Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cooking Up a Storm at La Cocina de Ricardo

La Cocina de Ricardo
23532 El Toro Rd. #11
Lake Forest, CA 92630

My friend CJ told me I must try this place, and always loving tips from my friends, Katie and I headed out to give this Mexican restaurant a try. La Cocina de Ricardo is located in the back of a strip mall, right next to the new Arbor shopping center on El Toro Road. This small eatery has three other locations; one each  in San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, and Mountain View.

From the second we entered this brightly colored restaurant, we felt very welcomed. The menu offers quite a bit to choose from, so lets see what we decided on.

Here is the Mexican Pizza appetizer. This is a crispy flour tortilla, with refried beans, cheese, beef, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream and cilantro. This had a very nice flavor to it, and the beef really tasted great. The flavors were a little too mellow for me, so I added some hot sauce that was on the table. Everything tasted really fresh.

Katie ordered her standard plate from any Mexican restaurant, the Two Item Combo plate. She always chooses a chicken taco and a chicken tamale. Usually the chicken tamales that she orders are very dry, but not this one. This tamale is made fresh in house and was very moist, but not too moist. The chicken was plentiful in it as well. I also enjoyed the taco as well. The tortilla was crisp and it was a solid taco. She opted for a salad instead of rice. She said it was your basic salad, but it tasted fresh.

My standard plate to order in a Mexican restaurant is a carnitas plate, so I ordered the Carnitas Los Gordos. This is listed under their family specials and can be ordered in a half size, single serving size or made for two. The pork was good, very tender and not too oily. The meat had a real nice smokiness to it. The beans were obviously homemade, and tasted great. The rice was okay, I am never really too impressed by rice wherever we go. La Cocina de Ricardo does not really seem to use a lot of seasoning in their food, I guess that is what the hot sauce is for on the table. They do say that on request that most items can be made spicy, I will try this on my next visit.

For dessert we ordered the traditional Flan. This was a good flan. Katie really liked it. I thought it could have been creamier, but it was still good. I really liked the caramel sauce and the way that this and all the plates were presented at Ricardo's.

I would definitely recommend this place to anyone that is looking for a great Mexican meal in a real homey place. From the second we walked in, Mario and the rest of the employees seemed really glad that we were here. They talk a lot about their family, and when you are in their restaurant, they make you feel like you are one of their own. Thanks for the tip CJ!

Out of five sinks, (because what is more important in a kitchen than a working sink?), five being best to zero being worst, La Cocina de Ricardo gets 3 sinks.

If you would like to find out more about La Cocina de Ricardo, click here:

La Cocina de Ricardo on Urbanspoon

Dry Docked at the Jolly Roger CLOSED

Jolly Roger
34661 Golden Lantern
Dana Point, CA 92629

Looking for somewhere different to try, Katie and I decided on giving the Jolly Roger a shot. The last Jolly Roger I had been to was on Balboa Island, and that one is long gone. In fact, there are only two left, one in Oceanside and this one in Dana Point.

On this Sunday night we could have our pick of any table in the place. They were not very busy, so we opted to sit upstairs. The view was great, here is a picture from our table.

Lets hope the view is not the best thing about this place. Onto the food you land lovers! That is my pirate talk.

For an appetizer, we chose the Crab and Artichoke Dip. The menu said this was snow crab and artichoke hearts blended with cream cheese. The first picture shows the oil slick that was very much evident in this dip. The crab was un-noticeable, and the artichoke hearts were non-existent. The second picture shows the trouble we had dipping our chips in this dip. The cheese was very stringy, and made it impossible for us to dip our chips without  creating a big ribbon of cheese with each dip. I am not even sure this was cream cheese in this dish, it really tasted like mozzarella, but I could be wrong about that. Not a very good start to our meal.

This bright colored plate was Katie's Shrimp Scampi. This was a daily special and not on the regular menu. After tasting this, it should stay off of the menu. The shrimp had no taste, even when I drenched it in the garlic and butter. One of the worst shrimp scampi's that I have ever had. The rice and vegetables were average.

So for my plate I went with a Pirate Combo, featuring Prime Rib and Coconut Shrimp. First, the prime rib had fat all through the cut. I was really fighting this meat with my knife. The meat itself was good, but all the fat really made this plate more of a challenge to eat.

The coconut shrimp was heavily battered, and you could not taste the shrimp. Eaten without the orange marmalade sauce, these shrimp were dry. The rest of the plate was nothing to write home about either. The mashed potatoes were dry as well, and the vegetables were just okay.

The service at the Jolly Roger left a lot to be desired also. Our ill fated crab and artichoke dip sat finished in the middle of our table throughout our meal. The waiter himself was pleasant, but not enough to make us want to go back. I would describe the food here as, bad wedding reception food. Everything was bland and very dry.

So out of five skull and cross bones, (because that is what is on the Jolly Roger flag, not because the food is poison!), five being best to zero being worst, the Jolly Roger gets 1 skull and cross bones.

If you would like to visit the Jolly Roger web site, click here:

Jolly Roger on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Going Fishing at Boneheads

23704 El Toro RD.
Lake Forest, CA 92630

My friend Richard and I have very opposite tastes when it comes to food. He is a Chipotle super fan, and I think they are mediocre. He hates Ruby's and Islands, and I think they make good burgers. And so on it goes. So when he was raving about Boneheads and how good it was, I was a little skeptical. Let's see if Boneheads can be our food peace accord.

Boneheads is a casual fish chain based primarily out of Georgia. They have seven stores, and this is the first in California. As Katie and I walk in on this Sunday night, the place is buzzing with activity. Let's see if the food is what is making customers flock here.

So when Richard was yapping about Boneheads, he was telling me that the Piri-Piri sauce was awesome. First a little background on Piri-Piri sauce. The Piri-Piri chili is grown in Mozambique, and is a favorite in Eastern African and Portuguese cooking. At Boneheads they have four types of sauce for your enjoyment,  lemon and herb, medium, hot and extra hot. I tried all of them, and of course I really liked the extra hot the best. The lemon and herb was good also.

Here is Katie's dish. She went with the three taco plate. For her tacos she chose, one chicken, one shrimp and one tilapia taco. For the side item she chose Sweet Potato Fries. She did not rave about the sweet potato fries, so I assume they were just okay. This plate was $8.49.

This is a look at the inside of the chicken taco. This was Katie's favorite. All of the tacos are filled with your choice of fish or chicken, Asian cole slaw, and Boneheads sauce, (which was described to us as a French tartar sauce). Very good tasting taco, I used the very hot Piri-Piri sauce on this one.

Here is the inside of the shrimp taco. I liked this one the best. Really good tasting shrimp, and the lemon herb piri-piri sauce I added, really added to this taco.

Here is my plate. I picked the Grilled Mahi-Mahi, topped with Black Bean and Corn Salsa. With all of the grilled fish you can choose a topping, choices include, Cucumber Lime & Yogurt, Pineapple Salsa, Sauteed Piri Mushrooms, or the Black Bean & Corn Salsa above. The fish tasted great and was very flavorful, even with the bland corn and bean salsa. This plate also included rice and one side item. I had the Grilled Zucchini Strips. These had grill marks across them, and tasted fine, but next time I will opt for the Asian Cole Slaw, which I hear is great, and tasted great in the tacos.

So I have to admit that Richard was right about this place. I liked the food, and am looking forward to going back and trying other items off of their menu. The sauces were good and the food tasted fresh. I also felt this place was a good value. All items on their menu are under ten dollars, (except the Whole Chicken), and that is pretty good for a fish place.

Out of five idiots, (because that is the dictionary definition of a bonehead), five being best to zero being worst, Boneheads gets three solid idiots.

For information on Boneheads, click here:

 Boneheads on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Have Died and Gone to Cinnamon Roll Heaven!

Paul's Pantry
27409 Bellogente #B
Mission Viejo, CA 92691

After a crazy night out with our families, for my brother in law's fortieth birthday, both Katie and I were looking for somewhere different to eat for breakfast. We wanted somewhere that would help us soak up the alcohol that was probably still in our system. Enter Paul's Pantry. This place has been around a long time. Let's see if this is the cure for our hangover blues.

Paul's is your typical coffee shop. This Sunday morning was busy, but not too crowded. We walked right in and were told to sit wherever we wanted. The menu here is pretty good sized for breakfast. So lets see what we settled on.

This is the Hillbilly Scramble. This dish is made up of scrambled eggs, Polish sausage, avocado, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and cheese. This was a very filling scramble, and they did not skimp on any of the toppings. The flavors were really good on this one.

Also served with my breakfast were these two pancakes. They were decent, and really made me full. If you wanted to skip the pancakes you could choose hash browns and toast instead. But there is another item here that you must try, and here it is.

This is probably the best cinnamon roll I have ever had, and believe me, I have eaten my fair share of cinnamon rolls. This came with Katie's meal that we will talk about in a moment. You can substitute the toast for a cinnamon roll, and that is what she did. That is also what I will do on my future visits to Paul's. The softball sized cinnamon roll, had lots of sugary frosting, and was baked just perfectly. A real show stopper for this meal.

Katie got the Popeye Scramble. This scramble is composed of scrambled eggs. spinach, tomatoes, green onions, mushrooms and topped with mozzarella cheese. She really liked this, but had a hard time finishing this off. I also really enjoyed the flavor of this dish.

Paul's is a true greasy spoon. None of this food is good for you, but if you feel like treating yourself every once in awhile, I see no harm in that. The cinnamon roll alone is worth the trip here. I have heard that the service is spotty here, but we had no complaints on this visit.

Out of five big screens, (yes I know this is not Paul's the king of big screens!), five being best to zero being worst, Paul's Pantry receives three big screens.

Paul's does not have a web site, but you check out their menu here:

 Paul's Pantry on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dallas Part 1- Woofing It Down at the Angry Dog

The Angry Dog
2726 Commerce St.
Dallas Texas 75226

So Katie and I went on vacation to Dallas for five days in April. Our purpose for the trip was to see the sights, go to a hockey and baseball game, and of course find and sample the best food that big D has to offer. This is part one of seven in our Dallas series. So sit back, put on your big belt buckle and enjoy this special edition of Eating My Way Through Dallas.

We arrived from Orange county to DFW at 8:00, on a Tuesday night, and before we checked in the hotel, we made a stop a the Angry Dog. The Dog has won a lot of awards that they proudly display on the walls of their restaurant. They have won awards for best hamburger, best nachos, and best hot dog in the city of Dallas. The place is in the Deep Elum district of Dallas, an area that is a little rundown, but I think it has a lot of potential, and a cool vibe. The Angry Dog has a cool staff, that mirrors its relaxed atmosphere. Let's see how the food measures up.

We of course started with the award winning nachos. This is the half order, and we polished them off with no problem. I thought that the half order was going to be bigger. The nachos were all right. I thought the chips were a little off, they bake their own, but they were just average tasting to me. I liked the cheese and other toppings on the nachos. The jalapenos were barely noticeable on the nachos.

Sorry for the horrible picture of the Angry Dog here, I will blame jet lag. This is a chili cheese dog with onions and mustard. This was split in two for us by our waiter. The all-beef kosher hot dog was really good. It had a good snap to it when you bit into it. The chili was mediocre, and I was really disappointed that the cheese was just thrown on top of the hot dog, and was not even close to being melted. The fries were good, especially dipped in ranch.

Above is the Angry Dog's Hamburger. This burger came with mayo and mustard, bacon,(added for $1.25), cheddar cheese, and grilled onions. Both Katie and thought that this burger was way too greasy. Of course it tasted good, and it is easy to see why this place has won an award for, "Best Cure For a Hangover in Dallas".

So our first stop in Dallas can probably be summed up by being just an average bar, with average bar food. They did have lots of TV's, and some were actually turned to hockey, and so they do score some points there. But not enough to save them from our rating.

Out of five dog houses, five being best to zero being worst, the Angry Dog gets 2.5 dog houses.

If you would like more information on the Angry Dog, check out their web site here:

Angry Dog on Urbanspoon

Meeting Five Guys In Dallas

Five Guys Burgers and Fries
13350 Dallas Parkway Suite 975
Dallas, TX 75240

Katie and I went on vacation to Dallas for five days in April. Our purpose for the trip was to see the sights, go to a hockey and baseball game, and of course find and sample the best food that big D has to offer. This is part two of seven in our Dallas series. So sit back, put on your Stetson and enjoy this special edition of Eating My Way Through Dallas.

I had heard of Five Guys before, and knew that they are going to be opening a store in Orange County this summer. Katie an I were at the Galleria Mall in Dallas, and spotted the Five Guys and decided we would get a sneak preview. Here is what we found.

Five Guys is at first glance, your basic fast food restaurant. The menu is pretty standard. They have hamburgers, hot dogs and fries. They do offer peanuts while you wait. They also have stacks of peanut oil all over the restaurant. Not sure if they sell it there, or they are just showing that their fries are fried in peanut oil. Now on to the burger and fries.

First up the fries at Five Guys. They were really great. I know I should turn in my California license for saying this, but these fries are way better than In-N-Out's fries. They were way hot, and tasted great. Not greasy at all. They have two sizes of fries here, large and regular, we got the regular and it easily could feed two to three people.
This burger really does deserve two pictures and more. I ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger. They also have a Little Bacon Cheeseburger for smaller appetites that features only one patty. The burgers at Five Guys come with your choice of fifteen toppings for free. Most of these are condiments, but they also include mushrooms, onions, jalapeno peppers, and green peppers. I liked the wide choice at Five Guys. I went with relish, mayo and grilled onions. The bun was soft, and the burger itself was moist and juicy, without being overly greasy. The bacon was crisp, and everything together made this one fantastic fast food burger.
So now I am super excited to have a Five Guys open in Orange. I hope it is as great as this visit was. Out of five sports cars, because all guys love sports cars, Five Guys gets 3.5 sports cars.
To find out more info on Five Guys, check them out here:
Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Hanging Out at Baker's Ribs

Baker's Ribs
4844 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206

Katie and I went on vacation to Dallas for five days in April. Our purpose for the trip was to see the sights, go to a hockey and baseball game, and of course, find and sample the best food that big D has to offer. This is part three of seven in our Dallas series. So sit back, put on your boots and enjoy this special edition of Eating My Way Through Dallas.

Baker's was not on our original list of places to try. We had just missed going to a taco place for lunch because we spent way too much time at Southfork Ranch. But the night before when we were at the Angry Dog, we saw another Baker's Ribs place, and it smelled so good, that I really wanted to try it. Let's see if the smell matches the food.

Katie and I were going to be eating dinner in a few hours, so we just split this one plate of food. We got the Three Meat Combo plate. Let's go in for a closer look.

First stop is the ribs. These were, of course, the star of the show. The ribs were cooked perfectly with a little bit of char on the outside, and the meat fell off the bone with just a slight tug. The meat was so tender and the sauce was applied in just the right amount. Wow, I can not say enough about these ribs, other than I wish I would have had more. The picture above is how a rib should look after eating one, the meat should come off clean. Wish the places in Orange County could get this right.   
The second of our two types of meat was the Hot Sausage. This sausage was not really hot, it had more of a smoky flavor. Decent sausage, not the best I have ever had, but okay. It was made better when I added some of the bbq sauce to it.
The last of our meat trifecta was the sliced beef. This was also very tender and you could taste the hickory in the meat. Very good beef here. Again I wish I could have had more of this, or maybe in a sandwich.
Now it is on to the sides. This is the potato salad. I am very hard on potato salad, and this is a good one. It really had a nice dill flavor and good consistency. The potatoes were cooked right, and I liked the way they were dressed.
Another hit was the macaroni and cheese. It was good and cheesy flavor and creamy. Both Katie and I were fighting over the forkfuls of this.
Lastly, we had the Fried Pecan Pie. This was good, but it was made fantastic when we put some soft serve vanilla ice cream over it. A very good end to a great meal.
Baker's has six locations in Dallas, one in Houston and two in Minnesota. I am really hoping that they branch out towards California soon. This was definitely one of the best barbeque experiences I have ever had.
So with that, out of five little piggies, five being best to zero being worst, Baker's Ribs get four little piggies.
For more information on Baker's, look them up here:
Baker's Ribs on Urbanspoon