Vietnamese food is something that I crave on a consistent basis. It’s up there with Mexican and Japanese. When I’m sick, I love a piping hot bowl of pho. When I’m hungry, it’s all about bun cha. When I’m hot and tired, spring rolls and a potent cup of Vietnamese iced coffee saves the day. The depths of flavors, temperatures and textures is what makes this food so delicious – and to pair almost every dish with raw greens and herbs makes it so wonderfully unique to the culture. And the best part is, you don’t have to go to Vietnam to have some of the best Vietnamese food. For example, check out À La Mode‘s exploration of restaurants representing regional fare from Northern, Central, and Southern Vietnam in Orange County’s Little Saigon!
There’s nothing more enjoyable on a hot summer day than a plateful of Vietnamese inspired spring rolls, filled with raw veggies and fragrant herbs. Not only are they fresh, crunchy and herbaceous, they are surprising filling. Assembling them is half of the fun – especially when you get your friends involved with DIYing their own spring rolls! I especially love my spring rolls with grilled prawns and mango but grilled tofu or pork is just as delicious. And dipping them with a spicy peanut sauce is just . . . well, YUM.
When making spring rolls, separating all the ingredients before rolling makes the entire process that much easier. Keep your mis en place in order by keeping the julienned vegetables, soaked rice vermicelli noodles, grilled shrimp and herbs separate in small, individual bowls.
I drink five cups of coffee a day. Three cups in my Chemex when I wake up, and then a least two more cups in the afternoon, as I sit jittering away in the corner of a cafe. Growing up in Berkeley, home of the original Peet’s coffee and now Philz, it feels like less of a choice and more of a caffeinated birthright. Oh, and I take it black – always black. That is until Erica and Karen brought me back a pound of coffee from Vietnam last year. If you’re not familiar with Vietnamese coffee, it’s a dark (and I mean DARK) roast that is brewed using a special filter called a phin. The result is a thick, robust coffee that is subsequently mixed with sweetened condensed milk. While it’s definitely sweeter than your average cup of joe, this coffee has a certain lusciousness that makes it hard to put down – especially when poured over a tall glass of crushed ice. If you consider yourself a coffee person, you owe it to your caffeinated self to give it a try.
It seems like just yesterday I was melting away down in Phoenix, slurping Italian ice as I watched the A’s for spring training. Now all of a sudden summer is upon us, and who would have thought the A’s have the best record in baseball?! Life is good. Speaking of life being good, how about this coconut guava agua fresca? The other day I was experimenting in the kitchen with some guavas I had picked up from Berkeley Bowl. Add a little lime, a little coconut and wow – I immediately knew I had to share.
- I actually posted the full recipe yesterday on Instagram.
I’ve been to tons of bars in my life. Too many to count, in fact. Hmm, that sounds bad. But hey, it’s all part of the job, right?! We’ll go with that. As you probably know, there are some truly amazing bars here in the Bay Area. However, a select few hold a special place in my booze-filled heart. One of these is Alembic. There are so many reasons to love Alembic; too many to discuss in today’s post. Let’s focus on one: the Southern Exposure. This was one of my first, and still the best, experiences with vegetable juice in a cocktail. When I’m anywhere in the Haight (Alembic’s neighborhood) this cocktail singlehandedly lures me into the bar. It’s that good. But don’t just take my word for it . . . dust off your shaker and get to work!
Start by washing and juicing the celery.
As you know, there are about ten million reasons to love Tracy Benjamin of Shutterbean. However, reason number one in my book (because I have a book . . . of reasons) is that when I asked her where she wanted to meet-up, her answer was, “How about a distillery!?” Not just any distillery mind you, but St. George Spirits. Before Tracy could reconsider her hasty decision, tickets were booked for a tasting and distillery tour. Buahahaha!! If you haven’t been to St. George, stop what you’re doing right now and book a tour. If you’re coming from across the bay in San Francisco you can even make a day out of it – hop on the ferry and drift over to Alameda. Perhaps you could bring bikes and cruise around the island, if you’re so athletically inclined. Maybe it happens to be the 1st Sunday of the month, and you can hunt for bargains at the Alameda Antiques Faire (like Tracy and I) which by the way, is right next door to St. George. Just a thought. On our tour, our guide discussed in detail the spirit-making process – all while huddled amongst barrels and barrels of booze (and a shark!). After the tour is a tasting, where you get to sample a little bit of everything. And St. George really makes everything. There’s Hangar One vodka, Terroir gin, Breaking & Entering Bourbon, Absinthe, and that’s just to name a few! Of course, I had to pick out a few bottles to take home with me to keep the party going. I highly suggest you do the same.