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Lunch in Oakland, wine required, good food, not crazy expensive

Southie in Rockridge - limited menu (and just a few wines) but always fantastic. I'm a huge fan of Wood Tavern as well.

Jun 18, 2012
shoop in San Francisco Bay Area

Help filling in the blanks on an upcoming itinerary - unique, lighter food?

Awesome, so we'll count on Raku for a late-night dinner on Saturday. Tableau sounds fantastic and I will definitely check out the Verandah as I love me some huevos.

We're headed there a couple weeks after you, so if you run into any other stellar recommendations, let me know.

Thanks for your help!

Aug 19, 2010
shoop in Las Vegas

Help filling in the blanks on an upcoming itinerary - unique, lighter food?

Hm, this is a good point. Now I'm thinking maybe we'll do a late, hearty lunch (any suggestions there?) and then do dinner post-show. So, would Raku work for a late-night dinner?

Aug 19, 2010
shoop in Las Vegas

Help filling in the blanks on an upcoming itinerary - unique, lighter food?

That sounds fantastic, and we'll be staying at the Palazzo, so it'll be convenient too. Thanks very much!

Aug 19, 2010
shoop in Las Vegas

Help filling in the blanks on an upcoming itinerary - unique, lighter food?

Great, thanks Dave. Raku it is!

Aug 19, 2010
shoop in Las Vegas

WHERE to eat for my first visit to San Francisco

Wow, thank you for the incredible report! I will be heading to TFL in a couple weeks for the first time and am hopeful that it can live up to La Folie (also my favorite dining experience in SF). Love, love, LOVE that foie gras "PB&J" that you described -- that had to be one of the most unique and delicious things I've ever eaten.

So glad you enjoyed our lovely city & looking forward to your future trip reports!

La Folie
2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

Aug 18, 2010
shoop in San Francisco Bay Area

Help filling in the blanks on an upcoming itinerary - unique, lighter food?

Hey Hounds,

My husband and I will be celebrating our anniversary in Vegas in October and are eagerly anticipating some great meals over the three days we'll be there. We have one blowout meal planned -- Joel Robuchon on Sunday night -- and I think we'll hit Bradley Odgen on Friday night after we get in (we shouldn't have an issue eating in the lounge at 9pm-ish, right? And the famous burger is served in the lounge?).

Given the Robuchon menu and the Friday night burger, I'm looking for a lighter meal for the third (Saturday) night. Would Raku be best here? We'll likely hit a show that night so something that would work with that schedule is necessary.

I'd also love some suggestions for brunch or lunch over the weekend. We eat absolutely anything, love unique food and dining experiences, and are ex-NYers living in San Francisco, so we'd prefer to avoid places we could hit in either of those places (unless the LV outpost is significantly better/different).

Thank you in advance for your help!

Aug 18, 2010
shoop in Las Vegas

Your mom's weird cooking ... and other stories? (recipes encouraged)

And in rural Michigan as well! It was seven-layer salad with broccoli, bacon bits, onions, mayo (of course!) and apparently three other ingredients. :)

Aug 17, 2010
shoop in Home Cooking

Your mom's weird cooking ... and other stories? (recipes encouraged)

I grew up in the rural midwest, and my mom certainly paid homage to that "genre" of cooking. I think I've eaten every possible variation on meat and potatoes, and literally hundreds (if not thousands) of casseroles. A few standouts:
- Cheeseburger casserole: This must've been a quiche crust, filled with ground beef and sauteed with onions, ketchup, and covered in a very thick layer of melted Colby-Jack.
- Chicken chalupas (or so we called them): Boiled chicken mixed with cream of chicken soup and cream cheese, wrapped in tortillas with onions, again topped with a mass of melted Colby-Jack
- Baked beans: A big glass jar of Great Northern beans, mixed with a package of cut up bacon, nearly a cup of brown sugar, an onion, and a green apple (my aunt claimed this made them gas-free, haha!)
- And finally, with every single meal, a salad of shredded iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and five different varieties of salad dressing set out on the table (always including Ranch, French, and Italian); a loaf of homemade white bread; and dessert.

Until I moved away, I never recognized or appreciated my good metabolism. Years later, my parents helped me move into a tiny studio apartment in NYC, and while I unpacked, my mom went to the grocery store to get me a starter batch of groceries, just enough supplies to last me my first week. She brought home a loaf of bread, some meat, a half-gallon of milk, and... a box of 12 sticks of butter. I toted that box of butter with me from home to home for the next few years, I think, but my mom's perception of that as just enough to get me started always makes me laugh (and certainly illustrates the food philosophy I grew up on!).

Aug 17, 2010
shoop in Home Cooking

Recipes for starving college students?

My go-to when I was broke and needed something that would re-heat well (to accommodate a few days' worth of leftovers!):

Penne a la Vodka
- 1 box penne pasta
- olive oil
- a few links of italian sausage
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- a few cloves of garlic
- crushed red pepper
- salt
- heavy whipping cream
- vodka (what college student doesn't have a bottle of vodka in the freezer?)

Bring a pot of water to boil and add penne; cook according to directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat a few Tbsp of olive oil. Slice open the italian sausage links and dump the crumbled sausage into the pan. (Note: You can also use italian turkey or chicken sausage, or no sausage at all). Add some minced garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until sausage is slightly browned. Dump in can of crushed tomatoes and a tsp of salt. Raise heat to bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes. Add 1/3 c. heavy whipping cream and 2 Tbsp of vodka. Bring to a boil. Add penne (which has been cooked and drained). Toss and serve.

I've also made this without the cream and vodka and it's still delicious. It's a very flexible recipe - works with other kinds of pasta and with vegetables added in.

Nowadays, this is still my go-to meal when my husband's out of town for a few days -- I will happily sit on the couch eating a bowl of reheated penne for days.

Aug 17, 2010
shoop in Home Cooking

What's For Dinner? Part XLI

It's been a particularly cold summer in SF, which has made meal planning difficult: The produce is amazingly plentiful and summery, but we're craving hearty, wintertime meals. Last night, I made a classic roast chicken with garlic and rosemary and served it with a panzanella: leftover sourdough, beautiful heirlooms, mixed greens, fresh mozzarella, and a simple balsamic dressing. It finally hit that sweet spot of hearty and summery!

Aug 11, 2010
shoop in Home Cooking

Private Dinner for 20-25 at a NAPA Valley Winery?

I highly recommend the Hall Estate in Rutherford - the dinner takes place in the wine caves, and the set-up is STUNNING. I believe our dinner there was catered by Meadowood, but the Hall team is adept at planning these sorts of events and could work with you to find an appropriate caterer. More details here:

Aug 10, 2010
shoop in San Francisco Bay Area

Bay Area wedding on a grad student's budget

One more resource you might want to check out - Here Comes the Guide:

It has at least basic info (capacity, site fee, etc.) on most of the venues in Northern California, including wineries, restaurants, etc. I used it as an initial screen of venues and then had a short list of those to see in person.

Jul 30, 2010
shoop in San Francisco Bay Area

Bay Area wedding on a grad student's budget

They were great and a relative bargain vs. wedding cake. We ordered way too many pies (still have some in our freezer now!) and with delivery fees and everything, it was under $500. Most wedding cake bakers charge around $7-8 per slice.

Good luck!

Jul 30, 2010
shoop in San Francisco Bay Area

Bay Area wedding on a grad student's budget

Sure! We had around 90 guests (although I think with a recent expansion, the wine caves at Hans Fahden can now accommodate nearly 200). The site fee for Hans Fahden was $5,500 (I believe there may be an incremental per-guest fee above 100 guests) and the catering was just above $100pp, including all service. Caridywn offers several options in terms of appetizers, family-style dinner service, etc., so this cost could certainly go up/down.

We agreed up front to spent the majority of our budget on food and venue and to skimp on other areas and we had no regrets!

Jul 30, 2010
shoop in San Francisco Bay Area

Bay Area wedding on a grad student's budget

Welcome to the Bay Area and congrats on your upcoming wedding! I can highly, highly recommend the venue and caterer that my husband and I used last fall.

With similar criteria to yours, we chose Hans Fahden Winery in Calistoga -- it's a small, family-run winery on absolutely breathtaking grounds with amazing facilities. A few points of differentiation: (1) The dinner itself takes place in a stunning wine cave, which is an incredible surprise for your guests. (2) Unlike a lot of wineries, the site fee gives you access to the entire property, so you can have your ceremony down by the pond, your cocktail hour in the tasting room, your dinner in the caves, and so on. (3) Because it's a small-production winery, they don't require that you only use their wines. You are mandated to buy one case of their wine (we loved their cab), and after that, you're given a 50% discount on all additional cases or you can bring your own wine in with no corkage fees. (4) Finally, we loved the Calistoga area for its proximity to both Napa and Sonoma and its incredible beauty. Almost all of our guests were out-of-towners as well and they loved the venue and the location.

Our caterer was Caridwyn & Sons and we could not have been happier. The food was fantastic (local, seasonal, unique, and delicious) and both Deana (the coordinator) and Chad (the chef) were friendly, responsive, accommodating, and fun.

We also used Sweetie Pie's in Napa for pies in lieu of wedding cake and were very happy.

Best of luck!

Sweetie Pies
520 Main St, Napa, CA 94559

Jul 29, 2010
shoop in San Francisco Bay Area

What's missing in SF?

Best news ever. If only La Spiaggia hadn't had to close to accommodate this. I will miss those arancini...

Jul 22, 2010
shoop in San Francisco Bay Area

What's missing in SF?

I agree with many of the above posts - Cuban, a Jewish deli (I'd even settle for just a solid bagel shop), Lebanese, BBQ.

I'd add to the list Jamaican and solid, old-fashioned red-sauce Italian, the two cuisines I always seek out when back in NYC.

Jul 09, 2010
shoop in San Francisco Bay Area

Kauai Trip Report - May 2010

My husband and I traveled to Kauai for ten days at the end of May and were amazed by the beauty of the island and the truly relaxed pace of life. We weren’t expecting to be blown away by the food (it’s not known as a food-centric destination and it’s difficult for places to live up to our native Bay Area!), but thanks to many of your suggestions, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of the options. We stayed on the south shore in Poipu for four nights and then in Princeville on the north side for five nights, so we were able to experience the food around the island. Sorry in advance for the LONG report!

Day 1: Poipu
We arrived late at night into the airport at Lihue and, despite our hunger, held ourselves over until we arrived at our hotel, the Koa Kea in Poipu. The hotel is small but has a stellar food program (anchored by the Red Salt restaurant), and we were impressed by the service and food quality at every turn. We sidled up to the bar and were immediately helped by the very friendly bartender, Jim. We were able to order off the bar menu and the room service menu, so we tried the ahi trio (sashimi, tartare, and togashi seared), the crisped kalua pork gyoza served with three different sauces (aji amarillo gastrique, pineapple barbecue, and ginger shoyu), and the burger (served with Maui onions and an assortment of toppings, plus homemade potato chips). Everything was fantastic. The wine menu is small but well-curated, and all in all, this was a perfect meal to begin our Kauai vacation.

Day 2: Waimea, Kalaheo, Poipu
After waking early thanks to the time change, we decided to drive up Waimea Canyon. At our valet’s suggestion, we stopped at the Ishihara Market in Waimea to pick up a pre-packaged meal to eat on our way up. The market had a variety of local favorites packed and ready to go at 8am, so we picked up a bento box consisting of chicken katsu, teriyaki beef, and rice. It was nothing special but certainly adequate and filling for our trip up to the canyon.

On our way back to Poipu, we stopped at the Kalaheo Cafe & Bakery in Kalaheo. My husband had an egg sandwich, which was satisfactory, and I had the Bagel Benny (a toasted bagel topped with grilled ham and a poached egg) with salsa, which was quite tasty. The spot had a lively environment and seemed very popular with locals.

That night, we had a 6:30 reservation at the Beach House in Poipu, which ended up being the perfect time to see the spectacular sunset. We started with the crispy crab-stuffed ahi roll with a soy-wasabi vinaigrette and the ceviche, both of which were fantastic, and then moved on to the watermelon salad, also delicious. For mains, I had the wasabi-crusted snapper (served with a lillikoi lemongrass beurre blanc) and my husband had the sashimi-grade ahi (with mashed potatoes, black beans, and a ginger lime beurre blanc). The flavor of the snapper was great but the fish was slightly overcooked. The ahi was well-prepared but not mind-blowing. Overall, we thought the restaurant was good but not great; however, given the setting, it’s certainly worth a visit. We would return for drinks and appetizers, since those were the highlights of our meal, and the bar area had the same lovely view as the main dining room.

Day 3: Lihue, Poipu
The following morning we had an early helicopter tour, after which we stopped for lunch (albeit at 10:30am) at Lihue Barbecue Inn. This place is a great local haunt -- friendly service, traditional fare, and really reasonable prices. We both had a plate lunch -- the teriyaki chicken and the tempura mahi were highlights, while the Korean short ribs were a bit too fatty. The lunch special includes the entrees, rice, mac salad, soup, and dessert for somewhere around $10, a truly cheap eat on Kauai. We skipped the included dessert and walked right down the block to Hamura Saimin for a piece of the famous lillikoi chiffon pie. I thought the filling itself was delicious but the crust was a bit dry and bland. The atmosphere was great, however -- locals and tourists of all walks of life gathered together in a place that looks frozen in time.

We split a Puka Dog-style hot dog (stuffed into a baked bun) back at the Koa Kea for an afternoon snack and then went to our hotel’s own Red Salt for dinner. This was easily our best meal on the south shore and my favorite meal of the trip. To start, we split the crusted seared ahi (delicious and a standout, even among the many variations on ahi we had throughout the trip) and the Kalaheo baby greens salad (incredibly fresh and tasty). We then moved on to the vanilla seared mahi (with black rice, avocado ginger salsa, and a mango vinaigrette) and that evening’s special, ono (I think?) in a coconut milk broth. Both were perfectly cooked and uniquely flavored. For dessert, we split the truly unique “root beer float” (house-made root beer ice cream served with Wailua cream soda and warm chocolate mac nut cookies). Our waiter poured the soda over the ice cream and then we dipped the warm cookies into the float. So great. While the restaurant doesn’t have the view of the Beach House, it is a warm, casually modern environment with friendly, knowledgeable, laid-back service, and would be my first choice for a special occasion dinner on the south shore.

Day 4: Poipu, Kalaheo
We began with an early morning breakfast at Joe’s on the Green, just north of the Poipu Shopping Village. The early bird special (before 8:30am, I believe) is a bargain, with many entrees around $5. The food was nothing special, but considering the dearth of good breakfast options around Poipu, it was adequate and way cheaper than the hotel options.

We returned to the hotel for the afternoon and shared a great room-service lunch on our patio courtesy of the Red Salt kitchen (that incredible burger once more, a grilled mahi sandwich, and some edamame).

After a day in the sun, we weren’t up for a big night out, so we went and picked up a pizza from Brick Oven Pizza in Kalaheo and ate back at the hotel. Friendly service and good pizza (we loved the whole wheat crust with the brushed garlic).

Day 5: Poipu, Anahola, Princeville
Before departing Poipu, we walked from our hotel down to the Grand Hyatt and had the brunch buffet at Ilima Terrace. The buffet was pricey ($25 per person or so) and completely mediocre, but we enjoyed touring the spectacular grounds of the resort.

On our drive to Princeville, we stopped at Duane’s Ono-Char Burger in Anahola. Contrary to reports, we didn’t need to wait long and there was plenty of room on the patio. We both ordered the Local Boy (a burger with cheddar and teriyaki), which was good but loaded with melted shredded cheddar. I love cheese but ended up scraping some of it off since it was just overwhelming. We split onion rings and a root beer float (after Red Salt reminded us of the glory of the classic!), and it was all in all a satisfying meal.

We checked into the St. Regis in Princeville and ended up just ordering room service. It was average at best. I don’t usually expect room service to be that great, but (1) we’d been spoiled by the Koa Kea, and (2) I thought that the St. Regis -- particularly with its much-touted Jean-Georges restaurant -- would have a decent offering, but it was not good. We shared the poke and lettuce wraps. The lettuce wraps were okay but something was definitely off with the poke. The hotel’s setting is *stunning*, though, so it was hard to not enjoy the meal while overlooking Hanalei Bay.

Day 6: Kilauea, Hanalei, Princeville
We started our tour of north shore beaches with a brunchtime visit to Kilauea Bakery in Kilauea. This is such a cute cafe that is clearly popular with local residents. I had a slice of veggie pizza (fantastic) with a side salad, and my husband had a chicken panini of some sort (also great). The service is pretty disjointed but well-meaning.

After snorkeling at Tunnels, we stopped at the roadside stand Red Hot Mama’s, west of Hanalei. The menu was limited by that point in the day (and the service a bit surly), but we enjoyed some chicken and carnitas tacos. These are decidedly American-style (with shredded cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and salsa), but the meat was tender and flavorful.

For dinner, we went to Jean-Georges’ Kauai Grill at the St. Regis. We had a late reservation so we missed the sunset, but the view from the restaurant is incredible and the room has a cool sixties vibe. We began with the grilled black pepper octopus (outstanding) and the hearts of palm salad (good but not particularly interesting), and then moved on to the main course. I had the onaga with pea greens ravioli and a smoked bacon vinaigrette (tasty but heavy), and my husband had the nut-crusted moi served in a rich broth (fantastic). For dessert, we split the lillikoi caramel souffle, which was heavenly. Overall, the meal was very good but the expectations (for the setting, the pedigree, and the price) are really high as well. All in all, we would definitely recommend the restaurant to anyone visiting the north shore, particularly when you include the view from the St. Regis.

Day 7: Hanalei, Princeville

We spent our morning on a sailboat cruise of the Napali Coast and afterward stopped for lunch at Tropical Taco in Hanalei. I had a fried fish taco while my husband went for grilled. The fish was really flavorful and well-cooked. It’s worth noting that the fried fish taco is served in a hard shell, and the grilled in a soft tortilla. I think the ideal combo is fried fish in a soft tortilla, so that’s a special request to keep in mind. Overall, the tacos were great if pricey (although one is large and filling).

After spending the rest of the afternoon at the pool, we we were exhausted and couldn’t pull ourselves out of the hotel for dinner, so we once again ordered St. Regis room service. This time, it was truly terrible. The burger and turkey club were really sub-par and we ended up leaving most of the overpriced meal uneaten. Such a disappointment considering the quality of Kauai Grill!

Day 8: Kilauea, Hanalei

We took a late morning break from beach-hopping to stop at the Thai 2 Go food truck (just off the main road between Kilauea and Princeville). This is such a great Chowhound find -- the panang curry and green curry chicken were fantastic, with rich flavors and a nice amount of heat. Along with the entree and rice, you are given a choice of pad thai or papaya salad, so we tried one of each, and they were both delicious as well. The Thai iced tea was the perfect accompaniment.

We headed into Hanalei for a late dinner at The Dolphin, on the recommendation of several people we’d met on our trip. We had to wait for about 20 minutes (which you can do from outside tables with drink service) before being seated at the sushi bar. We told the chef we’d like to do omakase, and she asked about our preferences. We are both adventurous eaters and I told her my only restriction was monkfish liver and the like. She seemed surprised and said they didn’t have anything like that anyway. This kicked off the string of dishes, all of which were very fresh and tasty, but seemed oriented to a broad tourist palate. The fish choices were very mainstream and the dishes seemed a bit overdone -- always topped with tempura flakes and various sauces. We enjoyed the meal but wished we’d just had some less fussy dishes that allowed the freshness of the fish to come through. That said, the fish was high quality and the atmosphere was lively.

Day 9: Hanalei
We headed into Hanalei after a morning hike and tried two different places without success (note: “Gone Surfing” is a valid excuse and renders posted restaurant hours virtually useless) before stopping at Kalypso cafe. The food (fish tacos and a fish sandwich) was very average, but we did appreciate the $5 corkage fee! There’s a wine shop just down the street, so we sat with a view of the street and drank a bottle.

After enjoying a gorgeous Hanalei Bay sunset, we headed back into Hanalei for dinner at Bar Acuda. The restaurant is beautiful -- comfortable and beautifully appointed, with low lighting and wood floors. Despite not having a reservation, we were able to grab a couple seats at the bar and order from the full menu. As San Franciscans, we appreciated the comfortably Californian menu, filled with local, seasonal ingredients, simply but elegantly prepared. I enjoyed a couple glasses of wine while my husband took on some of their interesting cocktails, and we split several small plates: the Medjool dates with celery salad, parmesan, and aged balsamic; fresh honeycomb with Humboldt Fog goat cheese and crisp apples (one of my favorite dishes of the trip); a pizzetta with sweet onions, cherry tomatoes, and some other ingredients which have since slipped my mind; and shrimp in a romesco sauce. Every dish was outstanding. The service was a bit scattered, but that was likely since we were sitting at the bar and the bartenders were swamped. The restaurant led to us fantasizing about a life spent on the north shore as weeknight regulars at Bar Acuda. This was definitely our best meal on the north shore and my husband’s favorite meal on Kauai. Highly recommended!

Day 10: Kilauea, Kapaa
For our final lunch in Kauai, we headed to Kilauea to try the fish wrap at Kilauea Fish Market (after many glowing recommendations from fellow travelers), but alas, they were unexpectedly closed (gotta love island life!). Instead, we returned to Kilauea Bakery and once again had a delicious lunch.

Prior to flying back home, we stopped at Kintaro in Kapaa. We sat at the sushi bar and ordered an assortment of sashimi, nigiri, and rolls. Everything tasted good but once again was not particularly unique (not sure if this is a tourist-oriented menu consequence or if there isn’t actually as wide a variety of fish locally available as one would expect).

Overall, we loved Kauai and the meals -- for the most part -- only enhanced our experience. A tip on logistics: I had prepared an extensive list of recommended places (thanks to the incredible Chowhound community) and used that to create a custom Google map (called My Maps on the site). I added all of the places I wanted to try and then color-coded them by price range/formality. This helped us to be flexible once we’d arrived. If we happened to find ourselves in, say, Lihue at lunchtime, I had the map on my phone with some casual lunch spots highlighted. This will be my go-to strategy for all future trips!

Hope you find this report helpful. Happy traveling (and eating)!

Brick Oven Pizza
2 2555 Kaumualii Hwy, Kalaheo, HI

Kintaro Japanese Restaurant
4-370 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI 96746

Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant
5 5016 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI

Lihue Barbecue Inn
2982 Kress St, Lihue, HI 96766

Joe's On the Green
2545 Kiahuna Plantation Dr, Koloa, HI 96756

Red Hot Mama's
5-6607 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714

Tropical Taco
5-5088 Kuhio Hwy Shop A, Hanalei, HI 96714

Duane's Ono-Char Burger
Anahola, Kapaa, HI 96746

Brick Oven Pizza
2-2555 Kaumualii Hwy, Kalaheo, HI 96741

Beach House Restaurant
5022 Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756

Kalaheo Coffee Co & Cafe
2-2560 Kaumualii Hwy, Kalaheo, HI 96741

Kalypso Restaurant
5-5156 Kuhio Highway Bldg Bldg G4, Hanalei, HI 96714

Kauai Grill - St. Regis - Hawaii
5520 Ka Haku Road, Princeville, HI 96722

Red Salt
Koloa, Koloa, HI

Jun 29, 2010
shoop in Hawaii

Wine Country Food Products, in Bulk

My fiance and I live in SF and are getting married this fall in Napa. Many of our guests are from out of town, and we'd like to give a gift basket of a few specialty food products from wine country (mustard, olive oil, jams/jellies?) to our guests as favors.

Any idea where we could buy products in bulk? We will likely need about 75 of each product.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Apr 03, 2009
shoop in San Francisco Bay Area