Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tour de Soup

So we decided since we weren't going to make the "Tour de Soup" in Idyllwild this weekend we thought it would be nice to venture out to the local 'soup spot' just a few miles from our Chino home. The place is called The Boiler–Steam Kettle Cooking. We discovered it about a year ago and knew it was a keeper. The name of the place is a bit confusing, not sure what to expect really at first. But don't let that stop you from a great experience.

Essentially, The Boiler is a Louisiana style restaurant serving cajun & creole style dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, bouillabaisse, cioppino and pan roast – all cooked in individual steam kettles. You actually see your dish steaming away at the bar area. They also serve yummy appetizers such as Soft Shell Crab, Shrimp Cocktail and Oysters.

I was not feeling quite up to par. A little tired from the week and a cold was coming on in the rainy weather. A nice bowl of steaming spicy hot goodness sounded like the perfect remedy.

G and I started out with the happy hour appetizer, a combo platter loaded with morsels of kobe beef sausage, deep fried spring rolls and bacon wrapped shrimp. This was all served with three kinds of dipping sauces. A roumalade, sweet and sour and mustard...all equally delicious. Next came our main dishes. I ordered the Pan Roast Crab and G ordered the Pan Roast House. Both of these dishes are a spicy tomato cream based creole sauce with trinity (onions, bell peppers and celery) and seafood served with jasmine rice. Mine obviously had crab and G's had shrimp, crab, lobster and clams. When you order, they ask what level of heat you like...1-10. I chose 5, spicy, but not unbearable. G chose 8 and he seemed very happy with his heat level.

Let me tell you, the Pan Roast is amazing! The creamy tomato base paired with the spicy is just wonderful. My dish had mounds of fresh crab meat throughout. G's had multiple seafood combinations in every bite. We recommend the Pan Roast (any one) as a must have!

Let me also mention that the food presentation is very impressive. The deep rich sauce and fresh seafood against a dramatically deep white bowl really shows off the food beautifully. The atmosphere has great vibe. It has low moody lighting, yet the large central bar makes it feel very open.

We highly recommend The Boiler – Steam Kettle Cooking in Chino Hills! Our next visit we will have to try the House Oysters, broiled with bacon, peanut butter and their special tomato sauce. Yum!

The Boiler Steam Kettle Cooking
4665 Chino Hills Parkway, Suite I
Chino Hills, CA 91709

Sunday, December 12, 2010


This morning we took our usual Sunday walk around town. While passing ARF we saw that the new bakery Honey Buns & Joe had finally opened. Already eaten breakfast an hour earlier, we decided to 'maybe' get a sticky bun to go after our walk. Fast forward about an hour, we couldn't resist the thought of a tasty treat. I stayed outside with Morgan and G went inside. He emerged with a piping hot sticky bun and homemade doggy biscuit for Mo. We jammed home to devour the sweet treat. Very, very good. Not so sickening sweet that you feel guilt two bites in. The dough texture was delightful and fluffy. The glaze, just enough. Mo ate his bone, we guess. I just found a few crumbs in his bed.

We are very excited about having freshly made baked goods on the hill! Yay for Honey Buns & Joe. We'll have to come in for some Joe next!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Just Idyll :|

So yes, our last blog post was in January. And yes, we seemed very 'gung ho' about doing this anonymous food critic thing. And yes, we were. We are foodies and we love food. We will always love food, no matter what.

We were totally excited about the possibility of linking our blog to the local online Idyllwild newspaper, the Town Crier. We sent in our request to be considered...and.....drumroll....uh, nothing. No really, nothing! Not a 'thanks for applying' or 'we regret to inform you'...NOTHING! Thanks Town Crier. Thanks for NOTHING!

But, whatever...this glitch really is not the reason why we've been slacking. Like the rest of the world, time and priorities just get the best of us. House projects, work and other miscellaneous events get in the way. Those annoying hours between 10pm and 5am for sleep really cut into our productivity. Go figure! And, on top of all these excuses, we quite frankly haven't had any more quality Idyllwild restaurant experiences since January.

Yes, we've gone to a handful more of restaurants in the area. And no, nothing horribly bad went wrong. But blahhh..nothing to write home, or at least blog about.

We've realized a few things in the past months. One, we are huge food snobs. Going to a fast food joint or the local chain restaurant doesn't interest us at all. Yeah, having an occassional Double Double from In-n-Out, a freshly made Gyro from Chino Burger or devouring a hot curry sensation from Marsala Bowl is delightful. But beyond that, we just assume make something at home. We are master cooks and we can whip a gourmet meal up faster than Rachael Ray can say "30 minute meals." We can make that dish in 20 minutes, Rach! (For those that are too young to know, that was a play on words from the old game show, Name That Tune). A perfect example just happened. G just made the finest of meals tonight. Beautifully flame-grilled ribeye steaks with sage butter and grilled potato, onion and pepper trio. Perfecto! But we digress.

Two, we realize if we want to continue with this blog we need to expand our horizons beyond Idyllwild. We find ourselves raving about that yummy sushi roll we had at our local Chino dive, Genki Sushi, or the always fabulous Sweet Potato Stack of heaven from our delicious local fav, Honolulu Harry's. Why not share the love! Yeah!

Oh and three, maybe we'll share some info, rants and views on other topics not related to food. Sometimes we feel we need a way to let out some personal views and life experiences without posting it all over Facebook. This blog seems like a safer place to do that. Why not!

So, from this day forward...welcome to Eating Idyllwild and beyond!

Now, go eat or something.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Catch the Aroma!

We started our weekend up on "the hill" on Friday night by participating in the inaugural Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema. We had the honor of viewing 'Legacy', a psychological thriller/murder mystery combo filmed right in Idyllwild. It was a joy to see so many people flooding into the Rustic Theatre. An excitement filled the air with the films producers, directors, actors and their family and friends. We kinda felt like those infamous White House party crashers because it seemed like everyone knew everyone and we were intruding on a private affair. But we didn't care. We were at a red carpet premier! We bought some wine and took our seats right near the front. A great night it was. We hope that the film festival becomes an annual experience for us and Idyllwild.

On Saturday morning we wanted to get some exercise and take a "little" hike at the Idyllwild Nature Center. We decided to take the 'perimeter' course and started on our adventure at about 10am. Being huge fans of outdoorsy shows like Man vs. Wild and Survivorman, we were prepared with our layered clothing, multi-tool (just in case) and a sufficient water supply. Imitating Bear Grylls along the way by pointing out wild animal tracks and possible edible plants and bugs that we could consume in case of emergency, we must have somehow gone off course. Or maybe the 'perimeter' course was designed for the heavy duty hiker and we just didn't know it. In any case, after an unexpected 3hr hike in the Idyllwild woods we were hungry, really hungry. We dropped the old pup dog off at the cabin for a much needed rest and we headed to Café Aroma.

It always takes some creative maneuvers when it comes to parking, but it's always worth it for Café Aroma. Actually, the further away you park, the better it is, because as soon as you exit your vehicle your nostrils are attacked with the sweet smell of roasted garlic. Mmmm, it awakens ones appetite for sure.

We walked up to the steep staircase and waited to be seated. Since it was a little bit cool but sunny day, so we decided to sit on the outdoor patio. It was busy, but not swamped. Our lanky server came to our table almost immediately. He handed us the menus and asked what we wanted to drink. G asked for a Sierra Nevada and I an iced tea with lemon. As we glanced over the menu we were treated to the sounds of the 'Puente' band. I guess they would be considered a quirky rhythm & blues band, interesting to watch and listen to.

Armed with our drinks and 'just outta the oven' fresh bread with garlic olive oil, our server asked the dreaded question, "What would you like?" Oh, decisions, decisions. I finally spoke up and went first. I decided on Kappy's Salmon BLT. G went for the Polenta Pie.

The Kappy came on a medium sized plate. The triangular artisan bread was artfully drizzled with aioli mayo, then topped with a petite salmon fillet which was lightly smoked. Field greens, roma tomato slices and two pieces of thick sliced smoked bacon finished off the pile of goodness. The ingredients were fresh and simple. A delightfully delicious sandwich. I do wish it was just a tad bit bigger or maybe a small side would have accompanied the sandwich.

The Polenta Pie came on a large deep dish. Surrounded by a pool of homemade tomato marinara, the polenta pie was filled with sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, bell peppers, artichoke hearts and garlic. An entire clove of roasted garlic accompanied the pie. Oh my goodness, It was fantastic. Super sweet roasted garlic heaven. This dish was hearty, but not dense. Tasty, rich and comforting. A keeper for sure!

In conclusion, Café Aroma is always a delightfully, welcoming and hip place to eat. We enjoy their interesting twists on familiar dishes and their fearless use of one of our favorite ingredients...garlic!

Café Aroma - Bistro • Gallery • Social Club
54750 North Circle
Idyllwild, CA 92549

Hours of Operation:
Sunday - Thursday 7am - 9pm
Friday & Saturday 7am - 10pm
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Beer & Wine, Wi-Fi, Live Music and Dog Friendly (on patio)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Popcorn Blues

I plopped down on the couch to watch some boob tube before shuffling off to bed. Not 30 seconds passed when I thought, "I'm hungry." What can I snack on? Should it be the half-eaten Christmas cookie tin? The yummy, rich truffle assortment from Trader Joe's? No, I want something crunchy. Rummaging through the kitchen cupboards like a ravenous wolf, not one kind of potato chip, tortilla chip, cracker or dry cereal could be found. Disappointed and nearly defeated, I reluctantly reached for the dreaded popcorn snack staring at me the whole time like the Geico googly-eyes. Was it even worth it? I really, really, really dislike popcorn. To me it always seemed a waste of a cute-sounding name for such a tasteless food product. And furthermore, how can its original kissing cousin, the cob-of-corn so sweet and succulent, be so extremely yummy and delicious!

I guess I was hungrier than I thought because I did ultimately reach for the popcorn snack. Grumbling all the way to the couch, I opened the Holiday 2-Pack of Moose Munch. I bought it for that just-in-case Christmas gift. But the just-in-case person never showed. One pack dark chocolate and the other milk chocolate. Hmmm... chocolate. That was a smart move on their part. My philosophy has and always will be, "Everything's better with chocolate and/or bacon!" I chose the dark chocolate one.

I ripped open the pouch and reached in. The first bit was a piece of just the caramel coated popcorn. Not bad. The piece was very fluffy, not stale and the caramel coating was pleasant and not sticky. I dug in again. Next was a dark chocolate coated cluster of about 3 popcorn pieces. I shoved it into my mouth. Mmmmm, this bite was quite good. Now I needed to inspect the 20 ounce bag and see what I needed to do to get the best bite possible. I spotted the nuts. To my delight not just one kind of nut was in the bag, but two. Almonds and cashews. And on top of that, they were jumbo sized and liberally coated with the caramel coating. Ok, the next bite will contain one of each component in the bag. So I dug for an almond, a cashew, a chocolate cluster and a caramel coated popcorn. I shoveled it in and started vigorously chewing.

Oh yeah! That's the combination man! Bravo to Harry and David for making the not-so-exciting popcorn sing in my mouth! Next year the Moose Munch will still make it into our Costco cart for that emergency Christmas gift. And we'll buy an extra one or two for us.

So, here I go. I'm sorry popcorn. Well, to an extent. I still don't like to be alone with you, but when you're in a group with chocolate, caramel and those crazy nut friends, you come alive and you're fun to be around!

Hey, Harry and David. Have you ever thought of selling your delightful popcorn Moose Munch snack at the movies? EI

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Wild Gift

I saw the salmon out on the counter when I got home from work, so I knew I was in for a treat.

As I finished up some computer work, I was summoned to the dinner table. There upon my plate was a lovely parchment wrapped gift! As I opened the slightly steaming pocket, the aromas wafted through the air. A gorgeous deep pink Wild Alaskan Coho Salmon fillet topped with steamed spinach and lemon. A side of savory but simple brown rice accompanied.

How he did it! He placed the salmon fillets skin side down in the center of a large piece of parchment paper. He slathered the salmon with the sesame ginger marinade and a clove of fresh garlic, minced. He then placed a mound of fresh spinach leaves and topped with slices of lemons from our own young lemon tree. A small pat of butter was placed on top to permeate the ingredients as it steamed and to create its own juices. He carefully lifted the sides of the parchment upward and folded down, then gingerly locked in the sides. Like a little gift. Then he placed in a 350º oven for 20-25 minutes. A creative and impressive presentation!

Tonight G made us a lovely, healthy dinner. I suspect the motivation for the light fare is because he has an appointment with the doctor tomorrow. EI

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Gnome

On a cold Tuesday night we decided not to cook. We agreed to venture into town and see what caught our eye. What do we want? Pizza? Chinese? Gyros? What? As soon as we parked we saw it. We walked passed it many a times on our weekend town walks with the dog, but never made the trek inside. Lovingly known as "The Gnome" to locals and Restaurant Gastrognome to everyone else we both agreed that this was our dinner place of choice.

We leaped arm in arm over the piled up snow on the curb and clunked up the covered wood plank walkway. If it were a nice summer night we could imagine dozens of people on the outdoor front patio. Many intimate sitting areas evoke much socializing, we presume. After admiring the exterior venue, we made our way inside.

What a cozy delightful place. We were immediately greeted by the Maitre d'. Since it was only turning 5pm we were given our choice of any table. Would it be the large dining room with the stone fireplace to the right or the smaller intimate room to the left? We chose the latter. We took the table directly in front of the retro pipe fireplace, a perfect table for two. Having a few moments to take in the atmosphere we couldn't help but notice the miniature door-like windows that lined one wall of the room. At any moment we thought a mythical gnome would scurry in with a freshly baked wild mushroom pie. Not sure where that came from, it just sounds good, doesn't it? The thought awakened our appetite.

Our petite server came just at the right time to introduce herself and take our drink order. A nice local Pinot Noir for the gentleman and a not-so-exciting Diet Coke for the lady. Two glasses of water and a hot basket of assorted bread with butter accompanied. The dark sort of peasant bread was especially delicious. By the time our drinks arrived the room became quite full with visitors and locals. Our server was busy but attentive to our needs.

Our eyes glazed over with the delicious possibilities on the menu. Would it be cioppino, grilled halibut, lamb, pork or any number of cuts of beef? They all sounded equally delightful. It was tough but we first agreed upon an appetizer of Calamari. Dredged in egg and seasoned breadcrumbs, then sauteed. It came not in the usual little ringlets one is used to, but a gigantic fillet. It was perfectly succulent and tender and served with this intensely concentrated tomato relish. It was served with a second condiment, but the tomato one was so fantastic, we now forget what it was.

On to our main course decisions.

Because it was such a bone-chilling night, we were not in the mood for a cold salad. But we have our eyes on the Caesar Salad for next time.

G decided on the Pepper Steak. A nice sized filet minion sauteed, then served with a brandy-peppercorn sauce. It was a gorgeous piece of meat and it melted in our mouths. The sauce glistened rich with brandy and whole peppercorns throughout. The sides were creamy garlic mashed potatoes and nicely steamed asparagus. The spears were on the large side, but they were surprisingly tender and flavorful.

R decided on the scallops and salmon wrapped in bacon. Mmmm bacon – We believe it's the best food on earth! The seafood nuggets blanketed in heaven came on skewers. A crispy, salty, smoky outside with a perfectly cooked scallop or salmon piece in the center. A fantastic combination. The portion was 3 scallops and 2 nuggets of salmon. It doesn't seem like a lot, but it was quite satisfying. The sides were a buttery rice pilaf with the same asparagus spears we mentioned above. Fantastic!

Well, to top off our delicious entrees and the holiday season, we decided to share a dessert. Again the options all sounded equally delightful but we settled on the slice of pecan pie with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and two rich cups of coffee with cream. The slightly warmed pie had a nice homemade flaky crust and the amount of pecans were bountiful in the not-too-sweet filling. A hearty ending to a perfect leisurely dinner.

Restaurant Gastrognome
54381 Ridgeview Drive
Idyllwild, CA 92549
959.659.5055 (view their online sample menu)

Hours of Operation:
Lunch: Monday-Saturday 11:30am-2:30pm
Dinner: Nightly from 5:00pm
Sunday Brunch: 11:00am-2:30pm
Fine Dining, Chef Specialties, Full Bar