chezpei.com

Trying to eat something delicious, each and every day.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Egg-Free Blueberry Muffins

Something occurred to me today as I was whipping up a batch of muffins using refrigerator scraps. I often tell people that cooking is not hard. Given all the ingredients and a well-written recipe, almost anyone can cook a delicious tasting dish. Taking the next step towards being a "good" cook involves creating your own recipes, juggling multiple dishes in one meal, and menu planning. And, to a large extent, being a good home cook means finding creative and tasty ways to use up everything in your refrigerator. Especially in this economy, being able to follow a recipe doesn't much if you're throwing out all the odds and ends you have left over once you've finished some complicated dish.


So in the spirit of thriftiness, I whipped up some yogurt blueberry muffins today. I had a lot of plain yogurt to use up, but realized I'm all out of eggs. Instead of going out and buying a dozen eggs that I don't need right away, I looked up an easy substitute. According to cooks with egg allergies, 1 tablespoon water + 1 tablespoon white vinegar + 1 teaspoon baking powder is a suitable recipe for 1 large egg in most cake recipes! So for about 15 cupcakes or 12 larger muffins, I did the following:
  • 12 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cup blueberries (I used frozen wild blueberries from Trader Joe's)
  • 12-15 pecans
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together all the dry ingredients, then take a tablespoon of the mixture and use it to coat the blueberries. This will keep the blueberries from bleeding their color all over the inside of your muffins.

Whisk together all your wet ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in half of the dry ingredients, fold a few times, then pour in the rest and fold a few more times. This is the time to be gentle. Use a spatula and make large folding motions, scraping your spatula along the bottom of the bowl and folding the moistened batter over the parts that are still dry. After about 10 folds, pour in your blueberries and fold no more than five more times. Fill your cupcake tins with the batter, then press a pecan into the top of each cupcake. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating once halfway through, then take out and dump onto a rack to cool.

I won't lie: not having eggs takes something away from the flavor of this muffin. However, it's still a light and fluffy end product, and better than most storebought. I'm waiting to see if anyone even notices there's something "off" about them. And best of all, I used up all my leftover yogurt and didn't need to go out for eggs. Mission accomplished.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Banana Bread

Bread made from bananas: it's good for the soul.. It's a simple quickbread, but a really good banana bread is hard to find. I've been tweaking my recipe for years and always get great feedback from friends who try it. I have to admit, though, Sugar Cafe was a wake up call for me because their banana bread is the only one I've tasted that is clearly superior to homemade. Still, one can't pay $2 for a muffin every day. Here's a tweaked, one bowl, no fuss, no stand mixer version of the Chez Pei classic.


1/2 cup olive oil, any type
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 dash each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or cardamom
3 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped

Whisk together the oil and sugar until well combined. Let this sit while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees, mash up your bananas, and toast the nuts. Lightly grease a loaf pan.

Take your sugar and oil mixture and whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Sift in the dry ingredients, folding as you go. While you still have a few patches of dry flour left, add the bananas and nuts and fold gently just until you don't see any more dry flour. Pour into prepared loaf pan, and put in the oven for 50-60 minutes. Because ovens vary, I would say start checking at the 40 minute mark and remove as soon as a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This is a very moist bread, and you don't want to dry it out!

Let cool in the pan for five or ten minutes until it's cool enough to handle, then flip the loaf out onto a rack to cool. I like thick slices served with a cup of milk or tea; it's a great breakfast or snack!

And for those keeping track, yes, that's my kitchen wall, and it's beautiful sage green! Three cheers for being close to done.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dukk Bokkee and Durian Shake

Sorry, J, today I made food only I like.


Once in awhile, I force J to eat dukk bokee, or spicy Korean rice cakes. It's one of my favorite dishes, and one that I'm almost always willing to eat. Sadly, J does not share my enthusiasm for chewy dense rice noodles drowning in spicy red sauce, so I try to remember to put a lot of other stuff in it. Today's version included plenty of pork belly, zucchini, bamboo, fish cakes, spinach, enoki mushrooms, green onions, and yellow onions. He didn't complain (too much) and I got to wallow in my dukk love.

I did also make something we both love: a durian milkshake! If you've never had this incredibly stinky tropical fruit, a milkshake is the best way to try it out because the iciness dulls the smell of the durian. If you'd like to try it, find frozen durian pieces in the freezer section of an Asian market; it'll cost you $4-5 for a pack of six small sections instead of $30-50 for a fresh whole fruit! For one mug:


  • 1 section frozen durian, seed removed and cut into three chunks
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream if you have it
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp simple syrup if you like things sweet
Blend everything in a blender and serve!

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Boozy Strawberry Slushee

It was a chilly day in SF, but come dinnertime we still wanted a frozen treat.

This is a blend of frozen strawberries, the juice of one lime, a few ice cubes, a dash of water, two tablespoons of simple syrup, a shot of tequila, and a half shot of cointreau. Easy, delicious, and if you have a powerful blender you can make it almost as thick as sorbet (just add no water). It's also really tasty poured over vanilla ice cream, sort of like a Hawaiian Lava Flow.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Coco-Luxe

Mmmm...chocolate.


On what turned out to be a sweltering day in the city, J and I found ourselves in the Haight Ashbury, inappropriately dressed in thick sweaters and thirsting for a cold drink. I stumbled into Coco-Luxe, a sparse (excuse me--minimalist) but cute chocolate shop specializing in treats made just across the bridge in Sausalito. We shared a mint truffle shake and sampled some mocha truffles. Everything was really tasty.

The mint shake was thick enough to taste like chocolate but thin enough to still be thirst quenching, it wasn't too sweet, and it had a flavor that I can only describe as chocolatey, but in a musky, complex, savory way only adults like. It was definitely not a shake for Hershey's or Ghirardelli lovers. The compostable cup and paper straw were cute touches. The truffles have an especially silky center; and to me, they melt at exactly the right speed. If Coco-Luxe becomes more widely available, I might just become a real fan.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chocolate Almond Milk

I told S about my recent insatiable food cravings, and she made a great suggestion: chocolate milk! All the volume of a dessert, plus nutrients, minus all the sugar. Plus, it's been sunny so a post lunch icee was the perfect snack.
For this, I combined about three tablespoons of cocoa powder with just enough hot water to melt it. Then I put it in a blender with half a cup of ice, a cup of almond milk (or regular milk), and a dash of almond extract. I didn't add sugar because almond milk is slightly sweet, but a teaspoon of sugar would be very nice in this.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Apo Apo

Mochi lovers and shaved ice lovers listen up! Hie thee to Apo Apo in Rowland Heights (in the Little Bean/Newport Seafood/Happy Family plaza on Colima and Azusa).

I've always loved shaved ice made with what's known in Taiwan as black sugar. In its best form, black sugar is barely processed cane sugar that is both wet and very dark brown. It has a deep burnt caramel flavor while at the same time not being as saccharine as sugar. The concept has been catching on. And while I'm not sure if places in the US are actually importing black sugar or just cooking down brown sugar, I'm happy that black sugar shaved ice is gaining in popularity.

This weekend, after a morning in the sun, I found myself at Apo Apo for the first time, sitting in front of a gorgeous bowl of shaved ice. Apo Apo's biggest selling point: they do something called hot n' cold ice! The mochi poured into the middle of the mountain of ice is hot, so when the bowl's brought out it's actually steaming quite fiercely. The mochi eventually cools down, but while they're warm the pieces are extra soft and delicious.

The price for a bowl of ice, black sugar, and condensed milk is $3.50, plus fifty cents per topping. My sister and I shared a bowl with pink and white rice mochi, purple and orange taro mochi, peanuts, and red beans. Next time I would add grass jelly, because Apo Apo makes their own mochi instead of using canned.

There was also a bowl of mango shaved ice at our table.

And a plate of fresh mochi rolled in crushed peanuts and sugar ($4). These were amazing. If you order them, eat them as soon as they arrive at the table because they're hot and best before the steam from the mochi makes the peanut powder soggy. I haven't had so much soft, chewy happy making fresh mochi in a long time. Even though I think the black sugar at Life Plaza and the mango snowflake ice at 301 Class are better, Apo Apo wins the blue ribbon for mochi creations.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Humphry Slocombe and Flour + Water

Girls' night out! After a nice (read: hungrymaking) workout with N this evening, we headed to the Mission to pick up her sister and have some good eats. Unfortunately, it was too dark for food photos, so use your imaginations!

By the time we were ready to eat, it was 8:30 and we were in danger of missing Humphry Slocombe's closing time of 9:00 p.m. Not to be deterred, we decided to change things up and eat dessert first. I had the McEvoy Ranch olive oil ice cream, which was super delicious with a strong citrus flavor and maybe tiny bits of orange peel in it. N had the hibiscus tea sorbet, which was zingy and refreshing but not tart enough for me. C had ancho chocolate, which was a really deliciously rich chocolate with just a hint of pepper. I also had a taste of the peanut butter curry, which was mostly just an extremely dense peanut butter ice cream. Tasty, but not something I could eat a whole scoop of. I think next on my list to try is salt & peppa, but I've been warned not to try the Jesus Juice (red wine + cola, ew!). For $2.25 for a very large "kids" scoop, I think Humphry Slocombe is a real winner. I'll definitely be back.

With cones in hand, we lucked out with parking right around the corner of flour + water, one of the newest pizza joints to hit the city. While the Margherita pizza had a great, smoky, crackly crust with nice dough flavor, the real winner of the night was the lavender smoked duck breast appetizer with fresh figs, pine nuts, raisins, and arugula. The de-fatted crust was super crispy, and the juicy duck was perfect with the sweet figs. The special of the night, a dumpling-like pasta filled with slow-cooked pork, was tasty but really heavy. It was probably not smart for us to order it after eating ice cream. Our very light dinner for three ended up being $17/pp after tax and tip, so all in all we had a lovely girls' night out for under $20 a head. Hopefully it won't be the last great meal of the weekend--here's hoping everyone else out there has happy eatings too!

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Blueberry Buckle

Mmmm...blueberry buckle.

I have had intense sugar cravings for a few days now, so I decided to give in and bake a blueberry crumble. In the process I used up some frozen blueberries that've been begging to be eaten for months now. The recipe I used from chow.com turned out like a light and fluffy coffee cake.

I'm not sure what makes a buckle a buckle, but that's the name I got off the recipe and that's what I'm calling it. Maybe it's named for the topping, which is a crackly topping made of butter, sugar, flour, and walnuts.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Tequila Passionfruit Sorbet

A warm long weekend calls for a treat. But at the same time, a heavy dessert doesn't always hit the spot, so today we had a passionfruit sorbet. I didn't want to make a big batch or actually whip out the ice cream machine though, so I made a small sorbet-slushee in the Vita-Mix. If you don't have a super powerful blender, you'll have to settle for a slightly more watery concoction that's equally tasty.

For one cup:
  • 1/3 cup frozen passionfruit pulp
  • 3 tablespoons simple syrup (or other sweetener)
  • 1/2 shot blanco tequila (feel free to use rum or vodka)
  • 1/4 cup ice cubes
  • 1/8 cup water, plus more just in case
Combine everything in a blender, and pulse until everything is broken up. Turn off the blender, stir everything, and then turn on again. If you have a blender that you can gradually turn higher and higher, it will work better. With the blender on, drizzle in more water until the mixture just starts to loosen up and blend freely. Because this is a thick, almost solid frozen dessert, you want the blades to slowly churn and break up the ice. Turning it up to high won't work because a pocket of air will form around the whirling blades, whereas slowly turning blades will allow the mixture to fall back down around the blades and get blended. If you want, pop the mixture into the freezer for awhile. I suspect it would get too hard after awhile, but an hour or two while you eat dinner would make it a perfect sorbet.

Note: my mixture has seeds because I also added a few cubes of frozen fresh passionfruit. It's pretty to look at, but I think a seed-free sorbet would taste better. Juice from half a lime or lemon would also be a nice addition.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Minamoto Kitchen

These treats are adorable, but unfortunately this is going to be a post about a slight disappointment.

On our way home from Sausalito this afternoon, we passed by the new Minamoto Kitchen shop on Market Street near Kearny (next door to the Ritz Carlton residences building). Minamoto sells Wagashi, Japanese sweets usually serves as part of a formal tea service. I had to try a few, despite the hefty price tag, so we got a yuzu jelly ($2.50) and a loquat jelly ($4.00, seasonal).

Well, the loquat one was tasty, but not $4.00 tasty. Inside the exquisite Japanese packaging is what is a well-made, very tender, light and flavorful jelly with half a loquat in the center. The fruit tastes bright and sweet despite being preserved and encased in jelly. At a dollar or two, I can see people enjoying these as a rare treat. But at $4, I start to balk. We didn't even dare buy the most expensive creation, an $11 white peach jelly that was somehow wrapped up to look exactly like a fresh peach.

But I shouldn't be so harsh on them. A Godiva truffle costs about the same, and these are definitely more delicious than Godiva's flat, waxy creations. Plus each flavor comes in its own colorful, creative package, and Americans are definitely ready for something to give each other besided boxed chocolates and cookies. Go Minamoto!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Devil's Food Cupcakes

"White helmets gleaming, the Devil's dark army approached..."

No, that qoute is not V. Woolf; I made it up myself. I'm almost done baking for tomorrow's shower! Here's a tray of about 50 mini devil's food cupcakes, all dressed up in marshmallow frosting.

I was going to put a purple dot on each one, but now I'm kind of liking the peaks. Plus, every purple dot I try to put on a cupcake is potentially a screwed up cupcake if I need to fumble with the tiny thing. I best not mess with a good thing, right?

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dynamo Doughnuts

Vroom vroom! On this cloudy summer morning, a Hybrid Prius and I zipped around town running errands, buying supplies for the coming week's dinners as well as for a bridal shower this weekend (Congrats, N!)

My first stop was the Civic Center farmers' market, where I loaded up on a lot of great seasonal fruit. Photos to come! Then I zipped down to the mission for meat and vegetables, stopped by Trader Joe's for pantry supplies and dairy, and paid a visit to the Fabric Outlet in SOMA before making it home just in time to return the car.

I did take a break to stop by Dyamo for a fluffy, fresh doughnut. Today they had bacon maple, which is simply genius. It's barely sweet, with a nice savory kick from pieces of chewy, crispy bacon. I like the idea of a savory doughnut, and this comes pretty darn close.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

1550 Hyde and Swensen's

Another destination checked off the list: 1550 Hyde!

Let's step back for a moment, though. 1550 Hyde isn't what I'd call a destination restaurant. It's very good California cuisine, but it's only one of at least a dozen restaurants in SF that offer seasonal, local cuisine prepared in a way that highlights color, freshness, and delicacy of flavor. Price points, menu items, and ambiance tend to be very similar at all these places. It becomes almost a matter of picking which one is closest to you and has a table available: tonight, that place was 1550 Hyde.

I started with a watermelon salad because I saw another table get it and wanted to eat yellow watermelon for nostalgia's sake. The salad also had purslane and cucumbers in it, and a generous topping of feta. Very nicely done. Compared to my watermelon salad, I'd say it had less acid and more olive oil.

J started with the salmon tartare. Yum! The salmon was cut into rather large pieces for a tartare, which was great because we could taste the fish. There was parsley and just a hint of alcohol in the dish to take the edge off the salmon's fishiness. Arugula and yellow cherry tomatoes were a decorative touch.

J had the Berkshire pork tenderloin, which surprisingly was beaten flat and batter fried in an oregano-heavy breading. He'd been toying with the idea of going to Suppenkuche tonight for schnitzel, so it was the perfect coincidence. If I were being extremely picky I'd say the dead center piece of the pork could have been less cooked, but I'm really grasping for straws with that one. 99% of this was delicious, and the juicy fatty parts near the bone were out of this world.

I had the short ribs in red wine sauce with a gremolata of parsley and lemon rind. That gremolata was a surprise! I couldn't stop picking at it because lemon with beef was so unexpected. Also delicious were the tomatoes, which were warmed just enough that they exploded in my mouth, but not enough so that any tartness had been released. And the polenta had a fresh corn flavor and a lot of whole corn kernels mixed in. Not to detract from the beef, which was fork tender even though it was quite lean, but I think it was the sides on this dish that really stood out. Total bill for both of us was $90 after all was said and done (two appetizers, two entrees, and a glass of red wine). Not cheap, not expensive, just a very typical example of what San Franciscans enjoy eating on any given Friday night.

We hiked up the hill after dinner to check another destination off our list: Swensen's. It's one of San Francisco's old-time scoop shops. We shared a cone of the chewy chocolate, one of their most popular flavors. I enjoyed it a lot. Deep chocolate flavor with a hint of malt. I think I like their ice cream more than Mitchell's, which is too sugary and uses a lot of fake tasting flavoring. Plus, Swensen's is a veritable bargain at $2.50 for a small scoop in a sugar cone. Thank you to my lovely hand model: it was a great date night!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ice Cream Cones

What do I do with all the eggs whites left over after I've made a delicious custard-based ice cream? Usually, egg white omelets. But today, ice cream cones!


Yesterday's ice cream creation was so delicious that it deserves homemade cones. Plus, rolling cones is fun. They sort of taste like fortune cookies, so I think practicing spreading the batter in a thinner layer would make them better. Or, I could always buy a waffle cone machine--not.



One more ice cream photo, this time in the sun where ice cream belongs!

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The Perfect Scoop: Toasted Almond and Candied Cherry Ice Cream

David Lebovitz, you are my new hero. Not just for writing a book as wonderful as The Perfect Scoop and including gorgeous photos, but for being generous enough to make most of them available on Google Books (click to link to a web version of almost the entire book).


I've made a lot of ice cream over the years, but this recipe leaves almost all of them in the dust. J said it's one of the best ice creams he's ever tasted, bar none. Part of the ice cream's allure is that it has intense flavors both of fresh toasted almond and candied almond (marzipan). Juicy, gooey, slightly tangy candied cherries offset the sweetness of the ice cream and varied sized chunks of toasted almond add freshness and crunch.

Gratuitous second shot. And a confession: this ice cream was a lot of work. I don't shy away from complicated recipes, but I strongly warn beginning ice cream makers away from this recipe. The end result was more than worth it, but I was very busy all afternoon and had to wash a lot of dishes along the way. Just to give you an idea: the almonds are toasted, half are chopped coarsely and the other chopped finely, the cherries are cooked in sugar and then chilled and drained, some of the almonds are steeped in hot milk, then the milk is strained and cooked with eggs and cream into a thick custard, everything is chilled in an ice bath and then refrigerated, and only then does the ice cream maker even come into the picture. If you are not a diligent cook who cleans as she cooks, you might just go insane! On the plus side, the recipe makes over a quart so I won't have to be doing this again for awhile. But I've already picked out my next ice cream: Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream!

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Russian River Vacation: Day 4

Sadly, we couldn't stay on the Russian River forever. Sunday morning we checked out of the vacation house and caravaned south, stopping at Hartford Court and Iron Horse wineries along the way.

Here's a shot of the vineyards from the top of the hill at Iron Horse. Everyone loved the whites and bubblies here. I especially liked the wedding cuvee.


Continuing on, we stopped in Sebastopol for lunch at Martha's. The calamari appetizer was tasty! Bigger pieces than normal, nice and hot from the fryer.

The portions were enormous! Here's J's seafood burrito, which would have been enough for two or three of us to share.

I made the mistake of thinking I could finish a platter of food. Omg. I did not get very far into this carne asada and seafood enchilada combo, delicious as it was.


After that, it was back to SF. We took our tourists to Chrissy Field for some Golden Gate Bridge photo ops.


We did not make them walk up the stairs to the bridge entrance.

For the rest of the afternoon we completely forgot that we owned cameras. We went to Emporio Rulli for drinks and Shanghai House for dinner, and then got some desserts at Stella Pastry to take home. Yum! It's not every day I get to end the evening with a napoleon, sacripantina, and a tiramisu.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Russian River Vacation: Day 1

What a weekend! We're finally home from vacation and I'm ready to start re-capping. C and E got in Wednesday night, and after a good night's rest we were off to a rollicking start on day one of their vacation, which was a walking tour through several neighborhoods.

We started off with a healthy breakfast of fried eggs on whole wheat toast and homemade yogurt with raspberry compote.

The eggs were from Prather Ranch in the Ferry Building, which always carries pasteured eggs from Soul Food Farm. The yolks aren't the most orange I've seen, but they have a distinctly rich and nutty flavor.

We bussed down to the Mission and took a walk through one of the alleys with murals in them. I love this one of Where the Wild Things Are.
I also love this because it's so incredibly elaborate and fun to look at. I forgot the name of the artist, but I've seen an entire gallery show of this type of art. It's amazing.

Our first coffee stop of the day was the original Philz on 24th. Drip coffee poured to order. E had a Turkish, which has a lot of cardamom and a mint leaf in it. I had the Arabic, which was rich but not exceptionally flavored. C had a decaf Peruvian and loved it even though she doesn't handle caffeine well. After grabbing these, we kept walking.

Several blocks later we were at Ritual Roasters. E's caffeine craving was still going strong and he had a cup of black coffee from the Clover machine. I have to say, that's a good cup of coffee: clean, crisp, almost like wine or tea in how clear and bright it was. E said he could have drank it all day.

But even coffee fiends need to stop for lunch. We had carne asada and lengua tacos at El Cumbre.

Mmm, lengua. My visitors claimed to never have had lengua tacos before, and were impressed with the meat's tenderness.

After lunch, we wandered around a little and discovered the new Paxton Gate toy store. It's an amazing space with really fun handmade toys.

More coffee! Four Barrel was our third stop. They have a really cool open space with high ceilings, boars' heads mounted on the wall, and a lot of cool antique machinery on display.

E and I shared a cappucinno.


After all that coffee, it was time for dessert. We took a stroll towards Noe Valley and shared a cup of bread pudding at Tartine. As always, the custardy bits were delicious.


More dessert. I couldn't resist; it was only a block away! Bi-Rite ice cream. I had the caramel swirl and E had cherry almond. Everyone tasted the salted caramel, which is still my fave, and C decided she doesn't like lavender in food.
We enjoyed our ice cream as we walked back toward Market Street via the Castro. Then we hopped on an F car and stopped in at Zuni for afternoon drinks. Of course, we got the famous bloody mary.

We also got some shoestring fries to munch on, along with bread.

More coffee! We were really full after the huge bloody marys and all those fries, so we took a walk and ended up at the Blue Bottle on Linden Alley. E and I had Gibraltars.

After that, we walked all the way home and basically passed out for awhile before dinner at Zitouna. This is the Mosaic of Africa assorted salad plate. It was fine, but it was kind of too many things on one plate for me.
Mint tea with plenty of sugar.
House made Merguez sausages. They were good, but I begin to suspect Merguez is not for me. It's always on the dry side.
Lamb tajine with white beans. Really really tasty broth and fork tender meat.

Vegetable cous cous. I didn't know that all the cous cous dishes come with a side of vegetable soup, or I would have gotten cous cous with meat on it. In any case, the cous cous was perfectly cooked and the vegetables were very refreshing.


After dinner we went to Bourbon and Branch. My favorite drink of the night was the Devil's Advocate, even though I had to steal this photo off flickr and I"m not sure if that's what it is.

And, because enough is never enough, we had late night snacks at La Mar. This is the chifa ceviche.

And the Nikkei, which along with the classico retains the title of favorite ceviche flavor. What a day: four great restaurants, four of the best coffee roasters in SF, two of my favorite dessert places, and farm fresh eggs. And that was just Day 1! I was very proud of my visitors.

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