Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Satiety thy name is tasting menu

Yes, it's been too long since I last posted. There has been many a delicious meal. There has been baking (pumpkin cake, cranberry nut bread, even macarons.) There has been the incorporation of a candy thermometer into the rotation of kitchen tools. This is serious business. But if I think of any of that for too long at this moment I may explode. Literally, my stomach may erupt.

I am writing in this moment merely to document a feeling that I am usually too exhausted or tipsy or just plain satiated to note when it happens, but which is a really remarkable feeling - that time after eating an astonishingly large meal, where your belly is expanded with a post-term food baby, your intestines throb, and your mind whirls with dizzying thoughts of the food ingested. It's a rare feeling and one that while it should be kept at a minimum is one to be savored. Being full is a privilege and not to be taken for granted. And while I am in no way wealthy, as I enter into this new year, I realize how lucky I am, and my full belly reminds me of it.

So, although it seems unfathomable now, I know that tomorrow I will be hungry again - and probably more than usual since my stomach is now so stretched. And I hope that as I go back and remember the eight plus courses (oh that risotto with pork and braised red cabbage, oh that oxtail consomme, oh my goodness that absurdly rich creamy cheese from Burgundy whose name I can't remember, oh Lord that foie gras), I hope that I will also remember this feeling of fullness, that slight whiff of guilt, and that ultimate feeling of absolute luckiness that I got to enjoy such a decadent meal.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Impulse Buy(s) - a mini-road trip to San Jose

Last Saturday, to help ease me back into California living, Daniel humored me with a trip down 280 to sample some of what San Jose has to offer. We didn't have much of an agenda, so with only iPhone Google Maps to guide us, we stumbled on to some tasty finds. Here's the day in pictures:

Our first stop was Mi Pueblo Food Center, which from online reviews sounded like an open-air market, but was in reality a big grocery store, specializing in Mexican, Central American, and South American products.

A pretty yummy chicken tamale. The chicken was a little dry, but nicely flavored

We bought a container of salsa. Although the man at the counter assured us it was the spiciest, it wasn't that hot, but it had a nice, smokey flavor to it.

Some chipotle hot sauce. Because we currently have approximately twelve open bottles of hot sauce in the fridge, I have restrained myself from breaking into this. Not sure how much longer I can resist.

Next, we headed over to Little Saigon, or so it was known before the great San Jose naming controversy of 2007. No matter what you call it, this area is known for its sizable Vietnamese population, which is apparently the largest outside of Vietnam.

First we hit the grocery store, where of course we were forced to make a couple of impulse buys...

A fried onion paste, which is INCREDIBLY salty, but has already added some powerful oniony flavor to the savory casserole bread I made on Sunday.

Mackerel in tom yum sauce. Yet to try it, but I love small, canned fish.

I also love small, packaged, fried fish. Anchovies with sesame seeds! I really am kind of in love with these. Daniel bravely tasted them but wasn't sold. I think I'll sneak some into a salad and see what happens...

Here's what we didn't buy...

In fact just one look at this can of slimy, preserved bananas was enough to get my gag reflex going. Ick. Here's a close up.

Double ick.

From there we went walked down the shopping center concourse to a little take-out joint specializing in meat substitutes. As we know, no one does meat substitutes like the Asians.

I'm honestly not sure what is in this cup. We couldn't decide what to order, so the nice woman behind the counter made us a mix of gluten-based goodness. The resulting sampler was very chewy, a little sweet, and when topped with loads of sriracha, very yummy. While we would have naturally erred toward large amounts of our favorite hot red condiment, we did so with even greater abandon on the recommendation of a kind older gentleman who was himself enjoying a Styrofoam cup of mixed gluten.

This is ban boc lac chay. Very gelatinous rice gluten (I think) wrapped around little bits of tofu.

Finally, we headed over to the indoor shopping mall across the street, which seemed to specialize in jewelry shops and Vietnamese appetizing stores, where we purchased two baggies of beef jerky. One hot and spicy for Daniel and one fruit cured for me (in honor of the delicious fruit cured pork jerky that my Nina introduced me to.)

While there was a big food court, nicely appointed for the holidays, we decided to forgo it.

I was craving a salad, and since I had yet to capture the obligatory "Daniel eating a sandwich in the car" photo, that needed to be remedied...

And so, with banh mi in hand, we journeyed back north to SF to catch up on Mad Men.