Friday, December 30, 2005

A stormy day! And a good time for a cup of tea. And now I can tell you about a new tea I found the other day, Bigelow's "Eggnogg'n" - "An Eggceptional Winter Tea"

I'm enjoying a cup right now. It has a lot of vanilla tones in it with a touch of cinnamon. I have added a teaspoon of honey but the honey flavor is barely noticeable in the complex of flavors.

Unfortunately, it comes in bags so I can't enjoy it in my new Ingenuitea cup.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Teapot from Adagio Teas
I received this for Christmas and I'm thoroughly impressed with it! It works perfectly! Thanks!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Great Pumpkin Bread

…no, not bread made from Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin, an ordinary pumpkin will do just fine.

2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup canned* pumpkin puree
1/2 cup oil
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 medium orange, juice and grated peel
1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
1/2 cup yellow raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Beat together first 4 ingredients until blended. Stir in the remaining ingredients until dry ingredients are just moistened. Do not overmix.

Divide batter between 4** greased and lightly floured mini-loaf pans (6x3x2-inch), place pans on a cookie sheet and bake in a 325 F. oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester, inserted in center, comes out clean. Allow to cool for 15 minutes and then remove from pans and continue cooling on a rack.

When cool, brush tops with orange honey and sprinkle with a few chopped toasted walnuts.*** Yields 4 mini-loaves. Or 2 (8x4-1-inch) loaf pans OR 1 (9x5-inch loaf pan. Adjust cooking time and bake at 350 F. until cake tester, (toothpick) inserted in center, comes out clean.

This is very good!

*I used fresh pumpkin and it makes lighter bread than the processed pumpkin.

**The 4 overflowed…I’m going to try it with 5 next time.

***I used finely chopped pecans.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Movie Review time...
We watched "Coach Carter" the other night and here is what Netflix has to say about that...

Coach Carter (2005) PG-13
Samuel L. Jackson plays the titular, controversial coach, a hardliner who firmly believes that scholarship and a sense of ethics go hand in hand with excellence on the basketball court. A man of his convictions, Coach Carter benches his undefeated team of high schoolers when they turn in poor academic grades (much to the chagrin of the players' parents and many of his fellow teachers). Co-stars Ashanti. Thomas Carter directs.

Great movie! Some scenes and the language were irritating, but in the end did not factor into our overall enjoyment of the movie. I have to admit that I wasn't all that keen on seeing the movie...but I was wrong. The story is a no-brainer, but the acting is so well done that you will enjoy it despite the fact that the ending is obvious.

I gave it 5 stars.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Wednesday night and...

Before the concert we decided to try a “New to Us” restaurant. And this time it was the Caffe Malvina. A good choice. We arrived at 5:45 and found the restaurant empty. Now for us, that’s a good sign, signaling a quiet evening ahead of us. We were greeted quite warmly by the hostess (family?) and seated at a nice table by the window. The menu holds no surprises, it is Italian! And there are no signs that it might be a trendy sort of place. The menu said “family”.

We made our choices, pastas with squid. But two different entrees…And at 6, a crowd began to fill the restaurant. A piano began to play and soon it was difficult for us to hold a conversation. (It is a small room.) Service was smooth though not polished. Our hostess was constantly in motion, moving from one table to another with greetings and concerns. It was quickly apparent that the dinner crowd was comprised of returning customers. I’m sure that we were the only “strangers” in the room and the hostess went out of her way to make us feel at home in her “home”.  

Good, simple Italian food…give it 4 stars, but come early! (And come to eat on Thursday nights, it will make the owner happy.)

Concert Time

A night at Laxson. A great evening with Joan Baez in concert. We easily found our seats, high above the stage in the balcony section and then noted the grand architecture of the hall. I guessed that it had been built in the 1930’s but it turned out that I was off by a few years as it had been built in the late 20’s. It certainly has that Classical Moorish look and feel to it. It is a small venue so most seats are good ones. The more knowledgeable around us had brought small binoculars to get a better glimpse of those on stage, but we didn’t miss out on anything by not having binoculars for ourselves.

I haven’t heard complaint or praise for the acoustics in the hall, so I had no bias…but I would have to think that they could have been better. Joan’s voice easily rises above mere electronics, but I could hear a brassy overtone every once in awhile. And since the hall has obviously never been remodeled, the acoustics are the same as they were in the 1920’s. Hard surfaces abound in the room, though they may have used acoustical paint on them. (Here's a link to more information than you will ever need about the auditorium)

But, I’m looking forward to seeing more at Laxson. Next year I will spend more time reviewing the season’s offerings and making some early reservations. I will have to seek out some knowledgeable persons to discover the best seating choices. Anyone?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

One Pot Sauce...something new from Trader Joe. It's a Mexican style chili sauce; all you do is add the meat and one can of beans. I tried the sauce with the last of the turkey (dark meat) and had it on tortillas, with cheese, tomatoes and avocado as sides. It has some heat, so you won't need any salsa for fire...and it's quite good! It has a sweet aftertaste that I found appealing to my taste.

Another new item is the Carrot Ginger Soup. I will try that in a few days.

All in all, it's great to have the old familiar TJ "stuff" close by. But I'm hoping that the tourists will soon depart and go back to Safeway or Albertsons. They stare at the shelves and block the aisles as they try to make sense of the offerings. I was thinking of just grabbing some good stuff off of the shelf, throwing it in their baskets and sending them on their way..."Here! Now'll like it!"
Teaz Me just got better! I stopped there this morning for a hot chai before heading to Trader Joe’s. As I was putting my change back in my wallet I noticed a good looking scone in the display case and decided to order it. In a few minutes my chai and scone were delivered to my table. The scone, a cranberry-orange one, was served on an oriental style of dish, rectangular with a sloping surface. And on the plate were an orange twist and a small serving of orange marmalade. Very good! The orange marmalade went well with a perfectly baked scone. And the scone was as good as the ones served at Higher Ground.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A little something added...OK, I tried the recipe that my daughter had concocted, (see below) but I changed a few things; only because I didn't have all the ingredients that she used. For instance...I used a couple of large pork loin chops. They are really the size of small roasts, though they have a different taste. I added some fennel seeds (1 tsp) because I like that taste. I used Pappy's Garlic Herb rub and not the barbecue rub. I only had one jar of bruschetta (Trader Joe) but that, plus one small tomato sauce was enough. Then I added half a dozen sliced fresh mushrooms at the very end. And while I was at Holiday market buying the wide egg noodles, I spotted a freshly made jalapeno bread. That made the perfect accompaniment to a great meal!
Got a good one from my oldest...Here it is, verbatim;

"Hey Da, Made a really yummy dinner last night….well I worked on it all day while I was at work…the famous trio of pork roasts from Costco…in my roaster/slow cooker….sprinkled pappys (Pappy's Choice, Dry seasoning) on them (cooked two). Seared them in the pan….then poured two jars of the bruschetta (Trader Joe's) ½ cup red wine, and one can of tomato sauce. Slow cooked all day then added sliced black olives when I got home. Served them over hot buttered wide egg noodles… was a big hit! "

Sounds good and I can already taste the leftovers.

It's Monday.

Another day and another movie…this time it was “Hidalgo” 2004  PG-13

Here’s what Netflix says about it.

“Viggo Mortensen stars as Frank T. Hopkins, reputed to be one of the best riders of the Wild West. His chance to prove his talent comes when an affluent sheik invites him to join one of the most outrageous and grueling races of all: a 3000-mile trek across the Arabian Desert. Previously open only to those who ride Arabian horses, the event allows Hopkins to join with his Mustang, Hidalgo. Can they win?”

What a stinker of a movie! I’m surprised that the director couldn’t find a way to include a scene where the heroine was tied to the railroad tracks with a train fast approaching, ala the “Perils of Pauline”. It was sort of like watching an old Lassie re-run; substitute a horse for Lassie and you have it all. Give this one no stars.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A good sign! I drove by the Teaz Me! location this morning on my way to the park and noted that there was an "Open" sign glowing in the window. On the way home I stopped in to see if they were really open or had mistakenly left the light on overnight. They were open...and so I had a chance to enjoy a black tea latte with vanilla. The new hours make sense; open at 7 AM.

Check out their morning tea...I will be there after each walk at Bidwell.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Movie Time! With the house silent once again, it was time for a movie. This one had arrived earlier but we didn't get around to watching it because of the holiday. As it turned out, we didn't miss much by waiting.

Sahara (2005) Rated PG-13

Here's what Netflix has to say..."Based on Clive Cussler's best-selling novels starring action hero Dirk Pitt, Sahara sets the daring adventurer on a mission to save the world from destruction. While investigating a deadly water-borne epidemic along the Nile, Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) uncovers a secret dating back to Lincoln's assassination and battles an evil industrialist bent on killing every living thing in the world's oceans. Also stars Steve Zahn and Penelope Cruz"

Let me say this about that...I think we both fell asleep within the first 10 minutes. But, we resumed watching again after about 30 minutes had passed. And missed nothing. After all was said and done, the movie was light and predictable. A completely implausible story, but what else do you expect from Mr. Cussler? I would give it 2.5 stars.
Sorry about the absence...There was a holiday and I was soon swamped by other demands.

And one of those demands was to find a cranberry jelly recipe for Jill. She had left her copy at home and so I went searching for the Fannie Farmer cranberry jelly recipe and soon found it. It's quite simple:

Pick over and wash four cups cranberries. (1-1/2 pkgs)Put in a stewpan with two cups boiling water, and boil twenty minutes (keep stirring!). Rub through a sieve, add two cups sugar, and cook five minutes. Turn into a mould or glasses.

She cooked it up and we poured it into a small mold and then let it set overnight in the refrigerator. It has to be the best cranberry jelly in the world!

I'm going to try a variation on that recipe by adding orange to it. Maybe 1/2 cup of concentrated orange juice and only 1-1/2 cups of water?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Movie Time

It’s time for another movie review. An American Rhapsody (2001) PG-13
NetFlix says…“Amidst the shadows and secrets of Communist Hungary, one family's desperate escape plan goes terribly wrong. By dark of night, the family attempts a daring getaway, sneaking over the heavily armed border, but at an unthinkable price - their infant daughter is mistakenly left behind.”

Scarlett Johansson, (“Girl With a Pearl Earring”) really stars in this movie. Although the movie “feels” as if there were some important scenes left on the cutting room floor…(what happened to about 10 years of her life?) the movie was quite good. I really enjoyed the depiction of Southern California life in the 1950’s. That part provided a little comic relief from the heavy drama that comes from a family torn apart by the early loss of their daughter and her rejoining them. The father’s part is shallow and could have been improved upon. The same could be said of the sister’s role. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars. I was entertained and that’s what I paid for.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

It's kind of quiet right now. The twins, Jill, and Laurae have gone to town for some shopping and I have been left alone to deal with the pomegranates. I have plenty! I want to make pomegranate jelly once again and to do that I need lots of the little bright red and juicy seeds. I use a labor intensive method of extracting the seeds, though it is a little less messy than most methods. First, you fill the sink with cool water. Make a few cuts in the skin of the pomegranate and then split it apart while holding it under the water. Now you begin to tear the sections apart while carefully pushing the seeds off of their attachments. All of this is done under the water. The white pith and outer skin will float on the surface while the seeds sink to the bottom. Soon the bottom of the sink will be covered in seeds. After processing 4 or 5 of the fruit, skim off the floating debris and then remove the seeds from the sink. All of this work makes for a sweeter jelly with a real pomegranate taste. In other methods of extraction, the pith is included in the process and that imparts a slightly bitter taste.

OK, 10 pomegranates done...40 more to go!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Girl With a Pearl Earring

Girl With a Pearl Earring.  2003 PG-13

Here is Netflix’ description of the movie. “Sometimes, inspiration is found in the most surprising places ... or people. In this cinematic adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name, Scarlett Johansson stars as Griet, the young housemaid with a hidden appreciation for art who becomes the muse of Dutch master painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth), famous for capturing the luminosity and grace of women in their domestic setting.”

A great movie. The acting was superb and the photography was even better. Every scene could have been framed and hung in a museum; they were that beautiful. Although the plot has the characters confined to a very small portion of the 17th century town of Delft, Holland, the photography is innovative and you are never bored. Scarlett Johansson does a great job, easily gaining the full attention of this audience. Colin Firth, as Vermeer, did a good job but I felt less than sympathetic for his character. This is a 5 star movie…

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Another night and another movie...The Man Who Cried (2000) (R)

Here is the Netflix' description..."The "it girl" of the indie scene, Christina Ricci is Suzie, a Russian Jew adrift in the world after her father leaves the family to make a fresh start in America. Immigrating to England, Suzie flowers into a no-nonsense showgirl who eventually ends up in Paris (on the eve of World War II), where she soon becomes involved with Cesar, (Johnny Depp) the head of a small band of gypsies."

This could have been a great movie, but the editor failed to make the movie come alive. The scenes are cut in all of the wrong places and you have to make a mental shift on your own to try and regain the story line. The colors are garish and more disturbing than dramatic. And the movie ends in a rush, a most improbable rush as the heroine suddenly...well, I can't tell you if you haven't seen the movie. 5 stars? No, try 2 stars.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


OK, I will try some reviews here. Starting with the review of a movie recently watched.

“Elizabeth” (1998) (R) this is what Netflix said about the film.

“Cate Blanchett plays England's Queen Elizabeth I, a young woman who took the throne of a Catholic country, declared it Protestant and then ruled successfully for 45 years. But a unified England came at great personal cost, as the young queen sacrificed any chance at true happiness. Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes and Richard Attenborough co-star in this riveting depiction of absolute power and its human toll.”

First, let me tell you that you will need to re-acquaint yourself with the story of Elizabeth before you watch the movie. The cast is superb and the photography is stunning, but the actors quite often speak in whispers, and if you miss the crucial whispered clue, you will be saying, “What? Who is that? What’d she say?” quite often.

Don’t let the fact that you need to know your history put you off watching this film. It’s really quite good. Oh, I almost forgot. There is a lot of violence, gruesomely displayed. Those were violent times, you know. But if you can watch those ridiculous C.S.I. television shows, this will be a piece of cake.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

No, I haven't stopped eating, but I am out of ideas or thoughts for this space. More later!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pumpkin Nook
Yesterday we took another dozen small pumpkins to Little Red Hen Nursery and added to their spectacular collection of colorful pumpkins. That leaves us with about half a dozen pumpkins for our own consumption. So I was browsing the web for some good pumpkin recipes and ran across this site; all you ever wanted to know about pumpkins, including a cookbook. My plan is to make some pumpkin soup and I will let you know how it turns out...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Update on Teaz Me...the Chico tea house.
I went there today after my walk in the park and ordered the Ooolong Caramel tea. I was a little disappointed as it wasn't very hot. I was hoping to read the newspaper and sip on it, but since it was only warm to begin with, it was soon gone. And then I decided to try their rice bowl for lunch. It's a little pricey at $8.45, but I figured I should try it at least once.

The bowl arrived and it was a great presentation; lots of color and the square bowl looks pretty classy. Besides the chicken, there was carrot slivers, pickled ginger, paper thin cucumber strips, sprouts and avocado slices. All combined with a wasabi ginger sauce over a bed of rice. The chicken is advertised as Sweet Chili Chicken, but I felt it should have been called Very Salty Chicken. Too bad! That ruined what could have been a very good dish.

The service was great, but the food was so-so. I guess I will have to try it one other day but I will order the Summer Roll ($4.95) and see how the sushi stacks up. So far, the restaurant has some negatives to deal with; they open too late in the day. (11 AM) And their menu is far too limited.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Pazzo Ristorante - Welcome!
This is the restaurant in Portland where Jill and I had our carb loading dinner on the night before the race. Now I had been here before, in fact it was in 2001, when Laurae and I had come for the marathon, so I already had an idea of what the menu consisted of.

We decided to go to dinner about 5:30, hoping to beat the crowds. Wrong! When we arrived we were told that there was a 3 hour wait! But...there was immediate seating in the bar area. We opted for that and I scanned the bar looking for a small table for two. Not one was vacant and so it was up to the bar itself, not my favorite place to be. The bartender was a most gracious host though and quickly made us feel right at home within the confines of his domain. Place settings arrived and bread was served while we looked at the menu. (It's a very impressive menu and worth downloading the .pdf file from this site to read it.) I chose a chickpea pasta with lamb ragu and mint, while Jill chose a black and white ravioli with salmon, spinach and lemon sauce. The dishes arrived in short order and we tasted. Good. I also sampled the ravioli and wished I had made the same choice; it was excellent. The pasta with lamb was good, but it didn't have that special flair that the salmon imparted to a pasta dish.

Since we were in "race mode", we didn't order anything else, just the pasta, but I remember having a more complete dinner in 2001 and it was delicious...I'm sure it would have been again. So if you're ever in Portland, try this restaurant for the food, the service and the ambiance. Moderately priced as well! I would give it 4 "Raviolis".

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Dan and Louis Oyster Bar...Portland, Oregon.

This was the scene of our "victory" dinner after after the marathon. It's located in a less than ritzy neighborhood, (The Salvation Army and the Rescue Mission are close neighbors.) but it's worth the trip. This was my second visit to the restaurant and I chose the same dish that I enjoyed on my first visit, back in 2003; the Commander's Stew. A rich stew of oysters, clams and shrimp, combined with plenty of butter. The others in our party had Alaskan crab and crab cakes, plus an order of clam chowder.

Prices aren't bad at all...remember, it's a low rent district and the restaurant has been here for close to 100 years. Take time to look at all of the memorabilia on the walls.

Here are some links to learn more about the restaurant...I would give it 3.5 clams out of 5.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Teaz Me Tea Bar & Asian Cafe
Of course they have a web page...why didn't I look here first?


Yesterday, our day was filled with errands and we went from one end of Chico to the other. And while heading back downtown, I decided to stop at a restaurant we wanted to try out. (We had stopped there earlier in the day, but they were closed and didn’t open till 11.) The name of the restaurant is Teaz Me and it’s a tea bar with somewhat limited, but very interesting food service offerings.

A tea bar? Yes, they serve all kinds of tea and in all sorts of exotic ways. They serve it both hot and cold. The large tea menu, 34 items, quickly had me debating with myself, but I finally decided on a Steamed Oolong Caramel Crème while Laurae decided on a cold drink, a “Tropical Madness”. For entree’s, the menu has a large rice bowl and a salad bowl. There are also a couple of sushi rolls available, plus some Asian themed appetizers. Since we had already eaten lunch elsewhere, we passed on the food and went outside to the shaded tables to wait for our teas. It was quite pleasant outside, though the view from this area isn’t the best…the parking lot for the Morning Thunder Café. But you can glimpse the trees of Bidwell Park from here and so not all is lost.

The tea was delivered to our table promptly and it was quite good! At the same time, we enjoyed hearing some modern jazz being played nice and low. I can see that we will be trying more from their menu…perhaps a Summer Roll, with Chili Chicken & Fresh Basil?

After that pleasant interlude, we headed down to the university box office to redeem the gift certificate that the Kelly’s gave me for my birthday. We decided to see Joan Baez in concert on December 7th. Joan is one of our favorite artists and seeing her perform (live!) has always been one of my dreams. Thanks, Kelly’s!!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

I was reading the Chico News and Review, the controversial weekly "free" newspaper of this region. And once a year, they have a special article about all things considered The Best of...Chico.

Of course I didn't agree with most choices, but you already knew that, didn't you?

Best Nursery: Little Red Hen should have been first, not second and Zamora's shouldn't have been on the list at all.

Best Asian Food: Should have been blank.

Best Pizza: Should have been Gas House Pizza.

Best Italian Food: Italian Cottage? You must be kidding!

Best Mexican: Speaking of should have been La Familia.

There, that's enough to chew on.
Sorry about the lack of posts's not that I quit eating! Not at all. In fact, I had far too much ice cream last night at a church social event. And at that event, we were asked to think about bringing some ice cream to the next event like that. Which made us curious as to what kinds of ice cream recipes are available. Google tells us that there are more recipes than we could possibly try!

And the recipes are most interesting. Imagination abounds in the world of ice cream. And that has made me curious and wishing to try some of those recipes. Yes, I know that home made ice cream will be expensive, but if you calculate the cost of gas into the price equation each time you go to the store to buy ice cream, it might even be cheaper. Let's's 27 miles to Shubert's and at $3 a gallon for gas and fuel economy of 20 mpg. Carry the 2 and move the decimal to the right...yep! it's cheaper to make your own. I knew it!

And since I haven't been posting here as often as I would like, perhaps I should expand the content to include movie reviews, book reviews and television reviews?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

It's time for another restaurant review...The Berry Patch restaurant in Orland.

We had been somewhat hesitant to try this restaurant because of its location. It is situated at the on/off ramp to I-5 at the Highway 32 intersection. And it's a general rule that restaurants near freeways are only there to snare the hungry traveler and not to provide good food. Witness; thousands of Denny's and Waffle House's located at off-ramps.

OK, so rules are meant to be broken. And we were pleasantly surprised by the Berry Patch and will return. No, it's not Haute Cuisine, but it was good and simple food, served well and with pleasant wait staff. The outside of the restaurant is in need of some sprucing up, but it is very pleasantly decorated inside.

The menu holds no surprises (yes, they have meatloaf!) and the prices are reasonable. I decided on the small cut of Prime Rib and that was $16, while Laurae had the breaded Cod for $10. The beef was cooked medium rare, just as I had ordered it and it was quite good, with very little fat. The bread that came with dinner was very good! A small baked potato was served, along with a side dish of vegetables. The only complaint I had was with those vegetables, as they were tough and tasteless.

I will give it 3 stars.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I have become a fan of salad in a bag. It's so easy to rip open a bag of lettuce and add whatever suits your fancy. And one that I would recommend is the "cheap" $1.29 bag of Classic Iceberg (Dole) from Raley's. Yes, I said iceberg, and although that's usually not the most interesting salad around, the Dole bag has added purple cabbage and slivers of carrots. It's actually colorful before you start adding your favorites to it.

This evening I added chopped red onion, cranberries, tomatoes, yellow banana peppers, cantaloupe, walnuts and some avocado...excellent! And think about it; $1.29 and it lasts us for 3 meals.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Basque Restaurants of the United States
Who knew? There are plenty of them and Basque Norte is listed among them. On reflection, I won't argue with that...

Noriega's and the Wool Growers in Bakersfield are favorites from long ago, as is J & T's in Gardnerville, NV. More recently, Louis's Basque Corner in Reno would be one of my all time favorites.

Memories of the Wool Growers restaurant...A platter filled with steaks. Countless bowls of pink beans. Pickled lamb's tongue as an appetizer. Bottles of red wine with no labels and screw caps. The story of a secret tunnel that ran beneath the street and connected Noriega's and the Wool Growers.
Speaking of Eats...I went by the site of the new Trader Joe's market and saw that progress was being made. Good times will soon be here!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Plaza III Steakhouse
Now here is a restaurant that deserves a visit from you...I've had the good fortune to have eaten here about a dozen times as part of my duties when I was involved with training at our corporate (PCI) headquarters near Kansas City. I've always eaten in the downstairs section, which is very much like an old fashioned jazz club. It's intimate and when a group of jazz artists are performing, you're close enough to hear all the nuances of the music, but not so close that the music overpowers you.

Before you make your selection from the menu, you will be presented with a "live" display of the actual cuts of beef, so that you can be better informed. But it's not all about beef. The restaurant has accomodated vegetarians (and me) on occasion, whipping up a great vegetarian dish when needed. No, it's not on the menu, but you can ask for it.

And the steak have to try it!

1 lb. ground beef or leftover roast
1/4 lb. butter
1/2 to 3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 qts. water
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can stewed tomatoes
1 lg. carrot, grated
1 med. onion
2 stalks celery
Pepper & salt to taste
1 tsp. sugar
4 beef bouillon cubes
Touch of green pepper
1 c. peas, beans or mixed vegetables

Make a roux: Melt butter, stir in flour and gradually add 2 cups water. Stir until smooth, add all the water, vegetables and beef. (If using ground beef, saute until brown.) Drain off grease (can be browned in microwave). Add meat to mixture and simmer until vegetables are done, stirring as needed. Cook about 1 1/2 hours. Add tomatoes and simmer a little longer. Yields about 1 gallon.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Basque Norte

Basque Norte
That is the name of the restaurant where I enjoyed my birthday celebration. It’s located on the Esplanade, at the north end of the city; hence the name, “Norte”. It has been a part of the Chico restaurant scene for many years and I suppose if I were to research its history, I would find that it has been a very popular destination for all of those years, serving tasty steaks to thousands of Chico residents. How else could they survive, located as they are on the fringes of the city?

The décor is definitely “old steakhouse” and surprisingly, not Basque at all. Almost all Basque restaurants copy the boardinghouse fashion of communal tables, but here we had individual tables. The menu was fairly simple and steak was prominent; so that was my choice. I ordered the petite cut of sirloin.

The meal begins with a soup course, a tomato garlic soup that could have benefited from a little less garlic and a little more tomato. Some additional spice would have been good.

The salad was simple, lettuce, tomato and onion. That was followed by a pasta dish that was quite tasty, although I wondered why the vermicelli pasta had been cut into pieces? And though the pasta was advertised as pasta with sausage, I didn’t spot any sausage at all.

The entrée arrived with an accompaniment of potatoes and green beans. These were simply great! I could have had a complete meal with just those two items. The beans were not overcooked as they so often are and the potatoes had been boiled to perfection and not a second more. The steak had been marinated, which often gives the meat a “sameness” that doesn’t quite excite the palate; and that was the case here. It was good…but not spectacular. (I heard that the halibut was quite good!)

After dinner, it was time for the dessert dish of ice cream (included). And, since it was my birthday, I was honored with a small slice of cake, complete with flaming candle. Actually, I was doubly honored, as the cake, an amaretto mousse, was one of the most delicious desserts I have had in a long time!

The best part of the dinner? Being surrounded by my family. Absolutely!

Now to rate it…All in all, a very good dinner and I would give Basque Norte 3 ½ stars as a steakhouse. But Basque…it’s not.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Comment Spam. That is a pesky problem with blogs and so I have added protection by using Blogger's "word verification" for comments. If you comment, you will see a series of letters that only a human can see... and you will have to type them in to post the comment.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tomatoes! And what to do with them - Part One. (Or was it Part Two? Or Four? Or?)

One simple tomatoe sauce recipe. Take a bunch of tomatoes and a 9x13 roasting dish. Cut and slice the tomatoes into approximate quarters. Don't peel. Fill the dish with one layer of cut tomatoes and add 25 cloves of garlic, scattering them across the top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle the dish with olive oil. Now place in a 450 oven for twenty minutes. Remove from oven and put the roasted contents of the dish into a food processor. Chunky or smooth? You decide. I like the smooth and it tastes great. The roasting softens the flavor of the garlic and intensifies the flavor of the tomatoes.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I don't want to sound like I'm a shill for Trader Joe...but, they now have a cream filled cookie with a ginger filling and it's great. You may have tried the other versions of the Joe-Joe sandwich cookie and found them to be OK, but not great. Well, try the ginger version for sure!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

What's in your pantry?

The must-have items to keep in the kitchen cupboard, according to

1. Canned tomatoes
2. Chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
3. Dried pasta
4. Canned or dried beans (string, wax, lima, black, navy, pinto,
kidney, garbanzo)
5. Canned tuna fish
6. Dried fruits
7. Olives
8. Breadcrumbs
9. Tomato sauce/tomato paste
10. Rice

I didn't have dried fruit...unless you can count cranberries?
Chicken was the entree for tonight's dinner and I did it a little bit differently than normal. Using foil, I created a packet to cook in. I added a boneless, skinless thigh, a handful of yellow and zucchini squash slices, some cut up chunks of tomato, some rough chopped red onion and 4 slices of avocado. A dash of olive oil and some of Pappy's vegetable seasoning was added before closing the packet tightly. Then it was into the oven (I used a large roasting pan) at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. That was more than enough time and heat. My thermometer read 189 in the center of the chicken when I opened the package. But it was not overcooked, juices were running clear and the meat was very moist. I might try 35 minutes at 350 next time.

I served it in the packet, putting it on a plate and allowing it to cool for about 5 minutes. Very good! Although I made a slight mistake by omitting garlic.

I'm going to try the same thing with a thick pork loin chop; slicing it in half lengthwise and making two servings from the one chop. This form of cooking (en papillote) should keep the pork quite moist. And I need to experiment with other ingredients, perhaps some apple slices?
Tomatoes! They are everywhere! But I have been busy preparing them for winter time consumption. I made a spaghetti sauce last night, using the yellow Russian heirloom tomatoes. This morning I am making a tomato sauce with the Japanese Momotaro "pinks"; boiling them down after peeling and seeding them. I also freeze them and have a good supply already.

Tip: Trader Joe has perfectly chopped yellow onions in a bag for sale. Very handy. But double bag them in your refrigerator. Also, check out the vegetable department in your supermarket for refrigerated, peeled garlic in plastic jars. Reasonable, and so easy to grab a few when you're motivated to enjoy a touch of garlic.
Here is a Brussel Sprout recipe that "sounds" good... I know! How can any Brussel Sprout recipe do anything for this much maligned little vegetable? But Jill assures me that she and Bill tried it and it was good. I have to admit that the ingredients sound intriguing and so I will have to try it.

Question: Is it Brussel or Brussels?

Crumb-Covered Sprouts
12 fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 Tbs. sesame seeds
1 Tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. butter
½ Cup soft bread crumbs
2 Tbs. real bacon bits
½ Cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Place Brussels sprouts in a steamer basket; place in a saucepan over 1 in. of water. Bring to a boil: cover and steam for 15-20 minutes or until crisp-tender. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over med. Heat, cook and stir the sesame seeds and garlic in oil and butter for 2-3 min. or until sesame seeds are lightly browned. Add the bread crumbs and bacon; cook and stir for 1-2 min. or until crumbs are golden brown. All the Brussels sprouts, cheese salt and pepper.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Rendezvous Ribs
This is the place! I've had the good fortune to have eaten here twice. Now BBQ fans are probably the most opinionated of any fan when it comes to their favorite food...but most will agree that this restaurant deserves it's world class reputation, even if it's not their "personal favorite". Look at their's really quite good.

Rendezvous Ribs

The first time I came here, I was escorted by one of the estimators in our Memphis office, who told me that he knew of a place that had some good barbecue and asked, did I like dry rub? Well, I had no idea as to whether I did or not but I was willing to try. We parked a few blocks away, near Beale street and walked over towards the famous Peabody Hotel. When we were about a block away, the aroma of ribs grabbed our noses and directed us the rest of the way. The entrance is well hidden, being down a narrow alley filled with the usual array of dumpsters. This is where you wonder if you have made a mistake, but you will see other diners hurrying down the alley as well, so you join them. There is a small neon sign to mark the entrance and then you have to go down a flight of stairs to the basement. It's all hustle and bustle down there, but it doesn't take long to get a table. The basement has been divided and subdivided into a maze of dining areas, so you need to remember how you got to your table. The menu is quite extensive, but the service is great! The waiter are quite willing to explain the odd terms found on the menu and to make suggestions. For the first time diner, ribs should be your order. Dry rub does not mean dry ribs, as they are moist and flavorful...very enjoyable.

The second time I ate here, I was with the whole office staff (8) and we ordered a variety of items from that large menu and I was able to sample quite a few. All good! And afterwards we headed across the street to the Peabody Hotel for dessert. Check out their website.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Welcome to Cook's Country
I just subscribed to this magazine after getting a sample issue. Why did I subscribe? Because of the 10" x 12" format. Oh, and the contents as well. But I love magazines that look like magazines used to look like!
Carnivore Restaurant
I would love to do a review of this restaurant! But, according to my friend Julia, it's over 23 hours away via jet. She recently went there and here is what she wrote...

"...eating our last dinner there at a place called The Carnivore (no menus, you get several salads and the waiters just come by with slabs of roasted meat -- gemsbok, crocodile, zebra, wildebeest, gammon, kudu, ostrich -- on a sword, and they cut you off whatever you want)"


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Tipped Off
A provocative story and one that lends itself to emotional discussions as to which is right or wrong; tip or don't tip.

My take: Why do I have to be the judge of the servers performance? I just came in for a meal. That should be the job of the owner and they should be very interested in the qualifications of their wait staff, after all; good service brings in customers. So owners need to be giving the rewards, not the customers.

Monday, August 08, 2005

How about a warm peach, fresh from the tree? A nectarine? Today I picked the last of them...but not to despair, I also picked the first three pears of what looks like a bountiful harvest.

Last night we ate salad for dinner. Fresh spinach with tomatoes, red and yellow, chopped walnuts, cranberries, red onion, cucumbers, apples, peach, nectarine, TJ's Quattro Formaggio cheese and Ken's Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette doesn't get much better than that.

Tonight's fare? Chicken leg, marinated for a day in Ken's Greek Dressing. I will barbecue that along with some fresh squash. Perhaps some mushrooms on the grill along with the squash?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

More on Trader Joe...Now we know where TJ will locate when they come to town and it's a good location with plenty of parking. And they say that they will be open before the end of the year. It was also noted by Trader Joe corporate types that it was the support of the Chico area TJ fans that made them decide to move here. OK, no applause...but I did write a letter to TJ corporate headquarters and told them that Chico was the place to be.

And speaking of that store, be sure and try the TJ Punjab Spinach Sauce. Don't shake your head; try it! It has a great flavor and goes very well with chicken.

Friday, August 05, 2005

We were in the Sacramento area yesterday, so I thought it might be time to revisit Fins restaurant. I decided to go down Kenneth Avenue on our way to Fins and as we approached Madison Avenue, I was confused…what had happened to the ugly and decrepit shopping center on the corner? There was a new, very upscale shopping center in its place. Yes, it was the right corner; I saw the Sheriffs sub-station sign over the window of a newly remodeled storefront. But…would Fins restaurant still be in its old location? We turned the corner and there it was and the Open sign was lit. Good. Lunch was on.

We noticed that the restaurant hadn’t changed much; there was a new coat of paint on the interior walls that harmonized with the exterior design and there were some new wall decorations. Since Fins is a “seat yourself” kind of place, we chose a booth and were quickly given a menu and some water. The menu hadn’t changed and that’s a good thing/bad thing. Good because the variety and choices are just right, and bad because the prices are just a little high. But that’s not uncommon among fish restaurants. (Why is that?) I ordered the Fish and Chips ($8.95) while Laurae had the Fish Tacos, also $8.95. While our lunch was being prepared we noted once again how pleasant it is to sit in a fish market/restaurant where the aroma of ancient fish is not present at all. Yes, Fins sells fresh fish as well as serving it and the display cases are right there in the restaurant.

The lunch was served promptly and the first thing I noted was the absence of heavy breading on my fish. The fish was light, flaky and done just right. The chips, (fries) were thin and not overdone. A tartar sauce was included and that had just the perfect amount of spice in it and wasn’t half mayonnaise as so many of these tartar sauces are. The only complaint I had was in the malt vinegar selection; Heinz Gourmet is an oxymoron and it lacked any flavor at all. I kept sprinkling it on, hoping that volume might improve the taste, but it only made the fries soggy.

Laurae’s lunch certainly looked good, two tacos with the same light fish that I enjoyed, plus the usual Fins slaw topping. She reported that it was delicious, as always.

All in all, a good lunch, though pricey…$24 for two is not exactly a bargain lunch. But the prices are the same for dinner so dinner might be the better value. And the service is always good. So if you are ever in the neighborhood of Madison and Kenneth, stop and try Fins. (Try the clam chowder and the carrot cake as well) Let me give this restaurant 3 clams out of 5.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Good news. Laurae spotted an article that tells us how to freeze tomatoes and it doesn't require blanching. Peel the tomatoes and core them. Then leave them whole or cut them up...your decision. Same with seeds; remove if desired. Put them in a plastic freezer bag. Easy.
It's a Trader Joe day. We are heading south to Roseville for a dental appointment and that will give us an opportunity to see what new things that the Trader has in the store. Bananas, yes...and some avocados, of course. Quattro Formaggio cheese blend will be in our basket, as well as some salads.

Oops! Suddenly my mind is blank! I had a long mental list of things I wanted to buy, but as I envisioned the crowded aisles, the list faded away. I guess I will have to do what I do best; go up and down every aisle until I am sated.

I'm going to be very happy once the Trader opens the Chico store. Hurry up, October!
And what did we have for dinner last night? We had one of my favorite summertime dishes...salad. But it was a spinach salad and mixed in with the spinach were tomatoes, both red and yellow. Dried cranberries, red onion, chopped walnuts and pecans, nectarines, peaches, asiago cheese and a side of cooked and seasoned strips of pork . Top it off with some raspberry pecan vinaigrette and you have a great meal.
You Think You've Got Tomatoes A good article and oh so true! Tomatoes take on a life of their own during summer.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

It's time for a local restaurant review and it's going to be El Vacquero in Orland. There are two or three Mexican restaurants in the valley that qualify as "Good" or better and El Vacquero usually tops my list. Although I wish that their menu had more variety, what they do have is quite good. The restaurant is situated in a somewhat rundown shopping center, but don't let that distract you. It's a simple storefront restaurant, not much ambiance...but most Mexican restaurants don't do "ambiance" very well anyway. After all, once you've seen a dozen serapes and big hats...what else is there?

Service is always predictable and always good; you're given the usual chips and salsa as soon as you're seated. They have two salsa's, one a rough chop of onion, jalapeno, tomato and cilantro, while the other is a smooth red salsa with lots of heat.

Since they cater to a mixed clientele, hispanic and basic American, the menu has the usual burritos and tacos as well as menudo and posole. But I have a favorite; Chili Colorado. It comes with 3 tortillas and the typical rice and beans, which are surprisingly good. The beans are light and don't appear to be weighted down with lots of lard. The rice could be spicier, but it's very fluffy, something I like to see. The chili itself has a bright and sharp taste, as though only the freshest spices were used. And the best part...the portions are not big! When you finish your meal, you are still comfortable. And I always finish my meal...right down to the last drop of the red sauce.

And every once in awhile, I will order the Chef's Special, a very spicy shrimp dish. Once again, the flavors are bold and the heat is on...but you will enjoy it. Honest...

Laurae likes to order the Chili Relleno, which you can order ala carte, although it isn't on the menu that way. I've tried it and think it's one of the better Relleno's I had over the years.

On the downside, they make a small taco salad that would be the perfect size for a summer meal, but it's so bland, it's really not worth the small price.

I will give it 3 1/2 "tortillas" out of a possible 5. Where is it? On South Street, right next to I-5. There is a motel and shopping center at the South Street exit from I-5 in Orland and the restaurant is located close to the motel.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Glad to hear it. One fad gone...although I'm sure there will be something else to take it's place within a week or two. Those who make money off of the promotion of these diets can't wait too long before getting back into the wild claims of some new/old diet scheme. Maybe it's time for the Grapefruit diet again?
Remember that squash recipe I mentioned a few days ago? Well, I used it yesterday and this is how I modified it. I added 2 bratwurst, cooked and sliced thin. I also added one large apple, sliced and diced; make the apple chunks any size you like. I only added 1/2 tsp of Cholula hot sauce. And if you are a person that turns up your nose at onions, the onions in this recipe disappear from view, but give their support in added flavors. I can tell you that it was delicious! And talk about economical...and healthy!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

I was looking through the data from my old expense account tracking software and sure enough, there were some favorite restaurants listed. Quite a few actually…and one of those favorites isn’t even a restaurant, it’s a market. Larry’s Market is a small chain (6) of very good markets with a huge selection of food you won’t see anywhere else. Sort of like Trader Joe’s on steroids.

Whenever I was working in the Woodinville, Washington office, I would stay at the Silver Cloud Inn in Kirkland and right across the street was a Larry’s Market. As soon as I had checked in I would cross the street and go directly to the sushi department in the store. A sushi chef was right there, in the store, making fresh rolls and samplers. My favorite was the Larry’s Special Combo, with 4 different kinds of sushi, 2 pieces each, and all for just $5.69

If you’re ever in Washington, I highly recommend a visit to Larry’s. If you don’t care for sushi, they have a large selection of more typical take-out foods available. Or maybe you will want to fill your picnic basket with items from their great delicatessen. It’s all good!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Don't like squash? Well, try this recipe and you may change your mind...

Squash Casserole

2 pounds of squash, sliced. I use assorted yellow, crookneck, zucchini etc. The more colors the better!
1 cup of water
2 small onions, minced
2 TBS butter, melted
1-1/2 cups shredded sharp (or extra sharp) cheddar cheese. I always use extra sharp.
1-1/4 cups Ritz cracker crumbs
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Combine squash and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until squash is tender. Drain well, and then mash. Drain again and set aside.
Sauté onion in butter in a large skillet over medium high heat until tender.
Combine squash, onion, cheese, 3/4 cup of the cracker crumbs, salt, pepper, bacon and the eggs. Stir well.
Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 2-quart casserole dish, sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of cracker crumbs.
Bake uncovered, at 350 degrees for 40 or 45 minutes…until thoroughly heated.

This is a dynamite dish and I will often experiment with added or changed ingredients. For instance, I like to use some fancy sausage instead of the bacon. Trader Joe will have sausages, such as chicken pesto, at a pretty good price. Let your imagination be your guide. I also like to add Cholula hot sauce, maybe a teaspoon. For added color, you could throw in some cherry tomatoes, maybe a dozen.
Imagine, me, getting good reviews of my zucchini bread! Well, it's true and I have even been asked for the recipe. So here is the one I used.

Zucchini Bread
Serving Size : 2
3 Eggs
1 cup Oil
2 cups Shredded raw zucchini (I probably use close to 2-1/2 cups)
1 3/4 cups Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Baking powder
2 teaspoons Baking soda
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Vanilla
1 cup Chopped nuts (I use walnuts and pecans, mixed 50/50)
2 cups Flour
Put zucchini in strainer and press or squeeze with hands to get excess liquid out. Don't go overboard, a little moisture is OK. says, "excess liquid" not all liquid. Beat eggs, sugar, and oil together. Add flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, and nuts. Mix together by hand. Add zucchini (minus liquid). Beat mixture. Pour into 2 greased, floured, loaf pans.Bake 1 hr. at 350 deg. F. Recipe may be doubled.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Sorry...I forgot to allow anonymous "comments" when I set up this blog. I have it fixed now.
L&L Franchise, Inc.
How odd...I read about this franchise in the Sac Bee this morning. Too bad they don't have manapua!
Island delight! That's manapua...

Never heard of it? Basically, it's a steamed roll, filled with spiced pork, or some other equally tasty filling. Whenever I was working in Honolulu, we would have staff meetings on Tuesday mornings, with all of the office crew meeting in the small lunchroom. And there was always a large box filled with fresh pork manapua sitting on the table for us all to enjoy. Gloria (Branch Administrator) would buy them at a local "plate lunch" store. Oh, there were donuts as well...but the manapua would disappear first.

When you're in Hawaii, be sure to look for a place to buy some manapua and give them a try. You can usually find them in the small restaurants that serve "bento" and "plate lunch". They are usually found in the commercial districts, where the clientele is more likely to be working class rather than tourist.

Here's a recipe if you want to try making some...
1 yeast cake
1 1/4 cups warm milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups flour
2/3 tablespoon sugar
1 cup roast pork
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
4 shrimp -- boiled and chopped
1 teaspoon soy sauce
6 water chestnuts -- chopped and salted
1 stalk green onion -- chopped

Combine filling ingredients; set aside. Dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add oil,salt and sugar.
Gradually add flour. Knead until smooth. Dough must be stiff.Then cut dough into
approximately 2 inch balls. Flatten in palms of hands andfill them with about 2 teaspoons of the
pork filling, placing then on whitepaper, 2-1/2 x 2-1/2 inch square. Let rise for about 1-1/2 to 2
hours. Lightlybrush with sesame oil. Steam for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I was wandering through my Journal this morning and ran across this recipe for Chili Verde. It's my own recipe, a blend of many recipes that I've tried, but it turned out to be a good one...

Use a 3-pound pork butt roast, cut into 1-1/2 cubes. Put them into a large pot and braise them. Chop medium 1 large yellow onion and chop fine 10 cloves of garlic. Remove meat from the pot and add garlic and onions, cook till just translucent. Add the meat back to the pot and add about a quart of vegetable stock. Heat a tablespoon of cumin seeds in a frying pan and then use a mortar to grind them, mixing them with a teaspoon of cinnamon as you grind. Add this to the meat/onion mix. Cook on medium for 45 minutes. Use the food processor to blend about a dozen medium tomatilloes and a handful of fresh cilantro. Add 4 Serrano peppers, being careful to remove most of the seeds, and blend. (More seeds=more heat) Add that mixture to the meat/onion mix. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Thicken if necessary with a little bit of flour and water.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Good Eats. That was the name I wanted to use for this honor of that great television show, Good Eats, hosted by Alton Brown. But it was taken for some reason. So Eats it is.

So why am I here? My good friend Dennis said I should and that's good enough for me. I had mentioned to him that I had thought about doing a restaurant review blog and he said go for it!

Will it be all restaurant reviews? No. I will have recipes and stories as well as a few reviews. In fact, as I was thinking about this new blog, I realized that a restaurant review is a dangerous thing. We all like the various restaurants that we patronize on a regular basis. We're comfortable with them...and to have some stranger, some yahoo like me come along and criticize that restaurant, well, that's like declaring war! How dare he!

I guess I will dare...and I hope you will forgive me if I don't find your favorite restaurant to be my favorite restaurant.

In fact, to be safe...I will start with a restaurant that doesn't have a presence in the local area. The Palomino restaurant rotisserie and bar.

The one I visited was located in Indiana, 49 West Maryland Street, #189 Indianapolis, IN 46204 Phone:(317) 974-0400. There are 11 restaurants in total, located in Charlotte, Cincinnatti, Dallas, Denver, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Seattle.

Ambiance? Plenty. A very stylish, modern look dominates the large restaurant. No cutesy themes here. Lots of glass and chrome under subdued lighting. When you first enter the reception area you are greeted pleasantly, asked about reservations and then told that there will be a (the usual) short wait. Odd, but they don't ask for your name? And you sort of wonder about that...but you find a place in the bar area and are soon served. I had a Buckler's, while my dining partner, Jack Smith, had a Gray Goose martini. All served efficiently and quickly. Not 10 minutes pass and a young lady walks up and announces that our table is ready, "would you like to add the drinks to your dinner?" Or did we wish to close out the tab? We chose to add them and followed her to our table. (I like being asked that question)

As we sat down, I told Jack that I was still mystified as to how we were found in a crowded bar without our name being called or being given one of those idiotic flashing and buzzing pagers. That was when Jack told me the trick; they have a spotter with the hostess and that person's only job is to discretely observe where you go, what you look like and to make a note of it that will allow the hostess, who has never seen you, to pick you out of the crowd. A nice touch!

The waitperson...a waitress, arrived quickly and made us welcome. She had a great smile and knew the menu quite well. We asked her for some suggestions and she jumped right into it...not like so many that will hem and haw, making it obvious that they wished that you had never asked that question. We settled on a mussel appetizer and it was quite good, the garlic not at all overpowering and the tomato in the broth was surprisingly sweet. Surprising, because this was wintertime in Indiana and the usual tomatoes are hothouse variety, pretty but no flavor.

We both chose the lamb loin chop with fresh roasted vegetables. It was served promptly, just a few minutes after the appetizer had been cleared. And our waitress served it, not some faceless person whose only job is to serve the food. One of my pet peeves is the waitperson whose only job is to hand you a menu and take the order. You never see them again, except in passing, when, with menu in hand, they will walk by your table and quickly ask, "How is everything?" It's quite obvious that they don't want an answer, so you smile at each other and then they're gone. Never to be seen again until they decide to pay you one last visit and hand you the bill.

The lamb was perfect, not greasy, and served warm. The vegetables were probably a little underdone, but still pleasant.

After a satisfying dinner, where our waitress visited twice more...we were shown a dessert menu. And that's where Jack threw them a curve. He asked if it were possible to find some plain strawberries in the kitchen? And if that were possible, could he have a bowl of those with a topping of "real" whipped cream? That dessert didn't exist on their menu...but she made it happen! And she made it quite pleasant, as if she wished that she had thought of it herself.

Yes, the atmosphere in the Palomino is all about customer service. And you know what? We tipped big!

If you're ever in one of those cities listed above...give the Palomino a try. And check out the menu and prices on their website.