Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Pearl

I recently was invited by The Pearl Hotel to check out The Pearl Restaurant in Point Loma. This organic swanky boutique hotel has been open since 2007 and I have been wanting to check it out for sometime now. Formally known as the Sportsman's Lodge Hotel, this retro hotel had all the 60's stilo going on. It was preserved and renovated into a stylish 23 room boutique hotel, and the The Pearl Hotel was born. It is just one of the innovative projects by Greg Strangman of Live Work Play Group.
Executive Chef Jaison Burke recently joined The Pearl Restaurant in May of 2011 and is serving up some seducing dishes indeed! We were seated right away at one of the high rise tables that overlooks the bar and pool. Our sweet as candy waitress went over the drink menu with us. The kind of drinks The Pearl serves up is just what we needed to cool us off on a hot summer night! I would go back just to get my drink on.
pim's #1 / ginger beer / pink grapefruit / mintDARK 'N STORMY
goslings dark rum / fresh ginger / lime / mint / sodaSUMMER LOVIN'
clementine vodka / hibiscus liqueur / lemon juice / simple syrup
With ice cold cocktails in hand and heavy appetites we were ready to eat. And I mean eat. And that is just what we did.
We started with the Bacon Wrapped Dates - Hardwood smoked bacon wrapped dates served with a cheese fondue. Bacon was the name of game here. The sweet and salty combo is always a dream come true with bacon wrapped dates but I was not impressed with the cheese fondue. I would of much rather the dates be filled with some sort of melted cheese that squirts out the other end as you take the first bite. Instead they were filled with a pit, which we were not notified of. No trips to the dentist that night thank goodness. That was the one disappointment of the evening, and all goes uphill from here.
The second appetizer was the Mac and Cheese. House bacon, spring hill white Cheddar and jalapeno. YES! Just the mac and cheese I have been looking for. Finally someone gets the consistency of the crusty top and cheesy creamy center right. Add bacon and jalapeno to the mix and get a salty spicy creamy powerful bowl of hawt damn! From what I understand the mac and cheese is changed daily. I can't wait to see what Chef Jaison comes up with next. Oh and thanks for the crostini to sop up all that cheesy creamy sauce. Oh yes we did!
We shared one of the special entrees of the evening as our third appetizer. Ravioli which was stuffed with rabbit liver, corn and parmesan cheese, in a veal espagnole sauce with fresh herbs. I really enjoyed this dish. The ravioli were cooked al dente, the filling of the liver was complimented well by the corn and the delicate rich brown sauce that covered it only enhanced the delicate flavors.The God Father was playing on the big screen and so far we were off to a good start. Deciding the entrees to order was very difficult. The Pearls menu is small but everything is enticing. The menu is a strong supporter of the slow food movement and promotes fresh, local, and sustainable food.
pickled peach / mashed potatoes / market vegetablesThis dish was not my favorite. I thought the pork was really salty. Someone went a little overboard while seasoning this chop.
roasted garlic / butter carrots / potato puree Short ribs done right! The meat fell off the bone and was cooked perfectly. The flavors were nothing I never had before but it was classic short ribs. Classic!
saffron risotto / roasted fennel / coriander reductionThe scallops were huge and also were cooked to perfection. I love saffron and the risotto was the perfect consistency. I could really taste the saffron and it complimented the scallops well.
grilled onion / smoked gouda / con pane bunNow you can't call yourself "The Best Burger In Town" and expect me to pass that one up. It was really good. Was it the best burger in town? Not sure if I am sold on that but for sure the best bun in town and the quality of the meat was high. The french fries were addicting too.

Just after we paid the bill and were ready to literally roll out of there Chef Jaison decided to top off our meal not with a cherry but with a hot Cinnabun. Cinnamon is not my favorite but I did have one bite and it was really good. Not sure if it was made at The Pearl or brought in but what a way to end the evening.The Pearl Hotel & Restaurant is a pretty valuable gem in beautiful San Diego. I do plan to visit again soon. Maybe for one of those Wednesday Dive-In Theatre nights or maybe for Groove 24/7 Poolside Brunch.

The Pearl Hotel & Restaurant
1410 rosecrans steet san diego, ca. 92106

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hanna's Gourmet

Hanna's Gourmet is located on Adam's Avenue in between University Heights and Normal Heights. It has been open for a few months now and I drive by it almost everyday on my way to and from work. I ran in a couple months ago to grab a menu and take a peek at what I had to look forward too. The place is tiny and cute. The desserts and salads to go in the deli case look beautifully plated. I finally had the chance to go there for breakfast a week ago.
I got there around 10am and it was very hot and stuffy inside. Hotter then it was outside. That alone almost made me want to go someplace else. They don't have too many windows for ventilation but turning the air condition on would of been nice considering it is summer time. We took the table closest to the door and that seemed to help a little bit. Another disappointing thing is there is no public bathroom. Now that's a little strange I think. Good thing I live down the street?
I ordered scrambled eggs with bacon, creamy roasted potatoes and grilled bread. It was simple and good. I also tried the Eggs A La Espana which are potatoes layered with eggs, Spanish chorizo topped with Manchego cheese & Romesco sauce. It sounds like it would be really rich but was nicely done and was not soaked in the sauce. The chorizo was awesome and had a little kick to it. I really enjoyed the flavors and the portion size was perfect for one person.
One really cool thing about Hanna's Gourmet is they feature food from a different part of the world for one week. This week is Greek and the menu items are Moussakas, Grilled Chicken Gyros, Kofta Beef Gyros, Lime-Chicken Soup.
As we were paying the bill the chef and owner came out to greet us. She was very nice and grateful we stopped in.Would I go back? Yes, I will be giving Hanna's Gourmet another try. The other items on the menu look way to good not to.
Hanna's Gourmet
2864 Adams Ave. San Diego, CA. 92116

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cucumber Gazpacho

I am in love with this new cold soup recipe I just got from Chef Peter Dale with The National restaurant in Athens, GA. I ate there back in early May when I visited Athens. Since then I could not stop dreaming about this Cucumber Gazpacho soup I ordered. So I contacted Chef Peter Dale and he graciously shared this delightful and refreshing cold soup with me.
It's the perfect soup for summer. Cold, light, healthy, and really simple to make. But I promise the people you share this soup with will think it was complex to make. After on bite the first words that may come from their mouth will be "uuuuuummmm". They will be surprised, with eye's wide open and the first thing they will ask you is "What is in this"?
I'm telling you. It's the best, and lucky is the recipe.
Cucumber Gazpacho 2 quarts English cucumbers, peeled, seeded & chopped (about 8 cups)
1 1/4 cups good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 cup ice water
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

1 garlic clove minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of ground cayenne pepper

Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor on the most powerful setting. Allow the motor to run for at least one minute per batch. This helps create the emulsion giving the gazpacho a thicker consistency. Place in the refrigerator until well chilled. Because all the cucumbers are slightly different, check for seasoning and acidity before serving. Add more olive oil or vinegar depending on your preference. Serves 6-8.*optional garnish - chopped poach shrimp: poach in water with lemon and old bay seasoning. when done put in a ice cold water bath to stop the cooking process. chop up and mix with Italian parsley and olive oil and add some to each bowl of soup for a nice surprise!
I hope you are staying cool this hot summer!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Real Shredded Beef Taco's

I recently had the pleasure of learning how to make real authentic shredded beef tacos from someone who knows how to make real authentic shredded beef tacos and I must say my whole 33 years of life I have never had a real beef taco before. That was up until a couple weeks ago when I not only got a hands on lesson but I observed, participated, and indulged in some real taco making and eating. I got it down and prepared them for my fathers Birthday Fiesta this past 4th of July weekend.
Now this meal takes some time and planning ahead but it is well worth it. I got a 5-6 pound brisket and it made about 30 tacos total. The meat is simmered in a salty broth with lots of garlic and cooked till done. You really cant put a time on how long it cooks. Maybe 3-4 hours? You will know its done when it is easy to shred so don't be afraid to test shred it. You cant over cook it and the longer it cooks the better and easier to shred.
It's best to make the beef a few days ahead and break up the shredding over a couple days. You just need to make sure you warm the beef up in the same broth before shredding for the best results. When it comes to the shredding you might want to get some extra hands involved. Or else you will be shredding for days. With 2 of us shredding it took about 2.5-3 hours. It's not so bad if you put on some good music and pop some shreds of beef into your mouth every once and a while. Make sure the meat is hot and stays in the broth before shredding to keep it moist. Cut small pieces off at a time to shred, remove the pieces from the broth and continue to do this until it is totally shredded. Shred it thin and I mean THIN. Don't get lazy with this.
The shredded beef freezes fantastic too!Don't discard of any of the broth. You can freeze if for later use or use it for some Mexican rice to serve with the tacos. If the broth is salty and flavored enough you wont need to season the rice at all!
The corn tortillas were purchased from Tortilleria Lilly on University Avenue in City Heights. They open at 5am and close at 2pm. They are best corn tortillas I have ever had. The first time I went there I didn't do my research and they were already closed, so this time I went early in the morning. When I showed up there was a line out the door with eager customers waiting for fresh hot corn tortillas. They are made out of all white corn with a little yellow, no preservatives, and they have a short shelf life. So purchase these bad boys the day you plan to eat them. Sorry folks, no flour tortilla's here and cash only!
Fill the tortillas with some of the shredded beef. Don't use too much or else the tortilla will tear and you want room for the toppings.
Fold over and secure with a toothpick pretty close to the top of the tortilla.
You can assemble them about an hour ahead of time before guests arrive and cover with them a damp cloth so the tortillas don't get dry and tear. Just leave them out and don't refrigerate them.
When you are ready to fry them up get someone to help you and start an assembly line.

Lard is used to fry them in. I told you they are real and authentic didn't I? Fry them them a minute or two on each side until they are crispy but you don't want to make chips so make sure you watch them. Put them in a strainer lined with paper towels and pass them to the person who is going to pull out the toothpick (careful they will be hot) and dress them up with shredded iceberg lettuce and diced tomatoes.Serve them up with some fresh salsa, Mexican crema, cotija cheese, and fresh guacamole, Mexican rice and re-fried beans too.Oh wait, I can't forget the best part...Left overs! Breakfast the next day will be Machaca Con Huevos. Saute some diced onions, pasilla chili's, shredded beef with some scrambled eggs and serve with some left over heated tortillas, Mexican rice and sliced avocado.Ole!!!!
Real Shredded Beef Tacos
5-6 lb brisket
2 heads of garlic
corn tortillas
hand shredded iceberg lettuce
diced tomatoes
lard for frying
Cover the brisket and garlic cloves with salted water (about 3-4 tablespoons)
Cover and bring to boil. Simmer on medium to low heat for 3-4 hours or until done.
Thinly shred beef.
Place a little less then 1/4 of a cup of the beef in the tortilla. Fold over and secure with a toothpick. Heat lard up in pan and pan fry for about 1-2 minutes on each side.
Carefully remove the toothpick and place a handful of lettuce then tomatoes in each taco.
Enjoy some real shredded beef taco's!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Griddle Me This & Griddle Me That!

I can't believe Forth of July is Monday and we are already in the middle of 2011. This year is flying by. I am so ready for this three day weekend and to me the Forth of July really signifies that summer is here. Well summer is here alright, and I think I might skip out early today and hit the beach to bronze a little. It's too nice not to!
When I was younger my Forth of July's were always celebrated in Pacific Beach and Mission Beach. Starting somewhere around 9am and finishing up after fireworks. They day consisted of drinking on the beach all day long with friends while in my bikini, barbecuing hot dogs and hamburgers, listening to Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath on the boom box, and venturing via bike on the crowded belligerent board walk to South Mission and Crown Point. It was day of chaos that always left me with a terrible hangover, a really bad sunburn and memories to last a life time.
This Forth of July I don't really have the desire for belligerent bike rides or crowed beaches and boardwalks but I do plan to celebrate. Maybe I'll venture on an urban bike ride around down town or the harbor, barbecue at some point, and end the day by watching fireworks from a secret sweet romantic spot in the hills of Mission Hills. The only question I have is...what to barbecue? Nothing seems more American to me then a burger so I am thinking about barbecuing hamburgers on the Forth of July.
I recently read in Food & Wine Magazine that the best burgers are made not on a grill but on a griddle and results from a recent trial run have shown that I have to agree that griddles are the way to go when cooking up burgers. The meat comes out juicier because it bastes in its own fat and it doesn't drip through the bars on the grill. Also you get a nice crispy outside when cooked on a griddle. I mean all the best burgers I have ever had are made in doors on a why are we charring good meat on a grill? You can buy griddles to put on your barbecue which is fantastic. Check out all the different griddles here. Or you can do it inside on a griddle which is how I did it. They came out deliciously juicy!
I would say the first most important factor when it comes to a good burger is the meat and I used organic meat from Costco. Yep Costco has organic meat...I was surprised too. I flavored it with salt and pepper only. Second is the bun and I picked Sara Lee's hamburger buns which only have 120 calories. They are small and soft and really don't steel the show of the burger. And Third is the toppings. You can choose to go all American and top your burger with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion or you can think outside of the box and take your burger to the next level. I did just that and topped my burger with a home-made a garlic aioli saucebalsamic & mustard caramelized onionsblue cheese and organic arugula It was nothing less then amazingly delicious I had two burgers that evening!Yep I think that's the plan...This 4th of July menu will have an American Hamburger on it. Grilled on a griddle, and fixed up the independent way with some next level toppings. I might have to add bacon into the mix since its a holiday. We are celebrating Independence Day after all! Oh and Zeppelin will be the music choice while grilling on the griddle! For old times sake.
Do it your way this Independence Day and have a great 4th!Recipes
Balsamic & Mustard Caramelized Onions
2 red onions thinly sliced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
kosher salt & pepper to taste
on very low heat add onions, balsamic and mustard and cook till caramelized and sweet...about 45 minutes
Garlic Aioli
1 cup mayo
2 cloves of garlic smashed into a paste with a little salt
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon thyme leaves chopped
1/4 smoked paprika
1 tablespoon honey
kosher salt & pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together and check flavoring for your liking. I even added a pinch of cayenne pepper and some fresh lemon juice.