Friday, February 29, 2008

1500 Ocean for <3 day!

Ahh Valentine's day. A day for lovers to get together and spend oodles and oodles of money on each other. Also a day for restaurants to charge expensive prix-fixe menus on their unsuspecting THURSDAY customers.

Valentine's day has got to be the greatest boon for high end restaurants since the credit card. What other weekday can you charge over $100 a person for a meal and have people be happy about it? Mind you I'm not talking amazing top shelf 2 months ahead reservation kind of restaurants, I'm thinking more along the lines of typical 30-40 dollar dish restaurants. What a blessing for these restaurants! They can make tons of money on a THURSDAY! Absolutely packed on a Thursday with people willingly throwing down cash.

So like all other love struck fatties (or foodies, whatever you want to call yourself) for our Valentine's day restaurant celebration we went to 1500 Ocean in the Hotel Del (San Diego).
Now why is it called 1500 Ocean?
  • By the ocean?
  • Serves Seafood?
  • dreaming of a planet with 1500 large bodies of water?
No to all of those! (especially the 3rd one). Its called 1500 Ocean because 1500 is the address it's located at, and it's near the ocean! How fun is that! I'm just calling my apartment 1336 Brunner from now on.
"Hey guys! Come play poker at the 1336 Brunner!" Not gonna lie.. that's pretty awesome.

Honestly I thought it was a seafood restaurant. I love fancy seafood restaurants. If I had to make a choice I'd pick a fancy seafood restaurant over anything. Btw if you are EVER in New York City and you love seafood do yourself a favor and go to Oceana. (By far the best seafood restaurant in New York. Not the best restaurant.. but when it comes to seafood its pretty up there).

But I was disappointed to find out it wasn't a seafood restaurant. There was definitely seafood flair which seems to be a pre-req for all restaurants in Coronado. But the prix-fix menu had a mix of seafood and non-seafood items. You had your choice of an appetizer, a seafood dish, a poultry/beef dish, and dessert.

The girlfriend and I make sure to get different items from the menu to give YOU the viewing public the most variety possible to see just how splendid (or.. not splendid) a restaurant is.

BTW, there was one HUGE atrocity committed here. The bread is horrible. Its incredibly stale, cold, and just sub par. I don't think I'll ever meet another bread basket like Market's corn muffins *tear*.

First up for me, is the foie gras pate appetizer. Pate with pomegranate sauce, almond infused toast, and wild greens.

I'm not a huge fan of the pomegranate in my food, but it has a nice mellow sweetness to go along with the toast and foie gras. But this is probably one of the best pieces of foie gras I've ever eaten. Most of the time foie gras is so rich and occasionally salty that its almost a necessity for me to drink some sort of piercing wine to go along with it. But the flavor on this was very light, it matched the small amount of sweetness from the jam and the sweet tinges of almond from the toast. It was so smooth and light, just a joy to eat. Oddly enough the very best part of this dish was the toast. I need to find my own infused almond toast somewhere, the background flavoring of almond adds a smile to my face as a gentle sweet surprise!

For Kathy's appetizer she had the chilled crab salad with grapefuit.

Chilled shredded crab with a parsley-olive oil blend. Kathy commented that it was a bit salty, but I think the bitterness of the grapefuit helps balance it out. But they were really fresh chunks of crab inside and it seemed like a good starter to clean up the palate. The flavors were light and summery, perfect for an appetizer.

Up next were the seafood dishes,

Kathy ordered the Diver scallops,
Two very large and generous scallops cooked perfectly. Absolutely no resistance whe you slice into it with your fork. The scallops were covered in plantains with some stewed carrots and mashed potatoes. The only problem with the scallops was the obscene amount of pepper put on the scallops. I understand adequate amounts of pepper for searing but woo... my nose was itching just being near it. If they used half the amount of pepper, it'd be an amazing dish.

My appetizer: Pan fried Grouper

The Grouper, same illustrious class as the famed Sea Bass. The Grouper is a pretty large fish, it can actually get to 20 feet long and 4 feet thick!

The quality of the fish was just how I like it. Like Chilean Sea Bass the Grouper is a slightly flakier/oily fish. If you like your fish with the consistency of Tuna then Grouper is probably not for you.

This dish was also a bit peppery on the skin. They made the skin a bit crunchy and peppery, but the great thing about this dish opposed to Kathy's scallops is that you can actually just peel the skin off and never have to worry about the pepper. =) Otherwise it was a decent fish dish. Its hard to really wow me when it comes to fish preparation, you'd have to cook it perfectly and the flavors have to be just right, not to light and not too heavy.

I actually really liked the pickled vegetables below the grouper. The sourness played really well with the pepper on the fish. Not sure if that was their intention, but I'll give them kudos none the less.

On to the entrees!

Kathy had the New York steak with mashed potatoes (medium well.. yuck!) Kathy's opinion: it was good. (nothing else dear?) um it was good.
my take: I haven't had a piece of steak past medium rare in ages, but the quality of the meat itself was top notch here. Even though it was medium well it wasn't that dry. The meat had a nice give to it and the sauce was good on the side. It's almost like port reduction with beef gravy, can't quite explain it.

For myself, I had the Sonoma Duck breast with a pinot noir reduction and risotto.

Ah duck breast how I love you. I could eat duck breast all day when cooked properly. I had a few qualms with this dish and it has less to do with its overall taste but more to do with its preperation.

First, do you see how thick the skin is on the duck breast? Its almost like I'm chewing fat. Hey, don't get me wrong I love fat but it makes the already oily duck breast even oilier. As well, since duck breast is a pretty tender meat, the skin just makes it difficult to chew.
Also, the slices of duck were just too thick. I'd say its about .75 inches thick per slice, where I find does not lend to savoring the duck breast properly. I'm a huge fan of thinner sliced duck breast, so you savor the richness and fattiness.

Otherwise, the flavor was excellent, the sauce was great, and the meat was cooked to just right about where I like it.
Finally dessert.

First up is the TOWER OF POWER (named so by the waiter) which is essentially chocolate fudge mousse, with a chocolate cake underneath, and caramel in the middle.


I can whole-heartedly say that this is one of the best desserts I've had in awhile. I was initially hesitant to get the chocolate mousse because when I hear mousse I think whipped cream. But this.. oh my oh my this is almost like fudge. Not nearly as sweet as fudge, but the consistency was similar. (slighly softer). The flavor profile is a light chocolate, with just a tinge of bitterness from the dark chocolate. When you get to the very center there is delicious gooey caramel.

A+!

But of course the real star of the dessert menu was their Creme Brulee.




Now I know it looks like you're average creme brulee, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Underneath the creme color interior is a layer of warm dark chocolate. I never even thought of having chocolate with creme brulee before but wow this dish has rocked my world.

PERFECT consistency , neither too liquidy or too structured the creme brulee had the perfect texture on your spoon and in your mouth. The sugar on top was just enough to add to the sweetness but thin and brittle to the touch, perfectly underwhelming.

As you can see, there's a layer of dark chocolate under the creme brulee itself. The creme itself is not that sweet, which I believe they do on purpose to balance out the sugar and the chocolate. But if you get all of it on your spoon in one bite, you will absolutely be blown away.

So hopefully you enjoyed my extraordinarily long post. I'm slightly disappointed that we had to get the prix-fixe menu since I had other items on my mind but I wasn't disappointed by the quality of the food. $100 is pretty expensive tho, stupid Valentine's day... but worry not, the restaurant is not that expensive normally. I would have happily paid $60-70 a person for this meal!

1500 Ocean
1500 Orange Avenue (In the hotel Del)
Coronado, CA 92118


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Has nothing to do with a restaurant.

I am going to go on the Jared diet, if Jared can lose 100 lbs eating subway sandwiches then I can lose 10 with whole wheat bread, turkey/ham, lettuce, and tomatoes!

Got any tasty and lo-cal/carb ideas for sprucing up a sandwich? I'm thinking sprouts would be nice as well! (I knew I needed something from the market)

edit: I'll probably eat a sandwich a day, but the other meal will try to be healthy but it'll just be a normal one. I can't go cold turkey!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

El Indio, the oldest and worst mexican restaurant in San Diego

San Diego, home of the taqueria on every street corner! Everywhere you turn there's a taco joint: Robertos, Albertos, Sergio, Super Bronco ETCETCETCETC! But the San Diego institute known around world is El Indio. El Indio has been politically incorrect with their sign since 1940. (hehe). Located on India street in the heart of San Diego, El Indio is essentially the grand daddy of San Diego taquerias. You can tell that's its old since a good chunk of its clientle remember when it opened. Now the problem with this is that its become less of a great place to eat, but more of a family institution. You've grown up eating it so you don't bother going somewhere else. El Indio is a safe place for the middle to upper middle class home owning folk to get some mexican food and pretend they are slumming it. Grandparents are bringing their children who in turn are bringing their children. The majority of the crowd here is not the crowd you typically see in your Roberto's joint.

And when I say crowd.. Wowsers. This place has its own dedicated parking lot because just so many people come here. The line at any given time that we were there was 15-20 deep. FIFTEEN TO TWENTY DEEP. When we started to wait in line I was hoping that the food would bless me with winning lottery numbers cause I can't figure any other reason why so many people would come here.

IT IS WITHOUT A DOUBT THE WORST MEXICAN RESTAURANT I HAVE BEEN TO IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

This is NOT an exaggeration. The burrito at my HORRIBLY CRAPPY school cafeteria is better than this. I don't use such bold proclamations without being 100% certain, and without a doubt this is the most over-hyped, worst tasting Mexican restaurant in San Diego.

Allow me to show you why. Please join me on a magical photo tour.

#1. The size of the burrito.


The burritos here are extraordinarily small. Any other taqueria in San Diego would have a burrito that is easily 2x the size. Of course the real culprit is what's inside the burrito

#2. The horribly inadequate filling in the burrito

This is one of their "special" burritos. It's called the "San Diego Burrito", filled with grilled chicken breast, sour cream, cheese, and avocado it'll fill anyone's appetite!

NOT.

I opened it up and took a picture for you to see JUST HOW CRAPPY the inside of the burrito is. The kicker? After tax this burrito was $6.
SIX FREAKING DOLLARS. I HAVE NEVER HAD A 6 DOLLAR BURRITO IN A PLACE I DIDN'T HAVE TO TIP A WAITRESS.

I would have paid $3 tops for this burrito.

Now you're probably thinking I got something special. But nope. California burrito? same price... every other burrito is high $4 to low $5 pre tax. That's just atrocious.

Btw, chicken was dry, barely any avocado, and its essentially just tortilla. The California burrito also sucks more donkey than a red light district show in Amsterdam.

#3 For being the home of the "taquito" and not "rolled taco" as they so proudly say, the thing is a real piece of crap.


You know what? I'd rather have a roll taco than this limp piece of fried turd. Do you see the thing? its practically bending. ITS FRIED TACO SHELL CRUST IS BENDING.

I am so utterly disappointed in this place. I have no idea why so many people wait in line for this insult to a part of a drunk college student's staple diet. My girlfriend was so disappointed in this place she wouldn't talk to me for a hour. THAT'S HOW SERIOUS WE ARE ABOUT THE ATROCITY THAT IS BEING COMMITTED ON INDIA STREET!

I highly suggest to EVERYONE that reads this blog (all 50 of you) NOT to patronize this restaurant. Do not even give it ONE chance. Allow the old folk and their kids to grow out of it (or the kids to realize there are actually better things to eat than this place) and let it die away.

Thank you.

This has been a public service announcement of the Better Food for Your Time and Money Commission.

El Indio
3695 India Street
San Diego.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Adam's Avenue Grill

Once a month some friends and I get together to drink wine and eat food. The great thing about this is I get to try restaurants I normally never go to or even know about. So for one of our adventures we decided to try the Adams Avenue Grill in North Park.

I don't know what it is about North Park but the restaurants and I never seem to get along (yes a bit of a precursor to this post). Like oil and water, we can never be *alas*. I just feel like North Park restaurants try too hard to be different. Every single restaurant has its own little "special" quirk about them that they think gives them that extra zing. Someone told me it reminds them of the restaurants in Berkeley that all have that flare to them. Unfortunately I personally could care less about any special quirk you have. I don't particularly care where you get your food, the decorations in your restaurant, or how you specialize in some type of food no one else does. I just care about the food. Its just starting to annoy me that whenever someone suggest me a restaurant in North Park there seems to be a caveat of "they do something special" and it has nothing to do with the taste of the food.

Now I don't have a problem if you have that niche you want to fill as the food tastes good.

As mentioned previously, I found myself eating at Adams Avenue Grill. The persona that they are trying to give off is one I find you'd probably find in Hillcrest more often. They like to display independent artists paintings and pictures along the walls, every table has a bottle of wine, and they are trying to impress you with classic American dishes dressed up. Before I scare you away, there are certain parts that are good, just.. more than the ones that are good.. are the ones that are bad. But the waitress did insist that their specialty is home style cooking (aka pot roast, chowder, mac and cheese and the like).

So first up is the soup. Sweet Corn Shower and Crab cake duo.

A cup of creamy corn chowder with a small crispy crab cake. First off, I'd like to tell you that I LOVE corn chowder. When Mimi's Cafe stopped serving free corn chowder I damn near cried. But this is a pretty decent bowl of Corn Chowder. Onions, corn, tons of cream to lend to the thickness and a bit of spice to match the crab cake.

I liked the soup. But I found the crab cake to be a bit dry with small fragments of crab meat. Not really worth the extra $1.25 for the cake.

For the far left of the table to share, we ordered a Asian appetizer trio, consisting of fried Calamari (no idea how that's asian), vegetable spring rolls, yakitori chicken, and assorted sauces (spicy peanut, wasabi pasta, sesame soy dipping sauce)
.
Anything fried is good. It could be fried trash and as a whole the general population would eat it and declare it to be delicious, food crafted from a master chef. So in that line of thought, the fried calamari was crisp and thin, just the way I like it. Sometimes the chunks are too big and they just outweigh the subtle crust, but this worked out just fine, especially with some sweet and sour sauce.

Chicken was just average with the peanut sauce. Nothing to write home about.. or to blog about (=P).

My dining companions that shared the appetizers really digged on the vegetable spring rolls, but I really can't get too excited about lettuce, sprouts, and rice paper. I might as well have been eating air.

Before I get to my entree allow me to show you what others ordered.

Snake river flat iron. Steak with mashed potatoes and onion rings


Bacon Wrapped BBQ Shrimp with Cheese grits.


Adams Avenue Appetizer Trio. Onion Rings, Crab Cakes, and Goat Cheese and Walnut Fritters.
All the dishes above were well received by their consumers. Now the dishes below, were not so well received.

First up is the Slow Braised Yankee Pot Roast. A classic said the waitress, one of their must orders. Who am I to argue with the workers on the best their restaurant has to offer? So I gave it a whirl.

Horrible. That's the only word I can use to describe it without setting off filters on work computers.

#1. The meat was so dry I think I heard it ask me for water. It was HORRIBLE. Dry and tasteless. Hoping it was just me being picky, I had the people around me try it, and the same result occurred.
#2. The vegetables weren't soft at all
#3. Mashed potatoes were chunky, but at the same time had a granulated taste.

So I barely ate it. I left it on the dish and went back to drinking wine and conversing. Then an interesting conversation occurred with the waitress. My friend suggested that I talk to the waitress and tell her how bad it was. I'm normally a good natured guy, and the dish wasn't terribly expensive so I didn't give it much thought.

When the waitress came around....
waitress: Would you like to take it home?
me with big pile of uneaten food in front of me: No i'm okay
waitress: You sure? it'd make a great sandwich
me with big pile of crappy dry uneaten food in front of me: No, it was just too dry I couldn't eat it, I think it was overcooked or something
waitress: Well no its not overcooked then its probably undercooked.
me staring blankly at her: Uh... its still horrible.
waitress: Well no one has ever said that before about it! people usually love it! *takes my plate away and says no more*.

Hum. Wonderful customer service. Your suggestion for a dish, it comes out horribly, I'm not compensated in anyway for your incompetency as a waitress and then you give me attitude. Right.

Seeing that I was still hungry I decided to order dessert. I saw a giant baked cookie with Ice Cream. I love Pazookie's from BJ's so what could possibly go wrong?


Dry cookie on the edges, mushy over sweetened cookie in the middle. Through out every bite you could taste burnt cookie. On top of that, they seem to have this ODD fascination with cinnamon. Its powdered onto EVERY SINGLE dessert that our table ordered. I'm sorry, I asked for a chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream, not with an extra pound of cinnamon powder.

The night wasn't a total loss, because I was able to go to the supermarket after!

So if you area glutton for punishment and want to pay for overpriced HORRIBLE dishes that a restaurant somehow seems to try and justify with "creative" plating and decorations then you should definitely try this place.

Otherwise, go somewhere else where the waitresses know the meaning of customer service and the food tastes worse than TGIF's.

Adams Avenue Grill
2201 Adams Avenue
San Diego, CA

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Snack time with pistachios

I am currently sitting inside our school's library trying to gather enough intellectual stimulus to write a brief about the constitutionality of holding foreign citizens indefinitely in Guantanamo Bay, but my mind can't get pass the need for a snack. I need something to eat! So what better than a healthy snack of pistachio nuts?

Over the past 2 months I've gotten an intense craving for pistachios. I was able to purchase some from Fiddyment Farms up in Northern California at $5 a pound.
When I told people I was buying pistachios at $5 a lb they thought I was crazy.... apparently Costco sells them for $15 for a 6 pound bag. But after tasting pistachios from far and wide, I've realized not all pistachios are created equal. The Fiddyment Farm pistachios were out of this world. They beat down the Costco pistachios, the Trader Joe pistachios and the oh so horrible Ralph's brand pistachios.

Just to be sure my first order wasn't a trick, I ordered another 5lb bag from their website. Five lbs is the smallest size that they have at $31 after shipping/tax. In case you've never seen a five pound bag of pistachios before, this is what it looks like empty. And they were just as good as I remembered them.

No.. I did not eat them all... YET hehe. I carefully partition them into quart size plastic bags so I can carry them around for my daily fiber intake =P. (begin sounding like an infomercial.... now!)

The great thing about these pistachios is that each one is perfectly salted. Sometimes when you buy a bag of pistachios you get some with absolutely no flavor, while some are so salty you need a bag of water to eat down a single pistachio. Not with these puppies, each one is perfect, you can snack on them for hours (if you have enough pistachios to last you hours) without getting thirsty!

As well, each pistachio is huge, they are monsters compared to their small cousins from the other stores. (Ralph's left, Fiddy right)
As well each pistachio is perfectly baked, the inside skin is brown on every single one. I've also had no trouble opening these pistachios because almost everyone was fully baked open revealing its tender meat to me in all its glory. Each one is hulled and dried immediately after picking so you supposedly get the freshest pistachios possible.

As you can see, each one of the Fiddy's (left) are bursting out of the saying "I OFFER NO RESISTANCE EAT ME AS YOU WANT", while the Ralph's brand (right) are meek and scared of coming out to play. I recently had a competition with someone and I could shell more than 30 pistachios in under a minute, I am truly a beast. Well.. at least the Fiddyment farm ones.. the normal ones probably significantly less due to their randomnly closed nature.


Look at the size of these puppies, I just saw the Cloverfield monster and he/she said "man that's a biggg pistachio".

So if you ever have a craving for pistachios do yourself a favor and spend a couple extra bucks and buy these. You definitely won't regret it.

Fiddyment Farms Pistachios

p.s. I know you can't eat 5lbs, feel free to send some my way.
p.p.s. I also have 2 lbs of Ralph's pistachios if anyone wants them.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Cooking for the Superbowl

I'm going to take a bit of a break from the European adventures for many reasons: no one wants to read about Europe all day long, I'm done with Italy, and I'd like to share something else with the general public!

As we all know (unless you live under a rock, even then you don't have much of an excuse) today is/was SuperBowl Sunday. For most people (me) it's an excuse to get together with friends and eat and drink, since it's not very often that a team you actually want to win gets into the SuperBowl.

Now normally I would just bring fried chicken from KFC, pizza from Pizza Hut, or chicken wings from Hooters to the gathering. Unlucky for the rest of the people who share food with me, it's much too close to New Years for me to so actively break my resolution of eating healthier (not healthy.. but healthier.. baby steps..). I decided to make my own chicken!

At first I wanted to do my old standby of Chinese style baked chicken wings (chinese BBQ sauce + roasted chicken powder + sugar + water covering and marinating the chicken) but since I live nowhere near a Chinese supermarket I couldn't get the necessary ingredients. So I decided to make Oven Baked Fried Chicken with Parmesan cheese.

I know it is still not the healthiest thing in the world, but it's a workable substitute for actual fried chicken, with less calories, and oil!

The main ingredients you need are
  • Flour
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • low fat butter milk
  • chicken (duh)
  • Shredded Parmesian cheese
  • parsley.
What you first do is put all of your chicken into an air tight container, whether it be a bag or an actual container. You cover the chicken with the buttermilk and allow it to sit in your refrigerator over night. I actually considered putting in chopped onions, peppers and other herbs into the buttermilk as kind of a marinade but it just never happened (I bought all the ingredients too, *shrug*).

Why buttermilk overnight? Here's your answer, copied from the internet.

Soaking the chicken in Buttermilk tenderizes the meat of the chicken through the usage of protein enzymes activated that occur naturally in the buttermilk, which breakdown (tenderize)the cellular walls of the chicken meat itself. Similar to a common meat tenderizer you would use to tenderize a pot roast.The buttermilks natural flavor also imparts a unique taste to the chicken.These are two reasons why people have been soaking chicken in buttermilk for many, many years in the Southern Regions of America.

After you've soaked it overnight prepare your mixture for 8 pieces of chicken.
  • One cup of flour
  • 2 table spoons of Paprika
  • 2 table spoons of Salt (I like to use Kosher Salt)
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh cracked Black Pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of Cayenne pepper.
This results in a lightly flavored chicken. If you prefer your chicken with a little bit more fire, feel free to up the dosage in the Cayenne Pepper. Since this was my first time doing it I wasn't as liberal with the seasoning.

So put this mixture into its own plastic bag. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk soak and allow all the excess buttermilk to come off.
After giving it ample time to get "dry" you can throw the pieces into the seasoned floor and shake it all around.


(before)

(after) After you're done, make sure that you shake excess floor off so nothing starts to clump. When it starts to clump the flour tends to cook unevenly. You'll get chunks of flour all over the place on your chicken and that just tastes chalky and nasty. Then after getting rid of the excess flour, allow it to go back into a quick soak of buttermilk love.



Now my twist to this is that instead of immediately putting it back into the flour, I laid all of the pieces down and spread Parsley and Parmesan Cheese over the chicken to get it an inside coating. It gives it a little layer of cheesy-kick inbetween the flour. After giving it a few minutes to set, I then dredged the chicken through the floor again. Why dredge it through the floor again? This allows for a thick/crispy skin to form over the chicken!

Allow the chicken to sit on the side for about 15-30 minutes to allow the coating to stick tightly onto the chicken. While waiting, pre-heat your oven to about 350-375F.

The next step could be done after or before you put the chicken in the oven. Heat about 3/4th of an inch of oil in a pan at medium heat and dip the chicken into the oil for a few minutes on each side to allow for a golden crisp. If you're taking the chicken to a party or something of that nature, I would suggest doing it after so it stays as crispy as possible.

Put the chicken into the oven for about 15 minutes on each side. After it's done cooking, take it out and allow it to sit for a few moments.


And Walla! moist chicken on the inside, crispy thick crust on the outside! After you throw it into a quick oil fry the skin gets to an even golder color!

Hope you enjoyed this installment of Chef Fu. =)