poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


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Chowing Down in Sebastopol

Well hello there! Long time, no blog.

The bf and I recently went away to Sebastopol for the weekend, and I was blown away by all of the awesome food there. So much so that I decided to actually write a blog post about it! Mostly so I don’t forget where we went, but also to serve as a guide for those of you searching for good eats in Sebastopol. Here’s a list of place we ate and drank, in chronological order:

Balletto Vineyards
We had a couple of hours to kill before checking in at our Airbnb, so we packed a picnic and went for a tasting at Balletto. Tastings were $10 per person, and our server (?) was generous with extra pours. Neither of us were blown away by any of the wines, but none of the wines were terrible either. In the end, we bought a bottle of the 2012 Syrah to enjoy with our picnic, which canceled out one of our tasting fees. They have a nice outdoor patio and were very amenable to us eating out there.
Bottom line: A fairly standard Northern California winery; nothing to write home about.

Cutting up a baguette to go with cheese, salami, and olives!

Cutting up a baguette to go with cheese, salami, and olives!

Ramen Gaijin
I was not excited about the name of this place because gaijin, which means “foreigner” in Japanese, has a xenophobic bent to it. Nevertheless, my neverending desire for noodles and the awesome Yelp reviews drew us to try this place out. We both ordered the spicy tan tan ramen, which came loaded with pork belly, a 6-minute hen egg, woodear mushrooms, red cabbage, greens, and a load of other things I’m currently forgetting. Maybe my expectations were super low, but this bowl of ramen blew my mind. Everything about it – the al dente noodles, the piping hot broth, and the top quality ingredients – was, in my mind, perfection. Yes, it was expensive at $15, but I thought it was worth every penny. I also had a delicious cocktail — can’t recall the details, but I think it was a bourbon and ginger beer combo. Very refreshing!
Bottom line: Probably one of the best bowls of ramen I’ve ever had. Highly recommended!

A cold cocktail and hot bowl of ramen at Ramen Gaijin.

A cold cocktail and hot bowl of ramen at Ramen Gaijin.

Screamin’ Mimi’s (Ice Cream)
My friend SM, a Santa Rosa native, recommended this place to me, and it’s also one of the highest rated places in Sebastopol on Yelp. Conveniently, it was just 3 doors down from Ramen Gaijin. The bf and I, being total noobs, didn’t take advantage of one of the most unique aspects of Screamin’ Mimi’s: the ability to mix whatever flavors you want, because they sell ice cream by weight. We were boring and each got a single scoop of ice cream, which was good, but I regretted not being more creative and mixing it up. Next time!
Bottom line: Try all the flavors and mix to your heart’s delight!

Hole in the Wall
We love breakfast and brunch. Hole in the Wall had fantastic reviews on Yelp and was recommended to us by our Airbnb hosts, so we were stoked. Maybe we didn’t order the right things, but neither of us thought the food was better than the average diner. I got 2 eggs over medium (bland) with potatoes (even blander) and bacon (not that exciting), with one of their famous biscuits (really disappointing, but I’ve found it’s very hard to find good biscuits outside of the south). TC got the biscuits and gravy, which he thought was just OK. There was quite a bit of Italian sausage in the gravy, and since he’s not a fan of fennel, it didn’t go over very well with him. We saw some fancy cast-iron thing that other people got (the internet tells me it’s a Dutch cake with caramelized apples), so maybe that’s what we should’ve ordered too.
Bottom line: Pretty standard breakfast place. Don’t get your hopes up about the biscuits.

King Falafel
After a heavy breakfast, we wanted something lighter and more casual for lunch, so we decided to try King Falafel, another Yelp favorite. This is one of those places that, if not for Yelp, I might not have tried because of its location and the set up (there’s a small grocery section with Middle Eastern foods). We both got the regular falafel sandwich, which was SO GOOD. Unlike most of the falafel sandwiches I’ve had, which were bland and dry, King Falafel’s signature sandwich was the perfect blend of textures and flavors.
Bottom line: Highly recommended! I would love to go back and try non-falafel items.

Wild Flour Bread (Freestone, CA)
Another recommendation from SM, this renowned bakery was on our way to Occidental (see below), so we made sure to stop by and take a look. After trying their famous sticky bread, which we thought was good but not great, we decided to get a loaf of their just-as-famous fougasse bread with cheese, garlic, and rosemary (I think). Apparently, they change the “filling” of the fougasse; various Yelp reviews have listed items as varied as potatoes, cheese, garlic, mushroom, peppers, and rosemary. It’s pricey at $7 a loaf (cash only), but well worth the money. Plus, they’re pretty generous with free samples and really friendly too!
Bottom line: Unique bakery in a tranquil setting. Worth the drive!

Barley and Hops Tavern (Occidental, CA)
We went to Barley and Hops in the hopes of killing 3 birds with one stone: (1) a place to watch the Warriors playoff game (2) with good food, and (3) located in a cute, small town (i.e., not Santa Rosa). Unfortunately we were thwarted by some local regulars commandeering the remote control, who kept switching back and forth between the Giants baseball game and the Warriors playoff game. This was particularly frustrating given that TC had called in advance to confirm that they would be showing the Warriors game. We didn’t end up eating there, but from what I could see (and smell), the fare looked quite good. They also had a large selection of beers on tap.
Bottom line: Cute pub, but not ideal for watching sports (lesson learned).

Viva Mexicana
TC loves Mexican food, so we searched Yelp and came upon Viva Mexicana. True to the reviews, the food was great and the owner was super friendly. We also enjoyed the vibrant decor. I got the chicken mole, while TC ordered the cod special. We were both really happy with our food.
Bottom line: Great Mexican food, served with a smile. If we lived in Sebastopol, we’d probably be regulars.

The best chicken mole I've had in the U.S. (The best mole ever was in Mexico - of course.)

The best chicken mole I’ve had in the U.S. (The best mole ever was in Mexico – of course.)

Enjoying a coconut horchata at Viva Mexicana!

Enjoying a coconut horchata at Viva Mexicana!

Don Julio’s Rincon Latin Grill and Pupusa’s (Rohnert Park, CA)
We were intrigued by Don Julio’s super high Yelp ratings, so we decided we’d stop there on our way home (it’s 5 miles south of Sebastopol in Rohnert Park). We both ordered 1 pupusa each, and TC got the sopes while I tried the sweet tamale. TC loved his sopes and thought the pupusa was just OK, whereas I really enjoyed my pupusa, but wasn’t a big fan of the sweet tamale. Pupusas sometimes don’t agree with me (and I’ll leave it at that), but I had no issues with the pupusas at Don Julios. I appreciated that our server (maybe the owner?) warned us that the horchata was made with cow’s milk and not from rice milk or powder. (Lactards beware!)
Bottom line: Don Julio’s is located just off of US-101, so if you’re driving through the area and you’re hungry for some authentic El Salvadoran cuisine, definitely stop by.

Did I mention that we ordered way too much food?

Did I mention that we ordered way too much food? Clockwise, from top left: sopes, pupusa, curtido (“slaw”), chips, plantains, beans, sweet tamale with mango salsa, pupusa (with beans, cheese, and pork), and hot sauce.

Rasta goats near our Airbnb. No, we didn't eat them, but we were pretty fascinated by them!

Rasta goats near our Airbnb. No, we didn’t eat them, but we were pretty fascinated by them!


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New Recipes Page is Up! (Finally!)

Hi all! Sorry for the radio silence in this neck of the blogosphere.  I’ve been more preoccupied with running and less with cooking and food as of late, and my blogging has reflected that.  But I’m back today to make a couple of exciting announcements!

First of all, I’ve finally gathered all of the recipes that I’ve ever posted on this blog in one page, creatively titled, Recipes.  I confess that I did this as much for myself as for y’all, as  I was tired of searching through my own blog archive for recipes! I’m hoping the page will be a useful resource.  It’s kind of bare bones for now; maybe I’ll add photos eventually.  Let me know if you have any suggestions or feedback!

Second, I have a new job! As most of you know, I left academia in 2011 in search of the next chapter of my career.  After trying out my hand in the field of accident reconstruction and biomechanics for 3 years, I decided to return to my first love – Biology.  The job search was stressful, but relatively brief, thankfully.  I’m happy to announce that I’ll be starting a new position next week as a support staff scientist at a local university.  I’m looking forward to being back in the academic research environment in a completely different role.  Wish me luck!

And finally, because blog posts are more fun with photos…

Chicken fried steak, gravy, and home fries at a local breakfast spot. #winning

Chicken fried steak, gravy, eggs, sourdough toast, and home fries at a local breakfast spot. #winning


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Camping at Julia Pfeiffer Burns (aka Best Campsite EVER)

Originally posted on Running Tangents:

This past weekend, a group of 8 of us went camping at Big Sur.  Our friend CR had secured one of two of the most sought-after campsites on the West Coast at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.  This campsite, perched above the gorgeous, rocky shores of Big Sur, was a hybrid of car camping and backpacking: it was far enough down the road to be secluded and surrounded by nature (i.e., not rowdy campers or RVs), but also had a few car camping luxuries, such as a fire pit, picnic tables, trash and recycling bins, and pit toilets.  Just a short 0.1 mile steep hike down the hill from the fire road, we were able to bring in enough water, firewood, and camping accessories for the weekend.  (There is already a very informative article about camping at JPB on the internet, so I won’t repeat the details. …

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