Sunday, August 29, 2010

Viking Feast at Valhalla Table?

Valhalla Table
2981 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Valhalla Table has been on my list of places to try this summer. It is now August, and we finally made it. Our busy summer, had a rare lull in the action, so we gathered up some friends and headed up to the Camp to try this place out.

Valhalla, in Norse mythology is where great warriors would go to eat and drink after battles. Valhalla Table is a sparse looking restaurant, with minnimal decor. They feature a great many salads, appetizers and sausages.  There meats are organic, hormone free and steroid free. The menu is inspired by the chefs' travels all over the world. Let's see what they have cooking up over there.

First, a little blast from the past, Diet Jolt Cola, with 2X the Caffine! These were the only two soft drinks we got, but I assume that they all come in glass bottles, just like the old viking days! Kevin was a little miffed that they did not have regular Jolt, only Diet, which I thought was odd too, but I am not much of a soda drinker, and I do not really know if they even make regular Jolt anymore.

One of our three appetizers was the Currywurst, which is a Berlin street food. I would describe this as a bratwurst, with marinara over it, with a hint of curry flavoring. I usually do not like curry, but with just a hint of curry flavor, the sauce and the sausage, made this appetizer a winner in my book.

I know that our second appetizer was hummus, but I do not remember what kind it was, and it is not on the menu on-line. I liked the flavor of this, but I did not eat a lot of it. Kind of an un-memroable appetizer.

The last of our trio of starters was the house-made German Style Pretzel. I am not much of a pretzel guy, but the pretzel lovers at the table liked this fresh tasting pretzel. The outside had a nice chewiness to it and the inside was soft. The texture of this made Kevin un-easy at first, but then he liked it. Sara had no problem with this pretzel, and declared it the best pretzel she has ever had. Mighty praise from Sara.

To keep with Valhalla's international theme, we got the Belgian Style Potato Fries. These are your basic fries, but thicker cut, and fried crisper than regular fries. These are served with one dipping sauce, which include five different kind of mayo, ketchup, and ranch. We got the aioli, (garlic mayo), but I liked the Wasabi mayo the best. Good fries here. Clay felt that the fries were above average, and Sara thought that the fries were, "Oh, so yummy!"

So out of the six of us, four people in our party got the Bratwurst. The sausage sandwiches come with your choice of one topping. These topping include; sauerkraut, caramelized onions, sweet peppers, salsa verde, or sambal balado, (an Indonesian style spicy salsa). You also have the option of adding chili to the brats as well. I am not too much of a fan of chili on a brat, but diffent strokes for different folk. Ugh, sorrry that made me sound like my Dad. Geez, I am getting old. Anyways, the consensous of our bratwurst eaters was that they were good, but everyone has said that they have had better.

Clay ordered the Chicken and Apple Sausage. Clay thought that this sausage was average, and it did not have a lot of apple taste to it. I did not get a chance to try this, so I guess I have to go by what he said.

Now here is a sausage I did try. This is the Spicy Texas BBQ Pork and Beef Sausage, with the sambal balado salsa. To state it simply, this was an awesome sausage. Spicy times two on this one. The sausage had a great flavor, and the sambal balado was spicy, but not overly spicy. It was kind of yin and yang effect with the sambal, part sweet and part spicy. I would definitely get this again.

For my second sausage I got the Duck, Bacon and Jalapeno Sausage. Even with these three ingriedients this sausage seemed pretty mild. I liked the flavor of the duck, but the bacon and jalapeno were non-existant here. I also wanted to mention the buns here, they were good, without over-powering the sausage. The meat is supposed to be the star here, and the bun does not get in the way of that, and it is toasted perfectly.

For dessert we chose to get the Cinnamon Rasin Bread Pudding with caramel bourbon sauce. I thought that this was not as sweet as I would have liked, but everyone else thought it was delicious, and some of the best bread pudding they have had in a while.

There are more sausages that I would like to try here. They have a Boar Balinese, and an interesting Buffalo and Pistachio sausage. All of our party said that would return here. I would have to agree with that sentiment. What the place is lacking in ambiance, it more than makes up for in great tasting sausages and Belgian fries.

Out of five smorgasbord's, (keeping in the Scandanavian theme), five being best to zero being worst, Valhalla Table receives three smorgasbords.

To get information on Valhalla Table click here:

Valhalla Table on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Welcome to the Neighborhood Seasons 52

Seasons 52
3333 Bristol Avenue Suite #2802
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Katie and I recently got the opportunity to get a sneak preview of the new restaurant Seasons 52, which is in the old Clubhouse spot at South Coast Plaza. Seasons 52 is a restaurant chain that is based in Florida, and has spread out to have 11 units in six states. This will be their first restaurant west of the Mississippi. Their concept is that every week of the year, the menu strives to feature the freshest ingredients possible. They also try to do all of this, while offering healthy, lower calorie menu items. In fact, there are no items on their menu that are above 475 calories.

Here are a few shots I took, to give you a feel for the ambiance of the place. They have an outdoor patio that has two fire pits. The second picture is of the chef's table, which can be reserved in advance. They plan on having nightly entertainment in the piano bar. But enough of all this talk let's take a look at the food.

Before we were seated, we were treated to some of their signature Flatbreads. The first was the Chipotle Shrimp with Roasted Poblanos, Grilled Pineapple, and Feta Cheese. Both Katie and I, thought that this was the better of the two flatbreads that we were served. Very good, mild flavor on this one. The other flatbread was Black Mission Fig with Chevre, Bacon, Mint, and Arugula. This one was a little too mellow for me, it was good, but not as good as the other one.

After a short, meet and greet period, we were called to the dining room. We had lunch with about fifteen fellow blogger's, and journalists. Here is a picture of the place setting. Notice all the wine glasses? I could tell this was going to be a fun lunch.

The amuse that was served was Lump Crab and Haas Avocado on a pico de gallo mixture. Katie liked the pairing of all of these flavors. I liked this, but was not wowed by it. The crab did not have that pop of flavor you usually expect with crab.

The next course that was served was Wild Pacific Salmon and Sea Scallop, roasted on a cedar plank. Both Katie and I felt that this salmon was one of the best we have had recently, and it was very moist. It was rubbed with a mustard/malt vinegar mixture. The scallop was cooked perfectly, and I only wish I could have had more scallops. 

Next up was our salad. They made an Organic Green Salad with Grilled Mushrooms and Truffle Dressing. At first this salad did not impress me, but as the salad absorbed the dressing, it became better. Katie loved the taste of the rich truffle dressing.

This was Katie's favorite dish of the lunch, the Goat Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Garlic, Basil and Light Tomato Broth.. I am not much of a goat cheese person, but the creaminess of this was good, and the light sauce used over this really had a great flavor. To cut down on calories they use egg roll wrappers instead of noodles, and you would not miss the noodles a bit on this.

This was of course my favorite dish of the lunch, the Grilled Lamb and Quail Breast. I thought the lamb had some parts that were good, but some bites were spotty. The real star of this plate was the quail. It was cooked perfectly, had a great texture and was flavored just enough. These were unusual meats for Katie to try, but she liked them enough to eat most of it. She was really more impressed by the baby bok choy that came with this.

For dessert we enjoyed these Mini Indulgences. These little shot glasses of dessert were invented by Seasons 52, to fit into their philosophy of healthy eating, and keeping the calorie count of their dishes below 475. Katie's favorite was the Mocha Macchiato, (no big surprise there, what with her Starbucks addiction and everything), I enjoyed the Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse.

Now for a few words on the wine. Master Sommelier, George Miliotes has put together a wine list that has over 100 bottles of wine, and 60 that are served by the glass. After talking with him, we found out that he travels the world trying to find new wines for Seasons 52, and takes annual trips to South Africa, Germany, and other places in search of adding to the wine list.

We had a great lunch at Seasons 52. Chef Pleau demonstrated a few tricks of the trade, and we got to sample what they had to offer. The staff seems very eager to open up on the west coast. They feel that this is a concept that was built for California, but just happened to be invented in Florida. Only time will tell if they are right about that. But, if this special sneak preview holds true, they might be on to something. We are looking forward to going back when they are open and review the place.

For more information on Seasons 52, click here:

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Picture Perfect Food at the Sawdust Festival?

Sawdust Arts Festival
935 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

When Sara invited us to go to the Sawdust Festival, I was not too excited. I had been when I was a kid, and just remembered my parents taking forever to shop for who knows what. I remember all the sawdust on the ground, and those were my two memories of the famous arts festival of Laguna Beach. After checking the Sawdust web site, I learned that they have food there too, so I decided to make the most of it, and blog about the food at least.

The Sawdust Festival has been around, in its current location since 1968. The non-judged art exhibit has local artist showing off their works, and draws 200,000 people, during its nine week run. I will not even try to pretend that I am artsy in any way, I am sure that these people are talented, but lets get to something that I do know about, the food.

To start off our Sawdust experience is Jimmy's pasta. He got this pasta from Thasos Greek Island Grill. I did not catch the name of it, but it looks like a tortellini pasta with chicken and marinara sauce over it. Jimmy was pretty hard on this pasta dish. He thought that it had too much sauce, and that the chicken was too tough. He also commented that the tomatoes were rough and chewy. Not a good start for our festival experience.

Dennis and Lynn both ordered the Fillet Mignon Tacos, from Mark's Restaurant. As bland as these tacos look in the picture, Dennis and Lynn assure me that they were every bit as bland when eaten. They also were not too impressed by the tenderness of the meat. That makes 0 for 2 now.

Kevin went with more traditional fair food, when he got the Fried Chicken Po-Boy Sandwich, with homemade potato chips, from Sallie's @ the Sawdust. Sallie's specializes in deep fried foods. Think of this as the equivalent of the Heartattack Grill of the Sawdust Festival.  Kevin liked his sandwich, even though he got it plain. He also thought that the chips that came with this were great.

Katie and I decided to split a deep fried trio of foods. This hat trick of artery clogging nourishment started off with the Fried Zucchini above. The six large strips that were served were fried perfectly, and complimented with a good ranch dip. These were served hot, and broke our streak of mediocre food at the Sawdust.  The Shrimp Po-Boy kept the good times coming with a tasty sandwich. The shrimp on this was tasty, and with the addition of tomatoes and pickles, this sandwich almost seemed good for you, (okay, not really, but almost!). The fries were just okay, not anything to get excited over.

Above are the Deep Fried Nutter Butters we had for dessert. These were okay. I thought that they were a little dry, and they would be fantastic with chocolate dipping sauce. They did give you a generous portion of these, you get four cookies, enough to share with our whole table.

Just in case I did not get enough calories for the night, I also sampled a cookie from Espresso On The Go. This cookie was very floury to me. As I ate this cookie, it grew on me, but I would skip this in the future.

The food at the Sawdust Festival was a little under-whelming. It is your standard fair food, but a lot cheaper than the OC fair. You can probably find some decent things to snack on, but Laguna is so blessed with many good restaurants, your best bet would be to snack at the Sawdust Festival, and then head out for dinner.

The Sawdust Festival runs through August 29th. Get more information on the festival here:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Warm Welcome For Five Guys?

Five Guys
1549 E. Katella Ave.
Orange, CA 92867

The wait is finally over!!! After months of waiting, Five Guys has opened in Orange county. I am so excited. I have reviewed Five Guys before on my blog, when we visited Dallas, you can read that review here. This is our very own Five Guys though, so I thought that it deserved its own review. It seems like all of the blogs that I read have already done a Five Guys blog, so I will spare you the In-N-Out versus Five Guys slant, and just focus on the food.

Katie and I made our way to Orange on a Sunday afternoon at about four o'clock. The line was out the door, even at this early dinner hour. The pace behind the counter was maddening, but the line moved swiftly. Like our Dallas visit, they had free peanuts for people to nosh on while they waited. We waited for about ten minutes for our food, and that gave us time to snag a table. Here is what we came up with.

Here are the Cajun Style Regular Fries. This was more than enough fries for two to three people. The cajun spice had a good flavor, not spicy at all. The fries were crisp, and were cooked well.

For a change of pace I got the Bacon Cheese Dog with relish. The butterflied hot dog was grilled fantasically. It had a snap to it, and great flavor. The only thing that could have made this better is if they had chili.

Here is the reason we are all here, the burgers. This is the Cheeseburger. All of their burgers are double patties, unless you order a Little Burger. Five Guys burgers come with any of these toppings; mayo, lettuce, pickles, tomato, grilled onions, ketchup, mustard, relish, jalapeno peppers, green peppers, A-1 sauce, barbeque sauce and hot sauce, (wow, my fingers are cramping just typing this list). Wth this many choices, I am still trying to find my perfect burger, but I will enjoy this task imensley. On this trip I got my burger with grilled onions, relish and mayo. The bun is the first thing that you notice when you bite into the burger, soft, but not fall apart soft. The burger has a great flavor and the condiments really enhance it.

I am glad to see that the quality was just as good as the Five Guys we went to in Dallas. It will be interesting to see how the business is after the novelty wears off. I will definitely be back.There are plans for two more locations to open in the OC before the end of the year, (Huntington Beach and Tustin, at the District). It is nice to know that the hype is definitely worth it.

Out of five basketball teams, (made up of five guys), five being best to zero being worst, Five Guys gets 3.5 basketball teams.

For more information on Five Guys, click here:

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Get Out the Pom-Poms For Pom Restaurant?

Pom Restaurant
84245 Indio Springs Road
Indio, CA 92203

Here is part two of our mini Indio adventure. At the end of the birthday weekend for Katie's dad, among others, the family gathered one last time for a re-commitment ceremony for Katie's cousin. The ceremony took place at Pom Restaurant, which is in the Fantasy Springs Resort. I had not been too impressed with the food at the resort all weekend. The buffet was not too good, and the catered food that we had for the birthday party was edible, but that is all I remember about it. I was hoping that Pom Restaurant could halt our current streak.

Rachel went for a light lunch. She got the Basket of Asiago Bread, and a bowl of Chicken Tortilla Soup. The soup was a spicy tomato broth, with chicken, sour cream, tiny tortilla strips, and cilantro. I tried a spoonful of this and did not taste any spice, it tasted like tomato soup to me. Rachel thought that the soup was just okay. The bread was good, and had plenty of cheese on it.

Katie, who's been on a real Greek kick lately, ordered up the Greek Style Chicken Pita. Grilled chicken, tomatoes, feta cheese, yogurt-cucumber sauce, all on a grilled pita bread. I did not try this. Katie thought that the chicken was cooked well, and she liked the yogurt sauce. In her opinion the vegetables that came with this were a waste of space.

Kevin opted for the Half Pound Burger. He found this burger to be average. He did not even remember what he had ordered a week later. I thought that the burger looked too well done for my taste, but the buttered bun was a nice touch.

There were some other items on the menu that looked good, but I saw this sandwich and could not get away from it. The Grilled Chicken and Avocado Club is pictured here. Bacon, Swiss cheese, and herb mayo is all piled on sourdough bread. With all of these big flavors, this sandwich could not go wrong. The fries were good, but the serving size was not too big.

Sorry about the poor picture of the BLT above. It was not my food, so I could not grab the food and move it for a better shot. That would have made for an interesting family lunch. Anyways, these two dishes I did not hear a peep about, but I wanted you to see them anyways. Like the other plates, everything kind of just seemed so sterile here.

Pom Restaurant was definitely the best place we ate while we were at Fantasy Springs. But it did not have any competition either. The food is your basic coffee shop food, but spiffed up a little, and in a sleek, sterile environment.

Out of five giant tamales, (because the Tamale Festival held every December in Indio, has had the world's largest tamale at 40 feet long!), five being best to zero being worst, Pom Restaurant gets 2.5 giant tamales.

For more information on Pom Restaurant, click here:

Pom on Urbanspoon