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Friday, January 31, 2014

Costco in Taiwan

Did you know there are 10 Costco locations in Taiwan? You'll need a car to get to them but we couldn't resist visiting one just to see what it was like. Don't forget to bring your Costco card!

The store looks the same, inside and out. The food and some of the items are different but that's the case all across the US. It was fun just to walk around and try the samples. The food court did have different items. We weren't allowed to take a picture so I can't even remember what they served.

2013 11 25

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Banquet Meals

We were treated to several banquets while we were in Taiwan. This one was at Dragon Restaurant, which is known for it's Peking duck. It's located at No.18-1, Lane105, Section 1, Zhongshan North Road.

Appetizers of 1000-year-old eggs, marinated pickles, marinated seafood and tofu. All delicious.

Giant prawns. Have you seen prawns so large?

 Soy-braised chicken.

Pepper pork chops. Loved these. So tender and full of flavor.

The centerpiece of the banquet--Peking duck. The meat was tender and not too fatty. The skin was perfectly crisped.

Steamed whole fish.

Stir-fried mushrooms and vegetables.

Pig knuckles with long-life noodles. Don't cut the noodles or you might risk cutting your life short.

Every banquet ends with fresh fruit. This one had oranges, watermelons, guava, pineapple and tomatoes.

2013 11 24

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Crossing the Street

Taipei has the cutest crosswalk signals--when the light is green, the little man starts walking. As the clock ticks down, the man walks faster and then starts to run.

You can cross on the diagonal at major intersections. Just watch for the lines.

2013 11 24

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung is the best dumpling restaurant in the world and it started in Taiwan. There are now locations all over the world, but sadly not in the SF Bay Area. The locations in Hong Kong have even earned a Michelin star. There are several locations in Taipei, including one at Taipei 101.

Din Tai Fung mascot

At the entrance, there are dumpling makers rolling out dough, stuffing them and making the pleats in each dumpling.

House Special Appetizer--NT 65. Delicious! Seaweed & tofu in a slightly sweet & garlicky sauce.

Stewed Beancurd--NT 90.

Spicy Pickled Cucumber--NT 65.

Xiaoshing Marinated Chicken--NT 280.

House Steamed Chicken Soup--NT 200. The broth is clear and full of flavor.

Stir Fried Water Spinach--NT 170

Pork Xiao Long Bao--NT 200 for 10. This is the star of the show. The skin is thin, the meat is flavorful and there is a nice pop of juice when you first bite into it. I like to pick up the dumpling and place it in a soup spoon. Add a little vinegar/soy sauce ginger mixture and bite into the top of it to release the heat. Then carefully eat the dumpling.

Truffle & Pork Xiao Long Bao--NT 450 for 5. These really have a wonderful truffle fragrance.

Shrimp & Pork Potstickers--NT 160. This has a nice crisp to the skin and the filling is very good.

2013 11 24

Monday, January 27, 2014

Taipei 101

Taipei 101 is the tallest building in Taiwan. It was the tallest building in the world until 2010 when Dubai’s Burj Khalifa was completed. It is 508 m high and resembles a stalk of bamboo. It's predominantly an office building, with restaurants & stores on some of the levels. There is an outdoor observatory deck on the 91st floor and an indoor observatory deck on the 89th floor. Admission is NT500. 

Each night from 6:00 to 10:00, the tower is lit with a different color, coinciding with the day of the week: Monday--red, Tuesday--orange, Wednesday--yellow, Thursday--green, Friday--blue, Saturday--violet, Sunday--purple.

2013 11 24

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is dedicated to the "National Father" of Taiwan and is located in East Taipei. It was completed in 1972 and includes the main hall, with a seated statue of him. The grounds include gardens, statues and a lake. There is no admission fee.

Changing of the Guards takes place in the main hall every hour between 9 and 5. The Army, Navy &Air Force take turns every 4 months. It is a painfully slow Changing of the Guards.

Lake Tswei, on the grounds of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial, is largest artificial lake in Taipei

2013 11 24

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cream-Filled Pastry

Taipei is a great food city. You can't walk a block without finding something to eat. We smelled these cookies before we saw them. They were freshly made and tasted divine. Nice crispy exterior filled with a pudding-like cream. Yummy!

2013 11 24

Friday, January 24, 2014

Thursday Night Dinner

Here's this week's dinner:

Gauzetto--Day Boat Scallops, Jumbo Prawns, Mussels & Clams, Calamari Served in Brodetto Di Vino Bianco flavored with Organic Tomatoes & Sweet Basil, paired with 2012 Fazi Battaglia Titulus Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi Classico, Le Marche, Italy. The sauce was so good, I sopped up each drop with bread.

Risotto Ruspante--Arborio Rice Cooked with Homemade Country Style Chicken Sausage, Sweet Leeks, Organic Escarole & Parmigiano-Reggiano, paired with 2010 Montevina Winery Barbera, Amador County

Bistecca Alla Griglia--Grilled Garlic-Herb Marinated Flat Iron Steak Garnished with Braised Organic Chicories, Onion Confit & Roasted Fingerling Potatoes Served in Barolo Wine Sauce, paired with 2011 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Wetzel Family Estate, Sonoma County. The Barolo wine sauce was amazing--so rich & flavorful.

Tiramisu E Tartufi Di Cioccolato--Espresso Lady Fingers Layered with Rum Flavored Mascarpone Cream Garnished with Homemade Chocolate Truffles, paired with 2011 Bonterra Vineyards, Late Harvest Muscat, Bartoluci Vineyard (Organic), Lake County

2014 01 23

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Taiwanese Breakfast

After checking into the Shangri-La, we went in search of breakfast. A typical Taiwanese breakfast includes soybean milk, oil crueller and sesame bread. We found a great place just a 10-minute walk from the hotel. It was so inexpensive. We fed 14 people for around $10.

Deep fried oil cruellers. This is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and not too greasy.

I like the salty soybean milk. Throw some oil cruellers in it.

Vegetable fried buns. This was an added bonus to our breakfast.

2013 11 24

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Shangri-La, Taipei

We stayed at the Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel in Taipei. It is the tallest hotel in the city. Upon arrival, we were served a delicious ginger tea while we checked in. Service was fabulous, as expected at a 5-star hotel.

Some rooms have a view of Taipei 101 or just go to the rooftop outdoor pool for an awesome view.

The marble bathrooms had a huge shower and a separate tub. There was a little TV monitor on the vanity.

Toiletries included the usual shampoo, conditioner, bar of shower soap & separate facial soap, shower cap but also had q-tip, face pad, toothbrush/toothpaste, razor/shaving cream and even a hair scrunchy.

Walk-in closet with robes and slippers. It was nice to go to the swimming pool and to the steam and sauna room with the robe. You do have to walk by the restaurant to get to the gym where the steam and sauna were located but it wasn't too awkward.

2013 11 24

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cucumber & Shrimp

The 49ers were in the playoffs and we had to have a pre-Super Bowl party. One of the easiest appetizers is to serve cilantro lime shrimp from Costco (found in the refrigerated prepared food section) over sliced English cucumbers. So delicious and so easy!

2014 01 19

Monday, January 20, 2014

St. Francis Scones

It's been a while since I made these scones. They are so moist and rich. Of course, 2 sticks of butter and 1 1/4 cups of cream doesn't hurt.

St. Francis Scones

4 ½ cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup dried currants
2 eggs
1 ¼ cups heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and scatter over the dry ingredients. Work the butter into the flour using your fingers until it resembles cornmeal. Stir in the currants.

Beat together the eggs and cream. Slowly drizzle ½ cup at a time over the dry ingredients, tossing the mixture with a fork. Loosely press the dough into a ball.

Place on a floured board and knead 4-5 times to blend well. Discard any dry crumbs. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is 1 inch thick. Cut into scones using a 2-inch round cutter. Place the scones on the baking sheet and bake for 14-15 minutes, or until the scones are golden.

Serve warm, with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

Yields 18-20.

2014 01 18

Sunday, January 19, 2014


It was a sunny, warm and gorgeous Saturday yesterday--perfect for visiting Yountville. We capped the afternoon with dinner at Ciccio, located at 6770 Washington Street. It's the most authentic Italian restaurant I've found in wine country. They don't take reservations. Get there when they open at 5 pm or wait for a table.

Arancini--$3. This had a lot of flavor, a fresh tomato sauce and a nice crunchy coating.

Wood Fired Cauliflower with Pine Nuts--$8. Anything with pine nuts is delicious. This one added sweetness of raisin.

Calamari Steak with Spinach--$14. I liked the calamari. It was tender and the spinach was well cooked. My sister thought the steak had been previously frozen. She preferred the calamari at Osteria in Palo Alto. 

Pizza with Clam & Pancetta--$16. Service was great and we were having a great meal until they forgot about our pizza. Our plates were actually cleared until I reminded them we had not gotten our pizza yet.  It actually took 35 more minutes to get our pizza. When it arrived, the edges were charred. The clams were chewy and the white sauce had too much cheese for a seafood pizza. This was the only disappointment of the evening.

2014 01 18

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Scopa's, Healdsburg

We had dinner at Scopa's, located at 109 Plaza Street in Healdsburg. It's a tricky entrance--look for the Plaza Barber Shop. The restaurant is tiny. Make reservations or arrive when it opens at 5:30 pm and have a seat at the bar.

Grilled Romaine with Anchovy-Garlic Dressing, Shaved Parmigiano and White Anchovy Crostini--$10.50. This was pricey since it was a small head of Romaine but it was an interesting way to have a salad. The white anchovy is very fishy.

Tomasso's Sugo Cabrese with Spaghettini, Tomato Braised Beef & Pork Rib Sugo and Pecorino Romano Cheese--$17. This was a very hearty dish with a delicious sugo. Perfect for winter.

I had to order the Nonna's Tomato Braised Chicken with Sauteed Greens & Soft Polenta--$18.50. I had been craving it since our last trip to Scopa's in August. The polenta was so creamy and cheesy and worked great with the tender chicken thighs. Loved it again!

2014 01 17

Friday, January 17, 2014

Thursday Night Dinner

This week's dinner at Flavor Bistro was spectacular. 

Bruschetta Con Gamberoni--Topped with Grilled Marinated Jumbo Prawns, Oven Cured Olive-Tomatoes, Spicy Saffron Aioli & Sweet Basil paired with 2011 Iron Horse Vineyards Chardonnay, Estate, Green Valley of Russian River Valley

Ravioli D'Anatra--Homemade Ravioli Filled with Duck Confit Served in Sugo D'Arrosto Flavored with Gorgonzola Dolce & Walnut Gremolata paired with 2010 Matchbook Vineyard Tempranillo, Dunnigan Hills

Agnello Al Forno--Stone Oven Roasted Lamb Loin Chop Garnished with Homemade Herb Sausage in Lentils Flavored with Red Wine Jus & Roasted Garlic paired with 2010 Alexander Valley Vineyards Redemption Zinfandel, Wetzel Family Estate, Dry Creek Valley

Crostata Di Mele--Warm Apple Tart Served with Vanilla Custard paired with 2010 Oberon Moscato, Napa Valley

2014 01 16