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!

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.
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