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Cozy, quiet, comfortable place with good pizza in Berkeley-Oakland area?

The first time we went to Star on Grand pizza was for dinner: loved the cornmeal crustiness of the American-style pizzas, loathed the absolutely ear-splitting noise. I came out of there with my ears ringing, actually painful.

But then we tried it for lunch, and...surprise! Hardly anyone shows up for lunch times. It was quiet and relaxing. The food is even better because the kitchen isn't rushed. Chicken wings and grilled brussels sprouts are excellent too. However, I wouldn't call it cozy or comfortable, although you can sit at the bar and maybe find that a little more casual?

The Star on Grand
3425 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610
(510) 843-7827
opens 11:30a, no closing between lunch/dinner times, 7 days/wk

about 16 hours ago
tre2012 in San Francisco Bay Area

Forge Pizza now open (Oakland)

Maybe they turned the music down when lakemerritter was there? I have to agree with Ruth; we found it so loud as to be highly unpleasant. Since we didn't like the food much either, we haven't returned.

about 18 hours ago
tre2012 in San Francisco Bay Area

Need Finishing Touches for 2nd Trip to Napa !

You could try:

1429 Main St., Saint Helena, CA 94574
Phone number (707) 968-9200

We loved Ryder Zetts' cooking at Solbar. When the Solage restaurant mgmt group took over French Blue they changed the name to Archetype and Zetts transferred over to run the kitchen. He's an extremely talented chef, one of those we are willing to follow when they move around.

Goat Cuisine in the Bay Area

We second Hamro Aangan:

Hamro Aangan Indo-Nepalese
856 San Pablo Ave. @Solano, Albany, CA

There are two goat dishes always on the menu. My DH and I split on these. He likes the fried goat, Kashi Ko Butawara, which is a heap of dry-curry bony goat, either neck or breast. Chewy, tasty, fatty. In fact, he never remembers the name of this restaurant, he merely refers to HA as "the fried goat place." LOL!

I prefer the Kashi Ko Masu curry, goat in a fabulous red curry gravy. This is a homestyle dish; one of those "everybody's mom makes it but my mom's is the best and it's different than anyone else's." It has a gutsy, complex and well-balanced spice mixture. Unfortunately it's only available with the goat meat - mind you, I love goat, but this gravy would be dynamite with other meats as well.

Hamro doesn't make everything well, but they do a nice job on the goat, the cheese in the paneer pakoda is housemade, and the naan is very good. Fish pakodas were a little salty but delicious and a generous portion.

Lamb Chop Tandoori wasn't as good as Kamdesh Afghani/Oakland, well-seasoned but overcooked. In general we've found the Indian dishes here to be good but not really remarkable.

We prefer Hamro for lunch over dinner. The chairs are very comfortable, a nice change from the cheap back-breakers you usually find. One issue is that the tables are not large, and if you are ordering multiple dishes to share, you run out of room really fast.

Carmel Restaurant Options

I'm probably way too late on this, but what the heck. We didn't care for La Balena, but there are four outstanding Italian regional restaurants within 15 mins of us and they all beat LB easily. Our take on LB was that if you really craved Italian food, it's fine. But it's not a destination for us, the way Bouchee and Parker-Lusseau Bakery is.

We visit Monterey/Carmel 2x/yr, and Bouchee & Parker-Lusseau are our "must stop there" every trip.

Passionfish's cooking has changed tremendously since opening; just as good but more complex flavors and surprisingly more meat-centric than before. Start to finish the food is excellent.

Bouchee has slipped a teeny-tiny notch since Andre Lemaire died but M. Zagouri has done an excellent job stepping in. Andre's son Stephan handles lunch and is an amazing chef himself. The scallop carpaccio is divine, and we loved the touch of white truffle oil in the mushroom bisque. The veal rack is amazing. My only disagreement is the amount of sauce; I don't like to see too much sauce on the plate even when it's those fabulous French sauces.

Another outstanding CA bistro with Mediterranean influences is Montrio in Monterey. We have been going there for several years and the food is amazing. Beautiful old converted firehouse, too. Liveliest atmosphere of the three (Bouchee's the quietest, Passionfish in the middle)).

If you want a view on a nice day (and it must be a really nice day), the patio at California Market restaurant @Hyatt Carmel Highlands Inn is sensational. You are right out on the cliff. But the food is pedestrian, the service indifferent; although the Bloody Mary variant was pretty darn good.

Jan 23, 2015
tre2012 in California

Piatti, Redd, Lark Creek WCreek & others: now one mgmt group

Just read this in the Diablo Dish news. I saw a blurb in the Chron but didn't realize Redd and Redwood in Napa Valley were part of this deal as well:

" Restaurant group gobble...in a deal that was announced recently, the San Rafael-based Moana Restaurant Group is now responsible for the management of many restaurants in the Lark Creek Restaurant group. What that means is that Walnut Creek’s Corner’s Tavern and Lark Creek Walnut Creek as well as Lafayette’s Yankee Pier are now sister restaurants! Moana is the well-respected group behind Paragon at The Claremont as well as Danville’s Piatti’s and a slew of North Bay and wine country restaurants including Napa’s REDD and Redwood and Sonoma’s El Dorado Kitchen.

They will take over operations at many of the Lark Creek restaurants including Lark Creek Steak and Cupola Pizzeria in San Francisco; Lark Creek Walnut Creek; Yankee Pier in Lafayette and at Terminal 3 San Francisco International Airport; Parcel 104 at the Santa Clara Marriott; Lark Creek Grill at Terminal 2 San Francisco International Airport; Lark Creek Blue at Santana Row in San Jose; and Lark Creek Newport Beach. It is unknown what will happen with Fish Story, the Lark Creek Restaurant group property that closed last month on Napa’s beautiful Riverfront. More than 25 restaurants are listed on the Moana website but who’s counting! "

Article at: http://www.diablomag.com/D-blog/Diabl...

Marmalade: like it tart?

We like our jams and marmalades with as little sugar as possible. We fell in love with the Blenheim apricot jam from the I Love Jam folks, who have the last Blenheim orchard left in Silicon Valley. They don't make a lot of it, although we found it at Market Hall in Oakland's Rockridge.

For us, we like it better than Innis, Blue Chair, etc. We're currently well-supplied with it, though; so when I got this mailing I thought maybe some of the CH'ers might be interested.

I hope this is okay with the moderators? This is a very tiny company, and to be honest I don't think they'll be around forever. The couple fell into the jam business by accident, and they get almost no press at all.

Announcement came today to my mailbox, dated Jan 22:

" First off we would like to wish you a happy new year. Last year was full of bad luck so we are looking forward to 2015 being much better!

A few hours ago we just finished making the Fukushu kumquat and Limequat marmalades. We made significantly less this year than prior ones since the seeding of these two tiny fruits is so boring and annoying. The flavor, however is fantastic. If you are a marmalade lover like us and you haven't tried these we suggest you do.

The kumquat marmalade is more tart this year. Maybe we are getting older, but tasting last years was just not sour enough. We also have about 4 cases of the 2014 Fukushu marmalade left over and we are putting it up for sale for half off $6/jar instead of the $12 for the 2015 batch. Marmalade naturally turns darker with time, but the flavor is the same. So whether you want the new, vibrant yellow/orange batch that is more tart or the older batch that is just a touch sweeter and that has turned darker, both are available now at the link below.

We also did a tiny amount of the limequat marmalade. The tree we planted in our backyard several years ago bore about two handfulls of fruit. We also got another citrus farmer to send us 20 lbs. We only have 36 jars for sale. It is a wonderful tart lime flavor unlike anything else. It is more tart than the Fukushu kumquat.

We are not planning any new products this year. We just want to focus on our current lineup. That said you probably won't hear a peep out of us until probably late spring when we offer the discount pre-purchase of the summer jams. "

Take care, Eric and Phineas

Richmond: Assemble

We went for weekday lunch. If you need a couple of tips on entrance and parking, let me know and I'll add them. It was a little trickier than we expected. Our experience was:

Friendly and efficient staff, but feels brisk. Not pushing us out, but clearly aware most customers drive out here and on weekdays, their lunch time is limited. Despite the location, no real view except a bit of the hills/marina side. 2/3 of the seating looks out over the parking lot.

Fried calamari, served with cocktail & tartar sauces. Altho cocktail sauce was more like Del Monte ketchup with some horseradish sauce added, it did make a nice combo for the excellent baby calamari. The batter coating wasn't too heavy but stayed on nicely, and the kitchen gets extra points for not over-frying the calamari. Often when the calamari is this small, the deep frying is either too long or at too high heat so the squid gets chewy rather than remaining tender. This was well executed and we both thought it one of the better renditions we've had.

DH ordered Cajun meatloaf, which comes with a generous ladleful of a mild cooked housemade salsa. The meatloaf was well-flavored but again, the chile heat was on the mild side. It was accompanied by smooth mashed potatoes, and he enjoyed it although it wasn't a large portion of meatloaf.

I ordered the chicken pot pie, which was different than I expected. There's no dairy in the gravy, which is okay although not my preference. But there was also a generous amount of poblano chiles in large dice, that were quite spicy. It didn't really go with the herbs they used in the gravy, such as marjoram and chervil. I also disliked the puff pastry, which tasted like either an indifferent commercial pastry dough or a mediocre quality of butter. The vegetables were frozen -- good quality frozen, the typical mix of diced carrots, peas, and yellow corn -- with a single halved fresh baby purple carrot. It's acceptable, but inferior to Bakesale Betty's/Oakland very fine chicken pot pie. I wouldn't order Assemble's pie again.

DH chose the Key Lime Pie to finish, which was definitely a commercial purchase. Again, it's a good quality one, but this isn't the classic meringue-topped citrus curd pie. It's a half-cheesecake/half-mousse with a graham cracker crust. They drizzle a too-sweet lime syrup over the top, but it helps smooth out the rather acidic harsh blend they use as their house coffee.

Overall, Assemble is a decent value restaurant. It's a good stop if you're in the area: we were on our way to Napa, but also stopped in at the Rosie the Riveter museum which was a real kick, definitely worthwhile. Free and very nice folks; we stuffed a double sawbuck in the donation jar because the museum is well worth supporting.

Veal Sweetbreads

If you go to Casa Orinda, you might want to read their "History" page, if you haven't already:

Enjoy, and you're welcome!

Saturday breakfast spot in East Bay: Good food, Not too crowded

Have they made some changes? We went for a Sat breakfast in early 2014 with friends and it was a disaster. Maybe they were short-staffed? - but the food was mediocre (it had been great our first time, which was why we returned) and the service was awful. They forget several items even when reminded, and after a while we just gave up, paid the bill, and left vowing never to return. We were really disappointed the return visit was a flop; always looking for a good breakfast!

Veal Sweetbreads

Not fond of Chevalier although they have one of the prettiest outdoor patios for summertime in CCCty. Casa Orinda's sweetbreads are probably the most generous portion we get served anywhere, but they only make them one way and the accompaniments are old-style and pedestrian. Still, we go for the good fried chicken (you can request all dark or all white) and those sweetbreads. And the bread is always fresh, great for mopping up the lemon/white wine/butter sauce.

Note earlier is better at Casa Orinda. Not only is parking super difficult at times (it's right near the cineplex), but they have been known to shoo people out when they want to close up earlier than their stated 11p closing time! You're usually safe on weekends, but on Mondays or Tuesdays sometimes they've not-so-discreetly urged us to leave before 9:30p.

A fun historic place, very popular so reservations are essential.

Prime rib: Marin Sun Farms vs. Niman

Just FYI, Epic Roasthouse/SF sells a couple of steaks sourced through Flannery Meats.

NAPA & SF in February

Yes, but even assuming a reservation is available at Meadowood for V-day, OP should be sure not to get The Restaurant confused with The Grill.

The Grill @Meadowood is an entirely different restaurant: more casual, a different chef, and although we enjoyed our dinner (there were two amazing dishes) it was on the edge of overpriced. It costs the same as Etoile and Auberge, but the service wasn't as polished, and the dining room is awkwardly laid out and plain. In the daytime, with a nice view of the resort's gardens, it's charming; but at night you see nothing and the room feels much too ordinary.

Fresh local duck eggs?

With a $30 order Good Eats offers free food delivery service. They sell Capay Valley Farms duck eggs:

lunch rec for East bay between hwy 92 and skyline Blvd.

Gotta disagree with your choices, Mission; sorry!

Ly Luck is only a quarter-step better than Little Shin Shin, both of which are abominable quality. Full Moon, around the corner from LL at 2041 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, is at least a full half-step better than Ly Luck. They do a decent job on claypots, gai lan, and the steamed pork hashes, although the potstickers and HK chow meins suck big-time.

Far better than any Round Table is Fist of Flour aka DoughJo, 4166 MacArthur Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94619 in the Laurel; but it's mostly take-out, there's few places to sit. I believe owner/chef James Whitehead also has the only wood-fired pizza truck; everybody in the Laurel was very happy he picked our neighborhood to open his retail shop.

But back to the OP, I wouldn't recommend coming all the way down from Skyline for either one, so I'm glad the OP found an alternative that worked out okay.

For a while, Metro Montclair improved under Executive Chef Steve Jaramillo (who had come from Lalime) but Jaramillo left Oct 2014 so we haven't been back yet to see what happened to the food. Metro Montclair is the smaller sibling to Metro Lafayette in CCCty. MM is at 2058 Mountain Blvd., Oakland.

Anniversary dinner in San Francisco

If you're downtown, Barbacco is open until 3p at lunchtimes. But if you're elsewhere, I wouldn't go all the way downtown for it due to traffic issues.

San Francisco + Sonoma visit in May

Sonoma Cty is very big, and rush hours are serious issues on 101. Allow yourself sufficient time to get from one place to another; Bodega Bay especially is a long drive and too beautiful an area to be rushing through.

Have a fabulous birthday! Anticipation can be almost as much fun as the trip itself, LOL!

Foie Gras Is Legal in California Again!

You are exactly right. Prohibition was what gave the Mob a huge influx of $$$$$. Making liquor illegal didn't work and neither did a foie ban.

I don't like that Koreans eat fresh-killed dogs, but that's their cultural heritage and not any of my business. I do object to Japanese killing whales or Chinese cutting fins off still-living sharks and dumping them back into the sea to drown, but that's why I contribute to Greenpeace and haven't eaten shark's fin for 30 yrs (and my in-laws are from Hong Kong, so I get offered a lot of it).

I've nothing against others who object to eating foie gras, meat, GMO foods, or anything else they might deem politically incorrect.

But I don't want the heavy hand of the law in my bedroom or my kitchen!

Saturday breakfast spot in East Bay: Good food, Not too crowded

That early is easy. Pican/Oakland, open 10:30a. Best brunch in town, not so crowded as weekdays so service is better; DR is energetic but noise stays a much lower level, no shouting across the table required.. Comfortable chairs, aisles you can actually walk down without smacking someone in the back of the head with your elbow, clean bathrooms, OpenTable reservations.

Only caveat: some of their food/sauces are spicy without mentioning it on the menu. Always ask the waitstaff if you have anyone who is chile-phobic. Portions are good-sized but not massive.

Outstanding dishes are:

Spicy Creole bacon
Grits, plain or cheese
Brisket hash
Fried chicken bennie (the Creole Hollandaise, invented under former chef Sophina Uong, is amazing)
Housemade chicken sausage

They may or may not have their amazing cornmeal waffle; it seems to slide in and out of the menu without warning. Plain or topped with fruit/whipped cream, it's possibly the best waffle we've ever had. Small, but flawless.

Good coffee. Excellent desserts under their new pastry chef Matt Blanco. A couple of times we've finished up with a bourbon flight and because the bartender wasn't that busy, he slipped us a couple of extras for a more varied comparison.

Yes, it is our favorite brunch place, and if I can't get in next time with my friends, I'll know it was me who blew the cover off.

Actually I expect Pican will get much busier overall once the HIVE development starts opening up a block away. It's massive and will be a turning point for Uptown.

Saturday breakfast spot in East Bay: Good food, Not too crowded

I agree-that's why we never returned to 900 Grayson. Decent food, but not really that much better than some of the others, and the crowds of people hanging over you anxious for a table were a turn-off.

Dinner in Yountville/St. Helena area

Auberge in Rutherford

Auberge du Soleil @Auberge Resort
180 Rutherford Hill Road, Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 963-1211

If not there, we enjoy Solbar @Solage Resort, but it's up in Calistoga which is further north:

755 Silverado Trail North, Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 226-0800

Both very good food, good service. Lovely DRs, Auberge is more traditional while Solbar is more contemporary.

Coq Au Vin, Traditional recipe with fresh blood anywhere in the Bay Area?

I think also, in the US you're less and less likely to find it because a lot of younger people I know eat very little offal and blood products, except when it's marked "pate". They never cook the stuff at home, either. Even the younger AsianAm's seem to be slowly turning away from those foods, such as the pig's blood cubes in soup noodles.

My born/raised-in-Hong-Kong DH loves the French boudin noir sausage, but it's rare to even find that in the French restaurants these days. It's actually easier for us to buy it at Genova's deli/Oakland and cook it up at home.

Foie Gras Is Legal in California Again!

Yup, geese aren't suited to be pets. A lot of people don't realize animals are not the cute friendly "Babe the pig" myth. I'm pretty ruthless about chickens, too. My mom grew up on a farm and used to say chickens were the dumbest animals ever. My grandmom actually did chop the head off a chicken one day and the stupid thing lived for another 24 hrs!

This reminds me: I used to work for a big insurance company that owned over 200 acres of greenspace outside Hartford CT. Came complete with a beautiful scenic pond and several pairs of Disney-like white swans. So serenely beautiful, paddling around the water and standing on the grass nearby.

We would always get a big kick out of watching summer interns and newbies get chased by big angry swans! You do not want to EVER get into an unarmed fight with a bunch of infuriated fowl.

Flavas Jamaican Grill [South San Francisco]


Flavas Jamaican Grill
314 Linden Avenue, South San Francisco, CA 94080
(650) 244-9785

Restaurants/wineries in Pleasanton or Livermore area.

Well, it's hard to go wrong with Wente's restaurant although frankly, it's expensive and the single best thing they make is that brined pork chop. But the desserts are only average and it's a full 1/2 hr out of Livermore. Solidly American in concept/size of portions.

We also like Oasis but it is Afghani and not everyone is into that. Their mantu dumplings and pumpkin borani (actually butternut squash) are amazing.

Lokanta has room for 14 in the back and the food is quite good. Turkish/Mediterranean, don't miss the beet salad which is one of the best in the Bay Area. And yoghurt lovers will swoon over the yoghurt with honey dessert, which is hands-down THE BEST version we've encountered anywhere.

I'd skip Forno Vecchio and Pasta's Trattoria, which are a level below Lokanta and Oasis. Coco Cabana/Dublin is Oasis' sibling and a popular small plate restaurants, but it is killer noisy, so loud your ears will ring, and the service is awful except on weekends when they start taking crowds seriously.

We liked Nonni's Bistro which is Scandinavian/European, but with a big group some might not like the limited choices and it's small, a tough fit for 14 although it would be fine for around 8-10 folks.

A lot of the Dublin/Pleasanton restaurants are small or family types. For example, there's a great little Afghani place, but it's more a cafe, clean but simple, with only beer, soda and tea.

Anyway, HTH.

One-month Mark at Spoonbar in Healdsburg: Great Cocktails, Inconsistent Cooking

Yes, we were a little disappointed to find Spoonbar erratic. Had an amazing lunch, one of the best meals we've had in our post-retirement/dining out spree covering the last five years...but dinner recently was, as you reported, more up and down.

What killed dinner for us was an incompetent waiter, who completely flubbed the pacing of our tasting menu. My DH has a degree in hotel/restaurant mgmt and service incompetence at expensive restaurants drives him crazy! But the Thai-style boudin with beets was amazing, and turning snails into a sauce for a game hen confit was a brilliant and delicious idea.

Did you have dessert? We have loved pastry chef Annemarie Catrambone's desserts both times we went. Stunning, as good as what Melissa Chou/Aziza creates.

Looking for good pain de mie in the South Bay (preferably) or elsewhere in the Bay Area

Good Eggs food delivery carries Starter Bakery's pan de mie. I haven't tried it so don't know if that fits your ideal. They have a $30 minimum but do cover a good part of the South Bay:

Otherwise, Starter Bakery is EBay-based and sells through farmers markets:
We were pleased with their croissants. We prefer the softer Parisien style from La Fournee/Berkeley, but of the sturdier sandwich-style croissants, Starter's has been the best so far.

NAPA & SF in February

Valentine's Day is a MESS. Literally! Most restaurants pack in extra tables and chairs to maximize profit. The last one we were in, even the skinny busboy had to squish sideways. I feared for somebody's head being crowned with dirty dishes and flatware....

We found Bouchon great the first time and far from it the second. Bottega has slid a bit with Chiarello paying so much attention to his Coqueta/SF. Unlike most Hounders we did not enjoy the food at Redd or Mustards.

I would vote for Auberge. Not only is it the most upscale of your list, they aim for quiet, refined, and elegant. Tailor-made for VDay, IMHO. Also, Robert Curry is a vastly underrated chef. Anything with pork, order it. The guy does the most amazing things with meat. His shellfish is pretty darn special, too. Auberge is one of our two favs in Napa; the other one just closed (Etoile). Excellent service, always.

Free Valet parking, so add $5 or $10 to your total for the parking tip.

Help Please, Sunday 28 December

Thank you for following up with your summary. Very useful and informative! Glad everything worked out well.

1.5 days in Napa - Please Narrow this Down

Well, if you're up for a little more driving past the city of Napa:

I'd do Solbar @Solage Resort, Calistoga, for lunch. It has a divided menu: half spa-light, half heartier comfort food. The spa dishes are phenomenal, and as my DH and I are notoriously big eaters, please believe that I wouldn't say that if we hadn't been impressed several times by Solbar doing simple, yet absolutely exquisite, "light" dishes. Also, it's a very lovely restaurant and is beautiful on a sunny day. It's not far out of downtown Calistoga but feels quiet, rural and relaxing.

Solbar @Solage
755 Silverado Trail North, Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 226-0800

I'll let others guide you on dinner; most of what you list we haven't been to, and of the two we have, we didn't like either one.

You do know that Restaurant @Meadowood (different than The Grill @Meadowood) is upscale, Modernist, and very different than the other restaurants you listed? Just wanted to be sure you were prepared for a bill 4-5x higher than the other places!