I've been asked a couple of times why I don't give "more love" to my neighborhood? To be perfectly honest, I hadn't been too inspired by places in my neck of the woods. But over the last year and a half or so; things have changed for the better...who'd have thunk that we'd go out for a New Years dinner; a tasting menu even....right down the street. So when Candice mentioned that Bitter Brothers was having an Anniversary Dinner; I decided to go for it. And I'm glad I did as it was quite an enjoyable event. I'd been to Bitter Brothers a couple of times, but always regret not visiting more often. So this was a nice way for me to get reacquainted.
There were just 50 seats available at $70 a crack, and things started fairly promptly at 5pm. Though at first it was just folks mingling. I'm not really a super social kind of guy so I just kinda took things in; perhaps a bit too hard, because I missed my chance at the amuse; a version of Lumpia Shanghai. That's ok; I did enjoy the Czech Pilsner. Crisp and refreshing, it did remind me a bit of what we had during our time visiting the Czech Republic.
What might be my favorite dish of the night was the Porcini Dusted Cauliflower, I loved how all of the flavors went together so well; from the hazelnuts, to the celeriac, to the slightly acidic, yet very tasty homage to celery a la Grecque.
The Missus surely would have loved this dish by Tim Kolanko. This was served with one of my favorites here; the Brotherly Love Dunkelweiss.
Phillip Esteban's dish was an eye catching version of the rolled and tied chicken Ballotine. Instead of forcemeat, this was stuffed with a black garlic based mixture. I'm not a big fan of items on the plate without a purpose; and those dollops of what I'm assuming is sort of a Nasturtium pesto really had no flavor. And the buttermilk leche de tigre added no real acid to the dish. The chicken itself was a bit on the salty side; but the black garlic paste added a nice amount of sweet, complex tones, which really balanced things out. This was paired with the Black Sheep Coffee Porter on Nitro.
Ami Cisneros's dish was a beautiful version of....well, Carnitas.
Pressed and nicely seared; perhaps a bit too lean for my taste, it was nicely seasoned. The kabocha puree was quite rich, creamy, and slightly sweet. To be perfectly honest, I really loved the pear with chamoy and tajin. It went so well with the Prickly Pear Family Tart Berliner Weisse, which almost tasted like a version of agua de sandia (watermelon agua fresca) paired with this dish. I even enjoyed the slice of black radish which was so crisp and had some of the pepperiness toned down....I'm thinking it must have been soaked in ice water for a bit before being dried.
My next dish was a sentimental favorite; since it was created by the one and only Travis Clifford; remember Travis likes food? Anyway, it was nice to see him cooking again....it's been a while since I've tasted his cooking. Funny thing; I've made a career out of being quite non-descript. I'd been to BB a couple of times and had actually spoken to Travis, but I'm fairly certain he doesn't remember me. I kind of like it that way.
Nicely blackened prawns; loved the "Travis made" Andouille, great texture, good smoke. The flavor of the grits, while they had hardened by the time it hit the table had a nice rich and sweet flavor from the marscapone. All of these big flavors were tempered with the Big Brother Double IPA.
I'm not a big dessert/sweets guy and was worried about the Espresso Crème Brulee made by "Bitter Bill" Warnke. I shouldn't have, this was not too sweet, but very nicely balanced with mild coffee tones.
Paired with a nice bittersweet chocolate and espresso sable, which was just perfect. Very good, grown-up flavors. This was paired with the deceptively boozy (only 5.2 abv) Barrel Aged Little Sister Russian Imperial Stout which made it a nice way to end the meal.
The Barrel Aged Little Sister Russian Imperial Stout is BB's first ever bottle release; so I bought a couple. The Missus will love it. And I'm sure to be there the next time BB has another "Family Dinner".
Bitter Brothers Brewing 4170 Morena Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
mmm-yoso!!!, one of many food blogs on the internet. This one is written by three friends, two of them (Kirk and Ed (from Yuma)) are too busy and/or tired to post today, so Cathy is writing a short post on this gloomy, wet and cold day. If you've been to East County, you might recognize the symbol.
It looks like it was taken off of the original Mary's Donuts in Santee, which closed almost a year ago after being in that location more than 30 years; the new Santee location has it. The newest location is in Lakeside, near the end of Highway 67, on Maine Street; that's a new donut symbol. cc was there at the Grand Opening! Yes, these photos were taken over the December holiday season; the windows were decorated and red and green frosting was used in a festive way. The selection of donuts is tremendous, fresh and, as always, tasty. (That giant one, next to the apple fritters on the top shelf is a 'Birthday Donut', $10) At the cash register, I noticed signage regarding sandwich choices. Not just donuts for lunch! The sandwiches are $6.99 and this turkey with cheddar choice was really good; a good amount of high quality thinly shaved quite flavorful turkey. Standard toppings of lettuce, tomato, mayo, no onion. It was served on a fresh, toasted croissant, probably from Costco. I like basic, good quality sandwiches.A ham and egg breakfast sandwich, with lettuce and tomato and mayo really hit the spot. Again, a good amount of high quality ham along with the freshly scrambled eggs. A great meal. Of course, we came here for donuts. My favorite, a French cruller ($0.95), with green frosting (just to be festive; if blindfolded, I would not know if it were plain glazed or frosted, much less color) and the ever popular, quite large, quite apple filled, apple fritter ($1.90), which was shared and taken home to be shared again later.
A great, local place. Stay safe!
Mary's Donuts-Lakeside 10101 Maine Avenue Lakeside, Ca 92040 (619) 334-5272 Always open
You are about to start reading another post of mmm-yoso!!!, a food blog. Today. it's written by Cathy; the guys are busy.
Many of our days start out with some sort of appointment in various parts of the County, then taking random roads home and stopping either if seeing interesting signage or many parked cars at a storefront. That's how The Mister and I noticed Su Pan Panaderia, a Mexican bakery located next to a gas station, sharing a parking lot with both a Liquor and Auto Parts store, on El Cajon Boulevard, West of 54th. There are not many spaces in that parking lot and we've ended up parked across the street. Walking inside, the cash registers are directly in front of you. An ever changing menu board behind those shows breakfast and lunch choices, made to order in the kitchen. There are some items on the counter and pre-made sandwiches in the refrigerator. In addition to the refrigerated bakery items, the fresh shelves, to the left, are constantly being filled. These were some recent purchases: Different combinations of cake, crusts and cookies combined with chocolate, cream cheese, jelly, fruit, nuts, cream and/or butter based fillings. Everything here has an extract, essence, aroma, flavor!
For example, this large double cookie is layered with a buttercream and chopped peanuts- a sort of home made peanut butter filling ($1.59). That large, round 'pastry' on the second tray above is essentially two round vanilla flavored cupcake tops, slathered with a buttery buttercream (not sweet if you lick that in between portion)which is also frosted on the outside then rolled in sugar ($1.29). It's delightfully soft cake, sweet only because of the sugar crystals and so wonderfully perfect in its butter-vanilla simplicity.
Back to the menu board and cash register area.On the counter there's a tray of fresh and flaky empañadas ($2.49). The cream cheese with jalapeño is always a good choice (although the tuna empañada is really good, especially when warmed). The most expensive breakfast burrito choice is the 'Hash Brown burrito' ($5.49) which has everything in it- eggs, cheese, hash browns and sausage, bacon, ham and chorizo. Everything. Very good and very large.
On more than one occasion, a ham and egg bolillo (($4.99) is a breakfast choice. The fresh baked bolillo bread is cut in half and a thin layer of beans are spread. Cooked egg, pan fried ham chunks, rectangles of Cotija cheese avocado slices and canned jalapeño slices complete this large enough for two breakfast.
Su Pan Bakery 5006 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego 92115 (619)287-2078 open 5 am-10:30 pm daily Website
In December, when a cart of fresh baked good were being transferred to the cabinets, a deformed walnut cupcake one was spotted and the nice worker asked if we wanted it. Excellent flavor, crunchy walnut pieces and now a regular choice.
mmm-yoso!!! is a food blog, it's been around since 2005. Kirk, Ed (from Yuma) and Cathy continue writing about the mundane as well as the interesting meals they've consumed in and around San Diego as well as other places in the world. Today, it's Cathy writing.
About three years ago, businesses that baked customized pizza in wood fired ovens in about three minutes were a big deal and about eight different franchises were located in the San Diego area. I wrote only about Pieology and Social Life (which has since closed). It's not that I didn't like those sort of places: they were so similar in execution, product and pricing that there was nothing unique. However, now that the chaff has cleared the wheat and only three other franchises plus Pielogy remain, there has been some refining. The 'system' is the same, walk up, order (choose a sauce, cheeses and meats and other toppings) and pay; get your own utensils and beverages. Your completed order is brought out to the table.
Pricing has increased only slightly (basically, any pie with an unlimited choice of toppings is $8.45).
One of the 'Pieologists Favorite Pies' available is 'Alfredo's Alfredo' (this creation of preselected ingredients also shows the highest calorie count of 1080) Olive oil, three cheese alfredo sauce, parmesan, mozzarella, garlic, mushrooms, artichokes, fresh basil, grape tomatoes (then we added on bacon and olives, because at that point it didn't matter). This pie was excellent, rich and flavorful and enough for two to share. A 'new' item is a custom salad ($9.25). (You can grab a classic or caesar, already made, for $8.45 or a pre-made side salad for $3.95). In this case, you select your greens, cheeses and meats, fresh produce and toppings. We asked for a few of each of the greens (Romaine, spinach and mixed), Feta cheese, bacon and then some artichokes, green & red peppers, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, shaved parmesan and a candied walnut topping. The dressing was the creamy Italian. The bowl is very large; I used my longstanding 'airplane salad' trick, taking off the lid pouring the dressing over and then replacing the lid and shaking the container instead of trying to delicately mix the packed ingredients. This, again is large enough to share and , of course, very fresh.Another visit, The Mister ordered a 'Classic Margherita' (because the base is olive oil, mozzarella, parmesan, fresh basil and grape tomatoes) but then added mushrooms and sausage, to make the pizza unique. This was also a very tasty pie. The thin crust is just right and properly proportional for the ingredients.
A good choice for whatever craving you might have. Hope you are staying dry!
Pieology (The Study of Custom Pizza) 5575 Balboa Avenue San Diego, CA 92111 (858)565-0600 Website
Ed (from Yuma) shares a fancy omakase dinner with Tina – and now with you, dear reader. Tomorrow Kirk or Cathy will share something different.
It was a dark and stormy night, after a dark and stormy drive over to San Diego, so Tina and I were happy to walk into the clean well lighted space that is Kokoro (website). We'd made an early reservation so Ishito-san had no other customers at the bar when we arrived:
Both Kirk and I have posted about omakase experiences here, so Tina and I wanted the top-of-the-line omakase and ordered it three days in advance.
The meal started with a simple looking mushroom appetizer – enoki and sliced oyster mushrooms in beautiful little bowls:
That pic doesn’t show much food, but the shrooms were lightly sauced and had an earthy/woodsy flavor. Nice modest beginning.
Then bowls showed up with a large oyster cut into three pieces, flanked by little pieces of dark seaweed, and topped with a blast of ginger:
The concentrated flavor of the ocean.
About this time I ordered 6 oz Kikusui sake:
It was cold, smooth, and altogether pleasant.
Our sashimi plate was a thing of beauty:
The maguro was exceptional and deeply flavored. The uni was good, of course, and the tako had a nice balance between flavor and chewiness. Even the scallop, which was pretty bland really, tasted fresh and tender. I should add that the wasabi was quality as well, hot spicy with bits of real wasabi throughout.
Here's another view of the plate:
Ishito-san was proud of the white fish selection. "Five different fish, all different flavor and texture." The hamachi was what you'd expect, fresh tasting, firm, and rich. The hirame (right behind the octopus) had firmer texture and deeper richer flavor than expected. I'm pretty sure that the slices were endawa, dorsal fin muscle, which I have not had since Wal Mi Do closed. Both Tina and I enjoyed the range of flavors, textures, and richness among the five.
The last item on the platter was maybe the most amazing of all:
I have never had or seen two toned tuna before. And yeah, real good and real rich.
It was time for a change of pace, so we were pleased to see a small covered bowl set in front of each of us:
Inside was a deceptively simple looking clear broth soup:
The cube was a piece of crab and seafood cake, mild and tender. The green herb was very strong flavored and contrasted nicely with the cake. But the key to the whole dish is the thin golden brown oval on the bottom of the bowl – a slice of bottarga – salted, cured, pressed, and aged mullet caviar. When you bite into it, it dissolves into a myriad of minuscule fish eggs.
The next course was one of our favorites, a complex autumn/winter stew that seemed perfect for a rainy evening:
The two main ingredients were pieces of crunchy fried fish and thick succulent tender slices of beautifully braised daikon. They were accompanied by gobo root matchsticks, fried slices of lotus root, a couple of candlenuts, and a few salmon eggs. The flavors, textures, and colors of the stew made this a big winner for both of us.
At this time, our hashi were replaced with new ones. “Why?” crossed my mind briefly, and then an amazing beef salad was set before us:
The steak was exceptionally tender, deeply flavored, and rich. The greens with their fresh and sometimes bitter flavors provided contrast. And the yuzu based steak sauce/salad dressing went with both, its tang balancing the rich meat. "That's wagyu beef from Japan,” Ishito san said, “Grade A5, the best." We believed him. It was good.
Then Tina and I each got a couple slices of fried monkfish accompanied by ponzu:
Okay, but not especially memorable.
The sushi course was the last savory part of the meal. It looked pretty ordinary:
However, it was quite good. The anago was sprinkled with coarse salt and was fresh and meaty tasting. The saba had been lightly cured so we could taste real mackerel flavor. The unusually large ebi, never a favorite sushi of mine, was wonderful here. We were told to use no shoyu, which seemed odd, but the shrimp were so fresh, meaty, and sweet that Ishito san wanted nothing to mask that taste.
The meal concluded with a choice of Italian style ice creams or sorbet. Tina loved her raisin and vanilla bean ice cream:
And I was blown away by the green apple sorbet:
Overall a great meal.
Kokoro, 3298 Greyling Dr. Ste. B, San Diego, CA 92123, (858) 565-4113
T.P. Banh Bao 3 quietly opened on Christmas Eve. I decided to drop by right after the Christmas Weekend to bring some of the Banh Bao to work. So I grabbed Calvin and we headed off.
This is the third shop of the T.P Banh Bao family, the first opened in Houston, which is where I first heard of the place from "FOY" Xiāngjiāo. The second location opened in Garden Grove. And now we have this shop in the rather odd location on Camino Ruiz in Mira Mesa. Go figure. And no, that's not my Ferrari parked in front of the place!
There are 17 varieties of Banh Bao available. For an extra $2.50 (minimum 3 Banh Bao) you get the Banh Bao of your choice fried up. Now I've had Banh Bao, Charsiu bao, Manapua ( both the classic version and baked), Siópao, Hmong Galapao, Thai Salapao and even Samoan Keke Pua'a. Even different versions of Chinese Baozi; in the North, the dough is not sweet, the Missus's preference. I grew up eating manapua and siopao; heck, I remember the "manapua man"! But I'd never had fried banh bao.
Anyway, we got the #1, pork, sausage, and egg fried and wanted to get the Pork and salted Egg, but they were out. So we decided to just get the Regular Pork, egg, and sausage version steamed as well. Just so you know; they'll steam your banh bao to order, so it means a short - 10 minute wait, so be prepared. So steaming banh bao in tow we headed back to the office and busted it out on the back table.
This was pretty good; the exterior crunchy, the dough a bit less fluffy than I prefer, but fine. Not too sweet, the filling very moist and soft. Nice porkiness, really couldn't make out any sausage, and the banh bao signature egg yolk was rather dry. As with most Banh Bao, the filling to bread ratio sided on the meat. Frying makes this rather rich and one is enough for me. This was much better than the steamed version and folks in the office really enjoyed this.
This was on the gummy-soggy side, though the filling, like the fried version was very moist. The texture of the dough made this less pleasant to eat than the fried stuff and there were 3-4 of these still left at the end of the day.
Hoping for a better selection and going into the office on New Years eve, I stopped by to pick something up for breakfast.
I was determined to get the pork and salted egg banh bao. The young lady working was very sweet and even marked the box to let me know where each banh bao was situated in my container.
Nice touch, yeah?
Unfortunately, the pork and salted egg banh bao had suffered from some leakage. The bottom was just mush and when I removed the paper at the bottom it just all came off. The filling was a bit on the dry side; probably from all the "good stuff", the juices leaking away. This is a very "egg forward" in terms of taste and might have been quite good if not for the poor handling of the dough.
I'd take a pass on the BBQ Pork.
While the dough was nice and fluffy on this version and the meat to bread ratio quite good, you can easily see how dry this was. Also, this really lacked the nice sweet-salty-savory tones that make for a good BBQ pork filling. The texture was mealy and dry.
For some reason, I decided to try the vegetarian Banh Bao. Now this one had a greater bread to filling ratio. The textures of the filling; mushroom and so forth was fairly pleasant, but like most vegetarian baos, the overall flavor was on the bland side, to the point that the sweetness of the bread over shadowed the filling. The dough on this was nice and fluffy.
At this point I thought this enough, time to do a post. But my good friend "YummyYummy" sent me a copy of the press release on the right. Wow, talk about a mea culpa! After reading, I forwarded this to CC, who had recently also tried out TP Banh Bao. I then read Kirbie's post and decided to give them another try.
After all, I really like the woman who runs the place, she's very friendly, and the folks working for her, who seem to be a bit lost at times are also very nice.
I ended up getting three pork, salted egg yolk, and sausage Banh Bao, fried. You can tell the difference with these.
Notice how the filling is nicely centered, that golden orb had a nice concentrated "yolky" flavor....now I'm not a big fan of moon cakes; but here, combined with pork, surrounded with slightly sweet dough, with a nice crust around it....now this was good, if a bit rich for me. One was all I could handle.
I also ordered the BBQ Chicken and Taro and Pork Banh Bao as well.
I have never been a big fan of chicken in Bao and that still stands.
This was like an even blander and drier version of the BBQ Pork Banh Bao.
The Pork and Taro Banh Bao was not bad. You can tell how much better made and steamed these were compared to my previous visits.
This might be a bit too "mystery meat" in texture for some. But the taro adds heft and balances out the porkiness of the filling.
As things stand, I've had more banh bao in the last three weeks then maybe in the five or six years! I think it's time for a break from banh bao for now. My recommendation is to go with the fried versions (call ahead). I think they'll be great for groups of folks or parties....so long you eat them fairly quickly. I'm also glad that I usually try a new place a couple of times before posting. In this case it paid off. I hope they keep on improving.
T.P. Banh Bao 3 11271 Camino Ruiz San Diego, CA 92126
Funny thing, this post had me reminiscing about the neighborhood manapua man, who used to carry two old shoyu tin cans on a bamboo pole over his shoulder, full of manapua, pepeiao, and pork hash, yelling out "peh-peh-yao...man-a-pua" walking down the street. Eventually these folks graduated to trucks.......and these days, the Manapua Man (or woman) drives a Manapua Van! Here's a really nice video....a real slice of life from "back home".
Well, Lemon House opened and closed so quickly, I never got a chance to check them out. My sources did tell me they really didn't enjoy their visits; so perhaps it's for the better. So now, we welcome a Steamy Piggy into the spot. I think the folks from Lemon House are still running this new concept as well.
4681 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92123
Tasty Pot on Convoy Looks Ready to Open:
At least when I went to pick up take-out from the newly opened Noodle Hut.
Curious, I drove by a couple of days later and the place does indeed look ready to go.
There's even a menu posted.
4698 Convoy Street San Diego, CA 92111
So there you go......a little peek of what's going on.
mmm-yoso!!! is the name of this blog. Kirk is not posting today and neither is Ed (from Yuma); Cathy has free time.
There are several diners that The Mister and I tend to frequent. I wrote a short post about Gus's in 2011 and we've been here many times since then. You'll see menu specials on the exterior windows and there's a sandwich board at the door... along with the menu above the cash register, which mirrors the one handed to you and there are more specials listed on an inner wall.We seem to be here for breakfast most of the time. The Top Sirloin and Eggs (now $10.99) is (still) a good deal, served with home fries or hash browns and toast or pancakes. French toast with eggs and sausage (that is a very large, very flavorful sausage) or bacon ($8.25) is also a tasty choice.
Most of the lunches come with a choice of soup or salad and the house made pea soup is always a choice. Liver and onions ($8.95) is also a choice of mine at many lunches. The calves liver here is prepared nicely: tender with a floured/light crunch. The gyros topped Greek salad ($9.25), served with garlic toast and a very good (house made) dressing usually results in leftovers and my enjoying another meal later that day.
One of the exterior window specials is for a large (one topping) pizza and salad ($11.99) and that is a definite meal with leftovers for us. The pizza over here is cheesy and is nicely crispy. The crust sometimes seems a bit 'fluffy' and tastes better the next day, but really I have no complaints. The sausage topping is, again, unique in flavor and texture; really good.
The pastrami sub (12 inches, $12.75) is one of the best we've ever had. Fresh bread, toasted and brushed with mustard and layered with a plentiful amount of quality smokey pastrami, griddled thoroughly, with crisped edges and melted provolone which is then pressed before serving...it is perfection. Taking home half results in enough meat for two omelets the next morning.
Ending this post with a rather sloppy set of photos is not intentional. A 1/2 lb chili cheese burger with fries ($9.95) is a comfort meal sometimes. The chili is made with beans and has a good spicy kick. The charred part of the burger went with the chili. The fresh, toasted bun and side of fries made from gigantic potatoes is, again, more than enough food for a single meal.
Gus's Subs and Pizza 5620 Baltimore Drive La Mesa 91942 (619)462-4877 Open 7 a.m.-9 p.m. 7 days