Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Tuck Box, Carmel, California

Carmel-by-the-sea (or just Carmel in short) is a little town about 20 minutes away from Monterey. It's touted to be pretty upmarket and yuppie and the fact that 80% of the shops here seem to be either an art gallery or an antique shop made that feel even more apparent.

Even the Starbucks here was yuppie and had an assortment of biscuits and pastries that I've never seen in Manhattan.

Since it was too early for lunch, we decided to have a light brunch. We chanced upon The Tuck Box (Dolores & 7th Ave, tel: (831) 624-6365 ) doing rather brisk business and so we took a seat under the warming late morning Sun on a rather cool day.

The bay shrimp salad was a nice refreshing appetizer. Even though the shrimp weren't gianormous, they were fresh and sweet. The salad leaves were also crisp and tasty and required minimal dressing.

Their signature sandwich came stacked with just the right balance of meats. Healthy turkey ham and crunchy fatty bacon, with some crisp lettuce wedged between two slices of lightly toasted bread. Simplicity in its finest. This was somehow very satisfying.

This place is apparently famous for their scones. What makes it interesting is that their scones aren't the traditional English sort (like American biscuits), rather the scones here are the Scottish variety; cooked in a cast-iron pan and cut into wedges. Buttery and very fragrant with the added cornmeal. These were indeed tasty.

The homemade marmalade accompanied the scones exceptionally well.

Of course, no visit to a tea house would be complete without a cup of tea. I'm not a big connoisseur of English teas but this tasted fresh and clean.

Sweetened with a little honey and enhanced with some fresh milk, this cup of tea added a nice finishing touch to the brunch.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Sardine Factory, Monterey, California

The Sardine Factory (located on 701 Wave Street, tel: 831-373-3775) is one of the restaurants highly recommended on the Monterey Visitor's Guide. I actually didn't know that, until after this meal but I guess it could only help keep my mind open as we dined that early evening.

The almost obligatory bread at the start. The buns were pretty good but the bread sticks tasted almost stale.

Some condiments to complement the bread, the spiced olives were particularly tasty.

The rich and thick clam chowder was much appreciated on this chilly evening. This stuff was filled with a generous portion of chunky clam flesh.

For my main, I order the calamari steaks, partly out of curiosity but also knowing that since I like calamari so much, I couldn't really go wrong. This was pretty interesting, large unrolled slabs of calamari body flesh coated in seasoned breadcrumbs and fried till crisp before being topped with a black truffle infused cream sauce. This was actually pretty tasty.

Much of the sauce was absorbed by the risotto with black truffle shavings. A very fragrant and delicious side to accompany the calamari.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Breakfast, Asilomar Conference Grounds, Monterey, California

Dining at the Conference Grounds doesn't really give you much choice since there's only one dining hall and meals are only served during designated hours. Of all the meals here, only breakfast seems to be good. It's always nice and hearty with some form of egg, meat (sausage or bacon) and a carbohydrate filler (pancakes, waffles, hashbrowns). None the less, I'm a strong advocate of hearty breakfasts because I believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the morning.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Trattoria Paradiso, Monterey, California

Monterey, California is a refreshing change from the bustle of New York City. Even though, I was spending most of my time at the conference grounds of Asilomar, I managed to check out the dining scene along Cannery Row. There are heaps of restaurants lining the beach front, some even giving out free samples of clam chowder but in the end we settled for Trattoria Paradiso because it seemed decently crowded and had a nice view of the ocean.

Warm bread was presented promptly to welcome us on this rather chilly late summer evening. Monterey gets surprisingly cool (cooler than New York even) at this time of the year. I think it's something to do with her proximity to the ocean but it sure made this freshly baked slice very appetizing indeed.

Next up was a clean garden salad. No cream dressings here, just a simple vinegarette and crisp leaves to match the crisp ocean air.

I'm a sucker for fried calamari, so we ordered a plate of this to share as well. Succulent and not overcooked, this was served with a tangy marinara sauce on the side.

I actually forgot to take a picture of my main of crusted sand dabs (a local fish) with lemon butter so you'll just have to take my word for it, that it was pretty darn tasty. I guess, I was just too hungry from that flight over from New York heh.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Street Food Round-up, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand

Of course no visit of Thailand is complete without some grub from the local street food scene. Here's a charcoal grill making nice work of some Thai satays.

The pork was juicy and succulent with that bonus chunk of lard.

The chicken gizzards were pretty tasty too.

The beef had a different seasoning altogether, without any hint of sweetness that satay has, this was just delightfully savory.

Thai nem (preserved pork), quite similar to the nem in Vietnam. Sometimes, this is eaten raw (although it's really preserved in the spices) but here it was grilled on a stick which made it more attractive. The sourish and salty flavor may not appeal to many but I'm quite okay with it.

One of my favorite stalls is the mixed curry rice store. There's almost always something that one will find tasty in the large variety. A huge dallop of meats and a generous drizzle of curry on a plate of steaming hot rice; a humble dish, a satisfying meal.

The common fried insects stall was present as usual. Never had been a big fan of this to begin with, so I gave it a miss this time.

Fried pork collar in sesame seeds. One cannot help but get a bag of this to snack on.

In addition to the more traditional fare were some rather enterprising ones. This one was serving a huge variety of sushi.

They even had little pan pizzas going for under 2usd each.

Last but not least was this cute stall selling a huge variety of little pastries, ranging from tiny savory sandwiches to mini donuts. Even though my trip was rather short, I'm quite sure I ate my fill.


Monday, September 01, 2008

River Hotel, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand

Most of my meals were partaken at the River Hotel which kind of makes sense since I was staying there but it's more than that because it helps that the whole River Hotel chain is but part of the bride's family businesses. Thus individual luxury rooms with king sized beds were provided for the special wedding guests (whom I'm conveniently one of). This is a bowl of delicious king shrimp porridge that was served prior to the wedding lunch after the ceremonial formalities.

The porridge is eaten with this side loosely translated as Thai bacon. It's a sweetish, savory pork jerky that's fried and gets really addictive to snack on.

The wedding couple had to consume this traditional dessert of ultra sweet red jelly-like thingy with hard-boiled eggs. I sneaked a little bit to taste and this was sweet!

Unfortunately, I did not take any photographs of the wedding feast itself as I was seated at the most important table and there were way too many seniors there for me to whip out my camera. But I managed to get pictures of some of the food we ate at the River Hotel's restaurant. These were some minced-prawn fritters, which came as a starter to one of our other big meals. Crisp beancurd skin on the outside and chunky bites of prawn within, we knew that from day one, there will be no skimping on quality when it comes to everything; including the food.

Boiled free-range, wild chicken; I'm not a fan of chicken usually as it's just too mass produced and lacks flavor compared to their red-meat counterparts. But free-range and wild running chickens are a different class altogether. The flavor and texture of this bird was so hearty that it didn't need much seasoning to make it tasty.

Another dish with fresh green peppercorns and basil leaves, this time using fish instead of razor clams, but it was just as yummy.

Deep-fried pork marinated with red preserved beancurd. Crispy, salty and greasy, great beer grub.

Fried pork neck with sesame seeds; another staple seen in Thaistreet food. The restaurant version definitely did not disappoint either.

Here's a steamed fish with an assortment of vegetables including Thai eggplant (the green round things that look a bit like hot-crossed buns). The purity of natural flavors were what stood out here and despite minimal seasonings, it wasn't bland at all.

For all the Thai food lovers out there, I know that Pad Thai is almost synonymous with Thai food but my favorite Thai noodle dish is actually pad kee mao (drunken noodles). This stuff is spicier than pad Thai and less sweet. Give this a shot when you're next at a Thai restaurant as a refreshing change over the standard pad Thai and you may become a convert just like me.

The River Hotel provided excellent accomodation and tasty food throughout my stay in Nakhon Pathom. If anyone is planning to travel here, do consider booking your room here.