Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Here's What's Cookin'

Rather than posting a quick "What I'm Eating" entry, I thought I'd post a couple pictures of recent meals I've prepared. Recipes will follow, but until then, enjoy these meals vicariously.

Today started out cloudy and cold, so I thought I'd make soup. Ironically, by the time I sat down to eat, the sun was out and the wind had stopped. In fact, the A.C. is on. The soup, incidentally, is a clone of Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana, which I've enjoyed for years. It's a hearty soup containing sausage, potatoes and other delicious ingredients. Though I will be posting the recipe soon, simply enter "Zuppa Toscana recipe" in any search engine if you can't wait.

Here's something I call Sal's Ultimate Barbecued Buffalo Chicken Cheddar Cheeseburger, seen here with fries. I made it last week, and liked it so much that I made it a second time. Good eating.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Child's Play

Last weekend we had a big family dinner to celebrate Katie's birthday. While dinner was cooking, one of our nieces and one of our cousin's daughters - is there a name for your cousin's child? - decided to set the table using pretend food. Here are some photos of their work.

Some of their placements were very logical.

Some, however, were a bit more curious. For example, was everyone aware that the perfect accompaniment to cake and a glass of milk is, in fact, a single ruffled potato chip?

Bread plates are overrated. Bread should be served in a bowl.

Burgers are great. But everyone knows it's not a party unless you're eating chicken drumsticks out of a coffee pot.

That aside, here's what we actually ate that night:

A simple, yet delicious green salad, courtesy of Katie's mom.

Ravioli with homemade sauce, courtesy of Katie's dad.

Meatballs, courtesy of Katie's sister Becca, who didn't even stick around to enjoy her handiwork. Normally I'd be suspicious of any cook who doesn't partake, but these were phenomenal.

Here's my plate. I was a happy and well-fed man that night.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jack's Prime: Welcome to Prime Time*

As you've probably gathered if you've been reading for any appreciable length of time, my love for the simple hamburger (or preferably, cheeseburger) knows no bounds. I view a burger as a blank canvas, with the chosen toppings providing insight into the soul and the psyche of the eater. Okay, maybe that's a tad pretentious, but I most certainly do love burgers, and the countless variations thereof.

Discovering a new hamburger restaurant is always a thrill for me. Whether a small roadside stand doling out blackened burgers and greasy fries to blue collar workers on their lunch break, or a higher-end establishment marketed to trendy diners and touting expensive cuts of beef and exotic names for their produce, I'm game for just about anything when it comes to burger joints. A few weeks ago, after an hour-long discussion about where to have dinner with family, I found myself at Jack's Prime in San Mateo, California. Though I'd heard good things about it over the last several months, I hadn't yet eaten there. What can I say? When I'm in San Mateo I'm usually coaxed downtown by the siren song of authentic Mexican food.

My initial impression of Jack's Prime was that it seemed like a '50s era diner - hip rock 'n' roll aesthetic, delicious-looking burgers, a variety of milkshakes - albeit with modern-day prices. As we waited to be seated, we perused the menu and found that the average price for one of Jack's burgers was $9.25. Certainly not unexpected in this day and age, and the fact that they came with fries or a side salad sweetened the deal. In fact, Jack's allows substitution of onion rings or sweet potato fries for a nominal fee. I silently hoped that the food would live up to the hype.

Once we were seated, we ordered milkshakes. Jack's menu boasts flavors including chocolate, vanilla and strawberry (duh!); as well as mint chocolate chip, coffee, mango, and cherry vanilla, and Coke and root beer floats. Katie and her sister Becca shared an unbelievably thick chocolate shake. My father-in-law got creative, and asked if they could make a root beer-flavored shake. I'm not exactly sure how, but they did it, and it was exquisite. As for me, I'd ordered an excellent blueberry vanilla milkshake at Red Robin a couple months earlier, and with thoughts of that particular treat in my head, I decided to try the cherry vanilla.

It was good, though not quite as mind-bogglingly delicious as I was hoping. Make no mistake, it's rare that I find a milkshake disappointing, and I certainly was not disappointed by this one. But next time I think I'll see what Jack's does with the traditional strawberry shake.

As for the burgers, they run the gamut from the classic hamburger and cheeseburger to the Wine Country, which consists of "Laura Chenel goat cheese, cabernet/balsamic onions, sauteed mushrooms, mixed greens, tomatoes, and a burger seasoned with Napa Valley herbs and Prime Burger Sauce"; and everything conceivable in between. In addition to a veggie burger and a grilled chicken burger, Jack's also offers the Phoenix From the Flames, on which virtually every ingredient seems to exist to cause heartburn; the Hot Hawaiian, featuring teriyaki sauce, grilled pineapple and caramelized onions; and the Ultimate Bacon, which includes not only applewood smoked bacon, but maple bacon mayo and actual bacon in the patty. I ordered the Maytag Blue Ribbon burger, which came with maytag blue cheese, caramelized onions, iceberg lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes kosher dill pickles and Prime Burger Sauce. It's seen below.

It's worth noting that, while I normally eschew tomatoes on my burgers, I opted to keep them on, and quite enjoyed them. It's been a very long while since I've actually had a burger with tomatoes on it, and while I'm not likely to re-think my general policy on tomatoes, they didn't ruin the burger.

We left Jack's Prime that night very satisfied with our food, and looking forward to a return visit. The Phoenix From the Flames might be a good choice for next time.

Jack's Prime is located at 3723 South El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94003. Their website is jacksprime.com

*(Yeah, I know. Not the most creative or spontaneous title I could have gone with. But picking the perfect title was never my strong suit. Given the choice between an amazing title and a coherently-written paragraph, I'll take the latter any day of the week, thanks.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Week in Food

This weekend we attended a family party. Much delicious food was on hand. I had a barbecued hot dog, a pulled pork sandwich, and some grapes.

A crispy chicken sandwich with bacon and ranch, plus fries and a pineapple shake, from Sonic Drive-In.

Crispy Chicken Tender Salad (hold the hard-boiled egg) from Red Robin.

I had breakfast at my mom's recently. As always, she made waffles.

Anyone NOT love bacon?

A slice of pepperoni pizza from Toto's Pizza in San Mateo.

An order of onion rings from Islands, a small Western-U.S. burger chain.

Mexican Pizza from Taco Bell.

Carrot cake from Waterfall Buffet at Red Hawk Casino.

Spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A.

Fiesta Fajita Pollo Salad from Red Robin.

Barbecue! Clockwise from top: Bean salad, pork rib, New York steak, baked beans, corn and a hot dog.

More barbecue! Hot link sausages, baked beans and San Francisco style potato salad.

Breakfast of champions: Pop-Tarts.

Here's the mint pie from Johnny Garlic's here in Roseville.

On my birthday, much of my family joined Katie and I for dinner at Celia's, a Mexican restaurant in San Mateo, amongst other locations. I had the steak fajitas burrito.

However, eight days later my brother-in-law took me to lunch at Bay Watch (also in San Mateo) as a distraction while numerous friends and family members gathered at Katie's parents' house for a surprise party. Incidentally, I had the roast beef sandwich with potatoes, salad and horseradish sauce, seen here.