Hot!California, Here We Come!

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The Travelin Man
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/08 20:04:36 (permalink)
buffetbuster

If this won't make TTM want to visit El Paso, then nothing will.  You can go see Pancho Villa's trigger finger on display in the window of a pawn shop!

You know me TOO well. This is exactly the kind of thing that would get me to El Paso!
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Michael Hoffman
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/08 20:08:43 (permalink)
Not the car wash?
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buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/09 08:25:33 (permalink)
April 19, 2013 cont.
 
Despite the fact that it was getting late, I wasn't particularly worried about dinner plans, because the restaurant where we would be dining didn't close until 1:00AM.  We headed for downtown San Jose and located Original Joe's, but couldn't find any street parking.  We finally pulled into a garage and took an elevator to the street level.  When we walked out of the elevator, we were now in an empty convention center and on the outside of the elevator on this floor was a sign that said elevator closed for repair.  That's always a pleasant feeling!
 
Original Joe's

has not appeared in a JMS book since 1983's Goodfood.  At one time, there were several restaurants in the San Francisco area that used Joe's in the title, such as New Joe's, Original Joe's, etc.  Maybe this is still the case, similar to all the Ray's Pizzas in New York City.  The historical importance of this place is that it seems to be closely related to the inventors of the famous Bay Area dish Joe's Special.  You can read what Original Joe's says about their history with the dish here.  I have only ever eaten a Joe's Special once before and that was at the Roadfood reviewed Frank's Diner in Spokane.  You can see a photo of it in the review.
 
The inside

of Original Joe's is dark and clubby, with big, roomy booths.  I loved the place immediately.  It did have an an upscale atmosphere in that the tables had linen tableclothes and the waiters all were in tuxedos, but it still managed to be a comfortable.  The waiter, an older gentlemen, wasn't much of a conversationalist, but was still right there with more bread or a refill of iced tea as soon as it was needed.
 
As expected, the meal starts off with almost a whole loaf of sourdough bread. 

Johnny is more the bread eater and he ate most of this on his own.  It didn't hurt that other than a Chicago Dog at Midway, he hadn't eaten much on this day.  We both got soups, Johnny getting the minestrone,

me the red clam chowder.  

These two soups were seasoned so similarly (a little on the spicy side), we thought they must use the same base for both.  My clam chowder was full of fresh clams and when I told the waiter how good it was, he brought over another cup at no charge.  
 
Johnny did order the Joe's Special,

which is made here with ground chuck, along with the eggs and spinach.  And for another dollar more, he added the mushrooms.  We were talking about the fact that this dish did seem like late night drunk food and with the eggs, Johnny felt like he was eating breakfast.  Anyway, this was a big hit with both of us and the portion size was so big that between the two of us, we still couldn't finish it.  Part of that is because my dinner, the spaghetti and meatballs 

was massive.  Love2bake told me that this is what she orders when she comes to Original Joe's and said that she especially liked the meatballs.  Considering Original Joe's is an Italian restaurant, this sounded good to me.  The meatballs were so big, Johnny quipped that it looked more like spaghetti and meatloaf!  I thought the sauce was a little runny, but the meatballs were indeed terrific.  Thanks for the tip L2B!
 
That photo I posted earlier shows a waiter at another table, where a very large man and an attractive woman was sitting.  The guy started a conversation with us, asking about what we ordered and how good it looked.  It came up while we were talking that he lives in Las Vegas and I had the feeling that he was somebody famous.  I am thinking he was a professional wrestler, but would never be able to come up with a name.  After trying unsuccessfully to find another way back to our car in the garage, we got back in the broken elevator, which luckily didn't kill us.
 
Original Joe's
301 S. 1st Street
San Jose, CA
408-292-7030
 
When we got to the hotel in Fremont, Johnny polished off his slice of olallieberry pie and we called it a night.
 
Much more to come..... 
post edited by buffetbuster - 2013/05/09 08:31:20
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ChiTownDiner
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/09 08:34:29 (permalink)
Johnny's Joe's special is quite unique...I have never seen or heard of that dish before.  Eggs, beef and spinach...that's it?  Is there a sauce that binds it?  Onions, garlic maybe?  Love to try it! 
#64
mr chips
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/09 08:42:25 (permalink)
Cliff, you just drive a hell of a long way to get to Big Bend. it is well worth the drive. there are really only two large cities i have not visited. Witchita, Kansas and the tidewater towns in virginia(Hampton, Virginia Beach, norfolk, Chesapeake
post edited by mr chips - 2013/05/10 08:35:01
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pnwchef
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/09 09:19:23 (permalink)
BB, great report, great pictures, it looks like you had fun. It looks like you will never go hungry following L2B lead. GGEEEZZ that gal knows how to eat, nothing shy about her...........pnwc
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buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/09 09:29:54 (permalink)
mr chips-
From the photos, Big Bend looks like a special place.  But, it is so far away from anything else, trying to incorporate it into one of our vacations just hasn't worked out.  And Wichita is a highly underrated town.  I have always loved my visits there.
 
CTD-
The Joe's Special was a little oily, but in a good way.  Other than that, no sauce.  No doubt that are countless variations of this dish, recipes which can be found on the internet, but almost all included spinach, eggs and hamburger meat. 
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/09 14:35:01 (permalink)
Saturday April 20, 2013
 
After getting in so late the night before, we would have loved to have slept late.  But, both of our internal clocks were still on Eastern Standard Time and we were up early as usual.  Instead of going out for breakfast, we lounged around the hotel unitl it was time to leave, arriving at the famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose right before they opened at 9:00AM.  For those who aren't familiar with the place, the owner Sarah Winchester was a big believer in spirits.  She was a widow and thought the ghosts of all the people killed with Winchester rifles (where the fortune came from) would haunt her.  According to one story that our excellent tour guide Tiffany related, a Boston psychic told her she needed to move to California and build a mansion.  And never finish building it, which is exactly what she did.
 
There are no photos inside the mansion, which is disappointing, but understandable.  To confuse these spirits, there are doors that open up to a brick wall, a third story door that leads directly outside (with no deck or anything so if someone took a step they would fall directly down), huge cabinet doors that open up to maybe an inch of storage space.  The whole thing was ridiculous.  The lack of any kind of an architecture plan is astonishing.  The rooms were very small, although there was one ballroom of decent size.  Still, she kept building it for 38 straight years, until her death.  The mansion is very attractive on the outside


and the gardens are lovely, but the inside is just a mess.  I am glad we came here to see it once, but there is no reason to ever return.  And I don't complain about the price of things very often, but $30.00 a person for the tour seemed steep.
 
By the end of the tour, we were ready to eat.  Our first lunch destination is a place famous for burgers called Val's in Hayward.  The parking lot is small and narrow and since there is only one way in and out, it causes a bottleneck.  Eventually, another car started pulling out and we took their space.  Since it was almost noon and a crowd of people were headed for the door, we walked in with a purpose.  After standing inside the doorway for probably 30 seconds, a guy with a bushy mustache starts walking over to us.  I said hello and asked if we seat ourselves.  No greeting back, he just points and says "Booth against the wall".  Seeing lots of counter seats open, I asked if we could sit there instead.  He just said "Go".  Not exactly the friendliest person we have encountered, that's for sure.  
 
But, the waitress we ended up with more than made up for it.  Despite how busy the place was, she was very friendly and offered plenty of advice for us first timers.  As usual, I took photos of several pages of the menu, to help remember what we ordered.  Val's is famous for their shakes and you can combine different flavors.  Johnny loves the chocolate/cherry combination at a hot dog joint near home and he was happy to order this when the waitress said it was her favorite.  The Hamburger America book strongly recommended the root beer/banana combination.  Although Rootanana didn't sound particularly appealing, I kept an open mind. 
 
Another employ started mixing milkshakes right in front of us, so I snapped a photo. 

The guy at the counter next to me, leaned over and whispered, "Hey, you aren't allowed to take photos in here".  Huh?  Just to be sure, Johnny asked the waitress and she immediately shot a glance over to the boss.  She told us, "No, you aren't, but sometimes he lets people if they ask nicely"  Knowing she was talking about the guy with the mustache, I wasn't about to go ask him.  So sorry, no food photos.  I probably could have snuck some and gotten away with it, but if that is the rules, then if I want to eat here, I have to abide by the rules.  I definitely don't like it, though.
 
If we were allowed to take photos, then I could have showed you the great Roadfood atmosphere, with a cool counter and a Richardson's root beer barrel.  The Rootanana shake was fantastic, with large chunks of banana.  When the waitress noticed that we were sharing the shakes, she brought each one of us an extra glass to make it easier.  We read that they make great handmade onion rings here, but those and a few other items aren't available until 1:00PM.  We settled on french fries, which were typical uninteresting steak fries.  We also split a bowl of chili, which neither one of us liked.  The burgers here, though, are excellent.  They come in three sizes,

from the 1/3lb. baby burger to the 1lb. papa burger.  Though we were both very hungry, we knew there were plenty of stops ahead, so we each settled on the 1/2lb. mama burger.  They use fresh ground beef and ask you how you want them cooked.  We both asked for medium and they were beautiful, big, juicy patties.  I asked for grilled onions with my burger and we received a plate full of excellent grilled onions on the side, more than either one us could even dream to pile on.  
 
It was my turn to pay, so I took the check up to the register to the same guy.  He never said one word to me as I was paying.   On the way out, I spotted this sign

just outside the front door.  I'm just glad I wasn't wearing cleets!
 
Val's Burgers
2115 Kelly Street
Hayward, CA
510-889-8257
 
We continued north towards Oakland.
 
Much more to come.....           
post edited by buffetbuster - 2013/08/07 14:02:40
#68
The Travelin Man
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/09 15:24:31 (permalink)
You know I have been to some odd roadside attractions - the Mayor's house, notwithstanding - and I can tell you that the Winchester House is probably the strangest place I have ever visited.
 
As for Val's, you know I would have handled that situation very differently, but I would still yearn to know...
 

 
Does "top secret beef" come from top secret cows?
#69
mar52
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/09 19:16:56 (permalink)
The Winchester House has been on my list of places to see for many years.
 
I believe Cliff and TTM.  I may have to miss it.
 
I love the picture of Joe's Special.  It looks like a troll village.  Anyone hiding under those mushrooms?
#70
love2bake
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/09 19:21:13 (permalink)
LOL Mar!
 
BB - Your cousin Johnny's right - Joe's Special is very much breakfast food.  That's where it's found on most menus around here, anyway.  Who doesn't love breakfast for dinner, though!!
 
Glad you liked the meatballs (meatloaves).  They're thugs.
 
And I totally agree about saving room for pies made in house vs. not.
 
Looking forward to more!
#71
ChiTownDiner
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/10 08:09:55 (permalink)
So you're up early due to time zone considerations and still don't eat til noon! 
Perhaps Mr. Grumpy hadn't eaten either! 
#72
buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/10 08:20:22 (permalink)
CTD-
Considering we didn't leave the restaurant the night before until 1:00AM, most people would understand.  But, I still feel like we let you down!
 
mar-
Love the troll village comment!
#73
mayor al
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/10 08:30:12 (permalink)
TTM
Your room is always here for you ! Strange or Not, you gotta have a home away from home ! The Kitchen Staff is always working to please you !!

 
Cliff,  Keep those reports coming. You and Johnny set a standard for the rest of us !! 
   Here is my ALL-TIME FAVORITE BB Food Review photo...no caption necessary !  For those who haven't seen it before, thats a 12 oz, 32 oz, and 64 oz Margarita !!  
 
 
post edited by mayor al - 2013/05/10 08:49:12
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mr chips
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/10 08:52:25 (permalink)
I loved the Winchester mystery house and its spooks and phenomena.Strangely enough, my other great memory is s leaving the house for a nearby mall cinema and seeing All That jazz for the first of over 20 times. That frightfully, honest powerful pic is one of my favorites over the years and the combination of house and movie has remained with me over the years.
post edited by mr chips - 2013/05/10 14:35:58
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Ralph Melton
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/10 13:40:40 (permalink)
I really liked the Winchester Mystery House, but I agree that that is a steep price.
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buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/14 08:22:49 (permalink)
My apologies for the slow going so far.  The weekend trip out of town didn't help, but watching the hockey playoffs has been the big distraction lately. 
 
MayorAl-
Thanks for posting that photo of us with the margarita.  It is a personal favorite of mine, too!
 
mr chips-
That's right, there is a shopping center with a movie theater right next to the Winchester House.  In fact, we missed the driveway into the house the first time because we thought it was part of the shopping center.
post edited by buffetbuster - 2013/05/14 08:24:08
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/14 09:39:45 (permalink)
Saturday April 20, 2013 cont.
 
Our first destination in Oakland was El Paisa Taco Truck, in a Hispanic neighborhood along International Boulevard.  When we arrived at the address it is supposed to be parked at, there is a shopping center with a different taco truck.
 
Did El Paisa change their name?  Did they go out of business or move?  We had no way of knowing and since we had another taco truck on the list just a few blocks away, we decided to head there.
 
El Ojo de Agua seemed to have an entire parking lot all to their own.  Besides the truck,

there was another building across the lot

and we weren't initially sure if that was a restaurant of just offices, but we knew the truck was open for business.  They have a large menu board

and we took some time trying to decide what to order, but finally settled on just getting three different types of tacos.
 
This plate

has a pastor (pork) taco, one asada (beef) and chorizo.  The pastor was crumbly, with wonderful porcine flavor, while the asada had small chunks of tender meat.  The highlight for me was the chorizo, which looked like mini sausage patties and was fiery hot.  The green salsa on top was also very tasty.  It was interesting to see the plate came with onions, radishes and cucumbers and the latter was an especially pleasant palate cleanser.
 
To drink, Johnny ordered a mango agua fresca, which he described as thick, ripe and sweet and said it was almost more like a milkshake.  I drank my horchata

looking for some relief from the spicy chorizo, but it turned out to be even hotter.
 
While we were waiting for our food, there were two Asian men finishing up their lunch at a table next to the truck.  One struck up a conversation with us by saying, "We don't see you guys around here anymore."  My initial reaction was, does he think he knows us?  His next comment was, "You people used to come around, but not in the last few years."  That is when it occurred to me that he meant Caucasians.  I turned around to Johnny and asked him, "What do you think he means by you people?"  Johnny just laughed.  They turned out to be pretty friendly and offered some advice on what to eat, which was too late since we had already ordered.  Not that we were offended, it was just unusual to hear a generalization like "you people" in the politically correct world we live in.  
 
By the way, the address for El Ojo de Agua is listed in 500 Things to Eat as being located at 3132 E. 12th Street, but they moved and can now be found at 3053 International Boulevard in Oakland.
 
Next stop was another place in 500 Things to Eat, Bittersweet Café.  It made its appearance in the book for their hot chocolate.  Located in what seemed to us to be a hipster neighborhood, there were several people enjoying pastries and their beverages at outside tables. 

Johnny made a beeline to the bathroom and since it was again my turn to pay (we take turns figuring that over the course of a week, it will all even out), he asked me to just pick something out for him.  Looking over the different hot chocolates,

I chose the safe classic for him and the peppermint for me.  They actually looked identical

and the strange thing is that the plates they were sitting on were actually hotter than the drinks.  Which is fine with me, since I don't like it when my soups and beverages are too hot and you are forced to wait until you can consume them.  In both cases, the hot chocolates were not overly sweet, tasting more of the chocolate, as it should be.  Mine did have a strong peppermint flavor and we both really enjoyed this pleasant afternoon break.  I would highly recommend stopping here.
 
Bittersweet Café
5437 College Avenue
Oakland, CA
510-654-7159
 
Much more to come.....      
post edited by buffetbuster - 2013/08/07 14:08:56
#78
love2bake
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/14 10:38:32 (permalink)
Wow--I didn't even realize this place was in the book.  My bad!  I probably never looked much at the Bay Area section.   Regardless, I stumbled upon Bittersweet in March and tried their bittersweet hot chocolate and their Oreo style cookie.  My experience wasn't as good as yours, but I'd definitely go back and try something else here.  What else amazed me about this area was seeing people just a block away smoking dope on the street while waiting for a bus...
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/14 11:01:20 (permalink)
love2bake-
We looked at the pastries (although I don't specifically remember the Oreo cookie) and nothing really grabbed us, so we skipped it.  Sorry your experience wasn't as good.
post edited by buffetbuster - 2013/08/07 14:10:07
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EdSails
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/14 13:00:57 (permalink)
I love chorizo tacos. They are hard to find, so good to hear you lucked out!
 
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/14 13:46:12 (permalink)
Been on a salted caramel kick lately...I see it has spread to hot chocolate!  Good to know!
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/14 14:52:46 (permalink)
Saturday April 20, 2013 cont.
 
One of the places we were most eagerly anticipating visiting was Bakesale Betty's.  Based on the review and the obvious enthusiasm the Sterns have for the place, we expected it to be something special.  Unfortunately, we were running out of time, since they close at 2:00 in the afternoon and are not open on Sundays.  We drove by just a little after 1:00 and there was a line out the door at least 30 people long.  Yeah, I'd love to go there, but not that bad.
 
We thought this would be a good time to visit one of the tourist sites on my list, the Oakland Museum of California

This is both an art museum as well as a focus on California history.  We decided to explore the latter part.  The museum is extremely well done, going back to the first native people settling here, through the Spanish, the gold rush, the baby boom, onto today.  Here are a few photos from the exhibits.





 
In the area on the gold rush, they talk about how few people really found gold and became successful.  They even had a spinning wheel, in which you could determine how you would have done had you chose to go to California in 1849.  So, I gave it a spin and apparently I would have been stabbed to death in a bar fight.  

Good to know.  Cousin Johnny didn't strike it rich,

but still fared better than I did.
 
There was also a big section where it went into detail about all the people who flooded into California during the Depression and the Dust Bowl Era to work on the farms. 

Here, they had yet another spinning wheel.  Surely, I would make out better this time, right?  Nope,

I died yet again.  Remind me to stay out of Santa Clara.  Once again, Johnny didn't make it big,

but at least he lived to talk about it.
 
We briefly considered touring the art museum also, but there was an especially large crowd here because an artist, Hung Liu,

was here signing books in the giftshop.  Besides, we had our appetites back and were ready to eat again.
 
Much more to come.....     
post edited by buffetbuster - 2013/08/07 14:12:30
#83
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/14 16:31:02 (permalink)
Turning down another dessert stop...something is amiss! 
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mayor al
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/14 17:44:43 (permalink)
CTD--  Check Costco for the jars of Salted Carmels...Outstanding treat !
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/14 18:01:09 (permalink)
mayor al

CTD--  Check Costco for the jars of Salted Carmels...Outstanding treat !

 
What are salted caramels?
 
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN

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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/14 18:03:56 (permalink)
Mayor Al...I love those also...several ice cream parlors serve a salted caramel ice cream...I am a frequent taste tester of the ice cream.
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/20 08:02:19 (permalink)
Saturday April 20, 2013 cont.
 
We decided to make this a two hamburger day and went to Barney's

in Oakland.  This is a small chain with seven locations around the Bay Area.  Like most of our time in Oakland, finding parking was a problem and we ended up driving around for several minutes until locating a spot on a side street a few blocks away.  The interior doesn't have the feel of a Roadfood burger joint, with a high ceiling and lots of room between tables.
 
We started with the garlic fries,

which had small dots of chopped up garlic on top of shoestring fries.  The smell was intoxicating and this is a dish we enjoyed, although we wish the garlic would have stuck to the fries better.  But, that is quibbling.
 
There is a long list of burgers available here and took us a few minutes to finally to make a decision.  Johnny ended up with the Voodoo burger,

which featured mushrooms, bacon, blue cheese and provolone, plus a voodoo sauce.  Truthfully, he was not a fan of this burger, noting that it was medium well rather than the medium he ordered and the bacon was short lengths of curled up pieces, making it much more difficult to eat on a burger.  He also did not like the voodoo sauce.  
 
Channelling the great Hickory Burger at The Apple Pan, that is what I ordered here. 

Covered in hickory sauce, jack cheese and bacon, I was much happier with mine, with the cheese and the sauce being especially tasty.
 
On the downside, the milkshakes here were not good. 

We both chose the blackberry/chocolate combination and the two flavors just didn't mix well.    Neither one of us came close to finishing them.
 
Barney's gets mixed reviews from us.  While there are some things we appreciated (they brought a big carafe of water for the table, so we never needed refills and we did get excellent service), we didn't think the food was that good.
 
Barney's
4162 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA
510-655-7180
 
Walking from the car to the restaurant, we noticed that we passed a La Farine bakery, which we knew was reviewed on Roadfood.  And while sitting at our table near the front window, we saw several people pass by with cups of ice cream from Fenton's, which ended up being just down the street.  So, we knew where we were heading next.  But, after two large milkshakes so far on this day, we were ice creamed out and decided to save Fenton's for tomorrow.  Yes, we passed up ice cream!
 
You can tell by the enthusiastic review that Michael Stern really likes La Farine

So, our expectations were high and all the beautiful pastries in the case


really made our mouthes water.  Johnny and I both ordered several items to take with us.  Cool tip jar!

 
La Farine
4094 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA
510-420-1777
 
Once back at the hotel, Hyatt House in nearby Emeryville, our lack of sleep caught up with us and both slept through to the next day, with neither one of us touching our pastries.  I will include those photos later when we actually ate them.
 
Much more to come.....      
post edited by buffetbuster - 2013/08/07 14:43:32
#88
Michael Hoffman
Double-chop Porterhouse
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/20 10:12:36 (permalink)
ChiTownDiner

Mayor Al...I love those also...several ice cream parlors serve a salted caramel ice cream...I am a frequent taste tester of the ice cream.

Check out Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel gelato. Wonderful!
#89
ChiTownDiner
Filet Mignon
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/20 17:30:54 (permalink)
Michael Hoffman

ChiTownDiner

Mayor Al...I love those also...several ice cream parlors serve a salted caramel ice cream...I am a frequent taste tester of the ice cream.

Check out Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel gelato. Wonderful!

 
I will be all over that one...thanks Michael! 

#90
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