Monday, August 29, 2005
Dine and Dish #4
Around the World in $40 Days
It was big fun ... I seem to not be alone in not having had banh mi at Saigon Cuisine in SF (banh mi almost figured in my day, but I decided to keep within walking distance) but I certainly am probably the last foodie in the area to have not had pastries at Tartine.
Chinook's at Fishermen's Terminal in Seattle featured, which pleased me as it was one of my favorite places to eat when I was spending a lot of time up there. Great fish, nice view, good prices. The alder-planked salmon is indeed a winner.
Fatemeh at Gastronomie gave a hot tip for those who are in SF between 4-6 on weeknights: the Happy Hour menu at Hawthorne Lane.
It was huge fun! Let's do it again!
Monday, August 22, 2005
Dining at my Doorstep for $40 a Day (D&D#4)
In the spirit of the Eat Local Challenge sponsored by Jen at Life Begins at 30, my entries in Sam's Dine and Dish #4 challenge (aka "Be Rachael Ray for the Day" - I've never seen any of Rachael's shows because I don't have cable and barely watch TV, and in my current anemic condition, I Don't Do Perky) are all from places walking distance from my house in west Berkeley, California, and on or very near San Pablo Avenue.
If you know Berkeley at all, you know that San Pablo Avenue is not the pretty and touristed part of town. Even last year, had I seen Rachael Ray wandering around the 'hood, I would have thought she had gotten somewhat lost looking for Sur la Table or one of the famed Oceanview eateries (Bette's, Cafe Rouge, etc.). Food shopping has been great for the last few years among the diverse businesses of the area; the section of the Avenue above and below University Avenue is now designated as the "International Marketplace" district due to its wide selection of ethnic markets - East Indian, middle Eastern, Mexican, Thai, The Spanish Table (for all your paella needs) and Country Cheese (amazing cheese, plus an interesting selection of mostly-international groceries and bulk goods).
But in the last year or so, the formerly quite pedestrian dining options on the Avenue (post the demise of Pepito's Deli, which is still missed in Berkeley foodie/chowhound circles) have been considerably improved by some new arrivals. Combined with the great ethnic groceries and the trendy clothing-jewelry-and-funky stuff stores opening up like mushrooms after a rainstorm south of Dwight Way (so much so that local wags are calling it "West Telegraph"), the eating options are making San Pablo-and-environs in central Berkeley a true destination neighborhood. (We're still not sure what to call it. Once we get a catchy district name that sticks, we've really arrived.)
So many great eateries are here now that to give the true flavor of the neighborhood, I am dining and dishing for two days in the neighborhood, beginning and ending at the new heart and soul of the Westside, the Berkeley branch of the world-famous Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo (@ Dwight).
The Berkeley Trieste opened up within the last year (after about as long, it seemed, of windows announcing "Caffe Trieste coming soon!") and is rarely less than completely packed. Like the mothership in North Beach, it offers coffee, pastries, soda, beer, wine, and light fare (soup, salad, pizza) and a series of live entertainment (mostly opera) for a very reasonable price. Bring a book, or your laptop, and stay as long as you like.
Breakfast at Caffe Trieste:
Latte: $ 2.65
Subtotal with T&T: $ 6.00
For lunch, since breakfast was light, it's a perfect opportunity to visit one of west Berkeley's better-kept neighborhood secrets, Bosphorus, at 1025 University (near San Pablo). The space was formerly one of the ubiquitous East Indian restaurants on University, and once you get over the idea of a large Ganesh-type elephant pillar in the middle of a Turkish restaurant, the space is quite pleasant. The main dining space has carpets on the wall and Turkish bric-a-brac, and there are two comfy-looking window booths (with kilim pillows) and more private booths in the back behind the "wood lace" screens. Impressively for am inexpensive restaurant, the noise level is not set to "din" in the main dining room.
Most customers go straight for the buffet, and at $7.90 for the lunch version, it's not surprising to see why. Much of the buffet is vegetarian, or vegan, and features plenty of tasty veggies. Now if I really were Rachael Ray (e.g. I had a producer asking lots of questions, writing everything down, and researching things as needed) I would be able to tell you all about what I was eating - I recognized certain dishes such as dolma, okra stewed with tomatoes, pilaf with veggies, the ground lamb kebabs (mixed with some other meat, I think), and of course the rice pudding - but I'm willing to make myself look like an ignorant fool in front of the whole food blogging community to say, I don't know what I ate here, but it was all good, and you should check it out when you're in the hood. It's worth a trip.
Lunch buffet at Bosphorus: $7.90 plus T&T: $10
(Dinner buffet is $11.20 - still very reasonable.)
Now on to dinner. The latest hot eatery to open up on the Avenue is Sea Salt, a project of the same people who brought the Bay Area the fabulous Lalime's. Sea Salt is in the old Brick Hut Cafe/Cafe Talulah space at 2512 San Pablo Avenue, a couple of doors down from Trieste.
As you can see from the menu, it takes some thinking to work a meal at Sea Salt into a "$40 a day" budget. But with that huge lunch, some of the lighter choices start looking good. And with the rest of the 'hood so affordable, there's even room for a small appetizer of the exquisitely presented and blastingly fresh oysters, served with mignonette (and cocktail sauce, but I never look at cocktail sauce when mignonette is present). The rest of the fish (and the general dining experience) is first-rate as well.
Dinner at Sea Salt:
2 oysters $2.00 each
Clam chowder with bacon and sourdough bread: 8.25
Anchor Steam $3.00
Subtotal: $15.25 plus T&T - about $19.00
Bringing today's total to approximately $35, including all taxes and tips; which leaves room for another treat at Trieste, or something else judiciously chosen off the menu at Sea Salt, or a nightcap at the Albatross Pub (a great neighborhood joint), or just extra cash in your pocket for shopping the Avenue.
To start off, I go a little out of my regular walking range to a famous West Berkeley eatery, the child of Chez Panisse, Cafe Fanny. I normally avoid Cafe Fanny because it is both crowded on the weekends and somewhat pricey, but it is a Berkeley institution and I wanted to cover the diversity of the Avenue.
You can eat either inside (standing up at the bar, a la Parisian cafes) or outside on the tiny patio.
In the Chez Panisse tradition, everything served is best-of-breed; products, if not house-made (like the justly famous granola), are often sourced locally. Indeed, on weekends, there are two lines in the parking lot; one for the Cafe, one for the Acme Bakery next door, source of the levain bread. I advise leaving asides things like eggs-and-toast that you can get other places (recommendations for those follow) and sticking to some of the more unusual/specialty items. One of their bowls of cafe au lait ($3.25) is highly recommended, and a comforting thing in the often-foggy west Berkeley mornings.
Breakfast at Cafe Fanny:
Cafe au lait: $3.25
Cafe Fanny granola with yogurt and fresh fruit 6.95
Subtotal with T&T: $12
[Edited to add local tip from Melissa from the comments: get the coffee at Fanny, and get a sweet or savory pastry from Acme to go with it.]
For heartier American cafe-style food with a Berkeley twist in the neighborhood, I highly recommend both Meal Ticket (further up San Pablo, just north of Gilman, address 1235 San Pablo) and the Homemade Cafe at Sacramento and Dwight. The Homemade has the best home fries in town and if you order something like the huevos rancheros there, or the salmon-and-eggs brunch at Meal Ticket ($9.95; weekends only), you might not need to eat till the next day. (The piece of grilled salmon was as big as my hand, no joke.)
For lunch, a visit to one of the holdouts from the pre-gentrified neighborhood is in order; unless, of course, you're a vegetarian, in which case you are out of luck. Among carnivores in the East Bay, "where's the best barbeque?" is a constant topic of ... er ... discussion. I used to live near the North Oakland Flint's, worked near Doug's in Emeryville, but for my money the Berkeley Everett and Jones at 1955 San Pablo (@ University) has a great combo of good meat, good sauce, and good service. And of course for me, location, location, location (but I *will* travel for good Q). You can eat it there, either on the counter or at the picnic tables outside, and stick your spare change in the extremely soulful jukebox. You can also eat on picnic tables outside, or the counter inside, but one look should be enough to confirm that you ain't in Paris, baby.
Marga has a review of the Hayward location on her blog, which I find to be pretty accurate in describing the Berkeley location. Don't dress up. Follow your nose to that wood smoke. And get ready for some fine Q.
Lunch at Everett and Jones:
Sliced beef lunch: $7.10
Subtotal, with tax and tip: $9.50
For an inexpensive and tasty lunch or dinner, Casa Latina (1805 San Pablo, near Delaware) offers excellent fresh Mexican food, with the added temptation of a full-on Mexican bakery (panaderia).
Tacos are $1.50 each, tamales $1.75, so this is a fabulous place for Cheap Eats. You can get a meal (including a drink) and some delicious pan dulce for dessert or breakfast for around $10. (The bakery means that it is open early: 6:30 am on weekdays, and they do have an espresso machine.) But in this case, it's a good place for a coffee and some pan dulce for "later".
Snack at Casa Latina:
Macchiato to go: $1.75
Pan dulce (4 pieces) to go: $2.60
Subtotal with T&T: $5.50
At the end of day two, it's time to go back to Caffe Trieste and enjoy a beer ($4) or glass of wine ($3) and soak up the vibes. Caffe Trieste has some nice light dinner options (slice of pizza, $3, soup $4-5, or salads in the $5-$9 range) to act as an accompaniment to your beverage and atmosphere. Or have some cake ($4.50/slice) and coffee. As Rachael would say, "yummy!". There's probably even some change from the $40 to tip the musician.
Dinner at Caffe Trieste:
Glass of house red: $2.95
House salad: $4.95
Veggie pizza: $2.95
Subtotal, with T&T: $13.00
(On weeknights, "Pizza, Salad, and a Pint" are offered at the special "Happy Hour" rate of $6.50 between 4 and 7 pm, a deal much beloved by the locals.)
This is but a sampling of what is available in the neighborhood. You can have burgers at Lanesplitter, jerk chicken at Jamaican Soul, sandwiches at Country Cheese, tamales by the dozen at Mi Tierra, and surfeit yourself on East Indian food (all up and down University) if your heart desires. So if you see Rachael and her crew wandering around West Berkeley, don't assume that she's lost. And if you're visiting Berkeley, take the 51 bus out here from downtown to San Pablo and come see how the "year rounders" live.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Happy Birthday Grandpa
Foodwise, he was famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it ... my mother and her sibs all became excellent cooks in adulthood, no doubt in rebellion) for a number of things. He was a trout fisher par excellence and a Mighty Hunter as well (yep, we ate Bambi). He loved Heinz baked beans (I still can't stand them). He drank his bourbon straight (a quality I emulate). He re-used bacon grease to fry just. about. everything (which I can't emulate, remembering the dozen heart attacks and half-dozen strokes he had before the one that killed him ... but I loves me some crisp bacon). And he put ketchup on just about damn near everything, till later in his life when salsa made it in bulk containers to Anglo markets. (Grandpa, having supported a young family during the depths of the Depression, couldn't pass up a "two for one" deal.)
I went to my new favorite restaurant, Sea Salt, yesterday after church for lunch. I had their extremely tasty fish and chips with a side of coleslaw, a malt-vinegar aioli, and ... KETCHUP. With a little Thai spice in it. Grandpa would have enjoyed it. I certainly did.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Around the Garden
I've seen "fruit" before, but very rarely. Must have something to do with the weird climate conditions we've had this year.
Unfortunately it was far less tasty than it looked.
In other news, I'm still eating out a lot, but am thinking I'm up for some low-impact cooking this week. I want to make minestrone (the disadvantage to eating out is that I don't have leftovers for lunch) and I got the lamb-and-olive roast from the Fatted Calf and some greens from the market.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
He didn't settle "it" but he acquired a helper in the form of Tiny E:
who looks well on the way to the Barista Hall of Fame:
Thanks, Steve, for the perfect finish to a wonderful meal!
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
and the Bunrabs
Pics of the Shuna Pie (which I stupidly did not photograph) and All. That. Meat.
I didn't get any of the beef, but it's not like I went hungry. Reminded me of rec.food.cooking events: arrive early (with lots of food), prepare some more on site, keep eating, stay late, waddle home.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
The Smell of Wood Smoke
What are you looking at, foo?
Fatemeh, Sam, Amy, and Jen co-hosted.
The weather was fine, the company was great, and the food and drink was beyond outstanding.
I was a little later than planned because I attended the 10 am service today and there was birthday cake and what turned out to be extended play social hour. I had to rest a little bit, then slice up basil and parsley and olives for my bread salad. (That recipe turned out to be High Workability for my varying energy levels; I had dressing in the fridge, I cubed the bread last night, diced the tomatoes this morning before church, and mixed them in.)
I got my berry pie fix thanks to Shuna, who was of course sporting a stylin' Eggbeater t-shirt.
Meat was cooked by Biggles. I have some pix but I have given him first right of publication (now to remember to put them up on my ftp site ...) [ETA: Entry has been edited.] Not one but two Fatted Calf pork roasts were presented, as well as differing wonderful bacon for tasting. I smell like woodsmoke and bacon. This is a Good Thing.
We had fresh made Blue Bottle coffee thanks to one of the guests. Tiny E (Biggle's son) helped with that. (His dad has first right of publication on that too.) [ETA: See later entry.]
Pim of Chez Pim arrived late and made stunning satay. Thanks to her (most of us were stuffed to the gills by the time she arrived, and of course like the rest of us she brought loads), I have lunch. Bless her!
I enjoyed chatting with people - especially enjoyed meeting Elise of Simply Recipes, who lives in my old stomping grounds in Tomatoland (different part of town, but ...) I hope to talk with other people I didn't get a chance to meet at other events.
Now I really need a good RSS feed reader so I can read all their blogs expeditiously!
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Speaking Too Soon
More on my slap-up dinner at Sea Salt, the hot new fish place in my neighborhood, when I get around to uploading and editing the photos I took.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Anemia Grrrl's Food Week in Review
Store cupboard staples, some leftovers, judicious shopping, and some easy-peasy recipes really helped.
Through the Wonders of the World Wide Web, I was able to research proper technique for How to Wrap a Burrito. I applied this newfound knowledge on Monday night, when I made some Middle Eastern Chopped Salad (which is just a more granular version of Greek salad) and rolled it up in a large spinach wrap. I will say that the bigger you can get the tortillas, the better. My Greek wraps remained leak free, thank you very much.
(The burrito research also had some numbers about how many calories even "fresh mex" can have. Good Lord. I'll have a baby burrito and hold the rice and cheese, please.)
I managed to slap together some quickie food, extra important on Thurs. and Fri. as I needed to bring dinner as well as lunch to the office. I had some of my now prize-winning Marinated Tomato and Goat Cheese Pasta. Trader Joe's Artichoke-Lemon Pesto (must experiment with making my own) got slapped on pasta for a hearty meal. I also finally cooked up the second pound of green beans and made marinated green beans with tomatoes a la Amanda Hesser. (I can't believe I haven't written that all down for the recipe sidebar ... will do so the next time I make it.)
And last night for dinner I made Deb's Charred Broccoli with one of the El Cheapo bunches I bought at the farm stand. With a steak grilled on the indoor grill ... that was some mighty fine eatin'. If I get up early enough tomorrow I will make another batch with the other head. Mmm mmm good.
Alas, one major casualty of Anemia Grrrl and the work schedule is about half of the peaches I bought at the farm stand. They have been liquidating (waaah). If I'm halfway coherent tomorrow I will try to make pie with what's left.
Today, firstly because I am a Sick Tired Person and secondly to do some research for Sam's "$40 A Day" Dine and Dish event, I hied myself off restaurantwards after church to Meal Ticket. My choice off the brunch menu was salmon, eggs, salsa, and potatoes, and the salmon piece was as big as my hand. My pal Ron had said "On no account miss the scones" so I ordered one "to go" and ended up consuming it onsite. It was pretty good. I am not hungry tonight even with more or less giving the taters a miss.
Monday, August 01, 2005
Weeknight Cooking and More
Now since I am a home cook and like to keep it simple, I was all over this one. I did a whole series of posts on it. Quickie lunch, dinner strategies, a quick and flexible dessert, and my favorite dinner in Real Tomato season.
But I didn't expect to win a prize!
I guess Biggles and Mama (the nom du blog of his Lovely Wife) both like tomatoes ;-). It's a good dish in the summer and I am considering making it tonight.
I already do or am looking to try out some of the other suggestions ... these people are TALENTED cooks. (mmm, peanut sauce)
In other food news, I bought the proverbial metric boatload of Central Valley produce at Central Valley prices at the produce-plus shop on Pedrick Road in Dixon. Including a lot of peaches.
I also learned that it's traditional to eat fresh bread on Lammas Day, which this is, and which condition I satisfied with a very tasty banh mi from a little hole-in-the-wall Viet joint on Larkin Street in SF. In the spirit of weeknight cooking, I am going to make some Middle Eastern Chopped Salad and eat it as a wrap. I'm pretty tired, but I think I can handle that amount of chopping.