Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lena's Soul Food Cafe--Oakland, CA

The ox tail with yams and collard greens
Our indirect journey to the Oakland Coliseum continued from Ming's (see post below) to Lena's Soul Food Cafe in Oakland. The atmosphere was jovial and from the banter you really got the feeling this is where locals ate. What I couldn't figure out, though, was why everyone else carried their food out when Lena's offered a perfectly space to dine.

For me, the sides were as enticing as the main event. The yams, for example were delightfully sweet, soft and very filling. The ox tail I ordered was good, though I've had more tender tail elsewhere. Also, I struggled to pry the meat off the bone.

Everyone loved Jenny's fish and rice. It was the first to go and it was also the healthiest option. For reasons they couldn't be specific about, the boys didn't quite finish the mac and cheese (perhaps it was the doughnuts at Ming's?). We got a side of fried chicken which was hot, tender and fresh. It was delivered to our table.

Lena's Soul Food Cafe
1462 High St.
Oakland, CA 94601
(510) 842-3510

Lena's menu

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ming's Donut Shop--San Leandro CA

Sunday we went to see the A's clinch the West, edging out my Minnesota Twins. On the way, we stopped by Ming' Donut Shop, which was a huge hit with our family.
Eclair with blueberry cake doughnut

I really enjoyed the eclair. The cream was actually cold, which I liked, and had a genuine consistency and flavor (i.e. not gummy).

Jenny liked everything, but for her the blueberry cake doughnut stood out. It was as cakey and soft as doughnuts come.

Bear claw with apple filling
The boys each got a "bear claw", but it was more of a fritter with its apple-pie filling.

It's worth mentioning they were nice enough to give each of the boys a doughnut hole. :)

Ming's Donut Shop
13996 Doolittle Dr.
San Leandro, CA 94557
(510) 352-5870

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Steins Beer Garden--Mountain View, CA

Breakfast for Dinner
With the kids away at a birthday party, Jenny and I were able to try Steins for lunch in downtown Mountain View. Jenny had a seared ahi salad. It was good, but it wasn't distinctive. The Breakfast for Dinner that I had, though, was both. This scrumptious dish featured a runny egg (just how I like it), toast and a drippy, soft, tasty, melt-in-your-mouth pork belly at the bottom.

Seared Ahi
To make this good-for-you lunch even healthier, I had a Dark Flight featuring Cerne Dark, Asam Bock, Vampire Slayer and Campfire Stout. All four were sipping brews. The Cerne Dark was distinctive for its roasted flavor. The Vampire Slayer was a bit too strong for me with its sharp flavor. The Campfire Stout, however, matched my tastes well. It was a fun, sweet, chocolate-rich affair and it would be what I'd get the next time I come by.
Dark Flight (from left to right): Cerne Dark, Asam Bock, Vampire Slayer, Campfire Stout

I don't know what Steins is like on a Friday night, but I can easily imagine it being a busy beer hall. Go there on a Sunday afternoon for lunch, though, and the environment is wonderfully peaceful.

Steins Beer Garden
895 Villa St.
Mountain View, CA
(650) 963-9568

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Chevre and mango steak bites

Jenny tried this recipe yesterday for friends who came over yesterday afternoon. First appearing in Sunset magazine, the recipe is available at

Though perhaps the steak was a bit on the rare side for some (you can judge from the photo), I happen to like meat a little rare and I think this turned out fine. It's easy to buy too much mango, so I'd cut the quantity below in half. The key to the whole thing, in my mind, is the mint, which goes a long way in giving this little gem its looks, flavor and aroma.

Jenny worked on this for a while and got a head start the night before.

The recipe from the aforementioned source:

The ingredients:
  • flank steak (about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lbs.)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • About 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1/2 cup (4 to 5 oz.) packed fresh goat cheese
  • 30 to 34 small mint leaves
  • About 15 dried mango pieces, cut into 1/4- by 1-in. slivers
And the prep:
  1. 1. Trim fat from steak. Rinse meat, pat dry, rub with oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
  2. 2. Lay steak on an oiled cooking grate over a solid bed of very hot coals or highest gas heat (you can hold your hand 1 to 2 in. above grate for only 1 to 2 seconds); cover gas grill. Cook until firm when pressed on thin end but still quite pink inside (cut to check), 8 to 10 minutes; turn over halfway through. Transfer steak to a plate; let cool at least 30 minutes. About 45 minutes before slicing, put steak in the freezer (it will be easier to slice thinly).
  3. 3. On a board with a very sharp knife, cut steak across the grain, straight up and down and as thinly and evenly as possible, to make 30 to 34 slices; save narrow and uneven ends just to eat. If wet, blot with paper towels.
  4. 4. Measure accumulated meat juices and add enough milk to make 2 tbsp.; pour into a bowl. Crumble cheese into bowl and mash with a fork into a smooth paste.
  5. 5. Working with 1 steak strip at a time, lay strip on a flat side. Spread strip with about 3/4 tsp. cheese mixture, then lay 1 mint leaf and 1 mango piece at end of strip and roll to enclose. Let stand at room temperature at least 10 minutes before serving.
  6. Note: Nutritional analysis is per roll.
Cut chilled grilled steak when ready to assemble appetizers and slice it very thinly (less than 1/4 inch, if possible). The finished appetizers can be covered and chilled for up to 6 hours.