Crab Rangoon: No It’s Not Authentic Chinese Food

I knew the history growing up around crab rangoon. It wasn’t a very easy to find appetizer, but suddenly I started hearing people talk about it again on YouTube when I suddenly noticed Asian vloggers telling you that it’s not authentic Chinese food. They’re right, it’s authentic San Franciscan food.

I never saw crab rangoon offered at any of the Chinese restaurants in the City and I even started trying to find it on the menus and finally found it at one restaurant in the Outer Sunset. Oddly enough it’s easier to find at the Hawaiian restaurants you’ll find around the Bay Area, but it’s rare at Chinese restaurants.

So here’s the funny thing about all this. While crab rangoon was invented and first served at Trader Vic’s in Emeryville before moving on their locations it’s nearly impossible to find today in San Francisco. Yet when I moved back east to Northampton, Massachusetts every Chinese restaurant sells it. The grocery stores even sell frozen packages of it.

If you have no idea what crab rangoon is [and you’ll quickly see why it’s not authentic Chinese] it’s a fried appetizer that consists of a won-ton skin filled with crab, green onions and…cream cheese. Tastes great in my opinion, but definitely not Chinese. Vic Bergeron took a few liberties when he built his Tiki Bar empire with some of the recipes he introduced.

If you can find it in San Francisco you should try it. I rather like it and you can point out as I do that it’s an authentic San Franciscan dish. 

Pacifica, CA

I had a chance to travel just a touch south of San Francisco yesterday to visit a friend who was in town and I decided to write about Pacifica for today. Pacifica is a bit of an isolated area in that you can get to it from Highway 280 or Highway 35, but the two intersect and the only way out is Highway 1 which turns into Highway 35, so I think you can see that it’s one way in and one way out.

Now Pacifica has a few little towns such as Lindamar, Vallmar and Rockaway Beach that aren’t really towns, but they kind of think they are. We met up at their hotel in Rockaway Beach which is the part of Pacifica where all the surfers go. If you’re not a surfer then you’re probably there to eat at Nick’s Restaurant. Nick’s was always a kind of getaway for people from San Francisco. It has a feel of the old school restaurants of Las Vegas without today’s prices. If you want seafood, Nick’s is the place to go. My parent’s and everyone in my family have a soft spot for Nick’s. I learned to actually enjoy a dish they have there called, scalone which is a mixture of scallops and abalone served as a sandwich. It was a treat that Nick’s started and while you can find it at other places, stick to Nick’s. They have things other than seafood, but if you want the experience of an old school Italian seafood restaurant it’s probably better than anything you’ll find on the wharf. Nick’s is less crowded, except on Sundays when they have their special brunch menu, but you’ll still be able to get a seat and have some good food while watching the waves and [hopefully not] watch the surfers change out of their wetsuits.

Just as a side note, my friend and his wife I was meeting are from way up north in California and they live in a place that’s somewhere between red and neck [any questions? Just drop Modoc County into google]. It turns out I found out that he has an elaborate set up at home for making his very own corn whiskey moonshine. I received a mason jar full of 145 proof corn whiskey that if I survive the drinking of it I will try and write about that if I can keep my eyes focused and my hand steady. He’s a good old boy and I appreciate that he brought some of his mad scientist brew for me to try.

Now back to Pacifica…Specifically Rockaway Beach is an interesting part of the area because if you look at the picture you’ll see that it has a lot of grass and rocky areas that remind me of pictures I’ve seen of Wales. This is definitely a place for hardy folk as the winds can pick up here in the afternoon and blow you over. On a calm sunny day [which is a bit rare for Pacifica] watching the sunset is one of the joys of this place.

If you go a bit north up to Sharp Park you’ll find one of the few black sand beaches in the area. I unfortunately didn’t have the time to stop and take pictures of the beach there, but the sand had a higher amount of iron oxide in it that gives it a black look and is fun to show off to your kids how cool the beach is with a magnet. Just a touch further north is Manor Drive which has the main shopping district of Pacifica. I have to say that with a bit of a wink because it’s not like any shopping mall you’ll encounter. It’s basically a grocery store with a few small shops around it. My wife and I were in Pacifica years ago looking at the possibility of buying a home there and stopped in for breakfast at Manor Drive at a coffee shop and while looking out at the early morning surfers and shore fisherman had to wonder how often the fisherman and surfers got entangled. We didn’t see any fights, so I suppose they’ve found a way to keep away from each other.

If you stop at Manor Drive, be sure to stop and look up on the hill to the southeast. You’ll see a castle up there. I don’t know if the original owner is still there, but he bought the house that looked like a castle and decided that if it looked like a castle on the outside he should make the inside look like one too. The only sad part was that aside from the occasional local TV show that would showcase him, he never offered tours. For a place like that I’d pay to walk around in.

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Beach Chalet: Great Views & Food

The Beach Chalet occupies the top floor of the old Golden Gate Park Visitor’s center with stunning views of the ocean, great food and a microbrewery that in addition to making beer also makes a great root beer [more on that later]. I’m not sure when the actual building was constructed, but I do know that they artwork downstairs was done as part of the WPA project in the 1930’s by artist Lucien Labaudt. It spent most of its years a vacant empty shell during my youth until Gar and Lara Trupelli and Timon Malloy bought it and started to restore it sometime in the early 80’s.

The place is filled with that “outside lands” vibe that I always talk about. It’s a great place to kick back and relax while enjoying some great food. When the weather’s good I usually like to skip the Beach Chalet and go around back to the Park Chalet. Same general food, but to replace the view of the sea you get a very open area where the windows that also serve as walls can be turned and moved to open up the space to the well kept up garden area where you’ll usually find a few kids running around on the weekends.

Now let’s talk about the food. The prices are in the $10-$32 range for main courses and the variance depends on what time of day you go and of course, what you get. I think the prices are pretty reasonable considering what you get. They have a range of dishes covering the beef, pork, chicken and fish departments and each one has a favorite for me. THey also have a Prime Rib Monday special that while I haven’t tried that yet, I think I’m going to have to.

For beef I have to go with the flat iron steak & frites. I’ve learned to love flat iron steak ever since Chef Bruce Hill [Zero Zero] introduced it to me at a restaurant he previously worked. It’s got a meaty flavor, but is also very tender served with a caramelized onion sauce and the frites are crispy to perfection.

For pork I have to go with their Carolina style pulled pork sandwich. I’m a sucker for pork and this is a juicy sandwich to bite into. You get a really good taste, but not overpowering flavor of the Carolina style sauce in the meat and the fried onion strings [always a favorite with me] are just icing on the cake.

Chicken is tough with me as it is in most restaurants, but they put it to good use in the west coast carbonara. The fettucine, chicken, english peas, bacon, thyme and shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese all blend well with the sauce to create a dish that won’t leave you feeling weighed down when you finish like some pasta dishes can.

For the fish I have to go with an old standby because they do it so well and that’s their V.F.W. beer battered fish and chips. The flavor is intense, but not fishy nor overly greasy.

Now one thing you always have to remember when you come here is that it’s a micro brewery so you have to try the beer. They have five regulars on tap, V.F.W. Light, Presidio IPA, Riptide Red, Fleishacker Stout  & Dee’s Bitter Ale. They also have specials that pop up like their Ocean Beach Oktoberfest beer and I honestly can’t pick a favorite. They’re all good and there’s something for every beer drinker there. They offer a circle of ales where you get a small glass of each of the beers to try and compare.

Now about the root beer. Funhouse Root beer is unlike any root beer you’ll ever taste. I tell everyone who goes there that they have to try the root beer and they all say the same thing, Damn, that’s good root beer! It is and brewmaster Aron Deorsey hit the nail on the head with this one. It’s got a bit of a thicker and heavier taste than most store bought root beers and the flavor will stay with you after you’ve finished it. Best not to switch over to beer afterwards unless you like your beer tasting sweet. I wish they did sell it in stores, but unfortunately they don’t. They did used to sell what they called a growler that was basically a gallon jug they’d fill up with whatever beer or root beer you wanted and you could take it home with you. It really is that good. TRY THE ROOT BEER!

Tuesday’s and Fridays they have live music and there’s always the 3-6pm and 9pm-closing happy hours with $3, $6 & $9 drinks and appetizers Monday through Friday. Since it looks like we’ll be having some nice weather for a bit I suggest you head down to the beach and check out both the Beach and Park Chalets.

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The Old Clam House Changes Hands

I didn’t realize this, but the Old Clam House is the oldest restaurant in San Francisco having opened it’s doors in 1861 [the same year Abraham Lincoln was elected President] and has remained in the same family’s hands until just recently. For those people familiar with the East Coast fried clams are second nature. Everytime I get to go back east I always have to get a clam roll, lobster roll and if I happen to be in New York, PIZZA.

But I digress. I remember the Old Clam House from a time when I worked in that part of the city and the companies out there tended to have their Christmas parties there. I looks like a bit of a dive from the outside, but it was very old school on the inside. I mean old school like California gold miner old school. At one of the parties I was at there after my co-workers had gotten a few drinks in me I tried the fried clams. I wasn’t a big seafood person back then and I still to this day can’t bring myself to eat an oyster, raw or cooked, but you could fry up just about anything and I’ll try it.

The clams were excellent. The steak sandwich was a little tough, but do you really go to a place called the “Old Clam House” for steak? I found myself going back to the clams which were cherrystone clams. Now under new ownership a few things have changed.

First off, it was bought by the people who brought you the Stinking Rose in North Beach so I’ll assume that chef Andrea Froncillo of Bobo’s will make the steak much better. They’re adding prime rib to the menu which is always a plus in my book. Lots of crab and other fish in addition to of course the clams they even have a few items that would satisfy the odd vegan who might follow you to the Old Clam House. Prices aren’t to bad which is always good in this economy. Sadly though, I didn’t see fried clams on the menu. I’m hoping they’ll show up again. An interesting side note is that when the Clam House opened it was a southern waterfront restaurant connected to downtown San Francisco by two miles of plank road. That’s kind of interesting when you stare out at about a half mile of land to get you to the bay.

Time to re-visit the “Old Clam.”

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