Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Unsystematic Chow Snippets

Not much to write about this week. I’m pretty impressed I came up with 3 or 4 posts in the course of a week back there. I doubt that level activity will be happening any time soon. But surely, I’ll pound out some randomness…

The Name
Sometimes someone somehow left a comment (it has happened) wondering where FireFlyFiftyFive came from. It’s a relatively new online alias for me. On Chowhound, I saw a review about a San Francisco restaurant called Firefly. I liked the name and I’ve already used “55” in a name before, though I am not 55 (I’m younger) nor was I born in 1955. I thought that would make a good name with so many F’s. Thus, FireFlyFiftyFive was born.

Beef Eats
Had a very filling meal at Ruth’s Chris Steak House on the bay in San Diego. It was a work night out with over a dozen others so it was a fixed menu (with several options). It’s rare that I can’t eat everything that is set in front of me – but it happened that night. Everyone else was completely stuffed also. I had the Lobster Bisque (very good – a few pieces of lobster), Petite Filet Mignon and Chocolate Sin Cake for dessert.

Bisque was very good – a few pieces of lobster. I had a fine piece of steak – I wasn’t exactly wowed by it – but it was a generous piece and tasted pretty good. (I always consider the best tasting steaks the ones that my Dad made on the outside grill at home.) Of course, the plates were very hot – splattering butter about the table. As a guy, I guess I am supposed to like steaks – but I’m finding myself to be less and less of a “steak guy”. And the sides – some of which went nearly untouched – were Potatoes Au Gratin AND Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus (plain – I didn’t see any hollandaise as the menu advertises), “Cheesy” Broccoli (absolutely covered in chedder like the au gratin potatoes – you want some broccoli with your cheese?) and finally sautéed mushrooms (whole mushrooms - nice). And the whole thing started off with Shrimp Cocktail and Crab Stuffed Mushrooms. Everything was fine and tasted as you’d expect them.

Wow. That is a lot of food! I was stuffed halfway through my steak. And then dessert, the chocolate sin cake was a small pie shaped dark thick cake. Delish! The menu states that there is a shot of espresso in there too. (Another option was a cheesecake that was huge – a full round 5-inch cheesecake.)

Good eatin' in AZ
Blogger Seth in Arizona has a great report on the Heart Attack Grill in Phoneix. Look at that burger. It's the Triple Bypass Burger™! That is the shit! And I mean that in the best possible way. I don’t know that San Diego is a great place for burgers but there must be some – any suggestions? In-and-Out, doesn’t count. Yet, I don't go out of my way for burgers - plus again, the best can be made at home on your own grill. I know I had a pretty good one once at the Aussie Pub in PB. (Aussie Burger - hamburger patty, with a fried egg, cheese, bacon, grilled onions, beets and pineapple.)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Island Prime

For one lone week in January, San Diego restaurants served up a $30 menu with three courses. It concluded for us with the newish Island Prime on Harbor Island. Reviews have been mixed, but the menu looked great and certainly seemed worth a try. It ended up being exactly my type of restaurant – good food, generous portions, great space (and the city view) it all came together for a fine night out. This time I brought my camera, which will always do a better job than I could in “describing” the plate. (I've placed the photo just below the description.)

We had a 7:30 reservation on Friday night. I thought it might be pretty busy - and it was - but we were seated right away by a friendly hostess who asked if we had been to other restaurants during restaurant week and mentioned that she had a wonderful meal at Arterrra the night before.

  • Tartare of Filet Mignon with Baby Arugula, Violette Mustard & Caperberries. This was tasty.

  • Soufflé of Gruyere & White Truffle with Micro Greens & Sherried Figs. No complaints here.


  • Everything Crusted Ahi Tuna with Lobster Mashed Potatoes, Reduction of Pinot Noir & Sautéed Spoon-Leaf Spinach. I’m not sure what the everything was, but it wasn’t overspiced. Really a large piece. I couldn’t taste lobster flavor in the potatoes, but they were fine.

  • Boursin & Pine Nut Stuffed Chicken Breast on Plugrá Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Spinach & Smoked Wild Mushroom. Delicious and juicy. This was a bone-in chicken breast.
  • Crème Brulee Trio. 3 small dishs, each with a small cookie on top. They really didn’t have the sugary “crust” on top that you might expect. The trio consisted of vanilla, orange and goat cheese.
  • Chocolate Trio. Proclaimed yummy by my wife. We are chocolate lovers and even though she was stuffed she finished the plate off. The trio was a rich chocolate mousse (or was it their dark chocolate crème brulee?) a cone of ice cream and a tasty cake (flourless?)

Good God, that is a lot of sugar! They were also serving up a salad as a starter, and the other possible entrées were Smoked Paprika Crusted Filet Mignon Medallions or Roasted Rack of Colorado Lamb.

We liked the food and I think most people were leaving stuffed. I know we were. The service was fine - nothing outstanding like Mille Fleurs, but friendly. We didn't wait long for anything and our questions were answered. No problems here.

Certainly the desserts go for $8 or $10 and $12 for each starter. Ahi is listed on the menu at $32. While the chicken was delicious, the menu listed it at $18 and the rack of lamb in the mid-30’s so naturally it would have been a nice chance to get the lamb at a discount (and maybe a smaller than normal portion?) So, on a normal night, the food alone would be $90.

We each started off with a cocktail (as expected priced in the $10 to $12 range), the blended Port of Bellini and a Mai Tai - both fairly weak, nothing too impressive, but I'm not really a beverage person. I did get beer with the entree. Does Yellowtail Pale Ale go with tuna? It seems like it would! They were also serving their full menu (the layout made it a little hard to quickly scan over), which didn’t seem all that extensive, various cuts of steak and the normal seafood options. They do offer up your choice of rubs or sauces to compliment whatever meat you choose.

We didn’t quite get a front row seat of the city view, but did have a table along the water near the back of the restaurant. Yet we could see the view from across the room and some skyline (and lots of water) out our window. It’s a nice space and wasn’t overly noisy even though it was practically full.

I normally don’t take snap pictures of my food, as I don’t want to attract attention. So, I’m taking a picture of the first plate, trying one with out the flash, finding out it was too dark – I need to turn on the flash.

Flash! I snapped a picture.

Oh no, the manager (guy in a suit anyhow) must have been at a nearby table and came over and jokingly said, “Oh, we have a copywrite on all food pictures with a $100 fee.”


Could I crawl underneath the table now? Of course, he was just teasing, we had a laugh about it, spoke about the restaurant for a few seconds and was off to check on other customers.

Island Prime

Oh, no doubt there were others to try: A.R. Valentien at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, Nine-Ten, Tapenade, Arterra and The Oceanaire. On the list for next year – if we don’t get there sooner. I certainly don’t want to limit my dining – we’ll just spend the extra $20 or $25 bucks per person to go anytime.

I forgot to mention the bread for any of the restaurants. Here they served 2 rolls – I thought they had an odd flavor. At Mille Fleurs we got 3 different types of bread, 2 slices each. The best bread basket was at Pamplemousse – 3 types, some sliced, and several small muffins.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Mille Fleurs

Ah. Where else in San Diego county can you take a dark drive on a country road and find yourself at a highly regarded restaurant? There might be one or two others, but don’t know of them I guess.

Besides finding it, Mille Fleurs was a little bit of a mystery as the Restaurant Week menu hadn’t been posted online but I figure they have an always changing menu and didn’t want to lock themselves into a specific menu. For $30 it would be a good chance to try the place even if they served Le Royal with Cheese. Okay, maybe not. (God, I hope not!)

We were seated in a more casual dining room near the bar. No doubt, the main dining room would be a nice upgrade, but this was fine. Our younger female server was excellent – warm, friendly, completely professional and knowledgeable – a real standout. Everyone we encountered was great and not a bit of stuffiness that could have been possible.

We settled in and a minute or two our server presented with our menus and asked if we had dined there before. We said we had not. She told us about RW and joked we were fortunate (in a completely welcoming way) to be able to get reservations (I called nearly a month ago). RW menu options were on one page and she also said they were serving a limited regular menu which was on another page. I didn’t study it too closely, but perhaps 15 items, reasonably priced, ranging from soups, salads, and main dishes like veal tongue and seared ahi.

We’re wine novices so we didn’t ask for a full wine list, but enjoy a glass of wine with dinner so she presented us with what she called a special list for the week that had around 15 wines available by the bottle (around $26 to 36) and by the glass for around $7.50 to $9. Wow. Nice! I mentioned what entrée I was interested in and she made a couple of suggestions. We ended up with couple of generous pours.

Now the menu. I won’t have all the details since I didn’t take notes nor did I swipe the menu. I hope I get it close.


  • Salmon Cakes with Asparagus. 2 small cakes, but tasty, on a bed of equally tiny asparagus spears. My wife was able to grab a small bite before I finished them off.
  • Italian Parsley Soup with Smoked Chicken. A good sized bowl of puréed soup, with small chunks of chicken.
Main Dishes
  • Duck Confit. This came with mashed potatoes and a small variety of vegetables across the plate. The meat, as expected, was falling off the bone, tender and tasty. There was a good amount of meat. This was a great choice.
  • White Fish with Lemon Sauce, Capers and Cauliflower Puree. My wife enjoyed this. It was much better than it sounds and was served piping hot.
  • Sampling of Sorbets (Berry, Mango, Chocolate) plus a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • Chocolate and Coffee "Pot De Crème". A lighter version of a chocolate mousse. This was topped with a bit of raspberry sauce. Perfectly fine, but certainly not the best dessert of the last year.

Excellent! We enjoyed each course. This was a great fine dining experience. Food presentation and plating was fairly simple and direct. The meal timing was fine (I thought it was too quick on Sunday at Pamplemousse Grille) and I can’t think of any complaints. We drove back home talking about what a nice restaurant it was and we’d be back for some special occasion some time. Our server genuinely seemed to care how our meal, and each course, tasted – something we didn’t from the waiter get at Pamplemousse Grille – he didn’t even ask.

The other menu options were: a salad of mixed greens, hanger steak and a mixed fruit dessert. Valuewise, a direct comparison to their website menu isn’t possible since none of these appear on that menu. The RW menu listed that a 20% service change would be added to the bill and I left it at that, but upon reflection, service was so good, that I should have added an additional tip.


Next up…
…is Island Prime. I see the menu on the Cohn website has been scaled back slightly from the RW website which had 4 courses. The lobster bisque and a scallop risotto have been cut. I’m looking forward to this one.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Pamplemousse Grille – ehh

Ehh. That was our response on the drive home. We had hoped for a bit more. Oh, sure, we were full, but, it seemed lacking. Best to leave this place to the rich grannies and grandpappies in Del Mar. In my opinion they rolled out the cheapest entrée’s possible. (For comparison sake, we didn’t feel that way at all at George’s last year.) Now, the restaurant might be great on a regular night – albeit pricy. But no more so, that say, a Donovan’s. And they pride themselves on their huge wine list. So, in the end it probably wasn’t the best choice for us this week. I’ll run through the items we had - the full RW menu can be found here.


  • Sweet White Corn Soup with Maryland Crab Wonton: a large bowl of soup. Tastes like it sounds. I didn’t find the wonton too interesting – crab? Maybe.
  • Braised Short Rib Ravioli with Wild Mushrooms: an oversized bowl with one large plump ravioli with a big amount of shredded meat. Tasty.


  • Kobe Burger with Truffled Cheese and Truffled Parmesan Fries: The fries were excellent and piping hot. My wife sampled many. Of course, this is American Kobe Beef, nothing overly expensive though I guess the term is prestigious. They didn’t ask how I wanted it, and it ended up being rare which was fine. Taste was very mild.
  • Basil Roasted Salmon with Asparagus Risotto Cake: Good, unremarkable, but good.


  • Pear Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice Cream: Pleasant. I ate it all. Our waiter said it was a signature dessert.
  • Semi-cooked Chocolate Truffle Cake with Raspberry Sauce: Delicious! How can you go wrong here?

If you can’t tell, I’d say pass on it for RW. The burger presentation was comical. It looked like a diner burger with a normal ol’ sesame seed bun, a leaf of iceburg lettuce, tomato and onion slice. The only thing missing were two pickle slices. Otherwise, the rest of the food was fine, ratings of 7 and 8’s

The dining room is fairly simple. We were seated near the entrance, in an odd sort of booth with 2 tables that 2 separate couples could share. Service was friendly, but they hurried about. Waiter mentioned that they were expecting 2 to 3 times the normal business this week and he wouldn’t be able to spend the time he normally would with tables. My wife thought that the wine by the glass was overpriced – but we are in no way wine connoisseurs yet we do have an idea of what basic bottles sell for.

We did overhear another waiter mention that they were offering another entrée, a rack of lamb, for $10 extra. It was not offered to us, and oddly, they were ONLY serving off the Restaurant Week menu which I don’t think is typical for restaurants for this week.

And finally, what kind of value was it? Well, looking at the regular menu, that soup goes for $13, they have the burger on the lunch menu for $20, but there it comes with sautéed mushrooms, they do not have a ravioli appetizer so let’s assign a value of $10. Desserts are $10. On the regular menu the salmon is replaced with a sea bass prepared the same way, with rock shrimp for $35. So, that is the somewhat delicate balance in offering your customers an offering of your normal daily dinner menu and not losing money this week. So, I’ll make a guess and say the normal menu value might be in the $80 to $90 range for food though a direct comparison isn’t possible.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Oh happy day! Jan. 15th!

Just a few food scraps to post on, I think the next few will be devoted to Restaurant Week talk. It seems like people like it when I post about half-priced this or value that, so I have a couple that I saw on GAYOT.com:

Arterra will be offering a selection of sushi rolls and sashimi starting at $2.75 and drinks like the Toasted Pear (tequila accented with pear brandy) and the Black Tie espresso martini for half price. From 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. every Tuesday. Arterra is in the San Diego Marriott Del Mar.

Join friends on Thursday evenings for Tapenade’s Bistro and Bar VIP Soirée. Enjoy live music by Flamenco guitarist David de Alva or the Glen Fish Gomango Jazz Trio (alternate weeks); select appetizers are half-priced from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Happy Hour runs through 9 p.m. Tapenade is located in La Jolla.

Ashoka the Great
I do like a good buffet, though I overeat. Kirk at mmm-yoso reminded me of this place. We had been there a few years ago shortly after we moved to San Diego for our first real taste of Indian food. Since then I sometimes get lunch at Sitar in Sorrento Valley, which is pretty good though portion sizes can get tiny. It’s a much, much better value to come to this buffet. The food is pretty mild – I think there are a couple a sauces you can use to spice it up a bit. Hopefully I used them correctly. They have the buffet daily (around 9 bucks) for lunch, Monday and Tuesday evenings for a couple of bucks more.

Z Pizza
Someone on Chowhound mentioned this place as having pretty good “gourmet” pizza. We really don’t have pizza very often but thought we’d give this a try. Fairly good – I’d try it again. They seem to market themselves as offering healthy pizza, with low fat, nonfat and soy cheese options, with wheat crust available and lots of fresh ingredients. When I saw that they have a location close to us (2 doors down from that bastard place (as we call La Bastide – sorry!)), it was an easy choice for a rainy Saturday night. We went with a small American pizza and a small Mexican pizza but they do offer up a variety of pizzas: Mediterranean, Tuscan Mushroom, Casablanca, etc… (They reminded me of Extreme Pizza (locations throughout CA) which at one time had a location between Penasquitos and Carmel Valley which has closed). Toppings are generous: sausage and other meat on one, nice sized pieces of chicken on the other. The tomato sauce was nonexistent. They were just a bit dry, I guess that was the lack of tons of greasy cheese.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What else? Eating out!

I think the holidays are a nice time to splurge and eat out a little extra. This year was no exception. First at Parallel 33. I heard some great things about it from my favorite food message board and elsewhere so it topped our list of places to hit. Had drinks and started with the Ahi Poke appetizer. You get three stacks, cubes really, on thin crackers. Very tasty. Like so many places, you could probably eat quite nicely sharing a few starters – but we moved on to entrees. Mrs. Scott got the Grilled Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast with Sweet Potato Gnocchi (as listed on the website menu) while I had a special not listed on the menu: Rock Fish with seasonal vegetables. Both were very good. Yet, since it has a little neighborhood restaurant feel to it, prices seem a bit high, nearing 30 bucks for an entrée (I think one was $27, the other $28), but who is to put a price on good food? (Yet, drinks and starter courses seem reasonably priced.) We’d certainly go back, no doubt, but we always like to try new (to us) places so it might be awhile.

Also went to Roy’s (first time) last week. Again, similar pricing as expected. We started with drinks and a small sashimi plate. Entrées for her were the scallops and shrimp combo, and for me, a two fish combo. I seem to remember they had cutesy names for the combos. My fish was ono and, um, oprah? We jokingly called it the Uma and Oprah plate. (You’d have to remember the Letterman hosted Oscar’s to get that one.) Both nicely prepared. We actually passed on dessert for whatever reasons (probably the overload of candy over the holidays.) They do have a lava cake or molten chocolate dessert that surely would be tasty. Also, they have a 3-course prix fixe menu for $33 that probably is a slight value…? Or maybe a pretty good value? Starters include Shrimp on a Stick, Spiced Baby Back Pork Ribs and a Chef's special creation with a choice of main courses like Charbroiled Shortribs, Grilled Salmon or Steak, or Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi. And of course that hot melting dessert. Next time!

This last weekend we had a couple of cheaper eats. First at a sushi place nearly in the neighborhood (short drive) called Sushiya. Been meaning to stop in as it seems busy every time we drive by. We had a shrimp dumpling starter that I would pass on, a variety plate of sushi (part of a combo so it came with soup and salad) that my wife thought was tasty, and finally a spicy turn roll that was excellent. Sushiya has no website that I can find, but it is in Rancho Penasquitos right on the corner of the Stater Bros. Shopping center. Nice to see a busy restaurant here (the previous was a pizza place that always seemed dead), by the time we left there were 15 or 20 people waiting outside to eat. They have signs that mention 50% off, but it wasn’t totally clear and totally forgot about it once we sat. We’ll be returning soon, I’m sure, to find out more! (The Sushiya menu does mention 3 other locations, all northern SD coastal areas.)

Also after work one day, I took the long way home and found Joey’s Smokin’ BBQ in a newish shopping center in Carmel Valley. (They also have a Carlsbad location.) I had a trio of ribs (their sampler of Sweet Ribs, Dry Rubbed Ribs and Wet Ribs (which is similar to the sweet ribs, just with mildly spicy sauce.)) Sadly, I didn’t grow up eating ribs weekly or even monthly, honestly the best thing I know is Tony Roma’s, so I don’t really have any preconceived notions what makes up an incredible rib, but I do like them. They do say they are slowly smoked over hickory wood. I’d go again, I liked the dry rubbed the least and oddly I couldn’t quite tell the difference between the wet and the sweet sauces, but I know I liked one the best. Next time I go I’ll just get a full slab of the wet and hope that is my favorite. (I also picked up a ½ pound of beef brisket that I wasn’t too impressed with.)

Dang. No pictures. This doesn’t seem complete without pictures. But I rarely carry my digital camera around. I think for restaurant week blog talk I’ll just make do with a cell phone camera. (Sidenote: I’ve also been told that on Dec. 8th I should have been writing “Random Food Scraps” not “Scrapes”, the error has been corrected!)

We didn’t make it to any of the $20.06 Cohn meal deals yet, we had a Kemo reservation, but cancelled, now I’ll made a Dakota reservation for later this week. Has anyone been to any of them? Seems like they have similar menus for restaurant week but cheap now. (Note, for Kemo Sabe, after I posted last week, I saw that they have you sharing the starter and dessert.)

One last meal deal to mention. (You know how I like a deal if you have been reading my blog.) Direct from a Fresh restaurant email (in La Jolla) comes this one: "FRESH Anniversary Celebration - January 30th Join us in celebrating the 3rd anniversary of FRESH Seafood Restaurant & Bar on Monday, January 30th. Enjoy our full menu at half-price and live entertainment beginning at 6 pm." Of course, they have the 4 to 6pm deal daily (small plates, half off) which always seems more interesting than one large plate since you'd order 3 small plates per person. Thoughts?

And of course, the fish was opah – I don’t believe I have had it before. Mild.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Happy New Year to all!

Welcome to 2006, all five readers.
Surely, everyone had great feasts for New Years Eve. Or maybe not. Christmas was a little bit of a food let down since no great meal was planned. Sure, we had our candy and other sweet treats, but it was just my wife and I and the pups on Christmas Day and we just warmed up a Trader Joe’s lasagna.

So, I happened across pork spareribs on sale at Vons and picked them up (sold in a box.) Now, from reading my couple of months worth of blogging you certainly have not read much in the way of home cooked meal talk here. Oh, sure, we cook. But it is mainly simple, nourishing (i.e. South Beach friendly) meals. So I made ribs for New Years Eve dinner. Ah, but we stopped at Trader Joe’s earlier that day for treats and snacks to have that night. Well, we ate some of those and were barely hungry for ribs.

Back to home cooking: I’ve never made ribs. Did it simple, as the packaging suggested, 275 for a couple of hours, baste with BBQ sauce and pump up the heat. All of this nicely warmed the house on a cold San Diego day. Plus, they turned out good. Pretty, pretty good.

The BBQ sauce I bought was Sweet Baby Ray’s, seems to be a somewhat popular award winning sauce. A popular chef in the little midwestern town I grew up in developed it with his brother. And now it is sold everywhere. (Honestly, it’s an "evil" high fructose corn syrup sauce so I don’t know how good it can be. Surely most can make their own like Michael Chiarello but naturally I like to keep it simple.) Next time I will finish them off on the outside grill to get some smoke.

So after sharing 2 big slabs of ribs we were too full for any kind of late night feast so we save it all for our champagne brunch the next morning. Dips, sausages, cheeses, crackers, shrimp and chocolate treats galore.

Anyone have their own feast to share?

Cheap (okay, cheaper) eats.
In addition to Restaurant Week (which has had a nice discussion on the California Chowhound board - with, uh,with a couple of postings by me) there is also a $20.06 3-course meal deal at 4 of the Cohn restaurants thru Jan. 14th. (Thanks to the Gourmet Club blog for pointing out that one!)

As I posted on Chowhound, I booked Pamplemousse Grille, Mille Fleurs and Island Prime a couple of weeks back. But I could go for Nine-Ten or A.R. Valentien or Oceanaire or a quite a few others for that matter. Going to limit it to 3 restaurants though which is something of a splurge. The crap seems to have been flung at Island Prime since it has opened so who knows there. (The menu sounds like a winner though: might go something like this, start off with Fennel Dusted Scallop Risotto, move on to Lobster Bisque with a main course of Ahi Tuna with Lobster Mashed Potatoes or a Roasted Rack of Colorado Lamb.) The other two, should represent a nice bargain, yet a potentially limiting menu.