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4 days in Santa Fe - Report on what I've eaten so far, plus advice sought!

Thanks all for the advice.

Here are some updates:

Our group ended up splitting up for dinner one night, and four ate at Tune Up and two of us (including me) ate at Pho Kim. All had good meals. The folks who ate at Tune Up said that there was good green chile, good (but a bit on the sweet-side) mole, and great chile relleno. I was pleasantly surprised by Pho Kim—we had some Vietnamese food in Salt Lake City recently, and this blew it out of the water. Nice broth in the pho, and good grilled meats in the banh hoi.

This morning (Tuesday) we checked out the farmer's market. I tried a bread with rhubarb and apple filling, which when heated tasted like apple sauce in toast. Tasty! Also had a kimchi pancake, a chicken and green chili tamal (really good green chili here), and a breakfast burrito. Sampled various sauces too, and bought a raspberry ginger chili jam as a gift for friends in CA. A pleasant market overall, and lots of samples.

For lunch we ended up getting two takeout pizzas from the Rooftop Pizzeria near the main plaza. We ordered two 14 inch pies, which was great for 6 people. We created our own. 1st with blue corn crust, roasted garlic base, cheese, green chile and applewood smoked bacon. This one was awesome. Crispy crust, nice spice to the chile, and a good combination with the bacon. 2nd was regular crust, tomato sauce, cheese, olive and mushroom. Also a nice pie, though less special. But again, crust was thin and crispy, which I like a lot.

In less positive news, we tried gelato last night at Ecco, which is about 1.5 blocks from the main plaza. It was icy and too sweet. My takeaway from spending an evening sitting in the plaza is that Santa Fe could really use a nice homemade ice cream spot. Haagen Dazs seems like the best (only?) option.

Jul 28, 2015
Dave MP in Southwest

Where to buy a large cutting board/butcher block?

Thanks everyone for the advice. I ended up checking out options at both East Bay Restaurant Supply and Williams Sonoma in Union Square, and they both had several choices. I ended up buying from Williams Sonoma since they were having a sale, but I'm really glad to now know about East Bay Restaurant Supply and the other options listed here.

Thanks again,
Dave MP

4 days in Santa Fe - Report on what I've eaten so far, plus advice sought!

I arrived in New Mexico yesterday—we flew into Albuquerque. From there, we drove up to Bernalillo for dinner before continuing on to Santa Fe, where we'll be until Wednesday.

I'll report here on two meals so far, but would love advice about where else we should go!

The Range in Bernalillo is clearly quite the institution, and while we liked our meal there, nothing blew us away. Chips and salsa (advertised as hot) were decent. The chips were freshly fried, the salsa wasn't hot at all. Combo plate came with two beef enchiladas (good), one chile relleno (very good, with great oozy cheese), one chicken taco (dry and mediocre), and beans and rice (solid but nothing special). We also had the Hoosier sandwich: fried breaded pork cutlet with some other toppings on a bun. Not bad, but not super amazing, though the pork cutlet itself was freshly fried and tender. Iced tea refills were complimentary. We got one slice of key lime pie to-go, and ate it later, and I thought it was very nice. We ordered the combo plate Christmas style (red and green chile) and the red overpowered the green, which was too bad, since I think the green was better here.

This morning for breakfast, 6 of us went to Pantry Restaurant on Cerrillos, and I thought it was a great (albeit heavy) meal. My favorite item was the breakfast burrito with chili verde. Fluffy eggs inside a burrito, topped with sauce, and served with excellent homefries. Huevos rancheros and the chile relleno omelet were also good, although the chile relleno at the Range was better. Biscuits and gravy were nice--fluffy biscuits, thick gravy. Grits were nothing special but good. Blue corn and cinnamon pancakes were a bit too dry for my liking, and didn't have a strong cinnamon flavor. I liked eating these with the apple butter (Smucker's) that's on the tables. Friendly, efficient service and reasonable prices made this a great breakfast spot for our crew.

We have a few more meals in Santa Fe, so any ideas about must-try spots would be appreciated, especially for more casual New Mexican food. Thanks in advance,

Dave MP

Jul 26, 2015
Dave MP in Southwest

Mien Tay [Oakland]

Does the menu actually have Miên specialties? Miên refers to the people, while Miền means "region" (so Miền Tay = West Region/West Restaurant). The website and FB page don't have any accents on the letters...

Where to buy a large cutting board/butcher block?

I'm looking to buy a large butcher block-type cutting board as a wedding gift. I know that I can buy one at Williams Sonoma, but I'm curious to hear about local options (East Bay preferred, but SF might be okay too) where I could buy these. I'm looking for a large, thick board, but am flexible about color, wood-type, etc.

Thanks in advance,
Dave MP

Mexico City - on a Monday night in July!

Incidentally, the wikitravel page also recommends the taco stands under the highway, north of Coyoacan. They write: "El Chupacabras, Close to Metro Coyoacan (Under the highway at the intersection of churubusco and universidad). Open 24 hours. These are some of the most famous street tacos in Mexico City. Their speciality is the chupacabra taco, a combination of pork, beef and a 'secret ingredient'."

As we were taking the taxi back to the airport, our taxi driver also pointed out these taco stands and said they were really good. Now I know what to try on my next Mexico City layover.

Jul 22, 2015
Dave MP in Mexico

Favorite Ice Cream 2015

I tried the soft-serve vanilla (vegan, cashew base) at Curbside Creamery in Oakland today, and I was impressed. Strong vanilla flavor and really nice texture (i.e. not at all icy). Friend had the vegan peanut butter chocolate (hard "ice cream") which was also good.

While there, I sampled the nectarine sorbet, which I didn't really like. Didn't have the fresh nectarine flavor I was hoping for, as it tasted more like cooked peaches or plums.

Korean Panchan in Oakland/Berkeley?

When I lived in San Francisco, I would frequently shop at the First Korean Market on Geary, and I particularly liked the self-service panchan selection. I generally found the panchan and kimchi inexpensive and delicious. I also shopped sometimes at the Korean market in Daly City, Kukje Market, which was a good second-choice option for panchan.

Now that I live in Oakland, I'm wondering what my options are for panchan to take home. I was at Koreana Plaza today, and have been once in the past as well, and I don't think their stuff is as tasty, and it's definitely not as cheap.

Are there other places I can try? What about restaurants/delis that have takeout options?

Curious to hear if anyone has other ideas in the East Bay, especially Oakland or Berkeley.
Thanks!
Dave MP

Trip to Ecuador: Report with Photos

Glad you enjoyed the photos!

I hadn't been in Ecuador since 2006, and the area around Pifo looks so different now! It's hard to imagine how it was back in the 1960s.

Dave MP

Argentina Salta Northwest region - Restaurant recommendations

I was in Salta back in 2005, so probably a lot has changed, but maybe this post will help you if you haven't seen it already: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/266522

I imagine at least some of those places are still around since they were such institutions.

Trip to Ecuador: Report with Photos

We also tried a number of fruits and fruit juices on the trip. On one of our days in the Oriente, we did a hike/swim trip down as far as Liana Lodge, where we ate lunch that included a whipped-cream-filled babaco for dessert. I liked the acidity of the babaco with the sweet whipped cream. Lots of tomate de arbol juice --- when it's combined with pineapple, I like it, but when it's plain, I think it's gross. Also guava, taxo, melon, naranjilla, pineapple, bananas, oranges, araza, and several others that I am likely forgetting.

More on araza: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenia...

More on taxo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_...

Trip to Ecuador: Report with Photos

I just got back from a 2 week trip to Ecuador. Our itinerary avoided all major cities, and included: Latacunga --> Quilotoa --> Riobamba --> Baños --> Tena --> Archidona --> Papallacta --> Yaruquí

On this trip to Ecuador, I ate more street food than I ever had before, and most restaurant meals were at very casual set-meal places. We had almost no meals that cost more than $6 per person.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip

Mexico City - on a Monday night in July!

Hi all,

I wanted to report back on what happened two weeks ago in Mexico City.

We arrived in the mid-afternoon as planned, and since we had a 10 hour layover, we took a taxi to Coyoacán. There was very little traffic getting there, and the ride was about 20 minutes, so soon we were busy eating churros and chocolate from Churreria Coyoacan, which was just as great as I remembered. We sat in the plaza for a while people-watching (so many couples on coffee dates, sitting in the plaza and drinking El Jarocho!) then headed to Cafe de la Selva, where we stayed for a while, drinking juices and using the free wifi.

We found out about Cafe de la Selva on the Coyoacan wikitravel page, which actually had a number of helpful food/drink recs: http://wikitravel.org/en/Mexico_City/...

After this, we eventually ate dinner at the small taco/flauta stand mentioned on the Wikitravel Page, Taquería Aguayo 1. We shared an order of flautas (very good) and a torta (also excellent). After this we walked around a bit more, then went to another cafe (whose name I now forget) and rested/drank some tea, and then at about 9:00 pm, we headed back to the airport in a taxi (we hailed it on the street, and cost was almost equal (but slightly less) using the taximetro as it was pre-fixed coming from the airport).

It was a pretty uneventful afternoon, but Coyoacan was a nice place to hang out. It was quite on Monday (compared to weekend when I went last time), but I'd definitely return if I ever have another long layover in MEX.

Dave MP

Jul 20, 2015
Dave MP in Mexico

Quick visit to Salt Lake City - Report

Two weeks ago, I spent the weekend in Salt Lake City (I live in the SF Bay Area). I was there for a wedding, but had time to do some exploring as well. Here are some interesting things that I ate:

Bocata: Located in the food court in downtown SLC, so I didn't have high expectations, but I actually liked the sandwiches, especially the lamb one. Served on nice homemade flatbread, it had yogurt sauce and overall flavor profile of a gyro. Also tried one of the pork sandwiches (not the cubano, but the other pork based one) and I was less impressed. Definitely a good choice compared to other options in that food court, though!

Publik Coffee Roasters: This place reminded me of something I'd find in Oakland, only bigger and less crowded. Good coffee drinks, but iced tea was not my favorite (no warning provided that it was earl-grey flavored). The toasts were really good, especially the one with goat cheese and tomato jam (I think that's what it was?)

Pago: Came here for a late brunch (around 1:30 pm) and I really liked the food. My favorite dish was a salad with lettuce, romanesco, pickled green strawberries, raspberries and a crumble of some sort. I really liked the texture combo here. Also tried the scone (not that special), fried chicken (I liked it a lot), burger (excellent), beet salad with yogurt (I liked it, but it seriously lacked salt, which we added), and the kale caesar (good). Nice service, and a nice place. Brunch menu was significantly less expensive than the dinner menu.

Gossip Tapioca: Came for the bubble tea, and then we ended up ordering some takeout Vietnamese food too. It was hopping on a Sunday afternoon, with lots of folks ordering smoothies and other drinks. Passion fruit green tea was very nice, and boba was decent. Not as good as what I can get in SF, but certainly better boba than I would have expected to find in Utah. Fresh spring rolls were decent, bun was okay but needed more herbs, and Hu Tieu didn't have much flavor. Broth had MSG flavor, but was served on the side for the to-go order, which was a nice touch.

ChowTruck: This truck was hired for a private party the night before the wedding, and I thought the food was quite good, especially the chicken tacos. http://chowtruck.com/

Overall, it was a nice visit. Not sure when/if I'll make it back to SLC, but I'm glad to know there will be plenty of nice food to try when I do

NOTE: First four photos are from Pago, and the view from above is at Publik

Jul 20, 2015
Dave MP in Mountain States

ISO celtuce AKA asparagus lettuce or wosun

Saw it today at several of the small vegetable markets in Oakland Chinatown. I felt them at one place and they were firm and fresh, and pretty large in size.

Dave MP

Are my coffee beans too dry?

Hi meshane,

Yes, the ideas were helpful. I tried using the beans again a few weeks back, and ground them even more finely to use to make Vietnamese coffee. Because I ground so finely, it dripped through very slowly, but the resulting coffee was better than what I had made before.

It's still not my favorite coffee beans, and I probably won't buy them again, but the Vietnamese-style coffee was definitely enjoyable.

Dave MP

Jul 20, 2015
Dave MP in General Topics

Fermented Fish Soup @ Bun Mam Soc Trang in Oakland

If you're ever near Milpitas, check out Truong Thanh
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/1016621

Brown Sugar Kitchen Review [Oakland]

Tried BSK for the first time the other day. I thought the space was really nice and it wasn't too crowded on a weekday morning. Smelled great, thanks to the special of smoked pork hash.

We shared:

Chicken and waffle
Smoked pork hash with poached eggs
Side order of cheddar grits
1 iced tea
1 iced coffee

Food, on the whole, was really good. Waffle was light and fluffy and like others describe, and I really liked it. Chicken was quite good too. Freshly fried, hot and crispy. I enjoy this style of crispy fried chicken that has a very thin layer of batter. The syrup tasted like molasses.

Smoked pork hash was slightly spicy and very good as well. Grits were very creamy and smooth, and I thought they tasted great.

Portions were good sized but not huge -- 2 of us easily finished all of this food and left feeling full, but not overly so. Price was $48 before tip, so we paid $57 in total for this meal with the tip included. Not cheap for a weekday breakfast.

Fermented Fish Soup @ Bun Mam Soc Trang in Oakland

Ate here again last weekend and had another great meal. Once again ate bun bo hue and bun mam, but we also tried a broken rice plate with pork chop, and a bun with grilled pork. Also had an order of fresh spring rolls. The two soups were the standouts for me, once again, although I also really liked the spring rolls. The two dry dishes (rice plate and noodles) were both good, but not as special.

I still like this place quite a bit and was happy to see it so busy on a weekday at lunch.

Mexico City - on a Monday night in July!

Hi cristina,

Evening recommendations would be great! Especially if it's on the casual side, but still a place where we could sit down and be served (and potentially relax/linger)

Thanks in advance,
Dave MP

Jun 24, 2015
Dave MP in Mexico

Rangoon Super Stars - Berkeley

Ate here again the other night, and we had a very nice meal. Tea leaf salad was very large and mixed at the table, with a large quantity of tea leaves. Rainbow salad was also nice, though it's not my favorite dish at any restaurant.

Eggplant with basil was a tad too sweet and salty, but paired nicely with coconut rice. Beef with chili stir-fry used tender pieces of steak and a good amount of spice, including some cumin. Reminded me of Chinese-Indian dishes that I've had in the past. Shrimp with red curry was once again delicious, although also a tad too salty for my taste.

Very nice service, fair prices, take reservations, the beef and lamb are halal. This is one of the closest Burmese places to me now that I live in the East Bay, and I'll definitely be back

Are my coffee beans too dry?

Thanks meshane. The coffee beans I bought were roasted on 6/10/15, so that's just 9 days ago. So should still be good. I'll try grinding it more finely, and maybe a few other methods too.

Jun 19, 2015
Dave MP in General Topics

Are my coffee beans too dry?

That's what I was thinking, but I am not sure.

But if that is the case, do I need to prepare the coffee differently in order for it to taste good?

Jun 18, 2015
Dave MP in General Topics

Are my coffee beans too dry?

Two days ago I bought a sealed bag of coffee beans from a local coffee shop. They are Kokanna Ethiopian beans from Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz.

I opened up the bag this morning, and the beans seemed quite dry and were very light in color. Very little (if any) oiliness to them. I ground the beans in my normal way, and used my French press the same way I do for other beans, and the result was a very watery coffee which wasn't very pleasant to drink. I ended up tossing this, and using a few leftover beans (a House Blend from another local coffee roaster) to make a new batch of coffee.

So, my question is, is there something wrong w/ my Kokanna beans? Or am I just making the coffee incorrectly?

The photo is a color comparison of the two coffee beans I had. Note that the darker one actually isn't all that dark (i.e. a French Roast would look even darker than both of these).

Any help would be appreciated!

Jun 18, 2015
Dave MP in General Topics

Truong Thanh in Milpitas

Ah, yes, thanks! I have edited my post to reflect this.

And here's a link to the posts from PeterCC (and Melanie Wong), also about the hu tieu nam vang (soup version): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9209...

Truong Thanh in Milpitas

On the way to a wedding near Santa Cruz yesterday, we stopped by Milpitas for some lunch. I identified Truong Thanh as a place that offered bun mam (which I was in the mood for), and I found brief mention of it from PeterCC on Chowhound, so we decided to give it a try. We stopped in on Sunday at about 12:30 and it was quite full, but no wait for a table for two.

Passion fruit juice wasn't fresh like advertised, but it was refreshing and served in a very tall glass. Vietnamese iced coffee (not pictured) was strong and very good. Took a while for them to make it, which I took as a positive sign.

Fresh spring rolls contained shrimp, lettuce, Chinese chives, rice noodles, and maybe bean sprouts? No pork. Chives look pretty, but were kind of chewy. Wrapper was the soft kind that I really like. Overall, quite good.

Bun mam was nice. Pieces of eggplant, pork, fish balls, catfish in a fermented fish broth. The waiter checked to make sure I really wanted this when I ordered. I slightly preferred the version at Bun Mam Soc Trang in Oakland, but this was really nice overall. See my report on BMST here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8296...

We also ordered hu tieu nam vang, which I am happy to report is the third best version of this dish that I have ever had. 1st place was in Vietnam, 2nd place is at Ha Nam Ninh (still winning in the Bay Area), but this was a runner up. A difference in this version was that it contained thin pieces of Chinese celery, which made the dish taste like a non-spicy version of Thai boat noodles (I am guessing/thinking that these dishes are related?!?)...anyway, we ordered it dry with soup on the side. Noodles stuck together a bit, but otherwise I had very few complaints. Maybe a tad too sweet and salty, and a lot of offal (which I don't prefer). If you're a fan of this dish, give this place a try.

Service was efficient and friendly. Prices were reasonable. It's in the same plaza as a new 85 Degrees, and also a place called Foodie Hall, which has Yunnan, Guangxi and Sichuan noodles and an impressive condiment bar for adding stuff to noodles. Looked good! Yelp reviews are mixed and I'd be curious to hear Chowhound reports.

Dave MP

Cigkoftem - Vegetarian kofta wraps - Harringay Green Lanes [London]

A person from the restaurant wrote to let me know that they have an updated website, which can be found here: http://www.cigkoftem.co.uk/

Jun 09, 2015
Dave MP in U.K./Ireland

Bibimbap: SFBA Dish of the Month June 2015

I ate at Manna in the Inner Sunset this evening. It continues to be my favorite dinner spot in the Inner Sunset.

Dolsot bibimbap was very good — the pot was very hot and there were lots of pieces of crispy rice once it cooled. Panchan selection is small, but both kimchee and fish cakes are excellent.

Also had kimchee pancake, mandu gook (dumpling soup), soft tofu soup w/ beef, and japchae, and I thought all were very good.

I forgot to take a picture of tonight's meal. Sorry about that!

Boiling Beijing (San Bruno)

I also checked out Boiling Beijing tonight. I suspect you were at the table next to me, Thomas Nash. I ate alone, but wanted to bring home leftovers to share, so I ordered three items:

Jian Bing - pretty much how hyperbowler describes it. I liked this quite a bit. I think I slightly prefer the version at Tian Jin Dumplings in Oakland Chinatown, but this was different since it had the larger donuts inside. Definitely worth ordering.

Sweet and sour cabbage was decent, but not my favorite preparation of this dish. It had big chunks of both ginger and garlic, several pieces of dried chili, and a sauce with a prominent Sichuan peppercorn flavor. Not particularly spicy, but the numbing factor from the Sichuan peppercorns was present. Sauce was a bit sour (from vinegar), but I had been hoping for an even dryer version. Generous serving, and cabbage was not overcooked, so that was a plus.

Dao xiao mian (knife shaved noodles) were very good. I ordered them stir-fried with pork (also included cabbage and onion), and while there was no chili in the dish at all, there was some Sichuan peppercorn. The flavor was lacking at first, but once I added a generous amount of the chili sauce on the table, the dish was greatly improved. The chili sauce actually isn't all that spicy, so it worked well and added both saltiness and spice. Texture of the noodles was great—thick parts had a nice bite.

Service was steady (neither fast nor slow), and other tables were ordering all sorts of nice looking hot pot dishes. I definitely want to go back here, and I hope this place will be successful.

Dave MP

Mexico City - on a Monday night in July!

That place looks interesting! Only open until 6 pm, though, which could be doable. Do places generally *completely* shut at that time, or would it be normal to enter the restaurant at 5:30 and linger until 7ish?

Dave MP

May 27, 2015
Dave MP in Mexico