Saporito!

7 Jan

Happy New Year everybody! I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season (eating great food of course). My entry today actually utilizes a unique gift given to me by none other than Nerf 1: pasta caberneti! This pasta is made with cabernet sauvignon wine flour that gives the pasta a bold color and unique taste. Image Since I had never had this kind of pasta before, I wanted to make a simple dish that would let noodles be the center of attention. Therefore I didn’t use a heavy sausage or chicken but used sautéed mushrooms. I didn’t follow a recipe, I just kind of used whatever I had in the kitchen so everything was eyeballed and not measured. Below I list all the ingredients that I used and the approximate measurements. Buon divertimento!

  • Half a package of pasta caberneti
  • 1 Tb of olive oil
  • 1 Tb of butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • About ¼ cup of minced shallots
  • 1 tsp. of fresh rosemary
  • 6 medium sized portabella mushrooms (about 2 cups), sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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  1. Bring water to a boil. According to the package instructions it was six cups of water with one teaspoon of salt for half the package of pasta.
  2. In a separate sauté pan heat the olive oil and butter over low-medium heat.
  3. Add the minced shallots and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.
  4. Next, add the fresh rosemary and sauté until fragrant about 30 seconds to a minute.
  5. Finally, add the mushrooms and sauté until soft. I added a tiny bit of water to help with the softening of the mushrooms. Image
  6. Once the pasta was al dente (about seven minutes) I added the cooked pasta directly to the sauté pan with the mushroom mixture and tossed all together.
  7. When the pasta was plated I sprinkled a small mixture of romano and parmesean cheese on top. 

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Alive and well!

16 Dec

Hello all, it’s been awhile and I’m sorry about that, but as Nerf 1 pointed out I recently moved to Chicago and am just starting to get settled down. Even though it’s mid December, the weather here has been surprisingly warm for the past six weeks I’ve been here but we had our first really big rainy day yesterday. What better dish for lunch than soup on a rainy day? But I didn’t want just Campbell’s chicken soup, I wanted something healthy with some saltiness and not too much fuss so I went to my go to favorite dish of udon with shitake mushrooms and spinach. It’s not quite a soup because there isn’t a bowl full of broth but I really love it because it’s easy and quick to make.  I got the recipe about a year ago off of NPR from an article all about tofu but because the recipe is so simple I don’t follow it exactly. For example, the recipe calls for about 10 shitake mushrooms, but I love mushrooms so much I add about 20 and a mixture of shitake and oyster. Basically I use whatever amount of whatever I have (half a bag of spinach instead of the instructed 4 cups of spinach) and it comes out tasty every time. Here is the recipe but tweak it however you’d like!

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1 tsp of toasted sesame oil

1 block of tofu (I use extra firm for easiness), cubed

2 teaspoons of olive oil (I honestly forgot about this ingredient all the times I’ve made this. I just either use the toasted sesame oil left behind or use a little more from the bottle).

6 cloves of garlic, sliced

10 shitake mushrooms, sliced with stems removed

4 cups of spinach

4 Tbs of soy sauce (I use low sodium soy sauce because I find regular soy sauce way too salty for my taste)

2 Tbs of sesame seeds

2 bunches of udon

Instructions:

  1. Cook the udon according to the package instructions.
  2. Over medium heat, heat the toasted sesame oil in a pan.
  3. Lightly fry all sides of the tofu cubes; when finished put in a bowl and set aside.Image
  4. Now add the olive oil to the same pan and add the garlic cooking for a few minutes over low heat.
  5. Add the mushrooms and a tiny bit of water; cook until tender.
  6. Add the spinach and soy sauce and cook until spinach is wilted.Image
  7. After being drained, add udon noodles and mix into vegetables.
  8. Toss in tofu and sesame seeds.
  9. Enjoy!Image

We’re Alive, We Swear!

14 Dec

So some big things have been happening here at NWF which would explain our period of non-activity/silence. First, lil ole me (Nerf 1) got married to The Dude in October. Nerf 2 was my maid of honor (she was an AMAZING MoH) and Nerf 3 (Darlene) and Friend of Nerf (Jennifer) were my bridesmaids. I had 2 (count ‘em, TWO) ceremonies and receptions, which drove me kind of crazy. It’s tough enough to plan one wedding, but it’s a whole ‘nother monster to plan two. We had a ceremony and reception in San Diego for a little over 100 people and then a tea ceremony and reception up in LA for about 250 people. Fun times, but I would not recommend this for the faint of heart and the short of patience.

Wedding cake from Extraordinary Desserts

Wedding cake from Extraordinary Desserts

Wedding pie from Julian Pie Company

Wedding pie from Julian Pie Company

Immediately after the two parties, The Dude and I hit up Fiji for our honeymoon! It was our first trip to Fiji and my first time out of the country (Rosarito back in college didn’t count since everyone spoke English and took American dollars). I had an amazing time and experienced a week in a world so different from the one I grew up in. We took a lot of pictures, so that post will be coming soon! I would highly recommend everyone to go to Fiji. It’s only a little more than Hawaii budget-wise, but worth the extra mile.

The sunrise from our villa's balcony

The sunrise from our villa’s balcony

While we were on our honeymoon, Nerf 3 (Darlene) moved with her Paul to Chicago. :(  I have to admit, I was really sad that she was leaving since she’s my main cooking buddy. The good news is that she will continue to contribute to the NWF blog and tell us of her amazing adventures in the Windy City. Chicago is definitely a cool place to be if you like food. I’m looking forward to her posts on deep dish pizza, Chicago dogs, and the crazy weather there.

Thanksgiving came up quick, then I went with The Dude on his business trip to Seattle, WA. While The Dude was busy in meetings all day, I got to explore a lot of the city (in the rain) and what a great place it is! The air there is so crisp and it smells like winter and Christmas. I’ll have to admit, I kind of liked the rain. But I don’t know if I’d like it so much if it rained everyday for weeks and weeks. Once you’re in the city, it’s quite easy to get around and a lot of fun to explore. I went a bit Facebook Check-In crazy (sorry FB friends of mine) and that should help me retrace my steps and put words to my pictures.

At the Chihuly museum right under the Space Needle

At the Chihuly museum right under the Space Needle

So…keep an eye out for our new posts and thanks for still tuning in!

A Guide to a Day of Apple Picking in Julian, CA

14 Sep

It’s here! It’s finally here! Fall has always been my favorite season. When I was a kid, it meant back to school (I was a weird kid. I really, really liked school and could not wait for summer to be over.) and it meant that temperatures were cooling down. Fall also meant that the holidays were coming and I’d get to see the leaves change colors. What can I say? I love it!

Since moving to San Diego and then graduating from college, Fall then became apple picking season. Nothing’s more fun than taking a scenic drive out to Julian to go pick apples. I’ve taken numerous friends on this outing and everyone has seemed to enjoy it. Over the last few years, I’ve just about perfected my itinerary for Julian day trips and now I’d like to share it with our readers. Just a side note, you can pretty much make this an “anytime” Julian trip if you swap out the apple picking with other fun activities or exploring more of the town. Apple season seems to start beginning of September into October. It’s definitely slim pickings once you hit October, just as a warning.

Things you’ll want to bring:

  1. Cash
  2. Sunscreen
  3. A hat
  4. Bottled water (to rinse the apples you want to eat)
  5. Napkins or tissues (it’s a bit dusty and I get sneezy)
  6. Snacks
  7. Good walking shoes (trust me, don’t wear flip flops)
  8. Pocket knife (optional) if you want to cut into the apple instead of biting it
  9. Cooler with some ice packs (optional) if you want to store the things you bought and keep it out of the sun
  10. Cross-body purse for the ladies (or men) so both your hands are free to hold the apple bag and pick apples

I’ll start the day trip in the morning around 9 or 10 after a hearty breakfast. The earlier you go, the more you get to see because the town is pretty much closed around 4pm. I like to take the route to Julian from Poway as I think it’s the most fun and scenic drive. From Poway, it’ll take you 30-45 minutes. Take your time and enjoy the view! A basic map of the route can be found here.

Something you’ll definitely see out your car window on the drive over

Before I get to the town of Julian, I stop in Santa Ysabel where Highway 78 meets Highway 79 to hit up Dudley’s Bakery and Julian Pie Company. You’ll want to do this on your way into Julian, not out because all the tourists buy this stuff on the way out and you’ll be left with very little variety of everything by the time it’s late afternoon. I like to stop by Dudley’s and pick up some of their really good bread. They make some really good sliced bread that tastes amazing when you use them for sandwiches. The times I’ve gone they’ve had about 10 different varieties available. It’s a bit chaotic when you first walk in, but just look around for a basket and walk around and grab the loaves of bread you want. If you purchase 4 loaves of bread, they’ll give you one loaf free. Once you’re ready, get in that long line to pay at the cash register. Save your pastry orders for when you get to the cash register and they’ll grab what you need (the elephant ear is quite good). Recommended bread flavors: cheddar (tastes like goldfish crackers), jalepeno cheddar (it’s actually quite spicy), danish apple nut, rosemary olive oil, and date nut raisin. You really can’t go wrong with any of the flavors, though. I’m not sure if they still do this, but if you purchase a lot of bread Dudley’s will give you $5 in free slot play at the Santa Ysabel Casino. Save this for later.

Put your bread in the car and walk over to JPC (Julian Pie Company). I know people fight over which place makes the best Julian apple pies, so I’ll just say this one is my favorite because of the crumb topping. If you can, get the pies you want with the crumb topping. It’s like they put crack in it. Delicious, delicious crack topping. If this is your first time at JPC, get a slice to try out. If you’re sure about what you want, there’s a cash register around the corner from the display cases that will let you purchase only whole pies. This will save you time if there’s a long line. JPC has this punch card where if you purchase 10 pies, you’ll get one free. Pies I recommend: apple crumb, apple mountain berry crumb, apple cherry crumb, apple peach crumb. Put these bad boys in the cold cooler and they’ll be waiting for you when you get home!

Now this is where you decide your adventure. You and your travel buddies may be hungry at this point and want lunch. If everyone’s super cranky, then head into town and grab food. I’d recommend, however, that you hit up the orchards instead before it gets too hot and sunny. It’s worth it. Assuming you’re heeding my words, make your way over to Raven Hill Orchard.

Raven Hill Orchard entrance – you can’t miss it

 

This orchard is my pick because the trees are pruned pretty short so that it’ll be easier for anyone to pick apples (even little kids!). I also like it because the rows are marked with the different varieties and the place has a lot of character. Park on the side of the road and walk towards the sculptures. The guy running the place looks like an Irish Crocodile Dundee that doesn’t talk much. Pay $10 for a paper bag that you can fill. It’ll seem like a rip off, but the apples are small and you’ll find that you can fit quite a bit in the bag. Also, you’re allowed to eat as many apples as you want while you’re at the orchard. Just be careful, because that is a LOT of fiber.

Look at all those pretty apples!

If there’s not much of a line, tell him it’s your first visit and he’ll give you details on what kinds of apples he has and which ones are at the peak of ripeness. Basically, the large trees at the south end of the orchard are granny smiths, pippins line the fence, beginning of each row (east) are galas, the ends of each row (west) are fujis. Each row is marked and are mostly jonathans, golden delicious, and empires. I think there’s a few rows of gravensteins.

You can see the trees are pruned to a shorter height to allow for easier apple picking

 

More apple trees in neat rows

Once you get your paper bag, walk as far down as you can either north or south  (this is where the sneakers come in handy. Watch your step or you might trip over an apple on the ground) because those trees are the least picked over since they’re far from the entrance.

Watch out! Be careful of tripping over apples on the ground and don’t get stung by hornets

Make sure when you pick the apples, you gently twist the apple off the stem. Pull too hard and you’ll rip off a large branch and there will be less apples for the next year. Don’t pick any apples off the ground, and check for worm holes before you place the apple in your bag. I like to rinse the apple with some water before I take a bite. Try all the different varieties and you’ll notice the subtle differences between them. You’ll feel compelled to just pick a bunch off one tree, but resign to just pick a few off each tree so you don’t fill your bag too quickly. The orchard owner has sculptures dotted throughout the orchard and you’ll sometimes hear him play the didgeridoo. Like I said, the place has character. Apple picking takes a little over an hour. Ask if they have any cider you can buy because it’s pressed from the very apples you’re picking.

Typical Julian apple picking weather – sunny!

Drop your apples off in the car and head across the street to check out some Julian wineries if you’re interested. It costs $5-$10 for multiple tastings and you even get to keep the glass.

Some wine tasting and a freshly picked apple

If the wineries aren’t your thing, make your way over to town. You won’t be going back the way you came, but instead you’ll be coming into Julian from the back. I like this part of the drive the best because the roads have some switch backs and you’re surrounded by beautiful nature. The moment you drive past the school and a tiny gas station, you’re in town and should look for parking. The town’s main area is really small and walkable, so don’t worry about parking too far. Parking is harder to find the further you get into the heart of town. Park, walk around, and explore. Some suggestions:

  • Miner’s Diner is a great place to stop. They have this old soda fountain counter that’s been around for almost 100 years. I love to get a milkshake or phosphate and zucchini fries. The rest of the food is ok diner food. Walk past the cash register and down some steps and there’s tiny candy shop. It’s fun to check out.
  • Julian Cider Mill is a cute little shop that sells some yummy cider. They even have samples set out for you to try. I always pick up some pumpkin butter and apple butter to take home, along with jams, nuts, and pickles.
  • Not sure what it’s called, but across the street from Miners Diner is this big building with tons of tables of arts and crafts for sale. I like to browse the stuff they have there, but I never really buy anything.

When you’ve had your fill of the town, head back towards Poway and if you’ve still got some energy and time, hit up the Santa Ysabel Casino. Basically, you take a right when you see Dudley’s Bakery. It’s a short drive and you follow the signs to the casino. This is where that $5 free slot play voucher you have comes in handy! Also, if it’s your first time at the casino, I think they give you $10-$25 free slot play for signing up (depends on the promotion that day). I’ve had friends win on the slot play when we’ve gone, so it’s kind of fun. If you’re hungry for dinner, head to the restaurant in the casino called The Orchard. Now that you have a players card, you can get a whole prime rib dinner for $5! What a deal! If you make it before 4, there’s also some food and drink specials.

At this point, you’ll probably be dead tired. Someone usually falls asleep on the drive back. I sometimes like to invite people over and we make caramel apples with the apples we’ve picked. It’s totally worth the effort because they’ll be some of the best caramel apples you’ve ever had.

Caramel apples we made with our bounty. DELICIOUS.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my detailed itinerary and let me know if you have any other suggestions!

A Most Interesting Night…

17 Jul

San Diego was alive and bumpin’ last Thursday night with the first night of Comic-Con officially in full swing.  My partner in crime, Pablano and I didn’t make our way to the Gaslamp but to the Marina 5 Penthouse in Little Italy. There we took the elevator to the top floor of the building where we were greeted by masked hostesses in a swanky penthouse with a beautiful view of the San Diego skyline. Why were we there? We were representing this very blog, Nerds with Food, at a culinary event sponsored by Dos ImageEquis (yes the beer).  Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Academy” teamed up with chef Craig Thornton, who operates the covert operation known as the Wolvesden up in Los Angeles, to bring some lucky San Diegans and visitors from all walks of life a true culinary experience. Wolvesden is an underground supper club where Thornton and his team cook for a small invite-only group at a private residence, which is exactly what happened Thursday night here in San Diego.  But, why here in SD? Why now? I had the amazing opportunity to ask Thornton himself, in which he responded: “What I want to do here in San Diego was bring this retreat from the craziness and chaos of Comic-Con. We had two meals today, the first attended by Comic-Con visitors and the second by artists working at the event. I want to give them something so completely different from con food [such as pretzels, corndogs, nachos, etc.] and give them something completely unexpected.” Thornton clearly accomplished what he set out to do when I heard one of my fellow eaters proclaim, “This is the most un-Comic-Con thing I’ve ever done in San Diego.”Image

Now for the good stuff—the food! For our first course we had a pimento cheese sauce, with a cheese fritter, and spring onion all under a piece of grilled savory steak. We were off with a bang. The second course, which was a personal favorite, was a light and flavorful corn chowder. The warm corn chowder was sprinkled with chunks of fresh cold crab; the two contrasting temperatures were so great. Seared halibut with polenta made up the third course. Now, the next half of the meal was truly amazing. For the fourth course we had a mélange of beans, haricots verdes and yellow beans, and fruit such as golden beet and peach with a crispy potato skin. Now here’s the kicker: this mélange was brought together with cool and tangy horseradish sprinkled with cocoa-coffee “soil.” A-MA-ZING!!! This was Paul’s favorite dish of the night, and was one of the most memorable dishes I have ever eaten. ImageWhen I asked Thornton how he chose his dishes for the evening, it was this dish that he really focused on. “This dish is farmer’s market on a plate, I went to the farmer’s market and bought so much—they were really happy with me! I wanted to put the best of the farmer’s market and contrast it with the soil. We make the soil by mixing the cocoa and coffee and making almost a cookie, then we ground it up. I wanted this dish to serve as a bridge from the halibut, which is somewhat Italian, to the Mexican al pastor dish.”  Mission accomplished; this was one great dish that refreshed the palate and lead to another fantastic dish: the al pastor dish. This was incredible! It consisted of a delicate pork belly that Imagedid not over power the accompanying ingredients of caramelized pineapple, radish slices, a slice of creamy avocado and a scrumptious fried tortilla ball all tied together with a sinfully tasty al pastor sauce. As if that was not enough of a treat, dessert threw me back to my childhood days. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the concentrated strawberries over crumbled short cake topped with whipped crème fraiche with a hint of lime juice, but it was definitely the incorporation of pop rocks in the dessert that took me back. What a fantastic way to elevate a dish that much higher, giving it a tangible layer that brought a smile to every person at our table. Truly memorable! This is a meal I will never forget. Image

I want to thank everyone at the event for an interesting and memorable meal, because atmosphere is also included in the meal experience. First, I’d like to thank Dos Equis for sponsoring the event. I’d like to thank Bjorn for being so nice and hospitable, all of the artists working the Comic-Con event for the lively conversation, the masked hostesses and bartender for never letting me or anyone else end up with an empty beer bottle in our hands, and of course to Craig Thornton and his hard working team for filling our bellies with some of the best food I’ve ever had.

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