November 21, 2006

Tres Cochinitos

So many culinary adventures, so little time to blog! That has been the sentiment for me as of late. Two weekends ago, my cousin Jeff made a trip from Santa Barbara with his girlfriend Marisa and her friend Stephanie. They arrived in San Diego Friday evening, and we headed out to dinner downtown. We went to The Yard House and the place was packed with at least an hour wait. Our party of five was too famished to wait so we headed over to Rock Bottom, and fortunately—for our stomachs and our patience—we were seated within 5 minutes on the patio. We could tell that service was not going to be particularly attentive because it was prime dinner time on a Friday night. We all got a variety of beers from their brewery offerings. Mr. Tall ordered a brown ale and I got their honey ale, which I thought was very light and delightful. For appetizers, we all shared Titan Toothpicks, which were smoked chicken, Jack cheese, peppers and onions in hand-rolled, fried tortillas, served with guacamole, sour cream, fresh salsa and, my favorite, Chipotle BBQ sauce. They were fried to a crispy golden brown and were perfect with our beers. Everyone ordered burgers for their entrées, except for me. I ordered one of the specials, which was stuffed portabella. The mushrooms were stuffed with cheese and roasted peppers, and topped with warm diced tomatoes, spring greens, and balsamic vinaigrette. The dish was actually better than I had anticipated. It was quite flavorful and each component went well together. No pictures from this dinner though. I don’t usually frequent Rock Bottom unless it’s Happy Hour, which they have really good deals on beers, drinks, and appetizers. Although their menu isn’t diverse and beer offerings aren’t as extensive as The Yard House, it’s still a pretty fun place to chill out after work.

While my cousin and company went to the Zoo and saw some male-on-male gorilla action, I had to attend a civil litigation seminar for work the entire day on Saturday for the second and last time—thank goodness. We walked around my neighborhood for a bit before decided to get some Chinese for dinner. We got take-out at Taste of Szechuan located on University in the complex next to the entrance of the 163-North. The last time I got Chinese take-out was with the 7, 8, 9 Dinner Club from the less than impressive Hong Kong Restaurant. My roommate Emily was loyal to her favorite of Sweet and Sour Chicken, I ordered the Orange Chicken, Marisa ordered the Walnut Shrimp and Jeff rounded out the meal with Szechuan Eggplant. We share all the entrees along with a large order of half steamed rice and half fried rice. The first thing that I must share about Taste of Szechuan was that the service was very friendly and attentive. Even though we were only ordering take-out, the adorable Chinese gentleman in the front was quite helpful and even joked around with us while we were deciding on the entrées. He also informed us that the Szechuan-style dishes could be made with any spice level that we desire since the Szechuan region is quite known for its spicy tendency. While waiting for our order, we made a quick trip for Stephanie to pick up some pizza from Pizza Nova. I had never been there before, but Stephanie ordered a small Cheese Pizza and seemed to have been satisfied with it. I guess it’s kind of hard to mess up a cheese pizza. I’m not quite sure on how good Pizza Nova is but it seemed to be relatively popular as more of a sit-down place than Bronx Pizza. Anyway, back to Taste of Szechuan. The restaurant itself was rather effortless in its attempt to be contemporary—can you tell that was a sarcastic comment? But who cares about the décor of the restaurant when the food can justify itself. Let's just say that I will be frequenting Taste of Szechuan for my Chinese take-out fix.

Before Jeff, Marisa and Stephanie departed from San Diego, I had to take them to another favorite of me and Mr. Tall: Mama Testa. Mama Testa is a true taco shop. The menu is filled with regional variations of every sort of tacos beyond your imagination from Mama Blanditos or soft tacos to Mama Cesta or steamed tacos. The first thing you would notice once you enter the restaurant is its colorful décor. Red, yellow, and green dominate the unique furniture; napkins at your table are sandwiched between colorful, plastic salt and pepper shakers and macho libre toys. You walk up to the register to order and with your food you get a basket of chips. One of the best things about Mama Testa is its salsa bar. There are always at least a dozen different types of salsas from the favorite with red onion and tomatillo to the more interesting variation of parmesan and peppers, and the mild of mango and papaya. And if you’re like me, you’d go crazy and fill yourself up with condiment cups full of at least half of the salsa bar. The food quickly arrives just before our party gorged ourselves too much with the complimentary chips and salsa.

I convinced Jeff to order my absolute beloved dish: Majados de Carne.
Let me break this down for you:
4 Rolled shredded beef tacos
+ Delicious, spicy beef broth
Topped with onion, cilantro, queso fresco and lime
= Absolute foodgasm
How mouth-watering does that look and sound! I usually overload mine with fresh squeezed lime--I love my limes so leave me alone. Jess ordered De Aire, simple rolled crunchy tacos, and Marisa ordered De Bandera Morena, or rolled shredded beef tacos, all along with the usual fixin's of lettuce, salsa fresca, sour cream and queso fresco.

Mr. Tall usually goes with one of the soft tacos—this time he got the Tres Cochinitos, or carnitas soft tacos. And, of course, I always have to round out my meal with horchatha and his usually with tamarindo. He and I have sampled most of the offerings (except for desserts) and can conclude that practically everything on the menu is tasty.

Well, that's all for the weekend with Jeff and company. My sister is currently visiting this entire week for Thanksgiving, and I will most definitely be blogging about Little Miss's adventures with Pinnerton!

Little Miss

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