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.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mijita - Ferry Building Mexican

I have to say, having had lots of Mexican in San Francisco, I was disappointed with Mijita. Sure, it's the Ferry Building and they cater to tourists who don't really want authentic anything, but mild Mexican isn't really my idea of a great lunch.

There is a good side to it, it's cheap and fairly quick
. The lines move quickly, you can watch them making food if you stand outside in the window, so you know there are no skanky kitchen activities going on.

If the weather is nice you can sit outside in their reserved seating area, instead of on the dock with birds flying overhead

I did have the first fish taco of my life here
. And I will say, that it didn't gross me out. A fear I'd always had of fish tacos. Although, the breading on the fish? Came off before I even took a bite. So what I had was fried stuff on top of my fish. Smothered in some sort of coleslaw like thing.

Will I go back? Probably not, unless I am hungry and walking by
. I'd much rather hop on Muni and head to the Mission for authentic Mexican.