Monthly Archives: February 2013

Thai Osha, Pleasant Hill CA

Not only do we have a population of varied backgrounds where we live, but also the population is big enough that there’s room for multiple restaurants of the same cuisine.  After doing a Thai restaurant a while back, we went to another tonight that is also in Pleasant Hill, based on a recommendation.  Thai Osha has a broad menu and warm interior, so we enjoyed our dinner very much.

thai samosa

thai samosa

Off the appetizer section we ordered Thai samosas: sauteed potato, Thai curry and onions, wrapped in wonton skin and deep fried, served with cucumber salad and peanut sauce.  Zach liked the thin crispy exterior as they were fried really well with no greasy residue.  The potato texture inside was fluffy and light, and the curry flavor was pleasantly mild.  The peanut sauce was completely blended so we both got to enjoy it, since Zach can’t eat unprocessed nuts; it was silky smooth and rich in flavors supporting the peanuts, with a mildly sweet aftertaste.

volcanic beef

volcanic beef

Volcanic Beef is flank steak with fried basil leaves, black peppers, and red bell pepper in a “medium lava sauce.”  The meat was well cut and lean, perfectly seared, tender, and flavorful.  The sauce was savory with a hint of sweet and tanginess, so we were thankful for the side of white rice to sop up all of it (not pictured).  It has one little chili pepper next to its name on the menu, indicating “medium” spiciness (on a scale of three, from zero to two chilies), but it wasn’t too spicy that August couldn’t handle it.  Have no fear of one chili here if you usually prefer milder spiciness.

pad thai

pad thai

The ubiquitous Thai plate, the one that everyone knows, is always a safe bet.  The noodles are loaded with chicken, prawns, egg, tofu, onions, bean sprouts, and ground peanuts (requested to be on the side in our case).  A small detail we noticed was how much of the shell was peeled off the shrimp, making all the meat accessible with no work on our part to get at all of it.  If you like a sweeter pad thai, this one’s for you.

Going to Thai Osha tonight proved that you have to eat at multiple establishments offering the same cuisine before finding a true favorite.  Even if you still end up liking one of the first ones you went to, exploring others is never a bore.

Memo’s Mexican Cuisine, Concord CA

Ten years strong, and why don’t more people know about this?  We had heard of Memo’s, in fact at one point lived around the corner from it.  We finally came because we craved Mexican food and our friend Allison had strongly urged us to try it out.  Tonight we were in for many surprises, including a huge deal for some people with dietary concerns: with few exceptions, most of the items here are vegan and gluten free!  Even more amazing is the fact that everything, and literally everything, is scratch-made and generally a la minute.

mexican rose margarita

mexican rose margarita

Memo’s is not a tequila bar, but the libations they serve are of quality.  Zach likes pomegranate so he ordered the Mexican Rose Margarita, with tequila, fresh pomegranate, and Cointreau.  It was sweet and crisp, using a high quality tequila with nearly zero aftertaste.

nopal cactus salad

nopal cactus salad

This cactus was a refreshing treat.  If you’ve never had nopal cactus before, it’s something different but good.  It is tender and slightly crisp like a pickle, and most of the flavor is from the marinade.  With fresh nopales marinated in vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, then mixed with onions, tomatoes, olives, and cilantro, this is a salad ideal for a summer day.  It is kind of a special item, so the menu does say availability may vary; try it if you can.

combination plate

combination plate

The items to choose from were not entirely typical, so Zach ordered a pork tamal(e), a chicken sope, and a pork gordita for his combo plate that also comes with beans and rice.  The beans were fabulous – smooth in texture but rich in flavor, with various spices and a mildly spicy aftertaste, which we found out came from a habañero sauce.  Another awesome thing is that avocado oil is mixed in after the cooking process, just before serving.  Additionally, the beans are lard free; in fact, no lard is used in any cooking in this restaurant.  The tamal/tamale had a tender and fluffy masa, which was loaded with flavorful pork.  The mole sauce was completely smooth and rich in so many flavors, “it was an amazing experience” (Zach).  The sope shell was crisp from grilling yet still giving and had great texture, and there were spices mixed into the masa as well, not just in the chicken.  Layered on top were some of the fabulous refried beans, and the chicken was white meat and succulent, topped with fresh pico de gallo.  The gordita had a shell similar to the sope but it was split and filled with rich, juicy pork, then sprinkled with a soft cheese that melted easily, and topped with the same pico.  At each bite, he “was looking forward to the next.”

chicken pipian

chicken pipian

A traditional wedding dish in the state of Zacatecas, chicken pipian made August’s palate dance.  Chicken breast is served in a sauce of blended pumpkin seed, nine chilies, and twelve herbs, with the same beans and rice on the side that Zach had.  The pipian sauce was wonderfully spiced, but not spicy at all.  It was almost sweet, but there were so many different flavors within it, each bite was a relish.  Two tortillas went towards sopping up the pipian, but even on their own they are great; like everything else, they were scratch-made.  If you’re looking for something really special that you probably won’t find anywhere else, you really ought to try this.

memo's chocolate cake

memo’s chocolate cake

Except for the whipped cream, this cake is vegan!  Even further, this goes so many steps beyond a regular chocolate cake.  Into the most, decadent layers of cake, frosting, and glaze went three different 100% cocoa chocolates, nine chilies, honey, rosewater, rosebuds, thyme, and more.  August may have found a new favorite desert, because this is so chocolatey it will satisfy your cravings for a while.

Founded, owned, and run by a proud yet humble father-daughter duo, they try to make you feel welcome and like a VIP.  You will see both of them throughout the night – most likely they will bring your plates to you.  If you’re looking for some excellent Mexican food to be catered for your work or an event, this is the place to call; if you’re looking for great Mexican food period, come on in.

Cheeseburger and Onion Rings, Entirely Scratch Made

There are many elements to a cheeseburger, but making one from scratch isn’t as daunting as it first seems – stay at home and create a meal worthy of a high-end restaurant.  Especially if you have a group to feed, impress their palates and save some dough by making your own dough!

Makes 5 burgers

• For the buns:

3 cups of bread flour

1 cup of warm water and 1 tsp.

2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk

1/3 cup of all purpose flour

5 tbs. of softened butter

2 tbs. of sugar

2 tsp. of active dry yeast

1 1/2 tsp. of salt

Combine 1 cup of water, yeast, and sugar in a glass measuring cup; let stand for about 5 minutes until foamy.  Beat 1 of the eggs and the egg yolk in a small bowl and set aside.

In a KitchenAid mixing bowl, add flour and salt, and whisk together.  Add the soften butter, and with a dough hook, mix on speed 2 until the butter combines into the flour.  Add the beaten egg and yeast mixture, and continue mixing on speed 2 for 8 minutes.

Scrape bowl onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll into a ball, then put in a lightly oiled bowl to let rise; covered in plastic wrap, let rise in the oven with the light on (not the heat!) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the ball appears to double in size.

unproofed dough

unproofed dough…

...proofed dough

…proofed dough

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.  With a dough scraper, divide into 5 equal parts, and roll each portion into a ball.  Arrange on the baking sheet evenly spaced apart.  Put a large shallow pan filled with boiling water on the floor of the oven.  Put the baking sheet back in the oven with the light on until the balls double in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

portioned dough

portioned dough

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Beat remaining egg with 1 tsp. of water to make an egg wash and lightly brush on the top of the buns, then sprinkle with salt (Chef Zach used rosemary salt).  Bake about 8 minutes, rotate the sheet, then bake about 8 minutes more, until the tops are golden brown.  Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing horizontally.

finished brioche buns

finished brioche buns

• For the onion rings:

1 gallon of cooking oil (canola or peanut [Chef Zach used canola])

2 sweet yellow onions

2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

2 1/2 cups of buttermilk

12 oz. of Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye beer

2 tsp. of garlic powder

3 tsp. of salt and more for seasoning the onion rings when done

1 tsp. of freshly cracked black pepper

Peel off darker exterior layers of the onion, then slice 1/2″ thick.  Separate the rings and soak in buttermilk for 1 hour.

Heat oil to 350 degrees F in a deep fryer.  Combine 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1 tsp. of salt, and mix thoroughly.  In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup of flour, beer, garlic powder, 2 tsp. of salt, and pepper, and mix thoroughly.

drip dry

drip dry

Pour the rings and buttermilk into a strainer over a bowl.  Using two forks so that you can do two at a time, dredge the rings in the flour, then shake off any excess.  Dip rings in the beer batter, and shake off any excess once again.  Drop into the hot oil, and as you add more, make sure they don’t crowd or else they will stick together.  When golden brown (after about 5-6 minutes), lift fry basket from the oil and shake off excess oil.  Salt immediately and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

cheeseburgers from scratch 036

• For the bacon: (4 pieces per burger)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Put a wire rack inside of a baking sheet, so that the bacon doesn’t sit in its own grease.  Lay the bacon on the wire rack, and bake for 16-20 minutes depending on desired crispiness.

• For the mushrooms

30 mushrooms, thinly sliced (if all 5 burgers are to be topped; otherwise, 6 per burger)

2/3 cup of Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye beer (for 30 mushrooms; eye it if less)

1 tbs. of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and pepper and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the beer and cook until the liquid is evaporated.  Cook further until the mushrooms are lightly browned, and try not to stir them too much during this step.  Salt within seconds of removing from heat.

• For the beef patties:

2 1/2 lbs. of boneless rib eye steak (find it at your butcher’s under Market Steak)

1 tbs. of butter

Hook up your grinding attachment to your KitchenAid with the fine plate.  Chop the meat into 1 1/2″ cubes and put in the grinder; grind all of the meat, then grind it all once again.  Form into 5 patties about 1/2″ thick.

Melt butter on a cast iron griddle with medium heat and place patties on the griddle one at a time, with about 5-10 seconds between each placement so that the griddle doesn’t cool down.  Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.  When on the second side, add cheese, bacon, and/or mushrooms.

In a separate griddle or frying pan, lightly butter the cut side of the split buns and grill on that side until lightly golden brown.  Build burger with condiments of choice.

august's with mushrooms, swiss cheese, tomato, and lettuce

august’s with mushrooms, swiss cheese, tomato, and lettuce

zach's with bacon, american cheese, onion rings, and bbq sauce

zach’s with bacon, american cheese, onion rings, and bbq sauce