Food

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Cafe is Done but Bless My Soul is Still Catering

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2018 at 5:17 PM

Chef and owner Marie "Sweet Mama" Janisse. - FILE
  • File
  • Chef and owner Marie "Sweet Mama" Janisse.

If you've driven past Bless My Soul Cafe, you may have peeped the "for lease" sign in the window. The Creole restaurant, which was featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, closed its doors in September but is still catering and operating as a private party venue for now. Owner and chef Marie "Sweet Mama" Janisse says the combination of staffing issues and a drop in business she links to the hit the cannabis economy has taken led her and her daughter Desiree Janisse to shutter the dining room. 

"I had maybe 20, 25 people that were loyal customers but other than that," says Marie Janisse with a dry laugh. She says problems with staffing led to long workdays that were taking a physical toll. "It was me and my daughter carrying the whole weight of the restaurant cooking and serving, and it was killing us both."

Janisse says the Bless My Soul line of sauces are still in production and she has a private holiday party gig this weekend, so she's still working but has no plans to reopen. If you're jonesing for a chafing dish of her mac and cheese, the catering line is 362-1518.
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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Waffling in Rio Dell

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 3:42 PM

The cream cheese and blackberry jammy Blackout. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The cream cheese and blackberry jammy Blackout.

Pull up to the Root 101 Nursery (770 Wildwood Ave., Rio Dell) and instead of soil you may smell waffles. Tucked in the corner of the shop is the Wildwood Waffles counter, behind which steams a trio of busy waffle irons.

Puffed, crisp and cakey, the waffles come straight off the cast iron and are folded around a bevy of fillings you may need time to consider. The Blackout ($5) is a good start, slathered with cream cheese and blackberry jam from Mad River Farms. A flurry of powdered sugar finishes it off but the finished product is not terribly sweet and exactly as melty as you hope. For another $2, toss on bacon strips and hit all the food groups.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Cookies from the Burrito Place

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2018 at 12:44 PM

Homemade, grandma-level treats from Amigas Burritos. - PHOTO BY SAM ARMANINO
  • Photo by Sam Armanino
  • Homemade, grandma-level treats from Amigas Burritos.

Amigas Burritos has long had a loyal following, one that's hanging in with the change of ownership since Jorge Bravo, who worked there some 12 years, bought it two years ago. Regulars come for the burritos but we're here for dessert. The saucer-sized cookies in plastic wrap by the register are unremarkable looking but they're grandma-level stuff.
Fat, fudgy brownie goodness. - PHOTO BY SAM ARMANINO
  • Photo by Sam Armanino
  • Fat, fudgy brownie goodness.

These are the kinds of homemade goodies you used to have to mow somebody's lawn for. The thick, palm-sized brownie's flaky top is dotted with chocolate chips and wonderfully fudgy and moist, right to the crusty corners ($1.35). There's also a two-hander of a peanut butter-chocolate chip cookie with chopped peanuts that bends and breaks in that gentle way only fresh cookies do ($1.25). The oatmeal, cranberry and white chocolate cookie is a soft, lumpy fall treat alternative for those who are pumpkin spiced out ($1.25).

Tiny, fluffy, crumbly cheesecake. - PHOTO BY SAM ARMANINO
  • Photo by Sam Armanino
  • Tiny, fluffy, crumbly cheesecake.
If you're lucky, the mini cheesecakes Bravo whips up won't be sold out ($2.50). More airy mousse than dense cheesecake, the lightly tangy fluff topped with berries comes in a cup of crumbly graham cracker crust that honestly could fall apart from a harsh word. But it's a simple, sweet surprise at the burrito shop. 
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Saturday, October 20, 2018

So Long, Mr. Fish

Posted By on Sat, Oct 20, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Mr. Fish Seafood, the little seafood shop on Broadway, is for sale. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Mr. Fish Seafood, the little seafood shop on Broadway, is for sale.

You're going to have to get your Christmas crab someplace else this year. Mr. Fish (2740 Broadway), the iconic Eureka shop that's been shelling out shellfish and doling out sole for 47 years, is closing indefinitely Oct. 26.

Owner Mark McCulloch originally bought the place from a friend when he was barely in his 20s and has spent his working life running the business. He's had employees in the past but now it's a one-man operation and he's ready to retire. An upcoming shoulder surgery moved up the timeline, he says, since managing the smokehouse, the counter and the stock with one arm is impractical and he's told recovery is slow.


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Saturday, October 13, 2018

In-N-Out in the Planning

Posted By on Sat, Oct 13, 2018 at 12:44 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock

Like an online dating match leaving breadcrumb text messages, In-N-Out Burger periodically lets us know it's interested in coming to Humboldt County. Someday. Maybe. And every time, die-hard fans of off-the-menu ordering get worked up only to be put off again. Let's keep in touch!

Things are looking decidedly more committed since The Carrington Co. submitted plans for a four-tenant structure on the coastal side of Broadway near Vigo Street to the Eureka Planning Department with an In-N-Out on the corner of the site. (Calls to The Carrington Co. were not returned.)

“They have definitely submitted permits, so that means they are very invested in the project … there’s still a lot to sort out," says Planning Department Director Robert Holmlund. "We’re working with them on the project to make sure it’s as good as it can be for the community.” That work includes nailing down a coastal development permit, a conditional use permit and a California Environmental Quality Act mitigated negative impact declaration, which touches on traffic, aesthetics, air quality and other issues. The proposal is tentatively scheduled to go before the planning commission Dec. 10.

But is In-N-Out Burger really into us? The folks at corporate headquarters remain cautious about a timeline for a yet unapproved project. In an email to the Journal, Vice President of Development at In-N-Out Burger Carl Arena wrote, "We do hope to open a restaurant in Eureka in the future. That said, it is still very early in the development application process so design elements such as building layouts, site circulation and access are still evolving." He goes on to say, "Once we begin construction on a new location, it usually takes us four to five months to build a restaurant and open for business. However, there is still quite a bit of work to be done before we can even set a time to begin construction. Because it is still so early in the process, it would be premature to comment on a timeline or if we will even achieve a development approval."

The burger chain isn't a franchise anybody can buy into — instead it's run by the Snyder family. And if the Bible references on the cups (a simple "John 3:16," for example) didn't tip you off, they're a conservative Christian outfit. The company's political donations sparked some controversy this summer when its $25,000 donation to the Republican Party in California became public. (The company also donated $50,000 to a political action committee that supports moderate Democrats.)

In a New York Times article, Arnie Wensinger, the burger chain's vice president was quoted as saying, “While it is unfortunate that our contributions to support both political parties in California has caused concern with some groups, we believe that bipartisan support is a fair and consistent approach that best serves the interests of our company and all of our customers.”  Whether those donations affect who's in or out among the Humboldt customer base remains to be seen. 
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Friday, October 12, 2018

Saturday Special

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2018 at 4:50 PM

The bành mí (aka khao chī) sandwich you can only get on Saturdays — if you're quick. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The bành mí (aka khao chī) sandwich you can only get on Saturdays — if you're quick.

While you are poking around the Lao Oriental Market (2908 E St., Eureka) on a Saturday, rooting through boxes of bitter melon and eggplants both long and golf ball sized, it's easy to overlook the unmarked stack of a couple dozen paper-wrapped bành mí sandwiches ($5.99). Easy and tragic.

Let's appreciate for a moment the Vietnamese creation — called khao chī  in Laos — that looks France in the eye and asks, frère, do you even sandwich? The flavors of fragrant cilantro and the spicy, tart, sweet pickled radish and carrot against the mix of savory meat, eggs, tofu or fish are unmatched. Its variations are many, even reaching into the realm of dessert.

Those found at the little Henderson Center shop, brought up from the Bay Area on most Saturdays (and Saturdays only), are the version we see perhaps most often in the U.S., with a schmear of peppercorn-spiked pâté, layers of pale Vietnamese pork sausage, ham and head cheese, along with cilantro, sliced fresh jalapeños and a smattering of pickled daikon radish and carrot. The baguette is a little more delicate than the usual around here, flaking off as you unwrap your slightly dented prize. Don't dwell on the superficial imperfections. Focus on the riot of tastes, the vegetable crunch and the perfect balance of something that's come so far to meet you. 
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Monday, October 8, 2018

Waiting on Abruzzi's Next Act

Posted By on Mon, Oct 8, 2018 at 3:14 PM

With its kitchen under renovation, Abruzzi relaunches as a jazz lounge, for now. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • With its kitchen under renovation, Abruzzi relaunches as a jazz lounge, for now.

If your plans for an evening out at Abruzzi were halted by rumors of its closure, don't despair entirely. Open since 1980, the Italian eatery has shut down its kitchen for renovation and relaunched itself as a jazz club — Abruzzi Lounge — at least for now.

Bill Chino, who co-owns Abruzzi with Chris Smith, says while the kitchen is blocked off, the bar is open and a few tables have been moved out to make way for leather chairs and a sofa. In its Abruzzi Lounge incarnation, the space is "a very informal, I guess I'd call it a jazz club." Opening night was this past Thursday and guests can seat themselves to hear live or recorded jazz, and nibble charcuterie and warm olives on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. on. There are plans to get performers back on the cordoned off stage, as well.

However, given that the building was built in 1857, its unclear right now how much renovation is needed and how much the owners are up to undertake. And so it's equally unclear what the future of the restaurant will be. "We're working in a transition and we'll know better in 10 days or so," says Chino. At least you can have a drink while you wait.
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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Taco Brothers Truck Rolls into Eureka

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 11:22 AM

Everybody loves dancing food. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Everybody loves dancing food.

As you zip down Eureka's Fifth Street, you're bound to spot the new taco truck that just claimed a spot on Monday at the corner of O Street under the golden pawn shop orbs. The snazzy Taco Brothers truck (1415 Fifth St.), with its dancing mustachioed burrito and taco, is hard to miss.

It's owner Cristal Pozos Ramirez's first food venture but she's not alone. Her father Raymond Pozos and uncle Guadalupe Miguel Pozos (the brothers) are doing the cooking, along with her mother, Luz, and aunt Pilar. "It's a family business," says Pozos Ramirez. Lifelong Humboldt residents, the family has roots in Oaxaca, which she says comes out in the cooking. "We kind of give it that special hit."

On the menu at Taco Brothers. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • On the menu at Taco Brothers.
Monday through Saturday you can find a member of the family working a shift turning out foil-wrapped burritos and plates of tacos. Pozos Ramirez says so far the cabeza and pastor are the big sellers, but she's not ready to pick a favorite. "I can't choose," she says. "It's hard."
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Monday, August 20, 2018

On a Stick: Deep-fried Daredevilry at the Fair

Posted By on Mon, Aug 20, 2018 at 1:48 PM

The corn dog, gold standard of fair food. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The corn dog, gold standard of fair food.

There are plenty of innocent pleasures to be had at the fair, from riding the Ferris wheel with your sweetheart to perusing the prize-winning livestock. But if you're not going to indulge your gastronomic id by eating something deep fried and totally unreasonable, you're not really getting the whole experience. The Humboldt County Fair is in full swing so we returned to the stalls and trailers, strolled past the familiar corn dogs, gator tail nuggets and fried pickles we rated a few years back to sample a few items we hadn't already investigated. Here are three contenders to balance out the wholesomeness of your day at the fairgrounds and add another layer of drama to your turn on the Typhoon.

A heap of curly fries. Good luck. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • A heap of curly fries. Good luck.
Giant Kurly Fries: This $8 shoebox-sized knot of skins-on, spiraled fries is made with tools that look better suited for a woodworking shop than a kitchen. Potatoes are spun and stripped into ribbons of starch by a lathe. Stuffed into a fry basket, they're plunged into bubbling oil until crispy  and passed to you through a window by a smiling teen who knows you have no shot in hell of finishing them. Season them as you like — making it rain with a cardboard box of salt with holes punched in the top or pumping ketchup wherever you can fit it — but accept that unless you are sharing with a hungry group, you won't make it down to the paper tray where all those salt crystals have sifted. Well, maybe, but at what cost?

Shoot, that's just fried cheese on a stick. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Shoot, that's just fried cheese on a stick.
Cheese on a Stick: At first glance, it looks like its similarly priced sibling the corn dog: a pebbly cylinder of deep-fried corn bread batter with a wooden stick jabbed in one end. But inside this evil twin is a block of American cheese rendered molten in the fryer to yield the nihilist carney version of a grilled cheese sandwich ($5). The young woman at the cash register will warn you it's "very, very hot" and offer the pro-tip of removing the wooden stick to "let it vent." It's OK to be afraid. After a couple minutes of venting, the sweet, crusty cornbread breaks open to a golden yellow center of creamy, processed cheese magma. Salty, sweet, greasy, crunchy and artificially creamy. There are only two kinds of people in this world — you will either recoil or wish for tomato soup.

A deep fried Twinkie with enough powdered sugar to make Scarface sneeze. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • A deep fried Twinkie with enough powdered sugar to make Scarface sneeze.
Fried Twinkie: The fact that this $5 hybrid of childhood nostalgia and poor adult decisions is for sale at the same stand as the deep fried Snicker's bar that nearly did us in a couple years back is a very bright red flag. The funnel cake batter-dipped Twinkie is roughly the shape of a harbor seal and nearly the weight of one. It's blanketed by a snowfall of powdered sugar and criss-crossed with chocolate syrup — you can order it without but that's hardly the path of moderation. Crack open the crust and the yellow snack cake with the alarmingly long shelf life is revealed. Whither the creamy filling? Oh, it's in there, just transformed by the heat of the fryer to a translucent, sugary goo that's, holy hell, somehow exponentially sweeter than in its original fluffy form. One bite in and any plans you had to ride the Zipper or ever look your dentist in the eye again are dust. Powdery, sugary dust. 
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Friday, June 1, 2018

Crab Sandwich with a View

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 5:27 PM

PHOTO BY JONATHAN WEBSTER
  • Photo by Jonathan Webster

When the day opens up with blue skies, warm breezes and sunshine on the calm waters of Humboldt Bay, nothing could be better than heading out to King Salmon, where kayakers are paddling in the waves, and making a hard turn into the parking lot of Gill's By the Bay (77 Halibut Ave.).

There you can find a seat on the patio and survey the nautical-themed garden with its landlocked rowboat, fluttering sweet peas and ship ropes, while the more intrepid glide by in their wetsuits and boats. If sitting with your back to a harpoon launcher makes you skittish, head for the corner. Novelty may lure you, siren-like, toward the grilled crab sandwich with cheese but stay the course to the plain, cold crab sandwich ($17.50). By my eye, it's at least a full cup of crabmeat tossed with mayonnaise and chopped green onion on soft, mild sourdough and accompanied by equally straightforward potato salad, slaw or fries. It's a simple arrangement that lets the sweet, briny flavor of the meat shine.

There are those who will whistle at that price for a sandwich — those who have never watched a full episode of The Deadliest Catch or picked a crab clean from claw to claw for someone else without nibbling as they went. You'll be happier if you accept that Dungeness crab, caught by professional fishermen making their living, and served to you by smiling restaurant staff doing the same, costs. Consider what you'd pay for its Kennedy cousin the lobster, shipped frozen and not nearly as delicate in flavor or texture. Then take a deep lungful of sea air, squint at the boats in the distance and thoroughly enjoy your sandwich.
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