California Freshness at Rusty’s Southern in the Tenderloin

I always get really excited when new restaurants open, especially when they are close to enough to my home that they can easily become part of my regular dinner rotation. This particular new opening in the Tenderloin was only under a week old, but I couldn’t help but find myself drawn to it. Rusty’s Southern may be in a dicey part of town, but this spacious spot is serving up affordable, California-inspired takes on North and South Carolinan Southern classics. In a town desperately in need of more Southern food, what more could you ask for?

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Super-Fresh Chinese Pastries at Golden Gate Bakery in Chinatown

After heading over to San Francisco’s Chinatown to check out the Fortune Cookie Factory and Cable Car Museum, we figured it was probably worth exploring a bit more to find some fun and delicious snacks in the area. A quick search on Foursquare brought one place in particular to our attention – it was rated much much higher than anything else in the neighborhood – a little pastry shop called Golden Gate Bakery. Literally every tip at this place was ecstatic about their Egg Custard Tarts so we sort of had to try it while we were in the area.

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Fresh Out Of The Fryer at Bob’s Donuts in Lower Nob Hill

By reputation, Bob’s Donuts is known for making the very best doughnuts in San Francisco. That’s a huge reputation to live up to and I’m lucky enough (or unlucky enough depending on how you look at it) to live only one block from the place to be able to put it to the test. I already knew that late-night was the time to go because between 11 PM and 2 AM is when they make all of the doughnuts fresh for the next day’s batch. That’s also when all of us Polk Street drunkards are craving deep-fried doughnut sweetness.

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A Meticulous, Experimental Tasting Menu at Barley Swine

*Editor’s Note 3/29/16: Barley Swine has relocated its entire operation to a larger space at 6555 Burnet Road since my visit.

Many of my previous visits to Austin had been during Austin City Limits where my schedule was jam-packed full of concert-going and nearly every moment of my usual 3-day stay was booked up. But, this Christmas-time trip was a little different. We were in town for a full week with plenty of time to relax and do bit of gastronomic exploration.

I’ve experienced a variety of Austin’s lower-key options including mini-trips to the outlying barbecue towns of Lockhart and Elgin, but I had never before really experienced Austin’s more elevated dining scene. First on my list of places to try was a little, Southern, tasting menu-only restaurant called Barley Swine and sister to another amazing Austin hot spot called Odd Duck – both which recently received 2015 James Beard Award nods.

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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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Bizarro Sweet Treats at OddFellows Ice Cream in New York

There’s no doubt in my mind that chef Sam Mason is a genius. He in fact runs his ice cream shop OddFellows sort of like a mad scientist would run a lab – inventing crazy concoctions that truly nobody has ever thought to do before. Take, for instance, his famed Chorizo Caramel Swirl Ice Cream – that’s a flat-out bonkers idea to do to ice cream. I can admit that I was a little disappointed to find that it wasn’t available during my visit (not that I wasn’t able to find other amazing insanities to try).

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A Perfect Day of Eating & Wine Tasting Across Paso Robles

To celebrate my lovely girlfriend Amy’s redacted birthday, we planned a glorious weekend getaway to the Paso Robles wine country. We had heard excellent things about the remote region’s beauty and density of high-quality wineries so it seemed like a great way to spend a couple of days and the perfect way to mark the occasion.

On the Friday of her birthday weekend, Amy drove down from San Francisco to pick me up from work in Sunnyvale before we headed off into the beautiful, winding, south-of-SF countryside only to stop quickly in Moss Landing for dinner before reaching Paso Robles at around 11 PM.

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Rincon Taqueria in Norwalk, CT Has a Thing or Two to Teach You Northeasterners About Mexican Food

WOAH YEAH. Who’d a thought you could find super-legit Mexican food in Eastern Connecticut? I certainly didn’t. But there I was, sitting on the SoNo waterfront (South Norwalk for all you out-of-towners) searching for a solid lunch spot and when I stumbled across a little taqueria on Yelp with only a few reviews, but every single one of them was utterly ecstatic about the place. It was settled, Amy and I were going to drive across town to Rincon Taqueria in Norwalk to see what all the people were buzzing about.

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Goodbye NYC. Bucket List Part 2: Peter Luger’s Steakhouse

I ate nothing but a salad on the day of this meal. A few days after our Bucket List Date Night at Beauty & Essex it was time for round two. This time, the destination was the much more dude-ly Peter Luger’s Steakhouse. I know you’re not gonna believe it, but somehow I had never gotten around to eating there before. In fact, I consider myself pretty inexperienced with steakhouses at all. I don’t even order steak very often when I’m out. I don’t really have a good reason for any of this except that going out for steak is prohibitively expensive so I don’t splurge on it much.

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