Hong Kong: Burgeroom and Farm House

Hong Kong: Foie Gras Burger at the Burgeroom

Foie Gras Burger at the Burgeroom

I love a good burger and when my co-workers recommended going to Burgeroom (50-56 Paterson Street, Causeway Bay) in Hong Kong, I only happily agreed. I became giddy when I saw photos of a nice big piece of foie gras on top of a juicy patty. Talk about combining two of my favorite foods!

Burgers, onion rings, melted cheese twister fries and fried mozzarella cheese balls

Burgers, onion rings, melted cheese twister fries and fried mozzarella cheese balls

This popular burger joint doesn’t take any reservations so expect a slight wait at peak dinner time. What I loved most about ordering my foie gras burger was that the guy asked if I wanted a double or a single! It took a lot of self-restraint not to get a double. These burgers are HUGE and messy. The patties are so thick and juicy that it is literally impossible to take an entire bite of the whole burger. The foie on top of the burger was absolutely incredible, just adding to the overall richness of the meat patty. I also really liked the twister fries and the fried mozzarella cheese balls. I would happily go back the next time I’m in Hong Kong.

Dim Sum at Farm House

Dim Sum at Farm House

A trip to Hong Kong wouldn’t be complete without getting dim sum! My mother took me to Farm House (1/F, Phase1, China Taiping Tower, 8 Sunning Road, Causeway Bay), a Chinese restaurant that actually specializes in seafood. Farm House’s dim sum menu is limited, but there are definitely some solid dishes. The har gau (shrimp dumplings) were filled with huge, crisp shrimps and a paper thin wrapper. I was even more pleased with the siu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings), which were also juicy and tasty. One of the Farm House’s signature dishes are the chicken wings stuffed with glutinous rice. That bad boy was delicious. The skin was super crispy and lightly fried and the sticky glutinous rice was flavorful. I’d definitely recommend ordering it.

Farm House Shi Dan 是但

Farm House Shi Dan 是但

One dish that I also really enjoyed was the shi dan 是但. It’s a steamed savory egg custard topped with seafood, duck, mushrooms, vegetables and salty egg yolk. While this is a simple dish, it’s almost like having an “egg custard soup,” which is perfect with white rice. It was also the perfect dish for my grandmother because it was soft and easy to eat.

If you travel to Hong Kong, I hope you have a chance to stop by Burgeroom or Farm House. It’ll definitely help satisfy any cravings!

Shanghai: Tapas at Malabar and Tomatito

Malabar in Shanghai

Malabar in Shanghai

Tapas restaurants are definitely popular destinations in Shanghai and I found two places that I really like. My friend Cher took me to Malabar (1081 Wuding Lu; 武定路1081号), which is on the popular and lively restaurant street, Wuding Road. We ordered croquetas, olives and grilled baby squid to start. The croquetas were a little too oily and I probably wouldn’t order them again. I did love the olives, which were meaty in texture, and the grilled baby squid. The calamaritos a la plancha “con su tinta” were cooked perfectly and the chimichurri sauce complemented it really well.

Malabar: Ribeye and Manchego Cheese

Malabar: Ribeye and Manchego Cheese

I was so excited to see ribeye steak from Uruguay on the menu and we happily ordered the 300g portion. This steak was served medium rare with an onion compote and roasted potatoes. For only 175 RMB, this dish is a total steal! The meat was tender and flavorful and I loved the onion compote. I saw that this one of my the most popular dishes in the restaurant with practically every table ordering one. Finally, Cher and I ended our meal with manchego cheese, which was a healthy portion of cheese and a tomato jam. Malabar is definitely a popular restaurant because the place filled up and people were waiting in line to get in. For the pricing and quality of food, I think it’s definitely a solid spot for tapas.

Tomatito Tapas

Tomatito Tapas: Albondigas and “Broken Egg”

Tomatito (2/F, 99 Taixing Lu; 泰兴路99号2楼) is part of the famous El Willy Group and is the more casual restaurant compared to sister restaurants, El Elefante and El Willy. I’ve been to Tomatito twice and the place is always popping.

Meat and Cheese Board and Nachos

Meat and Cheese Board and Nachos

While Tomatito serves classic Spanish dishes, there are also a lot of unconventional items. In terms of dishes that I would recommend, I liked the albondigas. These meatballs are served in a casserole dish with potatoes and tomato sauce with some sliced bread. The “broken egg” dish is a fried egg served ripped up on top of potatoes, BBQ pork belly and chilis. It was an interesting combination and felt very hearty with the potatoes. However, I felt the nachos were less successful. These nachos were also topped with multiple fried eggs, but I felt it made it too difficult to eat. Nachos are meant to be eaten with my hands and not my knife and fork. My favorite dish of the night was definitely the calamari (non-fried), which was tender pieces of squid served with a garlic aioli and lemon juice.  My second favorite dish were the steak “air baguettes,” which were crispy crackers topped with cheese spread and a slice of beef.

Pom Pom Cookies Cake

Pom Pom Cookies Cake

The second time I went to Tomatito, it was for Cher’s birthday and I brought a special ordered cookie cake from Pom Pom Cookies. I’ve written about my love of Pom Pom Cookies on my blog before, but this was my first time ordering one of her cookie cakes. I ordered a triple chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. I cannot rave enough about how AMAZING this cake is. Each layer is a thick, chewy cookie, which makes this cake incredibly dense. Since the “cake layers” were heavier, I actually liked that the cream cheese frosting was on the lighter side. While it may look small, the cake can literally feed 20 people. There were 10 of us and we could only eat half. It is deceptively filling. If you’re interested in one of Pom Pom Cookies’ cakes, you can email her directly for flavors and pricing (info@pompomcookies.com).

Trattoria Ski Bar in the Dolomites

View from Hotel Belvedere in Falcade, Italy

View from Hotel Belvedere in Falcade, Italy

I had a work trip in the very north of Italy in the province of Belluno. We were far north, close to Austria, up in the Dolomites mountain range. It was absolutely incredible to be surrounded by so much lush greenery (and fresh air). I can only imagine how beautiful it would be in the winter, covered in snow.

If you want to visit this area, you definitely need a car. I’d recommend taking the train to Venice, renting a car and then driving 1.5 to 2 hours to the area. Unlike the rest of Italy, the restaurants close very early, around 9pm or before. We had a difficult time finding a place that was still open and were frantically calling different places. We got very lucky when one restaurant, Trattoria Ski Bar, agreed to stay open even though we didn’t arrive until 9:45pm.

Trattoria Ski Bar

Trattoria Ski Bar

I had to write about Trattoria Ski Bar because it was literally one of best meals of my life. The owner was super friendly and greeted us warmly. Rather than have us order from the menu, he suggested to let him take care of the meal and pick and choose his favorites. We started our meal with a plating of different types of pasta. The first one was an eggplant gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce and cheese. Rather than using potatoes, there was only eggplant in this pasta. This gave the gnocchi as wonderfully light, but flavorful consistency. It was my first time having eggplant gnocchi and now I want to learn how to make it! The second pasta dish was a beetroot-filled gnocchi with a brown butter sauce, topped with poppy seeds and cheese. This was my favorite pasta dish. I loved the contrast of the sweet beet with the savory cheese and sauce.

The wonderfully amazing food at Trattoria Ski Bar

The wonderfully amazing food at Trattoria Ski Bar

Next, we had a plate of carbonara-style linguini with lardons and cream sauce. For our main meal, the owner suggested deer with pan-seared polenta and mushrooms. However, he also mentioned that he had tagliata, which is grilled steak. Whenever I’m outside of China, I can’t pass up the opportunity to have red meat. Steak is so expensive in Shanghai and it’s all imported from Australia/Canada (I miss my American steak). While the rest of the table had deer, the owner happily substituted my main for steak. My meat was cooked perfectly. It was tender and so good with the mushrooms and polenta. The other highlight of the meal was the pan-fried cheese. I wish I knew which local cheese it was, because it was deliciously gooey and rich. While the apple strudel is a specialty of the region, you can pass on it at Trattoria Ski Bar. It was the only sub-par item of the whole night. I was honestly too full to care and could barely eat it anyway.

Gorgeous views in the Dolomites

Gorgeous views in the Dolomites

If you have the opportunity to visit this area, I could not recommend Trattoria Ski Bar any more. Let the owner take care of you and you will not be disappointed. Also, I’d recommend staying in the Hotel Belvedere, which has amazing views, comfortable rooms and a great breakfast buffet.

Monaco and the French Riviera

Welcome to Monaco

Welcome to Monaco!

I’m really grateful to have friends who are spread out across the globe, which gives a unique chance to visit places in the eyes of a local. While I was in Italy, I took a weekend trip to Monaco to visit one of my closest friends, Christophe.

Petit Farcis and Socca in Nice

Petit Farcis and Socca in Nice

Christophe took me to Nice, where we strolled the Avenue des Anglais and admired the gorgeous beachside. We wandered through the alleyways of Old Nice and grabbed a quick bite at Lou Pilha Leva (10 rue du Collet). Lou Pilha Leva is a super casual restaurant where you just walk up to the counter, order and eat at the communal outdoor tables. This small place serves local specialities, petit farcis and socca. Petit farcis is basically stuffed vegetables and socca is a chickpea pancake. In Italy, they also make socca at a lot of pizza restaurants, but it’s called farinata (a good option for gluten-intolerant eaters).

Eze Garden

Èze Garden

Loved these statues in the Eze garden

Loved these statues in the Èze garden

Not far from Nice is the city of Èze. Èze is a medieval city on top of small hill. For a few euros, you can enter the Jardin botanique d’Èze where you can admire the gorgeous panoramic views (and the cactus and succulents garden). Apparently, the garden used to be a favorite destination for Walt Disney.

Monaco Open Air Cinema

Monaco Open Air Cinema

By far, one of the coolest experiences of my life was going to the movies at the Monaco Open Air Cinema (Ave de la Quarantaine). In San Francisco, when they talk about outdoor movies in the summer, it’s normally a classic movie that is open to the public and you just create your own make-shift picnic and watch. When Christophe suggested going to the Open Air Cinema, that was my initial expectation.

Watching Inside Out in Monaco

Watching Inside Out in Monaco

It is SO much cooler than San Francisco park movies. Open Air Cinema, which is only available in the summer, always plays current blockbuster hits in English (with French subtitles). When you arrive, your ticket price is dependent on the level of comfort of your chair. We splurged for the white chairs with red cushions (18 EUR) and it was so worth that extra money. Christophe and I got our own private table and little foot stools to rest our feet on. You can buy drinks and snacks and just enjoy the whole atmosphere. It felt surreal that I was watching Pixar’s “Inside Out” while sipping on a glass of rosé in Monaco. If you happen to be in Monaco during the summer, I highly recommend going to the movies at the Open Air Cinema!

French Riviera Beach

French Riviera Beach

Considering that it was like 90 degree weather, our second day was spent at the beach. The beaches in the French Riviera are very different from the ones in California. First of all, there is no sand, only gravel and rocks. The locals are used to it, but it’s actually slightly painful to walk on barefoot. I could not believe how incredibly clear the water was. You can really see through all the way to the bottom. Given how salty the water is, Christophe pointed out that you can actually float in it more easily. I had not been to the beach in years and it felt so nice to relax in the cool water on such a hot day.

It was the perfect weekend. I got to catch up with a close friend, explore Monaco and the south of France, and just relax. It’s a beautiful locale and I really recommend visiting if you’re in the area. A big thank you to Christophe for showing me around!

Monaco at Night

Monaco at Night

The Liebster Award

Liebster AwardThank you to Anna from musings in milan who recently nominated me for the Liebster Award. Check out her blog if you want to see life in Italy! Also, I like her new series of posts that she started, “Things I Love Sundays.” Normally, I don’t really talk about my personal life on my blog, but I thought it would be fun to change it up and participate in the Liebster Award.

The rules are simple:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you with a link back to his/her blog
  • Answer the questions asked by the nominator
  • Nominate 5 – 10 bloggers with under 3,000 followers
  • Create 10 questions for the nominees to answer

Here are the questions that I had to answer:

1) What do you enjoy most about blogging?
My blog started because my San Francisco friends always encouraged me to start chronicling my food adventures. As clichéd as it might sound, I feel like my blog has become a small part of my identity and it’s also become an excellent way to meet other expat bloggers.

2) What is your favourite book?
I’ve always loved The Great Gatsy by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I recently finished All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and highly recommend it!

3) If you were throwing a dinner party and could invite five famous people (dead or alive) who would you invite?
If I could go back in time, I wish I could go back to the Italian Renaissance. So I’d pick Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Donatello and Titian.

4) What is the most precious thing you own?
My childhood stuffed animal

5) What can you not live without?
Good food. It just brings people together and also brings so much joy in my life. Plus food was the whole inspiration for this blog!

6) Would you rather swim in a lake or the sea?
Probably the sea cause I like being able to watch the waves crash on the rocks/beach.

7) What is your favourite song?
It’s too hard to choose just one song. However, my favorite guilty pleasure karaoke song is Backstreet Boys’ “I Want it that Way.”

8) Puppies or kittens?
Definitely puppies

9) If you could play any musical instrument, what would you choose?
I haven’t played the piano since high school. Since I’m so out of practice, I can’t read sheet music easily anymore. If I had the time and means, I’d love to pick it up again.

10) If you could speak any language (other than English) which would you choose?
This is a tough one, but I’d probably pick Spanish because it ranks as the world’s No. 2 language (in terms of how many people speak it as their native language). However, if I’m going to have my dinner with my Renaissance guests, then I guess Italian would be vital. ;)

Continue reading

Mangia in Turin

Porto di Savona

Porto di Savona in Turin

I’ve been very fortunate to travel to Turin a few times in the past year for work and it’s been an amazing opportunity to explore a city that I probably would have normally never seen. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite spots to eat in the city.

Fried Mixed Plate, Vitello Tonnato and Truffle Risotto

Fried Mixed Plate, Vitello Tonnato and Truffle Risotto

Porta di Savona (Piazza Vittorio Veneto 2) is a popular destination for tourists. Set in a beautiful outdoor square with a fantastic view, this is one of the famous restaurants in Turin to get classic Piedmontese cuisine. I’ll admit that the food is here is definitely solid, but you come here more for the ambiance. It’s a great place to have an outdoor meal, have a nice glass of wine or spritzer, and watch the street transform from day to night. One of the most interesting dishes I saw was a mixed plate of savory and sweet fried food. On one plate, you can taste deep-fried lamb and pork and end the meal with deep-fried apple and pineapple. It was quite unique because you don’t normally have your dessert mixed with your main meal, but I liked it. I would definitely recommend the pastas at Porta di Savona (I tasted an amazing gnocchi) and be sure to make reservations because this is a popular destination!

Da Cianci Piolo Caffe

Da Cianci Piolo Caffe

I found Da Cianci Piola Caffe (Largo 4 Marzo 9/b) by researching restaurants that locals recommended. Torinos love this small restaurant for the extremely cheap prices but good food. The restaurant was a little difficult to find because there are three cafés right next to each other and no discernible sign. So stay on the lookout for tables with yellow placemats and napkins. The menu is very small with a few appetizers, two types of pasta with different daily sauces and three main courses. I ordered the vitello tonnato, which is thinly sliced cold veal topped with a tuna and mayonnaise sauce. As you will soon see from all of my food photos in this post, I became obsessed with vitello tonnato and ordered it at every single restaurant. The combination sounds extremely strange, but it surprisingly works. You have a creamy tuna topping (kind of like an elevated tuna salad), which adds a punch of flavor to the more bland veal. For my main dish, I ordered the chicche with eggplant sugo sauce and shredded ricotta. I really loved the chicche, which is basically a potato based pasta like gnocchi, but it has a slightly different texture. The sugo sauce was just so incredibly flavorful (must be all the fresh tomatoes in Italy) and the shredded cheese was a nice salty complement. The appetizers are around 6 EUR and the pastas are 6 EUR so you can easily have a meal here for less than 15 EUR!

Piazza Castello

Piazza Castello

Dinner at Il Circolo

Dinner at Il Circolo

The best meal that I had in Turin was at the restaurant at Il Circolo dei Lettori (Via Bogino 9). Il Circolo dei Lettori is actually an old building that is now a public space devoted to reading. Every month, they hold various events like book signings or events for kids. You can even rent out the beautiful rooms for a private event. In the basement is the restaurant where we had an incredible set menu. Highlights for me were the raw steak tartare, which is served very differently from its French counterpart. This raw meat isn’t seasoned with much other than salt, pepper and very high quality olive oil so you’re really able to taste how fresh it is. I really love their rendition of vitello tonnato because the veal was so tender. The meal continued on with fried zucchini flour with an Italian quiche (quite possibly my favorite course) and fresh homemade pasta with porcini mushrooms. While they were both delicious it was a struggle to finish my beef dish and chocolate cake only because we had so many courses! I would completely recommend this restaurant as a place to celebrate a special occasion or take a business client.

Continue reading