Monday, September 20, 2021

Harris Ranch

I have lost count of how many times I have driven from LA to SF or SF to LA on Interstate 5, but this was the first time I have ever stopped at Harris Ranch. I only heard about it the week before I left because I was talking to a pescatarian friend about my drive saying that I needed to stop en route to give my body a break from the drive. She said when she used to eat meat, she always stopped at Harris Ranch, and so I made it my midway pitstop both on my way to SF and on my way back to LA, so these photos and food are from both trips (no I did not eat all these things in one trip!).

It seems that everyone I know knows about this place and has eaten here except me! I am so glad I refueled here! Everything from the fake animal heads to the gas fireplace is like a Disneyland Western stage set!

Their portions are huge, which I learned as I ordered the "small caesar" salad.
Their asparagus appetizer could be a meal in and of itself, but I didn't enjoy the breading so I ate these as my vegetable.
Their calamari appetizer could have been a meal in and of itself as well...
The main attraction though was their steak, and their signature steak is the whiskey salt and brown sugar rubbed Prime Ribeye for $54 with all the sides you see. This was a half of the 14 oz steak! Most tables had doggie bags! The meat was very tasty and the rub was a nice balance of salt and sugar. Rare was more of a medium rare, but a good sear made up for that!
Getting back on the road meant an espresso was in order and I'm happy to report that theirs had a very nice crema and flavor.







Monday, September 13, 2021

San Francisco Sights and Flavors

Coming back as a tourist to San Francisco after more than two decades gave meaning to the adage that no matter how things change they remain the same...the Bay Bridge and the Transamerica building are still iconic monuments although crossing the Bay Bridge now is completely automated with either a fastrak pass/tag or they send a bill to the registered owner...I didn't want to face a $25 late fee penalty so I paid it online through their website with the details of my crossing.

I had plenty of new restaurants to try, and first on my list was a recommendation from a friend who had just been to Sotto Mare and told me it was the best crab cioppino she had ever eaten in her life :) I was very happy that they checked Covid vaccination proof and ID before allowing anyone to eat inside the restaurant. The ones unable to show proof either walked away or ate outside (in SF that means a chilly table even with heat lamps).

I started off with a house salad for $6.50 that looked very simple, but the classic dressing and ripe tomatoes made this a fresh way to start off your feast.
Yes, the crab cioppino lived up to its reputation as the best, for $49.95, it was a cauldron of crab, shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari, and scallops on a bed of penne that could easily be 2 meals if you ate the penne (I did not).
The next day after my appointment at Pier 17, I walked to the Ferry Building Marketplace and got my Blue Bottle oat milk cappucino before exploring all the shops. I ended up at Boulette's Larder at the end of the building facing the Bay Bridge for their fantastic views and food, like their Fattoush salad and one of the best pizzas I've eaten in years!

I made reservations at Monsieur Benjamin in Hayes Valley after doing some research on Yelp, and it was as wonderful! I also told several people at Hotel Nikko where I was going for dinner and they all said it was great, so it seems to be a universal consensus that this was a great French restaurant in San Francisco! 

Seeing steak tartare on the menu was enough to sell me, but the home made potato chips and the tarragon dressed butter lettuce salad were all as simply French as the main courses. 
I chose the flounder stuffed with spinach and it could not have been more delicate and perfectly cooked. If anyone you know says they don't like fish, have them taste this flounder dish and see if they have changed their mind!
A great ending to a short trip, was an after dinner drink at the Anzu bar in the Hotel Nikko, with the professional and personable bartender John, before taking the elevator upstairs to sleep :)









 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Hotel Nikko San Francisco

It's been nearly 2 years since I've traveled, and probably nearly 20 years since I have been to San Francisco. Going back to a town where I used to live, but as a tourist, is fun! I had a similar experience when I went to NYC as a tourist, everything had a familiar but new twist (like Times Square, the once seedy bad part of town, but now thriving as a tourist mecca). The Tenderloin is still seedy but with more of a depressed homeless population now than a drug addled criminal element.

Hotel Nikko (and all the restaurants I went to during the entire visit) asked for Covid-19 Vaccination proof and ID to use any of their spaces, including their pool, spa, work out facility, bar, and restaurant. It was comforting to see the adherence to rules which gave the health and safety of all guests the highest priority. Every elevator, door, and escalator had touchless hand sanitizer dispensers that worked, and the room had been sanitized completely between guests. 

The front desk clerk, Michael, saw that I had made the reservation directly with the hotel and offered an upgrade to a King Room with a view :) 


The indoor pool was inviting and heated, as were the sauna and steam rooms, but I did not indulge this trip after the exhausting 6 hour drive, all that I was looking forward to was a shower, food, and sleep :)
Hotel Nikko is very dog friendly, with a dog run, and a dog ambassador named Buster. I followed Popeye on his Instagram trip here, and would have loved to have met a dog celebrity on my trip, but alas no luck this time....
Nice large spacious bathroom with easy step in shower and plenty of towels was a pleasant touch. They offer daily maid service but if you want it, you must call them to request it. Since I was only staying 2 nights it was easy to forgo the service with all the extra towels.

Very comfy robe and slippers tempted me to take them home ;)
Nice clock radio with 2 USB ports and an outlet on the other side of the bed with USB ports, made it easy to recharge electronics. The tablet allows you to use the premium wifi (included with room amenity fee) more easily, and the old fashioned paper and bound editions of menus, services, etc are all accessible on the tablet. The booklet gift from Buster is a collection of quotes that apply to humans and all living creatures:)
Night time room view was spectacular!
Since I had an early morning meeting, I got in room breakfast service, which was pricey but nice. My only disappointment was with the cappuccino which was easily remedied with a visit to a nearby Blue Bottle :)









Monday, August 16, 2021

Uzumaki

I love finding new places near my new home, especially when they are as surprisingly superb as Uzumaki :) From their Covid 19 protocols, knowledgeable and professional servers, to their quality fresh fish, everything is on point and should be a paradigm for other restaurants. If you are driving to the restaurant, park for free in the garage on Tilden, otherwise you risk being towed in the private lots across from and next to the restaurant.

They don't take reservations, so sign in on the sheet as soon as you arrive and they will seat you as soon as they have cleaned and prepared your table. Every diner gets an envelope with clean set ups and the envelope itself is to be used to hold you mask as you dine! The outdoor patio tables also have individual trash cans for your use, so after you open your chopsticks and use your wet towel, you may dispose of them in your personal trash receptacle!

They offer set menus if you can't decide what to order ranging from $28 to $100 for a 19 piece premium omakase box, but I wanted to explore their menu a la carte. Their $13.50 salmon skin salad could be a meal in and of itself! Perfectly grilled skin pieces with lots of salmon on them, bonito flakes, house pickled carrots, steamed asparagus, julienned cucumber, micro greens and spring salad all brought together with a miso dressing. If you are getting this as an appetizer, three or 4 people could easily share it!
The waitress explained that they had a seasonal albacore available for an extra dollar, so two orders were $18 and as they were delivered, it was also explained that no sauce was needed as the chef had already prepared them to be eaten as is. They were so good that if you are offered the chance to order this, please do, because another day they only had one piece left, and even though the regular albacore was good, the seasonal was spectacular.
I love halibut and two orders for $16 was a bargain for this quality of fish and preparation.
Seeing the popcorn shrimp at another table was enough to order one for $12 and the lightly battered appetizer portion was so generous that it was also easily enough to share for 3 or 4 people.
One day I went, they had run out of Spanish Mackerel, so the waitress recommended the Shima Aji for $8 per order of 2 pcs) which was very good, but I had to go back for the Spanish Mackerel on another day.
Arriving right when they open was the way I finally got the Spanish Mackerel ($8 per 2 pcs) that alone was worth the trip to Uzumaki! The fresh fish and gorgeous preparation made this my favorite of all the sushi I ate (but Spanish Mackerel is also usually my favorite sushi choice)!
The cut spicy yellowtail roll ($10.50)  and the California roll ($9) were both well executed. I asked for the yellowtail without mayo which they did for me.

Unagi ($8 for 2 pcs) was broiled expertly with a delicious sauce that made for a sweet ending for me.
For those who wish to finish their meals with a more traditional dessert, they also offer an excellent green tea ice cream :)



Monday, August 9, 2021

Holbox

Sharing food with friends has been on hold for the past 18 months, so when friends flew in to town and everyone was vaccinated, masked, and willing to eat outdoors, we chose to celebrate at Holbox (the one in Los Angeles, not the island in Mexico)!

Going on a Tuesday at 3pm meant plenty of parking and no wait, so we ordered a little of everything on the menu and shared it all. The fish and octopus tacos were sublime, with each of the the $6.50 grilled Hawaiian kanpchi done perfectly as were the braised and fried octopus tacos for $6 each.  

The 3 sauces that came with our meal, ranging from not spicy to extremely spicy, so taste them all before pouring them on your food! The roasted habanero was my favorite (medium hot) at the top of the photo.
The Coctel Mixto is basically a 20 ounce cocktail of shrimp, octopus, scallops in their homemade cocktail sauce for $18, that left plenty of extra sauce for your chips to scoop up.
One of my friends loves uni so he got the kanpchi and uni tostada for $20 and devoured it himself since the rest of us were not uni fans :)
We all shared the ceviche del dia de pescado for $12 and loved every bite of the fresh fish and octopus.
I chose the grilled sea bass for the group for $25 the fish was grilled perfectly. We were so full we didn't even touch the rice and beans! We all ate as if we had to make up for the years we had not seen each other, but we left full and happy as we celebrated the joys of living with great food and better company.









Monday, July 26, 2021

Two Guns Kitchen

After a move to an interim place (AirBnB), then finally moving into a new apartment, I have not had any energy nor desire to cook, so it's been a good reason to revisit some old favorites for meals as I rest and restore my cooking desire.

Two Guns in El Segundo is known for their coffee, but I also enjoy their breakfasts and lunches. I stayed at an Air BnB in El Segundo so it was a 5 minute drive to downtown and places I loved when I lived there. 

My go to is the salmon toast with avocado, cream cheese, capers, tomatoes, dil, and micro greens.

The spicy fried chicken salad was not only refreshing, but actually spicy!

The spicy chicken sandwich uses the same spice level, but on a bun with coleslaw, the intensity of the spice is lessened, so if you want a milder taste, go for the sandwich.


Their pastries are wonderful if you want a bite of heaven to begin your day, get a pain au chocolat with flakey buttery layers and great dark chocolate.

A sweet breakfast treat is their French toast with fruit which I could not finish...but I enjoyed trying!
For a truly hearty breakfast/brunch get their full breakfast plate of maple sausage, eggs any way you wish, potatoes, grilled tomato, toasted bread, and the great gravy. You will want to take a nap, but hopefully you will enjoy a delicious dream:)

Monday, July 12, 2021

Fishing with Dynamite Patio

The creation of outdoor patios for restaurants where they had none or a very limited outdoor seating has been one of the few silver lining of the past year and a half of pandemic living. The cramped indoor space at Fishing with Dynamite is now augmented by a sizable outdoor patio in the street, complete with heat lamps and plants. It's such a popular spot for outdoor eating that I highly recommend reservations if you wish to eat al fresco.

Even though they had every table booked outdoors, the kind host said if we could eat in 30-40 minutes we could be seated and served, so of course we ordered as soon as we sat down, asked for the check as soon as we were served, and left in plenty of time for them to clear and clean before the reservation :)

Ordering cold dishes like their marvelous 1/2 lb shrimp cocktail for $21 helped speed up the meal, but we slowly savored every bite :)

Their hamachi sashimi with ponzu, crushed avocado and serrano chili for $20 is one of my menu favorites, so I order it nearly every time. It is consistently fresh, well balanced with citrus and soy, and a marvelous warm day appetizer.
I had never tried their seared Maine diver scallops for $36 before, but the celery root purée, savoy spinach, pine nuts, fennel and nasturtium pistou were an addictive combination and completed the meal on a rich comforting blissful note. 
Next time I will plan ahead with a reservation so that wine and oysters can be slowly sipped at sunset with the ocean wafting a cool breeze throughout the patio...