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. 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 (I found the restaurant name, yay!).

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?

Confessions

I have a confession to make.

I am not proud of it, nor do I condone any of the behavior…but I really like watching Maury.

It is rare that I am home and have time to watch daytime TV, but once in a while I do and I take full advantage. For example, yesterday after nannying, I got in bed and cuddled myself for a few hours while watching Maury. And it was the best feeling ever. I did not have to worry about anything besides wondering who the baby daddy was or if X cheated on Y with X’s brother and the kids might not be his but it turns out that none of the kids are his OR his brothers and they have to pull the third cousin on the show. I am getting a little adrenaline just thinking about it.

The guy on the show yesterday did a backflip when finding out he was not the father and I even found the GIF to show you.

Only a few people know my secret because I know how unbelievably trashy it is.

What’s not a secret is how much I loving eating out. Once upon a time (last year), there was a restaurant in the Mission called Mr. Pollo that was the talk of the town. It was a little mysterious, no menu and looked closed down from the outside. However, it had rave reviews and I really wanted to try it out. I never got around to it and was sad to find out that the Chef left due to rent problems and was being replaced by someone else.

Chef Manny, the original chef moved a few doors down to do a pop-up at Roxy’s Cafe and finally opened his own, larger restaurant at The Palace Steakhouse. After hearing this news, I put it on the back of my mind and tried to make reservations, only to find out that you basically have to text his wife (FOH) and wait for her to get back to you. It took me a little bit of time to correlate times that worked for the both of us, but I finally got a table last week and I was so excited to finally try Chef Manny’s food.

The best way to describe the way his menu is “Baller On A Budget”. I read this on Yelp and agreed 100%. $50 for a six course tasting? Sign me up!

Something I thought that was really fun about this restaurant was that it was completely BYOB. He was in a rush to open and San Francisco permitting takes longer than eternity, so he opened up the drink option for his guests to decide.

I am no wine connoisseur, so don’t judge this bottle of wine I bought at the liquor store right around the corner from the restaurant. I secretly wanted to pick up a tall boy of Modelo but felt that it would not of been the most classy thing to do.

PS: Please don’t think of me as this white-trash mammal. I just happen to like Maury and drinking beer, but I promise I don’t do it at the same time. I like to think I am pretty well put-together in person. 🙂

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The restaurant was pretty bare-bones and left many remnants of the old place that belonged there before. It added to the cool, hipster feels of dining there. You might notice that there is no one around because we had the first reservation at 6:00p.

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The first taste to come out was a charlene melon with baked Pacific salmon, served on a bed of onion, sprouts, salsa de ajo and a seaweed salad. It was garnished with Calinjula flowers and wheat berries.

My favorite thing at Japanese restaurants is the seaweed salad, so this was a wonderful course for me. I really enjoyed the crunchiness of the salad in relation to the other fresh flavors on the plate.

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Next to come out were the oysters, which I was really worried about.

If you have been reading for long enough, you know that seafood is basically my worst nightmare. My mom tried to feed me a tiny piece of fish when I was 6 months old and I just tongued it out. I have tried it a few times throughout my life and can not get rid of the psychological hatred of the water-dwellers.

Eating the swordfish and lobster at the Grand Chef Rendezvous made me open to try new things. I didn’t mind the salmon in the first course, but oysters are a different story. They are one big piece of slime and I was going to pass but I realized that I had to put my big girl panties on and give it a try.

I even softly told my waiter that he was going to take my oyster virginity.

These fancy mollusks were Glacial oysters served with a Wasakaka sauce, house-pickled shallots, smoked chili, salt and black pepper. Garnish was a yellow marigold.

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It was….interesting. Okay, I might of not had the prettiest face while eating it but it was not Chef Manny’s fault, I just am not a huge fan of oysters.

One of my favorite things about the meal was being able to see him create his dishes right in front of us. It was like he was putting on an unintentional show for us.


The third dish to come out was Maine lobsters prepared three ways.

First on the left is a lobster bisque with sea beans and corn, finished with fresh chervil.

The middle concoction is lobster tail sitting on a house aji sauce with green onion, avocado and habanero water.

Last on the right (my favorite) was a lobster claw ceviche on a platacones (similar to my recipe!)

*If I get any of these ingredients wrong and you know it, please e-mail me because there was no written menu and this is all from memorization and a few notes I jotted down

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For our intermission, I wanted to show you this little pumpkin on our table! The blogging world has been going crazy over pumpkins, so I felt it was fitting.

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Forth to come out was an amazing quail breast and leg with a lavender jus. It was recommended to eat with your hands because there was not much meat on the bones, but it was perfect with the right amount of spice. It came with a quick poached egg and broccoli/cauliflower florets.

The Pedron peppers are grown exclusively for the restaurant from Happy Quail Farms and the green one reminded me of the numbing spicy hua-jiao peppers from Sichuan in China.

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The penultimate course was a medley of pork cooked three different ways. The meatball was braised with the wild Lithuanian porcini mushrooms, coconut and tomato sauce (which had me still thinking about it the next day). Also included was pork belly and cap.

The Chef’s wife’s mom actually handpicked the mushrooms in her backyard and mailed them over for the restaurant! I like to call it international foraging. 🙂

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Finally, for the last dish was a steak that was cooked in a water bath at a constant temperature for two hours. Other things on the plate includes a deconstructed salad, beef jus, golden and red beef puree and bleu cheese.

I’m not the biggest fan of bleu cheese but think it went really well with the lettuce and beets.

Sorry for the steak lighting, the sun was already down and I know it does not look that appetizing but it was so good.

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Desert wasn’t included in the tasting, but sometimes you have to just go for it and I am so happy I did.

I think it was my favorite thing the whole night and I was happy with all of the courses.

Again, the pictures doesn’t do it justice at all but I think the dulce de leche and queso fresco soufflé really put me into a new magical safe zone. It was one of the best deserts I have eaten in a long time. The house-made Maracuaya passion fruit ice cream and berry trio really pulled all the flavors together. Who doesn’t love hot and cold deserts.

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Hopefully you read through everything because I included some commentary, life lessons and stories to tell your future kids scattered throughout all the pictures. Maybe not so extreme but I was happy to share my meal with you. 🙂

Happy Friday!

What’s your guilty pleasure? And be honest so I don’t feel bad about mine.

Chinese Potstickers

So, we finally got a battery for the scale in our bathroom and the number on there was a lot higher then I remember. I just told myself it’s muscle from working out (ha), but found myself making a salad for lunch.

Spring mix, sautéed mushrooms, a little chicken and shallots.

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My quest for light eating rapidly came to an end when Chi came home with cupcakes para gratis. Whoops, another day another attempt.

Today’s recipe is sponsored by…

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my grandparents! I usually see them once a week, and this time we made potstickers together. My grandpa actually learned when he was younger in the war. Potstickers was a really popular item when drafted because it was really cheap to make and filling.

So here is to another authentic, Chinese family recipe! The other two I have made so far are Eggplant Stirfry and Chinese Chicken and Bok Choy. Check them out!

Chinese Potstickers

Prep Time: 1 Hour

Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Serves: 58 Potstickers

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Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 Lbs Ground Pork
  • 6 Pieces of Cabbage, boiled
  • 1 Package of Potsticker Wrappers
  • 6 Cloves of Garlic, diced
  • 1/2 Ginger, minced
  • 2 Eggs
  • 6 Stocks of Green Onion
  • 10 Shakes White Pepper Powder
  • 2-1/2 Tbs Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tsp Sugar
  • (Not Pictured)
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Corn Starch
  • 1 Tsp Cooking Oil
  • 2 Tbs Oyster Sauce

TO PREP

1. Boil the cabbage for five minutes until soft.

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2. Cut the green onions thin, dice the garlic and mince the ginger.

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3. Cut the boiled cabbage thin so it doesn’t pierce the potsticker wrap.

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4. Pour all the solid seasonings just chopped into a bowl with the pork in it.

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5. Pour in soy sauce and oyster sauce and oil. Sprinkle in the sugar, white pepper powder, salt and corn starch. Crack open the two eggs.

6. Stir everything around with your hands clockwise until everything is mixed throughout. (Mixing it clockwise is a must according to my grandma).

TO WRAP

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6. Prep the table. Open your wrapper packet, a shallow dish of water, the pork mixture and a plate to put all your finished potstickers.

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7. Lightly fold the wrappers in half and in quarters to separate them for maximum usefulness.

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8. Dip your index finger in the water and get the edges of the wrapper slightly wet.

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9. Wet the back of a little piece to fold and use your thumb, index and middle finger to fold the wrapper.

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10. Do the same thing 1/2-inch away from the first fold.

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11. Put a little of the haam (pork stuffing) in the middle of the wrapper and take the middle of the opposite side and fold it toward the two folds you just made.

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12. Pinch the sides to make sure it’s closed tightly.

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13. Keep making them until you run out of stuffing or wrapper. We made 58.

TO COOK

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14. Boil the complete potstickers until they float. (We did 10 at a time and froze the rest).

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15. Fry them in cooking oil until they are as crispy as you’d like.

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16. Serve with soy sauce or hot sauce. In my case, both!

You can substitute the meat with chicken if you don’t eat pork (ahem, Chi), or my grandma said dried mushrooms and cabbage are really good for a vegetarian option. Enjoy!

What is the distinct cuisine of your ethnicity? Aren’t my grandparents the cutest?

A Little Bit Of Everything

Fridays take so long to come but Sunday finishes before I finish blinking, does anyone else agree?

I’m so excited for this month to wrap up! Chi and I are going to SoCal in early June to visit his family and I have some school stuff to attend to in LA. It’s going to feel so good to get out of San Francisco for a little bit. After that will be my month long trip to Asia, followed by a wedding in upstate New York! It’s going to be a veeeery busy summer.

My friend and I ate lunch on Wednesday near Chi’s restaurant in the Marina. We went to Blackwood, which is a Thai-American fusion type of restaurant. Asian fusion is really popular in SF, is it trendy in other cities as well?

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We shared the Cucumber Salad Spicy Seaweed since she’s vegetarian. Great food presentation if you ask me!

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I ordered the ‘East Feeds West’: Crispy pork shank slow cooked in Asian five pieces, Indian vanilla stick, served w/ broccolini and coconut sticky rice. How do you not order that when you read it from the menu?

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To follow the Asian vibe I had going on this week, Chi and I ate at a Vietnamese fusion restaurant last night. I went with him to run errands before dinner and couldn’t help taking pictures of the new LED lights they put on the Bay Bridge. I’m going to miss the old bridge whenever they tear it down, no matter how cool the new bridge will be!

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We ate in the Potrero Hill/Dogpatch district, which is one of the top neighborhoods I would love to live in. Residential but not too suburbian (as suburbian that SF can get!). I love trees with rounded up lights, poor tree toward the end didn’t get to flaunt his lights like his friends.

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We ate at Sunflower restaurant and shared the garlic noodles (bomb!) and BBQ Lemongrass Beef (also bomb!).

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Look at this view, I can imagine walking home from work to this view every night.

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I also wanted to share some of my must-have natural cleansing and personal products. I really encourage everyone to take a look at the ingredient lists on their beauty and health products and really try googling some of the stuff in it. A lot of us pick out organic fruit or vegetables at the grocery store, but don’t really incorporate those things into products we put on our body.

I’m slowly trying to weed out the ‘bad’ bottles in my bathroom and vanity (trust me, I have a bunch), but I do feel better knowing I’m making a conscientious effort to be more aware. With that, I’ll start off with listing some of my favorites that I have tested.

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1. Dr. Bronner’s Organic Pure Castile Liquid Soap, Baby Mild Unscented

I tried the Peppermint one, which I really liked but my skin is really sensitive and I find the Baby Unscented works really well for me. It also smells pretty good for something that’s unscented, according to Chi. For those with better skin, they have great smelling flavors like almond, rose, lavender, tea tree, etc. The body soap is purely vegetable oil-based (castile) and can be used 18 different ways. Some examples include cleaning counters, brushing teeth, laundry, etc!

This is a great FAQ for those interested.

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2. Andalou Citrus Kombucha Cleansing Gel

My skin is naturally very oily (thanks mom!) and this is the only gel cleanser I have found that really controls the oil production. It’s gluten free and vegan (if that matters to you), but the main reason I love it is it doesn’t break me out like a lot of other products do and it’s completely affordable. Of course, there is other good things like skin friendly probiotics and natural skin treaters i.e. willow bark and aloe vera.

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3. Dr. Bronner’s Organic Lip Balm, Peppermint

Now if any of these products are an unsung hero, this is it. I can’t leave the house without my favorite peppermint chapstick. This product doesn’t use petroleum as it’s main ingredient, which some of you may know actually causes dryness of the lips. It keeps my lips soft for the whole day if I manage to leave it in my car and can’t reapply and it’s great to apply before lipstick.

I feel like a walking advertisement but I was not sponsored by any of these companies! I just wanted to share the joy that is natural products. I’m also in the market for a good chem-free lotion. Any ideas?

What are your favorite beauty and hygienic products? Any plans this weekend?