Cafe Van Kleef: One Word…Greyhounds

Vodka was probably one of the first types of alcohol that I ever drank. I was all too familiar with the “screwdriver” which is vodka and orange juice. Growing up, I would watch my father make “screwdrivers” for himself and my mother. I think he even let me make some, for sure I got to stir them. When I was in college, I started drinking the “Cape Cod” which is vodka and cranberry juice. I got more sophisticated when the popular television series “Sex and the City” got me drinking the “Cosmopolitan” which is vodka, cranberry juice, triple sec, and lime juice. Fast forward about two and a half years ago when I learned about the “Greyhound” which is vodka and grapefruit juice.

My first “Greyhound” was at Cafe Van Kleef, a bar on Telegraph Ave in Downtown Oakland a few blocks from work. Practically everyone there were drinking “Greyhounds”. What’s so special about the “Greyhound”? At Cafe Van Kleef, they are delicious. They use freshly squeezed ruby red grapefruit and they top it off with a large wedge of grapefruit.

My colleagues and I went over for a drink after work on Friday. It was one of those weeks and I couldn’t think of anything better than a “Greyhound”. We sat at the bar and the bartenders were busy cutting up and squeezing grapefruits. Apparently they go through about five cases of grapefruits a day with each case having 20-25 grapefruits. That’s a lot of grapefruit. Cafe Van Kleef is a funky cool place and for $7 you can experience it yourself.



Main Stop: Oakland Chinatown


I was in Oakland Chinatown for the past two days preparing for Chinese New Year. This may be the most chaotic of all weekends. The community has to buy food and it is the Lunar New Year Bazaar. I acted as the chauffeur and the caddy for my mother yesterday as she went to various stores to buy pounds and pounds of groceries.

This morning I was on my own to get a few remaining prepared foods. I arrived at about 9:15am which is probably the earliest I have ever been to Chinatown. Prior to today, noon is a typical time for me to show up in Chinatown on any given day. I was on a mission to make sure I could get a roast duck and roast pork. Every Chinatown storefront selling roast meats had a line. I went to Cafe 88 inside the Pacific Renaissance Plaza. After about a twenty minute wait, I was successful.

The other item I wanted to get were fried sesame balls or jin deui. We picked some up yesterday, but most of them got eaten up quickly. My mom wanted to make sure we had some for tomorrow, New Year’s Day. Chinatown would be a ghost town on New Year’s Day, so today would be a last ditch effort.

Tao Yuen Pastry on 8th and Franklin may have the best fried sesame balls in town. I’m not the biggest fan of them, but when they are warm, they can be exquisite. The consistency is chewy and crispy. Fried sesame balls are made of a glutinous rice flour mixture that is filled with a sweet lotus paste, dipped in sesame seeds and deep fried to a golden brown. The line at Tao Yuen was also out the door. Another twenty minute wait left me successful. I left Tao Yuen with my pink box tied with red string.

Fried sesame balls are something very common to find in dim sum restaurants, but they hold special meaning on Chinese New Year’s Day. The round shape, the sweet flavor, the way it expands when cooking, and the golden color are all significant. It all means wealth and good fortune.

With less than two hours until Chinese New Year, I feel prepared. I’ve cleaned up, vacuumed, cut and washed my hair. It’s going to be the Year of the Dragon and I wish everyone health, wealth, and happiness.

P.S. A fried sesame ball equals 7 Weight Watcher points. Half a sesame ball is not too bad!

P.P.S. Last year’s Chinese New Year blog post can be found here.

Food Club Visit: Kokkari

I am now part of a food club that my BFF started. It’s very exclusive as there are only three members. We meet once a month and we take turns picking a restaurant. Last month was my turn and I picked Kokkari, the Greek restaurant in San Francisco. This is the sister restaurant of Evvia in Palo Alto. After my first visit to Evvia, I vowed to try the lamb chops my next visit.

My friends decided to do some sharing of appetizers. Lamb chops were on my mind so I wasn’t exactly participating in the family style eating. But we are close friends so they were generous to allow me to taste their food.

The first thing to come out were the grilled lamb meatballs with spiced tomato sauce and Greek yogurt. These were delish. I was just whetting my appetite for my lamb chops.

The grilled octopus with lemon, oregano, and olive oil was another appetizer ordered. This was good, but didn’t stand out.

Earlier when we were sitting at the bar, we saw someone order the Pan fried Kefalotiri cheese with lemon and oregano. It looked and smelled great, so my friends ordered it. Wow! I’ve never had anything like this and it was wonderful. Definitely something to share as it is a bit rich.

One friend is obsessed with Brussels sprouts so they ordered the wood oven-roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and lemon. The star of this was the bacon.

My friends each ordered a soup. One got the Avgolemono or traditional egg-lemon soup with chicken and rice. This was the best one I have ever tasted. This was so good it would make anyone sick feel better.

The other soup was a lentil, vegetable soup with braised greens. I actually don’t remember much about this. Probably because I was wanting more Avgolemono.

While my friends were enjoying their soups, my grilled lamb chops with lemon-oregano vinaigrette and potatoes came out. It was a beauty. Of course I let my friends try. They agreed, it was perfection. This has made me a lamb fan.

The dessert we all shared was some type of cheesecake with shredded baklava that was sprinkled with pistachio nuts. The creamy cheesecake was nice, but I didn’t like the texture.

I was curious to taste the Greek coffee. This was stone ground coffee heated over hot sand. I’m glad I tried it, but it was way too strong for me.

Kokkari, like Evvia, is a great restaurant. I would go back in a heartbeat and order the Avgolemono and the lamb chops. That would make a perfect meal.

The Apple of My Eye: Addie’s Pizza Pie

Last night I went to Addie’s Pizza Pie in Berkeley. It was a return visit having gone there last month. The restaurant is in a nice space on the corner of Adeline and Alcatraz in South Berkeley. There are high ceilings and the acoustics are not so good, but this is a perfect place for families. What kid doesn’t like pizza? And I haven’t even mentioned the frozen custard.

I’ve tried two of their salads thus far. When I have pizza, I try to balance my meal a little by eating a salad. From my recollection, the salad from last month was a winter salad with romaine, endive, pomegranates, and parmesan cheese in a lemon vinaigrette. It was fresh and did what it was supposed to – balance my meal.

Last night, we had the Caesar salad. This one was a bit disappointing as the dressing was not a creamy Caesar. The salad was a little bitter and I am thinking that maybe they put the wrong dressing on, possibly the lemon vinaigrette. I should’ve said something. Oh well, it still did what it was supposed to – balance my meal.

While Addie’s could make improvements to their salads, they have got the pizzas right on. Last month, I tried two of their pizzas. The Southside is one of their specialty pizzas and includes sausage, basil, onions, and olives.

I love pepperoni so I designed our second pizza and added mushrooms to it. This two topping pizza may sound pretty basic, but when you use cremini mushrooms, it turns gourmet in an instant.

The pizza we had last night was a combination of the two best ingredients from last month. We built a sausage and mushroom pizza. This combination is the way to go. Our waiter offered us two different hot sauces and I tried my pizza this way. I love spicy and it made my pizza pop!

What’s so special about Addie’s “pies”? The toppings are fresh and flavorful. The outer pizza crust stays crispy while the thin inner crust is chewy. The crust is just delicious! I can only imagine a baker behind this crust. Apparently there is one. The two people behind Addie’s is Jennifer Millar from Sweet Adeline (bakery) and Tom Schnetz from Dona Tomas, Tacubaya, and Flora.

I was intrigued by their spaghetti and meatballs so we got a taste of that last night. The meatballs were moist and yummy. In the future, I might just order the meatballs without the spaghetti so I can eat more pizza.


I mentioned frozen custard earlier. Frozen custard is not something easily found on this side of the Country. When I lived in New York, I would make special trips to Grand Central Station to get some frozen custard. (Even that is closed now). Frozen custard is similar to soft serve ice cream, but in addition to cream and sugar has eggs in it making it a little richer. Although Addie’s ran out of frozen custard last night, I did get to try it last month. We tried the burnt orange and the chocolate mint. It’s a great way to end a meal.

I might have to make Addie’s a monthly ritual. For a pizza lover, it’s that good.

New Year’s Day


Happy New Years! I’ve been attending the same New Years Party that my friends host for the past several years. I’ve also been coming to the house a day early to help with the festivities. This party is known as the pozole party because amongst other things, pozole is served. It’s always a great Mexican themed party with fantastic food. Here are my top five food and drink photos from the party.

5. The host is a tequila connoisseur. There were six options of tequila to choose. I enjoyed two shots of tequila, the Tonala Añejo and Tequila Ocho Añejo. I liked the latter the best. The tequilas were great especially with the delicious sangrita chaser.

4. Homemade Chips and guacamole. I helped make the homemade chips on New Years Eve. It’s very important to use the right corn tortilla. Mi Rancho makes the best. I think people come to the party because of the chips and guacamole.

3. Empanadas. This was new this year. We also made these the day before. We made meat empanadas and vegetarian empanadas. The meat empanadas had grass fed London broil, onions, jalapeños, various quality chili powders and spices, hard boiled egg, and green olives. The vegetarian empanadas were filled with butternut squash, onion, garlic, shitake mushrooms, goat cheese, pecans, and sage.

2. Desserts. This annual party serves the best of desserts. The host also puts his hands into baking homemade desserts. He makes a wonderful lemon cake, Mexican chocolate cake, and flan. You really can’t ask for more but then he purchases some of the best cookies around from Miette bakery.

1. You don’t call this the pozole party for nothing. Hours of love go into this comfort food. Pozole is a Mexican stew made of chicken stock, nixtamal, pork, chicken, and other seasonings. Once you fill your bowl, you add oregano, red onions, avocado, and lime juice.

Thank you P&B for a wonderful party. Cheers to 2012! May good food and drinks be with you!