Four Corners of Italy

I find that people who do not blog cannot phantom how time consuming it really is. Although I have been down to one post a week these past few months (and I am so not happy with that), it is still nice to enlist help from some of my friends. Taylor is one of my guest stars on this blog (along with Abs and a few other pretty ladies) and I wanted to treat her to lunch to thank her for all of her dedicated help behind-the-scenes. I drag her to restaurants with me on a bi-weekly basis, sometimes make her proofread the night before when my brain stops functioning and she will walk around the Embarcadero all day with me to ensure that I complete my deadlines for side projects without complaining once. She is mostly open to trying new foods and provides valuable opinions about the dishes we try out.

So to celebrate our first day of summer school and as a thank you, I took her to Barbacco for lunch in the Financial District. We do not venture to that area a lot because parking is overwhelming and it is so far from the Mission. It was a nice change to see everyone in their business suits instead of rolled up hipster jeans.

I have heard so many good things about Barbacco and their fancier sister restaurant Perbacco, which is only two doors down. The restaurant is narrow but stretches really far into the back and you could not help but notice the abundance of communal tables; everything seemed very casual and comfortable. The place was jammed even on a mid-day Monday but luckily we got a great seat at the bar.

We started finalizing our dining options while sipping on fresh-made strawberry mint limonatas ($3).

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Before we get started, I wanted to just briefly mention that this lunch reminded me of my time in Denver. Crusty bread made an appearance in almost every dish.

Our first of the first courses was two unique bruschettes ($3/each). These thick crostinis are Acme brand and were so crunchy and perfect. One of our bruschetta was assembled with roasted peaches + prosciutto di parma and the other with asparagus, meyer lemon, capers and red onion. I loved that we did not have to stick to one flavor combination and we were allowed to branch out and get different kinds. Next time I am coming for the chicken liver pate and lardo with onion.

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What might be the hidden gem of salamis is ‘Nduja ($6). I have only seen it at one other restaurant and it is SO underrated. It is a spicy, spreadable smoked Calabrian salami that does not look too appealing at first. However, be prepared to have your life changed once you take your first bite. It is pretty salty on it’s own but fares well when eaten with the crusty bread. The smokiness of the salami added a complex flavor that we thoroughly enjoyed. Taylor was a little apprehensive at first but she instantly changed her mind and declared it her new favorite.

Half way through, our friendly waiter asked us what we thought it was made out of. I hesitantly answered pork because it seemed like a trick question. He laughed and said it was made out of liver and kidneys specifically and he always waits until his diners had a chance to taste it before sharing his fun fact. This is why you cannot knock things before you try them!

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The restaurant was filled with light and good vibes. We usually do not eat at the bar so it was a nice change of experience.

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This is our new favorite waiter, Vicenzo. It is pronounced with a hard C because duh, Italian. Whatever photography skills (see dark picture above) he lacks is made up with his charismatic personality.

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Taylor and I shared two entrees for our main course. The first being orecchiette ($13) with cavolo nero, fennel sausage and pecorino cheese. In other words, it is basically a fancy kale pesto pasta. Surprisingly, it is hard to find good pasta in the city but this one was very fresh, vibrant and had an amazing texture. There were little criss crosses on the back of the orrechiette.

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The next entree was Barbacco’s famous polpette ($13). If I had to describe these in one word, it would be “wow”. These Sicilian meat balls were ground and rolled with pine nuts and raisins. They were accompanied by braised chard and a spicy tomato sugo. At this point, I was stuffed to the brim but had to eat at least half of a meatball. Let’s just say that they were the perfect after school snack.

I am not a fan of rock hard meatballs and these were the complete opposite. The insides were airy and had large chunks of garlic (and other ingredients) rolled in. The synergy of flavors were balanced out by the crusty bread but still left an explosion of spice.

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And to complete our meal was an olive oil panna cotta with marinated peaches and a brown sugar crumble. This is the second time I had an olive oil dessert and it was a lot better than the first. The taste of the olive oil was subtle and paired well with the texture of the sugar crumbles. I love that they used seasonal peaches because they are so sweet right now! Seriously, I buy maybe 10 at the Farmer’s Market each week and I have not had a sour one yet.

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This is one of those few meals where every single dish knocks your socks off. I cannot wait to come back! Now I am in a pasta mood. Abby, SPQR next week?

How many hours a week would you say you spend on your blog?

Favorite type of pasta? Mine is bucatini.


Eggplant And Mushroom Stir Fry

Happy Birthday to my good friend Danielle! After a day of running, Arrested Development and laundry on Monday, Chi and I headed out to The Tipsy Pig in the Marina to celebrate the birthday of one of my oldest friends.

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I have known these girls since 8th grade, I can’t believe it’s been almost ten years! Time really flies. The last time we all got together was a little over a month ago, so it was always fun to see familiar faces.

Check out how fun the drinks look! They had a pretty awesome cocktail menu and the drinks were light and tasty enough to be perfect for a socializing hour.

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Chi and I were the only ones that had not eaten dinner, so it was worth getting something to eat on the menu. Plus, everything looked and sounded delicious, so we weren’t too upset about it. 😉

Everyone shared an appetizer of smoked bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese. I’m not the biggest fan of Mac ‘n’ Cheese, but this dish was so good, I wish we got another one to share!

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Chi and I, a lover of Bruschetta, couldn’t resist when we saw these prosciutto with fresh burrata cheese, roasted garlic puree, meyer lemon, broccoli di cicco and mustard blossom. They weren’t the most lady like thing to eat (read: picture me stuffing my face with a dollop of cheese), but it was so worth it.

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I spy another little Tipsy Piggy!

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Last, because we pigged out with everything else, is a Tipsy Pig burger — served on a pain de mie bun and a side of sweet potato fries. If I wasn’t full after the Bruschetta, I was definitely full after the burger!

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We stayed for a few hours before everyone had to leave due to early work schedules. I’m super excited because there’s a huge chance I’ll get to hang out with D and V on Thursday! Yay for my girls twice in one week!

The recipe I wanted to share with you this week is a delicious, restaurant worthy, Eggplant and Mushroom stir fry. I knew what I wanted to make in my mind, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to execute it, so I called my mom (of course!) This dish is considered vegetarian, but Chi wanted some animal protein with it, so I cooked up some of my chinese chicken sans bok choy. These flavors went really well together, but the eggplant’s flavor was also strong enough to hold up on it’s own!

Eggplant and Mushroom Stir Fry

Prep Time: 25 Minutes

Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Serves: 3

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Mexican Eggplant
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 7 White/Crimini Mushrooms
  • 1/2 Onion, diced
  • 3/4 Cup Basil
  • 4 Green Chiles, optional
  • 5 Tbs Peanut Oil
  • 2 Tbs Seasame Oil
  • 1 Tbs Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbs Rice Vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbs Corn Starch
  • 1/2 Tbs Sugar
  • Sesame seeds, toasted, to garnish
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

**Whole Foods only had Mexican eggplants, which are a lot rounder and short, but any eggplant will work for this recipe

TO PREP

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1. Cut the eggplant into fours, lengthwise. Cut each 1/4 diagonally, and then in half. Each piece shouldn’t be more than an inch thick.

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2. Wash and cut the mushrooms into thirds, deseed the chiles and cut them into half and dice/mince the onion and garlic. I was lazy so I used a food processor, but it’s very simple by hand.

3. Wash and set aside your basil.

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4. Grab your wok and turn it on medium-high heat. Pour 2 tbs peanut oil and 1 tbs sesame oil. When the wok begins to lightly smoke, toss in about half of the eggplants, and let them brown for ~3-4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

5. Set them aside and repeat with the other half of the eggplant.

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6. While the second batch is cooking, prepare a mixture of 1 Tbs soy sauce, 1 Tbs vinegar, 1/2 Tbs Corn Starch and 1/2 Tbs sugar. Mix for 30 seconds.

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7. Take the second batch of eggplant out and set aside after cooking for ~3-4 minutes.

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8. Pour the garlic, onion and chiles into the pan and let it cook while sautéing the mushrooms. When mushrooms look almost ready, throw in the mixture of soy sauce/vinegar/cornstarch and cooked eggplant and stir everything rapidly.

9. Toss in the basil when stir fry is almost done.

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10. Toast sesame seeds in a smaller pan for three minutes while stir fry is cooking.

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11. Set plate with rice and garnish with basil and sesame seeds!

Voila!

Have you eaten eggplant before? What’s your summer travel plans?

Sigh Of Relief

After volunteering at the hospital on Wednesday, I walked over to one of my favorite local grocery stores, Bryan’s, and picked up fresh strawberries and raspberries. A smoothie was calling for me and I answered.

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In my smoothie was bananas, strawberries, raspberries, carrots, spinach and almond milk. Such a good way to get my raw veggies and fruit servings for the day, and I can promise it tasted a lot better then it looked after it was blended.

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Yesterday, I had a pretty long day. I woke up at 5:15a to help nanny my kids a little bit earlier than usual because their dad was out of town and mom had to go to work. We played a few rounds of hangman, and I helped E set up all her dolls for a slumber party. I took them to school, went to my grandma’s house for breakfast and left to go to school for last minute cramming. The Micro exam was overwhelming and I don’t think I did as well as I should of, unfortunately.

What really wore me out was how long it took me to get home. My school is (on average) 50 minutes away from my house and it took me 1 hour and 45 minutes to get home. There was crazy traffic when I got off the bridge with stop and go right to my house. I was ready to unwind, so my boyfriend and I went to go eat at one of my favorite local chains, Pasta Pomodoro.

Pasta Pomodoro first opened in the Marina in ’94 and rapidly started to extend their locations throughout the Bay Area. My sister worked in the Laurel Village location in either high school or summers in between college and it quickly became a family favorite.

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It’s so funny, the percentage of people eating at all locations are roughly 50% families with kids and 50% first date nights. There’s a definite stereotype to this restaurant.

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We start with the focaccia and olive oil + pesto dip, so much better than bread and butter.

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Next, is the traditional Bruschetta. Chi had just finished eating a huge burrito a few hours before, so he was just keeping me company. I’m ashamed (and proud at the same time) that I pretty much finished everything from dinner.

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The spinach salad is one of my favorites, it has a taste that I can’t recreate in my own kitchen. Included is tomatoes, red onions, shaved pecorino, crispy bacon in a balsamic vinaigrette.

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The main course, the Gemelli. Fusilli pasta with grilled and smoked chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and cream sauce. I could of made this at home, but the convenience is worth the few extra dollars.

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And for the cherry on my day, I came home to great news: I got accepted into my first school! 🙂 Now three more letters to wait on.