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Chowdown at Grocery Cafe, Oakland [Burmese]

I was back for another large group dinner, where dishes were largely the same, though with ohn no kauk swe rather than the mohinga. It was very rich with coconut milk, and a bit sweet. Questions about where the crunchiness came from reminded me of one thing that was a bit suboptimal with the large group servings--as you can see in Melanie's photo the noodles and chickpea fritters are put in the bowl before pouring the soup over. On my previous solo visit, I was served them separately with a to-go order, and they were some of the best and crunchiest I've had at a Burmese restaurant, irregularly shaped and airy, with partially whole peas within. I also wanted to add lime to the soup and a couple other dishes, next time I'm not wedged in the back of the table, I'll ask.
And I've included a picture of the samusa because it was quite different from the previous version--though still well-fried, the filling had more distinct chunks of potato and split chick pea, and maybe onions and peppers, and a very distinct sprinkling of the "sweet spice"/garam masala-like mixture that was part of many of the curry dishes rather than the smooth, subtly spiced version I remember from a week ago. I'll have to go back to see if there is a more typical version.

Cornology (Popcorn shop) now open in SF North Beach, Livermore, Emeryville, Milpitas

I'm assuming they're serving popcorn, not puffed corn kernels. If so, there is currently no GMO popcorn on the market. Their claims seem to be solely 100% organic (non-GMO), with no mention of the origin of their other ingredients which include soy oil, canola oil, soy lecithin, and corn syrup, all of which are likely to be non-organic and GMO. I find most of their statements to be pretty disingenuous, and for some reason they feel the need to impose the text "Conventionally grown corn concentrates toxic fertilizers and pesticides in each harvest, which remain long after the corn is popped" over two non-popcorn pictures.

Bay Area Food Festivals and Events, Spring 2015

I wish I'd been able to make it to the even I posted, but found out about it after I'd made plans for the weekend.
A constant source of events are the readings, with occasional food at Omnivore Books
Some that caught my eye:
Mon. April 20 • Corey Lee • Benu • 6:30-7:30p.m.
April Bloomfield. A Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden • 6:30-7:30p.m.
and many more...

April 2015 COTM: POLPO, chapter 5, Vegetables

I also made the cauliflower gratin, and I agree it is easy and good, though I guess it was about what I expected from the ingredients, and there had been soo many accolades here that I expected something other than nicely textured cauliflower in a smooth and delicious cheese sauce. It is, which is great.

Apr 15, 2015
...tm... in Home Cooking

April 2015 COTM: POLPO, chapter 5, Vegetables

Ah, I guess monksbeard (barba de frate) is also known as agretti. I've gotten it at the Grand Lake Oakland farmers' market and I even grew it for a year, though I haven't seen plants or seeds since. It's not as salty as sea beans, and is a bit more acidic, but does have a similar texture.

Thin sliced bread for tea sandwiches

I found this thread a couple years ago when I had a spread that called out for the "party rye".
I was recently at Piedmont Grocery, where I found most items to be overpriced, but noticed they had the first cocktail sized bread I'd seen in the bay area--Rubschlager brand rye and pumpernickel, and for the very reasonable price of $2.19, particularly for a commodity I haven't seen elsewhere.
I guess I no longer have to suppress any recipe ideas involving party rye.

Lanxang Kingdom - Laotian Pop-up at Tenderloin Turtle Tower [San Francisco]

I stopped by last week for lunch and enjoyed it. Service was very friendly, and they seemed really interested in getting feedback.
I tried to order the special somkhay paa lao caviar, but it was sold out, so opted for another fish option, the mok paa koo. It was catfish wrapped and steamed in banana leaf. And unlike Thai or Cambodian amok, did not have curry paste, or even much if any coconut milk. The primary flavor was dill, but not overwhelmingly so--it was fresh and well balanced. I also enjoyed the tomato jaew and gai lan served with it, as well as the sticky rice, which seemed a bit more flavorful and aromatic than it usually does to me.
I wasn't as thrilled with the nem khao. It had a noticeable egginess to it, that was perhaps exaggerated by having been refrigerated. I wish I had remembered it was papaya salad month when I ordered, or ordered the sai oua I wanted, or hadn't assumed they didn't have the red ant salad, as apparently they do

Chowdown at Grocery Cafe, Oakland [Burmese]

Eight of us gathered at Grocery Cafe for a great meal, set out by owner William Lue. It was a banquet of their classic dishes, and several that don’t appear on the menu, but may be offered as specials.
We were served:
tea leaf salad
ginger salad
fish dip with vegetables
nan gyi chicken
pickled mango pork
oxtail kabocha
biryani rice and white rice
We were also served condiments--two table sauces they always have, a toasted red chili/oil condiment and a green chili condiment in vinegar. There was also a balachaung and a fried anchovy, and one of my favorites of the evening, a mustard green and carrot pickle.
To me, one of the most intriguing dishes was the fish dip. The dip itself was chili based, and was intensely savory, with fish chunks at the bottom as well as fish paste, and perhaps some bitter flavor. It was served with bitter melon leaves, and a seed that we couldn’t figure out the name of, and guessed durian or jackfruit seed, but it is not. It had the funk of a blue cheese or durian, but a strong savoriness and saltiness, and a refreshingly firm bite. Many of us really enjoyed it, though some found it inedible. Count me in the intrigued/spent half an hour trying to google what it is camp.
The catfish was also quite good. It was a whole catfish, hacked into pieces and seemingly gently stewed in an oily, chili infused sauce with plenty of aromatics. I really liked the texture, it had a level of gelatinous softness I haven’t experienced before from catfish.
I also enjoyed the oxtail kabocha. The kabocha was a nice texture--not overly soft, but cooked enough to no longer be grainy, and the oxtail was stewed much longer, so that some of the gelatinous connective tissue could be scraped off the bone, as well as the meat. It was relatively subtly spiced, and more of an oxtail stew than a curry.
Other dishes, like the lamb, “pickled mango” pork, biryani rice, and chicken portion of the nan gyi chicken (noodles) were good, and had a similar spice flavor profile, with an emphasis on the “sweet” spices--cinnamon, clove, cardamom, mace.
Since I live nearby, I’ll have to make my way back soon, especially since I think that mustard green/carrot condiment is for sale to go.
And, I was particularly glad Melanie asked about the “grocery” aspect, as it seems that they are working towards having an outdoors farmers market-type venue for Asian vegetable vendors a couple times per week in the summer. I really hope that works out!! I’d be a buyer at the market, or if they manage to get a CSA going.

SFBA Dish of the Month (April 2015) - Nominations/Voting


Best Sandwich in Berkeley?

Right, I'll never forget the time I ordered an Italian Combo at the much vaunted Genova Delicatessen, requested oil and vinegar, and got back a sandwich that also contained lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and mayo. It was as if the people putting the sandwiches together had never actually tasted a sandwich before.

Downtown Berkeley Food Ideas

Thanks for reporting back--I like Bun Mam Soc Trang too, though it isn't that out of the way for me.
I'm sorry about your Alborz experience. Though I've never gone out of my way to recommend it I've had several solid lunches there. My 2nd-gen Persian colleagues also like it, particularly for kebabs.
And your report encourages me to make it to Perdition--those extra couple blocks from campus somehow makes it seem too difficult.

Best Sandwich in Berkeley?

Well, I'm not a huge sandwich fan, and have very little natural interest in cold sandwiches of the lunchmeat variety, which seems to be mostly what you mean by "standard sandwiches", so take what I say with a grain of salt:
The two places I really enjoy sandwiches are apparently just outside of Berkeley borders, though I had to google to find out that Southie is 1/2 block into Oakland and Rotten City is in Emeryville. Rotten City has my favorite meatball sandwich and sometimes has a pork shoulder/greens sandwich that is also quite good. Southie has some great lunch sandwiches--two of my favorites have been the pulled pork and crab.
I don't know that I'd put it in the BBQ hall of fame, but I liked the sandwiches at Smoke. I've also enjoyed the Casa Latina tortas. I've enjoyed some sandwiches at Gregoire, but unfortunately not the fried chicken--the coating is more cornflakes/shake-n-bake style than battered/flour coated and has tasted burntish the two times I tried it (though both were several years ago). And I've enjoyed the Local Butcher Shop quite a bit.
I notice in your blog that you like EZ Stop, but disliked their turkey coldcut. You should go back for lunch sometime before 12:30--they usually have a signboard outside and have roasted turkey or sometimes chicken for the day and serve a real turkey sandwich, cut from the carcass when you order and you can request dark meat (or white, I assume). They run out, though generally when that has happened they ask if regular turkey is okay.

Vindaloo SFBA Dish of the Month March 2015

I decided to harken back to my college delivery ordering days and ordered from Biryani Kebab. It was pretty good, and made me wonder why I stopped ordering delivery since I started cooking a lot--it's so easy now with phone apps to do so. And most currys aren't the sort of thing that suffer from delays in serving (including buffet), in fact, many benefit from an overnight rest.
That said, this was the standard delivery-style vindaloo--tender lamb and potatoes, with a relatively thick and relatively spicy curry sauce, where sourness is not a focus (I also ordered the achar gosht and the two tasted like perhaps they'd used the same curry base and added some recipe-specific spices to each). The vindaloo had some cinnamon, a medium high heat level, and a pleasant balanced flavor--other restaurants in this category often serve curries that are a bit hollow tasting, or have cream or yogurt added when that shouldn't be the case. The lamb and potatoes were in large chunks--the size you'd put on a kebab.
I'd order from them again, though maybe not the vindaloo.
In my online searches, the only place in the Bay Area I was able to find that serves pork vindaloo (and sorpotel) is Viva Goa in the Marina.

Smashburger -taste!

I tried Smashburger recently and have to say it is probably my favorite chain burger, and is at least as good, if not better than most of the good local thin-style griddled burgers.
The burger really had a beefy flavor, and I think a lot of this came from the well-seared, nicely crusted side. There are those who will insist that smashing a burger automatically obliterates all juices, which is true if you do it wrong http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2... (smash other than an initial adhere as much surface area as possible to the griddle smash), but the burger I got got the juciness/well-cooked flavorful crust balance just right.
And as much as I liked the burger, the rosemary fries were my favorite. They were both well seasoned and well cooked to a crispy exterior, and even though they are nearly shoestring width, enough creamy interior potato to satisfy me.

Mar 28, 2015
...tm... in Chains

Hapa Ramen -- What price ramen? [San Francisco]

It seems that Richie Nakano, the originator and driving force behind Hapa Ramen has been sacked from his own concept.
I never ate at the brick and mortar, but the menus looked interesting.

Bay Area Food Festivals and Events, Spring 2015

I haven't noticed this in previous years, but
"For the past four years, members of the Cambodian community have partnered with Peralta Hacienda Historical Park to bring music, dance, food, and festivities to the local community. "
a celebration of the Cambodian New Year next Saturday, April 4 in Oakland.

Buma's (former Marrow, Oakland)

I also really enjoyed the mushroom slice--it had really great mushroom flavor and texture and the roasted garlic blended in well in flavor, despite being (small) whole cloves.
I didn't care for the cheese slice too much. Though the sauce had the strong cooked tomato flavor I like for NY style slices, it also had the over-oreganoed notes I don't care for so much. The slice also suffered a bit from reheating, and the crust was overly crisp, a bit thicker than I like, and a bit less salt than I prefer, and despite looking like it had just about the right amount of char the outer crust had the slightly bitter almost burnt flavor.
That said, it is still one of the better Bay area pizzas, and I'd order the mushroom again, and regret not ordering the sausage, as it looked fairly good. I'll probably try a whole pie to see if the crust is a reheating problem, also because the first time I stopped in midday on a weekend they weren't doing slices, as they didn't want them to get old and stale on days without a lot of foot traffic and at that time were only doing slices for the busy weekday lunch crowd.

Mo's Hut, Oakland

This little Samoan/Hawaiian spot on Fruitvale Avenue has served me the first Hawaiian plate lunch I'm likely to go back for.
The Hawaiian plate was recommended to me, which at $12 comes with potato/macaroni/crab salad, rice and three meats--the defaults are chicken, short ribs, and teriyaki beef. The potato/mac/krab salad was much more to my taste than many plate lunch mac or potato salads--it had a noticeable mustard taste, and was much less sweet than I'd come to expect, and is a better use of surimi than "sushi".
Of the meats, the teriyaki beef was my favorite--very thin sliced and tender, with a teriyaki that was not overly soy sauced or sugared, as many are to my taste.
I'll be back to this friendly place to try some of their other offerings. The menu is basically a couple of signs, listing the meat options and a couple combos. Next time I'll try the Mo's or Samoan combo, which I didn't notice until the next patron ordered it--it includes bananas in coconut milk, corned beef known as povi/pulu masima, and a chop suey that appears to be made with mung bean noodles.

black stone flower, chettinad cooking

I guess you've already found it, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/1006540
but I thought I'd share that I found some at Vik's in Berkeley. I don't think I noticed it there in the years I lived nearby, and I'm usually intrigued by new to me items in the spice department, but I never sought it out. I also found something I had been on the lookout for--curd chilis.

Fresh Masa for homemade tortillas?

Interesting, for some reason I hadn't realized La Mexicana is a local place in Hayward. Most East Bay Mexican groceries carry La Finca and La Mexicana tortillas (and occasionally masa, though La Finca is more common for that). It seems like that prepared masa is for tamales, as it has lard and baking soda.

Pietisserie opens in Lake Merritt [Oakland]

It's been fully open since Valentine's Day, I think, and I finally managed to stop by. I was happy to see that they had the small sized tart available in a savory version, as I am not much of a dessert person. The quiche contained leeks, carrot, and some greens, and was quite good. It was a bit eggier than I usually make quiche, but the buttery flavor of the crust really melded well with the interior, and had a great texture, unlike the soggy bottom crust you often find on such items.

Frozen Custard in the BA?

As long as we're reviving an old thread, the Frozen Kuhsterd truck is at many Off the Grid and other events. He usually has some innovative flavors and toppings.

Vindaloo SFBA Dish of the Month March 2015

I tried two vindaloo inspired dishes at Juhu Beach Club recently, the vindaloo chicken wings and the pork vindalated pav. Both are based on the (Goan) idea of an acidic curry sauce. The wings were okay--they were whole wings, including the tips, and they weren't fried to a crispy level. The skin was a bit flabby--there was some unrendered fat and the sauce only made the skin flabbier. They weren't terribly spicy, and the sauce seemed well balanced between hot and sour notes, with a bit of sweetness thrown in, leading some at the table to guess there was tamarind in the mix. I didn't notice many other spice notes, but ate only one wing, as I was disappointed in the texture.
The pork vindalated pav was a bit more to my liking--spicier and more acidic, with more noticeable spicing. The pork is a stewed "pulled pork" style--pork shoulder cooked in liquid until you can easily separate it into threads. A little overdone and gummy for my tastes, but a lot of people I know like this style. I did enjoy the contrast with the slaw, and while the difference in the house baked pav is noticeable compared to say, Vik's, it's not a style of bread I appreciate so much that I think it's a great idea to pay $7 per pav vs. $7 for a plate of pav.

Japanese biru

I haven't been, but saw this notice that Umami Mart now has a Japanese beer store


How to eat frugally?

Oftentimes, thriftiness comes at a cost of much labor. To make the best use of one of the most thrifty foods, beans cooked from dried beans, I like to make a very large batch and use in many different dishes.
I usually cook a mild flavored bean in a large batch--anything from pinto to mayocoba to cannelini. Now that I have a pressure cooker I soak overnight in 1% salt brine, then cook for ~30 minutes in water, but I used to cook these in lightly salted water for 90 minutes. This could be boiled, then put in the crockpot. Some flavorings such as bay leaf, onion, and garlic can be introduced at this point, but it isn't a very efficient use of these flavorings. I'd recommend salt, though, either as a brine or as salted water in the longer cooking.
I usually end up with at least 3 quarts of beans with some liquid after cooking. I scoop them out into separate quart containers--some that are almost all beans, and some that are about 1/3 liquid. Those that are more liquidy I like to make into Mexican style beans--sauteeing garlic and onions, cumin, maybe tomatoes, possibly peppers, and mashed beans and liquid. This can be eaten with rice, a tortilla and egg, plain, encased in masa and fried, and probably many other ways.
Two of my favorite dishes for the beans that are more drained are the Italian tuna/beans/greens salad and the Indian rajma masala.
For the Italian, the essentials are a fish element, like the canned tuna you might get, or I sometimes use olive oil poached fish, or preserved herring. The bean element--I like to sautee the beans in olive oil, and oil is an essential flavor in the dish (TJ's has good deals on olive oil) and garlic. I imagine garlic powder would also work well. I like to add fresh red onion, but it isn't essential. An acidic element--fresh lemon juice is traditional, but I've had good luck with vinegar, or even dry souring agents like sumac. And the fresh element. A large amount of parsley, plus some red onion is the norm, but I've enjoyed versions with other greens like cilantro, arugula, or even lettuce.
The same beans can be used for rajma masala--though this means kidney beans, kidney are my least favorite kind of beans, and as I mentioned, I usually make this with pinto or mayocoba beans. I use something similar to this recipe http://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/rajm... the essentials of which are to start some oil/butter/ghee heating, add cumin, then chopped onion, cook until caramelized, add some garlic, then chopped serrano/hot pepper, and other spices. Add tomatoes and beans and simmer for a while. This tastes great with rice or bread, or with a fried egg on top.

How to eat frugally?

I agree, I'm not a huge TJ fan, as I don't really like prepared foods, but they do have good deals on the things you mention--dairy, eggs, oils, and nuts. And liquor, though that is likely not relevant here.

Bay Area Burmese Restaurant Roundup 2.0

Sounds good. There is also Burma Bear, a combo of Burmese and their own style of BBQ. http://www.burmabear.com/where/

Moving to the Bay Area!

Yes, I agree with everyone that you'd get tired of the commute from the western parts of SF to Oakland every day. However, if you're interested in having dinner in the Richmond or Sunset, I've found that the reverse commute there, particularly around 5 pm by car can be surprisingly traffic free.

Lily's House now Happy Valley Restaurant? [Lafayette]

Yes, "Classic" in the sense that China Village uses on their menu, meaning these are the dishes you might expect to order at a takeout Chinese restaurant.
The Diablo Dish reporter even hedges her bets, "serving what she describes as Szechwan-style dishes. Yee tells me the most popular items include the Kung Pao prawns, the honey-glazed beef, and the crispy ginger chicken."
It reminds me of an annoying podcast episode I was listening to where they described most chinese restaurants in the US as Hunan or Szechuan because Kung Pao whatever and General Tso's chicken are the most popular menu items.

Mission Heirloom Cafe -- paleo food in N. Berkeley

I hope you didn't have any "bone broth" in your mouth.