Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

The long weekend gave us a chance to take a drive up to Escondido for lunch at the new bistro and (of course!) for a brewery tour. If you’re thinking they just opened up a little bistro for the heck of it next to their gift shop – nope! They spent some bucks on this place. This is a large space with high ceilings and a wall of windows that looks out onto their new gardens. They have lots of outdoor seating too. Seating for hundreds I’m sure. Part of that wall of windows are actually large panels that open up like garage doors, so on nice days they open those up. Plenty of heat lamps outside. Naturally, I started out with an Arrogant Bastard Ale – yum. We saw some tables getting appetizers of beer battered onion rings (of course, using that Bastard Ale!) and I also saw that those rings came as a side for a great looking burger. I didn’t see it on the menu but I bet they would do a great beer battered fish fry.

My wife got a plate of the BBQ Duck Tacos ($17) and of course they used their very own Smoked Porter as the base for the sauce. Came with sides of black beans, brown rice with a mango salsa. This was really good. I was drawn to the Chicken Tikki Masala ($15.75), while it was good it could have been made with a jar of sauce from Trader Joes. (That isn’t to say that is what they did – I believe it was made in house.) But it had a nice spice to it. I’d definitely want to get that burger next time. My meal came with a side of mashed yams (and naturally, spiked with that Smoked Porter) and a side of chard. The menu made no mention of the name of the head chef.

We’d definitely be back – the food was good, the rest of the menu looked interesting, the space is great. If you go, be sure to print the map on the website. They are located in a newer area of an Escondido business park and I didn’t even see a sign on the building but you can’t miss it. It’s the large building that is spewing a fermenting yeasty smell.

We skipped dessert so we could make it to the brewery tour – an educational 45 minutes behind the scenes at Stone. Of course, they badmouth the mass marketed beers in any way possible (as well they should). No cost for the tour, just meet up in the gift shop and get a poker chip. This is your ticket to the tasting at the end of the tour.

Photo is compliments the Stone Brew website. I left my camera at home, but they welcomed photography on the tour.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Buca di Beppo!

Curbside! To Go! Ah, the ultimate for the lazy man! I tried this last week! They took everything great about fast food drive-thru and transferred into curbside to go service. No need to lift your butt out of your car! All the best restaurants like Outback, TGIFridays, Chili’s, Applebee’s and now Buca di Beppo are doing it. Maybe even Claim Jumpers! Just call in your order on your way home from work and stop in and pick up your food.

But Buca di Beppo, you say? Yes! But wait, before you revoke my membership in the Foodie Incorporated Club, please listen to my reasoning: I needed to expand my stomach for a long weekend of Thanksgiving eating. So, what better way?

Here’s what we had: Chopped Antipasto Salad. A salad of iceberg lettuce with chopped pepperoni, mortadella, prosciutto, tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, feta, provolone and gorgonzola! Yum! ($9.95 for a small.)

Spicy Arrabbiata Pizza Spicy sausage, pepperoni, onions! Greasy! It's a thin crust. The onions are caramelized and I’ve read they use up to four cheeses on this pizza. You can't go wrong with four cheeses! There is the distinct taste of bleu cheese. I really liked the pizza. I'd imagine it would be a little crisper if you got it at the restaurant. I've rarely heard anyone complain about pizza and the Buca. ($13.45 for a small.)

Chicken Cannelloni Stuffed with chicken sausage, provolone, ricotta, and fresh sage, smothered with romano and marinara, and baked to perfection! 6,000 calories! It was either between this or the lasagna. I thought it was tasty. ($14.95 for a small (again!))

I thought it was all pretty good but my wife thought it was all pretty crappy. Go figure! Still, it saved a night of kitchen work. And even though I seem to be making fun of it, that curbside service worked out really well. I could sit in my car and not miss a second of The Tom Leykis Show! They included a hunk of bread (so-so) and all kinds of little containers for topping stuff or dipping: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pizza oil, etc.

Okay, Buca, I’ve said it. Now send me my gift card.

Blogger note
I see the font size on my last post didn't show up correctly for users of FireFox. Sorry about that. Blame Google! But on a happy note it showed up fine for Internet Exploder users.

Friday, November 24, 2006


As you might expect – or maybe not – I was kidding yesterday about having Thanksgiving at Black Angus. You really can never tell with me. Instead, after reading the Reader list and the Union Tribune list of Thanksgiving restaurants, I settled on JRDN in Pacific Beach. This is the restaurant for the newish (and stylish!) Tower23 Hotel, located on the boardwalk with great views of the ocean.

They did a 4 course menu from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. – now, we’d normally avoid restaurants on holidays for the various obvious reasons like overpricing and possible crowds but we’ve had home cooked Thanksgivings the last couple of years and it was time for one out. We decided on a lunch time meal – which ended up being perfect since the weather was beautiful and we could have lunch on the patio with a full view of the scantily clad girls (and guys) walking by! Of course, they served up the traditional turkey day meal – or you could pick prime rib, lamb or salmon entrees. Soup and salad was the same for everyone and dessert was the choice of pumpkin pie or pecan pie. And as you might expect, a little alcohol was required in the form of a T23-tini: a multilayered martini with vodka, rum and fruity juicy juice. Since it was outside I could easily take a bunch of pictures - and that helps out so much!

Roasted butternut squash soup.
With nutmeg crème fraiche

JRDN salad.
Local farmer’s organic mix with fresh herb vinaigrette

Herb roasted turkey with pan gravy.
Sage dressing, sweet potato gratin, almond green beans and house made cranberry sauce

Roasted saddle of Colorado lamb.
Stuffed with swiss chard and almond, mashed potatoes and smoky cabernet sauce

Pecan pie with shortbread crust and bourbon-caramel sauce
It was a good solid meal – nothing mind blowingly outstanding but a nice traditional Thanksgiving in the sun in San Diego. Price was $36 a person. Service was fine – they really weren’t too busy with just a handful of tables filled up outside and probably about the same inside. Maybe people would be there for dinner. I’d definitely try them for a lunch sometime.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 2006! What to eat? Should we go with the all you can eat buffet provided by Black Angus? It’s all you can EAT!!! But what about IKEA? For the budget minded, it’s just $4.99 for a Thanksgiving feast. But damn, what’s this? They aren’t open Thanksgiving! That’s okay, I’m a little worried that their turkey would be mightily close to what they served us in the school cafeteria so many years ago.

Okay, unless I am warned in the next hour, I’m calling Stuart Anderson's Black Angus for a reservation. I always have the option of picking up a Boston Market Thanksgiving In A Box To Go on the way home.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Jack's La Jolla

Just a short one tonight. Nope, didn’t get to The Dining Room at Jack’s or even the Ocean Room – we intended on going to Jack’s Grille but lo and behold they do not serve lunch. Instead lunch is served in the 2nd floor Beach Bar overlooking beautiful Girard Avenue. I didn’t quite take any proper photos – instead just snapped a few “on the sly”. The place was nearly empty when we got there, but quickly filled up.

We started off with Dungeness Crab Spring Rolls ($13) for an appetizer – it ended up being just two small fried rolls. But they were tasty. Our waiter recommended wrapping that leaf of lettuce around it and then eat – so we did.

I ended up getting a delicious Angus Beef Hamburger – they offer a 8 oz. and a 10 oz. version. Each is topped with Sweet Onions, Shiitake Mushrooms, Choice of Cheddar, Swiss or Bleu Cheese and you have the option to add fries (I did not.) It was thick and meaty and I don’t care who knows! I thought I might have missed out on some great parmesan garlic fries or some such, but I saw a neighboring table get just normal fries. ($9 or $12.) The L got a Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Avocado and Tomato, Chimichurri Vinaigrette – this was really good and huge. Plus served with a side of arugula or similar salad. (And a great value at $9.) Forgot to snap a picture of this but it came with pieces of chicken on a couple of "fire"-toasted slices of bread.

To finish things off we got a chocolate cake – one of those lava cakes with the melted center with some caramel ice cream. ($8) Portion was on the small side. Overall, an enjoyable lunch. I know the almighty hamburger is a pretty standard choice but this was a great version. And that chicken sandwich was a real winner.

I'm also glad that they spelled SHIITAKE correctly!

Restaurant Week 2007
They have had the full list of restaurants and menus up for a few weeks – any places stand out as must eats? Just based on reputation (and that we haven’t eaten at these places yet) I’m thinking A.R. Valentien at The Lodge at Torrey Pines (eh, but the menu looks a little plain), The Oceanaire and then maybe Chive or maybe Café Japengo. We’d either go for 2 or 3 nights out. Any other suggestions?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Forgot the Camera...

...and damn, it’s nice to have pictures when doing restaurant write-ups. What do they say? A thousand words becomes a photograph or picture can be mentioned with a thousand words. Something like that. Anyhow, except for the normal lunch spots (take and eat) and work lunches at the normal chains (PF Chang’s, Red Blobster, Chili’s if you can believe it and Rock Bottom (I liked the Brown Ale but the bar appetizers? – ehh and overpriced.)), eating out has been happening pretty rarely. There is something about those $100+ dinners that doesn’t seem worth it. But, I know there are a lot of relatively inexpensive gems out there to try…

Yet, I’ve got a couple to mention: First up, La Bastide Bistro in the old Vons shopping center in Scripps Ranch. Looks like that old Vons is getting a makeover. So someday soon we’ll refer to it as the new old Vons in Scripps Ranch. I read on Chowhound that the chef that started things up there has moved on. I guess that doesn’t really matter for lunch. We stopped in on a recent Saturday to enjoy lunch on their patio (yes, overlooking that Vons parking lot) to have their crêpes: Chicken Breast, Tomato, Basil Pesto and Cheese ($9) and a Smoked Salmon, Dill and Lemon ($11). These come with a green salad so at that price you definitely get a delicious and filling lunch. We also started off with a cheese plate ($12) that was just so-so. I wouldn’t bother with it again. Hopefully this place draws in a good weekday lunch crowd (there are a lot of office buildings nearby), but the Saturday lunch crowd wasn’t a crowd at all. They only had 3 other tables occupied when we were there.

Things are equally as slow in Encinitas on Sunday nights – specifically at Meritage Restaurant. (Smooth segue accomplished!) Why Meritage? Well we had a gift certificate burning a hole in our pocket – plus we liked that tasty Shrimp and Lobster Bisque at the taste of event a couple of months ago. The fact that it was bitterly washed down with a 7-11 slurpee did not deter us.

The menu looks great: we started off with a bowl of that famous bisque (yum!) for The L (which is that annoyingly cute way I refer to my dining partner and wife – Oh how I ate that when I see Chowhounders do that) and now back to the food, we also got a starter plate of Chicken Goat Cheese Spring Rolls (either $8 or $10) which weren’t quite as expected, but really good (wrapped with a pastry type wrap and served up with a plum sauce.) I washed these down with a glass of Stone IPA – I guess you can take a brewery tour in Escondido.

After that bisque the desire for saturated fat was at an all time high, so The L got the Seafood Mac and Cheese (about $21) that came with good-sized pieces of lobster, large shrimp and small scallops. I was in the mood for steak so I passed up some other interesting options for the 8 oz filet mignon with garlic-mashed potatoes ($29). Yum – hey it’s steak. I think it had gorgonzola cheese and then came with some asparagus wrapped in bacon.

We weren’t full yet, and the gift card wasn’t used up so we finished with a chocolate dome cake filled with chocolate mousse and since I was driving I got an espresso chocolate martini. A great way to end the dinner. Overall, a good meal – I’d say Meritage is a nice neighborhood spot – service was friendly, prices weren’t out of this world (and much cheaper if you stopped in for lunch – mostly salads and sandwiches with a few low priced lunch entrees). They do a few deals during the week: 50% off select bottles of wine on Monday and Wednesday and then all bar food is half off 4pm - 6:30pm every night of the week.

Taste of?
Did anyone go to any of the “Taste of…” events last month? I missed them all. And damn, those free tickets to that wine and food fest next weekend didn’t come through either.

Jack’s in La Jolla
Next up a report on Jack’s Grille. I guess I signed up on their email list and they say: “Jack's VIP Members dine Sunday through Wednesday at Jack's and receive a 20% Discount. In addition, they enjoy our VIP Half Priced Wine List on Sundays and Mondays.” Just email them to become a VIP member and they give you a card the next time you are there. Sweet!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Day Late and a Dollar Short!

Damn…I nearly forgot I had a blog. I was going to do a extrafabulousordinary Halloween post filled to the brim with insane Jack-O-Lanterns. I guess my high school physics teacher, Mr. Klienschmidt was right: I’d always be a day late and a dollar short.

Anyhow, I really like the “thinking outside of the box” of this one. Oh, lordy, it isn’t mine – but run over to Extreme Pumpkins for ideas for next year. Check out those contest winners!

Hope everyone had a super Halloween! I’ll be back soon with San Diego restaurant nonsense.