Razzle's Travels

Cocoon Urban Day Spa – Manis and Pedis
July 21, 2008, 12:05 am
Filed under: CA, Northern CA, San Francisco, Spa

So when my best girlfriend suggested we go after work one day to treat our little toes, I tried to find somewhere that was a midway point for both of us. Enter Cocoon Urban Day Spa in the SoMa part of town. Location is a few uphill blocks away from most of the financial district, but if you are lazy like me you take a cab.

It’s a bit hard to find from the street, as the building didn’t have an easily noticable sign, and shares a space with a restaurant. The space is on the second floor, and is also part yoga studio.

The manicure/pedicure room is huge! and has windows on two sides, so full of light. While you can occassionally hear the traffic from the street below, for the most part you forget that you are right downtown.
They had brownies and strawberries for us to snack on, and for the ladies that came in after 5 pm they offered champagne. It might have been because we were using a coupon? Coupons on thier website are pretty good, they are limited by time of day but that just gives you an excuse to cut out of work early!

Service was great, they were running late, but the ladies that worked on us were all very nice and sociable and did a great job. Even when I smashed my nails upon paying. We got the ultimate mani/pedi combo, which for some reason I thought included paraffin, but instead just had warm booties and mittens. Still very relaxing and a good way to spend an afternoon.

They have one person doing your nails while the other does your toes, so it’s efficient and you don’t have to sit around and wait too much. And so you know it’s sanitary they also use metal bowls for the pedicure water and not the sometimes unclean plastic tubs most places do. However, they do still have massage chairs. It would be a great place to go with a group of girlfriends for an afternoon of treatments.

I haven’t gone back to try any of thier other treatments, but it seemed they only had a couple treatment rooms. And the space that seemed to be the yoga studio seemed a bit small. Maybe they have small classes.

I will definitely return for another treatment soon! Oh and you cannot tip on your credit card, so make sure to take cash for tips (otherwise you have to pay the atm fee downstairs).

Location: 330 first street, second floor
san francisco, ca 94105


Burgers and Shakes Oh My! – Taylors Automatic Refresher
May 4, 2008, 1:57 am
Filed under: CA, Food, napa, Northern CA

So I had reservations at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc one night, we were headed up to Napa to shop for the day and it seemed like a delightful idea to stop and get some fancy food time in. But, as I pulled up the menu for that evening, nothing appealed to me. And so reservation cancelled and a new mission is upon us. We had passed a new outpost of Taylor’s Automatic Refresher along the way, and since I love me some tasty burgers and thick shakes that was where dinner would be!
The line here was considerably shorter than I’ve ever seen at the Ferry Building outpost, I suspect it is because this is a very new location in what seems to be a new part of downtown Napa.
But let’s get on to the food shall we? I got a cheeseburger and fries. Classic. I think the key to thier burgers, is really the bun. Look at that thing, it’s just perfect.

The tasty continues with thier yummy good quality meat, cheese, and of course special sauce thing.

My companion got a patty melt, and the sweet potato fries. But she mixed it up a bit and asked them to leave off the chili powder and instead give it the garlic coating. She is BRILLIANT! They were possibly the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had.

She did love her patty melt as well, and it even caused a man to pause at our table and ask what she was eating. He apparently had never seen one before.

I do love that thier condiments come in little pastic containers with lids. They were sturdy containers and for some reason just struck me as really adorable. Thier plastic drink cups are made from recyclable materials and they have recycling bins next to the trash as well. Yeay for being green!

Salt House – San Francisco
April 5, 2008, 7:09 pm
Filed under: CA, Food, San Francisco

The Salt House opened a while back, but I finally had a chance to grab lunch there this week. I am a huge fan of Town Hall, the partner’s other restaurant a couple blocks away and have eaten many a satisfied meal there.
I arrived very late for lunch, so my friends had already eaten bunches of oysters, and 3 dishes of thier pickled vegetables. Apparently those were quite good! We did get another dish for the table, but the two of them inhaled it before I got a chance.
Since I was late I had my friends order for me. They ordered the chicken. Which as the waitress informed them is a salad, even though it is on the entree portion of the menu, and doesn’t use the word salad in the name or description.
When the waitress brought it to the table I could see why. It was possibly half a roast chicken and not greasy at all, with perfectly crisp skin. It laid across a mixture of baby spinach, radishes, and the thickest, meatiest, chunks of bacon I’ve ever seen. Sprinkled with finely chopped egg and tossed with a dressing that I couldn’t identify but wasn’t heavy or oily. There were some crimini mushrooms in there as well, that didn’t distract me enough to realize I was eating them.
I rarely order salads, but this is one I would certainly get again.
One of my friends is a vegan, and there was nothing on the menu for her. However, the kitchen threw a dish together for her with vegetables and some salsa verde. It was colorful and smelled amazing! She said it tasted as good as it smelled.
Our other friend got a rueben turkey sandwich on rye, with some red relish and a side of very yummy chips. He didn’t share the sandwich with me, so that speaks as to how tasty it must have been.
Despite being full, we had to have dessert. I got a molten chocolate cake with chip whip and mint-chip ice cream. I was slightly disappointed with the amount of ice-cream on the plate. Literally a teaspoon size. Which Mr. Turkey Sandwich picked up with one spoon and swallowed in one bite! I guess it was good……
There was a drizzle of mint oil on the plate and while the melty, yet not warm chocolate cake didn’t have any mint flavoring, swiping it along the mint oil gave it a very very minty flavor. The chip whip was a clever mix of homemade cream with teeny tiny chocolate chips thrown in.
The other dessert at the table was mango pudding with forbidden rice and cream. I had a couple bites of this, and it was so rich and mangoey! I love when I can taste the freshness of the fruit in dishes. It reminded me of mango sticky rice but ten times better.

My favorite little thing to love about the restaurant are the glass milk bottles they leave at the table with water. They have a very cute pirate type of design on the bottle that made me want to put it in my purse and take it home. However, if you want ice water here you must ask for it, the water they bring to the table is room temperature.

I have to admit I like the ambience of Salt House better than Town Hall. My one complaint about Town Hall is the acoustics. No matter where you sit, it reverberates with all the conversations going on in the restaurant. Salt House has the same high ceiling space, but it wasn’t loud. Decorated to fit with the loft style of the SOMA location and with an open kitchen, it was very airy and yet welcoming at the same time.

Location: 545 Mission Street, between 1st and 2nd across from Golden Gate Law School.

Tapas in Albany – Fonda Restaurant and Cocktail Bar
September 30, 2007, 4:52 pm
Filed under: CA, Food, Northern CA, Oakland/Berkeley

We went to Fonda on a Sunday afternoon right before they started thier dinner service. So it was wasn’t packed, but given the quality of the food, I would guess this place does get pretty crowded in the evenings and weekends for the dinner crowd.
We all got glasses of wine, although the cocktail menu seemed pretty inventive and made me want to go back and try a few of them.
They brought out chips with salsa and guacamole when we were seated. The salsa was hot and the guac smooth. We requested more chips so I could eat up all the guacamole.
We started off with a tomato, cucumber and queso fresco salad, it had a very light and refreshing dressing, I would guess lime juice and oil.
A ordered the yellowfin tuna tartar, it was served on three pieces of crostini, but with a sufficient amount of tuna that there was enough for the four of us.
J ordered the duck tacos. I doubled that order as there were 2 per order. They were amazing. Lots of duck filling, that wasn’t greasy at all, and a soft taco shell. It was served with guacamole and salsa for spicing it up, but I thought they were perfect just as they were served, and you know I love the spicy! It didn’t even need the guacamole to smooth it out.
N ordered the seared steak, done medium-rare. So I didn’t try any of it. But she commented that it was very tender and everyone else liked it as well. I did, however, try the manchego onion rings that came with that dish. Oh my! So tasty!
I ordered the rack of lamb, an order that we also doubled as it was only two lamb chops. So good! The chimichurri sauce was very flavorful and we all gnawed the meat off right down to the bone.

Then it was dessert time. We ordered two of the warm chocolate cake, which had the most perfect melted chocolate center. Served with a side of delicious whipped cream. We also ordered (off the appetizer portion of the menu) the figs with Belwether Farms ricotta, which had a delicious honey drizzled over it. If you like figs, then you must get this dish.

The decor is very lofty, with large windows, high ceilings, and lots of wood beams. There is seating upstairs (but not until 5:30), and they have a good mix of comfy armchairs for that loungey feel, bar seating, regular table seating.

Price: It is a bit on the expensive side for the portion sizes, but the food is good and this is Solano Ave. so it is almost to be expected.

Fonda is located at: 1501 Solano Avenue, Albany, CA 510-559-9006

Indian in SF on the cheap – Pakwan and Naan n Curry
May 16, 2007, 1:26 am
Filed under: CA, Cheap Eats, Food, San Francisco

San Francisco has lots of inexpensive Indian- Pakistani places. All of them good, most of them in multiple locations. There’s something different about Indian – Pakistani that I love and can’t seem to find outside of the Bay Area. It’s somehow more spicey or flavorful than just straight up Indian.

Pakwan was the place I fell in love with Chicken Makhanwala (Butter Chicken). Different places call it by different names, but as best as I can tell it’s basically a creamier (butterier?) version of Chicken Tikki Masala.
I used to hit up the (now defunct) location on Clay Street in the Financial District fairly often, because for about $8 (less if it was the daily special) I could get rice, chicken and naan in good sized portions. My problem with thier food is, no matter how full I am, I can’t stop eating it until the plate is wiped clean with some naan. They have since moved and now have a location in the Tenderloin district (which due to an influx of Indian fast food places is dubbed little India).

Naan -n- Curry is another of my favorites. They have locations all over the city, but I’ve only been to thier locations in North Beach on Jackson and on Berkeley’s famed Telegraph St. The location on Jackson is very run down, but the food still tasty, and always crowded at lunchtime. Strangely, the Telegraph location is much cleaner with better ventilation. At both locations, you order up front and grab a table after the fact. Don’t forget to get your water, chai, and silverware yourself. There is no table service here. Then again, with the low prices you weren’t really expecting that.
Onto the food, I usually tend to get the lamb curry here. It’s greasy, but that is how I like my lamb curry, sometimes they manage to get it mixed well. Thier naan is delicious, plain and straighforward. Thier chana masala is also inexpensive so I usually order one of those too. And then I am faced with the fact that my eyes are always larger than my stomach.

House of Nanking – The Best Chinese In San Francisco
May 15, 2007, 12:40 am
Filed under: CA, Cheap Eats, Food, San Francisco

If you go to SF and get only have time for one Chinese restaurant you simply MUST get yourself to House of NanKing in North Beach.

Yes, there will probably be a line at lunch time, and yes it is worth the wait.

No, do not ask for a menu. They will give you one, and let you order from it, but don’t. Let them bring you whatever they will. I guarantee it will be better than anything you would have ordered.

Usually you will end up with some sesame like chicken dish. It’s the best chicken you will ever have. I believe once I got some sort of beef dish as well. It may have been 5 spice beef. I never understand what the chef says he is bringing me, but I also never leave unhappy. Or not extremely full. If you must order an appetizer, opt for the potstickers or the onion cake. This place made me fall in love with the concept of onion cakes.

The portions are huge, so get one main dish to share. The prices are low, the quality good. It is a very casual restaurant and the kitchen is in the window, so if you are sitting in the half with the kitchen you can see all the delicious food being prepared.

Location: 919 Kearney (at Jackson, near Columbus) (415) 421-1429

Mendocino Bed and Breakfast
April 13, 2007, 1:28 am
Filed under: CA, Fine Dining, Food, Hotel, Mendocino, Northern CA

If you’ve ever tried to find a reasonably priced place to stay in Mendocino or the outlying areas, you know it’s damn near impossible. Unless you want to stay in some sketchy motel. It’s also super difficult to find a place that has 2 beds in one room. So I was psyched to find the Rendezvous Inn & Restaurant in Fort Bragg. A room with 2 queen beds, and only $89 a night plus tax? Sign us up!

The website didn’t speak much to the rooms, but had lots about the food. As it should. The food was INCREDIBLE! We checked in late, and they kept the restaurant open for us. Given that Kim does all the cooking, and had to get up in the morning to make the breakfast, this really was going out of his way. The restaurant was packed when we checked in, but by the time we put our bags down, had a fit of hysterical laughter, walked around town and came back, it was late and we were sittind down as the last patrons were leaving. The dinner was amazing, as elegant and sophisticated as any of the top restaurants in SF that I’ve been to. We had a hard time selecting our dishes, and there was a foie amuse bouche that made our mouths very happy, crabcakes that were delicious, a roasted vegetable phyllo dish that was enormous and worth savoring every bite, and another entree that escapes me now, a caramel custard that should really not be missed, and a bread pudding that was very tasty and very pretty.

Kim really is an amazing chef. Breakfast was also top notch. Incredible muffins, and a frittata with sauteed onions, mushrooms, crumbled bacon and Gruyère cheese that I wanted to devour in its entirety, juice, and I think some sort of potato dish. We were beyond full for the long day of driving we had ahead of us.

The rooms were very simple. No fluff, no extras, no tvs and no phones. Just beds, nightstands, and a chair and desk. There are games and books in the hallway, along with teas and coffee to keep you entertained late into the night. Or keep us entertained late into the night, I think we drank tea and played Scrabble until 3 am. Thankfully we were the only guests that night and so our hysterical laughter over no television in the room didn’t bother anyone (there is a TV in the sunroom). The room had a good view of the neighborhood, and was spacious.

Overall, I think you would find it hard to find a place in the area that is a better value for your money, or with better quality food (that would be impossible).