A Kushiyaki Feast

by foodhoe on January 6, 2019

I have always loved Yakitori, bite sized pieces of chicken grilled on skewers that can be found on the menu of most Japanese restaurants.  Kushiyaki is the generic word for all things skewered and grilled, including meats, vegetables, seafood and so much more…  We recently made a New Years feast of Kushiyaki and grilled everything we could think of, chicken, beef, lamb, veggies, rice balls, bacon wrapped mochi, we even cut up hotdogs and skewered them for my cousin Megu’s boys.

My cousin works at a nearby Japanese Izakaya style restaurant, Itami Ramen in Oakland, where we recently enjoyed a fabulous Yakitori pop up, by the Yakitori Guy.  I definitely need to tell you about that meal later because it really inspired this meal!  Anyways, the restaurant very graciously let us borrow their yakitori grill, which is a special long, narrow trough that we filled up with binchotan, a special Japanese charcoal which burns hot and clean.  It takes quite a while for it to heat up but once it’s hot it stays that way for a long time.

With Kushiyaki, there are basically two flavors: salt or sauce. Salt in Japanese is shio and sauce is tare, which is similar to a teriyaki sauce made with soy sauce, mirin (a type of rice wine used in cooking), sake, sugar, green onion, ginger and garlic that you simmer until it reduces to a thick glaze.  My cousin said the best method is to put the tare in a deep jar and dunk the skewers in, and she was right, this was much easier than brushing it on and the juices from the skewers mixed into the sauce adding their delicious flavors.

Grilling yakitori is not difficult, but you have to pay close attention to each skewer as it cooks over the fire. Cooking yakitori is a two-part grilling technique: first you char the meat, then you caramelize the sauce you brush on the meat.  We learned pay attention and  to move ingredients around on the grill so that they cooked by a combination of direct grilling (right over the flames) and indirect (off the hot flames, where they can cook more slowly).

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Benchmark Pizza in Oakland

by foodhoe on December 5, 2018

499 9th Street, Oakland, CA | 510-488-6677 | website | reservations online

Hey is anyone out there still reading blogs? I am much more active on Instagram @foodhoe, so I hope you follow me there.  Anyways, sometimes a place is so good that it needs a big page dedicated just to them, and that’s why we still write our blogs.  And I really have to tell you about a new pizza place that opened up in old Oakland called Benchmark Pizza.  It is seriously our new favorite pizza pie!  This is their second location, which recently opened in the historic Old Oakland neighborhood which is much closer for me than the original location in Kensington.

I met my friend TK for lunch who I’ve known since high school, who I don’t see nearly as often as I’d like.  We started off with festive glasses of fizzy Prosecco (Gasparini, Veneto NV).  It had been a few years since we last saw each other so we had a lot to catch up on, so I was distracted and forgot to take a shot of the fizzy!  Fortunately, TK took this photo of me as we toasted, so there you go…  Also, I was invited to dine there as a guest of the house and I loved it so much that I came back with Mr. K, so this is an extra long post covering several meals!

The restaurant is in a gorgeous historic building with high ceilings and the room is filled with light from the surrounding windows.  Chef Swanson was previously at Oliveto Cafe & Restaurant and Dopo where he worked as sous chef for six years. Assisting him in the kitchen is Chef de Cuisine Jennifer Moffitt who was most recently at Boot & Shoe Service.  Managing the front of the house is the chef’s wife, restaurant co-owner and Operations Manager Melissa Swanson who worked at Oliveto Cafe & Restaurant and Chez Panisse and who we found to be delightful and charming.


The zinc-topped bar has room for 10 people and looks like a cozy spot to hang out and be in the middle of the action.

Our server recommended the Fried Sage pizza ($17), made with fresh house stretched mozzarella, brown butter, lemon zest, and shaved garlic.  The ingredients don’t sound that amazing, but I can’t even begin to describe how fabulous the flavor from the browned butter drizzled over this pizza was!  And the crispy fried leaves of sage, the shaved garlic, the lemon…  each bite popped with flavor, and wow that crust is incredible!

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Arca, dining in the jungle of Tulum

September 28, 2018

  I’m still thinking about my Mexican adventure last Spring which is beginning to feel like a distant memory… But, if you find yourself in Tulum, you must make time to explore the Si’an Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, which is an amazingly beautiful UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site that is located on the east coast of the Yucatán peninsula.  It is […]

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Dinner at Cetli Restaurant in Tulum

July 1, 2018

Well hello there!  It has been a long time since my last post, but I’m still here and want to share with you some amazing food I’ve enjoyed recently. Last spring, we went on an adventure, traveling to the far northeastern end of the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico to Quintana Roo.  We visited Tulum with […]

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Sideways Southern cuisine at PLāYT in Hayward

April 23, 2018

1036 B St, Hayward, CA 94541 | 510 -888-1092 | website I was very excited when I heard that the owners of Picán in Oakland opened up PLāYT restaurant in downtown Hayward, which is just one stop down the freeway from where I live!  Yay!  We love it when new restaurants open up in the area, […]

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A Vietnamese feast at Temple Club in Oakland

February 21, 2018

2307 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601 | 510-479-3680 | TempleClubOakland.com So there I was, driving up and down International Blvd in Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood (which is somewhere in between Fruitvale and Lake Merritt), looking for a sign.  It is a long dark stretch that is mostly marked no parking because it is a landing strip for […]

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A Oaxacan feast at Agave Uptown

February 19, 2018

2135 Franklin St. Oakland | 510.288.3668 | website We had a great meal at Agave Uptown recently, the latest restaurant from Chef Octavio Diaz who brings traditional Oaxacan food with a focus on authentic mole and mezcal to the hip Uptown section of Oakland.  The chef has another Oaxacan eatery called Agave Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar and […]

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