Friday, September 17, 2010
5300 Grand Del Mar Court
San Diego, CA 92130
San Diego Restaurant Week is almost here! It runs from September 19-24. During this week, many restaurants feature a three course price fixed menu, for either $20,$30, or $40. You can view the website for all participating restaurants and the menus that will be featured. It’s recommended that you make reservations for the restaurants you plan on trying.
Loyal readers of my blog will know that I enjoy participating in Restaurant Week. It allows me to get a good deal at a favorite restaurant or sample a new place I’ve been wanting to try out. Last time restaurant week occurred, I was generously provided with an invitation to preview restaurant week. I previewed Island Prime.
This time around, I was again invited to preview restaurant week. There were a couple of restaurants to choose from. I reviewed the menus of each of the restaurants and checked out their ratings on yelp. Finally, I decided on Amaya.
Amaya is located in The Grand Del Mar, a luxury resort hotel. I’ve never had a chance to visit it until now. Nestled deep in the Del Mar area south of the 56, the hotel seems to exist in its own world. There is quite a distance between the entrance into The Grand Del Mar and when you actually reach the main hotel. Once you arrive, valet parking is complimentary.
The hotel building boasts many large party rooms, lounge areas, and restaurants. The decor reminded me a lot of the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas. Amaya was opened in 2007 and is considered one of the more “casual” restaurants, though it is far from casual.
After being greeted by the host, we were given our choice of seating: inside/outside, table/booth. While the outside looked beautiful, I chose inside as I didn’t want to be cold. We also chose a booth rather than a table. I was amazed by the size of the booths. Each booth was a large semicircle that could easily fit four.
We were initially presented with the regular dinner menu, which left me puzzled. But then the chef came out and explained that he was planning on making us two of the three appetizers that would be offered during Restaurant Week, and then let us choose an entree off of the menu. I forgot to take a picture of the regular menu, but you can view a sample one here which is similar to the menu I viewed. The one difference I remember was that the$40 3 course tasting menu at the bottom, listed two appetizers, entrees and desserts to choose from. It’s their version of having restaurant week all year long. The menu they are offering for restaurant week can be found here.
We were first served a Golden Tomato Gazpacho with an avocado parfait. Served chilled, this soup has tomatoes, onions, cilantro and all the spices that usually make up a salsa. In fact it tasted pretty much like a more liquid version of salsa.
The soup was accompanied by warm pretzel bread rolls. One look and I could see where the bread got its name. The outside crust is dark and has a texture that is similar to a soft pretzel and is sprinkled with course salt,. The inside is a soft bread.
BF enjoyed the soup more than me. He finished his and mine and most of the bread.
Our next course was the Terrine of Smoked Duck and Foie Gras. It was accompanied with grilled sour dough bread and a balsamic strawberry salad. This was my favorite dish of the evening.
I’ve always thought I liked foie gras but after a few bad experiences, I was beginning to think I was mistaken. This appetizer restored my faith. The foie gras was wonderfully rich, salty and smoky. Sandwiched in between each slice of foie gras were small pieces of smoked duck. The foie gras tasted great slathered on the crispy grilled bread. The slightly sweet and tart strawberry salad complimented the foie gras well.
I enjoyed every bite of this dish and would come back here again just for this. It was also quite a big portioned appetizer. If you like foie gras, and you come here to dine for restaurant week, I definitely recommend this appetizer (it’s not on the regular menu).
For our entrees, I chose the Duo of Lamb: Grilled Chops, Shepherd’s Pie, Spring Pea Purée.
The lamb chops were cooked to a perfect medium, as I requested. I did feel that the portion of this entree was a bit small. And while I know lamb has a lot of fat, I felt that the meat in my plate was particularly fattening. My one chop still with its bone was almost all fat. And there was a large chunk of fat in my Shepherd’s Pie. I did enjoy the lamb medallions though and I like the Spring Pea Puree.
BF chose the Duo of Beef: Petite Filet and Slow-Braised Short Rib, Sweet Corn and Smoked Bacon Succotash.
In contrast to my plate, BF’s entree looked huge. He had a generous cut of filet, a big portion of short rib and a bed of mashed potatoes. He asked for his filet to be a medium rare, and it was cooked just right. I enjoyed the fried crispy shredded vegetables (I think they were carrots) that topped the mashed potatoes. The short rib was very tender.
For dessert, we were given two desserts to share. One was a peanut butter chocolate tart. It was topped with peanut butter ice cream. The crust was a graham peanut butter crust. On top of the crust was a thick chocolate ganache/pudding.
The other dessert was a cheesecake studded with layers of pistachio nuts.
Both desserts were quite rich and we ended up not being able to finish them.
Overall, it was an enjoyable meal. I had my anxieties when I chose Amaya because of subpar dining experiences at other nice hotel restaurants. But Amaya delivered. The service was attentive, without being intrusive. The dishes were well prepared and I loved that the chef came out to talk to us in the beginning and prepared us this special meal, which allowed us to sample so much of the menu. We also spoke to the Director of Food and Beverages at some point during the night.
If your favorite restaurant isn’t available during the 19-24, several restaurants will extend restaurant week. Usually the site will update with the restaurants that have agreed to extend restaurant week.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Decadent, rich, and sinfully good. The last dessert I made for my crazy chocolate craving this past weekend was this sour cream chocolate cake. I made this once a while ago and completely fell in love with it. I don't know why it has taken me so long to make again. This cake is my perfect chocolate cake recipe. It has such a deep, rich chocolate taste. It's dense without being too dense. It's moist and not at all dry.
Eat it plain, eat it with ice cream, eat it with fresh whipped cream. It's definitely an indulgence, but a wonderful one.
Last time I made this cake, I made it in a bundt pan that I didn't love. You can read my previous post here. This time I chose my heritage bundt pan to showcase the cake in all its glory.
I sprinkled the cake with powder sugar, but it actually kept absorbing the sugar, even though it was the next day and the cake had already cooled. It wasn't until about the third time I applied it that the powder sugar actually stayed. This cake is also a bit heavy, so try not to put it into too many plates, as it tends to leave parts of its bottom on those plates.
Here's a summary of the other chocolate recipes I baked this week to satisfy my chocolate cravings:
Chocolate Chunk Muffins
One Bowl Brownies
Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cook's Illustrated Chocolate Cake (recipe found at OddMuse)
Printer friendly recipe here
- 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (2 1/4 ounces)
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
- 3/4 cup water (boiling)
- 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), room temperature
- 2 cups light brown sugar (14 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs, room temperature
- confectioners' sugar for dusting
Grease a standard
12-cup Bundt pan with baking oil spray. Adjust oven rack
to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine cocoa, chocolate, and espresso powder (if using) in
medium heatproof bowl; pour boiling water over and whisk until smooth.
Cool to room temperature; then whisk in sour cream. Whisk flour, salt,
and baking soda in second bowl to combine.
3. In standing mixer
fitted with flat beater, beat butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium-high
speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium
and add eggs one at a time, mixing about 30 seconds after each addition
and scraping down bowl with rubber spatula after first 2 additions.
Reduce to medium-low speed; add about one
third of flour mixture and half of chocolate/sour cream mixture and mix
until just incorporated, about 20 seconds. Scrape bowl and repeat using
half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining chocolate mixture;
add remaining flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 10
seconds. Scrape bowl and mix on medium-low until batter is thoroughly
combined, about 30 seconds.
Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan, being
careful not to pour batter on sides of pan. Bake until wooden skewer
inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 45 to 50
minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto parchment-lined
wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 3 hours. Dust with
confectioners' sugar, transfer to serving platter, and cut into wedges.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
1015 S. Nogales St., #125
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
I love Taiwanese snow shaved ice. I wish a place in San Diego would start serving it. I would be there every week. Until then, I have to go to Rowland Heights for my fix. Usually, I have no patience for long waits at restaurants. But with no other alternatives, I've put up with waiting at Class 302 for a spot inside there tiny restaurant, set up to look like a Taiwanese classroom.
You can see my previous post on this place here, which shows more of the decor.
Class 302 serves various Taiwanese dishes, as well as the very popular and hard to find snow shaved ice. I'm always amazed at how efficient the staff is. I always see the same three guys running the place. And they are constantly moving nonstop, refilling waters, bringing out food, clearing tables, taking orders, etc. They have seating both inside and outside and the door is constantly banging closed because there is so much movement.
Class 302 is most famous for their snow shaved ice. Taiwanese snow shaved ice uses a special machine that shreds the ice into thin, fine sheets of ice. The ice is so finely shaved that it is almost like ice cream rather than ice. The ice is also made with condensed milk, creating a creamy sweet taste that melts much slower than regular shaved ice. I've tried snow shaved ice at Pa Pa Walk and The Balcony, but Class 302 is definitely my favorite.
On this occasion we got the snow shaved ice with mangoes and strawberries.
I love how sweet the mangoes are and how well they go with the condensed milk and ice.
We also ordered a mango shaved ice, where the ice is already mango flavored.
The ice was a little too tart for me, but I like how this one comes with glutinous rice balls. Here's a close up of the ice sheets.
I've tried to find recommendations for other dishes at Class 302, but everyone is always just raving about the ice. BF and I arrived hungry though, so we decided to try some dishes out.
He ordered the crispy chicken, which he always orders at Taiwanese cafes. Ironically, I've never had crispy chicken in Taiwan.
I chose a 2 item combination. Basically you get smaller plates of two of their dishes. I chose a pork chop dish and chinese sausage.
To my surprise, my food was served in chinese lunchbox set. It is a metal set and there are two layers.
I really liked the side of vegetables the meal came with. The top layer was some homestyle vegetable dish and some scrambled eggs. I'm not sure why I liked this so much, but I did. It was simple and reminded me of home.
The sausage was alright. I wasn't really a fan of the pork chops. I didn't like the sauce the used.
The menu is pretty extensive so I might try some more dishes next time. But it really is the snow shaved ice that shines.