July 2014

The build your own pizza fad is he re to stay. An original fan of Pieology ever since it opened in Fullerton, I feel like I was an early adopter of the build your own pizza thing. Pizza Rev in El Segundo seemed to be pretty much the same thing. You choose your dough, sauce, toppings, and they bake it within minutes. Think, Subway, or Chipotle, but with pizza. The fact that you can essentially build your own pizza with anything you want excites me.

I am a lover of anything salty. I was pleased that they had anchovies and all kinds of olives. Capers too! Excuse my excitement, but when you have olives, anchovies, and capers all on the same pizza, it turns into something so salty and delicious. The other toppings from the meats and cheese were fresh as well. The dough was the same as every make your own pizza spot. It was thin, crispy and not really inspired by anything.

The build your own pizza is genius. It’s cheap to make, and it’s relatively quick to make. I’d like to take it even further and have the customer actually make the pizza. Give us a pair of plastic gloves, and let us go at it. That would be interesting. If something like that takes off, I’m using this blog post to copyright that idea. Does that work?

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Popbar inside the Anaheim Packing District is a popular spot to visit. They offer gelato on a stick, and they dress it up with toppings and drizzles to your liking. It really isn’t anything special, but the fact that you can dress up your own “naked” ice cream pop makes it fun and specific to you. You can dip in chocolate half way, all the way, stick some nuts on there or other flavors. It’s all up to you, and it is all delicious. After getting your grub on inside the Anaheim Packing District, Popbar is a popular destination to get your dessert.

Hers was a pistachio pop with half dark chocolate and white chocolate drizzle. The dark chocolate had pistachio and the white chocolate had waffle cone crumbles. Mine was a chocolate bar with half dark chocolate with pistachios. The pistachio bits is a must. It’s rare to have pistachios at an ice cream joint, and I think more places need to offer it. The pistachio and ice cream/gelato was delicious. The chocolate mixed in with the gelato was good as well. The best was the waffle crumbles. It was like having a waffle come, but not.

Popbar is a delicious ice cream alternative to your average ice cream in a cup or cone. Their flavors are great together and it is fun to eat gelato on a stick. It does get a bit pricey though, and for the amount of actual ice cream you are getting, there are better places that offer more for your buck. This is the Packing District though. You come here for the fun hippie skippy atmosphere and good food — the high prices come with that. It’s fun to try it once, but it’s definitely not OMG “take all my money” good, but for sure, the best ice cream spot you can eat with one hand.

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I have been on a burger craze these few days — more like weeks. I’ve been ordering the burger everywhere and anywhere I go. When it came to ordering the fried chicken or the PCB at Plan Check, I chose the burger. I know they were known for their fried chicken, but the power of the almighty burger was much too strong. And ketchup leather? Need I say more?

The Check Burger has Americanized dashi cheese. This to me sounds like American cheese with MSG inside it somehow. The flavor wasn’t any different and entire unnoticed. The ketchup leather and schmaltz onions really took over in the flavor department. Caramelized onions is one of my favorite burger toppings, and ketchup is my least favorite. Interestingly, the ketchup leather gave a nice sticky tang flavor whereas the onions were nicely sweet and savory. The mixed pickles were nicely welcomed. The beef patty was perfectly cooked medium rare. As a matter of fact, this is where the PCB shines. The beef was a so pure and delicious. Ithe unalterated beef stood out so perfectly in this burger. My only gripe about this burger was the bun. It was plain and boring. With a little care for an artisan crafted bun, this would be a perfect cheeseburger in Los Angeles.

Plan Check has lots going for it. Being one of my favorite restaurants on Sawtelle, the somewhat small bar and kitchen is popular amongst locals. The staff is some of the friendliest I have ever seen. Extra care is taken in the food by the chefs in the kitchen. Only the best of the best is used. That, I respect greatly, and hope other restaurants follow suit.

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Urban Plates – Farm to Pate on a Budget

by Franklin on July 24, 2014

Urban Pates in Irvine is a game changer. Their “farm to plate, and won’t break the bank” concept is simple and appealing. You get fresh ingredients inside their fresh and delicious plates, and it’s all within your budget.

I really like the grilled wild ono Niçoise salad. It had green beans, organic egg, organic tomatoes, potatoes, capers, marinated olives, and a mustard/champagne vinaigrette. The grilled Ono was seared nicely and had a great flavor. It was clean, meaty and delicious. The mustard champagne vinaigrette was perfect in this salad. The capers gave a nice salty flavor and seasoned the fish nicely.

Once I saw steak, I had to order it. It looked so juicy and medium rare. The seasoned natural beef was precook end, and had a uniquely red hue to it, like almost too red. It was cooked perfectly! The red in the beef wasn’t raw, but a perfectly cooked medium rare. I ordered this with Mac and cheese and Brussels sprouts. The Mac and cheese was superb, your standard creamy and cheesy Mac and cheese. The Brussels sprouts were tasty too. Beef and Brussels sprouts sure a great combination. The Brussels sprouts was cooked with bacon, and gave the vegetables so much good flavor. The trio, beef, Mac, and Brussels sprouts was such a classic combination.

We ordered the quinoa and sweet peas salad on the side to just balance the beef and rich flavors out. I liked the crisp from the sweet peas and enjoyed the bite from the quinoa. It was fresh and brightened everything we ate. It made for a great palate cleanser.

We ended things with a chocolate chip cookie. It was just there sitting near the checkout station. It Was nothing special, but a pretty good chocolate chip cookie nonetheless. Eating healthy at times is overlooked because it either tastes “healthy” or it’s too expensive to eat healthy. UP really balances the two nicely. The interior is relaxing with earthy tones and architecture. The cafeteria style ordering is efficient and convenient. Orange County, you have done well.

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Honeymee – Keepin’ it Real

by Franklin on July 22, 2014

The pictures of Honeymee looked so good. The pure white soft serve topped with a block of yellow honeycomb was so (for a lack of better words) pretty. The intrigue of this “pure” ice cream and honeycomb was what got me here. Situated in the old Brown Derby Plaza, this would probably be a perfect treat after Boiling Crab. Me? I’m he re for #IceCreamTuesdays.

The “pure milk” soft serve ice cream was quite pristine. This isn’t your everyday sifts serve. The milk flavor really shined through and made for a perfect blank slate. The subtle yet strong flavors of the honeycomb was pleasing. Adding these two ingredients at their purest is truly a beautiful thing. No additives or colors here. Everything is at its purest form.

Can this be the healthiest ice cream? It’s possible. Honey has some good health benefits to it. All that with a “cup” of wholesome milk? Sounds pretty healthy to me. This “going back to the basics” mentality was refreshing. So many gelato and ice cream shops are making some funky flavor combinations and just concentrating on a mix of ingredients. Honeymee just keeps it simple.

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Chengdu Taste hit #46 on the top 75 best restaurants in LA inside Los Angeles Magazine’s May 2014 issue. That is pretty impressive considering the list doesn’t have many Asian restaurants and none from Alhambra. SGV is officially on the map! Prepare to wait anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour for a table. The Boiling Crab wait times can get a bit boring, but the wait is definitely worth it. We almost gave in to go to some cafe, but out patience was rewarded greatly. Chengdu, China is the capital of Sichuan province in southwest China and is a huge food city. I am happy to know that a little piece of it made it out to Alhambra. Score!

Mung bean noodles are slippery, taste like nothing, and has a consistency of hardened jello. It was the perfect vessel and blanks slate of all things flavor. This seemed to have been a favorite among diners as far as starters go. The house made chili sauce wasn’t as spicy as I thought it would be. Bite on the wrong pepper, and your mouth is in for a real surprise. The mixture of oil, Sichuan peppercorns, chili peppers, and a handful of other ingredients made this such a tasty dish. A little sweet, spicy, and tangy, this was a fiery component that was a little teaser of what was to come.

The cumin lamb is probably the most popular dish at the restaurant, and I could see why. The dish is generously coated in cumin and chili peppers. The lamb was tender to the point of almost the texture of ground meat. Some pieces were slightly fatty which was very unctuous in flavor. Some were saltier than others, and fatty too — not complaining really. It’s just the luck of the draw. These cumin lamb bites were incredible and would probably order them at every visit. I had a pile of toothpicks at the end of it all — a large pile.

The boiled sliced fish in hot sauce was a doozy. Albeit quite salty, this chili on chili molested dish was interesting and honestly delicious. The fish was delicate and quite mild in flavor. The soup/sauce that it swam in was quite the contrary. The heat from this dish is like no other. Hot wings and sauces like Tabasco give a little pinch on the tongue kind of heat. Red sauce from King Taco or green sauce from Mario’s is more of a mouth full of fire. This dish though, was more of a tongue numbing feeling. The sensation was interesting, and at a certain point, I was worried I was reacting to an allergy. The Chinese peppercorns really do a good job in numbing your tongue. It tingles and the feeling leaves you a bit on a high level.

The double cooked pork fried rice was a let down. Not that it didn’t taste good, and not that it was cheap. I just felt like I could make this at home. Honestly, the dishes we ordered would have went well with just plain white rice. This fried rice though, had nice slices of pork belly. I guess it wasn’t all for nothing.

The last dish of boiled vegetables, meats, in a Sichuan style special hot sauce was interesting. It was similar to a Korean budae jjigae that includes almost anything in the fridge and pantry into a pot of soup. This hot pot had duck blood, intestine, stomach, beef, and Spam. I can live with the duck blood, intestine, and stomach, but the sight of the Spam made this feel like home. The intestine had a nice texture but the funk level was higher than usual. The duck blood had a nice soft texture and subtle flavor. I didn’t really like the soup base for this. It didn’t have that kick in the face heat or bold flavor. This would be pretty nice on a cold winter night. It was warm, comforting, and that Spam just hit the spot.

The lines are long, and everyone in the area and maybe beyond want to eat at Chengdu Taste. After my experience here, I can see why. The flavors are powerful and daring. The spice levels are out of this world! I had such a good time dining here.

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I am not a fan of Gelato. It’s at times too melted and not stiff enough. It melts too quick, and it is too soft. And of course, it has less butterfat than regular ice cream. Gelato has more milk than cream, so it has less fat. Good thing it’s hot though. The samples I was given didn’t last long, and the gelato I ordered didn’t stand a chance. The faster it melted, the faster I ate it.

I know salted caramel and almond fig is a weird combination, but I wanted to try both. Bring a fan of the very dense and hard ice cream, the soft, very “watery” gelato was a bit off putting. Still though, the lack of butter fat really allowed the flavors to come through nicely. The salted caramel was sweet but nothing in your face. The almond fig had a nice mellow flavor and fruity fig accents. The combination wasn’t that bad. I had my fill with all of the samples I had.

Pazzo Gelato in Silverlake had some interesting flavors. I guess gelato isn’t that bad, right? The flavors are nice, and in this summer heat, anything cold in iced ream form is welcome. For gelato lovers, Pazzo will tickle your fancy.

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Creamistry – Ice Cream in No Time

by Franklin on July 12, 2014

Have I found my favorite ice cream spot? Does it really have to be all the way in Irvine? And does it have to be nitrogen blasted? Pretty much, yes. Creamistry, as the name suggests uses cream and chemistry to make ice cream. They mix premium cream and flavors and blast freeze it with liquid nitrogen. It’s like how an impatient person would make ice cream, but the taste and texture is so unique and delicious.

The first time I had Creamistry, I had the cookie butter and Cap’n Crunch. You don’t want the Cap’n Crunch on top — you want it crushed up and mixed into the ice cream. The cookie butter was so rich and cinnamony. The best part about nitrogen blasted ice cream is that it is fresh. Ice cream in the freezer could have been made weeks or even months before. Ice cream shops could have made it days or hours before you are eating it. Nitrogen blasting ensures that the ice cream you are eating now wasn’t ice cream yet like just a minute ago. It kind of boggles the mind.

My all time favor flavor here is just the premium ice cream with crushed up Cap’n Crunch. The base milk flavor is such a nice smooth blank slate. The Cap’n Crunch is such a classic flavor. The sweet, corn and caramel flavors come through in a different way. It’s like eating the cereal with milk, but to a totally different level. Don’t look for any other flavors. I’ll be sticking to this basic recipe from now on. I’m even going to ditch the cookie butter. Shocking, I know.

Some may be a bit wary about eating something that has been heavily doused with liquid nitrogen. Who knows what it’s doing to my insides? I mean, if you drink even a little bit of liquid nitrogen, you can die (I’m pretty sure). Who is to say that just mixing it with some ingredients is ok for consumption? Who cares for now. It’s delicious and it makes ice cream like magic. Just don’t forget the Cap’n Crunch.

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Walking into Sancho’s Tacos, I was enveloped by their Mexican style and interior design. From the unique art on the walls and the various paintings, you can’t help but feel the culture of the beach and Mexico. We ordered our food, went to the beach and had ourselves a little beach front picnic. The views were good and the food was tasty. This was definitely different from the LA tacos and burritos I am used to.

The Breakfast burrito, also known as the sawed off burrito, had eggs, skillet potatoes, and melted cheddar jack cheese. Bacon and chorizo eggs were in the mix as well. The burrito was tasty. The chorizo helped flavor the while burrito nicely. The skillet potatoes was a nice starch to round out the burrito. Of course, melted cheese is always welcome, and there was plenty.

The taco for me was a miss. The OG taco which has tri tip, onions, cilantro tri tip and chubbie sauce. The tri tip was good as a steak, but not as taco meat. Not to say that it was too high quality or anything dumb like that. It just tasted too clean and flavorless. The tortilla was stale and brittle. This chubbie sauce that everyone talks about was alright, but a proper hot sauce is always a necessity on tacos. Writing this just makes we want to go to my taco guy and devouring a couple proper tacos.

When it comes to Mexican food, I am very particular and quite harsh. Maybe I just don’t have the OC tongue, but I trust my taste buds. The textures and flavors just didn’t do it for me. The burrito was alright, but the taco, their namesake, was just not where it needed to be. It’s possible I just went on a bad day or I was just unlucky. I will definitely give this another try when I am in Huntington Beach. Hopefully, I won’t need to bring my taco guy to HB.

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Ina ve been hearing such good things about Cafe Dulce, and seeing all the yummy looking photos, I had to give it a visit. During my dreaded two day jury duty visit, my 1.5 hour lunches made it a time to urban hike the crap out of downtown. Mindlessly walking, I ended up in Little Tokyo. It was either Spitz (the safe choice, and the choice I should have made), or elsewhere. Of course my curiosity led me to Cafe Dulce.

I ordered the Spicy Korean Cheesesteak. I don’t know why I ordered it. It. Just sounded good and though it would be. The marinated beef, homemade slaw, kimchi, provolone cheese, and their secret hot sauce between a stale roll was my lunch. The beef was thin, tasteless, and there wasn’t much of it. The house made slaw was not crunchy or tasty, and the kimchi somehow worked against the sandwich. I was definitely regretting not going to Spitz as I took each bite.

To cheer myself up, and to try their baked goods, I ordered a bacon donut hole. Honestly, this wasn’t that bad. It was soft, sweet, salty, and gave satisfied my craving of something at least somewhat tasty. I guess I was a better off not ordering lunch here but just getting some donuts and baked goods. Lesson learned.

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Coolhaus – You had me at Ice Cream

by Franklin on July 8, 2014

Coolhaus has been in the ice cream game for some time, relatively speaking. Started in 2008, people in real estate and design started the business by baking cooking and stuffing them with ice cream. The two bought a beat up postal van, created their signature tilted roof truck, and debut their treats at the 2009 Coachella music festival. Now, they have a store front, and multiple trucks in Los Angeles, New York, and Texas. They are even selling their hand dipped ice cream bars nationwide. It is clear that Coolhaus has gained massive popularity and fan base.

Having tried their sammies back before their store front, I decided to go with a traditional ice cream cup. After sampling a few, I went with the salted caramel. Other alter caramels really just taste like salty caramel or just lack that perfect balance. The savory and sweet balance from this ice cream was so perfect. The caramel wasn’t too sweet or strong, which I liked. The salt came through so gently, yet pronounced. It didn’t overpower the caramel, nor did it hide behind all the flavors. It stood well on its own. I literally finished my cup quite quickly and hesitated to go back for another. I thought to myself, “dang, this is pretty good”. Don’t think that Coolhaus is all about their ice cream cookie sandwiches. Their ice cream alone can hold their own.

I take my ice cream seriously, especially in the summer. This would definitely make the top 10 on my best ice cream in Los Angeles list.

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The Egg and I – Fuel for the Morning

by Franklin on July 5, 2014

My last trip to Vegas was filled with cheap eats and golf. I think I’ve found the cheapest and tastiest breakfast spot in Las Vegas. Granted, it is way off the strip, but the price can’t be beat, and the breakfast here was exactly what I was looking for. The Egg and I had a diner feel, something that oozes good breakfast food. Most of the items fell under 10 bucks, and it came with a lot of food. This was exactly what we needed to fuel our full round of golf.

I had the Catherine’s Scramble. It had four eggs scrambled with sliced chicken, mushrooms, spinach, feta cheese,
and artichoke hearts. The eggs were ok — something I can make at home. In hind sight, I should have ordered something else. Nonetheless, the scramble was delicious and cheesy. A little dash of their hot sauce and we were in business. With a side of their heavenly buttered rye bread, I was just munchin’ away.

I had a bite of their Eggs Benedict, something a buddy of mine always seems to order. The eggs were nicely cooked and the hollandaise was tasty. What sets this breakfast spot apart from the rest was their ranch potatoes. Cubed up and crispy from frying, the potatoes were like little cubes of French fries. The seasons on these I thing were addicting — a little salty, but good with the somewhat bland eggs. Maybe these are made with ranch seasoning mix? Whatever it was, it was delicious.

The banana nut bread French toast was a huge disappointment. A lover of all things French Toast, this one was much too dense and heavy. A good French toast should haves nice light crust on. The outside and a nice custards mixture on the inside. The banana nut bread is a poor choice for French toast. It was basically just 4 slices of banana nut bread that was cooked over the flat top. Not the restaurant’s fault at all — should have just went with the classic pancake or regular French toast.

Learn from my mistake. Do order something more complex than a scramble, and stay away from the cake/muffin style French toasts. Do get their ranch potatoes. It will make your morning. The Egg and I is a good spot for casual breakfast on the cheap. Our next mission is to get them closer to the strip.

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We went to Gelato Bar after hanging out in the Thousand Oaks of all places. On the way back to LA, we stopped by Gelato Bar in Studio City for some ice cream (I meant gelato). The gelato shop was quaint and very old fashioned looking. The small shop was a little difficult to find. As they were close to closing, the workers there were quite rude and we just knew they wanted to close shop. The crazy thing was, after we went in, there was a flood of people wanting to get their gelato right til’ the last minute.

Their gelato was quite tasty, but not the best. I had a taste of a cream and blood orange mixture that was good. I love the combination of something fruity or tart with a side of a cream base. The “peaches and cream” effect, as I like to call it is very pleasant. I had the dulce de leche and dolce amaro. The sweet caramel flavors with the creamy base notes really rounded everything nicely. Also, the pirouette toppers was a nice touch. If you are in the area, Gelato Bar is a nice stop for good gelato. I’ve had a lot of gelato in my life of blogging, and this unfortunately is just not special enough.

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