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Suggestions for tea?

Does anyone know a good bay area shop for Indian tea? I'm talking something on par with Teance or Red Blossom, run by connoisseurs who goes on location every year to taste and buy teas.

Teance has a very good Darjeeling, but I'm really craving for this years first flush, and don't want to buy online from unknown shops. The only Indian tea shop I know is chado in LA.

I admit to be a snob for tea, so chain shops and blend or coffee combo shops doesn't do it for me.

Thanks in advance!

Apr 22, 2012
taarfirion in San Francisco Bay Area

Meal Report - Cyrus [Healdsburg]

Been a long time reader/lurker here, but only 2nd time posting. Wanted to share an update on Cyrus which gets a decent amount of posts here.

I've been going to Cyrus for a long time, probably 4 years now, maybe a total of 6-7 times? They've always been fairly consistent, but the recent trip there freshly blew me away, enough that I feel compelled to write about it.

They've updated their menu with a few new creations, all of which I absolutely loved, so I'll focus on the new stuff.

First, the bartender. Erika made such fantastic cocktail creations that when she left (about 6 months ago?) we were really bummed, and took to the new barman with suspicion. Adam completely won us over with his Brown Butter infused whiskey with maple syrup, balsamic and white verjus. He told us he literally browned a pound of butter to blend with a bottle of whiskey, froze it overnight and punched a hole in the butter to pour out the whiskey. The butter fragrance somehow worked very well with the smokey whiskey.

Cyrus always makes their own bread selections. This time there was a sesame pretzel roll that I couldn't stop eating: nutty, flaky like a croissant but not greasy, with a bit of heartiness like a pretzel.

Foie gra & cherry blossom parfait, barley pops, sea beans and shiso: a new preparation of foie gras I've never seen. I'm not a fan of the liver, but this was so beautiful to behold and so well balanced on the palate I have to give it a recommendation. See my pictures below.

The wild seabass deserves a mention too in its simple perfection, super fresh, delicious and perfectly cooked, it doesn't really need much else. The pairing of lemon verbena beurre blanc with chinese pea shoots was surprisingly good, and I'm quite partial to the pea shoots when done right.

Sonoma duck with Kujo Negi, myoga, aged bamboo rice and ponzu, served on a rustic wooden cutting board with your own spice-rimmed japanese knife. My favorite of the evening, first because the presentation was such a departure from the high end china they normally use, but fitting to the Zen-like preparation of the best duck I've ever eaten. I could have been sitting on the grounds of an ancient Japanese temple, eating rice aged by wizen monks and duck from a sacred pond (ok don't laugh at my weird imagery).

The last thing I'll mention is the other new dish: "Lamb hotpot", fava, bamboo, yuzu butter, umeshu consomme. Again, beautiful presentation, innovative eating experience, and so to-die-for delicious. Mr. Keane's consomme's are amongst the very best things in life, I believe, and this pairing with super tender spring lamb slices was simply genius.

Check out my dining experience as a "Naaly experience", something I found to be very good for showing eating trips; I can note down the oh-so-important details of every dish before I forget. (It's a free app for any android smartphone).

http://www.naaly.com/exp_view/1582/

Cyrus was just nominated for the James Beard award for Outstanding Service, and absolutely deservingly so. In my opinion, they are heads above the 3-stars like FL and Meadowwood (I've been to all multiple times), but I am also glad they don't get the "hording" that comes with a 3-star. I'll be continuing to patronize them in their humble, 2-star obscurity :).

Apr 15, 2012
taarfirion in San Francisco Bay Area

Buenos Aires Trip Review

Hello,

This is my first time posting on chowhound, please excuse any violation of rules spoken or otherwise.

I got some great tips from this forum for my trip to BsAs, so I wanted to pay back a bit and put in my own 2 cents.

Visited: 1 day in december, 3 in january

I'll start with empanadas:

El Sanjuanino (Recoleta location): looked nice and kitschy inside, but lots of tourists around and I wasn't impressed with the empanada (carne picante); pre-made and kept luke warm

La Cocina: a tiny joint in an office building gallery, shared seating with other restaurants lit by fluorescent lights; very busy with office workers and other busy people; better empanadas (carne picante and "picachu") but I wouldn't go out of the way for it; also pre-made

We chanced upon the third place while waiting for Sette Bacco to open (I was still on North American schedule), a tiny shop 2 doors down called Empanadas Buen Aguero. We were there around 7:30 and very possibly we were their first customer. It took 15 minutes, but our carne picante and verdura empandandas came fresh out of the oven piping hot, and beautifully wrapped like a gift package in floral paper. The carne picante was actually a little picante, perfectly seasoned and spiced, encased in an excellent crust. Our first empanadas, but as we would soon learn, leagues above the others.

Speaking of Sette Bacco, what a fantastic dinner! Tons of interesting items on the menu that were definitely not standard (american) italian fare. The pizza was a flatbread that happened to have some great toppings (super fresh arugula, crispy garlic and house smoked bacon); not what I consider pizza but i liked it. Carpaccio di Polpo (octopus carpaccio with passion fruit vinaigrette, mustard seed and "buds of lentils") was to die for, an absolute revelation. I don't like olives but the Olive All' Ascolana (fried olives stuffed with beef and pork, served with Campari mayonnaise) made even me nod in agreement.

A huge plate of artichoke ravioli with prawn and broth really tested our capacity. However it was the risotto di agnello (lamb risotto with rosemary and vegetable), so tender was the lamb and so unctuous was the rice, that I found myself cramming down way past bursting.

Service was awesome too, slow, but we had a young guy from Colombia who spoke good english and his enthusiasm for the chef's food was appetite-inspiring. Kudos to the folks whose posts steered me to this place.

Another great success was Resto, at lunch. Just simple food made with perfection to details: Sauteed prawns over mashed roasted aubergine and peanut butter; pan-searred sole with onion cream, smoked bacon and zucchinis; boneless rack of lamb en jus and mashed sweet potato. The seasoning on the shrimpm the balance of eggplant and peanut flavor, the flawless fish and lamb execution, made these fairly simple fares a great joy to consume. Good breads, and their butter comes with delicate onion flowers.

The reason we had no dessert at Resto was because we just came from tea at Arkakao. For once a proper tea service: sumptuous Taj Mahal blend and a strong English breakfast, brewed just right, decanted and served in cute heat-proof pots. They came with toast and housemade cheese cake, chocolate scone, and hazelnut white chocolate cake, all absolutely fabulous.

Lastly, a negative. Sotto Voce in Puerto Madero at lunch. I told myself I should've known better than to eat at such fashionable, touristy location, but the chowhound votes kept me hopeful. Perhaps the other location is were it's at?

The beef carpaccio was at best made with bottom sirloin, gristles and all, completely undressed, with some fake parmaggiano and not a caper in sight. Rubbery mozzerrella in my Caprese salad, echoed the tasteless cheese in the mushroom "carpaccio". Careless, cold service and expensive to boot.

Some other places to quickly mention:

Un Altra Volta (gelato) near Recoleta cemetary: meh

La Giralda: Went in search of churros, around 11am, they had none to serve

Cafe Tortoni: again, went in search of churro but they didn't serve any, wouldn't say why either; abysmal Leche Merengada

Maru Botana: cute shop, drool-worthy looking cakes, had 2, 1 was decent the other was not so great; I'll probably go back to Arkakao given the choice

Miranda: not impressed

L'Epi: beautiful bakery like a Parisian shop, first rate bread (though I only had one type), they keep their own mother that's supposed to be quite old

Mash: british curry house in San Telmo, decent food, though some people may be scared away by the squatter tenants across the street

Osteria Sagardi: expensive, but pretty good Basque food; we stayed at the Loft Sagardi so we were more inclined to eat there

Balthazar's Kitchen: tiny, beautiful, artistically decorated spot in San Telmo that I really really wanted to like, with soaring ceiling, black and white nudes on the wall, chinoise antique tables and stools, chandelier and a wooden fridge! However, both sandwiches we got were very disappointing. Maybe try their sweets and just have a sit.

Territorio Bar & Provisions: a characteristic place in San Telmo where we ordered the Tabla platter for 2, piled high with cheeses, 6 or 7 kinds of salumi, salmon and pickled squid, and 7 delicious pickled vegetables. A fine meal as a send off to airplane food.

Thymus: couldn't find it, walked back and forth on Lerma 3 times

647 Dinner Club: website says they are in business, no answer on the phone, 647 Tacuari didn't exist and next door was a autoshop; sketchy neighborhood

Sorry if I droned on too long. I have pictures if anyone wants to see.

Jan 17, 2011
taarfirion in Latin America & Caribbean