Barrel Room, Rockridge Oakland

barrelroomThe Barrel Room is a delightful wine bar cum restaurant in the Rockridge in Oakland.

The focus rotates quarterly. When I dropped by the afternoon, it spotlight was on Italy. I had a flight of three crisp Italian wines. The fellow behind the bar really knows his vinos and is a great conversationalist. My favorite was an Italian riesling that I would not have guessed to be Italian if I hadn’t known. I’m sipping a generous pour after the flight.

There’s a limited menu: five appetizers, ten primi, and three desserts. The kitchen is right off the bar; right now I’m about to gag on the odor of what much be the sautéed scallops.

Overall, a very pleasant experience. There are only eight tables and the bar, so it’s an intimate experience.

I like this place and I’ll be back.

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Chez Panisse Café











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A perfect lunch

It helps to be hungry when eating a perfect lunch and I didn’t pull into the parking place in front of Bistro Liaison until 2:15. I was famished. Lunch began with a comforting garlic soup. It restores the soul. I’m just as happy they didn’t poach an egg in it as the Spaniards do.



Then a bowl of succulent PEI mussels. Slight whiff of Pastis or Absinthe. Delish. Washed down with Sancerre. The mussels opened 100%, not a clenched one in the lot. IMG_4537



A guilty pleasure, but you can hardly eat moules without frites. One of the unquestionable findings in a long term study of nurses’s diets and health was that fries are the one food directly linked to obesity and premature death. I only eat them once a month. IMG_4538


I was seated in the deserted area across from the booze cabinet. Ideal. I had my own little space. It felt very Euro, with all the exotic labels.


I was bubbling over with ideas, so I wrote a couple of pages in my journal.




Fifty minutes later I was on the road again.




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Eating News

Ajanta, our former favorite Indian restaurant, has changed hands. The owner retired to travel the word. Unfortunately, things are going downhill. Service is lackadaisical. My scallop curry, ordered “medium spicy,” was so spicy I couldn’t finish it.

Garré Winery Cafe is a gem in Livermore’s burgeoning wine community.

winery cafe vinessigns



938CRAWFISH is a one-year old restaurant on San Pablo at Solano with one of the most limited menus you’ll ever find. The choices are crab, crawfish, clams, shrimp, and mussels. All are steamed in a plastic bag and served with garlic butter or lemon pepper sauce.


Decor is funky — once Vietnamese, formerly Japanese, now a confusing set of nooks and crannies.

I had crawfish with a cobbette of corn and a baked potato.


The crawfish are fresh — shipped in twice a week from the Delta or Sacramento. While I was told they were especially plump, the suckheads were small by New Orleans standards.

Dessert is Fried Oreos or a Fried Banana. I went with the latter.

I may be back.

Himalayan Tandoori and Curry House is a reincarnation of the Everest Cafe. The food is still good but the prices have doubled. They serve humongous portions but no longer on a thali. Lunch (tandoori salmon) and beer (large Taj Mahal) set me back $30.

Tandoori dishes are served on a sizzling platter. The Tandoori chicken just about chased my companion away.


Bistro Liaison is once again open for lunch. They’ve streamlined the menu. Two courses $26, three courses $34. Still the same great ambience and food.

Bistro may be my favorite Berkeley dining experience.

Bistro Liaison

Bistro Liaison

Bistro Liaison

Bistro Liaison

Bistro Liaison

Bistro Liaison

Bistro Liaison

16216105286_fa18da2778_mThe Torpedo Room on Fourth Street has scant food but a full line up of Sierra Nevada beers to sample.

16241162782_fce2734864_mThe Girl and the Fig is a great place to eat in Sonoma, just off the main square.


The name should served as fair warning. This place overlooking the Carquinez Straits is seriously overpriced for mediocre food.

Hot Italian in Emeryville is one big room serving delectable pizzas with Italian charm.



30 Poppy Lane. We’ve been enjoying raclette. Austin gave us the machine for Christmas.

Closed. Mint Leaf (no big loss). Taiwan. Slow. Padi. Cafe Venezia.

Hilltop 1892, Novato. Charm and quiet way above it all.




Sam’s Anchor Cafe in Tiburon. Incredible views of San Francisco.





ba boats penne oots clams


Just for the halibut, Corpse Reviver 2.0

Good bye, Old Mr. Boston. We’re in the age of web-dictated drinks. We had these at Hilltop 1892 (see above).

16758884272_2fb567fd05_z 16758883622_717f61296b_z


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The Sunday Ritual on Poppy Lane in Berkeley

Ritual is important.

Uta and I no longer waste cycles thinking about where to go and what to eat on Sundays. After improving our routine over the years, we’ve settled on a well-honed standard formula.

Around 11:00 am every Sunday I put down the NY Times and drift into cooking on glorious auto-pilot. Gruyère cheese omelets and hash browns are the mainstay. Here’s the drill.


Without thinking about it, I put skillets on the stove. The left, with a standard electric burner, is for the hash browns, and on the right, the omelet pan is on an induction burner.


Ingredients like the gruyère, parsley, and three eggs make their way from the fridge. I pop a couple of plates into the microwave to be heated for three minutes before serving.


My mind still elsewhere, perhaps pondering the Times or gazing out the window to our lush back yard, I grate the cheese and whisk the eggs with a couple of teaspoons of water, a pinch of salt, and a few dashes of Tabasco Sauce. I nibble the cheese. I may have a cup of coffee.


As the hash browns begin to brown at the edges, it’s time to turn to the eggs. That means it’s time to cut off the auto-pilot and pay attention to what’s going on.


I flick a few drops of water into the omelet pan. When it begins to sizzle, I pitch a couple of hunks of unsalted butter into the pan.


I pour the eggs into the butter and keep them moving with the spatula, sometimes lifting the curds to let the liquid part slide underneath to the heat.


As the omelet starts to firm up a bit, I add the cheese. I don’t mess with the eggs anymore until the cheese melts.


When the cheese is thoroughly melted, the omelet’s ready to serve. I fold the omelet a couple of times as it slides out of the skillet. I’ll sprinkle it with parsley for color.


Lunch is always served with bubbly.


Lately we’d been drinking California labels: Moët, Mumm, Piper Sonoma. Occasionally it’s crémant d’Alsace, primarily Lucian Albrecht rosé. Winemakers since 1520, the family’s previous generation put crémant d’Alsace on the map, gaining Appellation Controllée. However, the winery hit the skids recently and the family sold out. We grab half a dozen bottles from the shelf whenever we see it for fear it may someday disappear.

Life is sublime.

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The MAOI Patch and the Tyramine Diet

When MAOI Inhibitors were introduced as the first antidepressants in the early 50’s, they came in pill form. The pills were processed in part by the liver and this caused severe side effects in people who had ingested food containing Tyramine.

The Food and Drug Administration pulled MAOIs from the market until they figured out what was going on. Later the FDA relented, so long as people were warned not to eat aged cheese, processed meats, draft beer, and a host of other common foods.

emsamIn 2006, a new delivery system was released, an MAOI patch called Emsam. This enabled the drug to bypass the liver on the way to the brain. Clinical trials of the 6 MG patch found no food interaction. Unfortunately, it usually takes a higher dose to achieve the antidepressant effect.

In a rush to market, the makers of the Emsam patch did not seek FDA approval for higher doses, so a patch for greater than 6 MG carries dire warnings about ingesting foods laden with Tyramine.

I wore a 12 MG (i.e., over the limit) patch during a recent two-week trip through Alsace, Bavaria, and Hungary during which I stuffed myself with smelly cheese, tap beer, cured pork, sauerkraut, goulash, foie gras, and other Tyramine-rich foods.









I’ve had no reaction at all. None. I’m not going to pay attention to the diet restrictions.

Mylan, the manufacturer of the Emsam patch, should run trials with patches stronger than 6 MG. The current guidelines unnecessarily restrict the dining pleasure of people on higher doses.

Your mileage may vary.

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Tyramine Diet

Ah, the joys of modern medicine.

I’ve begun taking a drug that requires me to restrict my diet severely. I’m not allowed to eat aged cheese, sausage, draft beer, sourdough bread, or anything else that contains significant amounts of tyramine, an amino acid that helps regulate blood pressure.

Eating the forbidden fruit can cause severe headache, nausea, stiff neck, vomiting, a fast or slow heartbeat, tight chest pain, a lot of sweating, confusion, dilated pupils, and sensitivity to light. People have died after bingeing on cheese.

So many foods are restricted (sauerkraut, bacon, caviar, peanuts, vermouth!) that I need a way to remind myself of what to avoid. I hope visualization can prop up my memory.

If pictures aren’t your thing, here’s a good list from the National Headache Foundation. (Tyramine can cause migraine headaches in people who are sensitive to it.)

Foods to Avoid on a Tyramine-Restricted Diet

krautcaviar fish4 fish3 fish2 fish herring duckliver2 duckliver cornedbeef bacon hotdog sausage3 choucroute sausage2 sausage cheese5 cheese4 cheese3 cheese2 cheese







The following foods have limited amounts of tyramine. It’s okay to consume up to 1/2 a cup daily.












I assembled the list from Wikipedia and a dozen medical sites. None of the sites list all of these items. The list on the Mayo Clinic site is typical:

“Tyramine is naturally found in small amounts in protein-containing foods. As these foods age, the tyramine level increases. Some foods high in tyramine include:

  • Aged cheeses, such as aged cheddar and Swiss; blue cheeses such as Stilton and Gorgonzola; and Camembert. Cheeses made from pasteurized milk are less likely to contain high levels of tyramine, including American cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, farm cheese and cream cheese.
  • Cured meats, which are meats treated with salt and nitrate or nitrite, such as dry-type summer sausages, pepperoni and salami.
  • Fermented cabbage, such as sauerkraut and kimchee.
  • Soy sauce, fish sauce and shrimp sauce.
  • Yeast-extract spreads, such as Marmite.
  • Improperly stored foods or spoiled foods.
  • Broad bean pods, such as fava beans.”

The amount of tyramine depends on how the food was processed and how old it is. Tyramine increases as a food ages. Pickled, smoked, fermented, or marinated meats are generally high in tyramine. Fresh produce is okay if you eat it within 48 hours of purchase. Nuts are never okay. A draft beer contains 25 times as much tyramine as a can of beer.

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Hot Italian

Hot Italian Mangia & Bar

Emeryville Public Market
510 922 1369


hotitalianWe were in the neighborhood, having done a run to the Emeryville Ikea, and decided to drop by the Emeryville Public Market for the first time in more than a year. It’s a shadow of its former self. Several food stalls have disappeared. Remodeling has reduced the seating area. Once a vibrant space (remember the fish market? the gourmet cookware shop?), the Public Market has clearly seen better times.

Hot Italian is the exception. It’s a bustling upscale pizza joint with a thoroughly Italian menu and vibe. Our Basso pizza with artichoke hearts, heirloom cherry tomatoes, roasted olives, basil pesto, mozzarella, and tomato sauce ($16) was delicious. The Izzo salad (baby spinach, plums, goat cheese, and marcona almonds ($9) was tasty but could have used a little more dressing. My Bellini ($7) was perfect.

The restaurant feels like a warehouse, but a sparkling warehouse in Milano.

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This week

Gumbo at Angelina’s

Crab melt at Pacific Catch

Jack Satan margarita at Comal

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