Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Nutcracker: not what I imagined, but better than I expected

On a blessedly cool December evening, blogger mama took her 2 girls to meet their Brownie Girl Scout troop at the oh-so-adorable Temecula Community Theater to see their production of our holiday favorite, The Nutcracker.

What little girl doesn't love to dress up and meet her friends and stay up late on a school night?  No little girl I've ever met, I tell ya what!  Brownie troop 1520 was as adorable and well-behaved as ever, and they were especially excited because we got to sit in the very front two rows.  How's that for good luck?

The production was beautifully done, with ornate costumes, perfect timing on all the sound and light cues (from my time spent on stage during all my schoolin' years, I've come to appreciate the difficulty in making this sort of thing happen), and the dancers could actually dance.  It was downright lovely.  Now I must warn any purists out there that there has been some "finagling" with the story line....it really makes more sense in this format, but it isn't the NYC-Ballet-and-all-other-major-company-in-the-whole-wide-world way to do it, so I can see how some might object.  The music is all there and all right and all the characters and the basic premise are the same, but the order was moved around a bit.  I can't explain it right, so you'll just have to go next year if you'd like to know what the heck I'm talking about.  Oh, and, um, during the party scene in the beginning when the guests are dancing with each other....they....um...(how do I say this without freaking you out?)....sing.  Yeah.  Okay, shake it off.

The music and dancing were so spectacular and the production so tight, that everyone in the audience, our crew included, was disappointed when intermission rolled around.  We were able to placate them by suggesting they practice their own dance moves in the courtyard outside the main auditorium, which they happily did and passed the 20 minutes with lots of hums and even more giggling.

After the show was over,  I enjoyed our walk back to the car through festively-lit Old Town Temecula.  Every lamppost, every building, every sign was covered in lights and greenery and cheer.  I took a bunch of photos and not one of them turned out, so you'll have to enjoy this one of a car.

When our evening came to a close, we were tired but happy.  No traffic, no icy roads- just good fun with good people in a great town.

For more info on this and other productions at the Temecula Community Theater:


42051 Main St.
Temecula, CA 92590

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Don't give up on me yet!

Dear readers (if there are any of you left), I promise to post more soon.  My new laptop makes posting photos a bit of a challenge, but mostly I've been busy with the holiday frenzy.  Coming up soon: The Nutcracker/the Temecula Community Theater and a review of the new Indian restaurant The Blue Peacock (in the Target center at the corner of Rancho California and Ynez).  Seriously.  I promise!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Only One Week Left! Peltzer Pumpkin Patch = cheap fun

It's that time of year again- the leaves changing colors, the days getting cooler...oh wait, just kidding!  The palm trees are still green, and it's 95 degrees today, but a couple of weeks ago, we had a chilly snap so we loaded up the kiddos and scurried over to Peltzer Farms off of 
Rancho California Rd. for some cheap and easy fall-ish fun.  
The pumpkin area itself was smallish, but for us that was okay, because really the pumpkins are not the most interesting part of a pumpkin patch adventure anyway.  An awesome tortoise that you can really touch, on the other hand?  Now we're talkin'!
And don't forget the adorable oh-so-fat little goats.  You can buy food if you want them to eat out of your hands (maybe snacking all day isn't the best way to manage weight after all!), but we opted out of that portion of the excursion.  They didn't seem to mind.Then it's off to peruse the collection of authentic, restored John Deere tractors!  Even city kids who've never run across acres of open land have an innate appreciation for the fun that is a big 'ol tractor, no matte what their age.And last, but most certainly not least, what little girl would object to a totally safe, uneventful, sweet little pony ride?  No real little girl, I tell ya what!  Both of my mini-mes, who adored this part of the day, asked if there was a way that Roney and The-other-one-whose-name-escapes-me could pretty please come and live with us.  Ah, memories of my own youth!This irresponsible blogger apologizes for not having photos of the other fun activities at the farm, including a corn maze (my hair looked totally awful in the photo.  True story.  I won't post awful-hair pics- I just can't do it) that was actually a bit circuitous and exciting, pig racing (which we missed because we just had to do the corn maze again), and the picnic area (which I neglected to photograph because I was too busy enjoying my insanely decadent homemade-chili covered sausage with freshly chopped onion and cheese purchased there for the reasonable price of I-can't-remember).  And there are other things too, which I encourage you to discover for yourself by going to www.pelzterfarms.com and perusing their lovely website.  Or, if you're in the neighborhood stop by yourself.  Your kids will thank you, and you'll love it too!

Peltzer Farms
39925 Calle Contento
Temecula, CA 92591
(951) 695-1115

Open daily 9am-8pm

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tex-mex meets Cali-mex...and they get along!

There's this thing that happens when a Texan moves to California, and it's not something you're ready for because you figure, well, it just makes sense that you'd be able to find mexican food here.  I know, I know- there are mexican joints everywhere.  The difference is that Cali-mex is a little crunchier, a little fruitier, a little more with the limes and a little less with the cheese.  Tex-mex has sour cream and shredded cheese, and portions so big you can share them with two of your kids and still be full.  For most Texans in SoCal, this is just something you're gonna have to get used to.  Not so if you live in Temecula, though!  Welcome to Rosas Cafe and Tortilla Factory, founded 25 years ago in San Angelo, TX, making fresh Tex-mex so fast you'll barely have time visit the salsa bar before they call your number.

Typical pseudo-mission style on the outside meets roomy loft on the inside, taking you by surprise, but in a good way.  The way that makes you glad you decided to give it a shot instead of going to In 'n Out....again.  

The decor is downright fun, with collections of all manner of spanishy-inspired and not-really-spanishy-at-all items hanging on and from every surface in the place.  From plates to vases to wooden parratos, your kids will get a kick out of this place even before they start eating.

Ah, but then the food will arrive (approximately 18 seconds after you order it), and I'm sure every member of the family will be pleased.  From freshly made tortillas, to healthy portions of both rice and beans, even the pickiest family members will have something to cheer about.

We orderd the chicken fajita platter that, apparently, is supposed to feed 2-3 people.  If you can only feed two people with this combo, then those people had better have just run a marathon.  We had no trouble filling our whole family to the gills with this plate, which included the rice and beans, sour cream, shredded cheese, guacamole, as much salsa/limes/cilantro/onions as our little hearts desired from the salsa bar, and an enormous stack of those freshly made tortillas.  Oh, and of course, the actual chicken.  We loved it, all three of the kids loved it, and our budget was a fan, too.  Feeding five people for $23 and not needing to drink water in order to do it?  Now that's my kind of lunch.

Rosas Cafe and Tortilla Factory
28134 Jefferson Ave.
(951) 506-5800

p.s. They have a drive-thru, too.  Sweet!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Give me a Sign!

Even bloggers who get paid to do it go on vacation every now and then....right? I hope so. Now that Labor Day has come and gone, school is in full swing, gymnastics night is switched and set, I'll be more on top of things. At least I can promise to try! Okay, back to work....

Hopefully you, dear reader, aren't tired of hearing about the Temecula Public Library, because today's post was again made possible by their fantastic programs for kids of all ages. Once a week, for the very reasonable price of free, moms and their kids under the age of 2 can enjoy a fun-filled half hour at Baby Sign Storytime, led by a professional and fellow mom, in the incredibly cute, totally amazing secret story room in the back corner of the kid's section at the library on Pauba Rd.

For good reason, there are a limited number of babies allowed in the class, but the good people who organized this fun diversion realize that free is a very appealing price so they had the good sense to schedule two sessions in a row- 10 am and 11 am. Viola! If you're running late, just spend some time choosing books for your little cutie, and go to the second session instead.

I was afraid it would be too quiet or too advanced or too much of a zoo or too anything-you-can-imagine-with-small-kids, but it was totally fun. My little guy, just barely 1, had a fabulous time! From the songs to the signs to the dancing and the parachute time, it was a total blast. But despite all that fun stuff, I think crawling around the room after everyone left was his favorite part:

For free fun that brings you and your baby closer and can help you meet other moms who are interested in doing the same, I definitely recommend penciling this fun activity into your calendar. I know you're busy and stuff, but heck, it's only half an hour!

Baby Sign Storytime

Babies to 23 months

Tuesdays at 10:00 & 11:00 a.m.

September 9-November 4

Temecula Public Library

30600 Pauba Rd.

Temecula, CA 92592

(951) 693-8900

Monday, August 25, 2008

Little Tokyo: Big on Taste

There are two sweet, wonderful words that, when uttered at the appropriate time, can turn a woman's whole evening around. Feelings of dread and confusion transform into feelings of anticipation and clarity. Exhausted? Not anymore! Irritated? Not at all! No. No sadness or negativity can overshadow the joy that comes with these two delicious words: Free Delivery.

Oh yes, it's true. For those of you with no school-aged children or who aren't in charge of preparing the evening meal, it might be hard to believe. Those of you who know me might be tempted to chalk this one up to hyperbole (which I am certainly prone to). But I assure you that there are evenings when the prospect of preparing dinner is like knowing you are about to have to, I don't know, voluntarily shave your own head. But then get no kudos or sympathy for it the next day, because, I mean, doesn't everyone have to shave their heads every evening? And you could call something in, but then you and all your kids have to get back in the car and go to the restaurant, and then get out of the car and go into the restaurant, and pay for the food while they "explore" and then carry the food in one hand and the baby in the other and pile them back into the van and insist that they can in fact switch places every now and then and that they do not personally own any portion of the backseat, and then.....you get the point.
So when this mom saw a sign outside of this little restaurant that said "Free Delivery", she just couldn't help herself. Like any good SoCal family, we are fans of the sushi and because it is one of the few things we can't make better ourselves at home it's definitely our go-to special dinner treat. Little Tokyo sits in a tiny little shopping center on the south-west corner of Margarita and Pauba, the kind of center that makes you hope that they don't go out of business because you're so very happy that they have free delivery and you hope everyone else realizes this and orders from them so that they make lots of money and buy lots more yummy fish.

For an intimate dinner for two, there are more romantic choices in Temecula, because although the decor is more traditional (therefore less fun) than other places I've reviewed in this here blog,they have a T.V. mounted in one of the corners, on which one can always find reruns of either The Simpsons or King of the Hill. Great if you're waiting for your to-go order. Not so great if you're planning to propose.

Now to the actual food. Let me just say that unlike some of the people who I am married to or write this blog with, I'm not all that picky when it comes to what I eat. It's not that I don't enjoy yummy stuff, I'm just not very good at distinguishing subtle taste and texture differences between things, therefore something that is "better" won't necessarily taste different to me than something that is "not as good". That being said, even I, Dwija of the insensitive palate, could tell that the sushi we got from this lovely little joint was delicious. This determination was quickly corroborated by my good husband, Tommy of the extremely sensitive palate. Even the California rolls, which are usually cheap for a reason and which we only get as filler so as not to leave the table still starving, were a joy to eat. The rice was moist and fluffy, the avocado was flavorful, the cucumber was crunchy, and the ratio of crab-to-everything else was just perfect. And because everything was so amazingly delicious (try the Dynamite Roll, #105), it was all gone before I had the wherewithal to get out my camera to take photos. So, this pic of their Rainbow Roll (#89, also great) taken with my camera from the front cover of their menu, will have to do.And for the non-raw-fish-eating set, there are all sorts of rice, noodle, and meat dishes to choose from, as well as some things I'd like to order just to see if I can say them without cracking a smile (Bibimbap anyone?). You'll all love it- I promise.

Little Tokyo

43053 Margarita Rd. B105

Temecula, CA 92592

(951) 693-5959

Mon-Sat: 11am - 9pm

Sunday: closed

Friday, August 22, 2008

Farmers Market = Food

We moved to Temecula from rural Connecticut a year and a half ago in the middle of winter. Despite the promise of sun, I was not happy about the move.

We've moved a lot (How much, you ask? Since graduating from college in 1989 I've lived in 10 states, averaging one move every two years for nearly the past two decades. My older daughter had lived in five separate states from conception to her 4th birthday.) So I've developed some strategies to adjust more rapidly (if not more gracefully) to being frequently uprooted and transplanted.

The first thing I go is hunt down the local farmers market. It's full of food, generally friendly people, and--often--links to other community activities. And nothing gives you thumbnail insight into a community faster than its farmers market: is it full of farmers? or craft vendors? how many food vendors are there? how many ethnic food vendors? how big? how small? how expensive or reasonable? how many small dogs being carried in small fancy purses carefully selected to coordinate with their owner's wardrobe?

Two of these indices told me volumes about my new home when I moved here to Temecula. At my old, New England farmers market, there was one "food vendor," and it was the United Methodist Women selling baked goods. In Temecula, I could get gyros, tamales, crepes, tacos, empanadas, kabobs, nut brittle, kettle corn... I haven't even scratched the surface.

This is the stand for RED, an East African restaurant in San Diego. They sell sambusas--little three-cornered deep-fried pastries filled with your choice of beef, chicken, potato, spinach, lentil, or coconut and cream cheese. Sambusas are my favorite dirty little secret on Saturday morning. They also sell a delicious herbal tea, and plates of curry and whatnot. Which are probably delicious, but I've never made it past the sambusas and a tea.

This is the Turkish Grill, wicked siren--the smell will draw you in, but you must not let the line scare you off. The food is good, good, good. You can get chicken or beef, on a plate or in a pita sandwich. Get the sandwich, and get it with everything, but watch out--those onions are scorching. Do not, under any circumstances, forget the baklava, which is made with pistachios, butter, and sugar--not, the proprietor emphatically informed me, honey, which is how the Greeks do it. I love honey, but it's hard to argue with this baklava.

Really hard. Impossible. In fact, I no longer even try.

I used to work in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and I ate my way through that city--it's teeming with excellent street food. So I am skeptical when I see an establishment which does not appear to be a hepatitis outbreak waiting to happen and yet still promises "street food." Well. Check out this place--get the fish tacos. With everything. Definitely the Park Place/Boardwalk of street food, but you won't resent the frou-frou aspect. They have excellent service, a creative menu, and the food is noteworthy.

So the Temecula Farmers Market wins big on the variety and quality of food vendors. On the other hand, my old farmers market had approximately ZERO small dogs in purses/strollers/designer jogging suits. Let's just say the difference was striking.

I shop at the farmers market every single week. It is literally where I "shop"--I buy nearly all of my produce there. There are many websites dedicated to eating and buying locally, and I can't get into all the reasons why it's a good idea right here, but as an overview:

  1. The stuff you get is really, really fresh. Strawberries were picked that day, not earlier that week. Food retains greater nutritional value--and tastes better--when it's fresh.

  2. You become attuned to the seasons. You no longer really want Guatemalan watermelons in January when you can eat your fill of the truly sweet, fresh, juicy ones all summer long. You will find New Zealand apples sort of, well, silly once you taste Anza-grown Fuji's. Trust me on this.

  3. Way more resounding than the vote we cast on November's ballot--though by all means, do vote--are the dozens of votes we cast on a daily basis with our dollars. If you want change, start by spending your money as if it mattered, because it does. When you buy locally--from a farmer or a local restaurant owner or a local store--your money stays local. Those people live in your community, their kids attend your schools, they pay property and sales taxes and live here. Just to hazard a guess, the owner of Hooters does not.

  4. Worried about homeland security? Or the economy? I am. Security rests on three things: air, water, and food. Even shelter takes a backseat. Locally-based, decentralized food systems are much harder to tamper with, and much more resilient in the face of contamination. Remember the recent salmonella outbreak? I continued to buy tomatoes, jalapenos, and cilantro from my local farmers, confident that none of them were the source of the outbreak.

  5. You, too, could be eating this for lunch:

Fresh figs, local honey (Grapefruit and Wildflower, from Chrystal's Pure Honey, see below), brie (I confess, it's Saint Andre triple-cream brie from France--but we do have the Winchester Cheese Company, which makes exquisite aged goudas), and herbs (lavender and rosemary).

An underripe fig tastes like spongy grass. A perfectly ripe fig is one of the more revelatory experiences in the fruit world. But ripe figs are so fragile, they will never make it to the commercial market. So to eat this, you have to go to the farmers market.

Now, all that gustatory bliss is lovely, but what about the actual produce--what about the groceries? (Remember, all offerings are seasonal.)

Meet Adam:

Adam farms in Bonsall and is one of the most amicable people you'll meet. He sells all manner of greens, herbs, super-sweet carrots, summer squash, tomatoes, cut flowers... real garden variety.

Chrystal and Mac are the honey pushers. They'll get you hooked, like they hooked me. They sell varietal honey, including a regional desert wildflower (this year's harvest was particularly delicious, and different from last's... You'll be surprised how much variation you'll be able to discern from locally grown foods). You'll also find cherry, avocado, several citrus varieties, black button sage ("The honey for tea," Mac assured me, and he's right.)... The list is long and my memory inadequate. My personal favorite is grapefruit--you can't beat it on fresh cornbread.

Buy the honey in the quart jars for the best price. Bring the jar back and you'll get $1 off your next purchase, and there will be a next purchase, because once you get started on Chrystal's Pure Honey, you're pretty much doomed.

This is Gilberto (right) and his cousin (I believe) Edward. Gilberto's father, Joaquin, mans their stand at the Wednesday market, and it was Joaquin who was the first person in Temecula to be really, really nice to me. He offered my daughter a galleta and saved me a basket of flores de calabacitas, and we've been regulars ever since. Gilberto mans the Saturday stand, and look out, because despite his youth he is a formidable entrepreneur and can sell anything to anyone. This time of year, stop by for the melons and enormous bell peppers. In the spring, don't miss their strawberries ("sweet as the first kiss," the sign claims) and asparagus. Kisses aside, their carrots might even be sweeter.

The Cunninghams are the market managers, and they sell the passion fruit that Suzanne (my mostly market companion) uses for her famous passion fruit cosmopolitans. They also sell the only kumquats worth eating (Meiwa, I think), an enormous array of citrus, avocados, fresh juices, winter squash, cherimoya (one of my favorite local fruits--too fragile to ship), figs, potatoes, honey, macadamia nuts... The list goes on.

And if you'd like to grow your own herbs, don't miss him. As soon as I find his business card, I'll tell you who he is. But I've bought his herbs--some gorgeous sages and scented geraniums in particular--and his seedlings do beautifully.

There's so much more to see at the market--These are a few of my favorite vendors, but not even all of them (there's a guy right now who sells fresh sugar cane! and prickly pears! and a woman who introduced me to limas dulces--sweet lime, who sells nopales... and the plant guy! and the woman with the best nut brittle you've ever tasted!) For every vendor I've mentioned here, there are literally dozens more. Plus there are all the people who sell things I don't necessarily buy, but you might--funky clothes, carved wooden bowls, jewelry, hand-turned pens, yard art, paintings, soaps...

So go to the market. If you don't like crowds, get there early.

  • Saturdays in Old Town Temecula (behind Sweet Lumpy's BBQ and across from the fire station) from 8:00-12:30
  • Wednesdays in the Promenade parking lot by Macy's and Penney's from 9:00-1:00
  • Sundays in the Canyon Lake Town Center from 10AM-1PM

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Buns of Steel, Skin of Cocoa

We moved to Temecula just over a year ago- five days before my girls started school, and a mere nine (yep, 9! ) days before my son was born. Yeah, things were a little hectic. But as any mother knows, after the post-partum fog lifts and you stop feeling so much like an all-night diner, you'd better get your butt out there and do something or you'll never feel like you again. Now, as you may have gathered, I am a cheapskate. For some, the monetary commitment of certain mommy-style walking groups might provide the extra motivation necessary for you to actually show up and feel the burn three times a week. I (remember: cheapskate) decided I could walk just fine on my own, thank you very much, and set out with baby in stroller one brisk late-winter morning after dropping the biggers off at school. After only two days of solo strolling (here comes the part where I talk about what I love about Temecula), the group of gals I had passed on both of those days stopped, called me over, and invited me to walk with them. I felt so human! These were grown-ups! With babies! Who knew how to speak!

Fast forward six months, and we're still walking the same route. I took the above photo this morning, and although you (sadly) can't tell, this was a hilarious moment in which everyone decided to do some "extreme kinesthetics" for the benefit of this pic. Being that I am apparently a terrible photographer, that didn't quite come through, and it just looks like we're totally into stretching every time we stop for water. We're not. What we are into is walking 5 days a week, a five mile loop, up and down hills, rain, snow, sleet, or shine. But, um, like, we live in Temecula, so really it's pretty much just shine. But the hills are real, and so are the results: a nice firm booty and skin so toasty brown that your poor friends from the northeast will have to do their very best not to lash out in envy.

To find a free walking or running group near you, log on to www.SeeMommyRun.com and search for your city. If you'd like to join us, with all our sassy banter and how-to-save-a-dime chatter, look for Temecula Fit Mommies - we'd love to have you!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wanna Re-Store Your House? Yes You Do.

I was visiting a friend in Idaho a few months back and drove past something that caught my eye: A Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

It's a store, you see, that sells the sorts of things you need to build or renovate your house. At discount prices. It's like a thrift store version of a big-box DIY store with a non-profit agenda.

It is pure genius. Why didn't we have one? With all the development going on in the Temecula Valley? With all the foreclosures? It seemed to me that folks on both ends of the housing market number line could benefit.

Fortunately, I'm not in charge, or the idea never would've gone further than that corner of my brain marked "indignant". But the good folks at Inland Valley Habitat for Humanity are, not surprisingly, far more proactive than I.

"It's a win-win for everyone," said Inland Valley HfH Board President Liz Bibb (pictured above center). Bibb described the ways a ReStore benefits the community:
  • Generating revenue for its Habitat for Humanity chapter

  • Recycling and reusing resources that would otherwise be landfilled

  • Providing and opportunity for Habitat homeowners to volunteer, thereby earning "sweat equity"

  • Offering quality home improvement products at 40-70% below retail, available for purchase by the general public

Bibb notes, "We're actively seeking donations, but we're not a thrift store; we're not a garage sale." Which means they only accept donations of high quality items. Gently used is fine, trashed is not.

So when you first visit the Temecula ReStore, ignore the fact that the entry looks suspiciously like...

A thrift store. At least the furniture section. You will see the usual assortment of glass-topped tables, pressboard furniture, and beat upholstery. But that's OK, for two main reasons:
  1. There comes a time in nearly everyone's life where they will need something cheap to sit on, eat off of, and/or store things in; and

  2. If you walk through the furniture, you will find the meat and potatoes of the ReStore--value, value, value.

What do they sell? You name it:

  • large appliances

  • plumbing and electrical fixtures

  • flooring & carpeting

  • windows & doors

  • lumber & hardware

  • moulding & baseboards

  • cabinets

  • tools

  • paint & painting supplies

If you need any sort of home improvement item, it would be foolish not to stop by the ReStore first, to see if they have what you need. And if you have leftovers from a previous project, bring them by to make a tax-deductible donation. They accept nearly any home improvement item in good, ready-to-use condition:

  • full sheets of drywall

  • large appliances

  • unopened paint

  • good-quality lumber

  • new carpet and padding

  • ceiling fans (with all pieces)

  • furniture

  • unopened batts of insulation

  • lighting

That's not a complete list, by the way. If you have questions, check the website or give them a call. They don't accept automotive items, books, used carpet/paint/shower doors, solvents, bedding, chemicals and cleanings products, trash compactors, toys, electronics, small appliances, clothing, and plastic kitchenware.

Donations are tax-deductible. Donors include developers, contractors, stores, and individuals, so you can be sure of a steady stream of quality materials available for sale. The ReStore will also be offering a pick-up service, so even if you don't have a strong back and pick-up truck, you can still donate.

The ReStore is also actively soliciting volunteers, for everything from forklift driving to grant writing. So if you've ever wanted to give back to your community, this is a great time to do it.

There's one other reason to visit the ReStore. It's pleasant. The staff is there because they believe in a cause. There's an air of camaraderie, of teamwork, that you don't necessarily find in your run-of-the-mill when-does-my-shift-end retail establishment.

And if that isn't enough, there's this super-cute kids' potting table kit that the staff put together:

It's a fun family project, a darling gift, and you know you want one--but you can only find it at the ReStore.

27479 Enterprise Circle West
Temecula, CA
(951) 676-1221

Open Tuesday thru Saturday
from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Oh Me, 'Pho Mai'! Vietnamese Food that's Sure to Please

A lot of people talk about how Temecula is just teeming with "big box" retailers and restaurants, usually in a way that let's you know that they much prefer the hole-in-the-wall / mom-and-pop / living-the-american-dream type place....the kind of place, they imply, you're not gonna find in Temecula. Um, have you ever been to Temecula? I mean, yes, you can go to Chili's or Tony Roma's or Outback if you want, but there is also no shortage of tiny, poorly decorated,

totally delicious, absolutely wonderful hole-in-the-wall joints. Joints owned and operated by people who grew up cooking and eating that kind of food, who have no experience with tasteful interior design, and who are so thankful to get up every morning in a place that lets them have their own place. Places without a corporate training crew but with food you crave on a lazy Saturday afternoon and a strange obsession with instrumental versions of Tom Jones songs.

Today's delicious excursion was to Pho Mai Vietnamese Restaurant. Located conveniently, and quite unglamorously, in the K-mart shopping center on Ynez Rd, you'll find no pretense or ceremonious service rituals (i.e. writing of the servers name on your paper table cloth; leading you to your table; smiling...). What you will find are the strange nautical-inspired booths (shown above) a mildly disconcerting interest in preserved butterflies,
and incredible, amazing, delicious, awesome, and cheap Vietnamese food. As the name implies, you'll have your choice of Phos (yes, with menu descriptions that go something like this: tendon tripe brisket tendon with noodle and tendon tripe. Pictured below is #15. I don't pretend to know what's actually in it. Really, I don't), which is why the hubby and I go,but you'll also get a lot "Mai" (haha! get it? instead of "more"? sorry....). Like these mouth-watering spring rolls (#04) , filled with, in addition to all the usual spring-roll ingredients, barbecue pork and an actual small eggroll. You will absolutely drool when you taste that peanut sauce! And for the kids in your life, because I know you've probably got 'em and I'm guessing their not so into tendon-tripe-jalapeno-brisket-tripe soup, there's a whole bunch of great stuff to choose from, like this Vietnamese version of fried rice (#54) that had generous amounts of shrimp and sausage throughout. Or this plate (#49?) that came with half a barbecued chicken, rice, and salad. Yum!

Now this part might not be as important to all of you as it is to me, but I have a child who is especially....um...let's call it 'sensitive', to gross bathrooms. Gross bathrooms and no-name restaurants tend to go hand-in-hand. Not at Pho Mai, my friends!

And although the decor falls squarely on the tacky side of fancy, it was clean, and updated, and as close to SoCal chic as I've ever found in a restaurant of this variety.I must confess, I'm a little embarassed to end a post with a photo of a toilet...so I'll close with a shot of the generically generic shopping center window of the best not-at-all generic Pho restaurant this side of the international date line.

Pho Mai Vietnamese Gourmet

26487 Ynez Rd

Temecula, CA 92591

(951) 296-1880

Monday thru Saturday: 10 am - 8:30 pm

Sunday: CLOSED