Monday, October 29, 2007

Anita's New Mexico Style Mexican Food

Located a few blocks south of Downton Fullerton sits Anita’s New Mexico Style Mexican Food. Situated in a converted house, it has both a walk up counter and a sit down area complete with waiter service.

I have never been to New Mexico so I cannot vouch for the authenticity of it being cuisine that can be found in New Mexico. Most of the dishes are what you find at most Mexican restaurants with the addition of some that are probably native to New Mexico.

Starting with the standard chips and salsa is a nice way to begin any meal. The tortilla chips are nice and light, while the salsa has a little bit of a kick to it.

The Carne Adovada are large chunks of slow braised pork topped with a red chile sauce, a very light sprinkling of cheese and green onions. They are accompanied by rice and beans. The pork is fork tender, moist and juicy while the red chile sauce adds a nice amount of heat. The beans and rice are your standard fare, although the rice was particularly salty.

The Stuffy Dinner comes with slow cooked pork stuffed into a large sopapilla, topped with green chiles, cheese and green onions. The sopapilla is a form of Indian fry bread. These are pillowy soft and, on their own, taste like a donut aching for some sugar. Although the pork is very tender, it was a little dry. The Stuffy Dinner come with two sopapillas on the side. The sopapilla are served with honey, if you choose to top them with it turning it into a simple dessert.

For a little change of pace compared to your standard Mexican restaurant, Anita’s is not a bad option, but certainly not worth a special trip.

Anita’s New Mexico Style Mexican Food
600 S. Harbor Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92832
(714) 525-0977

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Blue Coral - Newport Beach/Gelato Paradiso - Corona del Mar

Well, it's blue....


Since the opening of Paul Fleming's newest OC concept, we've been back about once a quarter to pay our respects. For us, that's a compliment. Repeat performanes are few and far between, since we are always looking for the next culinary adventure (that was not a reference to David Wilhelm). From the P.F. in P.F Chang's to the Fleming in Fleming's, his chains appear to have a steady following. Our favorite dining companion, Joshua, was back in school, and we wanted to provide a friendly reminder of life outside of budget restraints. This is our story.

Friday night, 6:30. We pull up to Fashion Island and as usual, the parking gods were looking down on Jack as a space became free. Take that, three cars behind us! We spend a few outside while Joshua has a smoke. I appreciated the chairs and benches flanking its entrance while we chilled. Making our way inside, the familiar sights and sounds greeted us. Their illuminated wall of vodka, duo flat screens projecting behind cascading 'walls' of water, and the tiles. I love the tiles. If I had a HGTV bathroom redux, these oceanic blues would be my muse. But I digress.

Michael welcomes us. Instead of specials, he provides an overview of his favorites for our consideration. We deliberate over sides to share and make our final decisions. It is time to order.....just as soon as I select my cocktail. Their selection of lemonades and mojitos do not disappoint. Yes, as much as I love tiles, I heart lemonades & mojitos even more. I select a lemongrass lemonade, accented with muddled basil. Refreshing! Joshua indulges with a little Ciroc vodka.

Before our flaky biscuits and creamy sweet butter can overpower us, appetizers make an appearance. Fanny Bay oysters salute us on a throne of ice with a bloody mary granita. Steamer clams join in with their intoxicating aromatics of white wine and garlic. After a sampling of both, I conclude that I am still not a fan of oysters (more for Joshua) and clams make delish comfort food (especially when cooked with pancetta). The men polish off the shellfish while I sit back in our coveted seashell highbacked booth and peoplewatch.

Dinner consists of three distinct dishes. At one end, we have the signature cioppino. Colossal shrimp, jumbo sea scallops, Alaskan king crab, Manila clams, p.e.i. mussels, and fresh fish in a tomatoey broth. There's no doubt in my mind that he will enjoy his meal. Upon Mike's recommendation, Joshua receives the sea scallops. The meyer lemon glaze enhances the overall flavor and wins him over. I took a chance and welcomed the Pacific wild swordfish 'Oscar style'. Who is this Oscar, and why is he styling my plate? Oh, you mean it's a mix of crab meat and hollandaise? Well, okay then. Oscar was a savory treat. The fish itself was dense and moist with flavor. Portion control was on the money for all three entrees.

On the side, we helmed an aerial assault on white truffled french fries. Per the kitchen's suggestion, we allowed a shower of grated parmesan to invade as well. Not as tasty as Stonehill Tavern, but it will do. The grilled farmer's market vegetables gave me a flashback of a meal at the Versailles chain when I requested a tomato salad, and I got sliced tomatoes with a sprig of basil. Our plate consisted of half a tomato, a few genetically enhanced asparagus spears (kidding!?), halved zucchini and Japanese eggplant, and a thickly sliced portobello cap. Their balsamic flavor provided a welcome subtle kick.

Anytime we're in the Newport area, our Kryptonite resides under the alias Gelato Paradiso. Their flagship location can't decide if they want to be more Newport or CDM, as you'll see from the address. There is ALWAYS a line here, and for good reason. Our friends agree it can hold its own with their overseas counterparts. Our first time there since the recent remodel, we noted rich browns enhancing the countertops and flavor signage. The light and dark chocolate hazelnuts (Gianduia and Bacio) looked enticing. Oh, and pumpkin was in the house! Ah, my first pumpkin treat of the season. It passed the time with a traditional hazelnut (Nicciola). Jack went for a mediano menta/mint chip plus dolce de leche/caramel. Joshua kept up with us and ordered pistachio. We strolled thru the aisles of Bristol Farms while savoring each spoonful. A fantastic flavor-filled evening came to a close.

Blue Coral Seafood and Spirits (Fashion Island)
451 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach

Gelato Paradiso (Corona del Mar Plaza)
951 Avocado Avenue
Newport Beach

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Friday, October 19, 2007

La Palma Chicken Pot Pie Bakery & Restaurant, Anaheim, CA

At one point in our lives, we all had chicken pot pie, in one form or another. Whether it be from a chain eatery or out of the microwave, courtesy of [insert food manuf company here]. But none of those compare to the chicken pot pie I had over at the La Palma's CPPB & R.

Located just south of La Palma Avenue, this unique bakery has been cranking out cpp's since Disneyland first opened: thats 58 years ago, folks.

Upon entering, you are faced w/ a counter full of baked goods, chicken pot pie included, as well as various baked good. I neglected to take a picture. I must not rush in to settle down, even when I am starving. To the right is the dining area, where I was given a menu to seat myself down. Shortly after, my order was taken, I got the chicken pot pie + salad/(soup)/coleslaw + whipped mashed potatoes, and not even did I get a chance to notice the color of the ceiling, my 1st items came up.

Now, knowing I was at a cpp shop, I should have gotten their chicken noodle soup. But like an idiot, I got their clam chowder soup, red style. Frankly, clam chowder is one of those things I am critical about (I don't know why) and this soup was just ok to me. Next time, Watson... next time. The bread had a distinct taste to it. There was a slight hint of "old oven" smell to it which I liked and actually savored.

Then came my cpp and whipped mashed potatoes.

The standard pie is the dark meat. White meat is available, for a little extra. The crust was flaky and light and buttery. Even though it was sitting in the gravy, it was still crunchy down to the last bite. Chicken was incredibly moist, and big chunks were everywhere. Whipped potatoes were very soft and buttery as well. And there were no lumps. It was strange to find no lumps.
But then again, its whipped.

And while I was at a bakery, I snagged a cherry pie.

There wasn't anything particular about this pie. I should have gotten something more of their specialty, but at least I know.

The cpp, soup, bread, and whipped potatoes were just $5. What? A full meal for only $5? A true bargain for some homestyle cpp. You can also get the cpp's to go, via their bakery as well.

La Palma Chicken Pot Pie Bakery & Restaurant
928 N. Euclid Street
Anaheim, CA
M~Sa 9:00am to 8:30pm
Su Closed.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Kobe Teppan &Sushi

Before I start, I should probably say that I'm one of those guys who thinks that teppanyaki is comfort food. I wouldn't say I exactly grew up on Benihana, but I'll say that I started young there, and enjoyed every dinner over the years. Yeah, the food isn't the absolute best I've had, it's not the best tenderloin, not the best shrimp, not even the best chicken fried rice, but it's consistently the same: pretty good, easy on the digestion, and it seems to hit a spot that other restaurants just don't. Yeah, I'm a closet teppanyaki fan. And I'm also a fan of consistency- every meal the way I expect it to be, whether the locations or the years change.

But if I'm a closet teppan guy, I'm proud to advertise my love of Kobe beef. I ate, in Kobe, during the whole prion scare, because I figured my odds are good, and, how often does one find oneself in Kobe anyway?

So I wanted to like Kobe Teppan & Sushi. I really did. I even dredged up my 'ol dad's tale about teppanyaki is not a 200-year old tradition of Japanese cooking, in fact it's not really Japanese at all. It was fusion before there was fusion- a combination of American diner'esque grillmastery, seafood and meat, and an Asian flair and flavor. The way my dad put it, he said, "the Japanese were impressed with the American style grills, and brought them back to Japan. After they developed teppanyaki, they brought it back here."

Combining Kobe beef (even if it's really just the Snake River Wagyu stuff, rather than meat imported from the source), should've made for one fine meal. But maybe here's where the whole Benihana exposure runs to their detriment. Every detail appeared calculated to be Benihana-esque, without hitting exactly the right note. Like they were a drug company working to hit the same receptor, but having to change the formula just enough to avoid a patent dispute.

Now, under most circumstances, I'd jump to combine these two. And then I'd look to see where I was gonna land. But the price for "Kobe" over tenderloin was pretty much a doubling of the price. Combine that with a bit of spidey-sense tingling, and I went tenderloin for the evening. Which turned out to be a good bet (just because it would have been unwise to double-down on my 10 with an Ace showing, on what turned out to ultimately be a losing hand anyway).

The soup wasn't piping hot, and it wasn't particularly flavorful. The salad, mainly icebergs and a nondescript thousand island type dressing, was lackluster. The "chicken fried rice" was so fried-rice and non-chicken that the couple next to me actually asked for a refund of the chicken fried rice on their receipt, seeing as how they were totally unaware that they'd actually eaten any. For the record, there were indeed tiny portions of chicken that I detected because I was really, really looking for them, and so I paid that part of the bill, even though I was really tempted to just jump in and say, "yeah, us too!"

As for the main course- As Randy might say, "that was only okay for me." The spectacle was reasonably done, with the knives, and the big wooden salt shakers and the catching of the shrimp tails. The kids probably couldn't tell the difference. But for me, and here's how I sum up the place: I went to Benihana not long thereafter, to remind myself what the "real thing" was like.

13741 Newport Ave
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 544-4055

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Saturday, October 6, 2007

Sage on the Coast - Newport Beach

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, and I was starving as usual. I was still craving eggs. Brunch buffet was not the answer, but what would still be serving my kind of fare at 1:30pm? I went for it and took off to Crystal Cove. I've been to their other outpost at Eastbluff for lunch before, so I had a good idea of what to expect.

Crystal Cove is a great find. You've got Mastro's Ocean Club, Javiers (soon. or is it already open?), Pacific Whey Cafe, Bluefin and Sage to keep you company. Parking is plentiful enough, and down the street is the (Ruby's) Shake Shack and Beachcomber Cafe right on the beach. Yes, there are some options in the neighborhood.

I'm not the kind of person who wants to knock a place. However, I'm going to flex my non-conformist bone and share a less than stellar experience. I mean, it takes a lot to mess up breakfast. We were seated in the main dining room. A couple of groups were enjoying their mimosa-induced laughter on the patio. There was only one other table being serviced inside. We waited between five and ten minutes before someone even acknowledged us. That should've been my cue. The s/o was already getting miffed.

Interior-wise, it was open and airy. Everything was very Not a bad thing, it was the only thing I could really remember. Floor to ceiling windows brought in the outside sun. The patio looked inviting.

For $8 he chose a seasonal fruit plate. Yeah. It was a few sliced strawberries and some melon. Disappointing, to say the least. Did I mention that it came towards the very end of our meal? He hoped the French toast (that wasn't close to the online menu description) would carry redeeming qualities. The one specific request he asked for, syrup on the side, couldn't even be met. Good grief.

I couldn't find the banana pancakes anywhere, and settled for the mushroom, leek, and asiago cheese omelet. What a disaster. It was like a poorly assembled burrito. The cheese was lumped in one section, and the leeks were nowhere to be found. I requested some double smoked bacon. It was burnt to a crisp. Black around the edges. Blech.

Things were so disappointing that after spending $50+ on nothing special we walked over to Pacific Whey and munched on french toast and pastries for another $10 to satisfy us. Who would've thunk that such a nice place for lunch and drinks could serve such a mediocre meal? That would be me.

Crystal Cove Promenade
7862 East Pacific Coast Highway

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