Christmastide

25 12 2007

Last night was sushi…king crab and shrimp hand rolls and maki rolls garnished with red bell pepper, spring greens, pencil lead thin asparagus and avocado. I forget how easy that is…it was a perfect light dinner. Ah! I couldn’t very well hit up the tamale makings. I whacked up a 3# pork shoulder and cooked it low and slow until it fell apart. Oh yeah. Now…over to one of those sites over on the right…she’s got a tamale recipe (masa and steaming – masa is the hard part! – THAW out the lard Woman!) I’m going to follow…at least as much as I follow anything!

Tonight is a spiral ham…so there’s enough to nibble at here and there. I roasted it covered for 3 hours, then brushed it with honey and sprinkled it with sugar and had after it with my new torch. No…not a creme brulee torch. Wimpy litte things! Nope. I’ve got a full-size adjustable-flame butane torch straight from the hardware store, thank you so much! Where was this little gem when I was doing sushi last night?? I’d have happily sauced a roll and toasted it right up! Creme brulee will have to be a new experiment! Anyway, the glaze on the ham leaves it ever so slightly smoky flavored.

Tomorrow it’s Christmas Day, and of course Christmas dinner. I’m making a prime rib with broiled lobster. I haven’t selected a recipe for the prime rib yet, but I’ve only got 5-10 recipes. One ought to work! If I keep to my usual track record, I’ll take the seasonings from one, and the cooking method of another, and end up doing my own thing in the end. I’m thinking of making a variation on Ree’s mashed potatoes…The Pioneer Woman Cooks…and oh! Does she ever! Back to the potatoes… They were fabulous…but I’ve got a yen to Kick ’em up a Notch with horseradish. And maybe torch them just enough to brown them ever so slightly…oh yeah! I’ll let you know how that turns out.

For now I’m in culinary heaven. I love to play with food, and work with it to achieve fabulous flavors. I’m home, I’ve got all kinds of food I can cook, and I’m simply tickled beyond belief!

I wish you peace, plenty and simply “enough.” Merry Christmas!

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Whisk Rating System

23 12 2007

5 Whisks – I’ve died AND gone to heaven!

4 Whisks – So unique and well done I can’t figure it all out.

3 Whisks – Really good, but have you ever thought of…

2 Whisks – Standard coffee shop fare, filling but not at all special.

1 Whisk – Are you going to pay me to eat here?

0 Whisks – OMG…I’m SO out of here!





New Chinese in Chico…Meet “Flavor Falls”

23 12 2007

I’m usually loathe to try a new restaurant. I want it to be open for a good 3 months and work out the kinks before I visit. However, we recently read in the Chico News and Review that one of the Chinese Buffets had been revamped into a sit-down restaurant, AND it got nice reviews on the food. I’m afraid I may be more harsh than the reviewer from CN&R, but that isn’t to say the food wasn’t good.

Following our last Chinese dining disaster, as recounted earlier here, we figured anything would be reasonably decent.  It was 3 days before Christmas, still early in the evening for dining.  The shopping centers were still in gridlock. Trying to think of somewhere that we could get in without an hour’s wait, we thought of the place we’d read about.  At that point, neither of us could remember the name of the restaurant, but we knew where to go.  Housed in the former Pat & Larry’s Steakhouse building at 20th & Park, “Flavor Falls” presents as a standard Chinese restaurant, but one without a lot of clatter. Booths and tables fill the dining space, really nothing to remark about…art work on the walls, and since their greeting/cashier area is a bit secluded from the dining area, one could be there several minutes without being noticed. That having been said, everything appeared clean and sufficiently appointed.

The food…the food was really good, but not great, not fabulous, not beyond-compare as we’d been lead to believe by the CN&R article. We started off with an appetizer they called a “Bo-bo Platter” ($.950) – you know the kind, called po-po, or any number of other things. We ordered their Wor-Won-Ton Soup ($6.95) as it’s a perennial favorite of ours. From there we struggled…we love good food, and love to try new things so we tend to order WAY too much food in order to sample lots of tastes. Being sensibly restrained, I ordered one entree each for us: Cashew Nut Chicken and Salt and Pepper Ribs (we’ve seen these as Chiu Yim Ribs-it was a good guess). Now it didn’t arrive in that order, but it all got there…a little quick perhaps, but it wasn’t busy at all either. Here’s the run-down.

Wor Won-Ton Soup: They get bonus points for actually hanging around to stir and serve the first bowls! Bonus points again for the fact that there is actually SOUP in the bowl! Whoa! Another bonus point! The vegetables are crisp-tender and not overcooked! The broth is clear, yet very flavorful. There’s a bit of warm spice going on that’s very nice. The meats all have their own flavors, and that’s very nice. The only drawback is that the little won-ton dumplings are rather pasty where they’re closed. Not bad, but not pleasant either.
Bo-Bo Platter: This is a sharing-plate for two with butterflied deep fried shrimp, eggrolls, BBQ pork, beef skewers, paper-wrapped chicken and won-tons. The plate came nicely arranged, two by two on a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce (I’m not sure whether to give bonus points for trying to dress the plate or what here), with a small bowl of hot mustard on the plate and a bowl of sweet & sour on the side. Much to my surprise, the BBQ pork was warm, not hot, but just warmed enough to release it’s juices – very nice touch! The eggroll was pretty much unremarkable – neither good nor really bad. The shrimp were over-breaded, or too small for the amount of breading, and all the deep fried foods were cooked at too low a temperature, so were greasy – blech. Thankfully, the s & s sauce proved to be a flavorful, downright tasty savior for this dish. It could have had a bit more tang for me, but it had a honest-to-goodness flavor and wasn’t over-congealed. The paper-wrapped chicken was fragrant and tasty. I’m not sure that can be messed up. It aways seems to come out well. As I mentioned the BBQ pork was slightly warm, and had a lovely delicate flavor. The beef skewer was a 1/4 inch thick strip of steak (london broil perhaps) which had been marinated and likely baked. It was dry top and bottom, but very tender and very tasty. It would be worth getting an order to analyze the flavors.
Salt and Pepper Ribs: One of my favorite dishes at the local Chinese restaurant is Chiu Yim Ribs. It’s a little spicy, but not too bad if you don’t eat those dark red things (chiles). These are very thin pieces of pork (but I don’t know what cut. They’re seasoned and dredged in flour (rice?) and deep fried. They’re addictive! We were hoping this would be similar enough to what we’ve had before, and we hit it right on the money. The meat is cooked really fast so it keep the meat moist while the outside is crunchy. Gotta love it!
Cashew Nut Chicken: Now this was tasty! Little chunks of chicken, celery, onion, baby corn, carrot and zucchini combined and cooked so quickly that the vegetables don’t lose their crunch. We ate easily half of this without batting an eye.

About the time I got started on the Cashew Nut Chicken, I began to notice a similarity of flavors. Uh-oh. There’s an anchor seasoning, and so far, it’s in EVERYTHING. That’s not to say that was a totally bad thing, but it wasn’t 100% good either. If I wanted all the same flavor, I’d only order 1 dish. So, I started tasting back…yep. That nice warm spice in the soup was also in the sweet & sour sauce and it was in the chicken dish, and it was on the ribs as well. Doggone it. I like Chinese 5 spice as well as the next person, but #@*% ! That’s kind of like putting curry into every single dish! Like I said, it wasn’t necessarily bad, but it breaks down the adventure of the classic flavors of the cuisine. Oh well. It’s not my restaurant. Maybe they need to cook according to their audience rather than to their heritage. Lord, save me from the masses and feed me heritage ANY time!

At this point, Flavor Falls may be the best Chinese that Chico has to offer…and that’s kind of sad.  For me it rates a “Let’s come here again…sometime” which is right up ahead of “If we’re in the neighborhood…” but behind “Let’s come here again!”  The food is good enough to bring me back, but it isn’t so good I’d drive well out of my way over Happy Garden, and do not get me started on Peter Chu’s…that’s not the prettiest of stories!  However, if I had a serious yen for Wor Won-Ton soup…I’d definitely go out of my way to get theirs!

I think I’ll give them 2-1/2 Whisks.





We took a gamble on the casino…

22 12 2007

And celebrated my birthday there with friends. What a pleasant surprise! We were invited to join friends for the “Early Bird Special,”which was plenty of food, with nice selections. The Gold Country Casino Steakhouse offered Shrimp Primavera, a catch of the day special, Teriyaki grilled chicken or 8 oz Prime Rib, with choice of garden or Caesar salad and dessert for $16.95 per person. Although the choices were somewhat limited, the food was quite good and the service impeccable. Something Oroville is NOT famous for is service! Their menu can be found here: http://www.goldcountrycasino.com/dining/steakhouse/steakhouse.htm I’m anxious to go back and try some of their regular entrees. I had the prime rib, cut excellently, served exactly to order, however…the seasoning was a bit on the bland side. Salt might have helped some, but it was really difficult to get to the salt with all the various things on the table. They claim to be 4 star…not sure who is to have awarded their stars, but they do have a 4 star atmosphere…if you can overlook that damn flashing casino sign against the highway backdrop. They do get extra credit for having Valet parking…free…and nicely managed – at least as far as we could tell. Pitfalls? You have to walk through the casino to get to the stairs or elevators to get to the restaurant on the 6th floor. I guess you can’t have everything! Yes, I’d go back…and I’m withholding judgment until that time.





I should have made the soup…

3 12 2007

Greetings! What are you up to? The concerts went well…but we sure didn’t eat much for a few days! The timing was horrid! Last night we ate at Oroville’s The Depot. This is a place that can run hot and cold…just like the seasons, and in more than one way. Last night was a good night. We both ordered Prime Rib, but the cut we wanted was sold out, so we elected to give their Rib Eye a go. Both of us were beef hungry…I can’t remember the last red meat we ate. Including burgers, it’s been at least a couple of weeks. I’m serious! Remember Thanksgiving? *Ü* The steaks were nicely seasoned and cooked appropriately (rare, and med. rare). It was as good as it gets at The Depot. The management has truly lost sight of how to run a dinner house. 100% totally and completely. Nuff said about that.

Tonight, we were still tired, and I was in no mood to cook after a marathon early month shopping trip, so dining out was necessary. Argh. This is not a town one shops in town in during the first 4 days of any month. It’s rude and scary. I survived, and lived to drag the hubster out for Chinese.

We live in a culinary wasteland. We have one dinner house, and 2 casinos with dining. I can’t say what they have, because I still haven’t been to either of them. It’s my own thing, I guess. So, that’s 1 dinner house, 1, no 2 Chinese restaurants and 2 more sort of Asian fast food places, 1 Thai restaurant, 4 Mexican sit-down restaurants, 3 or 4 Taquerias, a couple BBQ joints, and a Soul Cooking place. There are 2 chain coffee shops, and 2 more coffee shops that are only open early in the day. The rest is fast food and pizza. Out of these, the food is mostly mediocre to moderately good. There’s nothing to write home about. We can’t lay claim to the best darn anything here.

Chinese… We have a place in town that is literally historical…that’s HIStorical not HYSterical. A family owned and operated restaurant that been here for ages. Tong Fong Low… another place that runs hot and cold. Sometimes it’s so darn good, and others, well… Tonight was an “eh, ok..” night. I don’t know if it’s because our sense of taste is off…(but then we really enjoyed that steak last night…) It seemed like everything tonight was overdosed with cornstarch and under-dosed with flavor. C’mon…Hot and sour soup is supposed to make you catch your breath at least a little…sweat a tiny bit…pucker pleasantly…nah. “Not so much,” as The Hubster just said. The Sesame Chicken was ok, again…short on flavor, but as nicely congealed as the intensely red, rubbery puddle of sweet and sour sauce. Yum. The Chiu Yim ribs, however, seemed ok, as did the House Special chow mein. Like I said, hot and cold.

In the meanwhile, I did do a powerful lot of shopping, so at least I can cook to my heart’s content. We have the makings for paella, pot roast and pork tamales. I’m so ready!