Opaque: Dining in the Dark

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My supper club had dinner at Opaque, the restaurant in San Francisco where you dine in the dark. The first thing you do is make your choices from a set menu while you are in the light. Our waitress, Mocha was born legally blind. She led our party of three like a human train to our booth. Without the ability to see, I think my other senses heightened.

For the appetizer, I selected the ahi tartar with green onions and Asian pears in a sesame-soy vinaigrette with taro chips. It was supposed to come with a wasabi aioli, but I requested to leave that out because I hate wasabi. I loved this dish. The tuna with all its ingredients was delicious. Although I could not see it, I could tell that this tuna was deep red and it was a generous sized dish.

Mocha brought us a plate of three types of vegetables with three dipping sauces without telling us what they were. We had a great time figuring it out. We guessed the vegetables correctly. They were green beans, red pepper, and cucumbers. The sauces were a little more difficult to figure. One was a sun dried tomato and we guessed tomato, another was garbanzo and we guessed hummus, and the last was tahini and we were totally off by guessing some Asian sweet and sour.

My entree of choice was the grilled beef tenderloin with mashed red potatoes, spring garlic, sautéed green beans, in a bourbon-soy glaze. I ordered my meat medium rare. At times I used my knife and fork and at other times, I touched my food with my fingers. The potatoes were a mix of smooth and chunky and the beans were crisp and tasty. I couldn’t prove it, but I think my meat was more medium than medium rare. But it was okay because the sweet glaze on the meat was delicious. Again, I could tell I had a huge plate of food in front of me and I was not able to leave a clean plate behind. I left two small pieces of meat and some of the potatoes.

For dessert I had the bittersweet chocolate cake with minted strawberries and vanilla ice cream. The cake was a bit dry, so I only had a couple of bites of it. I was also so full and really just wanted the strawberries and ice cream which were great.

To sum things up, Opaque was such an interesting, unique, and fun dining experience. It is quite expensive, but I think it’s worth trying once.

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Todd Taylor Wines: Yolo County

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Last weekend, I was invited to attend a private wine tasting event at the Todd Taylor Winery in the town of Clarksburg in Yolo County. Todd Taylor Winery is located a few minutes South of Sacramento inside the Old Sugar Mill with several other wineries. I had never done wine tasting in this area nor was I familiar with the Old Sugar Mill.

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A group of eleven of us were seated in a space outside the tasting room of the beautiful brick building. Todd introduced himself to us before sharing not only his wines, but some interesting stories. The mill was actually reconstructed in 1934 in Clarksburg using the bricks from a sugar factory in Utah. Todd also spoke about his own history; he started making his own beer as a hobby for many years. He opened the winery in 2006.

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Todd led us through the tasting of half a dozen of his wines as well as some cheeses. I was very impressed with the cheese and cracker plate. It was obvious there was thought put into the cheese selection to ensure they go well with the wines.

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Todd is a purist making wine from single vineyards. He doesn’t blend different grapes. His focus is on red wines which is great for me as that is my preference. We tried a Tempranillo, a few Zinfandels, and a couple of Cabernet Sauvignons. I really enjoyed the Zins, but my favorite was the 2010 Tempranillo “Holland Landing.”

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After the tasting, we got a private tour of the facilities. At Todd Taylor, wines are aged in new Oak barrels. They produce 75 tons of wine each year, averaging 4000 cases. If you like wine and wine tasting and want an alternative to Napa, I suggest you explore Yolo County.

Eating Alameda: Ark on Park

My friend and I were headed to Alameda one weekday evening to grab a bite to eat. Park Street is filled with lots of restaurants and it appears more and more restaurants have been opening up there lately. Although Ark Chinese Restaurant has been in the neighborhood for a long time, it is a place I never noticed. But when my friend said they have hand pulled noodles, I was convinced to try it.

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The last time I ate at a restaurant where you can actually watch noodles being pulled was when I was in Hong Kong.

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We were sadly just a party of two and I say that because I would have liked to have been able to order more items to try. We still ordered four items, way more than we could eat.

We had the xiao lung bao which are the dumplings that hold meat and soup inside. As you bite into them, you get a nice squirting of delicious soup. For that reason, they are also known as juicy buns. The ones at Ark have thicker skins and overall were satisfying.

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Although reviewers talked highly of the garlic noodles, these were not the hand pulled noodles. We decided on the chicken noodle soup instead. The hand pulled noodles were soft, thin, and tasted great. The broth was light and it had the right amount of thinly sliced white meat chicken. My only complaints were that the bok choy was overcooked and the temperature of the dish could have been hotter.

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The Ark braised egg tofu came out next. I assume they attach their name to it because it’s a signature dish. It definitely tasted like one. The tofu has a light crispiness to it on the outside but a delicate softness on the inside. It was mixed with two kinds of mushrooms in a brown sauce. This is an excellent vegetarian option.

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I wanted an additional vegetable so we ordered the stir fried string beans. Although it was cooked with garlic, it was flavorless.

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Overall I enjoyed Ark. I look forward to more visits so I can try more items like the green onion pancakes, crispy chicken wings, and garlic noodles!

Southern Fried Chicken: Atlanta Style

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My favorite meal in Atlanta was my first meal. An early and long flight meant I didn’t want to wander too far from my hotel to have dinner.

I discovered Sway which is a restaurant inside the Hyatt Regency, which is where I was staying in Downtown Atlanta. I made my same day Open Table reservation and was set to go.

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I perused the menu online already, so when I sat down, I immediately ordered the buttermilk fried chicken. The meal came with four pieces of chicken: a drumstick, wing, breast, and thigh. The meal was beautifully presented in an iron skillet and topped with two sprigs of rosemary. Buttermilk really changed the consistency of the fried chicken giving it a much crispier, crustier batter.

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I requested hot sauce and my waiter gave me peach hot sauce. I became intrigued since we are in Georgia after all. For fried chicken, I usually add a few dabs. The peach hot sauce was a perfect combination of sweet and spicy and was so good I used several tablespoons. To be honest, the four pieces of chicken varied in size so much that I think the smallest piece, the wing was slightly overcooked. Ignoring the wing, the rest of the fried chicken was juicy and one of the best I have had.

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My fried chicken came with whipped potatoes in a separate iron skillet and the gravy came out in its own gravy boat. The whipped potatoes and gravy were wonderful. It was creamy, buttery goodness. I had to stop myself from eating it all. My gravy loving friends would’ve been disappointed in me if they saw the amount of gravy still left in the boat.

Sway was a great start to some great meals in Atlanta.

Tucson: The Sonoran Dog

Before I headed out to Tucson, Arizona, I researched things to eat. I stumbled upon something called a Sonoran Dog.

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The Sonoran dog was introduced in Sonora, Mexico. Wikipedia defines it as “a hot dog wrapped in mesquite-smoked bacon then cooked on a grill or on a griddle, then topped with freshly chopped tomatoes, onions, shredded yellow or cotijo cheese, tomatillo salsa or red chili sauce, pinto beans, mayonnaise, ketchup and/or mustard, and served on bread and often with a fresh-roasted chili.”

Thanks to yelp and my buddy from Tuscon, I knew exactly where everyone goes to get it, El Guero Canelo. My colleague accompanied me in my search for the Sonoran dog. It was a trek to get there, but I knew we were getting close as we passed several taco trucks selling Sonoran dogs.

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I ordered one Sonoran dog which cost $2.49. For an extra fifty cents I could’ve had a Sammie dog which has two franks, but I didn’t. I did get a Mexican coke to wash down my hot dog. I actually am not the biggest fan of the beef frank, but I was hoping the bacon and all the toppings would disguise the frank. It really didn’t. The bun was the best thing for me. It was warm, fresh, and soft.

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I’m glad I had the experience, but would never search out for it again. For fans of the hot dog, I believe the Sonoran dog kicks it up a notch. But what would make the Sonoran dog a dog for me is to replace the beef frank with a pork sausage. That’s what I’m talking about!