Tarpy’s Roadhouse

meter-great-haOnce upon a time, in a land not all that far away, there lived a happy Couple that were soon to be wed. They wanted their wedding to be the most perfect day that ever was, so they set out on a grand adventure to find the perfect location. Their heads were giddy in wonder of all the beautiful places along the Monterey Peninsula where they sought to exchange their vows.

Long they tarried in this land of coastal delight, sampling dainties and gazing at many-hued sunsets. It was said in legend of Monterey that it was the place of the Newly Wed or the Nearly Dead; and so it was true! The Couple discovered many young Princes and Princesses dancing gaily amongst silver-haired and wizened ancient beings. And yet all that were to be seen were happy, and the Couple decided that Monterey was still the ideal place for their nuptials.

Inside awaiteth many delicious things.

Inside awaiteth many delicious things.

Soon the Couple’s journey led them to Tarpy’s Roadhouse, a mystical… house… on the road… or something. And yet they cared not for the pedestrian name because the wonders of the kitchen had no equal! They dined on succulent lamb, rich bounties of the sea, and mesmerizing cocktails. Surely this was the place for the post-wedding feast, and so the Couple signed an accord with the kind Lady Tarpy herself, or so the event coordinator assured them she was, and so ensured a feast that would equal no other.

Pleased with their progress and fortified with the finest meal they could recall, the Couple’s next task was to seek out a grand palace to host their ceremony. First they visited the Baron of the Leaping Dolphin, who showed them a waterfront plaza of such splendor that the Couple immediately knew that their search was over. But the greedy Baron had other plans! He chuckled an evil chuck and drew forth a vile contract from the folds of his cloak; and he asked the Couple to sign it in blood!

The leaping dolphins were but the doorhandles on the fiery gates of the Underworld!

The leaping dolphins were but the doorhandles on the fiery gates of the Underworld!

“But what does the contract say O Baron, and why musteth we sign with such ink?” asked the groom-to-be.

“It says thou shallt consume only vittles prepared by my own hand!” laughed the Baron while pushing out a small fart.

“Alas, I fear your kitchen skills mayeth suck compared to the wondrous Roadhouse du Tarpy” fretted the concerned bride-to-be.

“And so my skills do suck!” guffawed the Baron. “There are but few who can burn water like me.”

The Couple quickly took counsel in one another, discussing what to do next. Their hearts ached to leave behind the magnificent waterfront plaza, but they could not bear the shame of serving their guests a disgusting meal. And so they told the Baron to stick it up his ass, and they left.

Next they visited the benevolent hermit of the Pacific Grove Parks & Open Space Department. He was a gentle sort and was pleased to help the Couple in any way he could. “Thou willst not be safe from the rain in any part of my domain,” said the hermit sadly. “And yet I would gladly host the finest outdoor wedding ye has ever known, albeit a bit soggy. Also, I don’t provide lawn chairs.” Heartbroken, the Couple bid the gentle hermit a fond farewell and continued on their way.

Beautiful yet moist Pacific Grove.

Beautiful yet moist Pacific Grove.

They journeyed for many more days and nights, and their fortunes repeated themselves over and over. The Dutchess of Carmel DoubleTree declared, “Thou shallst eat nought but hotel food or get thou lost.” The child-prince of the Monterey Community Services Division said simply, “Huh?” And still the Couple continued on, dejected and lost. Then suddenly, the Couple smacked one another upon the head and knew the answer! Their wedding shouldsteth be at Tarpy’s!

The legendary Library of Tarpy.

The legendary Library of Tarpy.

And so they returned to the welcoming arms of Lady Tarpy, and she offered to them the beautiful Courtyard for their ceremony and the historic Library for the reception, and they were glad. The wedding was beautiful in spite of being overflown by cargo jets, and the guests of the newlyweds feasted on wondrous colossal shrimp and the exquisitely prepared flesh of turf-beasts. And the Priest said, “I declare you man and wife, and may you dine at Tarpy’s every year on the date of your vows.” And the newlywed Couple agreed that it should be so.

tsc_divider7_black

Exactly ten years later, the Couple continues to live happily ever after. They visited the Lady Tarpy as decreed, and they brought with them the Count and Countess of the great and overpriced kingdom Francisco of San. Lady Tarpy proffered to them seats within the sunny courtyard and sold to them lunch specials fit for royalty. To prepare their appetites for the feast, fried pickles with mystical and unidentified Creamy Sauce were served first. They included many different types of pickled vegetables that were amazing, especially with the mysteriously delicious sauce. Only the Count Francisco of San disapproved of the fried pickles, and the others declared him to be a stinky buttface.

Pickles of frying with Creamy Sauce.

Pickles of frying with Creamy Sauce.

The brisket biscuit, also intended to whet appetites, was universally praised. Special notice was taken of the bountiful and crispy coleslaw upon which the brisket sat.

Brisket contained within biscuit.

Brisket contained within biscuit.

Next was served forth a filet mignon devised into a sandwich made of freshly toasted garlic-upon-bread. Within this heavenly envelope was also added pungent bluish cheese and straws of onion-make, and three of the party were struck dumb with awe. The fourth cared not for the bluish cheese but agreed that the sandwich was otherwise divine.

A heavenly concoction of bread and cow.

A heavenly concoction of bread and cow.

The last of the savory dishes was rib bones of the boar. They were tender and englazened with succulent sauce, but alas they were not par with the rest of the meal. The Couple still enjoyed the rib bones, but they had not the courage to inform Lady Tarpy that the other dishes were superior.

Riblets of a fallen beast.

Riblets of a fallen beast.

The time had come to review the desserting menu, and none could decide which of the dainties was best. Then, as a ray of sunlight through clouds, they beheld the words “large dessert sampler” and knew it was the only true choice to be made. And so they told the waitpersoness, and soon a mighty dish of many sweet things was brought forth.

The renowned Platter of Many Cavities.

The renowned Platter of Many Cavities.

All who were seated at the table ate like ravenous wild things, each choosing a different favorite. After much debate and the unbuttoning of pants, it was agreed that all of the desserts were of equal and exceptional quality. And they were glad.

So ends this tale of the ten-year-revisit of Tarpy’s Roadhouse. The service and gastric delights continue to be of the utmost quality, neither too aristocratic nor too ignoble. It ranks quite highly compared to other dining halls, and shouldst one find themselves in the area they would be wise to pay Tarpy’s a visit.

Tarpy’s Roadhouse
2999 Salinas Highway
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 647-1444
www.tarpys.com

Tarpy's Roadhouse on Urbanspoon


Welcome to thee, all who desire to become fat.

Welcome to thee, all who desire to become fat.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Portola Valley Lobster Shack

meter-great-Portola Valley Lobster Shack is nestled away in a corner of Ladera Shopping Center along Alpine Road in, you guessed it, Portola Valley. Confusingly, this restaurant is sometimes called Old Port Lobster Shack, because that’s the name listed on the website. There are also two other locations listed under the Old Port moniker, but only one of the three follows this naming convention.

Yeah, I know. My head hurts too.

“Note: Flavor molecules may not actually exist”

Weird naming quirks aside, Portola Valley Lobster Shack is a wonderful little place. It’s quintessentially New-England-ish in its decor and food choices, but unlike many establishments actually located in New England, the people at Portola Valley are polite and friendly. What’s that, you say? I’m implying that people on the east coast are rude? No, I’m not implying that at all, I’m stating it as a fact. Hey, I used to live there so shaddap. (There, how was that for east coast charm?)

The menu at Portola Valley is a joy to browse. It’s one of those places where you just want to say, “One of everything please” and eat yourself into a coma. On my first visit I wanted to try the clam chowder because, well, how else are you supposed to judge a seafood restaurant? Then I saw the fish and chips and wanted that, but then I saw the lobster rolls. Oh boy. Sold. Then, just as I was closing the menu, I saw the mac and cheese! I am a rabid fanatic of baked mac, and I ended up going for the pulled pork mac & cheese. Yes I know it’s not a seafood dish, but it sounded so amazing I just couldn’t resist.

Pulled pork on baked mac & cheese. *dies*

Pulled pork on baked mac & cheese. *dies*

Before I knew it, my dish of baked heaven appeared before my eyes, and it was magnificent. The pulled pork was tender, smoky, and jammed with flavor molecules. (Note: Flavor molecules may not actually exist, but you get the idea.) The mac & cheese was excellent as well, but ever so slightly understated. This is actually a good thing because it worked well to highlight the pulled pork, undoubtedly the star of the show. Alone, though, it could have used a teeny bit more flavor and/or cheesiness. It was still all kinds of epic win though.

The brisket is remarkably good, especially for a seafood restaurant.

The brisket is remarkably good, especially for a seafood restaurant.

On subsequent visits and with additional fellow dinner-ists, I also got a chance to try the brisket sandwich. Yes yes, I can hear you whining that this is a review for a seafood place and I still have yet to try any actual seafood. Just keep your pants on, we’re getting to that. The brisket was on par with the pulled pork, meaning that it was very good indeed. The barbecue at this place is better than what you’d find at most dedicated barbecue places actually, and that fact goes a long way towards showing that the folks in the kitchen here really know what they’re doing.

I totally took this picture myself. Yep.

I totally took this picture myself. Yep.

There, see? I finally got to the fish and chips. More specifically, it’s haddock and chips, which is a nice little detail that really impresses me. Haddock is fairly common anywhere near the Atlantic Ocean, but seeing haddock this far west means that this restaurant is serious about being New England-y. Don’t take my word for it though. I dragged a native Bostonian here to give it a try, and he wasn’t very thrilled… until he saw that it was haddock. At that point (and after tasting the fish and chips) he changed his tune completely and had nothing but very positive things to say. On yet another visit I overheard a guy from England make a point of flagging down one of the people running the restaurant and complimenting them on the food. “It’s the best fish and chips I have had outside of London” were his exact words. And yes, I agree – the fish and chips are that good here. They are spectacular in fact.

At the end of the day, Portola Valley Lobster Shack is an excellent place to grab a bite to eat. If you’re hankering for a taste of east coast seafood or a bit of barbecue, this is the place for you. Rumor has it they make a mean lobster roll and a dandy cup of chowder as well, but my opinions on those will have to wait for a revisit. I hereby bestow a rating of 35,098,552,670,980 flavor molecules (out of 38,000,000,000,000 of course), which should land this restaurant pretty close to the middle of your radar screen. Visit here soon.

Portola Valley Lobster Shack / Old Bay Lobster Shack
Three locations in the Bay Area
www.oplobster.com

Portola Valley Lobster Shack on Urbanspoon


Lots of seating outdoors, not lots indoors.

Lots of seating outdoors, not lots indoors.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Buttermilk drop biscuits

Everybody loves biscuits. There’s no arguing with this statement. I’m not talking about the flat, sweet, crunchy things that folks on the other side of the Atlantic call biscuits (although those are good too), I’m talking about flaky, buttery, American-style biscuits. If you’ve never had one of these fresh out of the oven, you haven’t lived.

THESE are biscuits. End of story.

THESE are biscuits. End of story.

I’ve made a lot of rolled biscuits in the past, the kind where you roll out the dough and cut circles out with a cutter, but lately I’ve taken to drop biscuits. They get their name from the fact that are formed by taking rough scoops of dough and dropping them onto a sheet or pan; no rolling pin necessary. Drop biscuits require less work and therefore less handling, which – for me at least – results in a lighter texture. They are also more versatile than their rolled cousins, and they do rather well with additional ingredients mixed in like cheese or hunks of bacon.


Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk …give or take a bit. More on this later.


Directions

” If Satan has a favorite drink, it’s buttermilk “

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. If you happen to be using a cast iron drop biscuit pan, preheat it with the oven. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Now we need to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients, probably the trickiest bit of the whole process. The most straightforward way to go about it is just to plop the butter as-is directly into the flour mixture and go to work with a pastry blender. If you don’t happen to have one of these (and even if you do), this step can be a pain in the arse. You can try chopping up the butter before dumping it into the flour and using table knives or forks to work it in, but it’s a tedious process. Or………


Optional super-cool way of doing things

Put your 1.5 sticks of butter in the freezer and leave them there for several hours, preferably overnight. Put a cheese grater in there as well.

Yes, you read that correctly. Put a cheese grater in the freezer. I’m serious.

Guess what we're going to do next.

Guess what we’re going to do next.

When the butter is frozen solid, carefully remove it from the wrapper, handling it as little as possible. Using your icy-cold cheese grater, quickly grate the butter into the dry ingredients and mix them together. If you have trouble with the butter clumping together, put your dry ingredients in the freezer for 30 minutes first.

I bet you've never seen grated butter before, have you?

I bet you’ve never seen grated butter before, have you?

Regardless of which method you use to get the butter worked into the dry ingredients, you should end up with a coarse, crumbly-looking mixture with pea-sized lumps of butter. If you want to include additional ingredients (e.g., cheese), now is the time to add them. If this is your first time making drop biscuits, I recommend sticking with the basic recipe to get a better feel for things. Either way, it’s now time to add the buttermilk.

It's not an exact science. Just get your dry mix to look more or less like this.

It’s not an exact science. Just get your dry mix to look more or less like this.

Before we go any further, let me just say that buttermilk is NASTY. Don’t ever try it straight up. My friends and family will tell you that I’m grossly exaggerating things, but don’t listen to them. Buttermilk is one of the most horrific things I have ever tasted – my first tentative sip gave me nightmares for a week. It’s like rotten milk mixed with motor oil and rattlesnake venom. If Satan has a favorite drink, it’s buttermilk, I’m sure of it. It’s a mystery to me how such a repulsive ingredient can make such delicious biscuits, so I’m just going to chalk it up to magic and move on with my life.

Earlier, in the ‘ingredients’ section, I mentioned that you should use one cup of buttermilk, give or take a bit. What I mean by this is that the exact amount of liquid you should use cannot be easily determined ahead of time. When it comes to recipes like this one, it’s far more important for the dough to have the right consistency than to use a precise measurement. As my grandmother used to say when teaching me recipes, “Add enough until it’s right.” So, one cup of buttermilk is probably about the right amount, but don’t be alarmed if you need to add a bit more to make the dough firm up correctly.

Use a measuring cup if it makes you feel better, but I don’t even bother with one. Pour some buttermilk into the dry mix and stir it in gently, being careful not to over-work the dough. If you mix the bejesus out of it, your biscuits will turn out chewy and manhandled instead of flaky and light, so use a gentle hand. It will soon be apparent if there is not enough liquid in your dough because it will be powdery in areas and won’t want to hold together. Add another splash of buttermilk – no more than a tablespoon at a time – and turn over the dough a few more times with your mixing spoon. Keep adding liquid as necessary until you get a single, sticky mess of thick dough that stands up all by itself in the center of the bowl.

And this is what biscuit dough should look like.

And this is what biscuit dough should look like.

Now comes the fun part. Drop quarter-cup lumps of dough onto a baking sheet (or your preheated drop biscuit pan) and bake for 15 minutes.

They don't have to be pretty. In fact, it's better if they aren't.

They don’t have to be pretty. In fact, it’s better if they aren’t.

When the tops of the biscuits are golden brown and toasty, they are ready to consume. Serve them hot and with plenty of butter, sausage gravy, honey, jam, or whatever your heart desires.

It's all worth it for this one buttery moment.

It’s all worth it for this one buttery moment.



See also


A bacon and cheese variant I made recently. They did not suck.

A bacon and cheese variant I made recently. They did not suck.



Standard Recipe Disclaimer
I don’t come up with a lot of my own recipes (unless you count my own personal milk-to-Grape-Nuts ratio), and chances are the recipe posted above belongs to or was inspired by a person other than me. So if you’re wondering whether or not I ripped somebody off, I probably did. Don’t get out the pitchforks and torches just yet though! I want to make absolutely sure I give credit where it’s due, so if you think someone deserves recognition for something that I haven’t already called out FOR CRYING OUT LOUD LET ME KNOW. Thanks, I appreciate it. Here’s a cookie.


Gott’s Roadside

meter-greatGott’s Roadside is an excellent place. For my own tastes, it’s damn near the perfect eatery. Gott’s serves burgers, shakes, salads, breakfast, and quite a number of other American-style classics. They upscale things a bit by also offering a selection of wines, and their beer list ain’t bad either. There isn’t any one thing I can put my finger on that this restaurant does better than its peers, but maybe the thing that sets Gott’s apart is its consistency. All I know is that the next time I’m in the mood for a burger, I’m coming straight back here.

” My continued fry pilfering did not go unnoticed “

After an exhausting weekend of really and truly intending to do a better job of eating healthy, my wife and I decided one little burger couldn’t hurt… right? And maybe a shake. With fries of course. Mmmm, fries. We almost tried to talk ourselves out of it, but it wasn’t long before our rumbling stomachs made us get in the car and drive to the new Gott’s Roadside that just opened near Stanford. The road to hell, it turns out, is paved with comfort food.

Great location, right on the corner of El Camino and Embarcadero.

Great location, right on the corner of El Camino and Embarcadero.

Because I think I am smarter than my GPS unit, I decided to take El Camino from the South Bay all the way up to Palo Alto. Twelve years and several months later, we arrived at our destination. The right side of my face was getting a little sunburned from being subjected to the Spousal Glare of Death coming from the passenger seat, so I exited the car quickly and made sure to be as politely expedient as possible. We went inside, placed our orders at the cash register, and sat at a booth to await our grub.

Where is everybody?

Where is everybody?

The first thing that struck me about the restaurant is how empty it was during lunchtime on a Sunday afternoon. It may well be that Town & Country Village – the shopping center where Gott’s is located – is more of a weekday kind of spot, and I certainly hope that’s all it is. On the weekends, every parking lot in Palo Alto is jam-packed with Audis and Teslas, and every business is filled to bursting, largely with snooty people in expensive yoga pants… but apparently not today. Then again, Gott’s did just open, and things might just be taking a little while to ramp up.

If you don't like po' boys, you aren't human. Sorry.

If you don’t like po’ boys, you aren’t human. Sorry.

Suddenly our pager buzzed, interrupting my scornful musings of the upper middle class, and I hurried off to grab our food. Shawn’s crispy chicken po’ boy looked delicious, and so did her side order of fries. I had decided not to order any fries for myself because I didn’t really want any, but I figured stealing a couple of hers would probably be okay. They weren’t anything special, but sometimes regular old fries are just what you want. Having just another couple fries shouldn’t be a problem, I thought, and snagged a few more. Then a few more. Unfortunately, my continued fry pilfering did not go unnoticed. In a calm and pleasant voice, Shawn said, “I thought you didn’t want any fries.” At least I think that’s what she said, because the words I heard inside my head were “If you touch my food again, I will nail your skin to the Stanford tree mascot.” Regardless of what the exact statement was, I felt it was best to focus my appetite elsewhere.

Perfectly crispy but otherwise uninspiring fries. Then again, what else do you really need?

Perfectly crispy but otherwise uninspiring fries. Then again, what else do you really need?

To my delight, I suddenly remembered that I had ordered a patty melt. Hooray! This diner classic is one of my favorites and one I am always looking for. It’s a tricky dish to get right, and all too often the bread turns into a soggy mess where it touches the hamburger patty… but not at Gott’s. The toasty rye bread was crisp and un-collapsed, the whole grain mustard was fantastic, and the grilled onions were flat-out amazing. And the cheese! I give Gott’s a huge thumbs-up for choosing Gruyere as the “melt” part of the patty melt. It was the highlight of the meal for me.

A patty melt! Surprisingly hard to find, but Gott's has them.

A patty melt! Surprisingly hard to find, but Gott’s has them.

We finished up our meal pleasantly satisfied but not overly full, and we agreed that Gott’s Roadside rocks. They somehow seem to have exactly what you want on the menu, and they do a great job of not screwing it up in the kitchen. The quality of the ingredients and preparation receive high marks, as do the speedy service, reasonable bill, and clean dining area. Gott’s may not knock you on your ass in sheer awe, but if you want a great, hiccup-free experience and some tasty grub then this is the place for you. I rate Gott’s an extremely solid 13 out of 14 stolen french fries, more than good enough to justify many repeat visits. Just don’t take El Camino to get there.

Gott’s Roadside
Multiple locations around the Bay Area
www.gotts.com

Gott's Roadside on Urbanspoon


There's a little something here for everybody.

There’s a little something here for everybody.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Slow cooker chicken stock

There are a lot of reasons to make your own chicken stock. Maybe you’re a cheapskate, or maybe you prefer the taste of homemade stock to the canned stuff. Perhaps you simply enjoy tinkering in the kitchen and making a mess. Why do I make my own stock? For one, I can’t stand the idea of throwing away perfectly good leftover chicken parts. There’s a lot of flavor lurking in a roast chicken carcass, and I feel like it’s worth the effort to coax it out.

” Use it straight up for full frontal chicken intensity “

Technically “broth” is made using meat and “stock” is made using bones, but I’ve always used the word “stock” because it makes me sound more like I know what I’m talking about… which may or may not be true. There are quite a lot of different ways to make this stuff, but this is the recipe I like best. It’s dead easy and it turns out great-tasting results.

You can use stock for an extra flavor boost when making rice, and it’s great for steaming vegetables. Stock is perfect for deglazing pans, making all manner of gravies and sauces, and of course it’s a core ingredient of soup. Polenta made with chicken stock is miles better than its boring water-based cousin. The list goes on and on. Intrigued? Good, let’s start cooking.

A handful of leftover ingredients is all you really need.

A handful of leftover ingredients is all you really need.


Ingredients

  • 1 or 2 chicken carcasses (or a bunch of leftover parts), lightly killed
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme (optional)
  • water
  • a slow cooker


Directions

Ok, first step. Go to the store, buy a rotisserie chicken, eat it, and save the bones, skin, and other unpleasant parts. Do this twice. You should now have more or less the requisite amount of carcass bits to move forward with this recipe. If you like to roast your own chickens, and you really should, this first step will be even easier. At the risk of stating the obvious, all of your chicken should already be cooked. Also, do not – I repeat, do NOT – use giblets when making chicken stock. You know those nasty little bags of bird guts that are stuffed inside whole, raw chickens? Those are giblets. I’m sure there’s someone out there that enjoys the flavor of boiled organs, but it’s not me. Save yourself from the horror and shame of accidentally making liver soup and skip the giblets.

Hot Tip: Keep a couple of gallon ziplock bags in your freezer – one for chicken carcasses and one for veggies. Save all those carrot tops, celery ends, and unused onion layers and stick them in the freezer instead of throwing them away; do the same with various chicken parts. Not only will you waste less food, but you’ll always have stock-making supplies on hand.

The next step is pretty easy. Take all of the ingredients listed above, frozen or otherwise, and throw them into your slow cooker. If you have a smaller slow cooker and don’t think everything will fit, just halve the recipe. There’s no particular need to cut up the vegetables, but if you prefer you can give everything a coarse chop before tossing it in. You should ideally have enough chicken parts to fill your slow cooker completely. Fill with water up to about 1″ below the rim of the cooker, put the lid on, set it to ‘low’, and leave it alone for 24 hours. If you’re in a hurry, you can cook it on ‘high’ for 12 hours instead.

All cooked. We're on the verge of chicken stock greatness here.

All cooked. We’re on the verge of chicken stock greatness here.

Your stock is all done and it should smell of delicious chickeny goodness. Now, in whatever way seems best to you, separate the bones and other remaining solid stuff from the liquids. I like to dump the whole mess into a large, fine-mesh metal strainer and catch the liquid in a large bowl, but you can also use a slotted spoon or collander or whatever you have handy. Throw away the solids, step back, and admire the deep, rich color of the homemade chicken stock that has magically appeared in your kitchen.

If you own a fat separator, now is a good time to use it.

If you own a fat separator, now is a good time to use it.

Now it’s time to store all that dandy chicken tea you’ve just brewed up. There are a number of different ways to tackle this, but my favorite method is to pour 2-cup portions of the stock into quart freezer bags and freeze them while laying flat. Once frozen, they will stack neatly on a freezer shelf, ready for use. For convenience, I also like to fill a couple of ice cube trays. One frozen cube of stock is exactly 2 tbsp; it’s quick, neat, and easy to measure out exactly what you want when the need arises.

Great for cooking, not recommended for cocktails.

Great for cooking, not recommended for cocktails.

And that’s it! You’ll find that your scratch made stock is 3.7 times chicken-y-ier than store-bought.* You can use it straight up for full frontal chicken intensity, or cut it 1:1 with water to bring it down to the level of stock mere mortals are accustomed to. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back, enjoy a tasty beverage, and brag to your friends about how awesome you are.

*Measurements of chicken intensity are approximate and intended only to serve as a vague reference point to lend credibility to this blog post. There is also no scientifically proven method to debunk the aforementioned chicken intensity claims, so if you were thinking of doing so, I say to you: Neener neener.

Not a bad day's work.

Not a bad day’s work.



See also



Standard Recipe Disclaimer
I don’t come up with a lot of my own recipes (unless you count my own personal milk-to-Grape-Nuts ratio), and chances are the recipe posted above belongs to or was inspired by a person other than me. So if you’re wondering whether or not I ripped somebody off, I probably did. Don’t get out the pitchforks and torches just yet though! I want to make absolutely sure I give credit where it’s due, so if you think someone deserves recognition for something that I haven’t already called out FOR CRYING OUT LOUD LET ME KNOW. Thanks, I appreciate it. Here’s a cookie.


The Refuge

meter-great-haThe Refuge is no joke. It’s the ideal eatery as far as I’m concerned; they have fantastic beer and a no-bullcrap menu executed to perfection. What’s not to like? I’m really not sure how else to sum it up… I honestly wish all restaurants were exactly like this place.

” It’s the Disneyland of beer and meat “

The first time I heard about The Refuge was on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I was only halfway listening to the television at the time, but the discussion of Belgian beer and crazy good pastrami got my full attention. When I heard it was within fifteen miles of my house I knew right then I’d be paying a visit. And so I have.

It's a Belgian beer kind of lunch. Quite the tasty dubbel I might add.

It’s a Belgian beer kind of lunch. Quite the tasty dubbel I might add.

I suppose I should start with the beer. The Refuge offers a lot of varieties with a heavy emphasis on Belgian styles. I don’t mean ten or twelve beers, I’m talking over a hundred. MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED KINDS OF BEER.

Let that sink in a moment.

Yeah, you’re right. That’s a lot of drinking that needs to be done, and there’s no time to waste. It’s a big responsibility, but I know that if we all work together we can tackle this challenge. And for the love of all that is good and pure in this world, please don’t order a Coors Light or an MGD or any other mainstream domestic atrocity of modern pisscraft. Hey, if that offends you then you don’t deserve the best beer in the entire Bay Area anyway, so quit being all sensitive and get over to The Refuge for a REAL glass of suds.

It's the Disneyland of beer and meat.

It’s the Disneyland of beer and meat.

The next thing I’d like to cover is the pastrami. The culinary wizards at The Refuge have elevated this single, humble meat into a new tier of food awesomeness all its own. The pastrami melts, literally melts, when you eat it and.. There, you see? I’ve gone and droobled on my keyboard. Yes, “droobled”. But anyway, this pastrami is hands down the very best I have ever had in my entire life and, as evidenced by my doughy physique, I’ve sampled quite a lot of it over the years. I know my pastrami, so believe me when I say this stuff is the cat’s ass.

You have never had a pastrami burger like this. Never.

You have never had a pastrami burger like this. Never.

As you can imagine, The Refuge of course makes one of the best Reuben sandwiches you are ever likely to find. It’s piled so ridiculously high with meaty goodness that it’s too big to serve with fries. On my most recent visit I skipped the Reuben and gave the pastrami burger a try, and I was wowed yet again. The bun (pretzel I believe) was straight-out-of-the-oven fresh, the hamburger patty was seasoned to perfection and grilled with a nice crust on it, and a lovely little hill of that magical pastrami topped it all off.

I don't know why they're called 'goofy fries', but I don't have any better suggestions.

I don’t know why they’re called ‘goofy fries’, but I don’t have any better suggestions.

The Refuge also produces an array of epic salads, appetizers, and sides, including “goofy fries”. These begin life as garlic fries (which are excellent on their own, by the way), but are also topped with pastrami and cheddar cheese sauce. But probably the biggest surprise of the meal, for me at least, were the Brussels sprouts. They were decadently bacon-y, cooked perfectly, and absolutely delicious. I couldn’t get enough of them. And why were they a surprise? Because I can’t freaking stand Brussels sprouts, that’s why. Those nasty, skunky little green pods of misery come straight from the depths of Hell, I’m sure of it, and yet somehow The Refuge made them awesome. Now that’s impressive.

I discovered that I like Brussels sprouts. Well whaddya know.

I discovered that I like Brussels sprouts. Well whaddya know.

By now it should be relatively clear that I have a total food crush on The Refuge. Top notch grub, top notch beer, no ridiculousness. I give it 99 Belgian beer bottles (on a Belgian wall of course) out of 100. I plan to spend quite a bit of quality time here. Oh yes.

The Refuge
Two locations in the Bay Area
www.refugesc.com

The REFUGE on Urbanspoon


This is the Reuben you've been looking for.

This is the Reuben you’ve been looking for.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Choose Your Own Restaurant Review

 

It’s a hot day in California, as hot as fresh jalapenos. The air feels like a pizza oven. The corn-yellow sun shines its rays like yet another stupid food-based metaphor that you can’t be bothered to think of. Suddenly, you remember that you are a food blogger. A feeling of mild panic mixed with hunger starts in your gut and works its way into your eyelid, making it twitch.

“I really should go eat at a restaurant somewhere,” you say to yourself, thoughtfully placing a hand over your gurgling stomach. The three people that have been sitting on the couch in your living room look at you suddenly, concerned to see you speaking to yourself yet again. “Oh,” you say, attempting to salvage the situation. “Do you guys…”

Choose: “…want to go to an Italian restaurant?”

Choose: “…have any ideas where we should go?”


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You suggest going to an Italian restaurant.

Everyone seems to like the idea of Italian, and without much fuss you all climb into the car and start driving towards a half-decent chain restaurant. As you cruise down the street, you notice a biplane towing a banner overhead… and then you remember. There’s a 49er game today, and you are heading straight into the belly of the beast. Quick, you need to avoid traffic! You decide to…

Choose: Take the freeway.

Choose: Take side streets.


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You ask for advice on where you should go eat.

Seizing the opportunity to dictate the menu, the pickiest eater of the group leaps to his feet and begins listing restaurant criteria. “It should be not too expensive and not too cheap, but also not greasy and probably there should be no cheese. Except if we go to my favorite burrito place, then grease and cheese are ok,” he says, hardly taking a breath. “It can’t be Chinese because I demanded to have that yesterday and now I am tired of it, and it can’t be American or Greek or Burmese or Lithuanian or African or basically anything that I say it can’t be. In fact, it must only be a very specific type of curry, my aforementioned favorite burrito shop, or a pizza place an hour away. Also…”

But those are the last words he ever says. The other two people in the room throttle the picky eater to death with their bare hands, and you help them bury the body. Eventually you are all caught by the FBI and are sent to prison for the rest of your natural lives.

Go back


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You take the freeway.

In a stroke of sheer luck, traffic on the freeway is very light… but in the wrong direction. You have no choice but to try and get away from the football crowd, so you start driving with no destination in mind. Before long you realize you are headed straight towards Murphy Street in Sunnyvale, and you know for sure that there are some decent places to eat there. Maybe things will turn out alright after all. Quickly, you park the car and shoo everyone in the general direction of food. You walk along Murphy Street and then…

Choose: You go to the kebab joint.

Choose: You go to the Italian bistro.

Choose: You go to the Mexican place.


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You take side streets.

Using local shortcuts is always a good choice… right? After only a couple of blocks you realize you have made a terrible, terrible mistake. You are stuck right in the middle of the worst gridlock you have ever seen, surrounded by raised pickup trucks draped in 49er flags. You are trapped and there is no way out.

You're screwed now.

You’re screwed now.

The starvation slowly drives your passengers to insanity over the course of the next twelve days. Eventually, it is decided that cannibalism is the only path to survival… and you are the main course.

Go back


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You walk towards the kebab joint.

As you draw near to the kebab joint, you hear your stomach grumbling… but then you realize it’s someone in your party voicing their disapproval of kebabs. Well, it’s not the worst thing ever. The sun-faded posters in the window of this place look kind of scary anyway, and there are way too many dead flies on the inside window sills. Yucky. You turn back to pick another place to eat.

Go back


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You arrive at the Italian bistro.

The place is packed to the gills, even the outside patio. “Ugh,” you mutter to yourself. “What in the world are all these people doing here at 1pm on a Sunday??”

“It looks like they’re watching the football game on that giant portable TV screen they’ve parked in the middle of the road over there,” says one of your starving companions.

Sigh. It seems Italian just isn’t meant to be today. Disappointed and somewhat depressed, you turn around and walk back up the street to choose from one of the other two restaurants.

Go back


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You decide on the Mexican place.

You find yourself at Roberto’s Cantina, a small-ish place tucked in a corner along Murphy Street. The scent of delicious, scratch-made Mexican food meets your nose, and to your surprise there are still a couple of tables open. You are quickly seated and given some chips and salsa to graze on.

You discover that both types of salsa are excellent.

You discover that both types of salsa are excellent.

You spend some time looking through the menu, and a few different entrees catch your eye. The waiter arrives and asks you what you’d like to order.

Choose: A combination plate.

Choose: Al Rebozo (bacon-wrapped shrimp).

Choose: Steak fajitas.


 

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You order a combination plate.

You figure that the best way to try out a new Mexican restaurant is to go for a mix of favorites. You opt for a carne asada enchilada and a quesadilla, and of course refried beans instead of pinto or black beans.

C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!

C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!

You find the refried beans to be flavorful but mostly average, a sure indicator of the rest of the meal. The quesadilla is about the same, but the enchilada turns out to be rather good. It is unfortunately impossible to eat, being nestled in a shallow bowl and inaccessible to knife and fork, but you still enjoy it. Without warning, your spouse asks you for half of your quesadilla in exchange for a couple of bacon-wrapped shrimp.

Accept the trade and give the shrimp a try.

Refuse the trade and keep your quesadilla.


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You try the Al Rebozo.

You’re not sure who Al is, but apparently he makes pretty decent bacon-wrapped shrimp. The scent of crispy bacon and fresh seafood wafts tantalizingly through the air.

When in doubt, wrap everything in bacon.

When in doubt, wrap everything in bacon.

You’ve had questionable bacon-and-shrimp plates before, so you’re not really sure what to think of this one. You tentatively take a bite… and wow! That is one tasty dish. The bacon is nice and crispy, but surprisingly the shrimp inside are not overcooked. Whoever is preparing this dish has apparently done this before, and they are very good at it. You decide that these shrimp are so tasty, in fact, that you would even eat them if they were served on top of a dried cow pie. You aren’t too sure about the weird chipotle sauce that came with them though.

Conclude your meal.


 

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You order steak fajitas.

Hey, who doesn’t like fajitas? Unfortunately, the answer will soon be you. The steak fajitas arrive piled high, sizzling on a cast iron thingy and smelling delicious. As you begin eating, however, you realize that they don’t have a lot of flavor, and the tortillas are a little odd as well. You probably should have ordered something else.

Go back


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You foolishly refuse the trade.

Like an idiot, you decide that it’ll be a good idea to decline your spouse’s trade. You greedily hoard the remainder of your combo plate for yourself, all the while being given the hairy eyeball. Later, when you arrive at home, you are assigned to pull weeds in the hot sun for the rest of your life. That evening, your PlayStation mysteriously appears in the toilet.

Rethink your decision


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You finish your meal and wrap up the restaurant review.

meter-good+In the end, you consider your experience at Roberto’s Cantina to be a success. All four people in your lunch party – including the picky one – ended up mostly happy with their meals. There were a couple of things about Roberto’s that you didn’t love, such as the flavorless carne asada and fajitas, but there were also some things that you thought were pretty good. You’d be happy to come back some day, but you can’t give it the highest score ever. You decide to rate this restaurant 7 out 10 pork-wrapped seafood items.

And then everyone lived happily ever after.

Roberto’s Cantina
168 South Murphy Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
(408) 739-2021
www.robertos-cantina.com

Roberto's Cantina on Urbanspoon




Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.