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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

5 Summer Food Fests Worth the Drive

Posted By on Wed, Jul 25, 2012 at 2:31 PM

The Gilroy Garlic Festival begins on July 27. - FLICKR/ANTIGONE78
  • Flickr/antigone78
  • The Gilroy Garlic Festival begins on July 27.

Okay, so you slept on the Castroville Artichoke Festival. Don't worry, there are still some fantastic food festivals left to tackle this summer in the greater Bay Area. Every road trip should be planned around good food, but why not plan a day trip where eating the best produce from the region that specializes in it is pretty much the point of the journey? Start with these suggestions:

• This year's Gilroy Garlic Festival runs July 27-29, and if you haven't ever taken part in this consummate Bay Area food festival tradition, stock up on BreathAssure and sunscreen and hop in the car for an hour and a half. It's really the one weekend a year where garlic in desserts are acceptable.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

See The Tower of Pork and Other Delights at Chris Cosentino's Los Angeles Eatery PIGG

Posted By on Thu, May 3, 2012 at 12:00 PM

PIGG's pork tower contains ham from three nations. - TAMARA PALMER
  • Tamara Palmer
  • PIGG's pork tower contains ham from three nations.

While Southern California's Umami Burger opened its first Bay Area location in San Francisco in 2011 and has signed a lease on a second spot in Oakland, it has also developed a new and broader concept called Umamicatessen, which debuted in downtown Los Angeles in March. The showpiece of the Umami Restaurant Group, patrons at Umamicatessen can order not only from the Umami Burger menu, but those of two new concepts: The Cure, a deli that offers noshes like towering pastrami sandwiches, matzo ball soup, and a dizzying array of fried-to-order donuts including one injected with foie gras and San Rafael's Robert Lambert jam; and PIGG, a pork-centric eatery from Chris Cosentino, best known for his San Francisco restaurant Incanto.

The PIGG counter at Umamicatessen. - TAMARA PALMER
  • Tamara Palmer
  • The PIGG counter at Umamicatessen.

A tusked wild bust and a rotating tower of pork containing cured pig parts from Spain, Italy, and the United States are the prominent design features of PIGG. The menu is divided into sections for lard-fried snacks, cured, raw (!), canned, cooked, sandwiches and salad. There is not a single item on it that does not contain pork, and true to Cosentino's waste-not, want-not form, you'll find liberal use of brains, spleens, ears, fat, and skin. Most of the items fall within a price range of $3-18, but there are a few specials, including an "around the world in eight hams" tasting for $75.

Cosentino's other project Boccalone appears briefly on the menu in raw form, literally -- a plate of raw Boccalone Iberico Lardo is served with seasonal fruit. Surprisingly absent is Boccalone's popular spicy spreadable salame called Nduja, but we have no problem with that remaining local.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Get Your Ass to Oakland for Sacred Wheel's Grilled Cheese & PBR Tomato Soup

Posted By on Tue, Jun 7, 2011 at 10:45 AM

Eat Me, Bitches! - LAURA BECK
  • Laura Beck
  • Eat Me, Bitches!

Is there any combo more perfect than a grilled cheese with tomato soup? If there is, we don't want to see a picture of Gael Garcia Bernal naked and making out with a sandwich. Wait, what? Anyway, Sacred Wheel Cheese Shop in Oakland's Temescal district is mainly a place to pick up specialty cheeses, but it also offers a small menu of artisan treats. The stand-out is a classic grilled cheese sandwich, made on lightly buttered Acme bread, and panini'ed to perfection. It's the kind of sandwich that causes immediate flashbacks to afterschool snack time in your mom's kitchen. Or, makes you wish you had afterschool snack time in your mom's kitchen, even if your childhood was more "mom forgetting you at the playground and then taking you to McDonald's drive-thru to apologize."

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Get Your Ass to Oakland for: Shan Dong's Sesame Paste Handmade Noodles

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 8:48 AM

Noodle-y Goodness. - JONAS MADDEN-CONNOR
  • Jonas Madden-Connor
  • Noodle-y Goodness.

There's not much to say about Shan Dong's Sesame Paste Hand Cut Noodles other than: EAT THEM NOW. But okay, we'll try. Tucked in Oakland's bustling Chinatown, Shan Dong is tiny and unassuming.* However, what lies inside is pure happiness in the form of handmade noodles and dumplings. Our current obsession (it's ever changing) are the Sesame Paste Hand Made Noodles. Perfectly chewy handpulled noodles are coated in a sweet and spicy sesame sauce and served in a huge pile of awesome deliciousness. These noodles have legions of obsessive fans -- people travel from as far as actual China to eat them. Actually, we don't know that to be true, but substitute San Jose for China and we are absolutely positive. Anyway, San Jose is far!

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Get Your Ass to San Mateo for: Romolo's Cannoli

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2011 at 12:56 PM

Spumoni and cannoli from Romolo's in San Mateo. - LUIS CHONG
  • Luis Chong
  • Spumoni and cannoli from Romolo's in San Mateo.

Traditional cannoli seem to have been all but forgotten in this era of cupcakes and macarons. SFoodie took advantage of a rare sunny weekend earlier this month to rekindle memories of Romolo's in San Mateo, the oldest (and only, for that matter) cannoli and spumoni factory in the Bay Area. The Cappello family has operated this shop since 1968, and 3 years ago grandson Joseph ("Joey") Cappello took over the reins with help from his brother Michael.

This quaint little shop is clean and brightly illuminated, with exceptional service that included patient explanations for newbies. The handmade cannoli shells are made from unbleached flour, raw sugar, honey, cinnamon, cocoa powder, butter, white wine, and a few secret ingredients. The ricotta cream filling is a blend of imported ricotta, sugar, spices, chocolate chips and traditional citron, instead of the candied orange peel that's become common in the U.S. The $3.25 price includes your choice of garnish: cherries, chocolate chips, or pistachios, and for $3.50, you can get a chocolate-coated shell. At first glance, the deep bronze of the fried shells makes them look burnt, but the color results from the ingredients, which are traditional. Lighter-hued shells from competitors simply lack the complex mix of the ones at Romolo's.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Get Your Ass to Oakland for: Homeroom

Posted By on Wed, Feb 23, 2011 at 5:32 PM

Take a good look ― you *will* be tested on this material. - CARINA OST
  • Carina Ost
  • Take a good look ― you *will* be tested on this material.

A series urging SFoodie readers to get their butts out of the Mission. For a couple hours anyway.

Mac is officially in session: The Bay Area's first-ever macaroni-and-cheese restaurant unlocked its doors in Oakland's Temescal neighborhood last week, and started dinner service last night.

Trailer Mac, $8.50, with sliced weenies and crumbled potato chips. - CARINA OST
  • Carina Ost
  • Trailer Mac, $8.50, with sliced weenies and crumbled potato chips.

Homeroom features a giant blackboard chalked with a map of California that locates breweries, wineries, and creameries, and there are images of tiny paper airplanes carved into the wooden tables ― it's like being in a classroom all over again. Except this is a school with 10 different kinds of mac and cheese on the menu, plus suggested beer and wine pairings. Vegan and veggie options, too.

SFoodie began with the Trailer Mac ($8.50), with cheddar cheese and Prather Ranch weenie slices, and crushed potato chips on top. We also sampled the Mexican Mac ($8.50) with Star Meats chorizo, chipotles, Jack, and cilantro, served up with a lime wedge. The heat was perfect, and there was this delicious little lime and taco flavoring that recalled our favorite pimple-inducing junk food: a Taco Bell burrito. That, or Chili Cheese Fritos. If only our teenage taste buds had been this sophisticated, and our fake IDs were good enough so we could have enjoyed the cold beers Homeroom offers. Underage? There's house-made root beer, and optional scoops of Three Twins ice cream.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

The Cheese Factor's High at Sacramento's Squeeze Inn

Posted By on Mon, Feb 14, 2011 at 10:36 AM

The Squeeze Inn's crisp-skirted Squeeze with Cheese, $6.25. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • The Squeeze Inn's crisp-skirted Squeeze with Cheese, $6.25.

Located at the tail end of a nondescript, mostly vacant Sacramento strip mall about 20 feet from the tracks, The Squeeze Inn hardly seems like a destination. But at 4 p.m. on a recent weekday, the place was full and a line was beginning to form. SFoodie snagged the last spot at the counter, ordered a Squeeze with Cheese burger ($6.25) and steak taco ($3.25) from the very friendly server and waited. And waited.

Nobody at the counter seemed the slightest bit concerned, and the cooks in the open kitchen were pretty mellow, so we chilled out, anticipating what the guy next to us described as a "grubbing" meal. Three barstool-shaking trains and 35 minutes later the food arrived. It wasn't so grubbing.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Cellar Door Cafe's Star Is Gone, but the Glow Remains

Posted By on Fri, Feb 4, 2011 at 3:05 PM

Cellar Door Cafe's pizza of Crescenza cheese, veal, a farm egg, and herb pesto, $18. - JESSE HIRSCH
  • Jesse Hirsch
  • Cellar Door Cafe's pizza of Crescenza cheese, veal, a farm egg, and herb pesto, $18.

I was tasked with finding a good restaurant in Santa Cruz last weekend, and the stakes were high. It was for an anniversary, and I had blown it before. After one uniquely scarring experience using Yelp to choose a romantic dinner, I'd vowed that never again would a setting for one of life's special occasions be Internet-sourced.

For what would be my first experience in Santa Cruz, I asked colleagues and friends for tips. But despite casting the net wide, I got only Jonathan Kauffman's note of caution about Cellar Door Café, whose whiz-kid chef, Charlie Parker, had recently headed north to Plum.

Despite the implied warning, I wasn't ready to dismiss Cellar Door. For one thing, there were few alternatives (several food writers told me Santa Cruz is a dining desert). And I wanted to believe a restaurant could soldier on without its star chef, especially since Parker's sous chef, Jarod Ottley, had stepped up to fill the vacancy.

Anyway, if your idle moments are filled with online foodie chatter, you're familiar with the (non-)debate about whether restaurants have the same quality level without their executive chefs on-site. And Parker had been gone for just a few months, so I was hopeful his imprint would remain. Still, after my Yelpgate debacle last year, my confidence had been shaken. I told my ladyfriend to plan for the worst: "If things go awry, I'm sure we can find something deep-fried in this town."

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Friday, January 14, 2011

A Smoker Grows in Brooklyn: A San Franciscan Tastes New York's Trendy BBQ

Posted By on Fri, Jan 14, 2011 at 9:52 AM

Steam table swine at Brooklyn's Fette Sau. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Steam table swine at Brooklyn's Fette Sau.

As San Franciscans have spent the last couple of years devouring pizza, so have New Yorkers glommed on to Southern barbecue. Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood, home to the most storied of all American temples of meat, Peter Lugar Steakhouse, has become the epicenter of New York's barbecue movement ― trendy practitioners Fette Sau and Fatty Cue are within walking distance of one another.

Pick your parts: Fette Sau's Fat Pig Thursday offerings. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Pick your parts: Fette Sau's Fat Pig Thursday offerings.

They're similar in several ways: Lots of of Sufjan Stevens and Beirut over the sound systems, played to crowds who looks like their iPhones would be well stocked with Sufjan Stevens and Beirut. Both have bars that make you want to hang out all night, featuring brews like Hitachino Nest White Ale and Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold. And both are white hot, with lines that form early, since neither place takes reservations. But despite these similarities, the food at Fette Sau and Fatty Cue couldn't be more different.

Meats at Fette Sau are ordered by the pound at the front counter, where they're sliced and dumped, prison style, onto a paper-lined metal tray. We were there for Fat Pig Thursday, meaning the menu was mostly pork, cut from a 100-percent pure-breed Kurobuta, slaughtered the previous Sunday, then butchered and smoked in-house. We sampled a slice of loin ($24/lb.), a sweet sausage ($4), a chunk of belly ($24/lb.) and a foot ($10/lb.). Yes, you can order a single foot, as well as an eye, a snout, or a lip. Really.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Napa's Food Truck Friday Has Destination Potential

Posted By on Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 6:01 PM

Despite food shortages, Friday's food truck gathering in the Oxbow parking lot was a hoot. - LOU BUSTAMANTE
  • Lou Bustamante
  • Despite food shortages, Friday's food truck gathering in the Oxbow parking lot was a hoot.

Napa is no slouch when it comes to dining, so we were excited to explore the food truck scene at Friday's once-a-month Napa Valley food truck rally.

Turkey chili from Mark's Hit the Spot. - LOU BUSTAMANTE
  • Lou Bustamante
  • Turkey chili from Mark's Hit the Spot.

Staged in a dirt lot right next to Oxbow Public Market (it's used for construction during the day), which houses the semipermanent Dim Sum Charlie's Airstream trailer most evenings and weekends, Friday night's event was picturesque and festive. The young crowd, fire pit, live music, BYOB ― it felt more like a backyard party than a food pod. The trucks circled a heater-lined picnic area (a second picnic area was situated above, where bands played throughout the night). With 10 food vendors in attendance there were plenty of choices, and seating for all.

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