Saturday, July 26, 2014

Umami Burger: What the Hell is Umami?

For those of you that watch the food network or trendy food shows about what's hot, you've probably heard about Umami Burger.  If you live in LA or the surrounding area, you've probably heard about Umami burger.  For those of you that haven't, this one's for you.

Let's start with, What the Hell is Umami?  According to wikipedia, where all things are true:
Umami /ˈmɑːmi/, a savory taste, is one of the five basic tastes (together with sweet, sour, bitter and salty).  A loanword from the Japanese , umami can be translated as "pleasant savory taste".  This particular writing was chosen by Professor Kikunae Ikeda from umai "delicious" and mi "taste". The kanji  are used for a more general sense of a food as delicious.  People taste umami through receptors for glutamate, commonly found in its salt form as the food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG).  For that reason, scientists consider umami to be distinct from saltiness.  Get it?  To be honest you really don't have to, Umami = really effing good food.

Juliet and I tagged along with Sol for a work trip to L.A.  We decided to go to Santa Monica for a few hours to sight see etc.  I asked Sol to Yelp (which I find myself to be using more and more, a very effective tool I might say) it and look for a lunch spot for us on the way up there and she mentioned Umami Burger, I stopped her and told her that's where we'd be going.  We almost passed it but I saw what looked like either red lips or a burger bun on the door, no sign.  You know a burger place with no sign, must be good.

Lips or Buns?
We sat down quickly with no wait.  By the way the key to dining at a famous restaurant and not having to wait is going at off peak hours, we got there about 2:00pm on a Wednesday.  I opened the menu, and saw it, all of the glory, the words were sparkling on the page, they were singing to me like Micheal Jackson's 'Beat it', "Eat Me, Eat Meeeee, all you wanna do is Eat Me..."  It was the,

'Truffle'd Burger: their famous blend of beef, truffled aioli, house truffle cheese, truffle glaze'

I saw it, closed my menu and didn't look at anything else.  I ordered a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA while we waited, a GREAT beer I might say.  I literally had to ask the server for the menu again just to see what else they had.  We also ordered some fries with shredded short rib, onion rings with a malted tempura batter and house made ketchup.  I usually hate house made ketchup, it has sucked 100% of the time, until now.  This was awesome, why am I writing a line about ketchup?  Because it was that good.  The rings were light, crunchy and not greasy.  The fries were also nice and crunchy, they didn't need ketchup because of the short rib and gravy that it came with.

I apologize for not having a better picture :(
On to the burger.  The server suggested medium rare which seemed a bit too red for me but I went with the 'when in rome' attitude.  I didn't regret it.  I cut the burger in half and it wasn't too red it all.  As the server put the Truffle'd Burger in front of me the aroma melted my heart.   Do you know what truffle is?  Do you know what it smells like?  Do you know what it tastes like?  It's an indescribable happiness that is created inside you when you come into contact with truffle. Yes, I'm talking about food.  Back to the burger.  It was obviously very juicy, but they have a great bun that held up extremely well, unlike San Diego's Hodads (for some reason i'm bery bitter that everyone loves Hodad's and I think its just straight hype).  I was honestly afraid there would be too much truffle but that just wasn't the case.  The bun to meat ratio was on point, and the different flavors danced around my pallet like a, like uh...I don't know but they danced around in my mouth happily.  I can say without hesitation, this was the best burger I've ever had.  But I still don't know what the hell Umami tastes like.  Do your best to make the trip to Umami burger, and if you figure out what Umami is, let me know please.  Until my next worthy meal...

Umami Burger on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rare Form, Delicatessan and Sandwich Shop

Today I decided to try a recommendation from a friend, Rare Form.  A little sandwich shop downtown, where I got much more than I expected.  It was basically in the park at the park right next to Petco, on a walkway/side street that was a bit hard to find.  I walked in and loved the decor white and black hexagon tiles on the floor with kind of a Gothic church setting as well.  You could tell much thought had been put into the lighting fixtures, the chairs and even the paintings on the wall.  They had green desk lamps like you would find at an old library and the chairs looked like they were taken from the 16th century medieval times.

They label themselves as a sandwich shop and delicatessen.  To me all deli sandwiches are more or less the same, however, here they really went above and beyond, I might even say it's the best sandwich I ever tasted.  You order at the counter when you first walk in, I asked the guy what he recommended and he gave me a few choices, I decided on a 'El Cubano' a rip off of the classic Cuban sandwich: Smoked Ham, Pulled Pork, Bread, Butter, Pickles, Swiss, Whole grain Mustard, Aioli on a Bolillo Roll.  

All of their sandwiches come a  la carte, so I decided on fresh-cut french fries as my side.  There weren't too many people in there so I received my food in probably less than 10 minutes.  It looked fantastic as it arrived,  I took my first bite and literally said out loud 'wow', it was really that good.  The pork was tender, juicy and flavorful.   The ham and Swiss added some nice saltiness and the whole-grain mustard and house made aioli (fancy word for mayo) blended together perfectly, making the sandwich about as good as I've ever had. The fries were fantastic and this is where my one negative came. I looked around and didn't see any ketchup, not on the tables, not on the self-serve station and not in the kitchen, and that's when I knew it. I've seen this before at restaurants or bars where they want to dictate what it is you eat or drink, they leave off something obvious that's too cliche.  In this case it was ketchup, they make everything in-house and don't want to serve you Heinz ketchup. I get it but I got up and asked for some ketchup as a formality, though I already knew what the response would be . Then it became official, I got the answer 'we don't have ketchup'. I appreciate what they're trying to do, BUT you just cannot have french fries without ketchup, its like having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with no jelly or a quesadilla with no cheese or…you get what I'm saying.  I didn't let it ruin my meal but I'm not gonna lie, I was a little irritated but let's be honest it's just ketchup.  The bread was on a nice Bolillo roll(typically used for a Mexican Torta) probably one of the most underutilized sandwich rolls in history, but that's just my humble opinion.  I cannot overstate how good this sandwich was; you can tell it was well thought out and there was care put into every homemade ingredient.  They didn't squish it like your typical Cuban, it was just a really effing good meal. On a side note I had a good artisanal soda to go along with it, 'Ski', naturally citrus flavored.  Overall, I'd give this place 4.9 stars (ketchup counts as .1).  I would not recommend going on a day when there is a stadium event like a baseball game, I'm sure it'll be packed  This place hit a home run, with the decor, the food and the overall theme.  It's unique and something I haven't tasted before which is definitely something I look for in a  restaurant.
Rare Form on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Don't let French Food Scare You: Blue Boheme

Well hello there ladies and gentlemen, it has been a while hasn't it? Some of you might be wondering where I have been, and why I haven't been blogging. Too busy? Too much time? No Inspiration? All of the above. But due to people still mentioning my ever-famous (I say this in jest)blog a few years later I have decided to reprise it if only for today, though I will try to continue to post about the restaurants deserving of what little time I have. So where did I go you ask? What is bringing me back to the blogosphere? Blue Boheme, I have no idea what that means in French but I'll look it up by the end of this blog.

Back on March 2nd, my birthday, Sol and I got a call telling us the offer on our first house was accepted. Great news and we moved back down to San Diego. One of the reasons we were so excited to move back down was because there was an ample amount of restaurants of various cuisines that didn't close at 9 or 10 pm like Encinitas and the rest of North County. One of the restaurants we happened upon was the Blue Boheme, a French restaurant that seemed to have good reviews. I had never been to a French restaurant and had always heard people talk about how good they were, so on we went. It was a great experience which led us there again last night. Particularly because our two choices before that were closed on Mondays, a typical day off for some of the restaurant world.

I got off of work and met my wife there, I started with a Shipwrecked Double IPA one of my favorites. From there we scoured the menu looking for something a whet our appetite. Neither of us wanting a huge heavy meal we opted for some lighter options and went with 3 plates to share. The first thing we ordered was Les Moules Frites, Black Mussels with French Fries, which you could get prepared six different ways. We Chose, "à la Crème d’Ail", roasted garlic cream, shallots, and white wine. It was phenomenal, some of the best mussels I have ever had. I typically don't order mussels because I feel as if most restaurants prepare them in a very similar manner.
Here they were a perfect size, not too briny and took on just enough of the flavor of the broth they sat in. On the side were the OG french fries also known as Pommes Frites. Thin cut, fresh, crunchy and scrumptious. Did I mention you can get these mussels in a 1 or 2 pound portion? The one pound was ample for the two of us as we were having french style tapas, I just coined that phrase by the way.

Next up we had, "gnocchi à la Parisienne", parmesan dumplings, brussel sprouts, smoked duck bacon, white wine sauce. Phenomenal. For you those of you who have not had the pleasure of having good gnocchi, I am truly sorry. It is one of my favorite dishes when done right, and boy did they do it right. Gnocchi (pronounced n-yo kee), is a small dumpling, a bit thick and almost doughy. The bitterness from the brussel sprouts were a nice contrast to the richness of the cheese and dumplings and the duck bacon which was outrageous in the first place, added some salt.

Our last course we had a simple meat and cheese plate otherwise called, "La Planche Dégustation", a sampling of all the fromage(cheese) and charcuterie selections.  "La Charcuterie", prosciutto, garlic sausage, rosette de Lyon, smoked duck breast, wild boar salami, Spanish chorizo, pickled vegetables, olives, Dijon and "Les Fromages" imported French cheeses with a fig terrine and fresh honeycomb, Tomme de Savoie – Tete de Moine - Bucheron – Saint André - Bleu d’Auvergne (raw-cow’s milk) (raw-cow’s milk) (semi-aged goat) (triple cream-cow) (cow’s milk).
The cheese was all amazing, different smells and flavors. The accompaniments were great as well and so was the presentation as you can see below. The one thing in the meal I was slightly disappointed in was the cured meats. None of them really delighted me per se which was a bit of a let down considering Europeans do cured meats so well. All in all another fantastic meal from the Blue Boheme and I would go back and recommend it in a heart beat.
Bleu Boheme on Urbanspoon

South Beach in OB, all about the Beer

After a hard weeks work I went out for a few drinks with my co-workers to celebrate the fact that it was Friday. Did I mention we all work in hospitality and we all had to be back to work the next day?  That's besides the point, we typically go to the same establishment and wanted to change it up.  I had been to South Beach in OB (Ocean Beach, San Diego) last year and I remember it being good so we decided on that.

It took me about 20 minutes to drive 3 miles through all of the beach traffic, then another 10 minutes to find parking.  Let's just say by the time I walked in I was thirsty.  They had a great beer list, and I started off with my new favorite beer, Ruin-ten by Stone.  It's a rip off Ruination, with a whopping 10.8% ABV.  For those of you that know me, you know I like my IPA's and more than that my Double IPA's.  Most restaurants that know their beer, won't serve a 16oz beer if the ABV is over 8%. There are a few restaurateurs that don't know what they're doing that serve it in a pint glass and charge the same as they do for a Coors Light, TAKE ADVANTAGE of those idiots.  If you know your shit, you can spot deals when you go out even if its not happy hour.

Next, I had the Sock Knocker by Coronado, a double IPA, who I must say has really stepped up their game in the last four years.  When I first moved back to the Deezy, I was very disappointed in their selection.  They have one of the premier names in San Diego, Coronado, yet their beer was very pedestrian.  Back to the Sock Knocker, it was delicious, I have found that Double IPA's seem to be much smoother than the traditional hoppy IPA's you find regularly.

By this time, I needed to tone it down, so I went for the Grunion Pale Ale by Ballast Point, a mere 5.5%.  I'd had this before and it was solid, but after the two palate wreckers I had just consumed this was plain weaksauce.  I ditched it and had one more Ruin Ten and called it a day.

There were a few more beers I would have liked to taste, however, I was very happy to find some unique beers on tap, as most places in San Diego tend to carry the same beers.  We had a few appetizers but nothing to write home about, sub par on the food for sure.  My colleagues all had fish tacos though and said they were great, they loved the mahi.  So at the end of the day, if you want a great beer selection and some good fish tacos, head to OB at the end of Newport on the left you will find South Beach.

P.S. they have a killer view if you get the right seat on the second floor

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

San Diego Food vs. Dallas Food

So, I get a lot of questions about why I don't blog anymore.  Well, last night it came to me after another lackluster meal, at Searsucker.  Searsucker is supposed to be one of the premier 'New American' restaurants in San Diego.  It was good, 4 out of 5 stars.  However, for those of you that used to read my blogs in Dallas, everything used to be five stars. 

Every new restaurant we tried, from a burger stand to fine dining it was all great.  Maybe that is because I was younger and inexperienced when it came to food.  Maybe my standards weren't as high.  I don't know what it was but either way I figured it out why I don't blog anymore, the food n San Diego just isn't as good.  Everything that is supposed to be sooooo good, just isn't, it isn't bad, it just doesn't WOW me.  For example, since I've moved back to the City of San Diego (vs North County), I've been in search for a really good burger, nothing fancy just a go to spot.  Where to people tell me to go? Hodads...meh.  I even gave it a second shot a couple of weeks ago.  They don't season the burger, its too greasy and the bun doesn't hold up, it just falls apart.  People have always said San Diego isn't a good food town, I must say I finally have to agree.

There are a few pearls I have found, Buona Forchetta, Fish Public and Blue Boheme.  I will try to write about them shortly to give you insight to at least what I think is good.  For those of you that disagree and think San Diego is a hot spot for foodies, please enlighten me to where the GREAT spots are.  Preferably close to Downtown, Northpark or Mission Valley, I don't like to travel too far.  Until next time....
Hodad's on Urbanspoon
Searsucker on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Yes, it might be an odd name if you're not from the south.  But That Boy Good is the name of my new favorite restaurant.  It's a "Southern BBQ Joint" where the Chef is both classically trained and learned all the family recipes.  He's making everything from scratch and this place is a shoe-in for Triple D once word gets out.

Mark and Kim are living the American Dream and just opened their own restaurant; and people are loving it.  Not only are they smoking their own pork, ribs and brisket but they're also smoking their own wings!  And Forget Franks Red Hot they're using Crystal Hot Sauce, out of Louisiana, on their Buffalo Wings.  These guys are making 2 different barbecue sauces one spicy and one sweet, both on the table in case you want more.

The great thing about That Boy Good is that they gave the market what it needed, bad.  Now if you live in San Diego you might be thinking, but we have Phil's BBQ.  No, there is no comparison, so please try TBG before you even think about comparing.  On to the food.

I have two favorite items, first, the pulled pork sandwich and the french fries.  The bun is toasted, fresh and holds up well against the moist pork.  The pork is tender and juicy, I added some spicy bbq sauce to give it a little kick though it didn't need it.  The french fries are hand cut, blanched then fried to order.  Imagine the best fries you've ever had, these are better - I promise.  There is a healthy portion on each plate so you won't need to ask for more.  The fries are crunchy but soft, salty but not too much.  As a garnish there are pickles and a slice of watermelon on every plate.

Appetizer portion of Chicken and Waffles
Next, everyones favorite, Chicken and Waffles!  Best fried chicken I've ever had, lots of seasoning and perfectly golden.  They use chicken thighs aka dark meat which = goodness.  The waffles were perfect as well, they are made fresh to order, and are soft and moist in the middle. The maple syrup they provide is top notch and not made from corn syrup. 

If you happen to have room, order dessert.  Chocolate Chip Waffle sandwich with Butter Pecan  Ice Cream.  'nuff said 

That Boy Good Southern BBQ Joint in Oceanside, CA is worth going to.  Even if you live in San Diego and don't like going north of La Jolla it's worth it. It has a unique feel that San Diego has been waiting for with great comfort food and real smoked bbq.  They have a brand new 60" tv to watch the big game on, so go for Sunday Funday or MNF.  It is, for those interested a great place to watch the New Orleans Saints, as your first beer is only $1 if you're wearing your jersey.  In all my blogs I must say this place seems to have a special place in my heart.  Maybe its because of the food maybe because there is two people living their dream and are out there making it happen.  Whatever the reason, make some time and see why they say, That Boy good!!!!

That Boy Good on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Original Pantry: A Staple in My Life

How many of you have a restaurant that you've been going to since you were a toddler? A restaurant that your parents have been going to since they were kids? Well, for me that's the Pantry. Since I was little I have always had this sense of nostalgia and I guess I get it from my Dad.

I walk into The Pantry.  The seats are the same, the smell is the same, the food is the same, some of their servers are even the same.  Perfect.  I don't know how long I've been coming here, I don't know how long my dad's been coming here and don't even know how long my grandparents have been coming here, my only answer, as long as we can remember.  They only take cash, there is a cage in front of the cashier, and when you look down, you can see 7 layers of floor that have been worn through.  The walls are an old dingy green, everything is exactly how I remember it.

We all have that restaurant that gives us a sense of nostalgia.  It has our favorite meal, it reminds us of when we were kids.  And the moment we sit down, we already know what we are going to order and our mouths start to salivate. 

For me that meal is: sourdough bread, roast beef, fried breakfast potatoes, and corn or green beans depending on what the vegetable is that day.

When you walk up to this old building you would never guess that this place in downtown LA has been here for years. There is typically a line around the building during busy periods for lunch and dinner.  They don't have a waiting list, just a line because it is first come first serve.  When you least expect it a waiter comes and tells you where to sit whether you like it or not.  They get your drink order and tell you the menu is on the wall.  It hasn't changed in years.  It is your quintessential diner with chalkboards and old signage. 

I always order the same thing unless they are out, then I proceed to cry.  But before we get to the roast beef we have the "starters".  They start everyone with coleslaw and sourdough bread.  I always push the coleslaw to the side because that's what my dad used to do (though he's changed it up on me the last few years and started to eat it, still not sure what to do about that).  The bread is amazing, always fresh and always hard not to fill up on it before the meal.  If you get breakfast which they serve all day they toast it, equally as good. 
On to the main course...

I can always see the waiter bringing the food and I smile inside.  The Roast beef is so tender you would think its pot roast.  There is a ladle of brown gravy over the top to add some salt and make it even moister (if that's even a word).  My favorite part of the meal are the potatoes.  These diced potatoes that have a thick brown crust on them, crunchy, yummy and orgasmic, yes you read that right.  I love it when the potatoes touch the gravy, its simply heaven.  Roast Beef, potatoes, and gravy the perfect bite of my life.  I wish I knew how to make them but I can't, but oh how I have tried.   I prefer the corn to the green beans because it adds a touch of sweetness to the dish.  This dish hasn't changed in years, if ever.

I will never stop going here, and I cant wait to take my kids here one day.  If you're in or around L.A, give it a try.

Original Pantry Cafe on Urbanspoon