Foodie Itinerary: Vietnam
Photo Credit: Lonely Planet Magazine

Photo Credit: Lonely Planet Magazine

Less than a week until I leave for my big two-week trip!  I'm heading to Vietnam for a week with my girlfriend and then off to South Korea for a week on my own and I seriously might come back like 10 lbs heavier!  I can't believe how much amazing food there is in these two countries. I mean, I can, but wow am I excited and honestly a bit overwhelmed. If my time here is even half as yummy as my time in Thailand and Cambodia a few years ago I'm in for a real treat!  So as always, I thought I would share my foodie itinerary and plan with all of you so if you're planning a trip anytime soon you have a head start by using my research.  I usually focus a lot more on specific restaurants, but in SE Asia it's more about the street food and cuisine than any particular restaurants so this time I'm mostly just highlighting the must-not miss foods. Where I do have specific restaurant suggestions, I've listed those first under each meal category and in the order of my travel plans...which are Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hoi An, Hanoi and Halong Bay.  Clearly I'm not going to be able to try everything listed below in my limited time...although my girlfriend and I can really pack it away so we're going to give it our best shot!

If you like what you see, feel free to check out my other foodie travel posts here.  And make sure to check out my South Korea Foodie Itinerary to continue on week 2 of my journey on this vacation!
Happy in My Soul: My First Farm to Table Dinner

Bloomfield Farms Inaugural Farm to Table Dinner

A little over six months ago I had the opportunity to cross an item off my bucket list and go to my first truly Farm to Table dinner. This experience was so amazing that it re-ignited a long time dream of mine and spurred me into action. Hence my last post about some changes ahead, so it only seemed appropriate that I tell you about this experience as my first post of the new SavoryGirl. The dinner was hosted at Bloomfield Farms in Petaluma, CA on a gorgeous summer evening in July.  It was the first one they've ever done, organized by a farm friend, sommelier and restauranteur David Lynch of St. Vincent Tavern and Wine Merchant here in San Francisco. So a few friends and I met at St. Vincent on a Sunday afternoon, piled into a chartered bus and sipped rose as we rode up to Petaluma with the sun starting to set over the hills of wine country. That gorgeous view out the window of the bus was enough to make me nostalgic for the summer I spent in Napa during my MBA internship and I found myself in an amazing mood as I stepped off the bus 90 minutes later.

Aesthetic

As we began to walk around Bloomfield Farms my mood skyrocketed...breathing in the fresh air, taking in the views and playing bocce while sipping wine with the very people who grew the grapes and made the wine from three vineyards all within miles of Bloomfield Farms. This all reminded me of an idea I had for a business years ago but had buried deep while I built my life and career here in San Francisco. As I though about this idea again while enjoying the wine and having fun with my friends I found myself saying over and over again that this experience was making me "happy in my soul".  And this was all before the food!

A Taste of New England Summer in San Francisco
From Sesuit Harbor Cafe in Cape Cod, MA

SavoryGirl's Favorite New England Lobstah Roll from Sesuit Harbor Cafe in Cape Cod, MA

Nothing says summer like a New England Lobstah roll and with this amazing heat wave we've been having in San Francisco lately it definitely feels like summer is upon us.  That and recently having the Bruins in the playoffs (I don't want to talk about it) was making me miss home a bit, so a homage to my New England roots only seemes appropriate. Particularly since a few weekends ago I found myself in the fortunate situation of staring down two food trucks, both of which proudly boasted their own version of the classic lobster roll (lobstah if you please!).  I, not so subtly, convinced my friend and co-worker to embark on a lobster roll taste-off with me...and while I know there are many other lobster rolls to be devoured in the city, consider this the start of a SavoryGirl journey down lobstah lane.

So first things first...I will say neither came even close to my favorite lobster roll from Sesuit Harbor Cafe in Dennis, MA shown above.  Let's be honest though, I'm not expecting to find a CA-made lobster roll that can rival an authentic New England one...but I sure will be happy trying!  Now onto the first two contenders...Sam's ChowderMobile and Lobsta Truck.
Guest Post: Quinoa Soup Family Recipe

After returning from my trip to the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu I was determined to find an authentic recipe for the quinoa soup that I enjoyed so many times during my travels.  It's one of those dishes that is both light and comforting all at the same time.  Full of flavor and healthy, wholesome ingredients. So where to find my authentic recipe?  Enter my Ecuadorian friend from business school, Juan Delgado!  Not only did he offer to share his family recipe for Quinoa soup but he was also critical in helping me develop my foodie itinerary for the Ecuadorian part of my trip before I left.  Pretty good friend to have if you ask me...and as you'll see in his guest post below, he's pretty passionate about his food as well!
The Unexpected Alpaca

Alpaca is a cute furry animal that I had honestly never even considered eating...wearing in the form of a furry hat or sock, yes.  Eating?  Completely unexpected!  I’m not even sure I knew that there were people who ate Alpaca until I got to Peru and started seeing it on menus everywhere.  Of course, a gastronomic cultural explorer like me had to try it, and boy am I glad that I did.  Not only is alpaca mild and slightly sweet in taste, but it is also tender, lean and low in cholesterol. I enjoyed alpaca in the many preparations that I tried so much so that, since returning from Peru, I’ve honestly found myself craving it a bit!

Our first Alpaca adventure came in the form of Alpaca Tartar at Astrid y Gaston in Lima.  Having been named as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, it was a pretty safe bet that this dish would be a winner regardless of the focus on this new, strange meat.  The tartar was served in three ways along with waffle cut potato chips.  The first preparation was traditional in style…quail egg on top with a bit of hot sauce to go along with it.  The other two preparations were international journeys in their own right with one taking us to Japan with flavors of wasabi and ginger and the other bringing us back to Thailand with Thai chilies and mango.  All three were distinct and amazingly delicious with the alpaca being lighter than your traditional steak tartar.  It’s almost what I would expect from a pork tartar if one were to exist.  And I love me some pork!

Our second taste of Alpaca was in the form of grilled skewers…slightly crisp on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside.  In this simple preparation the Alpaca was almost like a hybrid between pork and chicken.  The texture was very similar to well-cooked chicken but it was more flavorful.

Peruvian Guinea Pig Anyone?

One of the first things everyone asked me when I returned home from Peru was if I tried Guinea Pig, or Cuy Chactado.  As you can see by the picture above, the answer is yes.  Now before you get all bent out of shape thinking about the cute little guinea pig you had as a pet as a child you have to understand the perspective of someone like me who's passion is to explore new cultures through food.

Guinea Pig has a different meaning to Peruvians, particularly in the highlands.  It's not only an important source of protein, particularly in rural areas, but the guinea pig also holds a longstanding and meaningful place in Peruvian folk medicine and religious practices historically.  There's even an Indian version of the Last Supper on display in Cusco that shows Jesus and the 12 disciples feasting on this local delicacy. Not trying guinea pig while in Peru would be like going to Texas and not trying authentic BBQ or going to Thailand and not trying some insects...blasphemous to a food explorer like me!  

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand...what an interesting, unique and ridiculously delicious place!  Now, there are things I love about Chiang Mai and some that I found extremely disappointing if I'm being honest.  I tend to get very high expectations based on what other people say...one of the reasons I never go to the movies to see blockbusters that everyone is raving about, I'm always disappointed! I think the same thing happened with Chiang Mai...at first. Everyone I knew told me how amazing it was and kept describing it as a "town" with a medieval-like wall around it, amazing markets and lots of historical and beautiful temples.  Now, technically that is all true...but to me those words conjured up an image of a small town that I would ramble through at leisure as I wistfully fingered silk at the markets.  Enter the reality of Chiang Mai.  This "town" may be up North nestled in the hills of Thailand, but town it is not...it is a big, crazy bustling city!  Horns honking, tuk tuks two-wheeling around corners, air thick with smog and dirt and oh so many people!  Of course, it's not Bangkok...but you expect Bangkok out of Bangkok and this is not what I was expecting out of Chiang Mai.  Yes there is a wall around the city (which is beautiful...especially at sunset), more beautiful temples than you could ever imagine and even an amazing and huge Sunday market (the normal nightly market, not so interesting!) where you can wistfully finger fine silk scarves...there will just be a lot of noise and commotion around you as you enjoy all of these things.  But if you set your expectations correctly, as I did after a day of adjustment, Chiang Mai is a fantastic place.  Particularly because of the food! So onto the food we go!  
Fort Mason Farmer’s Market

When we first moved to the Marina almost two years ago we were pretty happy with our decision after 3+ years of noise & shenanigans in the TrendyLoin, TenderNob or whatever you wanted to call our old ‘hood. However, there were two things we really missed...diversity (of both cuisines and people) and the fabulous Heart of the City Farmer’s Market in the Civic Center that we used to walk to each Sunday.

  For our first 6 months in the Marina we were shocked to find that there was no Farmer’s Market at all within walking distance (with all of us yuppies? what gives?!) but then last summer the Fort Mason Farmer’s Market opened up on Sundays from 9:30-1:30 for the summer only. Lucky for us it was such a success that they decided to keep it open year round and it is still going strong 1 year later.
Summer Produce is Here…Great Time to Start Eating Locally!

As I was walking towards my neighborhood Fort Mason Farmer’s Market this weekend I felt a certain buzz in the air as I approached.  There were more people, more smiles, more laughter and a general uplifting feeling.  As I looked a bit more closely I quickly realized why...the start of the summer produce has arrived!

I grew up in Massachusetts, so to be clear eating only what produce is in season is not something that I was brought up doing but after 8 years on the West Coast this has become second nature to me (well except for my bananas and the occasional pineapple which are never in season here but I can’t seem to give up!).  In climates a bit less forgiving than CA, eating only what is in season is admittedly not quite as easy but I truly believe that it is still a worthwhile and rewarding effort...why?  Well, my reasons are...
SG Video: Trying Crickets in Thailand
 

Here’s a fun video that I’ve been a bit slow uploading...me trying my first ever insect!  We tried thai-spiced crickets while in Chiang Mai, Thailand and here you get to watch my actual reaction as I take my first bite.  It was super hot and sweaty there and we had been walking around all day so while it’s not my best looking video it’s still pretty fun!

Link to the video here or with the rest of my videos on the videos tab of this site.

And of course, as always, I’ll caveat that until I get my own TV Show (anyone?  anyone?) my videos are definitely amateur but for me it’s really all about sharing the experience with you not creating a perfect video.  I hope you enjoy it!