Teriyaki Sauce Drought

Apparently the water drought in California pales in comparison to the teriyaki sauce drought being faced by Californians, specifically those dining at Mika’s. Generally speaking they have decent Japanese food, but I found the ratio of food to teriyaki sauce to be a little bit ridiculous.

I ordered the chicken teriyaki plate which consists of two boneless chicken thighs, a mound of rice, and some tempura.

Please keep in kind I am not one to pile on inordinate amounts of sauce on my food, but the paltry amount of sauce served standard with their chicken plate is cause for concern. I believe the measuring tool being deployed is a thimble?

I realize this is simply a way to control cost because some choose to be wasteful, but really, would it hurt to give me more than a teaspoon? For the record, the owner was more than happy to provide more upon request so there is no need to BYOT.

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The lost art of pan fried noodles

It may seem like a small matter to some, but perfect pan fried noodles are hard to come by these days. I’m not really sure why this is so difficult to execute. Even one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in town, Tsing Tao, can’t seem to pull them off. The name “fried” denotes crispy in my opinion. Why is it that most are either limp, like spaghetti, or fried to resemble packing foam?

I’m happy to report that I’ve found the great pan fried noodle equalizer and their name is Hon’s. I can’t speak to their entire menu (although everything I’ve had there has been good), but I can tell you that their pan fried noodles are great. Crispy on the top and chewy on the bottom. My friend Patrick has been taking me here for years and for that I’m indebted to him. After a long absence there I’ve been twice, once for the spicy chicken over pan fried noodles and another for BBQ pork over… you guessed it, pan fried noodles. Their location is below.

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<a href=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/56/610637/restaurant/West/Hons-Chinese-Food-Fresno”><img alt=”Hon's Chinese Food on Urbanspoon” src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/link/610637/biglink.gif&#8221; style=”border:none;padding:0px;width:200px;height:146px” /></a>

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2013 Fresno Food Expo

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretzky

Don’t worry folks. Fresno Bites didn’t turn into one of those weird inspirational blogs that steals quotes from popular people. The quote above was one of many that comes to mind (or in my case is found via Google) when walking through the exhibitors at the Fresno Food Expo.

A few weeks back I was invited to attend the Fresno Food Expo media event. Several exhibitors were present sampling their creations. What I appreciate about most of them, even if I didn’t like them, was the fact that they were taking their shot. They had an idea, reared back their figurative hockey stick, and fired off a shot. Some hitting the net and others landing in an unlucky fans beer.

Here are a few that I liked. Not in any particular order.

Top O’ The Morn Farms

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Ok wait a minute Fresno Bites. They didn’t actually invent anything. Yeah I get that. But you should just taste their milk. The chocolate milk contains nearly 5 times the amount of chocolate than their competitors and doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners like High Fructose Corn Syrup. Oh and they deliver their milk to your doorstep in glass bottles from an old milk truck. If you go to the expo be sure to ask them to pour you a neapolitan. It’s a blend of their strawberry and chocolate milk. It was incredible.

Balakian Farms

Pictured Swiped from Fresno Food Expo Facebook

Pictured Swiped from Fresno Food Expo Facebook

Hands down one of the best canned sauces I’ve tasted. Balakian farms has been around for many years but recently the 4th generation owner and manager started canning jars of organic tomato sauce. The variety I sampled (please forgive me but I forgot the name) tasted so fresh I imagined there was no way it was from a jar. That’s really saying something about the quality. Check out this nice video from Meza Films spotlighting Balakian Farms. It tells a much better story than I can.

Salsa Sayula

Picture Swiped from Fresno Food Expo Facebook

Picture Swiped from Fresno Food Expo Facebook

I didn’t think the world had a need for hot sauce made from peanuts. But apparently someone at Jalisco Foods did. This was actually a pleasant surprise. As my wife can attest, I don’t handle spicy foods very well. Even the spicier blend of Salsa Sayula wasn’t overly hot and had a very balanced flavor. The owner was very excited about the product and really he should be. It was a hit for me.

These were just a few of the vendors I felt stood out. There were many more that I didn’t even get to try. If YOU want to try them, go buy them locally. Or… check them out at the Fresno Food Expo. It’s happening this Thursday the 14th at 5:00pm. More details can be found on their site.

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Main Street Footers

It’s appropriate that this guest post from the self proclaimed “Big Dog Bites”, comes Super Bowl Sunday morning, when Turlocks own Colin Kaepernick plays in the big game. Here’s hoping it’s a winner.

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The Kaepernick Special in honor of Turlock native and SF gunslinger QB Colin Kaepernick.

Sitting in one of my favorite joints last week, chowing down on a great hot dog, I see a woman with a professional looking camera, taking pictures of her food. I realized what she was photographing and thought I’d better get on with my story as well. Because my job has taken me up and down the highways the past thirty-two years, I’ve been able to enjoy a lot of good food. Last Tuesday was no exception as I was sitting at Main Street Footers in Turlock, having lunch.

You may have seen the picture already of the “Kaepernick Special” posted in the Fresno Bee in Friday’s Super Bowl Edition, however let me share a few additional thoughts. In checking out their menu, you’ll find a nice selection of choices for dogs, along with other items I’ve been sampling for about 10 years. I read comments posted by others on Yelp and I can’t figure out how, on average, some feel $3.00 is a lot for a hot dog. If you want cheap (you know where I’m going with this) you should got to Costco, but you’ll only get the Big Box hotdog and get it one way. If your tastes are more selective, then take the 99 to Turlock and go right on Main St. downtown and experience a foot long dog on a fresh bun, in a few short minutes from the time you order.

Lisa Wilson is the owner and the rest of her crew will do their doggone best (yes I said it) to make you feel welcome.

Another favorite of mine in the opposite direction is the Hometown Emporium in Exeter. Wonderful sandwiches that are freshly made and come with a pickle and a cookie. You only need to order a half sandwich, because they are that large, however if your really hungry, go for it. They are a bakery as well and all of their cookies are really , really good.  I personally enjoy trying locally owned eateries and you should try both of these. Stay tuned, I’m on the road daily.

Big Dog Bites

Main Street Footers on Urbanspoon

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California Hotdogs

This one’s for you Fresno. I took one for the team again and ventured out to Old Town Clovis, home of the newly opened California Hotdogs. I really hadn’t heard much about them besides the Bee’s recent write up. I really had low high hopes that they were bringing something creative to the local hot dog scene, which is pretty much non-existent.

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I wish I could report something positive here but I just can’t. Despite the long list of creative hot dog combinations, and the fact that they’re serving all beef dogs, they simply don’t “make” anything here. I’ll give them a pass on not making their own hot dogs, but if you can’t make a simple potato salad or a signature chili, then just what the heck are you selling? Convenience I guess. But at $4.95 for a chili dog, I’ll just “assemble” it myself at home.

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I’m not saying that the food is poor quality but come on now. You don’t need a whole restaurant for this cuisine. Just buy a hotdog cart and save yourself about $2500+ a month in rent. This reminds me of the old hot dog place in Fig Garden, Haute Dave’s. They were supposed to be gourmet. Guess how many side dishes they made?  Zero. Guess where they are now? Closed.

I’m hoping that California Hotdogs will get a clue and put some more effort into this thing. Just imagine cranking out some awesome chili, house cut fries, and some grandma style macaroni salad. Not only would that justify the cost, it would probably make it a viable dining option for lunch or dinner. For now though I’ll be left to eat Nathan’s Hot Dogs at home topped with Hormel No-Bean chili.

Oh yeah- The actual food we ate was just okay. Despite the glorious looking bacon-macaroni and cheese dog, my wife said the mac tasted like it was made way earlier in the day. The tots were barely cooked. Remember the old cafeteria tots? Baked not fried. Same here.

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Fresno Pizza, Mad Duck, and Dusty Buns

Fresno Pizza

Fresno is in desperate need of a locally owned pizza place that does the following: has a wood-fired brick oven, makes their own dough that doesn’t taste like cardboard (Me-N-Eds), and uses fresh, simple ingredients. Actually I should rephrase that; Fresno needs one more besides Mattie’s Wood Fired Pizza. Now that they have a brick and mortar location downtown, someone is getting it right. Prior to them rolling in with their mobile pizza oven, no one in town was even coming close to having a decent wood fired pizza. Me-N-Eds (not wood-fired) has forever been a Fresno staple but it’s about time we face reality. It’s nothing more than a commercially made, half cardboard box and half raw dough pizza, that gives me cramps. You can choose to disagree if you like but I’m just over it. Fresno deserves better pizza.

The Mad Duck Neighborhood Grill & Taphouse

Many times I’ve walked directly passed the Mad Duck. Call me judgmental, but the smoker crowd on the patio was keeping me away, especially after having our first child. I figured it wasn’t really a place to take Toddler Bites but recently I just decided to forget all that. I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong. Once you get passed the hipsters smoking tobacco pipes on the patio, as if they’re paying homage to my Italian grandfather, the interior offers a handful of booths and high chairs. I guess shame on me.

In the last month, we’ve been twice. The service has been friendly and the food is serviceable. The beer selection on draft, while a little small, is well thought out and locally sourced. The bun they’re using for the burger is top notch. It’s chewy, sweet and stands up to juice and grease with no problem. I would like to see the patty fill in the bun a little more though. Overall it’s a good place to go for a game, a brew and a burger.

Dusty Buns Bistro

Nearly everyone in Fresno has heard of Dusty Buns. Sometimes I’ll get a blank stare but most people at least know of them. They’ve gotten tons of press from foodies, “bunners” (their loyalists), the local media and even Sacramento. Definitely they’ve earned it. They’re promoting organic food, the success of Fresno in general, and have been busting their buns (pun intended), all the while raising a family in a horrible economy. Kudos to them.

But…. I think it’s about time we realize the bun does have it’s limitations. It’s simply not suitable for every type of sandwich. A case in point is the burger I was served the other day. I actually ordered three. They all had the same texture; a gooey bun that’s a cross between an under-cooked buttermilk biscuit and a Logan’s dinner roll, soggy greens, and a beef patty that was cooked at such a low temperature on the flattop that it looked steamed like a dumpling. The whole thing was just a soggy mess. Perhaps a more dense and toasted bun, along with a bit more crunch from either the patty or the condiments, would fix the issue. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m 80 and all my teeth have fallen out, this is going to be a hit. But until then I’ll have to pass.

Perhaps my criticism is a bit harsh and maybe I’m not qualified to judge a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef, but after eating at Dusty Buns several times now, I just haven’t fallen in love like most. I want more from Dusty Buns than a few sandwich options, the same bistro fries (now 4 dollars?), and a soup de jour (which tasted like grass clippings). I want more from a bistro that’s received so much attention. I want an actual dinner plate with a fantastic side dish and an amazing sauce that makes me want to use the bun as a utensil to sop up every last drop.

The Mad Duck Neighborhood Grill and Taphouse on Urbanspoon

Dusty Buns Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Freebirds World Burrito

Freebirds World Burrito opened last week. I stopped by as a service to you all. As the name hints, they sell burritos. The comparisons to Chipotle are unavoidable here (even though Freebirds opened a few years before Chipotle), just like the Qdoba that occupied the location before it. Cattle drive service line. Check. Sneeze guard. Check. Cilantro Lime Rice. Check. Sour cream from a caulking gun? Oh wait that’s just Freebirds.

I took one for the team and ordered the Super Monster Burrito. This is comprised of not one, but two tortillas. It’s over 12 inches long, 4 inches thick, and checks in at about 1900 calories.

Freebirds gives you four tortilla options; Cayenne, Wheat, Spinach, and Flour. I went with Cayenne. In addition to the cilantro lime rice they also offer spanish, which I selected. It was decent.

Meats are comprised of steak, chicken and carnitas. I ordered the carnitas which was moist but way too salty. The steam was gray and the chicken looked pure white. I’m not sure what they actually do to the chicken but just by looking at it I’d give the edge to Chipotle on that.

Everything else on the burrito was just ok. The roasted salsa was fine, as were the pinto beans. This is just another place to grab lunch or a quick dinner that isn’t a fast food pink slime burger. Like Chipotle though, and my dad would agree with me, the food was barely warm. That’s really gross. Do yourself a favor and go to Don Pepe or your favorite local taqueria.

BTW- I didn’t finish this monster. Not hardly. It can easily feed three people and only cost about $13 bucks.

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