Posted in Dinner, Food, Lunch, Wine Country

Don’t Let This Shack Fool You!

After staying in Sonoma for the weekend, we wanted something low key for breakfast before heading back out on the road.  I had hoped to head to one of my favorite places in the area, Red Grape, but they weren’t open until 11:30.  The Girl and the Fig was a little too fancy for what we were looking for.  And the Black Bear Diner was a little too “chain restaurant.”  I was hoping for something different.

We’d passed by The Fremont Diner on Highway 121, and after reading some rave reviews online, that’s where we headed.

It’s a dinky old shack basically, with signs for “Whole Hog” and “Fried Pies” on the exterior, which would obviously make me and the Hubby take notice given our affinity for all things meat.  It’s a great place where you can stop in, order at the counter, and take a seat inside or out.  But don’t let its modest surroundings fool you.

The details are everywhere if you look carefully, from the wildflowers on the table, the homemade jams and condiments for sale, to the mason jar water glasses.

This place is known for their meats and brisket is the thing to have here.  So since it was breakfast, I got the Brisket Hash with carmelized onions, roasted potatoes and a perfectly runny fried egg on top.

Boy was I not only pleased with this dish, I was utterly floored!  These guys (and gals) were churning out some gourmet dishes secretly back there!  The hash was out of this world, peppery and smoky.  The onions and sage created a wonderful base for the dish, and those potatoes were perfectly soft and delicious.  The gravy from the hash made everything perfectly moist.  There was so much detail and depth to the elements in this dish and it all blended together wonderfully.

My Hubby ordered the traditional egg breakfast, but it came with some fantastic homemade fennel sausage that was, again, out of this world.  These people sure know their way around meat.  And the side order of bacon we got for the toddler was also fantastic.

Top that off with some perfectly toasted artisan french bread, and we were totally amazed at the level of skill and detail that this kitchen was able to produce.  I LOVE being surprised by a place and this was the best surprise surprise I’d eaten at in a very long time.

Fremont Diner on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dinner, Food, Lunch, San Francisco, Wine Country

Taylor’s New Name

Taylor’s Refresher in St. Helena has been a Wine Country staple for years. It’s THE place to grab a stellar burger and shake, and more recently, their San Francisco location in the Ferry Building, as well.

Recently, they changed their name to “Gott’s Roadside Tray Gourmet.”  Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.  Fortunately, the food hasn’t changed.

I visited the Ferry Building location for some greasy goodness and a side of fries.  For whatever reason, I wasn’t in the mood for a cheeseburger.  These days, I consider the In N Out Double Double the standard, so nothing’s been living up to it.  Why disappoint myself?

I went for the Wisconsin Sourdough Burger, which had BBQ sauce, sauteed mushrooms, Wisconsin cheddar and bacon, all on toasty sourdough.  No way I could pass that up!  I decided to go for broke and add to that an order of Garlic Fries, too.  Mmmmm, Garlic Fries…

And they didn’t disappoint!  They were thin and perfectly crispy.  And I love when they pile on the garlic and herbs.  This was a total winner.

And the burger?  Fortunately, it was no slouch either.  I’m not usually a fan of bacon, but I left it on there.  The combination of all those elements was total overkill but oh so good.  I am a sucker for a burger on sourdough, and add to that mushrooms?  I was in greasy, toasty, heart attack heaven.

My only complaint is that it’s a tad bit pricer than most casual burger joints.  Again, I think I’m spoiled by the value that In N Out delivers.  Other than that, if you’re in the city and are craving a casual burger on a nice warm day/night, you could do a LOT worse.

Gott's Roadside on Urbanspoon

Posted in Food, Lunch, Peninsula, San Francisco, Street Food

All Hail the Chairman!

A new food truck has hit the now popular peninsula street food scene run by the folks at @MobiMunch.  Chairman Bao specializes in Chinese “buns”, meaning steamed white buns or glossy baked buns, both with various tasty Asian fusion fillings.

I chose the steamed versions, purely based on volume and cost.  They’re both cheaper and smaller than the baked variety and I could try more of them out.

I’ve tried the Chinese Spiced Duck Confit with Fresh Mango Salad with a gingery, oniony orange sauce (that looks like it belongs on a Big Mac), Crispy Tofu with Miso Greens and a wasabi-like green sauce, Lionshead Meatballs with Kimchee, Red Sesame Chicken with Scallions and Bokchoi, and Pork Belly with Pickled Daikon Radish.

All in all, I was impressed.  The quality of ingredients was definitely top-notch.  And eventhough these combinations were rather unconventional, all their elements were fairly authentic, which is surprising.  The flavors were extremely bold though, meaning they were heavy handed in their spices and saucing.  That’s alright, since they’re trying to pack a lot of flavor into a little bun.

Surprisingly, my favorite of all of them was the Crispy Tofu with Miso Greens.  The crispness of the greens and the nice soft silken tofu patty (love how it was perfectly browned) were a great contrast.  And the flavor of that wasabi sauce was fantastic.  It was all very fresh tasting yet flavorful and different.

The Meatball and Kimchee came in second with the tangy, saucy kimchee giving it a lot of texture and flavor.  And fortunately the meatball was flavored well and cooked perfectly, though it didn’t taste like the traditional Lionshead meatball you’d get at a Chinese restaurant.

I was NOT a fan of the Pork Belly and Daikon, though.  Disappointing really, because pork belly is one of my favorite things to eat.  It was horribly dry and boring.

The guys running the truck were super nice and even gave me a Lychee Ginger Shaved Ice with Boba to try.  It was yummy and I loved the fresh lychee pieces on the bottom.  But if they’d made it just a tad less sweet, it would be truly awesome.

I hear they’re hoping to add Brisbane and Redwood City to their weekly rotation, along with the usual San Francisco stops.  Let’s hope so!

Chairman Bao  – Mobile truck parks at various locations –

Posted in Food, For Kids/Parent, Wine Country

Ad Hoc: Nobody Does It Better

I’ll spare you the repeat history lesson on Ad Hoc in Yountville, Thomas Keller’s accidental restaurant. I’ve written about it in a previous post. Only this restaurant would warrant a write-up from me each time I pay them a visit.

Yes, it is that good.

So let’s get straight to the food. My Husband and I had planned carefully a trip to this restaurant on their famous “Buttermilk Fried Chicken” night, which happens only every other Monday. After all the hype from every foodie who has experienced it, I knew we were in for a treat.

We started with a Baby Iceberg Lettuce Wedge Salad with marinated cucumbers, paper-thin baby radishes, pickled red onion, crumbled bacon and green goddess dressing.  Again, as with every other salad I’ve had here, I don’t know how the lettuce they serve can be so damn tender and sweet!  The tart and sweet onion was the perfect foil for this salad.  And the bacon adds heft.  The fact that I’d even refer to a salad as “amazing” is amazing in itself.

Then it was time for Buttermilk Fried Chicken.  Boy oh boy, this did NOT disappoint.  The skin was deep-fried (not pan-fried) to perfect golden crispness.  And the meat was oh so juicy, tender and moist.  Pure perfection.  And at the end of each bite was that little tang of buttermilk that’s so subtle yet so distinctive.  It was fantastic.

It was served with a phenomenal sautéed corn dish with onions, red peppers, corn milk from the husk of the cob, paprika and cayenne pepper for a real kick.  I loved it.  It was bold yet comforting at the same time and the perfect partner for the chicken.

The other side was a Rancho Gordo black bean and rice dish with veggies and oyster mushrooms.  I am not a huge beans and rice gal, but I could appreciate the dish.  My Husband loved this one.

And the cheese plate…Oh that cheese plate.  I would forgo all desserts for another one of these cheese plates.  It was a Redwood Hill Farm Cameo sheep’s milk cheese that had the texture of a super soft brie, all goey and creamy.  It was topped with red pepper berries and herbs, which gave it a soft kick.  Alongside it was some perfectly toasted Palladin bread and a Cherry and Red Onion Marmalade.  Oh…my…gawd.  Crazy good.  That’s all I can say…crazy good.  This course was absolute perfection.  Probably my favorite of the night.  (Yes, even more than the chicken!)

We finished with what was our least favorite course of the night.  I LOVE cupcakes, so I was a bit disappointed in how dry the Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Frosting was.  And the addition of Verona Chocolate Chips on top was just plain unnecessary.  It actually competed with the frosting’s flavor and texture.  The only highlight of it was the fresh strawberries that were baked right in.  That part of it was delicious.

The other cupcake was a Banana with Caramel Center and Rum Vanilla Frosting.  That one was better, but tasted more like bread than cupcake.  Not the best execution, but still good nonetheless.

The highlight of this dessert, however, was the accompanying Lemon Buttermilk Sorbet.  Again, oh…my…gawd.  It was like lemon cheesecake in ice cream form, but light, delicate and sophisticated.  I’d have that sorbet again in a heartbeat.

And once again, the staff is so professional they make it seem effortless. They aren’t stuffy or intimidating. I’ll admit, I was nervous about bringing the toddler to a Thomas Keller restaurant, but the staff couldn’t have been better. They were fun, didn’t take themselves too seriously, but took pride in their jobs and the food they were serving.

The best thing about Ad Hoc is that there is no element of the dinner that isn’t well thought out, executed to perfection, and given the highest quality ingredients. I love how the menu is so seemingly simple night after night, but so perfectly executed like a symphony. Each course adds something different and yet works with the other courses so perfectly to create a complete and perfect meal.

Ad Hoc on Urbanspoon