Friday, April 18, 2008

Sunday Dinner and Creme Brulee at the Bradys'

Growing up, I somewhat resented family dinners. While I appreciated the fact my parents were trying to have us bond with one another, the truth was we usually sat in conversation about the weather over greasy Chinese. How I longed to be hanging out with friends instead, burrowing my head in a book, or even doing my homework.

As I grew older and slowly shed my selfish desires, what we had of these dinners became fewer in between. Though I tried harder to make conversation, I realized there was little to be said between us, no matter how hard I tried. Perhaps the awkward silences were a cultural thing; I'm not sure.

When a foodie friend of mine (and former coworker) first invited my husband and I over for dinner a year ago, I was excited. Not only was her mom a food editor (dream job!) but my friend had always described these amazing-sounding meals that I was jealous to experience. What I didn't expect though, was the warmth that encircled my husband and me when we walked through the front door. Over roast lamb, we were included in the stories about cousins, cats and other drama that made me feel more at home than I ever did in the family dinners of my childhood.

During the most recent Sunday dinner, Mrs. B made a delicious homemade tagliatelle (from the Italian tagliare, meaning "to cut") with a meat ragu sauce. The pasta was made from scratch by hand, which results in a chewy doughiness I love and is impossible to recreate with dried pasta. As usual, I probably ate more than my fair share, but it's hard to pass up something as satisfying as homemade pasta.

The highlight of the night though, was my friend's creme brulee. There is a restaurant in nearby San Carlos that offers a unique creme brulee offering of orange and lavender flavor, so that was the inspiration for our dessert that evening. As most people know though, the challenging (and fun) part of making a creme brulee is torching it in the end:

The creme brulee waiting to be adorned with sugar.

A thin, even layer of sugar is the way to go for a delicate burnt sugar crust.

Holding the torch at an angle, have the flame slowly circle around
the creme brulee so that small, brown bubbles form evenly throughout.


There have been a number of Sunday dinners since that first Sunday dinner, but my husband and I continually feel excited whenever we are invited over for another one. Delicious food aside, the only thing better than a memorable meal is the company you have the privilege to enjoy it with.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Vik's Chaat Corner

Michael Bauer just released his Top 100 Bay Area restaurants this past weekend, and lo and behold, I ate at 41 of these restaurants already! What I love about this list though, is that it encompasses not only Michelin star restaurants, but places where you can get a good meal for $5 too.

On a recent trip to visit my friends Steph and Kenneth, Steph suggested that we check out Vik's Chaat Corner in Berkeley. When I mentioned this in passing to my foodie coworker, she got really excited. "VIIIIKKKK'S!!!!" she nearly screamed, and started naming off the menu items to me.

I had no idea what to expect. Sure I like Indian food, but I like my naan 'n curry, and Vik's menu only had chaat (Indian snacks) which I wasn't so sure I'd like.

Going to Vik's is an experience. The "restaurant" is really a large warehouse, with a counter where you order food and some picnic-like tables to eat at. My friends and I ordered a variety of food--I had a Lamb Baida Roti and my husband (who insisted on being "Vijay" for the meal) ordered a Masala Dosa and Pani Puri.

My husband (who is Chinese, but might as well be Indian due to the heavy influence of his coworkers) taught me how to eat the puri. Apparently, there is a procedure to it. First, you take a "puff" and tap a little hole into it. Next, you put in some garbanzo beans and potatoes, then some tamarind sauce, and finally finish it with some spicy mint water. Then you just pop the whole thing into your mouth! If I didn't know any better, I'd have eaten everything separately.

It was absolutely delicious, and fun to eat. I much preferred it to my lamb roti, which was good but a bit on the oily side and my stomach wasn't feeling so keen on that day. The masala dosa was good as well, and I would highly recommend it.

I'll definitely be back. Who said good eats and cheap eats can't go together?