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Eat (X 6)

April 24, 2010 8 comments

 

We had a big ol’ food festival for The Fun Son #1’s birthday with the The Fun Extended Family.  Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents all descended upon “America’s Finest City”, San Diego, for the celebration.  Though we all live fairly close to each other, we don’t get together as much as we would like.  When we do, food is usually central to the fellowship.  This day may have been just a tad over-the-top as we made SIX different food stops! 

STOP #1: Coffee Klatch (San Dimas).  This was where we initially met to form our convoy for the southward trek.  “The Klatch” is one of the most decorated and lauded micro-roasters in the world.  Their coffees and espressos (espressi?) are always impeccably fresh, complimented by high quality cocoa for their mochas.  Everything they offer is head and shoulders above the mass-produced mediocrity of Star-yucks (unless you’re into that acrid, burnt plastic flavor).  If you’re willing to splurge a bit, give their “World’s Best Espresso” blend a try ($16 for a 12 oz bag of beans).  This isn’t a “self-gloss” as this blend actually was named best espresso in the world at the 2007 World Barista Championship.  It is amazingly tasty and complex and even makes for an incredible cup of french pressed coffee.
Coffee Klatch on Urbanspoon 

STOP #2: Famous Dave’s BBQ (Vista).  Our family get-togethers rarely involve visits to big national chains.  BBQ is one of a handful of cuisine choices that’s unanimously enjoyed by the entire Fun Extended Family.  In spite of growing to 177 restaurants in 38 states, Famous Dave’s has found a way to keep quality, down-home BBQ coming out of their Southern Pride Smokers.  Last year, The Fun Foodie was crowned “The Best Famous Fan in America” and won free Famous Dave’s for a year.  It was nice to be able to lavish some of my winnings on the family.  Two All-American BBQ Feasts adorned our table with pork spare ribs, Texas beef brisket, Georgia chopped pork, country roast chicken, fries, slaw, beans, garlic mashed potatoes, potato salad and corn muffins.  Excellent all around! 

That's one beast of a feast!

STOP #3: Point Loma Seafoods (San Diego).  This San Diego institution is easily The Fun Foodie’s top choice for seafood in all of SoCal (read my original review here).  One of the “The Fun Bro-In-Laws” is almost as big a foodie as I am, and we have a great time experimenting.  We went halfers on a couple sandwiches: squid and clam.  I’ve only known squid to be rubbery and bland and have never really been a fan of shell-fish.  But both of these sammies were surprisingly enjoyable.  Served on sourdough with their house-made tartar sauce, both were fried perfectly crisp, but were somehow still wonderfully tender.  Very lightly seasoned because it’s all about freshness at Point Loma Seafoods.  So glad I left my seafood comfort zone for these treats! 

Squid Sandwich ... so good!

Clam Sandwich ... even gooder!

STOP #4: Coronado Cupcakery (Coronado).  I took the bait.  The Fun Wife noticed a sign for a one dollar cup of coffee, which got us into the store.  She was content to leave with her bargain coffee, but I can really be a sucker sometimes.  They had about six or so varieties of cupcakes and they looked great.  So I bought four (chocolate chip, mocha, vanilla and chocolate).  They were very good, moist and not headache-inducing sweet.  But they’re not supplanting Porto’s by any stretch of the imagination.  I wouldn’t make a special trip to Coronado Cupcakery, but will probably return when we’re in the area. 

How could I resist?

Coronad Cupcakery on Urbanspoon 

STOP #5: Tioli’s Crazee Burger (San Diego).  I saw Tioli’s on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives and was most intrigued by their “crazee” burger alternatives.  I really wanted to try alligator, kangaroo, and buffalo and talked The Fun Extended Family into experimenting with me.  We caused quite a scene as we moved around tables to accomodate all 19 of us.  Turned out they were out of alligator and kangaroo so we settled on buffalo and ostrich (which is aptly named “Big Bird Burger”).  We ordered fries for the kids (which were your standard freezer shoestrings with parmesan cheese; pretty good but they didn’t live up to all the Yelp hype) while eight adults split two burgers.  Ghetto, I know, but this was just research, not a legitimate meal.  The buffalo burger was awesome!  Juicy and beefy.  In fact, it had a more robust beefiness than beef itself.  Weird.  Speaking of weird, I won’t ever order an ostrich burger again.  It was strangely mushy (kinda like ground turkey) and pretty gamey (almost fishy).  Not pleasant.  But, hey, at least I can say I’ve had ostrich!  I’ll eventually be back for gator and kangaroo, but I’ll be sure to call first.
Tioli's Crazee Burger on Urbanspoon

STOP #6: Bronx Pizza (San Diego).  “The Fun Mother-In-Law” (oxymoron?) grew up in New York and we’ve had the chance to visit the Big Apple and fall in love with New York pizza.  The absolute best “pie” in SoCal is found here in the funky Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego.  The most distinctive characteristic of a New York pizza is its thin, floppy crust that mysteriously combines chewiness and crispness, which Bronx Pizza nails!  They use a simple, yet bright and savory marinara and a creamy and milky mozzarella (I’m guessing it’s made from whole milk).  Our favorite of their specialty pies is the Whitestone, which is mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan and garlic (no marinara).  So simple, yet so good.  Worth the wait, worth the New York attitude, and worth the fact that they only take cash.  Bronx Pizza is easily one of my top five places to eat anywhere!

Doesn't look like much, but Bronx's Whitestone is too legit to quit!

Bronx Pizza on Urbanspoon

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Baking Adventures

April 17, 2010 3 comments

The Fun Foodie can eat with the best of them, and I also happen to be a decent cook (some would even say I’m very good).  But baking has never been my specialty.  Luckily, The Fun Wife is an awesome baker so I get to be the recipient of many delectable home-baked treats.  Recently, our oldest offspring (we’ll call him The Fun Son #1) celebrated a birthday.  He’s a fan of Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch so, naturally, The Fun Wife came up with this:

It’s a chocolate cake topped with a food-dyed buttercream (both scratch-made, of course).  Okay, so the marshmallows and gummi worm were store-bought.  She’s not Martha Stewart.  Thank heavens.

When I’m not low-carbing, one of my guilty pleasures is cinnamon rolls.  As hard-core chocolate-lovers, we had to find a way to bring these two together in holy matrimony.  Recently, we experimented using Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate.  Callebaut is a high-end European chocolate that is the choice of gourmet pastry chefs world-wide.  We buy ours at Whole Foods and it is amazing!  If it’s not readily available to you, Ghirardelli is an excellent choice, especially for the price.  If you can’t find Ghirardelli where you live, move!

Anyhizzle, the experiment was a smashing success!  Seriously, if I could only find an investor, I think we could be rich.  It was as simple as adding a generous heaping of grated chocolate to a fairly standard cinnamon roll filling.  We used dark brown sugar, which has a stronger caramel-like flavor.  It’s a great compliment to the chocolate.  Topped ’em off with more grated chocolate and they looked like a million bucks!  Tasted like a billion!

Yeah, that’s how we roll.

CINNAMON ROLL DOUGH
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 ounce package active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk (105-110 degrees)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tsp salt
2 eggs

FILLING
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 1/2 TBS cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened
Grated chocolate

ICING
8 TBS butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
Grated chocolate (garnish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk.  Add sugar, butter, salt, eggs and flour and mix well.  Knead the dough into a large ball.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.  Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface.  It should roll out to about 21″ x 16″ and be about 1/4 inch thick.  Mix the filling ingredients together.  Spread softened butter over the surface of the dough and sprinkle filling mixture evenly.  Working carefully from the longer side, roll the dough down to the bottom edge.  Cut the rolled dough into 12 even pieces and place, evenly spaced, onto a lightly greased baking pan.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

The French Crepe Company

April 3, 2010 Leave a comment

The Los Angeles Farmers Market is a food lovers paradise.  You can travel the world without boarding an airplane.  The stall that will take you to Europe is The French Crepe Company.  Can’t say that I’m an expert in French food, so I can’t comment on the authenticity of their rendering of these fresh-griddled treats.  The only other crepes I’ve had were at a Japanese Sushi Buffet (go figure!).  But I am quite the expert on what tastes good to me, and the Napolean Crepe with fresh strawberries, Nutella and whipped creme was ooo-la-la good!  Though definitely big enough for two adults to share, I have trouble justifying the $8+ price tag.  We’re pretty much talking about a thin pancake batter, with just a touch of butter and easy-to-find fillings.  Granted, Nutella is fancier than Hershey’s, but its not as expensive as, say, a ganache made with Leonidas chocolate.  Once again, very good, but over-priced.

The crepe itself is soft and delicate with a bit of a chew.  With the many fillings, one could just go wild with endless combinations.  You can also go with a number of savory options, which might be a better value as I can see one of those making for a very satisfying meal.  But, more than likely, I’ll let the Japanese satisfy my French crepe cravings.

French Crepe Company on Urbanspoon