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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Izakaya Sozai

We got to Izakaya Sozai, 1500 Irving St., at 5:20 pm, 10 minutes before it opened. There were already 3 people standing in line. Within 5 minutes, the line had filled in behind us and was around the corner. You can't be seated until your entire party has arrived. The poor guy in front of us was waiting for his friends, who arrived 10 minutes late at 5:40 pm. They ended up waiting 1 1/4 hours to be seated.

Garlc Sauteed Shishito Peppers--$6.50. This was the best dish of the evening. The peppers were perfectly charred on the outside and the garlic flavor was nice.
Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice with Teriyaki Balsamic--$9. The tuna was just the right spiciness and worked well with the fried rice cake. This was our 2nd favorite.
Miso  Cod--$9.50. This was flavorful and the cod tasted like seabass but at $9.50, this was costly. It was 3 bites--3 very small bites.

Daikon Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette--$6. The daikon was shaved nicely but a little bitter. There was not enough vinaigrette on it. Another costly dish.

Braised Pork Belly--$7. The meat was tender but there was not much flavor. It tasted like it was just braised in soy sauce. The fat was too much to eat alone. It would have been better with a bun.

One of the specials of the evening was Seabass with Ponzu (skewers on left)--$9. This was bland. The skewers on the right were Bacon Wrapped Mochi--$5. This was nothing special. How hard can it be to wrap 1/3 slice of bacon around a piece of hard mocha and grill it. It was not worth $5.

Ankimo (monkfish liver) Pate--$10. This was disgusting. It was so fishy we couldn't finish it. It came with baguette slices that were broiled too long but not quite a crouton. That's a sliced strawberry and a sprig of Italian parsley. I ate the parsley to get rid of the fishy taste.

Tonkatsu Ramen--$9. Unflavorful pork broth with ramen that was too al dente, 1 piece of pork, 1/2 soft-boiled egg (the only saving grace of this dish) and a large piece of Nori. Orenchi's ramen has this beat by a mile.
Would I come back? Maybe if I was in the area, I would have a pre-dinner snack of the Shishito Peppers and that's it. I certainly wouldn't drive out of my way to eat here.
2013 02 23

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

King of Noodles

After we left the Ferry Building at 3:30 pm, we were still hungry. We had hoped to try Hapa Ramen but they weren't at the Ferry Building on Saturdays. We still wanted ramen and turned to Yelp. We found Izakaya Sozai and headed to the inner sunset.

Izakaya wasn't open until 5:30 pm so we walked around the neighborhood. We ran into King of Noodles and I thought it had been profiled by Anthony Bourdain, so we decided to give it a try. Since we were already set on having ramen, we would have just a little pre-dinner snack.

Xiao Long Bao--Shanghai Soup Dumplings. Basket of 6 for $4.95. The skin was on the thick side and definitely not as good as Din Tai Fun but the meat was tasty and the juice was very nice. Possibly some of the best I've had in the Bay Area.

Onion Pancake--$3.95. This was crispy and just a hint of grease. Again, possibly some of the best green onion pancake in the Bay Area.
King of Noodles is located at 1639 Irving, just south of Golden Gate Park. Next time, we'll come and have a full meal and not just a pre-dinner snack. We'll have to try the dumplings and hand-pulled noodles.

2013 02 23

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Noshing at the Ferry Building

After the orchid show, we went to the Ferry Building to nosh. If it wasn't so crowded, this would be such a fun place to hang out. The Farmer's Market was in full swing.

First up, porchetta sandwich at Roli Roti. This was a great sandwich--full of flavor and I loved the crispy pig skin. There was a hint of rosemary salt. The only downside to getting the sandwich is dealing with the woman who takes your money. She reminded me of the Soup Nazi on "Seinfeld." It's so rude to throw money back at your customer.

It's a large sandwich and worth the $9.50.

Next up was Namu Street Food--Korean Tacos and Okonomiyaki.

Korean Tacos--Kalbi Short Rib $4 each or 2 for $7 and Chicken Thigh $3 each or 2 for $5. They're served on Nori which is not a good vehicle for greasy food. There's kimchee salsa, kimchee remoulade, teriyaki sauce and seasoned rice in the taco. This plate of 3 tacos cost $10--definitely not worth it. The meat was dripping with grease and the flavor wasn't interesting enough to warrant the cost. 

Okonomiyaki--$8. Savory pancake with kimchee, vegetables and topped with bonito flakes. This was terrible. There was no flavor and the pancake was mushy. We couldn't even finish it. Still searching for the perfect okonomiyaki--yet to be found in the Bay Area.
Acme is one of the better bakeries in the area.
 The crust is just the right crispiness. Too bad you have to eat it right away. By the next day, the crisp is gone and it's just not the same to re-crisp in the oven.
2013 02 23

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pacific Orchid Exposition

The Pacific Orchid Exposition was held this weekend at Fort Mason. This was the 61st annual event--the largest orchid show in the United States. The orchids were gorgeous and I was amazed at how they were able to time the bloom with the show. There were tiny orchids as well as giant orchids and they were all lovely. In addition to an Exhibitor area, there was a Sales area so you could take some home.

This was my favorite orchid. This is a miltonia--also known as a pansy orchid. There's a ballerina in the center.

This was one of the more unique orchids.
2013 02 23

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Turkey Chili With White Beans

It has been a warm winter in the Bay Area and my trees have started to bloom. This week though, the weather turned cold, perfect for a bowl of chili.

This is my favorite chili recipe. I found it in Bon Appetit in 1997. I made just a few modifications.

Turkey Chili with White Beans

1 Tbs vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground oregano
1 1/2 tsp cumin
20 oz ground turkey
1/4 cup chili powder
2 bay leaves
1 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
3 cups beef stock
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
2 15-oz cans small white beans, rinsed and drained

Chopped red onion
Chopped fresh cilantro
Low-fat yogurt

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Add oregano and cumin; stir 1 minute. Increase heat to medium high. Add turkey; stir until no longer pink, breaking up with back of spoon. Stir in chili powder, bay leaves, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon. Add tomatoes with their juices, breaking up with back of spoon. Mix in stock and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add beans to chili and simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes longer. Discard bay leaves. Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat before continuing.

Ladle chili into bowls. Pass red onion, cilantro and yogurt.

2013 02 18

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chloe's French Bistro

I've wanted to try Chloe's French Bistro for some time. They're open only Monday-Friday from 8 am to 5 pm and I work during those hours. They were open on President's Day and on my way home from Albion, I stopped off and had lunch.

They have salads, cold sandwiches, hot sandwiches, soups, quiche and specials. I ordered the Beef Grille--$8.50--a hot roast beef sandwich with brie and horseradish sauce. I love anything with horseradish sauce and this was delicious. The baguette was toasted just right and the roast beef had nice flavor.

These are thinly sliced pickles that taste amazing. There's a hint of sweetness.

Turn's out Chloe is actually the name of the delivery truck.
2012 02 18

Friday, February 22, 2013

Thursday's Dinner

Here was the menu last night at Flavor Bistro:

Bruschetta Con Pera--Topped with Gorgonzola Dolce, Local Endive, Organic Pear and Walnut Gremolata paired with 2010 Benziger Chardonnay. The balsamic vinegar reduction was thick and amazing. I loved the Gorgonzola with the pear.

Risotto Con Patate Dolci--Organic Sweet Potato Mousse Cooked with Arborio Rice Flavored with Toasted Sage, Topped with Pan Roasted Mushrooms and Garnished with a Red Wine Reduction paired with 2009 St. Francis Zinfandel, Old Vines. The risotto was again perfectly al dente and delicious.

Brasato Di Maiale--Medallion of Pork Slow Cooked with Aromatic Herbs & Winter Vegetables Served in a Sugo Di Aglio with Petite Handmade Gnocchi paired with 2009 Kenwood Vineyards Merlot. The pork was fork tender and the wine reduction was delicious.

Crema Bruciata--Crème Brulee Flavored with Grapa Soaked Currants & Flaky Cookies paired with 2011 Moscato D'Asti, Ceretto
2013 02 21

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cafe Beaujolais

One of my favorite places to eat is Café Beaujolais. Since 2006, it's been under new ownership but the food is just as good. They also have a Take-Out bakery with freshly made bread.

Café Beaujolais is located at 917 Ukiah Street

The soup of the day was a Shellfish Bisque with Crab and Puff Pastry. A cup was $4 and a bowl was $6. This was thick and flavorful.

Sautéed Gulf Prawn Fettuccini with Mushrooms, Organic Cherry Tomatoes, Spinach and Shellfish Brandy Butter--$13.50. The fettuccini is fresh but could have used a little more salt.

 On Sundays, they have Herb Stirato at the bakery for $4.25 a loaf. I like the texture of the bread--full-bodied and slightly chewy.

2013 02 17

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Mendocino is an adorable town on the California coast, just 3 hours north of San Francisco. It is reminiscent of a New England town and in fact was the setting for "Murder, She Wrote." The town has less than 1,000 residents but there are a lot of shops, restaurants and inns. It's a perfect place to spend a weekend.

The main street facing the water

Look at how blue the sky was this weekend.

The town is dotted with water towers.

Chocolate Covered Caramel with Sea Salt--$1.20 at Mendocino Chocolates. Loved the sweet caramel with the dark chocolate and salt.

2012 02 17

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sanctuary By the Sea

I have a vacation rental in Albion--Sanctuary By the Sea. It's just 15 minutes south of Mendocino. Whether it is clear and sunny or stormy, I love the winters on the Mendocino coast. I had a 4-day weekend and spent it on the coast. It was gorgeous.

Oceanfront home with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms.

View from the back of the house. I lie in bed and watch the waves crash.

It's great to sit in the hot tub and watch the coast. The whales should start migrating next month.
For more information, visit my listing at:

2013 02 15

Monday, February 18, 2013

El Escorial

Just 30 miles northwest of Madrid is the 16th century palace and monastery built by Philip II. It's easy to get to by public transportation. Take the bus from Moncloa station--bus 661 or 664 (express bus) from Platform 11. From the Metro station, go upstairs and find Platform 11. Hop on the first bus --a bus leaves every 15 minutes, takes 45-55 minutes, and costs €4.20. El Escorial is open 10:00-18:00 and is closed on Mondays.

The palace is a 10-minute walk through town from the bus station. Turn left out of the bus station and follow the pedestrian streets to the TI. The TI is across the street from the entrance to the palace.

The town is adorable.
El Escorial--€17 for entry and an English tour or just €10 for entry. Take the tour. It will take you to parts of the palace that are not open on the regular tour. Plus, it will get you admission to the House of the Infants and the House of the Prince.
Tree-Lined Entry to the House of the Prince.
The House of the Prince.
Backyard of the House of the Prince.
From the House of the Prince, it was a short walk to the train station. The train to Atocha station costs €3.70.
Six miles from El Escorial is the Valley of the Fallen, Spain's memorial to its Civil War. There is only 1 bus from El Escorial and it leaves at 3:15 pm. The bus returns from the memorial at 5:30 pm.
2013 01 15