Food Observations

A blog for eaters

Cafe Luna

Nestled in the corner of an unassuming strip mall, surrounded by taco shops, donut shops, etc. is a beautiful restaurant. Cafe Luna is an absolute gem. You feel like you’re in the European countryside and not Carmel Mountain Ranch. I’ve visited twice and have been mostly impressed. Reservations were made and honored easily with the Yelp app. I highly recommend their signature “Rosetta”. There’s a small plate version with only two, but that’s not enough. You’ll want at least six.

I’ve also had the Fettuccine Bolognese. It was a very nice dish, beautifully presented. For a bolognese though, there really wasn’t enough meat in my opinion. The menu carries on about ground filet mignon and wagyu, etc., so I had high hopes. I should have requested a side of Italian sausage to go with it. My wife ordered the “Lobster Mac & Cheese”. It was not a traditional composed mac & cheese but more of a pink sauce pasta dish with cheese melted on top. The lobster tasted of high quality although the pieces were quite small and almost indiscernible. Not like the photo on their website. It did have a rich lobster flavor throughout. 

The outside patio seating is most lovely! Just be warned of the neighboring Irish Pub. We were immediately down wind from inconsiderate cigarette smokers just on the other side of the barrier. Service here is by and large excellent and professional. My wine glass did sit empty for a good twenty minutes though. They do have an impressive wine list and selection of top shelf cocktails. This place is a must visit if you’ve never been.

Phil’s BBQ

I’ve been to most Phil’s locations over the years and RB is definitely my favorite! It also helps that it’s really close to my office. Love the full service bar area and monthly rotations of beer of the month. I’ve ordered many things off their vast menu of BBQ goodness. Your mileage may vary on what you order however. Always excellent are their baby back ribs and chicken dinners. I never visit without ordering their excellent mac salad. Among the best I’ve put in my mouth! I also really enjoy the “El Toro” Sandwich. A mound of deli thin sliced tri-tip.

I was not impressed by their boneless style meats, like the “rib-less chick-less” plates. They taste dry and overcooked. The only upside is it’s easy to eat and you don’t need a shower afterwards. The caesar salad I had was just average. Most recently I tried “The Philibuster”. I had high hopes for this one but it didn’t quite deliver. The half pound beef patty had a nice grill flavor; the bun was very dense with a leathery skin. The overall mouthfeel was too dry. They should have added BBQ sauce or something (it was served on the side). Probably won’t order that again.

Casa de Pico

In business since 1971, Casa de Pico is a SoCal institution! Beginning in Old Town San Diego, they eventually moved to La Mesa in 2005. The atmosphere at their Grossmont Center location is simply stunning! Reminiscent of the spirit of their original Old Town location. It’s a fun, festive environment with vivid colors, hand-painted artwork, wrought iron chandeliers, etc. Food is outstanding, too! I enjoyed one of their signature dishes called “Senor Pico”. Beautifully grilled, thin-sliced carne asada with a taco and cheese enchilada.

On my most recent visit I had the Grilled Carnitas Burrito. This dish needs some work. The amount of serrano peppers inside really lit me up. Not very well balanced. Also, the tomatillo verde sauce on top was quite sparse. I even asked for extra. Was not served like a true wet burrito. The carnitas inside was in such huge chunks it kind of became a chore to eat. 

Every time we visit we always get the Concha de Guacamole! Such a fun and adorable guacamole appetizer that looks like a bird-like creature, nestled in a crispy flour tortilla bowl. Love their mariachi as well. I believe they’re there every Saturday evening.

P. F. Chang’s

Outstanding Mongolian Beef at P. F. Chang’s at San Diego’s Fashion Valley Mall. This was the lunch portioned “bowl” served over rice. Also enjoyed an order of Handmade Pork Dumplings. Jr FoodObs had the Pad Thai.

Olive Garden

Excellent lunch portion of “Lasagna Classico” with an Italian sausage at OG in Carmel Mountain Ranch!

The Par Lounge and Deck

Enough roughage, it’s time to get back to some normal food groups like grease, brown and yum! Outstanding “Ortega Melt” at the Par Lounge and Deck in Ramona. Parmesan crusted sourdough, turkey breast, pepper jack cheese, Ortega chile, maters and chili aioli (fancy mayonnaise). Served with my favorite accompaniment, fried tots. Unfortunately this tasty sandwich is no longer on their menu.

Cheesecake Factory

After that gustatory odyssey in Las Vegas, I had to have some light roughage to bring my system back into balance! Excellent Cobb Salad at Cheesecake Factory in Esco.

King’s Fish House

We stopped at King’s Fish House in Rancho Cucamonga on our way back from Vegas! Outstanding Panko Crusted Farm Raised Mississippi Catfish with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts and shoestring fries.

Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen

After two trips to Las Vegas we finally got in to Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace! This place lives up to the hype, that I can tell you. It is an exquisite, unforgettable dining experience. Reservations are a must well in advance. Last year I didn’t plan ahead enough so this year I booked on Open Table about 3 months prior. I had the Beef Wellington; Lady FoodObs had the Filet Mignon and Jr FoodObs had the Braised Short Rib. We also shared a variety of starters and small plates. Everything was excellent and so beautifully presented. HK is now open at Harrah’s Resort Southern California! There’s your opportunity to stimulate the local Valley Center economy. Bring a fat wallet.

Piero’s Italian Cuisine

Such a remarkable dining experience and exquisite service at Piero’s Italian Cuisine in Las Vegas! In business since 1982, Piero’s is a treasured Las Vegas staple. Known for it’s fabulous cuisine, unique atmosphere and five-star service. They have been a hangout for Vegas locals, politicians, celebrities and even notorious mobsters. In fact, a portion of my favorite movie (Casino) was filmed at Piero’s. I’ll definitely be returning to this special place whenever I return to Southern Nevada.

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