Saturday, April 19, 2014

Me Gusta: Mexican Food Store Specialties @ Downey Farmer's Market (Downey)

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Uchepo (corn tamal) and tamal de queso con Anaheim chile.



From a little stand at the Farmer's Market in Downey.  These guys pop up city-wide if and when they host a farmer's market.  So, look out for them.  It's a pretty good option if you want some enormous yet tasty tamales.



These muthas go for $3 a pop but are big enough to satiate most people's appetites.


    
From the ones we got to try, I preferred the flavor of the sweet corn tamal.  I found the masa a little dense and slightly dry though.  
The raja-con-queso tamal variant had a much lighter dough.  What I missed though was the heat from the rajas.  The Anaheims they used were too mild in heat and flavor for me.  The salsas didn't help much either, unfortunately.  Both, the green and red salsas were way to watery.  All in all though, worth having again.  Pork in green sauce and beef with red sauce next time!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Lark (Santa Barbara)

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The Lark, by day.



The Lark, by night.  Either way, the menu looks good enough to enjoy whenever you happen to stop by.  It's owned by the same group behind Lucky Penny directly next door.  Having grabbed lunch there earlier, and enjoying it, we decided to give this place a try as well.  It made perfect sense for us since they have craft cocktails and a menu from which you can order at the bar.  It's exactly what Lilly and I wanted that evening especially after just having a round of drinks and small plates at Blue Tavern.



 
Shortly after seating ourselves at the bar, we were brought a basket of fresh buttery herbed popcorn.  If they sold this stuff in theaters, maybe then it would justify the sky-high prices they charge...maybe.



 Cocktails!



 Jack Rabbit.



 June Gloom.



House Made Pimento Cheese - smoked gouda, provolone, shiner bock, pickled serrano & bell pepper, grilled baguette.  I need to make this at home.  The spread, slaw and toast were really good on their own but the sum of its parts were even better.



Deviled Eggs - crispy pancetta, jalapeno, smoked paprika, chives.  The eggy-weggs were good and possibly even better with a splash of hot sauce.  That's just how I roll.



The bartender was nice enough to let me to try Deschute's Freshly Squeezed IPA.  It was one of the better  IPAs I've drank  but I had to resist.  I'll drink you again later, I promise you that.  It's worth seeking out, if you like that sort of thing.



I considered buying the staff a round, but when I saw the beer they'd receive, I held back.  No bueno.  



Matrimonium (Monkish Brewing Co.)

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One of my favorite breweries produced one of my favorite styles of beer recently. 



The result was a letdown for me.  It was good, don't get me wrong.  This particular coffee beer, however, was brewed with added lavender.



The lavender was too potent for me.  I would have preferred a stronger coffee presence.  Additionally, the Belgian style isn't one I prefer for such a robust beer.  Oh well.  







Monday, April 14, 2014

Blue Tavern (Santa Barbara)

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Ricardo Zarate's Blue Tavern.



We arrived at the James Beard Award Winner's latest restaurant in Santa Barbara for a few bites, to accompany our cocktails before trekking on to the next place.   



Since we were not gonna have a full meal, we sat at the bar.  Though, if you wanted to walk-in without a reservation there were plenty of tables available for that - inside and out.  It was a Sunday night, however.  So take that for whatever it's worth.  From the bar, you have a good view of the open kitchen and their wood-burning oven.



Lilly and I were beer'd out from the 3 breweries we visited earlier that day so we passed on beer in favor of cocktails.  Besides, we had either drank these beers earlier or on another occasion.  From the list, I like Union Jack, California Ale and Raven Stout though.


 
I ordered a Maracuya Caipirinha.  Otherwise known as "passion fruit," the maracuya, lent a good sweetness for the otherwise tart classic from Brazil.   



The cocktails are mostly classics or riffs on classics that pair well with the food coming out of the kitchen.


  
Lilly, ordered an East Side but we both found it a little astringent.  The gin wasn't tempered enough by the sweetner.



Aside from the cocktail, the rest of our experience was pleasant.  



The highlight for us, was this plate of Sea Bass Ceviche.  We loved it so much, that I plan on recreating this dish and Lilly plans on eating it. ;)   



Despite how good the pizzas look coming out of the oven, we had eaten pizza earlier so we opted to try their chicharron.



Crispy Chicken Chicharron, that is.  It was good and worth getting again, But it's the ceviche you got to get and try to making at home for sure!




LIps of Faith - Pluot (New Belgium Brewing Co)

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A Belgium Tripel flavored with a plum apricot hybrid. 



The results were okay but I expected more tartness.  This beer was actually sweet for my taste.  The plum definitely comes through in aroma and flavor but the apricot aspect of it was lacking.  Maybe that's just how the actual fruit tastes.  Anyway, the sweetness of it was more than I had hoped for and its low carbonation only compounded things for me.  Worth a try if you are sharing.  Otherwise, I'd pass on this.
 


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Institution Ale Company (Camarillo)

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Another brewery?



Yes, yet another one.



It wasn't on my to-do/go list on our way to Santa Barbara a couple of weekends ago.  When Lilly asked if I had anything interesting bookmarked along the way however, I came across a few options.  Most businesses were gonna be closed or were slightly off our direct path to Santa Barbara.  All, but one.



Allow me to introduce you to an instant favorite brewery of mine - Institution Ale Company.



These guys are not even a year old but the couple of beers we tried were spot-on.


 
Looking back, I wish I could have drank more.  But the day was young and we had 2 more breweries and a couple of bars to attack later that night, so we took it easy.


 
First up, was my breakfast of champions beer - an imperial pint of "Frantic," a coffee stout.  What a way to start the day, is all I'll say. Wow. So creamy velvety smooth with assertive coffee aroma and flavor.  One day, perhaps I'll get to try Frantic with vanilla bean.  Maybe even scoop a little ice cream into it to make a float of it why not!  Yummy! ;)



 Last but not least, Vice on Cherries, a Berliner Weise or sour wheat beer with added cherries.   Damn, another winner!  2 for 2.  And not just 2 for 2 as in 2 lousy singles with nobody on. I'm talking about 2 round-trippers with the bags full - in walk-off fashion
Sooo good.  Two styles of beer I especially adore done proper.


 
 Although these guys are over an hour away from home, I'm sure I'll return one day.  It will forever be a little pit-stop of mine on my way up the coast for any driving excursion in that general direction. 



    For such a small brewery in the middle of the boonies, they are producing high
quality beer.  Highly recommended!