Monday, July 31, 2006

A New Little Star

Little Star Pizza (846 Divisidero Street; 415-441-1118) will be opening a second location at 15th and Valencia. For those of you not familiar with Little Star, this relative newcomer to the Bay Area pizza scene (opened November 2004) serves up award-winning Chicago-style pizza, which you can wash down with $1 PBRs during Happy Hour. Little Star has taken some knocks recently due to its decision to stop accepting credit cards, but for my money, it's the best Chicago-style pie in the city.

The new location will only be a block away from Pauline's Pizza (260 Valencia Street; 415-552-2050), so let the Pizza Wars begin!

Orgasm or excellent marinara?

You decide.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Corporate Advertising in Your Food

First, CBS announced they will be laser-etching ads for their fall lineup on eggs. Now, Ford will be promoting their Fusion model in boxes of Kellogg's cereal.

What's next? Microsoft Office-themed Happy Meals? Or perhaps, diamond-shaped, Viagra-branded Doritoes torilla chips - made of blue corn, of course.

Restaurant Review: Sebo

Last Friday, my girlfriend and I decided to check out Sebo (517 Hayes Street; 415-864-2181) , a tiny sushi restaurant tucked away in Hayes Valley. We were both in the mood for sushi, as we had a rather poor dining experience earlier in the week (at a restaurant that shall remain nameless) and were looking forward to checking out a fresh new place.

We walked over from my girlfriend's pad and arrived at the restaurant expecting a long wait for seats. To our surprise, there was an open table. It would have been nice to sit at the sushi counter, as the omakase meal is only available at the counter, but we decided to order a la carte. We started out with some sake. Now, I'm not a sake connoisseur, but I do know that I like cold sake, not the crappy hot stuff that we had earlier in the week. We selected a bottle of Nigori (unfiltered) sake, which was surprising affordable at $20 a bottle. Our selection, which came from True Sake down the street, had a hint of carbonation which gave it a interesting note.

We each started with a bowl of miso soup, which was very flavorful. Though I was interested in some of their rolls, including the negitoro maki, we ended up mainly going with a selection of nigiri: aji (mackeral), kampachi (amberjack), hotategai (scallop), gold bream, and chutoro, a cut which comes from the fatty belly of the tuna. We also had an order of our favorite, unagi. Of course, we couldn't completely skip all of the rolls, and decided on their maguro maki.

Our order came out quickly and we rapidly dove into the sushi. One of the interesting things about Sebo is that they don't want you to drown the sushi in soy sauce; indeed, you will not find a bottle at your table. They want you to taste the fish, not the sauce. The sushi was very well presented and well cut. All of the fish were really fresh and tasted very good. I really liked the scallop, which literally melted in my mouth as I chewed. I also was very impressed with the maguro roll. The tuna was fantastically deep red in color and its rich taste was nicely complemented in the roll by a sliver of avocado, lemon (lemon rind from what I could tell), and a touch of sesame oil. It came together very nicely.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I'm a huge fan of toro and the chutoro nigiri did not disappoint. It wasn't quite as good as the o-toro that I had at Sushi Ran, but it was fantasic nevertheless. My girlfriend, the wonderful woman that she is, saw how much I enjoyed the chutoro and asked me if I'd mind if we went all out and got an order of o-toro. How could I say no? Well, the o-toro was just divine, melting away every time I chewed and filling my mouth with its buttery goodness - absolutely fantastic and every bit as any o-toro that I've ever had.

We had read several glowing reviews of Sebo and had high expectations of the restaurant, which were all met. I'll have to put down Sebo on my list of favorite sushi places in San Francisco, along with Sushi Bistro and Sushi Ran.

Yet another Top 10 list

Food critic Josh Sens of San Francisco Magazine listed his Top 10 Bay Area restaurants in the August 2006 issue. The list is (in no particular order, I presume):

  1. Bar Tartine

  2. Pizzeria Delfina

  3. Cyrus

  4. Tarmarindo

  5. Pizzaiolo

  6. Ame

  7. Redd

  8. Range

  9. Canteen

  10. Sea Salt

I've been to three of these restaurants in the last few months (Cyrus, Range, and Canteen) - four if you count my visit to Delfina. I'll definitely have to plan some visits to some of these places that I haven't gone to yet.

What I find interesting is that the list doesn't include any of the usual suspects, such as French Laundry, Gary Danko, Chez Panisse, Boulevard, etc.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Fighting world hunger, BK style.

Every Tuesday, I receive a pile of ads and coupons in the mail. In today's stack of coupons, there was a 'buy one, get one free' offer for a quadruple BK Stacker. For those of you who are not familiar with this particular offering (as I was not prior to the receipt of this coupon), you get four beef patties, stacked in an alternating pattern with four slices of American cheese, topped with eight strips of bacon, smothered with 'BK Stackers' sauce, all on a sesame seed bun. That's a 1000 calories of meatnormous goodness for those of you counting at home. As the Burger King website says, "It's the flame-broiled meat lover's burger and it's here to stay -- no veggies allowed".

Now, with this coupon, you can get all of this delicious beefiness times two, for the mere price of one. It looks like BK is joining McDonalds in its fight against world hunger.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Doctor No's favorite snacks

It has come to my attention that my very good friend Doctor No, also known as PhDoug, wrote a food related post in his blog today.

Nice post, doc. Pass me some of that bolognese sauce spagehetti and give me some turkey and gravy soda to wash it down. Mmm-mmm.

Belly dancing!

My girlfriend and I are members of an eating club that one of our friends organized here in San Francisco. The eating club is a group of friends who take turns hosting meals once a month at restaurants throughout the city. Basically, the purpose of the eating club is to expose us to new and different places in the city that we might not otherwise check out on our own.

Last night, my girlfriend and I jointly 'hosted' a dinner at El Mansour (3119 Clement Street; 415-751-2312) , a traditional Moroccan restaurant in the Outer Richmond district of San Francisco. The food was quite good. First, we started with a tasty lentil soup which was accompanied by wedges of warm bread, followed by a salad plate with an eggplant spread, marinated carrots and cucumbers, and a tomato spread. The salad was followed by bastela, a phyllo dough pastry filled with chicken, almonds, and various spices. Next, came the entrees. My girlfriend had the chicken with preserved lemons and olives, while I opted for the lamb and brochette kabob special. Both dishes were very good. The lamb was stewed and very tender and the chicken was nicely seasoned and roasted. Despite being stuffed by the time dessert came around (all of the meals come with dessert), we still found a little room for banana fritters and a sweet bastela, washing all of it down with mint tea that was masterfully poured by our very attentive waiter.

After the dessert plates were cleared off the table, we were entertained by a belly dancer, who swung around the room and persuaded several restaurant patrons to get up and dance with for a few songs. (Not me, of course.) It was very entertaining. At the end of the night, it seemed like everyone in our group had a fun time, being pretty happy with both the food and the entertainment.

(Edit to add address and phone number.)

Friday, July 21, 2006

10 (or 20) Great American foods

I just read an article listing 10 great American foods. The list is:

  1. Lobster roll

  2. Maple Syrup

  3. Philly cheesesteak

  4. Gumbo

  5. Shrimp and grits

  6. Frito pie

  7. Wisconsin brats

  8. Hawaiian plate lunch

  9. Banana split

  10. Mission burrito (from the Mission District of San Francisco)

Compare this to their list from last year (along with the state of origin):
  1. New England clam chowder (uh, I mean chowda) - Massachusetts

  2. Pastrami - New York

  3. Shoofly pie - Pennsylvania

  4. Smithfield ham - Virginia

  5. Po-boys - Louisiana

  6. Fajitas - Texas

  7. Chicago hot dogs - Illinois

  8. Chile verde - New Mexico

  9. San Francisco sourdough - California

  10. Olympia oysters - Washington

Personally, I think that the list from 2005 is a more quintessential list than the one from this year, though admittedly, I hadn't heard of a shoofly pie before I read the article...

The Milk Pail Market

On my way home from work today, I decided to stop by the Milk Pail Market, an open-air European market tucked away in the San Antonio Shopping Center in Mountain View. This small market has an amazing selection of cheeses (300+ kinds), a large variety of bulk grains, and craft-baked Acme bread delivered twice daily. They also have bins and bins of high quality fresh fruits and vegetables that are quite cheap (at least by Bay Area standards). Today, I discovered that they also carry taramosalata, a Greek-style spread made from roe. It's absolutely fantastic on pita bread and one of my favorite spreads. Caviar dreams at sardine prices!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Why you can't make 10 cups of coffee in a 10 cup coffee machine

Ever tried to make 10 cups of coffee in a 10 cup coffee maker? Sure, you can do this, but can you make these 10 cups of coffee while following the suggested directions? I can't.

My coffee of choice is Peet's Coffee. Peet's is known as the "grandfather of specialty coffee". The first store opened in 1966 in Berkeley, CA. (Two posts in a row involving Berkeley!) Today, the company has more than a hundred stores, mostly located on the West Coast. Peet's was the original inspiration for Starbucks coffee. The founders of both companies knew each other personally and Starbucks even bought their coffee from Peet's during the initial stage of their business. Anyway, I digress.

Now, if you want to brew your coffee following Peet's method, you need to use two tablespoons of ground coffee per cup. So, doing a little arithmetic, that works out to twenty tablespoons of coffee for a full pot of coffee. No problem, right? Well, give it a try. If your machine is like mine, you'll get a mouthful of coffee grounds in your cup. My machine uses a #4 filter, in which you can probably put twenty tablespoons of coffee, but if I try brewing a batch with that much coffee, the grounds will expand over the top of the filter and flow down into the carafe. Not really what I call a good cup o' joe. From my experience, the most coffee that I can reliably use without dealing with a bunch of grounds in my cup is around fourteen tablespoons.

So, that means that I can only really make seven cups of coffee in my coffee maker. And keep in mind that a "cup" of coffee is really only 5-6 fluid ounces, whereas a normal cup in the measuring cup sense is 8 fl. oz. My coffee mug at work holds 16 ounces, so in my case, the most coffee that I can make in my 10 cup machine is really only around 2 1/2 physical "cups".

Can you tell that I drink too much coffee?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Berkeley Bowl

This morning, I paid a visit to the Berkeley Bowl Marketplace, one of the most popular grocery stores in the Bay Area. Being a South Bay guy, I rarely make the 50 mile trek to Berkeley, but since I was already there to drop off my girlfriend for a class today, I decided to pay a visit.

I arrived at 9:30, a half-hour before the store opened and there was already a group of eager shoppers gathered around the front doors. As I sipped some Peet's coffee and caught up with a couple of friends on the phone, I saw the crowd amassed out front growing bigger and bigger. By the time the doors slid open, the waiting crowd, numbering at least 100 by my estimate, streamed in, filling the store within minutes.

My first stop today was the produce section. Berkeley Bowl boasts one of the largest produce sections in the area. Since I didn't bring a cooler, I only wanted to get produce that could last in the back of the car for the couple of hours before I made it back home. (The temps were in the 80's and 90's today.) I zeroed in on the heirloom tomatoes. Usually I look for brandywines and cherokee purples, but unfortunately I didn't find any that looked particularly good. I ended up getting three small tomatoes - all of the same varietal, though since I'm not a tomato expert, I don't know what kind they are. Hopefully, they'll work in a caprese salad. I also picked up a few ears of corn. Compared to the ones that you get at the local megamart, these ears were much heavier and had much larger kernels.

Having no way to keep food cool, I just did a quick fly-by of the meat and fish department. Ditto for the dairy section. In fact, since I really didn't have a lot of needs in the dry goods department, it was becoming evident that this wasn't going to be a big shopping trip, but that wasn't a big deal. It was fun just looking around. I ended up picking up a few random items that I needed, like red wine vinegar and capers. I also found a good deal on quinoa in the bulk food section. I made quinoa for the first time a couple of nights ago and it paired nicely with the brined pork chops that we had for dinner. The bulk version was about a third of the price of the stuff that I bought for dinner the previous evening and plus it was organically grown.

The find of the day was a tin of ventresca tuna. Ventresca comes from the belly of the tuna, where it is very fatty and, therefore, very tasty. I fell in love with tuna belly after sampling some utterly decadent o-toro nigiri at Sushi Ran last summer. When I heard that ventresca comes from the same part of the tuna, I knew that I had to give it a try. I found a place down in the South Bay that carries ventresca, but at a jaw-dropping price of $15 for a 4 ounce can. I was extremely pleased to find that Berkeley Bowl carried a similar sized tin for less than half the price. Score!

While this was only my second trip to Berkeley Bowl (and this really wasn't much of a trip, given that I wasn't able to buy a wide range of food), I'll definitely be back, especially if the ventresca is anything like the o-toro of last summer.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Two posts in two days!

This won't be a common occurrence since I probably won't have that much to say, but since I'm just starting out, I figured that I would tell ya what you might expect from me.

As you might have guessed from the title of the blog, I'll probably be writing a lot about food. Living in the Bay Area, I am surrounded by an abundance of great restaurants and have ready access to a wide range of foods from all over the world. While I'm sure that I will tell you about some of my dining experiences at said restaurants, I probably won't be doing any formal reviews and ratings, mostly due to sheer laziness. Of course, I could change my mind tomorrow, but you'll just have to wait and see. I'd put my money on laziness though.

Outside of food, I'll probably talk about some other things that interest me, such as mathematics (since I did spend a better part of a decade studying that subject) and sports. Like most other bloggers, I'll probably also write about random crap too. So basically, I'm just going to write about whatever happens to pique my interest at that moment. It just so happens that food and cooking tend to catch my attention more often than the other stuff.

Anyway, there are a couple of subjects that you won't see me talking much about.

  1. Politics

  2. It's not that I don't care about politics or what happens in the world. It's just that I have zero desire to engage in an online political debate. My particular beliefs don't fall in line with either of our two main political parties, so I'm sure that it would be easy to piss off a lot of people if I were to talk about politics. Just label me as "middle of the road". Or apolitical. Take your pick.

    Maybe apathetic is a better label. Yes, I do vote. No, I don't know who is the mayor of the city that I live in.

  3. Work

  4. I don't plan on spending any time commenting on my employer or talking directly about the work that I do. I'm not really interested in getting dooced as I rather like my job. However, I do work in an interesting area of software design and strategy, so you might see some posts on innovation and design thinking.

Anyway, I've hogged enough of your time for now. Plus, I'm sleepy...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Hola amigos.

It's been a long time since I rapped at ya.

Okay, unlike Mr. Anchower, I've never actually rapped at ya before today. Hopefully, I'll rap at ya more often than ol' Jim does.