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Okonomiyaki: SFBA Dish of the Month August 2014

The version at Iyasare (4th St., Berkeley) is sublime. As Robert Lauriston noted,
their rendition has black tiger shrimp / squid / scallop / shiitake / bonito flakes / mentaiko aioli / chili ponzu. It's a refined version of this comfort food, each of the component of high quality and the tastes remained distinctive; elegant presentation on a shallow, oblong cast iron pan. The bonito flakes added some wonderful theater--flakes were ethereally thin and light, shaved on top just as the dish is served so they dance on the surface of the pancake for the first 10-15 minutes of the meal. At $18, probably at the high end for this Dish of the Month, but with the beautifully updated dining room, excellent service and sake options, completely worth it.

Visiting Restaurant Recommendations

Blue Bottle, Boulettes Larder and Acme all have morning pastries and all are better than La Boulange. Boulettes has a charming seating area, or you can sit on a bench outside with a view of the Bay and the ferry landing.

ethnic markets in EB (esp Afghan/Indian)

Oasis market on Telegraph at 30th, Oakland: Middle Eastern groceries (bins, tins, bulk spices, produce), butcher (small section in the back), deli/take-out/dine-in (good prices on olives, lebneh, hummus and lamb dishes), pastries.

House of Banquet - still our go-to for dim sum in SFBA

Are you certain you got the right picture? The wrapper looks like your basic rice flour roll, not deep fried bean curd (but the bean curd/minced fish dish sounds great).

Perdition Smokehouse (downtown Berkeley)

Perdition's ribs are extremely good. Portions (I ordered a full slab) are generous and prices great ($22 per slab, not per lb.) The ribs were St. Louis style, dry rub, very savory, medium-smoky (even more smoky flavor might be nice). Meat very high quality as advertised. At the top end of local BBQ the most relevant competition would be with Fat Daddy’s BBQ (Kensington Farmers Market Sunday mornings; also reportedly at Kensington Chevron on Arlington on Saturdays—haven’t verified this). Fat Daddy’s ribs are smokier, which I like. But they’re more expensive. And they’re not available every day as Perdition’s are.

authentic chinese restaurant with good ambience for a first date? [San Francisco]

Those pictures of House of Pancakes must have been Photoshopped. Ambiance is definitely of the hole-in-the-wall variety.

Best halva?

I think it's the same guy at the SF Civic Center Farmers Market on Wednesdays. Plain and chocolate marbled halvah.

Swedish Food? Where?

Plaj near SF Civic Center is more generally Scandinavian, a bit pricey for small plates but the menu looks wonderful:


World Cup 2014 Viewing and Eats

Here is a list of Berkeley viewing venues:


SF Chinatown Bargains - Fruit!

Yesterday many of the stores on Stockton had fresh lychees for $1.99/lb. They looked good--firm, good color, not bruised--, but my fruit bin is already overflowing, so I passed.

East Bay BBQ

Fat Daddy's BBQ at the Sunday Kensington Farmers Market (but not every Sunday, so check their Facebook page) has my favorite ribs. Excellent dry rub, intensely deep, smoky flavor and quality meat ($28 for whole rack); I don't bother with the sauce they provide on the side. No storefront, although they do cater and are thinking about finding a place this summer.

You can link to their online menu and Facebook page from here:

Specific wine itinerary questions - I've done research!

Ridge makes some of finest zinfandels around; I recommend their Lytton Springs tasting room in Sonoma:


I have to say I find barrel tasting more of a gimmick than a way to appreciate any particular varietal or any particular winery.

Hip, casual place for a small celebration in Oakland?

Mua (but noisy):


Benu reports? [San Francisco]

Here's a link to Reichl's swooning review:

Best Asian preserved plums/fruits and best Taiwanese/Singapore/Malay shaved ice

Yee May Wah on Clement and any of the Ranch 99s have a good selection of preserved plums/olives/etc., but can't vouch for their metal content safety.

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

They're usually available near the registers at Nijiya Market in Japantown and I have even seen them at the Walgreen's on Market and 8th.

Cherry Season 2014 - Prices seen in the SF Bay Area?

Berkeley Bowl has five or six varieties, including $3.89/lb for Tulares (great crisp texture but not full-flavored), $4.09/lb for Rainiers (flavor ok--I find them bland even at their best--but many have brown spots).

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

Nam Hai (919 Grant) has an excellent selection of teas, dried culinary and medicinal herbs, three grades of goji berries, etc. Prices much better than Red Blossom.

Duck legs dry-brined, now what?

I'm preparing Fergus Henderson's simple, sublime preparation of duck legs on a bed of carrots but decided to brine the legs first (which the recipe does not require) to ensure crispy skin. Four tablespoons of salt for four pounds of meat, dry-brined for two days. Now: do I rinse and pat the legs dry before proceedings with the recipe? If not, how can so much salt not result in an overly salty dish? If I don't have to rinse, should I nevertheless omit adding the salt from the recipe?

I don't rinse off the dry-brined chicken for Judy Rodgers' Zuni chicken, but the amount of salt here seems very large.

May 11, 2014
dordogne in Home Cooking

ZONGZI aka CHINESE TAMALES SFBA Dish of the Month May 2014

Ok, now that you chowhounds have completed a scholarly dissection of the taxonomy of zongzi versus nuomiji (consensus from Soupçon, Melanie and Yimster is that other than shape and leaf type, the key difference is that zongzi start out with uncooked rice and fillings and is then boiled for a good long while, whereas nuomiji starts out with cooked rice and fillings, is then steamed): Where near Lake Merritt (site of the June 15 Dragon Boat Festival) can good zongzi and nuomiji be found?

Oakland/Berkeley restaurant recommendations for my 28th birthday dinner with my mom?

Nice to hear about Plum. Many of the "hip" new places, with their bench seating, high ceilings and hard surfaces everywhere, appear determined to discourage geezer dining. Would be nice to have an audible conversation in a comfortable chair (doesn't have to be padded, just not backless) over great food.

Oakland/Berkeley restaurant recommendations for my 28th birthday dinner with my mom?

Mark Bittman lavishly praised Camino recently, although noting that the atmosphere is quite casual (like Plum, bench seating):

The Presidential @4505 Burgers & BBQ - Divisadero [San Francisco]

Breakfast?!! You are a true BBQ warrior.

ZONGZI aka CHINESE TAMALES SFBA Dish of the Month May 2014

Is the smaller version, wrapped in lotus leaf/no string/rectangular shape/no egg yolk also considered zongzi? These are usually available on dim sum menus, whereas the larger, banana leaf/tied with string/often with egg yolk item is found mostly at delis for take out. In any case, very nice version of the lotus leaf-wrapped version at Hong Kong Lounge II. Rice is more tender than sticky, filling-to-rice ratio perfect.

Mixing Bowl in Temescal to stop serving weekend brunch [Oakland]

900 Grayson is over the border in Berkeley, but they have a well-thought-out breakfast menu using good ingredients, including poached eggs with corned beef hash, Nueske bacon, Plugra butter, good hash browns.


Drinks with Easy Access to Bay Bridge (SF)

For next time: Waterbar, on the Embarcadero and directly under the Bridge.

Where can OctoberFeast breads and pastries be found?

The store on University Ave. in Berkeley is closed and the number for the San Francisco location has been disconnected. Are they still selling at farmers markets and, if so, which ones? They produced some excellent German-style breads, the only pretzel croissant I've ever seen (years ahead of the clumsily-named cronut) and a great apricot Danish.

best dimsum in oakland?

They have an extensive order form but also roaming carts. The order form is particularly useful if the wait is long (last Sunday around noon the wait was 45 minutes)--you can check off your selections while you distract yourself from growing hunger, then hand them to the server as soon as you're seated. The shrimp and chive dumplings, fried taro root balls and rice noodle rolls all very good; chicken feet and tofu skin rolls over sauced and messy. To my taste, the flavors are more pure and the execution more refined at Asian Pearl in the Ranch 99 mall in Richmond.

Citrus bulletin

Sumo oranges, $3.39/lb at Berkeley Bowl (surely they'll come down in price?); Tom Wilson navel oranges $1.69/lb. at Andronico's.

If I could only keep the cookbooks of one author/chef/cook that author would be:

Marcella Hazan: the most rewarding pleasure-to-effort ratio on my overcrowded cookbook shelf. I'm enjoying Ottolenghi but will wait to see whether I'm still turning to those recipes in a year or two.

Mar 11, 2014
dordogne in Home Cooking