On the Hunt for XLB & Hand-Pulled Noodles at King of Noodles in the Inner Sunset

So, I’m back on my quest to find all of the comfort foods I used to rely on in NYC in the Bay Area. This journey’s mission: Soup Dumplings aka Xiao Long Bao and Hand-Pulled Noodles. I’d heard great things about the cheap, authentic, Bourdain-approved Chinese food at King of Noodles in the Inner Sunset so one hungover Sunday morning when that particular craving struck, I hoped in my car and headed over to check it out.

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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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Solid, Rich and Soothing Ramen at Shalala in Mountain View

I’ve talked at length about how challenging it can be to find great lunch spots in Silicon Valley, but one item I’ve found no shortage of is ramen. And the competition is fierce. I’ve already been to Orenchi which I claimed to be the very best ramen-ya in the Bay Area, but sometimes I just don’t have the luxury or time to kill two hours to drive, wait in line, and eat lunch. Sometime I need something just a bit faster. That’s where places like Maru Ichi and nearby Shalala in Mountain View come in handy. Once again Mountain View is coming to my lunchtime rescue!

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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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Simply Spectacular Fresh Seafood at Swan Oyster Depot in Lower Nob Hill

Ah yes, the world famous Swan Oyster Depot. This 100-year-old Lower Nob Hill institution is certainly one of the more famous San Francisco eateries and I’m lucky enough to live on the same block as this revered bastion of seafood. With a place so good, so close by you’d probably expect to find me there on a weekly basis, but there’s two things that constantly hold me back – open for lunch and there’s constantly tourists lined up out the door.

Literally every single time I’ve walked by this lunch-only hot spot – between their opening at 10:30 AM and their closing at 5:30 PM – there has been a substantial line to contend with. This is a very discouraging sight for someone like myself who absolutely refuses to wait in lines for anything, no matter how amazing the results may be.

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Fast, Casual, Waterfront Seafood at Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing

For Amy’s birthday weekend we had booked a cabin in the Paso Robles Wine Region. From San Francisco, it would have been a four hour drive so we knew we needed a Friday night pit stop for dinner half way there. A bit of web research illuminated the fact that there were very few viable options between Los Gatos at the south edge of Silicon Valley and our ultimate destination without heading into Santa Cruz or Monterey, which we wanted to avoid for traffic purposes. But there was one single place that did seem to be well regarded and worthy of a pit stop — a fish shack on the waterfront in the tiny town of Moss Landing called Phil’s Fish Market.

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Solid New England Style Seafood at Billy’s Boston Chowder House in Los Gatos

In the upscale, rural, wine and wilderness town of Los Gatos, there are plenty of formal dinner options. I’ve done a good deal of fine dining in the area, but on this particular evening I just wanted something a bit more low key. Given my mood and my craving for seafood, I decided to check out Billy’s Boston Chowder House to see if they could carry the flag for Boston in Silicon Valley.

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Goodbye NYC. Bucket List Part 1: Beauty & Essex

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If you didn’t see it coming and haven’t heard the big news yet, Amy and I are relocating from NYC to San Francisco. So, there’s gonna be lots more West Coast eating and writing is on the horizon. But before making the move, we’ve had enough time for us each to pick one last date night spot to cross off of our NYC to-do lists. Amy’s pick was the ever-trendy Lower East Side cool-kid hot spot Beauty & Essex and mine was the shall-we-say more meat-centric Peter Luger’s Steakhouse which you can read about here.

Beauty & Essex is about as trendy as restaurants get in NYC. It’s actually as much a nightclub as it is a restaurant. It’s the kind of place you get decked out to go to drink fancy cocktails and nibble on small plates next to models and the who’s who of the NYC nightlife scene. You shouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself seated near to a celebrity or two — if you can get in. If you’re coming just for evening drinks, there’s likely to be a line wrapped around the block. Amy knew this was where she wanted to go, so she booked a reservation well in advance, so we had no problem getting seated for dinner though getting inside the restaurant was a bit of an adventure in its own right.

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