“We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto!” Menifee of all places…

“Probably one of the best steaks I’ve ever had!”

I  ordered the 16oz Ribeye. I never would have anticipated it to be so good. Wow, flavorful, without spices, and tender…very tender. Fatty…duh, it’s a Ribeye. That’s what makes it taste so flippin’ good. Not like a big giant fat globule in the center, but a lot of fat that I cut out. It must have been scattered throughout. Great steak! I was really surprised! The rest of the food was mediocre, but acceptable. But that steak was great!

This place is like Chuck E “f’n Cheese’s for the adult appetite and adult/family atmosphere. They do line dances, and it’s funny, cause the place almost freezes…nobody wants to walk through the line…or around them, or get like near them while they’re dancing… it’s like they’re avoiding Lepers. This place is loud, crowded and they do some kind of “Yahoo” thing. The gal in the table next to us was celebrating her birthday and they do this “Yahoo” BS. They bring a saddle…she immediately hops on, joins in with the words, and there’s a point where they raise their hand…kinda thing. This gal, maybe 20 years old, knew the whole routine. SCARRY! I also took a peek at the kitchen from afar. There was so much going on…I’ll pass on that one. This place had too much commotion. Just order me another Sammy and I’ll be good.

We waited 45 minutes at 7:30pm on a Saturday night, but arrived an additional 45 minutes after our in-laws arrived and put our names on the waiting list. That’s 1.5 hours of wait. Whatever…it was a night out! We walk in and luckily our waiting party had bar stools dummied up to the bar for drinks. The wait staff was always inviting and on top of things. Luckily we only waited about 15 minutes for our apps once seated and dinner about another 15 after that. We ate so many peanuts; I threw shells every where, floor, bar, seats…why not? I paid for the peanuts the following morning. Is there such a thing as “peanut intolerant”?

Texas Roadhouse http://www.texasroadhouse.com/ is some kind of commercial place that I still wonder why a place this big…and I mean BIG inside, would be in the God-forsaken, back woods, hillbilly town of Menifee. The only thing that lives out there are dead sheep and vultures. Ha Ha Ha…I love that phrase! But really, who’s ever heard of Menifee? Then again, who’s ever heard of Temecula? God I’m getting old!

Check it out. Loud, long wait, some crazy “Yahoo” BS, and vultures everywhere!


Chicken Thigh Meat – the difference

I guess this place has been in this location for a little while. Today I saw it, but initially passed it up, on the way to another very well established Southern California fast food joint for a fish taco. Well today…finally, hang a u-turn and let’s check it out!

I’m usually hesitant about any Greek or Mediterranean food joint for lunch. I feel I’m going to get something dry, requiring more of that white tzatziki or yogurt concoction to choke it down. Mediterranean suggests that you’re going to get something more healthy, but to this date, I have been rarely satisfied…especially when trying to do something fast. Cough, choke…cough, cough..choke. I even ordered water ’cause I had a feeling. When I left Maan’s, I still had a whole glass of water left.

I have always wondered why more restaurants don’t use chicken thigh meat in their recipes. I can almost anticipate any chicken ordered on a salad to be breast meat…dry…overcooked…safe. I like that this guy took a chance a served a less expensive, more flavorful and often times more tender cut, and still made a very profitable net from his cost to make it. I think I spent $8 and change for a salad and water. Chicken thigh meat is definitely a less appreciated cut of the chicken. Thigh meat is fattier so it automatically tastes better. It rapidly takes on the flavors of marinades and is almost immediately the correct portion for service (6oz). It’s a brainless kitchen meat that almost always pleases. I usually buy boneless-skinless when it’s on sale…but again, fabrication, if needed, is a no-brainer.

Maan’s Mediterranean Grill in Oceanside http://www.maansmg.com/  is next to several other “trendy” in-spot eateries but located in the most jacked up parking/business/strip-mall I think I have ever experienced. I ordered the Chicken salad, but was hesitant because I wanted to try their meats, but didn’t want a Gyro or something else wrapped in a pita with a bunch of carb’s,…and that white cream sauce. What I got was a very well proportioned salad that had a marinated chicken thigh meat atop various other “Greek” salad ingredients. Combined with a delicious olive oil dressing that made everything come together. I thought it was very-very good as a lunch-time change. My “baby” was happy today!


Stone Brewing Co – WTF!

OK, well I tried it again, and…drum-roll please!

I was given this giant bottle of Stone Levitation Ale BBQ Sauce as a gift from a cousin-in-law, whom I respect very much…and, this cuz has been featured, very breifly, in one of my tyraids. Anyway, I warned him…, after thanking him for the gift, that I recall not caring much for this stuff, but was willing to give it another go-round because of my new, improved, refined and more respondant palate. Well…

I marinated  a batch of boneless/skinless chicken thighs for several hours, then burned (just using the term) it on the grill outside.

What I experienced was that of a Levitation of sort…a concauction…and unfortunately,…a let down! The flavor was good, but it plain lacked the body associated with BBQ sauce on anything. I was hoping for a rejuvenation to my palate, an experience worth remembering,…but instead, got a marinade that had a good flavor, but nothing close to what my own personal secret Teriyaki marinade can do for the senses. And if you’ve had my Teriyaki chicken…, you know. Everyone at the table agreed. Good, but needs something associated with BBQ sauce that other bottled sauces can normally deliver sufficiently. It just doesn’t hold a candle to our basic favorite (store bought) BBQ sauce. Possibly, if it was to be combined as a marinade, then topped with the house favorite, I’m sure it’ll hold its own…but not tonight. Yeah I know canned beans and frozen veggies. Those were OK, cause I have the microwave mastered.

Normally I have only good things to say about Stone products and services, but tonight…I have to say…stick to beer! Just another sauce from a fine brewery that does the name no justice. Plus the Costco size bottle takes up beer room…unsat!


“Black ‘n’ Tan” – Lake Havasu City, AZ

I started this adventure with the desert road trip…across many miles of dead scorpions and hovering buzzards.

Yes…, I finally get to stop for a cold one. Tonight our first stop was at the southern most establishment worth a stop…plus the gang was all going to meet there first.

Upon arrival, I had soon met the Chef through a mutual friend and local Havasu resident. The Chef immediately gave me a kitchen tour enough to make a large food order for about 10 people per his recommendations. Mostly bar food ordered from Jake’s Bar & Grill concluding with possibly the hottest pizza I have ever been served. I think everyone at our table complained. It was tasty but really f’in hot. The Chef and his single kitchen staff were nice guys and welcoming. I introduced myself as a culinary student and “CritDick”. They had a hoot with me…and I with them.

I assumed the duty of DD that night as we went to several other bars to continue everyone on their evening of binge drinking. It was a guy’s trip, so I was doing my diligence at keeping everyone safe.

We inevitably happened upon BJ’s. I was questioned by one of my booze riders about what I desired to drink. I wanted another beer by now; but they only had one IPA on tap. I remember not liking that particular label, so I thought quickly as the bartender patiently waited…but she was busy…so I quickly thought, “Black ‘n’ Tan” as I saw the Guinness on tap, but couldn’t remember if it was Bass or Becks. They had both from the vantage point I had of the tap handles…so I spoke quickly, “Black ‘n’ Tan”. The bartender obliged quickly so I would not have time to change my mind.

She served my drink and I took a sip and as I turned away from the bar I thought, “was she just wearing a striped shirt?” I had trouble thinking as she was a very top-heavy bartender. I just ordered a “Black ‘n’ Tan” from a very attractive bartender wearing a blue and white striped pirate type of tank top. I thought that was an unusual relationship and I don’t quite know why. So I spent the next 30 minutes explaining to her intermittently between her frantically serving cocktails to other patrons as it had now become crazy busy. She was hustling hard. She was doing what a good or great bartender should do…make money. The hell with this “CritDick” guy trying to get my picture to tell this story. I had once before visited another establishment in the Havasu area that another person was wearing the same colored striped shirt. I had to go there the next day to take the picture so I would have this complete story.

So anyway, this bartender was thinking I wasn’t making the bar any money…she later confirmed. She was not thinking about my questions. She was probably thinking,  “he’s not laying out the tips or credit cards”. “He’s not doing anything to help this place…so “f” him”. So I spent the next 20 minutes working with her to get a satisfactory picture of her and her pirate shirt to tell this story. She was very cool with it and kept trying to stop for a moment to help complete my story. I finally told her to just work and make money…that’s what she should be doing…and that’s what’s she was doing…really well. She was kicking’ ass and takin’ names…that was her bar tonight…and she was doin’ it well. Being an advocate of the F&B industry, I can really appreciate that. I finally got this picture and she thought it the best of what I took, as she sincerely approved, given the scenario and situation. Thanks, we both appreciated her efforts and my struggle.

A bit more of our evening resulted in several more bar stops and a very long and late night.

Another thing of interest happening that weekend was found by us the following day. We happened upon this very enterprising idea of a “floating BBQ”  (so to speak) because that’s really what it seemed as though it was.

It was a round doughnut boat with a motor, navigation lights, umbrella/awning and a 22″ Weber grill directly in the center. There were people seated all the way around (about 10). The captain of our pontoon barge yells over to them “Hey, what are you cooking?”

The guy opens the lid and shows us he has hot link sausages on the grill. Everyone on our boat knows that sausages are always part of our BBQ routine, and our captain yells again…”hey, hook me up!” The small party BBQ boat thingy quickly plates one up and we navigate to make the pass. Success! That one hot link sausage must have made twelve small pieces for each of us. It was like a gift from heaven. None of us expected to actually get a sausage, unfortunately I thought too late to get the actual picture of the sausage passing, but I did run into them again later that night while another group was boarding for their floating BBQ. Someone had a great idea. The party’s on board that tiny vessel all seemed to be having a lot of fun.

So, if you’re in Lake Havasu City, see if you can find the bartender and the Turtle wearing the same shirts…on the same night.

It was a fun and uneventful trip


Consumed – with the industry.

Finding that right place to eat…you know you won’t just settle for just anything. It kinda sucks, because you think your trained a bit; enough to distinguish better…or the best, and you don’t want to let any of your family, friends or co-workers down. You recommend…perhaps a flop…perhaps not!

This doesn’t happen all the time, but enough to piss you off.

You enter the joint. Immediately you begin watching what goes on. You are greeted…or not! Analysing almost every aspect of the business from a “Dick’s” point of view. This sucks…but I’m consumed!

I wish that I had the gift of being a good food “CritDick”. Then again, maybe I wish that I remain like I am…just a “Dick”. I am no longer allowed to address the issue when it presents itself…but I still often do, with a word, words, or phrase, that is intended to grab the person’s attention about something they’re doing right or wrong. Even about something in class that a student says or does that is correct or incorrect about the F&B industry.

I heard recently from one of my professors, he said while addressing the class; “You and I both know that, although they now have the degree, they still have no idea how to cook or run a restaurant!” I thought that was very profound beyond what most of the students in the class could possibly fathom. I am an experienced home cook that kinda knows what I’m doing in the kitchen (bragging). I would go as much to say that I’m possibly on of the better cooking students in my university (bragging). But I’ve seen what some of the students do, I’ve tasted what those students have made, and I seen what the students do in the kitchen. Some of which are down right frightening. Yet I have seen others that deserve respect, praise and admiration for what they do, have accomplished, and can make happen. I try to go out of my way to analyse, inspect, and taste some of the creations and some are quite impressive…not quite as good as mine, but now I’m bragging…or even boasting, cause I’m bad ass!.  And it’s not so funny when this old guys’ stuff kicks ass over some of the young pups coming up through the ranks. Some of these kids have desires to be the next “Top Chef”.

I see and taste what they do. I “CritDick” what they create. I tell them how I feel. Some good, and some VERY bad. Some of it, down-right scary. I listen to their thoughts and expressions and see the way they handle themselves in the kitchen. I see those that cook, but don’t clean, that can’t keep a clear work station. I go to a restaurant and watch what the staff does, and how they treat the customer, how they present the food. “Did he just touch the inner lip of the plate?” Hard not to do, but where is his training. Did he serve from the right or the left? Did he or she make follow-up suggestions for another drink, or an after dinner dessert? Did they ask a “yes or no” question or an “opened ended” sales question? Did that server, bartender, host, or busser do what it takes to accelerate the business, or just “f” things up for the whole night? Is this the right place? The right situation? The right student I want to lead and/or follow? Does this person have skills I would employ or mimic?

I think some of us can appreciate a good establishment and/or employee that drives the business. A place we would want to go back to. An atmosphere we would want to re-live. That’s what the question is. What have I gained from this experience? What have they gained? Is this place or person worth the while? Did this situation just get “CritDick’d”?

Totally consumed…it hurts! Ouch!!!

I hope you’re learning from all this…


The moment you know… “I nailed it”

You know when you go out to eat at a pretty nice place…or you go to a friend’s home to have dinner and the host’s have always been pretty good cooks. Perhaps even to a breakfast house to grab something in the morning. You have an anticipation that something good is coming to the table, the counter, or coming from behind the case. You just barely get the smell of that first sip of a really great cup of coffee, just a moment before the great taste hits your tongue. You begin to realize that something great is about to happen. A chef, cook or other service person is going to see the satisfaction of their efforts on your face. The moment you taste what they’ve made…and you show that you really like it.

Now, think for a moment about the time you were doing the work…the one in the kitchen, the person that just served that cup of perfectly brewed latte; or the one that just saw the look on your guests’ face when they tasted what you have prepared. You saw their eyes close, their shoulders slightly wither and their knees get weak. They usually followed that body language of complete satisfaction with a moan, sigh or other animalistic intestinal type of sound. You remember the satisfying feeling of accomplishment, and…that you did it right.

I want to take you into a world of passion, a world of emotion and finally, into a world not quite fully understood by most. It’s a world extremely vulnerable, caotic,  and penetrable. A world of cooking that comes with celebration, jubilance yet a complete inner peace. It’s the moment you know…”I nailed it!”

You have been focused on the creation of who knows what. It could be a cake, a sauce or a roast. It may have been a simple task, perhaps even something that you just set in the oven to forget, or something that you have had to constantly monitor to ensure its correctness and completeness. You may have followed a useless recipe card or made it from your head. You have now been at it for however long, stirring, sifting, dicing, puree’ing, tasting, salting and tasting…and salting…and tasting. Your theories and trials have never been unequivocally perfected before so you tweak the notion, the potion, the mixture…the timing. It just never seems quite right. It’s just a little off. It needs just a little more spice. It just needs another couple of minutes of reduction. The meal or item becomes complete and you serve what you’ve got. Just like in culinary school or maybe on the show Chopped…”Time’s up, step back from your station”. If you served it to the guests at your house they always say it was wonderful. They always say what a good cook you are. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone ever say “your cooking sucks” in anyones house.

What I’m talking about here is the time that you’ve worked on an idea that has been brewing, or a menu item that has been tried before but never perfected. I’m talking about the time that you decided to try it again, the time you decide it could change for the better if I do just this one simple change. I’m not talking about changing something that now becomes acceptable to a guest or patron, and I’m not talking about something that is now acceptable to serve, or acceptable to the chef instructor or the food critic. I’m talking about that moment you remove the lid, you turn the cake pan over, the moment you finally taste it just before the final reduction…, the moment that the temperature is perfect and the sauce consistency is perfect or maybe the tenderness and doneness of the meat is perfect the moment you cut into that expensive roast of tenderloin. I’m talking about that harmonious self-induced solace of inner peace once you’ve… “finally nailed it”. I mean…everything is just right. Absolutely perfect!!!

Congratulations to all of those the have finally “nailed it”. It’s a really bitchen feeling. Try finding it…it’s cool.


Several topics – which to choose, which to choose…

Ice cream burp,… wow!

So lets talk about granola. I bought some stuff that was at Frasier Farms the other day…I dunno know…, some kind of Cranberry Apple Almond BS they had on the shelf already packaged. My intent was to top vanilla ice cream with this. My kids attack this stuff like it’s an implant from the movie “Aliens”…lurering them to, I don’t know, some kind of ET, “Reese’s Pieces” kind of thing going on… I’m tearing this sh%$ up right now while writing this. I bought this stuff to top Vanilla Ice cream. I’m telling ya friggin’ marvelous…now I know why the kids are into it by the handful. OMG…grab my…uh…shoulders, friggin’ good.

Sorry, just a quick one tonight.

Ice cream – get some!


“Traditional” Northern Walleye dinner – What ? ? ?

Walleye –  is a freshwater fish native to most of Canada and to the northern United States. Its meat is brilliant white, firm and mild in flavor. A good selection. Our first encounter.

It started this morning with the outdoor perfection of my newly planted sod garden. I had irrigation issues that needed attention if the sod plants were expected to take hold and grow. The Fescue sod planting event was immediately following a hella-night-o-rain. The ground was saturated and I was in fear that my several hundred dollars spent on the new turf would be in vain; that I wouldn’t get it planted, and I would be doing it mid-week. Yeah, like that’s going to happen.

Well…, this morning, I’m adjusting and replacing the irrigation sprinklers that helped kill the old lawn…along with the gallons of urine my Danes pee like eight times daily. Well we now have a new fence to keep them corralled outside the perimeter of the new dog heaven spot. As I was working the sprinkler system I realized I didn’t take anything out for tonight’s supper. I immediately thought of the fish a good friend had brought along when he visited a month ago. This visitor is a long-time friend that had relocated to Montana since retiring from the military. He has since turned to fishing, and I guess he does a lot of it. He brought the Walleye with him when visiting a month ago, but also sent me some terrific Hickory-Apple smoked Trout that we also tried today. That trout went down real good with some nice flatbread crackers and an ice-cold Stone AB that I shared with my Dad.

I really had no creative idea on how to make Walleye, so I took his suggestion and breaded and pan-fried it. It was actually good except for the very small bone or two that I wasn’t warned about. Lawsuits are just so frivolous amongst good friends. I also made some Broccoli Rabe sautéed in a bit of olive oil, shallots and garlic. Served it tonight with a chunk of whole wheat flour baguette…as a change. I thought the dinner was good…kids were a bit skeptical. There was no sauce; so, like my eldest son says “everything tastes better with Tapatilo”. I had a dab, but was relishing the flavors I had created without much anything else…except a sip of Cab.

So why the “Traditional” Northern Walleye dinner? Is this really a tradition? I’m going to guess that if tradition were to happen, it would be closer to creamed corn and corn bread or something like that. I don’t think tradition involved Broccoli Rabe and a whole wheat baguette. Well, that conversation carried us most of the way through dinner because I had to entice my kids as to the tradition. “You wanna let our fore-fathers down?” I was on a roll, so I continued “They used to eat this on the way to school, walking up hill, in a blizzard’… Anyway, you know the rest.

So feast your eyes on the “Traditional Northern Walleye” dinner…as this was our first, and maybe our last.


What to do – when out of ideas…and energy!


Wow . . . this is a hard task! What do you write about when you have all this stuff in your head, and you don’t know how to get rid of it…except to just ….BLOW!!!

The last several days have been fun filled. Yeah right…more like, the last several days have been tasking…to say the least. New school quarter, new endeavors from the boss (a young Navy Lieutenant)…my kids…the cars…you name it…

Now let’s get back to reality. Life sucks… and then you get on with it. You make the most of it. You make…

You got it…tots, hot wings…and, you drink another! Fo-get-’bout-it! Damn I’m good!!!


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