Thursday, April 29, 2010

Restaurant Experience: Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot! San Mateo, CA!

The great thing about being in California is the opportunity to get exposed to all the food culture! While on our visit to Palo Alto, Dr. Wright took us over to San Mateo for some Mongolian Hot Pot.  What is this you ask?  We will get to that but first we need an appetizer...........
...............of Kimchee. We had made this back in Cuisines of Asia, but I never really liked it. Traditionally, it is made by fermenting cabbage in clay earthen pots with assorted spiced and red chili's.  I don't know how they make it at Little Sheep, but they make it good. Slightly sweet and spicy, but not too spicy. Very Nice!
Next out came all of our order. I didn't know what was going on, I just sat there with my ever present stupid-grin on my face ready for the food excitement that was to come. Fresh bowl of cilantro, pea shoots, green leaf lettuce, baby bok choy, and Napa Cabbage.
After that, Tempura Shrimp.
Then shaved thin slices of Beef and Lamb. You can't eat at Little Sheep without getting some lamb.
Then a Hot Pot drops in and it is filled with broth (I think Vegetable but the server said Chicken?).  One side is spicy, and one side is mild. The broth has steeped ginger, garlic, scallions (G.G.S for you cooks out there) dry shitakes, and arbol chilis. From this point on, it just becomes a free for all of self-poached meats, mushrooms, herbs, greans, and tempura shirmps.
In case that wasn't enough, I went ahead and ordered the Mongolian Beef Meat Pie. I am still not for sure what was in the filling, but it tasted like fried minced beef and shrimp paste. Not for sure if I would order it again, but experiences are experiences. 
No room for dessert, but every good Hot Pot meal should end with a palate cleansing Orange. I am not for sure if this will curb the sweet tooth of us Arkansas-based Americans, so we might have to head out for a local Chinese dessert shop.  What will we find next? 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Walnofer's & Wright's in Palo Alto!

The final countdown in California has begun and every weekend becomes more and more precious.  So, off to Palo Alto we went to visit Eric and Mandy Wright.  The Wright's had made the pilgrimage up to wine country on several occasions so we were due for a visit to Facebook country.  That is right, Palo Alto is home to the Facebook World Headquarters. Palo Alto is also home to the campus of Stanford University.
It is kind of a cool place.  It's architecture is very Spanish-missionesque.
It is also famous for its beauty and of course Palm Drive which runs right into the front of the campus.
Being around all this acadmia, I started to get some Waffle House cravings for old times sakes. Well, there aren't any Waffle Houses in California (never seen one here), but you can get Crispy Tempura Chicken with Bacon Studded Waffles & Maple Syrup at Chef Charlie Ayers, Calafia in Palo Alto. Delicious.......and way better than Waffle House.
For the first time in Northern California, we found some real beaches! Eric & Mandy shuttled us over the hill and down into Half Moon Bay for some R&R on the beach. It will be hard to forget this Pacific coastline. Anyone staying in Northern California...........put Half Moon Bay on your to-do-list.
No Half Moon Bay visit would be complete without some seafood from Sam's Chowderhouse.  Being that it was 85˚F, the chowder didn't sound that appetizing, but the Lobster roll that was voted in the "Top Five Sandwiches in America" by the NBC Today Show did. Considering it was my first lobster roll (what, I'm from Arkansas!), I agreed totally with NBC Today. Although I prefer ABC's Good Morning America, NBC Today sure can pick a great sandwich.
Thanks to the Wright's for hosting a wonderful weekend.  They still have another 6 years of enjoying California and we wish them all the best. Props to them both for their southern hospitality!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ed The Great's MyPlate!

Few opportunities come about when a student get's the chance to create their own restaurant while still being in culinary school.  Luckily, the CIA-Greystone allows for such a thing and they affectionately call it, MyPlate. AOS 6 classmate, Eric "Ed" Heath took on the challenge and invited 14 guests to taste his creations. Two of those guests included myself and the Mrs.
Welcome to the Williams Center on the CIA-Greystone campus. Next to the French Laundry, this is one of the coolest house/restaurant venues in the Valley. There is the is the food.
Duck Breast was on the menu, but what do you do with all those leftover legs? Confit 'em then paddle 'em into Duck Rillettes and serve as an appetizer, of course.
1st Course: Beef Tenderloin Tartare, Toasted Sourdough, and Sunnyside up Hen Egg.
2nd Course: Seared Hamachi, Granny Smith Puree, and Potato Latke. Thank you Ed, I will be stealing that apple puree idea and using it at my own disclosure from here on out. It pulled my socks off!
3rd Course: Family-style Potato Gnocchi, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, and Parmesan. The Gnocchi was the crowd favorite of the night and it was well deserving.  The Mrs. is very particular about her gnocchi and has been known to order it off of every menu she see's it on. Good job Ed, your gnocchi get's the Mrs. Walnofer-Seal-of-Approval.
4th Course: Seared Duck Breast, Green Onion Souffle, Natural Jus. Out came the wine pairing of the night, a bottle of 2007 Belle Glos "Taylor Lane Vineyard" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. The Pinot was just about as delicious as the food and couldn't have made for a better wine pairing for the meat courses on the menu. Great selection from the Chef!
5th Course: Braised Veal Cheeks, Pappardelle, and Gremolata. I have come to appreciate the craft of making fresh pasta and Ed nailed this. Veal Cheeks, either you love 'em or hate 'em, and I love em!
Dessert Course: Vanilla Panna Cotta with Tart Cherries.  A little sweetness at the end of the meal is always enjoyed. Served with Calistoga Yo El Rey Mexican Coffee.
Thanks for the great dinner and the fun night Mr. Heath. Please share this sentiment with your team of Sous Chefs.  Mes compliments au chef-to-be!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Yosemite National Park: Yosemite Falls Trail!

After a good night's rest in the mansion o'Curry, we got up early and headed up to Yosemite Falls.
And up we had to go.  Luckily, the trails bless the early risers and we didn't have many slow-pokes slowing us down.
Yosemite Falls trail provides several lookout points along the route.  Even this one, early into the trip, was breathtaking.
Speaking of breathtaking, take a wrong step on this trail and you will be back to the valley floor in a couple seconds.
But, beyond every narrow corner is another awe-inspiring view to keep you motivated for the next leg of the journey. Remember Half Dome? I'll for sure never forget it.
Finally, the highest measured waterfall in all of North America...........including Niagara Falls. At 2,425ft, this gusshing waterfall is a marvel to witness in person.  Let's take a little closer look.
The only thing more impressive about the height, is the actual sound of the falls, the smell of the falls, and the feel of the mist coming off of the falls.  It is amazing to get the opportunity to witness the physical works of God's creation upclose.
Amazing as it was, there was still another mile or so to the top of the falls, and the Mrs. and I had a 5 hour drive to look forward to.

Since it was another hour and a half to get back to the car, we stopped for a litte power-packed-picnic or PB&Blackberry Jam, Gatorade, and Animal Cracker-Raisin-Pretzel-Peanut trail mix. Can't beat a picnic by the falls. See you at the bottom.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Restaurant Experience: The Ahwahnee Restaurant, Yosemite National Park!

After getting all settled in at our Curry Village tent, we pulled the suitcases out of the bear-proof locker and put on some clothes that were presentable. With a spritz of a little cologne and perfume, we were all set for dinner up at the Ahwahnee Lodge. I was quite excited as the Executive Chef of Ahwahnee, Percy Whatley, had recently competed in the 2010 Bocuse d'Or USA competition up at Hyde Park campus of CIA.
Off to the lodge we go. The Mrs. loves her some fireplaces.
Next stop, the restaurant. Bread was really tasty, cardboard wafer cracker, not so much. AOS 6 just finished Intro to Table Service, so little things like this mean more to me now that I know the importance of service to a guest.
The Mrs. had the Cavatelli Pasta & Fresh Linguica with Trotters, Mushrooms, Broccoli Raabe (incorrect spelling on the menu), Ricotta Salata & Fire-roasted Tomato Sauce. This was a really cool dish and who doesn't like trotters (shaved meat from cooked pigs feet).
Back to that service thing. C'mon! Is this how you should present a $42 Roasted Liberty Duck Breast with Pommes Roesti, Spinach, Braised Red Cabbage & Cherry Port Wine Sauce to a guest?
Don't worry chef, I fixed it myself but I can't do anything about the half burnt and half unrendered skin on my duck breast.  We recently watched a video from famous New York restauranteur, Danny Meyer. Mr. Meyer talks about how the level of service to a guest should always surpas the level of expectation of the guest.  In his opinion, just meeting the guests expectation is not enough. With that said, I had a great meal at the Ahwahnee, but it just didn't exceed my expectation.  Luckily, we came to Yosemite for more than just a restaurant experience. Back to the Curry Village to get some rest before our big morning hike!

Yosemite National Park! Half Dome.

After a lot of mountainous driving, we finally made our way in the world-famous Yosemite National Park!  I don't know if Kristen was excited to get out of the car or just excited to finally  make it to Yosemite, but she could hardly contain herself with excitement.
Nice pictorial of the most famous glacier mountain in the west. Half Dome!
Nice picture of the most famous glacier mountain in the west. Half Dome!
The Mrs. and I had decided we would pretend to "rough" it for a couple days and by passed the Ahwahnee Lodge and the Wawona for the Curry Village.  I don't know what people are talking about, this place looks like a mansion! 
Hardwood floors, guest bedrooms, sort-a central heating and air..........

...............a view of the outdoors. I could spend 1.5 years here! 
Off to the Ahwannee Lodge for some dinner, then a bright and early morning hike. Good night Half Dome. See you in the morning.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Wards Ferry Road Race! Sonora, CA. Gold-mining town?

So off to Sonora for another Saturday of action packed racing here in sunny Northern California. Sunny indeed, but by no means warm as you can see in the pic. Oh how I long for the short sleeves and uncovered knees of the summer. Anywho, off on a 65 mile road race in the Sierra foothills around Sonora. I tend to favor the hills so I think this could be a good day on the bike.
And good day it was! First victory in the new Snapple team kit. Check out that prize money. That's right, four count them four Abe Lincoln's..........and a medium race T-shirt. To the victor goes the spoils. More importantly, check out that race bib number......898. What is the signficance with that? You guessed it, August 9, 2008.....................the Walnofer's anniversary. The rest of the field didn't know what hit them when a guy starts the race with this kind of omen on his back.
A race win is always a good launching pad for a great weekend and we still had a lot more in store for this one. Since we are only 1.5 hours from Yosemite, but first, what is this I hear about a gold mining town in Columbia?
Wow, McFly. Back to the Future III! Where is Doc Emmet and Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen? Ok, so they didn't film Back to the Future III here but it sure felt like they did.  I am not for sure what there is to do in an old gold mining town.....................................
.......................except for pan for some gold! After $20 bucks in race winnings, I got to figure out some way to pay for this weekend.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, maybe we will wait to pan for some gold in Yosemite National Park. I love kids, and I love gold, but I don't love kids and gold that much. Off to go see this Half Dome thing people keep telling us about.