Friday, July 31, 2009

Still charming and delicious

Strawberry Gourmet

I grabbed a quick lunch at Strawberry Gourmet Delicatessen in Mill Valley a few days ago, enjoying the outside tables in perfect summer weather. I was happy to see that now there is an 'official' breakfast with things like omelets every day from 7 a.m. My last visit there was no breakfast menu other than pastries and they were very accommodating to invent something for me.

Falafel Wrap

I ordered a Falafel Wrap. There is a choice between a wrap style and pita style falafel. The wraps style and filling were great. I'm sure I'll be back for this! Sometimes surprises happen when you randomly sit outside. A friend, Susan, who I hadn't been in contact with for a couple of years walked by and we got that start of recognition at the same time. Susan sat down and we had quite an enjoyable chat!

Restaurant Inspection Results

Critical: 0
Noncritical: 1
Last inspected: 7/22/2008

Previously reviewed:
March 29, 2007

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Abundant Greek food


On another trip out of the immediate neighborhood, a business associate introduced me to another old and good restaurant, Saki's Spin-a-Yarn in Fremont. It is a Greek restaurant with friendly service and a great selection of items. It has a large sign by the road.


However there was no signage on the brick building that actually houses the restaurant.

Avgolemono Soup

I ordered Avgolemono Soup, which is a favorite lemon-egg soup with rice which is a Greek standard. This one was delicious, with just the right amount of lemon to be tangy, but not sour. I ordered the Eggplant Parmesean for my main dish, it consisted of cutlets of breaded eggplant covered in melted cheese and tomato sauce. It was accompanied by some freshly sauteed vegetables. Unfortunately the photo I took 'disappeared' from the camera!

Chicken Breast Sandwich

Mohinder, the local business associate who recommended this place, ordered a chicken sandwich with cottage cheese on the side. It was impressive how many choices of sides they gave aside from the standard french fries or salad. The sandwich looked moist and flavorful and Mohinder said it was very good.

Greek Appetizer Plate

And the other person there, Michael, ordered the Greek Appetizer Plate which was a very large portion at a very reasonable price, and was reportedly good as well.

Somehow this published by accident as I was adding text, so sorry for the duplicate sending. This was a friendly place with a solid Greek menu and good food! I have to note that it bills itself as a steak and seafood house, and it does have those things on the menu, however, it is evident that it has a strong Greek influence throughout the menu.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Clean and Happy

Sonoma Taco Shop

Dad and I enjoyed dinner last week at Sonoma Taco Shop near the Northgate Mall in San Rafael before seeing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I had been here before I started blogging several times at the recommendation of friends.

Chips and Salsa

It was very clean and bright, and the staff was so cheerful! The 'mild' salsa from their salsa bar was great! Cool with a fresh taste, I found myself wanting to slather it over everything.

Vegetarian Chimichanga

My Vegetarian Chimichanga was absolutely delightful! The hot crisp shell housed a variety of tasty vegetables including carrots and zucchini. The cool sour cream over the top made a nice contrast of hot/cold.

Chicken Tamales

Dad loved his chicken tamales covered in a mild green sauce. The cornmeal wrapping looked very fresh. This place was a hit!

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 1
Noncritical: 1
Last inspected: 3/6/2009

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

De-fuzed and Con-fuzed

Chinese Kitchen

A reader let me know that San Anselmo's May Lee's Asian Bistro was no longer, so I had to immediately investigate. No wonder I hadn't noticed as "May Lee's" is still the header on the sign. However, it is no longer May Lee's but simply "Chinese Kitchen" (Home Cooking). The waiter confirmed that it is not "May Lee's", and hasn't been for some time now. It is no longer billed as 'fusion' and it is rather confusing with stray ladders outside and a rather neglected interior.

Egg Flower Soup

That being said we had an interesting meal, mostly good there. First off since Dad had a craving for soup, we tried the Egg Flower Soup. This was a stand out! I've never had egg flower soup with so many fresh vegetables and GINGER inside. It was really tasty. The Japanese bowl was a bit confusing though.

Vegetable Potstickers

Next up were Vegetable Potstickers. I'll let you know straight away that the bottoms were VERY tough and hard to cut. That being said, I was delighted with the interior. Instead of the standard cabbage inside, it had some chard-like green that was quite tasty mixed with marinated bits of tofu. If only they'd cooked it a bit more gently...

Walnut Prawns

Next was the best dish of the evening, Walnut Prawns. At other Chinese restaurants, sometimes this dish is a bit too sweet and cloying. These were perfect. The prawns were lightly crisp with a very nice citrus glaze that tasted a bit of oranges. It was a lovely pairing with the crisp honey glazed walnuts. I'd go back just for this dish.

Walnut Prawns close up

Here is a close up of these beauties.

Marco Polo

Last up were the Marco Polo noodles. Ooh Whee! Perhaps Marco, being Italian, was in love with garlic as these were some of the most garlicky noodles I have ever tasted. It also made them rather 'hot'. This dish had what the menu called 'buckwheat' noodles sauteed with prawns, scallops and an assortment of fresh vegetables. And GARLIC.

Marco Polo - noodles

I have to admit a bit of puzzlement over the 'buckwheat' noodles. I asked the waiter whether these were the dark noodles made of buckwheat called 'soba' in Japan. The waiter nodded yes. And he barely seemed to speak English. I moved the noodles to be more visible for this shot. These aren't what you think of as 'buckwheat' noodles. Japanese do sometimes use 'soba' as a more generic term for noodles, as in 'yakisoba' which uses noodles like the above. But that is a Japanese term, not Chinese to my knowledge. No matter what you called them, the noodles themselves were delicious. These had a nice 'bite', reminiscent of well crafted and cooked Italian noodles. Maybe Marco Polo brought back the cooking method too!

Although the surroundings were rather run-down, the service was fast and friendly. If you know that you are going into confusion, and are willing to risk some unevenness in the food this is a fine place to go. The county has this place still listed under 'May Lee's', another confusing item.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 1
Last inspected: 2/24/2009

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Hot spot in Oxnard


It's fun to have dinner with locals who know where to go for good food and atmosphere. The night before our business meeting our business acquaintances became friends as we dined at their recommended place, Cabo Seafood Grill & Catina in Oxnard.

Tableside guacamole

They also knew to order table side guacamole right away. This dish was not only good on chips, but heavenly slathered on the freshly made, hot corn tortillas that were continually replenished.

Camarones al la Plancha

Terry enjoyed a plate of grilled and seasoned prawns, they looked great!

Pescado del Dia (Halibut)

Michael ordered the fish of the day, which happened to be halibut. He gave it a thumbs up, and it looked good from my place at the table.

Combination Plate

Stanton had a lovely combination plate, enchilada and what looked like two tacos. One of them is definitely carnitas, and the other I'm not sure, either al pastor, or carne asada. It all looked very flavorful and fresh.

Fish Tostada and Prawn Sope Combo

I also had a combination, a fish tostada and prawn sopa. I was SO impressed by the freshness and perfect seasonings of both. The sopa was quite rustic, with quaintly misshapen sides and varying thickness. And it was also delicious.


We decided to try the cheesecake for dessert, one, with four forks. It was TALL and big so it was perfect to share. It was creamy as well, with a kick of cinnamon in the crust. All in all this is a great place to go for a casual dining experience in Oxnard.

It's my turn to host Weekend Herb Blogging again!

I have the privilege of hosting Weekend Herb Blogging #194 which starts today! If you'd like to participate, Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once has the rules. I'll be posting the wrap up here on Sunday evening (2nd), or Monday (3rd).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sipping in Monterey


Last week I was away for a couple days on business, missing a post or so. On the way back from Oxnard, we stopped into Monterey. I enjoyed strolling the old wharf and stopped in a cute coffee shop Plumes, for a little rest before meeting back up again with my business companions for dinner.

Double Mocha

The place was cute, had WiFi and was pretty busy. Seemed popular with the Mac set and the staff were quite welcoming. The mocha was smooth and tasty too. I particularly liked the cup's cover design, made so that no matter where you gripped it, you wouldn't burn yourself.

I didn't take photos, but had a great dinner with business associates in nearby Carmel, at Robata Grill & Sake Bar located in "The Barnyard". We had tempura, edamame and agedashi tofu appetizers, followed by a table full (no exaggeration) of the finest nigiri sushi around. If you are in the Carmel area and have a craving for Japanese food I highly recommend this place.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Corn cakes for breakfast

Savory Corn Cake

When you have corn on the cob in the CSA box and have a father who can't eat it on the cob, more creative thoughts come to mind. I remembered my mother making savory corn cakes, and thought why not for breakfast? The one above was the first one out of the pan, so it shows the pattern of the olive oil and a bit crispier edges than the rest of the batch.

Fresh Organic Corn

I started by cutting off the kernels from the fresh corn. I thought I had all the silk pulled off the ear, but when I started cutting I had to start a new round of pulling it out from the places it had tightly squeezed itself into around the kernels.

Savory Corn Cake close up

I also chopped up some tops of green onion for it. To make it you basically mix in the chopped green onions and fresh corn into a pancake batter. My batter was a amaranth flour, whole wheat flour, unbleached flour mix of about a cup, to 2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 beaten egg, 1 cup buttermilk and a little water until it was the right consistency. Then you just cook these like pancakes and serve with butter. Dad and I both enjoyed this savory corn cake breakfast.

Reusing green onion bottoms

And I also had cut off enough green onion tops to plant in a planter. You know that the bottoms are easy to replant in a pot?

Green Onions in the pot

Never mind about the straight rows, nature doesn't do that anyway. As they regrow their tops, they will straighten up and start listing into the sun. It's surprising how long the green regrowth will last, and it's nice to have fresh green tops just cut from the 'garden'.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Chinese Restaurants in Marin

Photo credit: iStockphoto

Chinese restaurants in Marin - It's time for an update to the list. Whee! I'm really close to having eaten at EVERY Chinese restaurant in Marin, really.

Please let me know what I've missed.

Chinese restaurants I've tried

Corte Madera
P.F. Chang's

China Village
Szechuan Chef

Hunan First

Kin Wah Restaurant

DJ Chinese Cuisine

Mill Valley
Chinese Deli
Lily Kai
May Lee's
Peking Wok
Young Can Wok

China House
China Palace
China Village
Dragon Cafe
FuZhou Super Buffet
Happy Garden
Ming Yen
Jenny Low's
Shanghai Garden

San Anselmo
Hot Wok
China Villa

San Rafael
Bamboo Garden
Confucius Restaurant
House of Lee
Little Mandarin
Peking Wok
Ping's Mandarin Restaurant
Szechwan 7 Chinese Restaurant
Tsing Tao
Yet Wah
Yu Shang

Feng Nian
Panda Express
Tommy's Wok

Ming's Restaurant

Chinese restaurants yet to try

China Express
Garden Court

San Rafael
Combo King Restaurant
King of the Roll

Other Bay Area Chinese

168 Restaurant

San Francisco

Golden Gate Dim Sum
New Hong Kong
Shangri-La (Vegetarian)
Superior Palace
Ton Kiang

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two cooks didn't spoil this pie!

Apple-Peach Pie

Jonathon and I made a pie in a very casual way. He picked apples from his tree, and brought a pre-made pie crust. I had fresh peaches, pecan bits, tapioca, dark brown sugar, butter and almond extract. He peeled the apples while I peeled the peaches. I dumped in according to his measure, and he filled up the pie. Forgetting the butter, Jonathon carefully peeled back the upper crust to insert cut up cubes. Despite the hodge podge way we 'cobbled' the pie together, not only did those homey pie-baking smells permeate the house, the result was incredibly delicious! Hear hear for two cooks!

I'm headed for points south (strawberry country) for a business trip early this morning (got to get some shut-eye!). Glen will be watching the house and my Dad, and I may or may not get a post in on the road.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Breakfast where you don't expect it

Louie's Deli Cafe

I noticed a board behind the cash register advertising breakfast items the last time I visited Louie's Deli Cafe in Sausalito. This charming deli is within walking distance of my workplace, so I'm often getting my falafel fix there. Upon noticing the breakfast sign, I knew I'd have to put it on my to-do list for trying out. And one busy morning, on the way to work it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it.

Egg and Cheese Bagel

I asked for an onion and poppy seed bagel with egg and cheese. It came to me with cheese wrapped around the egg in a melted perfect breakfast bite. The staff was very friendly too, which changed my mood from a bit frazzled to a more calm attitude to start my day.

Restaurant Inspection Results

This restaurant has no inspection history as of this posting.

Previously reviewed:
March 16, 2007

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

Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy 89th Charles!

Charles 89th birthday celebration

Today is my father's 89th birthday. Linda, Yalda, Olivia, Cassidy, Dad & I had a little celebration at The Garden in Novato last evening which was just delightful. This is the finale with Dad blowing out the candle on his slice of chocolate cake. Company was good, and so was the food and service. The waiter said it was birthday night as every table she was with during the evening was celebrating a birthday.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hidden in plain view

Jackson Cafe

Across from the bus center in San Rafael, housed in the old train depot, is Whistlestop and its Jackson Cafe. My father often goes to enjoy classes and companionship at the Whistlestop center in one of those Whistlestop buses you see flying about the county.

Jackson Cafe banner

The Jackson Cafe recently expanded its hours, and the general public is welcome to enjoy the food there as well. The prices are very reasonable even for those who pay full price.

Jackson Cafe Menu

The daily special is written on the whiteboard in front of the inside entrance to the cafe. My father recalled that my mother made delicious cabbage rolls, so his mind was made up immediately.

Table Flowers

When you go through the door there are some smiling volunteers to take your order and give you a number. As I was waiting in the short line, I noticed there were fresh jaunty flowers on each dining table.

Salad Bar

Then you pick up a tray and pick up things to add to your meal, such as as salad at the salad bar,

Fruit and Dessert

or fruit and dessert. More photos of the bar can be found in my Flickr set for the Jackson Cafe.

Salad Bar Salad

When you have everything, there are more smiling volunteers who staff the cashier's table, and send you on your way. Your main dish is delivered to you at the table. I started with a deliciously fresh salad bar created salad.

Veggie Burger

Soon my veggie burger arrived with a bonus, potato chips. The bun on that burger was so fresh it made me wonder if they had a special arrangement with a bakery to bring ones over just-baked. It was all very tasty, and came plain so that you could add the condiments that you wish.

Cabbage Rolls

My Dad was mighty pleased with his cabbage rolls. He said they were spiced just right.

Bread & Cookie

Although it didn't surprise him, it did me to see that the entree of the day also came with bread and a cookie. No wonder on days he eats here he's not so hungry at dinner time! The volunteers kept a watchful eye over the crowd to see if anyone needed some help, and also dropped by the several tables just to spread general cheer.

It was my first visit for lunch, and I was really comforted to see all the caring volunteers my father spends time with a few days a week when I'm at the office. There are classes five days a week, and there are volunteer opportunities, not only in the cafe, but also leading classes. There is volunteer information at the site. If you have retired parents or neighbors, this is one resource that would be great to bring to their attention.

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

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

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Light and innovative

Jennie Low's

Jennie Low's left Mill Valley a couple years ago, however, the location in Novato remained. And it was just far enough to keep me from enjoying her light, innovative cooking since the closure. We decided to visit since we were in the neighborhood at Macy's Furniture the other day. (I was ordering a reclining chair for my father's 89th birthday, coming up on Monday.)

Vegetable Potstickers

Dad and I decided to try the Vegetable Potstickers to start. I asked a question of the waiter, I'd always wondered about, "Why do some restaurants serve potstickers with thick wrappings, while others thin and delicate ones"; "Is it a regional difference?" The waiter simply said, it's just the preference of the chef! Mystery solved.

Hong Kong Walnut Prawns

The Hong Kong Walnut Prawns sounded like a winner, and it was. The plump, fresh prawns were coated in a sweet glaze with crunchy sugar-coated walnuts on top. The half circles of orange slices gave it a festive air.

Jennie’s Cantonese Noodles

Jennie's Cantonese Noodles in original sauce were light and interesting with the curly ramen noodles as the main ingredient. The noodles made a great foil for the sweet prawns. We enjoyed the meal and the friendly service. The prices are reasonable, and there is a whole section of light and healthy choices besides the usual. It is definitely a place that once you try, you'll find yourself going back. There is a location in Petaluma as well.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 5/29/2009

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