March 2013

To me, Sunday is all about going to church. A close second is Sunday Brunch. At Duke’s in Huntington Beach, brunch is king. Eating glutonous amounts of food after church seems a little hypocritical, but brunch is a different story. And remember, you are on a food blog, not a religioun blog. Brunch is more about variety than over eating. Sometimes, I don’t want just eggs and bacon. A lot of the times, I want a little bit of everything. Thank goodness for Sunday Brunch. To top it all off, this was right in the middle of beautiful Huntington Beach. Sunday Funday, it is.

From all different varieties, the display was quite imppresive. My favorites were the roast beef, sausage, bacon, and eggs benedict. Forgot that I was a carnivore, did ya? Of course, every brunch needs an omelet bar, and theirs didn’t skimp on the ingredients. All of the food, ranging from the ginger shoyu chicken to the Hawaiian style Poke was fresh and delicious.

The desserts and pastries were plenty to choose from. Cookies, cinnamon rolls, chocolate dipped strawberries and fresh fruit stacked so high on tables. My favorite was the coconut french toast. The coconut gave it a nice crunchy and sweet texture on the outside. I don’t see why not all the restaurants do it like this.

Huntington Beach is easily one of my favorite beaches in Orange County. Sitting right at the start of the Huntington Beach pier, Duke’s is difficult to miss. Eating in the outside patio area, with the views of the ocean and beach all made for a great experience. Nothing beats brunch right in front of the water. Simply Beautiful.

Duke's Huntington Beach on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

Ladybug Fortune Cookie Company

by Franklin on March 23, 2013


Ladybug Fortune Cookie Company was nice enough to send me some of these amazing fortune cookies. To me, a fortune cookie is a folded up cookie with a message inside. Ladybug Fortune Cookie takes it up to the next level. Theirs is dipped, decorated, and yours to enjoy. They offer some awesome flavors like chocolate dipped and covered in M&Ms. Check out their online store here. They can do a custom message for you as well. It definitely is something special when you open the cookie and the message is just for you. That is pretty special.

{ 0 comments }

Lazy Ox Canteen was on my radar for a while. Any time I was in Downtown or in Little Tokyo, I always had Lazy Ox in the back of my mind. Luckily, it was food blogger appreciation week at the restaurant, and the owner invited me and a guest for some food. Though I realize how this can change the outcome of my blog post, it was a chance for me to finally try their food nonetheless. Eating here, I tried to have the most unbiased and wanted to be as objective as possible. A hip bar/restaurant with small plates of delicious food near Little Tokyo, Lazy Ox Canteen is a gastropub that is much needed in this area. The experience was fun, and we surely ate a lot — the food seemed almost endless.

The chicory salad was a great start. The bitter leaves and the tangy blue cheese went perfectly together. They almost cancelled each other out. The saucy vinaigrette was delicious with the candied pecans gave a great crunch to the dish. It was good to have salad at the begining — salad is rarely a choice of my own. It is either complimentary, and or it has bacon in it. This salad was good enough to have me consider salads a little more often.

I love a good fatty bone marrow sometimes. Not all the time, but when I’m in the mood, nothing is better. Lazy Ox’s roasted bone marrow was perfect. The garlic, thyme, and orange gremolata came together to flavor the bone marrow nicely. Spreading it on their toast, with a sprinkle of their gourmet salt made for one unctuous bite. A bite of the caper berries was salty and sour which cleansed the palate nicely. I was then ready for more.

It’s obvious that all gastropubs do their own rendition of the fried pig ears. This one, actually, was quite different. This one was cut somewhat thick. The seasoning was nice and the horseradish aioli was perfect. What was different was the texture. It wasn’t crispy and teeth shattering like other places. This was more tender, fatty, and gelatinous. Though fried, their process didn’t render out all the fat and didn’t crisp up. This made for a more meaty fried pigs ear. Not necessarily a bad thing — just different.

The Can o’ Sardines was interesting enough for me to want to try it. Not really scared of sardines, I actually like the strong taste of sardines. This can of sardines came from Galician, a region northwest of Spain. Eating it with the bread with their house-churned butter, the fish had a very strong fish flavor. To add to the mix, a side of herb salad helped bring everything together.

Every gastropub needs a good burger. I tend to grade any restaurant by their burger. The 7 oz. Lazy Ox burger had some top notch ingredients. The beef itself was perfectly cooked and the flavor of the beef was pristine. The melted Bravo Farms white cheddar was subtle, yet had a presence. My only gripe about this burger was the bun. It was too dense and kind of took over the burger, not allowing the beef to shine. I think an airy, more fluffy bun would allow the flavors come through. The whole grain mustard was a nice touch as to reset my palate. The fries on the side weren’t bad either, especially dipping with draigo paprika aioli. It was crunchy and a great companion to this near perfect burger.

The final portion on the savory side was the pork cheeks. Cooked for who knows how long, the pork cheeks were left as tender as can be. Little effort was needed to chew. The goat cheese gnudi balls were flavorful and velvety smooth. The cooked rutabaga gave the dish some earthiness. Everything mixed in the violet mustard made a gravy like substance. It was savory, yet tangy, but all delicious.

It was time to put a perfect ending to these serious of plates. We opted for the rice pudding and butterscotch pudding. When the waiter put an apple cobbler in front of us, we were a bit confused. Though it was a mistake, they let us eat it anyways. The rolled oat crisp on top was my favorite part. The vanilla ice cream and the oats made a nice mix in flavors and textures. Hot, crisp oats with cold, buttery ice cream was a great combination.

This is probably the best rice pudding I ever had. Not that I order rice pudding everywhere I go, and granted, I always get the prepackaged ones from the market, this one was pretty good. The rice had a nice bite to it and it wasn’t cloyingly sweet. The caramel on top had the perfect amount of sweetness. The pine nut crumbs on top gave the dessert some color and needed texture. All that was missing was a nice warm crunchy churro.

My favorite dessert of the night goes to the butterscotch pudding. A cup filled with an addicting pudding, topped with whipped cream was all I needed. It was sweet, but not too much, and eating this creamy custard was perfect with the peanut butter cookie. Each creamy bite with the childhood taste of butterscotch was great. I wouldn’t mind it if all three desserts was the butterscotch pudding. This was such a perfect end to our near endless meal.

Eating at Lazy Ox Canteen was fun and delicious. Sitting in the corner, full view of the kitchen with a preview of every dish to come was exciting. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, and our waiter had his undivided attention to us. With this combination of quality food and perfect service makes Lazy Ox a special place. Grab a beer, get some food, and relax.

Lazy Ox Canteen on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

Italian food used to be my favorite food. With the introduction of sashimi and the all mighty carne asada fries, Italian is a close second? Third? Definitely a top 5 contender of my all time favorite foods, Italian food is one of my loves of food. Osteria La Buca, easily one of the best in Los Angeles, was a fun experience. The food was perfectly done and ingredients tasted as they should — fresh and vibrant. Literally the first ones here for dinner service, I had the whole restaurant to myself. Perfectly timed at just before sunset, with the addition of all window walls and a class ceiling, the pictures came out just as I liked (though I still need a lot of work). I had fun eating the tasty food and taking just as many photos as bites.

We started off with their house made bread. The bread was soft and fluffy. It was a bit single noted, but the marinara helped give it some life. It was simple and all, but a little more texture would have made this perfect.

I absolutely love their calamari fritti. Battered in semolina flour, the outside was crisp and light. Cooked perfectly, the squid inside was tender and had a nice bite. It wasn’t at all chewy or fishy. The flavor was mild and fresh, and the batter shined throughout the dish. Dipping it in the marinara sauce was good, but the lemon aioli was my favorite. The rich aioli and crunchy calamari went well with the hint of lemon and creaminess of the aioli. This definitely hit the spot and should be ordered all the time.

The fried egg pizza was the choice for the pie. Cooked in a high heat oven, the crust was thin and chewy — not perfect, but still delicious. The fried egg in the middle was enough a reason to order this pizza, if not, do it for the smoked prosciutto. Topped with tomatoes and mozzarella, this pizza was classic with a little twist. Topping this was a great amount of arugula. Nearly a salad on top of a pizza, the arugula and prosciutto went perfectly together. The egg, though not helping the dish, was still welcomed. Surely, the crust needed something to sop up, and egg yolk is pretty much the perfect thing.

My all time favorite pasta is carbonara. I love the simplicity of it all with the creamy sauce and salty cheeses and pancetta. Their bucatini carbonara was almost perfect. The sauce was creamy and salty. Topped with an poached egg to finish the sauce, it surely was a creamy pasta. Mascarpone was added to the mix to make everything even creamier. The black pepper was prominent as all carbonara should and the pancetta was crispy and salty. One thing I did not like about the dish was the pasta. I do love an al dente pasta, but this was slightly under cooked. Maybe even just 30 seconds longer in the boiling water would have made this a perfect pasta dish. Other than that, this was and is a house favorite. I saw a guy just walk up to the bar and order a bowl for himself — Nobody to bother him — just him and his bowl of perfect pasta carbonara.

The tiramisu was an afterthought, and overstuffed on pasta and pizza, the dessert had to be taken to go. The cake and cream inside was perfectly balanced and rich. The distinct coffee taste mixed with the cream was the best part. One thing weird about this tiramisu is that it didn’t have a cinnamon layer on top. Though it didn’t add that extra depth in flavor, the basic necessities and pure tiramisu flavors came through to make this dessert order worthy.

Osteria La Buca, once a small, and still a relatively small restaurant has a lot going for it. The inside’s minimalistic design is fresh and comforting. This once, hole in the wall Italian joint bloomed into a modern and trendy destination for “new” Italian food, namely pizzas and pastas. Their flavorful rustic pastas and proper pizzas keep this place busy. Osteria Mamma just down the street stemmed from once head chef “Mamma” and Son. Though they are doing their own thing there, Osteria La buca is pretty much a new restaurant inside and out.

Osteria La Buca on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

Raku – Japanese Cuisine to a Higher Level

by Franklin on March 11, 2013

I came across Raku from Andrew Zimmern. I was watching a random Youtube video about Las Vegas eats, and Mr. Zimmern swears Raku as an anti-Vegas destination with some of the best Japanese food around. I immediately dropped everything and headed off the strip. Raku, located in a dismal looking strip mall in Las Vegas’ very own Chinatown, concentrates on good quality Japanese cuisine. More of a Japanese “tapas” bar, most of their items are shared amongst the table. Most people associate Japanese cuisine with sushi. Chef and owner, Mitsuo Endo showcases a menu with Japanese cuisine as an all-inclusive whole. There is no sushi on the menu, though there is raw fish and sashimi. Everything is masterfully prepared and they use only the best ingredients.

We started things off with the uni soup. This was a simple dish that was so refreshing. The broth was soy sauce based and had a subtle seafood essence. Filled with seaweed and a few slivers of uni, it was an interesting soup. The uni was flavorful and mellow — the warm soup made it more toned down and silky. I don’t it that is a good thing, but it was delicious. This was a great start to an awesome late night eat.

We ordered the pork belly to feed the carnivore within. It wasn’t necessarily special. The quality and bite of the pork belly was a lot better though. Most places will just put some thinly sliced pork belly on a stick, grill it and call it day. Raku’s was thicker, and more meaty. All in all, it was a deliciously cooked yakitori — no sauce needed.

Some of the best things I have ever eaten was Raku’s Agedashi Tofu. It is probably the best tofu I ever had. Some sad days, I would be home alone. I’d open up a tub of tofu, microwave it, make some kind of soy sauce concoction, and pour it over the tofu. For what it was, it was tasty and I was happy. This agedashi tofu really changed my life. The tofu is made daily, in house. The fried exterior had a little crispiness with a hint of chewiness. Inside, it was completely different — smooth and silky, and custard like. The broth in itself makes this dish so good. I don’t know what was in it, but soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and dashi was definitely in the mix. There was a smudge of red pepper puree on the bowl for a bit of spice. Topped with ikira (salmon roe), scallions, and nori, the tofu dish was complex, yet perfectly balanced.

We ended things with one of my favorite chicken dishes of all time. The juicy deep fried chicken, as they call it, was exactly what the name suggests — It was juicy. It was deep fried, and it’s…chicken. The thigh meat is rolled up skin on, battered, and then fried. The roll is cut up into slices and then served on some vinaigrette dressed spinach. The vinaigrette on the spinach helped with the fatty chicken. As the picture shows, the chicken is a bit pink in the center — might be a little alarming for sensitive types. For me though, the chicken was so juicy and flavorful — probably achieved from this near “medium well” cooking. It was an exceptional dish in both flavor and texture.

If you want to eat at Raku, make reservations. I was given the stink eye when I walked in and said I didn’t have reservations. Luckily, I was seated within 10 minutes as long as we ate “quickly.” Most likely, that won’t happen to you unless you make a reservation for this small 48 seater restaurant. I was very impressed with the food at Raku. The ingredients are of the highest quality and simply prepared. Even the water is treated with respect, filtered with a giant charcoal log. Details like this, with a passion for perfection makes Raku very special. It’s not just some Japanese restaurant off the strip. It’s possibly one of the best in the country.

Raku on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

I always wanted to give Blu Jam Cafe a try. I always see massive lines outside on the weekends and heard so much about their breakfasts. As you may already know, breakfast on the weekends is my favorite. It gives a great feeling and gets you through the day of whatever fun things you have planned on Saturday or Sunday. It just wakes you up. Finally eating at Blu Jam Cafe on Melrose, I got exactly what I expected. The food was down to earth and the ambiance was friendly and comforting.

I am a sucker for eggs Benedict. It is probably because of the runny egg yolk. Scratch that — I am a sucker for runny egg yolks, and what better dish to have it that eggs Benedict. The Blu Jam Benedict had poached egg on a toasted English muffin. Amidst all that was black forest ham and crispy bacon. Drizzled with a heaping portion of the tastiest hollandaise, this dish was nearly perfect. The side of potatoes were great with the hollandaise. Everything was just creamy and delicious.

Owner, chef, and sommelier Kamil Majer has something special on the menu. It is her breakfast! Kamil’s breakfast is a pasta style breakfast bowl — It had pan roasted macaroni scrambled with eggs, smoked bacon, ham, garlic, chives, and topped with cheddar. The blend of ingredients was perfectly balanced. The flavors were just hearty and comforting. After a few bites, it got a bit boring — I added a dash of hot sauce to keep it interesting. Maybe adding some tomatoes would have livened it a up a bit. On top maybe some sour cream? Maybe I am just making this into a breakfast nacho bowl aren’t I? Anyways, the bowl is jam packed with ingredients. Just remember the hot sauce.

In a word, Blue Jam Cafe is awesome. The food is so down to earth and it has just enough class to be comfortable. Think of The Griddle Cafe with less “traffic” and more room for your elbows, and of course, smaller portions. Breakfast is such an important part of the day, especially on the weekends. Blu Jam Cafe has the right food and the right ambiance to keep me happy and satisfied throughout the day. Usually packed for breakfast, I can only imagine how it is for lunch and dinner — the latter two would definitely be part of the agenda for the future. Until then, breakfast is always king.

Blu Jam Cafe on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

It was a clear black night, a clear white moon. Warren G was on the streets, trying to consume. Some skirts for the eve, so I can get some funk. Just rollin’ in my ride, chillin’ all alone. That was some regulators action for you. I always feel like the OC can use some more gangster rap. Anyways, before you think I’m getting all randon, it really was a clear black late night, and I was trying to consume…some food. For some reason, no Del Taco run or even In-n-Out would have quenched my craving. I was feeling like a sit down — something like bar food, but better. I wanted something clean, yet greasy, and maybe a nice drink to go with it. A gastropub was the perfect solution for this late night craving. Haven Gastropub in Orange, I was headed.



For the drink, I probably chose the most girly “beer” there was. The Woodchuck hard cider was the drink of the night. It really did taste like hard cider with a hint of apples and cinamon. The alcohol was barely present, yet it was such an interesting drink. I don’t know how that decision was made, but it was late. I was tired, hungry, and excited at the same time. Alcoholic hard cider? Why not?

We started things off with the fried pig ears. It seems like almost all gastropubs are doing it these days. The cartilagey, disgusting pig ear was cut up thin, fried to a crisp and glazed with a tangerine and fresno chili glaze. The once soft flesh now was a sweet and crispy mound of deliciousness. It was crispy, crunchy, and chewy all at the same time. The sweetness of the glaze and the heat from the fresno chilies was a perfect balance. Though some might get turned off by the pig ears part, eatings these were a joy. Just think of it as fried pig skin, which it is, and you will be just fine.

Every gastropub has to have a great burger. If the burger sucks, the whole menu fails in because of it. I was happy to have the Haven Burger perfectly cooked with the perfect ingredients. My favorite was the pickled red onions. It played the role of the crunch as well as the acidity of the burger. Biting into the fatty meat, the pickling of the onions helped cleanse the grease. It seems like arugula is a must on all gourmet burgers, and I can see why. The earthy tones and the somewhat neutral, yet bitter taste of the wild arugula helps counter the richness of the dish. The cheese was my favorite — blue cheese. It wasn’t just any blue cheese — this was Saint Agur blue cheese, from France — the fancy stuff. I mean, blue cheese, arugula, and pickled onions on a burger? Thats a recipe for success. the patty was thick and succulent, the bread was a perfect choice

Have you ever had a salad and was like “Snap, this is freaking bomb!”? No? Me neither. Who eats salads anyways? Well, my burger came with a salad and i was bomb! Probably one of my favorite salads to date, not that I have a lot of salads to compare it to. The radicchio and frisee were bitter which was a perfect vessel to soak up all the truffle vinnagerrete. The pop of the cherry tomatoes and the chevre made a good combination. The chevre had an awesomely smooth texture that gave the salad a nice silkiness. My favorite in this salad was the twice smoked bacon lardons and the poached cage free egg on top. Who doesn’t like eggs and bacon, especially when the bacons are twice smoked lardons? The fatty salty bacon mixed with the creaminess of the chevre and acidity of the vinnegarrete made a perfect balance in flavors. This is the best salad I had in a while. And it sure has been a while.

The duck confit poutine pomme frites — a lot of gastropubs are doing it, and it seems like a simple dish to make, but I never had one that was amazing. I am a guy who likes the simplicity of just thick french fries dipped in brown gravy, like the ones from The Hat. The duck gravy in this dish was nice, but it was too thick, and didn’t taste like much of anything. The duck confit was nicely cooked, but some pieces of the meat were left overcooked and dry. The pomme frites were nice and crunchy, and salted to a perfection. I thnk if the gravy was more savory, it would have been a home run.

I love a good mac and cheese. The gooey factor alone can leave me feenin’ for this stuff after a bad day. I sure was happy to have ordered the mac and cheese here. The black truffles alone were a nice touch. It gave such a depth of flavor unattainable without it. A perfect mix of gruyere, fontina, and parmesan, interlaced between each noodle had perfect consistency and flavor. The crust of panko on top wasn’t my favorite, but nothing with panko really is. This dish of mac and cheese was good, but I felt like something was missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I felt it needed some kind of spiciness or textural difference. At the end of the day, it was a pretty standard bowl, saved by the little truffles that it did have.

My time at Haven Gastropub was awesome. The atmosphere was relaxing and fun, and having a drink, eating good food was just what I needed. Things that stood out the most was their selection in craft beers. I’m no beer officionato, but their beer list was unique and diverse — any beer lover would enjoy it here. Opening in 2009, Haven in Orange received some great accolades — OC Weekly named it the best new restaurant in 2009. Still a pup, the restaurant expanded to Pasadena as well. Whether you are in the OC or in LA, chillin’ with a beer and good food is covered.

Haven Gastropub on Urbanspoon

{ 0 comments }

I always pass by Border Grill on Figueroa on a daily basis. Right across from the Bonaventure Hotel, where Bona Vista Lounge and L.A. Prime is, this corner of Figueroa and 5th street always reminds me of these restaurants. Border Grill though, was always a “must” whenever I passed by, and I can’t tell you how many times I thought of just stopping right in front, sitting down, and ordering something. All I needed was that push from Border Grill to make an appointment.

To start off, we had chips and salsa. The chips light and airy, and the salsa was fresh. My favorite was the mole salsa. It had a nice complex rich flavor.

The Yucatan pork was interestingly delicious. The achiote pork was slow roasted in banana leaf with a mixture of caramelized onion and orange. Sitting on a plate of cinnamon honey lime yams, the sweet and savory factor worked. The pork was succulent and the yams were smooth. The caramelized brussel sprouts were a bit odd on this plate. I felt like another green would have suited this dish better. I did like the pineapple jicama salsa on top for that added crunch. Eating these with tortillas made me really full. A side of rice would have been lighter and would have complimented the dish nicely.

It was happy hour, and the beer-battered sustainable fish tacos were quite impressive. Topped with an avocado crema and salsa fresca, the fried fish was offset by the cool avocado and salsa. The other taco, carne asada was good too. Topped with caramelized onions, salsa fresca, and guacamole, it was like the perfect taco. The beef brisket tacquito was delicious as well. The meat was slow roasted, then the tortilla was fried. Topped with a spicy slaw, guacamole, and salsa fresca, the crunchy fried “taco” was a whole lot better than the ones I get at 7-11. It seems like anything topped with their addicting guacamole was delicious. These tacos were quite impressive, and at $3 a pop during happy hour, it was a great deal!

For desser, we had the churro tots. Just by the name churro tots, I had an idea of what these were going to be. I was surprised to find out that these bad boys had dulce de leche infused inside of them. Not only that, but the three dipping sauces of chocolate, caramel dipping sauce, and whipped cream was an added bonus. Not only did these things have dulce de leche inside, and not only did it have a dipping sauce, it also was dusted with cinnamon and sugar, like a churro should. These sugary fritters were incredibly sweet, and a great ending to our meal.

“Should I have just went with the happy hour menu?”, is what I thought to myself. In hind sight, I think I should have. I enjoyed the tacos and the bar food type items. They were cheaper, more delicious, and had guacamole on it. How could I not like that? Honestly, Border Grill is better as a bar. Especially located in Downtown, there were a lot of working professionals gathering here for drinks and good Mexican food. The price is right and the atmosphere is perfectly casual and stylish. I wouldn’t mind coming here more often after work to grab a beer and some tacos. Just don’t forget the guac!

Border Grill on Urbanspoon

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

{ 0 comments }