Tuesday, October 27, 2009

La Pita Cafe

La Pita Cafe
388 East Main St.
El Cajon, CA

I was driving around looking for a place to eat in El Cajon the other day. I was actually looking for a BBQ eatery but saw this place first. It's classified as 'Middle Eastern' on yelp. I can always eat a gyro and my eating companion decided on the lamb dinner. We got our order to go.

Here is my gyro. I don't know if that wrap is considered a pita. It was thin, almost like a tortilla. and it was served with pickled veggies. I didn't try the pickles, it just seemed odd to me.

There iss the inside of the gyro 'sandwich'. It was actually really good. I enjoyed the flavor of the meat and there was just enough sauce without it being overwhelming and wet. I didn't get to try the lamb. :( My companion said it the lamb served with rice, a huge folded flat bread, and soup. He loved it.

I would definitely try La Pita again.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What I've Been Eating Lately

I was talking with my mom the other day and we always end up talking about food or cooking. I love discussing recipes with her and dishes that she cooked for us when I was a child. I'm very much my mom's daugther in that I almost always cook/eat Asian food. Mom's food is always #1.

As a child, I would help my mom wrap eggrolls. Whenever she had leftover filling, she would make egg foo young. Or at least that's what I called it. I've never had egg foo young in a Chinese restaurant. To the eggroll filling (which has ground pork, shredded carrot, bean thread noodle, cloud ear mushroom) I added eggs, minced garlic, chopped green onion, a pinch of sugar, and some fish sauce. I fried it and served with steamed rice. It takes me back to my childhood.

Of course, I am always craving Nam (that's what I had always called it)/nem khao. I never have som moo so I use ham. Dallaslao does a great version of it here .

This is my (very sad) attempt at making meat filled empanadas. When I was a child, my father would always get me a flakey pastry filled with meat whenever he went to the Asian market. After a few years, he stopped bringing them home. He said he couldn't find them anymore. When I lived in the Chicago area, I would often check the stores for them and never found them. I think the versions I've eaten had a pork/shredded carrot filling or a taro filling. They were so delicious.

I didn't know what they were called. I searched on the internet and I think they are called banh quai vac. I found this article on it. I used to make these empanadas years ago using a recipe I found in one of my mom's Chinese cookbooks. In that particular recipe, the pastry was made with all purpose flour, salt, butter, and coconut milk. I used my own filling recipes. Sometimes I would make a curried potato filling or one with ground pork and shredded carrots. Next time I make these, I will work on my wrapping technique. I was too much in a hurry to eat them this time.

I'm Lao, I have to eat laap moo a few times a month.

While driving around El Cajon looking for a place to eat, my eating companion and I stopped at Jack in the Box for a pumpkin pie shake. I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, pumpking bread, but I'm not fond of shakes. It tasted like pumpkin and spices and was very thick.

I was in Santee last week trying to hunt down some pieces for a Halloween costume (which I'm still debating whether to dress up or not this year) and came across this place. It was 11am and the lights were on but the OPEN sign was off. I didn't go in this time. But next time I will. I love a good burger. It's called Double Value Fine Burgers. I saw only 2 reviews on yelp.

Next week is going to be Halloween madness. I still need to find cookie cutters..sigh.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

99 Ranch Market

99 Ranch Market
7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA

This was only my second trip to this 99 Ranch. The first time was back in 2007. This time I was wanting to pick up some snacks and take a look at their produce and meat dept. and buy some kewpie mayo. While inside the market, I completely forgot to take pictures. I was too focused on looking for things on my shopping list. It was nice getting there super early in the morning. The last time I came during the middle of the day and it was a disaster. I was driving a huge Chevy truck and trying to park it in that parking lot! This time I was driving a small car and it was 9am.
After paying for my groceries, I headed over to Sam Woo for some take out. I wanted to get some roast pork but there was a 30 min. wait. I liked their prices for the bbq. It was cheaper than Tom's Chinese BBQ. Maybe next time I will get to try their duck and pork and do a comparison.

At Sam Woo, we got some fried rice with chicken wings and some kind of kung pao dish that had chicken, shrimp, and pork. At 99 Ranch we got stir fried noodles with beef, some kind of dim sim that had a vegetarian filling, and egg tarts.
As we were leaving the market, I stopped in the sandwich shop across from the 99 Ranch check out stands. I don't recall the name of the shop. We ordered a special banh mi and a vanilla coffee boba drink. I started to take pictures but the gal behind the counter waved and said 'no pictures please'. I keep forgetting that businesses do not like you taking pictures inside their establishments. It was a recurring theme that weekend.

The sandwich shop had all kinds of goodies in their cooler section. And they serve hot foods as well. It was still early but they had egg rolls and some kind of fried meat empanadas.

We couldn't decide if we were going to go home and eat our food, go to the beach, or head out to Ramona. We ended up snacking on our drive up to Ramona and eating the rest of our food before going inside to check out the Oktoberfest.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Great Cause

AJ's Kids Crane:
Local Deejay lives up on a crane to raise 101,000 toys for Rady Children's Hospital.

AJ from Star 94.1 and his morning crew, Geena the Latina, Delana, and producer Hula have been out at the Ikea parking lot accepting unwrapped, brand new toys for the patients of Rady Children's Hospital. Anyone can donate by taking toys there, at participating Marine Credit Union branches, or at this site.

There were huge white tents set up that housed all the donated toys. As of this post I think they are at their halfway point (51,000 toys). I hope they meet their goal by this weekend.

From top left clockwise: AJ on the crane (tweeting away), the Star 94.1 tent (Delana is the lady in red walking away from the tent), the stage (where One Republic gave a free performance, they sounded great live), and finally Hula (working hard, accepting donations, and counting them). Sorry, no picture of Geena.
The band, One Republic, were so nice and met with all their fans after the performance. What nice guys! I didn't stick around to talk to the radio people or the band. It's too awkward to be hanging around drooling like a groupie. I think the radio station has had all kinds of celebrities, performances, and free food all week at the Ikea parking lot. It's such a great cause and it's amazing how giving San Diego is.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ramona Oktoberfest 2009

City of Ramona Oktoberfest
October 16-18th
Ramona Outdoor Community Center
Last Sunday I had the chance to take a short roadtrip up to Ramona. I have to admit I have not done much exploring since moving to San Diego. I stay close to the area that I live and don't stray too far from it.

I decided last minute to check out the Oktoberfest. I wasn't sure what to expect and I really wasn't planning on eating anything there since I had just bought a bunch of 'snacks' at 99 Ranch (that'll be the next post).

It was a nice drive to Ramona. It was a MUCH better drive than the one to Julian. The festival was held at an outdoor community center, which looked like a place where you would hold a small county fair. I had arrived there just as the 'gates were opening' so there weren't many people there and the booths and tents were just setting up. There was a 'grand stand area' where there were live music peformances and maybe a 'beer garden' area. Past that were children's carnival rides.

Most of the booths consisted of vendors selling jewelry, art and crafts items, and food.

Of course there was kettle corn and shaved ice.

I thought about getting a funnel cake, since they remind me of going to the IL state fair with my parents as a child. What I should've gotten was the fry bread. They were serving something like a taco in fried bread. That would've been intersting.

This looked promising, but again I could not eat since I just ate a ton of food from 99 Ranch.
Okay, we got this carne asada taco. It was served with chopped onions, cilantro, and salsa. I think it lacked a lot of flavor. But I'm not a very good judge of Mexican food since I rarely eat it.
And what's an Oktoberfest without a bratwurst? I didn't eat it. I liked that they served it with grilled onions, peppers, sauerkraut and spicy mustard.

I'm sorry for no beer pictures! I don't drink. :(

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tom's Chinese BBQ

Tom's Chinese BBQ
4414 University Ave.
San Diego, CA

I've been to Tom's (5 times I think). It's really hit or miss with this place. I've only gone there for their roast pork, bbq pork, and egg tarts. I actually like their bbq pork and it's been consistent. However their roast pork is sometimes really good then the rest of the time it's really bad (dry, hard skin, not flavorful). And I get their egg tarts because it reminds me of being in San Francisco when I eat one.

This was the first time I got their roast duck ($9.50 for half a duck). I didn't expect a crispy skin since it was going to be a bit of a drive before I would get home. The meat wasn't dry, but it lacked the roast duck flavor I'm used to. I can't help but compare everything I eat to the food back in IL. The roast duck and pork I would get back in Chicago was just so amazing and delicious. Back in IL, they would give you small containers of sauce/au jus with the duck. Tom's doesn't. We still enjoyed the duck. It was a nice treat. Before Tom's, I've only tried roast duck from Ranch 99 and Ly's Garden but it's been about about 2 years.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


One of my earliest memories of pickling with my parents was when I was 6yrs old. My parents had these huge wide mouth one gallon glass jars that would pickle different veggies. I fondly remember them making Som Pak Gaht (pickled mustard greens), spicy kimchi, some sort of sweet and sour pickled veggies (radishes, napa cabbage, green onions, and other veggies I can't remember), and of course the pickled chili peppers to eat with pho.

I thought I would attempt pickling. I have a great love for banh mi and I like to have some pickled carrots/daikon for when the banh mi craving hits me. I had bought some ready pickled carrots/daikon from the Asian market once and it tasted awful. It wasn't anything like the pickles from my beloved Saigon.

I searched the interweb for a recipe and found this one :
1/2 lb. carrots -shredded in food processor, sliced in thin rounds or thin match-like strips.
1/2 lb. daikon radish – cut same as carrots.
3 cups warm water
3 Tablespoons distilled or rice vinegar
2-3 tablespoons sugar, depending on how sweet you want your pickles
2 tablespoons salt

1. Mix warm water, vinegar, sugar and salt until everything is dissolved. Choose a pitcher or bowl with a lip that can be used for pouring mixture.

2. Peel, wash and cut daikon & carrots to desired size. Combine both together in bowl and blot dry with paper towel.

3. Fill carrot & daikon mixture into a tight lid jar, bowl or similar container.

4. Pour liquid salt mixture into carrot & daikon container till full. Close lid and let it pickle for about 3-5 days, or till desired sourness. For immediate use, let marinade for about 1 hour.

Pickled Thai Chili Peppers
When I eat pho (my most favorite dish since I was a little girl) I only use certain condiments and garnishes. I like to season my bowl of pho with some fish sauce, sugar, white pepper,and lime juice. Then I top it with fried garlic, chopped green onion and cilantro, lots of bean sprouts, and Thai basil. And I always have a small dish with pickled thai chili peppers and shrimp paste (kapi).
I don't have an exact recipe for this.
*Fresh peppers, cleaned and stems removed
*Cloves of garlic, peeled
*Distilled white vinegar, enough to fill entire jar
I put my peppers and 2 garlic cloves in my small jar. I then poured some vinegar into a measuring cup and added 3 T sugar and 1 t salt and stirred. I then added the liquid into the jar and added more vinegar until the entire jar was all the way filled with liquid. The pickle is left out on the counter for 2 days then afterwards refrigerated.
I hope it turns out good. I look forward to eating a lot of pho and noodle soups now.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hao Vi Chinese Restaurant

Hao Vi
4451 University Ave.
San Diego, CA
(619) 280-8688

I was craving shrimp fried rice and was too lazy to drive to National City for it. I love the fried rice at Golden Chopsticks. So I drove along University Ave. and saw this restaurant. I parked on the street and went in. It was a hole in the wall but the lady behind the counter and the server were so friendly so I grabbed a menu and looked it over quickly and placed my order.
I wanted shrimp fried rice and beef chow foon dry.

The portions were huge, but I don't think I liked the flavors of the food. The fried rice was lacking umm what's that called, the taste of being cooked in a wok.
And this is not what I ordered and on top of that it was not 'dry'. I don't like sauces or soupy food unless I'm eating a soup. This noodle dish tasted ok, but I was expected wider or larger rice noodles.

I thought that if I liked the food, I would return and dine in. While I was waiting for my order, I watched as the restaurant filled up. I noticed that upon seating the customers, the server would take over water, a plate of you char kway (Chinese fried bread stick), a small plate with bean sprouts and lime wedges, and hot tea. Later, the server would take over 'bone soup'. I wonder if this was all included in the meal. I watched the server do this with each table.

Maybe I will return and order something else. All the food I saw leaving the kitchen looked delicious.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day Trip to Julian for Oktoberfest and Pie

Growing up in the midwest, I'm used to celebrating the Fall season. The Fall means sweatshirt/hoodie and jeans weather. Football games and tailgating. Leaves turning colors. Picking apples, eating caramel apples and drinking apple cider from the Apple Barn. It seems forever since I've experienced those things.

I was very excited when I read about Julian's Apple Days, however I missed it last weekend. Fortunately this weekend was Oktoberfest in Julian. I left home early and got a good parking spot. It was a long, winding drive to Julian. The downtown area was small, just like the ones back home! The buildings and shops were small and quaint.

After checking out all the shops and side streets, I headed for the Oktoberfest which was located at the parking lot of the bank.

Picnic tables were set up in the parking lot. Oompah music was playing and bratwursts were grilling. The menu was bratwurst with sauerkraut, hotdogs, baked beans, and potato salad. They also had various pie slices and drinks. I didn't check on what beers they had since I don't drink.

I loved all the Fall decorations!

As for the food...it was horrible! But honestly what did I expect. The bratwurst is the kind that is is already cooked and only needs to be warmed through over the grill. I guess I was expecting the Johnsonville kind( that is like a raw Italian sausage). The potato salad was bland, but the potatoes were cooked perfectly. The beans were too firm and tasteless. I'm used to baked beans that melt in my mouth.

At Mom's Pie House, all kinds of yummy goodies sat on the counters. Cookies, breads, jams, and slices of pie.

Apple, apple-cherry, strawberry-rhubarb, boysenberry, and other berry pies that I can't even pronounce.
Flakey or crumb top?


Look at all those pies! I would get fat working there.
Here's my Mom's pie. I picked out an apple-cherry flakey. There were MANY bakeries in Julian but the long line was at Mom's. So that was where I was going to get my pie. The pie was about $14 and I don't know what the size is. It's huge though.

Look at the height.
The pie was good. I loved the sweet and tart taste.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Short Ribs

I have been craving Korean bbq lately, unfortnately I don't have anyone to go out to eat with. So I drove down to Vien Dong and got 2lbs of short ribs for around $5 and marinated them in about a 1/4 jar of kalbi marinade (16oz size) over night. I then cooked them on my stove top in a grill pan. I served them with steamed brown rice and Chinese broccoli. It was a lot of food for one person. Lots of leftovers.