Happy in Healdsburg

I’m so behind on posts that I actually had another trip to SF before I even finished blogging about my first one. Here’s the last post about that first trip, I swear! So post wine tasting, Alan planned for us to spend the day exploring downtown Healdsburg. It’s a pretty small city, but the downtown area is packed with food, shops, galleries and novelty shops. Since it was a Sunday, there was actually a flea market in the middle of the town square!

I was on the lookout for a cute throw for my room, something like these ones here. No luck on that front though. There were tons of vendors, but we got there right before it ended. So we had to zip around through all the stalls just to see everything. Definitely didn’t have time to dig and bargain for all the stuff I wanted. We did however walk away with this giant blue sheet metal elephant for Alan. It needs to be sanded down around the edges and there were talks about coating it in a new color or material. I’ll let you know if we ever get around to that.

The bartender at the Coppola Winery recommended we visit SHED if we were big foodies. It turned out to be equal parts grocery store and cafe. Organic produce, charcuterie, cheeses, fresh jams, cooking supplies and more were all laid out in the front of the store. Halfway through, you meet the hostess who’ll seat you in the dining area in the back. Very hip, farm-to-table vibe. We checked out the menu and walked through the store portion, but just weren’t feeling it.

Turned out to be a tapas kind of day. Bravas  is a tapas bar with a very laid-back, Spanish atmosphere.  We ordered a plate of asparagus with brie and tangy orange zest because I’ve got a pretty big soft spot for asparagus. Alan wanted to try the duck meatballs with tomato sofrito and a green olive tapenade. You get a plate of two slider-sized meatball burgers, which were okay. They were a little dry to me and we both agreed they could use a little kick. My favorite of our orders was the octopus with fingerlings, smoked paprika, and olives.

The thicker part was succulent and tender while the thinner end was crispy and a little chewy in the middle. With some fresh lemon and olive oil, mmmm! It was all definitely enough to hold us over until dinner. Then it was time to walk off some of those calories. We went through a few art galleries, stopped into little bookstores and eventually ended up grabbing dessert. So much for burning off the calories, I guess.

Noble Folk  is a desserts shop that serves homemade ice cream, pie and coffee on the side. We split a scoop of almond with cardamom and a scoop of thai tea. Nice, sticky ice cream. The flavors are super aromatic. For any of you from the Westwood area, it was a lot like our local Saffron & Rose Ice Cream. 

After that we decided to just sit and relax in the square where the flea market had been earlier. This was one of my favorite parts of our trip, just talking and seeing Healdsburg. Anything’s fun with good company, right? We ended the night by driving out to Applewood Inn, which you can read all about here!


Thai Temple | Wat Mongkolratanaram

Well that’s a mouthful. I originally wanted to make a post that had everything we did our second day up North. But we honestly did so much in that one day and I wanted to highlight the individual spots that we visited. So I’ll be breaking it up into separate pieces. We had kind of a cranky first day, but this day started off so much better. Our first stop was Wat Mongkolratanaram, a Thai Buddhist temple known for serving brunch on Sundays. Located in Berkeley, it’s a pretty popular place for Cal kids. I’ve never been so jealous of them before. This place was good. Sooooo good.

One of the folks living right next to the temple came all the way out of his house to let us know that we could park in their driveway to grab food. We walked all of ten feet to get to the temple and spent a little bit of time looking at the cool features and snapping photos. People started spilling in, so we hurried inside to grab some goodies before the lines got too long.

Technically, the temple cannot actually sell food. So the whole system is based on donations through proxy vendors. That way the monks themselves never handle physical money. You go up to the vendors and pay them a dollar per coin for however many coins you would like. There’s a poster up that gives suggested donation amounts per food item. Then you take the coins to the monks and trade it for portions of food.

$15 ended up being enough for us to try everything that we wanted. We got green curry, pad thai and the pork green beans. I know it’s not the most appetizing looking picture in the world, but oh man, this was amazing. The pad thai was pretty standard but I loved the curry and the pork green beans. Spicy and delicious!

We also ordered a Thai tea and these little desserts. That was the best thai tea I’ve ever had and it came in a regular-sized fountain drink cup. I wish we had gotten one more to go. The little white round desserts below are Kanom Krok, a cross between coconut pudding and coconut pancakes. Super squishy and creamy and sweet! Alan really liked these. I liked them too, but I preferred the crispy fried taro beside them. So crunchy!

It’s not a fancy establishment by any means. Food is served in to-go boxes and sold outdoors under portable canopies. The seating is all communal in a series of picnic tables, but it has a real community vibe to it. We were both stuffed and completely satisfied. Just goes to show, great food does not have to equal a sad wallet.

Just writing this post has me craving it again. Anyone know of any Thai temples that do a similar thing down here in LA? Please, my stomach will thank you.

Bar Crudo

Bar Crudo. The first of many things we ate up in Northern California, but by far the one I have the most mixed feelings about. I found the place somewhere on a list of places to eat in SF and there tons of reviews raving about the chowder and the happy hour. Chowder and seafood were on my must-do list so I figured we could check them both off at the same time. Our reservations were initially at 7:30 but we got there early enough to get seated for happy hour pricing.

Half a Dozen Mussels. Half a Dozen Oysters.  Oysters, mussels, and a couple other on-the-half-shell options were only $1 each for happy hour. So we got half a dozen of each. The mussels were marinated in herbs and jalapenos, which gave them an interesting kick. Not sure if I would get them again, but it was an interesting try. Oysters were on the small side, I felt, but standard in quality. Some of them are missing up in the photo because I dug straight in before thinking about pictures at all. That’s how hungry we were after the six hour drive.

Seafood Chowder. Oh, this was heavenly. Rich and creamy, but not too heavy. Plenty of seafood and the pops of bacon were so delicious. We got the smaller happy hour size but I honestly wish we had skipped the rest and just gotten a ton more chowder. We even thought about taking some to go. Yuuuuum.

Crudo Sampler for Two. This is where dinner took a turn for me. I did not like the crudo. It was pretty expensive too, but heck, the place was called Bar Crudo. We felt like we should at least sample it. Starting from the top left and going clockwise, here’s what was on the sampler.

Arctic Char Salmon with horseradish creme fraiche, wasabi tobiko and dill. Tobiko is flying fish roe. I felt like all the flavors were overwhelming and they didn’t fit together well. The tobiko was salty but with a bite from the horseradish. Then slight herbiness from the dill.

Scallops with celery root, kumquat and chervil. This was the best one for me. Flavors were subtle enough to taste the scallops and the kumquat was tangy and fresh. I love me some kumquat.

Tombo Tuna with citrus, chili, fennel, black tobiko. This was my least favorite. Textures were all over the place. A graininess from the small tobiko to strips of crunchy fennel. The chili and citrus sauce made the tuna a little too slimy. I couldn’t even finish my half of this one. Sorry Alan.

Butterfish with chorizo oil, fennel and orange. All the toppings on this? Yum. But that slice of butterfish was far from a bite size. The chorizo oil made it super slick and rich. Once you swallowed the oranges, there was nothing to offset the richness and it got to be too much.

In general, the flavors weren’t really crafted to the fish. I felt like the restaurant was trying to make something really trendy and artsy, but totally forgot that food is for eating. So thank you Bar Crudo for my cool instagram pic, but I’m skipping the crudo from now on. Maybe I’m just too used to sushi and its subtle approach to raw fish. Anyways, for our first dining out experience, I was a little disappointed. Should have just stuck to that chowder!


The Good Old Days

Sometimes life can get away from you. And it’s easy to be stressed and to be tired and to be overwhelmed. But a few days of that and you end up going to sleep as a person you don’t like. I feel like that’s been me for the past few days. Just tired and frustrated and scared of trying to put my life together after graduation. I need to be more conscious of what I’m putting out and who feels the brunt of my tiredness and my stress when I get home from long days. I can be patient. I can be kind. I can be balanced and I can balance all the good things in life. ‘Cause they’re all good things when you really think about it. So cheers to that! And cheers to everyone else who’s on the struggle bus to adulthood. We’ll get there someday.

On another note, this picture is from Cafe 50s, a 50s throwback diner that we went to for brunch last weekend. It’s small, crowded and the food was nothing spectacular, but any place with brunch is a good one in my book.

Date Night at the Gunboat Society

Alan’s been working nearby for the past few weeks so we’ve gotten to see each other every day after coming home from work and school and whatnot. We’re pretty accustomed to having each around all the time, so I felt like we needed a date night. Date nights make sure you still dedicate time and space to just focus on the other person. That’s a big thing in my book. That we both take time to experience new things together and appreciate the days we get to spend in each other’s company. Anyways, relationship shpeel aside, our last date night was at Flores and the Ladies’ Gunboat Society!

This little understated gem is right on Sawtelle. It’s so much more spacious than it appears on the outside with big windows and patio seating. It has a cozy feel though. There’s ivy along the wooden walls, a caged fire outside, strings of lights around the walls and little candles on every table.

For our starter, we went with fried oysters, which Alan decided on seconds before our waitress left. It was a wonderful choice though because these oysters were heavenly. You would think fried oysters would be dense and chewy, but these were just lightly fried on the outside with all the flavorful juiciness on the inside. Still soft and full of oyster liquor. It was topped with a fresh spring mix with a tangy almost southwest-type dressing. It was amazing.

Salad-wise we went with the asparagus. Is it surprising that these stole the show for me? I don’t know, it surprised me. I don’t expect much from vegetables, but I spent the whole drive home thinking of how to make this dish at home. Grilled asparagus topped with herbs, two poached eggs, a lemon hollandaise and bacon crumbs. Just looking at it makes me hungry.

For the first of our main course, we had the braised lamb sirloin with chimichurri, lentils, parsnips, lamb bacon and cumin jus. This was my least favorite of the night. The lamb was cooked well, but the sweetness of the chimichurri and the cumin sauce was a little too strong for me.

We were pretty satisfied in terms of quality but didn’t feel stuffed until this last dish came out. Crispy duck with potato gnocchi, walnuts, chanterelle mushrooms and an assortment of herbs. I’m not normally a gnocchi fan because of its doughy texture, but these were lightly fried so that they tasted like a cross between bread and pasta. This dish was a really simple, filling homey dish. The flavors were nothing too exotic. You tasted more of the chanterelles than anything. It was more a texture thing, between the chewy gnocchi and the crunch of the walnuts with a crispy strip of duck…that kind of thing.

We washed everything down with a pint of vanilla cream ale, which was a refreshingly cold light beer. It was a pretty satisfying experience and despite the price, I would definitely come back to try their other dishes or perhaps brunch! Bottomless mimosas, anyone?

Bottomline, if you need a nicer place for dinner and are looking for something with a lot of interesting flavors, stop by Gunboat! More importantly, if you do, get the asparagus and fried oysters.