Klawchat is tentatively scheduled for 1 pm EDT Friday. I’ll also be on the Herd around 1:40 pm, which will be taped.
I bounced around northern California a little last week and found a few spots worth highlighting. The find of the trip was Bakesale Betty in the Telegraph/Temecula District of Oakland, a recommendation from a scout who shall remain nameless but whose culinary credibility went through the roof, because BB is a 70. They’re known for their fried chicken sandwich, which includes a large portion of perfectly fried chicken breast, about half the thickness of a whole breast, spicy, crispy, and not really greasy. It’s served with a big dose of a cabbage-based slaw in a mild vinaigrette and served on a slightly dense white mini-baguette. I told the cute girl taking my order that “I was told I need to order a fried chicken sandwich and a lemon ice,” but they were out of lemon ice. That may be why I got the to-die-for just-out-of-the-oven molasses spice cookie for free, although I prefer to believe that it was my stunning good looks and winning smile that sealed the deal. Sandwich + bottled Tejana iced tea were about $8.50. Srsly.
I also had two hits in Sacramento, one dinner, one breakfast. Dinner was at Kathmandu Kitchen, a Nepali restaurant on Broadway in the middle of a sort of ethnic restaurant row, two or three doors down from an Ethiopian place called Queen of Sheba that has a good reputation. At Kathmandu, I tried the vegetable sampler, which was, surprisingly, enough food to fill me despite the absence of meat. The platter comes with two samosas, five momos (a steamed dumpling with a thick doughy wrapper), dal (lentil soup), bhat (as far as I could tell, just white basmati rice), naan, green beans with a little chili pepper, and five different sauces/chutneys – one with mint, one with tomatoes, one with tamarind, one that was sweet like a fruit preserve, and one that was yogurt-based. The samosas, momos, and green beans were all intensely flavored, although the momos were too heavily flavored, with a fragrant (cardamom?) note that I didn’t like. The dal was thinner than what I’ve had at Indian restaurants, but I don’t know if this is authentic to Nepali cuisine. The naan was a little dry, but I don’t know if there’s a white bread product on the planet that I don’t like. The only real failure was the chai, which I found undrinkable, but again, may be suffering from a lack of acquaintance with authentic Nepali cuisine. Solid 50, leaning towards 55 for good service.
Breakfast – twice – was at Cafe Bernardo, a funky upscale bar/restaurant that does fancy breakfasts right but charges pedestrian prices. I tried the Belgian waffle, with a pecan butter that I could eat by the pound; the amaretto French toast, with very high-quality bread and toasted (slightly overtoasted) almonds, and a portion that exceeded my gastric capacity; and the chicken apple sausage, split in half and grilled, not dry and just a little spicy. Order tea and for $2.75 you’ll get a pot with loose leaves and at least four cups’ worth of tea in it. Street parking abounds but there are meters. It was just about full on Saturday morning at around 9 am, but half full the day before at around 8:30. It’s a 50/55 as well.
One bad meal in Sacramento came at New Canton, also on Broadway, a very popular dim sum restaurant. I had four dishes; two were good, two were hot, and if you did the Venn diagram on those the intersection would be the null set. I gave up for fear that dish #5 would be the one that poisoned me.
I was in Palo Alto for the Wheeler/Storen matchup and ate two meals there. The Counter is an upscale burger bar on California Avenue with a build-your-own shtick similar to that of Blu Burger in Phoenix, although the Counter uses Angus beef instead of American Kobe. It’s apparently a nationwide chain, although I didn’t know it at the time and have never seen one before. The ingredient quality was good, and the portions of toppings were generous (I’m going from memory but I believe I had their soft herbed goat cheese, sauteed mushrooms, roasted red peppers, mixed baby greens, and grilled onions), so much so that half of them slid off the burger as I ate. The problem was that I ordered the burger medium, which they say is their default option, and got one that was well-done. I mentioned this to the bartender, who called the manager over, who took one look at the burger and told me it was on the house. She mentioned that it was “two in a row” for the kitchen, so someone got in a little hot water that day. I might not have said anything, but the burger was pretty dry from the overcooking. I’ll give them some benefit of the doubt because the ingredients were good and the manager was hopping mad about the issue, so at least they take it seriously.
So, spending less than expected on lunch, I decided to go a little upscale for dinner and hit a fancy Cuban place on California, La Bodeguita del Medio for dinner, which was a dud. I ordered masitas, which is usually a dish of marinated pork shoulder chunks that have been slowly braised until tender; the chefs at La Bodeguita apparently feel that trimming the fat off the meat is for sissies, and the meat appears to have been cooked too quickly at too high a temperature, resulting in meat that fell apart but was dry. The meat and caramelized onions were sitting on the rice and black beans, which ended up swimming in sauce. I had asked the waiter how spicy the dish was, and he said “mild,” which was an outright lie. And the place isn’t cheap. I guess it’s a 40 – really, you want to find someplace better, but in a dire emergency it’s playable, like if your star restaurant is closed for 50 days for using a banned substance.