Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

New Ayesha Curry, Michael Mina San Francisco Hot Spot International Smoke, A Contemporary Take on Barbecue

International Smoke
International Smoke, San Francisco’s newest restaurant in the lobby of the Millennium Tower

International Smoke

Last night mrsth, the four kids and I had the opportunity to dine at San Francisco’s newest restaurant hot spot from celebrity chefs Ayesha Curry and Michael Mina, International Smoke. The restaurant is the latest lobby tenant in the great leaning tower of Millennium at 301 Mission Street in San Francisco’s SoMA district.

Only a week old, International Smoke is already solidly booked for months. The good news though is that they take walk ins at the bar and have several tables that can seat up to six in the bar. Before getting into my thoughts on the food, I will say that with a big family (six of us) one of my frequent disappointments is when too many diners are crammed into a small table at a bar. In the case of International Smoke this is not the case for their 6 tops. They are large, roomy and comfortably accommodated our large group. There are also several 4 tops in the bar and of course you can also dine seating at the bar itself. We luckily got the last table in the bar last night just before dinner service started at 5:30 pm.

The bar also has several televisions which can be viewed from almost every seat and which were appropriately tuned in last night to the Warriors 124-116 win over the Philadelphia 76ers during dinner.

Although barbecue features prominently on the International Smoke menu, it would be misleading to call it a “barbecue” restaurant. While definitely a place for carnivores, the barbecue has a more modern and international presentation and the menu also includes many non-barbecue offerings.

Many of the offerings are also fairly theatrical in nature, not quite what you’d find at say Edith’s down in Cabo San Lucas, but they incorporate smoke prominently to give you your fun little dinner show to go along with the food. In addition to serving two of our dishes (the smoked burrata and instant bacon) in glass encased smoke filled canisters, they prepare the Wagyu Shaking beef in a hot skillet tableside and use a cooking torch to caramelize the sugar while serving the ribs. It’s always nice to get a little extra pizzaz at the table when taking the kids out.

So let’s get into the cocktails and food.

I started off the evening with the Curry Up Now cocktail, because, well Steph Curry right? Plus I like bourbon. The drink is made with Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Madras Curry, Amontillado Sherry, and Corazon Bitters. It was served in a beautiful Waterford crystal style tumbler over one of those giant ice cubes you get at fancy bars these days. Although I’m not sure that Steph drinks one of these things every day at cocktail hour, it was a well balanced, slightly sweet bourbon based cocktail and it worked just fine for me.

We also tried the Rhinestone Cowboy, made with Hangar One Kaffir Lime Vodka, Espolòn Blanco Tequila, and Coconut Calamansi, refreshing served over that nice soft crushed ice that you also find at fancy bars these days.

WAGYU SHAKING BEEF, International Smoke
International Smoke’s Wagyu Shaking Beef

International Smoke
International Smoke’s Wagyu Shaking Beef

Our first dish was the aforementioned Wagyu Shaking Beef, cooked in that black hot skillet tableside. It comes with lettuce and you make little lettuce wrap taco like things. This was a favorite. The beef was delicious, cooked slightly rare and very juicy. They added a marinade to the beef as it was cooking. It’s Wagyu so it’s bound to be tasty, but as expected for things labeled Wagyu, it’s also expensive and you wish you got a lot more of it. I would probably order this again, and probably again, and again.

Classic American Wedge, nternational Smoke

Smoked, Burrata, International Smoke

Next up was International Smoke’s take on an all time classic, the wedge salad. It’s prepared cut in half with everything served up on top. Again, a little small, but delicious and a beautifully balanced mixture of dressing, bacon, onions and tomatoes.

The burrata was served at the same time as the wedge and came in the previously described smoke filled canister. The aha moment comes as the canister lid is lifted and the smoke disappears into the air, leaving you with a very creamy piece of smoke flavored cheese. The brussel sprouts went well with the cheese and it was a nice bit of salad before getting into the meats.

We also ordered a mixed pickle jar which is a myriad of pickled vegetables. At $6 it felt like a bargain on the menu and if you like pickled veggies I’d recommend it. I liked the pickled onions the best.

Kalua Style, Instant Bacon, International Smoke
The big reveal, Kalua Style, Instant Bacon, International Smoke

Kalua Style, Instant Bacon, International Smoke
Kalua Style, Instant Bacon, International Smoke

The Kalua “Instant Bacon” is more like a pork bun than anything, served in another one of those smokey canisters with the big reveal — a very rich piece of pork served in a bun — again very tasty, but two to a plate a bit on the small side.

Smoked Pork Shoulder, International Smoke
Smoked Pork Shoulder, International Smoke

We tried two orders of the Trio Sampler smoked pork shoulder. This consisted of an American pulled pork slider, Cuban Mojo Tostones and Korean Scallion Crepes. The American pulled pork slider was the favorite (especially with the kids) but I liked the Cuban Mojo Tostones the best myself. I did not care for the Korean Scallion Crepes.

Double Duck Wings, International Smoke
Double Duck Wings, International Smoke

The double duck wings were up next. These were ok but my least favorite dish of the evening. They were pretty basic and a bit bland. The sauce they came in was tasty and interesting, but I would not order this again. We didn’t eat most of this dish and took it home with us in a box. I tried it again for breakfast this morning and it tasted a little better cold, but still not a favorite.

Smoked Pork Ribs, St. Louis Cut, International Smoke
Smoked Pork Ribs, St. Louis Cut, International Smoke

Up next was the main event, a full slab of the smoked pork ribs. As previously mentioned, they bring these out with a cooking torch and torch the sugar on the ribs right there tableside. As far as ribs go these were perfectly adequate but nothing spectacular. The ribs probably had too high a bar to live up to in my mind though. When I read “St. Louis Cut” on the menu the only thing I could think about from then on was how much I love the ribs at Pappy’s in St. Louis. Those juicy, beautiful bone dripping ribs at Pappys, or if not Pappy’s at least all of the great sauces at St. Louis’ latest downtown barbecue spot Sugarfire with one of the best neon signs ever.

International Smoke’s ribs were just fine, but they were not as good as what you’d get at the best spots in St. Louis, or Kansas City, or Texas or Alabama. Again, I’m spoiled having experienced some spectacular barbecue over the years though. I probably should have known San Francisco celebrity chefs would be no match for hardcore pitmasters who’ve been doing their thing for 30 years.

Along with the ribs we ordered the french fries, which were pretty much the same basic fries you’d get anywhere and three sides of the mac and cheese.

Smoked Rib Tip Mac and Cheese, International Smoke
Smoked Rib Tip Mac and Cheese, International Smoke

The mac and cheese was interesting — actually it was my favorite dish of the evening, but I’m a big mac and cheese fan. It’s served with rib tips and cornbread crumble on top. It was very good. I was very happy with this dish… but… would I rather have International Smoke’s mac and cheese or the buffalo chicken mac from Homeroom? See, again, it’s a high bar in my opinion, so while I was perfectly happy with this dish it was probably doomed from the start in my mind.

Anyways, there you have it. We ordered too much food for dinner so didn’t have room for dessert. Apparently my youngest daughter Kate was promised ice cream earlier in the day, however, so we stopped by Fenton’s on the way back home to pick up a half gallon of toasted almond. I’m sure International Smoke’s ice cream is probably just fine, but I doubt they hold a candle to Fentons. 🙂

More on International Smoke from Business Insider, SF Eater and the San Francisco Chronicle.

International Smoke
Bar at International Smoke

Curry Up Now, International Smoke
Curry Up Now cocktail

International Smoke
Front desk at International Smoke

Rhinestone Cowboy, International Smoke
Like a Rhinestone Cowboy

Mixed Pickle Jar, International Smoke
Pickles at International Smoke

French Fries, International Smoke
French Fries, International Smoke

Brown Sugar Kitchen, Great Chicken and Waffles in Oakland, California

Brown Sugar Kitchen, West Oakland
Chicken and waffles at Brown Sugar Kitchen

Brown Sugar Kitchen
2534 Mandela Parkway
Oakland, CA 94607

If you haven’t had breakfast/lunch at Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland yet you are missing out. Having eaten here several times now I’ll make some observations.

Plan on waiting a long time to get a seat. Every time I’ve been to breakfast/lunch at Brown Sugar Kitchen I’ve had to wait at least 30 – 60 minutes — this is on Saturday or Sunday mornings though. I suspect weekday the wait is not as long. This is fine if you plan to make it a full weekend morning event, but be aware that you are in for a long wait time. I always love photographing around West Oakland, so I really don’t mind so much. I just put my name on the list and set a timer for how long I’m supposed to wait and go walk around and shoot some local street art. American Steel Studios is just down the street and there usually are interesting things to photograph around down there.

Of course the thing to order here is the chicken and waffles. The waffles are cornmeal waffles and taste delightful. They come with an apple cider based syrup but I recommend paying the $2 extra for real maple syrup. It’s worth it. The chicken is a buttermilk fried chicken and is equally delicious.

Most everything is good here, but other standouts for me include the mac and cheese (only available at noon or later), the breakfast potatoes, the pork hash and the cheesy grits.

Definitely order the coffee — it’s Bicycle Coffee and is one of the best tasting local brews I’ve had anywhere for breakfast. They also sell it by the bag if you want to take some to go.

Obviously with wait times being as long as there at Brown Sugar Kitchen it’s nice to know that they are in the process of opening up a second location (inside the old space where Pican was before they closed down in Uptown on Broadway). No word yet on the timing, but the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned.

Enjoy some photos of breakfast at Brown Sugar and some of the local West Oakland street art below.

Brown Sugar Kitchen, West Oakland
Chicken and waffles, cheesy grits, pork hash at Brown Sugar Kitchen

Brown Sugar Kitchen, West Oakland
Poached eggs and pork hash at Brown Sugar Kitchen

Jamaica the Artist
A mural by Jamaica the Artist at American Steel Studios down the street from Brown Sugar Kitchen

Brown Sugar Kitchen, West Oakland
Artwork on the wall at Brown Sugar Kitchen

For Dave Johnson
A mural by Gats at American Steel Studios

Brown Sugar Kitchen, West Oakland
Homemade pop tarts, Brown Sugar Kitchen

Cluck Yeah! Two New Downtown San Francisco Fried Chicken Sandwiches!

New Fried Chicken Sandwich at The Bird
The Bird’s fried chicken sandwich offers a juicy, succulent piece of fried chicken complimented by a slightly sweet apple based slaw on a brioche bun.

New Fried Chicken Sandwich at Organic Coup
Organic Coup’s fried chicken sandwich offers a slightly larger piece of chicken with a tangy and spicy slaw with jalapeno on an equally tasty bun.

Downtown San Franciscans were treated to not one but two new fried chicken sandwiches this week in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District. Two new restaurants, Organic Coup and The Bird are both located a mere 2 blocks off of Market Street. Organic Coup North of Market at 224 Kearny and The Bird South of Market located at 115 Montgomery.

The Bird is open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 10pm.

Organic Coup is open 11am to 3pm Monday through Friday for lunch.

Since who the cluck doesn’t like fried chicken sandwiches, I tried both this week and thought I’d write a few thoughts on each of these fine new chicken coops. My co-worker Sam Greene joined me (because birds of feather stick together) and I’ve added his thoughts on each section of this review.

Let the great San Francisco Cluck Off begin!

Organically Cocky at the Organic Coup
Organically Cocky at the Organic Coup.

The Bird, Fried Chx Sandwiches 200 Daily, #Cluck Yeah
The Bird, Fried Chx Sandwiches, 200 Daily #CluckYeah.

Waiting for a new fried chicken sandwich at The Bird
50 Deep in line at The Bird. Get there early and plan on a wait.

Ordering. (Winner: tie)

Although it’s probably not fair to compare the foot traffic at both of these restaurants on opening week, plan on spending a lot more time waiting for your chicken sandwich at The Bird than Organic Coup.

I arrived to a line already 50 deep at 11:10 am Friday at The Bird. The wait was approximately half an hour from start to finish. By contrast you get in and out of Organic Coup much faster. I went to Organic Coup on Wednesday and Thursday at 11:10am and there was no line. On Friday I went to Organic Coup after the Bird at around 11:45am and the wait still was only about 4 people for about 5 minutes.

Organic Coup had a very efficient ordering system. An order taker walks you through your order on an iPad. You make your designation side by side and then when you swipe your credit card the system automatically pulls your name and then uses your name to call you when your order is ready. The Bird offers a more formal across the counter cash register based system where they print out a receipt for you to sign. They do capture your name from your card as well though and use it to call your order.

Organic Coup has a sign up by the order taker that says no cash / no tipping. On their website they say that they are committed to paying their workers a livable wage and say that they “pay the highest wages in the industry.” With tax their sandwich is $11.

By contrast the Bird has you either write in or decline a tip on your credit card receipt when you sign. Their sandwich is cheaper at $9 with tax no tip.

I will write more on the whole tip no tip thing below, but I will say I liked the fact that Organic Coup doesn’t allow cash. Cash tends to slow things down and pretty much everybody has a credit or debit card these days.

I would clearly give the win to Organic Coup here based on the faster service, except for the fact that The Bird had a server come outside to the line and give everyone in the line a free sample of their clucking amazing ice cream sandwich, one of the best I’ve ever tried. Not only did they hand out free samples to the line, the guy handing out the samples came by afterwards to take everyone’s trash from the sample that was handed out. Such thoughtfulness and such an amazing treat made the line totally worth it. That was very smart. So the verdict here is a tie but both were pretty clucking great.

SAM’S TAKE:

Ordering (winner: Organic Coup)

I’m a big believer in the holistic evaluation process so it is hard for me to say which restaurant offers an absolutely better ordering system. I would start by saying the ordering systems are different. The Organic Coup offers a clucking-efficient iPad based self-service ordering system while The Bird offers the more traditional cash-transaction at the register system. I personally like the iPad self-service system much better for a few reasons. For starters, the pressure of having to field a barrage of questions at the counter is completely removed with the iPads. Additionally, what’s nice about ordering on the iPad is that it gives me a little more time to consider what options are available before making my selection. This way you don’t have to fumble over your words dictating your order to the cashier while you’re looking at the menu. Sure, it may be a bit awkward and anti-social to prefer the iPad system, but the reality is that ordering through the iPad is much easier and simpler for all parties involved and saves everybody a little bit of time.

However, since the fried chicken sandwich itself is a bit simpler at The Bird in that there is only a spicy and non-spicy option as opposed to an overwhelming assortment of sauces to add and choose from at the Organic Coup, I didn’t feel like the register-based system slowed down the ordering process significantly. Overall, I think the two are tied for the best ordering system. The Bird’s products don’t complicate ordering at the register, and Organic Coups iPad system nicely handles more complicated orders.

Cost (Winner: tie)

Sure the sandwich at Organic Coup is two clucks more, but the fact that there is no pressure to tip and apparently you can feel ok about not tipping because of the living wage thing, it sort of makes up for the extra cost. If you tip a buck at the Bird, the sandwich still comes in a dollar cheaper, but I’m sort of a fan of including gratuity in the price of a product which feels more like what Organic Coup is doing. It would be interesting to know how much each place pays their workers, but to me there’s not much difference between paying $11/no tip or $10 or $11 with manual tip.

Atmosphere (Winner: tie)

Both sandwich shops feel really nice although just a little crowded. Organic Coup feels a little more like a chain/corporate (and with multiple locations it sort of is) vs. the pop up feel of The Bird. The Bird (which is in the space that the old Melt use to use) has some seating which is nice if you want to eat your sandwich there. Seating is very limited, but at least they have some. I usually take my lunch to go though so seating didn’t matter to me. The Bird offers you a water cup which is nice. Organic Coup is more open and airy and light in my opinion — both are very nice and clean.

Both restaurants had people with menus outside greeting you. Both restaurants had friendly employees. Both restaurants were marketing with the San Francisco “Cluck Yeah” tag line sure to appeal to millennials everywhere. The Bird uses a hashtag based #CLUCKYEAH while Organic Coup chose to go with an exclamation point based CLUCK YEAH!

SAM’S TAKE:

Both shops were nice, clean and up to snuff. However, I feel like the Bird may have a slight edge in the overall atmosphere. Fist and foremost, the Bird has a larger space that is big enough to offer counters, seating, and complimentary water and bathrooms. Keep in mind though that around 11:00am when we went the place was hustling and bustling so it was difficult to find a place to stand and lean let alone sit and dine, so if you’re looking for a place to enjoy a leisurely meal I would look elsewhere. That being said, the fact that seating is available for less rushed and frenzied times during the day is a huge plus for me.

In contrast, the smaller, more cooped up space at the Organic Coup (no pun intended), did not feel large enough to adequately handle the 11:00am rush of lunch-goers who inevitably end up waiting on the sidewalk. Granted, the line at the The Bird wound around the block as well when we went — however, once all the hype dies down from the opening weeks for each location I think The Bird will be more attractive to a larger percentage of the lunch-going population since it does offer a place to sit. In light of all that, the smaller space offered by the Organic Coup is nice in that it sort of naturally moves folks along in and out of the building faster since nobody likes to stand around in claustrophobic, shoulder-to-shoulder, tight-knit spaces for long. If your intention is to grab your food and go, the Organic Coup is perfect. However, given the choice, I would rather have the option to sit and schmooze over a quick bite with a co-worker than feel rushed in and out of the place.

Secondly, the Bird felt like it actually had a personality. The interior design maintained what appeared to be the original look and architecture of the establishment that preceded The Bird. As a matter of personal preference, I thought it was nice that The Bird chose to maintain the integrity of style rather than give it a radical makeover to conform to the recognizable and modern look. There is an aura of traditional, classic fried chicken sandwich shop that emanates from the old-school single-letter-insert-menu hanging down from the ceiling. Overall The Bird presents itself as more of unique local, self-sufficient, one-of-a-kind joint while the Organic Coup is more of a modern and contemporary fast-food chain.

I have to hand this one to The Bird.

Nutrition (Winner: Organic Coup)

Organic Coup markets itself as America’s first USDA certified organic fast food restaurant. What’s more, they provide you with calorie nutritional information on their website. According to their website their Chicken Sandwich is 500 calories. For such a big fried sandwich I almost can not believe it is only 500 calories. They also offer a bowl, which is more like a fried chicken salad, with only 320 calories. For someone like me trying to maintain my sleek physique, those numbers are very reasonable and I appreciated that they shared them with me on their website.

The Bird does not provide nutritional information on their website. Based on the taste of their sandwich though (and the fact that it has mayo on it), I’d suspect it’s more than 500 calories.

SAM’S TAKE:

I have to agree with the Hawk here. I think it’s clucking-smart that the Organic Coup makes an effort to disclose nutritional facts on its website to its frequenters. In the age of the IoT, information is data and data is power to the consumer. As a consumer, I feel clucking-empowered by nutritional information in what I’m choosing to buy and eat, even though the information may not necessarily ultimately drive my decision. For example, I may find that the Organic Coup is less calories than The Bird, but I may still like the bird better since it has those incredible pickles. Merely the fact that Organic Coup openly shares with us the nutritional facts so transparently makes me more trusting of them as a restaurant regardless of whether or not their sandwich is any healthier, less caloric or has overall more nutritional value than The Birds. Props to Organic Coup on this one.

The Sandwich (Winner: The Bird, by a beak)

First off, I have to say I liked both sandwiches. I will definitely be back to both in the future.

Organic Coup’s sandwich reminded me very much of one of my favorite East Bay secrets, the fried chicken sandwich at Bakesale Betty’s in Oakland only on a tasty bun instead of a roll. Organic Coup uses a vinegar based slaw with jalapenos in it just like Betty does. This is also the base for the slab of fried chicken that they serve with their bowl (which is more like a fried chicken slaw salad) and it is clucking delicious. You get a choice of four sauces for your bowl/wrap/sandwich. I got my sandwich with the vegan mustard vinaigrette sauce. The sauce was good but the irony that they were marketing my choice of sauce as “vegan” when I was eating a fried chicken sandwich was not lost on me. The spicy BBQ sauce seemed the most popular.

Organic Coup’s piece of friend chicken felt a little bit bigger to me than The Bird’s and hangs out of both sides of the sandwich.

As much as I enjoyed Organic Coup’s sandwich, The Bird edged it out here by a beak. Given the mayonnaise on the sandwich it definitely made it taste a bit richer. More than the mayonnaise though the chicken itself was more tender, flavorful and succulent. The Bird’s bird was a juicy, flavorful, delicious piece of mouthwatering bliss. The Bird’s sandwich had less slaw than Organic Coup’s but the slaw itself was a cabbage-onion-apple based slaw which gave it just the slight amount of sweetness that went perfectly with the spicy flavor. It also had Super Duper pickles on it which added a nice finishing touch.

The Bird had two versions of their signature sandwich, spicy and non-spicy. I of course opted for spicy and I’m glad I did.

SAM’S TAKE:

The Sandwich (The Bird, it was beak-and-beak the whole way through)

Both places offer un-clucking-believable fried chicken sandwiches. Both offer great, high-quality sandwiches sure to satisfy any afternoon deep-fried craving San Franciscan dropping by for quick bite to eat. The Bird differentiates itself from the Organic Coup in a few notable ways. While both offer delicious crunchy deep fried gustatory experiences, The Bird seems to let their birds simmer a bit longer in the pan allowing a thicker, deeper-fried coat to form. The deeper-fried coat made it all the more delicious and rich, though perhaps slightly less healthy. Additionally, the sandwich served at the Bird championed an artfully infused African Berber spice in the batter that was a flavorful and interesting homage to the origins of the fried chicken sandwich.

The coleslaw prepared at the Organic Coup offered more intense, spicier coleslaw than The Bird though. It beautifully complimented the spicy BBQ sauce served with the sandwich that I had chosen. Additionally, the Organic Coup offered a much larger chunk of chicken than The Bird which made me feel like I was getting better value for the two extra clucks I paid.

However, although Organic Coup made an eggs-ellent final product, the bird at the The Bird was slightly more succulent and juicy than at The Organic Coup. I’m pretty sure there was an element of marketing responsible for this perception though. Since I knew in advance that the Bird only made 200 sandwiches a day for the lunch crowd I think I was primed to believe they put more TLC, attention and energy into making each sandwich perfect than the Organic Coup. Upon deeper reflection, however, I do not think the modern fast-food nature of the Organic Coup takes away from the quality of their artfully though more industrially crafted sandwiches. It was just an observation I made when writing this review. I simply think I got a bit luckier at the Bird at the time I went in regards to the juiciness factor of the chicken. All in all, The Bird stood out to me as overall slightly tastier due to the tenderness of the meat and the deliciousness of the deep-fry recipe despite its shortcoming in size compared to the Organic Coup.

The Logo (Winner: The Bird)

Very hipster San Francisco looking fox with a chicken sandwich in his mouth, would also look good on a Bon Iver album cover.

I didn’t really get into the extras beyond the fried chicken sandwiches in this review, but it is also worth pointing out that The Bird sells beer which may be a plus for some while by contrast Organic Coup offers fresh squeezed lemonade. I have a general rule that I don’t consume alcohol before 6pm so I can’t imagine having a beer at lunch, but for more thirstier friends that might be a good option to know about.

The bottom line is both of these new fried chicken sandwiches are abso-clucking-lutely delicious. So the next time you and your cluck buddy get a craving for some fried chicken sandwich for lunch try one of these two hen houses. You won’t be disappointed and you might even get a free sample of some ice cream sandwich to go with it.

Cluck Yeah!
Cluck Yeah with an exclamation mark instead of the hashtag.

No Cash, No Tips
No Cash and No Tipping at the Organic Coup.

Organic Looks Good on You
Organic Looks Good on You at the Organic Coup.

Lemonade at the Bird
Fresh Squeezed Lemonade at Organic Coup.

The Organic Coup
Standing outside Organic Coup on Kearny Street.

The Bird, Fried Chx, Beer
Interior shot of The Bird.

Homestead Restaurant, Oakland, California

Homestead Restaurant
Address: 4029, Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611
Phone:(510) 420-6962
Menu: homesteadoakland.com

Tried Homestead Restaurant on Piedmont Avenue last night with @mrsth. Highly recommended. 🙂

The restaurant has great light with an open air kitchen where you can watch the chefs work.

The menu changes daily. The squid, duck and horchata ice cream were my favorites. Here’s what we had:


date night.


Great open air kitchen where you can watch the chefs work.


First course, spicy pepperoni and meat plate.


First course, little gems, avocado, fried onions, buttermilk dressing


Second course, local squid, grilled summer beans, almond & sherry vinaigrette


Third course, grilled duck breast, fried farro, fava beans, apricots, wild arugula


Third course, poached egg, porcini mushrooms, sweet corn, thyme, watercress


Dessert, horchata ice cream, strawberries, churros


Dessert, brown sugar chocolate cake, toasted meringue


I’ve never had madeira on ice before. It was really nice and refreshing with a twist of lemon.


Homestead seasonal spritzer


Fresh garden vegetables used by the chef.


Wood fire grill in the open kitchen.


Welcome to Homestead.


We brought our own bottle of wine, a wonderful 1997 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino. Corkage was $20.


Loved the colors of the kitchen.

A Taste of Oakland Uptown Block Party

A Taste of Oakland
$2 micro Brew beers tonight at Kitchener in Oakland for A Taste of Oakland.

Earlier tonight mrsth and I enjoyed a night out on the town in Oakland at A Taste of Oakland’s Uptown Block Party. The food/cocktail event included 24 participating Uptown Oakland restaurants and bars.

A Taste of Oakland was founded by two Oakland natives, Helen Wyman (of Oakland Events) and Lamont Dawson. Their mission is to promote local businesses, highlight Oakland’s assets, change perceptions of Oakland, build a sense of community between the residents and the business community and showcase the culinary revolution that has become prominent in the food industry, establishing Oakland as a culinary destination.

I’d say based on tonight’s successful event, they did just that.

Participating restaurants/bars included: Kitchener, Sweet Bar Bakery, Hawker Fare, Pican, Ozumo, Luka’s Taproom & Lounge, Plum Bar, Donut Savant, Era Art Bar & Lounge, Torpedo Sushi, Farley’s East, Anfilo Coffee, Vo’s Restaurant, Telegraph, The Legionnaire Saloon, Kingston 11 Cuisine (although they weren’t open yet), Hutch Bar & Kitchen, Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, Make Westing, Somar Bar, Camber, Bench & Bar, Dogwood and Mockingbird.

The evening gave Oakland food and restaurant aficionados a great opportunity to sample a ton of different restaurants and bars over the course of the three hour event in stylish Uptown. It was a great opportunity to check out new places and plan for further dinners and reservations down the road.

My favorite restaurant of the event was the newcomer Mockingbird. They served a duck pate that was delicious! I’ve been wanting to try Mockingbird and that will probably be the next dinner I have out.

I also really enjoyed the North Carolina pull pork that Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe served, the pull pork sandwich served by Telegraph, the Thai food at Camber and the Four Roses Bourbon cocktail served by Hutch. The pork meatball at Ozumo was pretty tasty too. The restaurants were all within walking distance and it was priced at a very affordable $20 per ticket.

With 24 venues, the event had a lot of local community support, it felt like most of the restaurants in Uptown participated — although the woman at Catered to You was outside offering samples of her decadent buffalo french fries complaining that this was the second time she’d asked to be included and wasn’t. Hopefully she gets in on the next one. 🙂

Thanks for a great night out A Taste of Oakland. Looking forward to more of your great events in the future! #taseteuptown #tasteofoakland

To see more photos from tonight’s event, check out this set on Flickr here.

A Taste of Oakland
maitre d’ at Pican.

A Taste of Oakland
Serving at the Pop Up Outside Hawker Fare.

A Taste of Oakland
$5 specialty cocktails at a Taste of Oakland restaurants and bars. This one at Pican.

A Taste of Oakland
Hutch served an excellent Four Roses Bourbon cocktail along with popcorn popped in bacon fat.

A Taste of Oakland
A little Oakland street art between restaurants — a Homer Simpson / Stormtrooper mashup outside Hawker Fare.

A Taste of Oakland
Serving Thai food at Camber.

A Taste of Oakland
Torpedo Sushi was serving up their California roll on a potato chip.

A Taste of Oakland
The dreamland of neon cupcakes at Sweet Bar Bakery who were serving a taste of chocolate or ginger cookies.

A Taste of Oakland
Newcomer Mockingbird, my favorite restaurant of the evening.

A Taste of Oakland
Enjoying a cocktail at the bar at Ozumo.

A Taste of Oakland
Making Jameson and tea cocktails at Plum Bar.

A Taste of Oakland
That pork meatball at Ozumo was pretty damn good.

A Taste of Oakland
Serving pull pork sandwiches at Telegraph.

A 16, A Southern Italian Gem in Rockridge, Oakland

Tonight, along with mrsth, I finally decided to check out one of the highly regarded Oakland restaurant newcomers, A 16, in the Rockridge District of Oakland.

A 16 has been open for about 5 months now and is a sister restaurant to the popular restaurant with the same name in San Francisco’s Marina district. The restaurant took over the old Hudsons/Garibaldi’s space on College Avenue. Like their Marina counterpart, the restaurant focuses on Southern Italian Campania region food. A 16 is a highway in Italy that runs from Naples in Campania to Canosa in Puglia.

Unlike their Marina relative, A 16 Rockridge has a liquor license allowing it a full bar and cocktail service to go along with their menu.

Chef Rocky Maselli has put together a wonderful menu that focuses on pasta and gourmet pizzas, with lots of little extras worth exploring on the menu. Everything we had tonight was absolutely first rate. No dish disappointed. The fresh handmade pasta was the highlight.

Before beginning our meal we started out with two cocktails from A 16’s creative cocktail menu. I had the Hemingway Negroni, which was served over a couple of giant ice cubes in an attractive oversized tumbler. It was made with papa pilar rum and was delicious.

After cocktails we ordered the roasted beets and heirloom tomato salad. The salad was complemented with ricotta and generously dressed with olive oil. The beets, tomatoes and cheese, went well together and it was a refreshing end of a Bay Area summer salad.

After we finished the salad, our main dishes arrived. For our main dishes we decided to share the capunti — pancetta, chanterelles, cherry tomato, smoked caciocavallo pasta and the montanara rockridge pizza.

All three of these dishes tonight were recommendations of the very knowledgeable bartenders who took care of us at the bar. Mrsth and I always prefer sitting at the bar over a table and find that the bartenders frequently are the most knowledgable of a restaurant’s service staff. Tonight, especially, they did not disappoint.

The capunti pasta was my favorite dish of the evening. The taste of the caciocavallo cheese in the pasta gave it a wonderful smokey taste. It was a rich, full flavored rewarding dish. The montanara pizza, named for the local neighborhood, was also splendid. We added prosciutto and arugula to the burrata (again at the bartender’s recommendation) on the pizza and it complemented it perfectly as did the Scrimshaw Pilsner I ordered with it.

Finally for dessert we decided on the fried apple turnovers which came alongside a rich caramel honey type sauce. Before serving us our turnovers, the staff brought us over a complementary plate of Italian cookies to enjoy. The three turnovers were the perfect amount of sweet to end our evening.

We didn’t have any wine with our meal, choosing to stick to more cocktails and a beer with the pizza. The restaurant does have a wonderfully full wine list though. You can also bring your own bottle (with corkage charge). The menu said that they would waive corkage charge per bottle brought with each bottle bought from their list. They offered both tastes and full pours of wines by the glass.

The ambience of the restaurant was very nice. The bar is large and oversized with plenty of room on a large marble slab. The restaurant is open and airy, and once the sun went down and they opened the shades, a rich, warm evening sunset sunlight filled the restaurant.

The service for our meal could not have been better. Two bartenders managed the bar, and even with a full restaurant, were able to give us the highest quality of service. The recommendations of our bartenders were all absolutely spot on. Meals were promptly delivered and dishes quickly removed. They allowed us to sample taste some of the liquors used in the cocktails when deciding on which drinks to order. I usually find that I get better service at the bar, which is one of the reasons why I prefer the bar over a table, and it was especially true tonight.

We were both delighted tonight with our A 16 experience and definitely will be back to this neighborhood gem to try even more dishes. The only downside to tonight was that they didn’t have a television set at the bar and so we had to rely on our cell phones to keep track of the A’s/Tigers American League Divisional Series deciding game. The restaurant also doesn’t have wifi service and cell service in the restaurant was spotty.

Lack of a TV and good cell service, however, are probably a bonus for many. 🙂

Hemingway Negroni, A 16, Oakland
Hemingway Negroni, A 16, Oakland

A 16, College Ave in Oakland's Rockridge District
A 16, College Ave in Oakland’s Rockridge District

MMMMM... Beets and Heirloom Tomato Salad
MMMMM… Beets and Heirloom Tomato Salad

Cocktail #2, A 16, Oakland
Cocktail #2, A 16, Oakland

Fresh Handmade Pasta, A 16, Oakland
Fresh Handmade Pasta, A 16, Oakland

Dinner at the Bar, A 16 Oakland
Dinner at the Bar, A 16 Oakland

Fried Apple Turnovers with Caramel Sauce, A 16 Oakland
Fried Apple Turnovers with Caramel Sauce, A 16 Oakland

A Little Prosciutto and Arugula to Complement the Pizza, A 16, Oakland
A Little Prosciutto and Arugula to Complement the Pizza, A 16, Oakland

Cooking Pizzas in the Open Kitchen of A 16, Oakland
Cooking Pizzas in the Open Kitchen of A 16, Oakland

A 16, Oakland
A 16, Oakland

Fresh Cocktail Ingredients, A 16 Oakland
Fresh Cocktail Ingredients, A 16 Oakland

Cookie Time, A 16 Oakland
Cookie Time, A 16 Oakland

Cocktail Menu, A 16 Oakland
Cocktail Menu, A 16 Oakland