Best Bites: April 5, 2012

For those of you who missed my column in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald, I’m reposting the stories here on my blog. Check out this week’s Best Bite–a recap of the week’s tastiest treat! As an added bonus, check out some extra tasty bites I found this week dining around town.

Best bite: Marianne’s “Heaven” ice cream from A Plus Water Shop (Marina)

While over in Marina for pho, I popped over to the A Plus Water Shop for dessert. Many of you might be puzzled by my choice — what sort of dessert can you get at a water shop?

The ice cream counter at A Plus is of the best-kept secrets in town!

I’m going to let you in on one of the best-kept secrets among local foodies: A Plus has a freezer case stocked with about two dozen flavors of Marianne’s ice cream. You can always count on a couple of classics, but other flavors come and go.

With brownies AND peanut butter, this ice cream was Heaven indeed!

Wednesday night, I chose a scoop of “Heaven” — vanilla ice cream with a swirl of brownie, walnuts, chocolate fudge and peanut butter (single scoop for $2.25, double for $3.75).

The ice cream was so rich and creamy — a decadent dessert. Heaven, indeed.

A Plus Water Shop is at 215 Reservation Road, Suite O, in Marina. 883-3915. www.aplusmarina.com.

Honorable Mentions:
Pozole at Happy Girl Kitchen (Pacific Grove)

Happy Girl Kitchen used to be one of my favorite lunchtime spots, but over the last few weeks, the kitchen’s been in a bit of a rut. The soups and sandwiches got a little bit ho-hum, honestly. With the same recipes rotating through the menu every other day, I found myself heading over to Taqueria del Mar instead. But there was a breath of fresh air at Happy Girl Kitchen the other day when one of their baristas took to the kitchen to add a new vegetarian pozole on the menu. Finally, the kitchen was back in the game.

The hearty pozole was a refreshing addition to the day's cafe menu at Happy Girl Kitchen.

The stock of this traditional Mexican “stew” was rich and flavorful, with nice accents of spices and heat. The hominy gave extra texture. The generous portion of veggies, like carrots and celery, made up for the lack of meat.

I’m hopeful this soup makes more appearances on the cafe’s menu!

Happy Girl Kitchen is located at 173 Central Avenue in Pacific Grove. 831-373-4475. happygirlkitchen.com.

Pomodori, aglio e ceci salad at il Vecchio (Pacific Grove)

I popped into il Vecchio for a quick dinner the other night. I was curious about some of the new additions to the menu, and decided to try this new tomato salad.

The tomatoes were roasted with garlic, served with hot garbanzo beans over wilted greens. Fresh shavings of Parmesan cheese topped off this simple, rustic Italian dish.

The new tomato salad on the menu at il Vecchio was light, but packed with rich Italian flavors.

I loved the generous touch of garlic in this dish. And the garbanzo beans were a nice touch that made the salad a little more meaty.

My only complaint was the under-ripeness of the tomatoes, but then again, it’s not really the best time of year for tomatoes.

il Vecchio is located at 110 Central Avenue in Pacific Grove. 831-324-4282. ilvecchiorestaurant.com.

Banh bao at Noodle Bar (Marina)

While picking up some pho at Noodle Bar, I noticed the menu now includes steamed banh bao buns, a popular favorite at the Banh Mi Bar next door.

I ordered one of the sausage and egg bao.

The popular banh bao from Banh Mi Bar are now available Noodle Bar next door too.

I cut through the dense dough to get to the sausage and egg inside. It was like eating breakfast for dinner!

Noodle Bar Restaurant is located at 215 Reservation Road, Suite E, in Marina. 384-6225. www.noodlebarfood.com.

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