Food and Restaurant Reviews

My opinion of various foods and restaurants.

San Diego {Vacation Food}

Ben and I took our first vacation without Carson at the end of March.  We had a really nice time being alone and getting a break from life at home.  We missed having our little guy around, especially when we went to La Jolla to watch the sea lions.  But having the opportunity to go see a movie on a whim and not worry about getting home for nap time or bed time was a treat.  It was a nice little escape for us.

We stayed in the Gaslamp Quarter, close to downtown, at the Hilton Gaslamp.  We were really close to restaurants and walked to dinner a couple of nights from our hotel.  Parking down there would have been a nightmare.

Our last night there we splurged big time and stayed at the Coronado in an ocean view room.  It was purely wonderful.

Instead of posting about each restaurant we visited on our vacation, here are the iPhone photos I took of our food on the trip.

We found most of the places using Urbanspoon, but also took some advice from Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Adam Richmond of Man v. Food and Brian Malarkey of Top Chef.

Here are the places we ate, where they are, whether or not I would go again, and food tips.

  1. Bread and Cie: Hillcrest, would go again, we had sandwiches and a cupcake which were good, but I think it is probably best for breakfast, breads and pastries…the bread was terrific.
  2. Escape Fish Bar: Gaslamp, definitely would go again, small and quaint, try the seafood chowder and the tacones.
  3. Broken Yolk: Pacific Beach, from Man v Food, might go again, basic breakfast foods.
  4. Searsucker: Gaslamp, Malarkey’s restaurant, would go again for a splurge and make reservations, my favorites of this meal were the pork butt main and the brussels.
  5. Kono’s Surf Club Cafe: Pacific Beach, would not go again, fun atmosphere and view, but food was just so so.
  6. Bare Back Grill: Gaslamp, would not go again, a good place to drink, but not for great food.  I got a Living Social deal on this one, so it didn’t hurt as much that it was a bust.
  7. Con Pane Rustic Breads and Cafe: Point Loma, would go again, cinnamon rolls are ok, the bread plate is huge and good for sharing.
  8. Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge: Coronado, would go again, local, fresh and sustainable, everything was delicious.
  9. Crazee Burger: North Park, Diners, Drive Ins and Dives find, would go again, yummy and unique burgers, nice, thin and crispy fries.

One of my most favorite things was going to the Del Mar farmers market.  I got a couple of delicious blood oranges, some French pastries from a local bakery, and of course some freshly made kettle corn.  We could have easily eaten lunch there with all the local vendors, but we’d had a late and filling breakfast.  I highly recommend going to a local farmers market for some tasty food anytime you get the chance.

Our last day in Coronado.


Baked in Brooklyn

Sarah and I are in Brooklyn…finally.  I won’t go into too much detail because it will just get me worked up, but it was a bit of a nightmare.  Cancelled flights, 180 people on stand-by, an unplanned night in Dallas, a 6:40 am flight the next day, lost baggage, horribly unhelpful  AA baggage people, and now items are mysteriously missing out of my suitcase.  This was not the best travel experience.

Thankfully, we are here now and having a great time visiting my sister Lisa, my brother-in-law Randy and our 10 week old niece Maren.  Isn’t she amazingly cute?  She has the most rockin’ hair I have ever seen.  She is a whopping 9 pounds now, and quite fun to be around.

This morning while driving around Brooklyn we stopped in Baked, a bakery in Red Hook, to pick up some goodies.  Here is a link to their site.  Sarah had heard of their salted brownies; caramel and fleur-de-sel in a chocolate-y brownie.  I’d read that they also had incredible whoopie pies.

The bakery is a little funky and very cool.  The door is orange with an animal antler handle.  Inside the decor consists of white deer heads on the walls, orange details and warm wooden tables and wood grain walls and tables.  A crystal chandelier hangs above the counter to soften the manliness of the place.

Unfortunately the salted caramel brownie that we came here for was not on the menu today.  However, Sarah and I are not quitters, and we will not give up just because of a slight disappointment.  So we chose an assortment of treats to sample and share with each other.

Here is a tray of most of the goodies. Clockwise from top left are the s’more nut bar, rosemary apricot bar, oatmeal cookie, chocolate cookie, chocolate whoopie pie with vanilla cream filling, and mini Red Velvet cupcake.  Not pictured but very delicious are the banana whoopie pie, lemon pistachio vegan cookie and the Brewer’s brownie made with brewers malt.

S’more Nut Bar:  A slightly sweet graham cracker base with a chocolate and marshmallow center and peanut top.  The chocolate is thick, ganache-like and incredibly rich.  I would have enjoyed more marshmallow pieces in this bar, but it was still very good.

Rosemary Apricot Bar:  This was one of my favorites.  I usually do not like apricot, but with the rich buttery bottom layer and the nutty streusal topping I was a total fan.  The rosemary adds such a great savory flavor to the sweetness of the rest of the ingredients.  It reminds me of these rosemary pecan cookies which I LOVE with a passion and cannot stop eating when I make them.

Oatmeal Cookie:  Another favorite packed full of oatmeal, coconut, dried cherries, pecans and white chocolate.  I might try to recreate these at home.

Chocolate Cloud Cookie:  Dense, chocolate goodness.

Whoopie Pie:  A softer version of an Oreo and so much tastier.  Rich and yummy chocolate cookie encasing light fluffy vanilla cream filling.  Tasty.

Mini Red Velvet:  An adorable treat with a perfect dollop of cream cheese frosting.  This a perfect single serving cupcake.

Circus Cookie Taste Test

Mother’s Circus Cookies are one of the most fun and delicious packaged cookies you can buy at the store.  How can you resist these sweet animal-shaped cookies covered in white and hot pink icing and rainbow sprinkles?  Well, you probably can’t resist them…unless for some crazy reason you have never tried them, or, even more shocking, tried them but did not find them irresistible!

A few years ago, these delicious cookies were on the verge of extinction when Mother’s Bakery closed.  Thankfully, Kellogg came along in 2008 and started making the cookies with the original recipe!  I love these cookies.

I saw a bag of them the other day, and broke down and bought them.  A little later while in the store, I saw a bag of Animals Frosted Cookies made my Keebler.  I was interested to find out which was better, so I bought those cookies also.

Here are my findings and analysis of the two cookies.

In this photo, the top 2 cookies are Mother’s and the bottom 2 are Keebler.

Appearance:  Mother’s have brighter colors, while the Keebler cookies are more pastel in hue.  Both have sprinkles, but Mother’s has more sprinkles per cookie.  Mather’s are smaller in size than Keebler.

Texture:  The cookie textures Are similar but Mother’s are a bit crunchier.  The frosting texture is softer on the Keebler but also waxier.  Mother’s has a firmer exterior of frosting that lacks the waxy aftertaste.

Flavor: Mother’s cookies ware a tiny bit sweeter, but the cookies were pretty similar aside from the waxy frosting.

The Verdict:  Mother’s wins, no question.  They are definitely the better cookie in every category and are just tastier…in my opinion, anyway.  When given the choice, choose Mother’s.

Twisted Root Burger Co.

OMG.  I never say that phrase (or type that phrase for that matter)…well, not until now anyway.  But the lunch I had at Twisted Root deserves it.  This place is incredible.

I visited my sister Sarah in Dallas last week since it was my spring break and her “weekend” is Thursday and Friday.  I had a great time.  Going to work on Monday was pretty much horrendous.  What happened to sleeping in?  Getting coffee and surfing the web at a coffee shop down the street?  Spending the morning shopping and then going to lunch and getting more than 25 minutes to enjoy it?  After lunch, why wasn’t I perusing design stores where everything was out of my price range?  Why am I not spending my evenings going to watch live music at a tiny bar in Greenville?  Alas, I must work to afford to do the fun things.  Such is life.

Twisted Root is in Deep Ellum and is probably a place you could pass up if you drove by.  At least at the time we were there.  It was 2pm on Friday afternoon and the street the restaurant is on was not exactly hoppin’.   Deep Ellum is an area near downtown in east Dallas.  Across the street from the restaurant was a tatoo place, a bar and a few other random shops.  Sarah had been there before and told me about how great it was, so we went there after a tiring morning of shopping.  Our original plan was to head to a vegan restaurant, but our hungry stomaches demanded MEAT!  So, we ate a big juicy buffalo burger complete with cheese and bacon.  There is nothing vegan about that!

It took us almost an hour to travel the 6 miles to the restaurant.  I hate traffic.  Amarillo has spoiled me.  15 minutes tops to anywhere.  The time we sat in stopped traffic on I-30 was totally worth the wait.  We were both famished so the food tasted especially delicious.  The house made pickles, juicy burger, curly fries and root beer float with house made root beer would have been good even on a full stomach though.

Here is the before and after of our meal.  We split the burger, an oder of fries and the float.  The perfect sized meal.  Full and happy…not full and uncomfortable.

We had one of the special burgers for the day: Applewood bacon with a spicy ranch mayo.  Sarah ordered the buffalo and added cheddar cheese.  It was crazy good.  The fries were my favorite kind…spiced curly fries.  I got some of their pickles to nibble on, and they were incredible.  The bread and butter ones were to die for.  I would special order them and eat only them for dinner if they would send them to me here in Amarillo.  Yum.

The root beer float was also incredible.  The Twsited Root root beer is available in their fountain drink machine, so you can just help yourself to as much of its goodness as you desire!  If you ever find yourself in Dallas, you should make the effort to go here.  You will not be sorry.  Here is Sarah, finishing off the last little bits of root beer float.  I’m fantasizing about it right now.  So.  Very.  Good.

Dining at Starbucks and McDonalds

This past weekend we went to Boerne, Texas to attend the wedding of a good friend from our days at Baylor Law.  The wedding was beautiful and we had such an incredible time with friends.  I was more sore after a night of dancing in some hot 2 1/2 inch heels than I was after a day of skiing the weekend before.  Is there something wrong with that?

Having so much fun with our friends made me sad to live so far away from those people, but also so very happy that we still enjoy each others company and keep in touch despite the distance.

When you travel, you are often required to eat what is quick and convenient.  Our day of travel on Sunday found us having breakfast at Starbucks, and lunch at the McDonalds in the DFW airport.  Here are my reviews of both of these fine food establishments.

Starbucks:  On Sunday morning we headed to the airport to catch our flight back to Amarillo.  We decided to pick up coffee and breakfast at Starbucks on the way to San Antonio.  I was just going to get a cappuccino and a muffin, but then I noticed that they also offered breakfast sandwiches and wraps.  I’ve seen these before, but never at a time when I needed breakfast so I had never thought to try them.

There are about 5 different options, including the Huevos Ranchero wrap that Ben ordered and said was “OK”.  I had the Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwich which is an egg white, white cheddar cheese, and turkey bacon on a whole grain english muffin.  It wasn’t bad, but not great either.  The bacon was kinda crispy, the egg wasn’t too rubbery, the cheese was warm and melty, and the muffin was pretty tasty with nice crunchy egdes.  It wasn’t the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t the worst.  It didn’t leave me feeling overly full , but it didn’t leave me unsatisfied either.  I think it is the perfect size for pre-travel breakfast, and it wasn’t too greasy.  No one wants to get on a plane after having scarfed down a short stack, eggs and sausage.  And no one wants to be the person sitting next to that person either.

McDonalds (@ DFW):  When we arrived in Dallas it was 2 o’clock.  We were hungry, and since our plane left in 30 minutes, we were not about to stand in line at the Chili’s and miss our flight.  McDonald’s it is!

I was more than a little disappointed in the situation here.  NO salad.  NO grilled chicken.  NOT well stocked in the kitchen, I see.  So, I ordered a cheeseburger Happy Meal…and I didn’t even get a toy. Come on!  That is why you get the Happy Meal.  Toys make people happy.  No toy = no happy.

The burger was what you’d expect from a simple McDonald’s cheeseburger.  Plain bun, small patty, yellow cheese that is only partially melted, a splat of ketchup and mustard in the center of everything with 3 pickles (without seeds…interesting).  It was, however, comforting.  It brought me back to being a kid except that I actually liked the mustard on this burger.

Piranha Sushi

This weekend we traveled to Fort Worth to spend the weekend with some college friends.  Texas A&M played Arkansas at the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, so they guys in our group went to the game on Saturday night.  We brought our dog who enjoyed the company of Kolby and Candace’s baby, Samson.


While the boys were at the football game, the ladies got a babysitter for Scott and Jennifer’s sweet baby girl and went out to dinner.  Jennifer suggested a sushi place she’d been wanting to try; Piranha Killer Sushi.


A friend in high school took me out to sushi one summer when we were both home from college.  He did all the ordering.  His dad lived in Japan for a while and my friend had gone to visit a few times.  So he was pretty educated in the ways of sushi.  I just sat back and enjoyed it…and let him pay.  Since that time I have not eaten sushi mostly due to my inexperience and lack of knowledge about it.


Firecracker Chocolate Bar

I saw this confection at Wal-Mart the other day,  and I was intrigued.  I was also impressed that Wal-Mart was selling something so trendy and chic… in the world of chocolate anyway.  The bar is made by Chuao Chocolatier.


Online this bar goes for $6.00 a piece.  I got mine at Wal-Mart for $4.00!  Anyway, I was not expecting to like this combination of dark chocolate, chipotle, salt and popping candy…aka Pop Rocks!  Pop Rocks?  Even if I didn’t like it, I didn’t care.  How could someone not at least try something with Pop Rocks in it?  I hadn’t had Pop Rocks in a while, and I knew there was no better time than now to have them as an adult.  This is an “adult” candy bar.  The dark 60 % cacao chocolate, spicy chipotle and salt would not appeal to many kids.


Foodie Fight!: Trivial Pursuit for Food Lovers

I got Foodie Fight (please pronounce Fight as you would in Street Fighter) for Christmas last year from my sister.  I’m not sure where she found it, but you can find it online.  The best price I’ve seen is on Amazon.  A new game is as low as $9.25 and the used ones are going for $4.74!  For that price its worth it just to have sitting in your game cupboard or sitting out to induce conversation.


I have yet to get people excited about playing this game with me.  The three times, that’s right, THREE, someone has agreed to play with me it has been out of sheer pity.  I personally think that people are intimidated by my vast food knowledge…ha!  I know more about food than the average person, but I have been stumped by some of these questions.  There are questions that ask about the science of food or nutrition facts that I’m not so good at.  Other questions are about food brands or fast food restaurants that a lot of people would know.  Then there are the etiquite questions that I struggle with.  Texting at dinner is inapppropriate?  Who knew?  I did know that actually, but I have been out with people who did not.  There are questions about authors of food books, or singer/songwriters who referred to a food or dish in a song.  So, like trivial pursuit, if you have a well balanced team with different trivial assets, then the game is pretty fun.

You can play with the cute little dinner plate game boards, or you can just ask questions without keeping score.  That is a more fun and less formal way to use the game that can lead to some pretty entertaining discussions and possibly a heated discussion about whether the question referred to particular liquor or a mixed drink…it has happened folks, it has happened to me in the last 24 hours…and the argument that followed was not pretty.

Here are a few sample questions.  If you think you know the answers, then post them in the comments…let’s see if you are as much of an educated “foodie” you think you are.  Answers will be posted (for the 5 of you who read this) Friday morning.  There are no prizes involved…

1.  How many fresh tart cherries does it take to make a cherry pie?  about 150, about 250 or about 350 cherries?

2.  What does R.S.V.P. stand for on an invitation?  Respond regrets only, respond either way, or a response is optional?

3.  What chocolate covered treat made of marshmallow and vanilla cookie appears in the 1997 novel She Comes Undone and the 1989 move When Harry Met Sally?

4.  How many cups are in a quart?

5.  What politician, evoking the plight of single mothers on a campaign stop in 2000, said, “Working hard to put food on your famliy”?

Buy the game.  It’s fun.  It’s a great gift for the foodies in your life and a pretty fun game for non-foodies as well.

Cowboy Gelato

Following a high scoring game of bowling this afternoon, Ben and I needed something for lunch before we passed out.  Amarillo is not known for local restaurants that are open on Sundays and Mondays.  I was not thrilled about the idea of getting something at McDonalds or Taco Bell, so we tried to eat at a local burger place on 6th street (historic Route 66), but as expected, they were closed.  So we kept driving and saw a place I hadn’t seen on 6th before boasting fresh made gelato and tasty sandwiches.  We decided to take our chances and try it out.

164_cowboy-gelato-logo-09The restaurant is called Cowboy Gelato and has been open since the 1st of August.  The owner was there, her daughter took our order and I think her son was making the gelato.  The owner was such a sweet woman.  She came and talked to us a few times, complimenting me on my lunch decision, the Leone, which I will describe shortly.  Everyone there checked on us more than once to make sure we were enjoying our food, and offering to refill our drinks.  I love Texas hospitality.

The name of this place seems like quite an odd combination.  Cowboy food and Italian gelato are not a match made in culinary heaven, but it works people…it really works.  The inspiration for the place is film “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. Most menu items are named for Spaghetti Western movies, directors and actors.  The walls are hung with Spaghetti Western movie posters.

The sandwiches are called The Eastwood, Van Cleef, Wallach, Bronson, Leone, and Hill.  Salads choices include The Ferzetti, and Volonte.  Kids meals are the Django, Red Sun, Sabata and Campaneros.

Are you lost?  I was.  I knew Eastwood meant Clint Eastwood and that Van Cleef referred to Lee Van Cleef who starred alongside Eastwood in “For a Few Dollars More”.  I also knew that Sergio Leone was a direcor.  I did not know that he directed “For a Few Dollars More” and “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”.  Other than that I was pretty clueless about who the other food items on the menu were named for.  I found the answer to all my questions here!  I never thought a restaurant would lead me to a wiki article devoted to the Spaghetti Western.

Ok, to the food!


Whip It, Whip it Good

I like Cool Whip.  I really like the light Cool Whip, but not the fat free.  I like it on fresh fruit.  I like it on top of ice cream.  I like it on my finger.  My sister puts it in her cottage cheese for breakfast…she’s crazy.

A recent jaunt through the frozen food aisle ended with a container of cool whip in my cart.  What I thought was plain, lovely, sweet and light Cool Whip was something new.  Well, new to me.  French Vanilla Cool Whip!  Initially I was pretty upset about my error.  After I opened the container, saw its luscious creamy, pale yellow color, and tasted a bit on my finger my anger changed to pure joy!  This is a thicker, richer, sweeter whip than the original, but it is oh so good.  A little goes a long way, so there’s no need to overdo it.


Last night I made a lovely dessert with my new cool whip.  A scoop of Blue Bell Homeade Vanilla, fresh sliced strawberries and a dollop of FRENCH VANILLA COOL WHIP!  Yum.

OK, so I know what people say about Cool Whip.  I know that if any foodie is reading this post right now they will blacklist me.  I have opinions on food and I normally turn my nose up at processed foods, especially foods containing ingredients like polysorbate 60.  But I like Cool Whip.  Sorry!