Sunday, August 24, 2008

Eclipse Chocolate: Five Course Pan-Asian Dinner

The ever-so-generous Will invited me to photograph this event. An invitation I gladly accepted! Food for photos was the agreement. Thus, the original and uncropped pictures below (I usually crop them) are now property of Eclipse Chocolat and I will not modify them for my own use. Those in-the-know are familiar with many of Will's themed meals and their creative flavors. ...At least I feel that they are unique. Will keeps assuring me that they are quite common.

I know what you're thinking. "Roger, shut up already and tell us about the food, gaddangit!" Yes. I do have a tendency to prattle on and on.


Chicken Satay with Chile-burnt Caramel Peanut Sauce

Good marinade and good grill timing makes for juicy flavorful chicken. Duh. Okay now dip it in the Chile-burnt Caramel Peanut Sauce. Did you have a mouthgasm? Of course you did. Eclipse Chocolat often uses the Chile-burnt caramel sauce and with good reason. It. Kicks. Ass. Although Will's rendition of this well known Southeast Asian street food lacks the signature glaze and isn't grilled over charcoal or wood, I sure as hell enjoyed the chicken skewers.

I can't even begin to imagine how amazing these could be if Will one day re-introduces this with the glaze and grill... Definitely would become a hit.

First Course:

Fresh Spring Rolls
napa cabbage, sprouts, and mint with black bean chocolate sauce

I don't know how other food bloggers deal with their own food-preference biases, but I'm going to come clean and say that onions and spring rolls are on the top of my Dislikes list. These rolls are pretty much like the vegetarian spring rolls you'd find in Vietnamese restaurants or delis but could use some tightening.

The accompanying sauce is interesting (tastes exactly like the description), but my two lovely dining companians--Autumn and Christina--discovered that dipping the spring rolls into the chile-burnt caramel sauce made for a better flavor profile. Don't get me wrong, the black bean chocolate sauce is good, but if you have a sweet tooth like me, you're gonna want to try Will's chile-burnt caramel sauce.

Did I mention how great the chile-burnt caramel sauce is?

Second Course:

Curried Carrot Soup
with coconut milk and lemongrass

My table deemed this the winner of the night. The flavors are so well balanced that I found it incredulous when Will sheepishly exclaimed that he just simply threw in ingredients. Hm. Actually, maybe it's not so hard to believe. Will has a knack for mixing flavors together. He's only going to get better as the years pass. This soup is a great example of what Will is capable of. Subtle "spicy" flavors of curry and carrot are balanced out by the sweetness of coconut milk and lemongrass. As much as I hate onions, I grudgingly admit that the green onions add another level of "sweetness" to the soup, creating a more complex flavor. While it is true that Thai curries also use the curry/coconut milk combination, I assure you this tastes nothing like it.

Nice refreshing cool soup for the summer. A+.

Third Course:

Stir-fried Long Beans
with candied cocoa nibs

The third course is my second least favorite dish of the evening. Long beans I've had at home and Chinese restaurants are really tender, but these were really tough. Maybe it is a different species than what is sold at 99 Ranch. I don't know. Candied cocoa nibs were great to nibble on, though.

Surprisingly, there were diners who found the long beans to be their favorite dish of the night. Maybe our differing viewpoints originate because I come from a background that has this veggie a lot.

Fourth Course:

Sake & Cocoa-Glazed Beef
with green onions and black sesame rice

YES! Finally some meat! Sake, cocoa, and ginger make for a nice sweet steak sauce. The onions? I took an obligatory bite, and made a face. Seriously. I hate onions.

Fifth Course:

Spiced Black Rice Pudding
with milk chocolate-cinnamon creme

Here we have yet another example of Will's ability to create exceptional desserts. Items like this rice pudding keep me coming back to Eclipse. As with all of Will's desserts, this one is not reliant on sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth. He presents a tastier option instead: flavor--something I don't find often in dessert cafes. Cinnamon hits your tastebuds first, then subsides as the creamy milk chocolate takes over as the dominant flavor. Good stuff.

Don't miss the next dinner: Five Course Prix Fixe Southern Comfort Dinner.
Check the blog for updates (RSVP soon!)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Studio Diner

Was sorting through my portfolio when I found some RAWs from Studio Diner. No idea how long they've been lost. Captain Jack has also done a writeup on this place.

Not a very exciting photo, but hey I tried. There were so many damn SUVs in the front blocking the diner. Next time I'll try shots at 3am instead of 12.

Lobster roll. Order it. You're looking at a real treat. The frozen fries are pointless and only detract from the main event--6oz of lobster heaped onto a crispy roll!

In other occasions that I've been here, I've had their Count of Monte Cristo, strawberry shake, onion rings, and Blockbuster Combo Platter. The Monte Cristo is something I recommend you share. Heavy batter and oil gets tiring very quickly, but is delicious nonetheless. Strawberry shake was the best I've ever had. (Ditch the straw for your spoon) Beer battered onion rings were terrific. Could actually taste the beer! Neat-o. Nothing really spectacular about the Blockbuster Combo Platter though.

A better write-up of this place is soon to come. I've been making some real sloppy posts these days...

Studio Diner
4701 Ruffin Rd.
San Diego, CA 92123

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Panchita's Bakery

On the same night I went to Pizzeria Luigi, I found Panchita's Bakery packed with people snatching up sweetbread fresh out of the oven. Even after devouring all that pizza from Luigi's, I felt that I could still handle a pastry or five. No prob, Bob. What do I work out for anyway? Gotta replenish all that spent glycogen and glucose right?

I tucked away two and a half on the drive home, ate another and finished the half as I was studying.

Then I remembered that I was supposed to snap some shots first...

That's neurobio under the plate and some more boring developmental neurobio on top. Honest to God, that textbook has no illustrations or graphs. At least there were Mexican sweetbreads for encouragement. They were good. Light, airy bread. Perfect amount of sweetness. These were better than the ones from El Gallo Giro. I've had better though, at Las Brisas. But really, pastries at Panchita's are so cheap there's nothing to really complain about.

I'm not sure how many people actually read my food ramblings, but I'd like to give a shout-out to my homie Brent's pal Joe. HEY JOE I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU'VE FOLLOWED MY BLOG FOR SO LONG! SMALL WORLD AIN'T IT? WAS COOL MEETING YOU AT THE PARTY.


Panchita's Bakery (total of four locations. all of equal caliber? dunnos)

2519 C Street
San Diego, CA 92102

1879 Logan Ave. Ste. K
San Diego, CA 92113

4414 University Ave. Ste. B
San Diego, CA 92105

3546 Euclid Ave.
San Diego, CA 92105
unknown phone #

Monday, August 4, 2008


Here's a sampling from an authentic little French bistro that doesn't break your wallet.

The setting is very casual and can get pretty loud as the dinner hour progresses. Brightness and tone of the lights also change the later it gets. This'll make for very dim lighting that requires either flash or a tripod. I used neither, thus the mediocre pictures that have been "rescued" using Photoshop.


French Onion Soup Gratinee
w/ "Comte" Cheese

I can count the number of times I've had French onion soup on one hand, but my brother orders it whenever he spots it on a menu. He's one helluva picky eater and he gave the soup two thumbs up. The two of us have similar tastes, so I trust him.

House Country Pate
Onion Marmelade

I was hoping for a more liver-dominant pate (my favorite), but these meaty ones certainly did not disappoint. Mimosa's pate is comparable to Pascal's. Rich, meaty, fatty. One could easily make a meal out of this appetizer since the bread basket is endless.

Steamed Mussels Marinier
with White Wine, Shallots, and Herbs

I can't remember the last time I had mussels this good. Swear to God, they were so fresh that I wouldn't doubt it if Mimosa has a tank of live ones out in the back. There are a total of three flavor options for steamed mussels at Mimosa and I opted for the simplest one as to better taste the meat. These were steamed to perfection and subtly flavored.

Tomato "Confit" Tart "Tatin"

A great light appetizer for a summer evening. My brother ordered this item so I really couldn't get a good taste in since he really tears into his food. The small bit I did get to try, though, was glorious. Tart was so light and flaky that it almost melted in my mouth. Literally. I'm sure it's from all the butter! As you can see, Mimosa has cooked(stewed?) the tomatoes and removed the skin, leaving only the sweet flesh.

Main Courses:

Grilled Filet of Sole
Artichokes "Minestrone" with Fava Beans, Piquillos Pepper and Preserved Lemon Relish

Here we have a nice slab of juicy sole filet topped over an artichoke "minestrone" (aka artichoke soup). You won't believe how tender and juicy the fish is until you try it. None of that rubbery nonsense that you might encounter in some restaurants. Flavor of the artichokes fits really well in this dish and the lemon relish bumps up the flavor profile just a tad bit more.

Steak Tartar
(Black Angus) Hand Chopped Lightly Spicy with Condiments

Some folks feel uneasy about eating raw beef. I can't imagine why, though. Maybe this dish can convert some non-believers? It is strange to associate the word "creamy" with meat, but in this case, it will have to do. Creamy, lightly spicy, hint of green onion, and sweet raw Black Angus beef. Mmm mmm!

Veal Sweetbread with Haricots Verts, Potato Puree, Capers, Lemon Confit

My star of the night! Mimosa dumps a real sizable portion of sweetbread on the plate. A little too much, if you ask me. These were so rich and judging from the taste of the grease, it seems like they were seared in yummy animal fat or something. Thankfully the lemon confit helps to cut some of the richness, but not enough to make me swap plates halfway with my mother's lighter plate of grilled sole. I highly suggest sharing this. Seriously. The portions are huge at Mimosa.


Pot de Chocolate Mousse

Dark chocolate mousse that is not overly sweet = I get a mouthgasm. Mimosa's is very light and airy. I hope to one day learn how to make choco-mousse of this caliber...

Pear Financier
Served Warm, Pecan Caramel Sauce, Vanilla Ice Cream

I had no idea what a "Financier" was, but turns out it's kinda like a sponge cake that tastes like almonds. Top it with ice cream and caramel and you get a big plate of YUM.

8009 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Friday, August 1, 2008

Joe's Pizza (Santa Monica)

Wow this has been a crazy summer. Haven't had a lot of time to organize my photos and thoughts to post on here. Boohoo. Like anyone really reads my humble little blog anyway...teehee!

Somewhere in between the partying, smoking, shopping, screaming at my dysfunctional family, and job searching, I found a pretty solid pizzeria in Santa Monica while hanging out.

Joe's Pizza hails from the East Coast and has quite the celeb following. They've got pictures across their walls of Hollywood celebs having a slice of Joe's pie. I have never eaten pizza outside of California so I can't compare West Coast Joe with East Coast Joe. It would be awesome to hear how the two locations compare.

We bought a whole pepperoni pizza (8 slices/pie) and being the glutton that I am, I ordered a slice of their white pie:

Caution: Sharp edges

I think I was expecting too much when eating at Joe's, especially after seeing all those Hollywood endorsements and reading all the buzz on the 'net . Food was great, but certainly not worth the high prices and definitely not reflective of all those endorsements. Though who takes Hollywood celebs seriously these days anyway? :P

The pepperoni pizza is very comparable to Bronx Pizza's. Both have a crispy crust that'll tear up the lining in your mouth, but Joe's tastes a bit better. Sauce was real similar too. All in all, a good pizza...but certainly not worth $18. I've had better.

<3 Cheese <3

White pie seems to be a very popular item at Joe's, and with good reason. I don't care if a slice costs $3.50. It was GOOD. See how much cheese there is?! If you love cheese, then buddy...this is the pizza for you. The drizzle of olive oil on the pizza further enhances the taste of mozzarella and (correct me if I'm wrong) ricotta. Despite it being 1-2pm, orders for white pizza constantly came in. I must try Bronx and Luigi's for a comparison.

I think the prices at Joe's are way too damn high, but if you're in the neighborhood and don't feel like eating at one of Santa Monica's many fabulous restaurants, then hop on over to Joe's Pizza and buy yourself a slice of awesomeness. Yes. I mean the white pie.

Joe's Pizza
111 Broadway (@ Ocean)
Santa Monica
310.395-9222 OR 310. 395-9220