While Ed (from Yuma) posts about eating on vacation today, Cathy and Kirk are busy. The world is like that.
You don't need a weatherman to know that July and August are good times for Yumans to go on vacation, so I flew to the Denver area to see an old friend and cool off for a few days. The focus of the visit was not gastronomy, but Jane wanted me to try some of her longtime favorites. Who was I to complain about that? And she let me bring my camera, hence this post.
This teahouse is one of the most unusual spots I've ever posted about. A gift from Dushanbe in Tajikistan to sister city Boulder, Colorado, it even has its own Wikipedia page.
The building was originally constructed in Tajikistan (with no power tools), disassembled, and sent to Boulder where it took about 10 years to find a proper location, secure funding, and reassemble it. The distinctive interior – walls, ceilings, columns – all display wonderfully carved and painted wood surfaces:
Though they serve lunches, dinners, and even high tea (if ordered in advance), we just dropped in for a little pick me up. Jane enjoyed her chilled hibiscus tea:
and I had a pot of superior grade Dragonwell:
Loved the egg timer tea timer: We enjoyed the beverages and the ambience.
As Jane explained, The Med has become a very popular dining spot in Boulder and has expanded over the years so that it stretches from that corner all the way back to its entrance:
We were no sooner seated at our table when a basket of truly excellent bread arrived. I really enjoyed the sourdough – nice crust, nice crumb, nice flavor – but the olive bread was good as well:
We decided to focus on tapas. The menu offered around a dozen cold choices and 20 warm, generally priced around $5. We tried to order a variety, selecting three of each.
The Escabeche arrived first:
It was an interesting approach. The yellowfin had been combined with a lot of avocado, mild green chilies, and pico de gallo and some citrus and the combination placed atop a small tumulus of cucumber strips. While certainly okay, I thought it lacked pizzazz. I expected a more assertive citrus flavor, and the cucumber strips just didn't seem to work together with the rest of the dish.
The roasted beets arrived next:
This was a very attractive plate – the golden beets contrasted nicely with the pickled onions, chevre, micro greens, and fried capers. Overall, a pleasant beet salad. Beety.
The bruschetta was enjoyable:
The toasty slices of excellent bread were spread with a white bean paste and topped off with an artichoke tapenade. A nice range of flavors and textures. Very Mediterranean.
The pastillas were the first warm tapas served:
The pan fried flaky filo crust was wrapped around a curry flavored interior of chicken, vegetables, pinenuts, and raisins. Then the savory little pastries were dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Cut into, a pastilla looked like this:
Different and distinctive flavor/texture range.
Our favorite item of the evening was the grilled polenta topped with a wild mushroom ragout:
The julienned vegetables – carrots, turnips, and scallions – provided nice contrast to the colors and textures of the polenta and mushroom sauce. Even though the shrooms look more domestic than wild, the ragout had overtones of porcini, and the polenta was crispy creamy.
Our last tapas were gambas, griddled shrimp:
This was a classic version. The shrimp were firm and flavorful. A squeeze of lemon and the parsley/scallion salsa provided accents. This was about the shrimp.
I had a glass or two of a pleasant Rioja rosé and Jane chose a Pinot Noir. The restaurant seemed lively with a lot of younger folks, and our server Henry was helpful and personable. We had a very good time.
mmm-yoso!!! is a food blog. Kirk, Ed (from Yuma) and Cathy write most of the posts here. Kirk and Ed (from Yuma) are both busy this week before Thanksgiving and Cathy is not busy.
The building on the North East corner of Balboa at Clairmont Drive had finally opened in early 2013, as another location of North Park Produce. Then it closed. Harvest International Market opened in its place. There is another location of Harvest closer to home, in El Cajon, but it's smaller (used to be a 99 Cents Only store) and there is no eat in area, but a nice 'grab and go' selection. Harvest has some tables and chairs inside the store and out in front.When you walk in the door, to your right is the bakery, deli and kitchen. There is also a cash register there, so you can order and pay. The hot tea is always brewing next to the baklava area (to the left when you walk in).The by the pound area has a vast selection of premade salads, olives and cheeses, all sold by the pound. There's also a good variety of flatbreads and small loaves to choose from. That white stuff? It's a saltier version of Kirk's garlic sauce and quite heavenly. The other items are baba ganoge (eggplant dip) and shirazi salad (cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley and mint mixed with olive oil and lemon juice) all very fresh and very good with the flatbread seen beneath ($1).
I purchase the yogurt based beverages from the vast selection in the back corner store refrigerators.
There is also a good selection of daily soups; I've tried most by pointing at the selection behind the glass counter. Some are tomato based, others are cream based. The above one had spinach and garbanzo beans, was in a creamy chicken based broth and was topped with crispy onion. The bowl was $3.The beef shawarma plate ($7.99) comes with a salad and basmati rice. There is a lot of everything and any of the plates can be shared. On this visit, the shawarma tasted dry on its own and the tzatziki sauce was needed; I usually don't have to add any. It was very flavorfully seasoned and the next day, I heated the meat up and mixed it into scrambled eggs for breakfast and no additional seasoning was needed. There was a sign that beef or chicken kabobs were five for $10 and we asked and ordered just one of each at the $2 each price. Both kabobs were flavorful and very large. It was nice they gave us two roasted tomatoes on the plate...so much nicer than a sprig of parsley. Next to the shawarma spinning upright rotisseries is a third rotisserie with gyros meat. This platter was also $7.99 and when we asked if it came with pita bread, the lady told us to grab one out of the bread box near the front. It's a really good bread topped with sesame seeds. We also were given a choice of specialty rice, and asked for 'the green one', as there were eight different rices in view.
After some research, I found the rice choices are basmati with other primary ingredients: Zereshk Polo (barberry), Baghali Polo (Persian dill with lima beans), Shirin Polo (orange and carrots), Albaloo Polo (sour cherry), Adas Polo (lentils), Lubia Polo (green beans), Biryani (spices and meat mixed in) and Aloo Polo (dried plums).
All in all, we've enjoyed exploring the deli counter and trying various offerings before we go shopping in the store. It's a pretty standard Mediterranean Market with halal meats and some seafood and interesting cookies, sauces, teas and coffees as well as ice cream and snack offerings.
Harvest International Market 4220 Balboa Avenue San Diego 92111 (858) 810-8228 open 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily Website
Mister Falafel, home of some of the sweetest, friendliest, nicest folks I know of.
It had been a while since I last visited and for some reason I was craving some falafel. I was starving so I got a falafel plate, which is a good amount of food for $8.99.
One of the reasons I enjoyed the falafel here were that they weren't dry and gritty. The exterior was crisp and crunchy and the exterior moist and fluffy. It wasn't quite as good this time around as it seemed over fried. The outside of the falafel were too hard and the interior was dry. The flavors are still nice and balanced though and those pickles perked things up. The baba ghanoush was smooth and smoky and quite delicious with the pita.
The tahini as always was mild and creamy. No garlic paste this time around since I had meetings later that day.....bummer.
Not quite a fail, but not satisfying either......I'm hoping the next time, things will be as I recalled. I know the couple working here will still be gracious and friendly as always.
Mister Falafel 4461 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
Here you are, once again checking out mmm-yoso!!!, a food blog. Kirk and Ed (from Yuma) both don't feel like writing today, but Cathy does, so here's another post about food.
The weather out here has been quite humid the past few weeks, even with the thermometer topping at 84•, it feels miserable. The Mister and I have tried driving to the coast and have ended up inside grocery stores with air conditioning, just to feel cooler. Fortunately Parkway Plaza, the first indoor shopping center in San Diego County, is close to home.
I must admit that it's been years since we really stopped here for anything other than shopping for tools, appliances or parts at the Sears store, so when we walked the mall, it was all 'new' to us. However the Food Court had quite a few of the same old chains...until we took a closer look.This used to be a Sbarro, where I could pick up a stromboli or calzone or pizza slice when the urge hit, so pizza ovens were in place here...but thenclosely reading the menu, showed us so much more than pizza is on the menu here.The bowl of lentil soup ($3) is excellent and quite filling. It was nice to eat something warm in the chilled air conditioned food court. Ordering the 'Spinach Pie' ($2.50) was a nice surprise. Not a spanakopita other than being filled with fresh spinach, the home made bread was stuffed with a refreshing mix of spinach, lemon and spices. The bread was a fresh, hearty and chewy type; the way I like bread to be.The tabbouleh salad ($3). Oh my, this was so fresh and bright. Parsley, bulgur, olive oil and lemon juice.Manakeesh, an arabic flatbread (this is a different dough than used for the $5 pizzas here; see the edges?) is $5. The top photo is cheese topped, the above photo is topped with za'atar (a blend of sesame seeds, thyme and sumac)and olive oil. Both of these flatbreads were excellent in their own way (and purchased on different visits; one is enough to share).Most of the time, we order a hot tea ($2) it's a teabag in a standard cardboard cup and a standard tea I've seen sold at localsmallmarkets but one day, I decided we should try a Turkish coffee here. It's $3 and quite a presentation.
So much nicer than we could ever expect. You just never know what you'll find in a mall.
Tasty Pizza 414 Parkway Plaza El Cajon 92020 (619)401-4400
Just a couple of quick things to get us over "Hump day".
Poke at Costco Mission Valley:
I've seen them in Costco's back home in Hawaii, but never in San Diego, until a recent visit to Costco in Mission Valley. Of course, other than gas, I really don't get to Costco that often. It just so happened that I needed enough toilet paper to last until the next millennium.
It looked to be part of the Seafood Fair. Did I buy any? Well, no....heck I don't even buy the stuff they sell in Costco in Hawaii. I did ask the guy if the fish was "gassed", that is, treated with carbon monoxide. They guy looked at me strangely and shrugged his shoulders....whatever that means.
And while you'll never catch me eating this stuff....though I've been known to have brown rice on occasion to please the Missus (don't get the Brown Rice Shio Koji Chicken...it's a double whammy), I thought it kind of neat that Nijiya is really working on keeping up with things.
I also noticed Chicken Karaage being sold with various sauces. I do enjoy chicken nanban - basically chicken seasoned with vinegar and, yep tartar sauce, though I try to get the sauce on the side when I remember to. A little goes a long way. I thought a sauce made with kurosu, a brownish vinegar made from unpolished rice might be really good on karaage. I was wrong; the sauce had been thickened too much, it was too sweet, without enough sour tones. Not my thing.
Still, it's quite interesting to visit and see new things, which seem to quite often....I usually grab a bento or something for lunch here about every other week.
Nijiya Market 3860 Convoy St Ste 109 San Diego, CA 92111
Can you guess the restaurant?
Had dinner with some good friends a while back....not my kind of place, though the portions were huge..... Much of it was dry, overcooked, tough, and seemed like it had been lying around for a while. I hadn't been here in ages and now I remembered why.
Enough to feed an army though.... Can you guess where?
mmm-yoso!!! is a food blog. Both Kirk and Ed (from Yuma) are on well deserved vacations. Cathy's well deserved vacation will be starting in a few days, so she is blogging about food.
On the hypotenuse side of a triangular corner in El Cajon (Douglas Avenue intersects El Cajon Boulevard which turns into Main Street) is a small strip mall containing a Barber shop and Tire Store, all across the parking lot from a gas station) as well as the (now faded) signage for Sagmani's Restaurant. Sagmanis has been here since 2010. Here is a link to Kirk's post.
Five tables inside and one or two tables out front, neat and clean with a one page menu, Sagmanis is not pretentious.
You can have a pitcher of water or bottled water. Hot tea will be brought out after your meal. There are two televisions, which I've never seen on at lunch time.
Warm bread is brought out with your meal.
The lentil soup ($4), made fresh daily, is always our order here. It is excellent, made with plenty of lentils, onions, vermicelli noodle bits and fresh spices. Unique for such a seemingly basic soup. That bowl, by the way, is deceptively large; this is enough soup to share.
A side of hummus ($5) is also fresh made, topped with olive oil, sumac and cumin as well as parsley and and olive. This large portion could be considered a meal, especially with the large soup and all the bread.
On this day a beef shish kabob plate ($7) was part of our shared order. Served on top of fresh sumac topped rice mixed with vermicelli and with lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber and yellow (turmeric) pickled cabbage (not hot, but more vinegar-y) slices, the kabobs are cooked to order.
Made with coarse ground meat, fresh herbs and spices before grilling, the juicy meatiness of these kabobs are flavor filled. Really, the kabobs here are my favorite. The daily stews are also very good.
As mentioned, hot tea is brought out when your meal is finished.
This is the sign you'll see if you are heading West on Douglas, toward the El Cajon signal light; you'll have just passed the row of storefronts in that parking area and will be seeing the gas station.
Find your way here. Good, fresh food. Stay warm!
Sagmani's Restaurant 478 W. Douglas Ave El Cajon 92020 (619) 440-0077
Well here you are, back at mmm-yoso!!! looking at posts about food. Cathy still has places to talk about while Kirk and Ed(from Yuma) are trying to get back to normal after each of their whirlwind vacation jaunts.
Yes, I've posted about Sammoon, a Mediterranean restaurant owned and run by Iraqui immigrants which makes its own breads, in El Cajon twice already. If you've ever had Jury Duty in El Cajon, you probably have been here, since it's within walking distance of the Courthouse.
This is the entrance from the Parking lot. From the street, you'll see it's next to the Panda Express.
Once inside, you'll see the menu and the former pizza oven, which is now used to create the wonderful, fresh samoon shaped breads made here throughout the day.
You may also notice the rotating spits of beef and chicken schawarma, and additional menu offerings over the rest of the open kitchen area.
One day, The Mister tried a Lunch Special ($5.99) which was choice of schawarma with a choice of bread and included fries and a salad (this day was a roasted eggplant salad). The bread choices are either a samoon bread or saj bread. The above is a chicken schawarma saj sandwich. There is pickle and tomato wrapped in the saj before the bread is grilled. This is very, very good. The fries are standard and crispy, not greasy and that roasted eggplant is really great.
One day, I noticed on the menu the "Sajj beef burger" ($4.49) and decided to order it. It came wrapped looking like a sort of American hamburger, with fries. Then I opened the paper...and you can see the Saj bread folded so perfectly tight. It was then cooked on the grill, sealing in the already cooked burger (you can click onto the small photos which will enlarge).
When I cut through the delicate yet crispy after being baked/sealed closed Saj bread, the inside of the tightly folded bread revealed a very nice sized ground beef burger, tomato, pickle, onion and a sweet sauce. The burger was not as spiced as the kabobs here, but was still the coarse ground beef used for the kebabs. The meat was moist but apparently drained, so no grease softened the Saj to make it fall apart. A very good non-traditional, yummy burger.
One day, we noticed a separate ad on the outside window (on the left side of the first photo)-a "Feast for Two" ($18). We ordered it.
First out was a basket of three hot, fresh samoon breads, along with a platter of hummus, tzatziki and baba ganouj. All fresh made here and very refreshing.
Since everything here is made to order, there was a less than ten minute/more than five minute wait for this GIANT platter to be brought out. Clockwise: pickled cabbage, roasted tomato, chicken schawarma, fresh falafel, beef schawarma, fresh tomato. On top of the fresh long grain yellow rice are a beef kebob, chicken tikka and chicken kabob with fresh cucumber slices and raw onion topped with sumac (a citrus/salty spice). We had leftovers which were enjoyed that evening.
Always good and always fresh food at Sammoon.
Sammoon Bakery & Restaurant Mediterranean Cuisine 190 N. Magnolia Suite 103 El Cajon 92020 (619)441-2823 Open seven days, 10am-10pm
I noticed a while back that Aria Kabob had closed. Then a couple of months later it reopened as Gyros N Kabob Cafe.
Still, I wasn't very motivated to try the place. Finally, I went in last month just to see what was up. The interior has changed a bit, but the "bones" look the same. I also quickly surmised that this was still an Afghan-style restaurant at it's roots.
In fact, the same gentleman who used to run Aria, runs this place too. There are still many of the other items I've tried at Aria on the menu here....borani bonjan and bolani gandana for example.
On my first visit, I decided to go with the Falafel-Gyro Platter ($10.99), opting for the lamb gyro.
This was a load of food! The falafel were not to my liking, dry and very bland. I did enjoy the lamb gyro though. I could tell that it was cut then heated, but the flavors were really good, nice spices, a bit gamey. Perhaps a bit on the dry side, but still, the flavor was right in the pocket for me.
Plus, they still serve the tangy and mildly spicy "chatni", which just makes everything taste better.
A couple of days later I was craving that chatni again, so I stopped by and ordered the Lamb Gyro Sandwich ($5.99).
I couldn't believe that this came with all those fries.....typical fast-food fries, but altogether not a bad value. I really enjoy the labni like, thick, strained yogurt on this sandwich, but there was a bit too much of it. The lamb gyro meat was kind of overshadowed by everything.
But hey, the really nice guy serving me knows I love the chatni so he made sure to get me a bowl. I ended up buying a bottle for home use.....the missus loves the stuff.
I recently returned for a lamb gyro fix and just stayed with the Lamb Gyro Plate ($8.99).
I think this is what I'll order from now on. The gyro is on the dry side, but I like the flavor, the labni and chatni help to moisten the gyro meat and the pile of rice below....heck, this kind of looks like a plate lunch, huh?
Sadly, I'm not sure how long this place will be in business. I've never seen another customer during my three visits. I gentleman who runs the place has always been nice to me, though food can take a bit longer since it's often a one man operation. I do need to return to see if the borani bonjan is still as good as I remember.
Gyros N Kabob Cafe 8010 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111 Hours: Mon - Sat 10am - 8pm Sunsay 11am - 7pm
I mentioned this place opening, along with Dan Diego back in November of last year. A couple of weeks later I went to check them out.
The interior was clean, bright, and spacious and looked nothing like the taco shop that was formerly at this location. The menu was a bit odd; Med/Middle Eastern on one side, Burritos on the other. There were several beers on tap, most of them standard local brews. I found the combination of all three kind of confusing....was this a bar serving Mediterranean food, or a Med-Mex restaurant featuring beer and wine. Throw in the hookah room in the back, add ESPN running on all the television sets and you got a Med-Mex-hookah-sports bar. The folks running the place are friendly enough. I was told they own the liquor store across the parking lot, so maybe that explains the beer and wine.
Most of the plates, salads, and stuff ran north of $7.95, but under ten bucks, which didn't seem bad. I decided on something called the "Crazy Kofta" ($9.95):
Basically mass produced pita, with some mildly seasoned kofta meat, a bit on the dry side. Iceberg lettuce, tomato (which was actually pretty good), red onion, and sumac. Throw in some rather limp fries and a mild yogurt sauce. Nothing really special. It was nice to have this option in the neighborhood, but this didn't seem like a good value.
Still, the folks running the place were really friendly, so I returned with some friend for drinks one evening. We basically had a couple of beers, Ange a glass of wine, and we decided to get the Falafel Plate.
The falafel were really hard, gritty, and dry,tasting of too much parsley, with a bit of bitterness thrown in. The hummus was too thick and tasted like the store-bought stuff. This also seemed a bit over-priced at $7.95.
For some reason, it just seemed like Bay Park just couldn't pull off some really good grub.....Oasis just seemed like a bar that served Mediterranean Pub Grub. But maybe that's what they were shooting for. I really like the folks here, but I'd pretty much marked this down as a place to get a beer or two and not much more.
A couple of weeks ago, I happened to be in the area during lunch and decided to stop by again. I was surprised to find a "Lunch Specials" menu, with everything at five bucks. So I decided on the Falafel Pita. I was surprised when my plate arrived....there was no mention of fries on the menu, but there it was.
Sure, it was the same mass produced supermarket pita...iceberg lettuce, sumac, et al. But there were four falafel in the sandwich, which were much better, more moist, and the parsley taste had been toned down so I could make out some mild spice.
The fries were done to a decent SYSCO-liciousness. Perhaps the kitchen was still feeling its way during my first two visits. I thought this was priced right at $5, or even six.
Oasis is a nice addition to the neighborhood, though not a place to go out of your way for.
Oasis Restaurant & Lounge 4033 Avati Dr San Diego, CA 92117
"Way on the other side of the Hudson Deep in the bosom of suburbia......" What that Dean Friedman song has to do with this post, I dunno......but for some corny reason I love the song.
There's something bright and sunny about it.....
Sort of like the bright and sunny interior of this little shop in the strip mall on the corner of Genesee and Clairemont Mesa, hidden behind the gas station and Panda Country.
I recall this being a Mexican Bakery.....how long ago Mister Falafel took residence here I've no clue. This seems to be a family operation, an older couple and a younger gentleman run the shop....always gracious, always letting me know "it will be just a while for your food, we make it to order."
Since this place is called Mister Falafel, I just had to try the namesake of the shop, right? The menu is compact with salads, "sandwiches" (pita based of course), salads, plates, sidea, and smaller portions called "munchies". I ordered a Falafel Munchie ($3.50)
This was nice, I enjoyed it as a good change of pace from the usual gritty falafel. This version is smooth with a less pronounced parsley flavor. I was told that they use favas as well as garbanzo beans for their falafel. The tahini is more like mayo and doesn't have a real strong flavor.
You can have one side with your order andI chose the Hummus, which was fairly garlicky.
It came with seasoned fried pita chips which went nicely with the dish.
I had ordered the Beef Schwarma Sandwich, which turned out to be pretty large. I thought it was nicely priced at $6.50. As much as I enjoyed the sides, I really didn't care much for this. The meat was very tough, there was too much pita and tahini, you really couldn't taste much. It was pretty hefty though.
Two out of three ain't bad, so I returned a couple of days later. This time I ordered a falafel sandwich and some fries. I saw garlic paste, one of my favorite things on the menu....this leads me to believe the folks who own this little shop are Lebanese.
This was nice and full of garlic flavor, perhaps not as smooth and balanced (I know that sounds wrong when referring to garlic paste) as Alforon's, but much better than what Mama's makes.
Soon enough the sandwich and fried arrived. The fries were typical.
Perhaps I should have learned from my schwarma sandwich. This was just too much stuff and you really couldn't enjoy the rather mild flavored falafel. It was quite filling....you could say I was "fala-full" after eating this.
I think I'll stick with the "munchies" and a couple of sides the next time I visit.
And there will be a next time. The folks running this place couldn't be nicer and the prices are quite reasonable. That's enough to get me to come back.
Mister Falafel 4461 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117 Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 1100am - 800pm