Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An Afternoon In Wine Country

Welcome back, dear Readers!

Hopefully this past week has been filled with delicious Thanksgiving holiday food and leftovers, and leftovers, and leftovers, etc.

I think I'm still up to my eyeballs in delicious leftover mashed potatoes.

On Black Friday, instead of heading out to shop and be pepper sprayed, I headed down to Temecula, CA for some wine tasting with family members who had graciously joined us in Los Angeles for the holiday.

I had been to Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez wine country, so I was glad to hit up another well-know SoCal wine area in Temecula.

Something happens when you hit any wine country in California. Life seems to melt away and time seems to come to a standstill. Life just...happens.

It's wonderful.

We originally stopped at Mount Palomar Winery, which had amazing wines and an Italian villa feel. After the 6 win tasting, we moved onto Maurice Car'rie Winery down the road which resembled more of a farm in the French countryside.

Pulling up to the patio cafe on the winery grounds, I ordered the Turkey Sandwich at the cafe. The sandwich came out on sourdough bread, with lettuce, tomatoes, and an optional cranberry spread.

The sourdough bread honestly wasn't very sour. The faint taste of sour was there, but wasn't as strong as I normally like it. The lettuce and tomatoes were fresh, but nothing to write home about. The cranberry spread added a nice flavor to the mix, but from what I could tell, it may have just been scooped out of the can. Now, don't get me wrong, I like canned cranberry sauce, but not on my sandwiches, and not at a winery. I feel like they could have gone above and beyond and made their own sauce.

Oh, the turkey? Eh. I felt like they just bought it at a supermarket. Pre-packaged.

Luckily, all of the wine I drank that afternoon was more than enjoyable.

In the end, the turkey sandwich was mildly forgettable, but the wine and the times spent at the winery will be remembered for a long time to come.

Turkey Sandwich
** 1/2 Stars
Maurice Car'rie Winery
Temecula, CA

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Deli Dilemma

Dear Readers, by now you have heard me mention before the difficulty of finding a good, dependable deli here on the west coast, and in Los Angeles specifically.

I've grown up and lived around numerous neighborhood delis that always provided top notch food and sandwiches that I never considered the fact that many cities were not as lucky.

Despite this, I have continually sought out a deli I could call my own here in the 818, but have, for the most part come up a little short.

Having driven past Handy Market in Burbank numerous times over my four years in LA, I had never even bothered to stop by. Not even on Saturdays when the chef fires up the giant BBQ grill and cooks outside.

So this past week, I finally decided to check it out.

First of all, Handy Market is more than just a deli. If you live in the neighborhood, it can serve all of your basic needs if you can't make it out to the supermarket easily. But the real story is the deli counter in the back.

For this experiment, I decided to order the pastrami panini with tomato, basil and feta cheese on a wheat roll.

The roll was fresh and when pressed and grilled had a nice crispy exterior while keeping the insides fluffy and warm. The feta offered an excellent dry and pungent flavor which contrasted well with the savory pastrami. The basil was so incredibly fresh and the flavor had an incredible bite which cut through most of the other flavors.

The only not-so-standoutish element was the pastrami. While it was tasty with a light black peppery flavor, the pastrami was a little too chewy at points. It could be that it cooled down a bit before I was able to eat it, but that shouldn't have accounted for this level of chewiness. While not bad, it wasn't spectacular.

Overall, my experience at Handy Market was fairly positive and I would definitely be willing to give it another try, but for the time being, I will just be moving on to find another deli.

What's your favorite sandwich at your favorite deli?

Until next time, Readers...

Pastrami Panini
*** 1/2
Handy Market
2514 W. Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91505

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cubano Delicioso

Greeting, Readers!

Throughout my time reviewing sandwiches for this blog, I have been given a number of recommended places to visit. I end up adding these to a word document that I keep at my desk at work and it really has increased substantially over time.

I don't always get to hit up the list because I do a lot of research myself and tend to sometimes forget the places I've added to my list. But this week, looking for a close by eatery, that I haven't visited yet, I reached for this holy grail of sandwich lists.

Reader Matty has recommended Mambo's Cafe in Glendale numerous times and I kept forgetting to visit, despite the fact that I live ten minutes from it.

Mambo's is situated in a quiet neighborhood right on the border of Glendale and Burbank and serves up delicious Cuban food.

I had been tempted to sample the Cubano in order to compare it to my favorite Cubano at Porto's, but wanting to try something new tonight, I reached for the Pan Con Chorizo.

The sandwich is very simple: thinly sliced chorizo sausage and grilled onions.

For those that have had chorizo (and living in LA, I've basically had it with every meal in some form or another) I've found that it can sometimes be too overpowering with it's flavor. I've had a number of chorizo tacos where I'm still tasting chorizo three weeks later, but with this sandwich, that is not the case.

The chorizo flavor was still there, still delicious, but it was much more subtle, and the sandwich was better of for it.

The onions provided a nice crunch texture along with the delicious and flaky, pressed french roll.

Simple, stripped down, and delicious.

One part of the meal that I must pay special attention to has nothing to do with the sandwich at all. The service at Mambo's was incredible. Everyone who worked their stopped and asked us if we needed anything, and our server was very nice and always there for us as well.

I guess I haven't thought much about service because a bunch of my last reviews were grab-and-go

So if you're looking for good Cuban food in the Valley, and maybe you want to take in some Latin Jazz (Tuesday nights apparently), definitely check out Mambo's. It'll be worth the visit.

Until next week...

Pan Con Chorizo
**** Stars (out of 5)
1701 Victory Blvd. (at Western)
Glendale, CA 91201

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Jinky's, Scooby!

Greetings, Sandwich Lovers.

I hope this past week-long celebration of the 4th Earl of Sandwich's birthday was a delight to you, and that you find a new sandwich shop gem in your neighborhood.

Wanting to celebrate the Earl's birthday, I decided to try out a place near my work, that I had never gotten the chance to try before this week.

I was surprised that the Studio Cafe in Studio City was actually another Jinky's Cafe (there are four in LA) and so technically I had eaten here before, but just at another location.

Not to worry though, there was plenty to sample of the menu.

For this week's entry I tried the sandwich that just screamed out to me: the Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich.

Now, if you know me for more than just this blog, you may also know that I am not usually a fan of chicken salad, or even mayonnaise. The condiment has never really sat well with me, and had led me to find alternatives to it over the years. So there had to be more to this sandwich to really catch my eye.

The curry flavor took a bit away from the mayonnaise and really hid the latter's taste well within the sandwich. The part that worked even better to make me salivate was the mango chutney which was evenly mixed into the sandwich filled with white meat chicken.

Oh and as a final treat: roasted, chopped almonds adding a bit of crunchy contrast and nutty flavor to the mix which actually blended with the chutney, curry and chicken quite well.

On the downside though, the whole wheat bread that enveloped the sandwich was listed as being "grilled", but I think the Studio Cafe's definition of grilled is quite different than mine. This bread was about as grilled as it would be if it were left out in the sun for a week. It felt more stale than crisp.

Besides the bread, I was really hoping one of the components, besides the mayonnaise would have provided a bigger flavor pop. The mango, while a powerful flavor, was not as present as I thought it would be, and the curry flavor was hidden a little too much beneath the mango and almonds.

Overall, not too bad, but it could have been a lot better. I would really like to find one of these types of sandwiches done even better next time.

Did I just say I would look for another chicken salad sandwich?

I must need some sleep tonight.

Until next week, Readers!

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich
*** 1/2 Stars
Jinky's Studio Cafe
4000 Colfax Avenue
Studio City, CA 91604

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happy Birthday to the Sandwich!

If he were alive today, John Montagu the 4th Earl of Sandwich, and the namesake for the item that is adored by this blog, would have turned 293 years old.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Brat's All, Folks!

Well Dear Readers, with Portland wrapped up last week, it is time we make our way back to the South Land and hit up some trendy LA hotspots.

Living in the Studio City/Sherman Oaks area, we have a lot of new restaurants pop up in the area over time, and a fair amount of them are worth checking out. One of those eating establishments I've heard a lot about is Brats Bros.

Tucked into a small spot on Ventura Blvd, Brats Bros.' interior looks like a German beer hall, an excellent precursor to Oktoberfest at Big Bear Lake (which I would attend one week after eating here). The atmosphere at first seemed very warm and inviting, that is, until I tried to sit down.

While the tables and the giant shared table were all booked up, there were a number of seats around the bar where we could sit. My first seat, near the bar but not at it, I sat at for 15 minutes with not so much as a "Hello" from one of the waitstaff.

Then when two seats opened at the end of the bar, it was another 10 minutes before we were even asked what we wanted to drink, and even then, the servers trays were stacked in front of us so there was no room at first to put our beer down.

So, why did i stay?

Maybe part of me wanted to believe that these sausages were really as good as advertised.

Maybe the other part of me wanted to let you know the service here for the most part is unreliable at best.

I ordered the Rancher Brat, a fairly standard offering of smoked beef and garlic topped with sauerkraut. The sausage was very good, the beef was flavorful and was matched by a strong garlic flavor that I thoroughly enjoyed. The sauerkraut on top added a great tangy flavor to match with the savory sausage. On the side I ordered red cabbage and creamy potato salad. Both were excellent complements to the sausage itself.

Even though this is a sandwich blog, I have to say that the real standout of the evening was the dessert. A stack of pancakes with raisins, apples, hazelnut and syrup, it was delicious. Amazing even. This dessert alone is worth the visit to Brats Bros....well, and maybe the beer too.

Until next week!

Racnher Brat
*** Stars
13355 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423