Skip to content

Creamery Cafe and Tillamook Ice Creamery at Tillamook Cheese Factory

March 26, 2015

During the Fall of 2014, my husband and I decided that for our annual Christmas trip out of town we would head up to Portland, Oregon and the Oregon coastline for a few days.  My mom went to graduate school in Oregon and I’d always heard stories about it growing up and had wanted to visit, but never had.  Crazy, since I live in California and have traveled all over, but I’ve never been to the state just north of where I’ve spent my whole life.  My husband has passed through Portland and other parts of Oregon several times and always thought that I would like Oregon.  In fact, there was talk last spring of us trying to head up to Southern Oregon to visit Crater Lake National Park.  Unfortunately, that never materialized, but that’s definitely on the “to do” list for the future.  For now, it was time to take a few days off and enjoy what Northern Oregon had to offer.

DSCF6094

As my husband and I planned our trip to Oregon, we starting coming up with a list of places we were interested in visiting or checking out that were in and around the Portland area, or out towards the coastline.  As I looked online for various things, one thing on the map of Oregon caught my eye, to the west of Portland, near the coastline was a small little town called Tillamook.  The name caught my eye because my husband is a huge lover of all things cheese, and Tillamook Cheese is quite well known.  When I investigated further, I discovered that there was a Tillamook Cheese Factory that was open to the public and could be visited.  The minute I brought up this idea with my husband, he enthusiastically agreed that we should make a trek out to the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

DSCF6095

Tillamook is a small community in northwest Oregon where the yearly rainfall average is plentiful making grass growing easy.  In turn, good grass means a perfect place for cows to graze.  Grazing cows means a booming dairy farm community.  In the late 1890s, a man by the name of Peter McIntosh brought with him an age old recipe for cheddar and an expertise in cheese making to Tillamook.  Beginning in 1909, a bunch of dairy farmers banded together to create the Tillamook County Cheese Association.  This farmer-owned co-op produced the first official Tillamook Cheese.  Today, Tillamook Cheese is still a farmer-owned co-op made up of just about 100 farm families from Tillamook County, many of which have been part of the community for multiple generations.  Being farmer-owned means that Tillamook can control the quality of the product that goes into producing their world famous dairy product.  From the time the milk leaves each dairy farm, it arrives at the Tillamook Cheese Factory within one hour.  Unlike other cheese factories, milk arriving to the factory is turned into cheese within 24 hours of arrival at the factory, therefore, preservatives are never required nor added to the milk.  Essentially, within 25 hours of leaving the farm, the milk becomes cheese.  And it takes a whole lot of milk to produce a small amount of cheese.  For instance 100 pounds of fresh milk only produces 10 pounds of cheese.  In normal day at the factory 171,000 pounds of cheese are produced, or about 130 million pounds of cheese per year.  That’s a lot of cheese and a lot of milk.  But, the Tillamook County Cheese Association doesn’t just make high-quality tasty cheese, they also use the dairy to make other products, such as butter, ice cream, yogurt and sour cream.

DSCF6098

When you visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory, you can go on a self-guided tour of their cheese-making operations.  There are descriptions and videos which show you how the dairy they receive is processed, and how the milk is turned into curds and whey and how those curds and whey eventually become the famous Tillamook cheese that we all love.  The operation is huge, and has to be the largest operation in Tillamook County, either in terms of dairy farms associated with the Tillamook County Cheese Association that supplies all of the milk, or the actual cheese makers, ice cream makers and other people who work at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

IMG_6089IMG_6090IMG_6091

Of course, at the end of your self-guided tour, you’re provided with free samples of the world famous Tillamook cheese.  The cheese samples we were provided with during our visit included the squeaky cheese (curds), Tillamook medium cheddar, and the special reserve extra sharp cheddar cheese.  The squeaky cheese curds are what my husband was most looking forward to prior to visiting Tillamook, and hoping that they would have samples of.  For me, out of all of the different varieties of cheese that we sampled, the special reserve extra sharp cheddar was my favorite.  I’ve always been a fan of cheddar cheese, and for me, the sharper the better as it’s that extra bite of the sharp cheddar that draws me in.

IMG_6092IMG_6093IMG_6094

The other three flavors that we sampled were Swiss cheese, smoked medium cheddar and garlic white cheddar.  The Swiss cheese was good as it was just so different from the other varieties available for sampling.  As expected, it had a nutty flavor to it, but it wasn’t incredibly pronounced, which is what I like, especially since I’m not the biggest fan of Swiss cheese.  I was quite surprised to taste the smoked medium cheddar as the first thing that hits your taste buds is the flavor and aroma of the smoke.  Even if you weren’t told in advance what kind of cheese this was, you would know right away that it was smoked.  That smoky flavor was very strong and pronounced.  The same could be said about the garlic white cheddar, the cheese was very garlicky with a pungent garlic flavor.  If you aren’t a fan of garlic, you’d want to stay away from this particular variety of cheese, as the garlic really tasted like fresh garlic infused into this cube of white cheddar cheese.

IMG_6096

At the very end of the cheese making factory tour and sampling, you’re led through a market where every variety of Tillamook cheese and dairy product produced at the factory is sold to the public, including gift baskets and samplers that you can’t find anywhere else.  My husband couldn’t leave the store without picking up a package of squeaky cheese curds for the road.

DSCF6109

As part of the Tillamook Cheese Factory, Tillamook operates their own fudge shop, café and ice cream shop.  The fudge shop was stocked with more than 20 different flavors of homemade fudge using Tillamook dairy.  Some of the flavors included, maple walnut, marionberry cheesecake, dark chocolate hazelnut, caramel coconut cheesecake, mint chocolate swirl, heath toffee crunch, peanut butter, white raspberry cheesecake, salted caramel, milk chocolate walnut, creamsicle, creamsicle chocolate swirl, amaretto chocolate swirl, and vanilla pecan just to give you a sample.  The café, known as the Creamery Café serves up a wide variety of food items featuring, what else, various Tillamook cheese products.  My husband and cheese go together like a moth to a flame, there was no way we were visiting the factory without enjoying lunch at the café.

DSCF6110IMG_6099

My husband went with your traditional grilled cheese sandwich with a side of tater tots.  Of course, at Tillamook, it’s not just your simple grilled cheese, rather this was the Centennial Grilled Cheese made with a combination of sharp cheddar and vintage white medium cheddar on thick sourdough bread.  The combination of the sharp cheddar and vintage white medium cheddar was a terrific combination as there’s a bit of a bite from the sharp cheddar, but that’s balanced out with the medium white cheddar.  The creaminess of Tillamook cheese allows the cheddar to melt perfectly on crispy, crunchy sourdough bread that compliments the melted cheese perfectly.

DSCF6111

While I too choose to enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich, I kicked mine up a notice with the Cheese Supreme made with medium cheddar, bacon and tomato on grilled sourdough bread.  I paired my meal with a cup of cream of tomato soup.  After all, grilled cheese and tomato soup is every kids idea of the perfect meal.  A grilled cheese sandwich is the perfect vehicle for really being able to taste the cheese.  Even though my sandwich was made with medium cheddar, Tillamook’s medium cheddar has as much bite as most other cheese makers sharp cheddar, which I love because the sharper and more aged, the better for me.  You can really taste the creaminess in the cheese and see it in the way it melts on the grilled sourdough bread.

IMG_6101

Of course, if my husband and cheese are like a moth to a flame, then me and ice cream are a match made in heaven.  With a full Tillamook Ice Creamery shop located at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, I couldn’t leave without sampling some of the amazing Tillamook ice cream.

IMG_6104

As a full, operational ice cream shop, the Tillamook Ice Creamery makes their own fresh made waffle cones and bowls, either plain or all dressed up, and serves up not only scoops of their famous ice cream, but also milk shakes, malts, ice cream floats, ice cream sodas, and sundaes, among other items.  You can get your ice cream in a single scoop, double scoop, triple scoop or even as a 3 scoop or 5 scoop sampler dish.  Or, even you are adventurous enough, or have enough friends with you, you can try out the ice cream adventure which gives you a single scoop of every flavor the Ice Creamery has available.  That’s a whole lot of ice cream.

IMG_6107

While my husband and I like our ice cream, the ice cream adventure was just a bit too much for just the two of us to handle.  My husband sent me to the Ice Creamery with the orders to get him 2 scoops in a cup.  What two scoops?  He told me to choose for him, 2 scoops that I thought he might like.  Hm, the decisions were tough as so many of the ice cream flavors sounded, and looked, so tempting.  There was orange sherbert, which I was sure my husband would like, but I couldn’t figure out what to pair it up with.  Now, if it had been my husband, he wouldn’t have cared and would have just chosen 2 flavors that he liked, regardless of how well they went together.  For me, I’m pickier, and since he asked me to choose for him, I had to try and find two flavors that paired together well.  Other flavors available when we were at the Ice Creamery included fireside s’mores, Grandma’s cake batter, mountain huckleberry, marionberry pie, rocky road, Tillamook mudslide, Oregon black cherry and Oregon hazelnut & salted caramel.  I was thinking my husband might enjoy the Grandma’s cake batter, but I wanted to find something more unique, something more fitting of Tillamook.  The Oregon black cherry and the mountain huckleberry were definitely contenders.

IMG_6110

Not to be overlooked was white chocolate raspberry yum, a flavor I know my husband would enjoy, purely for the raspberry aspect of it.  Though I didn’t know if the “yum” was just part of the name, of it meant there was some added extra ingredient in the ice cream.  There were also more traditional flavors such as chocolate, chocolaty chip cookie dough, cookies and cream, French vanilla, old fashioned vanilla and mint chocolate chip.  The chocolaty chip cookie dough is probably one I would enjoy, though I had my eye on a different flavor.  The mint chocolate chip is something my husband would enjoy, but really, you can get mint chocolate chip ice cream anywhere.  The remaining flavors available the day we were visiting were the caramel butter pecan, udderly chocolate, egg nog, coffee almond fudge, caramel toffee crunch, chocolate peanut butter, vanilla chocolate chip and the espresso mocha.

IMG_6108

In the end, I was able to find two flavors that were uniquely Tillamook and representative of the area that also would pair well together and I knew my husband would love: Oregon strawberry and Oregon blueberry patch.  My husband was happy with my selection as he had had Oregon strawberry before so he knew it would be good, and the Oregon blueberry patch is a flavor he would have chosen for himself as blueberries are his favorite fruit (or you could even say food).  Made with locally grown Oregon strawberries and blueberries, the ice cream was creamy and smooth, and incredibly rich.  It tasted fresh, and made with good quality dairy.  The colors of the ice cream itself may not look the most appealing as the strawberry had a very light off-white hue with some subtle flecks of red, and the blueberry was just slightly lavender in color with some dark purple flecks.  But this tells you that the ice cream is natural with no added food coloring or dye to make the ice cream more appealing, just the use of good old fashioned fresh, ripened strawberries and blueberries.

IMG_6113

For me, I couldn’t resist the pull of a waffle sundae.  After all, the aroma of fresh made waffle bowls being made onsite is enough to make my mouth water.  The waffle sundae comes with one scoop of ice cream, for which I chose the banana split ice cream.  Fitting huh?  A sundae made with banana split ice cream which is a combination of vanilla and strawberry ice cream with bits of walnut, banana and maraschino cherries mixed throughout and a swirl of fudge.  It’s like a banana split all rolled up into one convenient scoop.  Top the sundae with strawberries, whipped cream and nuts, and you’ve got a recipe for ice cream perfection.  Oh man, this waffle sundae was superb.  The banana split ice cream was fabulous, super creamy and rich.  But the best part was that you could taste the banana split, the strawberry and the vanilla and the fudge swirl and I definitely got bits of maraschino cherry and banana throughout the scoop as well as the walnuts.  It’s the best banana split ice cream I’ve tasted.  Top the whole thing with whipped cream and nuts and strawberry topping, put it all inside a fresh waffle bowl, how can you go wrong?

IMG_6095

If you ever find yourself in Northwest Oregon, make the drive to the Tillamook Cheese Factory, especially if you’re a dairy and/or cheese fan.  It was incredibly interesting and informative to see how the dairy farm lifestyle is so ingrained in this community and how the Tillamook County Cheese Association operates as a co-op with all of these dairy farms to produce and bring to market such high quality products, including the cheese, the butter, the ice cream and so much more.  This is the life blood of the people who live in and around this community.  And of course, don’t forget to try the free cheese samples, and grab a bite to eat from the Creamery Café or to grab a scoop, or two, of ice cream from the Tillamook Ice Creamery.  Everything is made with much love and care, and it’s super fresh and tasty.  You can’t go wrong!

Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza

March 23, 2015

Right before the Christmas holiday, two of my old high school friends and I got together for lunch to share some laughs, memories and catch up on what was going on in our lives.  These are girls I’ve known forever.  One of them I’ve been friends with since we were classmates in 4th grade.  The other one I’ve known since high school, though we actually went to the same elementary school where her mother was actually a teacher for many years.  And the two of them have actually known each other since they were 6 or 7 years old in a group called Indian Princesses.  It’s crazy to think that I’ve known these girls more than half my life, almost 3/4 of my life really.  And though it’s harder these days, what with the fact that we don’t all live that close to each other any more and we all have moved on to have careers and our own lives, for us to get together, but when we’re all in the same place at the same time, we try to at least get together a couple of times a year.  For a few years there, it was impossible for us to all get together at all because one of my two friends decided to go on an around-the-world sojourn which took her away from home for almost 5 years.  But, now we’re all back in Southern California together, and trying to enjoy being in each others company as much as our schedules will allow.  When it came time to get together before the holidays, we debated back and forth for a while as to where we should meet up.  Ultimately, I told the girls that there was a pizza parlor that I had heard one of the girls talking about that had been on my list of places to try for quite a while but I hadn’t yet convinced my husband to go to that I really wanted to try.  It turns out that both of my friends had actually been to this pizza place together previously, but they were nice enough to want to indulge my whim and agree that we should meet there for lunch.

IMG_5848

Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza was described by OC Weekly as “an honest-to-goodness pizza parlor,” in an article hailing the opening of the pizza join as a “return of the parlor.”  Owners Joe and Jenner Rasic, who have been Orange County residents since the early 1990s opened up Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza in Placentia as a neighborhood pizza joint to bring family and friends together.  Joe grew up in his families restaurants and has set out to create a warm, inviting, neighborhood joint where groups gather to celebrate special occasions around homemade pizzas and pitchers of beer and soda.  Jenner worked as an elementary school teacher in the area for 20+ years, creating a unique connection between herself and the community.  Many of those she knows from her teaching days she sees at the restaurant, in between creating new ideas for the pizza parlors’ dessert menu.

DSC02041

Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza features a bar, large screen tv’s showing sporting events, long bench-style seating for large groups, bar seating, and small tables for more intimate gatherings as well.  There’s an open kitchen in the back where you can watch your pizza being made to order.  At Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza, pizza dough is made fresh on a daily basis.  And many varieties of craft beer are on tap on a rotating basis.  Craftsman’s has been described as Shakey’s Pizza in its heyday when you’d find a pizza parlor filled with little league teams and soccer troops.  That’s the genuine feel you get when you step inside the doors of Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza.

DSC02040

Since I’m not a beer drinker, I chose craft-brewed draft root beer to drink.  Served in a chilled glass straight from the freezer and poured out of the tap just like it should be.  The glass is so cold that ice crystal start to form on the root beer, which is perfect.  The root beer is slightly sweet with a bit of tang and bite, the way a craft brewed root beer should be.  So much better than the commercial root beers you buy at the grocery store.

DSC02042

Having lunch with friends, we decided that we’d split a couple of pizzas between the three of us so that we could give a couple of different pizzas a try.  To start our meals though, we each ordered a side salad with Craftsman’s signature brown sugar vinaigrette.  This is the dressing that our waitress recommended to us because it was both a little sweet, but also a little tangy.  I’d never actually heard of a brown sugar vinaigrette before and was wondering if it might be just too sweet.  I don’t normally think about putting brown sugar into my salad dressings.  But, I must admit, I tasted the vinaigrette before I poured it over my salad and I really liked it.  The dressing wasn’t overly sweet, but it did have that hint of brown sugar, a little hint of sweetness to round out the bite of the vinegar and oil.  I might have to steal this dressing to make myself.  Over a bed of mixed greens, and some sliced red onions, both of which can have strong flavors, the sweetness of the brown sugar vinaigrette really helped to balance the flavors and pull the salad together.

DSC02044DSC02045

The first pizza we ordered was the grilled steak and potato.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you know by now that I’m truly a meat and potatoes kind of girl and this pizza was right up my alley.  Out of all of the different kinds of pizzas on the menu, this is the one I wanted to try the most.  Made with rotisserie tri-tip, covered in thinly sliced rosemary potatoes, smoked Gouda, caramelized onions, olive oil and chimichurri sauce, this pizza was fantastic.  Literally, I could have finished a whole pizza on my own, I wanted to just devour the entire pizza.  You can’t really see the tri-tip in the picture of the pizza because it’s buried under the potatoes, but believe me that the tri-tip was tender and plentiful on the pizza.  The rosemary potatoes were perfectly soft and tender and really well flavored with rosemary that gave it a nice woodsy flavor and matched with the chimichurri sauce well.  The smoked Gouda addition was a nice touch and again added a more smoky, woody flavor to the pizza.  The pizza had a taste, feel and flavor that was rustic and delicious.  What I really liked on the pizza was the use of chimichurri sauce.  I’ve never seen that on a pizza before, and personally I’m a huge fan of chimichurri sauce as it has such strong, but terrific flavors and works really well with meat.  For this particular pizza, it was the perfect “sauce” for the pizza and complimented the caramelized onions, the potatoes and the tri-tip to a T.  This pizza was absolutely outstanding, and for this pizza alone, I’d return to Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza.

DSC02043

The second pizza we chose was a shrimp and pesto.  None of us had ever had it before, and we figured it was exactly the opposite of the steak and potatoes pizza.  Plus, shrimp and pesto isn’t something you often find on a pizza menu, so we were interested in how it would turn out.  In this pizza, the pesto is the “sauce” of the pizza, which is then topped with tender shrimp, sundried tomatoes, and goat cheese.  I was a bit apprehensive about this pizza because I’m not a fan of either sundried tomatoes or goat cheese and wasn’t sure how that would play on a pizza.  However, I will admit, this pizza was pretty darn good.  The shrimp were perfectly cooked and of a very good size.  The pesto sauce was fantastic and combining it with the goat cheese actually made for a very creamy and smooth texture to the pizza which I enjoyed.  The sundried tomatoes actually lent the perfect amount of acidic tang the pizza needed to balance out the pesto and the sweet, succulent shrimp, so it worked much better than I expected it to.  I was quite impressed, my friends got me to try something I normally wouldn’t order, and I actually enjoyed it.

DSC02046

Of course, what would be a holiday celebration with friends without sharing a little dessert?  My friend who first discovered Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza recommended that we try the sizzling skillet apple pie.  This was Craftsman’s signature dessert.  A tart-sized apple pie served on a sizzling cast iron skillet with caramel sauce drizzled over the pie and still bubbling in the skillet, all topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream made for quite the presentation to the table.  To hear the caramel sauce sizzling and see it bubbling over as it came into contact with the red hot skillet, created an enticing show for not only for my eyes to feast on, but for my nose to take in this wonderful scent and of course my tastebuds to devour.  The pie was fantastic, and I’m not a fan of apple pie.  The caramel sauce really put it over the top, with really tender, cinnamon apple slices contained within a flaky pie crust.

Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza turned out to be a hidden gem in my book.  My friends and I had a great pre-holiday get together in a comfortable setting where we could enjoy each other’s company over some great salad, pizzas and dessert, and just feel relaxed.  Craftsman really does feel like your neighborhood pizza parlor, the place to gather and hang out.  And their pizza’s were phenomenal.  I’m in love with the steak and potato pizza, that’s steak and potatoes just the way I like it.  I’ve got to come back again in the future and bring my husband to try Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza, I know he’d like it just as much as I did.

Mr. BBQ

March 20, 2015

My parents have always been a fan of Korean BBQ, and after having introduced myself and my husband to Gen Korean BBQ House a few months back, they soon heard about another all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurant that they figured they needed to check out.  This new place was much closer to our house, and after having gone together once, both of my parents instantly liked it much better than Gen.  They were so taken with this particular restaurant that they went a second time a month or so later.  Fast forward another month and my dad’s birthday was approaching.  It’s our tradition that whoever’s birthday it was got to choose where they wanted to be taken out for a meal for their birthday.  My dad chose this new Korean BBQ restaurant and my husband and I had no choice but to try this place out with my parents.  Now, mind you, my husband was quite skeptical about this place and even up until the morning we were to pick up my parents to eat here, my husband was still trying to come up with excuses to get out of going.

086

Mr. BBQ opened in 2014 in Fullerton, nearby the campus of California State University, Fullerton, with the idea of providing customers a premium dining experience with “premium quality grade meats” in a “fun and lively atmosphere.”  They call themselves a PAYCE restaurant, “premium-all-you-can-eat.”  Depending on when you dine, lunch or dinner, weekends or weekdays, there’s several different pre-set menus you can choose from, as well as ordering a la carte as well.  There’s a little bit of something for everyone, even for those who aren’t carnivores.  Though, honestly, if you weren’t a meat lover, you probably wouldn’t find yourself in a Korean BBQ house.

077

The first thing my husband noticed when we walked into Mr. BBQ was its “fun and lively atmosphere” and he definitely liked it.  With a bar running along the back wall, and a large open room filled with tables made for 2, 4, and bigger parties with a grill at each table and hood fans stationed above each table, the restaurant was decorated in glowing, bright neon colors and surrounded with one wall painted in a funky design and large screen tvs against other walls showing sporting events.  To my husband, this gave him the feel of having walked into an authentic K-pop Korean BBQ house.  It felt like some place you’d walk into in the late night/early morning hours after a night out with friends in Seoul.

076

Like any other all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurant, you’re seated at a table with a grill in the middle of the table that is the focal point for everyone sitting around it.  This is the sole piece of equipment you need in order to eat your meal.  All of your meat and vegetables are cooked on this grill.  The neat thing about Mr. BBQ that I haven’t seen at other Korean BBQ restaurants is their willingness to constantly change out your grill.  The cleaner the grill is, the easier it is to cook your next round of meats and vegetables and the less likely that whatever your cooking on the grill will stick to it.  When we were dining there, it seemed like our grill was changed out every 10 minutes or less.  In about 1.5 hours, we must have gone through about 6 different grills.  It was terrific service from our wait staff to be so attentive.

074075

Once seated, the standard accompaniments that you would expect to see at a Korean BBQ restaurant were brought out to the table.  This included edamame, kimchi, sliced pickled radishes, marinated bean sprouts, sliced onions, marinated broccoli florets, and rice paper.  All of these accompaniments are companions to the grilled meats and vegetables that you cook on the grill.  Additionally, you’re given a little sauce with a dipping sauce and some sea salt.  The dipping sauce is for your grilled meats, and the salts can be sprinkled over your grilled meats for additional flavoring.

079

On the all-you-can-eat-menu, there’s a wide variety of different items to choose from.  Everything from beef, to pork, chicken and seafood.  The meat choices included thinly sliced prime beef brisket, premium choice chuck, premium beef belly, fresh cut choice sirloin, premium wagyu finger short ribs, premium marinated choice sirloin, veal intestine, ox large intestine, teriyaki chicken, spicy marinated chicken, premium cut fresh pork belly, finely sliced pork belly, spicy marinated pork belly, miso marinated pork belly, premium marinated pork chop, premium sliced pork neck, miso marinated pork butt, spicy garlic pork butt, premium marinated pork ribs, master link’s Portuguese Hawaiian, baby squid, spicy marinated squid, and fresh tiger shrimp.  Like I said, a little bit of something for everyone.  And you can order as much of any of the dishes as you can eat.  You keep ordering and grilling and they keep bringing it to the table.

078

We were quite fond of the premium beef belly, the thinly sliced prime beef brisket, the fresh cut choice sirloin, premium wagyu finger short ribs, premium cut fresh pork belly, premium marinated pork chop and the fresh tiger shrimp.  The choice sirloin was literally a whole steak that they brought to the table.  You grill it up to the doneness that you prefer and you’re eating a steak.  The beef belly and beef brisket were my favorites because they were sliced so paper thin that it took almost no time for them to grill.  They were so flavorful when you popped it into your mouth.

080

My husband’s favorite was the premium cut fresh pork belly.  Literally this was a huge slab of thick cut bacon.  You take the pork belly and lay it out on the grill.  It was perfect when you let it grill up for a bit so that it started getting crispy.  It’s like fresh cut, yummy, fatty bacon that you’re grilling up.  It smelled fantastic and tasted even better.

081

The idea when you order your meats and seafoods is to just take the meat and toss it on the grill.  When it’s cooked on one side, you flip everything over and grill up the other side.  When the meat is done, you start picking it up off the grill and popping it into your mouth.

084

It’s a non-stop eating frenzy.  Order plates of meat, throw the meat on the grill.  Cook up all the meat.  Start devouring everything you’ve just grilled.  And believe me, the waiters and waitresses at Mr. BBQ didn’t even bat an eye lash at you when you ordered plate after plate of food.  In fact, when they would notice that the plates of food you ordered start running low, they come up to you to ask you if you want to order more.  No one at a Korean BBQ house is shy about stuffing themselves to the gills.

082

Realistically, if you don’t eat meat, a Korean BBQ house is not a place for you as there’s very little you’d enjoy eating.  But, that’s not to say that the menu only featured meats and seafoods.  There were a few dishes that you could order that would accompany your grilled meats and seafoods.  The options included housemade bean paste stew, spicy housemade tofu soup, cold white kimchi noodles and housemade steamed egg.  It’s the steamed egg that my mom, dad and I enjoyed.  Served in a small clay hot pot, is a steamed egg, which is literally what it implies.  It’s best consumed hot, fresh out of the steamer when the egg is bubbly, fluffy and delicious.  Along with your meal, you’re also served a large bowl of salad and you can request bowls of steamed white rice as well.

085

Surprisingly, by the end of the meal, my husband who was looking for excuses not to go with us to Mr. BBQ all the up to the point where we left the house, actually quite enjoyed himself.  He loved the very authentic K-pop vibe of Mr. BBQ with its bright lights and colorful decorations.  And the food itself was outstanding.  We all left Mr. BBQ so stuffed we felt like we were going to burst.  Plate after plate, after plate of meat was ordered, grilled and consumed.  This is the perfect place for a meat loving family, like mine to find themselves dining.  My husband even left Mr. BBQ saying that he would want to go back there again soon, that tells you right there how his opinion of Mr. BBQ changed completely from the time we walked into the restaurant to the time we left.  This time around, my parents found a real winner in Mr. BBQ.  You can be guaranteed, we’ll be back here again before long.

Beverly’s Best Bakery

March 17, 2015

One of my Facebook “friends” is the local news bulletin board for the community I live in.  Moderated by a former local city council member, its interesting to follow the events going on around the city that are posted by local residents.  Sometimes, the information is quite informative and interesting, and other times it seems like a bunch of gossip between neighbors.  However, this past summer, I saw a post about a local business not too far from my neighborhood that was closing and speculation following as to what business would be taking over the space.  After a few weeks, it was revealed that a bakery would be going into the vacated space, and it seemed that this was a bakery that a lot of local residents were enthusiastic about.  Admittedly, I have a huge sweet tooth, so when I read that a new bakery was coming into town, I was so excited, I immediately told my husband about it.  He was considerably less enthusiastic about the whole thing than I was.  When the bakery finally opened, I told my husband about it, but he had no reaction.  Over the next couple of months, I mentioned the bakery to him a few times and we casually talked about stopping in, but something or other would always come up and we never made it over to the bakery.  Then, one day, we were driving in the vicinity of the bakery and my husband suggested that we just drop into the bakery and see what all the fuss was about.

DSC02023

Beverly’s Best Bakery is a second-generation, family run bakery that started with its first bakeshop in Fullerton, California.  Through much success and a great following, a second bakery soon opened up in the neighboring city of Yorba Linda.  The business began with a Naples, Italy background when the original owners decided to use their family history and recipes to create unique and creative wedding cakes, specialty cakes and pastries and delicious baked goods and bring them to Southern California.  Years down the road, the owners daughter and her husband got involved in the business and bought the bakery.  They have since expanded the bakery, but retain the bakery’s standards of high quality products with exceptional customer service.

DSC02031

Although Beverly’s Best Bakery specializes in custom wedding cakes and specialty cakes, my husband and I were there to check out their display and selection of baked goods, pastries and cupcakes.  As soon as you walk into the store, you’re greeted by a refrigerated display case filled with refrigerated goodies, then numerous cake stands and displays of various scones, pastries, and cookies of all varieties.

DSC02028DSC02034

As it was the Christmas season when visited, specialty decorated Christmas-themed sugar cookies were on display.  Ornaments, Santa Claus, presents and candy canes to choose from.  My husband couldn’t resist their allure, and to my surprise chose a hand decorated red present Christmas sugar cookie to take home with us.  According to my husband, the cookie was buttery, soft and chewy.  The cookie wasn’t too sweet, but was just perfect.  And surprisingly, much larger and more filling than it seemed in the display case.

DSC02024DSC02025

For me, it was the refrigerated display cases that really drew my attention.  Then again, I am a complete cake and cupcake girl who doesn’t quite understand the idea of moderation.  When you’re presented with displays of chocolate cupcakes with butter cream, red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese, vanilla bean cupcakes with ganache, pumpkin bars, pecan bars and lemon bars, how can you possibly choose just one, or even two?

DSC02032

What about these gorgeous specialty brownies?  Some topped with a cream cheese topping, others made like rocky road brownies topped with marshmallows, others topped with crushed chocolate peanut butter cups, and others made like turtle brownies and topped with crushed walnuts and caramel sauce.  They looked so mouth-watering.  My mind was racing trying to figure out how many items I could walk out of the bakery with, without looking like a complete, and embarrassing sweet tooth monster who couldn’t help herself.  If I could, I probably would have ordered one of everything in the bakery.  Everything really looked that delicious and tempting.

DSC02029

As I mentioned, the bakery wasn’t just about cookies and cupcakes and cakes, there were plenty of baked goods and pastries to choose from as well.  How about a nice, healthy cranberry orange scone to start the day?  Or what about a more savory cheddar cheese with jalapeno scone?  I love the diversity of all the different sweets and pastries you can get at Beverly’s Best Bakery.

DSC02026

As much as I’d love to be able to walk into a bakery and ask them to box up one of everything for me, it’s just not possible, so after a few minutes of browsing, my husband and I had to make some serious decisions.  We knew we’d want to take some of Beverly’s delectable looking cookies home.  Cookies are a good way to judge how good a bakery is.  Are the cookies soft and chewy, the way my husband and I like them?  The monster sized cookies at Beverly’s Best Bakery sure look soft and chewy.  So it’s time to decide between double chocolate chip, or snickerdoodle.  There’s the classic chocolate chip, or rich butter cookies, peanut butter or even oatmeal raisin to choose from.  How about gingerbread men?  Or even French macarons?

DSC02035

In the end, my husband and I each chose 2 different cookies.  I knew my husband would take the snickerdoodle as that’s one of his all time favorite cookies.  His other choice was the oatmeal raisin.  My choices were definitely more classic, the chocolate chip cookie and the double chocolate chip cookie.  Once we got home and started enjoying the cookies, my husband took one bite of his snickerdoodle and his immediate reaction was a smile on his face, and the comment “oh yeah!”  First off, the cookies were exactly as they looked, soft, fluffy and chewy.  They were perfectly baked and soft on the inside without being over baked and burnt on the outside.  The cookies were obviously made with a lot of butter as they were so fluffy and so full of rich pure butter flavor.  Hey, if you’re going to enjoy a dessert, it should be made with good stuff, chock full of flavor and butter and good quality vanilla and chocolate chips and all sorts of other ingredients.  And you could tell that Beverly’s Best Bakery makes all of their cookies with a lot of care and a recipe that calls for an abundance of all sorts of quality ingredients.  That’s what I’m looking for when I go to a bakery and buy cookies, something that’s delicious, full of flavor, soft, moist and chewy.  As soon as my husband and I each finished our first cookies, we knew right away, we’d be back to Beverly’s Best Bakery, if only for their cookies as a trip to the bakery for a dozen cookies would certainly be worth it.

DSC02036DSC02038

However, the one item that my husband and I both got at Beverly’s Best Bakery that we fell in love with right away was the classic eclair.  First off, this was the largest eclair I’ve seen, which wouldn’t necessarily mean that it would be good because in baking, size doesn’t always matter.  Flavors are more likely to be diluted or lost when pastries are so big.  However, one bite of this eclair was enough for my husband and I to both declare that this was the absolute best eclair we’d ever tasted.  The chocolate frosting with the chocolate piping on the éclair was perfect.  Not too sweet and not too bitter.  Great flavor addition to add to the éclair instead of weighing it down.  The pate choux pastry to make the éclair was light and flaky and perfectly baked.  But the star of the éclair was the Bavarian cream.  Personally, I find that a lot of eclairs, or really any sort of “filled” pastry is always light on the filling and heavy on the pastry dough.  If I’m going to buy something that’s filled, I want it to be filled with whatever should be in there so that I can taste the filling in every bite.  At Beverly’s Best Bakery, the éclair was so stuffed with Bavarian cream that it was 90% Bavarian cream and only 10% pate choux and chocolate glaze, which is a terrific ratio.  And the Bavarian cream was delicious.  Smooth, creamy, and flavorful, it’s as Bavarian cream should be made with quality ingredients.  When I’m enjoying an éclair, while I enjoy the combination of the flavors of the Bavarian cream and the chocolate and the pastry, really what I want is the Bavarian cream.  It’s a wonder I don’t just order a cup of Bavarian cream on its own.  But Beverly’s Best Bakery delivers exactly what I’m looking for.  For the eclairs alone, Beverly’s Best Bakery won me over.

After visiting Beverly’s Best Bakery and seeing the shop and then bring home the pastries and enjoying their wonderful flavors, my husband was finally convinced that a bakery isn’t just a bakery like every other bakery.  He realized that Beverly’s Best Bakery distinguished itself by making high quality desserts and pastries using high quality ingredients and wonderful recipes that produced products that tasted phenomenal.  The cookies won us over, but the eclairs definitely stole our tastebuds.  I have no doubt that Beverly’s Best Bakery will become a favorite go to bakery for our household.

Toscana

March 11, 2015

As we approached the holiday season in 2014, my longtime boss turned to me in early December and said we needed to figure out what we should do as an office to celebrate the achievements of the year.  In 2013, we had good intentions to have an office holiday luncheon, but, as it sometimes happens, work got in the way, and we were crunched at the end of the year to try to close a deal that we ended up skipping our holiday luncheon.  So, fast forward 12 months, we knew that this year, we had to make it a point to go out and have a nice luncheon, away from work, away from the office, just to be together and reflect on the year that’s passed and the amazing accomplishments we’ve achieved together as colleagues.  There was talk as to where we should go for our holiday luncheon, and after throwing around some ideas and doing a little Yelp! searching, we settled on a restaurant which all of us in the office have walked past numerous times, but surprisingly, none of us have ever dined there.

Many moons ago, a CPA by trade, Mike Gordon, had a dream to open up an authentic Tuscan restaurant which would be a gathering place for his friends and family.  What better place to have your friends and family gather than where you live, so Toscana was opened in Brentwood, where Mike was a long time resident.  As the restaurant’s reputation grew, not only did it attract friends and families, but Hollywood celebrities, other locals and even tourists.  Today, one of Toscana’s original kitchen chefs has been elevated to the restaurant’s Executive Chef and Toscana continues to churn out authentic Tuscan cuisine under the guise of their unwritten promise of “treat everyone as if they are family.”

IMG_5830

To start off our office holiday meal, I ordered the Insalata di Rucola.  Made with arugula, parmesan and heirloom tomatoes, the salad was vibrant, bright and packed full of flavor.  Tangy and acidic heirloom tomatoes combined with strong and salty parmesan and peppery arugula together make a bold statement.  The salad was lightly dressed in some sort of a vinaigrette which only enhanced the peppery and acidic flavors.  I’m a huge fan of shaved parmesan such as was used on this salad as I think you really taste the saltiness of the cheese, which only heightens the other flavors on the plate.

IMG_5831

For my main meal I ordered the Caterina pizza.  Made with homemade bresaola, gorgonzola cheese, radicchio and mozzarella, it sounded like an intriguing combination.  The restaurant has it’s own pizza oven, and the pizza dough was terrific.  Crispy, and thin and definitely tasting like it was pulled directly out of the pizza oven and onto the plate.  The homemade bresaola was terrific.  Not too salty, but paper thin as you’d expect and still full of flavor.  My one objection to this pizza was the radicchio.  I’m not the biggest fan of radicchio to begin with, and I didn’t really feel like it fit on this pizza as its bitter flavor really was the dominant flavor on the pizza for me.  I would have preferred a much sweeter vegetable than the bitter radicchio.  Each bite of tasting the bitter flavor took away from all of the other terrific flavors on the pizza.  The gorgonzola cheese was a nice touch as it was just sprinkled on the pizza, so the bites where you got a whiff of the pungent gorgonzola was like finding a little treasure of flavor.  Too much gorgonzola would have been overwhelming, but there was a nice balance of gorgonzola to mozzarella.  With just bresaola and nothing else, the pizza would have been perfect.  However, I just couldn’t get over the radicchio as its strong flavors just took away from everything else on the plate because it profile was so polar opposite to all the other ingredients on the pizza.

IMG_5832

Dining at an Italian restaurant, how could I say no to dessert?  And honestly, when was the last time I said no to dessert?  It’s almost guaranteed that an Italian restaurant’s dolce menu is going to include one of my favorite desserts, tiramisu.  Somehow, my husband isn’t as big of a fan of tiramisu as I am, which doesn’t make sense since he likes anything else that has cheese in it.  Anyhow, my husband and I don’t work together so I don’t have to think about sharing my dessert with him, which sometimes means I don’t get the tiramisu I want.  This time, it was all mine.  Turns out the tiramisu slice here at Toscana was much larger than I expected, but who am I to complain?  More for me!  Served atop some raspberry coulis, with a fresh raspberry atop the tiramisu and 2 Italian “cookies” which seemed to be made out of some sort of croissant pastry or some sort of crispy pate choux pastry, the dessert was hearty, but delicious.  The flavors of the tiramisu were subtle, not too sweet, not too strong and heavy and not too overdone with strong espresso flavor, it was a good combination.  The cocoa powder atop the tiramisu slice added a nice hint of sweetness and texture to the tiramisu and the raspberry coulis added a pop of tang and citrus in contrast to the subtle sweetness of the dessert.

At the end of the meal, we all agreed that Toscana had some terrific food.  Good old, authentic Italian dishes.  The atmosphere was terrific as well, and made for a nice lunch hour for us outside of the office to just enjoy each other’s company and talk about the upcoming holidays.  It turns out that my boss enjoyed Toscana so much that he returned to the restaurant that weekend with his family for their holiday meal.  Toscana definitely isn’t your everyday lunch stop, but certainly is a great place for a special occasion.

Norma’s at The Parker Palm Springs

March 5, 2015

During our Thanksgiving getaway to the desert community of Palm Springs, California, my husband was able to convince me to go away with him for a couple of days by luring me in with an overnight stay at the beautiful Le Parker Meridien Palm Springs.  The Parker Palm Springs, as its known, is an incredible resort property whose signature style harkens back to the heyday of Palm Springs in the retro-era furnishing and decorations found throughout the property.  In fact, after a stay at this property, my husband boldly said that after all of the hotels we’ve ever stayed at (and there’s been some nice, luxurious properties) that the Parker Palm Springs was by far and away his favorite.  In the morning, before we checked out of the hotel and headed out on a small road trip out to Joshua Tree National Park, my husband and I decided to enjoy a little breakfast at the hotel.

042041

Norma’s is the casual dining restaurant, named after the founder’s wife, at the Parker Palm Springs serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.  Set amidst the hotel’s beautiful property, the restaurant features beautiful indoor and outdoor dining areas.  When the weather is nice, the outdoor patio with its colorful and comfortable seating and beautiful setting amongst the palm trees and the property’s gorgeous landscaped and manicured outdoor area is second to none.  It is on a cool, crisp, chill-lingering-in-the-air on an early Friday after Thanksgiving morning that my husband and I decided to put on some jackets and brave the outdoor chill to enjoy breakfast while dining out on the patio watching as the sun rises over the palm trees and high into the sky into what would soon turn into a gorgeous, clear desert day.

044

To start, our waiter brought to our table 2 “shots” of Norma’s smoothie of the day for us to sample.  Made with a blend of mixed berries, banana, pineapple and mango, the smoothie was very tropical and fruity.  It certainly made me debate for a minute the idea of ordering a glass of the smoothie of the day because I loved the combination with the pineapple and the mango making the whole smoothie just a little sweeter, but in the end, I needed some caffeine.  It was a nice touch though to give us this shot to start our meal.

045

My husband, ever the lover of orange juice, saw that they had fresh squeezed orange juice on the menu and knew that he was going to order that to drink with his breakfast.  Any orange juice lover will tell you that fresh squeezed orange juice is 100 times better than bottled juice.  You can just taste the freshness in the juice and you know that there’s been no added sugar to the drink. Not surprisingly, my husband loved his cup of fresh squeezed orange juice.

046

Originally, I wanted to order a latte to drink, but I was informed by our waiter that their coffee machine had just broken and there was no hot coffee drink to be had.  So, I had to switch to French pressed ice coffee instead.  The ice coffee, cold pressed over several hours, they had chilling in their refrigerator, and that was available, so if I wanted my coffee fix, it would have to be in the iced format.  What I liked about Norma’s is that my iced coffee was brought to the table with French pressed iced coffee over ice in a glass and nothing else.  It wasn’t pre-sweetened in advance.  Instead, I was provided with sugar and a small carafe of coffee creamer so that I could doctor up my iced coffee the way I wanted to.

049

My husband knew automatically what he would be ordering for breakfast, his favorite breakfast dish, Norma’s eggs Benedict.  My husband has a particular weakness for eggs Benedict and must order it if he ever sees it on a restaurant’s menu.  Here at Norma’s the eggs Benedict are made with buttermilk pancakes layered with Canadian bacon and grilled asparagus topped with the traditional poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.  My husband loved the idea of using buttermilk pancakes in place of the traditional English muffin.  For him, the buttermilk pancakes were light and fluffy and he said that these were the best buttermilk pancakes he’d ever eaten.  The rest of the eggs Benedict was as you’d expect with a delicious and rich Hollandaise sauce and a perfectly poached egg.

047048

A bit uncertain as to what I wanted to order, my husband convinced me that I should give the chocolate decadence French toast a try.  I was a bit concerned that it might be too sweet and heavy for breakfast, but I couldn’t argue with the fact that it was a unique dish and definitely one that I’d never be able to make myself at home.  The French toast was covered in strawberries, pistachios and topped with valrhona chocolate and fresh whipped cream, was a sight to behold as it was brought to the table.  A small ramekin of additional valrhona chocolate was provided to drizzle over the chocolate French toast, but it really wasn’t necessary.  This literally was moist, flavorful, chocolate sponge cake grilled as you would French toast.  Between each slice of grilled chocolate cake, chocolate sauce was poured and fresh sliced strawberries and pistachios were layered.  The breakfast was almost like dessert in its decadence, but heavenly in its taste.  I’ve never tasted chocolate cake that was so moist and delicious and with the added sweetness of the strawberries and the contrast of flavors from the pistachios, this was a breakfast dish to die for.  In the end, I couldn’t finish all of it, and my husband couldn’t resist its flavor that he finished it for me.  Though my husband isn’t a big chocolate fan, he proclaimed that this was the best breakfast dish he’d ever had in his life.  Two thumbs up for this amazing chocolate decadence French toast.

Breakfast at Norma’s was the perfect way to start out our morning in the desert.  It was filling enough that we didn’t eat again until dinner.  The setting of the outdoor patio was peaceful and relaxing amidst the beautiful gardens of the Parker Palm Springs.  And the food was decadent, delicious, and memorable.  Before staying at the Parker Palm Springs, my husband and I had both read about how breakfast at Norma’s was a “must” and now that we’ve experienced it ourselves, we can see why it is so highly recommended.  Breakfast at Norma’s was the cherry on top of our stay at the Parker Palm Springs.  We enjoyed our stay there so much that we’re already talking about when we could go back there again, and you can bet we’d do breakfast at Norma’s again in a heartbeat.

Morton’s The Steakhouse

March 3, 2015

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, then you must know how much I love my steak and potatoes.  I am a meat eating carnivore in every sense of the word.  If I had my choice of a restaurant to dine at, more than likely it would be a steakhouse, and if I find myself dining out, I’d most likely order the beef dish on the menu.  I’m unashamed to admit how much I love a good steak.  In the past, I’ve blogged about my past visits to well known national steakhouses such as Capital Grille, Fleming’s and Ruth’s Chris, now here’s another one to add to the list.  For Thanksgiving 2014, my husband had an idea to getaway from Los Angeles for one night and head out to the desert of Palm Springs.  The purpose of the trip would be so that we could head out to Joshua Tree National Park on the Friday After Thanksgiving, a place my husband had been trying to get me to go to for a couple of years now.  As we had no other plans for Thanksgiving and I too had wanted to see the National Park, I agreed that a quick getaway to Palms Springs would be a good idea.  Of course, when you travel anywhere over a holiday, there’s always the question (at least for me) of where we could eat our holiday meal that would even be open.  You can’t always expect to travel on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas and find a plentiful mix of different restaurants and even fast food diners that are open.  More often than not, you’ll end up going hungry if you don’t pre-plan because unless you’re in LA, you’re often hard pressed to find anything open.

030

Luckily for us, I discovered that Morton’s The Steakhouse, in the neighboring community of Palm Desert would be open on Thanksgiving evening.  My husband and I have visited a bunch of steakhouses together over the years, but we’d never dined at Morton’s before, so this was going to be a first for us.  Started in Chicago in 1978, Morton’s The Steakhouse was the brainchild of Arnie Morton and Klaus Fritsch.  Having worked together at The Playboy Club in Montreal, the two met when Klaus Fritsch cooked a hamburger which was sent out to Arnie Morton.  One bite of the hamburger and Arnie stormed into the kitchen demanding to know who cooked his burger, as it was the best hamburger he’d ever tasted.  From that day, to today, Morton’s The Steakhouse has grown to over 69 restaurants worldwide.  As one of the most recognizable steakhouses in the world, Morton’s serves only the finest prime aged beef and other meat using the same meat purveyors today that they’ve used since the opening of their first restaurant in Chicago.  Prime aged beef that my husband and I couldn’t wait to sample.

034

To start off our meal, we chose the short rib steak tacos for an appetizer.  Served on warm corn tortillas topped with short rib steak, fresh salsa, some sort of chipotle cream sauce and some salsa verde along with fresh sliced avocado, onions and cilantro, these tacos were a flavor punch of goodness wrapped up in about 4 bites.  The short rib steak was tender, flavorful and fantastic.  The flavors of the fresh salsa and the salsa verde combined with the warm corn tortilla and the buttery flavor of the sliced fresh avocado were a perfect compliment to the short rib steak.  I easily could have eaten 5 of these tacos for dinner, they were that good.

036

For his meal, my husband ordered the 16 oz center-cut prime ribeye.  Bone in prime ribeye grilled to a nice medium rare is my husband’s steak cut of choice when we dine at steakhouses and one bite into this beauty of a ribeye and my husband declared that this was easily the best tasting steak he has ever had.  The steak was cooked perfectly, it was juicy and moist, and incredibly tender, all packed full of rich flavor.  It was so tasty that my husband, who isn’t the steak lover that I am, devoured his whole ribeye rather quickly because he couldn’t get over how flavorful the meat was.

037

To go with our steaks, we ordered a couple of sides to share at the table.  The bacon and onion macaroni and cheese was absolutely delicious.  The dish was packed full of cheesy flavor that was perfectly melted and created a nice cheesy crust on the top.  The bacon flavor of the dish really shined through and the onion flavor was much more subtle mixed in with the pasta so as to not be overwhelming.  This may have been the best macaroni and cheese side dish I’ve enjoyed at a steakhouse.  The other side dish we ordered was my husband’s personal favorite, the onion ring.  Large sliced onion rings battered and deep fried to a nice crispy golden brown and served alongside a couple of dipping sauces.  However, the onion rings were so flavorful on their own that the dipping sauces were completely unnecessary.  The rings were perfectly deep fried to a perfect crispy consistency, and yet the onions inside were piping hot, tender and sweet.  Exactly how you want onion rings to be.

035

For my entree, I chose the special surf and turf dish with the 8 oz center-cut filet mignon and the 6 oz grilled lobster tail served with drawn butter.  I liked the touch of the grilled lemon to help draw out the smoky flavor and the juices from the sliced lemon.  Grilled lobster tail and drawn butter are a terrific combination that always works with steak.  The seasoning on the lobster tail was terrific, though the lobster tail itself was just average, with the meat not being as tender and buttery in texture as I had hoped.  My medium rare center-cut filet mignon was fantastic and more than made up for the slight disappointment with the lobster tail.  As soon as I took a bite of my filet, I could see why my husband called this the most flavorful steak he’d ever had.  There is a rich flavor and tenderness to the steaks here at Morton’s that I just haven’t found at other steakhouses.  The meat is so tender that you feel like you could almost cut it with a butter knife, how they manage to keep it so juicy and moist is a thing of beauty.  This 8 oz filet was everything I was hoping it would be.

040

Halfway through dinner, our waiter came to our table to let us know that one of the restaurant’s dessert specialties was the souffle, but that if we were interested in ordering that, we should place our orders right away as they take some time to cook.  The minute I heard the word souffle, I knew that’s what I wanted for dessert as I can never pass up an opportunity to have a good souffle.  After hearing of the souffle selections available that evening, I surprised my husband and didn’t choose the obvious chocolate souffle for dessert, instead opting for something a little different and going for the lemon souffle instead.  First off, when it came to dessert time and we saw the souffles come out to the table, my husband and I both thought that we were going to die since the souffles were huge.  I don’t think I’d ever seen a bigger individual souffle in my life.  I was already full from my dinner that I was groaning internally since I had no idea how I was going to finish this monstrosity of a dessert.  With eyes bulging, our waiter assured us that it wasn’t that bad as the souffle is really nothing more than air inside and that while it looked huge, it wasn’t really that bad.  Topped with a little lemon zest and served alongside a goblet of Creme anglaise, I really like how the souffle was baked until it had a nice golden crust atop it.  This crust is like creating a nice shell that protects the airy inside of the souffle.  And our waiter was right, when you dig into the souffle itself, it didn’t seem nearly as big inside as it looks from the outside as it truly was very airy inside, which was perfect.  This was one of the best cooked souffles I’ve had, as it seemed that they whipped the egg whites just right and they baked it the perfect amount of time for it to rise to the right height and be the perfect consistency inside.  The lemon flavor of the souffle was also very well done with just the right touch of citrus and tang, but without overpowering the entire dessert.  The combination of the lemon flavor and zest with the vanilla in the Creme anglaise was just the combination I was looking for when I decided I wanted to go with the lemon souffle instead of the chocolate souffle I normally would have ordered.  And I’m glad I made this choice for my dessert.

039

When I chose the lemon souffle, my husband was forced to choose a different souffle since he didn’t want to order what I had ordered.  So, he chose the grand marnier soufflé.  Forced is probably too strong of a word, though I know he would have considered the lemon soufflé if I hadn’t chosen it.  However, he was more than happy with his grand marnier soufflé.  Like mine, it was also served alongside a goblet of Crème anglaise to be poured into and over the soufflé once you use your spoon to scoop out the middle of the soufflé.  Again, piping hot and perfectly baked out of the oven, the outside of the soufflé formed a nice skin while the inside was incredibly airy and light.  Flavored with the perfect amount of grand marnier it had a nice orange flavor combined with the vanilla in the Crème anglaise, this soufflé was heavenly.  Even though both of my husband and I figured there was no way we would each finish our soufflés, we ended up having no problems finishing them at all; that’s just how good they were.

Dining out at a chain restaurant on Thanksgiving evening, you don’t really go into the restaurant expecting to be wowed, or come out being impressed.  More than anything, you just want a decent meal that will fill you up.  Well, Morton’s The Steakhouse went beyond both mine and my husband’s expectations.  We walked out of the restaurant more than satisfied with our meals.  Each part of the meal was fantastic, from the appetizer to the entrees and sides all the way through dessert.  And our service from our fantastic waiter was excellent as well as he was very attentive to our needs.  After having made our rounds through some of the more well known steakhouses, it’s taken awhile before we tried Morton’s The Steakhouse.  But, the wait was well worth it.  Our Thanksgiving evening meal at Morton’s hit the spot for us and was exactly what I was looking for.  You can be assured that we’ll be back to Morton’s again before long.