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.