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Road Trip Hit: Taqueria Cuernavaca (Ventura, CA)

Posted by Caveman Cooking on November 1, 2015

Taqueria CuernavacaRoad 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.

While the beautiful city of Cuernavaca, Mexico is known as the “City of Eternal Spring”, the much more geographically friendly Taqueria Cuernavaca (1117 N. Ventura Avenue, Ventura, California 93001 (805) 653-8052) should be known as the “Restaurant of Eternal Yum”. Located on “The Avenue” in the old section of town, it is a nice departure from the tourist-rich Main Street district of revitalized downtown Ventura. While there are two other locations (Santa Barbara and Oxnard), this one screams of a quaint south-of-the-border hole-in-the-wall.

Taqueria CuernavacaThough, many patrons opt for take-out, there are still 11 tables available for full wait-service. One of the first things you’ll notice is the self-serve salsa bar, loaded with 4 varieties of the Latin sauce plus several types of hispanic condiments like marinated carrots, seared Serrano peppers, onions, cilantro, etc. Also eye-catching is the cold case filled with a wide array of domestic and Mexican beer and soft drinks … including my favorite Jarrtios Mandarin.

Of course, the menu is filled with the usual tacos, burritos, and the like. Taqueria Cuernavaca also offers a breakfast menu (served all day) featuring the customary Huevos Rancheros (fried eggs on fried totillas), Huevos con Chorizo (egss with Mexican sausage), and breakfast burritos. However, once you see the Chilaquiles (tortilla chips topped with eggs and green sauce), sopas (tostada meets a sandwich), tortas (Mexican sandwich), Alambres (grilled meats, bell pepper, onion, and melted cheese, served with corn tortillas), and Pozole (a staple Cuernavacan soup), you realize this is not your usual Mexican fare.

Alambres El Fortachon at Taqueria CuernavacaOn a recent visit to Taqueria Cuernavaca with the Caveboy and his Grandpa, I opted for the Alambre known as El Fortachon – usually served with Carne Asada (steak), Al Pastor (marinated pork), Chorizo, Jamon (ham), melted cheese, onion, bell peppers a generous portion of sliced fresh avocado on top, and a wad of fresh corn tortillas. Though, I asked for no ham (extra Pastor) and no bell peppers. Meanwhile, my Father-in-law went for the same platter with no changes, and the Caveboy chose his favorite as of late: bean and cheese burrito.

Bean & Cheese Burrito at Taqueria CuernavacaWhen the grub arrived, I quickly grabbed one of the warm tortillas and loaded it up with the grilled meat and cheese mixture, topped it with a slice of avo, and drizzled some of the spicy rojo salsa over it all. The first bite was bursting with flavor heaven, as was each mouthful that followed. My father-in-law eagerly agreed … it was “amazing”! My bean and cheese burrito expert readily exclaimed that it was the best one he’d ever had (and he’s had quite a few over the last year). On a previous visit the Cavewoman and Cavegirl had the potato tacos and cheese enchiladas, and both had similar reactions.

Needless to say, Taqueria Cuernavaca has become one of our favorite spots to munch when we are in the Ventura area. We’ve also tried the new location in Oxnard. However, while we found the food to be equally phenomenal, it just doesn’t have that “dive” ambiance of the original location and does not offer full wait-service. We plan on visiting the Santa Barbara location soon. If you find yourself near any of these locations, and you are in the mood for something deliciously different from our neighbors to the South, do yourself a favor and give Cuernavaca a go!

©2015 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

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Road Trip Hit: ToM’s TaCos (Torrance, CA)

Posted by Caveman Cooking on September 19, 2015

ToM's TaCosRoad 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.

Anyone who has lived on the West side of Los Angeles has likely heard of, or eaten at, Tito’s Tacos. A multi-decade mainstay of simplified Mexican fast food in Culver City, CA (originally they had an Anaheim location, too). Most days, you will find long lines of hungry patrons waiting at one of their several ordering windows to get their mitts on the munchable burritos, tamales, enchiladas and, of course, tacos. One of those dedicated locals was a man named Ted Niida, who loved their food almost as much as life itself. So, when Tito’s decided to sell their location behind the Orange Curtain, Ted immediately jumped on the opportunity. He changed the sign slightly so that it read “ToM’s TaCos” (named after his beloved late father) and proceeded to offer the same great menu.

Over the years, Tito’s has raised their prices, reduced their portions, and turned to lower quality ingredients. Meanwhile, ToM’s kept the same dedication to quality, and customer satisfaction that made them both such gastronomic successes … and, even expanded their menu slightly to include tostadas, taquitos, nachos, quesadillas, and french fries. Plus, ToM’s Tacos also offers a chicken version of their taquitos, as well as their namesake dish.

So, about a year ago, it was with considerable glee that I directed a Disneyland-bound friend to nearby Ball Road for some great grub. Though, I was deeply saddened to receive a text from that friend, saying that ToM’s had closed it’s doors. Yes, Anaheim is long way from the Cave. But, there was so much comfort knowing that ToM’s was there waiting for my return to Orange County. Fast forward to this Summer, when I was recounting my disappointment to another friend, who excitedly stopped me mid sentence to tell me that ToM’s TaCos had actually relocated to Torrance, CA (4669 Torrance Blvd. Torrance, CA 90503ToM's TaCos Tacos & Taquitos 310-371-0625), not far from his factory. Needless to say, I was ecstatic that my beloved ToM’s was not only still in business, but less than half the distance from me as before. “Get the $*&# out!” I shouted, and we immediately packed up the families and headed over for some beef and cheese tacos, all beef and cheese burritos, bean and cheese burritos, and beef taquitos.

Having grown up about a mile from Tito’s, I remember the quality, size, and flavor they used to offer. As mentioned, it has since waned as their prices have skyrocketed … presumably to cover the cost of the TV advertising they now employ. But, one bite of ToM’s fare immediately brought me back to those delectable carefree days. ToM's TaCos BurritosMy beef and cheese burrito was hefty, zesty, and tasty. The pourable quac was thick and full of flavor, and the famous chips and salsa were as mouthwatering as I remember. The Caveboy and Cavewoman exclaimed they had the best bean and cheese burritos they’d ever tasted, the Cavegirl was too busy munching her taquitos to even mutter a word, and the Cave friends all agreed the food was just like what Tito’s used to be … perhaps even better!

The rave reviews should be no surprise considering that ToM’s TaCos uses no trans fats, no lard, and no MSG. They do, however, use the freshest, high quality ingredients they can find while taking no short cuts in their cooking process. Which leads to the most tender, flavorful cubed beef in the Chili Colorado for the burritos; savory shredded beef in the tacos and taquitos; and hearty, mouthwatering refried beans.

ToM's TaCos MenuSo, the next time you are cruising around the South Bay, and your stomach starts to rumble, head over to ToM’s Tacos for some simple but scrumptious Mexican food. You will walk away sated and full, as will your wallet. Plus, if you are a devotee of Tito’s, you will readily become a ToM’s convert! Yes, it’s that good!! Do keep in mind that ToM’s TaCos only accepts cash, and is closed on Mondays.

©2015 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

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REVIEW: Broil King Baron 440 Grill

Posted by Caveman Cooking on December 12, 2014

Broil King Baron 440
When my Char-Broil Commercial Series stainless steel grill imploded (literally) after just three years of service (yes, I kept it covered), I decided it was time to step up to a better outdoor cooking station. Yet, at the same time, I wasn’t willing to pony up for the 4-figure price tag of the Webers and other premium grills. My other prerequisites were that it had 4 burners and a side burner.

As usual, I did some hardcore research, both, online and in person and found that the old adage, “They don’t make ’em like they used to” really held true. Especially, in the low to mid price range. The hoods were light and flimsy, the burners made of cheap Chinese aluminum, and the casting of the fire boxes was shoddy, at best. No wonder most grills don’t make it through more than a few seasons of use anymore.

Then, I stumbled upon the Broil King line while walking through my local Lowe’s store. After feeling the made in the USA and Canada quality, and later discovering that Broil King was made by the same company that has been the sole Weber distributer north of the border since 1986 and producer of the renowned Broil-Mate line since 1989, I decided to take the plunge on their Broil King Baron 440. In fact, my first thought was that it looked like a Weber on steroids … more on that shortly.

Putting together a Broil King Baron 440Being a hands-on type of Neanderthal, I opted to save the $50 offer for store assembly and put it together myself. I unpacked the box and followed the easy directions. Although, the instructions stated it was a two-person job, I found it to be quite easy flying solo – EXCEPT when mounting the cast iron firebox onto the cart frame! That really needs a second person to do it properly, safely, and without damaging your new grill. Total assembly time was 2 hours. Though, an added pair of Cavehands for the entire process would have reduced that a bit.

Features of Broil King Baron 440By putting it together, I really got to appreciate some of the features and appointments of this bad boy. The recessed 10,000 BTU side-burner, which closes flush with the shelf giving you added workspace when not in use, comes near flush when open allowing for the use of bigger pots and pans than other grills can fit. The thermometer, which in my tests was very accurate, is large and ergonomically embedded into the Broil King logo. The locking casters also come with adjustable leveling feet, which is great for uneven surfaces under the grill. All the components of the Baron 440 fit and sit well, coming together flush, to give it a rock solid appearance and feel.

Appointments of the Broil King Baron 440The hood has that Weber-like high profile giving you extra headroom for things like Beer Can Chicken and Standing Rib Roasts. Both, the burner shelf and the side shelf fold down making storage and transportation a breeze. The knobs are large and smooth for ease of operation, and the handles are all over-sized and strong for years of trouble free service. With the 40,000 BTU stainless steel Dual-Tube burner system, Stainless steel Flav-R-Wave cooking system (which reduces flare-ups very well), and Sure-Lite electronic ignition system (which can light any or all of the four burners), I feel like the innards of this grill won’t implode any time soon. Plus, with the stunning mix of black porcelain enamel on the hood; black powder coat on the doors; and stainless steel on the shelves, front panel, and hood/shelf bolts; the Baron 440 is pretty easy on the eyes.

Food Cooking on the Broil King Baron 440I know what you’re saying, “Cave, it sounds great. But, how does that baby cook?!?!?”. In a word, amazing! After seasoning the heavy duty cast iron grates as suggested, I threw on some Poppa Mike’s Legendary Gnarly Burgers for the first go. I figured, if I was going to mess anything up, it might as well be on a burger instead of a steak. Though, the grill performed flawlessly – firing right up, heating up quickly, and squelching any of the flare ups you can often get with ground meat. By the way, the burgers came out perfectly, as did the caramelized onions I did on the side burner. The next time out, I went for a dish that called for a little more finesse from the Baron 440 … some Cedar Plank Teriockeye Salmon. Again, the grill worked phenomenally well, cooking the fish to moist juicy excellence, and the rice pilaf on the side burner was done just right. When it was time for a Steak ala Cave and baked potato dinner, the Broil King heated up to 650° in short order, seared the sirloins flawlessly, and baked the spuds to perfection on the porcelain coated warming rack. I’ve since done everything from Tri-Tip to BBQ Chicken and Ribs (all done with indirect heat, and a cast iron smoker box I added), and Kabobs to Galbi (requiring consistent, even heat across the cooking surface), and I can honestly say that this grill does it all and makes outdoor cooking a true pleasure.

Available in both Natural Gas and LP versions. With 664 square inches of cooking area (444 sq. in. primary area) you have plenty of room to cook for friends and/or extended family. Or, if you have a more intimate meal planned, you can light just one or two of the burners and get your groove on. Throw in the Lifetime Warranty on the cast aluminium components, 5 Year Warranty on the burner system, and 2 Year Warranty on all remaining parts and paint, you have a grilling machine you’ll be able to depend on for years to come. I highly recommend the Broil King Baron 440 Grill.

MSRP – $599, seen online as low as $449

Cave Club Rating: 5 Clubs
Cave ClubCave ClubCave ClubCave ClubCave Club

Cave Club Scale
5 Clubs = The Missing Link
4 Clubs = Rock Solid
3 Clubs = Better Than Sharp Stick
2 Clubs = Not Fully Evolved
1 Club = Should Be Extinct

©2014 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This review originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at authored by Caveman. This recipe may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

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REVIEW: Man Pans Stir Fry Wok & Steamer Set

Posted by Caveman Cooking on December 2, 2010

Man Pans Stir Fry Wok & Steamer SetRecently, the folks at Man Pans asked me if I would be willing to do a review of one of their pans here on C3. I did some research into their product line and was impressed by what they purported to offer. Turns out that Man Pans is actually the recently formed consumer division of Lloyd Industries who have been providing professional lines of cookware to chefs and restaurants since the mid 1980’s. In fact, if you’ve ever had a restaurant pizza baked in a pan, it was probably a Lloyd pan. I also discovered that all of Man Pans products are made in the USA using eco-friendly manufacturing techniques. None of their pans contain PTFE’s, PFOA’s or Fluoropolymer coatings. Obviously, I readily agreed … besides, I am always ready to play with a new toy!
They offered to send me the pan of my choosing, and that was all the invitation I needed to start scouring their product line for the perfect pan to do a review on. However, being that I was already in the market for both a new wok and a new steamer, I figured the 12″ Stir Fry Wok and Steamer Set was the logical choice – two birds with one stone, if you will.
I was a little hesitant to ask for one of their highest priced items, but they didn’t bat an eye. A few days after informing them of my choice, a package was left on the front porch containing everything you see here. Yep, they even threw in the makings for some St. Marie’s Wild Chicken Soup! Apparently, they send out some free gifts with most of their orders. I couldn’t wait to get my review going, and you probably can’t now either. So, without further adieu, here is what I found as I ran this puppy through it’s paces:

When I first removed the pan from the box, I was absolutely amazed at how light it felt. Usually, you expect pro-level pans to be a bit on the heavy side, conveying a feeling of sturdiness and toughness. While lighter pans have always seemed to be a sign of inferior quality and design. This was certainly not the case with the Man Pans Stir Fry Wok, as we’ll see. Though, as you can see from the picture, I was easily able to hold onto the pan with two fingers and applying very little pressure. I wouldn’t have dared trying this with my old wok, or even with my smaller Calphalon Stir Fry Pan.
Man Pans Stir Fry Wok

I was also impressed by the rather large profile it exhibited. It was only slightly smaller than the wok it was destined to replace, while easily dwarfing my smaller Calphalon model. Usually, I end up making two versions of every Asian meal I cook – a carnivore rendering for the Cavekids and me, and a veggie-friendly version for the Cavewoman. So, two woks are a must in the Cavehold. It seemed as though the new Man Pans wok would easily be able to handle cooking the larger amounts of food needed to fill three Neanderthal palates.
Comparing Woks

The entire Man Pans line contains their proprietary Gem-X2 coating. It is a two layer sapphire/quartz-like natural mineral finish that is permanently bonded to the aluminum pan. It will not flake, chip or rub off and is metal utensil safe, and oven safe to 700° F. Man Pans claims that the finish is so tough you can rub a coin on the surface and not only will you not scratch the finish, but the coin will actually get worn down! I decided not to test that claim, though. 😉
While the Gem-X2 coating does offer a stick-resistant finish, it is a good idea to coat any new pan with some Canola, or other vegetable oil. Other than that, no further seasoning is needed on the Man Pans. Interestingly, I also found that I didn’t need to use any more oil in the cooking processes than I would using any of the traditional non-stick cookware.
Oiling Pan

Of course, the first thing I was going cook in the pan was stir fry. I decided to just do one of my basic recipes, with a Pork loin version in the Man Pans wok, and a Tofu one on the smaller Calphalon. I figured that not only would I make my wife happy, but, I’d also get to run the pans side by side for a comparison of sorts. Both pans heated up quite quickly, though, the Man Pans Stir Fry Wok seemed to get there slightly quicker. Noteworthy, considering that it has much more surface area to heat. I placed my hand into the pan, without touching it, and could feel that the heat was very evenly radiated.
I put the oil into the pan and it deftly got to cooking level. I sauteed the chopped garlic and found that it cooked perfectly, while I struggled to prevent it from burning in the comparison pan. Turns out, that the Man Pans are designed to cook extremely evenly, and use about 40% less heat from the flame to achieve proper heat levels than most other pans. Making them very “green” in the cooking process as well as in the way they are manufactured.
Another nice feature on the Man Pans are the handles. Their unique CoolGrip handle design minimizes the amount of heat that can be conducted from the hot pan. So, while I always need some sort of mitt or potholder with my Calphalon, I was glove free and felt absolutely no heat as long as I kept my meat-hooks behind the “Hot” marker, even when using the high flame necessary for proper stir frying.
Sauteeing Garlic/Handle

I put the pork loin into the pan to start the browning process. It quickly began to sear and it wasn’t long before I was ready to turn the meat. I was going to reach for the spatula, but the steep sides of the Man Pans Stir Fry Wok invited me to go for a flip of the meat instead. I wasn’t sure if the meat would release easily enough to complete such a move, though my fears were quickly assuaged. As you can see, all of the pork chunks readily released for a very easy flip … I just could have done a better job of completing the move! 😳
Flipping Meat

I added the veggies to the stir fry, and wanted to give the food another flip. Again, it all released immediately and effortlessly. As you can see in the background, the spatula just sat there … I didn’t need to use it once while cooking in the Man Pans Wok. FYI, I don’t even attempt to try that move with the Calphalon, it’s sides are too slanted making it very easy to lose some of the contents when attempting the flip.
Flipping Stir Fry

The stir fry came out perfectly. The meat was cooked to perfection, the veggies remained crispy and firm, and the sauce I added slightly caramelized the stir fry’s ingredients perfectly. Over the course of my weeklong examination I ended up making two more dishes calling for a wok: another basic stir fry and a batch of my Chicken Panang (Thai Red Curry in Coconut Milk). Both, ended up being cooked to perfection, as well. However, I wanted to also give the steamer a go. Unfortunately, it isn’t deep enough to steam larger vegetables, like an Artichoke (my lone negative note on this set). I had to give something else a try and decided to make some Veggie Wonton Soup. Rather than boil my Won Tons in the soup, which tends to tear them apart, I like to steam them first then add them to the soup when it comes time to turn things down to a simmer. By using this set, I was able to steam them while the broth and veggies cooked below. I think it helped add more flavor to the Won Tons. Plus, I didn’t have to use a separate steamer – saving a pan of water, the gas necessary to heat it, and the resources needed to clean it. Making the Man Pans Stir Fry Wok, once again, very eco-friendly.
Steaming Won Tons

I must say that cleaning the Man Pans Stir Fry Wok is almost as satisfying as cooking with it. Returning the pan to it’s pristine state is quick and easy with a little dish soap and some warm water. No heavy scrubbing was needed no matter what was cooked in it. Though, if you ever do need to give it a vigorous cleaning, it is recommended that you re-oil the pan before the next time you cook with it.
Cleaning Pan

For years, I have been a Calphalon devotee. But, using the Man Pans Wok side by side with my old faithful has truly opened my eyes. Using a lighter pan certainly made things much easier in the handling department. Using less energy while cooking and achieving the same results is definitely an attractive quality. And, being made here in the USA using very environmentally friendly processes makes the Man Pans an exciting prospect. But, the bottom line is how they cook the food you are preparing … and on this level the Man Pans ran at least on par, if not better, than my trusty old Calphalon. My only complaint is with the depth of the steamer insert. Though, when you combine all of the pluses apparent in the Man Pans product, I feel as though I have found a new standard by which I will be judging cookware from here on out. The only other downside I see is that I now want to try out all of their other offerings! 😉
Man Pans 12

MSRP – $135, seen on sale for $100

Cave Club Rating: 5 Clubs
Cave ClubCave ClubCave ClubCave ClubCave Club

Cave Club Scale
5 Clubs = The Missing Link
4 Clubs = Rock Solid
3 Clubs = Better Than Sharp Stick
2 Clubs = Not Fully Evolved
1 Club = Should Be Extinct

The folks at Man Pans were also kind enough to offer all the readers of this review a generous 20% discount on any purchase made before 12/20/2010. Just enter Coupon Code “2010F&F” on the checkout page of your order and the discount will be applied. You may use that code as often as you like before it expires.
As you know, we only give away products that we believe in and use here on C3. Since I clearly have become a fan of Man Pans, I approached them about the possibility of doing a giveaway here on the blog. Their response was, to say the least, overwhelming! Don’t miss your chance to win some of Man Pans’ finest, as we launch the biggest and best giveaway we have ever undertaken … the Want Pans? Giveaway.

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

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