Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Triple Shot of the Day -- More Oregon Finds!

In this photo: A triple sampler of ice cream - marionberry pie, wild mountain blackberry, and mountain blueberry from the Tillamook Cheese Factory located on the Oregon Coast in Tillamook, OR.

In this photo: Many many cheese choices from The Rogue Creamery in Medford, OR.
This company is well-known for their award winning blue cheese as well as being a sustainable company.

In this photo: A hearty and tasty banana nut short stack from
the Breadboard in Ashland, OR.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Yummy Monkey Popcorn | Ashland, OR

To be honest with you, when the craving for a mid-day snack starts to build around that 4:00 p.m. hour, eating a bagful of popcorn is the last thing on my mind. Rather, my habits are generally reserved for a plate of Oreo cookies, a bowlful of Planters peanuts, or perhaps a small serving of M&M's candies. On hot days, I'll drag myself from the cool confines of my office to hit the nearby vending machine for an It's It ice cream sandwich or a frozen Chocolate Taco.

But on a recent visit to Ashland, Oregon, I found myself unusually drawn to a closet-sized storefront that bared a simple sign noting, "Organic Kettle Korn!" I just had to have a bag, and as quick as that first handful was downed, Yummy Monkey Popcorn had a new fan ... Actually, make that six new fans since the bag of salty-sweet goodness was passed between my daughter, son, wife, uncle, and aunt. And there was nothing but smiles on our faces.

Established in 2008, Yummy Monkey Popcorn produces four flavor-packed varieties: Hot Buttered, White Cheddar, Kettle Popped, and Just Salt. Each is made in small batches to maintain quality and contains only fresh organic ingredients. There's also a lot of love and enthusiasm that goes into the popping as well. As the person behind the dutch door noted, "It's fun to pop popcorn, especially since it's the perfect snack. Low in calories, high in fiber and protein, and just plain yummy."

No need to convince us. We'll be back, and hope others will also stop by. Just look for that fortuitous sign!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Triple Shot of the Day

In the photo: A chocolate ganache cupcake and coconut cream tart at
Mix Sweet Shop in Ashland, OR

In the photo: Our new friends at Weisingers Winery in Ashland, OR

In the photo: Tofu satay Greenleaf Restaurant in Ashland, OR

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fosselman's Ice Cream | Alhambra, CA

If you ask anyone in the San Gabriel Valley where the best place to get ice cream is, the same name is repeated time and again: Fosselman's Ice Cream Company. Heck, on its mere mention, members of my wife's family drop what they're doing and are out the door, in the car, and down the street in a flash. Obviously, there's something special here!

Family-owned and operated, the folks at Fossleman's Ice Cream Company have been making their handmade frozen treats since the day they opened in 1919. As I understand it, this is a home-grown creamery that many generations in the area have enjoyed and where some of Southern California's finest restaurants, hotels, and soda fountains turn to stock their own kitchen freezers.

They only use the freshest ingredients available to ensure quality and consistency in their products, meaning that some varieties may not be available simply because they are "out of season." That being said, however, if a flavor is missing among the rows of three gallon tubs in their own freezer counters, you're still guaranteed to find a suitable replacement to curb your craving. For example:

  • There are over 40 different ice cream flavors including standard fare such as Vanilla Bean, Cookies & Cream, Mint Chip, Rocky Road, Strawberry, and Toasted Almond. But there are also exotic blends to choose from such as Taro, Lychee, Macapuno, Brown Butter, Lemon Custard, and Mango.
  • Instead of ice cream, how about filling your waffle bowl with any one of 25 varieties of sorbets or sherbets? Among the more popular sorbets, you'll find Creme Fraiche, Mexican Chocolate, Pink Champagne, Coconut Basil, Hazelnut, and something called the Yuzu. Sherbet flavors range from crushed pineapple to raspberry.
  • Or, if you're looking for something that's a bit lighter, then perhaps frozen yogurt is the order of the day. They have five kinds to choose such as Tahitian Vanilla, Dutch Chocolate, Peach, Pineapple, and Strawberry.
And it doesn't just stop there. Place an order in advance, and they can put together made-to-order ice cream cakes or pies for a birthday party, special occasion, or just because.

Now, because Fosselman's Ice Cream Company is such a popular place, lines can trail out the door and right along the sidewalk, especially on a bright and sunny day, which down in the valley, is almost everyday. Just be patient. The frozen goodness that awaits you is worth each passing minute!

Fosselman's Ice Cream
1824 West Main Street
Alhambra, CA 91801

Out of the Kitchen Los Angeles restaurants

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dinky Diner | Clarksburg, CA

Within the last few years, food trucks and sidewalk carts have been migrating out of their conventional sites such as construction zones, carnivals, and college campuses. Redefined and redesigned, these "meals on wheels" can now be seen popping up in high-frequency areas where even the most discernible diner isn't afraid to sidle up to the takeout window.

For example, just take a look at what's out there roaming the streets and parking lots in these select cities:

Portland - The Brunch Box, Dog Eat Dawg, Whiffles Fried Pies, The Curbside Grill, Creme de la Creme, and Big-Ass Sandwiches.

San Francisco - Amuse Bouche, Roli Roti, Adobo Hobo, Spencer on the Go, and The Mobile Pho Truck.

Los Angeles - The Grilled Cheese Truck, Coolhaus, Koji Korean BBQ, and The World Fare Bustaurant.

Now, if you're thinking that you need to travel to the nearest big city to sample such fare, don't. Because parked alongside South River Road in nearby Clarksburg sits the Dinky Diner, a converted travel trailer that's been a community destination for breakfast and lunch since 1998.

Founded by Carl and Viki Clayton, the Dinky Diner was created shortly after the two won the California lottery. At least, that's the local folklore as we understand it from bits and pieces heard here and there. But whatever their origins, the formula for success is simple in that customer satisfaction comes first and menu items are served hot, fresh, and lip-smackin' good.

Popular items include the Chili Cheese Fries, the Philly Cheesesteak Saute, the Deli-Sliced Pork Saute, and the Clarksburger, a no frills, two-handed signature sandwich that hits you with a flavor punch! And for those hot days, take the edge off with one of their real ice cream milkshakes or an old-fashioned root beer float.

Everything is made to order by a three-person crew, and they do their darn best not to step on each others' toes in the cramp quarters of the "kitchen." As one member commented, there's a methodical order to their madness "that's never dull."

The Dinky Diner is open between March and November, Wednesday through Saturday. So, you'll want to plan your visits accordingly.

And one other thing, be sure to dust off your social graces and polish up on your personal stories of the Delta when visiting the Dinky Diner. A communal environment is cultivated here, meaning that getting to know your neighbor is the norm under the shaded picnic tables and bench seating along raised flower beds.

Dinky Diner
36339 Riverview Drive
Clarksburg, CA

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ajisen Ramen | Temple City, CA

To be honest, Temple City is not the first place that comes to my mind when searching for "worldly" things such as material goods, clothing, or cuisine. If asked the question, cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, London, Paris, or Tokyo are generally mentioned. But as I found, don't be too quick to judge this book by its cover because Temple City is, in fact, home to a wide variety of ethnicities, and there is a cultural balance to what you can find here.

One such place that embraces this approach is Ajisen Ramen, a noodle house that dates its origins back to 1968 in Kyushu, Japan. It was then that they began creating unique recipes by blending their thin and chewy noodles with a secret tonkatsu soup base. It wasn't until 1995 when locations were expanded throughout Asia including China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines. Shortly after, restaurants began popping up in Canada and the United States.

And now, here we are perusing through a menu that offers an extensive variety of flavors. There are thirteen ramen combinations alone, including Spicy Pork Ramen, Tomato Beef Ramen, Miso Ramen, and a Seafood Ramen that brings together fresh mussels, shrimp, and fish balls. Their rice dishes include much of the same combinations, however, there are four kinds of fried rice to choose. Our recommendation, try the grilled eel fried rice.

By the way, for those of you who are a little less squeamish with your food, Ajisen Ramen also offers more adventuresome fare as well. For example, anyone up for a bowl of baby octopus? How about spicy conch? Or maybe the Kani and Fish Roe Salad is more to your liking.

So, as you can see, we were pleasantly surprised to find Ajisen Ramen in Temple City, and thanks to my brother-in-law who turned us on to this location, we will be back for more.

Out of the Kitchen Los Angeles restaurants

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chocolate Fish Coffee | Sacramento, CA

There's a time-tested gesture native to New Zealand that if given a "chocolate fish," you are being recognized with either a very special thank you, apology, or reward for a good deed. As I understand it, it's their unique way of paying it forward to ensure harmony within a family dynamic, a community, or some other microcosm such as an office or a classroom.

What is a "chocolate fish" you ask? They are milk-chocolate covered marshmallow candies shaped like a fish. They come in a variety of lengths, but the most popular are as long as eight inches. In short, a "chocolate fish" is all about rich and chewy goodness that anyone would appreciate.

And it is with this philosophy, this gesture of goodwill, that the folks at Chocolate Fish Coffee welcome each of their customers. As far as their concerned, we're all deserving of a special treat!

Located on the corner of 3rd and Q Street, Chocolate Fish Coffee was established in 2008 by Andy and Edie Baker, both of whom have made it their personal commitment to provide some of the best tasting beverages made from the highest quality coffee beans the world has to offer. As they are quick to note, "We love espresso, and hope to pass this passion on to our visitors."

Nothing is compromised in their neighborhood storefront, meaning that careful preparation goes into every cup. The beans are provided by Ecco Caffe and Ritual Roasters, and they act as the base for all of their drinks such as the Flat White, which they describe as "a short version of a latte that's served in a small cup to render a smooth, yet strong flavor." Or, if you're craving something that's a bit more bold, there's the Ristretto, where "the espresso shot is pulled short to produce a richer, more intense cup of coffee."

Not sure what blend is right for you? That's okay. They can serve up more conventional fare, or if asked, they are more than willing to talk shop. After all, Andy and Edie have in their employ not just one, but two renowned baristas, Kyle Baumann and Erik Annonson. Both were recently featured competitors at the United States Barista Championships in April.

So, they really know their stuff at Chocolate Fish Coffee, and they are certainly willing to share their personal stories. Given this, there's only one question to ask yourself: Do you or someone you know deserve a "chocolate fish" today?

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Roma Bakery | Sacramento, CA

Tucked away at the northern-most end of midtown Sacramento is Boulevard Park, a quaint neighborhood where tree-lined streets shoulder classically designed Craftsman and Colonial Revival homes. It wasn't always like this, meaning that before this became a residential community, it was home to Union Racetrack where the California State Fair once held its annual horse races. But that was then, and Boulevard Park is now a place were many local artists and artisans have carved out long and successful livings.

One such place is
New Roma Bakery. They have not only been a neighborhood institution since 1934, but they have also become a city treasure offering some of the best in fresh-baked breads, cookies, donuts, muffins, brownies, cakes, and a varied assortment of pastries.

During our recent visit, I had to sink my teeth into an apple turnover because it looked perfect behind the glass counter. Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed. It was light, flaky, and very good. And while my son went with a more conventionally sized glazed donut, my daughter went with one of their super-sized sugar donuts. We all shared a laugh as she held it up to her face, and the only thing we could see was her eyeball peeking through the hole.

Now, a return visit is in the works since we also noted that the deli portion of the bakery offers take-n-bake pizzas and made-to-order sandwiches. Certainly, an added bonus given that dinner can't always be made from scratch at home and lunch sometimes has to be on the go.

So, there is a promise of a new day for us, and hopefully, the same can be said if and when you pass through Boulevard Park. The folks at New Roma Bakery will surely be waiting.

New Roma Bakery
1800 E St
Sacramento, CA 95814

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The San Francisco Creamery Co. | Walnut Creek, CA

Everything, but the kitchen sink. We've all heard of this frequently used idiom, especially when describing something or someone who tries to include as many things as possible for convenience or comfort. In fact, I'm betting that you have used it for one occasion or another. I know I have:

"Every time we go camping, it seems like my wife packs everything, but the kitchen sink." Or, "I really like your new car. It's got everything, but the kitchen sink." Or, "Your presentation during this morning's meeting was very thorough. You must have included everything, but the kitchen sink when putting it together."

Contrary to this, did you ever wonder what something would look like IF the kitchen sink was included in the mix? Well, the folks at
The San Francisco Creamery Company have asked that question and answered it in a way that just boggles the mind and tempts the taste buds.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you THE KITCHEN SINK: Three sliced bananas, your choice of up to eight heaping scoops of ice creams, eight servings of toppings, mounds and mounds of whipped cream, chopped toasted almonds, and a handful of cherries. This behemoth of a sundae weighs in at about three pounds (roughly a gallon-and-a-half of ice cream), and it's held together in a custom-designed kitchen sink.

Now, I understand that it serves up to six people. However, if you are up to the challenge and would like a place on their Wall of Fame, try putting this bad boy down with no help from your friends. It has been tried, but only a few have succeeded.

Inspired by the neighborhood dime stores and pharmacies that were popular throughout the San Francisco region in the 1930s and 1940s, The San Francisco Creamery Company takes a page from the past in its look and approach. Clean lines, deep colors, marble tabletops, and vintage accents highlight a rich Victorian-styled interior. And a playful staff keeps things lively whether sharing their own personal favorites made with the finest ingredients available or talking about, you guessed it, The Kitchen Sink.

But it’s not just about the desserts, albeit they are the main attraction when stepping into the creamery. They also boast a fresh selection of soups, sandwiches, burgers, pastas, and appetizers. Our suggestion, try the crab salad sandwich made with real chunks of dungeness crab blended with mayo, lettuce and a dash of paprika.

So, as you can plainly see, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone to bring out the kid in all of us. To borrow another popular saying within our vernacular, The San Francisco Creamery Company is all that, and a bag of chips.

San Francisco Creamery Co.
1370 Locust St.
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

Out of the Kitchen SF Bay Area restaurants

Maps for Diners, DriveIns and Dives, Man v. Food and more

Monday, August 9, 2010

Home of Chicken & Waffles | Oakland, CA

In a recent quest to find reputable locations for chicken and waffles in Northern California (specifically the Bay Area), we put out a call to a few of our food friends and followers. Needless to say, no one failed to respond. The choices were seemingly endless and quite promising. Among them was the aptly named Home of Chicken and Waffles.

Located across the street from Jack London Square in Downtown Oakland, Home of Chicken and Waffles opened its doors in 2004 and is very reminiscent of Southern California's more famous Roscoe's House of Chicken 'n Waffles.

And why wouldn't it be given that this establishment was once a franchise location of those who brought the signature recipes of Roscoe's from the streets of Harlem in the mid-1970s to the West Coast.

Similarities aside, however, there's just enough of a difference in what they're serving up here that can warm the cockles of one's heart. In other words, there's still a lot about Home of Chicken and Waffles that's uniquely special from its edgy and vibrant 60's appearance to the hand-painted murals that adorn the walls.

Now, in talking to our server, she noted that any one of their combinations of chicken and waffles should not be passed up. The most popular, known as the Homeboy, includes three savory pieces of crispy chicken with your choice of a waffle, potato salad, or french fries. Another popular menu selection is the Princess Jordan, their macaroni and cheese which is prepared using real cheese and milk and served up bubbly hot and gooey. Needless to say, we were sold.

In all, Home of Chicken and Waffles offers a total of forty-one different "family-member" named combinations that are generous in portion and flavor. All are made with fresh ingredients, and many are priced under $10.00, meaning that you can go a long way with the paper in your pocket.

And if you're not too hungry, that's okay too. Many of their side dishes are meals in themselves from candied yams, smothered potatoes, collard greens, and black-eyed peas over rice. Put together two or three of these, and you have a sample of soul food at its best.

So, to our admiring friends and followers, many thanks for turning us on to Home of Chicken and Waffles. Including them among our travel stops really hit the spot!

Home of Chicken & Waffles
444 Embarcadero West
Oakland, CA 94607-3706

Out of the Kitchen SF Bay Area restaurants

Saturday, August 7, 2010

R. Kelley Farms | Sacramento, CA

According to a recent report published by the Sacramento Council of Governments' Rural-Urban Connection Strategy, there are over 231 farms and ranchers in the region who sell their products throughout the year at various venues such as farmers' markets, roadside stands, food co-ops, and grocery stores.

Given this staggering number, it was no surprise to find dotted along a small stretch of the Old River Road (CA-160), signs that pointed us to R. Kelley Farms, a family owned farming venture which has been providing healthy fruits and vegetables to the surrounding community for over 15 years.

Located about 1.5 miles north from the the sleepy town of Hood, R. Kelley Farms is owned and operated by Ron Kelley and his wife, Ella. And both very much involved in every aspect of their business, whether its overseeing sales to ensure that each visitor's needs are met or being up every morning to fill each bin in their shed with such seasonal items as black-eyed peas, okra, sweet corn, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, sweet onions, speckled butter beans, lima beans, crowder peas, purple-hull peas, green beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, and sweet melons. Believe it or not, this ONLY covers their Summer pickings. When Fall rolls around, these very same bins are replaced with pumpkins, squash, collard greens, turnips, spinach, broccoli, rutabagas, and brussel sprouts.

But what also sets R. Kelley Farms aside from others in the area is that they also let you self-pick your own fruits and vegetables. It's a short tractor ride out to the fifty-eight acres of well-groomed crops, where everything is in reach and certainly ripe for the picking.

So, whether you're looking for ways to supplement your own backyard garden with other exciting fare or you're city slickers like us, be sure to stop by for a little bit of fun and a whole lotta love and appreciation. Do keep in mind, however, R. Kelley Farms is only open from July through October.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pear Fair | Courtland, CA

Of all the food festivals that we've had the pleasure of visiting, only one holds a sentimental place in my heart: Courtland's Pear Fair. Now, there's nothing particularly unique that sets the Pear Fair apart from any other food festival. Rather, it is the only one where my grandmother had been a participant, representing the best the Sacramento Delta has to offer in terms of hospitality, knowledge, and a passion for good food. Bringing her together with the Pear Fair was a match made in heaven, and as kids growing up in her shadow, we had front row seats. As I recall, she not only shared stories of what it was like to live in the Delta, but she was also not shy to talk about one of the region's leading crops. It seemed like there wasn't a thing she didn't know ... But I'm digressing.

So, what is the
Courtland Pear Fair? For starters, it began in 1972 as a moderate celebration to welcome the Bartlett Pear harvest. Since then, it has become a long standing summer tradition reflecting both the character and lifestyle of rural life while offering a wonderful day of entrainment, festivities, food, and drink to over 8000 annual visitors. Admission is free, however, proceeds that are raised throughout the day via parking, food sales, and souvenirs go to support educational scholarships and programs as well as the Courtland Volunteer Fire Association. So, not only are you in for good time, but you're helping to sustain a community.

During our recent visit, we began the day by attending an all-you-can-eat breakfast, which featured dollar-sized pancakes and home-made pear sausage. We followed this with a walk through the arts-and-crafts
pavilion, the history museum, and the cocktail garden where one can sample pear-tinis, pear mojitos, and a selection of pear ciders.

There's a little bit of everything for everyone, including food competitions (don't miss the pie eating contests), cooking demonstrations (learn how to make a pear cooler), and a parade (check out the newly crowned Pear Queen and her court of Junior Pears). And the food? With no shortage of vendors, you're certain to find something whether its pear ice cream, pear strudel, pear crisps, pear bread, and, of course, Courtland's famous pear pie. Nothing is held back here, folks, and it's not hard to see why this is one of the most anticipated events along the Delta.

So, now you know why my grandmother never hesitated to donate her time at the
Courtland Pear Fair, and why going to the fair with my own family has special meaning. My memories of her will always be cherished.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Side Dish :: Halo Halo

What is Halo Halo?
Halo-halo is representative of the various sweets Filipinos enjoy. “Halo” in Tagalog means “to mix.” In essence, you mix (halo) shaved ice laced with evaporated milk along with many other sweet and luscious ingredients. Such ingredients include legumes (including red beans and garbanzos) and fruits (jack fruit, young coconut) cooked in syrup until tender and sweet. These sweet beans and fruits are also mixed in with flan and ube (sweet yam). Oftentimes, halo halo is topped with ice cream and pinipig (toasted rice grain flakes) for added texture and crunch. All the ingredients are placed in a tall glass served with a long teaspoon.

In this photo:
Halo Halo from Red Ribbon Bakery

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Lois the Pie Queen | Oakland, CA

Ever since we moved from Los Angeles in 2005, we've been in search for a new place to find good, wholesome Southern Soul Food. From staples as mac-n-cheese, collard greens, and smothered pork chops to standards that are more for the adventurous such as oxtail soup, pickled chicken gizzards, and chitterlings and hog maws. We've come close a handful of times, and one of our favorites can be found on the city borders of Oakland and Emeryville.

Lois the Pie Queen has been a neighborhood institution for nearly fifty years, and although Lois herself is no longer running the show following her death some years ago, her son, Chris Davis, continues to honor his mother's legacy by providing diners with "food that warms the soul." A house favorite on the menu is the Reggie Jackson Special: two fried pork chops served with two eggs and your choice of hash browns, creamy grits, or rice. Named after the legendary baseball player who used to frequent the restaurant during his playing days as an Oakland Athletic, we were told that it's a dish that wouldn't disappoint. And they weren't kidding ... This was stick-to-your-ribs stuff! Other savory selections that fall under this category include the Chicken and Waffles, Split-Buttered Biscuits 'n Gravy, the Mexican Scramble, and the Fried Chicken Breakfast with Salmon Croquettes.

And when it was time for dessert (At 10:30 in the morning? You betcha!), we turned to our server and learned that she wouldn't let us leave the restaurant without first having a slice of either the sweet potato pie or the lemon icebox. She didn't need to twist our arms twice, and rather than choose, one of each was added to the bill. While the sweet potato pie was forkalicious, the lemon icebox was clearly the winner in our hearts. So, it's no wonder why Lois the Pie Queen is popular among the surrounding community as well as sports and entertainers alike (the "wall" of pictures behind the counter says it all). We were certainly glad to have stopped in for a bite, and to Mr. Davis, you are doing your mother proud!

Lois the Pie Queen
851 60th St
Oakland, CA 94609

Out of the Kitchen SF Bay Area restaurants