2015 Food Highlights

Here are my 2015 food highlights— well more like dessert highlights.

Happy New Year everyone!

1. Earl Grey Tiramisu from Urth Caffe (LA and OC)
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2. Churro Brown Butter Cookie Sorbet Sandwich from Churro Borough (LA)

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3. Pork Buns from Momofuku (NYC)

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4. Doughnuts from Sidecar Doughnuts (OC)

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5. (Best) Avocado Toast from Cafe Luxembourg (NYC)

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6. Caramelized Bananas from Lucca Restaurant and Bar (Sacramento)
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7. Cereal Milk soft serve with cornflakes from Milk Bar (NYC)

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8. Fried Lobster Slider from Lobster Joint (Brooklyn)
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9. Horchata Sorbet in a Chocolate Cone from Sweet Rose (LA)

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10. The “Presley” (cinnamon peanut butter french toast) from 370 Common (OC)

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Hodgepodge of SF Restaurants

A varied assortment of restaurants from fall 2015, ranging from burgers and beer to authentic Mexican burritos.

Biergarten (Hayes Valley)

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Outdoor beer garden serving authentic German beer and food at communal tables. Their sausages and pretzel sandwiches are delicious. The atmosphere is lively and social. Their beer menu changes but I usually order whatever dark beer they have on tap. Recommend: Bratwurst with potatoes. (4 taste, 5 atmosphere, 4 service)

Roam Burger (Marina and Lower Pac Heights)IMG_4007

Artisan burgers. A little pricey ($11 for just a burger, no fries). Recommend: French and Fries Burger (a burger with parmesan truffle fries, gruyere cheese, avocado, and caramelized onions). (5 taste, 4 atmosphere, 4 service)

Slider Shack (Financial District)

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Kalua Pork with a fried egg on Tater-Tots

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Food truck that serves Hawaiian burritos and sliders. They use 100% grass fed meat. They slow cook their beef for 10 hours until the meat falls apart. The servers are very enthusiastic and eager to talk about the menu. Recommend: BBQ Pulled Pork Slider. (4 taste, 4 atmosphere, 5 service)

Nick’s Crispy Tacos (Russian Hill)
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Great Taco Tuesday deals. $5 for 2 large and delicious tacos. Be sure to get them “nick’s way” which adds guacamole and a crispy taco inside your taco. This is a pretty lively and rowdy Taco Tuesday scene. Recommend: Any taco nick’s way. (5 taste, 4 atmosphere, 4 service)

Taqueria Cancun (Mission)

IMG_3508Simple burritos and tacos. Make any burrito super if you’re feeling ambitious. Pictured above. Recommend: Chicken burrito. (3 taste, 3 atmosphere, 3 service).

Mamacita (Marina)

IMG_3875A trendy and upscale Mexican restaurant. Less authentic and more expensive than Nick’s but the food is high-quality and delicious. Recommend: Veggie and Carne Asada tacos. (5 taste, 4 atmosphere, 4 service)

Gott’s (Ferry Building)

IMG_3818Upscale diner food. They also serve beer and have outdoor picnic tables where you can enjoy your meal on a nice day. Recommend: Burger and Fish Tacos. (4 taste, 4 atmosphere, 4 service)

Asian SF Restaurants

Chubby Noodle (Marina and North Beach)

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Spicy Ramen Noodles

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Kung Pow Wings

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Korean Pork Tacos

Modern Asian food with a trendy atmosphere. Small portions and high-quality. Recommend: Spicy Garlic Noodles, Tuna Poke, Korean Pork Tacos (best thing on the menu), Kung Pow Wings, and Garlic Green Beans. They also have good sake. (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 5 service)

Saiwalks (Marina)

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Pho Comfort

Casual Vietnamese food. Best Pho in the neighborhood. Perfect for a rainy day or when you feel under the weather. Recommend: Pork Shrimp spring rolls and Pho Comfort. (4 taste, 4 atmosphere, 4 service)

Blackwood (Marina)

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Spicy Eggplant and Pad Kee Mow

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Dinner Stone Pot (my favorite)

Thai-American fusion. Great brunch and dinner. Recommend: Pad Kee Mow, Spicy Eggplant, Dinner Stone Pot, and Chilean Prom. (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 5 service).

Pabu (Financial District)

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Happy Spoon Oysters

Upscale sushi. Our waiter was very passionate and enthusiastic about the food. Recommend: Happy Spoon Oysters, Chicken Meatballs, Squid Okonomiyaki1 (Squid Pancake with an egg on top), and Blue Ocean roll. (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 5 service)

Tamashisoul (Marina)

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Crazy Love Roll

IMG_3490Good reasonably priced sushi. Recommend: Crazy Love Roll (salmon tempura and avocado, topped with torched spicy tuna). (4 taste, 4 atmosphere, 5 service)

Happy Shabu Shabu (Lower Pac Heights/ Japan Town)

IMG_3449 IMG_3450Japanese shabu-shabu. You cook your own meat and veggies at the table in broiling broth. I came here for the all-you-can-eat deal with a group of friends. Tip: If it’s your birthday your meal is free. Recommend: All-you-can-eat deal. It’s $40 for unlimited meat, sake, and beer. (4 taste, 5 atmosphere, 4 service)

Healthy SF Bites

The Plant (Marina and Pier 3)

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Fully Belly Salad

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Shiitake Spring Rolls

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Udon

Casual local and organic cafe serving healthy dishes and fresh juices. Recommend: Shiitake Spring Rolls, Udon Noodles, and Full Belly Salad (kale, roasted beets, pea shoots, quinoa, avocado, hummus, pickled onions, and sunflower seeds). (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 5 service)

Blue Barn (Marina and Russian Hill) 

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Winter Salad

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Truffle Sandwich

Delicious sandwiches and salads. They also have good seasonal soups. You order at a counter so it can be quick but there is usually a line and the food that takes a while to prepare. I usually order ahead of time and pick it up.  Recommend: Winter salad and Truffle sandwich. (5 taste, 4 atmosphere, 3 service)

HayDay (Financial District)IMG_3272

Healthy Sandwiches and sides. The menu changes seasonally. It’s a block from my work so I come here frequently for lunch. They also serve breakfast— rich Straus greek yogurt (with lots of topping options) and avocado toast. Recommend: Moroccan Chickpea Salad, Smoked Rainbow Trout toast, and Roasted Sweet Potato and Romaine Salad. (4 taste, 4 atmosphere, 4 service)

SF Brunch

Here are some of my favorite SF brunch places (so far). Click here to see my full list of restaurants.

Sweet Maple (Lower Pac Heights)

Salmon Open Face (a poached egg and avocado on garlic sourdough)

Salmon Open Face (a poached egg and avocado on garlic sourdough)

Millionaire’s Melt (egg sandwich with bacon and gouda aioli)

Millionaire’s Melt (egg sandwich with bacon and gouda aioli)

South of the Border (breakfast tacos)

South of the Border (breakfast tacos)

the Millionaire’s Bacon (bacon cooked in brown sugar).

the Millionaire’s Bacon (bacon cooked in brown sugar).

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I arrived at 9:30 am on a Saturday with 3 three friends and there was already a 45 minute line. But don’t worry they serve complimentary coffee while you wait. When you sit outside they give you a blanket to stay warm. We ordered the SM Omurice (rice with scrambled eggs and ribeye), South of the Border (breakfast tacos), Millionaire’s Melt (egg sandwich with bacon and gouda aioli), the Salmon Open Face (a poached egg and avocado on garlic sourdough), and of course the Millionaire’s Bacon (bacon cooked in brown sugar). Recommend: the Millionaire’s Bacon, Salmon Open Face, and Millionaire’s Melt. (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 3 service)

Lovejoy’s Tea Room (Noe Valley)

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A flowery and eclectic tea house with mismatched furniture and nick-nacks. A fun place to come with a group of girlfriends and gossip. It’s very kid-friendly. There were 3 little girls sitting at their own miniature table. We ordered the high tea special which comes with 2 sandwiches, scones, salad, chocolate biscuits, and unlimited tea per person. Recommend: Chestnut black tea (4 taste, 5 atmosphere, 4 service)

Don Pistos (North Beach)

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros

Tamales

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Popular Mexican brunch place. The waiters are extremely attentive and friendly. The owner even sent out 4 free margaritas—we would have been more grateful if it wasn’t 11 am! The food is excellent. The portions are small but filling. Recommend: Huevos Rancheros and the tamales. (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 5 service)

Home Plate (Marina)

Complimentary scones

Complimentary scones

The New Yorker (salmon and avocado scramble) with carrot potato latkes

The New Yorker (salmon and avocado scramble) with carrot potato latkes

The Eggs Benedict served with carrot potato latkes

The Eggs Benedict served with carrot potato latkes

I came here at 7:30 am (it opens at 7) and it was already busy. It is extremely crowded by 9. They serve complimentary scones. Most dishes come with their homemade carrot potato latkes. The coffee is good too. It is one of most reasonably priced brunch places you will find in the marina.  Recommend: The New Yorker (salmon and avocado scramble) and The Eggs Benedict. (4 taste, 4 atmosphere, 5 service)

East Side West (Marina)

Dirty Hippy (squash blossoms, garlic greens, hollandaise, and truffle oil).

Dirty Hippy (squash blossoms, garlic greens, hollandaise, and truffle oil).

Fresh Off the Boat (cheesy red enchiladas with poached eggs and avocado)

Fresh Off the Boat (cheesy red enchiladas with poached eggs and avocado)

A popular bar in the marina. The food is mediocre but it is a fun place to come with friends. Very lively. A lot of people come here to watch games and order beer. Recommend: Dirty Hippy (squash blossoms, garlic greens, hollandaise, and truffle oil). (3 taste, 5 atmosphere, 3 service)

Café Roses (Marina)

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A simple Italian brunch spot in the Marina. They use fresh and locally-sourced ingredients. Very popular so arrive early. The menu is small but you cannot go wrong. I like to sit outside on a nice day. Recommend: Crescenza-Stuffed Focaccia breakfast pizza with an egg. (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 5 service)

Caffe Sapore (North Beach)

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Veggie bagel

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Loxs bagel

Neighborhood coffee shop serving hearty and satisfying bagel sandwiches. A perfect place to come on a rainy day to sip on coffee and read. Recommend: Bagel and loxs. (4 taste, 4 atmosphere, 4 service)

Pescatore (North Beach)

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Veggie Frittata

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Cute and reasonably priced Italian restaurant. I’ve only been for brunch but they also serve lunch and dinner. Not the most trendy brunch place in town but it is a perfect place to bring your relatives. It is in the Best Western Hotel. Great service. They brought my friends and I each a complimentary pancake! Recommend Veggie Frittata. (4 taste, 4 atmosphere, 5 service)

Healthy Restaurants

Healthy Restaurants 

A few of my favorite healthy/organic/farm-to-table restaurants.

Au Lac (Fountain Valley and Downtown LA)

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“Cream cheese” and flaxseed crackers with dehydrated onions

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Steamed jicama rolls with peanut sauce

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Curried rice

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The tiRAWmisu

They specialize in Vietnamese/Chinese raw food but also have vegan and vegetarian options. The atmosphere does not match the price of the food; however, the eloquently prepared raw entrées belie the cheesy Chinese décor. The servers are very attentive. Our waitress gave us extra peanut sauce for our leftovers. They serve free filtered alkaline water (at Pressed Juicery it’s $2.50 a bottle). I recommend the steamed jicama rolls with peanut sauce, “cream cheese” and flaxseed crackers, curried rice, kelp noodles chow mein, and the tiRAWmisu. (5 taste, 4 atmosphere, 5 service)

Café Gratitude (Larchmont, Downtown, and Venice) 100% organic plant-based cuisine. Sister restaurant to Gracias Madre. The dishes range from Indian curry to pesto kelp noodles. I ordered the “Fabulous,” raw lasagna with squash blossoms and Brazil nut Parmesan. The vibrant colors in the dishes make them look more like art than food. They offer everything a vegan could wish for—cashew nacho cheese, pumpkin seed pesto, and tiramisu with coconut cashew cream. It is a vegan/vegetarians dream come true but carnivores will love this restaurant too. The freshness and creativity of the food make up for the lack of meat. (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 5 service)

True Foods (Newport and Santa Monica)

Salmon Dip (not on the menu anymore)

Salmon Dip (not on the menu anymore)

Veggie Crudités

Veggie Crudités

Veggie egg white omelette and Kale-Aid

Veggie egg white omelette and Kale-Aid

Watermelon sorbet

Watermelon sorbet

Lemon Pie with coconut cream and strawberries (summer seasonal dessert)

Lemon Pie with coconut cream and strawberries (summer seasonal dessert)

My all time favorite restaurant. They offer vegan, vegetarian, and gluten- free dishes as well as sustainable organic meat. Their menu changes seasonally to serve the freshest ingredients but some of my staples are the caramelized onion tart, spaghetti squash casserole, and the flourless chocolate cake. (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 5 service)

Malibu Farm (Malibu Pier)

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Egg sandwich

Egg sandwich

Seasoned eggs and veggies

Seasoned eggs and veggies

I went to the cafe at the end of the pier but they also have a restaurant. The dishes are locally sourced and organic. I got the egg vegetable plate (that comes with potatoes and whole wheat toast) and my friend got the egg sandwich. Large servings for the price and quality. Everything was delicious. You order inside at the front then find a table.  They offer indoor and outdoor seating. We enjoyed sitting outside and watching the paddle boarders. Very fast service. (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 5 service)

Kreation (Santa Monica) 100% organic Middle Eastern cuisine. They offer an array of brunch dishes, tapas, desserts, and juices. I think their tapas are the best items on the menu. I recommend the ash soup, the eggplant dip, and the hummus. The soup is extremely hearty filled with veggies, beans, quinoa, and a dollop of yogurt. For breakfast I recommend the oatmeal almond pancakes and the Mediterranean plate. The pancakes are filling but do not feel unhealthy (check check out my pancake recipe here). (4 taste, 5 atmosphere, 5 service)

Euphoria loves Rawvolution (Santa Monica)  Raw, organic, vegan. Stop in for a quick and healthy snack like the lentil chili or bok choy salad. They also have delicious raw desserts. They list all their ingredients on their website(3 taste, 4 atmosphere, 5 service)

Old Vine Café (Costa Mesa)

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Quinoa and vegetables

Italian-inspired café located at the Camp. Elegant and refined but casual. Large selection of wine. Recommend: Quinoa and vegetables and pulled pork panini. (4 taste, 4 atmosphere, 5 service)

Urth Caffé (Beverley Hills and Santa Monica)

Spanish Latte and Thai Tea Latte

Spanish Latte and Thai Tea Latte

With multiple locations all over LA, Urth has become a staple restaurant for LA foodies. They specialize in organic coffees and breakfast items. I prefer their tea lattes though. My favorite is the Thai Latte. It tastes like a hot version of a Thai Iced tea. My favorite breakfast dish is the salmon and eggs served with brioche and arugula. My mom’s favorite is the beef hash and the eggs verde. You cannot go wrong here. (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 4 service)

Celebration Dinners

Celebrations 

These are my favorite restaurants for special occasions.

The Ivy (Beverly Hills and Santa Monica) Very fancy and well-known.

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Fried calamari and oysters

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The halibut

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My mom and our family friend Nu

I came here for my 21st birthday. You are greeted with complimentary champagne and ushered into an elegant living room with a live pianist and fireplace. The whole restaurant is covered in huge floral printed couches and pillows. We ordered the fried calamari, oysters, halibut, black cod with ginger coconut curry, and wild swordfish. While the food was delicious, this is a place you go to enjoy the atmosphere. The servers make your experience very magical and special. Dessert is brought out with a firecracker candle. There is a good chance you will see a celebrity—we saw Larry Flynt. Recommend: The black cod with fresh ginger and coconut curry. Atmosphere: lavish and elegant (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 5 service)

Animal (N. Fairfax) Very creative and adventurous tapas food.

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Grilled Quail, Plum, Pomegranate, and Apple

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Pig ear with chili lime and egg

Part of Jon and Vinny’s restaurants (Son of a Gun, Trois Mec, and Petit Trois, Helen’s). We shared the bone marrow, grilled quail, pig ear, BBQ pork belly sandwiches, and ended the meal with the yellow peaches mocha and brown butter ice cream. The servers are eager to recommend dishes for first-timers. Recommend: The bone marrow and pork belly sandwiches. Atmosphere: dimly lit, chic (5 taste, 4 atmosphere, 5 service)

Lucques (West Hollywood) Refined and pricey.

Scallops

Scallops

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Chocolate tart with espresso hazelnut and cardamom ice cream and the shortcake with pistachio ice cream

I came here on my college graduation night with my family. The servers are very attentive. The owner actually checked in on us and asked how our meal was. We ordered the scallops, the halibut, the market fish, and the lamb. For dessert we ordered the chocolate tart with espresso hazelnut and cardamom ice cream and the shortcake with pistachio ice cream. The food is decent but not the best I’ve tasted in that price range. Recommend: the scallops and the halibut. Atmosphere: elegant, sophisticated. (4 taste, 4 atmosphere, 5 service)

Sugar Fish (BrentwoodUpscale sushi.

I came here for the four-course Dine LA meal: First course – seasoned edamame; second course – one piece of salmon sashimi; third course – 4 pieces of sashimi (albacore, salmon, yellowtail, and scallop). My favorite was the scallop piece. The fourth course was a toro hand roll. Cost $20. Recommend: “Trust Me” meal. Atmosphere: clean, simple, trendy. (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 5 service)

Flores and The Ladies Gunboat Society (on Sawtelle Blvd.) Rustic chic LA restaurant.

Unfortunately, I did not take any photos but check out their Yelp Page! Flores uses fresh ingredients but takes it to the next level with rich flavors and decadent sauces. Everything is served family style. The décor of Flores is a fairy’s cavern meets a grandma’s living room with vintage-style mismatched silverware and plates. We ordered the house made biscuits with maple butter and sea salt, toasted farro risotto, seared diver scallops, and salmon. The desserts are out of this world. We ordered the vanilla bean cake with mascarpone mousse and the berry crumble with buttermilk ice cream. The cake was extremely moist and rich. Recommend: the biscuits, scallops, and vanilla bean cake. Atmosphere: trendy, vintage/rustic, modern eclectic. (5 taste, 5 atmosphere, 5 service)