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Posts Tagged ‘newbury park’

Road Trip Hit: Ranch Hand BBQ & Grill (Newbury Park,CA)

Posted by Caveman Cooking on September 18, 2010

Ranch Hand BBQ & GrillAnother installment of Road Trip Hits. Taking a page from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, this ongoing series features some of those little known paragons of road-trip rations.

Okay, so this technically wasn’t a “road trip”. Just a quick lunch stop between picking up the Cavegirl, who gets out of school at 1:30, and corralling the Caveboy, who gets out an hour later. But, Ranch Hand BBQ & Grill (NOTE THEIR NEW ADDRESS: 1015 Broadbeck Drive Suite A Newbury Park, CA 91320 805-375-4252) is truly your typical road-house type of establishment (also known by such names as “greasy spoon” or “hole in the wall”), offering tasty, hearty food at a reasonable price.
Having spent the entire morning and lunch hour in a voice over session, I hadn’t had a chance to eat a thing yesterday. Since my stomach was talking louder than I could speak, I thought it might be a good idea to appease the belly-beast. Ranch Hand has been on my radar to try ever since we moved into the neighborhood. Though, it was always an afterthought as I would drive by and say, “Oh! We should have gone there!!” after munching at some other local spot. Yesterday, however, that little light bulb went off over my head as I drove to the school and I eagerly awaited my introduction to the local Q-house.
As we walked in, I noticed the old authentic Western saddle by the door … nice touch. There was one small table and two chairs outside, but a few more tables with chairs inside – enough to seat several families at once. The guy behind the counter, Chris, was very nice and couldn’t have been more kind to the Cavegirl, giving her a lollypop and one to take home for her brother. Behind him, the lunch special board had seven or eight options on it. Being that I’m always looking for a deal, this seemed like the way to go. The only problem was choosing between all the possibilities like the Pulled Pork sandwich, 1/2 a BBQ Chicken, Burger, etc. I opted for the Tri-tip Sandwich special, which also included one side-dish (I went with the Coleslaw) and a refillable fountain drink, all for $7.95.Tri-tip Sandwich
As we sat and waited for the food to be prepared, I noticed that the walls were covered with notes and drawings from previous customers. I knew instantly, that this was a very Cave-friendly place. Chris also came by our table and asked the Cavegirl all about her school and her favorite things to do, which made the wait seem to go by in an instant.
When the food did arrive, I was pleased by the amount of meat that was piled onto the soft, fresh sandwich roll. Too often these days, places will slap one slice of meat on each half of the sandwich and call it good. This one was packed several layers high – the perfect amount! As you can see, it also had a nice basting of their proprietary sauce. I took that first bite … oh my, was it good! The Tri-tip was amazingly tender, full of wonderful flavor, and complimented by the zesty sweetness of the sauce. I offered the Cavegirl a bite … BIG mistake! As she proceeded to eat almost half of my sandwich despite the fact that she had finished off a full lunch just over an hour earlier. 😯
CavegirlI then took a bite of the slaw and was pleasantly surprised by the unique sweet tang it possessed. I then started piling a little onto each bite of the sandwich and then topping it off with a little squirt of their homemade BBQ sauce in the spicy variety and I was absolutely in gastronomic heaven. While it really complimented the Trip-tip unbelievably well, I imagine it must be otherworldly when combined with some of their Pulled Pork which, I am told, is as good as anything you can get down in the BBQ Belt
All together, it was one of those sandwich experiences you just never wanted to end. In one of the late Warren Zevon’s last interviews, just before his impending passing, he said, “Enjoy every sandwich”. If he had gotten the chance to taste one of these he might have added, “… as long as it’s a Tri-tip sandwich from Ranch Hand!”
After some fact digging with Chris, it turns out the owner, Arnold, and his family used to live in the Santa Ynez valley, the place where grilling this cut of beef originated. In fact, they apparently had a BBQ joint there for years where he learned his trade and, obviously, learned it well. I can’t wait to go back and give the Pulled Pork, chicken, ribs, House Chips, mac salad, and deep fried Twinkie a try … but not all at once! 😉 The Cavegirl can’t wait either, as you can see by the delight the Ranch Hand BBQ & Grill left on her face. The only drawback is that they don’t really offer anything vegetarian other than their side dishes and a house salad. So, the Cavewoman is out of luck on this one. You’d think, especially being a So Cal establishment, that they’d throw a Veggie Burger or Grilled Cheese sandwich on the menu. But, until they do, at least the Cavekids and I have a new Road Trip Hit right in our own backyard. Gotta love that!

UPDATE: I have since found out that they do indeed offer a veggie burger for the herbivore crowd … it’s just not officially on the menu because meat is their obsession. But, if you ask for one, Arnold swears he’ll gladly throw a veggie burger on the grill for you!

UPDATE #2: They updated their menu when they recently moved to a bigger and better location … and the “Garden Burger” is now proudly on it! Plus, they’ve added a stone pizza oven … and their Zah is gooooooood!!

©2010 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.net authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

Posted in BBQ, Cave's Faves, Road Trip Hits | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Certs

Posted by Caveman Cooking on March 22, 2010

aka Ramsay Saves Mama/The Snack That Saves

The reason this entry is named after a ubiquitous breath mint is because it is, as the old commercial said, “Two! Two!! Two posts in one!!!”. Okay, so the ad actually said “mints” instead of “posts”. But, the point is readily apparent … I hope! 😉

Chef Gordon Ramsay with Mama Rita's staff

Chef Gordon Ramsay with Mama Rita's staff

Part 1 is “Ramsay Saves Mama”. If you saw Friday night’s episode of “Kitchen Nightmares” you saw a restaurant named Mama Rita’s featured as the bistro in need of rescue by the famed Chef-zilla, Gordon Ramsay. Just so happens that Mama Rita’s was one of the first restaurants we ever tried in our new neighborhood, only then it was our neighborhood-to-be. We had been looking in the Newbury Park/Thousand Oaks area for over a year before our recent move. During our first serious gander at where we might want to live in the area, we found ourselves at this Mexican restaurant’s doorstep in need of sustenance.
Unfortunately, my Chile Verde was dry and the Cavewoman’s Quesadilla needed to be redone three times before it was done right. Needless to say, when Gordon Ramsay complained that the food was dry and lacked flavor, we weren’t very surprised. He also encountered the same slow service we found last year. It was so regrettable to us since we loved the beautiful decor which includes copper topped tables in a modern hacienda motif. The chips and salsa rocked, too! Turns out, they were cooking with frozen ingredients and basically zapping everything in the microwave. Plus, the head chef wasn’t really living up to her title. So, Gordon threw everything out of the freezer and got them cooking with fresh, local ingredients. He also left his mentor chef behind to help develop the new menu and retrain the staff.
Even though we knew it would be packed the following night, we just had to go and see for ourselves if Ramsay’s influence and advice had transformed this eatery. We arrived at 6pm and were seated within 15 minutes. I was driving, so the Cavewoman ordered a Margarita on the rocks – I had a sip and it was done perfectly. We ordered up some guacamole to start and it was made with fresh, ripened avocados and was a perfect compliment to their still rockin’ chips and salsa.
Mama Rita's owner Laura Papenfus

Mama Rita's owner Laura Papenfus


For the main course, Cavewoman went for a repeat of her ill-fated quesadilla order. Only, this time, it was done perfectly right off the bat! Plus, it was accompanied with a generous dollop of guac. I went for something different – a Ramsay inspired Carnitas dish. Slow roasted, succulent pork shoulder spiced with fresh ground Caraway seeds and Pineapple juice, served over Spanish Rice with sweetened corn, a fresh veggie medley, pickled carrot shavings and red onion, and fresh corn tortillas. I so wish I my camera hadn’t died, because it was a huge plate of colorful and flavorful food. The meat was so moist, “dry” wasn’t even in it’s vocabulary. Possibly the most unique version of Carnitas I’ve ever tasted … it was goooooood! Even the kid’s burgers looked meaty and fresh. They certainly ate them quick enough!
While we waited for our dessert of cheese stuffed Churros with vanilla ice cream and chocolate dipping sauce, Mama Rita’s owner Laura Papenfus came over to talk to us. We chatted about the change in the menu and how the show had made such a difference … even though it had been shot 10 months prior! She also informed me that on Friday’s they make her grandmother Rita’s (yes, the namesake) famous traditional Carnitas. I’ll definitely have to give those a try!
We were so happy for Laura that Gordon Ramsay was able to help her turn things around. The food was now stellar, though the service still a bit slow. However, the fact that the place was absolutely packed probably contributed to that. When we left at 8pm, the bar and waiting areas were still standing-room-only with patrons eagerly awaiting a table. I think they may have a lot of sellout nights in their future.
EDIT: Unfortunately, Mama Rita’s was not able to overcome the bad economy of the last few years and has since closed it’s doors.

Harry & David Gift Basket Goodies

Harry & David Gift Basket Goodies

Part 2 of this post is “The Snack That Saves”. The time demands of putting our new place together, a recent increase in my VO workload, and just life in general, have really put a dent in my time to cook. As a result, we have been sampling much of what our new area has to offer in the way of restaurants. However, a recent housewarming gift from the Cavewoman’s cousins John and Sarah, in the form of a Harry & David gift basket, really saved the day today.
Before illustrating the incredible recuperative powers of said basket, an introduction of it’s givers is warranted. John, is my wife’s first cousin from her dad’s side of the family and is one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever met. Sarah, married John in 1992 and, for the last ten years, has been co-host of the top-rated morning radio show in the San Francisco area, airing weekdays on The Alice. However, back in ’92 she was a part-time on-air talent at KLOS in Los Angeles where I was working as the Production Director. Her stint there only lasted three months, but that was long enough to introduce me to my future Cavewoman. So, you could say, I owe them!
The Snack That Saves

The Snack That Saves


Now, I owe them even more because their gift basket truly came to the rescue today. After spending the last two days trying to get the garage cleared of the myriad of boxes that have inhabited it the past two weeks my body decided that a 9am bowl of cereal wasn’t going to cut it by 3pm. Since the Cave-in-laws were coming down for dinner, I didn’t want to ruin my appetite, but I needed something … BAD! That’s when the light bulb went off … the gift basket!
I pulled out the H&D Summer Sausage; Cheddar Cheese; Honey Roasted Nuts; and some crackers, sat down at the kitchen table and was going to have my little snack. Suddenly, the Cavewoman and Cavegirl seemed interested in what I had thrown together and joined me at the table. That’s when my wife grabbed a pear and asked if I wanted a slice … again, a light bulb goes off! I shot up, grabbed the H&D Sweet Hot Mustard and an Artisan roll from a local bakery, and turned this nice little snack into a truly delicious treat. The flavors of the bread, sausage, cheese, pear and mustard combined for a dazzling taste-bud delight. It also gave me the fuel to get back to work and not only nearly complete the garage, but also hang a huge picture over the fireplace! Harry, David, John & Sarah to the rescue!!
And, for some reason, my breath now feels minty fresh. 🙂

©2010 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.net authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

Posted in Chit Chat | Tagged: , , , , , , | 18 Comments »