Sunday, June 28, 2015

Franklin Barbeque in Austin - Yes - It really is that good!

Eating Franklin Barbeque's brisket needs to be on every foodie and barbecue passionate person's bucket list. Having a little extra time today - and with help of a young entrepreneur, I finally made the trip today to Franklins.

Yes. It is that good! Really that good.

Most who started feasting on the meat joined the lines today as early 7:00am. Thanks to a young entrepreneur, I did a bit of pitch hitting. Demond is a young entrepreneur who created a summer "line sitting service." called BBQ FastPass. Demond decided there were far better ways than bagging groceries to save for a car this summer. He is an entrepreneur - and saw a need to meet. It is simple. You tweet Desmond. You pay Desmond - and he stand in line for you - and then show up just in time to order and enjoy. I love it when young entrepreneurs work hard at solving problems.

Read more about Desmond here:

The Texas trinity for barbecue requires you to try ribs, brisket and sausage. Franklins uses spareribs for their ribs. They also offer you fatty and lean brisket. I also ordered some of their smoked turkey breast. They also offer beans, potato salad and coleslaw. 

I have eaten a lot of barbecue. And I am fortunate to be a Kansas City BBQ Society sanctioned contest judge.

This was great barbecue. It is probably the best fatty brisket I have ever eaten. The ribs were good. I prefer meatier baby backs over spareribs. Their sausage was spicy. And their sides were pretty good. The potato salad was more "mashy" than I like in my potato salad. The beans were terrific. And the cole slaw slightly on the southern tangy style.

But it was great BBQ and worth a trip for all!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Farah Quinns famous Nasi Jinggo Bali?

Recently, while traveling in SE Asia, I had a chance to fly Air Asia. It is one of the leading contenders of “budget airlines” that is changing the air scene across Asia. In pricing a trip from Singapore to Bali, the Singapore Airlines lowest price was over $500, while AirAsia weighed in at less than $200.

The objective of the low cost airlines is to compete at the lowest base price, and then encourage you to add on services and extras for a fee. By the time I added on a few for extra luggage weight to accommodate my suitcase, a nearly forced $12 insurance fee and extra fees to sit in an exit row and board the plane first, I ended up paying about $300 for the 3 hour trip.

Food on the airline is inexpensive and priced to make it easy for you to say yes. The airline is painted bright and full of the color red. Menu cards in the seat pocket are bold and entice you with a “chef inspired” meals. For this fight, the menu was touting a famous “Nasi Jinggo Bali” made by Farah Quinn, the supposed “most famous chef of Indonesia.” Farah evidently went to high school in Pittsburgh in the US, and then went on to become a super model and eventually a chef. She appears on several celebrity cooking shows.

I am not sure if she is the most famous – but she must be one of the most attractive. Here is the menu card from the seat pocket.


I decided I wanted to try the famous Nasi Jinggo Bali. It is dish consisting of stewed shredded chicken, with spicy vegetables, a sambal (a famous SE Asia salsa of chili, onions, garlic and peppers) all served on top of rice. The price for this dish, created by “Indonesia’s top celebrity chef?” Only 39.000 Indonesian rupees or about $4. Looks, good in the picture. Sounds good. Why not?

Here is what my final dish looked like:

It didn’t have the level of chicken, vegetable or sambal that was described on the menu. The taste was not bad. But it was not something I would order again. Online, another reviewer said “it was the bet nasi he had ever tasted.” I think not. I have tasted a lot of nasi’s in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia over the last 10 years, and this one left much to be desired.

They are overselling the dish by using a supermodel and incorrect pictures. I am sure critics will remind me that it was only $4, and so what did I expect? Point taken. Perhaps there are cultural issues here?

But I won’t be rushing to find a “Farah Quinn” restaurant anytime soon if she is willing to put her signature on this.

Friday, January 4, 2013


In the first weeks of the new year, everyone is trying to eat healthy.

I refuse to throw out saved cheese and pates. But at least I can augment with some green things.

Tonight, broccoli, with a spinach whole wheat past on a sea of pea puree (baby spring peas, jalopenos, ricotta and garlic.).

Have a green weekend!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dr. Pepper Chipotle Smoked Pork Butt

I know. The title just says it all, doesn’t it?

Next week, I am attending a weekend working meeting for a new startup I am participating in. The meeting begins on Friday night, after all of us finish our regular jobs. We will plow through ideas and brilliance all weekend.

But first, we have to eat on the Friday night.

They all turned to me and said, “Rick, can you whip something up? Do something with your smoker…”

And so it will be.

In thinking through what I wanted to do with pork, I was reminded of the great go together taste today when I was at Chipotle. Yes, the fast food chain Mexican restaurant. I am not going to lie. I visit there every 2-3 weeks. I like being able to create a relatively healthy dinner out of their meats and salad.

But one of my favorite ingredients in dousing layers chipotle tabasco sauce. Chipotle is smoked chili pepper made from a smoke-dried jalapeƱo. The Tabasco brand combines it with vinegar to give you a tangy smokey flavor that I often apply to a lot of foods with I want to kick it up.

And so, with the idea of chipotle tabasco, I begin to think about what I could do with pork. Or specifically, port butt – which isn’t actually a but at all, but really the shoulder of the pig.

And then I remembered a marinate that I tried years ago, using Dr. Pepper.

I went out on to the internet to get inspired. I stumbled across the website of Ree. I just have to share with you a few bite of her wisdom. Ree goes by “the pioneer woman.” She describes herself as a “desperate housewife….living in the country.” She says she channels Lucille all, Vivien Leigh and Ethel Merman.”

What I especially love is the slogan in her web title, “Plowing through life in the country – one calf nut at a time.”

Now that is my kind of pioneer women. She must surely be back from my neck of the woods in Kansas or Nebrask or something where up ther in those colder countries…

Ree cooked a pulled pork shoulder with Dr. Pepper in a smoker. I will do the same, but add to it a brine and a glaze of Dr. Pepper and Chipotle.

My motivation is to cook something pedestrian, yet tasty for a finicky group of California entrepreneurs. Here is what Ree said when she was cooking her port butt:

First of all: pork butt. It isn’t a pork butt at all, but a pork shoulder. Second, it’s just a wonderful cut of meat. It cooks up moist and tender and results in so much meat, you can either feed a crowd or stretch the meat into at least two or three different meals for your fam damily. Third, I loved Johnny Johnson in fifth grade and he didn’t love me back. And finally, this fun and sweet/spicy concoction of Dr Pepper and chipotle peppers really did turn out to be a lovely combination.If you haven’t ever tried it, cook up a pork shoulder sometime soon. You’ll be amazed at how much you can do with the stuff.”

Oh what happens to gilted Midwestern gals when they didn’t get to kiss their 11 year old crushes? Do they end up on farms, homeschooling and making up witty remarks? Ree – if you ever find this, I am glad you are doing what you are doing. And thanks for the inspiration.

(You can see more of Ree and her writing and recipes at:
Here are the ingredients I will start with. I will update you in about 10 days in how it all turned out! (And let me know if you want a copy of my finished recipe!)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 San Francisco Restaurant Goal list inspired by Michael Bauer

It is January 1. Time for the New Years resolutions. And time to begin making the list of most amazing places I want to – and will eat at in 2013.

And of course, again the resolution to NEVER eat in ordinary places while dining out.  It continues to amaze me how many people just go out and pick a restaurant based upon the ability to “get in” rather than doing a little thinking ahead.

And what better way to start on my 2013 list than to begin with one of my favorite restaurant reviewers, Michael Bauer, the restaurant reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle. It is true, that I have a bit of an affinity for the man, since he (also) hales from Kansas City. But when I look at his food choices, and then compare later with my own thoughts, they often match up.


Bauer in his annual column “Best New Restaurants of 2012” outlines a group of great new places, none of which I have been to. I hope to remedy that in 2013.

His article also summarizes a few changes in the San Francisco food scene, including:

  • Italian is no longer the “in” thing
  • San Francisco restaurants are developing distinct personalities.
  • Marin Country is in (Just over the Goldengate Bridge
  • Less Choices on the menu.
  • Vegetables are closer to the center of attraction.
  • Wines from outside California are becoming popular.
And so, based upon Bauer's list, I will begin with my 2013 TO DO LIST for San Francisco – version 1


Why / what I want to try
The menu changes every 3 months!
SF / 1085 Mission near 7th street
Tacos and enchiladas. But Quesadillas with rabbit.
Berkely / 2020 Shattuck Ave. (near University Avenue
A homey diner.Buttermilk fried chicken, but upscaled.
Oakland / 1915 San Pablo Ave. (near Williams Street
Local’s Corner
Seafood. Uni. Oysters soup.
SF / 2500 Bryant St. (at 23rd Street)
Mill Valley Beerworks
Small plates. Crisp okra.
Mill Valley / 173 Throckmorton Ave. (at Madrona Street), Mill Valley
Redd Wood
Pizza in Yountville
Yountville / 6755 Washington St. (near Madison), Yountville
Restaurant 1833
Whole truffled chicken and iceberg salad. Old style
Carmel / Monterey
Rich Table
“the most exciting to open this year….” Sardine chips, desserts and much more….
199 Gough St. (at Oak Street),
State Bird Provisions
Rolled carts of food
1529 Fillmore St. (near O'Farrell Street)
Terrapin Crossroads
Chopped salad, grilled chicken
San Rafael / 100 Yacht Club Drive (at Francisco Boulevard),
Bar Tartine

Bay Area's best new restaurants of 2012

The year's top new spots offer diversity, personality - and plenty of vegetables

Michael Bauer

A few times this year I almost panicked, thinking that there were no new restaurants worthy of review. Yet, just as I was figuring out a revised game plan, a flush of new places would open.

However, I traveled around the Bay Area more this year. Even in this compact region, where we can go from San Francisco to the Wine Country in an hour or so, I still put more than 6,000 miles on the odometer.

This year it felt as if Marin County finally stepped up its dining game, with the opening of such places as Mill Valley Beerworks and Terrapin Creek. My Top 10 list of best new places of the year also includes restaurants in Oakland, Berkeley, Yountville and Monterey.

As in years past, I had to make tough decisions about what to leave out. I loved Campo Fina in Healdsburg and gave it a three-star review, but omitted it because it was similar to the owners' other restaurant, Scopa. Nopalito on Ninth Avenue in San Francisco could easily have been on the list, but it was so similar to the original I gave it a pass.

The list illustrates one of the major trends of the year. No longer is Cal-Ital king. Now the dining scene is fueled by more diversity at places like Bar Tartine, where Nick Balla has transformed the food by giving it an Eastern European twist. I did an Update review this year, but the restaurant didn't make the list because it isn't new.

In a Travel & Leisure article a few months ago, Adam Sachs found that what characterizes the food at many of the newer San Francisco restaurants is a distinct personality.

I couldn't agree more, whether it's the Scandinavian food produced at Plaj or the Turkish-California dishes at Troya on Fillmore. While neither of these places made my list, they are still noteworthy additions to the dining scene.

As a result of this newfound personality and confidence, menus continue to shrink. The once-standard menu that would list a dozen appetizers and main courses seems to be going the way of the landline phone. Menus at places like Hopscotch in Oakland and AQ in San Francisco list half that many, which works to showcase the chef's talent in the best light. These sorts of menus are truly a case where less is more.

Vegetables moved closer to the center of the plate this year. Maybe it's the tighter economy, but protein portions are shrinking and chefs are using their creativity on what surrounds the meat or fish.

The best example of this is at Mill Valley Beerworks, where David Wilcox creates the sort of dishes you don't even realize are meat-free.

This brings up another welcome trend: the emergence of beer.

At Abbot's Cellar in San Francisco, artisan beer is given a respect once reserved for wine. Chef Adam Dulye crafts interesting beer and food pairings, making this a restaurant to watch, despite not making the list. The food here, and at Mill Valley Beerworks, goes way beyond stereotypical beer-centric fare.

Cocktails continue to gain momentum at restaurants like Hopscotch, where the bartenders shake up some interesting combinations behind a counter that looks as if it belongs in an old-fashioned diner. While the emphasis on local ingredients is so strong that many restaurants don't even bother to advertise that fact anymore, that's not the case with the wines.

Many wine lists I've reviewed his year are as compressed as the menus, and are dominated by wines from outside California.

In a way we are ceding one of our best assets because our proximity to Wine Country has been partly responsible for our rich food culture. It's nice to have international selections, but when we make such a case for sourcing locally, shouldn't wine be part of the equation?

Not all the action in 2012 was in new restaurants. You can tell it's a vibrant dining scene when established restaurants get even better.

This year, I wrote an Update review of Benu, raising it to four stars because Corey Lee continues to amaze me with his seamless blending of Eastern and Western techniques.

I also raised Quince to four stars. Michael Tusk has taken his Italian-inspired food in new, exciting directions, and his wife, Lindsay Tusk, has continued to upgrade the already elegant interior. Neither of these will be in the accompanying list because they made the cut the year they opened. They're just even better now. That's also the case with restaurants like Bar Tartine and Gitane.

Despite our love of everything new, I need to give props to two restaurants that have been reborn while respecting tradition: Original Joe's and the Trident.

Original Joe's thrived in the Tenderloin for more than 75 years, but a fire in 2007 forced its closure, and it took five years for the family to decide where to reopen. They chose North Beach and have created a restaurant that embraces the past without being a cliche.

The Trident in Sausalito was a hangout for Janis Joplin and her friends in the 1960s, and for many years was Horizons. It's been purchased by the owners of the Buena Vista Cafe, who have lovingly restored it while preserving its stellar views.

These all help to create a richer Bay Area dining scene. The new restaurants seem to spur the established ones to be even better, and we still have the sense of history to respect our elders.

Best new Bay Area restaurants of 2012

Here are my picks for the top 10 new restaurants I reviewed in 2012, in alphabetical order . A couple opened in late 2011, but because of The Chronicle's policy of waiting a month to let the restaurant staff settle in and then visiting three times before writing a review, the restaurants didn't find their way into print until 2012.


Every three months, the interior of this Mid-Market restaurant changes dramatically, along with the menu. The copper-top bar and warm color scheme of fall turns into a cool Carrera marble bar and white tablecloths in winter.

And Mark Liberman, who honed his skills at La Folie, creates a completely different menu, too. I still remember a dish from my first visit a year ago: avocado blistered with a blow torch to order and served with squid, parsnips, sesame and grapefruit.

That's no longer on the menu, of course, but now you might find mussels and salsify with stinging nettles ($14), or beef poached in mushroom tea ($32) with horseradish, bok choy and turnips. 1085 Mission St. (near Seventh Street), San Francisco; (415) 341-9000. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday; brunch Sunday.


Matt Gandin was chef de cuisine for five years at Delfina and he carries over the same exacting standards to what he's now doing at this Mexican restaurant.

Gandin offers tacos, enchiladas and other typical fare, but there's a subtle fanaticism that's missing at many other Mexican places.

Quesadillas are filled with rabbit ($13); enchiladas are plump with heirloom pork ($14); and meatballs are made with beef and pork ($12) lightened with ricotta and simmered in an adobo sauce.

Another winner: whole spit-roasted chicken ($39; pictured) brined and rubbed with lemon, garlic and ground annato seed. Fire-roasted potatoes, rice with rajas and black beans with epazote and arbol chiles come on the side.

The stylish dining room includes innovative acoustical work by Meyer Sound, making conversation possible at the always-packed tables. 2020 Shattuck Ave. (near University Avenue), Berkeley; (510) 926-6300, Dinner nightly.


One of the most exciting trends of 2012 is chefs who create extraordinary food in casual surroundings. That's clearly illustrated at this restaurant that resembles a homey diner.

The service under Jenny Schwarz has a fine-dining edge and the menu under Kyle Itani gives classic American combinations a gentle Asian twist.

He knows when to push the envelope and when to stop, serving buttermilk fried chicken ($17) with chopped vegetables flavored with chrysanthemum leaves and shishito peppers. Yonsei oyster ($5) is topped with sea urchin, salmon roe and citrus soy sauce; and a pork chop ($23), is arranged over sliced persimmons, with bamboo shoots coated in lardo and shaved pickled turnips.

The restaurant also serves some of the best cocktails around. 1915 San Pablo Ave. (near Williams Street), Oakland; (510) 788-6217. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

Local's Corner

The food at this creative restaurant is defined by what can be produced with a limited kitchen, yet Jake Des Voignes offers a menu unlike anything else in the Bay Area. The dishes focus on seafood, with raw or lightly cooked fish.

When I reviewed the restaurant in late spring, the most memorable dish was uni with English peas, mint and preserved lemon. Now it's served with mandarins, turnips and celery ($15).

Another standout was oyster soup, a creamy blend with diced red potatoes, raw miyagi oysters and baby turnips, creating a unique juxtaposition of land and sea. Now the chef features oyster pot pie ($15) with fennel and carrots. 2500 Bryant St. (at 23rd Street), San Francisco; (415) 800-7945. Breakfast, brunch or lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday; brunch Sunday.

Mill Valley Beerworks

When you think of a beer pub, vegetables aren't the first thing that comes to mind, but chef David Wilcox had a different vision. When I visited, 13 of the 16 small plates were vegetable-based.

While the restaurant has been open more than two years, it expanded recently and Wilcox has made it a destination. It almost goes without saying the menu changes constantly, but on my visits I enjoyed crisp okra ($8), charred from the grill and coated in cooked cherry tomatoes with anchovy, mint and serrano chile; caramelized baby turnips ($8) in chimichurri with sauteed turnip greens; and romano beans ($9) with poached egg, roasted tomato sauce and olives.

If you crave protein, the pork meatballs ($13) in chunky tomato sauce are outstanding. I knew the lightly grilled albacore ($14) would be fresh when I saw a whole fish being carried in the front door by a fisherman. 173 Throckmorton Ave. (at Madrona Street), Mill Valley; (415) 888-8218. Lunch and dinner daily.

Redd Wood

These days every top-tier chef opens a downscale option; for Richard Reddington of Redd it's this nearby pizza restaurant.

The excellent pizza - I love the version with prosciutto, arugula, grana padano and a generous grind of black pepper ($15) - is only one item that keeps the place packed with locals and visitors. Other excellent dishes include meatballs ($14) in tomato sauce with grilled bread, and a magnificent rib eye ($30/$59) with bone marrow and olive butter.

When the restaurant was the recently built Cantinetta Piero, the interior never jelled, but now it's solidified thanks to Erin Martin's design featuring dark wood and imaginatively recycled accents. 6755 Washington St. (near Madison), Yountville; (707) 299-5030. Breakfast Friday-Sunday; lunch and dinner daily.

Restaurant 1833

When I go to Monterey or Carmel, this is the one restaurant where I always want to eat. Built in one adobe dating back to 1833, the place not only has a rich history but a beautiful warren of dining rooms, including a patio with fire pits, all within view of a 150-year-old oak tree. Chef Levi Mezick earned his stripes in New York, and blends American favorites with an urban sophistication.

His iceberg salad ($10) features the chilled lettuce cut into a thick, round slice and topped with blue cheese, candied walnuts and slices of Granny Smith apple processed in an immersion bath with Riesling. The must-order item: whole truffled chicken ($39; pictured). 500 Hartnell (at Calle Principal), Monterey; (831) 643-1833. Dinner nightly.

Rich Table

This gets my vote as the most exciting restaurant to open this year. Husband-and-wife team Evan and Sarah Rich worked at some of the best restaurants in New York and moved here to open their own place, which they did after getting experience at Quince, Coi and Michael Mina.

The storefront interior is modest, but the constantly changing menu isn't: red trout ($25) with spaghetti squash, cippolini onions and pea shoots; tagliatelle ($17) with pork bolognese, apples and almonds; lasagna ($19) with chicken, and mustard green salsa verde.

You'll always find house-made wild fennel bread ($4) and sardine chips ($7), a twist on a dish Evan Rich learned at Bouley in New York. It consists of potato chips slit in the center to hold the fish, arranged on horseradish cream. Sarah Rich prepares desserts, which shouldn't be missed. 199 Gough St. (at Oak Street), San Francisco; (415) 355-9085. Dinner Wednesday-Monday.

State Bird Provisions

When the September issue of Bon Appetit named this the best new restaurant in the country, it was no surprise to its legions of fans. The restaurant is also popular with chefs, due to its innovative format and well-liked owners, Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, of the much beloved and departed Rubicon.

Waiters roll carts from table to table, filled with potato chips with house-cured caviar and other cold dishes. The kitchen will also cook a batch of duck neck dumplings in sauerkraut jus or sweetbread meatballs with quince and pickled vegetables, which waiters hawk from hand-carried trays.

The menu changes often; most items are $5 to $10. One thing you'll always find: deep-fried quail ($8/$16), the California state bird and restaurant's namesake. 1529 Fillmore St. (near O'Farrell Street), San Francisco; (415) 795-1272. Dinner Monday-Saturday; brunch Sunday.

Terrapin Crossroads

I don't know of any other Bay Area venue that so successfully combines live entertainment and food. It's the brainchild of Phil Lesh, an original member of the Grateful Dead. He loves performing, but he got tired of the travel, so he took over the former Seafood Peddler and turned it into a stage where he hosts concerts.

The back half is a separate dining room and patio, the domain of Chris Fernandez. He creates an American menu that includes an excellent chopped salad ($14) with grilled chicken, bacon, avocado, blue cheese, eggs, tomato and creamy herb vinaigrette. Hangtown fry ($11.50; pictured) is a masterful blend of fried oysters on cooked spinach and bacon in an herb crepe.

This is also a good place for rotisserie chicken ($19), fish and chips ($19) and pizza ($11-$14). 100 Yacht Club Drive (at Francisco Boulevard), San Rafael; (415) 524-2773. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday; brunch Saturday-Sunday.

Michael Bauer is The San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic. Find his blog daily at, and go to to read his previous reviews. E-mail: Twitter: @michaelbauer1

Saturday, June 16, 2012


My next evolution has been pizza crust making. I have been researching the perfect crust - one that has tang, heft and the right amount of moisture for texture.

I found it. It is delicious. The goal is to create this dough - let it rise, and then continue to flavor (slightly ferment for tang) in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

This was a simple pizza of mozzerala, italian sausage and red onions. But the crust was magnificant.

The recipe comes from "Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day" by
Jeff Hertzberg

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Gingerbread and Cream

It is simple. Light. But a delicious dessert.
Homemade ginger cake.
And unsweetened cream.
Tastes great. And makes you feel good when you eat it.
Who doesn't love ginge?