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OliverB's Profile

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Advice appreciated re: Chinese Food 101 class for HS students

Thanks to your fantastic blog entry which inspired my visit, I too am now a devout convert of Terra Cotta Warrior! Their Qishan saozi mian is supernatural.

SF birthday dinner for a 7-year-old

If I were 7 years old, I think I would rather have dinner in Chinatown with all it's liveliness and lights about forty-bazillion times more than I would an empty indoor Peace Plaza shopping mall; especially for my birthday. I can't think of anything particularly fun or appealing to a 7-year old in J-Town frankly.

NEW: The Flying Falafel, SF - who's been?

I just had a cold leftover half falafel pita for breakfast and it's still just as delicious.

Nice early Sunday dinner in Palo Alto, plus transportation help

That does sound interesting; do you know if there will be any special food served on campus?

Liba Falafel Truck now at Civic Center [San Francisco]

That's been my one experience as well. Their falafel balls were inedible on their own; completely dried out and bland. It has nothing to do with freshness and everything to do with just plain bad falafel. No amount of fancy ingredients or toppings could compensate for poorly made falafel. I'm a purist and I actually don't like any of the unique topping selections as there doesn't seem to be any coherence with the flavor profiles and they don't really compliment the pita wraps at all.

Liba Falafel Truck now at Civic Center [San Francisco]

If Liba Falafel is the same truck that's ocassionally at Off The Grid (or whatever weekday food park) below Market St. - which I'm certain it is - then I have to say that I find their falafel and pita wraps to be outrageously overrated. I don't think there's anything noteworthy about this truck at all. Their pita wraps are terrible.

Lunch near the Presidio [San Francisco]

PSC is a beautiful space but my wife and I had one of the worst and most overpriced brunches in the city there last year. I'd only consider returning for drinks and maybe a light snack. Personally, I'd pack a picnic, spread out on the Main Post lawn and enjoy the park and scenery.

Nice early Sunday dinner in Palo Alto, plus transportation help

Is Stanford grad this weekend? I guess that's why The Cardinal Hotel was booked solid... We're driving up on Friday to catch some screwballs at the beautiful Stanford Theatre, staying overnight, and then spending the following afternoon walking around campus and checking out the Albers exhibit at the Cantor Center and Alexander Collection, then catching the Philharmonia with the SF Symphony at Bing Concert Hall in the evening. We're planning on sticking to the two vintage creameries (Palo Alto and Peninsula) and maybe takeout from the falafel joint. I'm kind of bummed that it's grad weekend though because the town's going to be overrun with people which means long lines and limited parking, traffic, etc. Last time we were in Palo Alto was to visit the FLW Hannah House and there was virtually nobody around. I guess we better plan to show up at Stanford Theater early for the box office!

NEW: The Flying Falafel, SF - who's been?

I was there today and the falafel "pockets" are really good. The falafel balls are relatively small with a crunchy exterior that sinks into a soft and flavorful center. They're served piping hot with lots of fresh toppings (Israeli pickles, tabouleh, radishes, onions, cabbage and what appeared to be sauerkraut, shredded carrots) and various sauces which I believe mostly consist of tahini and/or hummus with optional hot sauce. It's not self-serve which is a good thing imo, and they don't skimp on toppings either. I got the works and recommend it. You have a choice between "spicy" or "sesame" falafel. The very friendly proprietor offered up both as a sample and both were equally good. You can also ask for a mixed pocket. I ordered spicy which adds a bit of a hot kick to contrast all the cold veggie toppings and sauces, adding a nice balance to the tartness. In truth, the spicy is rather mild but I found it to be just right. The falafel balls are excellent on their own but the sandwich is really the way to go and while the falafels are sure to be somewhat overpowered by all of the other ingredients, I found them to be a perfect compliment to the pita pocket. They also offer hummus which is unlike the thick and savory chickpea laced stuff you'd find in the shuks of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, it's really more of a dipping sauce for the pita strips that accompany it and which I suggest you request more of if you chose the dish. I wouldn't say it's anything special but it'd admittedly make a great stoner snack - it's doused in all kinds of toppings with hot sauce and is kind of a potpourri of everything you get with the falafel dumped over top. I enjoyed it but I probably wouldn't order it again. He also makes a fresh (vegan) banana smoothie which is really good and full of fresh bananas, nutmeg, and I thought I noticed him pour in some kind of frozen mango something-or-other. It goes great with the falafel pockets. To summarize: it's definitely not the best falafel I've ever tasted but for SF standards it's really good and the pita pockets are definitely the best way to enjoy them as it definitely embraces a 'sum is greater than it's parts' kind of approach, though I wouldn't hesitate to order the falafel on it's own. The pita pockets are $7 each and you order and pay directly from a touch screen at the counter which is fully automated; not unlike ramen shops in Tokyo. The owner is Mexican btw and a very nice guy. There are business cards on the counter with what appear to be squares to punch, stamp or sign as a sort of loyalty program towards free food, I'd imagine. I took one but didn't get my order stamped by the owner. I intend to ask about this the next time and request some sort of recognition for the 2 falafels that I ordered the other day. It got kind of busy as I was leaving so he might've been overwhelmed by the traffic and simply forgot. Anyhow, I think Flying Falafel is a great addition to Market St. and I'll certainly be a regular when I'm in the area.

gourmet sea salt

Also highly recommend Spice Ace on Steiner in Lower Pac Heights area. Here's a list of their salts: http://www.spiceace.com/salts.html

Papaya Salad: SFBA Dish of the Month April 2015

I used to order it from A.D. often, along with the fried imperial rolls. What else do you like there?

To be honest, I've been unable to distinguish one papaya salad from the next at most of the Little Saigon eateries. While I generally enjoy them all, I've yet to encounter one that's really standout, at least enough to single out in this thread; Lers Ros included.

Check Please: Ristorante Milano (SF); Scolari's Good Eats (Alameda); FuseBOX (Oakland) - Any recent hounds been?

I can only comment on Scolari's in Alameda. It's a solid lunch spot with great views on the water. I wouldn't consider it a food destination but more of a nice place to eat outdoors on a sunny day. Pizza is good for what it is, burgers while not my preferred style (oversized on brioche and difficult to eat) are still very good. I had a good but not memorable crab sandwich and salad. Again, not a place to seek out for any one dish in particular but if you happen to be in Alameda on a warm clear day and fancy a casual and inexpensive meal by the waterfront, you could do much worse.

Surf Spot, Pacifica: Opened this week

I've enjoyed everything I've tried at Duarte's; their homemade pies are terrific but I'd say everything on the menu is a pretty safe bet. If you're in HMB though, Creekside Smokehouse is my absolute favorite stop! Cunha's Country Store is good for picnicking on the beach too.

Nick's Cove - Marshall

Yes, they're prepared in the kitchen and brought to your room upon check-in. I'd guess that it probably takes only several minutes more to deliver to your cottage than table, if that. They're prepared fresh and served on a covered platter, no different than typical room service. They're complimentary (one dozen) for all guests and you're usually asked whether you'd prefer to have them brought to your room immediately upon checking in or whether you'd prefer to order them yourself at a later time. We usually take them right away - it's become a sort of inaugural rite of passage upon arriving in Point Reyes, to officially kick off our vacation.

Check Please: Cosecha (Oakland); Bull Valley Roadhouse (Port Costa); Michael Warring (Vallejo) aired 4/16/15

I went to BVR with my wife (then gf) 3 years ago and I must say, my experience was a complete contrast to the above reviews. Food and service were both incompetent and the latter was downright rude, which I've yet to experience elsewhere in the Bay Area before or since ~ and we eat out a lot! It was a terrible experience. I was not yet a resident (visiting from Canada) and when the check arrived, I had a minor issue with my credit card; I forgot to inform my cp that I was traveling and due to a security hold, the card came back as declined. I apologized and explained the situation and requested a few minutes to telephone Visa and sort things out. We were on a date at the time and the server could not have been more inappropriate, pointing at my girlfriend and asking why she couldn't just pay... it was really surprising. Dinner was rushed and nothing tasted good. I ordered a steak that was overcooked (which I politely sent back) and when it finally reappeared, turned out to be chewy, flavorless, and poor quality. Sides were inedible and I suspect mostly frozen; it brought back memories of Stouffer's TV dinners. At the time, we had just returned from Israel where we ate very well with the exception of one single meal in a kibutz which was so horrendous and absurd that it's become a running joke to this day; rightly noted as the worst food we've ever encountered in our entire lives. When our dessert was served at BVR (I don't remember the dish in question) we both acknowledged that it was on par with that ridiculous meal from our recent trip. To this day, the evening stands out in both of our minds as a really awful experience. Occasionally and out of circumstance or convenience, we eat mediocre food in the Bay Area, but it's extremely rare that we ever eat BAD food. On our one and only visit, BVR had the distinction of filling that niche - I can assertively say that it was the worst meal we've ever eaten in the Bay Area. I don't know what the situation was in the kitchen at the time, but it certainly sounds like things have improved... I sure hope so!

Nick's Cove - Marshall

Try the dungeness m&c next time (best to share!) it really is heavenly.

Admittedly, the disastrous breakfasts and few small plates we've ordered (incl chowder), coupled with scathing reviews from Bauer in recent years, have kept us away from the restaurant on all visits. The cocktails weren't much better (we now bring a flask). The complimentary BBQ oysters in room have proven decent if unexciting (and incomparable to Marshall, Saltwater, etc!) but we've gotten used to our routine of dungeness mac and cheese and garlic fries in the boathouse as an afternoon snack.

Osteria Stellina, Pt. Reyes Station

We had a disappointing dinner two years ago and haven't been back since because we didn't feel anything merited a return visit. We over ordered: several pastas, pizza to share, salads and various seasonal greens prepared different ways. It was all pretty mediocre and nothing we couldn't have whipped up better ourselves at home. Wine list was good however. I also found the space (dining room itself) uninspired, for lack of a better word. Neither my wife or myself were fond of the atmosphere.

Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness

My favorite BBQ oysters are at the Marshall Store; bar none. Be sure to try their homemade beef jerky too. If you're discreet (and responsible) I've never had an issue drinking on their deck. Just be stealthy and smart about it.

Nick's Cove - Marshall

It was over a weekend, Robert. We didn't order a full meal as I know better from past visits... We stick to Sir and Star for dinner and lunches at Hog Island, Marshall Store, and Saltwater strictly for shellfish and rawbar. I didn't enjoy the one dinner we had at Saltwater, which I found rather boring and uninventive. Past lunches have fared much better. We usually stock up on food at the market and Cowgirl for breakfasts and picnics. The breakfasts at Nick's are equally bad; their dungeness benedict was especially atrocious and not at all edible.

Point Reyes area restaurants

The Marshall Store is my favorite lunch spot in town. Apart from the cooked oysters which they do so well, their sandwiches and homemade beef jerky are excellent too.

Nick's Cove - Marshall

I stayed at Nick's a couple of months ago and I'm sorry to report that their chowder was one of the worst I've ever tasted. Nothing at Nick's was good (incl. the signature bbq oysters!) with the exception of their dungeness mac & cheese, which remains an indulgent yet guilty pleasure that's best shared due to the overpowering richness of the dish.

Quick walk-in near Paramount Theatre [Oakland]

Thanks for the endorsement... I'll see if OpenTable is accepting reservations this early!

Quick walk-in near Paramount Theatre [Oakland]

Thanks everyone - the missus was interested in trying Duende so we might do that. My other friend also suggested Lost and Found or Parlour which I'm told is owned by the former Bar 355 team with the previous chef from Gitane in the kitchen. Plum Bar sounds like a good choice as well. Sounds like we're well equipped afterall!

On a slightly different note, we'll be returning to the Paramount with friends in June and I'd like to plan ahead this time and make reservations. Is Picán worth trying?

Quick walk-in near Paramount Theatre [Oakland]

I'm going to the Paramount tonight with my wife and a friend and we're looking to grab a quick bite beforehand. I'd planned on squeezing up to the bar at Flora for 6pm but my friend tells me that's not happening... I should have made res. We'll have no more than an hour in-and-out as the show time is at 8pm and it's general admission, so we'll want to line up at the box office by 7pm to save seats and enjoy a drink on the balcony before the screening. What else is good nearby and within walking distance where we can blow in and out quickly but still enjoy a few small apps and maybe a couple of cocktails?

Suggestions for lunch only M-F restaurants

Muracci's is okay for weekday take-out but unless you work nearby, I wouldn't consider it worthy of a detour. Their curry is pretty good but the tonkatsu itself isn't noteworthy.

I like The Sentinel a lot. If I have the time, I generally prefer to just run down to the Ferry Bldg on Thursdays for lunch. Sandwiches from The Farmer's Wife are much better! Golden West on the other hand... meh. I've never had anything that lives up to the online hype (mostly yelp). I suspect it's just the freshest and best offered in the immediate area. It's definitely not worth your time unless you were right there and in a rush.

Polk St. [San Francisco]

Yemeni's used to be fantastic and my favorite restaurant in the area but they switched chefs and management earlier last year and it's gone way down hill.

Polk St. [San Francisco]

Their soup is extremely salty. I have admittedly gotten it to go a number of times out of convenience but it doesn't even compare to Wise Sons matzo ball soup which actually tastes like slow cooked chicken stock and not something that came out of a box.

Sir and Star at The Olema

Robert, do you mean the upstairs inn?

We were at Sir and Star about a month ago and I could've sworn they already had overnight guests. Have you called to inquire?

Polk St. [San Francisco]

I've never had anything remotely good or even competently made at Millers. I find their pastrami generic, aforementioned cabbage rolls utterly gross, knishes are inedible, matzo ball soup flavorless... I can't think of anything else I would order but if there's other Jewish deli food that I've tried at Millers, I feel confident in saying that I probably hated it too. The only deli I've been to in recent years that outcraps Millers was Sherman's in Palm Springs.

Tasty Italian Meatballs for a birthday celebration?

I would never wait more than 15 minutes max but I've also never experienced long waits at Tony's. Perhaps we've just gotten lucky or been on the right nights, but we usually get seated within 10 mins. There was one ocassion where the line dragged and we just crossed the street to Joe's instead.

I should specify that the meatballs gigante with either burrata or wild mushroom pancetta and robiola (my personal fave!) is the one to go for but they limit 25 per day. I don't think I've had better Italian style meatballs in the city, if not anywhere... and I've had my fare share!