Posted in Shopping

Crate & Barrel CAN Be Affordable!

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Have I really never written about this place?

I guess I’ve kept this place on my regular repatoire of favorite bargain spots for so long that I forgot to mention it. But it’s REALLY worth visiting.

We’re lucky enough in the Bay Area to have one of the few Crate and Barrel Outlet stores in the country. It’s located on the quaint shopping area of Fourth Street in Berkeley, which means parking can be a challenge on the weekends. But you could easily spend an afternoon in the neighborhood. But I digress…

The Crate and Barrel Outlet takes discontinued, seasonal, and sample merchandise and sells it at up to 85% off their original prices. I just got four picture frames, a wine decanter and four matching wine glasses, a large glass centerpiece bowl, and two juice glasses on one visit and spent only 80 bucks. How’s that for a deal on Crate and Barrel merchandise?

They also have a huge selection of furniture, bedding, dishes, table linens, home decor and accessories, kitchenware, glasses, gifts, basically anything you can think of at a regular Crate and Barrel. Each time you go the merchandise will be different so if you see something, you should grab it. And you don’t need a sale since everything’s already marked down so much (some more than others, of course).

There are no drawbacks to paying this place a visit every once in a while. Some times will be better than others, but it’ll always be worth a visit, if only to gawk at the prices.

Crate and Barrel Outlet 1785 Fourth Street, Berkeley – 510.528.5500

Posted in Food, San Francisco

A Culinary Maverick

It was time to celebrate Miss J. Low’s birthday and I let her have her pick of any restaurant in the Bay Area. It’s no surprise she picked one with a hearty menu that would scare most ladies away.

Welcome to Maverick, a place where two chicks can order a plate of Baby Back Ribs, Fried Chicken, a side of Mac & Cheese, and still have room for dessert. (Did I mention we love food?…)

Things started off easy and elegant with a shared appetizer of Fresh Asparagus w/Poached Egg and Fresh Mozzerella. It’s spring which is prime asparagus season, and the flavors didn’t disappoint. They did a great job of keeping the flavor of the asparagus intact: sweet and bright. The richness of the poached egg and creaminess of the cheese made for a great textural and flavor contrast. The perfect spring dish.

Then we got down to the gourmet rib stickin’ food…

She went with the Fried Chicken served with a rich brown gravy and grits. It was delicious. Again, another very different fried chicken dish than the ones we’ve tried at Town Hall (more traditional buttermilk), Jack Falstaff (more of a light flour batter) or 900 Grayson (just plain good). This one had a Shake and Bake kinda texture that was breaded. It was crispy and seasoned well, so the crust had real flavor and depth. And we both mentioned how juicy the meat was. Very good.

I had the special of the night, which was St. Louis Style Baby Back Ribs with a side of baked beans and arugula salad. Though the sauce was sweet and smokey, the ribs weren’t as meaty as I would have liked, and seemed slightly dryer than they could have been. I would’ve been more impressed had they been juicer meatier ribs. Oh well, it was still pretty tasty.

We probably should have ended it there, but when there’s Mac and Cheese on the menu, J. and I can never turn it down. Though this version was good, it wasn’t exactly up to snuff (we measure all gourmet mac and cheeses to the one they serve at “Home” restaurant in SF on Market Street). It came out hot out of the broiler, but the sauce was a bit thin and slightly grainy with not enough strong cheese flavor to provide any distinctive contrast between the cheeses. But as we let the dish sit, it got thicker as it cooled so when we picked at it towards the end of the meal, the flavors of the cheeses came out and the sauce was nice and thick and gooey.

As you can imagine we were pretty full, but the staff managed to pull out a little dish of Sea Salt Caramel Gelato in celebration of J’s birthday. It had a great savory bite when you first tasted it, but then mellowed out into the sweet rich caramel flavor. I could only stomach a bite but J. finished it up in a minute. The perfect ending to an already rich meal.

The space is small but rich with brown and deep red tones. It has a “down home” edge without being kitschy, and is very aware of its gourmet identity. It’s worth a visit if you’re in the mood for that type of food, but I wouldn’t exactly make a special trip just to eat there again.

Maverick – 3316 Seventeenth St., San Francisco – 415.863.3061

Maverick on Urbanspoon

Posted in Shopping

So we were in the market for a sofa…

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The West Point sofa from the Kathy Ireland for Omni Furniture collection (We didn’t order white, of course…)

My husband and I just bought a lovely dark brown leather couch after having my horrible Jennifer Convertables sofa for 10 years.  10 years!  Way too long.  And it was never comfortable.  So we decided to make our first major grown up furniture purchase and pay some good money for a long-term, quality leather couch. 

After visiting every furniture chain and local store we could think of, my husband recommended a random store called the Sofa Outlet along El Camino in San Mateo.  He saw it on the way to a Thai restaurant we were headed to.  As usual, I didn’t take him seriously.

It wasn’t until some local show on TV mentioned it as a good place to shop for almost any style couch you can think of, at 20-30% off retail.  I was so there!  (Sorry, Honey.)

After multiple visits leafing through the tons and tons of catalogs, and then realizing the style we liked most wouldn’t fit through the narrow hallway of our home (we wanted the Pottery Barn “Manhattan” look-alike couch), we decided on an expresso brown couch from Omnia Furniture.  We could totally choose the color and grade of leathers since it would be custom made!

We ordered a standard three seater sofa, two large oversized chairs (like the ones the comfy ones they have in major bookstores for reading) and a large ottoman.  It was all high grade, pre-treated leather, and the tab including tax and a minimal delivery charge only because they had to go up to the second floor of our home (usually it’s free!), and it was $6000.  That may sound like a lot, but they’re investment pieces, and good leather sofa sets can cost WAY more than that.  We easily saw some that were in the five figures!

So we finally got them this week, and I can’t tell you how happy we are.  They are so comfy, great quality, and best of all the staff at the store AND the delivery staff were friendly, careful, and accomodating.  Great service, great price, great quality…a win-win for sure.

Sofa OutletEl Camino Real, San Mateo

Posted in Events, Food, San Francisco, Shopping, Travel

No Ordinary Food Court

about_photo_grid.jpg Courtesy of www.wichcraftnyc.com

You’re probably wondering why on earth I would write about a food court, but the term “food court” really doesn’t do this place justice. It’s not like any other stereotypical one you’ve seen in the standard American mall. Thankfully, there’s no Sbarro, Panda Express, or Hot Dog on a Stick anywhere in sight.

A couple of weeks ago I stayed at the Hotel Palomar in San Francisco for a few days (great boutique hotel with exceptional service, btw). That meant being right next door to the San Francisco Shopping Centre (!) and an endless source of meal options in their famous food court and supermarket, Whole Foods knockoff, Bristol Farms.

I’ll list out only the places I tried.

WICHCRAFT – Fans of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” are familiar with this restaurant chain’s owner, Tom Coliccio. Unfortunately, this place falls into the typical celebrity chef trap: all style, no substance and overpriced. It bugs the crap outta me that the food here was fresh, conceptually inventive, the elements were individually good, but the result was less than memorable. Head to this next joint for a better soup and sandwich…

SAN FRANCISCO SOUP COMPANY – This chain makes delicious homemade soups that are consistantly good and made with top notch ingredients. It’s the best soup you’ll have, and I’ve been to four of their locations in the Bay Area. The Tomato Bisque, Turkey Chili, Tortilla Soup, and New England Clam Chowder are all exceptionally good, along with their Spinach Salad. They have about five regular soups, but also have quite a good selection of specials that change daily.

CATCH ISLE – I loved my first dish here so much that I went for a return visit. I tried the Linguini and Clams (I know, at a food court!) and was wonderfully surprised. It was comperable to a higher end joint and I’d definitely have it again. The flavors were clean, fresh, and came together nicely. Service was consistantly nice too, which helps. I had the Fish and Chips on another visit and a mixed green salad. It was good, but not great. My search for decent fish and chips in the Bay Area continues…

BUCKHORN GRILL – I love this place because they know how to treat a good piece of angus beef! It’s always cooked perfectly, marinated and flavored well, and surprisingly juicy. Order anything with the tri tip beef and you’ll be good to go.

PASTA MOTO – They had a real pizza oven and some tasty roasted veggies. And the Margherita Pizza was pretty tasty for a food court (but it’s no Pizzeria Delfina, of course). But on average…it was average. The weakest meal next to Wichcraft I had here.

ANDALE – There are various locations of this small Mexican chain in the Bay Area. They do a cross between Mexican street food items with a more Californian spin on preparation. I love the Shrimp Fajitas.

BEARD PAPA – You know how I feel about this place… Go!

There are many other restaurants here, including “Out the Door,” by the owner of “Slanted Door” (again, overpriced and overhyped), and some other more standard choices. But all in all, this food court has better options than some higher end restaurants I can think of. All this variety, affordability, and you get some good food to boot.

The Food Court @ The Westfield San Francisco Shopping Centre – 805 Market Street, S.F. – 415.512.6776