Friday, July 26, 2013

DPOV – A Different Point of View – A wondrous view of desert valley.

Where else can you obtain a view of the desert valley and food to accommodate the atmosphere add a few drinks and you have DPOV.  Located high up on the mountain it allows a different perspective of Phoenix Arizona.  This massive view of a restaurant is at the Tapaito Cliffs Resort.  Although it advertises as a family restaurant I find it more a romantic spot to celebrate a special occasion. 

The menu favors more of the meat variety but they can accommodate vegetarians.  For starters if you love pork then the Crispy Seared Berkshire Pork Belly would be a prize.  The pork is tender and moist and the chef here makes it sweet with roasted fig stuffed French toast and a caramelized peach reduction.  If clams are your thing then I recommend the lobster porcini broth and focaccia.  The clams are well shucked and lobster broth brings a creamy richness to the dish.

I always try to have crisp inventive salad to get my palette energized.  The chef has quite an imagination that works.  The Heirloom Tomato “Carpaccio” was an Italian’s dream.  It was made with Italian olives, artichokes, ricotta salata and a roasted pepper sherry dressing to kick it up a notch.  The Blueberry and Rocket Argula reminded me of a dream I once had in the Roman countryside.  Fresh blueberries, of course a smidgen of Arizona goat cheese, Marcona almonds, shaved organic beets and a sweet Cabernet Lavender Vinaigrette. Those are just a small sampling of what the chef has in mind when he elevates simple rabbit food to the next level.

Entrees come in all sizes from trout and chicken to a fresh hanger steak.  Recommendations and hats off to chef for the Vanilla Brandy Poached Maine Lobster served with Perigord Truffle Raviolis, charred summer squash and smokey lobster Buerre Blanc.  Just the right amount of truffle made these raviolis to die for with the sweet taste of lobster.  You may wonder how you can get fresh seafood in Arizona and I was wondering the same thing but it works.

Grilled Cedar River Filet Mignon was beyond tender.  What made this so special was the watercress horseradish crusted, white bean Truffle puree, summer greens and crispy seared sweet corn polenta.  The polenta was divine and moist paired with the white bean Truffle puree it brought the Mignon to the next level.

Let’s talk dessert and I mean dessert.  My favorite was the “Turtle” layered Ganache, pecan caramel and chocolate cream with butter pecan sauce.  Just roll me out the door.  It was by far the best dessert I had to date.  The Chocolate Hazelnut Brown Butter Brownie was good but it just was not the Turtle.

My hat off to Executive Chef Anthony DeMuro and Executive Sous Chef John Panza for making dishes that sang to me “eat me eat me”.  The food was fresh and so was the thought behind the dishes.

The staff was friendly my only negatives were there lack of selections for vegetarians they need to eat to and the prices.   Granted it was not al le carte which was a nice surprise but you do feel compelled to order an appetizer and a salad to begin with so that just adds to the overall price.   Like I said before this is not a family establishment it’s an event you want to share with that special someone.  So 3.5 Forks up.  You cannot be the view.

Located at: 11111 North 7th Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85020
Reservations: 1-800-947-9784 open for dinner only Tuesday – Saturday.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

SCRAMBLE – The perfect breakfast joint.

Healthy choices brought to life.  Scramble is a mix of healthy breakfast and lunch but if you’re a meat eater do not be discouraged as Scramble can mix the impossible with the possible. 

Try the Meat Lovers Scramble a combination of eggs, apple wood bacon, cured ham, sausage, and Monterey Jack Cheese.  It’s just not about the healthy choices you can make but the fresh choices you can make. 

The Vegan Veggie Scramble is fabulous and perfect beginning to a hot Arizona day.  Made with firm tofu, squash, zucchini, sun dried tomatoes, red onion, bell peppers and served with a sweet potato hash.  It was full of flavor.  It is amazing how much flavor there is in fresh vegetables and herbs. 

Is spicy more your thing? Then gobble down the Southwest Breakfast Burrito.  It is made with spicy chorizo, jalapeño cream cheese, cheddar, avocado and egg.  It hits the spot for heat.  Make sure you have a cold glass of water or milk to calm down the taste buds. 

Yes this place is even open for lunch.  You can order anything from Turkey Club Sandwich to BBQ Chicken Pizza.  99% of the menu is less than $8.00 so eat up and rest in this delightful establishment.  The staff is helpful and friendly.  Beware of the wait time because don’t be surprised by the line out the door but it moves fast. 

I give it 3.5 forks up oh heck with it let’s just give it a straight up 4 Forks.  The rest of the world watch out because Phoenix is catching up in the food department.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Old Ebbitt Grill – A DC Landmark

Food and history collide in this old world watering hole.  Established in 1856 it is originally a boarding house.  It is Washington DC’s oldest pub.  The likes of President McKinley is said to have lived there during his tenure in Congress, and Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and Warren Harding wetted their whistle their at one time or another. 

Through the years the bar may have changed location but never lost its original style.  Teddy Roosevelt supposedly bagged the boar’s head located on the main bar. 

The Old Ebbitt Grill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It still serves a full bar selection of traditional spirits.  You never know who you may be sitting next to for lunch.   The wait can be up to 45 minutes so be sure you have time to savor your dish at these prices you do not want to dine on the run.


 The Sautéed Seafood Salad includes a wide variety of seafood including mussels and calamari tossed with roasted red peppers and Portobello mushrooms.  The mussels were some of the best I have tasted, not gritty but well cleaned and fresh.

Looking for something heartier then I recommend The Good Burger made with jalapeno-onion marmalade.  The meat was freshly grinded and made to order not pre-cooked like some establishments to get you in and out quickly.  That is perhaps why the wait is so long everything is made when you order.

There is something for all tastes for instance the Margarita Shrimp Tacos to the French Dip Sandwich you cannot go wrong.  The dinner menu is more upscale with Grilled Rib eye Steak to Cape Cod Day Boat Scallops with citrus-mustard vinaigrette.  Don’t forget about dessert where you can have sugar rush with the Peach Melba Jar, poached Peach Melba sauce, vanilla ice cream, blackberries and whipped cream served in a mason jar.  Yes it is too good to be true.

I give it 3 Forks Up.  It is pricy and there is a wait no matter what day of the week so come prepared.  The food is splendid and it is one of those places you have to go to just to say you have been there for history’s sake.  I recommend that you go for drinks and appetizers to save some of your hard earned dollars.  Washington DC is known for its food but I find it quite pricy to eat out.

 Located at 675 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Kramer's Book Store & Afterworks Café – Is it a bookstore or Café?

Sometimes you can have good food mixed with a good read.   Barnes and Noble may have the secrete to a good cup of Joe but Kramer’s tops it with its invigorating menu for all discriminating tastes.  This place is smart as you wait for a table you can peruse the bookstore of real books not the kind you read on your Nook but real paper and type. 

This place stays open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturday the rest of the week it is open till 1am.  The food is not your usual late fare of hamburgers and fries but something a bit more ecliptic.  Wednesday through Saturday nights there is live music from local musicians.  The atmosphere is warm and inviting not trendy so no matter what your style is there is nothing to hold you back from engaging in the food and festivities.

 The food is inspired by the music which plays an ecliptic mix of gospel to good old time rock and roll.  The food is the same mix from New Orleans style to hip vegetarian dishes. 

If you come for weekend brunch be prepared to wait ½ hour but its well worth it.  Sample the Eastern Shore Crab Omelet made with generous portions of sweet Jumbo Crab drizzled with lemon hollandaise sauce.  If you’re looking for something sweet the Banana French Toast will be to your licking.  Yes I said licking. Pan-fried Italian bread soaked in egg batter stuffed with sliced bananas served with homemade fruit compote.  The warm walnut syrup is light and not overwhelming.

If you want something heavier then I recommend the Butternut Squash Ravioli or Fettuccine New Orleans made with shrimp, julienne chicken and andouille sausage.  The St. Louis style pork ribs are meaty and sweet.  Better yet try something totally out of the box with Gary’s Jamaican Curried Goat.  When I said this place is ecliptic I meant it. Nothing on the menu is straight TV dinner style.  All dishes are kicked up a notch to please the picky eater but there is something for everyone.

I didn’t even tell you that the bar is a mixologist's day dream.  If you can think it up they can mix it up from the old fashioned Hot Butter Rum to the Strawberry Basil Mojito.  I have been a mojito kick lately so don’t mind me just give it a try.  Remember this place serves food 24 hours a day on weekends so after your night on the town you can stop by for some energy burning yummies. 

I am not going to kid you this place can be pricey.  I dare to stay that all food items are in the double digits but its well worth the price.  The staff is friendly and helpful.  The food is down right delicious.  You have to try it once as where else can you read a book and tie one on that being your food bag or a drink or two before heading home and calling it a night.  This place rates 3.5 Forks Up.  The price is the main drawback for me. If I was one of the rich DC lawyers or politicians I would give it a 4 but my pocket book will not allow me.

Located at 1517 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20036





Thursday, June 6, 2013

CUPCAKES – Desserts anyone?

Ok, so I came back from DC 10 pounds heavier.  In know some of you are say where are the 10 pounds well check out the hips they got wider I can barely fit through the door.  But all kidding aside I was in sugar heaven.  I was on such a cupcake high that I had to try all that DC had to offer in delicious tasty treats.  So I guess first things first lets talk cupcakes because that was my downfall.

CRUMBS BAKE SHOP located at Union Station.  I admit I was addicted I came here more than once.  The cake was moist like it should be and was extremely large.  There was no “little” cake it was as big as a man’s fist.  The frosting was good perhaps not the best.  I would say the best frosting was a Red Velvet Cupcakery, which I will talk about later.  This place should be on Cup Cake Wars.  The cake was not dry like Casey’s Cupcakes is becoming since its win on Cup Cake Wars.  No take that back it should not be on Cup Cake Wars because then it just might lose what makes this place so special.  The staff were honest in their recommendations as to which flavors were there favorites. Mine was the red velvet.  The cake had that underlying taste of chocolate that makes it what it is.  The Blackout Cupcake was filled with fudge mixed with vanilla custard, perhaps that is why it was so moist.

Lucky me there are 6 locations in California in which to gain back all the weight I lost from dieting.  Hollywood - 6801 Hollywood Boulevard; Beverly Hills - 9465 Little Santa Monica Blvd: Calabasas - 4799 Commons Way; Glendale - 779 Americana Way; Larchmont - 216 N Larchmont Blvd; Malibu - 3939 Cross Creek Road.

CAKE LOVE located at 1506 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009-391.  All around just a really good bake shop. No place to eat inside but well worth the 2 undergrounds to get to.  You can tell these cakes are made with love.  Founded by Warren Brown a lawyer turned master baker.  He found his passion before the law burned him out.  Two Thumbs Up alone for following his dream.  His cupcakes were perfect not too big and not too small moist.  The frosting…well let me tell you his frosting matched his cake.  The coconut was to die for and I am happy to say he just did not sprinkle it on the cupcake but actually put enough of the goodness on so I could really enjoy it.  I am only sad to say that his shops are located in DC and Virginia I can only hope that he expands soon to Southern California as I will be the first one in line waiting for his delicious morsels to arrive.  Mr. Brown can I please have your autograph you are an inspiration.

RED VELVET CUPCAKERY located at 505 7th St. NW in the Penn Quarter.  A little friendly storefront shop serving up noticeable cupcakes.  The staff is warm and friendly. Once you walk into this bakery shop you feel the shear of joy of being there thanks to the atmosphere and staff.  This is certainly one of the best cupcake frostings I ever had.  The red velvet frosting I could eat right out of the bowl.  It was that good.  The texture was heavy but the taste was so light and perfect I cannot say anything negative. Frosting mixed with a moist cake and bingo you have a cupcake I would pay top dollar for only you don’t have too.  This place is nestled between a restaurant district so do NOT have dessert with your lunch or dinner just walk down the street and enjoy the fresh baked cupcakes.  Mine was hot out of the oven just cooled enough to put the frosting on – priceless.  Sorry only located in DC at this time but I hope they move out west!

So DC by far has the best cupcakes.  It beats the ones I have had in California and London.  All these CupCakes rate a Four Forks Up because I could not fit in jeans on the plane back from DC.  Each bakery has their own little back story and encourage you to try them out.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

PALENA – Food of the White House

Chef Frank A. Ruta was hired to work in the White House kitchen back in 1979.  I do mean “the” White House kitchen not just a white kitchen.  He worked under the Regan and Bush terms of presidency.  No matter what you think of their politics you have to give them credit for their taste buds.  Chef Ruta is a culinary god in my world.  Never have I eaten a meal where I felt sick because I just kept stuffing my face.

Palena has a style to appeal to everyone.  There is the market selling fresh imported and artisanal products used in the restaurant, as well as coffee, and ready-to-eat sweets and savories.  The Café serves up wood fire grilled specialties such as Wood Oven Roasted Rabbit Leg to Palena’s Wood Oven Roasted Chicken.  Do not fret they also have an array of pastas to chose from such as Mezze Rigatone Bolognese made with hand diced beef, pork and lamb ragout, shaved reggiano cheese.  The lamb meatballs are flavorful and moist.  Nothing here is what you find anywhere else in North America. Chef Ruta always puts a special spin on the ingredients.  

Now let me introduce you to the Dinning Room where the atmosphere is always romantic.  Reservations are required no matter what day of the week.  I was told that you need to make them 2 weeks in advance but since I was flexible on date and time they were able to squeeze me in on a Thursday night.  The tasting menu may be considered quite pricey in some circles but it was well worth the dent in my wallet and the calorie intake.  Three course plus dessert is $80.00 while five courses plus dessert is $100.00.  Those prices do include two wonderful pre-appetizers.  One of which was a delicious and rich Asparagus Soup followed by Asparagus Risotto Ball made with mint a real treat for your taste buds.  The Tuna Cruduto was fabulous a light taste that left you wanting more.  Although I will say that the Asparagus White Brouche with Hens Egg was a little too salty for my taste.  The Salmon Pamela with beets pasta was sweet and rich more a dessert than an entrée.  The menu changes monthly with the seasons and fresh fish so nothing stays the same on the second visit.  
You may want to pace yourself with this menu.  Although it is a tasting menu the portions are not small so do not think you will be exiting the establishment and heading for taco bell.  I left with a tummy ache because I did not pace myself and kept eating without stopping.  Well the more got to me and all I could do was grab a cab and go to bed instead of enjoying the wonderful nightlife DC has to offer from its clubs featuring the best of local musicians to the sites. 

The staff is wonderful and the chef amicable to change up choices from either menu due to dietary restrictions without a fuss.  My glass was never half empty it was always full.   As soon as you walk through the door you are greeting with warm smiles and inviting gestures. 

This place if Four Forks Up no and if or buts about it.  It is a delight to the taste buds.  The food is not cheap but remember where else can you say one of the White House Chef’s feed you a dinner you will not forget.  You will leave in a happy coma with the delusion that you are the President of the United States.  A most stop on your tour of DC and great for locals for special occasions. 

3529 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC


Thursday, May 30, 2013

THE HAMILTON – Ready to get your boogie on?

 Is it a bar, a restaurant or concert venue?  Surprise its all three and even more.  Its motto should be eat, drink and be happy because after walking in the front door and taking a seat that was just what I was “happy”.  No drinks to fill my belly yet just the warm inviting atmosphere.  The music venue has something for everyone from the amazing Paul Kelly to the Smithereens. Or better yet how about Grammy Award-winning drummer, composer and bandleader, Terri Lyne Carrington she will be spotlighting the venue on June 8, 2013.  June 24, 2013 gives way to Billy Cox Band of Gypsys Experience Featuring the original bassist of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.  You must remember who Jimi Hendrix was even if you were born yesterday.  This place has Sunday gospel brunch a fabulous event to indulge in food and music so start tapping your feet to the rhythm. 

I had passed by the Hamilton many times while in DC but I always thought I was underdressed.  The inside has beautiful wood and looks like a four star hotel definitely a place of yesteryear.  Once I walked in I noticed that there were young couples dressed in jeans and older couples dressed like a night at the opera.  It was interesting array of individuals and yet I did not know what exactly to make of it.  I was still estimating the price of the meal in my head and wondering if it was worth it.  I had already spent my allowance at the Palena a restaurant owned by Whitehouse Chefs so I did not have much change to spend on another meal.  So with interoperation I took a seat in the middle of a very grand and elegant hall.  Boy was I wrong!  This place had such an ecliptic group that it’s menu followed suit.  It not only served high class seafood but burgers, turkey melts, pasta and salads.  The lesson I learned never judge a book by its cover.  Burgers and sandwiches were modestly priced compared to what I am use to the average price was $11.00 yes I have had that $20.00 burger – never again!

So sit down and start with the Jumbo Soft Shell Crab it will make you wanting more.  It is served with spicy Asian baby greens, yuzu vinaigrette and spring garlic aioli the combination may seem a little odd at first but it totally works.  The first bite does not kick in till after so be causation the heat will eventually hit your taste buds and it is totally worth drinking all the extra water.  I myself do not like to eat something that looks like a tarantula but man it was done right.  Fried crispy and tender the crab was so sweet mixed with the spice that I just could not stop stuffing my face.   This place is also known for its District Wings with mumbo sauce but experiment a little even I tried something new.  There are many starters to choose from and price was reasonable.  The Soft Shell Crab was only $11.00 and the Crab Bisque was only $8.00.  So live a little.
The main course I stated way from my normal chicken and pasta and indulged in the Alaska Halibut.  It was served over a bed of pee wee potatoes, asparagus, artichokes and lemon caper relish yes I used the bread as a spoon for every drip of the sauce.  I was in heaven.  The Cape Cod Day Scallops are a sure bet also as they are perfectly seared.  The scallops are served with spring peas and shoots, pioppini mushrooms, scallions, and house smoked bacon lardoons.   I do not know why on Hell’s Kitchen it is so hard to get the scallops right, 3 minutes on each side people in a hot pan. That is all it takes to sear a scallop that even I can do it correctly.  Maybe I should try out for Hell’s Kitchen I just have one issue I do not like to be yelled at.   But I will admit when I was in London even when the Brits are rude they still come off nice, you got to love it.  I know I did.

Another thing I loved was the desserts at the Hamilton totally high calorie content but as I always say if it’s worth the calories “give me”.  The Hamilton is known for its Chocolate St. Louis Gooey Cake made with chewy warm moist chocolate cake, warm chocolate topping, a vanilla ice cream ball smothered in more chocolate and a chocolate ganache.  It was so rich I could only have a few bite but again that’s because I had two desserts!  Come on people if your going to do it to it right.  For my encore I had Salted Caramel Cheesecake a New York style salted caramel swirl cheese cake topped with cashew caramel popcorn and caramel sauce and you want to know why I came back from DC 10 pounds heavier. I blame the food and cupcakes!
Located at 600 14th Street NW, Washington DC near Metro Center this place a sure fire winner.  I give it Four Forks Up for food, service, atmosphere and pricing.  There was not anything I could say negative about the Hamilton and trust me there are many places that at least have one flaw but this place not yet from what I can see.  So the next time you are in DC give it shot you wouldn’t be sorry.  I do recommend a reservation especially if a good band is playing that night. 


Thursday, May 23, 2013

BEN’S CHILI BOWL – If President Obama can eat here so can I.

Hot dogs, chili and fries enough to give anyone heart burn but definitely worth the burn.  I usually say that phrase when working out but seriously its good stuff.  This is a landmark.  Situated in the heart of the University district this place has seen the changing of the guard.  From its roots in 1958 it was the center of the Civil Rights Movement.  U Street was known as the Black Broadway.  One of DC’s first Black Police Detectives converted this old theater into a pool hall.  In 1958 Ben and Virginia Ali changed it into a little mom and pop restaurant serving smokies. 

Back in its day you would not be surprised to be sitting next to Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald.  Since that time other greats in history have graced its door including Martin Luther King, Jr., Bill Cosby, Red Fox and President Obama.  So what do they know that the rest of us do not?  That not only is this little whole in the wall history itself it serves up a mean smoky. 

During the turbulent time of the 1960’s leading up to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assignation in 1968 Ben’s Chili Bowl was the only establishment allowed to stay open after curfew during the riots.  It provided the needed shelter and warmth for firefighters, activists and public servants.

Looking from the outside this place looks “chancy” at best.  Even walking through the front door might give you second thoughts to run for the door but I promise you it is a ray of sunshine. 

Ben’s is known for its famous Original Chili Half-Smoke which has now been renamed to Bill Cosby’s Original Chili Half Smoke.  As with the times Ben’s menu has changed to include Turkey Burgers, Veggie Dogs and Vegetarian Chili.  I will say the vegetarian chili does have a kick to it.  There is no disguising the flavor. 

This place takes cash only but they do have an ATM machine for your convenience.  Usually you can expect up to a 30 minute wait but don’t be dismayed because everyone waits for Ben’s.  This place is deceiving as there is whole another room hidden behind the front of the house.  If your looking for white linens and cloth napkins this is not the place but common on if the President can stuff his mouth with a chili dog can’t you?  The Turkey Dogs are huge and the chili no matter with or without meat is scrumptious expealidious as Mary Poppins would say.

This place is 3.5 Forks Up.  The atmosphere is beyond divvy, friendly service, and tasty dogs ok I admit I LOVED the chili.  It’s also very clean.  For dessert I recommend you walk three blocks to Love Cakes more about that later.

213 U Street NW, Washington District of Columbia 20009-444.  Open Monday thru Thursday 6:00 am – 2:00 am; Friday and Saturday till 4am and Sunday 11am – 12pm.  No breakfast on Sunday but please enjoy it the rest of the week.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

MITSITAM CAFÉ - Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.

Food, fun and culture at the Mitsitam Café you can get it all.  Admission to the museum is free like all of the Smithsonian Museums in Washington D.C.  My taxi cab driver turned me on to this café. Who would have thought that that a museum actually has decent food?  Not me so I was skeptical when he told me about it.  I went in with the lowest expectations as possible and was overwhelmed by the menu selections. 

Where else can you get snake, goat stew, bison burgers or how about red bean and alligator soup?  No where that I know of.  I strongly recommend that come before 12pm because the rush crowd even on Sunday can send your head spinning.  Given the fact that Georgetown University had its graduation at the National Mall that did not deter me as I believed that the parents would be taking their graduates to a fine dining establishment to get their party on.  I was so mistaken as the graduates took their parents to the Mitsitam Café for the experience of their life time.  Lucky for me I anticipated the rush and arrived Sunday at 11:30am buy the time I sat down the place was packed.  I was surrounded by proud parents and a sea of colors (the graduation colors of each degree).  The atmosphere was one of exhilaration.

But alas I digress; I should be talking about the menu and food.  I promise you that if these graduates knew anything it was definitely about food.

There are four stations of different tastes.  At The Great Plains you can experience Buffalo Chili, Chipotle Chicken Taco, or the Indian Taco which is buffalo chili on fry bread.   How about the Ground Buffalo or Duck Burger made with roasted pepper dijonaise, smoked tomato and aged cheddar cheese.  The burgers are moist not dry and pack so much flavor that you do not need any condiments and frankly you should be shunned if you do so.

If Buffalo is not to your liking then you can experience the Northern Woodlands.  You have your choice of Spring Corn and Quahog Clam Soup or Red Bean and Alligator Soup.  The Wild Rice and Watercress Salad became my addiction.  As the server was putting it on my plating I kept on saying “please sir may I have some more?”  I think he finally was tired of my rendition of Pink Floyd that he just gave in and piled it mile high.  Oh well, more for me.   The Hominy and Grilled Asparagus Salad I would not order again as it lacked flavor.  That made me sad as I love hominy.  So do not waste the calories and order it there is so much better sides to indulge in for instance the Maple Pudding is sweet and reminded me of home, Vancouver.  Rather what I love to call home in my reality.  It was sweet and moist and you must give it a nibble if only for the taste that takes me back home.

Now we move on to South America.  Pastel de Cobra sounds like rattlesnake but its not it is Stewed Goat Pie, thick and rich.  Perhaps chicken is more your stile then try the Pollo Tamal, Salsa de Man simply put chicken tamal with peanut sauce.  The peanut sauce is light and not to heavy to overwhelm the flavor of the chicken.  I highly recommend the Aji De Garbanzo which is sautéed garbanzo beans with ali peppers.  Warning eat slowly because the heat of the pepper will be your after taste but it is so good that you cannot stop shoveling it into your mouth.  The Sautéed Green beans with Pork was packed with flavor.

Now continue straight to Northwest Coast where fish is the king.  Start with an appetizer such as Macadamia Sunfish Poke and follow that with Cedar Plank Wild Salmon served with grilled corn and cherry tapenada.  The fish is not fishy tasting which again was surprising as this is a cafeteria but refuses to serve typical cafeteria food.

One more territory to cover and that is Mesoamerica a tex-mex flavor.  The main dishes consist of tacos, but I recommend the Rojo Yucca Cake made with black bean, tomato salsa and cilantro cream. Here you can indulge in nachos served with salsa, guacamole or carne asada. 

Each territory has a delectable dessert but I headed straight to the dessert try and tried Banana Cake topped with a light cream cheese frosting.  Every bite had a fresh banana flavor.  Do not be fooled by the lightness and texture this dessert expands in your tummy so tread lightly.

This Café deserves Four Forks Up for its innovation.  Your view will be a waterfall outside the floor to ceiling to windows.  However, I must warn you like any cafeteria your eyes can be bigger than your stomach and that includes the price.  It is quite pricey once you start exploring each area.  There are specials, so be aware of them read the signs above each section.  For example you can get a main entrée with 2 sides.  I recommend ordering a special.  I definitely would go back next time I am in DC and that will be shortly.  After lunch feel free to explore the exhibits you will learn something and the art will take your breath away.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

LUNA GRILL – Cheap healthy eats

Luna Grill looks like any other fast food establishment in Lake Forest however its claim to fame is healthy food a price you can afford.  These days anything that is healthy comes at the cost of your wallet.  For good food that does not pack on the pounds you can spend about $20 per person but that is not the case a Luna Grill.

The food is cooked to order and the menu consists of healthy filling salads to salmon, lamb and chicken.  Start with spicy hummus served with pita bread or kick it up a notch and try the Spinach Pie which consists of spinach, feta cheese wrapped in light phyllo dough.

If you want to eat healthy try a salad as your entrée they are filling and delicious.  You have a choice between the typical Greek Salad, Apple Walnut, Luna Salad or my favorite Mediterranean Chicken Salad.  It is made with Israeli couscous which was so firm and delectable I used my pita bread to wipe up the scraps.  The house made vinaigrette was to die for and yes I did drown my salad with it. So what my tummy was happy.  My problem is that I enjoy the salads so much I keep ordering them in fact I think I will be hitting Luna Grill for lunch today.  My mouth is already watering.

For something meatier try the Gryros Plate, Lamb Kabob or Cornish Hen on the Bone.   These dishes come with fresh green salad, basmati rice, pita bread, cucumber yogurt dip, carrots or grilled tomato garnish.  The kabobs are quite popular.  All the entrée’s are two meals in one so if you’re not that hungry you just might want to share.  If you are calorie conscious all calories are on the menu but indulge, you only live once and this is the place to indulge.

You order at the counter and they bring the food to your table.  There is a nice patio outside if you want to enjoy the California sun.  Once you walk in the door the aroma hits you and there are no second thoughts of leaving. 

Entrée prices run from $9.50 to $13.00 but as I said it includes everything.  You are actually getting 2 meals for the price of one.  They also serve al la carte, wraps and kids meals.  This place is great for lunch but if you want a quick healthy dinner you cannot go wrong.  To date there are only 2 restaurants in Orange County,  Lake Forest and the Spectrum in Irvine and 7 in San Diego County.  I recommend that you take the drive and stop by before everyone else discovers this little gem. 

This place is 3 ½ Forks Up.  The price is reasonable and the food is spectacular for semi-fast food.  Perfect place for lunch on a hot sunny day.

23625 El Toro Road, Suite A
Lake Forest, CA 92630
Phone 949-770-5862

Monday, May 6, 2013

CAFÉ MATINEE – Lebanese cuisine at its best.

Do not drive by this place without stopping in to try the delicious exotic foods.  First impression is that it is a whole in the wall tucked in a run down strip mall that needs a little revamping to bring it up to par with the other strip malls in the area.  However, DO NOT let that dissuade you.  This place is diamond in the rough.

For anyone who has never had Lebanese food you are in for a treat.  The staple ingredient is garlic and olive oil.  Mix that combination with fresh herbs and you have something special.  Most people believe all Mediterranean cuisines are the same and frequently interchange Lebanese food with Greek food.  The national Lebanese dish is Kibbeh, an emulsified paste of the freshest lamb and bulgur wheat.  Every meal is eaten with bread seasoned with Zahtar which is combination of thyme and sumac. 

When you first take a peek at the menu you might think it is expensive but it is not for all the food you receive.  Each meal comes with a huge salad, pita bread, homemade olives and pickled turnips.  But the star of the meal is the hummus pay the extra $2.99 you will not be disappointed it.  The hummus is homemade smooth and creamy.  Through all my travels through Europe including Turkey I have never had this texture of hummus before.  It actually has a buttery taste.  It was by far the best hummus I have ever tasted throughout my travels.  I highly recommend it to accompany any meal at Café Matinee.  I tried to buy a bucket of it to take home but the waiter turned down my request. Darn it!

For an appetizer I recommend Cheese Pie Zantar.  It is fresh baked bread topped with Lebanese cheese, zesty vegetarian mixture, and oregano and sesame oil.  It is my new addiction I took another home to indulge in while watching a movie. 

If you want something more hearty and meaty then the Kebbeh Balls are for you.  They are made with ground beef and cracked wheat ball stuffed with lamb, ground onions and pine nuts.  Simply delightful.  However, as with every good Lebanese restaurant they serve the traditional Stuffed Grape Leaves – vegetarian style.

Entrée’s consist of a variety of dishes including Chicken Shawarma, Filet Mignon, Lamb  Kabob and Falafel.  There are daily specials which are quite inexpensive.  The specials are around $10.99 and include everything but hummus.  I came specifically to try the Chicken Shawarma.  A good chicken shawarma is moist and flavorful which honestly is hard to do.  Most chicken shawarmas turn out excessively dry and just tasteless.  I was excited to discover that this was not the case. It was so moist and flavorful I thought I died and went to heaven.

The service is outstanding.  This is a little mom and pop shop so attention to customer service and quality of food is superior. I do not think there is anything that Chef Ramsay could complain about at this top notch establishment.  As we are running out of these gems I strongly recommend that everyone take a drive to Lake Forest and give this restaurant a shot.  It is well worth the mileage and your tummy will be happy.  This diamond is worth 4 Forks Up for price, service and excellent food. 

  23532 El Toro Road, Lake Forest, CA 92630


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

OLD VINE CAFÉ – Breakfast and Brunch is Served

An ecliptic take on your normal brunch café this place serves it up with spice and a twist of a winery as if you were in wine country.  Located at the Camp in Costa Mesa, California this place may have a 30 minute wait on the weekends but it is well worth it.

Breakfast served from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.  I recommend you come after 1:30 pm on the weekend for a shorter wait time.  The menu can get pricy but it worth the price to treat your self once and while.