Ocho at the Hotel Havana: “The Best Little Happy Hour in Texas”

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Pardon The Punctuation…San Antonio isknown for the Alamo and for sports arenas whose air conditioning doesn’t work. Now it can be known for something else!!! A great happy hour place just blocks away from the riverwalk. Ocho restaurant is located at the stunning Hotel Havana. I definitely have to stay there and review it in the future. I heard about the spot by taking to social media and asking my audience where I needed to go that wasn’t a douchey tourist trap. They answered and I’m so glad I asked. On the happy hour menu you’ll find $4 mojitos and a handful of $5 appetizers that will fill the belly. The tostones, quesadilla, and salsa were the shizzzzznit and I don’t say that lightly. The decor, food, and cocktails seemed curated like a fine museum. If you’re in San Antonio make sure you check out this spot for an experience that will transport you to a happy hour wonderland.

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Mojito

Wine Wednesday Review of Red Cap Vineyards 2008 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

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Pardon The Punctuation…Howell Mountain makes some of the best wine in Napa Valley. Red Cap Vineyards 2008 estate Cabernet does not disappoint. The fruit punches you in the nose right when you sniff the glass. Ruby red in color with soft tannins and a cleansing finish. This wine is big, bold and has all the characteristics you have from this stellar region of Napa. The Yum Yum Foodie approves. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle drink it and send pics to make me jealous. Wish I had a glass of it now.

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Review: Mundaka in Carmel

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Pardon The Punctuation…for those of you who have been following me for a while you know how much I love me some Spanish tapas. Specially a place that offer authentic Spanish food. Mundaka restaurant in Carmel, California offers just that. Hidden in a tiny courtyard in the heart of downtown Carmel sits this quaint spot. In a part of the country where you’re surrounded by people discussing which private jet they own it’s nice to find an unpretentious place like this. Right when you walk in you’re greeted by a leg of “Jamon Iberico” which will make you smile every time. My server Robert was outstanding, knowledgeable, and really loved his job. A+ all the way. Here’s what was for dinner.

Patatas Bravas: fried potatoes, brava sauce, aioli. A solid version of a traditional tapa. The potatoes tasted freshly cut and the brava sauce was excellent.

Croquetas: Applewood smoked bacon,olive, bechamel. These were okay. I’m more of a fan of the traditional Spanish croqueta with jamon serrano instead of the applewood bacon. Also it had a little too much bread crumb for my taste.

Garbanzos: fried garbanzo beans, white truffle salt. Perfectly made Spanish garbanzos. As far as I’m concerned if you had to only order one thing to munch on with with a beer this would be it. The truffle salt was a nice touch. I can’t to make them at home and add the truffle

Hamburguesa: mini lamb burger, pickled cauliflower, truffle fries. This was a delicious plate. The lamd was perfectly seasoned and the fries tasted fresh like my grandmother used to make them. Yummy.

Calabacin: Summer Squash, toasted almonds, manchego. A nice vegetarian dish. Could have used a little more manchego.

Butterscotch Crema Catalana: The butterscotch worked really well for this interpretation of crema Catalana. Nicely torched sugar on top with that rich custard…yum.

Pan Con Chocolate: All I’m going to say is that I could eat this for breakfast lunch and dinner. The sea salt brought out the intense flavors for the chocolate.

If you’re in Carmel make your way over to Mundaka. The family atmosphere will make you a customer for life.

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Fried Garbanzos

Patatas Bravas

Jamon Iberico

A little Pesquera never hurt anyone…

Lamb slider…yum

Crema Catalana and Pan con Chocolate

Yo Ho Ho And A Bottle Of John Watling’s Rum

Pardon The Punctuation…Rum, rum, rum and more rum…The only thing about a pirate’s life that I would have enjoyed would be the rum. I recently acquired a bottle that would make Jack Sparrow Jealous. John Watling’s rum is produced at the historic Buena Vista State in Nassau and aged for up to 5 years. Floral notes on the nose and with vanilla and cola on the palate with a smooth finish. This is the perfect rum to sit on the porch and sip with a fine cigar. They also offer tours of the distillery in the Bahamas. Definitely on my todo list for the next time I’m in the islands. If you’re an enthusiast this is one for your collection.

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Wine Review: Pesquera 2007 Crianza

Pardon The Punctuation…I’m going to do a quick write up for one of my favorite wines you can buy. It’s not cheap..about $30 but it will knock your socks off. Tinto Pesquera comes from the Ribera Del Duero region of Spain. This tempranillo based wine are aged a minimum of 18 months in American or French oak and bare an intoxicating ruby color..hints of jam, berries, black currants and have one of the smoothest finishes in the biz. I absolutely love this wine. Just click on this silly pic if you want to order one so you can see for yourself.

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Delicious

Review: “La Dolce Vita” Restaurant in Beverly Hills.

Pardon The Punctuation…In a city filled with overrated restaurants where it seems all a chef needs to be considered successful is a sleeve tattoo, sits a gem of an italian restaurant “La Dolce Vita.” A favorite hangout of old blue eyes himself…if you don’t know who old blue eyes is then you need to stop reading this right now and google it..there is a charm about this place that takes you back to the days when service at a restaurant actually mattered more than your waiters handlebar mustache. My waiter Maurilio was outstanding. I felt like Frank Sinatra the service was so good. Walk through the door and you are taken back in time…in a good way. The northern italian menu is made from scratch and the flavors reflect that. Here’s what I had.

Caprese Salad: This is your traditional caprese salad with some of the freshest mozzarella I’ve ever had. The aged balsamic vinegar makes all of the difference in this dish and really elevated it.

Polpette De Vitello: slow cooked veal meatballs with spaghetti tossed in a basil marinara sauce. From scratch is the key here. Everything tastes like there’s an old italian lady in the back chopping tomatoes. The meatballs are as good as it can get and the basil marinara is chunky and loaded with flavor…my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Steak Sinatra: USDA prime 8oz. filet mignon with sauteed peppers and a rich chianti demi glace. How can you not order a dish that has Sinatra’s name on it? I felt like if I didn’t order it someone with a pinky ring would make if an offer I couldn’t refuse. The steak was perfectly cooked. Tender, juicy, and medium rare as hell. Quality beef and TLC are prevalent throughout the dish. The sauteed peppers were a nice touch and the chianti sauce brought everything together.

Panna Cotta: Served with fresh berries. Not too sweet and the texture of it was perfect. I shit you not this is the best panna cotta I’ve had in Los Angeles.

Tiramisu: Made fresh in house and tastes like it. Having worked at a great italian restaurant in Miami in my younger days I’m kind of a critic of tiramisu…not to kick a dead horse but also the best tiramisu I’ve had in Los Angeles. The right amount of moisture in the cake and none of the flavors are too overpowering. Could have eaten seven of these.

Whether you’re looking for a great date spot or just some amazing italian food, La Dolce Vita does it right. From the service to the food and even the ambiance…you can’t go wrong dining here. The food is not cheap by any means but it’s definitely worth every penny. Sorry for the dark pictures guys but I did not want to disrupt the ambiance and spirit of Sinatra with my camera flash.

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He’s always watching…

Caprese

Veal Meatballs with Pasta…wow

Steak Sinatra

The Perfect Panna Cotta

Tiramisu

Review: Blue C Sushi in Hollywood

Pardon Punctuation…When I think sushi on a conveyor belt I think crappy sushi…well Blue C Sushi in Hollywood has changed that for me and elevated the quick sushi experience. How? Well first off they use fresh fish and secondly they offer the quick pre Arclight movie dinner option or the longer..drink my whole bottle of sake at a sushi restaurant experience. The dining room is pleasant, vibrant, and colorful. Servers are friendly and knowledgeable and will guide you through the experience when you need it and leave you alone when you don’t.

Ordering is as easy as picking a dish based on the color of the plate. As each dish comes around on the belt you know exactly how much it costs and what it looks like before you eat it. Glutton free options are clearly stated on the menu and they are plenty of options for those of you with dietary restrictions. They even have fairly priced sake flights for the novice to the most experienced sake enthusiast. All good stuff. Here are my highlights.

Sake Flight: The perfect way to start any sushi dinner. They offer you options at different price points so both the expert and novice can enjoy sake the way they like it.

Loaded Bake Potato: Japanese potato salad gunkan, topped with bacon, cheddar, sour cream, chives, bonito, and caviar. What a fun spin on a traditional American dish. This is a “must order” if you go. Fun, innovative, and a great way to start the meal.

Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice: This is a dish that has been imitated over and over again. The interpretation they give you at Blue C is delicious and perfect. The habanero masago is a nice touch.

Tuna BLT Roll: As far as I’m concerned you could probably wrap a cat turd in bacon and it could probably taste good. This was a killer roll and something I’ve never had. Saw it on the conveyor belt and I had to have it. Perfect for a quick roll pre movie theater.

Live Scallop. The best part of the whole meal. Fresh, fresh, fresh and some more fresh. Served on a bed of ice. WOW!

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie: I’ve had my share of gluten free baked goods that taste like dust. This cookie good. Even tasty for the non gluten free crowd.

Tempura Brownie: The name says it all. Battered and deep fried. It was a little heavy for me but still tasty and served a la mode.

If you’re heading to the Arclight or not, this place is putting out some rocking sushi at a fair price. You don’t have to be in a hurry but if you are Blue C Sushi knows how to take care of you.

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Sake Flight

Tuna on Crispy Rice

Tuna BLT

Live Scallop

Gluten Free Cookie

Tempura Brownie

“Hillbilly Napa” My Trip To The Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Pardon The Punctuation…It doesn’t get more American than bourbon. Recently I had the opportunity of touring the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and experiencing my own little “Hillbilly Napa” of sorts. I don’t mean “Hillbilly” in a bad way. I met some of the friendliest and most accommodating people on the planet. The official website of the Kentucky bourbon trial has streamlined the experience to make it as convenient as possible for you. Not all of the distilleries featured here are on the official trail and there is also a Craft Bourbon Trail where you get to check out some of the smaller producers like one of my favorites Willett Distillery. Your time is valuable so I’m going to make it short and sweet. Here’s where I went.

Jim Beam: The Jim Beam American stillhouse is a huge facility. They make Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Bakers, Basil Hayden’s and Bookers on site just to name a few of their products. The regular Jim Beam white label is undrinkable in my opinion but the other whiskey they make is awesome. Best part of the tour was being able to bottle my very own bottle of knob Creek and have my name put on it. The tasting room was ok. You’re given a electronic card that’s valid for two tastings of their line. I went with Bookers and Knob Creek rye. My favorite was the Bookers which is between 121-127 proof and is one of the smoothest high alcohol whiskies in Kentucky.

Four Roses Bourbon: These guys really rolled out the red carpet. Also a single barrel bourbon for about $30 is outstanding. After the standard tour we sat down in a private room and I was able to try their entire portfolio against their competitors. If you have only one distillery to visit this is the one. My favorite would have to be the limited edition small batch. This bourbon has the “wow” factor.

What a tasting experience

Tasted a bourbon made exclusively for the Japanese market

The best Four Roses Bourbon on the planet

Wild Turkey: You can’t mention bourbon without hearing Wild Turkey in the conversation. Their tasting room is newly redone and has the most beautiful view on the trail. I wasn’t a fan of Wild Turkey in the past but this experience changed me. Their “Forgiven” was excellent.

Tasting room at Wild Turkey

Woodford Reserve: The drive to the distillery is probably the most scenic of the entire bourbon trail and the visitor’s center is also the most beautiful one on the trail. A knowledgeable guide will take you through their distilling process showing you the ins and outs of Woodford Reserve. Even with all that, their bourbon just isn’t to my taste. The final tasting only gets you a taste of their standard Reserve and their “Double Oak.” Basically two bourbons you can buy at the store and save yourself the trip to the distillery. The highlight of the experience is the slice of bourbon pecan pie you can scarf down at the cafeteria there.

Gorgeous tasting room

Too bad the bourbon wasn’t the highlight of Woodford Reserve. This bourbon pecan pie was.

Town Branch: Who knew that great beer can be made along side some solid bourbon. I was able to meet with both the master distiller and beer maker who took me through their process from beginning to end. The tasting room is modeled after an Irish pub and is the perfect place to end your day on the trail with a town branch rye and a Kentucky ale chaser. The bourbon still has a little way to go but I see big things in their future. Hard work will equal a consistently great product. The tasting room is made to look like an inviting Irish pub. Great work guys.

Those Kentucky Ales were delish

With master brewer Ken Lee and Master Distiller Mark Coffman. Great guys!

Buffalo Trace distillery is not on the official Kentucky Bourbon trail but it needs to be. It is home to some of the greats whiskey on the planet. The king of American bourbon “Pappy Van Winkle” is made on the property. As well as Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, W.L Weller, and George T. Stagg to name a few. Fun and knowledgeable tour guides make this a top notch experience. The only thing I’d change about the it is the lack of variety in the tasting room. You get to drink some “Eagle Rare” which I love and the basic Buffalo Trace bourbon they make. They’re delicious but you can pretty much buy them anywhere. The dining on the property was the best on the trail. They have an amazing BBQ stand with delicious food. Try the baked beans and brisket. YUM! Definitely plan your visit around lunch time.

Iconic Buffalo Trace disstillery

Wish I could have cracked this glass case open…wow

Oh yeah…I got to witness Pappy 20 year bourbon get bottled.

If only these would have fallen off the back of the truck.

Yummy Brisket at Buffalo Trace.

There is a god…Pappy be thy name.

Willett Distillery: I’d have to say I saved the best for last. It was the only distillery that I visited from the craft trail. Great whiskey and an experience to match. Our guide Jessica was knowledgeable and genuinely excited about the product. Got to try my favorite whiskey of the trip. The family reserve 25 year rye. At $275 the price is up there but this is an outstanding whiskey. Hands down the best rye I’ve ever had. Their patented “Pot Still” is there for you to see in person. A really cool experience. Also they make a wheated bourbon called “Noah’s Mill” which is my current goto. Check them out for sure.

I’m a tourist….so what.

Little guy meet big guy

Aged 25 years to perfection

Making your way to Kentucky is a must for any fan of bourbon. So much of our country’s great history has taken place with whiskey having a major part and on the bourbon trail you’ll be in the heart of it. The people are genuine and want to make sure you leave with the same passion for bourbon as them. Also the Kentucky Bourbon Trail has set up a passport for you. You can get it stamped at each distillery on the trail…it’s a fun little incentive. Enjoy some happy whiskey drinking!

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Brenda’s French Soul Food San Francisco

Pardon The Punctuation…Hidden in a shady San Francisco neighborhood sits Brenda’s French Soul Food. Taste of Nola right in the heart of SF. Get there early as they will get packed quickly. Try some of their authentic beignets and cheddar grits. Honestly everything on the menu looks and smells amazing. Also if you’ve never had New Orleans chicory coffee you have some here. Good Stuff. Here’s what I had.

Beignet: These are legit and that’s all I’m going to say

Crispy Pork Belly: with cheddar grits, poached egg and spicy onion relish. Heavy heavy heavy…and also delicious delicious delicious…needed a nap afterwards. A little too much cheddar for my taste but it didn’t take away from great flavors.

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Foodie Friday Review: Bloom Coffee Roasters “Kenya Chania Estate Natural”

Pardon the Punctuation..Seems like there’s an explosion of killer coffee coming out of the great state of Michigan. Bloom Coffee Roasters is working their way up the coffee ladder towards some elite status. Today I’m going to review their “Kenya Chania Estate Natural” roast. I used an Aeropress to make my first cup and loved the flavors it extracted. Bright beautiful berries with a tart start and caramel finish. At $18.50 it’s a solid buy. You can taste the TLC involved in making it and the side of the bag even bares the name of the person who proudly roasted it. This is “TheYumYumFoodie” approved!

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