Saturday, June 15, 2019

All the Pretty Oysters

Posted By on Sat, Jun 15, 2019 at 8:55 PM

Cooked oysters from Sushi Spot, which came away with Best in Show. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Cooked oysters from Sushi Spot, which came away with Best in Show.

The drama. From the local beer debacle to the math error in a bacteria count that led health officials to temporarily close Humboldt Bay's oyster fisheries two days before the festival, the lead-up to the 2019 Arcata Bay Oyster Festival was a lot. Head Oystress Sydney Morrone said she hadn't heard of any oysters actually dumped in the pre-festival panic but this was a close enough call for everyone. In fact, before the oysters were tested and declared safe on Friday, organizers were already working on shipping in alternate oysters from out of town. Happily, it wasn't necessary and the oysters on the plaza — and up for judging — were homegrown.

This year the 14 judges, myself included, were glamping out in a tent where SeaQuake beer and Cook's sparkling wine — once forbidden during judging — flowed freely as "oystresses" glided in and out with paper trays and platters of oysters. The number of entries is still shrinking but the competition was still stiff. (See the slideshow below for a full perusal of the contestants.)

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Chinese Comfort Food

Posted By on Wed, May 1, 2019 at 2:00 PM

Familiar flavors from Szechuan Garden's not-so-secret menu. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Familiar flavors from Szechuan Garden's not-so-secret menu.

The “Secret Menu” at Szechuan Garden (753 18th St., Arcata) might be more accurately titled the Student Menu. Owner Nina Zhao, a native of Shenyang in Northern China who took over the place five years ago, added the page and a half list because so many Chinese and Chinese American students from Humboldt State University were homesick for familiar flavors.

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Lunch in the Lobby

Posted By on Thu, Apr 25, 2019 at 1:27 PM

Tuna on rye with a zinger of a carrot-ginger soup. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Tuna on rye with a zinger of a carrot-ginger soup.

Open for less than a month, Bandit Savory & Sweet (525 Second St., Eureka) is making itself at home in the lobby of the Vance in Old Town, its winking name and vintage aesthetic dovetailing with the revival of the landmark building. You might have sampled the baked goods before at the Friday Night Market. Now owner Erica Davie serves a full (though blessedly brief) menu of sweets and sandwiches on granny plates with mismatched silverware among the antique moldings and tile.

Select a velvet cushioned seat by the window and look over at the Oberon, once the home of a brothel and speakeasy to and from which patrons of the Vance Hotel once toddled. More wholesome pleasures are to be had now, and the beer, wine and cider no longer require a furtive trip across Second Street.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Trucking from Fortuna

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 1:59 PM

The Fortuna-based Humboldt Fresh truck in its new Eureka spot. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The Fortuna-based Humboldt Fresh truck in its new Eureka spot.

Fortuna has been enjoying the fruits of the Humboldt Fresh truck for roughly five months at its 2059 Main St. parking spot in front of Fortuna Fabrics. But now it's pulling up in Eureka Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in the lot by Les Schwab Tire Center (2440 Broadway). Fear not, Fortunans: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are still yours. Driving by at speed, one might not have a solid sense of what's on offer when at the window in back.

The Reuben special that should maybe work its way onto the menu. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The Reuben special that should maybe work its way onto the menu.
The special of the day was a $12.99 Reuben, grilled to make your fingers shiny, its marbled rye spilling with salty, tender shredded corned beef dotted with bits of fat, mild sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese and a swipe of thousand island dressing. The white paper pouch of straight-cut fries is not hand cut but a happy surprise nonetheless, perfectly crisp and dusted with sea salt flakes. All together it could be a fruitful regular menu item.


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Monday, February 18, 2019

Crab it While You Can

Posted By on Mon, Feb 18, 2019 at 10:06 AM

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Domoic acid and low weights have led to enough crab-less Christmases to keep us from taking Dungeness for granted. Crack 'em while we've got 'em, folks. And if you're up for the luxury of feasting on the sweet meat without wielding a mallet, order it out.

Cross your fingers, kiss your St. Andrew necklace and hope it's on the whiteboard at Café Waterfront (102 F St., Eureka) for lunch. The grilled crab sandwich ($21.95) is one of few that pleases as much as the standard cold variety. The butter-grilled sourdough is mild enough not to overpower the generous fistful of crab, a mix of body and claw, topped with tomato and jack cheese that's barely melted. Beware: What little mayo is here turns runny enough from the grill to spoil your shirt. Both hands, over your plate, just like your mom said.

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

'Not Like it Used to Be': Why Mazzoti's Eureka Shut Down

Posted By on Thu, Feb 7, 2019 at 12:29 PM

The sign on the glass door of Mazzotti's in Eureka. - PHOTO BY ZACH LATHOURIS
  • Photo by Zach Lathouris
  • The sign on the glass door of Mazzotti's in Eureka.

Peer through the darkened windows of Mazzotti’s in Old Town and you’ll see the chairs have been upside down on the tables long enough to gather yellowed leaves from the hanging plants. Eventually the furniture will come out and the sign will go down, but Mazzotti’s isn’t coming back — at least not here and not the same as it was.

A sign on the glass door of the 42-year-old restaurant previously announced a reopening date but changed to complete closure. Over the phone, Joe Mazzotti, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Jean, explained, “We were debating what we were gonna do. We always close that store on the 22nd, depending on where the day falls, for the rest of the December.” There just isn’t profit to be made between the holidays, he said. But during the annual break, he and Jean considered the impending end of their lease and the state of the business, finally deciding to shut it down for good. “It’s just not attracting new customers. And the economy in Eureka is a little iffy right now.”

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Saturday, February 2, 2019

How French is the Dip?

Posted By on Sat, Feb 2, 2019 at 5:01 PM

PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

In the long list of things we call French — like fries (probably Belgian), toast (the Romans were already onto it by the fifth century) and manicures (possibly French but unconfirmed) — the French dip sandwich is a low-key champion.

Is it French? No, it is not. Except in its soul. Hailing from Los Angeles and named for the bread on which it's served, the dip comes with a side and/or a soaking in au jus, which is a French term, non? And does it not lend itself to a long midday meal? Oui, mes amis.

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Friday, February 1, 2019

New Owner and Lebanese Menu for Folie Douce

Posted By on Fri, Feb 1, 2019 at 10:19 AM

Salhi carving shawarma during lunch. - PHOTO BY THAD GREENSON
  • Photo by Thad Greenson
  • Salhi carving shawarma during lunch.

Before you go into full panic, the artichoke cheesecake is still on the menu. Plenty else, however, has changed. On Nov. 26, 2017, Reda Salhi took over the kitchen at Arcata institution Folie Douce (though escrow has yet to close), shifting its menu toward Lebanese specialties like shawarma and kofta, while keeping a handful of the classic farm-to-table dishes that have earned it a following.

Chris Hollan, who started out as a baker and doing prep before taking over Folie Douce six years ago, said back in October, "I’ve been there 24 years … and I’d love to see the place continue to succeed.” With her daughter graduating college and a landscaping business on the side, she said she was "just ready for the next phase of my life.”


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Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Monday Night Polenta Club

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 12:15 PM

The ever-changing Monday night polenta special. - PHOTO BY ZACH LATHOURIS
  • Photo by Zach Lathouris
  • The ever-changing Monday night polenta special.

A wine cork's downhill roll from Brick & Fire is 2 Doors Down (1626 F. St., Eureka), its wine bar sibling, drawing its menu from the same tight kitchen. The dimensions of the wine list and dinner menu are reversed but that doesn't mean you're relegated to cheese plates and appetizers alone. On Monday nights, when so many places are closed, regulars cram in at the handful of tables for the $12 polenta special. You can't beat it but you can miss it. In this economy, go early.

Week to week the variations swing from coq au vin with gruyere polenta to shrimp and grits to Tuscan beef stew with pecorino polenta. On a recent evening the roasted square of polenta — browned and crisp at the edges with a creamy interior — was placed in broth from sautéed kale, tomato and white beans, beside a boudin blanc sausage. The pale link is made in house from a finely ground, peppery blend of chicken thigh, pork shoulder, bacon and wild chanterelle mushrooms. On a cold night, it's exactly the casual take on French and Italian, and it's downright restorative. Nod to your wine-flushed neighbors — you're practically sharing a table with them anyway — who are likely eating the same thing, and enjoy the smug satisfaction of belonging to the right kind of club.
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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Local Businesses Give Federal Employees a Break

Posted By on Sun, Jan 20, 2019 at 12:13 PM

Pizza at the Diver Bar & Grill, where furloughed federal workers get a break during the shutdown. - FILE
  • File
  • Pizza at the Diver Bar & Grill, where furloughed federal workers get a break during the shutdown.

Here we are on Day 30 of a partial federal government shutdown and those going without paychecks are feeling the pressure. The city of Eureka has set up a GoFundMe to help out local Coast Guard members and a handful of local restaurants and businesses are offering discounts to federal employees.

The Diver Bar & Grill is offering active Coasties with ID $4 pints and 50 percent off pizzas until the shutdown ends. Madrone Brick Fire Pizza and Taproom is offering one free meal to furloughed federal workers with ID. Six Rivers Brewery is giving federal employees 10 percent off their bills and some happy-hour pricing during the shutdown.

If the kids are getting antsy, Bounce-a-Palooza has announced via Facebook that federal employees with ID can bring them in for a free bounce. That ID will get you into the Eureka Theater for free, too. 
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