Tag Archive for review

Mac & Cheese Night #4: Homeroom

My 4th Mac & Cheese Night took place at the East Bay’s prime mac & cheese destination along 40th Street in Oakland: Homeroom.

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Nearly every time I’ve mentioned my mac & cheese quest, I’ve been interrupted by an excited new acquaintance asking if I’ve tried Homeroom yet. Finally, FINALLY, I can say yes when asked.

Schoolroom décor in keeping with their name. I approve.

Schoolroom décor in keeping with their name. I approve.

Homeroom is owned by a pair of friends with a passion for comfort food, Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade, who also happen to both be pregnant with their second children right now, which I found out from reading an article about their planned expansion for Homeroom in the fall. That expansion will be geared toward meeting their to-go and large party needs, which are big contributors to the constant wait times at the midsize restaurant.

Well…the fall is not now, so our party of six was prepared for those long wait times at 8 on a Friday night. I had to laugh when I signed us in and asked the host if we would fit—there are not many tables available for more than four people. “Oh, no problem,” he said, quickly followed by a snarky, “but it’ll be a minute.” I knew a minute would be a lot longer than that and it took over an hour. At least owner Erin made the rounds of waiting customers, offering water. Much appreciated!

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Cimarone Winery

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At the tail-end of my 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference experience, I stopped in at Cimarone Winery. I’d heard of them through Twitter, as the winery’s social media (@cimarone) did a great job letting us bloggers know they were in nearby Los Olivos and would be offering a special tasting for us if we ever had the chance to steal away from the conference. I didn’t have much time that last afternoon, having dinner plans in Santa Maria and being due in San Luis Obispo that night, but I fit Cimarone in, and I’m glad I did.

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Nestled in Los Olivos’s adorable few blocks of tasting rooms, restaurants, and shops, Cimarone’s English flag and cottage-style building stands out. Why the Union Jack? While owner Priscilla Higgins has an international background, her husband and co-owner Roger hails from Yorkshire and has obviously retained his British loyalties despite starting a winery in Santa Barbara County in 2001.

The Higgins are pictured in the photo to the left. I know, I know, you can’t see it.

The Higgins are pictured in the photo to the left. I know, I know, you can’t see it.

My guide in the tasting room, Shelley Woods, spoke highly of the Higgins and of winemaker Andrew Murray, who’s done impressive work throughout the Santa Barbara region. What impressed me most about Cimarone’s wines was the nose—they all had amazingly complex and memorable noses.

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Mac & Cheese Night #3: The Tipsy Pig

It’s only a few days until Mac & Cheese Night #4, and I’m just now getting the write-up done for Night #3—it’s been that sort of month, y’all. You’d think I’d be tiring of all that pasta, cheese, and sauce by now, but frankly, I want more comfort food bliss.

Night #3 was our biggest group yet, and it took place at the Inner Marina’s local gastropub, the Tipsy Pig.

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This is definitely an in-demand spot, but unlike so many others of its ilk, the Tipsy Pig actually takes reservations and has thus earned my gratitude. I’m so much happier when I can be assured I’ll get a table before I go to a restaurant, especially when that involves trekking across the Bay, as it often does.

The overall feel of the place is kitschy English pub…with a backyard full of frat boys.

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The crowd around the bar.

The crowd around the bar.

Front of the house.

Front of the house.

I found it cozy, and of course, the company was good. Menu focus is subtly playful takes on standard menu items at most American pubs these days: tartare, ribs, sliders, risotto, burgers, and of course, mac & cheese. Some of my companions found those takes too subtle, but that does not apply to the mac & cheese.

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Let’s start there, shall we? The Tipsy Pig’s mac & cheese revels in the complement of bacon, from the crumbles mixed in to the cheese sauce cooked in bacon fat.

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