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China Lounge, Pleasanton...new Chengdu Chinese in the (far) East Bay.

How were the wontons in chili oil? They look about right in the picture, and I was hoping the liquid would be good enough to drink, even if it wasn't quite spicy enough.

I no longer order China Village's version since their former chef moved to Fresno, but when I do visit Fresno I am reminded of how great that dish can be.

Jul 19, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Perdition Smokehouse (downtown Berkeley)

We got takeout from Perdition tonight. They are still a bit disorganized and we discovered that they forgot to include our side dish of beans when we got home. Also, no BBQ sauce was packed in our boxes. I guess we should have opened up everything to check that it was all there before leaving.

My favorite was the pulled pork sandwich with red cabbage slaw. The slaw was vinegary (no mayo) and paired well with the pork.

The ribs were smokey, flavorful and juicy but a little on the salty side. It was fine once I had it with a slice of bread. I agree with Robert that it's an excellent rub.

Brisket was surprisingly less smoky than the ribs. Very moist. I prefer the smokier version at Memphis Minnie's.

Hot link - the one that I had was leaner than I prefer, but had good flavor. I tend to avoid sausages made out of leaner meats, such as boar sausage, because the lean-ness changes the texture. We have another one in the fridge for lunch tomorrow that looks a little different (different batch?).

Jul 19, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Wine country central location

Colorado and New Jersey. We will need at least a five bedroom rental, so we will likely end up in the outskirts of Santa Rosa rather than downtown.

Jul 19, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Miss Ollies in Old Oakland now open for dinner

Last night I had two standouts that I wanted to rave about. 1) jerk shrimp - I could smell each order as it went by to other tables, and it wasn't the flesh I smelled, it was the juices in the head. When we got ours I not only sucked all the juices out of the head, but then proceeded to dissect the head to make sure I didn't miss anything. Flavoring was spicy and perfect.
2) potato salad, this was a side dish for the fried chicken. No vinegar in this version, and some might opine that it is under salted. Whatever the salt level was, the potato flavor was fantastic. I am a rice person and don't really like potatoes, so this was an eye opener for me.

The only spoiler of the night was the pacing of the meal. I usually go early when they are less busy but last night we went during prime hours. Waited forever for the fried chicken to arrive and then our chicken was cold by the time we received the accompanying side dishes. However, the food was flawless.

Jul 19, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Chowdown Report: Lunch at Nido in Oakland

They also have red bean and I believe lotus seed. They also have ones that are coated with shredded coconut. The coconut is tasty but I don't like that it disrupts the texture of the mochi.

Jul 19, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Appeals court deals blow to Drakes Bay Oyster Co.

Are they really the ONLY local source for freshly shucked oysters? How does Hog Island fit into the picture?

Jul 19, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Wine country central location

I have been to Santa Rosa maybe twice, driven past it many times. It was actually our second choice behind Healdsburg back in 2011, although I didn't know that SR is so centrally located. We picked the quainter more expensive option back then, thinking all the same things you and others on this thread have been thinking, and found that Healdsburg was not well suited to our needs. It was fine, but no one seemed to appreciate that we were in Healdsburg. The same way that no one cared whether we we visited Rafanelli vs V. Sattui.

So, the primary differentiator between locations is driving distance, and the secondary differentiator is probably price. Hence Santa Rosa.

Jul 19, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area
1

Plum > Ume [Oakland]

It sounds like all three of us concluded that there was very little pickling of the plums. I assumed that they sourced umeboshi from Japan to make the sauce, and thought they diluted the intense flavor of traditional umeboshi intentionally. Now that you suggested it, it makes more sense that they made "umeboshi" in house (after all it is the season) and ended up with something that tastes like fresh plums.

This irks me more than their California interpretation of ramen. It's like calling a California sparking wine Champagne when it isn't.

Jul 19, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Plum > Ume [Oakland]

Mochi dries out easily, or it could have also resulted from too aggressively dusting with rice flour. Glad that it improved!

Jul 19, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

SF Dish of the Month (July 2014) - Nominations/Voting

Yeah, I am totally furious. ;)
I just wish I hadn't been MIA for the pie and hamburger months. But seriously, I wouldn't vote for a DOTM unless I ate it at least once every other month or unless it was high on my to-eat list.

Jul 18, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area
1

Chowdown Report: Lunch at Nido in Oakland

The dessert menu (which we didn't see) says coconut flan. It's more subtle than other coconut flans I have had.

The first time I had it, there were almost no bubbles. The number of bubbles our serving had is probably average in the 10 or so times we've ordered it. It affects the mouthfeel a bit but not the density and flavor.

Jul 18, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Chowdown Report: Lunch at Nido in Oakland

I asked about it yesterday when I went with another group for dinner (I recommend dinner over lunch), and they said it also contains coconut cream. They did not mention cream cheese.

Jul 18, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Wine country central location

We expect to host Christmas every 2-3 years and it's the only time each year we all get together, so spending time together is a higher priority than touring. The age range is huge, with 3 teen/college age kids that don't drink wine and grandparents in their 70s that don't drink much wine either. Add a 5 month old baby to the mix, and lengthy excursions or drives become even more difficult.

Back in 2011 we hit up a huge range of restaurants, including El Molino, Mateo's, Ad Hoc, Meadowood, R&G Lounge, Yank Sing, and Solbar. Driving an hour each way in 2-3 cars most nights for a two hour dinner was a drag. And after carefully selecting a few quality wineries and making reservations to their tasting rooms, it turned out everyone had more fun finding whatever tasting room they happened to stumble upon. Paying a premium for a vacation rental in Healdsburg wasn't necessarily worth it either.

30 minutes to anywhere, a hot tub, a few decks of cards, a 5000 piece puzzle, and a ping pong table are all we need. Definitely not the ideal getaway for most folks on this board, but it really does fit the bill for the family. Thank you for the additional info on Santa Rosa, I am looking forward to the farmers market and other small culinary pleasures that Santa Rosa has to offer.

Jul 18, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Croissants - SF Dish of the Month February 2014

I've had both their croissant and pain au chocolat and was not won over by either. However, I really like their morning bun.

Jul 18, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Appeals court deals blow to Drakes Bay Oyster Co.

Apparently not....

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article...

I would love to see the lease renewed, but contracts are contracts and wasting the court's time on this is not a good use of my tax dollars.

Jul 18, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Wine country central location

I think I have my answer - Santa Rosa. Being in the country isn't important to us, the family just wants good weather and a place big enough for everyone (which ruled out our place in Oakland). They will have a great time at any wineries or tasting rooms nearby.

Jul 18, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

SF Dish of the Month (July 2014) - Nominations/Voting

Are folks voting based on what they like and eat frequently, what they want to seek out for the month, or what they want to read more about? I voted for French fries because I eat them at least once a month. On the other hand I eat biscuits and gravy once every few years, since they are less accessible. Would this explain the dearth of reports?

Jul 17, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Wine country central location

Foraging and cooking at home/rental would be ideal for my friends as well. But this is family, and I don't get to pick their cooking and eating styles. We have one person allergic to shellfish and also someone who avoids gluten. Plus cooking for a group of 10 non-foodies is a pretty thankless task. Last time we brought three ducks from Chinatown, a few lbs of char sui pork, 20 lbs of rice and a rice cooker, and ate out for all the rest of our meals. The group stopped at Safeway to buy cereal, milk, etc. We spend our days in the house doing puzzles, playing games, etc., and then leave the house to eat.

Jul 17, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Thin sliced bread for tea sandwiches

I was responsible for sandwiches the past two teas I've attended and have to give a thumbs up for the Safeway bread. Whole Foods 365 brand organic white bread was not good; it had all of the drawbacks of crappy bread and none of the advantages of something so generic/basic as Safeway bread. Could barely tell the difference between Safeway white vs wheat, which I found amusing but not surprising.

Jul 17, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Wine country central location

The family likes food but they are not really foodies. I have no problem driving an hour to dinner, but they are less likely to want to do that. I thought getting us closer to more restaurants would be a good solution.

Since we dined in Healdsburg extensively last time, access and proximity to Healdsburg restaurants isn't necessary this time around.

Jul 17, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Chowdown Report: Lunch at Nido in Oakland

I read that this style of "gazpacho" is from the town of Morelia in Michoacan. I am not sure if or how this gazpacho is related to Spanish versions.

Jul 17, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Wine country central location

Yes, access to both Napa and Sonoma would be nice. Napa rentals are much more expensive so somewhere on the Sonoma side with easy access to Napa is preferable. Thank you for the Sonoma town suggestion! It's also close to SF which gives us access to a dinner in the city if that's what the family wants to do.

Jul 17, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Plum > Ume [Oakland]

We have an interesting difference of opinion on the pork rib ume sauce. I agree that there was a lot of it, but I felt it could get concentrated a bit more for a more intense flavor, whereas you were scraping it off (go big or go home).

Jul 17, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Wine country central location

We are looking for a vacation rental in the wine country for the winter holiday season, and are trying to figure out which areas are centrally located for food. A few years ago we were in Healdsburg, and unless we were eating in Healdsburg, everything else seemed like an hour away. I am not so familiar with the restaurants up in this region, and their concentration and locations. Does anyone have any suggestions on a more central location for a home base? 80% of our outings are food related, so it makes sense for us to pick a location based on proximity to the most good restaurants. Thanks!

Jul 17, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

12 days of Christmas/Meadowood and Guest Chefs in Bay Area Restaurants

Well that makes my decision easy! I have been to Alinea three times and didn't want to be let down.

Enjoy your meals and I hope to hear about the experience.

Jul 17, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Chowdown Report: Lunch at Nido in Oakland

I have a hard time choosing favorites at Nido because everything is good in their own way, so I will just comment on what stood out to me about each dish.

They always have a ceviche or aguachile on their menu and the five or six that I've tried have all been different and very good. Today's version had an opaque red sauce which was limey but had other flavors/seasonings blended in that I couldn't identify because they were so well integrated and balanced. Savory, a little spicy, and an acidity that gives the savory component a chance to show through. At the end when the fish was all gone, I had a bite with just the remaining sauce and it was just as enjoyable as my bites with fish.

Gazpacho - the gazpacho is mostly seasonal stone fruit with some jicama. This time the fruit mixture contained mostly plums, whereas a few weeks ago there were some peaches mixed in. For anyone who likes to sprinkle lime juice and/or chili on fruit, this dish is the fancy and complex version of it.

Before getting to the tacos, I want to compliment my dining companions on their ability to divide and share these dishes 6 ways. Splitting two tacos, each with various garnishes 6 ways is not for amateurs.

Pork tacos - the fruitiness version I've had and now I see why people complain when their al pastor tacos don't have enough pineapple.

Barbacoa tacos - very good but probably the most predictable dish of the lunch. Meat was very tender.

Veggie quesadilla - this is the dish being held up by the hands. It reminded me of the chard tacos on their winter menu, which are fabulous. I am glad we ordered this since most veggie quesadillas really suck. My piece had chard and yam, another portion had squash.

Ollita with chicken - the chicken was extremely moist and succulent.

Chicken tostadas - this is another favorite from this past winter's menu. The shredded chicken was thinly coated in a spicy red sauce, the spiciest of all the sauces we had today. There are a lot of ingredients on the tostadas and I love how they all combine with each other in each bite.

I already mentioned in the past how their flan is excellent, I order it every time.

The black sesame/peanut mochi are available at Yuen Hop on Webster. They are made and sold daily and can sometimes be sold out by 2pm or earlier. You can find them near the cash register and if you don't see them just ask if they are sold out that day. I have also seen them at other stores in Chinatown but did not note the names of those stores.

Jul 17, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area
1

New Korean takeout in Oakland - EM Deli

We picked up some marinated spicy pork to cook at home and a pint of kimchee. Really enjoyed both and noticed that their salt levels are relatively low. For me this is a requirement for places that are part of my regular rotation.

Jul 16, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

stone fruit 2014 bad season?

Frog Hollow was my pick this week, best peaches of the season thus far.

Jul 15, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

Adventurous menu for special occasion

I think Great China fits the criteria, but I personally prefer to eat Chinese food in groups of 4 or more so that it's possible to order many dishes with good variety. For example, sharing Peking duck with one other person is doable, but might not leave much opportunity to order a fish dish, a shellfish dish, a pork dish, a vegetable, etc. I am sure my preference stems from how our family ate Chinese food growing up, so it is probably a non-issue for most other people.

Jul 15, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area

12 days of Christmas/Meadowood and Guest Chefs in Bay Area Restaurants

Meadowood recently announced their 2014 lineup and Grant Achatz will be one of the guest chefs. I hesitate to make a reservation because I am not confident that guest chef dinners are synergistic. And if they are not synergistic, then I might be better off going to Alinea, as most chefs/cooks work best in their own kitchens with their own equipment.

Does anyone have any experience with the Meadowood dinners and/or any thoughts on guest chef dinners in the Bay Area?

Jul 15, 2014
felice in San Francisco Bay Area