sticking with what works

I had long thought of El Pollo Loco strictly in terms of chicken pieces with tortillas and salsa. El Pollo LocoBut recently I had noticed television ads that mentioned their chipotle avocado burrito. That sounded interesting to me. The other day after Toastmasters I wanted to grab something quick so I went through the drive through and got one.

I was disappointed. There was definitely avocado, but no chipotle flavor of any Chipoltekind that I could detect. It would have been just as easy to have driven another block to the Chipotle Mexican Grill and have gotten a burrito I would have known that I really would have liked. Since it was well after the lunch hour there wouldn’t have been a line, and it would have been only two dollars more than El Pollo Loco. And that’s only because I have to have my guacamole in my burrito. Without, it would have been about the same price.

Sometimes it’s best simply to stick with what works.


a taste of the Eastern Sierra

The family here in town usually gets together for breakfast on Saturday morning. The routine is that my brother, Brian, or my sister-in-law, Bobbie, will call and tell us where everyone is meeting and when. If I don’t hear anything by 11:00 a.m. I will call them.

SchatsThe later happened on a recent Saturday. I called at 11:00. They were in Bishop. They had made a trip to Nevada to see Bobbie’s sister and had forgotten to tell us. Now I could have gotten angry, but Brian asked me if we wanted anything from Schat’s Bakery. Now how could I be angry with an offer like that?

If you’re not familiar with it, Schat’s is a very famous, highly regarded, very busy bakery in downtown Bishop. The town of Bishop in the middle of the Owens valley at the base of the Eastern Sierras.

Terry and I love that part of the world. We have only been there together twice. The first time I was sick and we had to cut our trip short. The second time we had a full agenda and covered the entire length of the Owens Valley, from Mammoth Lakes in the north to Lone Pine and Whitney Portal in the south. It was a marvelous trip.

I told Brian to bring us some Danish pastries and a loaf of Schat’s famous Sheepherder’s Bread. Brian and Bobbie delivered them to us Saturday evening.

It was such a delight to have a taste of the Eastern Sierra here at home.


the coffee chronicles

I wrote last April about my ill-fated encounter with coffee. Still, I never totally abandoned the thought that I might in some way want to enjoy a little coffee now and again.

MelittaSome weeks back I bought the smallest jar of instant coffee I could find to see if that were the case. I found I was enjoying my instant coffee, and I knew that I would enjoy drip ground coffee even more. One of my problems last time around was that I had difficulty finding a single-cup cone locally. This time I did the simple thing: I ordered it from Amazon. It showed up right away. I also ordered a reusable filter. At the store I made sure the coffee I bought was ground and not whole beans (another mistake from last time around) along with a supply of filters that held me until the reusable one showed up from an Amazon third-party vendor.

I bought a coffee measure at our local Kitchen Collection store, making sure that I had my blinders on, locating what I needed and getting out of the store as quickly as possible (after paying, of course).

I’ve figured out the right level of coffee to scoop into the measure and am now enjoying a cup or two of coffee each weekday morning.


disappearing cooking shows

Rachael Ray had a new program on Food Network. It was called Rachael Ray’s 3 in the Bag. It aired beginning in January. Being the foodie that I am, and being the Food Network groupie that I am, I have no clue as to how I missed it. But I did. Then Food Network started re-running the series this month.

Rachael Ray’s 3 in the Bag is based on the same premise as Rachael’s earlier programs, 30-minute Meals and A Week in a Day. The idea is that you want to be efficient and make the best possible use of your time while making optimal use of the ingredients you have. In the current program the concept is that one bag of groceries can give you the ingredients for three meals, once you throw in a few staples from your pantry. I watched the first two episodes and she did some interesting recipes, one of which I saved.

Then Food Network dropped it. It just disappeared from its Thursday afternoon time slot.

Meanwhile, over at PBS I was just getting back into Sara Moulton. I had enjoyed the first season of her Weeknight Meals several years ago. Our Bay Area PBS station was broadcasting reruns of the current season on Sunday afternoon. I watched one episode, and then it too disappeared from the schedule. It’s still showing on one of the station’s secondary digital channels, but our cable system doesn’t provide those.

I think the fact that I’m obsessing about lost cooking shows is an indicator that I really need to find a new job soon.


my late birthday getaway

I bought tickets to the San Jose tour stop of Wicked before I knew my job situation was changing. I thought it would be a great birthday getaway, albeit a couple of weeks late. I made reservations at the Fairmont and we planned dinner at Grill on the Alley. After I learned that my company didn’t love me anymore, we decided to go anyway. The tickets were already paid for, and we switched from the Fairmont to the Marriott, where Terry had enough points for a free night. We had a $15 coupon from the Grill, so we kept that in the plan.

On Friday I was in a funk and not terribly excited about going. But everything was already lined up and I knew that Terry would not allow me to back out anyway. So we headed up to San Jose.

I am glad we did. The dinner at Grill on the Alley was marvelous, as always, and the service was great as usual, if perhaps a touch slower than I would have liked. But then I was concerned about Terry moving slowly on her bad knee and wanted to make sure we made it to the theater in time, given that more walking was involved with the Marriott in the equation than there would have been with the Fairmont.

I had nothing to worry about. We got there plenty early. The show was stunning.

I will tell you why tomorrow.


almost part of the family

I’ve written before about Victoria’s, our local, family owned Mexican restaurant. We generally go there for lunch on Tuesday or Wednesday. That’s because on Tuesday they serve tortilla soup and on Wednesday they serve albondigas soup, both of which Terry loves. For some time now Donald “Elvis,” our local highly regarded Elvis impersonator, restaurant co-owner, and the one in charge of operations there, has been working Tuesday and Wednesday lunch. Before that though, his aunt Carmen handled those shifts. They both know our standard order.

Some weeks back, it was kind of slow and Don was sitting at the table out in front talking to Carmen. We came up and Don started to get up, but Carmen said, “Just write up their ticket. They can take it back to the kitchen themselves.” So Don did.

How’s that for being considered almost part of the family? Later Don came by our table and said, “Only Carmen would do that.”

A week ago today Terry strained her hamstring. She wasn’t able to put any weight on it. (She’s doing much better now, by the way.) On Wednesday she still wasn’t able to be out and about, so I went to Victoria’s to get takeout. They were totally sold out that day, and when Don came by and patted me on the shoulder he asked, “Where’s your wife?” I said, “She has a strained hamstring. I need the usual to go.” He said, “You got it.”

When he brought out the order he said, “I put a couple of extra meatballs in the soup and gave you some extra chips and salsa. Tell her I hope she’s feeling better.”

Now how is that for being considered almost a part of the family?


maintaining quality is hard

Terry and I have been having lunch at our local Mexican restaurant, Victoria’s, for several years now. The quality has always been consistent. We always know what to expect.

Newer ventures don’t always find it so easy to maintain consistent quality. When our new South Asian restaurant, Pineapple Village, opened Terry and I went there on their second day. We both really enjoyed the lunch bento plate. Both the taste and the presentation impressed us. As they became more popular and the lunch hour became busier, they had difficulty keeping up. On my most recent visit, when I went by myself, I had a long wait for my bento plate, and when it arrived the presentation was sloppy and the flavor not what I experienced on our first visit.

A while back a burger place called Roadhouse Jack’s went in to the space previously occupied by Arby’s. We went there a few times and really enjoyed it. On our visit a few months ago we decided that it was our burger place of choice. Our most recent visit was different. First we had a very long wait for our order. It turns out that they needed to fry a new batch of chips for my chips and guacamole. It was nice to have fresh chips, but they could have given us a heads up. Then my mushroom burger had a stale bun and was very chintzy with the mushrooms. Not acceptable.

Maintaining quality isn’t easy.