A night at Burgers and Beer. Temecula, CA

What began as a night for us to have a great Italian meal in Temecula, morphed into finding  a surprise hidden gem at Burgers and Beer just nearby.  One of my recent discoveries . . . well not really that recent, is the discovery of what the mediocre American is really looking for when dining out.

It was decided that my wife and I were to take her sister and husband out for a birthday dinner on us, wherever he wanted to go. He said he liked Italian and we suggested Gourmet Italia in Temecula; a very good place. He gladly agreed. Two days later the decision was made between the wife and her sister that my brother in law had changed his mind, and would rather go to Burgers and Beer. My wife and I had previously been there but only for a brief cocktail and a quick bite. At that time we had brushed it off without regard as just another sports-bar grill. And it wasn’t until tonight we had found it to be so much more.

While the food at Burgers and Beer is just what mediocre America wants, with voluminous quantities of televisions and good sounds of the big game everywhere, we found two things that stood out amongst the average. With the large portioned burgers, fries, onion rings and copious amounts of Mechaca, Burgers and Beer seemed to be just what was wanted at our table; and a couple of menu items had me search further. And they must have a decent size kitchen because they have a pretty extensive menu, but a menu that seems to make good use of only a handful of ingredients. Their Mechaca on the Mexican side of the menu was one of them. Either the Mechaca, chicken or shrimp were used all over the rest of the menu’s opportunity for the good old American burger, dog or sandwich.

I found the Cucumber Chalupas that were as much as a ceviche as you can get, just with a nice fresh crunch of the cucumber boat each was served upon. I said I discovered two things . . . this was one of them. I have decided that I will somehow incorporate cucumber into my ceviche somehow. The boat itself may not be what I want to do with the cucumber; but perhaps adding diced cucumber to my mix will be it. I liked the idea of being able to use it as a scoop, but I might have to play with that one. I don’t know why the Calexico, CA born Burgers and Beer doesn’t call it a ceviche. I thought it to be quite similar to many shrimp ceviches on several menus I have seen, but with a flavor profile characteristic of my own since they had Serrano chili, that is similar to mine, but had ruined it with a garnishing of chili powder sprinkled over the top. The plate was also served with lemon wedges, combined with the fresh crunchiness of the cucumber gave this dish a nice twist. I think it’s slopily plated but at the $13 price point gave the six members at our table something worth trying, all with great remarks. It was light and fresh. We also ordered the nachos that had the Mechaca on them adding to the definition of mediocre. indians

The other discovery was our server Steve. I had guessed that he was one of the local U.S. Marines possibly moonlighting on his own time. Steve was a very calm and not overly “serverish” guy that really provided excellent service and didn’t seem to miss a thing. Steve had a good service with our party that had now grown to eight, quickly finding the guest’s food that had ordered over the phone on the drive in, and immediately served them upon their seating with us. There was a small attention to detail at this restaurant that seems to point to their ownership expansion of several restaurants, similar to the BJ’s California market and expansion. Not a bad place, and I will probably be returning, but not for the menu.

So the reason behind the restaurant at the beginning of this evening caught my wife and I by surprise, well not really a surprise, since the birthday boy was a huge American sports fan; and I had looked up the schedule for the Major League Baseball playoffs and found one of his teams playing that night. We also figured everything into the equation when the time for dinner that night had moved up to 5pm vice 6pm to more coincide with the start of that game. After that, we had found Burgers and Beer to be where we were to reside now for a while to watch his team lose that night. Oh well, there’s always the casino nearby to help cheer him back up.

 

Dicks

 

 

 

Sushi Man in the U.S. Army 

As I had traveled recently more and more frequently throughout the entire United States or just the western region, I find that I have been enjoying the benefits of being retired military. Shopping in the Commissaries and Exchanges has long been something that my wife and I have enjoyed for some 30 years. Now that I have a son in the Army, it has given me the opportunity, while visiting him, to explore other bases and their Commissaries and Exchanges.

One thing that has been enjoyed by the military in San Diego, has been the addition of Sushi Man (lighten up Fransis, it’s just a name) in the Commissaries. Sushi Man has been there now for several years; but it wasn’t until traveling to installations in Oklahoma and Texas, that I began realize that Sushi Man was bigger than I thought. Now I have to question the word Commissary. Just what is a Commissary? And just who is Sushi Man?

lizard-11Having been through culinary school I had learned that the word commissary is used in reference to a fully permitted and licensed kitchen capable of revenue. Hence the term “culinary kitchen”. But the term in the military refers to the store on base that sells groceries for your kitchen. That is where the term had it’s beginning; as a place where provisions were stored and replenished. When I was in the military, I had always thought it to be just the name of the place on every installation, like a Safeway or a Ralphs supermarket. When blending the definitions and understanding what food trucks must return to every night for replenishment, I have come to the understanding that the word Commissary all mean the same thing, a place for provisions. And on a military installation the word Commissary means a place to get Sushi Man. He’s the guy on the right, just past the sandwich shop.

Now why might we call this place to get various assortments of Sushi, Sashimi and Nigiri, Sushi Man? Making reference, of course, to the guy actually making the Sushi.  Because almost every time it is a male making the Sushi. This dates back many many years to ancient times when the sushi was made only by men. It wasn’t until most recently in the last maybe 15 years that women had begun to enter the sushi profession on the culinary side of the house. Women are now more readily accepted, and some are highly praised, in Sushi kitchens in some of the finest restaurants throughout the world (See Niki Nakayama on the Netflix series Chef’s Table); and now we may begin to understand why he might be called Sushi Man.

I’ve previously written about passing through some USO stations when at airports, and I have written about enjoying some of the finest beaches in Southern California; all on military installations. But, I haven’t, until yet, realized that Sushi could now exist in many of the Commissaries throughout the military, in all branches of service, including overseas; and Sushi Man enjoys making daily sushi for the military, their families and us retired military living and working on these bases.

The Commissaries are run by the Defense Commissary Agency (DECA), which is headquartered at Fort Lee, VA which operate a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Having always (for the most part) worked on a military base, I have seen this name change or morph over the years. “The biggest and most important change came 25 years ago. Before Oct. 1, 1991, each military service ran its own commissary system. But as of that date, for the first time all four commissary systems were managed by a single organization: the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), which will observe its 25th birthday on Oct. 1, 2016.” I stole that one from https://www.commissaries.com/about-us/anniversary/index.cfm.

I first found Sushi Man afar when I recently traveled to Lawton/Fort Sill, OK seeking food to take on our day trip to the highest spot near Fort Sill. We stopped at the Commissary that morning to get some road food and decided to take Sushi Man on our day’s drive because we had an ice chest. It didn’t last long because my youngest son devoured it before we got to the top, about a 30-minute drive. So that was Ft. Sill.

We happened to fly into and out of Wichita Falls, TX and rent a car to get us to Fort Sill. That enabled us to visit Sheppard Air Force Base, TX on the way back from our second visit with my now Army son who was continuing to pursue his dreams in Oklahoma. We tell him often that he should never desire to rush out of California. He is now beginning to agree. Even at Shepard Air Force Base, we had some extra time before our flight out of Wichita Falls and found Sushi Man there as well, but I did not stop to try this time.

As we now take yet another serious road trip to again chase our Army soldier, this time driving his truck to him on a long weekend. We now found ourselves in the Commissary at Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX when we again introduced our Soldier to the sandwich shop in that commissary. And alas, there he was again. Sushi Man. And again, he was just past the sandwich shop on the right. This time Sushi Man was making the exact same fare at this facility in the Commissary, but just in a smaller shop . . . so I ordered some up again, and you know what; it tastes just as fresh at each location I have enjoyed it. It’s good to know that I, and our military, can have the opportunity most people consider, a healthy cuisine option.lizard-2

Another trip took us to Oak Harbor, WA again to see some very dear friends and attend my first Navy squadron reunion with VA-95, The Green Lizards. Wow, that was really super great to see my old shipmates from the single squadron I had been with while in the military, that I had remained friends with over the years; so many of my most trustworthy and flight-deck-bonded friends I had made while in the Navy.

We were in the Seattle area for nine days and made several runs to the Whidbey Island NAS Commissary. Sushi Man was there. I’m telling ya, Sushi Man is everywhere.

lizard-4While in the Seattle area we got to make a trip to Pike Place for yet another round of “gotta-do’s” while visiting. I bought some fish and, reluctantly, decided to later that day, buy Penn Cove muscles. I say reluctantly because I had just seen the muscles at Costco for $2.99/lb in San Diego, and they were $4.99/lb in the town that farms them. Anyway, I did my share of cooking and eating up there. We always have to make a trip to Seabolts in Oak Harbor. They are always good. And it’s not a day unless we were helping out in the kitchen with “Hol” and learning some southern cooking from her.lizard-6

While staying with Hol, her friend had called and I somehow got lassoed into their phone call about flavor affinities for her meal that she was catering. I guess this lady, I was told, has been catering for years and even said the flavors she had always introduced at her events, seemed to become less appealing over time. I somehow fascinated this lady as I had recommended she purchase the book “The Flavor Bible” to help her out in the future. I had also sent a copy to Hol since she too became fascinated in the ability this book gives chefs.

lizard-1So while at my reunion party, I had been carefully (thanks Rudy) placed next to one of my Commanding Officers, and “one of my VA-95 hero’s” wife. Perhaps I had previously met her some 25 years ago at one of the many squadron Christmas parties or functions. I think that’s what had bonded us “Lizards” was our ability really party hard. I had partied for many years in the Navy, but this combat-proven group was more special. We worked hard on the flight decks of aircraft carriers together and ‘made things happen’ repeatedly. So for that, a toast. Anyway, part of the toast allowed me to meet the lady sitting next to me. Carol Dearth, the CO’s wife, has been a well renowned Chef in the Seattle area for many years. Here is her link: http://www.thesizzleworks.com/about-sizzleworks/about-carol/. She was pleasantly surprised that one of her husband’s flight deck mechanics had completed culinary school. about_carolShe was interested in my writing about customer experiences. I noticed she didn’t eat much of our function food either that night. We talked a lot. She knows many Chef-educators and promised to help me out in my culinary future however she can. Wow, that was cool.

We did a lot while up in Washington. The finest weather I had ever witnessed up there . . . hot, with clear skies everywhere; even got to go crabbing on the boat for a day trip under Deception Pass Bridge. Everyone goes over it, but few go under. lizard-3

Home for a while and again back up state California to Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, CA and again stopping in for some (now we anticipate) Sushi Man to take to our hotel (or on-base quarters). Again, the consistent high quality of product  delivered was something to now be noticed. I have heard there are differences between Sushi restaurants or bars . . . and chefs; but the bottom line is you will receive the finest quality of Sushi available just as in many supermarkets in Southern California. They now seem to be almost everywhere even across the nation, just maybe without all of the hype of “going out for Sushi”.

Dicks

A bizarre year – – – and a bunch of Awesomeness.

I guess I have to make a comeback story so here it goes. I say we begin with some of the positives and hope it is yet another comeback.

Just after the holidays from New Years 2016, I began to become very interested in creating my garden. It worked. I showed pictures of that milestone in a previous story. It was one of my goals to get accomplished, yet continue to write. Just about the same time my youngest son began his stalwart pursuit of getting into the college of his dreams based on his academic standing and desire to join an ROTC program for the U.S. Navy. That mostly worked also. Perhaps in another story. What this leads to is the convenience of using a computer and having plenty of other things to do around the house, like tending to an awesome garden (it takes a lot of time and water) that has provided many tomatoes and hot chilis (the sweet bells got jacked by the mice) . . . perhaps again in another story. Now we have corn and eggplant coming out. All from containers except my parsley, which is in the ground and is solely used for this.

And why isn’t anyone buying it? Yeah, so I have a written recipe for my Chimichurri and have been giving samples away to friends and family in hopes of creating a little draw from different parts of the country . . . and Iceland.  My youngest son, now having just graduated high school and already being accepted into at least one university under grants for Mechanical Engineering, is already off to another country . . . for nearly a month. Sheesh! Paid for it himself from winter working; all while pursuing his dream and catching part of that dream, now gets accepted to join an ROTC scholarship for his desired campus . . . just a different service. Gets better yet. He gets his ROTC scholarship to be a reservist with the Army National Guard. I guess they need reservist officers. Go figure he gets the best of both worlds. He deserves it after working super hard for all those high school years. Super proud!

 

 

Still soon after the holidays are well behind us, my mother passes away after several demented years living in wonderful care facilities. Silverado in Escondido, CA was really a great experience for my mother. My Mom gets a loud holler for being truly awesome having to raise me through the years . . . and going out gracefully. But then I better give a quick shout to my wife because now she has to keep me straight. The selfless staff at Silverado were awesome as well, as they mostly all would just put whatever their personal lives had them wrapped up in aside just to take excellent care and provide love both Mom and us needed.

By this time I had begun to drift away from my writing, since my youngest was always on my main computer, and the garden was now being planted, I had plenty to keep me away . . . or just throw off my timing where I wanted to write, but no where to do it. Or, having the opportunity to write but lacked the desire. It is hard to see your audience drift away. We were all just getting started; as I have now been published a couple of times in a local printed periodical.

As many of you have already read in other stories of mine that I have two Great Danes. Well, I’m down to just one now as our beloved Julius Caesar had finally passed away, almost literally in our arms, one afternoon after living a very healthy 10 years. Julius was an awesome dog and had many friends that had visited him or followed his pictures on social media. Julius is still missed.

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Julius Caesar

 

This is where I begin to travel quite extensively throughout Southern California as small amounts of time are consumed helping my youngest get college stuff done, so I hit the San Francisco bay area a couple times and some various restaurants. Nothing too special except we did hit Harris Ranch Resort along Interstate 5 north of the Grapevine about halfway across the San Joaquin Valley. I was immediately taken back by the Tesla charging and battery service station upon entry to the Harris Ranch grounds. tesla-logos

I kinda got bored on the way home from California Maritime Academy and asked my son out of the blue, probably saw a sign somewhere along the way, if he felt like eating a steak. Of course my son is no slouch on enjoying finer cooking (duh) and gladly agrees to the idea (I think he must’ve seen the same sign). Harris Ranch has two restaurants but, If I remember, they serve the same menus except for a couple of cuts. It’s been that long ago and since I don’t write things down, I lose things without looking things up on the internet . . . and that take more time that I still don’t have. Remember, I’m trying to make my way to the garage, now that the house is done inside and the garden is planted. You really need to go back and read my earlier stuff, please if you haven’t.

Harris Ranch is a nice mid-desert break especially if you did that drive twice in two days. The food was good, moderately expensive but with good portions which are a la carte in the fancier restaurant. Service was good and the steak and prime rib were perfect. Like I said, it’s a nice break from eating at the variety of cafes, pizza joints and secure fast foods. Harris Ranch is even just a nice place to stretch your legs while perusing the grounds or a souvenir boutique. Harris Ranch is why I then had to begin researching Tesla . . . perhaps another day.

Another trip of ours took us on a serious road trip to EL Paso, Texas. My middle son, who is in the Army just out of advanced training, had to have his truck; so off we go, round trip, two cars one way and the Touring Elite on the way back (look that one up in a previous post). It was a long drive to and from San Diego. Luckily we brought along a good friend who’s husband lives and works in Tuscan, AZ and we stayed the first night there, dividing up the drive a bit. We went out for dinner that night to “the best” Italian restaurant in Tuscan. I’m sorry I don’t have the name of the place when just now recognizing I never took a picture of the menu or the sign in front. I do have these photos that includes a back-yard picture where there are many tables. This place was cool with many little corners to look around as it had expanded over the years. Maybe you can name the place. The food was good but nothing to write home about . . . I am Italian.

The next morning we head out early to El Paso, TX. “THAT’S TEXAS LADIES AND GENTLEMEN”. Fort Bliss in El Paso is a really nice military base. They have a friggin Texas Roadhouse on the base, and just about every other name brand store inside the military Exchange AND the outside exchange/mall area. We were really impressed. I understand the RV Park is super nice as well. I heard that from a friend and another random person on base. I believe the base here to be inviting enough to keep the families and soldiers nearby from straying to Juarez, Mexico. Not a good place. We even saw a picture of, what looked like, El Chappo on the wall of this Mexican diner we ate at. I hope I don’t get any visitors after that one.

 

The place was busy just after the lunch hour with plenty of locals  and the adventurous from the high Yelp rating I used to select this place . . . me too. The food was really quite good for “as authentic as you’re gonna get” Mexican food in this area. I was searching for a Tex-Mex place but ended up with just Mex. Perhaps that’s why the portrait of their most famous caballero was on the wall. It was a funny picture.

Just after our return to San Diego, I had been notified of my brother’s death from a sport motorcycle accident in the hills of Malibu, CA. It was what he liked to do. My brother was an awesome rider and an awesome brother. Can we just leave it at that. He was only 2 years older than I. Tragic. I will forever treasure the shirt I wore for the delivering of his eulogy.  IMG_4613

So there-in lies the stories that have kept me busy, and away from this writing thing I do that seems to gather attention from the most unlikely places. That’s what kind of keeps me doing it. I just need to have the time and ambition. Trying to find it.

 

Dicks

 

 

 

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