Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Breakfast Burrito Bliss at Qwik Korner?

Nate's Korner
3960 South Main Street Unit C
Santa Ana, CA 92707

Two months ago Katie and I stopped in at Lucky Boy in Pasadena to try their breakfast burrito. The burrito was fantastic, and fueled my quest to find the best breakfast burrito in the OC. That quest has brought us to Nate's Korner in Santa Ana on a recent Sunday morning.

Nate's Korner is in a largely industrial area, just north of John Wayne airport. Their menu says that they have been in the same location since 1975, but the place has a new feel to it. On this Sunday it is not too busy. While we are eating, there is a steady stream of customers getting to go orders though. The guy behind the counter says that their busiest times are weekdays for lunch, when they have six people behind the counter preparing breakfast burritos, sandwiches, and salads. Speaking of the food, let's check it out.

Let's start off with what we are here for, the 3 Meat Breakfast Burrito. This burrito was huge, as you can see from the first picture. If I had to estimate the weight of this burrito, I would say it was approaching the two pound mark. There was meat in every bite of this burrito. The ham, and sausage were the best of the meats. The potatoes and egg were good in this, but the burrito lacked cheese. I was also asked if I wanted salsa in this, and after replying yes, they must have forgotten it. It would have probably pushed this breakfast burrito into the upper echelon of breakfast burritos. Next time I will have to try one of their one meat burritos, because they do include cheese in those.

Katie was not in the mood for a burrito, so she had the Ham and Cheese Egg Sandwich on a bagel. She also added hash browns to this. She reported that the bagel was lightly grilled, and very soft.  Katie was very pleased by this sandwich. She noted that the ham was thinly sliced, and the sandwich was cooked to order. I had a bite of this as well, and would have to agree with her favorable comments about this sandwich.

Not only did we have breakfast at Nate's Korner, but we got sandwiches to go for an early dinner. Above is the British Hoagie. The British includes roast beef, turkey and ham. Katie felt that this sandwich was good and flavorful, and it held up well, even after waiting a few hours to eat it. Katie could not finish this sandwich so I got a few bites of this as well. The meats were sliced thin, and the veggies were fresh. A very good sandwich.

I can very rarely pass up a Reuben Sandwich, so that is what I ended up with. This Reuben was a little heavy on the sauerkraut, but the meat seemed to be of high quality. The bread was good, but I would have liked to have had thousand island dressing on this, rather than the mustard. I would get this sandwich again though.

We came to Nate's Korner for the breakfast burrito and it was good. I would not say it was worth a twenty minute drive, but if I was in the area I would stop by here and pick one up. The sandwiches were good, but like the breakfast burrito, they may not be worth a trip out of our way. If I did work in the area I would make Nate's Korner one of my frequent lunch spots. The prices were good, and the portions were pretty good sized.

Out of  five Boeing 757's, (because we were so close to John Wayne airport, and those are the largest passenger planes that service the airport), five being best to zero being worst, Nate's Korner receives 3 Boeing 757's.

Nate's Korner does not have a web site, but you can find out more information about them here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/nates-korner-santa-ana

Nate's Korner on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Up a Creek at Salt Creek?

Salt Creek Grille
32802 Pacific Coast Highway
Dana Point, CA 92629

We were headed down PCH to a different restaurant when we, along with the rest of the unsuspecting motorists were forced to stop, and turn around. Police had blocked off the highway because a crazy lady decided to hold a standoff with the police. So now on to plan B.

Plan B just happened to be Salt Creek Grille. I had been here two times before for brunch, but never for dinner. We arrived at the restaurant at 8, and it was a thirty to forty minute wait. Yikes! No seats in the bar, so it was out to the front porch for us to wait it out. The wait went by pretty quick because there were a lot of cougars in attendance, and it was fun watching them maneuver around to attract their prey.

Salt Creek opened in 1996, and since then they have opened four other locations. Two spots in California, (El Segundo and Valencia), and two other New Jersey locations. Salt Creek Grille is housed in all wood. Being inside gave me the feeling of being warm and cozy up in the mountains, instead of being mere steps from the beach. The staff was young and good looking, and lended to the hip atmosphere, without being too stuffy. Enough about the place, let's see the food.

Here is a picture of the bread basket we were presented with. The bread was good in areas. Some slices of bread were heavy in garlic and some regions of the loaf were, well just slices of bread. The slices of heavy garlic were of course my favorite.

How could anyone pass up bacon and shrimp? The answer is you can't. We had to get the Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp above. The shrimp was wrapped in crispy bacon, and stuffed with horseradish. The flavors in this hit you in waves. The smokey bacon hit you first, and then to a lesser degree the shrimp was present, and then the last kick was the horseradish. The chipotle honey sauce that was served with this was good in doses. Very sweet, I used the sauce on two of the four shrimp that I ate. Excellent starter.

Now on to the salads. Katie went with the Salt Creek House Salad. This salad featured granny smith apple slices, glazed walnuts, Gorgonzola, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Katie felt that this salad was, "nothing special". They were light on the dressing, but the ingredients were fresh. She also made a point of telling me that she enjoyed that this salad came out cold.

A cold salad would not be the case with my choice, the Caesar Over Mesquite. This warm salad also contained asiago cheese and Caesar dressing. Like Katie's salad this needed more dressing. I also was not too keen on the warm aspect of this. The best part of this salad for me was the cheese.

Salt Creek offers all-inclusive pirx fixe dinners, and Katie could not resist. Along with her salad, she got the Spicy Gulf Shrimp Pasta. Shrimp served over pasta, with a goat cheese bechamel sauce, and then plated with roasted vegetables. Katie said that she could not be more pleased with this dish. She mentioned that the shrimp was tender, vegetables were flavorful, and the pasta was good. I had one bite of this, and it did taste pretty good.

What we have above is the, "Brandt Beef" Blue Cheese Crusted "Baseball-Cut" Top Sirloin, one of the longest named things I have ever eaten on this blog. I almost cramped up my hand typing the name of this plate. This 10 ounce steak was served with caramelized onions and a classic demi glace. The steak was cooked perfectly, the sauce was great and blue cheese did not over power the meat, it enhanced it. The only problem was the meat itself. The cut that I had was too tough, and that is with it being cooked medium rare. It took great effort to get my steak knife through the steak. The jalapeno au gratin potato side dish that came with this almost made up for the tough meat. The flavor was good and the potatoes were cooked perfectly, and melted in my mouth.

The end of Katie's dinner came with a special chef dessert. Tonight's offering was Carrot Cake. I love carrot cake, but this unfortunately was not good cake. It was dry, too floury, and the icing was not very sweet. Not the grand finale we were going for.

Salt Creek Grille had a great vibe, and food that almost lived up to it. I saw on the menu that Zagat calls their pork chops the best in the world, and that is something I will have to try next time.  The value here was decent, and we will be back in the future. Plan B worked out pretty well for us.

Out of five pretzels, (because you can not have pretzels without salt), five being best to zero being worst, Salt Creek Grille gets 3 solid pretzels.

For more information on Salt Creek Grille click here: http://www.saltcreekgrille.com/

Salt Creek Grille on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Exiting Our Comfort Zone at OC Poultry and Rotisserie

OC Poultry & Rotisserie Market
2117 E. Ball Rd.
Anaheim, CA 92806

As I have mentioned before, Katie and I have been going to hockey games this season. We have tickets to about fifteen games. That is fifteen chances to try a new restaurant. We have been to all the chain places around the Honda Center, and now it was time to venture out and try somewhere new.

I had remembered reading a blog post about local, non-chain places, located in the Anaheim Stadium area. The blog post was written by one of the great writers over at Stick a Fork In It, Dave Lieberman. You can read his post here.

Anyways, Dave listed about eleven places, and one of them was OC Poultry and Rotisserie Market. To be honest this was a little out of our comfort zone, but 2011 is all about trying something new, so we headed over. This was going to be Katie and my first time having Vietnamese food.

As we walked in the store/restaurant we were greeted enthusiastically by the owner of the restaurant, Thu. All of the reviews on-line about this place mention the great service, and they are not lying. She is willing to talk at length about any of her food, and dole out samples of the tart yogurt she makes everyday. After going through the menu, this is what we came up with.

The first of two of our appetizers were the Spring Rolls. These were filled with shrimp, rice, and I believe chicken. I am not much of a spring roll person, and thought that these lacked flavor. I liked these a lot better when I added the brown sauce to them, and then I liked these even better when we were presented with a bottle of Siracha sauce. Katie liked the freshness of these.

The Egg Rolls were more my style, and these definitely did not disappoint. These were filled with pork, fried to perfection, and had a great taste. We initially ordered only three of these, but quickly ordered three more. The sweet sauce that came with these added even more excitement to the egg rolls. I could easily have polished off about 20 of these with no problem.

Katie really wanted to try the Vegetable Soup. I am no expert on this kind of soup, but it tasted good. The chicken was cooked nicely, the veggies were fresh, and the noodles were done perfectly. The broth tasted a little funky to me at first, but I grew accustomed to it by the end of the bowl. Katie liked the soup, and made this better when she added Siracha sauce for a little kick.

The raves on-line are numerous about the Chicken Banh Mi, and they are warranted. The chicken is great tasting. Thu mentioned that she was trying to copy the chicken of a place by her school in Vietnam. The pickled vegetables, cilantro and chicken worked well together. The only complaint I would have about this sandwich would be the bread. I thought it was a little too crusty, but it would not stop me from getting this sandwich again. Katie fantasized about this sandwich the next day, and to think I only thought she fantasized about me. The real truth comes out.

A new addition to the menu at OC Poultry is the Lemon Grass Beef Banh Mi. I felt this was a good tasting sandwich, but was no match for the Chicken sandwich. The beef could have been a little more tender, but it was flavored well.

For the next day I got a Steamed Bun filled with pork. To be honest I was not too big of a fan of this. The pork was my favorite part of this, and I felt the rest of the steamed bun was too dry. This could be because I warmed this in the microwave, so I will have to try this again at the restaurant on a future trip.

OC Poultry and Rotisserie is a great hidden gem, and I was happy this was our first introduction to Vietnamese food. Thu answered all of our questions, and made us feel comfortable. The restaurant is very small. There is seating for about ten people here, so if you are here during a peak time, (lunch), it could be tricky getting a seat. The value for the money here is the best we have seen in a long time. All of the food above, really meant for four people instead of two, costs $25. The chicken banh mi was an incredible $2.89, one of the best values in all the county. Thanks for the tip Dave, we look forward to trying other places on your list.

Out of five Áo Dài's, (the national dress of Vietnam), five being best to zero being worst, OC Poultry and Rotisserie gets 3.5 Áo Dài's.

OC Poultry and Rotisserie does not have a web site, but you can find information and reviews about them here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/oc-poultry-and-rotisserie-market-anaheim.

OC Poultry & Rotisserie Market on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sweet Life at C'est La Vie?

C'est La Vie
373 South Pacific Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

My parents got me an Entertainment book for Christmas. So now that the holidays have wound down, it is time to put it to good use. Only problem was that it was a Friday night at seven, and a lot of places do not take the Entertainment card on Friday nights. Our choices were very limited. We could drive all the way up to Anaheim, but it would be almost 8:30 by the time we ate dinner, or maybe try the Jolly Roger again, (not going to happen), or we could just forget the book and go where the wind would take us. I was ready to take the last option, when I saw that C'est La Vie accepts the card everyday. So that is where we ended up.

C'est La Vie is located right on PCH, in downtown Laguna. They are on the ocean side, so when the weather is warmer, the spot to be is on their patio for a stunning view. This night though is in the 50's, so we take a seat in the dining room. The restaurant is almost deserted except for us and two other couples. C'est La Vie's menu is Californian French, and this is what we got off of it.

Okay we did not actually get this off the menu, it was given to us. I really just wanted to show you the bread basket. It was nothing spectacular. We were also given a taste of their Bisque de Homard. This lobster bisque was very creamy, and went down real smooth. I remember they gave us this taster the last time we were here. Very rich, but this could have been heated up more.

For a starter we ordered the Jumbo Mushrooms. These were stuffed with lump crab and a garlic herb sauce. These had plenty of crab on them, but the sauce over powered the crab, and pushed it out of the way. If I was blind folded and asked what I was eating, I would not have guessed crab. The mushroom was nicely cooked though.

Katie had the elegant sounding Crevettes a la Crime de Homard for dinner. Translated this means, shrimp scampi with a lobster brandy glace. This was served over linguine, with roasted potatoes on the side. Katie liked the taste of the glace, and also felt that the potatoes were great, but she had an issue with the temperature of the plate. It came out lukewarm.  

I was having issues with the lighting here all night. We had a light right above us that was dimming in and out while we were here, so this is the best shot I got of my meal. I went with the Filet Mignon de Boeuf au Roquefort. The sauce served with this was a Cabernet sauvignon reduction. The steak also came with mashed potatoes and green beans. I ordered this steak medium rare and that is the way it came out. The Roquefort was very strong, and took me by surprise how it over powered the steak. I like blue cheeses, but this was really pungent. I would have liked more of the Cabernet sauce to balance this dish out. The mashed potatoes were okay, they kind of had a lack of heat issue as well. The greens beans were just average.

C'est La Vie is a full on bakery also. According to the waiter this is their best selling dessert. He said there was no name for it, they just call it the Filo Dough filled with Chocolate Mousse.  This was a very rich dessert. The mousse could have been lighter, and the filo dough was hard to break into. In case you did not have enough chocolate on this, they also added a dollop of chocolate ice cream on the side. I liked the presentation, but I might try something else in the future.

Our trip to C'est La Vie was just average this time. The kitchen on this night had issues getting the food out nice and hot. Nothing that we had would make us yearn to go back here. The service was okay, and the value was a little over-priced, $29 for my steak and Katie's scampi was $27. We did get $16 dollars off with the Entertainment card, so it paid for the tip though. They did not punch the card, so we can use it again, but we will only do that if it is a Friday night and we can't use the card anywhere else.

Out of five dominoes, (because that was the name of the second hit from Robbie Nevil's 1986 album. His first hit was... of course C'est La Vie), five being best to zero being worst, C'est La Vie gets 2 dominoes.

For more information on C'est La Vie, click here: http://www.cestlavierestaurant.com/

C'Est la Vie on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Deeming Deemer's Worthy?

Deemer's American Grill
27221 La Paz Road, Suite E
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

New year, and a new burger joint. So I guess that new years resolution will have to wait until 2012. Okay, you know me better than to make a resolution about not eating. That is not going to happen! I do hope that you had a great new years, and I look forward to a great year ahead of eating and sharing some great places with you.

To start off the year we headed to Deemer's, a new hamburger place that just opened up close to my work. Deemer's, according to their web site, says that their purpose is simple, they want to, "grill handcrafted burgers into perfection".  Let's see if they make good on that promise.

Deemer's kind of has a "Counter",  feel to it. Minimal decor is the order of the day at Deemer's. You order at the counter, get your number, and the food is brought out by the eager to please, young staff. I actually made two trips to Deemer's, one on a Sunday afternoon, and the next was a weekday for lunch. Sunday was a real busy day, almost every seat was taken. The weekday was not too packed, but they had a steady stream of customers coming through the door. Now on to the food.

Katie's burger will start things off for us. She opted for the Napa Burger. This burger featured goat cheese, roma tomatoes, red onion, baby spinach, and basil pesto aioli. This unusual burger got high praise from Katie. Starting with the bun, that she found to be, "sturdy". She also thought that the burger was juicy, and the fact that they did not pile on the toppings, really brought out the flavor of the meat.

My first burger at Deemer's was the Hickory Burger. The hickory burger is comprised of cheddar cheese, bacon, onion rings, tomato, lettuce, and BBQ sauce. This burger tasted fresh, but could have used a little more BBQ sauce. The burger lacked the wow factor that I was looking for. It was a decent burger, but nothing that had me craving more.

The French Fries and Onions Rings here really needed to be salted more. Unfortunately, there were no salt shakers on any table, so there was no chance for me to try them with salt. The crispness of the fried foods is spot on, but they are lacking in flavor. The french fries are fresh, but they seem to be missing something. The last picture shows the absolute absence of grease anywhere on the paper that the once held the fries. I found this to be a little odd. The same was true of the onion rings, no grease. I guess that means they are good for you.

My second burger was the B & B Burger. Blue Cheese, bacon, tomato, lettuce, and herb aioli all combined to make this burger. This was better than my first burger. The flavors were more pronounced, but the burger patty was cut in half, along with our other burger we got, I assume to check for doneness. Not a big deal, but I thought that was a little weird. I would get this burger again, but I would ask for more aioli on it, they put so little on it that it was un-noticeable, and I think it would add to this burger.

Richard was very excited to see his burger on the menu, the Caliente Burger. A rare burger that is made with queso fresco cheese, jalapenos, tomato, lettuce, and Deemer's fire sauce. Richard felt that the meat alone was under-seasoned, but he liked the toppings on this burger, and would get this one again.

Deemer's has a few kinks to work out, which is to be expected. First, and foremost on their list of tweaks, should be the introduction of a value meal. A burger, fries and a drink should not cost over $12. They also need to work on their seasonings, and the way they apply their condiments. I am not saying to go the Carl's route, where you slather sauces all over the place, but a little more would push this burger  into a higher class of burger. I liked the uniqueness of the burger choices here, and I look forward to trying a few more in the future.

Out of five verdicts, (because a deemer is an occupation that is tasked with pronouncing the verdict in a court of law), five being best to zero being worst, Deemer's gets 2.5 verdicts.

Okay, I went to Deemer's one more time this week, but forgot to bring my camera. They now have salt shakers on the tables, and that did add to the fries and onion rings. The burger still needed some seasoning, but it still tasted pretty good. I again had the B & B burger, and the extra aioli really made this burger better. I also got to try their BLT, and it tasted great. The sandwich came on parmesan crusted texas toast, which really enhanced the sandwich. I will stick with my rating, but they are moving in the right direction.

For more information on Deemer's, click here: http://www.deemersgrill.com/

Deemers American Grill on Urbanspoon