Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Elizabeth Falkner’s ORSON (SF)

April 8, 2008

Orson, Pastry Chef Elizabeth Falkner’s new restaurant in San Francisco is not to be missed. The restaurant is enormous with both upstairs and downstairs dining, and her desserts exude the same sultry sexy confidence that she does. Industrial concrete, dark table cloths and chocolate colored chairs make you feel just as sleek as your surroundings. Elizabeth also owns Citizen Cake.

Invisible, created by Elizabeth and her pastry chef Luis.

Black Espresso, Black Sorbet

Downstairs Bar/ Dining Room

Upstairs Dining Room

508 4th Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

all photos © erin gleeson

Tomales Bay Oyster Company

April 3, 2008

My buddy Ray recently had his birthday gathering at Tomales Bay Oyster Company. It was genius. We headed north from SF over the Golden Gate and about another hour and a half on highway 1 winding through Stenson Beach to Tomales Bay. The place is simple. They sell super fresh oysters from a stand and have grills and picnic tables scattered about overlooking the bay.

Everyone brought great beer, wine, food for the grill, and fixings for the oysters. With an unlimited supply of amazing oysters and a variety of different ingredients lying around people got really creative. It was like a burger bar for oysters. We ate them raw, in many different sauces, wrapped them in bacon and grilled them, bbq’ed them whole on the grill, and the list goes on and on. If I were not busy shucking the whole time I would have more pictures to show for it…

Oysters fresh from the bay:

We all got better at shucking:

Ray shuckin’ his 5000th oyster:

Oysters on a half shell:

Oysters and Ribs on the grill:

Bay and other oyster fans:

It was the perfect day. I never thought I could eat that many oysters in one sitting, but I still didn’t leave without bringing another dozen home. It was such a satisfying day that every time I notice the scars that are still on my hands from shucking, I daydream about oysters, bbq, and beer at Tomales Bay…

– CJ

Tomales Bay Oyster Company

15479 Highway One
Marshall, CA
T: 415.663.1242

The Melting Pot

March 31, 2008

I was recently in the SF Bay Area and was very excited about a trip to The Melting Pot in Larkspur with my cousin Shannon. As fondue fanatics, we were fiercely let down.

We went at 6:30 on a Wednesday with 4 people. We were told they were fully booked and they said we’d have to eat at the bar. It was less than desirable to sit at the bar because there weren’t enough burners to keep our fondue melty. We were there for an hour and a half and there were 4 tables open behind us the entire time. Apparently tables were being held for “ladies night”. We only had one guy with us, my dad. Other groups of all ladies who arrived after us waited momentarily at the bar and were then seated.

The bread was dry and the service was bad (except for one very sweet and over worked bartender). I was so enraged at the whole experience that when I left, I told the hostess how I felt (and I usually don’t do that kind of stuff).

That said, the ambience was very cool- it was as if we were inside an old wine cave. Low lights, fun vibe. Our fondue was pretty good- just not hot enough due to the lack of burners. If only the bread hadn’t tasted 3 days old. I’ve only just now realized it’s a chain. Perhaps this explains things a little more. The Dark Choclate fondue wasn’t bad, but the dipping options could have been better, fresher. The fruit and cheesecake tasted like they were from Costco.

Not sure I’ll be back. It’s no Bougeouis Pig.

The Melting Pot
125 E. Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Larkspur, CA
T: 415.461.6358

Sushi Yotsuya (LA)

March 26, 2008

Whenever I get hungry for sushi it is hard to find the right place. Anyone can tell the difference between good and bad sushi, the fish must be fresh! People who open sushi restaurants think of it more as a trend, so they open the restaurant without any concern on how much tradition and passion sushi requires. It takes years to master.

I found a 5-star rated place in Tarzana, 5 minutes from my house. Sushi Yotsuya! From the outside it looked small, quiet, and hidden. Since there are so many sushi restaurants across the street and a few doors down, it was hard to spot.

After you walk in, right in front of you was a big sign that says, “We only serve traditional style sushi, no California roll, spicy tuna roll, appetizers, or American style sushi.” How cool is that!

It is a small simple place, probably about 13 seats at the sushi bar, and 6 tables.

On the right is Masa Masumoto (founder, proprietor, and chef; above right) is going on his 8th year after opening in 2000. Masa and his 2nd chef Chica are a good team, always communicating with one another. Masa’s goal was to have an original/traditional sushi joint since there is so many around his. He says he buys the fish every morning before opening, guaranteed! Can’t get any fresher than that.

We started with a cold beer, the best Japanese imported beer you can get: Orion (deep from Osaka, Japan). Not many Japanese restaurants carry this, it’s got a bite and it’s good.

Next we have the Katsuo (Skip Jack; above), and the Aji (Spanish Mackerel; below). I haven’t seen Katsuo any where around here; just melts in your mouth!

Then we have our Mirugai (Jumbo Clam; above) and our Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp; below). The Mirugai was so fresh it was moving slowly on the rice (as you can see in the picture it is curling), it was so crunchy, which ensures freshness.

The Ankimo (monk fish liver; above) was excellent. The Ankimo was grilled, had a nice color to it. It had this Japanese mustard miso sauce on it. Never had it with a sauce like this. It was flaky, and once again melted in my mouth.

Next are my favorite Uni (sea urchin; above left) and Ikura (salmon roe; above right). The Uni is a delicacy, it fells like a tongue and looks like tongue. It tastes like the ocean, very salty and explodes in your mouth. The best. The Ikura is usually marinated before service to enhance taste, and most places don’t do it right, but Masa was right on.

We got the Tako (octopus; above left) and the Ika (squid; above right). Both very fresh and crunchy; which is needed to ensure freshness, soo good!

Up above is Aoyagi (a orange clam; above), it was moving once again, very fresh, little bit of salt and lemon on it, and no soy sauce needed. It was crunchy and had a good citrus flavor to it, sooo good!

As we were trying to finish up, they treated us a round of their special fish for the day! Starting form the left was Managatsuo (Panfret; left), Tombo Toro (Fatty Albacore; 2nd to left), Kurodai (Black Snapper; 3rd to left), and Kinmedai (Alfonsino; 4th to left). They were all fish I have never eaten before; it was very new and exciting! They all tasted spectacular!

To finishing off, the best part is the Green Tea. Has to be dark as the Tea above, most places you go has weak light tea. You want to make sure you drink tea at the end of the meal to drain out all the oil and start digesting right away.

I recommend this place to any sushi lover out there.

Sushi Yotsuya
18760 Ventura Blvd
Tarzana, CA 91356
T: 818.708.9675

California Soul: Joy Luck Place (Cupertino)

March 17, 2008

This post is dedicated to Hua and Wangster.

Whenever I go home, I gotta get my dim sum fill. My mom thinks this is so bizarre, cause she knows I always go to dim sum in NY. But it’s just different in the Bay somehow- dare I say better? I don’t know what it is- but I will say that dim sum hasn’t gotten any better for me than since we went to Ocean Jewel in Queens. That was almost a year ago.

So there’s this little place in Cupertino called Joy Luck Place in this all-things-chinese mall where there’s a Ranch 99. There’s a serious cult following- you wait a minimum 30 minutes for a table. That’s minimum. And ridiculous. But worth the wait.

Here she comes…

All my must-haves:
Shiu mai-

Meatballs- kinda a new obsession I share with my dad. Hideko is not into this.

Shao lom pao (soup dumplings)-

Pan fried shrimp and chinese chive dumplings. YUM.

All time favorite- pork spareribs.

Shredded chicken chow mein with chives and bean sprouts, American style.
Pea shoots.

Gotta catch the dessert cart-

Hideko’s favorite- Rice cake filled with black sesame soupy deliciousness, powdered with this soy bean flour (kinako, in Japanese)

This place is Hua and Wangster’s SPOT. I personally might like Dynasty, in the late Vallco Mall more. But basically whichever you choose to go, you won’t be disappointed. I never thought I would be someone who would say this, but: they’re just so CLEAN!

Joy Luck Place
10911 N. Wolfe Road
Cupertino, CA
T: 408.255.6988

Umamiventure #8: Puerto Alegre

March 13, 2008

We met up for our special SF Umamiventure on a sunny Saturday at Puerto Alegre (PA) in the Mission. This place has been around since 1970 (!). I was excited for a lunch of CalMex delights, but everyone else was unphased. To them, this was just another lunch, afterall. These people in Cali take their Mexican food seriously, but also for granted. It’s not fair. They’ll never understand what us New Yorkers have to go through for good Mexican (there’s one place on 101st and Amsterdam, but who wants to trek up all the way up to the Upper West Side??? Or the 7 to Jackson Heights? Forget it).

Started with a pitcher of their margaritas that Yelpers won’t shut up about (PA currently has 3.5 stars out of 329 reviews. Jesus). Petey and Stu had already had a pitcher by the time we got there, and were practically wasted. Point being that they were really good margs. Love me a perfectly salt-rimmed glass.

The Meal: on weekends, PA has a brunch menu, but thank god they also serve the regular menu. Ya’ll know how I feel about brunch- NOT a fan.

I think Alice got the combo plate- beef enchilada and chicken tamale, doused in red sauce. Yum

My enchiladas: this was definitely one highlight of my Cali trip. That mole was off the hook.

Andy and Jenny copied each other and both got the chilaquiles (my new favorite word. Say it: chi-lah-kee-less). I actually never had heard of this before, being the ignorant eater that I am (a deep fried burrito is a chimichanga??). So this dish is deep fried corn tortillas cooked in red salsa or mole. It comes with this cream stuff too that is pretty crucial- it’s simple and genius. Andy says that his friend makes this dish better though. Incidentally, I’m reading on Wiki that this is a common cure in Mexico for a hangover.

Stu got the Super Meat Burrito- no frills, they keep it real.

Petey: Huevos divorciados- an egg with red salsa and another with green salsa. Pete was not impressed- he’s from Santa Barbara so his standards are high. BUT, he did say that the salsa was “awesome”. I do believe that the quality of salsa says a lot about a Mexican joint, and coming from Pete, that’s high praise.

James: steak and eggs. He wasn’t into it- but let this be a lesson: BRUNCH MENUS BLOW.

I was super into the kitchy 70s decor. I’m sure little has changed since they opened in 1970.
Isn’t this picture dope? It’s mounted high up on wall behind the bar, and I can only assume that it’s the people who opened Puerto Alegre in 1970. Were you even born yet?

In the end, this place was totally average for these Bay Area folks. To me, my enchiladas were the best thing ever. Has living in NY for 6 years lowered my eating standards?? Something to think about.

When you ask any Californian where they go for their burritos, they will start a drawn-out soliloquy about their spot- everyone’s is different. Expect a heated debate. Love it.

546 Valencia St (between 16th & 17th St)
San Francisco, CA
T: 415.255.8201

Past Umamiventures include:
Pacificana – 02/08
Jackson Diner – 01/08
Sripraphai Restaurant – 11/07
Taste of Jackson Heights – 10/07
Red Hook Ball Fields – 06/07
Ocean Jewel Restaurant – 06/07

California Soul: Osha Thai Noodle Cafe (SF)

March 11, 2008

After driving around for about 30 minutes trying to decide what to eat (pho? Thai? Burmese? Tofu House?) Alice and CJ took me to the original Osha in the Tenderloin, which everyone says is the best out of the other 5 Oshas scattered around the city now. I guess all the other ones are fancy, while this one is pretty gritty. We waited about 30 minutes for a table, at the bar next door (great bar).

You know when I told you in my last post that I tend to over-order? You ain’t seen nothing yet. CJ and Alice are friggin unstoppable– even I needed to put on the brakes at a certain point. CJ’s mantra, “No, we need more, that’s not enough.” Love it.

Yum Woon Sen: silver noodle with pork, shrimp, chili paste and red/green onions. So refreshing and tangy. Ayagwa’s version kicks ass too.

Dish of the Night: Fried fish cake patties seasoned with curry and green beans. All of us agreed that this was our favorite.

Spicy pan fried rice noodles with tomatoes, mushrooms, bamboo, chinese broccoli, bell pepper, onion, basil, chili and chicken.

Osha Noodle Tom Yum: shrimps, ground pork, fishballs, bean sprouts, fish cake, lime juice, and noodles. Now, you know I can eat noodles all day, everyday: ramen, soba, pasta, pho, wonton noodle soup, udon, blah blah. But if I lived in SF, I would go to Osha for this every week, no joke. I know this looks nasty (sorry it’s almost gone), but seriously, this stuff was surprisingly addictive. Noodles in tom yum? I was a skeptic, but now I’m a fan.

Green curry fried rice. Yum.

Spicy string beans with chicken. Too much chicken!!! But this one was supposed to be with shrimp. We ate it anyway.

CJ with our spread. Check it out! Um, this is for three people. We are so ridiculous.

The interior is pretty neat- bright lights, black walls. You feel like you’re in a black box performance space. Lots of loud techno. Here’s Alice. I miss her.

Funny thing about the Bay Area is that people are REALLY into Yelp. It boggles me. When we were trying to figure out where to go for dinner, CJ and Alice had an entire debate based on Yelp reviews. It’s nuts!! These Yelpers have so much influence! One of the Oshas has 3.5 stars out of 5, based on nearly 600 reviews!!! 600!

If I had to rate it, I would give this place 4.5 stars. 1/2 point deducted cause they only use white chicken meat, another 1/2 cause the music was too loud and intense, but a 1/2 point regained for being open until 1am!

Osha Thai Noodle Cafe
696 Geary Street @ Leavenworth and Jones
San Francisco, CA

California Soul: Swan Oyster Depot (SF)

March 10, 2008

They say the sun comes up every morning
And if you listen oh so carefully
The winds that ride on the high time
Whistle in melody
And so the people started to sing
And thats how the surf gave birth untold
To California soul, California Soul
– Ashford & Simpson

You know what the surf all along the west coast gave birth to? Absolutely the best oysters in the world, hands down. No joke- I’ve had oysters in many towns, in many countries, and I’m confident that this is true. There’s something in that Ocean, we’ll call it Pacific Soul–when it brushes up against Washington, Oregon and down to California, it creates these divinely luscious slurpable gems.

As soon as I got into San Francisco, Vanessa swooped me up and we headed towards California and Polk for the Swan Oyster Depot. Jim told me about this place, and I’d been dying to go. This seafood joint has been around since 1912 (!), and opens at 8am, closes at 5:30pm- I’m guessing the odd hours is to cater to local fishermen for before or after their shift.
We got there around 12:30pm and there was already a long line out the door. It was a mixed bag of tourists and regulars- the regulars got special treatment and got to drink in line. I want to be a regular!

There’s a fan above the doorway- bizarre but great.

All of the day’s selection displayed in the window. Gorgeous! Look at all those colors. All the guys behind the counter would run back and forth when making your food.

The Depot literally is just one counter, seating maybe 20 people. No frills here, just a lot of history. Men old and young work behind the counter. They were all super knowledgeable about their seafood.
We waited maybe 30-40 minutes in line. Here’s our guy- I think his name was Jeff??? Shame on me for not remembering- he was seriously the sweetest. He’s been there for at least 20 years, which is awesome (on their postcard, they have a pic of him when he still had hair. Aw). He also had a huge crush on V, which meant he showered us with attention. We like that.

He put our purses behind the counter. Seems to be a ritual of sorts.
Alright, the meal. Er, feast. God we ordered too much… you may have noticed that I always over-order. People get really annoyed at me for doing this, but V is the perfect eating partner cause she eats as much as I do, and is experimental. Neither of us have any shame. That’s my kinda girl.

“Jeff” really helped us construct our feast- we just gave him an idea of what we wanted, he suggested, we complied. No one should know what you should be eating better than the guy behind the counter (that goes for any place in general).

First up, OYSTERS! We got a dozen assorted (Drake’s Bay, Kumamoto, Olympia, Miyagi). In practice, I will only eat west coast oysters- there’s such a wide variety of flavors, sizes and textures just from up and down the coast, that is far superior to east coast oysters. I can’t explain what it is, but I think it’s the Pacific Soul.
Next- 1/2 dozen cherry stone clams. I love these cause they’re chewy, juicy, and for their delightful fleshy colors. V was not a fan though.
We got a bowl of the clam chowder to share- it was literally so runny, we were confused. But seriously, this was one of the best clam chowders I’ve ever had. Basically water and clams, and maybe some butter and milk, but mostly just clam juice. It was surprisingly refreshing and flavorful.

Big bowl of oyster crackers- just dig your hands right in!
V wanted scallops, so scallops “Jeff” gave us. He offered them raw sashimi style, or lightly marinated with olive oil, capers and red onions. We opted for the latter. Here he is squeezing lemon over it.

It was such a nice looking dish- and the mushiness of the scallops were perfect with the crisp of the onions. Flavor explosion!

At this point, we were pretty stuffed- “Jeff” kept checking in with us, every time he came back he thought we would be done for sure. NO WAY. He was really good about pacing our meal. He raised his eyebrows when we told him we wanted to finish with the crab salad. And another beer please! They have Stella on tap!

Seriously best crab salad. Their louis dressing is crack in form of a chunky orange cream sauce. Look at these fat pieces of crab!!! It was unreal.
5 courses, 2 beers, 2 hours later, we finally gave up. We surrendered our gluttony-I was sad that it was over. But we had so much fun! Until poor V started having some issues… FYI- Barney’s and Nordstrom downtown have really nice public bathrooms. Note to self- stop while you’re ahead.

V- SORRY!!!! But don’t ever stop eating with me!!!

Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk St.
(between California St. & Sacramento St.)
San Francisco, CA
T: 415.673.1101

View of the Bay Bridge on a gorgeous February day. The fog lifted for maybe an hour.

California Soul: Naglee Park Garage (SJ)

March 8, 2008

Christi considers herself quite the rotisserie chicken connoisseur, and she had been raving about her discovery of “the best roasted chicken” for months. Naglee Park Garage is a cute little brick house (lots of house restaurants in SJ) near its namesake park, close to SJ State.

I would call this place old-school-garage-knick-knacky-cool. There’s even a bike propped up high on the wall. Lots of locals coming through- the cool 30s set, lots of friends of the owner/chef, who is this hot young guy with his head wrapped in a red bandanna. It’s just a fun atmosphere, a neighborhood spot where people can come and chat with each other and crack jokes- love that. They have outdoor seating too.

Started with a mug of Boont Amber Ale. Delish- check out the head! The brewery is in Boonville, north of SF.

We got three sides- the roasted brussel sprouts, sweet potato home fries, and the mac & cheese. Veggies in season, all excellent:

Mike got the duck confit with apricot compote- the apricots were perfect with the duck. Inspires me to start cooking with them too.

We got 2 of the marjoram rubbed 1/2 chickens- surprisingly flavorful all the way to the bone. Not fussy, just herbs and chicken. Simple, I like it:
Of course I ate all the skin. Is that bad? Christi and I had a huge debate about dark vs. white meat. I’m sorry, but white meat bores the hell out of me- it’s usually dry and tasteless. I stopped getting chicken nuggets at McD’s cause they only have the white meat now. BORING. Although it’s probably better this way.

Oh, don’t worry, we got not one, but two of their bread puddings.

Their homemade lightly whipped cream poured over the bread pudding was divine.

I have to say that the sides were hands down the most memorable part of the meal. You would think that roasting vegetables is easy, but very few places actually get it right. I’m looking forward to going back and trying all their other seasonal offerings- they’ve got seafood and ribs and peppercorn encrusted steak, all at affordable price points. I’m a fan of the Garage.

The Naglee Park Garage
505 East San Carlos St.
@ 11th St.
San Jose, CA

T: 408.286.1100

Fridgin’ Out: Yoskay, Tessar and Nate

March 7, 2008

Alright folks, this post is to debunk your romantic notions of the starving artist. My brother’s bff Yoskay is an awesome painter, living in a fat loft space in Japantown, LA, with fellow awesome artists Tessar and Nate. They all hustle hard so they can focus on their art as much as possible- good for them!

Anyway, here’s what was in their fridge- even though they’re on a tight budget, I am proud of them for taking care of themselves so well. My own fridge definitely isn’t as well stocked as this one.

Filtered water! AND they also have a Brita. No tap water for these boys, no no. Grapefruit juice too, you know, for your vitamins.

TOFU! Almost too healthy.

2 huge packs of eggs- for the late night 5 egg omelets.

Yoskay has a great creation for these 99cent packs of udon noodles- instead of making a soup, he pan fries it. Pretty ingenius.


Not one, but two big packs of miso. I guess one is Yoskay’s and the other is Tessar’s. They’re asian, what can I say- gotta have your miso, apparently.

Chocolate dipped strawberries- WTF?? One of them (who shall remain nameless) had a lady friend over for Vday– ohh la la. I hope he got some.

If anything, I know they’re sleep deprived, not nutrition deprived. You boys gotta sleep!!

Yoskay’s unfinished sculpture, holdin’ down the fridge. Yoskay, I want that!

*What’s in your fridge? Send pics to