WelcomeThank you for visiting and welcome to my blog! My name is Hsiao-Ting (pronounced “shouting”), hence the blog name. I enjoy eating, traveling, and trying new things. Hope you enjoy your stay here and please leave a comment so we can get to know each other =)
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Category Archives: Food
I decided to make blueberry cupcakes with all those blueberries so I found a recipe on Epicurious and got to baking!
Blueberry Cupcakes with Maple Frosting
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes 24 cupcakes
- 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
- 1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries, frozen for 4 hours
- 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 teaspoons whole milk
Directions for cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.
- Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
- Whisk melted butter and canola oil in a medium bowl.
- Add eggs to the medium bowl and whisk together.
- Whisk in buttermilk, milk, vanilla extract, and lemon peel into the medium bowl.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk to blend.
- Stir in frozen blueberries.
- Pour batter into paper liners.
- Bake cupcakes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 23-25 minutes.
- Transfer cupcakes to racks cool.
Directions for frosting
- Combine and mix together powdered sugar, unsalted butter, maple sugar, kosher salt, and vanilla extract into medium bowl.
- Whisk together 4 teaspoons of milk.
- Beat until well blended and fluffy.
- Spread frosting over cupcakes.
- Garnish with chilled blueberries on top (optional)
- I really like this recipe since there’s fresh blueberries in the bread and the maple frosting is very unique. The bread tastes like a cross between a muffin and a cupcake, and isn’t too sweet. I brought this on a weekend trip to Napa and it was a huge hit with everyone. Some even ate the cupcakes for breakfast! All the girls asked me for this recipe and now you can make it!
- Freeze blueberries for at least 4 hours to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cupcake batter and discoloring the cupcakes.
- They did not have maple sugar at my grocery store so I had to go to a specialty grocer to get them. I bought the India Tree Maple Sugar at the local store, but I would recommend buying it online, since it’s $6 cheaper!
- This recipe already used half of the India Tree Maple Sugar jar so I’m planning to buy this new one next, since it’s even more affordable.
What is your favorite cupcake flavor and recipe?
Imagine something you’ve been trying so hard to get for years without any success – then it magically falls into your lap. That’s what happened when I finally got reservations at French Laundry. Out of the blue, one of my friends called to tell me there was an opening on OpenTable for 4 people on May 31 at 17:30, so I immediately booked it!
For those that haven’t heard of French Laundry, it’s one of the hardest restaurants to get a reservation at. It’s been awarded three Michelin stars every year since 2006 and the head chef is Thomas Keller. The restaurant is located in Yountville, CA, about 56 miles north of San Francisco.
Since I had 4 open spots, of course the first person I invited was Esther. She and I have been talking about going to French Laundry for years. I excitedly called her and she agreed to drop everything, rearrange her schedule, and drive 6+ hours to be here on May 31st. Score!
When the day finally arrived, we all got dressed up, which was nice, since we don’t get dressed up all that often. It took us about 1.5 hours to drive up to Yountville. We got there early, so we even had some time to take pictures and hang out.
I was finally going to French Laundry!
The hubby all dressed up.
The backyard of French Laundry. They had a couple of tables set up during the summer.
Cute napkin holder. I liked it so much I took it (!) and the rest of the gang followed suit. Haha. We weren’t sure if we were allowed to take it, but thankfully they didn’t ask for it back. It would’ve been quite embarrassing if they did.
So here’s how the menu works: You have a choice of a nine-course Chef’s tasting menu or a nine-course tasting of vegetables, both for $295 / person. We all choose the Chef’s tasting menu.
Our meal started with this tartare and cheese puff. The tartare cone had a nice crunch. Surprisingly, there was creme frachie at the bottom of the cone, kind of like a savory ice cream drumstick with chocolate at the bottom. I didn’t try the cheese puff since I don’t eat cheese, but my husband said it was very tasty.
“Oysters and Pearls” (“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar). The oysters, caviar, and cream went together perfectly. Deliciousness!
Royal Ossetra Caviar (Cauliflower “Bavarois,” Maine Lobster “Gelee,” Horseradish Creme Fraiche and Toasted Broiche) – upgraded course for an additional $75. My husband got this upgrade and I liked it even better than mine. The gel-like consistency at the bottom was refreshing, and the two lobster claws complemented it nicely. This was one of our favorite dishes.
After the first couple of dishes, they served bread baked from Bouchon Bakery and butter made locally.
“Salade Vert” (Young Fennel, Garden Cucumbers, Green Tomatoes, Brokaw Avocado, Castelvetrano Olives and Green Goddess Dressing). All the ingredients from this salad was grown organically in their backyard garden. Very delicate and yummy salad.
“Macaroni and Cheese” (Hand-Cut “Macaroni,” Braised Hobbs’ Bacon, “Parmigiano-Reggiano,” Fava Beans, and Preserved Black Winter Truffle) – upgraded course for an additional $100. My husband got the upgrade for this course as well. They first brought out the mac and cheese and then another server came holding an elaborate wooden box containing a single, whole truffle. Finally, a third server took the truffle out of the box and grated it into the dish. So all the black specks you see in the picture below are fresh truffle shavings. Even though it doesn’t look all that appetizing, it was delicious! I even had a small bite (though I don’t eat cheese) and thought it was quite good.
Slow-Cooked Fillet of Wild King Salmon (Crispy Sacramento Delta Asparagus, Garden Beets, Creamed Arrowleaf Spinach and Ruby Beet Essence). I thought the salmon was cooked well, even though I’m not a big fan of poached salmon and usually prefer it prepared sashimi style or fully cooked. I’m not a big fan of beets either, but the way they made it was unique and tasty! The crunchy asparagus was yummy too!
Georges Bank Sea Scallop “Poelee” (Sweet Corn “Porridge,” Chanterelle Mushrooms, Brooks Cheeries and Watercress Salad). The bacon-wrapped scallop was a bit salty, but it went perfectly with the sweet corn porridge.
Herb-Roasted Four Story Hill Farm Poularde (Garlic Scapes, Cerignola Olives, Opal Basil and Spiced Tomato Conserve). The chicken was cooked perfectly – not dry at all and very tender. It paired nicely with the tomato conserve. But sadly, the guys didn’t appreciate the tomato conserve, thinking it just tasted like salsa.
“Chateaubriand” of Marcho Farms Nature-Fed Veal (English Peas, “Pomme Fondante,” Pickled Ramps and Morel Mushroom “Blanquette”). This was my husband’s dish. He thought it was interesting and very unique. The mashed potatoes and tatter tot were delicious.
Charcoal-Grilled Japanese Wagyu (“Petit Oignon Farci,” Oregon Cepes, Garden Carrots and “Sauce Bordelaise”) – upgraded course for an additional $100. This was my upgrade dish. Perfectly cooked wagyu beef – grade A5. So good!
Andante Diary “Acapella” (Silverado Trail Strawberries, Graham Cracker, Cutting Celery and Pink Peppercorn “Gastrique”). This was the one dish I skipped, since I don’t eat cheese. My husband said it was a very unique dessert, since it’s made of blue cheese. A very interesting combination of savory and sweet.
“Assortment of Desserts” (Fruit, Ice Cream, Chocolate and “Candies”).
I don’t like cream so I just ate the peach, bread, and gelatin on top. Pretty good.Ice cream with cake. The cake was a bit too sweet for me so I couldn’t finish it.Hazelnut chocolate cake. Pretty good but I also couldn’t finish since it was too sweet. I was so full by the time the doughnuts, macaroons, chocolate covered macadamia nuts, and ice cream toffee came out. I was only able to finish one of the macaroons and one of the doughnuts. They also let me pick a piece of chocolate out of a fancy box, but I wasn’t even able to eat that one. Luckily they had to-go boxes for me to take the rest of the food home.For souvenirs, they gave us the menu and shortbread cookies in a cute tin box. Makes sense that we get to keep the menu since 90-95% of the dishes on the menu change daily.
Overall we had a great experience at French Laundry. I wasn’t blown away by the food but agreed that they did a good job cooking and pairing the food. Everything was perfect.
I was initially wary about people being snobby, since I read about some of that in the reviews, but we were warmly welcomed and had wonderful servers. For example, Esther’s husband is allergic to wine. When we mentioned that to the server, he brought out complimentary chai cola, which I thought was really sweet of him. I would definitely recommend French Laundry if you’re a huge foodie, since this is known as one of the best restaurants in the world. This was the most expensive meal I had (beside my wedding), but I’m glad I got to share this experience with my husband and good friend.
Tips on getting a reservation at French Laundry
- Check OpenTable between 10:00 – 11:00AM. I read that’s when French Laundry updates the system on how many tables are open. Use the time “7:30 PM” since OpenTable will check two hours before and two hours after for open spots, which is perfect for French Laundry since they offer seatings between 5:30 – 9:30 PM. Play with 2-6 people to increase your chances of finding an open reservation. This was the method that worked for me.
- Book a private room (707.944.0456). You’ll need at least 8 people. I told Esther about this option so she and her husband called, left a message and actually got a call back. The only problem was that the dates they had available were all during the work week.
- Use your or your friend’s credit card concierge service. I heard American Express Black or Platinum can get you a reservation.
- If you have a friend that works at Google, ask them to book a reservation through their concierge service.
- Book a nice Napa or Yountville hotel at least 3 months in advance and ask the concierge there to try to get a reservation for you. I’ve heard some of them have some pull.
- Contact Nate (firstname.lastname@example.org) to help you get a reservation. He needs 2 months advance notice and will charge a small fee if he’s successful. I’m not sure how much the fee is, but you can read about his success stories here.
- Try to book during the summer since they have more seatings, which means a higher chance of you getting a table. They set up tables in the backyard to accommodate more people.
- Reservation lines (707.944.2380) open at 10AM PT. Recruit some friends to start calling at 9:59AM PT. I’ve tried this before, without much luck.
Where was your most expensive meal? Was it worth it?
I realized it’s been almost a full year since I moved to San Francisco. However, I still don’t feel quite like a local yet, since I haven’t explored that much of the city. Part of the reason is that for the first half of my year living here, I was busy traveling for work and planning a wedding in Southern California (if you’ve ever planned a wedding, you know that takes up all of your weekends!). After my wedding, I thought I would explore SF more but I ended up getting busy with work and too lazy to check out new neighborhoods.
So what’s changed? The last couple of months, I’ve been really lucky to have several out-of-town friends come visit me and I’ve been able to explore the city with them. Showing them around the city has really made me appreciate SF more. As a result, my husband and I have decided to start making a deliberate effort to check out new neighborhoods each weekend, to really become locals.
My takeaway from all of this is that though we often want to travel and explore new cities, let’s not forget to explore and take in the beauty of our own hometowns.
To celebrate San Francisco, below is a list of SF restaurants/cafes/bakeries that I’ve tried in the past month that I would recommend to all of you!
- Philz Coffee (must try their specialty iced coffee, my favorite is the Mint Mojito Iced Coffee)
- Blue Bottle (my favorite is the Mocha, made with chocolate from TCHO, a local chocolate factory in SF)
- Boba Guys (excellent bubble tea)
- Umami Burger (must try the Umami Burger and Truffle Burger, although my favorite is the Greenbird)
- HRD Coffee Shop (my favorites are the Korean Spicy Pork Scrambled Egg Over Rice and Short Rib Bibimbap)
- SO (my favorites are the Wings and SO Black Bean Noodles)
- Skool (my favorites are the Uni Flan and Squid Ink Spaghettina)
- Swan Oyster Depot (my favorites are the Oysters, Uni, and Crab Fat)
- Rhea’s Deli & Market (my favorite is the Korean Steak Sandwich)
- Tartine Bakery & Cafe (my favorites are the Croissants and Lemon Poppy Teacake)
- B Patisserie (my favorites are the Croissants and Kouign Amann)
- Chantal Guillon (my favorite is the Salted Caramel Macaroon)
What are some of the must-eat places for out-of-town guests in your hometown?
Since I was visiting London for the first time, I wanted to track all the food I was trying. I didn’t do much research on food to try in London since this was a last minute trip. Also, not having a data plan oversea limited me to review a restaurant before trying it. Hopefully I’ll be more prepared next time I visit London.
Below is my rating rated in 3 groups: Must-Try (I would go back), Meh (It’s ok), Moo (Don’t go here)
- Perkin Reveller | Even though this place was right next to a big tourist spot (Tower of London) the food was really good! One of the best fish and chip I had on the whole trip. The scones are baked in house. Delish! Definitely go if you are visiting Tower of London.
- Bone Daddies | One of the best sweet & spicy pork ribs I’ve had. The tonkatsu ramen is also delicious (broth is cooked for 20 hours).
- Mr. Milic? | This was a food stand at the corner of Portobello Road and Westborne Park Road. There was no name on the stand but this guy makes one mean beef burger with a big, soft, chewy bun.
- Tokyo Diner | No frill homemade Japanese food.
- Noodle Bar | No frill homemade Chinese pull noodles. Make sure to get the noodles, that’s what their known for.
- Scotchtails | Perfect scotch eggs.
- Monmouth Coffee Company | For a perfect cup of coffee that’s not a chain.
- Caffe Nero | If you need your coffee fix and tea isn’t your cup of tea.
- Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant | Best known for their roasted duck. Get that. Original location is in Bayswater.
- Itsu | Healthy Asian fusion food.
- Shoryu Go | Chain ramen in London that’s ok. The broth in the Shoryu Ganso Tonkatsu Ramen was okay.
- Medlar | One of the most expensive meal I had here – 3 Course Dinner £45. The food was too salty and heavy for me. I’m probably not the right audience for this type of food.
- Brassierie Chavot | No frill British food. The pork chop was cooked perfectly – not too dry.
- Cafe Liberty | No frill afternoon tea for two £20.
- Eat | Skip the Chicken Pho but go for the Chicken Pie. Delish!
- Tas Pide | Pretty good turkish food except the hummus tasted a bit off.
- Machurian Legends | If you like spicy Chinese food, you should definitely go here.
- Poppies | They’re supposedly known for their fried fish but I thought it was okay. Maybe because I got it to go and the fish I got was sitting under the lamp?
- Fountain Restaurant | Overpriced British food. Come here if you can’t get into the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon to try some tea.
- Yauatcha | Overpriced Chinese food but one of the best fruit iced tea I’ve had. Definitely get that if you go. I got the Lime and Passion Iced Tea and Kiwi and Lime Iced Tea. So good.
- Koya | No frill udon noodles.
- Costa | No frill food on the go. Similar to Panera Bread but better.
- Cafe TPT | There’s other better Chinese restaurant. Milk tea had too much milk and there was too much sauce in the duck over rice. Plus I saw the guy putting meat in the microwave before serving it so you can guess how “fresh” it is …
- Old 97 Town | American Chinese food. Ugh.
- Nell Gwynn’s | One of the biggest rip off. I got the “Nell’s Famous Cream Tea” but the scone was hard and the tea was just Twining tea bag. You pay for the location since it’s located in an alley that face the Windsor castle. Don’t be tricked like me!
- Thai Rice | Pad Kee Mao was too salty and not much spice. Thai Iced Tea was too sweet.
- German Food Truck on Portobello Road | Even though the truck smells good skip this food truck. The spicy sausage was too salty and the bread was too hard.
What are some of your favorite eats in your hometown? Any recommendation on places I should go eat at if I visit London again?