Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sappy or Sweet at the Great Maple?

Great Maple
1133 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660

The clock was ticking. It was four days into Newport Beach Restaurant Week, and we had not been to one restaurant yet. Lucky for us we had an open day on the calendar, so we could make it to a restaurant. Which one to choose though? Last year at this time we had tried to go to Rustica for restaurant week. Unfortunately, they were having problems with their computers when we showed up, and they were closing early. Everything ended well because we ended up at Roy's, which was very good. Rustica is no more, and where it once stood is now the Great Maple, so that is where we headed for our restaurant week opening act.

The Great Maple is located in the middle of Fashion Island, right next to Nordstrom's. The restaurant is not huge. They do fit a great many tables in the space, without it feeling really cramped. Wood dominates the darkened dining area. The name Great Maple conjured up images of a hunting lodge in Canada, and the decor here is not too far from that. From our seats in the dining room, it is easy to see into the open kitchen. There is also a large patio that overlooks the hustle and bustle of the shoppers at the mall. After ordering from our casually clad server, this is what was brought to our table.

Before our meals arrived we were brought this bread, which came to us in a brown paper bag. The tiny loaf was sliced and served warm. The butter was soft, creamy, and maybe touched with a little olive oil and dry herbs. A very nice start.

Katie did not want to order off of the restaurant week menu, so she struck out on her own with this Baguette Grilled Cheese with Salted Rosemary and Clover Honey. This is unlike any grilled cheese my Mom ever made me. This one was made with Brie cheese, which had a great flavor but was really too rich. The caramelized onions and raisins served with this helped cut the richness of this sandwich a bit, but after eating half, both Katie and I were not sure we could eat the next two courses that were on the way.

Since Katie does not enjoy Calamari, I had this good-sized appetizer all to myself. The squid was fried perfectly in it's heavy breading and was lacking greasiness. The calamari was sprinkled with chili flakes and accompanied by olives, both of which added a little flavor surprise to each bite. The lemon caper mayo dipping sauce was heavy, and I kind of got tired of it by the end of this large appetizer. If you enjoy calamari, this will be the appetizer for you.

Katie had the run of the menu here, and off of it, she chose the interesting sounding House Fried Pasta. The penne pasta was joined by scrambled eggs, fennel sausage, tomato, basil, and Parmesan. After having the rich grilled cheese, she was happy that this was more on the mellow side. She got a little flavor from the sausage and liked the freshness of this dish.

I knew out of the three selections for main dishes on the restaurant week menu, that I would be having the Flat Iron Steak Strip. This steak was cooked perfectly medium rare but was not as tender as I would have liked. It was still good though. I like a good blue cheese, and the one that topped this steak was strong. The sauce around the plate helped cut the blue cheese flavor just enough. Green beans were okay, nothing out of the ordinary. Good sized hunk of meat.

Lately, most desserts have really let me down. The Great Maple Chocolate Cake can be added to this list. Not sure if the cake was flourless, but it tasted like it was. The cake portion was kind of dry, but we did like the strong cocoa flavor here. The icing was nice and chocolaty, but it still could not make up for the dry cake portion. The Peanut Butter Banana Split will get my dessert attention on my next visit.

The staff at the Great Maple was very nice and professional. The managers were very active running food and refilling drinks. The menu here is not going to blow you away with its wide variety, but  it is varied enough that you should be able to find something to your liking. Serving sizes were generous, and we did leave the restaurant very full. Prices are not crazy bad, considering that you are eating at Fashion Island. No item is over $30, and most sit down restaurants at Fashion Island can probably not make the same claim. The menu does change three times a year, so that will add to the variety as well. We were glad we could make it here before the end of restaurant week.

Out of five bonsai trees, (because maples are a popular choice for growers of the miniature trees), five being best to zero being worst, the Great Maple gets 3 bonsai trees.

For more information on Great Maple, click here: https://thegreatmaple.com/

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Horsing Around at the Derby CLOSED

The Derby Deli and Dueling Piano Bar
27741 Crown Valley Parkway
Mission Viejo, CA 92691

I have been known to go to great lengths for a great sandwich. Last year we went across country to try deli sandwiches in NYC, and Lobster Rolls in Boston. Around home we have driven from south county, up to HB for a Philly cheesesteak, and to Santa Ana for a Reuben. Yes, that is the life of a food blogger, but it would be nice if there was a great sandwich place closer to my home. My friend Mike thinks that there is a great sandwich spot right down the street from where I live, and the place he is talking up is The Derby.

I have never been to The Derby before. The few times I have been to the Kaleidoscope Shopping Center, I have walked past the restaurant and heard the dueling pianos and customers seeming to have a good time. In the parking garage at this sparsely populated shopping venue, they have pictures of huge skyscraper sandwiches, piled high with meat. They look good, but will they really be that great? Let's find out.

We arrived at The Derby at seven on a Friday night. The large dining area was quiet, but that was just because the dueling pianos did not start until 8:30. By the time we had left, the place was raging with the pianist playing everything from country songs to rap. The piano show was cool, but I was mainly here for the sandwiches. Let's see how they turned out.

Okay, I know I promised sandwiches, but we started with an appetizer, Hot Diggity Dawn's Balls. This appetizer is named after the owners wife, and they are made of prosciutto and ricotta cheese, which is then deep fried. These were served with a marinara sauce. None of us were too crazy about these. They had a subdued flavor, which mildly entertained our taste buds. Not sure any of us would get these on our next visit.

Now to the aforementioned sandwiches. Starting us off is the Ying Sandwich. This pastrami sandwich came with Swiss cheese and deli mustard, all on seeded rye bread. This usually comes with sauerkraut, but Mike is not a big fan of the pickled cabbage. True to form, Mike called this sandwich, "the best pastrami sandwich he has ever had". He enjoyed the thick cut of the pastrami, and the flavor of the meat. The onion rings served with this were heavily breaded, and crunchy. Not as greasy as I would have thought.

Mike's wife Dawn, was a little more creative in her ordering of this Taylor and Stanwyck Sandwich. Almost all of the sandwiches here are named after a celebrity duo of the past or present. Basically this amounts to a club sandwich. Normally this sandwich contains turkey, but for some reason, "Difficult Dawn", opted for ham instead. She seemed very pleased with the result here. Besides the ham, this sandwich came with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on toasted white bread. This sandwich was so packed with meat, she only finished half of it, which I was shocked by, because she has a really big mouth. Just kidding Dawn, (not really).

There would be no doubt what sandwich I was going to go after, the Laurel and Hardy was in my sights. This sandwich featured the royal couple of deli meats, pastrami and corned beef, along with Swiss cheese, Cole slaw, and Russian dressing, on a seeded rye. The meats on this sandwich were a little on the fatty side. I know that just adds flavor, but some of you may like leaner cuts of meat. The meat was flavorful, and like Mike, I liked the thicker cut of the pastrami. It really let you know that it was present. The corned beef was a little more subtler, and kind of got lost here, but still good. I would have liked this sandwich better if it was warmed  and the bread was toasted. On their web site they make it known that they make all of their bread with real New York water. The bread was okay at the Derby, I was not wowed by it. Still a solid sandwich though.

The fourth and last sandwich we tried was Katie's selection, the Bogie and Bacall. This one came with roast beef, ham, turkey, Swiss cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, and mayo, piled inside an Italian roll. Katie enjoyed the fresh ingredients here, but felt the sandwich was overwhelming due to the size of it. She did not have high expectations coming in here, but those expectations were easily met within the first few bites. The potato salad served with this had too much mustard for her taste. She will opt for another side item on her next visit.

After the large sandwiches, we followed them up by getting dessert. Mike and Katie ordered the Cannoli's above. The Chocolate Chip Cannoli was Mike's choice. He loved this dessert, while the rest of us felt it was not sweet enough. The outer shell was average, and the ricotta inside needed to be sweeter and smoother. The same went for the peanut butter cannoli. Not even close to the cannoli's Dawn brought me back from Boston. Thanks Dawn!

Dawn wanted to try a slice of Cheesecake here at the Derby. This cheesecake was pretty solid. It was not overly sweet and the strawberries were fresh. I am not much of a cheesecake guy, but even I thought this was good. It really helped getting the taste of the awful cannoli out of my mouth, which I was thankful for.

The Derby was more than I expected. I am not going to tell you that these sandwiches will rival those of New York or the east coast. They are solid sandwiches, with great meats and fresh ingredients. They are a little on the pricey side though. All of the sandwiches are in the $10 to $14 range, but you do get to choose one side item to accompany them. The service the night we were here was pretty good. It got a little spotty as the room got more busy, but that is to be expected.

If you come here for a quiet night, get here early, because it does get raucous starting at 8:30 and escalating until the late hours of the night. If the noise gets to you, and you are here on a Friday or Saturday night, retreat to the backroom area, behind the hostess stand. They have opened a secret speakeasy where you can converse, order drinks, and even gamble. Yes, you read that right, gamble. Of course it is not real money, but for $10 you get chips, get to play blackjack and craps, and automatically get entered into a monthly raffle for an exotic trip. Fun, and something a little different.

Out of five rams, (because the town of Derby, England has the ram as its city emblem), five being best to zero being worst, the Derby gets 3 rams.

For more information on The Derby, click here: http://www.derbymv.com/index.php?p=home

The Derby on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Falling In Love with Romeo Cucina?

Romeo Cucina
28241 Crown Valley Parkway
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

I have gotten an Entertainment Coupon Book every year, for the last ten years. I have written on this blog that I like using this book. It helps save us on eating out. As you can probably tell from reading this blog, we eat out quite often. So any help we can get on reducing the amount we pay is a help. For as long as I have been getting the book, there has been a coupon for Romeo Cucina. In all these years we have yet to use the coupon, until now.

Romeo Cucina is an upscale, neighborhood Italian restaurant. They have been opened here since 1991, a long time in the restaurant business these days. They have one other location in Laguna Beach, which is owned by another family member. The crowd here in Laguna Niguel is a little on the older side. They have a small bar area, where some older regulars gathered throughout our visit. Romeo Cucina's space is dominated by large windows, that make up two sides of the restaurant. The restaurant was comfy, without being cramped. The lighting is darkened, to accentuate a romantic vibe. Let's see if  the food will brighten up the room for us.

After being seated we were given this bread basket, along with this olive spread. The bread crust was little on the harder side, but the bread portion was soft though. I am not much into olives, (in fact you can say they are sworn enemy), but I did like this olive spread. The saltiness of this paired well with the bread.

Katie began her meal with a Insalata della Casa. This house salad came with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, chevre and mint, along with their house dressing. Katie liked this dressing, which she denoted had lots of garlic in it. The salad had a very earthy flavor, which she enjoyed.

By now, if you have been a faithful reader of my blog, you know that I went with the Amante di Cesare. I seem to always go for a Caesar salad, whenever it is available on a menu. The one here at Romeo was very tasty. They had plenty of dressing on it, the portion size was good, and the Parmesan cheese was fresh and plentiful. My only complaint about this salad was the garlic croutons. I know croutons need to be hard, but these ones were like trying to chomp down on ice cubes.

Katie heard Lobster Ravioli while the waitress was telling us the specials, and decided that would be what she ordered. She was more than happy with this selection, calling it, "the best lobster ravioli she has ever had!". If I had a dollar for every time we went out and Katie proclaimed something was the best she has had, I would not have to use coupons to go out to eat, because I would be rich! Back to the ravioli though, she enjoyed the sauce here because it was not as creamy or rich as others, and the presence of garlic was enjoyable to her. I felt the sauce needed more cream, but I really like heavier sauces. The lobster was fresh, and did not taste fishy, according to Katie. It has been a week since we have eaten here, and she is still talking about this plate, so I guess she really liked it.

The menu at Romeo Cucina did not wow me. Nothing really caught my eye. I usually know what I am going to order before entering a restaurant, but here I was unsure. I settled on this Vitello Porcini. This veal dish was served with mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and a Marsala sauce. I was disappointed with the serving size of veal here. Two tiny medallions, smaller than the size of a billiards ball.  The meat was fork tender, and had a great flavor, but I felt there could have been more veal here. The mushrooms were cooked well, and because there were so many of them, they became the star of this plate. The roasted potatoes were okay. The larger ones were not as tender as the smaller ones, and harder to get through. The garlic spinach here was real good. Had great flavor, and the garlic really brought the spinach to life.

Time for dessert, and Katie picked the Tartufo. This traditional Italian dessert had a zabaglione cream center, encased by a gianduia cream and crushed hazelnut and cocoa powder. Basically, in English this was a scoop of chocolate ice cream with a cream center. This was very good, and refreshing. The ice cream was really good, not too rich. I would probably gets this dessert next time I came here.

One dessert that I would definitely avoid the next time I was here would be this Butterscotch Banana Rum Cake. All three items mentioned in the name of this dessert were barely present. The cake portion of this was dry, so the rum could not be detected. The banana flavor of the cake was also missing in action. Lastly, the butterscotch cream this was topped with was devoid of any butterscotch flavor. Very disappointing end to my meal.

I had mixed feelings about my time at Romeo Cucina. Katie loved all of her choices, and I thought all of mine were average to okay. I am sure we will be coming back here, because Katie enjoyed her meal so much. Hopefully the next time we visit something will pique my interest more than this time. The service on this night was great. Our glasses were never empty, and the food was brought out promptly and hot. Our waitress, Prisma, really made us feel welcome, and really talked this restaurant up. There must have been lots of regulars here, because she was very personable with everyone. Prices here were a little on the high side, (entrees were in the $20 range and the salads were just under $10), but we had our coupon, so it helped to soften the blow of the bill. Thanks Entertainment Book!

Out of five balconies (because who can hear the name Romeo, and not think of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet? See I know some of the classics!), five being best to zero being worst, Romeo Cucina gets 3 balconies.

For more information on Romeo Cucina, click here: http://www.romeocucina.com/index.html

Romeo Cucina on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Shortstop BBQ Swinging for the Fences! CLOSED

Shortstop BBQ
711 N. Placentia Avenue
Fullerton, CA 92831

I admit I am not much into food trucks. They just don't seem convenient to me. The food usually sounds very appealing, but the fact that I did not have a Twitter account until a few weeks ago, (shameless plug, you can follow our blog here, https://twitter.com/#!/eatmywaythruoc), and the fact that, (are you ready to be shocked?), I do not own a smart phone, so it makes it hard for me to keep up with where the food trucks are roaming. Ugh, this makes me sound like I still use eight track tapes, Atari, and a pager! I will try to get more technological in the future, but for now I really wanted some barbecue.

I have heard a lot about the Shortstop BBQ truck. They have a great reputation for serving some great  barbecue, so I was excited that they opened a restaurant that will stay in one place. They are run by two brothers, and one of their wives.  Drawing on inspiration from their great grandfather, they look to serve some  delicious BBQ, with a clean, California appeal.

We were going to a play in Fullerton, so we stopped by their tiny restaurant. We arrived at about six on a Saturday night. There were a lot of people crammed in here. Most were waiting patiently for their food, while the two guys working behind the counter were going at a breakneck pace cranking out orders. After placing our order with one of the guys we watched the game on their nice sized TV, and waited for a table to open up. The menu here is not going to impress you with its large variety, but I was hoping it would impress my taste buds. Let's see how it all turned out for us.

At Shortstop BBQ they do not serve your everyday fries, they serve frites, (which is just a fancy French way of saying fries). The frites here are topped with a variety of offerings. We ordered the Beef n' Bleu Frites. These frites were topped with blue cheese crumbles, tri tip, and BBQ sauce. The fries here are average, but what sets these apart are the toppings. These were delicious, with lots of blue cheese and tender tri tip. A little more BBQ sauce on these would have made this even better. They have other interesting offering for frites as well, including a turkey, cheese, and cranberry chili a top the frites. That one will have to wait for next time though. We still had more food on our trays.

At Shortstop BBQ, they have four sandwiches on the menu, all with a little twist. I am sure if you do not like something, they would omit it for you, but I wanted to try everything as it was on the menu. Above is Katie's sandwich, the BBQ Pulled Pork. Here the the twist was the addition of creamed corn, to go along with pork and BBQ sauce.  The corn seemed a little odd to me at first, but the sweetness of it combined with the tender pork really hit the spot. The flavor of the pork was subtle, but still real good. The brioche bun really held up to the insides of the sandwich, which surprised me. Just like with the frites, a little more BBQ sauce on this would have made this even better.

The picture above does not do my Tri-Tip Sandwich justice. The tri tip on this sandwich was paired with their blue cheese slaw and BBQ sauce. The meat was very tender, the slaw was excellent, and like the other sandwich, the bun held everything perfectly. Really enjoyed this sandwich, and I would not hesitate to get this again. A must order when I come back here.

Of course I could not come to barbecue restaurant and not try some ribs. I got this Quarter Rack of Ribs Combo plate, which comes with two sides. The ribs here are not slathered with sauce. They have a dry rub, and the sauce is very light, almost baked into the meat. The result is an easy to eat rib, with very tender meat. The meat came off the bone easily, and almost all in one piece. Very nicely done. As for the side items, the Creamed Corn was not as sweet as the one at Gulliver's, but it was very good. The blue cheese slaw was great, and I could have eaten more of this. They were very generous with the blue cheese in this slaw.

This was a solid spot for barbecue. Shortstop BBQ is a tiny restaurant that is not much for ambiance, but they definitely make up for it with some good dishes. The tiny menu is accompanied by some specials, which are changed every so often. I have heard about a duck sandwich that has been offered from time to time, but it was not offered the night we were here. The only complaint I have about this place when we were here, was the amount of sauce put on everything. I would have liked more, but I am usually one that enjoys more sauce than the average eater. The prices for the dishes here are very reasonable. Most items are under the $10 mark, and that is saying something for a barbecue place. I'm glad that Shortstop BBQ decided to open up a restaurant, so I know where I can find some good barbecue.

Out of five gold gloves, (because one of the great shortstops in baseball history, Ozzie Smith won 13 of them, and he played shortstop), five being best to zero being worst, Shortstop BBQ gets 3.5 gold gloves.

For more information of Shortstop BBQ, click here: http://shortstopbbq.com/

Shortstop BBQ on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 19, 2012

No Waffling About Our Trip to Bruxie!

292 N. Glassell St.
Orange, CA 92866

I feel like I have cheated all of you, my dear readers. I feel that I can not be called an OC food blogger until I have reviewed Bruxie. This soon to be iconic waffle sandwich place has been reviewed by numerous food blogs, mainstream publications, and even been named the #2 Yelp restaurant in the US for 2011. Pretty strong praise for a restaurant I have not managed to get to in the two and a half years of this blog. For that I apologize to you, but I am here to make amends. Here, without further delay is my review of Bruxie.

For the few people who have not heard about Bruxie before, here is a short history of the place. The restaurant opened across the street from Chapman College, in downtown Orange. The location used to be the old Dairy Treet. They serve all of their sandwiches on waffles, kind of like a pannini, but with a waffle instead of bread. They have savory ones and sweet, dessert versions. When Chapman is in session the lines can get very long. Lucky for us it was winter break, as my cousin Chris and I met up at lunch time on a Thursday at noon. Ordering is done at the counter, and then the food is brought out to your table. This is what it looked like.

My Chocolate Banana Nut Milkshake came out before my meal. At Bruxie they use frozen custard instead of ice cream. This was my first time having frozen custard. Frozen custard is said to be more rich than ice cream, because egg yolks are added. Bruxie gets theirs from Wisconsin, and like the Packers from the same state, I can say I was not such a big fan of this shake. The flavor was good here, but I would have liked the chocolate  and banana already mixed up. My other complaint was that this shake was not as cold as I would have liked. I know that is a weird thing to say about a shake, but it was too soupy, and it was not even a warm day out. I will definitely try frozen custard again though.

Chris went with the Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Waffle, one of their most popular items. Here the chicken was joined by Cole slaw and a chili honey sauce. Chris was very pleased with his selection, calling it near perfect. He felt the chicken was tender, the chili honey sauce had a great flavor, but he thought there could have been more Cole Slaw on this sandwich to help balance it out better. He has been here numerous times, and this is his favorite sandwich here. He also got Waffle Fries with his order. These fries were very hearty and crisp.

I have a bigger appetite than my cousin, so this is the first of my two Bruxie sandwiches, the Bruxie Burger. This burger came with Angus beef, cheddar cheese, tomato, pickle, mayonnaise, and lettuce. I have not had a burger cooked this perfectly in long time. It was a perfect medium rare, that practically melted in my mouth. The waffle did not get in the way as much as I envisioned it would. The waffle is not sweet, and is lighter than I would have thought. It was sturdy enough to hold the contents of the sandwich, without being intrusive. They got the balance just right. I would have liked a little more mayo on this, but it was a great burger, which I would get again

Bruxie always has specials posted on their Facebook page and on the board where you stand in line. One of them really stood out to me while I was waiting, so I had to try it. The Braised Beef Short Rib, with Crispy Blue Cheese Potatoes. Also added to the mix here was caramelized onions, horseradish, and chives. This sandwich was as delicious as it sounds. The meat, for the most part was very tender, the blue cheese was a great addition, but I could have used more. The au jus served with this, added some great flavor, and added some needed moisture. If this came up on the special board again, definitely do yourself a favor and order it.

Bruxie is one of the restaurants that truly did live up to the hype. It is a concept that seems so simple, and yet there are so many things that could go wrong, but don't. The main thing is they use fresh ingredients, cooked the right way. The menu is not very large, but with the addition of the specials, there is plenty to choose from. I really look forward to many more trips back here. I am happy that I have fulfilled my delicious obligation to you the readers, by trying one of the unique restaurant spots our county has to offer.

Out of five sprouts, (c'mon you knew I could not go this whole review without playing on the Belgium influence here, and one of my favorite things from Belgium, brussel sprouts!), five being best to zero being worst, Bruxie gets 3.5 sprouts.

For more information on Bruxie, click here: http://bruxie.com/

Bruxie on Urbanspoon

Dinner Time at Cinnamon Productions! - CLOSED

Cinnamon Productions
22342 El Paseo
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

Katie has just recently moved to the wide opened spaces of Rancho Santa Margarita, which opens us up to a whole new area of restaurants to try. We have come out here before, for trips to see her wonderful brother in law and her average sister, but now we will be spending more time in the city with the longest name in California.

Not wanting to stray too far from home, we decided to try Cinnamon Productions for dinner. I know this joint is more of a breakfast place, but I had a coupon and wanted to see what they offered for dinner. CP was started in Seal Beach in 1987. That location has since closed, and they now have another location operating not far down the road, in Ladera Ranch.

We arrived at 7 on a Wednesday night, and the restaurant was deserted, except for us and another couple. A few more customers would ramble in throughout our visit, but it never got busy. The first thing you notice when walking in Cinnamon Productions is the bakery case. This thing is huge! Wish I had taken a picture of it because it was massive. I was also surprised to see that it was fully stocked even at this off-peak time. They offer brownies, cookies, cakes, and of course cinnamon rolls. We ordered at the counter, and this is what was brought to our table.

We could not eat a place called Cinnamon Productions, without getting to try their signature offering, a Cinnamon Roll. The cinnamon roll was pretty good. The outer shell of it was little on the harder side. Maybe because these were made a few hours before our visit. The insides though were pillowy soft. These were not overly sweet. The cream cheese icing was more on the tangy side than the sweet, and insides were not as full of cinnamon as some of the other rolls we have had. Not a bad start to our meal, (of course we started with dessert, and how can that be bad?).

Katie tried the Pepper Turkey Pannini. This turkey sandwich came with Swiss cheese and sliced tomato on seven-grain bread. Katie felt this sandwich was a little on the dry side when consumed as it was brought to our table. She added some mustard to it and was much happier with the result. The pasta salad served with this was fresh tasting and not oily, but did not stand out for her flavor-wise. An average meal for Katie.

The menu at CP is not huge and mostly filled with sandwiches and salads. They do offer four specialty entrees though, and the Penne Pasta with Spicy Italian Sausage is one of them. The sauce is a tomato and basil cream sauce, which was very smooth and good. The pasta was cooked nicely and held the sauce well. The sausage was not of the best quality, but it did have a little spice to it.  I thought the $11 price tag for this was a little on the steep side for this portion size, but I would get this again.

Cinnamon Productions is not going to blow you away with their lunch and dinner options. Everything is decent here though. The dinners should feature at least a slice of garlic bread or a roll, (this is a bakery!). CP is worth the trip if you are in the area and want a quick dinner. I hear better things about their breakfast items and can not wait to try them. Now that Katie is in the neighborhood, we will definitely make it here for breakfast.

Out of five volleyballs, (because the national sport of Sri Lanka is volleyball, and that country produces 90% of the worlds cinnamon), five being best to zero being worst, Cinnamon Productions gets 2.5 volleyballs.

For more information about Cinnamon Productions, click here: http://cinnamonproductions.com/

Sunday, January 15, 2012

For Pete's Sake, an Awful Time at Peter's Gourmade!

Peter's Gourmade Grill
600 East Bay Ave. Ste. A7
Newport Beach, CA 92661

I am not going to sugar coat this review. I was more than a little upset after leaving Peter's Gourmade Grill. I had heard all of the great reviews. I had seen all the wonderful pictures of the burgers. I admit I was already writing a positive review in my head even before walking in the joint. All the fanfare, all the high hopes, dashed like most of my favorite sports teams success this year, (tough year for my Ducks and Jaguars, but I will save that topic for when I start a sports blog).

By now I am sure that you know the story of Peter's Gourmade Grill. Opened in a Valero gas station in Tustin, this tiny 100 square foot restaurant got food critics and bloggers talking by serving up gourmet burgers, sandwiches and fries. The gas station closed down, and they were still serving food out of the tiny space. New owners came in, the lease agreement became in doubt, and finally, according to the Peter's Gourmade website, the relationship with the new owners became toxic, and they decided to relocate to the corner of McFadden and Newport Avenue. This location opens later this month.

While all this craziness was going on with the Tustin location, they managed to open up a second location at the Balboa Fun Zone. Near where the carousel used to turn, this is a bigger location for Peter's. Plenty more storage space than the digs in Tustin. This area of some of my favorite childhood memories, would soon become one of my worst as a food blogger.

We arrived at 6:30 on a colder than normal, Saturday night. The Balboa area was not deserted, but foot traffic was not what it would normally be on a warmer night. We got to Peter's, and there were two tables of four eating their food. Stepping up to the counter to order, I already knew what I was having. The iconic ABC Burger. Denied. I was told they were out of avocado and cheddar cheese. Okay, a little disappointed, but stuff happens. I will take a Rammer Burger. No can do. They are out of pastrami, and they do not have Swiss cheese. In fact, we are told they have no cheese on the premises other than Feta. So, with such a limited menu, this is what we decided to consume.

I finally settled on a Mushroom Swiss and Bacon Burger. The burger did have a good taste, but without the cheese on this burger, it was really salty. The patty was way over seasoned. I am sure the Swiss would have mellowed this out a little bit, but of course that is conjecture on my part. I did find the potato bun a nice touch.

Katie got a little creative with her Veggie Burger. She added Feta cheese to it. Like me, she felt this burger was very salty, and the patty fell apart on her.

The only item we ended up coming here for, and actually getting was the Peter's Greek Fries. These shoestring fries were topped with gyro meat, tomatoes, feta cheese, onion, oregano, and served with homemade Tzatziki sauce. These fries saved our trip from becoming a complete bust, they were great as advertised. The gyro meat was very tender and tasted great, the Tzatziki sauce really balanced this out wonderfully. Unfortunately, we got their last fork in the entire place, so we had to take turns eating this. One fork in the entire place, really?

The menu at Peter's is not the largest, and it is made considerably smaller when they are out of basic things, such as cheese and pastrami. Out of the seven burgers on their menu, five of them have either cheese or pastrami. That works out to them being out of 72% of their burgers, as written on their menu. Throw in the fact that they were out of lids for soft drinks, there aforementioned lack of forks, and the marshmallow they used in the interesting sounding  Sweet Potato Gooey's, and it is a wonder that this place is open at all. They even had another two hours til closing time. What would they be serving by the end of the night, mustard and ketchup sandwiches?

I know ordering for a restaurant can be hard. I am sure that it is difficult to predict how many people will come through the door. I am sure it is tough to control shrink. But not having forks and lids? These things do not go bad. The only thing I can think is maybe they are spread too thin, or maybe they are so intent on opening the Tustin location on time that they have let this place go. The crew of two workers here did not seem to care in the least that they were out of so many things. They spent almost all of our visit talking to their friend, rather than going out and getting supplies. It may not be their job to make sure supplies and food are stocked, but they did not seem bothered by it in the least.

Will we try Peter's Gourmade again? Yes we will, but not this location. They have a lot to prove to us when the new restaurant opens up. Hopefully they will be able to focus all their attention on the new place. I look forward to finally trying the ABC Burger, the Gooey Fries, and their specials. Just hope they remember to order enough for a whole day's worth of business.

Out of five slices of cheese, (so it might remind them to order enough next time), five being best to zero being worst, Peter's Gourmade Grill gets 1.5 slices of cheese, (or one and a half more than they had in the entire restaurant the night we were here!).

For more information on Peter's Gourmade Grill, click here: http://web.me.com/apanariella/Peters_Gourmade_Grill/Welcome.html