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great spicy noodles without soup

Chengdu Style has Dan Dan noodles in a dry style; no sesame or peanut sauce, has ground pork and Szechuan pepper.
(Bancroft at Bowditch across from UC)

about 12 hours ago
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Early Girl Tomatoes?

At Berkeley Bowl yesterday, $2.89/lb, organic from Tomatero Farms. This year, harvest dates for all produce seem to be early.

Roast Duck: SFBA Dish of the Month July 2015

We had the roast duck at China First recently. I presume they do not make their own ducks; Cheung Hing is across the street and other takeout places are nearby. So in this discussion there are three components:
Take-out roast duck to eat at home;
places such as New Gold Medal, full service restaurants that make their own r d and you can take it out or eat it there;
and places such as China First (and maybe Great China) that do not make their own ducks.

Anyway the duck at China First was $11.50 for a half (as one of the dishes in a sit-down meal). It was served warm. The skin was very crispy. There was a fair amount of fat under the skin but the meat was very juicy and succulent.

When we order r d at New Gold Medal (8th Street, Oakland Chinatown), as part of a meal, it is usually room temperature and the skin is not so crispy. I forget the price for dine-in duck.

China First
336 Clement (Inner Richmond district, SF)

Jul 12, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Free/Discounted Wine tastings in Healdsburg

In years past I would stop at the Chamber of Commerce in Healdsburg:

Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau
217 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448

They gave out cards for free tastings at certain tasting rooms. I don't know if it is still happening.

The title of your post is "Healdsburg" but then you mention Sonoma. Sonoma is both a county and a small city, and the city of Sonoma (a delightful place to visit) is 36 miles from Healdsburg.

Jul 07, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Any spottings of blenheim apricots in East Bay or San Francisco yet?

I bought the non-organic Royals today ($1.59/lb). They are indeed Blenheims and they are excellent. Apparently Blenheims can be ripe and still have a bit of a green "shoulder" though the ones I picked out were melting-ripe and will be inhaled within several hours.

Jun 19, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Hung Tao Yee Fu Won Ton

It's on the Chef's Specials part of the online menu. Along with the elusive Pressed Duck.


Jun 15, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Any spottings of blenheim apricots in East Bay or San Francisco yet?

Organic Blenheims, $2.79/lb at the Bowl today. They are packed in bags so you get a range of ripeness within the bag. Delicious.

Confusingly, in the non-organic section, a bin labeled "Royal" apricots -- apparently the same variety as Blenheim. But the non-organic ones did not look as ripe as the organic ones. I think the price was about $1.59/lb.

Jun 15, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Chengdu (Szechuan restaurant) near UC Berkeley

We were here Sunday with a group of eight. Had some of the dishes I mentioned below, all very good: Garlic noodles, DanDan noodles, toothpick lamb, a very nice (mild) sliced fish, green beans, ong choy ("Water Spinach" on their menu), braised kidney (a lot of soup and not much kidney), and our favorite dish -- flour steamed pork chop: chunks of tender bone-in pork smothered in custardy flour (rice flour?), steamed in a bowl, unmolded into a dome of porky goodness.
Bill was about $110 before tip, no corkage fee (though they did charge a $10 corkage fee in a previous excursion). Although some dishes had red oil and red chilies, the consensus was that the food was not as hot as it looked.
Very nice service, place was half full (it's a large place); Cal is not in session, maybe it's more crowded during school. Also parking was easy.

Jun 02, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Xinjiang style skewer roundup

Dragon Gate in Oakland (near but not in Chinatown) has extensive (and expensive) skewers. I presume these are "Taiwan" style, whatever that means. Many offerings on a separate menu.

Also Chengdu Style near UC Berkeley offers skewers, might not be on the menu. I've seen it written on the chalkboard. And they have "toothpick lamb" which is like many small skewers!

Apr 10, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Tasty Travails: In California, A is For...Carciofi

At B Bowl today, Globe artichokes (labeled as "the best variety"), $0.69/$1.09/$1.49 depending on size.

Apr 06, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

yuyu za zang [Oakland]

Five of us had a nice dinner here -- our first time at the new location. Menu/food is the same. We had the Double Skin (more onions, less seafood than Great China/China Village but a lot cheaper). We also had poached dumplings, the green beans, a spicy seafood noodle soup, and Szechuan calamari (the last is not on the menu but it is delicious, deep fried with a sweet/spicy sauce).
Very nice people -- all family.
A good price for dinner (total $63 before tip), no corkage fee.


Noisy. There was a young woman with three small children who was in there for just a short time; when they left I expected the noise level to go down but it did not. There was just one table of six making most of the noise -- but the place was only about one/third full. Despite being larger than the previous location there is something about the acoustics that was very unpleasant.

Mar 30, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Dried Fig Shortage?

GO ahead and envy me.
I live eight blocks from Berkeley Bowl.
Recently they have been selling off the organic (!) dried figs from Turkey. These 250 gram packages have an expiration date that is coming up in a few days, although it's not obvious why dried figs should expire. The figs are very high quality.
Normal price $3.99.
On sale for 99 cents.

Mar 30, 2015
Joel in General Topics

The Crazy Farang

not Thai food, but "the food of Thailand"

Mar 30, 2015
Joel in Food Media & News

Dole Royal Hawaiian Pineapples on Clement Street (SF)

B Bowl had piles of them; $3.29 each. I bought one -- it is quite sweet. But normally if I buy a pineapple from the Bowl it is from the "used fruit" section, usually 99 cents, usually superripe. So I am not a connoisseur.
They also had some from Maui -- I don't recall the details, but it was about the same price.

Mar 16, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Ethiopian food

Brundo has a large collection of Ethiopian spices. It is on Telegraph Avenue just North of Alcatraz Avenue (in North Oakland). Next door to Cafe Colucci. I was surprised at the high prices of some of these spices but I have no basis for comparison. There are several other Ethiopian grocery stores along Telegraph scattered all the way to downtown Oakland.

Mar 02, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

All You Wanted To Know About Chinese Dumplings

Feb 28, 2015
Joel in General Topics

Grocery Outlet -- February, 2015

At Berkeley:
Annie's Organic Indian-style lentil soup (dal) $1.49 in pop-top can, expire date 2017. Delicious.
Nice little orchids $4.99.
Fat-free feta cheese in solid piece $1.99 for 6 ounces.
Nectresse pseudo-sugar $2.99

PLUS Senior day second and fourth Thursday until 2 PM, 10% discount! Chagrined that they did not have to check my ID for the discount.

Feb 12, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Older wine . . . Worried some may be getting past it's prime.

You could start opening a bottle at home -- the kids are 19 and 17 if my arithmetic is correct. Have a nice dinner, open a bottle and share it as a family. No problem with legal drinking age as long as it's your own home.

Talk about the wine with the kids, have them write their comments, take some photos, give them a bottle of the same wine a few years later.

I think cold temps could be a problem. First, the acid will drop out; second, the corks might deteriorate due to low humidity in the fridge.

I was born in 1945 and had several fine wines of that vintage when I was 30 or 40 years old, no problem.
Nice old German wines, also Bordeaux. The last 1945 I had was a Croft Port -- about ten years ago, it was superb.

Feb 09, 2015
Joel in Wine

Hasnia - Algerian restaurant (Berkeley)

1160 University
Berkeley, CA 94702
b/t San Pablo Ave & Curtis St in West Berkeley

Feb 07, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Does Berkeley Bowl have Finger Limes?

Yes I saw it there some weeks ago -- not sure if they are still there. Too expensive for me -- I think it was about $8 for a plastic box of about half a dozen.
Call them!

Feb 01, 2015
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Mama Papa Lithuania Restaurant & Tea House in Alameda

In the current issue of EB Express (on newsstands today, Jan 31), page 32, is an ad for M P L with a coupon for free fried bread. Actually all you have to do is mention the ad.

establishments that barter for meyer lemons

In the spring of 2000 I sold 68 pounds of Bearss limes to Berkeley bowl for $25.
A few years ago we had a surplus of over a hundred pounds (after giving away a bunch and making endless jars of marmalade). But the Bowl would no longer take them, nor would Whole Foods. I think it might be something about legality/insurance. We went to the Shattuck Farmer's market and gave them away to Food Not bombs, after bartering a few to the Mexican food stand in exchange for supper. Sadly our tree is declining, whether due to drought or old age: I planted it in 1971 and they do have a limited life span. You know you're getting old when you outlive a tree.

Berkeley farmer's markets are open to Berkeley residents to sell backyard produce -- I think there's a small fee. But since other vendors charge $4/ pound for Bearss limes, we might get some flak if we sold them cheap.

Dec 17, 2014
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Imm Thai, Berkeley

Delicious "Su Kho Thai" ($8) as listed on the menu. Spicy enough for me, but a bit on the sweet side, just a little sour; there were no condiments that I could see for do-it-yourself seasoning and it could be a bit more sour for me (lemon or vinegar). On the other hand it was extremely flavorful and chock full of porky goodness. Highly recommended; however the bench seating against the wall is very uncomfortable. Bring a cushion and a backrest.
When I searched for "Imm Thai" on line the first hit was for a very expensive place in Washington DC.

Dec 08, 2014
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Recommendations for best NYE dinner in Oakland Chinatown

I am tentatively planning NY Eve dinner at Mandarin Garden on Shattuck Av in downtown Berkeley. We did this last year and it was great, and we had Thanksgiving there as well (13 at table).

Dec 04, 2014
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Recommendations for best NYE dinner in Oakland Chinatown

If you have a large group, New Gold Medal has an upstairs which is semi-private and very nice.

Last time we were at Chef Lau we got them to close the door (and we are of the Caucasian persuasion). I am tall, so I closed the window above our table -- I didn't ask permission.

I think the Chef Lau "on the wall" items are also on the menu -- except for the frog dishes, also the fresh seafood -- it's fun to look in the tanks and pick out your unlucky dinner creature. Also pea leaves which are always good. And some of the "wall" items are on the "set menu" handouts. Sturgeon "two ways" is good -- they deep fry the cartilaginous "bones". Other good items are steamed oysters (on the shell, in black bean sauce), also crab with ginger/scallion.

Dec 03, 2014
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Crab season is upon us

We arrived for dinner at 5 PM and it was almost full when we left -- in the past we have also found it quite busy at dinnertime. I am not familiar enough with crab to assess its weight but it was quite lively when they removed it from the tank.

Nov 25, 2014
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Crab season is upon us

Wonderful whole crab (ginger and green onion) at Chef Lau in Oakland Chinatown (8th and Harrison) tonight. It fed four of us. Meat was sweet and clean. Carapace full of succulent crab goo.
Corkage fee zero.

Nov 22, 2014
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Pho Ga : SFBA Dish of the Month November 2014

I wish people would give an address in their review.
On the other hand, Google is quick:

Wing Wah Pho Ga
1212 E 12th St
Oakland, CA 94606
b/t 13th Ave & 14th St in East Oakland

Phone number (510) 533-6690

Nov 05, 2014
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Partridge in the East Bay or SF?

Last year, around Thanksgiving time, B Bowl had them frozen.

Oct 27, 2014
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area

Cotton Candy Grapes

They were at B Bowl, starting last year.
They had them this year too but I did not see them the last time I was there.
I bought them last year -- they really do taste like cotton candy. The first grape is great, the second one is OK, after that I found them strange and cloying.
They are not so sweet as some of the other grape varieties.
I did not buy them again.

Oct 20, 2014
Joel in San Francisco Bay Area