Monday, March 30, 2009

Eclipse Chocolate: Revisit lost count by now

Yup it's that time of year again. Time to trim some subcutaneous fat in time for beach season! Unfortunately this limits me to only one treat per week and being the sugar fiend that I am, I usually gravitate towards dessert rather than an interesting food post :(. That's not to say my favorite dessert stop in San Diego is boring, of course.

Let's take a look at some things I've been munching on at Eclipse Chocolat after dinner. Sorry for bad pictures. Lighting is not ideal at night and I didn't feel like lugging my tripod around. This leaves us with shallow DoFs, as you will see!

Sweet Potato Bread Pudding
custard-soaked sweet potato & brioche bread pudding+ cocoa nib-infused creme anglaise

Frozen Coconut Mousse Petit Four
frozen 61% dark chocolate & coconut milk mousse+ toasted coconut+ crispy rice crust

Dark Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pudding
chilled 61% dark chocolate-peanut butter pudding+ maldon sea salt

Grilled Fig Cake with Sticky Toffee Sauce
grilled black mission fig cake+ 38% milk chocolate sticky toffee sauce

How very appropriate for winter! These hearty items really warm you up. Will's bread puddings are real moist and still able to be fluffy and thick at the same time. How?! This guy sure is good. As always, flavors of the various ingredients are alive on the palate instead of getting drowned and suppressed by sugar like in other establishments. I hope some of you had a chance to taste this dessert platter. Ranks as one of my top 3 since I started visiting Eclipse. If you did miss it, fret not! The Spring Platter (see below) features another of Will's awesome puddin's.

Grilled White Chocolate Carrot Gateaux
grilled almond-carrot cake studded with 31% white chocolate chips

Butterscotch-Macadamia Pudding with Cocoa Nibs
whipped cream pudding+toasted macadamia nut+cocoa nibs+butterscotch sauce

Roasted Banana Bread Pudding with Dark Chocolate Sauce
custard-soaked bread pudding studded with roasted bananas+72% dark chocolate sauce

Frozen Plombiere with Cherry-Peppercorn Compote
cocoa-infused frozen plombiere+warmed cherry-pink peppercorn compote

The carrot gateaux is hands down the best item in the Spring Dessert Platter. Tastes of vanilla, almonds, and white chocolate with a carrotcake backbone. Crispy exterior, moist/fluffy interior. I couldn't get enough of this. I'd say this is one of the best desserts Will has made. Both puddings were fantastic. I've never been let down by the dessert-in-a-cup featured in every dessert platter. The bread pudding is perfect as usual. If you missed out on the winter tasting platter, here is your chance to "catch up" and admire Will's puddin'-makin' skills. I'm not too big a fan of plombiere, but this one is pretty good. Cherry-peppercorn compote is a great addition, but sometimes crunching on more than one peppercorn can get a wee bit intense for a light/delicate dessert like this.

Azteca Cinnamon Rolls on display

When I saw these featured on the Eclipse blog, I hightailed it over to El Cajon as soon as I could. They're really fluffy and the sugar + cream cheese frosting balance out the cinnamon's kick perfectly. Other cinna-rolls I've had usually just smack my tongue around with overwhelming sweetness. My only beef is that sometimes I wish my cinna-roll had more cream cheese frosting drizzled on top. Kinda like how these look, just not as drenched :P I usually take these to-go since I get to briefly nuke it in a microwave. Lemme tell ya, it is one helluva treat. Swing by and pick some up if you're ever in the area.

As for upcoming events at Eclipse:
Truffle, Wine, and Cheese Tasting - 4/8 7-8pm $20/person.
Oaxacan Feast - 3/25 $25/person
Mother's Day Brunch

Hot damn I love this dessert cafe...

2121 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92104

Friday, March 13, 2009

Beer: Stouts (part 1)

Winter nights in San Diego can get pretty nippy. Why not pop open a stout to warm you up? My first exposure to stouts was a bottle of Guinness Draught (pronounced "draft" for some weird Euro reason). I was in love with the creamy head and velvety texture. Years later when I got more adventurous when it came to food thanks to Sarah, Elmo, Kirk, and Cpt. Jack (sorry Charlie, I met you much later :P ), I went and tried Young's Chocolate Stout on tap. That was when my infatuation with stouts began. Place a beer menu in front of me and my eyes immediately start scanning for stouts. Even in the summer heat.

I'd like to briefly share with you guys a small handful of the many stouts (and a porter) that I enjoy. :D


Alesmith Speedway Stout (American Double/Imperial Stout)
Smell - Toasted malts/biscuit. Coffee and chocolate. Simple boquet that is deliciously fragrant.
Taste - First, you get smacked with a mouthful of rich malt/oats(sweet) before the dark chocolate, milk and coffee show up. Soon after, hops jump into the party to balance things out. Burnt molasses, caramel, and a hint of dark fruit is present in the background to give a subtle sweetness. Finish is briefly dry and hoppy with the sweetness slowly fading in the background. Ends with coffee.
Feel - Full bodied. Slick and creamy with minimal carbonation. Very very fine like it came from a nitro tap.
Comments - One of my all-time favorites. Flavors are complex and extremely well balanced. The taste and texture hides the hefty 12% ABV in this beast. It is hard to express how amazing this brew is, but (sorry if this offends) the first time I tried it I saw God. Seriously though, every time I treat myself out to the Speedway, it is a religious experience. Currently aging one in my "beer cellar".

Was still waiting for head to simma down.

Port Brewing Old Viscosity (American Strong Ale)
Smell - Not a lot going on in this particular bottle for some reason... Just bits of choco and coffee.
Taste - Big on roasted (almost burnt) malts and espresso, some chocolate. Bit smokey. No real aroma or maybe just a little hint of it being stored in a Bourbon barrel. Dry. Alcohol taste throughout (10%ABV), bittersweet finish.
Feel - Eh. Thought it would be fuller. Medium carbonation.
Comments - This was an all right bottle. Other people have also had widely varying experiences with Old Viscosity, so I plan on additional purchases...on tap at Pizza Port. Lumped it along with the stouts since they are kinda similar. In terms of a real stout from Port Brewing, the Cowabunga stout (tap only) blows Old Viscosity out of the water and can almost hang with the Speedway.

Too impatient to wait for bubbles to pop.

Deschutes Black Butte Porter (American Porter)
Smell - Charred. Roasted malt/coffee. Faint sweetness.
Taste - Big roasted malt flavor with some coffee thrown in for a good measure. Subtle biscuit? and light touch of burnt sweetness. Just the right amount of hop bitterness. Finishes with espresso and lingering hoppiness.
Feel - Hearty and full flavors in a medium-to-light body? HOW DID THEY DO IT?!
Comments - I think of this as Stout Jr. Like Alesmith, Deschutes is an amazing brewery and you really can't go wrong with any of their pickings. This porter is just...amazing. Alot going on in your mouth but somehow it all feels right.

North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin (Russian Imperial Stout)
Smell - Huge on roasted almost-burnt malts and espresso. Burnt sugar in the background with some chocolate.
Taste - You get whacked with a big mouthful of smooth burnt malt/espresso/sugar. Yet still kinda nutty. Hint of cocoa and maybe raisin. Underlying hoppiness for good measure of balance. Finishes with faint toffee. Alcohol in background, but not easy to detect (9%ABV).
Feel - Foams up really easily. Medium carbonation and body.
Comments - Amazing stuff that I always keep on hand. Despite such a big burnt aroma, flavor is not bitter at all. Very complex sipper to enjoy with smokes after a shitty day.

Young's Chocolate Stout (Milk/Sweet Stout)
Smell - Oodles of milk chocolate and caramel. No surprise here!
Taste - BAM! Milk chocolate, then espresso/malts/oats seep in with hops watching from afar. Finishes with nutty malt sweetness.
Feel - Medium carbination and silky body. Foams up if you toss it around in the mouth too much. Very creamy if you get it to briefly foam in your mouth.
Comments - Ah, the drink that started it all. Not the best I've had, by any means; but like a first sweetheart, it holds a special place in my heart. Rogue Chocolate Stout and the aforementioned Port Brewing Cowabunga stout are richer in flavor, but Young's seems to be more readily available when I go out. This is always ready in my "beer cellar" as well.

There you have it folks! Part 1 of my beer and stout posts. Next time it might be IPAs or more burnt malty/chocolately/coffee stout goodness. I'm sure most of you have noticed that I use a Guinness glass...weird I know. It's just to remind myself that culinary adventurousness pays off. There is always something new, interesting, and tasty to try!

In other news, looks like Will @ Eclipse is having another themed dinner going on! This time it is a 3-course Mediterranean dinner on Friday 3/21 and Saturday 3/22. RSVP ASAP as tables will be filled hella fast (as always). Preliminary photos look very enticing. Exciting stuff. Read and drool all about it here when info is officially published. Also, the new dessert platter is out!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Burgers again! It's been quite a long time since I took these photos, but I still remember all gustatory sensations. I think...

I apologize beforehand for camera shake. This place was PACKED on a Friday night so me and the tripod kept getting jostled around.

Here we go:

Idaho Potato Fries - w/ garlic herb mayo.

Shoestring fries tossed with a wee bit of minced garlic for some kick. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The accompanying garlic herb mayo was bland and to be honest, the fries are great on their own. The minced garlic really packs a punch...maybe a bit too much for my taste. Also, note that this is the full order, which costs a paltry $4. For $2, you get a sizable amount to go with your burger (see picture below).

The Neighborhood Burger - caramelized onion, blue gruyere cheese, pepper greens.

Awesome burger. Flavors are really balanced here and the caramelized onions really shine to make this one of my burger favs. The lightly toasted ciabatta bun seems like such a natural choice for Neighborhood's burgers. I can't explain it, but the bun really accentuates the flavors of the gruyere and patty. My god, the patty. I do not remember the last time I had a patty so packed with beefy flavor and juices. While Crest Cafe's burger patties do pack a whollop of YUM, their mix-ins somewhat detract from the deliciousness that is called beef. Neighborhood's patties are unadulturated and taste lighter and "cleaner" on the palate. If a burger could be considered "light," then the 'Hood Burger certainly nails it. Unlike burgers at most joints, you do not feel any oily residue in your mouth after eating a burger at Neighborhood.

As you can see, $2 nets you a whole lot of fries. I recommend you go this route instead of a whole order. These fries were lighter on the garlic and (perhaps a fluke) were more well-done and crispy than the whole order. Me liked very very much, but not as much as the sweet potato fries.

Sweet Potato Fries - peppered malt mignonette, gold mine shaft cheese crumbs.

Blew the regular fries out of the water. Seriously, order these if you go to Neighborhood. I hear Charlie* didn't have such great luck with the crispiness factor, but the night I went, these fries were spot-on. The cheese crumbs pretty much taste and look like blue cheese. Their twang really helps balance the sweetness and oil. My dining companions either loved or hated the malt mignonette, which tasted kinda like creamy caesar dressing with a good dose of shallots. I didn't really care for it and only dipped my fries in there once in awhile to mix things up a bit.

Mushroom Marsala Burger - sauteed wild mushrooms, swiss cheese, marsala wine sauce.

"Failure" of the night, but that isn't as bad as it sounds since the other items were so kick-ass. My beef with this burger is the fact that this is essentially a meat sandwich. 'Shrooms and cheese add a bit of nuttiness to the burger, but you really don't taste them all that much. Then there is the AWAL marsala wine sauce... On the bright side, I still got Neighborhood's amazing patty.

777 Burger - organic baby spinach, plum tomatoes confit, bernaise sauce.

Cut in half to give an idea of ratios in these burgers. Looks like a good meat:bread:stuff ratio, doesn't it! Damn right. I'm having a hard time deciding whether or not I like the 777 over the Neighborhood Burger. Leaning towards the 777 right now because the subtle acidity of the tomatoes confit and the sweetness of bernaise sauce really heighten the overall experience.

In both the 'shroom burger and this order, house chips were complimentary. Thinly cut (think Lay's), well done, and lightly dusted with paprika/cayenne, I think they clear your mouth of burger taste better than the garlic fries can.

I am chalking Neighborhood up as my #1 burger joint for now. Fantastic burgers, fresh ingredients, purity of flavor. What more could you ask for? Oh yeah. GREAT BEERS ON TAP.
Try my all-time fav: Alesmith Speedway Stout. Goes down great with these burgers at night, especially if you're sitting outside in the cold patio.

Still have a whole lot of other restaurant burgers to try and I'm really looking forward to it! Going to take a break from burgers, though. Stay tuned for a fun post about my favorite beer style.

*Charlie's review can be found here.

777 G St
San Diego, CA 92101

Monday, March 2, 2009

Crest Cafe

More burgers. I don't know why I am so obsessed with burgers right now, but I just am. Took friends down to Crest Cafe after I hearing a lot of buzz about their Butter Burger. The name alone made my arteries clog, but my mouth salivated with anticipation!

We started off with an Onion Loaf, which is pretty much a big ol' stack of thin well-done onion rings. Not a good choice for an appetizer. Sure they are delightfully crispy, but they are also soaked and dripping with oil as well. Yes I know it's fried, but that does not mean it should be such a gut-buster. I was not that impressed with the beer batter either, which was quite mundane and ordinary. Ritual Tavern and Studio Diner make 'em a lot lighter with a tastier batter to boot.

The Butter Burger
"Half pound of fresh lean ground beef, stuffed with a Garlic, Tarragon, Basil, Parsley Butter... Then we broil the burger and top it with a little more of the butter...Then we top it with some cheddar cheese and melt it...Then we top the cheese with a garlic mayonnaise made with a dash of paprika, cayenne and cumin."

Holy hell this was epic. As I was taking this photo, the top bun began to slowly slide off with the assistance of the lube butter provided. Biting into the burger, I was very surprised to find that it was not the greasebomb that I had expected. In fact, the patty was so juicy all by itself. Parsley butter only compliments the beef and does not overwhelm the burger as the name "Butter Burger" would suggest. Flavors of tarragon and basil add more complexity to the burger, but the mild spice of the aioli really take this burger over the top. Oh lordy this was a real treat. However, after about halfway through, I just couldn't continue eating it. Blame it on palate fatigue. This is a very rich and heavy burger and I highly suggest you split it with someone. Then again, I've heard of some people capable of eating two of these in one sitting...

The Ultimate Burger:
"12oz angus beef mixed with sundried tomatoes, onions and parsley and homemade teriyaki sauce. Topped with bacon, your choice of cheese and sprinkled with our homemade beer battered onion rings."

Another winner. Smokey and sweet with a hint of the sundried tomatoes, the patty totally makes this burger. You could ditch the onion rings (they don't add much other than lending its crunchy texture), the veggies, the bacon and still have a mouthgasm-inducing meat sandwich. Seriously. It's all about the patty in this burger, whereas the butter burger needs the aoili in order to pull through. I'm charting the Ultimate Burger as one of my San Diego burger favs.

I want to drop by Crest Cafe again to try more of their menu items. Despite the appetizer let-down, these two burgers gave me a very good impression of the diner and I am very curious to see if their other burgers are able to measure up to the Ultimate Burger. Then again, the grilled sandwiches and meat entrees sound hella good too so maybe I'd order those next time... *@#&*$%^!! I wish I were able to eat as much as Cpt. Jack, then I could order more stuff.

Crest Cafe
425 Robinson Ave
San Diego, California 92103

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tioli's Crazee Burger

Oops! I forgot I had a food blog! Despite the lack of posts, I've been quite busy stuffing my face. Diet be damned. As long as I look smashin' in my new UCoB suits and jackets, it's all good.

The following is a series of posts in which I take my friends around San Diego to find our own individual favorite burger joint. We begin with Tioli's Crazee Burger:

This place is pretty interesting. I spotted it while driving down to Ritual Tavern and made a mental note to pay it a visit soon. Not sure how "crazee" you can make a burger, but um...yeah they have 'gator, ostrich, and kangaroo burgers among other things. How fun!

Due to my small appetite that night (this was my second dinner...) I did not order a whole lot of food. Went "halfsies" with a friend instead.

First up is the rather tame and unadventurous buffalo burger. To be honest, this just tasted like any ol' restaurant beef patty. Not particularly remarkable, though juicy. Lean & beefy. This short description is all that is required for this burger. Not much going on here.

Now for some fun!

Gator burger with curry fruit tapanade

This was one wacky burger. So apparently ground 'gator meat is still really chewy and tastes like those Chinese fish balls. I was pleasantly surprised by the juiciness even after chewing my mouthful for about a minute. Okay maybe I exaggerate, but like I said: chewy. The choice of curry fruit tapanade to top the patty is a fantastic idea. The flavors meld perfectly with 'gator. Weird burger that was totally worth $14. Not gonna order it again though. I only had half of this burger and I was getting pissed off about how much chewing it required. Was worth it cuz of the interesting experience I can tell friends about. "Dude, I've eaten alligator meat." sounds hardcore.

Drinking alcohol makes you want to munch.

Brauts. Very good. Very cheap. Order them.

The proprietors of Tioli's are really awesome folks from Germany. These dudes had heads of grey/white hair and were cracking jokes (some awfully filthy ones too...) that you'd typically hear coming out of the average male college student's mouth. Lols. They were nice enough to share a plate of charcuterie with us at the bar, too. Seriously, talk to them if you get the chance. Hilarious bunch of people with plenty of interesting Euro stories to tell.

Interesting meats served here draws my attention, but only because of the novelty. I still have to try a few more of their burgers to get a feel of the place, but so far in terms of taste and overall burger-ing experience, Tioli's does not really top my list. There is an awful lot of buzz around this place, though, so go on and check it out. As usual, I'd love to compare notes. :D

Tioli's Crazee Burger
4201 30th St
San Diego, CA 92104
* approximate times