Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wha? Another post already?

Anybody ever go to the Wine Vault and Bistro? I signed up for their newsletter months ago and get emails a couple of times a week, promoting their wine flight tastings and dinners – they have an ongoing $45 five course meal with an almost crazy amount of wine pairings – 12, if you can believe it! These usually happen on Saturday, but sometimes they add a Wednesday. I’ve never gone – but it’s on that long list in my head.

Punjabi Tandoor
The California Chowhound board has been buzzing slightly over this place – honestly a post or two almost seemed like advertising – so I thought I would swing by for take out after work. Usually I’ll pick up from Sitar in the food court at Scranton and Mira Mesa near the 805 since it is close to work. But Punjabi is just a quick swing down Camino Ruiz on the way home. I knew it was on Activity Road, but it took a second pass to find it amid the various businesses.

I found it and ordered a couple of $7.49 combo plates – 2 choices of meat curry in each combo with nan (they have it as nan, I thought it was naan?) so I got 4 varieties of chicken: tikka masala, chicken palak, chicken makhni and chicken curry. It also came with some sort of dessert than neither of us cared for. We got more than enough nan – well, we still ate it all, but wow, I was full.

It might not look like much here – just colored glop – but oh man, it was all so delicious with just the right amount of spice for me and so flavorful!

I’ll have to try some of the veggie curries next time – priced around 4 or 5 bucks – or the lamb. When I think of lamb I think of that greasy lamb that comes off that log in Greek places – I wouldn’t imagine it would be quite like that.

Now, I know very little about different ethnic foods but I thought it was great. I see another blog did a big write up last summer – the defunct (hey, we’ll all be there eventually) Lunch on Friday.

All in all, it was a little better deal that Sitar which charges about the same for one type of meat, but then comes with the lentils and cucumber yogurt. I’m a big fan of meat so bring that on! (Completely unrelated – I’ve got to try the Brazilian steakhouse downtown some time – Rei Do Gado – I pointed it out to my brother when he was here.) I imagine this place is packed at lunchtime - just a few tables inside but lots of outside seating.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Visiting San Diego

And by daylight this is what was left. I forgot to mention that maple syrup really isn’t my favorite pancake or french toast topping – I’d rather go with a fruitier syrup. There is a small dark berry called the elderberry that grows in clusters that makes a great syrup. I’d say that is my favorite. That was also a homemade syrup.

I hadn’t been posting much as we had a couple of visitors from out of state in March (my brother and his girlfriend for a few days and my wife’s sister for another couple of days) so that is always a good time to go out to eat. Oh, we made it to a half dozen or so restaurants but at this point I don’t have even enough mental notes left to put together any decent write-ups.

I had a pretty good sea bass at Claim Jumper of all places – listed on the menu as New Zealand Sea Bass Cut Thick & Sauteed, Braised in a Spicy Traditional Oaxacan Tomato Herb Broth & Served over Steamed Rice.

It was the simple restaurant of choice after a day of sightseeing driving (to the desert (Anza Borrego State Park) where it was 70 degrees and to Julian on the way back where it was snowing (and of course we just happened upon the obligatory pie at Mom’s) and to the beach at La Jolla Shores.) Whew – quite a range of weather.

Other than that, we had meals at all the normal rotation places: Just Fabulous (my brother nearly knocked over the wine rack and I nearly knocked over a table – oops! – they may not allow us back!) always a nice place for a meal and dessert, Mesquite and Takhrai Thai, both in Scripps Ranch – I think I’ve written about both of these here – if not I will eventually – and a mid afternoon dessert stop at some Extraordinary place not to mention a lunch stops at The Fish Market and Island Prime/C Level.

I was pleased enough with the meals I had at each place.

San Diego Restaurant Reviews
He mostly lets the photos tell the story; the San Diego Sunday Brunch Master is a great site to check out. He spent last year going to a different Sunday brunch each week, now, with his belly busting, he is checking out the rest of the restaurants that serve breakfast/brunch items on the weekend.

Restaurants I would like to try...
I’m pretty much thinking I’d like to go to Chilango's in Hillcrest and Mama Testa.

Any food events going on around here?
I just saw a BBQ and Chili cook-off show on The Food Network. I would LOVE to go to one of those things!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Maple syrup

A new post! I have restaurant reports to write up, birthday cakes pictures to post, dog pictures waiting and ready but first let us talk about buckets on trees. Wha? Yep, that is where maple syrup comes from.

In San Diego seasons barely exist but 2000 miles away in Wisconsin, where I grew up, spring time for some means maple syrup season. Yep, that real from-the-tree stuff. Oh, when you think of real maple syrup you probably think of Vermont and Maine, but northwoods WI makes its own little share of the stuff. When mid-March hits, it’s time to tap the trees (drill a hole, pound in a spout) and hang a bucket to catch it. The sap looks just like water and tastes, as you might expect, slightly sweet.

The maple sap only “runs” in the spring as the thawing temperatures arrive. You need below freezing nights and daytime temps in the upper 30’s and lower 40’s. The sap is collected, boiled down, filtered and bottled. (There is a measuring device that tells you when the syrup has the right sugar content.) Mom made the pancakes and the Schwan’s man delivered the ice cream. (Did you know? Maple syrup is tasty on ice cream!)

It isn’t unusual to drive around the countryside and see buckets (or the more modern bag) hanging from the trees (sugar maple trees only – don’t try to tap a oak tree!) As I recall, as kids, my Dad’s family would make maple syrup with his brother continuing for years. Eventually by the late 1980’s, the next generation, my brothers and I wanted to make syrup – we had the land and the trees (we owned 80+ acres)

It was a success; a cabin in the woods was built, with an attached cooking shelter and the tradition of sorts continued on. 100 gallons or more would be produced each year, to be sold or given away to friends and family. Our family would be involved, along with a few neighbors. The sap cooking was fairly low tech, over a couple enclosed fire pits, each with a large pan. There are better systems – evaporators and such – but this is a typical small time operation. The sap takes a while to cook down (40 gallon of sap need to cook down to equal one gallon of syrup) so there is plenty of down time. The cabin would be a little retreat, a half mile from the house, near a river (it flooded a time or two in the spring), a place to hang out, play cards, have a beverage or a cook up a steak over one of the grills all while the gallons of sap cooked down.

And so it went for on years. My last year of helping was 2002 and I would kind of miss it each spring. I got the call from my brother that there was a fire on Thursday night. Yep, another year of syrup making was starting. The sap had been collected; wood added and the fire stoked in the afternoon. When the my brother and Dad went down there after supper they could see the glow as soon as then went down the hill to the cabin. The fire department was called – no doubt the fire could be seen for miles – and put out and thankfully no one was hurt…

…but the cabin was gone.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

My very first chocolate

No notable food stuffs to post about this week. At some point I might do a San Diego North County Inland restaurant roundup – an area rarely talked about. And we have guests over the next couple of weeks – that may provide some restaurant experiences. But for now, I will post a picture of myself enjoying what is thought to be my very first taste of chocolate. Is it your standard jello pudding? Or maybe melted chocolate chips (always a favorite!)

And the year? 1970! And if any of my 3 readers (may be down to 2 at this point) has any of these “baby's very first taste of…” type photographs feel free to email them – I’ll post in my next entry. Or post to your own blog and leave a link! I also thinking of doing a “Scott’s birthday cakes over the years” type post offering up a photographic history of my Mom's cakes.

It’s been sold to CNET – it will be a little sad to see the old-fashioned message board go away but it should make for a better site overall. Should happen sometime this summer.

Taste of Hillcrest
April 22. I said I wasn’t going to do another one of these – but I might try this one out again – it is such a great way to discover the restaurants in an area. We did this one on a rare rainy day a couple of years ago. Any other “Taste of…” coming up?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Taco Truck Run In A Limo II

Get a load of this post from Chowhound LA board! What seems to be the 2nd annual event, his company takes out “a stretch limo stocked with top-shelf tequilas and spends the better part of eight hours touring the LA area for the best in taco trucks.” Wow. Sounds like a blast. I’m ready for it!

The place where food gets made.
We are in the middle of a kitchen remodel so I would think that I would have some restaurant reports – nope, haven’t been eating out much. Laying low. Playing it cheap. Taking it easy. Getting Von’s turkey breast (more meat than the rotisserie chicken it seems), or take out from Wong’s Wok (can’t go wong with Wong’s Wok, we always say) or El Pollo Loco (such a crazy chicken!)

And of course…

Have you met Cooper and Scully yet? It's true; dogs like to hike up Black Mountain.