August 2012

When you are in Santa Monica seafood comes to mind. BBQ, let alone, good BBQ isn’t one of the first things you think of. On a random weekend trip to Venice Beach / Santa Monica, I stopped by Baby Blues BBQ. After reading glowing reviews on this joint, I had to see for myself. Just the rarity of a barbecue restaurant near the beach got me intrigued. Situated on Lincoln Blvd., I wasn’t expecting anything gourmet. The rugged interior and simple decor made this place a very casual spot. There was a little wait for a table, but the anticipation made me hungry — not a bad thing.

I ordered their pulled pork plate. A barbecue restaurant is only as good as its pulled pork. Baby Blues BBQ made some amazing pulled pork. It had the right amount of fat and meat — it was tender and not dry at all. Per their recomendation, we added some of their spicy vinegar sauce on the meat. This brought the dish to a whole new level. The tang from the vinegar went perfectly well with the fatty pork. Slathering the meat with 1 of their 4 sauces was awesome. My favorite was the original. With a side of mac and cheese and mashed sweet potatoes, I was in carb load heaven. The mac and cheese was amazing, hands down. Baked from a large batch, the mac and cheese was rich and cheesy. This was southern cooking at its best. The mashed sweet potato was perfect. A little bit of sweet helped keep my taste buds excited. This was a southern style plate that impressed.

My all time favorite at Baby Blues BBQ is their tri tip sandwich. The meat was a soft and the best part is their marinade. A little sweet and robust like that of teriyaki, the meat had a nice barbecue taste — kind of like an Asian barbecue sauce marinade. The brioche bun soaked up all the flavor and was a perfect vessel for the goodness. The cole slaw on top gave the sandwich enough crunch and texture. I feel good cole slaw is important in a pulled pork sandwich and Baby Blues’ doesn’t fall short. The sandwich was so simple and the tri tip really shined. With a side of a pickle spear and this meal was perfect.

Who would have thunk an awesome barbecue joint would be situated near the beach? Their simple menu and decor really brought them down to earth. The quality of the meat was memorable and their barbecue sauces were no joke. How perfect was it to eat some great authentic BBQ and then relax at the beach? Something about eating seafood at the beach is so cliche and normal that it doesn’t seem exciting. Barbecue on the other hand is always a win win situation. Adding the beach to the equation just sweetens the deal.

Baby Blues BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Sometimes, I want plan a day and become a tourist in my own city. I want to sign up for The Price is Right, be an audience member of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, hit the beach, and go eat at all of the popular restaurants. A day in LA would’t be complete without a nice start of a hearty breakfast. In need of an early breakfast before my Los Angeles adventure, Toast on 3rd street was a perfect spot for this. Located in the Mid-Wilshire district, it was central to all of our popular destinations. This also meant that Toast is a celebrity hot spot, or used to be at least. Though we didn’t see anyone famous, a quiet breakfast was more enjoyed.

In the mood for something creamy, I ordered the Eggs Florentine. The bottom of the dish was sourdough bread — layered on top was sauteed spinach and poached eggs. This was then topped with mushroom spinach cream sauce. The spinach scream sauce was piping hot and nearly burned my tongue. The creamy mixture with the rich egg was a treat, but the whole dish was kind boring — it was single noted. In hind sight, I think a bit of hot sauce would have jazzed up the dish a bid. The side of sweet potato fries helped with the crunch factor. Toast is known for their sweet potato fries, and they somewhat met their reputation. It was crispy and flavorful, and not too overly sweet. I don’t know if that is a good thing or not, but I liked that it was more savory than sweet.

With all this savory, we needed something sweet. The perfect remedy for this was their stuffed french toast. Layered with banana pudding and topped with caramelized bananas, and walnuts. Possibly eating the best french toast ever, this was more of a dessert than a traditional french toast. Eating this in the morning, I knew I was doing something wrong. It was rich, sweet, but not too sweet. Decadent, yes. The banana pudding was perfect with this. Having the taste of banana cream pie from the pudding and fresh bananas was amazing. The caramelized bananas gave it a nice brulee flavoring. The walnuts were much needed as it gave it a nice textural crunch and were my favorite part. This dish would have failed if it wasn’t for the walnuts. Syrup is not needed at all either. Any regular french toast with syrup just doesn’t seem special anymore. This is the real deal.

No, I didn’t try the toast at Toast. We didn’t to do any of the Los Angeles stuff either like going to the Price is Right. We didn’t see any stars, witness any gang activity, or an earthquake. What we did do was experience Toast. It had the right amount of casual dining and upscale service. The food was delicious and at times, exceeded my expectations. I do want to try their brunch on the weekends though. I heard great things, and if it is anything like their normal menu, I have no doubts about it. As for the whole LA tourist experience, we will leave that for the visitors.

Toast on Urbanspoon

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Being winners of Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race,” there was a lot of expectation. With the new season of the food truck competition underway, it was good to try the last year’s winners. Seeing the truck on TV, it seemed to be almost a celebrity. The lime green was hard to mistake, and even more difficult to miss. The trio of chefs always pumped out amazing dishes and came out on top. I have been yearning to try their food and I finally had a chance. Though I weren’t able to meet the semi-famous chefs, getting a taste of their food was good enough for me.

Their carnitas fries are probably their most famous item on the menu. The pork on top, roasted for 12 hours was soft, but a little try. The help of the crema, guacamole, and chipotle honey slaw helped out a lot. The crunch of the slaw and the tender meet was a great match. The fries were a perfect to soak up all those flavors. The topping of cotija cheese gave it a nice salty flavor which it needed. In my opinion, the cotija was necessary and completed this dish nicely. I just wish I had more of this.

The Short rib sliders were amazing. The beer braised short rib was tender and flavorful as it should be. Topped with spicy ramulade and arugula, the sliders were impressive. Even the bread was soft and helped make these small sandwiches better. This was completely worth it and went perfectly well with the carnitas fries.

There comes a time when you get greedy and order something you regret. The adobo tacos were just that — money well spent. The adobo style pork belly was nearly dry — I was thinking pork belly, fatty, tender, and fatty. The pork in these tacos were lacking in quality and quantity. The green tomatillo, pico de gallo, and sriracha on top was tasty, atleast. The taco as a whole didn’t work for me. The tortilla was kind of cold, the protein a little off — it just didn’t do it for me, especially for 3 bucks. If you are a food truck, doing tacos right is a must. I mean, food trucks were born from this stuff.

The Lime Truck, the famous green gourmet food truck blew up. The semi celebrity status meant more eyes on them, more judging eyes at that. Honestly, if it weren’t for Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race,” would I even consider their food? Maybe, maybe not. The reality is, The Lime Truck pumps out pretty awesome food. The incident of the adobo taco might have been on the off chance they were having a bad day. Either way, 2 out of the 3 items I ordered were a home run, and I guess that is what matters. Look at me, showing favoritism to the celebrity food truck — I must be selling out. The reality is, the good items were really good, the bad items were just plain crappy. I guess you just have to order the right things. Plain and simple — carnitas fries / short rib sliders.

The Lime Truck on Urbanspoon

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When we all go to Vegas, we go because it makes us feel a certain way. The sights, the sounds, even the smells all give us a feeling of excitement and fun. One place that always give me the happy juices flowing is Jean-Philippe Pâtisserie. Something about the design and the colors of this bakery shop makes me happy. I have been to the Jean-Philippe Pâtisserie in Bellagio, and was pleased with the one in Aria as well. Their amazing concoctions of sweets and pastries wowed me the first time around. The one in Aria though, they had a mildly different approach. Serving more food like items, including sandwiches and pastries, they had more of a variety here. Not only were their pastries and desserts delicious, their sandwiches were amazing as well.

We ordered the prosciutto mozzarella sandwich. I am a self proclaimed lover of salted cured meats, and prosciutto might be one of my favorite. This sandwich, though it could have used a lot more prosciutto, was a favorite. Don’t let my greediness for more meet fool you — it had plenty of it. The saltiness along with the mild and creamy mozzarella was a match so perfect and clean. The bread was a bit crusy for my liking, but it was still fresh and had a nice texture to it. The touch of basil inside was a perfect addition and made everything come together — a good snack to share.

We can’t go to Jean-Philippe Pâtisserie and not get something for our sweet tooth. The white chocolate cheesecake was calling my name. It looked so nice and professionally made — I didn’t want to break the shell. Once broken into, the creaminess of the inside and the sweetness of the outside made for a nice treat. The round chocolate ball on top was the best.  It had a deep chocolate flavor and resembled something of a truffle and a moose.  It was a very delicious dessert and a nice indulgence.

The Jean-Philippe Pâtisserie in Aria seemed more toned down.  Being more of a regular coffee and dessert shop, their sandwiches were a nice addition to the menu. Though it was larger than the one in Bellagio, it didn’t seem like it had the glitz and the glam — it surely didn’t have the chocolate fountain of all chocolate fountains.  Still, Jean-Philippe seems to draw in all the crowds.  Having prime location right next to the elevators and main casino floor, this is a popular spot for anyone looking for a sweet snack. Once again, Jean-Philippe Pâtisserie delivered the good stuff.

Jean Philippe Patisserie (Aria) on Urbanspoon

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If it weren’t for my most winnningest of prizes on the radio girlfriend, I would have been left to enjoy the LA Food & Wine festival only from pictures online. When I found out that we won tickets to the LAFW grand tasting on KOST 103.5, I was elated. We have been on a roll with food events in LA, with the whole Pancake Breakfast and all, going for free just makes the event that much more fun. Los Angeles Food and Wine is probably the biggest food event in this city. Having over 300 wines from 200 of the world’s most prestigious wineries, this event was one to remember.

Nearly 30 celebrity chefs showed off as they displayed their cooking skills and fed thousands. The event was held at the Event Deck at LA Live. Walking upstairs, I was so glad to see a huge tent with air conditioning inside. It was a hot day and having the event out in the sun would have been unpleasant. Walking around in this “bubble” was an amazing experience. Chefs from a lot of my favorite restaurants showcased their cuisine. My favorites were the John Cox’s (Post Ranch Inn) Wagyu beef, Celestino Drago and Jennifer Robles’ summer truffle topped ravioli — those were the top 3. Campanile’s bacon ice cream was also a treat. The whole event had the most amazing food, and the wine selection seemed endless. The 2nd annual Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival was a success, and I cannot wait until the one next year comes around.

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The night was a bit warm, but that didn’t stop the thousands from enojoying food and wine at LA Live’s Nokia Plaza. Upon events held on Friday, August 10, 2012, one was the Asian Night Market hosted by Andrew Zimmern. It brought tasted from Asian with a California twist. With 30 different chefts dishing out plates and with twice as many wineries, the event was filled with all the great food and wine you can have. It was good to see and meet Andrew Zimmern who was quite down to earth. A glimpse of Wolfgang Puck made the night! Other famous faces include Ming Tsai, Sam Choy, Roy Yamaguchi, and Duff Goldman. The event was amazing, with Staples Center on one side, Nokia Theatre on the other, Chick Hearn Court turned into an all things food and wine extravaganza. Check out the speech Zimmern made in the middle of the event. His view on food is amazing, and we all know that he tried it all. This was my first LA Food and Wine event and it was a blast. Seeing famous people in the food world, eating some of the best food LA has, and drinking some amazing wines was a great way to spend a Friday night.

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Cafe Bizou – Escargot Finds its Way to the Top

by Franklin on August 12, 2012

Pasadena in itself is big enough that you don’t feel a need to leave the city. They have Arclight for movies, Old Town for dining, and Target for everything else. When Restaurant Week came around, Cafe Bizou caught my eye. Their menu was robust and was only one dollar sign ($25 for dinner). Interestingly, if it weren’t for Dine LA, I would have never heard of this restaurant. Tucked away near Pasadena City Hall, the entrance was small and could be driven by unnoticed. The inside was a bit dated, but seating arrangements were quite comfortable. The servers were quite attentive and helpful and knowledgeable about the menu.

When I saw escargot on the menu as an appetizer, I had to order it. The escargot, burgandy snails were drenched in a garlic butter and topped with parsley. If you are scared or if the thought of eating snails is a bit off putting, don’t be. Though a land creature, think of these as sea creatures. I mean, the snails are similar to mollusks. They have a squishy center and hard shell — yes, to a non scientist, non biologist, that is my criteria for a mollusk. The taste and texture is like any other mollusk as well. It tastes kind of like clams, but chewier like a mussel. Either way, the garlic butter really helped mask any funkiness of the escargot. It was delicious and I would order these again.

Their baked mushrooms were interestingly tasty. Stuffed with chicken and spinach mousse with a side of balsamic vinegar sauce, the appetizer was meaty. With endive on the side, everything came together nicely. The chicken was a chicken meatball and the flavors were robust. It was tasty and all, but I wish it was more creamy and warm. The whole dish was kind of single noted and was asking for more of a sauce than the balsamic reduction. A nice bubbly cheese covering would have been perfect.

I ordered their seafood pasta — it had almost every seafood I could imagine. Filled with lobster, shrimp, and sea scallops the pasta was a treat. The black tagallini pasta was a first for me. Literally black in color, I was interested in how it was that color. I am guessing it was maybe squid ink? The pasta itself felt a bit reheated in some way and kind of crumbled, but still delicious. Covered in tomatoes and mushrooms in a lobster sauce, the pasta was quite heavy. In some way, the seafood lightened it up a bit. There was plenty of lobster and shrimp inside and the scallops were cooked perfectly. Nothing was overcooked — everything worked well in the dish.

Their surf and turf on the menu was amazing at this price point. The petit filet minon was in a brandy cream and cooked perfectly medium. Their pan seared sea scallop was buttery and tasted so clean. My favorite, the jumbo shrimp was cooked with so much flavor — the crust on the shrimp was delicious. With a baked potato and grilled tomato, the dish was complete. My only gripe about the dish was that the dish was all over the place. Plating made the dish look very mediocre, as if we got each individual item from a buffet. Despite the looks of the dish, the taste was what mattered.

It isn’t restaurant week if it didn’t include dessert. We opted for the flourless chocolate cake and tiramisu. These two together was a perfect dessert in contrast. One was rich and chocolaty whereas the the tiramisu was light and creamy. The flourless chocolate cake was moist and not too sweet — it was kind of boring though. It was just a wedge of chocolate tasting cake. The tiramisu on the other had was my favorite. It had a subtle coffee flavor and the creaminess was to die for. In hind sight, ordering two tiramisu would have been alright with me. I am still glad to have tried the chocolate cake. These two desserts were a perfect ending to a great dinner date.

After experiencing Cafe Bizou, I don’t know if I liked it or not. The service was spotty and the overall experience at this restaurant could be forgotten, with the exception of the escargot and shrimp. I always think to myself, “If this restaurant were in Los Angeles, would it be considered something marvelous?” It is hard to say, especially with Los Angeles’ growing number of gastronomic eats — it would be safer left in Pasadena. I guess that is what you get. If you want more than mediocre, but not amazing, staying in Pasadena is fine. It is when you want that extra step above, the amazing and unforgettable — that is when you need to venture outside into Los Angeles. At any rate, Cafe Bizou was an awesome experience, again, in Pasadena standards. In Los Angeles terms, it will get blended in with the rest.

Cafe Bizou on Urbanspoon

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Second Annual Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival

by Franklin on August 9, 2012

Last years first ever LAFW was a suceess. Raising over $400,000 for Meals on Wheels last year, the food/charity event was a complete success. The second annual LAFW should be just the same. Running throughout all of Los Angeles — Downtown/LA Live, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, every corner is taken care of. From Celebrity chefs like Wolfgang Puck and TV hosts like Andrew Zimmern, the event is going to be glamorous. The event starts today, August 9 and runs all the way through Sunday, August 12. Sadly, I cannot make it to the opening night — The founder’s dinner alone is $2,000. No thanks. Fortunately, we will be there Friday and Sunday enjoying some of the best of Los Angeles, food and wine! Check back in the following week to check for the blog post. For tickets and event details, check out their website. www.lafw.com

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Hmmm. What can I say about Birch Street Grill? Hmm… After much thought and starting at the computer screen, I had nothing. Their happy hour was nice. It lasted late, almost until 8 PM, but it was nearly empty. The music was nice and the TVs were flat, large, and abundant, but still, nobody was watching. What gives? This is not a happy hour. I was even sad to find out that my restaurant.com gift certificate won’t work with their happy house menu. Well for me, I wanted to try their happy hour menu because it looked half way decent. Caught in a predicament, it was better the just go with their happy hour menu as is. Enough with this mess, I was ready to eat.

My favorite was the deviled eggs. It came out looking too pretty to eat. One was topped with shrimp, the other salmon lox, and another with bacon. Each had a sprinkle of cracked pepper and a garnish of fish roe. The taste of the deviled eggs was wonderful and had a smooth yolk mixed in inside. Though not as good as the ones from Blue Cow Kitchen in Los Angeles, they were still good for a happy hour menu.

The fritto misto was a bit soggy for my liking, and the bottom was basically all lettuce. Though the taste was there, the lack of crunch and crisp was a disappointment. The best part about fried calimari is the crunch on the outside and the perfectly cooked squid on the inside. Theirs lacked both and the filler of the lettuce was the cherry on top.

The sliders were better than I thought. The pulled pork inside was tender and not dry, and the sauce was actually really good. The slaw had a nice crunch, and the bread was soft. All of the flavors worked well together. The pork wasn’t dry or tasteless. Though the taste wasn’t quite like the real BBQ you find at a BBQ joint, the sauce saved this dish.

I wanted to try the crab cakes in hopes of finding something amazing. Unfortunately, I would have been better off not ordering this item. The crab cakes were more bread than crab meat. This in turn made the outside layer crustless and the inside a bit soggy. The aioli sauce on top was tasty, but the star of the dish was nowhere to be seen.

Birch Street Grill was a nice hang out spot, but the lack of customers is a sure sign of something missing. The service was acceptable and at times surprising. My biggest gripe wasn’t the restaurant or the service, it was the food. Obviously, if the food isn’t good, the people won’t come. It’s located in Downtown Brea, the restaurant is bound to have customers. The reason for a lack of customers is obvious. I think a jazzed up menu and a nice refresh would do this spot nicely. Until then, Birch Street Grill is in the shadows.

Birch Street Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

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On Sunday, August 5th, the 2nd Annual LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast was held at the Vibiana. The venue was perfect. The historical building of 130 years was gorgeous and the event was spectacular. Curated by Fred Eric of Fred 62 and Tiara Cafe, the event was filled with many of my favorite restaurants — Auntie Em’s Kitchen, Meals by Genet, BLD, Canele, Hungry Cat, and LAMILL Coffee just to name a few.

As we were waiting to get into the venue, we were all excited to enter. We were handed a nice coffee mug and given BirchWare forks. This would soon be my tool for eating for the next 2 hours. Upon entering the main venue, the architecture of the interior was amazing. Attending this former Cathedral church building after church on that Sunday morning was kind of a double take for me. In awe of it all, I was just ready to eat. Some of my favorites were the pork belly and pancake from Tiara Cafe. The bread with hangar steak and egg on top from Good Girl Dinette was awesome too. I was begining to find myself liking the food only with meat on top as it didn’t stop there. The salmon topped pancake with dressing from The Hungry Cat was possibly my favorite. The freshly cooked salmon and the cool dill dressing on top was a nice mix. Korean food was even represented by Kobawoo — they had some awesome kimchi and seafood “jun”, Korean bean curd pancakes.

It was cool to see Chef Diana from BLD come out to the event. We last met at my winning from the tweet-a-dish a few months back. Her classic blueberry pancakes were refreshing — it was a pancake breakfast after all. The pancakes as well as the sweet creations from Nickel Diner, The Village Bakery, and Euro Pane were awesome with coffee. Hearing lots of buzz about LAMILL Coffee, I was excited to try a cup. It was hot so I tried some of their iced coffee and it was so delicious — my Mc Donald’s iced coffee seemed pretty lame at this point. Handsome Coffee Roasters even made me a cup of some fine espresso with a latte heart on top. All this good coffee and pastries were making me full.

The event was fun. I even got to get a nice goody back from Tokidoki. Inside had some random toys, books, music and a shirt. I was able to grab one of the last ones! Everything culminated into a perfect morning and afternoon of great food and drinks. I went home stuffed and happy with a nice goody bag. I immediatey went home to work on the pictures. Rarely do I ever do post-production on my food pictures, but this was a special occasion (I accidentally shot in RAW mode). I hope you enjoyed the overexposed pictures.

Special thanks goes out to Urbanspoon for hooking up the tickets! I am glad I checked my email.

Cheers!

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Fogo de Chão translate in Portuguese as “Fire Ground”. Such a fitting name when you are talking about meat cooked with direct fire. When you think of Brazilian BBQ, Churrascaria in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills to be exact, Fogo de Chao comes to mind. If you put endless quality meats together with Beverly Hills, you know its going to be expensive. Taking advantage of the Dine LA menu, you save nearly 20 bucks a person. Not only do you get to eat all the meat you want, but well, I guess that’s it. Bottom line, its a buffet, but nothing like the cheapy-deapy stuff. I tend do eat everything and anything that is served at buffets, so I had to strategize. Not a lot of carbs, just meat. You and your green on one side, red on the other coaster, and your meat. My coaster was on green for a while, meaning, bring on the meat! The servers made sure I had the cut of meat I wanted. Servers with swords came by and carved away at the perfectly cooked meats — think meat skewers for a T-Rex. I got lucky and always had the outer crust — that’s where all the flavor is. Green means go — I was ready to eat.

Speaking of strategy, the restaurant has their own game plan — get guests full on breads and carbs. As am appetizer, they serve some pão de queijo, the bread. Freshly baked and warm, they were so chewy and gooey in the middle with a nice milky flavor. You can easily eat too much of these and leave no room for the meat. Be careful. To add to this carbohydrage stomach filler, they give three sides — garlic mashed potatoes, crispy fried polenta, caramelized bananas. They even offer more sides of rice, beans, and forofa upon request. Wanting the meat, I forewent the extra sides. My favorite were the crispy polenta. It tasted like large sheets of french fries with a crunch like no other. The caramelized bananas were great in between meats — It helped keep the taste buds alive, going back and forth from savory to sweet. The sides were delicious and plenty, but I made sure not to over do it.

Brazilian Barbecue restaurants have a lot of signature meats. Bellow are some of the popular meats served:

Picanha: This is their Top Sirloin. The meat is very tender and lean with a nice fat layer encapsulating the meat.

Alcatra: This is also their Top Sirloin. This had a strong beef flavor, probably the most of the group.

Filet Mignon: Of course, this was one of my favorites. Not wrapped in bacon like other Churrascarias, this one was the purest and cleanest beef of the bunch. Though very lean, it was very juicy. It was the softest of them all and it melted in your mouth.

Ancho: This is the Rib Eye. One of my favorite cuts of beef, this was one of my favorites. It had a good balance of fat and meat. It was cooked perfectly.

Fraldinha: This is the Bottom Sirloin. The meat was tender as well but had more marbled fat within the meat. I liked this far more that the Picanha.

Cordeiro: This is the Lamb. I am not much of a lamb fan. They cooked it well enough to make it juicy and not so gamey.

Frango: This is the Chicken. On the bone, the flavor was clean and of the highest quality. It was cooked nicely with a tasty seasoning on the outside. It was a nice pair with the Linguica.

Linguica: This is the Sausage. It had a nice snap with the natural casing. The sausage was salty and not too fatty. It was perfect with the chicken.

Fogo’s salad bar was impressive as well. Ranging from vegetables, salads, cheeses, salumi, sauces, and more, they were perfect pairings with the meat. Some of the things that stood out were the endive, cheeses, and bacon. Yes, they had a whole bowl full of fried bacon. Any buffet with a large bowl full of bacon is fine by me. Another thumbs up for me was the whole Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese wheel. This was the real stuff, from Italy. It was great with the prosciutto and the meat. All of the vegetables and cheeses were great with the meat.

The Dine LA menu has changed since the past. Fogo was a few bucks cheaper and gave dessert at the end of the meal. Though the dessert was taken off the menu, it was still a great deal. The meat was amazingly tasty and generously seasoned. The sides and salad bar was fresh and good quality. When you dine at Fogo, you are eating like Kings. Thanks to Dine LA and Restaurant Week, I could do it for cheap(er). Any carnivore like myself can appreciate Brazilian BBQ, but at the end of the day, it’s a buffet, a mega chain that exists all over Brazil and United States. At the end of my meal, I got my money’s worth and felt I needed to take a shower. Covered in meat sweat and filled with grease, I was satisfied.

Carnivores 1 / Vegetarians 0

Fogo de Chão on Urbanspoon

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I’ve been hearing a lot about Intelligentsia.  Coffee to me is just a daily routine — I need it to wake up.  On hot days, I like it iced.  On cold days, I like it hot.  I am not a big coffee conoissoure.  A simple refill in my coffee mug from 7Eleven with some hazelnut cream will keep me happy.  Though I don’t know “good” coffee, I know what bad coffee tastes like. I had to give this coffee shop a try. Located next to Akasha, actually located inside Akasha, it’s not really a separate building — it is more of having an Intelligentsia inside of the restaurant. I thought this was interesting, and maybe the trend of having coffee shops inside restaurants will start to grow.

I tried the iced coffee and iced green tea.  The coffee was actually really good.  Not overly strong like Starbuck’s coffee of the day, and not too watered down.  The green tea was good too.  Though I don’t like fruit infused tea, this one had a very subtle fruit flavor.  The change from the my normal, straight green tea was refreshing.

The interior was nice and very relaxing.  I liked the dark wood colors and home feeling I got when I walked in. I can see myself sitting down with a nice cup of coffee and working on some blog posts. Filled with books on cooking and other culinarily related reading material, I thought it would be fun to just hang out here and read book while drinking some dang good coffee. Having only been to the one in Culver City, I can only imagine the ambiance of the other locations. Though not an official location, it was nice to get a taste of the Intelligentsia coffee. As my taste buds grow up a bit for good quality coffee, I will graduate to the other locations.

Intelligentsia Coffee on Urbanspoon

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Night markets in Asia are ridiculous, so I hear. Lines and lines with no end, crowds from should to shoulder, moving along in a slow manner. Food of every kind, from the typical to the not so typical. This is what night markets are, and I think this is what the 626 Night Market brings to Los Angeles — more specifically, Pasadena City Hall. July 28, 2012 was the date, 4PM – 11:30PM was the time. After much debate on whether to go to this event or not, I was conflicted. Do I really want to pay a lot in the hot sun for small bites of food? Do I want to be stuck among a crowd of people? After reading horrible Yelp reviews on the 626 Night Market, I decided it was an obvious choice not to attend. I kept reading, “Worse event ever!”, “Tooooooo crowded.”, “Took 1 hours looking for parking, 5 blocks away!”, “EPIC FAIL!”… The list went on and on. Convinced this was going to suck, we headed to Pasadena anyways. We went to Arclight to catch a movie and decided to catch a flick. “If we have time, we will check out the night market,” we thought to ourselves.

I don’t know how the event was during the day, but when I went for the latter part of the event, it was quite nice! I think it is safe to say this event turned out a lot better. The venue was a lot bigger and accommodating. There were people skateboarding, dancing, walking freely — there was so much space! I didn’t know what everyone was talking about, but it looked like the new venue worked.

Walking around, you can tell the event was near the end. At around 11:00 PM, everyone was hustling and trying to get their last sales in. To do away with excess, most of the vendors were even selling everything for a dollar, if not, nearly half price. Everyone was screaming, “One dollar!”, “Sale!”. I appeared to me that I came at the perfect time. Everyone was desparate to sell everything, and I took advantage. I got some awesome fried french toast donuts for cheap. I got some expensive yakitori, $3 a stick — they threw in an extra stick for us. I even got to sample some of the free stuff too. The best was the bowl of noodles for a dollar. It was a cream based sauce with onions and nori strips on top. The massago inside gave it a nice familiar flavor. Tasty for a dollar, not for $5 though.

It was fun walking around at night and seeing all the food vendors. We got some real food at the Lobsta Truck. Though there were other truck at the event, Lobsta Truck was the best one. Honestly, the reviews on Yelp are crap. Those reflect the first event. There was no way of predicting how many people would show up to it. They learned from their mistakes and made this one a spectacular one. Huge space was what they were looking for, and that is what they got. The thing about the food here is, it is a luck of the lottery. Since most of the vendors are not really popular, you don’t quite know if a certain booth will have good food or not. You just have to trust your gut, and stomach and hope for the best. I can say the second time around was an EPIC WIN. I look forward to the next one.

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