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Is the cuisine so boring or just bad that you have to ask for alternatives?

yes, I also go to the BI fairly regularly, and I would never get a place without a kitchen now. It's a great place to cook.

Apr 06, 2014
susancinsf in General Topics

Is the cuisine so boring or just bad that you have to ask for alternatives?

I've never been to Germany, but I will say that, if you don't count potatoes, I had a similar issue in Zeeland, in the Netherlands. Granted it was years ago, but a typical meal in all the restaurants was a piece of meat, accompanied by three types of potatoes (usually fries, tater tots, and boiled). It got old fast. Fortunately, the cheeses made up for it, and Belgium wasn't far away....

Thinking of the cheese raises another issue that I've found in some places I've travelled: there are areas of the world where the restaurants may be either not too great, geared mostly to tourists, and/or either poor or really pricey, but where great ingredients are availabe in the markets and shops. Unfortunately, if one doesn't have the foresight to rent a place with a kitchen, it may limit the opportunity to take advantage of those ingredients, other than those like cheese that don't need prep other than a knife. The Big Island of Hawaii comes immediately to mind.....not to mention my current home town of Merced, where there are great ingredients to cook 'local' but where for the most part the good restaurants feature cuisine that is not local (such as Thai...)

Apr 06, 2014
susancinsf in General Topics

Iyasare (former O Chame space) [Berkeley]

I was there a few weeks ago (mid-March), dining alone at the bar...there were several miscues, including never getting one dish, and I also had the impression that it was the kitchen driving the (somewhat off) pacing. The missed dish was the crab okonomi, but in truth I had ordered plenty without it, and it gives me an excuse to go back to try it. Go back I will, because the food for the most part was indeed delicious and exciting with outstanding execution. My tongue was not chewy, loved the flavor. I had a really lovely halibut dish, IIRC, but forget to take any notes and don't see it on the current menu. The scallop was also terrific. My favorite dish, however, was the Fuyu dessert, with lemon, black sesame, grapefruit: best dessert that I have had in a long time, anywhere. Perfectly balanced, vibrant flavors.

While groups larger than four or so might be difficult inside (though I did see a group of six crammed into one of the back booths), it should be noted that there is a fairly large outdoor patio, with heat lamps. It was cool and thus the patio was mostly empty the night I was there, but I suspect moving tables would work there to accomodate a slightly bigger group on a warm night.

Apr 05, 2014
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Unisex bathrooms in restaurants

I can't cite the source, but I am almost certain that there have been studies that show that seat covers actually spread germs more than prevent them: because most germs are spread via the hands, so when you put the seat cover down on the seat you are more likely to touch and then transfer whatever you touch, than by just sitting down. So assuming this is true, (and I operate under the assumption that it is), wiping off a seat with a towel is the worst thing you could do (better to go to another stall or just squat). But then, I don't worry too much about germs either, at least in the public bathroom context. Was it our mother's housekeeping? :-)

What I don't get in this discussion is the assumption that men would bring germs more than women. I don't believe the germs are in the urine as much as in feces, and women would be just as likely to leave that behind as men, wouldn't they? Then again, apparently urine may not be sterile, although the research I've seen only focuses on women's urine, not men: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/...

Mar 31, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

Dressing to eat out in SF?

>The suits are saved for 'marrying and burying'< reminds me of what happened to hubby recently: he wore a suit to a recent UC Berkeley Hall of Fame induction for a relative (which I told him was unnecessary: it was Berkeley after all, but he wanted to honor the honoree): anyway, he felt something in his pocket and pulled out the program from his nephew's wedding three years ago (the last time he wore said suit).

For dinner at Sons & Daughters that same weekend he wore dockers. The solo diner at a nearby table was in what RL would call 'developer' dress. If it hadn't been a celebration of my 60th birthday hubby probably would have worn developer dress as well.

I remember my father insisting that my sister and I get dressed up (actual dresses, nice shoes, hair nicely combed, a nice purse) when we were twelve or so, to attend an anti-war rally in the City. :-)

Mar 08, 2014
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Ruth's annual birthday dinner dilemma -- 2014 edition

I also thought about Rivoli, but also figured it was likely a bit 'old hat' for Ruth, given how long it has been there...

Mar 02, 2014
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Ruth's annual birthday dinner dilemma -- 2014 edition

Ruth, have you been to Bocanova? I really enjoyed the food my one visit maybe a year or two ago, and it has a celebratory feel. It is bustling (though not noisier than Perbacco) and is a big enough space that they may be able to find a quiet corner for you.

Mar 02, 2014
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Ruth's annual birthday dinner dilemma -- 2014 edition

Speaking of Perbacco and surviving the curse, I walked by it the other night and noticed a 'notice of change of ownership' sign in the window. Hopefully this will not mean any significant change in quality.

Mar 02, 2014
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Ruth's annual birthday dinner dilemma -- 2014 edition

I agree that Duende is waaayyyy too loud. Uncomfortably so, on my one recent visit. Much louder than La Ciccia, just to give one example that doesn't seem to fit Ruth's bill, and La Ciccia is not a quiet place. As I mentioned in a prior post, the loudness at Duende was largely due to the live music happening that (Sunday) night, but even when the music stopped it was loud.

Mar 02, 2014
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Any transplants from LA to SF (or vice versa I suppose) that would enjoy a discussion of food/restaurant theory?

well-spaced tables are important to me. Sons & Daughters called to ask about my preferences before my reservation; I told them I'd eat almost anything but would truly appreciate a well spaced table. They noted they were small, but would do their best, especially since it was a milestone birthday. Sure enough, they gave us a four top in the window in the little room to the left as you enter. Perfect for us, and definitely better spaced than some of two tops. It probably helped that we dined early on a school (Sunday) night.

Mar 02, 2014
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Any transplants from LA to SF (or vice versa I suppose) that would enjoy a discussion of food/restaurant theory?

In response to mdg: I also would love the idea of a truly 'no tip' restaurant: I actually was a bit surprised that Sons & Daughters would add a tip, but then make it only 15%, which I consider too low.

As for pampered, I'd be curious what you mean by pampered. If you mean more high end ingredients (caviar, etc.) that could well be worth the additional tab to me (Depending upon the ingredient). If however, you mean that the service was more formal or more engaged, I am not sure I'd need or even want that, personally. It is hard enough to drag hubby to a high-end place as it is; if he thought it was going to be very formal I might have had to celebrate my xxx birthday without him! (though of course, it was only one of a series of celebration meals, including a decidedly low-end dim sum meal, and a mid-range meal with my twin, BIL and hubby at La Ciccia, where we were pampered in the way La Ciccia does best, that is, shown a whole lot of love, in cooking and in service, by owners Max and Lorella....)

Mar 02, 2014
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Any transplants from LA to SF (or vice versa I suppose) that would enjoy a discussion of food/restaurant theory?

I get to LA fairly often, both for work and because family (my daughter, SIL and grandkids) live there. Last trip a month ago, next trip this next week, two trips altogether in the month of March. It is true that when I am there I am inclined to seek out what I can't get at home, and that often includes the low end options, especially when I am on the relatively limited expense reimbursement parameters of my (public, tax payer supported) employer, or have a five year old granddaughter in tow (although one thing I do think is a relative strength in LA is mid range Mexican. 'Ethnic food' and fine dining are not mutually exclusive. )

My point about the cost of S&D vs say, Aziza or Incanto is that it is enough more expensive that I wouldn't want to mislead other hounds who are slogging through this thread, that it is comparable in cost. It isn't: it is a whole LOT more expensive. The other difference is that with a set menu only, there aren't options to keep cost down once one is there, other than not indulging in the wine pairing of course. It is also a style difference. Obviously, however, it isn't in the same league as French Laundry, so I get why categorization can be difficult. As to how much different the experience is than say, the French Laundry, I couldn't say, since I have never been to the latter. I can say that it is very different than Aziza, Incanto, Slanted Door, etc.

Mar 02, 2014
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Any transplants from LA to SF (or vice versa I suppose) that would enjoy a discussion of food/restaurant theory?

$98, seven small courses and an amuse, plus at least three different breads paired with some of the courses (all bread baked in house, all lovely). The wine pairing, with generous pours, was $68. There is a mandatory 15% tip included on all bills, we added another 5%. Some of the best service I've had in a long time: friendly, welcoming, very well timed.

Mar 01, 2014
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Any transplants from LA to SF (or vice versa I suppose) that would enjoy a discussion of food/restaurant theory?

BacoMan: I ate at Sons & Daughters last Sunday night. With tax and tip, it was just about $375, and only one of us had alcohol (the wine pairing for one, the other had only sparkling water and coffee). Not my idea of mid-range, and I wouldn't compare it to any of the other SF mid range places on your above list that I've tried (Aziza, Delfina, Incanto, Slanted Door), where my meals have typically been less than half that price, sometimes considerably less than half. Then again, I haven't eaten at any of the LA places you list as mid-range (I am in the camp that the LA region shines at lower range spots, particularly Mexican if one chooses carefully, Korean, Chinese, other Asian...), I have eaten at Providence, but only for brunch, which wasn't in the same sphere as S & D at all. The only 'high end' on your list in SF I've tried is Coi, which didn't impress, but that was years ago. Here's my brief mention way back when:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5721...

As for S & D, I had a wonderful time, loved the space (I thought we had the best table in the house but then my idea of what makes a table great may be a bit idiosyncratic), really enjoyed the wine pairing, and thought the food was delicious although not necessarily revelatory (the beet dish, which is usually on the menu, was particularly memorable, as was a Norwegian salmon.) The food, service and experience were well worth the tab. Most importantly, I had fun: while the food is mostly formal in presentation and composition, the service and vibe are definitely not formal, which hubby-the-restaurant-hater appreciated.

I'd definitely return to Sons and Daughters, though at that price point I may have to wait for the next very special occasion (I was there for a milestone birthday with a zero and many, many decades involved.).

Mar 01, 2014
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Any transplants from LA to SF (or vice versa I suppose) that would enjoy a discussion of food/restaurant theory?

huh? I thought you liked the place. (Chez Panisse).

Mar 01, 2014
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

If you were forced to spend a big zero birthday working....

Report Back: I decided to go with Cedar for the big night. The menu appealed, it was within the price range, the location worked well. It turned out to be the right choice; everyone, including me, enjoyed it quite a bit.

They put us in a semi-private area that was separated with a curtain from the main room; it was comfortable, quiet, but had just enough buzz to be celebratory. I noticed that there is a private room in the back, though it may have been too small for our group.

The evening got off to a good start with champagne cocktails; yum. my boss ordered the wine for dinner, a very nice cab.

Several of us had an oyster stew with sausage as an app, which was delicious: plump fresh oysters, broth had a kick. I had roasted cod as a main and it was perfectly cooked, loved the red rice base. My co-worker who had a pork loin commented that it was very nicely done, and not overcooked in the way pork often can be. The vegetarians both had a mushroom tart and liked it; the boss had beef and also was happy.

I tasted two of the desserts: sticky toffee cake, which was ok but nothing special, and the coconut tres leches cake with passionfruit sorbet, which was out of this world: lovely light texture, sorbet full of flavor and not too sweet. I'd go back just for that dessert.

Service was fine, they handled the group well, and the bill was well within my parameters for reimbursement.

I definitely would go back and recommend it for a business dinner.

As for the next night, my friend and I went to Zaytinya, first time there for both of us, and I wish I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Cedar, but I did not, which quite surprised me. They gave us a great table, and service was ok (not outstanding), but the real problem was that the food was good, but somewhat heavy and boring. Perhaps we ordered wrong, and I will say that my companion was willing to eat anything at all except lamb, which she dislikes (had I known that I might have gone elsewhere.) Even the seafood dishes we had (scallops, crab cakes) managed to be heavy, due to sauces and presentation. My cocktail, the Serefe, was also unbalanced, and tasted mostly of cinnamon. Cinnamon isn't even an advertised ingredient, (unless it is in Averna, the italian liquor that is one of the components?).

I will have to give Zaytinya another try, but I am actually more interested in returning to Cedar. Who would have figured?

Most of the rest of the trip consisted of lunches on the run while trudging through the snow to and from meetings, but one more quick food note: the Hyatt Arlington restaurant, Cityview, has an above average breakfast buffet (made to order omelets done with a light hand, and the omelet cook also knows how to make eggs over easy), and a very good burger: I asked for medium rare and that is how it came, accompanied by nicely done fries and a good local beer on tap.

So, thanks hounds, for the suggestions!

Mar 01, 2014
susancinsf in Washington DC & Baltimore

Truckee - Casa Baeza

Wow...those are some of the best looking albondigas I've seen in a long time...on the list to stop at to or from Janet's! I must say, though, not as sure about the margarita based on the pic: are you saying it has no mix? To me, that sort of fluorescent yellow-green appearance would be an indication of mix, clear or not. perhaps it is just the lighting?

Feb 13, 2014
susancinsf in California

If you were forced to spend a big zero birthday working....

I've had dinner at Firefly, though it has been a few years. Indeed, I found my old post:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/377472

Looking back, i can't remember the food at all, although I can remember that I liked the drinks, but I do remember the ambiance as being more casual, and not quite as celebratory, as I would like for this meal.

Jan 31, 2014
susancinsf in Washington DC & Baltimore

If you were forced to spend a big zero birthday working....

So, one of the group has more ties in DC than I do and had the following comments: She doesn't see Cedar as 'festive' because it is underground. but then, she is half my age. Should I take her perception of the ambiance with a grain of salt?

She also asked me to throw italian in the mix. Did a quick search on the board and came up with Fiola, but that is definitely out of the price range. Any thoughts on CasaLuca?

and one final note: I love good cheese selections. Proof appealed for that reason.....

Jan 31, 2014
susancinsf in Washington DC & Baltimore

If you were forced to spend a big zero birthday working....

Thanks for the suggestions thus far, to all of you.

I looked at Corduroy, and it did appeal, other than price. Proof was also a bit pricey, but Central is a bit less (I am assuming you all are referring to Central Michel Richard, right?). My major concern is whether they'd be noisy; I called to inquire about space and got a non-committal answer to the question about whether the table could be in a quiet location. (they do have private dining, but I don't want that: it will end up costing more as some of the group won't want a full three course or more meal and will spend less than the per person amount for private dining). and, when I called there was lots of noise in the background, though it was lunch time. Second concern: i didn't see ANY vegetarian options on the Central menu. Has anyone been with a vegetarian? (I figure with a group of ten folks, all from California, that the odds are at least one is vegetarian :-)) More thoughts?

Jan 31, 2014
susancinsf in Washington DC & Baltimore

If you were forced to spend a big zero birthday working....

Sigh. I have a birthday with a zero coming up in a few weeks, on a Tuesday night. Thanks to the fall shutdown, a work trip to federal agencies got postponed, and the best date for everyone but me was my XX birthday. Numerous decades involved, and enough said on that, since I am in serious denial. On the actual day, I need to entertain a group of ten and I don't know much about their food preferences, allergies, etc. Moreover, to fit our expense parameters, it would help if entrees were in the low to mid twenties. Fortunately, my boss will be along, and happily understands that under the circumstances he will need to buy a bottle or three or four of very nice wine (which can't be expensed since we work for a public agency ourselves).

A few more parameters: for budget reasons, we are staying in Arlington, and unless the weather is really bad would prefer to take metro into DC, but I will be darned if I am going to spend my big birthday at someplace in Arlington (am I wrong? If so why?). So, I would strongly prefer to be within a few blocks of a station. I hate herding cats, and it will be easier to do without a lot of walking involved. Secondly, the group varies quite a bit in age, so while some would probably appreciate a 'happening' spot, the rest are more sedate (like me :-)) and probably wouldn't. Finally, I'd like a quiet place where we would have a chance of at least discussing the day's meetings and getting a chance to know each other better. I am totally open on type of cuisine.

Since the day in question is a weeknight finding spots that will take a group doesn't seem to be a huge issue. I've considered Zaytinya, and may go there the next night with just a friend, but I am worried that not all the group will appreciate small plates, and that it will be too noisy. I've had a very nice dinner previously at Bistro Bis, but it is just a bit pricier than my expense account will allow.

Based on the menu and the photos, I am considering Cedar. Sure, it looks a bit sedate, but sedate is good when you turn xxx.....

So, where would you go?

And bonus points for where I could go the next night, just with a good friend who is also a colleague, to blow off steam about how I had to spend my xxx birthday with my boss at a business dinner...?

(and don't feel too sorry for my whining, as the real celebration will be most of the previous weekend in San Francisco :-))

Any ideas appreciated!

Jan 31, 2014
susancinsf in Washington DC & Baltimore

Mexican in downtown Raleigh

I was in Raleigh for a meeting about a year ago and had a very good dinner that definitely exceeded my expectations at Jibarra, and was going to recommend it....but just realized it has closed since then. Sorry to see that. However, the website gets re-directed to Jose and Sons, so I guess perhaps there is a connection? Anyway, based on that and the menu, I'd definitely give it a whirl if I were back in town.

Jan 17, 2014
susancinsf in Southeast

Duende in Oakland

Like most of those reporting on this thread, I was very pleased with the food and service on my visit with hubby and two friends over the holidays. However, must disagree on the 'good noise control', at least on our visit. We also sat along the west side, and it was impossible to even hold a conversation. Given the quality of the food and the drink options and the style of the place, that otherwise encourages lingering, that was a real disappointment. There was a show upstairs that (Sunday) night, and I think we happened to go on a night when the show was particularly loud and jarring. Since there is often music Sunday nights, I'd check the line up and ask questions about the nature of the band before going back.

Jan 14, 2014
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

What's for Dinner #266 - The Arctic Polar Vortex Edition [through January 10, 2014]

been a long while since I ate there, but my recommendation is: whichever way you go at Matyson, don't skip dessert!

Jan 08, 2014
susancinsf in Home Cooking

What's for Dinner #265 - Into the Deep Freeze Edition! (through Jan. 6, 2014)

There is a truly excellent Mexican restaurant in Lodi. Alebrijes. Check it out next time you get stuck. :-)

Jan 06, 2014
susancinsf in Home Cooking

locking discussion http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/929742

eh, I thought there was an awful lot of trolling going on in that one....

Jan 04, 2014
susancinsf in Site Talk

The Great American Sunday Dinner

I had forgotten about Maya-Azteca: where Vo's is now. Of course, the cilantro was not for my Dad: he loved most things Mexican, but not cilantro. He falls into the 'it tastes like soap' category. Fortunately, none of us kids inherited that.

Edited to add: yes, eating street foods with friends didn't hurt in developing a 'hound tendency. But I still think it was already there, thanks to Sunday dinners out at variety of ethnic places...

Jan 02, 2014
susancinsf in General Topics

Oldest Chinese Restaurant in Bay Area

Yes, I first ate at the Silver Dragon in either 1964 or 1965 and had the impression it had been around at least a few years then. However, it wasn't in its current location: it was across the street and down a bit, more or less (possibly exactly, but after all these years I can't remember for sure :-)) where Shanghai is now.

Dec 30, 2013
susancinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

How to word invitation- not paying for drinks

'If they don't mind people bringing booze, I can't shake the impression that they're just being cheap.'

Really? I don't get it.

I can't figure out why anyone who was 'just being cheap' would host a dinner party for friends. It seems to be thinking the worst of people to assume that their reasons are 'cheapness' as opposed to say, having personal reasons for not wanting to pay for alcohol, or say, not being able to afford hosting drinks. I am really bothered by the idea that someone would think poorly of another for choosing to invite some friends or family to dinner, with a menu of the hosts' choosing.

Dec 30, 2013
susancinsf in Not About Food
2

Fina Estampa, Merced, Report

well, to be clear....I am judging it on the Merced scale. I can definitely get better albondigas in LA. In Merced, perhaps not. Have you tried the pescado?

Dec 29, 2013
susancinsf in California