#foodismyfave

#foodismyfave

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.

Welcome.

... 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!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Golden Chopsticks - National City

Golden Chopsticks Chinese Restaurant in National City is located right off of Plaza Boulevard (west) in the Seafood City/Big Lots shopping center across from Jollybee. I have been getting take out here for YEARS and it is, by far, my favorite Chinese restaurant in San Diego. Yeah, I'm probably one of the very few people who actually nominate this joint when it comes to recommending the best Chinese eats in San Diego Magazine or SignOnSanDiego.com. It's worth a shot, right?

Well, their food never disappointed me. Never ever. Their service on the other hand? Not the greatest, but their *hit or miss* customer service is forgotten after taking a bite of one of their salted pepper chicken wings or one of their succulent pieces of Chinese BBQ pork.

I'm a sucker for Chinese BBQ pork. I love the darn stuff, especially in or with fried rice. Their BBQ pork is like candy to me. I would rather have this than a piece of chocolate cake (and that's the truth!).

[special lunch menu with my little panda]

My hubby picked me up one late afternoon and I thought to myself, "Hey, we are never around during Golden Chopsticks' Special Lunch!" Special Lunch is only available Monday through Friday, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Since I was craving BBQ pork, what an easy lunch decision it was for me. The "special lunch number one", it is!

You know, I think it was probably meant to be "lunch special", but I like calling it special lunch since that's how they printed it on the menu!

For to-go orders, I usually call ahead but since it was a random weekday, I figured that I'd visit without a phone call. The cooks and wait staff there are fairly quick and we were not in a rush. Upon entering, the same ol' staff that I recognized from years ago were working the tables, the line, and the cash register. There was a good number of people having lunch and as I expected, there was a table full of to-go orders in plastic bags or large party trays waiting to be picked up.

$4.95. Yes, $4.95 gets you about a pound of Chinese BBQ pork, about two cups of fried rice, and a vegetable egg roll. If you're eating inside the restaurant, it comes with a cup of egg drop soup as if you don't have enough to eat. It is an additional $0.50 if I wanted the soup to-go.

Being about 15-20 minutes away from Golden Chopsticks, upon arrival at home, the pork was still warm and deliciously tender. Both the fried rice and the vegetable egg were simple dishes but very flavorful. The egg roll was still crunchy and the veggies inside tasted fresh as if the rolls were hand rolled that morning. I only ate half of it -- and saved the rest for later. Chinese food is always good later.

[yeah, I took another pic - I was in awe of the portions]

Other dishes that I highly, highly recommend at Golden Chopsticks are the following:
  • Salted Pepper Chicken Wings ... best WINGS in town, seriously. My mom is still trying to figure out how they make their wings so darn crispy. I love the crispy topping of fried garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and chopped scallions.
  • Mongolian Beef
  • House Special Pan Fried Noodles
  • BBQ Fried Rice
I will be back to try the Peking Duck (my other craving) and I have been told that I MUST try their Whole Fish in Brown Sauce. I would like to briefly blog about those chicken wings too. Yum. They sound so good right now.

Tips to know is that parking is non-existent on the weekends (crowds flock to Seafood City), call ahead for weekend to-go orders and take a friend for the convenient "drop off and pick up" (as if you're the getaway driver), and lastly, please don't expect white tablecloth customer service. The wait staff is quick & efficient and don't be surprised if they don't make any side conversations or even crack a smile. I'm telling you though, the food will make it all worth your while.

Friday, June 25, 2010

San Diego County Fair 2010

We look forward to the San Diego County Fair every year because of the fair food. Truthfully, I am not the type to indulge on items like the Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich, deep fried butter (yuck), or any deep fried whatnots that Charlie's Chicken offers annually. However, I did tell myself that I wanted to try one "deep fried somewhat reasonable thing" at Charlie's Chicken. I mean they are the king of the fried fair foods... you know?


We decided to go on a "Taste of the Fair" Tuesday where samples from a majority of the food booths are $2.00. I thought that it would be good way to have multiple tastes without getting full fast from the large portions at regular price. Browsing through the all the food vendors, some of the samples were not exciting, nor worth it -- french fries, a 2 oz. portion of chopped BBQ pork (in a teeny tiny cup! Think Rubio's salsa cups), 1/2 churro, 1/2 hot dog, etc. I think that the fair would generate more interest in these food booths if they offered a new flavor sample for $2.00 as opposed to the generic 1/2 corn dog. Not exciting!

However, there were a few $2.00 tastes that were worth it... kettle corn, 1/2 cinnamon roll, and others.

OK, so reading the new menu items on the Fair website, I noticed one that looked mighty interesting to me: Hash Brown Fry Dog (hot dog dipped in batter, then in hash browns or sweet potato and then deep fried) ...wha???


[waiting patiently to try a hash dog]
The Del Mar Diner is located in the "middle" of the park near the entrance to the amusement rides. It is near that little ice cream vendor that is shaped like a soft serve cone. The Del Mar Diner is the official home of the Hash Dog. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the $2.00 taste was a small portion of the hash dog. I really only wanted a taste and it was a perfect portion. The full sized dog is about 3 times bigger than the sample and is priced at $5.75 + tax.

The hash browns surrounded the dog were crispy and the hot dog was surprisingly juicy and pretty tasty. One down... more to go! I was even hungrier now.

Linda had a snack before we went inside the fair so she was craving indian fry bread. The $2.00 taste had two flavors offered... cinnamon/sugar and powdered sugar. Because I didn't have lunch yet, I only had a taste of hers.
It was a nice sized portion for the price of $2.00. The fry bread was made to order and served immediately right off the fryer. See that little piece that was broken off... yeah, that was me wanting to taste it and then I realized I had forgotten to take a picture of it. Ha!

I was still craving something savory and I knew it wouldn't be a sampling. I wanted something hearty and delicious. The smells of the BBQ'd meat as we walked through the fair were luring me to the Chuckwagon. I wanted BBQ and I have been craving BBQ beef brisket for a while now. The Chuckwagon line had a good number of hungry fair goers, but that did not stop me from getting a BBQ beef brisket sandwich ($7.75 + tax). I could have gotten the complete meal for an extra $3-4, but I wanted to save my stomach for more tastes.

The sandwich was served with a warm, slightly toasted soft bun and the chopped brisket inside was tossed in a little bit of sauce. The Chuckwagon offers their signature BBQ sauce at the condiment station in this huge container that usually dispenses hot coffee or hot water. I poured a little bit in a little 2 oz. plastic cup.

Yum yum yum! It was so darn good! The guys at the wagon gave my sandwich a hefty portion of chopped BBQ brisket. The meat was tender and very flavorful. The sauce was tangy, warm, and had a slight sweetness to it.

Next, THIS is what I love. My favorite snack in the entire world is potato chips. The Tasty Chips booth offers THIS sized portion for $2.00. It was a PERFECT compliment to my BBQ brisket sandwich. The chips were crispy and sprinkled with a little bit of salt. While I was waiting in line at the Chuckwagon, my hubby went over to get these for me. He poured a little Heinz ketchup in a mini paper cup. I loved the two flavors together, especially my Heinz ketchup! Yeah, I ate all of them. Pretty much all by myself.


Mom's Chocolate Chip Cookie Factory is all lit up with lights and easy to locate. It is located inside one of the exhibit halls where there are endless rows of craft faire-type vendors and are housed generally in the same corner. *hint: Exhibit hall near the Chuckwagon* Their chocolate chips cookies are so chewy, warm, and sweet. These cookies have a slight crunch on the outside and a yummy chewy inside.


The smallest portion of their heavenly cookies comes with eight cookies ($4.75 + tax). I ate six of them. And I got full. *sad face* I wanted MORE fair flavors, but couldn't let them go to waste.

We browsed through the shopping area, visited the winning flowers, and checked out some livestock. I was glad that I was walking off my full stomach.
[pretty flower that won 2nd place - seemed like a 1st place winner to me!]

[it's like butter, baby]
After resting in the smaller stadium to watch the young equestrians ride, I was ready for one last taste. Remember I mentioned that I wanted to try something fried from Charlie's Chicken??


As I looked at the two ginormous booths that Charlie's Chicken both own, I thought, "Man, those chicken & waffles sound good. Should have gotten that for my main lunch. Oh, well... next year!"


Then, I look over to my left at the large pictures of the fried offerings. I thought, "Well, I'm going to go with the O.G. deep fried treat that was introduced a long time ago. The Deep Fried Twinkie."

I order it with chocolate sauce (as opposed to strawberry) for $3.95 + tax. I moved over to the side and expected to wait a while since, you know, they still have to hand dip it and fry it to a good crispy texture.

NOPE. Served to me in a matter of 30 seconds after I paid. They were "pre-fried"!!! Sitting out? Under a heat lamp?

My Twinkie was hard to cut in half and the exterior was soggy. It looked like the chocolate sauce was put on earlier too! It was warm (thanks, heat lamp) but it was cooling down really fast. I picked it up and took a bite. It basically was nothing to write home about. It tasted like a darn Twinkie. I mean, hey, I did expect that flavor with with a little something extra -- like the crunch of the batter. It certainly was a disappointment and will not be getting that ever again.

Clouds were coming in, traffic on the 5 South was piling up, and we were drained from the sun and walking around. We did have a great time at the San Diego County Fair, with only a couple of disappointments... the deep fried Twinkie ... and me eating too many cookies.

See you next year, Fair!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

CUCINA urbana - Bankers Hill



CUCINA urbana defines the word "cool". I feel so cool walking inside Tracy Borkum's fine establishment that was once called Laurel. Why? I would say the atmosphere, positive energy, eclectic decor, and how the Chef Magnanelli puts a creative twist on Italian cuisine, making it, well, cool.

[main dining room w/ cool wine room for large parties in the back]

I dined here twice in a matter of weeks because my first experience here was excellent. The food is so darn good. I just had to return to share the experience with friends who have not yet visited. Read on....

[first experience]
Arlene and I always try to meet up frequently to catch up on current happenings & new restaurants that we both have tried or would like to try, and to discuss our common interest of running races. We met at CUCINA urbana one early evening with a 5:30 PM reservation on MEATBALL MONDAY (1/2 off the giant meatball and the meatball pizza, 5-6pm).

Because it was Meatball Monday, I just had to order one of their giant meatballs as an appetizer. A simple entree of pasta and meatballs is one of my favorite comfort food dishes. Therefore, I love a good meatball (why do I want to say, "That's what she said" every time I talk about meatballs. Oh, The Office.).
Yum, it sure was a giant meatball. The size of the meatball is right between a baseball and a softball. It was topped with melted mozzarella cheese and chives. It was also surrounded by a small sea of tomato sauce which was tangy and delicious. The meatball was soft, juicy and full of flavor. Absolutely divine. Give me a bowl of linguine or angel hair marinara with this bad boy and I'm set.
The stuffed fried squash blossoms were offered to Arlene and I - as there was a mistake in the kitchen. We both never had squash blossoms before, so we accepted the offer. The squash blossoms are stuffed with an herb fluffy ricotta cheese, dipped in batter, and deep fried. They are finished with a complimentary lemon dressing and purple basil pesto. The batter was light and crispy and did not overpower the flavor of the ricotta and blossoms. The stems of the blossom resembled asparagus. We thought they wouldn't charge us since it was a mistake, but they did. It was all good because they were really delicious and well worth it.

There's something about the word "pork belly" that I makes me want to order anything that contains those two words. After watching Top Chef and the countless dishes they make with pork belly, my mouth has always been curious about what chef can do with the ingredient. I ordered the pork belly + farm egg pizza to satisfy my curiosity. The pizza also has potato slices, chopped scallions, asiago cheese, and creamy bechamel. It was like eating a breakfast pizza. The flavors were awesome. Each flavor complimented each other; maybe because it had breakfast items. I mean, pork belly is essentially where bacon comes from! I enjoyed the runny yolk and the mild onion flavor that the scallions lent to the overall flavor of the pizza.

Arlene ordered the pear + gorgonzola pizza as her entree. I have to admit that my first taste experience with gorgonzola did not go so well, so I was a little hesitant. After taking a bite, OMG, let me tell you... the caramelized pear slices, gorgonzola cheese, balsamic vinegar, caramelized onions, and candied walnuts and crispy, fresh arugula for added crunch... they all were a wonderful flavor combination. It was so good!
We agreed that we could have shared one pizza, but now we know. We only ended up eating one half of our own pizza so we ended up boxing the rest home.

For dessert, we shared the bittersweet chocolate budino, which came with a chocolate chantilly cream (comparable to a chocolate mousse) and a crunchy salted chocolate cookie. Yum!
[second experience]

[super cool painted wall]
To celebrate the end of the semester and to say "Bon Voyage" to Steph and Dan, we went to CUCINA urbana for culinary adventure that they, except for one friend, were experiencing for the first time. I was proud to introduce them to this gem in Bankers Hill.


Benny arrived at the restaurant first and ordered the first appetizer... the gorgonzola walnut mousse with sun dried tomato. The mousse was nice and creamy. Like the pizza, the gorgonzola was not overpowering and had a subtle flavor. When paired with the sun dried tomato on the Tuscan toast, it certainly was a great choice of an appetizer.


The fritto misto appetizer came with fried everything... calamari, shrimp, soft shell crab, veggies and a caper mayo. Who doesn't like fried food? All items were hot -- straight from the fryer. It was a simple treat that did not disappoint.


I suggested CUCINA urbana to my friends mainly because I wanted to try this... the risotto carbonara. Oh, yes. The savory ingredients of "carbonara" include eggs (egg yolks), pecorino romano (or parmesan) cheese, pepper, and a fatty pork like pancetta or bacon. Dee-lish! So, creamy risotto + carbonara = HEAVEN! It was fabulous. We all had a taste and it was by far, my favorite flavor of the evening.


We split the grilled romaine caesar salad with shaved parm, white anchovy, oven roasted tomato, and house made ricotta cheese. Although I know that caesar dressing is made out of anchovies, I couldn't look at it, nor wanted it to touch my lettuce. I know, I told you I am weird.


We ordered three pizzas to share since it was THRIFTY THURSDAY (1/2 off all pizzas 5-6pm)... the pork belly + farm egg, pear + gorgonzola, and the pepperoni. Of course, the pepperoni slice was awesome.


Our final tastes of the evening was the roasted strawberry fregolata and the bittersweet chocolate budino. The strawberry dessert has crushed pistachios, mascarpone vanilla bean gelato, and Meyer lemon coulis. Can you say TART? Yes, it certainly was -- and it was delicious. I especially loved the vanilla bean gelato!
It is always a special treat to go to CUCINA urbana. They have excellent customer service, delicious food, and like I mentioned many times, a cool atmosphere. Do it. Be cool. And get the risotto carbonara.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Azuki Sushi - Bankers Hill

[acai birthday cheesecake]

Thirty minutes after we arrived in San Diego from our Las Vegas road trip, my best friend, Donna, and her hubby picked me and our other bestie, Shells, up for my birthday celebration dinner. They asked me if I wanted to know where they were taking me, but for once, I welcomed the surprise and did not prepare what I was going to order by browsing the online menu. I was living on the edge. Ha!

We ended up in Bankers Hill trying and found a parking spot near 5th and Juniper. They were taking me to a little Japanese restaurant named Azuki Sushi, which is located right in between a large apartment building and a bail bond place.

We entered Azuki and were greeted with the traditional "irrashaimase" ("welcome") from the sushi chefs. I love that. Azuki's indoor dining area is small as there were a few tables to the left and the sushi bar to the right.

We chit chatted and we briefly browsed the menu of specialty rolls, hot dishes, and sashimi. After toasting my birthday with sake, we ordered a number of dishes to share:
  • age-dashi tofu
  • ahi poki
  • grilled salmon w/ shiitake risotto
  • miso black cod
  • 5th & juniper roll
  • stardust roll
  • shrimp tempura roll
Tofu is delicious. A lot of people I know do not like the texture of it, but I actually love the soft texture. I ordered this dish because of that reason. Age-dashi tofu is deep fried and served with a yummy dashi broth. This dish had bonito flakes (dried tuna flakes) on top, which added a subtle fishy flavor to the tofu.

Shells absolutely loves ahi poki so we had to order it. The tuna sashimi, which is my favorite sashimi of all, was deliciously fresh and the touch of sesame oil to the fish was a great addition to the dish. I'm not that into the seaweed salad so I left it all for Shells, who can eat a whole bowl of it all by herself.

THIS was my absolutely favorite dish of the evening, the grilled salmon with shiitake mushroom risotto. Who knew that a sushi bar serves such a comforting, flavorful entree. The salmon was cooked perfectly and the risotto was rich & creamy. This dish would be perfect during a cold, rainy night. I enjoyed every bite... and I'm actually craving it right now!

The presentation of the miso black cod was beautiful as it was topped with saffron and julienne cut carrots. The cod had a definite sweetness to the taste. The edges of the fish were lightly charred. Yum, I loved the taste of that char from the caramelization from the sweet reduction.

This is the "Fifth and Juniper" roll that is a specialty roll with simple flavors like imitation crab, shrimp tempura, topped with spicy tuna and a sweet & spicy sauce. The addition of the chopped scallion added a great light onion flavor.

The first roll pictured above is the traditional shrimp tempura roll. When I ordered it, I didn't realize that the "Fifth and Juniper" roll had tempura in it at the time. Oh well, could have had different flavors. It was delicious, though!

The second roll, though, the "Stardust" was different and AWESOME. Who would have thought of eating thinly sliced lemon, including the rind? I thought the lemon was just a garnish, but it is meant to eat all together. It was mighty delicious. This roll has spicy albacore, imitation crab, and avocado inside and on the outside is topped with seared hamachi, thinly sliced lemon, and scallions.
To end the evening, the dessert sampler had four delectable desserts, including one with a single birthday candle:
  • azuki stuffed banana
  • green tea creme brulee
  • acai cheesecake
  • black sesame panna cotta
The stuffed banana and the green tea creme brulee were my favorites. As we left, I said to the chefs "Gochisosama deshita" (thank you for meal - it was delicious) and I meant it. I will be back!
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