Best Thing I’ve Ever Had at Islands!

I ate something great when I met my husband for a rare weekend lunch out at Islands yesterday.

cheddarfriesThey boast, and truly do have, the #ColdestBeerInTown and they’ve got an amazing menu of burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, tacos, and some truly sinful appetizers.  If you can skip the fries covered in melted cheese and crispy bacon you have far more willpower than I do! #ThisGirlLovesToEat

I sat down at the bar, ordered an ice cold Kona Longboard from the tap,KO_LBL_Pour-with-Bottle_web_204X3771 and glanced at the menu, but was drawn to the bar top menu announcing their limited time specials: Moa Kaneohe Crisp Chicken Sandwich and it’s spicy brother  Moa Mauna Loa Crisp the difference between the two being the Moa Kaneohe has bacon, Swiss and a cream cheese ranch spread, while the Moa Mauna Loa has blue cheese crumbles, and Buffalo sauce on it.

What really appealed to me about these chicken sandwiches was that the chicken breasts weren’t just the usual breaded in flour, dropped in oil, & fried, chicken breasts.  These chicken breasts were battered in a lighter tempura batter and then double fried.  I love tempura!

I like blue cheese dressing occasionally, but not on my burgers, and not even with my Buffalo wings.  But a girl can always ask the waitress for some accommodations to her order, right?

So, I ordered the cheddar cheese fries with bacon #IHaveZeroWillPower and then ordered the Moa Kaneohe Crisp Chicken Sandwich with it’s crisp bacon, lettuce, tomato, chopped red onion, Swiss cheese, cream cheese ranch spread and substituted the spicy chicken breast used in the Moa Mauna Loa: battered in a spicy tempura batter and fried, then added to the sandwich without the blue cheese crumbles, but with an added drizzle of the Buffalo sauce.

islandssandwich

It came out and people around me asked what I was eating…it was pretty darn impressive. Trying to figure out how I was going to get my mouth around it, I cut it in half and found that the breast was incredibly tender and juicy. Not only was it impressive to look at, it was cooked perfectly, and it was the right combination of fresh, creamy & spicy!

The manager was serving tables and stopped to ask if I liked my sandwich.  I told him I was loving it and commented it should always be on the menu.  He said they actually fry the breasts twice, which is why the sandwiches stay on the menu for such a limited time, the cooks complain they have to spend more time on them.  Knowing that, I’m even more impressed that they can keep the breasts from overcooking.

I give #2BigThumbsUp to the Moa Kaneohe Crisp Chicken Sandwich and Moa Mauna Loa Crisp Chicken Sandwich at Islands Restaurant.  I’m not sure how much longer they will be on the menu, but if you get a chance go to Islands and try them!

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Great New Irvine Restaurant

konagrilllogoThe giant space that the Irvine Improv formerly occupied, next to the Yard House in the Irvine Spectrum, has been vacant for, what feels like, forever!  There has been a giant green construction fence with a poster proclaiming, “Coming Soon Kona Grill” and I have been dying for the new restaurant to open.  This week my wish was finally granted.

Described in the press as having a “global menu of contemporary American favorites, award-winning sushi, and specialty cocktails – all freshly prepared in a scratch kitchen,” this is a restaurant that sounds like it would be right up my alley.

Their lunch menu was HUGE:  A full sushi bar with a very big and diverse variety of rolls (unlike other local sushi restaurants, NOT ALL BASED ON TOP OF A CALIFORNIA ROLL!),  creative appetizers, the dish everyone who works here seems to like: Macadamia Nut Chicken, to Spicy Shrimp Tempura, BBQ Chicken Flatbread, burgers, sandwiches, pasta and even steaks.  They also have separate menus for Vegans, Vegetarians, Children, and those with Gluten intolerance.  Do be prepared when you get the check – it was pretty pricey for lunch.

The restaurant is very open with lots of TVs scattered about so you don’t miss the latest sporting events, 3 big fish tanks, a fully visible kitchen & sushi bar behind glass, fire places, a patio and very well designed bar. Both the General Manager and Manager stopped by our table to check in, chat about the Angel game that was on TV, and even talk about hockey as the GM’s Philadelphia Flyers and my Los Angeles Kings are both currently in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The wait staff was friendly, attentive and efficient and I will definitely be back.

cucumbermojitoDid I mention the cocktails yet? They have the traditional cocktail selections, martinis, mojitos, beer, wine, and Sake, but I was really impressed with their variety of specialty cocktails.  I went with a very refreshing (very tall) mojito made with cucumber, mint and Effen Vodka.  It SO hit the spot that I texted a picture of the drink to two girlfriends who joined me after my business lunch and we threw back a “few.” With happy hour from 3:00 – 7:00 and again from 7:00 – 10:00, this will definitely be a happening cocktail spot!

My only complaint about the restaurant was that, although I checked in for my reserved table and was seated by the hostess, they reported to OpenTable.com that I was a no-show for my reservation.  If that’s the only bad thing someone can say about a new restaurant, then I think they’ve got a great shot at making it!

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Time to Break Out the Fat Pants!

champagneWe are officially one week away from the start of “Holiday Season.”

Thanksgiving kicks off 5-6 weeks of excess in all things food and drink related:  Happy Hours, Office Parties, Open Houses, Secular Celebrations, End of Year and New Year’s Day blowouts that inevitably result in most people’s pants feeling a bit too snug.

I wouldn’t want to keep anyone, least of all myself, from indulging to the limits of their pants (and beyond), so it’s officially also the kickoff for all of the recipes for the rich, gooey, fattening, but oh so yummy foods I’ll be serving at celebrations from now through the end of the year.

Since Thanksgiving is the first holiday where I’ll be hosting a crowd, I’ll start with the side dish I prepare instead of the candied yams of my youth.

oldschoolcandiedyamsYou know the ones  am talking about:  A can or two of yam chunks mixed with an orange juice, brown sugar type concoction, chunks of butter, chopped pecans, and piled high with mini-marshmallows then baked until they are bubbly and the marshmallows are a delightful shade of brown.

I’m certainly not knocking this old school family treat, but I like the opportunity the availability of fresh ingredients gives me to keep the flavor while cutting some of the fat and calories.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Gingersnap Streusel

  • 6 Large Sweet Potatoes (or Yams)
  • 1/2 Cup Firmly Packed Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Butter (Melted)
  • 1/2 Cup Half & Half or Heavy Cream
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 to 2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice (to taste)

Streusel

  • 2 TBLS All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Cold Butter, Cut into Pieces
  • 32 Coarsely Crushed Gingersnap Cookies (Not too fine)
  • Additional 1/4 Cup Butter (Melted)

sweet-potatoes-oh-1677905-lPeel sweet potatoes, cut into slices and cook in boiling water to cover over medium heat 25 – 30 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and put into large bowl then mash (leave some chunks).

Combine mashed sweet potato, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and next 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer. Spoon into a greased 2 1/2-quart or 13″ x 9″ baking dish.

To make the streusel:  Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and flour. Cut in 1/4 cup cold butter with a pastry blender (or two forks at opposite directions) until crumbly. Stir in crushed gingersnaps. Sprinkle streusel over sweet potatoes. Drizzle the additional ¼ cup butter over the top of the streusel. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25 – 30 minutes or until streusel is lightly browned.

Make Ahead: Prepare sweet potato filling, and spoon into a greased 2 1/2-quart microwave-safe dish. Cover and chill overnight. Microwave on HIGH 10 minutes or until hot. Prepare streusel, and sprinkle over filling. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20 minutes or until streusel is lightly browned.

My family  become such big fans of this recipe that I get asked, even on non-holidays, to bring it to dinner.  🙂   Tomorrow, Let’s talk turkey!

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to:  recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. If so, visit my This Girl Loves To Eat community at:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Sick and Tired of Skimpy Subway Sandwiches

When the Subway near my house opened I was ecstatic.

Finally there would be a healthier option than I’ve had in a pinch:  Del Taco, Carl’s Jr & Wendy’s.

I’m sorry to say now, I wish it would close.

I went this evening, giving this location its umpteenth chance to impress me but I was disappointed once again.

subwaymenuIn front of the oblivious crew member who finally saw fit to help me (the only customer in the store at 6:15 PM on a Sunday), I snapped a photo on my phone of the item on their menu I intended to order two of: the foot long tuna sandwich. The photo on the menu shows a sandwich overflowing with fresh vegetables and mounds of tuna.

As you an probably guess, my sandwiches came nowhere near resembling the ones shown on the menu board.

The team member helping me asked me for my bread selection first.  Despite the menu showing quite a few options I only saw a few each of the white, wheat and cheddar jalapeno rolls.  I was under the impression that all of their options were available every day.  Strike 1!

Having settled on the cheddar jalapeno rolls, I then ordered the two tuna sandwiches one with Swiss and the other with Provolone cheese.  Over the years I have seen the amount of tuna go from 6 overflowing scoops to 5 and tonight he put 4 full only to level, scoops of tuna and thinly spread it across most of one side of the roll.  Once he put the 4 1/2 slices of cheese (that looked more like 1/3 cuts) on you couldn’t see any evidence of tuna at all.

tuna2I told him that the first sandwich should only have mayonnaise, pickles, olives and pepperoncinis on it.  He haphazardly threw a few of each item on the bread and, again, I blatantly snapped a photo of the sandwich he had made.  This is what my husband’s looked like just before he folded it closed, cut it in half and wrapped it.

Not only had he forgotten the mayonnaise, but he didn’t even distribute the pittance of the ingredients he did add evenly across the sandwich.  Strike 2!

tuna1aThe second sandwich should have come out looking a little less anemic, considering I was putting many more ingredients on mine.  Once again this guy, and this location proved me wrong!  He asked what I wanted on mine and I indicated (as he was filling the sandwich) that I wanted cucumber, spinach, bell pepper, pickles, pepperoncinis and salt & pepper.  He missed the cucumber completely (despite me reminding him twice). He took a very small grab of spinach leaves TORE THEM IN HALF and scattered them on the bread, put 4 skinny slices of bell pepper, counted out 6 pickle slices and then a few pepperoncini SQUISHED the sandwich closed angrily, wrapped it and sliced it in half.  The minimum wage earning sandwich “artist” took no pride in what he was doing and quite frankly seemed like I was bothering him by asking him to make and sell me two sandwiches.  Excuse me for asking you to do your job!  Strike3!

tuna1The sandwich shown on the left comes nowhere near looking like the sandwich shown on the menu board.  As such, I cannot imagine that anything Subway has factored into their calorie and nutrition counts for the sandwich (other than the slightly stale bread) comes close to what the real nutrition value is for a Tuna sandwich made at this Subway.

Suffice it to say tonight was the last time I will waste my money in this local business.

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood