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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

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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

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!


Contemplating on good eats of the past

I was thinking back on my last trip overseas with CP during the summer 2009 and tried to pinpoint which was my favorite, and most memorable meal.  In the end, hands down, it was the simple and delicious pizza while in Rome:

This was a little pizza vendor in a narrow corridor by the Pantheon.  They have the a variety you can pick from and pay for it by its weight.  Once you make your selection, the “nice” man will help heat it up in the oven for a little bit, before handing it to you on parchment paper.

 

I helped myself to 2 types: prosciutto (top) and spicy sausage and broccoli (bottom).  Ok, if you haven’t noticed already – neither type has tomato sauce and both have just enough cheese to hold everything together.  The simplicity of the slices were amazing.

It tastes nothing like the pizza you know in the States (regardless of which ever style you eat).  And of the two, hands down the spicy sausage with broccoli was the best.  I love my food spicy and this baby had the right amount of kick without me needing to add my usual crushed red peppers.  To date – I have yet to come across another slice that could mimic this taste.

Oh Italia…you are a land of beauty – in your cities, country side, museums, and on my plate. 🙂


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? 🙂


San Diego Restaurant Week Recap

As many of you may have known, San Diego hosted  it’s 7th Restaurant Week and this year, more than half of the participating restaurants extended their RW into the following week.  This gave restaurants more opportunities to introduce themselves to new audiences and thus, creating a bigger fan base.  Some may like RW, while others do not and I think (which I have felt myself as well) it is due to the fact that for regulars, their restaurants are suddenly overtaken by new customers who ware clamoring for the pre-fix menu.  What you have to realize is this kind of exposure for restaurants is a great way to build up their client base.  We must not be selfish because we all want our favorite restaurants to survive one of the toughest and cut throat  industries.

I participated in 2 RW menus for restaurants I had been wanting to visit for the longest time: Nobu San Diego and Cucina Urbana.

Both restaurants are very different in nature, but both were exquisite in food and service.  There is a reason why Nobu is so highly regarded and why locals cannot get enough of Cucina Urbana.  Nobu is sleek, chic, and hip.  Cucina Urbana is rustic, homey, and modern.  Either one can do no wrong and lived up to what I had expected when I stepped foot in each.

Nobu – San Diego (Hard Rock Hotel)

The appetizer to start the night off was the Salmon Tataki Salad.  Lightly seared salmon sashimi was accompanied by shaved root vegetables, with cilantro dressing. Usually I am not a big fan of seared sashimi because I think it takes away from the beauty of the fish, but in this case, I found the sear to be perfect.  The center was still beautifully fresh and melted on my tongue.

For our entrees, CP and I each ordered something different and split it:

The Artic Char with with Jalapeno Cauliflower was pan-seared so the outer skin was crisped up and then roasted.  The skin did get charred a little too much but it did not effect the fish itself thankfully.  The char was tender and delicious.  The jalapeno cauliflower was so good that I could eat a bowl of it on its own!

Nobu’s take on Fish n’ Chips made me want to eat more fish…mostly because they used Chilean sea bass.  I want to talk to whoever came up with this idea of battering and deep frying sea bass!  Granted, it was delicious with a slightly thicker tempura batter, but why would you deep fry a beautiful fish like sea bass?!  I love sea bass…like it is my TOP fish choice and I would never, EVER think of deep frying it.  It feels just wrong…but yet…it did taste oh so heavenly…I was torn!  The chips were a little limpy and sad, but that honey anti-cucho sauce was so good that I just wanted to dip everything in it!

Each entree came with a Spicy Tuna roll.  My only grip about this was that the menu promised me spicy yellowtail (which is my favorite fish for sushi), but instead tuna came.  I love tuna and everything, but my hopes were up and then shot back down.

However, nothing shot me down as quickly as the dessert…

Nobu’s best-seller and customer favorite dessert: the Bento Box.  This is a Araguani 72% chocolate fondant cake, with a sesame crisp and green tea matcha gelato.  First off…I know that the Valrhona Araguani dark chocolate is one of the best to use for a deep, dark, bittersweet chocolate and my chocolate preference leans on the dark side.  However, this cake was just….terrible.  First off, I think the chef forgot the sugar all together.  It was bland and bitter, which I could not even tell if it was from the dark chocolate or it was burnt because it actually tasted burnt to me.  This made me really sad because I always look forward to desserts!  Sigh…thank goodness the green tea gelato saved the night! It was smooth, light, and packed with matcha awesomeness!  (By the way…do YOU see any sesame crisp?…no? neither did I..until I finished my gelato and found this semi-clear sugar-like crisp.  I’m guessing that’s the sesame crisp?)

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Nobu.  The restaurant is definitely one of those “hip”, “mod”, “the cool place to be”.  The music was loud, the customers were more or less inebriated, but the service was friendly and attentive.  Will I be back for more? Heck Yes!  (Will I be having the Bento Box again?…not in this lifetime or next!)

Cucina Urbana

Another night, another meal!  CP’s chopped house salad really was chopped and tossed! It was medley of soppresata (salami), pepperoni, olive, red onion, tomato, asiago, pepperoncini, and some lettuce.  Not sure if I’d really would call this a “salad” in my terms, but it was delicious bowl of chopped meats and vegetables (mostly the former).  It was all tossed in a vinaigrette that was sweet but had a little bit to it too.

My first course choice was the roasted baby beet and orange salad was divine! Light, summery salad with lots of color and it was simply fun and smart.  The baby beets were tender and delicious with the cashews.  I think my favorite part were the scoops of ‘yo-goat’…or basically, goat’s milk yogurt.  Goat cheese is my absolute favorite cheese in the whole, wide world!  However, I’ve never had goat’s milk yogurt!  Just imagine goat cheese…but SOFTER!  HEAVEN!!!

We went with the pizza pre-fix menu so CP went to where his Italian heart will always be: a red pie with pepperoni and fennel sausage.  The nice charred underskirt of the baked dough held the sweet red sauce, with house-made mozzarella and the meat. CP gave 2 thumbs up to the wood fire oven pizza and proceeded to consume the whole thing.

I HAD to try their signature pizza with guanciale (pork belly!!! Get in MY belly!!), fingerling potato, brie, bésciamela, and 2 fresh cracked eggs!  O.M.G…Ok…how should I start?  This was like…a ridiculously indulgent breakfast-like pizza. The pork belly melted and flavored the pizza.  The saltiness of the pork melded well with the salty brie and then when you broke the yolk of the egg and let it spread through the pizza.  It’s just an indescribable experience!  Then to top off this amazing pie was a spicy chili sauce the waiter brought over and let me in on the fact that it is the perfect pairing.  My gosh…was he right!  The chili sauce elevated the pizza to 10 times higher and for once, I truly could taste the spice.  Oh lordy….*drooling at the thought*

The pear crisp with mascarpone gelato was not all that impressive but still good none-the-less.  In comparison though…

The chocolate budino with chocolate chantilly and salted chocolate biscuit….CHOCOLATE ORGASMIC PSYCHEDELIC EXTRAVAGANZA!  “Wow” would be an understatement.  Let me help put this in context….I had already had 2 full courses which did include a sizable pizza…and the fact that I could still taste and have my mind be blown away by this budino….yes, it was just that good!  Budino is Italian for pudding and that’s just what it was: a dark chocolate pudding. Thick and unadulterated chocolate pudding that was intense in flavor.  Perfectly balanced, just sweet enough, but still a dark chocolate pudding.  The chantilly helped lightened up a bite if you were (like me) already feeling like you’re at your breaking point in your stomach.  The salted chocolate cookie was good, but I found myself not wanting it because it got in my way of the budino.

I love Cucina Urbana for it’s rustic, no frills, yet still very much stylish atmosphere.  They present food as it is and let’s the food’s own brilliance shine through.  All the chef does is perhaps polish it up and gives its a nice pep talk before it makes its debut on your table.  Wonderful experience.

I must say that this year’s RW did not fail to impress me.  The number of restaurants now participating in this event has seem to grow with each passing year.  This shows that restaurants now understand the power of this well sponsored and advertised event is to their advantage.  I have also noticed that a lot of restaurants continue to promote the pre-fixed menus (yay!) for both the cost-conscious consumers and encourages regulars to try something new at their old haunt. A good addition to a restaurant’s recipe for a long life in a world where only the best of best can shine through the decades.

Nobu (in Hard Rock Hotel)
207 5th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 814-4124

Cucina Urbana
505 Laurel Street
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 239-2222


Kansas City – there’s no place like home

Once again, I find myself up in the air wanting nothing more than to come home and nurse my misery of allergies (or maybe I really was just sick). The past week, I was in North Kansas City for work and I guess there’s really “no place like home”.

Kansas City is a mid-west city all around and what can one say? It’s nice, friendly, with lots of open areas and random buildings. All I knew about Kansas City was the one thing I had set my mind towards: Barbeque! So when the guys picked me up from the airport and asked what’s for dinner, naturally I jumped and said, “Barbeque!!”

We headed back into town and straight to one of the only establishments I had heard of before:

Arthur Bryant’s BBQ

I could smell the delicious meats when I stepped out of the car. My mouth salivating and I told myself that I control was in order because I hadn’t even met 3/4th of my team!  Control was so hard…

Once inside, my eyes were a bulged as I looked up at the menu board at the possibilities.  You have to understand…I really, REALLY like barbeque, so I went a little overboard…

That right there is a total of 3/4 lbs of delicious, smoked, tender, practically illegal how meats.  I had 1/4 lb each of (left to right): pulled pork, turkey, and sausage, with a side of baked beans.  My gawd I was in heaven!

Granted, I love Phil’s BBQ in San Diego for the reason that they make a good pull pork sandwich…in San Diego! Pull pork can taste very differently depending on its maker.  And the maker here knows his oinker. The sausage was not my favorite of the 3 since my memories of the smoked sausage I had in Oklahoma City was still fresh in my mind.  The turkey was good too, could have been a little more moist but this time…the sauce really did the trick.  As you will find (while reading on), the Arthur Bryant spicy BBQ sauce was absolutely DELICIOUS.  Omg…never had I wanted more and more of BBQ sauce.  I wanted to have the sauce straight up and drink straight out of the bottle.  However, since I was with other people and in public…my better judgment took over (thank goodness).  Instead I washed it all down with some refreshing sweet tea.

After our first day at work, we were all in need of a good meal (lunches are usually a pretty excuse of a meal most of the time).  During the entire day, whenever I had a client meeting, I would also end by asking for suggestions for dinner.  I had my handful of suggestions and in order to avoid BBQ fatigue, I took a highly recommended local Italian restaurant suggestion.

Garazzo’s

The location of the Garazzo’s that we went to was nestled into a neighborhood and we were wondering if we were going to someone’s grandmother’s house to eat. That would actually be quite interesting and fun, but nope, we finally found the restaurant.

There must have been several parties that night because it was a Monday night, at 8:30pm and the place was still packed. However, I had made reservations and so we were seated in no time. However, we were all starving even before we were seated so thank goodness one of us took the initiative to order us an appetizer to start off.

The garlic bread with cheese was made sliced crusty bread, with melted parmesan, sprinkled with basil. The bread that they used was a little too soft and would have done better with a French loaf, sliced open and then divided into smaller portions. It was still good, but it was nothing exciting.

When I ordered my entrée, our waitress had given me fair warning, “Now you know that our pastas run on the larger side and this one is our largest order on the entire menu.” I merely smiled and silent laughed as if to say, “Don’t underestimate me!” Little did I know the plight I would find myself in later once the plate arrived…

Now this was a true spectacle. This monstrosity was not meant for 1 person to go up against on her own without any backup. Ladies and Gents, this is Garazzo’s “Three Way Pasta”. On a plate that was the size of a steering wheel, we have: tomato sauce, spaghetti, rigatoni, meat ravioli, topped with parmesan cheese and Italian sausage. The plate could have easily weighed about 3 lbs.

The true depth of what awaited me was not fully realized until dug my fork into the gigantic pile of carbs. I think the me on the inside was something like this:

I barely even scratched the surface of this mountain of carbs before I threw in the towel. When I stopped eating, it didn’t even look like I had any of it! How did it taste? It was fine. The pasta was cooked well, the sauce was a little bland and weak, and the Italian sausage left me wanting more. This was one matter of quantity versus quality.

This is why I had to have a dessert to end the meal:

This was not the worst, nor the best Tiramisu I’ve ever had. Oh Garazzo’s, I have a feeling that I would love you more if I had something else from you. Now I will never know…

Our eating and gorging didn’t stop even after our way too filling Italian food from the night before.  (This is mostly due to fair, to sub-par lunches.)  The clients told us that when you’re in Kansas City, the all time question when it comes down to barbeque: Arthur Bryant’s or Gates.  How could I not take up this challenge and find my answer?!

Gates BBQ

This may not seem like a lot of food nor very nutritious, but boy oh boy.  This was good!  I had the ham sandwich with onion rights and iced tea.  In the back is my sampling of Gates’ bbq sauces.  Let’s take a closer look at the star of the tray:

The sandwich was simply 2 slices of Wonder bread with thinly sliced ham and the original sauce.  Normally I don’t like flimsy sandwiches.  I prefer toasted bread or crusty bread, but c’mon!  I’m eating bbq and there’s no place for such things!  The ham was so delicious that it made angry.  Angry that was subjected to mass produced, packaged deli meats that tasted like the meat (if it really was meat) cured in chemicals.  This was a simple ham sandwich and it had me giddy!

As for the answer to the question: who does a better Q? Arthur Bryant’s or Gates?  It was a hard call since I had different types of meats.  However, I can definitely say that I preferred Arthur’s BBQ sauce more than I liked Gates.  So that’s one point more for Arthur than Gates, but I would jump to eat at either one of these establishments anytime.

Unlike Gates, I wouldn’t step foot into this next place.  We had a really, REALLY long day and more to come later that evening.  We stayed on property and tried:

The Range Steakhouse (Harrah’s)

Ugh…now just thinking about this place makes me angry.  Never had a seen a sadder meal than this one.

Scallops are one of my FAVORITE shellfish to eat.  This place practically killed it for me.  Just seeing this picture, thinking back on it, made my head pound in pain and misery.  These babies may not have been the freshest scallops, but the poor attempt to hide it made it even WORSE.  See that orange pool?  It was some sort of a butter bath for a poorly seared scallops. :(…*to the scallops* it’s ok…it wasn’t YOUR fault. Best thing on the plO_Oate?…the mushrooms and the water (you can’t see it in the picture).

After that horrendous meal, I was a bitter person.  I was in a bad mood not only from the course of the day, through many factors plus a terrible meal, I needed something to change it all around.  Thank GAWD there was a savior!

Piropos Restauarnt

One of the guys had gotten a recommendation to this place from the person next to him on the plane.  We all needed a break from the “regular” and this was perfect!  The restaurant was elegant and beautiful.  It was started with nice fresh bread and crisps with 3 dipping sides.

Clockwise from the bottom left: multi-colored peppers and onions in oil, vinegar; chimichuri; and garlic dip.  My favorite of the 3 had to be the peppers and then the chimicurri.  This was a very good start!

I was at an Argentinian restaurant so how could I leave without trying an empanada?!  I had the Empanada del Mar, which was filled with shrimp, scallops and tilapia, with red peppers and onions.  The filling was fresh and it all worked with one another.  It was a small tasting of the ocean on my plate.  My only criticism was the wrapper they used.  It didn’t give me the flaky pastry that I have come to expect for empanadas.  This was more of a wonton/eggroll wrapper that was deep fried.  Trust me, flaky (in a pastry) = goooood eating.

As I had no desire for anymore seafood or pasta at the moment, and I didn’t have the stomach for lamb that evening, I went with the chicken.  Thank goodness their chicken entrees were just as appealing and this one sounded just scrumptious!

Ruedas de Pollo: this was stuffed chicken breast with gouda, ham, spinach, mushrooms, and red peppers.  Served with these rolled chicken of yum, were julienned veggies and rice, all in “argentine” garlic sauce.

My goodness, that sauce was ridiculous.  The flavors were so intense that all I wanted was more of the sauce (even though there was a heavy hand in butter) and rice!  Mmm…so good.  The stuffing for the chicken was great, but the chicken was a little dried out.  However, given how good all the other components were, I could over look the dried chicken.

By this time, I was thoroughly content with everything I had so far.  However, during the entire meal, I had watch waiters walk by carrying a cake and I knew there was no way I would walk away without it.

This my friendly blog reader, is the Pastel de Banana.  A luscious banana cake with a whipped cream cheese frosting, in a pool of crème anglaise, and just because I had to go all out: a special request of a scoop of the vanilla bean ice cream.  The cake was truly a banana lover’s delight because it was packed full of banana flavors.  You could see the specks of the banana that was mashed in order to make this cake possible.  The cake was light and moist, which was not the case with the frosting.  Granted, it was a good whipped cream cheese frosting, but it made the dessert overall too dense.

This could be the dessert for someone, but I had my likes and dislikes.  The ice cream though was great and it really did help lighten the plate.  I really wanted ice cream so I asked our waitress nicely if I could get a scoop even though the dessert did not normally have it. So I ended the night on a wonderful note!  Thank you anonymous flight passenger who gave the suggestion!

This was my time out in Kansas City.  Although my time here was short, I made ever effort to eat beyond my limits.  As we have joked many times in our work: “If you can’t make the ‘cut’, you don’t belong on this team.”  Aka…if you can’t eat like a champ, then you will not last long with this group because we will put you right into a coma. 😉

Arthur Bryant’s BBQ
3 locations in Kansas City, MO

Garazzo’s Ristorante
Multiple locations: 2 each in MO and KS

Gates BBQ
Multiple locations in MO and KS

The Range (Harrah’s)
1 Riverboat Drive
North Kansas City, MO 64116

Piropos Restaurant

4141 N. Mulberry Dr.
Kansas City, MO 64116