Posts Tagged ‘Costco’
I completed my quest for local bánh mì on Friday at Indochine Vietnamese Bistro across the street from the U campus. I arrived just about 3pm, which is when they stop serving the sandwich, but had called ahead to let them know that I’d be coming in and to place my order. Although as I began asking around in local Vietnamese restaurants for recommendations and had heard Indochine mentioned several times as an option, when I first checked the menu, there was no mention of bánh mì. The express lunch menu does mention a baguette sandwich, however. Maybe the fact that they didn’t use that name for it was an augur of things to come.
When I placed the order, I was offered options of beef or pork. Since all the sandwiches I’d had so far had been pork, I figured that was the way to go. Here’s the short version of the review: I wasn’t pleased.
The bread used for the sandwich differs greatly from any that I’d seen so far. In fact, I’m fairly sure I recognized them as coming from a local Costco bakery. They are very dense, artisan loaves which have a very uneven texture and are extremely chewy. They are perfect for soaking with garlic oil and broiling to go with a nice Italian meal. I’m actually a real fan of these little loaves for other applications, and have tried using them in a variety of meals over the years. They are a bit of a nightmare for a sandwich, though, and for this sandwich in particular. The bread is so dense that it overwhelms the taste of all of the other sandwich fillings.
The pork used for Indochine’s sandwich is extremely sweet. It had been described to me as “roast pork,” but after looking at it closely, I had other suspicions. It was extremely fatty in an unpleasing way. I suspect it might be poorly cooked pork belly, but I’m not sure. If you told me that it was a lightly smoked, thick-cut bacon marinated in Yoshida’s sauce, that would just about make sense. At any rate, I could have used a lot less fat and gristle and much more lean meat. The flavor of the meat was good, however. There was no sign of any other protein on the sandwich, an automatic ding against it for a pate lover such as I.
The vegetation was spare. On its own it had that distinctive pickled taste, but between the heavy bread and the fat-saddled pork, it got completely lost. Indochine’s sandwich did add in some thinly sliced scallion on top, but there wasn’t so much as a leaf of cilantro to be seen. There were several slices of fresh jalapeno. However, they were so thickly cut that the three bites that contained them were completely dominated with heat, while the rest of the sandwich had none.
And that is it. No mayonnaise, no pate, nothing. It is served with some nicely seasoned matchstick fried potatoes which were, I suspect, supposed to be crispy. Mine appeared to have been sitting long enough that half were soggy, sorry messes and the others were still crisp. However, at over $6, this sandwich is by far the most expensive one I’ve encountered since San Francisco. And, since it is only a couple of dollars cheaper than the gourmet-inspired one at Spice Kit, the Indochine sandwich suffers badly in comparison to it. Had it come close in quality to the ones on the west side, I could see a case to be made for paying a bit extra for those who live close to the U campus. It doesn’t, so if you’re wanting a good bánh mì, you’ll need to drag yourself to Redwood Road.
Which leaves only one question: Cafe Thao Mi or Hong Phat? Since there were several weeks between my sampling both of them, I think I’ll put off that call until I can get the two of them next to each other and conduct a real bun-to-bun comparison.
I’m a fan of wasabi. The chef at my favorite local sushi place, Sushi Express in Sandy long ago figured out that he could skip the gari, but that I needed plenty of wasabi on my plate to make my meal a happy one.
Wandering through Costco the other day, I happened upon one of the many product tasting stations they normally have set up. I’ve long been a fan of the cheese selection at Costco, though the large sizes of the hunks of fromage give me pause when deciding whether to try a new product because I hate the idea of that much food potentially going to waste.
Lucky me, the demo of the day was a number of Yancey’s Fancy cheeses. After a small cube of the Hot Wasabi Horseradish, I knew that the $7 I’d be spending had no chance at all of going to waste.
The cheese is well named. The initial flavor of the cheese is quickly punctuated with sharp horseradish notes. It is surprising the amount of wasabi flavor that is packed into this cheese. It isn’t so much that the underlying flavor of a very mellow but very delicious white cheddar cheese is overwhelmed, but the predominant flavor is wasabi. And that suits me just fine.
The cheese is really nice for eating out of hand. I’ve found after melting it on a few sandwiches that not only does it melt beautifully, but the other ingredients seem to calm the heat of the wasabi down a bit, relegating it to a background note. I cannot wait to grill up some hamburgers to melt this stuff on. The wasabi flavor is going to pair nicely with the beef I have in the freezer.
I love pork. I’m not sure if it was Anthony Bourdain or Homer Simpson who first declared the pig to be a magical animal, but both guys was dead on. Not only do I love pork in all its many guises, I especially love pulled pork. Slow roasted, smoked until that beautiful pink ring appears under the bark, and falling apart: I regard pork roasted until it is this tender to be evidence that the pig’s dying wish was for me to ingest it, basically carving itself for me to eat.
Sadly, I’ve found that my metabolism will not let me subsist entirely on pork. Believe me, dear reader, I tried my darnedest. I think in my early 20’s I could have swung it. But the need for fiber makes me turn, however sadly and defeated, to salad.
Cafe Rio‘s Sweet Pork Barbacoa used to be my go-to salad option. They are, however, incredibly large, expensive, and so much of both that I end up feeling guilty until I cram every last morsel down my gullet. And, as I considered the contents and their nutritional value, also not a terribly healthy choice, consisting of some greens on a bed of carbohydrate-stewed meat, two forms of carbs beside it, all wrapped in a giant carb-and-fat bowl. Oh, and topped with a heaping portion of crispy strips of fried carbs.
I hate salads more than I hate poison-fanged Nazis. Therefore, I figure that if I’m going to eat a salad, I may as well choose one that I’m going to be able to convince myself is healthy, thus scoring the mental nutritional points that will allow me to have, say, a tasty apple fritter from Dick’s Market up the street from me. And maybe chase it with ice cream.
Having failed to find a mass market salad that provides me with sufficient delusional powers, I make my own. These are no mere festival of greens, however. I find that I need substantial protein in the salad to keep me sated. For a long time, that meant some nice diced rotisserie chicken, often from Sam’s Club. Lately, however, I’m finding that I miss my pork barbacoa. Not wanting to spend hours making it, I’ve turned to pre-packed barbecue pork.
Lloyd’s was my first try, mostly because it was on sale. It is beyond sweet, has the consistency of meaty library paste, and overall gives the impression of being quite a bit more cheap, one-note sauce than is wise. I once cooked up a pound of chicken, cut it up, and put it into a new container to see how far the sauce in the package could be stretched. The frankenstein result was still too much sauce.
So, at Costco the other day, I spotted a package of Kirkland Signature Smoked Pulled Pork and wondered if it might make for a suitable substitute for the Lloyd’s pork. At first glance, it seemed like a poor choice at almost $10 (by the way, I would love see the market research that led to nearly everything Costco sells being priced at $9 and change. I suspect it’s a roller coaster of excitement) where the Lloyd’s was between $3-4. But I’ve had luck with Kirkland, which for the uninitiated is Costco’s house brand, so I took the plunge.
Out of the package, the news looked less than encouraging. Once the cardboard sleeve case is pulled aside, the product itself is revealed: a 2-pound square brick of meat, laminated in thick plastic, sitting in a plastic tray. From outside the plastic, the meat looks less than appetizing. Pink, brown, and vaguely green(!) bits of meat, large veins of a white, viscous fluid, all pressed roughly against the side of the plastic envelope. The overall effect? Katherine Helmond‘s facial scenes in Brazil. Ick. Off to a bad start, Kirkland.
Looks can be deceiving, however, I found after liberating product from the plastic, and hacking off a hunk of the pork brick, and warming it up. The meat was tender, and surprisingly flavorful. The smoke level was dead on for me. Kudos to the pitmaster who decided to leave out the artificial smoke flavors in favor of actually hickory smoking this particular piece of the noble animal. I’ve not yet decided if the white liquid was fat or congealed gelatin, but either way it’s quite welcome to my meal. The green bits turned out to be a trick of light refracting through the plastic; they were really just a lighter shade of beautiful brown meat. I mixed the little bit I’d warmed up with some bottled barbecue sauce and had a sandwich of it, and was already planning salad options for the next day.
For the salad, I put a good amount of meat in a pan and stuck it in the oven to warm up. My hope was that if I left it in there long enough, I could replicate some of the bark, my favorite pulled pork bits. Mission accomplished. The result had a bit of the appearance of the lean parts of bacon with about half the smoke and nowhere near the fat content. The ability to control how much sauce I use is a welcome improvement over Lloyd’s as well.
Suffice it to say, I’m quite pork-sated and happy. Although the Lloyd’s appeared to be more affordable at first glance, after having used a bit of the Kirkland pork, it’s clear that it will be the better buy. I’ve had two meals and barely put a dent in the meatblock. New piggy applications are already forming in my head.
April 2 – Day Four
Out the Door – Shredded Chicken Salad, Steamed BBQ Pork Bun, Caramelized Chicken
Tucked in the far corner from the Bloomingdale’s entrance we frequented, Out the Door has both a very busy takeout counter and a sizable dine-in area – especially for a mall. Though I have to admit that there is nothing about this place that says mall food to me. The first meal I ate there, my poor digestive system was feeling a bit abused from days of donuts and ice cream, so I figured I would go light and get a salad and steamed BBQ pork bun. The prices, on first glance, seemed a bit steep, but no other salad options were speaking to me, so I took the plunge.
I’m so glad I did.
The cabbage-based salad had a light, crisp mix of vegetables very delicately dressed in a lime and ginger dressing. Simple and delicious. The chicken on top of it seemed a bit skimpy, but then I’m used to eating large homemade salads with 1/3 of a chicken on top of it. The salad ended up being very filling despite looking small. I topped it off with a steamed BBQ pork bun. Costco, of all places, used to sell these and I loved them. I mourn the loss of them. The Out the Door version had a filling that was less of the paste of meat and aromatics I’m used to having. Instead, it was filled with a complex mixture of still-crisp vegetables, cubes of pork, and enough sauce to cover them.
My second meal there the next day, I went for broke and got the caramelized chicken. Suffice it to say that, even though I tend to view rice as a carb that I can easily cut to a minimum (in favor of dessert), I ate nearly all the rice served with this dish in an effort to soak up all of that unctuous, complex sauce.
April 3 – Day Five
It’s our final full day in San Francisco, so I decide to start it off in style. Although neither of the girls are interested in them, I get up very early and go to Dynamo. They are just finishing frying off the hot cross donuts and it becomes clear to me that I either miss the panel with Max Brooks or finally get to taste the cherry cornmeal donuts. Already planning to return next April for the convention, I choose the panel and promise myself the donut on return. Besides, I’ve already eaten five, maybe more…my poor, poor diet.
After the panel, I’m hungry again. So I slog through the rain to the Ferry Terminal to Boccalone for another meat cone, then around the corner to
Yank Sing – Deem Sum Platter and many other tasty Deem Sum treats
I’d read about the baked BBQ pork buns here, so I wanted to give this place a shot. I’d also read that it was fairly expensive for dim sum, which I didn’t find to be the case at all. Maybe a bit more than the $15 for two we’d paid in Chinatown, but the quality of this food was amazing.
Seafood was front and center for most of the dumplings in the dim sum platter. Loaded with scallop and shrimp meat, they were tender and tasty. I’m also a bit amazed that it was all packed so well that it was hot even after my long walk from the restaurant to the Moscone Center. The baked BBQ pork buns were as advertised – simply a step above. I especially liked the onion flavor prevalent in the filling, something missing from other incarnations I’d had before.
I regret both that I decided to hit this one late in the trip, as it would have been worth revisiting, and that I was doing takeout: I’ve never actually had dim sum with the rolling carts piled with bamboo steamers, and they do this at Yank Sing. Next time!
Convention ends, we tear things down, and head back to the hotel with the intention of dropping off the bags and heading to the food court. I have been eyeing Out the Door’s Coconut Pork Riblets. I can nearly taste them in anticipation.
We get ready, head out, and get to the doors of the mall later than hoped to find them locked. I nearly pull a “Khaaaaan” here. Instead, I pout silently as we head to
Mel’s Drive-In – Broiled Chicken Breast Dinner
This place looks horrendous from the outside, so while the girls get seated, I run up the street to look at the menu for Green Papaya in the hope that it’s prices are comparable. It’s more pricey, so I trudge back and face the music.
While the girls work a convention, the business picks up the cost of their food. So when our weary server wanders over, I start by saying “Mine will be on a separate check.”
“Nope, sorry, all one check.”
Um…ok. Eventually Janelle overhears him talking to somebody – he’s finishing up a 13 hour shift. I guess that’ll explain the surly attitude.
I’m too upset at having been deprived of my last visit with Out the Door to argue. The food eventually comes. The girls seem to be ok with theirs. Mine is terrible – dry chicken, gravy that tastes like something mom would have turned in her apron permanently had she made it. The server chides us for not ordering dessert. We pay and leave defeated.
April 4 – Day Six
Our flight is early, so no real breakfast. I wake up around 4am, though, and cannot sleep. So eventually I shower and head to Dottie’s around 7am. I find myself first in line, grab the pastries to go, and return to find the girls getting ready.
My to-do list for the next trip to SF: Sotto Mare, Yank Sing, those Out the Door riblets, as much Dynamo as my pancreas can handle, and some other places we didn’t make:
In my perfect world, we’ll have time the resources to go early and visit Yountville, too. I’ll let you guess why.