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Tacos Choice, Salinas

Ok so I stopped in again just to get a quick lunch.

Sigh....I have a lot to order here. But I tried this time the grilled fish tacos. Usually I only eat one, but these we perfectly cooked. Moist flavorful fish with a wonderful habanero salsa.

I mean these tacos rocked. I watched orders of shrimp tacos pass by, and all I can say is that I wanted some. Or lobster tacos. Or the sweet potato fries (Yelp reports that this guy worked Hulas which is famous (rightly so) for its sweet potato fries).

Any way for those of you looking for a slightly more upscale eatery than a taco truck...

Tacos Choice Mexican Food
624 Williams Rd, Salinas, CA 93905

Mar 01, 2009
Food Tyrant in California

Abalonetti's on Fishermans Warf, Monterey, California

only if you want overcooked pasta. Little Napoli is hardly a step up.

Mar 01, 2009
Food Tyrant in California

Moonside Bakery, Half Moon Bay

We stopped in just to find a bite to eat and instead got a wonderful introduction to their oven and the baker, Thomas Grauke. Driving along the main street looking to a place to eat, and seeing a line out the door convinced us to stop. All I can say is that I want t o go back and try more.

We had the pesto chicken sandwich, the cajun chicken sandwich, the salmon burger, a sourdough roll, a small plain pizza, a chef's salad (doesn't count because the person who ordered it violated his word and did NOT order the pizza as promised, but it did come with a chewy flat bread, a about 8 various cookies. The breads were all outstanding. I mean outstanding. The salmon burger came on a a sesame seeded beautiful roll that was moist and chewy. The pesto sandwich looked like a potato bread, while the cajun sandwich seemed to have the same flat bread-pita as came with the salad. We muched through the sourdough roll as we waited for the sandwiches which set my alarms runningas it was just perfect. A perfect slash that exposed a perfect bloom of dough...mottled sour blisters, just enough sour to make you sit up and intense fermented billowy dough with a crispy crust. The pizza also vanished as we waited.

I liked most of the cookies but the Half Moon was delicious as was the orange almond and the pecan tea cookie.

She_Who-Must-Be-Obeyed wouldn't let me go back and get some rye bread or a selection of pastries....saying I had already consumed my calorie limit. Sigh...just means I gotta go back.

Well worth the stop and load up on bread that is worth eating.

Moonside Bakery & Cafe
604 Main St, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

Great HOT DOGS up and down the state!

I don't think they actually sell cooked hot dogs, but the wurst at Ditmers on San Antonio Rd in Palo Alto is not to be missed. I am very fond of the hot dogs, the weisswurst, et al.

they do make great sandwiches and have lebekase, and some really great ham.

Dittmer's Gourmet Meats
400 San Antonio Rd Ste 4, Mountain View, CA 94040

Feb 23, 2009
Food Tyrant in California

Opinion on a few Monterey area restaurants please?

Avoid Carmel will pay for it. As others have noted there are far better eateries in Seaside.

Go to Rose La Villa on Broadway in Seaside, not any of the plebian yet overpriced Carmel Mexican joints.

Flaherty's has been around forever, and it is ok. I have had good oysters there.

Feb 23, 2009
Food Tyrant in California

Non-Restaurant Foodie Experiences in Monterey/Carmel

I have to chime in on the rec for Carmel Valley Roasting. These guys have become the local Starbucks and they are everywhere. Unfortunately the coffee is way bad. Bitter, over extracted mud. Sorry to rain on your rec Toodie Jane, but I have never had close to a good cup of java at any of their shops.

Feb 23, 2009
Food Tyrant in California

Artisan Bread - Question on the baked result

I hate this book. It is a charlatan riding on the crest of the wave of others. No secrets here. If you really want some baking insight, then buy Hamelman, Silverberg, Rheinhart, or lots of others.

Remember that the dough is very wet and thus needs a form to hold it up. Kind of what has happened to my belly over the years, but I will try not to leave off with that image.

So if you lay it on a sheet pan it will spread out reducing the final height and push.

If you use some form of mold then the escaping gas will push the molded shape upwards and thus you will get height.

The dutch oven is great because it is designed to go into the oven in the first place, but look around you kitchen and see if there is not some other device that could serve the same function (large sauce pan, Corningware casserole, etc. Avoid glass as that could break. maybe even a cake pan?

I have been tempted to try one of my stainless steel mixing bowls, but so far, I have resisted.

Or you could add more flour, stiffen up the dough and lay out on a sheet pan. But then you will have to learn shaping techniques.

Feb 09, 2009
Food Tyrant in Home Cooking

Lunch at El Pollo Dorado, Salinas

Way to go Melanie.

One of my favs.

Feb 06, 2009
Food Tyrant in California

Tacos El Grullense truck in Salinas

The trucks off Commercial Avenue (near Oakland Road and 880 intersection with 101) is also yummy.

In Salinas I usually go to El Pollo Dorado, as I love the chicken. And most other things.

Then the booth at the Farmer's Market on Saturday has delicious handmade tortillas (and sometimes tamales) that I can never pass up.

Frankly there are far too many very good taco joints in Salinas. At least you can eat very well for little money.

Jan 23, 2009
Food Tyrant in California

Dinner in the Monterey Area; Stokes, Taste Cafe or Mission Ranch?

One of my favorites has always been Stokes. The Executive Chef left recently, but the Sous stepped in to replace him. And I have eaten his food. Wonderful.

The ambience is second to none. The flavors are big and bold. The portions satisfying if not large. I rarely get past the small plates as I order several apps or so. The last time we were in was in late December and we had a lovely time. Unfortunately for the owners the recession has taken its toll. Good for us as we get the restaurants to ourselves.

I do think the wine prices are high (as are most US restaurants as the owners have the mistaken belief that they have to make their profits in the wine...but that's another gripe), but a very good selection.

Mission Ranch is fun, but not very chowish.

Jan 23, 2009
Food Tyrant in California

Portuguese Farm Bread

Look the FP only allows you to mix everything together quickly.

You can plunk the ingredients into a stand mixer or even mix it by hand.

In fact mixing by hand insures that you will never over-mix...something that you can easliy do in the FP.

If doing it by hand, then give yourself about 10 minutes of time to knead, although your dough may come together more quickly....but no risk to go longer.

Jan 16, 2009
Food Tyrant in Home Cooking

Favorite Ravioli Fillings

Ravioli fillings are a particulary good way to use up leftovers. Many restaurant chefs go to making ravs to clean out yesterday's specials.

Use a mixture of ricotta and stuff to fill the dough. Crab, ricotta (you can use cheese here as the ricotta is very mild), a little egg, some cooked chard or spinach, and....

Lamb shanks. creamed corn....pureed peas....rutabagas...etc.

Jan 16, 2009
Food Tyrant in Home Cooking

Starting your own starter [split from LA]

I started mine from local organic grapes. Wash them off.

Put them in a bowl of water and let them soak for 20 minutes.

Mix 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of the water in a small bowl. Cover and see if it ferments. Mine did.

Jan 16, 2009
Food Tyrant in Home Cooking

Non-touristy restaurants in Monterey?

Stokes Restaurant in the one of the oldest adobes in town (and hard to find).

Stokes Restaurant & Bar
500 Hartnell St., Monterey, CA 93940

Jan 16, 2009
Food Tyrant in California

Free knife sharpening - don't do it!

I can attest to the quality of the chisels as I bought my son a set a few years ago from Hida. Of course I need to delay retiring as a consequence, but good steel is a joy.

Two Nights in Carmel: Bouchée & Cantinetta Luca?

I just had a sterling meal at Stokes in Monterey. I know that they have had a checkered reputation, but all I can say is that Brandon and Kirk still are quite a team.

I had many of their small plates and found all of them excellent. I have no idea how I passed on the duck confit as it is one of my favorites, but I did. One of these days I will ignore the apps and just order the pork shoulder or the hanger steak or .... as I have done before.

The place rocks.

Dec 24, 2008
Food Tyrant in California

Catered Lunch by A Moveable Feast (Carmel Valley)

Michael Jones is an icon in the area. He brings passion and a lot of energy and intelligence to all his gigs. The man will not tolerate shortcuts and food shams. I love the fact that he takes young people and prepares them for a job in the trade.

He used to do a Monday night dinner at his place in Carmel Valley, but it is very long drive (about an hour). But be prepared for an outrageous experience for next to nothing in cost.

Bravo to the man and may his whites stay clean for the next gig.

Dec 24, 2008
Food Tyrant in California

Apple Bacon tartlets, any thoughts?

How about slow braising the bacon so that it is soft and melts in yourmouth rather than frying it. Takes an additional day but what the heck.

And I would blind bake the tart shells.

Dec 09, 2008
Food Tyrant in Home Cooking

Ok, Ok, be kind. Just moved to Pacific Grove, what's the nearest and "best" deli's within a 100 mile radius?

true...but the comment still pertains...there ain't no deli near PG.

Nov 15, 2008
Food Tyrant in California

Ok, Ok, be kind. Just moved to Pacific Grove, what's the nearest and "best" deli's within a 100 mile radius?

I am with Wolfe.

There is no place near that can be considered a deli like those on the East Coast.

Some good sandwich shops, but I cry when I see what passes for mortadella, ham, salami, or liverwurst in the so called delis.

That said, go get a calamari sandwich at Lasala's Bi-rite near the Navy school.

Nov 14, 2008
Food Tyrant in California

Palate, Glendale...needs some flavor

Tried this interesting place the other night. It was packed and I was lucky to get a space at the bar. At least I thought so. The space is dedicated to small plates. I was in the back where it has more of ambiance of a factory with islands and bar stools. Not an elegant place, but not bad either if you are only going out for a glass of wine and a small snack.

The wine selections were all over the wine world map. I started with some interesting whites, like a dynamite Gruner Veltliner. The Vacqueyras Blanc was also tasty if a touch bitter. The Mikulski Bourgogne Blanc was delicious. The reds I tried were equally tasty.

But the food....given the buzz, the crowd, the chef, the food is just plain.

The pork belly needed salt badly and hardly had any flavor at all. The trotters were quite good (stuffed with ham hocks) and served with a few slices of apple and 1/2 of a brussel sprout (get used to it). The porkfolio was also tasty but it was after all a selection of salumi (2 slices each no matter how small the salami...for instance 2 nickel sized slices of pepperoni). I did not understand the duck rillettes served in a too large glass bowl with some very brittle slices of crostini. It was hard digging the rillettes out of the bowl and not with the crostini as they just broke had to use a fork. But there were these wings of crostini flying out of the vase of duck. And again they needed some salt and flavor.

Under-seasoning is such a negative for a chef of Becerra's caliber. While none of the plates that I tasted that night were bad, none were very good either.

The cheese course was a bit expensive ($12 for 3 cheeses) and the portions were quite small. For example the espoisses was served on a spoon the size of one of my babies' spoons....very very small. Embarrassingly small. I kept staring at it and wondered how the server could deliver it.

The service was good until it got busy and then you are on your own.

In the end it was too expensive, but I did like the wine.

Would I go back?


Nov 14, 2008
Food Tyrant in Los Angeles Area

Taste Pavilions

For some reason the photos did not attach.

Here they are again.

Taste Pavilions

I concur.

The lines were very long and I suspect that the orgnaization will try to solve for next year.

I foolishly did not stand in lines early on thinking that they would be smaller later in the day. Hah!. I almost did not get to taste the very very good margerhita pizza because they actually ran out just behind me.

Same for the very good beer pavilion. They started to hold back or stop pouring certain casks so that they would have enough for the other times.

The bread guy said that they actually prepared 50% more than they were told. far too many people showed up.

There were the following sections as best as I can remember:

Bread (right outside the main gate): european style, pizza and naan. 4 ovens I think.

Other side of the bread baking was a bread exhibition and Giusti's milling show. I still do not understand why the Sullivan Street guys would place into show bread that was very very dark (read burned). Several others also had the same problem. See photo.

Beer pavilion

Native foods tent( nothing really all that interesting to my surprise. The rice cakes were not too flavorful nor did I think the bison stew distiguishable from beef...but I think my palette grows old so I am willing to defer to others).

Inside there were:

Olive Oil
Coffee (Clover brewed coffee tastings and espresso)
Ice Cream (6 ice creams and 3 sorbets)
Pickles and Saurkraut
Honey and Preserves
Cheese (absolutely ridiculous lines...didn't even try.)

skimc is right about the Slow Dough. I gave my card with unused tokens to one of the beer pourers to see if he could give it to someone who needed it. I saw lots of this going on.

So the $65 was a good value. Very good tastes and enough food.


Both the coffee and tea were extraordinary. I have never experienced the pronounced flavors of berries as I did today with the coffees. Both the espresso and Clover brews were outstanding.

The Rishi oolong tea was another extraordinary tasting. We had 5 cuppings of a Fujian Ben Shan (sic) exotic that Rishi does not even sell as they do not get much. Very delicisious , fragrant mineraly, red tannic brew. Great presentation (6 people sit around a small table where there is a drain sink underneath the slotted top to remove the excess tea).

While I was thinking why drink coffee or tea, this is well worth the effort. Both venues were a big hit for me.

The Charcuterie....well what can you say about preserved pig. Other than get outa the way. Yum. Bovolo tricolore salami, Fra Mani Mortadella and soppressata, rabbit and trotter terrine... All very tasty although I was surprised at the level of smoke in the mortadella...not somehting I expected and will take some getting used to. And there was also some great rillettes with some muscadine preserves....saved your ass while waiting in line.

I did not try the wine or chocolate lines. I get to find really good wine pretty much at will and the chocolate line was just too daunting.

I did enjoy the conversation with one of the Giusti's on milling grain. A very good hands on demo.

So it was a pretty good success. I did not even try to park in Fort Mason, but found a spot on the street a few blocks away. Did I say that the weather was perfect?

Easy to walk (and burn off the hazelnut ice cream).

Magical Peruvian Green Sauce "Huacatay" Recipe

While finding the perfect ingredients is hard here in California, I make the following:

feta cheese, 1 cup
bunch cilantro
green onion tops
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
2-3 serrano chiles, de-stemmed
water, only as much as needed to keep the blender running.


More chiles, more heat. Try other kinds for different flavors.

I use about a cup of feta, but usually eyeball it.

Aug 17, 2008
Food Tyrant in Home Cooking

How to make enchilada sauce?

4 dried pasilla chiles
2 New Mexico chiles

3 cloves garlic
1/2 half onion, peeled
1/4 tsp oregano


1. break off stems and shake out seeds of all the dried chiles. In a hot dry skillet, press each chile onto the hot surface for about 15 seconds (both sides). Put toasted chile into a blender. Cover with hot tap water and let soak for at least 30 minutes.
2. Over low heat in the same skillet put the unpeeled garlic and toast until dark on all sides. Roast the onion at the same time in the same pan - just to get a sear....don't burn the onion.
3. Strain the chiles (and save the water). Taste the water it if is bitter don't use. Otherwise we can use the water (or alternatively you can use some chicken broth...depends if you want to avoid meat flavors). Peel the garlic and place in blender with the onion and oregano. Put half the water or broth into blender with the chiles. Blend slowly at first...if the chiles need more liquid stop the blender and add). Puree thoroughly. Strain through a medium mesh sieve.
4. Heat that skillet again and put olive oil in it. Add all the strained chile sauce. Bring to a boil and lower heat and cook for 10 minutes or so. Salt as needed.

Basic sauce that you can use to add other flavors as needed.

Aug 03, 2008
Food Tyrant in Home Cooking

Carmel: Off the beaten path eats?

Casual....short of going to a place like L'Auberge, most of the eateries in Carmel are casual.

But try Tommy's Wok for casual chinese. Or China Gourmet. Don't expect great chinese food.

Christopher's has done some good things.

Sushi Heaven is one of my favorite Japanese.

I have had great pasta at Paolina's but avoid other Italian joints as they cannot seem to get over the fact that pasta should be cooked to order and not earlier in the day.

Both the Village Pub and RG Burgers do a good burger.

And Allegro Pizza does a reasonable job of making pizza.

Avoid the mexican places as you can do way better for far less in Seaside (like Rosa's La Villa).

Finally Flying Fish Grill always has an interesting fusion inspired way of cooking.

May 14, 2008
Food Tyrant in California

Breakfast in Salinas? I went to "Sang's" and it was good! ^L^

One of the great diner like experiences that has intriguing menu items. As you say a mix of asian and western cultures.

May 14, 2008
Food Tyrant in California

Passionfish, mini-review

She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed and I dined with friends at Passionfish the other night and I ordered badly. One of the rules to live by (Ok so I hardly obey many rules but this one I do) is to order the Monterey Bay Shrimp when they are on the menu. I suppose that tonight's experience might be called the exception that proves the rule, but the mess of mango, greens and shrimp that appeared in front of me should be considered just a mess. Way overdressed the shrimp was swimming in mango juice and vinaigrette. Good stuff normally but the quantity defied my taste buds. Thumbs way down.

Of course why stop there? The bass I ordered came out more like sashimi, which would be ok but not what I had set my mouth around. When it came back it was barbecued. And the skin was really black and burned so that what it was in contact with was toast as well. Which meant that the whole dish was essentially inedible.

The selection of desserts was just that. Uninspiring and hardly worth the extra wait. I did pair the dessert with the recommended tea (each dessert has a tea/coffee/liqueur suggestion), and it seems that the choices hardly seem to enhance the selections.

This was the worst experience I have had at there, and it just makes it not one of my favorite places to go. While I have never had as bad a meal as this one's, none of the other meals we have had have been so over the top to make me forget.

In the interests of fair play, SWMBO was very happy with her choices and would be more than happy to return.

So we will, but PF does not make it to my list of places I really want to go to.

Too bad really, because they try so hard. But it is always about consistent execution.

May 10, 2008
Food Tyrant in California

I never eat _______ out because nobody makes it right but me.

Pasta with any sauce (gravy).

I note that many people have an aversion to ordering pasta with red sauce because homemade is way better.

My gripe is not the sauce (maybe because I rarely get a chance to taste how mediocre they may be), but the limp noodles.

I have gone nose to nose with chefs over their insistence of cooking the pasta earlier in the shift, and then when an order comes in, re-heating the noodles and then saucing. I have sent back so many plates of pasta that She Who Must Be obeyed won't let me order it any more. I do check with the server if the pasta is cook to order and that it is al dente and the lying SOB's (or just plain clueless, you pick the least offensive) always gets it wrong.

I can order a steak the way I like it and send it back, but try that with a plate of spaghetti. So what is it with chefs who don't understand that I can wait 9 minutes for them to cook my noodles?

Even owners who are Italians throw up their hands and proclaim that because Americans don't taste the difference why should they educate us. I still can't get a plate of al dente pasta, so I don't order it anymore outside. I wish I could say that lack shows up in my waistline, but that's not the way life works.

Apr 24, 2008
Food Tyrant in Home Cooking

Lamill, SIlverlake

I'll try it the next time I am there.

Apr 24, 2008
Food Tyrant in Los Angeles Area