Monday, April 28, 2008

Shoji Project: Day 3

Well, not much of a day at all but it's coming along slowly. All I managed to get done today was the lattice work and pick up some more hinges at OSH. I estimate that I'll be able to get the other 2 panels complete with lattice work this coming weekend. Sure I have 3 panels already and some probably want me to paint, finish, and paper/fabric up the thing already but remember I'm going for cool points. 5 frames = bonus cool points. Plus I still haven't decided whether I wanted to use paper or white fabric for the backing and if I want to paint the thing black or stain it cherry. Well guess what? Yeah, I'm gonna poll it! First up this week is the color. Check the side panel for that.

Spinach Again

Since the temperature of the solution went up over 70 degrees there has again been noticeable growth, this time, with the spinach. The burst in growth, I think, was probably caused by a combination of the warm solution, a new clay growing media, and extra time to adapt to that media.

As you can see, I've thinned out most of the withering leaves. Hopefully the energy being sapped by the dying leaves is redirected towards more leaves.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Shoji Project: Still Day 2

Another update. I just finished another frame. I'll do the lattice work maybe tomorrow. I'm tired. BAH...

Shoji Project: Day 2

Just got done with a second panel a little while ago. Only 3 more to go! I knew more about what I was doing this time so this panel only took me about 2 and a half hours to complete. Although I ran into some trouble with a rounded brass screw head while securing a top piece. That took me a good while to drill out. After that I screwed on a couple of top mount hinges, glued the vertical members, and stood her up.

Looking good so far eh?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Warm Solution = Good

It was a pretty warm day today and I noticed that the temperature of my nutrient solution went up to 74 degrees Fahrenheit. From this morning to now, when I just checked, it looks like there's bee a significant growth of all my peppers(even the one I think is dying) and basil. The new growth is noticeable to the naked eye. Now I have to figure out a way to safely use an old aquarium heater in the styrofoam nutrient solution reservoir.

Shoji Project: Day 1

Ok this thing ended up being a full blown wood working project. I used the actual tools I needed and even bought some new tools.

Tools Purchased:
- combo saw horse/work table with built modular 2 vises
- 1/4 inch chisel
- 2 18 inch clamps
- new tape measure

Tools Borrowed:
- plunge router with 1/4 inch straight bit (thanks Mike!)
- pickup truck for transport of lumber (thanks Woody!)

Materials Purchased:
- 10 2x2x8 redwood posts - 7 bucks a piece
- 6 1/4 x 1/4 x 3 poplar square dowels

Materials on Hold:
- rice paper or cloth material for screen

Ok, obviously the first thing I had to do was cut down 2 8 foot posts. The total height I'm aiming for is 6 feet. The top and bottom of the frame will overlap the sides meaning that the length I need to cut is 5ft 8in. When the top and bottom of the frame are attached they will add 4 inches giving me a total 6 ft height.

The 2 pieces I have left over from cutting the sides of the frame are 2 ft 4 inches which gives me plenty to cut my top and bottom. I want each panel to be 18 inches wide. One reason I chose the 8 ft stock was for the least wasted material possible. Each post basically lets me make half a frame - one side and one top or bottom. Proceed to cut your top/bottom.

Now we have to predrill a hole for the router so we can get our groove on... cough. I used a 1/4 inch drill bit and eyed drilling in 1/4 inches. The groove will also be a 1/4 inch.

After the pilot hole was drilled I grabbed the router and set the depth to a 1/4 inch using one of the 1/4 inch square dowels I purchased. The straight line guide was set to line up with the pilot hole as well.

Then I set the router on the pilot hole and routed away. The sides are routed end to end while the top and bottom are about an inch short on either side. You'll see what I'm talking about later.
Here is a finished top/bottom:
On the sides I made 1/4 inch notches for the cross members at 11 and 5/16ths inches apart. This gives me 5 horizontal cross members total.
Predrill, screw, and countersink a 3 inch brass wood screw on the bottom and top of the frame. Remember to keep the notches on the inside.

Cut the dowels for the horiontal members to 15 and 1/2 inches. I manually marked and cut the vertical members. I dry fitted all the decorative members in the frame and here's what I ended up with.

Tilt your head 90 degrees. The top and bottom segments don't have vertical members as this is the design I decided on.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spinach Update

The spinach is looking a little off. Either it is not getting enough iron or it is over watered. I'll monitor it for now.
That one Serrano chili looks like it's about to croak as well, but again, I still have 5 more of those guys. It's normal to have 1-2 plants go out on you anyway.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Shoji Screen Project

I've created a few things now out of wood and I promise I'll get those up here as soon as I can. But the latest idea I'm playing around with is building my own multi-panel shoji screen. I'm thinking 5 panels in a similar design as the picture below. As a rule and theme of this blog I'm doing all of this with minimal tools and no pre-made plans. It's just my creativity and engineering skills that I'm relying on here. The only training I've had was watching This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop.

The Mission:
To create a simple to build shoji screen with minimal tools, minimal materials, and most importantly minimal cost. My aim here is to get away with up to a 5 panel homemade shoji screen for under 100 bucks. Sure I can buy something cheaper on ebay for less than 100 bucks but that's getting away from the mission here. The initial materials bought will account for a single panel frame, 1 pair of hinges, and enough thin wood material to have a finished decorative design on one side of the panel. The addition of an identical, or possibly a completely different, design on the other side of the panel will depend on the expense of labor and cost.

Predetermined Toolset:
- screwdrivers
- rotary tool with drill bit(dremmel)
- routing jig connection with routing bits for rotary tool
- small 1/4 in square chisel
- hammer
- dovetail saw(any saw will do but that's what I have)

Finishing Materials:
- brass hinges with screws
- minwax polycrilic satin spray finish
- black paint(or any other color)
- sandpaper/block(2 reusable sponge blocks of 150 and 300 grit should do ya)

Proposed Materials:
- 1/4 inch square dowels for decorative design(my estimate is about 14 linear feet worth)
- 2x2x8 wood barstock(the kind used to help prop up trees, unknown material)
- fabric or synthetic rice paper

Expected "Hardest Part"?:
- routing out a 1/4 inch deep and wide groove the entire length of the vertical framing
- routing out 1/4 inch deep and wide groove for 14 1/2 inches of the top and bottom frame pieces

The purpose for the 1/4 inch groove all the way around the inside of the framing is for the paper/fabric guide and for easier installation of the decorative 1/4 inch cross members.

Stay tuned!

Chili Leaf Curl Virus

Hmmm... after reading a few articles online I've determined that one of my chili plants has the chili leaf curl virus. Some of the leaves look similar to the above pictured plant. I'll throw on some pictures of my plant when I get home. The scientific name escapes me right now. It's no biggie really. I'll try treating with some extra nitrogen and potassium to encourage some more leaf growth as some articles suggest. If I end up tossing that plant I have 4 others of the same chili. Plus it would open up a spot for a cayenne pepper plant that I have some seeds for. Anyone know of a reliable way to germinate and sprout seeds hydroponically in a net pot?

Taquiera Los Portales: Chorizo Super Burrito

Taquiera Los Portales
36782 Cedar Blvd
Newark, CA 94560
(510) 745-7754

It's very rare that I forget about chorizo but considering what went on this day(glug glug), I can forgive myself. Me and a bud went here for a snack, not a meal, to tide us over until the company bbq. Well he ended up getting a burrito. Guess what I had to do then? Yep, get a burrito. But not just any burrito, a chorizo super burrito. Although I think this place has a different spin on the "super" part. "Super" seems to refer to what kind of filling is included inside, like guacamole sour cream, etc., and not the size. I can still remember the burrito truck in high school and when you said super you got a super huge burrito.

There is only one other comparable place that makes a similar tasting burrito. That place is Taqueria Los Gallos in Newark. Thea reason I say this is because of the custom style and flavor these 2 places use. Los portales uses mystery squares of cheese and places them over the open tortilla before adding the filling and rolling up. It seems like a borrowed technique from Taco Bell(I hate Taco Bell, btw). It just happens to be really good cheese and on top of the way that the cook gives you the little crunchy pan scrapings, this "little super" evens out the size with taste. A very good and unique tasting burrito. Bonus for Tapatio on the table.

Even though I state that this burrito may have borrowed the cheese wrapping technique from Taco Bell, I can't be sure. This is compounded by the mystery cheese that I can't identify. It's sort of like a salty jack cheese if I were to try and describe it. Everything else seems pretty standard and at the same time I can't ding any points for authenticity because of the 2 variables I've described above.

Very consistent. I always get those little burnt chorizo crunchies that I like, mystery cheese, and a greasy hand.

Cost to Serving:
The super burrito, like I stated, is a little small with a price that's just barely too much. It's not that bad though. What gets you is the crazy fountain drink prices. Small small penalty but it would be more significant if I was really hungry this last time I went.

If you're looking to teach an old burrito new tricks then you have to try one of the burritos from here. Of course that may bring you down a bit on the authenticity scale but only if you let me rate yours.
Price paid: ~7.50
Price I'd pay: 7
Cumulative rating: 7.75
Again, hooray for chorizo!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Planned Expansion

Over the last month or so my plants have been doing really well and that has motivated me enough to try and expand and other wise polish my existing system. Basically I'm going to do a rebuild to a slightly larger scale only keeping the light source and pump from the original system. I'm thinking of using one of those opaque rubbermaid containers for for storage from OSH.

I've seen homemade ebb & flow hydroponic systems using one of 2 of these stacked. One for the reservoir and one for the flood. I've also seen that configuration used for aeroponic systems. I think the use of 2 bins is a waste of space and money unless you're making 2 separate systems with each bin. Instead of stacking I want to find a nice fitting tray or tupperware of some sort that can go into the reservoir bin. I'll either secure that to the sides or glue it to the lid of the bin. That way I'd have a completely enclosed single bin ebb & flow system. Of course the flood tray has to bee deep enough to eventually support full root growth of whatever plants I stick in my system. I can just imagine a whole bin lid-full of spinach. I'd do tomatoes but I'm not motiveted when I actually hate raw tomatoes. I may get 1 plant so I can have some to cook with. I also hear that they take over wherever they are growing. Anyway back to the lid. I'll cut out anywhere from 8 - 12 holes for the net pots to drop into. I haven't actually bought a bin yet so I can't say exactly. It would basically have the same concept as the below picture, only bigger.That kit is about 200 bucks! The first thing a person like me thinks is, "I can build that for below 50!". It would be even cheaper if I found a good sturdy syrofoam cooler. And the hole cutting would be way easier in a foam lid. Although I don't think I'd want to place those net pots that close together.

My Hydroponic Garden: Update

It took a whole day before I realized that the pictures I had on the other days post were old pictures. Here are a few of what my system looks like now.

You can see my hygrothermometer here:

I added walls because the light made it hard to sleep at night:

Serrano chili, basil and spinach:

My Hydroponic System

Sadly I ate something from my upcoming ratings list but I, once again, failed to snap a shot before I dug in. By the time I remembered I was half done. So as an update, I have a food related topic: hydroponics. I use hydroponics to grow FOOD and FOOD alone so don't get all weird on me.

About a month ago I visited my local OSH and gathered 6 jalepeno plants. And knowing me, I had to grow them in a way that earned cool points. No soil and watering for me. Anyway, I bought the 6 jalepeno plants and small container of Schults Liquid Plant Food. The top has a built in dropper for easy measuring and stated you need to add 7 drops to a water can every watering. That's the main reason I purchased that fertilizer because 7 drops even if used every day would last me forever. And it was only 6 bucks.

If you want to try hydroponics you'll also need a light source with a reflector and full spectrum bulb. Those should be easy to get for around 15 bucks. You'll also want an aquarium water pump. The smallest will do you and should be as low as 10 bucks for one of those. And don't forget to buy some tubing that will fit on it. Maybe 2 feet for extra measure. Then you need 2 containers. They should be able to hold water and one should fit in the other. I just used an old tupperware container for the small one and a styrofoam cooler for the big one. It's better if you can get containers that won't let light through but it would work if you just painted the containers black. This would serve to inhibit algae growth. Last you need some absorbent material like cheese cloth and gravel for aeration and drainage to pot the plants in. Wrap the roots of the plants with the cloth or absorbent material and put them in the pot. Fill the remaining air space in the pot with gravel. I used an absorbent clay gravel called latterite. Oh and pots with some kind of openings on them so they can get wet from the outside-in.

Construction is pretty straightforward and you should be able to figure it out just from my pictures. The only thing you can't see is the pump submerged in the container. The tupperware container is where the plants are hanging out. The tubing from the pump goes up into that. I drilled a hole in the bottom and friction fit the tubing but you can just bring the end of the tube over the rim to fill it from the pump. But again, it's cool points for me. There are also drainage and overflow holes drilled in various places in the tupperware container. Remember you have water coming in but it has to go back into the large container before it overflows and goes all over your floor. You want the water to fill up to a certain point and let the overflow holes keep that level. I drilled 5 small holes in the bottom of the small container which drained slower than the water could fill up. A little below the rim I drilled a bunch of overflow holes so the water level could not go over the top. It might be easier to cut a notch at the rim but it might be annoying if you ever want to enclose the tupperware using the original lid. Those 5 holes in the bottom allow the water to drain completely when your water flow period is over. This is also to prevent algae growth. You can see how the light reflector is clamped on the side of the container so no details needed there. Optionally but highly recommended is a multi-timer that will turn on and off your water pump 6-8 times a day. These could get a little expensive especially if you go digital. I didn't want to pay for one so I just do it manually over the course of the day. This keeps your absorbent material around the roots moist. And remember that liquid fertilizer? Yep, that same material also holds some of the nutrients. Who needs dirt?

Jalepenos or whatever, have fun!

Yet another new blog started

Well it seems like this is the way that all my blogs come to be, that is, having nothing to update on an existing blog so I talk about another subject that interests me but is still somewhat related to that original blog. In this case my I talked about my hydroponic garden adventure and building of my system on my food rating blog. I'll transfer over those 2 posts as soon as I get some more time. I don't kno if there's an official blogging stage of peoples' lives but if there is this has gotta be my time.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nothing New

Yep, this is just an update because there's nothing to update. I haven't been over to the local tabacalera lately due to yet another hobby I've been tending to. My food rating blog has a pretty good number of regular readers, well into the double digits with a few new hits each day. It's sort of funny about that blog actually. As soon as I put something up about hydroponics I got about 50 hits the first day from Canada. Of course I don't use hydroponics for what those crazy Canadians use it for *wink*. Isn't it legal over there? Anyway, you can see what they made a small commotion about on my food rating page. The link is on the left of the page somewhere. Sure I can grow tobbacco for cigars but the curing, aging, and other stuff takes years. Maybe one day when I'm a billionaire and I've got nothing else to do.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dino's Grill: Italian Burger

Dino's Grill
5855 Jarvis Ave
Newark, CA 94560
(510) 494-1203

Dino's is one of those places that the word "diner" would describe perfectly. The inside looks like a 50's style malt shop complete with high stools and red and white decor. From what I understand it's a family run place. It's a nice atmosphere really. Today I got my usual, the Italian burger. This comes with pasta but I usually substitute a Caesar salad in. And I almost started eating before I took a picture so that's why my burger looks smooshed.

There's a reason why this burger became my favorite. Not only is it served in between 2 pieces of toasted garlic roll, the spicing of the meat is pretty darn good. It doesn't even need any ketchup in my opinion, just some mustard. A burger without ketchup? Yep. The patty is always moist without being too juicy or greasy and the bread is truly qualified to be called garlic bread. These guys know garlic fans when they see them.

This is another one of those tricky ones that combine a few different ethnic flavors. Some might consider this strictly Americana. I can only attribute the latter to the building design and decoration or lack thereof. Yeah, I know I'm being picky here but that's just how I work. And it doesn't help that some of the other food served is Greek or super American.

This is one of the few places I can really tell you about that have been 100% consistent. Not even my favorite chorizo burrito can do that! Maybe it's the strict family recipes or fear of getting a beat down from grandma if they get it wrong.

Cost to serving:
No drinks with your combos here folks. Drinks are extra. This brings the average menu item to around 9-10 bucks for the cheaper stuff like the burgers. It's worth it when you have a craving for that Dino's burger. Substitutions for side dishes raise an additional buck and a half.

Eat here! Sure the prices seem a little high when I describe them but it's pretty worth the experience. Just don't come at the peak times because it could get crazy. And if you happen to like Greek salad, go for it. According to my bud Mike it's the best in town. And he seems to be the authority on Greek salads.
Price paid: $~11
Price I'd pay: $9.75
Cumulative rating: 8.25
Come and get your free straw!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Salsa Picante No.2: Chorizo Super Burrito Mojado

Salsa Picante No.2
41965 Fremont Blvd.
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 656-8685

This has been the long time usual spot for me and the guys at work. For a while we got worried that this place had closed down and we were getting very nervous. Even one of our old coworkers that works somewhere else was speechless when we told him the place looked gutted for a good few weeks. This further worried us when we remembered the property for sale fliers out in front of the building a couple months ago. Fortunately, it was just closed for renovation. Just as soon as we saw the newly renovated ex-Dairy Queen building that housed our usual spot we all got together just like the good old days.
This dish is what I rate almost all Mexican restaurants by. If you're a Mexican restaurant and don't make chorizo burritos, you've just made me loose a little faith in humanity. That's how much I love chorizo dammit. Anyway...

I'll say it right now, it's not perfect, but it's chorizo. The taste is more then decent and is helped by being topped with enchilada sauce, different cheeses, and sour cream. And then you get the Tapatio in the mix and bam! You've got an orangish reddish power ranger that you can eat. The burrito from here is the baseline burrito that all other chorizo burrito making Mexican restaurant should strive for, if not beat the flavor of.

A bunch or real Mexican guys cooking real Mexican food. I can't see anything unauthentic about that. You can even order in spanish and they'll understand you! Even the salsa and chips at the uh, salsa and chip bar are made in-house. And if you want beef tongue in a friggin quesadilla, you get beef tongue in a friggin quesadilla!

I've eaten here so many times but noticed so few stray flavors that it almost blows my mind. Although, I know the same cook makes my burrito because they cook all their food out in front. Lets just say that kind of model earns them a very high consistency rating.

Cost to Serving:
A nice sized burrito at a very fair price! Hands down.

If you like authentic hole in the wall restaurants then this is a place for your consideration. Sure some other hole in the wall restaurants have better food but this is pretty good for a yuppie town like Fremont.
Actual price paid: ~$6
Price I'd pay: ~$6
Cumulative rating: 7.25
Hooray for chorizo!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dominican Sweets: Vanilla

This is one of the cigarillos I bought the other day that I refer to in the last entry. For 2 bucks I didn't expect much, and as you can see, theres not much to this. Although it looks like its been hand rolled there was no form used. Thats why it has that lumpy look. There's nothing wrong with that in a super cheap cigarillo like this especially when a real tobacco leaf is used for the wrapper and not tobacco paper. A key sign of this is the folded over cap. Crappy swishers, for example, have smooth caps with a hole or open end premade for you where no cutting is necessary. This cigarillo need to be cut.

After the cut and an unlit draw test I noticed an immediate tipped vanilla flavor. That's exactly what is sounds like: the tip of the cigar has a strong sweet vanilla flavor. More quality flavored cigars actually flavor the filler through various methods producing a nice tasting smoke. This cigarillo seems to use one of those methods to also very slightly flavor its filler or at least the wrapper. I can tell this at the aroma of the light. The first puff also gives away a somewhat sweet aftertaste like slightly sweet macadamian nuts. Not a bad beginning and definately more than I expected from this cigarillo. The flavor continued until I finally put it down with a good 2.5 inches left.

*As a note, and for your education, there are reasons that I don't usually smoke cigarillos. It's obvious that smoke from cigars is not good for you but cigarillos are even worse. And of course highest on the list are cigarettes which I've never touched in my life. Cigars are notably wider or have a bigger ring than cigarillos. Not only does that allow better air flow, it also produces a cooler smoke with far less tar. Tar is the biggest cause of lung cancer. A narrow cigarillo sucks air through a narrow foot causing the foot to burn very hot because of the lack of surface area air has to pass through. This produces darker smoke when taken in the mouth and can be seen if you do the toilet paper test. Take any cigar, cigarillo or cigarette and hold a mouthfull of smoke in your mouth. Then quickly take some toilet paper and make a good seal around your lips with your fingers. Blow out through the paper. With a cigarette or cigarillo you're likely to get a nasty brown spot. Keep in mind though that you're not supposed to inhale cigar or cigarillo smoke. If you just did that test with a cigarette, do it again but this time inhale like normal and then blow out through the paper. Not so brown this time? Guess where all tha tar got left behind? Yep, in your lungs. Even cigarillos which aren't meant to be inhaled have a less significant risk of giving you mouth cancer. It's important t moderate no matter what you smoke. buy 1 of each and compare the 3 pieces of toilet paper if you don't believe me.

Long note, yeah? But anyway as far as cigarillos go this gets a 6 out of 10.
It would have been better if it was properly humidified.

Well it's still an update

Ok, so today I was actually so hungry at work that I had to make a run for the roach coach, better known where I'm from as the burrito truck, that comes to my work's parking lot. This was the first time I had the food from there but I can't rate anything until I've had it at least 3 times (remember?). But I have to say it's actually not that bad. You'll see the burrito truck/roach coach in my upcoming ratings list at the left of the page. What? You didn't see that before? Well that's cuz I just put it up. Also I added a poll under my profile to vote for your favorite Chinese side dish. I'm talking about the stuff you might get in a combo at Chinese fast food, not what you get at a real sit-down Chinese restaurant like soup and/or salad. Look forward to the poll next week asking, "Hot & Sour soup; Digestible or Runs like a Kenyan with too much caffeine?".

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 Robusto

I got this today at a local shop and it didn't even see the inside of my own humidor. This particular shop seemed to have changed management and as a result, has greatly improved it's cigar inventory. It was a pleasant surprise for me as I saw a number of high quality cigars. I even picked up couple of flavored vanilla cigarillos because I was put in a good mood from potentially having another shop with a nice selection just around the corner from my place. I'll rate those maybe tomorrow. As much as I like cigars, I give myself an absolute limit of 1 a day, yet rarely have a cigar more than 2 days in a row.

*On a side note, some people have been commenting on that background I use when I take a picture of the cigars I have on my reviews. I've gotten a lot of, "That's a damn nice table top"s. And I tell them that it's actually the top of my homemade humidor. And I'd like you to know that it took a damn long time and a lot of effort to get that color and finish. Don't worry, I'll get the pictures of the build up soon.

Moving on. Once I took this out of the cellophane I immediately noticed the velvety feel of the dark vintage 90' wrapper. It smelled like dark unsweetened chocolate with a hint of cedar. Upon cutting I notice a not so well done cap. The guillotine caught an edge and there was slight unravelling but that was fixed when I put it in my mouth for a dry test draw. Yes, a little spit made it stay put. The unlit draw was very loose, a sign of very good construction and arguably one of the reasons cigars are box pressed. Box pressing helps open up the filler leaves after rolling allowing better air passage. Oh, did I mention this cigar is box pressed? I got ahead of myself. Now the light. The foot seemed to toast pretty quickly and lit without any trouble. The first puff was medium with a nice slightly bitter tobacco and cedar flavor. This mellowed out in the first 2 inches but picked up again in the last 3. The draw was so loose that puffing from this point warmed up the cigar a bit. Some people complain about a very warm draw but I think it improved the flavor of this RP. That cedar flavor came back in full force but was still mild in my opinion. The last 2 inches gave off a barely noticeable spice that complemented the cedar flavor nicely. I smoked this till my fingers could no longer take the heat and I only do that when I catch a really good flavor. This was a very good cigar although I wish that the flavor picked up sooner and without burning so hot.

The RP V90 gets a 7 out of 10
and that's partly because this stick was just a little too mild in my opinion and I'm a medium or full kind of guy.

Mr Chau's: Tangerine Boneless Ribs, BBQ Boneless Ribs, and Sesame Chicken

Mr Chau's
35204 Newark Blvd
Newark, CA 94560
(510) 793-3788

This is my usual Sunday eating spot. What? Did you think that I was just going to rate only real food? It fills me up and does the job, plus it's cheap. I also use the ATM machine inside more than I use the one at my actual bank. It's my weekly routine of Mr. Chau's, bank, and gas(no there isn't a Mr. Chau's gas station). Anyway, this time around it was the Boneless BBQ Ribs, Tangerine Boneless Ribs, and Sesame Chicken. I also got some hot & sour soup this time but I've yet to build up my consistency rating to include it here. So far that's not looking too high though... You should also know that the guys there know me and do some special stuff like pack a 3 item combo into a 2 item box where normally you'd get a small box for the 3rd order. It doesn't seem that special but you get more if they just shovel that 3rd order into the box.

I can't complain here. I know it's not real Chinese food but its still good. Some people just can't get over the fact that it's fast food and believe that the food from this chain is nasty. Well stuff happens when you're a broke college guy. And for the money, I think the taste is pretty damn good. Of course I'm not so much in that situation anymore but the place has grown on me.

heh, do I even need to say anything here? But if it helps, there are real Chinese people manning the sneeze-guarded heated trays. As for the people that cook, that's up in the air at the moment.

Chau's kung fu is strong in this category. Other fast food places would give you watery, light colored garlic chicken some days and halfway decent garlic chicken other days. My most usual combo pick, tangerine bonless ribs, has never swayed and neither have any of the other selections.

Cost to Serving:
If the last rating was Jackie Chan, this rating is Jet Li. This would be the most important part of the Chinese fast food showdown. These guys know how to seriously load you up on the cheap.

If you have the munchies and don't have a lot of cash in your pocket its gotta be Mr. Chau's. A single 3 item combo lasts me a whole day and it doesn't even hit 10 bucks. Sweet.

Actual price paid: ~$8
Price I'd pay: ~$8 par price for par food
Cumulative rating: 6.75 out of 10
For when you're just hungry.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bob's Giant Burgers: Western Bacon Burger

Bob's Giant Burgers
40720 Fremont Blvd
Fremont, CA
(510) 656-3356
Here's a place I eat lunch at every once in a while with the guys from work. But it's also one of those places I get cravings for by my self randomly and end up grabbing a burger. Wait that doesn't make sense... unless what I have a craving for is their banana shake. Yep, burgers are nice but there are a few places nearer to me that have very good burgers. On the other hand, banana shakes are hard to come by in Fremont which is why I go to Bob's. But today's rating is for the western bacon burger.
- Taste
Not a bad place if you're looking for that homemade burger flavor. There are a lot of places like this scattered throughout the town but I have to note that this place is way less greasy than the other places, on average. Simplicity really pays of with the western bacon. I mean there isn't even any cheese or lettuce unless you ask for it. But hey, sometimes that's just what you want once in a while. I'm imagining that V8 commercial, as I say this, with the lady at the order window smacking me on my forehead. "Back off! I eat salad regularly. You don't know me!!" But I digress. All in all, I like the burger but I can like it more if I'm craving homemade.
- Authenticity
Authenticity? It's a burger! Even though some would argue that a hamburger is a big fat slice of Americana, I beg to differ. Anyway what's there to authenticate? 2 buns, an onion ring, some bacon, patty, and sauce. And don't even claim that it could be kosher bacon. Haha that one's been used too many times. So here I give the default.
- Consistency
These guys are very consistent in my opinion but is helped by the fact that there just aren't that many ingredients to the burger. I'm sure the patty maker uses the same simple mix for the meat every time. Not to say that it's bad. I like it simple whenever possible. The less ingredients, the more individual tastes you can, uh, taste.
- Cost to Serving
Here's where these guys get a little hairy cost-wise. Fries were alright but for almost 2 bucks they depend too much on quantity over quality to justify the price. The banana shake is well worth the 3.10, however, along with the sh!*@s afterward. Yeah, I've had better but it's close by so bah. But all aside, this rating is for the burger which comes out to about 6 bucks. I'd say that that for 6 bucks its a little on the high side, especially considering that you'd expect to pay that at a restaurant and this place is a hut with chairs around it. Slightly below average on the scale.
This is a great little burger stand to go to for your once-in-a-while homemade burger fix. I like it! But I can't go any further than that. The western bacon is definately one of my regulars whenever I visit. This place get high on the taste but is dinged big time by the cost to enjoy the food.
Actual price paid: ~$6
Price I'd pay: $5.20
Cumulative rating: 6.75
Just like you'd make if you were just making burger for the hell of it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pho' Dong: B17. Steak, Flank, Tendon and Tripe Pho

Pho Dong Restaurant
2610 Broadway
Redwood City, CA 94063
Tel: 650 298 9900
Fax: 650 298 9909

I used to eat at Pho Dong just about every other day when I was working in Redwood City. It had to be the best pho I've had on the peninsula and I've been to tons of places over there. After the first few visits the clerks remembered my name and even recognized my voice on the phone when I called in orders. Now that's homie! After trying the major variation on their menu I quickly established a regular order. That was the large B17 steak, flank, tendon, and tripe. And here's my review:

The most important part of pho, in my opinion, is the broth that all the ingredients float around in. On top of the taste it has to be very hot. If not, you may end up undercooking your beef. Anyway back to taste. The broth they have here is one of the best I've tasted ever. I don't even feel the need to add hoisin sauce or plum sauce that places usually have in squirt bottles on the table. Of course you gotta have the spicy sriracha though. You can tell that the broth has been slow cooked for a long time as it doesn't have that watered down flavor and has a very nice color to it. The quality of the beef, tripe, and tendon are of satisfactory quality but it is usually very hard to tell this after its been dunked in the broth. No complaints from visual inspection. The fixins' (mint, bean sprouts, lemon, jalepinos) are suprisingly picked and sorted out to make sure you don't get a bitter mint leaf or green bean sprout. Everything else is pretty standard for pho.

Now I'm no pho historian but authentic pho to me has trimmings and cuttings like tripe and tendon. I'm not down with just beef noodle soup. Places call it that and don't add the "good stuff" so the non-educated don't get scared away. Luckily this place makes it any way you want it and I opt for the tripe and tendon. They even offer fatty or lean which is a rare option in pho restaurants. Again it's really hard to guage the authenticity of pho because you don't really know everything they're putting in there. But I do taste a secret component in the broth that I doubt is authentic to Vietnamese cuisine. That would be the only thing that brings down this rating.

This place is very reliable when it comes to consistency. Either that or they prepare a special batch just for me but I seriously doubt they'd do that. I've never detected an oddity in recipe in the probably hundreds of times I've eaten the B17. It just gives me that warm fuzzy feeling inside... the good kind, not the run to the bathroom after 15 minutes kind.

Cost to Serving:
Pho is known to be a very cheap yet filling dish. You know something is off if you ever have to pay more than 5 or 6 bucks for a large run-of-the-mill bowl of pho. Non r-o-t-m being something like seafood pho, which Pho Dong also serves by the way. I can't remember the exact cost but it wasn't more than 5 bucks for a large order of this dish and by no means was this rotm. In the end my stomach is pretty happy here along with my wallet.
Actual price paid: ~$5-6
Price I'd pay: $8
Cumulative rating: 8 out of 10
Good pho even for die-hard pho eaters.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My Complicated Food Rating System Explained

Ok, I have no idea how I'll be going about this so I'll just type as I figure things out...

Food I eat is rated primarily by the following criteria, in no particular order:
- Taste (of course)
- Authenticity*
- Consistency*
- Cost to serving ratio*
- Price I would pay to eat the dish again*
- How filling?

Secondary ratings that may affect my rating include:
- Atmosphere
- Condiments on the table or lack thereof*
- Menu item availability*
- Waiter/waitress ability
- Side/appetizers *

My main objective is really the food. I only tend to include the weight of the secondary ratings if an aspect is particularly notable, whether good or bad. Also, the secondary ratings are weighted together as one and held against the individual primary criteria. The secondary rating system holds the lightest impact of all criteria when coming to a final rating of 0-10.

Now what are those *s for up there beside the rated categories? That means that those categories have a more descript meaning than what is initially written. Side notes, in other words. Here they are described in detail with examples where possible.

- Authenticity
A lot of people think that food is food and it's good or it's bad. I used to be that way myself, weighing more on the bad side. It wasn't till I moved away that I found myself exploring foods from different ethnic backgrounds. Authenticity of food comes into play when I'm eating ethnic cuisine - duh. But it's not that simple. Say you go to a Japanese restaurant. You expect the taste to have characteristics of real Japanese food. But what if you go to a Japanese restaurant like Hapi House? Sure some argue that their food rocks anyway but everyone knows and says in the back of their heads, "But it doesn't taste Japanese...". The same goes with Americanized Chinese fast food. They don't eat that crap in China! But again, that's not to say that the food isn't good from a particular restaurant. So if I were to rate a Mr. Chau's using only the taste and authenticity ratings, it would get a big fat 0 on authenticity but maybe a 6 rating on the taste. But that doesn't make it a 50/50 split of a final rating of 3. Remember it's all weighted differently. Based on those 2 criteria alone I'd probably still give it a 5.5 rating. Now if I throw in the "how filling" rating it would be pretty damn high because Chau knows how to load you up, boosting the final rating... but that's for another section.

Of course the weight of authenticity applies even less to hybrid or contemporary food. Like an Italian hamburger for instance. An originally German food utilizing Italian spices and olive oil. How do I rate these kinds of dishes for authenticity? I don't. Being that they have no single ethnic theme to them they simply get a default rating of 5 on the scale. Easy enough eh?

- Consistency
People that know me think I'm a little strange in this area but I think that consistency is a huge part of the overall rating. And by all means the consistency rating is actually the single hardest rating to get out of my entire system. WTH, why? Well simply because I have to eat the dish to be rated my magic number of 3 times on different non-patterned occasions. This is to even out the chances of getting the same cooks to cook my food and possibly figure out that different ingredients are used at different times, by different cooks. Imagine Randy, Paula, and Simon(the 3 occasions). They rate the would-be stars(dishes) at different performance days(occasions), singing different songs(ingredients). If all these things come together and the performances are consistent, America loves them. And its that darn Simon that usually evens out the judging panel's average yield. In my case, Simon is that third occasion that evens out my consistency rating. Hitting the pavement makes it hard.

- Cost to serving ratio
This one is simple. I like good food yet like it at a budget just like everyone else. A fancy pants French restaurant that gives you a quarter sized portion of lobster for 70 bucks gets a 0. Simple, I told ya.

- Price I would pay to eat the dish again
This is the favored, most heavily weighted rating when I eat on the cheap. Here I explain the rounded price I actually paid and the price I would still buy that dish at if prices were raised. For example, I like the Carl's Jr. dollar spicy chicken sandwich - so much that I've established a rating based MSRP, if you will, price of $1.65. I would pay up to 1.65 for that damn sandwich, 65 cents more. Now why the hell would I include something as controversial and opinion based as this? For the human aspect! No good rating system is established by a robot and statistics just aren't feasible when it comes to food.

More Details
Now onto the secondary rating descriptions. These help establish, even more so, the human aspect of my system and also note severe shortcomings or pleasant surprises.

- Condiments on the table or lack thereof
I tend to use this secondary rating a lot when I eat in Mexican restaurants. Some people just don't get it. How can you have a Mexican restaurant and not have a bottle of Tapatio' sitting on the table? OOooh, salt and pepper, wow... You wouldn't need those if you had TAPATIO'!!! The blow is softened if I ask and they don't hesitate to hand me that sacred bottle. But some places have the nerve to not stock it at all! An example like this is a major ding on the secondary scale. Where's my damn sauce?!

- Menu item availability
Again I tend to use this in Mexican restaurants. Chorizo(yes that's the correct spelling). I love that stuff, yet some places refuse to make a super burrito out of it stating it's only for the chorizo con huevos. Ding! Then there are the places that don't carry chorizo at all. DING!!! DING!!! That's a foul for the planned party in my mouth and a neh-gah-tee-voh!

- Side/appetizers
Whether it be a Chinese place with a free Chinese salad bar and cookie or a Mexican restaurant with a free tortilla chip and salsa bar... notice the pattern? This is for those freebies given to you at a restaurant in goodwill because they want you to think that you're just awesome in their eyes. Hmmm... cold hot and sour soup isn't awesome. Stale tortilla chips are definitely not awesome. Build me up, Buttercup, but dammit, DON'T BREAK MY HEART!!! No one, with the exception of myself because I actually did it, goes to a Chili's and tells the waitress, "An Awesome Blossom, please. But hold on the awesome". You order that advertised Awesome Blossom and expect it to be completely and utterly AWESOME! Sorry for that rant but it's just that important. And yes, I realize the Awesome Blossom isn't a freebie.

When all these powers finally combine you don't get Captain Planet, no. You get a damn good, down to earth rating system by an arguably normal guy like me. You won't find the people with sections in the paper describing their system in such great detail. It's just too hard and brain frying like this post. I've been on this for 2 HOURS! It physically hurts! But when all is said and done and weighted in my head, you get my very reliable rating like so:
Actual price paid: ~$7
Price I'd pay: $10 (only if its good, negatives are possible!)
Cumulative rating: 6.5 out of 10 (it's very rare that I do quarter points)

Insert nifty final thought here.

Doesn't seem like an even trade in effort to results huh? What can I say? I love's me some food. And finally NO I DON'T RATE MY MOM'S FOOD. That's taboo. But I'm more than happy to rate your mom's food. Just remember to repeat 3 times for full effect.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Recent Developments

Bah... as you can see I've created this blog. Yep. Why? Well I don't really wanna write about all the recent developments again... Just find out why from my other blog @ The next post should describe my very complicated food rating system. Just thinking about it right now is frying my brain... I'm gonna go to sleep.


Well, it looks like everything's going to hell. Now I fond out that my bro is writting a blog about our mom's recipes - Filipino food of course. Now I'm fighting like hell from starting up another blog for my food rating system. And if I do end up creating that one, I'll be very busy as I basically have to write about all the food I've eaten in my area. Plus I have to describe my system... Just to give you an idea, my system is rated by taste, price paid, price to what I'd actually pay ratio, consistency, and finally how filling a dish is. AND everything is weighted differently and depends on what kind of cuisine it is. Do you see my problem now? I'd spend days just writing up the system. GAAaaAAHhHHhh.... now I have to bring around a damn camera too.

Mike, I need your Indian food ratings cuz I hate the stuff.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Woodford Reserve

Hell I'm so hyper about what could possibly end up being a completely new hobby that I thought I'd go ahead and pass on some good accompanying drink suggestions.

You can buy Woodford Reserve whiskey from better supermarkets or BevMo, which happens to sell both cigars AND drinks. Can you rock any harder than that? Anyway, this drink is good with creamy, heavier bodied Dominican blends but it's absolutely kick-ass with spicy Nicaraguan cigars. A good example of a creamy, smooth cigar would be anything that A. Turrent has to offer. A. Turrent is actually a Mexican cigar, I should mention, but they're coming up pretty fast and I'm a fan already. But the perfect cigar would be something in the line of Hoyo de Monterrey. These peppery Nicaraguans just, well I'll say it again, kick-ass. From my experience, spicy at the foot, smooth as hell in the middle, and peppery and woody near the end. A great match. I would not recommend, however, a maduro cigar with this whiskey. The earthy, nutty flavors of, say, an Onyx Reserve would be covered by Woodford Reserve. Better a glass of Disaronno with 2 rocks for that.

And thanks Waxy for turning me on to this brand of whiskey.

Consolidation Complete!

Well I finally got done transferring my scattered blog entries about cigars to my blogger account. I have a new review coming up tonight or tomorrow for the Romeo y Julieta Cedro Deluxe No.2. Don't hold your breath though, it didn't get very high marks by me. I'll also put up some pics of my homemade humidor along with some from the building process. I used a very sophisticated cut before you measure technique(eh?). Sure the box isn't perfectly square but at least they're not square and matching. Maybe if I'm bored that'll go up tonight... maybe. I still have to finish up the look of the blog too and that may take some time. Not to mention google is still crawling my site so I can get some kind of ranking on searches. As for now, keep lit but don't burn your fingers.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Romeo y Julieta Cedro Deluxe No.2

I got this guy from the store expecting a lot. I've read the reviews and seen the ratings all around the 7.6 range. Well, sometimes those reviews just aren't as reliable as your own. This cigar is a perfect case of that. It is also a good example of not judging a book by its cover. With such fancy packaging even a new smoker would be drawn into this stick.

Well the first thing I notice is the stamped cedar insert wrapped around it. I think, "Nice, it should incorporate that flavor pretty good then". Second, I take a whiff of the stick without the cedar and notice a nice earthy smell to it. Having a natural wrapper this is a good sign usually. Cut and draw - ok nice with just a little resistance. Then finally toast and light... almost nothing! So in the first inch theres a very light, barely there cedar flavor. From here I just hope that it will develop. 3 inches in I find even less of a flavor and I'm pissed at this point. I'm so pissed that I reach for my box of Mr. Chau's leftovers. But then I stop and continue down the stick for even a glimmer of hope that some kind of flavor will come out, even a bad one. Nothing! Just an empty slight spice. Then I think to myself, "Mr. Chau's over a 7 dollar cigar? That's just crazy!". A known premium cigar failing to a pseudo Chineese piece of tangerine boneless ribs? Holy crap, if a branch tapped my sliding door to my apartment during this freak fest I would have thought the sky was falling.

This one get an extremely disappointing 4 out of 10.
And thats actually high because this thing failed so hard it couldn't even give me a bad flavor.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Onyx Reserve Robusto

Well I promised and its here. My review of Onyx's Reserve robusto.
This is one of those cigars that literally makes me drool. You might understand why after my description. For one, it smells like chocolate! That's right, chocolate and a very fresh earthiness. As you may have read before, I have a thing for box pressed cigars and that "thing" hasn't failed me yet because I haven't had a bad box pressed so far. The wrapper is very oily, a characteristic of the maduro leaves used.
As always this stick cuts clean with a double guillotine. The unlit draw is perfect and at this point I drool even more. The wrapper has a very nutty flavor with a light saltiness like those fresh pretzels that use sea salt. It makes you want to chomp down but wait wait wait... light the sucker first. The first puff is always creamy with a bit of expresso flavor. Some say dark chocolate but this is my blog dammit. It starts off mildly spicy and finishes smooth with only a couple flavor changes along the way. The first half is more earthy and the last half is what makes me want to take a bite out of it from the smoothness plus the salty wrapper flavor.

A very good stick! Gets an 8 out of 10 from me.