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idlehouse's Profile

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2012 - Gaumenkitzel [Berkeley]

it's our family's default restaurant in the area, because the food continue to be consistently great. We have 2 young children and they eat very well here, veggies and all - and their food is mostly not salty.

Their Black Forest cake is wonderful.

Has anyone eaten at Great China in Berkeley since it reopened?

I have, but I just like my usual beef noodle soups and dumplings, which are still the same. The lamb dish is still the same. They swear it's the same chef, but I think as far as the noodles are concerned, there has been a shift downhill since 2008.

What is that delicious lemongrass condiment at Pho Ao Sen? [Oakland]

I usually hear everyone else refers to it as Ớt Sa-tế (satay chili sauce). The version that Andrea has on her website is very similar to how I make mine, except I use paprika instead of the chili sauce for coloring - you just have to remember to add paprika last and add it after you turn off the stove, then the color will stay bright. My shallot: garlic ratio is something like 5:1, sometimes I don't add garlic at all. I fry my lemongrass before I add the shallot.

U-Pick Pesticide Free Cherries in Brentwood

I just went to Pease Ranch to pick cherries and berries yesterday, they currently have at least 2 types that are ready for picking, one is Champagne Corals and the other is lighter in color, I can't remember because I didn't pick those. Some people on Chow called them last year and they said they don't spray, maybe you can call them. (925) 634-4646

Food Lovers 3 day stay in San Fran with a 3 year old needs some recs

we also have a 3 year old and have been to all sorts of restaurants with her, not a big deal. The Espetus Churrascaria on Market St did not charge us for her at lunch, and the hot buffet table offered a lot of good choices. She was entertained by the idea that she could make people come or not come to our table with the green/red thing.

House of Prime Ribs on Van Ness is a total zoo but it's good for kids. The steaks are good, salad is decent, price is good for what you get. I think Harris Ranch has better steaks, and it's just up a few blocks, also good for kids.

in Daly City, Koi Palace is good solid Chinese restaurant, they do nice fancy dishes and their menu is extensive, a bustling beehive. Ferry Building has Hog Island Oyster Bar, I highly recommend. Their clams are phenomenal, mussels are close to the flavors of the mussels I had in Belgium.

a Turkish Place near Civic Center I really want to try - A La Turca on Geary St, go there for lunch would be a better idea than for dinner.

A Senegalese place called Bissab Baobao (also a club called LIttle Baobao, both serve food) - i used to frequent its sister branch called Taxi Brusse in Berkeley before the place closed down. I like their dibi lamb and their ginger ice cold drink a lot.

Have fun in SF!

Affordable steakhouse in East Bay for tonight

i ate at prime spot last week and my prime steak was awful!! it was like chewing on wet cardboard even though it was a medium rare dull pink :(

i think Kensington Circus Pub's chef is very good with his steaks - good flavors and medium rare is always done right. i think next time i need a quick decent local steak, I'll leave it to either Elevation Brewery (just rib eye cut) or Kensington Circus....

Which cuisine is the most frugal in which to cook/eat by?

I think with that much variety in the area where you live, you can live frugally if you just pick any of the listed cuisine. It just would make more sense if you pick one that your pantry already has some of the ingredients available. For example, I'm southeast asian by ethnicity, my pantry always has fish sauce, soy sauce, star anise, pepper, ginger, shrimp paste. If I want to go low budget, I would just stick to southeast asian food, then I don't have to start a whole new stash of spices and seasonings. Southeast asian food is only expensive if you look at what's served in restaurants. Home cooked meals are very different. Some days I get by just just boiling a head of cabbage and an egg. Mash the boiled egg in fish sauce, add chili pepper, then dip the cabbage into that sauce to eat with rice. The stock collected from the boiled cabbage can be made into a soup with addition of a tomato, some green onion or cilantro, fish sauce or soy sauce (tomato, cilantro, green onion would have been pulled out from the freezer, already pre-chopped when they were purchased on sale at dirt cheap prices). Meal done in 15 minutes.

When all fails, I have had meals with just rice, soy sauce, and a chili pepper before. Delicious!
When I was in college, I used to make a simple savory braised pork or chicken dish, depending on whatever was on sale at Safeway 2 pints of that stuffs would sit in my fridge for 2 weeks, and every day I would diligently come home and eat rice with braised meat + some boiled or fresh veggies. Then I moved on to another batch of something equally simple & cheap and proceeded to eat that for another week or two. ...

I've cooked a lot of southeast asian, chinese, japanese, and korean homestyle meals, so I know from experience that you can definitely live on a budget with these cuisines. You just need to be very comfortable and confident with one type of cuisine to understand the basic principles, what can be used as substitutes when one item is on sale while the other isn't, or one is widely available while the other isn't. Another thing I've done, being on the budget, is I used to buy tomatoes, onions, cilantro (these were expensive in the area I used to live) when they were really cheap and in season, cut them up, froze them, and then used them through the winter. Same thing with meats, when they were on sale, I used to buy them, seasoned/ prepared them, and then wrapped up and froze for future use., etc., etc..

May 20, 2012
idlehouse in General Topics

Why aren't eggs more prevalent in traditional Chinese/Taiwanese breakfasts?

eggs are considered a luxury item in China traditionally, I think, that's why they are not available for casual daily consumption. People generally start the day with something filling and cheap, that's why a lot of it is starch based.

May 20, 2012
idlehouse in General Topics

Why do you continue shopping at CostCo? I am underwhelmed. What do you appreciate about the warehouse store?

Costco in Bay Area has organic carrots. It's definitely by area, as I know for example that the ones in the East Coast carries Organic evaporated cane sugar for a great price, but can't find any in California's location. I'm always annoyed to find great brand-name products getting pulled and then being replaced with Kirkland brand - which has the same ingredients and maybe standards, but the taste is not the same.

I generally get gas at Costco, artisan lettuces, avocado (not a great price anymore), garlic, onion, raw shrimps - they are the best for what they charge, organic chicken, racks of lamb, breads, rotisserie chicken, olive oils, spices, compostable plates and utensils, carbonated water, smoked salmon, limes, bulk baking soda, batteries, shampoos, cetaphil lotion and cleansers, toilet paper, "better than bouillon" soup bases, organic chicken stock, Cheerios, Ling LIng potstickers, ... I try to get most items when they have coupons or rebates.

What IL Divo said is correct regarding the savings though - if you have the patience to collect and use coupons, as well as monitor week to week ads from your local grocery stores, your savings will far exceed what you would typically save from buying at Costco. I just happen to not have the patience, so Costco is my one stop shop, I can get almost everything I need for my household in one place, less time driving & hunting around. I like their customer service so I'm their loyal customer. Their return policy is just awesome, they try very hard to make you happy. One time my friend's newly bought GPS was wrecked by the airline because they forced her to check-in instead of having it as a carry-on. She was so bummed she tried her luck by talking to Costco, they replaced it for her no question asked.

May 20, 2012
idlehouse in Chains

Why do you continue shopping at CostCo? I am underwhelmed. What do you appreciate about the warehouse store?

I have a different experience. I've shopped at Costco for years, both in California and Pennsylvania/D.C. area. I always find people working at Costco extremely pleasant to deal with, and they all seem to be in a general good mood. Makes me want to work for Costco. They never rough handles my produce - and I buy a lot of fresh produce from Costco.

May 20, 2012
idlehouse in Chains

Things kids think are "normal" these days...

when I first came to the US at 11, somehow my cousins thought taking me to a real American meal = Burger King. I thought the burger was the nastiest thing on earth and wondered out loud why would anyone one want to eat this piece of torture ?? They urged me to put lots of ketchup in it, which resulted in even more insults to the national dish from me lol... 10 years later for some reason I walked into a BK, ordered a whooper, scarfed it down in less than 4 minutes and thought it was the best buck spent. That was my 2nd time eating a burger. In between, maybe my family ate out once a year, I had no idea what Arby's and Jack in the Box or KFC tasted like until I got a job at 17 and had a few bucks to spare. And even then, it was so ingrained in my immigrant mindset that eating out = extravagance. Nowadays my kid says "let's go eat out" as many times as she likes, and the thing is, I don't feel particularly bad about us eating out 2-3x/week, because we are in the SF Bay area, where we can actually find good delicious and nutritious food in local restaurants.

May 19, 2012
idlehouse in Not About Food

"Least Favorite Vegetable" Poll

not a veggie, but a legume - I hate lentils - red, green, yellow, French, whatever. I have tried them in many different cuisines and preparation, I made extra effort to expose myself to it over and over, but no go. I can always detect it when it is present in small amount.

May 19, 2012
idlehouse in General Topics

"Least Favorite Vegetable" Poll

chayote is a lovely vegetable, next time you make chicken noodle soup, peel a chayote, cut into cubes and toss into the pot, cook it for 15 minutes and then turn off the heat. It has almost the same amount of sweetness as carrots, but no strong overwhelming aroma or flavor. If over cook, it turns mushy and become zucchini-like.

May 19, 2012
idlehouse in General Topics

"Least Favorite Vegetable" Poll

in east Asia we always cook the kohlrabi - peel it, slice it into match stick size, stirfry it with pork and garlic, using fish sauce as flavor enhancement (or salt if you like, but add a bit chicken broth). Don't over cook it, it takes about the same amount of time as carrots. Add ground pepper before serving.

May 19, 2012
idlehouse in General Topics

"Least Favorite Vegetable" Poll

kohlrabi i dislike in raw form, but in Asia we chop them up and stirfy them with garlic & pork (or gizzards & chicken hearts) or even shrimps using fish sauce or salt & pepper as flavor enhancement. it has similar flavor to the chayote with a hint of cabbage, crisp texture. That's my preferred preparation for kohlrabi. Try it!

May 19, 2012
idlehouse in General Topics

Godfrey Brothers meats in York ?

Hello everyone, I'm trying to buy meats locally here in York county, and the only place I have heard about so far is Godfrey brothers in York. I can not get any information about them from the internet, does anyone know if it's true that they buy the animals locally including hogs and do all the butchering themselves? If it's not true, could you let me know where I can go to get local meats (preferably free range, grass fed)?

thank you

Jan 09, 2009
idlehouse in Pennsylvania

Yemeni cuisine?

I second the strip mall plaza on south George Mason. I was there at a Somali restaurant name al jazeera (it's in the back, you park in the back and walk up to it). My Somali friend who took me there said it's run by someone whose parents are Somali on one side and Yemeni on the other, so the food there has mixed items.

Sashimi grade fish?

Yaoya-San, a small Japanese grocery store on San Pablo and Moeser Lane in El Cerrito sells excelent sashimi for 2/3 of the price of Tokyo Fishmarket's.

Yusan Sushi in El Cerrito back from vacation?

Hello everyone

I have been trying to call them to make a reservation the last 2 weeks, but with no luck. I think they were on vacation. Does anyone happen to know if they are back yet? This is the one across from Home Depot on San Pablo Ave.

Thank you for your help

Phoenix Pastificio in Berkeley is Closing in 2 1/2 Weeks

I just went to Pstificio's new location to buy some olivebread yesterday and talked to the owner a bit. He said it had quieted down significantly since the move. He looked a bit sad. The bread is still as good as ever, and he says he sells everything from the kitchen, so if you want to buy pasta or whatever, you can still buy from him. I hope everyone will drop by to visit the new location to make things a bit easier for him. The easiest way to get there is to go down University towards San Pablo, turn left on Sacramento, right on Addison, and go up until you see Zest Cafe's entrance on the left hand side.

Any Taxi Brousse updates?

I was there about 2 weeks ago. My husband had fish yasse (?), which he really liked, but I don't remember the taste personally. I had the lamb dibi, the meat was very nicely & evenly cooked, with an unintrusive lamb flavor the way lamb should taste when it's cooked right. The sweet onions were grilled long enough to carmelize, but still retained their crunchy bite. The salad was lightly dressed and went well with the lamb. I love their couscous, I think they have the best couscous out of all the stuffs I have tried here in the Bay Area. We also ordered plantains, which were excellent. I think the dip was yogurt of some sort. That Friday evening was kinda sad, because we were there during prime-time to witness about ... 4 customers the whole entire hour, when we left at 9:00, it didn't look like any more customers would come. I really think the manager should light up the restaurant just a bit more, simple tea-candle light just would not cut it. From out-side in, the restaurant doesn't even look like it's open for business. No liquor liscense yet, but the ginger drink was nice.

Overrated disappointments

kirala is overrated for me. I have been there several time, but I just simply don't see why their sushi is THE SUSHI the way people have described it to me. Their food just tasted like whatever to me.

early girl tomatoes are here!

This year's dry-farmed early girl tomatoes are very very good, you should try to get some before the season's over. I think it's something tierra dry-farmed early girl tomatoes, I can't remember, but Monterey, Berkeley Bowl, Berkeley Naturals, and El Cerrito Naturals all carry them. The price is about $2.59 or $2.39. Monterey puts theirs on sale this weekend at $1.89.

Also, the front asian stand at El Cerrito's farmers' market has their jelly-belly grape tomatoes (it's the first asian farmer stand you see when you enter the area, not the asian stand all the way in the back next to Peach Farm). These are sweet, crunchy and bursting with flavor, you should get some before their short season is over.


I love anything tarte-like from Masse's pastries in Berkeley. Their best one is coming up soon, pear season - Pear tart with almond and pinenuts.

Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen

I have had similar experience. I ordered the catfish po'boy with their soup of the day lunch, and both were forgetable, whatever. But I sampled my friends' huspuppies, bbq shrimps, pastas and they were all very good. My companion said the gumbo is delicious also. Their hamburger looks good and smells good, but my friend complained that the cheese is too strong (vermont?). You must try their bbq shrimps.

Best fresh (uncooked) chicken

Just want to revisit an old topic to see if there's any news since. I stopped by Magnani today to get a chicken. The staffs were wonderful as usual, but the bird itself really disappointed me. The chartboard indicates that the chickens are now from fulton farm or something like that, I can't remember too well. When I brought it home to make my usual noodle stock, it reaked of this weird chemical smell (medicinal, I don't know how to describe it, my nose is very very sensitive to it though). I used to buy whatever chicken that was on sale at your regular store, and the broth would smell just like that. Does anyone have a similar experience? I have had good meats from them in the past, and my good friends continue to buy from them for the last 15 years or so, but today's chicken was a bummer.

I find Trader Joe's organic or free range chicken very good. It smells wonderful when cooked (boiled, broiled, roasted), and one small chicken actually has a lot of flavor. Berkeley Bowl's Happy Dan's comes up second, but not as flavorful. I think I used to get Hoffman Farm's chicken somewhere, but I can't remember the flavor anymore. I just know Trader Joe's chickens are right on.


I've been buying melons from Berkeley and got excellent - sweet, juicy & flavorful - melons. I got them from the "cut melon" section, since the staffs there really know how to pick good melons to cut. The golden honeydew has been particularly good.