Donut Savant: Fancy Holes

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A couple of months ago, my BFF brought me over a surprise. Fancy donut holes. What is more surprising is that it’s a new donut shop that opened up only three and a half blocks from my work. Donut Savant is in Uptown in Oakland. We shared a few holes. These bite sized treats tasted more like cake than a donut.

The other day, I remembered to stop by Donut Savant to pick up some donut holes before hitting the road for a four hour drive.

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When I arrived at the shop, there were a few people ahead of me in line and not a huge amount of donuts displayed in their windows. Many of the trays were empty. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy a good selection. As I was waiting, there were a couple of refills to the empty trays. I decided to try all the donut holes available and there were six. I also picked up an apple fritter. The seven miniature items cost me $5. My friend who recently moved back to the Bay Area would love to share these with me.

As I recalled from the first time I had them, they definitely tasted more cake. Actually more like an old fashioned donut than the traditional airy donut.

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This is the order of best to least favorite:

1. Chocolate dust, plain cake with dark chocolate
2. Vanilla glaze, plain cake with vanilla glaze
3. Maple pecan, plain cake with buttercream frosting and toasted pecans
4. Chocolate frosted, plain cake with chocolate frosting
5. Salted maple, plain cake with maple glaze and a sprinkle of salt
6. Cinnamon sugar, plain cake with a cinnamon and sugar dust
7. Apple fritter, raised dough with granny smith apples and cinnamon

Overall, the holes were all very good and in the future I would order according to what flavor I was in the mood for. However, I would never order the apple fritter again. It’s just not my taste.

The concept of Donut Savant is great and so is the execution. Although I tend to like the traditional airy donuts more than I do old fashioned, it works for me as a bit sized treat.

Say Aloha to Hawaiian Shaved Ice

Last weekend I suggested a hike at Wildcat Canyon Regional Park in Richmond, California. My friends were skeptical at first, but gave in after a combination of the forecast for heat wave temperatures in the Bay Area (way cooler than hiking Mt. Diablo) and my offer to drive (they all have nice cars and wouldn’t want to risk having it broken into or stolen). We hiked 7.2 miles and afterwards were ready for something refreshing. My friend had read about a place that served shaved ice in the neighboring City of San Pablo.

I haven’t actually stopped in the City of San Pablo since I was a little girl. I used to go with my dad to his bowling tournaments at a place called Lucky Lanes. Last Sunday when we drove through San Pablo Avenue I saw what has taken over Lucky Lanes, Casino San Pablo. It’s kinda sad as I had fond memories of Lucky Lanes. It’s also where I learned to bowl as a kid.

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Aloha Pure Water + Shaved Ice is an interesting concept. You can purchase purified water by the gallons and get your Hawaiian style shaved ice. Many yelpers have compared their shaved ice to the famous Matsumoto’s in Oahu. When I was in Oahu, the lines at Matsumoto’s were too long for me so I never got a chance to try it.

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Hawaiian shave ice is made by shaving a block of ice. The process of shaving the ice produces a very fine ice that causes the fruit flavored syrups added to it to be absorbed by the ice rather than simply surrounding it. Hawaiian shave ice is traditionally served with a scoop of ice cream on the bottom and sweetened condensed milk drizzled over the top. These choices are all available at Aloha Pure Water Shaved Ice.

I ordered a blackberry flavored shaved ice with vanilla ice cream and condensed milk. The texture of the ice was excellent and the ice cream was good, but there was a little bit of a cough syrup taste to this. Maybe blackberry was not the right choice.

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One of my friends had the li hing mui (salty dried plum) flavored ice with condensed milk. Although I was a little hesitant, it was a delicious flavor. I think I know what flavor I will have next time around.

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My other two friends shared a larger cup of ice. They had the works with three different flavors. They had lychee, melon, and POG (a blend of passion fruit, orange, and guava).

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What can I say? It was the perfect treat and hit the spot after our long hike. There aren’t too many places on the mainland that serve Hawaiian shaved ice. It’s nice to have Aloha Pure Water + Shaved Ice in the 510, but glad it’s still at least twenty minutes away. A quick tip for those near San Mateo: The Produce Stand, a family owned grocer has been offering Hawaiian shaved ice almost weekly this summer. Check them out!

First Fridays: Food Scene

My BFF and her sister invited me to go with them to Oakland Art Murmur. This event is held every first Friday of the month around Downtown Oakland. We walked into various businesses, including coffee shops and bars that have set up the work of local artists. There were several galleries in the area that I have never been to. Walking through this made us pretty hungry.

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My BFF’s sister introduced us to her friend’s food stand located close to Koreana Market on Telegraph Ave. Tai of Simply Garlic sells garlic noodles and vegan spring rolls. It looks like the noodles are prepared in advance and heated up on a small propane operated grill. By the time we got to the front of the line, the rolls were sold out. We ordered two plates of garlic noodles to share. Garlic noodles are one of my favorite things to eat so it’s nice to know there is place where I can occasionally access good ones.

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We walked a few feet away to another street vendor called Powered by Pork making pork tacos. We got some pork belly tacos to share.

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At the time, I thought the tacos were just average. Having just done a little more research, I’m impressed with Powered by Pork. It’s clearly run by one guy and on his bike. I didn’t even notice the bike when I was there. I feel like I might need to try this guys passion again.

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There were lots of people around downtown walking around. We decided to head back towards Quarter Pound Giant Burgers. We weren’t going for burgers, but to look at the retro classic cars all lined up in their parking lot.

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And across the street, we discovered “the Eatup,” a place where food trucks gather in one place. “The Eatup” happens every Friday evening from 6:30-11:00 on 21st Street and Telegraph Ave.

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The most attractive truck to us was Sam’s Chowder Mobile that travels all the way from Half Moon Bay. We split the pricey lobster roll and an order of french fries with bay seasoning. The fries were too salty for me, but the roll was awesome as expected.

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I had a fun evening and rediscovered how cool and hip Oakland can be. If you haven’t been to First Fridays in Oakland, what are you waiting for? Art is supported by good food. Next one is August 3rd.

Copper River Salmon: Sushi Sam’s

My friends have been telling me about Sushi Sam’s Edomata in San Mateo for a few years. I like fresh sushi and will even drive to Rohnert Park (Hana) to get it. What finally sold me to go to Sam’s was Copper River Salmon. This is a seasonal salmon and it wasn’t going to be offered too much longer. Copper River Salmon is from Alaska and are strong fish with a healthy store of natural oils and body fat which make the salmon taste so good.

A group of four of us decided to have a very early dinner last Saturday. We took the five o’clock reservation for a couple of reasons. 1) A later reservation doesn’t mean you don’t have to wait. 2) Fish runs out.

We arrived at about 5:15pm and the restaurant was already getting full. We decided to order the eight piece omakase sushi. Two different pieces of fish came out at once.

Amber Jack and Seared sea bass

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Horse mackerel and Copper river salmon

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Red snapper and Baby lobster

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Seared fatty tuna and Barracuda

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I actually enjoyed them all and took the liberty to rate them. Here’s how they fared:

8. Barracuda
7. Red snapper
6. Horse mackerel
5. Amber jack
4. Seared sea bass
3. Baby lobster
2. Copper river salmon
1. Seared fatty tuna

After eating our eight pieces, we ordered even more items including a “do over” of my top two. With only two more weeks left for Copper River Salmon (now at time of writing only one week), I had to have another piece of this. Fatty tuna or Toro is probably my ultimate favorite fish, so this time I would see how I would like it without the sear. Surprising, the seared version was slightly better. I think searing it really brought out the flavors and oil of the fish.

We ate a lot more, but I won’t go into all the details. All in all, I think Sam’s has really good fresh fish. I definitely have no desire to wait for a table. I think by 5:45pm, the restaurant was full and the long waits began. I also think Sam’s is extremely noisy and chaotic leaving it a little difficult to really enjoy the fresh and delicious food.

Goodbye Foie Gras, Hello Txoko

Today is July 1, 2012 and in California, restaurants can no longer sell foie gras, fatty duck liver. The law was signed eight years ago by the then Governator. I’m sure he had his share of foie. On Friday night, a group of five us had something like a final farewell to foie. We dined at Txoko, a Basque restaurant in San Francisco. Txoko is located in North Beach at the famous corner of Broadway and Kearney where Enrico’s used to be.

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Txoko had been offering four course foie menus every Wednesday for the past few months, but I wasn’t able to get a reservation. Txoko’s menu still had a foie appetizer and a foie dessert when we were there. We shared a carafe of sangria that was delicious. I can’t recall the last time I had such a good sangria. This one had a little sparkle to it.

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We ordered two of the “liver and onions”. The foie on this appetizer was pan seared just the way I like it. It laid on top of a creamy onion purée. Each foie was somewhere between 2 and 3 ounces, which is not very much for each of us. However, it was heavenly! The onion purée was a great compliment.

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Three of my friends each ordered a bowl of their corn soup. I had a few spoonfuls and it was sweet and delightful. To continue our family style dinner, we shared the mushroom arroz, the rib eye steak, and the wood oven roasted chicken. The latter two were big plates you had to wait at least 45 minutes for. The mushroom arroz was like a risotto and came with fava beans, goat cheese, and shitake mushrooms. My friends seemed to have enjoyed this more than I did.

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The rib eye was massive and came out perfectly cooked for me, a little rarer than medium rare. It was nice that there were two sauces because I preferred the bordelaise sauce over the chimichurri.

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We basically had a whole chicken that was cut up into pieces. I chose a drumstick and it was tender, juicy, had crispy skin, and a wonderful flavor. One friend thought the chicken was dry so I gave her a piece of dark meat and she enjoyed it. Both big plates came with some sides of mushrooms, potatoes, and other root vegetables to compliment the meats.

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We had a little room for dessert, so we had two orders of foie gras ice cream and one chocolate torte to share. I had been intrigued by the ice cream. Two friends hated it and wanted to spit it out, two friends thought it was interesting and okay, and I loved it. It had the texture of sorbet and the flavor of butterscotch. It was interesting how the ratings on this was all over the place.

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The chocolate torte was good. Since I was the only one having the ice cream, I let the other four fight over the torte.

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The ban on foie gras has encouraged more people to eat the delicacy than they probably would have including myself. I feel like I got my fix and won’t be traveling out of California just to have it. Although we say goodbye to foie gras, I will say hello to Txoko. It’s nice to have a local basque restaurant around as well as a tasty sangria.