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

pasta

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


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


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!


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? 🙂


Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of the 3 holidays where majority of my family gather together to break bread.  Or in my family’s case, we break out the noodles!

We’ve always done a potluck style Thanksgiving and everybody brings something different.  There are no restrictions on what we have to bring.  However, a few cousins will almost always bring some of the traditional dishes to the table like: mashed potatoes, candied yams, and of course the turkey!  Granted, we do make sticky rice stuffing instead of the “traditional” stuffing.

I have traditionally contributed my share year after year with a dessert.  In the past, I’ve made brownies, cookies, and even a tiramisu.  I really wanted to make something besides dessert.

Now something to share about myself: I can’t cook.  I can cook to survive, which means that I would rarely want to subject others to food of my own creation.  I cook to eat and survive, but I bake to present and serve to others.  Baking comes so much easier to me because it’s a precise mathematical approach.  And helps that I absolutely love it.

However, I decided that if i had a recipe, I could make anything.  So I made not only a pasta dish, but also a “soup”.   Those 2 did not go over so well sadly.  *sigh…*

My cake on the other hand was a tremendous success.  I made a 4 tiered layered cake with alternating flavors of pumpkin and dark chocolate.  I whipped up some fresh chocolate whipped cream for the filling and used some of the extra ganache to keep the cakes moist.  Finishing off the tower with cream cheese frosting and cake crumbles.

This was my first time making a cake that was more than 2 layers.  I was extremely happy with the results given my first time and this was learning experience.  The cakes were moist and not too sweet, which was perfect because the ganache was the sweet touch.  My whipped cream filling kept it from being too heavy, but let’s be honest.  Look at that puppy…having anything after one’s finished eating everything else for dinner (see below spread picture),  it all becomes quite heavy!

Behold!! Our Thanksgiving dining table converted to a buffet line!  I’ll try to remember what we had exactly starting with the turkey and going counterwise:

Turkey (26 lbs) with sticky rice stuffing with taro; Deviled eggs; Green Beans sauteed in white wine, onion and dried shrimp; Shanghai noodles (center); BBQ short ribs; Spring Rolls; Singapore Noodles; Celery Tofu; Cauliflower Sausage Pasta (from me); Garlic Shrimp; Singapore Noodles; Vegetable Orzo Soup (from me too!); Tea eggs; Mac ‘n Cheese; Candied yam (you can only see the corner of it); Guacamole; and Mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy (not in the shot unfortunately).

And we didn’t even have the other desserts in this picture!  We had a pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and pumpkin cheesecake.  Yeah…when my family eats, we EAT.  By the end of the night, we had still so much food leftoever that everybody just started packing food to go home after some exchanges.

What am I thankful for?  I’m thankful for having great people in my life who help get me through the thick and thin.  And I am thankful for the bounty of food as always.

Hope everyone had a great holiday, cheers!


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


Joliet, IL

Oh Joliet…what can I say about you?  You remind me of a bi-polar classmate of mine.  On one side, you have such beauty and quaintness about you.  On the other side, you are a scary, somewhat sketchy kind of personality.  The fact that I spent less than a week yet I was pleasantly surprised every now and then.

Al’s Steakhouse

This place was definitely a local steakhouse joint and very old school.  We had heard we needed to come here for the French Onion soup and that was exactly what I got.  It was the best thing I had that night here, but the guys said the steak was good.  I’ll take their word on that one ;).

Truth Restaurant

My gawd…one word about this veggie burger: cardboard.  I’ve eaten plenty of veggie burgers and I know the wrong kind of veggie burger, that’s overcooked, it is the saddest meal ever like this one was.

The Department

The restaurant is unassuming and a diamond in the rough.  It has a lot of potential and we were all equally surprised at how good the meal was.  I loved the soup, a little over salted yet still good.

Chicago Street Pub

This was the best surprise we got while in Joliet.  One of our waitress suggested this place to us and we had to try it (considering there was also nothing nearby either).  Look at our appetizer!  Chili-cheese tater tots!!  My gawd..so simple and it is not like you cannot get chili-cheese fries, but I have not seen any place that did it with tater tots!

Gji’s Sweet Shoppe

Had to get some ice cream but it was just too sweet for me :(.  It was the Hershey Cappuccino Crunch made with Hershey’s dark chocolate and it was overkill.  Ugh..

Giordano’s

Yum yum!  The appetizer was a mixed fried sampler of mushroom, zucchini, and mozzarella!  The mushrooms were my favorite with its molten, juicy, hot innards held in by a crunchy coating.  Our pizza order was sadly taken erroneously :(.  We wanted deep dish but the waitress thought (for some reason beyond our knowledge) we wanted the thin crust!  Geez…who comes to Chicago to eat thin crust?!  Well at least it was still delicious!  To wrap it up: store bought tiramisu that was frozen. BLEH!

The Reserve

Our dinner at The Reserve was actually more funny than anything else.  We were informing one of our party members about amuse bouches and palate cleansers for multi-course meals. Best thing out of those pictures above?…My main entree – a seafood cappellini! It was light, flavored rather than just tomatoes and it was great! However, by this time, I was done with seafood and wanted nothing more than vegetables and tofu.

Even then, of course we need to have dessert!  Except my dessert, the molten lava cake, was TERRIBLE.  Um first off when you hear the name of the dessert…is it too much to expect that your cake to be well…molten on the inside?!?!  Well what I got was like an over baked brownie topped with ice cream and whipped cream.  I get a little angry thinking about this.  However, my colleague got the caramel pecan bread pudding.  Oh lordy…it was amazingly delicious.

Potbelly

To make up for terrible dessert, we have the amazing Oatmeal chocolate chip cookie from Potbelly.  Our Senior Manager brought us a bunch and I was HOOKED.  They make it just the way I like them: underbaked!  Mmmm…
Oh Joliet…the disappointments and surprises you had for us.  Not exactly a destination, but at least I will know where to go (and not go) if I ever find myself out there again!


Chi-Town Pt.1

I’ve been in Chicago for work this past week.  Well…to be more precise, I was staying in downtown Chicago, but working in Hammond, Indiana. We have eaten a LOT while in Chicago and Hammond, so I think I’ll narrow it down to the places of our best meals:

Chop House

The lobster bisque at the Chop House.  It was the best version I had during the trip (and I tried 2 others while I was here) with the right amount of cream to stock, and good chunks of lobster meat.  My only criticism was that the portion was much too small for something so delicious.  I wanted to lick the bowl clean!

Jack Binion’s (Horseshoe Hammond)

The bread plate at this steakhouse was the highlight of the meal, being that I don’t eat beef and the seafood was only sub-par.  I loved the bread plate because of the variety and freshness of the choices.  There was raisin bread, lavash, onion-feta focaccia, and sourdough, along with warm temperature butter.  It was perfect and I would have been happy with just this plate.

Rosebud

Parpadelle with sausage in a tomato sauce.  The pasta was cooked a little overcooked but quite honestly, we were all so hungry that night that everything tasted amazing.  In retrospect, it was not as good as the pasta I had at Bencotto last week.

However, I also had an order of cannoli to go and found to my surprise that the order came with TWO huge cannolis.  These were actually pretty good and best part was that it was piped to order.  My greatest criteria for cannolis.  The ricotta filling was a little grainy, but it was not overly sweet.  I’d give the cannolis a 6.5/10 (for reference, I’d give Solunto’s cannolis a score of 9/10).

Peninsula: The Lobby

I had talked my colleagues into joining me in my darkness and sin…or better known as chocolate.  Loads and loads of chocolate.  I present to you: the chocolate buffet of the hotel Peninsula’s The Lobby.  Of course, we ate dinner first there and I had a light salad, but that was really just to make sure I didn’t only have sugar in my system for that night.  Oh my word…it was an endless selection of dessert confections that surrounded the center table.  It was so delicious and even as I think about it while typing this, I am craving chocolate.  The desserts (I can’t remember all the varieties I had) were all scrumptious!  There were cakes, brownies, cookies, mousses, puddings, and pies.  My favorites was a dark chocolate crunch cake (first plate, top left) and surprisingly…the white chocolate banana dome (second plate, top right).

This is just the first post of two and probably the best to come!

Chop House
60 W Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60654

Jack Binion’s Steakhouse
777 Casino Center Dr
Hammond, IN 46320

Rosebud
720 N Rush St
Chicago, IL 60611

Peninsula: The Lobby
108 E Superior St
Chicago, IL 60611


Fresh Pasta…Bellissimo!

While working at my downtown client, my senior KMF emailed me asking if I’d had any lunch plans and I didn’t since I only planned on eating my usual salad at my desk.  Also, a new staff had started with me (LB – she loves food just as much as I do) and she had never met KMF, so it was a perfect time for them to meet and for me to catch up with her.  KMF suggested in going somewhere in Little Italy and I immediately suggested Bencotto as I have wanted to go for some time now.

When we got there, it was quite early lunch at 11:35-ish (but in our line of work, it is the standard lunching hour) so the place was empty.  We were the first customers and had our choice of seating.  Our table inside was right by the window of the beautiful open space.  I love the design of the restaurant.  Imagine being in a glass box, which is pretty much how the restaurant is set up.  There is patio seating as well as a smaller second level with more tables.  A bar stretches across the back wall of the restaurant and I noticed a beautiful red slicer which undoubtedly is for slicing all the different cured meats.

The waiter was your typical Italian accent man who was somewhat flirty (considering we were a bunch of gals with no men in sight with us).  He handed us the menu along with a smaller menu of specials which included some season dishes.  However, I came here with one thing in mind: pasta!

I had read online that they make their pasta in-house daily and during my research, many have commented on the delicious pasta.  There are so few places that make their own fresh pasta daily and it truly does taste different.  True, there are great artisan pastas that can be bought, but there is nothing that can outshine fresh pasta.  The taste, texture, and pull are all different.

Bencotto offers some “pre-made” pasta dishes and also a “build your own” entrees.  You get the choice of sauce and cut of pasta (cut, filled, and gnocchi). KMF, LB, and I all ordered the pasta:

KMF ordered the pappardelle (wide cut fettuccine) with the Bencotto sauce (a pink sauce with bacon).  This was actually my favorite sauce out of all the 3 dishes.  I like the lightness of the pink sauce and of course, everything tastes better with bacon!

LB had the spinach ricotta ravioli in the arrabbiata sauce (spicy marinara).  I tried half a ravioli and gosh darn it…I wanted more!  The ricotta cheese mixture was well balanced, not overly cheesy and addictive.  These raviolis were huge, but one drawback was that it was a little cold.  We all thought it would be even better if they were a little hotter.

For myself, I had the tagliatelle with the salsiccia sauce (spicy marinara with sausage).  I loved their Italian sausage, they were so delicious with lots of spices and my favorite – fennel.  If I could only have the sausage from this dish and put it into the Bencotto sauce, it would be the ultimate dish.

The 3 different combination of pasta dishes we ended up ordering were all delicious and we each loved something from each.  The pastas were cooked perfectly and really let the freshness shine.  The sauces were wonderful complements to the pasta but I think when it really came down to it, the pasta were the big, bright stars.

While leaving, we saw another table with orders of the salads and some other dishes that looked equally scrumptious.  Bencotto, you have my heart formed from something as simple as a flour, egg, and water mixture.  When I need my pasta fix or find myself in Little Italy, I will definitely be back here for more.

Bencotto
750 W Fir St.
San Diego, CA 92101


New York, New York – part 1

This trip was actually made back in April and while going through my picture files, I realized that it’s been already 5 months since I was there!  I can’t believe how time flies!  As I didn’t have any spectacular meal during the week, I decided to use an archive folder for this Sunday’s post!  Now, CP and I were in the City for 5 days and it was my first time there so naturally I wanted to eat EVERYTHING. Alas, my stomach can only take so much food and that is why I hand picked a few places that I MUST have. Among them was Otto.

I had read about this place forever and I wanted to try it!  I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking:

The “ticket” we got while we waited for our table.  I loved the train schedule board that indicates when your table’s ready.  A much better way for waiting on a table than the vibrating coasters.  Once we were seated, I had the hardest time deciding on what to get as I was not starving, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from sampling everything!

We started off with the Cauliflower “alla Siciliana” antipasti.  I remembered how deliciously seasoned the cauliflowers were and how I thought I could just make a meal out of this!  Along with…

A simple chopped romaine and red onion salad, simply dressed in a peppery vinaigrette.  All of it was light and perfect after a long day of exploring.

For the main course, I ordered the lasagnette with braised pork shoulder in a tomato sauce.  The pasta was cooked al dente, there were huge chunks of pork shoulders, and the sauce helped tie everything together.

CP ordered the rigatoni with escarole and sweet Italian sausage, tossed with a olive oil and garlic.  However, being the ever perspective person that I was, I knew the minute the plate came to CP’s side, he immediately was disappointed.  You see, CP prefers his pasta dishes to come with sauce, usually of the red variety and none other.  Thus, I knew this very well and without even asking if he liked it after his first couple of bites, I suggested that we switch cause I really liked his dish.  I liked both, but I knew that CP would like mine more so I traded.  I didn’t mind since his dish was actually more in tune with my tastes.  It was a win-win situation!

To wrap up the evening, we finished off with an order of gelato: hazelnut stracciatella and the coveted OLIVE OIL!!!  My word, let me tell you…once I tried olive oil gelato, it has officially become my favorite gelato flavor ever.  The nuttiness, sweet, creamy concoction is just frozen perfection!

CP made a good point while on this trip: I don’t ever travel without a food agenda or motivation.  Every move I make while traveling tends to circle around food and this is very true.  I discover a city not only through its landmarks and history, but their food as well.  Food is so deeply ingrain with every culture and given the fact that I grew up with food being always a focal point for celebrations and quality time spent with loved ones…is it such a surprise?

Eat on my friends!

OTTO
One Fifth Ave.
New York City, NY 10003


Celebration at 1500 Ocean

This weekend was CP’s birthday and I wanted to plan something nice for him.  Last year, the Padres were in town and so that was a no brainer birthday plan for a loyal Padres fan.  However, the boys were away in Arizona this year and I could not do a road trip game with him due to work travel (in fact, I’m writing this post as I am en route to Oklahoma City).  What to do…what to do?…

My brilliant plan came together over the course of a few weeks a couple months ago.  I got us tickets for a 2-hour San Diego Harbor Excursion that took us all around the San Diego bay.  When I bought the tickets, I really had hoped that CP had never gone on one of these cruises.  Like many locals, we rarely actually do any of the touristy things unless we run out of daily things to do. 🙂


The cruise ended up being a really fun thing to do and we got to see part of the harbor that we have never seen before.  Areas included the far industrial San Diego, naval bases, and ship yards.  We also saw fairly familiar sights such as the Convention Center, Coronado Island, and Point Loma.  The weather was beautiful and not a cloud in sight!  (I was freaking out in the morning when I woke up to thick clouds.  I was trying to come up with a backup plan as I was doing my squats and dead-lifts at the gym, but thank goodness none was needed.)

After our nice cruise around the ocean front, we headed over the Coronado Bridge over to the Hotel del Coronado for dinner.  I tried my best to keep the location a secret from CP until we ended up right in front of the restaurant – 1500 Ocean.

Each time I have walked by the restaurant while visiting Hotel del or beach, I wanted to try the place.  1500 Ocean has been on my list of places to eat for a long time, but I wanted a special occasion to come here (it’s not exactly the cheapest place to dine).  What better time than to celebrate my sweetie’s birthday?!  So when I decided on the Harbor cruise, I immediately knew where I wanted to take him for dinner.  I made reservations about a month ahead and noted when I did that this was for his birthday.

We were seated immediately when we arrived at our reservation time (7:15pm) and the place was already pretty bustling.  Our table was out in the patio area with this gorgeous view of the ocean.

Honestly…how can you beat a table side view like this?!  It was absolutely beautiful and I couldn’t have asked for a better setting.

A bread cloth basket was brought to the table with room temperature butter.  Nestled in the cleverly folded cloth were little sourdough spears (as I had dubbed them.  CP mentioned other names too like ‘sourdough cigars’ and ‘sourdough blunts’…which is an accurate description of the bread shape).  The bread was good, but I prefer it when restaurants serve hot bread.

Then a waiter came with a little plated amuse bouche of shaved melon and squid.  I was initially hesitant at the combination and was not sure if it would work in my mind.  However, I decided to put away that hesitation and at the moment, I placed my entire trust in the chef’s hands.  When I placed the fruit and squid into my mouth, I was surprised how good the combination tasted in my mouth.  The cantaloupe had a mild sweetness and contrasted to the briny squid.  I also tasted a citrus of lemons that cut through some of that brine and it all just worked.  What a good start!

The restaurant offers a tasting menu that you can build your 4-course meal from their entire menu for a set price.  This is actually a great option to get a tasting of everything on their menu and is a great deal considering the entrees averaged about $35 a plate.  I wanted to do this and was able to talk CP into it as well, so onward to the food!!

Our appetizer (we both chose the same) was the Hiramasa Crudo.  Thinly sliced sashimi grade yellowtail topped with diced plum, baby fennel, pistachio, basil, and espelette peppers.  CP really enjoyed this, as did I.  The fish was so fresh and I am all about unadulterated fish, but once again the chef was able to mingle the flavors together and enhancing the overall taste of the dish.

Next came the Saffron Spaghetti (once again, CP had to have it as did I).  The pasta for starters did not resemble “spaghetti” the traditional way and looked more like linguine.  Not that I’m complaining as linguine is one my preferred and favorite pastas.  I did not get the chance to ask if the pasta was made in-house or bought, but it was cooked al dente and delicious.  What really made this dish stand out were the CHUNKS of Maine lobster and I really mean chunks.  Look at the picture above!  About 45-50% of the dish was composed of the lobster (hidden underneath the bottarga crumbs).  Succulent and sweet, it was amazing with the thick, spicy tomato broth that had little bits of corn kernels.  I could eat a whole BOWL of this dish!

For my main entrée, I chose the Diver Scallops with summer squash, crispy prosciutto, sun-gold tomatoes.  Three lightly seared scallops sat on top of a zucchini puree, surrounded by halved tomatoes and sliced squash, and topped with fried bits of prosciutto.  See, this is why I can never steer away from the scallops whenever it appears on the menu especially at a restaurant like 1500 Ocean where they specialize in seafood.  The scallops were not overcooked (a TERRIBLE thing to do to these beauties) and they were so fresh that there was not even a whiff of the “seafood smell”.  They were sweet, tender, and just melt in your mouth AWESOME (I revert back to being a child when I get excited)!  I particularly enjoyed the little fried bits of prosciutto because who doesn’t love a little fried bacon??

CP ordered the White Sea Bass for his entrée.  The fish was filleted with the skin still on and seared till the skin crisped up.  The sea bass sat on top of a bed of black quinoa and ‘nduja (spicy pork sauage) cooked with mussel broth, and was topped off with a little ceviche of calamari.  Visually, the dish was stunning and I enjoyed the spicy mussel broth most of all.  I also tried a little bit of the fish and I think it may have been slightly over cooked (maybe due to the searing of the skin which can cause dryness to fish).   However, the flavors all worked together and CP enjoyed his dish which was all that counts for me.

To wrap up our 4-course meal, we each got to choose a dessert and shared:

The Brown Butter Cake sat on top of the toasted almond semifreddo, surrounded by strawberry port sauce, fresh berries, and was topped with sugar twill.  The cake was moist in the center and crunchy on the outside.  It was very heavy tasting and I was glad that it came with all the fresh berries and mint.

The ‘Cookies and Crème’ was my favorite of the 2 desserts.  It came with a trio of the daily ice cream selections which were Vanilla, Caramel, and Cinnamon for that day.  Each scoop was on top of a cookie crumbles and 2 cookies were nestled in between the ice cream scoops – chocolate chip and chocolate.  The ice creams were nice, creamy, and fresh (I can’t stand old ice cream where it has begun crystallizing).  My favorite flavor was the cinnamon and I would highly recommend this dessert if you come.

Since I did mention in my reservation that it was CP’s birthday, the restaurant gave us a complementary dessert plate and a little card too!  I thought that this was really nice and I didn’t even have to ask for it.  Actually, I forgot to mention that when our waiter came to greet us in the beginning of the meal, he wished CP a Happy Birthday too.  Now that is what I call good service!

The little dessert plate had a mini chocolate chip cookie, butter cookie, a scoop of sorbet, and more fresh berries.  What was so fun about this was the candle.  It was a trick candle that just did NOT want to give up.  CP blew it out multiple times, but it kept relighting itself and even I tried helping to get it out.  The candle burned all the wax until it was nothing but a small pool of blue wax and charred wick.  We couldn’t stop laughing at how amazingly resilient the candle was.

We had a wonderful dinner and the service at 1500 Ocean was impeccable.  From the view, servers, food, and ambience, it is a great place for a special occasion or for a romantic meal.  Although I won’t be coming here often, I will definitely consider 1500 whenever I need a setting for celebrations of all sorts.

1500 Ocean
(inside Hotel del Coronado)
1500 Orange Avenue
Coronado, CA 92118


Whisknladle

Long weekends are best spent either doing a short weekend trip, or just staying in town and enjoying a slower pace of life.  Being that we live in San Diego, we were blessed with some great weather the past couple of days!

After a day at the ballpark to watch the Padres win against the Nationals, CP and I went to downtown La Jolla for dinner at Whisknladle.

The restaurant has a nice open patio dining area and I think some additional indoor seating.  From the outside, you could even see into the kitchen where they prepare all their fresh, simple and delicious food.

Menu

The menu’s small and offers the variety of land and sea.

Bread & Butter

Sliced baguette with herb butter starts off your dinner.  They must purchased the baguettes in the morning because by the time we had ours in the evening, you could tell it’s been around since the day’s beginning.  Still delicious with a little butter!

We each got an appetizer of salads.  CP ordered the Caesar:

Caesar Salad

Whole romaine hearts that were lightly tossed with a tangy Caesar salad dressing came out on the plate, topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano and croutons.  This cut-it-yourself salads are just so popular now.  I mean, I know I’m a big girl and I can cut my own vegetables, but sometimes I just want my salad to be cut for me already!  Anyways, the romaine was really nice and crisp, yet their dressing was a little too tangy for my preference.

Crows Pass Farm Greens Salad

I ordered the Crows Pass Farm Greens Salad.  Mixed baby romaine with radishes, tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing, topped with baked goat cheese. They had actually forgotten to put goat cheese on top before sending out the salad, so they brought out the cheese for me.  Good thing because I was wondering where was my promised goat cheese that I love so much!  However, this goat cheese was somewhat crumbly and not like the smooth goat cheeses that I prefer.  Still a pretty decent salad overall, but I don’t think I would order it again.

Tagliatelle Bolognese

For CP’s entree, he ordered the full Tagliatelle Bolognese.  The tagliatelle was cooked to al dente and the tomato based sauce was filled with braised beef, porcini mushrooms, and rosemary.  Normally, there would be a healthy sprinkling of Parmigianino, but CP requested for no cheese for his dish.

Seared Scallops

I had the half order of the Seared Maine Scallops with creamed corn, bacon, and pickled shallots.  The scallops were seared with a little bit of salt and pepper to perfection.  As CP had put it, “I just love how it melts in your mouth.”  My thoughts exactly.  This is how one handles scallops – tenderly and loving and perfected in a hot pan. The creamed corn with bacon was delicious too! Sweet corn with a little salt from the bacon, mirrored the sweet scallop with the little salt it was seared with.  Next time, I will just get the full order of this entree and get a dessert!

Whisknladle is a worthwhile to check out.  They definitely have an eye and tongue for how their dishes look and taste, utilizing what nature had already given us to begin with.

Whisknladle

1044 Wall St
La Jolla, CA 92037

(858) 551-7575


A trip down memory lane

It has been so long since I have: 1. Logged into my account to WRITE something, 2. seriously considered putting up a post, and 3. actually logging in and writing a real post.

I have failed tremendously as a blogger.  As such, I hereby consider myself an n00b once again in the food blogging world.  Please be nice to me.

A year has come and gone as it always does.  However, this year I do not have a big trip to look forward to.  For the past 2 years, I have made a summer trip overseas to Europe on both occasions.  My first trip was back in the summer of 2008.  The trip was my graduation present to myself and also, my last real BIG trip before I started my career (aka being an adult).

In 2008, I made my first trip off of the North American continent since I was like 4 or 5 years old?  I don’t even remember the last time I set foot off of this continent because I was so young.  On top of that, I was setting out on my 25-day excursion on my OWN.  Well…technically, I wasn’t completely by myself since I was joining a tour group.

For 25-days, I let the good people of Contiki decide where I should be, where I would be staying, and where I would be exploring in general.  My gosh…25 days of non-stop traveling, carrying my 45 pound luggage on my own (I would get a little help occasionally) and going around foreign countries with little to no knowledge of the native tongue.  However, it was one HELL of an adventure!

I don’t even know where to start to describe my very first trip to Europe.  So instead, I’ll give a reader’s digest version and let the food pictures document my trip!

During my 2008 trip, I visited the following countries and cities:

  • UK – London
  • France – Paris, Beaujolais Wine Region, French Riviera, Nice
  • Monaco
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Italy – Verona, Venice, Pisa, Florence, Rome, Pompeii
  • Greece – Corfu, Athens

These were the main cities we had visited during our trek through Europe.  There were other cities that we had made stops in between our destinations, but they have since been lost on me.  However, as you can see here, I had my wide range of sights, sounds, and cuisines!

Please do keep a few things in mind:

  • I had just graduated and left my part-time job about 2 months before the trip and I had spent majority of my savings on the trip.
  • My choices were limited at times and thus, I ate a lot of bread and anything to keep me from starving.
  • Yes, I did more than just gelato (you will see a lot of it).  However, when I was in Italy, it was the end of June and the heat plus humidity was KILLING me.  All I wanted during the day time was gelato and ice cold water.  That’s all I needed honestly.

For the record: I was well fed and never did I once go hungry for long.  And I am sure there’s the question of weight gain.  The honest answer is I had no idea.  I stayed away from the scale after my trip and the whole summer for that matter because you know what?  I was about to start my working life and I was going to have as much fun as I possibly could in those two and half months!

Let the reminiscing begin!!

London, UK:

Chicken Tikka Masala with naan

Sandwiches from Harrod's

Dessert from Harrod's - a pistachio cake with strawberries

Paris, France:

One of MANY baguette sandwiches I had, but they are so yummy!

Laudree...I squealed in delight just thinking about this place

My precious!!! These beautiful macaroons were amazing and well worth the money.

Delicious pizzas/cheese foccaias from a little bakery. A cheese (back) and a proscuitto & goat cheese (front)

Look at the stack of Nutella

Nutella, banana, coco crepe - best combination ever

Duck a l'Orange

Beaujolais Wine Region:

Wine tasting

Bruschetta

Roasted chicken with vegetables

Tiramisu-like dessert...still was really good

Barcelona, Spain:

The amazing market right off of La Rambla – La Boqueria

Falafel sandwich with seasoned califlower from Maoz

Garlic Bruschetta

Traditional Paella...the pan was bigger than a tire rim!

French Riveria, Nice, Monaco:

Lasagna and salad

Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Salad

Sangria

A different goat cheese and prosciutto salad

They killed smurffs to make this cold, creamy, blue concoction

No smurfs for me, only Fig gelato!

Venice, Italy:

One of my favorite surprise flavors!

Pisa & Florence, Italy:

Best fettuccini alfrado I've ever encountered! Nothing like that the States make.

Eggplanet pizza

Gelato MOUNDS...get in my belly!!

At a group dinner in a little restaurant where we were crammed into a little basement dining hall.

Cold cuts

2 types of bruschetta: white bean and tomato paste.

Pasta course

Roasted chicken

Rome, Italy:

Eggplanet Parmesan

Yes, more gelato because I needed it to function.

Ham and cheese sandwich

Corfu & Athens, Greece:

Chicken plate with pita and fries

Kataifi - honey drenched dessert. Much too sweet even for me

Misc Snacks throughout the trip:

I still think about these amazing Paprika Pringles...I only wish they had these in the US

My goodness...the amazing little Bacetti. Chopped hazelnuts mixed in a smooth ganache, topped with a whole hazelnut and enrobed in dark chocolate.

Really cute snack - a wafer shaped like a hippo, filled with hazelnut (or chocolate) cream and chocolate dipped and covered with crunchies.


Now that’s Amore!

Aaah…Valentine’s Day.

Those words can conjure up mixed feelings. For those who are alone, this day can be a sad day. For those who have someone special to share this day with, it’s just another reason for endless PDA (public display of affection). And for the longest time, I’ve been in the former category. I didn’t have anyone significant to share this day with, but it wasn’t like I was extremely depressed because I didn’t have a boyfriend. It was merely a slight pang inside when you see people who are really happy (real or fake) with their partner, you can’t help but want it too.

Fortunately, I am no longer in that category and someone special is in my life: CP. Since this is a blog about food, I’m not going to get all mushy and what not about how much I love this man. But I’ll say this: my feelings have only grown a little more towards him with each passing day. (Ok, this is as mushy as I’m going to make it!)

So for Valentines Day, which was cold and stormy unfortunately, both of us still had to go through our classes for the day but CP insisted that he picked me up from home. So when I opened the door that morning, there he was…in a suit holding a gorgeous bouquet of red roses and a gift wrapped in a shiny pink paper. And he hid a box of Joseph Schmidt chocolates that had 2 wonderfully delicious truffles.

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All for me!!!……Actually, he was in a suit because he had an interview to go to that day too, but I like to think he purposely wore it for me since I go especially gah-gah over him when he’s in a suit. So to return the favor, when we went out to dinner, I wore a red dress that made him all gah-gah over me. He was helpless =).

CP kept where we were going a secret from me and when he got into La Jolla, I began to speculate more on where we would go! He did ask me what I would like a couple of weeks beforehand, and my reply was somewhere along the lines of, “I just want to go somewhere we haven’t gone to before.” And did he deliver!

Our Valentines Day dinner was at Sante Ristorante and it couldn’t have been a better choice! The interior ambiance was perfect for setting the mood with dim, soft lighting and the restaurant was like a rustic, Tuscan house that emitted romance. Oh those Italians….they sure do know how to make a girl’s heart swoon.

The restaurant has a regular menu, but that night, there was a special holiday, 3-course pri-fix menu. Most of the items you can order off the regular menu, but the pri-fix menu is a better deal than to order al carte.

But before any of the courses can start, what good Italian would start a meal without some good bread? And with good bread, good olive oil must come as well.

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We were served a garlicky focaccia and crusty olive bread. My favorite was the focaccia because I am a lover of garlic! (Maybe that’s why I can’t sense the dreaded “garlic breath”! Since garlic smells and tastes great to me regardless.) The focaccia was also loaded with tons of herbs that included basil and rosemary.

To accompany my garlicky fix was a smooth and flavorful sun-dried tomato olive oil. This is why I love Italian foods: garlic + herbs + sun-dried tomato = flavor heaven. Now the closest thing I can get to replicate this dinner’s pre-meal appetizer is Sun-dried Tomato Wheat-Thins. In addition to the oil, a sun-dried tomato tapenade. I’m not a fan of olives but I didn’t taste the olives in the paste, more of the sun-dried tomatoes, so it was much more enjoyable for me.

Now…on to the meal!

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For my appetizer, I chose the Fritto Misto (Fried Squid, Shrimp, Cauliflower, Zucchini and Red Pepper). Mmm….deliciously fried goodies. Anything fried is gooood, right? Heck, it’s the only way I would eat calamari/squid. I even got CP to try and eventually like squid too! Don’t underestimate the power of a deep fryer!

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CP’s antipasto was the Bresaola Come a Venezia (Imported Cured Dry Beef, Arugula, Parmesan Cheese and Olive Oil). I don’t eat beef, only on the rare occasion when I let myself enjoy the delightful offering of gyros, so I didn’t taste his dish. However, the beef looked delicious and the way I childishly described what I think it would be like to eat it: “fancy beef jerky.” Such ignorance! And I call myself a foodie…

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For our entrees, we both ordered the Ravioli d’Astice (Heart-Shaped Maine Lobster Ravioli with puréed Yellow Pepper Leek Sauce). I wanted this because of the “girly” factor with the ravioli shaped as a heart. Plus, in my world, pasta or noodles with lobster is always a winner! CP wanted this because when there’s ravioli on the menu, he can’t help but order it.

It was a definite winner for the both of us! The raviolis were cooked al dente, the lobster filling was generous (although I could always use more lobster), and the sauce was spectacular! I tasted the leek in the sauce more than the pepper but the yellow pepper added a touch of sweetness to the sauce to balance the earthy tones of the leek. And the sweetness played well with the lobster’s nature sweetness. The entree was a wonderful combination of simple flavors. DE-LISH!

Finally…*drum roll*…what meal would be complete without dessert?!

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Tiramisu (on the left), Semifreddo Pralinato (on the right)

This is how I view a multi-course meal: each course is supposed to get you excited for the next. The bread plate gets your palate going. The appetizer gives you a preview of what the chef can do (assuming you order wisely). The entree is the peak of the meal for most, but to me, it’s only a pre-cursor to the true finale…DESSERT!

Of the choices on the menu, I would have chosen all three! So what’s a girl to do? Especially when she thinks about how she’ll regret it the next morning if she did eat all three desserts! Well, I took a logical approach: I haven’t had Tiramisu for some time and given that this was a good Italian restaurant, I figured that they would do this traditional dessert justice. And justice was served….to me on a plate!

Not too sweet, good amount of coffee, and it was smooth as silk. This has to be one of the best Tiramisu I’ve had so far. It was definitely a far cry from the last Tiramisu I had by my *ahem*cousin’swife*ahem* during Thanksgiving. I just wished I had more stomach space for more of this luscious, decant indulgence! However, I could feel all the carbs I consumed before being weighed down by the mascarpone, cream, and egg yolk…but it was well worth it.

For CP, dessert was an easy decision. He chose the only dessert that did not have cheese in the ingredients, the house-made praline gelato. I had some of it and I found that it was MUCH too sweet! It’s coming from me sometimes because I have such a sweet tooth, but even I have my limits. I did like the texture contrast from the praline pieces, even though I found a huge chunk in the gelato that was teeth-shattering hard. If the sugar was cut back by half in the gelato base mixture, given that crushed caramelized sugar is incorporated in, I think the overall product would have worked really well. Or if this was paired up with something tart such as a lemon mousse or cake.

Overall, I was tremendously impressed by both the restaurant and my sweetie for his pick of this dining option. The service was just the right of amount of attentiveness, even when our dining area was completely filled, and without being intrusive. Our water glasses rarely were empty for a long time, our bread plate was always replenished, and our dipping oil only needed to a friendly request to be refilled.

Even the floor or restaurant manager came by to ask us how our dinner was. And later that evening, CP told me how there was some problems with reservations and the manager called him back personally to apologize for the reservation problems and helped make the reservation on the spot. Plus at the end of the dinner, all the ladies received a red long-stem rose. Now that’s what I call customer service!

Sante Ristorante is a place that’s a hidden little sanctuary. There are just businesses left and right of it that don’t seem very special or stands out when you drive by on the road. There is no giant, lighted sign to indicate that this restaurant is there. Just a fading script of “Sante” on a green canopy that leads you into this secret, amazing restaurant.

Granted it isn’t cheap to eat here, given that they are in La Jolla, and there is some need to keep up with the impression of being up-scale like the numerous restaurants up and down the Cove. However, this is a place to take someone you want to spend a very intimate meal with, without the haughty-taughty atmosphere you could get down the road.

Sante Ristorante
7811 Herschel Ave.
La Jolla, CA 92037
858.454.1315

A day at a time

It’s been 2 weeks since my best friend’s passing. I hope that where ever she may be now, that she has found peace and is resting…maybe even laughing and poking fun of us somewhere. That’s just the kind of person she was. Always full of humor and I don’t think that even death could change that.

This week and half of next is…….finals H*LL week(s)! *sigh* Finals always drains any college student, regardless. People even walk differently during this time. They are all tense and always in a hurry. There’s an air of frenzy and anxiousness and it is contagious.

But I still got to relax when I can right? Well today, I attended a rather nice work holiday party, held at the Prado in Balboa Park, all thanks to my boss:

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No. We were not served company food. Instead, the boss decided to splurge and treated his corporate employees to something better. Although the food we had was banquet style food, but nevertheless, it was still extraordinary for what it was.

We started with a watercress salad with strawberries, dried figs, candied walnuts, shaved parmesan, and balsamic vinegarette.

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My only complaint with this salad is that I’m not the biggest fan of watercress, especially for a salad. Had it been mixed spring greens or baby spinach, this would be an even BETTER salad. The vinegarette was not too sour, nor too sweet….perfecto!

I love how the people I work with are always joking. One of my co-workers thought that the vinegarette was chocolate! And he seriously swore it was, while the rest of us ladies (he was the only male at our table) kept insisting it wasn’t. Then my supervisor started joking saying that the strawberries were tomatoes and the parmesan was white chocolate. Hmmm….now that would be an interesting salad.

Next, we were served our entrees. There were 3 choice: a Boursin stuffed chicken with mashed potatoes, turkey with stuffing and the works, or butternut squash raviolis with mixed greens. I chose the raviolis because I had a feeling that if I chose a meat dish, I would be severely disappointed with dried out slab of protein. Plus, when my friend described the menu to me when she called me to inform me of the party, I was sold on the description alone.

 

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I wish I had the exact description to give you, but from what I do remember reading then tasting today: this dish was 4 giant raviolis with a butternut squash filling that had been cooked al dente! I’ve had butternut squash before and didn’t like it, but today’s raviolis were delicious! There wasn’t too much filling inside unfortunately, but I wonder if there was too much, would this dish still have tasted that good?

I don’t know, however I do know that the butter sage, brown sugar sauce was probably what made it so unbelievably decadent! The sauce added a wonderful sweetness that enhanced the butternut squash and made me want to lick the plate at the end! However, I knew better than to do that in front of so many of my “superiors.” So instead, I used the greens that had the same balsamic vinegarette to mop up the rest of the buttery goodnesss.

Finally, what’s a meal without dessert?!

 

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My chocolate mousse dome. It was mostly dark chocolate mousse on top of a thin chocolate cake, with a sliver of white chocolate mousse at the very top. Simple, but it satisfied my chocolate fix!

There was also an apple tart that I didn’t get to take a picture of, but got to taste from the nice woman sitting next to me. I think I practically ate about half it actually. The tart had a wonderful, buttery crust that I couldn’t stop myself from taking one bite after another!

Aaah…it was a good lunch! I just wish I had more of these 3 course meals, but for now, I need to get back to studying!


Eating around…Part II-A: Noshing around downtown San Diego

Like most office workers, lunchtime is that miraculous hour where we can have a taste of freedom, away from our work. And I tend to want that freedom to taste good, so I make my way all around the areas that are reasonably close to my work for lunch. This post will be a HUMONGOUS one, but trust me…they are all worth it (and I’ll try to keep my rants down to a minimum). Also one more note: the restaurants will not be in chronological order to which I visited it.

Let us start off with a chain *ducks under her desk to avoid any flying objects thrown her way*

Come on, which one of you out there can honestly say that you’ve NEVER eaten in a chain restaurant??? Even the biggest foodies out there have gone to one or another at some point. Seriously, not ALL chains suck. Some do, some more so than others, some a little less, and some are even decent. So let us calm the rage within us and let me talk about the Yardhouse.

For a chain that seems to be more for the beer than the food, their menu is not that bad. Heck, I will risk in saying that it’s pretty darn good! The first time I went there was for lunch with a couple of co-workers who really wanted their Lettuce Wraps, which they offered to let me try without me even asking, yay! I only tried the chicken filling and it was not that bad, not out of this world, but not bad at all. For myself, I decided to go all out and try their crabcakes and house salad dressed in spicy peanut vinaigrette. Both were wonderful enough for me to go a second time after Comic-Con with my little sister and ‘L.’

Although I was seriously tempted to get the crabcakes again, I forced myself to try something else, but I did get the Blackberry green tea that one of my co-workers got and I had tried as well, and fell in love with.

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As to my dinner, what was I going to get?! I wanted onion rings and no one else really wanted to share an appetizer of it with me, so I got the Portabella Burger with onion rings instead of fries:

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Portabella, eggplant, peppers, basil, feta, and sun-dried tomato mayo all on an onion poppyseed bun. The thing I loved the most with this burger was the layers of colors! I mean just look at it! Even if Yardhouse is a chain, they make the best looking portabella burger I’ve ever laid eyes on. And the onion rings (in the back, top right corner) were just as good. Perfect ratio of beer batter to onion and fried to crispy goodness.

With some help and persuasion on my part, my little sister finally decided on the (Mac & Cheese)^2 with roasted chicken, applewood smoked bacon, wild mushrooms, cheddar and parmesan cheese with castellane pasta and white truffle oil:

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Now this is what I a call a mac & cheese! None of that stuff that comes in a certain blue box, nope…this is real cheese with cream and/or milk, pasta cooked to al dente, tender and not dried out chicken, and smoky bacon. The best bite of mac & cheese is the crust that forms on the top!

And ‘L’ got the Classic Cheese Burger:

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That came with fries that were to DIE for! The Yardhouse fries are super-thin shoestring fries that are, possibly, twice fried like pommes frites. I wanted to take more fries from her plate and kept asking if she wanted more onion rings just so I didn’t feel so bad for taking her fries. I wonder if they would let you have half fries and half onion rings with your burger…I will have to try it next time!

Now OFF to the next chain!! >> Rocking Baja Lobster (yes, another chain).

After watching the Padres play against the Giants (and winning, w00t!!) during the afternoon game, my boyfriend and I were famished. We had brunch earlier that day (more on that with another post) and were stuffed during the game. The plan was to get some overpriced food during the game, but since we were quite content still from brunch, we didn’t need to pull out a mortgage just to feed ourselves. However, since we didn’t eat during the game, we were both starved when we got out and set off immediately to find ourselves some grub!

As we had walked around the Gaslamp we looked over our options. My boyfriend and I only walked a few blocks up the Gaslamp before we stopped because we realized something. The more we walked, the more options were available to us, thus making it even harder to decide on what and where to eat! And we were slowly starting to feel the effects of low blood sugar from the lack of nourishment, so we stopped at a corner to talk about the options we had seen. Most were WAY overpriced and we just didn’t feel justified to go indulge ourselves that way.

Of all the places we passed by, Rocking Baja Lobster was one of the first and we both had wanted to try the place for sometime (not the Gaslamp one though, but the Old Town one). My boyfriend voiced out his suggestion of trying it and I immediately started pulling him back down the street towards it. Once again, I am completely happy with our decision. We both ordered the Tres Tacos del Patron (San Felipe Style):

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Three crisp batter dipped shrimp and/or slipper lobster tail tacos in warm flour tortillas with tomato, cilantro, cabbage, avocado and creamy cilantro-lime sauce. All of their meals it come with unlimited “create your own” Caesar Salad bar. The cool, refreshing salad was immensely welcomed after baking under the sun for the last 3 hours. And when our tacos came, I was excited because it looked positively scrumptious.

Taking that first bite of the lobster taco was absolute heaven. The crunchy, tender lobster meat was sweet and the cool cilantro-lime sauce mellowed out the deep-fried aspect of the taco, making it irresistible. Even though our waitress said that the shrimp was better of the two, I think both were equally good, but since you don’t usually get lobster tacos. I would highly recommend you getting 2 lobster and 1 shrimp tacos when ordering this!

Now that I’ve gotten the chains out of the way, I can get to the smaller but just as, if not, better establishments in downtown. I will give a small eating tour of San Diego’s Little Italy, going from the “ok” to the “spectaculars”!

Petrini’s is pretty much on the south edge of Little Italy and the only reason I went there was: 1.) They had relatively cheap lunch specials in terms of Little Italy, and 2.) I’ve passed by the place so many times as I enter Little Italy and had a yummy sample of their pizza once. So with that, I went there for lunch and had the eggplant parmesan that came with only 2 little slices of garlic bread:

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Talk about being skimpy. And truthfully, the eggplant didn’t blow me away. However, the meat sauce that covered the mediocre eggplant parmesan was very good. It had a sweetness that comes naturally from the tomato that I loved. It had the right spices so I didn’t miss or even need the red pepper flakes. I used the garlic bread to mop up all the sauce after I was done with the eggplant, which I thought tasted even better.

Would I eat here again? I’m not sure but I definitely won’t be ordering the same thing. I much rather have the Torta di Melanzane (Layered eggplant, mozzarella, pecorino, and Parmesan cheeses, topped with marinara sauce) from Cafe Zucchero even if it is twice as expensive, but worth every penny in my opinion.

I realized just how big this post would be if I did it all in one shot, so I will divide the downtown post into 2 parts for your sake. I’m sure your eyes would be too tired out if I did that. So now it will be divided into: savory and sweets. You’ve just finished the savory portion of the meal, stay tune for the soon to come sweets!……

>>Part II-B:  Noshing around downtown San Diego (cont.)

Yardhouse
1023 4th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 233-9273
 
Rocking Baja Lobster
310 5th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 234-6333
 
Petrini’s
610 W Ash St.
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 595-0322