Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Doughnuts Rising

Posted By on Tue, Jul 4, 2017 at 10:00 AM

I'm your huckleberry. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • I'm your huckleberry.
Sit-down doughnut options are too few and far between. And yet the doughnut should be a legitimate breakfast option alongside bacon and eggs, pancakes and waffles. Drive-thru doughnut shops are necessary because sometimes time is of the essence, people. But can we not give this glorious, unifying food that crosses all social and political boundaries its due with some plates and tablecloths?
Serious doughnuts. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Serious doughnuts.
McIntosh Farm Country Store (1264 Giuntoli Lane, Arcata) may not do tablecloths but it takes the humble doughnut seriously and allows you space to enjoy them with more dignity than your car or the office breakroom. The selection is limited but significant, fresh fruit glazes, lemon and apple fillings and cinnamon sugar among them. The yeasty doughnuts themselves are springy, chewier and denser than the typical cake or old fashioned, with a crisp edge. The swipe of strawberry glaze is like the frosting incarnation of strawberry ice cream and the huckleberry is pleasingly tart with bits of berry ($1.99). If you are torn between trying a doughnut or that plate of bacon and eggs, the maple glazed with none-too-sweet apple filling and pieces of crisp, still warm bacon on top has you covered ($2.50). And possibly covered if you don't eat carefully because that is a lot of filling.

No frosting required. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • No frosting required.
On a recent visit, I nearly missed the pan of cinnamon rolls ($3.99) just out of the oven and cooling atop the pastry case. (PSA: Tall people, use your privilege in these moments to alert the small in stature to the presence of baked goods they might not be able to see. Thank you.) No icing required — they are soft, buttery spirals with an audible crunch of brown sugar.


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Friday, June 30, 2017

Naughty

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 1:05 PM

Start with the fork if you like, but you're kidding yourself. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Start with the fork if you like, but you're kidding yourself.

Let's not pretend names don't matter. This week Ferndale's favorite foodie son Guy Fieri revealed that his trademark Donkey Sauce — principal export of Flavortown — is just aioli. It's hard to know whether we should feel duped or just relieved on behalf of donkeys. And did aioli really need rebranding? Naming is a tricky business, the pitfalls of which include over-hyping and forced cheekiness. (See every cocktail you ordered when you turned 21.)

Humboldt Sweets Bakery and Cafe (614 Main Street, Ferndale), where Fieri and his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives crew have filmed, sells out of its playfully named Knotty Buns ($5) if you don't get there early enough on the weekend. What appears to be a jam-topped brioche is actually a knot (we see what you did there) of cinnamon roll dough scraps — flaky at the edges, streaked with cinnamon and glaze — anchored by a cream cheese center and topped with a dollop of jammy raspberry sauce. It's a heavy kitchen sink of justifiably breakfast-y indulgences in a little paper cupcake liner. Does it live up to the naughty hype of its name? Once you give up on your fork and start pulling at the chunks of cinnamon roll, dabbing and scooping at the berry and cream cheese, your fingers sticky as a toddler's — yes. Yes, it does. Have it on the patio with its sweet backdrop of flowers, brazenly close to the church down the street.
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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Meltdown

Posted By on Sat, Jun 17, 2017 at 10:13 AM

Brisket grilled cheese in the garden. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Brisket grilled cheese in the garden.

Artisanal toast hasn't yet made its way past the Redwood Curtain but expect it soon. Just wait. Until then, you can work on grilled cheese.

The Artisan Cheese Factory, née Loleta Cheese Factory (252 Loleta Drive, Loleta), upped the ante on its bevy of samples when it opened the Queso Kings grilled cheese bar in the back of the shop. It's a no-brainer and it has saved the dignity of many. (Don't pretend you've never toothpicked your way through a pound of cheese samples one cubic centimeter at a time. We've all been there.)

Continue reading »

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Mussel Bound

Posted By on Sat, Jun 3, 2017 at 4:15 PM

Mussels with a splash of Thai curry. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Mussels with a splash of Thai curry.
Put away your clam diggers — domoic acid has put the local clam digging party on hold and mid-calf pants are hard to pull off anyway. But this is not to say shellfish is off the table. In fact, let's take a moment to appreciate the other mollusks that are so often overshadowed by our glamorous local oysters. (Oh, don't pout, oysters — you have a whole festival so sit down a minute.)

Our county runneth over with chowder. Not all of it is good. (Psst, cooks: If you can stand a spoon in it, ease up.) On the other hand, Salt Fish House (761 Eighth St., Arcata) has a solid entry with thick bacon and tender clams that is luxuriously creamy ($9). You would not be in the least bit deprived ordering it for dinner with a salad.

But look outside at the weather. The days of chunky fisherman sweaters before nightfall are behind us for now. (Maybe forever — we're apparently leaning in on climate change these days.) Drop a layer and ask for the curry mussels ($14). The enamel bowl is splashed over with a light red Thai-style curry sauce, chopped cilantro and fresh jalapeño slices. Swipe up extra coconut-rich sauce with the grill-striped bread (ask for it lightly done if you mind a dark char). As for the mussels themselves, they are steamed to a lush plumpness and are full of briny, earthy flavor. That's a luxury, too.


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Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Upside Down

Posted By on Sun, May 28, 2017 at 3:07 PM

Pineapple upside down cake is peak American retro dessert. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Pineapple upside down cake is peak American retro dessert.
In the 1950s and 1960s, sweeping into a dining room or a backyard barbecue with a cinched waist and pineapple upside down cake for company was the height of suburban hostessing. The magazine clippings and index cards bearing recipes for America's own version of tart tartine could have built a land bridge to Hawaii. But after a couple of decades, the maraschino-studded cake fell on hard times, considered as tacky as the tiki torches stashed in the back of the garage. I blame burnout on fake luaus and widespread use of box cake mix, both of which are the worst unless you are under 6 years old.

Like many mid-century marvels — teak tables, movie musicals — it's making a comeback. (Note to food magazines: I see you trying to bring back aspic and that's a hard no.) The bundt version at Polynesian-style barbecue joint Sammy's BBQ (1709 Fifth St., Eureka) makes a solid case for the return of the pineapple upside down cake ($3.50). The homemade yellow cake, whipped up by the family matriarch, is firm, eggy and dotted with chunks of fruit. The top has the requisite rings of pineapple and the sticky, caramelized brown sugar. Those of you scowling at the maraschino cherries, I would like to remind you that throughout childhood you guzzled Shirley Temples for the cherries floating therein and fought with siblings over possession of the sole gleaming cherry atop a shared banana split. Let yourself enjoy it. If you're too full from ribs and kalua pork, order a piece to go. You've got a comeback in you, too.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Deep Dish Diplomacy

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 2:14 PM

Oy! Meat pies from another hemisphere. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Oy! Meat pies from another hemisphere.

Hey, Australia. Are we good? We had a weird phone call followed by a weird meeting and now it's awkward. But look, we made your favorite: meat pies! For those unfamiliar, meat pies are the wings and nachos of the land down under. They are at once a comfort food and the portable meal that launched a thousand hooligans. 
Less sloppy than a Sloppy Joe. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Less sloppy than a Sloppy Joe.
Unlike when restaurants whip up Asian salads and iffy Cinco de Mayo taco bowls, an actual Australian consulted on the recipe for Slice of Humboldt Pie's (828 I St., Arcata) Australian meat pies ($3.50 empanada, $7 individual pie, $28 family size). Blending in among the hot case of empanadas and pot pies, the antipodean favorites are stuffed with saucy ground Humboldt grassfed beef, minced onion and peppers. The flavor is ketchup-y in a good way, reminiscent of the sweet tomato sauce of a sloppy Joe. And unlike that quintessentially American sandwich — the engineering flaws of which are proclaimed in its very name — the filling is tidily contained in Slice of Humboldt's irreproachably buttery, flaky crust.

One can easily imagine it as a late-night drinking snack, a morning hangover helper or something to tuck into when you're jet lagged after a 22-hour flight. Cheers, mates.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Pressed for Cuban Sandwiches

Posted By on Wed, May 3, 2017 at 5:09 PM

The Cubano at the Vista. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The Cubano at the Vista.

The plot twists and sudden shifts of international politics have never come at us with such breakneck speed. Sure, you can hop a flight to Cuba now but who knows in a month or two? Stockpiling Cohibas in your bunker humidor now might not be a bad idea. And you'll need a local back-up supplier for Cuban sandwiches in case the travel ban kicks in again because going through Canada is just going to make you feel bad (we see your shade, Trudeau) and Florida just looks overwhelming.

No regime — not even Castro's — lasts forever. Indeed, Bar Fly is no more and The Vista Del Mar has risen it its spot (91 Commercial St., Eureka). New management has made over the institutionally seedy back room, added to the menu and kept the place's deep fryer game strong. The Cubano sandwich ($12) at this bar of the people comes on a fittingly proletariat aluminum tray. Sliced roast pork butt, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickle are all panini pressed on a homemade roll. This version skips the contentious salami and the bread is not technically Cuban but, like all good Cuban sandwiches, it is a savory combination of tart and meaty flavors — like the combination of a picnic and a Sunday dinner. Chase it with a Cuba Libre and toast.





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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Back to the Shack

Posted By on Sat, Apr 22, 2017 at 5:54 PM

Swell as hell. - SAM ARMANINO
  • Sam Armanino
  • Swell as hell.
Surfside Burger Shack (445 Fifth St., Eureka) looks more or less the same — like a colorful, well-used surfboard with a few dings in it. Walking in off the street, you might not guess it's under new ownership. After a deep inhale, you might just think the place is back on its game after a year or so in decline.

The new owners have stepped up Surfside's grassfed beef game with fresh rather than frozen meat but stuck to the basics of the shop. The Southwestern Swell ($8.95) comes with the usual avocado, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo, along with a controlled burn of pepper jack cheese melted over grilled pickled jalapeño slices. Before you freak out because you can't see any avocado, attempt some surfer chill and look under the patty for a mashed schmear — the only reasonable solution to the dilemma of sliding slices. The heat is mellow enough that you can return to work without changing your shirt. For $2, add a split serving of slightly dark hand-cut fries and onion rings, which are as much of a draw as the burger. Fresh fries with skins on, after all, taste not just like fries, but potatoes rendered crisp. The hand-dipped onion rings are puffy, crunchy life preservers, just as you would hope. It's no wonder — look upon the serious fellow at the fryer, dropping in one heavy circle at a time and not looking away for a moment. You have our admiration, sir.

And finally, in a world gone mad, reason has prevailed in this one corner: There are at last milkshakes ($5), tall and thick enough to demand a little work for that first sip. Get thee behind me, secret Starbuck's menu of ridiculous frozen concoctions. I will have a milkshake. In chocolate, vanilla or strawberry.




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Friday, April 7, 2017

#Blessed

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 11:24 AM

Cheeses, take the wheel. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Cheeses, take the wheel.
Humboldt's mac and cheese tour would also have to stop at Bless My Soul Café (29 W. Fifth St., Eureka), where the dish tauntingly appears on the appetizer menu ($7.95). Bring help. The overflowing cauldron of cheddar jack macaroni and cheese pushes the ratio of pasta to cheese to the very edge of reason. It's flecked with dill and dried basil, and spooning it onto your plate yields a cartoonish web of stretchy cheese.
Fresh fried okra. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Fresh fried okra.
Sips of clove-spiced sweet tea ($3.95) will help you recover enough to order the fried okra ($6.95). It's a tumble of whole, fresh okra rolled in cornmeal, fried and modestly sprinkled with the house version of Old Bay seasoning. A bite — take your time, they're hot — reveals the bright green skin and creamy interior that frozen okra cannot deliver. No need to ration the Creole aioli dip because they will bring more. Take that southern hospitality along with a refill on the sweet tea.
The humble catfish with mashed potatoes. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The humble catfish with mashed potatoes.
Less Instagram-friendly but perfectly done is the blackened catfish ($19.95). The humble filet has a surprisingly delicate exterior that's spicy, buttery and smoky. And if you're struggling with choosing sides, go for the full Sunday dinner experience and get the mashed potatoes with dilly cream gravy.


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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Date (and Bacon) Night

Posted By on Sat, Apr 1, 2017 at 1:26 PM

The Salty Sweet delivers. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The Salty Sweet delivers.
We initially missed the bar tucked away in the back of the Diver Bar and Grill (2830 F St., Eureka) and despite the name and the diving helmet logo, it's not a seafood place. But given our current socio-political climate, is this really the biggest shock you've had lately? Shake it off. Finally inside after seasons of passing its brown papered windows, we can crane our necks at the gleaming tin ceiling and the red glow of the wood fire oven in back. If it's chilly out, sit as close as you can and watch the two-person team slide pies in and out with long paddles.

Eat your vegetable fries. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Eat your vegetable fries.
Good news: I called your mom and she said the carrot and parsnip fries ($7) definitely count as a vegetable. They're sweet and nutty, and their light coating makes for a crispy exterior. More news: They will steam and go soggy in a takeout container, so spare no roasted garlic aioli and gobble them up hot.

If you feel the concrete floor and industrial metal chairs could use a little padding, just wait for your warm, pillowy pizza to arrive. A lot is happening with the Salty Sweet pizza ($14), the bubbly crust of which reaches for the edges of your dinner plate. On the savory end is pungent gorgonzola and blue cheese sauce under mozzarella, spinach, shallots and bacon jam. The sweet is delivered by a sprinkling of chopped Medjool dates. It's a balance of not just sweet and salty, but smoky and creamy. The crust is the real star, though, with a buttery sheen of olive oil and the wood fire char that gives it a crisp bite and a soft middle.






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