Tuesday, February 7, 2012

January Highlights

– Watching the Wolf moon (the first full moon in January) rise from the Golden Gate Bridge. It was huge and glowing and appeared perfectly spherical (though it was 95% full at the time I saw it).

– Showing my little brother around my neighborhood (read: force-feeding him all the delicious things that exist within a 7 block radius of where I live *cackle*). He liked the Pirate Store a lot. He bought this shirt.

Charlie eating his cheese scone while a couple friends watch

– Purchasing a candy thermometer.  I no longer fear recipes that tell me to heat sugar to extremely precise temperatures, e.g., 248 ℉. It's pretty interesting how just a few degree differences will dictate whether or not heated sugar will have the consistency of fudge, caramel, marshmallows, or brittle.

One of my first experiments: English Toffee

– Purchasing a slow cooker. It is a ceramic tub of magic. In ten hours of applied heat, you can turn chunky tough meat into the tenderest thing that basically shreds itself into your lap at the slightest touch.  I love you, slow cooker.

– A weekend getaway in Mendocino for Ryan's birthday. Coastlines, gorgeous sunsets, whales and sea lions, cute little quails cooing while crossing the road...it's a really lovely, quirky, peaceful beach town.

View from Mendocino Headlands State Park

Mendocino sunset

– A quick stop at Gowan's Oak Tree – a little fruit stand along Highway 128 in Philo, CA – to drink their hot freshly-made cider. There were at least 500 blue ribbons hanging on the walls (I think for their apples). 

– Staying two nights at a beautiful B&B in Elk. The views there blew my mind. And the breakfast there blew my mind. Think: crab and spinach omelettes/quiche, corn pudding, bread pudding with whiskey bourbon sauce, bottomless mimosas with your choice of grapefruit or orange juice...etc.

Breakfast 1, Round 1. Steaming coffee (and a mimosa!) in the back. Love.

– Discovering the joy of walnut cracking. There is something so satisfying about the weight of a solid walnut cracker and the sound of a walnut cracking...I put it on the same level as bubble wrap.

Walnut brainz

– A very special dinner with Ryan at Quince.  :)

– Straining my eyes to find monarchs at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz, CA.  During the winter, the butterflies migrate from the Rocky Mountains to the California coast looking for milder temperatures, and up to 100K settle in the park's eucalyptus grove (though I think the docent mentioned there were only ~3K counted this season). On chilly days when the temperature drops below 60 degrees, the butterflies huddle together for warmth, resembling shingled rooftops; on warmer days, they'll flutter around.

I do not have a DSLR; thus, these are the best I could do.

– Celebrating Chinese New Year with my family.  Watching my mom whip up about six dishes (one of which includes homemade dumplings – filling AND dough made from scratch) within an hour. If you need a visual of that...think whirling dervish. With a butcher knife.

My mama, baller cook.

Best things I ate this month:

– Lahori chikkar choley (garbanzo beans cooked in a tomato and onion sauce) at Lahore Kahari.

– Cream biscuits at Citizen's Band. They also had a bacon coffee gravy for the biscuits (pictured on the right), but the cream gravy was f-ing glorious.

Candy cap mushroom ice cream in Mendocino.

– The house noodles at QQ noodle (酸辣臊子面) in Fremont: sour and spicy pork noodle soup with a hundred flavors I couldn't name.

House special noodles in the center there.

– Almost everything from Quince. In particular, this cute pasta in broth (fancy name: cappelletti paine farm squab and spiced consommé).

Capelletti means "mini hat" and I think that is very fitting.

– BBQ pork noodles with flat rice noodles from King of Thai Noodle.  I think it was six bucks. You should get it.

– Breakfast burrito on a sunny patio at Harbor Cafe in Santa Cruz. Mmm.

Filling: Scrambled eggs, hash browns, salsa, cheese, black beans, sour cream

– Vietnamese goodies that my friends brought in celebration of the New Year: beef jerky (khô bò) that was softer, sweeter, and spicier than its American counterpart, and a sliceable log of glutinous rice, filled with mung bean and meat, steamed in a banana leaf (bánh tét). (Note to self: gotta learn how to make these.)

– A sturgeon dish at Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino, CA. It was pan-roasted and came with housemade tagliatelle (now my second favorite pasta), candy cap mushrooms, truffle sauce, and golden beets that I actually liked! They were sweeter and surprisingly, did not taste like dirt.

– Caramel mascarpone mousse that was actually a topping to a dessert, also at Cafe Beaujolais.  I'm not a frosting person but I could not stop eating this.

Warm gingerbread with vanilla braised apples and THE MOUSSE!