Where to Find Incredibly Fragrant, Spice-Loaded Afghan Food in Sunnyvale

This is what happened when a craving that doesn't often strike me, struck. Usually when I crave Middle Eastern food, it comes in the form of intense yearning for falafel or hummus. But, on this particular day, I needed to find an extremely meaty meal of kebab over rice and a quick search of the nearby Sunnyvale area brought Kabul, an highly-rated Afghan restaurant, to light.

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Where to Find Authentically Spicy Indian Frontier Cuisine in Monterey

Is it wrong that I want to eat Indian food surrounded by Indians? I don't want this to come off sounding bad, but there's something that just feels right about eating in an ethnic restaurant that's actually filled with people of that ethnicity. I view it as a sort of tip of the hat to the place's street cred and I've often found that it's a pretty consistent indicator to determine if the place is going to be authentic and good. Just think about it, if Indians don't want to eat this food when they're dining out, why would I?

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Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2014

What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too.Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year's, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let's begin!And if you wanna hear about the 2014's Best Cocktails, read more here.

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Vibrant, Destination-Worthy, Vegetarian-Friendly Burmese at Rangoon Ruby in Palo Alto

DSC_4731_editA mere three days after my first Burmese food experience in San Francisco, I found myself in Palo Alto face-to-face somehow with another Burmese restaurant. Odd, I thought, considering I had never come across Burmese food anywhere else in the US before. But a quick bit of research informed me that the original chef from the famed Burma Superstar I had recently visited had defected a few years back to open his own Burmese restaurant in the heart of Palo Alto called Rangoon Ruby. I wasn't gonna ask any more questions because I had already become quite obsessed with the healthy-ish, but still super-flavorful Burmese specialties and was excited for more opportunities to explore the cuisine while I was staying in town.

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Quality Cocktails & Seriously Delicious Smokey Bar Food at The European in Union Square

*Editor's Note 1/30/15: This bar used to have a food menu, but now serves only cocktailsThis is San Francisco's hot new opening. Near Union Square, at the Warwick Hotel, on the cusp of the truly sketchy Tenderloin neighborhood, famed and well-loved Top Chef contestant Casey Thompson has opened a gourmet restaurant named Aveline and an accompanying cocktail bar called The European.I happened to be staying in a hotel in the neighborhood and stopped by on the opening Friday night. When I arrived at around 9:15 PM it was still a relatively quiet and empty bar, but it wasn't long before it filled out with the who's who of the San Francisco dining scene. I was able to secure myself a seat at the truly sexy bar and ordered myself a cocktail while I looked over the bar menu.

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Molecular Gastronomy Magic from Wylie Dufresne at WD~50

*Editor's Note: I'm sad to report that this restaurant is not longer open.Recently, I wrote about a particularly crazy meal I ate at Los Perros Locos. They delivered a kind of craziness through the sheer brashness of piling as many wacky pedestrian ingredients on top of one another as humanly possible. But, like I've said before, there are many kinds of crazy when it comes to food.To celebrate my 26th birthday, my girlfriend took me to a restaurant that's been high up on my worldwide to-do list for a long time, WD~50. The restaurant is the brain-child of Wylie Dufresne who established the molecular gastronomy dining scene in NYC. The kind of craziness that Wylie delivers is less like that of a psychopath, but more like that of a mad scientist through his use of complex, technical, processes and methodologies usually reserved for a chemistry lab. Every dish and drink at WD~50 has some sort of complicated twist whereby an ingredient is transformed or presented in a way you've probably never experienced before.

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Reynard is a Chic, but Disappointing Williamsburg Hotspot at the Wythe Hotel

Where do you dine when you are hosting out-of-town guests? What if they are from out-of-the-country? Seems to me that right now most people would choose a French-style bistro since those have become so popular recently, but our guests were from France so we certainly were not going to bring them to an upscale American rendition of their pedestrian food. For this meal, Reynard – a very highly regarded, trendy, remote restaurant in Williamsburg – was selected for us.

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