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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Yehliu Geopark, Taiwan

There aren't a lot of attractions on such a tiny island as Taiwan. One of the most popular ones is Yehliu Geopark, north of Taipei. Hoodoos (thin spires of rock) dot the landscape.

Fairy's Shoe

Queen's Head

The park gets very crowded. We were there on a Friday and the park was crawling with tourists and school groups. Admission is NT50 per adult and it takes about 1-2 hours to walk the 1.7 km trail that runs through the park.
2013 11 29

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tokiya, Taipei

We had dinner at Tokiya, a western-style restaurant in Taipei. It’s located at 2F, No. 164, Sec 2, Dunhua S Rd, Da’an. It was a multi-course meal for NT499 and it was delicious. Price also included hot or cold drink.

Orange Beef Salad--1 of 3 choices for the salad course. Tender beef and delicious but I still liked the duck salad better.

Smoked Duck & Vegetable Salad--another of the choices for the salad. Loved the smokiness of the duck and the pickled vegetables.

King Oyster Mushroom with Japanese Sauce--1 of 2 choices for the antipasto course. The mushrooms were hearty and this was better than the seafood au gratin.

Seafood Au Gratin with Apples--the other option for the antipasto course.

Lorron Tea Pork Consomme--1 of 4 choices for the soup course.

Seafood Curry Soup--my husband liked this soup but I thought it was too creamy.

Salmon Rice Roll with Scallions--1 of 2 choices for the Rice Course. I'm not a fan of scallions and didn't like this dish.

Steamed Rice with Pork Shogayaki--the other rice course. I liked this better.

Mulberry Juice--palate cleanser. I loved this! It was slightly tart and was refreshing. I would go back again just to have this juice.

Beef Stead with Garlic & Plums--1 of 7 choices for the entrée. The beef was cooked rare--just the way I ordered it. Tender and delicious with the plum sauce.

Red Bean Flan--1 of 4 dessert options. This was actually a ball of sweet taro root floating in red bean soup. This was delicious. I loved the density of the taro root--almost like thick ice cream.
Tofu Pudding--almost like panna cotta.

2013 11 28

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Street Snacks

You definitely won't go hungry in Taiwan. Everywhere you turn, there's food. This was another street stall selling cream-filled pastries.

2013 11 28

Monday, April 14, 2014

Street Food in Taipei

One of the best things about Taipei is the street food. For lunch, we were walking around and came upon this dumpling stall.

Boiled dumplings filled with pork and chives--NT 6 each.

The stall also had beef noodle soup--NT 105. The broth was rich, delicious and just slightly spicy.

2013 11 28

Sunday, April 13, 2014


I found a new recipe for Bolognese. I liked the pancetta in the recipe but I didn't have pancetta, so I tried bacon. I ground it in the food processor before adding to the pot.

Other changes I would make next time:
I thought 2 cups of Cabernet was too much. Next time, I'll try 1 cup or maybe a lighter red wine.
It didn't have enough tomato flavor so next time I'll add 8-oz can of tomato sauce.
I'll use beef broth instead of chicken broth--maybe it'll add more depth of flavor.

It's definitely important to simmer for 2 hours. I tasted it along the way and it took a full 2 hours before the flavors melded.

(Adapted from Geoffrey Zakarian)

Extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz pancetta, minced
½ cup dried porcini, soaked, drained and chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground chuck
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbs tomato paste
2 cups red wine (I used Cabernet)
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
1 large can San Marzano crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
2 cheese rinds from Parmesan or Pecorino Romano (roughly 1/2 cup total in large chunks)
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
2 tsp minced fresh basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 pounds dry perciatelli pasta
½ cup ground Pecorino Romano cheese

In a large cast-iron or Dutch oven casserole over medium heat, heat some olive oil and then add the pancetta, porcini, garlic, onions and carrots. They should cook slow and lightly brown, about 20 minutes.

In another large casserole over medium heat, brown the meat slowly in olive oil until it is a nice even brown color. This process should take around 30 minutes and the mixture should be stirred frequently so it will not stick. Salt and pepper liberally. Then add the tomato paste and saute for 5 minutes.

When finished, deglaze the pot with the vegetables by adding 1 cup of the red wine. Next, add the vegetables and pancetta to the pot with the meat. Then add the remaining red wine to deglaze the pot. Scrape all the bits and pieces that might accumulate and reduce by half, about 10 minutes. Then add the chicken stock, milk, crushed tomatoes and cheese rinds and simmer very gently for 2 hours.

Remove the cheese rinds and discard. Let the sauce sit and cool down before using; it's even better the next day! Finish the sauce with the basil and thyme.

Boil 2 gallons of salted water and add the perciatelli pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain all but a 1/2 cup of water off of the pasta and put the pasta directly into the pot of bolognese sauce. Simmer for 2 minutes to incorporate the sauce into the pasta, adding the reserved pasta water as necessary. Finish with the ground Pecorino Romano, torn basil and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil on top.

2014 04 12

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Thursday Night Dinner

Here's this week's dinner:

Bruschetta Con Gamberoni--Topped with Grilled Jumbo Prawns, Sweet Basil Salsa & Spicy Saffron Aioli, paired with 2012 Sean Minor Chardonnay, Central Coast
Quaglia Con Risotto--Pan Roasted Quail, Petite Mushroom, Risotto & Garlic-Herb Gremolata, paired with 2011 Reinking Wine Company Zinfandel (Organic), Russian River Valley. The quail was delicious and the sauce was very flavorful.

Bistecca Ai Ferri--Grilled Marinated Flat Iron Steak Garnished with Tuscan Style Cannellini Bean Ragu Flavored with Oven Cured Heirloom Tomatoes & Olive Pesto Served in Sugo D'Erbe, paired with 2010 Badia a Colibuono Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy

Crostata Di Mele--Apple Galette Served with Toasted Hazelnut-Vanilla Custard, paired with 2011 Novy Family Wines "Oley" Late Harvest Viognier, Russian River Valley

2014 04 10



Friday, April 11, 2014

Jack & Tony's Happy Hour, Santa Rosa

I'm always in search of a good Happy Hour. Read about Jack & Tony's, located at 115 4th Street. Happy Hour is daily from 4-6 pm and on their website, the Bar Food is listed as 1/2 priced for Happy Hour. When we arrived, there was a sign on the tables that the Bar Food was $3 off their listed price and drinks were $2 off. The portions were small--not sure if these were the real portions if you ordered off the menu. We tried:

Garlic Parmesan Fries served with Jax Ketchup--$2 Happy Hour price. There was plenty of garlic but the fries were not crispy. There was shaved Parmesan that were rubbery. It was okay but only because it was $2.

Mussels Steamed with Andouille Sausage and Lager--$6 Happy Hour price. This was a very tasty dish with a nice lager sauce. There were 10 mussels in the dish so it was not a large serving.

 Orange Glazed Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese & Extra Virgin Olive Oil--$5 Happy Hour price. The beets were sweet but there were a handful of beets and 2-3 pieces of goat cheese.

Rosemary Grilled Chicken Skewers--$3 Happy Hour price. I couldn't taste the rosemary. The chicken was tender but didn't have much flavor.
Grilled Jalapeno Poppers, Honey Drizzle--$2 Happy Hour price. This was pretty tasty, especially at $2. The jalapenos were not overly spicy.

Overall, it was a disappointing Happy Hour. I'm still searching.

2014 04 09

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pho Nguyen, Milpitas

We were passing through the south bay and wanted pho for lunch. We didn't want to stray too far from Hwy 880 and found Pho Nguyen located at 275 W. Calaveras Blvd in Milpitas.
Spring Rolls--$5.75. Shrimp & Pork rolls. The pork was dry and the peanut sauce was watered down.

Small #4 for $7.75. Rare beef, brisket, tendon & tripe. This was one of the rare places that doesn't mix their cilantro with green onions. I was able to get cilantro without having to pick out the green onions. The bowl was large but the broth was cloudy and too sweet. 

Bun Rieu--$8.75. Crab & Egg Soup with Tomato Base. The soup was very flavorful but I'm going to ask for it without the dried shallots next time.

2014 04 04

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mi Burrito, Santa Rosa

I was at the Sonoma County Airport and needed a quick bite to eat. Mi Burrito at 385 Aviation Blvd, Suite D was nearby.

Chile Verde Dinner with rice, beans, guacamole and corn tortillas for $12.99. It was a big serving. The sauce was tasty but the pork was not fork tender. I liked the rice--fluffy and cooked through.

2014 04 03

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Taiwanese Banquet, Part 2

The remainder of the banquet meal.

Chucks of abalone.

Skewered steamed prawns

Black fish roe (the orange slices) with fresh cuttlefish (the white pieces at 11:00 on the plate).

Pig kidney. I like kidney--it's got a little crunch when you bite into it. 

Taiwanese water spinach. It's best when it's sautéed with garlic.

Deep fried prawn balls. Delicious!

Mochis. These were freshly made and so soft. There was a savory one filled with pork floss. The others were sweet ones, filled with red bean paste, mung beans and black sesame seeds.

2013 11 27

Monday, April 7, 2014

Another Taiwanese Banquet

Another fabulous banquet meal in Lukang, Taiwan.

Fried lobster rolls. Lobster paste wrapped in nori (seaweed) then deep fried. You'd be amazed at how juicy the rolls are.

Crab legs in soup.

Braised pork with glutinous rice.

Deep fried fish. Crispy on the outside and tender fish inside.

Soup with black mushroom and pig stomach. Don't think about what it is you're eating and just appreciate the rich flavorful broth.

2013 11 27

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Thursday Night Dinner

Here's this week's dinner:

Bruschetta Con Asparagi--Topped with Formaggio Bianco, Grilled Local Asparagus, Oven Cured Tomatoes & Olive Salsa, paired with 2012 Fazi Battaglia Titulus Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi Classico, Le Marche, Italy. The verdicchio paired so well with the asparagus. At $7.99 a bottle, it was a bargain.
Risotto D'Anatra--Arborio Rice Cooked with Duck Confit, Braised Endive & Organic Alba Mushrooms, paired with 2012 Sean Minor Pinot Noir, Central Coast. Absolutely delicious risotto with duck confit.

Agnello Alla Griglia--Grilled Marinated Lamb Loin Chop Served in Sugo D'Erbe Garnished with Slow Cooked Peperonata & Creamy Three-Cheese Polenta, paired with 2012 Bonny Doon Vineyard Carignane Old Vine Contra Field Blend, California

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

2014 04 03

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Olive & Vine Neighborhood Night Wednesday

Here's this week's dinner at Olive & Vine--$25 for 2 courses.

Amuse Bouche of Dried Fig & Goat Cheese Pizzetta. with Fennel Fronds.

Salad of Garden Lettuce with Roasted Beets, Laura Chenel Cabecou Cheese & Toasted Hazelnuts. The beets were sweet and delicious.
Red Wine Braised Niman Ranch Shortribs with Parmesan Polenta, Horseradish Gremolata & Spring Vegetables. The shortrib was fork-tender yet still retained its shape. Not sure how they do it. The polenta was so creamy and cheesy and the vegetables were cooked through yet still with a nice crunch.

We were so stuffed we didn't have room for dessert. Then we were presented with truffles for mignardise. Who could resist them.
2014 04 02