Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gaetano's Pizza


A few years ago I started this blog as a means for my son and I to do something together as we both share a love of food and travel. He upon entering into those "teen" years quickly found other shining objects to occupy his time. I, on the other hand, Became enthralled with the entire concept of blogging and the sense of community  and camaraderie that is shared between those of us who have gone down this path of taking pictures and writing about food and travel.
I start this review in this fashion because we also started this blog with a quest. And that was to find the "best" pizza in San Diego. I know, the "best" of anything is always a heated debate and in stating anything is the 'best" is throwing open the door to the slings and arrows of those who think otherwise. And that's fine. we all have different opinions and tastes. No one is right or wrong.
So having said all of the above, I give you Gaetano's Pizza in Casa De Oro. My favorite pizza in San Diego and It would be my pick for best in San Diego as well. 
Gaetano's is an unpretentious pizza house that has been quietly serving up the best pies in town for over 20 years. Few reviews of this place are out there.
I have been to other pizza shops around town and although others make some really good pies. I don't get the concepts of some of them. And I think maybe it's time we pointed out the emperors new clothes.There is a place in the Hillcrest area that is notorious for its' "east coast" attitude similar to the "soup nazi" from Seinfeld. Even has a sign up that says "no cell phone usage while in line". and can be very short with customers as I've seen a few times when you wait in line for 20 minutes, the last thing you want is some "goomba" behind a counter rolling his eyes at you because you haven't decided want you want. Pfffft, Fagedaboutit. there is another not so far from this place in the North Park area of town that serves a deep dish pie and they have a similar attitude.
It will never make sense to me this style of business. I guess the novelty of phony "East coast" attitudes will never go out of style.
There are so many different styles of pies in town we forget that San Diego has it's own style of pie. I have had Chicago, New York and there is even a place in the Gas Lamp Area that has a Connecticut style of pie.I have eaten at Mystic Pizza in Connecticut and it's very close to a San Diego pie. There is a Place in Del Mar that serves a Boston style of pie.
Gaetano's Pizza to me is the quintessential San Diego style pie, Which is a mix between Filippi's downtown and Sanfilipo's in La Mesa.
Gaetano's pie crust is light and airy with pockets of air holes in it. And the rest  is just thick enough to hold the sauce and toppings without having to do that New York fold thing.(Although you can). It has a slight yeasty creamy feeling to it. with a nice crisp bottom and slight burned spots are a plus and not a minus.
 The sauce perfectly compliments the crust. It's thick and has a huge tomato burst of flavor with a slight red chili flake bite that just works so well. A hint of Mexican or Greek Oregano to it. It's just enough to cover the pie and doesn't run all over the place like a Chicago pie.. It is the glue that binds this thing together.
The toppings should be kept simple. I mean come on now. A pizza is a working mans food. An Italian bucket of Popeye's. Ya take it out and bring it home in a box that has a nice little Barbie patio table in the middle so the box doesn't collapse on it. You wouldn't order a Carne Asada burrito with pineapple and Canadian bacon now would ya? Ok, maybe you would. I mean someone had to come up with the vile "California Burrito".
The Peperoni is bright and spicy and the cheese is just enough of a blanket to cover the pie and not take it over. It is a perfectly balanced pie and my definition of  Pizza done in the San Diego style.
There are tons of styles of pies out there and I love all of them. But to me, Gaetano's is a simple place with a warm smile on a cold night that quietly goes about it's business of making the Best pizza in town.



Gaetano's Italian Ristorante
10025 Campo Road
Spring Valley, Ca. 91977

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pho Kim Long - Las Vegas

OK, I don't care who you are this has to be the most hysterical name for a restaurant. I love Chinatown in Las Vegas and have passed this place more than a few times and never have I driven by without rolling with laughter. Come on now. it beats any of the badly named restaurants like, Genghis Cohen on Fairfax in LA and JTYH Chinese restaurant in Rosemead or Toe Bang in Korea town LA. And then you have Chewy Balls in Houston TX or Juan More Taco in Fremont, We can go on and on. But Pho Kim Long will always be the funniest to me.Come on now just say it with me, Pho- Kim- Long. See, feel better?
Despite the growing population of Vietnamese people in Las Vegas, there are only a handful of Pho restaurants and most aren't really that good.  The majority of them are either open 24hrs are at least way into the wee hours of the morning. The residents of Vegas use these places as most people use Denny's in the early morning hours. No one ever sets out to go to Denny's you just end up there after a night of drinking Jager bombs. So that could be the reason why the Pho in Vegas isn't so hot, taste wise that is. And after drinking all night and strolling into one of these places, who can tell the difference between Pho and Plegm?
I wandered into this place around 11:30am. quickly seated and within a few minutes the place filled almost to capacity. I was the only non Asian in the place, which is a good thing, it shows the locals in the China town area approve and like it.
Very spacious and nice inside the place. definitely the best decorated Pho place in Vegas.

The menu is classic Vietnamese with a huge amount of offerings. No Banh Mi though. Just as good I thought All I really needed right now was to order a "bang me" at the Pho Kim Long and I would have shot boba balls through my nostrils and killed the nice elderly woman sitting at the next table who kept fluttering her fan and giving me the "stink eye".
But lest you misconstrue me, I was here on a Pho eating mission. A Pho eatery opened up a the Treasure island casino and man is it horrible. the Ihop of Vietnamese restaurants with overly politically correct no taste dish water at 10 bucks a pop. don't bother going here.
I started out with the obligatory Goi Cuon or Fresh Spring Rolls at $5.00 for two.

Nice and fresh and you could tell that they were made per order as the wrapper still was most from water and it wasn't overly cold as if it was sitting in a fridge somewhere. The peanut sauce lacked some flavor, a bit mild but over all pretty good.
I ordered a bowl of the  Pho Dac Biet at $6.95. There is only one sized bowl here. This is always an interesting dish to me and usually my favorite to order as it could have just about everything in it, Being the special Pho of the house. This came out looking really good with rare steak floating on top and hints of what lay beneath. But it literally had half a meatball in it and nothing else. I know it's listed in the menu as Tender beef soup. And the beef was tender and it had a nice amount of it. I guess I was expecting something else. Thats OK. The Dac Biet  is the specialty of the house and each Pho house has a different way. 

The broth was good, a bit herbal though like it had a slight tea infusion to it. It was OK and probably the best tasting Pho I have had in the Las Vegas area proper.Hints of cardamon and ginger and one bowl definitely filled me up.There lots of noodles in this soup. I do like it when you get a nice size plate of garnishments for the Pho. I find nowadays that a few Pho houses really skimp on the basil and sprouts you get.

Don't come here though expecting a nice leisurely lunch. Here it's wam bam thank you man all the way. I walked through the front door and immediately someone yelled at me "how many!" Like Frau Farbissina from Austin Powers,I was a bit taken back like buying Depends at the grocery store for your Grandma and the checker shouts out for a price check. Escorted to my table and was asked right as I sat down if I was ready to order. These folks don't mess around and are constantly flitting about and will pick your dish up without asking and take it away if they think you are done. Soup Nazi Vegas style.

And how you can tell if you have had a good bowl of Pho? It's Windsong stays on your mind, and clothes.and breath for the rest of the day. It seeps through your pores  like pouring Pho Drano down your pipe and letting it just work it's magic cleaning out your insides. In a good way. It's a nice warm comforting feeling and the gift that keeps on giving.
I will come again to Pho Kim Long. If you are in Vegas and crave some Pho. This is an OK place to come to.



Pho Kim Long

4029 Spring Mountain Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89102
(702) 220-3613

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cowboy Star

We had a chance to taste a sneak preview of offerings prior to San Diego Restaurant Week. We had a choice of a few places in which to nosh, Sbicca, Kensington Grill and a few others. But the one that stuck out in the crowd was Cowboy Star. I have wanted to go here ever since it opened and just never found the time. It was the perfect choice, and man, what the Hell was I waiting for before I came here? The entire place works on so many different levels. Not only is this place one of San Diego's finest restaurants it also has a full service butcher shop located in the front.The concept is brilliant I must say. Cowboy meets meat and brings it into high end cuisine. The waiter's wear western shirts similar to Jimme Dodd, Oh come on you remember him don't ya? OK, I'm old. The place hits you as something special as soon as you walk in. Beautiful upscale western motif, I know , I know. But trust me it works. The music that roams in the background is an exceedingly cool mix of western songs before it became Country & Western and then just Country. To opera. The look of the place is just as well thought out. high wood ceilings mixed with lots of iron. If I have any complaint it would be that it's a tad to dark. I mean the food that is served here should be illuminated a bit is just that good that you really miss that third sense of presentation. You definitely get the smell and taste. Otherwise this place looks and feels like a Tom Colicchio restaurant.

Like I said the place is pretty dark inside and I don't like to use flash as not to disturb other diners. It has a classic open kitchen where you can see all of the action. The owner John Weber is the consummate host, running from table to table bringing out dishes and greeting people. I love it when you have an owner that has a vision and a passion for what they do.
Ok, on to the food and wine. we started out with a Old vine Zinfandel from Renwood Winery in located in the picturesque California foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

It was so fat and happy, like me. Anything that says "old Vine" on the label I love and this was very good. Glenn, our waiter told us that the bartender usually picks the wine for the place and man, it is a very tight list of all domestic wines. The Western concept wouldn't work with a French Bordeaux, that would cross the line between pretension and passion. by keeping it all domestic and good values, the wine works with the theme.
The tasting menu for restaurant week is amazing. We started with a small cup of cannelloni bean soup, it was clean and fresh with a hint of truffle oil maybe? I have to say a word about the bread. I often find that San Diego lacks really good bread, But I was pleasantly surprised that the Squaw and Sour Dough rolls presented to us were first rate. Our server Glenn was Jonny on the spot. As was the busing service and who really uses a crumb comb these days? well this place does.

We started with the Cauliflower soup with poached lobster garnish. It was so light and airy. had the texture of a lightly whipped cappuccino froth. The best of the vegetable came out. There are only so many, Bams!! you can do to a dish. the end result is always, let the food speak for itself. The lobster morsel floating on top was perfect and a great topper for the dish.
Next came the American Wagyu Carpaccio. Heaven I must say. to even run a Bic lighter over this quality of beef should be a capital offense. Creamy and smooth like Sade in her prime it sang until I melted. And it's love was real.

This beef is so creamy that it will put the best Ahi you have had to shame. Next came the Entrees.
We had the petite Filet with seasonal farmers market vegetables and potatoes. The steak was cooked perfectly and had great flavor to it. it came with a peppercorn sauce and I must say that I am no fan of sauces for steaks. You should be able to taste the beef and the quality and sauces just tend to cover that up. The peppercorn sauce that came with the dish was outstanding to say the least. it was light and breezy and knew just what to do. It had the same whipped and light taste on the palette as the soup.

Next we had the Pheasant. Pheasant? Oh yeah, Pheasant, the king of game birds.And OMG!! It was amazing. I haven't had this bird in sooooo long. If you have never tried pheasant, you need to. It is slightly creamy with a sweet taste to it. this one came with poached pearl onions, braised bacon and Armagnac prunes. Ok. I know anything with bacon has to be good right? 

Didn't need the bacon. But the Armagnac prunes? oh yeah they worked so well with the dish, with the combo of of the bacon. the sweet and the savory. yup. worked.
We had the Bread pudding for dessert. If you do nothing else. you are mandated to come here for desert and to taste this incredible dish. this awful picture does not do it justice.

This is one well thought out place, from the theme to the menu. The menu also features porkbellies and sweetbreads. Are you kidding me? oh man. I am going back for more. also on the menu this night were Hudson Valley Foie Gras.I can never get enough of it. Also on the regular menu is Venison carpaccio, rabbit, Bison, lamb and main lobster. this reminds me of great little Osteria's of Europe. But we forget that to really experience great regional dishes made with high quality ingredients we really don't have to travel abroad anymore. The American palette and cuisine has finally arrived and in San Diego it is in the form of Cowboy Star.
 So the bottom line San Diego is, In the current economy we might not be able to fly over to Europe for a culinary adventure, but with places like this here in our town? you really don't need to anymore. We have come along way in this country food wise and we need to really support San Diego Restaurant  week and places like Cowboy Star.
You will find none better in Europe.



640 10th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 450-5880

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hammond Light Works

Here's a non food related post just to celebrate my new blog called Hammond Light Works. I take obscure pieces of forgotten "pop" art and fashion them into functional lighting. I know, i know, But everyone needs a hobby right?
Please take a look when you have a moment and let me know what you think.

lighting chow


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Number 1 pick for worst resturant / Dining experience of 2009 is..............Savanna Grill!

May I have the envelope please. And the winner is, Savanna Grill!! in Rancho San Diego! I know they are all excited to be picked as my worst restaurant and dining experience of 2009. I know this place works very hard at being bad. So bad that I'm going to stop writing about it and just post my original review from here.
Congratulations Savannah Grill!!

"Back away from this place like it had the plague. seated right away then waited 10 minutes for a waiter. he was more interested in trying to pick up on one of our dinner guests. Actually used the line on our friend. "you know what's on the menu?, "Love tonight" we blankly stared at each other. Huh? Was our response. The object of this tools desire was told she would understand later. Ok....great start. He immediately then went into what they didn't have or were out of. then left. we sat another 8 minutes and finally he graced us with his presence again. we ordered a bottle of wine. another 10 minutes for it to arrive. no bread. no water. nuthin. This extremely poor excuse for a restaurant was no where near crowded. I wanted so much to like this place. its very nicely decorated and laid out the menu looks to cover everything from Italian to Japanese. We finally ordered some starters. I had the rare seared Ahi, which I love. it came out on a surfboard size plate, all four 1/32 of an inch by 1 inch slices of them. completely dwarfed by the long board plate. 13 bucks. it was very nice and creamy but no way worth 13 bucks. My guests had the lettuce wraps. they were not bad and had more than enough for two people. The bread that they bring. We had to ask for some. is what you would get if you combined Paula Dean with the Pillsbury dough boy. Disgusting little clumps of half cooked non browned biscuits. Once we could catch the attention of our overly pompous server again. we ordered our main course. I ordered the Chicken Parma. once again a titanic sized plate came out with a thin and very burnt pounded deep fried chicken cutlet that had what looked like a tbsp of red sauce on it. I didn't complain I knew it would do no good here. The waiters were all gathered around the hostess desk while more than a few patrons were trying to get there attention. when his holiness our waiter came back to our table he decided he would pontificate on how stupid all Americans are. He was from Croatia. We sat aghast and listened to him spew his hatred for this country. I started to get into it with this poor excuse for a human and my friend told me not to. We had a 10 dollar coupon which we didn't use. we wanted out of there soooooooooooooo bad. We ran from this haunted house of a restaurant. I have traveled the world and have never had such a humiliated rude outing, even in Paris where I have dined more than once and where the wait staff takes pride in being rude at some places. But this Hell hole took the cake. Never under any circumstances enter this place. Better go across the street to the Press box to watch a game or for a good steak in the area go to Jamacha Grill. Or better yet, if you want some of the best Italian in San Diego go to Di leones. If this review saves just one poor soul from going to this place then I will feel happy.

Happy New Year!!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...