Posted in Food

That’s a damn good burger.

Last night my husband and I finally paid a visit to Jeffrey’s Hamburgers in San Mateo.  After hearing much fuss about this place and being in the mood for a burger, I finally made the trek over there.It was a clean, white diner-like space and you go up to order and wait for them to bring your food to your table.  I was this close to ordering the fish and chips, but that will have to wait for my next visit.  (I like that they had a bottle of malt vinegar at each table.  It’s the little things.)  And my husband loved the condiment and toppings table in the back of the restaurant.  The whole idea of choice is something he loves when dining out.

So he ordered the Double Cheeseburger and I got the Mushroom Burger.  I expected something pretty good.  After all, I was in the mood for a real burger.  But what my husband and I got well exceeded our expectations.  It was just excellent.  My husband is a real meat connoiseur and takes pride in his steaks and burgers, but even he admitted that Jeffrey’s burgers were better than his!  They were juicy and flavorful.  Not the least bit dry.  I’m all about condiments on my burgers, hotdogs, fries, you name it.  But my burger and the accompanying mushrooms (and there were so many of them that they kept slipping out!) were so deliciously flavorful that if I had no access to the ketchup and mayo I actually used, it would still be one of the best damn burgers I’ve ever had, period.

We also got an order of Garlic Fries to share.  They, unfortunately, weren’t as flavorful on their own as the burgers, but they were fried to a perfect crisp so they had great texture.  And the raw garlic and shredded parmesan cheese mixture on top really packed a punch.

My husband and I really loved the food here.  So much so that we couldn’t stop talking about it even after we got home.  Next time we go I’m tempted to try their Fish and Chips with a nice thick shake.  But at least now I know there’s a great burger to be had here anytime I wish.

Jeffrey's Hamburgers on Urbanspoon

Posted in Food, San Francisco

Lackluster Limon

I went with pal J.Low to Limon.  Friends on more than one occasion, as well as numerous Chowhounds and other restaurant critics have given this place rave reviews.  So I thought it was finally time to pay a visit.We ordered the Empanadas to start.  The dough was fried to a perfect crispy texture and golden brown on the outside, yet moist and tender on the inside.  And the meat filling was flavorful and cooked perfectly.  Not dry at all.  However, our main complaint was with the accompanying sauce.  It added absolutely nothing.  No flavor, no zest, not even any spice or heat!  What the hell was the point?  A squeeze of lime would have been better!

Then we enjoyed the Lomo Saltado, which is what this place is known for (along with their elegantly presented Fried Red Snapper dish).  It’s beef sirloin and red onion pieces sauteed with a soy based sauce but with distinctive Latin spices.  Now I’ve been told that Peruvian cooking has many Asian influences for whatever reason, which is why the Latin spices combined with the soy based sauce for the beef should be of no surprise. 

The beef was cooked perfectly, but it was the french fries in the dish that were the highlight.  They were perfectly crisp on the outside and tender inside, despite being soaked in the sauce.  And the beef was cooked perfectly medium rare and tender.  My two biggest complaints about the dish are the rice and the gamey flavor of the meat.  The rice could have benefited from some additional flavor like coconut milk or a quick fry with some soy sauce.  And I can’t explain the gamey flavor of the beef.  It was a very obvious and unfortunate sidenote to what would’ve been a great dish.

All in all, the meal was alright, but it certainly didn’t live up to all the hype.  The service was very spotty and the staff seemed totally despondent.  The food was good, but lacked depth.  The dishes were all well intentioned, but they all missed a certain something to really make your tastebuds sing.  I wanted to like this place more, but I have a feeling I won’t be back.

Limon on Urbanspoon

Posted in Events, Food, San Francisco, Travel

The best places for Easter Brunch that AREN’T in Walnut Creek!

My support of EasterBunnyDude’s mission to change Walnut Creek’s “Spring Bunny” and “Spring Egg Hunt” back to EASTER titled events, continues.  (www.defendtheeasterbunny.com)  Especially since the city has made a statement about the whole issue, and it isn’t pretty…  (www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/16875862.htm)

So, here’s a list of the best places to go for a great Bay Area EASTER Sunday Brunch that are NOT in Walnut Creek!  After all, why patronize a city that refuses to listen to not only it’s own voters, but the masses of people who agree with EBD all across the country?

THE DUCK CLUB (Lafayette) – It’s a little pricier, but it’s the perfect place to enjoy a special occassion like Easter, which comes around only once a year (after all, spring lasts for a whole three months and really isn’t worth having a special meal for).  They’re known for their Sunday brunch so your can’t go wrong.  The Easter Bunny himself has been known to pay a visit in previous years, so you can skip the Walnut Creek “Spring” celebrations altogether!  www.woodsidehotels.com

CAFE ESIN (San Ramon) – It’s located in the corner of a strip mall, but it’s certainly no fast food place.  The decor is simple yet elegant and the food is American with Mediterranean touches.  They’ll be serving a special menu of items for $33 per person on Easter Sunday (cheaper for kids).  www.cafeesin.com

LEFT BANK (various locations including Pleasant Hill, Larkspur, and others on the Peninsula and South Bay) – The food at this restaurant is rich but always satisfying.  It’s a classic bistro setting and the prices are reasonable if you compare it with other mid to high end places around the Bay Area.  The original location in Larkspur remains the best in food, service, and setting.  www.leftbank.com

FOREIGN CINEMA (San Francisco) – It’s the least traditional choice on this list, but it’s good if you’re looking for something different.  I’d recommend their version of “Pop Tarts” made with organic fruit and a lovely dough, and their Fried Egg dish with balsamic vinegar glaze and rose & roasted garlic hash.  Delish!  www.foreigncinema.com

STACKS (various locations including Burlingame, Redwood City, and Menlo Park) – This is hands down my favorite breakfast/brunch place to head to.  But the wait can make you completely crazy, so go either really early (anytime before 8:30) or much later (anytime between 1:30-2:30).  They close at 2:30 everyday, but if you get there at 2:25, they certainly won’t turn you away and they’ll still serve you with a smile without trying to hurry you up.

So enjoy your Easter Brunch with pride.  And if you happen to drive through Walnut Creek, stop only long enough to wish everyone a “Happy Easter!”  It’s the right thing to do.  🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5-v0Pv9RUw

Posted in San Francisco

The most fun you’ll have getting a mani/pedi.

Sometimes getting a manicure or a pedicure (or both) can be more of a chore than a relaxing experience.  I know, the massage chairs and foot massages are more often than not, a standard part of the experience.  But the salons are usually small, sterile, and impersonal, albiet clean (it better be!).

So if you want to get an affordable spa-like, girly-fun experience that you’ll truly enjoy the next time you get a mani/pedi, check this out.

Polished Lounge is a wonderful little place on Third St. in San Francisco’s SOMA area.  Part stylish boutique where you can find fabulous purses, spa items, accessories, and other knick-knacks; the other part a Shabby Chic decorated living room full of spa fizzies and other well-scented products for you to choose from for your mani/pedi services.  Fun already!

It’s their philosophy to offer a comfortable, fun, stylish environment where you can truly pamper yourself.  Their plush oversized chairs make that easy.  You don’t just sit in these chairs, you sink into them, which makes the relaxing part easier.  They bring the services to you with a tub of perfectly warm water scented with flower petals and scent them to your liking.  And they massage and scrub till your fingers and toes are sparkling and pretty.  They offer beverages of your choice and a full selection of great magazines (more than just your standard Marie Claire and Allure).  The service is great too.

DailyCandy.com, Citysearch.com, and Allure magazine have all recently given the place its due attention as one of the best places to get a manicure or pedicure, and I have to agree.  This is a truly relaxing and fun experience!  And the best part is that they are committed to staying affordable.  A full service manicure is just $15 and pedicure is $25.  That’s no more than your typical sterile mani/pedi salon with much more of the bells and whistles to keep you happy.  Who wouldn’t like that?

Trust me, if you don’t have the time or the budget for a full service spa appointment, this should do the trick.  It’s relaxing, it’s fun, and remember to bring a girlfriend or a good book.  Your soul will thank you :).

Posted in Food, Travel

The seafood in Vancouver IS better!

Just returned from a trip up north to western Canada, and I have to tell you, I’ll never look at sushi and seafood in general, the same way again.

It’s gotta be the water.  The water even TASTES better from the tap!  Anyway, I visited a Japanese place called Sushi Hachi in a suburb about 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver called Richmond.  We had a variety of sashimi items like Sake (fresh salmon), Maguro (tuna), Hamachi (yellowtail), Saba w/Miso glaze (cooked fish), and a selection of raw oysters.  It was the freshest, purest, highest quality fish I’ve ever tasted in my life.  And I’ve had sushi from all over the world!  The Sake sashimi was so fresh and most definitely wild caught because of it’s distinctive pure blood orange color.  Not like the light orange color that’s added to our usual farmed salmon.  At first I thought the quality of fish was exclusive to the establishment, but I later ealized that this was not the case…

The next day I visited a Chinese seafood restaurant called Sun Sui Wah with locations in both the Vancouver and Richmond areas.  Everything we ordered was absolute perfection.  From the Mirugai (giant clam), which can be a difficult and expensive item to find these days, to the sauteed shrimp and crab dishes, every seafood item was as fresh as can be and less expensive than you would find in the States (because of the exchange rate).  No other sushi and seafood will ever taste the same to me from now on.  Ever.  That’s how excellent the quality of seafood was in this town.

I never thought I’d recommend Vancouver for a food lover’s weekend trek, but I am.  And if you’re a seafood or sushi lover, you simply can’t miss it.

Posted in Food, Travel

The perfect winter Bay Area roadtrip

duartes_sign.jpg

Photo from www.DuartesTavern.com 

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’ll know the weather lately is gray, wet, and dreary.  And with President’s Day and Valentine’s Day coming up, I wanted to pass along a dreary day-winter roadtrip idea that won’t take too much planning or too much time.  Perfect for a quick getaway.

Head to the California Coast.  More specifically, Half Moon Bay and Pescadero.  Just get on Highway 92 West all the way to the end till you hit Highway 1, and turn left heading South.  Easy enough.

Along the way you’ll find some great places to find good food and just enjoy the drive.  Head down to Duarte’s Tavern for lunch. You have to order two things:  Artichoke Soup and Ollalieberry Pie.  The Artichoke Soup is creamy yet flavorful and not too heavy.  But the sourdough bread that they serve with your meal is the perfect partner for it.  It’s crusty on the outside and warm and soft on the inside.  Just the best.  And the Ollalieberry Pie is what they’re famous for.  It has the texture of a raspberry with the color of a blueberry pie.  People have said that if you don’t get the Ollalieberry Pie at Duarte’s, it’s a sin.  Period.

Then while in Pescadero, stop by Phipps Country Store and Farm.  They have a fabulous selection of herbs, fruits, veggies, jams and jellies, and nuts.  It’s a great place to visit.  Don’t miss their Peach and Ollalieberry jams!

While on your drive down Highway 1, make stops along the road to take in the beautiful view of the coast and hear the sound of waves crashing.  It’s beautiful whether the skies are blue or gray.  The area is known for it’s foggy environment anyway.

Stay at either Costanoa (www.costanoa.com) in Pescadero or The Beach House (www.beach-house.com) in Half Moon Bay (which is back up Highway 1 North).  The Beach House is a fabulous weekend getaway.  You’ll feel like you’re far away from the Bay Area and if you get an Ocean View room, it’s truly spectacular.  You can read the paper and have coffee on your balcony overlooking the ocean.  Those rooms have a kitchenette too. 

Costanoa is a great destination for families with three types of accomodations: tents, cabins, and hotel rooms. I suggest the Cabin Rooms, which have real character and a back porch that overlooks the mountains.  And you’re only a brief walk away from the ocean.

If you have time on the way home, don’t miss one of the many fruit and veggie stands with super fresh produce from the large number of farms in the area.

Now doesn’t that sound like a nice weekend?

Duarte's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Posted in Food, San Francisco

Good atmosphere, mediocre food

I went to check out a restaurant that I’ve wanted to try for a very long time last week.  A16 is located in the Marina District of S.F.  I’ve heard wonderful things about their meat dishes, their thin pizzas, and that it was a real happening spot.First off, the service and locale are very nice.  The atmosphere is casual yet intimate.  I say that because I made a reservation ahead of time and got there at 6pm (before the usual dinner rush on a Friday) and they sat me in the very back of the restaurant.  It’s the only quiet spot and it was perfect for dinner conversation.  It is a real yuppie hangout for dinner and a drink at the bar.  Nice wine selection too.

I ordered the Proschutto tasting platter to share and a thin crusted Margherita pizza.  My companion had a pasta dish.  Although the proschutto was absolutely amazing and his pasta was fabulous, I was immensely disappointed in my pizza.  Although the sauce was very distinctive and the mozzerella mild, the pizza was completely soggy on the bottom because of the deluge of olive oil.  There was practically a puddle of liquid in the middle which left what should have been a perfect pizza, soggy and wet.  Terrible.  Service was attentive and the hostesses were actually very friendly, but the waitress seemed a bit absent and ditsy, though she was nice.

All in all, if I went back I’d do a meat entree (that was probably my mistake) but the pizza, never again.  Too bad because I’ve heard so many things about their authentic pizzas.  I’d certainly think twice before going back.  There are so many other better options.

A16 on Urbanspoon

Posted in Food

Shanghainese in the Peninsula

I’m pretty picky about my Chinese food.  Regular Cantonese fare frankly bores me.  So lately I’ve been looking for more regional stuff.

I went to this place when they were in S.F. (I think they’re still around but with different owners).  So when I heard they had opened the “Shanghai Dumpling Shop” in Millbrae on Broadway, I decided to check it out.

It is clearly my favorite Chinese restaurant in the Bay Area right now.  The service is good, the specials are written in English on the wall (!) and most everything we’ve had is spectacular.  Here are some dishes we recommend.

“Braised Lions Head Meatballs” – This is dish is clearly the best thing they make (aside from the dumplings but more on that later).  You can see that the meatballs are made up of mostly a lean pork mixture which makes them moist and flavorful.  They’ve also chopped up mushrooms and waterchestnuts for added texture, flavor, and moisture.  And the flavor!  Man you can really taste the star anise and the cinnamon.  The perfect dish for colder evenings.  It’s just the best.

“Shao Long Bao” – What this place is known for.  They’re bamboo steamers filled with 12 little individual dumplings filled with pork and a mixture of other ingredients.  The key is to take a small bite, slurp out the “soup” inside (which is really just the broth and oil but oh-so delish!) and then dip the dumpling in the soy ginger dipping sauce.  Just heaven.  The filling is flavored so well and the “skin” is not too thick and gummy.

Other great dishes include the Shanghainese Chow Mein, Pea Sprouts w/Garlic, Braised Tofu, Spicy Pork Chop Noodle Soup, and many others.  I can’t wait to try the Braised Fish Tails!

The prices are great, there’s always parking, the service is good (for a Chinese restaurant), it’s clean, and the food is always reliably delicious.  It’s nothing less than superb.  Our bill for four people (including 4 dishes and 1 noodle soup) came to only around $42 w/o tip!  The only drawback is that they close at 9pm.  But other than that, it’s worth regular visits.  If you’re a fan of GOOD authentic Chinese food or like trying something new (this is no fried rice, egg roll, and chow mein place!), this place is a must!

Shanghai Dumpling Shop on Urbanspoon

Posted in Food, San Francisco

My NEW Favorite Restaurant!

So last night, J. and I went to Town Hall for dinner.  It’s a restaurant we’ve both wanted to try for a long time so we were looking forward to it…and it did NOT disappoint!

We decided to share the “Warm Smithfield Ham & Cheese Toast w/Poached Egg and Jalapeno Cream.”  Words can not even describe how good this dish was!!!  I told the waiter it must’ve had crack in it.  J. and I couldn’t even talk to each other this dish was so good!  It is a MUST TRY if you go.  It’s rich, cheesy, distinctive, and just heaven.  Who knew something so simple could be so good!

Then, I ordered the “Buttermilk Fried Chicken” and J. got the “Peanut Crusted Pork Chop.”  My chicken was so fabulous!  Hot and juicy with flavorful meat and a perfectly light and crisp crust.  I hate chicken that’s bland inside but fortunately that didn’t happen here.  And J.’s pork chop was very juicy and tender.  The mustardy peanut crust was fabulous, but the flavor didn’t excite like the fried chicken did.  And I could do without the brussel sprouts on my plate.  Bitter.

Then we shared the “Butterscotch & Chocolate Pot de Creme” dessert and there’s really no other dessert you should order on the menu.  (I’ve heard the chocolate cake is dry so don’t try that one.)  Our Pot de Creme was so creamy, decadent, and perfectly flavored.  And the toffee/chocolate chips on top are a perfect texture contrast to the creamy smoothness of the Pot de Creme.  Just perfect!

I have to say that the service was excellent too.  From the moment we walked in (5 minutes late), the hostess was friendly and so was our waiter without being obnoxious.  He let us linger over our dinner so we could have nice long conversations without being interrupted, but was perfectly attentive.  And the best thing about this restaurant was the lack of pretentiousness.  The service wasn’t at all snotty and the food was comforting yet gourmet.  And the setting was distinctive without being pretentious.  But this place is LOUD!  Not the best for a quiet romantic dinner.  But it is a good night out.

I have to say that J. and I ordered perfectly because of our extensive research of the restaurant (I like to know what’s on the menu before I go and see what people like and don’t like).  Next time I go I’d like to perhaps get two starters as my entree (the toast again for sure and perhaps the veal meatballs or the tuna tartare.  Heard good things about those two dishes) and the pot de creme again.

Overall, it was just fabulous.

Town Hall – 342 Howard St. – San Francisco – 415.908.3900

Town Hall on Urbanspoon