Sunday, March 25, 2012

California and Texas Vacation Food

Vacation revisited

It's a gloomy day in Harlem - a perfect day to revisit the meals we had in sunny California and Texas where we went for a brief vacation... lots of fish, lots of meat too and plenty of meals out and in with lots of family and friends. Here are a couple of the memorable ones:

Korean: I love Korean food. Erin does too. It has that perfect mix of spice, vegetables and meat served over a big bowl of rice that makes for good comfort food somehow. We had a great night ordering in from a place in La Jolla; had planned to go out but then Atticus intervened at the restaurant and home was much easier. The vegetable gopdol that Erin had was fantastic and my bulgogi had a really spicy barbeque sauce that came with it that just made my night. 

Sushi Ota: There are many sushi houses in San Diego. I used to work in one. Many serve decent fare. None are sushi ota. After working in a sushi bar for 2 years, a Japanese friend of mine took me to Sushi Ota as a going away present from San Diego. It's amazing. It's not in a tourist locale, it's in a smallish little mall, and it has the best sushi I've ever had. We were the only non-Japanese folks in there; actually there were a couple of Anglos at some of the other tables but they were speaking Japanese. Erin had a sushi bowl with 12 pieces of buttery sashimi that made a veritable rainbow; I had a few specialty rolls and some orange clam sashimi that was intriguing. It's a little hard to eat other places for a while after Sushi Ota.

Mexican up the yazoo: Both Texas and California served up delectable variations on Mexican food and I'm not about to get in the middle of which variation is better. We had awesome fish tacos in San Diego and Andale's in Los Gatos; solid (nearly literally with beans) breakfast tacos in San Antonio and some great enchiladas in La Jolla. One of the standard things in those two great states that seems to be lacking here is a bowl of fresh salsa and tortilla chips - it's almost always free and always a good introduction to the restaurant - a good telltale sign of whether to dive in at this place or play it safe.

Steak and wine: My dad treated us to a great meal of steak, scalloped potatoes and salad while we were visiting. When I think of gourmet home-cooked food, my dad's cooking is the first thing that comes to mind... these days I think I may cook a wider variety, but I still think of his cooking as the best. We had some excellent Cabernet from Santa Cruz and the steaks were cooked in my dad's Green Egg - a kamado style cooker that resembles a barbeque and has its roots in Japanese cooking. Good stuff.

Clam chowder: this was good and worth remaking when good clams are available:
- scrub clams and put in pot with a little olive oil and cook on high for a few minutes by themselves, then add garlic, onion and thyme to the mix for a couple of minutes. Finish the clams by adding some white wine, a bit of water if you like and covering the clams to steam until open (10mins).
The base can be made by stewing some potatoes in 2 cups of cream until they're nice and mushy.
Finally the veggie mix starts with bacon (of course), then add celery, green onion, kale or whatever else you'd like to toss in the mix.
Make the clam part first so that you can take the clams out of their shells while the rest is cooking and then keep some of the shells for decor.
It's worth the effort!

It's just been a week since we've been back and we've been relying on old favorites this week. Will update the blog again next week as things get more exciting... rumors of curried lentils with spiced cauliflower, grilled tilefish with broccolini and pecans...