Monday, November 29, 2010

Football Frenzy #5 - Oggi's Pizza - CLOSED

Oggi's Pizza
23641 Via Linda
Mission Viejo, CA 92691

It is now November and the football playoff picture is slowly coming into focus. A few teams have established themselves as supreme teams, even more have kept themselves in the playoff hunt, and then there are the teams that have given up on this year, and are looking towards next. My team, the Jaguars, fit into the middle group, and this is quite a surprise to me and to other football people. Usually by this time I am looking at who they are going to be drafting next June.

Since there are so many teams still in the hunt for the ultimate prize, a spot in the big game in January, we are still trying to find our ultimate football hangout spot. A reader of our blog, has asked me to check out Oggi's in Mission Viejo. So that is where we are headed.

Oggi's is a franchise restaurant that operates 17 stores in southern California and Arizona. They started selling pizzas in Del Mar close to twenty years ago. Back then they focused on pizzas, but they eventually started brewing their own beer, and converted their concept from a pizzeria to a sports themed restaurant. That sports theme is evident on this Sunday as we are seated, and can easily see abut ten TVs in our general area. The crowd is pretty spirited here. Everyone seemed to be into their games. I wanted to get into some food, so let's check it out.

To start us off we had the Garlic Knots. These were the most garlicky thing this side of the Gilroy Garlic Festival. These were made with their dough, tied in a knot and brushed with garlic and butter. We got eight in this order, and they were very good. Very filling for the $3.99 price tag.

Katie was in the mood for breakfast, so she had the unusual Breakfast Pizza. This is served only during football mornings. Katie felt that this was unexpectedly good, but also felt that it needed some kind of sauce. She opted for spinach on this, but I would have liked this more if it had some bacon, or another breakfast meat on it, to give it a little more flavor.

I was not in the mood for breakfast, so I went off of the regular menu. I got the Italian Stallion Pizza. This consisted of alfredo sauce, bacon, red onion, mushrooms, garlic and parmesan cheese. The big flavors of this pizza, combined with the sweetness of the dough, really balanced this out. If I had one complaint about this pizza, it would be that I should have gotten a bigger one.

What's a better way to wake up, than having a Bloody Mary? Nothing. This one was just okay. I know that this is supposed to feature tomatoes, but this one seemed too have too much tomato taste to me, and that can only mean that they skimped on the alcohol. I did enjoy the $3 price for this though.

I would say that this was one of the best places we have been for football. The service was decent, the crowd was definitely into the games and the food was pretty good. Oggi's even features free wifi for those of you that bring your laptops to check your fantasy football teams.

So out of five racetracks, (because the first Oggi's was founded in Del Mar, where my favorite racetracks is located), five being best to zero being worst, Oggi's get 3 solid racetracks.

For information on Oggi's, click here:

Oggis Pizza on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Phil Shane Night at Harpoon Henry's!

Harpoon Henry's
34555 Golden Lantern
Dana Point, CA 92629

I just got back from vacation and had the weekend off to get back into the groove of things. So what was on the agenda for a rare weekend off? We were meeting our families at Harpoon Henry's for food, drinks, and Phil Shane.

Phil Shane has been around for as long as I can remember. He has played almost everywhere in the OC. He has played the House of Blues, La Cave, The Fling, and Original Mike's, among countless others. He performs covers of Roy Orbison, Elvis, Tom Jones, and Neil Diamond.  His audience ranges in age from 21 to 81, and his vibrant energy and great personality keep people coming back for more. This night he is at Harpoon Henry's, so I took this opportunity to blog about the food. Let's see if it will be music to our ears, or create a sour note.

We were sitting in the bar, so we ordered all of the following items off of the bar menu. First up we had the Nachos Grande. This was a big mound of tortilla chips, with guacamole, cheese, refried beans, sour cream, and salsa. They were your basic nachos, but they tasted pretty good. I wish they had the option of adding meat to these because that would have made these better. The $9.95 price tag for this seems a little steep at first, but this could easily feed three to four adults, (or one of me).

Sorry I did not get a picture of this plate before we started digging into it. This is the Calamari Strips. I thought that this was a different way of preparing calamari, it almost did not seem like calamari. Pounded thin, and rolled out in strips. The taste? Nothing to write home about.

Crab and Shrimp Wontons were next up for us. These were also filled with cream cheese, green onion, and ginger. I liked the sweet sauce that was served with this. The wontons themselves were kind of tasteless. I would think with all of the big flavors included in this dish, it would burst with flavor, but it was more of a flavor dud.

Dennis, the health nut among us, chose to get the Seafood Salad. This salad featured shrimp, calamari, scallops, tomatoes, and avocados. I did not get a chance to try this salad, but it got no complaints from Dennis. It was a fresh-looking salad, but the $16.95 price tag for this seemed a bit excessive.

Lynn went the soup route for her choice, she had a cup of Clam Chowder. It was a cold night out, and the soup tasted fine. I thought that it was a little saltier than I would have liked, and the clams were not in abundance here.

I ordered the Coconut Shrimp. This came with five very big shrimp. They were heavily breaded, and that detracted from the shrimp flavor. The orange mango sauce was very sweet and helped counteract the breading. These reminded me of the mediocre coconut shrimp that I had at the Jolly Roger awhile back, not too impressed.

Harpoon Henry's has an old school feel to it. It is a restaurant that has seen better days. The decor seems dated, and the clientele is heavily populated by gray hairs. The food was okay, but nothing really stood out as fantastic. Phil was his usual energetic self. He started his show at seven and was not done yet as we headed for the door at 11:30, (all this with no break mind you).  If you get a chance to see him play, you will not be disappointed. To see where he is playing next, click here to get to his website:

Out of five whales, five being best to zero being worst, Harpoon Henry's gets 2 whales.

For more information on Harpoon Henry's, click here:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Eating Our Way Through the Caribbean!

Katie and I were lucky enough to be able to take a ten day Caribbean cruise recently. We ate a lot during this trip, as people usually do on cruises. More about the food on the ship in a later post, but we also tried to eat at some of the restaurants that were mentioned in our travel books. So let's see what the Caribbean has to offer.

Our first stop was Samana, Dominican Republic. To be honest there was not much at this port in the way of food, (or beaches either). We stumbled upon Puebilito Bahia, and decided we would give it a try. Their menu was pretty basic, with not too many exotic foods. We started with the Presidente beer. This is the local beer of the D.R. Good light taste, kind of reminded me of regular Budweiser. The Hawaiian Pizza that we had above was one of the worst pizzas I have ever had. It tasted like tomato paste spread on a paper thin crust, with awful tasting cheese. The ham and pineapple were the only decent things about this pizza. They would have been better serving frozen pizzas.

Also at Puebilito Bahia we had the Chicken Croquettes. I think they actually forgot to add the chicken to these, because as you can see it was all breading. I had one and a half of these and was done. The service was good, but if you are headed to Samana, eat on the ship and then head out to explore.

Our nest stop was Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. Here we ate at a beach restaurant called the Big Banana. No they did not have banana's on the menu, but they did have these Conch Fritters. All trip long it was Katie's goal to eat conch fritters. I still am not sure that she knows that conch are sea snails, but I will let her read that here. I thought these tasted okay. They were heavily breaded, and the conch meat was almost un-recognizable. The sweet sauce served in the middle made these taste a lot better.

For lunch we got the above items. Katie had the Snapper Burger. This fish sandwich was fair. She seemed to like it more than I did. The size of the sandwich was more than what I expected. I would have liked this a lot better with tarter sauce, instead of ketchup. I ordered the MOM Burger. This burger consisted of mushrooms, onions, and mozzarella, with two, one quarter pound patties. They were a little stingy with the toppings on this burger, and the hamburger was your basic meat, and not seasoned very much at all. I did like the mozzarella on the burger though. It was something a little different, and something to experiment with at home.

Now on to Antigua. This was another fish sandwich that Katie ordered. This one was not breaded as much, and really had a great taste. She ordered a side of tarter sauce, and this made this sandwich complete. Even the fries tasted good. I am the worst food blogger ever, because I do not remember the name of this place, and forgot to take a picture, (too much sun), but they were located at Dickenson Bay, and they were the first restaurant as you entered the beach.

By far the best place we ate during our Caribbean adventure was in St. Kitts, Frigate Bay, at a joint called Cathy's Ocean View. Katie had the Shrimp, which was served in a sweet sauce. I had the Jerk Ribs, which were very tender, and I was surprised to find out, had a good amount of meat on them. Both of our plates came with a pasta salad, corn, green salad, fried plantain, and Caribbean rice. It was a lot of food for the money. We did not leave hungry.

Here is a quick shot of Katie and Cathy. Katie called Cathy, "her Caribbean mother", because she made us feel so welcome. So if you are ever in St. Kitts, Cathy's Ocean View is a must try. I would have liked to have tried more places, but we were only off of the ship for up to eight hours. But, this gives us reason to go back and explore more exotic food.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Miami Trip Part 2 - A Taste of Cuba at Playa Cafe

Playa Cafe
1515 Washington Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

When heading to Miami, you have to make a stop for some Cuban food. We had about two hours to kill in South Beach before we had to be at our ship for our Caribbean cruise. So we had to find a good Cuban sandwich quick. Luckily, we spotted one the night before, and we wanted to give it a shot, so we headed to Playa Cafe.

Playa Cafe is located on the main drag of South Beach, Washington Avenue. It is a tiny little place, that is real easy to miss. Inside the no frills restaurant you will find a lunch counter, with about eight stools filled with regulars, and three ladies working behind the counter prepping the food. We knew what we came here for, Cuban sandwiches, so lets see how they turned out.

This is what it is all about, the traditional Cuban Sandwich. The Cuban sandwich consists of the following; roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and mayo. Served on Cuban bread and then it is pressed until the bread gets a slight toast to it, and the cheese gets melted. For $4.95 you can not beat this sandwich. A generous amount of meat, and the flavors meld so well together. I was very happy with this.

Next up is the Medianoche Sandwich, a close cousin to the Cuban sandwich. This has all of the same items in it, but instead of Cuban bread, they use a softer, yellow, egg bread. This bread is sweeter, and blew me away. The sweetness of the bread, with the saltiness of the meats, made a nice contrast. If I had my choice, I would have chosen this sandwich over the traditional Cuban, but just by a little bit.

The other traditional Cuban items on the menu looked great as well. Talking to the locals, they all loved this place. They loved the food, as well as the prices. It brought them back day after day. Wish we lived close enough to sample their menu.

Out of five baseball players, (because when I think Cuba, I think about baseball, and also these sandwiches really hit it out of the park), five being best to zero being worst, Playa Cafe gets 3 baseball players.

Playa Cafe does not have a website, but you can find information about them here:

Playa Cafe on Urbanspoon

Miami Trip Part 1 - Staying On Track at 11th Street Diner?

11th Street Diner
1065 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139

We are on the road, this time to Miami, and then off to the Caribbean for a ten day cruise. First things first though, we need to see what Miami has to offer. We were staying in South Beach before we took off the next afternoon, so we checked out the 11th Street Diner.

We had seen this place on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It is open twenty-four hours, and it was only four blocks away from our hotel, so how could we not head over? We got to our hotel around midnight, but because we were still running on west coast time, it felt more like nine, so it was the perfect time for dinner.

11th Street Diner is housed in an 1948 art deco dining car. Moved from Pennsylvania in pieces, it has been a fixture in Miami since 1992, won numerous awards, and been featured on television shows. When Guy Fieri was here he had the roasted turkey dinner, pork chops, and the Argentinian skirt steak. We could not try any of these because they were only serving their late night menu, but let's see what they got cooking up anyways.

Katie ordered up the Turkey Club. I learned from Triple D that they make two turkey's a day, so this sandwich was made with fresh turkey, no pressed sandwich meat here. Katie liked that it was fresh turkey, but she thought the pieces she had were a little dry. She also felt that the sandwich was cut into too small of pieces, and kept falling apart. This was served with your basic potato chips.

I know, big surprise that I would order a burger, well here it is, the Everything Burger. What comes on an everything burger you ask? Cheese, bacon, mushrooms, grilled onions and peppers. I liked this burger, and woofed it down pretty quick. I think they were a little skimpy with the mushrooms and peppers, and it was a tad over-priced, ($11.95). It was juicy and flavorful though.

It is hard to rate 11th Street Diner on this visit though. It was nice having somewhere close that was open 24 hours. The food was not bad, but it was not, knock your socks off great either. I am sure that if we would have had their full menu to choose from it would have been better. It is difficult going to places that you see on TV, because the expectations are so high that the food is going to blow your mind, and those are unrealistic expectations to have.

Out of five models, (no, not because models eat hamburgers, but because when I think South Beach, I think models), five being best to zero being worst, 11th Street Diner gets 2.5 models.

For more information on 11th Street Diner, click here:

11th Street Diner on Urbanspoon

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Hitting the Mark at Watermarc?

448 S. Coast Hwy.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Katie's Mom has been talking about Watermarc for sometime now. She recently went with her niece, and told us that we had to give it a try. We were headed out of town, and wanted to see Katie's parents before we left, so we made plans to meet up there on a recent Thursday night.

Watermarc is run by chef/owner Marc Cohen. Cohen is the man behind successful places, 230 Forest Avenue and Opah Restaurant.  The vibe at Watermarc is simple and sleek. A little uppity, but not in too arrogant of a way. Customers are made to feel comfortable, but they are also aware that they are eating at a nice restaurant. On their website, they define their restaurant as, "a dining experience at its greatest height".  Let's see if this a true definition, or should they go back to the dictionary.

At Watermarc they have a very diverse, "Grazing Plates",  menu. Over twenty-five different small plates to choose from, all in the $6 to $12 range. There were four of us, so we each got to choose one small plate. This was my choice, the Clams Casino. Littleneck clams and herb crumbs, topped with a slice of bacon. I personally would have liked a little less breading on this, but Katie was trying this and was not too sure about clams. She felt that this was salty, but since this was her first encounter with clams, she felt it was a good learning experience.

Here was Dennis's choice for a small plate, the House Flatbread. This flatbread combined Cipolini onions, kalamata olives, roasted peppers, garlic and fontina cheese. I am not much of an olive guy, but they did not get in the way of this flatbread. The taste of this was spot on, maybe a touch greasy, but that could have added to the flavor. Not a bad flatbread, and good size for the $7 price tag.

The Warm Blue Cheese Pear Tarts, served with red wine syrup, was the unusual choice for Katie. Blue cheese and fruits have been paired on a lot of menus that I have seen lately, (I had blue cheese ice cream paired with an apple tart at Haven Gastropub recently). Anyways, back to this item, I liked the pairing here. The blue cheese did not overpower the dish like you would expect. The pear was sweet, and the tart was moist. Katie felt that this was the best appetizer of the night.

Lynn went the salad route for her choice of a grazing plate. The Farmed Greens featured dried cranberries, goat cheese, almonds and sherry vinaigrette. She felt that this all melded together well, and the sherry vinaigrette put this salad over the top. I only had a few bites of this, and was pleasantly pleased with this salad.

Now on to the main entrees. Pictured above is the Smoked Paprika Day Boat Scallops and Shrimp, served over saffron orange couscous and apricot butter. I liked this dish, and thought that the citrus theme here with the orange couscous and apricot butter went well with the seafood. Katie felt this plate was, "to die for."  I will not go that far, but it was a very satisfying plate.

This pleasant looking dish was the choice of Lynn, the Filet Mignon, served Oscar style, (steak served with lump crab, asparagus, and Bearnaise sauce over it. Very rich, and one of my favorite ways to eat steak. I liked this, but did not love it. The steak was very tender, but the crab and the Bearnaise sauce was a bit off for me. The crab was more of a crab cake than actual crab meat. Lynn, a real fan of Watermarc, called this steak, "delicious and flavorful, and one of the most tender steaks she has had."

The burgers at Watermarc are a blend of Angus chuck, sirloin, and short rib. Dennis added Gorgonzola cheese to this burger. I did not get a chance to try this burger, but Dennis said it was, "very good, I liked the bun, but the fries were just average".

Now we get to my meal, the Roasted Chilean Sea Bass. This was wrapped in bacon, and served with lentils. Everything is good wrapped in bacon right? Yes, this was no exception. Sea bass can sometimes be greasy, but this was not. Very flavorful, and the bacon did not overpower the fish, and the fish did not overpower the bacon. They worked together like Milli and Vanilli, okay maybe that is not a good example, but you get what I mean. Also, this was a good sized hunk of fish. I was not too keen on the lentils though.  They were very dry, and added little to this plate.

Now on to dessert, here we have the Carrot Cake. I love carrot cake, but this did not satisfy my carrot cake hunger. The cake was dry, and not very flavorful. I did enjoy the presentation with this though. and the ice cream, when mixed with the cake, helped cure the dryness of the cake.

As disappointed as we were in the carrot cake, we were surprised in the White Chocolate Macadamia Bread Pudding. I am not too much of a bread pudding fan, but this was moist and served with pineapple ice cream. This was the big winner of all the desserts that we tried.

One of the things Watermarc has going for it is its menu. It has a little bit of everything, and depending on what you are in the mood for, you will find it here. The service was good, but not over-bearing. The value was what you would expect for beach dining in Laguna. Entrees range between $20 to $40.

One other thing this place has going for it is, chef Marc Cohen. I liked the playfulness of his plates. They were presented well, and the different themes with each plate, showed how he can make each plate his own. It really shows that he takes great pride in his craft.

Out of five postage stamps, (because they used to have watermarks on them), five being best to zero being worst, Watermarc gets 3.5 postage stamps.

For more information on Watermarc, click here:

WaterMarc Grill on Urbanspoon