Monday, September 28, 2009

Kara's Cupcakes & Ritual Roasters in Napa

I've had Kara's Cupcakes say half a dozen times now. Finally decided that these cupcakes look better than they taste. I'm quite a dessert fiend myself but really these are kinda overrated. Am a sucker for the pretty packaging however and once again couldn't resist the temptation. This time round I had 2 cupcakes, a banana caramel one and a chocolate one with raspberry frosting.

Oh such pretty cupcakes:

If you end up getting the cupcakes in Napa, definitely stop by Ritual Roasters. Afterall, there's nothing better than cake + a perfect coffee.

Chomp Meter
Leaning towards a 3.5 chomps for Kara's. High scores for presentation and a mean frosting. Taste wise the cupcakes are ok. A tad heavy and sweeter than I'd prefer and left me feeling all sugared out.

Kara's Cupcakes (Oxbow Market - Napa)
610 First Street, Suite 19
Napa, California 94559
P 707 258-CAKE (2253)

Kara's Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pica Pica Maize Kitchen - Oxbow Market Napa

Weather today was gorgeous after a too hot Saturday. We took a drive out to Oxbow Public Market in Napa. Our first visit there even though we've been to Napa quite a number of times. Not surprising since there is so much to indulge in there!

First stop was Pica Pica Maize Kitchen. It's in the Oxbow Public Market "food court". Food court is in quotes because the Oxbow Market is much nicer than your regular food court but nevertheless the best way to describe it :p Needing to save room to try as much as possible during this visit, we decided to share a skirt steak arepa (Paballon), Yucca fries (Pasapalo), and a salad (Bululu).

pica pica maize kitchen pica pica maize kitchen

The salad was very refreshing! Passion fruit dressing, pineapples, roasted peppers, corn, jicama and quinoa. Quino is hard to describe if you haven't had it. Apparently grain is not an accurate description (see wikipedia). Quinoa is pretty common in South America and looks like little worms. Morsels & Musings has a pretty photo of quinoa.

bululu salad arepas

The arepas (skirt steak, plantains, beans, cheese) were good though the skirt steak was a little dry. The highlight for me was the Yucca fries. They were nicely battered and the sweetness of the yucca gave them an almost syrupy taste. Hard to describe but a must try!

Chomp Meter
Hmm more like 4.25 Chomps for what it is. Exceeds expectations for a casual restaurant in a food market and perfect for lunch! Pica Pica comes highly recommended by our Venezuelan friends. The focus on corn is interesting (I believe there's a larger variety of corn in South America) and I found the food to be yummy. I'd definitely be back for more but not before I try the other restaurants there hehe.

For tourists though, there are only so many meals you can have in Napa so I don't think this makes the list just yet.

Pica Pica Maize Kitchen
610 1st St
Napa, CA 94559-2602
(707) 251-3757

Pica Pica Maize Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bleaux Magnolia Review

Where: Napa Valley, CA
Specialty: Creole / Cajun Food

One of the perks of being further north is the shorter distance to Napa! We took an impromptu trip there on Sunday to buy some wine. After a long day of wine tasting and some shopping, we decided to try Bleaux Magnolia located in Napa's town center for dinner.

The restaurant is in the unlikeliest of places, on a back street, near a garage and CVS. It looks sort of cute on the outside anyway so we decided to give it a try.

Our waitress presented us with the option of dining outside or inside. We picked the patio area outside and were kept warm and toasty with the heat lamps. Very cozy even in November! The servers were also very friendly, no wonder Bleaux Magnolia is highly rated on service.

We ordered several dishes among us. For appetizers, we got the Mac N Cheese as well as the Pulled Pork Lumpia. For mains, we had the Seafood Gumbo, Cornbread Crusted Catfish, and the Fried Chicken and Waffles.

The food was very well done. I especially liked the pork lumpia which was served in a very crisp egg roll of a shell. The fried chicken was nicely fried too. My only complaint is that the gumbo was lacking okra which I love!

Lumpia (L) Mac and Cheese (R)

Chicken and Waffles:

Gumbo and Catfish (L) Yummy Jalepeno Cornbread! (R)

Chomp Meter
I've read some reviews that the food served isn't particularly authentic and I agree. However, if you come with the expectation that Bleaux Magnolia is a New American restaurant with cajun/creole influences, the restaurant does excellently. Another perk is there's no corkage fee for bringing your own wine!

Bleaux Magnolia also serves Jazz brunch on Sunday afternoons and a little off the beatn path, this may be a good restaurant to throw into the Napa vacation mix.

1408 Clay St
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 252-2230

Bleaux Magnolia on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Michael Mina's Review - Please avoid ...

Where: San Francisco, CA (Union Square in the Westin)
Specialty: Overpriced, over-rated mediocre food

Against our better judgement, we headed to Michael Mina's to celebrate my birthday. The initial plan was to have dinner at Gary Danko's but P wasn't able to get us reservations and MM was the backup. Really we should have heeded the advice we found on Chowhound ...

Here's how it works at Michael Mina's. You have the choice of a 3 course pre-fixe ($100) or the tasting menu ($135). There are also several options where you have to top up for crab or wagyu etc. We decided to go with the pre fixe menu.

Mini's Selection:
- Foie Gras Trio (Add $15)
- Maine Lobster Pop Pie (Add $15)
- Mission Bienvenudo (Tres Leche, Flan, & Mole Pudding)

P's Selection:
- Bacon Wrapped Scallop / Chowder Trio
- Liberty Valley Duck / Foie Gras
- Chocolate Florals (Panna Cotta / Chocolate Ice cream)

Anyhow we headed there without much expectation and hoping for the best. The meal started off with the lobster amuse bouche, which was dare we say, good? We were so hopeful...

Amuse of lobster salad, ravioli, and consomme. Isn't the consomme cup cute? :)

Next, the foie trio. The dish was poorly executed. The balance of flavors wasn't right and the most unforgivable part was that the seared foie gras wasn't even warm!! I could barely swallow it ...

The scallops were ok. Then came the mains. I don't really know why I ordered the Maine lobster having just come from the East Coast but who can resist lobster. The presentation is rather neat since it comes in this bowl with a huge domed piece of bread on top. Don't worry you don't have to attempt to break this up yourself ... our waiter expertly dished it and recreated a lobster:

Tadah! The lobster was good though I thought they were a little heavy handed with the cream sauce. Nothing to write home about.

Now on to P's duck. It seems like cooks at very different skill levels prepared the dish. P had a seared foie gras too which was good and fresh off the skillet :P However, the duck part of it was cold. Perhaps left out too long, and since it was served rare, that made the whole thing just gross ....

OK ok so I think the pastry chef has to be the star of the evening. The desserts were absolutely delicious and well executed. I loved the fruity flavors (pineapple/guava) with my tres leche cake, the mango bits in my flan, and the mole pudding (spicy!) which was paired perfectly with the horchata ice cream. P's desserts were all yummy too.

Oh and to be fair, the service at Michael Mina is excellent. Our waiter was friendly and attentive without being overly formal. A birthday card was presented to me on the table, though it was from the General Manager not Michael Mina himself :P

Chomp Meter:
Very ambitious but poorly executed. The concept of having 3 presentations for each course is cool but not so much when it isn't cooked right. See I think this is the problem with 2-Michelin star places, they're like the middle child wedged between the best restaurants in the world and the up and coming ones.

The bill for 2 people came up to $360 after tip. (Includes only 1 glass of wine that P had.)

Michael Mina
335 Powell St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 397-9222

Restaurant Michael Mina on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 7, 2008

Liou's Chinese Restaurant Review

Location: Milpitas, CA (South Bay)
Specialty: Pre-ordered Dishes- Stuffed Duck, Honey Ham, Winter Melon Soup

A mini road trip was in order for the gran-ma's birthday. P interned in Milpitas many summers ago and I had fond memories of eating at the Asian restaurants there. You have to understand that I was quite the deprived child then, being in North Carolina for school. So anyway we decided that Milpitas would be a good place to get some Chinese food. I also called ahead to pre-order the stuffed duck which is their specialty.

Inside Liou's. Many tables for large parties:

Much to my annoyance, the restaurant LOST my order for the stuffed duck so they never made one for our table. URHGK!! In the end the manager offered us an extra honey ham instead (this also needs to be pre-ordered). Doesn't quite make up for it, but I suppose it was better than nothing at all.

Honey Ham (L); Fresh Whole Fish (R)

The honey ham was unique. The dish is served with thinly sliced bread so you can make "ham sandwiches". Kinda like peking duck. Pretty good I say. We also ordered stir fried peapod stems, a whole fish, lions head meat balls, corn and spinach soup, and a fried noodle dish.

Since it was the gran-ma's birthday, they served also served us some longevity buns on the house as dessert. Certainly a nice gesture. The buns themselves weren't too tasty, maybe they are the pre-frozen ones from Ranch 99 hehee.

Lions Head Meatballs (L); Longevity Buns (R)

Chomp Meter:

Certainly a good authentic Chinese restaurant. I would like to try some of the other pre-order dishes in future (assuming they don't forget my order! hehe).

Liou's House Chinese Restaurant
1245 Jacklin Rd
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 263-9888

Liou's House on Urbanspoon


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