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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Freakin' Go Nuts For Dynamo

Part of my daily ritual has been donut eating. And for almost 2 years I have biked on down to 24th between York and Hampshire to Dynamo Donuts.  I think what intrigues anyone that first glances at their menu is the Maple Glazed Apple Donut with Bacon.  It is sort of like a dream come true.  You can almost relate with Homer Simpson with every bite. And whenever I turn someone new on to this phenomenon, they utter the same moan. 

Another reason, Dynamo Donuts is so appealing is the coffee.  They humbly execute some of the best espresso around.  Of course, they use one of my favorite roasters, Four Barrel.  But similar to how they apply perfection to every donut, they use the same care in making coffee. All this while being friendliest staff in the neighborhood.

I used to reign as Mayor of this place, on FourSquare of course.  I have been recently ousted. :( But, I try to check in at least once a day to regain my mayorship.  So, it is no wonder that you may see me carrying a box full of their Spiced Chocolate with cinnamon, sugar & Chipotle dredge.  The Vanilla Bean is probably also up in there as well, as it is one of my favorite go-to donuts.  It is a vanilla and orange zest donut with a vanilla bean glaze.  And the Lemon Pistachio Donut with fresh lemon zest, lemon icing and toasted pistachios is absolutely a show stopper. The combinations are so thoughtful and delicious, you will definitely end up trying the whole repertoire within a few visits.

Lately, they have been doing a Blueberry cornmeal, which is like the answer to my childhood dreams.  It reminds me of Don's in Livingston NJ.  We used to get muffins in this incredible bakery/restaurant growing up.  And they were always a combination of corn and blueberry in our bagful.  Well, imagine the two combined and walla.

So, when Jesse, one of the many fine barista's asks me every morning if I want a donut, it is certainly hard to deny my cravings. Like the Lemon Sichuan.  That vanilla donut is filled with lemon curd and sugar/sichuan dredge. And the Banana de Leche filled with dulce de leche and fresh bananas is to die for, especially after it's then tossed in sugar.  There just are so many and they are all just amazing.

If you are looking to put a smile on someones face and stimulate there senses with the smells of bacon, sugar and spices, you have to drive down the Mission towards Potrero and give this place a shot.  I promise you one thing, it will become a habit.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Another CAMINO Tale

So, I just got back from brunch in Oakland.  And once again, I was amazed at CAMINO.  I brought my girlfriend Lori, who is also is a big fan of this restaurant.  I love going there too because all my friends work there.  I had a chance to hang out with all of them earlier in the week up in Sonoma on a farm.  I was so blessed to eat terrific food and drink rose all day in the sunshine.

But back to brunch...I ordered the wood oven-baked eggs with herbs and cream.  Pretty much anything made in their wood oven is going to be fantastic.  It's simply a given.  And these eggs were so good.  I had ordered a couple baskets of bread to go along with the sweet condiment plate. Which, by the way, had sheepsmilk ricotta, walnut butter, strawberries and homemade Meyer lemon marmalade.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking.  And yes it was, divine.

Speaking of divine things, the grilled pork and herb sausages were wonderful. That and potatoes roasted in duck fat completed my order.  Lori let me eat most of her endive salad with fennel, anchovies and parmesan.  She was already full from her poached eggs with fava beans, morel mushrooms, greens and rice.  I got to try a bit of that dish today as well and it rocked.

Lori told Alison, the owner, that their grapefruit juice was the best she ever had.  I had both a macchiato and their Pisco cocktail, so I was super content.  That cocktail is truly spectacular with it's lemon, gum syrup, egg white and hibiscus bitters. I drank it slowly, to take in the variety of flavors it offers up.  I just can't write enough about CAMINO.  I really love being there. Can't you tell?

Friday, May 21, 2010

East Bay Is Where It's At!

After a great day in the East Bay, what better way to celebrate, then to go to Pizzaiolo at 5008 Telegraph in Oakland.  Did you know they are celebrating their 5 year anniversary in June?  I'll be there for sure.  Last night I brought my new friend John, whom I have been palling around all week with, to this incredible place. And we had an outstanding meal.

I started drinking this tequila cocktail and John had some housemade lemonade when Charlie, the chef, brought out his Trippa all Fiorentina as his gift to us. It took us a few rounds of bread to soak up every single drop of this dish.  It was powerful, distinctive and had Charlie's  signature all over it. The egg blended so well with the chunky pieces of tripe. "I love tripe!"

And since I saw him up there,  I steered towards the Monterey Bay sand dabs in saor from the wood oven with pinenuts and currants.  I knew Charlie's hands would be all over this.  And when it arrived, I looked at John and he looked up at me and said, "Oh my god, this dish is amazing."  It was soft and delicate and literally fell off the bones as John dished it out to me.  It was absolutely exquisite.

By this time I had moved to beer, Racer 5, of course.  And the Braised Becker Lain pork with polenta, asparagus, baby artichokes and breadcrumb salsa verde came out.  The shoulder had so much flavor.  That bread crumb salsa verde was so good, I was eating crumbs of it off the table, as not to go to waste.  I opted up the extra sphere of asparagus for more meat.  YUM! John was beaming with pleasure and satisfaction.

And we about just fell over when they brought the special pizza of the night out.  It was a Clam Pizza and a tribute to the New Haven coal fire ovens.  Especially Pepe's whose legendary Clam Pie is known around the globe. Well, I never had the privilege of Pepe's as of yet...But this pizza, last night, unbelievable...It's not just the clams, it's the clam juice, the Calabrian Peppers, parsley, onions, garlic and olive oil. Now, didn't that just tickle you to hear?  I'm still tickled pink, wishing I had a piece of it right now, in front of me.  I ordered a Boont Amber on tap to help with my last slice.  I moved through that slice with ease after being a pig the whole meal.  Taking your time with food is very necessary and something I need to learn more. It's just so damn good at Pizzaiolo! ;)

Henry, our server was so gracious and sweet and brought us some sorbet to cleanse our pallets from this extraordinary meal.  We were in utter heaven as we kissed Jen Louise, our beautiful host and dear friend, goodbye. I love the East Bay.

Monday, May 17, 2010

BBQ Tuesday IS Back At Mission Beach Cafe

Mission Beach Cafe is currently doing a BBQ Tuesday Menu.  I was so excited to bring a party of 5 in the other night to attack these dishes.  We sat down, with the light of day fading. The interior is so comfortable at MBC.  And it never seems to get too noisy in there. My group began ordering libations as we perused the evening's menu.

The seasonal soup for the night was a corn & cauliflower soup.  It was made with roasted corn, Huitlacoche, Garlic oil and creme fraiche.  We found out from our server that the Huitlacoche is like a Mexican truffle.  It actually is a fungus that grows naturally on the ears of corn.  Well, from the sound of it, I was intrigued and the soup turned out to be phenomenal.  First of all, it had a smoky BBQ finish in each spoonful.  And that roasted, fresh corn, let me tell you... But truly, the Huitlacoche really left an impression.  A real delicate and delicious addition.

Everyone at the table raved about the tea smoked albacore tuna that was being passed around.  It was served on crispy lemon-saffron risotto with a chili creme fraiche. There was a fried quail egg on top of each piece dashed with caviar.  Sounds dreamy, huh?  We felt slightly in dream scape as it disappeared in front of our mouths.  Another dish that was made with so much thought.  The quail egg that was on top of pieces of tuna, the crispy risotto, the caviar.  I mean, come on! It was an excellent starter and our audience was howling for more.

Our table also got a salad to share. It had fresh escarole hearts, shaved fennel, rhubarb, hazelnuts, pt. reyes blue cheese and creme fraiche blue cheese dressing. I simply love blue cheese.  It stems back to my youth as a chubby kid.  I used to over pour dressing on my salad and simply get lost in the blue cheese.  Now that I am older and healthier, I prefer a lite pour to really taste the elements of my salad.  And that is how this salad was presented.  With just the right amount of dressing and the additional crumbles of cheese, I was very pleased.

The smoked lamb meatballs were also brought out from the kitchen for our enjoyment.  We each shared a half each along with some baby shiitakes, some red pearl onion and green garlic.  They were tender and had a great spice to them.  We all cleared that plate with no problem. 

The fifth starter was the collard greens with black-eyed peas, ham hock and lemon.  A great BBQ treat! The greens were the perfect texture, the black eyed peas crunched, the lemon left a great essence.  All the starters left us excited for what was up next in the barbecue.

There was a mesquite smoked pulled-pork shoulder sandwich that was going around.  I got a small taste of some very large flavor.  Large and in charge, in fact.  I loved the sauce with all the smokey flavors.  I also loved the fennel-cabbage slaw that came with the pork.  The dish has fries as well.  I love MBC's  fries. They are always crowd pleasers.

Next up on the entrees was the grilled organic half chicken.  Now, get this...It had a seasonal strawberry rhubarb glaze that was mighty pleasant to taste.  I thought the grilled corn was also done well.  And the presentation with the egg and flower was a great touch.  The chicken was thick, juicy and full of flavor.

Speaking of full flavor, we got the fig-wood smoked devils gulch ranch pork ribs with rancho gordo baked beans and grilled asparagus.  I got a big piece because the table was starting to get full.  I shredded the meat off the bone with ease.  It was tender and succulent pork.  I also loved the way the asparagus was cooked on the grill.  I was glad I got a solid helping.

I also had a robust helping of the tamarind-soy glazed arctic char.  It came with an olive oil yukon gold mash that was outstanding.  I popped many of the roasted cipollini onions and the sauteed pea shoots in my mouth.  The fish was cooked the way it needed to be.  Here again, it pointed to the thoughtful chef.  He really takes the time to perfect the dishes he sends out.  My party was oh, so pleased.

Everyone was so content but I insisted on some dessert selections.  It would have been a sin for them to miss the sour cherry pie.  I had this a few weeks back and have been dreaming about it ever since.  There is nothing that can touch it.  It comes with fresh whipped cream, that I insist, is a gift from god.  We also shared the banana butterscotch cream pie for the first time.  I thought it was very yummy. I also had bites of the honey lavender cheesecake before I called it quits. That was also quite something.  All the desserts are always amazing.  It's one of the things MBC is known for.  I just wish I had them right now because I am so hungry reflecting about them.
Photos by Karri Cormican

The night was now upon us and the room had just the right amount of light.  I looked around to see a very satisfied crowd.  I came back the next day and brought Bill, the owner some fresh flowers to thank him for a splendid time.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Someone To Watch At "The Porch"

Emerging Chef,  Mark Goodger, from The Front Porch amazed me last night with a couple of new additions to the current menu. I had the blue crab fritters with a criolla remoulade. Now, I am the biggest fritter fan through and through.  I relate also to the crab.  All kinds of crab. And, we are truly blessed with the ones that swim up to our shore.  These blue crab were so fine, I nearly lost my mind. Shared them with the bartender they were so damn good.  Girl could have gotten fired! They were so good...

And then came the Green bean casserole with Parmesan bread crumbs...Well, first of all, if looks could kill.  Me and Karri, the bartender and good friend of mine, were salivating like her dog, Mr. T.  Just picking it up on your fork is really fun. At first, I was aiming to save some for my friend Dave.  Poor guy was trying to find parking for nearly 30 minutes.  The casserole was ancient history by the time he showed up.

I encouraged him to look at the menu though to see if anything excited him. I got  really excited when he said he wanted to try the fried green tomatoes with pickled chow chow and a tomato marmalade.  Beside the fantastic tomatoes and they truly were fantastic.  The pickled chow chow was truly seductive. For those that may not know, chow chow "is an American pickled relish made from a combination of vegetables." The chef's offering was splendid.  It was a night with good buds and some Firestone DBA in my mug. I was quite the happy camper.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Swan Oyster Depot Is A True Landmark On Polk Street

I finally made it to Swan Oyster Depot this week.  I have been dying to try this place for years.  My buddy Aaron and I were always trying to get away at lunch.  It is only a 20 seat restaurant, so one must prepare to wait.  And how could you not?  The staff is super friendly from the moment you walk in.  You can tell that it is a family owned and operated establishment.  The 2 key people are the brothers that run the counter offering up tastes of the smoked salmon and pouring you an Anchor Steam.  The history of Swan goes all the way back to 1912. The business was taken over in 1946 by by Sal Sancimino and his three cousins, Frank, Al and Pat LaRocca.  Their children took it over in the 1970's. 

This place is all about the experience. So, I asked for advice when I ordered lunch for Drew and I the other day. We each got a cup of their legendary Boston Clam Chowder.  Looking back, I wish I had gotten a bowl.  I have read a lot of reviews on this particular chowder.  My experience with it was awesome.  I like the thin texture to it and the focus on the "bobbing bites of tender bivalve." It was all about the clams.

From chowder, we went to Oysters on the half shell.  All of which blew our minds.  The Cortes Island Miyagis were so yummy.  The Tomales Bay and Drakes Bay represented how great oysters are from California.  We had some Blue Points and Kumamotos as well. It all tasted like the ocean and I craving more. 

Drew and I shared the combination salad with Shrimp, Prawn and Crab.  It certainly had a "munificent helping of sweet, meaty crab atop a crisp bed of shredded iceberg, slathered in a heart-stopping puddle of Thousand Island-esque Louie dressing."  There was definitely  some mighty amounts of Shrimp and Prawn as well. That accompanied with local Sourdough bread for a munchin'.  It was all so fresh and satisfying.

Sipping on my 2nd Anchor Steam, I knew I was going to come back for the Smoked Salmon on a Saturday.  It would go well with bagels on Sunday, a tradition we used to do when I was growing up. Man, I can taste it now on top of my freshly boiled onion bagel with chive cream cheese.  Yum! Just one of the many excuses that we bring me back to Swan Oyster Depot real soon.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

STABLE Has Become A Staple

Today was my 2nd stop at STABLE this week.  I got to meet Thomas, one of the owners of this fine establishment.  We got introduced by a mutual friend and ended up talking over lunch.  He had suggested I try their special, the Cuban pork sandwich.  It had red onions, melted Swiss cheese, bacon and pepperoncinis.  It was very special indeed.  It came with a refreshing salad of greens, onions and carrots.  I loved how the pork tasted with the bacon.  The melted cheese was fantastic and really added to the overall flavor of the sandwich.

Thomas talked about his background and showed me pictures of the farm he has in Petaluma.  He has a true passion for what he does.  I was in awe watching him in his prime.  He was engaging with his staff, his peers and his customers.  We toured the kitchen where all the magic takes place.  He told me the history of the building.  It stems back to the 1850's.  Thomas has restored, modified  and even updated the structure through the years.  Always paying homage to the original structure.  Today, STABLE is known as a place that serves it's community with the freshest ingredients.  Most of them grown from the farm or in backyards around the neighborhood.


Another reason why I find this place so inviting is the coffee.  It's probably because they use DE LA PAZ.  The other morning, Grant and I were in there for a little nosh and I had one of their macchiatos.  I had another one today.  Exceptionally done on both occasions.

I had the frittata the other day as well  They used great pasta noodles and  tomato sauce.  I think they called it Grandma's recipe.  It simply looked  irresistible when I saw it.  And it did not disappoint.

I  treated myself to a warm, out-of-the-oven chocolate chip scone that day too.  Scones are either done really well or not at all.  And I only have nice things to say about this one.  I love it when the chocolate chip is still in tact and melts in your mouth when you take a bite.  Of course, I had to share this moment and a small piece of it with Grant.

Grant and I  talked about how beautiful the overall space is.  How incredibly comforting it feels when you step in.  It is always bright and full of color.  Whether you are looking at the art on the walls or sitting down at one of the yellow tables downstairs, there is always a warm color to notice.

The flowers are changed frequently by a neighboring florist Lila B.  I got to meet Baylor, the owner of the flower studio, when Thomas suggested I go and get some for a friend. She has excellent stuff.  A lot of plants and flowers that are grown in the neighborhood.  I was very impressed. And so was my friend.

Thomas also introduced me to Jen from batter bakery.  I had tried her lavender shortbread with sprinkled sea salt only moments prior to being introduced and was all full of glee.  As my readers can confirm, I love salty sweetness.  Jen has a kiosk for the bakery downtown at the old flower tube located out front of 555 California, right at the corner of Kearny. She was so sweet and gracious, she even gave me an oatmeal cookie and a chocolate chip cookie to sample. Well, I just did.  All I have to say is that, they are both gone and I loved every minute I had eating them.

STABLE has changed the neighborhood on Folsom.  Expect more surprises from Thomas & crew in the near future.  I am just glad to have finally gotten to see behind-the-scenes.  I now know where greatness comes from.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Terzo Leaves Us Craving For More...

Jake joined me for dinner Friday night at Terzo located in Pacific Heights.  It was a first visit for both of us.  We sat in the very comfortable setting and ordered libations.  I, a Duvel Green and he, a glass of wine.  Our friendly neighbors next to us recommended the Hummus with house made pita & Za'atar.  And they were right when they said "it's all about that pita."  The plate had neither a drop of hummus nor a crumb of pita when the waiter came to retrieve it.

Onward to the Steamed Mediterranean Mussels with Oloroso Sherry, Bay, Chiles, Cilantro & Grilled Toasts.  What is not to love about the sound of that?  The combination of the spices in the broth were spectacular.  That is always the indicator for me.

My friend Eric had mentioned to get the Panzarotto & Marinara if it happened to be on the menu.  It was and I was delighted.  It's a calzone with fresh mozzarella, ricotta & Calabrian chiles.  How can you go wrong with that?  I thought it was star of the show.

We also got some crispy onions to munch on as we moved on to our second drink order.  This time I got a New Belgium Ranger IPA.  It was the perfect amount of food and beer to kick off my weekend.  I will definitely be coming back to explore more of Terzo's menu very soon.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Gone FISH.ing

Wednesday, Drew and I opened the sunroof and drove off to Sausalito.  As we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, we watched just how perfect the weather can be along the bay.  We pulled into FISH. at 350 Harbor Drive and got a table outside on the deck.

Drew ordered some Kumamoto Oysters while I ordered some BBQ Oysters.  We each shared accordingly. I had decided to drink their Mission Blonde from San Diego that was on tap.  It paired well with the San Diego hamachi poke in a sesame Ginger dressing and housemade yam chips. I simply order the poke every time I eat at FISH.  It's the bomb!  Reminiscent of the poke I always get whenever I am in Hawaii.

I got to talking with the woman behind the counter about the different fishing vessels that supply to the restaurant.  Apparently, her uncle has a fishing vessel named Rayann that sometimes appears on the menu's specials.  That day the F/V Anna Marie, from Louisanna,  had provided glorious Grilled Prawns on "Kisur" Bulgur Salad.  Kisur is a traditional Turkish Salad made with Green Almonds & Mint.  The Bulgur is a wheat grain similar to a cous cous.  The Shrimp actually stood on their own.  They tasted so fresh and succulent.

Drew claims the side of Grilled Frisee with Roasted Beets to have had the best Chevre he ever tasted.  It was smooth and creamy.  I enjoyed how fluffy it was.  I also liked the Tarragon vinaigrette that was drizzled all over the dish.

One dish you must order when you eat at FISH. is their Crab Roll.  It is their West Coast rendition of the East Coast favorite.  They use Sweet Dungeness Crab served atop a toasted ACME torpedo roll with organic butter and sweet chives.  I split the sandwich with Drew.  He noticed how fast my half  went and was kind enough to give me his last bite.  What a good friend...

As if we didn't order enough food, we took it even further, when we decided to share dessert.  We ordered the Buñuelis Con Dulce de Leche.  It was 3 scoops of Cinnamon Ice Cream in a crispy tortilla shell topped w/ Housemade Dulce de Leche Sauce.  It quickly disappeared and we headed back to the City with satisfied bellies. I sure love having the weekdays off.  We shall see how long this lasts. ;)

All photos were shot by William Drew Story.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What A 'Nido" Oven!

Sunday, I invited Lori up to Sonoma with me for a very special occasion.  My friends Ashley and Mark from Concreteworks were hosting an event at SCRIBE Winery.  Mark and Nico from Chez Panisse created this incredible oven called the Nido Oven.  "Nido means 'nest' in Italian, but this oven is uniquely designed and fabricated of refractory concrete. The interior dimensions have been used for centuries, but the exterior dimensions are limitless in their geometry and cladding." It was created in the spirit of slow cooking and nature. And it truly was a masterpiece.


Lori and sipped on some of the wine from the farm.  We even met Adam, a young farmer who is part of the family that owns the plot. He seemed so content.  I looked around and understood why.  

I moved on to Racer 5 when I finally noticed the keg and we began to eat several slices of the most delicious pizza.  Nico and crew were making extraordinary concoctions from the oven. There was definitely a few varieties of cheese and meat.  There were fresh greens, fresh thyme from the farm.  It all tasted like a bit of heaven as we baked in the sun on a glorious day.


We chatted up the other party patrons and made new friends.  Everyone was enjoying the experience as much as we were. You could not ask for more.  It was a splendid afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  I need to do it more often.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spring Weather Feels Hot, Like Summer

                                                    BEFORE
We are having brilliant weather this weekend.  And when the sun is shining and one is hungry, sitting outside at Foreign Cinema is in order.  I was incredibly caffeinated and on quite the adrenaline kick from boxing class, when I finally sat down to eat yesterday.  I was with Drew and we decided to share a salad with Sweet Gem romaine, cara cara oranges and baby beets dressed in creamy citrus.  There was an awesome smoked trout toast that was sitting on top.  The colors on the plate looked amazing in the sunlight.  It was as good as it looked.
                                                     AFTER
Speaking of looking and tasting good, Foreign Cinema's fruit "Pop Tart" was either an apple butter or kumquat marmalade, according to the menu.  We got the apple butter one as a wonderful gift from our server.

Sipping on my Midas Touch, a brew from Dogfish Head, I looked around at the cast of characters eating on the patio. I could smell the bacon being slow cooked in the kitchen.  And the smell came closer to table, when another gift from the kitchen arrived. The brown sugar sure enhances the bacon, to another hemisphere. That is certainly where I went when I shoved a piece in my mouth.  I put a piece of it on Foreign Cinema's ground natural hamburger as well. I had half of Drew's actually, as I ordered the Grilled mahi mahi sandwich on organic focaccia with spicy lime mayo and a spicy slaw.  There was a definite hint of curry in the that mayo, I tell you.  The burger came on a Kaiser roll with grilled onion and a Dijon mayo.  Both dishes came with frittes too.   


As we chowed down I ordered another beer. The St. Feuillien Triple from Belgium seemed to fit both the fish and the meat I had on my plate.  It was wonderful to be enjoying the always impressive experience I have at this establishment.