Saturday, June 15, 2013

Road Trippin' Gourmet

You know what?  I spend all this time pissing and moaning about how Gordon Ramsay is ruining television yet I look at this blog and's also not what it used to be.  This used to be THE place for savory fatty foods that only Morgan Spurlock on an all-McDonald's diet would think about.  This used to be THE place to laugh at immature yet thought-provoking jokes, such as the existence of a store called Dick's Liquor.  I need to get back to those roots.  So to start, here are some delicious, some nasty, and some WTF pictures from my recent trip around California.

Here's the thing, though: a lot of this trip happened on the fly and likewise we didn't put a lot of effort into finding the best places to eat, so the pictures you're about to see aren't the most impressive I've ever posted here.  But they may be entertaining yet.  Let's get to work.


Leading off is your basic French dip from a highway-side diner in the middle of nowhere: The Apricot Tree in Firebaugh, CA.

The Central Valley's finest gourmet cuisine

The cool thing about the Apricot Tree is that it's probably the only independently owned restaurant on Interstate 5 in the 300-something miles between Los Angeles and Sacramento.  Seriously, you got McDonald's, Burger King, and Denny's every twenty miles, then you got the Apricot Tree smack dab in a little town whose name I don't even know how to pronounce.  Fire-baw?  Fire-bo?  Who knows?  Who even lives there?

As we get further up the Valley to some homemade chicken and steak kebabs, prepared in the unforgiving hundred degree heat of Sacramento:

I knew I was gonna have to be a trooper and shove down these vegetables - thankfully they were doused in oil and other fatty acids

With these kebabs it was one plate right after another.  Seriously, they were cooking these things well into the night, almost like they were fattening us up in order to later simmer us in a stew.

Following three kebabs, three glasses of sangria, and who knows how much dessert, I was ready to call it a night.  Of course we were talking about having a big breakfast the following morning which I insisted I wouldn't be ready for.  Naturally when the time came I was ready for it.  From Stagecoach:

Oh hi, high cholesterol

Got your regular breakfast here; three over easy eggs, four strips of bacon, a biscuit, and a buttload of potatoes.  What's vexing is that this place still, STILL, does not have a website.  Guys, I know your restaurant is called Stagecoach and all and your food is really good but, seriously, time to join the rest of us in the technological era.


Departing Sacramento, our next destination was a place we've dined at before called Pastino's Pasta & Pizza in Oakland:

Chicago deep dish pizza

So this is the third time I've eaten at Pastino's.  Was there in 2011 and 2012 as well.  And each time I'm not sure exactly what to make of it.  In 2011 I got this huge pepperoni calzone that I thought was gonna be awesome.  Unfortunately the whole thing had like two damn pieces of pepperoni in it smothered with more cheese than a cow with the runs.  2012 I ordered the deep dish pepperoni pizza and it was great - a generous portion of pepperoni.  But this time?  Same pizza, different result.  Not as much pepperoni going up against that thick dough doesn't make for as tasty of a pizza.  It was still pretty good but not as good as it could have been.

This next place kinda pissed me off and I still question why we even ate here.  We're in San Francisco, we see all these cool places during the day and we cap it off with a lackluster meal at the Rainforest Cafe (yeah, apparently they spell "rain forest" as one word, much to my blog's disapproval):

The darkness of this picture is symbolic of my boredom of this dish

So, the Rainforest Cafe.  Right there next to Fisherman's Wharf.  All of the restaurant's efforts go into the decor, which is decorated as, duh, a rain forest, with animals, water falls, and even the periodic thunderstorm.  But the menu?  Booooooring.  For a place like this you'd hope for a little variety but nope.  Burger, sandwich, salad, the usual.  And the prices are inflated of course because this is the perfect tourist trap.  Because of this, the food can be subpar and they can get away with it.  Case in point: a 2.5/5 average star rating on Yelp.  

Is the food bad?  No.  It's a turkey club.  Can't really go wrong.  But there's probably a dozen other local independent restaurants around the Wharf with the exact same menu that taste way better at a lower price.  Disappointing.

This next location is a place I used to frequent as a kid - the Sky Kitchen Cafe situated at the San Carlos Airport in, of course, San Carlos:

May not be the most picture-esque dish, but its sentimental taste is through the roof

I love the Sky Kitchen.  They could cook me up some fried diarrhea from a cow at a Burger King processing plant and I'd still be happy to eat it.  The scenery, the decor, the old-style diner feel - it's a real pleasure.


Okay, so this next dish and restaurant I swear is straight out of an episode of Kitchen Nightmares.  I dare you to look at this picture and not hear Gordon Ramsay's words "absolutely dreadful" echoing in your head:

Contrary to basic logic, this is actually NOT a picture of vomit

The Hungry Fisherman in Morro Bay.  First off, I had no idea Morro Bay was such a sleepy little town.  Seriously, at 6 everything shuts down and even prior to that there's not much going on other than art galleries and, uh, more art galleries.  But anyway, we came to the Hungry Fisherman basically out of process of elimination with, like, one other restaurant.  I can't say enough how Gordon Ramsay would have a field day with this place.  Decor is old, tables are dirty and worn down, and the food, as you can see...not the most photogenic.  That's not to say this place is bad.  It seems to be a local favorite and has favorable reviews on Yelp.  But, like, yeah...this looks like it may have been microwaved after being in a fridge for a week.  It wasn't horrible.  I ate it.  But...yeah...

I guess in Morro Bay there's three things to do: 1) visit the rock. 2) question why a big power plant operates right next to it and ruins its natural scenic beauty. 3) eat some fish.  That's exactly what we did at Tognazzini's Dockside Restaurant & Fish Market.

It looks, smells, and tastes like chicken but alas, this is actually halibut

Believe it or not this was actually my first time ordering fish in a restaurant since the first Bush administration probably.  I thought, you know what?  We're in Morro Bay, there's fish here, I'm eating all this other junk all week, I'm gonna face my fear and order some damn halibut.  Naturally being deep fried it was delicious.  I was proud of myself for that feat.

Down in Pismo there's a lot to do.  Pismo Beach is a town that looks like it hasn't been touched at all by the economy.  Unfortunately this is kind of another "why did we eat here?" moment: Brad's Restaurant:

The more French fries you have the more uninspired they look in every picture

So.  Brad's.  Been around for 50+ years and doing good business.  A couple things stood out to me, though.  Firstly, the blonde girl working the front is really, really attractive.  Like, whoa.  Second, everyone who works there including said blonde girl seemed to be a little pissed off on this particular night.  Not sure why, but no one seemed really happy to be there.  And third, they have a cool BBQ menu but it's only for weekends when they do it outside.  We were there on Wednesday.  Damn.  Burger was good.  Nothing overly spectacular.  The perceived grouchiness of the employees is what caught my attention here.

For breakfast we paid a visit to the restaurant that gave me one of my favorite pictures of 2012: Penny's All American Cafe:

Oh baby...yes

Deluxe strawberry waffle here.  It's a seasonal menu item and it is AMAZING.  Delicious breakfast.  Penny is a total gangsta.


To round things up, here we have a "light" lunch at the famous Jerry's Famous Deli in Studio City:

Basketball?  More like Matzoball

When I ordered Matzo ball soup I didn't realize the actual ball would be the size of Dane Cook's over-inflated ego.  I mean jeez.  Really, really tasty.

So there we go.  Some good, some not so good, and some kinda ugly.  Blogging it was fun.  Eating it was funner.  I should get back into this, yeah?