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Cowgirl Creamery

Nice read by Lauren Sloss/Serious Eats, who visited Cowgirl Creamery and followed the cheeses from start (what the farmers feed the cows) to finish:

From Pasture to Cheese Board: How Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Is Made
http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/02/ho...

2 days ago
tre2012 in Cheese

Sunday brunch for Easter

You've had a good experience at Garden Court? We thought it has slid so far downhill, like the old saying "they need a ladder to reach bottom." An Xmas lunch two years ago was utterly obnoxious, both overpriced food and under-delivered service.

Although the Pied Piper does make great chicken wings...but that's it for the food. I go there because I love the architecture and antique local stained glass, but that's their only strong point (for both Palace restaurants).

Edible East Bay's CSA Guide

I hadn't run across this before but I thought some of the EBay folks might be interested. It seems well-organized and comprehensive:

" Pick the right CSA program for you: Most CSA programs offer a mix of vegetables and fruit, with add-ons like eggs, nuts, or honey. But some are all meat, all fish, all bread, or all chocolate! There are even CSA programs for medicinal herbs and flower bouquets. "

Full descriptions including pick-up/delivery options and cities served, on their website at:
http://edibleeastbay.com/csa-guide/

Oakland wedding venues - a list

Summer's coming and people begin asking where a special event could be held. The Oakland Visitor's Bureau worked up a list of nine venues, several of which surprised me. Who knew the classy Art Deco Fox Theatre was available for you and 2,000 of your closest friends, LOL?

But seriously, it was nice to see Kaiser Gardens on the list--my niece got married there back in 2007. It is a glorious space on a nice day. When the restaurant closed, so did the KG's special events for a while, but apparently they are back in business for someone's special day. This is the former Kaiser Aluminum bldg at 300 Lakeshore Ave. on Lake Merritt; the gardens are at the back of the bldg on the mezzanine level.

http://visitoakland.org/9-oakland-wed...

Al's Place, San Francisco

Details:

Al's Place (named after chef-owner Aaron London)
Address: 1499 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone:(415) 416-6136
Inside Scoop profiled London when the restaurant was in the planning stages: http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

SF Trip 2015

Has anyone tried Gitane since chef Jason Tuley left unexpectedly? No new chef has been hired yet that I've heard of. Inside Scoop reported Tuley's departure Feb 6th, I believe.

Mourad (from Aziza) [San Francisco]

We have serious love for Melissa Chou, Aziza/Mourad pastry chef. Glad to hear you thought the desserts were good!

2015 Heart of Sonoma Cty: Premium wine/food tasting

A little more upscale, but still looks pretty affordable. I'm linking to their page which also has a reminder that the 2015 Wine Trail Pass is still valid January - June 30th.

Saturday & Sunday, March 21-22, Sonoma Valley
On Saturday & Sunday, March 21-22, join 20 wineries throughout Sonoma Valley for a memorable wine and food experience. Each winery will be showcasing their 2014 vintage wines straight from the barrels, sampling new releases, and offering award-winning wines paired perfectly with culinary creations prepared by local chefs and restaurants.Meet winemakers, mingle with wine lovers behind-the-scenes, peruse art from local artists, and listen to live music. This is a rare opportunity to experience the best that Sonoma Valley has to offer.

Log on to http://www.heartofsonomavalley.com/pr... for more information and to purchase tickets.

2015 Sonoma Cty Restaurant Week March 9-15

The 6th Annual Sonoma County Restaurant Week
March 9-15, Sonoma County
Starting on Monday, March 9th and running through Sunday, March 15th, more than 100 of Sonoma County’s restaurants are participating in a seven-day celebration of the county’s finest foods. Each restaurant will be offering a 2-course prix-fixe lunch option priced at $10, $15 or $20, and/or 3-course dinners at a fixed price of $19, $29, or $39 (or all three depending on the restaurant), which allows you the opportunity to sample some of Sonoma’s finest farm-fresh cuisine at a very steep discount.

www.sonomacountyrestaurantweek.org

2015 Sonoma Cty wine barrel tasting March 6-8 and 13-15 weekends

From my Local Getaways newsletter, thought some folks might be interested:

The 37th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting
March 6-8 & March 13-15, 11am-4pm, Sonoma Wine Country
Each year in early March more than 100 wineries in Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander Valleys—including Rodney Strong, Korbel, Quivira, Simi, and dozens more—open the doors to their wine cellars and allow the public to sample their wares straight from the barrel. In addition, participants have a rare opportunity to purchase wine “futures”, where you can buy the wine your tasting from the barrel today before it’s bottled next year.
www.wineroad.com

Ran Kanom Thai Noodle - San Pablo

Oh, very sad. I hope expanding her space at PacEast Mall will work out better for her. The SPablo location did seem an awfully big restaurant to fill up.

High quality cocoa powder in E Bay

I use the Pernigotti. Williams-Sonoma used to carry it under their own brand name long ago, then replaced it with something cheaper. Pernigotti's a very fine texture, needs to be sifted or whisked as it lumps up. Very, very, very dark!

I was really pleased to finally find it at amazon.com, albeit I had to buy 2.2 lbs. of it. I rounded up a couple of friends and split it with them; they were wowed. One friend is a real chocoholic and said her family liked it better than the Valrhona cocoa they had been using.

http://smile.amazon.com/Pernigotti-Co...

Sausalito – Fine Dining – Murray Circle

I have to agree with srr - V-day is awful and if you talk to anyone in the industry, they'll advise you (in a whisper) to plan something else. We once went to brunch at FIVE/Berkeley the day after, and the waiter said V-day had been a nightmare. They normally serve 75-100 an evening, and on V-day evening they served **over 350** diners! Said that was typical for all restaurants.

Have a nice meal at home and then go for a walk on the Marina or up in the hills and enjoy one of our spectacular views that we all too seldom forget to look at. A single rose and a box of chocolates to share, and you've got enough romance to even satisfy my romantic spouse :) - with less hassle!

Steakhouse in Oakland?

I'll second Pican. Be aware there's several dishes on the menu that aren't listed as spicy but can be VERY chile-hot. Always ask the waitstaff.

We thought the sliders at Joshu-Ya/Berkeley beat Cafe Rouge's burger, hands-down. But there's little else for your meat-and-potatoes friend, so I wouldn't recommend it.

We did like the steak at Rouge (and the roasted marrow, yum), but the burger went downhill the second time we tried it. Possibly an off-night? We had eaten there several times before, no problem; but that night for all four of us, there were issues with just about every dish. Very odd. Our friends were really disappointed.

I agree with Robert L that Wood Tavern's a good option, too.

Holman Ranch/Carmel Valley: 2015 "In Your Backyard" food/wine tastings.

FYI, if anyone is going to Monterey March thru July 2015, Holman Ranch has very nice once-a-month classes which are food/wine tastings hosted by notable Monterey chefs - Ron Mendoza of Aubergine on 5/13, for example - which benefit local charities.

Check it out on Holman's website: http://www.holmanranch.com/news_event.... The list of events is at the bottom.

Feb 16, 2015
tre2012 in California

Serious Eats/Oakland best cheap eats article

Rarely do I see anything on Serious Eats about Oakland:

Oakland's Best Cheap Eats: 18 Great Bites Under $5
http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/02/oa...

The Barrel Room/SF moving, expanding its concept

We are very fond of TBR's Rockridge location (5330 College Ave, Oakland 94618), which has a full menu that rotates regularly to showcase food/wine from different regions around the world. It was an experiment by TBR's owners, and it seems to have worked out, according to Eater SF.

TBR will be taking over the prime FiDi location of the Georges restaurant at 415 Sansome St., complete with full liquor license. They will do the same rotating food/wine menu concept as the Rockridge location.

We don't often go into SF any longer, but I hope they're successful. Altho I'd hate to see Rockridge lose any of the staff to the new location--the service there has been excellent, some of the best in Oakland.

Eater SF article:
http://sf.eater.com/2015/2/9/8006305/...

Eater video: Atelier Crenn in 60 seconds [San Francisco]

These are always a lot of fun to watch, and today they chose Atelier Crenn's tasting menu:

Watch Atelier Crenn's Tasting Menu in Only 60 Seconds
http://www.eater.com/video/2015/2/10/...

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

Nice to hear Catrambone still had the almond granite in some form. We had it plain, offered as the first dessert on a tasting menu. We were both wowed, spouse couldn't stop talking about it afterwards. I love her white coffee ice cream - if they sold it by the pint I'd buy some to take home! Subtle and fragrant, so yummy.

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

Interesting, did not know Maldonado had been at Cortez. We loved that restaurant, one of the few we would come into the City for dinner. So sad when it closed.

My DH is a more severe critic than I am, but when we were discussing Spoonbar's erratic brilliance and uneven service, we agreed Spoonbar is still our pick as the best of Sonoma Cty. When they are good, they are phenomenal: creative and unusual combos that bring your taste buds to attention!

I just wish Maldonado's kitchen was a little more consistent, on the level of Aziza.

Reports on Ramini mozzarella di bufala?

Even the NYTimes ran a salute to him:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/31/bus...

Does Berkeley Bowl have Finger Limes?

Good Eggs mail-order is not carrying finger limes right now. They had them for about a month, but I noticed three weeks ago they were now gone.

Where to buy Ceylon cinnamon?

We were having a fun discussion on cinnamon on one of my cooking forums last year. I did some research and learned some interesting cinnamon vs cassia info:

Ceylon cinnamon does not refer to its location; it is one of three names for "true" cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is much more expensive than non-Ceylon cinnamon, which for ease of ID I'll just call cassia going forward.

True/Ceylon cinnamon has a very different profile than cassia. It is more floral in scent, softer, milder, and much more complex.

Cassia is popular in the U.S. and Asia, and is traditionally considered "cinnamon." Vietnamese cassia has become popular as it has a stronger, spicier, sweeter profile than other non-Ceylon cinnamon/cassia types.

Europe and Mexico traditionally use Ceylon cinnamon. Cassia has become commercially popular due to its lesser cost, but it is usually labeled as "Cassia" and not "Cinnamon."

From http://cinnamonvogue.com/Types_of_Cin...:
" There are hundreds of types of Cinnamon. But only 4 types or varieties of Cinnamon are used for commercial purposes. These are Ceylon Cinnamon, Cassia Cinnamon, Saigon Cinnamon and Korintje Cinnamon (see below).

...All Cassia type Cinnamon are hard and have high levels of Coumarin, a substance known to cause liver damage, while Ceylon Cinnamon is the only soft and brittle Cinnamon with ultra low Coumarin levels. "

Cinnamomum Zeylanicum aka C. Verum. 90% of global supply is grown in Sri Lanka. Common names are:
Ceylon Cinnamon
True Cinnamon
Mexican Cinnamon
Coumarin level: 0.017 g/kg

Cinnamomum Burmanni. Common names are:
Indonesian Cinnamon
Korintje Cinnamon, Padang Cassia
Coumarin level: 2.15 g/kg

Cinnamomum Loureiroi. Common names are:
Saigon cinnamon
Vietnamese Cassia
Vietnamese Cinnamon
Coumarin level: 6.97 g/kg

Cinnamomum Aromaticum. Common names are:
Cassia Cinnamon
Chinese Cinnamon
Coumarin level: 0.31 g/kg

Shakewell - First Visit [Lakeshore, Oakland]

She would hardly be the sole chef, however. I know you've been to Shakewell, have you noticed any changes? The ones at Speisekammer were small, I just noticed it because I was ordering my fav dish and the sauerkraut had changed.

Best dishes at SF Legacy Restaurants

Pied Piper Restaurant @Palace Hotel: I hate the Garden Court. We went for tea a few years ago and it was the biggest rip-off ever. They had rearranged the tables so that most people were staring at the dreary outside service aisles, not the magnificent center. The Pied Piper, formerly Maxfield's and originally the Grill open only to men, has been beautifully renewed. I have been coming here for about 15 yrs, on and off.

I love to point out the exquisite hand-laid mosaic tile flooring, and of course that magnificent wood paneling which is so rare nowadays (the Westin having allowed Mina to PAINT their irreplaceable paneling!!) and the rectangular stained glass ceiling panels from United Glassworks of SF.

Anyway, the food is corporate hotel-barely average, except for a couple of dishes. The chicken wings were right up our alley; we don't like the current craze for super-crusty batter. This is a light flour batter, perfectly fried. And the lamb/beef shepherd's pie was surprisingly, quite good. Both were also very generous portions, bigger than we expected. Service also remains better than the Garden Court, altho I have no idea why. But there is a noticeable difference in attitude.

Shakewell - First Visit [Lakeshore, Oakland]

We have not yet been but are curious: anyone who has visited multiple times, that can compare early days with current (very recent) cooking? I clicked a link on Bside Nosh which went to Brotzeit Lokal's Facebook page, where they have a photo and caption that says, "Introducing Brotzeit Chef Michelle (formally of Suppenküche, Speisekammer, etc) and Chef Cesar (formally of Shakewell)"
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/BrotzeitLoka...

Of course they mean "formerly", but this seems a pretty fast turnover at Shakewell? We are fans of Speisekammer and definitely noticed a change in the cooking a few months ago. So, just wondering if anyone noticed any differences at Shakewell -- I don't know what position chef Cesar held at Shakewell.

Also, in case this wasn't listed before, Shakewell has extended its days for lunch: now Wed-Fri, 11:30a to 2:30p.

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

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.

Need Finishing Touches for 2nd Trip to Napa !

You could try:

Archetype
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
http://www.hamroaangan.com/?modee=Our...

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.