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Harbin - China - Ice Festival 2015

BTW: Our final breakfast before an early flight at the Harbin airport was in the little cafe where they gave us two large bags of peanuts in shells when we ordered "mixed nuts". It was either that or a bag of popcorn!

about 1 hour ago
glbtrtr in China & Southeast Asia

Help the newcomer learn the ropes!

I use CH a lot for travel because I get local advice, well beyond what the tourist industry will offer, particularly when doing world wide travel. It is fun to eavesdrop on local foodie debates in new areas on the different boards where I will be visiting.

Chowhound for me is about good eating more than just fine dining. It is often robust, filling food, something unique, local, high ambiance, out of the way, well priced, unusual, seasonal ....... not just "gourmet". It includes the solid local favorite as well as what might be hot and trendy.

I often find I really like one dish at a restaurant and maybe not so much of what else is on the menu, so this is one other benefit of CH - what other diners you get to know also find worth seeking out among their own favorites and local hidden gems.

Went out of our way once to find a new restaurant at the Paso Robles airport a few years ago because of CH (Polarbear?) and it was a total surprise we never would have found by ourselves on our many drives up and down 101. So CH is also good for those who do road trips within the state. Many of ours have revolved around CH suggestions - the Ranch restaurant in Parkfield, CA was another CH tip.

Welcome. Things are pretty slow on the California board as we seem to have plowed a lot of the same turf for the past several years, but there is lots of action on other boards if you poke around when traveling.

I have far more trust in CH recs than with Yelp or TripAdvisor - by a mile with Yelp, which I find tedious and unreliable. But CH is a cut above in both discernment and attitude - these are folks who know their stuff and know a good deal when they see it too.

The other value is a research archive - again for local as well as travel. Invaluable

about 1 hour ago
glbtrtr in California

Palm Springs - grapefruits? Dates? Date shakes?

My sister's grapefruit in her back yard is the best I have ever tasted anywhere in the world - hope you can get something similar. Something about this desert air and soil makes them sweet, juicy, flavorful and fabulous.

about 13 hours ago
glbtrtr in California

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

IHOP is the best.

1 day ago
glbtrtr in Features

Palm Springs - grapefruits? Dates? Date shakes?

Best Date shakes: Windmill Market and Produce - Desert Hot Springs

The really great bus trip tours around Palm Springs gives you all sorts of dining and local tips - highly recommended. They stop at the Windmill Market ending all controversy about who has the best date shake, plus they sell whole dates including some of the very rare seasonal ones if you hit them at the right time. They are good for prepared carryout and deli items good. And 1950's sodas and kitsch.

1 day ago
glbtrtr in California

Trip Report - Santa Barbara in February

Happy to get a good report about Barbareno, please tell me more. Have not been there yet but happy to see this interesting neighborhood location get recycled again as a local dining spot.

Feb 21, 2015
glbtrtr in California

Trip Report - Santa Barbara in February

Thank you for your report with photos. We like the offerings at the Public Market too. Plus you encourage me to get down to the Lark after a highly disappointing meal at their companion place Lucky Penny.

Since you come here a lot, hard to know what else to add that you may have already tried, but if not be sure to take in Julienne and Toma. Sama Sama is also very good for their upbeat take on Indonesian.

The Las Positas shopping center in the San Roque neighborhood has Renaud's French Bakery and Via Maestra 42 for N. Italian. Worthy for the view at lunch is the El Encanto Hotel patio.

I still like the antipasto assortiti at Ca'Dario with an affogato for dessert, though it is not as good as it used to be in the past.

For an off the beaten-path kick if you have the time - the Santa Barbara City College Gourmet Dining room Culinary Dept does dinners with wine Thurs/Fri night in session or lunches every day - Friday is the easiest day to get parking there.

Yes, we think is is a fine place to live too. Venturing on to Milpas Street is worthy of a chowdown too- the new "Eat Street" in town for casual, ethnic places and new start-ups. Speaking of which GiannFranco's in Carpinteria is worth the drive.

Feb 16, 2015
glbtrtr in California

Fresno/Clovis Area Dining

What a wonderful list. We road-tripped to Fresno a while back to visit the quite fabulous underground Forestiere Gardens, and tried to make it a foodie trip at the same time. Wish we had your list at that time, though we were charmed by Trelio and Clovis, so it was a chow-worthy trip to recommend to anyone. We also visited the Greek diner in the downtown redevelopment square and a tamale place on the main commercial drag north of downtown. Stayed at the Garden Inn and were treated to all sorts of fresh fruit samples, grown on the property by the ex-pat Chinese gardener owners.

Feb 14, 2015
glbtrtr in California

Restaurants in Santa Barbara / Santa Ynez / Paso

Santa Barbara:

Try Hungry Cat in SB - great eating bar. El Cielito in La Arcada Court - great setting for bar food. Julienne has a small bar area. Arigato for great sushi at the bar - high end sushi. These are more casual.

Certainly the most romantic setting for dress-up is the Biltmore Hotel in Montcito and they have tapas hors'dourves at their bar. http://www.fourseasons.com/santabarba...

The El Encanto Hotel also for dress-up has a bar menu and lovely at night when the city lights are on.

Plus there is a new bar right next to the Granada Theater on State Street that also serves bar food.

My favorite down-home bar McLintocks in Pismo Beach - great horseshoe bar, draft beer and steak pieces and potato skillet to eat at the bar.

If you want to be in a foodie crowd, take a look at the new Santa Barbara Public Market special Valentines Day dinner and tasting:

Feb 09, 2015
glbtrtr in California

Riverside - Mission Inn

The setting of the courtyard brunch is very lovely. As long as you are enjoying the hotel, this is an important part of it. Be sure to get a tour of the hidden nooks and crannies and collections this hotel is famous for. Hope you will report back and add some dining suggestions, hit or miss as they might be.

I remember some good small family Mexican places but that was a long, long time ado and some international spots out closer to the University. Might want to poke around that UC Riverside area and try yelp or trip advisor to get a students take on local offerings.

Yelp: Salted Pig downtown might be worth a try.

Feb 08, 2015
glbtrtr in California

Mahoroba Japanese Bakery in Sacramento

Do they have real mochi, dense and chewy mochi, not the slimy stuff now getting sold in LA these days -- apparently adding something (glycerine?) to keep their shelf life longer?

Feb 05, 2015
glbtrtr in California

Hoi An, Hue and Hanoi

Thanks for the report - brings back wonderful dining memories for me. Particularly in Hue - the fried plantains at the street stalls were one of the best for me.

Highway 1

Check out the Mexican restaurants in Guadalupe, north of Santa Barbara on Highway One and walk it off taking a wonderful board-walk hike out to the Pacific ocean at Oso Flaco Lake state park, just north of Guadalupe. Or just drive out to the Gaudalupe Dunes for stunning sand dunes and ocean vistas.


Jan 26, 2015
glbtrtr in California

How to get breakfast in China outside your hotel

We saw less than a dozen westerners during our four days in Harbin, and they all turned out to be Russians. We were in the main tourism venues ....for plenty of Chinese tourists for sure.

They were lined up well into the street every time we went past for the often recommended three-story Russian restaurant "HuaMei" on the Central Avenue. It was in all the China tour agency guides as the place to dine in China, and it seems the young Chinese like to be trendy.


No other US tourists that we saw in this central core of Harbin, so we were lucky at least we ran into English language menus and names on restaurants and cafes. Often no pictographs for mens room or ladies room, just Chinese symbols.

How to get breakfast in China outside your hotel

You do have to stuff your face into this item to eat this - they hand it to you in a paper cone insider a small plastic bag that helps contain it. As found in most Asia eating places - no napkins and you will need to clean your fingers and face after eating this - all well worth it because this was delicious. Noticed a small sink in the back of Food Street where you can clean up. But again, bring your own tissues to dry off your hands or hand wipe packets.

Thank you for letting us know the name - Jian bing - Bingo! Our first worry was when they slathered on the chili sauce not knowing how hot this would make it but this being a sweet chili sauce it just brightened all the flavors and added no extra hotness at all.

Highway 1

Pismo Beach -where 101 and One combine along the coast - funky old coastal town south of San Luis Obispo - Mo's BBQ - try the Philthy Phil ribs with all the side dishes combo. Stop by HotLix just down the same main street heading towards the pier for an array of saltwater taffy and novelty candy items - we love the coffee-flavored salt water taffy.

Las Conchitas/Mussel Shoals - south of Santa Barbara before Ventura right off 101-Highway 1 - Cliff House motel has a wonderful waterside setting outdoor restaurant for your last feeling of being along the Pacific with the waves coming in and the palm trees swaying - food if basic, but the setting on a sunny day can't be beat.

Carpinteria - south of Santa Barbara - main street Linden Ave - GiannFranco's - very nice young chef takes on Sicilian Italian with wonderful fresh flavors.

Jalama Beach - south of Lompoc Highway One on a 20 minute side road to the ocean - famous burger and remote seaside vistas - get a "burger pass" for short-term parking in this county park instead of paying the overnight parking fee.

Might consider taking Highway 146 detour via Las Cachuma near Buellton and return to Highway One/101 just north of Santa Barbara and explore the Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang. Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and Ballard and try the variety of restaurants and wine sampling in this area (research CH) or take Stagecoach Road off Highway 146 to the Cold Springs Tavern for a delightful rustic old cabin restaurant tucked in among the trees. Caution: two-lane highway with some speeders and high accident rate.

Jan 25, 2015
glbtrtr in California

Harbin - China - Ice Festival 2015

Trip Report:

"FOOD STREET" - right next door to the Ibis Hotel in Downtown Harbin - small stalls with great variety of breakfast and lunch items. We loved the large filled crepe pancakes for breakfast - I had the "vegetable"one which had shredded lettuce and DH had the double egg/bacon one. We went back twice they were so good. Also had a bakery with lovely looking sugar fried breads and Portuguese egg tarts. Tables inside for self-service sit down casual eating. Good local place and able to see what others are ordering to know what to try because there was very little English spoken, You paid each shop keeper cash. And always as we found bring your won "napkins' or tissues.

CAFE U-9 on West 11th Street near Central Ave pedestrian walk way - excellent food. Large magazine sized menu in Chinese and English - not really a menu but a large picture book so we did a lot of pointing and hoping for the best. Not sure how to put a meal together but our choices were so good: picked cucumbers, honey roasted pork, the green dumplings and the white steamed ones with two Harbin beers came to only approx 100 Yuan. No US credit cards an kind of understood they wanted a chip and pin card, not the standard US credit or debit cards. We paid cash. Would have gone back there every night and worked our way around the menus and probably would have re-ordered the same thing twice.

CENTRAL AVENUE - STREET FOOD: Freezing cold but everyone is out walking and enjoying all the delights of this pedestrian mile lone avenue - lots of cafes but we ate sausages off a stick and those wonderful ice-cream bars everyone eats in the cold air. There are kabobs of all types cooked on open grills. I tried would looked like little fried dough balls that were drizzled with something sweet looking and then sprinkled with some sort of topping - walnut shavings? Nope, first bite said these were fish balls of some sort and that was shaved dried fish. Good for what they were but I was craving something sweet so those went into the handy waste cans up and down the street.

RUSSIA - 22 West 10th Street - through the Europa Mall off Central to the street behind it join east actually. Utterly charming word carvings, sweetly dressed waitresses, high quality kitsch and I think associated with the equally charming Russia Cafe and Food on one of the side streets off Central Ave.

We both had borsch and I had the seafood in cream sauce and DH had the beef stew pot. Everything was disappointing, not bad, but not good either. Mainly, not very Russian or what I was expecting to be Russian. Borsch without a trace of a beet or shredded cabbage? I wouldn't bother to go there for the food but it is worth it for the setting.

RUSSIA is located a few doors away from the older Europe West restaurant which we also checked out to see the amazing variety of choices on the menu before we decided to try the "real" Russian at the RUSSIA restaurant. Sorry we made this choice as the Europe West looked like and interesting if highly eclectic experience.

Snow Sculpture exhibition on Sun Island had food stall and great ginger tea in warming huts. Took the cable way over to the island which was an easy access from the river front Stalin Park area.

Took the hotel shuttle bus to Ice and Snow world which also has large food service areas and we got a strange combo at KFC - chicken nuggets with Portuguese eggs tarts which hit the spot in the cold night air.

I got the impression with hit and miss one can dine very well with a great deal of variety in Harbin. A very chow-worthty city. Or one could just keep going back to Food Street and Cafe U-9 and die a happy man.

Stop over at Inchon airport in Seoul had lots of food choices - a very nice airport for an extended layover. Even transit "visa free" free trips for an hour or several hour duration that can take you into town and food markets for more local exploration. We couldn't manage it with our schedule but something to know about if you find yourself on a layover in Seoul.

Food on Korean owned Asiana Airlines was pretty good - offering both a western and korean menu for the dinner service. And China Eastern to Harbin offered cold mulberry juice along with coffee, tea or soda choices - lovely.

How to get breakfast in China outside your hotel

Trip report -Harbin China - near the downtown Ibis Hotel West 9th Street.

We found a place called "Food Street (in English among the Chinese characters) right next door to our downtown Hotel Ibis. Lots of individual stalls open in the morning and we finally tried the street food item we had looked at so often in other Chinese cities and loved it for breakfast.

Sorry I don't know the name, but it was the very large, thin crepe pancake that has a smeared fried egg and sesame seeds on one side and then brushed with sweet chili sauce, some fried won ton skins for crunch and a variety of choices of other fillings. I had the "vegetables" which was shredded lettuce and drizzles of mayonnaise (7 Yuan) while DH had the double egg and "bacon" one (13 Yuan). So good we went back the next day.

Breakfast at the Ibis Hotel was as advertised, expensive in comparison and not so good. We got there late and most items would work for a US 'lunch" with little familiar for a US breakfast. It was at least freshly made, but cold by the time we got there and marginal. Fried rice, bean sprouts, pickled vegetables, filled dumplings - bread kind, toast, various hot cereals, milk, muesli, milk tea, tinned orange juice, asian canned fruits. Filling and would have been better had it been not, but not as terrible as reported in Trip Advisor.

But Food Street was a lot more fun, more local, very nice people who were happy to help even though almost zero English. Plus a wonderful bakery which had lovely looking fried breads, sugar donut type breads and the ever welcome "Portuguese" egg tarts.

Where to Eat in the Sacramento Area--Specifically Woodland, CA???

Davis is a major college town - might have some good choices.

We used to drive to Woodland to get beer because there was an alcohol sales limit around UC campuses back then and Davis itself was pretty small so basically it was a dry town. Then we'd go drink it by Putah Creek (the real creek) because it was way out in the wilderness, waaaaaay long time ago at Davis.

Jan 16, 2015
glbtrtr in California

[Malacca, Malaysia] Malacca's # 1 Breakfast at Mee Goreng Hassan Tengkera.

Great report. I was drooling ... and envious. Recently started each day with nasi goreng at an old school Singapore hotel too, but it did not come close to what you just showed us. Yum.

Brought back memories of the bus stop between Singapore and Malacca that had the best little baked crispy peanut butter filled somethings -they put the batter and filling into a grill press.

Oh my they were good and could never find them again in Singapore.

Seoul and Jeonju trip report

Please, what can you tell me about the Inchon airport. It looks good from the website with lots of restaurants and even activities. We have a few long layovers there and would love to hear more about it.

Driving from LA to SF on 101, where to stop?

Mo's BBQ in Pismo has four BBQ sauce choices - we like their Philthy Phil the best having tried them all - it is their regular I think but pumped up a bit with a little heat. They let you pump them all out in server cups so you can add which ever one you like best. But mainly it is the sweet, tender, fall off the bone pork ribs we keep coming back for... and the jugs of their Philthy Phil to take home.

Jan 14, 2015
glbtrtr in California

Emerging foodie regions in California

Add a side trip to Carpinteria and Giannfranco's too. Restaurant real estate has gotten expensive in Santa Barbara, so young chefs look to surrounding locations and are worth a nod.

See Oakland above, after SF priced just about everyone out of the market.

Jan 11, 2015
glbtrtr in California

Emerging foodie regions in California

An upcoming place that is starting to surprise is the city of Oakland.

Jan 11, 2015
glbtrtr in California

Emerging foodie regions in California

Ventura Food Tours sounds interesting if you do come to this area - don't know anything about it other than the website link in a local newspaper story.

There is also a very large rose garden estate that does tea at the height of the rose season on the back road to Ojai from the coast. Roseland?

Jan 11, 2015
glbtrtr in California

Emerging foodie regions in California

We loved that you asked because we all learned something from the discussion.

Jan 11, 2015
glbtrtr in California

How to get breakfast in China outside your hotel

Thank you for the helpful suggestions if we visit a food court in Harbin. How does one buy the food?

Point and ask the shop keeper and hope we understand the number of Yuan?

Or do we pay for it up front at a central register first and then present a ticket?

What should we expect to pay for some soup, dumplings or buns in this market setting, so we can have some ready small cash. I am not expecting any English spoken or written.

Do people bring their own chop sticks, napkins etc?


How to get breakfast in China outside your hotel

Great book called Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking which takes the reader decade by decade through Russian history since the Revolution as seen at the family table of the author.


She mentions mayonnaise a lot as one of the joys of soviet cuisine and was surprised to learn this ended up on the Russian table after Mikoyan visited the US in the 1930's to observe US food production and he came back to Russia with mayonnaise. It was a shock to her to learn this was Hellman's addition from US cuisine that got it started, not Stalin.

I guess that covers Russian salad too.

How to get breakfast in China outside your hotel

Our big issue is it will be very cold and we will be walking.

Apparently taxis are a nightmare during the Ice and Snow Festival. It is costing us $100 to just get from the airport to the hotel in a pre-reservation taxi, after hearing the horror stories about getting kicked out on snow drifts if you did not pay their exorbitant "festival" fares.

So we are going to be looking mainly for eating places we can walk to ...in -34 degree weather! Yes, this is a vacation. But one I look forward to getting over with, than looking forward to actually being there. Ice and Snow Festival has been on my bucket list so grit my teeth, I am going to see it.

Our hotel is quite close to the main Central Avenue so it will not be hard to find something, even western fast food. But mainly the early breakfast hours are the concern since most are open only by late morning. The one good western hotel for breakfast - the Shangri-La sounds a bit far for an early morning walk. And there are no other western hotels around us.

We certainly will not starve and can easily bring some breakfast bars and have hot tea or Swiss Mist to get our mornings started in our room. I just needed to know what I could expect to find that passes for breakfast and your posts have been very helpful - soup, dumplings and noodles. All good.

Hope to report back, because this town is pretty much off the radar but looks full of interesting options with its Russian/Chinese mix. There are several restaurants with "Western" in their names and they are all Russian, though one has pizza with mayonnaise on it. (!)

Emerging foodie regions in California

I initially agree with you about the Pierpont Inn for dining, but recently read a credible report that made me think they had upped their game, though I have not been back myself in some time.

The new review made me want to give it another shot. However, when in this area there are a lot of very small places in Old Town Ventura to try as well.

Thanks for the tip on the Lure Fish House. Menu looks very good.

Jan 09, 2015
glbtrtr in California