this and that and "Thanks!" to Chowhound / long
- Ann Leneave
I would like to mention some noteworthy dinners we have enjoyed lately and, in addition, say thanks to Chowhound for being a great resource.
I know I've mentioned Vegi Foods, on Vine in Berkeley, but dinner there recently moves me to reiterate. This has to be the freshest, most delicious, purely pristine Chinese vegetarian food I have ever experienced. One of the dishes we ordered this time was a stir fried asparagus dish with black bean sauce that should have been photographed for the cover of a food magazine. They serve brown rice instead of white, unless you request white, and it is a chewy and substancial accompaniment to the light dishes, all of which are very good.
A recent stay in Squaw Valley turned up some surprisingly good food. We enjoyed a great dinner at the restaurant at the Plump Jack Inn. The appetizer of scallops was perfectly executed. The scallops must have been "dry" for they were crisp on the exterior and moist inside with a delicate floral flavor that can't be achieved with scallops that have absorbed liquid. They were served on a bed of creamy, smooth, well seasoned mashed potatoes. The salad was perfectly dressed with a delicate olive oil and mellow vinegar to allow focus on the tiny greens. The roast pork loin was very nice, as was the roast chicken.
We had carried in a bottle of '90 Spotteswoode Cabernet so we declined to order either the salmon or halibut entrees, but after tasting the scallops we would have considered fish for the entree too. We ordered a bottle of Billecart-Salmon to start, sooooo good and it was very fairly priced on the wine list. There were only three of us polishing off these wines, so we shared them with the waitress and the wine steward, who in return didn't charge a corkage fee. I can't remember the intricacies of the preparations of the dishes, but we were impressed with the flavors. I do remember the "tabacco" onions on the pork and the wonderful potato "risotto" under my chicken. We will definitely go back next time we are at Tahoe.
Fine's post about Le Bistro in Incline popped into my mind when we sat down there for dinner the next night. Our son had led us there, but if I could have remembered the name, I would have suggested it myself. It truly was delicious and very classic French bistro food. We ordered a '98 Reverdy Sancerre to go with the first courses of artichoke stuffed with langostine, tuna in gelee, and escargot. It was a terrific bottle, even if more fruity than usual. We all ordered the duck magret to match our Burgundy and it was perfect.
On our way home we continued the marathon by stopping by Corti Bros. in Sacremento for some '97 Chianti for our "cellar", and then Cafe Lucy in Napa for another of her amazing dinners. This place is settling into our "favorite" catagory for fabulous food in a warm and friendly atmosphere with good service. And, to think, we discovered it through Melanie's post on this board. We are getting to know Lucy, too, another nice thing that has happened because of Chowhound. It's hard to remember how we ever bumbled through without it.
Best of all links posted as far as I am concerned was the one by Melanie for E. Dehillerin.com. (It might have been on the general board.) My order for copper arrived the other day and I am now the proud owner of two beautiful HEAVY pots to add to my favorite cooking utensils.
One clarification to my post about Le Bistro at Incline, North Shore, NV, and Ann's terrific post: When Jean-Pierre Doignon took over Le Bistro, it was a spur of the moment opportunity and he left the previous restaurant name in place; however, in our dozen or so dinners there, we have generally found the food an amalgam of nouvelle and California cuisines, in other words, a bit more "haute" than "bistro" in choice of ingredients and execution. I think of bistro food offering either quick-cooked items like steak or long-simmered peasant dishes rather than the freshly prepared and market-fresh items from foie gras ravioli with limestone and white truffle (last year with a 12.75 added price) to noisette of lamb with braised endive and fresh mint.
Looking back at last year's menu, I'm reminded that it included the following: "Most of our vegetables, fruits and salads are organically grown," a feature that matters a lot to us and makes the relatively low prices even more surprising.
It's true, Fine, that calling the food at Le Bistro "classic" was misleading. The multiple courses of small servings wouldn't be typical of a true bistro, or the ingredients. Maybe I'd better get myself over to the food writing class at the CIA. Chowhounds will not let you be too sloppy.. and that's a good thing. I guess I was thinking that the food tasted so French by comparison to the Plump Jack restaurant the night before.
The food and decor were reminiscent of a small family restaurant in the French countryside, down to Madame tripping around in high heels. There was a Tahoe touch in the casino-style waitress with a shorter than short skirt and big hair.
The tuna was predictably well-done in a French style. The escargot, moist and tender, was served with a buttery olive oil instead of butter. Even so, if I had dined blindfolded I would not have mistaken the food for California style cuisine.
I might have been happier if dishes like braised rabbit had been on the menu, but then again that magret, crispy on the outside and rare on the inside was delicious...hmmm. And we did take a Burgundy, not a Beaujolais.
re: Melanie Wong
If she has the soft-shell crabs, they are a must. She dips them in buttermilk, then cornmeal, so they are wonderfully crunchy, but succulent. Our last dinner included a salad/appetizer of greens with a poached egg (and bacon I think, like the French salad),and it was delicious--the most perfectly poached egg I've ever had.
I've never been in for lunch, only dinners, so I'm not sure what will be on the lunch menu. We have a hard time getting past the seafood because it's always incredibly fresh. I haven't had soft-shells so fresh since moving away from the East Coast. We may be going tomorrow night so I'll pay attention to the whole menu.
You must have a great job to be in so many places near good food, and have the time to enjoy it.
re: Ann Leneave
Thanks for the update, Ann. I had delusions that I might be able to have lunch there today, but our meetings ran over and we ended up grabbing a bite a little closer to the office.
Funny you mention that, the first question that I'm asked at each of our chowhound gatherings is what I do for a living that I put on so many miles and eat and drink such wonderful things. But you know, everywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area is near good food. We just need to keep each other informed on this board about where to find it.
(not looking forward to Friday night traffic)
re: Ann Leneave
Ann comments on how fresh the seafood at Lucy's is and I marvel at how much things have changed in recent years.
Up until a few years ago, no one in her right mind would have ordered seafood in Napa--at best it would have been frozen!
Just a reminder to younger folks or newcomers of their good fortune to be here now!
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