Archive for the 'Eats' Category


Prepping at Restaurant Picco

Monday, September 15th, 2008

picco1.jpgLast month, during one of those gorgeously sunny weeks, a friend visiting from China (read: escaping from Beijing’s craziness) requested a fun outing that would include a meal highlighting local foods. The perfect side trip came to mind immediately. There’s no better way to take in the Bay than on a leisurely ferry ride. And for local flavors, Restaurant Picco offers Marin Mondays, special weekly prix fixe dinners that highlight the best of Marin Country farms. I told my friend to meet me on the Larkspur Ferry.

Skimming along the water, with both bridges within view and plenty of time to catch up on the years that have passed, who wouldn’t prefer a ferry ride over stop-and-go, rush-hour traffic? Add Chef Bruce Hill’s special menu, and it’s a dinner excursion that both visitor and local will long remember.

(more…)


A Taste of Hong Kong: Kee Wah Bakery

Monday, September 8th, 2008

persimmontin.jpgWith summer fast waning and the autumn fruits making their way to market, it’s time to turn to one of my favorite holidays. The Mid-Autumn Festival or, as many of us call it, the Harvest Moon Festival, celebrates the brightest and fullest moon of the year. It was once a time for families to relax and enjoy finally the fruits of their summer labor. Nowadays, in that peculiar way modernization and urbanization has of thinning out traditions, people might simply exchange moon cakes or go out to eat at their favorite Chinese restaurant. A few purists will try to hike up a hill for a midnight picnic with hot tea. Or, if you’re Andrea Nguyen, you spend days making your own moon cakes from scratch.

Store-bought moon cakes are just like store-bought fruitcakes — tasteless insults to the real thing. I can attest to the difference between one of Andrea’s moon cakes and one of those brightly decorated, impulse-buy boxes that line the checkout counters at Asian markets this time of the year. Follow closely the four-page recipe in her cookbook, and you, too, can give friends and families one of these memorable treats.

Or, like me, stop at Kee Wah Bakery and stock up on “piggy basket” buns filled with sweetened lotus seed. At a couple of bucks each, you can get one for every sweet-toothed pork lover in your full-moon circle. I can never resist their gorgeous tins to hold diminutive mango and pineapple teacakes, my favorite flavors there. This year, I snagged a long, flat persimmon tin. In past years, I fell hard for a collectors’ series of smaller tins decorated with smiling monks sipping tea and munching cookies.

(more…)


Finding Oakland’s Pho Ao Sen

Monday, August 4th, 2008

phtoansen5.jpg
(Photo by brandondesigns)

As summer reaches its August peak (yes, it’s foggy this morning in San Francisco) and as families get desperately creative with their staycations, I’ve been reminiscing about those old car trips of my youth: my mom hopelessly lost somewhere between Denver and St. Louis, my sister and I — oblivious in the backseat — singing “Popeye, the Sailor Man!” over and over and over and over, and our many stops at Church’s Chicken and Taco Bell, the two places we were guaranteed to find spicy food.

Remember those days, long before Chowhound and Yelp, Google and Mapquest, when forays into new culinary terrain were truly crapshoots? (Cue up the old-timey nostalgia music…) To find good food in an unfamiliar town, you had to depend on three important tricks: Identifying well-fed locals with a keen sense of direction. Quickly judging a restaurant by the number and types of vehicles parked out front (or be strong enough to enter, scope out the menu and dining room, and then opt to leave a restaurant with absolutely no shame at all). And, most crucial of all, befriending taxi drivers and policemen.

(more…)


Druze Cuisine and Korean Chicken in NYC

Monday, July 28th, 2008

druze1.jpg My visits to New York City are usually hectic, overscheduled, and downright tiring. Between friends and family, the pressures of “researching” restaurants and visiting everyone’s favorite museum, vacations to the Big Apple are hardly leisurely affairs. This time, though, I resolved to take it easy.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to find good food as long as you schedule meetings for mealtime. Even a late-night rendezvous will uncover good eats.

Two places that I was delighted to try this past weekend, with the guidance of friends, are Gazala Place in Hell’s Kitchen (or, as the real estate agents have been calling it since the new high-rises came in: Midtown West) and the infamous Bonchon Chicken in Koreatown.

(more…)


Fast Food and Terrorists

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

Usually, I’m proud to be a resident of San Francisco, with its food, freedom and great views. Last week, though, with help from the FBI, our city was reminded that stupidity lurks behind every corner.

Jeff Stein at the Congressional Quarterly reported that a couple of FBI agents came up with a brilliant plan to track potential terrorists: using new data-mining tools, they could identify concentrations of falafel sales. Enemy combatants and hungry suicide bombers beware…we’re watching what you eat!

The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area.

The brainchild of top FBI counterterrorism officials Phil Mudd and Willie T. Hulon, according to well-informed sources, the project didn’t last long. It was torpedoed by the head of the FBI’s criminal investigations division, Michael A. Mason, who argued that putting somebody on a terrorist list for what they ate was ridiculous and possibly illegal.

A check of federal court records in California did not reveal any prosecutions developed from falafel trails.

Thank goodness bad ideas like this get shot down by someone who knows from idiocy.