Farley’s East: Growing with the Community

Farley’s East, a cafe located in Uptown Oakland has been around for eight years. Since it is close to work, I occasionally stop by for an espresso beverage. They recently expanded and took over the space next door that used to be Subway. Doubling in size and having an actual kitchen is allowing Farley’s to do a whole lot more.
I attended a media event a few weeks ago at Farley’s to check out the renovation and try some of their menu items, including a few new ones. The extended space has a beautiful new counter where you not only can order a latte, but can grab a local beer or wine on tap.  

Avocado toast is a new breakfast item at Farley’s. Everyone’s doing avocado toast, right?  What’s different about their version is a little olive oil, a sprinkling of Japanese 7 spice (from Oaktown Spice Shop) and micro greens. On top of a perfectly crusty slice of Acme levain, my satisfaction has been met.  
I had the opportunity to sample some salads that I personally would never order for myself. Replacing croutons with chickpeas on both the Whole Health Protein Bowl and the Uptown Caesar, the healthy factor has increased. For the health conscious, these vegan salads have a great assortment of fresh vegetables and the variety of textures are reasons these salads stand out.
Another favorite for me was the chipotle mac and cheese which is a new menu item. The smokiness adds another dimension to the Gruyere cheese. This might be a dish you share with a friend as I found it to be quite heavy.  
For those that go to Farley’s for their panini, don’t fret because the panini press is still around. Actually, the sandwich menu has many options that are either grilled on the panini press, toasted in the oven, or meant to be eaten cold.  They’ve also added a new refrigerator section where you can “Grab & Go” pre-made items. I think this is great idea and will work well for the lunch crowd.  

I really like the expansion and improvements at Farley’s East.  It is clear this coffee shop has a strong sense of community. They support and partner with local food suppliers, they display the work of local artists, and the coolest thing is they set up the first urban parklet in Oakland.  

Okonomi Yaki: Popping Up in Temescal

Last month, I went to check out Temescal Brewing on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. I can’t say that I was there for the beer; I was there to try “okonomi yaki,” a popular street food from Japan. I met up with a group of friends at Temescal Brewery for the Okkon pop-up. Every other Wednesday, Satoshi and Sochi Kamimae sets up a table and a grill in the Temescal Brewing beer garden to make the Japanese specialty.  
“Okonomi yaki” is described as a Japanese pancake. I was excited to try it for the first time. I had never even heard of it before. I placed my order for the “buta tama” which is the classic “okonomi yaki” with pork. Additional toppings of mochi, mentaiko roe, wild shrimp, and mushrooms could be added. I added mochi to mine.

It is a pretty interesting scene to watch Chef Satoshi make the pancakes. I watched as he made them individually with love and care. Chef Satoshi would toss shredded yam, cabbage, tempura bits and green onions in a bowl and combine it together with an egg and flour batter. After a thorough mix, he would then slowly pour the mixture onto a heated grill. On top of the mixture, he would add two thin strips of pork belly. Once cooked part way through, Chef Satoshi would turn over the golden brown pancake to cook the other side.  
I think the pancake gets turned a number of times and a lid is placed on it to ensure it cooks thoroughly and evenly. It’s not a quick cook, so its genius to set up this pop-up in a beer garden where you can enjoy a nice cold beer and have a place to sit while you wait.
Since we ordered separately, my friends and I just shared them as our orders came out. The “okonomi yaki” were dressed with a sweet and savory sauce and an avocado oil mayonnaise. They were fantastic. I enjoyed the exterior, especially what was brought out by the crispy pork belly. The vegetables were abundant, fresh, and delicious. I would describe the “okonomi yaki” more as a crispy omelette rather than a pancake. The additional topping of shrimp on one and the chewy texture of mochi on another were great.  They were excellent to wash down with beer as well.
Most people that come to Temescal Brewing are here for the local craft beer. I’m not like most people. I am one who definitely needs good food to enjoy a good beer. I am lucky to have had both in one place. Temescal Brewing has a nice selection of homemade brews on tap. Their website currently list nine varieties. I enjoyed one of the lighter beers. Temescal Brewing celebrated their one year anniversary last month. Congratulations and best wishes for many more years to come and many more “okonomi yaki”!

Lucia’s: A Pizzeria with Heart

It’s hard to imagine life without Neopolitan pizza. Lucky for me, this style of pizza is popular all over the Bay Area so I don’t have to travel to Naples, Italy to enjoy it. In my eyes, to master this pizza you would need a wood burning oven, authentic flour to produce a light chewy dough, and fresh ingredients including a high quality tomato sauce.  
Lucia’s Pizzeria in Downtown Berkeley opened late last year and serves Neopolitan pizza. I was invited to dine there a couple of months ago with a friend. We met with co-owner Alessandro Uccelli and his wife Elizabetha who were friendly and hospitable as soon as we walked through the door.  

We started with the Vegetarian Fritto Misto with lemon mint aioli. Fritto misto translates to mixed fry and is essentially the Italian version of Japanese tempura. Lucia’s version includes zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower, sweet potato, red pepper, and sage leaves. The batter was coated well to keep a solid crisp on the vegetables. The assortment of vegetables provided a fun way to start the meal.
My friend and I agreed to share the Kale Salad which had very few ingredients – kale, walnuts, and pecorino cheese. It was dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and a hint of sriracha. I thought the salad was a nice companion with the fried vegetables. I enjoyed the simplicity and the nutty flavor.
The pasta of the day was Gnocchi Bolognese. Elizabetha made the pasta and Alessandro made the sauce bringing together a rich and hearty combination. These handmade potato dumplings were truly a family affair.  
Of course we had to order a pizza. We ordered the Lips of Fire, which is a basic Margherita pizza with added toppings of hot soppressata, ghost peppers, and maple syrup. Taking about 70 seconds to cook in the wood burning oven imported from Naples, the pizza came out with signature blistering bubbles. The flour and tomatoes they use are from Compania, Italy.  Biting into a slice, I enjoyed the flavors and heat. As I the neared the end of the slice, I was delighted with the soft chewy texture. That’s amore!
For dessert we got the housemade cannoli with ricotta and chocolate chips. It came out room temperature and I think if the filling was colder I would’ve enjoyed it much more.
Lucia’s offers Double 8 Dairy, a local buffalo milk gelato made in Petaluma. I asked if I could have a small taste of it and it was absolutely delicious. I visited their website and am impressed by their list of restaurants that serve their gelato.
Lucia’s is a pizzeria with heart. The owners are genuine and that shows in the food, service, and the overall experience.

My Bo 7 Mon Experience

Beef Seven Ways or Bo 7 Mon is a traditional Vietnamese tasting menu of beef. I’ve seen it available at a handful of Vietnamese restaurants in the Bay Area, but have never been inclined to try it. Don’t get me wrong, I love beef, but seven dishes of beef seems like overkill.  

While on my recent visit to Seattle to run another half marathon, I was in search of somewhere to have a delicious post race meal. My friend and I were thinking steak. I started my internet research and ran across Seven Beef. This Steak Shop is focused on grass fed, dry aged, Washington grown beef. They also have a wood fire oven to cook up their meat. My favorite cut is rib eye, but for some reason I became drawn to the beef seven ways. After running a second half marathon in two weeks, I would deserve seven servings of beef. I made our reservations for last Sunday.

After a celebratory glass of sparkling wine at our hotel, we took Lyft to Seven Beef located in the Central District. We were happy to be seated on a corner where we both had bench seating, but it felt a little removed from the rest of the diners. It was located facing the bar which didn’t have much activity on this evening.  

In lieu of getting a traditional American steak, my friend and I confirmed we would have the Bo 7 Mon. The Goi Bo came out first. It is a beef salad with pickles, fresh lettuce and herbs, and a fish sauce vinaigrette. It was a great start. I loved the mix of fresh vegetables and protein.
The second serving of beef was the Bo Nhung Dam, which is a Vietnamese style carpaccio. The beef is thinly sliced and cooked in a vinegar sauce. I thought it was light and tasty.
The third course included three different types of house ground sausages. It was plated with fresh lettuce and herbs, rice noodles, pickled vegetables, and fresh pineapple. The sausages are meant to be wrapped and enjoyed with all of these goodies. Each sausage was prepared a little differently. The Bo Mo Chai is a house ground beef sausage with pork fat, garlic, and five spice wrapped in caul fat and then grilled over a wood fire. The Bo La Lot is a house ground beef sausage with pork fat and jicama, wrapped in wild betel leaves and then grilled over a wood fire. The Bo Nuong Sa is a grilled house ground beef sausage with pork fat on a lemongrass skewer. All of them were pretty awesome, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be the Bo La Lot. I really enjoyed the crispy charred betal leaf.  
The final course of beef included Bo Cha Dum, a steamed beef meatball that includes pork fat, woodear mushrooms, and glass noodles and Chao Bo, beef congee with mung beans, green onions, and cilantro. The serving also came with freshly prepared shrimp chips. The congee was a little plain, but once I added the meatball into the congee, it provided me with the right amount of flavor and comfort.  
I was thoroughly impressed by the Bo 7 Mon. I am glad I got to experience this meal in an upscale restaurant. I highly recommend the Bo 7 Mon experience. And if you happen to be in Seattle, try it at Seven Beef.

Herb & Wood: Top Choice

I ran the Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Half Marathon last Sunday. I participated in the same race for the first time last year and wrote about my delicious post-race meal at Juniper & Ivy (J & I) in Little Italy. This year I am writing about my pre-race meal at Herb & Wood because it was pretty spectacular. Located a block from J & I, Little Italy is a thriving hub of great food.

I started to look up San Diego restaurants before making the trip to Southern California and made the reservation after reading that Herb & Wood is the new restaurant of Chef Brian Malarkey, a past Top Chef finalist.

What used to be an old warehouse has become a chic new restaurant. The beautiful open space and the sophisticated modern decor offered an inviting welcome that my friends and I were ready for. We were a party of six and were given a table with plush blue grey velvet seating.   


Our attentive waiter gave us a rundown of the menu and essentially went from lighter to heavier plates. I partnered with one of my friends to share some dishes and then we did some more overall sharing.  

We ordered the grilled King Trumpets with tarragon butter and lemon. The trumpets were playing music in my mouth. The flavors were wonderful and may have been the best mushroom dish I have ever had.  


We also got the grilled asparagus with blue cheese fondue, poached egg, and herb bread crumbs. Another lovely dish that was cooked in the wood fired oven. I get a happy feeling inside when I eat deliciously prepared vegetables.


Friends ordered the avocado on country wheat bread with tomato, candied jalapeño, and cilantro. Avocado toast has been a popular breakfast item in California for awhile, but this one was elevated with the candied jalapeño. I think I will try making this at home.

  
In order to adequately “carb load,” our table ordered three of the bucatini pomodoro with basil, oregano, parmesan, and chili flakes. We probably could’ve ordered six of these plates because it was that good. My friend tried to get the recipe, but we did learn that they add some anchovies to the pasta sauce. I think I might try making this one at home too!


I got a taste of the chitarra pasta with Dungeness crab, preserved lemon, Sauvignon Blanc and black pepper so I could compare it to the bucatini. The chitarra pasta was rich and delicious, but I’m a big red sauce fan so I enjoyed the bucatini better. My friend who ordered the chitarra pasta would beg to differ as she was singing praises all weekend about it.


One of my friends found out that Herb & Wood serves homemade Parker House rolls. This item is off their menu, so I am sharing a real secret here. I highly recommend these warm, buttery, crispy on the outside, soft of the inside bites of goodness.  


I ate so many of the Parker House rolls that when our pork sausage and broccoli rabe pizza with garlic confit, mozzarella, and Asiago cheese came out, I could only eat a slice. By the time we got the pizza, it just couldn’t live up to the rest of the menu.  


It was great we had six people, so we could at least taste a couple of desserts. I had seen pictures of some exotic fruit flavored soufflés, but it was chocolate soufflé on the menu this evening. It came with Irish whipped cream, expresso chocolate ganache, and mint chip gelato. It was a damn good soufflé and the accouterments were a perfect match.


The second dessert we ordered was a vanilla cream torte with house made ricotta, huckleberries, and pistachio gelato. I was fascinated by the torte with its 24 layers. It was both creamy and dreamy.


More than a week later, I am still thinking about dinner at Herb & Wood. If you are in San Diego or plan to visit San Diego, you must go.  

Check Please Bay Area Viewing Party

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you have likely seen or heard of the PBS show “Check Please, Bay Area.” This is the television show where three Bay Area residents review their favorite restaurant. Each of the three people have the opportunity to dine at the restaurants that the other two choose. They come together on the show to talk about the three restaurants. “Check Please, Bay Area” is now in its twelfth season. The original show was launched in Chicago. One episode even featured Barack Obama, as one of the diners, when he was just a State Senator.

Season 12, episode 7 aired this past Thursday and featured two East Bay restaurants. The first was Monkey King Pub and Grub in Alameda. They describe the restaurant as Asian fusion food. From the food pictures, it looks more like Chinese American party food. Either way, the food looks awesome and I can’t wait to give it a try.

The second restaurant featured on the show was Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch in Saint Helena.  The farm to table restaurant has an array of fresh and comfort food that has me wanting to make the drive up to Napa County.

The final restaurant featured on this episode is the reason behind this blog post.  I was watching the screening of “Check Please, Bay Area” at Grand Lake Kitchen in Oakland. They were hosting a viewing party and my BFF found out about it and bought us tickets. The ticket included entrance, two drink tickets, and light nosh.

As soon as we arrived, we went to the bar to select our first drink. We went with the boozy slushy of the day which was a Grapefruit and Gin cocktail. It was sour, which I am a fan. The umbrella in the drink was a prediction of a fun evening to come.

The waitstaff began passing out appetizers. Fried chicken sliders were the first to come out and when it reached our table there was just one left. I insisted my BFF take it. Another tray of sliders came from another direction and they were all gone right as it reached me. I was thinking I might completely miss out on the sliders. “Light nosh” might be zero nosh for me. I decided to alert one of the waitstaff and she apologized and said she would return with some more.  

There were actually two types of sliders, fried chicken sliders and the burger sliders. They were both delicious and included homemade pickles. 
We also had egg salad on rye toast topped with fried chicken skin. These were mini versions of the popular open faced sandwich they normally serve on the menu.
Pickled shrimp crostini were also passed. I was surprised that the flavors were subtle.
I really enjoyed the flavor and texture of the tempura fried mushrooms, but they were a bit greasy.
There was also a smoked fish display with bagel chips, cream cheese and all the fixings. I suspect this is similar to the “smoked fish tower” that is on their menu.

The food kept coming out and there was never going to be a shortage of sliders. Light nosh was actually heavy nosh. I was full before the show started.  

The owner May Seto Wasem made a speech and introduced Rene, the diner who nominated the restaurant to be on the television show. We all then watched the show together as it aired for the first time.  

It was a great show and a fun evening. I suspect that with the fame of Grand Lake Kitchen being on tv, there might be longer wait times. I would recommend avoiding weekends.

Limewood’s New Dinner Series: Dining on the Deck

Limewood is the new restaurant located inside the Claremont Resort & Spa in Berkeley. The restaurant is introducing a new dinner series called “Dining on the Deck” which features a four course meal with drink pairings. Me and a guest were invited to attend the first of the series which was held last week. A four course meal prepared by Chef Joseph Humphrey would be paired with Pueblo Viejo Tequila, which is produced at San Matias, one of the oldest distilleries in Jalisco, Mexico.
It was a beautiful evening so we were able to dine on the deck. As we entered, we were offered a special cocktail made with tequila. It had a floating piece of jalapeño that represented the kick it would provide. I really enjoyed it. I actually felt like I was attending a party as we were meeting new people and socializing.  

We had a couple of passed hors d’oeuvres before dinner started. Of the two I tried, I really liked the shrimp toast. The flavor running through the shrimp was absorbed onto the buttered toast while remaining crispy. 
As dinner was approaching, I snatched a seat with one of the best sunset views overlooking the Bay Area. Actually there were no bad seats here. Carmen Villarreal, the owner of Pueblo Viejo Tequila was on-site to introduce us to the family tequila which has been around since 1886. Their tequilas are made from 100% Agave and aged in Oak barrels.  
The first course was grass fed lamb tartare with fried Hog Island oysters. This was an amazing start. I loved the complexity of this dish which included the raw minced lamb meat, the fried oysters and the fresh avocado. Course one was perfectly paired with Orgullo Anejo.  
The second course was roasted halibut with toasted pine nut mole and charred sugar snap peas. The halibut was delicious, but I felt overwhelmed by the mole. I thoroughly enjoyed the sugar snap peas which brought some additional lightness and brightness. This course was matched with San Matias Tahona Blanco.  
The third course was smoked duck breast with roasted parsnips in vanilla butter and black licorice. The duck was a perfect medium rare with a nice layer of crispy skin. The parsnips were a little sweet for my taste. This dish was paired with the San Matias Grand Reserve.
The final course was dessert which was a strawberry margarita mousse. We definitely ended on a high note here as I couldn’t get enough of this. Dessert was paired with Rey Sol.
The tequila from Pueblo Viejo were all very smooth and enjoyable. I was pleasantly surprised how well tequila could be paired with food.  
Limewood will continue its “Dining on the Deck” dinner series through the end of the year. For a fun evening of food and pairings, check it out. 

To see more of my food adventures, follow me on Instagram @510foodie.