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Ad Hoc beef Northern California reviews Thomas Keller

Ad Hoc – 6/29/08

Our first visit to Ad Hoc was a year ago today, and though it might seem strange to commemorate the occasion, I had a major culinary epiphany that evening. If you read my review of that first Ad Hoc dinner, I think you can actually see the light bulbs going off in my head as dinner progressed. The entire experience made me reevaluate how I thought about food and cooking, and in many ways, it’s why this blog even exists.

That first visit was followed by 13 more in the last 12 months, including our Ad Hoc “anniversary” dinner last night. (We did celebrate our second wedding anniversary there last September with some delicious Texas-style Barbecue.) The ever-changing daily menu helped spawn the Ad Hoc Menu Archive, one of this site’s most popular pages. You can see all of my Ad Hoc-related posts, including my attempts at replicating their awesome fried chicken, on this page.

Last night’s meal seemed to take this year-long Ad Hoc journey full circle. It featured beef short ribs, one of my favorite things to eat in the whole world (esp. when sous vide is involved), and it was the focal point of our first visit to Ad Hoc. Of course, Ad Hoc always finds ways to change things up so they don’t serve you the exact same meal twice.

Here’s last night’s menu:


Endive and Arugula Salad
prosciutto di san daniele, pine nuts, shaved fennel,
piquillo peppers, sherry vinaigrette

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Strawberry Mountain Beef Short Ribs
young broccolini, sweet carrots, buttered farro

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Fourgerus
porcini and morel mushroom ragout

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Peach and White Nectarine Cobbler
k & j orchards yellow peaches,
vanilla ice cream

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bakeries chicken fried chicken Northern California reviews sandwiches

Bakesale Betty

Our first trip to Bakesale Betty was kind of an accident. We had about 45 minutes to kill before our reservation at Pizzaiolo, and Bakesale Betty was still open, so we decided to walk over and see what was happening over there. We’d heard about their famous fried chicken sandwiches, but with dinner looming, we decided to have dessert first. Nothing wrong with that, right?

We split a really big strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. It was nice and light, and we didn’t want to fill up before dinner. I had to get a chocolate cupcake and it was pretty good. The cake was a little dry, but the chocolate buttercream was great, extremely light and perfect (buttercream is usually a big turnoff for me). I washed it down with a lemon ice that was nice and tart, just the way I like them.


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We also got some pastries for breakfast the next day (pear ginger scone for my wife, lemon raisin scone for me), and two handheld chicken pot pies. The scones were excellent, but I want to talk about the chicken pot pies. You just pop them in the oven for 45 minutes and you’re rewarded with an amazing handheld meal. I never knew a chicken pot pie could be this good…it was one of the best things I’ve eaten in weeks.

We had Betty’s famous fried chicken sandwich on our next visit and when paired with a lemon ice and some cookies, it’s a perfect summer lunch. The bread is fresh and the perfect boneless fried chicken breast is topped with a really nice vinegary cole slaw. It’s a very messy sandwich and you could argue that there’s a little too much slaw, but overall, it’s an excellent combination. The egg salad sandwiches are pretty good, too, but if given a choice, the fried chicken sandwich wins every time.

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beef Best of Inuyaki chocolate dessert Northern California reviews

Alexander’s Steakhouse

Special occasions call for special restaurants, and when a friend and former coworker decided he was going to pack it up and move back home to the ATL, it was the perfect time for some old friends to get together, reminisce about the good old days and send him off in style. We quickly came to a consensus on Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino, a modern American steakhouse with Japanese influences that does some pretty amazing things with meat.

The first thing you notice when you walk into the restaurant is the meat locker on the left that contains huge slabs of dry-aged beef. It’s always nice to know when a restaurant is aging its own beef, and as a meat lover, it’s really a sight to behold.


Beautiful Aged Meat

We were presented with a really nice ahi tartare amuse bouche to kick off the meal. A few of us decided to try the Hamachi Shot off the small plates menu, one of Alexander’s most popular appetizers (it’s also the cheapest at $4). It’s a shot glass filled with hamachi, red chili, frizzled ginger, avocado, and truffled ponzu, and you simply stir it up a bit and then shoot it. It’s quite a rush, and I loved the slight kick you get from the chili.

Salads quickly followed, including my Baby Lettuce salad with yuzu vinaigrette, red radish, ten kasu, and the optional bacon lardons (of course!). The Iceberg Lettuce salad featured living watercress, point reyes blue cheese, and apples and was plated beautifully. Before our main courses arrived, we cleansed our palates with an intermezzo—a refreshing shot of mango juice and chopped strawberries.


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Between the eight of us, only three different entrees were ordered—five orders of the 10 oz. filet mignon, two orders of the Melange a Trois (including mine) and one Misoyaki Sea Bass. The filets were excellent and topped with shiitakes and candied bacon. The sea bass was served with sansho crispy squid, tempura green beans, curried trout roe, beurre noir, and their crunchiness was a nice contrast to the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth fish.

The guest of honor and I both ordered the Melange for its variety—Prime Rib in Natural Jus, Braised Shortrib with Brie en Cocette, and Bavette Steak with Green Olives and Bleu Cheese. I also added a piece of Seared Foie Gras to “round out” the meal. :-)

Categories
Ad Hoc chicken fried chicken Northern California reviews Thomas Keller waffles

Ad Hoc – Mother’s Day Brunch

We weren’t with our mothers this year, but I’m sure they would have loved this brunch… :-)

MOTHER’S DAY BRUNCH

Smoked Trout Salad
Romaine spears, celery hearts, toasted walnuts,
fuji apples, creamy pepper dressing

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Fried Chicken-n-Waffles
wilted spinach, slow cooked hen egg,
hobb’s bacon, vermont maple syrup

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Strawberries and Cream
strawberries, mascarpone cream, shortbread cookie.

 

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Italian Neapolitan Northern California pizza reviews

Pizzaiolo

Chef Charlie Halliwell is one of the many Chez Panisse alumns opening restaurants around the Bay Area, and his Pizzaiolo in Oakland’s Temescal District has quickly became a local favorite. After heaping tons of praise on L.A.’s Pizzeria Mozza and Larkspur’s Pizzeria Picco for their amazing wood-fired pizzas, I thought I should pay Pizzaiolo a visit since it’s much closer to home. Pizzaiolo has received its share of rave reviews, including a nod from San Francisco Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer and mentions in Food and Wine and Condé Nast Traveler.

Pizzaiolo is committed to supporting locally grown, seasonal, and organic meat and produce, so the menu changes daily based on what’s available. We decided to split an appetizer, a pasta dish and two pizzas for our party of three.

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Anthony Bourdain beef French Northern California recipes

Beef Bourguignon

After the success I had with the Momofuku-inspired Braised Beef Short Ribs a couple weeks ago, I thought I’d give braising another try, this time with Beef Bourguignon. There are so many ways to prepare this classic dish, but I was looking for something quick and dirty. This is where Anthony Bourdain comes into the picture. Bourdain’s Boeuf Bourguignon recipe has been hailed for being both delicious and incredibly easy, so I went looking for it online since I don’t own the Les Halles Cookbook yet. A little Google-fu led me to the Washington Post, and I was on my way. Here’s a picture of the final product, and yes, it was as good as it looks.


Beef Bourgignon

I had to tweak the recipe a bit to accommodate the ingredients I had one hand. To start, I used four pounds of bone-in English cut short ribs. I only had one onion, but we did buy an enormous leek at the farmer’s market that morning, so I used that to compensate. I also didn’t have a bottle of Burgundy handy, so I used a bottle of Magnificent Winery’s House Wine that was left over from our 2005 wedding.

To finish the dish, I strained the braising liquid before reducing it down a bit, and then roasted some carrots and potatoes in a separate pan before adding it to the meat. This finishing step ensures that you have freshly cooked vegetables in the stew and not the mushy ones from the braising liquid.

The recipe that follows after the jump is basically how it was printed, but with my modifications.

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Ad Hoc Northern California Thomas Keller waffles

Ad Hoc (Easter Brunch)

It was a beautiful, glorious Easter Sunday, Thomas Keller was in the house (eating, not cooking), and Ad Hoc served up an amazing brunch featuring Duck Confit and Waffles. If you haven’t heard, Ad Hoc is now offering Sunday brunch, with seatings available from 10:30am–2pm. Here’s some pictures for ya while you decide whether or not you want to make a reservation. :-)


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Best of Inuyaki Italian Neapolitan Northern California pizza reviews

Pizzeria Picco

In the April 2006 issue of Gourmet magazine, Mario Batali declared the pizzas at Larkspur’s Pizzeria Picco “the best in the country—the margherita pizza is so good, it’s enough to make you cry.” That’s a big statement from Batali, who happens to own a few pizza places himself, including my own personal favorite, Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles.

Ironically, Pizzeria Picco first appeared on my radar when I saw a tantalizing picture Picco’s housemade salumi plate on Susannah’s blog, Amuses Bouche. Considering that Susannah and I share a love for Grimaldi’s Pizza in Brooklyn, Pizzeria Picco instantly joined our list of places we had to visit.

As luck would have it, my friend Nina Storey, an incredible singer/songwriter based in L.A., was in the Bay Area a few weekends ago to play a show in Larkspur just down the street from Picco, so our Friday night was destined to be great. The pizza was so good, we returned the next weekend with a friend (another Pizzeria Mozza fan) for more.


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Picco specializes in authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas that are baked in a 900-degree wood-burning oven for around 90 seconds (but never exceeding 105 seconds). What results is a crust that’s crispy and still has bite to it, and I always love seeing the beautiful black spots of char on pizza. Combine that with fresh local ingredients, including a really nice housemade sausage, and you really can’t go wrong with anything you order. During our two visits we sampled four of their pizzas.

  • Marin (roasted garlic, young potatoes, mozzarella, parmesan, rosemary oil)
  • Cannondale (sausage, roasted peppers, seasonal onions, mozzarella, basil)
  • Margherita (tomato, basil, hand-pulled mozzarella, parmesan
  • Pizza of the Day (sausage, tomato sauce, garlic, mozzarella, and wild nettles)

While all of these pizzas were excellent, the Marin was a standout and the only pizza we felt compelled to order on both visits. There’s just something about potatoes on pizza, and the rosemary oil added a depth and flavor that made us say “ooooh” while we were eating it. I haven’t been a fan of white pizzas until recently, but with the Bianco Pizza at Mozza and Picco’s Marin, let’s just say I’m officially a convert. The Pizza of the Day is probably my second favorite of the bunch and was as beautiful as it was tasty. It was a perfect combination of sauce, cheese, meat and veggies. This is to take nothing away from the Margherita or the Cannondale, which are great pizzas in their own right. In fact, the Margherita might be the finest cheese pizza I’ve ever had (if you think of a classic cheese pizza from your childhood that’s just tomato sauce and cheese).

Aside from pizza, the aforementioned salumi plate was another decadent treat. All the meats are made in house and feature lardo, salumi, soppresata, coppa, and mortadella. When our plate arrived though, the lardo was missing. We asked our server and she said that they didn’t include it because most of the time, it’s just left on the plate. She told us that she’d have the lardo brought out to us, and when it arrived, the chef that delivered it cheerfully thanked us for requesting it. It’s a shame that a majority of their customers seemingly have no appreciation for this beautiful fatty goodness.


salumi plate   lardo

We finished off our respective meals with some incredible soft serve ice cream. Normally, I don’t really go for soft serve, but when it comes from Straus Dairy, that’s a different story. We tried the chocolate soft serve on our first visit (because they were out of vanilla) and got it drizzled with some pumpkin seed oil and sea salt. The chocolate was rich and smooth and didn’t really need the other additives, although the sea salt was a pretty nice combo. The combination they’re famous for is the vanilla ice cream with olive oil and sea salt, which we got on the return visit, and it’s amazing. If you only come here once, that’s the dessert to get.



So is Pizzeria Picco the best pizza in America? That’s a really loaded question, and I’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself. Personally, I still like Pizzeria Mozza a little better mainly because of the wider selection of high-quality toppings and the more diverse menu. My wife and friend also put Mozza ahead because they liked Mozza’s crust better than Picco’s. If we’re just talking about the Bay Area, I’d put Pizzeria Picco at the top of the list.

How long will it reign? I’ll let you know after I visit Pizzaiolo in Oakland.

INFORMATION
Pizzeria Picco
320 Magnolia Avenue
Larkspur, CA 94939 map
415.945.8900
Web site

Categories
beef musings Northern California

Chef Cosentino Chronicles Humane Cow Slaughter

photo originally uploaded by offalchris.

As an avid meat eater, I think it’s imperative that I understand how meat is processed since it doesn’t just magically appear wrapped in plastic at the store.

Chef Chris Cosentino of San Francisco’s Incanto and Food Network’s Next Iron Chef fame, recently chronicled his trip to a meat processing plant on Offal Good, his appropriately titled blog.

The pictures are extremely graphic, but they’re an effective and morbidly fascinating way to truly understand how beef is processed. Not every meat-processing facility operates in this manner, so you can only imagine what happens to the cattle that arrive at some of the shadier factories.

Click here to view the album.

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Korean Northern California reviews

Ohgane Korean BBQ Restaurant

Do you ever get excited when you look at raw beef? Does the anticipation build up inside of you when you think about how good it’s going to taste after it’s grilled perfectly and you take your first bite? That’s exactly how I felt when the tray of kalbi arrived at our table at Ohgane Korean BBQ Restaurant in Oakland. And the feelings only grew as the server trimmed the meat from the bone, leaving behind beautiful thick ribbons of marbled marinated rib meat that we couldn’t wait to throw on the grill.


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I’m more accustomed to the cross-cut, LA style of kalbi, so Ohgane’s presentation was a change of pace for me and it’s a much more satisfying way to enjoy kalbi. I think you get much larger pieces of meat, and if you like to eat the gristle off the bones, you can throw those on the grill, too, and gnaw on them after all the meat is gone.

I’m perfectly content ordering just the kalbi here, but there’s a lot of other good meat choices on the menu, including daeji bulgogi (spicy marinated pork), special BBQ sam gyup sal gu e (pork belly), Juk suck seng go gi dol pan gu e (beef cubes cooked on a hot stone).

I got my first taste of soon dae (blood sausage with vermicelli noodle) at Ohgane, and it’s become a regular order when we can find it. The pajun (seafood pancake) is one of the best I’ve had because there’s just the right ratio of batter and filling. Banchan selection is is pretty extensive, too.

In general, the quality of the meat at Ohgane is good, but it really pales in comparison to what you can get down in L.A.’s Koreatown. My Korean friends tend to lament the lack of really good Korean food up in the SF Bay Area, and I should really check out more of the spots in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara since the South Bay seems to reign for good Korean. In the East Bay, Ohgane is definitely one of the shining stars.

INFORMATION
Ohgane Korean BBQ Restaurant
3915 Broadway
Oakland, California 94611 map
510.594.8300
Web site
Ohgane Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon