SF Bay Area Quick Takes (Pt. 2): Layang Layang (Milpitas, CA)

As great as the time was that I spent in Malaysia for a few weeks in the late 2000s, there are a few things I either regret and/or miss from that time. One of my biggest regrets was not taking notes (and pictures) of all my food experiences, though to be fair, my blogging focus back then was more about another favorite past time of mine (running.) As far as the things I miss, there are many but some of the best were the simplest: inexpensive iced coffee in plastic bags, the perfect drink for hot and humid days; the view of the Petronas Towers from my hotel windows at night; and the chance to chow down one of their national favorite dishes, the homey and spicy Char Kway Teow (essentially, fried flat noodles) just about whenever I wanted. This is a country I would go back to in a heartbeat given the opportunity.

SF Bay Area Quick Takes (Pt. 1): Eight Noodle Shop (Napa, CA)

Generally speaking, the better ramen havens of the Bay Area lie to the south on the Peninsula, from San Mateo downward into San Jose, Napa is not really a place one would go to seek out this dish, but we found a pretty decent bowl just outside of the downtown area in the form of Eight Noodle Shop.

Opened by long-time area restaurant veteran and Taiwan-native David Lu (a man who we noticed is not afraid to engage his diners in the service department), this eatery offers up an outdoor patio space as well as a uniquely triangle-shaped and somewhat intimate wood-board paneled interior. The vibe inside is something similar to what we experience at Meshikou, a Columbus ramen eatery along Bethel Road in the city's Northwest side of town.

Belgians and Bluegrass: Cleophus Quealy Beer Company (San Leandro, CA)

There's not much to see with the exterior of the Cleophus Quealy Beer Company's building; a somewhat smallish sign sporting the brewery's name hovers over the entrance of the space, located a few minutes from the Oakland International Airport in an industrial area of neighboring San Leandro, CA. In many ways, the experience we had driving up to this brewery, turning our heads every which way to spot our destination, was very similar to our visits to Columbus, Ohio's Sideswipe Brewing, which also lies in an industrial area in the city's Valleyview area.

The brewery's fairly expansive almost 4,000 square foot interior isn't all that fancy either, but the touches that are there makes for an agreeable and pleasant experience,  Tables and decorative barrels, topped with succulents (a nice decorative and drought-friendly touch) are scattered throughout this seating area. This theme is continued behind the tap area, where really neat chalkboard sketch of a Buddha's Hand provides the bar's backdrop. Faded wood paneling also lines the main tap area as well as selected covey areas along the interior walls. Rearward, the brewery's production side is very evident, with barrel racks, kegs and other brewing paraphernalia. As our time inside progressed, the general vibe reminded me a bit of Clintonville's Lineage Brewing.

The Honey-Doers: Marshall's Honey (American Canyon, CA)/San FranciscoMead (San Francisco, CA)

I admit that I was late to the honey party. Basically, honey was a sweetener my parents never had around the house, and I never had any reason to seek it out for the first couple decades or so of my life.

However, eventually a life of overeating and lack of exercise started to catch up with me, and I finally decided it was time to do something about it. Interestingly, I became more discerning about what I put into my body, the universe of food items I considered on a regular basis expanded greatly. One of the many things I tried doing as often as possible was using honey as a sweetener versus refined sugars and artificial sweeteners.

I've learned that Ohio has its own share of very reliable honey producers; Honeyrun Farms and SaraBee Honey are a couple of the local honey producers which we have quite happily bought products from the Worthington Farmers Market, our personal favorite farmers market. But even then, it's not like we can't not go back to California and bring back our empty jars for refill to the place where we found our first whoa-moment honey ever.

Warp Two And Flying Faster: Warped Wing Brewing (Dayton, OH)

A quick return from the West Coast for a slightly more local blogpost....

Being more or less locals in Central Ohio now, revisits to favorite places generally don't take terribly long, as they do now with our California travels (prime example: my last blogpost detailing our visit to Vallejo's Moschetti Coffee and Sonoma's El Molino Central.) However, a place does slip through every now and then, and in this case, it was fun to track the progress that the Warped Wing Brewery in Dayton, Ohio has made between our visits.

Warped Wing's big warehouse space holds plenty of people
and quite a few tasty brews, as we have found out

Still Craving After All These Years: Moschetti Coffee (Vallejo, CA)/El Molino Central (Boyes Hot Springs, CA)

While our recent travels with California were filled with a lot of new explorations, a couple of old favorites popped-up in our excursions.  Needless to say, they did not disappoint even with a few years removed between visits.

Moschetti Coffee: Similar to the craft beer phenomenon (see my prior post on Vallejo's Mare Island Brewing Company), finer coffee has bypassed this East Bay town until fairly recently. Even the goliath of Second Wave coffee, Starbucks, took their sweet time to come to town, arriving within city limits at the start of the new millenium (2001.) A few smaller, hometown-styled coffee houses dot the landscape, including the Ferry Building-located Panama Red (a small regional chain of coffeehouses) as well as the former gas station that has hosted Java Jax near downtown Vallejo for several years.

One of the more unique members of this small coffee clique has been making the rounds for more than 25 years, and has provided the locals a taste of what a more refined cup of joe can be for the last several years for absolutely free (yes, I said free.)

Fabrice Moschetti, a native of France who started the commercially-oriented Moschetti Coffee in 1989, acknowledged in a recent Vallejo Times-Herald article about his 25th anniversary that most of the people back then "didn't care. Coffee was coffee." But with the growth in the coffee industry (Starbucks, a company Moschetti definitely has some strong opinions on, grew by 12,000 stores in the decade after finally arriving in the area in 2001), Moschetti eventually found more and more interested in the hows and whys behind the coffee they were brewing and drinking, and he was only more than happy to help them out via what has become a regular community gathering in their weekly "Tasting Saturdays", where all coffee sampling is on the house.

Dispensers featuring all of Moschetti's single-origin and coffee blends
were lined up like I remembered from past visits
This visit to Moschetti had been the first for me in a couple years and the first ever for my spouse. The interior of the facility, essentially a warehouse building with a small adjoining office, was setup more or less how I remembered from past visits - coffee beverage dispensers filled with brewed coffees from pretty much all of Moschetti's roasted beans are lined up throughout the space.

Moschetti had all manner of coffee preparation, from old school to nitro brew
However, there were some notable enhancements since my last visit, mainly in the number of coffee brewing equipment systems in-house, from basic coffee brewers you might see in your corner cafe to fancier items like nitro cold brew and the Curtis Gold Cup, Not surprisingly, we found Fabrice himself stationed by the espresso machine, offering espresso-based drinks to those who came by to say hi or talk shop about coffee and current events. Even on this post-Christmas weekend, quite a few folks were already in-house early on; one person who seemed to be a regular felt comfortable enough to show up in flip-flops and a bathrobe.

Among the bags of coffee, Moschetti Coffee's owner Fabrice
was pulling shots for the customers who dropped in as usual
Another eye-catching change lay outside of the main space: the facility has become much more reception-friendly. Along with the familiar cargo container filled with the roaster's beans, a seating area and a fire pit for the cooler (by California standards, anyway) winter weather conditions had been setup. More seats stood scattered about as well as a stage of sorts: at the time of our arrival, a local musician was setting himself up for an acoustic guitar performance.

As befitting a community-based gathering, visitors can almost always find a couple of locally-based vendors selling their wares at the event. On this visit, sample and bring home the confections of Ian Scott and the bath and beauty products of Shameeka Dream. The friendly and casual conversation with these vendors, as these interactions often are, are perhaps some of the most favorite aspects of our travels. Even if many of these end up being single-shot experiences, they are often the main ingredients to a very simple but highly desirable goal: getting out of the house and having a great day for yourselves.

Local vendors are almost always found at Moschetti's Tasting Saturdays
Top: Shameeka Dream and her homemade body- and beauty-products
Bottom: the Pumpkin Seed Brittle and Pistachio Cherry Chocolate Bar
from Ian Scott Confections
Moschetti Coffee
11 6th St
Vallejo, CA 94590
(707) 556-9000
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El Molino Central - Trends, hot neighborhoods and the latest"you've got to try this place" change rapidly in a food-focused area like the San Francisco Bay Area, so its very easy to forget about places that were in the spotlight even for the briefest of moments.

Our return to El Molino Central, in the easy-to-drive-by town of Boyes Hot Springs (most folks would see this small town of 7,000 as part of Sonoma itself) was one such place, until my spouse recalled it from a previous trip when we were still dating. It seemed like a good candidate for a revisit, as we enjoyed our food there and the vibe and the food are reminiscent of a Columbus eatery we have grown fond of in the form of Katalina's.

El Molino Central is a small eatery owned Karen Taylor Waikiki, who had long set her mark on the Bay Area dining scene through Primavera and their organic, homemade tamales and tortillas. Opened in the middle of 2010, her Sonoma-area cafe (the "Molino" in the name refers to the mill where corn is taken to be ground into masa; this eatery takes pride in milling its own masa) showed that her talent with food reached far beyond those two Mexican staples, sporting a seasonal menu with unique creations such as Swiss Chard Enchiladas and Chalupas.

Those same items were the very first we sampled on our first visit ever: my spouse loved the contrast of bitter provided by the chard and the salty in the cotija cheese in her enchiladas, while my dish (definitely NOT anything like the Taco Bell item) sported layered taste extravaganza of tender chicken, onions, beans and salsa on top of freshly-made masa. The pour-over Blue Bottle Coffee was just icing on the cake.

El Molino's interior is pretty much all kitchen and prep space; while some
eating areas have been appended, this eatery is geared to take out
As we found out, not much had changed in terms of the building setup. Visitors find out quickly that the main building doesn't really have a seating area: the kitchen, preparation space, and the ordering area pretty much take up what is readily visible. While a small, functional patio-style seating area appended to the rear of the building remains an option (some additional umbrella-covered outdoor bench seats have been added since my first visit), El Molino Central is really suited for take out orders. Also changed is the coffee provider: El Molino Central has switched from Blue Bottle to a pretty-much equally regarded coffee roaster in Four Barrel. Our Honduran Ventura provided a fruity flavor profile for our wake-up cup of joe that morning.

The Chard Enchiladas were again on the menu along with other unique items like the Pozole Rojo with Tostada (hominy pork soup stew with traditional garnishes), German Butterball Potato and Cheese Tacos (with salsa, habanero, sour cream and pickled jalapeno), as well as tamale options and a special with Dungeness Crab. However, much to our chagrin, we had arrived a bit too early, so the only option available to us was their Chilaquiles Merida.

Mmmm....El Molino Central's Chilaquiles Merida
This turned out to be a rather delicious consolation prize, as these were some of the best chilaquiles we've ever eaten. The handmade tortillas chips (reminiscent a bit of the Shagbark chips used in Katalina's Huevos Rancheros), huge chunks of avocado, and a just spicy enough roasted chipotle salsa made this quite a satisfying and filling breakfast as we made our way through Sonoma's wine country this day.

El Molino Central
11 Central Avenue
Boyes Hot Springs (Sonoma), CA 95476
(707) 939-1010
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El Molino Central Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Blue Collar Brewing: Mare Island Brewing Company (Vallejo, CA)

The entrance to Mare Island Brewing Company, located within the
rotunda of the Ferry Building at Vallejo, California
For awhile, the Mare Island Naval Shipyard was the primary economic engine that drove the economy of nearby Vallejo, California. Opened in 1854 under the command of then Commander David Farragut (later best known for his paraphrased quote "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" during the 1862 Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay), this facility was a prime source of military shipbuilding on the West Coast up to the years leading up to World War II. Starting in the 1930s, the shipyard's focus turned mainly to submarine construction and maintenance, and at its peak, the facility employed over 40,000 workers. Not surprisingly, the surrounding community of Vallejo developed into a blue-collar, workingman's kind of town, and the town's businesses catered to this population.

Post World War II, the shipyard's fortunes continued nicely for a couple decades, but then the need for bases like Mare Island fell precipitously as the Cold War faded and relations with the old Soviet Union warmed. By the time the shipyard was listed on the U.S. Government Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission's closure list in 1993, the employment base was down to around 6,000.

Even with that lower employment number, the complete ceasing of operations had a profound economic impact which even to this day is still felt by the surrounding community of Vallejo. The city has since tried to diversify its economic engine, and as someone who lived for a time in the area, ventures like the Mare Island Brewing Company, situated along Vallejo's waterfront, are signs to me that things are trending in the right direction.

Located in the Ferry Terminal Building (the ferry service, by which you can travel to San Francisco, and the Panama Red Coffee House are also co-located in the building), Mare Island Brewing is the creation of co-owners and homebrewers Ryan Gibbons (formerly of Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma) and Kent Fortner (who also runs the operations of his Road 31 Winery.) As we discovered, the taproom has a great view of the strait (with outdoor seating for warmer weather visits) that separates Vallejo from Mare Island beyond.

The brewery was intended in part to preserve the history of its namesake shipyard, and former shipyard employees and members of the military have taken to their efforts, donating numerous examples of old shipyard and US Naval memorabilia that the brewery has displayed throughout the space. The brewery has also acknowledged the historical connection in their brew names, using numerous shipyard and military references, including special releases such as their General Order No. 99 (which mandated that the Navy be officially dry in 1914) and their Survivor's Tale Pale Ale.

This latter beer was brewed in honor of the survivors of the World War II-era cruiser USS Indianapolis, who had been serviced at the shipyard prior to their secret mission to deliver components related to the building of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This secret mission in large part led to the subsequent harrowing ordeal for the ship's crewmen (who had no idea about their valuable cargo.) After the ship was hit and sunk from a torpedo from a Japanese submarine shortly after the delivery, the secret nature of their prior mission and other factors delayed rescue efforts for the stricken crew members. Those who did not go down with the ship were forced to battle for their lives in the waters of between Guam and the Philippines, with many succumbing to drowning, hypothermia and shark attacks.

Mare Island Brewing sports six base brews and plenty of memorabilia
from the former military facility located across the strait from the taproom
Vallejo and the county it resides in (Solano) has existed in a craft beer desert of sorts until recently; most workers of the old shipyard would almost certainly been more familiar with the products of the large Anheuser-Busch plant not too far up the freeway in Fairfield, CA. The first craft beer brewery in the county proved to be Heretic Brewing, which opened up its Fairfield-based taproom in September 2013. Since then, two other craft beer enterprises, Suisun City's Right Eye Brewing and Mare Island Brewing, have followed suit.

Thus, it came as no surprise when our server told us that introducing the idea of craft beer to the surrounding populace has been something of a calculated process. Based on a flight of all their offerings, while we found the brewery's initial offerings won't wow those with more established beer palates, the brews on tap are very drinkable and would be solid introductions to various styles for the new-to-craft-beer drinker. For example, we're not normally folks who pick out lighter ales or pilsners save for specific situations (e.g. refreshment on a hot summer day), but we found Mare Island's Saginaw Golden Ale and Angles & Dangles Ale excellent for their class. We could easily see a lifelong macro-only beer drinker getting a taste of either of these ales and saying to themselves, "So THIS is what I've been missing all this time."

Left: Mare Island's Saginaw Golden and Angles & Dangles Ale
Right: Coal Shed Stout and Hydraulic Sandwich IPA
Other brews such as the Shipwright's Porter and the Hydraulic Sandwich (an old shipyard worker's term for going out for a "liquid lunch" aka beer) IPA keet that transitional beer motif going, with a noticeable but not overbearing smokiness in the former, and a not too bitter, not too piney profile in the latter. In contrast, our server said that their Farragut's Farmhouse Ale, a better-than-average saison, is in line with their efforts to push the boundaries a bit for those customers who wanted to go beyond their base beers.

Mare Island Brewery does sport a kitchen, featuring a menu of pub-styled sandwiches and personal pizzas from Napoli Pizzeria, a local Vallejo business due to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2016. For those who aren't in tune with the brewery's beverage offerings, the brewpub offers a small wine menu, bombers of beer from California-based breweries like Almanac and Dust Bowl, cider from Corvallis, Oregon's 2 Towns Ciderhouse, as well as a typical assortment of pop and water drinks.

Mare Island Brewing Company
289 Mare Island Way
(Vallejo Ferry Building/Waterfront Rotunda) 

Vallejo, CA  94590
(707) 556-3000
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Mare Island Brewing Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vilnius on the Park: Mama Papa Lithuania Bakery and Restaurant (Alameda, CA)

Mama Papa Lithuania Bakery & Restaurant occupy adjoining
spaces along Park Street in Downtown Alameda, California
While my spouse's multinational roots are fairly varied, the Eastern European (more specifically, Polish) side often comes through when we're looking for potential culinary destinations. A drive through Buffalo, New York on a trip to and back from Niagara Falls late 2014 allowed us to dive into one her favorite Christmas-time treats via Mazurek's Bakery in the form of kruschiki, or Polish Bowtie cookies. Cabbage rolls are also another favorite of hers from her childhood; if that item happens to be on the menu at any eatery we stop by, the decision is all but made up for her.

Eastern European cuisine has always held small presence in the San Francisco Bay Area to the depths of my knowledge, so anything new that pops up in that vein always catches my eye in general. In what seems like a completely unrelated tangent, my first experience with anything having to do with Lithuania, outside of the breakup of the old Soviet Union in the 1990s, came through the world of professional sports. Sarunas Marciulionis, one of the first European players to come play forthe National Basketball Association, was drafted by and then signed with Golden State Warriors (based out of Oakland) to play in 1989. He became an immediate favorite of mine and many others because of his hard-nosed and tough-minded style of play.

Thus, when my research came across a relatively new Lithuanian restaurant located in Alameda (just a stone's throw across a strait from Oakland itself), it seemed a natural to give it a visit.

Mama Papa Lithuania Restaurant, opened in October 2013 by "Mama" Damute Sukiene and her son, "Papa" Vaidas Sukys, holds a space next to the recently-opened-to-the-public (October 2015) bakery portion of the business. Since we arrived a few minutes prior to the restaurant's opening, we stopped inside the bakery to take a look. Our clerk was quite welcoming (funnily enough, she turned out to be a Puerto Rico native and we got to discussing (the lack of) her cuisine in the Bay Area) and guided us quite well on the bakery's offerings.

A small glass case and some shelves off to the side held a variety of cakes, cookies (the Lithuanian words describing the cookie shapes, including mushrooms, stars and ribbons) and breads, were found displayed in the small glass case in front and on the shelves to the left. A few savory items were packaged in bags, including a fried rye bread rubbed with garlic which was available for sampling. Even as avid garlic lovers, we were taken aback a bit by the powerful allium punch provided by this bread. We grabbed a few treats for the road (more on this later) and headed over to the restaurant.

The restaurant itself offers an interior that seems to be in tune with its home city's maritime vibe (along with a naval base that was closed in the 1990s, Alameda is home to Coast Guard, numerous marinas and a ferry service), with blocky, bench-like tables and chairs, dark wood paneling dominating most of the walls. Framed street scene pictures from Lithuania's capital city of Vilnius dot the brick wall that separates the restaurant from the bakery space.

The choices seemed fairly in line with other Eastern European restaurants we have dined in with both some unique options and taste variations. We were glad to see that all their dishes were available in lunch-size portions, as we would have been quite stuffed had we gone with the dinner-sized meal. My spouse's Stuffed Cabbage Roll was a bit different from the Polish versions she grew up with but still very tasty and satisfying, sporting a creamier tomato sauce, more paprika and perhaps even a hint of clove. For me, my pan-fried Potato Pancakes with Meat was nothing fancy but still quite satisfying, with a crispy exterior and chunks of mildly-spiced ground pork within the fluffy interior, perfectly accompanied by the dollop of sour cream on the side.

Some of the other menu options, which we did not partake in on this quick visit, seemed to be worthy ventures on a future visit.  Both the bakery and restaurant offered Lithuanian Amber Tea and Pour Over Coffee, while the restaurant itself sported a beer list from breweries in Lithuania as well as a Bread Kvass, a non-alcoholic, fermented beverage made from rye bread.

On the road, we gobbled on our three sweet treats from the bakery. The baravykai (mushroom-shaped) cookie was pleasant, and their Apple Pie (actually more of a cake) was nicely flavored, a bit crumbly, and moist.) But perhaps the most memorable of the threesome was the Honey Cake (Medutis); while this version did not sport the chocolate that is available on the restaurant dessert menu, its tangy sour cream based filling alternated with cake layers was nice satisfaction for both our sweet tooths as we journeyed toward points to the west and south..

Mama Papa Lithuania
1239 Park St. (Bakery)
1241 Park St. (Restaurant)
Alameda, CA 94501
(510) 521-1108 (Bakery)/(510) 522-4100 (Restaurant)
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Mama Papa Lithuania Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Capitola Stroll: Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (Capitola, CA)

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (SARA to the locals) has created out-the-door
lines with its line of farmhouse and saison-styled brews
We have been quite fortunate in our travels to happen on interesting places, whether it by deep research, sheer happenstance, or a mixture of both.  In the case of Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (referred to as SARA by the natives), located in a region of the state (the Santa Cruz/Monterey area) that acts as transition between the Northern and Central regions, it was a little of both. In our case, a willingness to extend our research boundaries just a little bit beyond the immediate Bay Area uncovered what sounded like an intriguing place to explore our mutual happy zone of sour and funky beers.

A bonus aspect to this journey is that the drive down from the Bay Area to the brewery is especially beautiful on a sunny day, as it was on the day of our trip. I-280 just south of Daly City is designated by the state of California as a scenic highway, gently curving through tree-laden hills and offering shimmering views of the two bodies of water that are the Crystal Springs Reservoir. Civilization is not even hinted at until you spy the Stanford University Dish, a radio telescope set in the foothills.

Continuing on, the bustle of the Silicon Valley surrounds you until you reach the exit for Highway 17. Eventually, redwoods and windy road curves become dominant as you ascend into and out of the Santa Cruz Mountains over Patchen Pass down to Santa Cruz itself. There, the Pacific Ocean pops in and out of sight behind more coastal trees and fauna southward along Highway 1 (the famed PCH Pacific Coast Highway) until you reach Capitola, the quaint town where Sante Adairius makes its home.

On busy days, the buzz that Sante Adairius has generated is in
full display within a cozy but playful interior space
Even with a 2014 taproom expansion, Sante Adairius is still cozy enough to make it prone to line-out-the-door moments during the busier times. Our arrival on a weekend just after lunchtime just after Christmas was no exception; in fact, the line for beer never really seemed to disappear the entire time we were there. Essentially, the brewery's existing space for guests and brewery staff members alike is a melding of the production area in the back and what would typically be a reception area in front. Fun, personal touches abound, such as photograph walls (many of them feature creatures of the four-legged variety), a bathroom dubbed "Der Tinkerhaus", and named beer tanks (my personal favorite was the #1 tank, dubbed "Good Karma".)

Tim Clifford is the main man behind Sante Adairius. Along with fellow co-head-brewer Jason Hansen as well as fellow co-owner/wife Adair Paterno (as detailed in this Beer Samzidat blog post, the name of the brewery, although complex in its origin, is essentially Clifford's tribute to his wife), this trio has generated a reputation of brewing some of the most interesting sour and barrel-aged beers around. Those styles dominated the tap list, though a couple of porters in the form of their Vanilla Joe and Chavez were also available for consumption. Along with in-house consumption, several people came in to happily fill up their growlers with their favorite brews.

Those with growlers have something of an advantage over that of a visitor driving through town for a short visit. As we found out, something unique to Sante Adairius are their bottled beers that are strictly consumable in-house (the brewery did have their bottled "Cellarman" Oak-fermented Saison, done in collaboration with Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse in Berkeley, available to take home, something we happily partook in.) We initially were inclined to the grab a couple of pints from the tap list, but a bomber of the in-house-only Love's Armor, a blend of their Farmhouse Noir ("a darker and stronger take on the Saison style" as noted on their website) and the Chavez (Sante Adairius rye porter that has been fermented on cherries) was available and something my spouse could not resist. This was a good one: a smooth, tart cherry (but not too tart) dominated at first, but then the malt and a little of the spicy bite that rye gives you from the porter came in to finish things off nicely.

Oh, Mercy Mercy: our two brews from Sante Adairius were oh so delicious...
We couldn't resist one more so we went in both on a pint of Mercy Mercy, a barrel-aged saison brewed in collaboration with Manresa, a highly-regarded, fine-dining restaurant (earning a Michelin Guide 3-Star rating in 2015) based out of nearby Los Gatos. Again, this was another winner, with a pleasantly funk-forward palate and more sour character than most saisons and sporting a clean finish.

This review is something of an incomplete one; we in no way got to sample as many of Sante Adairius' wares as we would've liked on this six-stop travel day. However, it's very easy to see why the buzz is deserved based on the beers we did actually have, and it gives us personally plenty of incentive to return. If we had been able to camp out longer at the tasting room, we discovered that they do have a food option available with Aptos Street BBQ. This eatery (which sports its own impressive craft beer tap and bottle inventory itself) makes two runs out to the brewery every day as long as you call in your order prior to the cut-off times.

For the Central Ohio craft beer aficionado traveling to the Bay Area, Capitola is a slight bit out-of-the-way (a one and a half-hour drive sans traffic) if San Francisco is your center of focus. However, if you find yourself a fan of the saisons of Lancaster's Rockmill Brewery and/or a fan of funk-laden/sour brews in general, and you happen to have the Santa Cruz/Monterey area as part of your travel docket, Sante Adairius pretty much qualifies as a must-visit.

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales
103 Kennedy Dr.
Capitola, CA 95010
(831) 462-1227
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Sante Adairius Rustic Ales Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Warrior Pose: Terra Cotta Warrior (San Francisco, CA)

The exterior of the Shaanxi-oriented eatery Terra Cotta Warrior
This may be my first San Francisco experience influenced by a Columbus, Ohio finding. Various media reports over 2015 in this area had mentioned that a Chinese restaurant I had passed by numerous times during my travels, Ying Teahouse & Yum-Yum, had implemented a more traditional menu, including some Xi'an/Shaanxi specialties such as roujiamos (essentially, meat burgers) and Qi-Shan Noodles, which are made from wheat flour. For a market like Columbus, this definitely rates as an outlier in the area's Chinese cuisine offerings, and we had (and still have) Ying on the short list of places to try.

However, we found that on our recent travels to California, a little research showed we had a chance to explore that world in the form of the Outer Sunset neighborhood's Terra Cotta Restaurant, and we were more than happy to dive right in on a free Christmas Day for us. As it turned out, our experience here made us even more eager to explore this cuisine in the future.

Terra Cotta Warrior restaurant opened quietly on its Judah Street location back in March of 2014. As noted in this sfgate.com article, owner David Deng, discouraged by Americanized-Chinese that the restaurants he had opened was serving, sought out and found a chef who could cook recipes from his native Shaanxi province for his new restaurant venture.

Terra Cotta summarizes the origins of Shaanxi cuisine on their menus
and sports a welcoming and nicely designed (if slightly cramped) interior

As hinted by the exterior, Terra Cotta Warrior is not a hole-in-the-wall by any stretch, sporting a nicely appointed (if slightly dark) and slightly larger interior. With that said, this space will still feel cramped when the restaurant is either near or at capacity. A mural of the famed Terra Cotta Warriors of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (the famous figures of which were uncovered in the Shaanxi Province in 1974) predominates on one wall, while various art prints and wooden tree branches line the walls in other spots. 

Terra Cotta has specials listed in the front, but the diner can do fine going straight to their main menu for their concise selection of Shaanxi specialties. Having paced ourselves well with a very light breakfast and a long wait until lunch (helped out by a visit to the movie theater to watch the new Star Wars flick), we were quite hungry and eager to dive into more dishes than we would normally try.

The eatery's menu is divided Cold and Hot Dishes as well as a "Restaurant Special" section. As it turned out, two items turned out to be of the cold variety (one of them, the ubiquitous Shaanxi mian-pi, was listed on the "Special" section and two of them hot.

Pictured Left to Right: Shaanxi Mian Pi and Beef Lungs in Chili Sauce
The previously mentioned Shaanxi Mian Pi came out first. In general, both my spouse and I are noodle-dish fans, and I in particular like those that sport flatter noodles. The length of these noodles in this and our other dishes proved to be a challenge, but one we both undertook with great pleasure as we bit into these nicely toothy constructs. The noodles sported a unique sour tang (vinegar?) with a somewhat muted heat from the chili oil. A light bite of garlic added a nice touch, as well as the bean sprouts, which provided some textural variety.  What looked like cubed bread absorbed the whole flavor shebang nicely (I learned in the days after our meal that these are actually kaofu, or wheat bran gluten, as detailed on the excellent blogposts of San Francisco-based blogger Gary Soup.)

The Beef Lungs in Chili Sauce was a dish from the "Cold" portion of the menu which surprised us. Expecting something spongy, we instead got a lean, slightly chewy but not tough (my spouse said it reminded her of the texture of dried chipped beef) thin strips that frankly tasted a lot more like beef than anything organ-related. Unlike the Mian Pi, these strips were only lightly coated in the chili sauce but sported more heat.

The waitstaff-recommended Stir-Fried Lamb with Cumin
The Shaanxi Stir-Fried Wide Noodles finally brought on that full ma la type sensation to both of our mouths. This mix of wide noodles (though thinner than the Mian Pi), onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and jalapenos was pleaser for both of us; if I was a regular and didn't want to think too hard, this would be on my short list of go-to dishes.

Finally, the Stir-Fried Lamb with Cumin (recommended to us by our server) does not skimp on the cumin. This dish, sporting fatty lamb bits with onions and jalapenos, ended up on our take-home pack with a little bit of the Stir-Fried Wide Noodles (the portions here are fairly large and at an inexpensive price by San Francisco standards) and actually made a great impromptu add-in protein for some breakfast burritos a couple days after our meal.

Tables of various sizes are packed throughout the space; as a twosome, we were able to find a table within minutes of our arrival (other larger groups had to wait for what seemed to be 15-20 minutes or so.) Some mentions of slow service had been noted in various social media review sites, but our only delays were experienced after we had finished our meal in terms of grabbing the check. Our food orders came out quite quickly on this busy Christmas afternoon.

Terra Cotta Warrior
2555 Judah St (Outer Sunset)
(b/t 30th Ave & 31st Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 681-3288
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Terra Cotta Warrior Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato