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Last Date Night of 2011

1 Jan

My husband and I didn’t have any plans for New Years Eve. I hadn’t planned anything, nor did he have anything up his sleeve. So I kind of suggested he plan something. He sent out an email to a bunch of our friends to see if anyone wanted to go to karaoke. These karaoke places in the bay area are really cool because you can reserve a room all to yourself and pick and choose from silly videos of mainstream songs. You don’t have to embarrass yourself in front of random strangers, just your friends. Well, no one was slightly interested in karaoke so we scratched those plans. Then on Friday, the 30th my husband calls me and tells me he made a reservation at a restaurant who serves New Orleans style dishes. He spoke with the chef and he would accommodate the foods we avoid – tree nuts, wheat, eggs, dairy, peanuts. Now we had to hire a sitter… almost didn’t get one and actually called the restaurant to cancel our reservation only to call them back 10 minutes later to keep it; my aunt heard I needed a babysitter from Facebook.

We arrive at CreoLa at 8:30 PM, the parking lot was packed and we found whatever parking we could find. When we arrived, the hostess asked for our reservations and told us to wait while she look into our table. The chef, Edwin, then came out and introduced himself and told us that he is well prepared to accommodate us and had prepared a dessert for us. BTW, this is a major whoohoo for me because we can never find a restaurant with a dessert menu that would suit us – it would either have nuts, eggs, flour, and/or dairy, and I LOVE sweets. I’m such a sweet tooth.

When our waiter approached our table for our order, we told him about our allergies and he knew about each of the dishes and how the chef could possibly make it suitable for us. For example, the shrimp appetizers would usually be battered and fried but they grilled them for us. We then had a salad, which it was supposed to be a pear salad and we didn’t get any pear so I wonder if it was soaked in something that we couldn’t eat. We didn’t ask since we forgot that the salad was even supposed to have pears until someone at a nearby table mentioned pears.

For the main entree, my husband had the pork chops and I ordered the smoked duck leg. The pork chops were cooked to a perfect temperature and came out moist and tender. It was a little too salty for me but it was my husband’s dish and he enjoyed each morsel. My duck was very good and the blood orange glaze was a great touch.

So the dessert was not on the menu but it was ice cream sandwiches made from coconut ice cream and rice crackers, with a caramelized banana. It was sprinkled with edible flowers. It was delicious and I wanted to lick the plate!

 

It was a wonderful last date night of 2011. My aunt came through on the last minute babysitting and we found a new restaurant worth going to again. We didn’t quite make it to midnight, we were in bed by 11:30 PM. We’re not quite the young and spunky… especially knowing that a little one would be waking up early the next morning.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope 2012 will bring happiness, joy, and adventure. I will continue on my own adventure and continue on our allergen-free diet for Mantou. I hope I can provide more stories this year on how we deal with Mantou’s allergies. He’ll be realizing soon enough that he can’t eat everything everyone else is eating. Happy 2012!

Aw Shucks

20 Sep

This past weekend I met up with some friends in northern California for some fresh oysters. We were lucky that some people cancelled their reservations at Hog Island Oyster Farm so we could take over their picnic bench. It was a great day to be up there. All the kids were well behaved for the most part.

For the oysters, we had an option of getting them pre-shucked or shucking them ourselves. Since we had not experience shucking before we decided to start with half and half. Not too bad of a slow start we were able to shuck some of our own oysters. My husband was our official shucker and he did a great job! He became comfortable enough that we ordered even more.

I don’t know what oysters we bought but there were little ones, medium ones, and big fat juicy ones. The fat ones we had to put on the grill, but the others were all good enough to eat from the shell. We were well stocked – beside the restaurant providing the lemons and their vinegary sauce, our friend brought a homemade butter garlic sauce, and another friend brought the horseradish and cocktail sauce.  It was very delicious, I didn’t even know I liked oysters.

We also put a few fresh corn, peppers, zucchinis, and peaches on the grill along with some chicken wings. I couldn’t eat the zucchinis or chicken wings since the zucchinis had a garlic butter, and the wings were made with soy but the corn and peppers were sweet and the peaches were a fun touch.

It was a great experience and I don’t know why I never had done this before.

Super Mantou Cart

31 Aug

Have you heard about the food trucks? These aren’t your typical taco trucks. There are trucks for many types of cuisine  (Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, American BBQ, Korean, Indian); foods (pizza, pasta, sandwiches); and desserts (cupcakes, cream puffs, ice cream, and creme brulee)! The best part is that these trucks come to you! Well, they come to downtown San Mateo every Monday for the time being.

Food carts were a popular thing in Portland, OR when I was there and they seemed to have bloomed last time I went to visit in May! In San Francisco there’s a whole movement called “Off the Grid”. It’s spreading like wildfire. There’s even a realty television show based on food trucks- The Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network (which I haven’t seen).

One thing that my husband and I do before going to the food truck event is check in advance the line-up of carts available for that week. This being important because the vendors change weekly which is reasonable since they are mobile. We then go to the company’s Facebook page, Twitter account, or website to gather information about the menu and ingredients. We’ve been able to reach out to some chefs in advance too, so that’s been great. For the first week we went to Seoul on Wheels – got their chicken tacos and chicken plate. This week we tried the lemongrass chicken at Haiyaa. So we hopped onto the bandwagon and we’re enjoying this food truck craze!

Family Values

28 Aug

My family is 100% awesome! They have been making sure that Mantou and I are able to have something to eat when going out. Last week my brother took us out to Sweet Tomatoes and today we ate out at a Chinese restaurant, as well as had a bbq meal ala chef Papa.

I picked Sweet Tomatoes over Hometown buffet thinking that I would have more options at a salad bar. Now that I have gone to Sweet Tomatoes though I don’t know if there would be much of a difference in options. The pre-made salads had either nuts, cheese, raisins, grapes, croutons, or noodles. So I stuck with making my own salad. Apparently you can ask for their ingredient menu but I didn’t know of this till after coming here. I couldn’t eat much from the hot food bar except for the soups and a baked potato. We ate their lentil soup and chili beans. Too bad their veggie dish was cooked with butter. Mantou was not a fan of the rice pilaf.

At lunch today we went to a Chinese restaurant and my mom made it clear with the waitress that Mantou and I could not eat anything with soy sauce, peanuts, walnuts, and flour. We had to double-check that the salt and pepper prawns were made with corn starch (which it was). Plus we got a boiled chicken with ginger and garlic. Everyone else shared a dish of chow mien, sweet and sour pork chops, Chinese broccoli with Chinese bacon, and pork with bamboo shoots.

Mantou napped after lunch right into dinner. My dad put a slab of tri-tip on the grill and my mom pan-fried some red snapper fillets.  The kids were probably full from our late lunch so they only ate a few morsels. However, we spent it together out on the deck, enjoying the nice summer weather.

Ah, how I love spending time with family. They love us so much and watch out for us as much as they can – Feeling the Love once again 🙂

Hawaii in Tahoe

15 Aug

On our last night in Lake Tahoe my family wanted to go down to Stateline to enjoy a last hurrah of a meal together. It’s kind of tradition to go for a buffet. The “best” one in Tahoe at least for the views is at the Harrah’s casino. Usually I would jump at the occasion, especially since my little brother said he would pick up the check. But was it worth the $26.99/person price?

In the end my husband and I just couldn’t justify the price of the meal. For one thing we weren’t sure what food items we would be able to eat. Even though my sister called ahead to get an itemized menu and all of it sounded really good. I really wanted to go with the family since it would have been our only night out.

Instead we went to a “Hawaiian, American” restaurant on the California side called Freshies Restaurant and Bar. I wouldn’t call it Hawaiian fare per se but the atmosphere was really tropical and fresh. I even ordered a very refreshing tropical sounding drink called the Tahitian Limeade – coconut juice with limeade. The outside deck was awesome, it was a great day and we had a good view of the lake.

They were very allergy-friendly and it wasn’t difficult to order. We had kimchi – which was very spicy but good and the My tri-fries – (yams, sweet potatoes, Russet potatoes) sprinkled with a Caribbean spice. By the way they use Organic Rice Bran Oil, never even heard of it before.

For the entree, I had two fish tacos (one grilled, the other fried). I was going to get both grilled but the waitress told me that they used brown rice flour in the batter so I switched it up a bit. They were both wrapped in two corn tortillas, with tomatos and lettuce. Delicious! My husband got the Sweet Potato and Quinoa Griddle Cakes which were served with coconut and maple syrup glaze, another great dish!

Unfortunately, we did not get to order from the dessert menu. All their items had an ingredient we were trying to avoid. Our waitress almost got me to get their brownie since it was wheat-free, dairy-free, and nut-free… but alas it had eggs.

It was a great restaurant choice and I’m glad I found it!

Red Duck Soup

29 Jul

Eating out at an Asian restaurant I already know there is a limit to what I can order. For example, most of the items at a Chinese or Korean restaurant include entrees that are soy sauce based. Vietnamese and Thai  foods usually have peanuts sprinkled here and there. I’ve already experienced slim pickings so whenever someone bends over backwards to make sure they can serve you, I am really thankful.  Take this with a grain of salt, as I’m sure there are restaurants out there that will claim to not allow the allergens to co-mingle with your food but actually do allow it. A friend of mind shared a story with me about his cousin who was allergic to many foods. His cousin talked to the waitstaff and explained to them of her allergies. They said they would not use any of those ingredients, however when the food came and she took a bite, she immediately had an allergic reaction. I don’t know what happened and I’m sure these stories occur frequently.

Since I am not the one directly affected by allergies, I can only offer what I think is an amazing restaurant in my area that accommodates my diet. Every time I’ve come to order, the owner is very helpful in providing us with almost customized meals. She doesn’t rush us to order as she helps determine what entrees would be safe. Considering that she’s a busy person with many customers, her service is beyond A+. I’m talking about a tiny little restaurant off of San Mateo Ave called Thaiger Thai Kitchen. Before, this place was a “What’s UP Dog” hot dog stand that lasted a few months, and before that it was vacant for a long time. Their location is actually a little odd right in the outskirts of the auto mall. However, because of their delicious food and high Yelp reviews this place will probably be sticking around a lot longer – and that’s a good thing.

We’ve gotten their salmon and pumpkin curry in the past which our friends had today. My husband and I shared a duck and pineapple curry and we also had a stir-fry veggie dish (green and red bell peppers, stringbeans, tofu, garlic and fish sauce). The veggies dish is somewhat of a custom dish because they substituted fish sauce instead of using soy sauce. I remember the first time she suggested this dish she told us that it would be stinky. I laughed since I’m familiar with fish sauce and knew what she meant, however it was so delicious we asked for it again. It is good to know that there are restaurants who will listen and offer suggestions for making your diet work especially when the food tastes so good.

So what’s up with the title of this post, Red Duck Soup? Well we had red curry with duck tonight and it triggered a story – It’s actually an internal family joke that haunts my husband. When my husband (then boyfriend) came over to my parents for dinner one evening, my mom brought home some Chinese bbq pork and roasted duck. My mom tells him that she bought some duck. My husband having not eaten roasted duck before eats a piece, but wasn’t really into it. He takes a piece of the red meat next to it and really enjoys it. He tells us that the red duck is really good. We all look at him and wonder what he’s talking about since there is no red duck. We then realize he was talking about the Chinese bbq pork. So whenever we have bbq pork we call it red duck and laugh.

Bubblelicious

27 Jul

I was surprised today turned out really warm. It was cold this morning with overcast skies so I didn’t think that the fog would lift. When I went to go pick up Mantou from daycare later in the afternoon I put on one of my fleeces expecting it to be cold. After I walked out the door I wished I just left it at home, but I was anxious to go pick up the little guy. I’m glad the day turned out nice anyway. For one, it’s summer, it’s suppose to be warm but also because my husband and I decided to meet downtown. We needed to pick up some more lotion for Mantou and some Blue Bottle coffee beans for the hubs. What did I get? I wanted bubble tea!

There’s about five different places downtown that we can get our bubble tea fix. I’ve been to four of them and I like going to each one for different reasons. At TeaWay it’s a “do-it-yourself” type of place. You order at the counter the tea you want, they give you a cup, you fill it with whatever type of goodies you want, then they pour in the tea and seal the cup. Quickly is a chain that’s everywhere in the Bay Area. The one near me has been pretty consistent with their tapioca balls – these have to be made well – in Chinese there’s a term we call “q” it has to have the right bounce and chew, in other words mushy or hard = bad. Plus I like getting their taro milk tea because it’s their anniversary “special” so it’s cheaper than the other flavors. At Dessert Republic, I like to sit at their tables and order because they have this fun way of serving. At each table they have a little placard with options for you to press; for example, when you press the “order” button you hear a “ding” and a waitstaff person presents them-self to take your order. The most recent find is a place called Tpumps. It’s owned by a super friendly guy named Alex who is really passionate about healthy tea. He serves up some awesome taro milk tea with real taro pieces.

Ok, so why a review on the bubble tea places in my neighborhood? Well, if you have noticed, I had been ordering my favorite milk tea! Gladly most of the menus at these tea places have a variety of teas that do not include milk, just straight up tea. Alex at Tpumps says he will think about using soy milk since his patrons have requested non-dairy concoctions. However I have a tolerance for strong tea, I grew up drinking oolong black tea, plus there’s that added sweetness in bubble tea. I wonder if any of these places would welcome the suggestion of using coconut milk? While visiting Portland, OR in May I found a tea place called Fat Straw (on “TrendyThird” street – which is the same street as my favorite chocolate place “Moonstruck”). Their unique ingredient? You got it – coconut milk. It is a great alternative to regular milk however coconut milk has its own flavor so it will affect the taste a bit and is a little bit denser. If you like coconut milk, then that’s not a problem.

One more thing, those bubbles are made from tapioca starch so no worries about wheat there!

Side of Bacon, Please

25 Jul

Weekends, oh how I love to sleep in when I can. It’s even more awesome to have a hot breakfast with pancakes, potatoes, and bacon.  The weekdays are usually rushed – our typical morning ritual is to get Mantou out of bed, nurse him, get his dirty diaper off (unless it’s a poopy one then we try to change him first), get him his bath, slather him with lotion and topical steroids (for his eczema), put a clean diaper on, clothe him (usually in long sleeves because he scratches himself silly), let him run around a few minutes, then feed him his oatmeal. Yup, oatmeal is his breakfast food, about 99% of the time. No sugar added, just the whole grain oats. My little boy just gobbles this stuff up!

Some days I just want someone else to make me an elaborate breakfast, so why not go out and let that someone else do it? Well, as many times as I’ve gone to a restaurant serving breakfast, I’ve learned time and time again that it is not really worth going anymore. The only entrees on the menu that is available for my diet includes oatmeal and corned-beef hash. I eat oatmeal everyday so their stuff better be good. I guess if they offer steel-cut oats then it’s “okay”. Luckily I like corned-beef hash too. The rest of the items like fresh fruit, home-fries, bacon, sausage can be ordered on the side. Let’s pile on the sides then!

This past weekend we went to a restaurant in Carmel called”From Scratch“. I emailed them ahead of time to check what menu items they would be able to provide and as I listed above, those exact items were pretty much all I would be able to order. However, their food was absolutely worth it. Everything we ate was very good. I could tell that the corned-beef dish wasn’t the canned stuff and it was good to the last bite. It’s nice to know that I can still frequent breakfast serving restaurants, you just won’t be seeing me digging into the pancakes and waffles.

I know it is nice to go out but it is just as well to make a good breakfast at home. I can serve myself up with buckwheat pancakes or cornmeal waffles. No need to ask if there is eggs, dairy or wheat in that.

Whey(t) A Minute

21 Jul

I should read ingredient labels more carefully. I just saw “rice crackers” and assumed it was good to eat. I bought the Lundberg Rice Chips in Sesame Seaweed yesterday and started snacking on them. It didn’t sound to me to be harmful. Big mistake, I re-read the ingredients after collecting some of the “munchies” and found that the label clearly listed Milk as an allergen. Argh!

Then today I knew I was going out for dinner with friends and I had seen that our restaurant had a gluten-free menu. BJ’s has a “food & allergen sensitivities and gluten-free selections” menu that lists the menu items and indicates if it is free of particular allergens. It was amusing to me that anything that was gluten-free contained milk.  I ended up choosing something that was “new” and wasn’t listed on their special diet menu – The Maui Glazed Porkchop. Does this description sound bad? – “One center cut pork chop, lightly seasoned and glazed in a sweet and tangy sauce, grilled and served with oven roasted red potatoes, steamed green beans and topped with grilled sweet red onions”. I’m guessing they might have some soy sauce (not wheat-free) but no other allergens. Double Argh! Eating out is quite difficult with multi-allergies.

It doesn’t sound like I’m doing too well with my diet 3- 0 in the past 2 days is not very good stats. It just tells me I need to cook at home more often.

Don’t Forget Your Special Request

20 Jul

Today is my wedding anniversary and if those are curious it’s the year for leather. I know this because my husband is really good with following the tradition of gifts that follow the anniversary year. When I think leather, I think handbag. When my husband thinks leather… well let’s just say it’s a little risque. It was fortunate that he ended finding a beautiful breakfast tray with pressed leather handmade from somewhere in Peru. He surprised me with breakfast in bed atop my beautiful new gift. What he cooked up for me was even more fantastic. He made me a tofu scramble with spinach, onions, and red bell peppers and a side of home fries. It was a masterpiece and a very good meal. I wish I could have more anniversaries! I LOVE my husband!!!

For dinner we made reservations at a French restaurant in Belmont called The Iron Gate. We had come here before when Mantou was in the bun and I remember not being able to eat the steak cooked as I would normally get it because I read that it was best to have steaks cooked well-done if pregnant. So this time I wanted to get beef done medium rare!

Well, what I failed to do was review their menu before coming here. There was not very many items on the menu that were wheat-free (breaded) or dairy-free (butter, cream sauce, cheesy). I had found a steak on the menu that didn’t mention any of the allergens and hoped for the best. It was a delicious and satisfying meal, but now I’m worried about how Mantou will be tomorrow after I nurse him! Ugh, I feel awful that I didn’t do my research before hand to review the ingredients with the restaurant beforehand. Nor did I let the waiter know ahead of time what my dietary needs were. Though we passed on their desserts but because it was our anniversary, the waiter came by with a vanilla ice cream sundae with strawberries and two candles. My husband and I laughed since it was something I couldn’t eat but we felt obligated to dig in a little so while my husband ate the ice cream, I ate the strawberries.