Drip Line: West Oakland

Last week I attended a dinner with fifteen other Bay Area social media bloggers and influencers at a new coffee shop and restaurant called Drip Line. Drip Line is located in a part of town that I honestly don’t frequent without a purpose, West Oakland. Chef Nora Dunning has created a menu that reflects a fusion of her Singapore roots and her Northern California home. We all got to sample five dishes.
Kaya toast is a popular Singapore breakfast, and at Drip Line, this dish is elevated a few ways. Using house made brioche, it comes with a side of pandan infused coconut butter and a coddled egg with chives and soy sauce. With the recent popularity of adding an egg to any dish and making it sexy, I think coddled eggs may be trending next. And the best part of the Kaya toast is that amazing butter.
Gado Gado is an Indonesian dish that mixes together multiple ingredients with a sauce. We had ours with a variety of fresh, local, seasonal vegetables, red quinoa, root chips, a poached egg, peanut sambal, and lime. I especially enjoyed the textures that the small amount of red quinoa and the homemade root chips provided. 

Shrimp and grits at Drip Line is influenced by Chef Nora and her husband who is originally from the South. The creamy coconut grits are complemented with sambal shrimp, a fried egg, and micro herbs. This was one of my favorite dishes, but too rich not to share.  

It appears that most Asian cultures have some form of chicken and rice plate. This one infuses California to it with a tumeric brown rice and an Asian pear herb and fennel salad. The boneless chicken thighs also cooked with a honey glaze that adds an overall sweetness. The bone broth can be poured on the plate or drank separately.  
Laksa was a treat as this was the first time it was being served at Drip Line. This version of laksa included rice noodles, tofu puffs, tempeh, asparagus, pea sprouts, mint, cilantro, sambal, lime, and curried broth. The depth of flavor runs deep in this bowl of laksa.
Drip Line resides within walking distance to the neighboring Fusebox and Brown Sugar Kitchen which gives new purpose to frequent West Oakland.  They’re open M-F from 7am-5pm.  

Casual Eating in Aptos, California

I just got back from a conference at the Seascape Resort in Aptos, California which is near Santa Cruz. The space is beautiful and right off the beach where we could see dolphins swimming. My colleagues and I were able to have a few meals off-site and I wanted to write about two of those meals.

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Before we arrived to the resort, we stopped for lunch at The Farm Bakery and Cafe. The place is right next to Cabrillo College. It’s a cute casual place that even has a gift shop. We ordered our food at the counter and found a table as we waited for our food. One of my colleagues ordered a Chicken Caesar Salad while another ordered the chicken wrap. I ordered a Chinese Chicken Salad and a fruit salad to share.
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I find that the key to a good Chinese Chicken Salad is usually the salad dressing. In this case, I especially enjoyed the chicken. The chicken was so moist that I think it may have been poached. My colleagues enjoyed their lunches as well. We all nibbled on the fresh fruit salad which was nice and sweet. My first impression is that The Farm is a great place to stop for a quick lunch if you are in the area.

Another off site meal I had was breakfast at The Hole in the Wall Cafe. The photos and review of the huevos rancheros were great so my colleague and I both ordered it. The blend of a fried egg, beans, chorizo, avocado, sour cream, green onions, and sauce on top of a slightly crisp corn tortilla was delicious. The crispy hash browns were excellent and went well with the sauce that was oozing out of my huevos rancheros.

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Our other colleague had the eggs benedict. These were picture perfect and she finished off her plate so my assumption is that she really liked it.

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Again we shared another fruit salad. Whenever I am traveling at a conference, I want to make sure I have an adequate amount of fruit when possible.

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The Hole in the Wall Cafe is definitely worth stopping by for breakfast.

Din Tai Fung: An International Phenomenon

I am currently on vacation in Southern California and on an eating frenzy. Having lived in Southern California for eight years, I am returning to many places that I miss, but also having some new dining experiences.

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Din Tai Fung is an international phenomenon specializing in xiao lung bao. They have restaurants all over the world including Canada, Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand. I didn’t know of their existence when I lived in Los Angeles. I recently heard about Din Tai Fung in Seattle, but didn’t have a chance to eat there while visiting. There are two locations around the corner from each other in Arcadia so my friend and I made plans to go there.

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I don’t typically talk about customer service, but I am making a point to talk about it here. Everyone that works at Din Tai Fung is extremely friendly, especially the waiters, unthinkable at a Chinese restaurant. Our waitress Claire took our order, came by to check on us frequently, wiped the table down before dessert, and brought us new plates and chopsticks.

My friend and I added an order of hot and sour soup after seeing it come out to our neighbors. It was quite good; it had plenty of black pepper.

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Of course we had to have the xiao lung bao (they call it juicy pork dumpling). I can’t say these were the best I have had, but they are the most consistent. Most of the time you get a few dry dumplings or they break on you while you pick them up. Every dumpling had soup to squirt out.

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We ordered shrimp and pork wontons with spicy sauce. The spicy sauce on these were the highlight.

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Stir fried Shanghai rice cake with pork is one of my favorite dishes. Rice cakes are made from glutinous rice flour and when cooked are chewy. Din Tai Fung did a good job with them.

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Although we wanted the sweet taro bun for dessert, they ran out. Claire recommended the sweet taro dumplings instead and said we could order half an order of five dumplings. I liked the taro filling a lot, which would have been the same filling as the bun. The outer skin of the dumpling was chewy and gave the dessert a mochi texture.

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Din Tai Fung was definitely worth the visit and I am not the only one that thinks so.
The Los Angeles Times Readers Choice Award for Best Chinese restaurant in the Pasadena/San Gabriel area for 2012 went to Din Tai Fung. Congratulations!

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!

Festival of India

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The Annual Festival of India in Fremont, California is held each year to celebrate Indian Independence Day. This two day festival occurred this past weekend and celebrated its nineteenth year with a cultural fair, a parade, and a banquet gala. Last year I had the privilege to attend the banquet gala. This past weekend my BFF and I attended the fair which included a kids carnival, a performance stage, vendors of all sorts including food stalls. I love street food in general and that includes Indian street foods or chaat.

The first thing we got to eat was a plate of chicken biryani. This dish made of rice and chicken is typically cooked in huge clay pots and cooked for many hours. Ours came with two hard boiled eggs. We got it from a stall who’s restaurant called Fusion 9 is based in Santa Clara. I really liked the flavors of the chicken and rice, but could have done without the eggs.

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Next we tried a vendor called Peacock that has five restaurants throughout the Bay Area. They had a large booth and with all the cooking activity, we ordered three items from them. First, we got their masala dolsa, a savory crepe filled with a mixture of mashed potato, onion, and spices. We were able to watch the vendor make these to order.

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We also ordered tandoori chicken from Peacock. It was hard not to try this when you are that close to the grill.

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Cholle bhature is a big puffy deep fried bread that is eaten with a bean dish. They had a huge fryer in the back that was making them one at a time, so they warned us that our wait for this item would be ten minutes.

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All three of these dishes from the Peacock stall was fresh and delicious and makes me want to eat at one of their five locations.

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I really enjoyed this festival. It was such a great way to be immersed in Indian culture by the fashion, the dancing, and the food. I can’t wait until next year!