Friday, February 25, 2011

I can't deny the chance to try out Hog Island Oyster Co. in Napa! As many of you know, I love the one in the Ferry Building in SF. The best part is that there isn't a long wait, so definitely a plus. If only we were up there for Happy Hour. That day we got one of my favorite shots with the help of Ms. Lin to capture the essence of the crab and where we are dining.
We couldn't turn down the great deal on Fresh Bolinas Dungeness Crab Roasted with Garlic and Chili, a whole one for only $20! Slowly we took apart the crab piece by piece and savored the delicious flavor infused in. The crab was finger lickin' good! I almost wished we each had our own, but the amount of peeling we had to do really made me think otherwise. FYI, I offered extra money if they would peel the crab for me... sadly they do not provide such services =P Can't blame a girl for trying. C'est la vie. If you really want to eat it, then you will have to go through the trouble! Believe me, the flavor was definitely worth it. I was quite nicely surprised at how flavorful and succulent it was. One sad thing about the crab is they clean the body thoroughly, which means if you love the reproductive area and brains then you are out of luck here.
Let's not forget the complimentary bread that you nosh on while everything is being prepared! While we were waiting for everything to be cooked, I munched on the crisp yet nicely chewy bread that reminded me of the Acme Bread Co. I pondered about where they get their bread from and if Acme Bread Co. actually ships their product to Napa for others to enjoy. They actually use the bread from a local bakery, Model Bakery. Thumbs up to their tasty bread! It earned them a visit and review.
The special sandwich they had was an Oyster Po' Boy with Beer-Battered Sweetwaters on an ABC Potato Bun with Bacon Remoulade Slaw. Big succulent oysters fried that are nicely battered and fried to perfection. I enjoyed the savory combination of flavorful oysters topped off with a tangy slaw and calmed by a potato bun. The most difficult part was trying to fit that honker in my mouth. A refreshing change to the same old routine that we have for Hog Island Oyster Co.
Of course no meal would be complete without our favorite item on their menu, the Grilled Cheese Sandwich. There was a time long long long ago where I seriously questioned Ms. Lin on how a grilled cheese sandwich would be worth $12!?!?! Well I have been a believer ever since my first bite! It's the perfect mixture of Cowgirl Creamery's Cave-Aged Gruyere, Mezzo Secco, and Fromage Blanc nicely pressed on a panini grill. The best is when the cheese oozes out and becomes a delectable cheese crisp to give the whole sandwich a spectacular bite! **drool drool**
Needless to say, I am still a huge fan of Hog Island Oyster Co. and they proved their worth to me once again. I left them with a big smile on my face, a great memory, and a wonderful picture!
Hog Island Oyster Co.
610 1st St
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 251-8113
Hog Island Oysters on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Needless to say, I was trying to eat my way through the Oxbow Public Market. Pica Pica Maize Kitchen focuses on maize-centric dishes and specializes in arepas, grilled corn flour that's soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. Pica Pica Maize Kitchen's menu is completely wheat and gluten free, which is great for anyone with allergies and celiac disease. They make each order fresh and you can see them make the arepas. It's a very laid back setting. A great place for locals to sit and chat with friends or even the people behind the counter.
To order, first pick a maize bread then choose a filling. The choices are: Arepa - Grilled Corn Flour Bread, Maize'wich - Sweet Corn Bread, or Cachapa - 100% Sweet Corn Pancake. At first I was excited to get the arepa but I really wanted all 3! Time was very short and I had to combine many meals that day so we were limited to only try one dish that day. In the end, I really wanted the Cachapa because I love sweet yellow corn. This dough is originally made by pounding corn kernels with a stone and in some bites you can really taste the flavor of the corn or even find a sweet kernel. I love the sweetness from the corn mixed in with the savory filling. For our filling we chose the Pernil that is Pulled Pork, Tomatoes, Avocado, and a side of Aioli. The flavors came together nicely and they definitely didn't skimp on the filling. We were so stuffed from Hog Island Oyster Co. that we barely could finish one cachapa between the two of us.
I found Pica Pica Maize Kitchen to be very clean and a great place to snack. It's a great variety to Oxbow Public Market. I love exploring new cultures and tasting new delicacies. They had a bunch of Alfajores for sell at the front, which normally I would jump at the chance to eat... but they look like the types Ms. Lin brought back from Brazil and Argentina. I personally love the Peruvian ones and don't quite like the cookies used for the Brazilian and Argentinian ones, so I decided to sit this one out. Still, it is good to know that they are available there!

Pica Pica Maize Kitchen
610 1st St #5
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 251-3757
Pica Pica Maize Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 14, 2011

Every time I have a delicious bread in San Francisco, I often question if it came from Acme Bread Company. While I was at the Hog Island Oyster Co. in the Oxbow Public Market, I noshed on some delectable bread. The Hog Island Oyster Co. in the Ferry Building serves bread from the Acme Bread Company so I wondered if they transport their bread all the way here. To solve my curiosity, I asked and they told me that they get their bread from a local bakery called Model Bakery. Of course I had to make a trip around the corner to peruse around their shop for some baked goods.
Here they offered a variety of cakes, cookies, pastries, and breads. Definitely a great local bakery in Napa. I had been stuffing myself the entire weekend and didn't want to be too greedy that day so we only picked up cookies. The cookies were a hearty size. I enjoyed the Almond Macaroon, which was like a giant almond meringue or just the outer cookie of a macaron. The almond flavor was pretty strong. I liked the chewy texture.
All in all it was a nice stop for extra snacks. We had so many desserts left over from the trip. I just wished I had all the stomach room and the magical ability to NOT gain weight from all these indulgences. O=P

Model Bakery
1357 Main St
St Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-8192
Model Bakery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 10, 2011

After hearing all the hype about Little Skillet, I thought it was about time I ventured out and tried Little Skillet. It's literally across the street so I was hoping to find a new favorite spot that's convenient and delicious. At least that is what I hoped. Maybe I had too high of an expectation, which led to a great fall. I thought they had huge potential when I saw the line waiting for their food. As you walk down the alley to a quaint window that was just so picturesque. It almost feels like there should be a pie cooling on the window sill. The staff were very friendly when they took my order.
Couldn't miss the chance to snap a quick pic of the inner works. You can clearly see they have a very clean kitchen and work with the small space they have. I love their little sign that points to where you should order. If you have never been down this little street, you just might miss them.
The first sign that this meal might not turn out the way I had hoped was the Hibiscus drink. Everyone online raved about it so Ms. Lin definitely wanted to buy one to try. Maybe it's just personal flavor but I didn't quite like the flavor. It was more bitter and had that dry after taste than anything else. I have had hibiscus before but not pure juice, so maybe I don't like it so potent.
They were out of some specials, which I guess was a blessing in disguise. I decided to only get the 3 pc Chicken & Waffles. Here they use free range petaluma chicken. I thought the chicken was a bit dry and that there was nothing special about their batter. Since the apt is really close, it is convenient to walk back and dig in without losing the essence of the food. Maybe the few mins it took to get back made a difference, but the chicken wasn't that crispy and the waffle was a little soggy. Sure, hot food can make a big difference but there really isn't any place people can sit and eat on the spot. The walk back is so close that the food was still hot but apparently it can't hold up? Or maybe it just comes that way. Either way, not worth the $9.50 I spent.
Another thing that people rave about here were their Angel Biscuits with Sausage Gravy. This was the worst thing IMHO because that is not a good biscuit! I expect biscuits to have layers that really melt in your mouth. Here, I felt it was tough and chewy. Having just been to Animal in Los Angeles, I can't help but compare the difference. At Animal they offer a delicious biscuit with maple sausage gravy and a nicely seared chunk of foie gras on top. **drool drool** A million times better! For $5, their biscuit was sorely disappointing. I would rather use that money to eat a nice flaky biscuit at KFC.
All in all, I definitely won't be back any time soon. When people ask me where is a good breakfast place in SF, I make sure to say not here. Sorry, there are many better places to eat in SF and this is definitely not one of them.

Little Skillet
360 Ritch St
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 777-2777
Little Skillet on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 7, 2011

Yes, you read that right. I said BACON flavored microwave popcorn. This was one of the products show cased at The Winter Fancy Food Show. I received an email to stop by their booth to pick up my own BACON lip balm, popcorn, and even flavored envelopes! lol They even had a special batch of Jones Bacon Soda there. I was so ready to chug one down if they were available.
Who doesn't love having bacon in everything?! From bacon rimming salt to bacon flavored sunflower seeds, on their table there was a wide array of bacon infused products, which is definitely something to look into.
After a long arduous yet fun trip to SF for the show, I finally got the chance to try out the popcorn. At first when I tried one cup of their popcorn, I have to be honest and say that I wasn't too impressed. Still, the guys there were so cheerful and gracious. They stuffed my bag with a bag of unpopped bacon and cheddar bacon flavored microwave popcorn along with bacon flavored envelopes. Can't wait to lick and try the envelopes out lol.
Fresh popped popcorn is definitely the best. We decided to microwave the cheddar bacon. The instructions are on the back. Be sure to watch the bag carefully as to not burn the bacon and make sure to shake it up! After a minute or so, your house or apartment will be saturated with the delicious aroma of cooked bacon mixed with buttery popcorn. The smell was intoxicating but what matters most is the taste...
We did a good job monitoring the popping and we didn't lose many kernels as well as not burning the popcorn. The bacon flavor was very subtle. I think it might be personal preference, but we like more flavorful items. The popcorn was good but we agreed that it needed a little more salt and more bacon flavor to make it stand out. We just wished the aroma matched the taste, but nonetheless there is a lot of potential here. Who doesn't want to keep cheddar bacon popcorn around the house for emergency cravings or movie nights? After we reached the end of the bag, we were very tempted to lick all the bacon flavor or bits that might be stuck to the bag... **Homer Simpson's drooling sound**

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Eat and shop at the same time? Sure! If the place is packed and you have some time to kill then you can peruse around the Tommy Bahama store. Of course I am all about the food but it never hurts to have other options. We were lucky to arrive early because the place started to get packed as time went on. As soon as you walk in the doors there are people to greet you and a nice bar area to the right for some delicious concoctions.
Stepping through the doors, the setting is very reminiscent to a calm serene island decor. I love the use of fresh orchids.
Our server highly recommended their cocktail menu. Ms. Lin and I started off with a Coconut Cloud Martini and Cant-E-Lope Martini. Got to love the names. For the CCM they used Tommy Bahama White Sand, Stoli Vanil, Cruzan Coconut, and Cream of Coconut topped off with shredded Coconut. This drink might look airy and fruity. but it definitely packs a punch. The CT was made with Ketel One, Melon Liqueur, and Fresh Orange finished off with fresh Cantaloupe Melon Balls. This drink is very dangerous because the drink tastes like a candy drop and you can't feel the effects of the alcohol.
Everyone was super friendly and they provided top notch service. We started the night off with a bang. They brought us a nice serving of Ahi Tuna Tacos. Stuffed between Wonton Shells were Asian Slaw, Ahi Tuna, and Wasabi-Lime Infused Avocado. There are slight hints of ginger embedded that take away any fishiness from the tuna. I really liked this starter because it was light and refreshing. It would definitely be a great snack after a nice day on the beach. I was very greedy and got a second order at the end, but I think I was too full to enjoy it as much as I did in the beginning. Lesson is not to be greedy and to order this again on my next trip, because after all there are plenty future trips to come.
Ms. Lin and I were unanimous that we need to have the Lobster Corn Dogs. They use whole claws covered in a Sweet Corn Batter and served with Mango Ketchup plus a Sriracha Mustard. Props to them for being creative with the dipping sauce. You can taste a slight tangy difference in the ketchup. They didn't skimp on the quality and portion size.
We were ecstatic to see that they offered a Lobster Mac & Cheese as a side. The price is very reasonable so we were a little afraid of how it would turn out. To our surprise they use a good amount of lobster and cheese, which is of course the most important part to us. The lobster mac & cheese was made with Cavatappi, Shiitakes, Truffle Oil, and 3 different Cheeses. For me, I wished it was a little bit more salty and cheesier. Still, it was nicely made and flavorful. As a side, it would go well with most dishes as it does not fight or compete in flavor with other components on the plate.
A surprisingly delicious dish was the Ahi Noodle Salad part of their Specialties menu. At first I was very skeptical because I normally don't go for the healthier looking dishes but I am a fan now. The Ahi Tuna is Lemongrass Encrusted and Seared then paired with Shredded Romaine, Carrots, Edamame, Peppers, Wakame, Buckwheat Soba, Ponzu, and Red Miso Vinaigrette. I thought the flavors really popped and it was a great mix of savory with a slight tangy kick. The aromatic sesame seeds used really enhanced the dish. Not only do you get a tasty dish, there's a lot of healthy components that help balance out the dish.
They have a nice selection of drinks to pair with the dishes. Ms. Lin decided to try the Bahia Sangria with Brandy, Red Wine, Pomegranate, Orange, Green Apple, and Lemon. The fruity flavor emanated through the alcohol. This is perfect for those who don't like a strong alcoholic flavor but enjoy a drink every now and then.
We were fortunate enough that they made us a little sampler of the P.E.I Mussels with White Wine, Meyer Lemon, and served with a Grilled French Baguette. The most important part of eating mussels is to submerge the bread early on so that it will soak in all the flavor by the end.
I looked forward to try their Shrimp BLT because you can never go wrong with mixing shrimp and bacon. Actually just having bacon and avocado in any dish kicks it up a notch. Inside the sandwich was Grilled Shrimp, Nueske's Applewood Bacon, Romaine, Romas, Avocado, and Garlic Aioli all between Grilled Sourdough with Fries on the side. I loved what was listed, but I wished this was just a little more savory so that it would pop more, but that could just be a personal preference.
What night would be complete without Filet & Shrimp. A nicely cooked 6 oz. Beef Tenderloin, Herbed Cheese, and Cracked Pepper Demi-Glaze served with Chipotle-Lime Shrimp and Whipped Yukon Golds. The shrimps were delicious, well seasoned, and grilled to perfection. I could go for a whole dish of these shrimps or maybe even an appetizer set. The filet was good but I wanted more oomph and flavor. Maybe Ms. Lin has affected me with her salty taste, but it is just personal preference. We kept most sauces to mix and match with the other dishes.
Not sure if this is how they normally serve their Root Beer Float dessert but they brought us the cutest miniature mugs. They use Abita, Ciao Bella Vanilla, White Chocolate, Caramel, and Whipped Cream. My only qualm is that even though the tiny mugs are adorable, I want more! Root beer float is a secret weakness of mine. Of course the ones I make at home aren't nearly as tasty or fancy but once I start... I can't stop. Hmmm maybe I need to go back just for this and some ahi tuna dishes.
They brought us the Banana Cream Pie with an Almond Crust, White Chocolate, Whipped Cream, Toasted Coconut, Caramel, and Caramelized Bananas. Needless to say my favorite part was the nicely caramelized bananas that were sweet with a slight crisp. I like how they don't do the same old banana cream pie. Instead they use a tart shaped crust filled with banana cream and topped off with caramel. It was huge and perfect to share with a group of friends.
Another choice of dessert is the Triple Chocolate Cake with four layers that include Chocolate Ganache and Mocha Mousse Whipped Cream in between the cake. This reminded me of the motherload cake from Claim Jumpers, but more moist and less crazy. If you are a chocolate lover then this would satisfy your craving.
For those of you who don't like to finish off the night with a sweet dish, then you should definitely go for their Cheese Plate. At first I didn't think they would have a great selection because I have never been to a Tommy Bahama store and would never have thought they served food. Well they proved me wrong because they paired their cheeses with Truffled Honey, Fig Jam, Fruits, Nuts, and French Baguette. After one bite of the truffled honey, I was a believer. They actually had a decent variety of cheeses. The truffled honey alone is worth ordering the cheese plate so you can feel the elated joy we felt after whiffing the delicious aroma of truffle flavor embedded into the honey.
All in all it was a great evening filled with great drinks, great service, and great food. Who knew that Tommy Bahama offered more than clothing? Located near the beach makes it convenient for snacking, a meal, or even just a drink while spending the day along the waters. Be sure to look into reservations because they were pretty busy on a weeknight. The secret is out that Tommy Bahama serves food so be sure to get in and try it out for yourself.

Tommy Bahama Laguna Beach
400 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 376-6881
Tommy Bahama Laguna Beach on Urbanspoon

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