Sunday, February 27, 2011

Shooting An Eagle at O'Neill"s?

O'Neill's Bar and Grill
26772 Avery Parkway
Mission Viejo, CA 92692

Katie's Dad loves golf. Some people in his own family might even say that he loves golf more than them. Okay, maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but his eyes get a little extra twinkle in them when he talks about golf. All the problems of the world go out the window when he is reminiscing about a day out on the links. So it came as no surprise to me that one of his favorite restaurants just happens to be at a country club where he has played golf numerous times. And that place is O'Neill's

O'Neill's is located at the Arroyo Trabbuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, at the end of Avery Parkway. The course opened in 2004, was designed by PGA pro, Tom Lehman. The public course is a favorite among south county residents. But, we are here for the food.

O'Neill's has a new chef that has completely over hauled the entire menu. Chef Jeff Platt honed his craft at Roy's, Tabu Grill and the Napa Rose. Platt's goal at O'Neill's is to serve high quality food, with great presentation, while  still maintaining the ranch feel of the club. Let's see if he gets to his goal.

To start our meal we had the Kung Pao Calamari. This calamari was served with peanuts, cilantro and carrots with a kung pao sauce. The calamari was cooked perfectly. I liked the long strips instead of the rings. The breading was good as well. I thought that the kung pao sauce could have had more of a kick though.

For months before we came here, Katie's Dad has told me I have to try the Chaparral Chili. Not wanting to disappoint the big guy, I complied with his wishes. This chili is served with white aged cheddar and red onion. Not quite the chili I was expecting, it was still solid. It was not a spicy chili, but had a sweet almost cinnamon taste to it. I would equate it to a Cincinnati chili, but not quite. Very rich flavor, I would say this was a must have.

Now on to the main dishes. Katie's Mom opted for the Double Breasted Chicken. This chicken was stuffed with fennel and cremini mushrooms. Lynn and I both agreed that this chicken was a little on the dry side. I also did not find this big on flavor. The sauce that was on this chicken was good though, I just wish there was more of it.

Katie surprised me with her pick for the night, when she got the Saffron Paella. This dish featured scallops, shrimp, sausage, crab, corn, Flageolet beans, and leeks. Pretty much everything in the kitchen. Katie liked this dish, and liked this interpretation of paella. Scallops were cooked perfectly, but the beans were under cooked according to Katie. 

Katie's Dad, Dennis went with the Prime Burger here. This upscale looking burger came with bacon, avocado, Swiss cheese, (he subbed out the pepper jack that usually comes with this), and red onion on a brioche bun. The burger looked great, and got rave reviews from Dennis. I did sneak an onion ring, and they were heavily breaded, but very good.

The last main dish of the evening was my choice, the 7 Oz. Flat Iron Steak Meyer Ranch Natural Prime. This steak was very tender, and had a great robust flavor to it. The Bearnaise sauce that came with this complimented the meat nicely. As much as I loved the meat, the opposite was true of the blue cheese macaroni side item I got with this. I thought with all of the big flavors in this it would be great, but it fell flat. I would not get this again.

Here were the two desserts that we got to share. These were just okay. The chocolate cake with ice cream was the best one out of the two. The raspberry sorbet tart got good reviews from Katie and her Mom, but is not the sort of dessert that I enjoy.

The vibe at O'Neill's is a comfortable one. Not too country clubish. They did reach their goal of making their small restaurant have the feel of an upscale ranch. On the downside, I think that their menu is too limited. I would like a few more side items, but you can definitely find something that you will like here. The next time I am here I will go with a burger, or the prime rib sandwich looks promising.

Out of five skins, (this is a golf club after all), five being best to zero being worst, O'Neill's get three skins.

For more information on O'Neill's click here:

O'Neill's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 25, 2011

Eating at the Pride of Crown Town, Miguel's

Miguel's California Mexican Cocina
26592 Towne Center Dr.
Foothill Ranch, CA 92610

I know, I know, another Mexican restaurant reviewed on this blog? I should leave it to the experts like Christian over at Orange County Mexican Restaurants. But, I can not stop eating Mexican food. It has become a part of me. So when Kevin and Sara suggested Miguel's, who was I to say no?

Miguel's is a Corona import to the OC. Started in 1973 in  the "Crown City", by Mike and Mary Vasquez. They now have three locations, (the other two are in Corona), and nine locations of the fast food version of their place, Miguel's Jr.

This Friday night the restaurant is really packed. The large dining room is buzzing with activity, and it is quite loud. We arrived at about 7:30 and had about a ten minute wait. The decor is bright, but the lighting is dark. Enough about the ambiance, let's check out the food.

So first things first, we always have to give you a glimpse of the chips and salsa. Okay, not really a salsa here, it is more of a sauce. There were no hunks of onion, cilantro, or tomatoes anywhere around this so called salsa. The taste was okay, but not big on flavor. The chips were your average run of the mill chips. They did not stand out to us.

Katie always has to order some Guacamole, and this night was no exception. The guacamole here is pretty mellow. It did have a nice smooth taste, but I like my guacamole with a little kick to it.

Now on to the meals. Kevin went with the El Garbage Burrito with shredded beef. He felt that this was just a basic burrito. Nothing special here. I should have gotten a picture of the inside of the burrito, but I did not. I didn't want to interrupt his eating.

Kevin's wonderful wife, Sara ordered the One Item Combination Plate, and chose the chicken taco. This also came with beans and rice. Once again, she was not wowed by this plate. She liked this well enough to finish it, but the taco did not get rave reviews from Sara. I will say that the chicken was at least moist, although lacking in flavor.

Next up was Katie's dinner, the Baja Fish Tacos, served Cabo style. Icelandic cod, flash fried and served with shredded cabbage and Baja sauce. She was surprised how much she enjoyed this plate. She felt that there was a lot of cheese in these, but it did not get in the way of the fish. She also thought that the fish was cooked well, and had a nice mellow essence to it.

Lastly, was my Carnitas Burrito, filled with Sonora beans, cilantro, Maria's sauce, then topped with salsa verde. The carnitas in this were tender, but like all the other food, was kind of bland. I ordered a side of beans and rice with this for an extra $2.49. I should have saved that money. They were average beans and rice, and did not add anything to the meal.

Our thoughts about Miguel's? Sara might have summed it up best when she said, "It was okay, but I probably would not go back". Living in the OC there are far too many good Mexican restaurants to eat at. The service for us on this night was good, but I feel that the prices at Miguel's are far too high for what you get. My burrito was $11.99, and Katie's two fish tacos were the same price. Only Sara's meal, the chicken taco combo plate, was priced fairly at $7.99.

So out of five lemons, (because Miguel's is from Corona, and Corona was once dubbed the lemon capital of the world), five being best to zero being worst, Miguel's gets 2 lemons.

For more information on Miguel's click here:

Miguels California Mexican on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Big Day at Big B's Barbecue

Big B's Barbecue
1948 N. Placentia Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92831 

I was up in north Orange County getting my teeth cleaned, so it was the perfect opportunity to cross off one of the places on my restaurant wish list. It is rare that I am up in this area for lunch, so it had to be Big B's Barbecue where I would go. Joining me on this outing was my Mom, and brother in law Jarrod.

Big B's Barbecue is located right next to Brian's, Fullerton's oldest sports bar, and owned by the same owner, Brian Fairley. Fairley opened the space right next to his bar in 1986, trying to give his patrons a more satisfying menu. Since that time they have become very popular for their barbecue, and have a booming catering business. Big B's is a very small restaurant with two booths and counter seating against a wall. If there is no room in the tiny restaurant, you can order in the much larger bar area at the window. So without further delay, let's check out the food.

When I go to a barbecue place I always like to get a combo plate. This trip was not any different. I got the Rib and Chicken Combo with potato salad as a side item. The ribs were tender and good. Great flavor, and a lot of meat on them. The chicken was also moist, and the skin was very crisp. I would definitely get these meats again. The potato salad, however, was not very good. Too many big hunks of potato in it, and not real big on flavor. It was more like eating a cold baked potato with nothing on it.

Next up was Jarrod's lunch, the Pulled Pork Sliders with a side of Beckett's Beans. I felt that the pork could have been moister, but it did have decent flavor. I tried to add BBQ sauce to the meat to make it less dry, but the sauce here was not to my liking. It was a very tangy barbecue sauce. The Beckett's beans, named after a customer who inspired the recipe, were actually pretty good. They were made up of three kinds of beans with bacon and jalapenos. These beans had a great kick to them and would be my go-to choice for a side item here.

My Mom was not feeling like having barbecue, so she went with the Chicken Salad Sandwich with Fries. The fries were average, and my Mom felt that the sandwich was good, but not the best she has ever had.

Barbecue is a tricky business. It is a very complex genre of food. There are so many aspects to it. From the sauce, the meats, the sides, and how they all combine and interact with one another. One bad area and it throw all the others off kilter. At Big B's they lost me with their sauce. I am sure other people like it, but to me, it was just too tangy. It really took away my pleasure from the meats. I was also not too fond of their side items, other than the beans. The prices here were fair. My rib and chicken combo were $11 and the pulled pork sliders were $8, with each coming with your choice of a side. The service was okay, you order at a counter.

Out of five titans, (because this spot is popular with CSUF students), five being best to zero being worst, Big B's Barbecue gets 2.5 titans.

For more information on Big B's Barbecue click here:

Big B's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 18, 2011

Gaining Pearls of Wisdom at La Perlita? - CLOSED

La Perlita
26771 Portola Pkwy., #3-B
Foothill Ranch, CA 92610

Being a food blogger can make you feel really popular. Katie thinks it is because of our great personalities, but I know who we are and that is not it. I think it is because everyone wants you to experience their favorite restaurants. On this night it was my friend Scott and his wife Francisca who wanted to show us one of their favorite spots, La Perlita.

La Perlita is a small strip mall joint. They have about twenty tables, and on this night we were one of about three that were occupied. The decor here is very bright and colorful. The service was good, not great. A lot of up selling was going on, but it was evened out with some jokes that I am sure have been told to many, many tables over the years.

La Perlita is owned by Humberto Huerta. He opened La Perlita in Santa Ana in 1978. That location has since closed, and in 1994 he opened this location in Foothill Ranch. The reviews on-line have been mostly positive for this place, so I came here with some high hopes. Let's check it out.

As usual with Mexican restaurants we will start with a look at their chips and salsa. To be honest these were nothing special to me. The chips were a little dry, and the salsa was more like a taco sauce. There were no hunks of tomato, onion or cilantro inside of it. I have had more flavorful sauce out of the packets at Del Taco. Also one more tip about the chips, if you for some reason go through a whole bowl of them, the next bowl they will charge you for. I am not sure how much they charge, because our party of four did not even come close to finishing them, but be forewarned. I did enjoy the carrots and onions that were served with the sauce though.

As an appetizer we got two orders of Taquitos with Guacamole. I felt these were a little over priced, $9.50 for the two orders. That works out to $2.37 for each taquito, but that of course does not include the guacamole, so maybe they are worth it. They were not. Although they were decent, there was nothing that would make me crave these on my next visit.

Now on to the main dishes. Here we have Francisca's Carne Asada plate. She was pretty unhappy with the steak here. She felt that it was not as tender as it should be. She did feel that the rice and beans were good though.

Next up was Scott's meal, the Pancho Villa Combo. This consisted of a beef taco, a cheese enchilada, and a chili relleno. Scott enjoyed the enchilada because it was drenched in sauce. It looked like to much sauce to me, but different tastes for different people.

Katie went with her standard order at a Mexican place, when she got two Chicken Tacos. She liked the crispness of the tacos and the rice stood out for her. She felt that the rest of the dish however was just average.

The menu at La Perlita says they have the best carnitas in town. Honestly, I think they just might. The meat had a great flavor, and was very tender. I tore through this meal very quickly. The ends of the carnitas were a little crisp just like I like them. Very good plate.

So how does La Perlita rate? If I had to base it on just my plate they would be rated pretty well. Unfortunately we have to take into account the rest of the meals. Sadly, they are just an average Mexican restaurant. The bites of the other meals that I had did not impress. The prices might be a little on the high side for what you get. I hope Scott and his wife still want to hang out with us after reading this.

Out of five $2 hats, (because perlita in Spanish means little pearl, and Minnie Pearl wore a hat that had a $1.98 price tag on it), five being best to zero being worst, La Perlita gets 2.5 $2 hats.

La Perlita does not have a web site, but you can find information about them here:

 La Perlita Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 17, 2011

No Place Like the Gnome?

Restaurant Gastrognome
54381 Ridgeview Dr
Idyllwild, CA 92549

Katie's Mom, Lynn recently went up to Idyllwild, and found the relaxing pace very comforting.  She loved it so much that she rented a cabin for the whole family. So the ten of us city folk left our wifi, jobs and warm weather behind and headed up to the mountains to experience this peacefulness for ourselves.

We were going to be making dinner on Saturday night, so that left Friday night for a chance to experience one of Idyllwild's dining options. We chose Restaurant Gastrognome, or as the locals call it, "the Gnome". The Gnome has been around for over thirty years, and in that time has developed quite a following. They also boast the largest dining room in Idyllwild, and the centerpiece of that dining room is the roaring fireplace that was a nice contrast to the forty degree weather outside. Let's see if the Gnome's food can heat us up.

To start things off a few of us got soup and salads. Jason had the French Onion Soup above. He felt that the bread was too thick, but the soup portion really hit the spot. I ordered the Caesar Salad. This was one of the most unusual Caesars I have had. It had a very distinctive citrus taste to it. Almost too much. I did enjoy that this salad came out nice and cold though. They probably have no problem keeping things cold up here.

Dennis had no complaints with this dish. He got the Chicken Parmesan. He liked the tenderness of the chicken, and thought that the marinara sauce was really good. I did not get a chance to try this, so I will take his word for it.

Emily and Jason split the Shrimp Scampi above, and could not have more differing opinions about this plate. Emily felt that this was, "as dry as the Sahara desert", while Jason loved the pasta and shrimp here. Emily does admit that her taste in food is not so great, so we will defer to Jason's opinion on this one.

Kevin went old school for his meal, Beef Stroganoff. Again he did not say much about this, other than it was good. I have never really been a fan of Stroganoff, so I abstained from trying this.

Sara, the light eater among us, only ordered a Baked Potato. This one came with sour cream, chives, bacon and cheese. She called this, "a damn good potato". She also added that this has inspired her to want to cook more baked potatoes at home, to which Kevin replied, "You might need a map to find the oven at home". Good one Kevin!

As further proof that great minds think a like, both Jimmy and I got the Sausage Pasta. Hot Italian sausage with rosemary, a tomato cream sauce and served over penne. Jimmy loved this, finding it warm and comforting. I would agree with him, but I liked this plate a lot more after I added some red pepper flakes to it. Not a bad plate of pasta though.

Katie also went the pasta route, when she chose the Asparagus Portabella Mushroom Pasta. This was sauteed with garlic and sundried tomatoes, served over penne with a cream sauce. Katie felt that this was delicious. She loved the sauce and the warm temperature this was served at. I tried this dish, but it was a little too mellow for my taste buds.

Last but not least, was Lynn, who ordered the Chicken Scaloppini with Asparagus. The chicken breast here was rolled around mozzarella and asparagus, and served over a mushroom sauce. She like this dish a lot. She gave me some of it, and I felt that the chicken was a little tough, but it did have good flavor.

Restaurant Gastrognome was a pretty decent place to start our family weekend in the mountains. The food here is not going to be the best you have ever had, but it will not be the worst thing you have ever eaten either. The atmosphere was nice and relaxed. The service was very attentive, and it was a real nice place to get out of the cold for awhile.

Out of five garden gnomes, (because there are gnomes strewn all around the restaurant), five being best to zero being worst, Restaurant Gastrognome gets 2.5 solid gnomes.

For more information on Restaurant Gastrognome click here:

Gastrognome on Urbanspoon