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!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Final Burger Quest List

[famous blue cheese burger from stripburger, Las Vegas, NV]

Edited: 05.28.10

Alright fellow foodies, I've added a few more burger joints since my first update. NOW, it's burgers burgers burgers for the next, what, three plus months? If you missed my little blurbs about the other candidates in my quest to find the best burger in San Diego, click here before reading on.

NEW contender to make the list an even TWENTY restaurants:

Jayne's Gastropub
Yes, I know. I had to do it. After finding out that they were voted the 'San Diego's Best Burger' by CitySearch Reader's Poll in 2009, I was sold. Also, that picture of the burger on their website makes me drool. I love Jayne's for their tasty steak frites, so why not try their burger?

Here are the additional candidates:

Boomerang's Gourmet Burger Joint
A recent visitor to my blog, itsmechuck, told me about Boomerang's off of Clairemont Drive. To tell you the truth, I had it confused with Boomer's off of Clairemont Mesa - duh! OK, after looking at their menu online, I am sold. Plus, he told me that Boomerang's won the San Diego Burger Challenge last year.

Jimmy's Famous American Tavern
Junvi emailed me about this new restaurant in Point Loma that just opened yesterday (4/19). Their website design easily convinces me to try a 10 oz. JFAT burger and many of their comfort food specialties. JFAT, I will visit soon.

Red Fox Room
Mike and I have seen the Red Fox Room off of El Cajon Boulevard in North Park and we've been curious. It looks like it's been at that location for years and it looks totally old school. When Jen suggested that I go here as a part of the quest, I definitely put it on the list!

Tioli's Crazee Burger
Also in North Park, my friend Q mentioned that this place serves "alternative" burgers like ostrich, kangaroo, bison, and alligator *shudder* when we walked past it during an evening stroll to Jayne's. Coincidentally, Jen and my foodie friend, Raymond, suggested it to me too. However, to be fair to the other candidates, I would be ordering a plain ol' cheeseburger from here, but will be back for a different taste later.

The Counter
My favorite college buddy, Shaye, reunited recently and upon hearing about my quest, she told me about The Counter in Carlsbad. Guests have the option to build their own burger, with a dozen types of cheeses, many unique toppings like dried cranberries & hard boiled egg, and large variety of sauces. They also have their list of signature burgers and a few sandwiches. Carlsbad is a bit of a drive from where I live, but if it's where the best burger may possibly be, I'm down.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines (The Grill & Bar)
Can't believe I almost forgot about this place. Shame on me! The Lodge at Torrey Pines is where Mike and I stayed the night of our wedding. *cheesy smile* The minute we arrived, we told the front desk that we were starving. He told us that we had to get the Drugstore Burger and that is exactly what we did. Yum. Along with homemade potato chips & buffalo wings. Yeah. Happy wedding day for us!

Urban Mo's
Oh, Urban Mo's... I visited a lot when you were Hamburger Mary's and I think I've only gone back once since the name change. I have had their burgers here, but sadly, I have forgotten the flavor since it's been a while. Raymond suggested I give it another whirl and to try their Mediterranean burger.

Western Steakburger
I've been told that this joint has the greasiest, but tastiest burgers in San Diego. I mean, a grilled pastrami burger? Wha? Heart attack in a bun, but yes, I have to admit, I love pastrami and I love burgers. This type of burger will not be a part of my quest, but I do have to visit to see what the hype is about.

So, alas.. the final list.

Boomerang's Gourmet Burger Joint
Burger Lounge

Danny's Palm Bar & Grill


Jayne's Gastropub

Jimmy's Famous American Tavern

O'Brothers Burgers

Red Fox Room

Rocky's Crown Pub

Smash Burger San Diego

The Corner Bar & Grill

The Counter

The Lodge at Torrey Pines - The Grill & Bar
Tioli's Crazee Burger

The Waterfront Bar & Grill

The Restaurant at The Pearl

Urban Mo's

Western Steakburger


For those who would like to join in on the quest, let me know by leaving a comment, DM on Twitter, or email me. Remember, ratings can be done on your own time -- and for sure, it will take me a *long* time to visit all these burger joints.

To those who are already participating... rating sheets will be sent to you SOON and I will be scheduling a few burger outings. Yay!

It is a good thing that I am a runner. Yeah, it really is.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Bleu Boheme - Kensington

Thinking back to the good ol' college days at San Diego State University (SDSU) in the mid-90's, what comes to mind is hanging out (*ahem* loitering) in front of the bookstore steps, chili cheese fries at the Courtyard Cafe for lunch, checking out guys in Kappa Alpha, long study days in the old library, and my usual morning cup of hazelnut coffee from Creative Juices.

My fondest memories include the friendships that I have made during my years at SDSU. One dear friend in particular is Shaye, a fellow former business classmate and mommy extraordinaire.

It was over 10 years since Shaye and I have seen each other. We think we met in one of our pre-business classes, Accounting 201, when we were put into groups. A close friendship between the both of us quickly formed and had so many laughs and good times with our other long-lost friend, Paul. When we recently re-united on Facebook and realized that we have a similar passion for food and writing about food, we had to meet for what Shaye calls a "food-venture".

And so we did. At Bleu Boheme in Kensington....

Shaye and I met for a very early dinner at 5:00 PM in the cute neighborhood of Kensington for some delicious French goodness at Bleu Boheme. For a long time now, I have craving moules frites so not only was I excited to catch up with Shaye, but I really wanted a bowl of succulent mussels and crispy french fries.

The restaurant re-opens for dinner at 5:00 PM so we patiently waited outside and talked about my upcoming trip to Las Vegas for my "thirty-something" birthday and the food adventures that I scheduled, including a recommendation by Shaye and her hubby. The friendly staff promptly unlocked the door at 5:00 PM and we were seated at a perfect little table by the large window facing Adams Avenue.

This was my second time to visit Bleu Boheme. We went here for a work lunch when it first opened a few years ago and I had the NY steak paillard. It was very good, so I was looking forward to dining here again.

Every Tuesday evenings they have a prix-fixe dinner menu called "Bohemian Menu" for only $22.00. What a deal! However, it wasn't a Tuesday, but if you arrive before 6:00 PM, the $22 three-course meal is available. We jumped on that.

We started off the bread on a mini block, which was so cute. I have no idea what kind of bread it was, but it was soft, warm, and clearly baked fresh in-house. One of my pet peeves is cold bread and rock hard cold butter so that was a plus and a special treat.

Ohhh, we both started off with the "Petite Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée" or French onion soup. YUM. I took my spoon to cut through the Gruyere cheese as if I was opening a gift. Inside was a fabulous combination of sweet caramelized onions, beef consomme, and croutons. So darn good, especially taking a spoonful with the cheese. Heaven!

Big surprise. I ordered the "Moules Marinières and Pommes Frites". The mussels were steamed in white wine and had garlic shavings and parsley. The aroma of the white wine broth smelled pleasantly delicious. The mussels were good in taste but I was hoping that it would have "wow"ed me more in flavor. On the regular dinner menu they have different variations of moules frites, so next time I'm going to try the "Moules à la Crème d’Ail" - yes, with garlic cream sauce *drool*.

Mmm, a small plateful of pommes frites served right in front of me. This could be dangerous. Although it was a fried plate of the simplest and most perfect food in the world, the potato, I didn't like the rosemary that was on it. Rosemary, to me, is a great universal herb, however... a little bit goes a LONG way and the rosemary was too overpowering for my taste. I did notice Shaye picking off the rosemary on her fries also, which prompted me to do the same after trying to welcome the flavor. Can I suggest chopped parsley? I also wished that they were cooked a bit longer. I love crispy fries.

Shaye took my suggestion to try the "Confit de Canard, Sauce au Poivre Vert", duck confit with a green peppercorn sauce. I had such a GREAT duck confit experience at the Restaurant at The Pearl Hotel with the crispy skin and fall-off-the-bone duck meat that I wanted her to experience the same. I missed reading on the menu that there was a sauce on it, so when it was served I was afraid that my "crispy skin" praise was false due to the peppercorn sauce. However, Shaye enjoyed her duck and said that there was crispy skin to eat. *Whew* The duck was very delicious and the sauce did compliment it well.

This little dish was our final course and it was a perfect way to end the evening -- "Mousse au Chocolat" with a thinly sliced strawberry, sprig of mint for garnish, and chocolate sauce. So good.

Shaye and I, in those two hours, caught up on the last ten years of our lives to include our marriages, raising and having children, our days at SDSU, and what is next in both of our futures. Oh yeah, and when our next "food-venture" will be. Hodad's, I believe. Burger Quest. Yes.

[Merci for the friendship, Shaye!]

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

[Vacation] Las Vegas, Nevada

[Fremont Street - Old Vegas]

Ah, Viva Las Vegas!

Vegas will always be one of our favorite getaways. In my opinion, Las Vegas has outgrown the label of "cheap buffets and slot machines" and has transformed itself to be a great culinary city full of fabulous chefs/restaurateurs like Thomas Keller (Bouchon), Rick Moonen (RM Seafood), Hubert Keller (Fleur de Lys & Burger Bar), Joël Robuchon, and Charlie Palmer (Aureole).

For my "thirty-something-th" birthday, we decided to take a quick road trip (less than two days) full of pai gow poker, craps, and of course, fun food adventures.

After arrival and check-in at our newly remodeled suite at the Flamingo Las Vegas (a TV screen in the bathroom mirror? Score!), we walked over to Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino to experience the "World's Greatest Hot Sandwich" at the Earl of Sandwich.
According to the history section of the website, the 4th Earl of Sandwich was John Montagu. He was known for being a commander in the British Navy, a card player, and originator of the sandwich concept in 1762. This franchise was actually started by the Montagu family who wanted to share their vision of the sandwich to the world.

After reading a few Yelp reviews, I was sold on paying a visit to the Earl of Sandwich for what everyone has called the best hot sandwich in Vegas. And, indeed it was. *drool*

Basically, it is a walk up "fast food counter" with a large menu above. The restaurant had plenty of seating on the other side, which was pleasantly full. This told us that our lunch choice was a fine one. We placed our sandwich order, moved along the line similar to a school cafeteria, grabbed some Earl of Sandwich kettle cooked chips (yum), a bottled water, and paid the cashier. We were given a pager, sat down on the counter directly across from the line, and patiently awaited the goodness we were about to receive.

As we waited, I watched each sandwich made-to-order as it journeyed through a large hot conveyor belt oven. Because the bread is super fresh and the sandwich is placed "open faced" through the oven, the bread is toasted and "flattens".

I have been craving a meatball sub for a while, but I wanted to have something that I couldn't get anywhere else. I ordered the Full Montagu, which received rave reviews on Yelp. The Full Montagu has roasted beef, turkey, Swiss & cheddar cheese, lettuce, Roma tomato and Earl's mustard all piled on freshly baked toasted bread.

My rectangular sandwich was wrapped in a pretty gold wrapper and sealed with an Earl of Sandwich sticker with the name of my sandwich, The Full Montagu. Oh, it was like opening a birthday gift. Really.

I have to say... the bread here is awesome. The bread is what absolutely made the sandwich super delicious. It was warm, soft in the inside, and had that little crunch from the toast... oh, so good. Didn't hurt that the roasted beef was just as yummy, as it was sliced thin. Very flavorful AND tender. I usually avoid deli roast beef because I think that the sliced beef would be chewy (as I have experienced in the past), but this sandwich proved me wrong.

We enjoyed our lunch and tackled the tables at the nearby casinos until it was time to head back to the hotel for the hubby's fantasy baseball draft and to get ready for dinner in downtown Las Vegas.

After telling my college BFF, Shaye, that we were going to Vegas, she recommended that we go to Hugo's Cellar for a one-of-a-kind dining experience in old Las Vegas.

Hugo's Cellar is located inside the Four Queens Resort and Casino in downtown Las Vegas on the Fremont Street Experience. As we approached the entrance to the restaurant, I noticed that it does resemble a "cellar" because there was a short flight of stairs that took you down to the waiting area & bar. It was very dark but welcoming. The environment reminded me of an old school "Butcher Shop" type steakhouse. Older men sat at the bar sipping their brandy, wine, and scotch and chatted as regulars.

The awesome thing is that every entree ordered at Hugo's comes with table-side made salad, potatoes, vegetables, AND chocolate covered fruit goodness.

*NOTE: The pictures taken here are BLURRY due to me rushing and not being totally comfortable taking pictures. I guess I shouldn't have felt rushed since the sweetest people work here!

When the hostess took us to our table, she handed me a single red rose! All the females received one upon arrival. Aww, how sweet! We were seated in a booth and the rose was put in a glass vase on our table.

I noticed that all the servers were male and dressed up in tuxedos with a neatly tied bow tie. Nice table cloths, bottled water, and an in-house Sommelier... this place was perceived to be "fancy schmancy", but I think it was inviting enough to welcome a bunch of casual tourists that have been exploring the city all day.

A basket of bread came our way with the famous cheese toasted lavosh and assorted fresh baked goods. The basket was accompanied by the prettiest butter rose I've ever seen. We placed our entree orders and patiently waited for the table side salad.

We were so hungry. I was really looking forward to the table side salad that Shaye was raving about and it's "just a salad". The couple next to us got to experience the salad demonstration first and Mike and I quietly watched. It was pretty darn cool to see that the server goes through every single ingredient for each individual person, asking him or her if they would like it on their salad.

Shaye was right - my own "personal" salad was delicious. I ordered romaine lettuce, peeled tomato wedges, bay shrimp, toasted pine nuts, croutons - all tossed with ranch dressing.

Between the salad and the main course, they give you a palate cleanser of a CUTE little raspberry sorbet cone. Yay! It was delicious and it did the deed.

Because it was to celebrate my birthday, I ordered my favorite special treat -- the charbroiled 16 oz. rib eye steak. YUM. Mike ordered the Chilean Sea Bass, an excellent seafood choice in my opinion.

My ribeye was charbroiled to a perfect "medium" and was covered in a mushroom ragout and rich bordelaise sauce. It was SO good and one of the most memorable ribeye steaks I have ever had. There's nothing like the taste of a charbroiled piece of meat cooked properly and rested for a perfect amount of time. Hugo's Cellar certainly knows how to cook a steak right. I enjoyed every single bite of it. The whipped potatoes melted in my mouth and the veggies were crisp and tender.

Mike's Chilean sea bass was moist and flavorful. He ordered it to be grill au naturale with no butter. I could taste the charbroiled taste in the fish as well. As if the meal couldn't get any better, we received our small platter of a dark chocolate dipped strawberry, milk chocolate dipped dried apricot, and white chocolate dipped fig -- one each for the both of us.

NOPE, not done with dinner yet. I had to order a dessert to celebrate my birthday. We ordered a pecan pie cheesecake that was so heavenly sweet and downright sinful. Hey, we were in Sin City, right? It was a great way to end the evening. That, and some loose slot machines inside the Four Queens before we called it a really late night in downtown.

After sleeping in due to a late night we totally missed breakfast and my morning coffee. We left our hotel to search for Stripburger at the Fashion Show Mall. I found Stripburger via Kristi's website: VegasMusings.com. On the side note, her blog is awesome and I absolutely love her food photography. Hi Kristi! *waving*

The Fashion Show Mall is located across the street from the Wynn Las Vegas and Stripburger is on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Dio Drive. After arriving at the restaurant, Mike reviewed the menu posted at the base of the steps and he was sold. Fried pickles? Baked buffalo wings? Yes siree!

Stripburger is a pretty darn cool place. We were seated outside to enjoy the perfect Las Vegas weather. Old school hip hop was playing (Bell Biv Devoe's "Poison"... oh yeah!) as we walked in. I bobbed my head up and down to the beats and read the menu to decide exactly which burger I was craving.

To start, we shared the baked chicken wings with celery sticks and chunky blue cheese dressing. The savory wings were served in this cute paper box with "Stripburger" parchment paper. They were absolutely delicious and had the perfect hint of heat -- not too spicy, the way I like it.

For some reason a bacon cheeseburger sounded REALLY good at the time. I mean, we didn't have breakfast so that could have been my deciding factor (unknowingly) - BACON. Surprisingly, the burger was just okay. The patty was a little juicy, cooked nicely, but the burger was served warm but to the point of almost completely cooled in a matter of five minutes. The bread is great, though. Soft and delicious.

I was jealous. Jealous of what my hubby ordered. OH, how I wished I listened to him. He said, "Hey if a restaurant is saying that this is what they are "famous" for, then you have to get it." Nope, I followed my bacon cheeseburger instinct. He ordered their "famous blue cheeseburger" and OMG, it was so darn delicious. Now why didn't mine taste as good as this one? OK, I thought that they were going to attempt to slather the burger with that chunky blue cheese that they served with the chicken wings. Not at all. It was this creamy, silky blue cheese that laid neatly on top of the medium cooked burger along with crispy, salty onion strings. Along with that great bun, it certainly was a combination meant to all be put together. Darn him. It was that good.

Yeah, we overdid it again and also ordered the trio of strings, fries, and fried pickles. I love different flavors and I could not resist all of these if they offered all three in one fun basket. The fried pickles were my favorite, next to the fries. The onion strings were cut so thin that they were difficult to eat and dip in the tiny cup of ranch dressing. I would prefer thick cut onion rings and to save the strings for a burger topping.

Tip: Split a burger and get the pickles/fries. Saves you money and a heart attack.

The morning before we headed back to San Diego, we drove over to the Venetian for a Bouchon experience that I will never forget. Oh, Thomas Keller... you and your French macarons!

Bouchon Bakery is located at the main level of The Venetian right in front of the theater where Phantom of the Opera is played. It is this little coffee bar with pastries. Could be called a patisserie, I guess!

I have heard a great deal about these macarons which I had no idea how they looked like (yep, I actually did not go to the website before hand). So, in line when they asked me what I would like to order, I asked, "Do you have macarons right now?" OK, I didn't see that they were labeled. Bet you the people behind me were like, "This lady is crazy." The woman behind the counter answered "yes" and pointed to the massive selection of these delicious cookies staring right at me (they were right in front of me - doh). I am crazy.

She started naming off all these flavors. Dang it, the pressure was on to decide which ones to order. I order one chocolate, one vanilla - my simple favorite frozen yogurt flavors - and a Cafe Mocha. My bill came out to about $13. Wow. I think each cookie was $3.59... but WORTH every penny!

We "parked" at an empty information booth just on the other side of the bakery, took my food pictures, and started off with the chocolate macaron. I slowly took a bite to experience all the textures of the cookie: crispy, light on the outside and CHEWY in the inside. The inside reminded me of a moist chocolate brownie. What I loved the most were the textures. Awesome. I was glad that I saved the vanilla macaron for last because that was even tastier than the chocolate one. I can still smell the fragrant scent of vanilla bean coming from that cookie. My favorite taste of the weekend were definitely the macarons. Hands down. Now I am curious about the rest of the flavors - raspberry, lemon, cappuccino, orange. I'll be back for sure for the box of six all for me *evil laugh*.

*Sad face* We waved goodbye to Las Vegas and started our five-hour drive back to San Diego just in time for the Easter festivities. After passing by the numerous signs advertising Mad Greek in Baker, CA for many, many years... I told the hubby that I wanted to try what they call the "Best Gyros in the USA". This was one of Guy Fieri's first stops on 'Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives' when the show first aired. I figured, what the hell, I wanted to try it. I was a curious as a cat and the macarons did not fill me up.

We waited in line at the drive-thru and were two cars behind to order. Man, I tell you. The wait was LONG but that meant that they were cooking everything to order. At least that was what I believed as we moved like a snail. The menu board was old and falling apart. We located where it just listed "Gyro" on the menu and ordered just that. It was a big surprise to see what a $10.00 gyro came with because seriously, all it read was "gyro". Nice.

The large box came with a big ol' foil wrapped gyro, accompanied with rice pilaf and a serving of tzatziki sauce. The sandwich was full of HUGE chunks of gyro meat, sliced tomato, onions, and lettuce. I broke off a piece of the gyro meat and it was flavorful and delicious. The entire pita sandwich was warm and I was right, it was made to order because everything was fresh-tasting, including the vegetables which were still slightly chilled. The rice pilaf was fluffy and seasoned perfectly.

I took a close up shot of the tzatziki sauce to show the large cubes of cucumber and fresh dill (as opposed to shaved cucumber). It was absolutely the best tzatziki I have ever had. I could have eaten a bowl of this with kettle chips, my favorite snack. Putting this sauce on the gyro made the sandwich even better. We could have easily shared the sandwich because I only ate a third of it.

After the last bite of the gyro that I could handle, it signified the end of our Vegas road trip. Las Vegas is just right around corner so next time, I have my list of restaurants that I want to visit for sure:
  • RM Seafood
  • Bouchon Bistro
  • China Mama
  • Raku
  • Ronald's Donuts
It wouldn't hurt if we won a jackpot next time either.
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