Posts Tagged ‘restaurant


Stadin Kebab

J-P and I escaped the fancy-conference-restaurant treadmill tonight with a visit to Helsinki’s “bohemian” neighborhood and the first kebab shop we saw: Stadin Kebab. (Don’t worry, we have been sampling the local fare: fish, reindeer, mushrooms, and unidentifiable berries have been consumed. We just wanted cheap tonight.)

Stadin Kebab gave us our first interaction in Finland that had to be conducted through grunts and pantomime. The pictorial menu helped, too. J-P haltingly ordered a “rullekebab ateria” and I ordered fish and chips (the only English on the menu) in my American accent. No problem for the non-English-speaking clerk. That was not the case earlier with the (English-speaking and otherwise very helpful) woman at the Suomenlinna information desk, who heard me say “Pajasali” three times before she understood which building I was trying to name.

When it came time to pay, J-P pulled out a 20 pound note, instead of 20 euros. We all laughed. J-P asked for a “cash machine.” Blank stare. “ATM?” More of the same. They settled on “banke” and pantomimed directions.

While J-P was gone, I filled glasses with water, and the clerk asked me, complete with a demonstration, if I would like ice. Dredging my memory for tidbits from the Finnish primer my sister made for me, I attempted “No, thank you.” “Ei kii-tos?” The clerk grinned and nodded, putting the ice away.


comparative waffles

Julie and I celebrated her 30th birthday recently with a visit to La Trappe. I’d only been once, almost a year ago, at the end of the night, and I was a little worried it would be hokier than I remembered–it is in North Beach, after all.

I shouldn’t have worried. The downstairs room is in fact a cozy little grotto, the beer list is extensive, and the grass-fed burgers are vast, the fries crisp, the dipping sauces flavorful (three things I didn’t experience last time).

And the waffles–yum. Very different from the crisp, airy, ethereal wonders that are the cornmeal waffles at Oakland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen, the last place Julie and I shared a waffle. But still, yum. La Trappe’s waffles have crispy edges around creamy centers that taste like there’s banana in the batter. Not enough to turn them into banana waffles, but a complex sweetness. Add syrup, fresh strawberries and blueberries, and cinnamon-kissed whipped cream on top. Delicious!


new favorite neighborhood chinese joint

I have a fondness for Chinese restaurants that is similar to my fondness for Tex-Mex ones. I know you’ve been around a long time, and that people call you mean names (“inauthentic,” “Americanized,” and worse), and that there are trendier options out there, but I still love you for what you are. You were fusion cuisines ahead of your time, and you’ll always be real to me.

Our new favorite Chinese? Eric’s in Noe Valley. We’d tried Alice’s once or twice–it’s six blocks away on our street and pretty solid–but last night when the muse called again, we decided to branch out. And Eric has Alice beat. Pot of hot green tea on the table on a chilly, foggy night: check. Delightfully crisped and gingery potstickers: check. J-P’s Spicy Smoked Pork was smoky and spicy, just as promised, and the the thin-cut everything (pork, leeks, garlic) had great texture. My Sesame Beef, described in the menu as “crispy beef braised in Szechwan sauce” delivered on the crispy promise, which is what really mattered, though it wasn’t as spicy as I had hoped. No problem: the table’s condiments were rice vinegar, soy sauce, and chili oil. I drizzled the latter two over my beef, and heaven. Plus, Eric’s is only three blocks from home.

There was even a proudly framed Michelin recommendation next to our table. Impressive, but the accompanying write-up was funny. The author’s two favorite dishes were the Rainbow Fish, whose advertised white wine sauce with pine nuts just seemed meh when we read the menu, and the crab rangoon, a dish that drives Helen to apoplexy. I know the food I eat is Americanized, but cream cheese?! Not even Chinese Americans cook with cream cheese!


link round-up

A Glimmer of Green in Houston
Restaurateurs, urban farmers, and investors are working together to plant gardens to serve local vegetables to Houston diners.

Gulf Fishing News
The South I know and–um, love?–has finally appeared in coverage of the BP oil slick. Only part of Louisiana’s shoreline and Gulf waters are directly affected by the oil, and fishermen west of the line blame media coverage for driving the tourist trade away from their charter boats. Yep, the gol-darned liberal media absolutely caused the BP oil slick.

Meanwhile, though Mexico is unlikely to see oil from BP’s slick wash ashore, the country is considering legal action against BP for damage to wildlife species that spend time there–and attract tourists.

Unrelated to the BP oil slick, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1529 are ready to strike against Delta Pride Catfish for proposing contract changes that would greatly reduce benefits and job security, eliminate daily overtime pay, and increase the work week–erasing all the benefits the workers won in their three-week strike in 1990.

Restaurant Labor News
Central Park’s Tavern on the Green, which has been closed since January 1, is transferring to new management, who are having trouble agreeing to honor the terms of the employees’ previous contract.

Marc Forgione kicked a New York times blogger out of his restaurant last weekend for asking him not to yell at his staff so that his diners could hear.

Everybody Knows About Arizona, Goddam
What with his state’s new requirement that brown people carry their papers at all times, John McCain feels he has to get tough on immigration. That’s hardly news, but what I really appreciate about this post at the Latin Americanist is Vicente Duque‘s comment listing municipal governments, school districts, and sports teams that are boycotting Arizona by refusing to fund employee, student, or team travel to the state. San Francisco, Oakland, and Boston are among them.

Oh, and by the way–ethnic studies classes are now outlawed in Arizona. “It’s just like the Old South,” says Arizona schools chief Tom Horne. And he’s right–except he means that ethnic studies classes cause Chicanos to resent and oppress white people. No, Mister Horne, it’s not my education that makes me resent you–it’s stunts like this. Which, I’ll note, you have the power to pull. So where’s the oppression again?


Morning task, morning snack

Pan dulce from Panadería la Mejor, coffee from Borderlands Cafe.


sciencing the frozen margarita

Duke University Press’ blog post about Gabriela Soto Laveaga’s Jungle Laboratories says that the book “challenges us to reconsider who can produce science.”

In a much lighter vein, I was reminded of that challenge this morning while reading Robb Walsh‘s recounting, in The Tex-Mex Cookbook, of Mariano Martinez’s invention of the frozen margarita machine. In 1971, Martinez relayed his diners’ complaints about his restaurant’s inconsistent margaritas to his bartender. The bartender, “sick of squeezing all those limes,” threatened to quit. Martinez found inspiration at a 7-11 the next morning and decided to automate–but he couldn’t get his hands on a Slurpee machine. Instead, he bought a soft-serve ice cream machine and began experimenting–or holding “a lot of tasting parties,” as he put it. The problem was how to get the alcoholic mix to freeze. Adding enough water to cause freezing diluted the drink too much, but adding more sugar… It turns out that “with a high enough brix level (the scientific measurement of sugar content), you can freeze quite a bit of alcohol.”

Mexican campesinos can certainly produce science, and so can tipsy Tex-Mex restaurateurs. Martinez never patented or trademarked his method, but his first margarita machine does have a place in the National Museum of American History.

In more serious news, US federal courts have been voiding clauses of BP’s exploitative clean-up contracts with Gulf fishermen left and right, preserving the fishermen’s rights to sue BP for damages from the Deepwater Horizon disaster and to talk freely about the situation, even if they do accept clean-up work from BP.


El Metate

We shook things up after our shift at the Bike Kitchen last night. Instead of going to the Saint Francis for dinner, we hit El Metate, at Bryant and 22nd.

The menu is extensive, and I had a hard time deciding. I was about to order the burrito with bistec and papas in chile rojo, when someone else’s plate of fish tacos came up. Crispy, curled up, breaded and browned–beautiful. I’ll have two of those, please. The fish was everything its appearance promised, especially with a dash of lime juice and a shot of their not-too-hot habañero salsa. I’m not sure about the pile of rice on their tacos, though. Next time I’ll see if they’ll give me beans, instead.

John-Paul ordered the chile rojo burrito, so I got a chance to taste it. Also delicious–and it’s always a thrill to find something that I associate with home cooking on a Mexican restaurant menu. The burrito form is a purely restaurant innovation, though–my grandmother serves this kind of chile rojo in a bowl, as a stew. I’ll have to make some at home soon.

Happy cinco de mayo, by the way, and a belated happy May Day.

Tex-Mix's Photostream