Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Table is Cleared ...

Jeffery's Hillside Café in Santa Rosa is the final restaurant to be featured in "A Place for my Taste." The blog will remain online until the end of 2015 before being taken down at the end of the year.

Thank you for hanging around for the past seven and a half years. We've enjoyed writing about every one of the 479 restaurants posted.

I plan to post new restaurant experiences (abbreviated version plus a picture) on Yelp, so check my Yelp page in the future. Search "Craig M"

Bon appetite!

Jeffrey's Hillside Cafe (Santa Rosa)

Jeffrey's Hillside Cafe is located on the grounds of the Hillside Inn, tucked away in the verdant hillsides of Santa Rosa. The cafe is owned by Jeffrey and Diana Madura and is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday.

The wife and I were treated to breakfast there by a long-time friend and colleague who had moved to Santa Rosa a couple of years ago. I had no idea he'd moved exactly there, and he only realized I was in his town when he saw a Santa Rosa picture I posted on Facebook.

Their breakfast menu is quite eclectic with nice variations on the usual. Based on how my entrée tasted, I think that no matter what I ordered, I would have been happy.

The wife ordered their Quiche of the Day (bacon, peas, carrots, green beans) and enjoyed it: I didn't have a taste of her food. 

I had their Tex-Mex Scramble (eggs, chorizo, pepper jack cheese, green chilies, chopped jalapeño, sour cream, salsa and avocado), which was accompanied by their crunchy roasted potatoes and a couple of corn tortillas.

It was my third spicy meal in a day and a half and I had some trepidation about the jalapeño bits. I needn't have worried. Sure, the scramble was Mexican hot, but it wasn't oppressive. It hit the spot and made my tastebuds do a "Cielito Lindo" number.

What a fortunate turn of events, discovering that my friend had moved to Santa Rosa.

Jeffrey's Hillside Cafe: 2901 Fourth St. Phone (707) 546-6317.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cabrillo Park Cafe (Fremont)

I found Cabrillo Park Cafe during a Yelp search after I thought I'd found most breakfast restaurants in Fremont. Just goes to show what I know, huh? It turns out the cafe is not far from a familiar neighborhood to us.

Cabrillo Park Cafe offers a wide variety of menu items, from traditional American breakfast and lunch to Mexican favorites. They've got a wide variety of meat and eggs, potato pancake breakfast combos, hot cakes, French toast, Belgian waffles, eggs Benedict on golden polenta, omelettes far all kinds, various breakfast burritos, Mexican omelettes ... and that's just for breakfast.

For lunch, add pastas, various Italian and traditional entrées, a variety of hamburgers and specialty sandwiches. Check out their menu on their website: www.cabrilloparkcafe.com.

It was all I could do to resist ordering a plate of Huevos Rancheros. When the waiter brought one of those to a neighboring table, I almost regretted ordering Pork Chops and Eggs.

Almost, but not quite. A few minutes later, here he comes with my huge pork chops breakfast. There were two thick chops crowding the plate, partially lying on a large mess of country potatoes. About the only "normal-serving item" were the over-easy eggs.

I actually started with a large freshly-squeezed tapered glass of orange juice, with a magnificent amount of orange pulp nearly filling the glass. And talk about sweet.

The pork chops were so very tender, pretty heavily seasoned and yummy enough that I didn't season it with salt and pepper, or use ketchup and hot sauce, as is my usual habit with chops. I ate only one of the chops before I was full. The wife, who passed on going out because she had something else to do, gobbled up the pork chop and potatoes when I returned and gave her the box of leftovers to her.

Cabrillo Park Cafe is in a small strip mall and is open every day of the week, serving breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. They also cater private parties and meetings for as many as 90 people.

Cabrillo Park Cafe: 4949 Stevenson Blvd. Phone (510) 226-7777.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Sweet E's Cafe (Honolulu)

I've been wanting to have breakfast here for quite some time now, but circumstances just wouldn't allow it ... until recently. The first time we headed there, we failed miserably trying to find it, having forgotten the name of the place. We ended up in a different shopping plaza.

The second time out, we found it. Sweet E's Cafe is in a run-down shopping area of Kaimuki called "Kilohana Square." The thing is, there's no entrance on the main street, just an exit. So one has to turn on the street before the plaza, then hang an immediate left between what looks like two run-down buildings.

I don't know when they built the plaza, but it must have been in the '50s or maybe even earlier. Sweet E's is in a corner, with a sign and a door, no fancy facade to catch your attention. There's adequate parking, but if the place is busy, good luck finding street parking.

The place is pretty small. When I first learned about it, I was told there were only 10 tables. There are more, of course; I counted 36 seats, all of which were filled with diners by the time we got out of there (9:30 a.m.).

I'd read about their Corned Beef Hash Eggs Benedict, so I knew what I was going to have before the waiter gave us menus.

The wife ordered a Vegetarian Eggs Benedict, which consisted of tomato slices and spinach leaves on English muffin, two poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce. I didn't sample hers because I have a very good idea of what tomatoes and spinach taste like.

My Corned Beef Hash Eggs Benedict was a bit disappointing. For one thing, the hash flavor was very intense, too intense for my liking. The English muffin was hardly crispy at all, and the hollandaise was too lemony (It's as if they squeezed lemon juice over the hollandaise after the plate was set up).

The fried rice was also too intensely flavored. Needless to say I didn't care for it very much. Half the hash and 3/4 of the rice made it to the "take home" poly box alongside the wife's Veggie Benedict, but I didn't expect I'd be eating any of it soon.

Next time (if there is a next time), I may have their Stuffed French Toast that people on Yelp have been talking about. Then again, they were saying good things about the Corned Beef Hash Omelet too, so I don't know about that.

Sweet E's Cafe: Kilohana Square, 1016 Kapahulu Ave. Phone (808) 737-7771.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Johnny Garlic's (Santa Rosa)

Nearly all of us know who Guy Fieri is. He's that ubiquitous restaurateur, a big star on the Food Network, and former winner of "The Next Food Network Star" and host of innumerable cooking shows.

Johnny Garlic's is his restaurant, with seven California locations. It's basically a steak and pasta house with a varied menu. Recently, the wife and I drove to his Santa Rosa location to have dinner with a very good friend of mine.

I was pretty excited to eat there for the first time. Our server, Betty, made us feel comfortable and right at home. Thankfully, because some of their food isn't that great.

We started out with some Crispy Artichoke Hearts, drizzled with Parmesan with roasted red pepper aioli and served over crispy in-house potato chips. Now this was delicious. We all loved it and polished off the big plate to the last chip. I seriously considered canceling my entrée order and getting another couple of plates of this appetizer.

Betty also brought some Focaccia Bread, pouring some extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar on our bread plates to dip our herbed bread in. Another excellent offering. Not bad so far.

Our friend ordered a daily special Bison Steak with Chocolate Sauce, Yukon Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Broccolini. She was the steak was a bit on the tough side. The wife tried a piece with the chocolate sauce and said it tasted like ... chocolate. That made me giggle inside.

The wife wanted something with a less intense flavor, so she ordered a different daily special – Parmesan-Encrusted Sole with Rice and Roasted Broccolini. The fish was covered in a butter-garlic-caper sauce that tasted pretty good. The sole itself, however, was quite a disappointment to the wife, and I agree with her assessment, Not so good.

As for me, I had their Bourbon Buffalo Meat Loaf (ground bison steak and Italian sausage), Maui Onion Straws, Yukon Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Broccolini.

You know sometimes you miscalculate when you mix hamburger patties and it falls apart in the pan when you’re cooking it? That's how my entrée came to me – "crumbled" in the barbecue sauce over my potatoes. I expected a slab of meatloaf. The barbecue sauce was intensely flavored (which I liked) and spicy hot (which I also liked). The broccolini was just past the point of being raw, and I would have prefer it being cooked a little longer.

For dessert, we doubled up. First, tiramisu, because it was on the dessert menu and I can never pass up experiencing what I call "heaven in the mouth." They served it in a cup; I didn't care for it. The tiramisu was too dry and a bit grainy. If I were rating it on my former tiramisu website, I would have rated it a 2 or 3 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Our other shared dessert was Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Jack Daniel's Honey Crème Anglais. Now THIS was rather delightful. I mean, what's bad about chocolate?

So, the bottom line is that I came away disappointed, having expected more from a celebrity chef. I don't know if I can ever watch "Diners, Drive-Ins & Drives" again without shaking my head and laughing when Guy Fieri says a restaurant's dish is "out of bounds" or "off the hook" again.

Johnny Garlic's: 1460 Farmer's Lane. Phone (707) 571-1800.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Koa Pancake House Moanalua (Honolulu)

One day, looking for a place to have breakfast , we were pointed to Koa Pancake House by our son, who lives in the area. The restaurant is in the Moanalua Shopping Center, around the corner from Ruby Tuesday.

It's all the way to the left of the center, right at the very start. If you're not looking for it, you just might miss it, so keep your eyes open.

As with its other three locations, customers walk up to the counter and place their order, then take their assigned number holder and scramble to find a seat (it can get quite crowded at times).

I’d already tried their Kaimuki restaurant, where I had some pretty bad eggs benedict. So of course, I didn’t order that this time around.

I ordered Mahimahi and Eggs. Can’t go wrong with that, unless the fish is overcooked. The fish was overcooked, as were the eggs. The presentation was pretty average, and could have used a touch of green (parsley, green onions).

After the one strike in Kaimuki, I was a bit wary. This now makes two strikes. I think I’ll stop with that.

Koa Pancake House: 930 Valkenburgh St., Suite #101. Phone (808) 422-6700.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

King Wah Restaurant (Milpitas)

The wife and I got to have a good dinner of Chinese food when my son's in-laws joined us in Fremont, CA, for our mutual grandson's birthday party. The great thing is they speak Chinese and can interpret the menu, talk to the waiters, and order good entrées for the table.

The food at King Wah Restaurant, located in Milpitas' Victorian Square is pretty delicious, as evidenced by these pictures (oh wait, I forgot you can't smell or taste them, so never mind what I just said):

Beef with Egg White Soup

Sweet-Sour Chicken

Oxtail in Red Wine Sauce Clay Pot

Honey Walnut Prawns

Sweet Pea Leaf with Garlic

Ying Yang Fried Rice with White Sauce

Sweet Green Bean Soup (Dessert)
Boy, was all that delicious. Can’t wait to return.

King Wah Restaurant: 1235 E. Calaveras Blvd. Phone (408) 262-9288.