Sourdough I have known and loved

I’m a bread hound. If I could live on (good) bread and water, I would definitely give it a try. While out here in the San Francisco Bay Area (home of the wild yeast Lactobacillus sanfrancisco), I have eaten nearly a loaf of sourdough bread a day.


I started my visit with a stop by Safeway. Unfortunately, at the time of night that my plane landed all they had was Semifreddi’s. While their rustic is good, what was still soft was the sour batard and it doesn’t have the tang I was craving. It is a nice, dense, chewy bread, though, so I mainly used it for sandwiches.


At Arizmendi’s on Lakeshore, I tried the city sour batard. Very good flavor, although the crust was darker and thicker than expected, making it tough to get through to the bread inside. I finally ended up tunneling my way through the loaf and dipping the quite delicious center into lightly salted and peppered olive oil.


So far my favorite (of this trip) has been Raymond’s. Made in South San Francisco, it had a wonderful sour bite and was chewy, with a great crust. 


At the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market, I picked up a baguette of rustic olive bread from Phoenix Pastafico. It was filled with large black and green olives for lovely, well balanced olive flavor. It made the best tomato sandwiches!

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Grand Lake Farmers Market

I went to the Grand Lake Farmers Market today and was amazed by all the beautiful colors. Here are some pictures:

Anchor Oyster Bar – San Francisco

What visit to San Francisco can be called complete without some clam chowder or Dungeness crab? Not a one!

We were in the Castro today around lunchtime, so we stopped at Anchor Oyster Bar. I used to live up the street from there and would regularly come down to sit at the bar with a cup of chowder and some sourdough bread.


We started the meal the same way with a cup of chowder each and we ended up with three orders of bread, as I was using mine as a spoon. The soup is rich and creamy with lots of clams. After a chilly morning of photographing, it certainly hit the spot.

We both ordered the special – Dungeness crab meat burger on a toasted sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, and tarter sauce. Large pieces of lump crab meat on an overfilled sandwich. Just a hint of sauce to hold things together but not overwhelm the delicate taste of the crab.

In short, it was a terrific sandwich and a wonderful meal!

While I think they are a little stingy with the bread, the wait staff is quick and efficient.

Val’s Burgers – Castro Valley

My good friend Brian turned me onto Val’s Burgers several years ago and it was good to learn during this trip that nothing has changed. In fact, it is probably safe to say that nothing has changed on the decor or menu or service since the 50’s!

Val’s is an old style diner with wood instead of chrome but the burgers are thick, juicy and affordable. The burgers are so juicy that the bun nearly disintegrates by the time you get to the last bite. There isn’t a lot of seasonings or fillers in this burger–it is pure meat, cooked to order. The three of us had an excellent meal for right around $20 bucks. I got the baby burger (that’s 1/3 lb) with cheese and it was plenty good. I can’t imagine eating a papa burger–1 lb of meat!

A couple of tips–one order of fries will feed two, maybe three people and the milkshake is enough to share as well. They only take cash and are closed Sundays/Mondays.

Luke’s Grill – San Leandro

I met up with an author friend of mine for lunch in San Leandro. We went to Luke’s Grill for Greek Food.



I started with a glass of retsina, a traditional white wine with the unique scent and taste of pine resin. Originally distributed in amphora sealed with resin, the wine now is either aged in pine barrels or has actually pieces of pine resin added during fermentation. I love the taste and the glass I had was quite delicious.

Our appetizers were the tsatziki with warm pita. I love this yogurt garlic dip and ate most of it myself. We also got the saganaki, a goat cheese that they flambe at the table. Very fun (what can beat cheese AND fire?) and incredibly tasty, too.



For the meal, I had the souvlaki in pita with chicken. Well seasoned meat with veggies and more of the tsatziki. It was served with french fries that were a little overcooked but tasted very good dipped in the leftover appetizer tsatziki. My dining companion had the spanakopita, a spinach and cheese filled pastry. She seemed to enjoy it but I’m not a fan of cooked spinach, so I didn’t try any.

The wait staff is very friendly and quick to answer questions. We also arrived right after a large group and they snuck our orders in first so we didn’t have to wait forever. Luke’s Grill remains my go to place for Greek while visiting Northern California.

Bowzer’s Pizza in Alameda



We took a little drive last night over to Alameda, a small island in the SF Bay adjacent to Oakland. We made the drive because all of us were craving pizza and Bowzer’s Pizza is worth going out of your way for.

As you can see, there wasn’t much left:



The crust was New York style thin and cooked to perfection and the toppings were plentiful and high quality from local vendors. The cheese was just gooey enough and the sauce wasn’t too sweet. The slices totally hit the bullseye!

Despite all the TV’s in the place turned to Disney Channel, there weren’t that many children in the place and those that were present were accompanied by adults and pretty well behaved.

The Ranch – Hayward



Hayward is not on anyone’s list as the place for haute cuisine but they can rustle up some darn good grub.

The Ranch is on Mission Street and serves absolutely excellent steaks. I had the Rib Eye and my dining companions had the NY Steak. Mine came out perfectly medium rare and melted like butter in the mouth. Unfortunately, the corn they served with it came straight out of the can and the center of the baked potato wasn’t cooked. We also ordered the fried zuchini appetizer and the spears were large and pretty darn tasty. As I was mainly focused on the meat, I’m willing to overlook the veggie issues.

When we were there, the parking lot was full as it was the Oakland Raiders first preseason game. The bar was packed with rednecks and Raider’s fans who got a little noisy. The dining room wasn’t too full, though, and we got our food very quickly from the attentive servers.