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.  

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Genji: Grilling up Lunch

I have never been to Japan, but I would imagine that there would be a lot of eateries like Genji Japanese Restaurant that service busy office workers. Apparently, the restaurant recently moved from Downtown Oakland to Uptown Oakland, making it really easy for me to get to Monday through Friday. There are some food items already prepared that you can grab and go, but they also have a menu of items that are made to order.  You can choose to eat at one of their tables or take away.

 On my first visit, I picked up a side of seaweed salad and a side of cucumber wedges from the refrigerator. I brought it up to the friendly cashier and placed an order for an una-q which were five pieces of unagi (eel) sushi roll. It was a light and enjoyable lunch. I would skip the cucumber wedges in the future as it was bland even with the sauce.  

My coworkers got the unagi teriyaki from the grill which equates to two pieces of eel over rice.  All their teriyaki grill plates come with a side of edamame and a slaw. The charbroiled eel was delicate and flavorful and the rice was cooked to perfection.  
On another visit, I ordered the chicken teriyaki. I have been in search of a good chicken teriyaki for a long time and have found it here at Genji. They grill up Mary’s free range chicken and coats it with a delicious teriyaki sauce.  

One of my colleagues splurged and got the Angus rib eye teriyaki. She ordered it medium well. It was cooked through which I normally do not like. I like my beef cooked medium rare. I had a piece of her steak and was shocked how good it was. The flavor of the teriyaki sauce just disguised how cooked it was. She absolutely loved her plate.

My other colleague was looking for a lighter plate so she got shrimp teriyaki. The shrimps were fresh and plump. It is great that Genji has the variety of grill options so you can order what you are in the mood for. Now that I have done my taste test, I would likely alternate between the unagi teriyaki and the chicken teriyaki in the future.

Taiwan Bento: Uptown Lunch Spot

I remember walking by Taiwan Bento in the Uptown District of Oakland with a coworker many months ago. The restaurant was not open at the time and there was a sign at the door indicating they were having soft openings. I peaked through the window to check out their menu board. It was a very small menu and it didn’t sound too interesting to me.   

I pretty much forgot about Taiwan Bento until I read Eddie Huang’s “Fresh off the Boat.” He kept talking about the foods he grew up with and I felt like I wanted to experience that. I don’t yet have immediate plans to visit New York City to try his restaurant Baohaus. For the time being, I had to try something more local. Taiwan Bento!

I went with a few coworkers to give this lunchtime spot a try. We each ordered our own bento box, but we shared. The bento boxes come with rice, pickled vegetables, edamame, and a tea egg. As I mentioned before, their menu is a bit limited. Each day of the week, Taiwan Bento features a daily bento lunch special which is slightly discounted.  
 Monday’s special is the roasted chicken bento. I liked the crispiness of the skin and the tossed sesame seeds.  
 The braised pork bento is Tuesday’s special. From reading Huang’s biography, it sounded like this is one of the most popular dishes in Taiwan and one his grandma makes best.  
 The fried pork chop is Friday’s special. The pork chop is battered and deep fried to a crisp.  
 Taiwanese sausage is Wednesday’s special. My friend ordered a side of the sausage. Leaner than the Chinese sausage that I am used to, it was really tasty. The generous amount of green onions and the gravy added a lot of good flavor.

 Although not a bento, Taiwan Bento serves beef noodle soup, another popular Taiwanese dish. I found this dish to be very familiar tasting because it’s common in Cantonese cuisine. The star anise is prevalent.  
 We also tried some hand made pork buns. The soft bun and the tender pork filling makes this melt in your mouth. In my opinion, this is the healthier version of the BBQ pork bun.
 Taiwan Bento is simple food, but different. I enjoy the concept of a bento box. In addition to your main course, you get a few fun bonus items. I imagine myself eating similarly to the millions of people in Taiwan. I think Taiwan Bento provides a good glimpse into Taiwanese lunchtime food.

The Gourmet Backpacking Trip

Backpacking has been something on my bucket list and my friends agreed to take me during the July 4 weekend. In preparation for it, we did a test run this weekend in the High Sierra. We began in the Mokelumne Wilderness on Saturday and made our way through Thornburg Canyon into the town of Markleeville on Sunday. My fitbit measured about 15 miles of hiking, but we hiked to an elevation of approximately 8500 feet. I don’t have an exact weight of my backpack, but I would estimate it to have been about 28-30 lbs.

 The highlights of the trip for me were the company, the breathtaking views, counting over 50 varieties of wildflowers, seeing a golden bear, having a gourmet picnic lunch, cooking over a campfire, and watching the bright stars shining at night.

 

 Since this was a short trip, we were able to eat a lot of fresh food. Since I was assigned to prepare one lunch, I thought it would be fun to make it gourmet. I planned a French themed lunch. I picked up a couple of quiche from Starter Bakery in Oakland and prepared ingredients for a ni├žoise salad.  

 After enduring multiple mosquito bites, my first ever bee sting, soreness, muscle ache, and some inflammation, I successfully made it through the test run. There were some lessons learned that will likely be applied to the July 4 weekend trip. One of which is that camp food probably won’t be as nice next time around. 

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.