Author Archives: marga

Black Irish Irish Cream: Taste Just Like Baileys

We are not huge alcohol drinkers, but I do like cream liqueurs from time to time, and Baileys Irish Cream is our “default.” Irish Cream consists of Irish whiskey, cream, cacao and sometimes other flavorings. It was invented by an ad agency back in 1973, but the Irish seem to have adopted it as their own.

We usually buy Baileys when it’s on sale, or Kirkland Irish Cream, the Costco brand, if we shop at Costco. But I saw that Safeway also carried O’Connery’s Irish Cream Liqueur for just $8-9, and I figured it was worth a try. It gets fairly good reviews and is made by a well known distillery. I do most of my purchasing online, however, and despite the fact that I always ask for no substitutions, Safeway invariably substitutes unavailable products for ones that much more expensive. So unsurprisingly Safeway sent me this Black Irish Irish Cream instead of the O’Connery. At $25, it was over 3 times the price I expected to pay, but fortunately Safeway gave me a refund. I kept the bottle, however, and today I gave it a try. It tastes just like Baileys.

I don’t really know how to describe Irish cream, and there might be some minute differences that a connoisseur could tell, but to me they taste pretty much the same. The same can be said about Kirkland Irish Cream, btw. Unfortunately, both Black Irish and Baileys cost approximately the same – at least when not on sale.


Doing some digging online, I found out that the Black Irish brand is owned by singer Mariah Carey, who realized you can make far more money selling alcohol than singing. Given the very commercial origins of Irish cream, I don’t think anyone can be upset. Still, no reason to buy it or not buy it instead of Baileys – if I had to choose between the two, I’d go for whichever one is on sale.

Garlic Braised Short Ribs With Red Wine

I made this recipe last night, as Safeway had a great sale (great as in, the same price that short ribs were at just a handful of years ago – yes, I’m not an old lady that decries how expensive everything has gotten) on short ribs last week. The NYT has a similar sounding recipe, but it’s behind a paywall, so I looked for something that approximated it.

It was good, but nothing to write home about. Just a standard short rib recipe. On the plus side, it was an easy recipe to make and my non-vegetarian daughter liked it. She thought it looked horrible and had no hopes for it, but she was hungry enough to try it, and was pleasantly surprised. I skipped the parsley and lemon zest at the end, simply because I forgot about it. They might have given the recipe the ummph need it to elevate it. I’ll see if I remember to add them to the leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs bone-in short ribs
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • 2 whole garlic, sliced in half crosswise
  • 2 white onions, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 275°F

Season short ribs with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a thin layer of oil in a large, lidded, oven-safe sauté pan over high heat. Working in batches, add the short ribs and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.

Turn heat down to medium and add the garlic, cut side down. Push to a side of the pan.

Add the chopped onions, celery and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft – about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables.

Add the wine, deglace the pan, and let boil for 2 minutes. Add the beef stock and the thyme and bring to a boil. Gently return the short ribs to the pan. Add enough water to cover the ribs. Bring to a boil, cover, turn off the heat and carefully place the pan in the oven.

Cook for 3 to 4 hours, until the ribs are cooked through and tender. Add the parsley and lemon zest and serve.

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Here are some other short ribs recipes I’ve cooked in the past, if you are looking for inspiration. All of these were good as well, just not the ultimate recipe:

Morning Star Vegan Meats: Are they Diabolic?

My vegan-cum-vegetarian daughter is very fond of Morning Star products, particularly the buffalo cik’n. But did you know that “Morning Star” is another term for “Lucifer“, aka “the Devil”?

I’d never had realized that if I hadn’t started watching both “The Sandman” and “Devil in Ohio*. Of course, I had to go to Wikipedia, where I found a not-very clearly written article on Lucifer. For what I can make up from it, it would appear that the planet Venus is known as the “morning star.” Venus is the closest planet to the earth and therefore the brightest “star” in the sky – but it’s particularly visible when it’s low in the horizon. As both the Earth and Venus orbit the sun, their relatively position changes, and approximately every 18 months Venus goes from appearing brightest right before dawn to appearing brightest right after sunset. It was thus known in ancient times both as the “morning star” and the “evening star.” I’m not clear if the ancients realized it was the same star.

In any case, the Latin name for Venus as the morning star was “Luciferus,” or “bringer of light”, from where we get the name “Lucifer”. As many astral bodies, Luciferus became personalized and given a family and vague mythology.

Meanwhile, there is a passage in Isaiah, in the Old Testament, where they refer to the King of Babylon by a Hebrew term that translates as “the shining one”, also understood to be Venus, aka “the morning star”. In the Vulgata and King James versions, they translated that word as “Lucifer,” while modern English versions use the term “morning star” or even “day star“. The passage describes the King of Babylon’s fall from grace – which you can compare to Venus, as the morning star, being seen low in the horizon before dawn. I guess the fall from grace motif caused “Lucifer” to become a name for the devil.

So, is eating Morning Star products a form of devil-worshipping? I mentioned it to my daughter and she laughed. More seriously, though, Morning Star is a product line that belongs to Kellogg’s, a company that has a history of exploiting/mistreating employees, false advertisement/lying to consumers, andincluding toxic ingredients in its cereals. That seems like quite evil/devilish behavior. So perhaps, by giving money to Kellogg’s and increasing its promising, we are rewarding evil and worshiping the devil in the only real way to do so.

* My daughter tells me that this is a also a well known fact to people who watch the show “Lucifer“, as the main character, the Devil, is called “Lucifer MorningStar,” but I never watched it.

Primal Kitchen Beef & Mushroom Bowl – Review

I found these frozen bowls at Grocery Outlet, I think for $4. I was impressed by the simple ingredients and “grass fed” beef so I figured I’d give them a try. It was fine, about the quality you expect from frozen food. The beef consists of “patty crumbles”, the mushrooms are limp and the sauce is basic a tomato sauce, a little bit spicy and a little bit undersalted. The dish is in need of a starch, some bread, rice or cornbread would probably compliment it nicely. Of course, they are sold to cater to the “paleo” market, thus their lack of carbs.

I did like that it came in what seems to be a compostable bowl and is covered with wax paper – but I have curve side composting. And the portion was large enough for a light lunch. I just wasn’t sold on the flavor.

Primal Kitchen, which started as a small company but was later acquired by Kraft, sells 3 frozen bowls – the other two are panang curry and chicken pesto. It’s not clear to me if the bowls are in the process of being discontinued, however. The only place I can find that sells them, other than Grocery Outlet, is Thrive Market, where they retail for $9. They used to be $8 at Safeway, but they’re no longer available.

Tapsilog Express in San Leandro offers tasty, quick Filipino silogs

Bay Area Restaurant Reviews

I’m a big fan of Filipino food, a very successful fusion of Asian and Spanish/Latin American cuisine, but we seldom get it because Filipino restaurants don’t really cater to vegetarians or vegans, and one of my daughters is one. So when we were kidless a few nights ago, it was a great opportunity to try one of the local Filipino restaurants. It was a wonderful night, so we figured we’d get take out and eat it in the patio, and Tapsilog Express seemed best suited for an easy take out experience. It was.

Tapsilog Express has some indoor seating, in a pleasant though not particularly alluring room, but it’s mostly a take out place. They have a simplified menu of meat mains served with rice and a fried egg, as well as some appetizers, drinks and a couple of desserts. We got two orders of lumpia, the tosilog and the chorizosilog . I also got the pineapple cooler and flan for dessert. The food came out very quickly, about 10 minutes after ordering.

The lumpia ($7.50 per order) were small, 1 1/2″ pieces, but there was a good amount of them per order (the picture shows two). They were tasty by themselves, which is a good thing as the sweet and sour sauce they came with was overwhelmingly sour and not very tasty. I’d only get these again if I had sauce at home.

Tosilog ($11) is described as Filipino bacon, but it’s more like pork strips marinated in a sweet sauce. It lacks the crispiness of bacon. It was pretty good, though I felt it lacked “umph”. Still, I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed mixing the egg yolk with the rice.

My husband similarly enjoyed his chorizo ($11). It was slightly sweet and very tasty. He’d get it again.

The flan itself was pretty standard, but the caramel sauce was tastier than usual – probably because it was cooked to perfection. I’m a big flan fan and I’d have it again.
I seldom get juices/fountain drinks at restaurants (other than soda), but their pineapple cooler ($3) had good reviews so I decided to give it a try. It was actually very good, a great proportion of pineapple juice to water, so that it had a nice pineapple taste but it wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet or heavy. I’d have it again.
Tapsilog Express
14843 Washington Ave.
San Leandro, California
(510) 878-1232
M-Su 11:30 am – 07:30 pm

Buon Appetito in Hayward is a solid choice for Italian

Bay Area Restaurant Reviews

After spending most of the summer with non-COVID related health problems, I’ve been suffering from cabin fever, so I decided that we should treat ourselves to a dinner out. I was hankering for Italian, and Buon Appetito showed up as having outdoor dining. Coincidentally, as my daughter reminded us, this was the last restaurant where we ate indoors, before the pandemic. She remembered my telling her that it would probably be out last visit to a restaurant for a while. I was right.

Since then, Buon Appetito has built a small deck on their parking lot. It’s a pretty simple affair, and it could be much enhanced with some plants, particular if positioned to block the view and noises from the adjacent street. But it was pleasant enough for a casual dinner.

Buon Appetito serves classic-modern Italian-American cuisine, by which I mean the sort of dishes you expect to find at Italian restaurants in America in the 21st century. Nothing too exotic, nothing too authentic, nothing too marvelous but stuff that is competently cooked and generally satisfies. It’s the sort of restaurant you expect to find in middle class suburbs.

We started by splitting an appetizer of Mozzarella alla Caprese ($10), which was underwhelming. This was a thick slice of tomato topped with a thick slice of fresh mozarella and large basil leaves – so traditional caprese. It was fine, but I prefer it with slightly riper tomatoes and soft mozarella balls.

As my main dish, I had the gnocchi which was on special that night, which came with a rich, creamy tomato (and I think sausage) sauce. The gnocchi had the right consistency and the dish tasted exactly like I expected it to taste. It was very good without being extraordinary. I enjoyed the leftovers the next day.

My husband had the Costolette di Maiale all’ Arancia ($21), a grilled pork chop in an orange/marsala sauce, which came with mashed potatoes and veggies. He was quite happy with it.

My daughter had the Ravioli con Pomodoro e Limonee ($18). the large ravioli are filled with “spinach, swiss chard, pine nuts & ricotta cheese” and you get your choice of a tomato and artichoke or a lemon cream sauce. She went for the lemon cream, and while both the ravioli and the sauce were very good, the combination of the two really didn’t work. Next time, she’ll try the tomato sauce.

Service was competent, and in all we had a very pleasant dinner.

Buon Appetito
917 A Street
HAYWARD, CA 
510-247-0120
M-Su 11:30am - 9:00pm

Denali’s Toast – Recipe

My oldest daughter came up with this loaded toast and liked it so much that she made it again. Denali, the cat, was not very amused, maybe because she knew my daughter wasn’t planning to share. Here is the recipe for anyone in search of inspiration.

Denali’s Toast

Layer in order

  • Sliced bread, toasted
  • Hummus
  • Avocado
  • Sliced or smashed fresh tomatoes
  • Fried egg
  • Season with dill, onion powder, paprika, turmeric and black pepper

Pasquier Macarons – Ooh La la

I’ve finally found a brand of macarons worth the hype

My oldest daughter loves macarons – which really the only reason I ever buy them, or eat them. I’ve tried a few here and there: frozen and fresh ones from the supermarket or specialty stores, gourmet ones from French bakeries, both in the US and in Paris, and I’ve even made them myself – but I never have really gotten the point of them. They usually consist of a too-dry-cookie with an underwhelming filling. I’ve never been impressed, until now.

I’m pleased to say that Pasquier makes the best macarons that I’ve ever had and that they are easily available and not too expensive (as far as macarons go, these are very expensive pastries to begin with). The cookies are moist while still having a bit of crunch, and the flavors of both the cookie and the filling are explosive. They are just delicious.

The macarons come in six flavors: vanilla, pistachio, caramel, raspberry, lemon and chocolate, and I can’t say I have a favorite (OK, maybe pistachio, but maybe lemon). They all hit the right spot, albeit with a tiny bit too much sweetness. They are tiny, I’d say the size of a silver dollar if I remembered just how big those were. But if you can resist not emptying the box, you do get a lot of flavor for your buck. They are made in France, they are refrigerated and you must consume them within 2 days of opening the box. I don’t think you’ll have trouble.


I found them at Grocery Outlet for $5 for a box of 12 (5.6 oz total), but they also seem to be available at Sprouts and Good Eggs for $7-8 and at Target for $11.

Roasted Tri-Tip with Mexican Chorizo stuffing

A recipe

Stuffed Tri-tip, cut about half way through.

Tri-tip is a very Californian cut of meat, it comes from the “bottom sirloin sub primal” and it has a very distinctive triangular shape. It’s a very lean cut of meat, but quite tender, and can be grilled, roasted, slow cooked with bbq sauce or even thinly sliced for everything from bulgogi, to beef Stroganoff to stir fries. In California, you can usually buy either trimmed – with the otherwise thick layer of fat surrounding it removed – or untrimmed. The untrimmed version often goes on sale at my local Safeway, which makes it a very tempting cut to get during these times when meat prices are through the roof.

I’ve been cooking tri-tip for over twenty years, but it never occurred to me to check whether this cut was used in Argentinian cuisine. So it was only last week that I found out that tri-tip is colita de cuadril, which in Argentina is usually stuffed and then grilled. I don’t think my father ever made it, I don’t have any childhood memories of stuffed meat, beyond matambre, which is actually thin flank steak rolled around the stuffing. Of course, as soon as I ran across these Argentinian colita de cuadril recipes I wanted to ask my dad about it, but he passed away a couple of years ago. Alas, I did write about it on Facebook and tagged him – and a couple of his friends responded telling me about it. That was very sweet, and I’m writing it down here so I can remember how nice it felt.

In any case, I had bought a twin pack of tri-tip roasts on sale and had used one to make Floribbean Tri-tip Roast with Chimichurri Verde, so I had another one already trimmed and ready to be stuffed. There are many ideas for stuffings online, and this one sounded particularly good. I did adapt it considerably to account for my taste and ingredients available in California (in other words, I did not use blood sausage).

I roasted the tri-tip rather than grilling it, and I overcooked it (you might want to cook it for 30 minutes total and check to see if it’s done), but overall it was a very tasty dish and I would make it again – though what I really want to do is experiment with different stuffings, so if tri-tip continues to be on sale this summer, you can expect more recipes.

The hardest part of making stuffed tri-tip is cutting the tri-tip. You want to cut as wide and deep a hole as you can without opening up any sides. I found that cutting a couple of inches deep at a time worked best. But I also found that I didn’t have a knife long enough to go all the way to the end, and my hand was too big to get inside it. I think I might invest in a long knife for future tri-tips.

Ingredients

  • 1 tri-tip roast
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 thick bacon slices, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 large leek, trimmed and white and stalk thinly sliced in semi-circles
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 small apple, diced
  • 1 9oz Mexican chorizo
  • 4 – 6 oz fresh Mozzarella, cut into big chunks.

Directions

Preheat oven or grill to 300°F.

Trim excess fat from both sides of the tri-tip. Make a wide incision on the center of the larger end of the tri-tip and cut across the wide side, being careful to not pierce the sides. Continue cutting deeper and deeper, as wide as you can without piercing the sides and as far as you can get. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

Heat oil over medium heat in a sauté pan. Add the bacon bits and cook until the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook until it starts to soften. Add the leek and cook for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the apple and cook for a couple more minutes. Remove the chorizo from its casing and add to the sauté pan. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the chorizo is cooked through.

Stuff the tri-tip alternating between Mozzarella chunks and stuffing, going as deep into the tri-tip as possible and filling it up as much as you can. If you are grilling it, tie the roast shut with kitchen string.

Transfer roast to a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes per side. Alternatively, place on the grill over indirect heat and cook for about an hour, turning half way.

Malabar Restaurant Review – Santa Cruz

My first visit to a Sri Lankan restaurant.

We were in Santa Cruz visiting our college-student, and I decided to check out Malabar for the simple reason that I couldn’t ever recall having had Sri Lankan food. That turned out to not be true, I did cook Ceylonese food a couple of decades ago as part of my international food project, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to an actual Sri Lankan restaurant.

Malabar’s menu is pretty short – though that may be as a result of the COVID pandemic and the current labor shortage (they’re hiring, btw) -, and features a few dishes from India and Malaysia/Singapore, in addition to Sri Lankan ones. Mains tend to average about $20. The restaurant seems to have a nice, if generic, dining room but also has a couple of tables on the sidewalk, and that’s where we ate.

We started by sharing an appetizer of vegetable roti ($9.50). This was similar to a stuffed dosa, with a filling made from leeks, potatoes and cabbage. It was pretty tasty, even if the curry sauce it came with was not as delicious as the yellow curries you often get with rotis at Thai restaurants. It also came with a spicy tomato sauce that carried a lot of heat.

For our mains, my daughter had the mixed vegetable curry (“Mixed vegetables in a Sri Lankan style coconut curry”, $17.50) and I had the Sri Lankan Yellow Curry ($19.50). Both dishes turned out to be the same yellow curry. While my daughter’s was served with large pieces of broccoli, carrots, peppers, cabbage and kale, mine had a snapper filet as the base (you can substitute for chicken or salmon at an extra cost). Unlike other curries I’ve had in the US, the filet was served whole, rather than in chunks. The curry itself was very thin (a feature it shared with the Ceylonese curry I made myself), with a pretty mild flavor. It was tasty but it lacked both the consistency and layers of flavor you get in a Thai curry, for example. Perhaps it’s best to see it as a curry soup. I’m not 100% sure that it worked that well with the snapper, but it was a pleasant enough dish to eat, even if not one I’d rush to order again. My daughter felt pretty much the same. Both dishes were served with rice, which seemed like a medium grain type, a little on the sticky side. I don’t know that I loved it.

My husband ordered the Devil Lanka with snapper ($21.50), a dish consisting of fish cooked with “cardamom, cinnamon, clove, Anaheim papers, cucumber, pineapple, curry leaves, carrots, tomato, red onion” and “served in a sweet sour and spicy tomato sauce”. He was quite happy with his dish. It wasn’t like anything he’d had before, and he liked the flavors.

Service was very good, our servers were very attentive and friendly. They do ask you to use your phone to scan a QR code to look at the menu (which is also posted outside), but when I mentioned that I didn’t have a smart phone, they brought us a paper menu. My daughter who did have a smart phone with her felt looking at the menu on the small phone screen was very difficult, so she used the paper one instead.

In all we had a very nice time, the street wasn’t very busy (though there was a fair amount of people coming in and out of the restaurant, it’s obviously popular for take out) and we felt safe eating there.

I didn't take any pictures, however (that lack of smart phone and all).

Malabar Restaurant
514 Front St
Santa Cruz, CA
(831) 201 4438
T-Th 5pm - 9:00 pm, F 5pm - 9:30 pm, Sa-Su 12 pm - 2:30 pm and  5pm - 9:30 pm