Subconscious act – Chilitos

Chilitos2

How did I see the name? I passed the place a few days ago and read something like “Chilitil’s. I guess that’s what it looks like. Well, Jose changed the look of the logo.Chilitos4

I’m glad he decided to change his logo, now with the red chili’s vice the green. He almost completely reversed the color design as well. Wow, to now spend more money on re-tooling all of your menus, business cards and other advertising. Ouch! In my opinion, the graphic concept change really makes a difference. Much better!

Check him out on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/pages/MiramarEMS/405871157952#!/pages/Chilitos-Mexican-Seafood-Grill-In-San-Marcos-Ca/597899760223969?fref=ts

We stumbled on this place when attempting to visit this char-broiled chicken house . . . and that’s exactly what it was . . . chicken . . . 16 different ways. It sure looked good through the window, but the wife wanted a Chili Relleno. NOT  A CHICKEN. Check these guys out if you want a chicken . . .

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Jose was a pretty nice guy. He explained that he had recently opened Chilito’s after working 17 years as a manager for Del Taco.  He finally said enough when Del Taco wanted him to relocate to beautiful Ontario, CA after having multiple stores in the San Diego region. I’d say enough as well . . . I don’t know, Ontario sure has some nice wind, dust and heat!

Jose told me that his Chilito’s concept is based on fresh preparation of classic and modern Mexican specialties. What we got were some very tasty and fresh plates that included a Shredded Beef Taco, Pollo Asado Taco, Cheese Quesadilla, Bean Tostada and a killer Chili Relleno. His salsas were fresh as was his take on the fresh chips and salsa he served while we waited for our order.

He seemed to have a reasonably good following. There were several folks seated when we walked in. We had a seat looking out the window right next to the front door. SLAM . . . SLAM . . . ! Jose says his success could be from the SpotOn Rewards  http://www.spoton.com/  system he’s using for his repeat customers. I have never heard of this new SpotOn Rewards system. Jose says it’s the new thing. I looked into them a bit to find out SpotOn has been around since August 2012. Spot on is a system to manage rewards (e.g. discount coupons) for repeat customers. Reading more about SpotOn reveals it’s also a customer, sales and product management tool. SpotOn claims, “Everything merchants need to maximize repeat visits, strengthen off-peak business, and increase revenue”. To me it sounds more like a global Point of Sale (POS) system. An interesting concept . . . but I’m tracked enough by all of my credit card swipes.

So check out Chilito’s. Sit down and enjoy the food and Jose’s friendliness and conversation. Just don’t sit next to the front door. SLAM! . . . SLAM! . . . Wow, that was really annoying!Chilitos3

Jose, keep working on the transformation of the logo, because I immediately identified Chilito’s as being an interesting and inviting logo . . . especially if you’re gonna sell franchises. You’re a smart guy!

Check him out!!!

Foodie

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Niko and the “creepy” lady – Niko’s Express Italian Deli – Vista, CA

Niko9“That lady scares me”! Niko explains, “I first ran into her at the DMV”. Wow, now I’m scared ’cause she’s now sitting in the deli chair closest to his order counter and there’s a customer approaching. Niko gave her a serious stink eye, but she wasn’t looking. Now I gotta wonder what “she” was doing at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). She appeared to be a vagabond, vagrant, homeless or . . . just a plain freak. Niko’s gonna have to learn to deal with these folks because. just before my arrival, I noticed another wayward individual leaving with what appeared to be one of Niko’s pasta dishes in a bag . . . like this guy was smelling it inside the bag while walking. I was filling my gas tank and was hoping to catch a down-wind whiff of the cuisine I was here to sample. I think I got a down-wind whiff of him mixed with a little gas fumes. Yikes! . . . , I hope that’s not the food.

Niko is the purveyor of Niko’s Express Italian Deli in Vista, California http://www.facebook.com/NikosItalianExpress?ref=ts&fref=ts. NikoNiko has an impressive background for such a young Chef (e.g. Sushi Chef at 333 and also Sous Chef at The Four Seasons in Philadelphia). Now he’s running his own joint in the finest part of the city (Vista). I’m sorry I can’t help but laugh, because I had originally explored the possibility of this place for a family member. I never even thought the clientele would be as such. I even made a comment to Niko when I first visited him, that his menu was quite “aggressive” for such a limited kitchen in that particular location (a gas station w/former Mexican take-out). Niko decided to go with Italian sandwiches. So I told Niko that I was going to do a sneak attack on him some day and see what this talented young Chef can do . . . with what he’s got . . . in that particular location. I also told him that I was a student learning about the culinary business and wished him well. Today I was impressed!

Here’s this young Chef (yes, the title of Chef IS appropriate) in his own kitchen, running both the front and the back of the house . . . granted it’s not a big house, but someone’s gotta do it. And with this, he’s making things happen.

Nikos3I watched him fill my “phone-in” order (from my strategically placed wife with a cell phone) 10 minutes before my arrival. I wanted to see Niko in action. During my last visit, I told him I would catch him when he’s not expecting me, since I already introduced myself at an earlier date. What I witnessed was him not expecting “the big order” being mine. When I arrived today, I politely asked him what he was working on and he pulled my wife’s order and began to read it aloud to me. Today I wasn’t here for small talk, my wife just placed a large order and I told him, “get busy”. His astonished reply was, “that’s your order?” I said “surprise, you better get on it”. Now my wife told me she didn’t get everything as she ordered . . . I don’t know, because it’s like playing the game “telephone”, where the message changes significantly by the time it reaches the last person. I guess she said she ordered something, some way . . . with something on the side. Who knows? Nikos1Maybe Niko screwed up the order . . . maybe my wife . . . I know she was a little flustered when making the phone-in order. We were worried about Niko recognizing the last name on the credit card when placing such a large phone-in order. Something he may consider in the future.

I’m now standing in front of Niko on the other side of the order counter. Once he realized the large order was mine, he quickly realized I was there for a reason . . . this article! He ran through the kitchen like one of the freshman students at my school. He maintained that same “crazy freshman” posture for a good 5 minutes as I asked to come in back and take some pictures. He was a bit hesitant, but he obliged. Niko5He then calmed down and proceeded to cook my already started order. He still had that hurried element of a large order that was looming. He also got another phone-in and walk-up order while I was there in the kitchen with him. He did good! He remained calm now and very steadfast. I told him I was also looking at his kitchen prowess . . . how he takes the “heat”. He did well and stayed out of his way while snapping a picture or two. Niko8I think, although I’m a “Dick”, . . . I’m a good “Dick”. Hopefully he felt that way. I even caught myself wanting to help where I thought I could . . . taking a hesitant step toward the grill, the phone, the register, . . . but I refrained. This is Niko’s kitchen. I was watching a young Chef in his element . . . in his domain!

Now, I can’t just make this article short because so many elements were being exposing, so I must continue . . .

I think the first order of business is to now refer to him as “Chef”. It may be hard for me at first, but it will work out because I can identify with the position . . . the honorary title that accompanies that position and the skills and quality that position dictates. Trust me; I . . . am not a “Chef”!!! Niko, however, made a very honoring comment to me. He said, “I would never have guessed, you talk like a Chef”. Through our conversation, I must have thrown a word or two his way that made him think that. WOW! That comment made me feel like I may actually know something. Let’s just leave it at that, ’cause I have Chefs that read this crap. Anyway, this “kid”, if I may refer to him as such, has skill. Niko6I watched his knife skills, his sautéing abilities, his attention to detail. I can definitely tell he’s been around a block or two. I thought to myself, “This kid is pretty good”. Ok . . . now let’s taste the food. “Wait . . . your Fettuccini Alfredo!” Niko came running out of the store chasing my car as I began to drive off. Strike one Niko! I’ll give him a pass on that because he caught me before I left. Now . . . , on to the food!

The sandwiches I ordered were all pretty darn good. He toasts everything in a small oven. I was impressed that the oven did so well. My Stromboli and Pop Pop’s Special were the hits at my house. No . . . I take that back. Niko’s red sauce that accompanied the Stromboli was the hit. He explained that he found a better canned tomato in which he makes his sauce, while exploring fresh tomatoes for the his future versions. I don’t know, but this kid knows what tastes good although he may need another helper if he’s gonna go that route. He was already working very hard with the large order and extra customers. The sandwiches were the best Italian style toasted sandwiches I have had in a long time. He made us an Italian Beef Hoagie that I was told by Niko, “You gotta eat this hot, and with the Au Jus”. I’m not really into that style of sandwich, but he was right. Otherwise it’s just a roast beef sandwich . . . a very tender and flavorful roast beef sandwich. Pretty good!Niko7

We ordered a Greek Salad, Stromboli, Pop Pop’s Special, a “Build your Own”, an Italian Beef Hoagie, a Sausage Peppers Eggs and Provolone breakfast sandwich and the Fettuccini Alfredo. All very good portions. The only thing my family didn’t like was the Alfredo. Later, I called Niko to thank him for the service and the food. I also told him about the Alfredo. He was very interested in how he could improve it since it was his most commonly ordered pasta. I gave him a suggestion. I don’t know if it was a good suggestion, but he promised to work on his recipe. While I was visiting, he also mentioned that the addition of pasta to his menu was not his own, but he was told that if he’s going Italian, he’s gotta have a pasta. During the phone conversation, I promised to stop by someday and share with him a tool that can show him if the pasta is even a good menu idea for his operation, since he said the pastas take the most time and are the least profitable. I also asked him about a Cannoli. He said he’s already been thinking about it, but has yet to come up with a recipe. We’ll give him a little time on that one.

Stop by and show Niko a little Guido love. Order something and give him some feedback. He’s learning about running his own restaurant. He’s also learning that it’s a shit-load of work to be doing it all alone.

Creepy ladyFor now this CritDick is gonna hold steady on the “Recognizing Awesomeness” label. Niko’s rockin’ it. Hopefully he does well! He just needs to get rid of that “creepy” lady!

I’ll give him some Cannoli, so he knows what they look like . . . and so he learns how to make ’em!

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Foodie

Eat the left-overs until the wheels fall off.

Does anyone really like their job?  . . . really? Or, does it just make more sense to be sitting on a white sandy beach while being served cocktails and eating oysters?

Many of you know where I work and what I do. Others I’ve told, but they just can’t remember. Yet there remains a few, I think, that just don’t have any clue as to what I do . . . they just think I write.

Well there are days in my life that I really enjoy, I guess because I get the best of many of my life’s elements that make me smile. Today was one of them.

One of the things I do at work requires me to audit the various processes and facility locations on a military installation. Today, I had the painstaking choir of looking at the Flying Leatherneck Museum repair and build-up facility aboard MCAS Miramar in San Diego. This is where they take, most times old and busted, aircraft and military (Marine Corps) aviation support equipment and fix them up for display in the museum. Well, if any of you know me, and my resume’, you would understand that it’s like me being a kid in a candy shop. I can talk and look at this stuff for hours, days and weeks; and this facility has all kinds of stuff to look at, and volunteers to talk with . . . and about. I even offered to change jobs with one of the guys that work there for just a year-and-a-half . . . just so I can look around.museum 4 museum 3 museum 2 museum 1 museum 5

 

 

 

I took a bunch of pics of some of the old stuff and some of the processes they employ to show you. I’m telling you . . . like a kid in a candy shop. Then I ran into this!

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I was being told that this “electronics transport” vehicle was a proto-type (one-off) that was created to help market a company’s capabilities at manufacturing for the fleet. I was also told that this was in immaculate running condition and was completely operable . . . except one of the wheels fell off. This vehicle is completely aluminum with a Cummins Turbo Diesel engine, 6-wheel steering and HID headlamps.

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The staff at the museum had entered it in displays and parades. Then one day the wheel fell off. Looks like the suspension and drive train wasn’t built to handle the task. Oh well, it’s bad ass anyway! I say we take it out for a test jump.

So now you’re thinking, ‘what does this have to do with food and drink?” Because, although I was emotionally involved with the audit, I couldn’t help think about the left-overs I brought for lunch today . . . and I was gonna tear it up when I got back to the office.museum 6

If anyone cares, this is Rosemary/Garlic Lamb Chops with Sautéed Garlic/Bacon Spinach and Chive/Tarragon Mashed Potatoes with a Tarragon/Parsley Compound butter (sorry unmelted when I took the picture). Yes, it was even better the next day.

McDonald’s is for wussies!

Foodie

New England Boil? St. Patty’s Day – Let’s kick this s**t up a notch!

Brisket 1So take the normal United States version of a traditional St. Patrick’s day meal of corn beef and cabbage (actually considered a New England Boil), and kick it up. Contrary to popular belief the corned beef and cabbage meal is not the typical celebratory meal of the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. And to be perfectly honest, I forget what is . . . , and I started to look it up on the internet, but was inundated by corned beef recipes. Forget it!!!

After realizing . . . , just a bit late, that St. Patrick’s Day fell on our weekend Sunday, we scrambled to pick up a corned beef brisket (flat OR point). My wife and I needed to somehow come up with a dinner plan around all of a Sunday’s activities. Can you believe, the two most local markets to our house . . . and considered box-chain supermarkets (VONS . . . but who’s callin’ them out?), was out of the prepared and pre-packaged corned beef brisket that were on sale in their weekly ad. Not like it was a huge blow-out Black Friday price; I think maybe $.10 cents cheaper than the other box-chain markets. Are you serious . . . out of corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day??? So we found them somewhere else.

Wanting to try a different take on the meal, I decided on BBQ’ing it . . . but instead of just BBQ’ing and drying it out, I decided to braise it on the BBQ and using the Weber charcoal grill for the oven. I used mesquite charcoal to add an additional element and flavor. Every so-often (about 1/2 hour) I would flip it in the pan, add more charcoal, and ensure I had a good braise going on. I was also using Stone IPA as my braising liquid. It looked bad-ass when I took the lid off. I think the only problem was the constant putting more charcoal in to maintain the heat. Also, I don’t think I quite got enough time to cook it. I cooked it right at 3 hours yet it wasn’t fork tender. But it was time to eat. It was Sunday, of course, and “we got shit ta do”, as expalined by my kids. The flavor was pretty remarkable and I may try it again if given the right amount of time.corned beef and cabbage

Actually, I might try something similar for just a plain brisket. Maybe a camping trip out to the desert, when I’ve got nothing better to do then drink and cook. The Webber dome lid seems to work great as an oven . . . and very predictable for this method.

Well, I served it up and it looked great. Not only did I use the braising liquid to baste the meat, I also used it to simmer the vegetables. The serving platter quickly got over crowded.

I didn’t seem long for all of this to get quickly consumed at my house. Maybe the kids . . . maybe the dogs. They have been showing a lot of affection lately . . . the dogs, that is!

Try something new!!!

Foodie

Could you possibly break any more dishes? – Sand Crab Tavern

A recent trip to the Sand Crab Tavern in Escondido for Sunday Brunch w/live entertainment (Blues) revealed an atmosphere of insanity, insatiability, instability suitability or downright f**king clumsiness. Well, I’m not quite sure what I just said . . . except the clumsiness part.sand-crab-logo

First of all, for our Sunday Brunch, the menu was not what we had expected from a Sunday Brunch anywhere in San Diego. I guess we were expecting the buffet, the omelet bar, plenty of oysters and maybe a nice cheese and salad spread. Sand Crab 4

What we got was a Prix Fixe menu for the St. Patrick’s day kick-off. I think you’ll agree that the menu is still pretty expansive for selection purposes and well along the lines of definition for “brunch”. Both of our main entrées had elements of both breakfast and lunch. The prix fixe price was better than you would pay for individual items that were also available. Plus we decided to throw in the endless mimosas for an extra $3.50. That’s when all the fun began.

I guess this place got broken into the previous week and they had a piece of plywood on the swing style door that led to the outside patio. My wife decided to be seated, or hidden, behind the “now” piece of plywood so she could face the band. The live blues coming from these guys was actually quite inviting, not loud and great sounding. The Tavern was actually a full house , but not seemingly over busy, and there was no waiting to be seated. It did seem to take several minutes for us to be contacted by our server. She seemed to really be scrambling, for some reason, and in a hurry. Well we finally ordered. Our mimosas were finally arriving and then “crash”. The server’s hurriedness caused her to slam one glass of mimosa into the edge of the table. Glass and juicy champagne everywhere narrowly missing me other than a couple of very small drops. The server apologized and quickly fetched me another. I had not got into about three sips of that mimosa and then “crash”. Now, the owner had toppled a stack-full of dishes he was clearing from one of the inside tables.

Sand Crab 3Well, we listened to the music and talked a bit and our mimosas were refilled by the bottom of a bottle of champagne and empty orange juice pitcher. Mimosa Boy promised he’d be right back . . . never did. Then the owner comes from around the plywood door, passing our table, with a full bottle and pitcher, to fill the glasses of the folks sitting at the table next to us. Then the owner turns, checks the tables around the outside patio area where we were sitting, doesn’t even give us even a single look and begins to walk back inside. My wife said, “excuse me”, pointing now to our glasses and saying nothing else as she gave the owner some serious stink eye. She just waved her pointing finger in some kind of circular motion at the glasses. It was kinda funny. That’s when the owner explained that he had recently got broken into, and the area where we were seated, had become a blind spot with the “now’ plywood door.

Sand Crab 1Our food came and we started eating. The food was quite delicious. My wife had the Crab Cake Benedict and I, the Ponchartrain Duck Hash. Both had perfect poached eggs atop. My hash was delicious with the Woodland Mushroom Cream Sauce, and hers had really good crab cakes with a nice Bernaise sauce. We both agreed that both dishes tasted just a bit better with the onions and bell peppers from the country potatoes that accompanied each dish. As we progressed through our meal, the mimosas were doing their job and the music got better and better. Soon Mimosa Boy stopped by once again to refill our glasses. As he began to pour I could see his vantage point to my wife’s glass was being blocked by the pitcher he was pouring from; and sure enough . . . he just totally misses the glass as he just starts pouring away all over the table. My wife had about enough of this and says out loud, “are you kiddin’ me? . . . what’s up with you people? . . . have you all been drinking these mimosas?” “Breaking shit and pouring shit all over”, she concluded. “Good thing there are rolls of paper towels on each table cause ours got some use today!”

Ok, so now we ate and are full. We pay the tab, tip the server and begin to walk out and the band guys says through the microphone while singing and playing, “Ok, thanks for coming . . . have a nice day”. If that mother f**ker didn’t get a few bucks from us. Damn, cornered ! ! ! It worked . . . I went back to give the band a tip. I guess that’s what you need to do sometimes to make a good day’s worth of tips. Yes, at least he said, “thank you”, again while still singing. The band was professional and deserved the tip . . . I’m just given ’em a hard time. Not a bad ploy though.

I guess today I’ll give The Sand Crab some smashed glasses and a chewed-on microphone. smashed wine glassesChewed on microphoneYeah, we’ll be back; but I now want to try their Friday night oyster bar.

Check ’em out! And don’t forget some money . . . they’re still not cheap!

Foodie

Oceanside – Breakwater Brewing Co.

So I’ll keep it short.

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Stopped in at Breakwater Brewing Co. on PCH in downtown Oceanside. http://breakwaterbrewing.com

A little thrown off by the ‘order-at-the-counter” type of set-up . . . but then again I was with my parents (both @ 90), so we just wanted to get them seated and served. Well, that’s not how they do things there. Gotta get up and order. No biggie, thank god for cell phones. My brother just called in his order to me standing at the register. “Did you say macaroni salad???”, I asked. He replies in broken shitty cell service talk, “no, cole slaw you moron”.          Whatever.

The food was kinda tasty. My father loved the pizza, but it was conveyor-belt pizza. I tasted it, but they are all pretty much are the same . . . so far . . . in my opinion. But who am I? Just a Dick. Besides, I like the flavor of the stone for pizza.

The sandwiches all seemed to be a hit as did the hot wings. Not quite sure what the “au jus” was for the pastrami and I didn’t care for the slaw. I did like the bacon-laced potato salad and the DMJ (Del Mar Jetty) IPA was good as well.

Might be back again if I’m in the area, but I don’t think I’ll be taking the oldies . . . just a bit too loud (WHAAAAT? . . . goddamn hearing aids) for them. And we would be more inclined to go to somewhere to get full service.

Check ’em out!

Foodie

Habanero Sauce – no gringo style

hot chili peppersI have long been fascinated with hot chilis and hot sauces or salsas. I absolutely love fresh grilled jalapenos, serranos or pasilla/poblanos with a BBQ.

I often times say that my Chimichurris are the best . . . and that no-one else quite stands up, or is of equal; but what I always say is sauces and salsas are like opinions; everyone’s got one and they all stink.   Something like that!

Family recipes have been around for a long time and many have even transformed from one family through marriage to culminate into even better sauces . . . but completely distinct and different from the original. One thing that embarrasses me is when a student at my school can’t conceivably develop his or her own sauce . . . without a recipe. Jackass!

Recently at work, one of my co-workers had visited Beliz and brought to the office a bottle of Marie Sharp’s Belizian Heat Hot Sauce. Marie Sharp'sThe co-worker had told us, “this is the best around”. I tried the sauce cautiously. Just a dab . . . it is Habanero for God’s sake . . . have some respect. I quickly found my self using it by the tablespoon because there was so much flavor of the Habanero pepper, but without the scalding heat. I was sold!

During my recent trip to Cancun, I quickly realized my proximity to Beliz and Cozumel. Heck I’m so geographically challenged I forget that Las Vegas is north . . . not south, next to Tijuana. Anyway, while in Cancun we ate a lot of South American and Mexican food. “You got any salsa?”, I would ask. Every time they brought out a Habanero sauce or salsa. I think only twice I was warned, “hey meester, ees hot”. Always presuming that salsas are hot . . . kinda like testing the shower water before you get in, I would proceed cautiously only to find out that almost every Habanero salsa brought to me was, in fact, quite mild . . . full of incredible Habanero flavor, but without the death heat that normally follows Habanero salsas here in the States.

Inquiring about their secrets, I was told they use carrots to retain the Habanero color and the carrots have a mild flavor if incorporated properly that doesn’t distract from the wonderful fruitiness of the Habanero. Upon my return to the US I have found this recipe that resembles most of what I have researched for the accuracy of the secret Habanero salsas in the south. Although it sounds quite similar to many other recipes of its type, the secret lays with the following information given to me through telepathy from a Mayan culinary God buried beneath the soils of Tulum. He said . . . “if too spicy, don’t add more carrots, but reduce the chilis”. I guess he was saying that the addition of more carrots only changes the flavor too drastically instead of lowering the Scoville factor.

Here’s a recipe: Give ‘er a try. Remember you can always add more chili to bring the Habanero flavor up . . . otherwise you’ll have to start over.

Belizean Habanero Sauce

The Belizeans have created a very distinctive style of sauce which is characterised by the addition of carrots. If you can get organic or even better home-grown then the carrot influence will be all the more pronounced.

1 small Onion — chopped

2 cloves Garlic — chopped

1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil

1 cup chopped Carrots

2 cups Water

4 Habanero Peppers, seeded and fine chopped

3 tablespoons fresh Lime Juice

3 tablespoons white Vinegar

1 teaspoon Salt

Remove stems and seeds from peppers – take the necessary precautions when handling hot peppers.

Saute onion in oil until soft but not browned. Add carrots and water. Bring to boil, reduce heat, add vinegar and simmer until the carrots are soft. Remove from heat . Add chilies, garlic, lime juice and salt to the carrot mixture. Place in processor and puree until smooth.

Give ‘er a try

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Let me know if they’re too hot for ya.

Foodie

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