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Last week, Cherry and I celebrated our 5-year anniversary eating like barbarians – at Rainin’ Ribs BBQ. Now don’t scoff at that fact that we didn’t choose a more “upscale” spot to celebrate. A restaurant’s interior décor, the fanciness of the dinner/flatware, or the price of an entrée does not dictate our enjoyment or experience – we ate food we love and we ate it together! Plus, who can’t get down with a wonderfully meaty rack… of ribs? Now Rainin’ Ribs is more a smokehouse/kitchen than a restaurant. We were greeted at a small ordering counter and when we said we’d be dining in, we were given a couple menus and directed to head into the covered dining area to sit anywhere we’d like.  Our server came up a few minutes later, took our order and gave us the go-ahead to anything at the beverage station.

 

 main entrance

main entrance off bothell way

 

The Food:

 

 

 clockwise from the left: 3 sides, 1/2 rack of baby back ribs, 1/2 lb of brisket

clockwise from the left: 3 sides, 1/2 rack of baby back ribs, 1/2 lb of brisket

 

 hushpuppy

hushpuppy

We both shared the 1/2 rack of ribs and two sides ($23) as well as the  a la carte 1/2 lb. of brisket ($10). We got our third side for free as a promotion of checkin’ in via Yelp. For our sides, we went with the hush puppies, loaded potato salad and the mac ‘n cheese. The potato salad was hearty and not overly creamy. The green onions provided a nice bright note to each bite. The mac ‘n cheese was pretty good, but not the best I’ve had.  The hushpuppies on the other hand were amazing. They had a great outer crust and a perfectly sweet and moist inside. One thing that really stood out was the bits of jalapeno throughout each hushpuppy that provide subtle heat to each bite. The honey butter they serve with was also delicious. The brisket had a nice smoke ring along the outer edges and had a good flavor from smoke and rub. We ordered the baby-back ribs dry and they were excellent. The meat was fall off the bone tender and the same great flavors of the rub and smoke that the brisket had.  Rainin’ Ribs offers three house-made sauces to pair with your food; Sweet G, House, and Voodoo.  I liked the voodoo (spicy) sauce the best. It wasn’t too spicy but just had just enough heat to satisfy.

 

 

My Conclusion:

 

With a menu also offering a variety of sandwiches and other favorites like fried catfish and chicken wings, and the fact that they have a food truck and cater, Rainin Ribs is a solid spot.  The staff is friendly and the BBQ is great. We shared our delight with our server and she suggested the tri-tip next time. I’m sure we’ll be taking her suggestion in the near future.

Bing of Fire

I was pleasantly surprised when I recently discovered that Seattle has a food cart offering jian bing. Social media is seriously one hell of a global phenomenon! Despite not having the most engaging or even updated website, I was able to confirm via Twitter, that Bing of Fire would be stationed at Westlake Park for lunch on this particular Friday. For anyone too lazy to click the hyperlink posted earlier, jian bing is a Chinese savory crepe that pretty much blows all savory crepes out the water.  You won’t find any deli meat, mayo, cheese or any of that junk like I’ve seen at the local mall crepe station. These come filled with green onions, cilantro, Chinese pickles, egg, chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce and crispy fried wonton crackers… and that’s just the base ingredients. There are a few more free ingredients you can add as well other ingredients that will cost you a little extra including roast duck, pork belly and bbq pork.

 cart in westlake park

cart in westlake park

layin the foundation

layin the foundation

methodically done

methodically done

The Food:

jian bing w/bbq pork $8

jian bing w/bbq pork $8

Coming from a Chinese background, I will say that this jian bing is on point. First off, I was hit with all the flavors that satisfy; the bright kick from the green onions and cilantro, the sour from the pickles, the sweet from the hoisin and the spice from the chili garlic sauce. Texturally, I was really pleased with how the bing and the egg held everything together with the crispy wonton crackers providing a crackling crunch to eat bite.  The jian bing start off at $7 for just the basic ingredients, but I chose to add bbq for an extra dollar. The bbq  pork was decent but not the best I’ve had,  and would have liked just a touch more of it. Nevertheless, the portion size was an adequate lunch meal, even for me.

 

 

My Conclusion:

I’m really pleased with Bing of Fire’s representation of a common street food found in China. With the rise in food truck/cart popularity, it’s refreshing see one that isn’t selling tacos, bbq, or gyros. And while their menu really only consists of one thing, they do it right and they do it well. I look forward to trying their other variations.

Here’s part 2 of my recent 3-week trip to the Philippines. This post will focus on the good stuff – street food. I’ll also conclude with some photos I shot during my trip of things I saw and places we visited. Now let’s get to it!

* in case you forgot $1 us dollar = $40-$44 peso

** most every piece of street food ranged from $3 – $5 peso (unless noted)

 

Street Foods:

 

a bbq stand literally 25-yards from our home. they wouldn’t start setting up until sunset and would stay open for a few hours.

street food_3

betamax & isaw (grilled chicken blood & chicken intestines)

 bbq chicken feet (adidas) & longanisa (pork sausage) with a sauce of vinegar, chili peppers and cucumber

bbq chicken feet & longanisa (pork sausage) with a sauce of vinegar, chili peppers and cucumber

 l to r: fried chicken breast, breaded and fried quail eggs, chicken skin

l to r: fried chicken breast, breaded and fried quail eggs (quek quek), chicken skin

 pick your own: fish balls, hot dogs, fish cakes

self-served: fish balls, hot dogs, fish cakes

Cherry’s cousin specifically brought us to this stall in the ili. There’s a bunch of toothpicks that you use to pick up any and all the bite-sized food you want. There’s a couple of different dipping sauces you can use as well, ranging from sweet to spicy. This is basically a self serve food cart where you stand and eat as much as you want then the vendor totals you up at the end.

 taste the rainbow

tapioca heaven

various fruit drinks

various fruit drinks

 pandan drink

pandan drink aka “green drink”

Plastic bags are the norm when it comes to juices and sodas in the ili as well as the barangays. It’s a definitely a unique thing to try for the first time. I dig it!

 fresh buko and fresh buko meat

fresh buko and fresh buko meat

home made buko juice: so presh, so represhing!

home made buko juice: so presh, so represhing!

burger collage

makings of a burger

We visited the ili almost every other day and each time we were there, this particular burger stand was always busy. The inviting aroma of oil and meat on the grill didn’t hurt either. I made it a point to try one of these burgers before we left. Their special was a “buy one take one” for $25 peso. Despite my better judgement telling me to avoid a place that sells 2-burgers for under $0.50, I couldn’t help myself. Assuming the ground meat was beef, they weren’t bad. The mysterious pink sauce however, I could have done without. It tasted like what I imagine Willy Wonka’s version of “secret” sauce would be.  I deduced that the other two sauces were mayo and ketchup. These burgers also included a small square of cheese, lettuce and cucumber slices. The cucumber was a surprising ingredient as I’ve never had one in a burger, but thought it worked, providing a nice cool element to each bite. Overall not the worst thing I’ve ever had, but I can’t say I’d order this burger again.

deep fried isaw via balay bistro in urdaneta $100p

deep fried isaw from balay bistro in urdaneta $100p

 palutan of bbq pork, onions, tomatoes and sauce of vinegar, soy and sliced chili

pulutan of bbq pork, onions, tomatoes and sauce of vinegar, soy and sliced chili

Pulutan which roughly translates to finger food, is commonly eaten when socializing and drinking with friends and family  around a table.

  beachside grillin: milk fish, squid and eggplant

beachside grillin: milk fish, squid and eggplant

ice cream!

ice cream: pineapple, pandan, cheese

when you buy an ice cream cone, you get one flavor - all three!

  only one flavor offered – all three!

homemade lumpia

homemade lumpia

impalate aka biko

impalate aka biko

hey buddy!

hey buddy!

One of my foodie goals on this trip was to eat the most popular street food in the country, balut! If you don’t already know, balut is a developing duck embryo that is boiled then eaten from the shell. Once you get over the visual appearance that is often off-putting, it really tastes good. You get all of the flavors you’d expect from hard-boiled egg and then the subtlest flavor of poultry on the back end. I’d definitely eat it again.

My Conclusion:

This was a great trip filled with memorable experiences and awesome food. I hope these two posts provided a glimpse into one small part of the Filipino culture, leaving you hungry to discover more on your own! I’ll end this with some of my favorite captures during this trip…

antong falls

antong falls

A large group of us hiked a few miles through fields, river beads and up rocks to Antong Falls. We had a couple of near death experiences as we tried to traverse the boulders while wearing flip flops, but we eventually made it. It was worth it.

carabao

carabao

adenium

adenium

sunrise via pugudpud

sunrise via pugudpud

milky waters before the storm

milky waters before the storm

Last month, my family and I were fortunate enough to take a 3-week trip to Cherry’s country of birth, Philippines.  She’s been back several times over her lifetime and this was my second trip, so it wasn’t totally foreign to me. However this time around I had a much greater appreciation  of the entire experience. I like to tell myself it’s because I’m older and more mature. Cherry’s family is from the central province of Pangasinan, on the main island of Luzon. Her mother still has a home in the Sugcong barangay of the Pozorrubio municipality, which is where we stayed. We spent a majority of our days going to the ili (pronounced ee-lee), which is the central hub of each municipality, and nights with family drinking – Tang or brandy.

Now join me on a photographic journey of the things I ate and places I visited!

* unless noted, most everything was home made

** 1 US dollar = 40-44 pesos

Breakfasts:

breakfast_3

chicken tinola, home made longanisa, tomatoes with armang (shrimp paste), rice

breakfast_2

fried tilapia, tomato with armang, rice

breakfast_1

fried fish, mulunggay leaves and tomatoes, rice

These three dishes are very common breakfast meals in the Philippines. If you couldn’t tell by the pictures, breakfast consisted of rice (a staple), a protein (usually fried) and a vegetable. Depending on what was available the protein and vegetable changed each day, however tomatoes and shrimp paste were always on hand!

tocino breakfast

tocino breakfast $130p

chorizo breakfast

chorizo a la cubano $160p

These were breakfasts offered at Burby’s Grill. The tocino was average and the achara (papaya salad) was too sweet. The chorizo was pretty horrible. It had no flavors of any seasonings and the only flavor I picked up was vinegar.. too much of it. The fried plantains were pretty good though.

chow king

pork siomai chao fan with egg $97p

In terms of number of locations, Chowking is like the Starbucks of the Philippines. The food is cheap, will fill you up and they’re open 24-hrs a day! Not exactly my idea of Chinese food, but for under $3 U.S. I’m not complaining :)

Lunches:

clockwise from stop left: pinakbet, pork afritada, pork adobo, ____, curry chicken

eatery from the ili clockwise from top left: dinengdeng, pork caldereta, pork adobo, pinakbet (mostly pork), curry chicken $35p each

lunch_1

left to right: diniguan, pork adobo, pancit, sweetened pork belly fat adobo, tomato and armang, rice

mang insal_1

“pm 2″ meal from mang inasal $109p

Mang Inasal an extremely popular fast food restaurant known for their barbecued chicken. The chicken is tasty and well cooked with a mildly sweet glaze. It’s very common to dip your chicken in sauce comprised of soy, calamansi juice and hot chlili peppers. This meal comes with unlimited rice but you can opt to not have unlimited rice and save yourself 10 pesos.

jollibee

polobok & chicken meal from jollibee $140

Jollibee may be the most recognizable Filipino fast food restaurant, and like Chow King, they’re open 24hrs a day and on every street corner. The picture above pretty much sums up how the meal was. Both the polobok and fried chicken were average at best but satisfied my hunger.  One thing I’d like to note is that Jollibee is busy… staggeringly busy. It doesn’t matter the time nor location, there will be a crowd.

eatery_2

view from the road

eatery_1

pick a pot, any pot

eatery_3

beef steak with rice

This meal is from a roadside eatery. My mother-in-law paid for the meal so I’m not exactly sure how much it was. If I were to take a guess, I’d say around $35peso per plate. These types of eateries are also very popular in the Philippines. When you enter, you’re met with a plethora of covered pots and pans filled with various stews, meats and veggies for you to choose from. After you make your selection, the server plates it and serves you with a plate of rice. The beef was on the chewier side and the flavors of the vinegar overpowered everything.

 top: fried shrimp, grilled milk fish,  bbq pork skewers, bbq pork, eggplant bottom l to r: salad of mango, tomato, red onion, chili and fish sauce and "chow mein"

top: fried shrimp, grilled milk fish, bbq pork skewers, bbq pork, eggplant
bottom l to r: salad of mango, tomato, red onion, chili and fish sauce and “chow mein”

Cherry’s cousin treated us to this lunch at a Lisland Rainforest Resort in Urdaneta City. It was a beautifully presented meal and most everything was delicious. I especially enjoyed the fried shrimp which were crispy and enjoyable to pop in your mouth. The bbq skewers were also delicious. The glaze had a good balance of sweet and savory. The noodles on the other hand, were underwhelming. It looked pretty but the the ingredients literally sat atop a hard noodle cake. I felt like I needed a knife to cut a portion out. The icing on this noodle cake was the seasoning that seemed to be sprinkled all over. Three words: Chicken Top Ramen.

Dinners:

 native chicken tinola & bbq pork

native chicken tinola & bbq pork

The picture above was a very typical dinner each night as well. Like breakfast, it usually consisted of a protein and a vegetable. Often times we ate the exact same thing for both breakfast and dinner. They call the chicken above “native” chicken because it wasn’t farmed. They literally went into the backyard and killed one for dinner. It was definitely very tough and much chewier.

The following two pictures show preparations for  a celebration. In the barangay’s, celebrations involve a family hosting a huge dinner for the entire barangay (dozens of large families) to celebrate a wedding, anniversary or any other momentous occasion. Needless to say these types of dinners are not a regular occurrence.

 teamwork makes the dream work

teamwork makes the dream work

just another bbq

a little pork and a little carabao

to be continued…

Valentines 2015

Hey everyone! As you can obviously tell (and what I try not to let happen), my activity on this blog has taken quite a big dip this past year. Priorities in life take a change in the world of parenthood. Nevertheless, Cherry and I planned this past weekend to get out and try new spots. So let’s get to it!

Peaceful Restaurant

We spent Saturday north of Washington State’s U.S. border in Canada. After seeing Peaceful Restaurant featured on DDD, it quickly topped my “must eat list” for Vancouver. We visited their W. Broadway and Cambie location around 3pm and it was extremely busy. Despite being small and narrow, Peaceful Restaurant was bustling and full of life. Regrettably we only ordered a couple of dishes, but that only means we’ll be back!

 

peacefulrest.entrance

entrance off w. broadway

peacefulrest.kitchen

the heart of this establishment

peacefulrest.narrow

narrow quarters

The Food:

 

peacefulrest.beefroll

peaceful beef roll $7.95 ca

This was the first time I’ve had a Chinese beef roll and it was wonderful. It consists of braised beef shank wrapped in a green onion pancake with hoisin sauce. This type of beef happens to be one of Cherry’s favorite, and for good reason. It’s braised in a mix of soy sauce, star anise, and five spice until tender and packed full of flavor. The green onion pancakes are savory and crispy to provide a nice bite. The hoisin sauce adds a terrific sweetness to balance everything out.

 

peacefulrest.zhajiang 1

peacefulrest.zhajiang 2

beijing zha jiang mian $7.95 ca

If you’ve been following my blog or even glanced at my “who the heck!?” page, you probably have read that zha jiang mian is my favorite noodle dish. Peaceful Restaurant does a decent job with their take on this very popular Chinese noodle dish. The menu reads as “savoury dark pork sauce,’ which is really a black bean sauce/paste. Pork combined with the sauce is placed on top of the noodles alongside shredded cucumbers, bean sprouts and carrots. The sauce was on the bland side and needed more salt. The veggies added a bright note and also gave each bite some nice texture. The star of all noodle dishes here  is their hand pulled noodles, which have a fantastic textu that you can never get with boxed noodles.

 

Nosh

On Sunday, we went to the Fremont Farmers Market with one thing in mind, fish and chips! After getting many good recommendations and even a personal invitation from the owner himself, Nosh was the obvious choice. Walking up towards the truck, the verbal invitations from owner Harvey Wolff could be clearly heard from down the street. His method of attracting customers was quite simple, offer a “money back guarantee if his fish and chips aren’t the best you’ve had!” The British accent didn’t hurt either.

nosh_bone harvey

follow the crowd

nosh_bone menu

zagat don’t lie

The Food:

nosh_bone marrow

roasted bone marrow $7

This was the first time I’ve had bone marrow and I now understand why I’ve always heard it to be delicious. The marrow itself is salty and quite flavorful. It is also very gelatinous so if you’re an unfortunate individual that has trouble with those kind of textures, I’m sorry for you. What set this dish over the top was the salad and crostini served with it. The salad consisted of shaved red onion, carrots, celery leaf, capers and parsley.  The crostini was toasted and salted. The rich savory marrow, the bright and pickled salad and the crunch of the salted crostini came together as one of the best bites I’ve ever had.

nosh_fish

british fish ‘n chips $10

Now for the Pièce de résistance. Does Zagat’s assessment hold true? In short, yes.  I’ve had my fair share of fish and chips in and around the Northwest and also in my travels around the country, and I can confidently say that these are the top. First off, you get an entire filet! Not only is the cod daily fresh, it is also sustainably caught. The batter is well seasoned and the fish is perfectly fried. The batter provided a nice crunch yet was incredibly light as well. The fries were awesome – thick cut, and ideally cooked and seasoned. The minty mushy peas were also a first for me, and I dug ’em! With all the deep fried deliciousness going on, the peas balanced everything out with a nice bright and minty freshness. As Harvey would say, “If you’re ready for grown up food, come to Nosh!”

Mashiko

Sorry for how long it’s been since my last post, but nowadays, leisurely meals at a restaurant become a huge production once you add a toddler into the picture. Let’s just say Cherry and I have become meticulously selective of if and when we decide to eat out. Last night happened to be my birthday, so we figured that was a reason as good as any to dine out. We also had fortune of Grandma watching Rylie for the evening! Cherry surprised me with a dinner at a spot I’ve had on my radar for quite some time; Mashiko! Mashiko is a sushi restaurant that practices and focuses on sustainability. Making sure the fish they serve is not only fresh and local, but responsibly caught and not of the massively farmed variety. It is a small restaurant with simple décor that shows the sushi bar in the back along with the daily specials. I will also preface this post by saying that a majority of my experience with sushi/sashimi/nigiri is from AYCE sushi spots in the Seattle area as well as Vancouver BC.

mashiko entrance

entrance off california ave

The Food:

Cherry and I opted for the omakase or “chef’s choice” meal. At Mashiko, they have four different omakase meals. We ordered Nami ($70 for two) , which included an assortment of sashimi, ten pieces of nigiri, one grilled fish, rice and dessert. I could tell Cherry was a little apprehensive, since anything raw beyond ahi (tuna) is outside her comfort zone. But she handled everything like a champ and I’mvery proud of her. Next time I’d like to step it up to their Honkaku meal; which has the disclaimer,“Novices need not apply.”

 

mashiko tako sashimi

first course: tako sashimi over a bead of sunomono

All of the tako I have ever consumed prior to this meal has been chewy and relatively flavorless; however it’s always been one of my favorite foods. However, the tako here threw everything I knew about it out the door. It was outrageously tender and simply delicious. I felt like Neo when he was unhooked from the Matrix and using his eyes for the first time in the real World.

 

mashiko.sashimi

second course: (from top going clockwise) white king salmon, tombo, gulf prawn, red tuna, rainbow trout, saba,(middle) tako (hood) mussel with wasabi mayo

Each piece of sashimi was incredibly fresh and very delicious. I won’t go into detail into each piece of sashimi, but I will highlight a few of my favorites. The gulf prawn had a pleasantly sweet flavor and the saba was very rich and flavorful. The mussel was also extremely fresh and the wasabi mayo added a creamy texture and additional layer of flavor. My absolute favorite piece on this plate was the white king salmon. It had a wonderfully subtle flavor that you find with fresh fish but had the texture like butter! It literally melted in my mouth. Experiencing such a delicate texture flushed all  preconceived notions and past experiences of sashimi down the drain.

 mashiko.nigiri

third course: (clockwise from back left) uni, sanma, iwashi, tombo, coho salmon

Again only highlighting my favorites, which happen to be the entire back row. The sanma, or Pacific saury was local and had a very rich fishy flavor. The iwashi or sardine was also locally caught. Like the sanma, it carried a richer fishy flavor that I thoroughly enjoyed. “Fishy” flavors tend to carry a negative connotation in Western culture, but that isn’t so much the case in Asian culture. There is also a big difference in stinky fish flavor and fresh fish flavor. Both these fish had the latter. The uni was probably my favorite. Behind the gelatinous texture that may hinder people from trying it, it carried such an awesome flavor that I can only describe as, fresh & clean ocean.

 

mashiko.ling cod

fourth course: grilled ling cod with miso sauce on bed of sunomono

This dish was more down Cherry’s alley. Simply and perfectly grilled fish topped with a savory sweet miso sauce and a side of rice. Ling cod is already a light and subtly sweet fish so it doesn’t need much done to it. The miso highlighted the sweetness of the fish while also adding umami to each bite.

 

 mashiko.brownie

fifth course: coconut tempura brownie & green tea ice cream

Our meal concluded with a perfect desert. The brownie, which is from a local bakery, was rich but not overly sweet. The coconut tempura was fried perfectly with the batter providing great crunch and texture. The green tea ice cream was great in adding a contrasting creamy texture and earthy sweetness.

My Conclusion:

Everything about our experience at Mashiko was excellent. Our server was extremely attentive and did a great job explaining what each item within each course was. The food was fantastic; expertly prepared and impeccably fresh. Chef Hajime is definitely master in his craft and his team truly exudes that excellence.

 

 

 

 

 

Voula’s Offshore Cafe

Cherry and I decided to have breakfast at Voula’s Offshore Café, yesterday, and walked out quite pleased and very full. Located on NE Northlake Way, Voula’s is a family owned diner offering hearty meals with touch of their Greek heritage. I didn’t even realize until after we walked in, that Voula’s was also featured on Foodnetwork’s, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives! Flavortown, here we come!

voulas.entrance

entrance off  ne northlake

voulas.grill

front-row seating

    The Food:

voulas.bigone 

voula’s big one $10.8

Cherry opted for Voula’s Big One, which came with three eggs (scrambled), two pieces of bacon, two pieces of sausage, hash browns and toast (rye). This is your standard, but bigger than average breakfast plate, offering all the morning necessities. The bacon was crunchy and thickly cut, while their Greek sausage was very savory and rich with the herbs and spices they use. Their Greek sausage is made with beef rather than pork – and it works wonderfully. The scrambled eggs were cooked well and the crispy hash browns  succeeded in finishing the plate off.

20140929_103654

the oddinator $11.3

Voula’s menu is full of uniquely name dishes, but the oddinator resonated with me. Seeing as how it is also an omelette, made it the logical choice. This three egg omelette came stuffed with their in-house smoked pork, mushrooms, green onions, Swiss cheese and topped with BBQ sauce. Hash browns and toast (English muffin) also came with this dish. I first tasted their BBQ sauce which was sweeter than I’d prefer, but it did carry a pleasant underlying spice.. This was a very well made omelette. I almost felt bad cutting into the pillowy-soft egg that delicately wrapped everything together – like a warm fleece blanket wrapping up a newborn baby. The flavors of the smoked pork were highlighted by the creamy Swiss cheese, while the mushrooms added earthiness and the green onions added a bright pop to each bite. They did provide some house-made hot sauce that provided that missing bite I always look for. Everything came together excellently.

My Conclusion: Voula’s is a friendly spot offering deliciously hearty breakfasts. No fancy or frilly plates here… but lets be honest, a little extra butter always soothes the soul.

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