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LarryW's Profile

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Half Moon Bay Restaurant & Day Trips Recomendations

A cup of the best chai on the planet at Raman's makes for a great treat.

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Ramans Coffee & Chai
101 Main St, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

Jun 03, 2011
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Where to buy Invert Sugar + Glucose Syrup in Mountain View?

"Glucose syrup" as used by a confectioner and glucose syrup as a home recipe ingredient are not necessarily the same thing. Glucose syrups (as opposed to glucose powder, also called dextrose) for confectioners are a class of materials with a range of dextrose equivalents (DE) that defines a number of properties from viscosity to relative sweetness. Glucose syrups for home use is Karo, which is not even pure glucose. It also contains vanilla and salt, which makes it unsuitable for recipes that don't need the extras.

I'm hoping you didn't misunderstand my earlier post. Invert sugar and glucose syrup are not the same thing. Glucose is used to inhibit crystallization (amongst other things), and invert sugar is generally used to extend shelf life by changing water activity. Both are frequently used in the same recipe. As a professional confectioner, I've been designing recipes around these properties for years.

As much as Greweling's book seems to have popular appeal, it is really aimed at professionals. As far as the confectionery business goes, it's spot on in it's language, and one of the best reference books in the field (honestly, I think it's the book that all of us confectioners secretly dream we could have all written ourselves, if not addled by the lack of his talent or discipline). You can't tell professional chocolatiers, confectioners and patissiers how to do things in the language used by home cooks. It would be like explaining physics without using math.

Jan 15, 2011
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Where to buy Invert Sugar + Glucose Syrup in Mountain View?

Pectin in confectionery is funny stuff to work with. There are a bunch of different types that give different results. You have to know whether you want a reversible or non-reversible, slow set or fast set, blah blah blah. Most everything sold in a grocery store is pure crap.

For candy, especially pate de fruit, you want a product called yellow pectin, also known as pectine jaune (slow-setting, non-reversible). The one put out by Patisfrance is the best. A true pain in the ass to get your hands on, it's worth it in terms of final product quality. Smooth, no grain, no detriment to flavor profiles, a pleasure to work with. Different pectins will be used for things such as jams, which use what is called green "apple" pectin. Green pectin is a fast set, reversible type. Most everything is available somewhere online now, even the professional products.

Jan 15, 2011
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Where to buy Invert Sugar + Glucose Syrup in Mountain View?

Not entirely correct on the invert sugar. The purpose for using invert sugar in candy making is to change the water activity (listed in references as an a.w. number between zero and one). The addition of the invert sugar makes less water bioavailable for the growth of unwanted materials such as bacteria and fungus.

Invert sugar will look funny when you buy it. It will be part solid and part liquid. This is how it should be. Just give it a stir. Known in the candy making business as trimoline or staboline (same stuff, different brand names).

Stick with glucose syrup. Do NOT use corn syrup for candy making unless specifically called for. You can get all of the stuff you need at a cake making supply store in small quantities. Wholesalers are the better source, but the stuff generally comes in 15 lb buckets.

By the way, Greweling's book is probably the best chocolate making book ever printed.

Jan 15, 2011
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Where to buy glucose and glycerin for making fondant in San Francisco?

Try Spun Sugar at 1611 University in Berkeley.

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Spun Sugar
1611 University Ave, Berkeley, CA

Sep 14, 2010
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Coming from Australia and need help with good Napa recommendations

First... yep, the reds are big out here. Big, bold cabernets are still the signature wine, but the area has so many freakish little microclimates that there's not much that can't be grown and made into fantastic wine.

Other than the cabs, Napa seems to do really well with chardonnays. They tend to fall towards the malolactic, buttery flavors and are smooth as a baby's butt. Not so much for the drier, crisper sauvignon blanc styles. Personal opinion is that the Marlborough region NZ sauvignon blancs blow them away. Those are just general trends, though. There are so many wineries in the Napa/Sonoma region that every varietal I can think of is being spectacularly produced somewhere.

Since there are so many wineries so close to one another here, the "hidden gem" thing doesn't hold. Everybody competes with everybody for quality. Even some of the bigger houses that produce a less expensive wine for a larger market usually produces some spectacular stuff that you'll never see hit a bottle shop. And let me tell you, some of these places, well, making that less expensive wine still needs impressive winemaking skills, and the winemakers really strut their stuff at the winery. As an example, take Beaulieu Vineyards. They put out a lot of wine, available the world over, and very affordable and drinkable. Go the the winery and go to the reserve tasting room. Sure, you'll pay a few bucks to taste at that point, but it's a different world with their top of the line products. You'll leave with a lighter wallet and more expensive luggage charges at the airport from all the bottles, but you'll have a very happy palate.

I don't think any of the wineries in the valley make bad wine. Too many others next door that would flog them with dried grape vines if they did.

As you go through Napa Valley, there are literally so many wineries so close together that at some points you could walk from winery to winery and make a day of it. The main highway (29) will put you on the high density winery crawl, and across the valley is the Silverado Trail, which is the one that's full of those beautiful vistas that you see in the movies and on postcards. Still a bazillion wineries, but not so close-packed.

Be prepared here that most of the wineries now charge for tasting. It's just kind of evolved that way. When I first moved out here twenty years ago, hardly any wineries charged. Now most do. Hidden gems and crap ripple still have the same overhead and the economy has forced them to keep up or shut down.

In all my years of tasting in Napa , I've always liked to just stop at a winery I've never heard of before. I've rarely been disappointed. Enough hidden gems to make a lot of beautiful jewelry.

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Beaulieu Vineyards
1960 Saint Helena Hwy, Rutherford, CA

Jul 12, 2010
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Green's Babkes.

Molly Stone's in Palo Alto. Good kosher section, too.

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Mollie Stone's Market
164 S California Ave, Palo Alto, CA

Jun 14, 2010
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

How can 99 Ranch have lobsters for $6.99/lb????

All sea bass is kosher. If it was caught wild, it's also organic. Whole Paycheck just adds a 25% hipster tax.

Jun 07, 2010
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

How can 99 Ranch have lobsters for $6.99/lb????

I found lobster tail at Safeway for $6.99/lb. a couple of weeks ago.

Jun 07, 2010
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Wine country ideas for a 1st timer

If you're staying in the city of Napa, I'd try Sweetie Pies bakery for breakfast treats.

Up the road a bit in Yountville (AKA Kellerland) go to Bouchon Bakery. The macarons are fabulous. The bread is fabulous. The pastries are fabulous. You get the idea.

Stop at Woodhouse Chocolate in St Helena. Very high end, very delicious.

Of course, the mud baths in Calistoga.

At least one direction up or down the valley should be on the Silverado trail. It's the beautiful, tranquil side everyone imagines seeing when going through the wine country.

For wineries, I'd recommend:
Hagafen Cellars
Prager Port Works
Beaulieu Vineyards (reserve tasting room)
Mumm Napa Valley
Rombauer Vineyards
Those will give you a good taste of the different styles in the area (wine, sparklers, port) and a good drive. If you don't mind lots of people and a boistrous atmosphere, V. Sattui is fun for tasting.

More than two wineries isn't tough to do, at least as long as you're not the one driving. From Yountville up through Calistoga, they're stacked so heavy that you can't throw a stick without hitting a winery. I'd also recommend picking one that you've never even heard of, just because.

For restaurants, most anything in Yountville is good, if a bit expensive. Brix and Mustards are still holding their quality, and Bistro Don Giavanni is a favorite.

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Bouchon Bakery
6528 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599

Woodhouse Chocolate
1367 Main St, St Helena, CA 94574

Rombauer Vineyards
3522 Silverado Trl N St, Helena, CA

Beaulieu Vineyards
1960 Saint Helena Hwy, Rutherford, CA

Mumm Napa Valley
8445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford, CA

Hagafen Cellars
4160 Silverado Trl, Napa, CA

Sweetie Pies
520 Main St, Napa, CA 94559

Bistro Don Giovanni
4110 Howard Ln, Napa, CA

Brix
7377 St. Helena Highway, Napa, CA 94558

Mustard's Grill
7399 Saint Helena Hwy, Napa, CA 94558

May 27, 2010
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Where to buy kaffir lime TREES?

Half Moon Bay Nursery on 92 a couple of miles west of 35.

May 27, 2010
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Where do I get Cherimoya now?

Just saw a huge stack at the Lion supermarket in Fremont (Mowry exit)

May 17, 2010
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

East Bay Regional Mexican?

Can anyone recommend a good East Bay Mexican restaurant that has really great regional dishes, specifically NOT border cuisine, Cal-Mex, or Tex-Mex?

May 10, 2010
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Sri Lankan Cuisine - San Ramon

Tried it this past weekend. Has its ups and downs.

Pros:
The curries are superb. The flavors are well developed and contain lots of subtlety.

Lots of interesting menu choices, some of them beyond the usual fare you see every day. When's the last time you've seen wild boar on the specials board?

The setting is appropriately nice and relatively modern.

Staff and chefs are very willing to help the uninitiated in Sri Lankan cuisine, and seem to be eager for feedback from diners. Very nice people.

Cons:
The place is cash only. Not sure whether this is permanent or just the result of newness. Honestly, I haven't kept more than thirty bucks cash in my wallet for ten years, so something like this immediately reduces a restaurant to a "planned" event instead of just dropping in for dinner.

The menu is a mess. Pages unbound, multiple items with no listed prices. Very hard to navigate.

The dumplings were tasty, but had a too-hard pastry exterior, like they were taken right out of the freezer and put right into the oven or fryer.

The place is suffering heavily from catering company syndrome. The operators don't seem to have gotten that a restaurant and a catering business are two different things. Everything smacks of being prepared in advance and then just heated or fried and put out to the customers. When I ordered an iced coffee, I watched the waitress walk over to a cooler and pull out one of two pre-made gallons of liquid and pour it over ice. Do it in the back and at least give me the illusion that it's fresh.

Catering style works for curries. They usually get a bit better with a day of age. But NOT with drinks, and especially not with anything with doughs.

They had TV monitors mounted on the walls. Thank God they were not turned on.

The roti was tasty, but again the texture was slightly off and it was very thick for a roti. I accept that this may be the norm for a cuisine I'm not used to. The flavor was pretty darned delicious.

On the plus side, I know at least some of the items are freshly made, as they had a chef out front of house making fresh items. Just didn't happen to order them this time.

Overall impressions are good. I'll stop at the ATM and go there again and try something new. The overall cuisine is terrific. I hope that the initial kinks are worked out and that the food will be (or at least seem) more freshly prepared and less brought out of the freezer.

Worth a try, but don't expect too much yet.

May 10, 2010
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

"The Best Thing I Ever Ate" in the Bay Area

The only thing I would have put on the "best" list is the caviar sampler, but closing down killed that one.

Everything else is above "meh" level, but nothing overly superb.

Let's start part 2 of the list- What do we chowhounders think an angelino should try here as a "best I ever ate":
The Mamaburger and fries at Val's in Hayward.
The chai at Raman's in Half Moon Bay.
The rack of lamb at Tadich Grill in SF.
Macarons at Bouchon Bakery in Yountville.
The Retro Tropical Shag cake at Citizen Cake.
The pumpernickel bread at Grand Bakery in Oakland.

We got good food here. You come up to our neck of the woods, you go home full and happy.

Mar 14, 2010
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Fondue...tried and true recipes?

Chocolate fondue is simply a ganache (mixture of chocolate and cream), so it's easy as can be. Depending on whether you like it thicker of thinner, you can vary the ratio of cream to chocolate from 1:1 to 1:1.5. Keep it over a LOW heat or it will burn.

Cheddar fondue. Grate about 1.5-2 lbs of cheddar. Mix in 1T cornstarch to coat the cheese (this keeps it from breaking).

In the fondue pot, add 8oz. beer (I think Guiness is best for this). Heat the beer, then add the cheese a handful at a time, always stirring. Should be good and creamy after you add in the last cheese. Add one shot brandy and a pinch of freshly grated black pepper. Stir, dip and eat.

Feb 25, 2010
LarryW in Home Cooking

The SF Bay Area is good for _____?

Bread. The bay area has more great artisan bread than anywhere in the country.

Feb 12, 2010
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Best burger and fries in the East Bay?

Val's in Hayward, without a doubt. Genuine diner fare. A mama burger and a huge basket of fries will get you through the day. Granted, they're steak-cut fries, but for me that's how I like them.

Best part about Val's is the lack of pretension. It's not high art or something that you can charge fifteen bucks for with a straight face. It's just a damned good burger.

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Val's Burgers
2115 Kelly St, Hayward, CA 94541

Feb 12, 2010
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Best tea shop in East Bay?

Ten Ren in Milpitas is a bit south, but a great tea shop.

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Ten Ren Tea Co of Milpitas
1732 N Milpitas Blvd, Milpitas, CA

Nov 11, 2009
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Dinner in Fremont to Milpitas zone

Two basic areas with good food. First, the Mowry exit, (West side of 880). Good indian, (Bombay Garden). Just past the mall is a Lion food mart with a load of good asian, from tea places to a good Korean (Lee's Tofu or Manna) and great Vietnamese (Vung Tau).

Down further south at 237 is a great collection of classic Chinese places. I'm a sucker for ABC Seafood, but there's so many down there that I can't even list them. Southwest side of 237/880 interchange.

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Vung Tau Restaurant
6092 Mowry Ave, Newark, CA 94560

Manna Restaurant
5890 Mowry School Rd, Newark, CA 94560

Bombay Garden Restaurant
5995 Mowry Ave, Newark, CA 94560

Lee's Tofu House
6050 Mowry Ave, Newark, CA 94560

ABC Seafood - Milpitas - duplicate
768 Barber Lane, Milpitas, CA 95053

Oct 28, 2009
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Cider Donuts in the Bay Area

I have to second the Apple Hill rec. My wife and I just went there Sunday. Fabulous weather, lots of cider and real cider donuts. It's the peak of harvest season right now. Don;t miss it.

Donuts.......mmmmmmmm....

Oct 28, 2009
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Where can I get good challah bread in San Francisco???

Surprisingly enough, Draeger's makes a good challah. If you're ever on the peninsula, that is. The trip will give you a reason to try the ONLY reasonably good kosher restaurant in the entire bay area.

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Draeger's Supermarket
222 E 4th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

The Kitchen Table
142 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

Oct 28, 2009
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Cupcakes/Desserts in Napa

I second Sweetie Pies. They made my wedding cake and I have a bit of a sweet spot for them.

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Sweetie Pies
520 Main St, Napa, CA 94559

Oct 01, 2009
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Great meal in Fremont

I've got to agree with you. I've eaten there several times now and the food has always been great

Sep 30, 2009
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

2 nights/ 1 day in Yountville

Hit up Bouchon Bakery before you leave town. You can't get out of town without something Keller in your pocket. It's not just a good idea. It's the law.

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Bouchon Bakery
6528 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599

Sep 29, 2009
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Lovely Wedding Spot in Wine Country

My wife and I were married in Napa 3 years ago. We are both total foodies, so the dinner really mattered to us. We had the ceremony at Copia, which is now closed, but the food was done by Wine Valley Catering in Napa, and was the most fantastic dinner you could imagine. Appetizers were ahi tatare on lotus root chips with tobiko, sonoma lamb skewers with artichoke hearts, scallopine of eggplant with goat cheese, and spring rolls with sweet and sour sauce. The dinner was a somona duck confit braised in a red wine sauce over a creamy polenta and a panko-crusted sea bass with a roasted red pepper sauce served over a potato gratin. Our main contact, Steve, was the most professional caterer I have ever dealt with. I can't recommend them enough. They also have a list of some of the venues they work with on their site.

The cake was done by Sweetie Pies, also in downtown Napa, and was designed with a custom rolled white chocolate exterior and a rose pastry cream filling between layers (see photo).

Best of luck, and congratulations!

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Wine Valley Catering
875 Sousa Ln, Napa, CA

Sweetie Pies
520 Main St, Napa, CA 94559

Sep 29, 2009
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Possibly the last Chowing with the Hounds Picnic - Help me think of something great to bring

A selection of breads from Semifreddis would be awesome.

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Semifreddi's
3084 Claremont Ave, Berkeley, CA

Sep 17, 2009
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Has anyone tried Koi Garden (Koi Palace, Dublin) for dim sum or dinner?

Yeah, I saw them, but they're mostly from right after the location opened. I want to find what they're like now that they've gotten a chance to find their groove. If anyone has an update, it would be appreciated.

Sep 17, 2009
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

Has anyone tried Koi Garden (Koi Palace, Dublin) for dim sum or dinner?

Wanting to know if anyone has tried Koi Garden in Dublin for either dim sum or dinner. Same company as Koi Palace in Daly City, different name.

Is it as good as its DC counterpart? How are the weekend lines?

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Just Koi
4288 Dublin Blvd, Dublin, CA 94568

Sep 17, 2009
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area

What's your favorite way, way out of the way food obsession (Bay Area)?

What single food item or meal is so good that you'll go to any lengths to get it? Maybe a grocer or specialty shop in Antioch that sells a candy bar that can be gotten nowhere else, even though you live in Daly City, or the trek from San Jose to Sonoma for that one little dive diner where the $5.99 pancake platter makes it worth the trip. What lights up your board so much that the trip (relatively Bay Area only, please) is inconsequential to the destination?

I want to know the true obsessions here! The ones where you'll go at least 15 miles out of the way for it without a question.

To start, my personal obsession is the chai at Raman's Coffee and Chai in Half Moon Bay. I will regularly drive 45 minutes in each direction, east bay to HMB, braving bridge tolls and horrible (yet beautiful) driving on 92 where it goes to 2 lanes just for a $3 cup of this liquid heaven. Sometimes I'll even get several and put them in a thermos to last an entire day.

Raman's Coffee and Chai
101 Main St
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
(650) 712-1257

Who's the next crazy person to add to the list?

Sep 17, 2009
LarryW in San Francisco Bay Area