Nido: Adding Color and Flavor to Jack London Square

I love Mexican food. I love sustainable food. There aren’t too many restaurants that do both. My favorites for both have been Tamarindo and Cosecha in Oakland and Nopalito in San Francisco. I now have another to add to the list. Nido opened the latter part of 2012 in Jack London Square.

Nido in Spanish means nest. With a cute logo and a neon painted building, I have been anxious to try this newcomer. A group of four of us had dinner there on Friday. We started with some $5 margaritas before sharing a couple of appetizers.

The chicken taquitos were a perfect starter. The meat filling fried in the rolled tortillas were tasty, but was extra tasty thanks to all the goodies that topped it.

The salad we shared included many fresh vegetables including butter lettuce, blood oranges, avocado, cucumber, and jicama. The salad was tossed with a light vinaigrette and pepitos.

One of my friends ordered the ollita de pobre. A cute tin pot arrived filled with rice, beans, salsa, avocado, and braised beef. It came with house made tortillas. Although it may have ranked least favorite of the evening, it was still very good.

Two of my friends ordered the special of the evening which was al pastor (marinated pork). This is one of my favorite meats, so I was looking forward to a taste. I have never had it cooked on a skewer. It seems like everyone knew how tasty this dish would be because this special sold out before 7pm. Nido hit it out of the ballpark with the al pastor. I would definitely look out for this item again. One reason I “liked” Nido on Facebook is so that I can keep track of this special as it is not on their permanent menu.

Based on a recommendation, I ordered the pork chop. It lay on a toasted almond & chile mole and diced squash. I have never ordered a pork chop at a Mexican restaurant, but trusted the referral. The grilled chop had perfect sear marks and was delicious. It’s nice to be able to count on a place to serve a great pork chop.

Dessert was going to be pie. Sharing the space at Nido is a business called the Pietisserie. I love the name.

With only beet pie and spiced apple pie left, we decided to try a slice of each. The beet pie was interesting and tasted a little like pumpkin pie. The apple had a nice flavor and crumble. It was a bit of a disappointment after such an amazing meal. I would have probably enjoyed them a lot more if it came with a scoop of ice cream. They sold out of many of their other pies so it may be worth another try.

Nido is definitely adding a lot of color and flavor to Jack London Square.


Staggering into Stag’s Lunchette

I love working in Downtown Oakland. One of the biggest reasons is that there are so many food options. Recently, my nose lead me one and a half blocks away to Stag’s Lunchette. It’s been open since last July, but it was my first time there.

Stag’s is open for breakfast and lunch, but the latter appears to be the more popular meal. They make specialty sandwiches that customers line up for. They use quality ingredients. It was too bad I wasn’t there a week earlier because Stag’s was making dungeness crab rolls.

When I was there, the menu had six different sandwiches including both meat and vegetarian, a chopped salad, and a Thai curry chicken soup. By the time I reached the cashier, I decided on the pastrami Reuben. The pastrami is house smoked with gruyere cheese and a spicy sauerkraut. I found the photo below on their Facebook page. Doesn’t it look awesome?

It felt like a long wait and my name wasn’t called, so I went to inquire at the counter where the sandwich makers were. They told me it would be a couple more minutes. They apologized and offered me a soup. I was happy about that because earlier when I read the menu board I was intrigued.

The bread was nicely toasted, but by the time I got back to the office, it got a bit soft. The cheese and sauerkraut was perfect with the thinly sliced pastrami. I also enjoyed the small side of vinaigrette based cole slaw that came with it.

My complimentary soup was delicious. It had chicken stock, chicken, curry, tomatoes, fried onions, cilantro, basil, and garlic oil. It was aromatic, fresh, and comforting. I was blown away by how amazingly good the soup tasted. I don’t think you could find something this good at a local Thai restaurant.

Each Tuesday, Stag’s changes their menu. I know I’ll be back with a friend so we can split a sandwich and also have soup.

Egg Custard Tart: A San Francisco Treat

Egg custard tarts, pronounced “don tat” in Chinese is a favorite of mine. Most often I enjoy some at the end of a dim sum meal at a tea house. The pastry shells are filled with a creamy sweet egg custard. They come in different sizes; and kids and grown ups love them.

Chinese bakeries are also a place you can find egg custard tarts. Every bakery makes them a little different. Some bakeries make them with a firmer custard and some make them with a softer, creamier custard. Some shells are made with a cookie or pie crust while others are made with a flakier pastry like crust.

Where can you get the best egg custard tarts? Of course, it would be in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Golden Gate Bakery almost always has a long line down Grant Avenue. What are the customers waiting for? Of course, it is for the hot out of the oven egg custard tarts.

I have heard of people making the trek out to Golden Gate Bakery only to find it closed. Yes, the bakery does occasionally close for a month at a time for vacation. For their successful business, they can! I just discovered a website that you can check to make sure they are open.

I don’t tend to go to Golden Gate Bakery very often because I don’t want to wait in a line that can take up to 45 minutes and the prices seem to go up a lot. I picked some up recently about thirty minutes before they were closing to find no line. Although I didn’t get them hot out of the oven, they were still slightly warm. I bought one to eat right away and had the others boxed up to share with the family. These had a flakey crust with a silken custard that was sweet and buttery. My mom thinks I am crazy to spend $1.35 per tart, because she can probably get 3 for that price elsewhere. I would spend more than that for a cookie at an American bakery, so it’s worth it to me.
With no line, I asked the owner in Chinese “How many don tats do you sell a day?”. She told me she can’t keep track because they have to make them so fast. She welcomed me to come on my day off to count! She made me laugh and the don tats made me smile.


The Forge Pizza Works For Me

The Forge Pizza located in Jack London Square in Oakland opened this past Tuesday. It was highly anticipated for me because I love pizza and I love Jack London Square.

I checked it out on Friday after work with a group of friends. We got their early and got a nice comfortable booth to sit in. With lots of local beers to choose from, I had Oakland’s Linden Street Town Lager while one of my friends had Mendocino’s Scrimshaw Pilsner. I had a tough week at work so guess who had the 20 oz?

We started with a couple appetizers, crispy cheese curds and potato skins. Both were excellent. The cheese curds were battered and deep fried and came with tomato sauce to dip. It tasted like a lighter version of mozzarella sticks. The potato skins were wood oven baked topped with guanciale and taleggio cheese whiz. I would describe it as mini versions of twice baked potatoes. They were delish!

We also ordered a salad. Sometimes ordering a salad makes you feel like your meal is a little healthier. The arugula salad came with citrus, frisee, pecorino, parsnip ribbons, and honey vinaigrette. It was an interesting combination that worked well.

The first pizza we had was the margherita which had fresh pulled mozzarella, tomato sauce, and grana. I always like to have a simple pizza to start so you can assess the pizza and its crust. Thin crust pizza in Forge’s wood iron oven is a winner.

Our second pizza needed some meat so we went with the pepperoni. When it came out we thought we had the wrong pizza because it looked like it was topped with sausage. The waitress said it was correct as it was homemade pepperoni. I am glad it was not sent back because the flavor of the pepperoni was so good.

For dessert, we had two items. The first one was the butterscotch pudding with salted caramel. We had some mixed reviews. Not everyone liked it, but I did. There was a sweet, salty, and smokey flavor that I found intriguing.

The second item was the root beer float. I only had a taste because if I wanted a root beer float, I would’ve ordered it a little earlier in my meal. This would have been a great compliment together with the pizza.

The Forge Pizza was highly anticipated for me and it met all my expectations. I will definitely be back as frequently as I can.