Homeskillet in Alameda

This morning, I grabbed breakfast with my good friend at Homeskillet in Alameda.  I had heard great things about them from my neighbors and there was a long line waiting when we got there – all boding well for a great meal!

Granted it was labor day, the estimated wait was longer than predicted upon arrival.  Once seated, we realized why – there was only one waitress and one hostess/clearer of tables for the whole restaurant.  Seriously??  Who made that decision on a national holiday!??!?!

The waitress was not helpful and when asked what the special was for the day, she replied “Same as always”.  And then after realizing we didn’t know what she meant, she replied “Nutella stuffed pancakes”:

image  Thank goodness these were delicious or else I would never bother asking about specials here again.  Her attitude was likely due to being overworked as the only waitress in the restaurant, but still.

There were several “benedicts” to choose from the menu and I chose to go with their “Haus Benedict”:

image  It’s got smoked turkey, apple smoked bacon, avocado, poached egg, and hollandaise sauce over an english muffin.  The turkey was actually a piece of lunch meat that you could get at a deli or at the supermarket.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised with the meat – afterall, where are you going to get a piece of fresh turkey in September???

My friend go their “hashtag” –

image  A cute play on the internet’s way to tag things, it’s made up of hashbrowns scrambled with eggs, grilled onions, jack & cheddar cheese served with ripened avocado, sour cream, and an english muffin on the side.  This was pretty satisfying and creative way to serve up all your favorite breakfast foods!

What they are most popular for are their donuts:

imageimage

I got 4 – blueberry, match green tea, a glazed curler, and a maple curler.  These were delicious – all soft and perfectly fried with just the right amount of glaze on top of each.  Loved the flavors and were SO fresh.  Definitely, the highlight of the meal.

Overall, the food was quite good but the service could use some work.  Or maybe, I’ll just have to come back on a work day when there are likely to be less people around.  ;P

Home

Taiwan Bento

A few years ago, I had a chance to visit Taiwan and had a great time.  Since then, I have been craving for some good Taiwanese food.  Though, I’m still on the hunt for some good Taiwanese breakfast (steamed rice noodles, fried dough with soy milk, taro balls), Taiwan Bento in Oakland provide a good fix in the meantime.

I got take out there for us last week.  I ordered their Zha Jiang Mien:

image  Being much drier than the Korean version, it was much cleaner to eat.  The flavors of the ground pork, bean curd, and soy bean mixture was delicious against the hand pulled noodles.  (for more on my thoughts on the Korean version, see https://justcallmequeen.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/noodles-at-yuyu-zazang/)

We got two bento boxes – the fried pork chop:

image  Crispy with great flavor and meat still pretty tender.

And the braised pork:

image  The flavors of the braised pork was pretty intense, so this large amount of rice was actually enough to balance out the flavors. Both boxes included half of a tea egg (really great flavor – why not give me the whole thing??), edamame, and pickled vegetables.  The pickled veggies were mild – not nearly as intense as kimchee.

They have homemade milk tea, which I opted to get without the tapioca balls, and 3 flavors of baos (buns with fillings):

image

Buns like these are my favorite Taiwanese food and much more authentic than what you can get from places like Chairman Bao in the bay area (https://justcallmequeen.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/chairman-bao/).  From far left and clockwise, you have their braised pork belly, roast chicken, and fried chicken:

image  The pork belly was braised to a perfect degree of tenderness and with fantastic flavor.  There is a peanut sauce at the bottom with some chopped greens for texture.  Both the chicken baos had pickled veggies and a flavorful sauce to bind everything together.  So yummy.

A great meal with leftovers to boot!  http://www.taiwanbento.us/

For more on my adventures to Taiwan, check out:

https://justcallmequeen.wordpress.com/2016/08/07/a-day-at-sun-moon-lake/ https://justcallmequeen.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/bullet-train-down-to-kaoshiung/

Fournee Bakery

Last weekend, I stopped at Fournee Bakery in Berkeley for some sweets.  A cute shop near the Claremont Hotel and Rick and Ann’s (see previous post – https://justcallmequeen.wordpress.com/2016/08/16/rick-and-anns/), there were no shortage of people lining up to get something to eat.

image

Like their Babka filled with chocolate:

imageimage

A Polish yeast based cake filled with chocolate, it is finished off with a nice streusel on top with nuts and sugar.  The flavors of this reminded me a lot of a rugelach (https://justcallmequeen.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/rugelach/).  There is a tart taste from the yeast that is almost like the cream cheese in the rugelach dough, and both treats have their nuts and chocolate.

I couldn’t resist trying their morning buns and scones:

image  The morning bun is made with a puff pastry and cinnamon sugar – flaky and yummy.  Their berry scone is on the left and currant scone is on the right –  both were flaky and buttery.  A day later, the scones were more chewy than hard and the fruit stayed nice and juicy.

From the glass case of cakes in the front of the shop, I got their salted caramel tart:

image

A cookie like crust filled with caramel on the bottom, there is a layer of intense chocolate mouse on top, with crunchy caramel bits and nuts in the center:

image  This was AMAZING.  The flavors in this were so incredible that a small tart was just the right amount of sweet to hit the spot.  I have never had anything like it and marveled at each bite.  The textures of the sticky caramel, crunchy nuts and caramel, and chocolate mousse went beautifully together.

What great treats!  Can’t wait to go back.

http://www.fourneebakery.com/

Dock for Dinner

It was a rough day today, so my good friend and I decided to reward ourselves with a nice dinner at The Dock in Oakland.  I got things started with a peach gimlet:

image  Peach puree, gin, and a peach rose water with some lime was just what I needed to help me relax… and it was delish.

First up was a pastrami poutine:

image  Pastrami and beef brisket with gravy, cheese, scallions, and horseradish cream over fries.  This was fantastic – a hearty beef based gravy with thin fries that held it’s own and didn’t get soggy.  A great way to soak up the alcohol and start the meal.

Next up, going to our Asian roots, kim chee mussels:

image  These muscles were steamed with smoked bacon and seaweed in a soy broth and served up with Dock’s famed twice cooked buns.  The broth in this was incredible – so much flavor in each bite and great texture with the bacon and seaweed.  The buns were great to soak up the broth with.  The mussels were so soft and juicy.  Loved this.

Then, the grilled ocean trout with crisp chickpea, fried cauliflower, tarragon, and scallions in a romesco sauce:

image  This was so super yum.  The romesco sauce packed a punch with huge flavor and great textures from the chickpeas and cauliflower.  The trout was so soft and tender, with a mild enough flavor to really complement the sauce.

For dessert, butter bourbon pudding:

image  with corn flake cereal based malt balls covered in chocolate and soft whipped cream.  Those malt balls were so yummy – and so small that I was so amazed that they are homemade!  The pudding was a little on the grainy side but flavors were enough to overlook that.  What a great note to end the meal!

Home

Rick and Ann’s

Sunday brunch yesterday was at Rick and Ann’s in Berkeley.  Situated in a cute city block by the iconic Claremont Hotel, it is surrounded by cute shops and bakeries.

I got things started with a guava bellini, while my friend got a cup of coffee:

image  Guava puree with sparkling wine – yummy!

I got their Manhattan Plate:

image  Scrambled eggs with lox and green onions, a bagel with cream cheese and all the fixings, with potatoes and sour cream.  A GENEROUS amount of lox in the eggs and a creative play on your typical bagels with lox.

My friend got their Yukon Gold Plate:

image  This is vegetarian hash made with sweet and regular potatoes, bell peppers, corn, and apples.  Served with scrambled eggs and a scone on a side this was a hearty breakfast for an early morning start.

To share, we couldn’t resist their orange flour pancakes with blueberries:

image  The orange flour is wheat and gluten free, but you couldn’t tell at all!  There is some orange zest in the flour and this went well with the mild blueberries.

And we couldn’t leave Rick and Ann’s and not get their famous red flannel hash:

image  The hash is made of fresh red beets, sweet potatoes, new potatoes, red onion and bacon.  What a creative idea to use beets in hash!  This is so hearty and the only meat are the bacon bits!

A great meal on a sunny day.  Can’t wait to go back.

http://www.rickandanns.com/

Xolo La Taqueria

I was craving tacos for lunch a few days ago and headed to XOLO.  A taqueria that is a sister restaurant to Dona Tomas in the Temescal district in Oakland, California, it’s always a sure bet for great and authentic Mexican flavors.

I got 4 tacos for lunch:

image

Top left is their “Chile Verde” taco with stewed pork in tomatillos, chiles, diced onions, and cilantro.  Next on the top right, the “Pollo” – grilled chicken with a achiote marinade, avocado salsa, pickled red onions and cilantro.  Below that is the “Camarones”, which is batter fried shrimp with arbol chili aioli, cilantro, cabbage, and lime.  And at the end, the “Beef” in a crispy shell with melted cheese, cabbage, and pico de gallo.

Four tacos was just right for my lunch.  The meats were all so tender and flavors fantastic.  There was just enough filling for each tortilla, so I didn’t make much of a mess while eating.  What a great meal.

Wanting to take advantage of being at XOLO in the middle of the day with no wait in line, I grabbed a burrito to go.  Here is their Surf n Turf:

image  Sauteed shrimp in butter is the Surf, while grilled carne asada is the Turf.  Add on some beans, rice, cheese, and onions, this is one fantastic burrito!  One is more than enough for a whole meal – so satisfying and delicious!

http://www.xolotaqueria.com/

Los Agaves

When looking for a Mexican Restaurant to eat in Santa Barbara, California, we could not help but go to the restaurant with 4.5 stars and over 2000 reviews on Yelp® – Los Agaves.

Outside looking in, it seems to be a swanky eatery with sophisticated decor.  But you order at the counter, get your own salsa from the self serve bar, and wait staff assigns you a number to a table before your order is placed.  For how many people lined up to eat here, the service was extremely friendly and efficient.

I got things started with a guava-rita!

image  Not that strong and the guava puree was fresh and delicious.

I’m not a huge fan of spice and so I opted out of the “spicy” salsa options.  Instead, I got their avocado salsa, tomatillo salsa, and pico de gallo to go with our freshly made tortilla chips:

image  As my sister put it, that avocado salsa was amazing!  So flavorful and just thick enough to coat the chip with each dip but not overpower it.

I got their chicken enchiladas with mole sauce:

image  This mole sauce was AMAZING – thick and flavorful.  The chicken is just a hearty enough protein to compliment the sauce and the homemade tortilla just brought it all together.  I spread some of the mole on chips and mixed some of the mole in my rice.  I would have licked my plate were we not seated in the center of the restaurant!

My dad got their “Molcajetes”, a specialty of grilled nopal (spanish cacti), chorizo, monterrey jack cheese, grilled cambray onion, avocado and shrimp in a stone mortar:

image  This was piping hot as it came out and we were amazed that the size of this portion.  It is served with homemade tortillas and each bite was fantastic.  So many different flavors and textures coming together beautifully here.  LOVED this.

This was such a great meal that we went back for take out the next day.  We shared their tacos del mar with shrimp:

image  Each taco was topped with mango, salsa, and cabbage over a homemade tortilla.  Textures and flavors were fantastic.  The shrimps, as in all the other dishes we have tried here, were HUGE and were almost lobster-tail in texture and flavor.

To go with these tacos, the Agaves Enchiladas:

image  Halibut and shrimp on the inside and a chipotle sauce on the outside, this was also fantastic.  This sauce was so delicious – creamy and flavorful – and went beautifully with the mild flavored seafood.

The rice and beans had great flavors too – dipping the chips into the beans was quite addicting.  The salads came with a great tropical tasting dressing with mango and mandarin oranges mixed in.  I thought everything was fantastic – from the main to the sides – without skimping on flavor or authenticity.  Glad I found them!

http://www.los-agaves.com/

Renaud’s patisserie and bistro

Recently, there had been some press about Renaud’s patisserie and bistro in Santa Barbara, California.  It’s a chain throughout Southern California with three locations in this lazy beachside town.

Renaud’s is a french inspired establishment with a beautiful pastry case full of macarons and tarts galore.

image

We decided to get some pastries for breakfast and got these yummies:

image

A beautiful almond croissant with just the right amount of filling and a generous serving of almonds on top; an apricot topped pastry with a light amount of cream at the center; a raisin snail with a light sugar glaze on top.  These were finger licking good!

We were so impressed with our breakfast that we went back for lunch take out the next day!  We got their pain bagnat:

image  This was essentially a nicoise salad (with tuna, egg, red peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and anchovies) on an olive loaf.  There was also a light amount of pesto spread to tie it all together and it was delicious.

Today’s special was their smoked salmon:

image  Served with red onion, tomatoes, spinach on a sweet brioche bun, this was a generous amount of smoked salmon!  there was also a light spread with some chives to tie it together and it was YUMMY!

On the side of each sandwich was a simple salad with a balsamic based vinagrette:

image

A great meal – to eat in or take away.  Glad to have made a couple of stops here over the weekend!

http://www.renaudsbakery.com/

french toast at jeanine’s

My dad and I both love to each french toast.  So, on a recent visit to Santa Barbara, California, we headed to Jeanine’s Restaurant and Bakery for breakfast.

My dad got their challah french toast breakfast with eggs and sausage:

image  We’ve never had french toast with challah bread before and thought it was great.  Challah is an eggy bread and I appreciated how the batter around each slice was very light.  That allowed the toast to not be so overpowered with the flavor of egg.  Each bite was fluffy and yummy with a light sprinkling of powdered sugar and syrup on the side.

I was drawn to their “specialty” french toasts, in particular their Banana Kahlua Challah French toast:

image  This was so delicious!!  It is essentially like bananas foster on top of french toast.  You’ve got the same fluffy toast that my dad had but with this thick syrup with a great depth of flavor.  The Kahlua tasted like it was mixed with brown sugar and then reduced.  I also got a side of bacon (3 slices for $4!!!) but it was fantastic dipped in this Kahlua sauce!!

http://jeannines.com/