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Nathan P's Profile

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Midweek dinner in downtown Santa Cruz? [moved from SF]

My favorites downtown are Soif and Oswald. Soif has the best wine list and the lowest wine mark-up: it's euro centric if that matters. And the food is solid as well. Also downtown is Oswald. While I tend to sit at the bar with a burger and cocktail, they do have a nice wine list as well. Gabriella could also be a good option if you want something more intimate though the wine list is not particularly exciting.

If you google you can find menus for all of these spots and all in walking distance for you. While not touristy, all will be packed if you are here on the weekend.

Apr 17, 2010
Nathan P in California

Last minute request for solo dining in Reno

Thanks for all the great tips so far. I feel prepared!

Will be doing a last minute mobile check when I get there in case any leads pop up and will let you know where I end up.

Jan 15, 2010
Nathan P in Southwest

Last minute request for solo dining in Reno

Hoping their are a few Reno hounds who can help me out.

I've got a last minute trip to Reno showing up tomorrow (Fri). Staying at Siena (1 Lake Street) and looking for somewhere to eat after I arrive. But I won't have a car so limited to a decent walk or cab. And I'm alone so I'm thinking either super casual or if nicer something with a lounge or bar good for a solo diner.

Those are some pretty big limitations so I would be thrilled to get a "this is your best bet" kind of recommendation even if it would not make your best of Reno list.

Open for any type of food: from a pupeseria in an alley to a tasting menu. On the fancier restaurant side bonus points for good cocktails or European wine.

Thanks all

Jan 14, 2010
Nathan P in Southwest

Good Eats in Santa Clara?

A&J is still good. I have a slight preference for ASJ which is on Hostetter in San Jose as the beef has been a bit more tender in my experience. Noodles and broth are excellent at both.

Shanghai flavor shop shenjian bao are excellent. I would go more often but its a bit out of the way for me. Also like the green onion noodles as a side as 2 orders of the dumplings feels a bit over the top.

Hu Chiang- Only been once and it was good but not great . I found the meat (standard pork and beef) xlb to be a bit grainy in texture and like others found the other stuffings to be better.

Ramen Halu. Still gets positive press but I don't think it has retained the magic that made it the CH super star it is. Its still good, but just not transcendent- and it definitely used to be. 9 out of 10 times these days I head over to Kahoo which is down the road from Halu. Or you could try Santouka in the Mitsuwa next to Kahoo.

So all of those are worth a trip but as you've seen from other posters, there are plenty of good options around here.

Organic wines for Thanksgiving

Excellent wine- the importer says on their site that Bel Air is on a plateau and makes slightly riper wines than Rosette which is their other chablis and a more minerally and 'serious' bottle. I've only had the Bel Air et Clardy so far.

There are some nice photos of the De Moors and their cellar at wineterroirs:

Nov 14, 2008
Nathan P in Wine

TN: 12 Wines fit for a Birthday . . . mine.

Have you had the regular Do Ferreiro AlbariƱo to compare? I've been a fan of this wine for a while but have not found the Cepas Vellas locally or been motivated enough to mail order yet.

By the way, DeMaison Selections has a little video of the Cepas Vellas vineyard and the old vines available either off of their site or on youtube.

Nov 11, 2008
Nathan P in Wine

Lunch recommendations for drive from San Francisco to Santa Cruz

You could try Ramen Halu which is considered by many hounds to be the top ramen shop in the bay area. Its just off of HWY280.

Lunch recommendations between San Francisco and Santa Cruz

You should also post this on the SF board which covers all of the towns you will be driving through until Santa Cruz. There is plenty of great food on that route. What tends to stand out are asian cuisines so if there is anything you can't find where you live that would be a good option and not something you will get in Santa Cruz.

And if your final lunch option is not on 101, N101, W380, 280S, 85S, 17 is a far nicer drive with less traffic and not as complicated as it looks when written down.

Sep 01, 2008
Nathan P in California

Any good restaurants in Santa Cruz? [moved from SF Bay board]

This is a pretty comprehensive list but you are missing Avanti on the westside which is pretty consistenly good. I'm wokring at home today and actually stopped in to try their lunch menu for the first time. Had a really good dish of duck confit over sauteed spinach with a large panzanella salad with big hand torn croutons and 3 kinds of heirloom tomatoes. Very good dish and insane value at $10. Of course a glass of barbera almost doubled the cost of lunch but duck confit without wine would just be wrong.

And you ar ethe first person to agree on El Paisano tamles (no dulce on the menu)!

I hit the opening day of Limoncello and it was good. I have not been back bu tonly due to laziness. The people who I know in town who were big fans of Bella Napoli thought the opening week was mediocre but are all going now once a week for Giovanni's food.

Aug 29, 2008
Nathan P in California

Any good restaurants in Santa Cruz? [moved from SF Bay board]

Speaking of Theo's, has anyone tried Vida downtown since chef Nicci Tripp, formerly of Theo's, started? My last experience at Vida a few years ago was frighteningly bad and I vowed to never return but the menu posted outside actually looks interesting.

Aug 29, 2008
Nathan P in California

Ambrosia India Bistro Open in Aptos

Any standout dishes?

Aug 22, 2008
Nathan P in California

Any good restaurants in Santa Cruz? [moved from SF Bay board]

I believe Oswald's is still not open as they are on a long break as they build their new space.

And Pearl Alley no longer exists having been replace by Fusion which I have not tried.

Jul 22, 2008
Nathan P in California

Fantastic Riesling

Don't know the distributor but Skurnik is the importer so you could try them. This is a pretty solid value in German riesling every year.

You can find some more info on the producer in the Terry Theise catalog on the site if you are curious.

Jul 15, 2008
Nathan P in Wine

"Amarone-esque" wines?

Another wine to look for are the sfursat/sforsato/sforzato wines of Valtellina in Lombardia that are made using a similar process but with nebbiolo. Not that these will help the budget aspect of your search.

May 17, 2008
Nathan P in Wine

ISO wine or beer shops, Santa Cruz, CA

Soif will not have a lot of sub $15 wines, but for my taste they will have the most interesting. I just glanced at there never totally updated site and they had at least 25 or so choices. In the whites, I'm partial to the Quenard wines from the Savoie which are fun if you dig really bright minerally whites. They usually have a good jug riesling/gruner around too which are fun.

For beer the clear winners for me are U-Save on the WS near Safeway (just stay away from the dwindling stock of Deshutes Fresh Hop) and for a field trip 41st Liquors which is just S of HWY1 when you take the 41st exit. Lots of Belgians and other imports here. Its also a good wine shop and carries a large selection of Charles Neal wines which may give you some good value with items <$15.

Mar 10, 2008
Nathan P in California

Gourmet Ghetto: not so much any more?

What are Vintage Berkeley's strengths? Any particular regions, importers, styles, older vintages etc. ?

South Bay Viet lunch series resumes: Thien Long

I agree with the general wrap up here. I have been to Phi Long in GCM a few times for the cha ca there. I find them to be very similar on the fish flavor but from I recall a larger qty of dill at Phi Long which would give them a slight nod. But this could easily vary by visit.

On the topic of Phi Long, If you are a solo diner they have a bun bowl with the cha ca and grilled pork in broth. Its not as good as the full dish but GCM is pretty close to my office so this fills a craving w/o having to round up more people.

And the quail were the best we've had in this lunch series even if we needed a few lime wedges with them.

Sulfite free wines

You've gotten a good run down on sulfites here. But if you still want to go down this road...

If you can find a local shop that carries a good selection of Organic and Bio-Dynamic wines from France you should be able to find some bottles with no to low additions. There are a number of vignerons in the 'natural wine' camp who are experimenting with reducing or eliminating sulfite additions. I believe Marcel Lapierre has no sulfites added in the Morgon bottling that KL brings in to the US. I also recently had a nice Poulsard from Tissot in the Jura that the merchant told me had no sulfites added though internet searches seem to only indicate that he is a minimalist on the issue. And if you have deep pockets, a tasting of Allemand's "Sans Soufre" Cornas against a regular bottling would be a tasty way to explore this.

Feb 16, 2008
Nathan P in Wine

What are you drinking right now?

Thanks for the note. I'm happy to have 5 of these but am trying to keep my hands off them for a little longer. Have you tried the Crozes-Hermitage from Alain's son Maxime? Also excellent but harder to find. Domaine de Lises

Feb 16, 2008
Nathan P in Wine

Mexican place in downtown San Jose with amazing & greasy quesadillas

Maybe La Taqueria on 1st near santa clara? There is a photo available on jatbar.

Regional Indian in the Bay Area (enough Punjab already!)

And Tirupathi Bhimas does have Pessarattu: a plain and an Uppuma version. I've ordered it a few times and enjoyed it though I only have one other version to compare.

Updated Santa Cruz restaurant reviews/opinions, please!

Have you tried any of the daily specials that are posted on the sign in the window at Apatzingan?

I'll have to try some of the other offerings here as I have only used this place to fill the occasional pupusa craving.

Dec 20, 2007
Nathan P in California

Tampico Kitchen Santa Cruz

My family also used to go to Tampicos in the 20-25 years ago timeframe. I don't remember any dramatic event, but somewhere after that we stopped going and shifted our occasional Tampico's fix to the Soquel location. So I can not give you an update on relative quality, but...

Now when I want '80s style Cal-Mex like I used to enjoy at Tampico's I head to El Chino in Live Oak across (at least until its gone) from the drive in. Its big hot platters of enchiladas rice beans etc. What works for me is that there is a vibrancy of chile flavor in the enchilada sauce and table salsa that seems to be missing from a lot of the Cal-Mex style places these days.

If you decide to go back for nostalgia, please do post as I would love to know if its worth a re-visit.

Nov 21, 2007
Nathan P in California

Updated Santa Cruz restaurant reviews/opinions, please!

I've been there and it's not particularly exciting. Only worth a try if you live on the west side; certainly a step down from Engfers which is its closest competition. Perhaps closer to Chianti's in quality though I have not returned to that place after one meal.

And the wine selection was horrible for my tastes but that may be related to my extremely strong anti-CA wine bias. (though even for CA only wines I thought it was a staggeringly boring wine list for a place claiming to be a wine bar)

I have also tried the Spanish place next door which is a return to the concept from a few years ago before Xin noodle bar but I think I need a second visit before I post a report. Except for the wine list that was as boring as the Pizza place without a single Spanish wine available. (though they did at least have an unremarkable domestic Albarino to fill in)

May 17, 2007
Nathan P in California

My 10 Favorite Things to Eat in Santa Cruz

Hey, I grew up in Santa Cruz and I feel no need to go to Morenos... The pastor tacos at Taqueria SC on the east side are worth a try though. They are the only taco in town that will get me away from the highly addictive chicharon tacos at La Cabana that is much closer to where I live. I work in SJ so I will have to try Tlaquepaque as it has popped up on my chow radar in the past.

Tepa may not have the 3 kinds of empanadas on their menu but they will make them if you ask. And speaking of Tepa, there is a restaurant that a quesadilla is perfect judge of quality. I think it is one of the best items on their menu. Have you been down to try one ucscslug? Well worth the drive.

Apr 03, 2007
Nathan P in California

Pepiere Muscadet in SF?

K&L carries it but you are going to have to come up with an extra $0.99. And it is very tasty and a fine deal for $11. They also have their Clos des Briords for $13.

Pupusas in Santa Cruz

Went back to this place today to retry the pupusas. Same result as the first time and made a great late breakfast/early lunch. They did not have chicharron today so I ordered 1 cheese and one loroco and added a tamal de elote which was on a counter sign. I don't think I have had one of these before. Fairly sweet but light and delicate and with a pure corn flavor. The sweetness actually made a very nice contrast with the salty, cheesy, tangy, spicy pupusa flavors. They do need to give you more curtido but I am sure that could be negotiated. I also took the time to note their daily specials form the sign board outside:
Monday- Albondigas
Tues- Machaca
Wed. Morisqueta
Thur- Carnitas
Fri- Pescado dorado
Sat-Sun- Menudo and Birria.

I tried the birria a month or so ago and it did do a lot for me. It is goat though so if you are looking for a local version it is an option. I want to return to try the albondigas and the morisqueta. I did not know what this dish was but a quick google search indicates a rice tomato and chorizo dish. Sounds like the kind of simple dish that could be boring or amazing.

Feb 03, 2007
Nathan P in California

Good BBQ In Santa Cruz area?

The quick answer is no but...

There are 2 Coles, one on Portola and one in Aptos so you might try the other. I ate at the Aptos location in the last year and it was certainly better than Armadillo Willy's IMO. There is also Brunos in Scotts Valley and they may have a newer branch in the Sashmill in SC off of River St. I've eaten at the one in SV and I would rather go to Cole's Aptos (not that I thought it was very good, just better) And I think your next stop is to head down to Castroville to Central Texas or is it Texan?. I've not been but you can find some mixed reports in the archives.

Good luck in your BBQ search.

Jan 07, 2007
Nathan P in California

Gravy, as in biscuits and gravy

Thanks for the input. I will take a shot at this over the holidays and post back.

I think milk sauces just take an insane amount of salt. I know whenever I make bechamel I add what feels like a ton of salt and then still have to add quite a bit more until the flavor 'pops'.

Dec 22, 2006
Nathan P in Home Cooking

Gravy, as in biscuits and gravy

So to achieve this white-ness, does that mean you are not really browning the sausage in stage one. My tendency for maximum flavor is to crank the heat and get some color on everything and get some bits in the pan to deglaze, but I can already see a tan to brown gravy result.

Is the path to biscuit nirvana keeping the heat down and until it is just cooked leaving the meat more grey than brown?

Dec 21, 2006
Nathan P in Home Cooking