Friday, March 23, 2012

We Like Ike's Place Sandwiches

Have you ever bitten into a sandwich and moaned? That’s what it’s like eating an Ike’s Place sandwich each and every time.  

I’d heard the rumors about these sandwiches before Ike’s Stanford spot opened up in the Jen-Hsun Huang octagonal engineering complex: funnily named sandwiches, dirty secret sauce, and complaints from neighbors near their original SF location. Up to 1,200 hungry customers a day sometimes line up on the sidewalk, waiting two hours to cure their cravings.

Ike’s not only has great buzz, but has won many awards including Best of Yelp! San Francisco, Best Sandwiches, Burgers, and Restaurant, and ESPN’s Fanwich of the Year. They’ve sold over 1,000,000 sandwiches from only three locations in five years. That’s a lot of dirty sauce and freshly baked bread.

The menu itself grabbed me because of the ingredients, variety, and funny names. Where else can you get sandwiches named after Stanford alumni, campus locations, SF Giants players, and Mario video game characters? Sandwiches named after alumni include Chelsea Clinton, John Elway, Sally Ride, and Ted Koppel. The names are part of the personality and charm of Ike’s.

But of course the best thing about Ike’s is how out-of-this-world delicious the sandwiches are. My latest favorite is the Spiffy Tiffy on Dutch crunch shown above: halal chicken, pesto, mushrooms, avocado, provolone, and pepper jack. The combination of freshly baked bread, meat, veggie and cheese ingredients, pesto and secret sauce make a fantastic combination. It’s the magic melding of flavors, textures, temperatures, and scents that creates culinary harmony. The usual diminishing returns don’t apply: each and every bite is fully satisfying and fabulous.

Another great thing about Ike’s is there’s something for everyone since the menu is so varied and the combinations so enticing:

My husband’s favorite is the Nacho Boy on sourdough: roast beef, mushrooms, avocado, and Swiss. He usually doesn’t speak from the first bite until he’s devoured the entire thing.

My 12-year-old daughter goes for the simple ones including the Terman-ator: vegan breaded chicken, marinara, and provolone.

My teenage daughter always goes for something with yummy meat and avocado like the Lincecum: ham, turkey, bacon, avocado, and havarti.

My college son’s latest favorite is the John Elway: turkey, bacon, and Swiss. Keep it simple, keep it delicious.

For the serious sandwich gourmand or the truly gluttonous, the Kryptonite with thirteen ingredients weighs four pounds: roast beef, corn beef, salami, pastrami, turkey, bacon, ham, mozzarella sticks, stuffed jalapeno poppers, beer battered onion rings, avocado, pesto, and pepper jack. I can’t imagine what this tastes like but maybe someday we’ll get one to share.

Besides its San Francisco and Stanford locations, Ike’s also has a spot at Redwood Shores. You can sign up for their e-club to receive coupons and updates. Check out the menu online before you go, since it’s much longer than the options displayed at the restaurants. You can also call to phone in your order to save time when you get there.

Nobody doesn’t like Ike’s. Try one and you’ll see why.

Friday, March 9, 2012

La Dolce Vita at La Biscotteria

One sniff outside the door at La Biscotteria, and you'll be hooked. Serving handmade pastries and pasta made from authentic Italian recipes, La Biscotteria has perfected the biscotti and more in an unassuming bakery shop in Redwood City on El Camino Real.
Delicious on their own or paired (even dipped) with a dessert wine or gourmet coffee, it's easy to become enamored with these biscotti. Let me count the ways:

The classic anise almond biscotti creates a magical combination of flavors and a big crunch, especially the dark chocolate dipped. 

The lemon version dipped in white chocolate is light and lemony, refreshingly sweet and crunchy, and better than I expected.

The pumpkin biscottini with cinnamon spices and brown sugar makes a great holiday flavor with no nuts, and a more simple approach. I liked them best dipped in Peet's French Roast coffee for breakfast.

My favorite flavor is the orange dark chocolate dipped, a crazily addictive combination of almond crunch, a burst of orange essential oil, and rich dark chocolate. Wow.

I also had to try the pumpkin cannoli made to order. It's like an Italian version of pumpkin pie, with a delightful crisp shell and a creamy pumpkin filling. I can see why it's another classic Italian dessert.

I haven't even made it to La Biscotteria's homemade ravioli or focaccia yet, but according to reviews on Yelp, they're all big hits with customers. The cheese ravioli is available year-round while the butternut squash and meat filled ravioli are only available at special times of the year. The focaccia must be ordered by 3 pm on Fridays and is only available for pick-up on Saturdays between 10 am- 3 pm. I have a feeling their loyal customers don't mind going through these hoops to get their favorite focaccia, especially the artichoke and pesto version, which seems to have rabid fans on Yelp.

There's much more to try and enjoy at La Biscotteria from the amaretti chocolate dipped cookies to the chocolate chip panettone and hand painted ceramic majolica pottery from Umbria, Italy. I will save those to savor and experience later. Good things come to those who wait and to those who make a stop at La Biscotteria.