after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

A Taste of Hawaii (in SF)

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t says:  g and I are psyched for our first trip to Hawaii (coming in January 2017!).  I have to go to a conference (time to nerd out!), but g’s going for the sun!  This will mark our first island trip since our honeymoon (St. Lucia 2007!); bathing suits in winter, here we come!

To prep for the trip, we just had to check out one of SF’s latest brunch sensations, Aina.  I have to confess that I was a little hesitant, as one of my Hawaiian colleagues felt that it was “not as good as it is in Hawaii” … however, I imagine that Korean food in SF is not as good as it is in Korea, either, so I still had hope (especially after a recent tasty soondubu outing).  Located in Dogpatch, I was ecstatic that it was only a short walk away.  While there was a wait involved, the hostess was friendly and, more importantly, accurate with her projected wait times, allowing us to do a little bit of pre-gaming at Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous (yum!).  So on to brunch:

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I chose the kalbi loco moco.  Knowing kalbi as a wonderful Korean marinated shortrib dish, I didn’t know exactly how it would come together with ingredients like mushroom, eggs, and tomato.  The end result was a lot of great flavors on the plate, from the bright tomato-cilantro, the decently braised shortrib, and the egg-rice combo.  But while each bit was good on its own, but I can’t say that there was harmony on the plate.  Eggs and pico?  Great.  Rice and egg and shortrib?  Great.  But put it all together and it was a bit of a mishmash.  Don’t get me wrong – nothing was left on the plate when I was done, but if I went back, I’d certainly keep on trying out the other items on the menu.

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g did the Portugese sausage hash.  Now that was really good.  The sausage, with some kind of paprika or cumin spices in there, was a wonderful addition to soupy eggs and bright greens.  I don’t know how “Hawaiian” this one was, but if it portends what breakfasts will be like when we visit, we’re all in!  As you can guess, g won breakfast (she wins so much; she must be sick of winning).

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Now here is the loser of breakfast.  Hard to believe, right?  These doughnuts, covered with a coconut sugar and filled with guava looked wonderful.  Maybe your mouth is watering right now as the picture taunts you.  You can see why I figured it’d be a no-brainer of a win … but it wasn’t.  The dough was quite chewy – not really offering either a cakey or flakey texture that I’d expect a doughnut to have.  Meanwhile, the guava was overwhelming – I had to squirt out half of it to bring it back into balance with the sugared dough.  We couldn’t even finish the three!  Sorry Aina – the doughnuts were a huge miss.

So brunch at Aina was pretty good, but I can’t say that it’s Plow-good.  What I’m really looking forward to, however, is dinner; I’ve heard it’s amazing.  As I look at the dinner menu, I have to say that I see a ton of potential.  There’s seafood and kimchi everywhere!  That gnocchi dish looks crazy!  So we’ll have to pay them a revisit soon … even if the doughnuts were heart-breakingly sad.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

26 November 2016 at 10:08pm

An Ode to SF Ramen

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t says:  When thinking about what SF is best at, I am often tempted to say: “separating you from your money”.  If you have $10, $100, or $1000 in your wallet, SF will have innumerable options on how to spend it … all of it.  Consequently, g and I have had to show a little more restraint when it comes to eating out.  In what I will now call “The Midatlantic Years”, we’d go to dinner, blow $100 at some of the “best” restaurants in town and be super-satisfied that we pretty much got “the best” of whatever was available.  Now, in the “The Bay Area Years”, we are a little bit more cautious.  There’s always some chef somewhere who wants to find a way to squeeze in a little bit of foie, or truffle, or saffron, to bump prices.  Or they want to use the chicken they raised in their backyard along with the fish they raised in their bathtub.  Or they want to use the fruit that was hand-harvested by blind, armless monks.  Fortunately, SF also has a ton of answers to the tasting menu insanity, with an abundance of reasonably priced places weaved throughout the wallet landmines.  For g and me, ramen is one of these answers.  For g, it’s like pasta … a nice al dente pasta … which really tugs at her South Jersey Italian heart strings (which are right next to her adopted kimchi-loving Korean heart strings).  For me, it’s the way something that’s supposed to be so “homely” is so full of persnickety precision – an existential crisis in food.  And we both love that it’s never over $18 (or if it is, we refuse).

As we mentioned last time, we hit up Itani Ramen in Oakland.  It was ok, but you could probably gather from my tone that I wasn’t as pleased with it as I had hoped.  And now, after a bit more “research”, I can say without a doubt that it is the worst ramen we’ve had in SF (coming second even to the ramen food truck).  Welcome to our ramen showdown …

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The first ramen place we went to was highly recommended.  A Japanese work colleague, who has admitted to being kind of a ramen fanatic, managed to visit over 10 ramen shops in SF and said that without a doubt, the best ramen in the city is Orenchi Beyond.  That’s some pretty high praise.  Now I don’t know the identity of the other 9 shops, but hey – if he says it’s the best, then we knew we had to get there and have it be the standard by which all others were judged.  We. Loved. It.  g was shocked.  Having gone for the “Beyond Ramen”, g loved the porky, salty, smoky flavor combination (and she’s not one to really like pork above any other meat); I had instant food envy.  There was something about that bowl of soup – it was just a very intense mouthful (you better like garlic).  The noodles were of a pretty good consistency and flavor as well, but let’s face it, the real champ here was the broth.  It was so good that we took the remaining broth home and made our own ramen using some instant ramen noodles we picked up at the Korean grocer (we’re cheap like that).   I still can’t figure out why this place didn’t have a line out the door – must be it’s awkward location.

 

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While at Orenchi Beyond, I did the Tsukemmen, which is a dipping noodle.  The sauce was delightful (with a nice spice in there), but baby corn and the brussels sprouts just didn’t quite do it for me.  I feel like they tried a little too hard to California it.  Additionally, while I know that the noodles are supposed to be not-hot (i.e. room temp), they were a bit too congealed for my taste.  Alas, I wont’ be having any food dreams about the Tsukemmen … only the Beyond Ramen above.

 

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Next up is Iza ramen.  Now this place did have a line out the door, but it sped through nicely.  I have to say that noodle for noodle, I enjoyed Iza’s better than Orenchi.  Also, the pork was superb, and the kimchi-on-the-side option featured some pretty decent kimchi to accompany the ramen … but that’s just it – I felt like I needed the kimchi to give the broth some extra oomph.  Don’t get me wrong – I’d be absolutely thrilled if Iza was our local ramen shop (I’d go there all the time!), but the broth just won’t unseat Orenchi Beyond’s.  I will say that Iza does get extra points, however, for having a Three Twins just across the street.

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So now we go to Coco Ramen.  This place is a little peculiar.  We knew that it clearly said “Coco’s Ramen” on the sign, but I think there was another sign that said “Coco’s Sushi” or something like that (and I think our check said “Crazy Sushi and Ramen”).  My advice is find the address, stick it into your GPS, and persevere – you will be rewarded with food bliss.  Above is obviously not ramen, rather it’s the Kabocha.  This is essentially a Scotch egg … but instead of meat, there’s squash (?pumpkin?), and it’s drizzled in what is essentially the “eel roll sauce” and the “spicy mayo sauce” that you typically see at Americanized sushi joints.  But it was delicious.  A weird cross between fried ice cream (thin shell and sweet eel sauce) and spicy sushi and savory egg.  I still can’t figure out why I liked it, because as I write this, I realize that it sounds so totally gross.

 

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So enter the ramen.  Now this ramen was amazing.  I’d say it was Orenchi-good.  While not having the same amount of smoke or briny salt, you could elect for just a smidege of spice (which I did), and it was perfectly balanced.  And that pork belly – oh that pork belly – it was magically tender and full-flavored – so much more than just a braised piece of belly (I wonder what they braised it in?).  But wait.  The real ingredient that pushed this bowl into greatness was the bean sprouts.  These were crisp and flavorful – almost peppery – cutting through the more unctuous and umami flavors.  They were like super-sprouts, moreso robust than those in any other ramen dish I’ve had.  Between how wonderful the ramen was, how much fun the other appetizers looked (I wanted to order so much more), and the great “neighborhood joint” feel (no million dollar ambience here), I think this place is my fave.  However, g and her friend ventured the Shoyu, and while she can’t recall specifics, she knows that it was not better than Orenchi Beyond (too bad she didn’t have any of my Tonkotsu).  So we’ll call it a “tie” for now … I guess we’ll wait for the revisit!

 

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And here’s where Coco gets a second little extra nod from me: nearby ice cream.  This grasshopper pie ice cream (with fudge) is brought to you by local ice cream champ Mitchell’s.  Known for a lot of “crazy” flavors (less like Bi-Rite concoctions, rather, more “natural”/”seasonal” flavors), we did play it a bit safe (none of us got any of the fun Hawaiian flavors), but next time … oh next time …

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And for our final ramen visit, enter Nojo Ramen.  Knowing its location in Hayes Valley, I knew that they’d have to bring some thunder to survive.  After reading the little synopsis on Eater and hearing that g’s colleagues labeled it more “California style”, I was suspicious that locals loved how “unique” it was, as it was chicken-based rather than pork.  Consequently, I ready to hate all over it – like ALL over it.  I know what you’re thinking: “why even go?”.  Well, it was convenient … and I needed this post to have a bad guy – I couldn’t just say “all these ramen places are great” and leave it at that, because what’s the fun, right?  As we waited outside for our name got closer and closer to the top of the list, a starving g and t pondered: which would we get?  With the absence of a tonkotsu option, I knew I was going to have to get “the one with the chicken leg” … and so was g … so we each got the “chicken paitan soy sauce”.  It. Was. Insane.  Like really insane.  Like I almost hate myself for liking it so much.  I really do.  Every single thing was perfect.  The chicken was perfect, from the texture of the meat to the browning of the skin to the dark meat flavor (it was braised wonderfully).  The egg was perfectly soft-boiled.  And while pork was absent from the party, there was instead a creamy miso and briny fish powder for the soup base, accented with a fistful of super-bright, super-fresh scallion.  And gawd: that fried gobo was an unexpectedly delightful addition.  Wait wait wait!  But did it beat Orenchi Beyond? …  Kinda?  Maybe? … It’s complicated … It’s not another “tie”, rather, I think of Nojo’s dish less like a “superb bowl or ramen”, rather, “the best chicken noodle soup I’ve ever had”.  (To this end, the noodles lacked the alkaline punch that most ramens have, so it was textured like a ramen noodle, but not quite flavored like one). So in the end, Nojo is a winner of a different category.  And you can bet your bunsen burner that we took home our remaining broth – this is going to be a wonderful second dinner (it’s in our fridge right now!).  We also know that we’re definitely going back to try out the rest … (I will say, though – the desserts looked kinda weak-sauce … I wonder where are the best ice cream joints in the area … ?)

Written by afterdinnersneeze

19 November 2016 at 3:51pm

Post-Philly Ramen and Wine

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t says: We’ve been out a few times recently so I figured I’d take a lazy day to update the blog.  And so, with season 5 of The Wire in the background, I’m here on my phone, with my first ever phone-post!


My little sis got married with a reception at Zahav!  The whole event was wonderful!!  Congrats to her and her new hubby!  Also: congrats to Zahav for serving up some absolutely amazing lamb and salatim!  For any couples looking to close some knots, check out Zahav!


We started lining up a farewell tour of Philly (we won’t be back again until December) and it included a little bit of something old and something new.  Well, here is the new: brunch at The Dutch.  These are my new favorite pancakes. They are to. Die. For.  Second only to Cochon (R.I.P.).  Don’t let the silly blueberries or anemic banana distract you from the perfectly made pancake with a bit of crunch on the outside and a soft pillowy inside.  Yes, a did order a wonderful cream chipped beef, and g got a tasty omelette, but seriously, these pancakes were the star!!


For something old, we hit up Reading Terminal.  Ahhhhhh.  Home indeed.  DiNic’s roast pork with rabe and provolone.  Insert drooling face here.  Forget the cheesesteaks, Philly – stick with these!  As for dessert: you know I picked up several chocolate-dipped chocolate chip cookies.  Day-um these were just as good as I recall!


We continued the ramen search.  This time, we went to Oakland for some Itani ramen.  Going for a more contemporary mixture (I had corn in mine, g had tomatoes in hers), the end result was pretty good.  Nice form alkaline noodles, with savory broth.  It’s not worth the trip if you have some good ramen nearby, but if you’re local, it’s worth a visit.  Next time I’m going to try some of those dumplings.  BTW: corn = hard to pick up with chopsticks.


And for our most recent exploration, we hit up Napa [again].  We love this place.  After hiking through Oat Mine Hill Trail (after finding out that Bothe was closed for a half-marathon), we hit up Model Bakery in St. Helena.  Holy. Hell.  We knew Model was good (we’ve been to the one at Oxbow several times), but this one was WAY better.  Above was a bacon egg and pimento on a scallion biscuit that was better than any breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had … even a’s (I’m sorry a!!!!  It just happened!!!).  g got the “traditional” breakfast sandwich on their famous English muffins and she devoured it.  There’s something about this location’s sandwich construction that’s impeccable: not soggy, melted cheese, perfectly made meat, structurally sound.  Gonna have to make the special trip to St Helena for future visits, even if it is a half hour away from Oxbow!


Here’s a tip: Heitz has free wine tasting.  Now, there is a caveat: Heitz does not do flashy, fruit-bombs.  They do cabs like pinots: single vineyards with focus on just how important locations are for flavor.  One tasted like pure green bell pepper.  Another had a finish of super-spicy black pepper.  The final was mushroom-alicious (if you like that sort of thing).  But the real star: the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc.  It was in-your-face with tropical and grapefruit, followed by mouthwatering acidity and a petrol hint that was amazing (for those of you that like the way gas stations smell).  Amazing. $20 at local wine merchant – check it out.  Heitz is now on our short-list for anyone visiting Napa for the first time!  We finished off our day with a trip to Hog Island oyster company – the grilled oysters have changed g’s outlook on oysters forever!  She loves them!

ramen, soondubu, and sushi

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t says:  Over the past few weeks, g and I have had quite a few dinners featuring Korean and Japanese cuisine, so I figured I’d put them all here in one post.  Sure – it’s scatter-brained, but would you have it any other way?

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After an old Asian lady bumped us from our spot in line at Han Il Kwan (seriously), we left in search of another Korean joint.  Fortunately, g’s friend’s sister recommend My Tofu House, which we walked into and were seated within 10 minutes.  We must have been super-lucky because right after us there was a line of hungry patrons nearly out the door.  This place seems to specialize in soondubu (soft tofu soup), bibimbap (rice bowls), and pajeon (“Korean pancakes”).  I was there for the soondubu …

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In the foreground, you see the bubbling hot stew with chunks of soft tofu and cooked kimchi.  It was actually quite delicious.  I was “sweating-like-grandpa” by the end of the meal (my Korean grandfather is notorious for sweating when eating spicy foods), but it didn’t stop me from eating every bit of the soup.  I do wish it had a few more additions (vegetables, egg).  However, for my first soondubu of SF, it was certainly a stupendous way to start, as the broth was rich (I wonder if it was pork-based?).  In the background you see some bulgogi (which was “meh”).  g had the bibimbap which was a little heavy on the rice:stuff ratio, but came out with a hot enough pot to really sear some rice (if your rice doesn’t get a little burnt, it’s not hot enough).

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Unfortunately, they only had 6 banchan … no props until they crack double digits …

 

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and the Pajeon was pretty good as well – it could have used a bit more char towards the center of the pie.  However, given the impressive soondubu, we’re definitely going back again.  The prices were pretty good, too!

 

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Meanwhile, my second soondubu adventure was in a little tiny Korean restaurant in NJ called “Eden”.  Cheesy name aside, I have to praise them for some high-quality additions to their soondubu: mussels, clams, egg.  The broth was a bit on the thin side, however – not really having much more flavor than spicy kimchi.  If I could somehow mix My Tofu House’s soup with Eden’s additions, I’d be set!  Unfortunately, Eden also had less than 10 banchan, so they’re going to lose points there – but if you’re into traditional Korean fare, it’s among the best in town (and there are quite a few places in Cherry Hill).

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For ramen, I have to warn you: it’s going to be a bit of a cop out: it’s two visits to the same place … and it’s from a truck.  Ha!  Torraku Ramen can be found in the Spark mobile-food-park in Mission Bay.  For ramen coming out of a truck, I have to say that I’m quite impressed.  The tonkotsu was better than pretty much every ramen in Philadelphia (back when I was still living there circa 2015).  How does it compare to the myriad offerings in SF?  No idea!  Somehow this is literally the first ramen I’ve had here!  I’m so ashamed.  Hopefully it’ll be a good introduction to the scene, as the broth was well-developed, the noodles were firm, and each addition was welcome.  If I could have one gripe, it’d be that the soft-boiled egg was almost hard-boiled, but for a food truck, I’d rather they trend towards an overcooked egg rather than an undercooked one.  The miso (pictured above) didn’t have the miso depth that I was hoping for (whereas that tonkotsu had clearly been simmering for hours), so I’m listing that one as a pass.  As far as where am I going to go next?  I heard a tip from a well-respected source that Orenchi Beyond has the best ramen in the city despite getting nearly no recent press.  We’ll check it out and report back.

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For our last review, I have no pictures of the food.  I’m sorry.  Let me explain (there’s a lot of explaining …).  I had read a lot about Sushi Hon, a relatively new place in the Mission touted as having SF’s “most reasonably priced omakase”.  Whoa.  That’s a weird title, right?  Does it mean that the fish is akin to gas station sushi and they charge $5 for all I can eat?  Or is it that they have some super-famous Jiro-dreams-of-sushi descendent and only charge $200 for 6 pieces?  Unfortunately, Sushi Hon’s website made it nearly impossible to figure out the menu ahead of time, and the yelp reviews are a bit misleading as it turns out that Sushi Hon has at least two different types of fixed-price menus.  The first is what I’d call “omakase” and it includes an assortment of cooked dishes, sushi/sashimi, etc.  I think Sushi Hon calls it something more like “fixed price dinner” or something like that (I can’t remember as I have no pictures – duh!).  What they call “omakase” is more like “a sushi dinner”, feature ~10 bites and served only at the sushi bar (piece by piece).  Coming in at $60, it is not cheap.  g and I were very hesitant, but figured we needed to treat ourselves and went for it.  We didn’t regret it at all.  The chef’s selections for the evening were wonderful, ranging from lighter pieces where you could really taste the ocean to heavier fare (medium fatty tuna) and even some uni.  The man knew how to put together a sushi meal with progression.  We have no pictures because we were literally sitting in front of him – and while other diners were freely snapping pics, my intention to do the same was vetoed (g played the wife-veto!!).  So you’ll just have to take my word that the fish was pristine, the rice was perfect, and the wasabi was delicately balanced (maybe once piece was a little heavy-handed with the wasabi).  As a result, g and I will keep Sushi Hon in our back pocket, as it joints the ranks of places like Saru and Kiss: sushi spots that are absolutely delicious but a bit too expensive to visit on the day-to-day.  Wasabi bistro (during happy hour) will retain the title of weekday-maki-champion (and also the title of “decor consistent with most 90’s Asian restaurant ever”).  So why did I chose a picture of a knife?  Prepare for some full-on knife nerdery.  One thing that did bother me at Sushi Hon was that the chef used a fake kiritsuke.  As a Japanese knife enthusiast, I know that kiritsukes (like the one above) are traditional, single-beveled Japanese knives wielded by masters.  It’s a bad-ass knife for bad-ass chefs, usually old, wizened bad-ass chefs.  If someone gave one to me, I’d have no choice but to lock it away and never use it because I wouldn’t be worthy. (Seriously.)  The chef at Sushi Hon had a knife with the exact silhouette of a kiritsuke … but it was thin and double-beveled like any old Western chef’s knife would be, making it more like every other knife in every department store ever.  Sorry dude: that’s the wrong knife for the job.  If you’re gonna rock the sushi bar, and have me watch you cut some fish, then you’re going to have to show off some single-bevel skills.  It’s part of the game.  End rant.

An interesting conversation topic came up during our meal at Sushi Hon.  It went something like this:
t says:  Would we ever eat at Jiro’s place in Tokyo?
g says:  No.
t says:  Why not?
g says:  How much is it?
t says:  I don’t know – $300 for 20 minutes of eating.
g says:  Definitely not. <As she gets ready to play a pre-emptive future-wife-veto>
g smiles: <insert smile here> –> translation:  “Wife-vetoes are awesome.”

Written by afterdinnersneeze

14 October 2016 at 8:35pm

wonderful, pescadero, and the mill

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t says:  I’ve entered an interesting phase of my time here – one that has a substantial amount of down-time!  Yay!!  Exciting, right?  I know that g and I are excited.  So excited that we picked up the pace on our restaurant explorations – almost with the same oomph that we had in Philly when we first started this blog!!  The difference, this time, is that we’d go “backwards” in our restaurants searches.  In Philly, we’d just pull up eater or foobooz and see what was the latest hip place that we should check out.  In SF, with the insane cornucopia of restaurants that grows by the week, we wouldn’t stand a chance.  So instead we ask: “what do we want to eat tonight?” and go from there …

Here are some highlights:

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This one looks less-than-flattering.  I promise it tasted better than it looks.  You see, it all started when g and I were really missing Philly’s Han Dynasty.  We were reminded of Han after our Han-like experience at Kedai Makan in Seattle.  So SF has to have something like that, right?  Well, with a quick search, I found a place called “wonderful”.  Located outside of the city, it made it to the top of our list for a quick “post-airport” dinner.  And voila!  When g returned from a recent trip, I picked her up from the airport, and, due to the stupid-traffic that occurs around 5-6pm heading back towards SF, we peeled off towards Millbrae for a stop at wonderful.  As supposedly “the best Chinese food in the Bay Area” (pretty big words because what I think is a pretty legit Chinatown sitting right there within SF), wonderful kept us guessing as to what we should expect.  We knew it was going to be different than the electric Szechuan of Han, rather, a Hunanese chile-spicy.  Above you see the cilantro lamb, a nice upbeat take on a traditionally gamy cut of meat.  Highly recommended.  (And is a great addition to for homemade fried rice with leftovers the next day.)

 

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We ordered a dish called “Godfather’s noodles”.  Everyone raved about them so we were pretty much obligated to try.  We were particularly excited because we saw a Dan Dan noodles on the menu and figured that this would clearly be different than Han’s trademark dish.  But it wasn’t.  It was pretty much the same damn thing (dare I say the same “Dan” thing?).  It was very tasty and worth getting (spicy and porky the whole way), but then what the hell are the Dan Dan noodles on the menu?  We have no idea … but we know what we’re getting next time …

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Ah, yes, the green onion pancake.  Beware – this sucker is HUGE.  Like YOOOOJ.  This, plus the cilantro lamb was the best sandwich ever.  Now of course, that’s probably not traditional at all, but I was thinking it the entire time we were there.  It was light and fluffy, more like a biscuit than a thousand-layer bread I’ve had at other restaurants – and definitely not anything like a Korean scallion pancake at all.  Go ahead and order it, but unless you’ve got more than two people at a table, be prepared to bring some home.  As for the restaurant itself, be prepared for a relatively small space, long lines, and slightly pushy service – it’s not as bad as House of Nanking, but it has some of the same spirit.  This is not a four-star dining experience – go and eat and be full and happy and laugh all the way home with your leftovers …

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On one of our splendid weekend road trips with k and cm, we hit up Harley Farms, a fun place to see some farm animals (and llamas) and buy some goat cheese … and goat soap … and pretty much every darn thing you can make out of goat’s milk.  But more impressive was the above dinner table.  As we walked around the upper floor of the barn, looking out at the farm below, with a gentle breeze whipping through, it was pretty much settled that if you want a barnyard-chic dinner party, this is the place to go.  They also do farm dinners as well that you have can book a seat at ahead of time – if the food is as half as good as the ambience, it’s gotta be a great experience.

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Tucked away in Pescadero, there’s a tiny gas station.  And in this gas station, there is a counter.  And at that counter, you can order some tacos.  You MUST order some tacos.  You will eat them off of paper plates … and you will love them.  I know we did.  Mercado & Taqueria De Amigos was phenomenal.  It isn’t fancy.  It isn’t artisanal.  It’s just some really good tacos at a very reasonable price in a very unassuming location.  Shrimp tacos for the win!  We also sent g’s parents there and they came back with a resounding, “these were the best tacos we’ve ever had”.  While you’re in Pescadero, be sure to visit the market in town that has awesome garlic-and-artichoke bread (buy two loaves, one for dinner later than night, and one for the car ride home) and, if you go early enough, “chocolate muffins” … which are more like chocolate cupcakes.

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So this one required real planning.  The Mill (Western Addition) has BYO Monday and Wednesday pizza nights.  Now let me say right off the bat that “BYO” is misleading.  It doesn’t mean “bring your own alcohol and pour yourself a glass”, rather, “bring your own alcohol and you can use the paper cups that we allow people to use for water … oh … and you’ll be pretty much the only ones there drinking alcohol … so enjoy being awkward”.  So yea, that was a little bit disappointing.  It was made up for, however, by the awesome pizza.  Above, you see the eggplant pizza with white bbq sauce on some sort of whole grain crust – the toppings were fine, but that crust was ridiculous.  Given the crust alone, I kind of regretted not having made it to the the Korean-themed pizza they had the following Wednesday.  As I sit here writing this, I have to say that the pizza gets an overall “good”, but I don’t think it’s quite destination-worthy; go if you’re in the neighborhood (it’s kind of a pain in the butt to get to via MUNI), but be prepared for tight seating and the pseudo-BYO-ness.  For convenience, g and I will stick it out with nearby Long Bridge for now.

I’ll have to call it a night for now, but I guarantee we have more coming – some ramen, some soondooboo.  Good times had by all.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

27 September 2016 at 2:10am

SF Outdoor Adventures!

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t says:  Living in Mission Bay has its benefits: it’s generally sunnier and warmer than the rest of the peninsula, which is a huge bonus.  A downside, however, is that there really isn’t an immediate “neighborhood” – you have to go up to China Basin, east to Potrero Hill, or down to Dogpatch to really get to the neighborhood essentials (cafes, restaurants).  As a result, g and I have been guilty of repeatedly going to a few of the nearby restaurants due to laziness.  Fortunately, we have friends like k and cm who invite us to all kinds of places … like Cafe St. Jorge.

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What have we here?  This is their “Savory Waffle”.  It looks pretty plain.  A waffle, some cheese, some ham, some arugula – no big deal.  Wrong.  It was a huge deal.  It was incredible.  A crisp waffle with a nice salty cheese, salty meat, and bitter arugula.  But the game changer was the hit of maple syrup, which instantly upped the entire dish.  The drawback?  I could totally do this at home – and I should do this at home … if only I had a waffle iron … so I guess until then I’ll just have to go back to Cafe St. Jorge.

 

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These two dishes were my “other” options after the Savory Waffle – fortunately, k was on the scene and ordered the fruit waffle (foreground) and cinnamon toast (background).  Both were solid dishes and tasted pretty much as good as they seem (i.e. awesome!) … but neither could stand in the way of me and finishing the aforementioned Savory Waffle (seriously – that thing was gone in 5 minutes – not even sure if I gave anyone a bite).

 

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Now that g and I live in SF, we had to join the SF “cult”.  Prior to coming here, g and I didn’t really do a whole lot of “outdoor activities”.  k promised us, “yea, when you live in SF, you go hiking a lot”.  The concept (“hiking”) was so foreign that I had to have k properly define the practice, because that sounded like a lot of work to me.  Apparently, my notion of “hiking” was more akin to “camping” (which I’m still against), whereas hiking was more like “walks in or around nature with subtle changes in elevation and no necessary additional equipment”.  That didn’t sound too bad.  I mean, we were still reluctant at the time.  After moving here … and seeing pretty much the same perfect-for-t weather every day (70 degrees, minimal humidity, gentle breeze), we decided to give it a whirl.  But rather than show you pictures of us hiking/walking around Half Moon Bay (which would consist of the usual obligatory photos of dramatic rocky shoreline this area is so full of), here’s a picture of what we ate.  I admit it: we fell victim to “Sam’s Chowder House”, a clear tourist trap complete with t-shirts.  But we couldn’t help it – someone else told us we “had” to go … so we did.  We skipped the chowder (who the hell wants to eat chowder when you’re sitting outside in the sun, on a wonderful deck, looking at a body of water, on a beautiful day?) and went straight for the above sandwich and salad, both of which were superb.  But a special shoutout to that lobster roll, which is undoubtedly the best I’ve ever had (warning: I’ve never had a proper Maine lobster roll in Maine).  The amount of succulent, perfectly cooked lobster was incredible – I swear it was like a whole lobster was dismembered and shoved between the buttery, soft roll.  I also liked that it was minimally dressed – so you weren’t going to be able to hide bland lobster if you wanted to.  This is an easy referral for our parents for their next visit: go for a walk, eat some lobster roll, life will be good.

 

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The following weekend, we hiked at Tiburon.  Some hilarity ensued when I managed to lose my phone at Turtle Rock (short story: I was stupid, g was heroic), but it was fortunately recovered in time for lunch at Sam’s Anchor Cafe (that’s right, another Sam’s establishment, but probably unrelated to the one at Half Moon Bay – no t-shirts).  The menu looked fine, but what really spoke to me was their bone marrow special.  As you can see, it consisted of three key ingredients.  Bone marrow.  Crab.  Arugula.  That’s bait x3.  Could not have done it any better that what your imagination has put together (assuming you like roasted bone marrow) …

 

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… or so I thought until we had this …  good gawd.  Bread pudding.  I forget the details.  I’m sure that there was something special  about it (cinnamon roll bread pudding?  french toast bread pudding?  chocolate chip bread pudding?), but both g and I blacked out completely when this hit the table, and when we came to, the plate was empty.  Completely blank memory.  Crazy.  The only evidence that we even ate the damn thing were the used spoons in our hands and dribbles of ice cream on our face.  I guess we’re going to have to try it again – and this time I might shoot a video as proof that I actually even ate it.

 

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Ah, yes – for our final trick, we went out to see the SF Ballet at The Grove.  We got a great spot (which took some hunting) and had a wonderful Riesling-fueled picnic … right underneath the “no alcoholic beverages” sign.  You know … because we’re badasses.  To my untrained eyes (my dancing is a terrible, terrible travesty), the dancers were quite skilled and put on a very nice outdoor show.  g, with many-a-childhood-years of dance, agreed, hinting, “maybe we should see go and see a show?”  My response: I wonder if they’d allow me to bring my own Riesling … ?  By the way, when did leather/suede vests come into fashion?

Written by afterdinnersneeze

7 September 2016 at 1:48am

In Ina We Trust

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t says:  A while ago, g got me some bananas.  For some unknown reason, these bananas went un-eaten (very unlike me).  But I had no fear … because when bananas go bad, g shifts into banana bread mode … and life gets good.

This particular month, she let me choose the recipe – and choose I did.  You see, for me, the only thing banana bread is missing is chocolate, so when google revealed an Ina Garten recipe, it was a done deal.  Here’s the copy-pasted recipe.

Ingredients:
For the bread:
– 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 3/4 cup granulated sugar
– 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (3 to 4 very ripe bananas)
– 1/4 cup sour cream
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the streusel topping:
– 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
– 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
– 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
– 3 tablespoons sliced blanched almonds

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8x8x2-inch square baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low, beat in the egg, vanilla, banana, and sour cream and mix until combined. Don’t worry—it may look curdled. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ones. Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

For the streusel, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a medium bowl and pinch the ingredients together with your fingers until the mixture makes crumbles. Add the chocolate and combine.

Distribute the streusel evenly over the batter, sprinkle the almonds on top, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan and serve warm or at room temperature.

How’d it turn out?  Take a look:

extreme close-up!

extreme close-up!

How’d it taste?  Heaven.  Seriously.  Pure heaven.  Even g agrees that it was “holy crap” good, not hesitating to mention this recipe to friends immediately.  Throw out anything you might have thought about banana bread, and instead replace it with something more like banana “cake” … with a crazy good topping.  Super-moist, flavorful, accented with just the right amount of chocolate (I went with 60% cacao – the bitterness with a nice foil to the sweet cake) – it was one of the first times that I didn’t wish for something else to add (we did use pecans instead of almonds in the topping, however – they were on sale).  Is it blog-worthy just to put up someone else’s recipe and rave how good it is?  I have no idea – I put it here just so I can find the recipe more easily when it comes time to make it again.  Speaking of which: have we made it again (it’s been about a a month since we made it last)? Hell no.  Why not?  Because I’d eat it all by myself … in a single sitting … sorry g.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

28 August 2016 at 1:45am