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Namaste’

 

IMG_4921Himalayan Cuisine

Nepalese, Indian & Tibetan Restaurant

 “Namaste.” A greeting given to you as you walk through the front door of the restaurant Himalayan Cuisine in La Mesa, meaning, “I bow to the divine in you.” Since opening in 2007 by husband and wife team Khem and Hema Kharel it has become one of the most popular ethnic restaurants in La Mesa, and even San Diego.

My introduction to the Himalayan Cuisine restaurant was a couple of weeks ago at the “Taste of La Mesa.” This event is one of the many neighborhood events around San Diego that bring together restaurants to showcase their food and allow the people of the community to experience what is available to them in their own neighborhood.

The Himalayan restaurant table at the event was impressive. Although he was placed in the very back corner of the room, he had the longest line. People were raving. After waiting about 15 minutes myself I understood why. The flavors were amazing. As I reached the front of the line Khem was explaining the differences between Nepalese, Indian, Tibetan cuisines, and how the main difference between them all was that Nepalese cuisine was healthier and lighter, using less fat, cream, and butter, incorporating more herbs and spices that not only flavored the dishes but also promoted good health. It was at that point I felt I needed to, and wanted to encourage as many people as I could to go to Himalayan Cuisine and experience what I had briefly.

I thought this was a good opportunity to take my wife, as always, and two young kids to experience a different culture through food. Especially my children, as I always want them to be adventurous and open to new and different things.

A familiar face greeted us at our table, it was Khem. He smiled from ear to ear and welcomed us to his restaurant. His enthusiasm was palpable, gracious, knowledgeable and helpful with recommendations from the extensive menu.

Complimentary Himalayan Daal Soup, presented to each guest as a precursor to the meal is a traditional lentil based soup seasoned with garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, coriander, Nepalese black salt and parsley. Well rounded subtle flavors combine to create this wonderful beginning to what was to come.

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No. 14 on the menu: Kukhura Ko Momo. Made to order, these steamed dumplings are filled with minced chicken, onions, cilantro and spices. Moist and flavorful, the chicken is encased in a thin, chewy casing that bursts as you take the first bite, the juice and spices sealed inside the dumpling coat your tongue leaving you wanting more. Served with Momo Sauce; an earthy roasted tomato sauce seasoned with garlic, ginger, coriander, and turmeric. These dumplings, although taking about 20 minutes to prepare, are worth the wait.

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No. 26 on the menu: Tama Ra Bodi. This is a typical Nepalese curry (Tarkari), lighter than the Indian version, so do not expect any coconut milk in this dish. The vegetables were cooked in and coated with a generous amount traditional Nepalese curry spices and served with fragrant, floral Basmati rice. The curry spices in this dish were so pronounced that the lack of coconut milk was not missed.

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No. 60 on the menu: Mixed Tandoori. Chicken, lamb, and shrimp marinated according to ancient tradition in garam masala, garlic, ginger, cumin, cayenne pepper, and turmeric cooked in a Tandoor oven; a cylindrical live-fire clay oven that can reach temperatures of up to 900 degrees Ferinheight. This dish has a bit of everything. Colorful and flavorful. You will enjoy this or any of the other seven choices of Tandoori items on the menu.

The most impressive item on our table, Mixed Pickle. Spicy, pungent, salty, fragrant, and grainy. A combination of mango, carrot, bell peppers, vinegar and spices. I’ve never been sucker punched but this is what I imagine it would be like. It is so strong that you only need a little at a time. I liked it best spooned onto a piece naan, a traditional flatbread. The naan mellowed some of the stronger flavors of the pickle but did not take anything away from the delicious flavor. I asked for seconds.

It is my duty as a writer to get people out of their comfort zone and try new and exciting food and restaurants that they may not have thought of before. I know you will be amazed and stunned at what you have been missing and gain the confidence within yourself to venture out and experience new things. I encourage you to expand your exposure to ethnic restaurants to learn about other cultures and the unique flavors and contributions they make to the culinary world.

Located at 7918 El Cajon Blvd. in La Mesa. The prices range from $4.75-$19.95. Open for lunch and dinner. If you want to visit them online: www.himilayancuisineone.com.

Taco’s Baja Jr.

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When I created The Fork Lifter, blinders on, I was only thinking about Sothern California. How could I even think about overlooking one of the greatest influences of our region since before the white man even arrived in California? Baja California. Yeah, Mexico. The media has done a really good job of creating a sort of paranoia we should all associate with danger, drug cartels, corrupt police and possibly being locked up in a dirty Tijuana jail with a dirt floor and a bucket in the corner to relieve yourself in, of course with the hopes of never, ever getting out. Come on, man. Really? If you’ve ever traveled anywhere in the world or even anywhere in the United States, apply the same common sense when you travel to Mexico. Don’t be the dumb, obnoxious American and you’ll be just fine. Put some adventure in your life, cross the border and discover a culture that has greatly influenced more than just the food we eat.

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Friends of ours told us about a place between Rosarito and Popotla, that by far had the best fish tacos around. The place, Tacos Baja Jr.; a few minutes south of downtown Rosarito. We have enjoyed eating there ever since our first trip 11 years ago.

Last weekend my wife and I decided to take the boys down there for lunch. We pulled up to the colorful, small restaurant located just off of the main road, across from several tile, ceramic, and wooden furniture shops.

Husband and wife, Andres Christoval and Rosa Martinez are the owners of Tacos Baja Jr., started out of a humble food truck in 1995.   After several years of building a loyal customer base, Andres realized that the food truck was no longer able to handle the amount of business they were doing and decided to set up shop in their current location. A bigger space, lots of room for people to sit, inside and out with a traditional Mexican style patio and cocktail area with lush plants and a beautiful fountain, along with the proverbial larger than life, wall mounted shark, swordfish and dorado watching the diners from above. A true success story considering Andres did not have any restaurant experience prior to starting his food truck in 1995.

We make the 1 hour trip from San Diego to Tacos Baja Jr. several times a year just to have lunch. To say the food is good is an understatement.

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We have our favorites, and this time our boys; Jonas and Jude got to make their own fish tacos. Quite an experience for them, one I hope they will remember.

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Caldo De Mariscos, loaded with swordfish, squid, shrimp, and octopus, swimming in a hearty seafood consommé. When I asked Andres how he makes the base for this soup he politely stated, “There’s a lot of different stuff in there.” I think if he told me then it would be like giving away one of his secrets. As a fellow cook I understood.

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The Taco California with shrimp, octopus and grilled onions, a new item just added to the menu did not disappoint. The crisp sweetness of the shrimp, the chew of the tender octopus, and the char of the grilled onions are a great, an unexpected combination of flavors. Delicious and a great addition to the menu.

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Of course we always have to have a few of our favorite Tacos De Pescado. Fried to a crispy golden color the fish is fresh and light, dressed with shredded cabbage and tomatoes, served in freshly made corn or flour tortillas.

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We love Tacos Baja Jr. and always look forward to making the trip south of the border, Andres and Rosa make us feel right at home.  Located at Blvd. Popotla No. 639 km. 28.8 pasando el 7/11 Nxt: 125*1032*973  Cel: (661)112-8346.

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Heading back to San Diego we always make a stop at my son’s favorite piñata shop, located in the heart of Rosarito. An open shop situated on a corner, it is loaded with hundreds of colorful piñatas hanging from the ceiling as well as selling many dried fruits, nuts, spices, candies, fresh cheeses and dried meats. Spend a little money and get a piñata, buy some Mexican candy, dried chilies, machaca (dried, shredded beef), cotija cheese or whatever you think looks interesting. My motto is, “You always have to try something at least once.” So be adventurous.

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One last indulgence before crossing back into San Diego…”Diabolitos.” Mango Sorbet with Chile and Chamoy; sweet, spicy, salty, fruity, and creamy. It will literally blow your mind when you take the first bite. It’s almost confusing on how and why it is so good. Only one of the many things sold by street vendors to those waiting in their cars heading back through customs.

Expand your horizons, have an adventure, indulge your senses and take a trip south of the border. You will be amazed at what you will find and experience.

Braised Pork Shoulder with Rosemary White Bean Puree’

 

pork shoulder

3 ½ pounds – Pork Shoulder (boneless)

1 teaspoon – Kosher Salt

1 teaspoon – Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

½ cup – All Purpose Flour

½ cup – Olive Oil

2 cups – Chicken Stock

1 – Yellow Onion, diced

2 – Carrots, peeled and diced

4 – Stalks of Celery, diced

1 – 14 ounce can, Diced Tomatoes (San Marzano)

½ bottle – Chianti

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Season the pork liberally with salt and pepper, then dust with flour shaking off the excess. In a large heavy bottom stockpot, heat the ½ cup of olive oil until it shimmers (if you keep your eyes on the oil you will see what I mean). Add the meat and cook on each side until browned deeply, and long enough to develop a crust. Total browning time will be about 15 minutes.

Once the meat has browned remove from the pot and set aside. In the same pot add the wine and allow to cook for several minutes to allow the alcohol to cook off of the wine. Add the onions, carrots, celery, diced tomatoes, and chicken stock. Place the meat back into the same pot, cover with aluminum foil and set it on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Roast for 3 hours or until the meat is easy to pull apart.

Rosemary Scented White Beans

1 pound – Dried Navy Beans

1 – White Onion, diced

1 – Russet Potato, peeled and diced

2 stalks – Celery, diced

1 – 14 ounce can, Diced Tomatoes (San Marzano)

2 tablespoons – Rosemary, minced

¼ cup – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

¼ cup – Italian Parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons – Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

¼ cup – Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Rinse the beans thoroughly. Soak them overnight in a bowl covered in 3 inches of water.

Transfer the beans and soaking water to a large pot. Add the onion, potato, and celery. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook over medium heat until the beans are tender.

When the beans are tender add the tomatoes and rosemary, cook for another 10 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a bowl, top with chopped parsley, sprinkle with a little olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Risotto al Barolo

barolo risotto

½ Bottle – Barolo Wine

1 quart – Vegetable Stock

2 – Shallots, minced

¼ cup – Olive Oil

1 pound – Arborio Rice

4 tablespoons – Unsalted Butter

½ cup – Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, Grated

In a medium sized stock pot add the Barolo wine and bring to a boil to cook off the alcohol in the wine, reduce liquid by continuing to simmer for about 10 minutes, you should be left with roughly 8 ounces of wine when you are finished with the reduction. Add 1 quart of vegetable stock to the wine and heat until the stock begins to simmer, then turn off heat and let sit as you will be using this stock to cook your risotto.

In a large stock pot, on medium heat, add ¼ cup olive oil. Heat oil until it shimmers (if you keep your eyes on the oil you will see what I mean). At this point add in the shallots, stirring continuously using a wooden spoon and cook until translucent, 4-5 minutes.

Increase heat to medium high and add the rice, stirring quickly to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan and to lightly toast it. After you begin to hear little snaps and pops, which is the grains of rice toasting, with a ladle add 1 cup of the reserved Barolo and vegetable stock, stirring vigorously.

Lower the heat to medium and begin adding the stock ¼ cup at a time, stirring continuously, this is very important as you do not want the rice sticking to the bottom of the pot. The rice should always look creamy and a little watery. Continue adding the stock until the rice is cooked, the entire process should take about 30 minutes.

When the rice is cooked remove it from the heat. Continue stirring and add 4 tablespoons of butter and ½ cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Stir vigorously to make as creamy as possible. FINITO!

Puttanesca Sauce

puttanesca

2 tablespoons – Garlic, minced

¼ cup – Cured Olives, chopped

¼ cup – Capers

¼ cup – Anchovies, chopped

1 – 14 ounce can, Diced Tomatoes (San Marzano)

On medium heat add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic, anchovies, olives and capers. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often as to not burn the garlic. After 5 minutes, add the dices tomatoes. Stir to combine all ingredients, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes, remove from the heat and toss with linguini, spaghetti, or spaghettini pasta.

Pesto Cream

pesto shells

1 cup – Fresh Basil Leaves

½ cup – Grated Parmesan Cheese

½ cup – Pine Nuts

½ cup – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a food processor, combine basil leaves, parmesan cheese and pine nuts, pulse until all ingredients come together. Slowly add the olive oil with the food processor on low, stop when you have reached your desired consistency or you have poured in all of the olive oil.

In a heavy bottom sauce pan, combine 1 cup of pesto and 2 cups of whipping cream over medium heat. Allow cream to simmer on low for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and toss with a pasta that is designed to hold on to sauce, such as medium or small shells, and orecchiette. This will ensure you a creamy bite every time.

Fennel Cured Salmon with Lemon Mascarpone

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1 each – Salmon Fillet (roughly 3 ½ – 4 lbs.)

2 cups – Kosher Salt

1 cup – Sugar

¼ cup – Fennel Seeds

2 tablespoons – White Wine

Directions:

In a large bowl mix the salt, sugar and fennel seeds together thoroughly. Add the wine and mix together, consistency should be that of wet sand.

On a large piece of aluminum foil, sprinkle an even layer of the salt mixture, about ½ cup, and lay the salmon fillet down over the salt. With the remaining salt liberally coat the top of the salmon fillet then wrap completely in 2 layers of aluminum foil.

Place the wrapped Salmon fillet on a baking sheet. Place another baking sheet directly on top of the salmon fillet and weigh it down with a few bricks or several items of canned goods. The idea is that there is enough pressure to compress the salmon fillet, pushing out some of the moisture and allowing the salt, sugar and fennel to act as a curing agent and infusing it with flavor. Allow the salmon to sit in the refrigerator untouched for 48 hours.

After 48 hours has past, remove the salmon from the refrigerator. Unwrap the fillet and gently rinse it under cool water, removing the salt mixture. On a cutting board, pat both sides dry with a paper towel. Your Fennel Cured Salmon is ready to slice. With a sharp knife, preferably a meat slicer, at an angle slice 1/8 inch thick slices.

Because this salmon has been cured it has a longer shelf life than raw salmon, keep it wrapped in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

For the Lemon Mascarpone:

1 – 8 ounce container of Mascarpone Cheese

½ cup – Whipping Cream

½ – Lemon, juice only

2 tablespoons – Lemon Zest, minced

½ teaspoon – Kosher Salt

1 teaspoon – Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

 

Combine mascarpone cheese, lemon juice and lemon zest in a mixer and whip until all ingredients have been incorporated. Slowly add the whipping cream and whip together until light and fluffy, add the salt and pepper and continue to mix until evenly distributed.

Remove from the mixer and place in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Will keep for up to 3 days.

Italian Food and Wine Pairing Dinner in Carlsbad, California

andrew smelling

CELEBRATE ITALIAN FOOD AND WINE

At my house on 24 January

at 16:00 (4-10 p.m.)

8055 Sitio Andalucia in Carlsbad CA 92009

Food prepared by Jason Holmes

Celebrity Chef of FOXNews 5 (see him on UTube)

Featuring a cooking class by Jason and wine pairing tips by Andrew

Learn step by step how to make 4 authentic pasta sauces!

How to match it with the perfect Italian wine?

Featured wines from Italy include:

Soave Classico Monte Tondo DOCG, Veneto 2011

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Corte alla Flora, DOCG 2010

Taurasi DOCG, 2008 Terredora Dipaolo

Cost for cooking lesson, 3 course meal & unlimited wine: $ 45.00

me plating puttanesca

Menu

1st Course

Crostini: Fennel Cured Salmon with Lemon Mascarpone, Chicken Liver Pate’ & Thyme,

and Egg, Asparagus, Red Onion

Wine: Soave Classico, Monte Tondo DOC 2010 / Soave Classico, Inama Vin Soave DOC 2013

2nd Course

Creamy Pesto Shells and Linguine al Puttanesca

3rd Course

Braised Pork Shoulder with Rosemary Scented White Bean Puree

Wine: Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Incanto DOCG 2010

Vino Nobile Montepulciano, Corte Alla Flora DOCG 2010

Chianti Classico Riserva, Incanto DOCG 2011

4th Course

Risotto al Barolo

Wine: Barolo, Rosa dell Olmo DOCG 2014 / Barolo Riserva, Barreri & Rovati DOCG 2004

A Diamond in the Rough; Rialto’s Last Citrus Grove

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In my journey to find Southern California’s gems I stumbled across Adams Acres, the last orange grove in Rialto, California. It’s about two hours north of San Diego between Fontana and San Bernadino. It’s an unassuming place, back from the street, surrounded by small and large fruit trees, with a painted wooden sign advertising “Adams Acres”.

John Adams, a botanist who has a PhD in soil science, is the 3rd generation to care for these century old trees. His grandparents bought the property in 1899 and planted the first orange trees in 1907, many of which are still producing an abundance of fruit today.

I called John to learn more about his orange grove and possibly arrange a tour. We spoke for almost an hour, him telling me about the rich history of the grove and what he has been up to for the past few years, planting exotic trees and farming vegetables, different processes he was using to maximize his crops, and experimenting with new fruit trees and planting vegetables at different times during the season to maximize variety. At the end of our wonderful and informative conversation he invited me up for a tour.

Adams Acres is located in the middle of a residential area so keep your eyes peeled; I missed it twice. I was met at the top of the driveway by John with a warm smile and handshake, him stating, “You finally found it.” I think he knew I had gotten lost. We exchanged a little laugh and then began the tour of the orange grove and vegetable farm.

We started on the front side of the grove by the street. We walked slowly through the trees, John telling me about all of the different exotic fruit trees he had planted in the last few years as well as the original orange trees in the grove. One of the most exotic trees on the property is the tecojote tree. The fruit from the tecojote tree is used in a punch mixed with tequila for a warm drink during the winter months in Mexico.

As we made our way to the back side of the grove, we’d stop, him giving a brief description about the types of trees and characteristics of the fruit he was growing. At one point he said, “I bet you can’t guess what kind of tree that is.” A tree with small, round, yellow fruit in bunches and not many leaves. I hadn’t a clue. He encouraged me to go over and try a couple. Firm flesh, a bit creamy and loaded with flat seeds. He said, “Thai Eggplant.” I have to say they were pretty good, and a new one for me.

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We continued to walk and talk, sampling different types of oranges from several different trees, his favorite being the Cara Cara. I peeled the deep orange rind away from the ruby red flesh, the sugary sweet juice dripping down my hands as I pulled the segments apart, sweet and full of flavor. I understood why it was his favorite.

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We walked to the far side of the grove where he has rows and rows of kale, rainbow chard, onions, lettuce, cilantro and kohlrabi growing. He said, “We are trying different growing techniques with the vegetables, which ones grow better with more or less shade, as well as keeping a large variety growing at all times so there is never a lull in production.” He wants to make sure that in his fruit stand he always has something new and exciting for customers to try, and his growing techniques assure him that he is getting maximum flavor from his fruits and vegetables.

Another new one for me was the Kohlrabi. He asked me if I knew what it was, I told him I’d heard of it but never had tried it. An opportunity for me to try something straight out of the ground, he said, “pull it out of the ground, break off the little tip and eat it like an apple.” Crunchy, earthy, delicious.

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While I continued to finish my lunch we wondered back to the front of the property where his fruit stand is located, a small freshly painted building with signs advertising his offerings and windows facing the street. I had had my fill of fresh fruits, vegetables and education. I snapped a few pictures and thanked John for his hospitality.

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Driving back to San Diego I thought to myself how great of an afternoon it had been, spending time with someone who has a deep respect for the things that provide us sustenance and pleasure.

Now, I could list all of the different types of fruit trees from oranges to apples, peaches, pears and cherries to all of the vegetables that John has growing in his orange grove but it would be better if you would go and pay him a visit, he would love to meet you and give you a tour.

John Adams, Adams Acres

652 S. Cactus Ave., Rialto, California 92376

909-875-3776