Nov 2006

Souplantation – San Diego (La Mesa)

October 31, 2006
Cuisine: American

9158 Fletcher Pkwy.
La Mesa, CA 91942

Phone: 619-462-4232
Website: http://www.sweettomatoes.com/

Tossed Salads: Caesar Salad Asiago (Non-Vegetarian), Green Chili Ranch Salad with Cornbread Bites, Won Ton Chicken Happiness

Prepared Salads: German Potato (Low-fat, Vegetarian), Joan’s Broccoli Madness (Non-Vegetarian), Poppyseed Coleslaw (Vegetarian), Tuna Tarragon, Wild Rice & Chicken

Soups: Big Chunk Chicken Noodle (Low-fat), Deep Kettle House Chili (Low-fat), Vegetable Medley (Low-fat, Vegetarian), Yankee Clipper Clam Chowder w/ Bacon

Pastas: Garden Vegetable w/ Meatballs, Macaroni & Cheese (Vegetarian)

Muffins: Apple Cinnamon Bran Muffin (96% Fat-free), Buttermilk Biscuits, Buttermilk Cornbread (Low-fat), Chocolate Brownie Muffin, Garlic Asiago Focaccia, Quattro Formaggio Focaccia, Strawberry Buttermilk Muffin

Desserts: Chocolate Pudding (Low-fat), Raspberry Apple Cobbler, Tapioca Pudding (Low-fat), Seasonal Fresh Fruit, Vanilla Soft Serve, Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Souplantation is an all-you-can eat buffet featuring a huge salad bar, soup bar, pasta bar, dessert station and breads station. It’s one of my all-time favorite restaurants in San Diego because it’s healthy, fun, and very tasty. I’ve been going here since I was a kid and will continue to return as often as possible when I visit.

During this visit to Souplantation, I was accompanied by mother and cousin Phil. Both of them are just as enthusiastic about the place as I am. Okay, maybe a little less.

I started off my meal (as always) with two salads: one plate full of Won Ton Chicken Happiness and another filled with hodgepodge salad items. My hodgepodge plate included raw spinach, Caesar Salad Asiago, Green Chili Ranch Salad with Cornbread Bites, and extra croutons. Cornbread Bites rock!

My second course was the Big Chunk Chicken Noodle. I added in some fresh green onions intended for the Deep Kettle House Chili. The best part of the soup were the noodles; unusually thick, but awesomely delicious.

My third course was a plethora of breads including a blueberry muffin with maple whipped butter (extra honey) and Quattro Formaggio Focaccia. The Focaccia was excellent. I’ve seen it for years at the breads station, but never tried it until this visit. The bread was crisp in all the right places and the cheese was wonderfully melted. I will definitely eat it on future visits.

I finished off my meal with the Raspberry Apple Cobbler. The topping was delectable and the filling was piping hot. Next time I will have it with some soft-serve!

Oct 2006

Old-Fashioned Potato Gratin

  • 4 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Comte cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Put the potato slices in a bowl of water to cover so they don’t discolor while you prepare the dish. Firmly rub the garlic clove all over the bottom and sides of a 10-inch gratin dish to coat the interior with its juices. Allow to dry for a few minutes, and then rub the bottom with the butter.

Arrange a layer of potatoes, drained and patted dry, in a slightly overlapping fashion in the bottom of the gratin dish. Season with a good dash of salt and pepper and a little of the two cheeses. Continue layering the potatoes and cheese in this fashion, seasoning each layer and finishing with the cheese (you should have at least three layers). Drizzle the cream along the sides of the dish, so as not to displace the cheese.

Place the gratin dish, uncovered, on the top oven rack and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the cream has been absorbed and the top is crispy and golden. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6.

Recipe from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

Substitutions: White cheddar was used in place of the Comte.

Oct 2006

Jim 'N Nick's – Birmingham

October 21, 2006
Cuisine: Southern, BBQ

1912 11th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL

Phone: 205-320-1060
Website: http://www.jimnnicks.com

Appetizer: Homemade Cheese Biscuits (half dozen)

Entree I: Pulled Bar-B-Q Pork Sandwich- Served on an Old Fashioned bun, Bar-B-Q sauce, pickles, one trimming (macaroni and cheese)

Entree II: Pulled Pork Bar-B-Q Kitchen Plate – Served with homemade cheese biscuits, two trimmings (Fresh Cut Fries and Cinnamon Apples), Bar-B-Q sauce and pickles

Gastronomer: Jim ‘N Nick’s is my favorite BBQ joint in Birmingham. The last time I visited, the Astronomer and I ate at Jim ‘N Nick’s twice in two days! Sadly, we were only able to dine at Jim ‘N Nick’s once during this visit due to time constraints.

Astronomer: Jim ‘N’ Nick’s is probably the one restaurant in Birmingham that I visit every single time I go home. My BBQ cravings are seldom satisfied in the northeast, and nobody in Alabama can match Jim ‘N’Nick’s for the total BBQ experience. My friends and I love it so much, a bunch of them got jobs there.

Appetizer:
Gastronomer: We started off our meal with a half dozen cheese biscuits. I’m not sure how they got their name since they are most definitely muffins, but when something is SO tasty it doesn’t really matter. It’s hard to describe exactly why these biscuits are so delicious. They’re warm, crisp around the edges, moist within, sweet, and slightly cheesy. These little gems are heavenly.

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Astronomer: I was considering skipping the usual extra order of cheese biscuits in order to save room for the rest of the meal, but the Gastronomer helped me see my foolishness, so we went for it. Thank goodness. The cheese biscuits were amazing as always–the perfect concoction of soft, slightly sweet, somewhat cheesy deliciousness. Two more cheese biscuits came with my main course, bringing me to a total of 5 on the day. Mmmm…

Entree I:
Gastronomer: For my entree I ordered the pulled pork sandwich with a side of mac and cheese. I also requested some extra BBQ sauce since I’m a saucy girl. The sandwich came with a heaping portion of pulled pork, a bit of sauce, and two pickles. The meat was perfectly moist and flavorful and the sauce was sweet and tangy. The pickles added a great contrast. The mac and cheese was mushy in that southern kind of way, creamy and delicious. Until my next visit, I’ll be dreaming about pulled pork and cheese biscuits.

Entree II:
Astronomer: For my entree I ordered my staple, the pulled pork platter with fries and cinnamon apples. The Gastronomer scoffed at my choice of sides, but I finished the meal delightfully satisfied. Whether or not they are a true southern classic, I maintain that Jim ‘N’ Nick’s fries go extremely well with barbecue. Like most of the BBQ places in Alabama, Jim ‘N’ Nicks has a unique sauce that really sets them apart. I have no idea how to describe its subtleties, but it’s awesome. The cinnamon apples are always a nice closing to the meal once I have stuffed myself on meat. As often happens on this sort of outing, neither of us had any room for dessert.

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