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China Village (Albany) is open!

Thanks to Ridge for organizing the dinner. For me the surprise was the tendon dish. When I see "tendon" I think of the big gelatinous bits in beef stew. This was paper-thin strips - sort of what you would get if you peeled back single layers of scallion, probably 1cm x 6cm and translucent. It was something new for me at least.

Jul 27, 2013
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Freed Teller & Freed Closing - Tea & Coffee

My regular morning tea is Upton's East Frisian blend (upton tea online). It's an all-Assam blend, unlike some others. They have a CTC version and a fuller leaf one. Upton has exceptional responsiveness (if you call you talk to people who know tea), and they offer samples, so you might give them a try.

May 23, 2013
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Chowdown report: Shao Mountain in Fremont

Eleven hounds met this Sunday (2/17) for a hunan chowdown at Shao Mountain in Fremont, organized by CheuCheu and Melanie. We had a delightful meal and good company.

First it's worth noting about the location. It is located on Boscell Rd in Fremont, south from Auto Row in a new shopping area - new enough that my 2011 version mapping software didn't show the road! It's an interesting area, with a string of attractive looking restaurants. The place is not too big, with perhaps 16 tables. We did well to arrive at 11:30 - we were nearly the only ones there. An hour later the place was full, and by the time we left it was full with people waiting, and four small outdoor tables in front of the restaurant in use. One final note is that even we requested normal full-on heat levels, none of the dishes was challengingly spicy

The dishes we ordered were:

Thousand-year eggs with chili
thin slices of preserved eggs on a small plate covered by (not overly spicy) chili oil. For me this was a revelation - I actively don't like preserved eggs, but this presentation removed the sulfur not commonly present, and rendered them with a creamy texture, Nice.

Yam Pork ribs soup

House fried noodle

Smoky steamed together
Combined steamed meats

Sauteed lily bulbs with celery
A pleasant break, with nice crispness

Shao Shredded potato

Western Hunan smoked pork

Lotus root chili with chili in wooden tub
crisped lotus slices fried with chili

Braised pork with wild bamboo shoot
a surprising and good dish. The salt level was considerable lower than a couple of the pork dishes, and the pork had an almost melting texture that paired well with the fresh bamboo

Fish filet with dual flavor
a large round platter with two halves - each with fish filets covered with a sauce - one half red, one half green. We had originally be going to order fish heads, but they were not available and this was a good replacement.

Griddle cooked pig intestine
fried slices of intestine, mixed with slices of onion and chili. For me, this was quite good - the texture of the intestine was crispy, but still with some chew to them. For me, very good.

Bullfrog with chopped chili pepper
served in a pot, with lots of onion and chili

dessert:
blue berry chinese yam cake
six small heart-shaped cakes with berry preserve on top

glutinous rice dumpling in sweet rice wine
the oddest item. It's a warm soup bowl with what looks like strands of egg in it, so you might be expecting a savory soup but is in fact quite sweet with what seemed like tapioca pearls and flavored pearls.

Feb 17, 2013
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

CHOWDOWN REPORT: Happy Golden Bowl in El Cerrito

I too had an enjoyable evening. No bad dishes. FYI there were two tables - each table ordered separately. It's interesting to note that although the ordering was independent, the choices of the two tables were quite similar. As one of the later arrivals, I ended up at the second table, where the ordering was organized by Marlon (with input from all, and good help from the waitress). Jefferson was also at our table, which explains why his list of dishes is different from the original post.

The first three dishes to arrive really set the tone for the meal, and were perhaps my favorites - the soup (which at our table was fish, not lamb), the wok-charred cabbage, and the stewed duck. Right off the bat we had full-on mouth numbing, some spice, richness from the duck stew and a little acid from the cabbage.

By design a few of the dishes were not spicy, to provide contrast, but for all the dishes the spice level was very tolerable. The only thing that caught me by surprise with spice was having some of the remaining soup broth toward the end of the meal - by which time more of the spice from the peppers in the soup had leached into the broth.

Service was excellent, and just by looking at the differences between our menu choices and the other table's, I see that it would be possible to have a number of dinners there that would be interesting without much repetition of menu choices. Thanks again to hyperbowler for organizing the meal.

Feb 03, 2013
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

B & M Mei Sing [San Francisco]

I ate there more than 3 times a week for several years in the 80's when I worked a few blocks away. Now I have an early lunch there if I go to the Mechanics Institute library. I always found it a value for the rice plate dishes. I came to casually know the son and daughter during that time as well. The son opened a place with similar format in the late 80's near the embarcadero, but I don't think that it survived.

The place did an amazing volume. We came to time things to avoid a few rush hour periods - it's a little hazy now exactly when they were. It's also a spot where reserving tables while waiting in line to order wouldn't work - it was just too busy. There were also some distinctive regulars. One fellow always spent a couple of minutes wrapping napkins around his tie and part of his shirt to avoid spills...

I used to get a variety of stuff cooked to order (poker chips), most of which were mentioned. The daughter got me started on the (off-menu) soft eggs with shrimp. This is real soft eggs - not scrambled eggs.

I haven't been there for a few years (my work schedule changed), but I may be back just to see how it is now.

May 10, 2012
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Starving for BBQ

I stopped by this afternoon. I would agree that it is a very pleasant place inside, and the service was great. My immediate motivation was to get a pulled pork sandwich for my co-worker who is from inland North Carolina, and misses their bbq. He is used to the vinegar-based sauce. Their version was a bit different from the traditional NC version, and a bit spicier, but he liked it the sandwich very much. Made as in NC, with good coleslaw as part of the sandwich. He does regret that a standard part of bbq from his area, hush puppies, aren't generally offered out here.

I had a small order of the St Louis ("Dark and Stormy") ribs. They come with toast and a small cup of pickled cuke/carrot. I personally liked the ribs - they had just about the right amount of pull off the bone. Not huge smoke flavor, but overall good.

They do have a website - http://bsidebbq.com/ which has a link to a menu in pdf form. I believe that the menu is still evolving. I'm sure that as they get rolling the hours will also expand. It's worth stopping by - clean place, nice vibe and friendly reception.

Dec 28, 2011
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco institutions...

Perhaps Sociale for the patio/outdoors?

Dec 21, 2011
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

tea store?

If you are willing to shop by mail, Upton tea is excellent for most teas. I checked and saw that they had one decaf Darjeeling. Shipping is not expensive - with no sales tax it's pretty much a wash. They are www.uptontea.com Response is also quite quick - order to receiving tea is 2-3 days. They also (in my experience) answer their own phones - and the people that I have spoken to know their teas (in some cases with tasting notes).

One nice thing is that they offer samples (enough for a couple of cups) for minimal cost - so before you shell out $$$ for that expensive Darjeeling or oolong, you can try it out.

Nov 02, 2011
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Farro - Costco

Costco is currently selling Farro in 3lb bags for $7.50, which seems a good deal. It's usually more expensive than other grains.

Feb 28, 2011
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Chowdown Report: Chinese New Year Banquet at Yum’s Bistro

I enjoyed the meal. My personal favorites were the stuffed chicken and the steamed striper. The chicken was just perfectly crispy. The bass was a simple dish, but cooked just right - not always easy to do with a thick fish. Yum.

Jan 28, 2011
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Fruitvale taco crawl, 2010 edition

Thanks very much to Ruth for organizing the crawl, and welcome to the Bay Area scene to visitors Sarah and Chris.

I would pick my faves as (1) the tinga at Torta Loco (2) the Al pastor at Gordo (3) the tripas at Guadalajara/El Novillo. Everything was good - those just stood out.

It was also good to find out that La Mexicana *still* (20 years later) sells thick, fresh corn tortillas - $3/$6 for 6 or 12 tortillas. Expensive, but good.

-----
La Mexicana
3930 International Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94601-4012

Aug 20, 2010
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopian Chowdown at Enssaro, Oakland

Thanks to Ruth for hosting this event - good food, very pleasant company. I found the meal to be pleasant, although nothing absolutely knocked my socks off. I did enjoy the special kitfo and Banatu and the vegetable dishes - particularly the Gommen.

Apr 07, 2010
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopean - Berkeley/Oakland?

I work in an environment with quite a few Eritreans and some Ethiopans. I recently asked some of the waitresses that I know the best whether there was any particularly good restaurant in the Bay Area. It's slightly off topic, but I got a very strong recommendation for Sheba in SF - Sheba Lounge / 1419 Fillmore Street / San Francisco, CA 94115-4114

It does have piano music as well. The website is not really up and running. My friend said that for her taste it was much nicer than the East Bay restaurants.

In the East Bay, another good friend recommended a new place - it is almost next to Colucci. I could not hear the name clearly - it was something like Dariah. She said that the food was prepared with more hotness/spice - more for the Ethiopean palate than some other places. I drove by - it may be right on the corner, two doors down from Colucci, but I could not stop to check it out.

Jan 27, 2010
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Chowdown at Larkin Express Deli / Burmese Kitchen

Let me add my thanks to Otis for organizing the meal. My impressions pretty much tally with those of Otis - the stronger (sour/sharp) flavored dishes made the biggest impression. The pork with pickled mango had chunks of pork and a few large pieces (3x3 cm) of pickled mango. Unless you got a piece of the pickle, the contribution of the mango was minor. The pickle itself reminded me of my period of addiction to Indian lime pickle.

It's worth noting that the little fried tofu appetizers were simple, but really good. For me, the key was that the yellow tofu inside was very creamy, so there was a big contrast between crispy fried exterior and creamy interior. They were thin enough that the proportion of crunchy exterior to soft interior was just right.

Jan 18, 2010
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Where can I buy pork belly in SF?

I buy it frequently in Oakland Chinatown. It's inexpensive - I think in the $2/lb range (perhaps cheaper). At the market where I mainly shop for staples (Orient mkt on 7th) they have all the meats packaged in typical supermarket style - it is labeled "side pork". It has no seasoning or anything - it's just another pack of pink meat.

Note that there is a completely separate product, prepared pork belly, sold in packages of a couple of strips. It is marinated, but still requires cooking. I usually find it near the Chinese sausage, selling for $5-8/lb.

Dec 28, 2009
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Green Tea in Bulk

If you are willing to do mail order, you might consider Upton Tea http://www.uptontea.com/ I have been a long time customer (10-15 years??) and have always got extremely good service. If you call their number you can generally talk to people who have tasted the teas. Shipping is quite reasonable, and is extremely prompt. I just took a quick look at their site and saw a number of sencha items.

Quantity sizes 500gm and 1000gm bags. They also offer samples (at a small charge), so if you are thinking about getting a large amount of routine tea, but possibly a smaller amount of a premium type, you can try before buying.

Jun 20, 2009
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Gum Kuo Restaurant, Tao Yuen Pastry, Ruby King Bakery, & Nieves Cinco de Mayo, Oakland report w/ pics

I followed this thread with interest - I have been a takeout customer for the last 10 years or so at the pace of 1+ times per week. A few notes:

1) Most of the time I have been a Sun Sing or Tao Yuen customer. Since much of the time I get takeout and bring it home for breakfast, it matters to me when they open. Sun Sing opens at 7:30am every morning. Tao Yuen opens sometime later, around 8:15.

2) The two places have many items in common, but each has some items that the other does not - I think that Tao Yuen has a much wider range - particularly steamed gao of various kinds and the turnovers.

3) For some reason, in the last two years Sun Sing has lost quite a bit of business, although I have not noticed any real decline in the quality. As a result, there is almost never a line anymore - so if the other spots like Tao Yuen and Napoleon have big lines I always go to Sun Sing. As a side note, they reorganized and cleaned up the space behind the counter about a year ago. I would also rank them ahead of Tao Yuen and Napoleon as easier to negotiate in English.

4) For limited variety but decent quality, you can't beat the price of the steamed items at Napoleon - they are 3/$1 for typical stuff (har gao etc.).

Sep 12, 2008
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Gilory Garlic in San Francisco?

A related and more difficult problem is finding any of the more interesting varieties of garlic. Virtually all of the garlic grown/packed around Gilroy is California Early, one of the least interesting varieties. There are countless varieties of garlic, varying in taste, pungency and hotness. I have had little luck at the Oakland farmers market (Grand Lake) - once I scored some Spanish Roja. I think that the markets arount Petaluma and Santa Rosa may have some good sellers.

For an intro to the varieties etc, see http://www.thegarlicstore.com/ZenCart/Index.php or http://www.filareefarm.com/ or just google Chester Aaron.

Aug 05, 2008
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Vacherin Mont D'or question

Country Cheese in Berkeley (San Pablo Ave near University) has had it in the past. I first got it from them about 3-4 years ago, but I generally recall seeing it there seasonally. These are the actual wooden tubs with the cheese wrapped by a pine strip, aging enough to scoop out from the center.

That store has its ups and downs, but the owners have made an effort to look for unusual cheeses to bring in.

Oct 19, 2006
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

tasty local cheats

You already have a pesto source, but I really like the Genova Delicatessen pesto. It keeps well frozen; they have both fresh and already frozen in the freezer case.

Oct 12, 2006
Tom Simonson in San Francisco Bay Area

Upton Tea (moved from San Francisco Bay Area board)

I am a long time Upton customer, but for Chinese greens and other asian teas I would also recommend Silk Road Teas (in the SF Bay area - there is another in the NW with a similar name), at http://www.silkroadteas.com/

Aug 26, 2006
Tom Simonson in General Topics