Saturday, June 28, 2008

Welcome Summer The Baja Way!

Now that summer is finally here and the smokers and grills are blazing away at full tilt chunking out briskets and burgers and baby back ribs, there is another food the is synonymous with summer; the Baja Fish Taco!

While I could go on about fish tacos and even come up with a decent fish taco recipe; a good friend of mine has already taken the time to do so. He is Rob Burns; the inventor of Scorpion Bay Gourmet Hot Sauces and the creative genius behind the blog at

Rob's Recipe for authentic Baja Fish Tacos can be found by clicking this link. Be sure to follow up with his Pico De Gallo Salsa and the essential trinity of sauces that make this regional delight irresistible.

Fish Taco White Sauce
Avocado Sauce
De Arbol Hot Sauce

Rob has some great views, awesome products and wonderful recipes. That is what makes one of The Last Bite's favorite blogs to eat!

Friday, June 27, 2008

You Can Grill the Perfect Patty!

Everyone can grill burgers right? You might be surprised at some mistakes that are sabotaging your delicious meal. Here is a video to hep you perfect your grilled hamburger!

Review: Cowboy Diner Slings Some Great Hash

Thursday, as on many days, I found myself on the road making customer calls. This day however I am in the Santa Cruz Mountains, that’s right it’s not all on fire. What is smokin’ hot is a little eatery in Felton, CA called the Cowboy Diner; also known as Cowboy Bar and Grill depending on which sign you see first.

We entered through the patio door which leads you right through the bar. This place is really kitschy with a covered wagon pass-through from the kitchen and the faux cow tablecloths. There is even an iguana on the wall next to the horse paintings and cowboy movie posters.

The lunch menu, printed on purple paper is loaded with quirky titled dishes. There is a nice selection of starters, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and larger meals available to choose from.

Our server recommended the soup du’ jour which was a three pork soup made with bacon, ham, and loin. Being a massive carnivore I could not resist a medley of three porks! We also decided to try the Pig Wings; tender little ribs that are glazed in a sweet and zesty sauce and served with a bowl of Pasilla Pepper Cream Sauce for dipping. Both of the starters were top notch.

I decided on the “Range Rover”, a half pound buffalo burger. It was served with American cheese and I opted for an addition of bacon and green chiles. The burger was a perfect medium and garnished with some thinly sliced red onion, tomato, and baby spring greens instead of the usual iceberg. On the side was some horseradish coleslaw.

Monica selected the Angus Beef Burger which also arrived cooked perfectly and dressed similarly. Both burgers were served on a soft bakery roll that really added to the enjoyment of the sandwiches. The Angus burger was served with a side of light and crispy fries, perfect to dip in the Pasilla Cream from the appetizers.

The menu also includes items such as a Sloppy Jed; barbecue pulled pork on a steak roll, and Yam Cakes served with ranch dressing and a sweet Jalapeno Glaze. We will be back to try those selections. With the portions being a large as they are I’m not sure we will ever get to see a dessert menu.

Whether you are a devout carnivore or a vegetarian the Cowboy Diner has something to please everyone. The next time we are in Felton we will be sure to stop in for another mess of vittles.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gourmet Gadgets: Grill Tek 6-in-1 Multi-Tool

I have real mixed feeling here. While I love new gadgets, I really dislike schlock. In all fairness let's break this new gadget down to see where it fits in!

First of all there are six tools in one and according to the manufacturer they are essential to grilling greatness:

An electronic cooking timer with alarm is definitely essential to achieve grilling greatness. How else will you be able to perfectly time the correct doneness of your steaks and such.

A digital clock was most likely included with the timer module and in my opinion calling this a tool in itself is a bit of a stretch.

A utility knife may not contribute directly to grilling greatness but it will help you open that ridiculously difficult to open bag of salad that will go with your steak. If you try to cut into your steak with this knife to test for doneness as depicted in the photo you will most likely be demoted to grilling grunt for your dry steaks.

A bottle opener? Personally, the drunker I get the better my food tastes so this must be an essential tool. Heck get everyone a beer and open it for them since you have the opener strung around your neck.

A bright LED light to check doneness; especially if you have those pesky guests that insist on well-done steaks. You will likely need this LED as you will be cooking deep into the dark nighttime hours.

And Finally, a built-in whistle to call everyone to the table. Nothing says come-n-get-it like the shrill blast of a whistle.

The whole thing clips to a belt loop or lanyard which is included, then extends on a retracting reel, ensuring that no mater how many beers you have opened you will still be able to deafen your guest when the food is ready.

The Grill Tek 6-in-1 Multi-Tool runs on 3 button cell batteries, which for a change are included. So if you have the Dad that has everything or is just plain hard to shop for you can pick this baby up for only $19.95 at a gourmet gadget retailer near you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Review: Il Fornaio, San Jose Just OK.

Having heard so many great things about Il Fornaio , I was excited to finally get to this San Jose eatery to experience it for myself.

The venue itself is quite wonderful in the Hotel Sainte Claire. We were sat at a table that looked out to the street; which usually makes dining an interesting combination of food and people watching. Our server was fantastic and looked after us with great care. A basket of assorted fresh breads and some olive oil and balsamic vinegar was presented by one of the server’s assistants. I ordered a Barbera for a nice alternative to the usual Cabernet or Pinot Noir.

Our starter was the Calamari Fritti; it was light and crisp with a tangy marinara for dipping. I did end up with a few pieces of membrane from the squid that I had to spit out. I would have expected that from a lesser chain restaurant but not this type of venue.

We split the Insalata della Casa and I must say I expected it to be a bit larger for nine bucks. Beside the price it was just bland. Hard to figure out why with a Gorgonzola dressing this salad should have screamed tangy, but alas it did not.

The main courses were Cannelloni Al Forno; large pasta tubes filled with rotisserie chicken, spinach, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and smoked mozzarella, bechamel and tomato sauces and, Cappellacci di Zucca; Ravioli filled with butternut squash and walnuts, tomato sauce, brown butter, parmesan and crispy sage. The cannelloni was under seasoned and lacked any excitement. The filling was just a ground up mix of mush. I found the butternut squash filling in the ravioli to be stringy and also lacked seasoning. The browned butter was more like burned butter and the crispy sage was battered as opposed to the usually crispy light frying of sage in similar dishes.

As if the marginal food was not enough, half way through dinner the sun came blazing in on us in a scorching beam of heat. It was as if there was a giant mischievous boy with a magnifying glass; and we were his ant victims. I wrestled with the blinds but they were either too short or broken to block out the fiery beams of sunlight. We moved to the opposite end of our table in an attempt to escape the rays.

At this point I wanted to leave but my companion felt I should have dessert to keep the review well rounded. So we ordered coffee and the dessert special of the night Canolli and Profiteroles. The coffee was excellent. The dessert was ok. I felt the canolli shell was too hard and the filling was no better than any canolli I had had before. The gelato filling in the profiteroles was more like Dryer’s than gelato with none of the gooey texture you expect from a good gelato. The highlight of the dessert was two little biscuits that seemed like an afterthought on the plate. Those biscuits were awesome with the coffee.

If you are looking for a nice night out with excellent service and you don’t mind paying a bit for it Il Fornaio is a possibility. If it’s great Italian food you are looking for, I would look somewhere else.

Recipe: Roasted Chicken with Honey, Mustard & Curry

This simple and fast recipe makes a hearty supper that everyone will enjoy. This roasted chicken is both sweet and savory with just a hint of spice.

Serve it with some steamed vegetables and your favorite rice or potato on the side!


1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup prepared mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Place chicken pieces in a shallow baking pan, skin side up.
3. Combine the melted butter, honey, mustard, salt and curry powder and pour the mixture over the chicken.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 1/4 hours (75 minutes), basting every 15 minutes with pan drippings, until the chicken is nicely browned and tender and the juices run clear.

Submit your favorite recipe
to be posted and you could receive a free gourmet gift if selected. Drawing for free gourmet gift is random and at the sole discretion of "The Last Bite".

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sausage Kingdom Destroyed By Pawns.

I’d like to start off by saying that Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom in Venice Beach, California is without a doubt the greatest gourmet sausage or hot dog you might ever sink your teeth into. In contrast to this Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom in Gilroy, California is perhaps the biggest culinary disappointment of the year.

Being a huge fan of this brand from many trips to southern California I always tried to make it out to Venice to get one of these tasty, snappy hot dogs or sausages. The line; always long, but worth the wait and the product never disappointed me. I was very excited to see the brand at the Gilroy outlets one day. I thought I recognized it from the distance but I had to get closer to confirm that it was true, and it was. On opening day I was there to get the goods; a Kobe beef hot dog and some chili-fries. Jody Maroni himself was there schmoozing the customers and the food was great.

Unfortunately, shortly after the Sausage King left for his southern kingdom the jesters quickly took over and the food quality seemed to become a lesser priority. I submitted the following letter to let them know of my concern for the quality of what was a great product:

Dear Jody Maroni's,

I wanted to write to let you know about my latest visit to your Gilroy store.

I have been a huge fan of your products for many years, frequenting the Venice Beach store many times and most lately the Gilroy Store.

We were there on opening to support the brand and have always felt you had a superior product.

Today I ordered my favorite; Andouille Sausage fully loaded.

When I bit into the sausage something was wrong. The outer ¼ inch was hard and dry. The cut end of the sausage looked dried out and black and I was concerned about the quality of this meal. I proceeded to remove the sausage from the bun to find a large fissure on the side, most likely caused by being dropped in the deep fryer for reheating. This dog is dead! Inedible, and really disappointing.

When I would think of the Jody Maroni Brand I knew I was getting a quality product. I'm not sure the people running your Gilroy store have the same conviction to quality as the corp stores.

I'm afraid I no longer have faith that the quality meal I have become accustomed to can be provided at this location. I know that franchises can easily lose the company mission. I know today they did not even come close to meeting that mission:

"To make the world's greatest gourmet sausage.

To carry the spirit of the boardwalk to the boardroom, the

supermarket and the streets - wherever people work, shop and


To serve the world's greatest sandwiches, hot dogs and fries.

To amuse, delight, satisfy and enlighten."

Perhaps the next time I find myself in Venice Beach I will be able to enjoy the Andouille Sausage again.

I must say I was very impressed when I got a reply within twenty four hours, in fact it may have been less than eight hours. The reply is as follows:

Dear Mr. Levi:

I am so sorry to hear about your experience but am glad you took the
time to tell us about it.

I have passed on your observation to our director of operations and the
gm of the location. You should hear from them as well.

I can only say that we intend to do a lot better and can only improve
with comments from our customers such as you.

I hope you will give it another try.

The General Manager of the Gilroy location did in fact also reply within a short period of time, here is his reply:

Dear Mr. Levi,

My name is Sean O'Donnell and I am the General Manager of Jody Maroni's Gilroy location. Our corporate office forwarded me your e-mail and, upon reading it, I was shocked, upset and embarrassed.

I can assure that the standards of Jody Maroni's product and service are just as important to us here as they are in Venice. The quality of our product is what sets us appart from the rest of the field and keeps a loyal guest such as yourself coming back for more. All of the Jody Maroni philosophies that you listed in your e-mail are more than just retoric to us. They are the reasons we do what we do. I would not be able to wear the smile that I do and joke around with my staff and guests if I wasn't sure that we were serving the best
product out there.

I can't apologize enough for the sub-standard meal that you received and wish that I had an acceptable reason for it other than temorary insanity. I can only assure you that our staff is dedicated and well trained and that this momentary lapse will not be allowed to happen again. The team members here in Gilroy take great pride in what they do and I can tell you that they were more upset with one another than with me when I read your e-mail to them this morning before we opened.

My words here are sincere but, I know, they are just words. It is our actions that
mold and define us. That is why I hope you will accept this email as an invitation for you and a guest to come back to Jody Maroni's in Gilroy and let us show you what we are really made of. You have my personal guarantee that your next visit will be worlds apart from your last. Hopefully, we can restore your faith in the idea that you can get the best gourmet sausage out there, a warm smile, and good laugh at Jody Maroni's no matter what beach it is on.

Sean O'Donnell
General Manager
Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom

Well I guess he was right, maybe not to the degree that he was thinking; but my next visit was OK. You know how when you have a bad experience; that taste is hard to get out of your mouth. I figured a couple of more times and I would be over the bad joo joo from that last visit.

This leads us to my latest and worst experience at the declining realm of the tube steak. You know; when you know you should leave, but you don’t? We’ve all had it, that feeling. Mine started when we walked through the door and up to the counter to order.

It all started with the whole “no tomatoes” thing or salsa on the steak nachos as it would be in this case. So get over it; California tomatoes are fine! But OK, it’s easier to charge me the same and leave half the toppings off. Oh and by the way we are out of steak, but we have chicken! OK, we’ll have the chicken… Just kidding how about sausage on your nachos? SAUSAGE? Really, on nachos? What the hell; it is a sausage kingdom so let’s live it up; sausage it is! Now that we have the whole nachos thing sorted out we also order a hot dog, an andouille sausage, and some garlic fries. All in all a pretty basic order, or so you would think. But how many things can really go wrong with such a complex order?

No less than twenty minutes elapse before our number was called to pick up our order. Mind you to be fair it was about 3:00pm and there were eight people in the store, never mind that five of them were behind the counter. But I guess 20 minutes goes much faster in Sausage Kingdom time and they all seemed to be having such a great time!

Anyways, I go to pick up the tray of food and even at first glance I can tell that something is awry in the Kingdom. The Sausage Nachos are dark brown; not from the chili that they are loaded with, but because they have been incinerated in the broiler. Oh and the guacamole, I guess it has tomatoes in it as well so you won’t be getting any of that either. What you will get for seven dollars is some burnt chips with chili and cheese!

Have you ever had ice cold garlic fries? I don’t know how fries can get that cold after being in a 350 degree oil bath, but these seemed to have developed frostbite waiting for their suntanned cousins to get out of the broiler. I think the hot dog may have been on the same arctic excursion as it was also on the frigid side, they were neither haute nor hot! When we went up to have some of this food replaced with a warmer version, the cook immediately relieved himself of all responsibility by letting us know he was just called in to help with the rush and is now on his way home. Upon great protest the absent guacamole was replaced with some slices of avocado. God forbid you mash them up and leave out the; oh so scary tomatoes. While the andouille sausage was pretty good, the desiccated shards of charred meat, faintly resembling sausage atop the nachos were a horrendous disgrace to the Kingdom itself.

Jody Maroni’s northern most Kingdom of Sausage was stricken from our list of favorite eateries as their dogs are no longer haute. Perhaps someday the king will return to claim his land back from the jesters. And today if it’s great sausage you seek, you will definitely need to head south.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sal's Pizza Brings Boston's Best to California

Is there a place you drive by everyday and never go inside? I bet you even think about going in all the time but never seem to get around to it. I drive a lot and as a result I have many of those places. What’s really cool is when you finally go inside and the place rock’s the menu! That’s exactly what happened when I wandered into Sal’s Pizza in Morgan Hill, California.

Upon entering Sal’s we were greeted by a very enthusiastic manager named Tito. He was thrilled that we had wandered in for the first time. It was like he knew something and he was going to share it with us. We were having a hard time deciding what kind of pizza to order because Sal’s Pizza has many signature flavors to distract you from your regular choices. They have flavors like Bacon Cheeseburger, Chicken Fradiavolo, and Steak Bomb! How can you order your standard pepperoni pie with flavors like Magic Mushroom and Eggplant Parmesan? This is where Tito steps in and say’s “We can make any pizza in up to four flavors”. So I was pretty sure we could narrow it down to four or as it turned out three on a nineteen inch pie.

For half the pizza we decided to do a regular choice that we like to eat so that we could compare it to other pizzas that we have had. On one quarter we opted for the Margharita; loaded with Pomadoro sauce, olive oil, buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil. The final quarter was a contrast to the previous lighter choice, Bacon Cheeseburger; Sal’s Pizza sauce, mozzarella, American cheese, hamburger, bacon, tomato and onion.

Tito gets to work on our pizza, starting with fresh dough, and I mean fresh on the counter, rising right now, fresh dough. He is a master, working the dough into a circle, tossing and spinning it in the air. It was like being at one of those Food TV challenges where they spin the dough with one hand, across their shoulders and beat records for height. You can tell this guy loves everything about making pizzas.

So we sit at our table watching the Strongman competition on the plasma TV overhead. A lot of the customers that come in are there for the pizza by the slice; a quarter of one of those monstrous nineteen inch pies. You had better be hungry to get a slice at Sal’s. We listen to the customers’ remark about how awesome the pizza is as we anxiously await our custom made, three flavored pie. I glace over to the kitchen to see how it’s going and Tito tosses up his foam rubber practice dough and motions to me that it will be merely minutes until our lunch is ready.

It’s pizza time! I gotta say the size of this pie is impressive in itself. It is a lot bigger on the table than it looks in the display! Now that we admired it for oh ten seconds, it’s time to put the pizza to the test! First the Margharita; this slice was fantastic! The Pomadoro sauce is light and fragrant with a touch of garlic. The fresh mozzarella was perfectly melted into the sauce and the whole thing was dotted with hand torn fresh basil. Me being carnivore supreme I usually shy away from this type of a pizza but I would gladly eat a pie of this quality anytime! Next the Bacon Cheeseburger; I had my doubts about this but we ordered it out of curiosity. I was really surprised by how great this was. The burger pieces tasted as if they had been grilled, there were slivers of red onion, and crispy bacon in overload amounts. The big hit here was the American cheese. You couldn’t really see it under the toppings but when you bit into the slice it was like a creamy cheesy accent; a real pleaser for any burger/pizza lover. Finally, our choice; bacon, spinach and mushrooms, this was our litmus test. While it’s not a typical pizza, it is a combination we are used to eating so we would defiantly be able to tell if something went awry. It was fantastic and our regular pizza place pales in comparison. Here’s the clincher; it’s the dough. The crust is the best I’ve had in California. They use an east coast style thin crust. It has the perfect amount of crunch and the right amount of chew. You can eat your slice straight or do the fold thing. I happen to be a folder and my companion is defiantly not a folder. At Sal’s it’s your choice to fold or not to fold.

If you love this style of pizza you have to try this place out. It certainly has ruined me for the pizza in my neighborhood. It’s a good thing I drive by Sal’s on the way home from work.

In the Bay area you can find them at:

Morgan Hill, CA | 301 Vineyard Town Center 408-778-2162

Campbell, CA | 533 E. Campbell Ave 408-376-0553

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Recipe: Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Dip

Now that the nice weather is here and you are entertaining outdoors more, here is a quick, easy, and delicious recipe that uses some ingredients that you most likely already have in your pantry or fridge.

Wing Sauce is a very versatile ingredient. Here is an example of another way you can use it!

8oz. pack of cream cheese
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup Monty's Best Buffalo Wing Sauce
2 cups of shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1/2 cup celery

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Microwave cream cheese 1 minute to soften.
Whisk in salad dressing and wing Sauce, stir in chicken, cheese and celery.
Bake 20 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips or vegetables.

Variations: Add a little crunch by topping with chopped walnuts
or sliced almonds before baking

Monday, June 02, 2008

Gourmet Food or WMD. You Be The Judge.

Steve Carell dealves deep into the world of Ultra-Hot hot sauces. While many a Chile-head would argue that this is merely a harmless food, Steve contends that there may be more than meets the eye in the Fiery-food industry. Since this video there has been a huge surge in the popularity of Ultra-hot sauces like, Baboon Ass Brand GONE RABID, Ultimate Insanity, Death Lizard and many more the the Uber blazing hot, face melting sauces.