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While on a trip to San Francisco we decided to swing by Nopa for some lunch. Upon our arrival we were quickly seated in the upstairs dining area and started to look at the menu. Unfortunately the bacon flat bread pizza from The Best Thing I Ever Ate was not on the menu so we had to go a different direction. I ordered goat cheese bread pudding, whiskey braised pork with jalapeno biscuits, and of course a side of bacon. I thought about ordering a specialty beer but at those prices, it was not going to happen.
Before I talk about the food, I am going to say this now, our server was awful. He wasn’t rude just sort of indifferent. He never told us his name, never looked us in the eye, and barely asked us if we liked the food. I thought for a minute that maybe the hipster theme translated to the service but then our food was brought out by someone else. This server was friendly, talkative, and excited about the food. Too bad we only saw her once because she would have made us feel much more welcomed. I will always knock a restaurant for bad service especially one that is going to cost me more than $50 for lunch. They should probably work on that.
First my bread pudding arrived with the goat cheese on the bottom. While I wasn’t overly impressed by the presentation, the flavors were pretty good. The bread pudding was moist but I was surprised that the goat cheese was mostly at the bottom. I expected the cheese to flow across the entire dish but alas, you had to dig to it. I really liked the pickled beets perhaps better than the pudding itself. Enjoying the vegetable side will be a theme in this meal. The arugula was completely unnecessary.
My entree came out next with my side of bacon (Not pictured but decent). I was very surprised by the presentation. I was not expecting it to come out as a kind of stew. I really like my pork but this was a little bland. It was cooked really well though and melted in my mouth. The only thing that was truly memorable from this dish was the brussel sprouts. These were slightly charred and delicious soaked in the pork broth. Tasty veggies aside this was a disappointing entree. The two biscuits also left me a little wanting. If you call somethings jalapeno cheddar than it better be just that. These biscuits just tasted like normal biscuits where I was hoping for cheesy and spicy flavors.
I was expecting so much more from our trip to Nopa but sadly it was only mediocre. At the price point I was hoping for a more engaged server and better flavors but it seemed that all I was paying for was a nice seat at a sleek modern eatery. While I do love my beets and brussel sprouts when they are the things I remember best from a meal that included pork and goat cheese, you have a problem. The meal just did not come together how I would have hoped and I will probably not return to try it again.
See if you like Nopa and tell me I was wrong, check out their website here
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The Nickel Diner in LA is a hot spot right outside of the Fashion District specializing in good prices on unique items. We stopped by on our way out of LA the morning after spending some quality time at Scarpetta in Beverly Hills. Sunday morning at the Nickel Diner appears to be the big brunch day and in such a small space we waited a while for a table. But, based on the much longer line that formed after us, I assumed it would be worth the wait. We were seated right next to the counter and the kitchen so we were able to watch them make our food. In my opinion, the best seats in the house. I ordered a blood orange mimosa, the BLTA & Egg, and their famous homemade pop tart.
The blood orange mimosa arrived quickly because it was the drink of the day. It was a unique tasting drink, I really liked the intensity that the blood orange juice added as compared to regular juice. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the drink. Next, my BLTAE arrived. I really like BLTs and adding some avocado and an egg seems like a great idea.
I was a little nervous for this sandwich to arrive because the server didn’t ask me how I wanted my egg cooked. I nievly assumed that since he didn’t ask he knew that a touch under medium was the perfect cook for an egg on a sandwich. Cooking an egg just under medium means that the yolk wont be solid but it also won’t be very runny. It will be at the viscosity of molasses which allows the yolk to seep into the entire sandwich without spilling all over the plate. Unfortunately, my assumption was wrong. The egg yolk was almost fully cooked, about halfway between a soft and hard boiled egg. How unfortunate! So, while I was missing the egg yolk flavor in the sandwich, the rest of the ingredients worked really well. The bacon was nice and crispy balanced well against the creamy avocado. The tomato and lettuce were both super fresh and tasted like they were picked from a garden right outside. Lastly, the bread. You can’t fail with some toasty, buttery, sourdough! My favorite bread toasted to crunchy perfection and topped with fresh and delicious ingredients. Not a bad dish for breakfast or brunch.
For dessert I went after their homemade pop tart. This dessert was very good but also very easy to describe. Just imagine a regular strawberry pop tart from the foil and multiply the taste a few times over. Fresh strawberries turned into jam stuffed into flaky pastry topped was a sweet icing with strawberry sugar crystals. You really can’t go wrong here, it brings back the nostalgia of your childhood breakfast treat (or just the one you at today) but adds the depth of flavor you would look for as an adult. I think the best comparison is the pictures of the Nickel Diner pastry and the actual Pop Tart. You try to figure out which is which.
All in all the breakfast at the Nickel Diner didn’t disappoint and I would come back here to check out their dinner options, especially the smac and cheese and bacon donut. I was a little disappointed by the cook of my egg in my sandwich but I guess that i what you get for not giving instructions to the server. One of these days I will get an egg on a sandwich or a burger cooked to my liking, or I can just do it myself at home.
Overall Review: 7/10
Take a look at the Nickel Diner here
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After competing in the Hero Rush and knowing that I was moving away from LA in a few weeks, I decided to finally take the time to drive into the city and wait around until I could eat at this truck. I was not disappointed. I was able to time it just right and parked 2 blocks away only a few minutes before the truck opened it’s doors. This proved to be a very good thing because it the time it took me to order and get my food the line quadrupled. Since I had just run a race I figured that I could spoil myself and order both a dinner sandwich and a dessert sandwich…and some tater tots.
I only had to wait about 10 minutes for my food which is not a bad wait at all. I proceeded to take the food over to my car and made a spread in the trunk. It took me a few years to finally get to this point and I had been hearing about these grilled sandwiches for a long time and therefore I wasted no time before digging in to sandwich number one.
The most well known grilled cheese offered by the Grilled Cheese Truck is the Cheesy Mac and Rib on basic white bread. This sandwich combined some of my favorite things; cheese, grilled onions, succulent pulled pork, and mac n cheese. With those ingredients you really can’t go wrong as long as the bread gets nice and crispy. While the crispy cheese on the outside of the grilled cheese from the Bacon Mania truck was incredible, it was the ingredients on the inside of this sandwich that stole the show. The onions were grilled to perfection and the pulled pork just melted in your mouth. Adding in the macaroni was brilliant because it help the bread maintain some texture inside the sandwich. Cheese, savory, and succulent, this sandwich was all they said it would be. In addition, the bread was grilled just right, nice a brown and a little burnt on the edges. Just how I like it. Definitely one of the best to date.
Next I moved on to the S’more melt, another one of my favorite things. This time sandwiched between two pieces of white bread were toasted marshmallows, graham cracker crumbles, and instead of chocolate, Nutella. While this dessert melt was good, it couldn’t compare to the Mac and Rib that came first. You definitely could get the different flavors from inside and the hazelnut from the Nutella added a bit of depth to the flavor. It is possible that I may start making S’mores with it from now on. It will be easier to heat up than regular chocolate bars. I think that my main complaint about this sandwich was that there did not seem to be enough filling on the inside so the grilled bread overwhelmed the rest of the ingredients. I frequently pontificate about the need for bread and filling balance and while the Mac and Rib struck that balance the S’mores melt surly did not. Additionally the combination of bread and graham crackers made the melt somewhat dry. On my next visit I will try the Mom’s Apple Pie instead. The apples may and walnuts may stand up to the bread a bit more.
Overall this was a very good trip to LA and the Grilled Cheese Truck surely lived up to the hype. The Cheesy Mac and Rib was one of the best sandwiches I have had, grilled cheese or not. The addition of the macaroni and pork made pushed it from ordinary to extraordinary. Next time we are in Los Angeles and the truck is around, I will be back to try some of their other offerings.
Overall Review: 8/10
Take a look and their cheesy menu and travel stops here
These past few weeks have been intense and the reason why I missed a blog post but now I want to reflect on these crazy two week. On July 14th we took a leap of faith, packed up a truck, and moved 336 miles north to Merced, CA. We had two days to get moved into our new house before I started work as the new Assistant Director of Student Life at UC Merced. Additionally, Virginia was going back down to finish working a UCR so I was left on my own with the dog and without a car. Thus began my adventure in many different ways.
I had not riden a bike since I was 24 but I bought my first road bike and went from 0 miles per week to 50+. The house we are renting is 3.6 miles from campus so round trip is over 7 miles each day. I was prepared for the workout but not for some of the issues that would come along with it.
I wasn’t prepared to ride in slacks each way. The end result of wearing pants were two crashes one messing up my front wheel and I think my bag gear shift (Going to get this checked out soon). Luckily, in order to stave of smelling bad at work, I don’t wear my work shirt, I keep it in my bag until I arrive. Additionally I keep a small towel and a bar of deodorant in my office so even with crashing I didn’t look horrible all day. I also didn’t properly treat my wounds so of course I got two infections which landed me in urgent care for antibiotics. Thank god people are nice at work and helped me get my bike fixed no questions asked.
What I was able to do was rearrange my office so I can bring my bike right inside. This was great because it saved me time since I did not have to lock it up anymore and I could leave my heavy lock at home. I also wouldn’t be worried that my bike would disappear somehow during the day.
The hardest part were errands and deliveries. In order to get things set up I had to ride all around town to Best Buy, Lowes, Target, Post Office, and more. This sometimes added 10 miles at night which made the next morning a little harder. Also, some of the places I needed to go closed at 6pm so I had to swing home, walk the dog, change, and go right back out. It was also very interesting to go grocery shopping with only one backpack. It really makes you think critically about what you really need.
Renting a Home
We decided that we had enough of apartments so we luckily found a great 1850sqf house with a fenced in backyard. The problem was this meant that we had to furnish the entire house all in one shot because we own nothing. This came along with many deliveries, lots of building, and garbage, so much garbage. Some of these deliveries were wrong and now we have to wait for the correct replacements and some were just a complete mess.
Our dryer didn’t work the first time they delivered but since they did not bring a voltmeter the delivery crew assumed it was the dryer and took it away. Since the next delivery day was August 13th, we decided to go get one and hook it up ourselves. Now, I thought that it just plugged in but no, you have to install a four pronged outlet. Turns out I had no idea what I was doing and dropped a screw inside the drier. Thankfully the Associate Director of my office and her husband are super friendly and volunteered to help me. With all of our heads together and two, eight mile bike rides to Lowes we were able to get it hooked up, only to discover that it was the outlet that was broken, not the dryer. Argh!
Adding to the dryer issue there were so many little and larger issues with our house. From cleaning, to power, to hot water, I ended up sending our landlord a huge list of “Fix me now”. Thankfully they are very responsive and made all the repairs within a few days. Somewhat frustrating that these issues were not addressed prior to moving in but at least they are all fixed and we can settle into our house. Now we just need to wait for the rest of our couches and our correct dining room table.
New Job, New Campus, New People
Most people know that I am a self-assured person but I was really intimidated by this job on day one. I think all the stress, pressure, and change got to me and I was terrified that I wasn’t good enough to be successful. I felt like they wanted the sun, moon, and stars but only got me. It was a really odd and new feeling and not one I like very much. This resulted in me having a complete meltdown on my first night after realizing that I would be all alone the next day and the house was a mess. In the end I just needed to sleep and calm down a lot.
This was all compounded by some complete idiocy in HR back at UCR. For some reason my HR manager in housing didn’t process my transfer so I lost all my vacation, sick, and service credits, was unenrolled in my health care benefits, and my flexible spending card was shut off. I spent days trying to fix the issues and it was just a nightmare. Thankfully I didn’t lose my final UCR paycheck which would have been ridiculous. I wish when people don’t know what to do they ask for help instead of doing nothing, which is what obviously happened here.
As I finished up my second week I began to realize that I can do this and my knowledge and experience will set me up for success. Even when my job expanded in the first three days, it was only more chances to learn, develop, and grow. I will have so many opportunities at UCM to do what I love, develop leaders. I also am working with an energetic and friendly team and though I am sure there will be issues here and there, I am prepared to jump in with both feet. Good thing too because I have three retreats and two conferences to plan and implement before the end of September. Trial by fire!
Change is HARD!!! I never thought how difficult and scary it would be to move off campus for the first time in seven years compounded by a new job in a brand new city. At the end of these crazy two weeks my fear has been replaced with excitement and a more reasonable level of anxiety. I really believe that this was the right move for Virginia, Bella, and I. A great step to move us into the next chapter in our lives. While I will miss the friends I made at UCR, I can’t wait to see what the next few years have in store for us at UCM!
Last week I ran the first Hero Rush LA. This was a 5K race planned by firefighters, donating to a good cause, so I figured I would give it a try. They touted the catchphrase “More challenge, less mud” so I figured the obstacles would be awesome, I was wrong. Maybe I am just getting biased after running Tough Mudders and Spartan Races but I think this race could have been so much more. It was littered with first time mistakes both logistically and during the race, which confirmed my philosophy of skipping first time races. I am going to take a cue from my friend Adam Daniels and do a what worked/what didn’t setup for this recap.
The last wave. I signed up for the 1pm wave which was by far the smallest so there was no wait for any obstacle. It also helped that the final wave often has the slowest people so I was easily at the front of my group which aided in the lack of wait time for obstacles.
The cause. The event raised money for the fallen firefighters foundation and paid homage to the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11. You can’t really argue with that cause and I did not mind paying what I consider a high price of registration to support it. I hope that a significant portion of my registration fee actually went to the cause.
The partner obstacle. One obstacle was a two person event. You had to work with your partner to put a person “Tire set” on a stretcher, carry it over and under some walls, under barbed wire, and through a tunnel. I’ve never done an obstacle like that and it was pretty cool.
What Didn’t Work?
The bag check area. For some strange reason, they had the bag check area set up by registration. The problem with that was that registration was not anywhere near the post race festivities. Additionally, the changing rooms were in the post race area and not near the bag check. This meant that in order to change, dry off, or get money for food you had to walk back to the bag check area, but once you got your bag you were closer to the parking lot so it was easier to just leave. I ended up changing at my car and leaving. This was probably a huge loss in revenue not to mention it was just annoying.
The “Hero Dinero”. After the race you got five dollars in race cash to be used on food and apparel. The problem was that this money got you almost nothing because the food costs were ridiculous. And since I didn’t have my wallet all I could get was an awful microwaved pretzel and a bag of Doritos. At all other race I have ever done you at least got a free beer, but not at the Hero Rush, no beer cost $9. Ridiculous.
An abundance of tires. This race boasted eighteen obstacles, yet four of them involved carrying or pulling one or more tires. That is not inventive, it is boring. I could think of a lot of other things they could do but they must have gotten a deal on tire rentals. I’m sorry but connecting two tires together does not create a brand new obstacle.
False advertising. If you go on the website and watch the video you see people climbing through obstacles filled with smoke, riding down zip lines and, jumping over multiple fire pits. Awesome right! Definitely, if that is what really happened. This race had none of that so I felt completely cheated. I was so excited about the zip line and the smoke filled obstacles because they were very unique but all I got was traditional mud run obstacles without any mud. Even the fire was a joke. We just ran around a large campfire, no jumping at all.
This race was not built for regular adventure racers, it is really a way for firefighters to get together and run a race. I felt very out of place, almost everyone I met asked me where I was a firefighter. I could also tell the tone of this race by the lack of competitiveness. I put in a minimal effort because of my knee issues but still finished 33rd overall. There were a ton of beginner errors that could easily be fixed but the big issue was the lack of the obstacles touted on their website video. I felt ripped off and hope that they can make the races more consistent in the future. I do not think I will run this race again and with just stick to what I know and like.
Race Grade: C
Take a look at my first Spago review here
After my first review of Spago, the general manager called me and asked for us to come back for another chance. We decided to give it another try especially when they sent me a $150 gift certificate in the mail. Now, I understand that they were really focused on us during the meal and some of the extras were unique to this one experience but overall it was a much improved night.
Our waiter, which was the biggest issue last time, was awesome. Ben was very attentive, explained everything very well, and checked up on us regularly. We didn’t want for anything the entire night. During the meal I paid attention to our waiter with other tables and somehow even though he was slammed, each table received just as much attention as we did. The ambiance was great and since we sat outside there was no issue with temperature. The music also seemed like it was selected just for me; I swear that I heard 75% of the music on my Pandora that day. It was a beautiful night and one worthy of our last meal in LA before moving away.
Within five minutes of our arrival the manager was out with champagne welcoming us back to Spago, what a nice touch. We were waiting for menus but he told us that before they allowed us to order he had a few surprises in store. Little did I know that it would be an hour before we actually ordered. First he brought out ahi tuna wrapped in a cone with sesame seeds. Delicious! Next, he brought us a blini (Mini savory pancake) with creme fraishe, smoked salmon, an salmon roe. Sometimes I am thankful that Virginia doesn’t eat seafood because this was awesome. It tasted like Judaism on a plate! The last bite he brought out was by far the best. It was a bacon, yes bacon confit inside a savory puff pastry. Too bad Virginia eats bacon, I could have eaten dozens of those. It was an explosion of bacon flavor in a tiny individual bite.
After about an hour we ordered and just like the last time our food was amazing, but that is not surprising for a Michelin star restaurant. The menu had changed completely since the last time and the new options were incredible. As an appetizer I ordered the Maryland crab cake which was one of the best I’ve ever had. And I’ve had crab cakes in Maryland. The presentation was masterful with what tasted like basil puree (But maybe pea) in tiny balls along the edge of the plate and a small salad on top of the cake. The star of this dish was the crab, as it should be. There was almost no filler, just enough to keep it together and that was great. Surprisingly, what made it so good was the spice. The crab cake was spicy! The saddest part of this dish was that I only got one but I definitely needed to save room for the rest of the meal. As a side note, Virginia ordered the agnolotti appetizer and the manager took the liberty of shaving summer truffles on top at no charge. I was worried because Virginia hates mushrooms but these truffles were light and she loved them!
For dinner I ordered the Cantonese style roasted duck with lo-mien noodles and Shiitake mushrooms. It was beyond ridiculous. The waiter told me that Wolfgang himself orders this dish when he eats at Spago and I see why. The duck was beautifully cooked and super crispy and the 5-spice rub made the flavors pop. Paired as the main contributor to the sauce were mandarin oranges. Sweet and cooked down well they transported me to a traditional but elevated Chinese restaurant. You wouldn’t think that this dish would be presented at Spago but it definitely was. The entree was so good that I could resist picking up the legs to get every little morsel off the bone. I’m sure I embarrassed Virginia but it was worth it. The lo-mien on the side was just as good but nothing could compare to what was on the main plate. Sorry noodles.
For dessert I ordered a raspberry souffle with raspberry ice cream and chocolate sauce. This was possibly the best souffle I have ever eaten. It was cooked perfectly, I don’t think it would have collapsed if I just stared at it for an hour but I could not resist. I dug in and took my first bite. It was so rich and sweet from the chocolate but the tartness of the raspberries surely shined through. For an additional chocolate note they served a sauce to be poured on top. Ben warned me not to pour it all in but I’m rebellious and ignored him. I am so glad I did. The sauce was unbelievable, thick, chocolaty, and sweet it added a whole other level to the souffle. And when it became too rich, you could go in for some raspberry sorbet and cold whole raspberries. Despite the massive amount of food I had eaten I almost licked the plate clean. If I was at home or alone, I probably would have licked it but alas Virginia makes me act like an adult. Sadly, I did not get a good picture because it was dark out but you get the idea.
Overall a much better experience that the first trip and though we can not get back the night after my first marathon, this went a long way towards making up for it. Based on this night I would go back when we are in town. It didn’t hurt that though we ate so much, with the comped items and the gift certificate our final bill was only $73 and our bottle of wine cost $50. Not a bad cost for a five star meal. Something else really cool that I appreciate about Spago is that their menu changes constantly so every time you go you can have a completely different eating experience. For some restaurants this wont work but Spago puts effort into the menu changes and it shows. While this trip to Spago was without a doubt a 10/10, my final rating reflects an average of my two dinners
Overall Rating: 8/10
Check out their ever changing menu here
Virginia and I headed in to Los Angeles to pick up some skirt steaks from the farmer’s market and swung by Father’s Office for the office burger among other things. Father’s Office is a gastropub that is extremely busy for dinner and since you have to seat yourself and order at the bar, it was a good thing we came for lunch. From what I understand it is a battle for seats and food in the evenings. This would be a nice hangout if it wasn’t so pricy and in LA. The layout is clean and modern with a lot of space both inside and out. We grabbed some menus took a look and ordered some food. I also ordered a tasty craft beer from their enormous selection of mid to ridiculously expensive varieties.
Our appetizers came out first, sweet potato fries with a garlic and blue cheese aioli and some fancy bone marrow. The fries were dusted with salt and some herbs; a smart move meant to connect the sweetness of the fries with the savory notes in the aioli. The fries were cooked well albeit a little greasy but this was the first time I enjoyed dipping sweet potatoes into a non sweet condiment. I also liked the way they were served. It looked like the fry basket they were cooked in, very clever.
Next, I moved on to my roasted bone marrow. The dish was two pieces of bone with a few toast points on top of a parsley salad. On the side was a small pile of sel gris (grey sea salt) meant to add onto the marrow once it was out of the bone. This was a tasty appetizer, well roasted marrow and perfectly toasted bread. The salad was a throw away and I believe just meant for color but the salt did draw out the richness of the marrow. My comment on this dish is that for the price I would have liked the bones sawed in half. I don’t particularly like digging inside bone at a restaurant, if they had cut the bone lengthwise after roasting it would have looked nicer and would have been easier to scoop out onto the toast. A successful dish but not for the feint of heart because marrow has both a unique texture and a strong beef flavor. You have to be a true carnivore to enjoy marrow, good thing I am.
As we finished up out appetizers my burger arrived. The highly talked about Office Burger. This burger was some non nondescript meat on a bun with some unique toppings. It was the toppings that made the burger but at least the meat wasn’t a cheap base. I go on rants from time to time about using good meat for burgers and hot dogs so I am glad they didn’t choose to skimp on the beef. The toppings were inventive and all things that I like. Caramelized onions for sweetness, bacon for, well, bacon. Two kind of cheese, Maytag blue and Gruyere. The cheese was what made this burger special. Both added saltiness to the burger but then diverged a bit. The blue cheese was sharp and crumbly while the Gruyere was a little sweet and creamy. Combined they created a depth of flavor that made the burger memorable. The last topping and the smartest was the addition of arugula. This bold, mustardy, peppery green cut through all the rich flavors on the burger and allowed you too keep coming back for more. Any other green would not have stood up to the cheese, onions, and bacon. Smart move by the chef. All in all this was a solid burger and well worth the $12 price tag.
While I would not go out of my way to come back, Father’s Office is a good local haunt and one I would frequent if I lived in the area. Solid food and solid beer but a tad overpriced. I wonder what it really looks like on a Saturday night but since I don’t deal well in a packed environment, I will just take other people’s word for it.
Overall Review: 7/10
Check out their menu and beer options here p.s their website is somewhat annoying
At the Palm Spring’s Food Truck Festival I was lucky enough to encounter a new list item in the Cool Haus Food Truck. The great thing about this truck is that it is a paint by numbers ice cream sandwich machine. For five dollars you get to pick two things. First, you choose from five different types of cookie ranging from red velvet to chocolate chip to my choice, double chocolate cookie. Second, you choose the homemade ice cream. The flavors were all over the map, some traditional like vanilla bean and some way out there like Makers Mark Manhattan cocktail. Whats great is that the flavors change regularly so there is always something new to try. Since you mix and match, with just what they had that day, there were fifty possible combinations of ice cream or sorbet sandwiches. The last cool thing about this truck is that the wrappers for the sandwiches were edible! No need to peel it back and get ice cream all over you because you can eat the wrapper as you go. Brilliant! Such a simple concept but when you love what you do and do it well, simple is all you need.
So the moment arrived for me to make a decision and just like my favorite blizzard from Dairy Queen, I could not resist the dirty mint chip ice cream. This ice cream was made with fresh mint leaves and chocolate chips mixed in to the dairy to give it a rich full flavor. For my sandwich I asked for the double chocolate cookie with grey sea salt added on to it. Grey sea salt or “Sel Gris” is a special salt from France which is coarse and denser than kosher salt. This allows for less to be used for greater results and it is visible when on the cookie.
After a short thirty second wait by glorious ice cream sandwich was in my hand. This was without question the best ice cream sandwich I had ever eaten. Chipwich be damned! Each bite had crunchy chips in the wonderful minty ice cream. The chocolate cookie was rich and chewy and the salt contrast brought out extra sweetness from all the ingredients. By far the best part was the burst of minty freshness brought out by the mint leaves mixed into the ice cream. Though I was eating a heavy ice cream with two huge and gooey cookies, the mint made me think that it was much lighter than it could possibly be. I devoured this dessert, paper and all barely coming up for air. I could eat one of these cookies every day, well at least until diabetes set in.
The Cool Haus truck was a great add to the Food Truck festival and no wonder people follow it around town in Los Angeles. Hopefully the next time I visit they will have the pistachio ice cream because it was the actual item on my list. Check out Cool Haus the next time you are in town, you will not be disappointed.
Overall Review: 8/10
Track the Cool Haus truck by checking out their website here
A ways back I went to the Palm Springs Food Truck Festival with Christine, my friend from back in New Jersey. As per the norm I purchased a VIP ticket for early entry, shade, and free drinks. This time around, VIP was not worth the extra money. Three issues proved this fact and they need to fix these things for next year. First, it took a very long time to get into the festival which cost me some of the per-opening hour but then they let everyone else in fifteen minutes early cutting our hour to maybe thirty minutes. I paid for a full hour of VIP time and didn’t get it so I was very annoyed. Second, the VIP area was tiny, not enclosed, and not monitored. Only forty people could fit in it at one time and they were not checking to see if you paid to be under the tents. While this worked out for me because Christine did not buy a VIP pass, it was still frustrating. Lastly, the VIP ticket came with two vouchers for food. The problem was that the vouchers were for five dollars each but not one food item at the festival was within that limit. They should have just given us one with a greater value, it would have felt like less of a ripoff. They did have a lot of trucks though and most were open for the VIPs which was definitely better than the Riverside festival. Ok, so now for the food. Remember, ratings for food trucks are skewed up because it is hard to rate ambiance and service in a truck so if the food is delicious the rating will be higher than a restaurant with the same food but poor service.
My first stop was the Brats Berlin truck where I ordered the rabbit and rattlesnake brat with onions and sauerkraut. This brat also claimed to have jalapenos and onion added in to the mix. After a few minutes I had my brat, dug in, and was immediately disappointed. The brat tasted like a normal all beef variety, not like a fancy exotic combination of flavors. Now, I have had a rattlesnake hotdog before so I knew what it should taste like. This did not measure up. The brat was bland and heavy and if it wasn’t on the description, I would not have believed there were jalapenos inside. Honestly, I still don’t believe it, I think they may have used the wrong brat for my meal. In the end, the best part was the sauerkraut and that is a sad situation. Overall: 3/10
Next, in order to get back on track, I headed over to the White Rabbit truck, which I have reviewed once before. This time I ordered my actual list item, the Pork Tacino burrito. This burrito had pork, rice, and a fried egg all rolled up into a delicious tortilla shell. What can I say, the White Rabbit truck chefs know what they are doing and this burrito was huge! I could eat one of those every day until I had a heart attack, the burrito is just that good. The flavor of their pork tacino is just ridiculous and the combination of pork and the egg made it into an outrageous breakfast dish. Just like before I will rate this truck a 10/10.
It was about this time when Christine arrived and we headed over to the next truck, Tornado Potato. I had seen this truck at a few festivals and it looked like a cute novelty, and not something I would enjoy. I was not surprised when my prediction rang true. I ordered the sweet potato tornado and as you can see from the picture, it looked pretty cool. As I dug into this item I noticed a few things. The potato was very greasy and hard to handle. Each ring was cooked a little differently and some parts tasted a little raw. The biggest issue was that since it was large and hard to manuver, the tornado get cold faster than I could eat it. There is nothing worse than a cold french fry so I was only able to eat about but that is OK, I needed to save my appetite for the next dish. Overall 2/10.
After a few minutes of rest in the “VIP” tent we headed over to a truck I had been waiting to try for a long time. Bacon Mania! It only took me two seconds to decide what to order, the grilled cheese was just screaming at me from the menu. This was a grilled cheese on steroids, it a very good way. As you can see it’s a simple recipe cooked to perfection. Creamy melted cheese on the inside with a massive amount of bacon mixed in. While that could be enough they took it one step further. In a brilliant move cheese was grilled on the outside of the bread and cooked to crispy goodness. Now each bite had hearty bread, string cheese, crispy bacon, and fried crusty cheese. With all those flavors and textures there was no way this could fail. Delicious! Overall 8/10.
Since was well on my way to a heart attack, Christine and I decided to move into dessert. We first stopped at the Cool Haus truck to get an ice cream sandwich, but since this was a list place I will review it in a standalone post. Stay tuned for that one but, spoiler alert, it was a badass desert.
After about thirty minutes of down time with a desire to put on some stretchy pants we headed over to the last stop on the agenda, Crepe’s Bonapart. I ordered the spicy apple bottom crepe which was cinnamon apple with a caramel drizzle and airy whipped creme. This dish was a great end to the day. The crepe was light and thin, just like it should have been. I always worry with apple dishes that the apples would be undercooked or have skin left on but you need not worry about that at Creme’s Bonapart. The apples were cooked down just like Virginia’s homemade apple pie and the caramel transported you back to the caramel apple you would get as a kid when you went to a carnival. The whipped creme was also homemade which made it fluffy, light, and as it melted into the crepe all the flavors melded into a wonderful dessert. Overall 7/10.
I had a fun time at the Palm Springs Food Truck festival and got to catch up with an old friend but while the food was mostly good, all of these trucks are at other festivals much closer to home. Since there were issues with the VIP experience and a major lack of entertainment I do not think that the hour drive is worth it. I will settle on the Riverside and Ontario festivals in the future. I would suggest that next year they get live entertainment so people can take breaks when they are full but stay to spend more money. Also, one of the benefits of the VIP ticket was to spend time with the truck owners after the festival finished. But, with early entry and no entertainment, boredom sets in fast after you are stuffed with food so there was no way I was staying seven hours. If you live in Palm Springs, this is a convenient festival, if not, there are better ones to seek out much closer to home.
Overall Review: 6/10
Check out a slide show of all the trucks and their food offerings:
After cleaning up and changing after the LA Marathon we headed over to Spago for a post race dinner adventure. We arrived a few minutes early and had to wait in the corner until it was time to seat us. This was a very nice restaurant with an open kitchen and some nice art. They had some issues with the temperature during our meal so it was either freezing or burning hot which was strange for such an expensive restaurant. After about fifteen minutes we were at our table and ready to eat.
I’m going to try not to make comparisons to Scarpetta because they are different genres of food but I will do it for the service. While Scarpetta was expensive they created an experience through their service that allowed you to forget the prices of the food. Spago was the complete opposite. Maybe they could smell the middle class on us but I felt out of place and completely unwelcome throughout the entire meal. When we walked in we were barely acknowledged while “regulars” got a grand welcome. We were sent to a table with two chairs so I had to stand, no one came over to help us all sit together let alone ask if we wanted drinks. I was even wearing my marathon finishers medal and not one person even looked at me let alone acknowledge the marathon. Our waiter seemed disinterested in us and we waited a while to order because they served the people they knew first. The person who paid the most attention to us was the bread guy so I am thankful for that at least. With such a cold and uncaring service it was hard to appreciate the food that we ate. At Scarpetta we didn’t want to leave but at Spago all I could think about was how late it would be when we got home. Kind of sad for what would end up being a $300 meal.
We ordered our food and then experienced the weirdest bread service. They had a guy whose sole job was to serve us bread one piece at a time. After each finished piece he would come back with his tray of bread and serve you another of your choosing. I’m not sure I understand that but whatever the strange part was that while the bread was served fancy it was in no way fancy itself. In addition the butter may as well have been supermarket brand. It was not spruced up in any way and did not seem to fit with the way the bread was served. Anyway, I ate like eight pieces of bread so I made our guy earn his paycheck that night.
After a little while and in a dining room that had become twenty degrees hotter since we arrived, our appetizers appeared. I ordered the risotto with Maine lobster, stone crab, lemon, garlic, and basil. This was a very well done risotto, creamy and full of flavor. The lobster and crab were cooked to perfection and made the dish extremely rich. While you would think creamy seafood risotto would be very heavy the lemon and herbs kept it tasting fresh and light. This was a very good combination of flavors and a well thought out dish. I polished it off pretty quickly partly because it was delicious and partly because I was really hungry from the race.
Next came the entrees accompanied by intense cold now that they turned on the air conditioning. My dish was the seared Maine diver scallops. Now this entree was inspired, I have to give props where they are due. First of all, they gave me four full scallops which made me feel OK about the $39 price tag. Usually for that price and for diver scallops, you would get two, maybe three, so the size of this entree made me happy.
The presentation was gorgeous and obviously prepared with a deft hand. Layered on top of whole peas, a pea puree, and a balsamic reduction, these scallops were perfectly seared and delicious. The most impressive part of the whole dish was the foam lying on top of the scallops themselves. While it did not add a huge amount of discernible flavor to the dish it just looked so cool on top and as you can see made the picture frame worthy. Mixed together the flavor profile was unique and made me want to come back for each bite until only sauce and some greens were left. The peas, in my opinion, were what made this dish. Whole and pureed they tied everything together and added a fresh taste to the seafood. Just like the cauliflower they day before, these peas were the shocking superstar of the night. No what I would have thought with diver scallops on top but a reality nonetheless. The sad thing is that the menu changed since we ate at Spago so the scallop recipe calls for a different supporting cast so this may have been the one and only time I ate this dish. Sad but better than never getting it at all.
Though I was pretty full my list item was dessert so I had to press on. Kaiserschmarren is impossible to pronounce and was Wolfgang Pucks favorite as a child. That is why it is on the menu at a restaurant next to deconstructed this and foam that. I am not a huge dessert or pancake fan and this was a combo of the two but surprisingly enough I liked the Kaiserschmarren.With a chunky strawberry sauce on the bottom, the pancake looking dessert was anything but. The outside was fried, fluffy, and soft but when you got inside you discover what makes it a great dessert. The recipe calls for creme fraiche in the batter and then a soft meringue mixed in. This made the inside of the cakes, complete mush in a very good way. Impressively sweet, right on the edge of too much this was a great dish and a perfect way to end the meal. Mixed with the strawberries it really felt like breakfast but so much better. I would order this again and with the recipe, I can try to make it at home.
I am really torn with my review of Spago. The food was very good and I really can’t complain about the meal but the service was pretentious and somewhat upsetting. If I am going to come to a fancy restaurant I expect to be treated like their favorite customer every time. I just did not get that feeling in any way at Spago, to be honest I felt like they did not want us there from the start. With that coupled by the weird bread service, the disengagement from our waiter, and the huge temperature shifts, I cannot give Spago a great rating because it just was not fun. Eating out should be an experience, if I wanted to shovel in food and go home I would go get fast food at a drive through. If I am going to spend my entire month’s food budget on one meal, I expect to be treated like I belong to be in the room. It is for this reason that I won’t be back even though the food was undeniably delicious. Thankfully I won’t miss the sea scallops because the menu has already changed.
Overall Rating: 5/10
You can find the ever changing Spago menu here