The first time I went to Din Tai Fung, all I had to do was walk across this pedestrian skybridge connecting the mall to my hotel in Bellevue, WA where we were staying for a conference. T and I went 3 times that weekend and I started trying to come up with reasons why we would need to come back to Bellevue just to feed my dumpling craving. It’s a little crazy to think that we would fly to Seattle before driving to Arcadia for dumplings, but there you go.
I finally did make it to the Arcadia location, and then the new Arcadia location, but only because I was attending a training course near Pasadena that left me with plenty of time to explore on my own. When we heard that Din Tai Fung was opening a location in Costa Mesa, a spot not only closer to San Diego but also conveniently located close to both our respective companies in Orange County, I started to get excited. It also helps that it’s kind of on the way home from Disneyland.
My parents watch a lot of food shows, so I’m used to getting e-mails telling me about some place they saw that I absolutely have to try because it looked so good “on tv”. The last one they told me about was 8 Korean BBQ, but when I looked it up I only saw the location in the heart of Los Angeles. There’s not much in LA that we visit, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to brave LA traffic just for some pork belly that my parents saw on some show. But when I was mapping out places to try within reasonable driving distance (LA/OC driving, that is), I came across another 8 Korean BBQ location in Buena Park, and when I called to verify that they were the same spot with the same pork belly offerings, I made reservations for us to try it out during my Santa Ana trip.
A few weeks ago, I had to work out of my company’s Santa Ana office for a couple of days. Because it kind of covered a weekend, and because we have friends that recently moved to Santa Ana, it seemed like a good excuse to invite myself over to stay with them and save myself a bit of a commute for a couple of days. (Don’t worry, we also make our guest room very available to them when they want to come to San Diego.)
One of my co-workers in Santa Ana is known for his love of food. So, while I was there, I asked him if there were any new spots he thought I should check out while I was in town. Once of his recommendations was 4th Street Market in “downtown” Santa Ana where, coincidentally, my friends had also been already and enjoyed. So, because I’m a pushy houseguest, I asked if we could check it out one night.
So, yes, I am a terrible blogger but I still like to pretend I’m a food blogger and go hang out with the bloggers that are far superior to me. And, recently, I was invited to join some wonderfully fun people at Caffe Calabria in North Park for a dinner event showcasing Specialty Produce and highlighting the deliciousness of chef Javier Plascencia (I mean, his food, of course…)
Two posts in a week! Do you know what this means? It’ll probably be summer by the time I write another one! (All joking aside, I hope that’s not true. My Draft Post list is becoming unmanageable.)
In Part 1, I basically lined out what I did to prepare for a baking extravaganza. Now I think I’ll go cake by cake and go over how the assembly went and what I might do differently, or what I would definitely do the same because deviating did not work out so well for me.
Oh, hello March. I know February is a short month, but I really didn’t expect those last couple of weeks to get sucked into a vortex. It’s getting to the point where I am embarrassed to say I’m a food blogger anymore. Not because being a food blogger is embarrassing, but because it’s hard to say your a blogger when you post once a quarter (if even that)!
So, my incredibly patient and sweet and tolerant husband had a birthday last month and we celebrated by drinking a trail mix beer he helped brew at Benchmark Brewing. Since we were already gathering people in one place, I figured it would be a good time to blow out candles and eat birthday cake, too. For some reason, I’ve been on a Milk Bar baking tear, wanting to make everything in the cookbook but not wanting to eat it all myself. I mean, I DO want to eat it all, but there are jeans in my closet yelling at me to not eat it all, maybe not even eat half of what I want to shove in my mouth. So, I take advantage of parties to bake to my heart’s content while pushing butter-and-sugar-laden treats on other people.
I’m not going to detail out the recipes for you or even post photos of the entire process of building a cake. Mainly because I didn’t take photos of the process (I was making THREE cakes – who has time to set things down and pick up a camera while doing that?) and also because a lot of the recipes are on the Milk Bar site. There are also numerous people who have photodocumented their cake assembly process, like Serious Eats and BakeLoveGive, whose cake-making adventure at a Milk Bar class is likely what prompted me into this mini-obsession. So, instead I’m going to tell you some of the tricks I learned while making 3 cakes in a week and confessing what I thought would work but didn’t (so you don’t have to make my mistakes, as delicious as mistakes are).
It feels like I’ve run into quite a few people lately who are recent transplants to San Diego. They all seem to have landed here from areas that experience more “weather” than we get here, so it’s been interesting to hear their perspectives on our late-season warmth, lack of green landscaping, and what we call “cold weather”. Having lived all my life in Southern California (although, not in San Diego), I suppose I’m just used to our “mild Mediterranean climate” (a phrase I’ve been typing a lot in reports when describing the region). But, as mild as our weather is, I’ve been here long enough to know what’s coming. Winter is cold (you know, like 60-degree cold), dry, and wet if we’re lucky. Spring is where weather gets confused and it could be sunny, rainy, warm, or cold, otherwise known as keep a light jacket in your car all the time season. And that moves into a mild and sometimes chilly summer that leads into a 2-week (or more) heat wave. The weather starts to cool down, only to trick us (and my plants) with another warm spell, which might explain why Halloween costumes get smaller and shorter every year. Then comes warm days with chilly nights (my favorite) that signals fall. This is when we get maybe a month of scarf-wearing season (for warmth, not style) and I feel justified ordering a hot peppermint mocha because it’s actually cold enough. Iced peppermint mochas just aren’t the same. We get to fire up the fireplace and get cozy, and the electric blanket even makes an appearance. Even though the winter solstice is just a little over a month away, to me, fall is just getting going.
The colder weather makes me crave roasted vegetables, squash, and soups. It also makes me want to slim down to counteract the extra layers of clothing I’ll have to pile on to stay warm. And so, I make roasted veggie “salads” that don’t involve persky lettuce leaves.