Temeculafoodie's Blog

February 21, 2010

The Latest and Greatest Wine Country Has to Offer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — temeculafoodie @ 5:33 am

Over Valentine’s weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Monte De Oro Winery, one of the newest wineries in Temecula wine country.

Monte de Oro Winery

The patio at Monte de Oro, looking at the main building.

My initial visit was a bust, as a few friends and I attempted to visit on New Year’s Day, only to find out the winery was closed when we arrived late in the afternoon.

Happily finding the winery open on February 13th, my friends and I parked in the dirt parking lot of the winery, and our group of six (including one very happy mama on her first day of wine tasting since the birth of her AMAZING baby boy) trudged up the pathway to find a beautiful winery packed with interested people on the day day before Valentine’s day that boasted 80+ degree weather.

Upon entering the foyer of the building we were met with two things: a man handing out carnations to every lady (a nice V-Day touch) and a fairly lengthy line at the register. Luckily, we arrived just as a register opened at the other end of the foyer and we paid for our tastings without a hitch– tastings were six for ten dollars, which seems to be the going rate around these parts.

With full-color tasting cards in hand, my husband and I sidled up to the absolutely packed tasting counter and proceeded to try each of the reds listed on our tasting card. The tasting card, I must say, is nice touch that isn’t often offered at the more popular wineries. The cards allow tasters to both keep track of what they’ve tasted and make notes that they may keep for future reference (or for help in buying a couple of bottles on the way out).

My husband began with the Cabernet Sauvignon, typically a favorite for both of us, and I began with the Merlot. The Merlot seemed to have come from a new bottle and would have likely been better had it been given more time to open. I found it to be slightly on the bitter side (especially for a Merlot) and I was happy to move on to the Syrah. The Syrah, (also known as Shiraz) was pleasantly peppery and a bit more savory than a typical Syrah, nevertheless, a pleasant tasting.

Moving on down the list, the Cab was lighter but still spicy upon first hitting the palate, but the aftertaste was almost soapy– likely due to the hint of bell peppers. The Zinfandel also had a hint of peppers, but was less bell-peppery and slightly fuller tasting.

The Cab Franc was by far my favorite wine, with a lighter-yet-full taste that hit the palate without leaving a bitter (or soapy, for that matter) aftertaste. Lastly, I tasted the “Synergy 65” –a Monte de Oro blend– but was turned off by the sweeter taste. Nevertheless, the Synergy blend (named for the 65 owners of the winery) is an award-winning wine.

Warm weather, good wine, and live music was all available on the patio and thus, we basked in the sun while enjoying covers of music from the nineties and our best friends.

January 13, 2010

Long Time, No Post.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — temeculafoodie @ 6:32 am

Yep, still around… just busy with life lately. Please expect to see new posts in upcoming weeks.

October 19, 2009

The King? Not So Much.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — temeculafoodie @ 10:47 pm

The past weekend was spent with close friends in Camarillo, CA. Just off the 101 Freeway, and south of Santa Barbara, the suburban city is home to agriculture and California State University, Channel Islands. The quaint section of town known as “Downtown Camarillo” is also home to a bevy of restaurants, including our most recent visit: “El Rey” (the king en espanol.)

At the suggestion of one of our friend who is also a Camarillo local, the rest of our group decided to have dinner at the restaurant which boasts of “Elvis Presley” decor (hence the “King”) and a menu of Mexican favorites. Fully enamored with Mexican cuisine, my husband and I jumped at the chance to have our second taste of Mexican cuisine that day (we started our morning with breakfast burritos for a local joint known as “Las Olas” or “the waves.”)

Upon arriving with our group of seven we were told there was a wait of about thirty minutes. The bar was initially full, and the Camarillo location lacks a proper waiting area, so our wait began with the group of us standing near the middle of the one-room restaurant with confused looks on our faces. Luckily, another friend mentioned a new IPhone app, so I was entertained while we waited. Once a few people left the bar our group was able to take their places and, in true bar form, we were also left with their glasses and used napkins. Even when the pregnant member of our group pushed one of the used glasses to the edge of the bar and loudly asked for a soda, the bartenders failed to catch-on.

About twenty minutes, two amber Dos Equis (they did not have lager), two house margaritas on the rocks with salt, a regular coke, and a mango margarita on the rocks later, we found our table was ready to go and we were seated. Our waitress was quick to greet us and the busboy was great about providing us with ample chips and salsa.

Unfortunately, the greeting was about all that was quick. We took our time looking over the extremely brief menu that was most definitely not the collection of Mexican-American cuisine we had hoped for. Instead, we saw such dishes as “Beer Chicken” and “Hamberguesa.” I personally opted for the chopped salad with ranch dressing, as it seemed to be a healthy-yet-tasty option. My husband and a friend chose to share the largest burrito on the menu and a four-taco plate (two carnitas, two carne.)

The next time we saw our waitress, maybe fifteen to twenty minutes later, we were able to make our orders, but our food took more than thirty minutes to arrive and the food itself was about as tasty as the service.

My salad was lacking in taste and the dressing had to be the canned ranch of pizza parlors and fast food venues. The burrito and tacos, had by husband and friend, was definitely better than the salad, but I would have paid for the waitress to walk down the street to Las Olas and order me another breakfast burrito before I ate the entire thing.

The best part of the meal was the dessert, “fried” vanilla ice cream complete with caramel topping and seven spoons. However, when the bill eventually came and it took the waitress well over fifteen minutes to pick it up and run our cards, I was officially over the positive moment.

September 28, 2009

Escondido’s Stone Brewery: An Oasis in the Hills

Filed under: Daily Eats — Tags: , , , , , , , , — temeculafoodie @ 4:21 am

After multiple failed attempts to make it to Stone Brewery in Escondido, CA, for a meal, I finally made it and fully enjoyed it.

Located in San Diego’s “North County,” Stone Brewing Company is a tiny bit of a paradisaical forest amidst the hills, and stone (imagine that) of the city of Escondido. Driving up to the brewery is nothing short of confusing, due to its being fully surrounded by greenery that hints at the atypical setting it encapsulates. The restaurant, Stone World Bistro, on the grounds is an absolutely delightful site for a day or nighttime meal.

Upon our arrival for an early lunch, we were seated in the patio dining area. Because Stone Brewing Company strives for a unique and memorable setting, the patio looks out on only the forest-like landscape– complete with trail, park-like benches, and multiple water features. Though it was warm out (well-over 90 degrees,) we were cooled by the surrounding pine trees and bamboo, as well as a nearby pond. Our server showed up with water (on request) and we ordered within only a few minutes of our arrival, as soon as we had decided which dishes to try.

Our group ordered an array of foods to taste, everything from a garden salad (complete with Stone’s own beer-based vinaigrette), to a typical pub sausage dish with fried potatoes, to some of the richest (and most delicious) cheese soup I’ve ever tasted.

Our server was quick to bring all of our food, one might even say she was too quick with our entrees, as we had just received our first course of soup, sausage, and salad prior to also finding room for: beer macaroni and cheese, a BLT on focaccia bread, and duck –yes, the kind that quacks–tacos.

After the filling cheese soup I must admit I was, well, filled. Nevertheless, I managed to push through and get a bite (or two, or three) of everything else on the table, except for the side-salad. To drink we each ordered our ale of choice, the gentlemen opting for the Stone Oak Ale, the ladies ordering the Fox Hard Pear Cider. Though the cider was a bit sweet for a pairing with cheese soup and mac and cheese, the Stone Oak Ale was too hoppy for my personal taste and finished with a bitter after-taste.

The food was the focus of my day, most definitely. I was happy to share the mac and cheese with a friend and delighted in the seasoned bread crumbs used to top the pasta dish. The sausage dish was a new take on typical pub fare, complete with greasy-but-delicious potatoes-and- cabbage; the sausage was browned and just salty enough to taste.

The most different and interesting plate was the duck tacos. A new take on an old standby, the duck tacos are delightfully absent of the typically greasy texture  duck is so well known for. Instead, the shredded duck was fairly moist and though a bit gamey for my personal taste, when paired with the mango salsa the tacos were a nice throwback to the local neighborhood taco shop.

Even better than the food is the Stone property, the true piece de resistance of the entire experience. Click here for pictures of the property.

Note to Parents: The Stone Brewing Company is quite child-friendly. Our group had the opportunity to observe a group of fathers on a day out with the kids. Even as we guiltily delighted in their mishaps (moms were clearly enjoying a relaxing day alone,) I watched the friendly staff help keep the kids entertained. The kids also delighted in running the park-like grounds for a good couple of hours. A day trip to the brewery with th fam is definitely with the realm of possibility.

September 23, 2009

Ponte Winery: Lunch, or should I say brunch?

Filed under: Daily Eats — Tags: , , , , , , , — temeculafoodie @ 12:34 am

Last Sunday, with such delicious weather, the husband and I trekked out to one of our favorite spots on the edge of town: The Smokehouse Restaurant located at Ponte Winery. This outdoor location has been a favorite of ours for the past few years, and now (much to my excitement) boasts a Sunday brunch from 10am-2pm.

Arriving at nearly two, we opted to have a sit-down meal from the lunch menu (served every day from 11am-5pm)– rather than rush to sample all of the goodies!

Sit down we did, unfortunately our server was fairly new to the restaurant, and thus was apparently unsure of his  role. Nevertheless, our food was delivered after nearly forty-five minutes of a tasty, but sugary, sangria and delicious calamari fried in a white batter and served with a jalapeno aioli sauce. The fried jalapenos included with the calamari left just the right spice and when coupled with the calamari and aioli dip, made for the perfect mouth-watering bite.

Though we missed out on my favorite shalot dipping sauce, a tangy addition to your typical bread basket, the calamari was definitely filling enough for two people, probably even a bit too filling (although I managed to finish my entree as well!)

When the entrees came, my husband and I were excited to try the Summer Spaghetti and the Chicken Parmigiana with Pesto. Happily, I took my first bite of Summer Spaghetti and found my pasta laden with figs, toasted pine nuts, prosciutto, and goat cheese, all tossed in a light and buttery olive oil. The al dente noodles were the perfect texture for a pasta dish, and the pine nuts added a nuttiness that was not lost in the gooey sweetness of the figs. Even without a traditional sauce, the pasta was tasty and filling.

Equally tasty was the Chicken Parmigiana with Pesto; a plump boneless breast, smothered with a nicely sized slice of mozzarella cheese, and topped with a bright green pesto. The pesto gave the moist chicken and mozzarella topping an herbal flare, without taking away from the overall taste of the poultry and cheese. Paired with a smaller serving of spaghetti and marinara, this dish is filling for anyone.

Even without their typically superb service, Ponte’s Smokehouse delivers a proper meal with no stops when it comes to taste.

A note to the serial winery diner: Ponte plans to remain open for dinner, throughout the Fall and Winter months. The winery has also implemented live music on Friday nights, see their website for more information: http://www.pontewinery.com/Temecula-Winery-Ponte-Smokehouse-Restaurant/4081.html

September 14, 2009

Cha Bones, Lake Havasu, Arizona

Filed under: Uncategorized — temeculafoodie @ 3:58 am

Tonight I won a Havasu victory; rather than a typical evening of Coors Light and every carbohydrate known to man, we decided to take a trip to Havasu’s most “high end” establishment: Cha Bones (Shay-Bones).

Waiting for the cab to arrive I perused the online menu and my mouth began to water with the anticipation of “baby” filet Mignon tapas and Louisiana crab cakes. Headache or not I would be dining at Cha Bones.

Upon our arrival at 10:30pm on Sunday evening, we found the dining room was closed. Nevertheless, in keeping with its locally established reputation, the store manager reopened the kitchen, offered up any and all tapas on the menu, and provided my party with the option of Moet Chandon or Cristal (in the absence of Dom Perignon.)

The 2006 Moet Chandon was the perfect celebratory drink for a Sunday evening and the perfect precursor to the delicious dishes to come. Between the four of us, we order eight different “tapas” appetizer dishes. Unfortunately, the online menu did contain erroneous information about the Louisiana crab cakes, but the New England crab cakes hit the spot with their slightly crunchy outer texture alongside the soft and warm inner.

Our party also opted for the Cajun shrimp in a slightly spicy and quite savory sauce, after a bit of deliberation as well as a recommendation from our (quite helpful) server/bartender, oysters on the halfshell that are flown-in to Arizona every few days.

A humus starter complete with slightly toasted pita, baby bones of lamb roasted and tender, fried calamari with a spicy aoli sauce,  and chicken lettuce wraps rounded out our late meal. Incidentally, Cha Bones offers each tapas at extremely reasonable prices, ranging from $6.99 to $14.99. The most expensive food item on the menu is a full filet Mignon meal for a mere $29.99.

The food left us without want, we happily consumed each last bit of full-flavored apritif. My only fodder-related disappointment was the chicken-lettuce wrap with its “asian” dipping sauces. The chicken was slathered in a too-sweet sauce that failed to compliment the available dipping sauces.

Even with a minor too-sweet-chicken, set-back, the evening was a delicious compendium of tapas and champagne that will have me visiting Cha Bones every time I am near Lake Havasu City.

August 23, 2009

Prime Rib – Delish!

Filed under: Uncategorized — temeculafoodie @ 8:51 pm

Last night was a delicious night for an equally delicious meal. Rather than making the trek out to a local restaurant, my husband and I stayed in and had our friends come to us. Feeling guilty for making barbecued chicken the night they brought over a bottle of Dom Perignon, we opted to go “all out” and make a feast fit for a king.

Our menu consisted of four courses: appetizers, salad, entree, and dessert. I was in charge of everything but the grilling, and chose to start with stuffed mushrooms, then a cucumber salad, side dishes of corn on the cob with bacon bits and alfredo twice-baked potatoes, and, in honor of our friend’s African heritage (she was born to religious missionaries in South Africa) I made “African” bananas for dessert.

My husband took his grilling role quite seriously and chose to smother the prime rib in dijon mustard and rock salt before skewering the entire slab of meat and using our barbecue rotisserie.

Initially I was concerned that the stuffed mushrooms would be too rich as the recipe called for an entire brick of cream cheese. Fortunately, the recipe called for just enough cream cheese and it served as a creamy base for the rest of the ingredients: bacon, cheddar cheese, green onions, and a bit of oregano. Each mushroom was perfectly tasty, a savory bit of cholesterol in each bite!

Next, the potatoes. Having never made an alfredo sauce, I was concerned with the sauce’s texture. The last time I attempted to make a cheese sauce I used milk in place of heavy cream and ruined the sauce. This time around I made sure to have heavy cream on hand and after boiling the cream I added about 1/4 c. each of parmesan and colby jack cheese (I forgot the mozarella.) Neverthless, the sauce turned out very nicely with a hint of garlic and a bit of thyme. By mixing the potato pulp with the alfredo sauce and rebaking the potatoes (after topping them with a bit more cheese) we had a scrumptious potato dish that I have promised to make again.

The corn was super easy, and the bacon added a nice, salty flavor. I just buttered and seasoned each cob before wrapping it in foil and grilling for about 10 minutes.

The meat turned out quite well, though cut is rather fatty. With the homemade horseradish sauce, the juicy tender bites melted in my mouth.

Lastly, our “African” bananas, brushed with butter, cinnamon, and sugar and topped with honey roasted peanuts. Each guest had two halves and though this was the easiest dish, everyone was complimentary.

August 18, 2009

Slow Food: Who’d of thunk it?

While online today, I discovered that Temecula is “greener” than originally thought. Many Temecula area schools have taken part in what is called the “slow food” phenomenon, a.k.a. school gardens. Employess at schools such as Crown Hill Elementary, Nicolas Valley Elementary, and Temecula Middle School, have taken it upon themselves to become educated in the area of school gardens and are now spreading the wealth by getting students involved. The end goal of all this being literally and figuratively greener school lunches.

August 17, 2009

8.16.09

Filed under: Daily Eats — Tags: , , , , — temeculafoodie @ 4:24 am

California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) is one of the newer local restaurants (here less than ten years.) Though some of the wait-staff is cringingly new to the food industry, for the most part light faire and pleasant people are to be had by any who enter the joint.

Personally, I have been addicted to their new Morrocan Chicken Salad, a sweet combination of candied dates, beets, butternut squash, almonds, and chicken covered in a tangy dressing.

The only thing that could have made my meal better would have been the absence of a slight family squabble, but then again what’s a family dinner without the fight?

August 16, 2009

8.15.09 Wine & (Chinese) Dine

A lovely day at two local wineries and dining in with Peony Chinese.

After dragging myself out of bed (at 10am) I finally made it out to Leonesse Winery for an early afternoon of tasting, followed by a quick taste at Ponte Winery (where my husband and I are current wine club members.) As usual, Leonesse was a pleasant experience with plenty of good wine and (thankfully) good friends.

We were even able to make it to the Leonesse wine club members tasting area– a definite plus– where our group was treated to plentiful wine tastings and the cool interior of the remodeled barrel room. My husband and I focused our tastings on one of our favorites, the Meritage, but found ourselves a bit disappointed because our tasting had come from a newly opened bottle that had not been given ample time to breath.

While on our way back to the main building we had chance to overhear some “seasoned” (read obnoxious) tasters. A word to the wise: do NOT try to sound as if your know more about wine than you truly do if you want to save yourself from sounding like a complete tool. We overheard a young man describe his grape preference as being “European.” Our group felt entirely too superior as we whispered to each other “Nearly ALL grapes originated in Europe, hence the European names, hell-oh.” Nevertheless, our overall visit was pleasant. A note to (new) parents: while at Leonesse we encountered many children, leading us to believe this is one of the valley’s more child-friendly and casual locales.

Our Ponte visit was much briefer, we arrived about twenty minutes before their daily 5pm close time. We were still welcomed with the same smile we get even on the slowest of weekdays and we even got to visit with our favorite pourer, Jason. My husband and I began our tasting with a favorite standby: the Super Tuscan (also Indicazione Geografica Tipica or typical regional wine), now shortened to a much cooler “Super T” and our entire group ended our tasting with the much sweeter Nebbiolo with its delicious hints of chocolate. Unfortunately, Ponte is so popular that it continues to be an utter zoo on weekends. I definitely recommend a weekday trip to Ponte , if you have time for it.

After having had our fill of wine, and my fill of shopping Ponte’s fun home decor, a trip to our local Baron’s Market, at Meadows and Rancho California Road, was necessary to purchase a couple bottles of local wines and some munchies before our Chinese dinner. As usual, the staff at Baron’s was helpful and their fresh fruit and veggies quite plentiful. A triangle of brie, some wheat crackers, and a bottle of Estancia (okay, not quite a local wine, but still…) later we were back at home waiting for a friend to come over with Peony’s.

There is little to say about Peony Chinese Restaurant, other than it is probably the best Chinese fast food I have ever tasted. No London, New York, Los Angeles, or San Franciscan restaurant has competed with the savory flavors offered by this locally owned and operated restaurant. With food ranging from the typical “beef and brocolli” to the unique “house special” beef or chicken, their food is consistently delicious– and has been for the last sixteen years of my memory. Though the restaurant itself serves no alcohol and does not deliver, their fast service and central location (at Rancho California Road and Margarita Road) makes it the perfect place to stop on a busy weeknight.

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