Monday, March 30, 2009

1st Dinner Party

Successful 1st dinner party (cooking for guests in the new pad).

A very seasonal menu:
- Garlic Loaf from Feel Good Bakery
- Spinach & Pea Soup
- Artichokes with a mustard-aioli dip
- Seared Sea Bass with Garlic Sauce (substitute dry sherry for dry vermouth)
- Couscous
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Strawberry-Apple Crisp, which was essentially a maple-wanut apple crisp with a few substitutions: half the fruit was strawberries, half the syrup was blood orange bitters, and pecans instead of walnuts.

The soup & the crisp were both particularly delicious. But really everything, including the company, and having friends over in our home, was lovely!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Chufas in Oakland!

Barlata, a new Tapas bar, just opened in Temescal.

L & I went for a drink last night... and discovered they only have beer & wine. Well, ok.

The place was packed! We squeezed into the only spot left at the bar, and got some wine. The wine list features Spanish wines. I had a white (can't tell you which one), she had a red (the Mas Donis). They were both tasty. The restaurant smelled great. The decor is a bit sparse but beautiful (wood on the floor and the ceiling, black tile by the kitchen, nice deep colors), with some playful touches (toys on the shelves by the bar, giant prints featuring cans of food, or latas).

But here is what I'm most excited about: the menu features Horchata de Valencia! I asked the bartender; does that mean with Tiger Nuts? She was confused: "isn't Horchata from rice?". Well, it's their 2nd day open, fine. The owner came by, and she asked him. Yes! He's importing chufas from Spain & also imported an Horhata-making machine that looks like a giant juicer. They didn't have it running yet, but I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oaktown Mexican Food

The torta that L brought home for Monday night's dinner inspired this post:

My favorite Mexican spots in Oakland.

With three caveats:
1) This is not based on an exhaustive survey of all the options. I have not spent a huge amount of time in Fruitvale, and someone who has might have some much better tips!
2) Related to #1; this is not a chart of the taco trucks! Others have done that, such as this one, on Chowhound. I used to have a favorite taco truck, but it dissapeared, and I never put in the work to find another one I'd like as much.
3) I don't eat beef. No Carne Asada for me.

My faves:
- La Calaca Loca (Temescal): Good quality, fresh ingredients, light & crispy chips, killer jicama/avocado salad. They've got a tasty breakfast for a good price, too. My one complaint; you have to order chips separtely if you want them, and then you have to take a full basket. Can't I just have a few chips with my taco without paying extra? Please? My favorites: the jicama salad, fish taco, chicken taco especial, chilequiles. Decent guac.
- Los Contaros (Grand Ave/Adams Point + other locations, see Again, good quality, fresh ingredients, plus tasty chips. And theirs are included with every order (thank you!). Big menu, beyond your typical burrito joint. Specials on the weekends. My favorites: prawn taco, carnitas tacos, chicken mole burrito. Yummy guac.
- Mariscos La Costa (Fruitvale): Ceviche! Yum yum yum. Tostadas piled high with seafood. Plus avocado. What's not to like? The cocktails are also a yummy option.

Sit-down places, for more than a taco:
- Tamarindo (Old town): Fresh, good quality, tasty, yummy sangria. A bit spendy. But good.
- Dona Tomas (Temescal): Even more spendy, not really better than tamarindo (slightly different spin though; more southern mexico, more... formal?). There are other places I like better at this price-point, but they're not Mexican so they don't make this list.
- Casa Vallarta (Eastlake? By the parkway theater): Don't want to spend all that dough on beans & rice? Come here. This one made the list because it's like the family-style, family-run mexican joints of my childhood in rural CA. Old school, not afraid of the grease but everything is fresh. Makes my mouth water even as I write this!

Just fine for a quick bite, but nothin special:
- Gerardo's (Laurel District): Not worth going out of your way, but if you need a bite & you'r in the Laurel, it's simple and tasty. I wish someone would come teach them how to make more than one burrito/taco at a time... but it's good for a basic meal.
- Baja Taqueria (Piedmont Ave): Tacos as interpreted by white hippies. Nothing special, but fresh.
- El Farolito (Fruitvale): Some people rave about this place. Maybe they're all beef eaters. Their chicken stuff is just ok.

I wouldn't bother:
- Mexicali Rose: Creepy environment, bad quality food. No.
- La Estrellita: Better than mexicali rose, but really the only reason to go here in my opinion is the full bar.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Champion Cobalt

beforeThis was the weekend project. The room is not "done" by any means, but the walls are beautiful!

"Before" on the left.

"After" below.

It's like a beautiful, soothing cave. Makes me want to lay in bed all day!
Thanks to Leah @ More Ways to Waste Time for the blue wall inspiration.

Next steps: paint lamps white. Hang owl prints from boygirlparty in silver frames on either side of bed. Find taller bedside tables.

Also, new duvet cover... still deciding on color. Considering (from lowest-cost to highest cost):
Ikea Jorun Form or Jorun Vaxt, Marimekko Tamara (but probably this is too yellow), or Eileen Fisher Platinum Sateen (too spendy!).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Starting Seeds

I'm trying out growing some veggies from seed, for a container garden on my 5th floor balcony. I started the first batch today; "Gardener's Delight" cherry tomatoes, to start inside.
I got my seeds from Bountiful Gardens.
Now comes the waiting!