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!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Tustin's newest BBQ Pit

Dickey's Barbecue Pit
17245 E. 17th Street, Ste. A
Tustin, CA 92780

  I have been waiting for Dickey's Barbecue Pit in Tustin to open since I saw the coming soon signs. I caught a glimpse of the opening date and made sure to get there soon after. So, my daughter, my wife and I decided to have dinner there one night. We walked in and there was no line, lucky us because it filled up quickly afterwards. My daughter ordered the kids meat plate with ribs, my wife ordered the three meat plate as did I. With one drink  for my wife and I to share, this meal was just over $41.

  The kids meat plate comes with a choice of meat, a side, a bread and a drink. My daughter got the ribs which comes with two. My daughter liked her ribs, she said there were good. She had nothing to say about the sauce other than she liked it. She did eat both ribs without any complaints. I stole a fry from her plate and was disappointed to find out that they were under cooked, which made them very soft and slightly soggy.

  My wife got sausage, brisket and ribs for her three choices of meat. I had to try my wife's sausage since I didn't get any. This was by far my favorite piece on my wife's plate and my wife felt the same way. She also said the brisket was dry but tender, and that she really liked the spice rub on the ribs. But overall my wife was neither happy or dissatisfied with her meal.

  For my three choices I got pulled pork, brisket and chicken breast. I too felt the brisket was dry but tender. The addition of the sauce helped moisten the meat up. The chicken breast could easily be cut with the plastic silverware provided. It too was on the dry side but like the brisket, that was handled by using some sauce. My favorite meat on my plate was the pulled pork. It was moist and had a nice smokey flavor to it. The mac and cheese was good but resembled something that could be made at home from a box. The beans were tasty and had a slight kick to them which I liked.

  My real issue with Dickey's is the portion sizes compared to the price. When I ordered the brisket the worker pulled this big slab of plastic wrapped meat from a warmer. He then slit the plastic, sliced off one piece of brisket, weighed it and placed it on my plate. The plastic wrapped items from the warmer was also where my pulled pork and chicken came from. Now I understand portion control and needing to make money on your food but come on Dickey's those portion sizes where ridiculous. Unfortunately I do not think we will be returning to Dickey's Barbecue Pit anytime soon. Bummer.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Do a Beach Barrel roll

The Beach Barrel
3305 Newport Blvd.
Newport Beach, CA 92663

  Another PR event allowed me to try The Beach Barrel. I scanned the menu before hand and decided I wanted to to try the Playa Cubano but when I arrived I was delighted to learn that I would be able to try more then just one item on the menu. I was able to enjoy the Playa Cubano, the BBQ chicken flat bread, the barrel burger, the street dog and finally the sticky buns.

  I started with the BBQ chicken flat bread which is house made sriracha BBQ sauce, shredded chicken, apple wood bacon, mozzarella cheese, red onion and cilantro. The flat bread was crisp while the BBQ sauce brought a spice to the party, but it wasn't so spicy that your taste bud are screaming for water. The chicken was tender and the cheese was stringy, melted goodness. This was definitely a good BBQ chicken flat bread and I really liked the heat from the BBQ sauce.

  Next I dove into the sammy I came for, the Playa Cubano. This sandwich is citrus glazed pork, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, house made pickles and dijonaise which is all placed on french bread that is then grill pressed. My first bite was such a burst of flavors. The citrus from pork comes through first and comes on heavy. Then the sour pickles and the tart dijonaise kick in and balance everything out. The pork it self was moist and tender. I could not contain the juices running down my hand from this sandwich. I can easily say this is by far one of the best three Cuban sandwiches I have had to date.

  The street dog was next in my sights. This is a 1/4 pound all beef dog that is then covered in apple wood bacon, caramelized onions, and grilled jalapenos. Then come in with mayo, mustard and a mix of chedder and mozzarella cheese. This is not my typical choice for dogs but I was diggin' this dog. The crunchy bacon, spicy jalapenos and creamy toppings all blended well together and made an awesome bite of food. My only suggestion to make this better would be that they should look into getting a different type of dog, something with a natural casing to give you a snap with each bite.

  Burger time! This is the only burger Beach Barrel does and they do it well. This seasoned beef patty is loaded with grilled bell peppers, Romaine lettuce, tomato, red onions, avocado, house made thousand island dressing and cheddar cheese. This is all stuffed between a toasted brioche bun. The beef patty was luscious, the bell peppers where soft and the lettuce was crisp. The avocado added a velvety consistency that helped to cut some of the richness from the beef. The other thing I noticed is that the bun was toasted perfectly, just enough to add some bite to the bun but not enough to kill the roof of your mouth.

  Lastly I finished with the Hawaiian sticky buns and scoop of ice cream. These were your standard Hawaiian buns but done up like you have never had before. The buns are layered with marshmallows and smothered in the homemade pecan caramel sauce. The bun is toastey on the outside and stays soft on the inside. The caramel sauce is gooey and sweet with the ice cream adding a coldness to each bite. If you follow food trends Hawaiian buns have been used in a myriad of ways. I must say this is by far the best way I have seen them used. The sweet buns are complimented perfectly with the rest of the ingredients.

  The Beach Barrel is a bit of drive for me to visit all the time but what I do know is that I will be back for that Playa Cubano sandwich. For me this sandwich was the highlight of my visit. Everything I tried was excellent and I had zero complaints. The Beach Barrel chefs know what they are doing and they do it well. I can easily recommend The Beach Barrel and suggest you take the time to check them out. Make sure to visit the website because if you are within the delivery range you can get all this awesomeness delivered right to your door!

The Beach Barrel

The Beach Barrel on Yelp

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Blake's Place Revisted

Blake's Place
2905 E Miraloma Ave
Ste 3
Anaheim, CA 92806

 I took advantage of another opportunity to try Blake's Place BBQ in Anaheim. I have been there before and even posted a review on here. But I am sucker for good BBQ and figured what the heck, why not? The last time I ate at Blake's Place was years ago but I remember it being okay, not bad by any means but nothing that rocked my socks. Well let me tell you, this time I was pleasantly surprised with my visit and thought there was a clear improvement over my last meal.

  I do have to say this was a PR event so my kids and I got our meals comped to us. My daughter ordered the kids baby rack ribs. Like almost every other time she tries something new, she was hesitant but went ahead with that order. My son ordered the Blake's One Pound Bomber. I ordered the three meat plate and for sweet treat we got some bread pudding.

  My daughter picked up her first rib and messed around with it for a bit before taking her first bite. Once that bite was taken she was in BBQ heaven, she just kept saying how good the ribs were and how much she liked the sauce. She chowed down all her ribs without any complaining which I was fully stoked about. In fact she had a BBQ sauce "smile" from ear to ear from her lacking of caring what she looked like and simply enjoyed the meat on bone goodness.

  Blakes's one pound bomber consists of beef brisket, pork, turkey, Swiss cheese, pickles, red onion and BBQ sauce on a French roll. This sandwich is loaded to the brim with smoked meats and requires you to unlock your jaw like some kind of serpent. My son said the meat was tender and had a good amount of smoke to it. He felt like the meat was a little dry but nothing some of Blake's house made BBQ sauce couldn't fix. My son was able to easily take down one and half of the second half. As we were leaving Blake's I asked my son if he remembered his last trip and how it compared to this trip. He felt like there was clear improvement in the quality, taste and overall tastyness of the food.

 I went with the three meat plate so I could try and bit of everything. I ordered beef brisket, turkey, and pork loin. The beef brisket was tender enough to be easily cut with a plastic fork. The turkey was smoked in such a way that is almost had a ham kind of flavor to it. It too was super tender. The pork loin was my favorite of all three meats. The smoke on the pork was just enough to let you it was there but not overpowering at all. It was like eating BBQ sauce covered thick sliced bacon. Who wouldn't love that? The beans and potato salad did not get as much of my attention as they should have. I picked at them not because they were bad, in fact the potato salad was really good and the bean were very well made. Just too much meat for me and that's all I was about. Plus I had to save room for the bread pudding.

  I chose to have my bread pudding cold. I had already eaten enough hot foot with the three meats plate so I went for the cooler desert. This bread pudding was dense but in like the best possible way. The custard had soaked through all the bread which brought plenty of cinnamon flavor to the party. The raisins added tiny pockets of sweet that really helped to break through some of that cinnamon spice. I could only image how awesome this would be hot with a bit of bourbon sauce on it. I don't actually know if Blake's does it that way but they should if they don't.

  I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Blake's Place and my kids had a great BBQ experience too. It may be a bit out of the way but you should definately take the time to seek out and try Blake's Place.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

My Quest Continues

Tartan Room
2652 N Tustin St.
Orange, CA 92865

  Wow look, quick a new post from PKE!! But this is of the most important nature, my quest to find a Monte Cristo sandwich that rivals the one inside of Disneyland. This time I was directed to the Tartan Room in Orange which serves a version of this iconic sandwich on the lunch menu. Once I heard about it being on the menu it was a must try for me.

  This Monte Cristo is definitely different then the one at Disneyland. The sandwich at Disneyland is encapsulated in deep fried goodness. The one from Tartan Room is served on more of French toast style bread. That being said this an excellent rendition of a Monte Cristo. The bread was eggy, soft and fluffy without being too sweet. The slices of meat were tender and the cheese was melted and gooey. My only criticism would be too much powdered sugar for my liking. I very much enjoyed my meal and could easily order this again. Did it beat Disneyland? The answer would have to be no. They are two different styles of the same sandwich and I guess I am partial to the golden brown, deliciousness that comes from Disneyland. However if you are craving such awesomeness and cannot make it to the Happiest Place on Earth then this would be a fantastic substitute.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pizza Time in RSM

Pizza e Vino
31441 Santa Margarita Parkway
Suite M
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

  My wife and I were invited to visit Pizza e Vino by Niyaz of Knife and Spork which is a food PR company that reps Pizza e Vino. My wife and I were excited to visit Pizza e Vino because of all the good things we had heard from Niyaz and the excellent reviews Pizza e Vino has online. We arrived first thing when they opened and we were greeted by a very friendly waitress. She seated us, took our drink order then gave us the down low on the daily specials. Pizza e Vino has a social media special which includes two brunch sized pizzas from a selection of five, a caeser salad and a dessert burrata. This can all be had for thirty dollars and can only be ordered if specifically mentioned. With that knowledge Niyaz and I both ordered the brunch pizza from the selection of five we could choose from. My wife ordered the parma ham with house roasted mushrooms. We also ordered a starter of wood fired garlic bread. As for dessert we went a bit overboard but it was worth every calorie, not only did we get the dessert that came with the social media special but we also ordered a slice of tiramisu and a connoli. With drinks this entire meal would have cost around eighty dollars but because Niyaz invited us there, we were comped the social media special which saved us that thirty bucks.

  The meal stared off with a classic caeser salad and honestly I am not a huge fan of caeser salad but let me tell you this was by far the best caeser I have had to date. The lettuce was fresh and crisp. The dressing was creamy with the perfect amount of seasoning. The croutons were crunchy which added a great contrast in textures and the freshly grated parmesan cheese was salty in the perfect way. My taste buds were blown away and this was just the start of meal, my exceptions grew for the rest of our meal.

  Next came the garlic bread which is wood fired in the brick pizza oven. This made-to-order flat bread is covered in chopped garlic, olio and pecorino romano. Both Niyaz and my wife looked at me like I was crazy when I mentioned that I tasted a hint of toasted marshmallow when I first took a bite of this garlic bread. It must have been from the little bits of charred dough that are created from being cooked in an 850 degree pizza oven. After that hint of sweet went away you are treated to a garlic and cheese bonanza in your mouth. The soft and toothsome dough gives way to the fresh garlic and moister from the olio. This is a must order next time I visit Pizza e Vino, and there will be a next time!


  Going to hand the keyboard over to wife so she can explain her take on the pizza she had but let me say this, I hate mushrooms with a passion but I could have easily eaten this pie by myself.
    Howdy all! I'm the wife, AKA MamaKaster. I don't normally get into the writing side of Papa's blog, I'm more on the eating end, but let me tell you, I'm totally down to write about this place. When we drove out there and I saw the strip mall the place was in I was like.. " Oh Lord.. this is gunna be one of those places. " I was pleasantly surprised however. We got there right when it opened so we were the first ones in. The owner was rolling the fire up in the oven getting it all hot and bothered and Niyaz told him we wanted the Social Media special. I looked at the menu and I wanted the brunch pizza but we usually like to order something different and share so we can get a taste of what there is on the menu. I ordered what looked best to me. I'm kind of picky and this looked like something I could sink my teeth into. The crust was crispy on the outside with that fire roasted char and soo chewy on the inside I could eat only crust from there forever. There was a good mix of the tomato sauce and the mushrooms, which they saute in that brick oven before hand mind you, sooo good and the meat was so filled with flavor. I'll tell you what, I don't usually like a Neapolitan style pizza, but this just melted in my mouth. The combo of veggies, meat and cheese was just that perfect bite and covered with enough of all of those ingredients to make every bite just that. I'm telling you don't even wait until you are in the neighborhood take the drive down there and eat here!

 Now back to your regularly scheduled writer.

  My brunch pizza was covered with guanciale, thinly sliced potato, fresh mozzarella and an egg placed in the center before being cooked. I love all things breakfast, so taking pizza dough, placing a heaping helping of breakfast ingredients on top of it and then cooking it all until piping hot, what could go wrong? Nothing went wrong with this pizza the guancial was crispy like bacon but sliced paper thin, the potatoes were present and added to the whole breakfast feel. The dough was  charred and crisp on the edges while the center was thin and chewy. The egg yolk added a nice richness to each bite and really complemented all the toppings. Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day and this pizza was my first experience with breakfast toppings. Without a doubt this is now my favorite way to have bacon and eggs.

  The media special comes with a dessert burrata which is fresh burrata cheese, drizzled honey, and candied walnuts. This was the perfect combination of salty, and sweet with soft and crunchy. The cheese was soft and salty while the honey was sweet and the candied walnuts added that crunch. This was a great way to end the meal but oh no we didn't stop there.

  While eating the burrata dessert it was mentioned that Pizza e Vino had the best tiramisu. I love all kinds of desserts but tiramisu is not my favorite because most have way too much coffee in them. Let me tell you this is by far the best tiramisu I have ever had. The tiramisu is so well balanced that not one flavor over powers the other but all flavors are present on your pallet. When I took my first bite the chocolate got me first then the subtle hint of coffee on the background. The soft cake like layers of this dessert were soaked with liquid that was reminiscent of tres leche. I cannot say enough good things about this slice of dessert heaven.

  As if we needed more food, I made a comment about cannoli and shortly after that we had one on our table. We got the cannoli that allowed us to try both versions they offer. The chocolate side was smooth with a hint of chocolate and the pistachio nuts were crunchy. The other side was just sweetened and topped with chocolate chips. Nothing bad to say about that side. The cannoli shell was crispy and had some cinnamon and nutmeg flavors. This too was a well executed version of a classic dessert.

  Pizza e Vino went past any expectations I had walking into the establishment. The waitress was super helpful and very courteous. The atmosphere was fun and inviting. Being able to watch your food being made from your table was cool. The food was amazing! I wouldn't be surprised if other patrons were looking at us strangely from all the moans of deliciousness coming from our table. I can easily say this was by far one of the best restaurant experiences I have had in a long while. Do not hesitate to try Pizza e Vino because you will not be disappointed.

Pizza E Vino on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Moreno's Mexican Restaurant

Moreno's Mexican Restaurant
4328 E. Chapman Ave.
Orange, CA 92869

  My wife has encouraging me to check out Moreno's Mexican Restaurant for weeks now. Her description of this place made it sound like an authentic Mexican restaurant with outstanding food. We showed up earlier on a Friday evening so the place was not busy and we were seated right away. The staff was super friendly and the menu had a nice selection to pick from. When my family decided what to eat, my daughter ordered the kids cheese quesadilla, my son ordered the all meat burrito, my wife ordered the chicken enchiladas with green sauce and I ordered the beef machaca. With drinks this meal was about $68.

  After the food was ordered it was brought out to out table fairly quick and my daughter enjoyed her quesadilla. Nothing special there nor did I expect much more then she got. It was your basic cheese quesadilla.

  My son got the all meat burrito which came with a little bit of all the different meats Moreno's offers. He got the burrito dry with just cheese on top. The burrito was large, full of meat, beans and cheese. I tried a few bites for myself and I found some of the meat to be a bit dry and chewy. The flavors were okay but it kinda of felt like something I could have made at home. My son was not impressed with the burrito and simply said that it was "alright".

  When my wife got her plate of food she had to question whether it had green sauce on it or not and even called the waiter whom assured us there was in fact green sauce. I had a hard time finding it and so did my wife, so she ended up getting a side of green sauce. My wife enjoyed her enchiladas saying that her meal was good. I had a small bite of the chicken, maybe not enough to form an opinion but I thought the chicken it self was bland and lacking any kind of flavoring.

  As for my beef machaca it was a generous portion and served with four flour tortillas. The beef was tender but very greasy. After eating a few bites of the beef my lips had a slick coating of grease that felt like I had just applied a large dollop of chap stick. Not an appetizing feeling at all, Again the meat was lacking any kind of distinct flavor and simply tasted like shredded beef and eggs. The side of rice though, was moist and cooked well but again lacking any kind of flavor or even any kind of simple seasoning. The beans were creamy and just fine.

  I do not like writing negative reviews but I have said from day one if I do not like a restaurant then I will be honest with my readers. Unfortunately Moreno's Mexican Restaurant left me in a limbo kind of state. There was nothing glaringly wrong with the food, expect for my plate of grease but at the same time there was nothing that caught any members of my family's attention. The plating of the food seemed sloppy and the the flavors were just okay. I have had much better food for the cost of this meal and would recommend you find somewhere else to spend your money. Sorry Moreno's.

Moreno's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dogs in the Haus

Dog Haus - Santa Ana
2800 N. Main St.
Ste. 197
Santa Ana, CA 92705

   So I have been in a real writing funk when it comes to this blog. I just have not been feeling it lately and really not wanting to do it very  much. So what got me out of this funk? A little encouragement from a reader, who also hooked me up with a free meal coupon and my wife constantly asking if we could try Dog Haus in Santa Ana. Well we finally made it and let me just start by saying, damn why the hell did I wait so long!?

  The menu is not large but there are enough choices for someone to find something. Not only do they have hot dogs but they also have sausages and burgers to choose from. My daughter got the kids meal which allowed her to pick two sliders and it came with fries and a drink. My wife ordered the Ava Maria, added bacon and she also got a combo with fries. Lastly I got the Scott Baioli but upgraded my dog to a pastrami snap dog. I also got a combo, but got chili cheese tots instead of just fries. The meal would have been around 30 bucks but because of the one free meal coupon it cost me around 18.

  The kids meal has the option to pick two different sliders but my daughter picked two burger sliders. She got her burgers with just cheese, ketchup and a bit of mayo. My daughter loved the fact that the sliders were served on Hawaiian sweet rolls and that they were square. She gobbled down her burgers and continued to munch down her fries. She was a happy little monkey after she finished her entire meal.

  My wife was a bit indecisive at first, then decided to get the Ava Maria which is a black angus beef patty smothered with sauteed mushrooms, white american cheese, garlic aioli and caramelized onions. She added bacon for an additional charge. The burgers are also severed on Hawaiian sweet rolls but the large burgers come on four rolls. My wife sectioned the burger according to the four rolls which allowed me to snag a bite. The burger was moist and full of beefy flavor. The bacon was crisp and the onions were sweet. The garlic was present but not over powering. A very well made burger that any burger enthusiast would enjoy. The fries were a bit under cooked for my liking but the season on fries was good.

  I was torn between the different choices, but I knew I wanted to try a dog or a sausage. Then I saw the Scott Baioli which is a dog with smoked bacon, white american cheese, garlic aioli and caramelized onions. I also upgraded my dog from an all beef dog to a pastrami snap dog. The pastrami snap dog is easily my newest food obsession. This had the spices and flavor of killer pastrami but it was in hot dog form. The peppery spice from the dog went perfectly with the sweet onions and kick from the garlic aioli. Surprisingly the sweetness from the Hawaiian rolls was not lost. However I think the bacon might have been missing from my dog because I got no crunch or smokiness while eating the dog. That did not ruin the experience for me but it would have been a nice texture contrast and bacon would have added a nice bit of salinity to each bite to give a sweet, and salty combination. My chili cheese tots were excellent. The tots were crispy on the outside and fluffy on this inside. The chili had a hint of heat that got you in the back of the throat. The cheese was gooey and stringy. These chili cheese tots are something I could easily order again.

  The service at Dog Haus Santa Ana was very helpful and willing to answer any questions we had. They even pointed us in the right direction for trying to find these pastrami snap dogs that have taken over my food craze. The prices at Dog Haus were fair for the quality and quantity of food you receive. There are a few different locations of Dog Haus so I would recommend checking out the web site, finding the closest location and getting over there to try a dog or burger. On a side note I also love their tag line, The Absolute Wurst.

Dog Haus on Urbanspoon