Category Archives: Restaurants

Take A Taste of the Impossible and Beyond Meat Burgers

Sampling a slider-size of the Impossible Burger at Jardiniere before its public launch.

Sampling a slider-size of the Impossible Burger at Jardiniere before its public launch.

 

What is a burger without meat?

Diehard carnivores might answer, “A travesty.”

But even they might change their minds after a bite of the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Meat Burger. Both are entirely plant-based patties that closely mimic beef burgers. And both are now available in the Bay Area for vegetarians and the curious to enjoy.

Impossible Burger is the creation of Redwood City’s Impossible Foods. It is fashioned from wheat, coconut oil, potatoes, and heme, a compound in plants and meat, which gives meat its characteristic aroma and taste.

Compared to raising cows for burgers, the Impossible Burger uses 95 percent less land, 74 percent less water, and creates 87 percent less greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also free of hormones, antibiotics and artificial ingredients. And you don’t have to worry about slaughterhouse cross-contamination.

El Segundo’s Beyond Meat Burger is similarly environmentally-friendly, and is fashioned from pea protein, yeast extract, coconut oil, beet extract and annatto extract.

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Sidle Up To The Bar At Bistro Don Giovanni

Top Shelf Butterscotch Pudding -- good to the last spoonful -- at Bistro Don Giovanni.

Top Shelf Butterscotch Pudding — good to the last spoonful — at Bistro Don Giovanni.

 

You know the rare restaurant that always makes you feel warm, welcome and satisfied time and time again — no matter if you’re dining solo, too?

That’s Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa to me. I’ve eaten there many times, and never ever had a bad meal.

When I find myself on assignment traveling solo to the Napa Valley, I will often plant myself on a bar stool at the end of the day at this long-time Italian favorite established in 1993 by Proprietor Giovanni Scala and his late-wife Chef Donna Scala.

The glowing strings of light at night in the courtyard can’t help but beckon, as does the on-point Italian food.

The entrance.

Th entrance.

The dining room.

The dining room.

I took a seat at the end of the bar last week (paying my full tab) to enjoy a glass of 2015 Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc while I contemplated the menu.

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Can’t Get Enough of Lamb Meatloaf with Mushroom Pan Gravy

The meatloaf of your dreams.

The meatloaf of your dreams.

 

After making and eating plenty of meatloaf over the years, I can unequivocally declare that this is definitely one of the very best.

“Lamb Meatloaf with Mushroom Pan Gravy” is from the new cookbook, “Poole’s: Recipes and Stories From A Modern Diner” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, by Chef Ashley Christensen.

Her Poole’s Diner in Raleigh, NC is all about comfort food — done with craft and skill. This is the kind of food you never tire of because it’s delicious and just makes you feel better — inside and out.

PoolesBook

Of course, being a James Beard Award-winning chef, Christensen’s dishes often redefine diner food, stretching the boundaries, but still in keeping with its inherent warm soulfulness. There’s everything from “Cornbread Crab Cakes” to “Grits with Roasted Pumpkin, Aged Maple Syrup and Crispy Peptias” to “Jacked Up Devil’s Food Trifle.”

What makes her meatloaf so spectacular?

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Prepare to Wait in Line: Din Tai Fung Ends Reservations

Read it and weep?

Read it and weep?

 

The sign above says it all. Dumpling-maker extraordinaire Din Tai Fung, which had to institute the first reservations system ever when its first Northern California location opened in May 2016 at Santa Clara’s Westfield Valley Fair mall, will no longer be accepting reservations starting today.

With waits of up to five hours when it first opened its doors last year, what can one expect now? The hostess said at dinner time on a weeknight, it shouldn’t be more than an hour and a half wait. On weekends, expect it to be longer. Yikes! But during the off-hours, you might be able to just walk right in.

I just squeaked in last week with one of the last reservations available. Of course, I did have to eat “dinner” at 4:15 p.m. — the latest reservation of the day that was open. But my friend and I (we paid our tab) didn’t mind at all. We were just glad to get in easily.

No line. But then, it was at 4 p.m. on a Wednesday.

No line. But then, it was at 4 p.m. on a Wednesday.

The bar area.

The bar area.

This was my first time to the Santa Clara location, though, I’ve dined at the original Southern California ones in Arcadia many times before. There were two, located just one block from one another. What made that ideal was that if there was a line at one, you could just walk to the other and usually get in without a hitch. But no more. The second Arcadia location has moved to the Westfield Santa Anita. That seems to be the new trend with the Taiwanese chain — opening its new locations in upscale malls.

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A Swank Evening at The Saratoga

A taste of old and new at The Saratoga in San Francisco.

A taste of old and new at The Saratoga in San Francisco.

 

Even though it opened in November, The Saratoga feels like it’s been a part of San Francisco for years — which I think is one of the greatest compliments you can bestow upon a bar-restaurant.

The newest establishment by the Bacchus Management Group is housed in a 1907 building in the Tendernob neighborhood that was once a hotel. The original brick in the interior was exposed in the renovation, as were its striking steel beam trusses. The effect is a modish industrial look that’s also timeless — old-school San Francisco spit and polished. I had a chance to check it out on a recent packed Saturday night, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

A wide staircase sits almost in the center of the two-story establishment, making for rather tight quarters between tables. A dramatic steel and crystal chandelier of cascading sparkling hoops dangles from the ceiling into the stairwell, doubling as a sculptural art piece. Tables are set around the stairwell, both on the main floor and the one below. A massive bar with shelves of liquor lighted from below is the focal point of the first floor. There’s also a second bar downstairs. If you need to use the restroom, you’ll have to go downstairs and thread your way gingerly past all the people standing at the bar or sitting at the nearby tables.

The incredible chandelier.

The incredible chandelier.

A touch of neon in the dining room.

A touch of neon in the dining room.

The Saratoga has that glam yet illicit feel the moment you step in the doors, owing to the quite dim lighting that’s broken up only by that showstopping chandelier and the small candle on each table. Mine was definitely not the only table pulling out a cell phone to use as a flashlight to read the menu. The darkness provides a certain edgy moodiness, but it also makes it hard to really see the food on your plate in detail. And that’s kind of a shame because the food is so playful and inviting here.

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