Monday, July 31, 2006

The Melting Pot take 2

Wow, had the most wonderful night out at the Melting Pot on Friday.
This was our second trip to the restaurant although last time we just got dessert.
The basic set up at the Melting Pot is a 4 course dinner. Each table comes with a burner or two built in, and fondues are prepared at the tables - apparently there is very little cooking apparatus in the kitchen, all just prep with a single microwave.
To start you choose a cheese fondue or too, our waiter was very helpful describing each of the cheeses in detail. When he came to the special of the day and described at as tasting a bit like a chilli dog we were a little surprised, but I guess it was a good thing as it warned us away from what would most likely have been a bad choice. So, we went with the Swiss and the Fiesta which was fired up with jalapenos and Mexican spices. The cheese fondues came with a variety of things to dip, a selection of breads, tortilla chips, granny smith apples and an assortment of vegetables. The tortilla chips went really well with the Fiesta fondue, and the apples contrasted really well. Much as I loved the Fondue we ate whilst we were in Switzerland I had also wanted that contrast, endless cheese and bread can little a little sickly after a while.
Whilst we dipped into the fondue we created a little game for those who dropped. We were together with one other couple and so decided that each time someone dropped their bread or whatnot their significant other would tell a secret, none of which are to be divulged on this blog. It was a lot of fun.
Along with the first course we ordered a couple of bottles of wine for the four of us. We started with the white, I will try to find out the name of the wine as it was complete heaven. Perfectly crisp without being sharp with lots and lots of depth.
The next course to wing our way was the salad course- the favorite here was the strawberry almond salad which had the most wonderful vinaigrette. The other salads were also pleasant enough, but the strawberry left them in the dust. All the while of course we are trying not to eat too much of anything in order to get through all four courses!
For the main course we were provided with 2 platters, one was the lobster indulgence plate which included lobster tail, shrimp, sirloin, chicken breast and ravioli. The vegetable platter was filled with artichoke hearts, eggplant, tofu, portabellas and a spinach and gorgonzola ravioli. To cook all these items we chose two different boullions, and tucked in. Everything was fantastic and then made even better by the wonderful sauces that accompanied, the green goddess was the highlight.
By this time we had moved onto the red wine, a delicious cabernet sauvignon which was almost as good as the white. It was certainly a wonderful accompaniment to the chocolate which now followed. For our choice in chocolate we asked advice from the very friendly manager who was extremely attentive at all times. I think we got a mixture of chocolate, peanut butter and caramel although perhaps it was a little more complicated than this. Everything again was just great, the little brownies we had to dip in, the juicy strawberries and the indulgent cheesecake. A great end to a meal.
I think we must have been in the Melting Pot for three and a half hours by the time our meal was over. There was never a dull moment and we emerged late that evening extremely happy, replete (of course) and all knowing each other a little better after the food dropping and secret telling antics.
A very enjoyable night- would recommend to all, just remember don't order too much food!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Baja Fresh

Went out to Baja Fresh for lunch today- first time since I have been living in San Diego. This was the location on Midway and Rosecrans. We were looking for something cheap and my friend recommended - I wasn't so sure about the idea but was actually plesantly surprised. I love the slogan about no microwaves, no can openers etc. It's a nice way for a fast food chain to be. I was also impressed how incredibly clean and sparkling everything was inside- very 'fresh' indeed.
I ordered a burrito and actually really enjoyed it- especially for the $4.95 price. The portion was just pefect for lunch (I find chipotle to be far too big), it was also presented in a very comfortable way- again Chipotle's burritos are quite the challenge to eat. Salsa bar was also a great selection.
So thumbs up to Baja Fresh, will definitely keep it in mind next time I need a quick bite

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Nothing to Eat

I just went to make my lunch and found that the fridge, although absolutely full of all sorts, contained nothing that I wanted to eat- nothing at all. Its really quite amazing a fridge can be that full and yet quite bare. We have salsa, sour cream, youghurts, pickles, olives, mayonnaise, nut butters, ketchups, relishes, chutneys, hummus the list goes on and on. But sadly not a single vegetable is left- all were used up last night in a stri fry that provided a scrambled attempt to pull something together for dinner. Stir fry was excellent actually, lots of ginger, sesame oil and a few eggs stirred in for good measure. Still I am regretting it now- looks like a slice of toast and a yoghurt is the best I will get.
Thankfully I am off to the OB Farmers market tonight and should return our kitchen to its former glory.

Monday, July 24, 2006

My horrible Forray into Betty Crocker- NEVER AGAIN

My wife had a work party a couple of days ago the main guys making up the party were a bunch of boy scouts. It was a fairly early morning work party (in an attempt to avoid the worst of the heat) and so we decided to make some sort of breakfasty type food. We had gone through "The New Best Recipe" and found the perfect recipe for Bluebery muffins. As the time approached however and we became smoothered with other concerns it occurred to us that Boy Scouts would most likely not really appreciate our perfetly made blueberry muffins, would probably appreciate very little at all. What the hell, we thought it will be quicker and cheaper to just throw together some of that Betty Croker stuff.
Well I don't really know what we were thinking but it was a huge mistake. We got right down to making the first batch, mixed it all up as we were told, preheated the oven to the perfect temperatue on the box and set them in the oven. We came back 1 minute before the minimum suggested cooking time and found them- burned to a crisp. If I was baking myself I would of course have checked far more reguarly, but I somehow figured they had this thing down to a fine art and stupidly trusted them.
Never mind, we said, we have another batch- this time we turned the oven down a bit, waited for it to cool, and took the muffins out far before instructed to on the back of the pack. They looked okay at first, but when we lifted them out most of the bottoms were singed, and even the ones that were not just didn't taste at all good.
Ah well, lesson learned, Betty Crocker really is just as bad as I thought.
In the end we threw all the muffins in the garbage and ran to the local doughnut stor before heading to the work party- of course Boy Scouts noticed no difference.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Park House Eatery

We headed out for Sunday morning breakfast today. It was very lucky for us that we made our decision to venture out before 9am, as after this time the crowds began to grow- sitting and waiting in this heat is not something I could have endured.
Looking around for somewhere new to go we came across Broken yolk- the famous PB breakfast house, but my wife having a meeting at 11am we decided that somewhere closer to home was in order. Searching a little harder we found a well reviewed, close to home restaurant in the Park House Eatery in University Heights, feeling that if the long lines were too much for us we could always fall back on Gulf Coast Grill.
It was not too warm when we arrived at the restaurant and so chose to sit outside- inside having a wait time of 30 minutes. The little front patio is a very cute place to sit, and was wonderfully peaceful until another customer arrived with her 2 dogs. This is a policy Park House might really want to reconsider, Sunday brunch is a time when one should be able to sit and relax, anticipate the relaxing day ahead and forget that Monday morning lies just around the corner. Sad little babies are one thing, but yappie dogs seem just unnecessary.
The service when we arrived was wonderful, the waiter explained the breakfast specials to us, was great with any questions, and happy to give us a few extra minutes to sort through the mountain of options that Park House had to offer. Eventually my wife settled on a spinach and artichoke scramble whilst I got the daily special of Italian sausage, asparagus, yellow tomatoes and smoked mozzarella scramble. The food took a little while to arrive, but we were happy in the sun sipping our coffee and freshly squeezed juice.
The food portions are pretty massive here, neither of us finished our plates. Everything was excellent, the house potatoes were some of the best I have had in San Diego- with the skin mixed into the hash adding wonderful texture. The house preserve was also great and the scrambles both lived up to expectation.
One slight down note was that as the morning progressed and more and more people showed up to breakfast the service went massively downhill. It was at this point that I could well understand why the Linkery had decided to stop serving breakfast. Us San Diegans love our Sunday morning treat so much that we show out in incredible numbers and it is hard for any establishment to do a good job accommodating so many people. More staff would be an answer but in a building as small as Park House, (and indeed the Linkery) t really would be too crowded with any more employees. It seems that financial success in this matter is certainly going to bring about a loss of quality- perhaps discouraging disgruntled breakfasters from dining there in the evening or at lunch.
Still, we had a wonderful breakfast and were very happy to have sneaked in before the crowds, the heat and humidity being what they currently are we certainly needed a no hassle Sunday.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Mister Tiki

Much as the Cohn restaurant group did us proud on Sunday night, we were utterly let down down at Mister Tiki last night. I had sworn to myself that I would start taking more food photos for the blog- but even after taking my camera along I have to say there was just nothing worth photographing.
I should have realized Mr. Tiki was a bad idea when I called to make reservations, after being put on hold for several minutes my call was eventually dropped. It really bothers me when I am put on hold making reservations- the whole thing should take about 30 seconds, and there should be someone there dedicated to providing this service.
So, we arrived at the restaurant, its in the heart of Gaslamp, which I am starting to think is just not a good thing (Read over priced, pretentious, too crowded) and was absolutely packed to the brim- possibly due to the comic book convention, or maybe just that is what it is always like in the summer.
We were greeted by a very odd waiter who had his little 'line' about tiki carvings, and told us that every single thing on the menu is absolutely amazing- not exactly the most helpful advice.
There being 4 of us we decided to go for the 80 oz pitcher- which the menu told us was perfect for four or more people. It sounded very exotic and so at this point we had high hopes.
After probably about 15 minutes we finally saw our waiter again who came over to tell us something about running out of pitchers, and using carafes instead and I don't know what else. A few more minutes later and he did arrive with the drink. It was 75% crushed ice- certainly far from 80 oz of liquid and tasted largely of fruity water. Not good.
At this point we also decided to order a couple of appertizers- some edamame and some goat cheese and shitake wontons. These didn't take quite as long to appear as the drinks, but none the less they were slow in appearing. I wouldn't have minded waiting if there hadn't been obnoxious repetitive music blaring in my ears, causing every person in the place to shout in order to increase the possibility that they may just be heard. This is a restaurant/lounge not a night club.
The edamame were edamame and very good, the wontons were also excellent, although the cheese spilled out very easily burning the hands of two of our party. At this point we ordered entrees, we were not exactly sure how the menu worked and our waiter had not been particuarly helpful- perhaps we should have just ordered a ton of appertizers and shared- there were certainly not many entree choices. Nonetheless being pretty unaware we went for the entree choice- I got a Szechuan Beef dish, my wife got a Lo mein dish with tofu and our friends took the pineapple glazed short ribs and a sushi platter.
At some random time after this our friends Miso soup arrived, which she had actually asked to be brought out along with the entrees, she said it was okay. A long wait later and our entrees came, well three of the entrees came, the sushi was no where to be seen. My wife took one bite, found the food the most boring bland dish she had tasted in a long while and pretty much decided just not to eat much more. My dish was okay, certainly nothing special- in fact I much preferred my 5.95 Amarin Thai lunch special than this $18 dish that lacked presentation, originality, an indeed any thing that could cause it to be valued at this price. The short ribs came with Wasabi potatoes, which were delicious, they were certainly the highlight of the evening. In all this time the sushi had still not arrived, we had all dug into our dishes imagining it to be not far behind, but sadly it was and most of us had finished before it finally made its appearance.
I could go n about this experience, but I think you get the picture, nothing very good to report, the service was just horrible, the place is clearly understaffed and if they want to serve that many tables they need to start employing some new wait staff and, it would appear, someone in the kitchen also.

Big thumbs down to Mister Tiki, save your money and go elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Red Curry with Shrimp

Not quite as exciting as Island Prime, but here is a red curry I cooked up last night. I first stirf fried the veggies with a whole load of ginger, then I added red cury paste, coconut milk, pineapple juice and lime juice. Adding in the shrimp a little later on.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Island Prime

One word for this restaurant- exquisite.
Far and away the best restaurant we have visited in San Diego. The views, tea service, the Martinis and of course most of all the food, what a perfect way to spend our first year wedding anniversary.

Before heading to Island Prime we had read a few reviews, all excellent except a very few who felt they had been treated like second class citizens, made to wait whilst VIPS were treated ahead of them. Whilst I abhor this behavior in any restaurant we already had our reservation and so hoped that by dressing up, acting the part and letting them know it was our anniversary we would be treated well. Whether that made a difference I don't know, all I do know is we were treated incredibly well (with the slight exception of the bartender who was a little on the rude and brusk side).
We had been under the impression that we would have to wait a little while for a seat with a view, but we were fortunate enough to be seated within a couple of minutes- it was not perhaps the most perfect view in the house, but it was stunning all the same, especially once the sun went down and the city was lit up in all its glory.
Our waiter, as I have said, was very courteous, and hearing my wife was vegetarian immediately bustled off to the kitchens to see what they could create for her. Her was even happy to entertain her suggestion of a permanent vegetarian option on the menu and promised to pass it right along.
We sat with our heavenly martinis for a while until our appertizers arrived. For me this was perhaps the only disappointment of the evening. I received 5 shrimp, with a very nice dipping sauce it is true, but cold shrimp have never been too much to my taste regardless of the caliber. Hoping they were at least served atop something interesting I was disappointed to find it only ice. My wife on the other hand had a sumptuous souffle of cheese, truffles served alongside figs. I tried a little and it really did melt in the mouth quite wonderful- my wife felt it the best thing she had ever tasted- until she took her first mouthful of the entree that is!
For my own entree I took the advice of our waiter- a prime filet mignon with wild mushroom butter, served with a side of goats cheese gratin. It was just perfection itself, the meat cooked exactly how I would dream, the butter with just a wonderfully slight taste of mushroom and the gratin decadence itself. My wife was equally fortunate, the kitchen having cooked up for her a wild mushroom rissoto which was soft, smooth incredibly flavorful and very attractively presented.
It being our anniversary we finished off the night with a wonderful complimentary dessert. It was a refreshing change not to have a dessert menu thrust upon you after having gorged your way through appertizer and entree, but instead to be presented with something light, fragrant and very delicious.

Island prime lived up to its stunning reputation, however the size of the check and the problem with all other restaurants comparing universally unfavorable must leave it to be only for the most special of occasions- like first year wedding anniversaries.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Home Grown

Well I know that I have posted Caprese Salads before on this blog- but here is one from our very own garden! the first of the season, and it was amazing. the tomatoes were so much better than anything we buy, really really flavorful after hours of sun. We followed all the trips and tricks we learned at tomato mania and they turned out just awesome. The basil and oregano were from our little garden also, and jst as wonderful as ever. We are especially proud of the basil which we grew from seed.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


We all felt like Mexican today, and so headed over to Old Town. Initially we checked out El Agave, which looks fab- but probably more for a special occasion than a casual Sunday Lunch. Discussing where else to go our friends remembered a little Latin American restaurant that they had been meaning to try- Berta's. We headed over there, checked out the menu- which ranges in cuisine all over South and Central American, and even into Spain.

We arrived the restaurant about 2.30pm, which I guess was a little late, but still reasonable lunching hour I thought, and were therefore a little surprised at the manner of the waiter, who seemed to feel we were disturbing him in some way. His manner was most odd, expecting us to order after glancing at the menu for 30 seconds, and just generally quite abrupt. The soft flour tortillas and salsa verde he brought out for us to nibble on were, however, delicious and so we were all quite content.

We ordered our food- I opted for the Spanish Lemon Saffron Chicken Stew which was apparently chicken cooked with pine nuts, sherry wine, saffron, lemon juice and cilantro. My wife was actually surprisingly spoiled for choice with the vegetarian items on offer- and being a little confused as to why tortilla Espanola would have feta cheese in, opted for the Venezuelan Arepas- a fried patty of Venezuelan corn flour.

The food came- not big portions, all side salads. It was nicely enough presented and on the whole pretty good, nothing too special, but good enough. It is certainly nice to try something from a different cuisine for a change. The price was reasonable for Old Town, but then Old Town is horribly over priced.

On the whole a fun afternoon out, trying something different and getting away from the crowds of summer tourists that flocked the streets.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Recipe at last!

Sorry for the delay-

Here is the recipe for the stuffed peppers

4 large red peppers (halved)
1 cup dried cous cous- steamed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion (diced)
12 button mushrooms (quatered)
1 cup pasata
2 tbsp sundried tomatoes (julienne)
8 artichoke hearts (quatered)
1 tbsp dried herbs
1 cup mozzerella cubed
handful pine nuts

1, Heat olive oil in small pan and fry onions until soft- add mushrooms and cook a further 3 minutes.

2, Steam couscous, mix with pasata, mushrooms, onions, sun dried tomatoes, arthichokes and herbs.

3, Stuff peppers with couscous, bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

4, Remove peppers from oven, top with cheese and pine nutes. Cook for a futher 15 minutes.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Coucous stuffed peppers

I think today we will go for the classic American fare of hamburgers and what not- but here is an overview of what we ate last night:

Couscous stuffed peppers and an olive and artichoke salad.

I'll try and get the recipes up later today, but thought I would at least get this posted before the July 4th fun starts.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Asian/ Tropical Evening

I marinated some Chicken Tikka for our BBQ tonight, and so had to coem up with a few accompaniments to go with it. I searched through a few books and my own imagination and this is what I came up with.

Green bean and Mango noodle salad, with a Ginger Soy Sauce Vinegrette

Pineapple and Peanut Salsa ( served in half a Watermelon)

Arugala, Watermelon and Cilantro salad (served in a Pineapple basket)

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