Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hoping That the Yolks Not On Me

Broken Yolk Cafe
28621 Marguerite Parkway
Mission Viejo, CA 92692

It seems to me that the people of Mission Viejo love their breakfast spots. There's almost always a wait at Paul's Pantry, Stacks Pancake House is always standing room only, and we've also seen groups of people waiting outside of Coco's to get their first meal of the day. So it was no surprise that when the Broken Yolk opened up down the street from us, the lines of people were almost mind boggling. We made a note of their opening, and promised ourselves that we would visit after the initial crowd died off.

Problem was, the crowds have not diminished since they opened back in February. Katie and I only have Sundays when we can have breakfast together, and that's definitely Broken Yolk's busiest day. Not that we mind waiting in line, but lately our Sundays have been pretty filled up. Enter my good buddy Frank. He and I had a Thursday morning off of work, and he likes to eat breakfast early, so we decided to meet at Broken Yolk at 8am. We got right in, with no waiting.

Even though it was a weekday, there was a steady stream of people walking through the door during our stay. Located in a recently remodeled shopping center, near the corner of Marguerite and Avery Parkway, Broken Yolk has grown quite the following down in San Diego county, where 10 of their 16 locations are situated. They recently opened up their first spot outside of California, in Mesa, Arizona. This Mission Viejo venue is their second OC locale, with the other being situated in the city of Orange. Quite an aggressive expansion plan.

Their menu and interior screams breakfast joint. The menu is shaped like an egg, and the inside of the brightly colored restaurant definitely suggests breakfast coffee shop. The menu here is pretty extensive. Lots of breakfast staples, tons of egg dishes, a good variety of Mexican breakfast items, pancakes, crepes, lunch items, and even a food challenge which features a 12 egg omelette. two biscuits, and a mound of home fries. I was not brave enough to tackle it, but if you are, you get it for free and you also get a T-shirt and your picture on their wall of fame. Maybe someday I'll try it, but today I whimped out and just ordered like I regularly would. Let's see what we thought of the food at the Broken Yolk.

Let's start things off with Frank's selection on this morning, the California Breakfast Burrito ($11.65). This was his second time here, and his first time having this burrito. It was filled with scrambled eggs, avocado, bacon, cheddar cheese, and home fries. It came with rice and beans and a side of their salsa. Frank felt this burrito was kind of average, and not as good as the John Wayne omelette he had on his first visit here. Also, for close to twelve dollars, this plate filled him up, but he expected a little more from this burrito. Just for the record, for those that know Frank and his love of USC, he was actually wearing a Niagara University sweatshirt on this morning, instead of his usual cardinal and gold. Way to represent your old hometown Frank. Go Purple Eagles!

I was split between two things on the Broken Yolk menu, so I decided to try both. The first of which was this Border Check Omelette ($12.65). This omelette sounded like it would be right up my alley. Beef chorizo, jalapenos, jack cheese, and then topped with guacamole and salsa. The omelette was good sized, probably three eggs, but it was not as good as I had hoped. The chorizo had a weird texture, the salsa was very bland, and they were a little skimpy on the cheese they include on the inside. I had my choice of potato, fruit, or beans and rice, and I went with the home fries option. This was not a wise decision. The potatoes were undercooked, with only the smaller slices of potatoes cooked all the way through. Very disappointing, and I probably should have gotten the hash browns instead. This also came with a bread option, and I had their sourdough, which was decent.

I was much more happy with the second part of my meal, these Nutella Crepes ($8.55). With these you have your choice of having sliced strawberries or bananas included, and I went with the latter. Plenty of Nutella inside and out, the sliced bananas went well here, and I liked the whipped cream and the powdered sugar topping these three crepes. The crepes themselves were good, but a little on the rubbery side, and they came to our table lukewarm at best. Still, this was the highlight of our breakfast for sure, and a must try when coming here.

I left the Broken Yolk a little disappointed. With the long lines on weekends, and their rapid expansion, I was expecting to be blown away by their food, but that was not the case during this visit. Their egg dishes were pretty average, and I'm not sure what was going on with the chorizo that was included in mine. Yes, you get beans and rice with your breakfast burrito, but that still does not translate to charging $12 for the burrito. There's too many better breakfast burrito options out there, almost all of which are less than ten dollars. My crepes were a highlight, but even these had some issues. I'm not saying I wouldn't go back to Broken Yolk, but I'm not willing to wait in line for it either.

Out of five precious stones, (because this restaurant was started in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego, and the east-west streets there are mostly named after gemstones), five being best to zero being worst, Broken Yolk Cafe gets 2 precious stones.

For more information about Broken Yolk Cafe, check out their website here:

Broken Yolk Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Birthday Blowout at Bistro West

Bistro West
4960 Avenida Encinas
Carlsbad, CA 92008

So I guess we have a new tradition when it comes to Katie's birthday. Instead of me trying to guess what to get her, and having her end up returning it, I let her pick out her own gift. I know it's not the most romantic thing to do, but I want her to get something she's going to like and use. So we headed off to the Carlsbad Premium Outlets, and she got to go on a mini shopping spree.

Another part of this new birthday tradition is me picking out a restaurant to take her to. She's real easy when it comes to trying new places, so I went online and looked for restaurants near the outlet stores. I knew I was going to be pretty hungry after dealing with the Sunday crowds down there, and looking at the traffic on the 5 Freeway going north, I knew coming back to OC for dinner was not going to be an option. Best to let traffic thin out a little bit, and try a restaurant in Carlsbad. We decided on Bistro West, which is about five minutes away from the packed stores.

Bistro West is kind of off by itself, on the western side of the 5 Freeway. It's located on the same property as the West Inn and Suites, but detached from the hotel. There's plenty of parking for restaurant guests, and there was not too much of a crowd at the awkward dining hour of 4pm on a Sunday, but there was a smattering of people eating in their rather large dining room.

The dining room was classy, but not stuffy, which is a hard balance to attain. We were in casual shopping clothes, and did not feel too out of place here. It might be a little different as the night goes on though. For our OC fans, Bistro West kind of felt like the Winery, or maybe even JT Schmid's.

Bistro West is very proud of their own farm, which from what I have been able to gather, is located directly behind the outlet stores. This 3 acre farm insures that they have fresh items to help them maintain their seasonally revolving menu. Speaking of their menu, it was rather diverse, with many appetizers, salads, pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, burgers, and entree options. I had a hard time picking something, but it was time to make our choices. Let's see what we came up with.

Our waiter, Reggie promised us some freshly baked rolls, and he delivered. These came to the table very hot, and freshly baked. They kind of had the consistency of a sourdough roll, but not the sourdough taste I was expecting. Still a solid dinner roll though.

The birthday girl started things off with the small sized Bistro Baby Mixed Green Salad ($6.95). For being small sized, this salad was pretty big with flavor. This one came with caramelized walnuts, roasted tomatoes, blue cheese, a balsamic vinaigrette, and of course fresh greens. Katie really enjoyed this salad. She liked that there was plenty of blue cheese on here, and the roasted tomatoes were a nice surprise. They were a little light on the dressing, but Katie favors that, as it lets the produce be the star of the show.

I really wanted to try their Caesar salad, but I decided to buck the trend and have a go at their Ham and Bean Soup ($5.50). Like the rolls, this came to the table smoking hot. It was a very good hearty soup. Lots of flavor, and lots of shredded ham and beans in here. I should have had the bowl for an extra dollar, but I did have more food on the way.

Even though it was her birthday, Katie did not go for the most expensive thing on the menu, which would have been fine. Instead she had this modest Hot Reuben Sandwich ($16.95). All the usual suspects were here; corned beef, Swiss cheese, house made sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing, all on a toasted rye bread. Katie liked this sandwich, but was not in love with it. The corned beef was not as tender as it could have been, and they needed a little more thousand island on here to soak up some of the dryness of the meat. The toasted bread was very well done, and the sauerkraut that they make here did not overpower, like a lot of sauerkraut's can. She'd probably get something else on her next visit here. She was blown away by the Asian Coleslaw side that she had. I'm not sure what was in this, but she mentioned this coleslaw at least three times since we have left Bistro West.

I had read online somewhere that one of the burgers here was voted best burger in North San Diego, so I had to give one of them a try. I chose the Bleu Cheeseburger, and added Bacon ($15.45). The burgers here are a half pound each, and this one came with caramelized onion, blue cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a sundried tomato truffle aioli sauce. This burger had a very good balance working for it. The blue cheese was strong on this burger, but the added bacon helped to cut the taste of it a bit. The bun here did a great job keeping everything together, it was toasted nicely, and had a nice crunch to it. The burger itself was overcooked though. They asked how I wanted it, and I said medium, but this came out closer to well done. It still tasted good, but I'm sure it would have been juicier if it was closer to medium. I went with French Fries for my side item, and they came out nice and crisp. A pretty good french fry, but nothing that made it stand out too much.

Katie had mentioned that it was her birthday, and our waiter Reggie brought out this Warm Gingered Pear Cobbler ($8.95, but free for her birthday). This was topped with a little bit of a crumble, Tahitian vanilla gelato, and surrounded by two dollops of whipped cream. I'm usually not too partial to fruit desserts, but this one was pretty solid. The pear was a nice deviation from apple that is almost always used. The crust of the cobble could have had more crumble, but the gelato added a little sweetness. Katie has been abstaining from desserts recently, but really seemed to enjoy this one.

Now this is definitely more my style of dessert. This Bistro West Mud Pie ($8.95) might be misnamed, but it did not detract from its deliciousness. When you usually think of mud pies, you probably think of a cake layered with ice cream, and this was more of a deconstructed version of the classic mud pie. The base of this starts with an Oreo cookie crust with peanut butter, then is topped by a coconut and white chocolate chip brownie, and topped with whipped cream and berries, with a coffee stout gelato on the side. The brownie portion of this was very rich, but oh so good. Very moist, and being a peanut butter lover, this got me from the first bite. I did not really get a lot of coconut or white chocolate here, but I did not mind. The gelato was nice and mellow, and the coffee flavor did not overpower. A few other desserts sound pretty good on their menu, but I can't see myself getting anything else, but this one.

We both left Bistro West satisfied, but not blown away, (except with that last dessert). The food here was good, but we both remarked that we would like to try somewhere else when we come down here again next year for Katie's birthday. Maybe we just ordered the wrong things, and something else on this diverse menu would totally make us want to come back here. This restaurant is very comfortable, the service was good, and there's plenty to choose from on the menu, so you'll definitely find something to order at Bistro West. I'm already starting to do some research for next years restaurant, so if you have somewhere that will blow us away, leave us a comment or shoot us an email. I'm just glad I don't have to head back to those outlet store for another 12 months.

Out of five golf clubs, (because the city of Carlsbad is home to many golf makers corporate headquarters, like Callaway, Cobra, and Taylormade), five being best to zero being worst, Bistro West gets 3 golf clubs.

For more information about Bistro West, go to their website here:

Bistro West on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Flavors of Aloha Cookbook Release Party at Tommy Bahama

Tommy Bahama Island Grille 
854 Avocado 
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Now that we have settled back into our normal routine after all the wedding shenanigans that we had to endure the last year, we both made a vow to eat at home more often. Just this week we ate at home two times, which almost doubles the amount of home cooked meals that we have made since we moved in together a year and a half ago. Yes, we eat out a lot.

It makes sense that we would want to cook more at home now though. Thanks to family and friends, we have all new cooking utensils, a new set of fantastic pots and pans, new dishes, silverware, and new appliances to use. The only thing we were missing was a really great cookbook. Now thanks to the great folks at Tommy Bahama, and world renowned, cookbook author, Rick Rodgers, we are now in possession of a great cookbook, "Flavors of Aloha". If you love the food at Tommy Bahama Island Grille, or the food of Hawaii, then this book is a must for you.

We were recently treated to a few of the 100 recipes that are included in this first in a series of Cooking with Tommy Bahama cookbooks. Many of these recipes are served at one of the thirteen Tommy Bahama restaurants located throughout the country, so you can make some of your restaurant favorites right in your home. Cookbook author, Rick Rodgers uses clear and concise step by step directions that will have novice cooks like myself, basking in the glow of friends and family. The cookbook is also photographed beautifully, and transports you across the Pacific for the short time that you are preparing your meal. Let's take a look at what Tommy Bahama had in store for us on this evening.

As we were ushered to the back patio of the restaurant for cocktails, we were lei'd with beautiful flowers around our neck, and presented with arguably the most iconic cocktail from Hawaii, the Mai Tai. Now with the help of Flavors of Aloha, you can entertain at home with this classic beverage, which can be found on page 167. A little rum, along with other potent potables, and you will be whisked away to that tropical beach of your dreams as you sip this cocktail. Very relaxing.

Probably the first recipe I'm going to tackle out of this cookbook will be this one, the Sweet Maui Onion and Bacon Dip. Way better than those dry packets you get at the supermarket, this dip had a great depth of flavor, which was rounded out by bacon, and that can never be wrong, right? This dip was served with root chips, which were good, but I'm going to go old school and use good old Ruffles potato chips when I make this. I already can't wait to attempt this one.

If you've been to Tommy Bahama Island Grille, and not had their World Famous Coconut Shrimp, you have truly missed out on one of their best items on the menu. A lighter than usual breaded shrimp is served with a sweet papaya-mango chutney, which goes great with the brininess of the shrimp. Great crunch to this one, and then the sweetness of the chutney hits you. This might be the first thing we make using our new deep fryer that we received for our wedding.

Please excuse my poor hand modeling in these shots, but don't let that distract you from this wonderful Ahi Tuna Poke. Poke has definitely become way more mainstream within the last few years, and this was a very good version. There was just enough going on here, so it did not distract from the natural flavor of the ahi. This very fresh cubed tuna was made even more special with the addition of an excellent avocado wasabi cream, which added a nice dynamic to this unique presentation, which was served in a sesame cone.

Here's a different take on your standard wings. These Roasted Korean Chicken Wings don't look like anything you can get at Hooters, and they tasted way better as well. What these wings lacked in spiciness, they made up for in flavor. A nice mix of ginger, garlic, and honey washed over each bite in waves. Very nicely done.

And the hits, just kept on coming. This Coconut and Curry Marinated Pork Satay was absolutely delicious, and hard to resist since I knew we had a full on meal coming our way. Char-grilled and then finished with a very well made peanut sauce. I limited myself to only three of these, but could have made an entire meal of them.

There was a chef demo going on near the back of the patio, which I missed, due to me talking way too much to my food friends. I was lucky enough to get a quick shot of the end result of the demo item, Spam Musubi. A factoid I learned while reading the Flavors of Aloha cookbook is that Hawaiians eat 5 and a half cans of Spam a year on average, many of which are used this way. I'm not much of a Spam lover, but eating it this way was not too bad.

After what seemed like an endless assortment of appetizers, we were ushered into the restaurant for dinner. Here we started with a Green Papaya and Chilled Shrimp Salad. Julienned veggies were tossed with cilantro, peanuts, and fresh lime. After all of those appetizers, I really appreciated the lightness of this salad.

The main course was up next, and much to my delight, it was both fish and red meat, which I always feel is like hitting the lotto. The better of the two on this night was the Kona Coffee Crusted Skirt Steak. Big time flavors on this one. You could actually taste a hint of coffee in this well made rub, and the steak was cooked to a wonderful medium rare. Then the generous serving of steak was topped with heirloom tomato relish, for a great finish. Very tasty. The Ginger Glazed Wild King Salmon was also good, but was a little overshadowed by the steak for me. This salmon also had a lot of things working here, a hoisin sauce, fresh ginger and sesame seeds. The seafood lovers around us were pretty content with this presentation.

Side items in the Flavors of Aloha cookbook are definitely stars in their own right. We had four of them on this night. The one that was the most buzzed about was the Wasabi and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. These had that special wasabi flavor, but without that burn a hole in your stomach heat you would expect from wasabi. I'm always partial to mushrooms, and these Drunken Mushrooms were on point. Made drunken by the addition of sake, I counted at least three different kinds of mushrooms here, but there could have been more. The Chili and Lemon Broccolini added a big pop of green to our plates, as well as a boost of citrus. I'm no fan of kimchi, so I was a little hesitant to put too much of the Cabbage and Daikon Kimchi on my plate, but from what I had, it was pretty good, but I'm still not a kimchi guy.

Dessert is always special at Tommy Bahama, and one of the main reasons for this is because of their famous Pina Colada Cake. The lightness of this cake and the excellent island flavors are a great finish to any meal, and now that the recipe is included in the Flavors of Aloha Cookbook, you can enjoy this cake at home whenever you want. Which may get me in some trouble. Vanilla cake, with dark rum, diced pineapple, white chocolate mousse, and toasted coconut will even have coconut haters liking this cake. A wonderful end to our evening at Tommy Bahama.

When we left Tommy Bahama we were presented with the Flavors of Aloha Cookbook, and I have to say that I am pretty impressed, and more importantly, inspired to use this cookbook. It is written very well, not only with the directions, but with little tidbits about Hawaii, and the food from there. No, we will not stop going out to restaurants, like Tommy Bahama Island Grille, but since we have an all new kitchen, we will definitely make use of this cookbook with all of these great recipes.

We would like to thank everyone that made this night possible for us. First we would like to thank everyone at Tommy Bahama for hosting such a great event. It was a pleasure meeting Rob Goldberg, Executive Vice President of Tommy Bahama, and getting a chance to learn the process of how the cookbook came about, and talk a little sports with him as well. We also would like to thank Director of Culinary Operations at Tommy Bahama, Don Donley and his team in the kitchen, who brought all of these wonderful recipes to life on our plates. Great work guys. Lastly, we definitely have to thank the author of Flavors of Aloha, the wonderful Rick Rodgers, who without him, we would not all be here on this night. He's worked on, and authored way too many cookbooks to mention here, he's a much in demand teacher of cooking classes, been featured on many TV shows, and was such a great guy, that he didn't mind answering annoying questions from a restaurant blogger from Orange County. Thanks for everything Rick.

If you would like to get your hands on the Flavors of Aloha cookbook, you can buy it by following this link,

Also, do not forget to think about heading to Tommy Bahama Island Grille for some great food. More information can be found here:

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