The Big Table Dance.

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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”.!

Dicks

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. https://www.facebook.com/CattleCallLLC?ref=stream 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 www.CritDicks.com; and this New Years Eve, go to Jimmie’s show at  https://www.facebook.com/CattleCallLLC?ref=stream

Dicks

What’s in YOUR lunchbox?

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I think I’m going to have to agree with some of the folks I work with. They have over the course of time, since beginning this culinary school thing, commented repeatedly about some of the left overs, . . . ok, most of the leftovers, I bring for my lunches. I personally like observing what others bring in as well; constantly thinking to myself, “really, they eat like that?”

Often times I will see my workmates making frozen prepackaged stuff in the microwave. That just scares me; but I guess that’s a normal thing, even for my kids. I guess I just steer clear of GMO stuff as much as possible. Others I observe, will go out religiously and buy junk food or maybe a sandwich. Some bring salads and some bring leftovers as we’ll, but never as often as I. I bring leftovers almost exclusively. Looking at some of the leftovers I see in the lunchroom leave no question as to why some of my workmates eat lunch out so often. Some scary stuff being served in the American household!!!

I recently got a new iPhone (yes , I’m typing on it now) and had to try out the camera. I compiled some leftovers from the fridge in an attempt to make room for the first of the upcoming holiday meals (Thanksgiving). These leftovers came from the weekend meals that we had prepared for my birthday and our Sunday and Monday dinners. Wow, we eat like this? Yes, being a grad from culinary school probably grabs that spotlight occasionally.20131127-131901.jpg

So I put together a microwave safe container of leftover Rolled Spinach Lasagna, Spicy Turkey Italian Sausage n Pepper Penne, Grilled Roast Asado and Salt Baked Potato. I lay it all in the container and my kids look and see this masterpiece. So now I have to see what it looks like on camera. I’ m telling ya, the comments just kept coming in. “Wow, look at that”, my workmates would say as I opened it the next day.

Be that it may, I am proud I display my abilities. I also very frequently share my methods for cooking what the gawkers are looking at. Only rarely, and only certain persons get to try outside of the workplace potluck. I just like my food too much. And when I can have leftovers like this, who wouldn’t be eating them everyday.

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See I told you it was a lunchbox.

Dicks

banh mi – Don’t look at the meat!

BNH_M_~1Perhaps one of the latest culinary fibrillations of an abusive American language slathering copious amounts of whatever when interpretly pronouncing or simply ordering from a Vietnamese menu. Huh???

Banh Mi, pronounced as American “Bun – Mee”, and the other is Pho; again Americanized “Fuh-uh or Fuhh”. Not much difference there except for the other thousands of morons pronouncing it as Fa, Foo, Foa . . . or whatever else. One thing I’ve come to realize, is the idiocracy of Americans to venture out of their bubbles and try new stuff . . . you know, to taste outside of the box; or as you saw it in a Jack-In-The-Box commercial, “think outside of the bun”. To venture past the mundane and ordinary normal, and try some new foods . . . some new ingredients. Don’t worry, worst thing that can happen is you die . . . or just throw-up . . . or both. Ok, maybe you can actually expel stuff from every one of your orifices while on your way to gripping the pearly gates.

I’m not pretending to know everything; but I have learned Vietnamese cuisine encapsulates numerous flavors to achieve spectacular balances of spicy, sour, sweet, salty and bitter by using mostly fresh ingredients. Sometimes these ingredients are surprising to folks that decide to take a peak at just what they’re eating. It’s usually those folks that would be inclined to order a McDonald’s hamburger with “no mayonnaise”, or “no onions”. Not to say these folks are the only folks I’m talking about, but they would also seemingly be the same persons that would open a sandwich to see what’s inside, and scrape off any onions or mayonnaise that wasn’t ordered. Thus was the case of the Banh Mi sandwich orders taken at my workplace just the other day. I think I ordered the #1 (special) and the #9 Grilled Pork. On that particular menu, #’s 2-4 all were made with some sort of pate. I have made pate and elected not to try any today. Just didn’t feel right about the whole Vietnamese pate thing. I did elect for the “special” though knowing that it could have been most anything. I was right. Today, it was most anything including the pate. Oh well, it was friggin good! I didn’t know it had any pate in it until I returned home to read about the “K” Sandwiches shop http://www.ksandwiches.com/ these were purchased at. For less than $3 you get a 9 inch banh mi with whatever their filling are . . . many including pate. Ok, relax on the pate issue. Pate is nothing more than a form of a ground up meat form somewhere in the animal. Yes I said somewhere, flavored and spiced to taste good. Usually many pates are very strong and full of flavor. Pates are fine, if you figure out just what is in them . . . and where they are from.pate

This story isn’t about the sandwich, Vietnamese food or pate. This story is about a worker venturing out of a comfort zone and trying something “you just gottta try”. Something she cared to share with the rest of us at the office today. I am always game for trying foods from a restaurant, because I like to see and taste things the particular restaurant brings to the table. What kind of bubbles are chefs out there breaking to be different, maybe to be the same or just to keep you interested. Well the sandwiches today were tasty. I expected them to be so. To me, today wasn’t about the sandwiches so much as it was about the experience. The office all having something new to them that I was able to experience. Seemed everyone had heard of a Vietnamese sandwich, or even Banh Mi, but I don’t necessarily know that any of them had ever tried. I’m not to sure any of them will ever try again after one adventuresome traveler (or eater) decided to look at the inside of their sandwich. “Uh, . . . what is this . . . ?”pho

Today would have been a perfect day for pho. It was cold, windy, slightly rainy and to top it off, our office heater wasn’t working. Something nice and hot like a very hot soup, along with the Banh Mi would have been perfect. Wikipedia describes Pho as “served in a bowl with a specific cut of white rice noodles in clear beef broth, with slim cuts of beef (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket). Variations feature tendon, tripe, or meatballs in southern Vietnam. Chicken pho is made using the same spices as beef, but the broth is made using only chicken bones and meat, as well as some internal organs of the chicken, such as the heart, the undeveloped eggs and the gizzard”. That’s the good stuff I’m talking about here. It’s when that stuff makes its way into the pates that adorn the Banh Mi sandwich. That’s the stuff that person saw in their sandwich. That’s what makes it all good.

Today’s sandwich tasted rather common from my understanding of the Banh Mi. The fillings are all seemingly the same, but today the bread itself stood out quite clear. I guess the bread on the banh mi is like the broth for the pho. It’s a make or break deal. It is the dish. Maybe that’s why this “K” Sandwiches is so good. Their bread rocked.

Dicks

~ culinary trends ~ Gangsta Mexican food ~ the “Hooter’s salute” ~

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I don’t think I’ve eaten so much Mexican food in one week, until recently. Let’s see; I have had rolled tacos (Taquitos) with all of the fixin’s, carnitas, a pollo asado burrito (sautéed pepper style) and a totally unique Quesadilla Rio described as a quesadilla stuffed with a chili relleno, shredded beef and beans; topped with enchilada sauce and sour cream. I found this concoction at Anita’s in Oceanside, CA. The flavors, plating and overall texture was fine on this plate, but for some reason the chili used was extremely tough. I don’t think I have ever experienced such a tough chili. I looked to see if it had been roasted with the skin removed, but couldn’t readily identify if it was, without fully deconstructing the assembly and grossing out everyone at the table. I then recognized that the Pasilla (Poblano, depending on the area you are from) chili didn’t even exhibit a consistency even close to being raw . . . or cooked. It was very odd. It was very, very tough. Also this week, I had Choriso con Huevos one morning from the hospital cafeteria. I still maintain the positive reviews of Tri-City Hospital’s cafeteria as being one of the finest hospital cafe’s this side of the 15 freeway and North of the 78. Actually, we passed up the opportunity to try the newest hospital addition to San Diego, when we decided to house both the sick and injured under one roof for this Friday night.  You see, this story brings several elements together that surround loved family members injuries and  illnesses and the support the family gave during this trying time. So this last week had been consumed with trips to and from the hospital and minimally entertaining family members all doing the same thing . . . making trips to and from everywhere.

During this time we had many meals that seemingly had all been centered around what is fast and convenient, however we also had a chance to sneak in a few decent meals other than the Mexican fast foods. I was able to show off The Flying Pig on Halloween night (I saw it a chance to go without a wait) that was executed perfectly by a fine sever who was really on her game that night. She did a great job (sorry can’ remember her name). Everyone at our table thoroughly enjoyed their meal. There was only minimal controversy over the wines that Roddie carried, but it was also quickly discounted by my traveling wine wholesalers that joined us that evening. We all promised a no wine-repeat-failure for our next adventure. What will probably ensue is the corkage fee “bring-your-own bottle” rendition of the Hooters beer and wing event (inside family joke). I guess I can let the joke out by telling you to visit the nearest Hooters and ask what they charge for corkage. You will probably get the Hooter’s salute . . . that’s when the server says, “what’s a corkage”?G26

To culminate a week of Mexican culinary treats, my wife and I decide to catch the first half of football this Sunday morning. Unfortunately we like the spread and the Sunday football feature in the bar area (cantina) of our local El Torito. It is always full of our favorite team’s fans and is reasonable in price with multiple televisions everywhere so we don’t miss a play. Problem is it was again Mexican food. No problemo senor, I just focused on the awesome “to-order” omelet prepared by Alfredo to start things off, then I made up a sweet plate of waffle and churro topped with strawberries, pineapple and whip cream topping. Once I had enough breakfast items, I then attacked the Mexican Menudo, Ceviches and other entrées .

To top off the weekend, I needed to cook something after being challenged with everything challenging . . . yeah, I just said that. Challenges like my son’s football injury (suspected torn MCL) and coming home to a leaking water main coming into the house. You see, sometimes you just have to accept things, and Mexican food, for what it’s worth. It seems to have a perfect place in my week’s routine. So after all of these challenges, I decide to use the left-behind Halloween pumpkin by making a Curried Pumpkin and Nutmeg Puree to go underneath a Grilled Lamb Chop, Pork Belly, Salt-Baked Potato and Peas. A totally unique dish that presented a lot of interesting flavors.Salt-Baked

So we have been spending numerous hours in the emergency rooms and ICU of our favorite hospital and have come to notice two officer from the California Department of Corrections strategically placed just one room away from my our location in the ICU. We whisper to each other. “what do you think those guys are here for”. So my brother and I quickly devise a story to substantiate the guards existence in such close proximity to our room. My father, the one who is hospitalized, volunteers with the OPD to enter gang member data into their computer files. The person in the room next to my father is a gang member and knows my father volunteers for the force. In order to maintain stability in the hospital and my father’s safety from this hospitalized gang member, the corrections facility officers are strategically placed to keep the two separated and protect my father. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.corrections

During all of the visiting with my family, hugging all of the cousins, nieces, nephews and siblings and everyone else; they all made an honest attempt to be around during this complicated week. Through all of the hours we spent together in lounges and waiting areas for information about our sick and broke, they (the distant family members) have just come to realize that I have been attending culinary school for the past 3 years and am about to finally graduate. What’s even more funny is these same individuals could care less about the fact that I write about this shit, and are seemingly more focused on the opportunity of when I was going to cook for them at my graduation party. They all seemed to be concerned and curious, wondering what kind of restaurant I am going to open. That would light a fire under my sister to condemn those suggestions, fearing my life would be over if I was to ever open a restaurant . . . hell, graduation will ensue. Nothing better than family . . . nothing!

Dick

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!

Foodie.

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 responds.football 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 shack.football 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.

Foodie

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.

Foodie

Waldo’s BBQ – Being “serviced” along the Colorado River.

desertSkiesFinally landing at Lake Havasu City Municipal Airport, Arizona and needing to get up the river to meet up with some family for the second leg of our weekend getaway, we found ourselves immersed in services and accommodations normally reserved for the rich and famous. 20130921_093310Well maybe not all that rich and famous crap, but we kinda felt that way with all of the services being provided by the staff and hospitable receptions at the various airports we landed at. Seems like everyone is just so damn friendly. I mean, being parked out in the last quadrant of now hell (102 degrees) away from the Lake Havasu City Municipal terminal, the flightline crew gave us a ride back to the terminal next to where my brother and I had planned the much-anticipated lunch at Waldo’s BBQ.

Waldos
Waldo’s – this picture was better than mine. It just did not show the crowd.

Waldo’s had an offer on their website for some BBQ ribs and Pulled Pork with unlimited sides (I had cole slaw . . . meh, and mac-n-cheese . . . sorry, but this was not good) and a drink for $9.95. Sheesh, If I had known there was going to be so much food, I probably wouldn’t have ordered a side of their superior onion rings. Yeah, the rings were pretty friggin good. Their beer selection was a bit below that what I consider suffiicient, by craft brewery laden San Diego standards, but I was able to find something acceptable to help alive the annunciator warning light that came on in my body in after coming out of altitude, landing in 102 degree weather and being in “party central” Lake Havasu.

Anyway, at Waldo’s, I thought we were off to a great start when the server took our order then immediately brought out some corn bread. Well, the corn bread was dry and not very tasty. The butter didn’t even help it. That remained untouched on the table the whole meal. I hope they noticed it had just one bite out of it.  I think my brother had the Blackened Catfish Po-Boy. He said the sandwich was quite good. I’m guessing there are probably other things that are just as good on the menu, because judging by the crowded dining area, this Saturday noon’s lunch crowd was sufficient to consider this place a popular joint among residents, visitors and flyers alike. Unfortunately, we were in a slight rush to get up the river to our next destination, so we could not sit and savor and really analyze the food and drink, but thought it worth a retry upon our next landing.

Once I got home and relooked at the menu, I noticed several options to many of Waldo’s food items that I was not aware of, nor do I remember them being offered by the server. For example, the ribs and pulled pork were served without BBQ sauce on them, rather on the side in a mini cast skillet. waldo's6 I guess I could have ordered them wet and supposedly they would have been finish cooked in their sauce. Whatever, there was a lot of meat and the flavor was still pretty good and they were tasty. Also, the Po-Boy could have had the cole slaw added to the sandwich for $ .50 but I don’t remember that being offered. That is an opportunity for suggestive or upsell on that particular item. Who knows, maybe the server was super busy, ’cause I didn’t know to ask for different BBQ sauces that were also available. Damn, now I’m going to have to go back for sure. There were other items on the menu I wish we had tried, but with all of the food from the special, there’s just no way. I think this trip to Waldo’s will have to get only two ribs, I felt I got let down by other reviews. I dunno, maybe it’s the whole Havasu thing going on about serving crappy food with crappy service. I don’t want to say it was bad . . . just not that good. We’ll try it again later.

We finish with Waldo and go outside to wait for our cab ride up the river. I’m going to guess it’s about 12 miles up the river from the lake because we had to travel about 25 miles to get there in a somewhat indirect drive. The trip from the airport to Pirate Cove in Needles, CA cost us $55. We used Todd’s Shuttle Service. https://www.facebook.com/toddshuttleservicetodd's I had one other quote from another taxi service in the area of $135 to make the same trip. Todd’s was spot on for service that day. A couple days before our intended arrival, I had phoned them, emailed them and Facebook’d them letting them know I was coming in. They promised me they would make sure I had a driver available. I called them once again just as I was about to land, telling them to pick us up in an hour so we could eat. Well, the driver showed up 10 minutes early . . . perfect. We didn’t even have to wait. The driver could have been a bit more friendly . . . I think he may have said, “hello” . . . but that was definitely it. I don’t think he ever sped (huge + for Havasu area), but I did note that he was doing a bit (Ok . . . a lot) of texting once we got on Hwy 40. Now I may be wrong, but I don’t think that should be something a cab service should be doing. Anyway, we got there. Todd’s got us there cheaper than the other guy . . . possibly the cheapest. I figured that was a great deal and I questioned it several times while making arrangements with them. I had just planned on tipping the guy a $20, but I had reserved that right just in case he was a dud. Today, we got a dud! He only got $10 for his tip. I guess there’s something to say about cabbies in Lake Havasu. All he had to do was strike up a bit of conversation; like, “Hey, where did you guys fly in from?” Nothin’ . . . Oh, and if you think you’re getting the comfortable air conditioned limo treatment around this city, you had better stay in New York City; cause we got the old, busted 15 passenger van with 8 X 50 A/C. That’s right . . . open all eight windows and go 50 mph. The driver was just rocking his Megadeath, having a great time! Sorry, no big tipper here today. I had to carry conversation with the same person I’ve been striking conversation with over the last 8 hours of flight time. “Ubu . . . Speak Ubu, Speak!pirate-cove-resort

Anyway, we sat at Pirate’s cove a bit and started to get acquainted with the folks there at the bar and the surroundings. We finally began our decent down river, stopping occasionally along the way to take in a sight or two, stop for a break and jump in the water. It was hot that day, but it was only hot on the west facing side of my head about 4pm. Sunscreen me! We had a nice boat though, and plenty of gawkers of the vintage Campbell.20130921_153706

We traveled down the river eventually crossing the lake. This day was definitely the day to have a larger boat on the lake. We traveled under London Bridge (yes, it’s actually one from London) and go down through the very un-busy channel. It wasn’t a big weekend so there were boats and hoes, just not a lot of ’em. Finally making our way to the Naked turtle, we found the party we had left up river somewhere. We didn’t have much of anywhere else to go, so we decided to get our drink on and prepare for the evening. It wasn’t until the evening started to close in on us that we realized the boat lights were not working, so we had to pull it out before we got a citation . . . It’s not worth the risk.

6747216213_cdbd497cba_zTo conclude our evening, we met up with a friend at his house along the channel under London Bridge. We had a few more wonderful cocktails and wines to go along with his great bar-b-que’d steaks and chicken. Had some great conversation and sat outside on the deck. A very nice trip and day at Lake Havasu.

Foodie

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!

Foodie

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