The Mongols say . . , Thank You !

Possibly just getting back into this writing thing . . . it hurts.


First thing when I got home today was get on this thing and see what my stats look like. I began to look at my site’s most visited pages and found some very interesting things. Seems there exists a mystery as to the words I use and other persons search terms to get them to my site. Terms like Jack Daniels, Mongols and Mexican liquor bottles.  Our Mexican liquor bottle opening video on YouTube has received nearly 1,700 views. You can see it here: I just watched it . . . stupid humor.

In passing the search terms, I happened upon the CritDicks profile “About Us“. There, at the bottom, I found all of the wonderful comments folks have posted about my site and my writing over the years. It was then I decided to share my thoughts for the night . . . should they last! First I want to say “Thank You”! It was also then I began to think why I haven’t been keeping my loyal fans full of my weekly stories, that have been slowly tapering off since my father’s passing just last month or so. Probably more “or so”. I actually haven’t been cooking or writing since my graduation. I also have almost lost a desire to pursue any thoughts of ever entering the FB&H industry. I have though since purchased a few more “gotta have” kitchen gadgets. Like the very cool induction burner. I’m not too sure I’m used to it though. Kinda tricky with the “on-off” cycles. Well, that’s what I noticed about it.

I’m really not sure why this bazar behavior. Perhaps it’s everything going on . . . Dunno. One thing I do know is . . . I have a fan base I enjoyed sharing my culinary adventure with beyond that which many may believe they have a following. What? Yeah, I said you . . . my viewers and readers are why I’m writing tonight. I don’t necessarily have any inspiration to write tonight, perhaps it’s just writer’s block. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t visited any restaurants lately . . . nonsense, I’m actually sick of going out . . . , . . . I think I’m mostly sick of paying for it. I think I permanently spoiled my family.


public house curbside3

If you have been holding on, you’ve noticed I found use for those preserved lemons. Seeming just about everything can be made interesting using preserved lemons . . . except, maybe hotdogs. Dunno, haven’t tried it. I have been using much time catching up on the endless yard-work around this place. Thank God for weed killer. Also, lately, thank God for strong boys. Yeah I recently have also been off-handedly been diagnosed with a compressed sacrum. Yeah, my tail. Turns out my lower back pain for sometime has been attributed to that little thing . . . I hope that’s little . . .

Anyway, I wanted to get this out tonight quickly. I have my hoodie on and the headphones in. Everyone else was currently out! Yeah, that’s the way I like to write. I think I can also attribute my blank head from the endless activity around this house lately . . . the furniture . . . the boxes of?, has been accumulating steadily since around mid-year last. Oh well, sell everything!

Which also reminds me. I recently got a new very badd ass truck to replace my daily driver. Don’t ask how I got it . . . just hope I enjoy it as much as my old Avalon. I really miss the JBL audio system that was in there. But I’m now working on building a JL Audio system around my stock head unit (full-on navigation, Bluetooth, the works) and subwoofer plastic compartment built specifically for this vehicle. My hope is to somewhat recreate the JBL experience with the JL Audio system, yet maintaining cost minimums and retaining all of my usable space in the 2011 F250 Lariat, 4X4, 6.7L Turbo PowerStroke. There’s another complete story around that one. Nor will I show it. What I will show you is THIS


This is the 2001 Suburban, 2500, 4X4, 8.1L very badd ass, and very proven, truck that used to pull my trailers, boats, bikes; and has still made it through nearly every imaginable obstacle like this: I’m really gonna miss her. I think a lot of people are. I’ve had her for over ten years.

Have fun! I hope to be back here soon . . .


I think I have a smile on my face . . .

Lemons again? The Birthday. Customer experience. Olive Garden Restaurants.

So I used them again. The preserved lemons made their way back into the mealset, Tonight I used them in the teriyaki marinade of these breast strips. I think I may have found my new meat.


As part of my son’s birthday, we give the kids an opportunity to select where they would like to go for dinner. Benihana . . . I think not, tonight! Olive Garden (San Diego, Tri-City, El Camino Real shopping mall) happened to be the selection for us this evening. We are a party of 7 so I expected a small wait. No problem, I’ll see you at the bar.

Once at the bar I noticed a small group forming around me since my son, now 21, and his brother, now 26 dummied up . . . and I mean dummied up to the bar and quickly pointed at me and said, ‘on him”, as I ducked my head anticipating an expensive night.

Once at the bar and gaining control of the bartender that night, I asked what he had in bottle beer. I’m sorry, I don’t remember his name; “The bartender” hesitated just less than a moment and I didn’t want to appear ill prepared, so I trumped his hesitation by claiming I’ll have a (something on tap). The bartender was quickly getting busy yet countered by saying, “I was catching my breath” and began to rattle off the entire bottled bear menu . . . then proceeded to open the fridge directly in front of me so I can make a visual selection.

Just about that time I met Seajay, the Manager that evening as he assisted the bartender by ringing up his bar tabs and identified my beer by leering at it with some serious “stink eye”. I noticed his momentary ponderance of evidence in front of me and claimed, “hey, did you just give my beer stink eye?” Seajay and I began a night of friendship and introductions to other staff members such as Scotty, our server. Seajay assured us, once we were seated that Scotty, would be taking excellent care of us that night . . . and that he did!

Scotty professionally dealt with every table scenario encountered, like a lactose free selection and the serving, and quickly replacing, an incorrect beer order. Not one instance went by that Scotty wasn’t on it, from waters to extra sauces. He even got my special order right . . . albeit, the butter was burnt, by still edible.  Scotty made my visit easy . . . especially when giving him the tip. Wow and an extra $10 on top of the already rounded 20+%. Scotty deserved it, yet Seajay, the manager deserved it as well. The manager precluded my visit by quickly accepting my stupid “Dick” humor and taking one of my business cards while at the bar.

Just as we had entered the car to go out that evening, my son picked up a book I had placed behind the passenger front seat in my truck. The book was titled something like, ” Managing the Customer Experience”. I explained to my son about meeting the expectations and maintaining the customer experience we expect from going to “Olive Garden” that evening. I explained that we have had experienced Olive Garden in the past and we are arriving with an expectation of what we had previously experienced before at other Olive Garden locations. I then explained about the customer experience and meeting or exceeding that expectation to achieve the “experience” we had before during our visits. Well tonight was a perfect example of our experience . . . a perfect example of providing the customer experience we hoped for; yet exceeding that expectation to provide a wonderful evening for my family. Perhaps that equates to Olive Garden’s slogan “when you’re here, your family”.

As for those lemons. Keep using them in new stuff . . . try new combinations. The teriyaki tonight was good, yet could have used more lemon. It really began to cut through the teriyaki and brighten up the dish. BTW, the breast chicken meat was super moist and delicious. I normally always use thigh meat. Not tonight. The green beans, perfect. And the rice was nice and sticky. And this food was a “must cook” tonight combo before everything turned south in the fridge.


Expansion too fast? – Sublime Ale House / Tavern – San Diego, CA

Is there a right time to complain while seated at a restaurant? Many owners and managers will make the blanket statement, “if you have an issue at a restaurant, then, while you’re at the restaurant, when the incident happens, is the right time to bring it up to management so they can remedy the situation”. What if you bring the incident up to the server and the manager seemed aware, but never approached the table to ensure the customer returns another day?

A similar incident happened just the other night. Finally, another son turned 21, so it’s now up to Mom and Dad to take him and the family out for dinner. Tonight’s choice was Sublime Ale House in San Marcos’s famous Restaurant Row near San Diego, CA. What all seemed to be going smoothly for the first 10 minutes turned horribly wrong once the food was ordered.

Ensuring each of the family members arrived at our house so my wife could play designated driver caused us to get a slower than normal start on our evening. We arrived as a party of 8 without reservations on this Tuesday evening following the MLK weekend. Seating was not a problem with the many picnic style benches and tables. I had disappeared momentarily while our server Dave dropped off the menus. A quick glance at the menu upon my return, I had discovered that most everyone seemed ready to order once Dave had arrived again after about another 5 minutes. Dave took our drink order and placed it in the POS. Soon thereafter, Dave returned to start the dinner order. I ordered a couple of pizzas for the table and there were a variety of sandwiches and salads ordered as well. Dave disappeared and our drinks started to roll in about 15 minutes after the entrées were ordered, just as we began to wonder why the pizza holders were already out but no beverages, except a couple waters and the beer that was ordered before the main party was seated.Sublime1

Moments later the drinks arrived. After we began to taste our beers, a call from the table came, “hey, we should’ve ordered appetizers”. I told my son that the pizzas should be here any moment . . . but we kept waiting, without any follow-up from Dave, and thinking the soup should have also showed up by now, unless it was fired at the same time as the regular entrées. Timing this evening was seeming beginning to falter.

Well, we finally got our three large pizzas. We finally got our drinks about 20 minutes into seating and our pizzas as the appetizer about 30 minutes after seating, just about the time we began to wonder of their whereabouts (20 minutes is good). Then each of us at the table began to wonder where the entrées were hiding since each of us at the table already had two slices of pizza each (about 45 minutes in). Just as we began to wonder, the entrées began to arrive. My son’s Prosciutto and Egg burger was served just above room temperature and seemed as if it was meant for another table under the heat lamp. Considering the wait time for turnaround, my son decided to eat what he was served. Yes his fries were also cold, but crunchy. He even said they were the best french fries he has ever had. Dunno, about that one???

We didn’t immediately complain. Looking back, I feel my complaint about a burger seemed small in comparison to the fact that our table had now consumed every one of their beverages including most of the water on the table. I didn’t notice this happening, but I did notice that my beer was empty and I was finishing my water. I asked if anyone had ordered another drink and the answer was, “No, no one came by”. Just as I was finishing my water, I began to slurp in the general direction of another server who came over to check on our drinks. I saw our particular server around and was surprised there were no other drink orders taken.

I pointed out the table status to Chris and explained that no one has been by to top off water or take another drink order. I also told Chris to order another round of drinks complimentary of Sublime, because that was a clear service failure . . . and to get water out as well. I then saw our server and explained that our table went without drink for some time. He dropped off what was in his hand and immediately came over to start taking another drink order. I told Dave that Chris had already taken our order but had not refilled our water in the meantime. Even the water took a long time . . . WTF? Speaking of that; I didn’t have serviceware and asked my wife if there was any available. She said the table was told, there was no more and he’d (don’t know who) be back with more. Anyway, I ate my pizza with what I got from the bar.

Well, our second round of drinks finally arrived as did the water, now making its way to the table. I told Dave and Chris, and they must have talked with the Manager, to keep our drinks full (meaning mostly water and sodas) for the remainder of our stay. At one point, I believe it may have been the Manager approached the table after eye-balling me and asked very simply, “So, . . . are we going to be ordering any more drinks?” Our collective answer was, “no”, and he left. No other mention about our tab, or our food or our drinks.

Sublime2The check arrives and it was calculated properly without the addition of a second round of beers. I gave the server a $20 tip on a $175 bill. Hopefully he understands his was not good service. I hope Sublime also understands that they have a service problem. Just read any number of posts and Yelps about them. As I read some of those Yelps; and if I remember correctly, Sublime has a significant history of slow service, but this was Tuesday night and the restaurant was only about 60% full. My previous visit also resulted in significant service delays, like . . . really long waits between drink order, food order, drink arrival, food arrival. Perhaps it’s part of their business service plan . . . to draw more drinks out of the customers . . . but then why did our drinks go empty? And, then they had a problem bringing water as an interim. I really just don’t think they have their service structure set up properly. It was very bad service. Then to top it off, if the Manager knew there was a service problem, why didn’t that Manager approach MY table to ensure this customer returns. I hope that manager realizes our $175 cover could have been much closer to a $300 cover should the extra round of drinks been calculated in and possibly another (3rd) round for some of us. I really hope Dave realizes his tip could have been closer to $60 or more for exceptional service and a total bill properly calculated to include the comp’ed drinks.

So my question still remains; Am I wrong not to bring up this evening’s failures to the Manager to allow him/her to rectify the situation, better ensuring I return someday to spend another $300? Nonsense, that Manager (weak! , in my opinion) knew about the situation, because the Manager would have to have approved the full table of comp’ed drinks. Then why didn’t the Manager approach me? I think, if I was the manager, would have ensured I (as the customer) returned, especially knowing that I have another son yet entering the food and now “drinking” world.

Do I think this is another case of a restaurant expanding ahead of themselves? Perhaps. Sublime Ale House now has an off-branch called Sublime Tavern (Summer, 2013) located in Del Mar, CA. I have not yet visited the new joint, and I may not anytime soon. Unfortunately, quality of customer experience is what has dropped. I know that Sublime has a good concept . . . but, if you can’t continuously bring quality to that customer, I can only expect the new place may soon close. We’ll see.


A year of Dicks – We eat . . . therefore we think!


You know who you are. If you have met me before and were given a CritDicks business card, then you should know I approve of your business when you see me walk through the door the next time around. There are a great deal of establishments we, and many others, visit without even a moment’s thought. A hot dog at Costco, a pair of tacos at Jack-in-the-Box or maybe a bag of pistachios while waiting for the lecture to begin. We eat . . . therefore we think!

I visit places . . . that I don’t even like. And yes I can probably say I eat their food too. Whatever! What I want to say is I eat at various places throughout time that I don’t always get to acknowledge. Places like Curbside Café in Vista, CA. I think I have been there a 1/2 dozen times now . . . always a treat to eat there. I feel bad because I don’t often times get to spend enough moments with an owner or chef where they remember me. Or . . . , they remember me as that “blogger” that dumped his stupid business card on them. I know I may sometimes come across wrong . . . I think that’s my wiring. I’m also very social, so I may get talking with a server and a General Manager may be giving me stink eye over his/her bifocals . . . because they’ve seen me before! “WATCH HIM” . . . he’s sneaky! Perhaps one day, I will feel welcomed as a writer when visiting an establishment. Actually, I have . . . now that I think about it! “Steve and Steve” remembered me while visiting with Underdogs during a food truck and music festival. Steve immediately recognized me and the stories began . . .

photo2   There are so many attributes of 2013 that I needed to include in this blog somewhere, but now I’m approaching a new vector in my life and must quickly scan whatever pictures I took and try to recall stories of those memories. There were so many stories to tell . . . but I just fell plain flat. I had serious burn out and needed to clear my mind. Glad it really only lasted a few weeks, during which time I was able to even slip in a quick retreat at Lake San Marcos, in San Marcos, CA photo3photo 1We were treated to a very large lofted ceiling, luxurious post-modern retro decorated room overlooking most activities in the area and the lake. Our room had a large balcony that overlooked the adult spa and “wooded” fire ring (pretty cool). Our deck was open to adjoining decks and had some really cool chairs. Look ’em up. They are very heavy and sturdy and made from post consumer plastics, made to look like wood and painted. Quality! Other quality amendments in the room included a 60″ thin-edge HDTV with HD service! Top Notch! photoThe room was simple, elegant and included a remodeled bath featuring a large wall-to-wall glass-encased shower, LED lighting and new plumbing fixtures. Water pressure was fair. Service was very good and unwavering . . . trust me . . . I tried!photo5

We also ate at a place called Thai Garden in Oceanside, CA were we were treated to some lovely plating of authentic Thai cuisine and an educational owner that brought us a chili from his back yard explaining, “the top of the flair is sweet, the rest to the stem is very hot”. Taken with caution I tasted the sweet, but could already tell the hot area was with the seeds, and needed to stay there today. This kid must’ve had a hangover. photo6Oh yeah, I attended my graduation . . . yes, I sat in the back and congratulated all graduates for this day was for them.

As part of my graduation celebration, I also will soon have a Daughter-in-Law that shared in my graduation, by graduating herself from Cal State San Marcos. My gift to her . . . and myself, was to take her out for a nice meal . . . somewhere fancy. Normally I don’t put pictures of persons I know, but the day was spectacular, one of Oceanside’s finest. photo7Due to all circumstances, we elected to have lunch at 333 Pacific, and Chef Brian Hyre greeted our table and announced each arriving course from our skillfully coordinated Prix Fixe menu. Skillfully coordinated means I spent the last 3 or 4 days trying to contact the Chef by whatever means to ask him to do me the favor, having explained the circumstances and that I wanted the meal to be special. Chef somehow felt obliged to fulfill with my request. Not something often found out there anymore, unless at a real small mom and pop’s brick and mortar. Chef Brian is, as most good chefs, are always super busy, so their moments are very special. Chef Brian also hooked us up with an amuse bouche of 333’s signature Sweet Chili Calamari. Ok, now I have tasted the best. Previous calamari crown was held by Blue Water Seafood in San Diego, but now 333. It was just so tender . . . so tender, with the Sweet Chili dipping sauce. You know, when Chef Brian and I briefly discussed what I wanted on the menu, I asked Chef to “clear out the fridge” . . . he knew exactly what I meant. I think at that moment, Chef Brian knew I was someone worth meeting. Thanks Chef Brian! A true professional! Oh, BTW; there was also a finisher of fruitful frozen Mango puree on a frozen Coconut milk shell . . . something like that. Heaven!

To top everything off, I had a wonderful Christmas holiday celebration. I am very much looking forward to 2014 and all of the antics that should be displayed by all.


The Big Table Dance.


This was definitely a night to remember. Tonight was to be my last event in which I would probably ever don the coat or toque of a chef or cook. Well, as I’m finding out now . . . that doesn’t seem to be the case. I ask, does this keep going? Is it my stupid passion?. Am I looking for something else? I have a feeling you’ll be reading much more since my schooling ends just before Christmas.

At the beginning of this quarter I regretted having to don the uniform ever again, but was basically forced for the purposes of this last class. This class was focused on event planning and execution. I had vowed to handle the business portion of the events; further allowing the real culinary gang (students) that actually have a long standing desire to work in a kitchen, the opportunity to learn and grow their craft . . . and hone their skills.

Since this class is focused on setting up and executing events, this final event was to be the crown jewel in which we can showcase many, if not all of the things we have learned since beginning this culinary school adventure. Today was being hailed as an event for the culinary competition team for our San Diego campus of the International Culinary School at The Art Institute. We were led to believe this event was for our “hot team”, as they were to be cooking for their families in order to show them what their competition would involve. We (our event class) were merely providing the party (event) for the hot team to cook. Turns out this was all a carefully fabricated horns waggle. Yeah, we were railroaded . . . flimflammed . . .

Turns out, we are putting on this event for ourselves . . .  Shit!

We were informed by our persuasive Chef Instructor just 15 minutes before the pseudo-guests were to arrive. I think everyone of the culinary students participating got a big ear-to-ear grin on their face . . . except for me. I just happened to be the only student in this class that’s actually graduating this term,  so my Senioritis was playing a big part of my unrest.dinner2

Well, now that we know the reason for setting up this table. I spent three hours polishing silver and glassware and setting this table to exacting specifications as outlined by our Chef Instructor. He explained every facet of how the service would go and be executed. He explained that we would be serving plates from the right and clearing from the left . . . (screeching halt sound). Did he just say serving from the right and clearing from the left . . . Isn’t proper French service the opposite way? I thought only glassware was to be serviced from the right. I attempted to clarify this on the internet and realized that this was a subject of much discussion that truly danced around the subject of what is right and what is wrong. Is the service from a guéridon or from plates already prepared. Is this Russian service or French? There are several factors involved when establishing how the service is to be executed and I really don’t care to research every method. One thing is for sure; our school has been putting out service from the left and clearing from the right. Tonight was completely opposite. “What gives Chef?”, I ask. Then the chef kindly reminded me that every situation may be different in the real world anyway, and flexibility in situations may be necessary. Other than him saying this, there really was no other reason for our reverse service except that he demanded that we comply with his requirements. “Roger that”, I said and proceeded to serve from the right that night . . . and it felt wrong every moment. But you know what? That same Chef Instructor pulled off that bull-shit for the event too. Finally figured him out. He’s a B. S.’er. . . I like that!dinner3

Another thing that has been brought up is the proper placement of forks, knives and spoons on the big table. I have taken many shots across the bow from folks complaining that the dessert fork and coffee spoon were to be placed atop the plate when setting the table properly. Turns out this evening’s event was to use plates available at the school that later proved to be too large for the table decorations and the plates to fit correctly, so we decided to place all of the silver to the side. Again, it’s situational and as a restaurant service, one must attempt to make everything as perfect as possible. AS POSSIBLE!!! Tonight, due to the situation, we had to deviate alot. Another factor was how much of the serviceware is available to us for this event. Remember, these classes and equipment are utilized by numerous classes, and for numerous occasions. Over the course of the last three weeks I have counted 120 forks, 40 dinner forks, 20 desert forks and 40 knives . . . once each, last three classes. Often times having to track them down from other locations in the school to make up an acceptable service place setting. Tonight was no exception. The main thing we focused on was the absolute perfection of each item placed on the table, measuring and calculating, Exact placement of each fork in front of each guest with the exact space between every component. That’s why this took me three hours. Even down to the cell-phone distance each chair arm was from the table. It was goofy crazy, but the result was spectacular. That was a badd ass table!

dinner5So now you’re probably wondering why all the hype. This turned out to be a night of service for the two classes that comprised this service. The “hot team” prepared the menu and guided the kitchen staff on execution and service. The remaining few (including me) were to set up the facility, move tables, chairs and fetch everything needed to make the event special. Once it was time for service all of the students helped on the assembly line and working the plates for service. Finally concluding on a very messy kitchen and tons of dishes. Yes we cleaned for a good hour-and-a-half afterwards.

I look back at this night and begin to grin. I think back about the last three years of this culinary education and some of the students, Chef Instructors and staff I have met through out this education. I think about what I had learned (totally another story) and how I am able to handle my own in the kitchen, in the front of the house and in the business. I can now talk the talk, AND walk the walk. There are plenty of other skilled chefs and cooks out there that can walk all over me in any kitchen; but, how many of them can do it with as much class as me, with as much skill and as much education as me. I can now literally walk into any restaurant, any food service operation or any kitchen and hold my own . . . not necessarily some one else’s own . . . but my own.

I became grateful this night . . . , because this dinner was for me.

I may not be walking with the graduating class, but I’m with them on every step they take. Congratulations!

Just remember . . . they call ’em Chefs, . . . because they work in the industry.

Hug a “Chef”.!


Happy Holidays 2013/14 . . . and thanks! . . . Dicks

Ok, this may be brief, or this may be long, . . .  but I have to do it!

The last several weeks have led us to the conclusion of 2013. I already have major plans for the 31st . . . and my wife is going to smile and … go with this one … trust me, I just think she will see it my way. That kind of 2013.

I have built a relationship with a dude named Jimmie. This dude is working his ass off to make things happen. Every time I turn around I find that Jimmie has booked the biggest and the baddest! Is that a word? Well if there is a “Baddest”, Jimmie’s Da Man.

I just found out that Jimmie, the Trail Boss for Cattle Call, L.L.C. has bagged one of the richest mixes of country-Texan- Southern Rock, Elvis and Johnny influenced / / /, not quite sure just what genre specifically they are. But I heard some of their rifs and already know this is gonna be a bash!!! LOOK  THE . . . f’, , out . . . W O W !!!    at a local joint here just below where I live.  I could walk home. Think of the possibilities.

To conclude . . . uh, for this year . . . I would humbly like to say to all of my followers and readers of my brain. Thanks! In just less than two years I have achieved over 10,000 views and have over 300 followers! . . .

I had a few goals with this post. Folks, stick with me here . . . I hope to keep it flowin’. I started this thing as a Band-Aid … to my wife’s suggestion, that I just don’t say anything when I go out with her . . . that I just write about it. “What did you say”, said You. I said, “say nothing”. What you guys already said, is already killing me.

Feb 2012 – I started writing  just after a the 29th wedding anniversary with my badd-ass life supporter . . . wife!  I Love you! . . . and no bull shit, you know that!

July 4th 2013 –  Shit, that was just 6 months ago. I think this is when it was . . .  was to have 5000 page views. I got really close, around 4600 or so. I don’t really feel like looking it up . . . nor do I rightfully feel like figuring out where I was, or what I was doing. I just know I didn’t quite make it.

Dec 2013 – (graduation day) Was to have 10,000 page views, 300 followers and be sponsored. Well, I fell just a tad short. I just don’t have the sponsor. If I could sit here and grovel.

So now I ask you, to ask yourself; do I like this bull shit? Do I like this Dick?

Whatever, follow more of my antics at; and this New Years Eve, go to Jimmie’s show at


I got another Woody today . . . and my wife was not impressed.

Truthfully, I think my wife would be happy I got a Woody at all.

Woodys-top-logo1Today was supposed to be a working lunch and I recommended we go to Woody’s in San Diego on Miramar Road, just outside of the west gate at MCAS Miramar. The location is convenient and I’ve had their burgers before.

The trip today seemed a bit odd since we arrived just after Woody’s opened for lunch. Funny, my last visit was for a large take-out order just about the exact time as today, and about the same size order as the one I was watching be filled upon my arrival. Today, as we waited for our dine-in meal to arrive at our table, I watched that large take-out order being filled. Last time, I wrote about the service failure that occurred with Woody’s missing an order of my fries from my take-out. I could not help think as I was watching them fill that large to-go order, that I was that guy . . . last time. Maybe that to-go order is what set off a chain of service failures again today at Woody’s . . . I just hope they get my fries right.woody3

We ordered three burgers, each of which was hailed as “outstanding” by my cohorts. But as we waited for our food to arrive, we clearly noticed that a table that was seated a good 10 minutes after our arrival was now receiving their burgers. “Hey, didn’t that table sit after us”, I asked the others at my table. “Yeah, I think they were”, they responded. Just then, I notice the server heading our way, now with our burgers in hand. How do I know they were seated after us; because we were the second to be seated in the dining area for that lunch service. Our food came out a bit slow, but that was ok because we were engaged in “work” conversation; but when I saw the other table get served before us, I began to worry.

We finally did receive our burgers. And my cole slaw quickly arrived on our server’s second run back from the service counter. But wait, as we all kind of stared at each other, . . . uh, . . . wondering where our fries and onion rings were. After another solid 3 minutes of staring at our burgers and my cole slaw, . . . we then saw the other table get their fries . . . us again, just having our burgers. I said, “doesn’t look like the fries are coming anytime soon, lets eat!” Just then, we also realized we had no flatware or plastic-ware to eat with. Thank God we had napkins on the table. When the server finally brought out our fries and onion rings . . . ,late, we asked her to bring out some forks and knives in which she hurriedly responded with fulfilling that request with Woody’s finest plastic-ware. It wasn’t until another solid 5 to 7 minutes after the first round of fries showed up, Woody himself brought out a second order of fries. I thought he had made a mistake. Either he recognized me and wanted to reconcile the missing fries from my previous visit, or the order was extremely late to be filled. He asked at that time if there was anything else we needed and offered some ranch for the onion rings. He immediately filled that request. Once Woody left, I confirmed with my business associates that the second order of fries was correct.woody1

So let’s recap the service failures. 1) our table was served out of sequence from other guests. 2) we were served our fries late after our burgers were served. 3) second order of fries were brought out very late, clearly after the meal had begun to be consumed. 4) no serviceware brought out with the coleslaw or other entrée’s.

Although Woody checked on our table several times, as did the server when refilling our waters and other drinks; I didn’t think it right for me to complain about the service failures in front of business associates, especially since I didn’t pay today. I’m not really sure I ever really feel right about complaining in front of other people I’m with unless it’s really something blatantly wrong. Most folks know I write and I don’t want them to feel awkward. I may be wrong for not saying something at the time of failure, but that is also why restaurateurs and servers are supposed to ask of their patrons within 2 minutes or two bites of the food delivery to the table; and supposed to do it when you have a bite of food in your mouth, so all you can do is nod. “Everything ok here?”, the server usually asks, . . . mouth-full “nod”, is what is returned.

Woody’s still has a knockout burger and some pretty good fries . . . when they do get the fries to you. The coleslaw was again just meh flavor-wise, but the size of cabbage cuts seemed to be remedied. The onion rings were still not that good. The onion was again non-existent flavor-wise compared to the very greasy and heavily breaded coating. The other persons at our table agreed they could not taste the onion either.woody2

Woody’s needs to care for their patrons. They need to correct their service failures. Other than this “Dick” noticing many things wrong, they were also noticed by others at my table . . . and, they are also noticed by other patrons.

I can’t say I won’t go back, but I won’t be ordering the rings, the slaw or expecting my fries. I don’t know if the fries will show up late . . . or show up at all!


Gourmet Snack Shack – High School

First things first. “Where the hell is your football game?”, I ask my son. “In Del Norte, at Del Norte, against Del Norte”, he says. “Ok . . . where the hell is Del Norte?”, I ask. “I don’t know”, he game 2

Turns out this ‘Del Norte’ is an area in San Diego that has been rapidly developing for some time. I typed “Del Norte High School” into the POS (piece of s#!^) navigation system in my Avalon and “alas”, it found it; so it can’t be that new of an area . . . or high school. As I traveled to Del Norte, which is located somewhere west of Rancho Bernardo, south of Lake Hodges, east of San Elijo and north of Carmel Valley; I quickly notice that everything appears new. I see new houses, new buildings, new streets and new street lights. I finally arrive at a seemingly new school that is surrounded by new construction. Hey, this place is pretty nice.

I went to Del Norte to watch a recent football game in which my son was playing. Before the game begins, I have to go see if there’s anything I feel like nibbling on during the start of the game. As I approach the snack shack, the wind kicks up and knocks the menu off of the wall above the order window and smacks one of the volunteer mothers in the head. She laughs off the OSHA incident since  the sign is one of those plastic types with the press-in letters and numbers. I still check out the menu to see “Na hos” and “Ho Dogs” still available since some of the letters were now on the ground. Laughing about the incomprehensible menu items, the volunteer mother says to me, “forget about that stuff, what you want to try is the grilled cheese . . . we have two”. I looked briefly at the menu item that was barely hanging onto the now fallen sign by just a small piece of plastic tape. “Yeah, yeah”, I said. Not really giving much thought until just before half time, when I got a hankerin’ for something. So I made my way up to the snack game1

I quickly looked at the menu hoping to find something edible . . . some candy, some chips or perhaps something smothered with canned chili-con-carne, so I can gag down whatever else I can find. Just then, I remembered about the grilled cheese sandwiches the worker mentioned. I again looked at the menu and saw the “American” grilled cheese sandwich, with Muenster, Cheddar, pickle and bacon. The other was the “Italian”; with Provolone, a pesto spread and tomato. These were both pre-assembled under some plastic in a wrapped hotel pan. Once I ordered them, the volunteer staff snatched it out of the pan and quickly placed them on a hot sandwich press. This press was not some home use model you buy at Macy’s,sandwich press1 but one of those expensive sandwich presses like you might find being used at your favorite deli. Wait a minute, where is this school getting its money? I was told to wait about 5 minutes so I looked at more of the menu and things behind the counter. Also on the menu was a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich; and on the counter, were these 8-inch round chocolate chip cookies. What is going on here? . . . where have I been? . . . wait a minute, where have all of the other high schools been. This is not normal.

Well, I waited my 5 minutes to be handed these remarkable creations. Roof-of-the-mouth searingly hot and perfectly grilled. Plated with the best of the gourmet food truck presentations; including the checker-board sandwich cardboard tray lined with checkered blue wrapper (technical terms I have yet to learn). I separated the huge halves to some oozing cheese and fillings of incredible delight. This is not the norm for grid-iron grunge.

A couple things went through my head as I was eating them. First I was wondering about the preparation outside of the snack-shack environment. Then I began to think about the pre-preparation and the use of the ingredients. Then it all started to make sense. I’m very willing to bet, there is someone back there that knows the limitations to that sandwich press and the limits of the health and safety code. But when I bit into them, I couldn’t help but refrain myself from quickly consuming the large sandwiches that only cost $5 each. These were easily a $7.50 sandwich on a food truck . . . in fact, a $10.50 creation if you throw a piece of grilled chicken breast on it. Someone at this school knows what they’re doing, or they just got really lucky. Maybe this is all pre-calculated political BS that is being forced upon the consumer in place of . . . or perhaps strategically along side of the nachos with that nasty cheese, canned chili and jalapenos. snack shack nachos - yum!

What does this school have going on? Obviously the same thing as many of the food trucks in the San Diego area. Impressive! Easily the best snack shack I have ever seen, or eaten at that I can remember. I wonder what this place does when it fires up the hamburger grill. These sandwiches rocked. I had to save the other two halves for my son after the game. I knew he would be hungry and he seems to always venture foods with me, so I thought he would enjoy them. His response once we were underway in the car, “I don’t normally like grilled cheese . . . , (smack, smack, smack), but these are really good!” He didn’t even save me a bite, . . . oh well, I was driving anyway.


It’s My Birthday – Fine Navy Chow!

Ok, so I’m being asked today if I am going to the chow hall to celebrate the Navy’s birthday with the rest of my office. Navy Birthday1This is just one of those semi-traditional things the office does on the Marine Corps and Navy birthdays. Often, I blow them off because I’m not that motivated to eat what I ate for many years while serving. One office worker said the difference between the Navy and the Marine Corps’ birthday meals is just the color of the frosting on the cake. The Navy of course is blue and gold, while the Marine Corps colors are scarlet and gold. I actually grilled some young Marine that visited me in my office today about the proper colors of the Marine Corps. Poor kid, didn’t know that it was scarlet. God help him if his Gunny every gets a hold of him. “SCARLET…MARINE!” I can hear him yell right now. The young Marine thought it was just red! Hell, I’m a properly initiated Navy Chief; I probably had to look that up for some BS that some super crusty Master Chief wanted to exploit us with. Don’t get me started with that crap.Marine Corps Birthday

To get things started, my camera on the Android has been failing lately (needed a new battery), so all of these pictures are what I could find on the internet.

Todays meal was to be special. The work email even sends out the menu ahead of time. For like $7.68 (or something like that), you get a char-grilled rib-eye steak (about 8oz), a baked lobster tail, shrimp cocktail, corn (frozen . . . NASTY!), green beans (always better than the corn), rolls, potatoes, salad bar, deviled eggs . . . it just keeps going. And the best part of it, is the huge selection of deserts; cake, cheese cakes, pies, ice cream bar with toppings, coffee, cookies. . . again the list keeps going. Now I know why everyone attacks this place when they open it up. Now you also know why they only open it up a couple times during the year. Navy Birthday2They used to have the chow hall open to civilian employees all the time. I remember going for breakfast when I was still in the Navy and with my subsidence pay I would have a breakfast throw down for less than two bucks. Well, today the result was the steak was really quite good, medium rare and perfectly seasoned. I mean the chow hall even had giant pump dispensers of A1. I didn’t even need it. The lobster was . . . meh. everything else pretty much sucked except the roll and deserts.

Well, if your planning to enlist in the service; my father told me . . . “become a cook”, ’cause at least you’ll eat good. This is especially true if you are a cook in the Chief (CPO) mess. We ate pretty well.

navy birthday3

We (CPO’s) actually paid extra to eat while deployed. Plus we had a cadre of dedicated young men that made sure we, and they, ate well also. They take care of us . . . we take care of them.


Curbside Cafe – Vista, CA

I really hate just writing reviews without some sort of story. I’m not a critic, I’m a Dick who usually tells a story that somehow leads to food or beverage. This may be perhaps be just the opposite of what I do.

curbside3I have many times seen the Curbside Café in passing usually around lunch time on Saturday or Sunday. The place has always had a good turnout along the curb in the rising popularity area of the down town Vista next to the Avo Theater. In that area there are numerous good places to eat . . . and then there are other’s that are just . . . well, places! Be carefull where you try as some are not nearly as good as others. The Curbside Café is one of the good ones.

We stopped in for some Sunday brunch (that would be breakfast . . . or lunch today. We weren’t quite sure which we desired); and, not knowing just what we wanted to eat, we asked the server for some suggestions. She suggested the Crab Cake  Benedict and any one of the Omelets. She indicated that the portions were large and that everything is good, fresh and satisfying. She also gave a couple of suggestions from the sandwich side of the menu; but with so many awesome distractions from the breakfast side of the card, it was hard to drift to the right side. Next time . . . and there will be a next time.

Well, she wasn’t kidding. All of the items received were consumed, and there was a lot of food. I was surprised we actually finished all of it.  Some notable items were the Crab Cake Benedict, with the crab cake having an extremely good flavor. I attempted to isolate the Hollandaise Sauce for sampling, and I think I was able to distinguish its flavor, but didn’t want to steal it all from my wife’s plate. She said it was good and I have to agree. It was an overall very good plate.

curbside5The Chef at this eatery has some experience spanning 30-something years and a vast culinary resume, so it’s quite apparent he knows his territory. On his website he claims, “I just wanted to take a few nice touches and put them into a simple café. and create a cozy, comfortable, friendly atmosphere.” Well, he’s done just that. The food is simple, the decor is simple and unintimidating. The curbside tables are plentiful and inviting. The staff friendly and on their game. What set’s this place apart is the differences from the norm. Things like coffee cake instead of toast (upon request), the pre-disolved sugar-water for iced tea, the corned beef hash chopped fine. There are different elements of many items here at the Curbside Café. We are going to be exploring much more in the future.curbside4

I ordered the Veggie Omelette with Country Potatoes (these rocked!) and the coffee cake instead of toast (that was a very good choice, super moist!). I also ordered a side of bacon and a side of corned beef hash (I was warned about the hash). Other than the bacon being overcooked for my personal preference, the hash was very lean, but chopped quite fine and had small-diced carrots and potatoes in it. The finish on the hash was unusual, but it was very tasty. I can see that it would be perfect with a couple of sunny-side up eggs. The country potatoes had plenty of nicely sliced caramelized onions mixed in with the slightly crunchy potatoes. The onions made it perfect for combining with other items on the plate.

I was just about finished with everything and I began to run out of water. Then, not a moment too late, the server shows up to top off my glass and asks if I want a small box for the coffee cake. I told her, “not yet”, since I was waiting for more water in case it was dry. The coffee cake looked somewhat dry and my wife even said the same thing. We were very surprised that it was super moist and had great flavor. It was a nice finish to the wonderful meal. I just wish I had more room to try other menu items like the Monte Cristo sandwich.

The Curbside Café gets a tray full of cinnamon buns. If I remember, they were on the menu and I can bet they rock!

stickey bun

Definitely going back to this place!


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