Trying to eat something delicious, each and every day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sugar Cafe

Ever since it opened, Sugar Cafe has easily been the cutest cafe on the block. Hip, chic. and new, it is an internet cafe by day and a bar/lounge by night. What's really great though is that they roast their own coffee, and it's always been gosh darned good.

Lately, I've been going to Sugar Cafe to kill time while the contractors finish my apartment. I discovered that in addition to a good cup of joe, Sugar Cafe makes really good food! I've photographed here a slice of ginger cake and three muffins. The cake was moist and intensely gingery, and the muffins are generously sized. Last week I had a banana nut muffin topped with walnuts and a crunchy meringue/streusel, and it was exceptional. I might even way it's the best banana bread I've ever tasted! I liked it so much I bought a box of assorted muffins for my workers today. When the going gets tough, the tough bribe their contractors. After all, little sugar never slowed any project down!

Another day, I had a cheesy vegetable scramble because I needed to spend an entire morning at the cafe. I was very pleasantly surprised. Despite the cool vibe, Sugar Cafe serves some seriously homey grub! Maybe I just haven't cooked in too long, but it was so refreshing to eat a plate of food that tasted like home cooking rather than restaurant fare. Whoever cooks at Sugar Cafe is probably not a chef, but his/her friends probably love coming over for dinner.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Patiserrie Philippe

Patisserie Philippe has been on my go-to list for quite some time, but it's out of the way and not open every day. Today, I was furniture shopping down in the area and happened upon the store while the owner was preparing a sheet of croissants in the front of the bakery. What a treat to watch him as I decided what to order!

For breakfast I ended up having a croissant topped with bacon and filled with gooey, savory, caramelized onions. The one thing that would have made this perfect is if it had been slightly toasted, but I couldn't resist digging into it as soon as I left the bakery.

The macaroons at Philippe's are probably the best I've had in San Francisco, and a nice size too. The champagne is a seasonal specialty, but I think bright green pistachio macaroons are still my favorite.

Chomp chomp! The champagne was filled with blueberries! Delicious, with a little tang of wine in the aftertaste.

The rest of my Philippe's bounty will have to wait until tomorrow: an apple tart, several macaroons, and a chocolate chip cookie (not everything is in the photo). I didn't bother asking for individual prices, but overall it was a very reasonable purchase.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Martinez, CA

J and I took an unprecedented road trip way out into the East Bay today. Our end point was Martinez, CA. Specifically, we found ourselves in Martinez's very cute downtown neighborhood. It reminded us both of Claremont, where we went to college.

We had breakfast at Victoria's Cafe, a no frills neighborhood diner that looks like it's been there for fifty years. It's popular with the locals, from old retired ladies to police officers on a break. J made the winning choice of the meal with his linguica and eggs. This was one fo the best linguicas I've ever tasted: very smokey, not too salty, with just a touch of sweetness to it so the sausage charred nicely.

I had the chicken fried steak because I can never resist chicken fried steak. This was a fine rendition, as were the hash browns and eggs over easy. Solid, all-American breakfast food at a decent price. Sometimes it's fun to get out of the city.

Right across the street was Gateau Elegant, pretty much the opposite of down home cheap eats. I had a slice of princess cake, which had some of the better princess cake custard I've tasted to date. However, I found the marzipan a little thick, though it gets points for not being hard or grainy.

I wandered around a little afterwards and fell in love with Martinez's antique shops. I've been in a lot of (insert "crappy") antique shops in my day, but the ones in Martinez are exactly what you see on television when they tell you chic vintage gems can be yours for the having if you know where to look. There were a ton of amazing things in every shop, in great condition for decent prices. I even found a Wedgeworth stove, which is one of those nostalgia items every avid home cook dreams about refurbishing one day. Look how cute it is! It was priced a little under $500 but had "make offer" stickers all over it. If only.

Vintage Wedgeworths have a cult following because of their adorable exterior design, because they're built out of solid materials, and because they have two stoves and two broilers. The writing inside the door is a cute touch from the past. It tells clueless new cooks how long to cook common dishes at what temperatures! Precious.

I'd never seen this stove before, but I liked the colors. The compartments are all kooky. It reminds me of a cartoon stove. If I ever find an apartment to buy, I'm so going back to Martinez to accessorize. The stores were literally teeming with vintage Pyrex, English china, copper and tin baking pans in fun shapes, and cute little pieces of furniture.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

JJ Bakery

Shout out to my long time favorite Chinese Bakery, JJ Bakery in Hacienda Heights. I might have attachment bias because I grew up on JJ, but I really think it would beat out most Chinese bakeries in a blind taste test.

On my last trip there, I picked up this innocuous looking coconut bread. It was a new item, and more interesting than white toast, so I picked up a loaf to try out.

Surprise!!! This is what's so fun about Chinese bakeries: there's often a surprise in the middle! The lightly scented coconut bread is filled with a crumbly butter/sugar nubbin. It's not earth shattering, but it was a clever idea. I appreciate the creativity. I think all the bakeries are a little hot under the collar now that 85 Degrees is offering some stellar competition.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

85 Degrees

85 Degrees is a Taiwanese cafe/bakery chain that's hit Orange County by storm. Sadly, there isn't a branch in Los Angeles or San Francisco yet. But I was lucky enough to have a cousin whose friend bought a lot of extra snacks for us when he went to Irvine this weekend.

85 Degrees makes delicious Chinese style baked goods, but what they reall excel at is fun new flavors and presentation. Squid ink garlic bread dinner rolls?! Who'd have thought? The other roll is actually a giant hush puppy but from the outside it looks like a lobster tail or sea cucumber. Both were really light and fluffy.

This taro-filled taro roll is a little more traditional, but still really beautiful. I wouldn't say 85 Degrees is revolutionary, but they do some really creative takes on something that everyone likes: fresh, unique looking baked goods.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stella Pastry

What's a birthday without at least two cakes? After dinner, we swung by Stella Pastry. I'm telling you, this is one popular bakery. They were sold out of slices of my favorite, the sacripantina!

Thus, I was "forced" to buy a whole mini cake. I think it's a steal at about $19. It's probably enough to feed eight people small after dinner portions, or six people a very hefty portion. Definitely more cost effective than a $4.50 slice! What can I say about the sacripantina: it's delicious layers of slightly boozy Italian cream and fluffy white cake, topped with whipped cream and dusted with cake crumbs (do I detect a faint whiff of fennel/anise?). Eat this and you'll never crave that oh so cliched tiramisu again.


King's Hawaiian

The King's Hawaiian Paradise cake, one of the best desserts on earth. Which makes the sister who brought it the best sister on earth.

Just kidding. She's only one of the two best sisters on earth. Anyway, not to make other desserts feel bad, but my favorite sweets usually involve fluffy cake. And King's takes it to a whole new level with colorful layers of guava, passionfruit, and lime cake. The whipped cream around the sides is rich but not too sweet, and the marshmallow topping is gooey and delicious.

The colors are a little psychedelic for some, but it's one of the most popular cakes in LA for a reason!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nara and Stella

Like everyone else, J and I are trying to be more careful with money. Being who we are and living where we live, it's impossible to completely eliminate dining out. What we've done is opt for a combination of lower end dining and dining out for lunch, happy hour, or snacks instead of dinner.

This Saturday, we stopped in at Nara Sushi on Polk for $1 happy hour sushi after getting a haircut down the street. The quality was fine for everything, and the salmon was quite good. The $1 pricing is per piece, runs 3-6pm every day, and includes about ten of the most basic nigiri choices. $2 hot sake is also available.

Today, we took a walk through Chinatown and North Beach and stopped at Stella Pastry for a sacripantina ($4.78), one of my favorite desserts in SF. I think Stella has the best tiramisu in the city, but for my money I usually order the sacripantina because I don't want coffee or chocolate competing with the fluffy cake and lightly boozey Italian cream. To take home, I got four Italian cookies ($1.48).

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