Haulin’ Ass . . . I mean Hall and Oats. Ooops!

Delusional was my thought about enjoying yet another of the Summer Concert Series at Harrah’s Rincon. I really didn’t want to go, but I promised. Ok, I’m a music and concert nut. The music wasn’t bad that night, but the sound was off. Something about the vocals of Daryl Hall. Sounded like he was just another background singer. Maybe I was all jacked up. A Sunday night show? . . . I doubt it!

Finally finding solace in, what I call, the pit (the area back with the food and bar service) the sound was good. Maybe it’s where we sat that night, although similar to where we always sit . . . dunno; but the pit is the best seat in the house if you don’t mind standing and looking at all of the dancing girls. That makes it worth it; but trust me guys, stand in the back.

Walking around and watching the people and the food service vendors I noticed La Takiza  http://www.latakiza.com/and a sweet looking older (well maybe older than me) lady making hand-made tortillas. Thinking to myself I said, “I’m not hungry, but I’m going to try a taco”. I stepped up to the counter that was vacant, because everyone was engaged with the show. I ordered, “I’m just tasting, so make a good one”. They elected to serve up a carnitas taco that was very good. The tortilla tasted fabulous and the meat delicious. I quickly gave them all the thumbs up as they were all staring at me. Maybe they thought I was a critic . . . Nope, just a Dick. After my first two bites I had to try the salsa. Their red sauce was acceptable but predictable. Their green sauce was very flavorful and bold. Again I gave them all the thumbs up and expressed my thoughts to them vebally. Damn, I forgot my cards again. I always forget my “CritDicks” business cards when I go to events, because I like to downsize my pockets to minimums (credit card, ID and cash). Oh well, move on to the next vendor.

T-shirt . . . Uh . . . NO!. I’m not getting caught alive wearing a Hall and Oats t-shirt. Wait . . . maybe a good thing ’cause of all the girls at this show. Nah! Next booth. Some lady selling carmel apples . . . Nah,  . . . not feelin’ it. Next booth. New York on Rye.  http://newyorkonrye.com/ I watched this guy for minute and he finally took a break. “Chef”, I said. “What are you making here”. He just sat down from serving up orders, but immediately got back up to come talk with me. I told him I wasn’t hungry but was only tasting, and I could not possibly eat a sandwich. I told Rich, that was his name, that I was a writer and culinary student and was watching him throw down the corned beef. His partner said, “we’re real Jews making real Jewish food”. That was a good catch. I told him, I am a CritDick . . . but mostly just a dick”, then began the explanation and the swapping of stories. I would have said “sea” stories but I don’t know Rich’s military status. Rich introduced himself and we talked, exchanging professinal qualifications and accomplishments. We talked for a while as I delayed his end of show clean-up. He looked a bit tired as I explained that I have no passion to ever be a chef in the industry. I continued to explain that I was gaining my education to do what I’m doing here and possibly own a restaurant someday. I liked what Rich was doing when I watched him, salivating at the thought of the corned beef sandwich. But it wasn’t in my cards to eat a sandwhich tonight . . . I was already full, nor was I looking for a handout . . . but I thought to myself, “just that little corner (of the corned beef)”. I’m such an Itallian, always wanting to just taste what we see. In school, I’m always wanting to taste what the other students are making . . . just a little bite! “Gimme that”!

The next morning I read up on these joints and find out Rich’s “New York Deli on Rye” is just a food truck . . . but voted one of the best in San Diego. Reading about his background substantiates his claims of culinary achievements. If I ever see his truck, and I’m somewhat hungry, I’m stopping and ordering. As we left the show, I noticed he was making somekind of grilled corned beef burrito, I believe that is also on his menu. I’m totally stopping . . . that looked friggin’ good. Rich – good job! KAATN !!! (That’s “Kick Ass and Take Names”). I just made the “KAATN” up!

So Hall and Oats played some great old tunes. As a matter of fact, every song they played was a hit, memorable from the radio play that made them famous. They were good. The food that was at the event was also good . . . even great. At least what I tasted and “talked”. I’m going to try Rich’s stuff . . . I guarantee it. I’m gonna stop and taste his stuff. He looked on the mark.

I’m going to give the entire event . . . and the gambling my wife did, the “three taco combo”. I reserve the right to change my mind at any time!


I see the Lighthouse ! ! ! A prostitute told me not to navigate in that direction!

Ok, well we checked it out . . . and with . . . of all people, the other original CritDick. He vows to become involved. Say’s he doesn’t mind editing/elaborating on humorous facets, however say’s I’m not as good of a writer as he had hoped. I’m throwing the BS towel on that crap!

We went back to the Lighthouse Oyster Bar and Grill for an afternoon lunch on a Saturday and had a wonderful seat outside on the deck overlooking Oceanside Harbor. On the way had discussion about how jacked up my thought process is because I didn’t know what Joe’s Crab Shack had on the menu and or how their food was served. WHO CARE’s? Joe’s sucks . . . period. And another period right here “.”

Now I don’t like being a critic . . . so I’ll just be a Dick! We ordered a couple of tap Stone IPA’s and our other drinks. The beer’s we’re not cold enough and the glasses didn’t help compensate by being frozen. I don’t know why, but we ended up ordering a second round.

We ordered their calamari along with oysters as appetizers. 10 minutes later we placed our main course order, and I specifically said, “as my entre’, I’ll have the ceviche and the Del Mar salad. Well, moments later, out comes our calamari and my ceviche. I told the server that my ceviche was to be an entre’ and she apologized and took it back and said “I’ll hold it until your other entre’s are served”. Did she just say “hold”. Hmmm . . . serve that one to the next order of ceviche and prepare mine fresh at the time of service . . . really? Whatever. Or at least don’t tell me you are holding it. Just say “sorry” and take it back. Yes, when it did arrive it was the same one . . . looking slightly as if it had been in the fridge uncovered.

The calamari was served with a couple of sauces; an orange marmalade dipping sauce (ok) and a pretty good ranch type sauce that had a hint of horseradish. The calamari had mixed reviews at our table. My cohorts thought them to be the best. Since they were calamari steaks cut into strips, I thought them to be just a bit tough and under seasoned . . . if at all. I like the smaller body rounds and tentacles. I think they are more delicate and can be cooked just a bit quicker making them more tender. Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill still holds the reign! (Guy Fieri – Triple D) http://bluewaterseafoodsandiego.com/.

All of the plates were well portioned. A giant NY steak sandwich, I felt was too large. I believe it was the entre’ steak served on a roll. The fish tacos (2 ea.), that were served without tortilla’s (per request) were served on two separate plates. I thought that kind of unusual. Maybe the tacos are normally served separately, but I would’ve thought them to be normally served on one plate with the sweet potato fries (good) on the side or even on the same service plate. Kinda threw me off.

Oh . . . there’s my ceviche . . . the same one! Oh . . . and our oysters. I’m glad I was in good company because I forgot about the oysters until they arrived with the main entre’s. Oh yeah . . . those oysters were supposed to be an “app”. Deduct more points. Well the oysters were quite good, very cold and clean. No pearl! Damn! My Del Mar salad was pretty good and very plentiful of seafood. The vinaigrette was not needed as the juices from the grilled seafood (scallops, shrimps and crab) was of sufficient, quantity and flavor, to compliment the greens underneath. I even thought the vinaigrette ruined the good flavor of the salad.

So lets talk about scale. Food  . . . 3 up, 3 down (that’s an inning right there). Service . . . definitely no higher than a 2 across the board. Our server was off the mark. She didn’t seem to really be engaged. I’ don’t know if it was lack of experience or she was just plain jacked up. The other service staff was on the ball but seemed to be hovering. They made multiple passes on the table, but seemed to not be there for a reason. I don’t know why, but maybe I kept seeing them over my shoulder  . . .  perhaps I was looking for the Feds. I hope the chef reads this cause I kinda like him and they way I’ve seen his kitchen perform.

Today, the Lighthouse on Oceanside Harbor gets only two rickety prostitutes. The history of Oceanside dictated that one.



Can anyone see the Lighthouse? In a fog the rest of the weekend!

Adventuresome . . . or some adventure. Where the hell is The Lighthouse?

I remember going out for a day of fishing and trusting my instruments. Always trust your instruments, I have been told. Pilots . . . correct me please! As we made our way out of the harbor, the fog quickly encapsulated us and we could no longer see the lighthouse . . . or the coast. As we left the harbor that day I remember setting up the LORAN but had no idea how to use the device. LORAN (LOng RAnge Navigation) is a terrestrial radio navigation system which enables ships and aircraft to determine their position and speed from low-frequency radio signals transmitted by fixed land-based radio beacons, using a receiver unit. (Thanks Wikipedia) Since I have extensive experience working on navigation systems in aircraft, I have been told by pilots that trusting your instruments is essential, unless of course you’re absolutely sure they are wrong. absolutely sure you’re gonna smack the ground or something like that.

On the back of my Brother-in-Law’s boat enjoying an afternoon cold one after driving to Oceanside Harbor in the Thing. A beautiful HOT day; it’s been super hot out and we decided to load up the convertible and head out on a very warm late afternoon around 5pm . . . and it was still hot. How hot? . . .”The weather out there today is hot and shitty with continued hot and shitty in the afternoon” (I think that’s the way it goes, “quote”, Good Morning Vietnam). We finally decided to walk into the harbor area and get another cocktail. We bypassed Joes Crab Shack (formerly Charthouse years ago, and yes Joes SUCKS . . . big time!) and happened upon Dominic’s. Check out this joint . . . http://www.facebook.com/dominicsoceanside. Dominic, the owner, used to be our neighbor. He was always a restaurateur, finally opening a small pizza and pasta shop in Oceanside harbor. As time moved forward, he has now expanded into the other two adjacent shops and has a full bar and gelato shop. We didn’t stop there, but I did say hello and I think he remembered me. We will definitely stop back through to check out the gelato. His food was always pretty darn good and his pizza’s stellar. We wish him the best of luck with his expansion. He’s crazy . . . still working everyday in the kitchen. God bless this guy.

Our travels took us upstairs to The Lighthouse http://lighthouseoceanside.com/Lighthouse_Oyster_Bar_%26_Grill/Home_Port.html. An open kitchen off of the bar (non-hard alcohol) and busy this Saturday night. I think we got there at peak time and the kitchen was super busy. These guys were very well orchestrated and busy. I was amazed at their level of kitchen prowess. Each cook knew what was on, and what was expected. They watched each other’s food and plating. If one cook was busy doing something with their back to the stove, someone else was quick to check on the various items that were already on the burner, in the broiler or whatever. Then the favor would be returned if the other cook had his back turned. Someone was always watching the food and knew what was being made or on the burner. They covered each other very well. Something that I rarely see in the classroom without someone asking another to watch his or her stuff. It’s a learned process. It’s a great Chef that makes that level of attention and cooperation possible. Hats off! These guys were rocking. The only thing I saw thrown away was some burnt toast from the broiler. And they were super busy. They were remarkable. We didn’t eat but we’re definitely going back. I did speak with the Chef momentarily to pass him a card and tell him of my acceptance. He was very nice and open. I guess he’s been there for about 3 years or so.

To keep it short . . . check em out. The Lighthouse and Dominic’s. Oceanside harbor, CA.

On our walk back we stopped in Monterey Bay Cannery and had a drink. Earlier they had a live band outside on the patio. The place was busy when the band was playing, but was reasonably empty along our return. We stopped anyway and relaxed some more. Next stop was a 30 second drive to Jolly Roger. I think these are both owned by the same group and they have been there for years. We travel upstairs to the bar to find karaoke . . . I hate karaoke. I realized that I needed someway to swiftly record my thoughts because of all the ladies singing. My thoughts just needed to be recorded!  A quick look around and we decided one drink and that’s it. Oh lord, this could be terrible. I just ignored the singing because none of it was good. Everything was not good . . . I’ll just leave it at that. Maybe I missed something. Maybe there was a nuclear fallout. Maybe a tsunami. This was not a place I belonged. We ordered and drank our cocktails quickly and desired a midnight BBQ of Tri-Tip was in order, and began our momentous drive at midnight in the VW Thing. I somehow got strapped in the back. Luckily it was pretty warm. I have plenty of warmer clothes we keep stocked in the Thing; and Snuggies . . . yes Snuggies, just in case. I ordered up quite the outfit to keep warm. I bet I was a hottie in the back seat that night. LOL!

I don’t know how it was all perceived by the designated driver (wifey), but she said it all went well. The Tri-Tip hit the spot and I didn’t wake until 11am the next morning . . . and I NEVER sleep nearly that late . . . by about 5 hours. I got ruined. Ouch!!!

The next day, wifey suggests the Charger’s game at Mikes BBQ (best around to date) http://mikesbbq.net/. GAME ON! Lets do this. About an hour to get ready and I was already into my first beer. Another hour later, I was already worthless and ready for my first nap. I guess the Chargers won???

Still trying to find The Lighthouse??? Look no further than http://lighthouseoceanside.com/Lighthouse_Oyster_Bar_%26_Grill/Home_Port.html

I’m giving the next day a serious FOG!!!


Stone Round Table – Desert Ice Cream – Finger-ed food!

Cooped up in the house is not cool, but with this latest heat wave passing through, we’re gonna lie low where the air is cool, keep the doors closed and run the AC. Depression is starting to set in . . . the fridge is depressingly low on food. For some reason it has had no refills. There is just tomatoes (go figure), baking soda, eggs, 4 kinds of mustard and a couple of slices of lunch meat. Oh yeah, the all-important beer and wine . . . still good for tonight! Need to refill everything tomorrow.

The ice cubes are starting to run scarce because the ice makers are trying to keep up with demand. Sheesh . . . time to order delivery. Going to have to send someone out to buy ice cream though. Like I said, we’re running out of the essentials. So hot, we don’t even want to go out in the heat to buy the dang ice cream. Thank god for driving teens. Let’s see what kind he brings back. The suspense is killing me!!!

Tonight’s Round Table Pizza (seems appropriate for our address) order is the first time we’ve ordered home delivery from this location. Since we live out in the middle of nowhere, we’ve heard they deliver to this address but have yet have tried it out. I ordered the Gourmet Veggie (usually really good,  . . . at least from other locations) and the Montague’s All Meat Marvel. I don’t know if we’ve ever had the second pie. It has been some time since we’ve eaten at a Round Table; tonight just seemed fitting due to the heat. We’re all looking forward to it. Let’s see how long it takes and how well it turns out. Thank goodness I have just enough Stone IPA to get me through. Ice cold and frosted glass. READY!

Wow; just a couple of days ago, raining – thunder and lightning – super humid conditions – monsoonal. Today; windy desert heat blowing in and super dry. Tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter. Combine all this with the fact that the world is “going to hell in a handbasket”. Yeah I heard that one today . . . I somehow am finding it to be somewhat appropriate.  Obama is keeping everyone busy.

This is super rare; our house with the air conditioner on at 7:30pm waiting for the damn pizza and ice cream . . . all while trying to communicate with some dude named Tony with a heavy Indian accent; who says he’s “not far from us”, all while trying to fix the Sprint network, and why these things (smart phones) are not texting. Don’t you just hate modern-day customer service. JUST FIX MY PHONE!

Turns out the only decent selection of ice cream tonight was Neapolitan and Cookies and Cream. I guess those would be considered “the ol’ standby” since we get them from the camping supply store below our house. Really the only problem is paying $6.50 a carton for the creamy good stuff. It’ll work!

Pizza said it would be 45-1 hour . . . where the hell is it??? Now you know why we never get delivery . . . just Digiorno. We just didn’t feel like working on anything in a hot kitchen (making the pizza) and going out in the heat. Sheesh, I can’t believe I decided to drive the VW Bug to work today. At least this time I made it . . . you know, to work and back.

Official pizza time 1 hour 6 mins, and no pizza . . . CritDicks, time to be a Dick! Ha, . . . He just showed up . . . 1 hour, 13 minutes.

So he brings the pizza, I tip him, he walks away. The dogs are barking again . . . he knocks again. As I’m walking to the door, my son says, “what kind did you get, BBQ chicken?’ Now, we NEVER order BBQ Chicken . . . ever, nor would we . . . probably ever. I get to the door and again it’s pizza guy with two other boxes and he says he gave us the wrong pizza’s. So I go back in the kitchen to find two pieces already plated and a pepperoni and chicken piece already missing. I tell my son to put them back in the box . . . . . . . . . Hell, it’s not our fault.

I give the boxed-up, previously-plated pizzas back to the guy and tell him we already plated them. He smiles and say’s, “oh well”, takes them and walks off. I’m not sure what that meant . . . but “oh well”. I would like to be able to continue the story, but . . . What would you do??? Really? I think somebody’s lucky we didn’t take a bite. Should’ve . . . Oh well, next time . . .!

I’ll just have to give this night one piece of pizza with a bite out of it. All fingered and everything. Gross!

Time to change colors – Johnny. (Sailors, you followin’?)


Lightning – the Vintana driveway protector.

Part Deux of Deux on a very important evening in which I didn’t get to see BB King, and I didn’t get my 5-star (or 5-cone) dinner.

So to conclude the story about our thunder and lightning extravaganza show in Valley Center, CA. We decided to leave the broke-ass casino with no power to figure it out on their own. The bartender was drained and so looked the cash account for the casino, as many others were also leaving at the same time. Power had been off now for about an hour. The casino floor has been without ventilation and the bars have been closed and had reverted to serving room temperature water.

We headed from Harrah’s Rincon Casino without seeing our Sunday evening concert with The Tedeschi-Trucks Band and BB King due to the intense thunder and lightning storm that had passed through, thus cancelling a “rain-or-shine” outdoor event. Just “that” (rain or shine) alone says we should get our money back . . . and we didn’t spend any. Well it rained and there was no show this evening. So what . . . You, the promoter, carry on with the show during the storm and you cook-off a couple of folks . . . whatever, . . . only the strong survive, right? So we head out . . .

Traveling with dinner in mind, we head west on San Diego County Highway S-6, up the hill from the casino to check another casino for electricity. “Nope, that one looks cooked also”, I said to my passengers. I was the designated driver and was already tired, hungry and pissed I didn’t get to see my show, and the bartender wouldn’t give me back my credit card until . . . “a f t e r  I  t a l k  w i t h  m y  s u p e r v i s o r”, she said. Really? I even told her I would just leave my card and pick it up in a couple of weeks when I return for the next show. She asked that I wait, and luckily the supervisor showed up moments later, releasing me and my credit card to my own cognisance. Why thank you, I’m glad I can go now leave. Yes, I’m a Dick!

The other casino atop the hill also looked gloomy (the outside lights and signs were not on); thank god because there’s nothing at that casino but wife beaters, dirty cowboy boots and pregnant ugly teenagers . . . oh, I’m sorry . . . that’s somebody’s wife . . . and she’s not even pregnant. That casino has so many penny machines you might as well cash in your nickles you have left over from the strip club the night before, they might come in handy. Ok now, passing up Valley View Casino we begin our decent into Escondido, frantically on the phone making various reservations at any 4 or 5-star dining establishment around. Wait a moment, that pretty much leaves only Stone Brewery World Bistro and Gardens and the new place Vintana, atop the Lexus dealership along the 15 freeway in Escondido. Since we’ve eaten full course meals at Stone, we opted to try Vintana this time.

Now I’ve visited Vintana before; but never during a lightning storm and seeing it through the huge glass windows that overlook the Target parking lot, Dicks Sporting Goods and a driveway attendant siting on a cheap work bench style round bar stool all while keeping close eye on three white cones that carefully divided up the entrance into a right turn lane and a left turn lane. Actually, I still have not witnessed lightning from inside those windows, but we did spend the remainder of our evening silently making fun of the poor kid down there keeping watch on the three white cones. HEY!, I think one of them moved! I guess this kid even got busted by his supervisor, because his chair magically disappeared while we were eating or something. Immediately, we charge him with dereliction of duty . . . he got his chair stolen!

Well I wish I could give Vintana a full ride, but I was a bit let down in a couple of facets. While the remaining guests at our table thought the world of the venue, I became critical . . . and a dick; all, pretty much at the same time. I messed with the server (Darren, I think his name might have been) he was very good. He even took some of the demented awkward innuendos and abusive stares. He even helped us poke fun at the cone guardian. I can’t give the food a full five thumbs up because there were a couple of things that, in my opinion, should have never left the kitchen, or maybe some of them . . . should have.

Items ordered and their quality/comments (menu attached).


1) Oysters on the half shell – Ok, good vinaigrette; but one of mine was dirty or had a broken shell remnant.

2) Calamari – Good, Very good . . . however not the best. That claim goes to Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill.

3) Panzanella Salad w/Heirloom Tomatoes – Very delicious and abundant.

4) I had the Filet Trio – cooked perfectly, but I thought the presentation was very sloppy. I wasn’t sure which sauce went with which steak.

5) Sun Fish (substitute for Sea Bass) – Very good, Very good flavor and portion.

6) Ancho Sesame BBQ Hamachi – Excellent, presentation and very good portion.

7) Grilled Brochette of tenderloin and shrimp – Again excellent flavors, presentation and portion.

8) Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus – Ok, It was cooked perfectly, just the color just wasn’t very bright. I’ve seen brighter colors from an all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet.

9) Pomegranate-Molasses Brussels Sprouts – Overcooked and their concept of carmelization ended up burning about 75 % of the exterior of the sprouts. Tasty, but burnt.

10) Dessert was Chef Deborah Scott’s surprise – some kind of killer vanilla ice cream and chocolate molten brownie melted in an onion soup bowl. However this was topped with a white and dark chocolate confusing mess of artwork or not artwork. Good, but I wouldn’t have served that silly looking thing; cause it looked silly . . .

The service came out swiftly with all items ordered, on the table on time . . . except the salad. Informing the food runner, a salad was promptly brought out . . . and shortly there after one of the Assistant GM’s came out to check on us and informed us of the oversight and the “no charge” on the salad. I’m very glad they have the integrity to identify their mistake and promptly correct and ensure a good dining experience. I would have performed it no other way.

So overall we had a good night. We really enjoyed ourselves and, for the most part, had a good meal with great service. We enjoyed watching the cone man guard his cones, but not his chair and the atmosphere of great company in a fine restaurant.

I’m going to give this place only 4 cones. I would have possibly given it another 1/2 cone, but some Quality Assurance issues leaving the kitchen. 4 cones instead of three because the poor guy down there lost his chair, so we’ll replace it with a cone. Anyway, he did a better job watching the cones, than the chair.

Tonight 4 cones!!!!


The beans are NOT being counted. Smiles everyone . . . Smiles!

Part one of a two-part story. I had to separate them. So much happened . . . except BB King . . . I’ve found, he wasn’t electrifying!

The absolute worst lightning storm I have ever seen. We had scheduled ourselves to attend yet another show at Harrah’s Rincon Casino in Valley Center, CA, a pretty decent outdoor event facility. This lightning, thunder and heavy rain storm moved in so dramatically that they cancelled the appearance by the Tedeschi Trucks Band. I was really looking forward to a good show to end my weekend. Now I may never see these great artists ever perform. Yes, BB King was to follow and provide what I was hoping for another “best” concert. I have been since told that not only was the concert cancelled, all of the equipment was moved off the stage and back into the vans. They not only didn’t have any electrical power but were afraid of losing their tour equipment since BB King was to go to Rio De Janeiro for a South American tour immediately following this show. Bummer!

Today was the first time I had ever seen what happens when lightning strikes a tree. This palm tree in the middle of several palm trees was torched and the ground, in about a 20 foot circle, around the base . . . scorched! I also heard following our experience that another tree was broken in half and the ends were smoking. Absolutely the most bizarre weather pummeled the casino shutting off everything except the emergency lighting. Completely shut down the bean counters upstairs because there was no money flowing . . . so no beans to count!!! Anyone that was playing an electronic gaming machine was just sitting there guarding their machine to hopefully regain their control over their money. I mean everything had stopped at least for the 45 minutes or so we waited while I was trying to reclaim my credit card open behind the bar. You see, their point-of-sale (POS) system had collapsed as did the computer network within the casino due to the power outage. The manager finally came by and promised me they we charge my account only for the drinks, not the tip and gave me my card back so we could leave and hopefully resurrect some type of satisfactory evening; for this evening was to begin with a 5-star dinner, cocktails, Susan Tedeschi, Dereck Trucks and BB King.

This day began with many a Sunday choir, like getting my car washed and waxed . . . yeah, you know where this is going. Then I was to pick up my brother flying in to the local airstrip in his new plane (vintage, but new to him) and both of us only slightly fearing the weather. 500 yards before we get to my house the sky opens up like the day Noah set out. Well, may car got washed twice that day. Once inside the house the heavy rains continued and the sounds of thunder kept us edgy up until the moment we got ready to head out, the lights quit. Luckily the garage door was already open (electric opener).

Seeing the lightning storm on the way to the casino was awesome. The best and scariest show I have ever seen. That’s when we say that burned palm tree on the way to the casino. Just after dropping off my wife at the casino door I witnessed a bolt of lightning strike so close to this guy crossing the parking area that he flinched and then ran to his car dragging his girlfriend in a panic. I don’t know if it was the heat, flash or the shock wave percussion from the electromagnetic force (EMF) that caused his flinch. Pretty cool though! Scary!!!

So we get inside the casino and the thunder was so loud and frequent that it was very audible from inside on the gambling floor even above all of the machines (i.e. . . “Wheel of Fortune”. . .), I give the bartender my credit card and tell her to keep it open and began to order drinks. Soon after placing our name on the waiting list for dinner, the lights go out in the casino for the first time. Everyone on the floor does the old, “Oh” with various other noises and laughing. About 20 seconds go by and then the lights come back on. All of the electronic game are re-booting and soon everyone is back to doing what they were. Since it was getting close to the dinner hour the bar area was getting very busy. Mor of our party shows up and we continue to order more drinks on my card. About another 30 minutes goes by and I notice snow falling in the casino. It wasn’t snow but the ventilation system dust accumulation that gets sucked into the vents was falling from the ceiling area obviously from the now not running ventilation system. I also notice the restaurant lights are also not on. Moments later, the remainder of the electrical went out again except for emergency lighting. Now I begin to see more hotel staff on the floor than bumblebees on the bank of ice-plant near my pool. Each of the staff was answering questions and giving faith to the gamblers that have lost their money (or currently have lost their money) in the machines.

About another half hour goes by and the bar area is extremely busy now since there are no tables, machines or restaurants serving patrons in the casino. Our bartender is frantically serving whatever drinks she could and all available water bottles are being brought out onto the floor and passed out to patrons. I think it was a relief to our bartender when everything finally quit because she was forced to shut down finally because of her inability to not only pour from the electrically controlled dispenser, but now she was unable to control orders or sales because all of the computers were finally down . . . and not coming back anytime soon. She finally had to quit serving and only a couple of the bars remained open and a couple of the restaurants. All of the tables were covered and the machines were black. We were getting hungry and needed to leave, so I finally got my card back and we made our way to the door, talking to folks that got stuck in elevators and others that couldn’t wash their hands from the electronically controlled (sensored on/off controlled) sinks in the bathrooms. It was looking to be a miserable evening. We headed out hopefully to find electricity on in another area of another city.

Well, based on the reaction of the casino staff of the situation; as it became more apparent that it was getting more grim by the moment, quite reminiscent of a natural disaster or perhaps other significant public catastrophe; people were confused, situations were becoming desperate and patrons were confused and uninformed. The casino staff were told to get out on the floor, keep everyone calm and hand out water. I thin we came home with about 20 bottles of water. I think they did a great job controlling the situation and continuing to remain “hospitable”. Don’t forget about all of the other elements of the casino including the 12 story, 662 room hotel facility that also need to remain in control. Talk about testing the emergency procedures. This is where having carefully orchestrated contingency plans is such an important part of businesses of this nature.

For this event I going to give this casino several really large generators because they obviously need more or them to keep things going.

I’m going to give our bartender/server a new accounting department made up of old school equipment so it won’t slow her down. I can’t blame her; she worked her ass off and without a ventilation system. I’ll give her a fresh pair of bloomers to boot.

Part two is about the 5-star dinner.


1/3 Parma, Hobart and Me!

This episode starts with the last 1/3 of a whole Parma prosciutto I found in the kitchen fridge at school on meat/cheese platter day. I was in friggin heaven. I was the master of my own domain. 24 students and not one of them really knew how to use the Hobart slicer; let alone, how to properly slice Prosciutto . . . and the good stuff at that. Nobody even thought about touching this meat, because nobody knew what to do with it. LOOK OUT!!! Give me that thing and get out of my way . . . I’ll show you what to do with this thing. Everyone knew what I had, and the value of the product under my arm, but didn’t know how to transform “God’s meat” into the delicate melt-in-your-mouth thin slices of slightly salty goodness that every Italian prays to Emilio Vespucci about. Yes Emilio was the father of baseball; and baseball . . . well, we know the rest!

Now meet Mr. Hobart. Hobart’s history dates back more than 100 years . . . almost as long as Emilio. http://www.hobartcorp.com/AboutUsTimeline.html Yeah it looks easy; but, watching this bunch of young students trying to handle the various meats, cheeses and vegetables was like watching a world-class rodeo star attempting to handle a world-class bucking Brahma bull wanting to crack that little cowboys ass. It’s even more funny watching this because the Hobart slicers in our school are all on rolling carts and has a blade sharp enough to shave that bare cowboy ass just by staring at it for too long.

Now trying to explain the safe use of this buzz saw to as many of these students as I could on meat and cheese platter day was kinda fun. These young students never really used a slicer in a production environment before and getting them to learn the proper method of cutting a slice of Swiss, turkey breast or provolone is definitely different then teaching them to slice a  delicately rolled duck Prosciutto (yes we made these in class . . . yum!), a soft Gruyère cheese or the chunk of Prosciutto from Parma that I sported around like a football after I scored the winning touchdown in the World Series. Yes I know . . . I’m messin’ with your baseball brains. It’s not a home run but I’ll take the G O O O O O O A A L L L anytime! Now back to Emilio. He is of course the father of baseball; and baseball . . . well, we know the rest.

I must have sliced prosciutto 35 different ways. I tried to give hands-on experience to some of the students on the great Parms, but they couldn’t figure it out. Then I would ask them, “how thick do you like”. They would show me about 1/8″ think. Then I would slice a small section and have them gnaw on it for a few and ask them what they thought about the thickness. They all would reply, “can you just cut it for us please . . . real thin like you do?” One student made the comment, “you should be a teacher”. Well we’ll just leave that one alone. My Chef would just let me run with the slicer and teach the students because at least he’s confident in one thing I do . . . even telling one of the students that wanted a 1/4 in slice of expensive cheese, “let Foodie (not really my name) do it”. So I sliced everything and just about anything around. I got to the end of the usable prosciutto and then decided to make a prosciutto tartare and stuff it inside of olives. Chef thought that was a good way to use every last portion of a product. I scored points for that one.

Bottom line, I sliced using the Hobart like I was 17 again working the deli counter. Super fun night. The platters were terrific and I must have eaten so much cheese and meats my system was on standby for a good cleansing after that. Luckily I ate about 10 figs in the morning. Next adventure is to take a branch or two from the fig trees in my father’s yard and plant my own . . . and somehow convince myself that I need a Hobart slicer for the house. Yeah right! The Chef and I even made head cheese last night. That was excellent.

Remember . . . be one with the pig and don’t play with big-boy toys, unless you have 11 fingers and Amerigo by your side! No bull!


Meeting up with the Mongols . . . then “WHAM!” . . . the ol’ plate to the head.

I thought . . . I was done. I think I actually saw stars, or maybe it’s because I was closer to them in Idyllwild, CA.

Met up with a few motley individuals from the motorcycle club “Mongols”; havin’ a beer and breathing in the fresh mountain air. I wasn’t looking for any problems. I was just mindin’ my own business . . . then, “WHAM!” . . .the ol’ plate to the head!

Ok let me explain. The “Best Margaritas on the Hill” can be found at Arriba, Mas Fina Mexican Food. At least that’s what their business card says. We didn’t know about them until the Chef handed us his card. So then I handed him my card as we parted. The Chef asked, “eb-bri-tin-o-kayee?” in his very thick Mexican accent. You see the Chef was just complimented to us by the very nice lady that just sat with the Mongol’s group of riders. “Well” she said, “the Chef had been serving  my husband (one of the riders) and I for over 25 years”.  We noticed, as we arrived, that a Sunday brunch style spread being was being accosted by a patron and the Chef was flipping eggs-to-order right next to the entrance. He almost flipped an omelet right out of his pan. I think he was showing off ’cause I was watching. Well, we sat next to the motorcycle club riders and had small conversation with them about our dogs in the back of the Burb, and the Chef  being so friendly. The Mongol group were pretty nice except for me getting cracked in the skull by a plate . . . So what gives? Yeah, the Mongols had some bitchen bikes too.  We kept a close eye on them as they rode off. Bastards . . . didn’t even say they were sorry!

Ok, the day before we ate lunch at another place we wanted to try while in Idyllwild. The place was called Little Chef in the Forest. http://www.littlechefintheforest.com/ Well, the Little Chef appeared to have a German twist on the menu cause I ordered a potato pancake as an appetizer. It was bland and the apple sauce was plain. I kept trying different combinations of salt, pepper and apple sauce . . .  nothin! Well, the potato pancake arrived and then there was a delay . . . cricket . . . cricket . . . cricket. Then our waitress flew by our table about 15 minutes later and said in her passing that our other food was coming right out . . . cricket . . . cricket . . . cricket. I think about 45 minutes went by and then we inquired with another server because we hadn’t seen ours in quite some time. The younger server said there was a communication problem in the kitchen and our order should be coming out shortly. Hmmm, why didn’t anyone tell us? Was there a problem with the order? Did they have to kill the chicken? I didn’t hear any sounds from farm animals recently. Well after reading some of the reviews (and I usually don’t until after I have a notion), there’s a problem with this joint other than just throwing plates.

My Monte Cristo with raspberry syrup finally arrived on an artfully folded and colorfully green cloth dinner napkin. That’s the first time I’ve seen that one. I hate to be the guy that has to get those clean. The sandwich was great! My wife ordered a Portabella mushroom sandwich without the bread. It came and was a generous portion but she noticed the mushrooms were the smaller Cramini and not a fully mature Portabella and there were no tomatoes. I pointed out that there were sun-dried tomatoes. Perhaps the Chef wanted to compensate because there was no bread. He compensated on the salt too. It was tremendously over salted, but otherwise good. The other folks we went to lunch with had another Monte Cristo and a Chicken Sandwich that she said something was missing from that one as well. We also overheard another table stating a mis-que on their order from the kitchen. Hmmm, I wonder what the kitchen hick-up was, and despite the shortcomings, the food was pretty good. I’m guessing this may be the elevation affecting the inconsistencies.

The first disappearing server never gave us the scoop or tried to comp us for our plate, nor did we ask, but she did accidentally knock over my water glass while clearing plates. Then in one swift motion to pick it up the spilled glass with one hand, cracked me upside the forehead with the lip of the plate she was carrying in the other hand. I know I saw stars.

Ok, enough about the little chef. By the way, the mexican food at Arriba was also good. Their carnitas and beans just disappeared from my plate, and we were all holding our belly’s and ready for a nap, but instead went shopping in the mountain town. I guess that’s what you’re supposed to do. I wonder if the food has all been pretty good or if it’s just the mountain air.

Other places we’ve eaten while visiting Idyllwild are Cafe Aroma (the best on the hill . . . period!)  http://www.cafearoma.org/index.htm and Idyllwild Pizza and Sport (not a bad gourmet style pizza).

So far I’m going to give Idyllwild one great big bear hug . . . or is it an Idyllwild bear hug. Get it? Big Bear . . . Idyllwild Bear ? ? ?


Grill House Cafe – San Diego, CA – Persian and Mediterranean Cuisine

A recent visit from a contractor at my workplace took us to lunch at the Grill House Cafe, off of Black Mountain Rd. near MCAS Miramar. http://www.grillhousecafe.com/ This provided an enlightening opportunity for something different and close by the workplace.

The Grill House Cafe boasts a healthier “fresh fire-grilled” menu. I hoped for a better meal than my last run-in with a mediterranean (Greek) cafe and I had expectations that the Grill House could enlighten my senses.

We were immediately greeted by what could have been the owner. He asked if we would like something to drink and I replied I would like water . . . and a lot of it, further explaining that it was a hot day and I just finished my workout and was very thirsty. Well they must have had only one size glass because I got the same size as the person I ate with, but I ask him to make sure it stays full. Well my glass ran dry twice during the meal, finally resting comfortably with ice cubes that were sucked and broken into bits from me trying to get water from the Sahara. Didn’t I say I was thirsty and “keep my glass full” ? ? ? AUTOMATIC SERVICE FAILURE – deduct 5%.

The interior of the joint was comfortable and reasonable large and well laid out. It was quite busy, but not extreme; with an eclectic diverse group of worldly looking folks. I decided to play my game safe and order a comparative meal that I use for all mediterranean food houses. Yes, I ordered the Chicken “garden” Salad. This had the correct amount of dressing and the grilled, Turmeric coated, chicken breast chunks were not dried out; and again, I prefer thigh meat.  They were actually quite tasty but the salad was very safe (i.e. romain and a couple of diced tomatoes and an olive). We did share a Hummus appetizer that was pretty good.

Well we finished out food and talked and talked and talked . . . then talked some more. Then finally the contractor I was with got up to pay the tab. I guess we assumed the waiter/owner was to bring the tab to us. As I sucked on the driest piece of ice I had left, I got up to grab a box for the left over gyro. I didn’t quite understand why there was no floor service, since there were other staff kinda standing around in the back.

The food was decent but the service sucked. Maybe they were having an off day. I will probably return, and try something more challenging from the menu.

I give the Grill House Cafe only 2 camels for now.

At least someone would “walk a mile for a Camel” (service here folks!).


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