Food Adventure Collage.

carnitas snack shack. c-level. world famous. woodstocks. terra american bistro. buddies. corbins. casey's cupcakes. mandarin beijing. nazca grill. eiffel tower restaurant. gordan ramsay burgr. in-n-out. bankers hill bar and grill. los primos. bistro sixty. ruth's chris.


... to a place I like to call my very own. *waving hello*

I invite you to enjoy reading about the food adventures that I have with friends, family, and colleagues.

I adore food and I cannot just choose one particular food that is my fave.

Food is really is my favorite. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Miracle Mile Delicatessen - Phoenix, Arizona

Hands down, by far, the best hot pastrami sandwich I have ever had is here at Miracle Mile Delicatessen. Move over D.Z. Akins, 4.0 Deli, Gus's Subs & Pizza, BMH Italian, The Hat... although, don't get me wrong, they all make a pretty delicious hot pastrami sandwich, Miracle Mile clearly will win a pastrami battle against those restaurants.

Sadly, San Diego used to have one Miracle Mile Deli location in Coronado. However, we came up with our own conclusion that the rent got too expensive and they had to bring their business back to Arizona. Luckily, there is one down the street from Linda & Doyle's house - jackpot.

It's a must that every time we are in Phoenix, that we make a trip to the deli for their pastrami. A MUST, I tell you. Before I discovered that sauerkraut, hot pastrami, and Swiss cheese are components of the best sandwich ever, I used to order the traditional pastrami on grilled rye and put my own yellow mustard. But, now... I can never go back to that.

The Miracle Mile experience starts off at the end of the food counter (similar to a cafeteria) where you order your entree/sandwich and pick up a food tray. I make eye contact with the guy behind the counter and order "The Straw on onion roll". Yum!

The Straw, if you have not figured it out yet, is a hot pastrami sandwich with hot sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese, on the bread of your choice (kaiser, onion roll, rye, marble rye, sourdough, whole wheat, french, or pumpernickel). I always order mine with an onion roll because it gives it that extra onion-y flavor. All sandwiches come with a kosher dill pickle and a side order of your choice (fries, cole slaw, macaroni salad, potato salad, bag of chips, fruit, cottage cheese, or for extra.... mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, potato latkes).

While I am waiting and watching my sandwich being made right before my eyes, there's a plethora of hot & cold items staring me right in the face: BBQ pastrami, stuffed cabbage, macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes, gravy, potato latkes, steamed vegetables, Jell-O, carrot salad... endless. In a matter of seconds, he asks me "French fries??", which obviously is a popular choice for a side item, but I opt for the cole slaw. I move my tray along towards the cashier and I patiently wait until Mike goes through the same process as me so we can pay together.

As I wait, I glance over to the left and review ALL the delectable desserts they have in the glass case. Cakes, cheesecakes, large cookies, assorted pies galore. I have not yet had dessert here, but at the next trip, I will order a slice of pie for us to share!

Water glasses are pre-filled and located behind the cashier's near the seating area. We both grab one, I choose one with the most ice, and find a seat at a table.

Mike and I ordered the same sandwich, but he ordered the potato salad and a kaiser roll instead of my favorite onion roll. The Straw is cut in half, revealing the juiciness of the pastrami, melted cheese, and the tangy sauerkraut. It is perfect how it is with no additional sauces needed, like yellow mustard. The pastrami just melts in your mouth, and because it is also accompanied by Swiss cheese, onion roll, and crunchy sauerkraut, my taste buds are having a field day - yes, it is that darn good.

Why do you think I made "The Straw" the picture in my header?

Miracle Mile is an oldie since 1949, but goodie because of the fabulous pastrami they serve. I've also had their Straw Dog, which is a kosher all-beef hot dog with the sauerkraut and melted cheese. It's good, but it's not the same as eating the Straw sandwich. I'm always tempted to try something else here, but I know that I will have a "sure thing" with The Straw.

Try it. Trust me, you'll like it!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Texaz Grill - Phoenix, Arizona

I freakin' LOVE Texaz Grill in Phoenix, Arizona. First, they are known for their deep fried crunchy chicken fried steak that comes with your choice of salad, bread & butter, choice of potatoes - all for $12. Second, it looks like this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant on the corner of 16th and Bethany Home, but it's so much more inside. Wall-to-wall decor of Texas stuff, and license plates from different states & countries covering the ceilings. It's dark inside, people are friendly (like in Texas), country music plays, and the food is fabulous.

Mike and I met Don and Marie (dad & stepmom) for dinner on 4th of July weekend to catch up while enjoying a great meal, Texas style! I know, I know... the chicken fried steak was calling my name, but I was telling myself that I didn't want to over-stuff myself since I wasn't that hungry. So, something light, you know? Um, wrong!!

Yes, I know... you can laugh. I ordered the ribeye steak (medium) with mashed potatoes & country gravy and coleslaw as my salad. Heavy much?? Yeah, totally - so I might as well have ordered a CFS (that's chicken fried steak for short - I made it up). Although the ribeye had a natural good taste from the marbling, it was a bit under seasoned. The mashed potatoes, though, were heaven! Every bite melted in your mouth, and there was actual chunks of red skinned potatoes. I took a picture of my cole slaw after I put black pepper on it, which I love to do. The pepper ruined the picture, though. I love the cole slaw here. Gosh, it's pretty darn obvious by now that I love the stuff.

Yeah, I was a bit jealous of Mike for ordering the chicken fried chicken, which as you already may know, is a chicken breast deep-fried, yeah yeah, you get the picture. I had a bite and it made me want to take my steak, hide it under the table, and tell the nice waitress that no, I never got my food, so... "can I order the chicken fried steak? Thanks, you're the best." Don't get me wrong, my steak was good!

Don took the liberty to order us a side of the sauteed 'shrooms. Oh, yeah... glad he did because they were so flavorful. One bite of the mushroom and the whole thing burst with great flavors, which I cannot describe. Yum.

Darn, I'm hungry and I really want to go back to Texaz Grill, but this time, I'm doing the RIGHT thing, which is CFS - all the way!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Island Prime/C-Level Lounge - Harbor Island

Island Prime/C-Level has the best view of downtown and the San Diego Bay, by far! I love going here for lunch on a beautiful sunny SD day and sitting in the outside patio over the water.

Technically, it's C-Level when open for lunch at 11:30 AM, but then dinner time is 5:30 PM, "Island Prime time". My first trip here was with the ED of our company and my fellow colleagues in the office. Man, the one thing I will not forget were the Oyster Rockefellers that we ordered for an appetizer that were amazing! They moved this appetizer to the dinner menu, but mmm, highly recommended!

On my most recent trip, I took a long lunch and met Mike, Linda & Doyle for great views our wonderful city and for fresh, delicious seafood specialties created by Chef Deborah Scott. I got there before they did, sat outside on the patio, took in the great smell of the salty sea air, and enjoyed the light breeze. When they arrived (after missing the exit), we were ready to order our delectable dishes. When I am near the ocean, I feel like I HAVE to have seafood. I didn't vocalize this, however, we all ordered seafood as if they thought the same thing.

Delicious! I ordered the blue crab cake sandwich on a toasted french loaf with tartar sauce, shaved red onions, lettuce, tomato, and a side of cole slaw. I love the picture I took of it because of the dripping sauce and the close up of the crunchy cake. It was divine. I ended up cutting the sandwich in half because it was way to big to pick up. It was also really messy because of the tartar, so I ended up eating it with a knife and fork. Yum, makes me crave it again.

Mike ordered the lobster & fontina BLT sandwich, and it comes with a side of sherried lobster bisque in a cute little dish. Man, was I jealous because this lobster BLT is the best I have tasted so far. Sorry, JRDN, but this one is definitely number one. Could have been the overly buttered bread combined with the chunks of fresh lobster!

This entree doesn't disappoint either. I've ordered this the first time I can here. Linda ordered the combo fish, shrimp n' chips, with hush puppies all stuffed in this cone-like contraption.

I was actually eye-ing this salad because all the ingredients sound like they will mesh together really well: warm baby spinach salad with blackened shrimp with bacon vinaigrette, toy box tomatoes, red onions, arugula, pine nuts, sliced egg & goat cheese. YUM, doesn't that sound like heaven? He enjoyed it very much. The egg was perfectly sliced too.

I have not yet been here for dinner, but I know it will be just as awesome as lunch time is. I love this place, and it's a must for entertaining out-of-town guests who would like to experience the best of San Diego.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sage Cafe - Lakeside

When you think of Indian casino dining, you may think of buffets, food courts, $1 hot dogs, free soda & coffee, and that one 24-hour cafe/restaurant that serves meals all day, every day.

The Sage Cafe is given the label of that "24-hour restaurant" located at the Barona Valley Ranch Casino in Lakeside, CA. However, the dining experience here is much more than just a diner type eatery where you can get a greasy burger, fries, and a Coke for a few bucks.

Sage is located at the back of casino in the non-smoking gaming area, near the hallway that leads to the guest rooms. The waiting area near the hostess stand resembles a living room with comfortable recliner chairs and sofa and a fireplace. The dining room has a large window to the left that overlooks the beautiful green golf course.

When Mike and I received a $40 food credit in the mail for the casino, it was an easy decision to have dinner here after work before it expired. We chose the cafe rather than the buffet, because we did not want to stuff ourselves with cuisines that don't go well together. We actually wanted a nice sit-down meal after a hard day's work.

The Sage Cafe has a simple menu of comfort food favorites, steaks, seafood, sandwiches, a build your own burger option, breakfast items, and even a section for Chinese cuisine.

After we ordered our beverages, which is usually ice water for me, and an iced tea for Mike, our bread basket arrived. Oh, this isn't no ordinary bread basket. Indian fry bread. Yes, that's right. Fry bread. Ours came with two delectable pieces of fry bread, and two "not-so-fun" dinner rolls, white and wheat. Every table in the restaurant has two shakers of cinnamon sugar and confectioner's sugar for these fried treats. As you can see, they also give us little packets of honey.

It was still warm when I bit into it. I put a little cinnamon sugar and confectioner's sugar, and drizzled a tad of honey. I prefer it with just the sugars, but wanted one bite of it with the honey. It was delicious. It could definitely have been a dessert, but we are happy that they serve this before our appetizer/meals arrived.

This is the roasted garlic, spinach and artichoke dip. It's served with toasted pita chips that are cut into large strips and placed inside a "cone" basket. In the picture, it looks like guacamole with cheese on top. This dip has the consistency of a bechamel (cream sauce) because once we dipped the pita chip, it coated it and the excess rolled off. It's like they over-blended the spinach and artichoke. But you know what? Who cares, because this dip is so darn good! You can definitely see and taste the chunks of sweet roasted garlic and whatever they put in it besides the ingredients stated above is beyond me. Yum. I told Mike that I'm going to try and mimic the recipe.

All dinner entrees come with either a wedge salad or cup of soup. Because I ordered the fish n' chips, I wanted crunchy cole slaw. Our server was sweet, and said that she would check with her manager to see if it was OK and of course it was. I forgot to take a picture of the cole slaw, but it was served in a cute little white ramekin. I could definitely taste the red wine vinegar in the dressing, which didn't bother me. It was a good side of slaw.

Holy moly! Now, this is a massive plate of fish n' chips! There were three large pieces of white cod fried in a stone ale batter, a whole freakn' potato served in big potato wedges, and a duo of sauces, tartar and a remoulade. The fish was awesome. The batter was light & crispy, and there was actually fish inside. The fish tasted fresh and the sauces were spot on. The "chips" weren't my favorite. I'm a "shoestring" kind of girl, so the thick cut fries aren't my thing, especially this thick. They weren't even fried either - baked. Healthier, but when you're ordering fish n' chips, I expect fried items. Good, though, but I only ate two of those, considering the size of both equals a half of a medium sized potato.

Mike ordered the chicken tortilla soup to start, and for his entree, the beer braised short rib with macaroni and cheese and a vegetable. The entree actually comes with green beans, but the last time we came here, the green beans were barely even cooked and were blanched too early. He opted for the steamed broccoli instead. The short rib fell off the bone and was flavorful. The mac n' cheese was creamy and well-done.

We skipped dessert and paid our couple bucks (our balance from the $40 food credit) plus 20% tip for the service before we sought out a few slot machines calling our names.

I believe, that evening, we came out beating the casino for once, but we both know that we will eventually give it back. *wink*

Monday, September 07, 2009

Ichiro Japanese Restaurant - Clairemont

This has been driving me crazy. I know for a FACT that Ichiro has a website because to plan our office end-of-the-year dinner a few years ago, I copied and pasted the menu on MS Word. Now, I cannot, for the life of me, find it. Oh, well. Boo, guess a Yelp link will do.

Ichiro Japanese restaurant off of Convoy Street, in the shopping center with Yoshinoya and Boot World, is my FAVORITE Japanese restaurant in town. What makes it a favorite in my book? Authenticity and that they have a kick-butt teriyaki rib eye steak. I say authenticity because most of the personnel are Japanese and speak the language that I studied for four years in college. They also understand me when I say "Gochisosama deshita" ("Thank you for the food - I am spoiled") as we leave the restaurant.

I can't even remember the first time I came here. It was back in the college, for sure. I remember introducing a lot of people to this restaurant - family members, out-of-town friends, my co-workers, and of course, my husband.

When you walk in, you are greeted immediately with "Irrashaimase" and depending how busy they are, they seat you immediately. To the left, there's the sushi bar and large group seating. I am sad that they removed the traditional seating on the floor where you sit on cushions with your shoes off, but I guess it's just better for your body to sit on a bench. Understandable. To the right of the hostess stand are booths and tables. There are food specials written in Hiragana/Kanji/English on whiteboards and types of Japanese beer displayed on the walls.

My favorite food items here are the:
  • Caterpillar Roll - eel (unagi), avocado, cucumber, crab meat
  • Kaki Fry - deep fried oysters, served with lemon wedges and tartar sauce
  • Sesame Chicken - crispy chicken cutlet with teriyaki sauce and toasted sesame seeds
  • Tempura anything
  • and my favorite... the Teriyaki Steak
I tell you, though.... everything is darn good here. Weeeell, I did try natto when I was with my friend, Michiko, and it tasted gross and smelled like feet. Not for me.

Mike and I came here one weekday evening to beat the traffic going down south from Mira Mesa. I ordered the Teriyaki Steak and Mike ordered the Teriyaki Chicken. We got a choice of "creamy mayo" or "ginger soy" as a salad dressing on simple romaine lettuce, shredded purple cabbage, and shredded carrots - pre-packaged, I bet. Here's a tip... always get the ginger soy. It's the best and so oishii (duh-licious). The creamy mayo dressing doesn't really have any flavor, in my opinion.

We were so hungry that I didn't take pictures of the salad or the cup of miso shiru (soup) that comes with your dinner entree. This is the Teriyaki Steak - it's an 8 oz. thinly sliced rib eye steak, grilled to perfection, served on a bed of sauteed bean sprouts, carrots, celery, and onions, with teriyaki sauce all over. When they bring it out from the kitchen to your table, it comes out all sizzling, just like fajitas at a Mexican restaurant. It's a "head turner" because people always look to see what's sizzling and what smells so darn good. Yep, it's my steak, peeps! It's served with a little dish of steamed rice.

I'm telling you. This steak cannot do you wrong. It is so delicious and flavorful, that you will not be sorry. If you run into the small pieces of fat, no worries. Don't eat it - simple as that.

Here's what you do, using your chopsticks, pick up one piece of the pre-cut rib eye with your chopsticks and place on top of your rice bowl, which you are holding in your left hand. You pick up the veggies and place in the bowl too. Then, you eat the steak and veggies in one swoop, then you pick up the rice that has been soaking in the teriyaki sauce. YUM.

On to Mike's food... I forgot to take a picture of his right away, so about 1/4 of his food was already in his tummy. As you can see, the little ramekin of bean sprout salad is all gone and somewhat spread out on his plate.

The teriyaki chicken is a safe, traditional entree that is still ranked high in my book in terms of tastiness. The chicken that they use is dark meat, pounded thin, and grilled. They serve it with a small side of their version of a mashed potato salad, a bean sprout salad, and a serving of steamed rice.

Coming to Ichiro reminds me of how I loved studying the Japanese language in college, how much I miss my tomodachi no Nihonjin (Japanese friends) and that one day we will visit Tokyo, Japan and eat ramen on the edge of river at a little stand.

Nihon-ryouri ga tabetai desu ka?? Ichiro e ikimashouuuuu!

Yeah, I still got it - kinda.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Duck and Decanter - Phoenix, Arizona

Every time we visit Phoenix, Mike's hometown, when we drive on Camelback Road, he asks himself, "Is Duck and Decanter still there?" Then he'll glance over as we drive past it and say "Yep, still in the same spot." He'll then rave about one the best turkey sandwiches he's ever had (next to "The Dough Boy" he used to order at Markraff Pharmacy). He has been going to D&D since he was about five years old.

Duck and Decanter is nestled in the back of a shopping center that has a Starbucks and McDonald's and has been around for 36 years. Wow!

Just recently on our last trip to Phoenix, he decided that we grab a light takeout lunch from there as opposed to our usual choice, Miracle Mile Deli, for a delicious heavy pastrami reuben sandwich and french fries (blog entry to come).

As we drove up and parked, it was very nostalgic for Mike as he described to me that there used to be a nursery adjacent to the restaurant, creating a "park like ambiance" (also described in the history on their website). There's now a parking structure next to it and some office buildings, I believe. From the outside, Duck and Decanter looks like a little cottage with tables & umbrellas all around. It was a sweltering 110 degrees so patrons were inside hiding from the dry heat. The "mist" sprinklers were on.

Inside, there are small aisles of merchandise to purchase gift baskets, fine cheeses & food products, tea, trinkets, and gift ware. After entering, to the right, there's a deli counter where the delicious sandwiches are created.

Near the entrance/exit, there's a wine section and what it looks like a tasting bar. Pretty darn cool. Upstairs, yep, there's an upstairs section, there are multiple tables & chairs for guests to eat. The restaurant reminded me a little bit of the bookstore at Seaport Village, but way less crowded and certainly not full of tourists.

The answer is yes. Yes, I knew what I was going to order before we even got there. I ordered the creamy garlic chicken salad on toasted sourdough with lettuce and tomatoes, no cheese, and no extra sauce. My simple goodness. Mike ordered his usual to re-live the past - turkey, swiss cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato on a kaiser roll. For Linda, we ordered a turkey "pocket" which came with shredded swiss, their famous coleslaw, and pine nuts. We even got the iced tea of the day - mango. Mmm.

As we were waiting for our order, one of the staff members (I think she was the manager) saw me taking pictures and Mike said to her, "Oh, we're just taking pictures." She responded with a huge smile and said, "Take all the pictures you want!" Mike mentioned that he used to come here as a kid. She was happy to have a guest like him visit after being away from Phoenix for a long time. She was sweet. Because of her warmth, I would want to eat here all the time if we lived in Arizona.

I love paper bags, especially food inside paper bags. They took our orders down on flat brown paper bags and this is how they package the sandwich goodness.

Opening the D&D package was like opening two birthday presents. The paper bag is one, and then the sandwich wrapped in crispy white parchment paper is the other. Oh yeah, none of that Styrofoam packaging, foil or plastic wrap wrapping. It was good ol' parchment paper.

First bite of my chicken salad sandwich had a crunch, which I love. The crunch of the toasted sourdough, romaine lettuce, and surprise --- there are chunks of water chestnuts in my chicken salad! The addition of them gave the sandwich a wonderful texture! I love water chestnuts, but growing up I used to hate them because my mom chopped them up and put them into her lumpia. I discovered an opened can of them next to her ingredients. I never gave them a chance and I assumed they tasted gross. But, that was then, this is now... and I love them.

I seriously thought the crunch in the chicken salad were chopped apples, but nope, there was no sweetness, unless I am wrong. I could definitely taste the garlic, but definitely was not overpowering or "spicy". I can say that this is the best chicken salad that I have ever had. Of course, I had to have a bag of lightly salted Kettle chips to go with my sandwich. The mango tea was perfect and quite refreshing with the heat and all.

Mike's sandwich was also simple and tasted great too. The kaiser buns here are different from the kaiser buns from Miracle Mile, but it was still light & fluffy. It tasted fresh.

I tried Linda's turkey pocket, and man, it was yummy. You know why? It's that cole slaw they stuff in there. In the picture, it's covered with all that delicious cheese but it was in there. Cole slaw/cabbage is another favorite thing I love. It's the crunch - and it's gotta have crunch factor in order to be good cole slaw. Duck & Decanter's take on slaw had the crunch and the flavor. Duh-licious.

Did I mention that they put the dill pickle spears and put them in little Ziploc type plastic bags? Not sustainable, but I can understand why they do it. The lady who rang up our order said that we can take extra pickles if we would like. There was a bunch of them sitting in a chilled container next to the register. We took some, not knowing that there were also three in our brown paper bags. That was nice of her though!

D&D is a cute little place. I'm glad that Mike suggested this to us one hot afternoon. It was nice to see how reminiscent he was and that he was glad that after all the years, it was still there in that location.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lei Lounge - University Heights

YAY for A!

Abel, our dear friend who moved from San Diego to Denver, Colorado, flew in for the weekend to attend a wedding. He asked Jen, Jason, and I, to meet him at the Lei Lounge in University Heights, just down the street from the Parkhouse Eatery.

This was my first time at Lei - and I was excited to try a new restaurant. We arrived just before the clock hit 11:00 AM, the start time for brunch. Coincidentally, we ran into a few friends who came to celebrate a birthday and chatted with them right before the doors were unlocked.

Walking through the restaurant, there's a bar to the left with a flat waterfall feature on the wall. Very cool. There were belly bars on the right. The hostess stand was stationed passed the bar, and the dining room was outside. It had very trendy, cool eating booths on both sides of the outside area, where it has a flat screen, pillows, and comfy soft benches to sit on. The booths were draped in fabric, giving it a V.I.P. club feel if we were there in the evenings. The birthday boy, Scott, and his friends sat around a couple fire pits booth under umbrellas. We were seated on one of the white clothed tables in the center. I wondered how business would be if it rained. The umbrellas protected about 70% of us.

Our server was sweet, but made friendly fun of me for ordering coffee (I was sleepy!) instead of a $3 cocktail or bloody mary! Actually, Jennifer told him that I stayed up all night the evening before.... "until 10:00 pm." Thanks, Jen. It was funny that he came back telling me that he had to still brew coffee, um, since I was the only one in the restaurant ordering freaking coffee.

Looking at the menu, it was a toss up between the Monte Cristo sandwich (between two pieces of french toast), stuffed french toast, or the traditional eggs benedict. *drool*

As you can see, I ordered the Monte Cristo sandwich. Yum. In between the delectable slices of warm french toast, it had turkey, canadian bacon, and cheddar & swiss cheese. It was served with crispy potatoes, a side of Heinz ketchup (I know that flavor), and a side of maple syrup. I poured just a little syrup on the edge of the sandwich, and cut a piece of the corner, forming a mini triangle. There's just something about a sweet and savory dish that my mouth cannot resist. Sweet from the maple syrup and savory from the canadian bacon & cheeses meshed together. The potatoes were good too... simple and cooked right.

Abel ordered the salmon benedict. Ohhh, smoked salmon, spinach, lemon cream sauce over a toasted english muffin. It was served with a side of roasted tomato salsa and the crispy potatoes. Of course, he cleaned his plate and said it was delicious. It looked really good and something that Mike would have definitely ordered if he didn't have to show four houses that morning to clients.

Jason ordered the thai chicken lettuce wraps with a trio of sauces... sweet & sour, soy based, and a peanut sauce. He was satisfied with the choice, but he said that he didn't care for the sweet and sour sauce. I hope that was the right one - I have a 33.3% chance that I'm right!

Jennifer, being a good follower of Weight Watchers, ordered a pretty dish of fruit. You can't go wrong with a dish of fresh fruit!

Lei Lounge was a nice place to have brunch, and it looks very promising and fun to have a late night drink and chill with your friends. Just don't be that person to order coffee when everyone else is drinking beer or a cocktail. Just kidding. I was sleepy, darn it!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Red Tracton's Steakhouse - Del Mar

It is always a special treat when Doyle, Mama Linda, and Isabella (their cute, well behaved, smart Portuguese Water Dog) come to visit San Diego to stay with us for a few days. It is a time of family bonding, relaxation, and good eats! They are from Phoenix, a city we frequently visit also, but this time it was their turn to visit.

On a beautiful Saturday evening in San Diego, Doyle's friend suggested that we have dinner at Red Tracton's Steakhouse in Del Mar, right across from the Del Mar racetrack. The races are occurring right now and have heard that this is a great place to go after throwing out exacta or trifecta bets on a few horses. We didn't visit the track that afternoon, but we were well on our way to Red Tracton's before the last race ended.

Valet took care of our vehicle and we walked in the restaurant that has been open since 1948. The host immediately greeted us and showed us to our table in the main dining room just past the bar. The inside of the restaurant reminded me of two other old school steakhouses, The Butcher Shop and Bully's. However, Red Tracton's has been open longer than both of them. The interior is very dark, has lit candles on the tables, and large portraits of jockeys and horses on the wall. I liked the old feel of the place; a place that has history.

Our server was nice - and looked like she's been a server here for years. She knew what she was doing and people were not going to mess with her. We ordered a round of cocktails, a couple of margaritas over ice with no salt for Mike and with salt for Linda, Doyle ordered a Bombay Sapphire martini, and a "faux" martini for me... a lemon drop martini. It was delicious, especially with that sugary rim.

We received a warm basket of sourdough bread and softened butter before we made our dinner selections. The bread was chewy, but in a good way. Sourdough is supposed to be chewy and it was a good piece of bread.

Of course, I did peruse the online menu before actually coming here, but for once, I didn't know beforehand what I was going to order. We had brunch just about 4 hours before our dinner reservation so I wasn't starving and did not want anything to put me over the top. Everyone at the table started off with the "famous" lobster bisque.

The lobster bisque came out in the traditional soup bowls with the handles, accompanied with a little server of sherry and a package of oyster crackers. I never put in oyster crackers in my bisque or chowder. I like how the soup tastes without it. I poured a little sherry over my bisque, stirred, and took a sip. Yum... warm and flavorful. The lobster stock and cream simply melted in my mouth. Mike pointed out how big the lobster chunks were, and I immediately had to take a picture. It was a great start to the meal. The only thing I didn't like was that my bowl had soup running over the sides - which means the kitchen staff just poured messily. I forgave them after the first bite.

As a lighter meal, I ordered the jumbo shrimp scampi, sauteed in white wine, lemon, and garlic and served in a cute cast iron skillet. I would have loved to have a charbroiled ribeye, but I was just still too stuffed from brunch. The shrimp, surely, was jumbo! I believe that six big ol' ones were served to me on that little skillet. I took my fork and knife, and cut into half of the large prawn, dipped it into the buttery, garlic sauce, and.... I thought that the shrimp was a bit overdone. It wasn't soft, juicy, and succulent I would have preferred it to be... so it was just okay. Tasty, but I wish it was undercooked so it would finish cooking in the sauce to be the right texture for me.

This isn't a good pic of our homestyle mashed potatoes in "garlic butter". We had a choice of getting the mashed potatoes with either bacon, cheddar cheese, & chives, peppercorn gravy, or garlic butter. For me, the choice was between the bacon or the garlic butter - however, because I enjoy the flavor of garlic, especially a sweet roasted garlic, I chose the GB. Let me tell you that this is the first time EVER, that I have thought a dish was spicy because of raw garlic. I thought that the taste of these potatoes would have gotten better if I kept eating to see if there's a better "part" of the mound I should eat. Nada. I couldn't eat it anymore. I stopped after three bites. The raw garlic flavor was so powerful, that it wasn't even good. Go for the bacon - everything's better with bacon, right?

On the other hand, their charbroiled rib eye steak was AMAZING. This is what Mike and Doyle ordered. I had one bite of his delicious, well-marbled piece of protein. It was juicy and cooked to perfection (medium rare). I would definitely come back here, avoid the garlic mashed, and order the rib eye without any hesitation and before I even order a drink! It was THAT good. Props to them for picking the winning entree!

Last, Linda ordered the "Catch of the Day" which was a sauteed halibut served with capers, lemon wedges, and tartar sauce. For a side, she ordered the twice baked potato, which tasted like it was a "thrice" baked potato. You can tell that it was sitting under a hot lamp for quite a bit because the flesh of the potato wasn't moist and fluffy anymore. The flavor was just OK, but you know what? I would have eaten this instead of the mashed potatoes!

Overall, I would go back for that yummy steak, lobster bisque, and for the atmosphere. I liked the old feel of it. The personnel were very friendly and the host even ran after us while we were waiting for valet because I left my Sony camera case on the chair. That was very considerate and nice of him to do so.

The place was slowly getting busier as the races were ending and we left before the dinner rush started. We headed back down south for a little frozen yogurt and to relax for the rest of the night.

A great evening, indeed... however, I think I lost my nice sunglasses that same night. Oh, me.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yenchim Garden Restaurant - Rancho Penasquitos

I'm always up for delicious Chinese food, but it's got to be authentic! My favorite Chinese restaurants in town are Golden Chopsticks in National City, Emerald Chinese Seafood off of Convoy for dim sum, Sam Woo BBQ located in the 99 Ranch in Clairemont Mesa, and Yenchim Garden in PQ.

When Mike and I lived in Rancho Penasquitos, or what San Diego peeps would call it "PQ", we ate at Yenchim Garden frequently because it was right across the street from our condo complex in the Vons shopping center. We ordered take out and received our order in a simple, brown paper bag that was stapled shut with the receipt attached. There's something comforting about that.

We were in the area one weekend afternoon and decided to stop in for the amazing lunch specials for "old time's sake." I say amazing, because you receive a great portion of food for what you pay for. All lunch specials come with a cup of hot & sour soup with the fried noodles, your choice of protein (meat), fried or steamed rice, an egg roll, and a fried wonton - all for about $7-$8 a person.

The wait staff here is very quick, prompt and efficient. Right away the server took our drink order, lunch order, and returned back with the two cups of hot & sour soup, fried crunchy noodles, and a dish of sweet & sour sauce.

Mmm, the hot & sour soup was a tad hot as far as temperature, but after blowing a few spoonfuls until it cooled down, it was just like I remembered it. The tang from the vinegar and the warmth of the broth left our mouths just wanting more. There were slices of bamboo shoots and tofu in the soup, just like the traditional soup would contain. It was dee-lish. It didn't hurt that a few crunchy noodles in the broth enhanced the flavor.

Before I knew it, our dishes arrived. I ordered the Mongolian Beef - my ultimate favorite Chinese food dish. I owe it to a "Reading Rainbow" episode I saw in elementary school when Levar Burton went to Chinatown, watched the chef make the dish, along with Grandma Wong's Chicken Soup, and practices saying "Xie Xie" (thank you). Funny, huh? Anyway, I don't think this picture does justice, but Yenchim's mongolian beef is pretty yum in the tum. Slices of flank steak stir-fried with a quickness with scallions in a savory brown sauce - sign me up! I actually like a lot of scallions in my dish, as long as they are stir-fried.

The vegetable egg roll was nice & fresh too. Dipping into the sweet & sour sauce made it taste even better. The piece of wonton, though, was pre-fried, so it didn't taste fresh and didn't have that crunch. I ate it anyway. The fried rice was pretty good too. I don't prefer a lot of soy in my fried rice, so eating the rice with the beef had the perfect balance of saltiness.

Mike ordered the Yenchim Chicken, which is sliced chicken breast stir-fried with tiny onions in a somewhat spicy sauce. He enjoyed it very much. I had a bite of the chicken, and it was good. I'm not into spicy foods, besides the red salsa from mexican restaurants, but this wasn't that spicy at all. It has a very small kick to it.

We left the restaurant full and satisfied. We didn't even have room for Golden Spoon frozen yogurt or french vanilla ice cream from my favorite ice cream shop, Bucky's.

Yep, Yenchim will always be a good find.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Parkhouse Eatery - University Heights

Comfort food, anyone?

A few years ago, my former co-worker/friend, Kim, introduced me to Parkhouse Eatery when she selected this cute, quaint location for her farewell lunch. I am VERY thankful to her for introducing us to the Parkhouse because it is truly a place of comfort, flavorful, delicious food.

Parkhouse Eatery is located in North Park/University Heights, very close to Hillcrest and even just a short drive from the College Area. The restaurant is a little house with outdoor patio seating, and indoor seating in the living room and in the bar area. Here are a couple of great, money saving tips to note about the Parkhouse:
  • 1/2 off all appetizers from 5-7:00 PM, Monday through Friday
  • is a participating restaurant on Restaurant.com, where you can purchase $10 or $25 gift certificates at a discounted price (tip: there's always a coupon code)
They have the most amazing crab cake sandwich (which rivals the other yummy crab cake sandwich at Cafe on Park). However, on this trip... a few co-worker friends and I went for 1/2 off appetizers after work on a Monday evening, and even brought the $25 gift certificate from restaurant.com. *smirk*

The five of us were the first patrons to arrive for dinner at 5:00 PM on the dot. There was no one around, and the "Sorry, We're Closed" sign was still up. The door to the main restaurant was open, so we waltzed in, chatting and looking around for a hostess. Our server popped out from the kitchen and we requested to sit outside since it was a nice, summer evening in San Diego.

All pictures, except of the lobster quesadilla were taken by Tracie, the expert picture taker in the office. Her food pics were SO much better than mine! Thanks, "U"!
Both DV and I started off with the creamy New England clam chowder with a perfectly cooked grilled prawn. It had a little toasted bread through the handle and crispy fried scallions as a garnish on the saucer. The temperature of the soup was great - not too hot, and warm enough for a spoonful in my mouth. It was delicious. There were significant chunks of clam and cooked potatoes (not al dente) in the soup. DV and I gave it a thumbs up!

Steph ordered the field green salad with the lemon-basil vinaigrette. The greens also came with jicama and sliced sweet red bell peppers. She wanted ranch dressing on the side, but since the Parkhouse makes their own dressings, ranch wasn't one of them. She said the salad was just OK.

Then, our load of appetizers came...

We received two orders of their crispy fried calamari with wasabi chili mayo and sriracha painted on the plate. The majority of the appetizer plates had sriracha on the plate for a hint of color. Mmmm.. this was by far our favorite flavor because we ended up ordering another plate! It was THAT good! The calamari steak was cut into strips, breaded, and fried to perfection.

The lobster quesadilla was stuffed with caramelized onions and spicy pepper jack cheese. Yum, it was also served with a cilantro aioli and a smoked paprika cream sauce. The cheese was very strong and salty. The quesadilla had a lot of flavor, but I didn't really taste the lobster. Still, though, a good dish, but I probably will order another appetizer than this next time.

This is the baby back lamb riblets smothered with their homemade barbecue sauce and served over mascarpone mashed potatoes - mmm. This wasn't the favorite of the table, but I enjoyed it very much. The barbecue sauce had an asian kick to it, and it was very good. The meat fell off the little bone and complemented the mashed potatoes very well.

I love this picture of the pan fried pork dumplings (gyoza, I would call it). You can clearly see the sear marks on the dumplings from the pan before it was finished by steaming. The pork dumplings were served with a plum dipping sauce that was sweet and tangy to the taste. The gyoza was crisp on the outside, and mealy in the inside. It was a delicious dumpling from a restaurant not specializing in asian cuisine. However, their partner restaurant is Bistro d'Asia in Coronado.

Served right next to the crispy dumplings was their take on a light fried rice on top of a splash of sweet & sour sauce. I didn't get to taste the rice, but DV said that it was "just like rice pilaf". It did look like a rice pilaf cooked with chicken broth.

The crab cakes at Parkhouse is what I enjoy the most. As stated before, the first time I visited here, I ordered the crab cake sandwich on toasted french white bread, greens, tomatoes, and of course, creamy tartar sauce. The crab cakes are really delicious. They have the perfect consistency of crisp from the pan fry, and from the actual crab. Some may argue that the crab cakes can be mushy, but I enjoyed the texture and flavor. The cakes are served with a spicy roasted corn-tomato relish and sun-dried tomato mayo which complemented them very well.
Our entire meal of appetizers cost us a mere $10 per person because of the $25 restaurant.com gift certificate and the 1/2 off appetizers. We were full, had great, non-work conversation and laughed it up at the outside patio. It was a delicious way to end the evening, and to say bon voyage to DV who left for NYC that Friday.
Crab cake sandwich... I will be back for you.
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