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Morton the Mousse's Profile

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Hawker Fare [Oakland]

*Downhill Alert* - used to eat her 3-4 times per month but hadn't made it out since Oct. Man how it's changed, food tonight was genuinely bad. Cuttlefish didn't taste fresh, chicken overlooked, rice undercooked, greens one note and too salty, pork belly just tasted bad. We barely touched two of the dishes and tools our server they tasted bad - she was apologetic but still charged us for everything (technically their right but still annoying to pay good money for bad food).

Issues were fundamental enough that it didnt feel like a fluke plus was early on a Sat night so cant blame them being too busy or having the "b team" in place. HF just went from a regular favorite to blacklisted.

Comal - Berkeley

I appreciate that there's a good option where I can have a spontaneous Saturday dinner out, as opposed to a lot of the great restaurnats in the East Bay where I have to make a reservation a week or two in advance to get a table at a decent hour. Comal has an awesome outdoor seating area where you can have a snack and drink while waiting for your table which makes the wait totally fine.

Per their email, it's not a snub it's a very sensible business decision to optimize seatings:

"We now seat people on a first-come, first-served basis. The primary reason for the policy shift is the high unpredictability of turn times – some parties are in and out in 45 minutes, other are here more than two hours. This unpredictability makes slotting reservations very difficult and often inefficient. We’re finding that wait times during busy stretches are significantly reduced with our new policy, as we are able to seat tables as soon as they become available."

Topo is a silly comparison - it's a totally different league of restaurant. Frontera is a better comparison - and I've enjoyed my meals at Comal as much as Frontera (FWIW Frontera also has a no reservations policy)

Quince, Cotogna, Flour+Water? [San Francisco]

Cotogna is great but hard to get into - last time I walked in was on a Tuesday at 9:30pm and I squeezed into the last seat at the bar. I only make it to Quince about once a year so it's been a whilt, but it's always fabulous.

Sun 7/15 National Ice Cream Day & July - National Ice Cream Month!

Sketch Ice Cream reopens this month. I'm willing to hold out for the best.

Comal - Berkeley

Not as good as Topo (best Mexican in the country, IMO) or Frontera but still very good and worth visitng.

Fun group dinner in Berkeley?

A ~10 minute drive from West Berkeley to Downtown will significantly improve your options. Cafe Rouge and Sea Salt are fine, but I'd opt for Comal, Gather, or Revival Bar & Kitchen over them any day. Parking in Downtown is totally easy if you go to one of the three lots, which charge a flat rate of $5-6 for the night.

Please don't eat at Spengers, Skates by the Bay, or Hs Lordships.

Haven - Oakland

Had a really great meal there over the weekend. Went in with mixed expectations given some of the so-so reviews, and I was really happy with the food. They strike this nice balance of using modern techniques to create comfort food with familiar yet exciting flavors.

Chicken in a box was my standout - it was a "terrine" of sorts of sous vide chicken, liver and skin that is one of the most "chickeny" flavors I've tasted (if that makes sense). Also loved the rabbit roulade (sous vide, bacon wrapped, stuffed with liver), and the lamb two ways (shank + rack). All of the proteins were cooked and seasoned perfectly with sauces and vegetable accompaniements that worked well. And the whole table enjoyed the parker rolls with honey butter (ours did arrived warm).

In the "still working out the kinks" section, I have a few nit picks:
The menu is really poorly written. The description of the entrees in particular gives you no sense of what you are ordering. The proteins don't indicate the cut, the preparation, etc (for example, the above dishes are just described as "rabbit" and "lamb"). And when I asked the server to provide clarification on "all" of the entrees (because it was the only way to make an informed decision), he acted really put out. This sort of cryptic writing is fine for a multi-course tasting menu, but unhelpful for a la carte (and frankly it kept me from eating here earlier because the descriptions didn't sound exciting).
The mocktail my wife ordered was sickeningly sweet like candy. No acid, no balance, no subtelty.

Anyway, the above issues are easily addressable. Overall, a great meal and I will definitely return.

Comal - Berkeley

Great place. Just a week after opening they nailed it on all fronts: food, service, pacing, bar. Loved the duck enchiladas with mole, rock cod tacos, and wood fire carrots with bellwether ricotta and chile oil. But really, all the food was excellent.

Price point feels right-on for the quality of the food (unless you're one of those close-minded people who believes all Mexican/Asian/Southern food should be served in cheap dives, in which case you should eat elsewhere). They sold themselves as a "small plates" spot so I was actually surprised by how large portions were and we probably ordered a bit too much.

I see the most direct comparisons as Dona Tomas and Fonda (Albany / Berkeley / Oakland high-end / sit-down Mexican). Based on this one meal Comal is the clear champ.

Great to see how Downtown Berkeley has taken off over the last few years. Used to be I just went there for the farmers' market, now there's Gather, Ippuku, Revival, and Comal - all among Berkeley's best dining options.

I will definitely be back - I see this as a once a month spot.

Double Dutch Sweets - handmade "Snickers" bar - you have to eat this now

Wow...just, wow

I love the Bay Area trend of taking nostalgic comfort foods and applying quality ingredients and excellent craftmanship. The Ramona Bar is a perfect representation of this movement

(per the website description):

"Inspired by the classic Snickers candy bar, our Ramona bar has layers of buttery caramel and honey nougat with roasted peanuts that are hand dipped in single source Venezuelan dark chocolate. These nostalgic treats are lightly finished with Maldon sea salt flakes before they are carefully tucked in bright pink foil."

This thing is just perfect - the textures, flavors, proportions - everything is perfect. It is so like I remember a Snickers to be yet so much better than a Snickers actually is.

I just wish they distributed in Berkeley - had to drive to Miette Jack London Square to pick them up and I fear four wasn't enough to keep this house satisfied.

They're currently distributing at some select shops and candy stores. Call ahead: Miette Ferry Plaza was on the distribution list but didn't have any when I dropped by. You can also buy via mail order.

More info here:

Chez Panisse 2012

I believe The Local Butcher is carrying the same spring lamb right now. I've bought a few leg steaks there that have been outrageous.

Doughnut Dolly - Outstanding doughnut pop up in Oakland

She's scheduled to be at Swans / Cosecha this Friday from 6-9pm.
Starting April 26th she'll be poppint up in Temescal Alley Thur, Fri, Sat from 9am to "sold out"
Projected storefront opening is mid-May.
She's not great at keeping facebook / twitter feeds up to date. Only reason I have intel is that I donated to her kickstarter and got an update email.

Chotto vs Izakaya Sozai. Also other current SF Izakaya thoughts?

I loved Chotto. My main reference points are Ippuku in Berkeley, Nombe (pre chef change) and a couple of yakitori joints I've been to in NY.

Food at Chotto was much more refined than the above. Really nuanced balance of flavors. Standouts: corn and green onion fritter perfectly fried with a lovely dashi broth. Pork belly was among the best preparations of pork belly I've had anywhere - crisp skin, melt in your mouth fat, and a pickled cabbage that served as a nice foil for the richness of the dish. Also loved the desser of sweet potato donuts with black sesame ice cream.

Everything we had ranged from very good to outstanding - this was one of the best meals I've had this year. I was also quite comfortable with the price. More expensive than Ippuku but so different - I'd compare the experience more to eating at a nice Italian or Californian restaurant using stellar farmers' market ingredients, in which case the price point is similar.

I'm not sure that Izakaya is quite the right name for this place given that it clearly has a more elegant feel in atmosphere and food than the other Izakayas I've been to. Regardless of the "authenticity" I thought the food was outstanding and will definitely be back.

So, Wise Sons Deli is open ... who's been? Beauty's Bagels? [San Francisco]

I've been a big fan of the Ferry Building stall for months, and finally got to try the sit down restaurant. This place is great.

Sun morning at 11 was about a 10 minute wait to order + 10 minute wait for table and food. Not bad at all.

Very impressed by how they manage the crowds. Normally when a place is popular, small, and order at the counter you have to fight for tables and risk having food but nowhere to eat it. Wise Sons actually has a "hostess" who makes sure people actually get tables on first come / first serve, doesn't let people grab a table before they order, and doesn't put in your food order until you are seated. Really well done.

Food was excellent. I think the pastrami reuben is first rate - great flavor, not too salty, very tender, love all the fixings. They also do an awesome chopped liver with bits of crispy chicken skin. Also enjoyed the special of a trout skin salad with horseradish dressing.

We've been in need of a good Jewish Deli that uses local / organic ingredients and makes everything in house for a long time. Not at all surprised that this place is so popular.

In search of caramel sauce for ice cream sundaes in Berkeley

Taras? iScream on Solano?

MUST-BUYS at the ferry building farmer's market? [San Francisco]

Lunch: Wise Sons (outside), Il Cane Rosso, Out the Door, Blue Bottle coffee. There will be some outside tables out front, and there are also some public tables inside near the Peets coffee.

To take home: Rechiutti Chocolates, Cowgirl Creamery cheese, Boccalone salami, Frog Hollow jam or pastries, anything from Boulettes Larder.

The Ferry Building is not budget friendly, but there are great gourmet foods here.

Doughnut Dolly - Outstanding doughnut pop up in Oakland

I've been kvetching about the lack of quality, artisan doughnuts in the Bay Area for years now. I like Dynamo, but it's so damn far into the Mission. Pepples, like all vegan desserts, is a disgrace. Yes, there are restaurants that do a good biegnet or zeppole, but sometimes I just want a good doughnut without a pricey, sit down dinner.

So, I was delighted to read the recent grubstreet report on Doughnut Dolly - a new pop-up doughnut vendor frequenting Temescal and Old Oakland. I was able to try her product at Cosescha last night, and it was incredible.

The concept here is filled donuts, but these aren't those nasty jelly things that sit around in windows all day: they are filled to order with her own delicious concoctions. Yesterday she had sour cherry, lemon curd, and her standby - the "naughty donut" with a creme fraiche and vanilla bean pastry cream. All of these were amazing, but the creme fraiche was the favorite. Of course the doughnut itself is also great - light, fluffy - the perfect base for these fillings.

I highly recommend this product. This is the doughnut I've been craving all these years. I can't wait to eat more of them. Good news is that she'll be opening a shop in Temescal soon, so I won't have to wait for the pop-up days. Until then, you can follow her on Facebook to find out when she'll be popping up next.

B Side BBQ in Oakland

Brisket was excellent - fork tender, beautiful pink smoke ring, good balance of fat and crispy burnt ends, good smoke flavor. Nice portion for $9. Glad to see them using Prather Ranch meat. Given earlier reports, sounds like maybe they're figuring out their smoker.

Also enjoyed the mac and cheese, texas toast, and pickled veg. Collard greens were a bit bland - could have used some bacon or ham hock.

They had a nice range of beers on tap and are looking to open for dinner soon. I'll be back.

Brasa - Peruvian chicken (and more) in Berkeley

I really like this place - could easily see it becoming a twice/month stop for us. Has the right combination of quality / price / convenience to be an ideal "Monday night dinner."

One thing they don't advertise on-line is that they use organic ingredients - Mary's Chickens, Niman beef. For me - this has become "table stakes" in any restaurant I go to so always good to see.

The Mrs. and I each got a quarter chicken so we could order all dark meat (they don't let you do all dark on a half). Also ordered veggie salad, ceaser salad, and sweet potato fries.

Chicken was good - moist, nice flavor on the rub. Maybe a bit on the salty side but not enough to keep me from enjoying it.

Tried all four sauces. I liked the black mint, which was mellow and herby, and the red sauce, not too spicy (I'm a bit of a spice wimp). Less fond of the yellow and the bbq (bbq was a bit too sweet).

I think they did a nice job on the sides - at this price point I was worried the sides would be a "throwaway" but these were well thought out. Ceaser had crisp, fresh lettuce, and the veggie salad was fresh and cooked to a good texture. Sweet potato fries were crisp and arrived hot. The Mrs. really enjoyed the housemade passion fruit drink - she's really picky on her housemade fruit drinks and usually finds them too sweet but loved this one. We also enjoyed the Alfajores.

I'm no expert on the style and I wouldn't drive over the bridge for this place - but none of that matters to me. It's a good spot serving honest food and I can get dinner for two for under $30. Similar to Hawker Fare in that regard (except a much shorter drive for us). I'm sure I'll be back many times. Can't wait until they launch delivery (and hope I can talk them into delivering to Kensington).

ideas for a Tuesday birthday dinner in Berkeley-Oakland

Have you been to Origen? Still so close to opening - based on my dinner there I'd say give the kitchen time to work out the glitches before spending a birthday.

Gathers a good option.

The Local Butcher - Excellent new butcher in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto

Next time just ask for a sample before you buy.

The Local Butcher - Excellent new butcher in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto

You're thinking of 900 Grayson. Still around serving fried chicken and waffles and the food hasn't changed.

900 Grayson
900 Grayson St, Berkeley, CA 94710

The Local Butcher - Excellent new butcher in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto

You can see the daily sandwich archive on their twitter feed. It's always just one sandwich per day. The tallow chips are awesome.!/localbutchers

The Local Butcher - Excellent new butcher in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto

I expect they will grind anything to order for you. They're super customer focused and they have the equipment.

The Local Butcher - Excellent new butcher in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto

This is definitively the best food establishment to open in Berkeley in the past decade. Possibly the best East Bay establishment to open in the past decade. Possibly the best place to buy meat in the entire Bay Area (I certainly haven't been somewhere better).

The Mrs. and I have been shopping here 2-3 times a week since it opened. Quality of the meat is incredible. The beef, lamb, pork, goat, and duck is all high-end restaurant quality and impeccably fresh. Nobody else has this selectionof of cuts - since they buy whole animals you can get whatever you want. The butchers are truly masters of their craft and they take customer service very seriously.

The charcuterie is wonderful - selection has expanded since they open. They poached the charcuterie chef from Oenotri in Napa. I'm particularly fond of the chicken giblet confit - sauteed with some broccoli or haricot verts makes for a fabulous side dish. Head cheese is spectacular. And I love the little touches like the fact that I can buy a jar of delicious, frozen demi-glace for $3. Better than the Dopo stand at the farmers' market? I dunno. Different, and very, very, good.

I find the pricing to be perfectly reasonable. Yes, you can find cheaper meat elsewhere. But there are plenty of places selling meat of a lower caliber for a similar or higher price.

I expect them to be open for a long, long time. They have filled a gap in the Berkeley food scene that we have all been begging for. For anyone who is serious about meat, it will only take one visit to make this a regular stop in your shopping routine.

Edible Education: Alice Waters / Michael Pollan lecture series on the Food Movement, available to stream for free

As part of the celebration for Chez Panisse's 40th Anniversary, the Chez Panisse foundation is offering a free class at UC Berkeley on "The Rise and Future of the Food Movement."

Lecturers include Carlo Petrini, Marion Nestle, Eric Schlosser, Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and others. For those who can't attend in person, they are posting videos of the class (quality is quite good).

Video of the first lecture (with Carlo Petrini) is here:

Course syllabus, with speaker/topic schedule is here:


The Local Butcher - Excellent new butcher in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto

They can basically get you anything if you pre-order, and they expect to have just about everything available when you walk in. I'd call ahead though - for example, they didn't have duck liver this week because they were using them all to make pate.

I know they plan to do some charcuterie, but am unsure of the extent.

The Local Butcher - Excellent new butcher in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto

I've been waiting for months for this place to open and it's exceeded expectations.

Owned and run by Chez Panisse alums. Specializing in local, pastured meats. Staff of extremely knowledgeable and experienced butchers and chefs. Beautiful space. They buy whole animals break them down in-house, dry age their beef, make their own charcuterie.

Real differentiating factor is that they cut the meat to order. You can choose thickness and it means everything is incredibly fresh.

They sell beef, lamb, pork, rabbit, duck, chicken. Forgot to ask about goat.

We tried:

Lamb leg steak on the bone. The best lamb I've had from a butcher shop. Incredibly tender and clean tasting.

Pork ribs. Incredible. On par with Becker Lane. Better than Berkshire and Marin Sun Farm.

Since they only buy whole animals you can order just about any cut you like. I'm looking forward to trying Cosentino's recipe for lamb neck.

Prices are in line with other places that sell pastured meats: Marin Sun Farm, Cafe Rouge, Prather Ranch, etc.

The also offer a sandwich of the day ($8) which was very good, though the meat is the real draw.

Truly fabulous addition to the neighborhood. Check them out. You'll want to come back again and again.

Soft opening. I think they close at 6. They'll close at 7 weekdays/6 weekends when they move to regular hours. Close Monday. Located at Cedar and Shattuck, next to Barneys.

Plum Review (Oakland)

Have been for brunch twice now. It's my new favorite in the East Bay. Agree with others that the corned beef and pork belly hash, biscuit and gravy with peas and morels, and french toast with strawberries are all outstanding. They also do some nice salads, which for me as always a plus at brunch.

Very good value for the quality of the food - we spend about $50 for two which is in line with other East Bay brunch spots where the food isn't as good. The wife also loves their house-made vanilla-sassafras soda which is a really nice play on root beer.

Given the quality and price, can't believe it's not more crowded. I just figure the word hasn't gotten out yet.

Atelier Crenn vs. Saison...

About a month ago. If they have increased portion sizes that's great to hear, even if prices also went up.

Atelier Crenn vs. Saison...

Can't comment on Saison. Thought the food at Crenn was both interesting (particularly unique for SF) and delicious. Dessert was a highlight. Wine was great. However, I had trouble getting over the portion sizes. I left the five course tasting menu (which took about 3 hours) feeling peckish. The portions for what I had were just tiny (I'm by no means a huge eater, but I have a healthy appetite). I think I made nachos when I got home.

Meal was on an expense account so the price was fine, but I feel that paying that much money and going home hungry would bug me if I had paid $150+/head for food and wine

2124 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94110