Zach’s youngest brother suggested we try Morucci’s Si Mangia Bene in Walnut Creek. Since we were disappointed by the let down of the morning, we hoped for a good lunch. When we drove up, we could see this place is popular, so our spirits lifted a bit.
August tries the Reuben her first time at any restaurant that has them. This one had the standard corned beef with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing on rye bread, and also sweet hot mustard, sprouts, and Bermuda onion slices. The added zing from the horseradish in the sweet hot mustard makes this a Reuben that’s more memorable (in a good way).
Zach’s oven roasted turkey sandwich was on fresh dutch crunch bread, which was crunchy on the outside and tender on the middle. The oven roasted turkey was flavorful, “just like you’re having leftover turkey the day after Thanksgiving.” The particular Swiss cheese used was mild and the vegetables were fresh, making an all-around good sandwich.
Stop by for a sandwich or maybe a salad, although you should be prepared for a long line in a crowded space. Grab your beverage from the refrigerator before placing your order, or else other patrons will glare at you. There are tables outsides to eat in the fresh air (and away from the people you inadvertently offended by trying to get a bottle of water from the fridge behind them).
August used to work on the same block as Havana and had been there a couple of times before tonight, but it’s a first for Zach. Having been around for ten years, Havana is known for Cuban tapas and an extensive mojito selection, and we learned that they recently opened a cafe inside Autopia Car Wash up the street a bit. The bar here at the main restaurant was certainly popular but not boisterous or off-putting, so we enjoyed a very nice meal in a pleasant atmosphere.
Zach can’t eat whole nuts, but he had to try at least one walnut so that we could both tell you about the flavors of this surprise bar snack. Walnuts, almonds, and peanuts are lightly toasted with a well balanced combination of sweet, salty, and the tiniest hint of spiciness. These paired well with our mojitos.
We’re not kidding about fruit servings. The mojitos are both made with Cruzan rum, mint, sugar, lime juice, and a splash of soda; August’s included mango puree, and Zach’s had fresh pomegranate juice. There was good tang and tartness, a balanced lime to mint ratio, and it was mildly sweetened so it didn’t have an overpowering sugar aftertaste.
Filled with one of August’s favorite cheese, Manchego, we couldn’t pass this up. The crust was an herbed panko, crispy yet very tender and easy to bite through. The herbs added a nice subtle flavor to the exterior surrounding the Manchego, which was like a cheesy salty fusion with delicious ham morsels throughout. Try a bite with some arugula to and a mild earthy spice.
Boniato is the poetic sounding term for a not-too-sweet sweet potato. These garlic fries came paired with chimichurri aioli and guava chipotle barbeque sauce. These are definitely a Caribbean twist on your typical garlic fries. Hand-cut and crispy on the outside, the fries were mildly sweet in the middle – don’t worry, nothing like Thanksgivingtime sweet potatoes. Be prepared for some spicy garlic, and the two sauces provide contrasting flavors to be enjoyed from the same plate. The aioi was creamy but packed with a variety of fresh herbs like parsley, oregano, and cilantro. It would be great as a spread on a sandwich. The barbeque sauce was was totally atypical with the guava and chipotle, as it was sweet and very mildly spicy. The name explains itself, as guava comes before chipotle.
We have written enough about scallops in previous posts, who can identify August’s nickname for them? (bonus points to the reader who tells us in the comments.) The ones here were no different – delicious and delicate. They were placed atop mashed boniato, then drizzled with cumin crema and truffle oil. The scallops had a nice sear, were tender and juicy, and seasoned perfectly. The crema with cumin was a little tangy to go with the sweet scallops and boniato mash, which itself was creamy and buttery.
This would be a great lunch on its own some day visiting Walnut Creek in the future. With ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, pickles, mustard, and arugula on a toasted roll, this is a popular tapa. Both meats were tender and flavorful, the pork a little smokier. Freshly cut vegetables are always a plus, and the arugula was a great green leaf to pair with the other elements. The bread was crunch on the outside from a panini press (most likely, we weren’t watching the kitchen) but it was still soft in the middle and easy to bite through.
The paella was the only item we got that’s not a tapa, and by this time the sun had gone down and we lost our wonderful natural light, but the flash does bring out the bright saffron color of the rice and the verdant green peas. The rice was tender, the peas not overdone, and the proteins varied – clams, shrimp, chorizo, and chicken. The chicken was juicy, the chorizo added smokiness, the shrimp succulent, well cooked, and fresh tasting, and August wished there were more clams.
We really wanted to try one of their desserts but we had no room, and we didn’t even come close to finishing all that we ordered – it’s a special treat night for the dog! We highly recommend this place for fresh Cuban food and appreciate that the owner has such attention to detail.
Zach’s brother Will came with us tonight to the San Francisco Creamery to celebrate our 50th post – this post! August frequented this place when she sold pianos a few blocks away, but neither Zach nor Will had been here before. To celebrate, we needed a third person anyway, someone to try the Kitchen Sink challenge.
To get it for free Will needed to beat 10 minutes, the current record. To get on the Wall of Fame he needed to eat three sliced bananas, eight scoops of ice cream, mounds of whipped cream, toppings, and cherries. For his ice cream flavors he got chocolate fudge brownie, chocolate chip cookie dough, and cake batter. His toppings of choice besides the obligatory whipped cream and cherries were chocolate fudge, chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, and diced almonds. He narrated the flavors of the ice cream while digging in, noting that each was as rich as the next. Each flavor had a distinct texture, ranging from creamy to fluffy, so there was nice variety amidst the cold, cold dessert.
Zach had to try the Three Little Piggies, a sandwich with pork done three ways. With sliced ham, pulled pork, bacon, cheddar, honey mayonnaise, barbeque sauce, fried onions, and lettuce, this originally comes on a toasted Kaiser bun. We didn’t know the bun came with seeds on it and Zach can’t eat unprocessed nuts and seeds, and so we were very impressed when our waiter quickly suggested grilled sourdough and the kitchen immediately swapped out the bread. The sliced ham was succulent and sweet; the bacon was crispy with a mild saltiness; and the pulled pork was tender with nice smokiness. He also chose the option of adding Sriracha to the barbeque sauce to make the sandwich spicy. Fries are not a standard side so you can substitute them for $1, but for $1.75 you can get garlic fries. These were done properly with fresh garlic.
Will kept eating as best he could but showed signs of slowing after 13 minutes. That was enough time to determine that cake batter and chocolate fudge brownie were his favorite flavors, although if he finishes this challenge, he probably won’t want to have them again for a while.
August always likes avocado, being that it was her first food. Avocados and sun dried tomatoes are added to this sandwich of simple chicken salad with mayonnaise, celery, and “special spices.” The toasted focaccia bread was spiced as well, so even though the chicken salad itself didn’t boast many ingredients, the flavor was deep. Zach has a suspicion that the chicken salad is made to order, since it tasted fresh and the flavors were distinct, not like they had been marinating together throughout the day. August chose one of the standard sides, coleslaw, which was always her favorite side at the SF Creamery anyway, and it was as she had remembered it from years ago.
So to check in with Will, did he finish his Kitchen Sink in 10 or even 30 minutes? He tried, but alas, he did not. Zach and August helped out after Will was done, but even between the three of us we couldn’t finish it! Granted, Zach and August had eaten a meal already. If you don’t want to take up the challenge, though, you can always bring a group of friends and dig in together just for the fun of it.