Thursday, June 25, 2009

California Dreamin'

Things remain busy here at Chez Marshmallow thanks to planning for some upcoming renovations, but I still apologize for the lack of posting. I need to work harder on making time for this. 
Our recent trip to California was a welcome respite from all the things going on here recently, and we enjoyed it fully. We began by flying to San Francisco on a Sunday morning; thanks to the time difference, we left here at 7 am and got there at 9:30 am, leaving us a full day to play. We found our bags and engaged in some Tetris-like calculations to fit them all in the car, and then took off in search of some authentic Dim Sum. Doing some research before the trip, I found that a restaurant called Ton Kiang kept popping up as a great authentic place to go for dim sum. Literally meaning "a bit of heart",  dim sum began as small snacks to be eaten with tea, but has become an experience all its own. Small plates of various preparations are carried around on trays or carts, as the server pauses at each table to tell you what they've got. After struggling to find some parking, we found that the restaurant was already full and bustling at 11:15 on a Sunday. By the time we were midway through our meal, there was a line out the door. 
I only took one shot of the table, as I'd forgotten my camera in the car (bad blogger!) and was using Mom's. Also, I wanted to get back to eating. We had a wide range of dishes, including roast duck (with bones, our least favorite) spicy long beans, shrimp-stuffed scallops, green chive & shrimp dumplings, egg rolls, calamari, foil-wrapped chicken, pot stickers, BBQ pork buns (both baked and steamed) and egg custard tarts. The pork buns and the calamari were my personal favorites, although the pork bun/Hambow in Seattle still wins as best, merely for the reason that it had a better ratio of meat to bun. The calamari was amazing; super tender with a thin batter so crisp that it crackled when bit. The egg rolls were also perfectly fried; they positively shattered when you bit into them, and weren't greasy at all. The green tea was a refreshing and appropriate accompaniment. After an incredibly satisfying lunch, we got back into the car. 
We traveled over what is probably the most famous bridge in the country and headed up to Muir Woods to see some redwoods. Fortunately, we arrived into the most beautiful day the city had had in quite awhile: mid 70's, no fog. Unfortunately, this meant that Muir Woods, the closest and most accessible National Park to many San Franciscoans, was packed. The closest parking space we saw was more than a mile from the head of the trail, so we headed out again and stopped to take a few photos of the beautiful vistas that to road to Muir Woods provides. 
We headed back into the city, toward the piers, to get to the Ferry Building Market. The architecture of the old building was beautiful:
and the vendors were amazing. Summer truffles and fresh porcini anyone? I was so tempted. We browsed, oohed, and ahhed, but we knew that few things would survive the trip home. We settled on some chocolates from Recchiuti, bread from Acme, and sweet treats from Miette. The chocolates were delicious; Hubband and I shared some fleur-de-sel caramels and some burnt caramel hazelnuts, while Mom tried the chocolate peanut butter balls and Key Lime apples. I felt that I couldn't go through San Francisco for a second time without trying their sourdough, which is what we ordered at Acme, while Mom tried their 'Not-so-cross' buns, which she loved. 
Hubband got a vanilla cupcake with strawberry buttercream from Miette. He enjoyed it, but I felt the buttercream was too whipped; it was nice that it was so light, but buttercream (to my mind) should also be rich, and this one had so much air whipped in that it was closer to whipped cream than frosting. I got a few macarons, which were fairly forgettable. The chocolate-lavender had far too much of the latter ingredient. Instead of an accent, it was an herbal punch to the mouth, and was rather unpleasant. The hazelnut was very mild, but nice. The salted caramel was the best of the bunch, but that's a hard flavor to mess up. The texture on all three was good, however. 
Armed with treats and some bottles of water, we settled in for our ride to the next destination: Big Sur. 

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