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Hanabi is not a hater. Well usually Hanabi is, but not when it comes to vegetarian and vegan foods. Hanabi is very judge-y though. It’s not that meat or dairy free foods are bad, it’s just that there needs to be a greater level of creativity and attention to detail when preparing these foods. Let’s face it, even an over-cooked or simply a low-quality cut of meat can be made to taste passable in one way or another. You can add cheese, even horrible processed cardboard cheese and save hopeless dish. But, you can’t really save poorly executed vegan or vegetarian dishes. The ingredients are just that fragile and requires a deft hand to put it all together. With that said, Hanabi usually hates fake meat and fake cheese. That’s a big part of what in Hanabi’s opinion drags down meat and dairy free cuisine. But, Hanabi wanted to try a new vegan burger place on Haight St. called VeganBurg. He actually liked it, and it inspired him to do a vegan-burger battle. He put VeganBurg up against an old time favorite from Sacramento, the Sunflower Drive-In. Listen to see who comes out on top. Hanabi also checked out 633 Bistro in Seattle and is clearly still on a Lent kick, so he opted for a ginger beer from Smalltown Brewery.
Hanabi lives in a magical land of apps. The apps allow Hanabi to do absolutely nothing for himself anymore. I’m being a bit cynical, but it’s true that the San Francisco Bay Area is a hotbed for new apps that tend to be available here long before they reach the rest of the country. For example, New Orleans just recently got Uber. One of the food related apps that I’ve recently used is No Wait. No Wait allows you to put your name on the restaurants waiting list without having to be there in person. That’s usually a no-go over the phone. But, the time I used it, it worked. It’s sort of bridge between a waiting list and an actual reservation. Score one for technology. Another app I frequent is Instacart which is available in several cities throughout the country. Much like the now defunct WebVan from 2000, Instacart will go shopping for you at local markets and deliver your groceries to you. It’s fast and ultra convenient. There are several apps for food delivery now as well, including deliveries from restaurants not typically known for to-go orders. It seems logical that a restaurant wouldn’t want to turn down that additional revenue stream. Hanabi also got down with some Sichuan cuisine at the appropriately named Sichuanese Restaurant. Classic! He also guzzled some Diamond Knot IPA with a very Cathulu looking label.
Hanabi is soon to be making his travels to the ancient homelands of Europe, specifically, Paris, London and Rome. The big three I guess you might say. I’ve been to Paris and London several times, and I never get tired of those cities. How could you? I’m looking forward to Rome, as I’ve never been. Needless to say, many adventures await. In this episode Hanabi lays out the plans for the restaurants he wants to try, and after he returns we’ll contrast and compare. In Paris, among several spots it’s all about L’Avant Comptoir. It’s modern Paris at its best, from what we hear. In London, it’s all about a full-English breakfast for Hanabi. Apparently there’s no better place than Breakfast Club right now. We’ll see how it stacks up to The Wolseley. Rome is a wide open book right now.. There’s just so many places to go, but Bonci Pizzarium is the siren call for Hanabi and it must be done. Have you ever wanted to eat a Dork Burger or Dog Sticks Me too. Check out Hanbi’s adventure to the LunchBox Laboratory in Seattle!
Sometimes Hanabi leaves the confines of the city for Southern climes. Don’t be shocked, outside the city there exists some of the finest restaurants in the country. One of those gems is in Los Gatos, an affluent hamlet in the South Bay home to Manresa which just earned its third Michelin star. I had one of the most memorable meals at Manresa and chef David Kinch did not disappoint. Two years ago Manresa had a kitchen fire that shut it down for about 6 months. But, it’s firing away on all cylinders. While I’m in the South Bay, Palo Alto to be specific, and because I spent all my money at Manresa I need a place that is delicious but not going to break the bank. That’s where Oren’s Hummus comes in. Fresh Israeli hummus and house made pita? Yes please!
Hanabi’s parents are shoving off to Prague and Budapest in a few months to keep the image of the American tourist alive. So, with a father-son dinner meet up on the schedule, we figured we’d get them ready for that Eastern European cuisine by visiting Cafe Europa in the Richmond district.
Hanabi finally scored a reservation to The Progress! The Progress is the sister restaurant to the much ballyhooed, and totally exceeds all such ballyhoo, State Bird Provisions. They are in fact neighboring restaurants. While State Bird serves their playful dishes dim sum style, The Progress’ menu changes daily and goes for a family style approach. It’s such a creative way to serve such creative food. For $58 a person, you get four different starters and you can choose four different larger items. It’s about as simple as it gets, but it’s also an exciting change from the standard service of individual plating for a tasting menu. Some of the hits of the evening would have to be the grilled octopus. Octopus is basically my favorite seafood. If it’s on the menu, I’m getting it! We also got down with some spot on mackerel crudo which was a perfect start to the meal. Since it can’t always be meat all the time, we opted for a celery root ravioli which came with a nice little apple puree. Delicious! We also have to brief you on a restaurant called The Lost Pelican. Where we has things like fried green tomatoes and a muffaletta. To finish it all up we riff on an article about pre-cut food. Work on those knife skills people!
I never intended to speak of the Super Bowl, post­Super Bowl, but I couldn’t help it considering where I spent my Super Bowl Sunday. Hanabi and some pals went to Hi­Tops a gay sports bar located in the Castro district. Talk about a well run sports bar, this place was on its A­game. They were packed, but neat, clean and efficient. The food was next­level pub grub. The killer nachos stole the show! Pork chops too boring for you lately? I say dress them up with Hanabi’s weekday porchetta hack. Hanabi also went to Mexico for a weekender. How about a little fried opah sandwich from some of the most beautiful waters you’ll ever see?
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Super Bowl 50 comes to San Francisco and with it the controversial Super Bowl City located right along the already heavily congested Embarcadero near the Ferry Building and Bay Bridge terminus. Although locals are curious about all of the traffic issues, public transportation re-routes and overall cost to the city I will say this, it’s not short of things to eat. Some local eateries have opened up shop inside the gates. Looking for a lobster roll? No problem. Want a burger from Michelin Starred Michael Mina? Got that too. The food’s not cheap, but it’s at least elevated well above the nachos and hot dogs you’d expect. Hanabi also wanted to throw down a nice little comfy chicken Kiev recipe. Since summer is still far away, we figured an ultimate summertime drink made from cactus and pineapple would hit the spot. Secret: add mezcal to it.
You’ll be pleased to know that Hanabi has lifted his unannounced moratorium on beer. He had a little New Years thing going on where he didn’t drink any beer for a minute. But, he’s wisely given up on that and now we can talk beer again. If Odin Brewery’s Thor’s Equinox doesn’t grab you, then I don’t know what will.
There’s a spot in town where you’ll recently find Hanabi whiling the hours and drinking fancy cocktails, and eating octopus bits, it’s called ABV. They do octopus right, served with potatoes covered in smoked paprika and a squid ink romesco sauce. Top it off with a libation made with mescal and pickle juice and you have Hanabi’s attention. Hanabi also drops a little shout out to a pepper that is not only inexpensive, but delicious and getting easier to find. The shishito peeper or it’s Euro-cousin the pardon are amazing little peppers that are full of flavor and easy to prepare.
If you like vintage Hollywood, then you’ll love Palm Springs. It’s a small desert city about an hour east of L.A. nestled in the Coachella Valley near the San Jacinto mountains. It’s basically a mid-century freak-out. They certainly don’t lack for food either. A visit to Workshop confirmed that. Palm Springs is no small-town when it comes to it’s food. The octopus carpaccio was beyond ridiculous. Hanabi has also been working on his pancake chops.Let me pause a moment to say that I hate anyone who calls them flapjacks or griddle cakes. Where did you grow up, in some ridiculous sit-com soundstage? They’re called pancakes, and that’s it. Anyway, I digress. He made some ricotta pancakes with lemon curd, which are kind of becoming a classic because they’re delicious. He also set about tying his love of Japanese food with pancakes. It’s no shock that Japan has it’s own take on the pancake.
Hanabi is all about that Hai Nan chicken right now, and it’s Thai variation called Khao Man Gai. Who would think that boiled chicken and rice could be so delicious? It’s kind of becoming a thing right now out here on the West Coast. The tender slices of perfectly juicy chicken paired with rice cooked with chicken fat and a flavorful sauce with garlic, ginger, oil and some very thick, dark soy sauce with a simple garnish of cucumber and cilantro make the best anytime meal. In fact it’s considered breakfast in parts of Asia. Hanabi also returned to his hometown of Sacramento for some proper Mexican food including epic Birria, Molcajete and of course Micheladas. Also, get ready for a Wasabi soda by the Hanabi one himself.
Hanabi gives you the rundown on some New Years eats. The do's and the don'ts. If you wanna supercharge your luck this year, look no further. Not much more to say, so listen.