Tagged wine tasting

Homestead in Oakland offers an ever-changing Sunday Supper that’ll blow your mind

Oakland's Homestead pork schnitzel
A closer look at Homestead’s schnitzel.

Words and photos by Nadia Ibanez

One of my new favorite things to do while dining out is finding a restaurant that specializes in one dish on their menu. From Mac and Cheese restaurants in SF to an amazing Chicken Rice spot in Portland, when a place does one thing, you can almost guaranteed that it’s near perfection. I recently found a spot off Piedmont that is doing its own thing when it comes to the idea of one dish to perfection. Each week, Homestead in Oakland offers a Sunday Supper where guests sit down for a three-course meal at the whimsy of the chef.

Homestead serves up seasonal items on their ever-changing menu – seriously, the menu changes so quickly that you might need to drop by every few weeks to try it all. Their farm-to-table approach is fancy, minus all of the pretentiousness you’ll experience at other places. Owners Fred and Elizabeth Sassen have some serious culinary guns to show off and you can absolutely see and taste their passion.

Inside Homestead in Oakland.
Inside Homestead in Oakland.

Upon entering Homestead, you’ll be greeted with repurposed antique furniture, chillies drying in the windows, and a huge open kitchen where you see, smell and hear everything. The drink menu is sizable and includes French and Italian wines, as well as beers and ciders from across the country.

The Sunday Supper prix fixe menu changes every week and is determined by the season or a specific theme. Homestead also collaborates with wine growers and local beer makers for special collaboration dinners so be on the lookout for special events. The restaurant was celebrating Oktoberfest the night we came by and we couldn’t have picked a better evening.

Homestead's Parsnip & Apple salad.
Homestead’s Parsnip & Apple salad.

We started our meal with a Parsnip & Apple Salad and it was freaking delicious. Chicories, pomegranate, walnuts and fiscalini cheddar helped round out the seasonal salad. The main attraction was a Pork Schnitzel, served with herbed spaetzel, house-made sauerkraut, pretzel rolls, and brussel sprouts. The spaetzle was perfectly tender, the pork was incredibly juicy, and the sides all worked together to create a perfect plate. We ended our meal with an amazing Chocolate Cake drizzled with a stout caramel sauce and sprinkled with caramel corn.

Homestead's Oktoberfest spread.
Homestead’s Oktoberfest spread.

We nearly licked our plates clean. The chef must have taken notice because he brought over a second serving when he saw us fumbling and fighting over crumbs. Seriously, the meal and the whole dining experience at Homestead was one of the best I’ve had in the Bay. We’re definitely coming back.

Homestead's Chocolate Cake.
Homestead’s Chocolate Cake.

While Homestead doesn’t technically offer just one thing on the menu at all times, the idea of offering one thing each Sunday night to absolute perfection is this restaurant’s strong suit. Homestead takes pride in the dishes it does well, the prevailing ingredients for the season, and it’s amazing attention to service and ambiance. For more information, visit http://homesteadoakland.com.

Eat Drink SF Saturday Grand Tasting celebrates restaurants, distilleries + winemakers old and new

entrance into Eat Drink SF
The always stunning entrance into Eat Drink SF.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

In case you missed it, Eat Drink SF is back at it this weekend showing off some of the city’s best restaurants and bars, along with some amazing wine and spirit makers. The Fort Mason Pavilion was dressed up to the nines, offering space for rows of restaurants, cooking demos, giveaways, and so much more.

Check out some of the photos from Saturday’s Grand Tasting event.

Panna Cotta from Bluestem Brasserie
Panna Cotta from Bluestem Brasserie
Pork loin from Causwells
Pork loin from Causwells
Pure deliciousness from Rose Pistola
Pure deliciousness from Rose Pistola
Bright and fresh ceviche
Bright and fresh ceviche
Definitely came back for seconds at the Bix table
Definitely came back for seconds at the Bix table
Pabu serving up hand rolls
Pabu serving up hand rolls
Adorable and delicious cheesecakes with roasted peaches and a ginger crust
Adorable and delicious cheesecakes with roasted peaches and a ginger crust
Chicken meatball skewers from Delarosa
Chicken meatball skewers from Delarosa
Kale salad and steak from Fogo de Chao
Kale salad and steak from Fogo de Chao
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Irish Coffees galore from The Buena Vista at Eat Drink SF 2016 from nadia ibanez on Vimeo.

Just one of the many bites from Eat Drink SF 2016 from nadia ibanez on Vimeo.

One of the reasons that I love going to Eat Drink SF every year is because of the people — chefs, mixologists, wine makers, and event attendees. San Francisco is undoubtedly a foodie city and people here love celebrating the legacy of our old restaurants, as well as the new kids on the block making waves in the industry. No matter how you slice it, this event brings people together to celebrate our crazy bubble and all of the personalities within.

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Hudson Valley serving up foie gras milkshakes and duck and cheese grilled sandwiches
Hudson Valley serving up foie gras milkshakes and duck and cheese grilled sandwiches
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So much love in the room :)
So much love in the room :)
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Uno Dos tacos serving up their delicious bites
Uno Dos tacos serving up their delicious bites
My favorite man of the evening
My favorite man of the evening
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There’s still time to get tickets for the Sunday After Grand Tasting. Get ‘em while you can!

And a huge thank you to the folks at EDSF for letting me attend again this year. I definitely see this event becoming part of my SF tradition. See you again next year!

Are you ready for Eat Drink SF 2016?

Eat Drink SF 2015
A photo from Eat Drink SF 2015

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

It’s that time of year when Bay Area foodies come out in droves to spend the weekend rubbing elbows with the city’s finest chefs, wine/beer/booze makers and mixologists. Eat Drink SF is in its eighth year and will be held once again at the Festival Pavilion in Fort Mason Center. Eat Drink SF was the first food festival I went to in the City and still is one of my favorites.

Crab Cakes from One Market
Crab Cakes from One Market

Check out my coverage of last year’s event here.

Founded by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) back in 2009, Eat Drink SF brings together 160+ restaurants offering unlimited bite-sized versions of their claim-to-fame dishes while attendees walk around with their drink of choice or check out demos and classes. (And trust that you’ll find a new favorite drink from one of the 70 bars, distilleries, wineries and breweries in attendance.) If you’ve ever wanted to be under the same roof with all of your favorite restaurants, this is your event.

This year’s event starts August 25 with everyone’s favorite, the Taco Knockdown, and goes into the weekend with four Grand Tasting events. And if you’ve never been to an SF food festival, expect a lot of wandering through rows trying to figure out what to eat or drink next. No wallets, no fuss…just pure culinary fun.

New this year at Eat Drink SF 2016:

  • A Sunday Grand Tasting event will celebrate GGRA’s 80th anniversary and honor Bay Area bars and restaurants that have been open for at least 20 years.
  • A personal favorite, Buena Vista Café will be pouring their famous Irish Coffees at all four Grand Tastings.
  • The SF Brewers Guild will be in attendance and pouring local brews in the Backyard Bites section.
  • A new “Bay Bar” will feature cocktails from the city’s hottest cocktails bars, like Hard Water, The Treasury, Whitechapel, and more.
  • Look out for a Milagro Margarita Mix Off added to the Thursday Taco Knockdown event.
Tyler Florence of Wayfare Tavern
Tyler Florence serving up a Corn and Prawn soup at the Wayfare Tavern booth.
Executive Chef, Danny Kou, of La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Executive Chef, Danny Kou, of La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Eat Drink SF Souvla
Souvla serves up their AMAZING lamb

Ready for an indulgent weekend? Get your tickets now at www.eatdrink-sf.com. See you there!

 

Best Restaurants in Portland – We check out PDX restaurants with serious Instagram fame

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

Lately, my trips have been centered around food, with just a sprinkling of history and city tours. When I traveled before, I’d always search out the best shopping districts, find a cute little pastry shop, and manage to sneak in a massage or a manicure with my travel mates. But these days, it’s all about the food and booze.

When I started planning this trip, the top priority was to seek out and eat at the best restaurants in Portland. I researched on my own, got some tips from friends and screened through pages of Yelp. But this might be the first time that I leveraged Instagram to lead the way.

After just minutes of going down an Instagram black hole, I came across dozens of restaurants that looked absolutely amazing. From waffles and pastries to French food and famous chicken wings, I was salivating and bookmarking everything. And honestly, what better platform to go hunting for food in foreign territory than with Instagram?

Here are some of the restaurants I found using my favorite PDX food hashtags and some other gems we found along the way.

Instagram-Famous Joints You Need to Check Out

Pok Pok

People freak out over Pok Pok and its creative Northern Thai street food fare. I HAD to go to their original location on SE Division St. and try their fish-sauce wings for myself. I was told a number of times to go for lunch as the line can be much more manageable. The second that I step foot inside Pok Pok, I immediately felt like I was back at the food stalls in Jakarta and Bali. Servers are super enthusiastic about all of the menu items and specials and the casual, outdoor vibe might be just what you need after a long day of exploring.

The dishes at Pok Pok Portland are meant to be shared so either come incredibly hungry or with your food adventurous friends. Between the three of us, we ordered a little something of everything.

Pok Pok chicken wings
Always order the wings at Pok Pok.

You MUST order Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings. These wings are marinated in fish sauce and sugar before being deep friend and tossed in a caramelized fish sauce and garlic sauce. Great on their own or with a side of coconut rice, these wings are definitely a standout.

We also ordered the Kung Op Wun Sen, a noodle dish with gulf prawns and pork belly baked with soy, ginger, black pepper and other Thai ingredients. The Neua Naam Tok was another favorite. This flank steak “salad” is served up with a bunch of fish sauce, lime, chili powder, cilantro, lemongrass and toasted rice powder. The grilled fiddlehead special of the day was amazing and off the menu. Make sure to ask about the specials of the day as Pok Pok focuses on seasonal dishes whenever possible.

Pine State Biscuits

For whatever reason, soul food is a major player in the Portland food scene. You’ll find chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy and meat and three specialties all across the city. If you have a long day ahead of you and need a serious start to your morning, you must try Pine State Biscuits.

This locally famous joint has four locations across the area and will likely have a line outside the door whenever you go. Trust me when I say this place is worth the wait. Stop by for breakfast or lunch and you’ll be in awe of the biscuits piled high with bacon or fried chicken and a healthy serving of gravy.

Reggie Deluxe from Pine State Biscuits
The Reggie Deluxe…I can’t even.

The Reggie Deluxe seems to be everyone’s favorite with fried chicken, bacon, cheese, egg and gravy. Adventurous diners will love the Pine State Fried Club, a trio of fried grit cakes each topped with a slab of fried chicken drizzled with spiced honey, pimento cheese, country ham and white cheddar. Check the specials board whenever you arrive and you might find some fancy waffles or homemade pop tarts.

Lardo

Lardo's Pork Meatball Bahn Mi
Lardo’s Pork Meatball Bahn Mi. OMG.

Nothing makes me happier than a well-executed, no frills, locally-inspired sandwich place. I found out about Lardo during one of my late night Instagram black hole benders and I’m so happy I did. If you don’t order something porky at Lardo, you’ll still find something on the menu to dream about weeks after you leave PDX. The restaurant’s showstopper is the Pork Meatball Banh Mi and it’s f*cking unbelievable. Giant pork meatballs are stacked with pickled vegetables, cilantro, cucumber and sriracha mayo on a fresh baguette.

I had to show some form of restraint and ordered the Lardo Fries which were tossed with fried herbs and parmesan. But the heathen in me was definitely eyeing everyone else’s Dirty Fries, which are topped with pork scraps (!!!) and marinated peppers. Once again, this place is great to go to with friends so order some beers and snag bites from each other’s sandwiches, while you sit outside and watch all of the kooks walk and bike by.

Voodoo Doughnuts vs. Blue Star Donuts

These guys need very minimal introduction. One is known for its colorful and quirky, available-at-all-times-of-day, donuts and the other takes an artisanal and seasonal approach to its flavors.

We stopped by Voodoo Doughnut super late at night and had our pick of freshly fried doughnuts. (Go for the Portland Cream doughnut!) This place is a hot tourist destination so don’t get trapped in a humongous line at peak times.

Blue Star Donuts
Just a small sampling of flavors at Blue Star Donuts.

Blue Star Donuts uses local and seasonal ingredients in their brioche-based donuts. I brought home all kinds of flavors ranging from Blueberry Bourbon Basil to Lemon Poppy Seed. It’s nearly impossible to buy just one of these bad boys unless you give zero f*cks about your waistline.

Salt & Straw

I’m pretty sure Portlanders, Portlandia-folk?, have made it their goal to keep the secret that Portland actually gets really amazing weather in spring and early summer. We visited in March and it must have been 75 degrees outside. So it’s no surprise that fancy ice cream is a thing in PDX and that there was a huge line nearly every hour and day at Salt & Straw.

Salt and Straw's ice cream flight
Salt and Straw’s ice cream flight

In proper form of a sweet tooth addict, we went for an ice cream flight so we could try a little bit of everything. The Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper flavors was one of my faves, as well as the Honey Lavender and Pear & Blue Cheese. It’s pretty easy to see that Salt & Straw is known for its unconventional flavors. Make sure you ask about all of their seasonal flavors as they are plentiful.

Amazing Portland Restaurants and Eateries We Found Along the Way

Huber’s Café

Huber's Cafe Portland
Coffee and a show at Huber’s Cafe

I was directed by a number of friends and strangers that a Spanish Coffee at Huber’s Café is a must. The place is cozy and intimate, but you can also belly up the bar at chat it up with bartenders, locals and passersby.

Don’t ask any questions; just go directly to Huber’s at any time of day or night. These things are seriously strong so you’ve been warned.

Bollywood Theater

We stumbled on Bollywood Theater after killing sometime in the Alberta Arts District and I’m so glad we did. The appeal behind Bollywood Theater is the fact that Bollywood videos are projected on the restaurant’s beautiful wooden walls and that everything is served on authentic Indian dishes and cups. But the street food dishes and small plates are what really lures people in and to visit again.

The Kati Roll at the beautifully designed Bollywood Theate
The Kati Roll at the beautifully designed Bollywood Theater.

The Kati Roll was such a good afternoon snack. Inspired by Indian street food stalls, the Kati Roll is a piece of flatbread with egg, your choice of meat, pickled onion and green chutney. The Lamb Samosas were another favorite and were filled with lamb, spiced potatoes, mint, onion, ginger and peas. Do yourself a favor and order an extra side of Tomato Raisin Chutney; you’re going to love it.

The Screen Door

If you’re looking for down-home Southern food in a hip atmosphere, The Screen Door is where you need to be. I heard about this place a while ago, looked for  their social media presence, and found out that these guys seems to be doing it old school via word-of-mouth marketing. The restaurant is nestled on a quaint part of East Burnside, but rest assured that the crazy lines will lead you the way to their front door.

You’ll find a little of everything on the menu. People seemed to love the Fried Chicken and Waffle stack and Po’Boys. We ordered essentially everything. but you MUST order a side of the Screen Door Praline Bacon, which is coated with pecans and cayenne brown sugar. I seriously could have just eaten that for breakfast. We ordered items like Shrimp & Grits, Huevos Rancheros and Eggs Benedict and they were all amazing. The brunch cocktails here are money so when in doubt, order a couple rounds of The Ramos Gin Fizz. Who knew gin, cream, egg whites, citrus and orange flower water could be so delicious?

When You Want to Try it All in a Single Day

My man and I had the absolute pleasure of going on the Best of Portland Food Tour with Eat Adventures Food Tours. Co-owner Angie Johnson graciously allowed us to join a trip and she somehow managed to show us a glimpse of nearly every type of PDX cuisine in a single afternoon. This tour is perfect if you’re not in town too long but still want a slice of everything.

You might think that Portland is just about their food carts and craft breweries, but there are so many things happening in between. In a matter of just three hours, we visited five different spots. Our marathon of eating and drinking began with appetizers at Southpark Seafood as we got to nibble on a board of house-made smoked fish, crackers and mortadella.

Enso Urban Winery Portland
Enso is absolutely adorable outside and is a perfect spot for wine tasting.

Other stops along the way included Ecliptic Brewing for some locally-made brews and delicious bar bites; an urban winery called Enso for AMAZING Rosé and some of the best bread and olive oil I’ve ever nibbled on; the Hapa PDX Ramen food cart on SE Division, which is also home to a handful of other adorable and delicious carts; and Ruby Jewel for some delicious ice cream sandwiches.

Hapa Ramen in Portland
Hapa Ramen in Portland
Ecliptic Brewery bites
Portland Breweries are plentiful and offer some amazing, non-conventional bar snacks. Order a few things from Ecliptic and you’ll be set.

The Best of Portland Food Tour is a fantastic way to learn about the history of Portland and how chefs and food trends have shaped the area to what it is today. Take this trip at the beginning of your stay as you’ll travel through several different parts of Portland with Eat Adventures. If you want to eat off of the beaten path and be among locals, book a tour with these guys immediately. You’ll be in good hands and with good company and Angie will definitely take care of you and your appetite.

 

 

 

Ca’Momi Osteria in Napa is where you go for utterly authentic Italian fare

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Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

I’m a huge proponent of the old saying, “Work Hard, Play Hard.” I’ll put in some serious hours on a project to turn it in early and then leave town for a day or so to restore some mental health. And what better of a place to do this than San Francisco and the Bay Area. I work for a company that places high regard on work/life balance, so this means I can take some time off once I finish projects. After wrapping up a massive job, I decided to spend a night in Napa to clear my head, get some rest and indulge in some wine and food.

I was lucky enough to line up my trip with a press dinner at Ca’Momi in downtown Napa. If my conscious and belly allowed me, I could eat pasta and pizza everyday. So when I do actually let myself have Italian food, lord knows I’m doubling down and going all out.

Inside Ca'Momi in downtown Napa
Inside Ca’Momi in downtown Napa

A small group of local writers and I met upstairs at this beautiful restaurant to explore Ca’Momi’s wines, pastas, pizzas, entrees and desserts. The restaurant calls themselves obsessively authentic when it comes to their dishes, inspired by several parts of Italy. The dishes are simple and ingredients are sourced from nearby farms whenever possible. Oh, and these guys are making and pulling their own mozzarella so you know you’re definitely in good hands.

We had the pleasure of dining with Master Pizzaiolo and Winemaker Dario De Conti who guided us through the menu and wines. After hearing Dario say, “I made pizza to pay my tuition; pizza is my passion,” we had some high expectations for our meal. And Ca’Momi definitely did not disappoint.

Margarita pizza at Ca'Momi
Go for the classic at Ca’Momi in downtown Napa.

These guys take their pizza seriously and have been awarded three of the highest certifications when it comes to Italian pizza making. Each pizza is baked in a 900 degree wood burning oven for just 90 seconds and served uncut, just like they do it in Naples. (The restaurant took the liberty of slicing their pies for our dinner, but don’t expect this to happen on the reg.)

We tried a little bit of everything on the menu. The pizzas were perfectly chewy and seasoned; the mushroom tagliatelle was earthy yet rich; the tripe and tomato stew was one of the best I’ve had; and the rigatoni with oxtail was absolutely delicious. When you come to Ca’Momi, don’t expect the usual suspects like a fettuccine Alfredo or a veal Parmesan. This menu is inspired by its roots in Italy and the absolute bounty of resources in Napa Valley. So sit down, let your adventurous taste buds do the deciding and order some vino.

Oh, and Ca’Momi is responsible for producing 10,000 cases of their own wine, which is sold in more than 40 states. Dario told us that he prefers to make wine that pair well with their food so when it doubt, ask the server what wines will work best with whatever you order.

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The Millefoglie from Ca’Momi

 

Do not leave here without ordering dessert. Ca’Momi has some serious dessert offerings and you’ll kick yourself if you don’t let yourself indulge. We tried the Millefoglie with Zabaglione pastry cream and the Meringata alla Cioccolata; both were absolutely heavenly and weren’t overly sweet. Ca’Momi also offers pastries at their Enoteca at the Oxbow Public Market down the street so head over there if you need a caffeine and sugar pick me up.

I’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to cuisine in Napa Valley, but I can safely say that a meal at Ca’Momi is a great example of the amazing and unexpected meals you can stumble upon. For more information, visit http://camomiosteria.com.