Turn Off Your Mind…

laurel ice cream
Laurel Ice Cream/Macadamia Shortbread/Berries
Peeled and Dressed Baby Tomatoes/Fresh Ricotta/Pickled Yellow Cucumber

…Relax, and float down Stream. Did a romantic dinner for two recently in Rancho Santa Fe.  It was a staycation at home, for two people smart enough to actually set the weekend aside for themselves.  Some time just to relax at home, enjoy their home, and enjoy each other. Doesn’t that sound nice…I love marriage.  I’m always elated to cook for people that recognize the need to slow down. After the hors d’oeuvres and the first course, I can always feel the energy mellow down into satisfaction and relaxation. A contented vibe melts through the air while they sit back and enjoy what little gastronomic surprise comes next.

Turtle Rock Ridge Winery

I haven’t been wine tasting in Temecula for 10+ years.  Ramona has been my local wine region of choice and I enjoy it every time. Ramona wineries are chill and unpretentious. They have that approachable family vibe that Temecula did in the early 90’s.

Met with friends at Turtle Rock Ridge Winery and Vineyard for a wonderful and relaxing late afternoon.  (I’m not reviewing this place, just telling a story.)  Now…I don’t usually do sangria, but it was hot, so I did.  Such a good decision; so damn good.  It’s a berry sangria that is balanced and illegally refreshing.  Whasangiat’s better?  How about Sangria Jam made from the wine soaked berries that get strained from the sangria.  I’m not exaggerating when I say this is the best jam since the first time anyone has made jam…ever.  I’ve tried to be patient and use it for fancy desserts, or souped up PB and J’s, but I never get passed maowing it by the spoonful.

Turtle Rock has followed suit in the growing trend of breweries and wineries allowing tasting in a family friendly environment.  Parents get to relax with a glass and kids get to tweak out on legos and root beer; but without it being a restaurant.  For that, we went to Jeremy’s On The Hill.  Along with it being our friends favorite restaurant, it was nice to eat somewhere in East County that could be in North Park or Little Italy.  Fresh, local, real food from people that love families and community.

Lemon Vodka Update

Day 1

Our plan was to let the peels sit for several days, but after 24 hours it tasted delicious. Nice refreshing lemon flavor and a nice yellow color to boot.
But…since we had a plan, we pushed on for another 24 hours and let it sit.
What we ended up with was an awesome all purpose cleaner, degreaser, lemon oil solvent. Oh bugger.
It was really bright yellow and you could see the oil separate from the vodka.
So, like the genius I am, we combined the beautiful product that sat for one day with the pledge smelling solvent of the second day and made a whole gallon of mediocre/ohmygodthatsnasty lemon vodka.
We’ve had an interesting time making it into cocktails; it’s like back room prohibition era swill.  It did leave the counters clean when I wiped it up after a spill; plus it smelled like pledge so everything smelled clean and free of dust. It did however taste pretty good in a Bloody Mary and yes, we will be doing this again, now that we know the proper timeline.
Happy Summer

Mount Kilimanacho

This is the most badass mountain of nachos I’ve ever had; well…at least since the first time I did it in 2004.

Photos courtesy of Chrystal Cienfuegos

If you didn’t know, I love football.  I love sports in general but football is all I have time for anymore.  Although my team will likely never win it all, my friends and family create great memories every season rooting for our perennial loosers.   With football having a much shorter schedule than other sports, it allows fans to continually make “an event” out of most Sundays that would otherwise be delegated to house work…shmouse work.

Like most football fans, our fall and winter Sundays revolve around food and drinks.  Sometimes the food is easy and sometimes it’s a lot of work, but it’s always delicious and usually centers around a grill.  This years Superbowl party was no exception.

Since I didn’t do much cooking during the regular season we tried to go all out this year and get everyone involved.  And everyone DID get involved, it was beautiful.  We weren’t rewriting the book on anything, but when you attempt to do things properly and there’s a bunch of hungry people, there’s just a lot to do.

We had fried chicken bites with dipping sauces and grilled carne asada nachos.  Fried chicken is fried chicken, no real need to discuss that one other then stating how ridiculous perfect fried chicken is, ohm nom nom.

The event was around the nachos since 90% of the party had never been witness to such a thing.  Granted we’ve all had nachos before, but never like this.  I think we may have even missed the picture of just before the lid goes on which showed how tall the pile was.  We were actually gonna do two batches but just decided to go big on one.

What pictures cannot show is the depth of flavor achieved from the charcoal.  The BBQ smoke flavor permeates and the bottom gets all cheese fried crusty.  We of course fried our own chips, grilled the meat, made the beans and made the salsa.  The second batch was going to have some nacho cheese swirled in but we never got there.  I think this was all done during halftime.  How we pulled ourselves away from another mind blowing Super Bowl halftime show…I’ll never know :-|

Fresh chips
Tortillas into fresh chips
A solid foundation
Cheesy goodness
Smokey grilled carne asada
Red and green taco shop hot sauce
Sour cream is always a nice touch
Beans to start another layer
More of everything
Although we put a hit on it…I was eating nachoes for a couple days.
10 pounds of nacho joy

Chrystal is a Local photographer and does an amazing job for any event.  http://chrystalcienfuegos.com — I highly recommend her boudoir shots for any woman wanting to give their husbands whiplash.  My wife took some and I’m still cleaning drool off the keyboard.