The past couple months have been packed and been so busy that I have actually not had time or the will to post a new write up. Last 2013, I was away from my family for both Christmas and New Year due to the fact that I was in the United States doing a 1 year internship that time. It was so busy, working as much as 12-16 hours every week! It was probably one of the most physically intense things I have ever done in my life, but without a doubt I am super thankful to have experienced all that. It taught me to become a better person, who respects and tolerates all types of people. It also taught me to be myself as much as possible and to be genuine and real towards others.
Now that I am back in my home country of Philippines, one question remains: "Do I want to go back to United States?" Of course I do!! But at the moment, I need to make something out of my life and explore other countries now. Living on the other side, I got to see cultures and people so different from mine. I never felt so far away from home, but at the same time, I never felt so happily loved and accepted by others. Living on the other side, I discovered that I super love to travel! I want to explore the world, meet people, and taste the wonders of the food each country has to offer! Being the Third Culture Kid that I am, I have always had this ability to adapt to different environments, cultures, and languages. That's why I get along so well with others. I studied 6 languages when I was younger, something I know is so difficult for many. My parents mind set and culture is so different from mine, I must say. I have this need to see the world and make friends with different races, and part of me feels like that terrifies them! I find it exciting and adventurous because I think it makes life worth living!
|Ahh the Golden Gate Bridge! I never get tired of seeing this beauty right here!|
I am motivated to travel far and explore this world around us. Now, one of the most memorable moments I had on the other side was tasting the food that United States had to offer. You see, people have this perception that USA is just all hamburgers, French fries and other types of processed fast food, when in fact, it is a melting pot of various cuisines and cultures in one place! Two restaurants that really got stuck to me where I enjoyed a full course meal were in San Francisco, California. The first is called The House, and the second is called Brenda's French Soul Food. As a pastry chef, I like to taste all kinds of food, and not just baked goods and desserts! Now those restaurants I mentioned had everything I looked for in a restaurant: great ambiance, good company, reasonable prices, and DAMN GOOD FOOD! Like the Japanese, I have this profound or deep feeling when it comes to eating food. Like it triggers an emotion inside me when I taste something so good, or as the Japanese like to call it: 深い気持ち (Fukai Kimochi). So here are the dishes that I tasted that had an impact on me!
First off, we have The House. This restaurant is located on Grant Street near Chinatown of San Francisco. Though it may be near that place, this restaurant is not your ordinary place to get typical food. This place likes to innovate and mix all types of Asian and Western cuisines and flavors into one amazing dish! My friend Fatima and I dined here on a cold, cold night. We had to wait around 45 minutes outside to get a seat, but this was worth it! This place was suggested by a friend of mine from San Francisco. It was on the pricey side, but I did not mind because I wanted unique experiences especially when it comes to good food! The first dish we had was the appetizer called Seared Scallops. Interesting texture here. It contained extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, basil, turnip and alfalfa sprouts. The scallops were absolutely stunning. Seared and slightly crisp on the outside, but soft and extremely juicy on the inside with not a single "fishy" taste, or as I would like to call it back in my home country Philippines, "malansa". The alfalfa sprouts added texture along with the turnip, and the sauce was just pure harmony. I knew it was going to be the beginning of an incredible meal! I really recommend this!
|These Seared Scallops are extravagant wonders that you rarely taste in this world!|
The next dish I ordered was suggested by the waiter and the previous customer who had just left the restaurant super satisfied. The customer said that this dish was exceptional! So I did order it. The dish was called Miso Cod. As a lover of good quality fish due to sushi and sashimi, I love cod, sea bass, salmon and gindara. Very difficult to cook and present beautifully, but this dish was not a problem for The House! It had the pan seared cod fish with miso, soy sauce, and wasabi glaze underneath it. It was also accompanied by a diagonally sliced sushi roll with a mixture of crab meat, avocado, and Japanese mayo. Amazing crispy, flavorful outer layer, with a moist and juicy texture deep inside. This dish is definitely potent because of the wasabi and a little bit spicy, but they were right with their recommendation! This dish is so damn good, that it actually made me cry a little bit!! Hahaha! It sounds cheesy. Maybe it was the wasabi flavor that got me to tear up, but this dish was like edible perfection! It was like the perfect ramen noodle dish or Tsukemen dish that I had back when I went to Tokyo, but that was after I had tasted this Miso Cod. Oh my goodness, I could still feel the flavors and amazing feeling that I had there even until now! If there's anything you must try in The House, it's definitely this!
|This dish will sent to a happy place and will make you want to go back!|
My friend Fatima had another dish here that my San Franciscan friend also recommended to me. It was called Pomegranate pork chop with Taro Crisps, Asparagus and Mashed Potatoes on the side. She decided to have that dish since the meat was something she was familiar with. I got to taste this dish also and I have to say: I'm impressed! Great presentation, absolutely stunning, and amazing tart and sweet flavors from the pomegranate sauce. Not a single bit of dryness existing in the pork chop meat! This dish is truly a world class meal, and it deserves a thumbs up!
|Look at the juicy pork chop! It's a world class meal that feels amazing!|
For dessert, we decided to have something refreshing and light since the meals were a bit on the heavy side. So we decided to get the Coconut and Passionfruit Creme Brûlée. I'm definitely a fan of French food and cooking since I studied French cuisine. Part of me gets excited when I see a French dish, cooked so genuinely, and of course even more in a modernized way! I love doing the blowtorching of the sugar on top because of the reaction that happens there. This dessert is simplicity at its best, with many surprises! The custard underneath the crispy sugar coating actually has coconut milk or cream mixed in. Very soothing as it reminded me of pandan or buko back in Philippines, when I was at least 7000 miles away from there! My taste buds were shocked when I realized that on top of the sugar coating was passionfruit puree! Oh my goodness, it was a pleasant surprise! To break off the richness of the custard was this very tart but slightly sweet sauce. I'm a fan of citrus, berry and other forms of tart and sweet fruits in my dessert, and this dessert just hit it on point for me! For a fairly reasonable price, I got a wonderful experience from this place! Now I know why The House is one of the best restaurants in San Francisco!
|Simplicity may seem unassuming, but it can always leave you surprised!|
The second place that one of my friends invited me to in San Francisco, California is called Brenda's French Soul Food along Polk Street near Civic Center Station of the BART train. One of my dearest friends Dez Kwok, suggested this place since it was a place that provided something very good and satisfying for all of us! The style that they have in this restaurant is called Cajun French Creole. It's a mix of French and American style food, with a strong Soul Food feel. I am aware that this style of food originated in New Orleans, Louisiana. If you are aware of Cafe Du Monde and their fantastic beignets, then you have a bit of knowledge and taste for the French soul food! After watching the movie Chef, I have a better appreciation for beignets now. That movie was literally food porn, so for all food lovers out there, watch that movie! Getting back into Brenda's, this place was also known for their beignets, both savory and sour. What exactly is a beignet? Well according to the locals, a beignet is a pastry made from either deep-fried choux pastry or even yeast dough. It is traditionally served for breakfast with powdered sugar on top. If you are a doughnut lover, this pastry will do wonders for you! Now Brenda's serves this pastry in both savory and dessert form, and my friends Dez, Duc and I were lucky enough to have them in both ways!
|Say hello to my wonderful friend Dez Kwok! It's so rare to see him smile like this, but he is such a genuine person!|
|Another one of my good friends in San Francisco is Duc Singh! He's so happy and perky and I appreciate him for that!|
The first dish that we got to try was the Chicken Paprika Beignet. This beignet was stuffed with sweet and spicy along with cheesy chicken bits! Truly rich and so very satisfying! I just adore the appearance of it! It's so unassuming with this ordinary piece of fried dough that is coated with the red flame colored paprika powder, but the moment you slice it, BOOM! Out comes this delightfully cheesy and greasy filling, good enough to make you pass out from its wonders! I knew I was going to be impressed after this first appetizer! You just feel these things from the very beginning. The ambiance, the environment all plays a role to how you are feeling when you are tasting amazing food!
|Look at all that cheesy and meaty goodness inside this gorgeous beignet!|
Now we each had separate orders. Dez ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich with French fries on the side, while Duc ordered the Gumbo Shrimp with Cheesy Grits on the side. I only got to taste them a bit. It was satisfying with flavors of smoky sweet and spicy that I have never even tasted on any Filipino or Asian dish. As a first time customer at any place, the first thing I always ask is "What do you recommend?" In whatever language that may be, I always ask that question because I am a very unsure person. I do not know what I want in many aspects, and I always rely on the people who know best to suggest on what is good. The staff recommended that I try the Slab Pork Belly with Tomatoes and Cheesy Grits on the side, and that was a wonderful recommendation in the best, possible way! Always keep an open mind when trying new things, as I would suggest for people.
|Smoky, meaty, and with fries on the side. What more can you ask for?!|
|Grits are like ground corn meal with a texture of porridge or polenta, so expect a very filling meal!|
Now for my order. My order I think was the most filling of all the dishes that we ordered. When it arrived, the first thing that went into my mind was, "Holy Shit! This dish is huge!" Funny as it may seem, I actually am surprised when a dish is too big in size! This dish was like playing with breakfast on me, but on a whole different level. You see, this dish actually feels like bacon and eggs, with oatmeal on the side. But this time, it's been leveled up into a classy and sophisticated dish, with several traces of French and American roots mixed in! As a culinary student, I am appreciative of someone who can master poached eggs, as I am someone who went through the same ordeal back in college. The pork belly slab was fairly distributed with salty, flavorful meat and fat so eat slice was so soft, tender and melting per bite! The crispy skin reminded me of the tasty Cebu Lechon at Cebu Liempo meat from Philippines. I really did feel at home despite being halfway around the world from my actual home! The cheesy grits and sauteed tomatoes only enhanced this dish and the moment the egg yolk cracked from the poached egg was that moment when the best of all worlds form into one, harmonius dish! I was aware that they saved the best for last, so I prepared myself for it.
|Look at that slab of crispy, juicy pork belly! It almost feels like I was having a huge-ass piece of bacon for lunch!|
Now for dessert. As I've said before, we had both savory and sweet beignets. You start with beignets so it only makes sense that you end with beignets! One of the many things that I have not yet gotten to try back in United States were the beignets from Cafe Du Monde. It was all the way in New Orleans, Louisiana, so if AND when I do go back to USA, I would really love to go explore New Orleans and try out Cafe Du Monde, aside from seeing Las Vegas, Los Angeles and what not! There's something magical about eating a beignet. It's difficult to describe, really. Crunchy, soft, sweet and satisfying are the things that pop into my head when I take a bite of those pillow-like treats! Maybe I should experiment on making them here so I can feel that nostalgic wonder again.
|These soft and sugary treats have a surprise filling inside! Wait for it!|
The three of us were stuffed with our main course. But I wanted to try having a sweet beignet so I could get a full experience of what Brenda's was really like! So I decided to get some beignets. And not just any type of beignets, but Chocolate Beignets! Each piece filled with generous amounts of Ghirardelli chocolate! Here I am with two Asian-Americans, experiencing a very tasty and satisfying meals. Mind you we may eat a lot, but that's because we live to be physically active. All three of us appreciate outdoor activities. As the beignets arrive, I have the feeling of mixed emotions again. Too scared if I set my standards too high, perhaps? I figured, hey at least I got to try something new. So Dez, Duc and I took our bites. And oh my goodness, chocolate just starts to burst out of that fried pastry! This place really does not skip on quality AND quantity! It was starting to feel like a sweet ecstasy for all of us, and I didn't care if I had powdered sugar on my face along with chocolate! HAHAHA! I was done by that time. I had a feeling like I passed out and dreamed of being in chocolate heaven. What a wonderful feeling that was. To have that "moment" where everything felt so amazing from the food, to the place, and to the people around me. You really cannot put a price tag on those "moments". You can't AND shouldn't!
|Oh baby look at that amazing thing! I swear the chocolate was just so rich and pure here!|
|Brenda's French Soul Food is a must go-to place when exploring San Francisco, CA. Thank you Dez for the recommendation!|
So there you have it. Those two restaurants with the most satisfying full course meals and services with value for your money of course! I do miss everything that I experienced there. If you are lucky enough to go explore the diversity of United States, I suggest one of the places you go see are these places in San Francisco, California! I still keep in touch with Fatima, and especially Dez and Duc, as they are such good friends to me. Amazing people, amazing place, and amazing food. I would definitely love to go back. But those experiences taught me to explore as much as I can, and see the rest of the world out there. Expand your horizons, and meet people from all over the world. Being on the other side of the globe only motivated me to release the traveller and explorer in me. And I do hope, you guys experience those moments and be motivated enough to see the rest of the world out there! Cheers! =)