Sylantro

27 02 2011
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited: Once  ♦   Will I Return?:  Surely
___________

SylantroSan Leandro in the house, what, what! I don’t know why I type things like that sometimes. This is my first San Leandro post, I guess I’m excited. And Sylantro is definitely something to get excited about — do you like Vietnamese food? It’s not my favorite, but it hits the spot sometimes. And fortunately, Sylantro did not disappoint.

I would not have guessed that such a nice place would be hidden away in a dilapidated strip mall on Manor Boulevard in San Leandro. Even pictures of the place on Yelp were hard pressed to convince me that it was ok. But, Boyfriend’s mom was in the mood for Vietnamese, so that’s where we went.

Sylantro interior

Sylantro as you walk in.

Sylantro Restaurant

Sylantro Restaurant view from the very back table.

This place was great. Aside from aforementioned crappy strip mall surroundings, this restaurant was spacious, nicely decorated and well-lit, and had really nice service. The people who worked there were kind and helpful and answered all of our ridiculous white people questions about pronunciations and food preparation.They really went above and beyond when our server actually demonstrated how to prepare our spring rolls using the materials given (dry rice paper, a rice-paper-shaped bowl of hot water to dip the rice paper in, filler for the spring rolls, and sauce; it was far more complex that I would have imagined).

Spring Roll Fixings

Spring roll fixings including dry rice paper and water bowl in the back.

Chicken

Close-up of the chicken in the spring roll dish.

The menu was extremely extensive and is listed on their website, a fact which automatically warms my heart and puts a smile on my face. Ah, a website. For a small local business. Who would have thought?

Sylantro offers a variety of spring rolls for appetizers (they are quite fun to put together at the table), a handful of crazy types of salads, noodle soups (including the Vietnamese specialty, Pho — pronounced “fuh” like in the word fun), rice bowls, rice plates, and a whole lot of a la carte dinner dishes like at a Chinese place, but not Chinese. Dishes ranged from around $7-$10 each and there is a large section on the menu for vegetarian meals.

Pho

Pho from Sylantro

The rest of the food we ordered was great and, again, the service really sticks out in my mind. Apparently they’re doing well; this is the second location they’ve opened, said our server who may also have been the owner. Definitely highly recommended for local Vietnamese food in the East Bay; a great find!

Vietnamese food

Chicken dish from Sylantro.

Tofu noodles

Tofu Noodle dish from Sylantro.

Sylantro on Urbanspoon





Olive Oil Tasting in Napa

21 02 2011

When you think Napa, you probably think wine tasting and grape vines, right? I supposed that’s why most people visit the region, but it’s not why K and I trotted up to the tip top of the Bay last weekend. We went olive oil tasting.

Our pre-trip research found three spots where olive oil tasting is available near Napa. Figone’s in Kenwood, B.R. Cohn Winery & Olive Oil Company in Glen Ellen, and The Olive Press in Sonoma.

B.R. Cohn Winery & Olive Oil Company

B.R. Cohn is mainly a winery that dabbles in Olive Oil making. They source most of their olives from growers around the state and then actually hire out Figone’s facilities to process the oil. Their tasting area was modest, though their estate was beautiful. The wine tasting facility was booming and seems to be their main draw.

Olive Oil Tasting

The tasting area at B.R. Cohn's Estate.

The Olive Press

The Olive Press is located at the Jacuzzi Family Winery and is a bit more serious about their oil as they process all their olives themselves and create their own varieties of oil and balsamic vinegars (these two seem to go hand in hand — all three places had olive oil and balsamic vinegar). This place is also mainly a winery, with the main building (a beautiful stone-clad castle-like structure) split between the wine area and the olive oil area (the shops are not related and you can’t buy stuff from one shop in the other, though that seems strange).

The olive oil tasting is located in their gift shop and was extremely crowded when we were there. The oils come in many flavors and there were also a wide variety of olives from which the oils were made. One unique item this place had was smoked olive oil — it really tasted like barbecued oil. It was quite good.

The Olive Press Tasting Room

The Olive Press tasting room slash gift shop.

Figone’s

Ah, Figone’s. I’ve saved the best for last. If you want to go olive oil tasting and you don’t feel like bumbling about to different places, this is where you should go. Heck, if you’re just in the area for the wine or even just passing through, you should still go to Figone’s. This place is the real deal and I am so excited to find my new olive oil and balsamic vinegar source.

Figone's

Figone's Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar tasting area. And Frank in the background, hi Frank!

Figone’s is exclusively an olive oil and balsamic vinegar facility. Their tasting room is modest in size, but is dedicated solely to oil and vinegar (none of this pesky wine). It’s very boutique-ish and will be opening up a viewing area later this year where guests can see the oil being made right in the shop. Here are some of the reasons why Figone’s is the best:

  • Figone’s farms all its own olives on 260 acres throughout California.
  • Figone’s processes all its own olives in its facility just behind the tasting room in Kenwood.
  • Figone’s processing is all organic and is certified as such and the olives themselves are all grown organically (though they are not certified).
  • Figone’s has been around for 25 years perfecting their product and creating new and inventive infused oils.
  • Figone’s has over a dozen flavors of olive oil and about half as many balsamics to choose from.
  • Figone’s products are only sold at the tasting room in Kenwood or through mail order (or via the mail order club). No grocery stores, no farmer’s markets; they don’t even advertise. Their clientele can’t help but keep coming back for more.
  • If you visit the Figone’s tasting room, you may in fact be greeted by Frank Figone himself, as we were, who can tell you pretty much anything you’d like to know about every single one of his products. Awesome. Thanks Frank.

    Figone's Tasting Room

    Figone's Tasting Room -- don't judge a book by its cover, go there!

Of course, none of this would really make a darn bit of difference if their oil and vinegar didn’t knock my socks when I tried it. But holy moo, THAT is what olive oil and balsamic vinegar are supposed to taste like. To save hours of typing about each flavor, I will cut to my favorites:

Oil: Tuscan Herb is a mix of infused herbs in pure olive oil that tastes like a five-star restaurant in your mouth. This is not cooking oil (none of Figone’s oils are meant for high heat), but rather a garnish or flavor enhancer. Drizzled over some grilled fish or veggies, this oil would make any meal’s cook into an instant chef.

Vinegar: Plain old 20 year traditional balsamic was my favorite. It is sweet and viscous and I could literally drink it like water. It puts grocery store balsamic to shame. It’s $28 per bottle and I’m never going back to the other stuff.

This is not even to mention the strawberry vinegar, orange olive oil, cinnamon-pear balsamic or truffle infused oil (their most expensive item — $40 for 100mL — it was also SOOO good) and the dozen of other world class products that Frank makes. Seriously, there’s not much else I can say besides try it or buy it. Yeay for Figone’s!!





B&C Map Update!

14 02 2011

Hello dear readers (ok fine, hi mom), I just wanted to call attention to the fact that The Boyfriend has graciously updated my B&C map link and I now have over 60 restaurants shown in a wholly cartographic* format! Yeay for websites that can augment the content and capacity of my website with little or no technical knowledge on my part!

No, really though, do enjoy the map if you are so inclined. (Printscreen below — I’m not a total computer dud, I do know how to use Paint.)

Map!

*In other words, I’m showing a bunch of markers on a map. But big words are so much more fun than small ones!!





Crepes de Art

11 02 2011
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited: A few  ♦   Will I Return?:  Most likely, sir
___________

Crepes de ArtCrepes de Art is a creperie — yes, a creperie — in Hayward. You read correctly, the forces of the world have combined in statistically improbable ways and delivered a slice of French chic right smack in the middle of downtown Hayward. And I accept this benevolent gift with promises to keep crepe-ing it up so long as they stay in business.

So, crepes. Have you met me before? It’s going to be hard for me to muster a complaint about anything crepe-related. Fortunately, I have no complaints about the crepes from Crepes de Art to date, they are quite good. The price is right (two crepes for around $11) and they are full of delicious foodstuffs as ordered.

Crepes de Art

Interior of Crepes de Art.

Crepe

Egg, mushroom, cheese crepe from Crepes de Art.

There is a variety of choices — both sweet and savory — including all the usual suspects: strawberries, bananas, apples, lemon, Nutella* and chocolate for the sweeties, and ham, eggs, cheese, mushrooms, turkey and veggies for the savories. And much more, actually, they get a bit creative with the combos (see menu). Plus you can always do a mix and match situation for all the crepe-control-freaks out there (you know who you are).

Crepe

Strawberry, banana, nutella crepe from Crepes de Art.

Crepe

Oh yeah, pose for the camera, you delicious crepe, you.

The presentation is nice (and well captured in my photos if I do say so, thank you for the nice lighting CdA), and the crepes are well crafted and just plain tasty.

Complaints: The times we’ve been here there were a few hiccups that bugged me a bit.

  • On our first visit they were closed. A sign on the door indicated that their water had been shut off. What was that about?
  • On our second visit the woman who worked there kept having to retrieve something from the refrigerator at the back of the space, which is right next to the tables where we were eating. I felt a bit like I was in her house.
  • The last two times we’ve been there the espresso machine has been broken. Our visits were two weeks apart, can we get a repair guy out here, please?
  • While the service is generally very good and the employees are kind, a couple of our visits found only one staff member present. This meant delays for ordering, busing tables and cooking food as one person had to “man” all the stations at once.

All in all, I do keep going back because I just plain love crepes and theirs are really good. I wish they would get it together a bit on the restaurant peripherals because it makes me wonder if they’re in for the long haul or not, but overall a totally great find in Hayward.

*If you don’t know what Nutella is: A) we should probably not be friends, and B) you should try some as soon as humanly possible (then we can be friends again).








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