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Point Loma Seafoods

January 19, 2010 3 comments

San Diego Bay is a hub of varied activity.  From wherever you may be standing on the waterfront, you can turn one way and see the picture taking tourists enjoying the palm trees, shops, and historic ships.  Turn your head ever so slightly and there’s the locals rushing to lunch at one of a number of great eateries.  Admire the beautiful downtown skyline and multi-million dollar yachts as the thrilling scream of a fiery jet engine from a Naval Fighter roars overhead.  Yeah, it’s a festival for the senses.

Of course, whether you’re a local or a tourist, the sense of taste will be longing to be satisfied.  That’s where Pt. Loma Seafoods comes in.  Located on the beautiful north end of the harbor, this San Diego institution is a must-stop for seafood lovers.  Eating super fresh ocean fare with fishing boats literally just steps away has a mysterious way of putting the whole experience over the top.  The vibe, though busy and a bit hectic, is great, part of their schtick.

Pt. Loma Seafoods is, first, a fish market.  You’ll walk in and more than likely be a bit confused.  There’ll be a large crowd of people, with no semblance of a line.  That’s because there’s no line.  You might look for a “take a number” sign, but you won’t find that either.  Confused, lost, and maybe a bit overwhelmed, you might be tempted to just walk out.  But then you’ll get a glimpse of the cases filled with bright and gleaming fish and realize all you smell is the ocean.  No unpleasant “fishiness”, just the unmistakable aroma of fresh fish.  You’ll know that the wait will be worth it.

With no number tickets or carefully organized lines, it’s a wonder that order is kept so well.  Everyone just kinda figures out who’s next and walks up to the next available worker behind the glass cases.  One thing you’ll have to remember is that they only accept cash.  Why they don’t upgrade, I have no idea.

Location and vibe are important factors to a restaurant’s success, but the main thing is the food.  Pt. Loma Seafoods is easily the best seafood restaurant I’ve ever been to.  Freshness is the key, so most everything is prepared pretty simply.  No need to hide any off flavors here.  But a couple SoCal twists just add to the yummiliciousness.  They have a sushi chef who creates absolutely stunning rolls right out in the open.  I’ve had the Rainbow Roll and the California Roll that is made with real crab (I think most people have only had it with “Krab”).  Both are right up there with some of the best renderings of these standard sushi delicacies I’ve ever had.

They have awesome fried fish, which is lightly breaded and very tasty.  As good as it is, the fried fish pretty much becomes a vessel by which their homemade tartar sauce is shoveled into my face.  The absolute best tartar sauce on the planet.  I’m not one to just throw such lofty praise around like that willy-nilly.  It’s truly unique and tasty, and, best of all, available at a self-serve counter so that one can over-indulge on this creamy condiment.

My latest find there was their fish tacos.  In a border town that’s also nestled up against the mighty Pacific Ocean, it is just natural that you can find great fish tacos every couple blocks.  Once again, Pt. Loma Seafoods, is right up there with the best of them (certainly, better than most).  The fried cod is perfectly crisp and authentically adorned with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, shredded monterey jack cheese and a sprinkling of queso anejo.  So good!

Point Loma Seafoods on Urbanspoon

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Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce

January 12, 2010 4 comments

A BBQ sauce recipe needs an “X-Factor” of some sort to make it stand out.  I’ve heard that coffee BBQ sauce is a big thing in Texas and have seen a couple recipes that included cola in its base.  I’m sure I’m not the first person in BBQ history to try Dr. Pepper in a sauce, but I challenge you to find a tastier recipe than the one I’m posting (I’ll even challenge Bobby Flay to a Throwdown!).  I’m not a huge fan of this funky soda as a beverage, but it adds sweetness and a unique fruitiness to this sauce.  I’m sure I’ve tried more than a couple dozen sauces in search of that perfect balance of sweet, tangy, and spicy.  This really is right up there with some of the best I’ve had.

2/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup Dr. Pepper
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 TBS honey
2 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
2 TBS rice vinegar
1 TBS bacon grease
1 TBS ground New Mexico red chile (NOT chili powder; I’m sure your favorite ground chile will work)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/8 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp red chile flakes (more or less to your desired heat level)
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Sweat the garlic in the bacon grease over low heat just until it is fragrant (shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds; be careful not to scorch).  Raise heat to about medium low and stir in ground chile and cumin to allow flavors to bloom in the grease.  After about 15-20 seconds, add the remaining ingredients and let simmer for about five minutes.  As far as heat goes, I would say this sauce is medium.  If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen!  Just kidding.  Substitute the New Mexico chile for it’s milder cousin, California red chile and forget about the red chile flakes all together.

Low carbing is easy here!  Just use reduced sugar ketchup, diet Dr. Pepper, and sugar free honey syrup (you can find that at grocers like Whole Foods and Wild Oats).  If you don’t have the honey syrup, just use one packet of Splenda.

Bring it on, Bobby!

Frisella’s Roastery

January 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Frisella’s opened in my hometown of La Verne, CA in 1993.  It seems I have to drive quite a distance to eat seriously killer food and have been hoping to find something along those lines locally.  Restaurant.com offered a $25 gift certificate to the Glendora location for just two bucks (details here) so we decided to conduct our research there.

You wouldn’t know it by its name, but Frisella’s is a BBQ restaurant.  Maybe the word “Roastery” was a marketing strategy for the slightly uppity foothill communities.  Or maybe “Roastery” is a more accurate description than “BBQ”.  I’ll explain….

For starters, we ordered the mozarella sticks (which were pretty much what you can get frozen at Smart and Final) and onion strings (which were pretty good).  The marinara sauce that came with the mozarella sticks was excellent, with a bright and fresh tomato flavor and a nice hint of garlic.  I ordered the half rack of baby back ribs, and chose cole slaw and beans for the sides (pictured above).  The ribs were pretty close to perfectly tender and moist, but had barely any smoke flavor.  There was about an eighth of an inch of a smoke ring, which means it was probably smoked for less than an hour.  They use red oak, which has a more mellow flavor than other hardwoods (like hickory, which is what I prefer), so they should be smoking for much longer.  The ribs had a tasty and pleasantly crispy crust from the seasoning rub, but Texans and southerners would scoff at calling this BBQ.  Frisella’s ribs definitely suit the Californian palette that tends to be more in tune with propane grills.  The cole slaw and beans were bland, and the BBQ sauce was boring and a tad on the sweet side.  We also ordered the pulled pork sandwich that came with a side of their homemade (and very enjoyable) potato chips.  The pulled pork was nice and moist, but also lacked smoke flavor.

Though tasty, I would not return for their barbequed meats.  They certainly beat out Chili’s or Tony Roma’s, but I’m looking for a heartier smoke.  They did have a nice selection of italian dishes and the marinara was good enough to pique my interest.

Frisella's Roastery on Urbanspoon

Where Every Angeleno Should Eat

January 6, 2010 11 comments

And, really, judging by the lines, almost every Greater Los Angeles resident is already patronizing Porto’s Bakery in Glendale.  One’s first visit can be a bit overwhelming.  It’s controlled chaos in their gargantuan facility that is split into two sections: one side is the main bakery, the other is the cafe (you can order coffee and espresso drinks at the bakery, but you’ll have to pick them up at the cafe).  The bakery side lines during peak rushes will remind you of waiting to ride the Matterhorn at Disneyland, but the dozen or so workers keep things moving.  It’s the quintessential SoCal eating experience: food choices galore and a diverse clientele that will always include hispanics, filipinos and armenians coming either by bus or Benz.  The tired, huddled masses come for the fresh baked greats (trust me, they’re not just goods!) made with top-quality ingredients and presented in absolutely stunning elegance.

I originally reviewed Porto’s after discovering it in September of 2009 (read the review here).  We live about 35 miles from Glendale but managed to return four times that week.  We came to our senses and chilled out a bit, but have continued to “research” regularly (it’s one of my life missions to try every bakery item there).  This is absolutely my very favorite place to eat anywhere.  I find myself eating various items and either blurting out really feminine things like “ummy nummy” or pounding my fist on the table in regret of not finding Porto’s sooner.  Here are my latest findings:

Top: Oreo Cheesecake that is perfectly creamy; Foreground: Opera Cake, which is a divine layering of almond spongecake, chocolate ganache and mocha buttercream.

Top: Chocolate Raspberry Roll, absolutely one of the best items at Porto's, which is really saying something. Foreground: Mango Mousse, elegantly mounded over a sweet, buttery pastry crust.

Dulce de Leche Cake, layers of caramel cream, whipped cream, and puff pastry, topped with a caramel and bittersweet chocolate icing. Cuh-razy good!

And a quick look at Porto's savory side (from left to right): chorizo pie, chicken croquettes, and potato balls. Finger food that'll make you steal from your children.

The ridiculously amazing Feta Sandwich: A slice of creamy and tasty (yet, not too sharp) feta cheese, tomato, red onion, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil on an almost perfect baguette. Served with a side of plantain chips for less than four bucks!

Porto's Bakery (Glendale) on Urbanspoon

Lump Charcoal

January 4, 2010 2 comments

First, let me say that one can cook up some mighty tasty grub on a gas grill.  But it really isn’t BBQ.  Think about where you’re getting your flavor from… propane?  Yum-O!  Sure, you can season/sauce up the meat and give it a char on your outdoor broiler, but you’re missing out on the rugged beauty–not to mention flavor–of a real hardwood fire.  It is definitely more work, but let us not compromise what’s best for what’s convenient.  Hey, that’ll preach!

Now, if I can get a few converts out there (from propane to charcoal), the temptation would be to get yourself a bag of charcoal briquettes (which is better than that gaseous flame).  But you need to understand what briquettes are all about.  They’re like hot dogs.  Sure, there’s meat in those weiners, but there’s also… okay, let’s not go there today.  Briquettes are made mostly of wood.  But then you’ve got binders and fillers added to the mix.  You don’t quite get that true woodsy flavor from briquettes, but they are definitely a step in the right direction.  Which brings me to LUMP CHARCOAL, which is nothing more than wood!  You know what briquettes look like, those perfectly formed… thingies.  Here’s the real thing:

lumpcharcoal-small

 **The Fun Foodie swoons at the sight**  Not quite as easy to use as briquettes (some of the additives help with ignition and stability), but much hotter and a ton tastier.  It’ll take you some time to get used to this stuff, but, trust me, it will be worth it all.  A must for the lump charcoal user is a “chimney starter” (which I’ll tell you about in a future post).  Here are my favorite brands to use:

1.  Royal Oak (I get mine at Wal-Mart, this has the best balance of flavor, ease of lighting and price.  $5.37 for a 10 pound bag.)

2.  Barbeques Galore (Their house lump charcoal is not the cheapest stuff, but it is excellent all around.  Easy to light, great flavor.  $14.99 for 20 pounds.)

3.  Hot Wood (It’s more than just a name, this stuff gets crazy hot–plus, you get an exciting fireworks show when you light it!  It’s pure Mesquite, which is known for it’s intense heat and strong flavor.  Great for steaks because you want that high heat for searing.  I think it’s too strong for chicken or even pork.  I’ve seen this at most grocery stores.  It’s usually $5.something for, I think, a 7 pound bag.)

Brands I don’t like: Cowboy (Trader Joe’s), Lazzari (OSH), Kingsford Charwood (everywhere).  If you insist on briquettes, look for 100% hardwood briquettes.  Long lasting, but not quite as hot or flavorful as lump.

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