Tag: San Francisco

Locale Review

This ready-to-eat meal delivery service brings you yummy food from Bay Area restaurants, but has limited offerings.

Locale is a new-to-me meal delivery service operating in several areas in California. Their hook is that the meals come from well known restaurants in the area and that at $11 each, plus $5 delivery fee, they are more affordable than actually getting take out. They are priced, however, to compete with other similar services like CookUnity and Shef. They only deliver on Mondays, but you are able to order up to the Friday before, which gives you far more flexibility than the other services. I subscribed to Locale with a discount offer I found on Facebook and later got a discount for a second and third week.

Some of the meals are the same that what you can get at restaurants, but others seem to be particularly prepared for Locale and may be smaller than the restaurant offerings. That means that, depending on the meal, you may not be saving money by ordering from Locale vs picking them up yourself, particularly if you live in San Francisco where competition keeps restaurant prices more affordable – though you do save on tax, as the meals are delivered cold.

Locale’s website is sparse but it’s easy to use. You can only order one week in advance and you can decide how many meals you want to order each week. You can also pause the service quite easily.

Like the other services, meals come in an insulated bag, this one with cooling packs, and they will pick them up when they deliver your next order. They are very diligent about texting you with updates on delivery.

Each meal comes in a cardboard tray, sealed with a transparent plastic film. The meals are usually good for 5 to 6 days, which gives you some flexibility on when to eat them. Most can be microwaved, but some need more laborious heating.

You can’t really see how many restaurants Locale has available to you until you sign up, but I was disappointed both on how few there were for me in the East Bay – and how few dishes each restaurant offered. In all, they only had 29 restaurants available and several only offered 1 to 3 different dishes. Those who had more often presented different variations of the same dish (e.g. the same dish but offered with chicken or beef). They also have a very limited selection of vegetarian dishes – my vegetarian daughter could only find a couple she was interested in. All in all, Locale wouldn’t work as your weekly delivery service unless you always want to eat the same thing, or have very eclectic tastes and just like everything.

I subscribed with a discount for my first delivery, and then got texted further discounts when I paused. My meal reviews, however, assume that I’d paid full price for the meals (around $11.50 each). Note, I haven’t felt compelled to tip Locale delivery drivers as they are not offering a personalized service – drivers deliver to multiple people in a pre-set, optimized route – and because I don’t tip other similar delivery services but Locale seems to be pushing tipping, as are all employers who want to keep salaries low.

These are the restaurants I ordered from and the dishes I got. Those that I’d order again have a checkmark.

Asian BoxBurritos La PalmaComalDumpling TimeEl FarolitoHardKnox CafeHawaiian Drive InnMela BistroPeaches PattiesPerillaSumacTenderleafTrisaraVik’s ChaatZareen’s

Asian Box, Bay Area

Asian Box is a small chain with seven restaurants in SF and Silicon Valley, including one at the airport, and one in LA. They specialize in “choose your ingredients” bowls (but in rectangular containers, thus called “boxes”), where you choose a base (e.g. rice or salad), a protein, toppers (e.g. peanuts or pickles) and a sauce. Boxes start at $14 and go up depending on your protein, they also have some “signature boxes” at varying prices. Locale offers 4 boxes from Asian box.

Chicken Curry Bowl with Potatoes and Jasmine Rice ✔

This dish was described as having comes rice, six-spice chicken, potatoes, carrots and yellow coconut curry and being topped with herbs, scallion oil, peanuts and shallots but instead of the “herbs and scallion oil” it came with a spicy red sauce which might have been the “fiery red curry”. The bowl was very good. The star of the show was the six-spice chicken, which did remind me of five-spice but also had a nice acidic flavor and tasted grilled. It was just very good. The yellow curry was a standard coconut curry, a bit on the spicy side and competent but not great. The portion give was just enough to moisten the chicken, rice and potato – so make sure to scrape it all off. The peanuts were chopped too finely to add much texture, but the occasional piece of shallot gave it a nice crunch. The portion made for a filling dinner. I’d certainly have it again. This same dish sells at the restaurant for $15.50

Burritos La Palma, Southern California

La Palma is a small restaurant chain in Southern California which gained famed when the Michelin guide gave it its “Bibi Gourmand” designation in recognition of its Zacatecan style burritos, which seem to be tortillas rolled around meat and salsa, with no other additions. They’ve become famous enough to sell their burritos frozen through Goldbelly. Locale is now offering 4 different types of burritos.

3 Birria y Queso Burritos

burritos
Two of the three burritos – delicious!

Quesobirria tacos are all the rage in California these days, and I can see why this burrito version has become so popular. I loved the softness and elasticity of the tortilla after microwaving it. The filling was tasty, and the cheese worked well to mellow the strong flavors of the birria. My daughter also really liked them. I can see ordering this time and again. The burritos are $5 each at the restaurants, so you get a small discount ordering through here (plus you don’t have to go to LA to get them).

Comal, Oakland

Comal is a well known Mexican restaurant with locations in both Oakland and Berkeley. It’s a favorite place for events, and we’ve gone to a few there. I’ve very much enjoyed their tacos in the past. Locale offers 7 different meals from Comal, 3 bowls and 4 burritos.

Carnitas Burrito with Pinquito Beans, Rice and Salsa Verde

My daughter enjoyed this burrito. The carnitas were flavorful and the whole combination worked well. It was a pretty substantial meal, which my daughter couldn’t finish. Burritos retail for $13.75 at Comal, but they didn’t list this particular one, so it might be a cheaper version than their normal semi-gourmet offerings.

Dumpling Time, Bay Area

Dumpling Time has five locations in the Bay Area. They specialize in Chinese dumplings. They only offer one or two dishes through Locale. The one we got is no longer available.

Dim Sum and Garlicky Green Beans with Wakame Seaweed Salad

This dish consisted of one pork bao (aka pork bun), 2 shrimp & pork siu mai and 2 shrimp har gow served with green beans and sea weed salad. Unfortunately, it’s no longer being offered by Locale (nor is this combo in he menu at Dumpling Time). My husband really liked this offering and would have liked it again but it’s no longer available.

El Farolito, San Francisco

El Farolito is a run of the mill taqueria in San Francisco, best known (in Yelp, at least) for its cheap burritos. They offer three quesadillas through Locale.

Mission Style Chicken Quesadilla with Crema and Salsa

This was an overall good quesadilla. It had a nice taste and it was more flavorful than I expected. The portion was probably the right size for lunch. However, I wouldn’t order it again. The first issue was the heating. It requires that you take out a pan, melt a tablespoon of butter and then heat up the quesadilla for a minute on both sides. This gives you a crispy tortilla, but the heat doesn’t go through enough to melt the cheese. I fixed this by microwaving for an extra 30 seconds. I didn’t like, however, that I had to dirty a saucepan to heat this up. I do take responsibility for not reading the heating instructions before I ordered it, they were right there on the page. I also didn’t like that it came with a green sauce instead of guacamole. Price was, it was a tad cheaper than what I can get at my local taquería for a similar size quesadilla, but I can choose steak and get guacamole if I order it there, which I prefer.

Hard Knox Cafe, San Francisco

This is a soul food restaurant with two locations in San Francisco which seems to get mostly good reviews. Locale only offers this dish and mac & cheese from this restaurant.

Southern Style BBQ Pork Rib with Collard Greens and Mac and Cheese

This consisted of just one spare rib with BBQ sauce, mac & cheese and collard drinks. My daughter enjoyed both the rib and the mac & cheese, she felt they were very good – she didn’t try the greens. It was enough food for her, but she is a girl who can never finish any meal – it really should be two ribs to satisfy a normal appetite. She wouldn’t have it again, however, because most of the meal was the mac & cheese and it wasn’t good enough to be a whole meal. The dish is $21 at the restaurant, but it looks like they serve at least 3 ribs.

Hawaiian Drive Inn, Bay Area

Hawaiian Drive Inn seems to be a 5-location Hawaiian BBQ chain in the Bay Area, serving standard Hawaiian BBQ fare.

Hawaiian Chicken Katsu with Steamed Rice and Green Beans

This was a pretty average Hawaiian BBQ chicken katsu, and there is nothing wrong with that. The green beans, however, lacked all seasoning. The heating instructions also had us using the oven for the chicken and the microwave for the beans which is too much trouble – we just heated the whole thing (minus the sauce) in the microwave. The portion size was similar to the mini-meal size at my local Hawaiian joint which is $12, so this is not a great deal.

Mela Bistro, Oakland

Mela Bistro prides itself on serving “Modern Ethiopian Food”. From its website, I can see that the restaurant forgoes the traditional art and trappings from many local Ethiopian restaurants and it has more sleek surroundings. The menu is short and filled with traditional items. That said, this is the one restaurant we are happy Locale introduced us to and the one we re-ordered from our second week.

Ethiopian Style Beef Tibs with Brown Rice and Green Split Peas ✔

This was a very good version of beef tibs. Flavor wise, it was pretty much on point for beef tibs but it felt less greasy than usual – quite an achievement for a dish cooked in ghee. It was medium spicy. It’s served with turmeric rice. This dish is $18 at the restaurant, so it’s actually quite a bargain to get it through Locale. The portion was enough for one meal without leftovers.

Ethiopian Beef Stir Fry with Spiced Turmeric Rice ✔

These seem to be just beef tibs, but served with turmeric rice instead of brown rice and split peas. Once again, they were very tasty, only a bit spicy, and less greasy that beef tibs usually are. Once again my husband was happy. It was a good sized portion. He thought the rice was fine, but would probably get it with the brown rice and peas next time for a somewhat healthier option.

Peaches Patties, San Francisco

Peaches Patties is a Jamaican restaurant operating from the Ferry Building in San Francisco. The owner previously ran a catering business. It specializes in Jamaican patties, which is their version of empanadas. They get great reviews from these, but they are not available on Locale. They have a few other dishes, including two new ones that don’t appear on their menu. Locale has four dishes from this restaurant.

Ginger Tamarind Chicken with Fried Plantains, Kidney Beans and Jasmine Rice

This dish was described as featuring “tender chicken infused with bold ginger and tangy tamarind, served alongside crispy fried plantains and fragrant jasmine rice.” I can’t say it was a success. The chicken was tender, but the thigh meat felt dry. I usually like sweet-savory flavors, but the sweetness here felt out place, it fought, rather than blended with, the spiciness and the smokiness. My favorite part were the pieces of the chicken that tasted charred, unfortunately there were few of them. I usually don’t mind soggy chicken skins, but I felt this one could be crispier. The plantains were definitely not crispy either and they needed more sweetness. I don’t know, this just didn’t do it for me and I wouldn’t order it again. While this dish is not on Peaches Patties current menu, a similar jerk chicken meal that also includes veggies sells for $20.

Perilla, San Francisco

Perilla is a casual Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco. It offers three dishes through Locale, each consisting of garlic noodles, broccoli and either pork, crab or five spice chicken. At the restaurant, these dishes are priced at $14.

Five Spice Chicken with Garlic Noodles and Broccoli ✔

This dish was pretty good, the boneless chicken was was sweet and savory with light soy sauce overtones, and the noodles were quite good, not too garlicky. My daughter, who had it, enjoyed it and would have it again. The portion was more than sufficient for dinner, though not quite enough to have much in the way of leftovers.

Sumac, San Francisco

Sumac describes itself as a “modern Mediterranean street food” restaurant and has locations in both LA and SF. They serve wraps, salads, rice bowls and hummus bowls with your choice of grilled chicken, meatballs, red lentil balls or felafel. Seven of these combinations are available at Locale.

Chicken Hummus Bowl with Roasted Veggies ✔

Both my husband and I loved this bowl of grilled chicken, roasted veggies and hummus. – so much that we had it a second time. The chicken was tender and well seasoned, and worked well both by itself or dipped in the hummus. It was a little weird to eat warm hummus, though. Next time I might scoop it out before reheating. My husband was actually surprised at how much he liked the veggies, but we both skipped the pickled beets. The restaurant version sells for $21, but it also comes with an arugula salad.

Turkish Kofte Bowl with Basmati Rice and Chickpea Salad ✔

These are lamb and beef shoulder meatballs served with rice, chickpea salad and a labneh sauce. The same bowl sells for $18 at the restaurant. This was a good, filling and satisfying meal. The meatballs had that chewy texture of kibbeh – I think it’s achieved by over grinding the meat -, which I’m not super fond of, but they were well seasoned and very tasty. The buttered basmati rice reminded me just how nice buttered basmati rice is on its own. The chickpea salad was fresh and piquant, and I enjoyed it even though I’m not a fan of chickpeas. And the yogurt sauce was thick and refreshing. Everything was slightly spicy, however, But overall a very good meal that I’d have again.

Turkish Red Lentil Wrap with Tabouli and Herb Labneh Sauce

I got this for my vegetarian daughter and she found it edible but unexciting. It was a good portion, at least (the photo shows just half a wrap). She probably wouldn’t order it again. It sells for $16.50 at the restaurant.

Tenderleaf (Ghost Kitchen)

Tenderleaf is described as a “a beloved Bay Area gem, is a cozy, locally-owned restaurant” located in San Francisco. As far as I can tell, that is a lie. A google search failed to find any restaurant with that name anywhere in the Bay Area, much less a “beloved one”. Instead, it seems that Tenderleaf is a ghost kitchen operated by the owners of Locale. To me, this seems extremely deceitful. I don’t have a problem with ghost kitchens myself, but I do have a problem with dishonesty.

The address that Google has for Tenderleaf is in the San Leandro industrial area, and I’ll probably drive by and check it out some time.

Tenderleaf offers 9 dishes through Locale, the most of any restaurants.

Mom’s Meatballs in Marinara Sauce with Italian Sausage and Parmesan

This dish consisted of four medium-size meatballs and 2 sausages, topped with tomato sauce and a little Parmesan cheese. I warmed it in the microwave. There was definitely plenty of food. I liked the meatballs. They tasted very much like the meatballs you can get at your average pizzeria – I’m thinking of Porky’s Pizza Palace in particular. They had a good texture, they weren’t too soft and not too gritty, and a nice flavor. I would imagine that these are not “homemade”, but it’s not like I can get meatballs that taste like that at the supermarket. The sauce was pretty standard marinara, a little on the acidic side. A bit more cheese would have been better, but you can always add your own. I also liked the sausages, which were pretty dense, and smooth, and tasted primarily – but mildly – of fennel. Obviously this would have been better over some pasta, and next time I might just boil some myself.

Trisara, San Francisco

Trisara is an affordable Indo-Nepalese restaurant that gets 5-stars on Yelp. Unfortunately Locale only offers three of their dishes, the momos below and two biryianis.

Nepalese Chicken Momos with Steamed Broccoli ✔

My husband thoroughly enjoyed these momos – Nepalese dumplings – which were served with a tasty tomato chutney. They were tasty and comforting. The broccoli was just steamed, and he would have preferred it with some seasoning. Still, he’d order this again. The portion of 8 momos sells for $14 at the restaurant, but here you only get 5 momos and the broccoli.

Vik’s Chaat, Berkeley

Vik’s Chaat is a very well known Berkeley Indian restaurant. It’s a casual eatery, meant for college students. It’s been there for decades and has always been very popular. I went there once, over a decade ago, and I don’t remember loving it, but I didn’t write a review. Locale offers 3 dishes from Vik’s Chaat.

Tandoori Chicken with Spiced Chickpeas and Basmati Rice

This dish consisted of a chicken leg – separated into thigh and drumstick – served with basmati rice and spiced chickpeas. I wasn’t super fond of it. It tasted like the sort of tandoori chicken you can make it at home, in your own over, with tandoori masala. The masala sauce, which was a bit spicy, clung to the chicken, which I don’t particularly like. I much prefer the tandoori chicken found at most restaurants where the chicken skin has been died and the flavor has been absorbed by the meat, rather than resting on a marinade outside. Still, it wasn’t bad, just not as good as the Americanized versions of tandoori chicken you usually get at restaurants. It did remind me of why I didn’t like Vik’s when I went. A similar tandoor chicken dish at the restaurant which is served with dal, instead of chickpeas, and with naan and raita, costs $18.

Zareen’s, Silicon Valley

Zareen’s, along with Burma Superstar, are the only restaurants Locale mentions on their Facebook ads and comments. This seems to be because they were listed in the 2020 Michelin guide. It’s an Indian/Pakistani restaurant with locations in Palo Alto, Redwood City and Mountain View. Locale offers 7 dishes from this restaurant, though two are tikka masalas and three spinach curries.

Chicken Tikka Masala with Basmati Rice

I was underwhelmed by this dish. It consisted of shredded chicken tikka in a masala curry and yellow rice. The chicken was tender and had a nice smoky flavor but was otherwise very underseasoned. The sauce lacked the complexity you look for in a tikka masala sauce. It wasn’t bad, but it was underdeveloped. The portion was adequate for a single meal. In all, I think I rather pay more at my local Indian restaurant but have a better curry and leftovers for a second meal. This curry is $16.25 at the Zareen’s restaurant, though I’m not sure if the portion is the same size.


A foodie in San Francisco: House of Prime Rib

It’s a three quarters of a century old, but can it satisfy modern palates?

House of Prime Beef is a San Francisco institution. The busy restaurant has been serving slabs of beef, sides and desserts for generations – it turned 75 years old this year. And yet I hadn’t heard about it until a few years ago, when photos of decadent dinners there started showing on a local foodie Facebook group. Surely, I must have come across mentions of the restaurant before, as I have been patronizing Bay Area food newsgroups since the 90’s, but I probably just never paid attention. Given how easy it’s to cook steak at home, I’ve never seen the point of paying many times more to visit a steakhouse. So when my non-vegetarian daughter mentioned she wanted to go to a steakhouse for her birthday, House of Prime Rib is what popped to mind.

Alas, House of Prime Rib is not the kind of restaurant where you can make a last minute reservation – and by “last minute”, I mean “with less than six months notice.” House of Prime Rib opens its reservations a year in advance, and prime spots are taken pretty much immediately. You can go when they open and hope you get lucky and get a table, but I’m too old for that. Instead, I made reservations for her birthday at Bix (lovely place, great for a special meal) but also took the first available reservations at House of Prime Rib for a weekend night at a reasonable time. That turned out to be almost seven months later. We had a good enough experience that I already made reservations to return next year.

Despite the difficulty in getting reservations, House of Prime Ribs is a rather large restaurant, boasting several dining rooms in addition to the crowded bar area. They serve 600 people every evening. Each dining room, however, feel rather intimate, like a restaurant in itself. I loved the atmosphere of the one we were in, it looked like dining in someone’s old fashioned library. It was darker than this photo suggests, but light enough to be able to see our meals. It was busy but not terribly noisy, we could hear each other well. Dress was business casual – most men had collared shirts and, this being chilly San Francisco, long pants. The restaurant was a nice temperature but you do have to walk outside.

The menu at House of Prime Rib is quite limited, your choices are Prime Rib or, as a concession to those who absolutely can’t eat red meat, fish. You can choose how your prime rib is cut and how well it’s cooked, whether you want salad, or whether you want your potatoes mashed or baked. Otherwise, your only choices are of drinks and of desserts. Service is by old time professional waiters who bring you back to another age and make you feel special. Indeed, feeling like you’re back in the 50’s is a big attraction of this place.

We started our dinner with cocktails. They bring you both the glass and the mixing bottle – which has enough for another cocktail. As the cocktails are not very big, this is a good thing. I got a Cosmopolitan ($15.5); I asked for it to be made weak and it was. It was delicious, particularly at the bottom where I could really taste the Triple Sec. Next time, I’ll order it normal. Both Mike and Camila thought it was very sour, but it didn’t feel like that to me. Mike had the Lemon Drop ($15.5). He liked it very much and would have it again. Camila had a couple of Shirley Temple mocktails ($3) and we both thought they were very good as well.

The meal itself started with white bread and salted butter. The bread was served warm, it tasted fresh, and it was very good. It took effort to not fill ourselves with it. Later, they brought us little warm corn breads which I thought were delicious, though I’m a huge fan of warm cornbread in general. Camila, who is not, gave me hers.

After the bread, the waiter brought a cart featuring a large bowl with ice and a large salad bowl inserted into it. I thought that the salad would be mixed tableside, but it comes already mixed, all the waiter does is very ceremoniously add the salad dressing, spin it and toss it. It’s sort of a show. Unfortunately, the show was better than the salad. I was concerned that the salad had beets and chopped eggs, two things I disliked, but fortunately those ended at the bottom of my plate. Unfortunately, I found the dressing too acidic for my taste and just not very tasty. Camila agreed – we both barely ate any a few lettuce leaves before deciding it just wasn’t for us.

You can only omit the salad by ordering your Prime Rib a a la carte, but you currently you can only get Prime Rib slices if you do so.

I knew that I wanted to get dessert, and that meant that I would not be able to eat a steak by myself – thus I decided to share a King Henry VIII cut ($68) with Mike. The sharing fee is just $10 and they bring you your own plate with salad and sides. The King Henry cut is thick and includes a bone. It was the perfect size for two not-too-hungry people. It was also delicious, perfectly cooked medium rare, juicy with a melt-in-your-mouth feel. I’m not a particularly big fan of Prime Rib – give me a grilled or pan-seared steak any day – but you could feel the quality of the meat as well as the expertise in cooking it and cutting it. I’d clearly have it again.

The steak comes with creamed spinach and we asked for mashed potatoes. Mike loved the creamed spinach, he actually made us try it, though to me it tasted just like the abomination that creamed spinach is. But hey, if you don’t think cream spinach is Satan’s own invention, you might like it too. The mashed potatoes were great, though a bit too runny. I’d have wanted a spoon to eat them with. I did love the gravy they came with, it had a deep meaty flavor that I’ve seldom actually encountered in gravy. If I could have eaten any more, I’d have asked for more mashed potatoes. I don’t think the sauce the steak came with was the same gravy, however, as I was less fond of it – it lacked that meatiness and had little depth.

The meal also came with a Yorkshire pudding and this was a revelation. I’d unsuccessfully tried to make them myself once, but I don’t know if I’ve ever actually eaten them at a restaurant (surely when I went to England? but I can’t remember). In any case, they weren’t at all what I expected. One flattish Yorkshire pudding, cooked in a small pan, was cut in three and served to us. It had an airy but very eggy consistency, sort of like a very eggy crepe. I’m not a fan of egg myself, but I liked the silkiness of the texture and the subtle egg flavor. I just wish I had liked the sauce the meat came with better.

Camila had the City Cut ($59) which is their smallest serving, and had it well done. She only ate about 2/3rs of it as it was. She thought it was very good; I thought it was dry – but that’s what you get for ordering “well done” beef. She was underwhelmed by the baked potato, however. It had sour cream and chives but no other seasoning, so she mostly left it uneaten. She also skipped ordering the spinach.

House of Prime Ribs has a long list of delicious and very classical sounding desserts, but I had decided on the Strawberry Shortcake ($12.5) in advance. Though the desserts are listed as single serving, this one, at least, was large enough to share. It was delicious, but mostly on account the of the strawberries and cream. I don’t think the cake was a shortcake, it was too sweet with an annoying vanilla flavor, and too light. I daresay it may be the same sponge cake they use in the trifle. Still, the strawberries were fresh, ripe and sweet and the natural syrup from them was delicious. Back in Argentina, strawberries and cream is a common restaurant dessert and I really don’t know why it’s not in the US. It really doesn’t get better than that.

Mike had the Creme Brulee ($12.5), which was also a very generous portion. It was also very good, but not spectacular as I think there isn’t much that can be done to improve creme brulee from its classical presentation. Still, as far as creme brulees went, this was very well executed.

In all, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the meal. These were all American classics, not gourmet food in the least, but well executed and very universally appealing. I also really enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant. The one minus is that the whole meal went very fast. We were in and out in just an hour. Now, it’s not that we were rushed – though it’s obvious the name of the game for them is turning tables – but that the dishes were cleared so quickly (albeit after we’d finished) and new ones were brought right away. As we were with an impatient teen this wasn’t totally a bad thing, but if I went there with adults, I’d like to enjoy a more leisurely meal – which I guess we’ll have to force ourselves through pacing our own eating.

House of Prime Rib
1906 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA
1-415-885-4605/6
M - F 5 - 10 PM
Sa - Su 4- 10 PM

A foodie in San Francisco: Juniper

Is this award-winnning San Francisco bakery worth the hype?

Juniper is a relatively new bakery and café in San Francisco which gained fame a couple of weeks ago when it won a croissant competition. It made the papers and my husband, a croissant lover, decided he had to cross the Bay and try them himself. When he first went, the day after the newspaper article came out, he had to wait 45 minutes in line before getting the goodies – he just went back yesterday, early on a Saturday morning, and the wait was gone. The stuff was just as good, however.

Order with chocolate croissants, butter croissants, Cubano croissant, chocolate brownie and black sesame kouign amann

Butter croissant.

These are large, airy but still very buttery croissants. The outside is flaky – too flaky, really, they’re a mess to eat – and the inside soft and buttery, and rather insubstantial. It didn’t need any extra butter. We enjoyed the croissants very much.

Butter Croissant Loaf

We got this our first time. It’s basically a loaf of very airy/light croissant dough topped with either crystalized sugar butter or black sesame. We got the former and I also enjoyed it a lot – I loved the sugar. I prefer it to the croissants themselves.

Chocolate croissant.

These were also great, made with high quality dark chocolate and not too much of it. Specially after reheating it, it just melts in your mouth. And a little croissant goes a long way.

Black Sesame Kouign Amann

This is similar to a cinnamon roll but with a black sesame paste instead of cinnamon (or in addition to?). I loved the butteriness and caramelized sugar, both in flavor and texture, and the black sesame paste was pretty good too. The pastry wasn’t as sweet as I feared. I’d definitely get it again.

Chocolate Brownie

In my old age, I’ve lost much of my taste for chocolate so I no longer gravitates to brownies. Still, this one was pretty good. It was lighter/airier than ordinary brownies without sacrificing the chocolate flavor. For that reason, it was also less sweet. I would have preferred some nuts or something else to add to the smooth texture, however. I probably wouldn’t get it again for myself, but that’s just because I’m no longer a chocolate fiend.

Hazelnut Florentine Choux

This was basically a cream puff with a crust atop the cream. This one had “rum diplomat creme, hazelnut toffee crisp” and it was good but not great. The flavor was more sweet than anything else and I didn’t like the crust. We wouldn’t get it again.

Juniper Lemon Choux 

This one had “lemon curd, juniper berry, meringue, mint”. It was better than the hazelnut, as you could actually taste the lemon flavor, but also not compelling. It really felt like a generic dessert. I also wouldn’t order it again.

Cubano Croissant  

One of the awards Juniper won was for their Cubano croissant, which comes with “mojo pork, ham, pickle, whole grain mustard.” We enjoyed this very much. The light, airy croissant worked well as a base for the fillings. The mojo pork in itself was very tasty and had a melt-in-your-mouth texture I enjoyed. However, I actually preferred the croissant without it. The flavor and mouthfeel of the ham and cheese was too perfect and did not need the pork. The mustard could be a little overwhelming in some bites, they should use less. Still, I’d definitely order this again.

Juniper
1401 Polk St,
San Francisco, CA
Daily 7:30am to 3pm

Academy Cafe @ the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco – Review

Last Spring break I took the girls to the California Academy of Sciences, using a couple of the free tickets the San Leandro library so helpfully provides for its members.  I hadn’t been to the Academy in years, since it was at its temporary space in downtown San Francisco.  At that time it had a small but actually pretty good cafe.  Alas, it’s now become much larger and the quality of food seems to have downgraded.

The Academy Cafe is basically a cafeteria with about four different stations. Make sure you identify on which are the items you want to avoid unnecessary time in line.  The prices are high, specially for drinks/deserts, but that’s to be expected.

My youngest daughter had the butter pasta. It was fine. The portion wasn’t too big for $7, but enough for a 9 yo.  My oldest daughter had the chicken & chips ($12).  She had to wait for the chicken, and then it was very, very dry.  I would not recommend this dish.  It was a generous portion, however.

I didn’t have lunch myself, but shared a very underwhelming bread pudding ($4, I think) with the girls.

They don’t have regular sodas, the Izze sodas they do have were good, but very expensive.

The Academy also has a full-fledged restaurant, the Moss Cafe. Prices are higher, in the high-teens/low twenties for entrees.

Academy Cafe
California Academy of Sciences
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA
http://themossroom.com/

 

Marga’s Venue Dining Reviews

Matterhorn

A few weeks ago I went back to Matterhorn with my friends Eddie, Parker and Katrina. It was our last girls’ night out, as Katrina was moving to Mexico for a stint and Eddie is moving away for good. I can’t tell you how sad I am. But that night was happy, and we had great food and conversation.


We ordered two fondues, a cheese one (the Highlander – with cheddar and gruyere) and a meat one (I think it was the fondue bacchus), and extra sides such as shrimp, sausages and apples. The fondues were great, but I wouldn’t recommend the sausages for the cheese one, their flavor was just too strong. The meats are high quality and come with a wide variety of sauces, I particularly liked a curry flavored one. There was a lot of food, and we ate an incredible amount.


They only have one choice of chocolate fondue for dessert, but it was very good as well, though perhaps a little too runny for my taste. I like the ones I make at home better.


The only sour note of the evening was the service. The waiter/waitress was MIA all evening.
Still, if I was in the mood for fondue, I’d go back.


Original Review

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