Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi ~ Carlsbad

The last time I was at Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi was back in 2014 a few weeks after they opened. I have been meaning to go back and explore the menu a little more but you know, stuff. So, when they reached out to me I jumped at the opportunity and grabbed my friend Chef Beau to tag along. It is always good to have a backup palate.

If you did not know, Blue Ocean is operated by the same group that owns Love Boat Sushi and their five locations around San Diego County. They opened Blue Ocean in 2014, offering an expanded menu and unique setting. More recently they opened Pokewan next door, serving poke bowls in a fast casual setting.

On a tangent, if you like poke, I would highly suggest Pokewan. In my opinion they are the best of the fast casual poke places around and benefit from being attached to Blue Ocean and their sushi bar. The quality of the seafood puts them above the competition. Hint, get your bowl with cucumber noodles instead of rice, it makes for an extremely light and refreshing treat.

OK, back to Blue Ocean…

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The interior was designed by Bells & Whistles who have also designed Starlight, Smoking Goat, and Bracero. I love the design, its modern without being sterile and has a very sexy vibe to it.

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The restaurant boasts a 20 seat sushi bar in addition to the dining area.

The menu is large enough to offer variety without being overwhelming. In addition to a great sushi menu, offering a nice selection of rolls, nigiri, and sashimi, the menu also offers small plates, specialty dishes, and desserts. A robata menu starts at 4pm offering traditional Japanese charcoal grilled meat, seafood, and vegetable skewers.

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Bao Bao Buns ~ glazed pork belly, napa cabbage slaw, spicy mayo.

I love Bao and pork belly so this was a no brainer. Perfect, melt in your mouth pork wrapped inside soft fluffy bao. The thing that pulled it all together though was the slaw. It was not mayo heavy like a lot of slaws and provided the needed crunchy element and a nice hint of heat.

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5 Spice duck Tacos ~ Coconut scallion crepe, mint napa slaw, hoisin lime, fried ginger.

Another great dish. The use of a crepe instead of the overused fried won ton as the taco shell was great. The duck was tender and flavorful with the slaw making another appearance, though this time sporting a different flavor profile. To quote Beau “the kitchen knows what they are doing”.

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Screaming Yellow Tail ~ ponzu, crispy garlic, olive oil, cherry tomato, sweet onion.

Now things started to get serious. Lovely yellow tail in a very tasty and interesting sauce. It is one of those dishes that when you first taste it you get one thing, in this case sweetness from the ponzu, then as you eat it your palate starts picking up more and more depth. Beau actually broke out his phone and took notes. The consensus was the oil the garlic was cooked in was then poured over the dish slightly searing the fish adding smokiness and depth. This was recommended by our server and rightfully so.

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Albacore Delight ~ Albacore and krab mixed with miso sauce, cucumber, crunch powder
Topped With ~albacore, avocado, green onion (chili oil, ponzu).

This is my go-to roll. I am not usually a roll person, I like nigiri and sashimi, this is the exception. I always ordered it at Love Boat Sushi (which is where I discovered it). I will go so far as to say this is my favorite sushi roll ever and anywhere. I know, big statement and that includes the local big players as well as nationally. Note I said “roll”. The reason is it ticks all the boxes for me, it is light with a hint of sweetness and then you get heat (that is not overwhelming) from the chili oil. If you want more heat just dip the piece into a little more chili oil. Truly a joy to eat.

I was really glad I revisited Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi. I knew it was going to be good but it actually exceeded my expectations. They have a really good happy hour and the atmosphere really makes it a good choice for a date or night out.

 

Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi

2958 Madison St., Carlsbad

#food #foodporn #sushi #japanesefood #robata #carlsbad #northcounty #seafood #spicy

 

 

 

Bluewater Grill ~ Carlsbad

So, though this was only their first week officially open, I went down to Carlsbad Village and checked out Bluewater Grill. I was not too worried about them being so new ( I usually give restaurants a few weeks to settle in) due to the fact they have 6 other locations and were running test lunch services all last week.

Bluewater Grill is in its 20th year of business. Having started in Newport Beach, they now have locations from Catalina to Temecula. The Carlsbad location moves into the space previously occupied by the Fish House Vera Cruz.

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Dinning room. Psst. those people look a lot like the owners of the Flying Pig:) They loved their lunch as well and were quite surprised at the price for quality. Restaurant and food cost stuff which I love talking about. That is not irony, I’m a nerd.

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Bar area.

The renovation changes out the dark motif of the Vera Cruz for an open bright dinning and bar area.

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Like their predecessor, they also have a fish market element.

It is nice now we actually have some good fish market options back in North County again with Pelly’s, Top Choice Fish, and now Bluewater.

The menu is straight forward with appetizers, salads, a few specialty dishes and of course fresh fish.

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Seared Scallops ~ Jalapeno aioli, chopped bacon and cilantro.

Perfectly seared U-10 diver scallops using a classic flavor combo. These were so delicate and sweet.

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Swordfish Espana ~ Fingerling potatoes, pine nuts, and smoked paprika.

Since they own their own Swordfish boats and the season is drawing to a close I had to go with this. Swordfish is one of those fish that can be boring, not in this case. Seared so it had just the thinnest of crusts, light, and flaky. Really nice. If they have Swordfish on the menu I highly recommend ordering it.

If you are looking for great non-sushi, sustainable seafood in downtown Carlsbad, I highly recommend Bluewater Grill.

Bluewater Grill

417 Carlsbad Village Dr., Carlsbad

#food #foodporn #seafood #swordfish #carlsbad #northcounty #fish

 

 

 

Dija Mara ~ Oceanside

So, I do these posts called “coming soon reports”, I know creative title right? Anyway, probably the biggest interest, and most questions, I have received on one of these was regarding the renovation of the old Bessie’s place. People were clambering to know what was going in.

Once it was discovered it was an Indonesian restaurant called Dija Mara, people got really interested.  Their main response was they were excited for something other than another gourmet pizza place or burger joint. I was as well. What got me really excited was when I learned the Chef heading it up had worked in a number of Michelin stared restaurants, including Atelier Crenn in San Francisco.

Since I was not very familiar with Indonesian food, in this case Balinese, I could not wait to check the restaurant out.

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The new facade at 232 South Coast Highway.

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The interior has a simple comfortable feel. The art and murals are quirky without being silly.

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They turned the counter from the old diner into the bar area. Look, it is Chef Willy from 608. This is the second picture I took of him hence the annoyed look on his face. Chefs of his calibre coming in for their second visit this early in a restaurant’s operation is always a good sign.

The cuisine is interesting and delicious. Think Asian with a touch of Indian but do not think curries, think earthy spices.

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The menu is broken up into cold and hot small plates, large plates, and skewers. Prices are in line with the quality and calibre of execution. I had one hot small plate, one skewer, and one large plate plus a beverage and my bill was $45.

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Complimentary shrimp chips with sauces. The peanut sauce on the left is beautiful. Taking about twenty hours to make, it shows in-depth and flavor.

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Charred Eggplant ~ Smoked Tomato Sambal : Mayer Lemon Yogurt : Thai Basil : Fried Shallot

I wanted to try one vegetable dish and this one was a great choice. It had a nice heat from the sambal that worked in counter balance with the yogurt, the basil added freshness, and the fried shallot texture. Eggplant is one of those vegetables that is hard to get right. When you do it is great and this was great. This is a dish I would order on every visit.

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Sambal Octopus ~ Fried Shallot & Snake Bean Salad : Lemon Aoili

The octopus was perfectly tender and all the components worked together on this. The only thing for me was there was this slight bitterness I could not pin down. I would give the dish a second chance next time though.

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Beef Short Rib Randang ~ Sumatran Spice : Coconut Milk : Marigolds : Turmeric Root

Short ribs when done perfectly are melt in your mouth tender. These were exactly that, with the bonus of a crispy outer shell. This dish also comes with rice so is much larger than it looks.

Another thing I will say is the wait staff is probably the best I have seen for a new restaurant at any level. My waitress knew the menu, every dish, and not just the description of it but the flavor profile.

I highly suggest checking Dija Mara out. If you support different restaurants it will attract more variation.

Dija Mara

232 South Coast Highway, Oceanside

#food #foodporn #oceanside #dijamara #indonesianfood #balinesefood

 

 

How to grow your restaurant business with video.

So, we have a great restaurant community up here in North County. Another thing we have, that may go over looked, is a great number of businesses that support that community. Whether it is Cyclops Farms providing great, local, organic produce to local eateries, or organizations like Mainstreet Oceanside and Visit Oceanside helping new restaurant owners build their networks and contacts. We are pretty lucky.

Another member of that community is “The King’s Touch Video” who specialize in video photography. I met the owners, Shawn and Roberta, over a year ago at a Mainstreet  promotions committee meeting. Not only was I struck by their experience and scope of work but also themselves as people. Since that time I have introduced them to a number of local restauranteurs and chefs, who they ended up doing video and photography for.

Because I am always doing one project or another, or just stuffing my face, I talk to these Chefs and owners over and over again and have heard nothing but high praise for the quality of work and customer service provided by Shawn and his wife .

The reason I am mentioning them here is because they want to focus more of their business on restaurants, chefs, and food as it is a passion of theirs.

Press play above to see their work. They also have a lot of food based examples on their website.

This is not a paid ad for their services. I just believe in their ability and think they are a great support business for the local restaurant community.

So, if you are in the market to expand coverage of your restaurant or bar through video, I would highly recommend their services.

The King’s Touch Video

#video #food #foodporn #business #northcounty #cyclopsfarms #mainstreetoceanside #visitoceanside #localbusiness

Halcyon, Stella Public House, plus bonus ~ San Marcos

So, I recently went to check out the new Halcyon Coffee + Bar + Lounge and their sister establishment Stella Public House located in the new mixed use enclave that is called “Block C” North City in San Marcos.  North City is set to be, once finished, an urban living utopia or dystopia, depending on your point of view. My friend Beau said it best. “High rise upscale apartments with cacti and bicycles on the balconies and hipster coffee houses and restaurants on the street level.” Pretty dead on actually. Luckily I like hipster coffee places and restaurants, good ones anyway.

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Block C ( Why does that name conjure up images of Judge Dread and Mega City One for me?)

Halcyon, and Stella Public House, are part of a small chain with two locations in Texas. The new San Marcos location is actually a relocation of their East Village spot in San Diego.

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Halcyon Coffee + Bar + Lounge

Open 7am till 2am Halcyon is a coffee bar during the day serving up breakfast items, salads, and sandwiches. At night it turns into a lounge with wine, beer and cocktail service.

It has a bright, laid back atmosphere with lots of large open roll up windows. The space flows across a couch filled lounge area into their sister establishment Stella Public house.

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Iced Tea and a daisy:)

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Stella Public House calls itself a “Farm to Pizza” establishment. I can see that. Its menu is designed around shared plates and wood fired pizzas. Plus, to be a Gastropub I think it’s law you must have a $14 burger, pork belly, and ceviche on the menu ( though technically I think you can sub the ceviche for poke and the burger for sliders.).  I do not recognize the farms they are sourcing from listed on their website but the food we had used top quality, fresh product. Plus, to be honest, I only know like six farms by name anyway.

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A beautiful open kitchen and bar area run along the North wall. Flowing and / or seamless would be good adjectives to describe the space.

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The large roll up windows / doors continue the indoor out-door theme from Halcyon. Justin ( beer contributor for NCF ) stuck with water, as due to being in soft opening mode they were not serving beer yet. They open officially 10/6. Justin lived, we went to a brewery right after this:)

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Burrata Plate ~ Burrata, prosciutto, and accompaniments.

Delicious, fresh burrata with great prosciutto. We both loved this. Easily enough for two as a starter.

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Texas Bee Sting Pizza ~ house mozzarella, serrano, sopressata, parmigiano, with local honey drizzle and cilantro.

I was not that hungry but still devoured 3 slices of the pizza. It had a nice balance of saltiness from the cheese playing off the right amount of sweetness from the honey and a little bit of spice from the serranos. A really nice pizza, I would order it again.

Also shout out to the staff for being friendly and dealing with the slight chaos that comes with a new establishment opening perfectly.

Halcyon & Stella Public House

250 North City Drive Suite #3 | San Marcos, CA

BattleMage Brewing….

As I mentioned in the title, a little bonus. After Eating at Stella we headed over to check out Battle Mage Brewing Company. Justin will do a full article on them and their beers, but I just wanted to mention them.

BattleMage started up about five months ago and is a fantasy themed brewery ( Dungeons & Dragons, Magic The Gathering, Game of Thrones ). Their beers have names like Goblin King, Chaotic Evil, and Hooded Assassin. They have D&D nights every Tuesday, Magic the Gathering Wednesdays, and board games available to play anytime. Basically, I love them:) Here are a few pics till Justin writes them up. Good beer in a variety of styles. I highly recommend checking them out.

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Wall of Magic The Gathering Cards.

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Beer list and kick ass mascot art work. Really good prices, flights of 4 tasters are $5, pints $5, and growlers $15. Yes, I bought a T-Shirt, wearing it right now:)

BattleMage Brewing Company

2870 Scott St, Vista, CA

#food #foodporn #foodie #pizza #coffee #beer #brewery #craftbrewery #sanmarcos #northcounty #D&D #games #vista

 

 

 

 

7 Great Dishes ~ North County

A lot of times, while not doing a review, I experience a dish worth mentioning. These really do not support a full article, so from time to time I will compile them into one. Also if you follow northcountyfood on Instagram (Please do) you will get these one offs and general event things in North County.

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The Rooster Burger @ The Red Rooster, Oceanside ~ American cheese, Ortega chili, grilled onion, sesame seed bun, and your choice of toppings, in this case 1000 island dressing and a little mustard.

Pretty much an institution in Oceanside, the Red Rooster Bar has been around since, well forever. I remember my Dad bringing home Rooster burgers when I was in Jr. High. It is a juicy, tasty, dive bar burger. Pretends to be nothing more, yet it is.

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Weekly Chef Specials @ Petite Madeline ~ Though because they are specials they change weekly, ordering one of Chef Marc’s off the blackboard is the way to go here. He is a Chef I still can not pin down. He uses Asian influences and then throws an Italian pesto in. This one in particular “The O’side plate” included shrimp, pesto, tomatoes, pesto, and the genius addition of kohlrabi noodles (cabbage family).

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Avocado Grilled Cheese @ Barrel Republic, Oceanside ~ After seeing a video of the Chef making this sandwich I had to try it. Perfectly grilled sourdough, tomato, mozzarella, and tempura fried avocado. The avocado stays fresh and soft inside its light battered crust making the dish a lot lighter than it may sound. So, good.

  • Currently only at the Oceanside location.

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Tandoori Chicken Sandwich @ Flying Pig, Vista ~ Fried chicken, house BBQ sauce, on brioche. Another sandwich that after having seen it on Facebook knew “that is going my face”.  Upon arrival I thought “no way i am eating all that”. Yet, due to another light and flavorful batter and the fact the sandwich is so damn good, I destroyed the whole thing.

  • Currently only at the Vista location on the weekends

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Fresh fish Plate @ Pelly’s Fish Market, Carlsbad ~ Local Halibut, lemon butter, Spanish rice, and a side salad w / blue cheese dressing. Simple perfectly cooked fresh fish, not much more you can ask for.

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Heirloom Caprese Salad and Roast Beef Bites @ The Miller’s Table, Oceanside. Cyclops Farms heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and pesto. You can not go wrong with this flavor combo, especially when using top quality ingredients. Most of their sandwiches can be ordered as bites. The ingredients are served on bruschetta and quite filling making combining them with a salad a perfect summer lunch or light dinner.

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16oz Blueberry Italian Ice and Mango Sorbet W/ Fresh Fruit @ Guava Lava Frozen Treats, Oceanside ~ First time trying this place out and I loved it. Cute interior, surgically clean, and a great selection of flavors and toppings. I love that they offer Ices and Sorbets in addition to yogurt. Tons of fresh fruit flavor, I shall return.

 

The Red Rooster

Petite Madeline Bakery & Bistro

Barrel Republic

Flying Pig Pub & Kitchen

Pelly’s Fish Market

The Miller’s Table

Guava Lava Frozen Treats

#food #foodporn #restaurants #oceanside #vista #carlsbad

 

 

Park 101 ~ Carlsbad

So, Park 101, the 8,000 sq ft multi million dollar food and drink project opened a few weeks ago along Coast Highway in Carlsbad.

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The U-shaped complex features a downstairs lounging area, bar, coffee bar, and fast casual BBQ restaurant..

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Downstairs lounge complete with corn-hole and fire pit.

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Downstairs lounge from the upper deck.

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Second bar upstairs. They have 40 beers on tap, many local.

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Their fast Casual kitchen. They serve a number of salads and classic side dishes. The main focus is BBQ including, Tri-Tip, brisket, pulled pork, turkey, smoked fish and sausage. In addition they are open at 6am for breakfast burritos and the like.

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I went with Tri-Tip, coleslaw, white bread and pickles. Perfectly cooked Tri-Tip, tender and flavorful. Good portion size too.

With the summer and it being a great outdoor location it can get busy especially on the weekends.

Park 101

3040 Carlsbad Blvd. (Coast Highway), Carlsbad

#food #foodporn #bbq #carlsbad

 

 

Plywood and Construction Updates ~ North Oceanside Coastal.

So, walked around today and figure I would update on new restaurant construction.

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The old Jennie’s spot is repainted and clean on the inside. No realtor info or Licenses up in the window so, I do not know whats going in, but it looks ready to go.

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The boarded up spot between Joe’s Furniture and Coastal Liquor is going to be a place called “Fat Joe’s”. They have a liquor license up for beer and wine. I am guessing burgers, pizza, and beer.

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Lastly, the old Bessie’s Cafe spot as reported earlier will be a Malaysian style restaurant. They were removing the old front windows when I was there.

So, just a quick heads up.

#oceanside #news

Open House ~ Encinitas

So to be totally honest, I wanted to hate this place. Yet, not only did we get great service we had great food. This is when I eat crow. Originally, I was #1 overpriced, #2 style over substance. I was wrong on all accounts.

It does help to bring a friend who is a  great Chef.

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Could not think of a better Chef to run this. So, nice and kind. Plus the skill to back it up.

So, the part of my problem, is if I am out with friends, I get distracted. Also how many commas can you use:) At least 3:)

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Bao ~ Pork belly and chicken.

The one thing I ask from Bao is the dough and it delivered.

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Adobo octopus ~ another winner. Sry for the pic quality. When I am with a friend I get distracted. Really good though.

the deal.

This was a gift from Chef. Baja yellow tail, radish, avocado crema, and the suprise which made the dish, grape fruit.

 

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Dessert ~ I forgot the owners run Ribbon Pizza. Blue Ribbon butterscotch pudding.

Open House

345 S Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

*the place is huge it is really 3 restaurants under 1 roof. This is just about the Asain Kitchen. Highly recommend it.

#food #foodporn #encinitas

 

Bread and Barley ~ Leucadia

So, Bread and Barley recently opened a second restaurant in Leucadia along the 101 at 542 N. Coast Highway. The first restaurant is located in Covina, Ca.

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I hit them during soft opening. They focus on affordable well crafted food and craft beer, though they do run a full bar. It is just good solid food. It is not going to change your life but if you want a good lunch or dinner, I would check them out.

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The place is not that big. When I was there they could not open the patio, I am guessing 60 seats or close to that either way.

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Steak Sandwich~Grilled Hanger Steak, Chimichurri, Gruyere Cheese, Sourdough

Great sandwich, the steak was so tender and had obviously been marinated for a while. probably one of the best steak sammies I have had in a long time. House made chips.

If you are in the area, perfect place for a business lunch or a meet up. Roll up windows, so light and airy. great staff. They will do just fine, especially with the coming summer foot traffic.

Next week they should be in full open mode, with a full menu.

Bread and Barley

542 N. Coast Highway

#beer #food #foodporn