The “Bay of Pigs” Cuban Sandwich @ Best Lil’ Porkhouse, San Rafael

The "Bay of Pigs" Cuban Sandwich @ Best Lil' Porkhouse, San Rafael.
Served with mac and cheese.

The “Bay of Pigs” Cuban Sandwich @ Best Lil’ Porkhouse, San Rafael. Served with mac and cheese.

Two people with normal appetites could probably split the “Bay of Pigs,” pictured above, and leave San Rafael’s Best Lil’ Porkhouse feeling plenty full. It’s an utterly massive sandwich, dense with pork, and although it may not boast as many ingredients as, say, the torta cubana at That’s It Market, the “Bay of Pigs” can certainly match its Mission counterpart pound for pound. BLP’s spin on this classic sandwich is its pulled pork, which accompanies the typical trio of ham, pickles, and melted Swiss. The pulled pork is abundant and delicious; the ham is sliced almost thick enough to be a steak; and the house-made pickles are substantial coins in their own right. Mustard and mayo are standard, and BLP offers four different varieties of house-made barbecue sauce. A side of [… read more …]

The Last Days of Pacific Books and Arts, Inner Richmond San Francisco

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One of the last morsels from Pacific Books and Arts…

I’ve been rediscovering San Francisco’s Richmond District lately because, well, I feel like I’ve probably devoted most of 2013 to eating through the East Bay. My epicenter for this exploration has usually been 8th and Clement, a locale that places more than a day’s worth of attractions within easy walking distance.

The five-block stretch of Clement between 5th and 10th includes such noteworthy restaurants as Good Luck Dim Sum, Clement Restaurant, Burma Superstar, Halu, Cherry Blossom Bakery, Pizza Orgasmica, and many others. There’s also a fantastic bookstore in the mix — Green Apple Books — which easily boasts the city’s best used cookbook selection.

I noticed today that another bookstore in the area, Pacific Books and Arts, was closing down. I hate to see mom-and-pop bookstores disappear, but Pacific Books was liquidating its inventory as part of 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 …]

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 …]

Chicken Pomegranate @ Cafe La Mediterranee, San Francisco Fillmore

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Chicken Pomegranate @ Cafe la Mediterranee, San Francisco Fillmore District.

I rarely ever order chicken at a restaurant unless, of course, it’s been deep fried. As a chef, I suppose that I’m far too aware of “food cost” to view poultry as anything other than the perennial high-margin protein. Whether or not this bias is justified, I tend to feel that ordering chicken is unadventurous and, in some cases, an outright sucker bet. I make an exception for fried chicken only because it’s one of my main culinary weaknesses (also, frying anything at home is a huge hassle, so I appreciate the convenience of ordering out).

Since you won’t see much (non-fried) chicken on these pages, you can take the following recommendation to heart: The Chicken Pomegranate at Cafe La Mediterranee, pictured above, is easily one of the best chicken dishes in the city. The skeptical reader might [… 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 …]

Fear The ‘Stache!

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Fear it.

 

So what happens now that football is over?

The Grilled Sourdough Crab Sandwich @ Crazy Crab’z, AT&T Park

Some of you may not know that I cut my teeth as a sports writer back in college. I worked with some great folks, a couple of whom actually carved out fine careers in the business of covering professional athletics (Alan Shipnuck and Eric Branch were old colleagues of mine — we were stacked). But sports writing wasn’t for me. Ultimately, I was put off by the odd hours and the deadline pressures of sports journalism. So I decided to become a chef, instead. Nowadays, I don’t invest the emotion into sports as I once did, meaning that the highs aren’t as high, but lows aren’t as low, either. Today, I guess that was a good thing; I’m currently reeling from San Francisco’s Super Bowl loss tonight, but I would’ve taken it much more to heart when I [… read more …]

Seven Meals I Hope to Eat Again in 2013

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Ramen’s Equal? The Bun Mam Soup @ Bun Mam Soc Trang, East Oakland.

If you’re reading this, then the world hasn’t ended. I, for one, feel relieved. There’s still so much great food to eat out there; I just wasn’t ready for our global unraveling quite yet. So, with the future confidently in mind (at least as much as it can be), I offer a handful of foods that I hope to revisit next year. Although I don’t like to repeat my meals out very often (as just one person, I’m trying to cast my culinary net as wide as possible), some foods prove so memorable, that they inevitably foster cravings. These are the same meals that eventually become my favorites, and they comprise the few times per year that I will eat “off the record,” just for the pure sake of eating, but without any official blog [… read more …]

My Top 10 Chicken & Waffles in the Bay Area

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Chicken & Waffle @ The Brown Sugar Kitchen, West Oakland.

Here’s 10 versions of chicken and waffles taken from around the California Bay Area. I’ve ranked them according to my own personal preferences, although the middle of the pack could easily be shuffled on any given day. I’m pretty adamant about the top two on this list, however, and have long championed the Brown Sugar Kitchen and the Boon Fly Cafe as my favorites in this category. The Boon Fly Cafe actually offers my favorite version of fried chicken in the Bay Area (Ad Hoc’s fried chicken included), although some of the other restaurants on this list are certainly close contenders. In the waffle category, it’s a bit of a different story; the Brown Sugar Kitchen is the hands-down winner, and every other restaurant is a distant second. Even going simply by the photos, you’ll notice [… read more …]