the sticky kind of rice often used for sushi. But their is a few types of non sticky short grain rice variety such as Bomba and Arborio.
I usually keep at least 5 kind of rice. Right now I have 1) Koshikikari (considered best variety of Japanese rice) 2) Arborio (for risotto) 3) Bosmati 4) Jasmin 5) Broken Jasmin (for Porridge) 6) Bomba.
While I was in Barcelona, I also purchased paella pan. I bought one for 2 people and one for 4-5 people. They were very reasonable costing under 5 euro each. Only problem was it was hard to carry them home...

I used it a few times already.....

Here is the recipe for perfect paella recipe. I changed the recipe from Cook and Taste Cooking School little...

PAELLA DE MARISCO (seafood paella)

Ingredients (4 servings)

8 Prawns
2 Squids (or cuttlefish) -cleaned and cut into rings
1 Pound total of Clams and / or Mussels
2 or 3 cloves of Garlic - peeled and crushed
1 Tomato. - peeled and minced
6 Tablespoons of olives oil (not virgin)
1 Pound of Bomba rice ( or non-sticky short grain rice)
4 1/2 cup of fish stock
8-10 saffrons

Heat the oil in the pan and fry the prawns until slightly browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the tomato in the same hot oil and fry them till they become one over low heat (20 minuets) Add garlic and fry some more. Add saffron.

Stir in the stock and bring it to a boil. Add the rice and distribute it evenly. RICE CAN'T BE TOUCHED beyond the point! Cook it over medium heat.

Put All the seafood including prawns on top nicely.

Cook it over medium heat for 8 minutes rotating and swirling the pan to distribute the heat evenly. Reduce heat to minimum and cook 10 more minutes.

Let it stand for about 5 minutes covered with foil before serving.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

La Boqueria, Barcelona Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona Spain

I enjoyed eating fresh seafood in Barcelona. Not only they have many choices but also they were very fresh. Spanish people, like French and Italian, are very passionate about food. I have visited a hole in a wall bar for tapas to a high end beach-side Asian fusion restaurant in Barcelona and food tasted very fresh and tasty everywhere. Almost all of the restaurant had variety of seafood dishes.

I've realized they uses a lot of cuttlefish and squid. I love them so much. Only miner problem I found was that they don't pull off the thin skin like we Japanese do. Also I don't think they eat cuttlefish / squid raw. My favorite way to eat them are raw (sashimi) with soy sauce with fresh wasabi. Spanish people also uses cuttlefish / squid ink just like Japanese to flavor dishes. I think squid ink make a dish richer and more rounded.

One of most popular Spanish dish using squid ink is called Arrozo Negro (Black Rice) since the color of Paella turns completely black.

Recipi for ARROZ NEGRO - provided by Cook and Taste

Ingredients (4 serves)

600 gr of squid

1 big onion, peeled and chopped

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

2 tomatoes, peeled and minced

6 tablespoons of olive oil

400 gr of rice (1 pound / 14 oz)

1,1 l of fish stock (4.4 cups)

8-10 saffron threats or colouring

Clean the squid and cut them in rings. Get the ink from their ink bags and set aside.Heat the oil in the pan and fry the squid rings over medium heat. Take them out when they begin to curl and then add the onion into the pan. Cook it over medium heat for some minutes. Then add the tomato and fry slightly. After some more minutes, add the chopped garlic and fry over medium heat.When the tomato starts to burn, stir in the rice and the squid ink and mix well.In the meanwhile, heat up the stock. Incorporate it into the pan when it boils.Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for (+/-) 8 minutes, rotating and swirling the pan to distribute the heat evenly. Reduce heat to minimum and cook (+/-) 10 more minutes.Let it stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sea Urchin on Wikipedia

Wikipedia had nice write up on which country consume sea urchin.

"Humans consume sea urchin ("roe") either raw or briefly cooked. Sea urchin "roe" is not actually roe, but rather the organs that produce the roe (the gonads). Five strips of roe reside within the structure of the urchin, a yellowish or orange substance resembling a rather firm custard. Sea urchin roe is a popular food in Korean cuisine, and it is called "uni" in Japanese sushi cuisine. It is a traditional food in Chile, where it is known as an "erizo". Sea urchins are highly appreciated in Spain, Greece where they are known as "achinos"-(αχινός), and also in Italy where they are known as "ricci di mare". Apart from domestic consumption, Chile and a number of other countries export the sea urchin to Japan in order to meet its demand throughout the country. Traditionally considered an aphrodisiac, sea urchin "roe" has been found to contain the cannabinoid anandamide"

I only knew Japan, France, Monaco and Italy consume sea urchin where I tasted it previously. I would love to taste it in Spain and Greece!

Buying Sea Urchin

When you buy sea urchins in Japan or at a Japanese market in the US, they usually sale them cleaned and lined in wooden boxes (see left). Some Japanese companies started to sell it in a container with sea water to preserve the delicate texture and moisture. You can buy whole uncleaned sea urchin only in sea side market in Japan.

Majority of sea urchin in California come from Santa Barbara. They tend to taste sweeter and bigger than Japanese ones. I like eating Santa Barbara ones when I'm in the US because they are fresher.....Freshness is very important.

About Santa Barbara Sea Urchin

Live sea urchin has movable spines. When it start to die, some spins come off. Picture on the left is a sea urchin I coughed in Nha Tran Vietnam.

I was very surprised to find whole (uncleaned) sea urchin at a fish market at San Francisco Ferry Building. It was $10 each. It was very big (about 5 inches wide not including spines) but only had 6 roes. I was VERY disappointed because it did not taste fresh... I think it is safer to buy boxed (cleaned) sea urchin if you are not at sea side market near the sea urchin harvesting spot.

Sea Urchin Spaghetti

Even though I like to eat sea urchin raw and simple usually, I love sea urchin spaghetti! It is very popular in Japan. The way Japanes prepar this dish is very simple. Ingredients consist sea urchin, sea salt, spaghetti, cream and for the garnish, Nori (Dry seaweed) and Ooba (Japanese mint leaf). Some people add squid, Salmon eggs or cod eggs. I like it very simple so that you can taste mild sweet flavor of sea urchin.

I also tasted this dish in Capri Italy. The one I tasted was very simple, almost like the Japanese one. After searching on the web, I have realized Sicilians eat sea urchin spaghetti as well.

Spicy Spaghetti with Sea Urchins and Bottarga Recipe
I wanted to eat sea urchin spaghetti in San Francisco and I found a restaurant who serves it and I was very excited! The name of the restaurant is TWO and the name of the dish was "Spaghetti, Sea urchin, Brown Garlic, Chili, Parsley" I was VERY Disappointed! The dish tasted like it was made for someone who do not like sea urchin. The chef did a great job hiding the wonderful texture and sea taste of sea urchin... The bread crust and butter around the sea urchin were too overwhelming. Could not taste the sea urchin goodness. It was too garlicky (I love garlic but not for this dish) and too salty. The spaghetti was not cooked al dente। $18 (small potion $10) You can read my review of this restaurant at yelp
22 Hawthorne Street, SanFrancisco, CA 94105 Phone: 415-777-9779

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Uni (Sea Urchin)

I love Sea Urchin! I usually like to eat very simple traditional Japanese way - Sea Urchin Sashimi (see left -from Ryoko's in San Francisco), Sushi, had roll, on top of rice bowl.

When you taste good fresh sea urchin, it should taste like sea and sweet. It should not taste bitter nor fishy. It is difficult to find fresh nice quality sea urchin even in Japan. The way you eat sea urchin is almost always raw and simple, so freshens matters a lot. So if you want to try Sea Urchin for the first time, do not try at cheap sushi restaurant. You would probably hate sea urchin for lest of your life....

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Shochu 焼酎

I love shochu! It is not a well know liquor but it is one of my favorite. Those who don't know shochu is distilled clear liquor made of wheat, rice, sweet potato or buckwheat. It is usually 25% alcohol level. Some people mix it with fruit juice, soda, lemon, or salted plum. I always drink it on the rocks. Very clean tasting which goes very well with almost any food. It has been the most popular drink of choice in Japan for the past 20 years or so. Here's an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about shochu.

There are more than 450 shochu distiller and more than 5000 labels of shochu!

I think Korean Soju is more common in the us. Most common label is Jinro. Soju is made almost the same way as Shochu but to me they taste very different. I thinks Shochu is more clean and delicate.
Shochu on Wikipedia

Many restaurants in Japan offer Shochu by bottles. When you order a bottle of Shochu, you'll also get all the accondiments such as ice bucket, lemon, water, tea etc. When you cannot finish the bottle at once, you can put your name on it and the restaurant will keep it for you untill your next visit.

Restaurant who serves Shochu by bottle in San Francisco:
Sakana, 605 Post Street
Katanaya, 430 Geary Street
Ryoko's, 619 Taylor Street