Friday, February 18, 2011


The continuation of this blog can be found at: Four Letter Life, where you can also read about our camping/traveling, attempts at fitness, and life lessons.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Asian Noodle Salad

Having just finished Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food, I was in the mood for something with an abundance of vegetables, which is why I turned to The Pioneer Woman's Asian Noodle Salad.

After chopping the mountain of vegetables called for in this recipe and lopping off part of my fingernail in the process, I don't think I would have cared if this salad tasted horrible after the length of time I spent to prepare it. Luckily, it is a very beautiful salad of fresh ingredients with a light dressing that is very aromatic in addition to being very tasty. This recipe makes a huge amount of salad, so you may want to invite friends over if you choose to make it. I don't think that the quantity or size of the vegetables matched the long and skinny linguine noodles very well, especially when trying to pick up portions with my fork, so next time I may try this recipe with penne, farfalle, fusilli, or rigatoni pasta. A shorter pasta shape may make for easier vegetable stabbing.

I made this salad back in September 2008, so I will need to make it again soon.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

118 Degrees

Although I subscribe to an alternative diet, I don't consider it particularly restricting. I don't tend to have problems eating out and at this point, friends and family easily and graciously accommodate my pescetarian diet. Having tried vegan cuisine, the same friend who took me to Native Foods asked us to join her for dinner at 118 Degrees, a raw food restaurant.

118 Degrees derives its name from the maximum temperature a food can withstand while still being considered raw. Beyond 118 degrees Fahrenheit, raw foodists consider the food to be cooked, which they believe strips food of its natural nutrients and can be harmful to our bodies. This conjured up images of carrot sticks, apples, salads, and sashimi.

Located in The Camp shopping center in Costa Mesa, 118 Degrees is appropriate amongst vegan cafes and restaurants, animal friendly salons and clothing stores, and a scuba diving school. While perusing the menu, my friend warned us that this isn't the place to get stuffed with food.

Trying raw cuisine for the first time, Devin and I decided to share the Trio of Enchiladas which came accompanied with a salad topped with marinated tomatoes. To make the wrap of the enchiladas, vegetable puree is dehydrated in a thin layer reminiscent of fruit leather such as Fruit Roll Ups. The first enchilada encompassed marinated tomatoes and sweet corn and was very sweet and refreshing. Second enchilada was spicy and was made up of thinly sliced zucchini. The third enchilada with its portobella mushrooms and avocadoes had a deep earthy flavor. I really liked the woodsy flavor of the portabella mushrooms, but I think my favorite was the tomato and corn enchilada. Drizzled atop the enchiladas were guacamole and sour cream made from pine nuts.

My friend, having tried several dishes off the menu, decided to get something new and had the Macadamia Coconut Curry Wrap. Similar to the enchiladas, the thin wrap was made from dehydrated vegetable puree. This wrap encased a vegetable and yellow curry mixture and was topped with a slightly spicy sauce.

For dessert, we shared the Chocolate Strawberry Fondue. The vanilla dip was made from pine nuts and I don't remember what was in the chocolate sauce (maybe carobs? we ate at this restaurant back in August 2008). The vanilla pine nut had a very woody flavor and was thicker than the chocolate.

2981 Bristol Suite B5
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Friday, February 4, 2011

Yard House

Although Yard House may be most known for its seemingly endless row of beer taps and tall beer glasses, Devin and I often go there just for the food. I enjoy ordering their sushi cakes, while Devin likes their burgers, especially the fries that accompany each burger. This is from a visit to the restaurant in July 2008.

I frequently order the Spicy Tuna Roll from the appetizer menu when visiting Yard House. Instead of a cut roll, the Spicy Tuna Roll from Yard House comes as a sushi cake, piling seared rare ahi, avocado, edamame, cucumber, wasabi soy sauce, carrots, sprouts, and red cabbage in layers. I used to get the California Roll (made in the same layer cake fashion) but I definitely prefer this spicy tuna rather than the cooked crab of the California Roll. The sirachi not only adds heat, but I love the spices this chili sauce lends to a dish. The one thing this Spicy Tuna Roll leaves wanting is rice.

Although Devin ordered his Avocado and Swiss burger medium, it came as medium well with the edges slightly over-charred. The burger came with avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, melted swiss cheese, and roasted garlic aioli sauce on a potato bun with a pickle on the side. The very skinny fries are tenderly cooked and appear to have a very light batter coating which leaves Devin to describe them as "juicy" and thus Yard House is one of Devin's favorite places to order french fries.

1875 Newport Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Well, I was having my birthday party in the Anaheim area and since I don't know that area very well, I asked my friend for dinner recommendations in the Anaheim or Fullerton areas. Being a long-time resident of Orange County, he suggested Heroes, so I sent a caravan of my friends to Heroes for my birthday dinner, having never tried the restaurant. Now that is trust.

Heroes is tucked into downtown Fullerton in a district called SOCO (South of Commonwealth Avenue). This area is full of red-bricked shops and restaurants that are within walking distance, something only found in Southern California's downtown areas.

While waiting for my entire party to arrive before being seated, I knew I was in for a treat just watching the patrons through the window. The sizes are gigantic, even the drinks are enormous!

Walking to our table at the rear of the restaurant's dining room, we walked past a long bar with a seemingly endless line of beers on tap. I would say there are two routes to go at Heroes: Order a couple pints of different beers to try what they have on tap or find something you already like and order it in their large size. For the occasion of my turning a year older, I took my friend's recommendation and ordered a large Newcastle Framboise, a mix of Newcastle beer with raspberry-flavored beer.

I ordered the Tuna Melt with curly fries . Thankfully the sandwich arrived already cut in half because I could only finish one of the halves before calling it quits. The curly fries were freshly fried, but unfortunately I must not have been paying attention because one of my friends ordered onion rings as his side, which were excellent. The Tuna Melt had a large portion of tuna salad, but an even larger portion of fresh veggies, which included lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles and was finally topped with cheddar cheese. Fortunately, the tuna salad was well seasoned and did not have a lot of filler vegetables, so the tuna salad shone through all the vegetables. This is a good place to split an entree with friends because of the enormous portion sizes.

Devin ordered a Patty Melt which was short compared to everyone else's entrees because of the absence of vegetables. Unlike the hamburgers, the Patty Melt did not have vegetables, used melted Swiss cheese, and had grilled sourdough slices as the bun. He also ordered curly fries and was barely able to made a dent in them.

At the end of the meal, I was presented with a delicious, hot peach cobbler that was topped with vanilla ice cream. Similar to our other dishes, the peach cobbler was large enough to pass through our party twice and I was still left with a portion that I couldn't finish. I never really met a cobbler I truly enjoyed until this one; the hot peaches melted in my mouth and were cooled by the vanilla ice cream. The crumb topping didn't get soggy and added a nice crunch. I especially appreciated this peach cobbler because the peaches weren't encased in a thick, sickly sweet syrup, but instead the natural juice released from the peaches during their time in the oven seemed to be the only sauce.

Heroes is a very relaxed atmosphere with large food and drink portions. They have a large selection of beers on tap and there are television screens tuned to sports throughout the restaurant so you can watch your favorite team. The service is very casual, with a different face appearing each time something is brought to the table. Although the atmosphere is appropriate for a large and noisy group, we received our bill as a single number circled on a piece of paper rather than itemized, leading to a lot of confusion at the end of the meal.

Heroes Bar & Grill
125 W Santa Fe Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pioneer Woman Homemade Ranch Dressing

In the mood for salad and having all the ingredients on hand, but dissatisfied with store bought ranch dressing, Devin asked me to find out how restaurants make their ranch salad dressing.

I use a variety of salad dressings depending on my current mood, so maybe that is why I don't particularly pay attention to how a restaurant's ranch salad dressing tastes. In any case, store bought ranch dressing works for me, but in the interest in satisfying Devin's craving for restaurant-style ranch dressing, I turned to the Pioneer Woman's Homemade Ranch Dressing. Made of a base of mayonnaise, sour cream, and buttermilk (I had regular milk), with a few standard fresh herbs, this dressing can be easily suited to your personal tastes. On my first attempt, the raw garlic was a little too strong, so I don't add as much on my subsequent trials of this ranch dressing. In any case, Devin deems this homemade ranch dressing as pretty close to the restaurant version and it is deliciously creamy and flavorful with the fresh herbs, so it's a keeper. It can be made thick as a dip or thin as a dressing, depending on the amount of milk (or buttermilk) used.

In any case, I highly recommend the Pioneer Woman's website for amazing photos and witty posts.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gentle Ben's

Located just down the block from the University of Arizona is a charming little area of shops and restaurants where one can comfortably take a stroll as the sun goes down.

Gentle Ben's is a brewery with lower level and second story dining areas. The dimly lit brewery had tealights at every table, creating a very intimate environment perfect for catching up with old friends and family (but makes for poor photo quality).

I tried the Tuscon Blonde which was a light beer of pale golden color with little head. It was a very tame beer with a light fruitiness, but otherwise did not have much else to it.

Whoa, this spinach and artichoke dip was awesome. Now, I haven't had that many encounters with spinach and artichoke dip, probably because the few times I have had it have only been mediocre, but I'm going to start ordering it more often based on my experience at Gentle Ben's. The appetizer was colossal, the large portion of spinach and artichoke dip was served in a warm, soft sourdough bread bowl and the crust was able to retain its tender crispiness. This is the first spinach and artichoke dip I have seen that included black olives, which were sprinkled on top. This incredibly creamy spinach and artichoke dip topped with tomatoes, black olives, and chives was made with parmesan cheese, cream cheese, Tuscon Blonde Ale, and onions and had chunks of spinach, artichoke. It was fantastic with the warm tortilla chips and the chunks of soft sourdough bread. Not only is the presentation bursting of dip, tortillas, and bread, but it was full of flavor.

I had the Grilled Veggie Quesadilla made with jack and cheddar cheeses. The vegetables in this quesadilla included mushrooms, red bell peppers, green bell peppers, zucchini, and onions and the quesadilla was topped with black olives, tomatoes, and green onions. The flour tortilla was grilled to a nice crisp and the chipotle salsa provided nice heat and flavor, but the quesadilla wasn't particularly spectacular. I longed for a thin, chewy flour tortilla handmade with lard, but there certainly was not one to be found on my plate. I was expecting a lot more from this dish, both in size and especially in flavor, than was actually presented to me, so I was disappointed with my entree.

Stepping outside of the restaurant after dinner, we were surprised to be greeted by the elusive Old Pueblo Trolley that runs down University and Fourth streets.

865 E. University Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85719