Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Saddle Ranch Chop House

Name: Saddle Ranch Chop House
Address: 4321 N. Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Phone: (480) 429-2263
Web site: SRRestaurants.com
Date & Time visited: Wednesday, December 31, 2008, 3:00 PM
Guests: Jennifer and me
What we had: Buffalo chicken wrap (me), Ranch House club sandwich (Jen). My wrap was stuffed full of tasty chicken with a spicy buffalo sauce, with shredded lettuce and blue cheese. Really good. I didn't try Jennifer's sandwich (bacon) but she assures me it was also quite good.

Service: Very good, though water refills lagged just a bit. Music was rather loud.

Would we go back: If we're in the area again, or if we're near one of their other locations, sure.

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CeZar's at Hotel Scottsdale

Name: CeZar's at Hotel Scottsdale
Address: 5101 N. Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85250
Phone: (480) 945-4392
Web site: CeZarsRestaurante.com
Date & Time visited: Tuesday, December 30, 2008, 9:30 PM
Guests: Jennifer and me
What we had: Seafood bisque (me), smoked salmon tostada (Jen), Dungeness and blue lump crab cake (me). I had also ordered a Valencia pizza, but see below. We shared all three dishes, which were on the Tapas menu but served as a light dinner for two. The bisque was creamy and flavorful with a bit of heat, the smoked salmon tostada had plenty of salmon and a crunchy tortilla, and the crab cake was perfectly made with just enough breading but not too much.

Service: Inconsistent. Seated immediately, took quite a while to place orders. Drinks came quickly, food took a long time. The Valencia pizza actually never made it out; the server came up apologizing left and right that it had been forgotten in the oven and burned, and they would start a new one for me. As it happened, we were both pretty full from the three other items so I told him to just forget it. That would have been the end of it except he kept apologizing, over and over and over. And over. Got pretty tiresome towards the end of the meal.

Would we go back: If we're staying at the Hotel Scottsdale again, which is fairly unlikely, yes. We did go back for breakfast the next two mornings.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cafe Orleans

Name: Cafe Orleans
Address: New Orleans Square, Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California
Phone: (714) 781-DINE
Web site: (on Disneyland Resort site)
Date & Time visited: Monday, December 29, 2009, 8:25 PM
Guests: Jennifer and me

What we had: French onion soup (Jen), pommes frite (me), Monte Cristo (Jen), ratatouille (me).

I couldn't try either of Jen's dishes (French onion soup has beef stock, the Monte Cristo has ham) but she assured me they were good, especially the soup on a rather chilly night. The pommes frites are essentially garlic fries, but they're well-executed. I'd never tried ratatouille but was feeling adventurous. What do you know--ratatouille is essentially just "chunky tomato sauce". It would go very well on a bowl of spaghetti. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Service: Not great but not too bad. Bussers gave us more attention than the server did.

Would we go back: Yes, and next time remember to show my AP for a discount, which I completely forgot this time.

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Mint Julep Bar (Disneyland)

Name: Mint Julep Bar (Disneyland)
Address: New Orleans Square, Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, CA
Phone: (714) 781-DINE
Web site: (on Disneyland Resort site)
Date & Time visited: Monday, December 29, 2008, 2:55 PM
Guests: Jennifer and me

What we had: Eggnog latte (Jen), double iced latte (me).

Normally I wouldn't review a coffee bar where we didn't actually get any food, but this was a special case. After a bit of a wait (solely due to the guest ahead of us in line) we made it to the counter and talked to Cast Member Clydean, who was just terrific. So friendly and cheerful, even at a place where friendly-and-cheerful is the rule rather than the exception. Our drinks were perfect and hit the spot.

Service: Fabulous.

Would we go back: Yes.

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California Grill (Hyatt Regency Orange County)

Name: California Grill (Hyatt Regency Orange County)
Address: 11999 Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92840
Phone: (714) 740-6047
Web site: OrangeCounty.Hyatt.com
Date & Time visited: Monday, December 29, 2008, 10:30 AM
Guests: Jennifer and me
What we had: Eggs Benedict (Jen), smoked salmon w/bagel & cream cheese (me).

This is the lobby restaurant of our favorite Anaheim-area hotel. Breakfast is a bit pricey but of generally good quality. Jen enjoyed her eggs Benedict. My bagel was toasted properly and the salmon was fresh; it was served with a small mixed green salad that provided a good counterpoint to the salmon and cream cheese.

Service: Good if not great. Drink refills (orange juice for Jen, cranberry juice and coffee for me) were a bit slow in coming.

Would we go back: Yes, when we stay at this hotel.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Claim Jumper

Name: Claim Jumper
Address: 2250 E. 17th St, Santa Ana, CA 92705
Phone: (714) 836-6658
Web site: ClaimJumper.com
Date & Time visited: Sunday, December 28, 2008, 7:00 pm
Guests: Kevin & Adrienne, Jennifer & me

What we had: (in no particular order because it was a month ago) Mai Kinda Tai, Ultimate Pepper Mary, Ultimate Mazatlan Martini, Tropic Storm (drinks), fried cheese appetizer, prosciutto flatbread appetizer, chicken citrus salad, honey chicken brie sandwich, frisco cheeseburger, small fish & chips (my entree), lemon amaretto brulee, cinnamon caramel flan, red velvet cupcake (my dessert).

I don't like cutting these reviews short but since I've procrastinated for so long, I can't remember too many details of the meal. With that, I do recall my fish & chips being good if not great--the batter was a bit greasy and thicker than usual. My dessert, the red velvet cupcake, was delicious. Everyone else enjoyed their drinks, entrees and desserts to the best of my memory.

Service: Not exactly prompt but the place was very busy. We eventually got everything we'd ordered. Drink refills were reasonably prompt. Servers were very friendly.

Would we go back: Unlikely to this particular location as it was a mid-point meetup, but likely to one or another of the chain's locations.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

JOYA Restaurant & Lounge

Name: JOYA Restaurant & Lounge
Address: 339 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Phone: (650) 853-9800
Web site: JoyaRestaurant.com
Date & Time visited: Saturday, December 13, 2008, 7:00 PM
Guests: Jennifer and me
What we had: All tapas. Started with guacamole and new world chips (potato, banana, other root vegetables) and marinated olives. Jen had a glass of Marqués de Riscal Tempranillo and I tried a Cucumber Cosmo. She loved the wine, I thought my drink was interesting but probably wouldn't order it again.

Next we had: boquerone anchovy & queso fresco crostini; wild mushroom empanadas with lime scallion crema; croquetas with potatoes, passilla peppers, butternut squash and jalapeno fondue; and sizzling camarones al ajillo. Everything was, without exception, excellent. The anchovy crostini, we agreed, was the best of the lot, even though there was a slice of tomato between the queso fresco and the crostini--and we both usually don't like tomato--it worked perfectly. The croquetas were probably the weakest of the four but still had good flavor; I couldn't taste the jalapeno fondue even after dipping the croqueta again. I usually don't like mushrooms but I tried one of the empanadas with the lime-scallion crema, and quite enjoyed it. The camarones (shrimp) were served with an ajillo pepper sauce that, as Jen said, "they could serve this sauce with cardboard and it would be great." They were also served with heads, though not attached, and I'm not sure but I suspect I was supposed to eat them--I did not.

For dessert, we shared an order of churros with ibarra hot chocolate and an ice cream trio. The churros were obviously freshly made and softer than we were used to, but very good. The ibarra chocolate sauce was wonderful and reminded me somewhat of the Chantico chocolate drink formerly sold at Starbucks. The ice cream trio included house-made chocolate, vanilla and caramel ice creams with chipotle caramel and a side of caramelized spicy walnuts; all three ice cream flavors were excellent, especially the chocolate (to me) and the vanilla (to Jen).

Service: Very good, despite a couple of missteps; the pork empanadas were served instead of the mushroom, and the trio of sorbet instead of the ice cream. Both times the server apologized and quickly brought the correct item. He did come back more than once to check on us, and the bus staff kept our water glasses full.

Would we go back: Yes. I was actually a tiny bit disappointed that were seated immediately even without a reservation--because I'd wanted to check out the lounge. Next time.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Hobee's

Name:
Address: 67 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto CA 94301
Phone: (650) 327-4111
Web site: Hobees.com
Date & Time visited: Sunday, November 30, 2008, 12:20 PM
Guests: Jennifer and me

What we had: Gingerbread pancakes (me), Rudolf's Scramble (Jen).

My gingerbread pancakes were served with sliced banana, dried cranberries and sliced almonds -- very seasonal and very delicious. They were just sweet enough and didn't need any syrup, though to be fair I rarely use syrup on pancakes anyway. I would probably have liked something salty to balance the palate, like a side of hash browns or turkey bacon, but the portion was large enough that I couldn't finish the pancakes alone so I certainly didn't want to order more food to not eat.

I don't recall what was in Jen's "Rudolf's Scramble" aside from eggs and meat, but she definitely enjoyed it.

Service: Good.

Would we go back: Yes.

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Firehouse Grill & Brewery

Name: Firehouse Grill & Brewery
Address: 1765 East Bayshore Rd, East Palo Alto, CA
Phone: 408-773-9500
Web site: FirehouseGrill.com
Date & Time visited: Saturday, November 29, 2008, 1:15 PM
Guests: Jennifer and me
What we had: Fish tacos (me), Black & Bleu burger (Jen)

The fish in my fish tacos was tender and well-cooked, and was lightly covered with a tangy chipotle aioli and served in fresh corn tortillas. I quite enjoyed them. The Black & Bleu burger is a Cajun-spiced bacon cheeseburger, which was so large that Jen cut it in half and was only able to finish half. It was served with better-than-average fries.

My only real complaint about this new place, which we've tried a few times, is that they don't have an alternative-meat burger, like turkey or veggie. It means I can't try any of their burgers since I don't eat beef.

Service: Spotty but friendly.

Would we go back: Yes.

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Mexicali Grill

Name: Mexicali Grill
[see below for address, phone and Web site]
Date & Time visited: Friday, November 28, 2008, 7:15 PM
Guests: Jennifer and me
What we had: Camarones burrito (me), Chile Colorado (Jen), 1800 Cadillac margarita (me), Mexicali Bullet margarita (Jen)

I'd been craving a camarones (shrimp) burrito since seeing one on an episode of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" so when Jen suggested having dinner at the Mercado before a movie at the AMC, I jumped at the chance. The camarones burrito was perfect -- lots of shrimp, very flavorful, wet but not too wet. It was served with Mexican rice, black beans sprinkled with queso fresco and fresh guacamole. Jen said her Chile Colorado was well-made, with a tasty sauce and plenty of meat. She forgot to ask for black beans but said the refried beans were all right.

Service: Fair. A bit of a wait for water refills and to get the check, but not bad.

Would we go back: Yes.

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Scott's Seafood Grill & Bar (Thanksgiving)

Name: Scott's Seafood Grill & Bar
[see below for location, phone and Web site]
Date & Time visited: Thursday, November 27, 2008, 6:30 PM
Guests: Jennifer and me
What we had: Thanksgiving dinner. We did this last year and liked it enough to return again this year. Scott's does a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, offering soup or salad, turkey or ham, side dishes and pecan or pumpkin pie for $29.95 for adults. We started the evening with drinks in the adjoining lounge; Jen had a glass of Riesling which she liked, and I had my usual dirty Ketel One martini, which was rather too dirty but not bad.

The salad was a Maytag blue with candied walnuts and dried cranberries. Very tasty. We both had the turkey, with Jen requesting all dark meat, which I don't care for. My white meat portion was fairly moist and tender -- not as good as we'd make at home, but then we don't have a kitchen to clean up afterwards -- and the mashed potatoes, stuffing and green beans were well executed though improved by a bit more gravy. The cranberry sauce was very good.

Neither of us were terribly impressed with the pie; Jen had pumpkin and didn't care for it, while I had the pecan and thought it was almost exactly like those little single-serving pecan pies sold in convenience stores. Overly sweet and not enough pecans.

Service: Excellent, not a single complaint or problem.

Would we go back: Yes.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Scott's Seafood Grill & Bar

Name: Scott's Seafood Grill & Bar
[see below for location, phone and Web site]
Date & Time visited: Sunday, October 21, 2007 12:15 PM
Guests: Jennifer and me
What we had: Smoked salmon Benedict (Jen), bagel with smoked salmon (me)

This time, Jen had the smoked salmon Benedict and gave it the same high marks as I had last time. My entree was a plain toasted bagel, some really excellent lox, cream cheese and a mini-salad of lettuce, cucumbers, onions and capers. While perhaps a bit pricey for a bagel with lox, it was good food with nice presentation.

Service: A little slow but good overall.

Would we go back: Yes.

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Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

Name: Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
Address: 2204 Bridgepointe Parkway, San Mateo, California 94404
Phone: (650) 571-5500
Web site: RedRobin.com
Date & Time visited: Saturday, October 20, 2007 3:00 PM
Guests: Jennifer and me
What we had: BBQ chicken salad (Jen), Blackened Bayou burger w/turkey patty (me)

Both entrees were monthly specials and don't appear on Red Robin's regular menu. Jennifer's BBQ chicken salad was topped with a generous portion of grilled chicken breast pieces slathered with Red Robin's Whiskey River barbecue sauce. My blackened Bayou burger was very spicy and I enjoyed it. Unlike my last experience with a spicy burger at Red Robin, this time the turkey patty was done with the same spice rub they would have used on a beef patty.

Service: Very good. The server was on the ball, taking our drink and food orders within minutes and keeping the drinks filled. This includes Red Robin's signature Freckled Lemonade, Jennifer's favorite which does include free refills.

Would we go back: Yes.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Napa Rose Lounge

Name: Napa Rose Lounge
Address: 1600 S. Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, California 92802
Phone: (714) 781-DINE (3463)
Web site: (on Disneyland Resort Web site)
Date & Time visited: Saturday, October 13, 2007 at roughly 8:00 PM
Guests: A whole lot of MousePlanet staff and/or crew people
What we I had: Diligently Selected Cheeses.

This review will be in a different style than usual. Rather than going over the appetizers, small bites and drinks that everyone in our party of nine enjoyed, I'm going to focus solely on my cheese platter. Trust me, everyone else liked what they had.

The "Diligently Selected Cheeses" were served on a platter with various bits of dried fruit and candied nuts, and came with a printed handout naming and describing each cheese in detail. Here they are in order: (typos and odd phrasing are straight from the handout!)

  • Brie Val De Saône (vol dee Sone) - France
    This is a rare and hard to get brie cheese, from Vale de Saône near the river Saône. This particular brie has a long history dating back to Charlemagne in 774. Many Bries are around 40% - 45% butter fat, this is over 60% and perfectly ripe. The cream-colored soft interior oozes at room temperature. The flavor is sweet and buttery with hints of almond.

  • Bucheron, St. Saviol (boo-share-OH) - France
    This Goat's milk cheese is from Burgundy, France, made in the village of Poitou. This is a fresh, unripened chèvre. This cheese is a pleasant cheese to snack on, which is somewhat tart and chalky on the palette.

  • Etorki (eh-tor-KEE) -Aquitaine, France
    This is an Aged A.O.C. 100% Sheep's Milk cheese from the high mountains of the Western Pyrenees of France. This is a true world class cheese with a nutty almost fruity character. The cheese has remained unchanged for well over a hundred years due to the remoteness of the area.

  • Mimolette (MEE-moh-LETT) - France
    A relative of Dutch Edam, made from pasteurized Cow's milk, Mimolette has a vivid orange color and a distinctive nutty taste. It is aged over 1 year and has a firm, yet flaky texture.

  • Grana Padano - Emilia-Romagna, Italy
    This Cow's milk D.O.C. cheese is made througout Lombardy andPiedmont regions of Northern Italy. The name padona means "of the Po River". This cheese is aged over two years and is a Parmesan style. The color is a straw to cream color. The flavor is that of classic Parmigiano-Reggiano, but with wonderful nutty notes and less salty flavor than other parmesans.

  • San Joaquin Gold - California, USA
    This is an artisan cheese made from unpasteurized cow's milk by Fiscalini Family Creamery in Modesto, California. Its milk comes from it sown herd of 1500 Holstein cows. It just recently won a gold medal at the prestigious London World Cheese Awards. Aged for 15 months, it is semi-hard, with a natural rind and sweet, salty, buttery taste and a rich, nutty flavor and pleasingly crumbly texture.

  • Roquefort "Le Papillon" (roke-FORE) (LAY PAPP-ee-yone) - France
    "Le Papillon": the butterfly. The worlds premiere sheep's milk blue-veined cheese. It has a creamy interior with an intense, complex and spicy flavor with hints of bitterness associated with rye bread crumbs, which as used to distribute the bleu veining.

  • Shropshire Blue (SHROP-shur-blu) - England
    This cheese was invented in England at the beginning of the centure and currently regarded as a world class cheese. Shropshire is a farmhouse Blue-Vein Cheddar made from Cow's Milk. It has a crumbly, yet firm and creamy texture. This cheese is aged 1 year, and is great with red wine!


Without exception, each one of the cheeses was wonderful. Each cheese's associated paragraph pretty accurately described the flavor and texture, and I made sure to try most of them along with the bits of fruit, candied nuts and toast points. Pure pleasure, completely decadent. I loved it.

Service: Disappointing to start--the server saw a large party and must have assumed we were going to hang out, not order much and therefore tip low--but she perked up once we started ordering drinks and food. The odd thing was that she offered opinions on just about everything ordered. Actually that's not the odd thing--the odd thing was that her opinions were fairly negative and she was somewhat insistent about her preferred alternative. Again, though, she did get a lot better after the initial round of orders. One other sour note was that it was basically impossible to get a glass of water, and once having received one to have it refilled.

Would we go back: Yes, but perhaps in a smaller group.

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Mimi's Cafe

Name: Mimi's Cafe
Address: 1400 S. Harbor Blvd, Anaheim, California 92802
Phone: (714) 956-2223
Web site: MimisCafe.com
Date & Time visited: Saturday, October 13, 2007 11:15 AM
Guests: Jennifer and me
What we had: French Toast Breakfast (Jen), Belgian Waffle Breakfast (me)

After dressing up as The Waffler the previous evening, of course I had to have waffles for breakfast the next morning. My Belgian waffle was... acceptable, nothing special. The eggs were quite good, however. Jennifer enjoyed her French toast and said it was made well, slightly creamy in the middle.

Service: A little slow but not unusually so for this particular location.

Would we go back: Yes, for convenience if nothing else.

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