Ally
Ugh! I'm stuck at home today. Woke up feeling under the weather and a bit nauseated.  Mr. S can attest to the fact that I'm a horrible patient. I start feeling quite grumpy when I'm regulated to the bed. Don't get me wrong, I love sleeping in but being forced to stay in bed is...well, it's like back in high school or college when you read a book of your own accord and you loved it, but take that same book and have it part of an assignment where you're obligated to read it? Fuggedaboutit, you hate the book. It's like that with me and sleeping/staying in bed when I'm sick.

Anyhow, being stuck in bed is giving me a chance to do a little bloggin'. This isn't really a food post but I suppose it is kitchen related.  If you know me, you know I'm a huge coffee drinker. It keeps me functional. It's also what keeps me from feeling stabby in the morning at work.  Anyhow, lately there's been a ton of cute coffee cups on the market.  If I had the cupboard space I'd buy them all.

Here are few of my favs. What mugs are you loving these days? Do you like fun ones? Cute ones? Plain ones?













Ally
Every once in awhile, Mr. S and I like to go for a quick get away to SF. Nothing is usually on the agenda, just a quick overnight to relax, eat some good food and of course partake in some Philz Coffee. We usually squeeze in a trip to Japantown while we’re there. I like to hit up Daiso for cutie kitchen items and stock up on some of my favorite Japanese treats at Nijiya Market. In the past we’ve parked our butts at the Grand Hyatt or the Orchard. This time however, we decided to stay at the Kabuki Hotel in Japantown.  We scored a great deal on the rate and the hotel's reservation agent, Sandy, made sure we had an upper floor, corner suite.  This way we were assured of some quiet. I stayed at the Kabuki years ago when it was the Miyako and the Raddisson owned it.  It’s now owned by the Joie de Vive chain, not much has happened in the remodeling department (it's pretty no frills) but the JDV staff is terrific.  Domingo was working the front desk during our check in and check out and he was an absolute doll. I took a few pics of our room and the view to share. 

Bed 

Sunken in tub and separate shower, Japanese-style

Sitting area with sliding screens

Koi pond on the first floor

Panoramic view from our wrap-around balcony, day time

View from the other side of our balcony, night time

Rooftop garden on nearby restaurant
(click to enlarge, it's pretty cool)
  

The thing I liked most about staying at the Kabuki was the proximity to Japantown (duh, it’s smack in the middle of it) but also that if you head over a few blocks to Fillmore (Pacific Heights), there’s all kinds of small cafes, delicious coffee spots and specialty stores.  Next time you're there, check out Jane on Fillmore and Pizzeria Delfina.  Sure, Pacific Heights is a bit hipstery but like Japantown, there’s practically no riff raff milling bout. Honestly that’s a huge draw for me. The last time we were in SF, I was getting pretty tired of the aggressive panhandlers in Union Square encroaching on my personal space.  Now if they would just build a Philz over in Japantown….☺
Ally

Wow, I’m so glad April is OVER. Shortly after I posted about my mom passing, the car vandalism and someone doing a hit and run on the rental…someone broke into our locked backyard while we were at work and stole some locked bikes and expensive lawn equipment.  Can you *&%$#@! believe it?  Mr. S and I discussed the matter and decided to purchase a sturdier shed…a Tuff Shed, to place our lawn equipment and assorted miscellany in. We got rid of the boat (thank goodness! That POS had been giving me the stink eye for the past few years) and Mr. S and Teen #1 have been dutifully leveling out the side yard and laying down weed cloth.  Gravel is being delivered this week and the 8x12 shed shortly after. We also scoped out several security companies and settled on an ADT system through a company called California Security Pro.  It was a smooth process- the salesperson, Greg, was not pushy and our technician, Jeremy, was fab. I highly recommend them. They were even able to connect our garage which stands separate from our house. We did decide to install outdoor cameras too but we decided to do those ourselves. Anyhow this experience gave me a crash course in getting to know my County Supervisor, my Assemblyman and my POP (Problem Oriented Policing) Officer for my neighborhood and what’s being done about the escalation in crime since the passage of Prop 47.  Our POP Officer turned out to be great…and responsive! I also got to know the lead for our Neighborhood Watch…she’s on top of things and constantly in contact with the various law enforcement for our area.  I never knew living by the river and a park would be such a hassle. Homeless, tweakers, and crazies galore down this way.  If you’re not already using it, I highly suggest signing up for Nextdoor.com. It’s free and I access it from my laptop and the app on my phone.  I was shocked at all the stuff going on in my neighborhood that I had no idea about!

So anyway, now that you’re caught up-- Let’s talk food!  You know how I love Mr. S’s balsamic grilled asparagus and portabellas, right? Well, we found a new recipe for asparagus, we’re equally crazy about- Sesame-Soy Grilled Asparagus.  I found the recipe in the March 2015, Rachel Ray Mag and we’ve made it several times since.  It’s quite delicious.  A nice Asian twist to the typical grilled asparagus side dish and takes just a few minutes to prep.

Sesame-Soy Grilled Asparagus

Ingredients

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 scallion sliced (optional)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

1.      Preheat grill or grill pan to high.
2.      In a large bowl, mix together soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and ginger.
3.      Add asparagus.  Coat well. (I like to let it marinate for a few minutes.)
4.      Place asparagus on grill, turning until slightly charred- about 5-6 minutes.
5.      Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. Serves 4.
Ally

Last night, Mr.S and I had dinner at a small restaurant in the SOMA district of San Francisco, called Fringale.  I had dined there about 5-6 years ago with my friend Grace and had really enjoyed my meal there, so I talked Mr.S. into going back there to dine.  I had had a shitstorm of a week, seriously of epic proportions- my mom passed away, some horrid delinquent went through my neighborhood slashing tires and keying cars (my car was one of the ones that got hit) and to top it off- in the middle of the night, some jerk did a major hit and run on my rental car.  Like I said, shitstorm of epic proportions.  I was beginning to feel a lot like Job.  Anyhow in an effort to clear my mind and calm my nerves, I thought Fringale would be a nice place to grab a pleasant meal of French comfort food. WRONG.

The gentleman behind the bar, that greeted us when we arrived, seemed very friendly and sat us at a nice 2-top by the window.  We had a foie with quince jam appetizer that was okay (Mulvaney's does it better) and a calamari la plancha dish, which was nice but not as memorable as when I had it during my last visit.  It really needed seasoning.  Anyhow, things were fine until we got our entrees.  Both of us ordered the sea bass, which was supposed to be served over a potato puree with artichokes. What we ended up with was potato puree sloppily plopped in a bowl with bits of artichoke and some kind of red broth (hard to tell if it was a tomato or red pepper based broth). On top was a piece of sea bass about  1.5 inches wide and 5 inches long.  This is THE most overcooked piece of fish I have ever eaten. It was dry as the Sahara and tough. Mr.S. gacked on his too but he hates to send things back. So he cut his up and tried to have it absorb some of the red liquid it was swimming in. I had had such a craptastic week that I couldn't deal with it. I very politely signaled the waiter over and explained what the situation was.  His response was to ask Mr.S if his fish too was overly dry.  Mr.S. advised him it was. So he took (only) my plate back to the kitchen.  What? Anyhow, a few minutes later he returned, handed me a menu and brusquely advised me that, "the chef always prepares the fish that way and no one has ever complained." He then informed me that I should choose something else.  At this point I'm a bit perturbed. After the horrible week I'd had, the LAST thing I needed was this snooty French waiter being a dick to me.  I really wanted to tell him that if that's how his chef ALWAYS cooks his fish, overdone to the point that it was not consumable, then that was a sad testament to his skills.  However, at the risk of ruining Mr.S's night too, I ordered the mussels.  I mean really...who can f*ck up mussels, right? The mussels arrived and they were fine. We opted to have dessert elsewhere and I mentally crossed Fringale off my list of restaurants to return to or recommend,

Anyhow, I thought I'd share a fish recipe that we make at our house often.  I ran across it by happenstance-- one of those emailed recipes from Tasting Table.  It's quite good, tasty with or without the ginger yogurt sauce and very hard to screw up (take note, Mr. Fringale chef).

Chile-Garlic Broiled Salmon with Ginger Yogurt Salmon (from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen)


Ingredients
Nonstick cooking spray
Four 6-ounce salmon fillets
1 tablespoon chile-garlic paste (sambal oelek)
1 tablespoon white miso paste
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon maple syrup
For Sauce:
¼ cup reduced-fat plain Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon chile-garlic sauce (sambal oelek)
½ teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce 
½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 scallion, thinly sliced on a bias
Instructions
1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat the foil with cooking spray. Place the salmon fillets on top. 
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the chile-garlic sauce, miso and maple syrup. Divide the mixture over the top of each salmon fillet, spreading it to coat the tops and sides easily.
3. Adjust the oven rack so it is 5 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler to high. Broil the salmon until the tops of the fillets are browned and sizzling and the center of each fillet gives slightly to firm pressure, 8½ to 9 minutes. (The sauce gets a crispy, dark look to it as it caramelizes.)  Remove from the oven and set aside to rest.
4. While the salmon cooks, make the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, chile-garlic sauce, soy sauce and ginger.
5. Place 1 salmon fillet on each plate and serve with a dollop of the ginger yogurt sauce and sprinkled with scallions.
Ally

Recent conversation with Kidlet #1 over a breakfast of matzo brei:

Kidlet #1: This is good, what's it made of?

Me: Crushed matzo crackers and egg.

Kidlet #1: What's that?

Me: An unleavened bread. They're like giant crackers. My dad used to buy them for me when I was a kid.  I'd put a ton of margarine on them and eat them for a snack.

Kidlet #1: Cool. Are you going to write about it on your blog?

Me: Maybe.

Kidlet #1: Do you still call us kidlets?

Me: Yeah...but I guess I should change it now that you guys are teenagers. What should I call you? 

Kidlet #2 calls out from the living room: Starlord56! Starlord56!

Ummm, ok.....so I'm NOT going to call them Starlord56 (although I do kind of wonder where the heck he got that idea from?) but I do think they're due for an update. They're hardly "kidlets" anymore at 12 and 15 years old.  Kidlet #1 is taller than me and just started shaving for goodness' sake! So maybe I'll just start referring to them as Teen Z (Kidlet #1) and Teen B (Kidlet #2)?  That should suffice, right? ☺


Anyhow, this weekend try making some matzo brei for breakfast (or a snack), you'll love it.  My favorite recipe is Ruth Reichl's, although I use a little less butter than she recommends (her recipe uses 6 tablespoons).  Reichl once described matzo brei as, "one of life's perfect foods."  I think she's absolutely right, the dish is quite delicious in its simplicity.

Matzo Brei

Ingredients

4 matzos
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Instructions


1. Crumble matzos into a large sieve placed over a bowl to catch crumbs, then hold sieve under running cold water until matzos are moist and softened but not completely disintegrated, about 15 seconds. Gently press out the excess water.
2. Transfer to bowl with crumbs, then add eggs and salt and mix gently with a fork.
3. Heat butter in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides. 
4. Add matzo mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until eggs are scrambled and matzo has begun to crisp, about 3 minutes. (I usually flip them halfway through, I like them slightly crispy on both sides.)
* Sometimes I like to mix it up by adding in some sliced spring onions or a shake of garlic powder. Or go sweet and sprinkle it with a some cinnamon and brown sugar or a wee bit of maple syrup. There's a matzo brei for every taste.
Ally
Happy Passover and Easter everyone! I hope you had a great weekend. I've been swamped lately with what seems like a never ending list of house projects. Gah! The past two weeks, Mr.S and I have been busy getting the spring garden in order (although we have no idea how it'll fare with the drought) and buying a new fridge. Buying a new fridge sounds like a pretty easy and fun project, right? Research a few brands and models, check them out in the store, then order and get it delivered, right? Hahaha.  WRONG. This was one of the most frustrating shopping experience of my life (right up there with my hellacious car buying experience with Mel Rapton Honda last fall). Anyhow, we did our homework and researched a few brands and models and decided on the LG LMXS27626S. Excuse my french but what a f*cking piece of sh*t. And LG's customer service? They should be ashamed of themselves...it's positively abhorrent. 

So here's what happened in a nutshell- we purchased the LG fridge at Home Depot and it was delivered on a Saturday morning.  By early evening, there was condensation forming in the upper left corner of the water dispenser and dripping down the front of the fridge (on the outside).  We had purchased a warranty, so the next day I called Home Depot's Protection Plan Department. The gal I spoke to, Megan, told me I needed to call LG as the warranty with Home Depot only kicks in after the first year.  According to her, during the first year, the manufacturer is primary. So I tried calling LG. They were closed. I called again on Monday and spoke to someone overseas who kept giving me scripted answers.  After 30 minutes of repeatedly explaining what's wrong with the fridge, I finally was able to get LG to agree to send a repair person out. 

Day 1 of "Refrigeratorgate": Mr. S's father was kind enough to wait at our house for the repairman. Repairman Joe came out,  looked at the fridge, and acknowledged that there was indeed an issue. He could see and feel the condensation that we were having issues with.  He then called LG and told them he did not know how to fix it. They insisted that he pull out the water/ice dispenser.  He had extreme difficulty getting it out and in the process he scratched and dented the fridge.  Nothing was repaired so he left a claim #. 

When I got home from work,  I called LG, they stated that they thought it was the humidity causing the condensation to form. I point out to them that's it's only in one corner of the outside of the dispenser, not to mention I live in Sacramento where it's 40% humidity! They seemed not to believe me that Sacramento does not have heavy humidity.  After much arguing, they stated they would send another repair guy out.

Day 2 of Refrigeratorgate: Mr. S stayed home from work and waited for the repairman.  LG told us he would show up between 8-12.  The repairman showed up at around 1:30pm. And guess what? It's Repairman Joe again.  The same guy. Poor Joe. He was confused like, "What the hell am I doing back here?"  He calls LG and tells them AGAIN that he does not know what's wrong with the fridge and yes, he damaged it...and no, he did not think it was a humidity issue. Again nothing got fixed, so he left another claim number.

When I got home from work, I called LG again.  First they tried to tell me that the issue was resolved. Ummm, no. I told them it wasn't and that there was still condensation on the fridge and water running off it.  I got the run around again (no big surprise) and a bunch of scripted answers again. I was getting frustrated at this point, so I called Home Depot's Protection Plan Department again. I complained to Chad, who was empathetic but stated that there was nothing he could do and that we would have to deal with LG. He also stated during the first 48 hours we should have called the Home Depot store we bought it from.  WTF? I point out to him that Megan in HIS Department was the one who told me to call LG.  He stated he couldn't find a record of that phone conversation.  I pointed out to him that she was the one who registered my warranty for me over the phone and they had a record of that, right? His response was a prolonged uncomfortable silence.  By then I was hopping mad.  I tried calling the Home Depot store where we purchased the fridge.  I got put on hold with bad music...for what felt like eternity. So, as a Hail Mary, I drove down there. 

So here's something I learned.  Nothing makes a bunch of middle-aged male Home Depot workers and shoppers more uncomfortable than a woman about to lose her sh*t at the customer service counter. I tried explaining to the associate the situation but as I was explaining I found my voice getting louder and louder.  Not screaming, just louder---like super frustrated loud.  One of the guys that worked there suggested that we go over to the appliance section and talk with the manager.  In hindsight, I think he was trying to diffuse the situation by having me move out of the front of the store, where the customer service counter was located, and over to the appliance section which is in the back of the store.  What he wasn't counting on was me talking very loudly about the lemon refrigerator and the run around I was getting from Home Depot and LG while their customers were shopping for fridges. Epic fail on his part.  People who were shopping for fridges were stopping and listening to our conversation.  I demanded that I just wanted what I paid for, was that too much to ask? The poor appliance guy that was saddled with this kerfuffle decided in a last ditch effort to try and appease me by calling the store's direct LG rep. The rep had the Home Depot associate take my fridge and contact info and said he'd look into it.  I also shot off an angry email to LG when I got home.

Day 3-ish of Refrigeratorgate:  I got an email response from LG.  No sorry for all the frustration or inconvenience, just basically a statement that they'll replace the fridge. (Maybe they got tired of me complaining...maybe the LG rep came through...I dunno.) They also stuck a note in there that they still thought it was a humidity issue and if the 2nd fridge had the same issue they wouldn't replace it. Like they were doing me a favor.  Way to stand behind your product guys.

So on Tuesday, Cesar Chavez Day, I was off work and I stayed at home and waited for the delivery of the replacement fridge. It was delivered on time, hooked up, and...by nightfall the &^%$#@!* thing had condensation on it and was dripping down the front again. This time I called Home Depot immediately and spoke with the appliance guy and then a manager. I demanded that they remove this craptastic lemon out of my house. We wanted to return it for a full refund and purchase a different brand...no LGs.  The manager agreed...honestly, he might have been a little scared of me at that point.  I wasn't yelling but I had that tone going...you know that tone---that "I'm going to rip your head off and jam it down your neckhole" tone. Let me tell you, it takes a lot to get me to that point.  The next day their Return Expeditor called and got it all set up.

Saturday (yesterday), the last day of Refrigeratorgate (hopefully): They came and got the LG fridge out of our house and the new fridge, a GE, was delivered at the same time.  So far, so good...knock on wood.  We even saved $649 on this one!  I made Home Depot price match theirs to the price at Lowe's. ☺

Now that the fridge issue is resolved, I'll start posting some of the recipes that we've been cooking and eating. I promise!
Ally
For the past year, I've been feeling an insatiable sense of wanderlust.  Most recently my inner travel bug was screaming:
 
So Mr. S and I took a little adventure (sans kidlets) to the magical island of sand, hula girls and malasadas last week. Since he had never been to the Land of Aloha before, we thought we'd do Oahu this year and if he liked it (really...who wouldn't? I mean c'mon!), we'd do Kauai or Maui next year. ☺

Yep, that's a real rainbow outside our airplane window!

For our trip, we did 3 nights in bustling Waikiki at the luxurious Trump International and 3 nights on tranquil North Shore at the Turtle Bay Resort. The suite we had at the Trump was phenomenal (I loved the huge marble bathroom with deep soak tub) as was their service- 5 star all the way! Waikiki ---well, Waikiki was terrific but honestly, we were quite ready for a slower pace by the 3rd day.  We did do some touristy things like visiting the USS Arizona/ Pearl Harbor memorial site and the Dole Plantation.  Seeing and hearing about the sunken ship and the fallen soldiers was quite a solemn and informative experience.  I strongly urge you to go if you're on Oahu. 



The Dole Plantation in Wahiawa was ok. It's a good choice if you're looking for a family activity but it wasn't really our cup of tea.  I did learn though that pineapples do not grow on trees and they can take 18 months to mature!  Here's a photo I snapped of a pineapple plant.


There was also these gum trees on the plantation. They look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, no?
  
We had a lovely drive to the North Shore on our 4th day.  I'd been to the North Shore on previous visits but had never stayed there.  Turtle Bay Resort was nice, not quite the caliber of the Trump but it's the only hotel out there (it's more like a mega-resort).  The view there though...I can't stop gushing about it.  Bright blue ocean, green mountains and lush foliage everywhere you looked. We were on the top floor and the view was breathtaking. 
Turtle Bay, just steps from our doorstep

Near Sunset Beach, down the road

Things at Turtle Bay were also much more relaxed. Mr. S got in some ATVing and we even took a 40 minute helicopter ride over the entire island.  I was terrified at first but once the helicopter got off the ground, I absolutely loved it!  It was so exhilarating.  Josh, our pilot, with Paradise Helicopters was fantastic.  I sat between him and Mr. S in the front.  We could see everything- the breathtaking 1,000 foot Sacred Falls (which has been closed to the public since 1999, when 8 hikers were killed and 50 others were injured), the amazing North Shore surf breaks and even the rainbow-hued oil still leaking from the wreckage of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.

Just like Magnum PI's

During our stay on the North Shore, we actually saw giant marine turtles sunbathing at Laniakea Beach and whales jumping just off the coast of Turtle Bay.  Mr. S also saw a monk seal. (I missed that one...I was busy laying out.)


Now of course, I would be remiss if I didn't point out some of the tasty food we ate- fresh poke, malasadas, Spam musubi, and loco moco...LOTS of loco moco.  I'm pretty sure I gained back all the lbs. I lost before vacation.  It was worth it though. 

I remembered to stop stuffing my face with island fare and guava juice for a second or two to take a few pics.

1. Malasadas at Leonard's bakery.  Eat these pillowy Hawaiian/Portuguese doughnuts sprinkled with crunchy granules of sugar while they're still piping hot.  I love the plain ones, Mr.S preferred the custard filled ones.  The aroma inside Leonard's will drive you crazy...I'm pretty sure it's what heaven smells like.


Mmmm!

2. Loco moco...anywhere pretty much. We loved the ones we had at Rainbow Drive-In and at Ted's Bakery.  The gravy and burger patty at Ted's is better than Rainbow, but Rainbow's loco moco is pretty solid and their mac salad is slightly better. Both had 2 fried eggs, 2 hamburger patties, 2 big ass scoops of white rice, 1 scoop of Hawaiian macaroni salad and lotso' gravy.

Rainbow Drive-In Loco Moco

Ted's Bakery Loco Moco
  
3. Speaking of Ted's Bakery, be sure to pick up a slice of their chocolate haupia pie for dessert. So creamy...so chocolatey.  So insanely good!  As are their breakfast sandwiches.  The bread they use is so soft, like a warm King's Hawaiian roll only MUCH bigger.

Ted's chocolate haupia pie

Ted's big Spam breakfast sandwich
  
4. Odds and ends:  I took a liking to li hing powder on a previous trip.  So I indulged in some li hing powder dusted gummy bears and this hurricane popcorn (see below) this time around on the island.  I also brought some back with me.  Haven't quite decided what I want to use it on yet.




[I also brought back a big bag of furikake popcorn with me. And no-- I'm not sharing. ☺]

5. Kidlet #1 requested that we bring him back some Spam macadamia nuts (yes, Spam!) since Spam is so big in Hawaii.  Ummm...I had a taste.  I can't say I'm a big fan of the Spam nuts but he seems to love them.


5. One of my favorite things to eat on the North Shore was garlic shrimp.  Oodles of butter and minced garlic...pure nirvana.  We hit up Fumi's shrimp truck on the recommendation of our bell man at the Trump and the roadside Kahuku Grill on the rec of my friends, Amy and Steve.  Both locations were equally delicious, but the styles were quite different.  Fumi's goes balls out on the butter so plan to get elbows deep in it.  Kahuku Grill uses a more subtle garlic and butter method.  Either way, I was stuffed and happy (and quite garlicky) after our visits.

Kahuku Grill

Fumi's Shrimp Truck

Fumi's Garlic & Butter Shrimp Plate

(Note: There's a LOT of feral cats and wild chickens roaming near the shrimp trucks.  Don't feed them.)



 Anyhow, it was lovely to get in some R&R and to get to show the island to Mr. S.  Can't wait for our next adventure!

Mahalo!