Ruth Lafler's Profile

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London broil ragu?

What's commonly called "London broil" in California meat counters is top round. According to the cook's thesaurus: "Notes: These are thick steaks cut from the top round. They're usually broiled, braised, or cooked in a liquid. A London broil is name of a finished dish, but this cut is sometimes given that name."

Aug 28, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Home Cooking

What I Learned After Taking a Homeless Mother Grocery Shopping

Yes, depression is a factor. It's also been shown that poverty causes cognitive impairment.

Surprise Trip to San Francisco

One more question: where are you from? There's no point in recommending the kinds of places that you might have at home.

I'll throw in a rec for AQ. You're going to be here on Monday, and a lot of places are closed, so I'd schedule around your Monday options and work from there.

you go away for a week, and the food you miss most is....

There's more ice in Europe than there used to be.

What I Learned After Taking a Homeless Mother Grocery Shopping

Yes, not every homeless person is living in a shelter or on the streets. One is living in my tool shed. I'll note that there are other negative health side effects of not having access to refrigeration or cooking facilities: they tend to gorge on food when they have it, since they can't store it, and they're also more likely to eat food that's unsafe. Just imagine the misery of being homeless with food poisoning!

Aug 27, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Food Media & News

What I Learned After Taking a Homeless Mother Grocery Shopping

I just said something similar above. In Oakland, for example, while the African-American neighborhoods could be classified as "food deserts" the Chinese, Vietnamese and Hispanic neighborhoods have lots of markets -- big and small -- offering fresh foods. I often buy produce there because the selection and prices are better than the standard supermarket. I actually rarely buy produce at a supermarket -- I either buy it at a farmers market or in Chinatown or Mi Pueblo.

Aug 27, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Food Media & News

What I Learned After Taking a Homeless Mother Grocery Shopping

I think what's more apropos is that immigrants tend to live in communities where they share resources (like cooking, child care, etc.). The American culture of individualism and self-reliance with the idealization of nuclear families that live in separate, self-sufficient households has really hurt poor communities.

In addition, immigrants are more likely to be from places where knowing how to cook and make the most of inexpensive ingredients was the norm. Many Americans are two or more generations from having someone in the kitchen making from-scratch meals on a daily basis. Even if they had access to fresh produce they wouldn't necessarily know what to do with it. And it becomes a vicious cycle: people don't buy produce so stores don't stock it, especially since unlike shelf goods, produce has a very limited shelf life and a significant percentage will have to be thrown away -- and thus a "food desert" is born. Immigrant neighborhoods are usually dotted with corner grocery stores selling relatively inexpensive produce.

Lunch off I-93: Concord or Manchester

Thanks for the rec. We stopped at Beefside between Montpelier and Boston and got some great sandwiches.

Varenichnaya in Brighton Beach, Russian

Exploring exotic Brooklyn, I followed my chow-senses to this place last week. Although the menu is in English, I also used the tried and true method of asking about things that looked good on neighboring tables.

Russian cuisine is not well represented in the Bay Area where I live, so I can't make a comparative judgement, but objectively the food was delicious. In addition to the pelmeni and vareniki, I also enjoyed one of the "salads." An article posted in the window also recommended their soup.

Aug 27, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Outer Boroughs

Whomever told me about Portuguese Express

My family was flying into Newark from San Francisco and staying over before heading out to Vermont the next day. I wanted a real "local" experience and a cuisine we don't see much of at all, so I followed your recommendation for Portugal Express. My parents loved it, both the food and the atmosphere. There was so much food we ended up taking half of it back to the hotel and making sandwiches the next day from the bread at the breakfast buffet.

Aug 27, 2014
Ruth Lafler in New Jersey

"Better Than Bouillon" - how long does it last once opened?

This mystifies me: if it won't spoil in a year what makes someone think it will spoil in two years? If it's going to spoil, it's going to spoil in weeks, not months. Companies are required to put "expiration" dates on food products. They are virtually meaningless. Often they're in indicator diminished quality, not safety.

Aug 26, 2014
Ruth Lafler in General Topics

Grocery Outlet August, 2014

Oakland had the President butter Monday. Also a small amount of the Lamb Chopper (aka "sheep on a cycle") cheese. Evergood bockwurst and bangers for $3.99.

Help a pressed for time NY Hound find the Asian food of her dreams?

The great thing about Battambang is that it's a short walk from the 12th street BART station, which makes it more convenient to downtown SF than many parts of the City.

June 2014 San Francisco Bay Area Restaurant Reviews by ALEDM

Thanks for the reviews! Good to have a perspective from such experienced world travelers. I just took a look at your blog and am now dying of envy for your lifestyle.

Totally Lost in Embarcadero with Co-Workers [San Francisco]

I always forget about Belden Place!

Totally Lost in Embarcadero with Co-Workers [San Francisco]

Welcome to San Francisco! The Hyatt Embarcadero is not in a particularly touristy area. Although it is near the Ferry Building, the immediately surrounding area is the financial district, and it can be fairly dead at night. Fortunately, there are worthile restaurants within walking distance (Perbacco and its more casual sister Barbacco; the classic, old-school seafood house Tadich). When I worked a block from there I considered Chinatown walking distance and Jackson Square (Cotogna) and the fringes of North Beach (you may or may not, depending on what you consider walking distance and how comfortable you are walking city streets at night). In addition, there's a major public transportation hub right in front of the hotel (BART, Muni and cable cars), so you can get to other parts of the city in minutes.

Reservations are always advisable unless you're dining solo, and note that a lot of restaurants are closed on either Monday or Tuesday.

I think for "ethnic" you can go one of two ways: you can head over to the Ferry Building and check out Slanted Door (upscale modern Vietnamese). It's probably not what you think of when you think of "authentic ethnic" but a lot of people love it, especially East Coasters. The other option would be to walk (or cab) into Chinatown. Clustered together on Jackson Street are three good options: Great Eastern for Cantonese seafood, Z&Y for Sichuan and Bund Shanghai for Shanghainese. Lots of posts on this board about specific things to order.

I'd also suggest that one night you take BART into the Mission for Mexican and/or the most hip, happening restaurants in the city.

Great Eastern's deep-fried pumpkin and egg yolk ball [San Francisco]

That's a good question. I just assumed it was a version of the pumpkin with salted egg yolk (where the egg yolk is the coating on the pumpkin/kabocha). But one should never assume!

Parmesan without the rind

Costco usually has parmagiano reggiano stravecchio for $13.99/lb. But then, they have the buying power to negotiate a good price. I've noticed Trader Joe's has the same cheese for about a dollar more (but you don't have to buy as much!).

Aug 07, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Cheese

MEAT DONENESS -- then and now

My mom likes them "bleu" -- sometimes we had to ask her to put it back to come out medium rare. Anything beyond that was overdone and "ruined."

Aug 07, 2014
Ruth Lafler in General Topics

Van deKamps cookies

I finally made the recipe and it was a lot of work but the cookies were delicious (and very close to the Dutch Girl cookies).

Aug 05, 2014
Ruth Lafler in General Topics

ethnic markets in EB (esp Afghan/Indian)

Mi Pueblo on High St. in Oakland is one of a chain of Mexican supermarkets. It's brighter and cleaner than most and they make their own tortillas in the store. I find the staff there to be super friendly and helpful.

Second the rec for Sun Hop Fat and Cross-roads World Market (although I like the one in Palo Alto better than the one in Hayward). For Vietnamese I usually go to Thien Loi Hoa Supermarket on E. 12 just because it's more convenient for me.

I like Damavand (Persian and Afghan) in Fremont, but I don't know how it stacks up against other markets in Fremont.

Grocery Outlet August, 2014

Sorry. I was at the Oakland store.

Grocery Outlet August, 2014

Stocked up on some pantry items:

33 cents/box of six, Swiss Miss dark chocolate hot chocolate mix (in the "last chance" shelves in the far corner near the bread)

$1.49 Knorr stock concentrate (both beef and chicken)

50 cents, cantaloupe

$2.50 Taylor salad "kits" (regularly $2.99 at GO) -- I'm lazy about making salad, so these are handy -- be sure to check the dates, since they can vary as much as a week on the same shelf

99 cents/12 oz Ekert "Angus beef smoked sausage" (use by was yesterday)

Still lots of Chuao bars @ $2.99: Panko, Anise, Maya, Firecracker and Honeycomb

What time is best to buy fish from the docks in HMB?

As sunnyside mentioned, a warm weekend afternoon causes horrible traffic in Half Moon Bay.

Where are the best Chinese restaurants in New York?

So because they "embrace" two specific Cantonese restaurants there can't be a "slight" anti-Cantonese bias? I'm not sure you can even say the board "embraces" R&G, because a lot of people think it's overrated or only good for seafood dishes. Furthermore, people rarely mention it unless someone asks for recommendations in Chinatown. On the other hand, there frequent reports and discussions of various regional Chinese places popping up (or changing hands/focus) in the Richmond and Sunset. There's currently a long discussion cataloging all the regional Chinese places.

Aug 02, 2014
Ruth Lafler in Food Media & News

Chocolate: What do you look for?

I've found I prefer New World chocolate. For example, I find Madagascar chocolates to be too acidic (which is odd, because I generally like high-acid foods). And I don't like super-high cocoa solids chocolates: they overwhelm my palate, and although I've run across a few exceptions, they tend to be too dry, losing the luxurious mouthfeel that is part of what makes chocolate so special. Something in the 65-75 percent range is usually ideal. Finally, all other things being equal, I prefer my chocolate without vanilla.

Aug 01, 2014
Ruth Lafler in General Topics

Chocolate: What do you look for?

These conversations are always interesting. There's a really wide range of ideas about what "fine" chocolate is, from people who are impressed by anything a step up from Hershey's to people who willingly spend $10+ for a 50-gram bar. Although I've tried very high-end bars, I seem to have settled in a mid-point. When you get over $8 a bar you're getting diminishing returns, and often, chocolatiers who are trying too hard. At $10 for a 50-gram bar you are paying over $100/lb.

Aug 01, 2014
Ruth Lafler in General Topics

Chocolate: What do you look for?

Do you prefer solid bars or bars with bits (nuts, toffee, fruit, etc.)?
Depends on my mood. I'd say 50-50

Do you prefer classic combinations, or new and different?
I'll try (almost) anything once. After trying many, many combinations I've come to the conclusion that the classics are classic for a reason. In particular, I don't like herbs or flowers in my chocolate, and although I like fruit and chocolate, I find the execution of most fruit combinations fails.

All dark all the time, or do milk and white have their moments?
I'd say 70-30 dark to milk; white only under very specific circumstances.

Is salty or savory chocolate a good thing, or way overdone?
Both? I like salty or spicy chocolate (or chocolate with bacon and sometimes cheese) but that doesn't mean I don't think they have become overdone!

Jul 31, 2014
Ruth Lafler in General Topics

Discrimination in Restaurants - does it influence where you dine?

There was a local restaurant whose owners were charged with importing young girls from India -- some of whom died in "accidents" -- for sex slaves and/or indentured servants. The restaurant closed.

I have lots of choices in restaurants -- I don't need to support ones that are exploiting their employees.

Grocery Outlet July 2014

Oakland had plenty of the Anchor butter ($1.49 for 8 oz). Also, a good selection of Chuao bars at $2.99 (Honeycomb, Maya, Firecracker, I think some others). They're closing out the tail end of the Kern's chocolate coconut water (in the refrigerated case) for 79 cents a quart.