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Several months ago, my family and I visited Mirepoix in Windsor to celebrate my sister’s birthday. I was looking forward to trying it out, especially since I used to drive past the restaurant every day when I worked in Sonoma County’s wine country.

The interior is small, cozy and warm, evoking the French countryside feel that I imagine they’re going for. The food is rustic and very French in its generous use of butter on just about everything.

We started with the frisee salad with poached egg and duck liver, which was delicious. The pickled onions provided the perfect contrast to the fried and battered liver.

Frisee salad with poached egg and duck liver

We also shared a plate of the braised mussels in white wine and garlic broth. The mussels were tiny but the broth was comforting and full of flavor. 

Braised mussels in white wine and garlic broth

This is where things started to go wrong. I must have had a Tony Bourdain moment or something, because the next thing I knew, I was ordering the braised sweetbreads with frites. I guess I thought that because I love offal in general, I’d love sweetbreads too. It turns out I’m incorrect. Maybe sweetbreads need to be prepared a certain way to be palatable, but you know something is wrong when the table next to you is whispering “she ordered the sweetbreads!” in horror.

Braised sweetbreads with frites

My sister was luckier. She took the safe route and ordered the tempura steak sandwich, which was rich and crispy. My dad ordered the hanger steak and my mom ordered the lamb. All of us had too-greasy frites doused in too much salt.

Tempura steak sandwich with frites

In retrospect, I don’t know whether to blame my dissapointment at Mirepoix on my own overly-adventurous entree choice or on the restaurant itself. The dishes seemed hit or miss, so I’m inclined to give it another try someday.

La Boulange

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If you’ve ever been to the Bay Area, chances are you’ve had something baked by the Bay Bread group. Their range of sweet and savory loaves are scattered throughout San Francisco’s best restaurants and shops, and the Bay Bread group has their own mini-chain of bakery-cafes as well: La Boulange.

My cousin, sister and I shared coffee and sweets at La Boulange at Fillmore in San Francisco on a rainy afternoon, and the place was packed. I tried my first macarons here, which were almost too pretty to eat.

Passionfruit-Mango and Pistachio macarons

I enjoyed the pistachio-flavored one better than the passion-fruit mango, not only because it was more traditional, but because it was less overwhelmingly sweet.

La Boulange also has a selection of soups, salads and sandwiches, but I prefer their breads. Their canelés are also delicious, but I love canelés in general so perhaps I’m biased.

Everyone says the best macarons are in France, but I forgot to try them in Paris. And until I have another chance, La Boulange’s will keep me satisfied.


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A16 is San Francisco’s darling of an Italian restaurant. It is doted upon by magazines, bloggers and eaters eager to dine at the city’s hippest establishments. The restaurant’s meatballs night on Mondays is its most popular draw, but it was a Friday evening when a friend and I arrived for dinner to celebrate my birthday. (Uh, last January. Since I’m catching up on reviews and all.)

We started with the mozzarella burrata with olive oil, sea salt and crostini.

Mozzarella burrata with olive oil, sea salt and crostini

I don’t know if this was intentional, but the crostini were a bit too crisp, or dare I say, burned. The mozzarella burrata was good, though it wasn’t out of this world. Still, it was a satisfying compliment to our bottle of G&K Grillo Sicilia.

For my entree I chose the casareccia with baccala, tomato, green olives, garlic, chiles, basil and breadcrumbs.

Casareccia with baccala, tomato, green olives, garlic, chiles, basil and breadcrumbs

It was all right, but I couldn’t help but feel dissapointed. I expected something more exciting, something more flavorful. Maybe it’s me, I kept thinking. I mean, isn’t A16 where all the cool kids eat?

I hate to compare restaurants, but I couldn’t help but think of the Italian restaurant that I had eaten at a month earlier. I won’t name names, but I’ll just say that I love offal. And Chris Cosentino.

I’m more than willing to give A16 another chance. Maybe they were having an off night. After all, an entire city can’t be wrong. Right?

Poleng Lounge

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I never knew a lounge could have such good food. Until the Anthony Bourdain book release a few months ago, I associated the place with only music. But when I met Poleng Lounge’s Executive Chef Tim Luym at the event, we knew I’d have to visit for dinner. The menu is a nod to his Filipino heritage, and it does not dissapoint.

We began our meal with the Wanu Kinilaw, a Filipino-style ceviche of butterfish cooked in sugarcane vinegar, lime juice and coconut milk, with Thai chiles, toybox tomatoes and cilantro. It could have used a bit more kick for my taste but was otherwise melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Wanu kinilaw

We split the sweet potato fries with banana catsup. If you know me, you know I love fries. I’ve had this dish elsewhere before and maybe it was the ambience of the warm and cozy Asian-inspired interior or my excitement over the menu overall, but I preferred it here:

Sweet potato fries with banana catsup

Our third plate was the Buddha’s Treasures, or pan-fried dumplings with vegetables, dusted with matcha green tea powder, lotus root chips, and a black sesame ponzu sauce. I make lotus root chips at home, so I was thrilled to see them being used on the menu:

Buddha's treasures

The real standout of the meal, however, was the Bo Luc Lac “Shaking Beef,” marinated sirloin stir-fried with nuoc mam, perfectly pickled red onions, and peppercress. If you want to win me over, throw something pickled in a dish and I will swoon:

Bo luc lac "shaking beef"

For dessert we had the coconut bread pudding drizzled with hazelnut caramel, and the ube coconut tapioca, a soup-like tapioca with coconut milk, and Thai basil seeds sprinkled on top. It was reminiscent of bubble tea, but better. Oh, and did I mention I love ube?:

Ube coconut tapioca and coconut bread pudding

I have to admit that I was initially skeptical about Poleng Lounge serving up artisan teas and Asian street food, especially with all the frou-frou tea lounges popping up all over the city (I’m talking to you, Samovar). But put aside your skeptism and go. These guys know what they’re doing.


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Once in a while you find a restaurant so perfect, so unassuming and so satisfying, that even after one visit it becomes an instant favorite. I first tasted Chris Cosentino’s cooking at the Anthony Bourdain book release event last November, so when a friend’s birthday rolled around, I knew I had to take him to Cosentino’s restaurant, Incanto.

Neslted in San Francisco’s Noe Valley, the place is an offal-lover’s paradise. You want beef heart? Check. Mortadella? Check. Tripe? Check.

To start, we ordered the grilled beef heart with roasted golden beets:

Grilled beef heart with roasted golden beets

Internet, do you have any idea how much I love beef heart? And beets? The two together was like a marriage made in heaven. The true sign of a well-cooked beef heart (or kidney) is that it still tastes good even after it’s cooled down, and this easily stood up to the test.

For my entree, I got the Bucatini, Sardinian cured tuna heart, egg yolk and parsley:

Bucatini, Sardinian cured tuna heart, egg yolk and parsley

I sometimes mix a raw egg into my rice when eating chelo kabab, or with a number of Korean stews. But I’ve never had it with an Italian pasta, and oh my, it is delicious. The tuna heart added a perfect note of saltiness.

My friend got the truffled mortadella agnolotti, which was also very good:

Truffled mortadella agnolotti

For dessert, I had the three-cheese plate, which was my least favorite part of the meal. It could have been because I was already full, but I’m not really a dessert person to begin with:

Three-cheese plate

Incanto may not receive as much hype as some other Italian restaurants in the city (especially ones that *cough* start with a letter and end in a number *cough*), but the service was attentive yet not stuffy, the food was what offal dreams are made of, and well, it’s my favorite Italian restaurant.