Tuesday, December 12, 2006
A Bay Area weekend
oysters on Tomales Bay, sunset
Today's installment of Eating L.A. is a travel special...we had a fairly quick trip to Berkeley and San Francisco this weekend, during which I learned that there is a finite limit to the amount of things you can taste in one weekend. Friday night my sister in Berkeley ordered in chicken pot pies from one of Berkeley's seemingly inexhaustible supply of cute gourmet takeout places, Lola's. The Bay Area Chowhounds had supplied me with a handy list of Berkeley pubs, wine bars, etc., so after dinner we checked out the bars of San Pablo Ave., settling at the Acme, an old-school punk bar with smokers, Black Flag on the jukebox, The Daily Show on the TV, the requisite tattooed barmaid and an adorable puppy cavorting across the bar. Drinks seem incredibly cheap in the Bay Area -- it was $7.75 for a mixed drink and an excellent pint of Lagunitas IPA. For nostalgia's sake, I needed to have a Top Dog bratwurst before turning in.
Saturday our first meal stop was at La Cumbre for a Mission district burrito -- I must have had an even bigger appetite in the old days, because I couldn't begin to finish my carne asada burrito.
grillin' like a villain at La Cumbre
I know Mission style involves mandatory rice and beans, but the rice put it over the top, to my mind. Later on I tried the date toffee cupcake at Citizen Cupcake in the Virgin megastore -- it tasted like a See's butterscotch square melted in the middle of a cupcake. Intense, but delicious, although I would have gone with a more tart frosting.
Before dinner, we hid from the rain at a Clement Street bar where two drinks were -- get this -- $2.00. This included a half pint of Lagunitas cappucino stout, which combines a hint of coffee flavor with a creamy stout.
I've never had Burmese food, since L.A.'s sole Burmese restaurant is none-too-conveniently located in Whittier, so we wanted to try Burma Superstar for dinner. There's always a wait, but it wasn't too bad, and soon we settled in to the cozy restaurant and decided to try the tea leaf salad, a typical Burmese dish which doesn't seem to be found in any other culture. The tangy, sour tea leaves were delicious mixed with fried garlic, peanuts and sundry other items, but this stuff should come with a warning: "Insane caffeine content, consume at your own risk,"
because I was up until at least 3 am. We also liked our coconut noodles and chicken shrimp clay pot biryani casserole. Burmese food is flavorful and fun to try, but all in all, I prefer the sharper and more nuanced flavors of Thai food to Burma's coconut-heavy, rather sweet dishes.
Sunday the rain thankfully cleared, and we had a beautiful drive through Marin to Pt. Reyes seashore where we hiked to a sunny meadow. After driving through the precious gourmet hamlet of Pt. Reyes Station, we hit the Marshall Store further up the coast for some incredibly fresh oysters, great brown bread and clam chowder. We also tried the Oysters Rockefeller, but raw is definitely the way to go, as they taste like they've been pulled out of the bay just minutes before. Slurping oysters on the balcony overlooking the bay at sunset -- it was a pretty cool scene.
Later that evening we cooked up a Cheese Board pizza and then went back to San Pablo to check out Club Mallard, which kicks the ass of any L.A. bar. In business since 1945, the downstairs bar area is decorated with duck art and vintage, not Bigfoot Lounge-fake wood panelling. Two pool tables, comfy booths, a TV playing La Dolce Vita and a jukebox playing The Fall and The New Pornographers complete the downstairs bar. Outside is a roomy tiki-themed patio with plenty of heaters and flaming tiki torches, while the upstairs is like being in someone's Victorian apartment with sofas, built-in bookshelves, three more pool tables, another patio and another bar. Oh, and the downstairs bartender is a demon at cocktail-shaker twirling. Once again, the fancy places will have to wait for another time, but it was a tasty quick tour of the bay.