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Oklahoma City (Pho Hoa and Cattlemen's Cafe Review)

Comments (2) | Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sorry for the lack of updates. Last week Abby cooked a great salmon dinner, but she never got around to blog about it. Maybe sometime this week.

We also had to take off last weekend and head to my old hunting grounds: Oklahoma City. My good buddy Jason was getting married and I had to go get in a tux and stand next to him while he did it. There's not much to get excited for in OKC, but there are some things that are well worth the trip: Vietnamese food, Oklahoma Sooners, cheap steaks, and fast food joints not found in Boston.

Before I get into the food, here's a rundown of what happened in OKC:

- Hertz you suck majorly, then again, you might be ok. First we get in line to get our rental car from Hertz and when a sales rep gets free I immedieately went to her. She tells me she can't help me because I'm not a gold club member. She points me over to the next sales rep who was working with a customer. OK, fine, I could understand if there were others behind me in line, but no there wasn't. So I go to the next sales rep and wait while the "gold club" sales rep sits and stares at nothing. Finally it's our turn with the "common people"'s sales rep and she tells me they are currently out of cars and will need to run out and get some keys. No biggie...except it's Thursday morning in OKC!!! Who would expect there to not be cars available in OK-freaking-C? Anyway, while we wait, we see some business people get in line for the gold club sales rep and sure enough she turns a couple of them over to wait in our line. Man, Hertz...you guys suck! Finally, our sales rep returns and tells us that there are no more economy cars available and that we'll have to settle for a Mustang. (Side note: I hate mustangs...always been a corvette guy myself.) This excites Abby and it's not a bad little car. Has a very good first step and handles nicely.

- OU was one of the few top 10 teams to survive and are now #1. I was hoping that an SEC team would be #1, but oh well. I'll be happy on Jan 9th if we are still #1.

- Jason's wedding was a blast. It was good to catch up with all my boys that still live in the area. But damn, weddings are mad expensive and way over blown! It's just one day!!!! Right now we are in the process of planning our wedding and it's going to be a long bumpy ride. Oh well, thank god for credit cards, right? (Side note: While me and some of the other groomsmen were goofing around at the rehearsal, two of the married men mentioned that this is the greatest day in Jason's life. To this I had a reply that probably wasn't appropriate for being in a church. But seriously, "greatest day of your life"? No f-ing way will I believe that. Every wedding I've gone to in the last 5 years the bride and groom have told me that they wish they could have done it differently, simpler, and cheaper...how is that a testimony that it's the greatest day of your life? You are dropping mad cash on a party to please your parents and random relatives you have never met. You are dropping mad cash to impress others and trying to out-do their weddings. Greatest day of your life? Not in my book. Is it a great day...possibly. It's definitely a good day. But it doesn't even crack my top 10 of great days in your life. It's well below becoming a father. Definitely below scoring the game winning point in the NCAA championships. For me personally, it'd fall well behind winning the lottery and buying Hertz out and firing the gold club sales bitch. God I wish I had F-U money...)

Pho Hoa

OKC is known for Vietnamese food. It really is. I took Abby to the one my folks and I would go to after mass every Sunday: Pho Hoa. Now Pho Hoa is a very common pho restaurant name. In fact, Boston has one. So is Pho Pasteur, Pho 87, Pho Vietnam, etc. Just like the food they serve, the names of these restaurants are simple and to the point.

Pho Hoa was better than any pho I've had in Boston. It's simply the best pho I've had in the States that was not made by my mom or aunts. It did not disappoint. The broth is extra special. When you order cafe sua da, they actually bring it out with the french press and glass of ice, not like in Boston where it's premade for you. The service is crazy quick and the place was clean...well clean enough for a pho place. I mean, you'll get the stray bean sprout on the floor and also some random flies. (Speaking of flies, I must have forgotten how many bugs there are in OKC. Seriously! There doesn't seem to be any in Boston. I mean, sure we get the occasional spider in the condo, or the cockroaches in the old brownstones, but we don't have wasps and bees and mosquitos and gnats flying around biting and stinging you. It was gross! I got sick during the trip and I'm worried it might be West Nile.)

Anyway, I give Pho Hoa a very, very strong 4 our of 5. (Also, I'm not sure if this is the right urbanspoon link or not, but whatever.) We took some pics, but it was after the fact. Also, you gotta love the OU pride in a Vietnamese pho place in OKC.

Pho Hoa on Urbanspoon

Cattlemen's Steakhouse

When we were in Vegas for the bachelor party, we told Jason's future in-law (who also is named Jason) that when he goes to OKC he should get some good, cheap steak at either Cattlemen's or Cimmaron. Well, all that talking we did really got his juices flowing to try some good, cheap OKC steak. However, the timing was hard. Being part of a wedding makes it tough to sneak away for a couple of hours and eat steak...especially when you are part of the family (or considered part of the family) and have to be at every function.

Late Thursday night, Jobby got the idea for steak and eggs, and after a quick phone call it was confirmed that Cattlemen's does indeed serve breakfast. Done and done!

We arrive and were promptly seated in the back room. Now Abby was the only non-minority in the group, and this being OKC, we assumed it was because we weren't white. (OK, we didn't assume that, we were just joking around about it and it was really the only place to accommodate 13 of us...but still, the jokes were flying.) The menu was incredible. Every steak comes with two eggs, biscuits, and hashbrowns. Jobby got it all started by ordering a starter of lamb fries. The Floridians we were with were scared by this. (They were also scared by the calf brains on the menu...I nearly ordered this just because I've never had sweetbreads in OKC.) The lamb fries came out and it seemed nearly everyone enjoyed having lamb testicles in their mouth. Taste like chicken!

Abby and I both ordered the breakfast steak, which came out to be a 5oz steak...I would guess a shell steak, but not sure. Mine came out a little cold, probably because it was the first one done and had to sit while the other orders came up. That's fine...it was still tasty. Not the greatest steak in the world, but for $8.50 and it comes with eggs and hashbrowns and biscuits and gravy, well damn, that a fine bargain any day. Other people got real steaks, like the ribeye and the NY strip and those looked great. As you can see, Abby was real excited for her breakfast.

To my amazement, I learned something new about Cattlemen's that morning. Apparently they serve beer all day long. And not just any regular beer, but their own microbrew. I said god-damn!!!! You better bet your sweet ass I got myself a 22oz beer at 10:30 AM in OKC. It's a good beer too. Much better than bud, bud light, miller lite, etc. Two major thumbs up for that!

Cattlemen's get an OKC 4 out of 5!

Cattlemen's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Braums, Sonic and Taco Bell

Braums is a regional fast food joint that is also a major dairy provider. Basically, they serve the best milk shakes in town (and so far in my eyes in the entire US.) They make some of the best fast food burgers around also. Sadly, they aren't the best bargain, but it's so worth it. Here's the wiki on Braums:


Sonic...well you all know about Sonic. You see their commercials and wonder where the hell is the nearest Sonic. Sure enough its hundreds if not thousands of miles away. If you ever have the chance to go, make sure you get the route 44 cherry limeade.

What makes Taco Bell so special in OKC? Surely you can get better authentic Mexican food in OKC, right? Yup, you can. Surely you can get Taco Bell in Boston, right? Yup, you can. So why is it special in OKC? Three words: Chili Cheese Burrito. For some reason I've never, ever seen this on any Taco Bell menu outside of OKC. Maybe in Dallas I've seen it, but definitely not in Boston. Hell, we even drove to one in OKC that didn't have it, only to drive to another one at 2AM and sure enough they had it. It's an incredible thing: chili cheese burrito from Taco Bell at 2AM.

Anyway, OKC was a blast. Now time to focus on our own wedding. (And this blog of course.)

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Greek Fest

Comments (0) | Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Other than the whole getting engaged thing, the one event I was looking forward to this past weekend was the Saint John the Baptist Greek Festival in South End. I love Greek food, not only that, I love how the Greek party and celebrate. For years I've been wanting to go to Greece and enjoy the food and the people. This will probably be as close as I'll get for a while.

Abby's brother and his girlfriend joined us on Sunday and we walked down Union Park to the church. We walk into the church and head downstairs and we see a long table full of what is sure to be Good Eats. Too many choices....I want it all. I only have $35 on me...would it be enough...luckily I see the Visa/MasterCard sign and let out a huge sigh of relief. We do a quick walk through. Past the long buffet line were the beverages: on the left was water and sodas, on the right wine and beer. Immediately in the next room was pastries on the right and coffee on the left. Also in the next room was an eating area surrounded with various Greek wares with music playing loudly and a couple of older Greeks dancing. Outside were some extra eating tables and the fire pit and the gyros. I was happy.

There was a long line for the gyros, but it didn't matter much to me. I watched the beef cooking on the rotisserie and watched as happy customers were eating nearby. Once it was our time to order we got a pork gyro for Abby and a beef/lamb gyro for me with extra tzatziki sauce. (As stated before in the blog, I love tzatziki sauce!) We paid and went back in and sat down.

Easily one of the best gyros I've had in Boston in my near 4 years of living here. Mind you, I've haven't had much Greek food here, which is both my fault and also the fact that their doesn't seem to be that much available in the Boston metro.

Abby's brother and sister went with a gyro as well, along with a platter of something else that I forget the name of. By the look on their faces, and the fact that they said so, I'd gather it was a good lunch.

After my gyro, I wanted to eat more, but I was stuffed. Such a shame. I did hit up the pastries and got a baklava for Abby and some rice pudding for me. Both were incredible and hit the sweet tooth spot perfectly. Our fellow eating guests also got a rice pudding and some baked pastry log thing that was very light and tasty.

How I wish there was a Greek Fest every weekend in my hood. Also a Spanish Fest and a Japanese Fest would be nice too. Any type of festival where we can get good ethnic food surrounded by the people who are really proud of their ethnicity and love sharing their culture with people like me, the t-shirt and shorts wearing loser that likes to mooch off other people's culture.

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Fall TV Review

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Seeing as there are so few shows I actually try to set my clock to and watch, and two of them started last night, I've decided to give a quick recap/thoughts/review of How I Met Your Mother and Heroes. Some spoilers may follow. (Speaking of heroes, well really gyros, we went to the Greek Festival in South End on Sunday and it was incredible. Will update with pics of the food later today.)


- what type of loser douchebag prefers star wars: a new hope to empire? seriously? i guess i should just be happy he didn't say return of the jedi was his favorite.
- i'm really getting annoyed with marshall's character. get a damn job loser! i mean, i own a condo and have a big mortgage and i'd be scared crap-less if i lost my job and had to depend on my teacher-wife with credit card issues to be the breadwinner.
- barney continues to carry this show. NPH might go down as the greatest actor ever.
- lily finally had some good lines.
- abby said robin looked like she lost some weight. guess having to compete with sarah chalke will do that to you. i mean britney looked like an absolute whale when she was next to sarah chalke's character last season.
- the waitress that barney hooked up at in the end had some huge knockers


- that hour long preview show was utter crap...but it was hard choosing from the preview show or big bang theory, which is utter crap as well (though big bang theory did have a funny line about community college that i laughed out loud at...probably the only time i've ever laughed out loud for that show)
- why does future peter need to run anywhere? dude can teleport!
- future peter does get props for finally using powers like a man: sending parkman to the sahara and forcing present peter into someone else's body
- with all this time travel crap, this season is going to get convoluted fast!
- the god thing was bothering me...
- mohinder continues to be the dumbest super genius ever
- the latina chick...other than her body, she contributes nothing to the show
- i hope Ando does gets all evil...i'd enjoy that, especially since Hiro is getting all "Jason Todd" on us and is more excited to wanna be a hero than actually being a hero
- the freaking "butterfly effect" crap? seriously? is jeff loeb still part of the show at all? i can't quite remember the exact quote from Barry Ween, boy genius, when he was talking about time travel, but it was basically that we humans think we are so important that we can make a little change in the past and it'll affect the future when really, you could wipe out whole cities in the past and the future will probably still be the same. or, you could even get to the Futurama episode that talked about time travel and paradoxes...i just don't have faith in the fact that the Heroes writers will be able to make this time travel stuff come off brilliantly as well as dumb enough for the average TV view (myself included).

the return of these TV shows also means that i return to one of my all time favorite time-wasters at work: reading the great rants and recaps from televisionwithoutpity! if you don't know, go to this website:


it's just great. very creative writers with a lot of snark and humor.

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Rockport (Woodman's and Roy Moore) (JP Review)

Comments (0) | Sunday, September 21, 2008

Seeing as OU and UW are both on bye week, we decided to do a day trip on Saturday. (Honestly, I probably could have stayed in and watched football all day, but Abby was getting a little burnt out on college football.) After flights to Miami and London did not drop into the $85 round trip range, we settled on Rockport, MA. Abby had gone here as a kid, camping in Cape Ann with her family, and she said it was a fun day trip spot.

We started with a trip for lunch to Woodman's Historic Seafood Restaurant in Essex. Their website is: http://www.woodmans.com/

Right as we walked in, we saw all these lobsters being prepared. I decided that before the day was over, I was going to have lobster. However, this place is fried seafood heaven so the lobster was going to wait. We ordered the jumbo shrimp platter, which comes with onion rings and fries and also a cup of their award winning clam chowder. (Whenever I see jumbo shrimp on the menu, I always assume it will be those freaking huge prawns that you get in Asian restaurants...dunno why, but I do.) The shrimp were some of the best fried shrimp I've had in a while. The batter was light and had some sweetness to it. The onion rings, which Abby remembered being amazing, were just that. Again, the batter makes the rings. Everything that was fried, was very good. The "award winning" clam chowder on the other hand was a bit of a disappointment. It wasn't that the chowder was not tasty, because it did have some decent flavor. It was just so watery. I'm used to chowder being a little thicker I guess. There were huge, and I mean HUGE, pieces of clam in there which made up for some of the wateriness. I give Woodman's a solid 3 1/2 out of 5.

After Woodman's we went to Hammond's Castle. I guess this somewhat eccentric rich inventor built a miedeveil castle for him and his wife. It is now a museum. A pretty kick ass museum! I won't bore you with the countless pics we took, but if you ever have a chance to go, it's well worth the $10 entry fee. The tour will last about 1-2 hours, depending on how much of the details you want to soak in. The view alone from the back of the castle is well worth the trip.

After a stop to climb some special rocks in Gloucester, we headed to Rockport. Once we arrived we noticed why the free parking with $1 shuttle about 2 miles outside of town seemed to be a good idea. We circled the main strip of Rockport a few times until we found a great, great parking spot. Once we were parked, we walked around looking at all the shops and sitting on the rocks.

As much as I hate to do it, I have to give props to Phantom Gourmet for letting me know about Roy Moore Lobster Company. I've seen Roy Moore on various episodes of the purple reviewer's show and was always intrigued. It's not really a restaurant, most people ordering their lobsters to go and there is no formal dining area. You basically order up a lobster, they steam it right there and after a few hacks with a knife you are given some butter and handi-wipes and that's it. There are seats in the back on their deck and a sink that you can use to wash up.

Now I'm not normally the biggest fan of lobster. I think it's expensive and too much work, preferring the cheaper crab. But I was in Rockport and at $12.95 for 1 1/8th pound of lobster seemed like a great deal. Plus, a place like Roy Moore, you just don't pass up.

Here's a pic of me with the lobster prior to eating:

We dig in and I was able to get the whole claw out without losing any meat. I dipped in in the butter, and BAM!!!!! Unholy goodness entered my mouth. That was when I knew that this dead crustacean was the tastiest of it's kind I will ever know. I quickly devoured the claw and went to the tail. After ripping it out with some of the yellow and green gooey bits on it, I dipped and again was just amazed at how good it was. The yellow and green gooey bits were even better that I could imagine. I opened up the carcass and looked for any more meat, picking at it like a vulture on a dead animal. It was incredible! Finally, we decided there was nothing more edible on the poor, tasty beast, we cleaned up and told the workers at Roy Moore how incredible our experience was. They seemed happy to hear that, even though I'm sure they hear it all the time.

Here's a shot of me after our lobster snack:

My thumbs up and huge giddy smile says it all. Roy Moore Lobster gets a 5 out of 5!

Oh, after we walked around a bit, we found a nice spot on some rocks away from others and I asked Abby to marry me and she said yes.

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Montien (JP Review)

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When I lived in Cambridge, we would always order take out from Montien in Inman Square. It was always good and consistent and never a bad meal. We were in the mood for some sushi and maybe some Korean or Thai and decided to go to Montien in Chinatown. We got there to a somewhat busy dining room, with the windows near the bar open. While we waited for our buddy Joey to eat, we looked over the menu. There are a lot of sushi rolls, from the basic Philadelphia and Spicy Tuna ranging from $4.50 to $6.95, to more special ones, like the Dragon or Montien Rolls that were pricier.

There was a special appetizer going on, a curry puff. Abby, who has an obsession with all things curry, wanted them so we ordered that to start. It was...ok. Joey and Abby didn't seem to enjoy them too much, but I thought the pastry tasted similar to something my mom makes, but the curry/meat inside wasn't anything special. The sweet and sour style dipping sauce that accompanied it seemed out of place, I would have preferred a saltier dipping sauce.

Our sushi came next. We got: Philadelphia roll, tuna sashimi, white tuna sashimi, crunchy tuna roll, spicy tuna roll, and salmon nigiri. All were fabulous and my favorite was the tuna sashimi and the crunchy tuna roll. I've read reviews online of Montien with critics complaining about how a Thai place should not serve sushi, that a restaurant should not be "pan-Asian" but stick to one's roots and somehow this makes the sushi suffer. I'll agree slightly to this...I don't ever want to see a Vietnamese place serve sushi ever. But, that being said, I've never, ever had a bad sushi experience with Montien and tonight was no difference.

We also ordered the Mango curry, knowing sushi wasn't going to be enough. Joey has a mango fetish and whenever mango is on the menu he has to get it. It was very good. I've never had mango curry before, usually getting yellow or massaman curry, and it was really good. A nice refreshing curry that still had some kick to it. The salad and rice side were good as well. We ordered extra rice on the side that never came, but the waitress took it off the bill at the end when we told her about it.

For our drink, we all got the big Chang beer. Not a bad beer.

I'll be back to Montien. I like the food and I think the prices are fair for what you get. I give Montien a very strong 3 1/2 out of 5.

Montien Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Steak Tips and Salad

Comments (0) | Sunday, September 14, 2008

For Sunday night dinner we had steak tips and salad. For steak tips, I made a coke marinade that was suggested by my co-worker Craig. I looked online and this marinade is known as the Newbridge marinade, named after the Newbridge Cafe and their famous steak tips. I've never been there, so I can't attest to how good/bad those steak tips are, I just know that the marinade is really good. The official recipe is to use Italian dressing, but I went away from that and made up my own. The JP recipe is as follows:

1 lb steak tips (cut into cubes)
1 can Coca Cola
4-6 tbls ketchup
2 tbls cumin
heavy pinch salt
multiple grinds of fresh ground pepper
2 tbls chili powder

1. Open the coke and pour it into a mixing bowl.
2. Add in 4-6 tbls of ketchup
3. Add in salt, cumin, chili powder and ground pepper
4. Whisk until mixed completely
5. Add in the steak tips and make sure all the steak tips are submerged in the marinade
6. Cover and let rest in fridge for 6-8 hours or overnight if possible
7. Cook over a grill or in broiler or however it's possible for you
8. Serve with a salad and enjoy

*** I really wish I owned a grill and had a place to grill outside my condo. I could have broiled these tips, I could have used my cast iron and cooked it the same way I normally cook steak...but no, I chose to use my Foreman. The foreman is a great, great tool. I'll prob lose foodie points for saying so, but it's true. The steak tips cooked up nicely on the foreman, but I know it would taste so much better using other methods. I just couldn't get the sear I like using the foreman...but, it was still a very yummy dinner.

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Grotto (JP Review)

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A co-worker of mine recommended Grotto in Beacon Hill to me a while ago. It was actually during restaurant week when my co-worker told me about Grotto and how he went and had a great meal and how the menu was not changed for the special week. When making reservations for Friday night, I looked at their online menu and they have a nightly fixe special: $35 for a three course meal of their entire menu. (Some entrees cost a few bucks more.) The menu looked really good, with various Italian classics like spaghetti and meatballs and calamari salad. After I booked the reservations, I decided to see what the general audience thought of the Grotto. Nearly all 4 star reviews. The only bad reviews were all during restaurant week. If you follow this blog, you know how it's tough to judge a restaurant during this city-wide celebration, so I took more credence with the non-restaurant week reviews. All talked about how good the food was, the large portions and the very romantic underground dining area.

(Side note: I understand that where our condo is, it's off the major streets of the South End, but when you call for a cab, and they tell you it'll be 5-10 minutes, you would still expect the cab to show up in 5-10 minutes right? After 15 minutes, we called the cab company again (not mentioning which company so we don't get blacklisted) and they told us that all the cabs in South End were picking up people on the street and that one should come for us in 8-10 minutes. WTF!?!?!?!?! What's the point of even calling if you are just going to allow your cabs to pick up random fare on the streets while people who called and have been waiting for over 15 minutes are left stuck? We said screw it, walked up the long block from our condo to the main street and sure enough we get a cab in less than a minute...no more calling from us, it's just way easier to wait in the rain on the corner than call. Anyway, by the time this cab got us to Beacon Hill (he had no idea where Bowdin street us...and I probably should have directed him, but was sick of being stuck in traffic so we got out and walked the last block and half) my phone was ringing and it was the original cab company calling to say they were outside. Let's see...you tell me 5-10 minutes and in actuality it takes 35 minutes. F-ing cabs...)

So we arrive to the Grotto and as we walk downstairs we see this very cute, intimate restaurant with really cool paintings hung on the exposed brick walls. There were a couple of 4 tops and 2 tops open, and we were seated immediately. We had reservations, and I'm not sure if it mattered or not...maybe it was the rain, or the early (7pm) dinner time, but I think we could have just walked in and gotten a seat. But I like to add up on my opentable credits, so no worries.

Abby's on a no drinking kick for a few weeks (thanks to weddings and various parties, we've been binge drinking way too much) so there was no need for us to look at the wine menu, which had a few wines by the glass and half wine bottles. Nothing too cheap though, but it's nice to see half bottles in a restaurant. It seems like a rarity these days.

The menu is a nice size about 6-8 items for both appetizers and entrees, and 4 or 5 dessert items. All "primi" items are $10, "secondi" are $20, and "dolce" are $9, this makes getting the $35 fixe a no-brainer.

I start with the fondue primi, the description is: Fontina cheese fondue, beef tenderloin, aged balsamic, truffle oil, portobello mushrooms. This was an extra $2 supplement, but it was well worth it. At first, I thought it would be slices of beef and mushrooms with cheese drizzled over the top of them. Instead it was an actually mini-fondue setup brought out with skewers to use to pick up and dip the meat and mushrooms. This was somewhat ironic because the other option for Friday night was the Wine Cellar in Back Bay, a fondue spot. The cheese was good and smooth, but a little bitter. The portobello mushrooms (I'm not the biggest fan normally) was excellent! Very "meaty" and and had great flavors on it's own, but when dipped in the cheese it created a delectable combination. The beef was well cooked and perfect on it's own. The "queso dip" added some to the flavor of the beef, but wasn't really necessary...however I dipped away seeing as I figured it was meant to be dipped. Once the meat and mushrooms were done, I had a lot of the fondue left over so the bread got dipped....eh...nothing special there. (Abby's appetizer was very good...a tomato and mozzarella salad...very light and tasty.)

While waiting for our main dishes, I suddenly realized my mistake in ordering. Looking around at the other tables, you get to see how tasty and delicious all the other items on the menu is, but most importantly you see how big the portions are. Therein lies my problem: I ordered heavy, heavy and heavy. Oh well, my bed was made, time to sleep in it. My gnocchi with short ribs come out and it looks great! The gnocchi was good, but not the best I've ever had. (That would be Monica Tratoria.) The short ribs shredded off the bone already and was tender beyond belief and melted in your mouth perfectly. I've been wanting to try braising some short ribs and make it at home one day and I hope I can make it taste half this good. The only issue I had with this dish was the Gorgonzola cheese: it was bitter and made the entire dish a little too salty. I ate for a whole 15 minutes without talking to Abby and I still didn't finish half the plate...incredible portions! I was getting full like no other and I still had my dessert waiting for me.

We had the waitress wrap up both of our entrees and we waited for our desserts. I had the melting chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Our desserts arrived and both of our ice creams fell off onto the plate and our waitress apologized for it, saying it melted off as she was bringing it out. I appreciate the fact that she did that. She could have easily not said anything, just assuming we'd not care that the ice cream already started melting and slid off the top of our pasties, but she took the initiative to let us know about it and that she was genuinely sorry it wasn't better presented. That's some points in my book. The cake was soft and delicious and the vanilla ice cream was the perfect complement. There are many places that have chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert, but not many really make it taste any more special than it needs to be...the Grotto however does, and it's a very good dessert. (Please pardon the photo, once it was delivered, we started eating immediately and forgot that we needed a pic for the blog.)

Overall, I'd love to come back and try other items on the menu. The service was good and most importantly the food was exquisite. I give the Grotto a 3 and 1/2 out of 5.

Grotto on Urbanspoon

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Beat L.A.!

Comments (1) | Saturday, September 13, 2008

I’m about due to post a blog / review. Since we’ve been traveling and have been super busy I’ve been leaving it up to JP (read: I’m lazy) to post since we basically felt the same way about the places and food we were eating.
The other day as I was walking to work, I noticed the amount of leaves on the sidewalk. How did that happen? How are the leaves already falling? Isn’t it still the end of June? It feels as though we just moved into our new home; how is it back to school and Halloween? How is it already football season? Didn’t we just win the NBA Championship a few weeks ago? Where has the time gone? Don’t get me wrong, I love fall. I love pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin beer, pumpkin risotto, apple pie, and football. Now that I’ve remembered how easy it is to bake an apple pie from scratch (http://www.myhomecooking.net/apple-pie/), I’ll hopefully have time to bake some more. So over all I’m happy it’s fall, but I’m still wondering how it showed up without even a warning. It could be due to the fact we had 6 weddings to attend this year (one in South Carolina, one in the Berks, one in Newport, one in Santa Monica, one in Oklahoma City, and the last one is in the Berks). These weddings have been gauging where we are in the year, as most of them have fallen on major holidays (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, etc). The latest ones are during college football season, the worst kind of sin in John Paul’s eyes. Keeping with the “where the hell has the time gone” idea, I can’t believe we’re in the “home stretch”. The last one we went to and the next one were/are the two I looked forward to the most; not because I liked the people any better, but because the areas we were going are known for food. One might be surprised that I’m saying Oklahoma is known for food, but if you’ve read JP’s earlier blog, you’ll know there’s a huge Vietnamese section, but even if we can’t make it there, we can (hopefully) go to Di Loan’s and have some of her pho. Yum!
While in Santa Monica & (BEAT) L.A. for Suzy and Co’s wedding, I was able to try various foods I had never had before, mainly, Pink’s, L.A. style tacos, and Bo 7 Mon. Everything was amazing. Who knew that sour cream on a hotdog would be so tasty? I might actually start doing that at home. The tacos were heaven. I’m glad they were authentic. They were also made with corn tortillas (my favorite!). It all tasted so fresh. I’m still trying to convince John Paul we need our own taco man…who lives with us. Bo 7 Mon was something I’ve never had before. It’s similar to hot pot where you are brought raw food and you’re allowed to cook it yourself. I enjoyed it more than hot pot. The beef was tasty as was the shrimp and other fish (they say it was catfish but I don’t believe it). After the meat or fish is cooked on the sizzling dome shaped cook thing, you assemble it into a rice paper wrapper with pickled veggies, bean sprouts, and various sauces. It’s very tasty and quite fun.
To rewind by a few days, back to Friday to be exact, John Paul had to run to Cau Tuan’s house in L.A. to help out his mom with some last minute wedding errands. All the kiddies went to the beach and I opted to help Suzy and Tina also pick up some last minute items. After finishing our errands we decided to eat lunch. Since we were in Culver City, Suzy suggested Father’s Office (http://www.fathersoffice.com). We find parking and head on in. Immediately we’re carded (BONUS!); the bouncer explains since they’re a bar at all times, they card everyone. Oh, so it’s not because you think I look younger than 21? Dang…
We sit down outside and after a few minutes realize we’re supposed to order up front. We head up front and order. Suzy explains they give you a lot of food so we settle on 2 cheeseburgers and a basket of sweet potato fries. I’m not normally a fan of sweet potato fries, but when the other two women you’re with are a bride the day before her wedding and a pregnant woman, you’re basically doing anything to keep them as stress-free as possible. Not that me wanting regular fries is the end of the world, but it’s little things people. Tina ordered a non alcoholic drink (root beer I believe) and Suzy and I ordered a local Hef.
We decide to sit inside and find a seat in a side area. We chat, watch some ESPN, and wait for our food. It takes a while for our food to come out, but that’s okay since we munched on some Chex Mix and pretzels while running errands at the Target down the street. Once our food comes out I notice the burgers aren’t huge per se, but they sure do look pretty. Our fries are there too. They show up in an adorable mini deep fry basket. Super cute! Suzy said they sometimes come out in little shopping carts too. Again, super cute! We dig in. Heaven. The burger is perfectly cooked, the gruyere is melted and super tasty, and the brioche bread is a lovely touch. I try a sweet potato fry. Oh wow. Seriously. Are they always this good? If so, I’ve been missing out for years. They’re accompanied by a dip, it’s some sort of aioli. Shoot. I’m so kicking myself for not eating these before.

We finish our food and there is one half of a cheeseburger remaining, along with a handful of fries. Better not waste the food so we get it to go. They give us a Chinese food takeout box for our leftovers. It barely fits the food, but we manage. Sadly, there’s no room for the deep fry basket. Stealing one of those will have to wait until next time.

I give Father’s Office 4 out of 5 stars.

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Fried Catfish Strips With Cajun Spicy Tartar Sauce

Comments (0) | Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Since I still had the deep fryer out, I decided to use it to make dinner. For some reason I had a craving for shrimp or catfish. I went with the catfish and wanted to make it with a lot of cajun flavors with some kick. Here are the ingredients (again, I don't know how to measure so these are eyeball estimates) :

1 lb boneless catfish fillets
2 eggs
3 tbls habenaro hot sauce
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Cajun powder
Chili powder
Salt and Pepper

1. Cut the catfish fillets into long strips and pepper and salt both sides.
2. In a bowl, mix up the eggs and habenaro hot sauce
3. Put all the catfish strips into the egg mixture and make sure they are all covered and coated. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
4. In another bowl, mix up the flour, corn meal and 2 types of bread crumbs. Add in as much cajun and chili powder as you wish.
5. Turn on your deep fryer and set it to 365 degrees.
6. Take the catfish strips one at a time out of the egg mixture and place into flour mixture until covered and then place on a plate or baking sheet to rest
7. Once oil is hot, fry the strips 3 or 4 at a time for 5-7 minutes...basically until golden brown and delicious.

Abby made the cajun spicy tartar sauce that we had with it. I'm not sure what the recipe is, but she found it online and you can to with a quick search.

We had the catfish strips with some corn (again, a great year for corn!) and it was a pretty decent dinner.

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