Friday, August 29, 2008

Off to Yosemite today

Off to Yosemite today with a bunch of folks.  We'll be back on Sunday afternoon.  Yosemite temperatures should consistently be north of 80-90 degrees.

I'm also going to drive a rental Mazda 6 on the way.  My co-driver, Adit, is also an avid car enthusiast.  He owns a Mazda 3s Touring Sedan with a 5-speed manual transmission, so already loves Mazdas.  His has a 2.3 liter four-cylinder engine putting out 156 bhp.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Restaurant Review - Amber India, San Francisco

(posted July 29, 2008)

Amber's newest location, in San Francisco, is the swankiest one yet.  What about the food?  Well, it also beats the other locations out!  (although Amber Cafe in Mountain View always wins for snacks).

Whats good there - butter chicken (yum!), bhindi are really good.  Seekh kababs, kaali daal (black daal) and chicken tikka are ok. But overall the food is very nice.

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Amber India Restaurant
25 Yerba Buena Lane
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 777-0500

Restaurant Review - Roti Indian Bistro

(posted July 24, 2008)

Roti Indian Bistro is ok.  But not good.  Seekh kababs, paneer tikka, rote, naan, aaloo gobi, daal makhani.... all ok. 

The decor was nice, and the food smells were good.

I went to the Burlingame location.  Probably never going again - too many really good options available 20 minutes north or south of Burlingame.

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Restaurant Review - Burma Super Star

(posted July 23, 2008)

Burma Super Star, San Francisco

Burma Super Star, with its main location in San Francisco (309 Clement St), is amazingly good (and of course it serves Burmese food). 

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Its so good, I rank it at the same level as Banana Leaf (although I've only gone a few times, so it hasn't been tested over time yet)

If you go, you MUST order the tea leaf salad and the samosa soup.  Everything is good, but these two are a must. the tea leaf salad (pictured below) will be tossed at your table... only heightens the anticipation.

Tea Leaf Salad

There is now a second location in Alameda - I had lunch there today.  Just as great, so I like the fact that I don't have to look for freaking parking in the Clement St area any more if I don't want to.

Chocolatier Review - La Bonbonniere, Geneva

(posted July 21, 2008)

Started in 1921 under the name of Werder confectionery, La Bonbonniere is located at 11, rue de rive - CH 1204 Genève.

I have to say - their chocolates are amazing!  Each and every one!  Blows Rohr (also of Geneva), Neuhaus etc. completely out of the water, and gets up to Marcolini (Belgium) levels. 

In particular, their Marzipan bon bon was the best I have ever had. Best. Ever.

The chocolates I had were 2 days old when I got my grubby paws on them.

Restaurant Review - Koh Samui & the Monkey

(posted July 15, 2008)

So first of all, whats with the name?  I've put an explanation taken straight from the restaurant's website at the bottom. 

Now on to the food - it is really good!  If you find a menu item with "curry" in its name or description - order it.  If you find one with "garlic" in its description - order it.  If you find one under appetizers - order it!

This is really good Thai food.

As for the ambience: it was a little loud in there.  Thats great if you're in a partying mood. But there were 5 of us, and only the two people in the middle seats could hear everyone else.

The decor is quite nice, though.  Definitely worth a visit.

Here's the explanation from the  restaurant's site:

Koh Samui & The Monkey is a Thai restaurant. The name Koh Samui & The Monkey comes from the two people behind the restaurant: Chalermporn "Aom" Phanthong, the owner operator, and her husband Chris Foley, the primary investor. Chris and Aom met on a boat while scuba diving off the coast of Koh Samui, Thailand. While Aom was taking a break for her graduate studies in England to visit her family, Chris had just sold his business in San Francisco and was taking a sabbatical traveling through Southeast Asia. Aom chose to honor their relationship by naming the restaurant Koh Samui.     
    The "Monkey" portion of the name is two fold and refers to the small Thai antique store that is attached to the restaurant. First, Monkey in Koh Samui (the island, not the restaurant) is everywhere and treated as friends. Second, Aom is very proud of the fact that she was born during the Year of the Monkey.


415 Brannan St San Francisco, CA 94107-1703

Phone: 415-369-0007

Location of Koh Samui and The Monkey

Chocolatier Review - Rohr, Geneva

I had occasion to taste some chocolates by Rohr in Geneva; These are sold at three main locations, of which I went to Place Du Molard

I had only one piece of each type of chocolate, and they are smaller than individual chocolates one gets in the US (roughly half the size of Godiva chocolate pieces found all over the US); I ate them roughly 28 hours after they had been manufactured. With these two points, I'm hoping I got the right taste of each chocolate.

  1. Marzipan - taste was ok.  The after-taste was quite good, for over a minute.  But I would probably prefer packages Marzipan chocolates.
  2. Milk truffle with Bailey's infusion - Very good!
  3. Dark truffle - Good.  Might have preferred shell to be less crunchy, as it masked some of the chocolate taste.
  4. Extra dark (70%) truffle - Very good! Felt like 60% - 65% cocoa
  5. Cappuccino - Very good!  Wish the taste lingered longer after finishing.

Frankfurt Airport - Sweeter wines available

(posted July 8, 2008)

Traveling to and from Geneva in July 2008, I saw the following sweet wines available in the duty-free shops.IMG_0113

Krebs Grove
Auslese Trocken Riesling


Krebs Grove
Huxelrebe Beerenauslese
16.90 Euros
0.5 Litres


Krebs Grove
Riesling Eiswein
26 Euros
0.375 Litres


Schloss Vollrads
Riesling Eiswein
95 Euros
0.375 Litres


Blue Nun
25 Euros
0.375 Litres


Krug scher Hof
22.50 Euros


Krug scher Hof
Trockenbeeren Auslese
27 Euros
0.375 Litres


Ortega Trockenbeerenauslese
20.50 Euros
0.375 Litres


Riesling Spatlese Halbtrocken
7.50 Euros
0.75 Litres


Barons de Rotschild collection
8.80 Euros
0.75 Litres

Travel Review - Geneva

(posted July 8, 2008)

I spent a couple of days in Geneva in July, 2008.  Mainly used the city as a base, starting and ending there;  in between, we traversed a fair bit of Western and Southern Switzerland, and Italy... but more on that later.

Geneva is at once pretty, and dirty (for a Swiss city), touristy (in a nice way) as well as just another big city.  Taking the train from the Geneva airport to get to the city shows some grime.  A far better way is to drive in; all at once you will experience the lake, the fountain, the wonderfully and warmly lighted up city, and the marquee names (Rolex, Tissot, Brietling - all have horribly big signs overlooking the lake and road coming in from the east).

Geneva's Fountain is quite cool - it is a single high plume, lighted from below so that the water is well lit up.  During the 2008 Euros in June, the fountain had a football at the top.  Of course if you've been to Vegas, you were probably spoiled by the fountains at the Bellagio.  Don't compare - this one is quite nice on its own.  And it even has a story, instead of just being a brain-child of some uber city-planning cabal.  The story I heard told of a fire hydrant being knocked over; the resulting fountain attracted a lot of people, and voila!

The park near the fountain, next to the lake is really nice.  In summer, it always seemed full of people relaxing and enjoying, some jugging and exercising, others dancing (semi-organized dances are held often in the park).  The ice cream you get at the park is really really good, per Carina - wish I had gotten to taste it!

The Old Town is ok.  The food is quite expensive, and in the ok to good range.  A little bit to see there by walking around, but I didn't get the same feel of the old town as I did with other Swiss or European towns.


(posted July 1, 2008)

I'm off to Geneva tomorrow!  Woohoo!

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Restaurant Review - Belgian Fritz, San Francisco

I met my cousin Diya and her hubby Kuru this Friday. They're a lot of fun, and like good food.
We had originally planned on eating at Dosa in SF, which I had wanted to try out. However, the wait was long (45 minutes), so we went to the Belgian Fritz place.

My opinion:  I like the place.

Fries:  Quite good. Not at the same level as the fries I had in Belgium, but close enough to not matter.  And I wish you got more varieties of sauces included in the order - for small fries, you get one sauce, for large - 2.  My favorites include the Thai Chilli, Ponzu-based, and Wasabi-cream based sauces.  And I really like their chilli fries.

Beers: they've got an ok selection, not extensive by any means. But for those who like the old standards Chimay and Duvel, that shouldn't matter.

Crepes and sandwiches: Quite good again.  The ham sausage crepe in particular is very, very good.

Ambiance: I like the white/black colors, but in trying to be too modern (post-modern) and hip, they have succeeded in making the chairs not too comfortable. 

Here are some reviews on Zagat, and some photographs -Fritz-3

Fritz-1 Fritz-2

Fritz-4 Fritz-5 Fritz-7

Saturday: 600 Miles to Solvang

(posted June 23, 2008)

After a long week light on sleep, Saturday brought the chance to celebrate with friends... and take my car for its first long-distance drive.

Aileen, a good friend from my days at LifeScan, got married to Neil. The wedding was in Solvang, with the ceremony at the old mission, and the party afterwards at the Crossroads Estate across from the Firestone winery.
The wedding was fun, I got to meet a lot of old friends. The temperature made it interesting - it was 116 degrees!!! I met a 95 year old man, who had moved to Solvang after retiring 44 years ago - he mentioned it was the hottest day in his memory.

Since I was running late, I drove on 101 instead of highway 1. The drive was amazing; I did however drive all the way with the top down, so ended up getting nicely sunburned.

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I found out another thing - when the temperature climbs above 100 degrees, any speed below 80 mph in a convertible means you sweat continuously.

I left Solvang around 9:30 pm. Since I didn't want to drive while tired, I again had to take 101. (Highway 1 takes an extra 1.5 - 2 hours). Having a new car has made me more careful - I even stopped at a strip mall after King City to take a nap. It wasn't the smartest idea; I had planned on napping for 30 minutes, then buying a coke from McD's and driving home. When I went to sleep, the strip mall was full and quite busy. I woke 40 minutes later, parked under the only street lamp that was still lighted, and with the entire area dark and deserted. I have to admit - I was awake and alert very fast.

Finally got home at 2:15 am. A long drive, and a very enjoyable one. I would recommend you all have a lot of friends, and buy a BMW 335i hard-top convertible. Then convince those friends to get married in Solvang. This gives you the setting for a perfect Saturday!

Restaurant Review - Panda Express

(posted June 16, 2008)

I had been craving the panda for a while, so used my Sunday workout as an excuse to eat there. As usual, Panda was very good - if you like sweet Chinese food (reminds me of Indian Chinese food), clean premises and very fast service.

As usual, one of my items was the Orange chicken. Normally, I end up taking 2 helpings of Orange chicken - its just that good. But this time Panda had a new item on the menu - Sizzling Beef - so I tried that one out. It blew me away! Soft, melt in your mouth beef with a tender yet crispy skin, nice tangy sauce... a new favorite!