Tag Archives: food

Food Passport: Hot Sauce and Panko

 

A look at Hot Sauce and Panko’s panko parmesan and Korean fried chicken wings. All photos by Catherine Uy

 

I was overridden with guilt when I devoured four chicken wings in less than three minutes, but let’s be real: good food overrides potential calories.

At Hot Sauce and Panko, Terrence Luk serves up a variety of unique chicken wings, from ramen crusted to siracha caramel.

Located in the Richmond District, Hot Sauce and Panko is really a hole in the wall. The small outpost on Clement Street is quite charming and its funky decor definitely keeps you entertained while waiting for your food. One wall is lined with shelves with rows and rows of hot sauce, from ghost pepper to habanero. There are Star Wars figurines,  a small Spider Man bust, kitschy signs and a wall adorned with a small urinal. The Christopher Walken “We accept Walkens” sign just adds to the restaurant’s quirky humor.

A look outside the small hole in the wall on Clement Street.
A look outside the small hole in the wall on Clement Street.

I went to the hot wing joint during lunch with a group of friends. We got the following wings: Chris’s, Korean and Panko Parmesan. We also got a side of fries.

The wings are surprisingly cheap. For $6 you’ll get wings that are significantly bigger than Buffalo Wild Wings or Wingstop.

The Chris wings were the most basic as compared to the bolder flavored wings we tried, but nonetheless delicious. It contained a nice balance of sweet and salty flavors. It’s well seasoned with honey, salt and black pepper. The wings were  sticky due to the honey glaze, but it still had a nice crunchy texture.

The Panko Parmesan wings were fried to perfection, crisp on the outside and both tender and juicy on the inside. My only issue was that some wings had a little too much parmesan. But tossed in their Siracha ranch sauce, it tasted even better. The Siracha added a nice kick, making the wings slightly spicy while the ranch created a mixture of salty and tangy flavors.

Unlike the Panko Parmesan, the Korean wings required no dipping sauce These wings were dressed with sesame seeds and gochujang, a Korean chili paste. The sesame seeds gave it a nice crunch. At first bite, these wings were sweet and sour, but once the spice kicked in it left me feeling like I got slapped in the face.

The fries weren’t anything special, but they made for a good side dish.

The only downside is the restaurant’s space.  It’s small and gets crowded easily; seating is limited. There are two small tables inside that could seat five people and two standing tables outside. Ordering takeout might be your best bet during lunch hours.

 

The verdict: The wings at Hot Sauce and Panko are made the way wings are supposed to be: crispy, juicy and full of bold flavors.

★★★★ out of 5

Hot Sauce and Panko, 1545 Clement St

 

 

5 Drinks you need to try for Cinco de Mayo

Today is Cinco de Mayo, yay! A holiday that many of us take as a day to drink tequila to our hearts content and eat bomb Mexican food, because why not? But why do we celebrate this holiday? Many believe that today is Mexico’s Independence Day, well think again because it’s not. Mexico’s Independence Day is actually celebrated on September 16th, we celebrate the fifth of May because it was the day that the Mexican army won over the French forces at the Battle of Puebla, which happened on May 5th, 1862. It is such a big deal because during the battle the Mexican army wasn’t a favorite to win but they were able to overcome the French troops.

Now enough about history, lets talk about drinking. As American’s we like to celebrate Cinco de Mayo as well, which means plenty of tequila based drinks for us to celebrate with (not to mention drown our sorrows about finals week.)

Prickly Pear Moscow Mule:
This drink will start your Cinco de Mayo off right. It’s a hot pink color with a sweet pear taste but a kick at the end from the jalapenos.

Ingredients:

2 oz lime juice
1/2  jalapeño
2 oz Mezcal
6 oz ginger beer
1 oz. prickly pear syrup
Lime, for rimming the glass
Salt, for rimming the glass
Jalapeño slices (seeded), for garnish 

Instructions:

1. Sprinkle salt on a plate and set aside. Run a cut lime along the rim of the glasess. Dip the rim in the salt covered plate. Set the glasses aside.
2. Muddle the lime juice and jalapeño at the bottom of a shaker until well combined.
3. Add the Mezcal, a few cubes of ice and the prickly pear syrup. Shake vigorously until well combined.
3. Pour the mixture evenly into the two glasses.
4. Pour the ginger beer into the glasses until the drink reaches the top of the glass. Stir.
5. Garnish the drink with a few jalapeño slices for added bite.

Tequila Sunrise:

A tequila sunrise is a twist on the typical margarita, fun for any party but not dangerous enough to make you hit the floor after one drink. It’s also really easy to make.

Ingredients:

2 ounces Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila
4 ounces orange juice
splash grenadine
ice
orange slice

Instructions:
1.Fill glass half way with ice

2. Pour tequila and orange juice into the glass
3. Stir to combine, add a splash of grenadine
4. Garnish with an orange slice.

Jalapeno Margarita:

Because why not? It’s Cinco de Mayo!

Ingredients:

1 jalapeno, sliced thin
Celery Leaves
6oz fresh lime juice
Spoon full of sugar
16oz tequila
8oz orange liqueur
Salt

Instructions:

1. In a blender, combine jalapeno, celery leaves, lime juice, and sugar
2. Add in tequila and orange liqueur
3. Serve of the rocks, add salt to rim of glass

Classic Margarita Spritzer

Who doesn’t love a good spritzer, especially when summer is right around the corner and nobody needs those extra calories.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 ounce tequila
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce triple sec or orange juice
4 ice cubes
Chilled seltzer or club soda
1 lime slice for garnish

Instructions:

1. In a tall glass combine the tequila, the lime juice, the triple sec, and ice cubes.
2. Fill the glass with the seltzer and stir the drink.
3. Garnish it with the lime slice.

Shots:

Tequila shots, am I right? If you don’t want to mess with the hassle of making a fancy drink, then just drink the tequila alone. Always remember what happens after your third shot of tequila. My favorite tequila, Patron silver, goes down smooth but doesn’t leave a burn.

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone, please drink responsibly!

**drinks found via Pintrest

Food Passport: El Farolito

A look inside the popular Bay Area Mexican chain restaurant. All photos by Catherine Uy

Located in the outer Mission, just a few blocks from the BART station, a rich aroma of smoke emanates from inside a small Mexican restaurant. Inside you’ll find walls in the colors of the Mexican flag and red tables with wooden booths on each side of the space’s tiled floor. In the background, mariachi music plays as a chef places tortillas on a large skillet.

El Farolito looks like a restaurant straight from the 80s with its fluorescent lighting and festive colors, but its  flavors and dirt cheap prices make up for its decor. It’s the type of place where you can enjoy a quality burrito at 2 a.m. when you need to satisfy the drunchies.

The al pastor burrito is extraordinary, filled with pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and salsa. It’s filled with strong flavors and textures: a slightly crisp tortilla, tender slices of pork and fresh and flavorful vegetables. Compared to other burrito joints the fillings aren’t overly soggy. There’s just the right balance between chewy and crispy textures.

The small restaurant also serves up a variety of authentic Mexican foods, like nachos, enchiladas, and tostadas de ceviche.

Carne asada tacos filled with cilantro and onions.
Carne asada tacos filled with cilantro and onions.

 

The tacos here are everything you could ask for. The tortillas are rich and buttery, filled with juicy bits of grilled steak. The soft, thin flatbread carries an appetizing medley of diced onions, cotija cheese and cilantro. It has all the elements of the perfect taco: pico de gallo, well seasoned meat, and a chipotle sauce, that’s sweet with just a little bit of spice.

The nachos, however, are nothing special. The chips are topped with mounds of beans, melted cheese, avocado, sour cream, and jalapeños. The tortilla chips have a nice crunch, but are way too salty and greasy. Despite all the toppings, you can’t have good nachos without good chips. It’s a shame though considering the salsa is so damn delicious. Word of advice: try the green sauce.

During the day it’s packed with hungry customers, but the service is quick and friendly. The food is mouthwatering and delicious, but the restaurant loses points for cleanliness. Some of the tables have remnants of food or trash from its previous eaters.

The verdict:  Craving a good burrito? Need to satisfy the drunchies? El Farolito is the place to go.

★★★ ★out of 5

El Farolito, 4817 Mission Street San Francisco

Food Passport: exploring Bay Area cuisines

Graphic created by Caty McCarthy

Ask my friends what my reaction to food is, and they’ll usually imitate me playing with my hair and saying “you know what sounds really good right now?” I get excited about grocery shopping, and I spend my time and energy on Yelp searching for new restaurants to try. I also have this problem of watching the Food Network while eating dinner. Oh, and I’m that girl, the one who Instagrams what she’s eating.

Hi, hello, I’m Catherine Uy, a 22-year-old journalism student with a passion for food. I’m just a small-town girl lookin’ for the meal of her life. For the next few months, I’ll be exploring all the diverse foods that the Bay Area has to offer. I’ll be writing features and reviews on a different cuisine every other week.

Food Passport is a column dedicated to celebrating food. I’ll be writing restaurant reviews every now and then, but it’s not about the stories of me eating. Every restaurant and meal has a story. My goal is to share with you the story behind what and where eat.

 

 

 

Super Bowl snacking: Yes, we are gross.

Enjoy your pizza on Superbowl Sunday. Photo by wEndy/Creative Commons
Enjoy your pizza on Super Bowl Sunday. Photo by wEndy/Creative Commons

 

Super Bowl weekend is one of the hardest weekends of the year to try and eat healthy. So don’t.

I’m not saying fast food is the best dietary choice we could make. It’s just that there’s no use in trying to go all #detoxcleanselife on Super Bowl Sunday. Eating normal-sized portions might be the closest we can get. This is bigger than us!

Papa John’s is literally giving away free pizzas if the game goes into overtime, bacon grease and extra cheese goo included. Jack in the Box created a new “butter burger”, now available to the public with an option to “bacon and swiss” it. Really, they should have gone with a more accurate name, like “ Our new Paula Deen Burger…eat up, then cry!

Oh, and Carl’s Jr. is promoting its new natural burger…which, judging from the commercial, is about the size of an adult head. This all means two things: a) We’re in a America, and b) it’s Super Bowl time.

We can get a million toppings on our pizza. And we can fill the crusts with cheese and then add extra cheese on top and then probably have it deep fried. We have four-patty burgers at In-n-Out. We have shakes at Chick-fil-A ranking upwards of 700 calories.

Jack in the Box's new buttery jack. Photo provided by Jack in the Box
Jack in the Box’s new buttery jack. Photo provided by Jack in the Box

This fast food buffet is terrible, though sometimes delicious, and we absolutely shouldn’t be eating this stuff.

But, Super Bowl Sunday just isn’t the day to wage the war on obesity. It’s not the time to rise up righteously with our homemade kale chips and chia-seeded crackers. If we’re being real, we know the obesity problem in the U.S. has plenty other avenues we can fight through…like funding for public school lunches and nutrition education. Or regulation on the number of fast food locations in a single neighborhood.

It’s true, triple cheese pizza, buffalo wings, nachos and beer are probably some of the worst things we can consume as humans on the planet…excluding non-edible things like a Justin Beiber record or a four-hour class on cross-stitching. Unhealthy food is unhealthy – you’re damn right. I just think if you are the one bringing your gluten-free flax seed pita roll to the party, you are the worst and you need to stop. If you think Super Bowl Sunday snacking is awful and should be stopped, then don’t eat six slices of Papa John’s “Double Bacon 6 Cheese” pizza. Don’t eat 15 chicken wings. Don’t eat bacon-wrapped bacon! Super Bowl snacking is going to happen. Millions of pizzas will be ordered. Nachos will be wolfed down. beers guzzled, and the world will continue to revolve in its normal state. Save the healthier eating pitch for a day when most of the country isn’t surrounded by our own grossness in the form of bread, meat and cheese.

Just for today, leave your seaweed-wrapped celery at home. Don’t make it weird.

Foodelicious at SF State

Tired of eating at the same place everyday? Do you want to try something new, but have no idea where to begin to look? Here are the five food venues that generate the most revenue at SF State. The list is based on a survey conducted by the Cesar Chavez Student Center in October 2013 and includes responses from three thousand five hundred and ninty students. The study also revealed that students use the Student Center mostly for the food venues. The dishes I chose are my personal favorite items. Take a look! You might discover your new favorite place.

 

1. Ike’s Place

Dish: Barry B Sandwich

Ingredients: Turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato, on Dutch crunch bread.

Price: $ 8.98

(Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)
The Barry B sandwich from Ike’s. (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)

Veggies are super fresh. Good flavor of the turkey with the crunchy Dutch bread. The bacon adds a salty flavor.

 

2. Taqueria Girasol

Dish: El Cabo

Ingredients: Rice, beans, choice of meat, pico de gallo salsa, cheese and cream.

Price: $6.25

 (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)
The El Cabo,  a burrito made with rice, beans, pico de gallo, you choice of meat, cheese, and sour cream. (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)

Large burrito. Meat is bland. Rice and refried beans are flavorful. You can choose between green or red salsa if you want to add a little bit of spicy flavor.

 

3. Natural Sensations

Dish: Beagle H

Ingredients: Avocado, feta, cheese, pesto and tomato, choice of bread.

Price: $3.45

(Airha Dominguez/ Xrpress Magazine)
The Bagle H made with avocado, feta, cheese, pesto, and tomato. (Airha Dominguez/ Xrpress Magazine)

The taste of the pesto combined with the avocado and feta cheese on a wheat bread is tasty. Tomatoes are fresh daily. You can choose the bread.

 

4. Gold Coast Grill & Catering

Dish: Freshman Burger Combo

Ingredients: ½ lb. of Fed beef served on toasted sesame bun with the fixes: mayo, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles. It is also served with your choice of: French fries, Cole slaw or spring mix salad with balsamic dressing.

Price: $8.75

The Freshmen Burger: a delicious steak burger made with mayo, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles.  (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)
The Freshmen Burger: a delicious steak burger made with mayo, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles. (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)

The piece of the steak is juicy. The hamburger is a good size. I could not finish it all, so I saved half of the hamburger for the rest of the day.

 

5. Café 101

Dish: Vegan maple donut

Ingredients: maple and chocolate glaze.

Price: $1.25

A vegan maple donut from Cafe 101. (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)
A vegan maple donut from Cafe 101. (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)

It was the perfect size, not to big, not too small. The chocolate glaze and the maple flavor make the perfect combination. The taste is sweet, but not too cloying.

 

 

Money on wheels

Hazelle Arcega takes an order through the window of The Yolk food truck in Vallejo. (Sara Gobets/ Xpress Magazine)
Hazelle Arcega takes an order through the window of The Yolk food truck in Vallejo. (Sara Gobets/ Xpress Magazine)

Food trucks are quickly evolving into an economic engine

Nonet Arcega’s day begins at seven in the morning. The slicing of food on a chopping board can be heard from his kitchen. A variety of chopped meats and vegetables fill Arcega’s countertop, creating an abundance of color.

Even though his day job does not start for another four hours, the preparation for it begins bright and early. Once finished, Arcega loads the prepped ingredients into his mobile business and is ready to serve his customers.

Since mid-May of this year, Arcega, along with his family, have started running a food truck called The Yolk. Their food truck service travels around Vallejo, California and serves unique Filipino-style breakfasts.

Pork sisig tacos and longanisa kimchi fried rice are two of the main dishes that are included on the truck’s menu. These two dishes are typically known as “silog.” According to Señor Sisig owner, Evan Kidera, silog is best defined as “a Filipino breakfast dish that includes meat or some other protein with garlic rice, fried egg, and a wedge of tomato and vinegar.”

As lunch comes around, customers of all ages come to enjoy the food that Arcega and his family provide.

“We love to cook and we love breakfast,” says Jhing Arcega, wife and business partner of Nonet. “We just want to be different, not so much to follow the trend.”

The Yolk owner Nonet Arcega (left), daughter and employee Hazelle Arcega (center), and employee Joelle Hilario (right) pose out front of their food truck in Vallejo. (Sara Gobets/ Xpress Magazine)
The Yolk owner Nonet Arcega (left), daughter and employee Hazelle Arcega (center), and employee Joelle Hilario (right) pose out front of their food truck in Vallejo. (Sara Gobets/ Xpress Magazine)

While their business is on the right track, it was certainly difficult to begin. Some food trucks today are born out of a chef’s desire to deliver exceptional street food or simply take a test drive in the industry.

Established restaurants have also started their own food trucks in order to expand their catering business. For example, Gott’s Roadside, a popular gourmet burger restaurant in the Bay Area, offers a red-and-white food truck that specializes in catering services for a variety of events.

The food truck industry experienced an evolvement just as the economy began to sink. According to an article in the Huffington Post, “Restaurateurs who were hesitant to drop serious cash on launching a restaurant turned to mobile trucks as a less expensive way to sell food in a down economy.”

Although the food truck industry is in a constant boom, starting out in the business is not easy. Many factors, such as health and parking permits, need to be taken into consideration before deciding when opening day is. Running a food truck also includes other expenses, like the average monthly food cost. These are aspects that street food lovers probably do not take into consideration when they purchase their delicious meals.

What truly matters to the food truck owners is seeing their customers enjoy the unique food that cannot be found in restaurants. The modern-day food truck is a combination of traditional, cultural cuisines with gourmet restaurant ingredients. Even though the growth of the food truck phenomenon has started even before the modern-day food truck, it is still continuing to grow.

While starting a food truck may seem easier than starting a restaurant, it is still quite the journey to undertake. The food truck industry is costly and the process of starting in it can be lengthy.

According to Food Truck Empire, a food truck can cost about $50,000. At this price, the owner may have bought a used food truck that has been remodeled to fit a new focus.

“We saw our food truck on Craigslist. It was actually a famous truck in Sacramento,” says Nonet Arcega. “It was called, OMG Burger. We bought it for about $16,000.”

This, of course, does not include the cost of outfitting the truck. Priceconomics states that customizing a food truck can cost between $20,000 to $100,000. This includes the outer design and possible new appliances, such as burners and a refrigerator.

Licensing and permits also constitute a major part of the expenses. The required licenses include a business license and food and health certifications.

For the Arcegas, acquiring health certification was not difficult because the previous owner of their truck already acquired the necessary paperwork.

“The truck had a license before,” says Arcega. “When we had applied for the Vallejo licensing, it was almost ready. Only minor fixing had to be done.”

Certain cities and counties oversee different licenses so that food trucks can travel to different areas to serve customers. For example, a truck that is usually located in Berkeley would need to be cleared by the city of San Jose in order to serve food there.

Overall, certification and licensing expenses can cost between $2,000 to $4,000 per year depending on the percentage that the truck operates during the year as well as coverage plans.

In order to create and provide quality service, food truck owners legally have the option to prepare their food in a commissary. Commissaries are kitchens that are leased to food truck owners. These kitchens provide the necessary space for food chefs to park and restock their trucks with items that they need.

Once all immediate groundwork is finished, the food truck is ready for business. After customers have ordered their meals, the preparation begins.

“On a regular basis, it’s all cooking,” says Arcega as he describes what happens once an order is placed. “There is usually two or three people inside the truck. I do most of the cooking and the other two do the prep, garnishing, and take orders.”

The cost of running a food truck compared to a restaurant is quite moderate. For Arcega, labor costs are not much of an issue as majority of the workers of The Yolk consist of his children. Arcega states that since he and his wife pay for their school tuition and car payments, their children in return work for the truck. However, if an individual who is not a part of their family works, he or she would be paid $8 per hour.

According to Mobile Cuisine, “labor costs vary with the type of food service operation.” In general, if a food truck sells higher quality food, then the business will have “higher food and labor percentages than a typical taco truck.”

For The Yolk, Arcega spends about $300 per week on food since labor is not an important factor. Acquiring food is not difficult for the owner as he is able to purchase food wherever he parks the food truck. Local grocery stores happen to be conveniently close to the usual spots where he parks.

Parking is also a component that must be taken into account for the food truck business. It is an aspect that is important because it is where much of the business occurs. Food truck operators typically must contact property management officials to gain permission to operate. Positioning the truck in a place where customer attraction is high, such as a plaza where businessmen go to have lunch, is good practice.

Social media is another important factor to the food truck business. It is one of the primary ways for vendors to break into the food business. By food trucks utilizing various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the word about their business can easily be spread.

Food vendors use these platforms to tell their loyal customers where their truck is going to be located and their hours of operation.

Arcega states that while 75 percent of their marketing is through word of mouth, it is social media that gives their truck an extra boost in business.

Social outreach helps promote “brand loyalty” as well as help the culture of street food flourish. With the usage of social media, customers can easily share their food truck experiences as well as give a description of how delicious the food provided on the menu is. By doing this, loyal customers are providing new customers a share of their knowledge on good street food.

As the food truck industry keeps expanding, finding customers to benefit infrastructure is quite easy.

Off the Grid, which is highly popular to many Bay Area natives, gives food truck owners the opportunity to have easier access to loads of hungry customers. On the organization’s website, it states that it offers “thirty-five weekly public markets throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Food vendors offer a variety of foods, from Asian to Mexican cuisines, apply to this  organization so that they can serve attendees of the event. Some food trucks even offer “fusion” food, which is a blend of two different types of food.

One popular food truck, Señor Sisig, serves Filipino-Mexican style dishes. Food on their menu includes the sisig taco and the “señor” sisig burrito. Both dishes combine the meat from pig’s shoulder and the usual ingredients found in tacos and burritos.

After questioning several customers about why they choose to sometimes purchase meals at food trucks rather than restaurants, most say that the variety and quality of food is what draws their attention.

“You don’t find sisig nachos at a typical Filipino restaurant,” says twenty-two-year-old, Erwin Macalalad. “Some trucks offer food that give a different take on cultural dishes. I sometimes crave for food outside the norm.”

The variety of foods listed on food truck menus tend to change, unlike restaurants. Pricing for full meals normally ranges between $8 to $10, because of the convenience of these mobile vendors. The fact that food trucks offer fancy food at nearly the same price of food at a restaurant is what attracts customers; the bringing together of communities through shared cuisines is what keeps the street food culture growing.

The cost of creating a food truck is lower than ever as compared to big-named restaurants. Mobile food vendors also have the advantage of changing their menus if customer feedback of certain meals is not up to par. These two aspects contribute to the reason why street food vendorsThe unique food that these mobile businesses offer is extremely convenient. Within a couple minutes, an affordable, delicious meal is ready. Hungry customers are satisfied with their fusion-style meal that may not be found in restaurants.

It is highly apparent that the industry is successful as of now, but who is to say that it will be in the future? Perhaps heavier law regulations and food permits will be put into action such as it is for liquor stores and restaurants. No one will ever know.

Infographic created by Catherine Uy using Piktochart.
Infographic created by Catherine Uy using Piktochart.

Kosher, that’s how they roll

Kosher1

The air is somewhat cold and there is an intoxicating scent of fish and salt water. Inside the South San Francisco warehouse is a beehive of activity: people answer phones, work on their computers, some with hairnets carry large coolers. There is a fresh catch in from Hawaii, a shipment of kampachi or Hawaiian yellowtail, a fish similar to the popular tuna.

On the second floor a neatly dressed man in a blue button-down and yamaka sits in his office and checks the latest invoices to order. There is a box of bamboo sushi rolling mats on the floor. Photo strips of family and friends adorn the wall along with receipts and a calendar whiteboard. It is just another day at work for Rabbi Alex Shandrovsky, the owner of L’Chaim Sushi, a kosher and sustainable catering service.

“I’m a rabbi, I’m not a caterer, I’m not a sushi expert, I teach wisdom,” says Shandrovsky, laughing. Why is a rabbi working in a catering business?

The twenty-seven year old educator started business last year in January with Royal Hawaiian, a sustainable seafood supplier, with whom he shares his space, after realizing there were no kosher sushi options in the Bay Area. A year ago, they mainly served families, those in the Jewish community, and students in Shandrovsky’s classes. Now they serve over 2000 people a month with dozens of Bay Area tech companies, one of their clients being Google.

A spiritual awakening

Originally from the former Soviet Union in Kishinev, Moldova, Shandrovsky moved to the San Francisco when he was nine years old because his mother needed a liver transplant. Despite his Jewish background, Shandrovsky’s parents did not raise him on the kosher diet.

His eyes light up when he talks about being a sushi-addicted sixteen year old, frequently taking a Muni bus with his family to Japantown to sample various sushi restaurants. One particular visit to a sushi boat restaurant, where plates float through a rotating conveyor belt, greatly impacted him. He remembers the day vividly, recalling that the conveyor “moved like the ocean.”

According to him, everything was beautiful, the lighting was perfect, and the sushi looked amazing. What happens next, he says, is something similar to the headache one gets from a hangover–he overeats. While watching plates of the sushi-go-round and round the conveyor belt, Shandrovsky starts reflecting on his life. He had everything, he was popular, had good grades, and a good family, but he felt like something was missing. “I was looking for this deeper sense of purpose. I felt like I was part of a script, not part of me,” he says.

When he was eighteen, he received a full-ride scholarship to Williams College in Massachusetts. He was one of three thousand applicants awarded with the QuestBridge scholarship, but turned it down. His parents thought he was crazy. He moved to Israel to explore his spirituality instead because he wanted to get in touch with his Jewish roots.

Shandrovsky enrolled in a rabbinic ordination program and became ordained at Aish Htorah in Jerusalem. He later organized personal development seminars through a project called SelfDiscovery and taught Jewish wisdom to international students through Taglit-Birthright Israel, a Jewish campus organization.

He moved back to San Francisco in 2012 and joined Congregation Adath Israel, an orthodox synagogue in the Sunset District. For a year he worked as the Jewish Study Network’s Director of Special Projects, teaching Jewish literacy classes. But returning to the Bay Area was a bit difficult for Shandrovsky: while San Francisco was full of such diverse foods, there were no kosher sushi restaurants. And he missed eating his beloved unagi (eel) roll, which a kosher diet prohibits.

So with the support of the ROI Community, an organization that promotes Jewish engagement, and Rabbi Joel Landau of Congregation Adath Israel, Shandrovsky set out to start L’Chaim Sushi. It started as a once-a-month pop up restaurant at Congregation Adath Israel and occasionally, Oakland Kosher. Now, the business resides inside Royal Hawaiian Seafood’s warehouse packing up hundreds of orders a day.

The process is simple, customers can call or go online to order rolls or platters of the sushi they desire. They can either pick it up or get it delivered, though delivery comes with a $120 minimum.The price, of course, if you want kosher and sustainable sushi.

Adhering to Jewish law

Kosher is a Jewish diet known for its selectiveness, and according to biblically based laws, only fish with easily removable fins and scales may be eaten. Shandrovsky says it is all about ensuring transparency and mindfulness in the preparation process. Popular shellfish like shrimp, crabs, mussels, and lobsters are strictly forbidden.

L’Chaim sources a wide variety of fish, for example, tuna, yellowtail, arctic char, and seabass. To make up for the no-shellfish rule, they have taken a “non-kosher” fish and transformed it into a kosher substitute with a similar taste. Instead of using actual crab meat, they use surimi, which is an Alaskan pollock, a type of cod fish.

“Most people have a lot of misconceptions about kosher,” says Shandrovsky. “It’s blessed by a rabbi, or the fish has a beard, people like that one, or it has to be served on a bagel.” But the kosher aspect comes into play based on the food’s strict preparation.

A plate of some of L'Chaim's top-selling sushi rolls. (Martin Bustamante/Xpress Magazine)
A plate of some of L’Chaim’s top-selling sushi rolls. (Martin Bustamante/Xpress Magazine)

In a small red-tiled kitchen is a shelf that holds a bottle of soy ginger marinade dip, Mid East sesame tahini, and black pepper, all of which display the Star of David. Dressed in a white chef’s jacket with grey joggers and black Converse shoes, L’Chaim’s only chef, Jagun Ney, lays a piece of kampachi on a large cutting board in preparation for a catering event.

Using a broad bladed knife, he makes a small, precise incision inside the backbone. In one swift, sawlike motion, he delicately pushes the knife along the backbone while firmly holding down a towel to pull out the scales. He must be extremely careful, if the flesh comes off with the scales, the fish cannot be used. For a fish to be kosher, the scales must be easily removable. Each time the flesh comes off with the scales, the knife must thoroughly cleaned again.

After removing the scales, Ney examines the fish and slices off uneven flesh. He holds a sharp knife at roughly a forty-five degree angle, and gently cuts through the fish to separate it into equal fillets to make a kampachi roll. Inside the small cooking station is a video camera laying on top of a shelf where an observer from Sunrise Kosher, a kosher certifying agency, may be watching to ensure that all sushi is prepared according to Jewish law. Occasionally, someone from the certification staff visits, sometimes Shandrovsky watches.

“It’s kind of weird,” says Ney about the tedious process he goes through just to make the sushi. He must use only kosher certified ingredients and tools. The nori, the seaweed wrappers used for sushi, are not necessarily kosher as they may contain bugs. Ney must carefully examine each wrapper with a light to remove any insects.

When they first started ordering, Google wanted to know more about the company’s kosher aspect, and more importantly, their sourcing before ordering anything. Shandrovsky laughs, and remembers thinking it was funny that Google asked what his business did. “They should know that already, like why do you do that? You have all my information,” he says. But on a more serious note, as an educator, Shandrovsky saw L’Chaim as an opportunity to teach others an important lesson.

“We’re trying to be responsible so that we can source the high products without destroying the environment,” says Shandrovsky. Every fish that Royal Hawaiian Seafood provides is ranked and approvd by the Seafood Watch Program at Monterey Bay Aquarium. For Shandrovsky, the sushi business was not about the money, it was all about the values. He was on a mission to advocate mindful eating through kosher and sustainability was just another lesson to add. So he contacted Casson Trenor, a sustainable activist, and founder of San Francisco’s first sustainable sushi restaurant, Tataki, and asked for his guidance. Trenor and Shandrovsky teamed up to create L’Chaim’s sustainable, kosher menu.

As it turns out, eating kosher was actually sustainable since the diet ruled out popular fish like shrimp, lobsters, eel, and crab, which are unsustainable due to overfishing. With the help of Trenor, L’Chaim was moved into Royal Hawaiian Seafood’s warehouse.

Shandrovsky grabs an arctic char roll with his wooden chopsticks and dips it into some soy sauce. As he sits in his office enjoying a brief lunch break, there is a blissful look on his face. He moves his head side to side, it looks like he is dancing in his seat. After finishing the roll, he smiles and says, “we’re really able to have this high quality cuisine, without compromising our values. I think that’s one of the reasons, I think people feel like being mission driven.”

Healthy food for the broke college student

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the leftovers are running out, and we are returning to our normal routines of school, work, and (if you are like me) a very small budget for food, it is time for the college student’s guide to eating healthy.
This guide will be giving cheap and easy recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a normal weekday.

Omelet made with turkey bacon, kale, onions, grape tomatoes, and goat cheese. (Calla Camero/ Xpress Magazine)
Omelet made with turkey bacon, kale, (Calla Camero/ Xpress Magazine)

Breakfast: Greens omelet with turkey bacon.This breakfast will only require about twenty minutes of your morning (I know this sounds like a lot for a school day but trust me, it is worth a good meal). I do everything by eye – I never use a measuring cup because I am just not that technical. Again, this is not a chef’s guide to great culinary meals, it is a college student’s guide to eating well with pocket change.

Ingredients:

  • Cage-Free Dozen Eggs: Trader Joe’s, $2.49
    Organic Baby Kale: Trader Joe’s, $1.99
    Yellow Onion: Trader Joe’s, $0.69
    Grape Tomatoes (Sold by the pint): Trader Joe’s, $0.99
    Crumbled Goat Cheese: Trader Joe’s, $2.49
    Turkey Bacon: Trader Joe’s, 8 oz for $2.99 or Costco, 1 pack of 4 12 oz for $10.11
    Directions:
    Start frying two or three slices of turkey bacon, however much you prefer.
    For one person, only two eggs are required for this. Crack the eggs into a bowl, stir them until yellow. Pour into a pan with medium heat.
    Use half a handful of kale and half a handful of arugula and sprinkle onto entire surface of eggs.
    You will only use about two small slices of a yellow onion. Chop the two slices into little squares and scatter onto entire surface of eggs. Meanwhile, flip your turkey bacon to the other side if it is nice and crispy.
    Use half a handful of grape tomatoes and chop as small as preferred. Scatter onto entire surface of eggs.
    Stir the eggs up to avoid the bottom getting burned.
    Finally, pour the crumbled goat cheese on the entire omelet. At this time, your turkey bacon should be ready.

Voila ! A $10 breakfast (with extra ingredients for five more breakfasts) in twenty minutes.

Turkey pesto wrap with miso soup. (Calla Camero/ Xpress Magazine)
Spinach turkey pesto wrap made with basil leaves, provolone cheese, and grape tomatoes. Served with a side of miso soup. (Calla Camero/ Xpress Magazine)

Lunch: Turkey pesto wrap with miso soup. If you have classes or work, this lunch will require you to prepare it the night before and pack it. It tastes good cold, but you can microwave it the next day to eat it warm! The soup will require hot water.

Ingredients:

  • Colombus Low Sodium Turkey Breast: Trader Joe’s, 8 oz for $4.79
    Spinach Wrap: Costco, 10 for $3.60
    Basil Leaves: Trader Joe’s, 2.5 oz for $2.99
    Baby Spinach: Trader Joe’s, 6 oz for $2.49
    Grape Tomatoes (Sold by the pint): Trader Joe’s, $0.99
    Provolone Cheese: Trader Joe’s, $ 4.79
    Miso Soup: Trader Joe’s, $ 3.29
    Directions:
    This meal will only take you about 10 minutes to prepare. Depending on how much you eat, one or two wraps will suffice for this meal.
    Take the spinach wrap and warm it in a pan until soft, then take lay it on a plate.
    Take 4-6 slices of the turkey breast and lay it on the spinach wrap.
    Take one slice of provolone cheese and lay it on the turkey.
    Grab a small handful of the baby spinach and scatter over the wrap.
    Use about three basil leaves and using your fingers, shred into small pieces over surface of wrap.
    Chop about six grape tomatoes in half and spread onto surface of wrap.
    Extra: A little bit of sriracha gives the wrap a good, spicy flavor.
    Then, heat up water using a microwave or tea pot. When hot, pour miso base into water and stir.

And huzzah!

Rosemary baked chicken with apple couscous, kale, and mushrooms. (Calla Camero/ Xpress Magazine)
Rosemary baked chicken with apple couscous, kale, and mushrooms. (Calla Camero/ Xpress Magazine)

Dinner: Rosemary baked chicken with apple couscous and roasted veggies. This will take the longest out of all the recipes, about forty minutes. It is crazy easy to make, even though the name sounds like it is a meal from Top Chef.

Ingredients:

  • Organic Free Range Chicken Drumsticks: Trader Joe’s, $1.99 per pound
    Israeli Couscous: Trader Joe’s, 16 oz for $1.99
    Organic Green Apple: Trader Joe’s, $0.79 each
    Asparagus: Trader Joe’s, 12 oz for $3.29
    Organic Baby Kale: Trader Joe’s, $1.99
    White Button Mushrooms: Trader Joe’s, 8 oz for $1.99
    Rosemary: Trader Joe’s, .75 oz for $1.79
    Directions:
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees and get out two pyrex pans or any type of baking pans will do.
    For one person, two drumsticks will do.
    Start preparing chicken with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary.
    Pour olive oil onto baking pan for a second or two and place chicken onto pan.
    Salt and pepper all sides of chicken, and do the same with rosemary. Until the chicken is nice and covered.
    Pour olive oil onto next pan for the vegetables.
    Grab six or seven pieces of asparagus and a half a handful of baby kale.
    The only vegetables that need to be cut are the mushrooms. Use about 4 mushrooms and cut into thin slices.
    Scatter vegetables onto the pan and make sure they are as spread out as possible.
    I like to use garlic salt for the vegetables, but regular salt will also do. Salt and pepper your vegetables as much as preferred and then scatter rosemary over them.
    Pour olive oil over top surface of vegetables so that the top is nice and wet.
    By this time, the oven should be ready. Place chicken in but NOT vegetables and set the timer on the oven for 15 minutes.
    In a 2 quart saucepan, saute 1⅓ cups of couscous with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until the couscous is lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Slowly add about 1¾ of boiling water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cover. Let the couscous simmer until the liquid is absorbed.
    Chop one green apple into small bite-sized pieces and once the couscous has absorbed all the liquid, stir apples with couscous until lightly brown.
    Once brown, put salt, pepper, and rosemary into couscous. Then turn stove off.
    At this time the timer should be done or almost done, put vegetables in oven. Then flip the chickens to their other sides.
    Reset timer to 15 minutes.
    When the timer is done, both the chicken and vegetables should be done. But always check the chicken before you take it out. Use a knife to cut one of them until you hit bone and make sure the chicken is NOT pink or bloody. Like my mother says, if it is white it is done.

Whoever said you cannot get good food for cheap needs a new definition of good food.

Food for thought: Thanksgiving by the numbers

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all our blessings and spend time with loved ones.  About 46 million people have traveled to celebrate this holiday with their family and friends. And right now, Instagram is already filled with #thanksgiving and #thanksgivingdinner photos. Aside from the gratitude we celebrate, Thanksgiving is also a celebration of food. It is every foodie’s favorite holiday. When else can you devour delicious food without feeling guilty?

This year, 91 percent of all Americans will eat turkey, and on average, they will consume about 3lbs of the meat. Here is a fun infographic on the facts and figures of our Thanksgiving. From the excessive amount of calories we consume in one day, to the ridiculous amount of turkeys raised just for the gluttonous holiday.

 
Thanksgiving Infographic

The Good, the bad, and the ugly: Thanksgiving Edition

What should you make and what should you buy? Photo by: Tami Benedict
What should you make and what should you buy? ( Photo Tami Benedict/ Xpress Magazine)

Thanksgiving is approaching us in the next few days, which means everyone is pinning their favorite foods on Pinterest and looking up old family recipes. But the question is, what should you spend your time making yourself and what should you just buy from the store? Have no fear, I am here to discuss the good, bad, and ugly Thanksgiving side dishes that will make your Thanksgiving a little easier.

Stuffing: I am a fan of homemade stuffing and my Nana has this secret mouthwatering recipe. Do we go the easy way about it and just throw Stovetop stuffing in a pot and call it a day? Or spend time mixing the stuffing with vegetables and spices before stuffing it into the bottom of the turkey? My answer: take the time and make homemade stuffing, this is one of those dishes that is best  when it is homemade. It also adds a special touch to Thanksgiving. Now, nothing is wrong with Stovetop and if that is your way to go, then all the power to you.

Rating: Homemade Good, Stovetop: Good

image3 (1)

Cranberry Sauce: Some people are not fans of the grocery bought jelly canned cranberry sauce, but I do not know how to make homemade cranberry sauce. The produce section sells bags of cranberries but what do I do from there? To add to that, one year my family made homemade cranberry sauce with alcohol in it and let me tell you, that is not the way to go. For me this Thanksgiving, I will stick to the can.

Rating: Homemade: Ugly, Canned: Good
image5 (2)

Green Bean Casserole: Everyone loves that green bean casserole covered with onion crunch. This casserole is actually really easy to make depending on how much time you have, but is it worth it? My answer is yes, this recipe does not take too long to make,  all you need to do is warm it up in the oven. Buying the casserole from the deli department at the store is fine, but then the onions may be soggy and that is not cool.

Rating: Homemade: Good Deli: Bad
image2 (1)

Potatoes: Potatoes are an essential side dish for Thanksgiving. You can have them mashed, cubed, or any style. My family tends to go with cubed but a lot of people choose mashed. So, do you spend twenty minutes in the kitchen peeling and cutting potatoes or do you put instant potatoes into a pot and call it a day? My choice: homemade. If you have enough hands on deck in the kitchen, peeling and cutting will be no problem, plus instant mash potatoes have a weird taste to them.

Rating: Homemade: good, Instant: bad
image6 (1)

Yams with Marshmallows: I have not been a big fan of yams. I only eat them if they are cooked in a certain fashion, but I know some traditional Thanksgiving side dishes include yams with marshmallows. These seem easy to cook but I have never personally made them myself. You can buy them at store, but I fear you will get the same issue with store-bought green bean casseroles, soggy marshmallows. If you have the oven space, cook this dish yourself and make sure those marshmallows are golden brown. If you do not have time or space, the deli version can do just as well.

Rating: Homemade: good, Deli: good.
image4 (1)

That is all I have for this edition of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Tell me what your favorite side dishes are and if you store bought them or cook them from scratch. Stay tune for a Christmas version of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Happy Thanksgiving!

Little effort, big flavor: Cooking a Thanksgiving dinner in your microwave

Most college students lack the culinary skills and proper equipment to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. By following this simple guide you can wow your dorm room friends by cooking an entire Thanksgiving feast in your microwave. For those of you who shrieked at the word microwave, fear not, because the FDA says that microwave cooking is even more efficient than conventional ovens. Not only does it use less energy, it is also cooking your food in a smaller amount of time, which allows your food to hold on to more vitamins and minerals.

 

Turkey – $12.99

Yes, it is possible to safely roast a turkey in your microwave. The USDA suggests placing the turkey in an oven bag and cooking for ten minutes per pound until it reaches an internal temperature of one hundred and sixty-five degrees.

You can dress it up simply with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.

A three pound turkey breast roast is the perfect size for a microwave and can be found at Safeway for $12.99.

 

Turkey Gravy – $1.49

Trader Joe’s Gravy can be heated straight from the container.

 

Cranberry Sauce – $1.99

Combine twelve ounces of fresh cranberries, which you can find at Trader Joe’s for $1.99, with one and a quarter cups of sugar and half a cup of water in your microwave for ten minutes stirring half way in between. You can substitute the water with orange juice or add a splash of rum for a little zest.

 

Cornbread Stuffing -$3.99

Trader Joe’s Cornbread Stuffing Mix includes a combination of breads, seasonings, and dried up vegetables that almost tastes homemade. Heat up water  in the microwave and add to stuffing mix with melted butter until fluffy and moist.

 

Candied Sweet Potatoes – $4.99

Pre-cut and pre-skinned sweet potatoes in microwavable bags can be found in Trader Joe’s produce section for $4.99. Heat brown sugar and butter separately until thick and add to cooked sweet potatoes for a quick and easy side dish.

 

Steamed Greens – $1.99

In a covered microwavable dish combine minced garlic, salt, pepper, and butter with a bag of baby spinach on sale at Trader Joe’s for $1.99 and cook for about two minutes.

 

Pumpkin Pie – $4.99

It is frozen and a dollar cheaper than Trader Joe’s fresh baked pie. This is the one thing you do not have to microwave, just let it defrost while you are cooking up your dinner and you will have a pie with a smooth filling and a flaky crust for dessert.

 

BUDGET-FRIENDLY GRAND TOTAL: $32.43