Saturday, June 17, 2017

Reader Question Answered: Favorite Cuisine & Recipes

Here's a great food related question from my friend Alyssa.
"What's your favorite type of cuisine?"

When it comes to delicious food I rarely discriminate! Good food makes every occasion more enjoyable and I have yet to find an ethnic cuisine or style of cooking I don't like. I find foods made with fresh ingredients, a dash of seasoning and a lot of love always taste wonderful. I was labeled as a "picky eater " as a child and even by my husband as a young adult because with a few exceptions I have never cared for most heavily processed or canned foods. Hamburger Helper? Bleh. Can't do it. Hot dogs? I find the boiled ones disgusting; the only way I can tolerate them is smokey, grilled to a crisp and hot off the bbq smothered in toppings. Kraft macaroni? So weird and rubbery to me.

My biggest pet peeve with food is texture. If something has an odd texture it won't be going in my mouth. I especially hate gelatinous, squishy type things. Jello is fine, but tapioca pudding? Heck no. Boba tea? Forget it! 

Although I do love to try new foods, you won't see me eating anything too crazy. For example I absolutely will not be partaking in the Philippino delicacy Balut (duck embryo) when I visit the Philippines this fall. I don't care how culturally important it is; if a food has the potential to make me gag or puke I'm not doing it. I also refuse to eat anything with the head still attached. The eyes especially bother me, I don't want my dinner staring back at me. I could eat a slice of pork off a whole roast pig for example, but if someone set the head down in front of me, I would not be digging my fork in. Same goes for organ meats and entrails. Nope. I appreciate tasty foods and cultural differences, but I have my limits.

Now onto the wide variety of foods I do enjoy!
One of my favorite types of meals from childhood which is very popular in our area and is frequently served by both my parents and in-laws is BBQ. Ribs, tri-tip, chicken and the occasional freshly caught trout or bass were the most comfortable, smothered in secret sauces that were never quite the same each time but were always delicious. My dad liked to observe the "3 B's" when grilling: beer, butter, and bbq sauce. These were usually complimented by hearty sides such as baked or mashed potatoes, fresh veggies and garlic bread or rolls. Country cooking at its finest!

My childhood was rather sheltered and I didn't have the opportunity to try very many ethic foods until after I was married, so late teens/early twenties. I will tell you though; once I realized what a wide scope of delicious foods was out there, I fell in love! There is not a type of cooking that I've tasted so far that I don't like. Here are some of my favorite restaurants and dishes:

Mexican: California offers some of the best Mexican food outside of Mexico and there is delicious fare to be had on almost every street corner. Aside from the surprisingly delicious tacos and burritos from local taco trucks, these are a couple of my favorite sit down Mexican restaurants.

J&R Tacos, Merced, CA
Their El Pastor tacos are to die for! Slow roasted pork shredded right in front of you, served with onions, cilantro and fresh pineapple.
They also serve my most favorite version of the sweet and spicy hispanic rice drink, horchata.
Their enchiladas are also noteworthy; your choice of red or green sauce, served with the classic Spanish rice and refried beans.

El Jardin, Columbia, CA and Mariposa, CA
I have visited two locations of this restaurant; I understand it's a regional chain, and the dishes I had were to die for! I was very impressed with their crispy tortilla chips still warm from the fryer and flavorful salsa. They also make a mean margarita, but the real star was their scrumptious shrimp enchiladas! My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Thai Cuisine II, Merced, CA
This is a restaurant we return to again and again. My favorite dish is their butterfly shrimp, tender prawns in a delicious peanut sauce with lemongrass, green onions and other savory greens on a bed of lettuce. The flavors are out of this world! My husband loves the pho, a hearty soup broth with rice noodles, veggies and your choice of almost any meat you could imagine.

Bankok Thai, Merced, CA.
My area has no shortage of good Thai restaurants and this one might be my most favorite. Oddly enough I don't have very many good pictures of it. Another delicious shrimp and veggie dish (I sense a theme here), along with my favorite appetizer, chicken satay with peanut dipping sauce and cucumber salad, and the delicious Thai iced tea I have to order at every Thai restaurant I visit.

New Thai Cuisine, Merced, CA
Formerly known as The Rice Bowl and still recognized for the unique bowl shaped building facade, this is one of those off the beaten path, hole in the wall type of places that offers some culinary gems. I really enjoyed their barbecued chicken dish as well as their fresh spring rolls.

Japanese and Chinese:

King's Asian Cuisine, Merced, CA
This fabulous restaurant and bar offers traditional Japanese and Chinese dishes and never fails to impress me. My go to's are their King Roll, similar to a California roll but with the additions of tempura shrimp on the inside and a drizzle of chipotle sauce on top. It can't be beat!

Sushi Cuisine, Merced, CA
I love to go here for their bento box lunch specials. My favorite is the tempura shrimp and veggies with teriyaki chicken, rice, salad and a California roll. It's a steal of a meal at only $8.95! The food is fresh and delicious and the service is quick and courteous too.

Greek and Mediterranean:
Opa Greek Restaurant, Los Gatos, CA
This goes down in one of my top 5 favorite meals of all time. I had this flavorful lamb gyro stuffed with tender lamb, grilled veggies and dipping sauce with Greek garlic and feta fries. My hubby had incredible grilled lamb and veggie kabobs. I can't describe how good this was! We also had some mojitos and a baklava type dessert.

Gyros and More, Turlock, CA
More scrumptious lamb gyros and delicious hand battered onion rings!

Mediterranean Grill, Modesto, CA
A few years ago for my husband's birthday we got a gift certificate to this fancy restaurant and celebrated with the most amazing lamb chops, pesto penne and mixed grilled veggies. Another one for my top five favorite meals.


Turmeric Indian Cuisine, Merced, CA
This is a fabulous homestyle Indian food restaurant, probably the best I've ever had. I love several different dishes here, but my favorites are probably the lamb biriayni and shrimp tiki masala. Pictured here are the grilled tandoori shrimp skewers and their heavenly naan bread, as well as one of my husband's favorite, saag, which looks awful but tastes great.

Taste of Little India, Merced, CA
One of my first Indian food experiences. Their curry chicken is quite good, and the naan of course. They also have a good lunch buffet for under $10.

Italian and Seafood:

Five Ten Bistro, Merced, CA
A higer end eatery with lots of gourmet Italian dishes. I've only eaten there once for lunch, but I look forward to returning. I had a delicious chicken penne pasta dishes and cranberry blue cheese salad.

Italian and Seafood:

1850, Mariposa, CA
Another one for the top 5 favorite meals; I can't recommend this restaurant enough! Hubby and I dined here for our 7th anniversary and I long to return. It has beautiful rustic chic decor, a romantic atmosphere and phenomenal dishes with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. I had this delicious pasta dish smothered in bleu cheese and perfectly grilled steak. My hubby had a honey apple glazed chutney pork chop that was also delicious.

The Fish Hopper, Monterey, CA
We went here for our 8th anniversary and it was so perfect! We got a romantic candlelit table by the water. The lobster tail and scallops with mixed veggies in a cream sauce was good, but the desserts were the real standout! Creme Brûlée dusted with powdered sugar and strawberries, and a decadent and beautiful Ghiridelli chocolate mousse cup, both of which where complimentary! The watermelon margarita was fabulous too.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
When we visited Vegas last spring we had so much good food, but I have to say my favorite was the "Gambler's Special" at the Hard Rock's Lucky Seven restaurant. I had read online that you could get this steak and shrimp meal for only $7.77 and sure enough all you have to do is sign up for their free players club card and request this dish. Everything was cooked perfectly; this is the best inexpensive meal I've ever had! We also enjoyed sharing this neat sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

Stagnaro Bros. Santa Cruz, Ca
Some of the best meals are the simplest. Lately whenever we visit the Santa Cruz Pier hubby and I like to split a clam chowder bread bowl and an order of fried shrimp and fries while sitting and looking at the water. Sooo satisfying. Then we usually play Pokémon Go to walk off the extra calories from all the fried goodness. It's such a nice day outing.

Ideal Bar and Grill, Santa Cruz, CA
If we want a fancier dinner after a day at the beach, you can't go wrong with Ideal Bar and Grill. Their lobster and surf & turf are both excellent, as well as the "Steak Santa Cruz," buried in shrimp, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and whole roasted garlic!

Outback Steakhouse, Yakima, WA
I haven't included many chain restaurants on this list, but this meal was too delicious not to mention. It was back during our trucking days, a rare opportunity to get really delicious food after all the bad truck stop fare. It was also one of the most expensive meals we've ever had, but so worth it!
We don't usually get appetizers, but you can't pass on the Bloomin' Onion! The crispy onion goodness and spicy chipotle dipping sauce will blow your mind. Hubby had an amazing grilled mahi and I had the surf & turf. To die for!


The Pie (formerly known as Pie In The Sky), Mi Wuk, CA
My all time favorite pizza place evokes the fondest childhood memories of stopping to eat here every year on the way to summer camp. I have returned a few times as an adult and although the restaurant has undergone an ownership and name change, their fabulous pizzas remain. They have the perfect balance of puffiness and crispiness in their crust and the freshest ingredients!

Pizza My Heart, Santa Cruz, CA
Whenever we visit the beach towns of Santa Cruz or Monterey, Pizza My Heart is always the go to spot for a quick and tasty lunch. This small chain boasts delicious pizzas lovingly handmade by surfers and hipsters, plus it has a catchy name. You can always get a t shirt and a big slice for only $7, or if you're after a full pie I highly recommend the Big Sur. It has 40 whole cloves of roasted garlic!

The Lumber Yard, Don Pedro, CA
I'm actually not a huge burger person; whenever I get fast food I usually order a chicken option. But there's a huge difference between that and this masterpiece of perfectly grilled beefy goodness smothered in melted swiss and onions on a ciabatta bun. These are so humongous that I can usually only eat half in one sitting. Their hand battered onion rings are also noteworthy.

In-N-Out Burger, west coast chain
I wouldn't be a true native Californian if I didn't worship at the altar of In-N-Out with rabid abandon. Seriously, this is the only fast food burger I love; it's the only quick, super inexpensive meal that always satisfies a craving and is never disappointing. They make their patties and chop their veggies and fries in house, so everything is always fresh, delicious and perfectly cooked. Plus the customer service is way better than most fast food places; the employees don't seem like they want to stab out their own eyeballs while working. For those of you haters and skeptics from other states, yes I've tried Five Guys, Whataburge, etc. and no, it doesn't even come close.

Well, here you have a rather extensive list of some of my favorite restaurants and types of cuisine. 
Have you been to any of these before?
What are some of your favorite restaurants and dishes?

Check back soon for my next reader question! "What are your favorite tried and true recipes?"

1 comment:

  1. I would have to say out of all that amazing food, the gyros call to me the most. We have a chain around here called Louis Pappa's and it has some of the best Greek salads, gyros, and pita chips. So much yum. Great post! You are seriously killing me with the food.