Summer doesn't quite have the significance it did when I was in school and it meant something entirely different than just being able to still see the sun on the commute home from work. It's still my favorite season though, with clear skies, being able to wear tank tops at night, frosty limeade, BBQs, and this tomboy's recently discovered affinity for the summer dress.

Being in California, our hot days come early, and I was lucky enough to spend my May birthday with great friends in one of my favorite places, Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, in West Oakland.

In the shadows of the port cranes and the Bay Bridge, we feasted of tofu pups and Boca burgers, potato and green bean salad, chips, sodas, and a strawberry vanilla cake from Shaudi. All the makings of a great barbecue!

Special thanks to Lisa for bringing out some white chocolate chips from New York on her recent visit to the Bay Area. I was able to make some classic white chocolate macadamia nut cookies for the party. One of my all time favorite cookie combinations and it's been years since I've been able to eat them.

Soon after, I took off with my family for China for a couple weeks of sightseeing.

Things got off to a bad start, when the airline didn't pack a vegan meal for the 12 hour flight.

I managed to find a few vegetarian restaurants thanks to the Vegetarian China website. However, I spent most of the trip downing massive amounts of white rice, bok choy, and watermelon.

In Xi'an, we had some beautiful dumplings, though the fillings weren't impressive and the skins were tough.

In Yangshuo, I finally got what I had really wanted for most of the trip: tofu and vegetables, and happily stuffed myself. I never thought it would be so difficult to get tofu in restaurants in China.

Upon my return, I threw a bun party for some friends.

I used my recipe for caramelized lemongrass tofu and whipped up some tofu, carrot, jicama, and shiitake stuffed cha gio. This is the perfect menu for summer parties, as it doesn't heat up your kitchen with too much cooking, and the dish is refreshing and light. Setting up the food buffet style also means less work for the host. I placed bunches of mint and cilantro in glasses of water to keep them fresh, and let people help themselves to all of the fixings: noodles, lettuce, peanuts, cucumbers, and nuoc cham sauce. Few things say summer quite as well as mint and cucumbers.

We ended the meal with something uniquely summer: smores!

I can't say that I've ever actually roasted marshmallows over a real summertime campfire (a gas grill perhaps, or a garbage can fire pit, and this time I made do with our broiler), but these sticky, sweet treats still allude to those quintessential scout camp memories that few people actually have. Thanks to the fine folks over at Chicago Soydairy, I had a big bag full of air-puffed marshmallows to share. The fluffy 'mallows roast up just like you'll remember conventional ones doing: toasty and crisp on the outside and soft and gooey in the middle. I'm also hoarding some for a cold night when I can top off a hot cocoa. Order some for yourself today and do summer right.


nora said...

Ohh, s'mores! Just beautiful.

herbstsonne said...

MMMM those smores look FAB!

Erin said...

Your bun party plate looks so, so good. Funny that it was difficult to get tofu in China!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Looks like a great start to summer. Bun Party!