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.  

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.

Salt Fat Acid Heat: Cookbook Launch Party

In February, I heard about a new cookbook called Salt Fat Acid Heat (SFAH) that was going to be published in a few months. In this book, the author, Chef Samin Nosrat, another Chez Panisse alumni explains how using these four elements properly can help anyone become a better cook. Chef Nosrat describes how salt enhances flavor, fat carries flavor and provides texture, acid balances flavor, and controlling heat creates texture. I was immediately intrigued because I wanted to learn the simple science of this and be able to rely less on recipes.  
The cookbook has actually taken Chef Nosrat five years to write and it has finally been released. To celebrate, Chef Dominica Rice threw a party at her restaurant Cosecha in Oakland today. Chef Nosrat and artist Wendy MacNaughton were present to sign books. MacNaughton includes tons of illustrations that makes the book fun and appealing. They were both friendly and down to earth people and meeting them was an honor.  
What kind of party doesn’t provide good food? Not this one. Chef Rice not only hosted this event, but she and her crew catered delicious food. They served chicken tamales, as well as nettle and corn tamales.  
They also served duros, the Mexican puffed wagon wheels. With a little lime and chili sauce, I couldn’t stop munching on these.
The one recipe we got to try from the SFAH cookbook was the Green Goddess Dressing which was used as a dip for the fresh jicama. I can’t wait to make this.
To drink, we had delicious horchata and cucumber lime agua fresca. I really wish these were in the cookbook. Chef Rice… When are you writing a cookbook?  
I have browsed the book and am super excited to go through this cookbook page by page from beginning to end and be able to use SFAH properly in my own cooking.  
Today was a great day! Congratulations Chef Nosrat and thank you Chef Rice

Daughter Thai: Celebrating Thai Cuisine

Daughter Thai opened up about four months ago in Montclair Village in Oakland. I dined there once in December shortly after they opened and was pleasantly surprised by the space, the food, and the ambience. I found it to be a typical Montclair crowd, which is family friendly. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since and yesterday was the perfect evening to go as the restaurant was celebrating the Thai New Year.

Daughter Thai was decorated with multi colored pennant flags on the inside and outside of the restaurant. They also had carnival games, music, and dancing. Even the staff was festive wearing costumes and makeup in celebration of the New Year.  

Before we ordered, one of the staff came by with a tray of fried grasshoppers and fried worms, a Thai street food. At first I passed thinking to myself, “I have to pay to eat grasshoppers and worms? Shouldn’t someone pay me?”  
After second thought, I called her back. This is an exotic specialty and an opportunity. I bought the grasshoppers. My friend wasn’t brave enough to try, so I ate all three. I’m not sure how to describe them. They were just crunchy and didn’t really go down easily. It was sort of like eating a pumpkin seed shell. I’m glad I tried it as it will be an unforgettable experience.  
One of the dishes we ordered was the Southern Fish Curry or “Gang Thai Pla.” It is described as a pickled fish stew in tumeric, lemongrass, and exotic herbs with squash, eggplant, and green beans served with crispy pork belly and vermicelli noodles. When I ordered it, the waiter seemed to discourage ordering it by disclosing that this was a very authentic Thai dish that is very spicy and very fishy. We like authentic, spicy, and fishy, so we went with it.  It ended up that my friend liked it and I didn’t. She did prefer eating the stew with rice instead of the noodles that came with it. It had a funk to it and the fermentation was too pungent for my taste.
We also ordered the Chef’s Secret Menu which was Thai Herbed Chicken & Rice or “Khao Mok Gai.” It is something that is not always on their menu. It includes herbed chicken with fragrant yellow rice, potato stuffed roti, and bone broth. This was a perfect dish for my friend and I to share. I thought it was delicious and a great combination platter.  
I also have some recommendations from my first visit to Daughter Thai. I enjoyed the Tom Kha, which is coconut soup with mushrooms, tomato, cabbage, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, cilantro, and green onions. It had an excellent balance of flavors. 
The Ahi Scoops are pan seared sesame crusted Ahi tuna, cucumber, seaweed salad, crispy yam, dill, lemongrass, and chili lime. This is not a Thai dish to me, but it is one you want to make sure you order.
Although I have not eaten everything from the Daughter Thai menu, I already have a favorite. The crab fried rice is bomb. It’s got Dungeness crab meat, twice cooked rice, cage free egg, onion, tomato, and cilantro. It’s a simple dish that I could eat all the time.
If you enjoy Thai food, make your way to Daughter Thai in Montclair Village. They have some of the best and authentic Thai food in the Bay Area.  Happy Thai New Year!

New Pub on the Block: Aisle 5

Aisle 5 is a newly opened pub located in Oakland’s Grand/Lakeshore District. They serve twenty craft beers on tap and have a food menu focused on cooking from a wood fired oven and grill. Aisle 5 is Tina Wadhwa’s first business venture and she is likely the first East Indian woman to open up a pub in the area.  
I stopped by a couple weeks after they opened and had some trouble navigating through the business. The way things work is that you order at the counter, get a number, claim a seat, and your food comes to you. This might work well in a food court, but for me it didn’t at Aisle 5. My friend and I ordered drinks first. I got a refreshing local cider from Healdsburg and my friend had a glass of wine. We sat down and took a menu with us. When we decided on what to eat, I had to get back in line at the counter to order and it was five or six people deep. I can say it was partly my fault since I didn’t know what I wanted to eat from the start and wasn’t prepared for the “food court system.”

Nonetheless, our food came and I was happy. Chef Mark Scott is behind the pub menu. The first item that arrived by number was the chimichurri shrimp and it was wonderful. It was grilled to perfection and included a tomato and cucumber salad that was a nice companion piece. It was my favorite dish of the evening.

We also shared the smoking duo which is both chicken wings and baby back ribs. You get to select the sauces for both meats. I went with buffalo wings and habanero baby back ribs. The chicken wings fell flat for me because it was not crispy leaving a very soft rubbery skin. The ribs however was a redemption as they were cooked well and packed a lot of flavor. I really enjoyed the apple jicama slaw. If that is a definition of slaw, this would be my favorite preparation. At one point, Chef Mark stopped by to say hello, so I took the opportunity to inquire about the slaw. He revealed that he added a little honey to sweeten this side dish. 


With Boot and Shoe Service next door and The Star on Grand across the street, I was a bit wary about ordering pizza from Aisle 5. But they had the wood fired oven and an extensive pizza menu, So I wanted to give it a try. I got the smoked sausage and mushroom pizza. Sure the toppings were good, but I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor of the pizza crust. I even ate some of my friend’s leftover pizza crust (she is watching her carbs). I wouldn’t say that the pizza is better than Boot & Shoe Service, but it is an excellent alternative in the neighborhood.


I’m really hoping that Aisle 5 considers the feedback and hire some excellent wait staff to pull everything together. They’ve got a lot going for it- great food and drinks, perfect location, and a nice space.  
*Disclosure- this meal was comped, but writer has made every effort to remain objective.

Goodnight Hawker Fare Oakland

The East Bay community is saying goodbye to Hawker Fare in Uptown Oakland, which closed its doors last night after almost six years. Hawker Fare is Chef James Syhabout’s Southeast Asian street food focused restaurant. I was able to dine at Hawker Fare on one of its final nights last week with a friend and her daughter.

One of the favorite dishes of the evening was the fried chicken. Similar to Japanese chicken karaage, these crispy nuggets of chicken thighs were well marinated, breaded, and deep fried to a golden perfection. It was served with a chili jam and went especially well with sticky rice. It was a hit for my friend’s daughter as well.

In the last several years I have been obsessed with the Laotian dish, Nam Khao, fried rice ball salad. I have been in search of the best fried rice ball salad in Oakland. I just love the mix of savory, tart, and spicy flavors and then the awesome crunch you get with this dish. Unfortunately, the fried rice ball salad at Hawker Fare fell flat for me. One huge factor was likely that it didn’t include pork meat. I also felt that the texture was chunkier than I have had at other neighborhood Laotian restaurants.

Similar to how I must order fried rice ball salad, my friend must order the Laotian style papaya salad. Some might call it umami and others might call it funky because of the flavors of fermented fish and crab that are very prominent. In general, this dish was fine, but my friend thought it was too saucy.

We also shared the mussels steamed in coconut milk. The fresh mussels from Washington are cooked in a coconut broth made with unique spices including fresh galangal, Makrut lime leaves, lemongrass, and fish sauce. The broth was so good, I envision dreams about it.

We ended the evening with condensed milk soft serve. I’m really gonna miss their soft serve machine. It was always a refreshing way to end a meal here.

The closing of Hawker Fare is sad for me, but likely bittersweet for Chef Syhabout. I still remember how cool it was that he opened up the restaurant in the exact location of the Thai restaurant his mother once opened. The saving grace is that there still remains a Hawker Fare, but you’ll have to cross the Bay Bridge to get there. He opened up a second Hawker Fare in San Francisco about two years ago.  

Celebrating a Year in Oakland: La Parisienne

La Parisienne is a cute, bright French bakery located on Grand Avenue in Oakland. It celebrated a one-year anniversary this weekend. 

When you walk into La Parisienne, you are confronted with a display of artful desserts. When you follow the window display down the side, you will find many other French baked goods. Part patisserie and part boulangerie, the founders and chef comes directly from Paris, France.
The first visit I made to La Parisienne was shortly after they opened. I had coffee and was introduced to chouquettes. Chouquettes are made from light pastry dough and topped with pearl sugar. The sugar doesn’t melt and stays in form. When you bite into a chouquette, you start out with a little crunch and then the texture becomes slightly soft, airy, and eggy where it is hollow inside. These are bite sized deliciousness.

I have tried three types of croissants at La Parisienne – regular, chocolate, and almond. I found the almond croissant to be quite special. I usually get them warm because they make small batches and sell out fairly quickly.  
Today I picked up one of the beautiful individual desserts to bring to visit my sister. She enjoys fruit, so I selected the berry tart. I had a bite and thought the custard filling was deliciously creamy and light.  
I am happy that La Parisienne is celebrating a successful year. With prices a bit higher, I wasn’t sure it could stay afloat. It’s not a place I would frequent all the time, but I like to support the small businesses in Oakland. There are plenty more variety of desserts to try.