Friday, October 30, 2009

Fast Food Friday - White Castle

My first genuine (not microwaved at a gas station) White Castle experience was in Michigan a couple of years ago. I was so excited! Because though a silly movie had given them more notoriety some years back, my original curiosity for the place ran deep thanks to a great story telling friend from the East Coast during my formative years. He and his stories (at least the way he told them) were that of great movie making.

The iconic storefront. This one looks fairly new. Wonderful in a medieval meets Bauhaus school of architecture kinda way.

Before going into the infamous slyders our group already noticed things were done a bit differently here at White Castle. In fact a bit backwards. The the onions were of wedges.. Very tasty wedges I should mention. :)

And the chicken products instead were rings. Huh. As with the signature five holes in their slyder patty, my guess was that this would make them fry up quicker(?). While the novelty of just looking different could be a reason, with a place officially named White Castle Systems, Inc., this was the better logic I could come up with.

The burgers are in its own individual little box containers which is probably the best part of the whole experience for me. My heart rate rises slightly with butterflies by the sight of these.

Probably not the best for the environment but boy are they CUTE.

The buns seem to naturally steam a bit in the boxes with the square perforated patty, grilled onions and a slice of dill pickle. I have to say I enjoyed my first one. I think I even murmured a subconscious "mmm," haha.

But three seems to be the magic number here. Especially when eaten fresh the steaming seems to disguise some of the grease and by my fourth White Castle I was pretty much done. But don't let this stop you from getting the Crave Case where 30 of them comes packed in it's own nifty cardboard box with handle. I'd like to have the opportunity of purchasing one one day to see if the experience is as satisfying as when I walked out the Apple Store with my brand new MacBook this year. I bet it's right up there. ;)

As with the standard slyder the best part of having the cheese version for me was the branded yellow orange box that it came in. Condiments galore but we didn't use any (except ketchup for the crinkle cut fries).

A few more photos from the field trip.

Coupons are a big thing here as well. Castle Cash!

The recipe page on White Castle's site was pretty entertaining. Breakfast Surprise, White Castle Souffle, White Castle Pot Pie, and Castle Enchiladas to name a few..

..while Mr. Dave of Ridiculous Food Society's recipe for the White Castle Casserole that he got published on This Is Why You're Fat is a definite notable mention as well. Jealous!

Canine Cologne's Hot Doug's and White Castle in Chicago post here which was what actually inspired me to do my Fast Food Friday series. Darn I now can't wait to go on a road trip soon. Thanks CC!

Hope you all enjoyed these as much as I have. :) Not sure what's in store for next week but Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Omakase by Ota-san - August 2009

I already know I'm not going to do the meal the descriptive justice it deserves but wanted to at least share some of the photos I took. The context of this dinner was catching up with old friends so I'll apologize in advance for perhaps the lack of detail given to each plate (despite how they were each carefully explained by the super friendly Ota-san).

Started with a beautiful cold crab dish. I think it was snow crab but was done three ways. Had a delicate sweet citrus dressing.

The second was a sashimi plate that was a confident heavy Straight Right aimed directly at my chin. Included Toro and Hirame Flounder to name a few. They were all glowing like precious metals and since we're in San Diego I knew the Uni was going to be superb.. and it was and then some.

I've learned in the past there are "Premium" and "Gold", but to me this was, you guessed it, Platinum. The size was also about that of a Bosch spark plug(!) so I felt my naming was particularly appropriate. It was seriously the largest lobe of Uni I've seen!

Next up was this wonderful assortment. The main to the right is an Ika somen (raw squid sliced to resemble noodles). The exquisitely fresh squid dipped into a crucible of tsuyu (not shown) with fine julienned Myoga and a touch of grated ginger was quite delicious and soothing especially during the month of August when this dinner had taken place.

Just to the left was a great grilled skewer of tender pork with long onions and sweet glaze. There were two eggplant tasters that were simmered and flavored perfectly and the rectangular wafer is a Tatami Iwashi (sometimes called tatami shirasu) mounted by a pinch of broiled Yaki Uni.

Third up was a Koban Aji (pompano) fried three ways with the fourth being the bones that were incredibly edible from head to tail like a fish senbei.

I consumed the delicately fried fillets pretty quickly but the bones including the head were so good! Nutty and buttery.

Then came the nigiris.. The first was Sardine that was in season. The texture was ultra fine and flavor most wonderful. I honestly would've been happy if I were served a dozen of these tonight, ha. :)

I'm going to end the "Ooh la laa" descriptions here for the remainder of the nigiris cause quite honestly my vocabulary simply isn't large enough. Yes the shari rice's preparation and technique (of the firm walls, pocketed air, at the right temperature..) didn't go without notice but with an itamae of this caliber something surely taken granted for. I did try to put these in proper order but I also know that I missed documenting at least two so it's my best attempt..

A Zuke marinated Akami then a lightly torched aburi Kinmedai (that I always thought was a type of Sea Bream, but Wiki says it is Alfonsino). The latter sprinkled with some yuzu citrus zest.

I was surprised to see uni as a nigiri and not gunkan style. But when it's this fresh and firm I now know you can do this. To even top that though, an especially particular highlight was a crazy webbed Otoro that was explained was from a cut closest to the collar bone of the tuna. Followed then was a wonderfully flavored aji tataki, another aburi that I forgot the details of (maybe my friends remember, sorry), a delightful maki roll with yamaimo and ume plums and a floral flavor exploding Myoga Zuke (that I got a recipe from a friend that I would like to share one of these days). Again there were at least two other nigiri's I missed as well as an asari miso soup that was too blurry for me to want to post. When the omakase was complete it was then by request where my friends ordered amaebi and I think also an ikura..

I was really impressed with the sweetness of the cantaloupe that was for dessert. It was accompanied by a funny story where we were told one of the itamae's jobs is to select these from an unnamed market not so different from where you and I would shop at. But the person would get all the stares by the produce workers with the way he would meticulously inspect each melon - tapping, sniffing, weighing, observing.. haha.

Amazing what you can get when you know what you're looking for!?

The omakase we had was $100 per person. With all the drinks and a few extra requests it came up to around $120. I felt a total bargain for the experience especially when I imagine what such would've cost in Japan. Ota-san was joking about retirement soon but my friends that took the reservations did mention how he was not working as many days in the week as before. The waiting list for a seat at the counter with Ota-san is about one to two months. So another sincere thanks to my friends. Let's do this again guys! :)

My somewhat whimsical "something for everyone" Sushi Ota lunch post can be found here.

Sushi Ota, 4529 Mission Bay Drive, San Diego, CA 92109

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fast Food Friday - A Fatburger @ Fatburger

With Egg!

Since Fatburger has always been there for me I thought it was time to show a little love (and hold off posting my first White Castle until next Friday).

A burger here starts with an unfrozen lean beef ball that is later squished down into a patty. (That's mine on the griddle!) :)

I was tempted to try the 1/2 lbs Kingburger since I never had but I stuck with the original plan and ordered the Fatburger (1/3 lbs) with everything, plus an egg.

I always dug their concept of having the relish being the sweet condiment in the burger (and not ketchup), and together with the mustard the acidity helps cut some of the grease.

Ok, I didn't really need the extra egg. The tamago will set you back 90-cents and I forgot to ask for it over easy and runny. If I'm going to consume these fried egg calories I might as well have it the way I like but oh well. This day the beef patty was a bit leaner than I remembered but still decently juicy and all in all a burger that I enjoy.

Although I didn't quite finish my meal and had to take some of my fries back with me, consuming a pound and a half of ground beef in the Triple Kingburger Challenge didn't seem so completely out of the question undoable.(!?)

Just don't ask me to fit into that tank top after.. ;)

Fatburger, 4516 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fast Food Friday - Nathan's Famous, Newark Liberty Airport NJ

I thought of Fast Food Fridays to have an opportunity to share my ever growing stash of random fast food meal photos. This inaugural, I'm starting with one of a definitely better meal I've had at airport terminals. A Nathan's Famous outlet in Newark Liberty Airport. I think it was Terminal-C.

Not that I'm highly recommending the place to some fellow traveler by any means.. Because I suffer from what I call "Junk Food is Greener on the Other Side" syndrome. Maybe it's the unfamiliar menu, idiosyncrasies of flavor, unique packaging, novelty of location.. most probably all the above, but other fast food outlets outside my day to day reach always seem so much cooler. :)

A regular dog with sauerkraut. Had a decent snap and good beefy flavor to boot.

The crinkle cut fries were pretty good though a bit soggy from sitting. Liked the little red plastic forks they give you. Adore the yellow cups with green letterings.

I haven't been to A&W in forever. The Dairy Queen at Tierrasanta was a bit of a disappointment but I still really need to check out Sonic in Santee!