Posts Tagged ‘Bay Area’

Dub Gabe gets busy in the SF Bay

Having just returned from a very enjoyable trip to the West Coast—specifically the Bay Area—my belly is plumper, my face more tan, and I have a noticeable smile on my face—probably due to all the good food I ate. Though I need no excuse to visit SF and its environs, The CIA (as in Culinary Institute of America) brought me out this time to speak at their 15th World’s of Flavor Conference, where I presented Sri Lankan food along with Colombo’s own Chef Koluu. I also hosted my first Sri Lankan Supper Club in in the city, and even found time to check out some amazing Asian spots in my new favorite dining district, Inner Sunset. I did not have a bad meal during my entire trip, but if I had to single out the most memorable one, I would have to say it was Bay crabs steamed in Old Bay.

nets and some simple bait, like chicken parts, are all you need

Now, being a Baltimore cat, I’ve had steamed crabs more times than I can count, but what made this meal indelibly imprinted in my mind was the fact that we caught these crabs ourselves—a first for me. My buddy Gabe, who lives in SF, has been taking advantage of his town’s proximity to nature and recently bought some crabbing nets. Gabe, like myself, is a serious DIY guy, who loves to eat, and having sampled his simple but divine crab bisque on my first night visiting, I had to have him take me to the source.

And that’s exactly what we did. On election day, which was a balmy 80 degrees in the Bay Area, we spent most of the afternoon on a little pier overlooking the iconic Golden Gate, tossing in crab nets, sipping brews, and waiting for the nets to fill up with delicious crustaceans. There are three kinds of crab in the San Francisco Bay—rock crabs, red crabs, and the popular Dungeness, which you are actually not allowed to catch in the Bay, but rather only in the Ocean. We actually trapped quite a few of these beauties, but had to throw them back in along with the red crabs that are less than 4 inches wide.

But crabbing is hella fun! All it takes are some nets, some bait, and a little patience as you wait about 10 minutes before hauling in your catch. It’s a bit like playing the slots—you never know what you’re going to get (or if you’ll get anything at all). And the whole concept of catching your own food, puts a whole new spin on dinner. It just tastes that much better because of all the effort you put into it, and the excitement of pulling in a load of keepers is even better than winning at slots.

Gabe  himself  cuts quite a character. He makes his own bread, his own pickles, and even his own kombucha. He also makes his own music, and that is, in fact, how I know him. Dub Gabriel, as he is known worldwide and outernational, was into dub music long before the hype, and he will be doing it long after everyone else has gone on to greener pastures. In fact, he is just getting another album ready as we speak, and you have a chance to support him in these efforts by following the link below and making a donation to his Kickstarter campaign, which has only a few days left.


Help Gabe reach his goal before time runs out!

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Beneath the awning of Old Mandarin Islamic


I had not been to San Francisco since the first annual FoodBuzz convention in November 2009, and I was ready to get my grub on. Thanks to all the food TV these days, I had in my mind an image of a place that seemed eerily familiar–an Asian restaurant, off the beaten path, with some very spicy and delicious dishes. Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern or one of those TV hosts had eaten there, and it looked to be right up my alley. My friend Gabe and his Chinese-American wife Kelly had already chosen a spot for our dinner that night, and as we rolled up to it from dark, nearly deserted surroundings, I could see that this was the place I had pictured in my mind’s eye: “Islamic Old Mandarin,” as its lighted sign proclaimed in English sandwiched between Mandarin and Arabic characters. If there was any place I wanted to eat at tonight, this was the one. I just smiled at my hosts and said, “Great minds think alike.”

Inside the well-lit interior, there were only a few tables. At a large round one, a group of elderly Chinese men shared a Beijing Style hot pot–one similar to what I had just had in Sri Lanka at Juchunyaun Restaurant. Thinly sliced meats and plates of veggies and noodles, which were meant to be cooked in soup broth in the punch-bowl shaped object in the center of the table, gave their meal the air of a real feast.  A couple of Chinese girls picked at some stir-fry dishes at another table. The smells were, of course, tremendous, and my  mouth was already watering before I even opened the menu.


I must say, I have never seen so much lamb on a Chinese menu, and this must have been the Islamic influence. We ended up getting the stir fried lamb with scallion as well as the boiled lamb with preserved vegetables in a warm pot. We also ordered  an onion pancake, the egg plant in spicy garlic sauce, and one of the chef’s specials, a dish that definitely had my interest piqued, the “extremely hot pepper.”


for starters: a scallion pancake and boiled lamb w/ preserved vegetables in warm pot


stir-fried lamb with scallion

Chef's Special: "Extremely Hot Peppers"

Eggplant in spicy garlic sauce


I have not eaten such tasty and flavorful Chinese food in a long time. From the first bite into the layered pancake, which was crunchy 0n the outside and moist within, this was a meal to savor and remember. The lamb warm pot was rich and soothing, and the preserved vegetables gave it a nice sour flavor–almost like sauerkraut. The tender slices of lamb in the lamb with scallions dish practically melted in my mouth, as did the eggplant. And the extremely hot pepper, a dish of different kinds of chilies, chopped up and stir-fried with pieces of egg and slivers of chicken, certainly lived up to its name. As spicy as it was, however, it had a depth of flavor that you do not find in dishes that are meant to scorch your mouth. I think it was the addition of the sichuan peppercorns, which slowly numb your mouth to the capsiacin (i.e. active ingredient) in the peppers, and which also allows you to eat more of the dish. Washed down with a cold Tsing Tao beer, this was a perfect first meal for San Francisco.


the aftermath

Gabe checks out the next table

Gabe and Kelly, who live in the predominantly Asian enclave of Innersunset, pointed out a lot of great places to eat as we drove to Old Mandarin. But Old Mandarin itself has a pretty extensive menu as well, so there will be plenty of new dishes to try the next time around. And there definitely will be a next time!


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