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Anthony's Seafood Grotto for lunch mmmmm

We went to Anthony's Seafood Grotto for lunch Sunday. They have been a part of the San Diego landscape for as long as I can remember. We went to the El Cajon location.

We have been in a rut lately. When ever we go to town to run errands, we either go out for Mexican or Italian with very few changes in between. On our way to town Sunday we ran through the litany of places we could go. Some we've been to recently, others we haven't been to for a while.

From the freeway you can see Anthony's Seafood Grotto. Once in a while, when passing by, one of us will comment on how we haven't been there in such long time, we need to go there again blah, blah, blah....

Driving past Anthony's solved our where to eat, and the we haven't been there in a long time blah, blah, blah... dilemmas.



We had a wonderful lunch in beautiful surroundings. The restaurant's decor gives you the feeling you are dining underwater


First thing Jackie our waitress brought to our table was a nice basket of sourdough bread with butter. The butter has sun dried tomatoes, roasted garlic and Parmesan cheese in it. This was the best sourdough bread we've had in a long time. Stan said it reminded him of the bread he's had in San Francisco. We could have made our meal of this


We both had the cole slaw in a creamy pineapple sauce, it was a little too sweet for me. I did taste some tartness in the dressing but not enough to cut the sweetness. The cabbage was nice and crunchy. That's celery seed not black pepper


Stan had the fish and chips.The coating was light and the fish was firm, and not at all greasy. It didn't fall apart when you ate it. The french fries were just regular french fries, nothing special.
Stan is not a big fish eater. Fish and chips is about the only way he'll eat fish. For him the fish is the carrier for the tartar sauce. He usually gets a double order of tartar sauce and uses all of it, except for today. He had 3 containers of tartar sauce on his plate, he used only one, that's how good it was


I had the Big Bay Combo. It had fried shrimp, crab cakes, stuffed salmon and a citrus rice pilaf. The rice was delicious, but could have been served a little hotter, half way through the meal it was cold. Nice fluffy rice with a good blending of flavors.
There were two sauces on the plate. A sweet and sour sauce made in house, to be used with the panko shrimp. This sauce was a perfect S&S, not one element over the other and the sauce had nice bits and pieces in it, of what, I don't know, but it was gooood. I liked the shrimp so much on it's own that I didn't use any sauce on them. There was also a lemon sauce that was to be used with the crab cakes and salmon. I thought this sauce was nondescript, I didn't even use it on the crab cakes.


The shrimp was coated in panko, firm not mushy and lightly golden brown, really, really good. A little sweet, and nice sized shrimp


The crab cakes had a nice crunch on the outside. I liked the mouth feel of the outside with the smooth tenderness of the interior of the cake. I like how they were cooked but flavor wise they were a little bland.


In retrospect, the crab cakes being a little bland was probably a good thing for this meal. They didn't compete with the salmon and this was a good blending of flavors.
The salmon was the star of the plate. It tasted like it was stuffed with mild white fish. It looked like the salmon was stuffed, then cut into "steaks" and pan fried. Very, very good. I'm looking forward to doing this again.


The setting is beautiful. This is the back of the restaurant


Seating beside the pond


The pond


We won't wait too long to do this again.

Quick tasty lunch

I'm putting off going to town today. I sooo don't want to go that I'm even doing housework to avoid it. How desperate is that!!!

Hunger finally got the best of me and I needed something good, easy and NOW.
I put some whole wheat spaghetti on to cook. While that was going I drizzled a little olive oil in the bottom of my 12" skillet, enough to fill the bottom and started chopping up about 4 cloves of garlic. When the oil was heated up I put the garlic in for a quick sauté and during the last few seconds, sprinkled in some red pepper flakes.


When the pasta was done I plated it and drizzled it with the olive oil and garlic. I decided it needed a little more of a kick so I added more red pepper flakes and some freshly ground black pepper.
mmmm I'm happy now. Maybe I'll want to go to town later.


Mid week break

Last Sunday Stan said he was getting hungry for rigatoni with meat sauce. We had been lounging around all day and after a little discussion we decided we were too lazy to make the 54 mile round trip for dinner out, so we decided we would take a mid week break and go to Donato's in Alpine Wednesday night.

My favorite salad at Donato's is their gorgonzola salad. It's made with walnuts, gorgonzola cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. There is usually more gorgonzola on the salad than there was Wed.night but it was still delicious just the same.  I make a terrific balsamic dressing myself. Their's is close.
The garlic bread was better than usual.


Stan had his rigatoni with meat sauce. It was very good and was not swimming in sauce. The pasta sauce was a good blending of all the ingredients, not acidic nor tomato-e. Very, very, good.


I had the linguine in white clam sauce. It's not something I normally make at home so I order it when we are out. The sauce was great, the perfect backdrop for the clams, the stars of the show.


Nice pieces of clams in a delicate sauce.


The Monsoon time of the year brings excitingly fierce storms and beautiful skies. The scenery on our drive back home.



Full tummy, drink in hand. All is well.

Lunch at La Casa Maria

Stan read about La Casa Maria in the San Diego Union-Tribune. There was a coupon in the paper for a discounted lunch or dinner. We decided to have lunch there. Dang, I forgot to get a picture of the outside of the restaurant.

Like all good Mexican food restaurants you are brought a basket of chips and salsa. They go one step further and bring the pickled spicy carrots also. Nice touch.


The salsa is rich, dark, and spicy with a velvety mouth feel. Top notch. Be sure and have a beer handy


Stan, the mole lover that he is, ordered the Chicken Enchiladas de Mole. It's two corn tortillas filled with chicken, topped with a homemade mole sauce, sour cream, red onion, toasted sesame seed and Cotija cheese. It is served with beans and rice and a choice of soup or salad. He had the salad.



The Mole is a Puebla style mole. Stan liked it very much. He liked it as well as he does the one at Mario's de La Mesa. I prefer this one over Mario's. This is a little sweet with a slight afterburner that runs along the throat. The enchiladas had a lot of chicken in them, they are not stingy with the ingredients.
Stan is not a rice eater, he usually orders all beans no rice. This rice was great, almost an Asian style rice with peas and carrots. Stan said it tasted a little sweet to him and he ate all but a few bits of it. I didn't notice any sweetness.

When ever I go to a new Mexican food restaurant I always order a taco and enchilada combination plate. Those are two things I'm really picky about. The taco has to be shredded beef and the shell has to go "crunch" when I bite into it. The shell has to be a real corn tortilla, not a pre-formed abomination or a flour tortilla. Yes, trust me, I've been served those at times.
The cheese enchilada should preferably have some diced onion inside with the cheese. There should not be so much cheese that you have a gloppy cheesy mess and not get any corn tortilla flavor with it. The enchilada sauce should be nice and rich and dark with a little kick to it.

I ordered the tortilla soup with my lunch. It should have been named tortilla stew, it was full of chicken and vegetables. It could have been a little hotter but it was good anyway. I liked the presentation, it was served with a slice of avocado, cheese, cilantro, fried tortilla strips and a lime wedge.


Look at all that chicken. That is from a fresh home cooked chicken. The broth was rich and nicely spiced, not over done but a nice blending of flavors.


My combination plate was pretty good. Once I took more than half of the topping off the taco I was able to get a bite of it, and yes, the taco shell was freshly cooked and went "crunch" The shredded beef was flavorful and didn't have bell peppers and onions in the meat that you sometimes get and I don't care for. The taco was placed on a lettuce leaf to help keep it out of the enchilada sauce and keep from getting a soggy bottom, it almost worked.
The beans are good, not the best I've ever had but good. I like that they leave some beans whole and not mash them beyond recognition. My main disappointment was the rice.  It tasted like a packaged mix to me (Not that _I_  would ever do that ;-)
The cheese enchilada was good, not too cheesy and I was able to taste the corn tortilla with the cheese, nice but no onion. The enchilada sauce was good but could have been a little spicier and richer.


It is obvious that all the food is freshly made on premises.

Here is Enrique Mondragon the owner.

I had a chance to talk with him when we were finished with our meal. A very likable man and was most gracious when I gave him my few dislikes about the food. He even said he'd look into the rice when I told him my thoughts on it.
He also makes a green mole sauce that sounded wonderful. He asked that we call ahead and let him know when we'll be back and he'll make some for us. He was nice enough to share some ingredients for his moles with me and how he makes his salsa, but I'm not at liberty to say, I promised.
He has worked at El Fandango among other restaurants before saving enough money to buy La Casa Maria.
He has a wife and new twin daughters and a son.

La Casa Maria
6969 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego CA 92115
(619) 469-5712

Mon-Thurs 11:00 am - 9:00 pm
Fri-Sat 11:00 am - 10:00 pm
Closed Sunday

Ray's Bitchen Kitchen

Today we stopped by Ray’s Bitchen Kitchen. It’s a little portable “kitchen” along the side of the road. We have passed it several times, but we’ve never taken the time to check it out. Well, today we stopped and am I ever glad we did.
I was fortunate enough to have a chance to talk to the owner and get some information from him.
Ray built this portable kitchen himself on an old boat trailer. He has over 200 hours into it. It has steam tables a grill and a smoker. He made the smoker himself and is in the process of making another one. I know it has at least one burner because when I stopped back later to pick up a chicken, he had some of the smoked pork simmering away in a pot with some of his special BBQ sauce.



He was nice enough to let me sample a piece of chicken this morning. He knew once I had a taste I’d be hooked.


While I was there talking to him someone walked up and ordered 3 breakfast burritos. First thing Ray did was start grating fresh potato onto the grill, not frozen, pre-packaged hash browns, fresh real potato. The breakfast burrito consists of fresh grated hash brown potatoes, eggs, cheese and sausage gravy, the kind of gravy you usually get on an order of biscuits and gravy. They sell for $4.00 ea.


He smokes the meat with a moist heat using high desert apricot wood from 60 yr old apricot trees. The wood has been drying for 15 years. This wood is from the trees he picked apricots from for 10 cents a box when he was a kid.

Since he uses moist heat when he smokes the meat, he told me the chicken I bought today will be as moist a few days from now as it is today. I don’t think the chicken will last that long to test it. The whole chicken was $10.00

The chicken is nicely smoked, tender and juicy, not in the least bit dry. I did get a taste of the pork while I was visiting with them this morning and it is delicious. The photos didn't do it justice. It had a nice smoke ring and tender, juicy, tender.
I love it when the smokiness lingers after you are finished eating a smoked meat, this does that.

I tried to get a nice picture before Stan tore into it. I almost succeeded.Whole_chick

 His main business is catering so catching him on the roadside isn’t a guarantee. If you want to try it out give him a call before you take the drive. While you’re at it, be sure and order a chicken to make sure you’ll get one.
He usually sets up his Bitchen Kitchen in front of the old, now defunct, Village Inn Restaurant in Lake Morena Village on the weekends, if he doesn’t have a “gig” that day.
His lunch plate is made up of your choice of smoked chicken, beef or pork with his wife’s homemade from scratch, Boston style baked beans and rice for $6.50. He does have a cole slaw that he makes but it’s not always available. He tries to switch up the menu and keep it varied.

His card reads
Ray’s Bitchen Kitchen
Catering for any occasion
Smoked meats is our specialty
Oak Dr. Lake Morena.


Lunch at Al Panchos in Alpine

We stayed a little close to home today. We took a quick trip down to Alpine to run a few errands and get some Mexican food. The last time I had Mexican food was when we ate  Mario's De La Mesa last month so I was ready for some good ol' Mexican food.

Al Pancho's is very, very, good basic Mexican food. The food is consistently good and you get no surprises when you go there. We have been eating there for the past 8 years. Always great food and great service.

Today the service was totally lacking. Our waitress never came back to ask how were were doing and see if we needed anything else. While we were eating our chips and salsa waiting for our meal some of the salsa jumped off my chips and onto the table so my napkin was pretty much used up.
When the waitress arrived with our food, in a timely manner I might say, I asked if she could please get me another napkin as this one was used. She never brought the napkin, I eventually got up and got my own from the waitress station.That was the last time we saw her other than when I finally had to get up and ask for a to go box.

I had a Negra Modelo with those chips and salsa. Yes, I drink my beer over ice, just something I do, gotta have a really icy cold beer.

The salsa was flavorful and spicy and the chips were not greasy.

Today the food was spot on as always. Stan had the Carne Asada plate which is the house specialty. It comes with a cheese enchilada, a small tostada, beans, guacamole and tortillas.


What can I say about the Carne Asada. It was delicious, nice and tender. The cheese enchilada was outstanding. The enchilada sauce was nice and dark and rich and spicy, my favorite thing on the plate.


I had the Carnitas. They are served with rice and beans,guacamole and lime wedges and a little chopped onion and tomatoes. Once again their Carnitas were great.


Very flavorful and just the right amount of overdone crispy, crunchy pieces of pork along with the juicy tender chunks of mostly lean meat with a few nice fatty pieces.


Sure glad I had enough to bring home for a midnight snack tonight.

Their seafood is excellent also. I especially like their shrimp dishes, very well done.

Al Pancho's Mexican Restaurant & Seafood
2139 Alpine Blvd
Alpine CA 91901

Open 7 days a week 8 am to 10 pm

La Posta Casino I HOP

UPDATE September 21st 2008

UPDATE!!! July 27th 2008

The restaurant is no longer an I HOP. There is a restaurant in the casino and from what I've heard it's being run by a local. Haven't been in yet, when I do I'll post about it.

I've haven't been out to the La Posta Casino yet. It opened in our area in January. It's a little casino with 350 slots, and an I HOP inside.

Here's a more realistic view. It's a metal building that the front has been "fancified."


Stan's been there a couple of times but I haven't, so we decided to go there for breakfast. Well, I had breakfast, Stan had lunch.
It was pretty good. Stan had the pot roast from the senior menu. It came with a regular dinner salad and choice of sides.


I had the sirloin steak medium rare and three eggs, over easy with hash browns and pancakes.
I was pleasantly surprised. The steak was delicious, tender and juicy and the eggs perfectly runny to mix in with the hash browns. I used one egg to top the pancakes with and let the yolk soak into the pancake along with the syrup mmmmm.


My only complaint would be having to walk through a smoky casino to get to a non-smoking restaurant. Good thing it was early in the day so I'm sure it wasn't as bad as it could be.

We took the lazy way home and went through the Kumeyaay Indian Res. and onto old Hwy 94.
Along the way off in the distance off 94 you will see a house built into the rocky side of a hill.



Then back home for a nap. It was a nice morning.


Pizza at Donato's

We eat at Donato's frequently. It's one of our favorite close to home Italian restaurants. Their food is great and reasonable.
It's comfortable inside, not "over done cutesy Italian"  On the walls are posters from Italian movies and photos of Italian movie stars.



We aren't big pizza eaters but every once in a while one of us gets a craving for one. Unless you can order a personal size pizza it's just too much for one, even taking into account cold left over pizza for breakfast the next morning, which is one of life's little pleasures.

Last night we were both in the mood for pizza. We haven't had their pizza but our friends rave about it and we sure see a lot going out the door while we are there partaking of the other delights from the menu.
We ordered a pepperoni and mushroom pizza. For a regular everyday pizza, this is really, really, good. The crust, even though I prefer it thinner, was delicious, the edges of the crust were thick and reminded my of a good artisan style bread.



The pizza had a little crunch when you bit into it because the bottom of the crust was cooked perfectly. The cheese had a nice golden hue in places and was bubbly and stringy. I'd say they took it out of the oven at the perfect time.


A definite do over.

Fruity shopping trip

This weekend I made my usual shopping trip to Trader Joe's. They had some fruit I'm not familiar with, Angelcots and Satsumas, so of course I had to get some. I also bought some Saturn peaches and a small seedless watermelon and some cherries.


I love how the inside of this watermelon looks, just look at the symmetry of it and the color. mmmm.
See the swirls and how the veins divide the melon into thirds.


O.K. enough of that. ;-)

I am making a sauce of some of the angelcots, satsumas, cherries and peaches for a chicken dish I'll be making.


I was tempted to add some water or white wine to the fruit while they were simmering, but I left them alone so I could see how much juice they were going to give off on their own.

After 25 minutes of a slow simmer in a covered saucepan, lots of good juices. I will add some savory spices to this and some wine for the chicken dish. I just haven't decided how I'm going to do it yet.


To be continued.

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Work a little, cook a little

Made a quick dinner last Thursday night in between a couple of projects I am in the middle of.
Work a little, cook a little. Some days are just like that.

I had some whole wheat fettuccine, not much but enough for a couple of meals, and I had some Italian sausage in the freezer. I don't care for whole wheat fettuccine cooked al dente, it's just too undercooked for me. It's o.k. for ww spaghetti but to my taste not fettuccine, so I cooked the heck out of it.


While the pasta was cooking I drained and rinsed some canned white kidney beans. I love pasta and beans together, go figure ;-) and I got out a bottle of white wine I picked up at Trader Joe's a while ago.
I thought it looked interesting. It is very, very good and I'm getting more this weekend.


The sausages were removed from their casings and browned with a little olive oil.

Once the sausage was browned the pan was deglazed with some of the white wine.


Then the beans were added to warm up a little


While all this was going on, the wine glass was being chilled



Some Italian parsley was roughly chopped to top the final dish


Before you know it, dinner.

Next week hopefully, life back to the "normal" chaos.