Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Should Restaurants Get Second Chances?

February 13, 2011

Have you ever had a good and bad dining experience at the same place?  It catches you off guard, like a 70-degree day in the middle of January.  You can’t help but wonder what went wrong and if it was the dish you ordered or if the chef was just having an off-day?

This was the recent experience I had at the new Eden Restaurant in Hillcrest.  I want to preface this by saying that I am a HUGE fan of Eden for it’s food and ambiance (they’ve catered a few events for my company in the past and I loved the food).  I went out for brunch and I didn’t like the particular breakfast item I ordered, which is not to say their other items aren’t great because they all sounded ah-may-zing, but I was looking for something healthiful that day (yes, I totally made up that word).  Now I’m rambling but it’s only because I really do care and love this company as a whole, and I don’t want my review to negatively reflect them in any way.  But, I disgress… let’s get to the food!

I recently went out for San Diego Restaurant Week, an entire week where restaurants in San Diego create a prix fix 3-course menu.  It’s a great way to get out and try new restaurants in San Diego at an affordable price.  In fact, I went to two dinners that week.  My second dinner was at Eden in Hillcrest and consisted of a three course menu with several options for each course.  I happened to choose the following:

Appetizer Course

Gumbo di Vinci

Bayou fare simmered with soul and served with a Dungeness Crab Hushpuppy.

Main Course

Porcini Pillows

House Ricotta Pasta Pillows, Porcini Browned Butter, Wild Rocket and Sun Dried Tomato.

Dessert Course

Banana Cream Pie

Chef Scotty’s Favorite since Kindergarten…comforting, sweet and delicious.

Sadly, I didn’t get a photograph of the first dish.  I was so hungry that I just dove into the food when I arrived and didn’t even think twice until after I had scarfed down the gumbo.  I enjoyed the gumbo even though I am not a huge fan of spicy foods.  I felt like this dish had a nice balance of heat and wasn’t over-powerful to the point that I wouldn’t be able to finish it.

The porcini pillows were amazing.  That is a dish that I could eat over and over again.  I never used to be a fan of mushrooms but in the last few years they have really grown on me, and this dish definitely reminds me of what I was missing out on all of those years!  The wild rocket salad tasted like it had a hint of truffle oil, which sealed the deal for me.  I also just discovered truffle oil last year and every time I see it on a menu I feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

Last, I chose banana cream pie for dessert.  It seemed like a strange thing to find on the menu of a gourmet restaurant in San Diego.  For me, banana cream pie is reminiscent of Indiana and pot-lucks on a hot summer day.  However, Eden’s executive chef, Scotty Wagner, is from Wisconsin so I could definitely see the connection.

Bananas are one of my favorite foods in the whole world.  I know that seems like an exaggeration, but it’s true.  I LOVE anything with bananas.  Banana pudding, bananas in ice-cream, banana ice-cream, banana’s foster, banana bread—you name it.  So when I ordered the banana cream pie, you have to know that going into it, I had HUGE expectations.  Was the pie good?  Yes.  Was it the best pie I ever had?  Not by far.  I have a recipe for the BEST banana pudding you will have ever unleashed your tastebuds on, and there is no question that my banana pudding could have easily trumped this pie.  It is a Paula Dean recipe, after all.

I did, however, get to try my friend’s dessert, which was their Pana Cota with Kefir Lime Dust, Fresh Pineapple & Kiwi-Lime Coulis. Three words: to die for.  Looking back, I would have totally gone for that instead.

So, getting back to my original story about the good/bad restaurant experience, after Restaurant Week I returned to Eden to check out their brunch.  I heard many good things, especially about their $10 bottomless mimosas which sounded too good to be true!  My friend and I decided to check it out one morning after yoga.  Unfortunately, I was not feeling the mimosas at the time since it was the morning after an evening of wine drinking.  Also, the yoga before and some recent lifestyle changes towards a more health-conscious diet made me skip over all the really great sounding dishes, for something simple and healthy.

I tried their Omelet Caprese since it was the most healthy looking thing on the menu.

It was meh.  Yes, official food blogger terminology—respect.  Compared to my last breakfast at FARM, there was no comparison (pictures don’t lie).  I wasn’t feeling the “three eggs with buffalo mozzarella, basil & sun-dried tomatoes.”  The eggs were rubbery and flavorless—overall a huge disappointment.  Had I ordered the menu items that truly captured by attention, like the crabcake benedict or their angel toast, a spin on the classic french toast using angel food cake soaked in frangelico (DROOL), it may have been a different story altogether.  Note to self: splurge when going to brunch.

I guess the moral of the story is don’t judge a book by it’s cover, or in my case don’t judge a restaurant by one bad experience.  Luckily I had the good experience first, which is why I came back.  But I guess what I realize is that a particular dish should not be representative of all that a restaurant has to offer.  That dish may not be the restaurant’s strong point.  Maybe the dish is too simple, or maybe healthy-fare isn’t that establishment’s specialty.  Whatever the case is, I think it’s important to give restaurants another shot before writing them off completely.  You may be surprised what you find.

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A weekend gettaway at Hearst Castle Part II

May 14, 2010

Last weekend, I went with a couple girlfriends up to visit Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.  Even with the trip being so short, we managed to cram a lot into those 2 1/2 days which is why I’ve broken this trip into 3 different blog posts!  I like to give all the deets!

One of the things I didn’t realize until only a couple days before our trip was how close we were going to be to wine country!  Paso Robles, a huge wine hot spot in Central California, was only 45 mins – 1 hour from our motel!  They have somewhere around 180-odd wineries.

After touring Hearst Castle, I really really wanted to visit a winery but since most of them closed by 5pm, we decided just to go out to dinner.  We found a brochure at the motel and were sold on a little restaurant called Matthew’s that promised to deliver local wine, local ingredients, and “wine country cuisine”.

We started out with some local wine from Dancing Stallion.  We decided to try their 2006 Syrah which was absolutely amazing!  Very rich and full bodied with high tannins and a lush mouth-feel.  You could definitely smell the dark cherry and blackberry aromas!  Some of the best Syrah I have had to date.

The food was just as delicious!  I ordered the pumpkin ravioli.  I love anything with pumpkin.  Fall is my favorite season, so it shouldn’t be any surprise.

Pumpkin ravioli

I also split a salad with Julie.  I love fruit salads!  This one had pears and oranges and was topped with walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, and a champagne and citrus vinaigrette.  It was très magnifique!

Fruit salad with Gorgonzola, walnuts, and champagne vingarette!

I love that the portions here were so small.  One, it makes you feel less guilty for indulging!  Two, the food is very rich and satisfying so you don’t need much.  Three, it leaves more room for DESSERT(s)!  We happened to order three.  What?!  There was three of us… 😉

Chocolate martini

Chocolate pave with pistachio

Apple caramel bread pudding

My favorite was the apple caramel bread pudding.  I’m not a huge chocolate fan—definitely not into the rich chocolates unless they are mixed with something a little more mellow to balance out the flavors.  For that reason, I didn’t love the chocolate pave which was pretty much like a supper rich, dense chocolate brownie with berries on top.   The chocolate martini on the other hand wasn’t bad with its layers of cream, ice cream, strawberries, and drizzle on top.

We each paid about $50 for the meal (ouch!) but it was totally worth it.  Sometimes you need to allow yourself to indulge in a wonderful meal that you know you can’t get anywhere else 🙂

I’m currently plotting my next adventure up to the Central Coast so I can finally visit their wineries!

Cheers,

Jess

Rhythm and Vine Music & Wine Festival

April 19, 2010

Music @ Rhythm & Vine

I went to last night’s Rhythm and Vine, a music and wine festival in Escondido, California that benefits the Girls and Boys Club.  Rhythm and Vine is put on by Fast Forward Events, the event company that I interned for last semester when I helped out with the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.  It’s such a small world!  Anyway, I was there last night helping out my mentor, Lindsay Pomeroy of Wine Smarties, who was brought on to host a segment for Taste of Wine TV.

We basically got to go around and handpick restaurants, wineries, breweries, and spirit purveyors we thought would have the most compelling stories and bring them back to our booth for Lindsay to interview on camera.  Among the various exhibitors, we spoke with Fallbrook Winery, Orfila Vineyards & Winery, Cupcake Love, St. Petersburg Russian Vodka, La Jolla Pub & Brew House, and PaQui Tequila.

It was interesting to be on the other side of the fence as an exhibitor.  I got to spread my wings a little and experience the event as an attendee would.  I had so much fun that I didn’t get any pictures despite bringing my camera :(… but I still have my memories!

This event was much smaller than the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, but I think as a spectator some people may prefer it if they are looking to avoid big crowds and long lines.  Despite the size, I feel like this event still had a lot to offer in terms of wine.  Many of the wineries participating at this event were also a part of the SDBWFF so in terms of quality, you were getting a lot of the same great wines but on a much smaller and local scale.

I was really impressed with Fallbrook Winery‘s 2007 33 Degree North BDX.  This is their first wine made entirely from grapes grown on their Estate.  67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 8% Cabernet France and 100% delicious, it mimics the qualities of a red Bordeaux—smooth and enticing, it definitely leaves you wanting more.

Another favorite wine came from Ryan-Jake Cellars, a vineyard that grows and produces their wines up in Napa Valley.  I really enjoyed their 2007 3.SUM.  Strange name, but great taste!  Also a blend, this time of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Syrah and Zin.  They describe this wine as full-bodied and “packed with flavors of cherry, rhubarb, caramel and blackberry preserves, with undertones of cocoa and spice.”  Their 2007 Viogner was also quite delicious, but it was definitely not a match when compared to Orfila‘s Estate Viognier.

The emphasis at this event was definitely not on food.  SDBWFF is jam packed with amazing chefs from all over the San Diego fine dining restaurant scene, whereas the food at this event consisted of many more casual dining restaurants with a few big names like Harney Sushi and the Winesellar & Brasserie.  I enjoyed the lasagna of Lady Lasagna (San Diego), they had both a tomato and pesto lasagna that were delish.

Also the ladies of Hotcha Salsa (Carlsbad) were so cool—they gave me TWO free containers of salsa.  Their hot salsa is made with cucumbers, which I normally hate, but it was actually quite tasty.

Mmm... Hotcha!

And I can’t forget The Chocolate Traveler (Pasedena) for hooking me up with a free sample of their milk chocolate wedges… yum!

Milk chocolatey goodness!

In addition to wine, I got to try a variety of delicious beers.  Firestone Walker Brewing Company came down from Paso Robles to show off their beers which have won numerous accolades in world competitions.  I was blown away by their Double Barrel Ale, which is actually aged in oak barrels like a wine, leaving hints of vanilla and toasted oak on your palette.  I definitely recommend picking up a case of the DBA at your local Vons.  Another favorite came from North Coast Brewing Company (Fort Bragg, CA).  With 9% ABV, their Old Rasputin Imperial Stout punches you in the face with flavors of espresso and chocolate.  It was quite possibly one of the BEST stouts I have ever tried.  I’m going to have to keep my eye out for that one and see if it’s offered locally!

All and all this was a great event that I’d highly recommend to anyone with the money to attend.  With tickets at $75 (advance) – $100 (at the door) it can be a little pricey, but if you have the funds it’s a wonderful way to spend an evening while giving back to the community.

Cheers,

Jess