Friday, October 10, 2008

latest obsession: green papaya salad

saigon bistro's perfectly seasoned green papaya salad: freshly shredded green papaya, topped with shredded basil + faux beef (made of tofu + other accoutrements I am not familiar with. The owner says he buys his fake meat from Japan). The marinade is sweet, saucy, slightly salty with hints of heat from the chili sauce. Just enough savory appeal is also provided by the faux beef. It really REALLY tastes like beef.....spooky.

I crave this dish about once a week.

The green papaya yields a mild + mellow flavor that is both tender yet crunchy.

For the life of me, I cannot find green papaya anywhere here.

I have found it on amazon for $20 through one of their vendors.

We recently discovered a dining hideaway called Saigon Bistro. I rarely post about restaurants in this area because for one reason or other, if it's not a chain the longevity of the establishment is up to question. With that said, call before you high-tail it over there.

Saigon Bistro is a fairly new restaurant located in one of northeast Florida's brand new precalculated strip malls. Every time we go there, the strip mall itself appears somewhat.....haunted. No patrons as far as the eye can see, well except this bistro.

The restaurant is invitingly friendly, in itself pleasant, handsomely designed and quaint.

Service is slightly shaky but the overall menu is the something to rave about since leaving California. This area is known for ethnic restaurants using the foulest of ingredients, hardly any fresh produce to appease to the meat + potatoes crowd as well as watering down it's ethnic identity in order not to scare off the daily grind. The owner/chef of Saigon Bistro stays true to his Vietnamese roots. The ingredients are absolutely fresh, lively and intrinsic to Vietnamese flavors. The menu does offer typical dishes for those in fear of eating God forbid I don't know whats, so for that bunch: egg rolls, fried rice, etc. ( ( ( y a w n ) ) ).

Aside from trying to please the timid, the menu is quite diverse and lovingly spectacular to fresh, fragrant Vietnamese cuisine.

Traditional bowls of Phở are offered in chicken, beef, veggie and more options. The delicate broth is served with a side of fresh crunchy bean sprouts, cilantro + basil alongside spices + sauces to bring it up a notch. They provide a great deal of vegetarian options as well as dishes with tofu and fake/faux meats that look and taste really like meat!

Also in true Vietnamese form......lots of BEEF options.

I have also tried the green bean salad which is stock full of crunchy green beans, veggies and only flash blanched to retain it's fresh snap.

The kitchen's hand is quite versed in delicately marinating their dishes to exquisite appeal to the sensitive palate.

We have spoken to the owner on several occasions and he is passionate about his menu, his customers and foremost Vietnamese cuisine. His passion is contagious.

My best wishes for culinary success to Saigon Bistro.

Saigon Bistro
Unit 202
3546 Saint Johns Bluff Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32224
Tel 904.645-0222

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

breakfast beauty + memory of light

breakfast bowl in the raw: granola with trinkets of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, dried sulphur-free mango snippets, bananas + figs glorious sexy figs......

doused in homemade almond milk and agave nectar

it's like biting into the earth and revealing the sun

For the most part, I am not a breakfast person. I would rather have a smoothie on the go and just get it over with.

For the most part, I wake up not a least bit hungry.

But as you know by 11 a.m. for the most part, I am violently hungry and unable to focus unless I eat something gratuitous.

So to avoid further drama in my life, as if I don't have enough drama; I have decided to include a solid breakfast on those mornings that I know an extra shimmy will be needed to get me through the day.

So why not include a combination of ingredients I just adore?

I love bananas.

Let's throw in some bananas, mangoes, dried mangoes specifically. As well as granola. I found something called the *sugar free buzz free* granola at my local health food store. I don't like sickly sweet overtly syrupy granola. Figs.....what's there not to love about figs. Okay, I know a lot of people don't like figs. Like beets, not a lot of beet fans either. But here's to figs or perhaps pears. When outta figs, chopped pears are perfectly dicey!

Add some almond milk like I have made here.

I love granola. I would make homemade granola but already have a yard long list of too many things to orchestrate in a day. Granola reminds me of GORP. When I was growing up in San Francisco, they used to call trail mix: GORP (granola oats raisins peanuts or gobs of raw protein).

GORP reminds me of my post-hippie teachers I had in elementary school in the Mission District.

I loved how fluid, relaxed and non-traditionalist they were!

The post-hippie teachers wanted the students to call them by their first names. Of course, never addressing them by names like Mrs. Tipton or something. They wore loose fitting cotton garments, nose rings, curly rambunctious hair or the time spun 'fro.

One specific year I recall I had a slew of these teachers for a summer program. For the most part their classes held no structure throughout the day. We would go through our required math and reading lessons before lunch. Then after a long leisurely lunch and recess they would teach us about performance art. We wrote plays in the third grade. Experimented with costume design, set design and body movement.

I loved how they let things slide into made me feel daring.

They revealed a Pandora's box of options for us when it came to creative play. They *shared* with us about their personal relationships and spoke to us as if we were their confidante friends, not children. I recall that made us children feel comfortably confident about ourselves.

I felt our insecurites and shyness that children often harbor, slowly dimish that summer.

One teacher shared with us about the misconception of beauty in our society. She was not a beauty according to iconic movie star standards. She looked like an exotic gypsy to me. I thought she was ravishing but she told us about an old boyfriend that used to tell her often times how ugly she was. She shared with us how important it is to take pride in our individual beauty and not hold fast to negative opinions brought on by others. I recall her speaking with us about the subject matter quite intimately as the girls in my classroom including myself, did not mirror the blue eyed blonde Barbies we loved to play with. My homegirls were Mexican, Filipina, Black, Vietnamese, Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, Puerto Rican and Jewish. Then there was Korean girl, couldn't even speak Korean. Quite the bunch we were. I recall later, a blue eyed blonde northern Italian girl came in to rally up the bunch even more. We actually became best buddies for a long time after that. I wonder what she's up to today?

We were in the third grade, yet opinions about ourselves were already setting in fast.

She gave me a book about fairy tales from all over the globe. Many of the stories heightened the fact that the heroine was not always the beautiful princess or prince charming. It was as if she wanted us to embrace the fantasy of beauty but seek it's truth foremost.

This was a liberating time in my life. The memories return in brilliant form and often nudge me to break free of my own preconceptions.

When I think about this time, I visually encapsulate a great deal of light in the photo memory of it. Yes, it was an intriguing moment and to this day haunts my many taste memories......often times beginning at breakfast.

biting into the sun ©

· scoop of your favorite granola (mine has lotsa seeds: sunflower + sesame)
· sliced bananas
· sliced figs, pears or other favorite fleshy bright fruit
· snippets of dried sulphur-free mango or other favorite energy dense dried fruit
· agave nectar or honey (optional)
· chilled fresh almond milk or organic milk

© 2008 Taste Memory, the blog, the concept + concepts within, words, writing and photography is the property and copyright by TasteMemory, Melt Into Arts Inc. and Ingar Brunnett.

Please don't copy cat or steal.

Everyone else.....thanks for stopping by ;-)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

creating taste memories: American Girl Café

creating the setting with pretty bows + detailed ambiance throughout.........

Last summer while visiting in southern California, I took my girls out to lunch at the American Girl Cafe in Los Angeles.

Yes, I said last summer, so this is a back-logged post soooo long overdue!

We had scheduled to spend the afternoon with Grandma and Auntie but due to some last minute travel issues they were not able to join us. Fortunately, we were still able to have a *girls day out* on a wonderful sunny southern California afternoon.

Ahhhhhhhh, so nice to be without humidity for awhile.

dessert first concept: toasty warm miniature cinnamon rolls were served upon arrival

The American Girl Place is located inside The Grove shopping area located adjacent to my favorite Farmer's Market at 3rd and Fairfax.

So much to say here about all this.

First off, the American Girl Place is just plain HUGE.

Downstairs is a shop with the variety American Girl dolls displayed plus their outfits, toys and other accessories.

Yes......accessories and lots of it. This store; namely this brand teaches young girls to accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. Learning about accessories at a young age may be quite harmful, don't you think? Especially to the gullible parent(s) involved.

He he....

There is also a beauty salon downstairs where the dolls can get their battered faces, eschewed and entwined knotty hair refreshed and revitalized.

Ooooh and did I mention ear piercing? Yes, ear piercing for the earrings, earring sets and more accessories.

Upstairs, there are more dolls, more clothes and more accessories. There is also a doll museum. My girls loved the doll museum.

The cafe is located upstairs as well. You can traipse through the store and do a bit of damage before you finally hit the cafe.

sparkling apple cider with Samantha.........

You MUST make reservations at the cafe. This is a highly coveted experience.

My brother told me about this place. He said he had never been inside, but the last time he was at The Grove he said he *saw kids looking through the store window and salivating*

We arrived, checked in and were given a place number. We browsed until the doors were open for our allotted time span to *lunch*. There was a HUGE mob at the door. It reminded me of trying to get into a stadium of a rock concert or sports event (my brief mention about sports here). I haven't been to a sports event since leaving California.......another story.

Everyone was being quite pleasant though. I did have thoughts that kept rewinding forward from months back of a stage mom shoving me aside while I was walking up the stairs to get seats in the theatre to for my daughter's ballet recital.

Motherhood can be quite intense.

I am trying to go with the flow.......really.

So about The Grove.

The Grove is a pleasant outdoor shopping mall, complete with water fountains, shady sitting areas and lots of decadent shops.

There is even a movie theatre embedded in between which I just adore. The movie theatre located within the hub of shops, restaurants and other activities is such a southern California concept I have surely missed. Many movie theatres or lets say ALL the movie theatres on the east side of the coast where I live near now are stand alones.

My kids gotta kick out of the movie theatres in the midst of shops and community-centric activities. This is from a consumer + marketing p.o.v thought - but I do relish the thought of urban-centric gathering areas especially in such a spread out community as Los Angeles.

Speaking of community, this brings me to the Farmer's Market I just adore.

all the girls were given a tea set + plate for their dolls to use during lunch.

The vintage farmer's market is in walking distance and a must see. I love it's old world charm, diverse ethnic pace and the ease emanated by the visitors gathered to share a moment in time together.

Really good nachos too.........

Kit enjoying cheeseburger + curly fries

dessert trio: chocolate mousse, sugar cookie with white frosting + pink sprinkles, heart shaped white cake.....

check out the grand total: $1400 for apple bubbly, burgers, salad + pasta. Wwwwwwhhhhaattt?

Okay.......the food at the cafe wasn't anything to write home about. I was biting my lip as our lunch arrived. I don't know why, but I immediately thought of Sisco and Aramark.

Then I decided to think forward. The farmer's market perhaps later. Nachos perhaps if I had any funds left over from this decadent lunch.

((( s i g h )))

But wait.....when I received the bill for our girls' lunch out, I nearly dropped when I saw the $1401.00 tallied on the receipt.

Geez, talk about snafus.

When I brought it to my server's attention she thought I was trying to get out on a bill until she caught sight of what I was talking about.

It was pleasantly corrected and I was able to breathe again.

stick on pedicures ~ lovely way to end the day