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Your favorite Bay Area bread

i got a levain at acme berkeley a few weeks ago, and as readingstand and i suggested above, it is NOT the same style of bread as tartine. the tartine loaf is a powerhouse. the acme was far dryer, lighter, finer, and more uniform in color and texture. i have the impression that if you were a visitor from out of town and were served a warm basket of either at a SF resto, your curiosity would be captivated by the tartine loaf, which you'd probably finish first.

Jun 03, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Manhatten/NYC Food in the Bay Area?

actually nyc and sf are 2 of the half dozen or so cities in the entire nation which secured relatively pristine watersheds long ago. for this reason, these cities are not required to filter their water, just disinfect it. consequently, our waters are actually quite similar. they are both almost pure precipitation. rain and snow.

the difference is that our watershed is a great granite basin high in the sierras, protected by federal law as the jewel of the national park system. there is very little of anything up there, you should go and look for yourself.

upstate new york is comparitively much lower in altitude and much higher in population. which do you think is better?

let me point out that los angeles, san diego, sacto, stockton, etc etc are NOT part of the hetch hetchy system. their water comes from the delta, the colorado river, or wells. their water is nasty, or as you say, "very very different ... not that good"

May 19, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Tofu - something besides stir fries?

ok, my ancestors may disown me, but a secret family recipe is as follows

1 block soft or silken tofu.
1 peeled, pitted, sliced avocado.
salt or soy sauce, and
sesame oil to taste.

mix/chop together in a bowl, and you got yourself a quick tasty cool yet satisfying dish.

we normally eat this with rice, but i've used it as a guac alternative too. ok, so maybe i'm disowned already.

Apr 16, 2007
echo in Home Cooking

Ever ask for chopsticks at a non-Asian restaurant?

interesting thread.
clearly, the world of food is better for the widespread sharing of ingredients and cooking techniques, so why not utensils as well? pasta is often considered a chinese noodle derivative. tomatoes are from central america, right? pepper is from tropical asia, and tempura, iirc, is from portugal.

i think the idea is that we all take whatever we can get from wherever it comes from to enhance our eating experience. if chopsticks are a better utensil for a given task, they should absolutely be used.

but as to the specific case of grandpa's pasta, i think its a judgement call. obviously, since americans and italians aren't traditional chopstick users, the resto can't be EXPECTED to provide stix, but in our ever globalizing dining habits and our embrace of "technology" and multiculturalism, such accommodations should be seen as reasonable, if not proactive and savvy.

as others have noted, salads are best eaten with stix, as are olives, and probably also the salumi platter. i bet marco polo, sitting at kublai khan's table, just never learned to use stix, if they were there at all. after all, the great khan was mongolian. but who knows, if marco had learned to use them, we might actually be saying "dove il stecci?" if we walked into a trattoria and did not see two familiar sticks sitting at our place settings.

(ok, sorry for the pseudo italian)

and hey, don't we get nutcrackers with our crab cioppino, bibs with lobster, and mini forks and those funny tongs with escargot?

Apr 12, 2007
echo in Not About Food

BYOFish to Silver House in San Mateo

my brother's in laws are discerning hk diners, and have been going to silver house for over 10 yrs. it's one of their dress down standbys. i've joined in for several good meals there, dunno why it has a low profile (or why i never mentioned it).
i recall they have some big (big!) clams on special sometimes. not razors, but kind of similar in taste and presentation. good stuff, and i didn't even know about the byo option.

Apr 10, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

After 15 years of vegetarianism

robert, whiner, ruth:
i guess i'll have to try the potstickers at tk and yw, because there can be surprise hits on any menu, but potstickers are NOT in the same category as "heavy pork dishes", nor cantonese food, nor hakka, fujian, or whatever tk is supposed to be.
potstickers are mostly about dough, and frying/steaming technique.

Apr 10, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

2546 Cafe (HK-style on San Bruno Ave.): Anyone tried it?

i've tried some of the 'chef's specials' and it was all pretty competent. the one that comes to mind is the tofu/chicken/salty fish clay pot, which was a very generous serving of big chunky tofu, tender chicken bits, and sparse nubs of salty fish. but of course, a little salty fish goes a long way. it was served very hot and delivered freshness and balanced flavor in a satisfying package. i ate plenty, but there was so much i think more than half wound up in the takeout box for manana.

and they also offer complementary daily soup.

several blocks further down the street (south) there's a bakery with pretty good cha siu bow.

i would agree that the overall trajectory is upwards on this strip, but there are still quite a few old duds too.

Apr 10, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Lunch suggestions around California Pacific Medical Center/CPMC?

there's the peruvian place (far from new) on the east side of fillmore,
and the much newer vaguely cajun place, on the west side.
i once had a very fine breakfast at the fancier french place (not chez nous, on the east side of fillmore).
sorry, i'm so crappy with names.
if you just walk a few blocks up and down fillmore, you'll see what i'm talking about.

Apr 10, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

After 15 years of vegetarianism

this may be nitpicking, and hearsay to boot, but it would be surprising if ton kiang had good potstickers.

and for meatballs, try emmy's spaghetti shack.

Apr 10, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Italian steakhouse????

my guess is that you'll find exactly what you're looking for at a variety of places, from capp's corner on the low end to fior d'italia at the top. these are old (very old) local hangouts, as opposed to hip, trendy, or foodie meccas. not touristy, in fact you might have to ask for directions.

l'osteria del forno or rose pistola might have steaks too.

Apr 08, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Looking for Broasted Chicken...

ok, so i was in a campy mood, and suggested to some daly city chums that we actually try this place. they actually agreed, so off we went. it's in the westgate shopping mall, as bernalgirl suggests. small storefront. there's a sign in there that tells a bit about the broasting process, which cooks rapidly "to the bone" while retaining moisture.

basically, it might've been special in the 50's or 60's, but like bowling and tv dinners, the glory days have past. the best i can say for the whole experience was that the one piece of dark meat i tried was noticeably moist. the white meat, however, was neither moist nor tasty. my guess is that they don't brine, and rely too much on this 'broaster' to make the chicken good.

they also have fish, but this does not appear to be broasted, and in fact looks like frozen van de kamp's or whatever. thin on the filet, thick on the breading. the french fries are i think what was called 'krinkle cut', again reminding me of frozen cafeteria fare. even the 'atmosphere' is institutional. so for $6 or so, you get to enter the broaster time capsule and dial yourself back a few decades. woo hoo.

perhaps the most promising thing, however, is that the place is run by koreans. at least i assume this to be true, since broaster weary patrons can order bul go gi or tempura from the side menu. now that's progress.

Apr 07, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

food meccas (stores more than restaurants) in the North Beach, SF area

i think that's a nice idea, and i think you can have a great time strolling around NB, chinatown, and the ferry bldg. sounds like you'll want to graze your way through, hitting a few highlights, and otherwise enjoying sniffing around and window shopping. since no one has seemed to grasp the nature of the tour you have in mind, let me jump in with starter ideas, but those aren't exactly my neighborhoods so others should chime in,

start with morning espresso drink or cocoa and pastries at a cafe or two of your choice.
try the foccacia place in nb, at the corner of the park.
go to the aforementioned xox
go south, and grab a few dim sum items on or near b'way,
cross b'way and go down stockton for the spectacle.
get dan tat egg custard tarts at golden gate bakery on grant
peek into the wok shop, a dried foods store, or an apothecary for interesting paraphernalia
stop and relax at a tea bar in chinatown
if you have time, stroll by portsmouth square and possible quick detours to belden place or tadich grill
but get down east to the ferry bldg (on sat.) by 1 at the latest. actually, you might have to juggle these around to get to the farmer's mkt earlier.

finally, stroll back up to sansome and greenwich, and up the back steps to coit tower to cap it off. the whole thing shouldn't be more than 2-3 miles, but manage your appetite for the grazing opportunities.

best wishes

Apr 04, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Flabbergasted in Little Saigon! [moved from LA board]

we all know that restaurants MUST recoup costs. insurance, energy, and the minimum wage have all gone up, in some cases dramatically. this whole thread started when the OP objected to that money coming from a rice charge rather than something else. as we all know, it is a pure marketing decision as to where the manager decides to put that cost. but guess what folks, your bill is the same regardless! so what sense is there in getting riled up, posting this thread, and actually giving up on a resto just because one item went up in cost rather than another. as i said, your total bill is the same regardless.

and frankly, there is much logic on the side of accurate pricing. it prevents abuse, waste, and the inherent unfairness of one party gobbling up tons of "free" rice while the next table doesn't even eat rice.

finally, many asian restos are comoditized and very competitive. it's like a gas station. you drive by, see the prices on the big sign, and on the basis of that number you decide to stop or keep driving. as i said, except for a small fraction of people (all of whom seem to be posting here), that price determines business, not a few people taking offense over a rice charge.

peace.

Apr 03, 2007
echo in Not About Food

Your favorite Bay Area bread

well this interesting part of the thread got me curious, so i grabbed a tartine walnut loaf at about 5:25 on a friday afternoon. it was crowded, but the line was not out the door.

the loaf was warm, and remained so until i cut into it about 20 mins. later. the crust, first of all, has an outer blistered crispy crackly shell over a 1-2 mm layer of brown leathery hide. where the flesh of the bread is separated from the crust by a bubble, the crust can darken to near black.

the virgin cut yields steam and room-filling aroma. the texture when this fresh is voluptuously moist, actually steamed in character. it reminds me of the fermented rice flour steamed cakes you used to be able to get all over chinatown. the bread appears to be made from high gluten flour, as it is very slightly translucent and highly elastic. if it were any moister, it would begin to flirt with the border into gooeyness. the bubble structure is chaotic and varied, with most falling between medium to coarse in size. the flour is fine and smooth, but by no means is it white. with the slight translucence, it suggests parchment with some slight purplish shading. a slight sourness becomes more apparent after day 1, and it holds more moisture longer than most.

i would guess it is over 3 pounds when fresh. $5

this is a substantial bread, and while i too am no expert, the characterization "trascendent the day it comes from the oven" seems well supported.

i did not have an acme beside me for a head to head, but iirc the style of the acme is different. not this swarthy and muscular. this loaf sits upon your cutting board like a lion on a throne, waiting to let loose his roar.

i'm eager to try another acme, but perhaps we can't really compare ballroom to tapdance. rather enjoy both for what they are, and relish the fact that we have good examples of both from which to choose.

Apr 03, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Donut madness: Bob's, Rolling Pin, Donut Wheel

hi punko, thanks for the post
but donuts are such a commodity that i feel comparisons are only useful if we get to some hard specifics. for me, it comes down to

1 - is it leavened with yeast or chemicals? i suspect that the vast majority of american donuts are chemical, so i was pleased to hear rw orange's post about the place in san rafael, but sad that it is closing. for me, chemical leavening leaves a nasty aftertaste, particularly with a buttermilk bar, cake or old-fashioned donut.

2 - is their frying techinque good? i'm not sure which grease, which temp, or other variable produces it, but what we seek (i assume) is generally a crispy exterior perhaps with a toasty carmelized flavor, a moist interior, but above all, little or no greasiness.

3 - glazing. for me, glazing is hazardous. you can easily oversweeten with a thick glaze (like krispy kreme), and i think it can also contribute to greasiness (it has oil, doesn't it?).

4 - trimmings. most 'chocolate' glazing sucks, and so do those multicolored sprinkle pellets. ditto on any 'jelly' or 'lemon' or 'custard' or 'creme' fillings. this is made even worse when they know they won't give you quality, and try to make up for it with quantity. ick.

for all these reasons, my 'classic' donut is the raised sugar. they rarely taste of baking soda, seem less greasy, and are usually less sweet than a glazed. however, they dry out more quickly, so they need to be fresh. on the other hand, i love an apple fritter like sin.

so given these criteria, i'd like to know who, if anyone, makes yeast raised donuts. i think bob's is often good for frying technique, but maybe that's just a freshness edge. and who, if anyone, actually has notably good toppings/fillings?

ok, so this is all about who makes the best 'traditional' american donut, but is the donut the last bastion of food mediocrity? i feel like we're debating who made the best 70's style pizza: straw hat, shakey's, or round table. we've already had quality revolutions in almost every other food category, so when will we get to the donut? granted the donut in full 70's regalia is still a tempting little retro treat, but come on food entreprenuers, take heed. this is your market calling.

Mar 30, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Flabbergasted in Little Saigon! [moved from LA board]

ms. nguyen
i am not, nor have i ever been a restauranteur. nor has anyone in my family. in fact i am a value conscious food loving asian like you. but i sense that you are missing my point. i am a man who always tries to understand the other party, and the underlying reality of a situation. i am not wasting all my time and correspondence trying to antagonize anyone. i am just suggesting that there is a potentially valid explanation for the phenomenon you describe, and that it is not motivated by anyone's malice. as such, neither is it worth your ire.
so just calmly consider my words, and see if you can't find it within yourself to at least understand, if not forgive their marketing decision.

respectfully,
ed ho

but by the way, using char siu in a true viet dish? now that would piss me off!

Mar 29, 2007
echo in Not About Food

Flabbergasted in Little Saigon! [moved from LA board]

i know you're miffed about the rice charge, the first time i encountered one i was too. but my assertion is still most probably correct. seeing the entire menu getting a price hike is impossible to ignore, especially when they whiteout all the old prices and handwrite all the new higher prices in.

scenario 1 - you go to your old favorite asian resto where your family has been getting great dinner dishes for $6 each for 10 years. suddenly, it's gone up to $7 each. every dish, everywhere you look on the menu. all your old favorites, the specials, everything. you're surprised, a little miffed, and suddenly you think it's time to try your friend's favorite resto down the street. % of people who notice, who care? 99%

scenario 2 - you go to your old favorite asian resto where your family has been getting great dinner dishes for $6 each for 10 years. you get the bill, and it seems a few bucks higher than it used to. you figure, oh, johnnie and betsy got a couple cokes or something, whatever, the food was as great as ever, and it's still a good deal after all these years. next week, you go back.
maybe you check the bill more closely, maybe you don't. maybe you care about the rice charge, maybe you don't. % of people who notice, who care? 20-30%

and guess what, some people don't order/eat the rice! should they subsidize your 'free' rice addiction? i don't blame you for enjoying such a situation, but to be honest, the answer is no.

so will they charge for tea next? very possibly, and in some cases they already have. is this an outrage? no. rice and tea represent real costs for the resto. not so much the raw material, but the appliances, the energy to cook it, the containers to serve it, and most of all the labor for all the above. it is a pure marketing decision on the part of the resto whether or not they want to pretend not to charge you for these or not.
but on occasion, a diner like me will linger over a meal with 2, 3, 4 pots of tea. should these be free? i really don't think so. i always tip extra when i occupy a table for extra time, but many folks may not. should the resto be able to recoup some of that cost, and remind the diner that courtesy goes both ways? absolutely.

Mar 29, 2007
echo in Not About Food

Shipping frozen food: need advice

dry ice is colder and lighter than gel packs. use it.
also use a foam box. again, light and insulating.
put the foam box in a cardboard box, and ship.
dry ice lasts for days and will keep the food frozen hard. but use caution, it can give frost burns to bare hands quickly.

Mar 27, 2007
echo in Not About Food

Flabbergasted in Little Saigon! [moved from LA board]

this is a trend that spread to nor cal years ago. i know bulk rice is cheap and fundamental (i'm asian, and buy 50 lb. bags too) but i'm afraid that isn't the point. a resto is a business, and asian restos in particular have viciously low margins. let's face it, we all know asian restos are generally cheaper than all others. they know that raising the basic price for their dishes from 7 to 8 bucks is going to send half their business down the block to their competitor. so they slide this charge in the back door and presto, we still feel we're getting the same bargain meal we got 10 years ago, and they get to afford their doubled insurance and utility bills.

Mar 27, 2007
echo in Not About Food

Dungeoness Crabs?

ok folks, i don't think this post is about bibs.
first of all, it's dungeness, a town on the olympic peninsula near puget sound that gave the crab its name.
now if the op is looking for 'plain' cracked crab, i'm at a loss. i do this at home of course, and if i want something zippier i go to a chinese or viet place for salt n pepper crab or whatever, or i get cioppino.
does anyone know if the place next to hog island in the ferry bldg serves cracked crab? it seems like a good bet there.
actually, neecole, if you haven't tried cioppino that is what you should do. locals love this crab and seafood stew, and there are many posts on it here.

Mar 22, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Anti bottled water...a good idea, I think?

i guess this isn't really the right venue to discuss this, but yes, anti-bottled water is generally a good idea. obviously, the environmental and economic expense of bottling and transporting water from hundreds or thousands of miles away is difficult to justify, particularly when our domestic water is deliciously refreshing hydrogeologically young and virgin sierra snowmelt.

there may be times, however, when folks might enjoy water that has been in more intimate contact with the earth, from which it picks up minerals, which in turn can impart a flavor or texture. acqua minerale is spring water, which is also ground water, which is also what comes out of a well. the specific 'terroir' of the particular aquifer will determine which minerals get into that water, and whether that water henceforth tastes salty, flinty, metallic, or soapy.

as an environmentalist, it pains me to say this, but as a chow i must. an individual here in sf can have a love of the flavor of a certain italian water, and that this cannot be reproduced simply by carbonating hetchy water. another more benign option would be local mineral water, like calistoga, which should be relatively similar to waters from places with similar, volcanic geology.

most of the time, however, all the flavor differences are slight, and are overwhelmed by carbonation, ice, a lemon slice, or of course the food and wine themselves.

the greatest exception in my opinion is the poor taste and texture of domestic water that comes from rivers that are heavily 'used' by agriculture or municipalities (like the colorado) or certain slow chloride rich aquifers. these often taste salty and soapy, and would be unsuitable accompaniment to good chow.

in other words, there's a reason good restos in LA or Houston should serve something other than straight tap, but much less of one here in SF.

Mar 21, 2007
echo in Food Media & News

Oakland (Fruitvale) Burrito Showdown

nice, cyrus
that's the kind of dilligence that turns chowpups into chowhounds!
but next time, keep the burritos in brown paper bags with numbers on them. that's right, a blind tasting!

Mar 21, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Indonesian Fair in SF March 4

my guess is that that venue is just too small to 'throw open the doors'.
it is, however, a pleasant and convenient spot, and perhaps a cheap one too. faced with the alternative of finding a larger hall and paying for it, my guess is they are happy to keep it 'intimate'.

i went nearly 3 yrs ago, and perhaps because i was late and the crowds had thinned to a manageable level, i was able to walk right in. the year after that, the event was cancelled altogether, and last year might've been too. i asked han, and he suggested that this was an informal event serving a smallish community, so it shouldn't really be thought of as an institutional public event.
i will say, though, that it was a grand time. very friendly family-oriented atmosphere, with music and good food. and i guess i missed this year too!

Mar 21, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Proposing this weekend....NAPA suggestions?

i agree with both posters here. the main napa drag, and v. sattui in particular, are NOT very pretty or romantic. and the relatively few prettier wineries tend to be kind of disney pretty. but of course, i've avoided hwy 29 for so many years things might have improved without my knowledge. anyway, this is not to say that picturesque spots can't be found. silverado and the CIA, as wchane suggested, do come to mind. i think beringer's house would also work.
but truly, the place isn't nearly as important as the purity of your intent, which could be compromised by whipping your neck around looking for some kodak moment. i think a little serenity is a better idea, which is generally found in proportion to your distance from 29. try silverado, the hills, alexander, or sonoma.

Mar 20, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Is 2PM on saturday too late for lunch at the Ferry Building?

i've eaten at slanted door's bar in the past (for dinner). i can't imagine it would be full at sat at 2, so you could still try that.

Mar 07, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

What's in the old Cala at Geary & 27th Ave?

fyi, the 7th and cabrillo safeway 'remodel' was begun with a wrecking ball. it currently resembles the back yard of helmand. the sign promises a new safeway of 28k sq ft, iirc. sexy lighting i think is a given. the cala on geary and 5th is sadly becoming another annex of the sf toyota dealership.
and i'm keeping my fingers crossed that the outer richmond albertsons will be a lion, marina, or ranch 99. a natural fit, it would seem.

this is all part of a fascinating sea change in the retail food industry that mirrors other segments of the economy. barbell retail, i'd call it. folks want value and/or quality, or at least the illusion of them, and the old middle market stalwarts just seem like too much of a compromise of both.

and specifically in the food industry, we also have the organic/heirloom/local foods movement, plus a wonderful acknowledgement of the diversity and appeal of international foods. i'll be the first to admit to a childhood fondness for cruising the (a)isles of safeway from the kiddie perch on the cart with my mom in tow. but after a wistful wave goodbye to those memories, i turn and open both arms to farmers' markets, ranch 99, draegers, costco, tj's, whole paycheck, and even the new sultry safeways. mark my words chowhounds. for every dead cala or albertson's, there's something new and better. i for one am counting my blessings.

of course the one thing the bay area still needs is a latino megamarket. (let us pray!)
something between oakland and hayward sounds about right...

Mar 07, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Mushroom dishes at La Casita Chilanga

just called the #. based on my broken spanish, it seems to be near a car dealership on california dr. in b'game. this could be mike harvey acura at broadway, or something closer to burlingame ave.
i'd go check it out, but i have lotsa leftovers to get thru this week.
pobrecito.

Feb 20, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Zankou-style chicken in Bay Area?

thanks moto
good memory, i think ike's is right. purely academic at this point, but do you recall their chicken? zankouesque?
i think it a great pity that we had a good chicken place, lost it, and still have no replacement nearly 10 yrs hence.

Feb 20, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Zankou-style chicken in Bay Area?

does anyone remember the little middle eastern chicken place on piedmont ave about 8 yrs ago that had 'zankou' style chicken? i recall it being quite tasty, reasonably priced, but unfortunately not busy/pricey enough to survive there. it had that garlic spread too. it was something like ten bux for the bird, the spread, and a few pitas, and for a few dollars more you got a couple sides, like salad and hummus.
i'm just hoping against hope that they moved rather than faded away.
i agree GFC is decent, but its no zankou.

Feb 13, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area

Late night & seafood in Foster City/San Mateo?

actually, see my post on chika in san mateo.

Feb 13, 2007
echo in San Francisco Bay Area