Creme Brulee French Toast @ Alexis Baking Company, Napa

Crème Brûlée French Toast @ Alexis Baking Company, Napa.

The concept of “crème brulee French toast” underscores something that I realized long ago: Breakfast and dessert share a common kinship. After all, aren’t breakfast and dessert both typically heavy on eggs, cream and sugar? And isn’t a double chocolate chip muffin really just chocolate cake in disguise? And isn’t an apple turnover just another form of apple pie?

Under these circumstances, the idea of crème brulee French toast is perfectly logical to me; It represents the full-circle evolution from pain perdu to bread pudding to custard. Alexis Baking Company usually offers its crème brulee French toast on the weekends, although I have also been able to order it during the week, usually on a Friday.

And if you happen to stumble upon ABC’s crème brulee French toast during strawberry season, consider yourself all the more fortunate.

[… read more …]

Kurobuta Pork Chop (and Three Other Courses) @ Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford

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Third Course: Kurobuta pork chop with apples, kale, whole-grain mustard spaetzle, cipollini onion, and apple cider sauce. Kurobuta is Japanese for Berkshire.

Here in the Napa Valley (and I believe in other parts of the country as well), January is Restaurant Month. There’s quite a few deals being offered throughout the area, but the best, by far, is the two-course lunch at Auberge du Soleil. This year, lunch at Auberge in January will cost you $20.14 — just a penny more than last year.

I will admit — at the risk of over-populating California — that today was another 70-degree day, not a cloud in the sky, with a slight breeze. Sorry if you’ve been trying to catch a flight out of New York; I’ve been trying to figure out whether or not to drop the top on my convertible (full disclosure: I don’t own a [… read more …]

Book Review: “Ekiben: The Art of the Japanese Box Lunch,” 1989

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“Ekiben: The Art of the Japanese Box Lunch,” Chronicle Books, 1989.

I’m convinced that used bookstores offer much more than any big box book retailer (what’s left of them, anyway). The problem with Barnes & Noble, or Borders when it existed, is that these stores don’t offer any old out-of-print books in their inventory. The large book retailers deal exclusively with new books, or new versions of old books, whatever the case may be. But as time goes by, there are so many interesting books that go out of print, our only chance of discovering them (if we missed them the first time around) is when they cycle back through a used bookstore.

I suppose that I’m the ideal used bookstore patron. First of all, I’m an old English major (not the normal prerequisite for becoming a chef, I admit). Second of all, I was born [… read more …]

Eight Los Angeles Food Photos

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Tonkotsu Ramen @ Daikokuya, West Los Angeles. This bowl of ramen contends for the best bowl of ramen that I’ve ever tasted. I still have a strong allegiance to Ramen Dojo in San Mateo, but Daikokuya is equally sublime, if not a bit more simple. The perfectly-cooked egg reveals a keen attention to detail, and the broth is amazingly good. I ate ramen almost every day when I was in Los Angeles, but this bowl (my first of the trip) really resonated with me, and it continues to do so.

I’ve finally uploaded my photos from my trip to Los Angeles earlier this month. It’s a little strange to go back to a place where I once lived for about 10 years, now that it’s also been about 10 years since I’ve lived there. Though the city’s main infrastructure remains familiar, the details have become a [… read more …]

The Dim Sum @ Ton Kiang, San Francisco

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A Few of Ton Kiang’s Greatest Hits: Shrimp-stuffed crab claws, pot stickers, foil-wrapped chicken, and steamed pork buns.

Living here in the Napa Valley, San Francisco’s Richmond District has been my gateway to the city over the years. For those who aren’t well-versed in San Francisco’s traffic culture, the Richmond District is definitely the “easiest” neighborhood in the city: There are no hills, there are very few one-way streets, parking is relatively plentiful, and the north-south avenues are all numbered. Add on the fact that it’s the first neighborhood that you encounter when taking the first exit from the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Richmond District feels almost like a San Francisco suburb, despite its geography. It’s a great way to visit the city without going (not just) knee deep into the mayhem.

Although you can find either cheaper (Good Luck) or better (Yank Sing) [… read more …]

The Torta Cubano @ Healdsburg Bar & Grill

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The Cubano Sandwich @ Healdsburg Bar & Grill.

There are two distinct schools of thought when it comes to the torta cubana: One school adheres to a traditional standard of ham, roasted pork, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard. The other school remains much more spirited and open-minded in its approach, with Mexican-style tortas that may include hot dogs, beef milanese, fried eggs, guacamole, and several other additional condiments. This latter style of sandwich is best embodied by the über-torta at That’s It Market in San Francisco. The That’s It sandwich remains a beast by anyone’s standard, and it has become infamous for its sheer, all-inclusive decadence.

In comparison, the traditional torta cubana, like the HBG version pictured above, seems almost subdued by nature, quaint in its conformity. At its essence, the traditional cubana lacks the comprehensive, hangover-curing potency of its Mexican cousins, but the [… read more …]

Revisiting the Lucky Pig @ Solbar, Calistoga

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The Lucky Pig @ Solbar, Calistoga. Serves two.

When I launched this blog back in 2008, I didn’t have a camera, a fact that seems positively foolhardy to me now. A food blog without photos? What’s the point of that? Surely I had given myself far too much credit as a writer in those early days. After a year of blogging, however, I finally realized that photos were essential to this medium (duh), and I invested in a decent DSLR.

Five years later, I wouldn’t dream of posting a restaurant review without photos. To that end, I’ve been spending the last few weeks at the Accidental Wino cleaning house, deleting those half-formed posts that either don’t contribute much or that have become irrelevant over the years. But I’ve also come across several early posts that were pretty well written, but which lacked the artwork to make [… read more …]

The Combo Plate @ De Afghanan Kabob House, Berkeley

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Kabob Trifecta: Chicken Kabob, Teka Beef, and Chaplee (spiced ground sirloin). Served with Pallow (brown basmati) and Challow (white basmati).

Although the busy corner of University and San Pablo is typically dominated by the smokey presence of Everett & Jones Barbecue, De Afghanan Kabob House offers the best food in the vicinity. I will admit, comparing Middle Eastern cuisine to American Southern cuisine is an apple-versus-orange proposition. But despite the inherent differences (and similarities) between barbecue and kabob, De Afghanan always earns my top honors for its exquisite simplicity. It’s almost strange that I would arrive at this conclusion. I have deep respect and appreciation for barbecue, and Afghani food is far less familiar to me. But barbecue is finicky, and if it’s not spot-on in its execution, it’s just not very good. Everett & Jones has good days and great days; De Afghanan is always [… read more …]

Sunday Brunch: The Redd Lobster Club @ Redd, Yountville

Baller brunch:

Baller Brunch: The Redd Lobster Club @ Redd, Yountville.

Here’s another meal that didn’t make the cut from my forthcoming ebook: I submit the Redd Lobster Club, available Sundays at Redd as a brunch-only item. This sandwich is a cool $27, which is what initially piqued my interest when I was researching brunch menus.

Redd’s Lobster Club is essentially a BLT with the addition of poached Maine lobster and lemon aioli. The sandwich itself features a fair amount of lobster, and the ingredients are sound, to be sure. However, I’m not wild about the use of crustless brioche, which seems almost too delicate for the task.

Whether on a burger or on a sandwich, I always feel like I have to race against brioche, trying to eat it before it becomes overly soggy. By the same token, I also have a general issue with shoestring fries, which despite [… read more …]

The New Torta Cubana @ Bistro Sabor, Downtown Napa

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The Torta Cubana @ Bistro Sabor, Napa.

I was cleaning out some virtual folders when I discovered yet another photo that I had to cut from my forthcoming ebook. Too bad, it was a nice pic, if just a little off-topic for my purposes.

If you’ve been reading this blog since early 2011, you may remember an earlier post about this torta. But one thing has changed since then: The Latin fries, pictured above, have replaced sweet potato chips, and the although the chips were fine, these fries are stellar.

I’m a French fry junkie, and in most cases, I think that seasoning fries with anything other than salt is usually a mistake. I’m definitely not a fan of the famous garlic fries at AT&T Park; to be honest, I think all that raw chopped garlic is off-putting and kind of silly.

But Bistro Sabor really hits the mark [… read more …]