Monday, April 28, 2008

Curosity galore as I study international intellectual property

Which do you prefer?

The Costco Polish Sausage or the Costco Hot Dog? I find myself gravitating to the Polish Sausage after some unfortunately disappointing purchases of the Hot Dog. Not quite as flavorful, not quite as meaty...yet... the hot dogs are larger then the polish sausages so you get more for the same price...

Ah a dilemma that tickles my brain wrinkles.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

O'briens

Sorry for the extreme lack of posts my dear readers, finals have called and I have answered... to my dismay.

Today I have something special to show you, a diamond in the rough if I could be so cliche. Convoy in Clairemont Mesa is really known for one thing and one thing only, Asian food. You can get Fro-Yo at Yogurtworld, Pho at countless Pho restaurants, Korean BBQ, Japanese food, and Dimsum. But nestled in a discreet shopping center with the Yogurt world, Tapioca Express, and Cue Picture Studio is an oasis for beer drinkers far and wide.

O'Brien's.

A dimly lit store with plain plastic chairs on the patio, you wouldn't think to ever go here. In my 6 years of being in San Diego, eating at Tapioca Express I looked at O'Brien's and thought to myself "how strange that there's an Irish bar here."

For all those curious, it's not an Irish bar, it's not an English Pub.. It's just a bar that's decided to name itself O'Brien's. (Due to its location you'd think it'd be named O'Fu's or something right? AMIRITE? *nudge nudge). I know I know, you're probably thinking "CHARLIE YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR MIND! HOW GOOD COULD A BAR BE THAT'S ON CONVOY!" (which is exactly what I heard from every single person I told this to).

What really makes O'Brien's stand out from all the other bars/pubs in San Diego isn't the fact that is serve $3.50 pints of all the finest microbrews from San Diego to the Russian River, nor is it the fact that a picture of said brew is only $13. Ignore that fact that they have the best tap selection of micro brews in San Diego Proper. What makes them really stand out is the superb bottle selection they have of imported and domestic bottled beers. From the standard bottle size to 3L double magnum bottles of beer.

A list of over 100 bottled beers and assorted specials. What's really cool is if you decide to take one to go.. you get 10% off! As well on weekends you get 10% off just buying it. The night we went all bottles of Belgium beer were 20% off. Pretty awesome deal for some interesting yeasty almost fruity beer in a 750ml wine bottle. (Sorry I forgot what it was =( ).

Now I know you don't come to my humble site for the alcohol reviews, you come for the food. Fear not dear readers, O'Brien's like any good bar that wants their patrons to stay around drinking much more than they should.. serves a nice extensive menu of sandwiches, burgers, soups, stews, and assorted finger foods.

First up is the BBC sandwich. ($5.95).

A crisp yet fluffy bun of fresh toasted Kaiser roll goodness. With generous portions of Green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, and red onions this chicken sandwich was mean and ready to roll. A thick piece of juicy chicken breast fried to order, dipped in buffalo wing sauce and topped with ranch and bacon. What more could you ask for after a long day of class?

Then the Pastrami on Marble Rye. ($5.50).

Unlike here O'Brien's knows when you order a pastrami sandwich you want pastrami not pieces of standard ham. With dijon mustard and swiss cheese melted on the pastrami you can pretend you're eating semi healthy with it on rye while you're downing a carb loaded beer!

In addition on another visit, I had the Spicy Roast beef sandwich (6.25) which is on a Kaiser roll, topped with pepper jack cheese, chipotle sauce, and roasted pepper sauce. A little bit spicy with tender pieces of "rare" roast beef. I think I finished this sandwich in record time.

What I REALLY like and I REALLY suggest you try ordering is something slightly out of the ordinary from the average beer drinkers point of view. I'd suggest you order the Brewer's Plate.
  • Two sausages split down the middle
  • fresh apples, strawberries, and mangos
  • assorted cheeses
I know right? Cheese and fruit with beer? Crazy talk Charlie! You haven't had wine in so long you're having withdrawals from its matching food. But you know what? all the craze right now is beer and cheese. It's actually a great mix when you get a yeasty lighter beer with less of a hoppy zing. I'm sure some darker beers work to, but I've had great success with that particular combo. The plate is an amazing choice, I suggest it to everyone.

So if you're a beer lover like I am, do yourself a favor and go to O'brien's.

O'Brien's
4646 Convoy St.
San Diego, CA
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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Finals!

Sorry for the lack of posts! Finals season has come around again. I've been writing up a post for the last few days, just haven't gotten it all together yet!

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

El Pescador Fish Market

It's hard to find a good yet inexpensive meal in La Jolla these days outside of a food court mall, especially in the La Jolla Village area. It's also hard to find a good yet inexpensive seafood meal these days in any area. Yet El Pescador seems to fit that bill, half fish market/half quick meal restaurant you get fresh cooked seafood at a reasonable price.

The store is located on Pearl street in a small strip mall with an even smaller parking lot. And then you walk into the restaurant which has an even smaller seating area. Be warned, it will get busy and it will be hard to find a seat.

When you walk inside you see rows of fish and seafood in the cooler display case.

Probably not the cheapest fish prices you can get, but significantly better than Whole Foods. Of course, some of the fish come from highly suspicious waters.

Plastered against the wall is a chalk board with the daily specials.

They have a variety of seasoned fishes on special that you can order to eat as well as take home. For our meal today we settled on the non-seasoned variety and let the oil, texture, and natural flavors of the fish guide our taste buds. Once you order the fish, they grab it and toss it onto a grill. They have a large variety of fish, Halibut, Sword Fish, Sea Bass, Yellow Tail, Salmon, and all kinds of other varieties. After placing our order for Yellow Tail and Halibut we settle down in the small restaurant (5 tables only, so watch out! someone jacked our seat!)

We first started off with an order of ceviche.

Sadly I wish we didn't. As you can see in the picture there are large chunks of tomatoes, bits of carrots and celery that really detract from the ceviche experience. I'm a big supporter of onions, some lime, maybe some veggies/fruit that match with it (mango anyone?) but definitely not giant chunks of tomatoes and carrots. The crispness of the carrot was just all too weird considering how soft the fish ends up being in ceviche. On top of that it seems as though they used barrels upon barrels of lime to make the dish. I was puckering up each time I took a bite.

Luckily to follow up on the ceviche we each had a bowl of clam chowder.

I warn you, I like my clam chowder different from most people, and I really liked this one. I'm not a fan of the Soupplantation style thick, hearty, and chunky clam chowder with large pieces of potato in bowl of soup so creamy you can watch it slowly crawl off your spoon. I love the Monterey style chowder where its very soupy with a slight creme base to hold some structure. Just little bits of potatoes so you just concentrate on the flavor of the soup and the clam. The only thing I didn't LOVE about the soup was the large amount of pepper that they seemed to cook into it.

And finally to the main dish. So the deal here is that you can get your fish/shrimp/crab/scallops in a variety of ways: salad, sandwich, plate meal.

Matt with the House Yellow Tail plate ($12)

It comes with rice, a very generous piece of freshly grilled fish and a side of salad. I felt the yellowtail was a TAD overcooked, just an itsybitsy amount overcooked. It was meaty and flavorful and the thick strong texture you normally find in Yellowtail.

I hope the Alaskan Halibut sandwich with Avocados ($8.50).

A generous piece of Halibut topped with mix greens, slices of avocado, tomatoes and green onion stuffed in sourdough bread.

Very tender and flaky halibut. The natural oil and fattiness from the fish work well with the grill. I tend to find that most grilled fish dry out when you grill them because they don't have enough fat, but this and seabass hold up really well. As I was biting into this I thought "this is probably the best fish sandwich I've ever had". But as I almost finished the sandwich I started to get a weird flavor in my mouth, a bitterness that came from the overabundance of green onions. I was not a fan of the green onions in the sandwich. If you took them out, you'd have an absolutely amazing sandwich on your hands.

So whenever you get the craving for a fresh grilled fish sandwich just drive into the heart of La Jolla.

El Pescador
627 Pearl Street
La Jolla, CA

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Kokkari Estiatorio (San Francisco)

Recently I had the chance to dine in San Francisco. Since San Francisco seems to pride itself on its culinary mastery of the West Coast I try my very best to go somewhere special each time. Everywhere I looked was Prix Fixe this, Prix Fixe that, there wasn't a single nice restaurant that I saw that had something where I wasn't forced to consume a dessert. (This by no means says that I will not have dessert as you will see, I just like having the choice).

After some careful browsing I decided I wanted to eat Greek food. I settled on Kokkari Estiatorio. It had good reviews on yelp, the price seemed reasonable, and it wasn't too far from my afternoon destination (shopping!). Oddly when you look at the restaurant's website you don't see a myriad of Flash going crazy with Techno music, so under this assumption I figured it was a small operation, family owned most likely.

Boy oh boy was I wrong. The crappy website doesn't show just how well done this restaurant's design is. Multiple dinner hosts, hard wood floors, warm and homely (yet an air of grace) atmosphere.

There are two rooms, the front room with its plush leather seats with a fire pit and the inside dining room for larger parties with standard wooden chairs but next to the open kitchen.

Since we were a relatively small party we sat in the front room.

On top of there being the thick glamorous leather seats, we were sat next to the fire pit and bread area.

Bread area you say?
Loaves and loaves of fresh bread stacked on top of a stone table in the back of the dining room. Waiters are cutting loaves full of rosemary and thyme and plaiting them for each patron. As well they have a large ceramic container of olives for general consumption.

So they provide you two different types of bread, one rosemary focaccia and a french loaf.

As well as a bowl of olives (which we did not eat.. yuck yuck!).

What I found most appealing was right behind where the waiters were standing chopping the breads. Kokkari had a giant fire pit where they made their special rotisserie for the day.

Today's special was Red Wattle pig on a spit. Yum yum! Oink Oink!

The menu at Kokkari composed of a variety of appetizers that consisted of classic Greek fare

We ordered their specialty appetizer, Fried Smelts.


Lightly battered smelts with a side of bean dip really helped with the start of a great dinner. The problem with a lot of fried smelt dishes is that you essetially just eat batter and some fish bones. The fish were kept meaty within the light fried skin in this case, and the dip gave it a more condensced flavor outside of just salt and pepper.
(the table next to us called it "Kokkari fries!")

For our main courses we both ordered their special, one the fish special and the other the rotisserie special.

Psari Psito - traditional grilled whole fish with braised greens, lemon and cretan olive oil. (or over roasted olives,saffron potatoes, and roasted tomatoes


They had 3 choices of fish that day, a Sole, a halibut, and a snapper. Looking for a more delicate fish my companion went with the Sole.

The fish is prepared by being grilled in a wooden basket after being seasoned with a variety of spices. They forgot to give us a choice between which vegetable so we had the very unappealing and very unappetizing braised greens.

When I think of grilled fish I normally think of mesquite grilled, and its usually thick meaty fish opposed to something as delicate as sole. So what happens with this type of grilling is the contact isn't directly on the grill but the fish is still being touched by the flames. You get a crisp skin on the outside but the inside meat is still very moist like it was oven baked or steamed.

I personally wish it wasn't sole because I'm not a huge fan of its thin meat, I like to eat larger bites of meat. I think the snapper would have been pretty good with its oily texture. But for the type of fish it was, the fish was very well prepared. I bet if it had roasted potatoes and tomatoes it would have blown this dish off the charts.

Finally my dish, the Soulva Tis Emeras (daily rotisserie)

Let me tell you a little about the Red Wattle pork. When our waiter first told us about it, I was surprised because usually you don't hear much about people describing the TYPE of pork you get, it's usually just WHERE the pork is from. I decided to do a little bit of research on this specific piggy myself.

The Red Wattle Heirloom pig is a dying breed of pig. Not because its being over-consumed but because it's not being "produced" in high enough quantities. Most of the time when people grow pigs they not only sell the meat but the lard as well. As silly as this may sound, the RW is not a fat pig, so it lacks in lard. Since farmers are looking to maximize profits they don't often grow this pig. SO at one point it almost died out completely. There were probably TWO herds of these pigs in all of America in the early 1900's.

In 2006 they were still considered severely endangered species of pig and there were to one expert's opinion only about 300 left in existence and they all lived in Texas. (Same Herd, hence the heirloom label). (read here for a long story, pretty interesting) More and more people are trying to grow these pigs now because upscale diners are bored of normal pork meat, and as they should be since pork at a nice restaurant is usually something I avoid (tends to be dry and requires alot of sauce for flavor).

But look no further for the pork revolution. If it was my choice I'd mass produce these puppies (piggies) cause the meat is without a doubt the best pork I've had in my life. Tender, flavorful, perfect trim of fat, all come out to make the greatest piece of pork that has ever come into my mouth. It's really unlike any other type of pork. I mean you either have porkchops which tend to dry out, or you get slow cooked pork that splits up in strips. Nothing as easy to slice through like this pork.

At Kokkari, they chopped the meat right off the spit, put some spiced oils on top, pan fried the skin and called it a day. The dish itself is a little bit oily, I could use a few tablespoons less of olive oil but I was blown away by the quality of the meat. The simplicity in which they made this dish speaks wonders to the quality of the meat itself. Words cannot adequately described the heaven I was in after eating the pork. All I know is, if you ever see Red Wattle Pork anywhere.. you need to order it.

Finally we have dessert, the Galaktoboereko.

Creme filled Fila dough with roasted apricot on the outside and a scoop of ice cream. The dish was good.. but not great. The dessert actually reminded me of those cream cheese toaster strudels you can get in your freezer section at the local supermarket. I like them, but I don't like paying $8 for two.

All in all I found this restaurant to be a great experience. The ambiance was nice, the dining area was very elegant, and the food was fantastic for the price (each dish was $30). I highly suggest you come here if you like Greek food. Heck I highly suggest you come here if you like food in general. It is a bit out of the way in the Financial District but its certainly worth the trek over.

Kokkari Estiatorio
200 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA




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