My Top 5 this weekend in L.A.

I spent the weekend in Los Angeles and had plenty of good food.  I have come up with this Top 5 list of best foods that I ate this past weekend in the City of Angels.   

#5  Miso Ramen at Santouka Ramen

My first memory of having fresh ramen noodles was when I lived in Los Angeles.  With 4.5 stars and 600 reviews, I went to Santouka Ramen.  The restaurant was located inside Mitsuwa Market, a Japanese grocery store in West Los Angeles that I used to frequent.  I ordered the combination miso ramen that came with a side of pork over rice and a side of boiled egg.  Both sides were not worth noting.  I should have just ordered one large bowl of miso ramen as that was definitely worth talking about.  The noodles were lightly chewy in texture and was in a tasty broth. 

 #4  Potato Chip Chicken at Grub
 My friend took me to a restaurant called Grub located in Hollywood.  It was really cute as the restaurant is in a converted house that also has outdoor seating.   The most interesting thing on the menu was something called Potato chip crusted chicken which came with mashed potatoes and spinach and that is what I ordered.  This dish had many textures that went head to head.  There was the crunchy ruffled potato chips, the smooth mashed potatoes, and the moist juicy chicken.  It was delish!

#3  Chocolate Cranberry Walnut Cookie at Magnolia Bakery

I read an article several months ago that New York’s famous Magnolia Bakery was opening a store in Beverly Hills.  Many people rave about there cupcakes, but I love their mini cheesecake varieties.  I have even gone so far as to buy some in New York, freeze them, and then take them on a 5 ½ hour flight back to the Bay Area.  Unfortunately I couldn’t take them with me this time as there was a heat wave in Los Angeles.  With temperature in the 90’s, I was not going to get very far with mini cheesecake.  I decided to buy their chocolate cranberry walnut cookies to take home.  These chewy cookies are not as good as the cheesecake, but they are good enough to make the list.  

#2  Lobster & Crab Roll at Joan’s on 3rd

Joan’s on 3rd is a marketplace across the street from Magnolia Bakery.  This shop is very European and also reminds me of the store Dean and Deluca.  They sell cheese & charcuterie, baked goods, imported groceries, sandwiches, gourmet cooked food, and much more.   After roaming around the store and also seeing someone with a fantastic looking sandwich, I went with their special sandwich, the main lobster & crab roll.  This was full of fresh lobster and crab on a chewy roll.  It was delicious!  The sandwich came with a side of homemade potato chips that were excellent.  Most of the time homemade chips tend to get soft, but these stayed crispy all around.  It also came with a side of pickled cucumbers that had a very good Asian flavor. 

 #1  Pizza at Pizzeria Mozza

This was the only place I had planned ahead of time to eat at and had reservations.  I had only been to Mozza once before and it was so good I had to return.  This restaurant is the brainchild of Iron Chef Italian Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton, of La Brea Bakery fame.  You’ve got an expert in Italian food and an expert in baking bread, which is the perfect combination to launch a pizzeria.  The pizza I chose had fennel sausage, panna, red onions, and scallions.  I pick Mozza as having the best pizza in the country.  The crust bubbles up so much that it becomes cracker thin and delectable. 

So that wraps my weekend Top 5!

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One of Oakland’s Best: Tamarindo

If I am asked to name the top restaurants of Oakland, Tamarindo is in my top five.  If I am asked to name the best Mexican restaurant, Tamarindo is number one.   The Mexican tapas “small plates” restaurant is located in Old Oakland, and brings sophistication to simple Mexican food.

A group of four of us enjoyed a nice lunch at Tamarindo.  Four is the perfect number to enjoy a great variety of tapas.  And if it is a small dish, you can always order two.  

We started with an order of chips and guacamole.  This is the most beautifully displayed chips & guacamole that I have ever seen and it tasted just as good.  They could probably use a few more purple tortilla chips, but I can understand that they want to ensure you get a generous amount of guacamole in each bite.  

This was my first time ordering a michelada.  A michelada is a Mexican beverage made of your choice of beer, lime juice, and spicy tomato juice.  My choice was the recommended Pacifico.  I enjoyed this drink very much and I especially thought the salt and paprika rim was a nice touch. 

The ceviche came out with a half dozen round tortilla chips.  The chefs choice was shrimp and it was a solid appetizer, complimenting my michelada very well.

The sopa del dio was chicken soup.  We ordered two and asked them to  divide it into four.  The bowls came out with a side of onion, cilantro, and lime to mix in.  Each bowl had a good chunk of chicken and a slice of corn.  (OK, I lied; they didn’t do that great a job dividing up the ingredients fairly as I had to transfer a slice of corn to another bowl.)  The broth was so flavorful that it tasted as if it had been cooking for hours.  This was the epitome of comfort food. 

The fish tacos were one of the specials that we ordered.  Each tortilla was filled with a piece of crispy fried fish (I think it was tilapia) that was covered with cabbage, tomatoes, cilantro, secret sauce, and a squeeze of lime.   I am a tough critic, as this was not as good as the ones at Cholito Linda

The next dish that came out was essentially a chicken sandwich which none of us realized we ordered.   I recall the waitress coming to the table letting us know they ran out of something, but could put it on bread.  It was quite delicious, but difficult to cut and share amongst the four of us.  I would definitely eat this again if it was just me having to order one item.

Our last dish was the chile relleno.  This dish was stuffed with a lot of goodness including shrimp, cheese, and onions.  It was covered in a delicious sauce that really brought the flavors of the sweet and spicy together.

Although we were quite full, we couldn’t leave without having dessert.  We easily agreed to share the coconut flan.  It was the perfect creamy custard with lightly toasted coconut sprinkles.  We all left with a sweet taste in our mouths. 

Tamarindo is a family owned restaurant and they have a sister taqueria named La Calle located a few blocks down the street which is also very impressive.   Recently Tamarindo knocked down the walls to the building next door.  The expansion is actually a tequila bar, but it is also available for dining overflow.  The Tamarindo family, actually the Dominguez family has been influential to the community, bringing great food and drink to all of Oakland and beyond.

The Wayfare Tavern, San Francisco

After having dinner at Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco, I am now in love with celebrity chef Tyler Florence.  He is the star to several Food Network shows, but I never thought too much of him before this.  Maybe I was unimpressed because he was the spokesperson to Applebee’s.   Anyhow, my BFF (Best Friend Forever), my FC (Food Companion), and I had reservations for Wayfare Tavern about two months ago.  The restaurant was getting some buzz only having been open since June of this year. 

The Wayfare Tavern is very American and so is the fare. Deer heads adorn the wall and the restaurant logo includes an eagle that is imprinted on their white plates. 

The first thing I was impressed with were the warm popovers.  Popovers are hollow rolls that are made from an egg batter.  My first memories of having them were when I was 17 years old working at a retirement home.  Whenever there was a private party, it was not unusual for the host to request these delightful treats.  The server came by to offer us seconds which we all gladly accepted.  Apparently, you can get unlimited popovers, which is pretty generous.  We had to pass on the third offer or we wouldn’t be able to eat our meal.

BFF’s meal:
She ordered two appetizers, which were two of her favorite things.  She got the roasted tomales bay oysters which came with carrot butter, chorizo sausage, fennel, and chives and the steak tartare which came with French mustard dressing, shallots, capers, organic egg yolk, Tabasco sauce, and summer herbs.  She shared an oyster and a little tartare with me.  The oysters were full of flavor, but maybe a bit too much for my taste.  I thought the sausage was a bit overwhelming and overshadowed the oyster.  The steak tartare was also pretty tasty.  The BFF seemed to enjoy them both.

FC’s meal:
He ordered the California avocado and hearts of palm which came with cucumber, shaved onion, cilantro, and lime dressing.  Although this dish didn’t sound too exciting at first, it was very impressive.  The restaurant must be tipping the avocado farmer very well because it was the perfect avocado.  This dish blended well together. 

The FC ordered the crisp Alaskan halibut with stewed artichokes and tomatoes, artichoke puree, summer truffles and chervil.  I didn’t try this, but the next time I looked at his plate, it was clean.  In addition, he ordered a side of creamed corn for the table, which was a very basic dish that was brought to a new level.  It was cooked with smoked olive oil and chive blossom.  The sweet corn held its crunch. 

My Meal:
I ordered the heirloom tomato bread soup to start.  The server gave me a bowl with toasted sourdough croutons with capers, basil, anchovy, and smoked chili oil.  He then poured the tomato soup over the accoutrements.  I was impressed with the display and show.  I thoroughly enjoyed the soup as it was a good balance of flavors.  I’ve never thought of bringing tomato soup to such a high level of quality.  My BFF seemed unimpressed that the server did not mix her steak tartare. 

I chose the smoked pork chop as my entrée.  It came with marcona almond butter, roasted peaches, and a fennel puree.  It was humongous and delicious.  It was tender, juicy, and flavorful.  I ate about one third of it and I as I write this, I am excited that I will get to have this as another meal.

Dessert: 
We were given complimentary mini ginger snap cookies to start.  They were hot out of the oven, soft and delicious.  After seeing the large dessert that came to the table next to us, we decided to share one.  We ordered the pineapple upside down cake with macadamia nut brittle, salted caramel ice cream, and marinated bing cherries.  I don’t recall any bing cherries, but that’s ok because whether it was in there or not, this dessert was to die for.  I loved it.  The BFF and FC may have thought it was too cakey, but I have to disagree.  I thoroughly enjoyed the dessert as well as everything else I ate. 

I learned that Tyler Florence is a transplant to the Bay Area and calling it home.  I’m excited to try two more restaurants he is currently working on, one in Mill Valley (where he lives) and one in Napa.  I will eagerly await its openings.

My Favorite Taco Truck

How far would you drive to get to a taco truck?  Some might think 14 miles is too far considering there are dozens of taco trucks within a few miles away in Oakland.  My BFF introduced me to this particular taco truck in the City of San Pablo a few years ago.  We plan hikes around the area, just so we can treat ourselves to some tacos.  It’s even worth driving on Highway 80 to get to.

What makes these tacos so special?  Does the word chicharrones sound familiar?  Last week, I made a stop to have a chicharrones topped hot dog at the Eat Real Festival.  I can say that I love chicharrones as much as I love bacon.  That shouldn’t be a surprise as there are many similarities between the two.  Chicharrones are fried pork rinds that I can’t seem to get enough of.  The crispy fat is addictive. 

After a short hike in Point Richmond, I persuaded my BFF to drive to the taco truck.  I didn’t have to twist her arm.  I ordered three tacos – one pastor (marinated pork) and two chicharrones.  My BFF ordered a super burrito with, yes, chicharrones.  Although the pastor taco was tasty, it’s just not as good as the chicharrones.  Good thing I ordered two.  The best part of my meal was picking at the chicharrones bits that fell out of the taco onto my plate.  Crispy fat = yum.  Our orders also came with nicely pickled carrots and crispy thin tortilla chips that we had no problem eating up.  We washed our food down with Mexican coke.  Unlike regular coke, Mexican coke does not use corn syrup. 

Her name is Mi Virgencita and she parks in the Texas Gas parking lot on San Pablo Dam Road across the street from Princeton Plaza.  Go find her, but avoid windy days as it’s a hit or miss if she’ll be waiting for you.