Saturday, July 29, 2017

Xiang Xiang Noodle in El Sobrante

Shaanxi cuisine is one of the lesser known of Chinese regional cuisines around the Bay Area, but we've had great examples of it from Seattle to Los Angeles, even in the Contra Costa County town of Pittsburg. As Bay Area Gourmand & Chronicler Luke Tsai writes, "Shaanxi cooking is famous for its wide variety of noodles, generous amounts of lamb and pork, and bold sour and spicy elements." A few months ago, after eating at the nearby Sue's Kitchen, we saw a sign in an empty storefront that Xiang Xiang Noodle was coming. At last, they have opened.

Minced Pork & Eggplant Noodles, a Sauced Noodles dish using Shaved Noodles. Soft and luxurious, with a deep umami meat-based sauce (pork based, judging from the flavor), and served with cilantro garnish. Sublime.

Beef Fried Noodle, again using Shaved Noodle, with onions, scallions and cabbage.

Chile Oil was the perfect condiment for this dish.

The man we presume is the head chef (the oldest person there), is stirring shaved noodles boiling in a wok. To his right is the slicer that portions out the shaved noodles directly into the boiling water.

The rest of the open kitchen: in the foreground and near the woks are condiments, vegetables and ingredients for making sauces. Over to the far left are large pots of stock, slowly simmering.

My guess, judging from the excellence of the two dishes we tried today, is that the chef (and possibly others) is an immigrant with many years of experience cooking and serving Shaanxi cuisine. 

Xiang Xiang Noodle
454D Appian Way
El Sobrante, CA
(510) 275-3474
(510) 275-9245

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Gangnam Tofu: Korean Cuisine in El Cerrito

Banchan at Gangnam Tofu, clockwise from top, ending in the middle: seaweed salad, kim chee, potatoes, sliced marinated fish cake, japchae, pickled sprouts, and finally chile pickled daikon. And some white rice to the side. The flavors were fresh, deep and rich.

Fish cake Banchan. 

O-Zing-Eur- Bokkum--stir-fried squid w/vegetables (mostly scallion) in a red chilli sauce. Squid cooked perfectly, the chilli sauce deep and balanced. This might be the best Korean food I've ever had. 

Closeups of the fabulous banchan: seaweed salad, kim chee and daikon.

Above and below, their signature dish, the Gangnam Chicken. This heaping pile of fried chicken with  their special sauce (probably plum) is only a half order. The chicken was so moist and tender, even the white meat, that we were left wondering  how they did it. My mother and Nana's "secret" was soaking the chicken in buttermilk for 1-2 days. No pronounced flavor here in the meat of the chicken (other than the delicious chicken and the crust & sauce, of course), so perhaps egg whites? We're not sure. Great result. By the way this is a very sticky dish so you might ask the waiters for extra napkins.

Great value for the money, nice portions, exquisite cuisine. Free parking.

Gangnam Tofu
111740 San Pablo
El Cerrito, CA

Monday, July 17, 2017

Aung MayLiKa Burmese Cuisine in Benicia

Tea Leaf Salad as good as any I've ever had. Classic assemblage with tea leaf, lemon juice, tomato, peanuts and more atop mixed greens.

And then mixed up. Perfect summer dish. I can't think of another dish quite like this.

Above and below, spicy rice noodle with shrimp. Fantastic.

Paratha with Lamb Curry. Paratha is a fluffy flatbread. Like everything else, a joy both with contrasting textures and the highly attenuated and sophisticated spice, here with a Lamb Curry. These dishes all had a lot of flavors and textures to love.

Aung MayLiKa Burmese Cuisine 
836 Southampton Rd, Benicia, CA 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Book Club of California

Yesterday I cataloged something published by the Book Club of California, and while searching the internet to ascertain valuation, I came across references to their library, at 312 Sutter, being open to the general public. My old buddy Nicholas Yeager suggested I check it out sometime when I moved back out here four years ago, and ain't it funny how time slips away?

On display now through the end of this month is The Working Library: Clifford Burke and Fine Printing, an exhibition I can't recommend high enough for anyone interested in the Book Arts or Bay Area fine printing. I was already familiar with Burke and I've cataloged some items he's published and printed via his Cranium Press. In fact, the exhibit (and other things I saw at the BCC) is practically a tour of my own personal history with the Book Arts. Above left, for example, Dard Hunter's essential tome, Papermaking, was one of the first books I investigated when my interest in the world of fine printing and paper was first piqued many years ago at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas.

Printing as a Performing Art, Ruth Teiser, with a quote about ink on the exhibit label.

Absolutely beautiful stuff--the exhibit unfolds Burke's development as a printer and publisher, especially for poetry, using traditional aesthetics, rather than what had been more common in the Bay Area following the Beats.

I saw several examples of works I've cataloged, as well as works former co-workers cataloged. Pretty sure my friend Jeff Jackson cataloged that one.

Such a small world. References to Peter Howard & Serendipity Books throughout, and here's someone who's work I've definitely cataloged (Lew Welch), from material we got from Serendipity.

Roxburghe Club of San Francisco. I've cataloged plenty of stuff from them.

Oyez Press--Robert Hawley's imprint, I definitely have worked with & cataloged some Charles Olson material.

The legendary & awe-inspiring Grabhorn Press, of course. I've cataloged some books and ephemera from them.

And finally, some Fine Binding. Next time I'm there, I'm going to have to look at that Raoul Dufy.

Bastille Day in the Paris of the West Coast

After work yesterday, I decided to go check out the Book Club of California (see my next blog post). Nice walking weather. I started to notice the French flag flying around here and there, like here, in front of the Hotel St. Francis, facing Union Square. Since this was the afternoon, every step I took I was beset by tourists. I was tempted to start making random restaurant suggestions to passersby.

Early on in my walk, on Geary, a few blocks easy of Van Ness. Love the old ads on the brick sides of these buildings.

Another shot of the Hotel St. Francis. Did you know it survived {mostly unscathed} the 1906 SF Earthquake? Also Enrico Caruso had a panic attack in their lobby and vowed to never return to San Francisco?

450 Sutter, "New Mayan" Art Deco Facade. Absolutely adore this.

A street party commenced here (Grant Street) hours later. I like Daft Punk, but I'm not really up for dancing in the streets.

Plenty of great French restaurants I could have chosen (I still haven't tried the Cassoulet at Le Central!), but instead I opted for Oysters with Ginger and Scallions at New Sun Hong Kong. Each oyster was gigantic, and the sauce was superb.