Monday, August 17, 2009

El Mirador - Blackfoot, Idaho

El Mirador - 620 West Bridge, Blackfoot, Id July 09

They state they are a family Mexican Restaurant and indeed that is what we encountered, complete with a sign that states, if you kids are running around and get hurt, it’s your fault not ours. They offer up a variety of the usual Mexican dishes with complete dinners, or a la carte and include steaks, chicken and seafood. Mostly prawns or shrimp and a smidge of crab or talipa etc., but 28 combinations in all from Pescado Frito (a moist flaky trout or talipa) to Camarones Mexicano (slightly hot prawns sautéed with vegetables in a sauce).

A lunch menu is offered for prices ranging in the $6-7 range with appetizers, desserts and drinks both alcoholic and regular beverages and dinners run from $6-15.00. They did offer an individual serving of Fajitas which I found very interesting, all the ingredients wrapped in the tortilla with rice and beans inside. They also offer a veggie fajita burrito and also a fajita salad. A children’s menu which offers 5 Mexican choices and chicken strips all served with rice and beans with a free drink for $4.25.

Okay the prices and options are good so what about the food; one must base an American Mexican food restaurant solely on that word combination, American Mexican. I cannot judge the taste of this food against food cooked in Mexico by Mexicans, this is food cooked by perhaps Mexicans in American for Americans. This is where the taste lies, it was okay, not great not really bad, it was good but lacked that punch you look for with that first mouth full. I ordered the Enchiladas Colorado which should have nice chunks of beef cooked in a tangy chili sauce, with melted cheese. I got two rather deflated enchiladas with beef and sauce but again lacking that aroma or punch. Another order was from the a la carte menu, an asada Mexican Burrito; this came much as described a large tortilla filled with allot of rice and whole beans with chunks of beef steak and nothing else, it was dry. The taste was good, but being so dry and not being served with anything but some shredded lettuce, pickled jalapenos and a few cuts of tomato, it for lack of another description was dry

Over all for a family Mexican food establishment it rated about a 6, they are good and again not bad but of course they are far from fantastic, great or mouth watering delicious. If you are looking for the usual chips and salsa with a gentle pleasing taste this is your place but if you are looking for that explosion of taste, that eye popping , heat rendering, spicy burn your tongue off or send your taste buds into overtime, look else where.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Bob's Big Boy, Toluca Lake, California

Bob's Big Boy - Toluca Lake, CA

As a small child it was a treat whenever we went out to dinner and when it was at Bob’s it was even more special. We grew up on the Bob’s Combination Plate, a wedge of ice berg lettuce with a generous dollop of Thousand Island dressing, a helping of golden brown French fries and the star, the Big Boy it’s self. It had a three-slice bun, a bottom, middle and a top, and two nice size patties with cheese and their Bob’s special sauce. A red tangy relish with a hint of vinegar made your taste buds explode on that first bite, of course they also placed lettuce on the burger, but it was the layering that made the Big Boy a joy to eat. With each bite you got the taste of the bun, burger, cheese, lettuce and the sauce in each and every mouth full. And putting your mouth around it was no simple task; it was about a 5" bun with meat to equal the size of the bun. Recently, when my son and I planned our trip back to Southern California, I remembered how it was and I said, "I’ll take you for a real treat, to Bob’s Big Boy."

This Bob’s is the last one around. Located on Riverside Drive in Burbank, or some say Toluca Lake, has memorabilia handing on the inside walls. It make an oldster remember their teenage years and the youngsters giggle at the hair styles we used to sport. The booths still look the same and it even seem to have that smell of years past. That’s where the similarities ended. I had been tooting my horn to my son for so long aboout he way it was that he was eager to savor this icon of the burger world. Sitting to my right was an elderly couple who had just been served what I thought would have been the senior burger and small sampling of French fries. Alas, not so.

I ordered the combination plate as did my son. We soon got a dinner salad in a bowl; mixed greens with a couple of slices of cucumber and some rather hard croutons. Okay so being served a wedge of ice berg might be too costly, so I’ll give them that one. But when to my utter astonishment the waitress presented us with the exact same plates the older couple had recieved, STOP! WAIT. This could not be so. I got a 4-inch bun with scanty patties with a small piece of cheese and a scattering of lettuce and sauce, when she said, " Enjoy," I could have swallowed my tongue. Enjoy what, here sat a sad and rather ugly looking burger on a small plate with some flaccid, pale and definitely not golden brown French fries. And my pickle, it had a whole in the middle.
My first bite was a complete disappointment and it continued throughout the meal. My son was a little more polished than myself in that he did not make the facial gestures or groans his mother did. Before we ate I snapped the burger to make sure all could see the sad portrayal of a once iconic burger. Some days later, I told my brother about the dismal state of the Big Boy. He recreated the burger we once had grown to love and to this picture I say to anyone who had once loved the Big Boy all is not lost, it still lives in your heart and soul. All you need to do is recreate it and enjoy it now and remember it from your youth, but if you are walking down memory lane and happen to be in Burbank and have the hankering for a Big Boy, walk on, Patti’s down the street is still open.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Carnival (Lebanese American Cuisine)

Carnival - Lebanese American Cuisine - 4356 Woodman Avenue - Sherman Oaks, Calif. 91423

Now they say location is everything if this is how you rate an eatery then drive on by, for Carnival is located within a small strip mall without much fanfare. It is plain on the outside and has a rather primitive inside décor made to resemble that of a Middle Eastern region cafe. Table cloths and a rather nice wait staff make up for the lack of atmosphere. They offer both cold and hot appetizers ranging from the traditional Humos, Mousakaa to Falafel and stuffed grape leaves.

Soup and salads range from Greek or Arabic types which include lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, radishes and olive oil and lemon dressings. You can sample a regular seasonal salad (a typical dinner salad) or try a fatoush salad with sumac and toasted pita bread and olive oil. Their special soup is lentil which was quite good when sampled. They have about 8 sandwiches to pick from including a carnival burger (beef and lamb) topped with cole slaw or a Lamb Kabab sandwich or try a Chicken kabob made from marinated chicken breast and served in a pita pocket. Broiled dishes include lamb chops, Kafta kabobs, quail or a New York steak for those who are not yet ready to try a new cuisine.

They include traditional dishes like; humos meat served with small pieces of lamb and pine nuts, Kibbeh rolls stuffed with meat and nuts or Makanek, a Lebanese sausage sautéed with lemon juice. Daily specials are offered Monday –Friday and are $9.95. They offer a children’s menu which offers a skewer of either chicken, Kafta lamb and served with French fries and a salad all served on the same plate. You can have fish if you like Shrimp or white pomfret or a salmon filet and finish with a traditional Baklava or Knafeh dessert (sweet cheese with shredded filo dough and rosewater). Of course for the chocolate lovers they also offer a Mocha cake or a chocolate mousse.

An assortment of sodas, American or Arabic coffee, hot and cold tea and wine by the glass or carafe and beer round out the menu. On parties of six of more an automatic gratuity of 18% is added to your bill. They offer take out and also cater. You can visit them on to see the entire menu.

They offer you a complementary plate of hommus along with olives and picked turnips with pita bread to stave off your hunger, which for me only made me more anxious to sample their fare.

The CAFÉ at the Getty Villa

Cafe veranda and view of the Getty Villa

The CAFÉ at the Getty Villa - Pacific Coast Highway - Santa Monica, Calif

Located inside the Getty Villa it overlooks the outside theatre and you also can see the Pacific Ocean from the outside dining veranda. Quick food that is wholesome and prepared very well for a fast food type establishment. You can have you choice of California takes on some Italian food treats, like Tuscan soup, lasagna Della casa, frittata Della casa or Orecchette pasta with braised artichokes. You also can dine on an Eggplant Panini or a grilled portabella salad. Now I know this does not seem like the type of food offered in a service cafe, well they are and prepared very well indeed.

There are salads, or a Greek chicken sandwich, Roman burger, Tuscan turkey burger, a children’s menu offering 4 choices plus French fries a la carte. They offer wine and beer plus an assortment of fountain sodas, bottled water or regular water with ice. Slushies and passion fruit iced tea and even espresso are available for the thirsty traveler. Since we had been walking the museum grounds I felt like a refreshing salad so I picked the chopped Villa salad, made from chopped Romaine and Radicchio, Artichokes, Chickpeas, Feta Cheese, Pistachios, and a creamy lemon yogurt dressing. This plus a side of homemade peasant bread made a nice and figure friendly luncheon, enough Salad served at the Getty Villafor me and my son to split and feel satisfied.

You order inside and get your drink selections if you opted for water or a fountain drink, they give you a number which you place on your table and it’s delivered to you in plastic containers, but you get actual silver ware and a cloth napkin for you meal. If you still feel the need they also offer four offerings for dessert, Artisan Cheese and dried market fruit for two, seasonal fruit dumplings, tiramisu and lemon panna cotta. Prices range from $7.95 to 12.95 and wine is $7.25-$8.00 a glass but they also offer a bottle for around $30.00. You can also have beer and they offer a non alcoholic one.

Villa courtyard at the Getty VillaAfter touring the museum which is a recreation of a Roman Villa, and seeing the fantastic artifacts contained therein, you are indeed in the mood for some good food with an even more fantastic view and at a modest price. Since you only pay $15.00 for parking and the entrance is free this is indeed a great deal for your wallet. Reservations are needed for the self tour so call in advance, you can spend a few hours or an entire day strolling inside or outside in one of many gardens with pools and fountains and shaded grape arbor’s to shelter you from the coastal sun
But for the die hard “Italian” craving they also offer three choices of pizza to please your taste buds and included is a low carb version without cheese, so they do offer something for everone.