Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mixed feelings

Taqueria el Farolito

Dad and I were in downtown San Rafael at lunch time the other day, and decided to try out Taqueria el Farolito, the newish place that replaced Taqueria Maria. It is bright, clean and has an expansive menu.

Pineapple Agua Fresca

The Pineapple Agua Fresca was very refreshing!

Chips & Salsa

And there was a clean and inviting salsa bar with great choices to accompany your chips.

Chile Relleno Burrito

I thoroughly enjoyed the Chile Relleno Burrito. The addition of of the mild green chili added a little extra dimension to the dish, the other ingredients were top quality and it all melded into a pleasing whole.

Super Quesadilla

Here's where it got sticky. My father is 88 years old, and has difficulty eating things that have a large circumference, are easy to spill, or can't be cut easily. Given that the available utensils appeared to be rather flimsy plastic, I thought a quesadilla may be just the thing. Thin with just a layer of cheese and some ingredient inside. I saw on the overhead sign, and repeated on the printed menu, a ham and cheese quesadilla. So as I requested one, the woman taking the order said 'oh, we don't have those', and took her pen and scribbled out the menu item on the laminated menu taped to the counter, and said 'we only have these', indicating the super type. So I ordered one of those, and hoped for the best. I'm sure it tasted good, but it was very sloppy, hard to cut and my Dad got very cranky trying to eat it. When we were almost finished, someone behind the counter turned some music on at ear splitting volume, which increased my father's discomfort, even when turning his hearing aids completely off. All I wanted to do was escape. The menu item incident, Dad's reaction and the painful music left me with a less than satisfactory experience. There were positives here, I very much enjoyed the burrito and I saw some awesome looking bowls of posole that the other two customers in the restaurant at that time were enjoying.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 3/2/2009

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Classic Chinese

House of Lee

Forgetting that it was Thursday, and the San Rafael Downtown Farmer's Market was open again, a friend and I met at the House of Lee to enjoy dinner. A vendor of Nepalese things was situated in front of the restaurant. It made for a colorful scene.

Hot & Sour Soup

Catrina loves Hot and Sour Soup so that was the first thing we had. The portions at House of Lee are large. This was good, but does have pork bits if you are watching out for that kind of ingredient. It was good though.

Chicken Chow Mein

Catrina said the Chicken Chow Mein was so good, she'd be bringing her husband back for a visit here. She said it was sauced just right.

Crystal Prawns

I ordered Crystal Prawns which were in a light garlic and ginger sauce. The prawns were plump and moist and obviously fresh. I was quite happy with it over some white rice (not pictured). It was the closest I've had in Marin to the experience of Chinese restaurants in San Francisco's Chinatown. It's also well known for serving Dim Sum all day (by order, no carts). I was quite satisfied with my experience, as was my companion and we'll be back another time.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 4/20/2009

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good for you, good for the earth

Universal Cafe

Last time I was near San Francisco's Mission district, I stopped by the Universal Cafe for brunch. It was very busy, and seems to have a lot of fans. The staff was friendly even while the place was slammed. The restaurant emphasized local and organic, so I felt right at home. I also noted that the silverware was actually silver, a nice touch.

Asparagus and Ricotta Omelet

I enjoyed soft scrambled eggs with new-crop local asparagus and ricotta, toast and mixed greens. It was perfectly prepared, soft yet cooked and the salad was very fresh tasting as well. It would be remiss not to mention that the bread was uncommonly good too. The menu stated that "most of our products come from environmentally sustainable farms and ranches" which is also attractive to a lot of locals. I would definitely recommend this place if you are prepared for a bit of noise due to the popularity.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Japanese cake

Japanese trifle

Although it's a Japanese-style cake, I think of this rendition a little bit more like a trifle. Japanese use lightly sweet cake and layer it with a whipped cream type topping/filling and stud it with fresh fruit. Lightly sweet and satisfying. Cakes like these are available in single servings and available at Nijiya Market in San Francisco's Japantown.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Surprise breakfast place

Boudin SF

Dad & I were surprised to find that Boudin SF in Corte Madera, not only serves breakfast and dinner, but it also opens for breakfast prior to the opening of the mall where it is located. The woman behind the counter where orders are placed was most pleasant. She struck the perfect note of cheer for getting started in the morning.

Veggie Scramble

I tried the Vegetable Scramble, which was perfectly cooked and chock full of a rainbow of colorful vegetables. It was great, the potatoes were seasoned and had a nice flavor too. However the pièce de résistance was the bread. Multi-grain goodness and fresh baked taste. It was wonderful.

Turkey & Broccoli Scramble

Dad similarly enjoyed the Turkey and Broccoli Scramble. He was particularly happy that the portions weren't oversized as at some places. He declared it just right for him. We both thoroughly enjoyed the unexpected breakfast find.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 2/25/2008

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Welcoming neigborhood pizza place

Big Dogg Pizza

Dad and I were looking for a quick lunch the other day so that we could make it to his eye appointment on time. As we were driving down 4th street in San Rafael, we say Big Dogg Pizza and thought we'd give it a try. The men behind the counter taking orders, and the servers were all most welcoming and sincerely friendly, as though they actually appreciated our business.


We ordered our pizza, and I noticed that the pizzas are cooked on mesh pans, so I expected a crisp finish to the crust. The interior looked very much like a typical Italian neighborhood place.

Veggie Pizza

Ahh, our vegetarian pizza arrived! We had chosen our own toppings to create this one. It had mushrooms, green onions, olives, spinach and zucchini on it. It did have a nice crispness to the crust, and it was a nice medium thickness, not thin and not thick. I felt like the littlest bear in remarking it was 'just right'. Although not trendy, it was quite fresh and suited us perfectly. And the timing was good so that we were able to make it to the appointment in good time after finishing lunch. If you want a standard, yet fresh and well made pizza in a casual atmosphere, this is a great place to stop in central San Rafael.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 2
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 3/13/2009

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Japanese Chocolates

Meiji Chocolates

Aren't these flavors fun? Well Strawberry is a fairly usual flavor to pair with chocolate, however I think it's the first time I tasted chocolate that tastes like grape soda. Kind of like your chocolate fell into one. I have to try the Lemon version next. These Meiji chocolates can be found at Nijiya Market in Japantown.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another drink

Caramel Kick

This one has been hanging out in my refrigerator, just awaiting a try. Needed some energy today, so tried it out. Adina's Caramel Kick, Colombian Coffee with Milk and Antioxidant Booster says it has the antioxidant equivalent of four servings of fruit. And is Free Trade to boot. Well, I did get a boost, and got a proposal submitted for work today!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cheap eats

Mi Familia

A good friend of mine clued me in to this hidden taqueria, just labeled "Taqueria". It is actually Taqueria Mi Familia, but you need to go inside to find that out. It is located in the "Marin Square" in San Rafael. Yes, it's the place the day workers gather which can be off-putting to some, and they are just looking for an honest day's work so they don't bother me.

Mi Familia - Interior

There is Spanish music in the background, and the menu is on the board above the counter.

Super Vegetarian Burrito

I ordered the Super Vegetarian Burrito. It comes in a neat package, ready to unravel and eat.

Interior of burrito

Since the knives were flimsy plastic, I took a few bites out to reveal the interior. It was good, no surprises, no complaints. And actually I especially appreciated the fresh crisp lettuce inside that made a nice contrast to the other smooth warm ingredients. A good place for a cheap, quick bite.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 12/22/2008

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's too hot!

Blueberry Ice Tea

At 90+ Fahrenheit, it's just too hot to eat, or to blog! I picked up this cooling Blueberry Green Tea in Japantown, it's what's for dinner!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Affirmations Abound

Cafe Gratitude

I went to CodeCon to enjoy fresh new ideas, minds, and especially to listen to a couple friends' talks at the conference. One of my friends, Simon, also likes veggie fare so we convinced our other friend Daniel to enjoy lunch two days in a row at the nearby Cafe Gratitude in the SOMA area of San Francisco. It is a raw foods restaurant. We were greeted and sat more quickly on the second day than the first, and it was fine. I was assured the first day that we were eating at the 'mother ship' so to speak when the waitress found that Simon & I had each eaten at Berkeley and San Rafael Cafe Gratitude's respectively.

I Am Present

I had a "I Am Present" a mushroom bruschetta. The Sourdough buckwheat flatbread topped with creamy cashew mozzarella, marinated mushroom confit, and fresh herbs was excellent.

I Am Plenty Great

Daniel was 'Plenty Great' with live granola and fresh fruit topped with almond milk. It looked beautiful and he said it was good. He just wished it was less expensive.

Yo Soy Mucho & I Am Grace

Simon's Yo Soy Mucho looked pretty nice and he loved the drink "I Am Grace" made with young coconut milk, almond butter, dates & vanilla. The Yo Soy Mucho was made with quinoa, and shredded kale, topped with salsa fresca and sprouts. He enjoyed that as well.

I Am Bright Eyed

The next day, Daniel enjoyed "I Am Bright Eyed", which had almond milk substituted for the coconut milk in the daily porridge special. It also included nuts, fruit, vanilla and cinnamon.

Yo Soy Bonita

Simon also had a breakfast dish, the "Yo Soy Bonita" with added black beans. It also included steamed Bhutanese red rice with avocado, salsa, cilantro and pepitas with lime slices on the side. It smelled great! And Simon said it tasted good as well.

I Am Festive

I went for a small "I Am Festive" salad. It was really a raw-style taco salad consisting of shredded romaine lettuce with crumbled walnut-seed taco filling, guacamole, salsa and cashew nacho cheese, topped with flax chips. It was very refreshing, and very filling. I really enjoy the unique alternatives that Cafe Gratitude, in all its locations, offer.


I had really great time at CodeCon this year. Of course it's always nice to celebrate the successes of your friends, and watch them give their presentations. Daniel and Simon gave two presentations this year, and another presentation was based on some of their earlier work. CodeCon 2009 was held in CELLSpace, in the SOMA area of San Francisco this year from this last Friday ending yesterday evening. I had some fun twittering updates from the conference as well. Although my 'reporting' was as complete, it was fun to think I was getting my notes in 'live', before Le Monde or the other major rags wrote up a complete story.

CodeCon talk

CodeCon is very unique in that the focus is all on the actual achievement of a concept/code that works, and that you can demonstrate live on stage. Also this year there was a DIYbio track that was lots of fun -- hack your own genome! It was a great weekend all around!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quality persists

Tha Siam

Dad and I stopped by Tha Siam at Larkspur Landing the other evening for dinner. The interior is meticulously maintained, and the paintings made with metal shimmer, and look as bright and new as the last time I visited. It is truly a unique and inviting space.

Vegetarian Spring Rolls

We decided to start with the Vegetarian Spring Rolls, which were excellent and had a pleasing crunch.

Shrimp Yellow Curry

We followed it with a simple Yellow Curry with Shrimp.

Brown Rice

Which paired beautifully with Brown Rice. The rice had a nuttiness to it, and the mild yellow curry created a smooth yet complex taste sensation.

Shrimp Pad Thai

We also ordered the Shrimp Pad Thai. It hit a perfect balance between sweet and sour. The tofu was also nicely prepared by frying the blocks before cutting and stirring into the mix. This is a lovely Thai restaurant to visit when you have a chance.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 5/29/2008

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Previously reviewed:
January 3, 2008
February 21, 2007

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cute Novato Chinese spot

China House

I've driven by China House on Grant Street in Novato any number of times without seeing it. This time I noticed and that's where Dad and I enjoyed dinner after enjoying a movie (Race to Witch Mountain). Although their artificial flower beds needed some weeding (they were bent over and dusty), it was small, cute and the service was friendly.

Shrimp Chow Fun

We had Shrimp Chow Fun, which was excellent! The noodles had a slight smokey taste and the shrimp were fresh and tasty.

Scallops with Vegetables in Garlic Sauce

We also had Scallops with Vegetables in a light garlic sauce, with some white rice. The scallops were tender and flavorful, the vegetables sauteed just right, and the garlic sauce was light and not overpowering. It was a high quality dish. I would definitely revisit this neighborhood Chinese place!

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 1
Noncritical: 2
Last inspected: 12/15/2008

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Big box, good value

Cheesecake Factory

It's been awhile since I visited The Cheesecake Factory in Corte Madera. It's a big box corporate type place, however they've been in business 30 years for a reason. They provide consistently good food at a reasonable price, along with good service and nice ambiance. It's no wonder there is usually a line.

Fish & Chips

I had the 'lunch' sized Beer-Battered Fish & Chips. The Icelandic cod are hand battered on site, and it seemed like a dinner portion to me. I couldn't finish it. There were a lot fries and some tasty rainbow like cole slaw. With its extensive menu, The Cheesecake Factory is a good choice when you have a large crowd that can't agree on a single cuisine.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 4
Last inspected: 12/1/2008

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

You'll come back just for him.

Taqueria de Marin

I nearly cruised by Taqueria Mexican Grill de Marin in Kentfield the other day around lunch time, then thought better of it. I'd been here before to have lunch, pre-blogging days, while attending a class at the College of Marin nearby. I remembered it had decent food. I thought it must still have decent food since there was a line out the door at nearly 1 p.m.

Chips & Salsa

The man behind the counter taking orders had such a bright visage and cheerful attitude that no one could help but be infected. He is reason enough to go back, even if the food were less delicious than it was. I ordered the 'some' chips as he indicated there were two sizes, and also there was a variety of salsa he indicated I could choose from further down the counter. These were quite fine chips.

Super Vegetarian Burrito

And here's what my Super Vegetarian Burrito looked like upon arrival.

Inside the Super Vegetarian Burrito

The plastic knife looked a little iffy for actually cutting, so I took a few bites to open it up to show off the interior. I was happy that although not listed, there was freshly sauteed zucchini slices inside besides the usual rice, beans, lettuce, cheese and salsa. It was quite a pleasing burrito. There was also a "New Vegetarian Burrito" listed that appeared to be vegan. The prices are also very reasonable. I will definitely drop by here again.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 3
Noncritical: 6
Last inspected: 2/5/2009

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Here today, gone tomorrow

sweden house curl

Now this is strange. Sweden House, the place I just reviewed yesterday, has already closed its doors! No wonder they had no potatoes, and the service was definitively lacking. Hopefully this cheerful space with its lovely deck will be back in action in one form or another soon as it is a gem of a location. I have 'closed' locations now cluttering my sidebar reference, so expect some pruning soon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

View lunch

Sweden House Sign

Dad and I meandered to Tiburon a recent sunny day to visit Sweden House for something other than breakfast. It had been quite awhile since the last visit, and I hoped that the service had improved.

Sweden House

As we went in the door, I noticed the case usually brimming with pastries was fairly empty. I thought it may be because it was a weekday, and it is likely that the business gets more of a weekend crowd.

View from deck

After waiting awhile without greeting, I took the initiative to find someone to help us. The wait staff indicated we could choose inside or out, so we chose the lovely deck. There was a sign warning us to watch our food, otherwise a hungry bird may abscond with it.

Croque Monsieur

Dad ordered a Croque Monsieur with mixed green salad after being told that the indicated choice of potato salad was not available. The wait staff said there were no potatoes that day. Dad liked it but he thought the bread was too crunchy.

Clam Chowder

I started with the clam chowder. The menu had no warning that it contained bacon, and although it was a flavorful cup, I would not have knowingly ordered a dish with bacon in it.

Crab Cakes

I had an appetizer as my main, the crab cakes. It came with some mixed green salad, jicama straws and fresh orange bits as well. The crab cakes were so bread-filled that the taste of crab was barely distinguishable. Also the menu mentioned that it comes with remoulade sauce, and it was not there. It took a very long time to get some after I brought the discrepancy to the attention of the wait staff.

Black Forest Cake

Wanting to have something positive to say after this rather disappointing visit in terms of service and food, we decided to have dessert. Dad went for the black forest cake, which he thought was the best cake he'd had in awhile.

Princess Cake

I have always had a soft spot for their princess cake, and I got the last slice left in their case. It did not disappoint. If you want a beautiful view and a luscious pastry, and not have concern for the time, this is a lovely place to visit.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 3/8/2009

Find address/phone number/directions on Anna's Map.

Previously reviewed:
October 28, 2006