Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Thirsty Thurdays

Grits Fullerton
133 W Chapman Ave.
Ste. 102
Fullerton, CA 92832

  I was recently invited to taste a few items from the Thirsty Thursday menu at Grits Fullerton. This is a special menu that is only available on Thursdays and all craft beers are half off. So it is a win win anyway you look at it. The outside of Grits has a very industrial feel to it but that gives way to a dining room that feels very modern and spacious. The music selection when I was there was full of music that I grew up with and it was awesome to hear that, made me feel like I was eating at my best friends house who happens to be an excellent chef.

  We started with the pork belly banh mi sandwich which is served on a crusty baguette with pickled veggies, spiced garlic aioli and of course the house made pork belly. The outer crust of the bread gave way to soft interior that sucked in the juices from the pork belly. The pork belly was tender and moist starting with a sweet tang and finished with a hint of heat. The pickled veggies added a tartness which helped to cut through the fatty belly. The pickles that are served on the side brought some sour to the plate but not mouth puckering sour. If this sandwich was a sign of what else was to come then I was in for a treat.

  Next on order was pork belly nachos which were crispy chips covered in pickled veggies, chunks of pork belly, cheddar cheese and what I think was citrus crema. The chips stayed nice and crunchy even after being piled high with all the other saucy ingredients. The pork belly was crisp, the veg added acidity and the crema was cooling. Getting the perfect bite was no problem as there was plenty of food offered in the dish. This is a dish that I could see myself enjoying a nice IPA with and a few friends. While we got our drinks and shot the shit.

  Quickly the next item came to us and this was one heck of a grilled cheese. Two thick slices of sourdough bread held together with copious amounts of of white cheddar, with bacon, jalapeno grits, jam and port salut. The texture of the perfectly golden brown sourdough contrasted with the gooey cheddar. The bacon brought the salt and the grits brought the heat. The added surprise for me was the macurated strawberries and blueberries. The sweetness of the fruit really blended well with each bite and gave me the total salty, sweet experience. This is not your mother's grilled cheese that you grew up on, and worth every carb that comes with this sammy.

  The home run of the night for me was Grits version of poutine. This dish was inspired by a classic but taken to new levels by Grits. First instead of using french fries the guys at Grits use a home-style potato that one might see on a breakfast plate. These potatoes are then covered in a white cheddar cheese sauce, red eye gray and a mound of pulled pork. From my first bite of this glorious dish I was speechless. This poutine hit every taste bud on your tongue. Sweetness gets you right off the bat, then salty comes in second, then smokiness kicks in to let you know that you are eating something from a BBQ and finally a subtle yet very present heat sneaks up on you. The home-style potatoes were soft and velvety. I was absolutely blown away by this dish and I must say if there is nothing else you get on Thursday then this is the dish.

  When I thought it was all over we had one last plate to try and this was dessert on steroids. It was a deep fried, house-made biscuit that was covered in cinnamon and sugar, served with a couple dollops of whipped cream, bacon bits and what I thought was a coffee caramel. The best way for me to describe this dish is to think of  a classic churro but combined with a short bread cookie. The biscuit was still flaky even after being fried. The coating of cinnamon and sugar was just enough to ring true for dessert without being cloyingly sweet. This was a great way to end tasting at Grits.

  But remember these dishes can only be found on the Thirsty Thursday menu at Grits Fullerton. So I would definitely recommend checking out Grits on Thursday and I personally cannot wait to get back to Grits to try a few other items I saw on the website. Like the Dr. Pepper braised pork shank, I must have it!

  Make sure to follow me on Instagram @papakaster to see pictures before they are posted to this blog.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Karma Points for Mick's

Mick's Karma Bar
2010 Main Street, Ste. 165
Irvine, CA 92614

  I'm always looking out for an exceptional burger. Honestly what's better then meat, cheese, veggies and bread? Not many other meals can stack up to perfectly made burger. This never ending journey took me to Mick's Karma Bar in Irvine. When I first arrived and pulled into the concrete maze of parking stalls I was excited but skeptical. Walking into the center of a business complex made my skepticism rise even more. However I was on this trip with an awesome friend of mine and I knew he wouldn't steer me wrong.

  Mick's is small and we were greeted by two friendly staff members and a large chalk board with the contents of this establishment's menu. I glanced over the menu stopping at a few options that I almost selected. But after hearing my friends order of "Karma burger, make that a double and a combo" I was snapped out of my haze, I followed suit and ordered the same meal. This was about $13 in total which included a specialty drink, I went with the iced tea mojito.

  The burgers came to the table quickly, with the side of french fries. I first grabbed some fries as I always seem to start there. Damn these fries were blasting hot, and must have been right out of the fryer. It's all good though because dipping the fries in the garlic aioli I got on the side helped to cool them down enough to munch on them. The crisp exterior of the fry and the fluffy inside was an excellent example of what a french fry should be.

  After a couple fries I couldn't wait and had try the burger. My first bite was full of so many different flavors and textures. Beefy, juicy, spicy, crunchy, sweet, soft were just a few that came to mind right away, The meat in this burger was tender, moist and full of flavor. These patties were covered in perfectly melted cheese which helped to hold some of the veggies in place. The tomatoes were slightly sweet, the lettuce was fresh and the cabbage added a nice crunch. The surprise for me was the Karma sauce which reminded me of a spicy thousand island dressing. It added a nice amount of heat without being overwhelming. I know I devoured this burger because my buddy looked away for a moment then turned back and was asking me where my burger went.

  Color me impressed by this burger. This was a stellar specimen of what a burger should aspire to be. The journey was definitely worth every bit of travel and I will be coming back to Mick's Karma Bar in the near future, And for any burger lover out there, like me, I must tell you to get quick thinking about trying Mick's and go asap, you will then know what I know now, this burger rocks! I cannot wait for my next visit so I can try the next burger. See you soon Mick's!

Micks Karma Bar

Mick's Karma Bar on Yelp

Make sure to follow me on Instagram @papakaster to see pictures before the reviews and pictures that did not make it to the review.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Getting Fancy

Broadway by Amar Santana
328 Glenneyre St.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

  As I grow older my taste buds have grown with me. I have noticed things that I disliked as a child are now some of my favorite foods. With this notion comes the trial of my "fancy" foods. When I was a child the fanciest food we had was from a local Mexican food restaurant. Now that I am older and have watched more Food Network than I would like to admit, I would like to think my tastes have evolved. This theory was put to the test a few weeks ago when my foodie friend asked me a simple question, "When was the last time you had a fancy meal?". I really had to think and my answer surprised both of us, "When I was in high school.". That was that, the wheel was set in motion and we ended up at Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach. When first walking in I felt a bit out of place but once the food started coming to the table there was nothing that could have bothered me.

  My foodie friend and I decided to do the Monday Prix Fixe meal. This included a five course meal, we also decided to get an appetizer and I got an adult beverage. My drink of choice as of late has been the Moscow Mule. A simple mix of vodka, ginger beer and a twist of lime. The Moscow Mule at Broadway is made using house made ginger beer, which really adds a nice punch of ginger to the drink. I really enjoyed the fact that it was also served in the appropriate copper mug. This drink was strong, full of flavor and very refreshing.

  Next up was our appetizer of roasted beef bone marrow. I have seen this dish many times on TV and on other menus but this was my first time trying it. The marrow was served with oxtail mushroom marmalade, garlic confit, sea salt and grilled sourdough bread. I scooped a bit of beef marrow out of the bone and slathered the fatty goodness on the bread. Then covered it in the marmalade, a garlic clove and a pinch of salt. The first bite I took was an explosion of flavor in my mouth. The rich beef flavor from the marrow and the marmalade mingled together perfectly. The garlic confit brought sweetness without being pungent. While the sea salt cut through all the richness and brightened all other flavors.

  Our first course of the Prix Fixe was octopus carpaccio with piquillo emulision, caper berries, castelvetrano olives and smoke paprika. To be honest I almost chickened out and didn't try this dish. But wanting to expand my pallet I went for it and I actually liked it. The octopus was was tender and not salty at all. There was a nice hint of fresh ocean water with the thinly sliced tentacles. The olives brought the salinity while the smoked paprika added a slight amount of smokey heat. The whole time I'm think to myself "Look at me I'm eating seafood" which is something I do not do often and I was pleased to do so.

  The next course was pheasant tortellini with yam puree, huckelberry, macadamia nuts and frise. These tiny packets of chopped meat were moist and not gamey at all. The pheasant mixed nicely with the yam and huckelberry smeers. The yams added a earthy, root vegetable flavor and the puree was velvety on the tongue. The huckelberries were tart while retaining a hint of sweetness. The mixtures of flavors really brought the pheasant to life. The macadamia nuts added the needed texture that rounded this whole dish off.

  So my friend and I decided to each get one of the main courses so we could get a bit of each. I started with the seared duck breast that came with sauteed spinach, celery root, pickled shallots and duck jus. This was only the second time I had ever had duck breast and the first time was not a pleasant experience so again I was kind of gun shy. After trying this duck breast I cannot wait to try it again. This duck breast fat was rendered to allow the skin to crisp perfectly. The meat was moist and tender. The pickled shallots were a sour note to break through the richness of the duck breast and the sauteed spinach was buttery. The best part of this dish for me was getting the best bite by pulling the breast meat through the jus and all other accompaniments on the plate.

  Next up was the grilled petite filet with pomme aligot, garlic chips, alfalfa sprouts and red wine. I personally didn't know what pomme aligot was until I tasted them. They are cheesy mashed potatoes. Damn these were silky smooth while being full of sharp cheese flavor. The garlic chips added some crunch without being bitter. The red wine and sprouts were a nice addition to the dish. The wine added fruity notes to each bite while the sprouts were fresh and bright. The filet was grilled to medium rare which made it delicate and full of juices. By far one of the best pieces of cooked beef I have had in a restaurant setting.

  The meal finished with chef's choice of dessert. On this night we were treated to a vanilla milk ice cream on top of a cranberry gel with blood orange puree and blood orange chip. The vanilla milk ice cream was icy cold with a resemblance to a pana cotta. The cranberries tartness and blood orange sweetness paired nicely with each other. This dessert was not overly sweet so it finished the meal off perfectly.

  I left Broadway by Amar Santana well fed and very pleased. My most recent "fancy" meal was a stunning success that I cannot wait to repeat this experience. The expanding pallet I am trying to have is leading me to food experiences I would never have thought of having when I was much younger. These fancy meals are truly something special and I will continue to try and do this kind of meal every few months. I am also excited to try Vaca which is the newest resturuant from Amar Santana coming soon to Costa Mesa.

Broadway by Amar Santana on Yelp

Broadway by Amar Santana

Vaca Restaurant

Make sure to follow @papakaster on Instagram in order to see pictures before, and ones that might not make it to the review. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Firsts for me at Five Crowns

Five Crowns
3801 E. Coast Highway
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

  Recently I was lucky enough to be invited for the fall menu tasting at Five Crown in Corona Del Mar. This was a limited seating event and sure to be a night filled with good food. I was excited and nervous at the same. If you have been reading PKE you will notice this is not my typical food to review. So I was hopeful to try food items I have never tried before.

  When you first walk into Five Crown it kind of reminds you of a English style pub. The lighting was dim, the people chatting and the hostesses were friendly. After a few minutes of waiting, we were directed up stairs to the Speak Easy for a few cocktails and appetizers. The drink of the night was the crown jewel, it was a very well made drink which included sage infused vodka. There were a few different options for appetizers and I started with the avocado smash on a pita chip. The avocado was very smooth and creamy while the pita had a nice crunch. Then the oysters came around, this is  my first of the night, I have never had oysters before and almost passed on them. But I went for it; and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I actually enjoyed it. The oyster it self was sweet and full of fresh ocean flavor. The green onions added some brightness to the oyster that really helped make it a composed bite.

  After the appetizers were completed we headed back downstairs to the green room. This room was amazingly well decorated and reminded me of something I would have seen in a movie. The tables were all laid out in neat order and everyone had a place card for their seat. Upon sitting down there was a copy of the tasting menu we would be enjoying tonight. 

  First course was butternut squash soup with maple glazed pancetta. This was my second first of the night, because I had tried butternut squash alone, so I was hoping that I would like it. Since I have no past experience with this I can say this was  the best butternut squash soup I have ever had. The soup was silky from the butter that was added at the end of the cooking process. The crispy pancetta added texture and the maple glaze brought in sweetness and hints of flavors we are all used to enjoying.

  The second course was Mediterranean sea bass with shrimp, cauliflower florets, caper brown butter and chervil. Yes, another first for me. I am not big a fan of seafood in general anyway, and the sea bass was new to me, and believe it or not the cauliflower was too. The sea bass it self was tender and moist with a crisp skin. The cauliflower was very good, it was roasted slightly and full of flavor from the brown butter sauce. The shrimp was tender and sweet. While both the proteins on the best were well executed I have to say my favorite on this plate was the cauliflower.

  The third course was fall lasagna with house-made pasta, braised kale, mushrooms, arugula and parmigiano. The top of this lasagna was golden brown, the pasta was tender and the mushrooms were plump. The sauce that accompanied the lasagna added a good amount of moisture without the dish getting watered down. The cheese was sharp and salty which helped to cut through some of the flavors. Another dish that you could taste the pride these chefs took in their ingredients and they were cooked amazingly well. 

  The fourth course was deckle steak, sweet potato coins, haricot vert and herb butter. If you are not sure what a deckle steak is, it comes from the cap of a rib eye steak. This cut of meat was fatty and full of flavor. The tender beef gave way with few stokes of the knife. The herb and salt rub on the outside of the deckle steak was crusted and seared nicely. The temperature of the beef was a nice medium which kept it juicy. The haricot vert were toothsome and buttery. This was by far the star of the meal. If I could have I would have eaten more of this but since it was only a tasting, my portion would have to do. However I will have to go back to Five Crowns for this steak.

  The last course was a dessert course which was warm apple crumble with Straus vanilla ice cream. The apple crumble was thinly sliced apples with some blueberries mixed in. The crumble topping was reminiscent of a granola. The crispy outside gave way to tender apples and blueberries that burst with flavor. The ice cream brought richness and a cooling to the warm dish. It was a flavor profile that brought back memories of my grandmother cooking desserts, by hand, during our holidays events when I was child.

  I left Five Crowns saying to myself and the other guests how impressed I was with the entire event. I had a a lot of firsts for me when it comes to food and certainly hope to continue this trend. The quality of food was above what I was expecting. The flavors in each dish truly did remind me of the fall season. The event staff and the rest of the employees I had encountered were very helpful and polite. I now know that I must return to Five Crowns and see what other treats they have on the menu.

Five Crowns

Five Crowns on Yelp

Make sure to follow me on Instagram @papakaster to see pictures before the reviews and pictures that did not make it to the review.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Burger Gluttony

The Pint House - Orange
1547 W Katella Ave
Ste. 102
Orange, CA 92867

  I was taken to The Pint House in Orange on a whim and have been craving the burgers ever since. I made it a point to take my foodie friend there so he too could try and crave these monstrous burgers. The burgers can be close to $15 each but they are well worth every penny. Plus the The Pint House in Orange has an awesome selection of beers on tap. So it is a win, win for me.

  On this visit it was a Monday evening dinner, and  we were able to be seated right away. The seating is tight so the less crowded the better for me. On a side note, The Pint House has Bottle Logic Brewing Co. Beers on tap which was an extra bonus for me. Looking over the menu at Pint House they have many so many other tasty sounding meal options, but the burgers, for me, are king of the hill here. So I ordered the pastrami burger with garlic, parmesan fries. My friend ordered the pulled pork burger with onion rings. With two pints of beer and a dessert I forgot to picture, bad me, the total for this meal was about $58.

  This pastrami burger is loaded with a grilled beef patty, sliced pastrami, melted swiss, caramelized onions, garlic aioli mayo and the rest of the classic fixings. When this behemoth was placed in front of me it took me a few turns of the plate to figure where I was going to attack this burger. I opted to slice it in half and attempt to conquer this burger one half at a time. The first bite of this bad boy was loaded with flavor. I was getting smokey from the grilled beef, fatty from the pastrami, sour from the pickles and slight kick from the mustard. The patty it self was moist while the pastrami was tender. The veggies were super fresh and the cheese was gooey good, just the way I like it. I only managed to eat half of this burger and picked at the meat and pastrami on the second half. The fries on the side were crispy and full of garlic parmesan sprinkles. 

  Here is a picture of the pulled pork burger that I had to share with you guys just to show how enormous each burger from The Pint House. As you can see, it is totally worth the menu price. Also I have to say that these onion rings were bomb. Crunchy outside batter that sticks to the sweet onion. These definitely gave my love of the garlic parmesan fries a run for the money.

  I have and will continue to recommend The Pint House in Orange to any burger connoisseur. These are easily some of the best burgers I have had to date. I will continue coming to The Pint House so I can try every burger they offer on the menu. Thanks again EK for the introduction and introducing me to this burger heaven! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hooray for Wiener Wednesday

Otis Dogs
580 S Brea Blvd.
Unit A
Brea, CA 92821

  Move over Taco Tuesday and make room for Wiener Wednesday at Otis Dogs in Brea. My best bud suggested we try this place out after he had gone there and found himself pretty impressed. I am always down for a good wiener so it was a no brainer to go check Otis Dogs out.

  Otis Dogs is just south of Imperial Highway on Brea Blvd, if you pass Guitar Center then you have gone too far. Why the specific directions? Because I want to ensure you find this place and enjoy one of their wieners. Plus on Wednesdays they have a Wiener Wednesday which puts one of their wieners on special. My friend and I did show up on Wednesday and the chili cheese was the deal of the day. I did want to try more then one hot dog however and my picks where the chili cheese dog and a pastrami dog. You can get your dogs on Hawaiian buns but I stuck with the old school style buns. The two dogs, a drink and chips set me back a bit less then $13.

  I went after the chili cheese dog first. Good thing they provided a plastic fork and knife because there was no way I was going to be able to pick this monstrous dog up. The wiener was all beef, plump, juicy and full of that classic American hot dog flavor. The chili was all meat and sans any type of beans. This is a classic dog that was done very well. The chili was a tad bit too sweet for my liking but that could have been easily fixed. I was pretty full after I was done with this dog but still had one more wiener to chow down.

  Same dog in this bun except this one was loaded with pastrami then squirted with mayo and mustard. I really liked the pastrami on this dog. It was tender but sliced a little too thin, full of peppery spice and little bit of fat that all good pastrami needs. The mayo added a bit of creaminess to each bite while the mustard brought the vinegar which helped to cut through some of richness of the meat on meat tastes. I did like the chili cheese dog but today the pastrami dog was the winner in my eyes.

  Either one of these dogs could have easily been a meal by themselves but being the wiener hound that I am I had to stuff two of them in my pie hole. I was thoroughly content and was ready to take a nap from the food induced coma that was hitting me. I cannot wait to get back to Otis Dogs and try one of the other concoctions they have available. Hooray for Wiener Wednesday!