Razzle's Travels

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.

Tutweiler Hotel – A Hilton in Birmingham
February 10, 2008, 1:59 am
Filed under: Alabama, Birmingham, Food, Hotel

When I was told I was heading to Birmingham, I was none to excited. I’d never really had a desire to go to the South in the summer months, I remembered lots of humidity from my childhood in Georgia.

It was suggested I stay at the Tutweiler, and so I booked my room with the hesitation that it was a Hampton Inn.
Oh was I ever wrong.

I got in late after some major airline snafus at about 1 am. The lobby of the hotel is absolutely gorgeous. It was not your run of the mill Hampton Inn.
The front desk greeted me without seeming tired or annoyed that they were at work so late. They suggested a few places that would still deliver dinner at that late hour.

This was the cornerstone of my stay here. Just how friendly and accomodating every staff member I came across was. This is southern hospitality at it’s finest.

The room was a bit on the small side, but extremely clean, renovated, and comfortable. Incidentaly a suite was only $20 more and as I found out the following day would have been well worth it. Everyone else in my party had chosen to upgrade and they raved about the suites.

One thing that was odd about my room was the height of everything. It was as if my room was designed for a tall person. Now, I’m 5’2, so I am a bit on the shorter side, but I felt like I needed a step stool for the bed.

A bed wich was very comfortable I might add.

There was also a plasma tv in the room, quite sleek and a dvd player and cable.

So I crawled into the high bed, turned on the tv and went to sleep.

My shower also was created for the tall people. The showerhead was so high I couldn’t reach it by standing on my tiptoes. And as there was no bathtub I couldn’t stand on the edges to adjust the showerhead either.

Otherwise, there was nice marble flooring, a granite vanity and good towels.

In the morning there is a free breakfast upstairs. Along with the typical croissants, muffins, cereals and fruit there were also hot dishes everyday. The sausage, biscuits and gravy stick solidly in my mind.

Oh and there’s always warm cookies to be had atop the piano in the lounge.

Lunch was at the hotel restaurant Icon. This is not southern dining. It’s very California sleek and healthy. The salad portions were good and quite yummy.

All in all, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again. A fabulous hotel, with a wonderful staff.

Myers & Chang – Fancy Asian in the South End
February 3, 2008, 5:34 pm
Filed under: Boston, Food, MA

For my birthday this year a few friends and I hit up the buzz of the South End, Myers & Chang. The pedigree of the chefs promises great things, although I am not entirely certain of the decision to not offer a dessert menu when Ms. Chang is known for her pastry skills.

The night started off very poorly with us being quoted a 45 min wait, which turned into an hour and half. There’s really no excuse for this, as numerous people who arrived after us without reservations were seated before us. We were a party of 4, it’s not incredibly hard to wait for 2 tables of 2 to be empty to seat 4. Plus a party of 4 that arrived after us was seated before us (because one member of the party was pregnant?). They lost many points for the poor handling of this, and for the lame excuses of it will be just a few more minutes.
I wanted to leave, as there are plenty of great restaurants in the area, but my companion K was determined to eat the food there since we had waited already.

Once we turned that corner and were seated the rest of the experience was all positive. Our server was funny and friendly and full of suggestions of what is good “my fault is that I am honest and will tell you what not to get”.

The food arrived super fast (as in under 10 minutes), which again, confused me as to why we had such a long wait.

We started with crispy spring rolls ($5) which were filled with chives, bamboo and shitake mushrooms. I didn’t taste the mushrooms at all, it was much heavier on the chives and bamboo. Good, standard fare.

We also had the scallion pancakes ($7), K liked them so much we ordered them again later in the meal. These aren’t your typical scallion pancakes, they are doughy, an almost foccaccia type of dough lightly sprinkled with scallions. Very yummy, and very filling.
Tiger’s Tears ($10). Oh my the yum! If you like beef, and spicy THIS is the dish for you! It’s a salad, so it’s cold, but the beef is so tender and flavorful and citrusy and just mouth on fire good! The basil and tri-color bell peppers were fresh and crunchy and delicious, and the khao koor (some sort of rice like thing) added a bit more crunch. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the lack of flavor of that ingredient.
Our waiter recommended we have a couple of the dumplings. So we opted for the lemony shrimp ($13), which were interesting yet not particularly memorable or flavorful. Next time, I’ll skip this.
The girls also tried mama chang’s pork and chive dumplings ($11), I think they all liked them. I had a tiny bite, but not being a huge fan of pork, didn’t like these much either.

We had to try something from the middle page of the menu as well and so C asked for the Nirvana Chicken ($9) served over white rice. I loved this dish! It had to be the incredibly strong star anise smell and flavor that did it. One tender thigh and a good smokey flavor.

Onto the noodle portion of the menu, first up we have the Dan Dan Noodle Salad ($7). The waiter commented that this was a heavy dish, but I didn’t think so. The peanut sauce was tasty, and the cucumbers added a clean fresh flavor to the dish. K apparently got a bite that had all the sambal in it, because she suffered the mouth on fire phenomenon and yet the dish was completely not spicy to me or anyone else at the table. Perhaps I didn’t mix things up well enough. N also loved this dish and threatened to finish it off.

Thai ginger chicken salad was one of the dishes recommended by the waiter. The dish was very pale looking, white rice noodles, very white grilled chicken, pale cabbage. The girls dug in and ate it, I was a bit hesitant it would be too bland. However, I was wrong. The ginger and lemongrass flavor came through in the chicken and at the bottom of the bowl there were even some red pepper flakes.

Although the restaurant doesn’t have a dessert menu, before the check everyone is served a dessert. This evening it was a lemon mousse with small pieces of crystallized ginger on top. I am not a fan of the ginger and was able to pick it off, while totally enjoying the lemon mousse. K didn’t like it at all and had thought we were being served a bowl of parmesean, which she would have been very happy with. N didn’t like the mousse of the ginger on this.

And a special dessert for the birthday girl, a brownie with chunks of ginger. I’ll give the brownie yummy points, but the ginger was way too much for me to be able to enjoy it. N loved it and ate half of it.

Ambiance: The restaurant is cool and casual, very reminiscent of a diner. Complete with the counter seating overlooking the kitchen. The soundtrack is provided by an iPod, but the noise level in the restaurant makes it hard to hear what songs are playing unless you are in the bathroom.

Thier website is a myspace page, which is a bit odd. Just pay for a real website and design it so that the menu is easy to read. Speaking of menus they do have a vegetarian menu and a nut free menu. You need to ask for them seperately, but the items are all also on the main menu (which for some reason smells like crayons).

Our total bill pre-tip was $153, including 2 bottles of wine. A bit steep for the quality of the food and the fact that it’s basically chinese food in a very casual setting.

Comfort Food in Boston – Silvertone
November 2, 2007, 7:47 pm
Filed under: Boston, Cheap Eats, Food, MA

Hidden on a side street in downtown crossing is Silvertone. It’s a bar with great food, and good drinks. Really, you can’t go wrong. Cocktails are in the $6 – $8 range, and beer on tap is $4. Food runs from $4 – 18 at dinner time, with the majority under $12.
The steak tips are great ($10) as is the mac and cheese ($8). Portion sizes are decent, and it’s a fun place to go with a group. Friends have had the meatloaf and raved about it.
One warning, if your party is arriving separately and they are busy, they will not let anyone who sits at the table later order. It is a completely retarded rule, and I can’t figure out the reasoning behind it. We’ve had that happen to us once, and luckily it was still not super crowded that the two that were half an hour late were allowed to order.
It’s kinda like that hidden dive bar, but with the law school in the area, it’s usually got a good size crowd.
Location: 69 Bromfield St (at Tremont) – Park Street T stop served by both the Red and Green lines, a short walk from the Downtown Crossing T stop for Orange and Red lines.
(617) 338-7887

Kingfish Hall – At which Todd English joins us for dinner
October 27, 2007, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Boston, Food, MA

Ok not really, but he was at the next table. Kingfish Hall is his seafood restaurant in the heart of Faneuil Hall. Since this area caters heavily to tourists, I tend to not eat at the restaurants, I figure overpriced and mediocre. But last night my favorite neighborhood restaurant was booked solid and I wanted something good to eat. And in my world, one cannot go wrong at any of Todd English’s restaurants. I did like that he was there, popping in on the kitchen and watching the goings on in there. It’s good to know he still takes the time to keep an eye on his restaurants.

The menu is very expensive for such a casual place. There was an incredible sounding crispy lobster, which is basically a de-shelled lobster tempura fried, for $49. Other entrees were all over $28 and fairly basic. And since I wanted to eat more than one dish, I opted for some Kumamoto Oysters served with a cocktail sauce, I opted for just some lemon juice squeezed on top. I ordered the tuna tartare, a starter which I thought would be small. I was wrong. This was a lot of tuna, served on a lot of sushi rice, with a thin layer of seaweed in between. Basically a deconstructed tuna roll. And completely delicious! There was a hint of Sriracha on top which nearly burned my tongue off. I also ordered a side of the mac and cheese, which was served in the cutest cauldron, but lacking in cheese flavor and left a filmy layer on my teeth. I took a few bites, brought it home and reheated it with additional cheese. Sadly, I can make a better mac and cheese myself.

N ordered the fried calamari and the seafood gumbo. The calamari was delicious. It was covered in sauce, which resulted in it becoming soggy rather quickly. The seafood gumbo was served in a shallow skillet and was good, although over salty. You definitely tasted the seafood in the stock, however it looked and tasted as if it was thickened with black beans. Something we both found odd.

The service was a bit slow, even though there was enough staff and the restaurant wasn’t very crowded.

A cool thing about the space, if you get a seat on the second level and can get into one of the booths that look like giant clam shells, they turn. So you can opt to sit facing the open kitchen or you can face the dining room. The light fixtures are also all funky and I would love to have one in my house.

Overall, I would not go here again for dinner, our total bill was $90 (including 2 glasses of wine) and for that much money there is far better food in the area at less casual places.

Breakfast in Eugene – Glenwood Restaurant
September 30, 2007, 5:35 pm
Filed under: Brunch, Cheap Eats, Eugene, Food, OR

If you are looking for a healthy breakfast look no further than Glenwood Restaurant. I am sure there are other breakfast joints in town, but this must be the best. Seriously. On a Wednesday morning at 11 am this place was completely packed. And this wasn’t the location on the U of O campus. So you know it’s good.
The menu is pretty typical, scrambles, pancakes, egg dishes, and sandwiches. But the food is anything but typical.

I was torn between french toast and pancakes, as I usually am, but decided on the pancakes. To make matters more complicated there were three options. Buckwheat, honey and wheat, and some other natural grain one. None of that white flour boring pancake stuff here. I opted for the honey and wheat flour one, and am so glad I did. There was no need for maple syrup on this, even though a small pitcher of it was brought out. The pancakes were already slightly sweet and the butter made them perfect.
My companion got the eggs benedict, which were also quite delicious, although surprisingly a bit heavy on the hollandaise.

We also ordered a side of the home fries, which were of the red potato variety. Not overly greasy, with a a good sprinkling of herbs and garlic. The bacon was cooked well and not greasy. I don’t know how they manage to make breakfast food taste so good and yet go light on the grease!

The price is pretty reasonable, our breakfast including coffee and juices ran just $20.
Next time I’m back in town, I will be trying the biscuits and gravy. I couldn’t stop wondering about them the rest of the day.

You can find the Glenwood in two locations: 1340 Alder Street (541)687-0355 and 2558 Willamette Street (541) 687-8201.