Monday, November 30, 2009

Wild Boar Roast

Some game I was quite excited to try was wild boar. Judy had crock-potted peccary some years ago (that Greg Palmer shot in Arizona) and it was pretty good. I love pork and figured the wild boar should be excellent.

The 1.7 pound roast looked like it would cook up nicely.

I found a recipe that included canned pineapple and putting the pineapple and the roast in a plastic bag

then in tin foil in the oven.

When finished cooking, I dumped the contents in a bowl.

Mixed up it looked very good.

However, the contents were very disappointing. The meat was quite gamey, it was mushy, quite dry and most of it went uneaten.

I didn't preserve the recipe as it was not worth keeping. This was perhaps my most disappointing wild game experience as my expectations were so high. It is hard to know whether the problem was the piece of meat (perhaps it did not have enough fat), the recipe, or my cooking, or all of the above. My expectations may also have been unrealistic, putting too much correlation between domestic pork and wild boar.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Grilled Snapping Turtle

I had some boneless snapping turtle meat and decided to grill it to see how it tasted. I'd previously made some boneless snapping turtle into soup, but the taste of the meat was disguised by all of the ingredients. Years prior to that, I also had snapping turtle meat with bones, both leg bones and tail bones. We cooked it in a way that made it very tough and unpalatable. Andrew called it some of the worst stuff he's ever tasted. This meat was brown, pretty stiff and quite chunky, but a delight to work with compared to the snapping turtle with bones.

I put it on our outdoor grill and made sure not to overcook it.

It actually turned out quite nice. It is very dark meat, quite mild in flavor, relatively moist. Not something I would choose to eat on its own, but fun to try as a novelty. Definitely better than the stringy, tough boned meat we had years ago. It is worth the extra cost to purchase boneless meat, because de-boning the boned meat is very difficult.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Maria's Cafe: Mexican Food

Judy and I were introduced to Maria's Cafe, located at 2049 E. Washington in Colton by Mark and Nancy Walker.

One distinctive feature of the restaurant is the bowl of marinated cabbage that comes along with the chips and salsa. As an occasional treat, it is quite nice. I add it to the chips and salsa. The salsa is very chunky, but quite bland. It is probably my least favorite salsa of the Mexican restaurants I visit regularly.

The dish I usually order comes with a side salad.

The dish is the crab & shrimp chile relleno, a fantastic combination of a very large Anaheim chile stuffed liberally with shrimp and crab. They also have some of the best refried beans of any Mexican restaurant I've been to.

The relleno, below, revealing substantial amounts of white cheese and seafood.

I have only tried a few items on Maria's menu. It is a little farther than I regularly travel to eat and the crab & shrimp chile relleno is so good that I hesitate to get anything else. I did try a different dish on one occasion and was so disappointed, that I've decided not to branch out. However, you know the food is good by the line waiting to get in. It is very popular. I try to go at odd hours just so that I can get in without waiting.

Friday, November 27, 2009

La Costa Mariscos: Mexican Food

La Costa Mariscos restaurant has three locations: 621 West Colton Ave in Redlands, 1856 Mentone Blvd in Mentone, and 464 South Mount Vernon Ave in San Bernardino. Unlike most of my favorite Mexican restaurants where they have an item or two I'm fond of, La Costa has multiple items that are very good. I rate it as my overall favorite Mexican food restaurant anywhere. The salsa is a little bit more orange than typical Mexican restaurant salsa, it is usually fairly chunky and has a pretty good kick to it.

I have gone through streaks over the years, in terms of what I typically order from La Costa. I currently focus on their Baja combo, which is a selection of any three of a tostada, taco, relleno or enchilada. It also comes with refried beans, rice and a small salad. As you can see below, it is a pile of food. This particular Baja combo has a chile relleno, a chicken tostada and a chicken taco.

The sauce on the chile relleno is unlike the sauce on any other chile relleno I've ever had and the Anaheim chile is quite large.

The chicken tostada is covered in nice white cheese, plenty of shredded chicken and lots of mixed lettuce. Of course, I always add a nice helping of their wonderful salsa to the top of it.

Below is a different Baja combo including chicken tostada, chicken taco and a cheese enchilada.

Again, the enchilada is covered in a sauce unlike any other sauce I've had at a Mexican restaurant. It is very distinctive and good. I occasionally get the chicken enchilada, but probably prefer the cheese.

I prefer the chicken taco to the beef taco and liberally sprinkle the house salsa on top of it.

I have previously called Cuca's bean and cheese burrito the best. Well, La Costa's fancier burritos are the best of that genre. They have a great seafood burrito, including a covering of interesting sauce and avocado, and full of shrimp and fish. My favorite, however, is the fajitas burrito, with steak. For quite a while, that was what I went there for. They have fantastic fish and shrimp dishes, really their specialty. They have a fish filet cooked in garlic butter which is to die for. It was my dish of choice for awhile. One evening, I believe it may have been on Valentines, Judy and I had a special seafood fajitas plate that included salmon, scallops and shrimp. Amazing. You can't go wrong at La Costa.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cuca's: Mexican Food

I've mentioned before that I have a number of local Mexican food restaurants that I like. They each have their own distinctive salsa and I tend to go there and order only one or two items consistently because I like them so much. Cuca's, located at 527 E. State Street in Redlands is firmly entrenched in my Mexican food repertoire. It is a fastfood pick-up restaurant although they now have several sitdown restaurants as well.
My favorite item on the menu by far is the green burrito, a bean and cheese burrito with green sauce. A simple item, but oh so good. It has to be horrible for you because nothing good for you tastes that good. It is salty and the cheese melts into the creamy refried beans.
Cuca's also has a distrinctive salsa that is quite salty with a good kick. Of coure, I sprinkle it liberally on my green burrito as I eat it.

Cuca's also has some other items I get occasionally, and they are very good as well, but a far second to the green burrito. Next best is their carne asada burrito. It is larger than the green burrito and comes in a more substantial tortilla which is wonderful.

It is just carne asada with a little cilantro and perhaps some other unseen ingredients. But the carne asada is very moist and very spicy and overpowers the cilantro which I am not a big fan of.

Like the green burrito, the carne asada burrito is even better liberally sprinkled with the wonderful salsa. The salsa compliments that spicy carne asada.

Next on the list of goodness, but not pictured, is their french fries. I did a french fry taste testing contest with a group of 14 and 15 year olds where we tried french fries from McDonalds, Bakers, Jack in the Box, Dairy Queen, and other local fast food restaurants and Cuca's were the best by far in my book, and were high on most everyone's list. They are thick, moist and good. Another item I get occasionally, but far down on the goodness list is the tostada. It is a simple tostada shell with beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato.

Of course, it has to be smothered in the salsa, and of course it has to be ordered with a green burrito at the same time.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Desert Glossy Snake

The desert glossy snake is found in the eastern portion of Southern California, a small portion of Baja California, southern Nevada and the northwestern tip of Arizona and the southwestern tip of Utah. In May 1996 we caught four glossy snakes in one evening, two on Snow Creek Road, at the base of Mt. San Jacinto, and two on the connecting road between Snow Creek and Whitewater Canyon. They are easy to catch when spotted on a road at night. I'd never seen or even heard of a glossy snake before that night.

The glossy is nocturnal and hides in burrows during the day, eating diurnal lizards while they sleep at night. Based on the map, I believed these were California glossy snakes initially, but the desert glossy is paler than the other California glossy snake subspecies and the pictures most closely represent the paler desert subspecies.

They have a resemblance to the gopher snake, although generally smaller and not as yellow as a gopher snake.

They do have a similar stripe between the eyes and behind the eyes

and they have similar marking patterns on the back and on the sides, although the markings are not as large.
I tried keeping one as a pet for awhile and was not able to get it to eat mice. The do prefer lizards although they will eat some small rodents.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Western Blind Snake

The western blind snake is found in Southern California, the tip of southern Nevada, southern Arizona, the extreme southwestern tip of Utah, portions of southern New Mexico and Texas and into Mexico. It is also known as the western thread snake, or the subspecies southwestern thread snake (some experts don't recognize a supspecies). This particular snake was found by a friend in his garden in Redlands. It looks like a giant earthworm, and like an earthworm, spends most of its time tunneling underground, but it eats ants and termites.

Just barely visible is a small black eye. The eyes are dark spots under translucent plates and are non-functional.

They can be purplish, brown or pink. I found one on the road in Whitewater Canyon, but it had been run over by a car and killed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

San Diego Gopher Snake

The San Diego gopher snake is a subspecies of gopher snake with one of the smallest distributions. It is found only in the southern portion of Southern California and down into Baja California. One of the characteristics of this subspecies is that the front dorsal blotches are black and all of the dorsal blotches are more or less connected to each other. The four foot snake below was caught in Redlands.

It is compared with a much smaller gopher snake next to it.

We have seen many gopher snakes over the years. The one below was actually captured by Judy while she and Rachael were driving somewhere one day. As you can see, Judy was quite proud of herself for capturing this large snake.

Gopher snakes are often mistaken for rattlesnakes because when threatened, they will often shake their tail, like a rattlesnake, and the blotches on their backs are fairly similar to some types of rattlesnake. We got a call from Julee Brice one Sunday afternoon saying she had a rattlesnake in her yard that was hissing at her. We went down to her home and found a large, mean gopher snake which we captured. Andrew and Sam hold the captured snake. Note, Andrew is carefully holding the head. Most gopher snakes I've found have been mellow, but this one was very mean.

The gopher snake below was caught by some boys at a Father's and Son's Outing at the Live Oak Canyon Tree Farm in Yucaipa. Note the spots on the belly.

The same snake, held by a different boy. Note the lack of black stripe between and behind the eyes (see the gopher snake in the Great Basin gopher snake blog).

By comparison, Andrew holds the gopher snake we captured at the Brice's, only about a mile away from the Tree Farm, and it lacks the significant under marking.

Gopher snakes are constrictors and love to curl around necks, arms and other objects. Below, Rachael with one around her neck.

I have one around my arm. The angle allows you to see the very significant difference in the circumference of the snake from the head to the mid-body.

The same snake, again revealing the lack of underside markings and lack of black lines between and behind the eyes.

We had a pet San Diego gopher snake for 7 years, named by Sam as "Snake Eyes." Sam and I found it in the gutter one November Sunday afternoon on our street. Below, the young Snake Eyes begins to eat a small mouse.

As Snake Eyes got older and larger, he graduated to rats. Below, Snake Eyes devours a rat.

The hind legs of the rat get ready to disappear into the snake.

Most gopher snakes make great pets. They are usually mellow, they eat well and they are fun because of their propensity to wrap around an arm or a neck.