Ruth Lafler's Profile

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Cotton Candy Grapes

I bought some at Nob Hill in Alameda about three weeks ago. They really do taste like cotton candy (I verified that it's not just the power of suggestion by asking a friend who didn't know what they were what they tasted like, and she promptly replied "cotton candy"). They're very expensive, though, and since they're super-sweet, really more of a novelty than anything I'd buy on a regular basis.

SF in January

Thanks for the clarification. I saw a list online that looked pretty extensive -- perhaps it was out of date. In any case, it's certainly better than R&G's!

SF in January

Since the poster indicated he and his wife were particularly interested in wine, Great China is recommended over R&G because of its wine list. Great China has an amazing wine list -- better than most western-style restaurants, let alone Asian restaurants.

Preparation for Cheese of the Month-November 2014-Brie

"Underripe brie has virtually no flavor." Yup. I'll add that brie straight out of the fridge has virtually no flavor. I wonder if more Americans would appreciate cheese if it was served at the correct ripeness and temperature!

Oct 19, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Cheese

Suggestions for November Cheese of the Month

That question has been asked more than once! http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/623779

Oct 19, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Cheese

Local cheese challenge!

"Who knew" -- EXACTLY! All this good cheese going on right under our noses.

One challenge for artisan cheesemakers in the US is that many (if not most of them) are still in start-up phase. As one of the cheesemakers noted last night, they don't have decades (or even centuries) of infrastructure behind them that's all paid for. So their costs -- and thus their prices -- are higher than a lot of European cheeses. I think one reason that so many American cheesemakers make goat cheese is that it's relatively less expensive to raise goats than cows, they produce more milk per pound, it can be done on less land, etc.

Oct 17, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Cheese

SF in January

Oh, and instead of the overrated (in my opinion) Gott's, why don't you hit up a couple of taco trucks for a real local experience. Maria Lorraine, whose opinions I trust implicitly, has recommended La Luna market in Rutherford "for lunch burritos, and the taco trucks."

Local cheese challenge!

I forgot to mention another cheese that surprised me: SeaHive by Beehive from Utah. I'd tried a couple of their cheeses before and not been impressed, but this was delicious, with a faint note of honey (not sweet) on the finish: "From the land of salt and honey. Our SeaHive is hand-rubbed with wildflower honey harvested from a local farm and RealSalt® sea salt. RealSalt® is harvested from an ancient sea bed near Redmond, Utah and contains unique flecks of color from more than 50 natural trace minerals."

Oct 17, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Cheese

SF in January

I don't think your dinner list looks particularly compelling. Given your priorities, I think you should drop some of your more French places from consideration (RN-74, Bouchon, Bistro Jeanty, La Folie, Gary Danko). Also Boulevard. I'd bump Ame up the list. You might want to consider one of the more cutting edge but not Saison/French Laundry expensive (under $100/per person for food) prix fixe places (AQ, Sons and Daughters, Commonwealth (Commonwealth also has an a la carte menu)).

I know you said SF proper, but instead of MY China, you might want to consider heading over to Berkeley (you can take BART) to Great China, which serves real Chinese food (many posts here about what to order) and has a great wine list. If it matters to you, it just got a Michelin Bib Gourmand recommendation.

Local cheese challenge!

I attended a "meet the cheesemaker" fundraiser for the California Artisan Cheese Guild last night in San Francisco. There were cheeses from Cypress Grove, Beehive, Cowgirl Creamery, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery, Bleating Heart Cheese, Epicurean Connection, Valley Ford Cheese Co, Tomales Farmstead Creamery, Achadinha Cheese, Shamrock Goat Cheese, Pug's Leap, Laurel Chenel Chevre, Marin French Cheese Co, Sierra Cheese, Shamrock, Ewetopia, Weirauch Creamery, Orland Farmstead, Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. Bellwether Farms, Penny Royal, Barinaga Ranch and Gypsy Cheese, plus I think a few more. Mostly from Marin and Sonoma Counties (north of San Francisco) but a couple from the Central Valley and one (Beehive) from Utah.

As fellow cheesehound Windy said, it was interesting in part because most of the cheese makers are doing a similar style, or similar range of offerings so it was easy to make a direct comparison and also to get a sense of terrior.

It was great to be able to talk to the cheesemakers and interesting to hear about how they're handling the drought. Bleating Heart, for example, said that they made their mixed-milk blue cheese in part because it allowed them to empty two tanks of milk without cleaning the lines in between, saving water.

I was familiar with most of these cheesemakers. The standout new discovery for me was Tomales Farmstead Creamery, with their aged goat-sheep milk cheese Atika ("Atika is a blend of sheep and goat milk in roughly equal parts, this 3- to 4-pound tomme smells like warm melted butter and crème fraiche. The rind is hard, dry and deeply marked by the draining basket. The firm, dry paste has numerous small openings, and the flavor is buttery and tart." - review by Janet Fletcher) and their soft-ripened goat milk cheese Kenne ("Kenne’s interior paste is delicate, and its thin rind adheres well to the cheese. Its flavor is mild and lactic, with notes of cream and yeast. There is a faint hint of citrus on the finish." -- Word on Cheese Culture). I was also impressed by the Valley Ford Estero Reserve. The Estero is an excellent cheese, but the reserve has the lovely caramelly notes of an aged gouda with just a hint of crystals.

Oct 17, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Cheese
1

Suggestions for November Cheese of the Month

Exactly.

Oct 17, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Cheese

Suggestions for November Cheese of the Month

Let's bump this up and see if we can get some more response.

I have what may seem like an odd suggestion: brie. There are lots of bries out there, and everyone thinks they know what "brie" is. But some of those bries aren't worth eating and some are delicious. Let's see if we can explore and find the good ones.

North Beach/Telegraph Hill/Chinatown [San Francisco]

Focaccia at Liguria Bakery. Golden Gate Bakery.

Hog Island is a good place to wind up, kick back, enjoy the view, etc.

Michelin Bib Gourmand 2015 list for Bay Area released; Kin Khao, Z&Y among the added, Slanted Door and Burma Superstar booted.

From the linked twitter feed?

Trou Normand [San Francisco]

Yikes! I didn't realize it was this bad: http://sfist.com/2014/10/09/heres_how...

Ironically, I work right next to Salesforce-ville (their largest offices at 50 Fremont at Mission, with the new Salesforce building going up on the opposite corner and Salesforce Tower being the new name for the Transbay Terminal tower on the other opposite corner) and it's pretty normal.

Not many gripes about Costco . Is it worth it for one ?

I have a 93 walk score, and I still shop at Costco once or twice a month. The closest one is about five miles away, and as other people have noted, I combine it with other things I do in that direction (it's just off the freeway in the direction I go for my volunteer work, to visit my sister, etc.). However, if it wasn't that convenient I doubt it would make sense to have a membership.

Oct 15, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Chains

Not many gripes about Costco . Is it worth it for one ?

Have you tried the Kirkland cuts and gravy? Also highly rated.

Oct 15, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Chains

Trader Joe's YAY/MEH/NAY - October 2014

I've ignored all the raves for the rosemary raisin crisps until recently. Shame on me! Big Yay from me, too.

Big NAY for the Bolognese ravioli. Nasty.

Oct 13, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Chains
1

Not many gripes about Costco . Is it worth it for one ?

Costco also carries a grain-free line of pet foods. The canned dog food is good quality, too. What's sad is that they also carry Beneful. I hate to see people passing up the much superior Kirkland foods for the brand name (which gets the lowest possible rating on dogfoodadvisor) because they think it's better.

Oct 13, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Chains

Names for parts of a cheese

The outside of the cheese is the rind.

Rinds can be hard, washed, waxed or bloomy.

The inside is the paste.

Is there a name for the gooey layer between the bloomy rind and the paste in some soft-ripened cheeses?

What are other words that describe parts of a cheese?

Oct 12, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Cheese

Dim sum close to 5th and Mission [San Francisco]

She asked for "great" though, not "pretty good" which means Yank Sing is realistically the only option.

East End (Alameda)

I'm starting a new thread because the old ones are out of date (some dating back to the pizza-only prior location).

I dropped in last night and was tempted away from the pizza by some offerings on the new fall menu. It was hard to make a decision, but I finally went with the first thing that had caught my eye: a half-portion of the vermicelli carbonara, which I combined with an order of the roasted cauliflower. They were both excellent. The carbonara was served with the egg yolk intact, to be mixed with the hot pasta at the table. I was concerned that the egg wouldn't cook enough and at first it looked a little wet and slimy, but I let it sit for a couple of minutes, tossed it again, and it thickened up. I'm used to a little more cheese in my carbonara, but this was plenty rich with little chunks of crisp fried guanciale.

The cauliflower (pan roasted; taggiasca olives, smoked paprika, fried garlic) spoke of fall with its smokiness, the richness of the olives and the golden sweetness of the fried garlic. The risotto #1 (butternut squash, caramelized onion, kale, sage, brown butter, pecorino) and the ribbon pasta with pork & lamb ragu and shaved parm were also tempting.

Finally, going with the fall theme, I succumbed to the pear carmel tart with ginger ice cream for dessert. I always feel like I want a little less restraint from the desserts here (sweeter, butterier, more intense flavors), but this was still quite delicious.

Total for three dishes was $33 with tax but before tip.

Champa Garden (Oakland) report

I would never order salmon in a Chinese or Southeast Asian restaurant -- it's not native to those waters and I don't think it goes well with the flavor profiles.

Dinner on a Tuesday?

Thanks! In reading through other posts, Naha kept popping up. Do you think it's appropriate for a solo female diner? Am I going to have to dress up?

Oct 08, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Chicago Area

Champa Garden (Oakland) report

Yes, but I was mildly surprised that it could work off just the name of the restaurant, not an address.

Champa Garden (Oakland) report

Yes, it's a Penang red curry sauce.

ETA: Google is getting scary. I typed in "Lake Merritt BART to Champa Garden" and the directions came right up. You can take a bus (the 62) from Lake Merritt BART to Champa Garden. Probably about the same as taking BART plus bus to Faxon.

Dinner on a Tuesday?

I'm going to be in Chicago at the end of the month for Monday morning through Wednesday morning. I've got a reservation for lunch at Topolobampo on Tuesday and after reading this board I thought I'd try to hit Purple Pig late afternoon for an early dinner on Monday.

That leaves Tuesday dinner. I had my heart set on North Pond, only to find it's not open on Monday or Tuesday.

Coming from San Francisco, looking for something that epitomizes the current Chicago food scene but under $100 (not including alcohol). Dining solo, so a place with a lively but not date-y atmosphere (perhaps a nice eat-in bar) would be preferred. Also, since it's illegal in California, I thought I might indulge in some seared foie gras.

Suggestions?

Oct 08, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Chicago Area

Last Visit Coming up to Chicago

Thanks, I made a reservation for lunch during my upcoming visit.

Oct 08, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Chicago Area

Last Visit Coming up to Chicago

Thanks for the tip on lunch at Topolobampo. Do you need reservations for lunch?

Oct 07, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Chicago Area

Chris Cosentino Deeply Regrets Television Appearances

A snarky one.

Oct 07, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Food Media & News