Saturday, February 27, 2010

San Francisco, February 2010, Day 4

On our last day in San Francisco (2/5) I was a little sad to be leaving our room at the Stanyan Park Hotel. They upgraded us to a suite, and all the space felt luxurious.

This place is about 3 times larger than our apartment.

I walked out to get a breakfast sandwich and was confronted with the fog.

Yelp said that a good breakfast sandwich place was on our street, Lava Java.

I got a vegetable one (MPD). It was just okay. But in the time it took for my sandwich to get made, the fog lifted.

It was initially forecast to rain, but the forecast changed that morning. So we planned get oysters off Tomales Bay near Point Reyes National Park. I've wanted to eat oysters here for several years, ever since Priscilla first told me about it.

Ben reserved a Zipcar, and off we went! Jeff took this picture on the Marin side of the bridge.

We stopped by a Safeway to pick up wine and other supplies for lunch.

I was in charge of navigating, but I forgot I was in charge and we missed our exit. So we took the scenic route on Lucas Valley Road which happened to pass by Skywalker Ranch. It was a beautiful drive. We went through a redwood forest and saw a few waterfalls. We couldn't resist stopping to take a closer look at this one.

Here is where we were. I think the waterfall was there just because of all the rain the previous day.

We eventually made it to Point Reyes Station and tried looking for the Cowgirl Creamery.

There was a little shopping center called The Creamery which included, among other things, the town's library. Not what we were looking for.

Here it is.

A cheese tour was going on when we entered the shop. This place stocked a bunch of cheese from all over, but this is the case with most of their own.

The people at the counter were pretty nice and gave us a bunch of samples. I ended up buying their Red Hawk Cheese. It's a washed rind cheese, on the milder side of funky.

I also got Bellwether Sheep Yogurt as a snack for the rest of the drive over. I've never had sheep yogurt before. It tastes just like cow yogurt.

We arrived at Hog Island Oysters!

Their driveway was paved with oyster shells.

We saw them sorting and cleaning the oysters as we made our way to their picnic area.

We started off with 50 Quilcenes and ended up getting a couple dozen more oysters later.

I got to show Jeff and Azusa how to shuck an oyster! They were naturals.

I love these oysters. Delicious, and briny,--an excellent thing in oyster.

Ben preferred them grilled. I was skeptical, but they were mighty fine grilled. The liquor makes a great broth.

All finished.

Then I made everyone take a group picture.

After lunch, we drove around the south end of the bay to get to the Point Reyes seashore. We passed by herds of elk and cows.

The beauty of this area is just ridiculous.

Ben and I collaborated on this sculpture.

Mabel was struck by the leaves on this plant.

On the drive back, we ate at In-N-Out Burger.

Ben ordered two burgers without the meat.

I didn't know you could do that! They were really good. That's what I'm going to order the next time I'm in California.

Stanyan Park Hotel
750 Stanyan St (at Waller St)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 751-1000

Lava Java
852 Stanyan St (btn Beulah and Frederick St)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 751-7375

110 Strawberry Village
Mill Valley, CA 94941

Cowgirl Creamery
80 4th St
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
(415) 663-9335‎

Hog Island Oysters
20215 Coast Highway One
Marshall, CA 94940
(415) 663-9218, ext. 255 for reservations

In-N-Out Burger
798 Redwood Hwy
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(800) 786-1000

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Caviar from Dean and Deluca

This post originally took place on 12/20/2009.

Shortly after the first big snow storm of the year, Mabel and I went for a walk through Central Park and decided to use a gift certificate to Dean and Deluca from James and Christine.

They had given us the gift certificate the previous Christmas, and we were approaching the next Christmas, so we figured it was about time. We had used a previous gift certificate to Dean and Deluca several years ago to buy various kinds of salt, including Truffle Salt. We know how ridiculous that sounds--it's reminiscent of the Salt of the Month Club prank gift box that the Onion used to sell--but we learned the difference between Maldon, fleur de sel, and regular old salt. Anyway, this time we decided to use the certificate to subsidize some caviar.

We got some French trout roe and American White Sturgeon and Paddlefish (aka Spoonbill). I co-opted our terrine for ice.

I toasted up some Pepperidge Farm white bread without crusts, whipped some creme fraiche, and we had a little feast.

Dean and Deluca
560 Broadway (at Prince St)
New York, NY 10012

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Imperial Palace

Nina and Josh invited me to dinner at Imperial Palace last night.

This was only the second time I'd eaten in Flushing, and I was looking forward to it. The place was packed at the appointed time of 7 o'clock. There were hordes of people coming and going, waiting and pushing. But Nina and her friend got there a bit early to put in for a table and we were seated in a reasonable amount of time. Only half our party was there, but they didn't seem to care. I noticed a similar tolerance at Joe's Ginger. While we were waiting, this little girl decided to hang out with us.

When everyone showed up about an hour later, we ordered Steamed Oysters, Clams with Black Bean Sauce, Sizzling Sable Fish, Crab over Snow Pea Leaves, Lobster, Conch with Tofu, Deep-Fried Chicken with Minced Shrimp, and Dungeness Crab with Sticky Rice. It's fun eating with a large group.

I had no idea what to expect with the Deep-Fried Chicken with Minced Shrimp, but it was really cool.

The chicken head is a nice touch. The skin was very crisp and I think there was panko on the underside. There was a shrimp stuffing, I'm not sure if there was any chicken meat, but I liked it a lot.

Everyone got especially excited when the crab dish came out.

It was delicious. The crab-soaked rice was very popular.

This is a fun place. I don't usually like super-packed restaurants, but there's a nice family feel to this place, there's a great energy to it, and the food is very good.

Imperial Palace
136-13 37th Ave (btn Main and Union St)
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 939-3501

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cafe Cluny

Mabel and I had breakfast at Cafe Cluny this morning.

She had been wanting to eat here for quite a while, since reading a review several years ago. The timing this morning worked out just right. She finally got a bit of sleep on her shift last night, and I'm off today.

This is a nice place, low-ceilinged, very friendly staff. They seated us by a window in the rear dining room. I noticed early on this bug hanging from the ceiling.

I made the mistake of pointing it out to Mabel. She said that alone was enough not to return. But we haven't even started eating yet.

I ordered their Breakfast Club.

It wasn't really what I was expecting, though. I thought a club sandwich was a double-decker sandwich. It was good anyways, I liked the addition of lox and the runny yolk. It came with hash browns which turned out to be a smooth potato pie slice.

Mabel got a frisee salad.

I like how they do the poached egg. She liked it, but decided she needed a bit more to eat and ordered a side of fries.

Nice presentation.

Mabel thought they were rushing us a bit towards the end. I didn't really mind, but maybe she was reacting to the spectre of that giant bug on the ceiling. I thought it was a nice place to go for brunch. Service was friendly and cheerful, very important in the morning. The food was good, the light was nice, and from our seats it was fun to watch the people passing by on W 4th St.

Cafe Cluny
284 West 12th St (at W 4th St)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 255-6900

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Just got back from eating at Motorino with Mabel.

Yesterday I miraculously got through a Sifton review of Motorino and was intrigued. Best pizza in New York, eh? I was looking forward to it.

But we first started with this beet salad.

What can I say? It was well made. I like beets. It tasted like beets. It was very nice.

Now for the pizza. I got the Filetti which was made with mozzarella, tomatoes, and thyme.

It was okay. I liked the scent of thyme. But the real star of the meal was Mabel's Brussel's Sprouts pizza.

This pizza was awesome. It had this wonderful smoky scent as you were biting into it. I know this sounds outrageous, but eating this pizza felt like an "experience." It was just great.

I liked the vibe and service at this place. The waiters were attentive and tried to be helpful. They give you a bottle of tap water that sits on your table and they would come by periodically anyway to refill your glass for you. At one point, a waiter tried to refill Mabel's out-of-reach glass and kind of got stuck with bottle in hand. But it's the thought that counts. The restaurant felt very earnest, down-to-earth, relaxed, and comfortable. I like it here.

Afterwards, we got some cookies at Milk Bar.

Do we think it's the best pizza in New York? Well, I haven't been to so many pizza places in New York but that Brussels Sprouts pizza was the best pizza I can remember eating for a long time, in fact, the best dish, pizza or otherwise, I have eaten for a while. But the Filetti was not as great. So it's hard to generalize the pizzas because they are so different from each other. I would say that if anything, putting the whole restaurant into a best pizza category is limiting. That Brussel's Sprouts pizza is a dish that stands well on its own, compared to other pizzas or not.

Motorino East Village
349 East 12th St (near 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 777-2644

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Keste and a walk around the neighborhood

Last Sunday we went to Keste for lunch.

There seems to have been an incredible amount of enthusiasm surrounding the opening of this place, at least among my friends. The buzz somehow left me unaffected back in 2009, although on the weekends especially the sidewalk outside of this restaurant is packed. Look at this overhead sidewalk heater.

How thoughtful. So how are the pies? I got the Keste pizza.

Mabel ordered the Capricciosa.

On both, the crust was perfect, so satisfyingly chewy. And the ingredients seemed impeccable. The only problem was that both pies were a bit soggy in the middle. I found that I absolutely had to do the fold in order eat this pizza, and after that it was pleasant. But I wonder if it has to be that way. Anyway, I thought it was delicious, although a bit expensive.

Afterwards, we walked around the neighborhood. I've had Thomas Jefferson's Letter to Peter Carr on my mind lately.
The object of walking is to relax the mind. You should therefore not permit yourself even to think while you walk; but divert your attention by the objects surrounding you. Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far. The Europeans value themselves on having subdued the horse to the uses of man; but I doubt whether we have not lost more than we have gained, by the use of this animal. No one has occasioned so much, the degeneracy of the human body. An Indian goes on foot nearly as far in a day, for a long journey, as an enfeebled white does on his horse; and he will tire the best horses. There is no habit you will value so much as that of walking far without fatigue. I would advise you to take your exercise in the afternoon: not because it is the best time for exercise, for certainly it is not; but because it is the best time to spare from your studies; and habit will soon reconcile it to health, and render it nearly as useful as if you gave to that the more precious hours of the day.

The first thing I noticed was this horrendous paint job on Greenwich Village Bistro.

I do not like that color at all. I got a bunch of high school friends together here back in 2008 or thereabouts. They have live music and it's pretty easy to get a table for a group on the weekends. The food is below average, but edible and won't get in the way of good conversation.

Just a few doors down, we saw that Beard Papa had closed.

It felt like just a few days before that it was still in business. Mabel and I talked about how we should get a cream puff there at some point and she was puzzled about what a Hemmingway-esque cartoon character has to do with cream puffs. I did not have an answer for her.

We had to stop by Bobst Library, then crossed Washington Square Park on our return loop. I couldn't resist snapping this picture.

On our way to Citarella, we saw Insomnia Cookies.

This was perfect. Mabel was thinking about chocolate chip cookies all day.

They keep the cookies in a warmer, so they are really good when you buy them. After they cool, they become average cookies but for $1 you can't complain.

Update 2/28/2010
By the way, I like the cream puffs from Beard Papas. There is a pudding-like center encased in a shell with powdered sugar on top. Everything is in perfect balance. They are a pleasure to eat. I'll have to take Mabel to one of their other locations.

Keste Pizza & Vino
271 Bleecker St (btn Jones and Cornelia)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 243-1500

Greenwich Village Bistro
13 Carmine St (near Father Demo Square)
New York, NY 10014

Beard Papa West Village (CLOSED)
5 Carmine St (near Father Demo Square)
New York, NY 10014

Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012

Insomnia Cookies
50 W 8th St (btn MacDougal St and 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10011