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Name: Gutenberg

Location: Somewhere near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Occupation: BRPR (Bunrab public relations.)

the BUNRAB blog spot

Do you need to answer back? You can send me comments if you want to.

If I want to, I'll post 'em in this very blog.



March 1 thru 8, 2006

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Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Hilltop Café:

I’m not sure how the tax dollars allocated towards sidewalks are computed in Novato. The walkways poop out mid block and sometimes are non-existent. I took a stroll to the Hilltop Café today :

... and managed to make it to the door without being run over on the shoulder-less road that leads to this lofty eatery.

The place was packed and I was greeted warmly. The light and airy room:

... was bustling and the server was working hard to please the demanding crowd. Sadly, this meant a loooonnnng wait. He said that there was a large party that had just placed an order so my hunger turned into the extended dance mix version.

Normally when I’m that hungry a boiled shoe sole seems appealing, but when my Alaskan Halibut sandwich ($9.95):

... arrived it wasn’t what I had hoped for. This deep fried filet was crispy on the outside but didn’t have a moist and flavorful interior. The thickly sliced, oxidized red onions were too harsh tasting to compliment this tartar sauced sandwich. The tomatoes and lettuce failed to pep up this mediocre meal.

I can see why people would seek out a sunny, hilltop setting for their Novato lunch, but I don’t see myself going back anytime soon.

Hilltop Café
850 Lamont Ave.
Novato, CA




Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Whenever someone squinches up their nose in a discussion of offal, I ask them if they eat hot dogs.

Usually, they answer yes, and then they get my point. They eat offal puree in a meat tube, they just prefer to think of it as pristine steak being transformed into a cylindrical pate, not the elbows, eyebrows and unmentionable bits being repackaged into a saleable item (and choking hazard for tots.)

The things that I like about a hot dogs (other than its stealth introduction of offal into the lives of those who claim to hate it) are that they comport a “day off” vibe. They are the common denominator of ball games, BBQs and pool parties. They inspire rude jokes as well as conspiracy theories about the bun industry intentionally packaging non-complimentary numbers of rolls to bilk the consumer. They are barbequed, boiled, butterflied or popped into custom made toasters purchased on boring flights. They are déclassé nursery food for the unsophisticated palate. They claim to, but actually contain no dog. They are eaten by kids that climb on rocks. They are an integral part of the meaty foundation of American culture.

Even though I wasn’t on vacation, at a ball game or even on a rock, I decided it was time to get a red hot.

Fatt Dog is a fancy venue for the type of cuisine served. They are located in the Rincon Center and serve up dogs of every denomination.

I got a Fatt Dog ($3.25):

... which is a solo dog in a toasted bun. The meat to bread ratio was way too low which explains why they sell many of them with doubled up dogs. The wiener had a good snap and was nicely spiced. After applying mustard, some chopped onions and jalapenõs, I was good to go.

The well stocked condiment bar offers the usual suspects but grilled onions and chili cost extra.
If I ever find myself back in this doghouse, I’m going to order mine with at least two tube steaks.

Fatt Dog
121 Spear St.
Rincon Center
San Francisco, CA


Chubby got some email from Mr. Meathenge today:

Oh hey, been meaning to stop by and axe a question. A friend, Chilebrown, sent me a direct url to a review you guys did of Memphis Minnies. I love the place and it seemed you did as well. Man, your images came out GREAT. I was wondering why your review was so positive, but you only gave them 2 carrots out of 4?


Dr. Biggles


Chubby replies:

Dear Dr. B.,

Good question.

As far as Memphis Minnies is concerned, if all their meaty goods were at the level of their beef ribs, I’d give them another carrot easy. Because this is a regular bunrab lunch haunt, we have also found that it can be a tad inconsistent (not wildly, just a bit.)

Also, be aware, that so far nobody has gotten that elusive 4 carrot rating. Even 3.5 is mighty rare. Two is a darned good rank in the Bunrab book.

Your pal,






Monday, March 6, 2006

Incanto’s head to tail dinner ($60) was fantastic.


Lamb and beef tripe were fried ‘til the edges were crispy and showered with chopped olives and herbs.


Chilled beef hearts were chopped up and served raw with thinly sliced, fried, crisp and bitter garlic. The firm texture of this organ was perfect against the grilled, rustic bread with a ven-trickle of capers and an aorta of chopped herbs.


Marin mountain oysters were tender and flavorful against a strip of smoked pancetta. Capers made an encore appearance in this well rounded, ballsy dish. You’ve gotta be nuts not to eat this (although the neighboring table sacked the idea.)

Cockscombs, Ducks tongues, blood sausage and sweetbreads:

This finanziera was extraordinary. I hadn’t had a cockscomb before, they have a slightly gelatinous quality with a delicate flavor and distinctive shape.

The ducks must have been incredibly fowl mouthed to get their little, delicious tongues cut out.

The little ball of blood sausage was rich, with a nice, chunky texture and the sweetbreads were less yielding than I am used to, but their texture contrasted nicely with the rest of the dish which was unified with rice, garlic, chervil and thin strips of lemon zest.

Haggis, kidney and tongue:

This trio of lamb dishes was wonderfully executed. The haggis was the toga variety (hold the kilt.) This wasn’t the Burns’ night meat pod that normally comes to mind. This Roman version was made with buckwheat groats, pinenuts and dried fruit. It was sliced and pan fried ‘til haggarific.

The perfectly formed, kidney was tender and transplanted well into my stomach.

The tongue was grilled to a perfect medium rare.

A mound of lemon and mint infused lentils shepherded these elements together.

Blood and Suet:

Blood and chocolate were a match made in heaven. Any vampire with a sweet tooth would love this O positively sumptuous gelato.

The decadent, phat pudding was studded with currants and sprinkled with cocoa nibs.

A lot of blood, suet and tears went into the making of this lovely ending to an offal meal.

I can’t imagine the amount of preparation that goes into this annual dinner. It’s not just the prep and cooking, it’s finding these ingredients which are normally either turned into dog food or thrown away.

If you are bummed that you missed tonight’s stupendous meal, Incanto now offers a couple of options for those who can’t wait for another year to pass:

The Il Quinto Quarto Tasting Menu is an all variety meats dinner (which must be booked at least a week in advance for a minimum of two people) and there is also a Whole Beast option for a larger party to feast on a whole pig, lamb or goat (which must be booked two weeks in advance with the buyout of their private room.)

If this wasn’t offal enough for you, check out Chubby’s coverage of last year’s nose to tail.

1550 Church St.
San Francisco, CA




Sunday, March 5, 2006

Porto’s Bakery used to have only one (very popular) location in Glendale.

I went a couple times to try their baked goods and couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about.

They recently opened a big, new outpost in Burbank that not only operates as a bakery, but also as a café serving breakfast and lunch.

The Sandwich Cubano ($3.75):

... sounded appealing. This bun of pigs was billed as Cuban bread stuffed with slow roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles. Sadly, there was a blockade placed on flavor. It was dry, dry, dry. This crisis could have been abated with an invasion of a moistening agent to stabilize this region.

Mariquitas ($2.15):

... are house made, thinly sliced, fried and salted plaintain chips. They were fine, but I wouldn’t have ordered them if I knew that the sandwiches came with a few on the side. The garlic dipping sauce was too oily for my taste. These were perfectly good as a crisp accompaniment without being dipped.

Exiting Burbank during the weekend is a stark contrast to the normal weekday commuter crowds.

The airport has a central kitchen that supplies all the food vendors so the fruit cup and icky bagel that you buy at Tully’s are the exact replicas of the ones available at the cafeteria style place a few gates down.

But hey, don’t you expect façade to trump reality when you’re in Los Angeles?

Porto’s Bakery
3614 W. Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, CA





Saturday, March 4, 2006

Santa Monica has a Farmers’ Market on Saturday featuring organic produce:

I was bummed not to have a kitchen when I saw these Easter egg influenced potatoes:

... and outer space influenced romanescos:

It’s a great place to pick up herbs, flowers and dinner ingredients on a leisurely Saturday morning.

Unlike our beloved San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers’ Market, there aren’t food stands to refuel between melon thumps and tomato squeezes. If you get hungry, you can pop into one of the million 3rd Street Promenade restaurants, like Wolfgang Puck Express or Hooters (I’ve only been to the former, but according to Frank Bruni, the service at Hooters is stellar) but you won’t find the selection of superior eateries we are so spoiled with at the Ferry Building. Don’t get me wrong, the Santa Monica FM is just dandy, I just love our own open air market by the bay (complete with built in snacking possibilities.)

Chubby loves to Haight and has been writing about of one of his regular BBQ hangouts in San Francisco. Check out his Memphis Minnie’s review.






Friday, March 3, 2006


Oakland Airport is a mess:

Not only are the security lines consistently backed up practically to your destination city, there is nothing good to eat in this mid-remodel hell hole. It makes me lose me my center enough to seek out a calming cuppa.

Tea had a major presence at the San Francisco Fancy Food Show. Hot, cold, bottled, powdered…tea shops are getting popular too. Zen Zoo is a small chain of tea cafés in Los Angeles with outlets in Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Brentwood. Their cold teas with tapioca pearls are very popular with the yoga crowd. I’ve never gotten into those choking hazard beverages myself, but I suppose everyone needs to push the envelope (or a ball down their throat in this case) in their own way.

I went with their jasmine blossom tea ($2.79) which was hot, fragrant (and presented no windpipe obstruction risk) to accompany their dim sum platter ($10.98):

Platter is a misnomer as it is served in two nesting steamers. The pork, vegetable and chicken baos had a higher meat to bread ratio than traditional versions, because of this they were less nerf ball like when you pick them up. They were okay, but not special enough that I would order them again.

The shrimp and chicken shu mei and the chicken potstickers were all acceptable, but nothing special.

The shrimp, vegetable, spinach and lobster dumplings were all good, but their wrappers were a little too thick which made for a slightly gummy taste. The lobster and the shrimp versions were the standouts.

To be fair, this isn’t a dim sum restaurant with auntie in the back handcrafting dumplings at lightning speed. For this reason it isn’t to be expected that there would be dim sum that rivaled a good, cart filled, dining hall.

Zen Zoo Tea Café
13050 San Vicente Blvd.
Brentwood, CA




Thursday, March 2, 2006

Well, our web hosting company says that bandwidth issues are to blame for our recent flurry of nothingness when attempts were made to visit our bunsite. Hopefully, we are over this difficulty can return to our scheduled programming.

Mi Casa es su Ora:

After First Crush closed their Mill Valley outpost and turned it into a Mexican restaurant, Chubby and I gave it a whirl and were unimpressed. The muraled walls and oddly partitioned rooms gave an ununified feel to the place:

Although they were putting a lot of effort into their Yukatan influenced foods, nothing that we sampled made us want to make a return visit.

When we heard that the same partners rejigged the restaurant yet again we went to check out the results.

The new Asian influenced décor and mood lighting:

... are a nice backdrop for this small plates eatery.

The fireplaces are particularly welcome during this cold spell. There is a lounge area with a movie playing (sans audio) and a nook where a small party can be seated on pillows to dine. The rest of the dining room features small tables with uncushioned chairs. Tatami mats line the ceiling and low key music hums over the speaker system.

The beverage list features sake based cocktails. The Ichiban cooler ($7.00):

... is slightly sweet and has a tang from the lemon/lime and astringency from cucumber. Don’t think I’d order this again, but it was fun and vacationey without the paper umbrella.

I also had a couple glasses of Ichinokura ($8.00) This perfumey and faintly sweet, cold sake was refreshing and light.

The Kung Pao calamari ($8.00):

... was on the oily side. The chopped bits of squid, peppers, onions and peanuts were heavy and without relief.

Filet Mignon ($17.00):

... was a tender and tasty piece of meat. It was beautifully cooked to a perfect rare after being tea smoked. There was a mini portion of slightly overcooked broccolini atop a ho hum mashed potato cake. a shallot bordelaise circled this preparation.

Black cod ($17.00):

... was tasty enough but the sweetness of the miso yuzu sauce detracted from the sweetness of the fish which should have been the focal point. Small mounds of Japanese style cucumber salad and pickled ginger flanked the over salted forbidden black rice.

There’s some good potential here. They are wisely trying to work out the kinks before doing much promotion. It’s only been open for a little over 3 weeks and they show some promise. They do price their small plates in the large plate range. You need a couple of the meat or fish plates to equal an entrée sized portion.

Ora Restaurant
24 Sunnyside Ave.
Mill Valley, CA




Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Server complaints aren’t limited to restaurants. But we are back again, with a vengance (and a working server.)

Even though we haven’t had access to our cyber hutch, we have been hopping around town for lunch…Henry’s Hunan, Rosamunde’s…some well tread territory, like our standby diner, Bubba’s.

Despite recent torrential rain, San Anselmo is above sea level again:

and it’s time to support the local businesses as they make a recovery from their submerged status earlier this year.

Bubba’s is always a comfort food fave. I got my usual basin of what the menu calls a "chopped salad." However, I know a Cobb Salad when I see one:

...and Chubby got his tripophane burger with Swiss and avocado:

It may not be destination dining ordinarily, but it is craveworthy. And given the local recovery efforts, it helps these little businesses to stay afloat.




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