Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The death of a legend

We visited The Lone Star Texas Grill on Baseline this past week.  My daughter desperately wanted some of their vegetable fajitas.  Even after living in Southern California for nearly 14 years now and eating authentic Mexican, food Lone Star is or was a favorite spot to visit when we have a trip home.  Our last visit a year ago was very disappointing and we chalked it up to a different location.  This time we hit our old stomping ground, even with all the warnings that it just wasnt' the same. 
From the first bite things were not the same and went down from there.  The one good thing is that the Quesadilla that I ordered was good, not Lone Star good but good.  Several years ago I could have pulled up to the table and ate chips and salsa until I exploded, not now.  Very regular bag like chips and salsa that tasted much like grocery store salsa was a huge let down. 
There was no familiar mesquite smell in the air, no sizzling platters of fajitas, nothing.  My daughters veggie fajitas were nothing like they use to be and the service was like any other roadhouse type restaurant, mediocre.  The familiar favorite items were gone from the menu. 
I'd heard that the restaurant chain had been sold but could not find any information on it online. I can't imagine changing a fabulous thing, it just doesn't make sense.  We won't be back, it was that disappointing.  They had something special there, something that set them apart from all the other roadhouse type restaurants.  And something that kept people lining up even in the frigid temperatures. 
We have frequented Lone Star since it opened it's door, but all we have left of the once amazing Lone Star Texas Grill is memories.  What was once a favorite watering hole is now gone, very sad. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sapphire Laguna

My husband had been up to his eyeballs with our bathroom renovation so with the glorious weather on Sunday we decided to head West for a bite to eat.  We ended up in Laguna Beach, with seasonally cool temps (of course I was loving it) and beautiful blue skies it was a gorgeous day.  The parking was nuts as usual for a Sunday down in Laguna but we finally nabbed a spot from a surfer who had just started his leaving ritual.  If you are waiting for a surfer guy to finish up and actually leave, you are in for a wait.  They have to put away the board, take off the wetsuit, go through the drying ritual, give you the quick flash while they don their dry clothes and then maybe just maybe they'll get in the car.  This guy actually seemed to hurry a bit for us which was nice.  So we parked, and headed South to the Sapphire Laguna.

We've eaten here before, just once last summer and it was really good.  So we decided to give it another go.  The atmosphere is very relaxed and eclectic with a stellar view.  A view that is if you are lucky to sit on the outside deck or a perimeter seat inside which is where we got to sit today.   We ordered a bottle of mineral water and some fabulous wine.  I had a quick glance at the wine list and saw a wine from Snoqualmie on it.  We visited Snoqualmie on a trip to Washington years ago so we tried this Chardonnay.  I was not disappointed even though it was the cheapest wine on the list.  We strictly order by region, and it was light and fresh and reminded me of the wine we have enjoyed in BC, Canada. 

The busboy brought fresh rolls which are delicious, and you know how I feel about bread.  For my entree I order the Southern Fried Chicken Salad which was delicious once it finally got to me.  My husband order the Huevos Ranchero which came out quickly and was actually steaming.  It looked fabulous and after tasting it, it was as good as it looked. 

My food unfortunately got mixed up, they sent out the wrong dish and I ended up having to wait a very long time for my salad to arrive.  This was really too bad because my husband then waited to eat his food so that his got cold.  They should have brought him another hot dish when my food came out.  Once I did get it, the food was very good.  As good as I had remembered the first time.  The chicken was crispy and tender and the salad was filled with baby greens walnuts and lots of cranberries with a light ranch dressing.  It was really good. 

Aside from the mix up with the order and the very long wait for my meal to come the food was great.  The service very good and they did comp a second glass of wine and my meal which of course really adds to the "customer service" factor.  Customer service is huge for me; this small step can make such a huge impact.   In fact it was enough for me to forget the negative and focus on the great food, good service, fabulous view and atmosphere.  Oh yes; we'll be back.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Bread again

                                                           I made three baguette shapes.

Okay; it seems that I talk about bread a lot.  But I have to tell you about the bread I made tonight, it was really great.  I decided to make lentils this morning, it's an easy way to have dinner ready with no fuss.  There is nothing better than fresh bread with lentils so I tried to find an oatmeal bread recipe.  Not an easy task, just about everything is loaf type bread, I wanted bread bread.  I finally found a recipe but like most it is for bread makers which I don't have.  So I altered it for my cooking needs and it was fabulous.

  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup  oats
  • 3 cups  flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey (called for molasses but I used honey)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cups water

The recipe was for a bread maker so I'll just tell you what I did with the ingredients.  Put the yeast, oats, flour and salt in the mixer.  Heat the water to approx. 80 degrees and pour into flour mixture while slowly mixing.  Add oil and honey and continue mixing.  Mix well and put on the bread attachment, continue mixing for approx. 3 min.  Oil a large bowl and put dough in and roll around covering the dough with oil.  Cover with clean dish towel and place somewhere warm.  Let rise until double in size.  Punch down and let rest.  Form into whatever shape of loaf you like.  Cover with towel and place in warm area to rise double sized again.  Bake at 400 for approx. 10-15 min. until golden brown.  

This is a great recipe, the bread was so good that I ate way too much.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Jeremy's on the Hill

Taken this morning as we were headed home.

First I have to say that I forgot my camera when we headed out to dinner lastnight.  Several hours of shooting wolves was my every thought, of course that is until I sat down to eat.  Jeremy's on the Hill is just minutes outside of Julian, CA.  A town with a permanent population of just 300 so I wasn't sure what to expect when my husband said he'd made reservations.  He had talked to woman at the Hotel and she said it was one of the best. 

Jeremy's on the Hill is a family owned and run business with Jeremy Manley as the head chef.  Jeremy is only in his early 20s, a graduate of Cordon Blue and been cooking since the age of 10.  There is no age limit on being a great Chef, but from speaking with the locals this is one happening restaurant with great food. 

We pulled into the parking lot, the restaurant is very understated from the outside.  We headed in to the restaurant where we were cheerfully met by the staff immediately and brought to our table.  We got a great seat right in the corner by the fireplace, very romantic.  It is a very small and cozy type restaurant.  We made our wine choice from the California wines and were not disappointed.  My wine was amazing, just like the waitress had said it was. 

Chardonnay – Jessie’s Grove Winery – 2008 – Lodi, CA

The waitress brought bread/butter to the table which was some of the best bread I've eatten.  I had to ask if it was made at the restaurant or brought in.  This amazingly delicious bread comes from the town of Julian in a little bakery called The Candied Apple.  (More on this little bakery in another blog)

My husband ordered the mushroom soup for an appetizer which was very good.  Warm and earthy, served in a small cup, a great beginning to dinner.  We both order the Chicken Cordon Bleu as our main was amazing.  I haven't had a good Cordon Bleu in quite a while, it is something that I've eaten a lot of in my life and that I make myself.  This was a great one.  The plates were nice and hot and the food presently nicely.  It was lightly breaded on the outside and rich and moist on the inside.  The smokey flavor of the ham and cheese really gave the dish flavor. 

The service was very good, our waitress was friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about the menu and wines.  The evening was relaxed, there was no sense of rush at all and the atmosphere was friendly.  The tables are set nicely apart so that you don't have that feeling of others being on top of you. 

I did not order dessert but my husband order the Chocolate Mocha Pot de creme.  It was very good, my husband loved it. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Veggie Chili

I made veggie Chili last night, it was delicious and very non fattening.  Good news for the New Year eh?  The chili itself was vegan, but being a big dairy lover I added a dollop of sour cream and smoked grated cheddar at the end.  No, it wasn't as non fattening with the additions but it sure was good.  So if you are a vegan, just skip the end additions. 

I love the slow cooker, it is the greatest thing for those days you just don't feel like cooking.  I throw everything in, clamp the lid down and walk away.  About a half hour before dinner I come and check on it, give it a taste and ta da, dinner is served.   An added bonus was that it was almost completely organic.

Chili recipe

1 can pinto beans
1 can  black beans
1 can  tomato sauce
1 can  fire roasted chopped tomatoes
1/2 chopped red onion
1/2 cup frozen red, green and yellow peppers
5 slices fake bacon chopped
1/3 cup red quinoa (added at the end, should cook at least 30 min.)
1/4 cup REAL maple syrup, that's right maple syrup!!!!!
1 big tablespoon of chili powder or to taste
light sprinkle of chipotle seasoning, or more if you like it hot

Throw it all in and shut the lid.  Of course you could do this on the stove top as well on low and simmer it all day.  If you find that the quinoa soaks up too much liquid just add a bit of water or veggie broth.  Mine was just perfect consistency.   And like I said before I added sour cream and smoked grated cheese on top.  But I did just eat another bowl of it with just the cheese and it was fabulous. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bread in general

Is there anything like a great warm homemade bread and butter?  In my books?  Nope.  I love bread, I always have and I always will.  And I really enjoy making bread, I don't think anything comes close to the whole satisfying process.  From the moment you open that little package of yeast, the aroma hits you and grows with the bread.  There are so many great bread recipes, I have found this one that I make every year for Christmas morning.  It is in the Better Homes and Garden Cook book and it has never failed me.

The recipe is for sweet rolls which I have made as well many times.  But for the Christmas bread I simply prepare them differently the ingredients are all the same.

Sweet Rolls

2 cups all purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast

Heat and stir 1 cup milk, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup butter and 1/2 tsp salt to 120-130 degrees.  Do not overheat or you will kill the yeast and you will have flatbread.  Add this liquid to the flour mixture and add two eggs.  Beat with an electric mixer or Kitchenaid 3 minutes on high.  The more you mix the better with bread.  Add another 2-2 1/3 cup flour until you have a nice soft squishy dough.

Knead with bread attachment if you have one or turn onto a floured surface and workout your arms.  Knead for at least 5 minutes or until your arms feel like they will fall off.  Shape into a ball and place into a well oil bowl, cover with clean dish towel and place somewhere warm.  I usually turn the oven on for a few minutes then turn it off and let the bread rise in the slightly warm oven. 

Once it is double in size punch it down, literally.  Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.  Then roll the dough out as flat as possible, butter it leaving about 1 1/2 on one side not buttered.  Spread a good amount of brown sugar, nuts of your preferance and cinnamon.  I braided the one above, so only put the filling in the middle.  I cut the sides to give me braidable pieces.  Or you can roll it up and make a donut shape with it.  Cut a few slots in the top to let steam out and it looks nice.

Bake at 375 for 20-25 min until golden brown.  Drizzle with powdered sugar and water and spread nuts or cherries on top. 

Friday, December 31, 2010

Orange Hill Restaurant

With the Holiday season come and nearly gone; it's been a busy time.  And, I haven't been on here for a while, sorry.  I thought I'd review a recent restaurant visit, it's a family tradition.  When we first moved to California we came to Christmas Eve and didn't know what to do with ourselves having no family or friends as of yet.  We went to Outback our first Christmas Eve, charming......not.  Then after a few fumbled restaurant visits we settled on Orange Hill, the ambiance is amazing, the view spectacular and the food great. 

Over the years the food sort of went downhill a bit, not hugely but it had slipped slightly  Christmas 2009 we decided to go somewhere else because the year before Orange Hill had served up a really substandard vegetarian dish for my girls.  Well our new choice had been an even worse one so we decided to head back to Orange Hill hearing that they had a new vegetarian dish on their Christmas Eve menu.  We love the feel; and frankly it felt like home we'd been so many times. 

This year the only thing that I was disappointed in was our table location.  We had specifically asked not to be placed in the bar area, it's much louder than the other sections of the restaurant.  As soon as we got there we were lead to our table in the bar area.  It was loud and I really would have liked not to be sitting right beside the bar but we did have a window table, which I guess sort of made up for all the noise.

We were pleasantly surprised by the menu and the food was amazing, every item that was chosen was delectable.  Orange Hill has upped their game, a nice surprise.   One thing that had not changed was the ambiance, and the other their delicious pesto, butter and breads.  I could literally just go there for the pesto, bread and wine.   The Christmas Eve menu is different from their normal menu and new since we last visited.  You choose an appetizer and entry and the dessert was set. 

I had the mushroom soup to start with, it was rich, earthy, a tad spicy and warm, perfect.  My husband had the beef skewers which he said were really great and full of flavor.  Then both myself and my husband had the scallops which was a great choice being that I had eaten so much of their bread and pesto.  The scallops were bacon wrapped and seared to perfection, simply delicious laid on a bed of black rice and baby bok choy.  My daughters who are both vegetarians had the mushroom raviolli as an entry which was fabulous, a very welcome surprise for vegetarian diners.  My son enjoyed the salmon which he said was delicous as was the roasted chicken enjoyed by my daughters boyfriend. 

Dessert was the chefs selection, and it could not have been a better selection.  The waiter described it as a raspberry chocolate mousse sort of thing but I tasted no raspberry in it except for small decoration drizzle on the plate.  We all tasted a hint of mint but the rich chocolate mousse was the hit of the dessert.  It was rich, really rich and anyone who knows me knows that I rarely think anything is too rich.  But being that this was so rich a quarter sized serving would have sufficed.  Other than the crust being slightly tough, it was definitely delectably delicious. 

All in all a wonderful meal, great view and wonderful company.  We'll be back for Christmas Eve dinner next year, definitely hope to be there sooner though.