Food Observations

A blog for eaters

Olive Garden

Here’s a new dish at OG called “Sausage Stuffed Giant Rigatoni”.  Large pasta filled with flavorful Italian sausage and topped with homemade meat sauce and fresh melted mozzarella.  I’d consider the execution on this dish fairly poor.  I likely wouldn’t order it again.  It was fairly tasty, but just not tight enough for me.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  What I can tell you is the Zuppa Toscana is going down hill big league!  It used to actually come out looking good, now it’s just a haphazard mess.  I’m hoping OG can turn things around because they have something good to offer.  



Don Jose Mexican Restaurant

Love this Mexican restaurant in Lake Elsinore.  One of my all time favorite combination plates with an excellent cheese enchilada adorned with green onions, etc.   It’s all so hot that the cheese gets crispy on the edges.  Plus the best tamale I think I’ve had anywhere.  This thing is huge and dolloped with tender chunks of beef.  Wish we had a place this good closer to home.  



El Torito

The El Torito in Palmdale is kind of depressing.  It’s part of the outer ring of restaurants at the Antelope Valley Mall and when you pull up it seems like they’re out of business!  Here’s a dish called Panuchos Yucatan.  Mini corn tortillas filled with chicken machaca, beef barbacoa or carnitas, marinated cabbage and cotija cheese.  Kind of a hot mess to eat but very tasty.  



The Main Course Restaurant

Great dinner recently at The Main Course! A classic American steakhouse restaurant with a contemporary flair. We’ve been looking forward to trying this place since they opened. I recall remarking back in the day when visiting Thai Time for the first time that you don’t feel like you’re in Ramona (not that there’s anything wrong with that). This place, even more so! Since I have a lot of ground to cover, I’m going to cut to the chase and get straight to the food…
Clam Chowder ($8) – Big (shallow) bowl containing a rich and flavorful chowder. Full of meaty clams with just the right amount of potato, not too much. Also had some bacon which was a nice touch. Lent a smokiness to the whole thing that was really nice. Did not feel the need to add any salt & pepper. I would get this again.  

Lobster Mac & Cheese ($15) – Initial impression was “hot mess”. Presentation was not great and it was clearly a very loose béchamel. Never did tighten up. In fact, we wound up eating it with a spoon. There were only 4 discernible pieces of lobster meat throughout, only one of which I would consider a chunk. It did have a good lobster flavor though. I did appreciate that it was made with cavatappi pasta (corkscrew macaroni), which is how I like to make it at home.
Bread service (complimentary) – This was a highlight for us. A good sized sourdough loaf, warmed and sliced. Served with a side of what seemed to be an herb/garlic compound butter. Best thing was, the butter was perfectly soft! Nothing irritates me more than rock hard butter from the fridge! Although the bread was good, I will say it didn’t taste fresh from the oven. If it was baked the same day, it was very early in the morning.
Grilled Salmon Fillet ($26) – Excellent salmon, perfectly cooked and just the right sized portion. Moist, tender and flaky on the inside with a really nice sear crust on the outside. Highly recommended. Served over a bed of sautéed kale slaw and rice pilaf. The kale slaw was a nice touch and added a somewhat crunchy texture to an otherwise soft dish. Rice was just decent. Seemed odd that a rice pilaf was made with a short grain rice. Rice was on the al dente side and didn’t seem as hot as it should have been. All topped with a lemon herb beurre blanc (butter/white wine type sauce). Sauce was fine, but I thought it could have had more of an up front acidic/citrus note. Recommend they serve with some lemon wedges. I would get this again…
New York Steak ($34) – From Gail: When I have the option for steak, I almost always get my go-to basic of filet mignon. However, I felt compelled to ask our server which cut she felt was best at The Main Course. Our server highly recommended the New York steak. Because she is the one who is always serving them up, I was more than happy to take her suggestion! I am SO happy I did. A New York cut is more often than not poorly done, but not in this case. I chose to order mine medium rare, knowing I could ask to be cooked longer if needed. The steak was almost a thing of perfection! Large in size for a steak service, that’s for sure. There was a nice bark on the outside with the perfect rare center that I had hoped for. Our server did double back with me to make sure my steak was to the right temperature, at which is was! I chose to have the béarnaise sauce with my steak, which there are many sauces to choose from. It was certainly delightful and complimented the New York steak perfectly! I was not a huge fan of the veggies, but thats me on an every day level, they would have been perfect for the veggie lover. Personally, for me, its all about the steak and I look forward to going back to try that filet mignon next!
Kahlua Creme Brûlée ($7) – One of the more perfect desserts… This one was as good as any other fine restaurant creme brûlée that I’ve had. Nothing really that set it apart. The caramelized sugar on top seemed to be a little too thick. Maybe because it was served in such a shallow dish. I think I would prefer to try the flourless chocolate molten cake next time.
The restroom is classy, clean and elegantly appointed!
They incorporated a really nice patio seating area with top shelf furniture. There’s a section that wraps around the side so you don’t have to feel like you’re eating literally on the sidewalk of 620 Main Street.  
Overall a fantastic restaurant and such a gem for Ramona! They clearly focus on attention to detail. We interacted with most of the staff and service from start to finish was outstanding! Friendly, welcoming, personal and very professional. Can’t wait to go back for breakfast sometime on the weekend to try my favorite Eggs Benedict.



Pad Thai Restaurant 

This is a small hole-in-the-wall Thai eatery nestled in a run down strip mall in Escondido.  This place underscores the fact that you should never judge a book by its cover.  Such a wonderful hidden gem in an otherwise sketchy neighborhood.  Here’s some great crab wontons and an outstanding Panang curry lunch special. 


Tortellini at Home

The refigerated section at my local grocery store carries some decent fresh pastas.  One of my favorite brands is Rana, I think it’s called.  There’s a picture of a guy on the bag that looks like Larry David.  Anyway here’s their cheese tortellini.  Only three minutes in a gentle boil then straight into a toss of my scratch made Alfredo style cream sauce with fresh garlic.  Turned out amazing!

Sombrero Mexican Food

For some time now I’ve been enamored by this thing called a “sope”.  Finally tried one at Sombrero and it was excellent.  It starts with a disc of cornmeal masa dough, hand formed into a disc then fried or grilled.  The disc is then topped with beans, choice of meat, lettuce, mater, cheese, etc.  the edges wind up kind of dried out and tough so it’s not always easy to cut and eat.  

Wings N Things

Two of my favorite things at WNT.  Outstanding boneless buffalo wings and some breadstick pizza things.  Love their dressing dips too.  I always get one of each, ranch and blue cheese.  Best part about the boneless wings is not having to take a shower when you’re done!

  
  

Taco Bell

There’s a lot I like about The Bell, but this so-called Mexican Pizza is not one of them!  It was just terrible!  Hard to believe something as appalling as this is on their regular everyday menu when all the good stuff is “limited time only”. 

  

Outback Steakhouse 

I’ve always been a fan of the seafood entrees at Outback but they also do a pretty good job with ribs, BBQ, etc.  here’s an order of baby backs with their excellent Steakhouse Mac & Cheese.  

  

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