Thanks for stopping by to read mmm-yoso!!!, a food blog. Kirk is having some technical difficulties, while Ed (from Yuma) is enjoying the pleasant weather (in Yuma) and Cathy is writing a quick post.
We parked in front of Vinz a few weeks ago when stopping at EscoGelato for a sweet treat and The Mister kept it in mind when it was His turn to choose one of his birthday meals. Vinz has been here at the corner of East Grand at Kalmia since 2008.One side of Vinz is a bar and the other side (closed during lunch) has tableclothed tables and only wines stored on display.
A daily lunch menu is provided and The Mister and I both had narrowed our choices to two - the same ones. Serendipity!The House Cheese & Pate Plate ($14) included great multi seeded crackers along with a partial baguette, some greens, roasted garlic cloves, olives, a dollop of a hearty mustard, capers and some fig jam. The seemingly small scoop of duck mousse pate was more than enough of pure luxury; rich, smooth with fresh herbs and cognac melded together, giving a burst of flavor in each bite. The cheeses were a smoked Gouda, Havarti and Brie. This would have gone perfectly with a glass of wine...but you know-daytime, driving, laws.The Pizza Blanca con Spinaci ($11) was really wonderful. Homemade ricotta cheese, roasted garlic, fresh spinach, and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. You can see the wonderful thin crust. The homemade ricotta...all of it...it just went so well together.
A very nice lunch for a special celebration day.
Vinz Wine Bar 201 East Grand (at Kalmia) Escondido 92025 (760)743-8466 website Open Mon 11:30-9, Tues, Wed, Th 11:30-10, Fri, Sat 11:30-11 Sun 11:30-8
mmm-yoso!!! Food blog. Kirk usually is writing, but he is out of the country. Ed(from Yuma) does some posting, but he is getting ready to travel to a different state. Cathy holds down the fort when the guys can't. This is her blogging.
It started out innocently enough. A friend handed me one of those doorknob hanger ads for a pizza place, telling me it was really good-and that they have a carry out only special for $4.99.
I tossed it onto the car seat and forgot about it. Until one night when I was hungry, in the neighborhood and knowing I did not want to go home to make dinner.There-right next to the Dominos and about 100 yards from a Papa Johns pizza place is Maldinis. It's been there since 2013, a family pizza restaurant that sells a 14 inch large cheese pizza for $4.99.Dough and sauce made fresh daily. A really good, simple pizza. Friendly guys working...and a larger menu.
I had to bring The Mister back for our next 'date night' meal-our standard when we were starving college students and newlyweds. We ordered, paid and took a seat at one of the eight tables. The large Greek salad ($6.99) was brought out in a very large bowl. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, onions and Feta cheese. There was a lot of everything to this salad. The simple Italian dressing was complimentary to the fresh flavors of the produce and toppings. The small (12 inch) cheese calzone ($7.99). A folded pizza, filled with Mozzarella and Ricotta, brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with herbs and cheese and baked. Served with sauce on the side.
Perfect. Crispy. Cheesy. Memory jogging. I hope your weekend is as pleasant.
Maldini's Pizzeria 8734 Lake Murray Blvd (at Navajo)( in the mall with a McDonalds and an Albertsons) San Diego 92119 (619) 644-5600 Website
We arrived back in Valletta nice and early. I had quite a bit planned for our last full day.
Unfortunately, the apartment we really enjoyed staying in wasn't available for this night, so we were staying in the Osborne Hotel which was on the opposite side of the peninsula.
We dropped our bags off and started on our way.
The first item was to get some espresso for the Missus and something for me to eat.
We saw this little shop along the way.
The little place was full...of locals......having coffee, reading the paper, talking about...well, I dunno. We entered and they quickly made some room for us.
While the Missus was having Her espresso; with a Diet Kinnie chaser, I saw something. Along the counter, there seemed to be makings for sandwiches. A couple of guys came in to pick up sandwiches while we were having our drinks. I couldn't help it. I just had to find out what this big seller was.....tuna sandwiches. I was raised on tuna sandwiches, but truly believe there's only one brand of canned tuna that shall pass these lips. Us old timers from Hawaii have some major brand loyalty. I had my doubts, I really wasn't thrilled with the version I had earlier in Valletta. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. And this was a major win.
It didn't look very inspiring. But man, this was good. The bread....what's with the bread in Malta (I'd learn soon)? It was crusty, but not too hard, nor chewy. The tuna wasn't the greatest, but it was the sum of the parts which made this fantastic. In perfect proportion; ripe, tasty,tomatoes rubbed on the bread, briny olives, I tasted mint (!), which tasted so good, boiled eggs, lots of black pepper, red onion for that touch of pungent flavor.
I wish I knew the name of this place. We returned for some espresso on the way out of Malta...but duh, I forgot to get the name of the place!
We caught the bus, and with some cryptic instructions got off in Paola. We walked to Tarxien, it was hard to know where Paola ended and Tarxien began....it seems that the borders of these small villages just blend into one another.
We arrived at our destination. There was a graveyard and church next door.
For some reason, the Missus was taken with the tranquil environment and decided just to lie down on one of the benches and listen to music.
Discovered by some farmers plowing a field a field in 1914. This complex of temples, dating back to 3150 B.C. this site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980.
The excavations have indicated that the site was used extensively for rituals.
It was a fascinating visit. The island of Malta has long been inhabited, some estimate all the way back to 5200 BC.
Leaving the site, I got the Missus who was just having a great old time listening to music, staring at the tree and the statue of the Virgin Mary.
It was time to head back to Paolo and our destination.
But first, we got distracted by this little shop on a side street that was doing some nice business. Cars kept stopping, folks running out; sometimes holding up traffic, to go in and grab...well, who knows what.
This is the spinach-olive, with a touch of ricotta version.
Frankly, I preferred what I had before to this. Though it was quite hearty and stuffed.
And so, we searched for our destination. Which we found with this discreet sign.
When I knew we were going to Malta; one of the first things I did was make reservation for Hal Saflieni Hypogeum. Discovered by workers digging for a cistern in 1902, the story of its revelation is quite amazing. Due to the damage done by carbon dioxide exhaled by visitors, only 60 visitors are allowed a day (it's actually closed right now while a new environmental management system is put in place).
Of course, photos aren't allowed; but you can see some here. Let me just say, at least for us, it was an amazing experience.
Making it back to Valletta, the Missus wanted Her Quinoa Salad from Piadina Caffe. So we headed over. This time I had the prosciutto with provolone, which was light and refreshing.
And I got a chance to read the local paper.
After a light snack it was finally time when we could check in. Along the way to the hotel we saw this doorway.
Which is how we ended up in the lair of Joe Frendo.
Who is Joe Frendo? I'm still not sure. I looked down those stairs and saw some bottled water, which is just what we needed and wanted at that moment.
We had somehow ended up in the shop of a Maltese bread maker. Huge wood burning oven going.....I was told; "go take a look....the best bread in Malta is here."
I looked at the bread which looked familiar. So I asked, and my question was answered with, "yes, Il-Horza, that is our bread."
And so we thought, "why not order a pizza?"
Having ordered our dinner, we got back to the hotel; checked in, and freshened up.
Walking past the Grandmaster's Palace, we noticed a demonstration happening. It was for women's rights. We saw a gentleman walk out to talk to folks. I asked who this was and was told, "well....it's the Prime Minister of course." The Prime Minister!
It was soon time to pick up dinner, so we retuned to Joe Frendo's Bakery. Walking down the stars we saw Joe's family having dinner at a table in an adjacent area and Joe at work on our pizza.
We loved this place. So the Missus asked Joe Frendo as simple question; "when did you start making bread" which turned into an 45 minute monologue of Joe Frendo's life....punctuated with many a "mey-lah". Which I still don't understand. It was an amazingly funny slice of life. Along with the pizza, we decided to get a bottle of wine, but requested that they open the bottle. At which time Joe walked over to a table, pulled out the corkscrew which was being used to level the table out and opened our bottle. Only in Malta!
We got the "Maltese Pizza"("mey-lah")and Joe Frendo gave us a couple of really good rolls.
The pizza...the crust was quite nice....had artichoke hearts, olives, and a nice tangy tomato sauce.
Which is what we had....watching the roof tops of Valletta.As dusk approached I took this photo.
And waking right before the sun rose, I took another.
Like most places, Malta had been much more than what we had expected......
On our third day in Rome, we set out for Vatican City. The Missus wanted to walk there...from Termini Station. We had the metro one block away! Luckily, I got myself out of a 5k walk first thing in the morning and we caught the metro. From the metro station, the walk to the gates of Vatican Museum took about ten minutes.
When it comes to most of our travel; the Missus tells me what She wants and I do the logistics, planning, and She just basically shows up. The visit to the Vatican Museum was a good example. I got tickets online ahead of time....we entered right when the place opened, going to the line for "Entrance with Reservations". We grabbed a map and headed to the one place the Missus really wanted to see; the Sistine Chapel, where we stood alone in the rare air where the Papal Conclave takes place. The Missus just stood staring at the ceiling as other visitors piled in around Her. I took a seat after a minute or two, when my neck started stiffening up. I grabbed the Missus to leave when I heard "huuuuaaackkk p-tew".....one of the Chinese tourists had just spit on the floor of the Sistine Chapel! Good lord!
The rest of my time in the Vatican Museum was a blur of antiquities, lavish paintings, just an astounding amount of items on display. I was overwhelmed by the extravagance. I kept telling the Missus, "geeez, these folks sure have a lot of money..."
I do recall enjoying the ceiling art and spent a good deal of time just enjoying those and the paintings over doorways.
I think one needs to spend a least a couple of days here if you really enjoy this stuff. I'm sure Ed from Yuma could probably walk these halls for months!
Anyway, we worked our way back to the beginning and started out with the Egyptian Rooms, officially called the "Gregorian Egyptian Museum", which were among my favorites. After all, who doesn't like mummies, right?
I found the various hieroglyphics and of course the mummies fascinating....it touched off a the faint flicker of the little boy in me, who would spend hours pouring through books at Kaimuki Library.
The Egyptian's deities manifested themselves as various animals based on characteristics. The God Apis took the form of a bull.
I was quite fascinated with these displays.
Things just seemed really packed in.....there was something to see everywhere...
Then we went through the halls with Greek and Roman sculpture. Tons of statues....my head was spinning.
One of the most famous statues is Apollo Belvedere which was once considered to be the most aesthetically perfect sculpture of a man after being found in Italy in the 15th century.
Right past all of this was an interesting area called the "Hall of Animals". The Vatican Museum's website states that the hall "was set up under Pope Pius VI (1775-1799) with antique works of art, often much restored and sometimes completely re-worked, with the aim of creating a 'stone zoo'. Many artists worked on the sculptures in this display during the 1700s, the most important of whom was Francesco Antonio Franzoni."
On your way to the Round Room, you'll be confronted with this remnant. This fragment of a statue known as the Belvedere Torso has been revered through the centuries by Raphael and even Michaelangelo, who it was rumored, was asked to restore the statue by Pope Julius II, but refused saying it was too beautiful to be changed. He is quoted as saying, "This is the work of a man who knew more than nature!” It is said that the torso was an inspiration for Adam in Michelangelo's fresco in the Sistine Chapel.
Right past this sculpture is the "Round Hall". Here's a panoramic shot that you can click on to expand.
Look familiar? Well, it was built to resemble the Pantheon.
By this time Museum fatigue was setting in. I pretty much stopped taking photos and it's quite telling that one of the few photos taken by the Missus was Rapheal's "The Liberation of St Peter".
The one thing the Missus, a fan of Angels & Demons, had to take a photo of was the Double Helix Staircase.....which is how you exit the Vatican Museum.
Next up was St Peter's Basilica, which was easy to find. Just follow the crowds.
St Peter's Square is quite impressive....and crowded.
And of course, to get into the Basilica, you had to go through security and metal detectors and all of that as well.
It was getting to be a pretty warm day. The security points for St Peter's were moving quite slowly. Then, a group of Chinese tourists pushed their way to the front of the line, and tried to just walk through security. The guards rushed up, linked their arms and physically pushed back the crowd. Then they closed the gate......I don't know if it was protocol or just spite, but man, I was just over it. Now don't get me wrong, the Missus is Chinese, as you all know if you've read long enough, from Qingdao. None of Her family, or even family friends who have visited act this way. 'Nuff said.
Anyway, by the time we got to St Peter's, I'd had my fill of the crowds, the heat, etc....
Still, the Missus has always wanted to come here. And I truly want the Missus to see and visit everyplace She's dreamed of. I hope that Vatican water tasted sweet.....
By now we were both starving.........but I had a place in mind. One that had been on my lists for ages... Pizzarium.
This place takes Pizza al Taglio - pizza by the slice to the next level with some wonderful ingredients. You just tell the guy behind the counter how much you want....it's really hard not to go overboard.
While it was still a bit too "bready" for our tastes, some of the ingredients were wonderful and we especially loved the tomato sauce....man, that was nice.
The prosciutto....the greens with the mozzarella...really good. Worth the 15 minute walk from the Vatican. Plus, the Cipro Metro Station is close by.
Pizzarium Via della Meloria 43 Rome, Italy
Returning to our room, I badly needed a shower. After that and rehydrating, we headed off, just to hang around the area near Termini Station.
And have a little snack.....
After taking quite a long walk, we decided to stop by the nearest Hosteria and have a simple meal.
Sometimes those spur of the moment places work out quite well. Some times not. Having no idea of this place....well, it was the latter.
Oh well, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, right?
Man, that carbonara was not to my liking....so I guess this was a lose.
It was not quite the send off I wanted. The next day, we'd be back on the Leonardo Express, then to our flight to Malta....yes, Malta.
Hmmmm Bruno and Pho King, there's surely a joke in there somewhere. Can't think of one right now, so onward with the post.
It had been almost a year since I'd been here and I was really wanting a pizza....the Missus is still not doing the bread thing, so I was on my own. I held out for a couple of weeks before giving in.
They must be doing well, as there were at least 5 people working on a Sunday, at 4pm.
My memory must be going as I don't recall seeing Belgians on the drink list before. I was quite happy to order a La Chouffe, mild spice, yeasty, just boozy and sweet enough for me. My server was a very chipper young lady...quite enthusiastic and all.....
Being a creature of habit, I ordered the Diavolo, subbing soppressata for pepperoni. It arrived in all it's yeasty charred glory soon after.
I must really be getting old because this just seemed larger than I remembered...ah, this cursed old age thing.
Man, loved the smoky charred crust, the slightly spicy and vinegary goat peppers....I did notice that the soppressata tasted a bit different, not as rich and full of lovely oiliness as before....but it could be that old age thing, right?
I could only finish half the pie and took the rest home. The Missus got home from work and said "that smells so good...." Knowing that She doesn't do the bread thing I told Her, "help yourself....he-he-he...."
I got out of the shower and She had a smug smile on Her face....so I headed straight to the pizza box and opened it....yikes!!! She had cockroached all the toppings! Teach me to tempt Her, right?
Pizzeria Bruno 4207 Park Blvd San Diego, CA 92103
Aaah, I know why I put these two together mentally. While at Bruno, these two huge Italian guys walked in, pinky rings and all. Man, they had it down, talking to each other in Italian....until I was walking out and they were having a little "PDA".....
So maybe they should have gotten a room or at least gone to....
Yeah, yeah....ok, enough with the jokes. I don't think I've posted on the place in over a year, so I'm due right? Man, they were pretty busy.....
I decided to order my usual and get some wings as well......
In retrospect, not the best move....these tasted of rancid oil, were fried "naked", but were on the mushy side, and really lacked flavor. Very large, meaty, and moist though. Ah yes...Pho King Wings....
My usual Hu Tieu Mi Kho did much better.
I love the sweet-porky soy and the combination of noodles on this. Which I've done posts on several times.
And on the good side, no one asked me for money. Like I noted in my Tu Thanh post, on my last visit in August, some dude asked me for money twice, once when entering and once when leaving the place...then I saw him looking into my car windows...sheeesh. Happy not have to deal with that, which kind of kept me away from the place. Guess I'll head back again soon.
Pho King Restaurant 4658 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92115
A fairly large collection for a SoCal winter Wednesday.
Pho DaKao and Grill Closes:
I drove by and noticed the parking lot was totally empty so I drove in. The Eviction Restoration Notice was posted on the door. Man, this place didn't last very long. I think I visited soon after they opened....so they pulled the plug pretty fast.
I'd driven past a couple of times and the place looked closed so I stopped by earlier in the week.
This former Balboa Avenue institution moved to this location back in the summer of 2013. It's too bad that the renovation and creation of chain restaurant hell drove them from their old location and it seems that they barely made it past a year here. Though never a destination for me, I'd eaten at the old location a couple of times and thought it decent.......
So hopefully I'm mistaken? But it sure looks like they've shut down....
4344 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
So here comes the "New" Dumpling Inn and Shanghai Saloon:
While never great shakes, the place really "jumped the shark" in my opinion after the owner got involved with The Dragon's Den and Del Mar Rendezvous, both of which have been sold. So now we get this........ I'm told he has a taste for "fusion", which is great, remember, I'm from the home of Pacific Rim Cuisine, so I love fusion.....but it's a thin line between fusion and "con-fusion".
In the old First Korean Market location.
4625 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
We had some much needed rain over the last two weeks........and we're kind of enjoying the nice sleeping weather, which would be great if I wasn't working so many long hours.
Still, I actually saw a double rainbow while driving to Target on the way home yesterday. Pardon the bad photos.
Seeing a rainbow in San Diego is rare enough....a double rainbow, well I don't ever recall seeing one here.
So I took a photo....then took photos of other folks taking photos of the double rainbow.....like I said, this is like an event.
Or maybe a celebrity? This guy is having his picture taken "with" the rainbow! No selfies here....though I did pass two couple taking selfies with the rainbow.
I keep looking at all these photos of Rome and thinking, well one of these days. There was so much we saw, but it also seemed so hectic. I usually will look at a set of photos and the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, pop out and just like that; I have a post. This one had to really pared down......in the end, I thought this would be a nice description of what a typical vacation day with the Missus is like. It makes a nice C(learing) O(ut the) M(emory) C(ard) post.
As is the norm, we woke quite early on our first full day in Rome. I actually got up at 5am and did a post from our room. The Missus woke a bit later and we were headed out before 7. The Missus had a basic list of places to check out and we'd be walking to them all.
So we headed off from Termini Station down the street.
Pst the Colosseum and the Forum......
Skirting Palatine Hill and the Victor Emmanuel Monument.....
And we ended up at Saint Andrea della Valle, Piazza Navona was just a short walk from there. It was pretty quiet at Piazza at that time.
The Missus was determined to get to the Pantheon when it opened. So we walked on over and found that we were still quite early. So we walked over a block to Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
First thing on my mind was....what's up with the Elephant Obelisk, what does it represent? Well, apparently, this obelisk was one of two brought to Rome by Emperor Diocletian from Egypt sometime during his reign between 284 - 305AD. The obelisks were built during the reign of Pharoah Apries around 570BC. The Elephant was designed by Bernini and sculpted by Ercole Ferrata, completed in 1667. The Missus has a thing about obelisks....I'm really afraid to ask really. I will say, this is my favorite one...though I'm still not sure what it all really means.
The church itself is built over the ruins of a temple to the Egyptian Goddess Isis.
As with many of the various churches in Rome, of which there are over 900, most with a rich history, and tons of relics. Santa Maria sopra Minerva was once the center of the Dominican Order, so it makes sense that Saint Catherine of Siena is buried here....well, not all of her. Her head is interred at the Basilica of San Domenico in Siena.
We returned to the Pantheon, which still wasn't open, and decided to just have a cup of coffee and chill. There seemed to be quite a few "locals" walking their dogs, chatting, and generally giving the place a very relaxed feeling.
And yes, that's a obelisk and fountain the front of the Pantheon. This one was built by Ramesses II and was taken from the Temple of Ra in the ancient city of Heliopolis.
Soon enough, folks started lining up in front of the huge doors......
Anyway, here we were, standing in front of the huge bronze doors of the Pantheon. A little gentleman comes out to open up...and can't budge the doors. He recruits a bunch of us to push open the doors. Which we do. Oh man, talk about a thrill....I helped to push open the doors of the Pantheon! I immediately asked the Missus if She got a photo; "oh, I was so excited for you....I forgot!"
Click on the photo above to enlarge....this is one of the few places that really impressed me more than what I had read.
A few minutes later the place started getting crowded. It was time to leave. Outside, all the locals had disappeared as tourists descended on the Pantheon. I'm glad we had arrived early.
We headed back to Piazza Navona which was starting to pick up.
There are three fountains which grace the square, this is the one on the North, the Fountain of Neptune.
We decided to back track and headed to Campo de Fiori, literally translated to "Field of Flowers". I read that in the Middle Ages, the area was actually a meadow. It now houses a daily flower and vegetable market....kind of touristy. pretty pricey, but still fun.
Right on Campo de Fiori resides a place that is pretty much legendary, Forno Campo de Fiori, a little bakery and shop.
The Pizza Bianca was good, initial crunch, a bit too chewy for my taste, very soft interior.....kind of bland though. The pizzas, were, well, kind of disappointing, hard, greasy....probably because they seemed to have been laying out for a while.
Forno Campo de' Fiori Campo de' Fiori 22 Rome, Italy
Since it was now my turn for the time being, we headed off down Via dei Giubbonari, one of the side street off of Campo de Fiori. A little street lined with shops and cafes. Along the way we passed a little cul de sac, which had....what else, a church.
This little church is Santa Barbara dei Librari - the church for booksellers!
I loved this little three panel wooden painting, called a triptych. I later read that it dates back to the 15th-16th century.
When we hit the cross street of Via dei Chiavari, I found the other place I wanted to try. My good buddy Candice told me that she preferred Antico Forno Marco Roscioli.
About this time I figured out that pizza bianca would make a perfect sandwich....which it did.
I did notice that the pizza bianca here was less oily and had a better crunch.
I thought the marinara pizza was pretty good as well.
Antico Forno Marco Roscioli Via dei Chiavari 34 Rome, Italy
As you notice....these were the days before the Missus really clamped down on carbs. And yet, with this walking, I still lost weight!
Bolstered by carbs and caffiene we headed off to find the Missus's next target....where was that darn Trevi Fountain?
Thanks for dropping by to read the blog, mmm-yoso!!! Kirk and Ed(from Yuma) are both busy picking things up while Cathy is holding down the fort.
There seems to have been an inordinate amount of 'customized pizza' places popping up around Southern California within the past twelve months. I've only posted about one such business but have been to many iterations and here's a post about another using a similar business model. Perhaps you are wondering about the first San Diego location of 85C- it's on the far right of the above photo, right next door to Pieology on Balboa at Genessee.Neat, clean, industrial looking with the current decorating trend of communal tables in the center of the seating area, the drill is the same: order, watch your pies being customized while following them along the line...Watch your personalized dough being placed into a wood fired oven...Choose a beverage or salad and pay, have a seat and your order will be brought out to you. This is a large salad ($7.95) with chicken, Gorgonzola, local organic greens, candied walnuts and dried cranberries. It's very fresh and very good. These are the "herb butter strips" ($2.95)...the fresh dough topped with butter and olive oil and fresh herbs, baked just right-almost crispy yet still chewy. Unfortunately for you reading this (and all of these pop up 'customized' pizza places), The Mister and I are traditionalists and pretty much don't 'customize' and instead order basic items from the menu, in the case of Pieology, it's an order from the "Pizza Lab". Above, the Number 1: Classic cheese pie ($6). Olive oil, Mozzarella and red sauce. Quite nice, with a tasty crust, balance of flavors and simplicity that is difficult to properly achieve.Another day we ordered the Pizza Lab Number 2 item ($7.95): a pepperoni, sausage, meatball, Mozzarella, olive oil and red sauce pie...but (here's the where we went all crazy part) we also asked for mushrooms. This pie was excellent. There is no additional charge; most customized pies are $7.95; know that multiple items are distributed modestly which helps the pie crust bake in three minutes or less.
All in all, three very nice meals here. An interesting concept. We've now been to seven similar concept places and are thinking the $8 price point leads to a good ROI for each business. Other blogging viewpoints of Pieology: Here, here and here.Here too.
Pieology 5575 Balboa Avenue Suite 310 San Diego 92111 (858) 565-0600 (there two other San Diego locations) Website
Today Kirk and Cathy can concentrate on their real work (or just kick back and relax) because Ed (from Yuma) has a post about a restaurant up in Paso Robles.
Tina and I had wonderful memories of a lunch at Thomas Hill Organics back in 2009, so we wanted to be sure to go there with Steve and Helen. Again we entered through the larger and fancier alley entrance to the restaurant:
This side of the restaurant has the larger indoor dining room, the Park Street side has a long skinny room with the bar and small tables, but whenever possible, we like to eat in the central covered courtyard in the middle of the restaurant:
Remembering a wonderful watermelon gazpacho from our previous visit, Tina and I decided to share the avocado-corgette cold soup with coconut milk and chili oil ($8):
What can I say? The cool smooth green avocado blended with the summer fresh squash seemed like the essence of a late spring harvest – rich, vegetal, tangy and complex. The chili oil added a touch of spicy hotness to balance the cool green creamy depth of the soup.
For Helen, the soup was her main dish, though she did share some of Steve's skirt steak sandwich:
All of the sandwiches came with extremely fresh field greens tossed with a light basil vinaigrette and a few grains of quinoa:
Along with the soup, Tina opted for the local grass fed beef hamburger ($17):
Her burger was topped with Cambozola cheese, caramelized onions, and abundant applewood smoked bacon, all accented by nut romesco and roasted garlic aoli. It was really wonderful:
I had the pork belly banh mi:
I love banh mis, but this seemed a little over the top for my tastes. While the pickled carrots, avocado, and chopped cilantro were good, the two thick slices of pork belly seemed excessive and were a bit chewy. Call me old school, but I also missed the light crunchiness of a good Vietnamese baguette:
Tina and I had always wondered about dinner at Thomas Hill, so we decided to have our last dinner in Paso at Thomas Hill Organics. The menu seemed wide-ranging, we liked that many produce and protein sources were identified on the menu, and it is hard to beat the ambience of that courtyard.
Our dinner began with ahi tataki style ($16), a plate that looked like a beautiful little tuna topped volcano erupting ginger/scallion relish :
This was very nicely done. The excellent fresh ahi was lightly seared, and the ponzu sauce was perfectly flavored and did not overpower the other ingredients. Speaking of other ingredients, when Tina and I removed and divided the tuna, the rest of the appetizer was visible:
There was a large clump of wakame (seaweed salad), slices of avocado, wedges of pickled apricot, rounds of beautiful purple radish and cucumber, sunflower sprouts, and that ginger and scallion relish. For Tina and I, these flavors worked well together.
The next course was an unusual ceviche ($15) with local yellowtail and Oregon baby shrimp accompanied by chunks of Rocking Chair Farms nectarines and white peaches with purple radishes, cilantro, shaved shallots served on tostadas made from plantain and drizzled with coriander/honey coconut milk:
In most ways, this was an ambitious and very tasty ceviche presentation. It was not too tangy/sour to accompany our wine (more on that soon), and we loved the combination of stone fruit and seafood – though I would have liked even more of the seasonal fruits:
For us, the only things that didn’t work in the dish were the discs of plantain. They were more chewy than crunchy, and while they stood up to the ceviche toppings, the flavor/texture profile just didn't appeal and we actually left most of one round on the otherwise cleaned plate.
Because we were starting with two seafood courses, we began with glasses of Lone Madrone 2011 Points West White ($13), a very tasty Rhône style blend of 4 grapes, the rich and creamy roussane being the most prominent. We had tasted that very same wine the previous afternoon at the winery and had enjoyed it very much. It did not disappoint with dinner, and of course, the stemware was excellent and the pours very fair.
Our next course was called Jewel of the Spring Salad ($15):
In that picture, you can see what they called a Fabergé farm egg, attractive and hard-boiled. The greens in the salad were wild arugula and pea leaves and tendrils. The orange carrot ribbons, dark pink macerated red onions, asiago cheese shavings, and abundant sweet pea pods added body, color, and variety to this lightly dressed and unusual salad, dense with the taste of spring:
From the moment we had been seated in the courtyard in the middle of the building that evening, we noticed a chef attending to the woodfired pizza oven:
So our last course just had to be one of their woodfired pizzas. Called the Verde Green pizza on the menu, it was topped with mozzarella cheese, black truffle salami, pistachio nuts, roasted zucchini, basil leaves and a light sprinkling of Romano cheese ($17):
It was excellent, the crust light and crunchy and the toppings tasty but not overpowering. We shared a glass of Enfold 2010 Jazzy Zinfandel ($13), which went well with the pizza.
We had a good time at Thomas Hill Organics, the service, ambience, and food were all first rate. Much of the food was local and organic. The wine list was well focused on local wineries. If we had any complaint, it was that we ordered too much food, so had to take about half of the pizza back to our room with us. Oh, hold on here, why am I complaining about a midnight snack?
mmm-yoso!!!, the food blog, is an almost daily posting by a few friends (Kirk, Ed(from Yuma) and Cathy) who share their food-centric experiences with you. Today, Kirk is busy, as is Ed(from Yuma) and Cathy has a bit of time on her hands, so she's writing.
I've noticed a plethora (more than six) of businesses around the County featuring 'design your own pizza and we'll bake it for you very quickly' and have concluded that there must be an amazing ROI (return of investment) on this particular type of operation, possibly based on the business model of Little Caesars. One day, The Mister and I decided to see what this was all about and stopped at the nearest location to home. Social Life is a franchise and the only other location is inside the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.
This is the view from the parking lot- you can see El Cajon Boulevard to the left in the back of this photo.
When you walk in, you're asked if you've ever been here before and if not, a quick explanation of how it all works is given. There's the menu of suggested ingredient topping mixes and then at the far right, a 'crafted by you' option, all pies are basically the same price (unless you choose premium toppings).
You can see the dough being made and portioned (that shiny object to the right is the machine that flattens the dough to the perfect thickness)
You can see the San Felice "00" Pizza Flour bags- it's a blend of American, European and Italian wheat and I do notice an excellent flavor, chew and light crunch in the crust here.
Some of the toppings available...
You watch as your pie is assembled.
Then it's placed into the wood fired oven for about three minutes.
You can pay and have a seat. Or stare and take a photo. Not a long wait.
They use flavorful San Marzano tomatoes...
Here's a view from the cash register. Pay attention to those orange pots to the left. That's (imported from Italy) oregano to the right, in the packages.
Above, #5-Carne. San Marzano crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage and salami. ($7.50). The imported dried oregano, brushed off of branches was scattered over the pie before it went into the oven. The crust is remarkable in that it is very much in the Naples/Neopolitan style (BTDT)-it's light, crunchy and still chewy (not too thin and cracker-like)-see the overhanging shape of the slice? The meat mix combined with the crushed tomatoes is wonderful.
The Mozzarella Salad($7.50), mini mozzarella balls on top of freshly tossed greens, tomatoes, basil and oregano with olive oil and placed on top of a freshly baked olive oil and oregano topped crust. This was very refreshing and a way to get a salad with a lot of fresh lightly crisp bread.
The Gorgonzola Salad ($4) is also refreshing. Mixed greens mixed with olive oil and then with gorgonzola, dried cranberries and caramelized walnuts. Quite a large serving and very good.
In those orange glazed pots (seen in the forefront of the tenth photo) are home made Italian meatballs and marinara sauce (2 meatballs with sauce for $3.50). These are quite large and very flavorful, made with a finely ground meat mix (beef, pork and veal I think). The marinara sauce is lightly seasoned (and not the same as the crushed tomatoes on the pizza).
The #6-Pesto Pizza. Pesto (pine nut and basil) sauce topped with fresh mozzarella, spinach, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes (they were out of sun dried tomatoes on this visit). This was excellent also. It's difficult for me to say which sauce I liked better. The crust is just wonderful- thin and just on the edge of being crackery, but it's not...and it is so flavorful.
There are several televisions in the eating area and a great beer and wine selection.
The self serve area (including to go boxes) is quite organized.
You may have peeked at the menu and notice a "cannoli pizza" ($6) as a dessert. We had to. The crust was lightly baked just through, is crispy and is not browned. Topped with a sweet Ricotta blend (I think Ricotta and condensed milk) and then mini chocolate chips are added, topped with chocolate sauce, powdered sugar and those wonderful, favorite snacks of mine, maraschino cherries. It is sweet: one slice is enough. Know that it is still good later in the day and the next morning...
Social Life Neapolitan Pizza El Cajon Blvd 92115 (619) 265-2700 Website