Tuesday, January 24, 2012

La Folie

La Folie doesn't garner the type of name-recognition as other San Francisco establishments like Gary Danko and Fleur de Lys. In fact, even though the place is a stone's throw from my apartment, I've never heard of it until I poked around on Yelp and discovered that it's the highest rated fine dining restaurant in the city. My wonderful Orin took me here as a treat to make up for staying in for New Year's Eve and I was anticipating the meal for more than a week. To dispel any suspense, La Folie lived up to my lofty expectations and then some! 

Let's start with the ambiance -- the dining room is surprisingly small and seats only around 30 people. The environment is very romantic, with candlelight and white table clothes. The table for two is a tad large to be considered "intimate", but that leaves plenty of space for the various glassware and plates. I liked that the tables were not tightly packed so there's a semblance of privacy. 

Our waiter was business-like and didn't try to make small talk, not that I mind since I didn't want to chat for five minutes while I itch to dig into my food. The overall service was impeccable. The servers always walk to the other side of the table instead of reaching across to place new silverware or fill our waters. Even the guy that hands out the bread makes sure to put the bread right-side up with the seam on top. That type of attention to detail is certainly admirable and enhances the dining experience.

The bread plate

Monday, January 23, 2012

Brighten Up Your Day Chocolate Cupcakes With Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

For my dear friends Vadim and Artem's birthday, I decided to whip up some cupcakes. After digging around to come up with the right flavor profile, I thought the combination of rich chocolate cake and tangy raspberry frosting would certainly fit the bill. Nothing says happy birthday like some baked goods from the heart :).

For the cake
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup brewed strong coffee
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 jumbo eggs

For the frosting
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 pint raspberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
16 oz. package of powdered sugar
pinch of salt

The Perfect Ten-doori

I absolutely love Indian food. One dish in particular, tandoori chicken, is a must-order every time. I had some spare buttermilk after I made chocolate cupcakes and decided that what better way to use up the leftovers than to make tandoori chicken? Technically, you're suppose to use yogurt, but if buttermilk is good enough for fried chicken, it should be a suitable substitute! In this frigid weather, nothing like a mouthful of spiciness to ward off the chills.

2 pounds chicken breast
1 lemon
1 red onion
1 green pepper
2 inch segment of ginger
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons cayenne powder (optional)
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons turmeric
2 tablespoons garam masala
salt and pepper to taste

Friday, December 23, 2011

Raita, Cool as the the Other Side of the Pillow

I love hot and spicy food, but sometimes, even my taste buds need some respite from the relentless attack fiery heat. When I need relief, I turn to raita, a delicious blend of yogurt and cucumber. Raita is super versatile -- you can eat this stuff straight up as a salad, add a few spoonfuls to hot Indian fare, or even use it on baked salmon to add a bit of tang and moisture to the fish. Without further ado, I present raita...

4-5 cups of thick yogurt
6 sprigs of mint
1 lemon
1 English cucumber
quarter of an onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'm Going Going, Back to Back, to Cauli Cauli Cauli

I'm one of those people that love veggies that people generally dislike -- brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage... basically, any ingredient that is sure to put a deep wrinkle on a child's brow, I probably love. Well, now that we're adults, our taste buds probably (hopefully?) learned to appreciate the things that aren't cookies or buttered noodles. I had aloo gobi and instantly fell in love with the aggressive spices and the subtle sweetness of the cauliflower. For those of you that still stick up your nose at cauliflower, find someone that likes it so you can cherry-pick the the creamy chunks of potatoes guilt-free. Over a plate of basmati rice, there's nothing more satisfying during the winter.

1 head of cauliflower
6 medium sized red potatoes
1 jalapeño
2 inch segment ginger
1 medium onion
1 bunch cilantro
4 cloves of garlic
2 cans of diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons garam masala
1 tablespoon turmeric 
oil for sauteing
salt and pepper to taste

Friday, December 9, 2011

Office Holiday Potluck?! Worry Not, Make This Onion Bacon Tart!

It's that time of the year again, where you get to show off a bit and exhibit the inner Domestic God/Goddess to coworkers. There's nothing like an elegant looking savory tart to cement your status as the office's culinary wizard. The smell of bacon and onion cooking together is probably one of the most intoxicating scents in the world; in fact, even after a day, the smell still lingers in my apartment and it makes me hungry for more onion tart...

For the tart shell
1 2/3 cup flour
3/4 cup butter (that's 1 1/2 sticks, and should be very cold)
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons ice water
tart pan with removable bottom (mine is ~12")

For the filling
3 large onions
12 strips of bacon
4 large eggs
1 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Presidio Social Club

The boyfriend and I have been meaning to dine at the Presidio Social Club for a while and finally, last Friday, we came here for date night. First, this place gets massive props just for its parking lot!! Yes, you heard it right, free and easy PARKING!! And not just a 3-4 car dinky lot, but it has at least 20-25 spots!! I thought I died and angels carried me to suburban heaven. And on a completely unrelated note, even for the Marina/Presidio, this place is extremely white (not that there's anything wrong with that). I have never seen so many blondes (fake or otherwise) in my life.

After perusing the menu, we agonized between sharing the pork chops and burger or get the ribeye steak for two. In the end, we decided to hedge and error on the side of variety. We also ordered the chicken liver pâté to start, a Moscow mule for me and Makers on the rocks for the boy. We held hands and dreamily locked peepers over the flickering candle night -- another romantic date night was about to commence. Not sure if it was the booze or the dim light, but hot damn, the boyfriend looked good! Hope the sentiment was mutual :).

First up, the pâté. It had a nice layer of fat on top, which my boyfriend (not so) surreptitiously scrapped off and dug in for the pink stuff. I didn't mind the fat, more flavor for me! The pâté was smooth and didn't taste organ-y at all; paired with the fig (?) jam, me likey! The toast points that came with the dish could use a bit more refinement, they were essentially whole wheat bread cut into sticks. I think a fancier, more toasted bread would be preferable. Nevertheless, it was a great start to the meal.

Chicken liver pâté