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2014 Top Ten Tastes

My list this year leans heavily towards Asian comfort food -

Egg braised tofu (Ark Restaurant, Alameda) - rounds of silken tofu in an egg batter, lightly fried, in a brothy-sauce with mushrooms, it might be the healthiest thing I crave regularly.

Noodles with crispy pork and salty beef (Guilin Noodles, Oakland)- I've tried a couple of different noodles from this place, but always go back to this one.

Tianjin crepe (Tianjin Dumplings, Oakland)- ultra-addictive combination of savory/sweet/heat/crunch. I'm trying to eat healthier right now, but for a while, I was eating one of these every week.

Dried radish pancake (Dragon's Gate, Oakland)- this fluffy, pickled radish spiked omelet woke up some latent gustatory memory of mine - have to give thanks to Luke Tsai of the East Bay Express for reporting on this dish (and for his stellar work all year).

Kimchi pancake (88 Sports Bar, Alameda) - I think 88 Sports Bar is the only place I've been that serves the kimchee pancake still sizzling in on a hot stone - they're able to get a more substantial crust and deeper browning than anyone else.

Yonsei oyster (Hopscotch, Oakland)- while I've enjoyed some very good meals this year, nothing I've had at any high end restaurant has stayed with me with way Hopscotch's oyster with sea urchin, salmon roe and citrus soy has.

Burger (Fleming's Walnut Creek) - yeah, I'm putting a chain restaurant burger in there. It's a damn good burger (chopped rib eye, substantial toasted brioche bun), and when they run all-night happy hour specials it's $6. While we're at it, I'm going to put their Prime Rib special on the my list - usually $40 on Sundays, they had it for $30 every day for the month of August. Excellent prime rib (I prefer it to HOPR), and comes with a substantial salad, side, and dessert, all good. HOPR is superior for bread (the sourdough and the popover) but for everything else Fleming's wins. (note: we've eaten at the Walnut Creek branch many times and it's been consistently good - met family for dinner at the Palo Alto branch once and found overall execution inferior).

Pizza "La Provencale" (Nizza La Bella, Albany) - we ask for it without anchovies, olives or capers, but with red sauce and blue cheese, in order to approximate the pizza style we enjoyed in Southern France last year. Hats off to the Nizza folks for being so accommodating.

Jasper Hill Winnimere - I purchased half a wheel to bring a party, but couldn't wait to have just a little taste... needless to say, it never made it to the party.

Away: apple cider, cider donuts at Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Vermont. Pizza with fonduta, morels, potato at Stoneburner in Seattle. Cherry galette from Bakery Nouveau in Seattle.

2014 Top Ten Tastes

Time to reflect back on 2014 - what were your top 10 new (to you) local tastes of the year? (As always, drinks qualify, and memorable tastes encountered on travels can be listed at the end)

Last year's list, with links all the way back to 2003 as compiled by hyperbowler:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9283...

Looking for an Oakland Italian restaurant for a kid's bday

Centouno? I can't find a working website with an up to date menu but the menu on Yelp shows all three.

I haven't been but remember seeing some good reviews on Chowhound.

Classic Guilin Rice Noodles - Oakland Chinatown

Mine had fairly generous chunks of liver and what I thought was kidney (I ordered the beef and pork mix).

Rich Table -- An Embarrassment of Riches [SF]

I didn't realize until the pastas arrived that 3 of 4 were cream-based, which made them a little difficult to distinguish from each other. I think they could have benefited from heated serving and share plates - I took a bit of each pasta, and by the time I ate them they had all cooled.

Both the sardine chips and the beignets were better than I remembered. Trotter was terrific - not a cute little trotter cake like you usually get, but slabs of skin-on trotter, dotted with tiny dice of pickled Asian pear.

We also enjoyed the pretzel sundae with persimmon and tarragon, which everyone enjoyed.

Peony in Oakland chinatown... for dinner banquet?

I had a very good dinner here a few months ago - had some dishes I've never seen before. I didn't post because the host was well known to the staff and I didn't know if our experience was representative, but he did say the menu was one of the pre-set banquet menus and not a custom one.

I took some rough notes and remember liking everything, but especially the bitter melon with tofu.
- chicken and mushroom in broth
- Peking duck
- lamb chops
- geoduck with scallops, garlic and cellophane noodles piled on top
- winter melon with rounds of silken tofu in the middle (like some sort of big veggie bone marrow), pea shoots
- soy sauce chicken
- curry fried rice

Restaurants with great local cheese plates near Stowe/Waterbury??

Thanks to everyone for your recs - I ended up having too much cheese for 2 days and wasn't able to order additional cheese boards at restaurants, but will hang on to this thread for my next visit.

Trip report: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/993483

Blech, I hate this Q&A format. Doesn't make it easy to thank people for taking the time to answer.

Oct 26, 2014
daveena in Northern New England

Vermont Trip Report (Stowe/Waterbury/Morrisville) - Oct 2014

We had a short trip (2+ days) and wanted to taste as much local beer/cheese/spirits as possible. We'd also hoped to visit a meadery, but neither Groenfell nor Artesano were open on the days we were there.

Tastings:
Cabot Annex (Waterbury) - we stopped in here our first night planning to pick up some cheddar for snacking - I was surprised by the deep selection of local cheese. Before this trip, I was only familiar with Vermont Butter and Creamery, and Jasper Hill, both of which are very expensive in California, so I went a little overboard in my selections on the first day. Later, I realized that I'd failed to pick up any chalkier goat cheeses (my husband doesn't love creamy cheeses) - I'd passed on VB&C's Coupole and Bijou since I've had them before, and I'd wanted to try ones I hadn't had before. By this point, we already had more cheese than we'd be able to finish in two days - in retrospect, I should have planned for meals at restaurants with good local cheese plates, and sampled more cheeses that way. I did post the question to this board and got some great recommendations (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9927...). Next time!
Note: the only cheeses being sampled here were Cabot cheddars - I didn't ask for tastes of any of the cheeses I purchased.

Prohibition Pig (Waterbury) was one of the recs we received for restaurants with local cheese plates. While I ended passing on the cheese (had 2 of the 3 already), it was a great place to try out lots of local beers. I was glad to have the chance to try Alchemist's Heady Topper, but... I swear, I'm not the kind of person who goes to a place and then says stuff back home is better. I'm really not. But I was not impressed. It was nice and drinkable, but I have a strong preference for the Pliny the Elder on tap at my neighborhood bar. The food was very good - actually, their burger is outstanding. The meat was unbelievably delicious. All the veggie sides I tried were terrific (blackened green beans, collard greens, brussel sprouts). Great pickle platter (watch out for the pickled chilis that look like carrots or green beans though). Their Crisphead (wedge) salad was a little light on the Bayley Hazen blue (that stuff's expensive though, I was surprised they'd even feature it), mac and cheese was good, brisket was good, fries were good although less duck-y tasting than I'd expect for duck fat fries. Excellent, friendly service. We loved this place and ate here twice in two days.

Rock Art Brewery (Morrisville) has a fun 8 beer tasting for a little over $8 - they probably have the most diverse selection of styles I've ever seen from a single brewery. There were a lot of locals coming in to fill growlers of the recently released Galaxy IPA. My favorite was their 2013 Pumpkin Imperial Spruce Stout, which they've renamed Imperial Spruce Stout for 2014 due to the confusion caused by the presence of "Pumpkin" in the old name. There are no sweet pumpkin spices at all - I wouldn't ever have identified pumpkin if someone hadn't told me. It was super mellow and had interesting depth and roundness.

Caledonia Spirits (Hardwick) - highly, highly recommended. A friend of mine had recommended their gin, so I looked them up and was pleased to find that they were located near where we were staying. Small distillery with tasting room, best smelling distillery I've ever been in due to all the honey and beeswax - all of their spirits are made with honey. The (free) tasting includes their vodka, gin, and barrel aged gin, as well as an elderberry cordial.

Grand View Winery (Waterbury) - fun, inexpensive ($2) tasting, and convenient since it's right next to Cold Hollow Cider Mill, which pretty much everyone goes to. Unfortunately, they're closing this year, so they've completely sold out of cider. We sampled their fruit wines and brought home a bottle of cranberry wine for Thanksgiving.

Tours - we enjoyed both the Ben and Jerry tour, and the Cabot tour. I expected the focus on social responsibility from the Ben and Jerry tour, and was pleasantly surprised that Cabot has a similar focus as well.

Other:
Cold Hollow Cider Mill (Waterbury) - my first time having cider donuts, and I loved them. They're even good cold, but the hot ones are remarkably light, tender and greaseless. We went here every day for fresh donuts. We also bought a lot of gifts for people here, it's a pretty good one-stop shopping spot for all sorts of local products. One of the local tourist maps has a coupon - 6 free donuts with a $25 purchase. If you're going to buy gifts anyway, it's a great deal.

Michael's on the Hill (Waterbury) - we happened to be here during Restaurant Week - they had a fun restaurant week beer and bacon menu with both wine and beer pairings, so we both ordered the set menu and had both pairings. I didn't take great notes on the meal but remember portions were surprisingly large, and the wine pours were generous. Only real disappointment was that the beer pairing for the main dish - pork belly and pork loin - was Stella Artois. When there are so many interesting local brews, to pour Stella! The Rock Art Black Current Saison we tasted the next day would have been great with this. Service was a little off for a restaurant with a la carte prices rivaling those of NYC 4 stars - our server didn't seem very knowledgeable about the beers and wines he was pouring and seemed irritated when we asked questions.

Cape Cod Trip Report Oct 2014 (feat. lobster roll roundup)

We were in Dennisport for a wedding the weekend after Columbus Day, and learned quickly that most of the highly regarded lobster roll places were closed. After striking out at Moby Dick, PJs and Sesuit Harbor Cafe (at least by Sesuit Harbor I learned to check the website first), we opted to just eat lobster rolls everywhere we could find them.

Mac's Shack (Wellfleet) - the most expensive roll at $22, it seemed to be all tail meat, which I loved but was deemed "too chewy" by my husband. It had a touch more mayo than I'd prefer (full disclosure: I have a strong preference for hot buttered lobster rolls). Bread was chewier and more substantial than the standard hot dog roll, which I enjoyed. Raw oysters were great as expected, clam chowder somewhat broken (clots of protein precipitated out of broth) but good flavor. Lobster bisque was overly thickened with starch.

Stewart's (Eastham) - I think this one was around $18, generous amount of lobster, mostly crab and knuckle. Less mayo than Mac's Shack, texture was softer than I'd like and would make me suspect frozen lobster except I don't know if it makes economic sense to get frozen lobster in Cape Cod. Top split bun. My husband preferred this one to Mac's. Lobster bisque was thick like pudding and basically inedible. I learned my lesson re: lobster bisque in seafood shacks on this trip. Stewart's also has the honor of having what may be the worst specialty cocktail list I have ever seen. Butterscotch schnapps is heavily featured. One cocktail had both a coffee liquor and butterscotch schnapps. Another had pumpkin puree and whipped cream. We couldn't resist ordering the "English Breakfast" - gin shaken with marmalade, garnished with toast. To our disappointment, the toast came on the side, not impaled on the side of the glass. The marmalade was surprisingly insoluble and sat in a layer at the bottom of the glass. Even more surprising, the martini that was floated on top of that wretched layer of marmalade was quite good. We looked over at the bartender, a crusty old guy who was capably making martinis for a row of regulars sitting in front of him, and wondered what he thought of the specialty cocktail menu.

Kreme 'n Kone (Dennisport) - the fried clams were perfect, fresh and greaseless, and I thought the lobster roll was the best I had on this trip. At $14, it was smaller than the others but had a very high lobster to bread ratio. I actually ate half of the lobster with a fork before I could pick up the roll. Minimal mayo (they ask at time of ordering if you'd like addiitional mayo on the roll, which I declined) Meat was a claws and knuckle, firmer than Stewart's, and very flavorful.

Tedeschi (Dennisport) - we had to see what a $10 convenience store lobster roll was like. Verdict: good for a convenience store sandwich. Fairly generous amount of lobster, obviously not freshly cooked but tasted ok. Unfortunately, the roll had margarine on it, which killed the flavor for me. I'd rather have a dry stale piece of bread than one with margarine.

Bonus lobster roll: Our friend's wedding featured mini lobster rolls during cocktail hour. Bread to lobster ratio was too high, but it just seems ungrateful to complain about any sort of wedding lobster. The caterer was actually stellar - I would definitely recommend them. Am trying to find out who they were so I can post my rec.

Other:
Sundae School - we were lucky to get here on the last day of the season. We picked up pints of heavily discounted ice cream (ginger and coffee heath bar) from their end of season sale. Both were outstanding - super creamy, not too sweet, big chunks of mix ins.

Hole in One (Eastham) - we got here at the end of the business day, around 1:30, so there weren't any fresh out of the fryer. That said, I've eaten a lot of cold donuts in my life, and these were deeply disappointing. We tried a honey glaze and an apple cinnamon - both were dense, oily, and seemed staler than they should be for same day donuts.

Oct 26, 2014
daveena in Southern New England
1

Restaurants with great local cheese plates near Stowe/Waterbury??

I have a little over two days to get a crash course in Vermont cheese - stopped by the Cabot Annex in Waterbury and picked up Cremont from Vermont Butter and Cheese, La Petite Tomme from Lazy Lady, and Moses Sleeper plus Bayley Hazen from Jasper Hill. Am reading up on more cheeses and realizing there's so much more I want to try I should try to find restaurants with deep cheese selections.

So far, I've found Hen of the Wood in Waterbury. Anyplace else?

Oct 20, 2014
daveena in Northern New England

Impressing out-of-towners in the East Bay

Pizzaiolo,Camino,Hopscotch, Champa Garden, Taqueria Sinaloa

Ark Chinese Restaurant in Alameda

That braised egg tofu is fantastic. I just had it for the first time recently. Ge da soup was as good as I remembered, as was the zha jiang mian and spicy beef noodle soup. Every time I go I wonder why I don't go more often.

Dragon Gate - New Taiwanese Food Venue in Oakland

I had a really enjoyable meal here a few weeks ago - I'm pretty nominally Taiwanese and never thought I had particular cravings for Taiwanese food, but Dragon Gate satisfied cravings I didn't know I had. In particular, I keep thinking about the braised cubes of daikon in the beef noodle soup, (meltingly tender and saturated with spicy broth), and the dried radish pancake (a light, fluffy omelet studded with bits of pickled radish.)

We also really enjoyed the Taiwanese grilled sausages and oyster pancake (one of the better versions I've had, with crisped edges, fat fresh oysters, and a not too sweet, not too gloppy, slightly tomatoey-vinegary sauce). The three cup chicken flavor was great but our chicken pieces were very bony. Skewers were fine - we had chicken heart, gizzard, intestine, beef cheek and okra with bacon - I don't think I'd get them again.

Service was very brisk - next time I think we'll ask to have the dishes paced out a little more, since we got everything almost at once.

Musing in Fremont

Haven't been to all the good beer places in the Bay Area yet, can't say for sure :)

I just really appreciate how unpretentious the staff and patrons are at The Bistro. It's so far from anywhere most people would want to be that you get a no-bro, low-hipster quotient that can be very pleasant. I think I posted a few years back on my inaugural Pliny the Younger experience (my first time going to The Bistro) and just really loved that most of the patrons there were there to hear their friends during open mike night. No crazy lines or waits.

Musing in Fremont

Killer write up, thank you!

Chaat Bhavan is where we go when husband's craving chaat and I want a dinner thali. I've always found it satisfying but not stellar, will head back in with your recs next time.

I haven't had a dosa in the Bay Area that bests Saravana Bhavan's, would love to hear if you've found a good one.

For your beer needs - there may be something closer to Fremont, but if you haven't found one yet, The Bistro in Hayward is the most unpretentious, least douchebaggy good beer place I've been to in the Bay Area. Hayward also has an excellent, small wine shop called Doc's.

Favorite Ice Cream 2014

I think I've burned out on fancy artisanal ice creams. All I ever want these days is a hot fudge sundae from Tucker's (Alameda) with macapuno and toasted almond ice creams.

Fresh lo mein noodles in Oakland/Berkeley - where to buy?

Yuen Hop in Oakland Chinatown has an overwhelming selection of fresh noodles - more egg, less egg, no egg, various thicknessess - it makes it hard to remember which ones I love when I try to recreate dishes that worked, but I'm guessing if you go for one of the skinny "less egg" noodles would work.

Seattle/Gig Harbor Trip Report - July 2014

Had a brief trip for a wedding in Gig Harbor and added on a few days to see friends in Seattle - I didn't get much of a chance to research beforehand, but luckily the Seattle board had some great, active visitor threads going (hi greyelf!).

For a visitor from the Bay Area, I think it's worth it to seek out berries, rabbit, and morels, all of which are more plentiful, cheaper, and better in Washington. Breads, pastries and cheeses were great too, and fun to compare with hometown favorites.

Favorite dishes/foodstuffs are marked with asterisks (*)

Gig Harbor - since we were here for a wedding, our priority was convenience, not chowhounding, but we still did pretty well.
Susanne's bakery - *marionberry pie was excellent. Juicy flavorful berries, not too sweet, good buttery crust
Anthony's - I actually didn't realize this was a chain until I saw one at the airport. Best dishes were clam chowder, cedar planked Copper River salmon, and berry desserts. Best strategy was to choose the simplest sounding dishes, anything that seemed too ambitious fell flat (tuna tartare with avocado had weirdly sweet/sesame dressing, etc, one of the fish dishes had an odd berry compote that marred the otherwise well-cooked fish)
Devoted Kiss Cafe - serviceable for a high-calorie brunch the day of the wedding.
Gig harbor farmer's market - more crafty stuff than produce, but we did enjoy the Townsend Creamery stand and bought a small round of *Seastack (excellent, earthy, kind of melty kind of chalky veg ash coated cow cheese).

Seattle -
Local 360 - on my last trip to Seattle 2+ years ago, Local 360 was our runaway favorite. I went back for brunch - unfortunately, the chicken fried steak was tougher and thicker than I'd remembered, and I didn't love the vinegary gravy (my notes from last visit described it as more mushroomy). Biscuit was excellent. Cheesy grits were very good, and rabbit pot pie, while tasty, bordered on chowder in texture, with a lot of gravy and tiny bits of rabbit. Service was friendly and efficient (Yelp reviews seem to suggest the contrary).

*Stoneburner* - asterisking the whole damn thing. I loved this place. I wouldn't have known about it except for a few wildly positive one-liners on Chowhound - I'm really surprised it doesn't show up on more Best Of lists (I'd also glanced through a few other sites, including Eater 38). There's a (recently closed) restaurant in SF called Incanto that I loved - the chef described the cuisine as Italian, if California were a province of Italy, and I thought Stoneburner had the kind of food you'd see if Washington were a province of Italy.
* Black bucatini- garlic, bottarga, chili - I was crazy for this dish. Great texture, nice heat, great flavor.
* Ricotta cavatelli, chanterelle, parsley and fennel top pesto. Again, perfect pasta texture, great flavor
* Pizza with fonduta, potato, morels - ultra thin crisp crust, not usually my preferred type (I like a bit of flexibility and chew), but for this pizza - paper thin slices of potato, a generous scattering of morels, and melted cheese poured tabletop - it was perfect. Morels are crazy expensive in the Bay Area, and it blew my mind that you would find them at a mid-range restaurant.
Grilled turnips, fava bean and cilantro pasata, charred leek vinaigrette
Roast cauliflower, pistachio, calabrian chili oil, golden raisin agrodolce - both veg dishes were well executed and complemented our carby selections well
Honey semifreddo - refreshingly light, topped with shards of burnt sugar "honeycomb"

With tax and tip, it was $34 pp. To be fair, we weren't drinking much, but it was still an unbelievable deal.

Bakery Nouveau
*Cherry galette - one of the best tarts I've ever had. Perfect juicy glazed cherries, great crust.
Double baked chocolate and almond croissants - giant craggy burnished croissants filled with marzipan and/or chocolate, similar in style to Tartine's in SF, which I enjoy
Kringle - I brought a selection of pastries to a friend who's ethnically Danish, and she loved the kringle in particular

Dahlia Bakery
*Coconut Cream Pie bites - these were great. I don't even particularly care for coconut cream pie. Again, fantastic flaky pastry - I don't think I had a single bad crust the whole time I was here.
Strawberry eclair - Dahlia's goodies tend to run towards homey American with a streak of hippie - the presence of a vegan carrot almond oat cake would usually send me screaming the other way - but the eclair looked so good I had to try it. I was very impressed with the light, tender choux pastry.
Donuts fried to order - these little beignets were good (and came with little cups of vanilla cream and excellent cherry preserves) but I think dessert beignets have been so trendy in the Bay Area for the past few years I probably would not have ordered these if I had known they were beignets.

In Melrose Market:
Sitka and Spruce - I was only able to get here for lunch, and had a fairly simple dish of potato, morels and egg. It was good, but there were definitely dishes on the dinner menu that looked a lot more interesting to me.

Rain Shadow Meats
* rabbit and pork belly terrine - loved this

The Calf & Kid - I tried a number of local cheeses and loved the raw goat *Wonderland. Also enjoyed Willapa Hills Big Boy Blue, Iris Red (raw sheep), and Boont Corners Reserve (a California goat and sheep), but it was the Mountain Lodge Farm's Wonderland that stood out. I had to choose between the Macrina baguette sold at Calf and Kid, and the Columbus Bakery one sold at Sitka and Spruce, and went with the Macrina because the Columbus was too big for three of us to share. The Macrina loaf was a slightly sour, rustic type that I favor, and rounded out the little picnic I'd collected at Melrose Market.

Ny'ers 1st time itinerary. Feedback welcomed

Best dosa I've ever had were in NYC. There's a stretch of Lexington in the high 20's (Curry Hill) that's all kosher vegetarian Indian restaurants, mostly South Indian. Koreatown is a strip of W 32nd street. In general I prefer my Bay Area Korean, but I lived in Santa Clara and Oakland, not SF. Still, haven't found a sul long tong better than Gam Mee Oak's.

Robert Sietsema was my Jonathan Gold, and his Cheap Eats book was my bible when I lived in NYC. Chowhound also started there, so I'm very surprised these places don't show up in discussions more often. It may be that they've been there for so long that they've fallen off the radar.

Nontypical wedding food

We had Korean fried chicken and kimbap from Koreana Plaza, plus tacos from Taqueria Sinaloa (they have a fleet of trucks) for our cocktail hour. We actually had a full buffet (Rockridge Market Caterers) afterwards but you could add a few more items (banh cuon, cha gio - Tay Ho is very good, and caters), maybe a roast pig from Gum Kuo, and have a really great, Oakland-y reception.

Small, soft chocolates?

She can even have their caramels - those thin chocolate shells give way to just a little bit of pressure and are filled with nearly liquid caramel. No teeth required.

Nam Kao @ Castro Valley Bowl

Last night's bowling outing with my husband's family reminded me of this old thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/397029

Castro Valley Bowl's snack bar has the usual hot dog/fries/wings menu you'd expect, but it also has nam kao, chicken and beef larb, and angel wings.

We tried a couple of dishes - a better than average pad thai, a good fried rice, angel wings were a little underseasoned to my taste but I have to admire them for even offering them.

The nam kao was quite good - the strips of pork skin with thicker and coarser than most, so the flavor and texture were a little more prominent than in more refined versions. The ratio of crispy to non- was a little low - I think they're taking fried rice and frying it in a thin layer, rather than frying balls of rice, but it tasted good. Cilantro and mint on the herb plate, romaine to wrap, which actually worked in the context of bowling - it was less messy to scoop rice into romaine than it would have been to wrap with a softer lettuce.

It's not the best in its class for nam kao, but it has to be best in its class for bowling alley food. They apparently do a good business in takeout as well.

Chowdown at Padi in San Leandro

I was familiar with a number of the dishes, having gone through a period of ordering takeout from Padi almost weekly, so I focused on ones I hadn't had before.

Bubur Ayam Jakarta - it looked more broth-y than jook when it came out, but the jook part was buried underneath a mound of sliced Chinese donut and shrimp chips. The rice was maybe a bit more glutinous than Chinese jook - anyway, it stayed mounded in a small pool of very good chicken broth, while still being creamy, without any individual remaining granules.

Laksa Melayu - like ...tm..., I found it a little lacking in pungency for my taste, but it was pleasant.

Sayur Nangka - I've had other curries from Padi, but not the jackfruit - while the sauce is the same (and it's very good), we all marveled at the texture and form of the jackfruit, which was remarkably similar to artichoke heart.

black rice with coconut cream - this was a gift from the chef, and it was delicious - the rice was creamy but still retained some bite.

Brief notes on the remaining dishes:
Pempek palembang - this comes with a bit of thick wheat noodle, chopped cucumber, and a soy based sauce on the side. I would enjoy this dish on its own as a meal in itself, but it's not ideal for sharing.

Tumis Buncis - everyone loved the tempeh - I think the only time I've ever enjoyed tempeh is in Indonesian food. It was nutty and flavorful, and the beans were good as well.

Ayam Penyet - I love the sambal here - actually, they have three different house made sambals that they use for different dishes. When you order takeout, they pack a little container of it, and I love using the leftovers with scrambled eggs, rice, etc.

My one regret is that I didn't think to order Ayam Kalasan ahead of time - it is very labor intensive and involves frying chicken, then marinating it in coconut milk, then frying it before serving, so they need 1 or 2 days advance notice. I haven't had it here, and have been wanting to try it.

Thanks again to Melanie for organizing!

Best pizza in the East Bay

Personal faves:

Emilia's for hybrid New York/Neopolitan
Pizzaiolo/Boot&Shoe for Californian

I also really enjoy East End, A16, and Nizza la Bella. We've been looking for a place that will replicate the style prevalent in southern France (thick layer of 4 cheeses, often gruyere/mozzerella/roquefort/parm, with sauce) and haven't quite found it, although Nizza la Bella came closest after we asked them to add some blue and sauce to their Bianca con Formaggio i Funghi (ricotta, mozz, gruyere, parm). East End was less accommodating - their Mousetrap (fontina, mozz, provolone, blue) hit the flavor pretty closely, but they weren't willing to double the amount, per my husband's request.

I had Slicer for the first time this week and thought they got the NYC street slice flavor down, but the crust was super tough. One of our friends who'd had it before thought it was anomalous batch.

88 Sports Bar and Korean Grill (Alameda)

This bar used to be Scobies - they apparently had some Korean menu items on the menu for years, after the current owners bought it, but they expanded the menu and renamed the bar back in October.

The menu is pretty wide ranging, with lots of sojubang standards (dukbokki, fried chicken, samgyeopsal), a lot of different soups, soondubu jigae, plus the usual "non-specialized" Korean restaurant standards (bulgogi, bibimbap, etc).

Since it's a bar, sojubang seemed the way to go, so we ordered their house spicy chicken wings and a mixed dukbokki. Chicken wings were good, with a thin, spicy soy glaze. They also have a more classic Korean version with a gochujang glaze we haven't tried yet. I really liked the mixed dukbokki (rice cakes, eggs, fish cake, dumplings, sweet potato noodles) - it had a thinner, less sweet, less pasty sauce than the version at Da Sung Sa. Dukbokki texture was perfectly tender and chewy, and I strongly preferred the slippery clear sweet potato noodles to the ramen noodles at Da Sung Sa. I don't love a thick coat of gochujang on everything, so this version was more to my taste. I will say, though, that the 88 Sports Bar version is a few dollars more and has a lot less "stuff" (dumplings, etc) than Da Sung Sa.

Minimal panchan, and it was just ok, but I don't expect panchan at a sojubang anyway.

The Yelp reviews aren't very good (a fair number of them give poor ratings because of cost, which is more expensive than Oakland Korean restaurants, or because of failure to honor Restaurant.com and other coupons), but it looks like everyone who's had the dukbokki thought it was good.

I plan to sample off some other parts of the menu next time, but I can't imagine they can execute every item on the menu well - I can't think of another Korean restaurant with as broad of a menu, and they do some "Western" stuff as well.

Souk Savanh Restaurant, lao and thai cuisine [Oakland]

Had takeout from them this week and was impressed. Mok pa was great, very light texture, flavor dominated by dill (I think other places go heavier on lemongrass/kefir lime)

Good nam kao, although the only herb included was mint.

Papaya salad was intensely salty/funky/spicy - we definitely missed the rice that we'd ordered but that didn't make it into our takeout bag. There were no visible chilis but it was crazy spicy (I don't know how many chilis we ordered, I think my husband just asked for it hot).

Kow Soy Boran (hofun noodles, homemade soybean paste, ground pork, cilantro, onion, bean sprouts, cabbage, chicken broth) was soothing and satisfying, with a gentle funkiness from the soybean paste.

Sticky Rice Cafe: Laotian, Thai (Oaktown)

We used to go there regularly when it was Black and Silver - for some reason we started going less after it became Souk Savanh. I think we had a good meal there but we really loved the male chef who did all the crazy Raiders murals for Black and Silver, and he had to leave to take over a family business in another state. Then we found Sticky Rice, which is on a marginally less sketchy block - we tend to go for dinner, so we appreciated that there was at least a bar next door and some foot traffic on that block other than sex workers. Although, I'm thinking it may be time to go back to Souk Savanh - thanks for the reminder!

Chat Patta Corner and Dana Bazar, Fremont - Fresh Pani Puri

Chat Patta Corner is still going strong. We drive to Fremont to eat there a few times a month, usually to the Ardenwood location so we can sit. My favorite is the tikki chole - we tend to go for dinner, and while I crave the sweet/sour/spicy//yogurty flavor combo, I also want something hot, so a piping hot spiced mashed potato patty topped with spiced chickpeas, topped with sauces and yogurt does the trick. We'll also usually get one or two of the cold chaats (honestly, we have a hard time keeping them straight, so we order semi-randomly and have yet to be disappointed), and either a paratha or one of their simple thalis.

I'm more likely to order pani puri at the Dana Bazaar location - partly because I'm more likely to be looking for a snack than a meal, and partly because the mob of folks waiting for pani puri at Ardenwood can be a little too much when I just want dinner.

Hopscotch (Oakland)

Had a really good meal here the other night.

The starters we had were refined and would not have been out of place at Benu. The Yonsei oysters (with sea urchin, salmon roe, and citrus soy) were a perfect sweet briny bite, and the risotto with asparagus, red wine and quail egg was everything I look for in a risotto (deep umami punch, slightly loose texture, perfect chewiness).

The mains were more rustic but satisfying in their own way. I loved the quail stuffed with rice, a new dish they were testing out that night. The First Base Burger was very good but I found it a little overpowered by the pickled onions. Fried chicken was excellent.

Dessert was donuts with butterscotch custard - the donuts themselves are good but not particularly notable. The custard was great, with a deep burnt caramel flavor. I'd eat a tub of it straight.

With all the other newer, hotter places opening in the last few months, it seems much easier to make same day reservations now. While it's not a cheap meal (we averaged $50 pp with one cocktail each, after tax and tip) it's a really good value.

Sticky Rice Cafe: Laotian, Thai (Oaktown)

Recent disappointing meal. Crispy rice salad not as fresh as before, although still enjoyable, and Kao Poon was bland and sweet. We asked the chef if the recipe had changed and he admitted that a large number of his customers are vegan/vegetarian, so he stopped putting fermented fish sauce/crab paste in the soup base.

It's the most convenient Lao place for us, so we'll probably still go back for Nam Kao and Larb, but I'm a little bummed about the Kao Poon.