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China village last night

Next time try the Wok charred cabbage. As simple as it sounds, this sublime dish was universally feted at the last monster Chowdown we had there (I believe we were close to 50 people that day for lunch and we ordered nearly every dish off the menu that I ever wanted to try and many that I had completely over looked. Oh and of course the West lake style fish soup is always wonderful there.

Here are some pix from that

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2414/1...

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2013/1...

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2027/1...

à santé,
Curtis

Oct 19, 2009
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

La Ciccia's cena di porco

La Ciccia has long been a favorite haunt of many of the SF Chowhounds, and for good reason. Sardinian food is hard enough to find, let alone beautifully prepared Sardinian food. Add to this a gracious and talented chef and a hostess with excellent knowledge of Sardinian wines and you've got a wonderful gem of a restaurant. One of the best things about this restaurant is that it continues to offer a truly personal experience.

Last night, several friends and I were lucky enough to book a table for La Ciccia's pig dinner/cena di porco. Here is the menu:

Ingaungiu de Terra(Salumi and pickled vegetables)
Malloreddus a sa Campidanesa(Sardinian Semolina Gnochetti served with pork meat sugo)
Procededdu Arrustiu (Roasted Suckling Pig served with Sardinian Style Row Vegetables)
Trutta de Arrescottu (Sardinian Ricotta cheese Cake)

Paired with a couple of very nice wines:
Vermentino di Sardegna
Cannonau di Sardegna

This prix fixe ($75/person) menu was truly an informal and amicable experience with huge portions served family style at each table. Servers with seconds/thirds and free flowing bottles of wine were attentive and friendly. Lorella and Massimo were also very much on hand to talk with diners and add that personal touch.

Starting off on the right foot/hoof, the salumi platter was simply awesome. With both traditional proscuitto, as well as one cured using the front leg (not coppa), Massimo also offered several salamis and cappocola. The pickled peppers, cucumbers and olives were excellent counterpoints as well.

The Gnochetti with pork sugo is always a favorite and rightly so. Perfectly cooked al dente with a slightly sweet note, this smaller and firmer pasta is markedly different from the big soft poofy potato puff gnochi commonly served. Needless to say, I took the opportunity to have an extra bowl of this great dish, even though my eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach.

The star of the evening of course was the roast suckling pig. Perfectly prepared, with a gorgeous crisp and perfect skin, no one at our table could resist its charms. Tender and very moist, the pork, in particular some pieces from the back, was well complimented by the Cannonau's dusty fruit and medium body. Cannonau is Sardinian Grenache and the very soft tannins lent itself to the delicate flavors of the pork.

Desserts have never been my favorite part of the meal, and I would normally opt for La Ciccia's excellent Sardinian cheese offerings, but since this was a set menu, I happily tried the ricotta cheese cake. It was a very different rustic type of cheese cake. The texture was coarse and only slightly sweet. However, the addition of Sardinian honey and almonds added another dimension, although my friend and I felt the honey was overpowering and perhaps better served on the side.

Finishing off the dinner with an excellent cup of espresso punctuated another fine meal at this wonderfully down to Earth restaurant that truly feels like dining in a friend's home each time you walk in the door. Lorella told us that they will be hosting their annual lamb dinner in November so keep you eyes and ears open to book a table.

a sante,
Curtis

http://www.laciccia.com/

291 30th / Church Street,
San Francisco, CA 94131

Sep 30, 2008
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Turducken

Sadly the butcher who used to do the Turduckens for Rocky's has retired. He was the head butcher at Piedmont Grocery for 20 years though and trained them to do it as well. The bad news is that he used to charge $50 and Piedmont Grocery charges $100. However, if you've got to have it, they'll do the hard work for a price.

Nov 07, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

China Village Chowdown - 11/4/07

Wow, what an epic Chowdown! It's been quite a long time since we had such a big turnout and I can't remember the last one with such a universally loved meal. China Village, despite the change of chefs, continues to be, in my humble opinion, one of the best restaurants in the bay area. Once again, flexing the might that only a large enthusiastic Chowdown group can muster, we were able to sample far more dishes than any of us with a paltry party of four or even six could manage. Fortunately for my table, we were very capably led by Daveena on this culinary voyage, who bore such responsibility with aplomb and grace.

Of the cold appetizers, I was particularly taken, as was the rest of the table, with the beef tendons and appreciated the texture of the conch which was perfectly cooked. The green beans were well cooked and nicely perfumed with garlic, but otherwise not too surprising. The rabbit was a bit spicy, but did not seem to excite the table as it held the record for the longest ride 'round the lazy susan until Simon finally allowed its plate to be cleared. The Homestyle chicken in a "special sauce" (no, not the same as on a Big Mac) was also perfectly cooked, but the sauce reminded me of hoisin with sesame seeds sprinkled on top and did not otherwise make a strong impression on the table. The lone disappointment for me was the shrimp which was evidently supposed to be served with a mustard sauce. They were perfectly cooked and beautifully plated, but other than a slight hint of the cucumbers upon which they were placed, there was no discernible flavor.

The mains came out at a smart pace and before we knew it, the table was full of wonderful things indeed. Although it was added as almost an afterthought at the suggestion of the waiter, the West Style Spicy Fish Fillet soup was a resounding hit with the table and, despite the imposing amount of chilis blanketing the soup, the broth was not overly spicy, but rather a rich and heady stock that was entirely satisfying.

The suprise hit of the table was the charred stir-fried cabbage which was smoky and beautifully caramelized to accentuate the sweetness of the vegetable. I have very rarely had such a simple and delicious dish. Others tables ordered it after sampling ours. Incidentally, I think it speaks quite well of our fearless leader Daveena that so many of the other 'hounds came calling on our table to sample our fare.

Other standouts for me include the sumptuous twice cooked pork which beautifully married the smokiness of the pork belly with the sweet aromatics of the green onions. Although I tried and certainly enjoyed the twice cooked fish, I think the addition of the pork fat made this my favorite of the two similarly prepared dishes. I was very taken with the Chongqing fried chicken which was also very popular with visiting 'hounds who were lining up to try it. Additionally, the lamb with cumin was very flavorful and well seasoned.

Although the constant image of dumplings on the evite might have built up a bit too much hype and anticipation, I was not bowled over by the ones served with chili oil, but preferred the lamb dumplings. However, neither seemed to be overly adored again as a lone lamb dumpling circled around for quite some time on our table before be passed along to a neighboring table. The sole underwhelming dish seemed to be the steamed spare ribs with five spice ground rice. Though they were cooked well and quite tender, the flavor didn't seem especially interesting, particularly since it was competing with dishes such as the picant water boiled eels.

Special kudos to Dave for venturing out to other tables to trade for other dishes. Coming back with the organic chicken was a score, if only for the tasty sauce that accompanied it. Sopping up that wonderful mixture of spicy goodness with a warm piece of sesame bread approached Nirvana for me, if only for a fleeting moment. My own visits to neighboring tables allowed me to sample both versions of the chitterlings and, as was the consensus, I preferred the dry fried ones which were much crispier than the ones billed as "crispy" on the menu.

Whew, well after that meal, I couldn't fathom eating again for the rest of the day, but now that I've posted the pictures and done the write up, I find myself salivating on my keyboard. We definitely need to do this again.

My pictures are posted on Flickr here...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/65216543...

As always, it was a great pleasure to see everyone, new and old faces alike. Over my years as part of the Chowhound community, these sort of meals are definitely the best part of being a 'hound. If you've never chowed down with the 'hounds, you owe it to yourself to come out for a bite or twenty with us.

à santé,
Curtis

Nov 05, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

La Ciccia -- more thumbs up!

Now, wait just a second. I counted three asparagus tips with the salumi plate and two more spears with the boar :) (not to mention the artichokes with the Fregula)

Apr 08, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

La Ciccia -- more thumbs up!

Here are some more pictures.

1. Fregula w/ artichokes
2. Gnocchetti w/ pork sugo
3. Pizza a sarda
4. Ricotta cake w/ candied fruits.

Apr 08, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

La Ciccia -- more thumbs up!

Wow, all I can say is that I enjoyed this meal immensely. It was like eating at someone's home. We were right by the entrance to the kitchen and the smells and sights of dish after dish emerging was almost hypnotizing. In fact, at one point, the aromas from one particular dish were so arresting that Frank and I literally halted our conversation and simultaneously exclaimed "What was that?!" Fortunately, his well-honed olfactory senses quickly led him to the other side of the dining room to ferret out the specific dish which turned out to be the braised boar. Great food and wine, tremendously friendly, skilled and knowledgeable service, and Melanie's birthday, you can't ask for much more than that now, can you?

a sante,
Curtis

P.S. Here are pix of: 1. Salumi plate (note that the lomo is beef, not pork!) 2. house cured prosciutto 3. fresh spaghetti w/ cauliflower and bottarga 4. fresh linguini w/ squid ink and seafood (daily special pasta)

Apr 08, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Where to go for a crab feed?

Hmmm, on the road to Benicia.... Well, how about the ole Sea Breeze Market? It's right on the frontage road just off the Eastshore Fwy's University Ave. exit. They serve whole and half crabs steamed and accompanied in a very garlicky olive oil blend. I actually ask them to go easy on it so I can face others after the experience. If the weather's nice, you can either eat it right there on one of the picnic tables, or pack it up and head down to the pier or park at end of the Berkeley marina. It's pretty reasonable too, with a whole steamed crab going for $16. I must've done something right in a past life as the last visit included an extra claw and a few extra legs :)

Feb 21, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Fried Chicken Special

Despite the nay-sayers' sentiments, I found myself at Nellie's earlier this week, ostensibly for the ox tails which I enjoy from time to time. However, as I spied the fried chicken at the neighboring table, I felt like giving it a try. I was more than pleased with my choice as the bird was piping hot, the crust was perfectly crisp and the meat was incredibly moist. Now, I've had most of the versions mentioned in this post and, honestly, Nellie's is right up there with the best. Now, I'll "have to" go back to check consistency (such is the burden of being a good Chowhound ;), but for my first sampling of their fried chicken, Nellie's made a great impression.

a sante,
Curtis

Feb 02, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Per Se AND French Laundry Veterans: Is FL worth trying?

Having been to FL several times over the past few years, it's not that price has continued to climb ever higher, but I think rather that the competition has continued to step up their respective games. I certainly think that Thomas Keller is still at the top of the mountain, but others are definitely closing the distance. The ingredients that Keller uses are superlative and there can be no doubt that he goes to the ends of the Earth to find the best of the best from produce to poultry and everywhere in between. However, perhaps this is where the problem lies and I find myself in agreement with chuckeats (above) if you start with the finest truffles from Piedmont, beef from Snake River Ranch, etc., then the resulting meal had better be nothing short spectacular. In the earlier days, Keller seemed to push the culinary envelope with every dish. The last time I had dinner at FL, I kept waiting for the homeruns and each at bat came up short on that little something extra that we've all come to expect from Keller. While I certainly appreciate the familiar favorites and the "ice creme cone" amuse and the oysters and pearls are still great, but I don't expect to see the same dishes later on down the menu. And yet, there was that little creme brulee as we headed into the desserts.

Thomas Keller is a skilled master chef, but he's far too young to start doing a greatest hits repertoire at his flagship restaurant. Oh and when you start with an allstar cast of ingredients, the inspiration and creativity must elevate them to the next level. Otherwise you run the risk of making "Do They Know It's Christmas" instead of "We Are the World" and the all-stars just go to waste.

Second on the recommendation for Manresa, Cyrus and I'll even throw out a vote for Redd, which, while not quite the equal of FL, it is a good example of why the gap is narrowing. In any case, enjoy your meal wherever you end up. I consider it an honor and a privilege to even be in the position to make the arugument for any one of these restaurants. We are a very fortunate group of diners to be sure.

a sante,
Curtis

Jan 31, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Good places to buy Chocolate Bars?

Powell's on the square in Healdsburg (just a couple of doors down from Flying Goat Coffee) has a very deep selection of chocolate bars as one would expect from such a large specialty candy shop.

Jan 31, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Bouchon Bakery, Yountville CA report w/ pics

Very nice write up. I had the pleasure of trying all of their macarons a couple of weekends ago and then tried the full array from Miete last weekend. Miete's are half the price but also half the size. I greatly preferred Bouchon Bakery's version and they kept longer as well. Theirs were the near perfect crunchy/chewy balance and the cream filing more flavorful across the board.

a sante,
Curtis

Jan 30, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Oliveto's 20th- January 20th and 21st - Italian Street Food - $5 Tripe!

Missed this spectacle, but heard it was very impressive. Given the packed crowd for the short films, I can't imagine how everyone was able to view this in the kitchen. Did you or any of the 'hounds actually catch any of the action?

Jan 25, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Oliveto's 20th- January 20th and 21st - Italian Street Food - $5 Tripe!

Well, I was entertaining some friends from out of town and managed to score some reservations for Saturday night and we had a wonderful time. I too thought that the price was a bit high, but after speaking with some of the very helpful staff, I was given the "skinny" on how to approach the evening. As suggested, we arrived well over and hour early and were treated to the excellent appetizers downstairs which included a never ending stream of pizzas from the oven (always a crowd pleaser), piles of a wonderful in house made chorizo, savory almonds and their excellent green and black olives. You could munch on these snacks all night if you so desired, but we also had to sample the tripe which is one of my absolute favorite dishes. Oh yes and there was entertainment outside (jugglers complete with flaming battons) and a bocce court set up across the way under the BART station which was very fun. I was initially a bit put off by the "two drink ticket" limit that they seemed to be imposing, but again, I was pleasantly surprised that all the espresso drinks did not require a ticket and I had several capuccinos and espresso shots throughout the evening (true coffee fiend). Additionally, although I didn't say anything or make any inquiries, both of the hostesses made several inquiries as to whether or not we had enough drink tickets and gave us a handful more which we never did get through.

So, with wine, espresso, tripe, and an hour's worth of noshing downstairs, we were shown up to the top floor where the band played on, and a very festive crowd was in full swing. After being shown to our seats, we were led through the back to the kitchen and picked up our meal of in house made pork and fennel sausage in a rich sauce punctuated with Sambucco, chicken al diavolo, excellent bruschetta and a very tasty salad. Upon return to our seats, a server brought out steaming bowls of the "olive picker's soup" to accompany our main courses and brought more wine (again, without taking a drink ticket). While in the kitchen, I inquired as to their policy on "seconds" and they all smiled and said that we were welcome to revisit any of our favorites. Now, by this time, my stomach was already well on its way to calling it a night, but the sausage was so good, as was the salad, that seconds were not out of the question. Additionally, the soup was so rich that several of our dining companions made room for another bowl. Finally, a dessert was brought out that was very dense and quite rich with apricot and chocolate atop sponge cake soaked with what I believe was Amaretto and a creme anglaise. I will also confess to having two of these, but only because my first was a smaller corner piece :)

Well, as we wound down from the huge meal, we realized that we were dining in the screening room and decided to stay to watch the short films that Bob had shot with several of the vendors who supply Oliveto with everything from hogs to artichokes. There were very enjoyable and, of course, as if we hadn't stuffed ourselves enough, before the movie, I popped back downstairs for another round of cappuccino to go along with a couple of orders of Zeppole (which I shared with my friends and fellow diners). So, with that the 20th anniversary of Oliveto was brought to a close and it was indeed a fete to remember. Everyone from Paul C to Bob and all the staff were in great form and greater spirits. I hope to be there for the 40th anniversary.

a sante,
Curtis

Jan 24, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Places for a quick bite near the Castro Theater

Some friends and I recently had a very good meal at Ararat on 18th at Castro just before catching the restored "Black Orpheus" at the Castro Theater. It was very good and everything quite flavorful. They describe themselves as being predominantly mediterranean small plates, but the entrees were very generous and the lamb shank in particular was very tasty.

Jan 24, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Your favorite thing at Tommy's Joynt? [San Francisco]

Oxtail and the Lamb Shank have been Tommy's standards for a long time. Also, the corned beef is very down home.

Looking for Lavazza espresso in the East bay

I've enjoyed some good shots from Lavazza, especially from ItalCal's booth at the Fancy Food Show a few years back. That being said, I recently tried the Ticino roast from Flying Goat Coffee in Healdsburg and was very impressed with the flavor. I do not generally drink blended "coffee" drinks, but stick to straight shots, machiatto or capuccino in the mornings. Flying Goat makes two separate espresso roasts. Ticino is Northern style, i.e. lighter and sweeter roast. They specifically tell you not to make lattes and other drinks that will dilute it. For that purpose, and other preferences, they also roast a darker Southern Italian style espresso called Vesuvio that is smokier and heavier in general. I tried both and was amazed at the difference. I recommend trying their two and seeing which you favor.

a sante,
Curtis

Jan 16, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Looking for Lavazza espresso in the East bay

Andronico's has it, but be really sure to check the expiration date. I picked up a can before the holidays and was dismayed to find out that it was over a year old. They refunded me, but it shouldn't have been left out there that long.

Jan 15, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Sushi in Berkeley???

Tachibana also has a robata bar. It's pretty good and offers everything from whole squid and lobster tails to stuffed mushrooms.

Jan 10, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopian Crawl's first steps...to Ethiopia Restaurant's door (a Chowdown report)

Oh yes, definitely a second round of applause for the Winehounds' excellent Cabernet Franc and Rioja. I didn't partake of the honey wine, but others seemed to enjoy it.

Jan 10, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopian Crawl's first steps...to Ethiopia Restaurant's door (a Chowdown report)

Jan 10, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopian Crawl's first steps...to Ethiopia Restaurant's door (a Chowdown report)

Jan 10, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopian Crawl's first steps...to Ethiopia Restaurant's door (a Chowdown report)

Jan 10, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopian Crawl's first steps...to Ethiopia Restaurant's door (a Chowdown report)

Jan 10, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopian Crawl's first steps...to Ethiopia Restaurant's door (a Chowdown report)

Jan 10, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopian Crawl's first steps...to Ethiopia Restaurant's door (a Chowdown report)

Jan 10, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopian Crawl's first steps...to Ethiopia Restaurant's door (a Chowdown report)

Jan 10, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopian Crawl's first steps...to Ethiopia Restaurant's door (a Chowdown report)

Jan 10, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopian Crawl's first steps...to Ethiopia Restaurant's door (a Chowdown report)

Jan 10, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopian Crawl's first steps...to Ethiopia Restaurant's door (a Chowdown report)

Well, Ruth was pleasantly surprised to find that the Chowhounds were very fired up about the first installment of the Ethiopian Crawl with 18 hounds coming out on a Tuesday evening to sample the entire menu of Ethiopia Restaurant on Telegraph Ave. The dining room was warmed by a nice fireplace and the surroundings comfortable if not somewhat empty.

Though we challenged the chef to prepare such a wide variety of food, eventually everything began to emerge from the kitchen. We began with beef and lentil filled Samoussas. The beef filing was slightly spicy and a little on the salty side. Next we were presented with four large plates surrounded with a variety of vegetarian dishes served on a large piece of injera. This included red lentils, split peas, cabbage and potatoes, collard greens, and zucchini and carrots. Everyone seemed to enjoy all of these dishes and in particular, the cabbage and potatoes, and the red lentils, were both very popular.

Rather than serving additional Injera in whole sheets, Ethiopia Restaurant serves its bread in sliced rolls. This was an interesting and convenient way to feed a large group such as ours.

As the entrees were brought out, we sampled a wide variety of dishes including T'ibs We't, Yedoro T'ibs, Doro We't, raw and cooked Kitfo, Quant'a Firfir, Ybege T'ibs, Teemateem Fitfit, and Shrimp T'ibs.

The Teemateem Fitfit was very tasty and nice balance to the other spicier dishes as it was served cold. The flavors were bright and interesting. The lamb t'ibs was also very popular with the table. The Yedoro (chicken) t'ibs was very tasty and made for excellent drippings into the underlying Injera. The Kitfo was very spicy and had a very pronounced dose of cardamom in both the raw and cooked versions.

There was an exceptional amount of food, especially for the price (about $10/person), and overall, we were very pleased with the quality and flavor of the meal. It was a great friendly crowd, as always, with familiar faces and a few new ones too. Big thanks to Ruth for planning this Chowdown. We informally agreed to proceed Southward on our Ethiopian crawl down Telegraph Ave. Keep an eye out for the next installment. I, for one, can't wait!

a sante,
Curtis

(pictures follow)

Jan 10, 2007
Curtis in San Francisco Bay Area