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Entries in Bakersfield (8)

Wednesday
Aug152012

Red House BBQ, Tehachapi

Dining options in Tehachapi are slim. But I’ve been hearing about a place on a few trips to Bakersfield recently that the best BBQ around was in Tehachapi. Red House BBQ in Tehachapi to be specific. Where the BBQ is fresh everyday, except Tuesday, when they’re closed.

Brisket is the name of the game here. Meaty chunks, not small slices, of moist delicious beef with hints of sauce all wonderfully smoked. I split a rib and brisket combo and had to wait 20 minutes for the ribs to come out of the smoker.

I spoke briefly with the owner, he claimed to use roughly 850 pounds of oak and hickory each week in the barbeques. As the season permits, he’ll rotate from hickory to apple wood. Wood from the surrounding area is the only wood used.

I thought the ribs were well prepared, but took second place to the brisket. I like a heavier seasoned rib and a bit more smoky to be honest. The brisket, as seen in the pics, is some of the best I've tasted. No shorting anyone of meat here. Big hunks and very tender. Well picked through of fat.

I did ask for a couple sides of BBQ sauce as well, one a little spicier than the other. They both went well with the ribs, but I lean towards the spicier of the two. The sauces have a combination of vinegar and tomato. The owner says "it keeps every BBQ lover happy."

 

All of the sides are prepared in-house. I chose classic potato salad and chili beans. The potato salad certainly didn’t lack mayo or mustard and was seasoned well. Less chunky, with small bits of potato and more “creamy”, this salad is a throwback to a 70’s family picnic when grandma or an aunt made potato salad by-the-book. Textbook Americana. Mayo, lots of mayo.

The chili beans were a hint spicy, but mild enough to be enjoyed by most who like bbq. Little chunks of meat , perhaps a combination of pork and beef were in practically every other bite. I know some purists (like me) say chili shouldn’t contain beans, but I’ll make an exception for superior quality and execution. The beans were tender, the spices and seasonings were well incorporated, and the consistency was thick.

Red House is worth a stop for Fresnans on the way back from Las Vegas. It’s also worth the round-trip from Bakersfield if you’re so inclined. It’s tough to find a reliable BBQ joint in the Central Valley that cooks fresh BBQ each and every day, but I know Red House BBQ does.

Red House BBQ on Urbanspoon

Thursday
Aug092012

Luigi's Deli, Bakersfield

Luigi’s Deli, in Bakersfield is "the spot" to head to and it's only open for lunch. I've been in several times over a six month period and eaten a wide variety of foods. Here's the rundown:

On my first visit, I went with a couple of my cousins and ordered nothing but sandwiches. The pastrami sandwich was off the hook and massive, by West Coast standards. The meatball sandwich, also massive. My prosciutto sandwich, of which I’m a lover, seemed cute in comparison to the other Italian American deli sandwiches.

Yes, it’s true. I just called prosciutto “cute” in comparison to the Italian American meatball sandwich and the Massive pastrami sandwich. Normally, it’s not my style to criticize prosciutto sandwiches, but in this case, I’ll make an exception.

The real evaluation to the pastrami sandwich is, how does it compare to other deli style sandwiches I’ve eaten? As I’m a bigger fan of Reuben sandwiches, rather than straight pastrami, Luigi’s sandwich wouldn’t get ranked with Reuben’s, rather simply as a deli pastrami sandwich. I’d say plenty of meat, good roll, a hint of mustard all add up to a solid sandwich. As you can see from the pics, lots of lettuce. I did happen to like the meatball sandwich better than the pastrami. The meatball sandwich tastes something like I'd eat at home, which obviously makes the meatball rank higher than pastrami. No offense Pastrami.

I did a follow up visit about a week later with another cousin. As many know, I’m always hesitant to order pasta. However, the purses of pasta with ricotta and truffles were wonderfully prepared. The pasta was cooked properly, seasoning inside was lovely, and yes, there was a lot of butter used to sauce the dish. Lots of butter. I know they don’t make the pasta on-site, they have it brought in. I also had a follow-up pastrami sandwich ordered that same day, it tasted and looked consistent with my first visit. Another dish I sampled of Green lip mussels were also fresh and flavorful.

My last trip to Bako included a quick stop into Luigi’s for their signature sandwich, seen just above. Fresno diners would have to think back to Piemonte’s 20 years ago, as the Signature sandwich is a mix of different Italian coldcuts put in a roll and slathered with a little tomato sauce. Once again, lettuce is flying everywhere (I will probably ask for no lettuce next time). But it's the roll that really makes this sandwich tick. I have an expectation that the cold cuts are going to be good, but if the roll was mooshy (like Subway), I wouldn't give the sandwich a high score. The Luigi's roll has texture, flavor, and a "tear" factor that other rolls don't. 

Luigi's is holding to the classic Italian American principals of a deli on the West Coast. The only close equivalent in Fresno is Sam's Deli. There aren't many of these classic places left in the San Joaquin Valley, UNLESS, they're controlled by a direct decendant of the founders, which both Sam's and Luigi's are. Thank heaven for Italian families holding to tradition.

Oh, and they still make and marinate beef tongue in-house!

Luigi's Restaurant & Deli on Urbanspoon

Tuesday
Jul102012

Miyoshi, Bakersfield

Thursday night, in-and-out of Bako on business. A Thursday in Bakersfield usually means restaurants get their deliveries from LA that day; translation: fresh fish. And Miyoshi had a special, Uni or sea urchin.

While I’m a sucker for the ubiquitous spicy tuna, I also ordered some basic nigiri for my meal and hot tea to wash it all down.  The spicy tuna was what I expected, a good offering, not too spicy and the fish didn’t taste funky as Miyoshi could very well be using older tuna or blood lines so as not to waste anything. Neither was the fish a heavily mayonaised style either. A fine, bulk pedestrian starter.

Upon initial inspection, my unagi seemed to be previously broiled rather than immediately broiled prior to service. I’ve had it both ways and I think I like immediately broiled because it adds a bit of texture to the eel. The flavors were fine, but the texture was limp and temperature was sushi-case cold. Not bad or poorly prepared, just not what I care for with my unagi.

The albacore nigiri was previously seared and peppered before put into the sushi case. The albacore was sliced, placed on rice, garnished with green onion and dressed with ponzu. Solid offering. Once again, I’ve eaten albacore completely raw and slightly seared. Again, like the unagi before, if the chef decides to sear the tuna, then I would rather have it freshly seared rather than pre-seared. Otherwise, just give me the fish raw and garnish and season appropriately.

But of course the highlight was the uni or sea urchin. Uni is one of those that needs to be eaten fresh. Fortunately for me, I was the first one to order uni that evening as the sushi chef eagerly pointed out.

Fresh and lovely, I ordered two rounds. Somewhat briny, mouthfillingly rich and unctuous, uni is not for everyone I realize, but it is for me. There was no way anyone could have screwed this up. Remove uni, place on rice wrapped in seaweed. Serve.

I’d say my overall experience was fine. Everyone was pleasant. While I can quibble about preparation styles and worry about other “Developed-World Problems” in my life, I wouldn’t hesitate to come back to Miyoshi. They did use a caulking gun to pump out their wassabi, which might be interesting if you're a contractor (you @Custom_Drywall). However, I might adjust my ordering style to purely fresh, non-pre-prepared sushi and nigiri fish.

Miyoshi Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday
Jun262012

Wool Growers, Bakersfield

Lucky for me, the major Basque restaurants in Bakersfield are within a 3 block radius. Wool Growers is a local favorite and institution among the community. 

Any diner at a Basque restaurant knows what they're in for; lots of food. However, quantity isn't necessarily quality at all Basque establishments. As a regular eater of Basque food in Fresno, I've seen the quality go up and down over a 30 year period of eating at a couple places in town, namely The Basque Hotel and the Santa Fe Basque.

Leading off the feast at Wool Growers is a tri-fecta of soup, pinto beans and a warm salsa-like concoction. Soup is a standard at all Basque restaurants it seems. The soup here is a cabbage soup, heavy on the broth with some carrots and onions in it. I can't really describe the soup more than that. The soup is served hot and it's seasoned with salt. Straightforward stuff. 

I spiked my soup with the warm salsa-like mixture. I say salsa-like because it was probably more accurate to call it a spicy tomato stew, however the implication was to use it as a condiment like one would use salsa, rather than to eat the tomatoes as a dish. It tasted like warmed, canned stewed tomatoes with minced jalapeno's. Judging from a later dish of cold marinated yellow/greenish barely red tomatoes, this salsa-like substance came from a can.

The pinto beans were quite tasty. If they did come from a can, as that salsa probably did and the green beans that arrived later, I couldn't tell. The beans were firm and whole and the sauce was flavorful. I didn't sense any canned saltiness, but I could have been fooled on this one.

The next round of three, pickled beef tongue, under-ripe tomatoes, and green salad hit about a .666 batting average. I've already discussed the tomatoes, under-ripe and really not worth eating, basically called out on strikes to continue the metaphor. The green salad was tasty. The lettuce was bright and cheery and not iceberg, which is a change from tradition at most Basque restaurants I've been to.

The beef tongue was the stand out. I happen to like tongue (insert shameless sexual joke here). The seasoning was salty and herbal, not spicy in any way. Nor was it dill pickle-like. If anything the picked tongue was tossed in the same vinaigrette the salad and tomatoes were. I liked it and finished the plate of tongue.

Spaghetti at a Basque restaurant? No I was not going to eat it. I'm sure people like it, but in my case, if I did eat it, I would have had to evaluate it and no one would want to read that review.

On to the roast lamb. While I didn't approve of the manufactured "gravy" that was poured over the lamb, the actual meat was flavorful and moist. I don't understand why a phony gravy enriched with flour needed to lessen the lamb. The lamb was seasoned on the edge nicely and had sufficient moisture to taste the way a proper roast lamb should. Good. Good in an old-school way. However, there was no way to remove the gravy, just deal with it. 

As for the remaining sides of French fries and green beans; the French fries were a bit to soggy for me and the green beans, as already mentioned, were from the can. Yes, that is a coffee cup rather than a wine glass in the photo. I had to drive back to Fresno that evening and chased my entire meal with coffee and water fully expecting a postprandial haze after this feast.

I couldn't see Wool Growers 30 or 50 years ago serving as many canned or pre-prepared items. Just one too many canned items or ingredients, like the green beans that have become an afterthought simply for volume rather than quality. A shame really, considering Bakersfield is another classic Central Valley town with access to a wide range of produce. While the Wool Growers is an institution in Bakersfield and I mean no disrespect to such a venerable old-school restaurant in the local area, based upon my experience, I would take a pass on Wool Growers and favor Noriega's on my next Basque food adventure in Bakersfield.  

Wool Growers Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday
Jun202012

Moo Creamery, Bakersfield

With a name like Moo Creamery, I expected good ice cream...and that's what I got.

Moo is trapped, I mean located off an Expressway in a mixed commercial and industrial space in Bakersfield. It's not in a strip mall, so just finding the right access road was a problem for me, a non-Bakersfield native. 

The space itself is modeled after a diner. Fenton's Creamery in Oakland is very similar in terms of look and feel, but also food; lots of American classics. It's a great place to have a kid's birthday, order a milkshake, or a double-stacked cone.

For the lone business traveler, they have free wi-fi and espresso.

I dropped in mid-day, so I was in the mood for a scoop of ice cream. Lots of specialties to choose from, lots of combinations of flavors. Call me boring, but the combination that spoke to me was the vanilla ice cream with Billings Marcona Toasted Almonds. 

I know, vanilla ice cream. Vanilla. Boring.

NO, you're wrong. Not boring.

PERFECT!

Creamy vanilla ice cream with vanilla beans incorporated with crunchy and salty almonds makes this simple scoop of ice cream wonderful to me. I can't speak to all the other food they serve, but I'd go out of my way in Bako to eat ice cream at this place again.

Moo Creamery on Urbanspoon