Friday, July 30, 2010

All Roads Lead to Roman Cucina

Roman Cucina
25214 Cabot Rd.
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

Sometimes it is really hard to write this blog. Especially if the place that we go is just average, or the food is un-inspired. This is not going to be a hard entry to write, simply put, this place rocks! I can not even string you along to make you wait to see how I am going to rate this place. But please read on though, and see what we ate, or at least look at the pictures, you will not be disappointed.

Roman Cucina has four locations in the OC, (Sunset Beach, Costa Mesa, and Fullerton are the others).  Katie was coming over for date night, so I headed to Yelp to find a place to try. This place had great reviews, so that is where we headed.

Roman Cucina is tucked in a shopping center that's big draw is a Wienerschnitzel and a Howard's Electronics. The outside is unassuming, but once inside the place is buzzing with activity. We arrived on a Friday night about 7:30, and are sat right away. This restaurant has a downtown Fullerton vibe to me. The staff is all young, and the owner is walking around talking to his guests. Let's see the food we got...

I ordered the Peroni, a nice light beer from Italy. Also above is the bread that is served with the meal. It is your basic french bread. Not too keen on the butter packets though. I would have rather liked a dish of butter, but that would probably be my only complaint all night.

 For an appetizer, we chose to get the Milanese. Breaded cutlet of beef, pounded thin and served with red sauce. I had never had this before, and it was delicious. The flavor of the meat was enhanced with a few squirts of lemon over it. The red sauce on this was good as well.

Each of their meals comes with this House Salad. Romaine lettuce, with red onion, cucumber, and a vinaigrette dressing. Your basic salad, but with fresh items in it.

Katie went with her old standby in an Italian restaurant, the Shrimp Scampi. She chose the fettuccine pasta to go along with the white wine sauce and lemon garlic sauce that make up this dish. She has had a run of scampi's that have been un-flavorful, and this dish put an end to that streak. The flavors were abundant, but not overpowering. We have also been going to a lot of places that have left the tails on the shrimp, and this place did not leave them on, a nice change.

 My dish is up next. After much debate, I went with the Pasta Tombrello. This plate is comprised of ground Italian sausage and mushrooms with a spicy Bianco Diavolo sauce. Usually, when a place says that an item is spicy, it is not and I have to ask for red pepper flakes to kick it up, this was not the case here. This had a lot of spice, the pasta was cooked perfectly, and the sausage was plentiful. One of the best pasta dishes I have had in a while.

I am not much of a tiramisu guy, but this one was really good. I liked the size of the portion, and the moistness was right on. A very good end to a good meal.

The menu here is pretty standard Italian fare. They do not have veal or some of the fancier dishes that other Italian restaurants have. But what they do have is a solid menu, that anyone can find something to like. The food here is not complicated, it is pretty straight forward. The owner told us that he got the recipes from his grandmother, and I could picture her teaching him the tricks of the trade.

The owner had a great attitude and it seemed to spread to the rest of the employees. All of the customers seemed to be very pleased, and I hope that this odd location catches on. Entrees are in the $13 to $18 dollar range, and they have fair-sized portions for the money.

So out of five togas, five being best to zero being worst, Roman Cucina gets 3.5 togas.

For more information about Roman Cucina, click here:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Skimming the Menu at Skimmer's

Skimmer's Panini Grill
25290 Marguerite Pkwy #E
Mission Viejo, CA 92692

Katie and I have been on a real sandwich kick lately. I think it might be because we have been eating out so much, that on our off nights, we just want something that is on the lighter side. Enter Skimmer's. I found them on Yelp, about a year and a half ago. I remember liking it, but I am not sure why I did not go back.

I have had Skimmer's since then because they catered Katie's sister's bridal shower and her day after the wedding brunch. Now Katie and I headed to Skimmer's on two separate occasions, to give it a try, and see if all the positive reviews on Yelp were well deserved. Our first trip was a to-go order, and here is what we got.

Up first are their Crouton Fries with Chipotle Dipping sauce. These were very rich and garlicky. I am a big fan of garlic, but these were almost too much for me. I did like the sauce that went with these though, it had a good taste and the texture was right. Katie did not seem to care for these, as she only had two, and was done with them.

The Skimmer's menu is tough to navigate, I had a few choices that I would have liked to have tried, so it was difficult for me to narrow down my choice. I settled on the Miami Grilled Sandwich with Potato Salad as a side item. The Miami sandwich is trying to go for that Cuban sandwich vibe. Roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles, mayo, and mustard come on this. I liked this sandwich, you could tell that the Boar's Head Brand meats that they used were all sliced fresh. The sourdough bread was nice and toasted. Unfortunately, Katie had to make a stop to get an iced tea, so this sandwich had cooled considerably before I got a chance to try it hot. I thought that the potato salad was just okay, nothing made it stand out.

Katie ordered the Iron Chicken sandwich. This sandwich had garlic chicken breast, black forest ham, tomato, swiss, and citrus mayo. She felt that the citrus mayo made this sandwich, and added something that you would not expect. The chicken she felt was cooked well. She would get this sandwich again.

On our second trip to Skimmer's, Katie got the OC sandwich. Turkey, avocado, goat cheese, chipotle-lime mayo, all on 8-grain wheat. She liked the smoothness of the goat cheese and avocado but felt that this overpowered the turkey, and made the meat a non-factor. She liked that this was a lighter choice, and would get this again.

 I chose to go with the Rubenini. This sandwich featured corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss, and thousand island dressing. This was a good sandwich, and much better when we ate it there because it came out warm. There was lots of cheese on this, and the amount of meat on this was adequate, I would have liked a little more. The coleslaw that I got to go with this sandwich was just okay, nothing memorable.

We got dessert this trip and went with the Brownie Bash. I am not sure if it was because we have not had ice cream in so long, or if we were just really hungry, but this tasted fantastic. Four scoops of Dryer's ice cream, along with brownie bites, caramel, and hot fudge topping on it, made this dessert a winner. We practically licked the bowl clean.

Skimmers is a nice alternative to the sandwich chains. The sandwiches are a little more expensive than Subway, and Togo's, but they are fresher. I wish they would upgrade their side dishes. They were all bland, and you are better off getting a bag of chips. I look forward to future visits to trying their Buffalo Chicken sandwich. The staff at Skimmer's is young but were competent. It is also nice that this is owned by a local couple, and you can tell that they are invested in the community.

So out of five pool toys, (because they always get stuck in pool skimmers), five being best, to zero being worst Skimmer's gets 3 pool toys.

For more information on Skimmer's click here:

Is the Catch a Hit or an Error?

The Catch
2100 E. Katella Ave., Ste 104
Anaheim, CA 92806

The Catch has been across from Angel Stadium for as long as I can remember. I remember my parents telling me that the Catch is where the Angel players go after the games, so it always had this kind of cool aura around it. When I was finally old enough to go there, I remember it being real dark and crowded after games. There were some player sightings, and some good times at the bar.

The Catch recently moved into their new building, a few blocks away from the old one. This whole area of Anaheim is trying to get that big city vibe, with high rise apartments, concert venues and restaurants. The Catch is located on the ground floor of one of these high rises, the AvalorBay building. This version of the Catch restaurant is anything, but dark. The bar area is wide open and there are windows everywhere. We arrived on a Sunday at 5, and there was still a good sized crowd left over from the baseball game in the bar area. There was even a baseball player sighting, Angels first baseman , Mike Napoli. But enough with baseball player stalking, how about the food.

Okay, so here are some random pictures of the dining room, the ice tea, and the bread that they serve. The dining room was nice and cozy. Lots of windows in here as well. It was empty on this night. All of the action was in the bar. I was wondering how busy this place would be on a non-game day. The iced teas that we ordered were accompanied by their own carafes for each of us. I liked this touch, because you never had to ask for more tea. The rolls that they had were sourdough rolls, and they were adequate.

Now on to the salads. Above is Katie's salad, the Caprese. Tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic vinegar made up this salad. I liked the presentation of this, and my parents and Katie raved about the flavor of this salad. I did not try this though.

For my salad I got the Slice of Ice. This cool salad, (ahh get it, because of the name, wow I am so sorry, my sense of humor is awful), anyways, this salad was half an iceberg lettuce, with Point Reyes blue cheese, red onions, grape tomatoes, bacon and blue cheese dressing. I liked this salad, the flavors were big, and it came out really cold.  The dressing to salad ratio on this was good as well.

The winner of the salad portion of this meal has to go to this one, the Vermont Maple Salad. Mixed greens with maple vinaigrette dressing, Cotija cheese, sliced apples, candied black pepper bacon and toasted pecans. Yes, I said candied bacon! Also, the unusual maple dressing was killer on this. I am not big on salads with fruit in them, but this one worked. I would for sure get this salad next time.

Our appetizer arrived the same time as our salad's, so the Teriyaki Dragon Rolls were made to wait. The dragon roll consisted of marinated pork and shrimp, with vegetables in a spring roll and flash fried. These were served with a black bean sauce that had a little kick to it. Very tasty, and we all liked these.

Now we move on to the entree portion of the meal. Katie got the Shrimp Christopher. Large shrimp are butterflied and stuffed with crab, scallops, shrimp, and fish. It was kind of like a mini crab cake on top of a shrimp, not what I had pictured when she ordered this. It was okay, not great. With all of these killer items in this dish I would have thought it would have tasted better. The garlic mashed potatoes that came with this were pretty good though. The rainbow chard was sauteed perfectly, but kind of got lost under all the potatoes.

My Mom chose to get Victor's Fish and Chips. Cod dipped in beer batter, then fried and served with a tarter sauce. These are served with garlic fries, which did not seem too garlicky to me, and Louisiana hot slaw, that did definitely had a kick to it. I liked the fish, but again was not wowed by it. It was not oily, and was flaky on the inside. I usually like more dressing for my slaw, but this was good slaw.

The winner in the main dish category was again chosen by my Dad. He opted for the Drunken Mahi-Mahi. Blackened fish, splashed with tequila, over tomato risotto. The fish was done perfectly, and it was hard for me to get a bite from my Dad, because he liked this so much. The fish was presented well, and was paired with crab tostados, (which were more the size of a nacho really). The tostados were topped with tomatillo-avocado salsa, and Cotija cheese. Very good, solid dish here.

I was the only one that did not go for fish at the table. I saw the Double Header on the menu and knew that was what I was going to have. Two filets, one with shrimp scampi over it, and the other was prepared Oscar style, with hollandaise sauce and crab over it. I loved that they offered this on the menu, but that is where my love ended for this dish. The hollandaise sauce was too thick, and the crab was un-noticeable. One of the filets, was over cooked, (the other was cooked perfectly the way I ordered it, medium rare). The scampi steak was okay, and they did not short change you on the shrimp with this one. The flavor just did not pop out at me.

I had mixed feelings about the Catch. I really liked the salads and appetizers. I felt that the entrees were not the best, but they seemed to be trying hard. The service was good, but there were only two tables in the dining room, so it might be different on busier nights. The bar seemed like the place to be, and I am looking forward to trying their huge, four pound burger, (with friends of course), and also trying some of their different appetizers.

Out of five Willie Mays gold gloves, (because he was the one who had, "The Catch"), five being best to zero being worst, The Catch  gets 3 gold gloves.

For more information on The Catch, check them out here:

Catch on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Quick Trip to BJ's

BJ's Restaurant and Brewery
24032 El Toro Road
Laguna Hills, CA 92651

My buddy Clay made a surprise visit down to our area, so Katie and I decided we would take him to BJ's. He is usually pretty picky when it come to eating places, and I had remembered him eating here before, so I knew he would be down to head over to BJ's Laguna Hills location.

BJ's has 97 locations throughout the United States. They started in Santa Ana, and wowed people with their deep dish Chicago pizza. In 1997, they started making their own beer in their Brea store. I like BJ's, but I never really think about going there. It  is always crowded every time I go, and this trip was no exception. We got there at 7:30 on a Wednesday, and still had to wait for ten minutes. This is the food we got once we were seated.

To start our meal, we got the Crisp Potato Skins Platter. These potato skins are filled with jack and cheddar cheese, bacon and green onions. Served with an awesome sour cream dip. This is probably one of my top 10 appetizers. I know they are simple, but they are always good. They are not too oily, and always crisp. Usually I am more of a Ranch dressing guy, but these call for sour cream.

Clay got the Sweet Pig Pizza. This personal pizza included ham, pineapple and seasoned tomatoes. Clay liked this pizza, but took the tomatoes off of this. He felt the pizza was just average. They did not really load up on the toppings on this one.

Here is Katie's Spinach and Artichoke Pizza. This of course had those two items, as well as cream cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, and tomatoes. I am not going to lie to you, this is definitely not my type of pizza, and I did not try it. I will defer to her opinion on this pizza. She said that there was too much white sauce on this. She likes their veggie pizzas better.

I have really been craving a good Cuban sandwich lately, and when I saw that BJ's had a Cuban Burger, that is what I summoned. This half pound burger came with ham, swiss cheese, pickles, dijonnaise, and mustard. It had the ingredients of a Cuban sandwich, but did not quench my desire for one. The burger was good, but a little bland tasting. The fries were good with ranch.

For dessert we got the Pizookie Trio. Three mini pizookie's, we chose a Triple Chocolate cookie, Peanut Butter cookie and a Chocolate Chunk cookie, all topped with a scoop of ice cream. The peanut butter was our favorite and the chocolate chunk was close behind. The triple chocolate was just too much for me. For the indecisive, this was the dessert to get.

To be honest this blog entry was very hard to write. I was not inspired by the food on this trip to BJ's. Nothing was really too bad, but nothing really knocked my socks off either. It's funny, I remember liking BJ's a lot more before I started this blog, and before I started going out a lot more. It could have been my choices on this night, or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it. I will go back in the future, but for now there are way too many places on my list to try.

Out of five raindrops, (from the famous BJ Thomas song), five being best to zero being worst, BJ's receives 2.5 raindrops.

For more information on BJ's, click here:

BJ's Restaurant and Brewery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Few Good Men(u) Options at Paul's

Paul's Coffee Shop
16947 Bushard St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

I had heard Paul's was going to be on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on July 26th, so I wanted to beat the rush and get up to Fountain Valley to try it before the place got really busy. Katie and I have been to a handful of places that have been featured on DDD, some great, some good, and one bad, (I am talking about you Four Kegs in Vegas!).

Anyways, we got up at nine and took the drive up the 405 freeway on a Sunday morning. Paul's is located in a sleepy little strip mall, across from a Sizzler. This place is really a no-frills diner. They are proud to show off their spirit for the Marines, there are flags everywhere. On the back of their menu is even a history of the Marines. We were immediately sat, and brought over drinks. We had just beat the rush, there was a wait when we left.

The menu is your basic breakfast food. As other blogs and people have told me, the real finds at Paul's are on the specials board, by the front door. On our visit, they had a pot roast and eggs that sounded really good, and about four other specials. This is what Katie and I ordered up.

Katie got the French Toast Combo. This was two eggs, and bacon, with four pieces of French toast. She thought that the eggs and bacon were nothing to write home about, but she really liked the French toast. I tried a bite and thought that they were good also. They seemed light and fluffy.

I got the Hawaiian Loco Moco. And what is that you ask, it is a bed of white rice, topped with a hamburger patty, two eggs, and then gravy poured over it. I liked this hearty dish but did not love it. I would have liked to have had a sausage patty, instead of the burger. It would have made this dish more flavorful. The burger was just too plain here.

The real star of this breakfast place is the Chicken Fried Steak. This was the size of a man's shoe. The steak itself was light and flavorful, and mixed with their perfect gravy, made this dish a winner. I ordered this ala carte, just because I had heard such good things about it, and I was not disappointed. This made the drive up here worth it.

I liked Paul's, and I would come back to try some of their specials, and if I had a craving for a really good chicken fried steak. The service was really good, and you can definitely tell that a good number of their customers are regulars. After the Triple D show airs, this won't be the case though, they will have a new crop of customers. I am just glad I beat the rush.

Out of five Mameluke swords, (the official sword of the Marines since 1826, and because of all the Marine paraphernalia here), Paul's Coffee Shop gets 3 Mameluke swords.

For more information check out their web site here: