Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Special Event at the Melting Pot - CLOSED

The Melting Pot
375 W. Birch
Brea, CA 92821

I might owe the Melting Pot an apology. Whenever someone mentions the Melting Pot, or other fondue restaurants, I kind of bristle. It is not because the food is awful, or I have had bad experiences, but if you know me or read this blog, you know that I love big quantities of food. If I do not feel full after a meal, I consider it a lost night. So when I hear anyone talk about a fondue restaurant, I automatically think of a plate with ten tiny morsels of food on it. After being invited to the Melting Pot to try their new Skinny Sipping Cocktails and other items off of their menu, my mind has been changed about the Melting Pot.

The Melting Pot restaurants have been around for a long time. They opened their doors in 1975, during the heyday of fondue cooking in the US. The Maitland, Florida location was a very popular restaurant, and by 1981, there were already three locations up and running, all in Florida. By 1985 the Melting Pot began franchising, and then they spread far and wide. Melting Pot restaurants can now be found in 36 different states, Western Canada, and even two locations in Mexico City. So with 144 location across the continent, chances are there is one relatively close to you. We have two in OC, so we trekked up to the Downtown Brea location, to see what they had to offer.

For those of you not familiar with fondue cooking, there are communal hot pots on the tables, and depending on the course, these pots are filled with cheese, oil, or chocolate. Patrons use long stemmed forks to stab food and dip them in the pots to coat or cook various items. At the Melting Pot , they have three different kinds of fondue; cheese, entrees, and desserts. By this time we were getting hungry, and lucky for us the cheese fondues were being prepared table side.

We were presented with two cheese fondues to try. The first was the Spinach and Artichoke Cheese Fondue. This was made up of fontina and butterkase cheese, with spinach, artichoke hearts and garlic. The second is off of their limited time menu, the Boston Lager Cheese Fondue. Here they use Samuel Adams Boston Lager, cheddar and Emmenthaler cheeses, and then it is accented with bacon, onion, Dijon mustard, Tabasco and scallions. As much as I thought I would like this cheese fondue the best, the spinach and artichoke version was the big hit of the table, and with me. It was very subtle, but still had enough flavor to keep us interested. It went really good with the tortilla chips and cubed breads. The Boston lager cheese was good, but more of a nacho cheese vibe. The flavor was definitely more pronounced, and it went better with the fresh veggies. We were also presented with apples for dipping, which I thought was a little odd, but these two items really paired up nicely.

At the Melting Pot they not only have fondue items, but they also feature some pretty good salads. We got to sample all five on their menu. The Wisconsin Wedge Salad was one of my favorites. This salad is on their limited time menu, and is a wedge of iceberg lettuce, topped with Roma tomatoes, bacon, Gorgonzola cheese, and a very tasty peppercorn ranch dressing. Big time flavor with this one! Other salads included a Melting Pot House Salad, California Salad, a Mushroom and Spinach Salad, and a classic Caesar Salad. All of these were very fresh, and all of the dressings are made in house. These two things make for great salads.

Right after the salads, we were given this Shrimp Cocktail. To call these huge crustaceans shrimp is really a contradiction. They were huge. The cocktail sauce these were served with also packed a punch. Really spicy, and if you were not ready for the horseradish, it really could catch a person by surprise.

Our invitation did not say anything about getting any of the Melting Pot's entrees, so it was a nice surprise when these pre-cooked meats came out of the kitchen. Selections included filet mignon, white shrimp seasoned with Cajun spices, wild mushroom sacchetti, and broccoli with a green goddess sauce. These selections were not the only thing special here, the sauces are pretty impressive as well. The best is the Green Goddess sauce, which is a cream cheese/green onion dip, which goes good with everything. Other sauces included the same spicy cocktail sauce used for the shrimp cocktail, a very thick Gorgonzola dressing, a yellow curry yogurt sauce, and a teriyaki sauce. All of these were great options to dip items into.

Before we get to the grand finale, one of the main reasons we were here was so the Melting Pot could showcase their cocktails. Some of these new cocktails are made with Skinnygirl Wine and Vodka or Voli Light Vodkas, which is a vodka company owned by Fergie from the Black Eye Peas and rapper, Pitbull. The cocktails that stood out for me were the Apple Martini, with the caramel around the glass. Great drink, and the caramel was a nice touch. The Yin and Yang could have gotten me into lots of trouble as well. It was made of Godiva Whiter Chocolate Liqueur, Stoli Vanilla Vodka, and ice cream, then topped with chocolate shavings. An adult milkshake, that packs a punch. All of the other drinks were very refreshing, and it should be considered a bonus that they are made with fewer calories than traditional cocktails. Of course that just means that I will drink more!

Everything had been great up until this point, but the chocolate fondues are very hard to top. They had two for us to try. The first was the Cookies and Cream Marshmallow Dream. This one would have made Willie Wonka envious. Dark chocolate is topped with marshmallow cream, then flambeed and topped with Oreo cookie crumbs. Very decadent. The second pot contained the Flaming Turtle. A wonderful combination  of milk chocolate, caramel, and candied pecans combined to make one of my favorite items of the night. We were given bananas, strawberries, cheesecake, Rice Krispy Treats, pound cake and brownies to dip into the chocolate. How could this be a bad dessert? Short answer, it can not. A great way to end our fantastic evening at the Melting Pot.

So after all of this food, I have to admit that I was quite full. So it is possible to get to this point at a fondue restaurant. The Melting Pot is definitely a special occasion restaurant. The atmosphere here just exuded romance. This is the kind of place you want to take a date, a significant other, or maybe someone that you just want to get to know better. Meals are not rushed, so you will have plenty of time to converse. They offer four course meals, which will definitely leave you completely satisfied and full.

We would like to thank The Melting Pot for their generosity on this night. We would also like to thank everyone at The Melting Pot in Brea, including Owner, Rodney Selbo, who was an excellent bus boy for us, and answered all of our questions. Our hostess, Assistant Manager, Amber Freely was very cheerful, and really made us feel comfortable. Also worth a shout out, was our waitress on this night, Shannon, who was wonderful and kept thing moving along for us. Thanks for everything Shannon. Lastly, we would like to thank our fellow bloggers that shared this meal with us. Daniele, from Dani's Decadent Deals, Tom, from Tom's Foodie Blog, and Suki from  Eat Suki Eat. We really had a great night with all of you, and look forward to seeing you all again soon.

For any information about The Melting Pot, click here for their web site: http://www.meltingpot.com/

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Get Your Tickets For Game Day! CLOSED

Game Day
3009 E. Chapman
Orange, CA

Hot dogs are one of my favorite foods. They are one of the foods that I remember eating as a kid, and truly loving. I can clearly remember having hot dogs at home, eating them at Angel's games, having them at Carnation on Main Street at Disneyland, and also ordering them at Carl's Jr., (way back in the day when they used to serve them). I still love hot dogs, but as my tastes have changed from when I was a kid, it has been harder to find really good hot dogs around OC. That is until now, now that I have found Game Day.

I heard about Game Day from an article written by one of my favorite food writers, Dave Lieberman, from Stick a Fork In It. In the article, which you can read here, Dave lists ten great hot dog places in OC. He put Game Day as the number two spot on his list. His number one pick is Berkeley Dog, which I am not too fond of, (too much bun). Anyways back to Game Day, we had a party to attend in Orange, and not knowing the food situation at the party we decided that we wouldn't chance it, and try Game Day since it has been on our list of places to try for awhile.

Game Day is located on busy Chapman Avenue, right near another hot dog joint on the list, PCH Hot Dogs. That place is also on our list of places to try, just like it is on Dave's list as well. Two great hot dog places, right near each other? Hot dog war in Orange! Game Day, from the architecture, and confirmed from the guy behind the counter, used to be an old Taco Bell. The half moon windows and brick walls give that away. Gone are the bland taco sauce packets and plastic fast food furniture, replaced with enough sporting paraphernalia to make a lot of sporting goods stores jealous, and 4 large TVs, that any sports bar would love to have. This restaurant really has the sports bar theme down, without the annoying Raiders fan in the corner waiting to pick a fight with anyone in the joint.

We got to Game Day at 5pm on a Saturday night. The menu is seriously awe inspiring and a little intimidating. I really did not want to pick the wrong items to try, and there was so much to choose from. I really wanted one of everything, but I settled on their most popular items. We ordered at the counter, and waited about five minutes for the food to come out. This is what came out of the kitchen for us.

I had a bad night with garlic fries one 4th of July years ago, and have not had much success with them since. These Garlic Fries ($2.25) have changed that. The outside of the fries had a nice crunch, while the garlic was very evident here. By the end of our meal I was so stuffed, but I could not stop eating these fries. These are a must get when coming here.

I was a little taken aback when Katie ordered this Sonoran Hot Dog ($6.95). Not because it sounded like it would be bad, but it just seemed a little out of her comfort zone. This gourmet dog is made with a spicy polish sausage, topped with chorizo, bacon, refried beans, pico de gallo, grilled jalapenos, and chipotle mayo. With all of these items I thought this was going to be in your face spicy, but the heat was not overwhelming here. I got the most heat from the chipotle mayo, which was very good. The polish sausage kind of got lost here with all of these fresh toppings. The chorizo and bacon, as expected, took over the flavor of this, but the beans added a good texture here as well. This turned out to be a very well balanced sausage that I would not hesitate to get again. Katie managed to finish only half of this, so I had it for leftovers the next day. It was still good then too.

Game Day is not just all about hot dogs and sausages, they also have burgers as well. One of their most popular is the Poblano Bacon ($6.95). This hamburger is made with a blend of Angus chuck and brisket. The meat on its own was very juicy and full of flavor. The toppings on top of the patty were an added bonus of flavor. This burger was topped with bacon, poblano chili's, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, and the same chipotle mayo that was on the Sonoran Dog. This was a well crafted burger, that is reminiscent of a great backyard burger. Really solid, and the toppings take it to the next level.

I was pretty full after eating my burger and a few bites of Katie's sausage, but of course I had to get a sausage of my own. I asked the guy behind the counter for help with their massive menu, and he steered me towards the Split 44 ($6.95). This sausage sandwich gets its name from the owners father, who wore the number 44 at the Naval Academy, as a captain of the football team. He used to make different versions of this sandwich for his family. The version they serve at Game Day is a polish sausage, split down the middle, with pastrami, fried egg, pepper jack cheese, and chipotle mayo on top of it. Again I thought that this was going to be overpowering with all of these big time ingredients. but everything kind of had its place here. The egg was kind of soothing, the pastrami added the saltiness, and the pepper jack cheese and chipotle mayo added a flavor boost. Very good sausage!

After reading this review you can probably tell that I really enjoyed our visit to Game Day. They know what they are doing here. This restaurant really reminded me of another hot dog place that Dave put on his list, Pee Wee's in HB. The menus are both very large, with some very interesting sounding items. Some items that piqued my interest for next time here were the L.A. Street Dog, the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Sausage and the Bahn Mi Burger. They even have a version of Slater's Peanut Butter and Jealousy, called the PB&J Burger. Too many items, and so far from where I live. Not fair, but this place is worth the drive. The guy behind the counter was very nice, and the restaurant was very well kept. This place will be the perfect hot dog paradise to meet up before hockey games next year.

Out of five seat cushions, (because you may need these on game days, sitting on those hard bleachers), five being best to zero being worst, Game Day gets 3.5 seat cushions.

Game Day only has their menu on their web site, you can check it out here: http://www.gamedaydogs.com/gamedaymenu.pdf

Game Day Fire-Grilled Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Taste of Knott's Event

Taste of Knott's Media Event
8039 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620

When people think of amusement park food they probably think of burgers, hot dogs, and cotton candy. Knott's Berry Farm, an amusement park built around a restaurant is trying to change peoples mind about what they think of when amusement park food is brought up. We recently were invited to a media event to try all of the new food that is being offered throughout the park.

Knott's is a real OC success story. Walter and Cordelia Knott moved to Buena Park in the 20's. Walter was a farmer, and helped to bring a new berry to life. It was a cross between a red raspberry, loganberry, and a blackberry. He named this new hybrid berry, the boysenberry. With a family of six, they had to look for ways to make ends meet during the depression. Cordelia started selling pies, jams and sandwiches to help the family get through the lean times. Then in 1934, Cordelia served eight chicken dinners on her wedding china, at an amazing 65 cents apiece, thus Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant was born. From such humble beginnings to present day, where they now seat 900 guests at a time, and serve 1.5 million guest a year, Knott's Berry Farm and food go hand in hand. It is no surprise that they are also spearheading a campaign to change your mind about what you think about when your thoughts turn to amusement park food. We were lucky enough to get a firsthand look at all the new offerings.

Okay, these are not new offerings, but I feel it would be disrespectful to not showcase the food that started it all 78 years ago, the food from Mrs. Knott's Chicken Restaurant. They have not changed their fried chicken recipe in any of these seven plus decades. For $16.90, you can have either the Mrs. Knott's Fried Chicken Meal, or the Chicken Pot Pie Dinner, both of which comes with a soup, salad, or cherry rhubarb; sweet corn or cabbage; biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy, and your choice of desserts, which we will get to later. Quite a bit of food for well under $20. Biting into the fried chicken was like stepping back into my childhood. It really tasted the same as when I used to come here as a kid. Each time I got up to try some new food, I always returned here to get another taste of the fried chicken. I could not resist their homemade biscuits with boysenberry butter either. Very good start to a wonderful night.

The food from Fireman's Brigade BBQ really got some kudos at this event. These BBQ classics are available in Ghost Town, near the front of the park. The Slow Cooked Rib was one of the best I have had in a long time. The rib had plenty of meat on it, and came right off of the bone. Very tender, and it is easy to tell that these are smoked for 11 hours. These ribs are served with garlic bread toast and a baked potato for $11.99. The Flank Steak Sandwich ($13.39, with chips and a drink), was another favorite. Knott's marinates their flank steak over 24 hours, and serves this sandwich on a jalapeno and cheddar roll. Big time flavor!

Also located in Ghost Town, at the Ghost Town Grill are these healthier options. Katie really enjoyed the fresh ingredients used to make Goldie's Honey Garlic Salmon and Baby Spinach Salad ($13.99). The fish was cooked well, and she was also impressed with the honey soy dressing here. I am not going to be turning vegetarian anytime soon, but I was thoroughly surprised that I enjoyed this Black Bean Burger ($13.49, with a side item), so much. The spicy black bean patty had enough flavor to keep me interested, and the mayo and provolone cheese were great additions here. Not a bad burger, but don't tell any of my friends I liked a non-meat burger!

When we showed up at Knott's, these would be three things I would have bet that I would not have been writing about. Located right across GhostRider, Spurs is serving up three small plates that you would normally not associate with an amusement park. The Bruschetta was comprised of fresh tomatoes, red onion and Parmigiano Reggiano $7.99). The Cajun Lime Salt Riblets ($9.99), had a citrusy taste, that went well with the natural saltiness of the riblets. I could have eaten a lot more of these. The Hawaiian Ahi Poke ($11.99) was a real surprise. Sashimi grade tuna , green onions, avocado, sesame vinaigrette, and wasabi cream was placed on a fried wonton. The result was multi layered appetizer, that let all of the flavors shine. Not too bad, and totally unexpected.

Located in the Boardwalk area of the park is this offering from the Hollywood Hits food stand, the Meatball Sandwich ($7.49). This classic meatball sandwich had a good, tangy sauce to go along with flavorful meatballs, and the melted mozzarella cheese on top of it.

The last time I was at Knott's there was no Soak City. Yes, it has been a long time. The water park got into the culinary action by preparing foods that can eaten easily by the wave pool. Deli Sandwiches ($7.99) are always a great option under the sun. At Soak City they offer roast beef, turkey, or ham sandwiches, with all of the accompaniments. For healthier eaters there is the option of having the Veggie Wrap Sandwich ($7.99). This wrap was stuffed with bell peppers, cucumbers, cheese, and tomatoes.

All of the food was really good up until this point, but for some reason I can not get this burger out of my head. This is the Coasters Cheeseburger ($13.99) from the Coasters food stand, which is next to the Xcelarator on the Boardwalk. What made this burger hard to forget? First off the worker put this together so carefully, almost like he was working with precious metals. The burger had all the usual condiments added, but the thing that set this burger apart was the crunchy jalapeno chips that were added on top of the burger. They added a real pop of flavor to a well cooked and seasoned patty. I did have to share this with Katie, but I could have eaten another one of these for sure.

Last but not least it was dessert time. Desserts are very important at Knott's. After all, it was a dessert that really got things going for the Knott family. The Cookiewich ($5.49) and the Fresh Fruit Cups ($4.69) are both offered at the Chowhouse stand, across from the Calico Saloon. I passed on the fruit cups in favor of the Cookiewich, (I am sure you are surprised about that, right?). The cookies were very fresh and the soft serve ice cream was very light. Not a bad dessert at all, and big enough to share between two people. I am sure you can tell that the pie above is the world famous Knott's Boysenberry Pie ($3.95 per slice, or $11.65 for the whole pie). This Knott's original dessert has finished off many meals at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Restaurant throughout many generations. The perfect way to end this Taste of Knott's.

As you can tell from this post, we were really pleased with everything we tried at Knott's on this night. It is really a refreshing change that an amusement park is really stepping up their game culinary wise. You get a sense that the people in charge of the food at Knott's are really thinking outside of what is considered normal at amusement parks, and going for it with their new food items. Big flavors and well prepared food will be a big hit with everyone.

A big thanks goes out to everyone at Knott's Berry Farm for a really great night of fun and food. We even found a little time to get on a few rides after eating all the food. Nothing too scary though! Thanks again Knott's. We can not wait to come back again and see what else you will be cooking up.

For more information about Knott's Berry Farm, click here: http://www.knotts.com/