Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pacific Catch in Corte Madera--Poke Bowl is finally in the North Bay

Poke Bowl (Ahi Serrano Rice Bowl) at Pacific Catch in Corte Madera.

When I first moved to the Bay Area in 2005, one day I'm with my buddy running errands in Marin County, and he runs into this place to get some kind of salad with ahi tuna to go. Looks good, and he commented that folks in the North Bay have high standards when it comes to good fish. I've been meaning to check this place out for myself, and last night we finally did.

Fried Calamari Appetizer. Perfectly done. I don't want to disrespect the places I loved in Austin that did calamari just right too, but let's face facts, there's a big difference between using frozen & fresh calamari. Not sure about Pacific Catch's calamari, but I know it's easy to to find fresh locally caught calamari around here. I wouldn't be surprised if theirs uses fresh calamari.

Above & below: Spicy Tuna Roll. Spot on. Just enough spice.

Both the previous dishes were quite good preludes, but judging by the quality of the Poke Bowl (they call it Rice Bowl on the menu, but this is essentially what most people call Poke Bowl elsewhere), it'll be what we'll order in the future. We split one order--next time we'll just get one full order each. 

First off, this is the first Poke Bowl place we know of in the North Bay, and I predict it'll be everywhere from Sausalito to Novato, and even parts of Sonoma County, before you know it. What's remarkable is the high calibre of the ingredients: sashimi grade tuna, high quality pickled ginger, seaweed salad that's exemplary, delicious perfectly ripe avocado, mixed greens with great texture and flavor, brown rice with no taint of rancid tones that's still warm like it's been cooked within the last hour or two which means plump warm kernels. Those little things add up to the best Poke Bowl I've ever had. 

I have to admire the acuity of Pacific Catch. Most of the clientele we saw (it was early on a weeknight) were older folks, and I'm sure they're aware that tastes and dining tendencies are changing, and no doubt they've gradually been changing their menu to cater to more to younger tastes, but also to those with healthy & gourmet options in mind. The fact that they changed their menu to suit newer tastes, and have accomplished mastery of a new cuisine so well is a testament to both the prowess of their cooks on the line, and management.

Pacific Catch (local chain with several locations)
133 Corte Madera Town Center
Corte Madera, CA 94925
(415) 927-3474

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Larb Thai Food & Tapas in El Cerrito

Quail at Larb Thai Food in El Cerrito.
There was a great write-up on this place in the East Bay Express some months ago, and it took a while to get around to going there. It was hailed as having some of the funkier sauces and unusual ingredients in the Bay Area's Thai/Lao scene.

One of Larb's specialties are their Grilled Skewers. I'm pretty sure what we got was Grilled Beef Tongue, Marinated Pork Shoulder and Issan Pork & Herb Sausage. All were absolutely delicious.

Above and below: the most singular, intense version of Larb (minced chicken, shallot, mint, cilantro & rice powder served with lettuce) I've ever had, likely because the fermented fish sauce(s?) used are very strong.

Larb Thai Food & Tapas 
10166 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530

Lime Leaf Thai Lao Kitchen in Suisun City

Lime Leaf is one of the best restaurants we've discovered in the Fairfield/Suisun City area, not very far from the Fairfield County Courthouse and the Suisun Marina.

Lime Leaf's Lao sausages are up there with the best, with an intense flavor of Lemongrass, Ginger and Pork.

Beef Salad. Probably the lightest Beef dish you'll ever have. Chile/lime sauce with probably a touch of fish sauce, bell peppers, lettuce, carrot, thinly-sliced beef.

Papaya Salad with seafood, mostly squid. Delicious and refreshing.

Kao Soy--coconut based sauce with chicken and noodles. Sublime. I would assume some of these dishes use lime leaves.

Lime Leaf Thai Lao Kitchen
201 Marina Center, Suisun City, CA 94585

Sunday, April 30, 2017

San Jose: Rosicrucian Museum, Olla Cocina, & much more

I've never set foot in San Jose before, passed through it in a car a few times, flown over it. Above is the SAP Center, and I think it's been just over the 20 years since the last time I was this close to a place where the NHL takes place. They've also got concerts by Roger Waters, Neil Diamond and Pitbull coming up.

Downtown San Jose Whole Foods, which is why we were here, as Robin was vending at their crafts fair. Two blocks from the stadium, with a CalTrains station in between, the airport just a bit north. This WFM has a brewpub up the stairs, and it also has a Poke bowl station inside. We got Poke for an early lunch, and it was more than enough for both of us.

Mural in Downtown San Jose.

Old & new. Plenty of buildings remain from San Jose's mission days.

Most of downtown SJ is unremarkable, but there's enough buildings from eras past to keep it interesting.

Olla Cocina: brilliant spot-on Mexican cuisine. Every detail is perfect. Tomatoes in the Salsa Rojo at left are charred. Big round flavor of ripe chiles and tomatillos in the Salsa Verde, and the Guacamole couldn't be better.

Pineapple/mango agua fresca.

Roast duck, chayote, sprouts, butternut squash, zucchini, oaxaca cheese served on a freshly cooked huarache, chile arbol salsa on the side. Mexican soul food at its finest.

Duck Carnitas tacos, again with Chile Arbol salsa. I look forward to our next visit.

I accidentally discovered a pub serving my favorite ale on the planet: Fuller's ESB! Haven't had one in years, thought I'd never have another. First time I've ever seen it on draught in California.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum.

Francis Bacon Auditorium

Pythagoras statue in front of Planetarium

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cooter's Wine Reviews: Curve Balls

I can't barely remember where that whole thing started but I thought we were talking about the rules of Nine Ball pool, but then he started talking about aerodynamics as it related to putting "English" on the cue ball was just like two fingers together producing a curve ball, tacking the sail just off the headwind, or riding the curve while accelerating at the angle to increase velocity and stability. Some still objects could blow over with the amount of wind being generated.

Pitching a line from the dock takes a flick of the wrist like skipping a stone across the water. If the line or stone is wet, you'll get different action. Wind always plays a part, as does gravity. Buckminster Fuller spoke of the idea of a natural inclination for the velocity of a moving object to proceed in an arc instead of a straight line. Makes me think of the science of pouring ale into a pint glass, or vino into a wine glass.

Morande Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2008. Sweet, nutty and complex. Similar to Sherry or Marsala.

Riaza Faultline 2014 California Red Blend, 90% Tempranillo (from two vineyards) & 10% Zinfandel. Big berry and plum overtones, dry, earthy.

Hilt & Blade Zinfandel Lodi 2015. Full fruit, long finish, hearty. Typical of the better Lodi Zins.

Rock Springs Sierra Foothills 2013 Red Blend. Ripe fruit, balanced. Opened up nicely after two hours. Perhaps a bit more age would improve? Quite good nevertheless.

VQ Cuvee VIII Napa 2012  25% Grenache, 24% Syrah, 15% Tempranillo, 10% Carignan, 10% Petit Syrah, and others. Big fruit, complex, solid structure & finish. Pomegranate notes. Pretty sure this is only the second wine I've had with Carignan grapes.

White Cliff Pinot Noir 2013 Winemaker's Selection Marlborough, New Zealand. At first I realized I needed to let this wine breathe as it was extremely tart on first sip, and opened up to be a very interesting mix of cranberry & raspberry. Stunningly good when you consider this is about $6, and you'd normally pay $35-50 for a Pinot this good from down under.

Alder Springs Vineyard Ukiah Row Rive 2013 Red Cuvee. Full-bodied fruit, slightly dry, a solid choice.

Projection Winemaker's Cut Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2015. Strawberry notes. Great cab for the price, on par with most cabs I've had in the $25-30 range. One of my favorites I've had a few times from Grocery Outlet in recent months. I wonder if cellaring could improve this vintage? I'm happy to drink this now.

Pythian Rock 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Sebastopol Big, fruity Cabernet with solid tannins, structure, tart cherry, raspberry & plum notes. Another solid Grocery Outlet bargain.

Hippie Modernism Exhibit at UC Berkeley Art Museum

The work of Frances Butler, professor emeritus, UC Davis.