September 28, 2014
by Terry Ratner
1 Comment

new dog in town

WolverineDetroit Coney Grill
930 West Broadway Rd
Tempe, AZ 85282
602.791. 9978

In Detroit they call soda ‘pop’ and chili dogs ‘Coneys.’ In the Valley, we’re hearing the same Motown lingo. The birthplace of Detroit Coney-style hot dogs may be 2000 miles northeast of Arizona, but you can find the same chili, buns, and snappy sausage flavor in a strip mall on Broadway in Tempe.

My consort, Richard, a Michigander, and I mean that literally especially when the Wolverines take the gridiron, has been raving about Coney Island dogs for years. Richard has as much allegiance to Coneys as he has to his University of Michigan team who lost three out of five games this season.

Grill OwnerBut let’s talk about a win. David Najor, a Michigan native expat living in Tempe, has recreated the famous Lafayette Coney Island with an arsenal of Detroit-based ingredients (Vernors, Faygo, and Better Made Potato Chips). His meats are as authentic as they can be, made with all-beef natural casing dogs shipped in from Detroit, burgers from scratch, and hand-cut russet potatoes.

Fat Man Greedily Eating HamburgerMy consort taught me the jargon, “two with.” Translation: two Coney dogs with chili, mustard, and onions. If you don’t want the onions, just say “two.” To order a pop, “one Faygo” (orange, grape, or root beer). If you aren’t a diggity-dog fan, like myself, order “chili, hold the wiener.”

The two foremost purveyors of Coneys in downtown Detroit, American and Lafayette, have embarked on a family feud for generations. I talked to one Lafayette employee who had nothing good to say about his next door neighbors, American Coneys. But as far as the customers are concerned, they divide into two distinct camps. In Tempe, we are lucky—there is only one authentic Detroit Coney.

Our tradition is to celebrate a Wolverine win with a visit to the neighborhood Detroit Grill. We haven’t tasted a Coney for two weeks and we’re both craving a dog. Our team plays Rutgers next week. Whoever heard of them? I guess they are new to the Big Ten. See you at Coneys after the big win! Go Blue.

HotDogsHearts

September 24, 2014
by Terry Ratner
0 comments

mussel beach

MuscleBeachPRADO AT BALBOA PARK
1549 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101
619-557-9441

We recently spent a week on our sailboat while it docked at Harbor Island. As always, we stocked up at Vons for our brunch and snack delights. We slept in and ignored the roar of jets taking off every few minutes at 6 AM—flying directly over our slip by closing our hatch and port lights, covering them with aluminum foil and tape. Our sound and light barrier worked with the help of fans going full speed and white noise from our iPad, giving us the allusion of a comfy, cozy love cave.

During our intimate brunches, we’d discuss romantic dinner options for the night. After watching a movie one evening, THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION, a love triangle starring Sophia Loren, Cary Grant, and Frank Sinatra, we craved a sexy Spanish restaurant. We googled a few local diners and PRADO sounded like an interesting hot spot. We arrived at 8:30 PM, knowing they were open late. It wasn’t easy finding the restaurant or a place to park, as signage and street lights were lacking. We ended up following a car into a parking lot and walking a few blocks toward what sounded like a big party. After climbing over a crime scene barrier, we were able to enter through the alfresco dining patio.

My expectations of the PRADO restaurant were heightened by my memories of the famous PRADO art museum in Madrid. Inside we noted painted wooden beams and elaborate glass art displays similar to a Mexican hacienda or a taco bar. We disagreed about the style of the décor: a colorful mixture of Mexican highlands and painted tiles from Talavera craftsmen. My consort likened the ambiance to a tacky upscale taqueria, whereas I felt imbued with a certain charm of old world colonial Mexico. We settled our difference with two glasses of Segura Cava and a kiss.

Fat Man Greedily Eating HamburgerOur appetizer, whole-grain mustard steamed mussels served in a white wine herbed broth, came with an added crunch—tiny bits of sand indicating that the mussels had not been properly cleaned. As a side, I presented my business card to the manager and waiter, dinnerSlut.com, before being seated for dinner. Perhaps they didn’t let the chef know?

Our server seemed shocked and appalled that the “beach” came with this dish. After apologies from both the manager and waiter, we ordered spicy calamari fries with a Korean chili sauce and a Napa cabbage slaw. Many of you know my dislike for fried foods, but it didn’t seem to matter with this tasty dish. The glaze, hot and sour at the same time, disguised any trace of grease.

The main course, PRADO Paella, with fish, mussels, shrimp, calamari, chicken, sausage, simmered in a lobster saffron broth tasted fresh with each ingredient maintaining its individuality and flavorful integrity expected from a great seafood dish. The shrimp tasted sweet, the calamari toothsome, not rubbery, and the spicy chorizo popped our palates. The only downer, once again, were grains of sand from the same batch of unwashed mussels.

Tres LechesDessert, Tres Leches, a traditional Mexican rolled sponge cake soaked in a triple milk mixture (whole, condensed, and evaporated) reminded me of our trip to Oaxaca. The filling consisted of pistachios, meringue, and caramelized bananas topped with a luscious vanilla bean ice cream. Another Mexican rather than Spanish dish. The perfect postre—delicioso, or should I say sabroso postre?

PradoHearts

 

September 22, 2014
by Terry Ratner
0 comments

play doh

plato play dohSteak 44
5101 N. 44th Street
Phoenix, AZ
602.271.4400

“And what, Socrates, is the food of the soul? Surely, I said, knowledge is the food of the soul.” – Plato

I had planned to dine at Prime Steak House, at the Bellagio in Vegas, but my trip fell through because of a problem with my dog, Gracie. So to cheer me up, my consort invited me to join him at Steak 44, the newest Maestro upscale eatery, located in Arcadia at the site of the old Cork ‘N Cleaver.

Steak 44, seemed more causal and less expensive than Dominick’s at the Quarters, which cost a whopping $6 million to build. You won’t see palatial chandeliers or a retractable roof, but instead you’ll cast your eyes on the horse-shoe lined bar with overhead sexy lighting, tables with crisp, white linen cloths, polished rich wood everywhere, and a stunning collection of flasks and shakers which get lost in the soft lighting. What a coincidence because my consort has the world’s largest collection of cocktail shakers from the turn of the nineteenth century to the present. I know because they take up a great deal of space in my foyer.

dough boyDinner began with two stiff Negroni’s and a choice of fresh baked garlic or sea salt rolls smothered in butter and served in cast iron skillets still steaming from the oven. After tasting the overly salted and garlicky bread, I opted for plain rolls with a side of butter. I took a few bites and began modeling the pretzel-like dough, like Play Doh, forming a smiley face. I would have preferred a crusty, rustic French or Italian loaf to the Pillsbury doughboy.

devil eggsThe appetizer selection took a while because of my aversion to fried foods. I choose the beet salad, small chunks of ruby and golden beets sprinkled with goat cheese peppered with pistachios. Within five minutes, my plate was empty. My consort ordered panko-breaded fried deviled eggs with a sriracha aioli. The crispy outer layer functioned as a fancy gift wrapping for a perfectly cooked farm fresh egg and the aioli served as the ribbons. My usual dislike for fried foods didn’t apply to this dish. In fact, when the waiter tried to clear the remains of the aioli we gave him a verbal hand-slap.

We split the main course, steak farina, the bone-in filet mignon, topped with a fried egg. It’s a steak house, so we anticipated a good piece of meat, but the main course surpassed our expectations. The menu includes options like Petite Filet, Delmonico, NY Strip, or Bone-in NY Strip. The kitchen controls the quality of the beef by cutting their own to fit their needs, including the unique bone-in filet. The chef, Geoff Baumberger, uses a spice rub for his steaks, cooks them at 1500 degrees, and serves the ordered cuts on a 500 degree platter. Our steak was cooked to perfection, medium as requested, with only one flaw—a little too much salt in the rub. This gorgeous butter-tender steak was accompanied by a pair of pathetic slices of grilled greasy toast.

Most steak houses offer a few a la carte sides, but at Steak 44, you have 18 to choose from. We selected the sautéed steamed spinach laden with garlic and Dominick’s potatoes, an au gratin with caramelized onion, Gouda, and mozzarella. The spinach bombed, but the potatoes were a smash and the leftovers even better the next night as a side dish with dinner.

We ordered an Oregon Pinot Noir to accompany the dinner which didn’t arrive until after our plates were cleared. Red faced and apologetic, the waiter comped us the vino. We studied the desert delights, but satisfied and full from our meal, we decided to pass. If you like sweets, white chocolate, s’mores, or chocolate peanut butter, you’ll enjoy the selections with your favorite, but pricey desert wines.

If you’re a health nut, you won’t be dining here more than once. If you like your meals rich and well-seasoned, then this might become your next go- to hangout.

Steak44Hearts

September 1, 2014
by Terry Ratner
0 comments

ganador del zorro

Translation: a win for Fox

blanco menuBLANCO TACOS + TEQUILA
Biltmore Fashion Park
2502 East Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85016
602.429.8000

Oh my God, finally a FOX winner in Phoenix. My consort and I tend to avoid Fox restaurants due to negative experiences. Their restaurants are usually located in upscale neighborhoods, focusing more on modern interior design and ambiance, and crowded with wannabe foodies and the tragically trendy crowd. Most disappointing is the lack of taste and a cuisine deficiency.

We visited the taqueria for a casual weeknight dinner. We were drenched walking toward the entrance of the restaurant from a ‘mister monsoon’ located in the alfresco patio. These misters were like foggy nor’easter, not the usual drizzle effect. I know because my hair, a barometer of humidity, became frizzy within two minutes.

For starters, we ordered the guacamole, chips, and Mexican street corn, a blend of roasted corn relish hand-cut off the cob and a bowl of corny delight. The magic show began with a bowl of chips disappearing soon after the mashed avocado appeared with a touch of tomato, roasted chili, caramelized onion, and a sprinkling of cojita cheese.

Fat Man Greedily Eating HamburgerOur tag team servers included a pro and a first night trainee, both attentive and full of personality. We chose a classic Greyhound with a twist to accompany our starters—their version included a grapefruit infused Vodka served in an eight ounce glass rather than a 16 ounce, which would have been preferred. The drink, tart and tasty, left one wanting the missing eight ounces.

My consort ordered a nontraditional enchilada served hot in a cast iron pan with a cheesy red sauce poured over flat corn tortillas instead of the usual roll-ups. Side dishes of pinto beans and buttered rice complimented the dish. I selected the grilled fish tacos on corn tortillas with avocado and a house-made Pico. The perfectly pleasing fillets, flaky and flavorful, rested on three mini tortillas. After a squirt of lime, I devoured the trio.

Satisfying our hunger, we had no room for the sopapillas and honey or the brown sugar flan which we’ve sampled in the past. Instead we sat and chatted with Matt Runkle, assistant manager, who told us his theory of running a successful restaurant, “My goal is to please the customer and leave my ego at the door.” He went on to say, “I might be a certain type of person outside of the restaurant, but when I’m managing, it’s all about the patrons.”

Lucky Sam Fox to have a manager like Matt running the show. Finally, a winner for el Zorro.

blancoshearts

 

 

August 26, 2014
by Terry Ratner
0 comments

burned

Palace CatGrimaldi’s Coal Brick-Oven Pizzeria
4000 North Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
480-994-1100

My consort and I took my six-year old granddaughter to a puppet show and then to Scottsdale Fashion Square for some shopping. We decided to grab a quick dinner before bringing her home and pizza sounded like the perfect kid-friendly meal.

I wasn’t planning to review this eatery, mainly because food reviewers need a break once in a while to enjoy their social engagements—a busman’s holiday. Our last experience (read BOUNCED) made us gun-shy. We’ve been cooking at home for the last three weeks.

We’re always looking for good pizza in Scottsdale and I remembered loving the coal brick-oven pie at Grimaldi’s a few years ago, so we finalized our restaurant choice and headed south on Scottsdale road. We arrived famished at 5:30 PM to find a quiet Grimaldi’s, which was out of character. Most of my visits have consisted of long lines at the door, noisy patrons, and waits of 15-30 minutes.

Our order was simple: a Mediterranean salad and a large pizza with black olives, mushrooms, and onions. The salad came drenched in an overly tart vinaigrette. We told our waitress and she brought us a new dish of greens, dry and tasteless.

The pizza arrived hot and our server dished out our first slices. It didn’t taste like I had remembered—crisp crust with a rich flavored sauce. This pizza had a metallic flavor with a damp cardboard texture. The scantily applied cheese made a polka-dot design and the mushrooms were under cooked.

lump of coalAfter two slices, my companion took a black object out of his mouth and dropped it onto the pizza tin creating a clang as it hit the metal. He said, “I bit into a hard, hot rock. It tasted funny.” We asked for a manager and Lauren came over to our table. We showed her the substance and she immediately identified it as a piece of anthracite coal. She said, “This happens often, it’s just a popped piece of coal from the oven.”

She acted as if it was a common occurrence and that this type of experience is expected when cooking with a coal brick oven. We then left and within moments my consort complained of a coal burn on the inside of his lower lip.

I examined him when we arrived home (I’m a registered nurse) and found the affected area on his bottom lip. I’d display the photo here, but it’s not very appetizing. Needless to say, we were upset with Grimaldi’s casual, insensitive handling of this matter. I used to eat at this establishment once or twice a month a few years ago and never experienced this type of incident, service, or food quality. The waitress took the cost of the pizza off the check, but seemed to be indifferent about what had occurred.

We are still on a mission to find a good pizza place in Scottsdale or Phoenix. If you know of any, please send us a name and address and we will give them a try.

GrimaldiHearts

August 9, 2014
by Terry Ratner
0 comments

bounced

Mad ChefGrassroots
kitchen & tap
2119 E. Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85016

I had just completed my newest essay about living on a sailboat. After sitting in front of a computer for the last five hours, I needed a break, not to mention a good dinner. My consort suggested we try Grassroots, a newer restaurant in the Town & Country shopping center. I knew little about this restaurant except that the owner, Christopher Collins’ father (Wally Collins) owns Wally’s American Pub ‘n Grille.

The restaurant’s interior felt cold and monotone. It’s a typical sports bar with large flat screen TVs dominating the captive drinking audience. A few couples sat at large, comfortable booths and high-tops for four or more. Lots of singles ordering appetizers and drinks—a good place to forget your troubles after a long day at the office. If you’re drunk enough, you may not notice the quality of food or service. Unfortunately, we were sober.

Our waitress, Amber, reminded me of the Stepford wives movie, where all the women in the town sounded as if they were robots and weren’t able to think for themselves. When asked if any of the food was organic, she replied, “I know we try to buy locally, but I’m not sure it’s organic.”

She told me the owner wasn’t there, so I gave her my business card and informed her that I was about to review the restaurant. We ordered an appetizer called DAD’S GROCERY BAG, a loaf of French bread, three cheeses, three cured meats, olives, nuts, and local honey. Let’s start with the positive. The cheeses, Port Salut, Brie, and chèvre, were tasty. The French loaf turned out to be white bread, not French, which the waitress wasn’t aware of and claimed not to know the difference. The meats, a bland prosciutto, sopressata, and a mystery meat took up their share of space on the cheese board. I have to say the brined olives tasted good, just like the ones we buy a few doors down at Whole Foods. I should have known that is considered ‘local.’ I almost forgot to mention the Crockett honey bear served with the dish. Not too classy.

Fat Man Greedily Eating HamburgerWe were hoping to find good BBQ in the neighborhood when we ordered the ROOT’S BBQ BRISKET, served with cheesy grits, pickles, and BBQ beans. The meat presentation looked odd from the start—a rectangular log with a quarter-inch fat cap. To make the trendy boxed cut, they must have wasted the best part of the brisket. The texture of the meat was gummy, dry, and tough lacking the rich, slow-cooked meaty flavor. It didn’t fall apart or melt in your mouth like Mom’s brisket. In the words of Christopher Collins, “We’re American with Southern influence.” I’m not sure what recipe the chef uses, but it’s not the best of American or the best of Southern. It seems to be an enigma unto itself and a tasteless one at that. There were six cookbooks sitting on a shelf behind our booth. Perhaps the chef should study up during a slow night.

Fat Man Greedily Eating HamburgerThe waitress came over when we finished and asked how we liked the brisket. I gave her my critique and she said, “I’m sorry you didn’t like it.” I even went so far as to tell her I couldn’t eat more than two bites; one to find out how it tasted and the second because I couldn’t believe this entrée was trying to pass as brisket. Within minutes of clearing our dinner plate, a short blond man in a white chef’s jacket came to our table with a scowl on his face (we now know that he is Robbie M., a manager wearing chef’s garb). He was arrogant beyond his experience. “I heard you didn’t like the brisket,” he said without salutation. We explained to him what we expected from the entrée and he commented, “That’s the way I make it and it isn’t going to be changed.” Then he left in a huff.

The waitress came by and said, “Sorry again. Would you like something else?” We ordered the Key Lime pie with whipped cream, only to be polite and fair since our dinner was such a disappointment. She sounded as if it would be comped, which would have been expected. The pie tasted like it had been in the cooler for a few days, a bit heavy and too sweet. By this time, our expectations had diminished and our taste buds had suffered cruel and unusual punishment.

When the waitress presented us with a check for $50.00 (including the cost of the Key Lime pie), she asked if we talked with the “chef.” We told her “Yes, but he was arrogant and acting stupid (referring to his attitude and cooking knowledge). We’re of the opinion that people in the service industry should smile and remember, ‘the customer is always right.’ In this case we were.

On our way out, we asked the hostess for a paper menu and the owner’s business card when we were accosted by the angry chef-manager, acting as ‘bouncer’ (we’re not sure what role he plays in the restaurant). We were glad to see he wasn’t wielding a meat cleaver. He told us in a loud unfriendly tone, “Your waitress said you called me stupid. Get out and never come back.” I think by then he knew we had no intentions of returning or writing a positive review of his cooking or antics.

Suggestion for Grassroots owner: Anger management and service professional classes are in order for this employee.

So he bounced us and wouldn’t you know, we had forgotten about our recent Judo lesson. We should have assumed a defensive position and said, “Back off.” Who knew this could occur at Grassroots restaurant, or any establishment. I want to think this type of behavior would not be tolerated if an acting manager or owner had been present. I later learned the owner was on vacation and the general manager wasn’t present.

GrassrootsHearts

August 7, 2014
by Terry Ratner
0 comments

chewing the fat

fat guyD.Z. Akins Delicatessen
6930 Alvarado Rd.
San Diego, CA 92120

This is a restaurant for obese people. I came to that conclusion by watching the customers waddle in and out while waiting for my takeout order. The portions are generous, sandwiches piled three inches high, but the quality of the food is not worth your health or time.

We were on our way back to Phoenix from San Diego when we decided to call in an order for two sandwiches, a cup of matzo ball soup, and some cookies. I won’t bore you with the specifics, but there were numerous errors, including no utensils, napkins, mayo, or mustard. Halfway through our trip, I ate a dry brisket sandwich on white bread (instead of sourdough) no cheese, which I had ordered. My consort ate a corned beef without the Russian dressing he requested. The matzo ball soup had no flavor, nor chicken broth, but it did contain stringy bland noodles and giant uncooked carrots to crunch. My hamantaschen cookie was thrown in a thin paper bag under a loaf of bread and box of pastries. I found only crumbs an hour later. When I called to ask what happened to our order, the deli gal, Laura, said, “I thought I packed everything. I might have mixed up your order with someone else’s.”

The next afternoon I phoned and relayed my saga to the owner, Steve. His response, according to Alma, a deli waitress acting as our liaison, was the following: “My policy is to ignore complaints about takeout unless the food is brought back to the restaurant.”

Difficult to do when one is on the road back to Phoenix. I expected an apologetic phone call, or some type of explanation for the mix-up, but instead I heard this from Alma, “We are definitely going to retrain everyone in the deli about takeout service.”

This place is a joke: terrible service, bad management, tasteless food, and an owner who apparently just takes in the money and doesn’t care about his patrons.

FYI: If you are someone seeking a large unhealthy caloric intake and sandwiches built like skyscrapers with fatty foods, you might like what DZ AKINS has to offer. My advice is don’t pay for your takeout order AND tip the waitress without first checking what’s inside the bags. Make them accountable for their service.

DZHearts

August 2, 2014
by Terry Ratner
1 Comment

opa!

Stingray close upGeorgia’s Greek Cuisine
(Since 1977)
3550 Rosecrans Street
San Diego, California

Living on a docked sailboat for a week in tight quarters, even with a lover, can be claustrophobic. Not to mention having to prepare food in a 15 sq. foot kitchen. I’m lucky to be with a consort who forces me to try new eateries, even against my will.

We had worked through lunch, sitting on the settees, facing each other with back-to-back computers trying to meet our individual deadlines. I felt famished, but I didn’t want to dress up, so he suggested a Greek restaurant in Point Loma. He caught me at a weak moment. I gave him one of my looks that means, “I’ll try it, but I hope the food is good.”

Georgia’s Greek Cuisine, housed in a sketchy strip mall next to Chipotle’s Mexican Grill and a PetSmart, looks like an ordinary eatery with its smudged front doors and a partially glassed in patio overlooking Rosecrans Street. For some strange reason, I trusted his judgment and didn’t demand to see a menu before being seated. I allowed him to order for us, as he knew the menu and had been craving his favorite Greek foods for a while.

We started with a couple of glasses of Greek Retsina, a smooth resin infused white table wine followed by a plate of black olives. Our waitress was Asian and didn’t speak good English. She knew her menu, but didn’t understand ‘hold the tomatoes.’ If you’ve followed my blog, you probably know my consort is highly allergic to this fruit. She brought our appetizer with uncooked tomatoes as a garnish and we had to send it back. The owner, Georgia, came over and apologized for the misunderstanding. She gave us her full attention for the rest of the meal, not knowing I there to review the restaurant.

For starters, my consort ordered Taramosalata, a hummus-like spread with lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil flavored with red caviar served with cucumber slices and homemade pita bread. What a pleasant surprise to taste an appetizer that isn’t loaded down with salt. This tantalizing light dish was a joy to our famished palettes.

The waitress unceremoniously presented us with their famous Avgolemono soup, a chicken broth based lemon and egg soup with bits of chicken and rice. This can only be described as ‘nectar for the Gods.’ This soup, light, fragrant, and packed with flavor, could easily be a meal in itself.

On the menu, it says, “Can’t decide? Try our combination plate.” We couldn’t make up our minds, so we did. The combo includes Mousaka (a ground beef eggplant, zucchini, and potato) served like lasagna, but Greek style. Two generous portions of Pastitsio (layers of macaroni, ground beef with a béchamel sauce) and Dolmades, grape leaves stuffed with ground beef, rice, herbs and spices topped with an egg lemon sauce. Georgia’s Gyros (a blend of beef and lamb), broiled on a rotisserie and cut in thin slices stood up to traditional Greek street food. The beef kabob seemed thick and difficult to chew, but after a brief workout of my masseter muscle (muscle for mastication) jaw muscles, I was able to swallow it.

Stingray close upAfter dinner, the owners, Georgia and Dennis, brought us a small piece of Baklava with two spoons and a knife??? I thanked them for the free dessert only to find out that dessert is included with the combo. To please my consort who loves all sweets, I ate a tiny morsel but ended up surreptitiously depositing the bite in the fold of my napkin.

All we could say throughout most of the meal was Opa, a word similar to a combo dish. It means whoopee, hooray, oops, anything happy in life. We loved dinner at Georgia’s and we will return.

 

GeorgiasHearts

July 26, 2014
by Terry Ratner
0 comments

bad trip

Stingray close upSam Fox’s FLOWER CHILD
5013 North 44th Street
Suite B2025B
Phoenix, AZ 85018
602.429.6222

I spent an hour with my counselor this afternoon which can only be described as a crying frenzy about an unexpected catharsis concerning my childhood trauma. Afterwards I felt cleansed, as if I had been baptized, completed a yoga weekend with Deepak Chopra, or visited St. Tropez for a weeklong spiritual cleanse.

After the session ended, I needed to refuel, but didn’t feel like cooking. My consort suggested we try Flower Child, a new restaurant created by Sam Fox who felt that none of his other 14 eateries fit the concept of healthy, fast, and casual. Sorry to break the news Sam, but that void still exists.

We walked into the Child and noticed a crowd of ‘foodie wannabees.’ If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I entered THE HENRY by mistake. The establishment appeared modern and clean, similar to the generic feel of CULVERS, another fast food diner, but something crucial seemed to be missing at Flower Child—real people. Yes, this is another Fox place where like people gather. Gazing around at the patrons, I noticed there wasn’t any age range. Everyone seemed to be a blank-faced millennial, feeling like they were dining in style, when in reality they were at an upscale McDonalds.

A station near the front door allows you to peruse the menu and order salads, vegetables, grain plates, wraps, or bowls. It’s like a ‘do it yourself’ project. I asked the question “Is your chicken organic?” I received this answer. “It’s natural and that’s the same thing.” We all know that natural is meaningless and organic is meaningful. I wondered why these employees aren’t knowledgeable about health. Isn’t that a major part of this venture?

We ordered the Flying Avocado wrap with grilled chicken, smoked Gouda, romaine, tomato, and avocado hummus (guacamole). I asked the cashier to hold the tomatoes because of my consort’s severe anaphylactic allergy to this fruit—or is it a vegetable. It’s actually the fruit of the tomato plant. I finished our order with a side of red chili glazed sweet potato and an organic tofu and mushroom pho. We were handed a sign with the number 26 to place at our table while waiting for our food.

The Flying Avocado wrap came chock full of cubed tomatoes, which were sent back for obvious reasons. I took a bite of the sweet potato side dish that looked appetizing, especially after rejecting my main course. What I tasted was a yam smothered in an overly salty sauce. At that point, I lost it and told the manager what had occurred. She asked if we wanted to substitute and I declined.

The Pho, according to my consort was edible. He called it “white boy Pho” because it had no ethic zing. It’s served with a plate of condiments, large branches of Thai basil, bean sprouts (6) (I know because I ate all six of them) and four jalapeno peppers.

We left hungry and disappointed. At home, we cooked salmon patties on the grill. Not farmed / sustainable salmon, like Fox serves, but the real thing. I whipped up an organic potato salad side and we feasted like royalty.

I don’t recommend this restaurant to people who desire healthy, delicious, creative food. Unfortunately if you’re after a place that delivers on things like taste and affordability—keep looking. Perhaps in future endeavors, Fox should think more about fulfilling his customers’ needs than filling a void with fluff.

FYI: Their menu features Gluton Lite, whatever that means and Local Produce. Does that mean they buy their greens at Fry’s? Also note: whole grain wraps are offered as one of the main healthy entrées. Doesn’t Fox know that whole-grain foods are not always healthy?

FlowerChildHeartsChart

July 21, 2014
by Terry Ratner
0 comments

Blazing Trails

JI BarJuniper & Ivy
2228 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA
(619) 269-9036

In Little Italy’s north end, in what used to be a sprawling roofing materials warehouse, now houses San Diego’s newest hotspot for foodies—Juniper & Ivy. This mammoth-sized restaurant features an open kitchen, outdoor and private dining perched above the main bar. It’s a new venture for Top Chef star Richard Blais.

My vacation, like so many others to San Diego, happened to fall during a full moon. I felt like a werewolf in heat and needed to spice up my evening with some amazing fare. My consort, Richard, picked me up at the hotel and blindfolded me saying, “I have a surprise for you this evening.” I told him I was starving and I hoped it would include food.

When we pulled up at our destination, he took off my black satin eye mask and escorted me inside. We sat at an intimate table for two, sandwiched between a pregnant woman with her husband and a couple celebrating their 44th anniversary. The acoustics were thin and we had to lean over to communicate. An ambitious cocktail menu kept us busy for the first few minutes.

We ordered two 15 Love cocktails, featuring Pimm’s No. 1 liquor. A little too much ice in the glass caused us to order two additional drinks. Tasty, but not economical. Our waitress took her time and finally brought us an Amuse-bouche of Gougeres, a puff of pate a choux pastry flavored with cheese (Gruyère). Immediately after tasting this dish, I revealed to our server, “I am reviewing this eatery. May I please have more?”

JI FoodFinally, we feasted on appetizers and small plates, beginning with an order of blackened Baja shrimp toast with avocado, Japanese cucumber, and a taste of orange. Their small plate of small roasted beets with caramelized yogurt, white peacock kale, apricots and pistachio nuts disappeared within seconds.

Next came the bone marrow topped with crispy oysters, ranch dressing, and pickled celery. The rich bone marrow, an unctuous savory dish, evil and delicious at the same time.

From their Pasta Starter section, we ordered Corn Agnolotti, a tender ravioli filled with wild mushrooms and dressed with Huitlacoche (a corn fungus delicacy). The Carne Cruda Asada, affectionately called Meat Toast, featured beef tartar topped with a row of sunny side up quail eggs, cotija cheese and jalapeno. I hate raw meat, so I ate the three quail eggs and left the beef for Richard.

The full moon demanded that I complete the meal with a decadent confection. We order peaches on bourbon soaked pound cake with a pecan sorbet. A demi spoon feeding frenzy and a mini sword fight followed as we each tried to get the last bite.

We were pleasantly satiated, but not stuffed to the point of discomfort. There was plenty of room for a digestif, a Brandy Alexander. We toasted each other and Richard Blais, an executive chef actually working in his kitchen. Imagine that.

BlazeHearts