Kirk and Cathy are traveling, eating, doing important stuff, or maybe just resting today. So Ed (from Yuma) is posting about 3 meals (from San Diego).
I had to have some sushi. Just had to. Tina had memories of a good chirashi at Kokoro and its website said it would be open at lunchtime on Friday. And it was:
In addition to tables, Kokoro has an L shaped sushi bar that surrounds an elevated workstation and ingredient storage area, which I think helps executive chef Akio Ishito work more comfortably:
Although I don't remember it from before, the chirashi meal started off with a little lettuce and tomato salad:
The lettuces were very fresh, the tomato very ordinary, and the dressing seem to be based around rice wine vinegar, miso, and soy. Refreshing. Palate cleansing.
For soup, we were given the alternatives of miso or udon. So udon it was:
The noodles were perfectly cooked, toothsome and tender, but the soup overall was bland.
The chirashi looked beautiful:
Underneath the fish and friends, the sushi rice was faultless. The toppings presented a nice selection of sushi bar favorites, all good quality and offered good value at $19. We both liked the sizable slice of mackerel and the halibut (hirami), which was especially firm and fresh – in fact, much like the halibut crudo we would eat the next evening at the Wine Vault. We also liked the uni and shiso leaf pairing, and the surprisingly first-rate ebi, unusually meaty and flavorful. The hamachi also stood out. There were no bad tastes, though the slices of octopus and squid were exceeding thin. Overall, we enjoyed.
It had been a long time since Tina and I had been to any Korean restaurant. We weren’t looking for a smoke filled room or for cooking our own food, so we decided on Halmouny, where we’d always enjoyed our visits in the past:
We noticed they'd remodeled the interior, and we liked the changes – the place seemed cleaner, more modern, and more open:
A flagon of chilled water was brought to the table along with my beer:
A mysterious box on the table, when opened, contained stainless steel soup spoons and chopsticks – nice touch:
A funny thing happened. Tina and I started looking over the large menu, discussing things, and trying to figure out what we wanted. There were so many choices, and almost every one of them seemed inviting. Twice the friendly server came over and asked if we were ready, and we had to say no because we weren't. Then, when she came over the third time, we ordered two of the most standard dishes on the menu.
Soft tofu soup with vegetables:
And dolsit bibimbop:
I'm sure our server must have been laughing with her coworkers about the clueless gaijin taking so long to order such a simple basic meal.
But it was good. While the soup lacked a certain depth of flavor, it was certainly tasty, and the interplay between creamy tofu, spicy broth, and veggies and ‘shrooms was pleasant. The bibimbop was great comfort food. The simple meal was really what we wanted.
Though the ban chan was totally standard and uninspired, we enjoyed them. Here’s some items:
The dried radish was our favorite of those four. There was some baby bok choy and some other veggie that I can't remember, but our favorites were the regular kimchi:
and the wonderful dried tofu
For us, this dinner was, paradoxically, exotic comfort food.
For lunch on Saturday, we were looking Eastern Mediterranean, but La Miche Kabobgee is closed for lunch on Saturdays. We remembered seeing a large restaurant, Sufi, on Balboa not too far from Convoy that promised Mediterranean food. So that's where we went:
It is large, and at lunch, it serves a popular buffet:
Photographing the entire buffet was pretty much impossible as other customers were coming and going. Plus I was getting hungry, so this fuzzy shot shows just a small part of the available choices:
Tina's first plate looked like this:
She really liked the chicken and the fire roasted veggies (the big zucchini slice and the charred tomato half). She also enjoyed the garden salad with the feta dressing, and we both liked the Shirazi salad with chopped onion, cucumber, tomato, and parsley.
Here's my first plate:
For some reason, I chose three slices of sausages, which were okay, but not really unique or outstanding. The baba ghannouj was decent, and the hummus was creamy, but far from the best I've had in San Diego. The chicken wing was OK, the pickled beet excellent, and the beef kebab just okay. Tina and I both enjoyed the stewed zucchini.
At first, the breads were not ready, but soon we were able to get pita bread and Persian naan:
For me, the breads said a lot about Sufi. The pita bread was pitiful – cool, store-bought, and boring. The Persian bread, on the other hand, was warm, tasty, and probably homemade. But in some ways that is the essence of the restaurant. While it calls itself "Mediterranean," Sufi is really a Persian restaurant that serves some generic Lebanese food to broaden its customer base.
In fact, most of our favorites from the lunch were Persian, like this interesting pomegranate soup, a lentil soup with a distinct sour tang:
And the stews on my second plate:
I believe the one on the left is called fesenjoom, a chicken and pomegranate stew. On the right is ghormeh sabzi with a big chunk of tender beef covered in greens along with large dark red beans. The closest item is, I think, gheimeh, beef and yellow split peas. I have no idea about the green bean stew furthest away. In any case, these Persian stews were the most interesting items on the buffet, and I wished that I had focused on them right from the beginning.
Nonetheless, the buffet was interesting and we certainly got to eat all kinds of things we can't get out in the desert.
This little place is the "and more" in the title of the post. It's located right next to Sufi and looked promising, so Tina insisted we visit:
There was a bewildering array of Persian pastries:
So our late-night snack that evening consisted of these walnut or pistachio treats: We were expecting something like baklava, but these were different. The pastry was not fila and they were a little more savory and less sweet than baklava. Four years ago Cathy visited the same bakery and hinted that a post might be forthcoming. Hint hint.
Anyway, we enjoyed all three of these meals. None was spectacular, but each scratched an itch, and that's a good thing: too long in Yuma and I get awfully itchy.
mmm-yoso!!! is a foodblog focusing on San Diego and the world. Kirk posts most, Cathy posts often, and today Ed (from Yuma) posts this.
Every year the Yuman food truck culture spawns more spots. Here's a couple:
Angie, Tina's manager at work, was raving about a fantastic seafood molcajete at a place on Ave B, just a little south of 8th Street. So a couple of weeks later Tina and I found the place, Mariscos Güero, tucked behind another truck on the east side of B:
There are a few tables and folding chairs sheltered under canvas with windbreaks on all sides. On the truck there’s a menu with no prices (though prices are fair):
On our first visit, in the evening, there were few customers (and the nice folks at the truck said they would be closing evenings once the main season was over). At weekday lunch, the place can be quite busy:
On our first visit, Tina and I had a molcajete:
It was packed with cooked shrimp, octopus, and surimi. The seafood was mixed with large slices of red onion and cucumber pieces, all topped with generous wedges of avocado. The sauce was exceptional –flavors of seafood, lime, chili spice, and even a touch of soy sauce. Overall very good.
We also ordered a ceviche tostada:
Also very good. The sweetness of the fresh raw and cooked shrimp came through the lime. The fresh chopped onions and cucumbers and crunchy tortilla gave textural balance.
On my next visit, I ordered two fish and one shrimp taco:
Here's a close-up of a fish taco:
The tortilla, cabbage, and tomato were fresh and fine, but the crema was awfully thin and lacking in flavor. While the breading on the seafoods was not crunchy, neither the fish nor shrimp were overcooked so they tasted fresh and moist.
On my last visit, it was time for a campechana:
That's huge. And it is filled with a lot of good stuff:
When I ordered the mixed seafood cocktail, I was asked if I wanted it with "blood clam." "Sure," I answered, "con todo." I hadn't run across a campechana with blood clam (also known as concha negra, black clam) since Tio Juan’s disappeared from 8th Street. Here is one of them:
In any case, I am still alive and feeling good, so I guess I dodged another bullet (picture smiley face of your choice here). I also had the joy of consuming a really wonderful campechana. The octopus and shrimp were not overcooked. The surimi had a pleasant sweetness that I liked. But the mollusks were the stars: the abundant octopus had a perfect chewiness and octopus flavor; the clams had a different chew and were distinctly clammy; and the few fresh bay scallops were tender and lightly flavored. The cocktail juice tasted of cooking water, tomato sauce, (Clamoto?), lime juice, and a hint of soy. With a little bit of salsa it was perfect for my palate.
Taqueria San Pedro
This taco stand on 8th Street has long been a favorite of Tina and me. Though they quit serving hotdogs, their carne asada and other tacos, as well as the attractive ramada area, made it a good place for a quick dinner.
We had noticed, however, that the place seemed to be deteriorating slowly – the leather seats becoming ragged and torn. Then one evening San Pedro was not open. No sign and no sign of life. Oh well, we shrugged, that's the world of taco trucks.
A couple of months ago, we were cruising 8th Street and saw billows of fragrant looking smoke rising from the back of a lot. "Oh My God," Tina exclaimed, "it's San Pedro!" And so it was:
Pedro himself was still there being grillmaster. But the interior had been renovated – now more closed off and refurnished:
Wow. Fancy tables and chairs, a tiled floor, even a heater. The menu, still very small, is on every napkin dispenser:
After we ordered, the first thing brought over was a cup of frijoles:
Good, simple pinto beans in a light broth. Good by themselves, but made even better by adding some of the condiments:
Notice the spicy and the roasted salsa. The guacamole sauce was thinner than eight years ago, and many of the other items were nothing special. However, we really enjoyed the mild and fresh pico de gallo:
and loved the roasted jalapenos, mellowed and sweetened by the grill:
Then came volcanes:
Basically, a volcan is just a vampira except that the cheese goes atop the carne asada rather than between the meat and the desiccated corn tortilla. This was excellent, crunchy and toothsome with meaty asada.
The taco San Pedro is another Sonoran specialty, matching cheese, roasted green chile pepper, and quality asada:
This night, the cabeza was decent but nothing special:
What was our favorite? The tripa:
Tripa is difficult to get right. Sometimes too musty, often too rubbery, and usually too flavorless. This one, however, was perfect. Crunchy in places with a little char, and what was not crunchy was tender chewy. Porky good. Yum.
Kirk kindly lets Cathy and even Ed (from Yuma) blog here, so today Ed wants to share a meal with you electronically that he shared with Tina actually.
To get to The Wine Vault, we went to the last block at the northwest end of India Street (just off Washington), looked just to the right of Saffron, the Thai roast chicken place, and climbed a bunch of steps that switch back and forth up to a nearly hidden loft. Finding it was worth the trouble.
On this evening, we were seated in the restaurant’s upper level with simple decor, plain white walls and good lighting:
As soon as we were seated, a large bottle of chilled water was placed on the table:
As well as a basket of fresh sliced salt bread:
Served with creamy unsalted butter and a small salt cellar, the bread had crunchy bits of coarse salt in its crust.
The cutlery, wrapped in a cloth napkin on the table, was perfect for a five course meal:
On this evening, the first course was halibut crudo with castelvetrano olives, deep-fried garbanzos, preserved lemon, garlic confit, and paprika oil:
The halibut tasted very fresh and was firm and mild – allowing the accent flavors of the other items to shine. The firm almost crunchy olives were a different and interesting companion to the fish. A good starter.
It was accompanied by a glass of Gerard Bertrand sparkling wine from Limoux, which is close to Carcassonne in the South of France. The wine, called Thomas Jefferson because Limoux sparklers were a special favorite of his, was dry, bubbly, and pale salmon color:
The next dish was amazingly good. It was centered on marscarpone topped creamy polenta with fresh spring peas, pea shoots, and fried shallot rings:
But there was more – wild mushroom strips and green garlic tops and bulb slices:
Amazingly complex and subtle layers of flavor and texture. Not like anything I can remember having before.
The wine pour was a Chiarlo Barbaresco, a northern Italian wine made from the same nebbiolo grape as Barolo:
Not a powerful wine like Barolo, but very smooth, so it went well with the flavors of the polenta.
The next course centered on Lebanese style chicken meatballs drizzled with piri piri sauce, accompanied by a mixed vegetable bulgur pilaf and a smear of smoked eggplant:
Here's a close-up:
The chicken balls were firm and meaty but certainly not rubbery. The Mediterranean spicing seemed fine and the bulgur pilaf was a nice touch.
Sometimes chicken is difficult to pair with wine because a lot of reds are too tannic and powerful and overwhelm the chicken and some whites come across as sharp and sour. So the chicken course was matched perfectly by the Stolpman Combe Trousseau:
This extremely rare red wine varietal results in a dry wine that looks almost like a rosé or like the rhubarb wine your cousin makes, but it has a distinct cherry/fruity flavor with some depth, a silky finish and virtually no tannins. Who knew?
Arriving next were four thick slices of sous-vide hanger steak, poached in butter and flavored with chimichurri sauce. Two slices angled toward me, two slices angled away. They topped baby purple potatoes and halves of fire roasted yellow and red tomatoes:
I liked the presentation; I could see both meat and vegetables. And that hanger steak was cooked perfect – tender, buttery, and meaty:
The wine, a malbec/syrah blend by Tikal in Argentina, was full flavored and great with the steak:
Before our dessert course showed up, we were given a mojito cocktail with its sweet/tart flavors of white rum, lime juice and mint:
Followed by a deconstructed key lime tart:
I liked it a lot. The thick and crunchy graham cracker crust was the central focus, and who doesn't like graham cracker crust? The sweet/tart lime pudding matched the flavor range of the mojito and contrasted with the texture and tastes of the crust.
It had been a couple of years since we'd been at The Wine Vault, (and my 2010 post about our first visit is here), so we were delighted to find that the restaurant had not grown stale. Our palates were challenged and pleased. At $36 for the food and $20 for the beverages, our credit card was pleased, but not challenged.
Tina and Ed (from Yuma) just spent a weekend in wonderful San Diego. We came, we saw, and we ate. Thus, this post at mmm-yoso!!! Tomorrow, Kirk or Cathy will be blogging this blog. Stay Tuned.
Sunday morning Tina and I got together for dim sum with her college friend, CF, who moved to San Diego a few years ago. Dim sum – where in San Diego? Kirk doesn't seem to eat dim sum here anymore, so this blog wasn't much help, but I did see that Emerald had been remodeled and had switched over to menu ordering. Thus, this picture to start the post:
The interior has been extensively remodeled:
When we sat down, we were given a picture menu of the items available, and a long two-sided checklist. I felt like we were voting, not choosing brunch. After the order had been processed, the ballot with a printed list attached was returned to the table:
The system seemed to work well and the dishes arrived one or two at a time, not all at once. When we decided we were still hungry we were able to add more.
The dried shrimp rice rolls were my least favorite item:
There was very little dried shrimp flavor and the noodles, which should be the focal point, were overcooked and too soft. The Chinese broccoli was a nice touch.
We all enjoyed the steamed pork ribs with black beans, but they were generic with nothing about them special:
The barbecued pork tarts were new to me. Slightly bland so hot mustard really perked them up. Their pastry exterior had a pleasant soft crunch though I would've liked more filling:
The seafood dumplings were good with a large shrimp inside. The wrappers were thin and perfectly prepared:
Baked barbecue pork buns are an old favorite of mine, slightly sweet and done well here I thought. More bbq pork than in the tarts:
And we all loved the squid in five spices:
This has been one of my favorites at Emerald for many years. Smaller portion now, but classier presentation. The tentacles are pleasantly crunchy/chewy and a little salty. Now served with two sauces –spicy ketchup and hoisin:
We decided that the little sea-critters tasted best with a touch of each sauce together, kind of a yin yang thing.
Truly amazing to us were the pan fried leek buns:
Fresh vegetable flavors intense inside a nice thin wrapper:
The last item we ordered was another favorite, steamed bean curd roll with meat:
These wrinkly rolls proved that looks can be deceiving. Ugly outside, beautifully meaty within. A good conclusion to the meal.
As Kirk will attest, I'm nowhere near knowledgeable about dim sum (and Chinese food in general). But for my palate this was pretty solid. Certainly better than a lot of dim sum I have eaten over the years. The ordering system works well. When I needed to get someone's attention, I could get it.
While I do miss the Cantonese chaos of carts and cart ladies, I prefer a menu card system. Sometimes back in the day, we'd never see the squid. Sometimes the cart ladies didn't show me the interesting stuff, “you no like.” And sometimes the carts would arrive in the middle of conversations that got lost while we chose shu mai or har gow or turnip cake. Also the menu helps things show up fresh - sometimes even too hot to handle.
Online, some people object to being charged for tea and some thought the prices at the remodeled Emerald too high. You can judge for yourself:
While your results may differ, we left Emerald feeling happy and well fed.
Kirk and Cathy are really busy today, so another post by Ed (from Yuma).
When the long defunct Indian restaurant on 4th Ave. was transformed into a taco shop, the change was instantly apparent:
So of course I had to drop in and see what was going on. On my first visit, if memory serves, they were serving only quesadillas, or pastor, asada, or cabeza tacos, so I ordered three tacos. I was pleasantly surprised when a wheel of condiments showed up on my table:
The guacamole sauce was pretty standard, as was the salsa, cabbage, onion/cilantro, and lime wedges. I enjoyed the thick slices of cucumber which I dipped in the guacamole sauce and topped with a little salsa. My taco shop appetizer.
Looking around, I could tell that the new owners had painted the inside as well as the outside, cleaned the place up, and put in new furniture:
The tacos were decent, if nothing really special:
All the meats, even the very red pastor, were lightly seasoned – the basic flavors coming through.
On my next few visits, it was clear that the restaurant was thriving with customers in the front, back, and side room:
No longer was the young son of the family wandering around amazed at the restaurant and the customers. Many more choices were written on a whiteboard:
Covered with fresh chopped lettuce and tomato and sprinkled with crumbly cotija cheese, a beef and frijoles sope was tasty as well:
The beefy rolled tacos (topped with cabbage) had plenty of crunch:
And I could wash everything down with real Mexican Coca-Cola:
Since this is an independent family restaurant, there is some variation from visit to visit. For example, most of the time the chicken taco looks like this:
But one day, the chicken had lingered longer on the grill and had a more interesting crispy texture:
On that same visit, the cabeza was really outstanding, muy rico:
And of course, all of these things came with that same condiment wheel.
And Tacos El Zamy continues to get better. The whiteboard has been replaced by this electronic menu:
And the wheel of condiments comes with an extra spicy salsa on the side:
One thing that hasn't changed is the friendly and personal service. I have always been well treated. For example, when I recently ordered three tacos, my friendly server reminded me that at El Zamy 4 tacos are only $5. I couldn't resist what was basically a $.50 taco, so this platter soon showed up at my table:
The cabeza, chicken, and pastor were pretty much the same as before, but the birria (de res) was wonderful – rich and savory.
I couldn't quit thinking about that birria, so on my most recent visit I ordered the birria plate (after all, this post wouldn't be complete without trying one of the plates, right?):
The wheel of condiments and the warm corn tortillas on the side were fine. And even though the rice was subpar and the beans a bit runny, the birria was really great. I left happy and satisfied.
In many ways, El Zamy is like a taco truck in a building, featuring many of the basic taco truck favorites done well. Unlike a taco truck, the restaurant offers protection from wind and weather. The ambience – such as it is – makes this the kind of place where a Yuman could give Cousin Fred and his wife Nancy from Nebraska a good quality authentic Yuma taco experience without subjecting them to plastic chairs, a dirt parking lot, and inclement weather. And the food is good and prepared with love.
Tacos El Zamy, 2071 S. 4th Ave, (928) 366-3269 or (928) 817-2461
Kirk and Cathy are busy doing important things today. So Ed (from Yuma) is filling in with a post about a new place in Yuma.
Longtime Yumans still identify the space at 2855 S 4th Ave as the location of Hensley's Steakhouse (a.k.a. Hensley's Beef, Beans and Beer). They assure me that the Hensley family owned and operated that successful restaurant for 20 years.
But for the entire time that I have lived in Yuma, this spot's been cursed. It has hosted Mi Playita, TJ’s Marisquero, Viejo Loco, Small Fries, Rusty Spoon, Spanky's Chophouse, The Farmhouse, and probably some others I can't remember. Now it has been reborn as Crouse’s Flat Top Grill:
Inside, the decor is clean and minimalist. There are tables of various sizes and not a lot of decoration on the walls:
There is also a small bar area:
The minimalist ambience with hard flat surfaces means that it gets loud when the tables are full. And because of the food, these days it has been getting loud alot.
For example, just look at this pulled pork dinner:
The bread grilled up crunchy, the beans decent, the battered fries nicely crisp, and the pile of pulled pork magnificent:
The meat tasted every bit as good as it looks in that picture– charred, smoky, rich, with a nice meaty chew.
In fact, it was a pulled pork sandwich on my first visit to Flat Top Grill that convinced me that the kitchen could put out stuff that was seriously wow:
There's a whole lot of good on that plate. The pulled pork, of course, was amazing. The tangy sweet barbecue sauce staying in the background where it belonged. The fresh coleslaw added crunch. The whole thing was so big, that I turned it into two open faced sandwiches just to get it into my mouth, and I still ended up taking leftovers home (our dog was delighted).
Even the mac salad – the sandwiches come with your choice of side – was outstanding. Abundant diced sweet/sour pickles, shredded cabbage, and small cubes of cheese gave the salad a complexity of textures and tastes. Very enjoyable.
Speaking of sides, for two dollars extra you can get maybe the best onion rings in town:
These homemade rings are the standard by which all other onion rings should be judged. The breading was outstanding – the exterior had a crispness that gave way to a firm chew. Inside, the onion slices themselves were sweet and flavorful. The only shortcoming, a lack of equally incredible dipping sauce.
The cheeseburger with extra crispy fries was another tasty lunch:
This day, the battered french fries had an nicely seasoned crackly crisp exterior wrapped around a pillow soft interior. The half pound burger was obviously hand formed and coarsely ground on the premises – great texture. The pickles were sweet/sour, slightly spicy, and nicely crunchy. A good burger that would have been great if it had not been slightly overcooked, so there was no moist pink center to the patty.
The chicken Club was another good sandwich:
The chicken was nicely grilled and seasoned, the bacon chewy and flavorful. If only the avocado slices had been riper and creamier the sandwich would have approached perfection.
Speaking of perfection, it's hard to imagine a better red chile cheeseburger than this open faced example:
The picture does not do justice. In my years, I have eaten dozens of versions of this truck stop/diner standard. Back in the day, my parents’ eatery served a good version, topped with my dad’s recipe chili. The Crouse’s is in a different league entirely. Even with beans, the red chile is deeply flavored and rich. Everything oh my god good.
One more example of the really tasty food at Flat Top Grill, the tri-tip sandwich:
The potato salad is fine if not spectacular and the split ciabatta roll was pretty ordinary. On the other hand, the tri-tip, grilled over oak, Santa Maria style, was rich, tender, and smoky. And look at all that meat. Three slices were plenty for the sandwich, so I took two of them home (happy dog again). Also notice that there is no mayo, mustard, ketchup, cheese, or sauce on the bread. The tri-tip is rich and fatty enough that the sandwich – just roll, lettuce leaf, and meat – needed nothing else. Wow again! – or as the dog would say, Bow Wow!
With the opening of Flat Top Grill, I think the Crouse family has finally killed the curse.
While Kirk is overseas and Cathy is overworked, Ed (from Yuma) has worked up a post about a place he and Tina enjoyed last June.
On our vacation, we did a lot of lazing about and some good eating. After having modern Japanese food and our splurge meal at Twist, we were in the mood for something more basic, like Chinese, so we took a chance on Bund Shanghai, which seemed like the best bet off the strip.
It occupies a sizable space on South Decatur not far from W. Spring Mountain Rd.:
The dining area with its high ceiling is spacious and attractive:
We shuffled through the large menu, and with some input from our friendly and helpful server, decided on a handful of dishes
The first dish to turn up was an old favorite, called here drunken chicken in clay pot:
The cool tender chicken soaked in strong flavored wine. Nothing subtle, but for my tastes, just right.
The pan fried pork buns, with their pale tops and tan toasted bottoms, looked amazing:
The contrasting textures were a nice touch though the skins seemed a little thick (but that may be necessary for the pan frying). The porky interior was juicy and mildly flavored:
We had no idea what vegetables to pick, so we rolled the dice and went with “asparagus fungus and fresh yam”:
Luckily, the asparagus and fungus were two separate items, but the yam was a white vegetable (mountain yam?) definitely not like sweet potato. The ingredients looked pretty and presented a nice range of textures. The sauce/seasoning was minimal, so the dish was all about the veggies.
For seafood, we opted for Shanghai style carp fishtail braised in soy sauce:
It certainly tasted better than it looked, and that fishtail was huge. On the other hand, it was monochromatic in looks and flavor. Probably better with more folks at the table since the simplicity of the mild fish and the soy-based sauce got boring after a while.
Tina and I wanted to try just one more thing, so we asked the server what she would recommend. "Pork ribs in sweet and sour sauce." Since we asked her, I sort of felt like we had to order it – even though I haven't ordered anything like that in eons, ever since my tastes expanded beyond combination plates with fried shrimp, chop suey, and sweet-and-sour pork.
So we were surprised when these dark pork rib chunks showed up, sprinkled with a few sesame seeds:
This was not your mama’s sweet and sour. No, these were more akin to pork crack. Addictive meat candy. The exterior had serious crunch. Inside, rich sweet, tangy, savory, piggy flavors. I felt like we'd hit the jackpot – and in Vegas that's a good thing.
While Kirk is out of the country adventuring and eating and taking photos that he will share with us later, Cathy is doing most of the posting here at mmm-yoso. Some days Ed (from Yuma) helps out, and today is one of those days.
I really don't eat a lot of breakfasts, and when I do, it is often instant oatmeal or toast or a burrito from Jector's. But on weekends, Tina and I like to go out sometimes for a morning meal. The problem is that a crowd of people breakfast out on weekends, particularly during our tourist season, and a lot of restaurants stop serving breakfast after 11 am. So when we heard that a talented young chef had taken over the Patio Restaurant at the Desert Hills Golf Course and was serving breakfasts beginning 6 am every day and continuing on Sundays until 3 pm, we just had to try it.
The restaurant is located in the clubhouse building,
and you enter through the main door,
walk back toward the well-equipped bar, and then wait to be seated:
Of course, there is seating indoors and at the bar,
but weather permitting, Tina and I enjoy outside on the patio itself with its views of the golf course:
The menu is one page, but Tina and I had no trouble finding several things we wanted to try. I opted for the Eggs Benedict:
The hollandaise was smooth and subtle and the eggs perfectly poached, so the yolks and sauce mingled together and flavored everything. On the other hand, the tomato slice, while lightening things up a bit, seemed to soggy up the muffin halves, and I wouldn't have minded a little larger round of ham.
No complaints at all about the home fries. They were lightly dusted with seasoning and had been crisped up on the grill. Overall, this was an interesting and tasty breakfast.
Tina chose the mushroom and spinach omelet:
A real winner. Alongside those same good potatoes, lay perhaps the best spinach and mushroom omelet I've ever tasted. Fully flavored and packed with spinach and mushrooms:
My only complaint was Smucker's fruit flavored high fructose corn syrup spreads masquerading as jam or jelly:
Our meals, including coffee, came out to just over $21 (before tax). Good value we thought and some excellent preparations.
Since then, we have been back a couple more times and always enjoyed our food. I'll admit that the stack of blueberry pancakes looks pretty mundane:
but they were made with a flavorful batter, griddled to a slight crisp, and packed with oversized blueberries:
The enchiladas and eggs, one of the house specialties, looked like this:
The scrambled eggs on top were nothing special, so we would probably order them over easy or poached next time, but everything else here was outstanding. The house made sauce – dark, rich, and mellow – flavored everything. The corn tortillas (also house made?) were thick with substantial mouthfeel and intense tortilla flavor. Usually the tortillas fly under my palate’s radar when I order enchiladas, but these yelled out, "pay attention to us." And there was, to my taste, just the right amount of quality cheese, not gloopy gobs of gluey blandness. This dish worked on so many levels, the ingredients complementing and enhancing each other.
Equally outstanding was the chicken fried steak and eggs:
While the potatoes were not quite as good as before, the chicken fried steak was beyond exceptional in flavor and crunch, and good creamy gravy only made the steak better. I did a little yoso-delicioso dance in my chair.
Of course, with food this good (and inexpensive) for breakfast, Tina and I and friends have been back for several other meals, but descriptions and pictures will have to wait for a different post.
While the service and ambience at The Patio are good, one extra thing makes the place special and that is chef Alex Trujillo:
Several times we've seen him go table to table asking if everything was okay and making sure that we all enjoyed our meals. Nice to see a chef talented both in the kitchen and the dining area.
We flew in on a Saturday and just wanted a simple inexpensive meal. The cool weather and light rain made soup inviting. So after taking the wrong freeway exit and driving around a bit, we arrived at Pho Oregon:
In a previous life, it had probably been a large Chinese restaurant and still had a lot of space and tables:
Tina suggested that we start with Tau hu ky:
It was really good. Crunchy fried tofu skin, mild dipping sauce, and seafoody interior:
And we both liked our soups. I had Pho Dac Biet:
The broth was mildly beefy, slightly sweet, and pleasant. But not great. The noodles, however, were plentiful and not all clumped up, and the meats were quite good:
The rare steak was flavorful, the fatty brisket and flank fall apart tender and rich, the soft chewy tendon abundant, and the meatballs nicely seasoned and not rubbery. Just a tiny amount of tripe, but I couldn't complain.
Tina is fond of Hu Tieu Dac Biet, here served with a pleasant light and porky broth and plenty of perfect noodles:
While the shrimp were slightly overcooked, the fish balls were very tasty. I don't recall the pork liver (Tina wolfed it down), but the sliced pork was chewy and dry.
What made both of the soups even better were the abundant herbs and vegetables: Look at all of the sawtooth and cilantro. Jalapeño and basil hiding somewhere on the plate but not in the picture.
So a week later, on another rainy evening, we returned. First, Banh Xeo – which certainly looked good flanked by all those herbs:
Opened up, however, not as impressive:
Yeh, plenty of bean sprouts, but few shrimp and they were sliced in half lengthwise. The two half slices of pork chewy and flavorless. Not great.
Tina decided to play safe and have the Pho Dac Biet. It was as good as previously. I decided to test the kitchen by ordering Bun Mam:
The bowl looked pretty good, but it lacked the strong pungent fragrance of good Bun Mam. I could imagine Kirk taking one whiff, looking sad, and shaking his head. The broth tasted mostly of fish sauce, somewhat thin and slightly acrid, and there was no shrimp paste among the condiments to funkify it.
On the positive side, look at the abundant rau thom; that's a huge portion of herbs and vegetables, all fresh and tasty:
And the soup was packed with good noodles, vegetables, and proteins. Everything, except for the pork, was really first rate. The shrimp were not overcooked, the catfish had no hint of muddiness and tasted especially fresh, and the eggplant couldn't have been better. All stirred together, the Bun Mam looked like this:
Many years ago, a freeway ran along the western bank of the Willamette River in Portland. Unbelievably, they tore down that freeway and replaced it with a long green park that stretches for over a mile, separating and uniting downtown Portland and the river:
Called the Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park to honor the visionary environmentalist who helped convert the Willamette from polluted sewer into the beautiful river that it is today (picture looking upstream from Willamette Falls):
McCall Park is a great place for sitting on benches, walking around,
or racing Segways:
Speaking of segues, at the north end of the park, adjacent to the Burnside Bridge,
on Saturdays (and Sundays too) for most of the year, you can find the Saturday Market:
and all sorts of handcrafts and art. For some reason or another I didn't photograph any of the beautiful and interesting artworks, but I did take some pictures of a few locally made T-shirts. Some of the shirts have typical funny slogans,
others are unique to Portland,
and some are perfect for a foodblog:
All this looking around and walking made us hungry, so we went to the food court area:
Numerous choices of all kinds of cuisines, but the Beirut Catering booth seemed to be doing a good business, and Tina and I were in the mood:
I ordered a shawarma and Tina the falafel sandwich. The pita bread for each of the sandwiches was warmed separately on a flat top:
The shawarma showed up first:
It was really good. The lamb had some gamy flavor, a bit of char, and just enough tenderness.
As we were tasting it, the man (it was a one-man show) scooped out two greenish balls of chickpea mush, and dropped them into bubbling hot oil:
When the falafel sandwich showed up, it looked magnificent:
And it tasted great. The exterior was dark and crunchy, the interior nicely balanced between smooth and coarse. The pita, falafel, tahini, tabouli, and veggies made memorable food music together. Outstanding!
We found a table nearby, sat down, had some conversations with other folks (people still talk to strangers in Portland), and watched the procession of beautiful well-trained dogs that strolled through and alongside the market. It was like a dog show. Of course, Tina and I forgot to take any pictures of the dogs. So, to make up for that, here is a picture of a local out walking his goat:
My first experience of Ethiopian food took place well over 30 years ago in Portland at Jarra’s, which I believe was the first Ethiopian restaurant in the area. All I remember was a warm and gracious owner/manager/waiter who served us a fall apart tender and fiery hot lamb shank. OMG good.
Anyway, Tina and I were in the mood for Ethiopian, and our friend Joanie told us that her family has been enjoying the Queen of Sheba for years. As you can see, the restaurant is in the fuzzy part of Portland:
The menu offered a page of vegetarian choices,
and a page of meat options:
I really wish that we had been able to visit this restaurant several times and try some entrées that I don't recall seeing in San Diego Ethiopian restaurants, like fish stew, chickpea cracker stew, lentils and okra, etc.
Especially interesting to us were the numerous mushroom options, so we ordered chicken and mushrooms in the milder alicha sauce and a combination of vegetarian sides.
As expected, the meal arrived covering a large thin injera pancake, which had a pleasant touch of sour tang.
We loved the chicken and mushrooms; a nice balance of textures, and the sauce was complex and interesting, giving the mushrooms, which soaked it up, an extra boost of flavor:
The yellow split peas were earthy and creamy:
The mustard greens, perfectly stewed, had a slight vegetal bitterness:
The golden brown shiro was a little soupy, but otherwise smooth and tasty.
The rather ordinary looking combination vegetables were well seasoned and presented a combination of textures and colors:
And the ordinary lettuce salad was fresh and lightly dressed
We left the Queen of Sheba full and happy, wishing we could return.
So I guess that's just one more reason why Tina and I have to get back to Oregon again (and again?).
Tomorrow this food blog will have an outstanding post by Kirk or Cathy. But they are taking today off so Ed (from Yuma) – who has lots of days off – can write about a little grocery.
About 10 years ago, Kirk came over to Yuma and spent a couple days looking around and taco trucking. While in town, I showed him The Oriental Gift Shop that sells a wide variety of Asian trinkets and wigs and has a cooler and freezer in the back with kimchi and other mostly Korean specialties. A few shelves in that part of the shop offer rices, sauces, spices, and marinades. Kirk called it the 49.5 market, but as far as foodstuffs, it is a 9.9 ranch market at best (still my go to place for kimchi, however).
So I am delighted that Asian Store (not to be confused with Asian Star) now exists in town. From the back of the parking lot at Eddie's Grill, you can get an idea of its general location:
If you look along this strip mall that parallels Catalina Dr, past the location that was once a Staples, past the Dollar Tree, and beyond the Salvation Army thrift store, you will eventually find Asian Store right next to a Little Caesars:
The nondescript market has four aisles. The one on the far right has the carbohydrates. A large supply of various Asian rices:
Look for dried seaweed above the sushi rice:
Across from the rices are the noodles:
Along with such specialties as bean thread vermicelli, an amazing array of Cantonese style noodles:
And I have fallen in love with Thai rice sticks, which add a whole new dimension to my gringo stirfries:
The next aisle contains a miscellaneous assortment:
An area of canned goods including bamboo shoots:
and large jars of sour bamboo shoots:
You can also find sauce packets and spice mixes: soup bases and spices:
Thai curry pastes:
and Hawaiian spicy chicken seasoning:
The other side of the aisle displays many different teas – Japanese:
or Jasmine if you prefer:
That side also has dried beans and Panko:
The next aisle displays bottled and jarred condiments and sauces on one side and a huge variety of snacks on the other:
You can buy a bag of fried pork skins:
or roasted green peas:
Across the aisle, Kirk could find his Aloha soy or teriyaki sauce:
or pungent shrimp sauce:
Of course there's Sriracha:
an entire area of various vinegars:
and such specialties as Pad Thai Sauce (which is pretty good):
At the backend of that aisle you can find some fresh produce that doesn't need refrigeration, like kabocha squash, lemons, and these shallots (only $1.19 a bag):
Which leads me to my favorite part of the store, the refrigerated produce area at the back of the westernmost aisle. Shelves full of choys:
Or long beans, bitter melon, eggplants:
including my favorite king oyster mushrooms:
Fresh papaya strips, ready to be turned into a salad:
And if you want that salad spicy, plenty of Thai chilies:
And don't forget the time-saving peeled fresh garlic cloves:
Between the fresh foods and the front of the market are shelves filled with frozen goods:
I spend less time in this area, but you can find a wide range of frozen product. Like mochi sherbet or ice cream:
or even pork paste or fish paste (?):
Though I am puzzled or confused by some of the items for sale, you can understand why I am delighted to shop in a market like Asian Store. Their prices are very competitive and sometimes better than Fry’s or Albertsons. The produce is fresh, seasonal, and various. In so many ways, this little grocery makes me a better and more adventurous cook. And that makes both Tina and me happy.