Monday, February 17, 2014

GYPSY DEN – An electric surprise in Santa Ana, California.



The menu is stirred to taste.  The ingredients are prepared fresh.  The bread and pastries and baked in house.  The atmosphere is coffee shop with a rather hip vibe taking you back to the hippy era. 

The menu caters those health conscious with a selection of food cooked fresh from the garden.  For those more into meatless delights there are several entrees that meet your dietary requirements.

Personally the difference between the Adobe Stew and the Veggie Chili is minuscule but that will not stop you from trying both.  The Adobe Stew is a vegetable stew with corn, zucchini, tomato, onion and green bean, topped with cheese.  The Classic Gypsy Chili is a vegetarian chili with soy meat, beans, onion, tomato and corn and topped with cheese.  The difference in preparation is only the vegetables used but the difference in taste is amazing. 

Yes there is meat on the menu The French mean is a twist on the classic Roast Beef Sandwich.  The seasoned melt in your mouth roast beef is sliced and heaped on a fresh based pretzel bun smeared with horseradish mustard. It is served with a side of au jus for dipping.

Did some one ask for Tuna?  The tuna is prepared with the sweetest green apples, crisp celery, sliced tomatoes and cheese.  You can ask for the tuna to be mixed lightly with mayo as every tuna sandwich is prepared from scratch. 

If you want something different and are weaning off the meat then try the Goat Melt.  Fresh baked wheat flatbread with melted goat cheese, red bell peppers, spinach and Greek olives.  It is a Mediterranean delight.

Using my logical I ordered the Carrot Cake for dessert.  What logic you ask?  Well since this place caters to the health conscious and all ingredients are made fresh I analogized that the desserts must be healthy too.  So on to the Carrot Cake made with REAL carrots, spices and light cream cheese frosting.  Yes Heaven is a dessert. 

The staff is always friendly and patient with me because I never know what I want to gobble down next.  The atmosphere is so under dressed although you might catch a glimpse of a judge or attorneys do not be dissuaded this place is more artsy than sterile.  The art work hanging on the walls are from local artists.  The Anaheim location has an open mic every Wednesday night.  Each location is different and I am particular to the Santa Ana location.

For atmosphere, fresh ingredients, friendly staff this rates 3.5 Forks Up.  But if you have high expectations of a romantic location or anything more than what it is then this place is NOT for you. It is what it is – comfortable.

Locations:

The Gypsy Den Grand Central Cafe
125 N. Broadway Ave. Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 835-8840

The Gypsy Den Cafe @ the L.A.B.
2930 Bristol St. Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 549-7012

The Gypsy Den Anaheim Arts District
211 W Center St Promenade Anaheim CA 92805
(714) 956-4400

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

SPIKES FISH HOUSE – Fresh fish in California what a concept!



Yes it is located in a strip mall but what does that really matter?  Have you ever heard that some of the best eats are found in whole in the wall establishments?  Well I have tasted more than one that fits that bill.

Their motto is “simply grilled” and it is just that simply grilled.  However you do have your option as to how you want it grilled, such as panko, Cajun or simply grilled.  You can even mix it up a bit with Cajun panko.  With a little help you can add a spice to your liking.  I seem to be stuck on the Chimichurri for the simply fact that I cannot always find that spice at restaurants.  This tasting sensation is prepared with fresh parsley, oregano, garlic, red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.   Prepared light with the oregano all the fresh flavors are happiness on my taste buds.

It is an art to grilling a fish and here it is a work of art.  The fish is not overdone but moist and light.  Try the Tilapia you will not be disappointed.  There is wide selection of fresh fish to choose from such as Tilapia, Basa, Salmon, Mahi Mahi, Snapper, Albacore and shrimp.  I can commit to the fact that the Salmon like the rest of the fish selections is not fishy. 

You pick the protein, how you want it prepared and served.  It can be ordered on the most delicious soba noodles I have ever eaten and mind you my day job is within the Asian community so I do know a thing or two about soba noodles. Do not think Top Ramen – its not.  If not on soba noodles you can have the fish as a wrap, burrito or sandwich.  If you want to be healthy then get it on fresh cut greens. 

For the traditional fish fry then give the fish and chips a try.  The batter is crisp and yes seasoned to taste.  The fish is moist and again not over cooked.

Taco Tuesdays exists and served Spikes style with pico de gallo, corn and cabbage in a flour tortilla.  For the calorie conscious then the lettuce wraps may be fore you less than 150 calories each but it takes two hands to eat. So wear a bib.

The atmosphere is comfortable and extremely causal.  You order at the counter and the staff will bring you your food.  They will also refill your drinks so you do not have to get up.  I recommend that you leave a dollar or two tip as they are more than happy to serve you like a full service establishment without a whisper. 

This place is good for a lunch or quick bite to eat for dinner.  This is not a date place so if you are trying to impress I strongly suggest that you take her/him to someplace special.  This is not the place which will get you past second base but enjoyable for quick bite before the movie or just to catch up with friends.  This place gets 3 Forks Up. Price is manageable, service is great and staff is fabulous.  It carries a very casual atmosphere.

Located at 30465 Avenida de las Flores, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688.
949-766-3382.  Next to Starbucks in the Lowes Shopping Center.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

EAT CHOW – Costa Mesa Mexican Flair.



This little gem is tucked away behind Newport Beach Blvd. in beautiful Costa Mesa, California.  The menu is a mix between Mexican, Asian and European inspired dishes but to be honest I fount it more Mexican inspired with a twist of surfer style.  The cuisine was healthy with fresh ingredients. 

The service was exceptional as I was pleasantly surprised to be asked if I would like an espresso or café while I waited for a table.  I took a Chai Tea Latte and I must say Starbucks cannot hold a torch to the rich creaminess ran down my mouth onto my sweater.  It was superb!  I would be amiss not to say that it was hands down the best Chai Tea Latte I had ever had.  But do not get me side tracked as food was just as excellent.

This establishment serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I chose to visit on Super bowl Sunday for brunch and I as not disappointed.  The café closed at 3pm to allow the staff to participate in the Super Bowl fun – that was a nice surprise to see an employer care about its staffs’ happiness.  A surprise given today’s economy when the little guy is left to the side lines.

Well I ordered the Quesadilla’s which was technically flawless.  Made with mushrooms, onions, pablano peppers, cotija cheese, a rich chipotle sauce and a crème the taste was an explosion of flavors each biting against the other ingredients?  The waitress said “it was different” and she was right the only words that come to mind to explain the taste are wow, bang and POW. 

The Chorizo Scramble was made with farm fresh eggs, chorizo, cheese and onions.  Flavorful yes but not the best thing on the menu that you could order as it was something that anyplace could scramble up.  It was not bad just not what I would order again.

The menu is quite extensive from Baja Style Fish Tacos to Truffle Mac and Cheese you will not be disappointed.  The recommended dishes are the Truffle Parmesan Fries, Fried Green Tomatoes and the French Dip rubbed with herbs and sea salt served with horseradish cream and on a toasted brioche bun.  If you want to tease your palate for dessert order the Vanilla Lavender Pot Due Crème.  It might not sound like anything but the fresh berry compote will surprise you.

The service is friendly and attentive.  The prices for brunch and lunch are reasonable.  Dinner selections are higher but will within reach.  This is one establishment that blends portions and price.  You will NOT be disappointed.  You can even bring your best friend as it’s a dog friendly establishment. 

4 Forks Up due to exceptional service, affordability and my taste buds are still singing to me.  Located at 1802 Newport Blvd, Costa Mesa, California 92627.  Open 7am – 9pm Sunday – Thursday and 7am – 10pm Friday and Saturday.



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

THE OLD SHIP – English Pub waiting to be experienced on the other side of the world.



The inside is typical English Pub from its dark wood interior to its old world charm.  But wait its located in Santa Ana, California not in England.  Although you could hardly notice the difference once you walk in as you are teleported to England and the patrons are all English.  The stout is strong and accent is cockney.  If your homesick for England then this place is must see.

The food on the other hand is unseasoned and rather bland.  However, that is typical English Style.  The fish and chips needed seasoning or rather a pinch of salt.  The fish itself was light and flakey.

I experimented with the Cottage Pie.  Now that was definitely different than Southern California traditional fare.  The broth was rich and made with lentils.  There was a little to many peas for my liking, although the carrots were sweet and added another dimension of flavor.  In its simplicity Cottage Pie is a stew, vegetarian or meat based baked in the oven covered with mashed potatoes.  Now this was well seasoned as the flavor comes from the broth.  The potatoes had a crisp top from the heat of the oven which really added the needed crunch.  I would have thought that they do Fish and Chips well but that was not the case it was the Cottage Pie which was the winner here.
 
Do not come on a day when soccer is playing as the place will be packed with transplants.  You may need ear plugs when Chelsea scores a goal.  The atmosphere is friend as you would expect it to be from an Englishman.  My waitress was all smiles even when she had to bend down to hear my order as Chelsea scored a win.  There are flat screen televisions throughout the pub and in order for it to be a family affair there is restaurant around the bar so feel free to bring the little ones.  There is nothing like the comfort of an English Pub for a family outing.  This is where the Americans got it all wrong.  Bars vs. Pubs – I will pick a pub any day of the week.

The food here is not healthy or seasoned to my standards but the Pub is hands down a winner.  So unfortunately it only gets 2 Forks Up but don’t let that deter you.  If you want a nice afternoon out in traditional English Pub style this is the place to go.  Remember to expect a packed house during soccer time.

Located at 1120 West 17th St, Santa Ana, CA 714.550.6700 - $9.00 daily lunch specials.