Friday, February 27, 2009

Napa Valley Mustard Festival 2009

Celebrating the unique food, wine, art, and rich agricultural & cultural bounties of the Napa Valley!

The Mustard Season offers a full palette of food, wine, art, entertainment, and cultural activities staged throughout the world-famous grape growing region when fields, vineyards, and hillsides are vibrant with wild mustard in bloom.

This, the sixteenth annual mustard festival is the sixth year that Innuendo Foods will be attending the event. It is the second time the event is changing venues. Initially at the Napa Fairgrounds the festival quickly outgrew the venue and was relocated to Copia; the Napa Center for Food and Wine. This year the Marketplace Event will be hosted by the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville.

Highlights of this rain or shine food, wine and arts festival include: celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, a KGO Newstalk AM810 live remote broadcast of Dining Around with Gene Burns, a Sunset Magazine pavilion, and taping of Martha Stewart Living radio shows. Artful activities include fine arts and crafts presented by juried artists and artisans, and live performances of jazz, world, and classical music.

Adult admission to The Marketplace at $35 in advance, $40 at the door, includes eight food and five wine tasting tickets (value $1 each), plus a souvenir wine glass. Student admission, ages 13 to 20, at $10 includes five food tasting tickets. Admission for children ages 6 to 12 is $5. Children under the age of 6 are admitted for free. Visit participating Raley's, Nob Hill Foods and Bel Aire Markets to purchase adult tickets in advance, which include a voucher for five additional tasting tickets.

Purchase a weekend package in advance at which includes both The Awards and The Marketplace at $125 per person.

Look for us at the Innuendo Foods / Dave's Gourmet booth at the Marketplace Event for some great gourmet fun and samples of a selection of our fine products! See you there and let us know you read it in The Last Bite!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Take the Kentucky Challenge With Us!

Recently, a close friend of mine was trapped in his home for weeks without power by the ice storms in Kentucky. Luckily for them the gas was still available and they had plenty of wood for the pot belly stove to warm the house. These storms were so bad that grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations were all closed for over a week, even today many residence are still without power.

This got me thinking; what if the grocery stores in your neighborhood were closed for a week? Would you have enough food to keep you going? We believe you do. As a matter of fact most middle-class Americans have enough food in their pantries, freezers and cupboards to survive weeks without taking on new ingredients.

So we have decided to issue a challenge and dedicate it to my friends and family that endured that week at home. The Kentucky Challenge goes like this; for the next week you eat only what you have at home. Dig deep in your pantry, cupboards, and freezers and get creative. Not only will you have a good time challenging yourself in the kitchen, you will also save the $100-$200 that you would have spent that week at the store, and you will use up all the extra stuff that you have at home. You know that stuff that you would have thrown away after it expired in your pantry or got freezer burned sitting around too long in the deep freeze.

I know that I'm not alone when I get home from the supermarket and can barely fit the new food in the refrigerator because there's so much of the old food left. So I’m sure that I'm not alone in being able to skip a week of shopping and still be able to eat well. If you have a dietary requirement for dairy or something perishable, I say get that item and only that item. Just don’t do the shopping thing and you’re still in the running.

I’ll be doing my Kentucky Challenge from California where luckily the weather won’t be a factor. Will you be joining me? Document your progress at The Last Bite Network. Use the blog section of your Mypage to chronicle your progress.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

You Did WHAT with Chocolate!?!?

Chocolate. Can you think of a more perfect indulgence? Some people even claim to have an addiction to this dark, rich, sweet, and almost intoxicating treat. It has even been said to have the same effect as love on some people; releasing similar hormones that create the feeling of euphoria. Could it get any better?

Bisous Pure Belgian Chocolates in the UK felt that they had finally made an improvement that people would notice. And so was born “The Incredible Edible Anus”. Made of only the finest all natural Belgian chocolate and manufactured by hand in the UK, these curious “chocolate starfish” are sold both online and in stores at Coco de Mer in the UK and the USA.

Now, I know it’s hard to believe that this is serious, I didn’t at first. I assure you that the website is legitimate and there are pages of testimonials touting the magnificence of the puckered chocolate butt-holes:

‘Edible Anus Chocolates - World's Most Unique Gift Idea! They would make the PERFECT gift for your proctocologist. ’
Kristie Leong M.D.

‘The chocolates look incredibly realistic and they make a great gift.’
Boyz Magazine

They have a minimum order of five boxes, and each box contains a dark, milk, and white chocolate poop shoot.

If you’re a serious fan and can’t get enough; there is even a limited edition solid silver anus made from 55 grams of hallmarked silver, cradled in an elegant presentation box and exquisitely crafted into that most sensuous of body parts, this is a unique and thought-provoking gift. Edition of 100 (edition # engraved).

There is a link to the Coco de Mer website which according to the browsing I did is an adult store. They sell lingerie, toys, books, and yes edible anuses. There is an entire section dedicated to erotica and how-to guides. The site is done in a sensual and respectful manner and is not at all trashy or flashy. There is as U.S. site so purchases can be made on-line by U.S. customers without much difficulty. (

Monday, February 16, 2009

IWYSWYG: Jack In The Box Chipotle Chicken Ciabatta Sandwich

It's time once again to play IWYSYWG; or "Is What You See What You Get?" You know where you see all the amazingly delicious looking FoodPorn that companies put out to make you drool on your shirt. Then when you get the burger or other food item depicted in the advertisement it looks like the server carried out to you in their back pocket.

Today's selection is the Chipotle Chicken Ciabatta Sandwich from Jack in the Box Restaurants. Below you can see the lovely stylized images that you are shown. Scrumptious!

Now here is the actual Jack In The Box Chipotle Chicken Ciabatta Sandwich that we received:

We only got the one sandwich and did not have a fancy plate to place it on for the photo shoot but we figured the nice box that it came in would be good enough.

Perhaps this should be called a Chipotle Chicken Ciabatta Salad Sandwich? I mean what is with all the lettuce anyways? I'll have to do a little harvesting before I can attempt to eat this thing!

Clearly these don't look the same do they? But would you have ordered it if your expectations were not set real high? Hey it has chipotle on it. I would have ordered it sight unseen. In any event it was actually quite delicious and I would get one of these again.

The Last Bite will have to grade this WYSIWYG with a C. The real this albeit delicious was not very close to the image. The bun was not as toasty looking and the only topping you see it lettuce. Better luck next time Jack In The Box.

Do you have a WYSIWYG? Send us the information and we'll follow up, or send us your photos and we'll post them for other to see If What You See Is What You Get!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fuzia; New Morgan Hill Restaurant is Just OK.

It has been one of those weeks, you know the kind. What would make the memories of a tough week go away faster than a great meal? A great meal with awesome wine! Fortunately an OK meal was enough to take the edge off. It was probably the wine.

Fuzia, from what I understand, is a fairly new place and in the two months it’s been opened they seem to have gathered quite a following. We arrived at 5pm and the dining room promptly filled up to reservation only capacity.

The decor is modern and obviously new and the sparse decoration created an atmosphere that was a bit cold. The dark wood tables and woven chairs were just not enough to warm up the blank walls.

The service was very attentive; even at the busiest times and the server was instrumental at describing the specials and recommending wine that pairs well with the courses that we had chosen.

We decided to share the Baked Brie for Two, described on the menu as; smoked and grilled vegetables, curried meats, garlic, caper berries, grilled bread. Unfortunately, if I had to describe this appetizer in one word, that word would be tragic. Elements of this dish were fine but overall it was a mess. To start with the baked brie was undercooked and was a greasy doughy mound. The grilled bread, while pretty on the plate seemed to have been pre-grilled and already cold. Actually the grilled vegetables while tasty were also cold. The curried meats was clearly a typo as there was four thin slices of cured salami on the plate and no curry to be found. The absence of caper berries was seemingly replaced with a pile of marinated grape tomato slices. There was a bulb of roasted garlic on the plate. It was cold, but again tasty.

For our entrée selection I chose the Braised Lamb Shank. It was served atop creamy white polenta with the braising liquid and vegetables. The polenta was a perfect match for the tender braised lamb, and the lamb was perfectly cooked. It was fork tender and fell cleanly from the bone. My only gripe was that the lamb itself was slightly under seasoned, but that was easily corrected using the salt and pepper shakers. The Perrone cabernet that the server had recommended was a perfect match as the tones of oak, cherry and black pepper mirrored the flavors of the meal.

My dining companion ordered the Prime Rib Special as recommended by our server. It was served au jus with celery root mashed potato and steamed broccolini. This dish was presented beautifully but immediately became a disappointment. In retrospect I should have taken a picture because it was really a superbly plated meal. Unfortunately, the beef was quite tough and the mashed potato was stone cold. I was rather disgusted to learn that this twelve ounce prime rib entrée was $31. The 12oz prime rib dinner at Outback Steakhouse was much better quality and will cost you eleven dollars less.

Our server offered us some coffee and dessert. I inquired as to whether the desserts were house made or brought in; he assured us that they were made in house. We decided to try the Apple Crisp with Vanilla Gelato, it was on par with the rest of the meal. The granola topping seemed a bit stale and the apple bits may have been tossed in sugar and cinnamon before being placed in the bowl. The apples were softened, perhaps even baked but not served warm. Apple crisp as I remember it is sticky and gooey and warms your soul.

Over all the food was tasty but had its issues. The service was friendly, attentive, and really on point. The quality of the food was not a good value at the current prices, but if they can work out the bugs in the kitchen it will be alright. These things have a way of working themselves out. I might go back someday.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Garlic City's Hidden Secret; Fine Dinning In Gilroy.

Gilroy California has long been known as the garlic capital of the world, but it has definitely never been referred to as a culinary destination. If you are looking for fast food franchises, chain restaurants, and taquerias; Gilroy has you covered. But what do you do if you are not in the mood for burgers and burritos?

The Westside Grill is a hidden jewel in this town of cheap eats. Located at the corner of Santa Teresa and Hecker Pass Highway, you would probably drive past it if you didn't know what you were looking for.

Opened in 2006, The Westside Grill has rapidly become a local Gilroy favorite for lunch, dinner, and now on weekends, brunch. Offering a standard menu, and an ever-changing list of daily specials, the Westside Grill is open seven evenings a week for dinner, Monday thru Friday for lunch and on Saturday and Sunday for brunch.

I have been to the Westside Grill on several occasions and for today's lunch light fare seemed appropriate. I ordered the soup du jour; chicken tortilla soup, and a Cobb Salad. My dining companions today ordered the tortilla soup and a Steak Caesar Salad and the Prime Rib Sandwich from the specials menu with a cup of Lobster Bisque. The Lobster Bisque is a specialty of the Westside Grill and is always on the menu.

The Chicken Tortilla Soup was quite delicious and perfectly seasoned with just a few crisp strips of tortilla for texture and flavor. I was expecting a light brothy soup and was surprised to get a slightly heartier version that was partially pureed. The Cobb Salad was quite nice as well, served with vinaigrette and some blue cheese dressing which I requested. The greens were crisp and fresh and the addition of snow peas added an extra sweet crunch. The bacon was perfectly cooked and the chicken was served warm. Sliced hardboiled egg and Gorgonzola were fresh and delicious atop the greens and garnished with grape tomato. To be honest I don't recall if there was actually any avocado on this salad, in any event it was quite wonderful so shame on me for not noticing.

While I did not taste the other entrees at the table they were presented with equal care. The Prime Rib Sandwich was served open faced, sliced thin, and piled high. There was a rich jus over the sandwich and mashed potato. The Steak Caesar Salad was served in classic manner with shredded parmesan cheese. The steak appeared to be cooked nicely.

While the food was good there were a few glitches with the service. Perhaps the midweek lunch shift has them running lean. The tortilla soup was served in a crock that was cracked all the way through the bottom and my knife had some bits of dried food on it.

When we ordered our lunch the person with the Lobster Bisque inquired if it would be counted as the "soup or salad" that came with the special and was told yes. Later when the bill arrived there was a $2 upcharge for the soup. We questioned the up-charge and were told the bisque was more. Upon reminding the server that we inquired at the time, specifically about that order, her response was; "I said that because when I tell people it's two dollars more they don't want it". She went on to comment about how she just finished arguing with table 34 about the same thing. I suspect a possible training point may be presenting itself here.

All in all, the Westside Grill is a good find in Gilroy. The food is great and the atmoshphere is friendly and casual yet still upscale. We will be back despite the deception.

The Westside Grill
8080 Santa Teresa Blvd.
Gilroy, CA 95020

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Corned Beef Pastrami Maven Dies at Age of 90

Today in the International Herald Tribune was an announcement that would surely have foodies everywhere hold their heads down in a moment of silence.

Milton Parker, the longtime owner of the famous Carnegie Deli renowned for its gargantuan pastrami, tongue and chopped liver sandwiches, has died. He was 90.

Parker, whose business card said Milton Parker CPM — for Corned Beef and Pastrami Maven — died Friday of respiratory problems, said his daughter, Marian Levine.

His family says nothing will change at the legendary Theater District deli where Woody Allen filmed scenes in "Broadway Danny Rose."

Parker's son-in-law, Sanford Levine, told the Daily News: "It's the food, the communal tables, the menu. That's not going to change."

Read the rest of the story...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Is What You See, What You Get? Chili's Grill.

Have you ever gone into one of those family style or chain restaurants where the menu is loaded with pictures of the food? You know the menus with pictures of giant burgers or steaks dripping with melting compound butter.

How about prepared food packages with the beautifully styled food on the box. Have you ever been disappointed or maybe surprised by the quality of the contents?

In this new section of The Last Bite we'll look at the art of food marketing. You will see the difference between what you were promised and what you actually receive.

Today we visited Chili's Grill & Bar, an international restaurant chain. Chili's loves to fill their menu with seductive shots of sexy food to entice you.

We ordered the JALAPEÑO SMOKEHOUSE BACON BIG MOUTH BURGER described in the menu as:

Extra thick-cut applewood smoked bacon topped with smoked cheddar cheese, crispy tortilla strips, jalapeños, mayo, shredded lettuce, tomato and onion. Served with jalapeño-ranch dressing.

And here is the accompanying photo:

How could you not want to get this beauty? Look at that thick sliced bacon, crispy tortilla strips, melty cheese, and perfect patty nestled atop perfect layers of produce and sliced pickled jalapenos. Notice how the seeded bun is perched perfectly to show off those lean strips of perfectly crisped bacon. This is truly a masterpiece of a burger. I'm sure glad I ordered it! But is this what I got?.....

OK so admittedly this burger is not as pretty as the photo in the menu, but no one expected it to be, did they? It is however pretty darned close. All the elements of the picture are represented in the real deal and with a bit more care I bet Chili's could actually get a few out a day that almost hit the mark. It be nice if the bacon wasn't trying to escape off the side of the burger. It would also be nice if the bacon was even half a crisp as the bacon in the picture appeared to be. You don't see any translucent fatty bacon on the top picture do you? Even though you don't see tomato in the real deal it was there, and the tortilla strips tasted like they had been in the kitchen for a month but in all fairness this is an likeness comparison and the strips in the menu picture could be made of Kevlar and fiberglass for all I know.

All in all I'm gonna have to give Chili's Grill a WYSIWYG Grade C. When it comes to the JALAPEÑO SMOKEHOUSE BACON BIG MOUTH BURGER What you see is almost what you get. And what you will get when you order this in undoubtedly full!

Do you have a WYSIWYG? Send us the information and we'll follow up, or send us your photos and we'll post them for other to see If What You See Is What You Get!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Review: Donya Marie’s Original Dark Chocolate BBQ Sauce

Hello Last Bite Foodies. Two of my favorite things in the food world are barbecue and chocolate, and not just any old chocolate, dark chocolate. In fact I don’t really consider milk chocolate to even be chocolate as there tends to be more sugar, milk, and fillers that actual chocolate in that particular variety.

One thing I never expected to see was the two of those elements combined. The mere thought of chocolate BBQ sauce seems utterly absurd at first, right? But then what about mole; made of spices, nuts, seeds and chocolate. While Donya’s BBQ sauce is not a mole, I put myself in that frame of mind when I approached this taste test.

Initial Impression: I have to admit it confounded my senses. The bottle was appealing with a simple off white label and two-tone gold lettering. The white label against the dark reddish brown sauce is well played. Uncomplicated and elegant, but what the label says to me; “Dark Chocolate Barbecue Sauce” leaves me unsure what to expect.

Ingredients: Tomato concentrate, vinegar, cocoa, corn syrup, canola oil, onion, garlic, salt, paprika, black pepper, prepared mustard, sugar, lemon juice, xanthan gum.

The ingredient list is really nice and clean. There are no preservatives or artificial anything. Yes I see the corn syrup and frankly I don’t get the whole stigma of corn syrup. When did corn become a poison anyways? Corn is a vegetable that we all eat so get over it!

Appearance: This is one rich, thick, and sexy sauce. It is reddish brown sauce and there are sparse but definite bits of spices floating around. The consistency of this barbecue sauce presents many applications. It was super thick and sticks to your meat, or whatever else you would use it on nicely. It also makes a great dipping sauce since it won’t drip off of whatever you’re dunking.

Aroma: I popped the cap and took in a snoot full of fumes. Mouthwatering, like drool down your chin, mouthwatering. Now that I cleaned myself up I can tell you that this sauce has some subtle layers of aroma. At first you get a sweet tropical fruit perfume; next the tomatoey fragrance fills your nostrils and makes your mouth water. The velvety cocoa aroma comes in for the finish and practically hypnotizes you.

Taste: Sweet and tangy, this could be a dessert sauce. Tasting it from the jar it has a definite tangy fruity flavor. There are some pieces of black pepper in it that come up next. The pepper is pronounced but not overpowering or out of balance. Next the vinegar tang comes out a bit and the rich cocoa flavor puts it out before it gets out of control. I can taste the chocolate in the finish, but it’s not at all what I expected.

The Food Test: Since we were having some nice weather I decided to fire up the grill and throw on some Tri-tip. I gave it a quick rub down with some Just Simply Good Stuff Original Rub. Tri-tip is tender enough to get away with grilling if you stick to medium rare at the most. The Donya Marie’s BBQ sauce was a perfect match for this lean cut. I would also like to try it on ribs and see how it pairs with richer meats.

Conclusion: Not knowing what to expect made this a great culinary experience. When most BBQ sauces taste the same, Donya Marie’s Dark Chocolate BBQ Sauce stands out from the crowd. It is extremely rich and thick and flows with layers of flavors and aroma. While the chocolate may be more pronounced on the label than it is in the sauce, it has to be that way to make it as delicious as it is. If you are a fan of BBQ you will be a fan of this sauce. Pair this meal with a nice zinfandel and finish with a flourless chocolate torte.