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Auberge du S, Meadowood or Sobar-Solage [Napa Valley]

Having eaten often at Auberge I love it, but it's the Terrace that adds that extra fillip, and at night there's no view. We happen to think Robert Curry is an amazing chef, so YMMV.

Solbar @Solage has some amazing food, especially on the spa side of the menu, but I have to agree with Bauer that Brandon Sharp took his eye off the ball at Solage with the new restaurants mgmt was opening one after another. I felt that Solbar had dropped a half level when Ryder Zetts went over to Archetype. But although a beautiful contemporary dining room, I would not really call Solbar a super-special occasion place.

I would not rank either of them with Meadowood. Auberge is hushed and quiet, as a Boomer I love it. Solbar is definitely more animated. But Meadowood will be uniquely special for your occasion. Service at all three is excellent.

San Francisco with clients

Prospect is a beautiful setting but when we went it was noticeably noisier than Boulevard, so just something to consider. Roka Akor will definitely dent even an expense acct budget, LOL.

San Francisco with clients

Has anyone gone to Gitane since the chef left? I'm blanking on his name, the one Bauer raved about in his review of Gitane, then there was some sort of dust-up between him and mgmt, so he quit unexpectedly and is now in a new gig in the EBay, I think.

Sushi Cooking Classes?

Eat Feastly has a whole slew of classes, including sushi making:
https://eatfeastly.com/browse/all-cit...

Tasting Menu Recs

Never had any problems and never gotten a ticket either. We've been going regularly since 2010 after we retired.

Check Please: PintxoPote (formerly Donostia) Los Gatos; Red Hill Station, SF; Osmanthus, Oakland 4/30/15

I don't always report our rvws on Chowhound, so it isn't on hyperbowler's thread.

Osmanthus is fusion but pulls from several regions, unlike Rest Chu up the street which sticks to Northern/Western dishes. Their shrimp toast is classic Cantonese and my HK-born spouse loved it; these days it's a rare dish.

The brussels sprouts were a little heavy-handed on the vinegar. At first it was good, then it became tiring on the palate. We didn't get to the smoked trout fried rice, but did do the garlic noodles. We prefer the very spartan, elegant version which is garlic infused oil, fresh noodles lightly tossed, no soya at all. We intensely dislike the current fad for sugar and soya in the wok. Osmanthus' version is about halfway between the two types, heavily covered with chewy toasted garlic bits. We would order it again, although we'd request less of the topping. It's very good, we love garlic, but it is overboard. Because they use only a bit of soya, it is a good side to other dishes. We especially liked it with the filet with green peppers, which is a variant of the beef in black bean sauce from "the old days". Tasty crispy edges on the small beef cubes were great with the eggplant, as well as the rice or garlic noodles (we ordered both, with three Asians at the table).

The eggplant is nicely prepared, evenly cut small eggplants. Sauce was on the sweet, slightly tart side, so although different than the sprouts I would not order both dishes at the same time again.

The Thai tea creme brulee is excellent. Service at lunch was excellent, not crowded. Can't answer to dinner time, we haven't had the chance to return yet.

HTH!

Tasting Menu Recs

Carmel's 1-1/2 hrs away if you're not doing it at prime commute hours or weekends. We do it at least 2-3x a year. Was just there 4/24 and will be back again 5/04 to bookend our SoCA driving trip.

Tasting Menu Recs

Michael Warring in Vallejo, 20 min east of Napa off Hwy 80. Learned about it from Hounders and were very impressed. Warring's a bargain, six course meal for $69 or thereabouts, with both wine and beer pairings extra.

and further out, Aubergine at Auberge Carmel, in the Monterey/Carmel area.

Aubergine's amazing. Liked it much better than Commis and the price is a bargain for the nine courses plus freebies. Don't remember how much the charge is for pairings, though (we don't drink).

Moving to North/East Bay

You'll enjoy Alameda. Very friendly place, good sense of community. We live in Oakland but donate to the Alameda Free Public Library; they make it very easy compared to Oakland Library (sigh).

Love Speisekammer, so much better than the overhyped Brotzeit Lokal/Oakland. Best potato pancakes in town, ask for the free sour cream to go with the housemade applesauce.

Be sure to go to Trabocco, either lunch or dinner. Chef Naccarelli is there almost all the time. The Carpaccio with Meyer lemon oil (do NOT squeeze that grocery store lemon wedge over the beef; it's totally unnecessary and will ruin the dish) is one of the best in the Bay Area, hands down. At dinner, the baccala e pepperoni will turn you into a salt cod lover. There isn't another restaurant around that makes this dish and it's amazing.

Trabocco @South Shore Center Mall
2213 South Shore Center, Alameda, California 94501
reservations thru OpenTable or Tel. 510-521-1152
Hours Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 AM to 10:00 PM, Fridays and Saturdays from 11:30 AM to 11:00 PM. The dinner menu starts at 4:00 PM daily.

And welcome to the East Bay!

Napa report Feb 2015

Cool - if you try them, add a follow-up if you have time when you get back.

Blue Bottle swallows up Tartine.

A bit more detail from NYTimes:

Tartine Expansion Plans Include New York
New York Times APRIL 20, 2015
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/22/din...

Apr 20, 2015
tre2012 in San Francisco Bay Area
1

Napa report Feb 2015

I apologize for how late this is. Early in March we had a death in the family and right after that happened, caught the worst case of flu we've ever had. For over a month now we have been experiencing Better Living Through Chemistry, thanks to copious amounts of Nyquil, Tylenol, and Hall's Cough Drops, lol.

Anyway, in Feb we did our usual (every six months or so) three-nighter in Napa, eating at Farmstead, Calistoga Inn, Ad Lib, Tarla, Michael Warring, and Farmer & Fox. We are reviewing the food; we seldom drink.

Winner: Farmer & Fox, hands down. Chef Joseph Humphrey's cooking is rich, substantial, creative, and brilliant. The game pie and the "black pudding" (a variant of boudin noir sausage) were amazing! Great quiet English gastropub decor with super comfy (and BIG) banquette seating.

Second Place: Tarla (Turkish). Our Turkish friends eat at every Turkish restaurant from San Jose to Sacramento to the Wine Country, and Tarla is one of only three Turkish restaurants they will return to. Outstanding lamb kebabs and great kunefe dessert. Very much a "locals" restaurant.

Third place: Michael Warring. The curse of the tasting menu is that some menus are stronger than others. The night we went, the first two courses were good but somehow just missed. But the rest of the meal was spectacular, showing that MW definitely deserves a visit if you have not been here before. It's a spare, elegant space. You really do feel like you're in someone's home. Be sure to note instructions for finding the restaurant; GPSs have a very hard time with this residential golf community!

Fourth Place: A tie between Farmstead and Calistoga Inn. Neither one pleased us overall; both offered only one dish that stood out. At Farmstead that was the ham sandwiches, which are actually biscuit sliders using La Quercia Americano prosciutto, with a light smear of pepper jelly. SUPERB biscuits, almost as good as the ones chef Banks White used to make at Five/Berkeley. Calistoga Inn had a soup du jour of cauliflower-turnip bisque with curried apple garnish that was stunning, but like Farmstead the rest of the meal was a letdown.

Last place by a country mile: Ad Lib. How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways....outrageous ear-splitting irritating NOISE NOISE NOISE. Sub-par service that pretends to be upscale but fakes a Caesar prep and assumes you're too stupid to know that a Caesar is not, in fact, a creamy mustard vinaigrette. Bad bread. Chowder needed a knife and fork on the big pieces of chewy clams. Lamb chops so salty even the bones tasted as if infused with seawater. Greasy mac'n'cheese. But at least the salmon was good, and surprisingly a large portion. But that wasn't enough to redeem an absolutely awful evening. We couldn't get out of there fast enough.

Barrel Room Oakland: Latin America food/wine

Barrel Room's Latin America changeover just began 4/13; it will remain through the end of July or August 2015. This past Saturday 4/18 we held a group dinner at TBR with 14 people. The food won raves. We highly recommend a visit (this is a small place so reservations are essential for weekends).

Biggest winners on the food side were:
• Ahi tuna ceviche with passionfruit
• Spicy mushroom with cilantro rice (this was ranked the best dish by 10 of the group; the other 4 didn't like spicy food so didn't try it)
• Dates with blue cheese & walnuts (we think it's better without the optional bacon)
• Salt cod cakes are good but the cumin/red bell aioli lifts them to a new level
• Merguez (housemade beef/lamb) with Israeli couscous and cabbage slaw
• Roast chicken was very nicely handled
• Ice cream sandwiches, especially the Earl Grey Tea flavor.

Loser was oddly the tri-tip. This is odd because back in Aug 2014 on the Spain/Portugal menus, the tri-tip was by far the best entrée. But this time it tasted like they forgot to salt it, and the chimichurri wasn't enough to make up for that lack. I have mentioned it to them so they may be tweaking that dish soon.

Note the excellent charcuterie platter and cheese platters are holdovers from the past French menu. They said they've been concentrating so much on the new SF space that they didn't have time to change these dishes out yet. As it is, the Latin America menu was two weeks late debuting.

Because it was such a large group we pre-ordered the wines, all of which were well received. The Chenin Blanc is dry on the finish but has enough residual sugar in the mouth to work with the food, which is more strongly spiced than the Spain or French menus were. The Malbec is from a vineyard very far south, so it is lighter than most Malbecs.
• 2013 Chenin Blanc from L. A. Cetto, Mexico's Guadalupe Valley.
• 2013 Malbec from Noemia 'a lisa', Argentina, Patagonia
• Pacory 'cidre le costaud', France. I originally was going to order the outstanding Spanish Poma Aurea hard cider, but the Latin American menu is spicy enough to warrant the slightly sweeter Costaud.

For those of you who enjoy trying new wines, TBR has an amazing variety of wine flights on their wine list (link below). You can choose from:
• Three featured flights (one sparkling, the other two a mix of red/white by country)
• Seven white wine flights by varietals (with one from CA for comparisons)
• Eleven red white flights (ditto above)
• Six two-glass blind comparisons between CA and SA by varietals

Wine list: http://barrelroomsf.com/wp-content/up...
Menu: http://barrelroomsf.com/wp-content/up...

Moving to the Bay Area!

Oh, do stop by our friend Jaynelle's pie shop, Pietisserie:
1605 2nd Ave
Oakland, CA 94606
b/t Foothill Blvd & 16th St.
Phone number (510) 859-7437

Her website lists the flavors for the month: http://www.pietisserie.com/

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

Peter's Kettle Corn is a better competitor in Oakland, popcorn fresh-popped daily. We've gotten several of our friends addicted to this, LOL. He sells at a few farmers mkts, as well as Berkeley Bowl and Bi-Rite.

There's usually 5 different kinds available every day at the retail store:

Peter's Kettle Corn
4139 MacArthur Blvd
Oakland, CA 94619
b/t 39th Ave & Maybelle Ave/Lower Hills, Laurel District
Phone number (510) 612-1163
http://peterskettlecorn.com/

Anything high end (old, or new and upgraded) that's worth it?

Why not Acquerello?

Jeremiah Tower v. Michael Bauer on FB

Towers has always been thin-skinned about criticism. He takes it VERY personally.

Festive restaurant for a group of 10-12 in SF

Kokkari (Greek)
200 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 981-0983
http://www.kokkari.com/home/

Dragon Gate - New Taiwanese Food Venue in Oakland

Yes. They douse it with sweet-sour sauce out of a jar. We went to Dragon Gate and didn't particularly care for it, but my Taiwanese in-law likes the place (and the oyster pancake, LOL).

Chef Sophina Uong currently at Revival/Berkeley

We ate at Revival in 2013 and found the food wildly uneven. Being fans of Chef Uong, when we heard she was filling in for Ms. Murray at Revival we immediately made plans to return.

Went for dinner on 3/12 and just as she did at Pican, Ms. Uong has brought Revival's kitchen up a full notch. Not perfect, but the food is finally moving forward and evening out to be less inconsistent.

We had the chance to talk with her and she mentioned she brought quite a few of her staff along. Tentative plans are for her to remain thru mid-June 2015.

The restaurant menu was a little different from the website menu, but reasonably close. We especially loved the Dungeness crab porridge, Nettle-fava bean leaf soup, Mixed grill, and dessert (which was sensational!).

I just posted a full review on Yelp dated 4/09, giving 4 stars (yeah, I'm always behind on posting...sigh). There's still a ways for Revival to go, but the signs are encouraging.

Moving to North/East Bay

>>the Albany public schools are overrated.>>

I would disagree. Perhaps the elementary schools might be - my nephew and niece went to St. Paul's Lutheran for private school through grades 4 and 5, but then transferred to Albany public schools, graduating from Albany High.

Their education was excellent, and Albany has a good racial/cultural mix to draw from. My Yonsei niece's best friends from grammar school through high school were a Turkish Muslim, a Reform Jew, and an LGBT Caucasian. She ended up going on full scholarship to Brown University in RI so I don't think she suffered from any lack.

Is "calamari steak" available in SF?

Calamari steak is not popular any longer. Demand results in availability. It's interesting to see the food differences our many Millennial friends have from ourselves and other Boomer friends. On one hand, some foods have become 'everyday', such as spicy salsas, sushi, and Asian noodles.

But other traditional foods have fallen by the wayside. Not only calamari steak, but also:
- Chicken liver pasta
- Beef stew (or almost any stew/braise, in fact)
- Cutlets or roulades
- Poached fish

So for example, my niece, who is a superb cook and baker (the best Millennial cook we know among many), loves chicken gizzards but had never had sweetbreads or liver. She stir-fries and BBQ grills, but never braises or poaches, seldom roasts anything except the Thanksgiving turkey.

Calamari falls into what I call "restaurant food" these days. Few people make it at home, and the only time they encounter it is baby squid in tempura style as a starter. Ergo, the idea that you can eat the thicker, mature squid as a tenderized steak seems....strange to them. They don't order it, it doesn't stay on a menu.

Despite the fact that Boomers outspend Millennials as a group in discretionary spending, businesses insist upon chasing Millennials, which is why battered fried chicken wings are everywhere, but fans of calamari steak search in vain. The latter are the equivalent of stuffed potato skins to young Boomers in the '70's/'80s.

2 Days in Berkeley

I think all the dishes in the Bò 7 món are traditional Viet dishes. But Anh Hong claims they were the first to put them together in a fixed menu:
http://anhhong.com/aboutus/

None of the dishes in the Bò 7 món remind us of the Vietnamese banquet food we were privileged to enjoy in the late '70's, courtesy of a friend's intro to the former SVietnam ambassador to France. Interestingly, and not surprisingly, all the dishes (they closed the restaurant for us) reminded us very much of French cooking - La Bourgogne with a Saigon influence! Our friend told us this was the type of food they ate for special occasions, such as weddings, etc.

2 Days in Berkeley

When your scion's feeling like something a little different, Cafe Tibet has a couple of good dishes: some excellent dumplings and dholoona kamngoe, eggplant "chips" with "special house sauce." We preferred the beef momos; found the various veggie dumplings too bland for our taste. (Tibetan food isn't spicy, they use dips and sauces to add flavor). The owner, Ms. Chinkarlaprang, is often there in full Tibetan dress, very colorful and beautiful. I'm impressed she can cook without an apron; I'd be a mess in minutes, LOL.

Café Tibet
2020 University Ave., Berkeley, CA
No website; Yelp reviews http://www.yelp.com/biz/cafe-tibet-be...

He might also enjoy some of the Vietnamese food at Anh Hong. They invented the Bò 7 Món, the 7-course beef banquet dinner. We think other Vietnamese restaurants do a better job of it, having added different and more interesting beef dishes, but at Anh Hong you can get it without reserving ahead, and it's priced per person. The servings are VERY generous; we ordered 3 of the Bò 7 Món for our party of three, along with several plates of rice noodles. We could easily have gotten away with only 2 of the Bò 7 Món for the three of us, making this a very wallet-friendly 'night out' place for students.

Anh Hong (Vietnamese
)2067 University Ave., Berkeley
http://www.anhhong.com/berkeleymenu/i...

We enjoyed Joshu-Ya, owned by Jason Kwon who nowadays spends most of his time over at Bleeker Bistro right around the corner. Joshu-Ya is somewhat reminiscent of, but not quite as good as, Iyasare/Berkeley. It is a little more fusion-y, and the sliders wowed us; they were seriously amazing. A real bargain was the chicken udon, which had thin sliced kamaboko (fish cake); a couple of tiny slices of mushroom stem that appeared to be either king or royal fungi; a single shrimp tempura; a couple of vegetable deep-fried gyoza; and a generous amount of slices of a superior quality chicken thigh, with a slight crust from frying, that was full of deep chicken flavor; with a heap of udon noodles in a cast iron pot. I found the broth somewhat weak and the noodle quality just average, but for $13 it was a heck of a bargain for a hot lunch or quick dinner. Spouse was disappointed in sashimi deluxe platter; said it was fresh but except for the razor clams, almost tasteless.

Joshu-Ya Brasserie
2441 Dwight Way @Telegraph, Berkeley, CA
http://www.joshu-ya.com/#!food/c3bi

HTH!

Bourbon butter pecan ice cream used at Marrow in Oakland

When you find out, please post it. Venezia/Berkeley used to make its own ice creams, and they did an identical flavor which was the best ice cream we've ever had. Bourbon and pecans....how can one go wrong, LOL?

Brunch @ Navio [Half Moon Bay]

I think especially these days, with rising food and labor costs, an AYCE buffet is pretty much asking for substandard food. As sophielu says, you are paying for the fancy DR and service.

Moving to North/East Bay

Most people with kids would choose a home in a good school district, over almost any other factor. A good public school district is rare enough in Northern CA to be worth a whole lot of $$$,$$$.

My nephew, born and raised here, had a home in El Cerrito, sold it when he had to move to Boston for his job, ended up being transferred back when his company was bought by a holding co. with an office in Belmont. They are currently looking in Albany and El Cerrito, specifically so they don't need to also pay for private schools for their three kids.

We live in Oakland (no kids!) and often drive through the Caldecott to eat in Lafayette. We prefer the restaurants there to any in the WCreek/Concord area. Love Artisan Bistro and Rustic Tavern, with Metro Lafayette as a 'sit in the sun, enjoy a cool drink with some appetizers' place. Rustic especially is where a lot of families and locals show up, very pleasant casual place.

Captain & Corset in Oakland Uptown

For those who are fans of Chef Uong's cooking (Pican 2012-2014), she has temporarily taken over the kitchen at Revival/Berkeley at Amy Murray's request. Will be there until mid-June.

Petaluma for dinner?

Good call on Wild Goat Bistro. I thought it was small but per your description Speakeasy is even tinier! We had lunch at WGB on our Oct 2014 trip and really enjoyed it. Found it similar to, maybe not quite as good as, Hole In The Wall/Sebastopol.

Petaluma for dinner?

Our friends live in Petaluma so we hook up periodically and occasionally can talk them into going out. Has been a while since we were at Risibisi and that was for lunch. We thought it was okay, not remarkable enough that we'd go out of way for them.

Our friends adore Rosso's and are especially fond of their mozzarella bar, but when we're traveling we tend to avoid food we can get just as well at home (in Oakland). I'm sure the pizza is every bit as great as they say it is - it was Rosso's who gave them the tip to use a special Italian hard-wheat flour that is normally sold only to the trade in 55-lb bags! (and our friends do make a great BBQ-grilled pizza dough with that flour)

Le Bistro - a little frustrating. Chef Basso is Italian, trained in classic French cuisine. It's really more Continental (I'm dating myself with that, but oh well) than French. We loved it in 2012, although the menu is limited and Basso is a dour sort for an Italian. That's okay, we want our chefs to cook, not glad-hand...but a return visit in 2014 found almost exactly the same menu. Average starters, very good entrees, the one good change was desserts had improved substantially. Not large portions but sufficient with good quality and excellent execution.

We just found it a little frustrating that he had changed so little of the menu. I don't approve of the new trend towards 'we must change our menu daily' concept, but there's no seasonality to his cooking. The Caprese salad variant is on there whether it's January or July. Nonetheless in two visits (including some friends) we have tried every one of his entree dishes, and all were extremely good, especially the pasta and the lamb tenderloin.

By way of reference: Our favorite French restaurant is La Folie/SF, and we'd rate Le Bistro just a tad behind Chapeau!/SF and Walter Hansel Bistro/Santa Rosa.

We will go against the grain and say we weren't overly pleased with Central Market in 2012. The fried items were greasy and underdone - the fried squash blossoms were terrible compared to the ethereal version done by Artisan Bistro/Lafayette, for example. And the lamb cabbage rolls with preserved Meyer lemon was a generous serving, but too much lemon overbalanced the dish badly. Scallops were excellent, but the risotto cake accompanying it was as greasy and bad as the squash blossoms. A fried fritter in an otherwise good corn soup showed us that all the way across the board, the kitchen could not handle a deep fryer properly. The ingredients were very good quality, but the inconsistency and overly aggressive flavors - especially compared to Le Bistro which is very classic haut cuisine in its seasoning - weren't to our style.