Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pancho Villa Farmer's Market - North Park

I was taken to a place. The hall of the Chili king, I stood high upon the mountain, In front of, Every kind of chili. They're was tall ones, green ones, red ones black ones, short ones...........crazy ones. Out of the middle came a lady, she whispered in my ear something crazy..she said.............."Hey! why are you taking pictures of chili's?" And that is when the music died in my head. OK. A good friend of the kitchen told me about this place and that I had to check it out. I had been having trouble finding some esoteric Mexican spices like Epazote and Hoja Santa and Guaje seeds.

Pancho Villa Farmers Market on El Cajon Blvd he told me was the place to find them. So I strolled in one day and to my amazement and unlike U2. I had found what I was looking for. All of the chili's and spices I could ever dream of. This place is large and clean and has just about everything you could want.

As I walked through the produce section. There where stacks of chili's, every kind from Habanero to Anaheim and Manzano to Pasilla. Very nice selection and all piled high and fresh.

All of the produce looked great. This is my favorite Hispanic market. Worth the drive.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Berryhill & Co - Boise ID

As I travel in my business I find it fun to explore the local food scenes of the various locales that I visit. Sometimes, when time permits, I make it a challenge to search out local haunts, dives and chic places. Looking for that great local pub with it's own brews on tap or that high end restaurant with that eccentric menu. My ideas of food and dining are as a chef / proprietor it should be your calling and duty to come up with innovative menus, I'm just not talking about Pate de Foie Gras wrapped in pastry with a mission fig brandy sauce that comes to your table on fire. Although, that really sounds good. I'm talking about the person who can put an extra oomph into that Carne Asada or that extra sporty pepper they have delivered from Chicago every week for their customers. that to me makes the place. that extra care and attention, the passion, the excitement that makes people come back. So many places out their simply plod along and maybe that's the reason sometimes I have a difficult time getting around to writing about the places I have visited. just nothing much to say about the majority of them. I envy people like Kirk from, the Steven King of eating and writing, with such a voracious appetite and the ability to kick out reviews and meanderings every single day, Like Steven King in his prime when he could churn out a 1600 page book a week. Incredible, or Like the Ernest Hemingway of food bloggers, Captain Jack from

Who can so descriptively and eloquently write about every aspect of the restaurant from the food to the service to who the heck is the chef and from whence he came from. I admire these guys.
So when I had the opportunity while on business in the Boise Idaho area to check out the local dining scene I was thrilled, I become like a kid in a candy store. So many choices. As I perused through the restaurant guide. I finally narrowed it down to three choices. One was a Basque restaurant, as the area has a rich Basque history. Leku Ona was the name. This place had an awesome menu including braised beef cheeks and a host of other delectable treats. The other one was the Barbacoa Grill, Oh wow, it looked fantastic, like a piece of artwork the dining area resembled. and the menu was put together beautifully with beef as the main event. And the third one was BerryHill & Co. I chose the last one. The Escargot on the menu sealed the deal for me, Nothing better than minced garden insects swimming in garlic, parsley and Olive Oil, then slathered on French bread,that and it was close to my hotel and had an outdoor dining area. It was such a beautiful evening in Boise that a table outside in the night air sounded like just the thing. Looking at the menu online I had already made my picks. Was in the mood for some local wine and beef, a filet or a big ol rib eye. My mouth was watering for the Black Angus filet Mignon that was on the menu. Sounded so good. all natural northwest Black Angus tenderloin grilled and served under a mission fig-fruit chutney with garlic smashed potatoes. Oy vey!, Doesn't get much better than that.
The place is located in the downtown area a few blocks from the historic State building. I pulled up and found a parking place right in front. No valet, which is just as good. I really am not a fan of valet, giving a 17 year old dressed in a cheap suit and chewing gum the keys to my car, even a rental car does not relax me at dinner. Knowing that it takes 20.5 miles for the spotted owl to mate and only a 2.5 foot back seat for teenagers to do the same does not a rest full evening make for me. If someone is going to violate my car, it will be me.

I walked up to the place around 8:15pm, Their was an acoustic combo playing outside for the evening guests. Dressed in trendy chic high collar white button down shirts and cool dinner jackets. The night air was warm and perfect as I strolled up to the outside hostess. She asked, I answered, one for dinner, I still haven't gotten used to that dining alone thing. Inside or out was the next question, Outside, the sun was still up and warming the night as the moon was getting ready for the night shift.
I should have known something was amiss right away. The place was not filled at all, maybe a 5 tables outside with guests, large seating area with at least 20 tables. Anyway, she sat me right up front next to the chic acoustic combo and it was then that I realized what the tune they where playing, It was a Muzak, elevator to Hell version of "Tequila"? and I was placed 5 feet from them facing away from the rest of the diners and forced to look into the eyes of the creepy guy with the guitar as he strummed the last riffs of this twisted version of this song, as if he was in the last throws of ecstasy with Lizzie Borden, Both doing a hatchet job. Not a comfortable scene.
Thank God the Glass of wine I ordered came first. I love the Idaho wineries, They are very much in the middle between the fruit forward approach of California and the over the top smack you in the face Australian wines. I ordered a glass of Tempranillo, a Spanish grape. This one was from the Sawtooth Winery in Nampa Idaho, Superb it was. Not usually a fan of this grape. most times too astringent and green tasting. But I was going to order a hearty steak and it would demand a Roseanne Barr powerhouse of a wine. $8.00 per glass, Not bad in a place like this.

I asked the waitress, who at first seemed very social and nice, if I could move. " No Problem" was the reply, I asked if I could move inside, As I was feeling very violated at the time, after acoustic combo guy locked eyes on me as he strummed the last chord and made his guitar make sounds it wasn't made for. I think he felt it as well. Two Heterosexual males locking eyes at the moment the song climaxed was not a good feeling.
By this time it was 8:45. The dining room was fairly deserted. I was seated off to myself now. From main event to a feeling of complete ostrication. I was OK for now. alone with my wine. I waited for the waitress to come over and take my order as I was starving now and tired of grabbing food at 7 Elevens as I go about my job duties for the day. I was ready for my first good meal of the week.I waited. Spent time texting my Sue and telling her about my day.

9:00pm, No waitress. 9:15 wine now empty, No bread, No water nothing, set adrift on my table and left for dead. trying to flag anyone down with hand gestures signifying a dining room SOS, I was going down and no one cared. 9:30, the manager comes walking towards my table, I thought OK, This is a good sign, finally noticed and by the manager. I was going to be alright, help was on the way, with an apology and an offer of a free glass of wine I would be happy and ready to order again. He stopped at the end of my dining table slash life raft, I looked up at him with eyes that said " thank you for saving me, and instead of what I was expecting him to say he said, " Kitchen closes in 5 minutes, you gonna order or what?". Crushed, embarrassed and most assuredly angered. I choked back words I would regret later. took a deep breath and said " you have got to be kidding? I got up and walked over to the hostess desk and demanded my bill for the glass of wine. After discussing my evening with the ever so smug manager, he just offered to comp my wine, wasn't really expecting anything else. I told him no thanks and I would pay for it. He offered no resistance and promptly rang me up for $9.25. I looked a the bill and told him the wine was $8.00 on the menu. He just shook his shoulders. I just rolled my eyes and paid exactly $8.00 and shrugged mine.

What a complete pretentious waste of time this place was. pseudo trendy and with a complete embarrassment of a wait staff. Never did eat, so can't say good or bad about that. But what I did discover was a very good little wine region. Try some Idaho wine next time you are in the area. a pleasant surprise. Unlike this horrendous establishment, you will not be disappointed.

I drove my rental car back to my hotel and on the way stopped for dinner at 7-Eleven as it was the only place open at this time.

No Chow,


Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Mad Greek - Baker Ca

100 Miles outside of Las Vegas and it's 116 degrees. Off in the distance is the town of Baker California. I have spent a week in Las Vegas and am tired, hot and hungry as I drive back to San Diego. This town is in the middle of nowhere and you have to drive past it. no other way around it. The first thing you see of the town as you approach it from a distance is this large outdoor thermometer, in fact it is the largest outdoor thermometer in the world. It thrusts out of the sand like a huge phallic mirage from a dream that Larry Flint would have. jutting towards the sky proclaiming itself as indeed the largest in the world. I felt a stirring of pride build within myself and at the same time a feeling of inadequacy.

The sign at the bottom of this beast states that Baker is the gateway to Death Valley. I don't know about you but I really have no interest in going to any destination that has the word " death" in its name. Ironically this monument is located right next to the Bun Boy Motel.

Wow, what a name for a place. I know that years ago I used to stop at a diner here that was named Bun Boy, But I really can't figure out why anyone would choose to stay at this aptly named place. This is a very eccentric little town, not only is there a mad Greek here but everyone else seems that way as well.

Driving through the town I spotted the Alien Fresh Jerky Stand. OK, We have Phallic monuments, a Motel named Bun Boy, oh the little bun boy is holding a rather large red arrow towards the Motel. Oh yeah and the alien jerky store. Nice. What they say about the desert heat driving people mad must definitely be true.
I drove on through to my destination, The Mad Greek at the same time keeping an eye out for creepy old guys sitting on porches and playing banjos.

And there it was, I have actually eaten here a few times before on my way through. From the outside of the place you can immediately tell that it looks like a Greek rendition of the It's a small world ride at Disneyland, only a much smaller world of course. this boat only goes through Greece. The decor actually looks like what would happen if Bobby Trendy and Liberace got together, smoked crack and then designed a restaurant. I only wish my brother George were here to see it.

This place is usually extremely busy and I mean very busy. It is the consummate tourist trap. there is nothing around you for miles. It was featured recently on the Food Network show Diners Drive-ins and Dives. I know they make they're own shawarma , I had it the last time I ate here. Nothing to write home about. This time I ordered the classic Gyros plate. $9.95 a bit steep I thought for what you get. The plate consists of a scoop of mild flavored fluffy rice, Pita bread, veggies and the must have classic condiment, Tzatziki sauce. Tzatziki sauce is usually made from yogurt, dill and cucumbers and this one at The Mad Greeks is quite good.
The bread was very fresh and moist. The Gyros meat was typical. I mean I don't think anyone really makes this stuff from scratch anymore. It would be a daunting task, especially at a busy place like this. Nice lamb taste. The tomatoes that were on the plate were actually rancid and not edible.

Had to have a cold $4.50 Budweiser to wash the taste out of my mouth. But I knew that I would have to have a Sam Adams later to wash the Bud taste away as well.

This place is actually known for its strawberry shakes. I have never had one. But I will next time I'm on my way through this dusty little town. I will have dessert here in the desert, but will try the Mexican place next door for lunch.

So with a loud shout of Opa! we bid farewell to this eccentric little town.

72112 Baker Blvd
Baker, CA 92309
Phone: (760) 733-4354

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Harbor Fish Cafe

Feels great to be writing about food again. been awhile. Over the past few months I have had more Pâté de foie gras in France that I thought possible. I knew one more bite was going to get me picketed by an animal rights group. I ate so much in fact that flocks of geese started to change the direction of their migratory flight to avoid flying over me. Even had the best lobster I have ever had anywhere in New York City. And of course took no pictures and blogged none of it. Needed to relax and enjoy the food, after all, to eat is the greatest luxury we have as humans, to enjoy with our friends and family and just relax.

And that is just what we did at one of my favorite haunts, The Harbor Fish Cafe in Carlsbad California. You can't really call this place a dive in my opinion a dive must have an air of some eccentricity to it. This place reeks of tourist trap if you just happen to stroll by. Located in the Carlsbad village area and perched on a cliff by the ocean and if you grab your food and are lucky enough to find parking in the rear of the place. You will have a spectacular view of the beach below.

I absolutely detest fried foods of any kind, But I have to say that I have a weakness for fish & chips, must be from all the times my mom dragged us to Long John Silvers every Friday night. when I was a kid. She was a devout Catholic and that meant no meat on that night. Just wish she had mastered the art of cooking fish at home. She was a wonderful cook, just not with fish.

This place has been here for almost 30 years and despite it being a tourist Mecca restaurant it still draws in the locals who know what the food is all about. The Fish & Chips are the best I have had anywhere on this planet.
Extremely large portions of fresh cod that are hand dipped in a traditional batter of rice flour, soda water and egg. This stuff is truly remarkable, light and flaky and not greasy at all. Frying foods generally takes away from the texture and taste, often times resulting in a overly heavy and soggy lump of something that was once a shrimp or a cod fish. Not at this place. you can taste the freshness of the fish and cracking one open you can see the flakiness of the cod.

The rice flour makes it. it comes through without compromising the foods natural flavor and unlike regular flour, where you have to season it and after frying with it, is too thick. Rice flour just makes a nice light coating. I use the stuff almost exclusively when I have a request for some onion rings or fried zucchini. The homemade tartar sauce is wonderful as well. Not to heavy and mayonnaise driven. a very light concoction with a perfect amount of diced pickles in it. The cocktail sauce on the other hand was a bit sweet for me. I never have really tasted a cocktail sauce that I particularly liked. Don't get the stuff really. A squeeze of fresh lemon and a heavy dash of good malt vinegar and you are in heaven with this dish. The chips are more French fries than the traditional English chips, which are thicker cuts. But these are a great alternative. Very light and crisp.

We also ordered up a plate of fried clams. Sue grew up on the East Coast and always had them back home growing up. I was really apprehensive about these as they are not only fried but are heavily coated with batter. But was very surprised with the light texture of them and the very nice and refreshing sweet briny taste of the fresh clams. Very well done with homemade coleslaw that had a light dressing on it. This place I believe has mastered the art of frying to perfection.
This is definitely on my top 10 haunts in San Diego. Not a dive, but definitely on the edge, of a cliff that is.
3179 Carlsbad Blvd Carlsbad, CA
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...