Sunday, October 26, 2008

Singles week: reviews

So the hubby has been back for a while, but I haven't posted my reviews yet since I've been going through the 3000 pictures he and his brother took in Washington DC. Anyone know how I can make Aperture serve out the photos, so I can do picture editing while he plays WOW?

Anyway here we go:

Sunday: Crab Festival, Berkeley - this was kind of disappointing since it wasn't that big of a food festival with 3 different food sellers. The crab cakes were the best things to eat, but not sure the long lines were worth it. We watched the chefs slice and dice, but decided not to stick out to see the winner. Our friends picked up their kitchen knives (apparently Sur La Table has a month where they sharpen knives for free in September). We found lots of oversized rustic items at the Napa Style store which we deemed to be Spanish Ranch style but larger than life. Like the futon sized padded lounge chair which was super comfortable but the size of a double futon.

Afterwards headed to Sea Salt for their Happy Hour which happens every day and where you can get $1 oysters. Love 'em! Having not gotten our shellfish fiend on at the festival, the five of us, essentially had oysters, drinks, and dessert for dinner. Yeah, so worth it!

Monday: After going to the survivalist boutique store, G and I went to Weird Fish in the Mission, a pescatarian restaurant (veggie and fish only). I should bring my brother here. Food was relatively decent in comparison to strictly veggie places I've gone. The chowder was not famously delicious, and the appetizer was salty but I went with the Mystery Fish which was wonderful. That day's mystery fish was mahi mahi. The sweet potato side was really good, fluffy and sweet. The white sangria was tasty. Desserts were a mixed bag as well, the faux chocolate chimichangas were blech, but my peach/berry cobbler was delicious. Overall, it's an interesting menu, and a nice place to bring your vegetarian friends.

Wednesday: Since I was in San Jose, I called up K for recs on San Jose restaurants. He and his wife often rave about this one Vietnamese restaurant so I figured I would try it while I was down there. Unfortunately, googlemaps got me lost somewhere on Lawrence Expressway and I had to call K at work to get me out of here.

[Aside: As much as San Jose is in the Bay Area, whenever I drive there, I always feel LA-ish. The street layouts, the repeating architecture of freeway, tract homes, and mini-malls that get me flipped around. While getting lost, I remembered why I neither live nor work in San Jose. Did I mention I had to leave the house by 6am to beat the traffic and get there by 7:30a? Yeah, I know the way to San Jose. I just wish I knew how to get around it!]

Anyway, I finally found the place and realized immediately the "better" route to it. The restaurant was called Bun Bo Hue, so of course, I had to order Bun Bo Hue which is a rice noodle dish, with tendon, beef, pork patties, and pork blood cubes. It was yummy! OK grumpy googlemaps is forgiven! I do not know how they get that kind of flavor in their beef tendon. It's right off 101 right at Lawrence Expressway, right at the mall there. Though K & A tell me, their cousin has informed them of an even better Vietnamese restaurant. Oh really? I told them they were driving next time.

Thursday: I made it down to the Trappist in Oakland where a friend of mine met up with me. You want the nice cozy high ceiling cramped-ness of Europe, then come down here. A chalk board hanging above lists the beers of the day including their alcohol percentage ranging from 4%-8% or so. My friend's Belgian beer, served in the appropriate Belgian beer glass, had a nice rich caramel flavor to it. My Witches' Wit was more light and fruity like a Hef. I'm thinking I will go with the fuller body Belgians next time.

On the back of the beers of the day board they listed a very special beer that would probably knock people out much faster. It was tempting, but since I didn't have dinner, I passed, rather than passing out. If you don't like the specials board, then flip through the thick menu of 15 beers on tap and 150 beers in the bottle. My friend had to go to his Squash match (squash is one of those games I have absolutely no understanding of), and I decided to head home for leftovers, though I pondered going to Tamarindo next door and ordering their Hot Chocolate again. yummy! Trappist was pretty packed, though we managed to get a table. Not alot of elbow room so feel free to get cozy with your neighbor but try not to spill any of the fine fine beer.

Friday: I headed into the City after work for one of my last acupuncture treatments for my arm (whoo-hoo!). Best part about the acupuncturist is that she's across the street from one of the best French bakeries in the Bay, Tartine. I love their croissants, nice and crisp and buttery just like you stepped from the boulangerie! After the treatment, I had trouble coordinating with the guy who was recording my radio literary review, so I decided to try out Palencia/Filipino Cuisine in the Castro. We don't go into the City much anymore, and considering the trouble, for us to go back there it needs to be good. I mean, there are a ton of very good restaurants in the east bay, so why bother with the bridge and parking if you don't have to? I manage to find parking a few blocks away which was pretty damn good for a Friday in the Castro.

I call up hubby from the restaurant to figure out what to get. I went with some serious signature dishes which I felt would capture what kind of Filipino Cuisine we were talking about: kilawin ng hipon, karekare with tripe, halo halo for dessert, and calamansi juice. The Calamansi juice was fresh and didn't even have the tinge of pith in it at all. Delightful! The Chef offered up a taster of pureed jackfruit with pomegranate seeds, mint, and vanilla salt, which was an excellent blend of flavors and made me look forward to the rest. The kilawin ng hipon had a coconut sauce on it with tomatoes, which I thought made it a bit too sweet. I enjoyed more of the bites that had a bit of salt which balanced it out more. Again, it was a fine dish, that could use a touch of improvement. Karekare was a nice smooth sauce as if it was strained, but it blended well with the fried bagoong. Lots of veggies: banana heart, bok choy, sitaw. It was regular meet cubes, but the tripe was impeccable! The tripe could be pulled apart with a fork. I could see how he used the firmer meet and the consistency of the tripe to give the mouth the feeling of oxtail without the excessive fattiness. I asked for a wine pairing, and received a glass of 2006 Pinot Noir from 1001 in Mendocino. The thick berry pinot went well with the karekare. Each made the other taste fuller, an excellent pairing! Halo-halo had the works: cocogel, pinipig pandan, ube jam, ube ice cream, red beans, makapuno. The toppings were served on tasting spoons that allowed the guest to mix to your taste. I of course, dumped them all in. The ube jam was really really good, but it made the ube ice cream disappointing. It would have been better to contrast it with another flavor of ice cream I thought. Still, one of the better halo-halos served and it was huge! Enough for two! Palencia is not your grandma's cooking so don't even think about comparing the two. I did, however, appreciate the direction he was taking Filipino restaurant food and really bringing a heightened awareness of the food's flavors.

Would I go again? Yes, just to see what he's coming up with and tasting the different choices he's making in the food. A long way to satisfy a Filipino food craving, but a great place for the Filipino foodie mind to ponder the possibilities. And along the spectrum of Filipino food in the bay area, Palencia is certainly filling in the sparse high end spectrum, which I gratefully appreciate.

Whew! Maybe I'll add links to the restaurants later. I rested from driving on the weekend and spent it cleaning up our place with the help from my mother. All for now...

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