Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Heal Thyself

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 7:38 PM

Spicy beef noodle soup for the soul. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Spicy beef noodle soup for the soul.

How's your cold? Just kidding. No one cares. You missed getting sick when everyone else was coughing and sneezing, and now that your friends and co-workers are healed up, they have no sympathy for you. Fine. You can drown your sorrows in more canned soup and cough syrup or you can drag yourself to a corner table — away from other customers, Typhoid Mary — at Pho Lan Phuong (1709 Fifth St., Eureka) and order the hot and spicy beef noodle soup ($9.75).

Don't be frightened by the color of the chili oil or the red letters on the menu; it's not crazy hot. In fact, there's just enough heat in the lemongrass broth to help you fake the glow of health. Toss in the sprouts and squeeze the lime in there with a couple of jalapeno slices, and breathe in the scent of the cilantro. It's not terribly salty, so if you feel the need to paint the town red with that squeeze bottle of Sriracha, you go ahead. There are thick, comforting rice noodles, slices of beef shank and soft hunks of tendon. Hey, collagen-rich tendon is supposed to be good for your skin, and you need something to lord over those insufferable healthy people. 
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Friday, January 29, 2016

Pile On

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Western civilization at Deb's. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Western civilization at Deb's.
If the wall-to-wall Betty Boop décor (down to a tacked-up pair of socks) doesn't give it away, the sign exclaiming that pizza fries with meatballs and cheese are back should clue you in that Deb's Great American Hamburger Company (3340 Redwood Drive, Redway) is not about subtlety. Good thing, too.
Cheeseburger cross-section. For science. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Cheeseburger cross-section. For science.
You will be grateful for the more is more aesthetic untethered to trends or changing theories about "nutrition" when the fast and focused young woman from the counter finds your little, red vinyl-covered table and puts down your hefty Western burger ($9.47). The patty itself is a beast — thick and browned under a swath of melted cheese — on a white bun with a crisp onion ring and bacon. And bacon. Languid, brick red slices, salty and just-chewy-enough, drape out over the sides to taunt those who order the simple cheeseburger, pleasingly old-fashioned as it is ($8.52). In fact, there's enough of the stuff that snaking a piece from my husband's burger did not end with me hitchhiking home from Redway. 
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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Breakfast for the Born-again

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2015 at 9:00 PM

A blueberry scone to set you on the path of righteousness. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • A blueberry scone to set you on the path of righteousness.
So, after the holiday decadence you've resolved to eat healthy foods, to treat your body like a sustainably built temple instead of the shameless altar of Bacchus it's been for the last two months. But do you have to be a monk? Because that bowl of cold grains you're starting off with is a little grim. The counter at Cafe Phoenix (1300 G. St., Arcata), which boasts a changing menu of locally sourced and/or organic everything, might be a better place to start. The cake stands are stacked with scones, brownies and coffee cakes made with organic butter, flour, eggs and fruit to ease you into your new lifestyle. The blueberry scone ($3.50) is a good place to start — soft and cakey inside with indigo bursts of berries (antioxidants!) and a delicate, buttery crust of cinnamon. Do you want that warmed up in the oven so it's toasty outside and just a bit steamy within? Of course you do. Maybe a side of butter (organic, and we've decided butter's good right now — jump on that train while it's running). There are poached eggs and veggies on the board, but hey, baby steps. Let the next table explore Brussels sprouts as a breakfast food. You just enjoy that scone. 
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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Fine Mess

Posted By on Tue, Dec 15, 2015 at 12:21 PM

Biscuits and gravy to ease you into the daylight. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Biscuits and gravy to ease you into the daylight.
Trinidad's reputation as "a drinking town with a fishing problem" means it's also a town that needs a solid recovery breakfast. Lucky the place is small enough that the Trinidad Bay Eatery (607 Parker St.) is only a short stumble away. A plate of fluffy cut-out buttermilk biscuits split and blanketed with white bacon gravy might be enough to steady you ($5.99). If nothing else, the pale expanse will blot out those fuzzy memories and thoughts of the gym.
  
The Sailor's Mess after a stormy night. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The Sailor's Mess after a stormy night.
But if you're still puzzling over what to do with the drunken sailor, the Sailor's Mess might be called for ($11.99). Order it and your sympathetic server will bring you a plate filled to the edges with hash browns and topped with onions and peppers (vegetables!), a trio of eggs and three strips of bacon. Hidden beneath those eggs is a ladleful of that bacon gravy, which is a fine idea. The potatoes are all you want from hash browns — a flattened haystack that's crisp on the surface and steamy and soft within. And, wonder of wonders, it's by no means a greasy affair but an actual meal to fortify you and help you regain your sea legs.

Warm icing melts into a hot cinnamon roll. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Warm icing melts into a hot cinnamon roll.
If you're there when the cinnamon rolls come out of the oven, get one ($2.99). The spiral of pastry — taking up the table like a coiled fire hose — is doused with warm icing just before serving. The sugar melting into the simple dough is comforting rather than decadent to pull apart and nibble with black coffee — just the thing you need. 


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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sauced at Breakfast

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2015 at 12:35 PM

Cheese sauce. Who cares what's under it. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Cheese sauce. Who cares what's under it.

The sprouting crop of man buns around the room at the Woodrose Café (911 Redwood Drive, Garberville) might lead you to worry about trendiness encroaching on your breakfast, but fear not. A copy of Sunset Magazine's Eating up the West Coast, into which the house recipe for cheese sauce found its way, is propped up behind the counter. Find out why — order the Eggs Woodrose ($13.95). The poached egg and mound of ham and spinach are obscured by a ladle of white cheese sauce. At the bottom somewhere is an English muffin. Taste the creamy and not overly salty stuff and ask yourself what else might be improved/hidden with a warm blanketing of it. (Brussel sprouts? Urban blight?) There are potatoes, too. They are herbed and possessed of a kind of salty pan crust that only comes when the cook has the steely nerve to leave them alone in the skillet. Your ketchup may go ignored. 

The mushroom omelette reveals its bounty. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The mushroom omelette reveals its bounty.
Also accompanied by potatoes is the mushroom and cheese omelet ($13.95). It's not cheap, as omelets go, but given the sheer volume of sautéed locally grown shiitake mushrooms, you might be getting it at cost. Along with the melted white cheddar, they are deeply satisfying. It fulfills the broken promises of your friends who are always telling you a portobello burger is just as good as a real burger.


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Saturday, October 31, 2015

We Blew it up at El Pueblo

Posted By on Sat, Oct 31, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Soft, sweet pan de muerto. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Soft, sweet pan de muerto.

With the start of Dia de los Muertos starts this weekend, folks are picking up pan de muerto (dead bread) to pile onto altars among photos, sugar skulls and candles for their lost loved ones. Don't risk losing control of your sweet tooth and swiping a bun from the dearly departed. Get your own.

El Pueblo Market (3600 Broadway, Eureka) has two sizes of the soft, pale yellow bread dusted with superfine sugar ($1 small). If you like a not-too-sweet raised doughnut rolled in crunchy sugar, this is for you.
Behold, the bakery bounty. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Behold, the bakery bounty.
But there you are with the green plastic tray and the tongs and this wall of glass cabinets piled with yellow buns, sprinkles, pastel-frosted rolls, wedges of cake and, wait, is that just a hunk of bread slathered in butter and dunked in sugar? Most of it is $1 apiece. Load up.

The coconut covered ball turns out to be scone-firm, bready muffin-top halves fused together with red marmalade. The chewy brown bun with a swipe of baked yellow frosting is full of cinnamon is lovely with a cup of strong coffee.

There are soft, bready cones are filled with vanilla custard and wedges of eggy cheesecake that's solid enough to eat with your fingers and totally justifiable as a breakfast item. 
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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Inner Beauty

Posted By on Sat, Oct 24, 2015 at 9:43 AM

It's what's inside that counts. As long as it's bacon. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • It's what's inside that counts. As long as it's bacon.
The newly opened Greene Lily (307 Second St., Eureka) has trundled away the vinyl chairs and grim lighting of the former Mekong Cafe, swapping in a bright copper ceiling and white padded banquettes. It's quite a makeover. With all the distraction of shiny newness, facing the laminated gleam of an unfamiliar menu could be daunting. Or not — because if someone is back in the kitchen pouring waffle batter over a hot iron with a layer of bacon inside, then get that. The bacon Belgian waffle ($8.95) appears at first as plain as a Kardashian without her contouring make-up, or Channing Tatum in lots of loose clothing. But cutting into the browned exterior is the brunch equivalent of a glasses-off-hair-shaken-out movie transformation. Inside is a layer of brick-red bacon that's been fried to a crisp edge but not crunchy. See, your mother was right and it's what's inside that counts. As long as there's salty pig fat inside. 

Lean in — get the bacon gravy, too. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Lean in — get the bacon gravy, too.
Sure, you could drizzle syrup from your little cup if you're up for sweet and salty. Or you could double down on the savory and order up a side of the bacon gravy ($2.95) that normally comes with the biscuits. The gravy isn't particularly salty, and the barely sweet flavor of the waffle still comes through. Besides, enough of the creamy, bacon-flecked stuff will show up that you can afford to be generous and let companions dip a fry or two. And that's an attractive quality. 
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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Corner Burger Joint

Posted By on Sun, Oct 18, 2015 at 10:18 AM

The very good Good Burger and rings. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The very good Good Burger and rings.

Is there a limit to how many burger places Humboldt can support? Will the day come when we crumple our ketchup-stained napkins, cast them to the floor and say enough? Yeah, no. 

Sixth and E Neighborhood Eatery has opened up in Eureka (603 E St.) with a small army of burgers and tricked-out fries. The modestly named Good Burger is a 1/3-pound of grassfed beef with lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickle and cheddar cheese, criss-crossed with peppery bacon on a soft, slightly chewy grilled bun ($11.99).

Fries with that. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Fries with that.
The schmear of avocado spread is creamy and has the advantage of not sliding off your burger the way a slab of avocado does, challenging you to rearrange your burger for proper topping distribution while pretending you are still listening to your lunch companions. The meat is none too tightly packed and has a juicy bite. (Nothing sadder than seeing perfectly good meat kneaded into an angry, gray lump.) Beside your burger in the cake tin that serves as your plate, you have the option of barbecue rub-dusted wedge-cut fries with skins or a nest of skinny, crispy onion rings in golden batter. See, we do have room for one more.
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Thursday, October 8, 2015

How to Eat Somewhere New

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 11:57 AM

Marinated cod fish and chips at Taste of Bim. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Marinated cod fish and chips at Taste of Bim.
When a new place opens, the common wisdom is that you should try it in a couple of months when it's worked out the kinks. Are you made of stone? There's a whole unexplored menu to peruse and sample. What if there's something you've never eaten before? Once you finally break down and pull up a squeaky, new chair, here are a few things to keep in mind: 

Save it for when you're not on a tight schedule and keep your group smallish. The servers may still be finding their feet and managers might not have figured out how many hands they need on deck at different times. You'll never feel so benevolent-god-like as when you raise your palm to a sweating, apologetic waiter and say, "no problem."

The whole menu might not be available — relax. Ask your server what his or her favorite thing is and get that. (Asking what's good will nearly always get you an optimistic but unhelpful "It's all good.") At Taste of Bim, the Caribbean place that's taken up residence in Avalon's former kitchen space (613 Third St., Eureka) our waitress steered us to cod fish and chips ($9). Unlike the UK version, the chunks of fresh cod beside the little potato wedges are marinated with garlic and herbs before frying in a light and bubbly batter. Do you really need the cup of mild tartar sauce? There's so much flavor to the flaky, pleasantly briny fish that you might not. 

Juicy jerk wings. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Juicy jerk wings.
Another tip: Stick to basics and save the experimental items for later. Bim's half-dozen jerk chicken wings ($7) show up lightly blackened and the overnight-marinated meat is nicely spiced, but by no means hot. Must wings always be a test of manhood? Really? No. Here they are a way to enjoy the dark, fatty meat and tasty skin — chilis and earthy allspice and cinnamon enhance rather than mask their flavor. There is a side of creamy sauce not unlike the savory filling of a fancy, paprika-sprinkled deviled egg — again, not really necessary, but you can always dip your finger if you're among friends. Get the wings. And the plantains ($5). If you are a person who enjoys the not-too-sweet, firm and lemony fruit, these crisp-edged, piping hot slices are not to be missed.  

Fried plantains satisfy sweet and salty cravings. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Fried plantains satisfy sweet and salty cravings.


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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Little Orange Hen

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 12:03 PM

The retro allure of orange glaze. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The retro allure of orange glaze.
Back in the day (the historical period during which everybody started dressing like hell on Mad Men), every fancy French menu had a canard a l'orange — the dark, roasted duck with crispy skin ladled over with a sauce of stock, orange juice and zest and maybe a little booze — Grand Marnier or Cognac — stirred in at the end. Swells celebrated anniversaries, promotions and engagements by throwing on a shoulder-padded blazer and dining on duck with savory, fruity gravy. And it was good.

Then it vanished, like baked Alaska and everything flambé. If you want it, you'll likely have to bust out vintage Julia Child books and whip it up yourself. If you're not willing to put in the hours, order the cornish game hen with orange brandy glaze ($20 half, $28 whole) at the Larrupin' Cafe (1658 Patrick's Point Drive, Trinidad). True, it's not duck, but the meat is full of flavor, cooked as it is over the mesquite grill instead of in an oven. It's juicy throughout with the bright, lightly sweet glaze balancing out the smokiness of the blackened skin. The handfuls of dressed salad and the overstuffed twice-baked potato crowding the plate will also take you back to pre-nouvelle cuisine times. Besides, where else are you going to wear that old blazer?
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