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My Top Ten Bites of the Year – July 2005 to Present

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Inspired by Jonathan Kauffman’s column in the East Bay Express, last June I put together my list of the top 10 things I’d tasted for the first time in the past year (July 2004-June 2005). Since a year has passed it’s time to put together a new list. I’d love to see other people’s lists as well. My criteria was:

Had to try this food item for the first time in the past year. It had to be new to me. If it was at a restaurant I’d been to before but I’d never tried this particular item, it passed the test.

Bay Area restaurants only. Yeah, I loved that pizza at that obscure place in Boulder, too, but it’s not going to help anyone on the Bay Area boards.

My Top 10

1) Split Pea Spread. Firefly. (San Francisco)
While my birthday dinner at Firefly was good, but not amazing (GBNA), the freebie split pea spread was amazing. My boyfriend and I pretty much had to tell our server to keep it coming, because we were eatin’ the stuff clear through dessert. I didn’t even know I liked split peas. Their spreads change daily, so hopefully you’ll be able to try this one or an equally good lentil-y spread.

4288 24th St.
San Francisco, CA

2) Chicken Malai Methi Wrap. Amber Café. (Mountain View
)I wasn’t wowed by Amber India, but everything I had in my first visit to Amber Café was stellar. Chief among these was the $6.99 chicken malai methi wrap. I’ve never had anything quite like it before. Sauce + chicken + wrap = perfection.

Amber Cafe
600 W. El Camino Real (near Castro)
Mountain View, CA 94040

Amber Cafe in Mountain View: This Chaat Made the Honor Roll

3) Burger. Bonne Sante (Burlingame
)Full disclosure: I’m just not a burger fan. However, this burger turned my world upside down. It’s cooked perfectly and served with a sun-dried tomato relish that seems to bring out the flavor even more. Not only that but this 8-10 oz. burger only costs $5.45 and can EASILY feed two people, and for an extra 50 cents you can get a big portion of beautiful fries. Miracles do happen.

Bonne Sante
1184 Broadway
Burlingame, CA 94010
(p) 650.342.1529
(f) 650.342.1568
Open daily for lunch; usually closed in the evenings

Best Burgers at Bonne Sante on Broadway in Burlingame: Bountiful Bovine at a Bargain

4) Glazed Doughnut. Rolling Pin Donuts (San Bruno
)What’s so special about a glazed doughnut? Well, you obviously haven’t been to Rolling Pin between 10 and 11:15 at night when they’re hot out of the oven. They just melt in your mouth and don’t taste like pure sugar like Krispy Kreme’s. Doughnuts will never be the same.

Rolling Pin Donuts
429 W. San Bruno Ave. (at Hensley)
San Bruno, CA 94066
(650) 589-9687
Hot Glazed Doughnut Action at Rolling Pin Donuts in San Bruno http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

5) Aloo Bonda. Annapoorna (San Mateo
)Although the dosas here are excellent, my favorite thing to order here is the $3.99 aloo bonda. It’s a mixture of potatoes, onions, cashews, and spices fried in a greaseless chickpea batter. Served with the house coconut chutney, it’s sensational. I recently tried Dasaprakash’s version and it came nowhere close to the awesomeness that is Annapoorna’s Aloo Bonda.

2299 S El Camino Real
San Mateo 94403

I Claim This Aloo Bonda for Spain...er, India! – An Awesome Indian Snack at Annapoorna in San Mateo

6) Blacked Ahi Tuna. Gordon Biersch (San Francisco
)Yeah, yeah it’s a chain, but the rare ahi tuna appetizer was damn good with a nice fresh clear taste. It’s served with a drizzle of Cajun remoulade. The portion size isn’t huge for $10.50, but then again it is ahi tuna.

Gordon Biersch
2 Harrison Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
phone: 415-243-8246
other Bay Area locations

7) Specialty Roll Sampler. Unicorn (Berkeley
)I could have sworn this dish was called Horn of Plenty, but that’s something entirely different on their online menu. $9 gets you a platter of six types of spring rolls (Mango Rolls, Unicorn Rolls, Crispy Imperial Rolls, Chao Zhou Rolls, Prawn Spring Rolls, and Crispy Mango Prawns Rolls), each served with its own dipping sauce. It’s fun to try each roll with its distinctive sauce, and the flavors really do meld together well with the assigned sauces. I think our favorite was the Prawn Spring Roll (a coup since the boyfriend had never even tried shellfish until a few months before).

Unicorn Pan Asian Cuisine
2533 Telegraph Avenue (at Blake)
Berkeley, CA 94704

Review of Unicorn - a Vietnamese Restaurant in Berkeley (long

8) Ginger Salad. Straits Café (Burlingame
)We were accidentally brought this $9 dish once and the server told us to keep it, and boy what a happy mistake! This salad is a lovely mixture of tastes and textures with a perfectly light dressing. Although there is an ahi tuna option for more moolah, it doesn’t really add much to the ginger salad experience. The Banana Blossom Salad is also excellent, with a perfect balance of textures (chicken, apple, um, crispy things...).

Straits Cafe
1100 Burlingame Ave (at California)
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 373-7883

9) Crispy Steak Taco. Nick’s Crispy Tacos (San Francisco
)I know it’s been around awhile, but I only was able to try their legendary taco this year. A soft taco encases a crispy taco and the whole thing holds good quality steak and a heap of guac and salsa. I’ve been looking for a good taco for a long time. This exceeded good by so, so much. As soon as I tried it I told my friend John that it would make my top 10 list for the year.

Nick’s Crispy Tacos
1500 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94109-2516
(415) 409-8226

10) Chicken Breast Kebab. Shalizaar (San Mateo)
This one is a little tricky to order. The fine print on the menu says you can specify any meat you’d like with the zeresht polo. We always pay an extra $4.50 for our chicken breast kebab, which is super moist and tender. The boyfriend declared it the best chicken he’s ever had.

120 W. 25th Ave.
San Mateo, CA 94403
(650) 341-2600

Secrets of Ordering off the Menu at Shalizaar – A Guide to Getting the Best Persian Food on the Peninsula (and Perhaps the Bay Area

Honorable Mentions:

-Pad Kee Mao, Yellow Curry Chicken, Spring Rolls. Thai Satay (San Mateo
)-Goat Cheese Cheesecake, Oaxaca Cheese Empanada. Tamal – now closed (San Francisco)
-Cheese and Bean Pupusa. La Michoacana (San Mateo)
-Thai Noodles. Park Chow (San Francisco)
-Naan. Mezbaan (Santa Clara)

Thai Satay in San Mateo Great Curries and Egg Rolls But Don’t Get Busted by the F.B.I.!

SOMA’s Tamal: The Missing E Stands for Empty Restaurant but Amazing Food http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

La Michoacana in San Mateo - Cheap Greaseless Tasty Pupusa Lunch... Who Could Ask for More?

Naan-Sequitur at Mezbaan Indian Lunch Buffet in Santa Clara (Sorry About the Pun...Jabi Food


My July 2004 – June 2005 List:
My Top Ten Bay Area Bites of the Year - add your own! http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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  1. Best of the first-timers this year:

    1. Pasta with Dried Octopus at the Oliveto Seafood Night
    2. Smoked Swordfish at the Oliveto Tomato Night
    3. Turnip Cakes at Soi4
    4. Fava Bean Crostini at Pizza Antica
    5. Bacon, Lettuce & Trout Sandwich at Sea Salt
    6. Fried whole head-on gulf shrimp at Sea Salt
    7. Monkfish liver torchon at Sea Salt
    8. General Zhangfei's Beef at China Village
    9. Pea soup with ricotta sorbet at COI
    10. Carmel Corn Soup at Cyrus

    1. I'll play:

      1. King Crab 2 ways at Koi Palace
      2. Whole dungeness crab soup dumplings at Koi Palace
      3. Braised pork at Incanto
      4. Jerked chicken at Back-a-Yard
      5. Spring Pea Soup at Canteen
      6. Hamachi sashimi with seasoned rice at Redd
      7. Line caught stripped bass with mustard vinegarette at Chez Panisse
      8. Hankerchief pasta with meat ragu at Incanto
      9. Watermelon and heirloom tomato salad with opal basal at Bar Tartine
      10. Rabbit and chanterelle bruschetta at Oliveto

      Honerable mention: bacon at Dittmer's, stuffed quail at Fatted Calf

      10 Replies
      1. re: Porthos

        I started my list in June to follow the continuity of my list from last year that ended in June. Unfortunately, that meant that my jerked chicken/plantain/coconut rice extravaganza from Back-a-Yard missed out by about a week. I'm sure it will make next year's list.

        Thanks for playing!

        1. re: Porthos

          I'm too busy thinking about what to eat next to come up with a list, but king crab two ways at Best Panda was one of the best things I've had this year.

          Also, the canolli at Pizzeria Delfina.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I wasn't particularly interested in checking out Pizzeria Delfina, but now I'm a little excited by the idea that I could have awesome canoli within walking distance!

            My husband loves canoli. We've haven't found many good canoli here in the Bay Area - Stella will do in a pinch but usually we drive down to Romolo's when he's having a serious craving.

            Can you describe PD's canoli, please?

            1. re: larochelle

              Thin, crisp pastry. Filling is fresh Bellwether Farm ricotta slightly sweetened with chestnut honey and candied fruit.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Actually the filling varies. Monday it had pistachios and was exceptional. I've had it in the past and not liked it much, though, and the shells are thicker/harder than I prefer.

            2. re: Robert Lauriston

              What were the two ways at Best Panda? At Koi Palace, the body was steamed with garlic and a light soy sauce and the legs were lightly fried so the meat was still sweet and succulent.

              1. re: Porthos

                Legs were steamed, split in half, and dressed with oil, minced garlic and scallions, and salt. Very sweet and delicate. Body was deep-fried in chunks and served with a ginger sauce.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  How much did it cost at both Best Panda and Koi? I know it depends on the weight, but I'd appreciate a ballpark figure so I'm not shocked when I do try it. TIA.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Koi version was around $30/lb I think.

              2. Pork belly (Winterland)
                Cauliflower panna cotta (French Laundry)
                Pork & beans (French Laundry)

                1. In chronological order:

                  1) Foie Gras Terrine, Bouchon
                  2) Fried Green Beans, coco500
                  3) Fried Oxtails, Pizzaiolo
                  4) Apple Stuffed Pancake, Canteen
                  5) Fried Chicken with Chili Sauce and Fresh Garbonzos, Pizzaiolo
                  6) Vanilla Soft Serve with Olive Oil and Sea Salt, Picco Pizza
                  7) Red Wattle Pork Belly from the Wood Fire Oven, Pizzaiolo
                  8) Braised Pork Shoulder with Squash Blossoms, Incanto
                  9) Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta, Incanto
                  10) Balsamic Bing Cherry Ice Cream, Sketch
                  11) (couldn't resist) Rabbit Rillettes, Fatted Calf

                  hmmm, fried food, pork, charcut and ice cream. Am I a healthy eater, or what.

                  Of course, this list doesn't include all of the amazing meals Mrs. Mousse prepared last year (I am a lucky man!)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                    Before anyone rushes off to Pizzaiolo hoping to get those dishes, the menu changes daily. I eat there a couple of times a month and didn't get a chance to order any of those.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Don't rush off to try the bing cherry at Sketch either; it's only available once a year (it takes 12 hours to pit the cherries).

                  2. Ok~I'll list a few
                    1.The red wine risotto @Cyrus
                    2. Kumamoto Oysters with Hog Wash @ Hog Island(Marshall site)
                    3. Pana Cotta @ Cyrus

                    1. Wow. I'm going to go w/ my top ten bites for the last couple of months:

                      1) Chocolate Hazelnut Custard at Chez Panisse (upstairs). Just incredible. That's all I can say about it. I can say w/ near certainty that I will never encounter a more delicious custard than that.

                      2) Carmelized "Chicken" at Golden Lotus in Oakland. The texture was amazing! Best fake meat ever. (I was fairly unimpressed w/ everything else I tried there, though. The Vietnamese crepe was almost inedible. I should have taken note that they don't use eggs in this place and never to order anything w/ bean sprouts there.)

                      3) Chocolate on chocolate cupcake at Teacakes in Emeryville. Best cupcake ever (well, aside from my own -can't beat homemade). The frosting was chocolate and butter rich. Loved that it had some salt in it - brought the sweet home in a lovely way. I adored the slightly chewy meniscus at the top of the cake. I don't care how much I spent

                      4) cherry tomatoes from Tip Top produce (I think) at the Berkeley Tuesday market. Those things were candy! Couldn't find others as well-picked as those and I tried them all.

                      5) a peach bought the week before last at the Berkeley market. Who's the semi-grizzled guy w/ the lovely tiny grapes and the peaches? They've been ok all summer, but I finally got one that got it right. And it was his last week o' peaches, too. I've eaten peaches before, but I forget every year how spectacular a good peach can be. And what happened to the guy who has the peaches that were the size of an infant's head? He had "ugly" peaches at a cheaper price and used to be at the northeast end of the Tuesday market.

                      6) toasted almond ice cream at Sketch. Lovely. Almonds died and went to heaven for this.

                      7) Forgot the name of the flavor: chocolate, hazelnut w/ broken pieces of chocolate swirl gelato at Gelato Milano in Berkeley. I'm left speechless by the deliciousosity of this.

                      8) honey chocolate at that spendy Epicurious Garden chocolatier. Honey AND chocolate = favorite flavors EVER and together: huzzah.

                      9) The calzones I make every week. They just keep getting better.

                      10) my mom's grape jelly. Made from syrah grapes picked in Marin. The most spectacular color in the world. I hate grape jelly, but this grape jelly (I'm rolling my eyes and swooning)

                      (hm. I like sweets, yes?)

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: MollyGee

                        5) Those peaches were from Ram Das Orchards, one of the best fruit vendors in the Bay Area. If you liked the Rio Osso watch out for the incredible early season Red Haven peaches next Summer. He consistently has good stuff, in about a month he'll have perfectly ripened Hachiya persimmons (impossible to find elsewhere) which if you're in to sweets you'll really love. His citrus is also excellent by NorCal standards, reminds me of the stuff I used to get in LA. I love the white grapefruits, they have a nice, bitter edge.

                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                          Ram Das's selection is limited but their stuff is always the best.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            His grapes are great, too. Poor Ram Das guy, I really hassled him about the peaches all summer: "They *better* be good!" and he always stood by them they were always good, but the two-week-ago peach was great.

                          2. re: Morton the Mousse

                            For some reason, I thought they were babcock peaches, but I'm willing to be wrong.

                            I did buy a lot of oranges from him in the gloom of winter. I'll have to check out the grapefruit and persimmons.

                            1. re: MollyGee

                              He did have white Babcock peaches earlier this year.

                              1. re: wally

                                Ah, nope, then I am confused. I must have read the white peaches sign. I'm not a white peach kinda gal.

                          3. re: MollyGee

                            Wow! You make everything sound so good! I decided the other day that peaches are the best fruits eaten on their own. I really want to try all your chocolate/hazelnut dessert suggestions.

                            1. re: katya

                              I want to try your calzones. Are you coming to the picnic?

                              1. re: Windy

                                Phew. I think if I haul myself out there I'd go to Hardly, Strictly Bluegrass instead. Seems a little more kid-friendly. But my calzones wouldn't travel very well anyways. I'd probably do homemade caramels just so I'd be forced to perfect them.

                                1. re: MollyGee

                                  kids love the picnic; very kid-friendly! and I love homemade caramels......

                              2. re: katya

                                Peaches are divine! I'm with you.

                                I had to do some research and get the name of the Gelato Milano flavor. I believe it is "stracciatella" which means broken. I went today (um, it's all in the interest of accuracy here, people) and they had a (not quite) vanilla ice cream w/ broken chocolate this time. Lovely, but not quite the same as the chocolate/ hazelnut combo.

                                1. re: MollyGee

                                  Stracciatella is the Italian version of chocolate chip.