Wanderings: Long John Silvers, Bones and FreshMex Mexican Grill

“Fat gives things flavor.”

— Julia Child

Out wandering again

Trip one: I did a bit of house-sitting in Carmichael for my daughter in late February while the family went to Disneyland. I had a list of things to do (eat), which included my usual pastrami and Swiss from a favorite sandwich shop there, the Sub Depot on Fair Oaks Boulevard, along with sampling the new “thick cut” cod at Long John Silver’s and the new “premium cod fillet” sandwich at Wendy’s.

Well, I got the pastrami and Swiss and really enjoyed it. The shop is about one mile away, so I justified the fatty treat by walking both ways, and stopping at a thrift store along the way.

The following day I drove to the Long John Silver’s on Auburn Boulevard to try the fish. It was disappointing.

The “thick cut” cod pieces are about three-quarters of an inch thick and about the size of a silver dollar or 1 1/2 inches in diameter. You get two pieces, a couple of hush puppies and a side in the basket ($5.99). I ordered the two piece basket and cole slaw, rather than the usual fries. The fish was old (brown) and the batter was tough, so I sent them back. They were kind enough to give me three, freshly cooked and very nice pieces to replace them. However, and this is a complaint I have with them and a few other fast food places, the fish was very oily from being deep fried. I don’t know why they aren’t drained for a few seconds, it would make a world of difference. I contacted the company and they sent me a letter good for two meals, but I am not sure if I am going back.

After that “bad fish” experience I decided to forgo the trip to Wendy’s until next time.

Trip two: My friend Russ wanted to go back to Bones in Pleasant Valley to try the pastrami and the Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, so last Friday we did. I had heard that the black bean burger was very good, so we substituted that for the Philly. We ordered one with fries and one with onion rings, both of which are very good: hot and crisp.

The bean burger was very good, both of us agreed on that. It was different and at first I thought it was burned, but as I ate it I figured out that was the taste of the beans and began to like it more and more. We had it with the grilled onions, which I would replace with raw onions the next time. The pastrami, on the other hand, got mixed reviews.

When we ordered we were asked what kind of onions we wanted on the pastrami and Swiss. On a pastrami sandwich? None. When we got the sandwich it was on a hamburger bun with lettuce, tomato and Bone’s sauce. A proper pastrami sandwich has mustard and pickles.

The pastrami was very, very lean, with no visible fat, and as far as I am concerned pastrami has to have fat or it can be tasteless. That made it a bit tough and not very flavorful, but Russ said he liked the texture. Both of us agreed that the lettuce, sauce and tomato needed to go and the plain bun needed to be replaced with the Hoagie roll they use for their large burgers.

Owner Bill Miller came buy to ask how things were and we passed on our comments. He was surprised and said his pastrami sandwiches never had tomato and lettuce on them. He thought the bigger roll might be a good idea.

Trip three: Rafael Garcia, the owner of FreshMex Mexican Grill across from Kmart, told me that mahi-mahi was becoming difficult to get and becoming too expensive for his grilled fish tacos, so he switched to basa, a type of catfish, which he grills and seasons with a Chipotle-ranch sauce.

He asked me to stop by and try a couple and give him my comments. I did, and asked the staff to dress them up the way they like them (my usual request when I am not sure). They came with a bit of lettuce and cabbage, corn, etc. I really liked them, especially the tang of the sauce. And the fish was very sweet. Give them a try.

Trip four: A couple of weeks ago I was invited to an event at Mount Aukum Winery. Afterwards, the winemaker, Michel Prod’hon, who knows I like his viognier, offered me a sample of a viognier dessert wine he is making. It was delicious and full of deep, wonderful flavors. I don’t know when it is going to be released, but I am sure it will sell out fast.

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