Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tea Garden

Tea Garden
4685 Convoy Street, Suite 110
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 277-8988

This weekend was hot hot hot! I guess it’s better to have one week of summer than no summer at all. I’ve been waiting all summer for it to warm up so I could go to the beach and I finally got a chance this weekend.

The original plan had been to buy some food to bring to the beach to eat, but both BF and Baby Bro wanted to eat somewhere first.  It was hard to decide what to eat. I wanted something quick so we could get to the beach and it was so hot that I honestly wasn’t in the mood to eat much of anything.

We decided to pay a visit to Tea Garden, somewhere we haven’t been since it’s grand opening. I had heard that they served up some decent food, so I decided to give it a shot.

I forgot to take a picture of the menu; I guess the heat got to me.  The lunch specials come with a free black or green tea. Most of the lunch entrees were priced at around $7-8.

There were a couple of items I wanted to try, but in the end I chose the beef noodle soup. I wasn’t expecting much, but I couldn’t resist, as I was curious how Tea Garden’s version would be. The bowl of soup was huge. Priced at $6.99, I was surprised at how big the bowl was. It was about the size of one of my mixing bowls, rather than an individual serving.

I went into this place with very low expectations. Most of the tapioca tea places serve food that is made by college students working minimum wage so I don’t expect much when I eat at these places.  I have to admit, I thought the food was decent and above average compared to other tapioca tea places in San Diego.

The beef noodle soup was spicy which I liked.  The noodles actually had a nice chew to them; I thought they would be the typical mushy noodles that I often get.  The beef tendon was nice and tender. The broth tasted like it had been made with powder and flavoring rather than a stew of bones and meat cooking on the stove for hours.  It wasn’t a bad tasting broth, it just wasn’t very “real.”  It reminded me a lot of the broths used in my instant beef bowl of noodles from Taiwan.

All in all, it was a decent dish. It was like eating a nicer version of my instant beef bowl of noodles.

Baby Bro chose to order shrimp wontons noodle soup.  The wontons actually did not contain any shrimp; instead the shrimp were separately inside the noodle soup.

BF chose chinese sausage fried rice.

Baby Bro’s GF chose a salt and pepper fish filet dish, served with rice and vegetables.

I did enjoy this experience better than my first one.  You can read my previous post on Tea Garden here.
Tea Garden on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Homemade bagels

Keeping with my goal, I chose another recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  This time I chose to make bagels.

As you can see, my bagels need some work. The recipe didn't say that I needed to roll or knead the dough, but I think I needed to smoothe out the dough more before dipping it in the water for a quick boil because as soon as I dropped the dough in the water, the dough became very wrinkly. Since I chose to skip out on decorating the tops with sesame seeds (I like my bagels plain), I couldn't even hide the wrinkly texture.

I'l probably read some more bagel recipes to get more tips before attempting this again.

So far, my experience with Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a day has been so-so. They have definitely simplified bread recipes and eased my fear of yeast recipes. I'm always so surprised at how quickly I'm done with mixing my dough. I basically just throw all the ingredients together and then let it sit. I could use it right away after a few hours or I can let it sit in the fridge for up to two weeks. I haven't loved the recipes I've made so far, but I'm not sure if that's because I've never been good with yeast recipes before this or because of the recipes themselves.  The other recipe I've attempted so far is chocolate bread.

The bagels tasted better than they look. The outside was nice and crispy when these were fresh out of the oven, thanks to the use of a pizza stone. My first time using one! The inside dough had a bit of sour dough taste, which I wasn't expecting.

You can view step by step photos of how to make these bagels here. The recipe can be found on the site as well. The only difference is that the master recipe calls for all purpose flour, but the bagel recipe in the book requires bread flour.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Best Homemade Soft Pretzels

I found an amazing soft pretzel recipe this weekend. The pretzels came out so good, I don’t think I’ll ever buy a soft pretzel again.

I previously made soft pretzels a few times using this recipe. While the recipe was good, one of the problems is that the pretzels didn’t taste so great the next day. I also thought the pretzels were a bit too skinny. I missed the thick pieces of dough that you usually get in a soft pretzel.

So when I kept seeing this recipe for soft pretzels by Alton Brown floating around, I decided to try it out, with the help of baby bro’s girlfriend. This recipe uses more butter than the original recipe I used and also boils the soft pretzels before baking. This allows the pretzels to puff up, making them come out fat and plump, just the way I like it. (The previous recipe only had me dip the pretzels in hot water and baking soda, but I think actually boiling is key.)


These pretzels tasted great. The surface is shiny and golden brown, the dough is nice and soft and thick. They kept well too and still tasted great the next day. The recipe makes eight large pretzels. I thought that these were a bit too big and chose to make a personalized size pretzel, so we did 16.

Soft Pretzels (adapted from Alton Brown)

  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt


1. Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

3. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan.

4. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces (or 16 if you want smaller pretzels). Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope (12 inch for smaller pretzels). Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

5. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.

6. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt (I chose to omit the pretzel salt since I usually just pick this off anyway. I think the pretzels are salty enough on their own.) Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 minutes (or 6-7 minutes for smaller pretzels). Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.