Thirsty Thursday: FOUR at Checkers & Chef Todd FTW!

We have written about Checkers and their Thursday happy hour called FOUR for a long time, but it is truly our favorite weekly deal. The man on the left, Tyler, takes care of the drinks and the man on the right, Chef Todd, handles the food. They have fine-dining expertise and skill that is made affordable so you can easily indulge to your belly’s content. They offer four plates and four drinks for four hours (from 4p-8p) on Thursday for $4 each. It is the deal of the century. Last week after John Kelly Chocolates and before the Sexy Singles Soiree 2.0 we sampled all four of the dishes.

Last week the theme for FOUR was “Best of FOUR” paying homage to people’s favorite bites and drinks. The food served was calamari salad, braised beef shortribs with risotto, halibut fish tacos, and a roasted red pepper and tomato soup. The drinks ranged from, my favorite, the Secret Garden to an Old Cuban. I know what you are thinking, why am I telling you about all of the delicious things you missed? There are a couple of reasons: 1. I am mean. 2. It featured edamame beans in the new ways that Chef Todd was interviewed about. 3. To make you go today and discover more FOUR deliciousness.

Here is what is on today’s FOUR Menu (all items are $4 from 4p-8pm):

2007 SANTA BARBARA SAUVIGNON BLANC – A gold medal recipient at the West Coast Wine Fair, this is a lively and bright example of the varietal, with lush flavors and a clean finish!
2008 SANTA BARBARA CHARDONNAY – Creamy on the palate with pear and citrus notes, this chardonnay is well-balanced and expressive.
2007 SANTA BARBARA PINOT NOIR – a great little pinot with hints of earth and cigar, foiled by ripe blackberry and lively acidity.  91+ PTS, WINE & SPIRITS MAGAZINE
2007 SANTA BARBARA COUNTY CABERNET SAUVIGNON – Deep and rich, with a velvety texture.  An ideal pairing with the Sonoma duck!

CALEDONIA PRAWN SCAMPI – beautiful large prawns with stewed tomatoes, tarragon, and house-made herb fettuccini!
CANNELLINI BEAN STEW – with charred Spanish chorizo and fresh lemon and basil…
MAITAKE MUSHROOM TOAST – served on grilled sourdough with a mushroom butter.
PAN-SEARED SONOMA DUCK BREAST – paired with caramelized cauliflower, spring onion and Medjool dates; spectacular!>

As someone that is from the Central Coast, I love that they are partnering with Summerland Winery this Thursday for FOUR. I don’t know if it is from my childhood dream of owning my own boutique hotel or my love of good quality cocktails and well prepared food but I just love Checkers. If you are unable to enjoy it tonight…shoot for next Thursday. Also, I just heard that Checkers will be giving away Mother’s Day gifts for all of the moms out there. Here are all the details:

MOM EATS FREE BRUNCH

The a-la-carte brunch will be served on Sunday, May 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Checkers Downtown’s newly renovated dining room replete with style and artwork evoking the hotel’s 1920’s origins. Checkers’ Executive Chef Todd Allison has culled a menu certain to sate the desires of the most finicky of mothers. For the traditionalists there are Checkers’ Buttermilk Pancakes filled with strawberries, blueberries or bananas and walnuts, or for the more adventurous there is the Open-Faced Fried Egg Sandwich on grilled sourdough with prosciutto, stewed tomatoes and arugula. But, if she is the elegant-at-all-times type, she’ll certainly enjoy the Maine Lobster Risotto, the Seared Maine Diver Scallops with Moro blood orange, fork mashed fingerling potato and pomegranate glaze or the Grilled Colorado Lamb Loin with Rancho Gordo heirloom bean ragout and natural jus. Whatever her tastes are, mom will dine in style – and the host will save enough to buy her some flowers too.

The “Mom Eats Free” offer is valid up to $30 in value and does not include alcohol, tax or gratuity. Certain conditions and restrictions apply. Prices range from $9 to $30 and the full Mother’s Day brunch menu can be viewed at http://www.hiltoncheckers.com/files/mothers_day_menu.pdf. Reservations can be made by calling 213-624-0000 or online at http://www.opentable.com/checkers-downtown?rid=276.

Times are tough and Checkers is making things easier for you. Whether it is by offering you four plates and four drinks for $4 on Thursdays or  by giving your mom a Mother’s Day meal, they have won our UG hearts! I don’t want to get in trouble with the other UG….but one of the UGs is working on winning Chef Todd’s heart! Hint: It isn’t me.

P.S. If you wanna know how Checkers makes the UGs feel, then order the plate of gooey chcolate chip cookies…yup, it’s kind of like that!

Santa Cruz: A Meal and A View from the Crow’s Nest

My mom is a woman that is not one bit of a fool, even though she shares her birthday with April Fool’s Day. It hasn’t been an easy birthday to have, especially when you are a woman as sensitive as my mother. My uncle once wrapped her up a dead bird when she was 13 and I tried to top that by giving her a dead fish when I was 10. I have since realized that this behavior is simply not funny. My mama is the kindest person I have ever known and on her last birthday she flew us to Costa Rica. She allowed me and my little bro to zip-line the rain forest, sit in mineral baths at a resort, get pina coladas IN the pool bar, and so much more. I decided that this year I would drive home to see her. I drove to Santa Cruz on Wednesday night and arrived only minutes before it was about to become her birthday. She managed to bypass most pranks on her birthday this year, except for one. At the home where my grandpa lives, a place filled with seniors, there is one young guy in his 40s who lives there because he had a stroke. He was wearing a shirt that said, “Keep Staring- I might do a trick” and as he was walking down the stairs my mom said, “I like your shirt!” He was on step number 5 and tumbled down the rest of them causing all of the nurses to run in a frenzy, my mom was terrified that she distracted him and caused him to fall. The man went from his tumbling position to standing straight up and saying, “April Fools!” Nursing homes are simply NOT the place for practical jokes. After all this, my mom decided that she wanted her birthday dinner to be at the Crow’s Nest despite already being there earlier in the week. I suggested she let me pick the restaurant and she said I needed to stop being bossy. She’s much tougher since she started martial arts and told me she could put me in a headlock. I obliged. We headed off to dinner and were later joined by our favorite neighbor, Buzz, who has been a regular at our meals and is now part of the family.

There are some things that Nor Cal (if you wanna be technical, Central Coast) does better than most and that is sourdough bread and calamari. I once learned at Disney California what makes San Francisco Sourdough bread better than everyone else’s, but I forget. Ok, I will admit it, I only have done those tours for the free bread and tortilla samples. Of course, a ton of places do breaded and lightly fried calamari, but it just brings back so many memories of my childhood when I eat it in Santa Cruz. I remember being at the Boardwalk (if you’ve seen the Lost Boys, then you have seen it) and eating it on the Sky Gliders and walking the wharf with a basket and being so impressed that I, at age 7, was eating and loving squid. Anyway, calamari up in SC is personal for me and at the Crow’s Nest they made it perfectly. For the main course, I had the swordfish with truffle oil and I had them substitute artichoke risotto for the mashed potatoes because I heart artichokes. The swordfish was a tad too dry but it is not my job to complain, it was my mom’s special day. She, who chose a seafood restaurant and is not even a vegetarian, ordered the vegetable stir-fry. It was an odd choice because my mom makes the best stir-frys and makes them all of the time. Oh well, it was her special day and I won’t get on her ordering style. Buzz and my brother, Cody, had the hamburger and french fries and Cody even shot the burger picture himself.

For dessert, the waiter was kind enough to bring out a mud pie for my mom. Did I think the food was stellar? Not quite. Did I think the service was out of this world? Not in the slightest. However, our busboy Shane was fantastic and he was my mom’s preschool student many years ago and someone I went to high school with. I was also told that my brother’s babysitter, Justine, is the hostess here and that my mom is good friend’s with a waiter who is the brother-in-law to one of our neighbors. It was a community meal that made my mom happy and that made me happy. For my birthday, she was kind enough to take me to the expensive and two Michelin starred restaurant, Manresa, in Los Gatos for perhaps the best meal of my life. While I prefer the seafood from Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing, this was my mom’s choice and it was a good one. This is a family restaurant and represents so much of our extended family in Santa Cruz, not to mention the view is gorgeous. Without being too obvious, it is called the Crow’s Nest and it has the view to match. If you wanna see where Santa Cruzans eat and work, then come here! I guarantee you will run into people we know.

Happy February 14th!

Photo Credit to jo9ce4line0 on Flickr

Ok, so yes, today is Valentine’s Day but it’s not that bad….

-It is also the Chinese New Year and it is the Year of The Tiger (I, Carina, am a Tiger) Rawr!

-If you watched 30 Rock this week or you know a lot about Women’s Suffrage then you can also say, “Happy Anne Howard Shaw Day!”

So how did I celebrate all of this: dumplings for lunch, a giant bowl of Taiwanese shaved iced that melted in seconds, and I decided not to bring a date to the Valentine’s Day dinner party I am having tomorrow. I think I got it all in there. Oh, and tonight I am going to a house party that has this in the description.

It will ONLY be the smartest, funniest and most smolderin’ sexy people we can find, crammed into one joint. Imagine the mix–your besties, loaded testies, propped up chesties–low investies $$$

Hope you are all having a fantastic February 14th, and make sure to celebrate at least one of these holidays!

Fast Food in the New Year & Rose Parade!

It’s a new year and you know what that means, silly resolutions. I am sure that atleast 80% of these have something to do with fitness and weight loss. In fact, I find it perfectly fitting that on NYE before I went out I saw a commercial for the new Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet. For this venture they have a spokeswoman named Christine, who lost weight from eating the new fresco menu at T. Bell. She is the equivalent to Jared of Subway fame. I, for one, like the concept. I am a strong proponent that fast food isn’t bad as long as you know calorie content and most restaurants that you and I dine at are far worse for you. I think that McDonald’s has an unneccesarily bad wrap, and I am not talking about that snack wrap. My favorite thing, a chicken nugget happy meal (with a Diet Coke), clocks in at only 420 calories. If you know me, than you know I love boot shaped chicken nuggets with sweet & sour sauce so add an extra 50 calories for the sauce. Anyway, I am excited to try the new Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet menu and I was stunned when my whole New Year’s Day was visited by fast food spokespeople, mascots, and more. I am nuts and despite getting home from NYE at 3:30A I was up at 7:30A to walk to the Rose Parade. I live only two blocks away and I am still new enough to Pasadena to love it. One of the first floats had the lovely Jack of Jack in The Box. I love him and that bowl haircut commercial was one of my favorites of 2009.

I was never a kid that was scared of clowns and seeing Ronald McDonald on the float elicited nothing but happiness. The float actually stopped right in front of me and I got to see him, the Original Gangsta Ginger, take a sip of water…scandalous.

The last of the fast food spokespeople I saw was Jared. I love Jared but I absolutely detest Subway. I like the calorie content and price but I have never been able to eat more than 2 bites of any Subway sandwich. As far as chain fast food delis go I am a Togo’s  and Jeresy Mike’s kind of a girl.

Anyway, as we are in the new year and you may or may not be 4 days in to your resolution remember that fast food eateries and their likeness are everywhere. You need to not fear it but rather embrace it and make smart decisions so your diet can handle the drive-thru’s of life. In case, you are interested in some Rose Parade pictures that don’t contain fast food personalities here are some for you. The Grand Marshal was the heroic Captain Sully. Although, the people in hazmat suits that were designated pooper scoopers for the day received a heroes welcome in my section as they walked behind all of the horses, ponies, and donkeys.

My favorite float of the day was the snowboarding bulldogs and if they are interested they can be the UG Girls mascot for 2010. Not to boast but I think they can be bigger than the old Taco Bell mascot, the “Yo quiero Taco Bell” Chihuahua.

Happy New Year! Your UG Girls Love You!

New Year’s Eve is one of those super tough nights where you think that you have to be doing something spectacular. After all, it is the end of one year and the start of a new one; it’s kind of a big deal. Due to this pressure, NYE is cursed with the disability that wherever you are you always think you can be doing something better. It is a night of options but no certainty. We read on FB that our Downtown Jew Crew was doing a pub crawl with mustaches. The last time we got to wear mustaches was the Yelp Taco Truck Crawl. It sounded perfect for the night. We were off to a late start but we  took the metro, which was free and running all night, to Broadway Bar. It is rare for these UGs to walk so we were a little disoriented without our cars and began to walk the wrong direction. We turned back, walking an extra 6 blocks in heels, and feeling defeated. It was now 11:35 and we were nervous about the course of the night, we felt like tourists in our own city. We dealt with a doorman that didn’t believe we were with the party perhaps because we were mustache-less.  Luckily, we made it in about 15 minutes before the big countdown. Not enough time to get a drink in the crowded bar. We got our mustaches on and felt far too sober for the occasion. We sat next to our wittiest friend, Laura, and clapped and cheered to welcome the New Year in.

It wasn’t necessarily bad but we didn’t kiss anyone at midnight, we were starving, and our pre-party drinks had worn off. We went to grab a drink at the bar but after being groped we decided to leave. As we were walking, I remembered that the Grilled Cheese Truck was going to be outside of the Golden Gopher. I like that bar and I knew it would be chill and have no cover. Out front was not only the Grilled Cheese Truck but also Frysmith. It was like finding our mecca. We ate a huge lunch but that was from 12:30-3 and it was now past midnight and we were starving. I recommended we go to both but start with grilled cheese. Let me preface by saying, I was expecting very little. Josie and I are both OG when it comes to food on wheels. We like Highland Park taco trucks and haven’t been in on the novelty food truck craze. I knew from their twitter that they had lobster truffle mac n cheese for their New Year’s special and that sounded incredible but we are trying to stick to a budget in the new year and that was $15. Instead we decided to try the grilled cheese. I got the caprese and Josie got the harvest. We were going to get fries from down the curb but we got talked in to getting tomato soup and mac n cheese as our sides all from the GCT. I am glad we did because it was so good. We are food girls and this curbside meal made our night and new year better than any party, open bar, or midnight kiss could do. Josie’s sandwich had butternut squash and leeks. She proclaimed that hers was better, I rolled my eyes, but it in all honesty it was delicious and a little better. That’s saying a lot because mine was also delicious. The tomato soup was chunky and flavorful and the mac n cheese packed a spicy kick that Josie and I couldn’t identify.

The food was good but it was the owner, Dave, that made our night. He was laughing as Josie and I bickered and called each other “Frenemies” and about how I was convinced I knew every single person walking by. We asked him if were his favorite food bloggers he ever met and he responded, “You are the only ones that block the pick-up window.” Uncouth. Our moods and spirits were completely lifted and we walked in to the Golden Gopher for a few drinks. We saw old friends, went in the photobooth, and it quickly became a night worth remembering. It is one for the scrapbook…wedding album. We hope you all had a great end to 2009 and start of 2010. We love you all and this year we will strive to bring you a new website, awesome products, good food advice, and hopefully some laughs (with us, not at us).

A Very Untraditional Trip Home for the Holidays

It wasn’t easy getting home this holiday season. I was in my first car accident and felt the need to take my car straight to the auto body shop and then realized I was carless to make my trip to Santa Cruz. Thanks to everyone’s best friend, Facebook, I found out that two jr. high and high school friends that currently reside in LA were heading home for the holidays. They were kind enough to give me a ride and we reminisced on old memories on the way home. We listened to a song called “Too Close” by Next and I told them that when the song came on at junior high dances I remembered living the lyrics of, “Step back you’re dancing kinda close, I feel a little poke coming through on you.” It was so poetic to have so many shared experiences with a group of people you never see. We arrived late on Christmas Eve. It was just enough time for my 8 year old brother and I to make cookies for Santa and leave out carrots and celery for the reindeer. He then asked, “Does Santa like organic nonfat milk? ‘Cause that’s all we have.” I started laughing and he responded the best way possible, “Are you gonna tweet me?” Of course, I did.

Good thing my brother, Cody, and I did so much work for Santa. He was granted an electric Razor on Christmas morning. He doesn’t yet need the electric razor for facial hair so his razor is in the scooter realm. Since we are Jewish we also attended Temple Beth El on Christmas Day for a Fiddler on the Roof singalong and a chinese food lunch. It was a great deal of fun but my 90 year old grandfather who was born to kvetch was annoyed that they only served him water…what, no Diet Coke?!?!

The day after Christmas was relaxing and wonderful. My mom always complains that she eats too much when I visits and gains a minimum of 2 pounds. I am proud of this fact and love for her to indulge in my gluttonous lifestyle. This day was so no exception. My mom said she felt sick from eating too much, I was unimpressed. My little brother, on the other hand, polished off a 1/2 rack of ribs from Bruno’s BBQ by himself, that I was impressed by.

It was on this day that my mom shocked me by saying that she wanted to get a tattoo the next day. She has never had one and doesn’t seem like “the type” whatever that means. A sad anniversary is coming up for my family and I absolutely felt her need to mark this event. There was a name I always grew up hearing and it was Frank Fumano, who gave my grandpa his tattoo and who was my mom’s big first crush. Reading my mom’s book of poetry that she wrote when she was my age was chilling and her poem about Frank was always the most poignant for me. My mom once heard that Frank died and when she learned that he was alive and well and working in her hometown of San Mateo excited her beyond belief. She didn’t know what to do, and as the mother of an Uncouth Gourmand, she ended up sending a fruit basket to his office-the tattoo parlor. She knew that if she was going to get a tattoo only Frank could do it. Since I already have one, 2 orange elephants in the shape of a heart with the word for a good sigh written in Japanese (although hot tea has to be in your mouth to say it correctly), I was there for support and to monitor. The name of the tattoo salon is Al’s Rock of Ages and it is run by Al who has a ton of funny jokes and stuff to look at in his shop. By the way, if you have to go to the bathroom it is free to pee but a penny for a poo. Obviously, the highlight for me was being able to meet Frank and to help my mom get exactly what she wanted. Well, Frank was really the artist but I like to think that I helped.

Nothing about this holiday trip home was traditional but it was all so much fun. In the words of Fiddler on the Roof, “Tradition. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as a fiddler on the roof!” All I can say is sometimes being a fiddler on the roof is fun and exactly what a holiday season needs!

Christmas Evening: Tis the Day of Giving and Receiving

Tis the night of Christmas

and to tell you the truth

it was quite grand and merry

but I missed my other uncouth

I, Carina, am spending time with my family in Santa Snooze and like good Jews we attended a Fiddler on the Roof singalong and a Chinese food luncheon at the synagogue today. I am sure Josie ate some delicious tamales with her family in San Diego. We hope you are all having a fabulous day and night!