September 2012

Sometimes I hate the beach. I’m sure most of you are gasping and ready to throw rocks at me. All that sand in your shoes — The seagulls in your face, flapping their wings. Flocks of pigeons all hovering over you, waiting to unload a big mess on you. Maybe it’s not the beach I hate so much, but just birds. Who am I kidding? I love the beach! The smell of the fresh sea and air blowing on your face — the sun warming you up, hugging you as you lay on the beach. It’s peaceful. One thing I like about being near the water is the seafood. On my way to The Aquarium of the Pacific, we made a pit stop for lunch at Berth 55 Fish Market. A great idea! Not only was it casual, the fish was fresh and there was plenty to choose from. The area was nice, right near the docks. We were surrounded by boats and water, and I felt relaxed. Eating outside in the warm sun, with a nice breeze was as pleasant as it can be. What was better was the amazing seafood the port had to offer.

The clam chowder was some of the best I had in a while. It wasn’t just cream flavor — I actually tasted the sea.  It was quite rich, meaning, it had a lot of cream. Not a bad thing I guess. The clams weren’t plenty, but they were large. The clams inside weren’t chewy — they were perfectly cooked. I really hate chewy clams inside clam chowder. I feel like I’m eating rubber bands or old band aids. The clams in this chowder was legit. I wouldn’t mind having a big bowl of this stuff every time I ordered clam chowder.

Naturally, being so close to the water, we had to order some fish. We ordered the red snapper with a shrimp skewer. Right away, I smelled the plate and I knew it was going to be delicious. The fish was flakey and perfectly cooked. It was great with the side of rice. The shrimp skewer was heavily seasoned and tasty. It was a bit over cooked for my liking, and too dry. I don’t know how that is possible, but it was. Thanks to the many sauces, the dish was saved. It was great eating fresh seafood in front of the Pacific Ocean. Seafood isn’t the same without the view of the water.

Berth 55 Fish Market in Long Beach has some of the best seafood around. Their display of all the seafood you can think of is fresh and is ready for you. The eating area is kind of plain and messy, but functional. It doesn’t matter really because you are eating right next to the water. It’s beautiful. It’s delicious.

Berth 55-Fish Market & Seafood on Urbanspoon

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This by far is the most interesting food truck I ever came across. Not that the food truck looked different, but I guess it was because they served Singaporean food. I never really had Singaporean food so this was interesting to me. The flavors and style of the food was unique enough to the point where I just had to try it. Natively located in Orange County, the truck can be found all around OC for lunch and dinner.

I saw softshell crab on the menu and instantly knew that I had to order it. Fried too? Score! The softshell crab sandwich was seasoned with Singapore Chili and spices. It was topped with a sweet chili crab sauce and Tiger Slaw. Served with a side of Raffles root chips, the sandwich was near perfect. I wish the softshell crab was salted more. The spices and flavors were there — it just lacked the savory taste. The crab though was cooked nicely and had a good texture. The slaw and sauce took away from the crunch a little, but it wasn’t a huge deal. The crunch from the interesting root chips made up for that.

The hot dog in it of itself is an amazing thing. You can add or simplify it to however you want — it is a vessel that can handle anything — a blank slate. I have had some great hot dogs, and I usually prefer the simple kind. A little mustard, onions, and sauerkraut. Think Costco. When I ordered the Hawker Dog at Comp Comp Nation, I wasn’t expecting this. The flavor was so different and so unique — I never had anything like this before. The tiger slaw has 10 fresh ingredients, some of which are cilantro, lime, and chili dressing. The crispy slaw mixed with the meat mix inside and the hot dog made for a nice balance of taste and texture. This is what a $5 hot dog tastes like.

The Singaporean food at Chomp Chomp Nation surprised me. The taste was unique and balanced. Though not traditionally Singaporean, meaning not heavy on the rice and meat style dishes, the “burger” and “hot dog” approach was nice. It made for a nice vessel to try the food. If you ever find or come across this truck, take a chance.

Chomp Chomp Nation (Food Truck) on Urbanspoon

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You are hungry, and you don’t have much money, I know. Same here. A trip to Subway seems too blah, and to tell you the truth, that stuff is too healthy. Eating that submarine sandwich, hold the mayo and cheese, one can feel their heart pumping more efficiently. No. You want something fried, deep fried. You want that gold and light crispy battered protein. If its fried, it has to be salty too. It’s a perfect recipe for high blood pressure. Don’t worry though — it’s delicious. Mama’s Lu in Monterey Park is just the place for this stuff. Serving up good Chinese food, fried is the way to go here.

Spicy salt is the best invention ever. Salty and spicy, the salt pepper chicken wings is every man’s dream. Chicken wings, salty, fried is all we really need in our diet. Their batter is crispy and the flavor is just perfect. Though a little chicken fatty, cutting the fat with a little hot sauce does the trick.

Their spicy salt pork chops are just as delicious. Though it was a bit on the salty side, the batter and crisp of the fried exterior is perfect. The meaty pork goodness on the inside was a bit skimp, but that just made room for more fried batter crunch. It is a tough decision to choose between the pork chops and the chicken wings, so ordering both was the correct protocol.

The beef wraps are a Chinese food staple. I guess I should say, the green onion pancake is. With tasty meed inside, this was even better. Filled with cilantro as well, each bite had a lot of flavor. The beef in its sauce was rich, as well as the fried dough wrapping. The cilantro gave it a nice flavor to balance it all out and helped cut the richness.

It isn’t every day I get to eat Xiao Long Bao. I don’t eat is as much as I should. Dumplings wise, I eat more of the pot stickers and Korean Mandoo kind — pan fried mostly. The Xiao Long bao (pork dumplings) was quite juicy — the steaming process helped keep all the juices in. I never been to the legendary Din Tai Fung in Arcadia due to obvious reasons (I hate waiting). I am sure they make dang good XLB. Mama’s Lu was decent, but I guess one thing they can work on is the dough.

Mama’s Lu is one of my favorites in the SGV. Fried everything is the motto, and a little Xiao Long Bao to keep things fresh. There is a wait most nights, and it is cash only — like all great Chinese restaurants. The atmosphere is cleaner and friendlier than most. A lot, if not most of the items are quite inexpensive, which is another plus. I would love to bring my friends and family and just have a complete feast on the cheap. Until DTF’s lines die down, Mama’s Lu will hold me over until then.

Mama's Lu Dumpling House on Urbanspoon

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The beach is the first thing I think of when its hot out. The cool breeze and sun all make up for a perfect experience during the hot weather. One of my favorite beaches in Los Angeles, Malibu, is a great beach city. They have the best beaches, and some of the best food around. From Geoffrey’s to Malibu Seafood, Malibu is the place to be for the beach and food. Paradise Cove Beach Cafe is a nice beachfront restaurant. The menu is full of seafood greats, and the views are just amazing. Paradise Cove is a nice spot in theory, but over crowding and the over population of it all made for a mediocre experience. The beach in itself is nice — the waters are calm, bad for surfers, nice for floaters. At the end of the day, I had a better time relaxing at the beach than eating there. The food by itself was uninspired. Nothing impressed me other than the beautiful location.

I was quite excited about the calimari. It came in a huge martini style glass — I ordered it to wow the group. After tasting the soggy, salty calimari, I was dissapointed. I guess the novelty of the huge martini glass was all it took to get a “tourist” like me to order it. The bed of fries on the bottom were even soggy and tasteless. Don’t let the over-sized martini glass fool you!

The fried fish po boy sandwich had good fish, but everything else was lacking. The slaw had good crunch and the salad tasted decent. Honestly though, I hated the bread. A good sandwich needs good balance, and this sandwich had too much bread and greenery and not enough fish to compensate. the filet of fish was huge, but having less bread, more sauce and a balance of ingredients would have made this a nice fish sandwich.

I only had small bites of the taco trio plate. The shrimp was probably my favorite of the three. The beans and rice just got by and the flavors weren’t anything special. This was another boring dish.

Paradise Cove is a nice beach spot. The views and the beach are near picture perfect. The food at Paradise Cove Beach Cafe on the other hand is just mediocre. Almost as if it were a tourist trap, my lunch experience there wasn’t anything pleasant. Yes I was with good company and the scene and vibe was like a vacation. As a food blogger, all I really care about at the end of the day is the food. I wouldn’t mind eating here again, but only for breakfast. We missed the deadline for ordering breakfast by a few minutes, but the dishes other patrons had looked half way decent. One thing that pissed me off was their parking situation. Parking is $3 for 4 hours with validation. That is great and all, but after the 4 hours are up, its $30 automatically. After lunch, we relaxed at the beach and swam — when we left, we were a few minutes over 4 hours, and we had to pay $30. A word of advice, leave by the 4 hours. I felt like we paid $27 for that extra 15 minutes we stayed over time. It was all fun in the sun until we left — we all left with a bitter taste in our mouth — half of it from the food.

Paradise Cove Beach Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Secret Pizza is just what Cosmopolitan is about — Mysterious, a bit of deviant. I mean, where else will you find a pizza joint with no markings or signs of any nature. No Name Pizza Kitchen? Check. This place isn’t even in the resort directory — not on the Cosmopolitan website, nothing! How I came across this place, I have no clue, but I sure am glad I stumbled upon this place. After a journey around the Cosmopolitan, up and down elevators, back tracking and such, the mission was complete. At first, I couldn’t find it and thought, “maybe it doesn’t exist”. Walking through the hallways, I smelled the scent of freshly baked pizza dough. Thinking it was an oasis of some sort, I convinced myself I wasn’t going crazy. Literally following the scent of that yeasty goodness, I was finally at the small little hallway entrance that led to Secret Pizza AKA NNPK (No Name Pizza Kitchen).

The Inside was interesting. The hall way was filled with framed pictured, side by side. A relatively small place, the inside had a few pinball machines, flat screens, white walls, and hungry diners. Not a hint of Cosmopolitan’s design cues bleed into the restaurant — You are no longer at the Cosmopolitan, not even Vegas for that matter. You are totally transformed into this small hole in the wall pizza joint in New York City.

With each slice near 5 bucks, we opted for a whole pizza. We ordered it half white and half meatball with pepperoni. The white pizza was my favorite which had mozzarella, ricotta, and garlic. The garlic was fragrant and savory and the mozzarella and ricotta gave it a smooth texture. It didn’ have any meat, but I preferred the white pizza over the meatball and pepperoni. The meatball and pepperoni was tasty, but it tasted to normal for me. It was a bit salty, but still very delicious. The crust on both pizzas were very impressive. Though not cooked in a wood burning oven, it was as close to a Neopolitan style pizza as can be. The slices were large and thin, and could hold its own compared to any pizza from New York City.

If there were to be a secret pizza joint with no names, no marque of any kind, Cosmopolitan would be the place to have it. But then again, with word of mouth, and the scent across the hallways, people won’t have a hard time finding it. I think looking for the place is half the fun of it all. The excitement of trying the pizza, getting your pizza in unmarked white pizza boxes, its all part of the dining experience. I was amazed by their pie, probably some of the best I ever had. All you have to do is go find it. You may be wondering, exactly where is this place exactly? There isn’t a sign, but you will find a “Marquee”. You can always message me for the exact location, or just do some Google searching. I, for one would like to it a secret, and leave that adventure in your hands.

NNPK on Urbanspoon

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L.A. Times The Taste 2012 at Paramount Studios

by Franklin on September 9, 2012

Labor Day weekend was all about the food this year. With the L.A. Times The Taste happening Saturday through Labor Day, the event went day and night throughout the weekend. Situated at Paramount Studios on Melrose, the back lot was a nice scene for the food event.

I was planning on doing a blog post on each of the 5 events of L.A. Times The Taste, but I decided it would be over kill. Instead, I will be covering 4 out of 5 of the events, with pictures mostly. I was able to attend 4 out of 5 of the events, but I missed out on the best one — The Taste of L.A. I was still able to eat some amazing foods from all over Los Angeles.

The daytime events was a pain in the sun. Fortunately, cold drinks and Icelandic Clacial water kept everyone cool. At night, crowds grew to an uncountable number as people wanting a taste of food and drink. The Cocktail Confidential event Saturday night alone had nearly double the amount of alcohol vendors than food. Yes. The crowd was rowdy. The food was amazing and having a chance to try everything was a treat. Seeing Thomas Keller at the Labor Day Picnic was a cool experience. Being in the same room as him just made me feel like more of gastronomer.

The whole event was fun mingling with chefs and vendors, tasting almost everything they had to offer. The styrofoam plates and plastic forks were nothing compared to the fancy dishes and metal utensils from the LAFW, but you get what you pay for. Each event was $65 pre-sale, $75 at the door. There also was a Living Social deal where tickets were $50 each. That is a pretty good deal. The finishing touches might not have been as refined, but the food was all around delicious. I can’t wait for next year’s event!

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Brea has some of the “best” stuff around. I use this term because, well, they claim it on their restaurant name. You have Brea’s Best, which blatantly claims to have the best burgers in Brea. Now, we have Beverly’s Best. Though technically in Fullerton, it is practically in Brea. Known for their grandeur specialty cakes, I was more interested in their pastries and dessert items. After lunch, I made it a treat to come here for something sweet.

I must say, our dessert was much larger than our actual lunch. We had the fruit tart, cherry scone, chocolate cupcake, and Key lime bar.

The fruit tart had mandarin oranges, blueberries pineapple, kiwi, strawberry, and a raspberry. The custard inside was perfectly sweet and creamy, but the best part was the crust. It wasn’t too buttery or cookie like, but had the perfect balance of crisp and density. This was a solid fruit tart, and something to consider if you are only going to get “not a cake”.

If you do want a cake, but not a whole cake, their cupcakes can be something to consider. Though you get the whole cake experience without getting the whole thing, their cupcakes to me were average. Nothing really stood out. Their chocolate cupcake was light and fluffy, but the frosting was nothing spectacular. I tend to like more dense cakes, especially in cupcakes, and I like more dense frosting, like icing. Theirs was more in the middle. It wasn’t really sweet, it wasn’t really dense, it was just average.

The cherry scone was a surprise, taste wise and in other ways. The scone was dense and almost bready, and the fruit inside was flavorful. I ate this inside of a movie theatre and a dark one at that. I did not know there was a filling inside, and a lot, if not, most of the filling fell on my shirt. Luckily, I was wearing a black shirt, and I just wiped it off. I’m sure nobody saw. It was dark…it was dark. Nobody saw. Though messy, their scones are something to consider.

The Key lime bar was interesting. The texture was that of cheesecake, but the taste was totally different. With a definite sour, citrus profile, it was indeed tart. The lime flavor was very prevalent in this and although it was sour, it didn’t make me pucker intensely. I feel the Key lime bar could have used a bit more sour to balance out the sweet. I like sour flavors, and if this made me pucker just a little bit more, it would have been perfect.

Beverly’s Best was an interesting experience. The boutique shop of pastries and specialty cakes had a upscale feel with a down to earth attitude. Rare to find the two in the same category, I found that this bakery was unique it its own way. Hidden away in a strip mall nest to a video store (yes they still exists), this is truly a gem. I was there just to get some snacks, and people just kept coming to pick up their jazzed up cakes. In the short time I was there, 3 different people were there to pick up their cake. I’m not all about fancy cakes with all the color and designs, but this is really making me consider. Maybe next time for someone’s birthday, someone will get a nice surprise. 🙂

Beverly's Bakery on Urbanspoon

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