Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Westgate Hotel

Sorry about the text only post. I was at a training seminar which took place at the Westgate hotel in the Gaslamp District this past week. The interior decor of this place was very Victorian and elegant. Doormen were posted by the front door, wood baby grand piano in the lobby, chandeliers, mellow lighting. A very romantic setting, which made it very hard for me to stay awake during the training.
There was a spread of coffee, Tazo tea, juice, muffins, croissants, bagels (next to a toaster!), yogurt and fresh fruit set up outside of the conference room where the training took place. Though nothing fancy, the quality and presentation was top notch. That in itself made it feel like a luxurious spread.
As soon as I got to the conference room, one of my coworkers leaned over to me and told me that the coffee and muffins are to-die-for. I had quit drinking coffee, so I just got some orange juice and a muffin. Now, she has always been very much a tea guru and I was surprised to see her drinking coffee. It must have been very good because she had several cups of it. She was right, the muffin was deeelish. It was rather petite. The muffin top had a very nice crumbly texture in my mouth with out falling apart in my hands. It was very moist and light. I still dream of those muffins. One of my other coworkers was eating a flaky pastry that looked like a croissant with fruit filling. She was pleasantly surprised to find cream cheese in the filling.
The next day, I was blurry eyed and not quite awake and decided to have a croissant and fresh fruit with cranberry juice. After I poured the juice, I thought the color was a little off. A closer look at my glass, I discovered that it was tomato juice! I hate tomato juice. Don't like V8 or bloody Marys. But since I had already poured it out, I might as well suck it up and finish it. I took a little sip and to my surprise, it was really good! It wasn't too thick and tasted like fresh ripe tomatoes. I got up and refilled several times. The croissant had been lightly toasted and was nice and flaky. The fruit was extremely fresh and ripe. I couldn't get over how sweet the watermelon was.
During one of our lunch breaks, we wondered past a tea party! There was even a lady playing the harp.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Live Uni - Sushi Lover's Envy

Everyone knows that when it comes to seafood, the fresher the better...
Just alive yesterday: I used to work for a subcontractor and one of the guys there would always go out on fishing trips on the weekends. He would always pack an extra large lunch to share after his fishing excursions. Sometimes, vendors would rent out those big fishing boats and take our project managers out on a day long fishing excursion off the coast of Baja or even Alaska! There would always be a company BBQ when those guys came back with a bounty of fish caught and frozen just the day before (catches from fishing boats are all thrown into the gigantic freezer on the boat as soon as the fish comes out of the water). Besides grilled fish, there would also be the occasional dish of sashimi set aside for the few sushi lovers there.

Iron Chef Michiba once presented the King of Indonesia with the written word "Fresh" ...
Never frozen: At another previous job, I worked with a guy who grew up in Hawaii. He used to tell me about catching fish straight from the ocean and cutting it into sashimi right there on the beach.

Still kickin'
All the above sounds like a sushi lover's paradise, right? How's about uni that is still moving as you're eating it? Last night, discovered a place that offered the option having your sea urchin served live or made into a bisque. Guess which one I went for?

Our server made a comment about how much she loves the fact that it is still moving when she set the bowl down in front of me. I looked down and sure enough, the spikes were moving and continued to do so even as I was spooning the roe into my mouth.
How does it taste? The texture is smooth and light. Similar to custard. The only way I can think of to describe the flavor is for you to close your eyes and picture yourself being out in the middle of the open sea (it has to be the open sea, not the beach). Imagine taking in a deep breath as a cool ocean breeze washes over your senses. That's what it tastes like.
If that's still to vague, well, you're just gonna have to try it for yourself. All I can say is that all the uni that I've ever had at sushi restaurants cannot hold a flame to this one. Where did I go to sample this euphoria for my taste buds? I'll give you a hint: It is NOT a sushi restaurant.
Give up? Here's another hint

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Cafe 2121

I love poached eggs. Mmm...golden liquid yolk encased in a pillowy cloud of whites. I think this may be my favorite sandwich of all time. "This" is the Presto Pesto Eggs Sandwich from the kitchen of Cafe 2121 on Adams Avenue. Two soft poached eggs sitting on top of fresh spring greens sprinkled with crumbled feta. Pesto sauce was lightly drizzled over this lovely concoction. All this laid between a lightly buttered and toasted french roll. Very messy to eat, but it was heavenly. The pesto sauce was light and did not overwhelm the eggs, which were the star of this sandwich.
Van and I have been waiting to try this place out. I was ecstatic to find this offering on the menu. I was practically drooling when the owner took our order.
This little cafe had a very nice and cozy atmosphere. Though small, I did not feel cramped at all. In the middle of our order, a little boy from the table nearby came running over to the owner and wouldn't leave his side. He kept saying that he wanted to see the baby. The little boy stayed to witness our orders.
Van ordered the Normal Heights Stacker, which looked and smell absolutely delicious. She really enjoyed it. The sandwiches came with a choice of soup or salad. We both went with the soup. It was yummy goodness. A crock of garbanzo beans, beef, herbs and vegetables in a rich beef broth. It was so filling that I was worried I wouldn't be able to finish my sandwich. Van didn't enjoy the garbanzo beans as much as I did. I also ordered an apple flavored iced tea. It came to the table freshly brewed in a french tea press with a glass of ice. The owner was nice enough to demonstrate how it works. When the tea press is sitting on top of the glass, the tea will pour out leaving the tea leaves behind. Once the tea press is taken off the glass, the bottom of the tea press will be sealed off and can be set aside without worry about it leaking. I have seen this contraption before at a friend's house. It was fun to see my iced tea being "made." The tea was unsweetened, which I prefer. But there were also packets of sugar available at the table. The tea was delicious. Had a nice apple aroma and was very refreshing.