Posted in Food

Korean: the food of the moment

There are usually two types of “foodies.”  There are those who salivate at the thought of a gourmet European meal that’s artfullly prepared and presented in the middle of a large plain white plate.  Rich sauces of wine, butter, garlic, or all three, dominate.  They’re pretty to look at and decadent to eat.

Then there are those who love the ethnic hole-in-the-wall joints.  There’s no decor or ambience to speak of.  Service is a luxury, not a right.  And you can usually get a good meal for two for under 25 bucks.  The food is authentic, no frills, and delicious the way a homemade family meal would be.  It is without pretention.

I sit between the two camps.  I’m an equal opportunity foodie.  I like my fill of both depending on my mood, and frankly, my budget.

I seem to go through food phases.  A few years ago it was Italian.  Then I went through my French food phase.  And last year I was very into regional northern Chinese fare.  And though I still absolutely love all these foods, this year, it’s Korean.

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Like I wrote about in a previous post, I am a huge fan of the traditional tofu stew.  If you’re a fan of new and interesting food experiences, I highly suggest trying it.  It’s a sight to behold with all the banchan they serve with your meal and all the different colors and flavors.

My favorite place is the Tofu House along El Camino Real in Palo Alto, but I’ve also discovered the Tofu Cabin in San Mateo in the Marina mini-mall along Norfolk.  The place has really improved in recent months, and it’s usually packed at 7pm most nights.

If you’re in the mood for tofu stew like I usually am, go for the Seafood, Kimchee, or Combo stews.  Most of the others can border on bland, but those three are very tasty indeed.  And unlike Tofu House in P.A. (where they have a very limited menu), they have some very tasty traditional Korean dishes like a spicy stirfried squid dish (ojing uh duk bok um), a seafood pancake dish (hae mool pa jun), and the classic Korean rice bowl with veggies, optional meat, and an egg on top (bibimbob). 

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They also broil a mean plate of marinated short ribs.  If you have the appetite, order the tofu stew + 1/2 order of gal bee (short rib) combo.  You won’t be disappointed.  Those short ribs are tender and delicious.

Some of the waitstaff can be awfully slow and irritatingly ditsy, but the owners are extremely friendly and helpful when you need it.  Fortunately, most of the time they’re the ones taking your order.

I have honestly enjoyed every meal I’ve ever had here.  If I want to drive down to Palo Alto to Tofu House, I’m guaranteed the best tofu stew I’ll ever have.  But if I want a good, well rounded Korean meal (including tofu stew), you could do a hell of a lot worse than the Tofu Cabin.

Tofu Cabin – 2968 S. Norfolk St. @ E. Hillsdale Blvd. – San Mateo – 650.524.1484

Myung Dong Tofu Cabin  on Urbanspoon

Posted in Events, San Francisco, Shopping

Fashion Bargains: Spring/Summer 2007

At the end of every major sale season, I like to look back at some of the loot I was able to score at more than half off the original price.  Smart shopping takes work and I like reaping the rewards.

And I’ve also included some shopping tips to help you score the best bargains during next season’s biggest sales:

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*Kate Spade Elan Handbag in Black / Original price: $365 / Sale price: $170

WHERE: www.katespade.com during their special “Sample Sale”

TIP: I know getting spam that clogs up your inbox is a drag, but theirs is one email list you REALLY want to sign up for!

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*Molton Brown London Shower Gels / Original price: $25 / Sale price: $6.25

WHERE: Bath and Body Works Stonestown Galleria, S.F. (I got three bottles and should’ve gotten more!  Hey, if they’re good enough for Madonna, they’re good enough for me.)

TIP: Eventhough they’re all part of the same chain, certain stores carry some items that others don’t.  Check often during the sale season and go to different locations.  And items like this make great gifts for any occassion, so buy extra.

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*Theory Silk Brocade Deep Purple Cropped Jacket / Original price: $425 / Sale price: $40

WHERE: Jeremy’s Department Store, S.F. during their massive spring clearance in May

TIP: If you’re in the Bay Area, this is another email list you REALLY want to be on!

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*J.Crew Linen Middy Jacket / Original price: $148 / Sale price: $22.50

WHERE: J.Crew Stonestown Galleria, S.F.

TIP: No matter what the sale price is online, it pays to get out of that chair and haul your ass over to an actual store.  And with some chain stores, eventhough there may be several locations in your area, their sale prices can easily vary from store to store.

It’s hard, but I try not to buy something just because it’s on sale or ridiculously cheap.  The key is to actually like what you’re buying. 

Otherwise, it’s just a waste of money.

Posted in Food, San Francisco

Salt House just wasn’t worth it

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Salt House’s sister restaurant, Town Hall, is one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco.  So, my dining companion and I had high hopes.

The space is very industrial, much like Town Hall’s, except with dimmer more intimate lighting.  Exposed brick walls and high ceilings make up the interior decor.  And little touches like the skull logo on their water jugs at every table, make it known that the owners have a sense of humor.  The vibe here is social, lively, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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Doey and I ordered the Poutine, one of the few dishes the Canadians can claim as their own.  Salt House is known for this dish, and it was clearly the highlight of the evening for us.  The thick crisp fries were covered in short rib gravy and melted fontina cheese.  It was a heart attack on a plate and full of ooey gooey goodness.  It was tasty, rich, and hearty.  But surprisingly, it wasn’t…great. 

Doey then had the Monkfish entree with mussels and a light broth.  It was cooked well with a nice light brown sear on the fish and the mussels were perfect, even if they were a bit on the small side.  But the dish was largely…well…boring.  And the broth was way too salty.  (I know, the irony wasn’t lost on us.)

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I had the Roasted Chicken, which everyone raves about.  It was good, juicy, but again, uninspired.  The fingerling potato mash was also good, but again, too salty!  The olives in the dish totally overpowered everything and made what could’ve been a tasty dish, way too strong.  There was no depth in any of these entrees, no layering of flavors.

We also shared the Raspberry Poppyseed Cake with Mint Granita.  The granita was refreshing and not too sweet.  It was the best part of the dessert.  The cake, however, resembled and tasted like a muffin.  It was way too dense and lacked the moisture to be called a cake.  A clear disappointment.  Fortunately, though, the raspberry flavor was fresh and sweet.  The only high note for this dessert.

Service was not terribly friendly or accomodating, but not notably bad, either.  It was obvious though, that while we were lingering over our dinner and having a good long conversation, the staff was ready for us to vacate our table.

If you’re a fan of Town Hall, stay there.  There’s no reason to stray, even if it is to their sister restaurant.  It’s just not worth the trip.

Salt House – Mission St. btwn. 1st and 2nd Streets – San Francisco – 415.543.8900

Salt House on Urbanspoon

Posted in Events, San Francisco, Shopping

Last Chance, Kids!

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Okay bargain shoppers, if you haven’t hit the stores yet, you don’t have much time left.  Astute shoppers know that most stores have ended their summer sales, already.

The final wave of big markdowns begins with the Neiman Marcus Last Call Sale (free shipping with code: NMSHIP) and the Saks Fifth Avenue Final Cut Sale (free shipping code with $150 purchase: SFATREAT).  Both retailers have already begun these sales online.  In stores, the sale goes from July 13-18 for Neimans, and July 12-15 for Saks.  Get their early because the best stuff will be gone by the second day of the sale.

Also, the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale begins on Thursday, July 20th.  This is the chain’s “truly” biggest and best sale of the year.  I say this because the sale merchandise is all NEW for Fall and not on clearance, like at all their overhyped Half Yearly Sales.

And other chain stores have also begun further markdowns, like Banana Republic (up to 60% off) and BCBG (up to 70% off).

Once August hits, it’s all over, and you’ll have to wait until December 26th until you can score some truly amazing deals.  So get out there!

Posted in Events, Food, Travel

Thank you, come again

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I haven’t been a regular Simpsons watcher for years, but when I realized the 7-Eleven in my area was one of the 11 chosen in the nation to be turned into a Kwik-E-Mart, I just had to go.

The Simpsons Movie is coming out in late July, and the folks at 7-Eleven decided to turn 11 of their stores in the US into “Kwik-E-Marts,” the fictional convenience store on The Simpsons.  Brilliant marketing for both the movie and 7-Eleven.

The Mountain View store is the only one in Northern California that’s been turned into the infamous Kwik-E-Mart, and that novelty hasn’t been lost on Bay Area fans.

They did a number on the exterior by turning it bright yellow and pasted over any 7-Eleven signs with “Kwik-E-Mart.”  And on the inside, large scale Simpson characters could be found everywhere, including Homer himself chomping on a hotdog.  And of course, there was no shortage of products including Squishees (the cartoon’s version of a Slurpee), Krusty O’s (just Fruit Loops in a Krusty The Clown decorated cereal box), and Buzz cola (unfortunately they were out of that).

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The store was packed with people both inside and out, taking pictures and buying up all the Krusty O’s, Squishees, and other available Simpsons items they could carry.  There were way more people there than on a regular weekday at three in the afternoon.

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So I got my pictures, as you can see, and picked up a few Squishees and Krusty O’s for myself.  I know it’s kitchy, but it was fun.  I figured it was a once in a lifetime chance for me to live The Simpsons, even if it was only in the form of a gussied up 7-Eleven.