Alotta Burrata

One weekend.

Two sisters.

Eleven restaurants.

Eighteen dishes.

(so many dollars spent, I can not even…)

They thought it could not be done. Hell, even we knew it was grossly ambitious. Or maybe just gross. IMG_8625.jpg

There are a few things you need to know about my sister and it will all make sense at the end.

1. She loves food just as much as I do. I am not sure if it is nature versus nurture, but it runs in the family. So naturally, when little sister (me) comes into town, big sister (her) has to show what Denver is made of.

2. She is a planner. I am talking about color-coding, laminating, by-the-minute itinerary.IMG_8627.jpg With this in mind, I present to you the ridiculous, out-to-lunch (literally) whirlwind trip that took place this weekend. I know coming to the Mile High city was a big deal, considering she has lived here for over ten years and this is the first time in my grown-up life that I have visited her. The food scene here is happening and there were so many places to be that we could not possibly do them all in three days. I was wrong.

We did it. I am so unbelievably shocked, frendshäm* and impressed that we were able to pull it off. Logistics, time and money (wallet is in tears) did not stand in the way of the Condell girls.

*Frendshäm is a term we coined (based loosely) on a German word to describe second-hand humiliation. As in the, “Oh Sweetie”-kind of embarrassment. Consider it the next thing to go viral, I promise you that.

On Friday morning, my sister presented me the itinerary of what would shape our time together. Please note that there are no sightseeing locals, no shopping, nothing. All of our touristy things revolved around ensuring that it did not interfere with our food schedule. A, sort of – what silly Denver ‘must do’ should we slog through to tick down minutes in between meals? January isn’t the best time to come to Denver because a lot of things are closed for the off-season. However, we surely did not let that get in the way of our fun.

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What made this so great was that it was literally my sister’s favorite dish at each place. I wish I had a window into her genius brain when she was compiling this list.. classic You Are What You Eat.

Swiftly after a Thursday night pick-up at the airport, we arrived at Pinche Taco’s for what might be the best tacos outside of California. Even remotely thinking this means that they were out-of-this-world delicious. I dubbed these as sexy street tacos, with ingredients such as Queso a la Plancha (mmm…burnt cheese), pan roasted scallops and carnitas that Zeus himself kissed before making its way onto our plate.

(Horrible lighting, as it usually happens when food is that good). pinche.png After hearing that my sister never finished the last half-season of Breaking Bad, we hopped on that quickly and watched an episode before getting into bed.

FRIDAY

Upon waking up, we were a little nervous for what we had in store and decided to play it by ear. We ended up at The Source, which is a local food market that can be compared to a mini Chelsea Market. Lunch was consumed at Acorn and we shared the kale & apple salad (candied almonds, parmesan, togarashi) and tomato braised meatballs (anson mills stone ground grits, burrata, basil).

We high-fived after a successful start and walked around to check out the collective of food artisans and retailers that offer everything from freshly baked bread to craft cocktails. I was impressed with the place and loved the vibe; it reminded me of a less-touristy and more modern Ferry Market building.acorn.png

Our one (1) sightseeing adventure of the whole trip came after lunch, we drove to Red Rocks Amphitheater where the most legendary concert hall is. They had a pretty badass view of the city.

Of course the one picture I did take did not highlight this gorgeous view I am talking about. IMG_8619.jpg

I do not know if it is the altitude or that I am just severely out of shape, but those pesky stairs really got to me and I was embarrassingly winded after the whole thing. IMG_8620.jpg

Another episode of Breaking Bad and a cup of Café Bustelo later, we found ourselves in downtown Denver and ready to roll up our sleeves to get this food coma party started.

With itinerary in hand, our first stop was Panzano for their Crespelle ai Funghi (Hazel Dell mushroom stuffed crepes, fonduta sauce and white truffle oil) and a glass of bubbly. At this point, we realized that our trusty friend was crusty bread. Crusty Bread would make a cameo at literally every single meal. No joke. No complaints. NOT a gluten free weekend.

We walked over to Osteria for their burrata (creamy sweet center, firm edge). Bartender overheard our tactic for the night and asked to see the coveted list. To say he was thoroughly impressed was an understatement; it was at this point in time that we began to think that our crazy idea was actually straight genius. dtdenver.png

Next stop at Bistro Vendome, a quaint French bistro that uses local and seasonal ingredients. We broke our one-plate-per-restaurant rule here and ordered the mussels (garlic, herb, white wine, grilled sourdough baguette) and steak tartare (tenderloin w/ aioli, Dijon, capers, red onion). As a non-seafood kind of girl, the mussels were hand-on-knee amazing and I do not even want to count how many pieces of sourdough I went through. bistrovendon.png

Our last stop of the night was at ChoLon, a fusion restaurant with a menu that is inspired by traditional dishes found across the Asian continent. We enjoyed the soup dumplings (sweet onion, gruyere) and Brussels sprouts (ground pork & mint). We also had the pleasure of chewing the proverbial fat with the Chef Lon (Denver Cheflebrity) and shut down the restaurant as we listened to the fantastical tales of this renown all-over-the-world-and-back chef. cholon.png

Friday’s Round-Up:

Restaurants: 5

Dishes: 9

Stomachs a calorie away from exploding: 2

Saturday

Somehow, someway, we woke up not feeling like death. The only thing on our mind was a cappuccino, which worked perfectly with the next step being butternut squash pizza (walnut, smoked mozzarella, sweet onion & arugula) at True Food Kitchen. Really though, kudos to the chef, because even the one thing I was uneasy about on the list ended up being delightful, especially with a fried egg on top. butternutsquashpiz.png

I would like to tell you exactly what we did after; however, everything seems hazy as I am typing this post. Almost as blurry as this picture taken by my beauty of a sister. IMG_8672.jpg

Although Saturday was not as ambitious the night before, I think my favorite thing that happened was at Z Cuisine. The last time I ate a cheese plate was less than a week ago at Maialino in New York.

This cheese plate was something else. Something where my pathetic little words would only dull how outstanding this was. My sister and I had to stop for a second and make sure what was going on was real. Whoever chose the assortment deserves a round of applause, from the apple and cheddar combo to the contrast of creamy cheese and nutty texture. We wanted to go back the next day to eat more.

As mouthwatering as the cheese plate was, the star of the whole weekend was the cassoulet. Slap-your-mom delicious and worth every penny. Although this is only January, my intuition tells me that this is going to end up on my top-ten of the year list. 100% sure. The dish, prepared for three days, included duck leg confit and a pork belly & shoulder house sausage (andouille style) baked slowly together in a heirloom white beans and bacon ragout, served with wilted chard and kale. Z Cuisine, you hit it straight out the ballpark and need to open a location in San Francisco like yesterday.

And this is where our list took a left because we hit a wall. Fried chicken wraps were next, but we just could not do anymore. We had a drink at Old Major and ended up just talking for hours. Toward the end, an order of duck-fat fries made its way in front of us and we obliged. saturday.png

Saturday’s Round-Up:

Restaurants: 3

Dishes: 4

# of times frendshäm was used: too many

SUNDAY

Three words. Pork shoulder tostada. IMG_8686.jpg

Served with charred tomatillos, sunny eggs and queso panela from Beast and Bottle for a quick brunch before heading to the airport.

There were many times during the trip where my sister and I were unbelievably disgusted with ourselves for having moments of hunger after all this food, but overall I like to think that we killed it. Game, set, match to whoever (aka nobody) doubted our motives.

I apologize for this incredibly long-winded post, I know it is a lot to consume and digest (ha). The reason I did not split this into two posts is because I did not want to drag anything on and because I think I am going to a restaurant I have been dying to try on Monday and that deserves a posts of it’s own.

1. Thank you sister for everything. You are the best you there is.

2. Do not forget to enter the GIVEAWAY that ends on Friday! I am giving away a $50 Gift Card to a grocery store/restaurant of your choice!

PS: If this was a Word document, it would have been five pages. Run and tell that to the next person who says you need to read more. You are welcome.

Have you been to Denver? If so, what was your favorite restaurant?

Who are you rooting for in the Superbowl?

Vineyards In Napa

I usually try to come up with a cool title to spice up this blog a little. Sometimes it is a pun, sometimes it has nothing to do with the subject and sometimes it has everything to do with the subject. Today is one of those days, my friends. I just can not think of a better title than straight to the point.

Last post, I mentioned that I was going to post on Friday. I spent time editing my pictures, writing up the post and something horrible happened when I clicked the publish button. Everything disappeared. I tried rewriting, but it just was not cutting it. Those pictures will just have to go into the folder and wait for another time. 🙂

My holidays have been amazing so far. I checked off almost everything on my to-do and my NYC trip is almost all planned out (I am just waiting on one more person). What better way to relax than a day in Napa, right?

For everyone that lives under a rock, Napa county is la creme de la creme of producing wine in America. The fact that it is only an hour away from San Francisco confirms that I live in the best city in the whole world.

Taylor’s parents were in town and invited us to go wine-tasting with them. We could not resist.

Napa is usually lush, full of greenery and an amazing place to photograph. In the winter, even though it was pretty warm, the grape vines are barren and looks deserted.

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Our first stop was to Goosecross Winery, which was one of the few open before our lunch reservations.

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There is suppose to be pictures of wine, cellars and more but I think I was too excited and forgot to take pictures. For you, is a picture of Taylor and I before our first tasting.

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We ate lunch at Lucy, restaurant + bar. They pride themselves on their seasonal menu and eco-friendly meats and poultry. Not to toot their horn, but they even have a garden where they grow most of their veggies and herbs.

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An espresso for Taylor

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and a morning Bloody Mary (edit: thank you, Kristina!) for Denise. This one had Sriracha in it, delicious.

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The Reuben sliders, assembled with cured brisket, spicy remoulade, sauerkraut and house-made rye, really caught my eye. I really enjoyed eating this with their handmade potato chips, but wish that there was not that much fat on the burgers. This is saying a lot because I am Chinese and we eat fat in almost every dish.

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Taylor and her mother ordered a Masami Ranch Burger with beef, picked veggies and herb fries. I had a bite and thought that it was delightful, she also had no complaints.

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Denise chose the Don Watson’s Milk-fed Lamb Sandwich with violet mustard, horseradish creme fraiche and sylvetta on an Acme herbed focaccia.

(Btw, if you never had Acme bread before, you never lived life.)
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We did a quick stroll around Yountville and wanted to grab a pastry from Bouchon. This line made us realize our priorities and we booked it straight right to go the next vineyard.

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I am a bad blogger because I can not remember the name of the next winery, but they had the coolest private rooms.

This was a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, dry with woody hints. If you ask me what that means, I have no idea. I am the worst at detecting aromas and slight tones in wine.

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Just wanted to show you a picture of Tay and her mama.

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Maybe for my next birthday I will class it up and go wine tasting. I am trying to convince Taylor to do it for hers.

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Can we just take a minute and admire this picture? Thanks.

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Happy New Years to everyone near and far. My next post is going to be my favorite post of the year. 🙂

Be safe and I will see you in 2014!

What is a good title for this post?

Do you like wine tasting? Let’s be honest. I love olive oil tasting a little more.

To The Cardamones!

I am back from New York and want to go back already! Does anyone want to sponsor this girl to explore? (Kidding, not really kidding).

This past weekend, Bailey and I celebrated the unity between our good friend Jacque and her new husband Michael. My whole trip start on Thursday night, when we caught a red eye from SF -> JFK. I always thought the idea of a red eye didn’t sound so bad, but now I know better to avoid them at all costs. I am the type of person to knock out before take off and wake up a few minutes before landing. Apparently, my Circadian Rhythm didn’t agree.

It was all worth it by the time we got to Jacque’s lake house in the Catskills. Being born and raised in the city really made me appreciate the outdoor scene. The house didn’t have WiFi, so I spent a lot of the time sitting on the porch, watching the clouds roll by, reading old issues of National Geographic and East of Eden.

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An air-conditioned bus picked us up on the corner of the abandoned Dairy King and gas station (welcome to the Catskills) and took us to the wedding site twenty minutes away.

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I immediately fell in love with Jacque’s wedding because everything pieced together perfectly without seeming too over done.

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The boys all looked very handsome,

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but it was the bride that stole the show. Jacque looked absolutely stunning. Breathtaking, even.

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Their vows reflected their personalities so well. For example, Jacq recited a silly (and impressive) rhyme to express the love she felt for M.

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I had about half a second to grab a picture with the newlyweds before they were whisked away by the photographer. Too bad I was looking at the wrong camera. 🙁

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Luckily Bailey and I caught her again for a re-do.

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I thought I took more pictures but I guess I was distracted by all the shenanigans surrounding us. It was such a incredible time and I was delighted that Jacque allowed us to join her during her special day. All in all, I met a lot of charming people and had a great time eating, talking and dancing under the stars.

We went back to the Big Apple (does anyone really call it that?) Sunday afternoon and went straight to chow down on NY thin crust pizza. Grimaldi’s came up on everyone’s recommendations and was near where we were staying so it worked out perfectly. When we got there, the line was long and people actually recommended Juliana’s next door, where Patsy Grimaldi re-opened another pizza place after retiring and a long game of business politics.

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I really wanted to try the Scamorza, which was their best seller. However, it had pancetta and my friend is vegetarian. Next time, Juliana’s.

Instead, we ordered a classic Margherita, which was more than I could ask for.

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A taxi ride later, we were finally at a mutual friend’s enchanting Williamsburg apartment. They had an amazing view of the New York skyline and graciously gave us tips on what to do the next day.

Seven hours later, we schlepped our way to this beauty.

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I was surprised to see so many people walking to work! It made more sense after learning that it’s only about a mile long.

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We found ourselves in the Lower East Side, eating brunch at Clinton St. Baking Company. I heard that the lines get as long as two hours, but I believe we only waited around 30 minutes which was a nice change from the San Francisco hanging game.

Clinton St. Omelette- spinach and mushroom w/ hash browns & sourdough toast

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Next, my favorite thing I ate the whole day. Brioche French Toasted w/ caramelized bananas, roasted pecans and warm maple butter.

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I pretty much said I ate the best french toast here, here and here but this might take the cake. Especially with their house made raspberry jam. Divine.

Finally, we wrapped up our day at the number one must-see location in NYC, Central Park. I could of spent a whole day here! Bailey and I were on the move non stop, it felt nice to just stop and smell the flowers for the first time all weekend.

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New Yorkers, where must I go the next time I visit? Any late summer weddings in your near future?

Japan Recap: Kyoto, Kobe & Tokyo

China Recap:

Guangzhou

Chengdu and Jiuzhaigou

Leshan and Mount Emei

Yikes, Japan has been over for two weeks now but these pictures make me feel like I was there yesterday! I’ve never been to Japan before and can honestly say it’s one of my favorite places I visited so far. Although, I will say that I wasted the opportunity with food because I don’t eat much seafood so that means no sushi and sashimi for me. There are so many pictures, so I will let them do the talking!

Kyoto

We had six days to enjoy Japan and I had a few must to-dos I came equipped with before we landed. One of them was enjoying as many Buddhist temples as possible. Although I wouldn’t exactly call myself a strict Buddhist (although I agree with many of their morals), I absolutely love the history, sculptures and temples scattered throughout Asia and make it a point to visit as many as possible.

We went to the Sanjiusangendo temple (strictly no cameras allowed) where they had over 500+ Guan Yin statues lined up in a long hall. It was incredibly phenomenal and breath taking.

The buses in Japan are also so convenient, I never had to wait more then 5 minutes for a bus. You also pay when you get off! That was a little bit of culture shock, since I know that wouldn’t fly in America.

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More temples, this one was closer to Shigo St, a very popular street in Kyoto.

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My cousin and I, who actually is half Japanese and lived in Kyoto for 7 years. Thank goodness for him, because he brought us everywhere and we didn’t have to worry about getting lost.

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We also went during a festival weekend, so everyone was dressed in their kimonos. I loved that! I wanted to bring one home but seriously, when am I ever going to wear a kimono?

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What was the most fun about this trip was the bed and breakfast we stayed at. Our room was tatami style, meaning it was very traditional Japanese. The beds are on the floor and you sit on the floor to use the table. Anyone traveling to Japan, please e-mail me so I can recommend this type of living situation! Five stars.

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Yes, that is a koi pond in the middle of the BnB.

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What would Japan be without food? I had some of the best ramen of my life.

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And also enjoyed outside dining right by this river. Walking by, you can tell there were a lot of first dates sitting by the bank. How romantic!

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Lots of walking through alley filled restaurants.

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My mom and Nakahiro ate a lot of sashimi in the short six days,

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while I had a noodle extravaganza. This time, udon. Look at that egg, their chicken’s yolks are so much more orange-red then ours in America.

The fried tempura was a soft boiled egg, gang of mushrooms, chicken and pork.

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The weather was hot and a bit humid, nothing like China though. There was actually sun and I got a little tan, which was a nice plus.

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This picture below was at a Zen temple where I haven’t felt the same intense peace in so long. I would pay for a plane ticket just to go back to this place.

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If you get tired, you can even hire these guys to run you around town. PS: I think he could run a marathon without trying, his legs were on a million.

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Then, we met up with my little cousin (Nakahiro’s younger brother) who is currently studying 30 minutes away from Kyoto. I haven’t seen him 12 years and this fucker went and grew to be 6’2”! He’s the tallest guy I’ve seen in Japan, literally.

The picture doesn’t show how tall he is because he was bending his knees almost to a squat but he use to be a good foot shorter then me. My, has times changed.

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Kobe

The only reason we went to Kobe was so I can eat authentic Kobe beef, which is the second to-do when we came to Japan. We took the bullet train (which was so cool) and got to Kobe in a little more then 30 minutes. Nakahiro had a friend who lived there, so he showed us around their side of the ocean.

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We ate the Kobe beef at a hibachi style restaurant (think of Benihana’s). Rumor has it that they massage the cows, feed them beer and sing to them. That’s what makes it taste so good! Who knows, though.

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This right here was $150 USD, along with rice and veggies. The flavor was intense, in a good way. The meat literally melted in your mouth!

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You even get a balloon, which was funny. I didn’t take a picture but they gave us a certificate telling us which cow we ate at the end of the meal. It felt a little sad to have a personal connection with the cow. I feel a little better know that they are raised in the best conditions possible. The Kobe people treat their cows like part of the family, it’s easy to tell they really respect the animal by the way they talk about them.

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Yummy ginger garlic rice.

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Tokyo

After Kyoto, we took an eight hour over night bus to Tokyo. I must say, Tokyo really fell short of my expectations, maybe because I had such a good time in Kyoto. When I thought of Japan before leaving the states, I thought of this cultured, little hub and Kyoto hit the memories perfectly. Tokyo seemed like a huge generic big city, which wasn’t bad.

We made sure to visit Tokyo’s famous fish market, which was also shown in Jiro’s Dream of Sushi (one of the best documentaries I have ever watched).

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Yes, the buildings do have anime all over.

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The lights are no joke in Tokyo, we walked around Shibuya and Shinjuku districts the most. This part I enjoyed a lot.

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A friend of mine recommended a tonkatsu (pork cutlet) restaurant that is over a hundred years old. They really nailed everything because I left so full I couldn’t walk, yet I could of ate more just because of the flavor.

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Just to polish this post off with a pictures of the mosquito bites I acquired from the long days of walking. I had a total of fourteen, I have never been so itchy in my life!

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Hope you enjoyed this recap!

I am actually in NYC right now for a wedding, I’ll have more news when I come back on Wednesday!

Have you ever visited Japan? What would you like most about the country?