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Redwood City and surrounds

You ordered the wrong items. I've also tried some of those, and had the same experience as you.

At Dontao Enoteca, I have found these to be consistent winners: This stuff is also a very good value:

- pesto / salame pizza: $13.

- focaccia di manzo (steak sandwich) : only available at lunch. $10.

- piadina emiliana: very simple, but fantastic, made-to-order flatbread with mozzarella and tomatoes: only available at lunch. $8.

- bigoli pasta with oxtail: $17.

- grilled prawn salad: $11. only available during lunch.

- grilled calamari appetizer: $10, or $5 during happy hour 3-6 PM.

- clams/mussels in garlic/wine sauce appetizer: only available during dinner. $10, or $5 during happy hour 3-6 PM.

- straight shots of espresso. They rotate among about 5 beans from a supplier in Verona. The single-origin bean from Timor is a god shot. The bean from India is terrible; the others are excellent, and far better than anything else I can get on the peninsula. Their extraction is perfect.

Feb 21, 2015
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Roti canai / roti prata SFBA Dish of the Month January 2015

I had the roti prata at INDO in Palo Alto:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

Excellent, and super addictive. Very thick/stretchy. Lightly crispy on the outside, and chewy on the inside. The Curry sauce was great. It's also consistent: I've visited maybe 8 times. It's my favorite version of roti in the South Bay; I've also tried roti at Shiok, Rangoon Ruby, Layang Layang, Banana Leaf, and Merlion.

Jan 15, 2015
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Favorite Ice Cream 2014

I tried McConnell's Turkish Coffee ice cream. I picked it up at Andronico's:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

I don't recommend it. I found the coffee flavor to be lack-luster, a little weak, and slightly metallic: Nothing about it reminded me of Turkish Coffee. The coffee grounds didn't do much for me: not quite enough texture to matter.

Jan 10, 2015
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Foie Gras Is Legal in California Again!

Martins West in Redwood City will have Foie Gras on the menu tonight. See their Facebook page for details.

Jan 07, 2015
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Dungeness Crab Prices 2014/2015 Season

Today, the post-holiday price is $10/pound at Lion Supermarket in Milpitas.

Jan 04, 2015
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

patisseries in Bay Area (SF and East Bay) that sell caneles

For many canele recipes like this one, lining the molds with food-grade beeswax is often recommended. In the Bay Area, it's available at the "Small Bees" honey stand, which appears at various farmer's markets.

Jan 03, 2015
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

patisseries in Bay Area (SF and East Bay) that sell caneles

Did you use real copper molds (they run about $25 for a *single* canele mold), or the cheaper silicon molds? Which brand?

Jan 03, 2015
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

patisseries in Bay Area (SF and East Bay) that sell caneles

One comment/caption says "Not on the menu - just Chef gifts out."

Jan 03, 2015
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Dungeness Crab Prices 2014/2015 Season

I got lazy and bought a pre-cooked whole crab at Safeway for $6/pound. Big mistake. The body was OK, but some legs had a whiff of ammonia.

Dec 12, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Truffle Dinners 2014

I ultimately decided to try a truffle dish at Donato Enoteca in Redwood city: the Tajerin in butter sauce with 3 grams of truffles, for $40:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

The truffles were shaved in the kitchen, not at the table. The truffles were also shaved super-thin. Unfortunately, I didn't get much aroma, and the butter sauce overwhelmed the dish. Not recommended. A total let-down, actually.

Then, Urbani had a Black Friday discount, so I decided to order one ounce of tuber magnatum pico at $117 per ounce. I receive two small truffles:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

I weighed them on a precision jewelry scale, and they came out to 24.60 grams, which was annoying: a little more than 3 grams short of an ounce, which was just small enough not to make it worth trying to get a refund/exchange.

Anyway, I made several pasta dishes, like this one with thin pasta with a mild butter/garlic/sage sauce:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

The truffle aroma was subtle; it didn't have the huge impact I was expecting, but it was better than the version at Donato.

Pennsylvania Dutch Egg Nog

I got the Pennsylvania Dutch Eggnog last year, and I agree with tre2012: "Harsh cheap liquor and way oversweetened".

So this year I picked up some Advocaat Liqueur at Beltramo's in Menlo Park. It's the Dutch version of eggnog liqueur. It's sort of like eggnog, but bitter, and tastes like it would be used mostly as a mixer. The New York Times has a recipe for a snowball:

http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/10...

which is Advocaat with 7-up. It is quite tasty and refreshing: like a lime version of an orange creamsicle.

Nov 30, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Truffle Dinners 2014

Was that real foie gras, or the monkfish liver ("foie gras of the sea")?

What was the price? Or was it somehow "given away for free"?

Nov 29, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Restaurants Open on Thanksgiving?

OpenTable has a fairly comprehensive list of upscale restaurants open on Thanksgiving.

Nov 25, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Zola in Palo Alto

Until the new Blue Bottle place opens in the Varsity Theater, I have been getting my Blue Bottle espresso fix at Red Berry Coffee Bar in Los Altos; they just recently got permission to serve Blue Bottle espresso. Red Berry rotates through beans from different roasters, so they only have Blue Bottle beans maybe once or twice a week. Their extraction is consistently excellent.

Zola opened in the former location of Roast Shop, which was a very short-lived kosher deli.

When Monique's went out of business, another chocolatier moved in: Timothy Adams chocolates.

Nov 18, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Truffle Dinners 2014

I was at Donato Enoteca in Redwood City today and noticed they have a special truffle menu:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

Each item contains 3 grams of truffles. I declined; a bit steep for me.

In the South Bay, Alexander's Steakhouse offers truffle shaving upgrades for some dishes, but I haven't sampled.

Nov 15, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

New Alexander's patisserie venture, downtown Mountain View

I stopped by Alexander's Patisserie today in Mountain View.

The big news: I found the espresso to be fantastic. They use their own custom blend, called the "Toro" (keeping with the steakhouse theme), which they get from Equator Coffees & Teas. Unlike 3rd wave coffee, which is mostly super sour / citrusy, the Toro blend is richer, with a nice balance of nutty/bitter/sour, plus great body. They have a seasoned barista who knows how to calibrate their espresso machine; great extraction, super crema. Their espresso is my second favorite, after Donato Enoteca in Redwood City, which uses a roaster in Italy.

They had several tarts available: lemon, vanilla, chocolate, and maybe another one. The chocolate tart is OK:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

They use Valrhona chocolate. The bottom part is a dense chocolate ganache, and the top part is chocolate mousse. The chocolate has a citrus flavor note, which is not my favorite. Also, the crust is not savory enough: it's hard and not so flavorful.

The lemon tart has silver leaf: That's the first time I've seen anything but gold leaf on pastries:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

I also tried a butter croissant, hot out of the oven:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

It's excellent. Based on my croissant review: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9620...

I would put it tied with Satura cakes at 4.8/5. It has a very dense (almost too dense), moist, pull-apart interior, with fantastic butter flavor, without being greasy. The outer shell could be just a tad crispier, and maybe less "mealy", but it's still great. $3.50 for a larger-than-typical size.

I do not recommend the macarons ($2 each); I tried a chocolate and vanilla. The interior is super-dense, almost like a dense truffle, or a fudge brownie; the almond meal cookie part is very thin, and almost an afterthought. It doesn't have any of the "starchy chew" that I crave in a macaron; I prefer the ones at Pamplemousse in Redwood City.

They are having "inventory difficulties". In the morning, they only had tarts and macarons available. Then they ran out of tarts before noon. They put out their croissants shortly after noon. They are not yet organized enough to be able to tell you when things will be available throughout the day.

Oct 17, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

What are your thoughts on the city's coffee offerings?

B2 Coffee in San Jose (San Pedro Square Market) has Verve cold-brewed coffee served from a keg, with a nitro tap. I think they brew it each night. I thought it was OK.

Oct 06, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Any place one can buy Kouign Amann in SF?

Pamplemousse Patisserie in Redwood City has started offering Kouign-amann every so often (not every day).

It's very respectable: good buttery flavor, nicely layered, while being lighter and less dense than others:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

However, it's missing the caramelized goo that's so addictive; I would say it's better than Starter Bakery, but not as good as Satura Cakes. Not worth a trip.

Oct 01, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Cronuts?

I stopped by Jack In the Box and grabbed 3 cronuts for $2.19:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

They are fried to order, but I found them to be meh. They're really small, and don't have the benefits of either a good donut or a good croissant. You can hardly tell they are layered. Not recommended.

Sep 16, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Favorite Ice Cream 2014

More alcoholic ice cream data points:

- SP2 Communal Bar in San Jose has a root beer float on the dessert menu (using Treatbot ice cream). For $8 extra you can get a shot of Gosling's Dark Rum. Never tried it, because ... that is crazy expensive.

- District Restaurant in Oakland has a Guinness ice cream float, but it's totally lame; It's just Guinness and ice cream.

- Some Pizzeria Delfina locations offer an affogato using their house-made gelato, and for an extra $6 you can get a version "Corrected with Amaro Cio Ciaro," which is a bittersweet herbal liqueur. I may actually try that some time.

I've seen a few other embellished affogatos:

- Tin Cup in Palo Alto sprinkles dried orange peel on top

- Red Berry sprinkles chopped nuts on top (using soft serve, which is non-optimal IMO).

Jul 27, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Favorite Ice Cream 2014

A few ice cream data points:

- There are two items I find to be outstanding at The Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley. Almost worth a trip for these:

1. The wild cherry phosphate, with a scoop of crème fraîche ice cream:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

2. The Dublin Honey float, which has Guinness, honey ice cream, chocolate syrup, and a float of port wine:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

- I recommend the Shakin' Jesse at Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe in Oakland or Emeryville. It's a shake made with vanilla ice cream, espresso, and Guinness. Very addictive.

- Donato Enoteca in Redwood City had a cherry semifreddo, so obviously I had to try it:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

It was only available for one day as a special dessert. It was OK; I'd be interested if other folks have found crave-worthy semifreddo.

- A new Asian-fusion restaurant opened in Palo Alto: Mandarin Roots. On the dessert menu is a Hong Kong eggette waffle, with coffee ice cream made with Philz "So Good" blend of Coffee:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

The ice cream is less sweet, and tastes exactly the same as the coffee.

- I've tried a bunch of Humphry Slocombe flavors; the only one that wowed me was toasted pine nuts / rosemary.

- I think Humphry Slocombe vanilla is the best for an affogato; the espresso comes in contact with the dry / icy texture of the ice cream, and freezes, forming a crispy espresso coating. I get them at Bitter+Sweet in Cupertino. It's even better than it looks:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

- At Scoop Microcreamery in Palo Alto, they have a really good / addictive Biscoff-n-cream flavor. The flavor is better than the speculoos flavored products at Trader Joe's.

- For those interested in Strauss organic soft serve, Red Berry Coffee Bar in Los Altos just started serving vanilla and chocolate, Fri/Sat/Sun only. It's OK; not worth a trip, but worth trying if you happen to be there.

- Yoogle in Mountain View is a froyo place. Normally, I'm not enamored by froyo. But their oatmeal cookie flavored froyo is super good. They also serve the more mainstream flavors of Lush gelato.

- The Lavazza Espression cafe in Santana Row has "espesso," which is a creation of molecular gastronomy that the menu describes as "Ferran Adrià's coffee that you eat." It's a mousse / gelato / jello substance. Worth tyring once.

- A visit to Chabot Science center is not complete without stocking up on astronaut ice cream (it's actually cheaper on Amazon).

Palo Alto/Menlo Park rant

"Ground Up," the coffee stand in the AOL building, has closed.

Jun 25, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Some new things in downtown San Jose

I stopped by Arepa Swing today. They are located in the San Pedro Square Market, in the second building next to TreatBot. They had their grand opening last week. Sadly, I don't recommend the arepas.

I got an Arepa with Cuajada cheese. $5: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...
The cheese is very good: like ricotta cheese, but way better. However, the arepa itself was meh. It's similar in style to the arepas served at Coupa Cafe in Palo alto, but not half as good. The edges of the arepa were nicely crispy, but the rest of the arepa was dense and almost under-cooked.

Unlike Coupa Cafe, where you wait 15 minutes for them to make an arepa to order, Arepa swing serves up an order in about 1 minute, because the arepas are cooked beforehand and stored under a heat lamp: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

Jun 14, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Steakout, unusual grass-fed hamburgers, downtown Mountain View

I tried the Spätzle at Bierhaus: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

Lightly pan-fried, with just enough Gruyère to keep it together. The ham flavor permeates the dish. It was crazy good, and significantly better than the Spätzle I had at Stein's for Oktoberfest last year.

Posole - SFBA Dish of the Month April 2014

Whole Foods in Los Altos had a butternut squash posole as part of their hot soup selection. Unfortunately It's meh.

May 27, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Arancini @ Pizzeria Delfina (Pacific Heights, SF)

The nice thing about Pizzeria Delfina is that they update the menu on their website (at least the Palo Alto location) each morning to show the specials offered for that day. That's how I find out whether the Carbonara pizza is available. Which I recommend:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

May 20, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Acme Bread's Asparagus Focaccia - limited edition [San Francisco]

The Acme asparagus focaccia is only available at the Ferry Building; it's not available at Acme's Berkeley location, or at other retailers / Farmer's Markets.

May 18, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Doppio Zero in Mountain View

Also: here is the bottom char of the Doppio Zero pizza:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

Which is OK, but not as good as the char at Pizzeria Delfina.

May 06, 2014
ssfire in San Francisco Bay Area

Doppio Zero in Mountain View

I stopped by Doppio Zero, the Neapolitan pizzeria in Mountain View. They've been open almost 3 months.

I really like the pizza; I ordered the Diavola: spicy sausage, basil, mozzarella:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

It has a soft but springy chew. In terms of stiffness, I can't quite pick up a slice with one hand; It's between Napoletana Pizzeria in Mountain View (very wet) and Terún on Cal Ave (stiffer), and maybe a bit thinner/softer than Pizzeria Delfina in Palo Alto.

They prevent the center from getting soggy by letting the mozzarella dry out a little before adding it. The mozzarella is made in-house. After another month, they will bring over the inspectors to do the VPN certification, a 3-day process.

Manresa Bread Project - selling their bread at Campbell Farmers' Market Sundays 9-1

I stopped by the California Avenue Farmers' Market on Sunday in Palo Alto to pick up a few items.

At 9 AM, the line was about 20 minutes long.

Here's the start of the Flickr stream:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/...

In summary: I might revisit the brioche loaf and herb epi, but everything else was just OK, and the chocolate brioche was a disappointment.

The potato and gruyere focaccia is OK ($6). The flavor of the topping part is OK, but could be either bolder, or more "baked in" to the bread. The focaccia is thicker than normal, and the bread is "springy," but overall, there is nothing very impressive about it; it sort of falls flat for me. I prefer the focaccia from La Biscotteria in Redwood City (very unique texture, bold flavor), or Liguria in San Francisco.

The chocolate brioche is a disappointment ($4). It's like a lighter version of a chocolate-chocolate chip muffin; the bread itself has chocolate cocoa, plus there are small globs of chocolate embedded inside. Good balance of bread and globs, with just the right amount of sweetness, and OK chocolate flavor. As mentioned, the crystalized sugar sprinkled on the top is a nice bonus. But, the "brioche" part doesn't register: I don't get the hit of butter or eggs that I expect from a brioche. It's OK, but not addictively good. It's not as good as it looks.

The brioche loaf ($8) is very good. The flavor comes through with a bolder than normal hit of eggs/butter, plus a nice touch of sour yeast fermentation. Texture-wise, it's a tad drier than I prefer.

The small whole wheat sourdough ($10) is very good. It has an addictive spongy/springy crumb. The sour flavor is stronger than average. The main innovation is the whole-wheat nature. However, it's not much better than the (non-whole-wheat) sourdough sold at Le Boulanger.

The cherry buckwheat loaf has whole cherries embedded inside, and give the bread a very strong cherry flavor. It's more a "cherry pie" flavor than a "cherry jam" flavor. The buckwheat bread itself is a little dry/dense. It's OK, but seems more of a novelty.

The herb epi has great flavor, and is potentially addictive. Warming it up in a convection oven is essential.

The Bostock was meh. Dry and lacking in flavor. It's a dense, dry pastry with a layer of raspberry, topped with sliced almonds.