Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bar Snacks at Bottle Cap

A few months ago, I met some friends at Bottle Cap for Happy Hour, during a special event with a guest bartender.  As part of the event, they were serving bar snacks communal-style for everyone seated at the bar.  It was a great chance to try out some of their food, as I hadn't ever been there before.

The dinner menu at Bottle Cap sounds great: grilled cheese and tomato soup! Periogies!  Cheesy shells!  Burgers!  The desserts are even better sounding, and I wanted them all.  But I was there just for drinks ... and whatever appetizers came our way.

The bar food menu sounded good too: sweet potato fries! Papas bravas! Seared scallops! Pizza bread!  Unfortunately, we didn't get any of that.  How they managed to choose to serve only the dishes I'd never order I don't know.  I didn't really like any of the food, but, as I said, it wasn't items I would pick myself.

The service was good, the bar was cozy and neighborhood-feeling, and I'd consider going back, but I certainly would not order any of this again.
Tombo Tuna Poke: scallions, seaweed, red salt,  sesame, taro chips, soy.  $8.
The taro chip was flavorful and crisp, a nice vessel for the poke.  The fish was a little mushy and not that flavorful on its own, but was dressed with something that gave it a slight kick.  The sesame seeds and scallions added a little additional flavor.

Not bad, but not standout.  My favorite of the bar snacks.  But really, I would have loved to just have a bowl of the taro chips!
B.L.T. Bites: pork belly, sweet gems lettuce, roma tomato, aioli, sourdough.
We saw these adorable things in two preparations, some like this, open faced, and some had a second slice of bread on top.

I liked this far more than I expected to.  I've really only liked pork belly twice in my life, once at Chez TJ as part of an incredible meal, and once at Alexander's Steakhouse, where I first learned that I could like pork belly.  This pork belly didn't measure up to those preparations, it was a little tough and stringy, but had good flavor.

It was served as the "bacon" in a B.L.T., with a very flavorful slice of roma tomato, some shredded lettuce, and a generous helping of creamy aioli, all on top of a sourdough crostini.  You know how much I dislike sourdough, but it wasn't very sour, so it didn't bother me much.

Overall I didn't care for this much, but the tomato and aoili were both very good components, making it my second pick of the night.  I would gladly have eaten it without the pork belly at all!
BBQ Pulled Pork and Slaw Sliders.
The bun was soft, with a slightly glazed top.  Inside was pulled pork, not a favorite protein of mine, but it had decent bbq flavor.  The slaw added some crunch.

Overall, fairly generic, but not bad.  3rd pick of the night.

[ Not Pictured ]
Fried Chicken Thighs with Dill Yogurt Sauce.  $6.

I've been really down on chicken lately.  I just haven't really liked any chicken I've tried.  Not that I ever loved chicken, but I used to at least tolerate it, particularly white meat.  So when chicken thighs came out, I passed on the first order.  Everyone seemed to love them though.  I tried the accompanying celery sticks in the dill yogurt, and liked the yogurt quite a bit, it had an incredibly strong drill flavor, but I wasn't tempted by the chicken.  Then another order came out, fresh out of the frier, piping hot.  Everyone around me devoured them again, commenting on how good they were.  So, I had to try them.

They had a very thick breading on them, incredibly crispy, slightly salty, very well done.  I'm not a huge fried chicken fan, but this was really well executed.  The chicken inside was moist.  But ... it was chicken.  And it was thigh meat, which I rarely like.  So not something I liked, but I appreciated that it was well done for fried chicken.  Least favorite of the night.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Shrimp Tacos from Rubio's

I know, I know, you don't want to hear more about Rubio's.  You don't understand why I keep going back, particularly when this blog started out as basically only reviews of high end restaurants.  On the surface, it doesn't make sense, I admit it.

But, as I've said before, I really like Rubio's!  It is nearby, it is quick, it is convenient, it is reasonably priced, and most importantly, it is good!

I did do something differently this visit, I went at lunchtime (I usually go in the evening), and I went during the week (I usually go on weekends).  I've never been during weekday lunch there before. It was totally packed, with folks dining in and taking out.  A very different vibe from my other visits.

As always, the staff were ridiculously friendly, and not in a fake way.  The person taking my order even said something like "it is nice to meet you", and it sounded genuine.  I'm always blown away by how nice the service is for a fast casual establishment!

Since I've bored you to death with my general reviews already, I'll skip those details, and focus only on my meal this time.
2-Taco Plate:  Salsa Verde Shrimp Taco, Grilled Gourmet Shrimp Taco,  "No-Fried" Pinto Beans, Chips. $8.XX.
I went with Ojan for lunch, and since neither of us were starving, we decided to split a two taco plate.  I planned to pick one taco for myself, and have him pick the other for himself.  He asked what I was having, and I said I couldn't decide between the two different shrimp tacos I'd enjoyed before.  I was definitely in the mood for smoky, grilled shrimp, but the two tacos were completely different, and I couldn't decide.  I remembered loving the cheesy, bacon goodness of the Grilled Gourmet Shrimp Taco, along with the crispy corn tortilla, but I also liked the fresher flavors of the Salsa Verde Shrimp Taco, filled with crisp cabbage, and a soft flour tortilla.  Totally different, but both memorably delicious.  Ojan saved the day when he quickly said "let's just get those two and share them!".  Thank goodness, no more decision necessary, although, cutting tacos in half is a bit difficult.

Since I'm allergic to avocado, and both of these tacos normally include avocado, I had it on the side (seen on the edge of the photo, they packaged it up into a separate container), so Ojan could add it into his.

Each of the tacos contained 4 shrimp, nicely grilled as before, and not at all rubbery.  They didn't have quite the same smoky flavor that I remembered from my previous trips, but they were well prepared.

We both started with the heavier one, the Grilled Gourmet Shrimp Taco: "Sustainable shrimp grilled on an authentic comal then served on a warm stone-ground corn tortilla with toasted cheese and topped with crisp bacon pieces, buttery Hass Avocado slices, our red tomatillo salsa, our creamy chipotle sauce, a cilantro/onion mix and cotija cheese."  Like last time, I just loved the combination of the melted cheese, the bacon, and the corn tortilla.  So good!  There was far less cheese on this than the one I had last time however.  I may have complained about how much cheese there was last time, but this time I felt it was a bit skimpy.  I think that was due to my expectations however, and without a comparison point, I'm sure I would have found this to be totally sufficient.  And like last time, I felt that the shrimp were kinda lost in the cheesy/bacon/creamy chipotle sauce spectacle, so I ate them separately.  Still, pretty delicious, and I'm glad I ordered it again.

Then we moved on to the Salsa Verde Shrimp Taco: "Sustainable pan-seared shrimp topped with a salsa verde sauce made with tomatillos, poblano chiles and fresh herbs, along with buttery Hass Avocado slices, a melted three-cheese blend, our creamy chipotle sauce, a cilantro/onion mix and cabbage. Served on a warm flour tortilla."  This was a much lighter feeling option, as it didn't have tons of cheese and bacon.  The flour tortilla was warm, soft, and I liked it more than I had in the past.  I loved the freshness and crunch from the cabbage.  There was quite a bit of it, but it really was just the perfect amount.  But the star of the show, as before, was the absolutely delicious creamy chipotle sauce.  Soo soo good.  I didn't taste the cheese that was apparently in there, but I didn't care at all.  It was pretty much perfect as it was.  The winner of the pair, but I'd gladly order either of them again.

The chips were again standard, unremarkable, and something I'd normally skip, except that I totally fell in love with the chipotle salsa from the salsa bar.  I used it to dunk the edges of my tortillas in, and then started in on the chips.  And didn't stop, until I used up all the salsa.  I have no idea why I was so into it this time, it just had a great smokiness to it!

The beans were about the same as all previous visits, creamy, hot, but meh, just beans.  Ojan liked dipping some chips in them.
Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 25, 2013

More Quickly

As I mentioned in my post last week, GoPago offered a $5 credit for Valentine's day.  I used part of it to indulge in an apple fritter, and the remainder to enjoy another drink from Quickly.

Since I've reviewed them before, I'll skip the general details, and focus on my drink.

GoPago made ordering super simple.  When I got stuck at a red light a couple away, I selected and easily customized my drink and submitted my order.  By the time I arrived a few minutes later, it was just being finished and placed on the counter.  I was literally in and out of the store in 5 seconds.  You really can't beat that.
Taro Milk Tea with Taro Pudding.  $1.99.
I enjoyed the taro milk tea with tapioca on my last visit, but I pushed myself to try something different this time.  Except, I really still wanted a taro milk tea!

After a few minutes of indecisiveness, I decided I'd still order the taro tea, but I'd change my mix-in.   I considered getting the large tapioca (I got the small last time), but I thought that was kinda cheating on my goal of being different.  I was about to add jellies, when I saw that there were different puddings you could add.  I had absolutely no idea what that meant.  How do you add pudding to a drink?  Turns out, the same way you add jellies - you cut it up into little cubes.

My drink was again a great taro flavor, milky, sweet but not too sweet.  I loved it.  The pudding was ... interesting.  The cubes were very soft, so they didn't have the chew that tapioca does.  I think I enjoyed the tapioca balls more, just for the experience of chewing them.  The pudding chunks also didn't really seem taro flavored, at least, not compared to the drink itself.

I still enjoyed this, but I'd go back to tapioca next time.

As before, $1.99 was a great price (this was still a special, $1.49 plus $0.50 for the pudding add-on).
Quickly Kobe Bento on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Zotter Chocolate

My local chocolate shop carries a slew of really interesting chocolates, but one company that keeps catching my eye is the German chocolatier, Zotter.  They have a large variety of incredibly intriguing chocolates - boozy, fruity, nutty, and a category that they just call "crazy", which includes things like cheese, bacon, and pig's blood.  Yes, pig's blood.  They also have a line of single origin bars.

I've tried out a few, but have my eye on a number of their other varieties, and can't wait to try more!

  • Boozy
    • Scotch Whisky 'Highland Harvest'.  Austrian.  Hand poured filled bar.  70% Noble bitter couveture.  Contains sugar, cocoa butter, real whisky, milk, fructose-glucose syrup, full cream milk powder, whole cane sugar, salt, vanilla.  Tasting notes:  This is a classic filled bar, composed of a whiskey ganache covered in a fairly dark chocolate.  The chocolate was very smooth and dark, but didn’t have a lot of complexity on its own, which I think is good because it would have taken away from the flavorful filling.  The filling was smooth, creamy, and had a nice scotch flavor to it.  Not too subtle, but it doesn’t “burn” like drinking real scotch. [  This bar is still interesting with the scotch flavors, but overall just isn’t that standout.  There are better boozy bars around.  Wouldn’t purchase again. ]
    • Cherry Brandy with Marzipan. Hand-scooped bar. 70% Noble bitter chocolate filled with cherry brandy cream (30%) and marzipan (26%).  Tasting notes: The dark chocolate outside was decent, smooth and dark.  The marzipan I could have done without, it created a kinda gritty mouthfeel.  But the almond brandy cream had a nice flavor, and the brandy came through loud and clear.  I enjoyed this, but probably wouldn't get again.
  • Labooko (single origin series)
    • 100% Peru: Tasting notes: Very intense, fudgy. Surprisingly not too gritty for a 100%.