Thursday, July 28, 2005

Updates Updates Updates

Sorry for the lack of updates over the past days. Without rubbing it in, I was in sunny San Diego and enjoying all the lovely weather! But more on that in a minute, because I do want to talk about the food and wine experiences of souther California and Baja California, Mexico.

But first....

The last post was on July 14. That post related to spices and ordering fancy ones from catalogs and websites. I later ordered 5 different spices from nirmala's kitchen.

Australian Wattle Seed (ground)
Penang Satay Blend
Zanzibar Cheromula
Australian Lemon Myrtle (ground)
Australian Bush Tomato (ground)

I've sort of used three of them so far.

Australia Wattle Seed, I've used as a flavoring for ice cream. Very tasty. Dark coffee flavor without the caffeine. I suppose it could be a substitute.

Penang Satay Blend, I used as a flavoring for boneless skinless chicken breasts. Really tasted like chicken satay from a Thai place. Yum. But the next time I make it, I will use it as a flavoring for the chicken and a sauce with peppers, tomatoes and basil...Can't wait.

Bush Tomato, this is the "sort of" that I used. I used some in a risotto I made, but I was very conservative and didn't use very much, so I couldn't taste to much. The label said it had a taste similiar to sun dried tomatoes. I'll try it again.

The other two spices I haven't tried yet. Will let you know when I do.

OK, San Diego/Southern California

What a lovely time. The first day there, Becca drove us around, up and down the beaches from Oceanside, about 30 miles north of San Diego, to San Diego. We stopped at one place that was perched up on top of a moutain and looked out over the ocean. It was a pretty damn cool.

We all had beers and ordered tasty fried chimichungas (sp). They were really good. Nothing out of the ordinary, but really good. What was extra ordinary, in my opinion, the salsa. It was sort of a roasted salsa and had oregano in it. I kept eating it and eating it! Yum. I can't remember exactly where it was, but it was CABA GRILL. Maybe Becca will remind us where it was, in case you go to San Diego.

On Friday night, we headed to the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, the gay ghetto. We went to a Thai food place and it was all really tasty again. I ordered some fat spicy noodles with chicken and basil and this yummy sauce. I was too busy eating mine to try anyone elses. And affordable. Good times. TASTE OF THAI (527 University Avenue, San Diego, CA). Becca says that that neighborhood has like 17 Thai restaurants, which means the competition will be strong and force them each to provide a better product and this place delivered. And good ambiance as well.

After dinner, we walked for like 100 miles to BAJA BETTY'S (1421 University Avenue, San Diego, CA). OK, it was a few blocks, not bad at all, but I had to pee!!! Betty's is a gay bar/restaurant, that was opened buy the people who opened the local Hamburger Mary's. Good times here. Great Margaritas and a story we'll talk about for ages! Short story, very drunk waiter who was not working out, completely making out with another man. Neither very pretty. Drunky had the underwear ripped off of him and his shorts were down his crack half way...pardon the bluntness...but ewwww...and other drunky, kept sticking his hand further down....while we're drinking...what about the poor fools who were eating?!?!?!? But a fun place none-the-less.

The rest of the time in San Diego, we ate at McDonald's...cause we were always driving...not really, but it seemed like it...the driving and McD's.

We went to LA for the weekend and had a great time there. The best part of LA was staying with Jason's cousin and his partner (Jim and David). They live in the valley, near Studio City in this swank pad! Loved it, The kitchen was too die for! That night we went out to OUT TAKE BISTRO (11929 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA) for dinner. YUM YUM YUM! This food was great. Italian fare, reasonably priced, awesome ambiance. I had a smoked turkey ravioli with a tomatillo sauce. WOW! The ravioli were superb and perfectly cooked, the tomatillo sauce was awesome, really sweet, a great balance to the turkey. Jason had pumpkin ravioli with a butter sage or cream sage make your knees shudder! Becca had roasted chicken with risotto. Perfect. Jason's cousin, Jim, had buckwheat noodles with something, I can't remember....also very awesome. David had the same as I.

We had ordered this appetizer that was basically perogies with carmelized onions and creme fraiche. Awesome. Then mixed green salad with a miso dressing. Tasty. Tasty. Tasty.

The restaurant allowed Jim and David to bring in wine, so we had three bottles, Sterling Chardonnay, from Napa, two bottles of that. And a red, I didn't have it, so I can't comment. Sterling was good.

We did have to have dessert. Ordered one creme brulee. It was perfectly flavored, with a perfect crunchy top. But, the texture was a bit soft, it didn't really hold it's shape, was like a really soft pudding. But as I said, great flavor.


For breakfast we went to GOOD NEIGHBORS down the highway a bit. Standard diner fare. Good times.

On Monday, yes, we went to Mexico and yes, it was only Tijuna, but what fun. We drank lots and Becca and I did a shot of tequila. We drank and ate at Iguana-Rana's Bar & Grill. Basically the TJIFridays of Mexico. But the food was filling and the beers were very cold!

This was the food part of the trip. At least the highlights.

Now, the wine part.

On the first full day, we drove to Temecula, CA. This is a major wine producing area of southern California. There are probably 20+ wineries in Temecula Valley. We visited three. And we bought and spent too much the whole time, but it was worth it!

The first place we stopped: Churon Winery
We tasted 6 wines at this place. Our favorites were, for Jason, their Chardonnay and for me, their Zinfandel.

The second stop: Maurice Car'rie Winery
Here, the tasting was free and we tried seven wines. The favorites were, for me, Sara Bella, a white cabernet was pink and sweet, but tasty. Jason-Muscat Canelli

The third stop: Ponte Family Winery.
We were sent here from Maurice Car'rie to try their reds, which were sweeter. Here, I got a bottle of Pinot Grigio and Jason got a really sweet white, named after one of the daugthers-Isabel.

I can't remember enough about the wines now, so we'll deal with that late. However, each winery was unique. And I'm going to see what I can say about it. Churon was also a bed & breakfast. Larger tasting room and good amount of gifts. We were the only ones there for sometime. Maurice was hoping and packed. The tasting area was small with good gifts. Ponte was huge by comparison. Large number of people, huge gift shop, as well as a restaurant. Maurice had wines I liked the most. Ponte had wines that more traditionally aligned with what I think of California wines. Churon was sort of middle of the road for me.

The experience was awesome. We wanted to go to another winery, but at that point, we were nearly drunk! Maybe lunch in between one and two or something. We finally got some fried pita chips at Ponte, otherwise I think we would have crashed!!

You can buy wines from Maurice and Ponte. The only way to get Churon wines is to join their wine club.

We'll post more on the wines as we drink them.

It's great to be back home, but I would go back in a heartbeat!



Stef said...

Mmm, I love chicken satay. Is there a way to get that spice mix, or something similar, locally? I don't know if I'm up to special-ordering spices yet, but I'd love to try it out!

ScottE. said...

HI! I'm not sure where you might find a similiar spice mixture locally, perhaps at Whole Foods. The ingredient list is: lemon grass, ginger, coriander, cumin and other herbs and spices. I think the "others" are what really make this spice. Another online site posts the spices in their Satay Spice Blend as: Coriander seed, cumin seed, turmeric, fennel seed, ginger, black pepper, mild chilli, caraway seed, white pepper, garlic, nutmeg, green cardamom seed. If you have a grinder for coffee or one specifically for spices, you could try to make your own blend using similiar ingredients....? But I'm sure some grocery stores have something similiar. Let me know if you find anything!