A while back, I posted that CSN stores had generously let me choose a product to review. The CSN Stores collection is so big that it took me a long while to decide what I wanted. I had so much to choose from, everything from lighting, to furniture, to kitchen gadgets. After weeks and weeks of going through the endless options, I finally settled on Emerilware cast iron reversible griddle and grill combination.

I’ve been wanting a griddle for a while so that I can make more than one pancake at a time, and make fluffier and bigger pancakes. My griddle arrived last week. I’m so excited. It shipped out right away.

I’ll be using it this weekend to whip up some pancakes and might be using the grill for the barbecue we are having. I’ll do another post on my new griddle once I use it.

CSN stores promotion team recently contacted me again about doing another product review. I can’t wait. Though, now I have to go through deciding what I need all over again.

Hope everyone has a great July 4th Holiday!

Whenever there are a bunch of events I'm interested in participating in, they always seem to fall on the same day. This past weekend was one of those weekends. I had already booked my reservations to try the Providence tasting menu weeks ahead of time. But there were about a million other things I wanted to do that weekend also.

One of them was the Taste of Gaslamp.  About thirty something restaurants in the gaslamp open their doors to customers participating, giving its patrons a "taste" of the restaurant's offerings. The tasting tour is a self-guided walking tour and tickets were $30 per person.

BF and I rarely dine in the gaslamp district anymore because parking is such a pain. You have to circle forever, park blocks away from your destination, and pay quite a bit for parking too. This tour was appealing as it would give us a chance to visit a lot of places in one afternoon. Of course, I was slightly wary of attending this tour so shortly after our Providence experience, but I had no choice, as this was the only weekend it was offered.

After we arrived, we got our wristbands and tickets and our maps of the places participating. Then we mapped out which places we planned on going to. Obviously we would not have time or room for all 32 participants.

We decided to start off at McCormick & Schmick's.

675 L Street
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 645-6545
http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com

The majority of restaurants held their tastings inside the restaurant. McCormick held their tasting outdoors. Chefs stood behind a table and prepared each individual samplings of a cold crab salad, garnished with mango avocado and a vinaigrette. They had menus laid out for people to take and browse. There was also wine being sold at a discounted rate.

Most of the places we went to were offering alcohol at a discounted rate. It was tempting, but we refused. How would we possibly have time or room for all the alcohol when we only had three hours to taste as many places as possible?

I was surprised by the small size of sampling at McCormicks. I also was not very impressed with the sample. I spied it on the menu. The full sized version is priced at $12.95. It didn't really taste that special to me.

Our next stop was Nobu.

207 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 814-4124
www.noburestaurants.com

Nobu was a popular spot. I've dined at Nobu once. While the meal I had was tasty, I felt it was very overpriced and overhyped. I'm not quite sure what we were served. It was something wrapped in a lettuce leaf. The bite was small and tasty, but I don't know what it was..

Next we went Dussini Loft Bar, which is located inside the Old Spaghetti Factory.

275 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 233-4323

www.dussini.com

I haven't been to the Spaghetti Factory since it closed and reopened. I have a lot of fond memories from college, going there for dinner with a bunch of friends. I'm not so sure how I would feel about the food now. I also don't recall if the original one had a bar.

The bar here is huge, taking up the entire top floor of the restaurant. It has nice plush chairs, and a fireplace too. Here, we were presented for the first time with something that was more than just a bite. There was a layout of bar foods: artichoke dip and toast, fried calamari, and onion rings. Nothing spectacular, but everything tasted decent, and I was happy with the spread.

Next we sampled Rockin Baja Coastal Cantina. 

310 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 234-6333
http://www.rockinbaja.com/

They served some chips, a shrimp ceviche and shrimp with some sauce. I was surprised by how tasty the ceviche is, and the shrimp used inside were big ones rather than the tiny ones I was expecting. The shrimp with the sauce was pretty good too.

Our next stop was Masala Restaurant.

314 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 232-5050

Here, we had the most impressive spread of all the places we visited. The spread was huge. Basically, the entire Indian lunch buffet spread was provided. There were lots of curries, rice, and even mango mousse, which I love.  Once upstairs, there was plenty of staff passing out water and taking away our plates. I was really impressed.  Many places did not provide drinks and were charging for water. The food, unfortunately, was quite watered down and pretty tasteless (even more so than usual for Indian lunch buffet food). But I was impressed enough with the service and generosity that I will be back to check out their regular menu.

We then went to Dick's Last Resort.

345 Fourth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 231-9100


Here, they offered two small bites of their fried alligator. While it was an interesting choice, I would have preferred a bit more in quantity. It was my first time eating gator. It tasted like chicken, but was chewier. The batter was heavily seasoned so you couldn't really taste much.

Next up was Jolt'n Joe's Sports Grill.

379 4th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 230-1968
http://www.joltnjoes.com/

This was definitely the most disappointing spot we went to. While all the other places had servers directing traffic and greeting people, Jolt'n Joe's did not. Once inside, we were quite confused where to go. And they didn't make it easy as there "taste" was all the way up the stairs and outside on the patio. Their offering consisted of a chef's special. which was basically chicken and rice soup, with some guacamole and lime to add to it. The serving was tiny, and very forgetable, as it was just chicken broth and some rice.

We next went to Red Pearl Kitchen.

440 J Street
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 231-1100

http://redpearlkitchen.com/

The food here was served on really large plates, which made the food look so much smaller. We were given pepper fried shrimp and a steak kabob. The pepper fried shrimp was surprisingly good and the steak kabob was decent too, with the meat served medium rather than well done.

We then headed to Palm Restaurant.

615 J Street
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 702-6500

http://www.thepalm.com/

Here, they offered chicken sliders and beef served on a toasted slice of baguette. The sandwich was your basic bar food and definitely forgettable. One thing that was memorable was all the art on the walls. Boyfriend was particularly impressed with drawings done by many famous comic artists.

We next headed to Soleil@K. 

660 K Street
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 450-2437
http://www.soleilatk.com

Steak, served on a bed of risotto.  I was happy with the generous serving and this higher quality "taste." The only thing was that one of the servers was sprinkling the fried onions on top of each plate and he used his bare hands! Definitely a red flag. I scrapped mine off. The risotto was a bit too heavy. But the steak was good. And this was one of the few fancier restaurants that was offering something nice. I think I may be back, though I worry about the server not using any gloves..

By this time, we were getting quite full. But we had made good time and had quite a bit of time left. We headed to Sam Adams Beer Garden because they were serving free beer. In hindsight, this was not a good idea, as the beer made us even more full.

Next up was Cafe Sevilla.

555 4th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 233-5979

http://www.cafesevilla.com/

We passed by some spots, but opted to not check them out as they were mainly bars. I went to Cafe Sevilla a long time ago and wasn't very impressed with their food. However, I was pleasantly surprised this time around. We were served seafood paella, some cold potatoes, and this coffee creme brulee. I really liked the paella. I think I'll have to give Cafe Sevilla another shot.

Next was La Puerta.

560 4th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 696-3466
http://www.taco619.com/

They served rolled tacos and enchiladas. Nothing special. I took a bite and didn't finish as I needed to save room.

Blue Point Coastal Cuisine


565 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 233-6623

http://www.cohnrestaurants.com/restaurants/bluepoint/

I had been looking forward to Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, as I have not yet dined there. Like some of the other more high end places, the offerings here were pretty small.  A chip with some fish. One bite and it was gone and forgotten.

Next up was Ocean Room.

630 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 501-6550

http://www.oceanroomsandiego.com/

Here we were served blue crab cakes and handrolls. I didn't care much for the crab cake, but I enjoyed my fresh made spicy tuna handroll.

Chianti

644 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 235-8144

http://www.chiantirestaurantsd.com/

Chianti served up some pasta and bruschetta. I'm a sucker for the big pasta noodles. It reminds me a lot of the homemade pasta I used to sample from BF's roommate's mom.

Ghirardelli Ice Cream


643 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 234-2449

At this point we were ready to call it quits. We had about 15 minutes left but we were stuffed. However, Ghiradeli's was across the street, and one of the stops. How perfect to end our tasting with ice cream. So we trotted over and we were treated to mini sundaes.

Of course once we finished, I couldn't help it…we still had time left!. I had to take full advantage of our tickets. So off we went to Monsoon.

729 4th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 234-5555

http://www.monsoonrestaurant.com/monsoon_group.html

A few years ago, we really loved dining at Monsoon. Then they changed the menu and apparently the kitchen staff, and we stopped going back because we no longer liked it anymore. Much like Masala, Monsoon offered almost an entire lunch buffet. They are both owned by the same company. They also offered some sort of fruit drink. No mango mousse unfortunately, but they did have a variety of curries that were different from the ones offered at Masala. They also gave us each a stamp card with five out of the ten stamps filled towards a free lunch buffet.  The food was watered down. I had eaten at Monsoon for their lunch buffet a few years ago and remembered it being watered down too. I was appreciative of how seriously they took the Taste of Gaslamp and their generous offerings.

Finally we were done. But wait! We had about one minute left. And next door was Whiskey Girl. So we stopped by. All they had were some wings. No pictures. I was too full to eat and to take any.

We left ridiculously stuffed and realizing we can no longer go on more than one day of food binging. Of course, we still had dinner plans that night to celebrate Little Sis' birthday…

Rice wine soup has always been a chinese dessert I enjoy for as long as I can remember. I think the biggest appeal for me was that it is usually served with sticky rice balls, which I love. I remember a long time ago, I asked my mom how to make the fermented rice used in rice wine soup. My mom said it was complicated and we would leave it to my grandma, who made it often.

When I went off to college and I wanted to make rice wine soup, I would just buy the premade fermented rice sold at Ranch 99.

Then a few months ago, my mom excitedly told me that she now had a method to make fermented rice in just three days and it was really easy to make. So she showed me the next time I was home. It was really simple, though it's taken me a while to do this post. While it takes three days, there isn't much you need to do, other than wait.

And the fermented rice tastes a lot better than the ones I've bought in store. Usually I add a lot of sugar to the ones in the store, or else the alcoholic rice wine is just too strong and not enjoyable to me. But the homemade one is much sweeter. I can eat it by the spoonful without needing to add sugar. My mom has been adding the fermented rice to everything: stir fried shrimp, fish dishes, etc.


Fermented Rice

2 cups Sweet rice
1/4 of a yeast ball

1. Cook two cups of sweet rice. I use a rice cooker. Cook it how you normally would cook rice. I usually put my rice in the rice cooker and then fill the water up to the level 2 line for two cups of rice.

2. Let the rice cool until it is still slightly warm, but no longer hot. (If your rice is still hot, it will kill the yeast). Put the rice in a large glass or ceramic bowl.

3. Take yeast ball, and break into four equal pieces. Take one of the pieces and smash until it is a powder.

4. Mix the powder with the rice, using a large spoon.

5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a cool, dark place.

6. Over the next three days, check once a day. You will see liquid begin to form with the rice. Stir and mix each time you check on the rice. After the third day, there should be quite a bit of liquid. At this point, it is ready to eat. Store remains in the fridge. The alcohol taste will be pretty light in the beginning, but will grow stronger the longer the fermented rice stays in the fridge.

Day 1

Day 2

I forgot to take a picture of Day 3, but it was similar to Day 2. You can eat the fermented rice by itself, add it in dishes you are cooking like fish, shrimp, etc. Or you can make rice wine soup, by putting some fermented rice in a pot of water, adding some sugar, adding some sticky rice balls, and an egg.  You can view details for rice wine soup here.