Maine Lobster

17 11 2014

As we move steadily toward winter, I thought I would take a moment to reminisce on a trip to Maine this summer where I ate my first whole Maine lobster, among a few other things… Cue montage music!


Let’s start off with my birthday treat — a (mildly terrifying) whole lobster dinner. I was taught how to eat this beast (fortunately it wasn’t cooked in my presence, though I was prepared to witness this if necessary), and found that I am not terribly skilled at doing so. But, it was yummy!


Because there was a massive storm the night before, these lobsters weren’t able to be purchased from the local fishermen, as was the plan, and were instead acquired from everyone’s favorite Vinalhaven diner: the Harbor Gawker (who purchased them from said local fishermen).

The Harbor Gawker Restaurant, Vinalhaven, ME

The Harbor Gawker Restaurant, Vinalhaven, ME

Note that everyone who isn’t me pronounces this like the locals, which sounds something like “Haw-bah Gaw-kah”, and ensured that I had no idea what anyone was saying the first dozen times it was referenced in my presence. Fortunately, their signs are in normal English, even if their accent isn’t, so upon arrival to the restaurant, I was able to discern the name. I also enjoyed my very first lobster roll courtesy of the Harbor Gawker, and it was pretty dang good.


A very, very recent addition to this particular tiny island town is an uncharacteristically chic restaurant called Salt. We were able to get reservations, and pay SF prices for a very SF-style dinner. It was great, and made me feel right at home.

Scallops Gasperini ($13) - scallop crudo, seared scallop, citrus oil, caper aioli

Scallops Gasperini ($13) – scallop crudo, seared scallop, citrus oil, caper aioli from Salt

House Cured Salmon ($14) with avocado cream, dilled potato salad, crisps from Salt

House Cured Salmon ($14) with avocado cream, dilled potato salad, crisps from Salt

House-cut Pappardelle Pasta ($20) from Salt

House-cut Pappardelle Pasta ($20) from Salt

Pan-seared Local-caught Halibut ($25) from Salt

Pan-seared Local-caught Halibut ($25) from Salt

And finally, after returning to the mainland, but before leaving the state, I did get to enjoy a personal favorite of mine with a little twist of Maine: a lobster Benedict.

Lobster Benedict -- booya.

Lobster Benedict — booya.


Sir and Star — Olema

30 06 2014

Last weekend we took a trip up the coast for a short weekend getaway to Point Reyes where we stayed in nearby Olema and enjoyed some great food. We made a reservation for a Saturday night dinner at Sir and Star, which my bf heard about a while back on SF Gate. If Michael Bauer thinks it’s good, I usually do too.


The Saturday menu is a prix fixe for $75 per person (not including drinks). The theme of the food is “hyper-local” with nearly the entire menu procured from the surrounding area in Marin. The restaurant itself dates back to the 1800s and is decorated accordingly as a sort of upscale lodge with old, creaky hardwood floors, high ceilings with intricate crown molding, candelabra, and a myriad of taxidermy birds displayed on the walls.

As for the food, everything was amazing. There were seven courses; I will go through each with the accompanying photos.

First Course: Puffs of local toma. These little puffs of bread were soft and warm and made with delicious toma cheese. Good start.

bread puffs

Second Course: Warren’s radishes, butter and sea salt. This course threw us off. The waiter set a dish of radishes and butter at our table and didn’t give us any clue what to do with them. Was the butter for the radishes? Do we just eat them whole? It was a bit weird. But, we did indeed eat them whole (efforts to slice them in half threatened to fling radish across the room) and we put the ridiculously light and creamy butter on them. Apparently I’m the only person on the planet that did not know that radishes were a bit spicy. I have since learned this odd fact.


Third Course: Local smoked halibut and a brushstroke of stinging nettle encircled with a soup of coastal fennel and young garlic. Yes, this is as amazing as it sounds. This may have been my favorite course. No. Yes. I don’t know. The halibut was soft and tender and melted in your mouth, with a flavor so salty and succulent, a spoonful-size serving was almost tortuously tiny. The soup was rich and flavorful and went perfectly with the fish. Delicious.


Fourth Course: Long leaves of arugula draped over a pudding of sweet delta corn and, thanks to Marin Sun, crisp sweetbreads. This tiny salad was very good. And, I have a secret… I ate the sweetbreads. If you don’t already know, sweetbreads are not bread, they are the throat, pancreas, and other innards of a calf or lamb, a sub-category of offal. I have seen them before served as they were at S&S: lightly spiced, breaded, and fried. The reason I ate them is because they were from Marin Sun Farms, a farm just up the road from S&S that practices sustainable, natural, and humane farming.

As my beef with, well, beef (and other meat) is generally factory farming and inhumane animal treatment, there’s no reason that I technically object to sustainable, local, humane meat production. However, it’s a bit of a slippery slope, so I think I’ll keep to those few bites of sweetbreads for now. At least until I go back and actually visit MSF. (I will say they were delicious, however.)

arugula and sweetbreads

Fifth Course: Choice of Tenderloin chop of lamb last seen grazing on local grasses, now amidst a medley of smoked marble potatoes, roasted onions and farmers’ market favas, or A bouillabaisse of all things green and gold gathered from local gardens with a very stirring stick of focaccia and aioli. My man friend ordered the former, I ordered the latter. He said the lamb was tender and delicious and the bouillabaisse (typically made with fish stock, but this one wasn’t) was so good. So. Good. The sauce was incredible, and that little stirring stick of bread and aioli? Amazing. I was actually pretty full already, but ate every bite of the main course. Good vegetables are just the best.


lamb chop

Sixth Course: A duet of the best AKA Andante Dairy cheeses, largo and tomme dolce, with figs on a mission. I love the phrasing on the menu, it’s funny and cute. And cheese! Yeay! The good-looking cheese (in the middle) was also the best-tasting cheese, and the figs (barely visible in my photo — the sun had gone down) were sweet and yummy.

cheese plate

Seventh Course: Vicki’s strawberries extraordinaire with almond dipping cream and chocolate. Now, typically, this does not constitute a dessert for me. I need more chocolate, or at least more sugar. But these little sad-looking strawberries were the perhaps the sweetest I’ve tasted. And the dipping creams had me wishing they had provided a spoon… I used my finger until the waiter took the plate. Yeah, I’m not from Marin.


Overall, the meal was amazing. Everything was expertly executed, the flavors were rich and delicious, and we were stuffed when we left. I’d like to try their regular menu as well sometime, but, alas, it’s hard to get up to Olema during the week. I’m just glad Sir and Star is up there, waiting for us should we decide to escape the city.

Sir and Star on Urbanspoon

Hog Island Oyster Co. — Marshall, CA

23 06 2014

This weekend we took a trip up to Point Reyes for some hiking, some eating, and some general out-of-the-city time. It was awesome. The weather was mostly beautiful (save the extreme wind conditions on half our Saturday hike), and some of the food was spectacular. I’ll do another post for our experience at Sir and Star, but wanted to quickly recap the fun stop we made at Hog Island Oyster Co. on our way out.


Having been to the Hog Island in the Ferry Building in SF a number of times (omg, try the clam chowder; it’s out of this world), I was keen to see what their home base was like. Directly bordering the east side of Tomales bay on Highway 1 is a tiny town called Marshall which houses a number of oyster farms and retailers. Oysters are the “thing” on this stretch of land, as they are harvested right there in the shallow waters of Tomales Bay. And while I’ve never been an oyster person, I wanted to see what it was about.



The Marshall location of Hog Island Oysters has a few things for patrons: 1) a stand where you can order oysters to-go to take them home and shuck/cook/not cook them yourself; 2) a picnic area with barbecues where you can reserve a table and make a day out of barbecuing oysters and whatever else you bring; and, 3) a small, rustic outdoor cafe open Friday through Monday which serves raw oysters, barbecue oysters, salad, cheese, bread, wine, and beer. The last option was my target on this quick stop-over.

The picnic area.

The picnic area.


“The Boat” outdoor cafe at Hog Island in Marshall

As we had already had breakfast, this “meal” was completely superfluous, so I mostly occupied myself with taking pictures, enjoying the sunshine, and ordering the smallest amount of food possible to enable us to experience the basic offerings. Raw oysters have always scared me a bit, so we started easy with the bbq oysters. I figured if I didn’t like those, I was never going to like any version of them. We ordered four barbecue oysters (resisted adding cheese and bread) and a beer for my man friend. Fifteen minutes later, they arrived:


They smelled delicious — like barbecue spices and sauce, but I was still a bit wary. Using a tiny fork, I scraped the already loosened oyster from the shell, sopped up as much flavorful juice as I could, and ate the tiny bite of food. It was delicious. A cooked oyster is soft (maybe even a little mushy?) and salty, and the flavors they barbecued onto them made them amazing. They were SO GOOD. We had two each and were really itching for more. But between the fact that we weren’t actually terribly hungry, and that every four oysters cost $13, we refrained.

But, we definitely promised ourselves we’d come back another time with a full appetite to enjoy all that Hog Island has to offer. And maybe I’ll even try a raw one next time…

Chicago: Beatrix

10 05 2014

On the day I left, we only had time for a late breakfast/early lunch. It was to be our farewell meal to Chicago, and we had no plans. As we hemmed and hawed in the hotel room about where and what to eat, I found Beatrix on my Yelp app. It sounded good — casual American food, nice atmosphere, some sophisticated menu selections. We tried it. It was perfect.


hummus , veggies, warm naan — $7

Beatrix North River is in a large, open space with modern finishes and has friendly staff and an upscale though not pretentious atmosphere. The lunch menu is sort of American casual, but a step up in classiness. Arugula salad, ahi tuna crudo, herb-roasted chicken sandwich, post roast sandwich, and poached farm egg and truffled pasta are a handful of the selections, with only another handful on offer.

Oh — and they also specialize in fresh-squeezed juice concoctions: blackberry & lychee lemonade, carrot & apple ginger snap, and blueberry & basil smash are just a few of the interesting juices they offer.

beatrix chicago

We started with a fresh made hummus dish that was really good. I don’t especially love hummus if it’s not homemade, but this one was very flavorful and definitely made the cut.

For my main, I ordered the mushroom and quinoa burger with swiss cheese, baby kale, and sriracha aioli ($13), and Jon had the prime burger with cheddar cheese. They both came with delicious kennebec fries, and were both pretty impressive.

veggie burger

mushroom and quinoa veggie burger – $13

You may know of my search for the best veggie burger and my quest to try all that present themselves. While this one wasn’t top of the list, it was darn good, and I commend their efforts on making their own recipe. Jon, a devoted meat eater, indicated that the burger was one of the best he’d had in a long time.


prime burger – $13.50

And to finish it all off, we could not help but stop by the bar of fresh-baked goods on our way out, snagging a chocolate chip cookie the size of my head. A satisfying end to the meal, and to the trip.


bakery bar

Chicago: The Chicago Diner

8 05 2014

Next up in my series of Chicago eats is the Chicago Diner. Jon found this place for me; it’s a vegetarian restaurant all decked out like a 50′s diner serving all the good old-fashioned favorites, sans the meat. They’ve got it all: burgers, fries, sandwiches, Philly cheese steaks, meatloaf, and milkshakes, all with no meat products (and often completely vegan).

the radical reuben

the radical reuben

In addition to the regular “diner” foods, they do have other vegetarian fare such as salads and stir fries, though most of the expansive menu is comprised of basic foods our parents grew up with, only the meat portions are replaced with creative and flavorful non-meat substitutes such as seitan, tempeh, and tofu.

The place was packed as we arrived before the Cubs game — one of the three locations is just down the street from Wrigley Field. The wait wasn’t too bad, and before long we were jammed into a tiny table not six inches from the table next to us. The place is crowded and a bit chaotic, but the experience was totally fun.

chicago diner

And the food was good! I ordered the famous “Radical Reuben” ($11), which won the Vegetarian Times Magazine Reader’s Choice Award for “Best in the Midwest”, and is made with corned “beef” seitan, grilled onions, peppers, sauerkraut, vegan Thousand Island, and cheese (you can choose vegan cheese or regular) on marbled rye. Whew! It was intense.


the radical reuben

reuben sandwich

inside the radical reuben

Jon ordered the Portabello Truffle Melt ($12) and a vegan chocolate peanut butter milkshake, both of which he was very happy with and looked amazing. Even the vegan shake was surprisingly delicious — sometimes that’s a hard thing to translate to a dairy-free option.


portabello truffle melt


vegan chocolate peanut butter milkshake


I loved this restaurant and would recommend it for vegetarians and non-veggies alike. Everything was very well executed and the meat-free menu has definitely been perfected in the 30 years since the restaurant opened. Plus, it’s not like it’s health food… you can get your fix of greasy spoon without soiling your conscience. Gotta love that, right?

Chicago: Table 52

6 05 2014

This week I will be posting about my recent trip to Chicago where I enjoyed some really amazing food. The trip was only four days long, but my friend Jon and I did a bit of research beforehand to ensure we hit up some of Chicago’s best, though we were not opting to pay top dollar this time. And though the current title holder of Best Restaurant in America (also ranked 7th in the world), Alinea, was within our grasp physically, we weren’t feeling quite up to the challenge of pursuing a reservation ticket this time around.

veggie ravioli

Table 52: pea-filled ravioli with mushrooms, carrots, and other veggies


But since we like to indulge in at least one fancy meal when we travel together, I found Table 52 to satiate us. Table 52 is located north of the river in Chicago in an area that we came to know for upscale shopping, dining, and nightlife. Located in a converted old mansion, the dining room is small and cozy, dimly lit, and decorated in Southern style to go with the food. The menu is what I would describe as fancy comfort food: based on down-home, Southern recipes, but made with top notch ingredients and finely honed expertise.

Literally every bite we had was incredible. From the complimentary cheese and chive biscuits to the twelve layer chocolate cake, everything was amazing. Here are a few photos and descriptions of our meal. I would highly recommend Table 52 for any Chicago visitor (or native!).


complimentary biscuits

fried green tomatoes

fried green tomatoes – $12

The appetizers were a good start — the biscuit was amazing, and the fried green tomatoes were crispy and flavorful.


southern fried catfish with tasso ham, maitake mushrooms, white corn grits, crispy okra – $26

veggie ravioli

pea-filled ravioli with mushrooms, carrots, and other veggies

three-cheese mac - $12

three-cheese mac – $12

The mains were just really good. The pea ravioli was an expertly executed vegetarian dish. The garnishes on the catfish were perfection. The mac and cheese? Some of the best I’ve ever had. And I’m not an m+c amateur.

Smith family twelve-layer chocolate cake   with chocolate cremeux, cocoa nib, valrhona pearl crisps - $12

Smith family twelve-layer chocolate cake with chocolate cremeux, cocoa nib, valrhona pearl crisps – $12

Dessert! It took a while to arrive (oversight by the waiter), but it was worth the wait. Crunchy and smooth at the same time, the flavor was rich but not overwhelming. I was extremely full by this point, but I could have eaten this cake forever.


Palm Springs

5 01 2014

Happy New Year!

You might think, oh, she hasn’t blogged in a few weeks, she is probably just being typically neglectful of her beloved blog. Wrong! I was on vacation, nerds.

good morning

good morning

Since I often speak in math: I wanted to go somewhere warm for the holiday break + I booked to late = Hawaii and Mexico were outrageously expensive + Florida is kinda far away + I’ve never been to Palm Springs. If you carry the one, it works out. Trust me, I’m an engineer.

So, Palm Springs it was! Four days at a resort outside of town and three days at an cutesy boutique in town just off the strip. Pools and hot tubs. Desert hikes. Food. And lots and lots of sleeping. It was awesome. I read a book. A whole one. And wore bathing suits — plural (not at the same time). I wore a dress on New Year’s Eve (covered entirely by a coat, of course). Vacation: achieved.

Summaries of food in both places: La Quinta Resort and Spa (outside Palm Springs) and Palm Springs:

La Quinta Resort and Spa (a Waldorf Astoria resort in the town of La Quinta)

One thing I was worried about going to a proper “resort” (this was my first time) was the food. The resort wasn’t all-inclusive, so we could have gone “off-campus” for food if necessary. But it would have put a damper on our sit-around-and-do-absolutely-nothing vacation, so we were hoping the seven on-site restaurants were suitable. When we arrived, we found that only three of the restaurants were open for dinner. We subsequently tried all three, returning to one of them twice.

The food was great. Like, unexpectedly above average. Like, “I’m a snooty foodie from San Francisco and I approve of this food” good. I was impressed and relieved. And I ate this food and was happy. Quick summary:

Twenty 6: Casual American food in an upscale pub-ish atmosphere. I enjoyed: house made veggie burger, flat breads, crab cake, and (my fav) the pickled purple cauliflower. I wanted to try more. It was all surprisingly good considering they have hundreds of people trapped on site who will eat this food no matter what.

(terrible picture of) adorable pickled purple cauliflower!

(terrible picture of) adorable pickled purple cauliflower!

(terrible picture of) crab cake with huge chunks of crab

(terrible picture of) crab cake with huge chunks of crab

Adobe Grill: Mexican food, just upstairs from Twenty 6. We had some tamales one night that were pretty good, but the appetizer patio dining is what got me hooked. We had the best nachos ever. Fine, maybe not the absolute best, but they were really, really good. And nachos are so easy to mess up that I was immensely impressed. Also, the grande margarita was GRANDE indeed.

(mediocre picture of) really really good nachos

(mediocre picture of) really really good nachos

margaritas may be larger than they appear

margaritas may be larger than they appear

Morgan’s in the Desert: Fancy American food with a James Beard Award-winning chef. Lots of seafood, salads, and great appetizers. I didn’t take any photos because I was feeling classy*, but the lightly fried artichoke hearts and accompanying dip were amazing. The Caesar salad was perfect, and both the salmon and black cod were tender and delicious. I wanted to try every single one of the sides (but restrained). Their take on a s’mores dessert was fab.

*Actually, I was more feeling self-conscious since I was in a dress. Same thing, right?

Palm Springs

We stayed at Korakia Pensione, an adorable Mediterranean/Moroccan boutique hotel in the heart of Palm Springs. The rooms are luxurious, the atmosphere is mellow and relaxing, the two pools are literally over 90 degrees in temperature (AMAZING), and the breakfast is included. And whole dang place is so picturesque it kinda hurts. So. Relaxing.

panoramic view of pool and surrounds from outside our room

panoramic view of pool and surrounds from outside our room

panoramic view of our room

panoramic view of our room

breakfast the second day (french toast the first day featured above)

breakfast the second day (french toast the first day featured above)

For NYE, we booked late but snagged a spot at Zin American Bistro. It was a fixed menu, three courses, and I would say the food was mediocre. My leek soup was yummy, but my friend’s trio of tartars was not good. The mains (fish and steaks) were good, but nothing super special. Dessert was meh. I’m not sure if it was just the pressure of putting on a holiday dinner, or if it’s always like that, and I’m sure I’ll never know. Either way the company was good.

(terrible picture of) the company

(poorly lit picture of) the company

Our last night in town we went to Copley’s. This place was good. And we finally found a place where the size of the dishes was inversely proportional to the cost. We had ordered too much time and again in La Quinta because we thought the dishes would be smaller for the price. Fortunately, we weren’t starving, the bites of food were delicious, and we were happy. I would definitely recommend this place for a nice dinner (or lunch) in PS.

Oh yeah… I will mention our first lunch in Palm Springs. We arrived at about 1pm starving. We tried to go to one place we found on Yelp, but it was a 30 minute wait. We went across the street to a seemingly popular place called Trio. After being seated (or, rather, before), we realized we were one of the only straight couples in the entire restaurant. We were woefully out of place, but with nothing else to do but order from our flamboyant waiter (who was very sweet), we ate. I didn’t love my grilled fish sandwich, but my companion’s sandwich was yummy and the rest of the food at other tables looked quite good. And, if you’re going to Palm Springs, there’s no escaping the prominent gay culture. So, why not get immersed for one lunch?


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