Monday, July 27, 2015


Me and the SO hit SOMA StrEatFood Park on a Sunday recently and to our surprise (dismay?) it was vegan day. Yikes! I nearly turned around to make a beeline for Big Chef Tom's Belly Burgers, which is just a block or so over from there. But, we were meeting friends there, was a little late to change, we felt lazy, we thought WTF let's try, name your reason. We wandered around to see what was on offering. I will review some of the main dishes we had in a few days. For this short review, I'm highlighting one of the desserts we (I) felt like trying. Usually my experience with vegan desserts has been on the blech! side. However, some of the offerings at least looked good enough to try--like the mocha fudge brownie from Well.Fed.Bakes that I came across. Looking at their site, they are more of a catering company and it seems they were getting their began name out at this particular event. Still, the brownie was big and only $3.50. Being dubious and not the biggest fan of mocha, I actually picked this for the SO--a fan of both. Surprisingly enough though, I ended up liking this more than them. The mocha was in the cream in the middle and it was very light as was the cream. It struck that nice balance of firm and thick enough to taste and still light enough to not be actual icing. The brownie part was very fudge like and didn't taste overly sweet like some vegan desserts can be. (They tend to add more sugar to offset the lack of flour and eggs.) Still, this one had a nice texture and wasn't too fudgy or too cake crumbly. The layer on top was like a dark chocolate bar. And while chocolate isn't necessarily my dessert go to, I still like what they did here giving this heft and moderate sweetness that was pleasing in both taste and texture. I mean really, how often does that happen? At least for my tastebuds. They have an array of vegan sweets they do from cupcakes to cakes to pies and based on this little cream brownie, I'd be willing to give one of their other items a shot if I come across them. Vegan-ness be damned!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


It's a sunny random weekday when I find myself wandering through the Tenderloin--YES! IT CAN HAPPEN! No seriously, I was just walking around killing a rare work day off with no particular place to go. Usually it's during these times that I stumble across places I never knew about, either because they are tiny, off the beaten path or new. So it was when I came across a place called CookieLove which fit into all three of those categories.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Banh mi's have been the go to sandwich around town for awhile now and it seems I'm unintentionally making it my mission to try them are, or as near close to doing that as I can. On a recent lunch time walk-a-bout near Embarcadero, I sauntered by Saigon Deli Express, a tiny place round the corner from that space age Marriott by the Ferry Building. I've walked by it many times, sort of casually looked it over and just continued on, not impressed enough to give it a try. On this particular day, time and laziness caught up with me as my lunch time was slowly evaporating and I needed to eat something. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to see what they got. They offer a handful of banh mi versions (pork, chicken, veggie, etc) all for just $6, which in the grand scheme of $10 SF sandwiches seems like a bargain. When getting a banh mi I'm always gonna go traditional and get pork, so I ordered it up and said "yes, I do want the jalapenos," when queried. Things I liked about this particular version: the bread was nice and crispy outside, soft inside; you get a fair amount of veggies piled; the pickled carrot was nicely sweet and tart; the pork was tender with only touches of fat around the edges; there was plenty of the mayo/pate spread to go around. Things I didn't like about this version: even at $6 it was the smallest in size of the banh mi's I've had around town which makes it only marginally a bargain; the cilantro that was piled on was mostly the stems without the leaves (as you can see in the pic)--I mean what's up with that?; also, where was the daikon? the menu had it in the description but there was none to be found here; this was mostly veggie and the serving of meat was also the least amount I've been given compared to other versions, it was just a few thin slices-bummer. So what does this all mean? While not a bad attempt at a banh mi, it's also not the best. A few changes here and there and this could be upgraded but based on some other reviews I've seen of the place, they don't seem willing to make any adjustments. It's one of those places that you've seen around forever and then after noshing there, you wonder, how do they survive? Especially when you consider the fact that literally just around the corner from them is Les Croissant, which serves a cheaper, bigger and much better banh mi. Added bonus, you can get a donut for dessert there too!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015


High end taquerias are a real anomaly to me, I mean, there are so many good ones around the city serving up tasty tacos and burritos at affordable prices, then why do I need to hit up one charging $5 a taco? I can get a whole burrito for close to that! Still, for whatever reason, a number of them persist through the city and one has even branched out to 3! locations in the city and 1 in Palo Alto, you know, when you can't be bothered to make your way down to the Mission or something. It's called Tacolicious and I've avoided the place that got it's start in---the Marina (probably why they have a Marina girl salad on their menu). But, you can only not eat somewhere for so long before you just go WTF, why not try it since I just happened to be in North Beach and blah, blah, blah. I actually ended up going here twice, for whatever reason, and now I get to regale you with my visits.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


After all that "fine dining" while on vacation I figured I would get back to eating the trashy American way with that ubiquitous of childhood breakfast foods, pop-tarts. Seems every time I run through the grocery store these days they are rolling out a new flavor with varying degrees of success. A few I have no interest in, but sometimes they catch my eye. This time around it was a peanut butter and jelly pop-tart, one I'm surprised they had never tried before. It seems so simple considering the filling on their tarts is jelly like so why not add some peanut butter. This iteration is a basic pastry with strawberry filling on the inside topped with a peanut butter flavored frosting on top (and those red sprinkles I remember from their red velvet version). For me, heated was the only way to go with these. It seemed to make the peanut flavor come through more than just right out of the back. It also heightened the smell of peanuts too which can add more sensory flavor. I do think they could have added more peanut butter flavor or whatever to this by putting more inside the tart and also kicking up the strawberry flavor more, they were not in even balance here. Better yet, I remember they used to make a grape flavored one and I think that may have been a better choice of jelly flavors to go with instead of strawberry here. Plus, as I think for most folks, our PB&J's were usually of the grape jelly variety growing up. And yes, before you ask, I did try these with the addition of butter in both hot and room temp versions. And as much as it pains me to say, the butter did not add to the flavor profile. Peanut butter itself is already a little salty and the butter just added more of that. I also tried adding a little smear of Jif to it also, but it just masked the strawberry flavor even more. I'll just chalk this up as a good attempt but ultimately a miss to me. That's not to say that with some tweaks or the aforementioned grape addition I could be totally on board with this flavor combo. Otherwise, I'll just take a pass on these and wait to see what they have coming....wait, what? Hmmm....looks like they are having a contest for some new flavors--strawberry chocolate (no), blue raspberry (why) and cinnamon roll! Now that I could be interested in, and can you imagine how that would taste with some butter?! Guess it's time to put on the stretchy pants and hit the grocery store. I'll get back to you after I come out of my buttered sugar coma. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Even the heartiest of eaters needs a break between courses and we were no different. In the middle of our 7 plus course odyssey at Relae, there was just a bit of a time lag from the kitchen between the serving of that juice of tomato and olive oil cupful before whatever was coming next. In that time we let our stomachs settle and ended up talking to a couple next to us who were from Seattle, on their honeymoon and were both foodies who had worked in the industry and been classically trained or something like that. They were fun and great to chat food with while we waited--several glasses of wine will make us talkie! Soon the next course arrived, so on we go.

(inside Relae, this lady looked a little like Helen Mirren, or maybe we'd had too much wine)

Monday, July 6, 2015


When traveling, food is not in the forefront most of the times. Seeing sites and trying to relax usually is. When we planned the trip to Scandinavia, it came to our attention after the fact that Copenhagen had 2 of the top 50 restaurants in the world in #3 Noma and #45 Relae. The SO looked them up and of course, at the late date, they were totally booked. Though each had "waiting lists" you could get on in case anyone cancelled their reservations. To be honest we really did hold out much hope but put our names on the lists anyway and jetted out. Then, while we were having a beer in a cafe on the canal in Stockholm (yes, I know how that sounds) the SO's cell rang, it was Relae calling to say they had an opening and were we interested. Through bad international connection we immediately said yes and booked our table for the following week at 5:30pm (the first seating) and were told we'd have the table for 2 1/2 hours. Really? Okay, then why not.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


We are still winging our way through Scandinavia and this time we've touched down in Copenhagen, Denmark. Kind of reminds me a lot of Stockholm but with a slightly edgier grunge to it. The city is becoming known as a new hotbed of creative cuisine as they already have 2 of the top 50 restaurants in the world here Noma and Relae. Those I'll talk about in another post. Seems you turn any corner here and your run into some sort of cafe. Folks here seemingly worship the sun and take every opportunity to bask in it. I don't know how they do it as the rays feel a bit relenting as I run from shade to shade. This is a big walking and biking town and me and the SO have been going all over. Our goal today was to hit up this funky spot over on what they call the Paper Island, as the space used to be an old paper mill. Now it's been turned into Copenhagen Street Food--a giant warehouse space with food stalls and a few trucks inside and tons of waterfront tables to nosh and enjoy more of that sun (fortunately for us there are some inside spots too).

Saturday, June 27, 2015


We are still in Stockholm and chasing trendy restaurants in this town. There seems to be a little boƮte around every corner and you never know which one really is THE off the grid place to go to get a great meal. This time we went on the recommendation of a local we just flat out asked "where do you go?" He said we should really try Bistro Bestick, supposedly the do variations of Swedish dishes for the modern palate, whatever that is. The nigh we tried to go they were booked up so made a reservation for the next evening to see what they got going on.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


We've been in Stockholm less than 24 hours and already I've noticed it has at least 2 things in common with San Francisco--hipsters and food. I have to say I've never so many dudes with beards, tattoos, skinny jeans and funky floppy haircuts, they are everywhere. Many of the restaurants we've walked past also have the same kind of look--wood or stone tables centered around a main bar with lots of clean line steel and reclaimed looking wood accents--it's a trend around the world it seems. On our first night of searching for food we tried a place that was recommended to us by a dude at an ice bar (yes, a bar made of ice. We went for the cheesiness of the experience) but they were packed and booked. That dude then recommended a place around the corner that seemed popular as of late. We walked the block over and found it was 20 minutes for a table so we decided to just drink at the bar and wait. Why not, we are on vacation. It's was called Fiskbaren.

Monday, June 22, 2015


It's been a long day of walking and boating around Oslo and now we are hungry. Finding a place to eat is not always so easy when you are tired and menus aren't grabbing your attention. This was the unfortunate thing on this particular evening as we went through at least 5 options before finally settling on Cafe Cathedral for two reason--we were tired of walking around and Norwegian pizza. It grabbed our attention enough to say "let's do it".

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Yes, I'm in Oslo and it's 72! That's right, I'm in spitting distance of the Arctic Circle and it's actually warmer here than in San Francisco. Plus, the sun doesn't set until 11pm. Even then, it's still like a little speck on the horizon so it is not like dark, dark. Sort of a perpetual twilight when the sun hits the horizon. Anyway, I'm trekking through Scandinavia for a couple weeks and decided to try and be a little adventurous with the food I'll be eating. It's our first day here and after doing some research I settled on a place called Lokk (I'll let you Google translate their page). It seemed funky and interesting enough and it was only a short walk from the hotel--SCORE!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Restaurants along the waterfront are a mixed bag of good, decent and I can't believe it's still around. When you live along that stretch of the Embarcadero you have opportunity of try a fair number of the places, mostly because they are close and convenient. Sometimes I see these spots that have seemingly been around forever and I think I remember trying that place and wonder why it's been so long since I've been back. One such place is SB40 Restaurant (or Carmen's as it was called for years and is still called by some folks). It's been a waterfront fixture for some time to varying shades of success. It's even had it's own business troubles which you can read about here. Somehow, it has managed to hang on despite all the machinations. I do remember my first time eating here, mostly because it was unpleasant. That was at least 7 years ago. Seeing as how they are still there with a new name and supposedly revamped menu, it seemed like a good time for the SO and I to try them again to see if things were different or if the "song remains the same."

Sunday, June 14, 2015


What can I say, if it's red velvet I'm gonna give it a try no matter how tacky it may be. Such was the case when I came across these cakes from Little Debbie at at Target recently. Though I'm sure I'd have come across them in a Walmart too. That's the thing about Little Debbie, at $1.99 a box their products cross all lines throughout the country and they make a host of product. They also do themed stuff depending on the time of the year it is, thus it was a surprise to see these in spring as opposed to around the holidays. No matter, I grabbed a box for the sake of discovery, because that's the kind of person I am. As far as color goes, that got that down pat. It wasn't too bright red, but just the right darkish red to convey the color of velvet drapes. It's covered in a "white frosting glaze" thing that really is just powdered sugar and probably milk in some form. Sweeeeetttt would be the word for this. The cream on the inside reminded me of the stuff they use to fill their Oatmeal Creme Pies, something I grew up with and kind of like but not exactly the stuff of red velvet cakes. The cake itself is moist and has the right texture though as for flavor, there may have been notes of chocolate or I may have been delusionary from all the sugar, hard to tell. I couldn't help thinking it tasted a little like their Swiss Rolls just not as chocolaty. It's like they added red food coloring to the rolls, made them square and viola--Red Velvet Creme Cakes! As a junk food nosh, they'd do in a pinch, as a red velvet substitute, not so much. I will say the SO liked them more than me, at least I'm going with that as they seemed to disappear not soon after I brought them home. Oh well, while not a total loss, actually, not a loss at all, I mean they were only $1.99. They won't fill my red velvet need but as a kitschy party fave for a 50's themed get together I'd say they are spot on. And after your second martini, it won't really matter anyway. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Concept restaurants abound across the US and come and go with seeming regularity. Occasionally, they even make their way through San Francisco, though most are down by Fisherman's Wharf and aimed at tourist clientele instead of those of us who actually live here. (Yes, I'm talkin' bout you Bubba Gump whatever Co.) Every now and then a neighborhood spot opens with a gimmick but sometimes they don't stay around long as the schtick wears thin and people get bored--you know how foodies are. But sometimes an idea comes along that sounds interestingly odd and manages to overcome the kitschy factor and survive in this notoriously tough food town. One such place is Straw in Hayes Valley. A tiny little establishment specializing in carnival fare or circus fare or state fare food, whatever you'd like to call it. From deep fried to covered in powdered sugar, they are serving it up old school. I've known about them for some time but for whatever reason, just never went there. Thus I figured it was time to see what it was all about.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


I was craving cookies again while strolling through the Castro hood and decided to roll into Sweet Inspirations as I remembered they did some dipped things. I think I was jonesing for a peanut butter chocolate hybrid but they only had the one choice today so I scooped up the chocolate chip dipped for the small princely sum of $2.65. Not a bad price as you do get a hefty cookie that is thicker than most you'll find around town. It had a lovely golden brown color and nice little crispness around the edges. As you work your way towards the middle it does stay a tad crunchy. Ultimately, one of the issues with thick cookies is the middle can sometimes either be too doughy (underdone) or too crumbly (overdone). This one walked right up to that line and touched a toe over it for me. I do personally prefer a softer, gooey center, something you won't find here. Still it wasn't so bad as it was plentiful with chips in pretty much every bite. And the addition of dipping in a semi-sweet chocolate covering for half gives you an extra jolt of intense flavor. In the grand scheme of cookies in San Francisco it's okay when you consider the price and size of what you are getting. Most basic flavors are here and there is enough chocolate to satisfy that craving. Now if they could just cut the cooking time down a bit and get the soft center it would be right up there in my top five. As is now, it's pretty middle of the pack, but will do in a pinch. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015


I've done bits and pieces of Neighbor Bakehouse in the past, but since I've hit them up on a regular basis, I've had the opportunity to try a variety of goods, both sweet and savory and thought I'd wrap them all up in one tidy review. Refreshing your memory on some old faves and showcasing a couple of newbies I've noshed on lately. As a reminder, they've were doing wholesale baked goods for a couple years before finally opening up the space to those of us who live/work in the hood. Their hours are roughly Wednesday-Saturday 6:30am till they sell out, which, depending on the popularity of an item, can happen pretty quickly. It amazes me that in this town of gluten free, organic, healthy eating, etc., whenever a new bakery opens their goods seem to just fly out the door. Anybody who's been to B. Patisserie, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, Two Fish Baking Co. and more can tell you if you want to popular things, you need to go early or frequently. Ugh, the things you gotta do to eat in this city. But you know, I eat for you.

Yeah, the signage and exterior are a tad unassuming, it's what's inside that counts. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015


I'll say this right off the bat, I'm one of the few who is not the biggest fan of State Bird Provisions. While I liked the concept and a couple of the dishes, most were just so-so and when you factor in the price you are paying with portion and quality you are getting, it was mostly a miss for me. I'm not going so far as to say overrated, I do feel they get more press than is warranted, but that's just my opinion. Even with this cynicism I was still interested when they decided to open another restaurant just a few doors down from the Bird called The Progress. It supposed to be a different concept from the other place, though they were still pushing on the local, organic, what they bought at the farmer's market that day ideal. The place has been popular since it opened so getting a reservation was a challenge and I wanted to wait a bit till any kinks got ironed out before we gave it a shot. That opportunity came recently--at 9pm on a Saturday night--it was the only time available. So me and the SO hitched up the big boy pants and headed out to see what all the fuss was about.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Hometowns are usually full of restaurant institutions and Durham is no different. Though when you have limited time you don't always get a chance to re-visit on home trips. But there are also a handful of these places that I never even got to when I lived here way back when. Most of that was do to not really caring too much about what I was eating or looking for something new and different. Foodie, after all, is still a newish term. One spot I never made it to was Fishmongers. It was one of the first restaurants to open in 1983 in downtown near an area of remade tobacco warehouses called Brightleaf Square. It was all part of a revitalization effort for the area that still seems to be going on today. Here it is 32 years later and the place is still serving up seafood to the Bull City and I figured I'd waited long enough to try the place.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Seems like this is really turning into a donut trip--not that there's anything wrong with that. I find myself in Durham, NC and doing that whole Airbnb thing. The place I'm in happens to be down around 9th Street, near that Duke campus. It's been a changing stretch over the years that recently has started hosting trendy, hipster food places, something I'm not sure I thought I would ever really say about my hometown. One place down on this stretch that seems to have captured local folks attention is called Monuts Donuts. And well, you know, donuts, of course I'm gonna be all over that!