Friday, October 27, 2006

Happy Hour on Adams

I have just discovered the wonders on Happy Hour on Adams avenue. The Green Tomato Restaurant and Kensigton Grill, (and possibly some others) have a great happy hour schedule going on.

Mondays and Tuesday are well drinks, Wednesday's bonus is half price bottles of wine, Thursday is Margarita night and Friday is Martinis. The happy hours run from 4pm-7pm and include some low price food.

Both restaurants have great atmospheres and it is pleasure to sit in the elegant surroundings - a very nice break after a day at work. We were there for Margarita night, and opted first for the top shelf at Kensington Grill. This was a really wonderful margarita, (far better than most that I have tried in Old Town). For some tastes it may have been a little strong, but this being top shelf alcohol, it just tasted really great. We also ordered a mango and Brie quesadilla (not on the happy hour menu but it looked too good to miss). The quesadilla was excellent- although the hightlight foodwise was probably the squaw bread with accompanying red pepper dip. The bar tender was very affable and managed admirably the very full bar, having time for everyone's little wants and needs.

Green Tomato was a new restaurant to us. The dining room is very calming and the slightly darkened bar led for a lazy late night feel that was very enjoyable. There were a fair few 'regulars' at the bar- some of them on their 6th or 7th margarita by the looks of it! Still despite being newbies everyone made us feel very welcome and the margaritas were again excellent.

So a really fun night out, excellent value. I would love to come back for Martini night, and Green Tomato will certainly entice me back for dinner at some point. The namesake green tomato appertizer look particuarly appealing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Our favorite Soup

Cooked up our favorite soup last night. It's the thing my wife would always make surprise guests when they can over unexpected. There was always chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and pasta in the larder and spinach in the garden. Sauteing the onions in rosemary makes the whole house smell wonderful!

We cooked this up last night as a symbol of the cooling days. I think we are going to try and start cooking soup more often, it feels so good to be eating soup. I'm going to pick up that nice bean and grain mix from WholeFoods and get some interesting variations going.

Chickpea, Spinach and Pasta Soup

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

4 Cloves Garlic (crushed)

1 Onion (chopped)

1 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary (chopped)

2 Cans Chickpeas

2 Pints Vegetable Stock

3 oz Small Pasta Shapes

4 oz Fresh Spinach Leaves (shredded)

Salt and Pepper

Grated Nutmeg


1, Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the onion garlic and rosemary for 5 minutes.

2, Add the chickpeas and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

3, Add the pasta and return to the boil for 6-8 minutes.

4, Stir in the spinach and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes.

5, Season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Kous Kous

After parking in the free parking lot on 4th avenue (Hillcrest) we wandered up and down the street looking for Kous Kous, and initially were a little confused as it was not immediately apparent. After a more thorough search however we found it, located underground (beneath Martinis) and not clearly visible from the road.
Initially a little put off by the location we were incredibly impressed once we stepped inside the restaurant. They have really done an amazing job with what is, essentially, a basement. The ceiling pipes and cables have all been nicely painted, and have become almost invisible. A canopy structure in the corner of the restaurant adds some interest. Palms and other house plants abound the space making for a wonderfully exotic feel and the beautiful furniture table linens and dinnerware were nicely contemporary and made for a clean sophisticated feel. The sense of Morocco is impressive (without being overbearing), from the rugs and scattered pillows right down to the wonderful hostess and staff who were friendly and attentive throughout our meal.
Our server turned out, in fact, to be the brother of the proprietor. He has his own similar restaurant in New Zealand and is just here a few weeks to help his brother get off the ground. A more charismatic server would be difficult to find, and he really increased our enjoyment.
We started off the meal with a jug of Sangria- the waiter making sure to add plenty of fruit to our glasses. The Sangria was certainly one of the better mixes I have had, and it was a nice change from wine. For nibbles before the meal we were presented with a plate of marinated carrots (excellent) and olives (quite good).
Perusing the (rather short) menu I had a hard time choosing, but settled in the end for a Shrimp Kabob. My wife went for the Vegetable Tagine. One of the main reasons we had come to try out Kous Kous was the coupon we had received in Uptown magazine. This was for one entree. It was fortunate that we had the coupon as the food turned out to be really quite pricey. At $15+ per entree we really would have expected a little bit more. Don't get me wrong, the food really was excellent, flavorful, fresh and authentic. Perhaps the problem is that we often cook in a similar way at home. Cous cous is a huge staple in our larder and the Moroccan spices and flavors are very familiar.
We really enjoyed our meal at Kous kous, and I hope that the wonderful staff succeed in their venture. This certainly adds a nice alternative to the Hillcrest staples. I would very much like to go back, (particularly once the menu has been a little expanded), but will have a slightly difficult time justifying a trip at the current prices.
I wish them luck and encourage everyone to pay a visit.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The past week

It's been a fairly uniteresting week culinarily speaking. My parents were down for the weekend, which meant a roast dinner one night and a BBQ the next. We've been eating a good deal of left overs.

Went to Apertivo again on Wednesday night. the food was good, and the price even better. However there was one issues, which really did spoil our meal to an extent: the five people in our party were all crowded onto one tiny little table. The fifth person at the end had no room for his legs which was incredible uncomfortable. What was most ridiculous is that his is a place that serves tapas, i.e. many small plates. After our wine and water glasses were in place there was barely enough room for 1 plate, let alone 5 or 6. We asked for a change of table and were met with a rude frustrated response. not good service.

Tonight we are considering the new Kouskous place. Wine and tapas served until midnight. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Julian Apple Pie

Drove up to Julian yesterday for the start of Apple season.

I have to say we were really quite disappointed. First of all it was an incredibly cold and blustery day, dressed in our San Diego clothes we were not really too happy- but you can't help the weather.

Next thing, nearly all the apple orchards were not yet open to the public, the one we did find was really none too impressive. Two varieties one golden delicious was pretty good, and one Gala, which honestly was bland and watery. We had fun however, picking the most attractive apples we could find from the trees and filling up our bag right to the brim.

Then we headed off for Apple pie. This time we decided to try the Julian Bakery right in the center of town. They were offering a pumpkin and apple pie. At first I was a little wary but always one to try new things I decided to go for it, whilst the others in my party had the regular Apple Pie a la mode.

My choice was definitely worthwhile. This isn't something I would eat every day, but the flavors went surprisingly well together. The pumpkin was not overwhelming, but more of a subtle after taste. More predominate were the typical pumpkin pie spices, which are always delicious. Funnily enough in fact my pie turned out to be far more satisfactory than the regular apple, which was very heavy on the cinnamon, luke warm and had a very dry and unappealing crust.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Stuffed Tomatoes

Got some great tomatos from the farmers market today, really huge.

I'm going stuff them for appertizers tonight:

Stuffed Beef Tomatoes

4 Huge (Beef) Tomatoes

4 cloves garlic (finely diced)

1 small red onion (finely diced)

Freshly chopped mint

Freshly chopped oregano

Freshly chopped Basil

Freshly chopped chives

½ cucumber (finely diced)

1 ball mozzarella (finely diced)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp white wine

1 tbsp lemon juice


1, Cut off a lid of each of the beef tomatoes, 1 cm from the top. Hollow out the flesh from inside the tomato. Place the flesh in a bowl, setting aside the shells.

2, Roughly chop the flesh and combine with the onion, garlic, herbs, cucumber and mozzarella.

3, Add the oil, vinegar, white wine and lemon juice, and carefully mix together. Spoon the mixture back inside the tomatoes. Leave for several hours, and then serve with thick slices of bread.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Parallel 33

Well, the moment we have all been waiting for my review of Parallel 33. Unfortunately I was really quite disappointed. The food was very good, that I certainly can’t deny, but I don’t think I have encountered such bad service since the Corvette Diner!

At eight o’clock on Saturday evening we arrived at Parallel 33 ready for our reservation. Stupidly I had been under the impression that one reserves a table so that it is there for you when you arrive. This sadly was not the case, of course a few minutes wait would not have been a problem, but we were not seated at our table until 8.45, this is just bad management in my opinion. As a small restaurant with very low capacity P33 should just consider the Linkery’s option of refusing to make reservations, if this is going to be how they treat their customers that do.

During our wait we tried the Tears of the Prophet, which was good, but again I was disappointed by the bartender. One of our fellow diners asked for some recommendation as to how to drink Green Tea vodka- the answer “however you want to drink it” “however you like it”. This is not good bartending, and the man flatly refused to inspire any of our party also.

Once we had been seated at our table we then began the long long wait for food, I had lost count by this point as to how long we waited, but it was a considerable amount of time. In the mean time the request we had put in for more flatbreads had apparently been completely forgotten, and we were getting rather hungry.

The food, as I have said was good. My wife wasn’t utterly thrilled with hers, and wonders why the only vegetarian option at most restaurant always has something to do with sun dried tomatoes and feta cheese- not that she doesn’t like them, its just a little overdone. I got a steak dish, with wonderful potatoes as an accompaniment, this was really excellent, the steak cooked to perfection.

After we had finished our main course we were offered dessert menus. I should add here that earlier in the evening one of our friends had quietly asked if they did anything for Birthdays, she was told that yes a dessert plate would be arranged. We were rather surprised therefore to see the dessert menus, but assuming they had forgotten like many other things in this meal, glanced at the menu and decided to instead head to Heaven Sent desserts, making arrangements to meet a couple of friends there. Waiting another 20 minutes for our check, suddenly the dessert platter arrived- made up of a chocolate cake and a date cake that would certainly not have been any preference of ours. Still it seemed like a nice gesture, and we all tucked in- room could still be made for Heaven Sent!

The shock came with the check- not only had we been charged for the dessert plate- but it was the cost of two desserts. Now I don’t want to sound cheap, but every restaurant I have ever been to for any sort of special occasion throws in a free dessert for the honoree. I have to say we were pretty disappointed. Not that it cost loads, just the principal of after our long long wait this was.

Ah well, nice concept for a restaurant, good food and some good drinks. Maybe I had just been looking forward to it too much and building it up in my head?