Danger! Danger Will Robinson!!!

25 06 2008

DISCLAIMER:  I am very upset…angry…in the vernacular, P-O’d.  Sometimes a woman’s patience just gets pushed “so” far….  What’s up??  I’m so glad you asked…and if you didn’t….would you please do me the favor of leaving the kitchen, ‘cuz I’m about to get MOST UN-ladylike.

Are we squared away now?

All the munchkins out of the room?

No one reading aloud?

I’m serious….I’m really whizzed.  And that’s the last time I’m going to rein in my tongue or my fingers.  It’s on you now…

Are we alone now?

Okay….here goes…

If you own a restaurant…and it’s getting close to closing time…TOO close for your establishment to SEAT patrons and let them eat their meal…then WHY SEAT THEM????  Especially in a Chinese restaurant specializing in “take out”…  I am SO freaking furious!!

Scenario….8:40 p.m., late June, a couple walk into a Chinese restaurant…an old, established, been there 75 years kind of place.  The diners didn’t catch on right away; there were several other tables with patrons lingering over their meals.  Both were tired and settled quickly upon the “house” dinner for two, but could “we please add mushroom foo yung?”

The first clue that the couple would be dining to the strains of the “dining room hustle” was when halfway through the soup, the appetizer arrived, immediately followed by the first dish of the entree.  Mere moments later, the remaining dishes arrived.  The avalanche of dining room catastrophes was just getting started.

The pair might have been able to eat a little faster if the soup had had any flavor.  She remarked that it tasted very much like cornstarch.  Both added salt, pepper, and soy sauce trying to create some element of flavor in the pale excuse for “soup of the day.”  Ok…chicken-rice noodle soup is tricky.  You need to use chicken AND broth.  Damn.  I knew something was missing.  One of them had to go “in search of” hot mustard…let’s see…how DOES one serve BBQ pork slices, fried prawns and paper-wrapped chicken (not fair…it’s seasoned!!-But, then again…we didn’t EAT that- -YET!)?  The obligatory S&S sauce arrived in a bowl, but there were no other condiments available.  Faux pas #2.

As we…oops…the “couple” began to fill their plates, the waitress arrived asking for payment…so they “could close the register.”  Ok…fine, the food is on the table; no beverages were ordered so there was no need to “refill” or “replace” any beverage.  The appropriate plastic was exchanged, and the little pieces of paper were obtained, and set aside.

The meal wasn’t even begun, let alone concluded.  If the folks thought they were getting a guaranteed T.I.P., they were at the wrong table.  Please…don’t misunderstand me.  I DO NOT STIFF service staff.  My mom was a waitress, and her tips were the difference between my existence and my carefree childhood.  I grew up knowing the value of tips, and that service staff barely made any money, regardless of how hard they worked.  I honestly tip 20-35% on the average.  My state believes all service staff receive at least 8% on every ticket, so staff are charged for that up-front by the state.  Even when I feel I’ve been totally screwed by the staff, I still leave 10%…even if it makes me chew nails and spit out staples.  And so, I held the ticket open until we’d concluded our meal.

At least I thought I was going to keep the ticket open until we’d concluded our meal…  Maybe 10 minutes after the food was delivered-remember, it all came at one time-, but not more than 15, another server came to the table asking for the ticket.  “Oh, don’t let us rush you,” the young man said, as another service member came to the table with a bus-cart to take the plates that were no where near empty.  No, no one brought “to-go” boxes to us.  Honestly, we had to get those for ourselves.  They did, however, bring a plastic bag to our table for the boxes.  I hadn’t had a chance to finish my meal.  Seriously.  I hadn’t had a change to eat the original portions I’d put on my plate to start with.  We had serving plates heaped with food, and the staff was all but drumming their fingers waiting to clear the table. We were permitted to get our own containers for the remaining food, transfer the food, bag it and leave without so much as a bye-your-leave.

I’m absolutely furious.  Where in the bloody hell does any restaurant get off behaving in such a f-d up manner?  It’s not like the food was even GOOD!!!  I guess being the “only game in town” gives one the feeling of security.  Well….not from this gal.  It’s going to be one damn cold day in hell before I cross that threshold again.  I can cook Chinese better than what I got tonight, and there are a few towns within 30 miles that have to have better food.  Admittedly, perhaps not at 8:30….but I’d still put money on it.

Oh, and for the record….We parked our car at 8:35 p.m.  We were back in our car by 9:05 p.m. with “left-overs” in hand.

You know what’s even worse?  I was hungry when we got home.  I hadn’t been able to finish my dinner.  I left with food on my plate.  Ok…if I’d touched that plate at that point, it would have gone flying.  I was so angered by having to leave before I’d finished eating, I was ready to start breaking dishes.  Hey…it would have ended the concern about 2 people still eating!  Anyway…when we got home, I put the cartons in the refrigerator, but saved out the fried rice to stave off my remaining appetite.  I love rice, especially fried rice.  I got a spoon, sat down with the carton and proceeded to…wait…what’s that thing?  Wait..please…no.  There’s not supposed to be anything really thin-threadlike even-in my fried rice…  No.  Please, no.  Oh f.  It’s white.  And black.  S.  It’s half and half.  And more hair-like than I can abide at this point.  Normally, I’m not squeamish.  I’ll roll my eyes, make a wise-crack and go on eating.  Not tonight.  That was seriously the freaking straw.  I’m so done.

Just don’t eat Chinese in Oroville…  I know I won’t be.

Japanese Blossoms

10 06 2008

Awhile back we’d heard there was a new restaurant in Chico…Japanese Blossoms.  Now, there are several sushi restaurants in Chico.  There’s the Americanized sushi at 2 different Chinese buffet restaurants (Rice Bowl and Kempo), and there’s the college area sushi bar…Katsuo’s.  Gen Kai was the first, but has developed a revolving door or owners, and philosophies.  Still, it’s got a decent ambiance, and the food has been good to better.  I can’t remember if we’ve been in since the last change of management, or if we just noted it in passing…  And there’s the Rawbar.  Rawbar is very nouveau…opened with driving metallic music to go with the metallic sculptures and neon.  Still, their food can be very, very good. Imaginative. Over-priced.  And now…enter Japanese Blossoms.

We stopped in for lunch…a good way to check out a new place without spending a small fortune.  We were pleasantly surprised to see Kama, the Itabisan from Gen Kai before the change of owners.  An excellent sign.  The current Itabisan came out, and turned out to be one of our favorites from Gen Kai…also before the “change.”  Two good signs.  The decor is very zen, and comfortable.  There are nice sake selections.  The menu items include a variety of common Japanese dishes and then…there’s the sushi menu.  Yes, somewhat Americanized combinations, but it was downright good!  We each had our favorite nigiri orders…unagi for him, sake for me, plus an order of maguro to share. We added a large JB’s Rainbow roll, and two salmon skin BLT handrolls.  It was just about the perfect amount for lunch.  It left me wanting more…more…MORE!  We’ll go back for dinner…it’s worth giving it another try!

Dinner in Grass Valley

27 04 2008

We took a night off and went to Grass Valley for an overnight stay and met with some friends the following day. Since we went up the night before (I’d rather travel while I’m still in “work” mode, than get up early on Saturday), we thought, “What a great opportunity to try new restaurants!”

I researched dining choices in this area, and there were PLENTY! There were several cafe style places, and the usual Mexican and Chinese options, family dining as well…pizza chains and so on. Ethnic specific yielded one sushi/Japanese restaurant, one Himalayan (sounded rather like East Indian) and Diego’s…Latin American cuisine. Of the fine dining/bistro set, we opted for Tofanelli’s on W. Main Street.

Tofanelli’s menu looks totally delightful.  With options of steaks, lamb and ahi, we were THERE!  The restaurant is a lovely little place, situated in one of Grass Valley’s historic buildings, it’s narrow and deep, and full of antiquity.  It took a few minutes for us to decide, as the many choices were quite intriguing.  We finally settled on a starter of seafood gazpacho, followed by salads (his dressed with bleu, mine with Poppy Seed) and while Hubster selected the Australian Lamb Shanks, I settled on the Rib Eye combo with sauteed scallops.

I was a little surprised that the salads arrived first, and almost as soon as the order hit the kitchen.  The salads were composed of sweet, crisp Romaine and luscious spring greens.  They were top-dressed with just the right amount of dressing (which was fabulous in both cases), and the salad with bleu was topped with fresh bleu cheese crumbles that erupted from the top and coursed down the sides of the salad…divine!  We ate every morsel and soaked up the remainder of the dressings as well.

From that point on, it’s all downhill.  The sign on the front door stating they were hiring a dinner chef should have been our first clue.

The “starter” arrived next, with an apology, and two spoons.  For gazpacho, it was a little on the sweet side for our tastes, and the addition of lemon (provided) didn’t do much to cut it.  There was no underlying bite, and nothing available to add any zing.  The soup consisted of tomatoes, shrimp, and avocados…there might have been other ingredients in there, but….our entrees arrived before we could really get started with the soup.  That’s a pet peeve…we both despise that.

Sadly, the entrees were no improvement.  The Australian lamb carried the description, “Two lamb shanks, braised and slow cooked in a piquant BBQ style sauce. With garlic mashed potatoes, and vegetables…19.95″  Mexican borego could be described the same way, so…that was Hubster’s choice.  Wrong.  Good description, but…it tasted like standard bottled sauce, and the lamb was tortured into submission of deletable tenderness and presented swimming in a pool of sauce with the sides.  It’s a crime to treat lamb shanks that way.  Incidentally…it was served in a pasta plate…which meant there was no way to separate the lamb or the potatoes from the pool – not puddle, POOL – of sauce.  There must’ve been a full cup of the sauce ladled into the plate.  Why do they do that??  From there, to my rib eye with scallops…  When I ordered, I asked if the chef cooked medium rare as warm-red or warm-pink.  The server had no real idea, but that the steak would be cooked “perfectly.”  Somehow I doubted that. I chose to order my steak rare, and that was the right thing to do.  It came to the table, again, in a deep plate, though not as deep a plate as Hubster’s, a reasonable medium rare, topped with the sauteed scallops, mashed potatoes and a veggie melange.  Apparently they put the liquid from the saute into the plate as well, because everything was in, again, a POOL of liquid.  Apparently “saute” was not a word the chef understood well…because the scallops arrived poached, and it was the poaching liquid that filled my plate. Blech.  The steak was soaking in it, the veggies were swimming, the scallops were atop the steak and no where near the (virtually tasteless) swill.  Sorry.  Again, why?

And when will I get a little Gordon Ramsey moxie and send such plates back to the kitchen with an invitation to attend a cooking school or at least BUY a GOOD cookbook??

Dinner (seafood gazpacho $5.95; Australian lamb shanks $19.95; Rib eye combo $25.95), with 1 cocktail each, came to $68.83 with tax.  I over tipped.  Darn me.  I should have rethought that.  Oh well…not her fault, but she could have checked on us…and yet, she did pack up the left-overs for our dog-and there were plenty!  Would I go back…maybe.  Only after checking the other available places though.  The salad was good enough to recommend, hands down.  The rest…well…no.

Tofanelli’s of Grass Valley….2 whisks….3 if you’re only having a salad!

When will I learn?

25 04 2008

I like food. A lot. Is it so difficult to try to put a plate on a table with food on it that’s edible?

Case in point:

After having a long drawn out doctor’s appointment we determined we’d earned a dinner out. Where to go on a Monday? Neither of us were really in the mood for Chinese or Thai. We’d taken a run out one of the boulevards to see a few places that were new…and not open on a Monday, any Monday. How disappointing. So…that left the “chain gang” and cuisines we weren’t quite up for. I had a yen going for Outback’s Annie Springs Chicken, and Hubster said they could usually do a steak well enough, so that would work for him. One thing about Outback, you sure won’t get a lot of frills on your plate. Meat, side. End of story. Naked. So, there I sit with daydreams of contrasting flavors, honey mustard, smoky bacon and cheese…mmm… One bite pretty much settled that fantasy. The chicken was hockey-puck dry; if there had been honey-mustard involved, it was brief and short-lived. The melty-goodness of a lava flow of cheese wasn’t there either. I should have sent it back, but one has to be able to attract the attention of a “server”; and the food delivery person isn’t your “server.” It’s not like they check with you AFTER you start eating. Hubster’s steak was wonderful. Send the poultry chef HOME. My overall experience this time rates a whopping 1-3/4 whisks, and I won’t hurry back.

Guess I’ve been a little busy…

13 04 2008

It’s not that I haven’t cooked…or eaten out… We’ve done both. It has been a busy couple of weeks though.

Cooking…how about spaghetti for 150? I was ever so disappointed that I had to use a PO for one place, and they didn’t have Italian sausage. Ground beef is ok, but…it’s just not “my” spaghetti that way. Still…it came out ok. Note to self…buy more fennel seed…it’s all used up! No…I didn’t invite 150 of my closest friends over for spaghetti…I made spaghetti, salad and bread for the school’s open house dinner. Then I served it and cleaned up. Yeah…guess I’ve been a little busy… *grin*

Dining out… We had a fabulous pizza at Woodstock’s in Chico. We really like their Mt. Lassen combo. It’s a good thing, we ate it for a couple of days whilst I was doing the school thing. We stopped there after the power shopping trip to pick up all the supplies. We’ll give Woodstock’s 2-1/2 whisks. We actually eat their crust all the way to the end! Friday night I had a medical appt. in Chico, so we dropped in to Sierra Nevada’s Brewpub. Normally we love it. This time, well…maybe it was the choice we made. We selected schnitzel with garlic mashed potatoes, butternut squash and sauteed brussels sprouts. Everything tasted incredibly salty to me. The service was fine…though service folks who know me better would have swooped the plate off the table and brought me something else and not let me say it was “ok.” I rarely make negative commentary to the service staff unless it’s just nasty to my tastes. I know they didn’t do it. Well…an exception is bringing me the wrong food…that I’ll speak to immediately. Sierra Nevada….currently at 3 whisks. It’s been better.

Tonight, it’s ribs…beefy ribs. I’m ready! The heat is ON…and I do mean on. It’s been in the upper 80’s and low 90’s. Go figure…this is only APRIL. Please…not so fast! Spring is looking like it’s going to be all of 2 weeks long and wham! Summer is upon us!

Back in Mt. Shasta city…

11 03 2008

Okay…I guess I’m just picky. Picky-picky-picky. Having said that, I’ll relate our most recent disappointments dining in the land of Majestic Mt. Shasta. Things haven’t gotten any better.

In November, we gave Lai Lai’s a shot… It’s a little Chinese restaurant that came recommended. The food was supposed to be good and fresh. Fresh, yes. Good, not necessarily. However, compared to Chen & Lee’s, it’s fabulous. Chen & Lee’s was in the neighborhood of our “hotel” (when did they start referring to “motels” as hotels??), and it smelled really good, so we decided to have dinner. Chen & Lee’s was a lot of things, but good wasn’t one of them. The won ton soup was almost good. The broth was a good start, though it was a faint green shade that was mildly disconcerting, at least it had a decent flavor. It was probably the best of all the food we had. If it hadn’t been for the dry, previously frozen peas and carrots, it wouldn’t have been too bad. Frozen peas and carrots we’d find in just about everything… We selected their Gourmet dinner for two…won ton soup, egg roll, fried prawns, BBQ pork, and fried chicken wings with the main dishes being some kind of vegetable dish and a chicken dish with steamed rice. I also ordered house fried rice. I was saving the steamed rice for Jasmine…our fur-baby. The appetizer part was awful. Hubster took one bite of the BBQ pork, and I knew I didn’t need to even taste it. The look on his face was more than enough to steer me clear. Of course, one look at my face as I bit into the prawn did the same for him. Oh awful purveyors of frozen foods they try to pawn off as fresh! Blech. The steamed rice arrived next, followed by a vegetable dish that was utterly taste-free. There were a few fresh snow peas mixed in with some previously frozen broccoli, those ubiquitous peas and carrots, and canned baby corn sauced with something the same shade of green as the soup, but with none of the flavor, and mixed with so much cornstarch it could have been used as glue. Blech!!! The chicken entree was almost ok, but not quite. The fried rice was gummy and gray…and it had the best flavor of anything. Go figure. Hey…I was hungry. But…I wasn’t taking any of that (save the steamed rice) for Jas…I didn’t want her to get sick. Even the fortune cookies were stale. The servers must’ve thought I was off my rocker…the only food we took with us was the steamed rice! Yeah, compared to Chen & Lee’s, Lai Lai’s is good. Chen & Lee’s – 1 Whisk; Lai Lai’s 2-1/2 Whisks.

The Black Bear Diner was closed…remodeling? It looked like it could be, there were workers there, but it wasn’t open. We opted to try The Dugout for breakfast. A perfectly serviceable breakfast it was too. Bacon and eggs is hard…no, it’s not…it’s easy to foul up. This was serviceable. Not fancy, not anything to write home about, just edible. Their lunch and sports bar menu however looked worthy of a stop sometime. The menu looks like standard Sports Bar fare, but it’s got variety and imagination. Breakfast at The Dugout, 2 Whisks…lunch or dinner, to be determined another trip.

We also had dinner at an American-Mexican restaurant north of town. I’ll have to get the name again. It was reasonably good…at least for Americanized Mexican. I had a fajita shrimp tostada (I wanted a shrimp fajita salad – this was as close as I could get), and Hubster had Carne Asada. Amazingly, it was done very nicely…actually medium rare, with nice cross-hatching which is almost impossible to achieve. Bravo to the chef! Everything had a decent flavor, but was a little lack-luster. We’ll go 2-3/4 whisks for this one.

Once again, our dining experiences weren’t outstanding. I think it must be time to go back to the Billy Goat’s Tavern…or whatever it is at the corner of Mt. Shasta Blvd. and Chestnut. We had a really good burger there…and the fries were fabulous. What was that place….

Applebee’s Arrives

17 02 2008

Long awaited…Applebee’s has arrived.  Now, you have to know a town is food-challenged when Applebee’s makes the front page of the local paper.

We waited a week to try to get through the door.  My first experience was waiting for a friend on opening day, and waiting was the order of the day.  They were relatively quick to change tables up, but as the dinner hour approached, it got dicey.  I didn’t mind…I wasn’t staying that time.  When we finally gave it a shot, a week later, things hadn’t improved a lot.  We were seated quickly enough, but were ping-ponged between servers as shift change occurred.  We placed our order and prepared to wait…we’d both ordered a beer, and the super-size arrived.  I was a little disappointed in getting the super size without a choice, but we ended up waiting so long for our food that I was plenty glad I had it!  Halfway through our wait, someone tried to serve us food we hadn’t ordered, not once, but twice.  It made us wonder if our food went to the wrong table.  I should have been so lucky.  Yes, I’m spoiled. Yes, I’m particular. Yes, the food really wasn’t good.  Hubster opted for the fish and chips…way, way too salty.  I had some kind of bistro steak sandwich.  It was supposed to be sliced; it was hacked.  Big chunks of meat didn’t fit the ciabatta the way thinly sliced meat would have, so the whole thing fell apart.  Next time I’ll try a salad and see if they can do any better.

Without regard to the forementioned, this will still be the only game in town for a relatively decent meal following chorus on Tuesday nights.  Hopefully, the bartender will be nice because we can both see cooling our parched throats with a brew and having a bite to eat afterward.  There hasn’t been much of anywhere to grab a bite after 9 p.m.

For now…Applebee’s gets 2-1/2 whisks.