Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick - San Francisco Ferry Building

I love cheese, this is no secret. So when I found out Cowgirl Creamery was opening the much anticipated extension to their Ferry Building location today, I had to be there. The menu is limited, but everything sounds amazing.

I'm only halfway through my lunch, but had to get this up immediately.

I ordered the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar cheese toastie ($6.75). With carmelized onions and supposedly maple mustard. Of course on quality Acme bread from next door. You get two slices of bread, open faced with yum yum yummy melted cheese. The mustard though, is more spicey brown mustard than reminiscent of any maple flavor. And I have to admit I was intrigued by the idea of maple mustard. It comes with a small side of mache with a vinigrette that is delicious!

I have dessert, imploring me to eat my toastie faster. Chocolate mousse panna cotta ($3.00). Serving size - small. Imagine a slightly larger size of those take home containers you put ketchup or mustard in at a burger place. Update: I've now taken my first three bites of dessert. It is unbelievably thick and rich and if the portion size was any larger it would go to waste. Well, not really I love chocolate as much as I love cheese, but my waistline would not forgive me.

They are also open in the morning for breakfast a menu which contains Bambinis, Gougeres (yes that will be my breakfast tomorrow) and yogurt bowls (which look delicious and are a good size for $3.75).

Update: Tried the Bambini with Mt. Tam and Ham (and mustard)($5.00), the bread is soft and to die for delicious, as are the fillings. I do love the Mt. Tam so pretty much anything it is on I am guaranteed to love. The only thing that could have made this better as a breakfast item if it was served slightly warm, and had an egg involved.
I had a savory Gougeres as well, that was less awesome. But to be fair, I am not a fan of the cheese that's in it to begin with. The puff pastry it was in didn't do much for me either.

A lady who had ordered the other cheese toastie - Bellweather Crescenza with herbs and summer peppers and a salad did have to send her salad back, they had forgotten the eggplant. Another girl after me wasn't overwhelmed by the flavor of her egg cream, but admitted she'd never had one before and didn't know quite what to expect. On second thought, she declared it a nice light chocolate drink.

They are fully staffed and it does look a bit crowded back there, but given the touristy location, how busy the store gets, and the lunch hour it is necessary. The kitchen is a bit slow, but I'm chalking this up to first day kinks. Hopefully in a week or two things will be running smoother and faster.

The woodwork, by the pick up counter is beautiful. There are parts that look like they were just taken off of a tree trunk and planted right there.

Sue Conley and Peggy Smith were there today, checking out their newest outpost, and both of them kindly came over and asked what I was ordering and re-assured me that it was being prepared. Sue had one of the mozzarella plates with heirloom tomatoes and basil and it looked divine! Prices on that range are $8.50 and $10.75 depending on the mozzarella choice.

Had the Buratta with heirloom tomatoes, olive oil and basil for lunch on Friday, they left off the basil, which was a bummer, since I'm sure that would have made it way more delicious than it already was. The tomatoes were slightly salted with a course salt, which I loved! The Buratta was creamy and smooth and will be the only option I ever get on this plate. I did ask to taste the cheeses, and it seemed to irk the girl behind the counter, she gave me tastes of the buffalo and cow mozzarellas, but did not want to let me taste the ricotta or buratta. Well, I'd like to know what my options are before I order(plus I'd seen them letting someone else try them on Wed). She did let me taste the buratta finally, and good thing, or else I would have just gotten another item off the menu, the other cheeses were not as tasty. There are a couple slices of Acme bread and some olives spread around as well, and the bed of mache that the cheese lays on.
I also got an order of the Wagon Wheel over potatoes ($7.50), with some yummy pickles sprinkled about. Amazingly good, I wish there had been more potatoes in there!

If you love cheese, and want a reasonably priced lunch option (at least for the Ferry Building) head on over.

Phone (415) 392-4000

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Holiday Inn Express - El Paso

There isn't much in the way of hotels in El Paso. Not downtown at least. I do have to say if staying in a hotel the Holiday Inn Express isn't a bad way to spend a night or two.
There's free breakfast, not just continental, but warm foods too
Free shuttle to and from the airport
, and within a couple mile radius if you don't rent a car and need to get someplace.
The rates are decent, there are some restaurant options nearby, and the front desk staff is very nice
Also, one or two nights a week the manager has a happy hour special
. Free Mexican food snacking, which can double as dinner!
The rooms are spacious, pretty standard furnishings
. It must cater more to business travelers than actual tourists.The beds are comfortable, but beware if you are sensitive to scented laundry detergent. I came back to my room the second day and it reeked of something flowery. I gave it some time thinking it would go away, but when I sat on the bed I realized it was the sheets and blankets. Called housekeeping, they said it was the detergent they used. Strange, since it hadn't smelled the night before, had they not changed the sheets then? But the manager came up and verified it was the detergent. Housekeeping came up, changed the linens again and this time it didn't smell. Apparently they keep a batch of unscented detergent linens somewhere.
They had a raindrop shower head which I loved, pretty high end for this type of hotel
. But the bath towels were thin and not so soft. That's to be expected though in a non-4 star.

If you are brave enough to wander over to Juarez, it's a very close drive to the border and is actually even walkable from the hotel

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dynamo Coffee and Donuts - San Francisco

With a name like Dynamo, I expected donuts with a punch or a kick. This is a little storefront in the Mission, just grab and go. No seating, no milling about.
We went with bacon donuts in mind, but they were out. So I ended up with a Huckleberry Meyer Lemon, because it had a bright pink glaze and a Chocolate Rose, because it had a rosewater glaze and I'm a sucker for anything with rosewater in it.
$3 each.

By the time I'd gotten home with my bag of donuts, the pink glaze was mostly melted to the top of the bag. But the donut was soft, so very melt in my mouth soft. THIS is what a donut that is made fresh daily tastes like. There were tiny huckleberries in the donut, but to be honest, I didn't taste much of anything. It mostly just tasted like a sugar donut. But the soft meltiness of it made me just gobble it up.

The chocolate rose on the other hand, I took that one bite you see there. The rest of that one went in the trash. The guy at the counter said it was a very sweet donut, but it wasn't. It was bitter. I'm guessing that means bittersweet chocolate was used to make it, but whatever sweetness the rosewater was supposed to impart on it, didn't take.

Next time, I need to remember to get there earlier in the day, while they still have bacon donuts.

2760 24th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110-4263
(415) 920-1978

Friday, March 5, 2010

Papalote - Crushing Bobby Flay's Gringo Burrito

I don't usually take food advice from Bobby Flay, but after watching Throwdown on Monday night I had to go to Papalote. The burrito they made on the show made my mouth water. Bobby's made me laugh, it was not a burrito, and certainly not by Mission standards.

So a friend and I trekked out to Valencia and 24th and were met with long lines and a very busy dining area
. Ah yes, seems that the exposure did them well. It's a small place, with three or four employees working the kitchen. The meat is being grilled constantly, so your burrito meat is freshly cooked. I got a carne asada super burrito. Nice upsell by the cashier on that one. Burrito $9, bottle of Crystal Geyser still water? $2.25!! As my friend said "that's movie theater prices"! Yeah, next time, must remember to get water at a bodega down the street for 50 cents. I really did want the Triple Threat they made on the show (steak, chicken and shrimp), but it's $20! I won't be getting that anytime soon.

Although, the shrimp that were on the grill looked damn tasty, I might have to get that next time

We ordered and then took our numbers to the dining area where we were seated. Almost immediately two bowls of chips and salsa were at out table. Nom, nom, nom, this salsa was spicey! Like super spicey, and yet I couldn't stop eating it. The salsa was what they used on the show on the burrito, but our burritos did not have it in them.
I wish they had

So then the burrito made it's appearance
. Not kidding, it was as big as my forearm! I wish I'd had my camera so I could prove that to you.
It was good, really good
. Not overwhelming on the guac and sourcream, so I could still taste everything else in it. And I ate half very quickly. My friend had the chili verde one, she loved it, so much that she ate the whole thing! Interestingly, she didn't think there was rice in hers, since it didn't fill her up like burritos with rice usually do. So they were light on the rice, meaning? More room for meat! I bagged the rest and called it dinner.

Despite being such a busy place, they weren't constantly hovering offering to take our plates and push us out the door, so that was nice
. I think it's a bit overpriced for the area, given that there are a million taquerias in the area. So this won't go down as one of my cheap eats places. Is it the bestest burrito I've ever had? No, it's not. But it is a damn good burrito.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Somerset - Rockridge

This was my second visit to Somerset. My first was for dinner last year, we sat outside in the garden, it was busy, and the food was delicious. Today I was craving carbonara, and so took my mom out to lunch. There were only 3 other tables seated and perhaps that should have been my warning. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Mom ordered the warm spinach salad, it promised mushrooms, egg, apples, a bacon-cider vinagrette and onion rings. At $10.50, for a place that touts itself as home-cooking I expected a decent sized salad. Because home-cooking doesn't mean small portions. But this salad was small. And lacked any flavor. I got my carbonara. Now, at $16.50, I expect a good-sized bowl of pasta. Pasta is cheap, and really frozen peas and bacon don't add a huge cost. I finished my entree in 7 bites. And I don't take enormous bites. So $30 later, our meals were done in less time than it took to make them. Maybe it's a lunch thing? Maybe it's just gone downhill, but I won't be back.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rick and Ann's - Home Cookin' Done Right

I cannot believe I've never written about my most favorite East Bay restaurant, Rick and Ann's. Tucked away on a small street in the Oakland Hills, next to the Claremont Resort and Spa, you can easily miss it if you are driving by.
You can find me here fairly often, maybe that's why I don't want you to know about it, because it is amazing!
Brunch is everyday until 2:30, so yes, you can get your fix of breakfast foods until the middle of the afternoon. As a testament to how good it is, there is always a wait on weekends. And worth it.
Last weekend I went at 8:30, a daring hour for me in the morning, but was seated immediately. They opened at 8 and had yet to set up the outside seating, so there were a few people waiting for that. The previous weekend my cousin from Toronto was visiting, and we ended up going at 10:15, there were tons of people standing outside, and we were quoted an hour wait. No problem, there's Peet's next door for coffee, the weather was outstanding, and it's not like you are standing on a busy street corner. There are a couple other stores on the street so you can browse cute stuff if you want. 15 minutes later we were called in. What? That never happens! Apparently there was a huge party coming in and so they wanted to sit all the smaller parties first.

Now, I have two absolutely favorite dishes here. And if you go, you have to try at least one. They both take longer to make than anything else on the menu, so I generally try and order as soon as I sit, while my companions take the time to read the menu.
First, I love french toast. In all shapes, sizes and toppings. But their challah french toast is sublime. Why? Because it uses the challah, and is dipped in orange-cardomom batter, so with every bite, there's a bit of the orange flavor. YUM!
Secondly, the potato pancakes. Smothered in cheese. Served with sour cream and applesauce on the side. Need I say more? Ok one more word, this is the perfect breakfast appetizer for your entire table. Order it.
You also might know that I don't usually order egg dishes while dining out, but sometimes I make an exception for the bacon, greens, and cheese omlette. It's wrapped in bacon!!! How could I not.
They also have specials that vary daily, and are always amazing, at least according to my fellow diners that have ordered them.
And for you light breakfast eaters? Or true Berkeley types? How about some of Rick's granola atop some yogurt? I haven't tried it, but I'll bet it's good. Gluten or wheat free? For you there's the orange flour pancakes, which I will admit, I've tasted, and loved.
And if you are coming in later, and want a sandwich and are vegetarian? My mom approved of the portabello sandwich. Because as you can see it's not just a slice of mushroom on bread, done half-heartedly. This is full-of flavor, so much that even a raging carnivore (and mushroom hater) like myself liked it! Eggplant, pesto, provolone, spinach and the shroom.

Dinner, ah yes, dinner time. I've never had much of a wait for dinner, I suppose I go mid-week when things are quieter. But this is the mom's cooking, that mom never made me.
The mac and cheese always makes my mouth water, rich and creamy and some spinach on the side for that healthy factor. If you are a fan of the non-boxed mac and cheeses, this is for you.

Meatloaf is another dinner item that was never on my table as a child, so I don't know how to make it. Rather, playing with ground beef creeps me out, and so I just order it out. Ann knows a good meatloaf recipe when she sees it. Maybe the secret is in the quality of the meat they use!

I'm going to also nominate Rick and Ann's for one of my cheap eats places, because for the most part breakfast is under $10, unless you opt for one of the specials, and dinner, hovers around $15. Both bargains in this era of high priced home cookin'.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Checkers Hotel - Downtown LA

Another business trip, this time to wonderful downtown Los Angeles. I want to say nice things about the Checkers, really I do. It came highly recommended, cost plenty, and the whole art deco boutique vibe called to me. Even though it is a Hilton.
I will say the beds are very comfortable.
But service? Leads a lot to be desired.
I was there for a week, it's not a huge hotel, and I interacted with the same guy at the front desk enough times that I would hope he would remember which guest I was.
Upon walking in, I was ignored for about 10 minutes while the 2 people behind the desk chatted about something that was clearly more important than their customer standing there.
The room I was given had a lovely view of a wall, from all angles.

And was small, possibly the smallest and narrowest room they had. The desk was in a weird position between the bed and the TV.

Also, see that light that is in the headboard? Would you believe there was no off switch anywhere? And when I called downstairs to ask them how to turn it off they didn't know! I finally found the cord and unplugged it.

However, had the most old school bathroom I had seen. The great old marble walls and floors, and the vanity seat! I loved it, this is what I was expecting from the hotel.

This simply would not do for a week. Called downstairs and requested a room that at least got some light. I was told to go back down, turn in my keys and get another key. Really? The hotel wasn't that busy and they could afford to send someone upstairs with a key so I wouldn't have to drag my suitcase all over the place again.

This room was better, at least semi-views of the high-rise buildings downtown. If I craned my neck enough

There was more space in the room, which when staying for a week does help not feel clausterphobic, especially as I would be working in the room a lot.

My final evening at the hotel, my brother came to stay, so I requested a room with two beds
THIS is the holy grail of rooms, spacious, amazing views, and a double headed shower!

The hotel has a rooftop pool, which was another draw. Unfortunately, it was closed the week I was there. Which was a bummer, as I was hoping for some night time rooftop hanging out.
The one downside to this last room, was that it was on the top floor, and for some reason despite the roof being closed, was very very loud. I don't know what exactly was going on above me, but had I wanted to sleep, instead of go out, it would have bothered me.

The front door men were great when it came to getting cabs and directions. And while I was staying there there was a movie or commercial or somesuch being filmed across the street at the entrance to the Biltmore.