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central location in city for good food and family with toddler and baby

I'd second the Marina, and I don't really even like that neighborhood. There's an excellent variety of restaurants along with bakeries/cafes. It's also very easy to reach the Richmond district by driving through the Presidio out to the Arguello gate.

Being in the Marina puts you right along the many attractions and great walks in the Presidio, This will put you within easy driving access of the GG Bridge and Marin/Sonoma counties, but more inconvenient as far as access to the East Bay, South Bay, and non-Financial District/downtown SF areas. FiDI and downtown are easily reached using public transit from the Marina, especially in commute hours.

about 8 hours ago
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Dim Sum Chowdown at Peony, Oakland

Sounds so good - we wanted to join but couldn't due to a previous appt. Peony fell off our list as well, we couldn't accept the sloppy/indifferent service they were giving everybody. Seems it may be worth putting back onto our (ever-growing) list to try again.

We personally like Lee Garden in Pleasanton, with Koi Palace/Dublin second and Mayflower/Dublin a very distant third. We're out in the Dublin/Pleasanton area a lot and it's actually less hassle for us to eat dim sum or lunch out there than go into Oakland Chinatown.

about 9 hours ago
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Birthday Dinner in East Bay

Note this is Vietnamese, fairly authentic, not fusion:

Le Cheval
1019 Clay Street, Oakland CA. 94607 (Old Oakland area)
http://lecheval.com/index.php?option=...

This link is to their menu page. Pg 2 starts the dinner menu, the Starters page. If you click through to Pg 3, Le Cheval offers the 7-course Beef Banquet.

Most restaurants don't offer this. It's a great experience with food most people haven't tried before.

about 9 hours ago
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Croissants - SF Dish of the Month February 2014

Ooooh, I knew that address sounded familiar! That's the former Patisserie Philippe location. Hmmm, don't suppose Bonjour has any palmiers?....we were hooked on Philippe's palmiers and he said he was going to give the recipe to whoever took over his location.

Next time we are in the city with our car (which isn't often, but does happen) we will stop by and try the croissants.

Jul 19, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

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

Nicholas Boer of Diablo Dish raved about the new Sichuan cuisine China Lounge in Pleasanton, just opened: http://www.diablomag.com/D-blog/Diabl....

China Lounge. 4220 Rosewood Dr., Pleasanton, (925) 227-1312.

Jul 19, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Trip Report: Four Days in San Francisco

So glad you had a great time, and that the off-the-cuff places worked so well for you. It's always nice when that happens!

Perbacco's service is some of the very best. You should have returned the pappardelle, though. They are very good about handling those kinds of issues.

Jul 19, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

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

An off-side to this: WSJ (by subscription only, alas, or I would share the link) had an excellent article back in June 2014 on Napa Valley winemaker Bill Harlan, who is releasing his new Promontory wine ($750/bottle) this fall. Harlan purchased Meadowood when it was a failing golf club with run-down cabins. It was Robert Mondavi who talked him into holding Napa's first charity wine auction in 1981, which has been held at Meadowood ever since.

Harlan was one of the founders of Pacific Union realty, but has been concentrating on wine since the '80's. The winery is invitation-only, but in 2015 they plan to open a new facility to the general public (no address was given, but the area is what Robert Parker calls the Oakville corridor).

Jul 18, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Steakhouse at hotel or near [San Francisco]

>>My friends did a ribeye cookoff last year and Harris' dry-aged came in second after Five Dot Farms grass-fed non-aged; the others were from Belcampo, MacGruder Farms, Baron's in Alameda, and Marin Sun Farms.>>

That's really interesting; we've tried Baron's & Marin Farms but not Belcampo, Harris or MacGruder. However, we had both the non-aged and aged Five Dot Farms rib-eye last year on a one-to-one comparison. Altho good for CA beef they were not in the top-level Midwest/East Coast steakhouse tier.

Jul 18, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Steakhouse at hotel or near [San Francisco]

I can only speak for the Ruth's Chris in WCreek, but their meat is substandard. Tender but a little flabby and and tasteless on the filet; the NY strip was disgusting.

Jul 18, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Croissants - SF Dish of the Month February 2014

Just wondering if anyone can report on Le Marais Bakery's croissants? The Marina bakery is expanding its quarters into a full restaurant. Except for service and demand-outstripping-supply issues, their fans rate them very highly, but I don't see any mention of them on this thread.

Jul 18, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Wine country central location

Much as I love Sebastopol's restaurants, I do think it sounds like your family might enjoy Sonoma Square/city of Sonoma a lot more. There's sufficient restaurants and things to do, and very easy access to (city of) Napa. The downtown Napa restaurants aren't as good as St. Helena/Yountville, but your family would enjoy Oxbow Market and there's some decent wine-tasting rooms and casual restaurants downtown that make the 25 min. drive worthwhile.

Depending on that nasty Hwy 101 construction project they're doing around Petaluma, if you are thinking of going into SF you should make a point to check on-line or call 511.org, both directions. We have seen some terrific traffic jams well outside normal commute hours in this area due to lane closures by CalTrans.

Jul 17, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

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

Per Inside Scoop's article: Tickets start at $395 per person for dinner (plus tax and gratuity); the chef’s counter is $750 per person. Or, if you want to go ALL OUT, the overnight package costs $1375 for weekday dinners and $1450 for weekend dinners (plus tax and gratuity); that pricetag is for dinner for two, one night’s lodging at Meadowood, and a copy of Kostow’s upcoming book, “A New Napa Cuisine.”

I don't think you can view this as eating at Meadowood restaurant, except in the physical sense? Go because you're interested in the chef.

We're staying elsewhere. St. Helena isn't that far from our fav hotel, which costs $$$ less than Meadowood. But some people love that luxury spa experience, and Meadowood is certainly that. Just don't forget, if the forecasters are correct that it'll be an El Nino winter, dreary rainy weather cuts off any outdoor activities no matter where you stay.

Jul 17, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area
2

Steakhouse at hotel or near [San Francisco]

I ate at Bob's years ago when it first opened, and it was killer good. But the prices were heart-stopping, even though my friend was picking up the check on expense account (gee, remember those? LOL!). Never forgotten it, though.

Jul 17, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Eating out in Healdsburg

Spoonbar/Healdsburg, in the H2 Hotel. We've eaten at 51 different restaurants in Sonoma Cty over the last four years in our travels there, and Louis Maldonado's food has been the best of all so far. Spoonbar just won inclusion into Wine Enthusiast's list of 2014 Best 100 Wine Restaurants, as well.

Jul 17, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

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

Didn't have any trouble making a reservation for Dec 10th dinner by Alexandre Gauthier of La Grenouillère. Should be interesting, at least.

I'm now very glad we ate at the Grill restaurant earlier this year - I would hate to make that drive out there in the dark without knowing the road a little. When that sign said "Narrow bridge" it meant REALLY narrow, LOL! We were heading there at twilight and then suddenly facing a full-size pick-up truck on a short bridge that abruptly seemed to have shrunk 3' in road width was, ummmm....rather startling, and not in a good way.

Jul 16, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Best Paella in San Francisco/Oakland?

Good point about Venga being a more everyday type of place. It's what owner/chef Eduardo Balaguer, who is of Catalan decent and previously worked at his family’s traditional paella restaurant in Valencia, Spain, was aiming for.

Moon cake, are you referring to Cesar's/Oakland, on Piedmont? That's a terrible place, ignored by the owner and boy, does it show (at least, that was true last time we went 2 yrs ago). Service and food are third-rate, although they do make a decent ceviche.

Jul 11, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Reverse osmosis, Ionized or... tap water ?

RO systems have gotten better at not wasting so much water - it used to be that they dumped 3 gall of water for every 1 gall of filtered water. However, the tradeoff for less water waste is increased filter usage. Those filters are not cheap, nor are they recyclable. Taking "chemicals" you're not even certain are in your district water and dumping them into leaky landfills doesn't seem an ecological plus.

OTOH, water districts only test for certain contaminants, so there are definitely things that get by them. If you truly feel you need to purify your water, I'd suggest any good double-filtering system, either whole-house or primary faucet. It's the filters that matter, so you'll want to make sure you know what your options are for sourcing replacements and selecting appropriate filtration levels.

For example, I can buy basic level filters for my water filtration system for $6 apiece. These reduces chlorine taste and sediment, but that's all. For removing/reducing heavy metals, the highest level filter costs $23 each (VOC, lead, cysts, asbestos, atrazine, benezene, chlorine taste & odor, lindane and mercury).

Filter cost is a very significant part of any water filtration system. Make sure you factor this in.

Jul 11, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

SF/Napa Itinerary

Lunch Fri @Tadich might be wonderful but you will not be able to get on the road in time unless you eat right when they open and hurry through eating. I won't even touch I-80 northbound traffic from the Bridge through Berkeley after 3p.

Why not just have lunch at Oxbow? You can reserve a table at Ca' Momi (try to get a patio table, but it's tough in summer). Their food is excellent, the pastries are magnificent. Their coffee bigne is the best we've ever had, like a shot of espresso in whipped cream form.

I agree with Marie L., I'd skip all three of your list for Sun dinner. We've eaten Ryder Zetts' cooking at Solbar and apparently he's doing even better at Archetype. Both are in St. Helena. Solbar's more modern in architectural style, but their location in the vineyards gives their outdoor patio a real plus. Only Brix and Auberge have a prettier setup for patio dining, but Brix's chef is new (May 2014) so no reports yet, and Auberge is not really casual except at lunch (plus their patio is tiny - four tables).

Jul 11, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Short day trip suggestions [San Francisco]

City Guides run amazing free tours. I've never failed to learn something new about the history of SF. Anywhere they go you'll be able to find a good restaurant nearby: http://www.sfcityguides.org/

City Guides started as a service from Friends of the SF Public Library. They became so popular they spun off into an independent organization.

Jul 10, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area
2

Trying to organize a fun dinner for 10 "foodie hipsters" visiting from LA

As it's not definite that SF will be able to retain the Bay Bridge light show (they are trying, but it's scheduled to end March 2015), have you considered maybe a restaurant that has a good view of the light show?

Waterbar or La Mar Cebicheria, perhaps? Can other CH'ers suggest some others?

Jul 10, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Best Paella in San Francisco/Oakland?

At Venga we had both the Traditionale (chorizo and a bit of seafood) and the Arroz Negro, both were excellent and properly cooked. Venga is very light on the protein, FYI for those who haven't been there. We usually get a skewer of the grilled shrimp to throw in.

Venga is very different than Duende. Venga is small, plain, quiet, very simple. We enjoyed it a lot!

We really liked Zarzuela but it was the wedge of tuna empanada that knocked our socks off. Parking is hideous so we parked in the nearby garage which added another $20 to the tab.

Jul 10, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Eating at Google

Fun read from Trevor Felch of EaterSF, who was invited to lunch at Google HQ. One of my family worked there as a contractor for almost two years and to this day, continues to rave about the food:

"Lunch at Google HQ is as Insanely Awesome as You Thought"
http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/01/lu...

Jul 09, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Mixed Grain -- Korean in Walnut Creek

The thing to note is that we always tell the waitstaff we want it extra spicy. But it's never any hotter than a 5/10, unless you add that ground chile paste to it.

Jul 09, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Where to eat on Webster St in Alameda other than Otaez or East Ocean?

Cafe Jolie is open for dinner, but ONLY Thurs-Sat. Former chef at I-Squared is now there. We thought it was okay, nothing remarkable but the French Onion Soup (a variant including tomato paste) was tasty. Salad Lyonnaise disappointing; the poached egg wasn't drained making it watery, and the vinaigrette a little too mild so when watered down it was tasteless.

But filet mignon and grilled salmon were both very generous plates and well executed, good accompaniment. We were surprised, this was a good value.

Dessert was mediocre (too cold/too stolid chocolate multi-layer cake) but altho the cappuccino was more like a latte, the blend used was excellent quality. Good service, too.

Biggest negative: live music. The restaurant is just too darned small for a live band with an amplifier. It cuts off half the seating because nobody can stand to sit too close. Nice instrumental soft jazz, but I really wish restaurateurs would recognize their spatial limitations and stop trying to push these things.

Jul 09, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Mixed Grain -- Korean in Walnut Creek

the dive, glad you enjoyed Bowl'd BBQ too. My niece was always bugging me to try Bowl'd/Albany. She loves Fusebox best of all, though. That's still on our list to try. Few banchan but high quality, well-prepared food, she says.

LOL, no two people have the same "chile index". We thought the soft tofu stew (spouse has ordered it all four times we've visited Bowl's BBQ) was a 5 on our scale of 10. Not much hotter than Sophina Uong's cooking at Pican on certain dishes, although she uses sneakier chiles that build up heat.

I agree with hyperbowler, I really miss the spicy dried anchovies - love, love, love them....

Bowl'd BBQ
4869 Telegraph Avenue @48th St., Oakland, CA
http://bowldbbq.com/

Bowl'd Korean Rice Bar
www.bowldsolano.com/
1479 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

Spoon Korean Bistro
933 Ashby Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 704-9555

Mixed Grain
1546 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, CA 94596. Telephone: (925) 938-5959.
http://mixedgrain.com/new/index-5.htm...

and:

FuseBox
2311A Magnolia Street, Oakland, CA 94607, off West Grand Avenue.
Phone: (510) 444-3100
http://fuseboxoakland.com/

Jul 09, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Walnut creek / Dublin itinerary

We have been disappointed in the last year or so at Artisan Bistro/Lafayette with the entrees, which have dropped a full level below the starters and desserts. But the latter two remain very good indeed - Artisan used to be our pick in the EBay, but the entree decline removed that designation. They have a nice counter bar, though; you might want to drop in to see if you can just order dessert and coffee at the bar. The service has always been very good at Artisan.

Artisan Bistro
1005 Brown Ave., Lafayette
http://www.artisanlafayette.com/menu....

Jul 09, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Walnut creek / Dublin itinerary

Interesting report on Va de Vi. We never did like Shane McAnelly's cooking, and now that he's gone to Chalkboard/Healdsburg, we discovered we still don't like his cooking. I don't think the new chef changed very much; your meal sounds as erratic as ours was. I never understood what Michael Bauer saw in VdV. It was too uneven for the price.

We liked Rustic Tavern in Lafayette. Metro Lafayette was good, but I'd give the edge to Rustic. Not just food, but for hitting the "sweet spot": a place you'd feel comfortable dropping in for a quick meal, but also sitting around to just hang with friends.

Rustic Tavern
3576 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, CA
http://www.rustictavernlafayette.com/...

Metro Lafayette
3524 Mount Diablo Blvd., Lafayette
Sample menus only: http://www.metrolafayette.com/grafix/...

India Garden has the only good Indian lunch buffet we have ever encountered in the EBay; we were truly amazed. We're not price-sensitive, but this was so good it belied the price point.
India Garden
210 Rose Avenue @Main St., Pleasanton, CA
http://www.indiagardencuisine.com/

Jul 08, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Mixed Grain -- Korean in Walnut Creek

I hope I get this right, but any corrections are useful - from my understanding: Bowl'd, Bowl'd BBQ, Spoon, and Mixed Grain are run by two women. One is the daughter of Ohgane's owners, the other is her best friend who is close enough to be considered an unofficial member of the family.

Bowl'd BBQ was formerly Copan, intended to be a little more Asian fusion than the other restaurants. Former Momofuku chef Eddie Jew (or Joo, depending on which article you're reading), broke up quickly with Copan's owners and went back to LA. Copan was renamed Bowl'd BBQ to take advantage of the expensive DIY grill tables; otherwise, it's almost identical to Bowl'd/Albany.

The first time we came to Bowl'd BBQ in Feb 2014, the food was good but still a bit sweet. Ohgane, the parents' restaurant, is so far off our list we can't even see it any longer. We call it The House of White Death; they use tons of sugar in everything and it's just too over the top for us.

In March 2014 we returned to Bowl'd BBQ and noticed a definite decrease in the sugar levels. We congratulated the waiter, who told us they had gotten a lot of feedback on using too much sugar (even though they use maybe half what Ohgane does), and so the kitchen was finally falling into line and not using so much.

We like the dolsot bibimbop with spicy pork and the haemul sundubu jjigae (seafood tofu soup), as well as the oyster pancakes. But spouse and I split on the KFC: he was okay with it, I found it way over-vinegared to the point I couldn't even stand the smell of it!

The banchan are plain but tasty. I wasn't impressed by their pork belly; what I received was thin slices of boneless Boston Butt, not pork belly. Lean and uninteresting.

Their food is not that hot; if you want the unsweetened ground chile sauce, just ask for it. GREAT stuff (comes gratis with the oyster pancakes)!

Also, no need to specify "raw" if you want your egg sunny-side up (e.g., runny yolk) on the dolsot bibimbop. They aim their food at AsAms and Caucasians; the fried egg comes that way standard.

The cooking is actually so low-salt and low-fat, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of customers use the soya they bring to the table automatically. Not sure why they don't just leave the soya and chile sauce bottles on every table, but I guess it's a pain to check levels and refill them on two dozen tables.

Jul 08, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

Oakland (Temescal): Barlata ... or ... B44 East

Although it's very small the menu is limited, we enjoyed Venga Paella and so did our friends who went a month after we did. Just a few tapas, only three paellas - very spare and simple, but wonderfully flavorful. Carb-heavy paella, not the "loaded with ten different proteins" style one encounters everywhere. Lovely with a glass of dry sherry!

We had a good meal at Barlata the first time, but a return a year later for lunch was terrible.

Venga Paella
229 Brush St., Oakland, CA
http://www.vengapaella.com/menu/

Jul 08, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area

critique my food choices in wine country

It all depends on what you'd enjoy most. I'd run up to Hole In the Wall/Sebastopol, a quick 15-20 min drive, for breakfast or lunch. No reservations, same menu for lunch and dinner. We feel chef/owner Adam Beers is doing an amazing job at this modest little cafe.

We're not lovers of Central Market. We found the deep-frying uniformly greasy and the flavors unbalanced. The chef comes out and glad-hands endlessly, something we rarely approve of, since we trust line cooks without supervision about as far as we can throw them. Petaluma is not a great restaurant town. We enjoy Le Bistro, which is more Continental than French. Portions are small, but his execution is classic. Again, we would rather go to Sebastopol, where French Garden and K&L Bistro are both beautiful and do terrific food.

Sonoma Square: Girl & Fig is good. So are Cafe La Haye, La Salette, and although no one else seems to like them, Depot Hotel Restaurant, just off the Square.

H.Shed is an odd duck that is a little bit kitchen store, a little bit deli/bakery, a little bit gourmet foodstuffs, and fully one-half meeting/classroom space. It, and Downtown Bakery, are right on Healdsburg Square, so your choice for breakfast. We get our coffee at Flying Goat, near Downtown Bakery, as we love their coffees and espresso drinks. If you are closer to lunchtime, go to Shed; they'll have more lunch items than Downtown, which is a true bakery and not so cafe-like.

Hole in the Wall
972 Gravenstein Hwy. South, Sebastopol, CA
http://www.holeinthewallsebastopol.co...

Le Bistro
312 Petaluma Blvd. So., Petaluma, CA
No website; Yelp reviews http://www.yelp.com/biz/le-bistro-pet...

Cafe La Haye
140 E. Napa St., Sonoma
www.cafelahaye.com

La Salette
452-H First Street East, Sonoma, CA
www.lasalette-restaurant.com

Depot Hotel Restaurant and Garden
241 First St. West, Sonoma, CA
http://www.depotsonoma.com/Depot-Menu

Downtown Bakery & Creamery
308 Center St., Healdsburg
www.downtownbakery.net

Flying Goat Coffee
419 Center St, Healdsburg

Jul 08, 2014
jaiko in San Francisco Bay Area