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 …]

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 San Francisco’s North Beach: Tony’s Napoletana & Giordano Brothers

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The Classic Margherita @ Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, North Beach.

In my line of work, I probably eat about five pizzas per week on average. It’s one of the perks and pitfalls of working at an Italian restaurant: On most days, pizza provides a quick and easy “family meal” for the kitchen and restaurant staff. The downside to eating pizza for family meal is that I don’t think I’ve eaten any other restaurant’s pizza for over a year now, the lone exception being a deep dish pie at Gino’s East in Chicago (my late-night dinner at Gino’s East capped a one-day road trip where I ate breakfast at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans and lunch at Rendezvous Ribs in Memphis). Even then, I devoured that Geno’s pie way back in April, so it’s been a while.

Today, I finally decided to allow other pizzas into my [… 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 …]

Ritsu Tonkotsu Ramen @ Izakaya Sozai, San Francisco Sunset District

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Ritsu Tonkotsu Ramen @ Izakaya Sozai, Sunset District, San Francisco. Adds-ons include deep-fried pork belly and garlic chips.

Of all the restaurants in the Bay Area, my biggest nemeses are those that are (a) located in San Francisco, (b) open for dinner only, and (c) busy. Each of these circumstances can make my life difficult: San Francisco, with its one-way streets and no left turns, can be a real hassle to navigate; dinner hours, with their inherent lack of sunlight, are typically terrible for food photography; and busy restaurants, with their limited seating options, are just challenging in general. Izakaya Sozai actually falls into all three of these categories, which is why I had postponed this entry until recently.

As with many great meals, snapping a decent shot of Izakaya Sozai’s Ritsu Tonkotsu Ramen required both planning and patience. At the very least, I knew that I needed [… 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 Cassoulet @ Bistro Jeanty, Yountville

One of my all-time Napa favorites: The Cassoulet @ Bistro Jeanty.

I’m in the closing stages of my ebook, and I’ve had to narrow the focus and edit out some material. Here’s some fotzelschnitten to savor.

• • •

Having already divulged my preference for Boonfly Café fried chicken over Ad Hoc fried chicken, I’m going to come across as a Thomas Keller detractor when I champion Bistro Jeanty over Bouchon Bistro.

Let me set the record straight: from a pure culinary standpoint, Thomas Keller is clearly the greatest chef in American history, bar none. But as far as Bouchon Bistro is concerned, it’s good, but for me, Bistro Jeanty is more of the quintessential Napa Valley restaurant.

While Thomas Keller has been a fixture in the Napa Valley since 1994 (when he purchased the French Laundry from Sally Schmitt), chef Philippe  Jeanty has been in [… read more …]

Three-Course Lunch @ Redd, Yountville

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First, the Main: The New York Steak Sandwich, cooked Medium Rare, with Onion Rings @ Redd, Yountville.

Now that I no longer spend my days in a Michelin-star kitchen, the idea of fine dining has become more appealing to me. Perhaps familiarity does breed contempt — not that I hate fine dining. It’s just, sometimes you have to come up for air, right? Of course, even if more fine dining is my mission, I’m still going to opt for a steak sandwich if I see one, especially one that features my favorite cut of beef, the New York strip (the rib-eye is a close second, but I still favor the intense flavor of the New York, even at the expense of marbling). And also, I have a track record for ordering humble sandwiches from Michelin-star restaurants. The steak sandwich at Redd is dressed with arugula, caramelized onions, and [… read more …]