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.