Monday 23 May 2011

The Stinking Rose - San Francisco, CA

A candle inside The Stinking Rose

From the moment that I heard of the "We season our garlic with food" restaurant, The Stinking Rose, I knew it was somewhere that I had to go with my father.

My father is one of those people who could sit in baths of garlic and still not get enough of it. I commonly find myself pinching one of his crisps, only to find (to my horror) that it was covered with garlic granules!

Garlic and empty wine bottles hanging from the ceiling inside the restaurant

Due to my sensitive palate, I frequently suffer from garlic "hangovers". I believe them to be worse than those caused by alcohol. Sometimes, my mouth suffers for over twenty four hours, polluting everything that I eat in that time with garlic.

My father had flown over from England to visit me. Although I have this huge potential for garlic hangovers, I felt that I couldn't not visit The Stinking Rose during my Study Abroad Year (here in California), especially when my father (AKA Garlic Lover) was here.

The ceiling of empty wine bottles

The restaurant had rich red walls smothered with photos and candlesticks, a ceiling with hundreds upon hundreds of empty wine bottles and a warm and lively atmosphere.

Freshly baked fococcia

With family and close friends, it goes without saying that we share everything we order. We started with the "garlic soaking in a hot tub": garlic cloves, oven roasted with extra virgin olive oil and butter with a hint of anchovy, served on an iron skillet. This had a surprisingly low pungency, that I enjoyed. It was the perfect accompaniment for the freshly baked fococcia bread that arrived on our table within seconds of sitting down.

"Garlic in a hot tub"

For mains, my father ordered the Double Mussels and Crab Sizzling Iron Skillet and I ordered the The Silence of the Lamb Shank with Chianti Glaze, Fava Beans and Garlic Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes.

Double Mussels and Crab on a Sizzling Skillet

The seafood was covered in this suspicious-looking but rather delicious grey sauce. Even with the bulk of the dish being shells rather than edible food, we still didn't manage to finish it!

The lamb fell off of the bone and melted in the mouth. The Chianti glaze was divine with the succulent meat, and the garlic was not overpowering. I struggled to save enough of it to share with my father.

Silence of the Lamb Shank

We were very keen to try the garlic ice cream, however, to our dismay, there was no room left for a dessert (I'm sure that the two bottles of delectable Chianti contributed to making us both replete).

Our evening at The Stinking Rose was a fabulous experience and I would recommend that everyone go and enjoy it for themselves. I had feared a horrific garlic hangover (wouldn't even a non-sensitive palate predict a garlic hangover after dining at a restaurant where they "season their garlic with food"?!) I was, however, pleasantly surprised, the next morning, to experience only a very subtle garlic hangover.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Ice Cream Sandwiches in Berkeley, CA

My latest addiction: ice cream sandwiches. I am still drinking boba tea but these have taken over.

Summer has now arrived and much of my time is spent outside, whether I am studying by the pool, "chilling" in the hot tub or enjoying a barbeque with my friends. The sunny weather is the perfect excuse for an ice cream sandwich!

As with every visit I make to a city, I always look for the best places to eat. One absolute must, when visiting Berkeley, is C.R.E.A.M (Cookies Rule Everything Around Me). One great sign of C.R.E.A.M is that I've always seen huge queues outside of the shop.

The cookies are always freshly baked and warm and there are many ice cream choices to make one's perfect ice cream sandwich. One Sunday afternoon in Berkeley, I visited C.R.E.A.M with a friend. We ordered a Turtle Cookie with Coffee Almond Fudge ice cream and a White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Cookie with Old Fashioned Cherry Vanilla ice cream. These were two divine pairings.

Initially, we decided to share the sandwiches, but I was so overwhelmed by the Turtle cookie that I could only bear to share one bite... (I am mean!) As if they were only $2 each?!

Monday 2 May 2011

Homemade Boba Tea

Boba, bubble, tapioca. Whatever it's called, I love it and it's my latest addiction!

There seems to be something satisfying about slurping up a boba through the chunky straw and playing a mini game of oral-squash with your tongue, whilst drenching your taste buds with delicious ice-cold milky tea.

In my search for tapioca pearls, I came across some plain ones in the local Asian market, as well as some dark ones, of which, the packaging stated clearly that their use was for boba drinks, unlike the plain.

I first experimented with the plain large tapioca pearls. I found various recipes on the internet but ended up going along with my own... I boiled the pearls in water with a 1:7 ratio for about 30 minutes. The water became incredibly starchy, so I rinsed the pearls with cold water and boiled them up again, as they were still fairly firm and had formed only a thin translucent layer, which indicated that they were not cooked all the way through. I boiled the pearls for the second time for around 20 minutes.

The water became fairly starchy again, so I rinsed them again with cold water. Although they still had a white opaque inside, they were chewy throughout. They were significantly smaller than the tapioca pearls that I am used to consuming in the teas that I have bought. They also had a soft non-bouncy texture (perhaps overcooked). I stored them over night in a sugar syrup. The following day the texture of the pearls had changed dramatically. They literally disintregrated in the mouth leaving a rather disgusting soggy, grainy texture - fairly unpleasant!

I decided to try the dark pearls that were specifically for the use of boba teas. These were advertised that they "only take 5 minutes". I boiled these for the 5 minutes and rinsed the starchy residues with cold water. These were much more bouncy and chewy and had the consistency that I was looking for! Hurrah!

I am not entirely sure what the recipe should look like for Boba Tea. I made mine up as I went along and it proved to be quite a success!

I brewed one chai tea bag in half a mug of hot water, sweetened it with two teaspoons of honey and set it aside to cool. I then boiled the tapioca pearls for a good half an hour and rinsed them with cold water once they had finished cooking. I combined a generous helping of tapioca pearls with the tea and topped up the glass with ice and almond milk. After a quick stir it was ready to consume!

Most restaurants that serve Boba teas have a vast selection to choose from, with milks ranging from almond to coconut, and teas from black with spiced apple to green with rose. Most restaurants that I have visited also offer many "slushies" to go with the tapioca pearls also. My current restaurant-favourite is probably green tea with rose and coconut milk, but, as with all things in my life, I love variety, so my "favourite" changes frequently.

The beauty of following this simple recipe at home is that you can create it to comply whatever your specifications may be. I wonder what yours would be? Earl Grey tea with lavender, almond milk and honey? Green tea with molasses and coconut milk? Or, perhaps, a coffee with hazelnut syrup and regular milk? And, who says you can't add a drop or two of Baileys to it?! :)