To feed your body and soul in San Diego and all over the world

American

Devilicious

Oh food trucks…how I love thee.  Let me count the ways that I love you:

Your food is cooked fresh to order.

You provide me good food without any unnecessary frills.

Most of the time you have me eating with my hands.

You satisfy my hunger and my soul.

Oh food trucks…thank you for completing my eating life in San Diego.

The food truck mania is not just some passing phase people.  It is a staple that San Diego has been long behind on and over the last 5 years, that side of the business has significantly grown.  One of the oldest food trucks in San Diego who also participated in the Food Network Great Food Truck Race – Devlicious, has been serving our great town for awhile now.  Their signature item is the Lobster Grilled Cheese sandwich.  So when a coworker and I found them parked just outside our office, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try it for myself:

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The lobster grilled cheese comes with a side salad with balsamic vinegar.  The sandwich itself: butter poached lobster with melted jack and cheddar cheese and caramelized onions on sourdough.

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It is a rich and delicious sandwich. The cheese melted perfectly, nestling in the sweet onions and lobster itself all on two pieces of crispy, fresh bread.  I think if it was any other side, it would have been just too much for me to handle, but because it was a salad, it helped bring down the richness.  As for the lobster you may be wondering – fresh, soft, sweet, and was not overshadowed in the least.  And they gave you a good amount of lobster for the price of $12.

People may think this is “outrageously” expensive, yet a restaurant would have charged you $16-$18, and some places could get away with even charging up to $20 for this exact sandwich portion. Think about it people, how much would it cost you at a restaurant? These trucks have to not only pay for the food supply itself, but even with their bare minimum operations, there are still costs to run a food truck.  Have you not seen the show itself?  You need to charge every dish to cover your cost of food, overhead (eg. wages, truck maintenance), and still make a profit from every sale.

So come on San Diego!  Go out there and support your local food trucks!!!  There’s a great website that shows you all the food truck gatherings throughout San Diego called Curbside Bites and their calendar lists out everything.  Granted, always check with the truck’s twitter or webpage for any updates on their locations.

Devilicious

Throughout San Diego County (and sometimes beyond)


D Bar

My first time at D Bar was with two lovely ladies from my old job – KF and LT, when LT who had left SD several years back, was coming back to visit.  I had to catch up with two wonderful and extremely driven ladies.  We had a great afternoon catching up and just seeing what everyone was up to since we were all tied up in life itself.  That day, we had sampled several dishes to just get an idea of what D Bar could do – just desserts or food as well?

d Bar collage

On the left hand side, from top to bottom:

Crue Fries – their signature starter of garlic parmesan fries (perfectly fried), mac sauce, melted cheddar jack, bacon, ranch, and chives.  This appetizer is salty but so addictive!

Naan-Burguesa – kobe burger, grilled naan, black bean hummus, chipotle mayo, havarti, avocado, and a side of chips.  Since I don’t eat beef, KF and LT both were a little underwhelm by this  burger.  In part, the use of a grilled naan didn’t hold everything together so when you bit down, everything tends to slide out.

Tahini Grilled Salmon – on a bed of mixed greens, grilled baby bok choy, tossed in a ginger soy vinaigrette, and topped with toasted almond and edamame.  This salad was again only ok and slightly underwhelming.

Now the real reason why we were here: desserts!

Molten Cake Thingy That Everyone Has – just the name itself made us want to order it.  Plus the three of us have had really good molten cake thingies before, so we had to try it and see where D Bar’s stacked up.  Their version is comes with raspberry compote and Sicilian pistachio ice cream, but we wanted to try their salted caramel ice cream and so we requested the swap.  Well we can say that their cake thingy was quite good.  Was it the best?  We were all hard press to jump up and exclaim this was the best version we’ve had to-date, but it is a darn good contender!

Ch Ch Ch Churros! – Made. To. Order.  Those are the three words that almost always ensures that you are going to have a great churro.  And boy, D Bar knows their churros alright! It was the best freaking plate of churros ever!!! And it comes with a little dish of melted dark chocolate for dipping which was more for scooping out and eating straight.

On my second visit with two other wonder ladies – LA and JW, I knew there were two items I couldn’t go without: crue fries and churros.  Except this time, it was for dinner so ordered more items to try in hopes that it would turn out better, but first…some drinks!

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Normally, I don’t drink so I wouldn’t be posting about drinks, but my gals do and one drink intrigued us all – the Fresca Picante (martini glass one).  This was a strawberry jalapeno infused tequila with agave and lime.  I had taken a sip and the jalapeno is this after kick that happens a few seconds after drinking.  It was such an interesting taste and experience that it had all three of us just inspecting it as we waited for food.

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Oh these wonderful babies again…come to mama! NOM NOM NOM!!!

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Bacon Mac & Cheese – because we were all feeling like mac n’ cheese.  Don’t question us! We wanted this ooey, gooey bowl of melted goodness.  It’s a four cheese mac, with bacon and cheese nips and panko crumb top.  It was as decadent as it sounded, but good for sharing!

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Lobster Risotto – grilled lobster tail with rosemary butter, served with roasted poblano risotto and broccolini and pea tendrils.  The lobster was sweet and tender and I could have eaten several more of that tail!  So good…

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And since we were ordering so many rich dishes, I felt we needed at least one salad to help balance it out a little.  The Grilled Caesar salad, drizzled with balsamic glaze  and topped with shaved parm, it help give us that fresh crunch we needed.

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Oh the desserts…delicious, delicious desserts…I pretty much dictated this order:

Chocolate Souffle – 65% chocolate souffle, nutella filled beignets with chocolate sauce, and praline ice cream.  The souffle was not as airy as I’ve had in some places, but still delicious and fluffy.  The beignets were too thick and not fluffy enough.  Beignets are suppose to be little pockets of fried heaven (as I have experienced before in NOLA), so I was a little sadden to eat these little guys here.  As for the chocolate, we learned from our waiter that they “pay more for the chocolate per pound than we do for the steak”.  Now that’s something to be proud of! If I do say so myself!

And those churros, I ordered it knowing what I would get, but my friends were both skeptical.  I told them that I swear by them and upon their first bites, I just ruined their ideas of churros forever.  LA was just peeved at me for making her taste a damn good churro and now other churros will never be the same.  Job. Well. Done.

D Bar as a whole, I love – from the food, atmosphere, venue and the people working there.  It’s a great place to gather, enjoy a few dishes and drinks.  Although I did not have pictures of my take out desserts from D Bar, I did try their macarons and chocolates.  The macarons were much too dry!  I was quite disappointed, but at least their chocolates were superb!  I really hope the restaurant will continue to do well, so that I may keep coming back and try everything on the menu (but always with the churros).

D Bar
3930 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92103


Philly Frank’s in San Marcos

Ok, so I don’t normally track up to the San Marcos area for food.  Or at all since it is never “on my way” to anything!  However, my coworker introduced me to a place up in San Marcos about three weeks ago and my world has been forever changed.  (And the realization dawned on me that San Marcos is actually NOT that far away from our office in Rancho Bernardo!)

CB started talking about getting Philly cheesesteaks one day and that got me really hungry.  Then he proceeded to tell me the name of the restaurant – Philly Frank’s.  Of course, the moment he gave me the name of the restaurant, I went hunting for the place online to see if it was worth my saliva (because I was drooling already at the thought of it).  Upon browsing through Yelp’s comments, reviews, and the pictures, I was completely sold!

Since I don’t eat beef, the only “Philly cheesesteak” that I’m familiar with is of the chicken variety.  There were good reviews for Philly Frank’s chicken variety and hence, there was an immediate need to make a lunch trip up.  Fortunately, for us, the managers were all gone for training during the week and so, it was time to schedule a “long” lunch!

There were four of us who made the trip that one fateful afternoon – CB (the culprit), PY, XP, and myself.  Between the four of us, we ordered the following: Cheese Steak, The Works (with peppers, mushrooms, and onions) – Beef  (3), and The Work (with everything) – Chicken, two orders of seasoned fries and an order of the onion rings.

Up close shot of my chicken philly

Needless to say, we had a LOT of food for the four of us that afternoon.  We thought that we could tackle it without any problems-no that is actually a lie.  Once we saw everything in front of us, we knew it would be a challenge that we had willingly accepted!

Unfortunately, I forgot to take an aerial shot of the table, but trust me, put all those sandwiches together and our sides and you’ll get the idea.  And by the end, I ended up eating more than 80% of the fries, some of the onion rings, and half of my sandwich.  There were definitely some food coma issues for the four of us upon our return to the office.  Was it all worth it?  HECK YES!!!!

It was so worthwhile, that CB and I made another trip last week with three other coworkers – MW, MB and RC.  They too understood why we would risk falling asleep during work hours for this sandwich!  Results were just the same as the first time – lots of food, happy eaters, and very tired workers.

Though the sad ending for our second trip, my leftover half of the sandwich was accidently left at the office fridge.  It was over the weekend, but there were no notices that the fridge was going to be cleaned out, which is done every now and then.  I come back to work on Monday morning, and was going to put my side salad I brought from home to eat with the sandwich, only to find my sandwich was GONE.  Seriously, I don’t get people who take other people’s food!  Sadly, that meant that I didn’t have the protein I needed for lunch that day and was starving soon after lunch.

This just means that I need to make another trip up to Philly Frank’s so I can have my other half of the sandwich!

Philly Frank’s
151 South Rancho Santa Fe Road
San Marcos, CA 92069


Stacked

There days (or nights) when I want something simple to eat, but if the restaurant can make it entertaining for me too…I can love it even more.  It makes me wonder why don’t more restaurants get this??? A distinguishing factor can help a restaurant stick out from the sea of options for patrons.

Stacked in Fashion Valley Mall occupies where the UNO Pizzeria used to be many ages ago.  This restaurant is a burger, salad, pizza, sandwich joint.  What makes this place different than say, a Burger King or Chili’s?…….It’s self-service, to an extent.  There are still servers and cooks, however the servers do not take your orders.  You put in your own order on your table’s personal tablet:

I know it seems so trivial and some may even find this annoying that they have to put in their own orders.  However, for today’s generation and the current technological culture, this is a welcomed addition for restaurant goers.  You can check out their website and see what their menu looks like.  And since you place your own orders, you can customize it as much or as little as you want.  The control is ALL yours!

With that control, I created this sandwich for myself:

What you see before you is CP’s burger: Brioche bun + Angus Burger + Romain Lettuce + Bacon + Onion Straws + BBQ Sauce + Side of Jalapenos (for me).

My sandwich: Whole Wheat Bun + Blackened Grilled Chicken + Romaine Lettuce + Caramelized Onions + Roasted Red Peppers + Sides of Garlic Aioli and Chipotle Mayo.

And to accompany our sandwiches – a combo of half fresh cut fries and housemade chips.  Ketchup for CP and ranch for me!

All of this did not come cheap, so don’t expect this restaurant to be your run of the mill place.  With each customization, it’ll cost you – yes, even the sauces which does include the ketchup.  However, I will say the idea of having a perfectly created sandwich, cooked to our liking to our exact order is empowering.  Also, the housemade chips are just ridiculously addicting, but I would recommend that you request for “less salt”.

To wrap up the evening, I ordered a dessert (another “stacked” item): Scoop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between chocolate chip and snicker doodle cookies.  The chocolate chip cookie was a little over baked, but the whole dessert was still delicious because you can’t go wrong with ice cream and cookies!

The second time CP and I went, he ordered a customized pizza and it was good too.  Not outstanding, nor best pizza ever.  At the end of the day, Stacked is fun and good for a simple (or not so simple if you’re technologically illiterate) meal.  I think the novelty factor makes it worthwhile to warrant a visit.  Go ahead, stack your own meal!

Stacked (Multiple Locations)
Fashion Valley
7007 Friars Road
San Diego, CA 92108
Suite #356


Market Restaurant + Bar

Last month, I finally crossed off a restaurant that I had wanted to go to for ages.  This place got on my list of restaurants to try back in 2006, not long after it had opened.  The rave reviews from fellow local bloggers, to Yelpers, to magazine reviews, the restaurant had a laundry list of positive feedback.  Yet, the reason it took me almost six years to get there are due to various reasons:

  1. It’s slightly off the beaten path in Del Mar, and not in the main strip of Del Mar restaurants off the coast.
  2. The end bill is not exactly cheap, so that would limit this place to special occasions.
  3. Once, when I got close to going, there were no reservations open for that evening that was before a 9pm seating.

Then comes along my old colleague and friend from my previous job, who was coming to San Diego (technically, it was Valley View Center) for a job.  We scheduled for a dinner meet up and she told me to pick.  Considering she was all the way up in the mountains, though an area I’m familiar with, it is not my first choice for dinner spots.  Hence, I knew I would be choosing something in the northern area of San Diego.  That is when it came to me: we could go to Market Restaurant + Bar!  I knew this would work out since my friend was traveling on the company and would have a food allowance.  Since I didn’t mind picking up my own tab, I quickly jumped on it.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, it was as if time had stood still for the place ever since I saw it all those years ago.  I thought to myself, “I’ve passed by this place enough times during the summer (for the Del Mar County Fair), now I will finally get to see if it was worth the wait!”  (Side note to future patrons – there is no parking at the restaurant and is valet only, but it is free!  Just remember to tip the man.)

The interior is intimate with dark lighting, but it is very simplistic modern feel.  The bar at the entrance is definitely darker with darker colors of deep red, but the main dining room is lighter with persimmon colored walls, accented by lines of “sage” and “avocado green” (according to their website, those are the color names).  The minute I walked into the restaurant, I loved it.  And this is not always the feeling I get when I go to restaurants.  (I can only think of maybe a handful of instances where a restaurant’s décor was an instant love for me.)

On to the food!!!

To start off the evening, our server put in front of us the modified Amuse Bouche of a Ricotta, Pesto, and Tomato Crostini.  My friend AS is allergic to shellfish and apparently the amuse bouche of the night featured shrimp, so hence, we received this one instead.  It was good regardless – simple, fresh ricotta, and not too overpowering.

For our shared appetizers (there were three of us):

The Blue Cheese Soufflé & Shaved Persimmon-Fuji Apple Salad was in our server’s opinion, “Not that rich!  The salad helps cut the cheese down.”  Um….I’ll tell you right now that the soufflé itself, even with the salad, was downright rich.  I could see someone trying to finish this, then take two bites from their entrée and call it a night.  With that said, this was delicious and packed with blue cheese.  For those who do not enjoy blue cheese, do NOT get it!  It’s not just a hint of blue cheese, it’s in your FACE cheese.  The persimmon and Fuji apple salad was light and sweet to accompany the soufflé in perfect harmony.  *cue the harp music*

Our other appetizer was a recommendation from the server (I was hesitant in taking her suggestion considering her advice about the soufflé) when we asked which of the salads was better.  The one we ordered was the Grapefruit and Avocado Salad.  Grapefruit is not a fruit I eat at all because I find the bitterness too overpowering.  I decided to go in with an open mind and took a bite of the salad with a bit of every component.  That is the whole point of a composed dish right?

The bite consisted of the only slightly bittersweet grapefruit, with the creamy avocado, the tangy goat cheese, and mixed greens dressed in Arbequina Olive Oil (which was smooth and fruity like), I was surprised how much I liked it.  I never thought I would, but I did!  The salad is beautiful to look at, as well as to eat.  The flavors all worked with each other and I could not think of anything wrong with the combination.

Entrée time! 🙂

This was the special duo of the evening and AS’ choice!  The duo included Cabernet Braised Shortribs (Buttermilk Fried Onions, Vegetable Roast, Horseradish, Sweet Onion-Potato Purée) and Wagyu Skirt Steak (Aged White Cheddar Braised Potatoes, Broccolini, Roasted Tomato, Crispy Bacon).  Since I don’t eat beef, this was AS and JD’s reactions to the dish: “ZOMG the beef falls apart!  It is so good!  I can’t believe how tender it is!!!”

That was the general thought of the dish as a whole.  And according to the two ladies, they both liked the shortribs more than the skirt steak.  I did try the accompaniments and enjoyed the flavors of them too.

JD’s (a new coworkers of AS and a fellow foodie!) entrée was the Crab & Shrimp Stuffed Salmon with house made gnocchi, mushrooms and broccolini.  I had a bite of the fish with some of the stuffing and was surprised that I enjoyed it.  I am not a fan of cooked salmon; I like mine raw…in a sashimi form!  However, Market seasoned it well and the fish did not have that yucky, “fishy” smell or taste to it.

My selection should not come as a surprise since I never pass up this option.  The Spice roasted Maine dayboat scallops were superb.  The dish was accompanied by black rice, roasted Brussels sprout, fennel, and (if I recall correctly) a red pepper sauce.  My giant scallops were tender, flavorful, and oh so *gurgles in own saliva*.

………………Sorry, I had a moment there but I’m back.  Anyway, I don’t believe the dish is always on the menu since the restaurant does change every so often to reflect the season.

Honestly, the restaurant has yet to show me that they cannot execute a well-composed and cooked dish.  Kudos Market!  Ok, onto our last course!

Dessert!!! (Best part of any meal right?)

For AS, the S’mores – a warm chocolate and graham tart, with toasted brown sugar marshmallow swirl top, and topped with some sea salt.  The dessert comes with a scoop of the malted chocolate ice cream.  It is definitely s’mores for adults and packed with chocolate.  I liked it, but was not in love with it.

For JD, her Crème Fraische Panna Cotta was the disappointment of the evening.  The Panna Cotta with the tangerine sorbet was just too…plain and underwhelming.  I think those were the words we came up with to describe the dessert.  All of us love fruit-based desserts and a clean dish.  This one just did not cut it for any of us.

For moi, give me the Butterscotch custard and chocolate soufflé with espresso-bailey’s ice cream baby!  The dessert comes out as three mini desserts on a plate.  From left to right:  The ball of espresso-bailey’s ice cream is covered with what reminds of coco pebbles at first glance, but I think they are just pieces of chocolate wafer cookies, and it sits on a dollop of caramel – loved.

Then comes the little cup of butterscotch custard, with fresh vanilla whipped cream (and you can see the vanilla beans still!) topped with toffee pieces.  This was butterscotch all right!  Not my usual preference for custards or puddings, but this was small enough so it was still good with its other dessert members.

Lastly, the chocolate soufflé was a miniature “lava cake”.  The cake was good, but when it comes to “lava”-like cakes, my favorite still goes to Roy’s and Café Japengo’s.  Those are the bomb diggity!  Still, Market’s version was a fair in comparison to some I have had at other restaurants.

The desserts seem to be underwhelming overall for the three of us.  After having a stellar start and continued amazement for our entrées, the end was only “ok”.  Despite that, all three of us had an amazing dinner that evening.  I knew there was a reason this place has remained on my list of restaurants to try for years.  And the reason why I could still visit it after all this time, is that they make and serve outstanding food.  That is the why they are still thriving notwithstanding their isolated location.  Market Restaurant and Bar will have to be on my list of best places to go for special occasions.

Market Restaurant + Bar
3702 Via de la Valle
Del Mar, CA 92014


Best of Park Ridge, NJ

While traveling for work the last two weeks in Park Ridge, New Jersey, wasn’t exactly the most thrilling and exciting trip ever, it wasn’t the worst.  There were some real gems in the surrounding area (especially Ridgewood) and here were my best of Northern New Jersey!

Best List / Must Eats

Fire & Oak – come Monday night and you can get $1 oysters and I’m talking about BIG, good oysters.  However, skip the sushi and the seafood entrees.  The sushi was terrible and the entrees were so bland that my coworker were passing the salt between us throughout the meal.  So after you down as many oysters as you can, order yourself a slab of their chocolate peanut butter pie.  It comes ala mode (but you can’t see it due to the mountain of whipped cream) and it is ridiculous how rich this dessert was.  I had to pull myself away because it was just that good, yet I knew I shouldn’t polish it off on my own.

Sushi Village – Do NOT be alarmed by the fact this restaurant is in a strip mall, nor it’s exterior outlooks.  Once inside, you’ll be completely transported to a modern, fresh feeling restaurant.  The reason this place made it on my list is not because it was the best sushi I’ve ever had.  The sushi was good (far, far better than Fire & Oak’s), but there were two things that got me:

  1. All you can eat sushi dinner for $19.99!  It is a freaking deal no matter how you swing it.
  2. The “Spicy Seaweed Salad” – this concoction is pure genius! Take the usual seaweed salad, but add spicy krab and mix it in with some tempura crunchies…it becomes a mouth of happiness.  So simple, yet so addicting and delicious.

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria – straight up good, wood burning oven, pizza in the area.  I personally enjoyed our pie and I know how strongly people feel about pizza in that state and it’s neighboring one too.  However, I found it to be delicious and I had to stop myself from devouring the whole thing. (Note: it’s cash only business)

Bricklane Curry House – my gawd…this place was the place that gave me one of those food-awe-haze moments.  The Butter Masala was incredible to the point where I would say it comes close to my fave at Punjabi Tandoor’s Makhani.  And their paneer pakora (which my friend has coined as “pan-pak”) was amazing too.  I don’t know if I like Village Indian’s pan-pak or Bricklane’s more!  AHHHHHH THE DILEMMA!  (Oh! Don’t forget to order yourself a mango lassi – thick, creamy, and packed with mango goodness!)

Organic Tofu House – when I think of middle of nowhere cities in the woods…I don’t automatically think amazing Korean tofu stew.  Who would??  However, this Korean tofu house was a real diamond in the rough.  It’s in a strip mall and on the other side of the main street through Ridgewood.  Complete unassuming and yet, for those who venture in, they are met with a quaint little restaurant that whips out a pot of bubbling, scathing hot, organic tofu stew!  Man oh man…my coworker and I dove into our bubbly pots with little care for our tongues because we wanted the stew!!

Fire & Oak
2 locations in New Jersey

Sushi Village
700-90 Broadway
Westwood, NJ 07642

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria
15 Oak St
Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Bricklane Curry House
Multiple Locations – NJ and NY

Organic Tofu House
88 Godwin Ave
Ridgewood, NJ 07450


Restaurant Week – The Red Door

Restaurant Week has all of San Diego out and dining about the city.  CP and I was part of the Sunday evening crowd, for the first day of Restaurant Week.  Although we both have been to this establishment, I wanted to return because I thought that our first visit was not the best representation of what the restaurant could offer.  Therefore, our first restaurant was a return trip to The Red Door in Mission Hills.

Appetizers

So CP did not go with the pre-fixe menu, but still had a starter.  His choice – the Crab Cake, with fresh lump crab and no fillers.  It is paired with roasted red bell peppers, kalamata olives and sun dried tomato with sweet basil dressing.  Now the order actually comes with TWO crab cakes, and as you can see that was not the case.  However, they quickly realized their mistake and added the additional cake (with all the fixings) immediately.  They also took off this order on the receipt because of the mistake, which I found to be a nice touch of customer service.  Kudos!

My first choice in my three course meal was the Shrimp Creole, which I had the first time I came here and fell head over heals for it.  The dish was presented in a skillet rather than a composed plate, but still as delicious as I recalled.  I couldn’t get enough of the sauce again!!

Entrée

CP’s entree of choice: the Red Door Burger – char grilled ½ lb meyer natural ground beef, buttermilk bun, American cheese (but CP didn’t want it), caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and house burger sauce (aka thousand island).  The shoestring fries were crispy, just the way I like it.

My entree, my second choice, was the Lamb Meatballs – ground Colorado lamb with roasted garlic, feta, pine nuts, home made gnocchi, tomato, spring raab, and chimichurri sauce.  Um…how could I describe my thoughts?  Let’s see…THIS is one of the MANY reasons why I am finding my personal desire to give up lamb to be SO hard!  It was great dish as a whole, but one area of improvement – the meatballs could be a little more tender.  After that, you have achieved perfection my SD friend.

Dessert

Last time, I tried their fruit cobbler (which is one of two choices on the RW menu) and it was not that good.  So I tried something different this time!

For my finale, I chose their signature dessert: the Banana Cream Pie with graham cracker-walnut crust, and chocolate & caramel sauces.  I think this could be a good dessert if: 1. tone down the whip cream a little, and 2. increase the pastry cream filling.

I still love the restaurant and this time around, the service was much better.  It’s a perfect time for you to try The Red Door during Restaurant Week to sample some of their signature items.  The menu will be available through the end of the week on Friday (1/20).  Bon Appetit!

The Red Door
741 W. Washington St
San Diego, CA 92103


Trip to New Orleans

I think there has been enough time since we came back from New Orleans that I can look at my pictures again.  A little more than a week ago, CP and I headed off to New Orleans for the Bowl game.  We had our hopes high and we were excited for not only our first visit to this infamous city, but for the game.  Let’s just say…it still hurts to think about the game itself.

Instead, I’ll focus on telling you about the food we had.  Shall we start?

Cajun Cabin

Our first stop was off of Bourbon Street.  CP and I had been traveling practically all day and we hadn’t gotten lunch thus, we were famished.  This dinner was a little later than we would have liked because we wanted to go to the “pep rally” for the Bowl game!  Hence, we practically walked into the first decent looking place off the street.

CP and I both wanted Jambalaya and Red Beans n’ Rice.  Hence, I suggested we both order each and split our dishes, welcoming us to this great city.  Though the restaurant isn’t the well-known type and those that get hyped up, but it was delicious.  Both dishes were flavorful and made you wanted to lick the plates clean.  Also, the Red Beans n’ Rice at the Cajun Cabin was my favorite from the entire trip.

Nola

The next morning, we had a late start and went to one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants – Nola, for lunch!

The space was modern industrial and gorgeous, with an open kitchen and woodfire oven where they made their pizza appetizer. However, we weren’t here for the pizzas…

To start – warm herbed roll and bell pepper cornbread, served with room temperature butter.  This was a great start!

CP and I both had the gumbo of the day as our appetizers.  It was pretty chilly outside and this warmed us right up.  The gumbo that day was andouille and smoked pork.  I could use some right now!

Our entrees: Grilled Atlantic Salmon with black bean-sweet corn succotash, chimichurri butter sauce and tomatillo salsa (top), was CP’s choice.  My entree was the Shrimp & Grits – grilled green onions, smoked cheddar grits, apple smoked bacon, crimini mushrooms and red chili-abita butter sauce.

The salmon was cooked wonderfully to the point where even I liked it!  Cooked salmon is not my choice of fish most of the time (unless it is sashimi grade) since it tends to be a little “fish” for me.  However, Nola’s was just perfect and we both loved it.  The shrimps in my dish were huge and perfectly sauteed, keeping its juicy and tenderness.

You see that?  You see it?!  ‘Cuz I did!!!  Pumpkin Bread Pudding!!!!

Mmmm…this bread pudding, though small, was packed with the flavors of the season!  It was moist, spiced, warm, and melts in your mouth.  The gingerbread-molasses ice cream that was paired with it, complemented it so well.  Oh man…so good!

After our lunch, we walked along the river walk, did some shopping, and made our way to Mardi Gras World!  We took the tour of their warehouse, looking at all the floats that had been used and will be used for Mardi Gras parades!

As part of the tour, they also serve you some King Cake!

Unfortunately, neither CP nor I got the baby so we were not royalty after all :(.  Oh well, still had a delicious piece of cinnamon swirl pastry.

After the tour, CP and I just walked more around town sightseeing, before going back to the hotel to rest up for the game!  Now…just looking through a few pictures, I feel immense sadness still, but I must continue!

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is truly an amazing venue.  The place was enormous and just trying to imagine the conditions of the place during Katrina…it was hard.  Anyway because I had to give the food vendors a little nod because they didn’t just serve the standard stadium fare:

Food choices included Jambalaya with hush puppies (which were dry as rocks…sadly) and alligator sausage with some remoulade sauce.  The best of the two?…Alligator Sausage by a LONG shot!  However, to make it better – ditch the cold bun and mix with the rice…perfection.

After the game…CP needed some more food…as part of our “drown out the sorrows and frustration”.  Therefore, we found ourselves in a quite little bar at the end of the hub of downtown – Coop’s Place.

Simple order of Red Beans n’ Rice with smoked sausage, plus a side order of fries.  Worst plate of food from our trip.  The beans were cold and tasteless.  However, we were both so tired and dejected that I didn’t even bother voicing the fact it was cold.  Saving grace – sausage was good and the fries were good too.

That is part one of New Orleans, part deux will be later this week! :).

Cajun Cabin
503 Bourbon St.
New Orleans, LA 70195

NOLA Restaurant
534 St Louis St
New Orleans, LA 70130

Coop’s Place
1109 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70116

Mardi Gras World


The Red Door

Seemingly appropriate given the holidays are in full swing right now!  It has been the first time in the last three years, that I have truly felt the holidays.  The past three years had been so ridiculously hectic due to my old job, that I rarely got into that holiday spirit.  I have to be honest, I think my spirit was plainly exhausted and maybe even a little jaded.  The work before was not only mentally draining, but physically and most of all – emotionally draining, that when it was time to take some “time off”, all I wanted was to sleep.

This year however, it is totally a different story!  I can FEEL the holidays growing in my bones and I am LOVING IT!! 🙂

Anyways, the reason why I missed last Sunday’s post was because I was celebrating with friends and family all weekend long.  “For what?” You may ask.  Well, it was for my birthday!  Another year older, maybe another year wiser?  Who knows, but I looked back and thought to myself, “Man…what a f***ing year!”

To celebrate with my family, we had a very nice dinner at The Red Door in Mission Hills.

The restaurant is small and cozy.  The decor very much a wine country setup and the main dining room has a full wine rack wall.  Dim lighting really sets the mood for an intimate evening.  I can imagine that during the mornings and afternoons, it is bright and cheery and perfect for a nice, cozy get together.

Now that is enough about the restaurant, let’s get to the real matter of things: the food!

Appetizers:

Signature Cornbread Muffins

Shrimp Creole

I do believe appetizers are suppose to wet your appetite for the main course, but the first course was my absolute favorite part of the meal.  The cornbread muffins are made to order, so the waiter will warn you it takes about 15 minutes for the prep.  Trust me – it’s worth it.  The cornbread is light, fluffy even, with a touch of creaminess from the white cheddar.  The muffins also come with a honey-rosemary butter which just helps the muffin to melt more in your mouth.

Then comes the Shrimp Creole in a white wine and cream sauce, spiced with the flavors of the “Big Easy”.  Though the portion size is small, the flavors are HUGE!!!  A thick tomato sauce filled with smokey, spicy, tang goodness.  I used the fried polenta to mop up more of the sauce, then when there was no more polenta, the cornbread went so well with it.  Man…this place knows how to start off a good meal.

Wild Mushroom Scallop Risotto

Pork "Schnitzel"

Red Door Burger

Garden Vegetable Plate

Red Door Chicken Roulade

The entrees on the other hand…was not memorable.  The scallops were nothing extraordinary.  The Schnitzel was not quite what I knew Schnitzel to be (more like fried pork chops to me).  CP’s burger though looked juicy enough.  My sister’s vegetable plate was as advertised and she liked it.  And the roulade was dry…=\.

I feel like the appetizers set my expectations higher than it should have been because the delivery was there in the beginning!  Yet, Red Door’s entrees barely raised above an “inside voice” level.  The appetizers would be like an opera singer – belting out beautiful notes.  Perhaps the encore would help save a poorly performing middle?

Brownie Sundae

Apple Walnut Cobbler

Well…how should I start off?  The brownie was probably the winner of the two.  It was a DENSE chocolate brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, drenched in fudge.  Definitely quite delicious.  I had a bite and loved it.  The cobbler on the other hand…it was nothing specially about it.  I’ve had much better cobblers and given that my ice cream was FROZEN solid turned me completely off.   One of two, 50/50, those aren’t bad odds at all.  I’ll take that any day!

Red Door is definitely worth a revisit, with different orders.  I would stick with my appetizer choices, but I would try something else on the menu for my entree.  Would I recommend this restaurant?  Yes – I would just stay away from the chicken and scallops…you can get much better elsewhere.

The Red Door Restaurant & Wine Bar
741 West Washington St
San Diego, CA 92103


Atlanta, GA – Week 2

After a LONG week of eating in Atlanta, we were all pretty worn down.  We were all just very tired and I don’t think we fully digested the first week’s food from our stomachs.  Hence, week 2 was much “lighter”…though the highlight of week 2 was on Monday when we visited:

South City Kitchen

Bread basket came with fresh, hot cornbread and biscuits!

After this basket…I strongly believe ALL restaurants should only serve (especially to me) one of the 3 options for a “bread basket”:

  1. Cornbread and/or biscuits
  2. Popovers (see Island Prime post)
  3. In-house made herb bread

And all these options must be FRESHLY MADE and served WARM!  Delighted Palate has spoken!

Our appetizers:

Hot Ham & Cheese - H&F bread, pimento cheese, Benton’s ham, pickles

Fried Catfish with minted zucchini slaw and red chili mayo

Fried Green Tomatos with goat cheese and red pepper coulis

Our entrées:

Smoked Pork Chops with spiced carrot puree, Swiss chard, and peanut-green chili pesto

In the words of my colleagues, “The smoke flavor is intense!  I don’t know how they got this much smoke flavor into this…I still have the smokey flavor in my mouth after eating!”  In other words, this was one kicka** pork chop.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken with "bliss" potatoes, honey-thyme jus and (this one) peas

Though this was not my entree, I had wish I had a second stomach so that I could have ordered this as my second entree!!!  This was one of the most flavorful, juiciest, piece of fried chicken I had ever tasted.  The chicken, which you can see is primarily breast meat, was so tender and juicy that it boggled all of our minds!  I’ll never look at a fried chicken the same ever again (sadly :(…).

Shrimp & Grits with poblanos, tasso ham, in a smoked tomato gravy

Ok, there is no doubt that South City Kitchen knows how to smoke their food. This shrimp and grits was heightened by the tomato gravy to ridiculous levels.  The gravy was smooth, tangy, spicy, and smoky.  I don’t know how they did it and the only think I could think of was one of two possibilities:

  1. They intense, smoked the tomatoes before pureeing them for the gravy, or
  2. They add liquid smoke into the gravy

One way or another, I want this gravy slathered all over everything I eat now! The pieces of tasso ham added saltiness perfectly to each bite, and the shrimps were cooked just right.  The grits?  Well my friends, they made one smooooth vehicle for all the awesomeness that I had just ranted about.

Desserts:

Chocolate Ganache Torte with toasted coconut and crème anglaise

Banana Pudding - banana pastry cream, ripe bananas, homemade vanilla wafers, fresh cream

Cheesecake Bread Pudding - baked brioche, rich white chocolate and cream cheese custard, blueberry compote

Let’s just say if there was one overall theme to each dessert at SCK – they are sinfully rich and packed with flavors as advertised.

We all walked out of that restaurant with painfully full tummies, and despite the groans and insistence that we will NEVER eat like that again, we were all very, very happy customers.

As for the rest of the week?  We revisited Fat Matt’s, then the next two days, we decided that we all needed a break from the eat-a-thon and truly attempted to eat “moderately” again.  Thus, I am sad to report – SCK was the true encore of our ATL exploration.

I would just like to thank Atlanta for bringing out the fatties in us, and making us all a little softer, a little rounder, and a lot more of a nightmare for physical check-up at the doctor’s.

Sincerely,

Delighted Palate & Crew

(See Week 1’s post here)

South City Kitchen
2 locations:
1144 Crescent Ave, Atlanta, Ga 30309
1675 Cumberland Pkwy, Smyrna, Ga 30080


Atlanta, GA – Week 1

First job at the new work place turns out to be in Atlanta.  Now, you all should know by now, I never travel without doing my research on where to eat.  Thank goodness my colleagues are equally open to my gluttonous ways (and frankly encourages it).  Behold our week long feasting:

Firkin and Gryphon

This was dinner on our first night because by the time we landed and got to the hotel, nothing was opened.  My manager and I managed to make it to a pub, which we thought would still have something to eat.  Upon entering, we were told it was the “late night” menu only – aka fried appetizers.  Within minutes of sitting, we were told the kitchen was closed for the night to the waitress regret.   However, we were set on getting something so I begged for them to at least let us have dessert.

Hence, you see before you the Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding and the Seasonal Cobbler (Strawberry-peach).  Both came with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  Both were ridiculously delicious and probably not the best way to start our week…or best way to frame the rest of our week.

JCT Kitchen and Bar

Appetizers –

Angry Mussels - Peppered bacon, Serrano chile & onion

Truffle Parmesan Fries

Carolina Gold Rice Aracini - Butternut squash, crispy brussel sprouts

Entrees –

Lamb Shank - spinach-creamed, Carolina gold rice, garlic chips, preserved lemon

Shrimp & Grits - red mule grits, deep fried soft poached egg, smoky tomato “jam”

Fried Chicken - benton's bacon macaroni & cheese, local farmstand vegetable of the moment

Desserts –

Chocolate Pudding - salted caramel, chewy peanut butter cookies

Butterscotch Bread Pudding with bourbon cream

Apple Fried Pie - butter pecan ice cream, bacon-caramel drizzle

Fat Matt’s Rib Shack

Ribs - great stuff

BBQ Chicken (1/2)

Chopped Pork Sandwich

Sides: Mac n' Cheese, Coleslaw, Baked Beans, and Brunswick Stew

Slope’s BBQ

Pork and Chicken Combo with Fried Okra and Jalapeno-Cheese Grits

Pork, Ribs, and Brisket - with Jalapeno-Cheese Grits and Brunswick Stew

Chopped Chicken and Pork with sweet potato fries and baked beans

Seasons 52

Maui Tuna Crunch Salad sushi-grade seared tuna, tropical organic greens, toasted almonds and miso vinaigrette

1. Organic Baby Spinach Salad with sliced seasonal pears, toasted pine nuts and crumbled gorgonzola cheese. 2. Chipotle-Glazed Shrimp with guacamole and tomatillo salsa verde

Gyro Pizza and Chipotle-glazed Shrimp

Pumpkin Pie Shot

Wildflour

Jalapeno Lime Sandwich - grilled chicken smothered with poblano pepper and onion mix, melted provolone, jalapeno lime sauce and pico de avocado.

Fogo de Chao

The Strip

1. Volcano– tuna tartar, cucumber topped with tuna, mango, avocado, Jimmy’s sauce, teriyaki. 2. Dynamite– spicy tuna, spicy yellowtail, masago, seasoned asparagus

Bread Pudding with Ice cream

Googie Burger

Flying South Sandwich - Seven spice crispy chicken breast, topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, signature hot sauce, & blue cheese slaw, with fresh cut fries & sweet tea

Ship & Anchor

Shepard's Pie

Shepard's Pie - Innards

Mitchell’s Ice Cream

Salted Caramel and Rosemary Olive Oil Flavors

And that is just week one.  We still have another week ahead…I hope my stomach can hold on.

Firkin and Gryphon
4764 Ashford Dunwoody Road
Dunwoody, GA 30338
http://www.firkinandgryphon.com/

JCT Kitchen and Bar
1198 Howell Mill Rd
Atlanta, GA 30318
http://jctkitchen.com/

Fat Matt’s Rib Shack
1811 Piedmont Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30324
http://www.fatmattsribshack.com/

Slope’s BBQ
Multiple locations in Atlanta area
http://www.slopesbbq.com/

Seasons 53
Two locations in Atlanta
http://www.seasons52.com/

Wildflour
5815 Windward Parkway, Suite 210
Alpharetta, GA 30005
http://www.wildflouratlanta.com/page/page/5668614.htm

Strip
245 18th Street Northwest Ste 5100
Atlanta, GA 30363
http://www.h2sr.com/strip/

Googie Burger
190 Marietta St, (Centennial Olympic Park)
Atlanta, GA 30342
http://googieburger.com/

Ship & Anchor Pub
5975 Roswell Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30328
http://www.yelp.com/biz/ship-and-anchor-pub-atlanta


Island Prime

The other night, CP took me out to dinner just because we hadn’t had a proper date night in such a long time.  Plus, with the college football season well underway, a lot more of his free time is consumed by it.  When he told me he made reservations for dinner for our date, and wanted to keep it a surprise, it made me wonder where he was taking me to.  The only hint he would give me was that it was somewhere we have been to before and that he hoped we could get a nice view of the water.  My mind immediately started working out where this mystery restaurant could be.  Given that we do live in San Diego, there are a handful of restaurants we have been to that had a “water view”, so I started going down the suspects: George’s, JRDN, 1500 Ocean, Crab Catcher (thought I highly suspected this was not even in the consideration since we had just visited it), Il Farnaio, Point Loma Seafood, etc.

CP would not let me know, only when and where we were to meet up so he could drive us.  The suspense!!!  (I did ask if I should have a certain type of wear and he said business casual like our workday usual)

The night of our date, we met up and he drove us downtown.  Where oh where was he taking me??  Then when he made his way towards the familiar route of when he takes me to the airport, I realized – ISLAND PRIME!  In all technicalities, we’ve only ever eaten at C Level – the patio dining area where the menu is a little more “relaxed”.  Island Prime is the indoor dining area where the restaurant is more of a steakhouse.  Still, a great restaurant (inside or out), and we were seated at a corner, window table with a view of the water and downtown San Diego.

An amazing view to prep us for an amazing dinner:

To start, Island Prime gives you POPOVERS…yes you read that right!  Popovers are served warm with whipped butter (read online that it was actually goat butter, didn’t get to ask).  And these puppies were freaking HUGE.  It was almost an appetizer in of itself.  I would have been satisfied with this popover as my appetizer.  Warm, buttery, soft layers of sweet and salty that makes you feel guilty for putting on that butter, but it amplifies all the components that I’ve already described to you about the popover itself.  I wish all restaurants would serve popovers instead of just plain bread.  Sigh…

The “A Study in Lobster” is basically lobster 3-ways: Lobster Bisque, Lobster Grilled Cheese, and Lobster Lollipops.  The lobster bisque I’ve had before and tasted just as delicious as I remembered.  Smooth, rich, creamy and thick – with little bits of lobster in it and dash of sherry on top.  The lobster grilled cheese was ridiculous!  Huge chunks of lobster claw meat, with fontina cheese, grilled on a little sourdough slices.  I don’t know how to describe this…other than – this ain’t your kindergarten, school yard grilled cheese.  This sexy little two-biter is the sensuous, adult version of grilled cheese.  Sweet, succulent lobster with the smooth fontina cheese, oh sweet, sweet, baby jebus, I thought I was done for the night with that.  Then the lollipop comes along and helps remind me that I can still have fun with a great, luxurious ingredient.  The lobster lollipop is a skewer of lobster meat, with a light batter and fried.  Fun, delicious, but revolutionary?  Naw…but it was still delish.

Island Prime’s Caesar Salad comes with two hearts of romaine, dressed with their house Caesar dressing.  They top theirs with marinated tomatoes, Parma, and a dark bread toast with an olive tapenade served as the crouton.  CP loved the salad, though it was a little hard to eat due to the plate size and shape.

Can you guess who’s entrée this is?  If you’ve read my blog before, or know me at all, you know that I cannot pass up scallops on a menu.  It is my Achilles heel because it is so hard for me to steer away from it.  Island Prime’s version was little different – seared scallops topped with popcorn snow, on popcorn emulsion, and sweet & sour bacon-corn salsa.  Admittedly, I was practically stuffed to the gills when this came out and yet, I could still taste that it was different from the other scallop dishes.  The scallops were perfection.  The popcorn emulsion reminded me of salt honestly.  It didn’t overpower the scallop, but all it was the salty touch to the dish.

CP’s “surf & turf”…or in the words of Island Prime, “Even turf can surf”.  I found that to be quite amusing J.  This is a 8 ounce filet migon with a fat lobster tail.  CP ordered it with the pancetta-peppercorn demi on the side.  Although I didn’t have any of his entrée, I could see it was very well done entrée.  And considering CP ate it right up, I think it’s safe to say it’s a darn good piece of turf and surf.

Dessert?…I am ashamed to report that I did NOT order dessert (*GASP!!!!*).  Yes, I couldn’t imagine eating more and CP’s not much for desserts so there was no way I could have one by myself.  So for that night, we call it quits after our entrees.

The food at Island Prime | C Level is superb to say the least.  Of all the Cohan Restaurants in our little town, I think this has to be my favorite (and the only one I haven’t been to yet is 33 Pacific up in Oceanside, and Bo Beau in OB after it took over the spot for Thee Bungalow).   The service here is exceptional, the food is extraordinary, and the view regardless of the time of day is magical.

Island Prime | C Level
880 Harbor Island Drive
San Diego, CA 92101


San Diego Restaurant Week 2011

Last month was San Diego’s 2011 semi-annual Restaurant Week.  For those who aren’t familiar with Restaurant Week, here is the quick break down: for a week, restaurants all over San Diego county have 3-course (sometimes optional 4th course) prix fixe menu showcasing at times the restaurant’s best-sellers and/or customer favorites for dinner.  However, this year’s fall round of RW included lunch prix fixe menus of 2-course options at certain restaurants! Some restaurants will also extend to a second week, but they don’t usually announce that on the website til the day before.  For those wanting to dine at the 5-star restaurants, but don’t have the pocket change to spar, this is a great way to get the full experience of the restaurant at a discount!

This time, I made it a mission to hit up at least one restaurant…and ended up going to TWO restaurants with CP.  Granted, it does get expensive if you’re going to more than one restaurant, but reading ahead of the menu choices and you could be walking away with a steal.

1. Whisknladle

Our first restaurant of the week was a restaurant CP and I had  already visited before, but I love – Whisknladle.  The best part of their menu during RW was: their ENTIRE menu was part of the event.  You could select any appetizers for your 1st course, any entree for your 2nd, and any dessert as your closer, all for $40.  Now if this is not a deal…then I don’t know what is!

First Courses:

Caesar Salad – whole romaine lettuce dressed in “made-to-order” dressing (according to their menu), topped with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and croutons.  Nothing special, just a refreshing salad for CP and always a favorite for him.

Potato Gnocchi in a brown butter-ale creme, finished with a gratinee of Brie de Meaux and chives.  Luscious!  Wait…is that even an adjective to describe food??  Not sure, but that’s how this felt.  The little potato pillows were just firm enough. with a little chew. to give you a bite, but somehow still remain light feeling.  Then the rich, brown butter-ale creme that coated each and every single pillow was ridiculously rich and guilt ridden,  but you couldn’t care.  No, you couldn’t get over how smooth, a touch of sweetness, and creamy it felt in your mouth.  Then that brie!  Oh that brie…sweet, tangy, more oozing of creaminess.  Man…this appetizer made me ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ as I devoured it.  Needless to say that I enjoyed my appetizer very much!

Second courses:

Taglietelle with house made spicy pork sausage sugo, pepperonata, and a light sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Beautiful, wide, ribbons of pasta cooked just perfectly to uphold the even more amazing sausage sugo.  That sauce held itself could have held its own against a battle of sauces.  The weak, basic “bolognese” of tomato sauce and crumbled pork would cower in fear of Whisknladle’s sugo!  I cannot keep myself from shouting, “SUGOI!!!” (sorry…I know…very cheesy >.<)

Seared Maine Scallops in a chilled green curry, roasted squash, tinkerbell peppers, spinach & capelin roe.  What can I say?  Can I ever escape ordering scallops when given the choice on the menu? Very, very rarely (if ever) would I pass up scallops.  Whisknladle did not disappoint in preparing my favorite shellfish.  Perfect sear to give the nice, crispy, caramelized crust, without overcooking (too many times that has happened to me).  Sweet, salty, cripsy, soft, buttery, bitter (from the peppers), and light.

Third course:

Dark Chocolate Pots de Creme topped with a layer of salted caramel and served with roasted banana cake.  Ok this pots de creme was magical, but  cloyingly sweet after your second or third spoonful.  I suppose that’s why they had the banana cake, but I almost wanted something something salty on the side.  However, I would have taken some ice cream to go with it, or whipped cream to just help break that sweetness.  Still delicious, although it was the first time I had to leave a dessert unfinished (*GASP!*).

Oh look! There’s the vanilla ice cream that I needed!  Except this was CP’s dessert and even though I had a little bit (to go with my dessert), I didn’t want to take more.

Our server was great – helpful, friendly, and attentive where needed.  Again, Whisknladle remains on my top list!

Whisknladle
1044 Wall St.
La Jolla, CA 92037

2. Crab Catcher

Now this is one restaurant I have never been to and had been in my “maybe” list of the Restaurant Week choices for several years.  This time however, CP did not partake in the RW prix fixe menu since he did not find pairings that suited his taste.

First course:

Crab Bisque – roasted red bell pepper broth, Meyer lemon crème fraiche.  This was not mind blowing, but I did enjoy the bisque.  I could have used some more crab, but the bisque was thick and rich, and citrus from that lemon crème fraiche did help enhance the flavors.  Although, I will say this bisque went great with the complementary foccaia they provide as part of the bread service.

CP’s Caesar Salad….told you – it’s a standby fave of his :).  Different presentation (pre-cut for the lazy), same concept – romaine lettuce, croutons, parma, and dressing.  “All hail Caesar!”

Second course:

Dungeness Crab Pappardelle with sweet heirloom peppers and lobster mushrooms, in a creamy Thai basil garlic sauce.  Man, oh man, where do I begin?  Let me count the ways this was a fail for me:  1. Not nearly enough crab, 2. Pasta was cooked a little more than I like, and 3. This was the weakest sauce on pasta I have had in a REALLY long time.  When I see “Thai basil garlic sauce”, I expected to get basil (I barely), garlic (not sure if there was any), and flavor – this was definitely NOT there.  This pasta made me so sad.  So very, very sad.  The crab mound on top was the best part of this plate and I ate it all up.  Everything else…I wanted to return.

Sea Bass with Maryland lump crab stuffing, fingerling potato, Haricots Verts, with a lemon thyme mustard sauce.  For once, I was seriously jealous of CP’s entree – I WANTED IT FOR MYSELF!!!!!!! The sea bass was tender, falls to the slightest pressure of the fork, and the perfect sear.  The crab added that extra natural sweetness, and I wanted it!  *Sigh*…but next time, I’ll just order this one for myself!

Third course:

Warm Chocolate Torte with candied macadamia nuts and topped with Tahitian vanilla gelato. This dessert should come with a warning: “You are about to enter chocolate nirvana!”  I think this torte has to be, hands down, one of the richest, chocolatey-est, dessert I’ve had in town.  They got it right by giving you a giant mound of vanilla gelato because you DO need it.  Also, in the center of the torte is a mountain of oozing, warm, lava pool of salted chocolate.  The only thing that could have made this better?…ANOTHER scoop of ice cream!

I would come back for the sea bass and the torte.  Those are a must!  Everything else…I can live without it again.

Crabcatcher
1298 Prospect St
La Jolla, CA 92037

Dungeness Crab Pappardelle locally grown sweet Heirloom peppers, lobster mushrooms,creamy Thai basil garlic sauce


Smashburger

image

My first smash sandwich was not a burger as a friend pointed out. I don’t eat beef so I opted for the chicken option, which was just as wonderful (as a burger…I would imagine).

I ordered the Spicy Baja with pepper jack cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, grilled onion (requested), chipotle mayo, and fresh jalapeno, all on a chipotle bun. The chicken was pounded thin and that helped keep the chicken nice and juicy. This is a technique we use to cook protein at home too because it ensures thorough cooking while being quick.  It helps retain the flavor and marinade, and minimizes the issue of overcooked, rubbery chicken.

The only issue I had with this sandwich was that all the ingredients were “wet”, so it all slipped out with each bite.  I guess that that means that it was finger-licking good!  Other than that minor issue, the chicken sandwich was very enjoyable. Now Smashburger will be my go-to for a quick delicious sandwich.

Smashburger
Multiple locations


R Gang Eatery

The other day, my friend – LA – and I ventured out to Hillcrest for brunch.  Naturally, since we had recently visited Hash House, we needed to visit a new spot.  Fortunately for us, I’ve been eying a place nearby for sometime now – R Gang Eatery.

This restaurant pretty much looked like it was once a big house, that was converted to a restaurant.  Maybe it was because of that, the central air system was not quite up to par to a restaurant’s.  It was a hot day by San Diego standards and that place was like a sauna.  A tip for you RGE – you may want to look into finding a better solution on your climate control than putting a few fans around that were naturally hogged by those who were positioned closest to them.

Anyways…aside from the terrible heat, our waiter (Chris) was very energetic and super friendly.  LA and I were already decided on what we really wanted from this place – their tots!  We ordered both of their current specialty tots – the White Trash Tots and the Buffalo Tots.

White Trash Tots

White Trash Tots - Innards

White Trash Tots – tater tots stuffed with diced Spam and Velveeta Cheese, served with “ketchayo” (ketchup & mayo).  These were a bit of an oddity.  I felt that there could have been more spam, and the velveeta gave it an odd taste.  Maybe I’m just not accustomed to the cheese because it is definitely not the Spam’s problem!  I LOVE Spam since I grew up on it!

Buffalo Tots

Buffalo Tots - innards

Buffalo Tots – tots stuffed with blue cheese and bacon (!!!), served with garlic-buffalo sauce.  These were by FAR both of our favorite tots between the two!  Oh mama!  The smoky and delicious bacon, with the cool bleu cheese, dipped in the tangy buffalo sauce, made you feel like you were eating a buffalo wings with fries!   In my opinion, they could have done with a little more bacon, but still was our favorite.  We couldn’t stop eating these despite the fact we still had our entrees coming.

Before that…I must warn you.  What I’m about to show you is ridiculously good and totally dangerous!

Ready?

You sure?….

Ok, you asked for it!

French Toast Casserole

Absorb it all in…look at the beauty that is before you.  This was not your normal french toast, but rather a bread pudding disguised as french toast.  RGE took the regular french toast and elevated it to new heights!  (Though they do offer another french toast entree on their menu…but I can’t imagine it being better than this!)  There are cubes of what I believe was brioche, baked in a creamy vanilla-cinnamon custard, then topped off with a bourbon caramel sauce and streusel crumbs.  Their online menu tells of a different casserole, but I think the one we had is sooooooo much better!  Actually, this was LA’s entree and I wanted it for myself!  Soft, salty, sweet, melts in your mouth, and with a kick of bourbon to remind you that you are at brunch.    Oh sweet, sweet jebus!  This was not a brunch item – it was a freaking dessert for breakfast/lunch!  All this needed was some vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream…and we’d be set.

My entree on the other hand…was a bit of a disappointment:

R Egg Sandy

The R Egg Sandy – fried egg on a focaccia roll with RGE’s house-made chicken apple sausage, topped with fontina cheese, spinach, and crispy onion strings.  Sounded delicious!  The actual result was somewhat lackluster despite the size.  I wanted something savory, but this did nothing for me.  I wanted that casserole more!

All in all, we had a good meal and walked out of there stuffed.  My first impressions and recommendations of R Gang Eatery:

  1. Great, friendly service in a casual and fun environment.
  2. Could definitely figure out their climate control for those abnormal San Diego weather spikes (whether it be hot or cold).
  3. Don’t pass up their stuffed tots (especially the buffalo).
  4.  Must try the French Toast Casserole.
  5. Remember to check-in on Yelp for a special discount on their tots.
  6. Have reservations regardless of day/time.

I’m curious about their dinner menu and would come back to try, but if nothing else…I’ll be back for that casserole!

R Gang Eatery
3683 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
619-677-2845


Hash House A Go-Go

I have been a resident of San Diego for the past 14 plus years, but I have never been to the breakfast icon of the city: Hash House A Go-Go.  Although, their claim to fame is mostly their enormous portion size, which gives their servers the most wicked upper body workout.  The reviews I’ve read online and the word of mouth have been somewhat mixed for me.  That’s probably why I never made it a mission for me to go.

Then about 2 weeks ago, my friend asked if I wanted to go to breakfast with her since she was craving HHaGG.  I decided that there was no better time than now to finally give this place a try!  So bright and early (TOO early) on a Monday morning, I met up with my friend to get my first dose of Go-Go!

This is the smoked chicken, sundried tomato pesto, spinach and goat cheese scramble.  It comes with a rosemary biscuit, fruit, and choice of mashed or crispy potatoes.  The smoked chicken was what made this dish spectacular and my favorite component.  The soft goat cheese was tangy and smooth, with the wilted spinach to help cut all the heaviness of the proteins.  The potatoes were ok, but I am a hashbrown girl so it cannot be helped.  That massive biscuit you see in the back was like a rock, but tasted nothing like one.  Loved this protein packed start to my morning!

My friend went for the sweet starter of Apple Cinnamon Flapjack with sides of scrambled eggs and bacon.  This flapjack was the size of a manhole cover!  Or a steering wheel!  Or a hubcap!!!  It was BIGGER than either of our heads!   To sum it up – it was HUUUUUGE!  Crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy cinnamon cakey filling on the inside, with slices of green apples all around the flapjack.

All in all…I’d have to say there was nothing worthwhile to wait for more than 30 minutes for a table.  However, if you go early enough during the weekday, I feel that you can have a good breakfast like we did….with lots of leftovers.

Hash House a Go-Go
3628 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103

(and several locations in Nevada)


Del Mar’s Gourmet Food Truck Festival

The Del Mar Fairgrounds was the host of the first ever Gourmet Food Truck Festival.  It was a gorgeous day out and perfect for gorging ourselves with amazing food.  Now as  I seat here after some “down” time, I am going through all my pictures and reminiscing about the eat-a-thon with my friend, LA.

We arrived at the fairgrounds with a tentative game plan: hit as many trucks as we could, and share everything we get.  Oh look!  This sign told us where our adventure would begin…

To kick off the eating, we started at Dogzilla:

To wet our appetites, we started with the Yakisoba Dog ($6) – a spicy hot link topped with stir-fried Yakisoba noodles with cabbage, bean sprouts, and green onions, Okonomi sauce, red ginger, finished off with Ao-Nori.  I was excited to try this because it was everything I love, in a bun!  And not just any bun, but a sweet Hawaiian bun.

The sausage gave the meal the spicy kick I prefer my meals to have.  With the lack of Sriracha and only ketchup, the sausage provided that spiciness that made my tongue happy!  The yakisoba was good, slightly sweet and salty, and the sweet bun helped wrapped everything for mobility.  I think this was one of the best starter for this food adventure!

Next…Great Balls on Tires:

Specializing in well…great balls!  Of meat :).  While waiting in line, we talked with two fellow foodies and had a great conversation with them!  As LA said, I make friends where ever I go and you know what?  Food always tastes better with great company! 🙂  Also, during our conversation, LA came up with a perfect phrase that even our new friends found to be quite amusing, and reflected myself perfectly – “food stalker”.  There needs some definition to go with this new phrase….here’s a shot: a food stalker is one who stares at others, known and unknown, solely to drool/obsess/investigate food that is not at one’s own plate.  Who will ask many questions to inquire about the food item being consumed and occasionally proceed to request for some.

Maybe that’s what a food stalker is?  If anyone has a better definition, send it to me!  For now, under this definition, I am a bona fide food stalker extraordinaire!

This bona fide food stalker and her accomplice went for an order of the Ballywood and Buffalo Balls (respectively and $6 per item).  The Ballywood was garam masala chicken balls, topped with coconut madras curry, crispy fired onions, and served with saffron basmati rice with tomato and cilantro chutneys.  The Buffalo Balls were buffalo style chicken ball, mac & cheese, blue cheese dressing, and served with celery and carrot.

The meatballs were amazingly juicy and tender – both of them!  The curry was not spicy (how I like mine), but rather on the sweet side.  However, it was flavor packed and I couldn’t help but lap it all up (my half) along with the somehow decently cooked basmati rice!  The buffalo sauce on the other hand was not spicy, and was sweet with a bit of vinegar tang.  Again, not my usual go-to flavor combo, but the meatball itself was so good, plus when I took a bite with the mac & cheese (with panko bread crumbs at top!!!), it made for a great bite!  Overall – this red, black, and white truck satisfied me and LA.

Next stop – the Tornado Potato:

We went for the “Tornado” with cajun seasoning.  As you can see, it’s a towering spiral of a whole potato on a stick!  LA and I had this at the County Fair this year, but we both wanted a fried potato item so we went with this place!  We both agreed that the potato should be sliced thinner to get that crispiness of a chip on the exterior, while remaining fluffy inside like a fry.  It was still tasty and we both love our potato treat!

Having had so many savory items, plus with the sun baring down on us for sometime now, we both needed a cool off and something sweet.  The answer to our prayers?

Longboard’s Ice Cream:

The recipe of this truck is simple: pick your ice cream flavor on a stick, then your chocolate coating choice (milk or dark) and finally your topping to coat the whole thing.

My choice: coconut ice cream, dipped in dark chocolate and topped with half graham cracker crumbs, and half rainbow sprinkles.  I loved the idea of how this worked and I loved the freshly dipped items, but my only issue was that ice cream bar on the stick was too icy.  It must be from keeping the ice cream frozen in order to dip them, so I can understand yet it did bother me a little.  However, it was still quite enjoyable!  Oh!  And since I forgot to take an individual pic of LA’s pop, she chose: pistachio ice cream, dipped in dark chocolate, and covered with rainbow sprinkles.  According to LA, the pistachio ice cream was only ok and didn’t have enough pistachio flavor to it.

After our pops, we decided to sit and rest for a bit, to let all the food mix in our stomachs and begin to really process it.  That was when the food coma started creeping in!  Oh man…I knew from there, it was only going to go downhill.  However, after sitting, then walking, and watching a race, we dove back into the crowds (which only grew even larger at that point).  I met up with a couple of friends and a colleague, watched what they ate and decided I had to make one more last haul!

Hence, LA and I made our way to Tapa Boy:


I ordered the Pork Longanisa Bowl with garlic fried rice (sinangag), an egg, and a side of papaya relish (atsara) with tomato and cucumber.  Man…when they say garlic rice…boy, oh, boy…did they really mean it!  The rice was packed with garlic and I loved it!  Their longanisa was sweet, which surprised me a little because I was expecting something spicy (are you noticing a trend here?…because I am).  The meat was super tender and yield to a plastic fork with ease, so it was still quite good. Though it didn’t blow my mind away.

To end a long day, though I didn’t have any…a friend bought herself a decked out waffle from Waffles de Liege:

This here is a liege waffle with chocolate drizzle, almonds, and topped with a giant scope of Fosselman’s English toffee nut ice cream.  I only had the ice cream and it was amazing!  My friend “Channy” dove into this with a huge smile on her face.  Judging from her expression, I think she liked it ;).

Well my friends, that was my first ever Gourmet Food Truck Festival!  I can’t wait for the next one, but until then…I am going to start having to find these food trucks around town for lunch!  Bon appetit my fellow food stalkers!

For more information on the food trucks visited:
Dogzilla
Great Balls on Tires
Tornado Potato
Long Boards Ice Cream
Tapa Boy
Waffles de Liege

The Team vs. BJ’s Pizookie Platter

Today was a team lunch to bring together the two sides of an engagement. There is nothing that can bring people together like food…especially ridiculous food. When I saw ridiculous, it could be ridiculously good tasting, ridiculously amazing looking, and the ridiculous embodiment of being a pure glutton.

Ladies and gents, please turn to Exhibit A:

This is BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse’s iconic dessert – the Pizookie.  However, what you’re looking at is the ULTIMATE Pizookie one could order from the menu.  The Pizookie Platter is the choice of 4 flavors of cookies, then piled high with 8 scoops of ice cream.  Our poison of choice (counter clockwise): Red Velvet, Triple Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk, and Cookies N’ Cream.  The ice cream that piled on top included: Vanilla Bean, Chocolate, and Cookies N’ Cream!

Literally, this platter was the size of a manhole cover!  There were 7 of us (3 males, 4 females) and we dug into this sugary monster.  We ate, and ate, and ATE…somewhere along the way, we started to get a bit delusional.  I think we were all wondering if we would survive this endeavor.  At one point, my hand was shaking as I reached over for more and that’s when I knew – I was way over my limit in sucrose intake.  I sadly put down my spoon and watched 2 of my colleagues eat through their sugar haze.  In the end, the dream was lived, but the victory was not ours.  We had finished a substantial amount of the platter, but in the end…there was still some cookie left with some ice cream (melted and melting).

Probably not the best idea in attempting this during a work lunch because all of us had some issues getting back to work and staying focus.   Or maybe…it was the best thing ever…oh yea, oh yea.

BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse
Mulitple Locations

Last Days in Paradise

Day 5

Today, we started our morning with a quick fruit breakfast before heading off to the Pearl Harbor Historical Sites.  Other than the Pearl Harbor Memorial, there are also retired WWII vessels that you can visit.  The Memorial is actually completely free and a ferry takes you to it approximately every 15 minutes.  The other military vessels do cost, but you can buy a package to save some money.  CP and I visited the USS Blowfin submarine and the USS Arizona.  I’ll let the pictures do the story telling.

After our memorial visit, but before the USS Arizona, we needed lunch and we were not going to settle for a crappy hamburger or hot dog.  Instead, we hoped in our car and drove a bit to get to Tanioka’s.  This market was recommended to me by my colleague, an ex-pat, for having the best poke and other great bento items.

Once we were there, the large number of choices made it really hard to for us to decide what to get.  In the end, we bought more than what we could really eat…but the bounty cost us about $35.

Shoyu Poke

Lomi Poke

Spicy Tuna with Sushi Rice

Fish and tofu cakes

Fried ahi with wasabi aoili

Best things we ate out of this massive pile of food?  The Lomi Poke and the Spicy Tuna with the sweet sushi rice.  The lomi poke had a subtle sweetness to it, and a hint of garlic or something else.  The soft cubes of tuna melted away and the seaweed gave away to a wonderful crunch.  Best poke I ever had and not sure how others will hold up to this one.

After that big meal, we had visited the USS Arizona as you saw above.  The winded down pretty quickly after that and we headed off to Paradise Cove for our luau.  Unfortunately…as we got closer to the east side of the island, the sun we had was going away and we were driving into showers, to rain, to heavy rain.  Obviously, the luau was cancelled and we had to reschedule it.

Since that plan went out the door, we decided to head to one of the beaches we saw on our drive the previous day.  We already had all our swimming gear in the car in case of anything and good thing we did!  So instead of a luau, we had a sunset swim on a secluded beach on the northwest side of Oahu.  It was a wonderful way to watch the day end (and to have your honey attempt to block a wave from getting you by doing a head dive as if to take a bullet for me.  Except this was water and it just ended up splashing us both completely).

For dinner that night, we ended up at Duke’s Waikiki to satisfy CP’s craving of surf and turf.  I wasn’t completely hungry, so we followed CP’s craving this time.  One thing that I didn’t know, was that the restaurant company that owns Jake’s Del Mar, owns Duke’s as well.  I was a little surprised by this and found it funny we ended up at a place that had a little bit of San Diego too.

CP’s surf and turf – sirloin and lobster tail, with mashed potatoes and green beans.  He lapped up his meal with a smile on his face…guessing he really like it huh? J

My lomi lomi chicken with rice pilaf was not amazing, but not terrible.  It was just kind of boring and I did not particularly like it.  However, not to fear! Dessert comes and saves my night!

The Hula Pie!  It is macadamia nut ice cream, sitting on a chocolate cookie crumb shell, covered with a layer of chocolate ganache, topped with chocolate fudge and more macadamia nuts and whipped cream.  Man…it was a cold, creamy party in my mouth.  Even CP joined in the dessert (he just steered away from the chocolate, which was fine by me)!

Day 6

Our last full day in Hawaii, we headed straight to Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling!  Unfortunately, we did not bring nor buy an underwater camera, but the experience was surreal.  Since we were there early in the morning (granted…it was chill waters for Hawaii given the storms and cloudy start to the day), the fishes were all out and feeding.  The waves were really mild, so it made for a great snorkeling experience.  We saw many of the species of fishes that we saw also at the aquarium, so both CP and I were super excited about that.

As the day progressed, more sun came out, but the waves started getting a little “rougher” for the bay.  It was harder to find the fishes at that point as they most likely took refuge in their coral homes. At that point, CP and I decided that after 4 hours of snorkeling, we decided to call it a day (for snorkeling).

Since we both worked up an appetite, it was time to get another food icon of the island:

YES! Malasadas! And not just any malasadas, but the famed Leonard’s Bakery malasadas!  We bought a box of 6 with the cinnamon coating, and 1 haupia filled sugar coated malasada.  I was giddy with excitement and joy as I tasted the warm, fluffy, sugary pastry.  I felt my eyes roll behind my head as the wonder that is a fresh malasada can do for me.  CP was looking curiously at the box and my reactions to eating it, and finally was convinced enough to try one.  He was hooked, no questions about it.

After having our fill of malasadas, we went back to clean up and headed off to our luau!

Paradise Cove

Upon entering the cove, you receive a shell or flower lei (depending which package you bought), plus a mai tai or a non-alcoholic beverage.  All around the cove, there were free activities that were happening for the guests such as spear throwing and weaving a head band made from palm leaves.  Since we bought the basic package, I did not have any flowers on me, I immediately went to make myself a headband and bracelet made from the same flowers.

After properly decking myself out, there were several pre-luau shows that we watched including: the flower drop (a guy climbs up a palm tree and lets out a sack of flowers…and he climbed that tree super fast) and demonstration of how fishermen casts out the nets from the shore to reel in dinner.

Then came the revealing of the pig ceremony and a traditional hula dance:

Finally, it was dinner time!  The offerings: kulau pig, baked fish, fried chicken, salad, pasta salad, bread rolls (butter and taro), rice, and poi.  Desserts included: coconut jello, vanilla and chocolate cakes, and pineapple.

The food? It was a buffet, what did you expect? I got exactly what I expected: fair to bad food.  The pig was good, and that was about it on the savory end. The coconut jello was the best dessert since it’s a lot like what I eat at home.

After we all had our fill, the show began!

That was both CP’s and my first luau and we both had a great time actually.  True, it is completely and utterly a tourist attraction, but it was something that had to be done.  Would I do it again?….nah, once is more than enough!

Day 7 – Last day :(…

Sigh…like all good things, it must come to an end.  I was sad waking up that morning, knowing that it was time to go home.  Prior to going, I had to pick up some cookies from the Honolulu Cookie Company to bring home.

I picked up the mix tin box with 15 flavors and a total of 32 cookies.  The flavors include: Butter Macadamia, Pineapple Macadamia, Mango Macadamia, Lilikoi Mango, Kona Coffee, Chocolate Dipped Macadamia, Dark Chocolate Macadamia, White Chocolate Kona Coffee, Dark Chocolate Kona Coffee, Triple Chocolate Macadamia, Dark Triple Chocolate Macadamia, Dark Chocolate Lilikoi, Coconut, Dark Chocolate Coconut and White Chocolate Coconut. My favorite?  The Dark Chocolate Coconut!

Also, we decided to make one last stop to Puka Dog for a to-go lunch.  Just because I wanted to bring something else to eat on our plane ride, just in case that the meal served was not good.

That was our week long adventure in Hawaii.  It was everything I thought it would be and at the same time, the island gave me surprises that I did not expect.  I can see myself definitely visiting the islands again!

Pearl Harbor Historical Sites

Taniokas Seafoods and Catering

94-903 Farrington Highway
Waipahu, HI 96797

Duke’s Waikiki
On the Sand at the Outrigger Waikiki, Oahu
2335 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 116
Honolulu, HI  96815

Hanauma Bay

Leonard’s Bakery
933 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816

Paradise Cove Luau
92-1089 Alii Nui Drive
Kapolei, Hawaii 96707

Honolulu Cookie Company

Multiple locations and online ordering available


Day 3 and 4 in Oahu

Day 3

After a day of doing little to nothing, it was time to do something again on our vacation!  But before any of that, we needed a proper breakfast to start.  Given that CP’s ideal breakfast are blueberry pancakes, no matter where we are, I found him a place that actually served it (you’d be surprised how hard it was…every place wanted to put either bananas or pineapples, which is not all that surprising since we were in Hawaii).

Longhi’s

Now…those 2 pancake stacks look the same with the exception of the topping right?  It is actually the topping that gives it away: one is a buttermilk blueberry pancake (top) and the other is a ricotta blueberry pancake (bottom).  The difference?  One is a good, standard, pancake…the other, is a creamy, decadent disks that will fill you up 5x faster.  Just take a look at the creamy goodness inside:

I had made it through half of the stack before I decided that it was a better idea to walk away than to push through.  CP on the other hand had wiped clean his stack (of 3…instead of 2 because his was slightly lighter than mine).  After our yummy breakfast, we had to make a stop in the Lego store we walked by on our way to breakfast because both CP and myself are big fans of Legos…but CP was just so excited to see a store with nothing BUT Legos.

He ended up buying 3 Starwars character keychains (since it was buy 2, get 1 free) and walked out of the store triumphant and happier.  🙂  With this good start to the day, we decided to go see some of the “sights” of the island…you know, the tourist stops.  It is in us both to do as much one can during a vacation (it’s more myself than anyone), so since we spent one whole day practically doing nothing…it was time to do something!  That’s why we spent the next 2 hours or so at the Waikiki Aquarium.

We learned that this monk seal is best known for “energy conservation.”  CP and I both thought, “How appropriate for this vacation…perhaps we should take a page from its book and we could learn a few things or two on how to enjoy life.”  I loved this seal because: 1. it’s just a blubbery cuteness and 2. lives the life I wish I could.

After spending the time inside a wonderful aquarium and learning about the animal that embodies Bruno Mars’ newest single, “The Lazy Song,”  CP and I decided to do something just completely the opposite.  Here’s a shot of what I’m referring to:

Can you guess where we were headed off to next?…No?  Here’s another clue then:

CP and I were about to take a “hike into history” up Diamond Head Crater!  Let me tell you…it is one, fracking harsh hike into history.  Irony lost upon us? Nope.  Deterred?  Ha! We’re city people in a profession where people think sleeping is inefficient use of hours in the day.  So suck it up, get lathered up (with sunscreen…we’re not stupid, skin cancer is not our agenda for this hike), and “LEGGO!”

There’s CP as we left the paved lower part of the crater’s park, into the rough and uneven terrain. I took random shots throughout the hike, but we hit a point where I was using all my energy to keep myself from slipping and/or twisting my ankle on the uneven trail.

Just when we thought we would never get anywhere, we reached a break from the hike to this gorgeous view:

After a brief break to catch our breath, cool off, snap some shots of ourselves…we continued our trek northward!  Let’s just say it was more uphill climbs before we hit some very steep stairs, followed by a long dark tunnel, then more stairs that were even steeper, then another tunnel before ending at…A SPIRAL STAIRCASE! (insert gasps and shock…feel free…I’ll wait for you 🙂 ).  Once we made it to the top, we were reward with amazing views of the island.  A perfect view down the shoreline of Waikiki beach, and the lush mountains of Oahu.

Needless to say, CP and I were happy we had made it up to the top in one piece for wonderful views.  Even though we were both a sweaty mess, we were champions of the crater for that moment!

Let’s just say the trek down was a hop and skip for us by this point.  Filled with joy and the taste of victory, we sauntered to the car and headed for a victory cool off snack at Waiola again:

A lime and pink lemonade shaved ice over 3 scoops of vanilla ice cream for CP.

And a modest lychee and lilikoi shaved ice for me.  Plus…

A musubi!  You seriously didn’t think I would not get this while here right?  (Side note: I am a BIG fan of spam.  Every since I was little, Spam was a treat for me since Mom didn’t like for us to eat too much of it because at the end of the day, it was processed meat.  However, pan-fried Spam made it to our noodles and ramens, as well as scrambled eggs for dinner.  Needless to say, I ❤ Spam!)  CP on the otherhand had a lot of reserves about eating it.  He, like many mainlanders and the uninitiated, looked at this product only to think of all the rumors about how Spam is not real meat.  Or that it was what kids at camp would call “mystery meat”.  As I explained to CP what Spam was and wasn’t, he made a comparison that I thought was completely brilliant and people can understand: “So basically, it’s like a hot dog?”  Yes! It is!!  Spam is ground and processed pig, with spices and repackaged for consumers.  🙂

Anyways…the conclusion to this story: CP was not only convinced, but HOOKED on it.!  Mission: Complete.

We basically wound down the day by the poolside again at the hotel in the waning sun light.   For dinner that night, CP was craving a hefty hamburger so we ended up going to Cheeseburger Waikiki.  This is a burger chain and…I really did not have anything to say about this place because I was not entirely pleased with my turkey burger.  Not exactly what I would go for in Hawaii, but CP wanted his burger and according to him, it was quite delicious.

Day 4

The following day, we decided to enjoy our day at Dole Plantation! 

There were several attractions you could go to and learn about the plantation and about pineapples.  CP and I went to all 3 attractions.  First stop: The Pineapple Express (…yes, we both smiled and had an unspoken moment there).

On this narrated train ride, you learn about the Dole Company’s history as you ride through the pineapple fields.  During our visit, the fields were bare as the season had passed already.  Given like any proper tourist attractions, proper planning included planting other crops that Dole grows, as well as showing the other fruits that are grown on the island.  The varieties included: banana, mango, lychee, cacao, ti leaf, and others.  Learn something new everyday!

The Dole Garden was next, where you can walk through their garden area to look and learn about the native plants and the many uses of them.  It was a gorgeous garden and a nice learning experience.

We took a brief break to get out of the sun and re-nourish ourselves at the café in the shopping area.  My choice of refreshment?  A Dole Whip!

CP’s choice? A hot dog chili plate with rice:

Strange as it may sound and look, it worked out quite well !

After resting ourselves a little to let the food settle, we headed to the world’s largest maze!  The challenge: find all 8 “check-in” points in the maze as fast as you can.  With our combined powers of navigation, a few mistakes here and there, CP and I successfully made it through the maze in approximately 2 hours.  Victory yet again!

With our satisfaction of conquering the plantation, we headed north for our next mid-day snack stop and the signature food/destination of the North Shore: a shrimp truck.  Our destination: Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.

Tucked into a little forest clearing right off the road, you would easily miss the truck even with a GPS (we had this issue several times during our trip) and we did.  So we made a turn and made our way back.  Their menu is simple and minimalistic, all surrounding the key protein: shrimp.  Given that it was already well into the day, by the time we were there, all they had available was the shrimp scampi.  That was fine by us, all we wanted was to taste the delicious, plump (not-so) little shrimp.

The order comes with a pile of fresh, cook-to-order shrimp (sans the head…thank goodness) and 2 scoops of white rice.  The shrimp was cooked and bathed in a wonderful garlic, lemon, buttery goodness.  To put it simply, here was what CP said to me, “I normally don’t have the urge to lick my fingers, but…” *proceeds to lick his fingers*.  This is a sign because what CP said is true, we’ve eat BBQ and I have NEVER seen him lick his fingers.  Whereas I have no problem with doing so…whether BBQ, Indian, anything!  Thus, this just goes to show you how amazing this was.  I can still smell the strong, sweet garlic smell as I write about it and it lingered with us as we continued on.

We took the drive up to one of the beaches in North Shore to dip our feet in.  However, as you can see for yourself, a storm was brewing and yet, we thought it would just pass like it always did.  Well…let’s just say that did not go quite as so.  As we drove down the west side of the island back to Waikiki, the rain steadily started coming.  By the time we were back at our hotel in Waikiki, it was POURING!  It was flash thunderstorm and it was as if the sky turned into the ocean and gravity brought down all the water to us.  It was a mad house watching everyone trying to run for cover and the streets flooding within matter of seconds.  At one point, one of the sidewalks slightly below the hotel’s main road was a miniature moat or more aptly, a cesspool.

CP and I took refuge back in our hotel room to clean up, in hopes that the storm would pass.  And fortunately for us, it did!  We headed back out to grab dinner at Yotteko-Ya.

This ramen house was small and tucked at the far end of a strip mall.  Unassuming and you would never even think twice about it.  The only way you would go: recommendations or you just so happen to be stuck at that strip mall.  Otherwise, you would never find it.

The restaurant specialized in ramen, but also served fried rice and appetizers.  They also offered a set meal where you could choose an appetizer, ramen, and have either white rice or fried rice.  The ramen soup base choices included: Shoyu, Shio, or Paitan.  Paitan is a rich chicken/pork based broth and has a milky look from the cooked down chicken/pork bones.  Also, you can choose how firm you wish for your ramen to be cooked: firm or soft.

Both CP and I ordered the Paitan ramen with fried rice (no eggs for CP though) and the Kaarage/Gyoza (CP/me).

The ramen you see above you was something else!  I cannot even begin to tell you how wonder, flavorful, rich, smooth, and silky!  I had never had a broth this rich in flavor in all my ramen adventures.  This bowl and my memory of it is what I will use to judge all other tonketsu and paitan broths from here on out.  (I am a fan of Tajima, but putting their broth on a good day up against Yotteko-Ya…it is like a Hefty bag commercial – “HEFTY HEFTY HEFTY……wimpy wimpy wimpy”.)

The fried rice and appetizers kind of just fell to the sideline and to the back after we had our taste of the broth.  Man…I really need a good bowl of ramen right now.

There we go folks! Just two and half more days to go in Paradise!

Longhi’s
3 locations (Oahu and Maui)

Waikiki Aquarium
2777 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI

Diamond Head Crater

Waiola Shave Ice
2135 Waiola St
Honolulu, HI 96805

Dole Plantation

64-1550 Kamehameha Highway
Wahiawa, HI 96786

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
2 locations in Oahu

Yotteko-Ya
1960 Kapiolani Blvd, #214
Honolulu, HI 96826


Northern Nevada Trip

So where was my next stop after my time in New York?…

RENO!!!!!!

Thank goodness we also had a stop in Tahoe as well during our visit to the Northern Nevada casino properties.  Being my first time in Northern Nevada, I was shocked at the decay of the city of Reno.  As we drove through the main road of the city, I could see how this was once the hustle and bustle of Northern Nevada.  Now, it is a sadder scene with areas of abandonment and memory of the old days.

However, granted I was traveling with others this time aka – there was no excuse to NOT eat with tons of people and way too much food.

I will just go down chronologically of the meals that we had shared and consumed:

Santa Fe Hotel

235 N Lake St
Reno, NV 89501

This was a Basque restaurant, serving traditional Basque cuisine.  I had never heard of Basque food before and the only time I had even heard of “Basque” was during my travel to Europe and was given a brief history during our drive into Spain from France.  So I was excited to see what this food was all about.

First, the dining room reminded me of an old bar or saloon.  There were rows of long tables that you would share with other parties when it was a full house.  However, that night, the place was already winding down due to the fact it was a late Sunday night. The meals were served family style with a choice of entrée for yourself.  The entrees differ each night and so…let the food precession begin!

Soup

Chorizo

Beans

Fries

Lamb Chops

As you can see, they pretty much covered the bases with a soup starter, meats, and starch.  The food was good overall, but it did not exactly blow my me out of the water.  Still…it was a good start to the trip.

The Cheese Board

247 California Avenue
Reno, Nevada 89509

The following day, after our morning of walking the floors, we met up with another team working on another property for lunch at The Cheese Board.  This place would be considered a casual French/American Bistro. They had sandwiches, salads, specials and of course – wine (which we did not have because we were all on ‘work hours’ and we were being good to stick to it).

Brie

This was so good! I don’t know how you cannot like warm, melting, good quality cheese.

Cheese Board

Because this was the namesake of the Bistro…and the selections were all quite yummy.

Steak Fajitas

Quiche

(It was one of the better quiches that I had ever tried)

Pasta Chicken Salad

Sante Fe Chicken Sandwich

Overall?…A wonderful lunch spot and reminds me that Reno is still alive!

Wild River Grille

17 S. Virginia St. #180
Reno, NV 89501

Since we had such a nice lunch that day, we hoped that this recommendation we received from a fellow colleague would not fail us.  Plus, it sat right by the river so it was the closest “seaside dining” we could muster for Northern Nevada.

Pear & Goat Cheese Crostini

Taste was there, but there was no texture.  It was just a pile of mush on mush…sad 😦

Artichoke & Brie Dip

(Just…no)

House Salad

Possibly the best thing I ate there that night.  Fresh greens dressed in a delicious vinaigrette (plus there was texture here at least!)

Now our entrees:

Meatloaf

Grilled Salmon

Lamb

Good lamb…even better polenta that was served under it.

Pork Chops

Rib Eye

Desserts (I laugh and make a face as I write/think about this):

River Mud

The way they described it on the menu sounds interesting, yet it came out exactly as I had imagined: a brownie with a Klondike bar sitting on top.  =\

Bread Pudding

Disgusting.  Let me describe to you why: imagine cubes of stall bread that was pressed together and re-baked with no liquids to make it remotely moist and then try to cover it with chocolate sauce.  This was the bread pudding.  UCK!!

Crème Brulee

Now for this one – it was scrambled eggs in a dish with caramelized sugar.  Yea…

Crumble

(Chuckling) Ok…on the menu it does not tell you what kinds of berries are used, just that this was a berry crumble.  So we asked the waitress and she tells us, “It’s a deep berry the chef uses.”

….Did you all catch that? “Deep berries.”  If you were like us, you’d be asking (like we actually did): “What (the hell) are ‘deep berries’?” Are they berries deep within a forest? Are they philosophical fruits?  What?!  Let’s just say the waitress could not talk herself out of this one.  (By the way, it ended up being strawberries…because they were out of deep berries apparently.)

My recommendations to you?…Skip the appetizers and desserts, go for the house salad and entrees only.

Golden Flower Vietnamese

205 West 5th Street
Reno, NV 89503

The place is pretty self explanatory of what we had for lunch.  However, in addition to our bowls of pho, we had orders of the Fresh Spring rolls and Fried Eggrolls

Vietnamese Eggrolls

Fresh Spring Rolls

Now…on to Tahoe!

Lone Eagle Grille

111 Country Club Drive
Incline Village, NV 89451

For our first night in Tahoe, we joined with the group at their hotel for dinner.  Let’s just say we ordered more than what we all really needed.  Let the bingeing begin:

Calamari

Pork belly

Quail

French onion soup

Wedge salad

Lamb

NY Strip

Ribeye

Buffalo

Short ribs

Grilled Chicken

Dessert platter

I think the end of the meal was the favorite part of the meal for me that night.  Look at that spread of delicious, fatty, sugary goodness.  We had (going from left to right): Apple Trio; Mud Pie; Cheesecake; Crème Brulee; Chocolate Pear Nougat; Walnut Tart w/ Dolce Dulce Ice Cream.

My gawd…it was an overboard of sugar and we were all already at our breaking point but we were all very dedicated foodies (and a newly initiated one who was brought on to help us and was floored by the amount of food that we ate).  My favorite from the platter?  It would have to be the Walnut Tart with the ice cream.  By the way…this was the platter at the end:

We CRUSHED this platter!

Latin Soul

168 Hwy 50
Stateline, NV 89449

For our last lunch, we headed for some Mexican/Spanish food.  However…it was not that good sadly.

Mushroom & Cheese Empanadas

Tacos – Lamb & Carne

Tacos – Lamb & Al Pastor

The meat tasted fine for the tacos, but not astounding.  Worst part was that the tortillas were too thick.  You needed thinner tortillas to just hold the meats and let the (good) meat do all the talking.  This place’s tacos were just a mumble in the air.

Kalani’s

1001 Heavenly Village Way #26
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

Our last night in Tahoe, for dinner, we opted for something amazing to make up for lunch, but yet, staying away from the steakhouses (we both needed seafood to balance out all the red meat).  Thus, it was Kalani’s that really saved the day.

Lobster Bisque

They were kind enough to split an order into two little cups for us.  Thick, flavorful, sweet, a tinge of spice…wonderful.

Pulehu Baby Back Pork Ribs

Sweet, salty, sticky, and fall-off-the-bone tender.  Though we both had enough meat the past few days, this was a great addition to our meal.

Pan Caramelized Miso-Yaki Sea Bass

O.M.G.  I cannot tell you how much I LOVE sea bass and its buttery texture.  This fish really does fall to the slightest force from your fork and melts in your mouth as if it was butter.  Amazing piece of fish and cooked with a crispy side to add a little texture.  Suberb!

Ahi tuna

The special of the night was an ahi tuna steak topped with sweet, fresh crab meat, served on top of kimchi and “veggie sticks” (aka julienne carrots, zucchini and squash).  This was good, but it was not a sea bass.

Coconut Creme Brulee

To round off the night, we finished with this delicious and wonderfully made creme brulee.  The coconut flavor was in your face, but pleasantly so.  By far…it was our best meal to date during this trip!

5th Street Bakery

953 W 5th St.
Reno, NV 89503

Last day in Northern Nevada…back at Reno to grab a quick bite before we headed to the airport.  We wanted something simple and quick.  This little café had a great spirit and a hard working woman who I can only assume was the owner.  She worked the counter, cash register, and waiting/bussing the tables.  Naturally, you see her just running around the little café at great speeds.

While sitting there, you could watch your food be made fresh and also watch them bake their own breads for the menu items.

Morning Cuban

This was toasted bread slice (freshly made in-house), roasted pork, swiss cheese, ham, eggs overeasy, green salsa.  With a little hot sauce, it is the cure for hangovers.

Mediterranean Salad

A mixed organic greens salad with tomato, kalamata olives, red onions, red bell peppers, feta cheese, avocado, procsiutto, house croutons.

We kept it simple and clean….well I did with my salad, can’t say the same for my colleague.

Well friends…that was my first time adventure in Reno and Tahoe.  Will I be back? If it’s for work, I won’t have much of a choice, but if for pleasure, then I will definitely be back to Tahoe.


Returning to NYC

My first time in New York was a complete culture shock and I just didn’t have enough time to do everything a tourist does in the city, PLUS touring all the eateries.  However, my second trip to the city was just one of two things to do: go to work and eat.  Guess what I liked doing more?

I must say though, one down side for a foodie in such a huge city with so many options for meals and snacks, is the hard question: what should I eat?!

So again…I will let my pictures do all the talking :):

Momofuku: má pêche
15 west 56th street
new york, ny 10019

summer rolls – pork/ shrimp/ tofu, lettuce, daikon, peanut

broccoli with red miso and sesame

noodles with pork belly and fried pig skin

Locanda Verde
377 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013

Blue Crab Crostini with jalapeno and tomato

Pappardelle with lamb bolognese, ricotta and mint

Roasted Sea Scallops with sicilian cauliflower and citrus

Gelato: Chocolate, Cardamom, and Buttermilk

Soto
357 6th Ave
New York, NY 10079

Tuna Tartare

Salmon and Tuna Nigiri

Uni and Unagi Nigiri

Scallop with Shiso Leaf Roll

Rice To Riches
37 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012

Inside the rice pudding bar!

Tiramisu Rice Pudding

luent in French w. Toasted Coconut & Graham Cracker bits

Morimoto
88 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Toro Tartare with osetra caviar, sour cream, wasabi, dashi-soy

kakuni (ten hour braised pork) with congee cooked with soy-scallion jus made from the braising liquids

Grom
International locations and limited locations within US

Pistachio Gelato

Wafels & Dinges Truck (and Mini too)
Various locations in Manhattan (dependent on day and time)

Leige Wafel with Nutella

Tasty Dumpling Inc
54 Mulberry St # E
New York, NY 10013

Dumplings: Pork & Chives; Pork & Cabbage

It was a whirl wind of a week of training and food!  My favorites this time?…

  • Locanda Verde – this restaurant really surprised me by the quality of food and the simple, yet dazzling flavors.  This restaurant will be a must visit here on out whenever I find myself in the City!
  • Rice to Riches – I now understand all the rave about this place…it’s freaking delicious (and I used to make rice pudding by the quarts).
  • Morimoto – the toro tartare of course…the congee that came with the braised pork was soaked with pork goodness, amazing.
  • Tasty Dumplings – um…duh, dumpling filling were great, but needed more to the ratio of wrapper.  Also, their dumpling wrapping was too thick in my opinion.

I will be back New York!  I love you and the whole city’s talent for creating some of the best morsels!


Chicago – Again and again

The past two weeks I have been on travel for training and have been getting as much as I could in every aspect: knowledge, networking, and most of all – FOOD.

Last week, I was back in the great city of Chicago and this time, I was actually in the city versus my first trip to the Second City where I was mostly there to sleep.  Granted, it helped that my fellow colleagues all wanted to go out each night to get the most we could together.

However, when I first arrived in the city on Sunday night I was on my own since I had yet to know who was in town.  I quickly checked in and headed straight out to take the metro to my first food destination: Blue 13.

I found this restaurant from researching online and had great ratings, along with fabulous raves from foodies like myself.  When I arrived, it was quaint little restaurant with a warm overall feel to it in its minimalist interior design.  As far as I could tell, there was only one server and one host who bus tables when it became busier through the night.

To begin the meal, I ordered a simple Mixed Green salad:

The salad of mixed greens, shaved carrots, and radish tossed with Dijon vinaigrette and topped with a generous amount of pecorino.  A great, refreshing start to the meal.  There is little for me to say about the salad other than it was a great salad.  Plus, the fresh, hot bread that came out along with olive oil to dip in made a delish start to the meal.

For my entrée, as I was dining for one, I ordered the highly recommended “3 Birds” Lobster Pizza:

I know what you’re thinking already. Yes, I did know I was ordering a thin crust pizza in the city known for deep dish.  However, if you come here, I am going to echo what I had found during my online research – this is a must have dish.

The crust was charred perfectly and thin so that you would have to do the fold right down the middle to make sure everything stayed on.  This is a white pie with a roasted garlic puree base, caramelized onions, chunks of lobster, and manchego cheese to hold it all together with a sprinkling of herbs.  This pizza has the sweetness that reminds you of a cheesy, yummy, lobster bisque.  It all balances so well together that I couldn’t stop eating it.  I pushed myself beyond the point of bursting because it was that delicious.  However, I sadly left behind two slices that were stripped of their lobster pieces because my stomach said, “Please…no more!!”

Despite my comatose state at that moment, I still ordered a dessert because how can I call this meal completed until I did?!  So of the 3 dessert choices, this was the one that perked my interest: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Waffle.

Understand that I had no more intention of stuffing myself, but when I saw “candied bacon” I knew I had to try it.  What came out was a waffle, drizzled with chocolate sauce, topped with candied bacon and hazelnut, and paired with butter pecan ice cream.

First off – the candied bacon was the best part of the dessert.  You’re wondering what did it taste like right?  Just imagine breakfast, where you have a side of bacon with your pancake/waffle, and the maple syrup drips over to the bacon.  It was sticky, sweet, crispy, and salty.  The waffle did not have chocolate chips and needed more peanut butter.  Overall, I would suggest you skip this dessert, try a different one, or just order yourself another lobster pizza.

This is the type of restaurant you go to with friends to just catch up, share some good food, and enjoy the evening.  The two servers were great and attentive, but when it got a little busier by the time I had finished my meal, the lack of staff was apparent.  Still, friendly service and great food is the equation for a satisfied customer who will return.

Blue 13
416 W Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60654-5714

The following night, after our first day of training, a group of us went out to grab dinner at The Publican where if it oinks, it will end up cooked at this restaurant.  I loved the open space design which was to resemble a barn.  To add to that, their booth seating had little doors to encapsulate diners as if they were in a pig stall.  The rest of the restaurant was set up with communal tables where you could be sitting next to a complete stranger on one side and your friend on the other.

We went family style and ordered various dishes off the menu to share.  I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, with a few inserts by me, so enough grazing through the pictures!

Beets with Clementine segments and yogurt – this was my favorite side that we had ordered that night.  Sweet and tart, great palate cleanser.

Charcuterie plate: pork pie, trotter-foie gras terrine, head cheese, milano, morteau sausage, pickles & mustards

Turnips with rosemary

Cajun Shrimp with Grits – the grits had soaked up all the Cajun spices and shrimp juices.

Fried Smelt with mustard greens and raw onions

Country Ribs with mustard greens & grilled red onions

Sweetbread with sweet potatoes, black trumpets & green garlic-watercress pesto

Pork Belly with fresh chickpeas and stuffing – decadent and you feel so guilty for eating this fatty yet delicious piece of the pig. (*gurgling sound*)

Lamb Sausage with lentils, mint, meyer lemon & yogurt – I love lamb…I love sausage…I loved, LOVED this dish.  The mint and yogurt balanced out the gamey flavor of the sausage and the casing had a great snap to the bite.

Yams

Frites

Apple & Rhubarb Crumble with crème – heaven in one’s mouth.

Waffle with pear butter & plum marmalade – highly suggest that you do not waste your time with this one.  It was nothing special at all.

Dark chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream – a darker heaven in one’s mouth.  Then again I am the biggest fan of dark chocolate, so if you don’t like dark chocolate (WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!) then this is definitely not for you.

The Publican also has a wide beer and wine selection, as well as servers who are willing to mix you up a great cocktail if you desire it.  The restaurant has a fun atmosphere especially for big groups.  Just make sure you don’t have any vegetarians in the group otherwise they will most likely go hungry.

The Publican
837 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

On our last night in the city, our dining group only grew to an even larger number than the previous night.  This time around, upon my insistence on move to more ethnic flavors, we decided upon a restaurant that has several locations throughout the country, but still supposedly made great food.  That night…we our taste buds did the samba at SUSHISAMBA!

Once again, we ate family style and tried a little bit of everything.

Edamame organic soybean, sea salt, lime

Tiger shrimp tempura

Salmon sashimi seviche marinated in mizuna, aji amarillo, and orange

This dish was the sunshine of my night (wait…um…yea, I’ll still stand by my description)!  It was fresh, bright, sweet, spicy, turns your life around because it was just that amazing.  It would even put a smile to the worst Debby Downer that you know! (Unless he/she doesn’t like fish…but even then! This dish may convert him/her!)

Yellowtail sashimi seviche marinated in ginger, garlic, and soy

Tuna sashimi seviche marinated in coconut, lime, and serrano chilies

Of the 3 seviches we ordered that night, this was the most disappointing for me.  It didn’t have the vibrant flavors of the salmon nor yellowtail seviches. 😦  However, our fish adventures had just started because out came our platter of various sushi rolls:

(Going from left to right): Spicy Tuna; Bobo - brazil seared kobe beef, avocado, kaiware, shiso, red onion, chimichurri ponzu; Unagi tamago - freshwater eel, zuke tuna, cucumber, tempura flake, wasabi crema;Rainbow dragon - freshwater eel, red bell pepper, cucumber, mango, avocado

Charcoal roasted mussels garlic, white wine, Peruvian chili

Unfortunately, the mussels did not taste fresh (consistently) and so we asked for them to return it and traded for:

Spicy Popcorn Shrimp – sweet and spicy, fried tempura shrimp.

We also ordered the churrasco “supreme” (aka meatfest) with: rio grande grilled hanger steak, ribeye, pork tenderloin, chorizo and linguica.  This was served with sides of white rice, black beans, collard greens, and farofa.  Additionally, various dipping sauces including malagueta pepper oil and chimichurri:

Meat-palooza!

The Miso-marinated Chilean sea bass roasted organic vegetables is one of those dishes that I still think about.  This is the perfect example of a perfectly cooked fish that is so smooth, so fresh, so buttery, so fracking delish that I gurgle as I giggle with giddy.

Whole crispy red snapper spicy red curry sauce, scallion, ginger, coconut rice – the rice was good! The fish staring at me…not so much.

Side of Peruvian corn – it’s like hominy; I wasn’t much of a fan.

And of course, we had to have desserts.  Note the plural form of that: desserts.  We really went all out for dessert and there were no regrets what-so-ever afterwards because they were all delicioso!

Coco duo: Brazilian dark and white chocolate custard, chocolate pearls, praline

Peruvian hot chocolate served with traditional churros

Rosca: housemade doughnuts, vanilla glaze, chocolate hazelnut sauce

Warm chocolate banana cake maple butter, banana chip, vanilla rum ice cream

Cassava carrot cake brown butter ice cream, cinnamon cream, rainbow carrot chip, orange reduction

Carmen Miranda:  seasonal fresh fruit, pop rocks, lemon sorvete…sorry, no pictures for this one :(.  I can describe to you what it was: a bowl of fresh berries that included strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, with a sprinkle of pink pop rocks (not enough apparently since the tasters didn’t feel the effects of it) and a scoop of lemon sorbet.

I don’t know which one I liked more, but I did know I had a taste of everything and there wasn’t one that I didn’t like!  Even though it is not a local restaurant, this place has a fun atmosphere and serves stellar food with great service.  SUSHISAMBA…I think you will have to be part of my favorite small, national chain!  One note though: of all the food we ate, it unanimous that the “sushi” part of the restaurant was something that fell short on with the exception of the “seviche.”

SUSHISAMBA
Several locations in the US

Thank you Chicago for showing me yet another good time! 🙂


If you had a black hole of a stomach…

What would you want for the ultimate buffet/sampling of your favorite foods?  Here would be my list of delicious dishes and one-off items I would want:

  • Almond Croissant – Tartine Bakery (San Francisco, CA), Payard (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Tofu Stew – Tofu House (San Diego, CA)
  • Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken) and Began Bertha – Punjabi Tandoor (San Diego, CA)
  • Cannoli – Solunto Bakery (San Diego, CA)
  • Gelato (any flavor) – Papalecco (San Diego, CA)
  • Drunken Noodles and Spicy Fried Rice – Amarin Thai (Mira Mesa: San Diego, CA)
  • Green Curry – Antique Thai (San Diego, CA)
  • Cupcakes – Elizabethian Desserts (Encinitas, CA)
  • Falafel – Mama’s Lebanese Bakery (San Diego, CA) or Armenian Cafe (Carlsbad, CA)
  • Xi Long Bao – Shanghai House (San Francisco, CA)
  • Sushi (sashimi) – Sushi Ota (San Diego, CA)
  • Sushi rolls – Harney Sushi (San Diego, CA), Sushi Okoze (San Francisco, CA)
  • Red Beans n’ Rice – Bud’s Louisiana Cafe (San Diego, CA)
  • Ice cream – Mariposa Ice Cream (San Diego, CA), Bi-Rite Creamery (San Francisco, CA)
  • Sandwich (Hot) – Spicy Pickle, Sandwich Emporium, Earl of Sandwich (San Diego, CA), any shop in Paris
  • Tapas: Sautéed Meatballs al Jerez; Shrimp Croquetas; Brava Sautéed Potatoes; Fabada – Cafe Sevilla (San Diego, CA)
  • Thin Crust Pizza – Bongiornos New York Pizzeria, Cucina Urbana (San Diego, CA), Delfina Pizzeria (San Francisco, CA), John’s Pizzeria (NY, NY)
  • Spicy Eggplant with Ground Pork – Dumpling Inn (San Diego, CA)
  • Smoked Bologna – Earl’s Rib Place (Oklahoma City, OK)
  • Smoked Turkey and Green Beans – County Line Barbecue (Oklahoma City, OK)
  • Cheese Danish – Ingrid’s Kitchen (Oklahoma City, OK)
  • Smoked Ham – Gates BBQ (North Kansas City, MO)
  • Lamb Shank – MoZen Bistro (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Chocolate Budino – Cucina Urbana (San Diego, CA)
  • Pumpkin Custard – Luv-It Frozen Custard (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Harvest Pie – Coco’s Bakery (national chain)
  • Macaron – Lauree (Paris, France), La Maison Du Chocolat (NY,NY and international)
  • Chicken and Lamb over Rice – 53rd & 6th Halal Cart (NY, NY)
  • Tuscan White Bean soup (seasonal) – B&B Ristorante (Venetian: Las Vegas, NV)
  • Chocolate Duo – Opera Patisserie (San Diego, CA)
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie – Norstrom Cafe, Potbelly(multiple locations)
  • Egg Tart – Golden Gate Bakery (San Francisco, CA)
  • Saffron Spaghetti with Lobster; Seared Scallops – 1500 Ocean(San Diego, CA)
  • Gobo Salad – Wa Dining Okan(San Diego, CA)
  • Grilled Chicken Wings; Salmon Rice Ball with Broth – Yakitori Yakyudori (San Diego, CA)
  • Peanut Butter Cookie – Extraordinary Desserts (San Diego, CA)
  • Olive Oil Gelato – L’Arte del Gelato (NY,NY)
  • Belgium Waffles – Any fresh or packaged even in Germany
  • Strozzapreti Bolognese – La Terrazza (Vancouver, BC)
  • Crab cakes and Crab Soup – Jerry’s Place (Prince Fredrick, MD)

Man…I realized that I really like eating when writing this.

So readers – want to share what YOU like to eat and from where? 🙂