Saturday, March 31, 2007

Avatar's Punjabi Burritos

Popular Mill Valley casual - very casual.
For lunch I finally lucked into a good parking spot on the hill next to Avatar's Punjabi Burritos. With such a name, I would have to get there eventually. Upon walking in, I noticed the same photo as in the Avatar's in Sausalito, and thus found that it is related. This one is much more casual, and just as popular. You just walk up to the counter and order, then your meal is delivered, or in my case handed over the counter to you when ready.

Turkey Sweet Potato Curry

I tried one of their daily specials, ground turkey and sweet potato curry over basmati rice. It was fresh and flavorful and I'd order it again in a heartbeat.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Pier 6

Dinner on the edge.
Well, of San Rafael's 4th street. We don't usually go down this far, but we were looking for something new and undiscovered. This one beaconed... Pier 6. A clean and low key Chinese family restaurant, it had a great family dinner deal. We first thought to try their all-day dim sum, but were too tempted by the value the dinner deal would provide.

Pot stickers

The potsticker appetizer was served promptly, nearly immediately after placing our order. Meaty, tasty and crisp it was a harbinger of things to come.

Hot & Sour Soup

I don't even like hot and sour soup, but this one was so light and fresh that I enjoyed every last drop. However, I didn't have seconds, even though the serving bowl looked like it would serve us each 2-3 servings more each! Since I liked it so well, it may actually be a sign that others won't unless they have the same taste as I for this particular variety of soup.

Mu Shu Pork

The Mu Shu Pork was actually the most uninspiring dish, but it was still acceptable. And it was thoughtful that plenty of wrappers were provided.

Cashew Chicken

The Cashew Chicken was good. Very nicely sauced and fresh vegetables at their peak. You may have noticed a lot of ethnic food reviews on this blog, particularly of late. The reason is that I'm really making an effort to make it to every eating establishment (other than chains) in all of Marin, and we must have a taste for ethnic food here! And I like ethnic food so it's no sacrifice. This blog has been keeping me actually walking the walk of trying new things, not just imagining that I am and going to the same old favorites.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Strawberry Gourmet Delicatessen

Old World Hospitality.
Open from 7 a.m. on weekdays, Strawberry Gourmet Delicatessen has beautiful pastries and coffee drinks. Noticing that they did not have traditional breakfast items although open during an hour where breakfast would be normal, I asked if they had any breakfast dishes. The staff offered to make Dad and I an off-menu item, a croissant filled with egg, ham and cheese. They have all the ingredients, but since they don't have a grill, it would need to be made in the microwave.

Egg, Ham & Cheese Croissant

It was delicious, and seems that it might be a nice addition to their offerings. I'll bet they would make it for anyone who asked, unless they were jammed.


We sat in warm wooden chairs among the flags and enjoyed a quiet breakfast, and Dad mentioned how nice it was to happen upon a place that was like the 'old days', when proprietors looked for ways to deliver what you wanted, whether usual or not.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


A belle in Japantown.
Business took me over the bridge the other day, and since it was beautiful weather, I took a walk a few blocks over for lunch in Japantown. I decided to try a new place, Suzu, which specializes in noodle dishes. In Japanese Suzu means bell.

Karaage Ramen

I tried the karaage ramen for lunch, which was artfully served. In fact, it was the most styled ramen I've ever had. The noodles were gently folded over each other in a square packet and enveloped in a light soy sauce based soup. It was garnished with fresh cut green onions and soft wakame. The karaage (spicy battered, deep fried chicken nuggets) were also thoughtfully snipped in half for ease of using chopsticks to pick them up. Although you can see a little oil slick on the top of the broth, this broth was lighter and less fatty than the typical ramen broth. Some will prefer this lighter treatment, but some will feel it lacks the distinctive mouth-feel of traditional ramen broth. The jury is out with me as I might have found a way to add a little more flavor, yet I'm not enthused about needing fat to deliver it. Within a peaceful atmosphere, the Suzu staff gave wonderful service with the traditional gracious touches, and set a new standard for beautiful presentation at a noodle house.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Another one bites the dust. Actually two. I liked them both. Both Bamyan Afghan Cusine (some time ago) and Avance (more recently) have ceased operations. Now I'll have to travel to Helmand's for good Afghan cuisine, that is, when it completes its remodel! (It's website seems to have been taken over by a Baltimore restaurant, not a good sign.) I'll be removing these former Marin favs from my side bar, reluctantly. And the "Leasing" sign is back up on the old Samurai property in Sausalito.

Now this sounds like fun. Tea aficiondo that I am, this adventure looks like one worth following. A multidisciplinary team will travel through tea-drinking country in an "auto-rickshaw" drinking and chronicling their way from Calcutta to London. And here's their blog.

Bobby's F'o'c's'le Cafe

Hidden Loch in San Rafael.
Here's a very local place that's tucked away in Loch Lomond past the San Rafael Marina. A ramshackle cottage with lots of seafaring charm. The name is Bobby's F'o'c's'le Cafe, and it is in full nautical dress, although a bit faded. And that strange word in the middle is pronounced "folks", and it stands for some long nautical name where the crew sleeps on a ship. Dogs are welcome, tied up on the railing that surrounds the deck. A very casual neighborhood place.

Location, location

We found a map pointing to our location on the way to the restaurant.

Two eggs with Bacon & Hashbrowns

Dad enjoyed the Eggs with Bacon and superb Hash Browns. The restaurant was quite full, both inside and out. We soon understood why. The food was really good, and the service friendly.

Eggs Benedict

I enjoyed their Eggs Benedict special. They used one big slice of ham over split English muffins.

View of Richmond Bridge

After such a big breakfast, which neither of us could finish, we decided to take a walk along the harbor in front of the restaurant. There was a nice view of the Richmond Bridge through the docked boats. The bridge is a little hard to make out in the photo as it blends in with the haze on the horizon. It is straight back on the center right of the photo.

Path by the water

The path was well-paved and smooth, and there were benches along the way although we didn't stop at any. The water immediately near the shore was a bit brackish, but still it was quite a nice walk and change of scene.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Persian Garden. Elle and I entered Hatam's on B street in San Rafael and were immediately greeted with the sweet smell of hyacinth placed artfully throughout the store. Might it be because of the Persian New Year just celebrated last week? I had promised Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms to reciprocate after the lovely introduction of La Dolce V in Sebastopol by indroducing her to a hidden treasure in Marin. Elle also blogged about our Persian adventure. Yes, this PhD journey is impinging on my blogging~ so this post is not as prompt as Elle's. I have to say that Hatam's was a hit. The chef/owner was gracious as usual and we started our eating adventure with some appetizers.

lavosh and herbs

First the lavash with feta, mint, basil and butter came forth with our cardamom tea as customary.


Elle had a fresh cucumber, tomato and onion salad. She said it was crisp and went well with the richness of her next dish, the Fesenjoon.


I wanted to try the lamb's tongue, but it was not ready for lunch time, so I tried the koo koo, an Persian omelet with herbs.


Elle tried the Fesenjoon, which is a celebratory Persian lamb dish integrating ground walnuts and pomegranate into the sauce.


I thoroughly enjoyed the combination kebob plate, the spices were just right and the chicken was moistly succulent. The ground beef kebob was also just right.


Our host, as he sometimes does, brought out a tray of festive desserts as his treat, some palmiers and Persian marzipan which seemed to be flavored with rosewater and cardamom. After finishing this leisurely meal and catching up, we let ourselves loose on the small grocery store in front. I put my snaps of this in the slide show at the head of this post. There are so many cool and delightful things to try!


One of the interesting things were some miniature pears, which the owner informed us were specially grown from imported Persian seed and were the sweetest, most delicious pears he'd ever tasted. I bought some to take home to my father. This place has never failed to delight with exotic spices and interesting syrups and teas. I blogged about Hatam's a couple years ago when I discovered barbari bread and French feta with sour cherries. It is also my secret spice treasure trove as they prices are significantly less expensive for some of my favorites (e.g. dried hibiscus flowers) than other places. If you are interested in tea, you can buy a beautiful Persian tea set, and drink Persian tea the old-fashioned way by putting an irregularly shaped sugar cube in the front of your mouth, and sipping the hot, specially blended tea through it. If you have questions about how to use some of the things, the chef/owner is very patient with explanations. He also mentioned that he will have some Persian cookbooks in stock next week. This place is not fancy, but it is rich with charm and old world delights.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Lunch with the birds.
Another glorious day in Southern Marin county. I tried Northpoint Coffee Company for lunch. It has a very unassuming front, but opens out to a simple but lovely seaside garden.


This view was worth getting a sunburn for, and I did. And it was due in part to some rather slow service, but it was still worth the view.


They are primarily a coffee house, so unsurprisingly, a delicious soy latte was immediately forthcoming.

Pancetta & Harvati Paninni

The sandwich, a pancetta and havarti panini, was very delayed. It was very crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. The fresh tomatoes inside punched it up a bit. A few other small touches and this place would be great. Paying more attention to food and speed of service would make this place rock. It's almost there. I'll visit again, if not for anything else but the good coffee and delicious views.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Newsbits around Marin. What's happening to our vegetarian restaurants? Although we've gained Cafe Gratitude lately, I've found that we've been losing favorite vegetarian restaurants right and left... Lydia's Lovin' Foods has closed in Fairfax (I've put her other operation under "Marin Food Favorites"), and Paradise Restaurant in San Rafael has closed and looks like an all-you-can-eat Beef Pho place is coming into the same space! And yes, I'm still mourning the shuttering of Roxanne's in Larkspur although it has been a couple years. New shoots coming up. Moving to other news, it's good to hear that Eat is opening soon in Ted's old space in San Anselmo, and will be offering Sunday brunch, maybe even as early as Mother's Day! I've also noticed some movement on the old Samurai property on Bridgeway in Sausalito -- there are some experimental-looking paint stripes on the front, and the big FOR LEASE sign is down. A reader tip also lead me to contact Jennie Low's in Mill Valley, and yes it's true the restaurant is closing - in July - and they are opening a Petaluma branch as well as continuing their Novato operation.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Jennie Low's, Mill Valley

Good value Chinese. Jennie Low's is a well-known name in Marin for healthy and simple Chinese fare. The stores are clean and spare and the fare is not fancy, but good, predictable, and reasonably priced. You can get a good meal for less than $10. I stopped by for a quick lunch in their downtown Mill Valley location.

Hot and Sour Soup

Everything starts with the soup of the day, in this case, hot and sour.

Dim Sum Plate

I sampled their dim sum plate, one of the most 'expensive' choices at $7.98 for the meal. And yes, I couldn't finish it. That BBQ pork bun is humongous! Have you noticed the gorgeous blossoms out and the riot of spring flowers, dare I hope our good weather is here to stay?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Food Fight. Last evening I watched a webcast of a Teach-In on the 2007 Farm Bill. The first thing you need to know is that this bill is about food, not just farms. Michael Pollan moderated, and the panelists were interesting. Panelists and speakers were Dan Imhoff, the author of Food Fight: A Citizen's Guide to the Farm Bill;, George Naylor, Iowa corn farmer and president of the National Family Farms Coalition; Ann Cooper, Director of Nutrition Services for the Berkeley school system, and other leaders in the effort to reform federal agricultural policies. George Lakoff was also in the audience and invited to speak at the end. He gave a beautiful summary, and naturally had some intelligent things to say about languaging. A replay of the webcast will be posted here. If you are interested in food, nutrition, hunger, organics and farms, this would be very informative, in fact eye-opening unless you are quite familiar with the issues.

Champagne French Bakery & Cafe

French twist in Mill Valley.
Dad and I enjoyed a weekday breakfast at Champagne French Bakery and Cafe the other morning, early enough to have free street parking.

Breakfast Crepes

Dad tried the Breakfast Crepes, and really enjoyed them. Don't they look good?

Quiche Lorraine

I tried the Quiche Lorraine, and have no problem eating salad rather than potatoes for breakfast (the other choice was French Fries) having lived in Japan. The quiche was VERY smooth and creamy, I'm sure they must have used heavy cream in the base as authentic French do! We noticed that they have started having a champagne brunch every weekend starting in March. How festive! We'll have to try it some weekend.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Blood Orange Spread. Mmmm. Dad and I had this on some scones we had with tea. Delectable. Rather like lemon curd, but runnier and a nice blood orange berry-citrus smooth.

Earlier in the day, as in first thing in the morning, Dad was trying to put some shaving cream into his hand. He couldn't get any out. However, he decorated the walls, nearly to the ceiling with blue streaks of gel, and wispy bubbles of foam. Very post-modern. And I was getting my calisthenics jumping to reach all of it with a paper towel. I was moderately successful. It's all gone now, and the scones and tea put a nice note to an otherwise wild day!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lighthouse Cafe

Danish Hash. It was such a blue-sky day in Sausalito I decided to go to one of my favorite eateries for an ethnic treat. So I visited the Lighthouse Cafe located on Bridgeway south of the tourist district. I usually enjoy breakfasts here, so this was a little different.

Danish Hash

I quickly scanned the menu, and thought that I really didn't want an egg on top of meat, which seems to be typically Danish, so I continued down the "Danish Lunch Specials" until I found "Danish Hash" - roast beef, meatballs, potatoes, onions, etc. I soon found out that the 'etc.' was a fried egg on top! Oh well. All the other ingredients indeed were all of the prior list, with a tangy brownish sauce throughout. It was a taste sensation. Although I realize I eat meat with eggs for breakfast, it still seems a bit too decadent for lunch. The cucumber pickles were very fresh and crisp, reminded me of my mother's, and the beets were good as well. It is also served with a couple slices of that dense flat bread laced with good seeds, like sunflower and flax. The meal was quite healthy if you are not watching your fat content! The staff are quick and friendly and it has a great atmosphere. The menu also has lots of typical lunch fare to choose from as well.

La Maison de la Reine

Pho in Corte Madera.
It was a beautiful evening when Dad and I stopped at La Maison de la Reine for some Pho. This restaurant serves contemporary Vietnamese cuisine in a relaxed yet attentive atmosphere. And they make the chicken broth from scratch every day and it is amazing.

Salted Peanuts

At dinner time you are immediately served some fried and salted peanuts as an appetizer in a porcelain fish bowl.

Crispy Rolls

We had the crispy rolls appetizer, quite good, although the color could have been more golden than brown. However, they tasted delicious.

Chicken Pho

And of course, we both chose the chicken pho, which comes accompanied by fresh basil, mint, cilantro, bean sprouts and jalepeno pepper slices for garnishing to taste. There is also some hoisin and hot sauce on the plate for adjusting each bite (as I was told some time ago by a knowledgeable wait person). I put a few of the fresh things in the bowl before snapping the photo so you could get a better visual. I've been here many times, and the food and service are predictably good.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Las Guitarras Mexican Restaurant & Seafood

Dining al fresco Mexican style.
What beautiful weather and the blossoms are out! Dad and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch in Novato on the patio of Las Guitarras Mexican Restaurant & Seafood. We did notice a large list of delicious sounding seafood items on the menu, including my favorite paella.


As we waited for our order, we listened to the gentle fall of water from the fountain, and looked around at the lovely patio setting.

Cute baby

And a neighboring baby looked back!

Green Salad

Soon our salads arrived.

Combo: Enchilada & Tostada

Dad enjoyed a two piece combo, beef enchilada and chicken tostada along with the regular rice and beans. He said it was good, but TOO big for his appetite.

Cotati combo

I ventured to try the Cotati combo. Chicken tamale, beef taco, beef enchilada with freshly prepared rice and refried beans. Very good, and also too much food. But they are very helpful with the take out bags for left overs. I've been here before and it has consistently attentive servers, and a very clean bathroom too! Although not gourmet, it's definitely a place to put on the map to return, especially on those spring days/summer evenings to enjoy the outdoors.