Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bistro Jeanty

We stopped by the Yountville tourist information shop and got a recommendation to go to Bistro Jeanty for lunch. It was a great recommendation.

It was such a nice day, we wanted to sit outside. I got Petit Salé aux Lentilles with Home Cured Pork Belly and Foie Gras. Crystal got Creme de Tomate en Croute. And we shared fries and spinach.

We got glasses of Champagne. My philosophy is whenever possible to start with Champagne. People don't drink enough of it.

My Petit Salé was awesome. It is in the same category as Cassoulet. Crystal's tomato soup was good, but it was on the salty side. The fries were perfect (I ate a lot of goods fries on that trip), and the spinach was also perfect. They really know what they're doing here.

The service was very nice. It think they were training a new backserver that day. The captain followed him around as he brought the food, extra carefully, to the table. At one point I switched seats to get out of the sun, and the backserver sort of panicked and looked to the captain for help. But it was all good. Very professional and earnest.

I really like this place. I'd definitely come back. And if I had to choose between here or Bouchon, even considering I've been to both places only once, I'd eat at Bistro Jeanty. I don't even have to think about it.

Bistro Jeanty
6510 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-0103

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ad Hoc

The first thing Crystal and I did in Napa was go to Ad Hoc for lunch.

But Ad Hoc is closed for lunch.

Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-2487

Opus One and Pine Ridge

A few days into my trip to the bay area (Feb 8), I rented a Zipcar and Crystal and I drove into Napa.

I initially wanted to go there to just eat and drive around, but then figured why not go to a couple wineries.

Our first wine stop was Opus One. Priscilla recommended this place.

The architecture reminded me of something out of Myst. Or a funeral home. It was kind of a fun feeling walking into the building. The foyer was empty except for a receptionist who asked if we had a reservation. We said no, and she said that in the future we should make a reservation. But that they had space now. She took my name and where I was from (to get me "into the system"), gave me a ticket to give to the person in the tasting room, and sent us on our way.

There were only 3 other people in the tasting room when we got there. And only 1 wine to try, a $180 bottle of Opus One. We split a taste which was $30.

It was really good. It tasted like toffee but it wasn't sweet. And it had this great texture. Anyway, it was something new to me.

Our second, and last, wine stop was Pine Ridge. At first I wanted to go there because they offered a barrel tasting, but I didn't realize we needed to make a reservation. So we just did both of their regular tastings. Our favorite wine there was their 2005 Rutherford Cabernet Savignon. I'm not sure why they call it a Cabernet Savignon because it's a Bordeaux-style Cabernet/Merlot blend. It's ridiculous that people are still terrified of Merlot.

Anyway, it was good. We got a bottle for later.

After that, I drove around some back roads between Route 29 and Silverado Trail so that I could feel like I was in wine country. Then we parked by a park in the center of Yountville to take a nap before dinner. The park was by a cemetery called the George C. Yount Pioneer Cemetery and Ancient Indian Burial Grounds. We slept soundly anyway.

Opus One Winery
7900 Saint Helena Hwy
Oakville, CA 94562
(707) 944-9442

Pine Ridge Winery
5901 Silverado Trl
Napa, CA 94558
(800) 575-9777

Luka's Taproom and Lounge

Crystal took me to Luka's twice while I was in Oakland. She absolutely loves this place.

They have excellent Belgian-style fries. I could eat a meal of just those fries. And they make great drinks.

Luka's Taproom and Lounge
2221 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612

Blue Bottle Cafe

After lunch, Ben took me into San Francisco to see the Olafur Eliasson show at SFMOMA. Then we met up with Azusa at the Blue Bottle Cafe.

Azusa wanted me to go here because I like coffee, and I can be particular about making it. This is the place featured in the $20,000 cup of coffee article in the New York Times. $20,000 is what Blue Bottle paid for the halogen vacuum coffee maker shown here. Azusa, who treated us, paid about 99.93% less than that for our pot of coffee. Not a bad deal.

It was pretty cool watching them make it. It was clear that they had a well thought out protocol. And it was theatrical and such.

The coffee came with a bit of toffee. It was all good. Not $20,000 good, but it was a fine cup of coffee. I'm not the best judge of coffee, and I had (and still have) a cold. But I'd definitely go there for the coffee itself, even without all the gimmicks.

The most valuable thing I learned, though, was that I can't tell the difference between the coffee I make at home with our Bodum vacuum coffee maker (the Santos) and Blue Bottle Cafe's. So if you can't make it out to San Franciso, or Japan, go out and buy a Santos.

Update 8/10/08
Just saw the 1955 French movie Rififi at Film Forum tonight and noticed that in one of the scenes the characters are using the exact same coffee pot as the vacuum one from Blue Bottle Cafe pictured above.

Blue Bottle Cafe
66 Mint St
San Francisco, CA 94103

Cheeseboard pizza with Meyer lemons

The next day, Ben and I went to Cheeseboard to pick up a pizza.

We brought it back to his apartment only a few blocks away (he counts his blessings every day) and ate it with Azusa. The flavor of the day was broccoli.

Ben has gotten into the habit of squeezing Meyer lemon (that's him picking one from his Meyer lemon tree) onto his pizza. It takes the pizza to a different level. Food just tastes a little better with lemon, and the Meyer lemon, in particular, gave off this perfumy scent that went well with everything.

Brazil Cafe

I've gotten backlogged on these entries lately. Lab was crazy after the conference. We tried to write up and submit a paper the week I got back, and we're still trying. But I have more time now.

Anyway, I flew up to the Bay Area after the conference in Long Beach, and Ben met me at the downtown Berkeley BART station on my way from the airport. (This is on Feb 6.) After picking up a backgammon set at Games of Berkeley, we got a snack at Brazil Cafe.

I ordered the Tri-Tip sandwich and a mango smoothie.

Both were delicious and hit the spot. The smoothie was just mango juice and ice, but it was better than anything from chains like Jamba Juice. Highly recommended.

Brazil Fresh Squeeze Cafe
2161 University Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ssam Bar visit

We went to Ssam Bar last night. We needed a place to eat at 11, and we were suffering from Hagi fatigue. It's been a while.

They now have a tasting menu which is just the greatest hits of their regular menu except for the addition of a "Frankensteak."

We tried the Sea Urchin with Whipped Tofu and Tapioca for the first time, now that it's back on the menu. It was good, though neither of us could figure out how everything fit together in the dish.

I really liked the Fuji Apple Kimchi with Greek Yogurt, Arugula, and Seasame Seeds.

It reminded me that I wanted to try making a celeriac kimchi. It seemed like a play on using Singo pears in kimchi except using apples and getting rid of the cabbage.

The Banh Mi was good, though I couldn't taste the filling so well. The bread reminded Mabel of the bread from the Jamon Iberico Sandwich at Cafe Viena in Barcelona. The bread made the sandwich for me too.

Service started out weird. The waiters seemed kind of disenchanted. But they warmed up over the course of the night.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Curley's Cafe

I saw this sight on the way to the first morning of the conference.

Are those props? I don't think I've ever seen a pumpjack in person before. It seemed so random. And there was a restaurant right in the middle of them. I had to go there.

On the drive back, I realized that there's no way that they're props. The next morning Priscilla and I stopped by for some breakfast.

When we walked in, there weren't many windows and it was pretty empty except for a handful of older men congregated around a large table. I thought we might have adventured too far out of our territory, but the waitress greeted us and seemed really enthusiastic so we stayed. I was hesitant enough that I asked if they were still doing breakfast even though it was 10:00 am.

Anyway, we hit the jackpot. That first day we both got corned beef hash with hash browns. It was the best corned beef hash I've ever had in my life.

We came back the next day for it, and split an order.

When I first saw it, I barely knew what it was. But then I thought, hey this looks like cut up corned beef. And there are some hash browns mixed in. And then it occurred to me that this was real corned beef hash, not from a can. I didn't know real corned beef hash existed. I don't know how I can ever go back to the canned stuff.

We talked to the waitress for a bit and learned that the surrounding area used to be all oil fields, only 5 to 10 years ago. And those old guys in the restaurant the day before were oil men, there every morning.

Curley's Cafe
1999 E Willow St
Signal Hill, CA 90755
(562) 424-0018

Vien Dong Restaurant

Priscilla had heard that the Vietnamese food in a neighborhood close to Long Beach was really good, so we made a trip out there to find something to eat.

We randomly settled on a place called Vien Dong.

I guess I never had non-noodle Vietnamese food before. I'm used to just getting Pho. I thought it was great. It was exactly like ssam. The egg rolls were the stars of this meal. They were really crispy. Priscilla found the shrimp on sugarcane disappointing (they used processed shrimp rather than whole shrimp) and thought the pork meatballs had no flavor. But I liked the pork meatballs fine with the peanut and fish sauce. I realized that that fish sauce is essentially what Momofuku Ssam Bar puts into their Brussels Sprouts.

And of course, we got coffee with condensed milk in that single cup filter thing.

Vien Dong Restaurant
14271 Brookhurst St
Garden Grove, CA 92843
(714) 531-8253

CPK and Islands

I was in Long Beach, CA for a few days last week for the annual Biophysical Society conference.

The first night in, we when to California Pizza Kitchen, or CPK as Priscilla likes to call it.

It was good. I had mango chicken pizza. The next day we went with a group of Ian's friends to Red Brick Pizza which reminded me of a brick oven version of Pizza Hut. Anyway, that was enough to overdose on brick oven pizza for the trip. No more pizza.

Monday and Tuesday we went to Islands for lunch and snacks. It is right across the street from CPK. I really liked the waiters and atmosphere. Fish tacos were really good. They actually used corn tortillas. I got a Wave Burger which was fine.

California Pizza Kitchen
61 S Pine Ave
Long Beach, CA 90802

Islands Restaurant
55 S Pine Ave
Long Beach, CA 90802

Red Brick Pizza
250 E 4th St
Long Beach, CA 90802