Johnny Garlic's on Urbanspoon

Food Network chef Guy Fierri has two restaurants in the Sacramento area. His first, Tex Wasabi, has gotten such mixed to bad reviews that I've never bothered to go and try it. His newest is Johnny Garlic's in Roseville. I figured I'd go and check that one out. After all, Garlic in the name is pretty enticing.

The restaurant itself is not that big. It is very open and has no real decor. Just a busy, new place. I had tried to reserve for a large party and was told they could not accomodate me because they already had too many for that day. So be aware to book well ahead if you want a larger table for a group.

The menu has icon's next to any item that is Guy's own recipe. Oooooooo. I immediately noticed that his Cuban Pork Chops were on it. I loved the recipe when I made it at home, so I would hope that the restaurant's version is just as good. But I wanted to try something different. I opted for the Gaucho Steak - Tequila, lime, lemon, spices, and fresh herb marinated flank steak, topped with a chimichuri sauce. It was served with rosemary garlic mashed potatoes and veggies. It was good, not fantastic. I was under the impression that the dishes would be very garlicy. Not so.

My friend ordered the pork chop special of the night. It came with a mushroom sauce. Again, nothing special. And the people who have reviewed on also seem to rate it as mediocre.

One really shouldn't review a restaurant on just one dish. So I'm not gonna say "don't go". I will probably try it again, but it will probably be a while since it is really far from me.

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

It was coincidental that I had only just made a cheesecake a few days before the April challenge was posted. Brother! Another cheesecake! Not something my waistline really needed. But then my dad decided to visit me for Easter weekend and he loves cheesecake. So make a favorite for my dad and take care of a challenge.

The challenge gave us a LOT of freedom. The cheesecake recipe was basic and we were able to be as creative as we wanted with it. Some posters were REALLY creative. I focused on the fact that, A) I have a lemon tree, B) I had bought a container of ricotta for last month's challenge that I didn't use and was soon to expire, C) I wanted something I hadn't tried before. So I opted for a lemon ricotta cheesecake.

The cheesecake turned out perfectly. I've really got it down to the proper baking time to not overbake. But I didn't really care for this cake taste and texture-wise. The ricotta gave it a kind of gritty texture versus the super smoothness of cream cheese or especially the mascarpone version I made last month. In fact, I'd have to say that the mascarpone one is my alltime favorite at this point. And although tasty, it just wasn't as nice as straight cream cheese cheesecake.

For the crust I wanted some extra oomph. I wasn't in the mood to buy cookies again to crush when I had just bought a box of graham crackers. I ended up boosting the graham cracker crust by adding finely chopped roasted almonds.

To top it, I used an Emeril recipe for a citrus thyme sauce because I also have a grapefruit tree and the idea of adding thyme seemed interesting. In the end the flavor was wonderful (it also needs an orange, a lime, and a tangerine) but didn't form together well. What I mean is that it calls for a stick of butter and then all the citrus and thyme. Well when I stored the leftovers, the butter separated so that it was all congealed on the top. Yuck. So basically, it doesn't keep well or you definitely have to heat it and serve it warm.

I ended up serving it that first night and then gave my dad some variety by using different toppings the other nights. The second night I served the cheesecake with lemon curd. The third night I served it with a mulberry sauce (dad had brought me a bunch of fresh frozen mulberries from his trees).

All in all, gotta love cheesecake. But I'll not make a ricotta version again.

Ricotta Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1/3 c chopped fine roasted almonds

2.5 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
4 large eggs
12 oz container of ricotta
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Bake for 8 mins and remove from oven. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add ricotta, vanilla, zest, and lemon juice, and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.
Mirabelle European Pastry Cafe on Urbanspoon

This is a pseudo review because I haven't actually sat down and ate there and not sure I'll ever get the chance. (The chance I'll be nearby during a mealtime is pretty slim.)

You see, Mirabelle's is located in Fair Oaks near my ex-husband's house. I noticed it over there recently when I saw the sign that said Mirabelle's - A European Pastry Cafe. Alarm sounding! 'Pastry' of course gets my attention but it's value is tripled with the word 'European' in front of it!

Deon said that he often gets stuff over there and it is really good. So, it's a second-hand pseudo review. He says they make fantastic crepes and other dishes and have tons of pastries in the pastry case.

Well I've never been one able to pass a pastry case, let alone a European pastry case. I stopped by to take a look, some pictures, and rate their Napoleon.

The place itself is small and attractive with lots of small tables. Outside there are a few tables on a patio with ivy covered trellises. There were quite a number of pastry cases full of goodies and on top were models of some of their wedding cakes.

I did grab a menu and, aside from the crepes, they also offer a variety of dishes such as salads, pastas, quiche, soups, and salads. They also have entrees. The prices are a bit on the high side. A savory crepe for $8.75, slice of quiche for $7.95, and grilled salmon entree for $17.75. The pastries seem to average about $3.25. You can get a baker's dozen of pastries for $31.

There were so many items to choose from in the case, but I decided to get a Napoleon because of my Napoleon comparison I had done last year. Verdict on that? Not so good. It was a very small piece, had no fruit, and not that much cream. Actually pretty sad compared to Enotria, Little Prague, and Tower. I would say that the pastries look (and probably are) delicious, but small. (All the rectangular pastries you see in the pics are about 2x4 inches.)

So I can't rightly recommend it or not. All I can say is that word of mouth is good (The Bee gave it 4/4 stars) and the selection large. But the prices are high.

Lalo's on Urbanspoon

Lately I've been really enjoying the food reviews done by Becky Grunewald at Midtown Monthly. She has written a couple of times about Lalo's in South Sacramento. The reviews stated how they served really authentic Mexican food, even down to goat, tongue, tripe, and cactus. Some of the dishes sounded interesting, but I was a little gun-shy to go down there. Often times I want to try new things, but am afraid to spend the money when there's a chance that I might not like it and then I've wasted money.

So I sent Paul. LOL. I told Epicureans Paul to go check it out and see if it would be good for his group. The great thing about his group is that he arranges with the restaurants to get a set price for a variety of dishes. So, for instance, when we went to the Peruvian restaurant, we got to try a ceviche and tripe dishes that I would never have ordered on my own. Sure enough, Paul loved Lalo's and set up a dinner for us for a great price of only $14.

Our meal deal was all-you-can-eat with a buffet line. First we were able to make tacos with either barbacoa or al pastor. The al pastor was done just like I had it on the streets of Puerto Vallarta. The pork is layered onto an upright barbecue spit similar to the kind for gyros and schwarmas. At the top of the meat the skewer also goes through a pineapple. When you get it at a street vendor's, they cut the meat and then cut a little slice of pineapple to put in your taco as well. Here at Lalo's, they cut little pieces of the pineapple and mixed it in with the sliced meat. You got to top your tacos with onion, cilantro, and your choice of red or green salsa.

They also had laid out a selection of quesadillas. Their version wasn't the type we Americans are used to - large tortillas sandwiched with cheese and meat. Lalo's were small little turnovers with flaky corn pastry dough and deep fried. We were given four varieties: mushroom, chicken, chicharron, and squash flowers. I tried the chicharron and the one with squash blossoms. The latter was interesting - kind of stringy from the blossoms which overpowered the flavoring of the cheese. I was not a big fan of this style of quesadilla. Guess on that I prefer the Americanized version.

The specialty dish that we tried was the molcajate - a giant stone mortar filled with green chile sauce, beef, chorizo, onions, nopalitos, and Oaxaca cheese. It was served with fresh tortillas. This dish came to the table boiling hot. It had a bit of a spicy kick as well so that I was smacking my lips while downing my soda. I did find it very salty, though. Luckily we had the other dishes to counter the saltiness of this dish.

My table companion, Dave, visits Lalo's on a regular basis and highly recommended the consomme made from the lamb they prepare only on the weekends. I love lamb and so I might just have to come and get some.

The important thing to remember about Lalo's is that you are going to get authentic food as if you were in the village down in Mexico. It's one of those cases where you know it's really authentic because it's filled with natives. So, if you aren't an adventurous eater, you better stick to Americanized Mexican fare that appeals to the masses, such as Ernesto's and Vallejo's.
Anatolian Table on Urbanspoon

Update 4/13/09:
Funny that I would go back to Anatolian Table almost exactly a year later. But this time I was taking my father and family friends. My dad was sharing about his reunion trip to Saudi Arabia last month and so I thought everyone would enjoy Mideast fare.

Things to note this time around? First, we ordered the appetizer sampler for four. What a great deal with a lot of items. You got baskets of bread with a platter with about eight different appetizers including hummus, dolmas, babaganouch, eggplant/tomato mixture, and a few others. Great way to sample everything and even with five people, we didn't finish it off.

For entrees I will only comment on the dishes that were kind of stews. Both my dad and I ordered different types of these (mine was the lamb guvec) but we both agreed on the same things - they were good but we wouldn't order them again and they needed more meat. We both had selected lamb versions and the lamb was in tiny little chunks, hardly any, so that I was hard put to hunt for them amongst the mostly veggies. Try some of the other dishes listed in my original post instead.

As for the dancers, this time we got the more common belly dancers in the scanty costumes and veils. Nice, but I kinda preferred the more traditional village dancing mentioned last year.

Original Post 4/13/08:
I've had a lot of Middle Eastern food. But then you get the restaurants that want to be more specific for their particular region or country. Anatolian Table (AT) is one and it is representing the country of Turkey. Located in Rocklin, AT had an extensive menu that covered some Mideast basics like kabobs and baklava, but also had some new specialties. My Meetup group had a nice dinner there and quite a few dishes were sampled.

Before I go into the dishes I will mentioned that we were also entertained by some belly dancing while there. What made tonight's performance different and interesting was the group. This was a group of four women dancers who danced individually and then as a group. Often times when you have a belly dancer at a restaurant they can be pretty, sexy, scantily clad versions. These ladies wore more traditional garb of dresses, pantalets, and scarves instead of the scanty, beady outfits. Not a lot of exposed skin. Also nice was that they did not dance to some tape on a boombox. They had a small band playing drums and whatever else.

I started off with an appetizer called PEYNIRLI KRADES: Shrimp cooked with tomato, onion and cheese. The five large shrimp arrived in a creamy tomatoey broth. It was good, but I thought it would have some more spice. The sauce was nice for dipping bread in.

The entrees came out and there was a variety. Many people opted for kabobs. George ordered a combo plate which had the chicken, lamb, and seasoned ground beef.

Robert decided to go try the vegetarian guvec. I take it from the description, and the dish that arrived, that 'guvec' means stew. There were many variations of it on the menu depending on your meat choice.

I tried the Turkish equivalent of pizza. The KUSBASI PIDE: Chunks of tender lamb meat mixed with vegetables on crusted dough. Bryan opted for the shrimp version. I really enjoyed my lamb one. It had a thin crust with rolled edges and a spicy, thin tomato sauce. The chunks of lamb and vegetables were on top. I had wanted to try something I had never had before and this fit the bill. It was served with a trio of slaws on the side. Nice to get your veggies in.

My dessert was also something new and something I had a heard or read about. KAZAN DIBI(Bottom of Pot): Mixed of flour, milk and caramelized. It was like a thickened pudding.

Another interesting new dessert was ordered by Jayne. KADAYIF: Shredded wheat, walnuts, cinnamon, light house syrup topped with pistachios. She said they were a doughy concoction and I figured they were probably made with semolina.

Everyone agreed that the food was good and makes the restaurant worthy of a return visit - if you live on that end of town. Since it is a bit far for me, I'll stick to the closer Persian place downtown. But if you are in Roseville/Rocklin, go search AT table out at 6815 Lonetree Blvd.
Tuli Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuli Bistro has been a bit of an enigma for me because I had such conflicting reviews from my foodie friends. Eileen at Just the Two of Us loves it. So do SacEats and Runnergirl from But then Ann at Sacatomato had a mixed review with a final thumbs down, and Paul from Epicureans gave them three opportunities and each time they failed miserably so that he refuses to step foot in there again. So it's no wonder that I took my sweet time to go there myself.

My father came for Easter weekend and, as I've mentioned before, he likes to eat well here because he doesn't get such nice restaurants in Salem, OR. I figured it was a good opportunity to go to some place new for the both of us.

It was a rainy April day and so the shades were pulled down over the patio dining area. Inside there were some bar seats available and I tried, unsuccessfully, to get us to sit there. I knew that the bar seats are for you to get a view of the food prep and had also heard that the service was better at the bar then at the tables. But Veena and dad wanted a table, and so we were escorted outside. Tuli does have a great set of propane heaters out there and so we were not chilled at all.

Unlike my friends, we had no problem with service at all. Our server was attentive and pleasant and checked in on us often. The other staff were also attentive and spoke to us.

The menu changes daily because of the focus of what's fresh and local.

I had baked my DB Challenge for my dad for dessert over the weekend, so my review today is very limited to just a couple of items. My dad started off with the beet salad which had blue cheese, candied walnuts, tossed with a nice vinagrette. My dad couldn't figure out the greens and they looked unfamiliar to me. When we got home we tried to find them in my food directory and figured they could possibly have been dandelion greens. He enjoyed it.

There were many great dishes to pick from the menu but dad and I both ended selecting the same thing, the rabbit pappardelle. We received bowls of fresh pasta tossed with a thick rustic sauce with shreds of rabbit meat, peas, and a wine based sauce. It was delicious. My father commented that the serving had appeared small, but he found it filling and satisfying and he really enjoyed it. It was also piping hot, which I loved because too often dishes arrive just warm and get cold on you too quickly.

Veena opted for one of their standard pizzas, the Salumi, which had slices of salami, pepperoni, and chorizo over a thin crust. It was about 10" in size so that she had some left for lunch the next day. They were generous with the meat and the crust was at a crisp, thin perfection.

The desserts sounded good, but we left them for another day so we could enjoy mine at home.

Overall, I would have to fall on the side of Eileen and SacEats in saying that the food was wonderful and the service was good. Perhaps they've paid attention to the negative reviews and really stepped up their game. I'm willing to go back again.

I made my second cheesecake last week for a gourmet dining group I belong to. It was my turn to host dinner with a friend and we were going with an Italian theme. I knew I wanted to make a cheesecake, but to make it Italian, I made a mascarpone cheesecake.

The recipe I chose was from Giada De Laurentiis. It can be found at the Food Network site. Mascarpone Cheesecake

As usual, I got too caught up in serving dinner that I forgot to take a picture of the finished whole cake. But the picture above shows a slice. The stuff on top is gold leaf because I had wanted to use that as well. Then I served it with some lemon curd. For the crust, I chose to crush up some Girl Scout cookies - the Samoa/Caramel Delights. This was a great crust, but it stuck to the plate. Should have sprayed the plate down first.

The cheesecake was light and creamy. Everyone thought that it was a great consistency - not too dense like some cheesecakes can get. A definite winner and worth doing again if you can bear the expense of mascarpone cheese.