Restaurant Review: Izakaya Sozai – San Francisco

Mark made a wonderful choice for his special birthday dinner this weekend and we all went into the city (San Francisco) for some Japanese Tapas at Izakaya Sozai.

Going into the city is always fun, but it’s definitely better when we’re going for food. It was super windy and we had some trouble with our Lyft, but the restaurant was super understanding and still seated us even though we were about 20 minutes late for our reservation.
I wouldn’t suggest making lateness a habit here though; we had a very early reservation, this place is small and fills up very fast, especially later in the evening.

The service was really friendly, fairly quick, and the food was so so delicious!

Tapas is a style of cuisine with small plates of appetizer type food, beautifully made, interesting flavors, easy to eat.

We ordered (and devoured):

Izakaya Sozai - San Francisco, CA, United States

Tuna Tartare: wasabi guacamole, lotus root chips photo by Yelp user Ari W.

Izakaya Sozai - San Francisco, CA, United States. Spicy tuna over crispy rice, huge pieces this time

Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice with Teriyaki Balsamic photo by Yelp user Doris K.

Izakaya Sozai - San Francisco, CA, United States. Takoyaki

Takoyaki: battered octopus ball tonkatsu sauce Photo by Yelp user Janice C.

Izakaya Sozai - San Francisco, CA, United States. Garlic edamame, $3.50/happy hour price

Garlic Soy Edamame photo by Yelp user Natasha S.

Izakaya Sozai - San Francisco, CA, United States. butter corn

Sweet Butter Corn Kernels photo by Yelp user L C.

Izakaya Sozai - San Francisco, CA, United States. Garlic blossom

Garlic Blossom Bulb with sweet miso paste photo by Yelp user Nina S.

Izakaya Sozai - San Francisco, CA, United States. Albacore Carpaccio

Albacore Carpaccio with crispy onion, yuzu garlic ponzu photo by Yelp user Hugh H.

Izakaya Sozai - San Francisco, CA, United States. Braised pork belly

Buta Kakuni: Braised Pork Belly photo by Yelp user Kwan L.

Izakaya Sozai - San Francisco, CA, United States. Chicken skin and bacon wrapped mochi

Bacon-Wrapped Mochi and Chicken Skin Skewers photo by Yelp user Zoe H.

Izakaya Sozai - San Francisco, CA, United States. Ritsu Tonkotsu Ramen.

Ritsu Tonkotsu Ramen in Pork Broth with Fried Braised Pork Belly, and Garlic Chips

Izakaya Sozai - San Francisco, CA, United States. Carmelized bananas

Caramelized Salted Bananas photo by Yelp user Anh T.

Izakaya Sozai - San Francisco, CA, United States. Fried Banana Dessert

Tempura Fried Bananas a la mode photo by Yelp user Chelsea M.

This food was so incredibly delicious. The ramen was especially tasty with a really rich broth and flavorful noodles.

I was surprised by the tuna tartare in that it was just so darn good! Although I really try to broaden my tastes, I’m still so often hindered by the ideas of “weird” food, but the tartare was so smooth, and lotus chips were so crisp. Amazing!

I was only slightly disappointed by the sweet butter corn as there wasn’t anything unique or different about it. It was just sweet corn with a little seasoning; easily something I’ve produced at home.

This place absolutely gets top marks and we will be returning.

5 Stars (5 / 5)

2014: Play Favorites

You may have noticed that, in addition to a love of food, we are also pretty darn fond of games. Here are some of our favorites – ones we personally experienced in 2014 (not necessarily released then). 

Adam:

A lot of shit happened in games last year. Leave a comment if you don’t know about this, but you likely don’t want to find out.

I’m sure I played a bunch of cool stuff, lots of little Twine games but I really didn’t keep track last year (I’m looking to improve things this year so I’m keeping a list of the games I’ve played).

I also spent way more time watching people play games than playing them myself, I don’t regret it, it is sometimes a much more enjoyable and educational way to experience games.

I could randomly pick a few things I remember playing and liking, but let’s go hard here and pick just one game.

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Dragon: Age: Inquisition: 117 hours to complete my first play-through and not a minute too long. I need to put up a gallery of the 1,800+ screenshots I took while playing. Like Brie mentions below, I have plans for at least 2 more play-throughs, though I probably won’t spent as much time on them (mostly because only some of the game will change the next time I play).

I said I wasn’t going to list a bunch of games, but I’ve changed my mind, these will go without commentary, but maybe pick one and try it out?

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Technoccolut: Covenant / Marginalia / CHYRZA / Kindness Coins (seriously, these are all great, check ’em out!)

Brie:

A lot of great games came out last year; I played a few (watched people play a lot more), but I also played some older games that I hadn’t seen before. My best of 2014 is a mix of those.

I’m not going to rank them, because I wouldn’t be able to decide, so in no significant order:

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Goat Simulator was so much fun and a gift that just kept on giving. It was a blast to play as a group and a lot of fun to kill time with on my own. A surprise of a game, and totally worth it.

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The game I was most excited about coming out this year was Dragon Age: Inquisition. Even though I haven’t finished the last story-line quest (I’m busy with school and am trying to complete all the side-quests first) I’ve got a TON of hours invested. I’m also already planning my next play through.

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Another game I got really excited about as soon as I knew it existed is Lifeless Planet. The ambiance of it was so enjoyable and perfect to play in a dark room. Space is totally my jam, and the whole astronaut on a deserted planet thing was perfect.

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My final game of 2014 though is The Longest Journey, which is a surprise considering the game was originally released in 1999. Adam and I are currently working on a play through and it’s just been so much fun. Even though the graphics are clearly dated, the writing and voice acting has been fantastic.

Cat:

As Adam mentioned, things were rough in games last year (which is an understatement). This … situation … definitely influenced my playing habits. Life habits, if I’m honest. You’ll notice that in my picks, most likely.

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Quing’s Quest. The immensely talented Squinky created this simple, silly, and delightful text-based game that gave me immense emotional relief during a time that I really needed it. They have made other, lovely games – so if you’re into games that feel fully human and personal, give ’em a go. (More on Quing’s Quest in Squinky’s own words HERE.)

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Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna). Beautiful art, touching story, and the incredible influence of the Iñupiat people (Alaska Native), their culture, and folklore.  It’s a puzzle platformer, and it’s well-worth playing all the way through to the end (a three-or-so hour endeavor).

I also took great delight in both Goat Simulator and Dragon Age (mentioned above by Adam & Brie).

That’s all, folks. What did you play and love last year? Looking forward to anything in particular in 2015?

Recipe Review: Pierogi Lasagna

The Food in my Beard has been one of my absolute favorite food bloggers for a very long time.

A lot of his stuff intimidates me, so usually I just ogle the pictures and get really hungry.

Image by The Food in my Beard

Image by The Food in my Beard

He made this Pierogi Lasagna last year that I just couldn’t pass up though. Potatoes, pasta, onions, cheese. There is literally nothing to not love in that lineup.

I threw one together this last week and it lived up to expectations; it was exactly like a large delicious creamy and cheesy potato filled dough pocket.

Image by The Food in my Beard

Image by The Food in my Beard

The only thing about Food in my Beard, is that his measurements are sometimes a little loose, so in the recipe below I’ll put my suggestions in parenthesis.

Recipe Review: Pierogi Lasagna
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3 large potatoes (3 wasn't enough for me, try 4, or even 5 if smaller)
  • 1 tub of sour cream (sour cream comes in different sizes, I used about 16oz)
  • 1 pound of cheddar
  • 2 onions (2 was not enough, go with 3)
  • 1 bunch of scallions
  • 1 pound lasagna
  • a few slabs of bacon
Instructions
  1. Chop the potatoes and place in large pot. Pour in the milk and bring to a simmer stirring occasionally and being careful not to burn the milk on the bottom of the pan. Bring some pasta water to a boil and cook your noodles. Meanwhile, cook the bacon and remove from pan. Slow cook the onions in the bacon fat. When the potatoes are tender, mash them right in the milk. Kill the heat and add the sour cream. Stir in the cheese. Layer the potato sauce, noodles, onions, and scallions in a deep baking dish. Bake about 30-45 minutes at 400 until browned on top. Top with bacon and serve.

I will definitely make this again and in greater quantities.

5 Stars (5 / 5)
Restaurant Review: Texas de Brazil and/or Adventures in Chicago

Restaurant Review: Texas de Brazil and/or Adventures in Chicago

In the first half of 2011, I had a brief interlude of living in Chicago, or, the suburbs of Chicago.

Although it was only about 6 months, and the circumstances around my move away from, and abrupt return to, California are surrounded in some pain, I managed to generate some fantastic experiences and favorite moments.

These include riding the L every day into the city for pâtisserie school at Le Cordon Bleu…

foodschool

My first and only encounter with true deep dish pizza… (delicious)

PizzaPull

Image courtesy of Giordano’s because I was far too busy stuffing my face to take a picture. Coincidentally, Giordano’s will ship you pizza anywhere in the US, so, have fun getting fat.

Finishing my first and only (so far) Triathlon … second to last …

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I’m pretty sure the “all whites” on the sign is some kind of sponsor product and not a commentary on the racial restrictions of the race.

And at the top of this list, discovering that magic that is Texas de Brazil; Brazilian barbecue.

brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Now, a Brazilian barbecue restaurant, or a churrascaria (which is is named for the type of barbecue used), is a delightful and wonderful experience.

Texas de Brazil is the only one that I’ve been to, but I recently went into fan-girl mode with a friend who had visited a similar restaurant, Fogo de Chão, and found that the experience is virtually the same. She affectionately named it “Meat Mountain”*.

*I was going to find an image, but I’ll let you do your own googling on that term…

So, during my 6 months in Chicago, I managed to visit Texas de Brazil twice, once on a whim, and then I insisted on going back for my birthday. It’s not necessarily one of those places that will kick you out for wearing jeans, but the atmosphere definitely makes you want to dress a little nicer; the meat demands the reverence.

Here’s how they explain themselves:

THE EXPERIENCE

Texas de Brazil is carving out a new experience in fine dining. The restaurant is an authentic Brazilian-American “Churrascaria”, or steakhouse, that combines the cuisines of Southern Brazil with the generous spirit of Texas.

Treat yourself to our 50-60 item seasonal salad area that includes appetizers, gourmet vegetables, soups, and salads. Turn your place card to green and prepare to be swarmed by a troop of carvers generously serving various cuts of seasoned beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and Brazilian sausage, all accompanied by traditional side items and house-baked Brazilian cheese bread.

As you dine endlessly on Brazilian fare, let one of our in-house wine connoisseurs select the perfect pairing from our extensive, award-winning wine lists, or sip on a freshly-made signature cocktail — the Caipirinha.

Complete your dining experience with one of our many decadent dessert selections and then relax with an after-dinner drink or steaming espresso and enjoy the ambiance and service perfection that is uniquely, Texas de Brazil.

“Generous spirit of Texas” indeed. They give you a small circular card, similar to a coaster, with a green side and red side that you turn over depending on if you want the meat to keep coming on not. And they just keep on coming. These wonderfully handsome servers dressed as gauchos bring you offerings of spears of meat that include filet mignon (plain or wrapped in bacon)….

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

…braised beef ribs, lamb chops, leg of lamb, pork ribs, Brazilian picanha, garlic picanha, Brazilian sausage…

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

…chicken breast wrapped in bacon, Parmesan drumsticks, Parmesan crusted pork loin, flank steak, herb marinated pork loin, Brazilian alcatra, and chicken sausage.

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

I don’t know… does that sound like enough meat? It might not be enough meat…

I kid though, not only is the meat plentiful, but it is incredibly well cooked and delicious to boot.

Oh! And the salad bar.

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

It’s not just a bowl of iceberg, shredded carrots, and aluminum bowls of ranch dressing; it’s full of things like imported cheeses and Italian salamis…

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

…steamed asparagus with strawberry sauce, or spicy surimi sushi, jasmine rice, grilled Portobello mushrooms. Shrimp salad! Greek olives! The salad bar is amazing and delicious, and also incredibly plentiful.

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

I would feel comfortable saying that you could bring a Vegetarian along with you (or if you yourself are one) and a stunning, satisfying, and filling meal would be had.

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Speaking of food preference, Texas de Brazil is the perfect place to go if you’re gluten free. Although they have artisan breads and maybe some pasta salad options, there’s not a lot of gluten in sight.

They of course also have delightful dessert options including things like key lime pie, Brazilian cheesecake, Brazilian papaya cream, or Crème Brûlée, however I would be surprised if you would be able to finish one after the preceding feast.

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Truly these are just icing on the cake that is meat.

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Image courtesy of Texas de Brazil

Honestly, my meals at Texas de Brazil are the best I’ve ever had. Though there isn’t one in California, they’re all over the US and even internationally. And if you can’t get to a Texas de Brazil, get yourself to a Fogo de Chão, or find and support a local Brazilian barbecue.

Recipe Review: Banana Muffins

Recipe Review: Banana Muffins

I’ve been having trouble eating breakfast in the mornings before school or work. Virtually every day (even weekends) I’m leaving the house pretty early and I can’t think of something easy filling, but this last week these banana muffins sure helped a lot.

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They are of course a far call from any kind of well rounded and nutritional breakfast, but it means I’m able to wait to get lunch until I’m home and can skip the fast food.

I’ve made banana bread many times in my life, always pulling a random recipe here or there, and this time was no different.  I wanted something that seemed simple and would use up a bunch of our brown bananas.

(Besides, I can’t bribe Brandie to make me her Cinnamon Streusel Banana Bread every week)

I found this one by Yammie and fell in love with how simply it was layed out.  I didn’t have any gallon bags so I ended up dirtying at least one bowl, but it was still so worth it.

My only complaint is that I think the recipe had too much sugar, since ripe bananas are already so sweet, but it the muffins were exactly what banana bread should be; sweet, sticky, and soft.

Recipe Review: Banana Muffins
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 3 brown bananas (1 cup mashed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour*
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Glaze (optional):
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk or lemon juice
  • Read more at http://www.yammiesnoshery.com/2013/10/the-best-banana-bread-muffins-ever.html#Bwy4WvFRfKp4p0i2.99
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. Get out a ½ measuring cup and a ¼ teaspoon (these will be all you need to measure your ingredients).
  3. In a large Ziploc bag, mash the bananas. Add the eggs, seal the bag, and shake and squish until combined. Add the sugar and mix well. Dump in the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Before zipping and mixing them all the way in, mix them together a little with your measuring spoon. Now add the oil** and vanilla and shake and squish until well combined.
  4. Snip the corner of the bag and squirt the batter into a lined muffin tin (if you don't want to clean the pan, line it with tin liners so the grease doesn't come through). Don't make the hole very big at all because the batter is very runny. Pinch the corner between each muffin.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. To make the glaze, just mix together the powdered sugar and milk or lemon juice and spread over cooled muffins.
Notes
As written on: http://www.yammiesnoshery.com/2013/10/the-best-banana-bread-muffins-ever.html

The original recipe said it would give you about a dozen muffins, but I got nearly two dozen out of it.

All in all I liked this recipe a lot and recommend you try it.

5 Stars (5 / 5)

Also, be sure to check out Yammie’s site!

Restaurant Review: Nopalito – San Francisco

Restaurant Review: Nopalito – San Francisco

This past Sunday Cat and I trekked into our city by the bay so that she could catch up with an old friend she hadn’t seen in about 15 years. She doesn’t mention it very often /sarcasm, but Cat grew up in San Francisco, so it’s always a treat to explore the city with a couple of natives.

We met Cat’s friend at Nopalito (Broderick location), a beautiful restaurant with two locations in the city that prides itself on being a “vibrant neighborhood Mexican kitchen celebrating the traditional cookery of Mexico and utilizing [a] philosophy of purchasing local, organic and sustainable ingredients.”

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Nopalito has 4-star presence on Yelp and offers a mid-range priced menu full of as many unique drinks as dishes. They were also able to seat us right away at about 1:30 pm on a Sunday afternoon even though the restaurant was clearly bustling and very popular.

Our server was very friendly and helpful, but I’ve had more prompt service; as we were all chatting and enjoying ourselves, maybe their more relaxed level of attention was purposeful.

We were brought paper menus, deliciously roasted chickpeas, and water glasses along with a large glass bottle of water should we wish to refill ourselves. I always appreciate this as I often drink the water more quickly than a server can replenish it.

Cat and I both ordered the Mexican Coffee; it sounded interesting, tasty, and we both needed a kick of caffeine.

nopalito

The coffee contained : Siete Leguas Anejo (a tequila), Araku (a coffee liqueur), whipped cream, orange, canela (cinnamon).

The tequila was the dominating flavor which made it a little stronger than expected, but otherwise it was quite tasty.

Thumbs up for day drinking and responsible public transportation!

For my meal I ordered the Empanada con Deshebrada de Res, described as: “Fried masa pastry, grass-fed beef, tomato, jalapeño, cabbage, avocado, queso fresco and salsa frita de guajillo”

empanada

Image by Yelp user, Anthony N.

It was incredibly delicious. I was a little afraid that any of the food would be too spicy for me, but it was the right level of heat. The warm meaty filling was wonderfully seasoned, everything came so well together in bite after perfect bite. The pastry stayed crispy the entire time, the avocado was bright green and ripe, the queso added just a touch of tartness, and the cabbage was crunchy and delightfully sweet.

Cat ordered the Huevos de Caja: Poached eggs, refried black beans, corn tortilla, jack cheese and salsa de cilantro

eggs

Image by Yelp user, Anna D.

It looked absolutely amazing and Cat claimed that it was delicious.

We both found that our meals, though smaller than typical “American portions”, were satisfying, and pleasantly filling.

As an added treat, our server brought us complementary Mexican wedding cookies! Also very tasty.

I greatly enjoyed my experience here and I will not only return, but will certainly recommend it to everyone.

If you’re in San Francisco, make sure to add this to your nomming itinerary!

5 Stars (5 / 5)

Bonus Footage: Local San Francisco Wildlife

pidgeon

Featured image courtesy of the Nopalito website

Krispy Kreme Doughnut Monthly Flavor Review: Brownie Batter and Cake Batter

Krispy Kreme Doughnut Monthly Flavor Review: Brownie Batter and Cake Batter

About 12 years ago a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts opened near me. Everyone talked about how wonderful the doughnuts were, and how magical those warm, right from the fryer, just glazed ones were.  Everyone had to have them, warm or not, people went crazy for them. Even though the Krispy Kreme was pretty close, it was never that close without a car. So I only had a few Krispy Kremes from the local grocery store, but I didn’t think they were anything to go crazy over. A few years later, they closed. The buzz went away. The building sat there empty for years, until about 2 years ago. I noticed one day driving by the hot sign was on, and a super long line of cars wrapped around the building.

Did you know there’s an app for that!?

 

I still have not had a ‘hot one’, but did manage to make my way  there last fall for their pumpkin spice and pumpkin cheese cake doughnuts. That’s when I found out they had specialty flavors every month. Sometimes it’s two different flavors, or the same flavor in different styles, like a custard filled doughnut and a cake glazed doughnut.

This month’s flavors are cake batter, and brownie batter custard filled doughnuts. I love just about anything cake batter flavored, and who doesn’t like to lick the brownie spoon? We picked these up as soon as Adam and I could fit it into our Qwerty dinner cheat day. So, what did the Qwerty Crew think of these delicious little doughnuts?

Brandie: I really liked both of them, but the cake batter is the better one in my opinion. The flavor of the custard is spot on cake batter. Not overly sweet, or overwhelmingly cake batter flavor like the chemically tasting ones. It’s fresh and light. I hope to get at least one more before they are onto the next flavors. The brownie batter ones do taste like delicious just mixed up batter, it even has the little bit of brownie batter grit. But there’s just a little something missing flavor wise and I can’t quite put my finger one it. Would I eat another one? More than likely, it’s a chocolate creme filled doughnut. If there’s a Krispy Kreme near you I say go try them out!

Brie: Unfortunately, I was just getting over the flu when Adam and Brandie brought us these delectable donuts. I filled up quickly on dinner, but made sure to try one of these. I thought at first that the Brownie Batter would be what I wanted, but I ended up going with the Birthday Cake Batter. It was delicious! The filling tasted just like frosting, and the crunchy sprinkles on top were perfect. Growing up in New Hampshire, I was always a Dunkin Donuts girl, but Krispy Kreme is definitely a treat. Can’t wait to see what they’ve got next month!

Cat: So, this whole cheat day thing has really made me aware of whether or not I’m enjoying what I’m eating. In this case – the brownie batter doughnuts failed the “worth it?” test. The texture was nice, but I was expecting a rich, chewy, moist, ultra chocolatey experience – and they didn’t really deliver. The flavor just wasn’t that strong and though they weren’t unpleasant… I’d give them a “meh.” The cake batter flavor was much better, but only because of the filling. The pastry itself was similar in its blandness to the brownie batter. The filling, however, was absolutely reminiscent of frosting – but the sweetness was THISCLOSE to being cloying instead of enjoyable. For my diet’s sake, I’d definitely have the cake batter ones again… and I’d just spoon out some of the filling. 🙂 As a side note – I have tried fresh-from-the-oven classic Krispy Kremes and they are absolutely addicting.

Adam: The cake batter was for sure my favorite of the two. The problem with the brownie batter is that the donut itself doesn’t have enough of a flavor to enhance the filling. Mix the batter filling with a classic chocolate donut and I’d be on board!