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

el torito

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

Barbarella – Not the movie, but some bad behavior none the less.

barb9Visited kind-of a San Diego landmark and sat with quite the notable icon. Barbara Beltaire, founder of Barbarella in La Jolla invited me into her office to show me her website. She read my CritDicks business card and questioned where I got my humor, whether from my Mother, or Father.  She seemed to immediately connect with me on the basis that I was a writer and her father was a successful journalist.

Barbara, as she is called by many of the seated, and obvious repeat customers, walked me around almost every conceivable corner of her restaurant showing me the obvious Halloween decorations. The big things, and small. The details and the subtle that makes her business standout among others on the block.barb6

She walked with me explaining how she resolves the social media challenges of today; agreeing that social media is extremely powerful, a great marketing tool, but just too much for her to keep up with. In her office now, Barbara explains to me and shows me how she counters the social media frenzy with a reasonably simple website and regular emails to her customers. She also said she maintains an almost non-existent “removal” number from her email distribution list. I thought that to be a pretty neat statistic, especially since I didn’t know that “removal” was a statistic . . . something to be followed, . . . and to be proud of.

Wow, she was so down to earth and friendly. This is the same person that throws a national celebration of St. Barbara’s Day that includes high-profile visitors to her establishment such as Barbara Streisand, Barbara Walters and other “Barbaras” from around the globe. Well, I don’t know that it’s a “national celebration” or quite “global”, but to have the name Barbara celebrated in your own special way . . . and recognized by such biggies. barb1Barbara also admits she has a problem when it comes to Halloween decorations as well as most other holiday celebrations. You see, Barbara has created the unique ambiance and anticipation that her restaurant, Barbarella, brings with a visit here. I really don’t know that any more decorations can possibly fit into this place. Barbara even told me to check out the bathrooms. barb0Barbara drug me around in a 15 minute psycho-rapid tour of everything. Every decoration and every feature of the older building. She  was even elated to show me her 1960 Nash Metropolitan automobile. Wow, her car was immaculate. A seemingly perfect specimen. You can obviously tell that Barbara was very proud of her things, as was she seemingly very proud of herself . . . and very happy to show and share with her customers and me. This was Barbara’s place that she created, nurtured and built up through the years. She is Barbarella’s. Her passion for this place is obvious. barb8

Across the street is another of Barbara’s places. I believe the story goes that Barbara has a partnership or other monetary and legal part ownership of Piatti and or the restaurant group that owns it. Piatti offers this on their website, “Piatti features rustic Italian cuisine, intriguing wine lists, many of which are served via our barrel-to-table program, and unique, handcrafted cocktails. All of our Piatti locations offer seasonally inspired lunch and dinner menus and many offer vegetarian, gluten-free and kid-friendly menus, as well as happy hours and enticing bar menus.” Barbara hired Tom Spano, the General Manager during Piatti’s infancy and has grown it for over 25 years into what it is now.

Well now, why would I talk momentarily about the restaurant across the street if these weren’t linked somehow? Not only are they both linked by ownership, they are also linked because we visited them on the same evening as part of a class field trip. It wasn’t until the Saturday after that the other original CritDick, his wife and my wife actually ate there . . . and yes, the food was pretty darn good (not going to get close to that portion of a review . . . just damn good).

barb5A week after our visit our professor opened a class discussion about our field trip. There was discussion made about Barbara’s comments to the class members during the field trip. Comments that would leave some students thinking she had a negativity about the restaurant industry and/or being th owner of her own restaurant. Since I had spent a bit more personal time with her that same evening, I supported her passionate views of the restaurant industry, and her passionate views of being a restaurateur.  I can see where there might be some communication that may be construed as being degrading to the industry; but I feel Barbara was telling it straight. It’s not easy work . . . it takes passion . . . it consumes you  .  .  .  it takes your life! That’s why I not sure if I’ll ever work in, run or own a restaurant. There was question in the discussion about her mental state, her potential alcohol dependency (duh . . . , most every restaurant owner) and her being a control freak. I had to look back at what Barbara said to me. “Gunga galunga . . . gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.” (Caddy Shack, 1980) . . . Sorry got totally side-tracked on that one. Actually, Babara said a lot to me; but I could see that this restaurant was, in fact, “Barbarella” for a reason, and Barbara was the driver of this truck. You don’t just let anyone drive . . . and you can’t just let go of the wheel.barb3

I hope I can speak candidly about Barbara Beltaire. I spent 15 solid minutes with a passionate restaurateur, and I listened to her . . .  You know, I joke a lot and I also tell most things straight up, at face value. Some things are not always easy for folks to take. Barbarella is a historic San Diego and La Jolla Shores icon that has been built on a dream from a woman that, for 30-or-so years, has given her life. She has given her everything!!! That 15 minutes I spent with Barbara Beltaire has given me vision. Vision to seek passion.

Welcome to CritDicks!

Foodie

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.

Tasting with ‘Rrrrr’amone (roll the ‘r’). “Recognizing Awesomeness”

Ranch%20Events_Small_fullTalk about a guy on his game. Ramone, forever now known as ‘Rrrrr’amone (roll the ‘r’), was definitely on his game.

We were to sample foods for a buffet selection intended to cater a wedding about a year away. We had tried some other attempts at concocting ways to save money and energy for the providing families paying for this event. I was even given the opportunity to put the menus and food catering operation together as long as I was not involved for the wedding day . . . yes, I too am part of the wedding. Well, I failed miserably. ‘Rrrrr’amone seems to be bailing me out.Rrrrramone

Here’s this guy I quickly noticed, seemed to know what he was doing. He was really on the ball, wrote everything down, taking copious notes and providing detailed explanations about every detail . . . about his experience doing these wedding events. ‘Rrrrr’amone was definitely on his game. ‘Rrrrr’amone has been in the events industry for 17 years, starting following his Mom to work at the young age of 12. He started washing dishes, to bussing and serving, to now event management. This guy knew his stuff, He knew all of the things that make up a successful wedding event, like he’s done them hundreds of times or something. He explained everything to us and helped guide us in decision-making without ever asking us to sign, or trying to close a deal. WOW! This guy knew his shit! I think to this day from the first meeting, we have infinite  confidence in ‘Rrrrr’amone. Everything from the place setting selection and importance of the centerpiece with color coordination, to what kids eat . . . and don’t eat at a wedding. “Some people have just bought the kids pizza”, he says. “It’ll save you money” . . . “sit them away from the head table” . . .  and this is why. He was bad ass! He told me he had pretty much seen everything and done everything. He also made us feel incredibly comfortable that he was going to make our day the best day possible.

ranch tasting2We will be working closely with ‘Rrrrr’amone for the next year. We have several planning meetings that we will lay out the finest details. I really think ‘Rrrrr’amone has our backs on this one. He really made us feel good.

I’m going to give ‘Rrrrr”amone the coveted “Recognizing Awesomeness”; because even if the event gets trashed and he is to blame, he is still an awesome event planning sales person. I think he has sold us. Don’t let us down ‘Rrrrr’amone.

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

“He’s got a rubber bootie” . . . and a moist towelette!

moist towel1I was taken by surprise when eating at a new restaurant in Oceanside, CA. I had sticky finger (that just sounds wrong) after eating a wonderful Salmon Salad and needed the ol’ moist towel for a bit of clean up before we flew out to Concord. Anticipating that Fresh Grill Bistro would have the little prepackaged towels to clean hands from eaters of their BBQ ribs and such, I didn’t immediately  find them and was directed back to the condiment table next to the coffee stirrers. What I found were full-sized wipes that could also be heated and served to the customer. Wow!, these are cool. So I grabbed four just for the novelty and because we were getting ready for a 3-hour flight. “These could come in handy”, I said to the pilot.

So we make it to Concord, CA, our destination for an afternoon game of golf and dinner with some family. First we take in a quick, . . . and I mean quick game of nine hole golf. The first three or four holes, it’s like we felt rushed to play speed golf. We were running to the tees, then running to shag our balls that had gone off the club, then running back. By the time we had arrived at the 9th hole, we had picked up two other two-somes to make our final hole a six-some.golf What was even more funny is that we all sucked just as bad. My final 9th hole shot went off the club well, but traveled over by this tractor in a ditch, as did the ball from one of the other players. As we approached the area to look for our balls, we found what appeared to be a dried up pond that had the golfer’s dream . . . BALLS! Everywhere. There were so many balls in there that had seemingly be unearthed by the tractor. golf balls2The other guy and myself just started loading our pockets, golf bag and hands with as many free balls as we could hold. Crazy! It’s the best hole of golf EVER!

We travel about 30 minutes away from our hotel, golf area and airport  and arrive at The Dead Fish in Crocket, CA.  dead fish2The Dead Fish, a  is located along one of the San Francisco Bay area inlets and across the water from the California Maritime Academy. We had a really cool table outside that allowed us to enjoy both a view of the bridges, but also the Academy. It was picturesque; just I didn’t get any . . . uh, pictures. What I did get were some bad ass muscles done up in a frying skillet like I’ve never had before. These muscles and such were served up, along with the other various appetizers and some awesome cocktails. The only thing I asked of the server was that he bring some great bread with all of the apps to soak up all of the juices.dead fish1

Speaking of servers, this restaurant had really terrific food but, I don’t know if it was just our server or the “service” in general; but, our guy just seemed to lack the knowledge I was kind of hoping to have from a server for this class of restaurant. Maybe I just didn’t understand this class of restaurant. I asked our server about his recommendation for wine. He said, “I really don’t know anything about wines”. I asked, “do you have a Sommelier that can help me with a selection”? He said, “uh, what’s a Sommelier”? About that moment the tip just plummeted because I began to feel like a real CritDick-cal “ASS HOLE” in front of my brother and my Nephew. But that’s Ok, because I got the last laugh, I think, . . . with “Server Dork”. He asked if he could remove the cast iron muscle skillet from the table. I quickly took the last of the bi-valves and put them on my plate. He touched the side of the once-hot skillet and said, “ooh, that’s too hot, let me get someone to take that”. I briefly touched the side of the skillet and found it to be quite warm, but not too hot to handle. I jokingly said to the server, “Man up, Dude!” Laughter erupted as the young server scurried away to have a buss person quickly snatch it up bare-handed. So, although every entre and appetizer was quite delicious and very tasty from The Dead Fish, the service was truly off from what I would have expected. We really had a good time, and the food was good. I would like to go back some day. I’m glad there are restaurants like that out there.moist towel2 What made this restaurant even more special is the fact that they too had those full-sized wipes to clean your hands. Holy crap, that’s twice in two meals in the same day that I’ve first seen these. I snatched those up and took them into the plane. Gonna be some serious wiping going on now!!!

The next morning we head out early to catch a quick breakfast again with my nephew and again eating at another place I have never been to. This time we hit The Original Pancake House. Ok, I know it’s no culinary wonder, but the breakfast was pretty awesome. I ate enough that morning to sustain me in-flight for a several hours. My worry was ensuring all of that food stayed in that morning instead of having to squawk for an emergency landing. I would rank The Original Pancake house just below The Broken Yolk, but just above IHOP, that sits just above Denny’s in the ranking.rubber bootie

Before we begin the second leg of the journey, we make our way to the plane to rid the cargo area of extra stuff like a surfboard and rubber bootie. I don’t know what all that is about, but I was told there was also a fake beard in the bag also. Kids nowadays! Sheesh! As we prepare the plane for flight and do our walk around and preflight checks, I couldn’t help think of the movie Meet The Fockers; where during the police scene, the Sherriff that’s searching the RV comes out and says, “Check it out . . . he’s got a rubber boobie!”rubber boobie

Foodie

Man-Bro Airborne Road Trip – The Fresh Grill Bistro, Oceanside, CA

How many pilots are out there? Probably a lot more pilots out there than we think. Many folks I have talked with over the years seems to know of a pilot or someone who has a pilot’s license. My brother is just such a pilot. He has been flying small light (that’s kinda what they’re called) aircraft starting with the ol’ Cesna 172/182 and finally purchasing his own Beechcraft Bonanza A36. Bonanza A36The Beach A36 is very nice and a comfortable 4-6 seat configurable single engine aircraft with a wide array of electronics (avionics) that make small work out of flying. My brother really likes to fly and he’s quite good at it; however, his wife hates flying. So, my brother mostly flies by himself to destinations throughout Southern California. Recently he asked me if I wanted to travel up to the northern part of California (Humboldt) to see his daughter while she’s in school (Humboldt . . . duh!); stopping for the night in Concord to see his son, tour his son’s school, the California Maritime Academy, and going out to dinner for his son’s birthday.

I looked at my schedule and was able to find a gap between my school quarters, class schedules, work schedule and my wife’s schedule to allow me to participate as co-bro-pilot for him in the right seat. I am no pilot, “but I did just stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night”. (Sorry, I had to do that . . . again!) I know how to do everything except land . . . that’s the tricky part. Anyway, My brother and I had planned this Friday get-away weekend of flying up north and returning to the work week on that Sunday. What is it they say about “best laid plans”? Exactly. The plans kept changing slightly as we added new dimensions and subtracted others. None too late though as everything was almost perfectly planned and even more perfectly executed.

So now I again ask you about knowing a pilot. You know a pilot . . . how many of you know a pilot that also flies around with his own mechanic? Well, I’m not really his mechanic. I know how to fix most anything on his aircraft because I worked on various aircraft for 20 years while in the Navy, but I never became certified to repair aircraft on a civil aviation Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate. Which is even more funny because I maintained specialties in my education and military experience that is considered so special, that I can teach those same A&P mechanics, even if I have no license (A&P). Ha!, top that one!

So now here’s this pilot flying around with his mechanic. We talk about all kinds of shit while flying, many things related and unrelated to aviation all while searching for the next call for traffic in the area. “Bonanza Six-Six-Four-One-Mike (6641M), traffic eleven o-clock, southwest bound, 8 thousand feet, two miles”, squawks the Air Traffic Controller (ATC).  We both look frantically in the sky just below our horizon in front and slightly to the left of centerline searching for anything, a shimmer, a shadow or maybe a silhouette to make identification of anything that may or maybe not become a “factor”, as it is called in aviation. “There”, I shout. Pointing with my finger as the aircraft swiftly approaches; than just a swiftly, sneaks out of our sight. With both aircraft traveling over 150 miles per hour, they come and go quickly so finding them is critical. Sometimes you find them, other times you see nothing of the sort. Another call comes from the radio, “Bonanza 6641M, traffic no longer a factor”. That went on for a good solid hour while traveling through the Los Angeles Airport controlled airspace. There are a lot of aircraft around that joint; it is very hectic.

So our little excursion of what we’re calling an airborne road trip started for my brother from Oxnard, CA. He flew down to Oceanside to pick me up. I met him and my Father and Mother at the Oceanside Municipal Airport so we can all go to lunch at Fresh Grill Bistro http://freshgrillbistrooceanside.com/ ; a new Mexican, American BBQ fusion kind of joint. My Father seems to know just about everyone from different functions around town, so everywhere we go he seems to get started with conversations. First thing, he introduces me to Chef Christian just as some lady comes up to him and asks him about his dog. My Father’s trying to introduce me and interact with someone who knows him, but he has yet to recognize. All of this confusion at the ordering counter, I’m surprised the person taking our order kept things straight.

fresh grillThe Fresh Grill Bistro seems to be nicely decorated, have adequate space, and they have an outdoor patio area their hailing as “dog friendly”. They even sport their own coffee-house called the Caffeine Bar. I decided to go with the Chef’s personal recommendation of the Grilled Salmon Salad; which, for some odd reason, I was hoping was on the menu. I knew I was going to have BBQ for lunch the following day, so I wanted something fresh, light and delicious. Chef Christian pulled through on this dish. A decent sized serving and full of great flavors with walnuts, feta cheese and balsamic dressing. I did however notice that the perfect grill marks on the presentation side of the fish, was not the same as that of the hidden side (down against the rest of the salad) where the fish was quite a bit more charred, almost to the point of being unacceptable even for this “grill bistro”. The flavor was there and I like my food with a bit more texture, so it did not bother me, but it was something worth noting. I guess it’s something only this Dick would notice, and I gotta write it if I want them to fix it for my next visit.

My Brother and Mother both had the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. They quickly discovered the bun was not up to the task of the chicken breast. My mother and Brother both deconstructed their sandwiches and ate with a fork and knife because the bun just flattened and was useless for this particular sandwich. The Grilled Chicken demanded a heavier bun or roll. My Father had the Pulled Pork Sandwich that used the same bun. The bun was fine for his sandwich and he had no complaints about his dish. The Fresh Grill Bistro offers many different items on their menu and they also boast senior specials that got my Father’s attention. I did glance over at another table and saw a huge BBQ plate of ribs and brisket. That was a large serving and it looked as though I better order it when I try their BBQ on the next trip. Give the Fresh Grill Bistro a try. Let Chef Christian know what you think. I believe he has something here, perhaps with just a minor amount of twerking . . . I mean tweaking.Miley-Cyrus-2224429

So we head into the San Francisco Bay area and land in Concord, CA. We play a quick round of 9-hole golf, head out for dinner, call it a night and head back to the hotel. The next morning we eat and head across the desert to Lake Havasu City where we are to take a Colorado river trip down from Pirate’s Cove in Needles, CA. We meet our family and friends up river for an afternoon boat ride down the gorge and through the channel under London Bridge and enjoy a bit of sun on the way. That story just a bit later . . .Golfing

U2 overheadFlying now from the San Fransico Bay area toward Lake Havasu City in Arizona, we found ourselves along a similar coridor that we used to travel from Los Angeles (LA) up to Concord. The coridor is situated over areas of the high desert above LA. Areas like Palmdale and Lancaster. There are several military installations out in that area; and, like flying around any place that has a lot of air traffic, there are frequent calls about other aircraft sharing the same airspace. “Bonanza 6641M, traffic 2 o-clock, 8 thousand feet, four miles . . . a U2”, the controller calls out. “Call when you have in sight”. “41M, Roger”, my brother responds. Just about then I notice the U2 about 2000 feet below us passing just under and slightly behind us. I found this pretty entertaining video about the U2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PmYItnlY5M&noredirect=1.

So that leg of our journey was pretty cool. How many folks in the sky can say they’ve seen a U2 “Dragon Lady” spy aircraft actually flying . . . but below them?

I give this adventure 9-holes of really shitty golf! I would give it 9-holes of good golf, but we know better!

Foodie

Hey Meester . . . , Don’t forget your Cannoli ! ! !

So I have to drop them a line because I now have a story.Mangia

Looking at the menu selection, I was eyeballing a New York Steak Sandwich being offered. Just as I was about to make up my mind, she took the sign down, indicating the sandwich was no longer available on the Mangia Mangia Mobile Italian Gourmet food truck today. I yelled, “I was just about to order that”. She yelled something back that idicated I probably needed to try something else. It may have been her telling me to order the middle finger sang-wich. So I looked at the menu a bit more. I then turned my back to the truck and went to look at the other truck.

I kinda became disinterested in the other food truck by Corvette Diner because they just didn’t seem to interest me. Nothing special stood out. Just when I was about to again turn back to Mangia, I just happened to notice that Corvette’s is a creation of Chef Deborah Scott of the Cohn Group. Heck, I like her, and I pretty much have liked everything from the Cohn Group. Whatever, I turned away anyhow.

As I again approached the Mangia Mangia truck I happened to notice french fries being flipped by hand in a bowl in the kitchen. I asked what kind of fries those were today. The response suprised me, “these are pesto fries”. SOLD!!! Just so happens I like pesto and I like fries. I had seen the Mangia Mangia truck many times here on base before, but since I’m Italian, I am very particular about any Italian food places I may try. I had known about Mangia’s Meatball Lolipops from a previous brief conversation I had with the owner at an earlier date, so now I had two reasons to try this truck. Fries and the meatballs.  I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity this time. mangia1So I ordered the Pesto Fries and the Steak Sandwich. “Uh, you’re kidding right”, the gals asks me. “Oh, sorry”, I say. “I’ll have the Steak Sandwich and the fries”, I again retort. I think at that time she was thinking middle finger again, but instead I got the “stink eye” . . . “fine, I’ll have the Meatball Lolipop and the steak sandwich . . . I mean the fries”, . . . I quickly clarified.  I seriously thought she was going to quickly squeeze her way through the ordering hole and choke me. Fun, and yes my story is a bit . . . , just a bit, fabricated. She was nice and so was the fry flipper. We were all enjoying ourselves at the government’s expense.

Now, being just a bit curious about how good these food trucks are, I just had to ask the question, “is there anything I just gotta try?” The young lady taking my order suggests, “you may want to try one of our cannoli”. Wow, now you’ve got my interest. I look at them through the refrigerator glass display casing. “Yeah, I’ll also have the cannoli”, I holler. I figure I would give them a try also along with the meatballs and the fries. Takin’ it all in. Way too much food for me, but I had to give ‘er the ol’ college try. So I tell her, “make sure you remind me to grab the cannoli from the fridge when I leave, if I forget.”

Hey, is this Marine giving it back?
Hey, is this Marine giving it back?

So my food is served and I have become enamored at the size of the portions and make it almost back to my car and some Marine comes running after me . . . “Hey Meester, that food truck is yelling at you”. I immediately realize that I had forgotten my cannoli; but the memorable staff on the spaghetti wagon remembered to remind me about my memory lapse (or . . . something like that).

So, I ended up sharing all of my food with my boss. The fries alone were a huge portion for the price. The cannoli were quite good, (most are) . . . but not great.

Give Mangia a try and say hello to the staff running that truck. They work hard for the Marines. They should; because the Marines work hard for them.

mangi3I’m gonna give them a fork full of twisted spaghetti. And when you visit their truck, you’ll understand why. (hint . . . look below the ordering counter and just above the iced drinks).

Foodie

Chef’s NEEDED! . . . Students or Professional (sweet or savory) Chefs needed!

NEEDED . . . Chefs!

Want to add “Featured Chef” to your resume?

I am actively seeking motivated chefs desiring to expand their personal food service/catering business. Or, do you work for a Chef and think this may be a great opportunity to expand the restaurant’s clientele base?

I am involved closely with an entertainment production promoter that pairs national recording artists with local fans and music aficionados in quiet, personal, meet and greet shows (currently about 25 guests) in North San Diego County. We are seeking to expand the entertainment direction to eventually include tasting menus/wine pairings and become the leader in musical/fine dining shows/events and fundraising campaigns for local area causes.

This is no cost to you, . . . just your time is needed, in your commissary kitchen, to create and prepare your favorite signature dishes and present to the guests at the shows (our next show is mid-October). Once at the shows, you are highly encouraged to meet and greet the guests to stimulate future business, meet the recording artists and enjoy the show.

This is a great recurring opportunity to expand your client base and show off your skills or feature your restaurant. Again, at no cost to you!

Please contact me if you are interested and motivated or pass this on to those you know can use the exposure.CritDicks1

ajdepaolo1@gmail.com

Near miss !

A near miss . . . is an incident!

near miss3Having studied safety, risk management and contingency planning extensively, I find much merit in the readings of my school’s lesson this evening for “Legal Issues and Ethics in Hospitality Management” the class I’m currently taking on line.  I had scanned (I really don’t read much of anything . . . never had, never will) several of the publishing’s/readings required by the lesson. It seems the lesson’s suggested website was reasonably inundated with writings by Karen Morris, a hospitality lawyer specializing in the food and beverage industry. I found the articles she has written to be quite “spot on”! She breaks down incidents and accidents identifying many root causes and presents an “in-your-face” approach to dealing with those incidents, their root causes and the proper preventative measures that could have . . . or should have, been taken by the operator of the establishment, or even the guest that happens to be visiting the establishment.

Comparatively speaking, the required text we were also expected to read, only outlines basic steps in dealing with an incident once it has already happened. Yes the book, throughout its contents, identifies ways to prevent accidents or incidents, but steers well clear of any type of comprehensive list of preventative measures. Doing so would take up the entire book (see 29 CFR 1910); because literally speaking, any one of most all possible scenarios could take place in a restaurant or hospitality organization (e.g. losing a finger tip to the Hobart, falling out of an unsecured railing on an ADA pathway, slipping on a wet bathroom floor). Limitless!near miss2

The book itself has an easy list for managers to follow if faced with an accident or incident. One thing the book, or Ms. Morris’ writings failed (or . . . at least I didn’t see them) to identify or mention, was identifying and documenting “incidents” or more specifically “near misses”.

A near miss can be identified as an incident in which nothing got broken or no one got injured. A near miss, if it weren’t classified a “near miss”, could have broken something or injured someone, but luck was on someone’s side because something (a link) in the “chain of events” was broken. A near miss, if properly documented, can lead to the identification of root causes and identification of links in the chain pointed at many things; defective or degrading equipment, lack of proper training, ineffective management, horse-play, procedural deficits or improper planning, just to name a few.

If I look for a moment at improper planning, I have to point to risk management and contingency planning. Many, if not all, of safety prevention techniques . . . and business management practices, can be effectively mitigated or losses minimized, if proper risk management techniques and effective contingency planning protocols are established at the earliest stages of a business’ setup.

Risk management, the precursor to contingency planning, is actually a process that every conceivable “risk” is identified and documented, then given a score of its “probability” (e.g. likely, not likely, highly likely, etc) of it happening, and the “severity” (no possible damage or injury, hospitalization, death, etc) if it does happen. Contingency planning takes every possible scenario and the “what ifs” and plans out the “what to dos” should the event happen. All of the possible scenarios are carefully written down and documented, for management to follow. No questions about what to do, and no second guessing judgments by management staff.

Flow charts are one of the best preventative measures that can be taken for any business. Another form of this can be a manager’s flip guide to help them through scenarios if and when they are encountered.

near miss4Risk management, once scores have been identified, takes each risk and eliminates the risk or reduces its probability and severity to minimums; this is done through three process steps. 1) Engineering controls. Designing out the risk (e.g. machine guarding, safety cutout switch, placing an ADA handle in the restroom). 2) Administrative controls (e.g. staff training on how to use the equipment or safety placards to warn guests “wet floor”). Finally once, and ONLY when the other two have been fully executed and exhausted, can you move to 3) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (e.g. use of a cut resistant glove while cutting meat). Although there is seemingly limited PPE that can be afforded a guest in a restaurant, there are endless possibilities that are deployed in the hospitality industry (e.g. floatation devices for water sports/events, protective eyewear and hearing protection for skeet shooting on a cruise-liner).near miss 5

Contingency planning takes the risk management model and also entails preparation for interruption of service/business. Should an event happen that leads to poor press or perhaps a loss of facility (e.g. food poisoning, a shooting,  a hurricane with devastating results or even a simple sewage leak), having a contingency plan is an aid in preventative measures designed at seamless operations that help sustaining business for short term and/or well into the future.

Are you ready to look at your business?

Call me!

Foodie

 Works Cited

Morris, Karen. “Decorations can be dangerous | Hotel Management.” Hotel Management provides the top news, expertise and insights into the hotel and hospitality industry | Hotel Management. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Aug. 2013. <http://www.hotelmanagement.net/decorations-can-be-dangerous&gt;.

Morris, Karen. “All accident remedies are not created equal | Hotel Management.” Hotel Management provides the top news, expertise and insights into the hotel and hospitality industry | Hotel Management. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Aug. 2013. <http://www.hotelmanagement.net/all-accident-remedies-are-not-created-equal

Yeah, this was started as a school assignment! Just cleaned it up a bit for publishing!

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