Feb 13, 2015

May I use the bathroom? Oh, it's occupied???

Saw this while I was out walking around in the 90 degree heat knocking on doors trying to find someone who witnessed an accident:

At least the Ducati was keeping cool....

Feb 12, 2015

BBQ: The Bear Pit Bar-B-Que, Mission Hills, CA

Old school sign rocks.  
I'm a bbq snob.  I'll admit it.  I'll also admit that "good" BBQ is really subjective.   I like my ribs to be pork and to be a bit over done so they fall off the bone.  I like my brisket with a visible smoke ring and sliced thick, and I like my pulled pork moist without being slathered in sauce.

In LA for work, I read up on Bear Pit BBQ which is just down the block from my hotel.  It has a great back story.  It first opened in the 1940's and has been passed to new owners a few times but remains almost the same as when it opened.  It is apparently "Missouri style bbq" which means nothing to me (showing my bbq ignorance) except that some people also call Missouri style St. Louis style.

At any rate, the Bear Pit gets good reviews on Yelp (3 1/2 stars) and mostly good on Tripadvisor (3 1/2 stars).  One would think a BBQ joint with 3 1/2 stars would shine.  Perhaps I hit the place on a bad day...but in my opinion, it gets one star, and only because the waitress was really nice.

I ordered a plate with a little of everything that cost me around $25.00.  I didn't want to give an opinion on the place after trying just one item.  See, I'm being nice.   First, they provide you an "appetizer" in a small bowl filled with ice that has celery, pickles, peppers, and carrots.  Ok, I'll admit, I needed the veggies, but this was a bit weird, even for me.

When the salad arrived I took a few bites and then decided it was not very good so I wouldn't waste my stomach space.  It looked like someone just dumped a bag of pre-made salad onto my plate and tossed one slab of tomato on the side for decoration.  Not good.  And the dressing...I'm not familiar with how they make it, but I'm guessing this is a powder that they add some water to and mix to the desired consistency.  It was not very appealing but more so, tasted like crap.  (Fancy word, eah?)

I've seen the same exact salad at many other places and hated it every time.

Taster's Treat $25.95  Those little yellow things are potatoes that have been deep fat fried. 

When the main course arrived, it looked good.  I mean, it was a plate full of bbq.  How can I really not like that?  The brisket and the turkey was cut very thin.  So thin it was difficult to pick up.  And the meat all kind of tasted the same.  There was a small plate of something that didn't look like anything other than a hush puppy and I had to ask the waitress what it was.  Turns out they serve fingerling potatoes that have been deep fat fried.  They were cold, tasteless and dripping in grease.

The order came with a slab of what appeared to be garlic toast, which had potential but was also laying in grease.  It was like someone smeared butter and garlic on a piece of cardboard and heated it slightly.  Yuk.   Of course I ate most of it because it was one of the best things on the table.  Grease and all.

Ribs with membrane still attached....yuk.  
The chicken was deep fat fried and had no flavor whatsoever.  My meal came with two pieces but one piece, a wing, was so crispy I couldn't pull a string of meat off the bone.  The brisket and turkey had the same nothingness of flavor.  Blah.

The ribs were so bad I ate half of one before deciding I'd rather stop and get Taco Bell later.   Maybe it's a Missouri BBQ thing, but please for the love of God pull the membrane off the ribs.  I don't care what you think that membrane does for the meat while it's cooking.  If you overcook the meat (or maybe microwave the ribs to heat them up) that membrane turns into something totally gross and undesirable (much like my ex-boyfriend).

The only saving grace on this $25 meal was the baked beans.  The beans were very good.  Tasty.  Full BBQ flavor.  And in all honesty, the sweet tea was good.  How one would mess up sweat tea, I have no idea, so really that should not count as a win.

Overall, on my BBQ ranking scale, from one to five with five being awesomeness on platter, I give the Bear Pit BBQ a ranking of ONE.   They only get a one because I liked their waitress (not the other staff, the woman who took my money was not friendly at all) and they had fast service.

In a nutshell and to be brutally honest, this was the worst BBQ I've ever had.  And I've had some pretty bad bbq.

A quote on their website says "This is undoubtedly the best BBQ this side of the San Fernando Valley".  That may be true.  But if this is the best, I may as well give up my day job and open my own business here.  I'd make a killing, even with my limited experience.  I could make better ribs in my sleep.

BBQ Ranking:  1  (Yukky Pooh Pooh)
Cost:  $$
Service:  B-
Best food:  Baked Beans
Atmosphere:  Loud 
Chance of me returning:  Only if hell freezes over.

Mexico 2015

For the second year in a row my travel buddy, Jenn, and I went to Puerta Vallarda at the end of January.  We stayed at the Dreams/Secrets all inclusive resort which is quite lovely.  Getting out of the Oregon rain was a blessing...until we experienced Mexico rain.  Oregon has a constant drizzle and sometimes "mist" which is quite tolerable.  Mexico rain is a torrential downpour which I'm guessing measures about five inches an hour.  It rained for about two and a half days.  We spent the majority of the week lounging in the lobby near the bar...all inclusive remember?  We actually drank a little too much on a few days and once I ended up in my room and ready to sleep by 6:00 p.m.   Yeah, I'm a little too old to start drinking at 10:30 a.m.

If you see this on the side of the road, STOP and EAT!

We did one excursion to Hacienda el Divisidero which was the highlight of the trip.  Since it had rained the day prior, we were told to make sure and use the bug repellant.  Nice.  It was a beautiful day and our guide, Jesee, was one of the best guides I've ever seen.  We stopped at numerous local places along the way for photo ops and to try the local fares.  

We ate fresh bread that is cooked in an oven that is made of clay in the side of a mountain at Panaderia Los Pinitos.   The bread is apparently very famous and the "bakery" sells hundreds of pieces a day.  The bread can be bought plain or it is stuffed with cheese, berries, and even meat.  It is a must try if you are ever on the outskirts of town.
Jesee and a local breadmaker

The bread is cooked using indirect heat...and it is the best bread I've ever had!

We met a local artist.  Her shop (ok, the room in the front of her house with a bookshelf where she shows her art) was closed but she graciously opened the door and not only let us see the art but also took us around the back to see the different types of clay and her oven she uses.  We tipped her for her time and she was very gracious and gave us some of her art.  We eventually had to leave so she'd stop trying to hand us stuff.   If you are ever near El Tuito, look her up.

Two of the ranch hands standing next to my "horse"
Once we arrived at Hacienda el Divisadero, we had a snack before heading out on a short horseback ride to see some petroglyphs and play in the river with the dogs.  Ok, when I say horseback ride, I mean, everyone under 100 pounds got to ride a horse.  I was on a mule.  Nothing says "go on a diet fat ass" like having to ride mule.

But he was a good mule.  I would have fallen in love if my heart weren't already stolen by a chocolate lab named "Chocolate" that was very pregnant and apparently in love with our guide, Jesee.   I can't even find love from a dog.  Nice.  I guess the mule will have to do.


After I waded in the river and hung out with Chocolate, we drove back to the Hacienda and ate the most amazing lunch of the entire week.  I can't recall what was on the plate, but it was so good I'll have nightmares if I ever go into an American Mexican food place again.

Lamb, chicken, pork, sausage, beef, and beans.  Yummmmyyyyyy

One of the highlights (yep, just ONE) of the Hacienda tour is the fact that this is the only place to purchase Raicilla, which is tequila moonshine or something of the sort (So we were told).  Tastes a lot like terpentine to me, but I'm used to smothering my tequila in margarita mix.   They were remodeling the Raicilla area when we visited but we saw the "factory" and were able to drink all the free Raicilla margaritas we could tolerate at lunch.  Jenn and I, never shying away from anything that tastes like crap but has alcohol in it, each bought a bottle and brought it home.  If you'd like to taste some of this just stop on by!

If you are ever in the Puerta Vallarda area and need a fun excursion, or a place to stay the night that's awesome, look up Hacienda el Divisadero.  They have beautiful rooms and serve great food.  You won't be sorry!!!

Back to the resort we went to suffer through another few days of all inclusive drinks and nothing to do but drink.  It was torture.  But we survived (even though I was attacked by mosquitos and had large bites all over my legs and some on my arms.  Note to self, after wading in river, reapply bug repellant, dummy stupid.)

I was at home by Tuesday and by Sunday, I was on a plane headed to Los Angeles to work for two weeks.  My destination of choice?  No way.  But, work is work.   And this work gives me the chance to try some new BBQ joints.  I'm not sure how impressed I'll be...but I'm going to at least give it a shot and see if I can find one place that makes me want to come back.   My positive psychology teacher would be so proud that I'm being so positive.  

Be safe.

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