Saturday, May 23

i'm on schmap!

a couple weeks ago i got a flickrmail from schmap - free digital destination guides.  i'd never heard of them but their maps are pretty cool - all interactive and social media optimized (read: widgets/embed codes, etc).  anyway, they had chosen one of my cakebread photos for their selects for their napa guide.  

using my photography rights knowledge from a previous life in advertising, i figured it was okay to give them permission to potentially include me in their published digital guide.  i wouldn't be getting paid, but the usage they wanted was non-exclusive, which means i was free to sell this photo to other buyers if i wanted to.  i actually think it's pretty cool that they are utilizing networks like flickr to pool together images for their guides - it makes sense in this digital age.  also cool that you are appropriately credited and you get your stuff out there.  

anyway, i just found out that they did indeed choose my photo for one of the cakebread images. so cool! i am listed as "shoe_monster" - my flickr (and "blogosphere") name. yay shoe monster! the widget version of the guide is above, and below is the image they chose:

cakebread vineyards
funny, because this was not one of the selects i chose for my cakebread post!

Sunday, April 26

napa continued: cakebread

horse outside nickel & nickel
after lunch we stop by luna (there's a good sangiovese there), and then we continue up the silverado trail for our last stop before french laundry: cakebread. the tasting here is by appointment only, and we had a few extra minutes to spare so we stopped at the winery next door (nickel & nickel). we didn't go in for a quick tasting; we got distracted by the horses playing outside so we all hopped out of the car for a photo op. they were obviously used to this kind of attention, because they thoroughly enjoyed taking pictures with us and being petted and fed (random grass nearby).
flowers and white picket fences
white picket fences outside nickel & nickel, sitting on gorgeous flowers.
cakebread vineyards
finally at cakebread. the tasting is $10 i believe...there is also a reds only for $25 or something like that, which i wasn't aware of (but would have chosen if i knew). but on our way out we wanted to buy some pinot noir which wasn't part of the tasting but asked them nicely if we could taste it - we got a small pour =] (and yes! it was delicious and we bought some)

cakebread vineyards
we also walked around the property for awhile, just relaxing in the sun before heading over to french laundry.

cakebread vineyards
flowers @ cakebread

Wednesday, April 8

napa light lunch: ubuntu

ubuntu butter
so after wine tasting we wanted to eat a super light lunch. i had received an email from open table a few weeks ago promoting various restaurants, and ubuntu was on the list. typically, i don't like to go by these types of emails, but the place looked really great and had good reviews. plus, it was vegetarian, and i wanted to ensure that none of us would somehow overeat before going to french laundry!

chickpea fries
let me just preface everything with: this restaurant is amazing!! i love it. we were all so pleasantly surprised. the food was fresh, creative, and soooo delicious. the waiter explained to us that they food is "biodynamic" - which we had not heard of. we stared at him blankly and then he explained it nicely to us. we started with chickpea fries (above). sad that there were so few - this was gone within minutes. i would say these are more chickpea-ish than fry-ish, which i like.

corn grits close up
what can i say about this dish?? only that it was so amazing and tasty, i just recently tried to re-create it. this is the "bowl of local yellow corn grits infused with goat’s milk whey (lots of parmesan, agretti, slow egg, trumpet chips with savory)" it was creamy but you couldn't really taste the goat milk. i think we all ate this one the second-fastest. this also comes in an awesome UFO shaped bowl (see it here).

cauliflower in cast iron pot
this is the cauliflower in a cast iron pot - roast-puree-raw, vadouvan, cilantro, brown butter toast. yes that is my good friend cilantro sitting at the top, but i managed to avoid it when i tasted this little creation. YUM. (and extremely cute)

bean stew with egg
bean stew: "rustic rancho gordo ‘yellow eye’ bean stew w/ torn bread, rosemary, chili & braised swiss chard." we added an egg because eggs are awesome. the menu states that you can add a "domaine de la chance" egg to any dish. (can someone please explain this "domaine de la chance" thing?)

domaine de la chance egg
here is the delicious egg up close.

sauerkraut and emmental pizza
sauerkraut and emmental pizza. absolutely delicious and destructor - who hates sauerkraut - stuffed his face with this. the way it's prepared takes the emphasis off that sauerkraut-y taste.

the rest of the photos are here.

Wednesday, April 1

napa: journey to french laundry

blue sky + clouds
ok, i have to take a break from my beijing posts. it is obvious to me at this point that it will take me forever, so i need to move on with my life.

in march, destructor and i went with some friends to napa to achieve our ultimate life goal: EAT AT THE FRENCH LAUNDRY. we lucked out with reservations (more on that later) and snagged a table for 4 on a sunday at 5:30pm, right when their dinner service opens.

so, what to do with the rest of the day? go wine tasting in napa of course! (saturday was spent in san francisco at a hotel with horrible customer service but we did eat a burma superstar which will be posted later)

our first stop sunday morning was artesa winery. it was a beautiful sunny day, even though the weather forecast had said it was going to be cloudy and rainy. lies! we arrived right before 10am, when the winery opens. on the side of the road by the entrance, there was a flock of sheep just hanging out. i squealed and we stopped the car. they were so adorable. we all got out of the car for the photo op.

we are all grazing
we are eating grass
my friend kept saying, "this is what i want to eat for dinner. mmm." how?? look at them!

once we all finally left the sheep and made it inside the artesa property, we were stunned by the gorgeous landscape.

beautiful water at artesa
artesa view
the artesa property is truly amazing. not only that, but the views were breathtaking. of course, drinking wine at 11 in the morning is always nice. the tasting was pretty good and the people were great, but my favorite part is definitely the landscape.

gorgeous views from artesa
sky + bird

we found lots of fresh herb plants around the property too. mainly, a lot of rosemary which we wished we could have taken.

see the rest of the artesa photos here.

Tuesday, March 31

homecooked meals in beijing: part 2

chopped chinese pancake
we had this comfort food in beijing at my (maternal) grandmother's house. i had completely forgotten about this dish until i saw it. once it was brought to the table, my eyes widened and i immediately recognized my old friend. i experienced an overwhelming sense of nostalgia...images from childhood: dusty hot streets in beijing, meals shared with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins; food stands on the street.

the kitchen
basically, this is chinese "bing" - pancakes. you take these flour pancakes, and you chop them up, then stir fry with any meat or veggies you'd like. typically, we use pork. the result is something like fried rice, except the chopped pancake is nice and chewy. i also like to add vinegar to this. this is how i'd always eat it growing up.

pickled radish
we also had some simple, yummy side dishes to go with this: pickled radishes & cabbage, salted fish, and fried lotus.

see the rest of the food here.

Monday, March 30

beijing's 798 art district: part II

i recently wrote about beijing's 798 art district. i loved it so much that i went back again the following week, before i left beijing. this time, we went to several different galleries/exhibits on another part of the "campus."

old factories that are now galleries. everything was beautiful.

lots of old machinery and giant chinese characters on old brick walls.


juxtaposed with shiny exhibits and chandeliers.


see more photos here.

Wednesday, March 25

homecooked meals in beijing: part 1

lunch at grandma's in beijing

i was really spoiled during my beijing trip because i got to eat several homecooked meals (mom, two grandmothers). this is the type of food i always dream about before a trip to beijing. this is why i will always complain to destructor (and anyone else who will hear it) whenever i eat chinese food here in the US. we'll order a dish and everyone else will be like, "mm, this is great!" and i'll be the debbie downer and say, "yea, i guess it's okay. it's not authentic enough though. it should be more x, y, less z."

i know, i'm THAT person!

anyway, what i love about the meal is not just the food. it's going back to childhood days spent in china, sitting around a small table with a big family and enjoying a meal together. i miss that.

stir fried potatoes

for starters, every single person in my family (immediate and extended) knows that i MUST EAT THIS dish whenever i visit. i grew up on this dish. this is a classic, very common dish you eat at home. it's just thinly sliced/julienned potatoes, stir fried (sometimes with green bell pepper, black peppercorns, and maybe a little bit of vinegar). i could eat this whole plate by myself.

pan fried fish

pan fried fish. soy sauce based, a little sweet, and delicious with rice.

stir fried snow peas

stir fried snow peas. crispy and refreshing!

braised shrimp (?)

braised shrimp - also in a slightly sweet sauce. i love drizzling the juices over my rice - i can't describe the taste - it's amazing and another distinct flavor/dish i grew up with.

taro and cabbage soup

this is somewhat of a more contemporary dish. the soup is very familiar, with pork broth and cabbage, but my grandma added taro. i loved this soup!

see more dishes here.

Tuesday, March 24

shoe intermission

miu miu pumps
i picked up these sweet miu mius a few months ago at a...

(drum roll please)

marshalls! in harlem!

not kidding.

the best part is that baglady and i had gone crazy there, running around with a shopping cart full of shoes (literally, running through the aisles, pulling shoes, and throwing them in the basket to try on) she first found these in a size 6.5, which is NOT MY SIZE. but i did everything i could to make myself believe that they were actually my size. i said, "no, no! i can really get those heel thingies and just put them in, and they will fit fine!!" fortunately, baglady talked me out of the this craziness, saying "DO NOT BUY THEM, they are NOT YOUR SIZE. even though they are miu miu and only $110."

i was heartbroken but finally became rational, especially after combing through the aisles again and not finding another pair.


we were about to leave when...baglady gasped and pulled ANOTHER pair of these off a random shelf - and YES. they were size 6! how did this magic happen? we're not sure. even better, these shoes were marked $90!


miu miu pumps front

it doesn't matter, but i was so overjoyed.  needless to say i bought them...along with 3 other pairs of shoes!  

clockwise starting at the top: siren boots by mark nason, nine west sling backs, tuxedo shoes by circa joan and david, and lastly of course, the miu mius.


Tuesday, March 17

maison boulud @ the old legation quarter in beijing

yes. i am STILL on my beijing posts.  not even halfway done.  over the holiday season, toomuchfood and i trekked over to the old legation quarter to eat maison boulud, daniel boulud's latest restaurant (opened in july 2008).

having literally just eaten at li jia cai for lunch, i am not quite sure how i managed to eat this for dinner.  luckily, pricy food means small portions. still, it was pretty rich.  

my photos are horrible.  i am still adjusting to the concept of pulling out a big, awkward camera and shooting wildly at food, ruining the ambiance of a restaurant.  in particular, i really didn't want to ruin the experience for myself here since i had been waiting so long for this moment. so i brought my dying sony cybershot.  this was the best i could do in poor lighting (without using flash, obviously).  

but please take a moment to soak in the gorgeous space that is maison boulud here.

when we arrived at the legation quarter, i immediately noticed a large chloe sign posted outside.  inside the compound, a beautiful building to our right had an enormous, glowing chloe logo projected on its walls.  we peeked inside the tall, open window.  there was some sort of fancy dinner party going on.  i vowed to crash this party if it looked more open later.

the compound was beautiful at night, especially since it was decorated for the holidays.  

this is the magnificent entrance to maison boulud.

the amuse bouche. skewers of smoked salmon with cream cheese and puffy bread.

this is my soup: crayfish bisque with cognac cream and chervil. mmmm. overall tasty but a little on the salty side.

this is toomuchfood's soup. i think it is something something partridge broth. you'll have to consult his blog for details. overall, the presentation was lovely, with the servers coming out together and pouring the broth over the food in our bowls.

this photo is a little blah, but i really liked my entree.  it was called the "duo of partridge" with foie gras (of course!).  the stuff on the left side of the plate is the thigh meat and on the right side, is the breast meat sitting on top of red cabbage, which was delicious.  also on the left are delicate pieces of gingerbread and apple.  overall the dish was really nicely balanced and everything just tasted great.

toomuchfood's succulent suckling pig dish!  i tried a piece and really i wish i could have eaten both entrees.  the skin was crispy, and paired with the nice layer of fat beneath, it just melted in my mouth.  i am a sucker for crispy pork/duck skin.  

and then they were like, "a basket of madeleines, please enjoy." really? now?  they were warm, soft, spongy, and tasty.

and here are the rest of the mignardises - there was one that was a hazelnut cookie that was amazing.

overall the experience was phenomenal. maybe it's just a little bit of that nostalgia for old beijing + being shocked by the new beijing in me - but i felt a little hesitant about loving the experience.  i think by the end of it though i had fully embraced it.  dining at a place like this would have been inconceivable to me 10 years ago.  things were so different then. but now that i'm older, i appreciate the new culture of fine dining in beijing.  at the time they were doing this weekly happy hour where you'd get a glass of nice champagne and hor d'oeuvres.  i didn't get to try that but next time i'm in town, i would love to stop by.