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Anyone know a great East Bay Burger joint?

The burger at Handlebar is excellent. High quality ingredients, meat cooked to order, lots of options for customization, and all in a location with easy access to I-80. Full bar too.
The patty is hefty and grilled, the bun is substantial and well toasted. Home made 'tots' are also well constructed and a tasty alternative to fries.
Price is higher than some others but considering provenance of ingredients and the general state of beef prices at present, not unreasonable.

1 day ago
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Bodega Bay Oyster Company [Petaluma]

The chalkboard in my too-blurry-to-post photo shows:
Bodea Miyagi
X-sml $10/doz, $40/bag of 50
Small $13/doz, $50/bag of 50
Medium $16/doz, $60/bag of 50
Large $18/doz, $70/bag of 50
Pt. Reyes Kumamoto $16/doz, $60/bag of 50
Bodega Bay Virginica $16/doz, $60/bag of 50
Clams, Mussels, $6/lb.
Time to get shucking?

Jun 20, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Bodega Bay Oyster Company [Petaluma]

We stopped here over the weekend for clams, not oysters ironically, and we were happy to find the same tiny, nubby, rounded Point Reyes manila clams that are sometimes available at Tokyo Fish in Berkeley but nowhere else that I know of. These clams were super fresh and fabulous in a simple Portuguese style Ameijoas á Bulhão Pato ( clams with garlic, parsley white wine) that we made at home. Clams were $6/lb. Oysters were $10-$16 dozen with deals for larger purchases. It is a pretty bare bones operation at present.

Jun 18, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Afternoon drive from San Francisco to Reno

Assuming a 3pm arrival, with the need to get luggage at baggage claim and a vehicle at car rental center, departing the airport area will be about 5pm. Diving to Reno will take 3-4 hours, so ETA 9-10pm. Add a meal stop and you add another hour or so. A quick and tasty destination, not too far along the journey would seem best.
How about Brennan's in Berkeley? They are right off the freeway, in the old Berkeley train station, serving kid friendly American fare, buffet style, with trains rolling past the windows and, if timing works out, Giants/A's baseball on the TVs. A turkey dinner would put the youngsters in nap mode for the not too scenic trip (after dark) to Reno.
Alternately, In-n-out burger in Richmond is a mile or three further down I-80 (No definite articles used in freeway names) for something even quicker yet still fun for all concerned.

Jun 17, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

World Cup 2014 Viewing and Eats

Venga Paella in Oakland is showing all the games, but is, as ever, sort of off the radar for local food press. The projector on the back wall and the flat screen over the bar give a good view of the games. Drink specials ($4 beer/sangria) and the regular lineup of tapas and paella by the plate make this a super location for enjoying the Copa.

Jun 14, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Walking Trawl for Friday Night [San Francisco]

Trawling for tapas in the FiDi:
Admittedly, these places, while close in distance to each other, represent a wide diversity in quality and price.

Jun 06, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Dumpling Express - Berkeley

Dumpling Express was crowded with Cal students at lunch. The neighborhood seems quite receptive to this new source for made-to-order Chinese dumplings.
The two types I tried, shrimp/chive and mixed vegetable were great. Bright, balanced flavors, fresh ingredients, medium thin wrappers. Everything is made right in front of you by a crew working at a steady pace to keep up with demand. Rice plates, soups, congee are also available. Take out only. Cash only, at present.

May 30, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Upcoming Price Increase for Matos St. George Cheese (Santa Rosa)

Totally worth the price, and always best when purchased straight from the source. Their cheese is a highlight of the not-always-apparent Bay Area Portuguese (Azorean) culinary heritage.

May 27, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Los Cilantros in Berkeley

Some very good antojitos coming out of this Mexican restaurant that just opened on Shattuck Avenue adjacent to La Peña.
The cheese/pepper tamale, carne asada taco and watermelon agua fresca that I tried were all fresh and tasty. Hand made tortilla, good quality meat, fresh fruit. Looks promising.

Los Cilantros - 3105 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley CA 94705

May 22, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

East Bay Wine Shop with Wines that will age

Lucky kid. 2011 is the most recent and best vintage for Port in a long time. The 2011 Vintage Ports are available from many producers at many price levels. In 15-20 years they will be at their best, so stash them away at home for now. Whether or not your offspring turns out to be a Port appreciator or not, you will have a fabulous reminder of a momentous year.
K&L in SF or RWC, Spanish Table in Berkeley or Mill Valley, Trade Rite in SJ, Sousas in Fremont and Santa Clara all have a good selection.

May 14, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

El Chevere, new Cuban restaurant in San Rafael

The El Chevere Cubano is mighty good, even with the small amount of shredded lettuce/tomato, actually better because it lightens up a pretty heavy pork/ham/melted swiss cheese sandwich. My request would be for more pickle but I thought the bread was as close to form as you are likely to find around here, the pork was moist and kind of chunky and the serving size over all was generous. Comes with fries or salad. An additional side of freshly fried tostones was also quite tasty.

Apr 27, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Smokey J's Q House - BBQ in Berkeley

I only just this week tried Smokey J's smoked rotisserie chicken and it is really good. Flavorful but not overwhelming smoke flavor, firm yet moist (heavily brined) texture, well priced ($12). The mixed meat chili is so finely chopped and thick as to be almost spreadable, with a kidney bean here and there, very smokey and rich, almost overwhelming but like the chicken, really good.

Apr 19, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Dumpling Express - Berkeley

Looks interesting. 2328 Bowditch @ Durant in Berkeley. Still in brown papered windows mode.

Mar 27, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

SF Dish of the Month (April 2014) - Nominations/Voting

Chinese boiled dumplings (Jiaozi) - they are available in restaurants as well as several specialty shops devoted to/named after these regional snacks (Tian Jin Dumplings, Dumpling King, Dumpling Express, etc.). Not about dim sum in general or XLB, Momo, Gyoza (plenty of talk on those topics already) the simple meat/veg filled boiled dumpling deserves a thread of it's own.

Mar 27, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Ran Kanom Thai Noodle - San Pablo

Ran Kanom Thai Noodle in San Pablo, an offshoot of the diminutive Ran Kanom shop in the Pacific East Mall in Richmond, is now open, serving a nice selecton of noodle dishes (soups,stir fries, etc.), salads and snacks. The duck noodle soup I had was really good. A few pieces of bone-in braised duck, a small tangle of egg noodles, scallions and some star anise infused broth made for a rich, oily (hey, it's duck!) soup that was filling and affordable ($8.25...almost everything on the menu is $8.25).
Unlike the mall location there is plenty of seating in addition to a retail store selling take out items and Thai snacks. Friendly staff and parking out front. Open 7 days a week.

Ran Kanom Thai Noodle
2300 El Prortal Dr.
San Pablo CA 94806

Mar 09, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Organic Thai grocery/takeout at El Cerrito Ranch 99 Center [Richmond]

Ran Kanom Thai noodle is open. Plenty of tables plus a shop area for Thai snacks and take out food. The duck noodles were tasty. The green mango salad too. The previous days specials are on sale for $5/pint by the front door. Could be a good solution for quick dinner at home, there.

Mar 08, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Artis Coffee on Fourth. I have mixed feelings. [Berkeley]

I have not had their coffee in a cup but for me this place is all about coffee beans roasted to order right in front of you.
Choose your level of roasted-ness and the type of bean. They roast each batch in custom machinesthat look like big hot air popcorn poppers. The beans are so fresh they tell you to wait a day after roasting before grinding and brewing. Something about off gassing. The end result is some very fine coffee.

Mar 05, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Recs for grabbing a quick bite in/around the Dogpatch? [San Francisco]

If you like The New Spot, you will also like Triple Voodoo as I hear they are getting their food from New Spot around the corner.

Feb 21, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Pastel de Frango - Brazilian House & Restaurant Goiano [Richmond]

This small Brazilian restaurant in Richmond is mostly a buffet, but they also sell some really tasty pastries in several styles/shapes/flavors. The ones I tried had chicken and beef fillings with delicate, eggy, pastry wrappers. They are perfect snacks for in-the-car dining. The buffet looked good too, with several colorful salads in addition to more meaty looking fare which I look forward to next time I am in the neighborhood.

Feb 12, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Recs for grabbing a quick bite in/around the Dogpatch? [San Francisco]

The New Spot is now open for dinner again with slightly remodeled interior and a few menu items not available at lunch. Mexican and Salvadorean specials on the white board are always fabulous.

Feb 09, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

White-Anchovies-Boquerones-Vinegar-Packed Locally?

Matiz are some of the better boquerones out there. Dinon is a repackager of bulk (lower quality) products.
Aside from a few high end restaurants you will probably not find domestically produced boquerones in the USA. In Spain they have factories full of ladies in hair nets and lab coats busily filleting tiny fish by hand and packing them in cans/jars topped off with olive oil (always buy the ones in olive oil). Boquerones are laborious to make, thus the expense. Try it some time at home to see why they are so pricy.

Feb 05, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Solo Dining in Chinese Restaurants

I eat alone in Chinatown semi-regularly when circumstances permit. I go during the day and have a soup or a noodle dish. These are often discounted during lunch and are a good indication of the relative quality level of the restaurant (rice plates on the other hand are not. I find they are often less interesting than the rest of the menu). Be prepared to share a table, usually the big round one, with other solo diners, often in complete silence.
If the lunch is good and the rest of the menu looks interesting, I will return for dinner.
This strategy worked well last week at the new House of Xian dumplings on Kearny. Lunch (dumplings and noodles in broth) was a tasty bargain. I'm looking forward to returning for dinner.

Feb 01, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Oakland - Tian Jin Dumplings

The dish previously in the Tianjin Dumplings menu written in english as Pan Fried Pancake Fruit (Jianbing Guozi) has been 're-branded' as Savory Tianjin Crepe. It is still a uniquely tasty, hefty, meatless street snack for a great price ($3.95).

Jan 29, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Zarzuela or Lolinda (or other) for great Argentinian steaks and authentic tapas? [San Francisco]

Lolinda, no question.Gorgeous spot, full bar, great food. Bife de chorizo (steak) for them, Pulpo (octopus) for you.

Jan 29, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

40-year port?

On the other hand, 20 year (VOS) and 30 year (VORS) Sherries are at least as old as their designation with portions of much older wines in the mix. Perhaps that would be a better choice to taste the full effect of numerous decades of age on a fortified wine.

Jan 29, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Chengdu (Szechuan restaurant) near UC Berkeley

I used to enjoy Le Petit Cheval for inexpensive Vietnamese food (steam table and a la carte options) and a bit of Cal campus vibe. Sad to see them go. Happily the new Chengdu Style looks to be a good replacement. I stopped in on Monday but due to the MLK day holiday the steam table was not happening. Pork and peppers rice plate was my alternate option among several lunch plates in addition to the rest of the menu. No soup with take out but the slivered pork and jalapeños in sauce with steamed rice ($7.95) was fresh, tasty and medium spicy. I am looking forward to returning for the 3 item for $7.95 steam table option.

Jan 22, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

best place to find linguica or spanish-style chorizo in SF?

If the Chorizo de Bilbao you saw was in a green can, that could be a great and long sought after option. I'd love to find some.

Nov 27, 2013
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Claypot - Berkeley

Grilled meat on a stick (choice of chicken, beef, pork, shrimp) plus combo fried rice plus Trumer on tap makes for a tasty, filling meal. Watch the game on the tv too. Low key local fun.

Oct 12, 2013
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Seeking produce a la Berkeley Bowl, but in SF?

If you are thinking about Nordic House, they are in Berkeley now, on San Pablo Avenue, the old highway 123. I mention this because all the places you like to visit are reached via San Pablo Avenue. Yes you can get to these places on the freeway but San Pablo has all kinds of little markets (some with produce) to make the cross-bridge trip worth the effort.
Nordic House (Norway/Scandinavia)
Mi Tierra (Mexican/Latin American)
Bayside Market (Mexican/Latin American)
Middle East Market (Afghan/Middle Eastern)
Halal Meat Market (middle eastern)
Indus (Pakistani/middle eastern)
The Spanish Table (Spain/Portugal)
Tokyo Fish (Japan)
There's more, plus the bridge toll is still 4 bucks mid day during the week.

Oct 08, 2013
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Guilin Rice noodle

Mid-afternoon, Classic Guilin Rice Noodles had only a few diners, friendly staff and quick service. My choice ($6.5) from a dozen or so combinations of different meats was brisket and crispy pork . A scattering of each topped the bowlful of spaghetti-shaped rice noodles, along with some skin on fried peanuts, a spoonful of green vegetables (green beans?) that had a fermented beer-like flavor, half a hard boiled egg and a bit of dark sauce under the noodles. A separate bowl of cloudy, unsalted (beef?) broth was served alongside. A shaker bottle marked "sauce, only for guilin rice noodles" was on the table along with two types of chili paste. I mixed broth with noodles, and added a few shakes of special sauce and a spoonful of chili.
The bits of beef were soft, braised brisket. The crispy pork was fried whole pork belly, sliced thin for a crispy coating and soft interior. The noodles were well cooked and soft. The broth was subtle, but felt very nourishing.
The flavors were unusual compared to most of what I have had in the neighborhood, This soup left me feeling refreshed and invigorated.

Sep 18, 2013
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area