Thoughts about food and technology
Sat, 13 Apr 2013 21:53:35 +0000
Wed, 29 Nov 2006 12:00:03 +0000
A few weeks ago a new eatery opened just a few blocks away from my home in the Glen Park neighborhood of San Francisco. Called Eggettes, it’s located at 2810 Diamond Street, in the space formerly occupied by Dr. Video. While the store was being renovated, I could tell from the decor that it was going to be a Hong Kong-style snack joint/cybercafé and suspected (rightly, I’m pleased to say) that they’d serve . But I didn’t quite get what the name was all about. When the shop opened I had to search a bit to find something called “eggettes” on the menu, and considering that this eponymous food was supposed to be the restaurant’s signature product, I found it odd that there was no photograph or description.
When we walked in, we saw what turned out to be the eggettes displayed behind a glass case next to the cash register, labeled with their flavors but not the word “eggettes.” I inferred that’s what they were from the fact that they were vaguely egg-shaped and that it seemed to be the only food item on display. So, lesson #1: if you want to attract new customers, and if you want those customers to have any idea why they should come in and order your wacky new food, give them at least a tiny clue as to what that food actually is.
Well, we decided there was little to lose by ordering the things without any explanation, so we asked for one order each of original, chocolate, and coconut flavors (sesame was also an option). What we were served is called gai daan jai in Hong Kong, and often described as egg puffs or egg waffles. They’re made by taking a thin batter (not unlike a sweeter waffle or pancake batter) and cooking it on a special iron with small egg-shaped indentations on both plates. The result is a sheet of little dough eggs you can break apart. They’re slightly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, almost like beignets. And let me end the suspense: they’re delicious. I mean, seriously, addictively delicious. I could almost give up doughnuts for these things. But although they’re relatively light and relatively low in fat, they’re clearly full of sugar and nasty carbs—no surprises there.
So, eggettes are a winner. The
store, on the other hand (apparently just the latest in a small chain), needs some work. The food was great and the staff was friendly, but the place has, shall we say, user interface issues. The lack of an explanation of eggettes on the menu is just one example. We decided to plop down on the couch and watch the DVD that was playing on their big flat-screen TV, but we couldn’t figure out how to adjust the volume (turns out the staff controls the remotes, but they also had to do some rewiring of the speakers to get any noise to come out). We noticed the card reader on the cash register and tried to pay with plastic, but the cashier informed us apologetically that they hadn’t yet managed to get a merchant account. And although there are a few Net-connected computer kiosks, you have to stand to use them—not the most comfortable arrangement. The store is neat, shiny, and spacious but not cozy, and that’s a big strike against it in my book.
Nevertheless, I’m sure I’ll return for eggettes and bubble tea whenever I need a quick break from the South Beach Diet. You can do worse.
Las Vegas and Diets
Mon, 02 Oct 2006 14:00:37 +0000
When Morgen and I were on vacation in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago, we knew it would wreak havoc with our ongoing attempt to follow the . Of course, we already make exceptions for things like parties, testing Thanksgiving dinner recipes, and whatnot—and then, as necessary, go back to the stricter Phase 1 for a bit to reverse the damage. It’s no big deal. So we knew the trip would involve some digressions from the preferred list of foods, but we still wanted to keep with the program as much as we reasonably could.
No surprise: Vegas is an astonishingly difficult place to be on just about any sort of diet, but especially so when the diet restricts starches and sugars. South Beach isn’t completely carb-averse like Atkins (thank heavens!), but when you do eat carbs, you’re definitely looking for whole grains and foods with a low glycemic index (i.e., they raise your blood glucose level as slowly as possible). But everywhere we went the menus were full of pasta, potatoes, and white breads—not to mention excessively fatty foods and very fruity drinks.
We finally stumbled on a fantastic restaurant called
in an obscure corner of the Aladdin’s (soon-to-be Planet Hollywood’s) Desert Passage mall. It’s a Brazilian Grille, and it works like this. Your waiter brings you a basket of appetizers (fried banana, falafel, and pão de queijo—really too good to pass up), and then you start with a visit to the cold bar. They had plenty of healthy, high-fiber/low-fat salad-type things there, as well as , olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and other common South Beach ingredients that pleased us mightily.
When you’re ready to move on to the meat, you flip over a little card on your table, and then waiters start appearing at your elbow every few minutes bearing long skewers of freshly grilled meats; you can choose any or all, and they just keep coming back until you decide to call it quits. We had several kinds of steak, chicken, and turkey—all of which were outstanding. We passed on the pork, sausage, and duck (though I’m sure they would have been delicious too) because of the higher fat content. I lost track of how many different meat varieties we were offered, but it was a lot, and the quality was outstanding.
The price was quite reasonable to start with, and we found a coupon in the back of one of our in-room magazines that gave us, I think, $5 or $10 off per person. (We did pay for drinks and an irresistible dessert—the Chocolate Eruption Cake—but they were worth it.) We left feeling very satisfied, but having consumed only a tiny amount of starches overall. I couldn’t believe how few people were there: this place deserves to be packed every night.
I should mention, by the way, that most of the buffets in Vegas can be quite diet-friendly, as long as you’re able to exercise self-control. We saw roasted turkey, all the good fresh vegetables and salad stuff, and even a selection of sugar-free desserts. As long as you don’t eat all you can, you can do pretty well.
We also walked by the empty lot that was once the site of the Westward Ho Hotel and Casino—and home of the . We observed a moment of silence in its memory.
Wed, 20 Sep 2006 14:00:24 +0000
A couple of months ago, I started running into my dentist pretty frequently while walking around and shopping in my San Francisco neighborhood. He told me he’d recently opened a new office, which conveniently is only a few blocks from my home. Shortly thereafter, I ran into him again at, of all places, a restaurant supply store. I was there shopping for apparatus I needed in the course of testing recipes for . He told me that along with his brothers, he was about to open a new restaurant just over the hill in Noe Valley, in a space formerly occupied by a diner called Hungry Joe’s (no relation).
The new restaurant is called the . It’s a small but classy, modern diner-type place with a terrific selection of omelets, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and similar fare. We stopped in for brunch when they’d been open less than a week, and found both the food and the service to be excellent—though of course we can’t make an entirely objective assessment since they’re surely trying extra hard to please their new customers, and since we know one of the proprietors. (He stopped by our table and asked if he could bring us anything else, and right after asking for butter I realized I’d missed a great opportunity. I should have said “floss.”)
I suspect we’ll be eating there often. It’s our kind of food (not entirely South Beach Diet-friendly, but I can hardly fault them for that), and the place has a nice, friendly vibe. The several other times we’ve been past it, it’s been hopping with customers, both inside and outside on the sidewalk tables. Be sure to save room for the lemon cheesecake.
If you’re looking for a nice place in San Francisco for a light meal, drop by Toast at 1748 Church Street (at Day). They’re open 7 days a week: 7–9 Monday through Saturday; 7–4 on Sundays.
And by the way, if you need a good dentist, go to Anise Naser at . I can’t recommend him highly enough—he’s done excellent work (including a couple of root canals and crowns) and he really takes an interest in his patients.