Food Talk Friday: Oysters Rockefeller

Stud Muffin is very adventurous in his culinary journeys. He has few lines he won’t cross and is willing to give most anything a taste. He enjoys lingua tacos (tongue) and tripas (pork intestines).

I am not so adventurous. I like my tacos with chicken or carne asada. And intestines will never be on my plate. Just sayin’.

Oysters RockefellerWe’d tried oysters a couple of times and were both underwhelmed. They seemed slimy and not much taste for a lot of work.

So we were both a bit unsure when Stud Muffin was assigned Oysters Rockefeller for his appetizer offering for his recent Men’s Cooking Club dinner. But he trusted his brother’s recipe and dove in.

The ingredients were good:

  • Butter
  • Spinach
  • Cream cheese
  • Crumbs

So I took a tentative bite.

And was completely surprised. The oyster wasn’t slimy. It was tender and delicious. The topping of cheese and spinach and butter complemented the oyster but didn’t overpower it. The oyster still added its own flavor. The crumbs gave it a nice crunch, but not so much that it overpowered the oyster, which is supposed to be the star of the dish.

I learned a lesson: I can take some culinary tasting risks and just may find a new dish to enjoy.

Do you have a dish that you thought you didn’t like? Until you tried it again?

Food Talk Friday: Mexican Food in Sanger, California

sangerI’ve traveled to the small valley town of Sanger several times in the last month or so. Once was for a wedding. Twice was for work. All three times, I had Mexican food. Since Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines, I was a happy girl every time I was in Sanger.

First up was Cristal’s, part restaurant, part bakery. You can get delicious cheese enchilada’s to eat there and some Mexican pastries to go. The enchiladas were full of gooey cheese and the rice and beans were delicious. The beans were firm, not mushy, always a good thing. Look up “casual ambiance,” and you’ll find a picture of the Cristal dining area. Formica tables with attached chairs in a room lined with shelves full of pan dulce. Lunch was delicious and I had a place to recommend in Sanger.

Two weeks later we attended a wedding just outside of Sanger that was catered by a Mexican restaurant/taco truck. Ocampos provided the food. The owner is Felipe and he was warm and attentive to everyone in the line. The carne asada was roasted, then carved, then seared on the grill. The tacos were soft and the toppings plentiful. Cabbage, lime, peppers, pico de gallo, guacamole. All available and fresh and delicious. The wait staff was personable and seemed to be having as much fun as the wedding guests.

Earlier this week I traveled to Sanger again and this time my guide took me to Velasco’s. Slightly (very slightly) less casual than Cristal’s (they boast booths as well as tables with moveable chairs,) Velasco’s served excellent food. The first time I try a new Mexican place, I usually order an enchilada and a taco. The taco was a bit greasy, but it had a good crunch without shattering at the first bite. The enchilada sauce was excellent, no metallic after-taste like I sometimes get. The service was attentive and I thought the prices were good. Lunch for three (two drinks) was under $25. Under $30, with the tip.

I’ve talked in the past about my very favorite Mexican place, Javier’s. None of these three will edge Javier’s out just yet. But I’m willing to go back and let them try.

Do you have a favorite cuisine? Where do you go when you need a fix?

Food Talk Friday: Tommy Bahama

Yes, you read that right. This is Food Talk Friday and I’m talking about Tommy Bahama.

Until 2009, I didn’t know that some Tommy Bahama stores also have a restaurant attached. Two girlfriends and I stumbled on the Tommy Bahama restaurant in Wailea one afternoon while killing time waiting for our men to finish golf so we could go to dinner.

Tommy Bahama restaurant, Wailea, Maui
Tommy Bahama restaurant, Wailea, Maui

We were done spa-ing and shopping, and they had a vacant booth so we slipped in, shared a few appetizers, had a mai tai and then were in a good frame of mind for our delayed dinner.

Then, in 2012, we received a gift certificate to Tommy Bahama from one of the other couples, with the caveat that we use it in the Wailea restaurant. We visited the island in 2013, but couldn’t make it over there. We tried a couple of times, but circumstances (timing, no reservation, long wait for a table) prevented us.

We tried again last month, and finally — success!

I had learned my lesson, so this time we had a reservation. We were led immediately to a table on the lanai, by the musician. At first I was skeptical about being so close to him, but the volume was fine and the music was excellent. I’m sorry, I didn’t get his name.

We shared the grilled artichoke appetizer and it was amazing! It was char-grilled but what caught our eye (and taste buds) was that it had a Herbes de Provence marinade. And since Stud Muffin recently did a culinary exchange (“I’ll give you two Herbes de Provence for two Five Spice. And I’ll see you–never mind.”) It also came with a lemon-tarragon aioli. The whole thing was scrumptious.

For dinner, Stud Muffin had the Jerk Pork Tenderloin. There was no skimping on this portion. Five or six slices of pork tenderloin on a sweet potato mofongo with a pineapple rum sauce and mango salsa. The pork was tender and not over-cooked. Stud Muffin had an Argyle Pinot Noir with it and it paired so perfectly, he ordered a second glass (something he never does when we’re out — and no worries, we walked to dinner from our condo).

I had the crab stuffed shrimp. The stuffing was sweet with crab, but not cloying. I ordered it because a) I love seafood and especially shrimp and b) it reminded me of a special date when Stud Muffin and I were newly engaged. We went to a seafood restaurant and I had stuffed shrimp that were amazing and I wanted to see if these would hold up to the comparison. They … held their own. The first stuffed shrimp was thirty-eight years ago, so I’m sure nothing would hold up to my memory, but if any stuffed shrimp could come close, it was Tommy Bahama’s.

We enjoyed our dinner so much that Stud Muffin asked if the chef could come out so we could talk to him. A few minutes later, a harried and stained young man made his way to our table. I’m sure he didn’t want to take time to talk to a couple of tourists, but when he saw that we “got” the food, he slowed down and chatted for a minute. He was gratified to hear the Argyle went so well with the pork tenderloin.

Like last week’s post about Monkeypod Kitchen, this dinner wasn’t cheap.

Unlike last week’s post about Monkeypod Kitchen, dinner at Tommy Bahama was worth every penny.

If we’re fortunate enough to visit Maui again, we will be returning to Tommy Bahama.

Word to the wise though: RESERVATIONS!

Food Talk Friday: Monkeypod Kitchen

Another Maui restaurant. I had great hopes for this one. The menu was fun and different. It looked like the perfect lunch place for a couple of California foodies.

The lanai at Monkeypod Kitchen
The lanai at Monkeypod Kitchen, Wailea

The food was good. Just not … exceptional.

The prices were high.

The service was acceptable.

The ambience was a bit self-consciously hip, but nice.

I had fish taco which were actually very good. I ate two, and took the third home to a daughter who hadn’t had a fish taco on the island yet and I knew she wanted one. They weren’t overly generous, because I was still hungry after the first two and Daughter is lucky the third make it back to her. I had their Mai Tai which was excellent. They boast about their handcrafted cocktails and with good reason. It was full of light juice flavors and rum and was topped with a lilikoi foam.

Stud Muffin had the saimin noodles with kalua pork and veggies. It was good and plentiful. The pork didn’t have anything distinctively “kalua” about it. It was just shredded pork, to my palate. Stud Muffin enjoyed it. He had the Maui Brewing Company Coconut Porter and even I, of the limited palate, could taste the coconut.

I’m glad we went, but I doubt that we’ll seek it out again, if we’re lucky enough to return to Maui. The food wasn’t fabulous enough to justify the prices. And if you think I’m overly picky, come back next week for Food Talk Friday on April 10th for a place that was pricey and worth every penny.

How’s that for a cliffhanger?

Food Talk Friday: Zippy’s on Maui

I thought we were going to Da Kitchen as soon as we landed in Maui, but instead we ended up at Zippy’s.

Zippys in Kahului
Zippys in Kahului

We found Zippy’s on our last trip. It’s kind of like a Denny’s on the mainland. Part diner. But there’s also a counter service to get food to go. And a bakery (malasadas, anyone?).

It’s near the airport. It has a large menu. American dishes. Asian food. Hawaiian favorites. You name it, you can probably get it at Zippys.

I had fried chicken which Stud Muffin denigrated, saying I could get that at home at any KFC. But the chicken was nicely seasoned and just the right amount of crispiness. A couple of our party got Loco Mocos, the rice, hamburger, egg, and gravy dish. A new arrival to the island ordered the turkey club sandwich and swooned as she ate it.

The food isn’t fancy. It isn’t gourmet. It’s plain, unadorned, filling, generous, and tasty.

In other words, just as we like it.