eatzalot's Profile

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Mustards Grill: My Theory [Napa]

'there is a lot of "sameness" to Bay Area menu descriptions'

Maybe a business response to perceived market? Just as (for example) so many good regional-Chinese restaurants feel obliged also to offer mu-shu, General Tso's chicken, even sweet-and-sour pork (which then, despite being remote from the kitchen's strengths, become the only dishes that all 200 Yelp "reviews" comment on). Or Thai restaurants (even the minority with actual Thai cooks) offering, God help us, "choice of heat levels" instead of what they'd do in Thailand -- what bbulkow once dubbed the right level of spicing for that particular dish -- ?

'But still, the ingredients these days are so much better than they were even ten years ago...'

That's food for thought (no pun). It could be true, but I never considered it before. The run of Bay Area restaurant ingredients, either these days or *20* years ago, has been so radically improved from the standards common in the 1970s or even 1980s. The improvement I saw in the 1980s going into the 90s was almost graphable, like a stock price. Yet even around the 1970s "Continental Cuisine" era, when Vic Bergeron led the defeat of an SF ordinance to require disclosing frozen ingredients,* both natives and visitors were crowing about how good or unique SFBA food was.

*(Trillin famously quipped that the "Continent" in question might logically be Antarctica.)

about 11 hours ago
eatzalot in San Francisco Bay Area

San Jose, Half Moon Bay and Sausalito

I've been hearing about Pasta Moon. The buzz seems to support the quality that the restaurant's online menu suggests. Very appealing!

about 11 hours ago
eatzalot in San Francisco Bay Area

Pupusas : SFBA Dish of the Month September 2014

Thanks ckshen!

Mountain View area has had an unusual concentration of Salvadoran restaurants, I recall six offhand, not counting Rincon Sabroso which hyperbowler reported. They tend to make lively fresh curtidos (flavored with oregano etc.). One Salvadoran restaurateur mentioned that El Salvador had many immigrants from Germany -- possibly the origin wherefrom curtido itself evolved -- and that it's popularly used there also as a garnish for grilled sausages.

I was already rather over-pupusad, and may beg off on revisiting still more pupusas specifically for DOTM.

The former Salvadoran restaurant mentioned by ckshen was El Calderon for 44 years (even Herb Caen from the SF Chron lauded it, he'd take the Southern Pacific train down from SF). Last year, longtime owner Angelita "Lita" Lopez sold El Calderon. The new owner re-christened it Yam Leaf Bistro, updated the interior, and took it vegetarian, but kept the staff and much of the Salvadoran menu (and Lita Lopez, who lives nearby, as consultant); I share in the strong consensus that it's a worthy successor to El Calderon.

Of the lower-peninsula Taqueria La Bamba group (which is also Salvadoran), the one on Rengstorff (converted high-ceilinged fast-foodery of some kind) has also made creditable papusas in a larger size than El Calderon's. And, next to Napoletana Pizzeria on El Camino is an explicit papuseria I haven't been to in some time (owing to the distracting presence of Napoletana).

Manresa fire

This posting is short notice, but Manresa is still cooking during the fire reconstruction -- the annual Tomato Modernista theme dinner anyway, held tomorrow night (Sat. 13th) at Love Apple Farms (Santa Cruz Mtns) where the restaurant's produce is sourced.

This is a fund-raising dinner supporting the reconstruction.

San Fran Michelin

"can you be more specific like zagat etc I love michelin and been to French Laundry etc"

Several regulars already eloquently expressed what distinguishes a forum like this from those mainstream publications. I like JonDough's "the ability to learn other posters palates and use that information when deciding on a place to eat. You also have the advantage of asking them questions which you can't do with Zagat or Michelin."

Zagat and Michelin direct people mainly to restaurants already well established. Especially Zagat (essentially a popularity poll). Once "everyone" knows about a restaurant, it shows well in popularity polls. Far less useful for spotting new-talent, up-and-coming, or new-approach restaurants.

Michelin lacks Zagat's crowdsource weaknesses (of countless opinions from unknown background and experience), drawing each review instead from one or a few critics with formal food training, screened for certain reporting skills. However, if you limit your use of Michelin to just the "star" entries, you've again opted for the most well-established restaurants which is not the full picture, nor what everyone wants.

A 1980s comment about the wine critic Robert Parker: Given two very similar wines of good quality, one reviewed by Parker and the other not, the main difference will be price: value for money. The horde bids up the price of whatever Parker tells them to buy, so the astute consumer is better off finding -- by some means -- wines of quality that were NOT reviewed by Parker.

Chowhound is an example of "some means" for restaurant tips.

Halal Chicken in Sunnyvale area

Rose International Market (ECR at Castro, Mountain View) is a popular longtime halal butcher. Also seels grilled items for take-out or on-site dining.

san jose recommendations

FYI constantine, here's a separate and more recent overview I wrote about special-occasion restaurants around the San Jose area, and their history:

2014 regional Chinese roundup

I mention Jing-Jing because it was orignally introduced to me by Chinese-born co-workers as Sichuanese and because it calls itself a "Szechwan-Hunan" restaurant. I have not eaten there in some time, and do not have deep knowledge of the place. It does have a long reputation as where to go for spicy Chinese food in Palo Alto.

I'll caution you though on a broader point of inferring regionality from posted menu. Besides the usual factor of Chinese restaurants' English-language menus reflecting the clichéed sub-set of their actual repertoire that the mainstream anglophone market will "like" (including the Americanized-Chinese dish group), the measure of a purported Sichuanese kitchen isn't that it lists twice-cooked pork, ma po tofu, and dàn dàn miàn (since many other Chinese restaurants list those dishes too, nowadays), but how they're made and how they taste -- things you can't discern by reading. (That was how I spotted the presence of Sichuanese-trained chefs in the two Chinese restaurants I mentioned earlier that named themselves for other regions.)

2014 regional Chinese roundup

Talk about venerable -- Berkeley's Taiwan predates most of the town's other restaurants (including most of the current Gourmet Ghetto), and likely is older than most of its customers too. Amazingly it's apparently still going strong, given heavy restaurant turnover around there.

How many other Bay Area restaurants can boast "same chef since 1972?"

2014 regional Chinese roundup

I notice Palo Alto's venerable Jing-Jing absent from the Sichuan category. I recall authentic Sichuanese specialties there in past visits.

2014 regional Chinese roundup

Further to soup's point, we've had several restaurants in lower Peninsula whose titular cuisine contrasted with chef's background (e.g. two former, very creditable, places near me, for some reason, billed themselves Shanghainese and Hunanese, despite both having able chefs from Sichuan, and despite being known among regulars for outstanding Sichuanese specialties. A different case is the Penininsula Chinese restaurant best-known of all among non-Chinese diners since the 1960s, which has a chef born in Sichuan -- Chef Chu's -- but does not specialize in Sichuanese food by any means).

Among "openly" Sichuanese restaurants, Chef Zhao Bistro (besides having slipped in alphabetization in the list), also has a chef from Chengdu (since you are mentioning that point for Chef Ma); moreover, the restaurant makes a point of mentioning that he was an instructor at a cooking school there. Maybe he taught Fuchsia Dunlop. . .

Sichuan Peppercorns & Chili Bean Paste in East Bay? SF?

Like davidg1, I've had no trouble finding these ingredients (hua jiao and dou ban jiang) the last dozen years, on the peninsula at least -- generally in small local Chinese grocers, I have not tried Ranch 99 but would be amazed if they didn't have both; both condiments are appreciated beyond Sichuan province in China (also, Sichuanese restaurant food has been popular in the Bay Area a good 40 years).

Be careful what you ask for. As a gringo attempting to pronounce "hua jiao" and "dou ban jiang" I have ALWAYS been well understood by Chinese proprietors, but in English the products appear here under sundry names, including "Black Pepper Corn" [sic] for hua jiao. "Prickly Ash" is accurate botanically (unlike "peppercorn").

There are MANY brands of dou ban jiang, with and without fava beans, with and without tons of salt, and with various heat levels and flavoring details. Any, in my experience, can make a respectable ma po tofu or twice-cooked pork; it is far more worthwhile to try out new brands than to chase around specifically for one brand, in my opinion.

Lian How calls it "Spicy broad bean paste" in English, there are various other names in English and I have tried good versions made in Taiwan. Mentioned some in past threads probably among those linked here. The only solid rule I discerned in several years of trying such condiments locally is to avoid Lee Kum Kee (LKK), the "supermarket" brand you're likely to find everywhere, even at non-Chinese stores.

Help a pressed for time NY Hound find the Asian food of her dreams?

Wow! Noodle-less "chow mein" is new to me.

Admittedly I don't immediately think of Florida among places with a lot of history of China contact. In early days of California as a US state, as a principal Pacific-Ocean deep port for N. America, SF had such regular commerce with China (Southern China especially) that large SF institutions would send linens there to be laundered (it served the ships as ballast, and the labor prices were rather different at the two ends). As a young child, I had Bay Area relatives who could remember those days (pre-1900), and would have loved to talk about it. Too late now, of course.

Help a pressed for time NY Hound find the Asian food of her dreams?

'I remember the days before chow fun became widely known, and where it was called on some menus with names like "Chinese pancakes" and "chow tay". '

I am curious, when and where are you referring to, Chandavkl?

(Chow fun has been popular, under that name, around the Bay Area since at least the early 1980s, maybe considerably longer -- that was just when I started paying attention to it.)

Help a pressed for time NY Hound find the Asian food of her dreams?

Do not forget either that (housing the largest Chinese-émigré community in the Americas since the 1870s) SF had Cantonese food before most New Yorkers had even heard of chop suey, and before Los Angeles, in the modern sense, existed. Moreover the big invasion of Sichuanese cooking into the US in the 1970s made inroads here as well as in NYC, though some of those pioneering restaurants are memories today, not a part of the world-view from which come suggestions of hip current Bay Area Sichuanese restaurants on CH. (If I recall from a years-ago thread, buttertart was acquainted with some of that 1970s Sichuanese wave here.)

The good Sichuanese restaurants here too (continuing goldangl's point) often are located in parts of the Bay Area away from SF, Oakland, or Berkeley. But so is most of the Bay Area's population, nowadays.

Help a pressed for time NY Hound find the Asian food of her dreams?

Excellent guide, bbulkow.

I noticed also there how distinct was the Cambodian cuisine from Thai. Cambodia has a much older culture, I understand, and some culinary connections to Indonesia.

This influence was evident at Tommy Thai even in the restaurant's versions of some standard Thai dishes, where unfamiliar elements like black pepper could appear.

(I too wish restaurants would just stick to the proper heat levels for the dish -- and also, drop that newfangled BS about last-minute "choice of proteins" in dishes that if done right, were simmered for hours with one "choice of protein" -- but I also dislike decent restaurants going out of business, to which I guess some dumbing-down of cuisine is the preferable, if imperfect, alternative.)

Help a pressed for time NY Hound find the Asian food of her dreams?

"whether someone coming from New York should bother with the Chinese food in the Bay Area."

FWIW, I recall that buttertart has lived in the Bay Area. And is a linguistic scholar in Chinese languages, and incidentally even knew or had academic connections to the great linguist Yuen Ren Chao (1892-1982). The guy who began the demystification of Chinese cuisine in the US after WW2, coining such terms as pot sticker and stir-fry.

Sulfite free wines

Alex, welcome to Chowhound! Industry expertise is extremely helpful here.

I hope you will also get a chance to read the rest of this thread in depth. Note that zin1953 and Maria Lorraine are both wine-industry veterans, and have contributed some of the detailed technical background here so far (as they have done on many other CH wine discussion threads over the years). I particularly appreciated zin's comments elarlier in the thread from his interview with the ATF lab director for an article on sulfites, and that official's memorable remarks.

Aug 10, 2014
eatzalot in Wine

Yelp shareholder lawsuit claims "reviews are a fraud"

I searched and found no mention yet on CH.

Summarizing from today's Palo Alto (California) Daily Post, which serves the San Francisco peninsula: Page-1 story on a shareholder lawsuit filed Wednesday in San Francisco federal court, requesting class-action status. (Link to another local version of the story is below.)

According to the Post, shareholders allege that Yelp's stock price hit "artificially inflated" highs earlier this year after business misrepresentations by the firm, and that company senior management benefitted by selling at the inflated price. One plaintiff said that Yelp "hid the fact that it required 'business customers to pay to suppress negative reviews,'" and that "some reviews weren't even real," including " 'fraudulent reviews by reviewers who did not have first-hand experience with the business.' " Yelp responded that the allegations were "without merit" and the firm would "vigorously contest them," said a quoted statement to Reuters.

Plaintiffs further alleged that share prices plummeted after recent "claims about extortion practices" appeared earlier this year, but not before senior managers "unload[ed] the shares at a major profit."

The Post is print-only (except for paid archives). SF Chronicle's online version of same story

(I've had no direct business dealings with Yelp; but more than one local small business owner, of demonstrated integrity and credibility, has told me of explicit offers by Yelp representatives to take down existing negative "reviews" if the business would buy advertising from Yelp. Those testimonials directly contradict claims that Yelp posts on its site.)

Aug 08, 2014
eatzalot in Food Media & News

Help a pressed for time NY Hound find the Asian food of her dreams?

Greetings buttertart! Long time since the cordial Sichuanese cookbook and linguistics discussions.

As goldangl95 mentioned, a variety of Cambodian food is available 35 miles south of SF at Tommy Thai near downtown Mountain View (the restaurant also presents a Thai menu, for understandable business reasons -- the same reasons all the regional Chinese restaurants also offer General Tso's Chicken and mu shu rou). The Thai dishes command an explicit section on the menu, and make lively use of many fresh vegetables.

The same local Cambodian-immigrant family (Poon) first started a Bay-Area Chinese fast-food chain years ago (Mr. Chau's) which was successful with the mass market. More recently, they opened "Tommy Thai," a pragmatic name derived from the name of another, former restaurant at the same address. (A few months back a son, Brandon Poon, also opened a casual restaurant "Buffalo" in downtown MV proper, a mile or so from Tommy Thai, with the sort of menu typical of some recent Bay-Area casual-dining independents: beer, baos of various kinds, and burgers, including with Asian-ingredient garnish options.)

Musing in Fremont

Tough work but someone has to do it! :-) Thanks for the exhaustive report.

(I had to chuckle a little on reading the 2012 characterization of Fremont as a "one-trick pony" since that represents a mathematically infinite improvement from a zero-trick pony, which was Fremont's restaurant reputation for much of the town's past history. As recently as the later 1990s, Fremont was famous for having only four non-chain restaurants, albeit those four offered some good variety.)

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot now open in the TL. [San Francisco]

"If you can equate Little Sheep to KFC or Pizza Hut. . ."

Sorry for the confusion, that wasn't my meaning at all.

Rather, it is the acquisition by Yum! Brands (largest, most notorious of the vast fast-food conglomerates that grace today's US restaurant universe) that links Little Sheep to KFC and Pizza Hut.

What this will mean for the (already large) Little Sheep chain in the future, time will tell.

The Little Sheeps in the US are well reputed, and locals who know them are eagerly awaiting the one that's pending near me in Mountain View. (It will also have to be a higher-priced, or else far more profitable, business than the popular family-run independent Sichuanese restaurant that was forced out of the same address last year, after the landlord notoriously tripled the rent from 5k to 15k monthly.)

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot now open in the TL. [San Francisco]

Seriously, it should be in "Chains." Literally part of KFC, Pizza Hut, etc. as mentioned in the other thread:

northern cali recs

No apology needed, certainly -- understandable situation, unlikely anyone took any offense! -- more like it just sounds strange when suddenly people far away start using a new nickame for California.*

For your visit query, you may find useful information most quickly by searching this board with some relevant terms, such as the names of the towns your friend plans to visit, then refining the search if necessary by asking questions with reference to the past discussions.

* (I went through the same sensation when people just joining the internet 20 years ago all dubbed it "the" world wide web -- that was an error, not Berners-Lee's original meaning of a "web" on the internet, but journalists picked it up, and it stuck -- and 30 years ago, when it suddenly became fashionable for people who didn't know what a "parameter" is to use it to mean a boundary or constraint -- that error stuck too, and is hard to explain now to people accustomed to hearing it.)

Food Recommendations Wanted!

jc, please be aware you are repeating a query that happens constantly -- daily -- on this board.

You can get very useful information most effectively by a combination of using the search feature to find past discussions (some of which will reveal far more information than you could get at the spur of the moment in a new thread), then refining your research by asking more specific queries to the board regulars, so they will have a better idea what you are after. For example, "we like shellfish but the most recent thread was two years old." ANYTHING to narrow down the scope to a manageable level.

2014 regional Chinese roundup

"Little sheep hot pot (Cupertino, Union City, San Francisco tenderloin, San Mateo)"

And pending in Mountain View (for several months -- 102 Castro St. -- extensive remodeling underway).

I just noticed (thanks to Melanie's links) that Little Sheep is part of Yum! Brands now. (Biggest fast-food conglomerate in the known universe: Pizza Hut, KFC, etc.)

Fusilli vs rotini?

Thanks mbfant, and please note that the basic ambiguity of "fusilli" even in Italian was already in this thread four years ago thanks to Giuliano Hazan's popular pasta cookbook and glossary (ISBN 0751300527).

The real issue that this thread implicitly brought out is USE of just the word "fusilli" in North America as if it had a clear, unambiguous meaning.

The OP knew of fusilli lunghi (the ones in the Wikipedia photo) but was served fusilli corti, which in the US are labeled and sold as (quoting from boxes in front of me):

"Fusilli" by Fratelli De Cecco

"Rotini" by Barilla America

"Rotelle" by Golden Grain / American Italian Pasta Co., Kansas City

Not only does "fusilli" have multiple pasta-shape meanings in Italy, but also, the fusilli-corti variant appears in the US, where it's very common and familiar, under at least the three names I just cited (NOT just "rotini").

Aug 03, 2014
eatzalot in Home Cooking

Okonomiyaki: SFBA Dish of the Month August 2014

With pic:

Photo there of okonomiyaki variations at Bushido Izakaya, Mountain View -- where they were rather rich, and flamboyantly garnished with condiments and drizzles.

Trivia note: Though Wikipedia's explanatory article cited in the original posting manages not to touch on this point (other than in its See-Also links), I'm struck by the overlap in concept and ingredients with the Korean "jeon" savory pancakes, to which I was introduced by a Korean restaurant in Berkeley 30-some years ago:

to chez panisse or to not chez panisse, that is the question

Mike, please look more closely at my postings. I'm a fan of both restaurants (and already cited the Tour's unique wine list); the comparison was on certain points, and took for granted the obvious differences (such as price).

Also, some people (including me) can reflect on meals at Chez Panisse over most of its 43-year history (not to mention the younger Chez Panisse Café, upstairs). Impossible with Tour d'Argent, it being ten times older.

Main commonality is that I often see criticisms now of both places, showing expectations or preconceptions both inappropriate and unattributable to the restaurants themselves.

Best Wineries in Sonoma County

Well, this was also the OP with the rigid preconception of what wine "quality" means ("We can go to a winery that has one or two wines that are below 90, but I'll ask that these wines be removed from the tasting"), then when informed by experienced veterans here that the picture of "quality" is more complex than that, expressed frustration that the question wasn't being answered in the desired terms.