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Monday, September 27, 2010

Koi Palace

365 Gellert Blvd
Daly City, CA 94015
(650) 992-9000

It can lure you in with inexpensive prices. It once promised quality over quantity and consistently delivered the opposite. It can create 100 dish permutations with only three ingredients. It is the most overrated food in the world. I don't always eat dim sum, but when I do, I prefer Koi Palace.

Considered one of the best dim sum houses in the country, it easily made its way onto our agenda. And as our vacation was approaching we happen to try two of the most acclaimed dim sum restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, Elite and Sea Harbour. After these two visits, I was beginning to think dim sum was just plain pedestrian. We were even contemplating whether to replace Koi Palace. Due to the day fast approaching and pure laziness, we kept it on the agenda. And thank god we did. There is such a thing as good dim sum.

The food was consistently well above average. Our favorites were the Coffee Glazed Pork Spareribs , X.O. Spicy Sauce Dumplings, and the Crab Meat filled Dumplings w/ Whole Crab. the har gow and crab, we have had before and Kio's version was hands down a grade above. The ingredients were fresher, more succulent, and the preparation was better executed. The BBQ pork buns were on par with Sea Harbour, but I would give the edge to Elite. And for $24, I would pass on the abalone. It reminded me of the bland flavors you get at most dim sum places.

$4.50 X.O. Spicy Sauce Dumplings (8)

$3.60 Baked BBQ Pork Buns (6)

$4.50 Har Gow (7)

$32 #436 Crab Meat filled Dumplings w/ Whole Crab (8)

$24 Garlic Steamed Abalone (4)

$6.90 #376 Coffee Glazed Pork Spareribs (8)

(The dining room)

(Sweatshop hard at work)


(The wait at 11:30AM on Sunday)

(Making dragon beard candy)

Dynamo Donuts and Coffee

2760 24th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 920-1978

Prior to coming to San Francisco, I posted on Chowhound requesting recommended dishes at Koi Palace and I mentioned we were going to The French Laundry later than night for dinner. A few people replied back that's too much food to have in one day. They would have thought I was crazy if I mentioned my girlfriend and I were splitting nine doughnuts and two desserts as a morning refresher at Dynamo. But that was exactly the game plan.

The line at 8:59AM

(The crew hard at work)

(The daily selection)

Overall, I liked the doughnuts. But a clear second to some recent experiences I've had at Bob's Doughnut in Los Angeles. Bob's has a fresh baked dough taste and the glaze impales within the doughnut's crevasses. Rather than walk through all the dishes, I listed the doughnuts in order of preference with some highlights.

The goods (in order of preference)

$2.50 Spiced Chocolate (8)

$2 Caramel de Sel (8)

$3 Chocolate Hazelnut Rose Geranium (7)

$2.50 Chocolate Star Anise (7)

$3 Passion fruit Milk Chocolate (7)

$2 Apricot Cardamom (6)

$3 Sticky Bun (6)

$3 Donut Bread Pudding (6)

$3 Strawberry Earl Grey (6)

$2 Vanilla Bean (6)

$3 Maple Glazed Bacon Apple (5)

After trying the entire inventory of doughnuts, how could one feel unfulfilled or empty? Well, it would have been nice to try at least one filled doughnut. A quota for future daily menu designs? Perhaps, but I'll have to stop in some time for a Banana de Leche or a Lemon Sichuan.

Note: No doughnuts were harmed in the making of this blog post. My girlfriend and I each tried a quarter of a doughnut and gave the other half to a homeless guy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cowgirl Creamery Artisan Cheese

1 Ferry Building
Marketplace Shop #17

San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 362-9350

Finding your ideal cheese shop can be a journey for the ages. I can remember 10 years ago wondering into the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. Inexperienced and intimidated, I didn't know how to order, I was clueless as to the cheeses I even liked. After a brief exchange, in doubt, I answer "stinky". I want some stinky cheeses. At least they will be memorable. I took them to work as snacks for the week. They were memorable, especially for my co-workers every time I open a container. Now, the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills caters to the high end, but I want a selection of some great, modest cheeses. Enter Say Cheese, prices are lower, but I'm treated with a Parisian arrogance every time I request a smaller cut. No thank you. The Cheese Store of Silverlake has become my happy medium between quality cheeses and accommodating service.

Up in San Francisco, you don't have to search hard. Head straight through the Ferry Plaza doors to Cowgirl Creamery. There's a great selection of domestic and foreign cheeses laid out for the frenzy of tourists and locals alike. The recommendations were gratifying and the portions were cut as I asked, no minimum.

(The staff eager to please)

(The staff eager to please)

(Just some of the cheese selection)

(more of the cheese selection)

The fresh cheese selection is not to be missed either. We tried a sample of all of them and selected a few of our favorites. Those moving on the second round, to the purchase counter, included a cottage cheese, mascarpone, and a chile goat cheese spread.


  • Country - USA
  • Milk - Pasteurized sheep
  • Rind -Poly edible
  • Texture - Firm
  • Aging - 6 months

In the lush and green land fondly known as the Dairy State, the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative (WSDC) was born. The Midwestern sheep dairy industry dates back to the 1980s, and the WSDC is currently comprised of twelve farms. Each of these twelve farms boasts fluffy flocks between one hundred and four hundred ewes.

While the mission of the WSDC is "to enhance the quality of life for co-op member families by sustainably producing and marketing premium sheep dairy products," the co-op hopes that by conducting their business with "respect, integrity, and sincere consideration for [their] members and their families, [their] customers and suppliers, [their] communities, [their] animals, and [their] land" they will "establish industry standards for promoting highly-valued sheep dairy products."

Rich and nutty with a slightly dry but fabulously firm texture, Dante is delicious grated over steamy pasta or cold salads.

2nd Place Ribbon, American Cheese Society Competition in Burlington, Vermont, 2007.

Wilder Weide

  • Country - Holland
  • Milk - Organic Raw Cow
  • Rind -Wax
  • Texture - Firm
  • Aging - 15 months
One of the only small production farmstead cheeses made in The Netherlands, this organic raw cow milk cheese is made right on the farm in Southern Holland with milk from a mixed herd. The cheese is then wrapped in wax and aged for fifteen months.


  • Country - Spain
  • Milk - Goat and Cow
  • Rind -Wrapped in Sycamore leaves
  • Texture - Semi-soft
  • Aging - 90 days
Wrapped snuggly in Sycamore leaves, this distinctive blue cheese from the Spanish Castille-Leon province combines the sweet richness of cow's milk with the tanginess of goat milk. Slightly more delicate than Cabrales, Valdeon is a slightly salty, complicated cheese with fragile veins darting through its pungent paste.

Torta La Serena 

  • Country - Spain
  • Milk - Raw Sheep
  • Rind - Natural
  • Texture - Soft
  • Aging - 60 days
Raw sheep milk cheese from Extremadura, Spain reaches its apex after a bout of bad weather. The burnished ochre semi-hard rind of this cheese is cinched with a belt to mold it, but when the Extremadura winters or springs are cold and rainy, the belted cheeses become deformed. Cracks break through and riddle the crusted rind, and the interior gets soft and supple.

When the cheese reaches this stage, it garners the name "torta" and the softer it gets, the more highly sought it becomes. At this point, the cheese should be eaten quickly, which, given the sumptuousness of La Serena, shouldn't be a problem.

Torta La Serena is coagulated with thistle flower, which lends an elusive vegetal element to the intense, complex cheese. When at its most liquid state, the top of Torta La Serena can be sliced off and the cheese scooped out and enjoyed.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sierra Mar - Post Ranch Inn

Highway 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
(831) 667-2800

I had, what I thought was, an ingenious idea to drive home down PCH from San Francisco to Santa Monica. We gave up mid drive, caught the 101 in San Luis Obispo, and it still took us nine hours in total. We did make one memorable stop along the way at The Post Ranch in Big Sur.  The hotel is widely recognized as the place in the middle of nowhere that charges $1,000 a night for a room.

If you don't budget for four digit hotel rates, Sierra Mar restaurant within the hotel or the adjacent bar is a cost effective alternative to take in the spectacular coastal views.

On our visit it was extremely foggy, but the views were still exhilarating. Although it was a little windy, we grabbed a seat outside on the deck and ordered a couple items while we took in the surroundings and watched the sunset. The food was a lot better than I expected, but I must admit I didn't go in with high expectations. We ordered oysters and Wagyu beef and enjoyed the final hour of a great weekend.

$28 Half Dozen Oysters on the Half Shell with Sambuca Mignonette (6)
Nothing special, but an ideal choice after all the food we had this weekend. Light, refreshing and complemented with a glass of wine. Good appetizer to take in the view.

$56 Wagyu Beef (6)
Standard 1980's upscale dining at its finest. The meat was obviously American wagyu. For the price, I would pass on entrees and just order some more wine.


1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA 94111(415) 433-6500

We stopped by a few specialty shops at the Ferry Plaza, one that pleasantly surprised us (me more than my girlfriend) was Boccalone. An Italian handmade artisan meat and sandwich shop with over 20 varieties of salumi. Once inside, the crowd favorite appeared to be the Mixed Salumi Cone. Now, this is how a specialty shop should operate. Rather than have to commit to a pound of one salume. You can taste a sample of a few salumi. Very San Franciscan ; )

We got two custom cones, six meats for under $10 and packed it along with the Cowgirl Creamery cheese and some Acme Bread for the long drive home down the PCH.

(The busy store front)

(One of the meat cases)

$4.50 Custom Salumi Cone (9)
(left to right) Capocollo, Mortadella, Porchetta di Testa

Lardo was on the menu. And with its recent rise to fame, I had to get an order. Our favorites, though, were the Brown Sugar & Fennel Salami and the Proscuitto Cotto. They were all something to tweet about. Back to the lardo, it's great as an accent to dishes. But the fat content is overwhelming on its own. Look at that white fat below. Not even half a loaf of bread could match up against this beast.

$4.50 Custom Salumi Cone (9)
(left to right) Lardo, Brown Sugar & Fennel Salami, Proscuitto Cotto
Keep in mind, Boccalone sells its products online and after this experience, I'd much rather see Boccalone in my stocking than Rite Aid's signature Hickory Farms.