the press bistro

9:24 AM sians 0 Comments

i wanted to explore other food scenes in california closer to sacramento because we can't always drive two hours to san francisco to try out new restaurants. hence, i expanded my search around downtown sacramento area and found the press bistro. it looked promising and i made a reservation weeks in advance.

doing what i usually do, my camera in hand and as ryan was confirming our reservation, i was taking some pictures of the restaurant. unexpectedly, the maitre'd asked if i was from the new york times. suprisingly, i felt a bit annoyed cos the first thought that came to mind was: is she mocking me? (yes, i'm slightly hypersensitive... i apologize) - well for one, if i was a food writer for a publication, i wouldn't be telling her, would i? don't most food writers remain anonymous to review a restaurant? ryan couldn't quite understand why i felt irritated. 

anywho, i did like the modern yet rustic decor that gave a cozy ambience to the restaurant. i also liked the ceiling high glass doors and windows as well as the outdoor seating, perfect for the summer weather.

ryan was super excited to see the potato gnocchi on the menu and was quite set on ordering that for appetizer only to be disappointed that they have just run out of it. he was pretty upset and took several minutes to get over the fact they didn't have any (he was really craving for some).

tapas :: roasted beets | goat cheese ($4)

i've always liked roasted beets and the classic pairing with goat cheese - in fact that's how i first fell in love with beets when i had it at purple pig. this dish was pale in comparison. i was missing the natural sweetness of the beets and it was a tad too salty. on top of that, the olive oil overpowered the beets and it lacked the balance.

appetizer :: grilled calamari | cherry tomatoes . panzanella salad ($8)

this was simple and fresh, executed with precision. i was impressed by the simplicity of this dish but yet so outstanding. call me bias - i do love seafood a lot. the calamari was grilled to perfection - smoky with  distinct grilled marks on the outside yet soft and tender, just almost undercooked but in a good way. lovely. it was lightly dressed with freshness of lemon juice accompanied with some chunks of bread and fresh produce easily emerged as my favorite of the night.

entree :: braised short rib | red wine sauce . mashed potatoes ($18)

when i fork into the piece of short rib, it looked promisingly tender - so i was quite surprised that it was not as melt-in-your-mouth as i imagined it would be. it was a little dry which  was quite the bummer but it was compensated by the smooth mashed potatoes and the delectable sauce was simply hearty and delicious. i was craving for more of the sauce since it was vital in the dish to moisten the meat.

entree :: grilled hanger steak | potato gratin . bordelaise ($20)

ryan had more luck with his choice of entree. medium rare steak just like he requested and it was seasoned, seared well and tender. the thing we had problem with was the potato gratin. i was fine with the bite of the potato slices but ryan preferred it to be cooked down a little more. however, we both agreed that it was lacking cheese in between the layers and i was hoping for a crisper topping.

we actually passed on dessert since we couldn't agree on one dessert and ended up picking up some ciao bella pistachio gelato from the store on the way back to his apartment.

one thing ryan said about the food at the press bistro that i thought was interesting was that he felt most of the dishes we tried, we could have probably make it at home ourselves. of course, i understand that relied heavily on what we ordered.

i suppose that could have been meant in a good or bad way - on the positive end, the food gave the comfort what homemade food usually offers. on the other side of the spectrum, the food wasn't all that inspiring. in general, i somewhat agree that while the food was hearty and good, nothing really stood out. well, okay.. that's not entirely true. the wonderful rendition of grilled calamari struck as the special exception.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

The Press Bistro & Bar on Urbanspoon


edzo's burger shop

7:40 PM sians 0 Comments

i was residing in evanston for about 5-6 years before moving to chicago a year and a half ago and i'm ashamed to say i've never had edzo's burger shop which a lot of people and friends swear by as the best burger place they've had. well, that was true until a few months ago, when i've finally made my way to evanston to try this place out myself. even the chicago reader critics agree when they awarded edzo's burger shop as best new burger for their charburger. 

a beautiful saturday afternoon, i met up with christina (her favorite burger place - she would go so far to say that it even tops kuma's burger) and lyle around noon and the place already had a line almost out of the door. the first comment when i saw the place was "whoah, this is really like an original american diner" which i thought was really cool. edzo's is the creation of eddie lakin, a former fine dining chef who promises all-american beef burgers, never frozen and is freshly ground in house daily. 

while waiting in line, you've got some time to figure out what kind of burger you would like to try. christina recommended griddled burger which is served between a brioche bun and all i had to do was to choose the topping. eddie lakin was at the counter taking order and he was really friendly. it took me more than a couple of minutes going back and forth with different ideas until i finally went ahead with the idea of a mushroom swiss - so i ordered a single griddled burger with mushrooms and swiss burger. the single is at $3.59 while additional cheese is $0.75 and the other toppings are either $0.50 or $1. to complete my whole american diner experience, i ordered a bottle of coke (although i guess milkshakes would have been the traditional pairing but oh! the calories -.-)

the burger itself was delicious - a bit of char from the griddle and you could really taste the moist well seasoned meat while the brioche captures its juices.i have to say that i made a great choice with mushrooms and swiss cheese and didn't even need any ketchup or mustard. needless to say, it was a burger done right in all its essence with freshest ingredients. it was a tad messy to eat but sooooo worth it - all you need is just a couple extra napkins..

speaking of milkshakes, christina ordered the almond milkshake which she kindly offers to me to try. the milkshake itself had a thick, smooth, creamy texture with occasional bits of almonds with huge almond flavor all around - in a good way. i was kinda like a small kid in a candy store as i watched the person make the milkshake at the machine which i thought was so cool. similarly, you could also watch the cooks make your burger at the counter if you wanted to. :)

of course, burger meals feels incomplete without fries. edzo's serves only twice fried, hand cut fries in many different ways. christina ordered "old fries" ($3.29) to share which are extra brown and extra crunchy. she mentioned that this was the only one she really like because the fries are crunchy unlike a few of the other renditions she's tried here. they were what they promised - fresh and crispy and was salted just enough. one of the better fries i've had here in chicago.

my experience at edzo's somewhat reminded me of my fond memories at hot doug's. there are a few similarities between hot doug's and edzo's - you get to meet the friendly owners as you order your food at the counter, both adopting the diner concept (although one takes on more of a traditional decor) but most importantly, they are awesome at what they do - dishing out amazing food. not only edzo's does the burger perfectly, it comes with the whole american diner ambience as a plus :) 

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

Edzo's Burger Shop on Urbanspoon


espresso + chocolate chip meringue

10:09 AM sians 2 Comments

two reasons |
one. friend, M's phd defense yesterday. i told him i was gonna make him something - gotta keep my promise :)
two. my other friend, J can't have any gluten and thought that perhaps i could kill two birds with one stone

solution | dessert of choice :: espresso chocolate chip meringues by giada de laurentiis.

i'll spare you the details and post photos instead. i've made this twice before -
first time: turn out mostly alright.
second: slightly burnt scorched toasty. 
perhaps my third time's the charm. 
(you can tell i am not quite the baker...i'm still working on it!)

a couple of great tips that i found either from watching food network or taking from people's experience:
o1| keep the bowl and whisk attachment chilled - could help a lil bit with the stiffening of the egg whites
o2| eggs must be room temperature. very good to plan ahead.
o3| try to make it on a day when the air isn't too humid. i've seen deflated meringues when there are too much moisture in the air which also means your utensils you use should be clean AND dry.

some other great tips can be found on this article on making the perfect meringue.

a few things i did differently from giada's recipe:
i divided the meringues as evenly (~2 tablespoons) as i could - it is supposed to yield 12 of these. i also shorten the cooking time to about 40 minutes (since my last attempt was slightly overcooked) and checked it periodically. and i used a hand mixer since i do not yet own my dream kitchen aid mixer... you know that lil pretty red thing? dang, i really want one of those!

favorite parts of the baking were when i mixed the espresso into the mixture - loved the smell of the coffee (if you like coffee, of course) and the tasting...

...well, i gotta make sure it turned out good right? :D

this batch was the best of the three attempts i've made so far. still got a long ways to go but very happy with how they turned out. i think i need to beat the egg whites a tad longer because it wasn't quite where i would have liked it to be. but it was definitely airy and quite a fun dessert to eat texturally. crispy shell with moist chewy inside. :)

you can find the recipe here if you would like to try to make them:

espresso chip meringues
by giada de laurentiis
found on

  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • pinch fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup superfine baker's sugar (available at specialty cooking stores)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 2/3 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

  • place an oven rack in the center of the oven. preheat the oven to 300
  • line a baking sheet with parchment paper. set aside
  • in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt until frothy, about 1 minute
  • with the machine on medium-high speed, gradually add the sugar, about 1 tbs at a time
  • add the cream of tartar, vanilla extract, and espresso powder
  • increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture is thick and hold stiff peaks, about 3-5 minutes
  • using a spatula, fold in the chocolate chips
  • drop 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart
  • bake for 30 minutes. rotate the pan and bake for another 30 minutes
  • turn off the  oven and allow the meringues to cool completely while still in the oven, about 2 hours
giada's note | the meringue mixture can also be placed in a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain tip (recommended: ateco #9808) and piped onto the baking sheet.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.



11:34 PM sians 0 Comments

google 'incanto in english' and this would be what you would find:
charm or enchantment may be an english equivalent of 'incanto'. the word in italian is a masculine gender noun that takes as its definite article 'il'['the'] and as its indefinite article 'uno' ['a,one']

what a suitable name for chris cosentino's italian restaurant in noe valley, san francisco. i was on my food network chef restaurant hunt in san francisco, beginning with wayfare tavern planned for lunch and then incanto for dinner. i first watched chris cosentino on a food network show called 'chefs vs city' where he paired with aaron sanchez to compete with local foodies/chefs in various US cities. i've also seen him on the 'best thing i ever ate' several where i've also tried two of his recommendations - the maple glazed bacon apple donut from dynamo donut and the chorizo-stuffed dates from avec, both of which i enjoyed tremendously. 

a chef who can recommend such awesome food, i was convinced that his food would be equally amazing. chris cosentino also had a hand at creating boccalone in the ferry building where you can find various good quality salumi, a place i would always return to whenever i visit sf for their salumi cone. <3 i was also secretly hoping that i could come across the chef himself while dining at his restaurant. (and no, didn't see him either)

the restaurant boasts its italian heritage in its tasteful decor as well as chef's love for all things pork with some mock up of cooking utensils displayed above the stretch of glass doors lining the front of the restaurant. there was a bar to the left as you enter the dining space with a display of boccalone salumi on the front.

i hate to admit it but the service here started out shaky and it wasn't a good way to start because i have such high expectations for this place and that set the tone for the whole evening. it was slow and it took more than a few minutes before our server came by to take our order. i understand that the place was bustling and busy but they should be prepared for such a situation especially a reputable restaurant of great caliber such as incanto. it gradually improved over the night but we both agreed it was slow and the food came out with extended pauses in between. (/end rant)

they started us out with a bread basket and olive tapenade. that bread was soft and lovely and the olive flavor came through quite prominently in a good way if you like olives. :)

if you ever came by to try incanto, it's a good idea to check what their specials are for the night before looking at their regular menu. we actually ended up ordering two dishes from their specials menu.

appetizer (specials) :: clams |  cherry tomatoes . pickled chilli . country ham brodo ($13)

hands down: best dish of the night. when we looked at the list of ingredients, we formed an idea how this was going to be prepared. but we were pleasantly surprised when we saw the dish served at our table. the fresh clams were nestled comfortably within the visibly different types of cherry tomatoes and the pickled chilli which gave a burst of bright colors, all swimming in this savory and excellent broth. 

the cherry tomatoes were roasted through but intact. biting into each tomatoes with a fresh clam in a spoonful of the smoky broth gives you a burst of fresh tartness and sweetness tomato essences while savoring all the other flavors. this is a wonderful rendition of clam dish with the freshest ingredients. love it. in fact, even though we said no more bread because we wanted to save room for the rest of the meal, but we went ahead ate the rest of the bread to sop up all the goodness. LOVE!

pasta (specials) :: sweetbread ravioli | capers . lemon . parsley ($11)

this was a half order from the specials menu. we were going to order their signature ragu dish but then i saw sweetbread ravioli which i wanted to try very much since i've never had sweetbread before. everyone raves about sweetbread and i wanted to see what the hype is all about.

sadly, we were both a tad disappointed after such an outstanding showing of the clams. there wasn't any textural difference but overall the dish was an underwhelming display of flavor combination. i loved the fresh pasta that was cooked just right - soft but still had a bite to it - but the filling was just okay and ryan thought it could have easily been something else. i thought perhaps some lemon zest would have given a surprise pop of freshness that the dish was missing although the capers was actually a great touch. maybe my next sweetbread experience would have me jumping off my chair, just not in a ravioli which was muted by everything else.

entree :: duck breast | corn . figs. hazelnuts ($26)

duck breast and figs just sounded awesome and plus i wanted to try fresh figs for the first time (i know there are a lot of firsts at this restaurant) which i loveee! the duck breast had awesome crispy skin but the meat was borderline dry and needed a touch more salt. the corn and the figs were amazing and they both gave the game-y meat the softness and moistness to make up for it. the two streaks of sauce/pesto provided layers of great flavors as accompaniment. it was a good dish but wasn't amazing.

dessert :: milk-chocolate espresso budino ($8.50)

we ended on a high note with this selection because i loved this dessert. it was a rich creamy pudding, chocolate-y but with a bitter undertone from the espresso. the smoothness of the pudding is contrasted by the crunch of cookie crumbles and chocolate pieces which amplified the flavors even more. to top it off, there is the light whipped cream to make the dessert a little airy. this hit the right sweet note :)

incanto displayed a flash of brilliance in a few dishes that we tried. i have to say my dining experience was more of a rollercoaster ride, with a couple of highs and lows but i would like to return sometime  in the future to try some of the other signature dishes they have to offer namely the leg of beast and their ragu.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

Incanto on Urbanspoon