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Linea Caffe is open in the Mission

Andrew Barnett's long-awaited return to coffee roasting is open and worth checking out. Linea Caffe is on 18th Street behind Duc Loi, the Vietnamese grocery store at 18th and Mission. Barnett has long-standing relationships with several Brazilian growers and features their coffees in his new espresso blend. It's a smooth and sweet espresso that never heard of bitter.

Also available at Linea are Belgian style waffles from Anthony Myint of Mission Chinese. The waffles are magically light and crispy. I got mine with yogurt and strawberries, and it was fantastic.

Linea is a hole-in-the-wall spot with no seating at present. (Outdoor seating is on the way.) But it's worth checking out for both the coffee and the waffles. (Not to mention the salads.)

Sep 26, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Perfectly Ripe Peaches

Many years ago, a friend from Anderson Valley brought me a flat of peaches from Gower's the fruit stand a few mile west of Boonville. I still remember them as the best peaches I have ever tasted. The thing, is they were perfectly ripe. They were really easy to peel. The skin would just come off like it does from a blanched tomato.

I've haunted farmers markets (and returned to Gower's) ever since, and while I've certainly gotten lots of good peaches, I still remember that first box from Gower's, and I've developed this theory that the challenge in peaches isn't to find a certain variety, but to find those that are perfectly ripe.

A few years ago a woman at another fruit stand taught me a trick. She said to check the "cheeks" on the stem end, and not to buy a peach unless there was a bit of give, or softness, there. I don't manhandle 20 peaches to find those those that pass the test. I'm very gentle, and this test has proven useful.

Still, I rarely find a perfectly ripe peach. I've given up on Frog Hollow, because I almost never find one of their peaches that passes the test. My theory is that when one does the volume they are doing it gets difficult to pick them when they're really ripe.

On several occasions I've been assured that hard-as-rock peaches from various farms will soften if I leave them out on the counter, but a week later they're still hard as rocks.

Anybody else have suggerstions or inside knowledge on this subject?

Jul 29, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

10 best milkshakes in SF from EaterSF

No opinion on this, but I have a milkshake question. Does anyone other than me think there can be too much ice cream in a milkshake?

A couple of weeks ago we stopped in Red Bluff on our way back from Shasta. It was over 100, and a chocolate milkshake sounded pretty good to me. I think the place we went was called Scoop. I watched the girl making my shake and came very close to telling her to stop adding ice cream--that I wanted a little milk in my milkshake. But I didn't say it. We were about 50 miles down the road before I could begin to suck it through the straw. It just seemed ridiculous to me.

Jul 20, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Perfex pepper grinders

I have a Perfex that must be 40 years old. I figure the burrs have to be worn out. Anyone know if one can buy replacement burrs?

Jul 20, 2013
TopoTail in Cookware

A melon that is TOO sweet?

Went back to the Temescal farmers market this morning and found more of those incredibly delicious little chanterais melons I described earlier. Oh so sweet, but also brimming with flavor and with a perfect, soft texture.

They're at the Tomatero Farm stand (Watsonville). Best Chanterais I have ever tasted outside of Framce. I bought five pounds' worth.

Jun 23, 2013
TopoTail in General Topics

A melon that is TOO sweet?

Damn. went to the Tuesday Berkeley farmers market today and those incredible little charentais melons were not to be found. I did buy a melon of undetermined variety at Full Belly, but I fear it's destined for the compost pile.

Jun 18, 2013
TopoTail in General Topics

Sour cherries @ Ferry Plaza farmers market today

A cherry pie with pits sounds like a recipe for broken teeth. Whenever I buy a cherry tart from Frog Hollow they warn me to watch out for pits. I've nearly broken teeth on cherry pies/tarts several times in my life.

Jun 17, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Tokyo Fish

Where do they get the kids who work the fish counter at Tokyo Fish? When I buy fish I usually ask for 2/3rds of a pound or a bit less. The last time I went there it took this girl four trrys to cut me a piece that size. It seems like the same thing happens almost every time I go there.

No big deal. I just don't understand how somebody can spend two days working at a fish counter and not figure out what 2/3rds of a pound looks like.

Jun 17, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Sour cherries @ Ferry Plaza farmers market today

I bought a two-pound container at Berkeley Bowl the other day and made a killer pie. They are little suckers and it took me more than a half hour to pit the suckers, but was it ever wroth it!

When I was a kid growing up in Detroit, we had a Mt. Morency tree in our back yard, and my mother would freeze 10 or 20 pounds of cherries in the summer and make pies throughout the year.

Anyone have suggestions on how to do that? My though is to pit them, add the corn starch, lemon juice, & sugar and just freeze that to thaw and dump into a pie shell.

(I've never understood why it's so difficult to find frozen sour cherries. The only place I've found them is at the middle eastern market on San Pablo near University, but they're crazy expensive.)

Jun 17, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Tortilla Soup

I'll give that a try the next time, but first I'm going back to Tamarindo. Do you mean the salsas Picante has in squeeze bottles and is there a particular one you use for your "soup extender"?

Jun 17, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

A melon that is TOO sweet?

Thanks Robert. Is the Ram Das booth the one manned by the tall, skinny, guy with a long white beard?

Jun 17, 2013
TopoTail in General Topics

A melon that is TOO sweet?

I agree with just about everything that has been said to date. The same problems are plaguing peaches, nectarines, pineapple, and other fruits. Sweet trumps flavor. I often hit three farmers markets in a weekend. Peaches and nectarines, especially, need a hit of acid to balance the sweetness. There's a "hippie" farmer at the Saturday Berkeley market who grows Blenheim apricots and old variety peaches, and I've gotten some of the best peaches ever from him.

I always try the melons at the markets, but rarely find ones that sing to me. My best luck has been to go to Berkeley Bowl and peruse the melons that are already cut. If they're soft and have a good color, I usually find them pretty good.

Today I was at the Temescal farmers market and found some really small Charentias melons that, judging from the samples, are the first I've ever found outside of France that taste like the ones in France. Unfortunately, I didn't note which stall they were from. Might have been Happy Boy Farms.

Jun 16, 2013
TopoTail in General Topics

Tortilla Soup

I love sopa de tortilla and have sampled many versions both here and in Mexico. I agree that Picante makes a nice version, though it seems me the broth isn't quite as flavorful as it used to be. Ditto Tacubaya on 4th Street in Berkeley, which I'd rate slightly above Picante.

Another candidate, perhaps better than the first two, is Tamarindo in Oakland. My only complaint there is that the serving is so small. But it's definitely worth a try.

Jun 16, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

A melon that is TOO sweet?

I am a melon fanatic. Many, many melons go into the compost every summer because they just don't do it for me. A couple of years ago Tuscan melons appeared and I was in heaven. It seemed that every Tuscan bought was soft, fragrant, sweet, and had that slightly musky flavor of a great cantaloupe.

But I haven't had a decent Tuscan for a long, long time. The other day I bought a Sugar Kiss melon at Berkeley Bowl. I never thought I would find a melon too sweet, but this one is nothing but a sugar bomb. The texture is fine, but it is so cloying that I taste nothing but sugar.

Kind of reminds me of some of the white corn I've had. (I am also a corn fanatic, and sometimes the new varieties of white corn can be so sweet that the taste of the corn itself is nearly lost.)

Jun 16, 2013
TopoTail in General Topics
1

Hopscotch (Oakland)

The Yonsei Oyster is to die for. The best oyster preparation I have ever eaten. I've also had the burger, which was terrific, and wife had the fried chicken, which was quite nice (but I think it would be better if prepared bone in). My one disappointment was the fish and chips, which I had one afternoon and found disturbingly oily and with a not pleasant aftertaste. (The chips were the aforementioned duck fat chips and were excellent.)

Apr 28, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Bacon crazy

Went to Chop Bar last night. I ordered the burger, my wife ordered the meat loaf. Burger is fine, though it wasn't medium rare as ordered and included two rashers of bacon. Wife's meatloaf had bacon ground into it, and she said all she could taste was the bacon. What is it with bacon? Seems like hip restaurants are just loading everything up with it. (The mixed salad had bacon in it too, but at least the chef used a light hand with it. In fact, the salad was the best dish of the evening.)

What next? Rhubarb-Strawberry crisp with bacon topping? Cherry pie with bacon ice cream?

Apr 22, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Pizza Moda - Berkeley

I hope the pizza is better than Fellini's. I had one of the worst pizzas of my life there. But if the cook is a veteran of Pizzaiolo and Gioia, it ought to be good.

Apr 22, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Pearl's Alameda closed

I only went to Pearl's twice, but both times my burger was medium rare, as ordered. I also appreciated that they offered 1/4 pound and 1/3 pound burgers. I'm not a big eater, and hate it when places only offer a 1/2 pound burger. 1/4 pound is plenty for me.

Apr 14, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Pearl's Alameda closed

Looking around for another place to eat, the pickings were slim. The map said there was a Southshore Cafe, but that was closed too. We ended up at a little Greek place that was pretty bad. Should have gone to Chipotles.

So I gather the other locations are still in business? The website still works, but it lists the Alameda location as still open.

Apr 11, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Pearl's Alameda closed

Just drove over to Alameda to get a burger at Pearl's and it looks permanently closed. Is the whole chain gone, or just the Alameda location. Too bad. they had the best burger I've ever had at a chain joint.

Apr 11, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Sumo oranges!

I bought one at the Berkeley Bowl the other day and was reminded why I don't especially like them. Too sweet for me. I look for mandarins with a bit of acid to offset the sweetness.

Mar 07, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Corso: Watching from the counter [Berkeley]

When I dine alone, I love to sit at the counter and watch the chefs. Last night I had a wonderful meal at Corso: marinated olives (served warm, a nice surprise), a whole grilled branzino, and fried Yukon potato coins with garlic and sea salt. The skin of the branzino was crispy and charred, the inside mild and moist, and it married perfectly with the potatoes. Oh yeah. I finished with the panna cotta. Yum.

But the fun part of the meal was watching the two chefs and the sous chef preparing the dinners. The butter roasted chicken seemed to be a favorite. Chef would put an outrageous amount of butter in a small pan, and leave it on the rage until it had a serious crust, then turn it over and throw it in the oven. Pasta dishes would begin with the chef taking a small portion of pasta, carefully unraveling it, and putting it in a pot of boiling water. About the same time, he would put the sugo on the stove and cook over a high fire. Finally, after tasting the pasta to make sure it was right, he would add he pasta to the sugo and toss the ingredients together.

What really impressed me was the way the chefs tasted everything before plating it. I suppose this is standard practice, but it still surprised me.

Mar 07, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Eat + Lounge (Berkeley)

I just never got what they were trying to do. Seemed like a cocktail lounge with a small, unfocused menu. I live a block away and looked at the menu several times, but never saw any reason to go there when Paisan is right next door.

Mar 03, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

A Bagels Inc. [Berkeley]

It appears that a new restaurant is moving into the space at Dwight and San Pablo, former home to Bacheeso's. The new place has the curious name, A Bagels Inc.

Anybody know what it is/will be?

Feb 11, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Agave Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar – Oaxacan Cooking Emerging in Healdsburg

What I always long for when I remember the food in Oaxaca is chiles rellenos that are not battered or deep fried. They simply stuff a pasilla pepper with cheese and other stuff, heat it, and serve with tomato sauce. So much better than the deep fried version. Does Agave do that?

Other suggestions where one can get this sort of chile rellenos?

Feb 05, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Anyone know a great East Bay Burger joint?

I had the basic burger at Hopscotch recently (not the one with tongue on top) and it was fantastic. Somebody mentioned the Burger Depot at the foot of Solano, which I also like for some reason, though it's just a char grilled frozen patty. People have mentioned problems with buns. I agree that the bun at Cafe Rouge is too dense. A hamburger bun should be soft. Pearl's in Alameda has surprisingly good burgers for a chain place, and they make a 1/4 pound version, which I appreciate. (Sorry, I don't need a half-pound of meat.) Can't Fail Cafe does a pretty good burger too.

Jan 25, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Where to buy a Blue Star Range

As others have said, you don't get deals on any of the high-end ranges.

It's my impression that the manufacturer provides the service. I just bought a Viking from Airport Appliance. I called the salesperson to tell her the oven wasn't holding temperature, and she said I would get a call from Viking. When the call didn't come, I went online and called Viking headquarters in Mississippi. Woman there directed me to the local distributor in Hayward. I left a message there expressing my frustration. Woman called back within three minutes and told me I would be getting a call from their local repair service. She also told me that if an Airport Appliances repair person called I should tell them not to come. Repair person contacted by Viking showed up the next day and fixed the oven.

It's scary going online to research high-end ranges, because it doesn't seem to matter which one you check out: there are horror stories everywhere. I really liked Blue Star, but went with Viking mostly because they were offering a rebate.

Jan 21, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Picante in Berkeley

Wife and I went there last night, and we felt it had lost a step. We've eaten there many times over the years. I tend to order the Sopa Azteca and my wife almost always orders the carne asada tacos. Last night she felt that the tacos were bland. She remembers them coming with chunks of chile and a nice spicy sauce, but these had no chile and almost no discernible spicing. She also remembers the carne asada as chunks of beef, while last night it was kind of ground up.

My Sopa Azteca was decent with lots of chicken and a nice broth, but it seems to me they've really cut down on the spicing over the past couple of years. It just doesn't have the kick it used to.

I'm wondering if they've cut down on the spicing to cater to customers who freak out at the smallest hint of heat.

Jan 08, 2013
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Caffe Sport? [SF]

Funny you should mention the Cafe Sport. I was just wondering the same thing. Their reputation in the old days was that the portions were huge--enough for two people--but that they required that everyone in the party order an entree. This always kept me from trying it for dinner, though in the seventies I would go there late for drinks.

Dec 14, 2012
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area

Kids at Nizza la Bella? [Albany]

Your under-4 kids like mussels?

That's impressive. I love them but can't even get my wife to touch them.

Dec 10, 2012
TopoTail in San Francisco Bay Area