Sunday, April 28, 2019

Restaurant Review: Asian Noodles

Asian Noodles - lunch on April 7, 2019
If you want Asian food in Reno, here's a go-to option. And if you can't decide which Asian cuisine you want, they offer different options.
There's "standard" Chinese fare with chow mein. There's the Vietnamese representation with lemon grass flavors or dishes with rice noodle vermicelli instead of rice.
Fried Salmon
The place itself isn't very fancy and it isn't gourmet Asian fusion but I'm not about the fancy and "fusion" isn't really my thing either so I liked this place. Ultimately, if you want a dish with rice or noodles with some protein, this is a good place to go to.
Fried Salmon

Lemongrass Beef

Friday, April 26, 2019

Restaurant Review: Daughters Cafe

Daughters Cafe - brunch on April 2, 2019
One of the upsides of moving to Reno is meeting up with one of my old friends from high school who moved there with her husband and kids many years ago. She lives a little farther out and suggested going to Daughters Cafe as she'd been looking for someone to try it out with her. It wasn't that far from where I was temporarily staying and I always like trying out new places so it was perfect.
Like what seems to be many places in Reno, Daughters Cafe is run out of what was once a house. On the outside it's clearly a house and when you walk in, the dining spaces are in different rooms in the house, similar to Homage Bakery. They're only open in the morning through end of lunch time so we met for brunch on a day I had off. It wasn't crowded (it's going to take me awhile to adjust to that in Reno) and the atmosphere was more homey than restaurant-like, as if we'd dropped in for a meal with the (unseen) owners of the house, rather than going out to a restaurant to eat.
The menu is pretty straightforward: there were several choices, most of which included fresh fruit and sausages, for a flat price of $15. I went with the Dutch Baby and my friend chose Shirred Eggs. I didn't get a picture of her order but I should have as I tried at bite of her eggs and they were delicious.
For myself, I loved the Dutch Baby pancake. It was fluffy and moist and just tasted good. The sausages were also delicious. Actually, I could probably rave about the sausages as much as, if not more than, the Dutch Baby. You know how food is delicious not just because of how it's prepared but also because they use the best ingredients? That's how the food at Daughters Cafe came across to me. Plus the fruit was top notch and not just a mere health garnish on the plate.

All in all, Daughters Cafe is one of the best places I've tried in Reno so far and I already want to go back. Next time, I'm ordering the Shirred Eggs.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken

Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken - made April 20, 2019 from The Cozy Cook
It's well known among my friends that I don't drink. Not from any particular moral or religious reasons (although they conveniently align) but mostly because I've never developed a taste for alcohol. Never cared for the taste or smell so it's been easy to be the automatic designated driver at social gatherings. When people don't know I don't drink and give me wine, I promptly give it away or share it with my drinking friends.
So it's a puzzle, why, when I don't imbibe, I've been hosting a tall bottle of vodka in my pantry for many years, likely through several moves. It's been so long since I've bought it that I can't even remember why I bought it. I suspect it was because I needed it once to try a baking recipe but apparently it couldn't have been that good because I neither remember it or seem to have made it again as the vodka bottle was nearly full.

I'd been reading a decluttering book that encourages you to clean out your pantry (as well as the rest of the house) by getting rid of those "specialty ingredients" you never use. Couldn't agree more with that philosophy and, as I'm looking to move again in a couple of months, saw no sense in moving a tall bottle of vodka I hadn't opened or used in at least 10 years. (Does alcohol expire? Asking for a friend."
But when I made to empty the bottle down the kitchen sink, the thrifty side of my nature warred with my decluttering soul. It seemed like such a waste to get rid of it. Not that I planned to actually drink any of it but surely I could find some use for it. Hello, pinterest, my friend, let's look for vodka sauce recipes. Mostly because that's the only thing I could think of that uses vodka which wouldn't involve drinking it.
Turns out there are a number of vodka sauce recipes out there. I went with this one since it seemed easy. Easy because the main ingredients involved opening a can and a jar. I can do that. Since I'm not a cook, I had hardly any of the ingredients on hand except the vodka. One quick trip to Trader Joe's and I was all set.
This turned out surprisingly well. Which, for me, meant I couldn't taste the vodka (seriously, maybe it really did expire and was nothing more than flat liquor?). The sauce came out creamy and for once, I resisted the urge to add more pasta than the recipe called for as at first it looked like too much sauce. Fortunately, the Trader Joe's package of penne only contains 1 pound so I couldn't have added more pasta anyway as I didn't have more than that one package. Not the healthiest thing I've made, alcohol aside, thanks to the heavy cream and cheese, but it's a nice, easy pasta dish. I might even make this again "for company". I still have some vodka left in that tall bottle and I refuse to move it a 4th or 5th time.
1 pound penne
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 boneless/skinless chicken breast
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter, separated
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic
1 cup vodka
14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
24 ounces marinara sauce
1 cup heavy cream
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
fresh parsley, for garnish
  1. Prepare the penne according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil on medium-high heat.
  3. Butterfly the chicken breast and cut the seam to create 2 thinner slices, each about an inch thick. Season the chicken with desired amounts of salt and pepper.
  4. Carefully lower the chicken into the preheated skillet and leave it untouched for several minutes to sear.
  5. Once the chicken begins to release a bit from the bottom of the pan, it's ready to flip. Rotate the oil around in the pan to help it loosen if needed. Flip and decrease heat slightly; sear the other side.
  6. Once done, remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting up. Leave oil and chicken remnants in the pan for added flavor for the sauce.
  7. In the same pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and use a spatula to release some of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  8. Add the diced onion and cook until softened and begins to caramelize. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  9. Add the vodka to the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  10. Reduce the heat to low and add the diced tomatoes and marinara sauce. Stir in the heavy cream.
  11. Add the cooked chicken back to the pan and stir into the sauce.
  12. Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes and add the final tablespoon butter. Add in the pasta and stir until penne is evenly covered.
  13. Top with Parmesan and chopped parsley; serve warm.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Restaurant Review: Sushi One

Sushi One - lunch on March 24, 2019
My sister recommended this place when we went out to lunch after church with our parents. She comes here during the weekday for lunch with her colleagues.
Sashimi Combo, 9 pieces - $12.95
She's the only one among the four of us who eats sashimi and her order came out quickly. The orders for the rest of us had to be cooked first so we waited a little longer, ha.
Chicken Teriyaki with steamed rice $9.95
I got the ubiquitous Chicken Teriyaki which my family could tell you they could predict I'd always get. Not true. Sometimes I get the Beef Teriyaki, lol. What? Not the most adventurous palate here. I like tempura but only shrimp tempura and sweet potato. For the rest, if you had to eat a vegetable (something my inner 9-year-old self tries to avoid doing), it seems pointless to bread it and deep fry it and thereby rob it of its nutritional intent. Might as well eat a french fry, I say.
Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura $11.95
In any case, overall, this place was pretty good. Prices are fairly reasonable as are the portion sizes. You can't go wrong with Chicken Teriyaki either.
Yakisoba with Shrimp Tempura $11.95

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Food Review: Killer Brownies from GoldBelly

Killer Brownies - received April 2, 2019
Do you know those purchases you make because your eyes get greedy when they see something drool-worthy on your computer screen? And you just feel that primitive "me-want" emotion? Then read on, MacDuff.
I first heard of Killer Brownie when I was looking for a gift to send to my old college roommate. I stumbled across them on . The brownie pictures! My eyes! My greed!
[Before I get into a review of the brownies themselves, props for the packaging. It comes in a cute tin, enveloped in gold tissue paper and individually wrapped to snugly fit into the tin.]
But, as is often the case, they were a little pricey for me to buy for myself. I could justify buying them as a gift (good thing that was why I was on the site) but couldn't bring myself to spend that much on four brownies for me, me, and me.
So I bought them for my old roommate and had them shipped directly to her. I can't remember which flavors I sent her but she told me later which ones were good and which ones were okay. Lest anyone thinks she should've just raved about them because they were a gift from me, I prefer she tell me honestly what she thinks of them. I want to know. Besides, it's not like I baked them myself and that she was critiquing me. I could've taken that too but that's besides the point. I like knowing because if they're really good, I'd order from them again and keep supporting them.
Her review was a little lukewarm which was a trifle disappointing, not just because I had hoped to send her a delicious gift that she would enjoy, but the pictures were so mouthwatering on the Gold Belly site. Like my eyes wouldn't let my brain process that they were less than stupendous.
The Original Killer Brownie
So, flash forward a couple of years later, I see Killer Brownies on the Gold Belly site again and this time they're on sale. In a weak, self-indulgent, retail therapy moment, I decided to make the splurge for myself. I ordered the Original Killer Brownie, the German Chocolate, the Brookie and the Blonde Ambition.
The Original is (per the website description): Layers of scrumptious chocolate brownies chock full of pecans sandwich a blanket of velvet caramel. Really, how could you go wrong? Hmm, well, unfortunately, you can go wrong a couple of ways. First,  I don't like nuts in my brownies. They have a nutless version but I wanted to try "the original" brownie as is so I got that, despite my aversion to nuts in baked goods. So that one's my deliberate fault. But second, this sounds weird but it wasn't so much chocolaty as sweet. I like my brownies richly chocolate rather than sweet and this fell in the sweet category.
German Chocolate Brownie

The German Chocolate Brownie was a little better, partly because I expected it to be sweet, I expected nuts in the frosting as per a typical German Chocolate topping and I love coconut. This is the only brownie Killer Brownie offers without caramel and it didn't need it because of the topping. Still not that chocolaty but most German Chocolate Brownies aren't.

The Brookie

Then you have the Brookie. As described on their website: A tasty combination of Not-A-Nutter (the Original but without nuts) and the classic, chocolate chip cookie. It has multiple layers of chocolate brownie with rich, gooey caramel and chocolate chips, topped off with a thick layer of chocolate chip cookie.
I liked the Brookie probably the best of the four, partly because it didn't have nuts and partly because the brownie base tasted more like a dark chocolate brownie than just a sweet one.

The Blonde Ambition
The Blonde Ambition is what it sounds like: a blondie made with macadamia nuts, "Heath mix" (presumably toffee bits) and white chocolate chips with a layer of caramel in the middle. As you can imagine, this was also sweet but that's also normal for a blondie. I also don't mind macadamia nuts in baked goods as much as other nuts.

I wish I could rave a bit more about Killer Brownies as I normally love brownies and, like I said, their food photography is amazing. But I'm also a bit of a brownie snob and I'm looking for a bit more rich chocolate flavor, not just sweetness in a brownie. I understand why they have to charge the prices they do but for almost $9 a brownie (that includes shipping and packaging), I prefer more of a robust dark chocolate flavor (not counting the Blonde Ambition, of course).

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Bakery Review: Victoria Pastry Company

Victoria Pastry Company - visited March 16, 2019
Last year, I bought season tickets to San Francisco’s musical theater season. I’ve never bought season tickets before as usually, if there’s a particular show I wanted to see, I’d just buy tickets to that individual show and skip the others. But this particular season had several shows I was interested in: Miss Saigon, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and Anastasia. Buying season tickets also offered first access for a return performance of Hamilton which I’d already seen but wouldn’t have minded seeing again. So it seemed worth it to splurge on a season ticket.

That is, until I moved out of state after watching only two shows. Oops. Fortunately, I was still working and commuting back to the Bay Area often enough that I could time my return trips to coincide with a couple of the shows I had tickets for. This particular weekend was for Hello, Dolly.

Victoria Pastry was on my list, not only because it was highly rated on “must try” bakery lists published about SF, but because it was walkable from the Powell St BART station. On paper, aka google maps, it’s a 1.2 mile walk. Which isn’t bad; I’ve walked farther in quest of baked goods. There’s just a slight wrinkle that 1.2 miles in San Francisco more than likely means hills. Which it did in this case. But still doable.

It did turn out to be a nice walk with the added bonus of a quad burn going up and down the hills. The bakery itself was small but nicely laid out with its display cases providing a nice selection of individual servings of various cakes, cupcakes, cookies and pastries. 

My standard SOP in trying out a new bakery is to get 2-3 items. It may not be enough to give a fair rating to a bakery but past experience says I can’t load up like I’d like because I’d never finish them in enough time while they were fresh and I don’t want to rate day old stuff, much less consume them. That wouldn’t be fair either.

So for this trip, I went with a red velvet cupcake and a multi-layer slice of chocolate fudge cake. There were several choices for chocolate cake but I went for the straight chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Best to keep things simple.

Both were simple, straightforward desserts which is what I prefer. As usual, I scraped off most of the frosting on the cupcake. If only more bakeries were like Sibby’s and just did a thin covering of frosting but alas, the norm seems to be the puffy frosting tower. No matter, it’s not a big deal to scrape aside. I feel bad for wasting it but I genuinely don’t like (or eat) that much frosting. The cupcake itself was good. Not super red velvet-chocolaty flavor but the texture is better than most of the cupcakes I bake from scratch. 

The chocolate cake slice was rich, moist and definitely very chocolaty. The mousse filling and chocolate ganache topping did me in. The flavors were good but I think I would’ve preferred more cake, less mousse and less topping. It makes for a really rich dessert and moderation is key for maximum enjoyment so I recommend sharing with a friend or three or spacing it out over several sittings.