American

Themed restaurants are cheesy. Public School is literally a school themed restaurant/gastropub. They have composition notebook lookalike menu and a clipboard with the beer menu. Other than that, the restaurant decor is pretty much like any other. What I don’t get is why the theme? I guess it’s a good thing that the “school” theme isn’t just all in your face. I suppose the little hints of the school theme is fine. They should however have the food speak for itself.

The Cutting Board featured a selection of cured meats and artisan cheese. The cheese included a gouda, swiss, and cheddar. The meats were prosciutto and a chorizo of some kind. I liked the addition of the marcona almonds. It gave the whole experience a nice crunch. Eating the different cheeses with the honey and fruit preserves was delicious as well. Though it came with a large variety of items, I would have liked a more variety of meat or just a larger quantity.

The wild mushroom and taleggio lavash was quite delicious. It was probably my favorite of the night. The extra thin, almost cracker like crust was light and crispy. The mushrooms and the creamy taleggio mixture almost mimicked Campbell’s cream of mushroom. It was savory and rich. The mix of the arugula and parmesan shavings gave it an extra depth of flavor. This pizza like dish was quite delicious.

I am a sucker for anything fried, and of course, calamari is one of my top fried delights. the fiery calamari was exceptionally good here. Using a mixture of flour and cornmeal for the batter, it gave it an extra crunch. Though the crunch from the cornmeal seemed to be a fake “crunch” and would liked it to be more fried to a crisp. Dipping these in the togarashi and ginger aioli gave it a nice zing and spice, but not too spicy. A spicier variation in the sauce would have made this calamari stand out more.

The cauliflower and cheese dish was well received. As an avid cauliflower hater (I blame Yoshinoya), the only way I would eat them is if its fried, or covered in cheese. In this case, the cheese sauce did a good job in making the bland cauliflower edible. The addition of the bacon bits on the side and the bechamel made this a rich dish.

Public School is you everyday bar / eatery. They don’t have the outstanding dishes and selection as the other restaurants. School Food is more of a safe choice — better than most, but still generic. They have locations neatly separated — 310 in Culver City and 805 in Westlake Village. All they need is one near Hollywood and they have LA pretty much covered.

Public School 612 on Urbanspoon

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Every time I drive near Beverly Hills, I always yearn to live in this neighborhood — it is the perfect neighborhood. You imagine having that large house with the gated parking lot. Of course you have a nice Ferrari in the front to go along with your other expensive cars. The best part? You have some of the best restaurants just a stones throw away. For DineLA, we went to Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. To me, it seemed like the best bang for your buck. For $25, you get a 3 course meal, not a 2 course like these other restaurants are doing now. we got to see the garden and the beautiful property that is the Hotel Bel-Air. The food was delicious and the sights were stunning.

Bread Service was good. There was a cream cheese filled focaccia and ciabatta roll. Both were delicious, especially with their salted butter. The bread was quite unexpected and just a nice pre-appetizer snack.

Before our 1st course, we were brought an amuse-bouche of compressed water melon. It was topped with curry salt which accentuated the sweetness of the watermelon.

The roasted Frog Hallow Farms apricots and the mozzarella burrata was delicious together. The natural sweetness of the fruit and briny, saltiness of the cheese was a nice contrast. I especially like the touch of lavender. The crispy pancetta was good, but paper thin. Chunks of the pancetta would have made this dish perfect. It would have went well with the shaved fennel.

The Tamai Farm’s white corn salad was my favorite. It was so light and crunchy — the ingredients were so fresh and stood out on their own. Mixed with sugar snap peas, fava beans, cherry tomatoes, and dressed with tzatziki dressing, this salad was so flavorful. I liked the addition of the feta cheese.

The fresh fettuccine pasta was a nice touch. A mix of chanterelle mushrooms, melted leeks gave it the flavor, but this dish really lacked salt. It’s almost tasted like nothing but pasta and oil. A sprinkle from the salt shaker, which I rarely do did wonders. I kind of wish I had some truffle salt in my pocket. That would have been a perfect addition to this “blank slate.” The amaranth greens though rounded the flavors well.

I had the Sonoma lamb meguez pita. Inside was falafel, baba ganoush, and lamb sausage which I did not really care for much. The falafel though was as quite delicious. It was fluffy and the spices used to make the falafel was quite strong and nice. The side of lebanese salad helped balance the flavors. A douse of harissa spices gave the pita pocket a little kick.

We shared a plate of house made cookie. We had the classic chocolate chip, and a white chocolate caramel. These cookies were addicting and I could have easily ate a whole bunch of them. They were warm with the chocolate melted and not too sweet. They were ever so soft and chewy. All I needed was that glass of milk!

The apricot sorbet was a refreshing dessert. This was the perfect dessert for a hot day. The apricot sorbet was so fresh and subtle. It wasn’t sour or sweet — it had the perfect amount of fruity sweet flavor. The hard French meringue on the bottom was a nice place holder for the quenelles.

We had such an amazing time at Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. The last time we were at a Wolfgang Puck establishment was at Spago, also during DineLA. Read why it was such a magical moment then. Somehow, the magic kept going here during lunch. The food was tasty and the restaurant itself sits on such a beautiful piece of property. I’ll probably never be able to stay at this hotel, but I’m glad I got to experience a piece of it.

Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air on Urbanspoon

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Craft LA – A Very Special 5 Year Anniversary

by Franklin on August 7, 2014

I made reservations here through Open Table four our anniversary. The earliest slot was for 9PM, and it was for DineLA, so I took it. Getting to the actually restaurant is a mission. You have to park on huge adjacent parking lot, take some escalators, go outside and then walk to the restaurant. It is a nice stroll through the Century City buildings. Upon walking in, we were greeted with smiles and were shown what true customer service is. The host wished us a happy anniversary. After seating us, the waiter and servers wished us a happy anniversary. Even our menu was custom printed and said happy anniversary. We felt so special and taken care of. The little things really made a difference. The rest of the night, we just sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the evening.

With a mixture of white bread and a pumpernickel type bread, the complimentary bread service a wonderful. The butter was so high quality and tasted so “buttery.” I can’t explain it, and without sounding even more idiotic, I’ll just stop talking about how buttery tasting the butter was.

We we’re given an amouse-bouche of tomato gazpachio. I love getting an amuse-bouche because it is so unexpected. The tomato gazpacho was light and delicious. It was the perfect sample to get out taste buds ready.

The heirloom tomato panzanella was fresh and bright. The ponzu mixed with hearts of palm gave it a nice zest and crunch. This would have been perfect to eat with our meats, but we just couldn’t wait.

The baby gem lettuce salad was good as well. I like the creamy avocado and crunchy radish. The peanuts were interesting in this salad. It was coated in a sugar crust that gave the salad some sweetness.

The smoked cauliflower hummus was surprisingly good. I, for one hate cauliflower, but the smokey, creamy hummus was delicious! Eating it with the thing crisp of sesame and sunflower was especially nice.

The Mugifuji prok was quite delicious. It was cooked perfectly to a medium well. I wouldn’t trust pork cooked like this at just any restaurant. The pork was so soft and had a nice chew/bite to it. It was nice with the grits which had an interesting flavor to it. The turmeric mixed in with broccoli was nice. The pork though was probably the best pork I ever had at a restaurant.

The pot roast of beef short rib was especially good with the other sides. Honestly though, it was a bit boring. The beef shredded nicely and the flavors were so succulent and rich in beef flavor. I just can’t see myself eating this all the time or yearning for this dish. Maybe it needed some more sweetness? The sweetness from the shallots came through nicely though.

This above all things was a perfect dessert and might be one of my favorite panna cotta dishes in LA. The Creme fraiche panna cotta was so creamy and indulgent. It tasted so pristine and perfect. The addition of strawberries and pistachios gave it nice dimension of flavors and textures. Without the help of the almighty caramel or chocolate, this dessert does well for itself. This is a must order for sure!

Speaking of must orders, the cinnamon sugar doughnuts were divine. The round donuts were warm, sugary and delicious. Dipping it into the Valrhona chocolate ganache was almost cheating, and not to sound so much like Emeril Lagasse, it brought it up a notch. The warm, donuts and the chocolate sauce was just too perfect.

Oh there’s more food? They brought us out some snicker-doodle cookies, as if they just appeared from nowhere. But I just had my perfect last bite of cinnamon sugar donuts with chocolate sauce. How am I supposed to eat this regular looking cookie? “Ok, you got me. I’ll eat it.” The cookie was a nice touch and dang right I dipped that into the chocolate ganache as well.

Oh, so it was indeed our 5 year anniversary, so they brought out a chocolate cake and candle. It was such a sweet moment, literally and metaphorically. The chocolate cake was so rich and chocolaty, as a chocolate cake should be. The frosting was indulgent and creamy, and the cake was just full of flavor. I would say it was a cross between a cake and a brownie — the elegance of a cake, with the decadence of a brownie. Spectacular!

Oh what is this? Is that a bag of home made granola for tomorrow morning? Yeah, Craft LA gave us some awesome granola to take home to eat the next day. I thought that was a nice touch. The granola was indeed enjoyed the next morning. The pumpkin seeds was nice and the granola was perfect.

Craft LA really knows what good service is. Dinner service was near perfect from start to finish. Everyone smiles and greets you. I think if I asked the waiter to drop and give me 20 push ups, he’d be a bit confused but would end up doing them. They are just that caring. From the custom anniversary menu to the complimentary dishes, they really know how to make people happy. They aim to please, they definitely hit their mark.

Craft on Urbanspoon

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Gourmet grilled cheese? Is that a real thing or something hipsters made up? Just give me some white bread and Kraft American cheese, grill that with some butter and I’m happy. Heywood takes the grilled cheese to a new level indeed. I’m just not quite convinced yet. Yeah, I suppose you can use artisanal cheeses and really hearty bread, but is that necessarily better? Even then, where do you draw the line of grilled cheese, and a straight up sandwich? Add bacon to a grilled cheese, and is that still a grilled cheese? Maybe. But then add some other ingredients and avocado. You can’t tell me that’s a grilled cheese, can you? I suppose Heywood does a good job balancing grilled cheese and the sandwich.

The Heywood was a natural fit. I wanted something that accentuated the cheese. Made with aged cheddar, caramelized onions, confit spread on whole grain bread, the sandwich was cheesy as can be. The bread was a bit blocky and brickish, but did a good job in holding everything together. The whole grain bits inside gave it a nice mouth feel. Dipping it in the piping hot tomato soup did nothing but just re-melt the cheese. The tomato soup was nothing but just hot tomato puree. It didn’t really taste like anything.

I definitely loved the decor inside. Filled with little trinkets and wood finishings, the inside was well suited for the Silver Lake crowd (read: hipsters). The menu is full of interesting grilled cheese variations, but unfortunately, I am a traditionalist. All I need is some good toasted white bread and a slice or two of American cheese. I guess I can vary a little with some different cheeses, but that is it. Heywood tries to heighten the grilled cheese so much and succeeds in some ways. There is a fine line between a grilled cheese and a cheesy sandwich and I suppose Heywood walks that line quite nicely.

Heywood: A Grilled Cheese Shop on Urbanspoon

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It had been quite hot these days. Spring is here, and it is making us forget all about the cold winter. Hot days means nice walks on the beach and sunsets. Corona del Mar is by far one of my favorite beaches in Orange County. You have nice homes to look at on one side, and a beautiful seaside sunset on the other. Stumbling across Side Door, the concept of it was what drew me to this place. Just adjacent to the uber expensive restaurant, Five Crowns, Side Door is literally a side entrance to the restaurant. They both share the same space. Side Door, being more relaxed, less expensive and less stuffy, it looked like a good fit. The English-style gastropub specializes in cheeses and charcuterie — just my kind of place.

We started off with the shishito peppers. Blistered, then topped with manchego, the peppers were a good start. It had a nice mild flavor, and the blanket of cheese just finished it off nicely. The peppers were kind of bitter and earthy. Thank goodness for the manchego.

Of course, we went for the charcuterie and cheese. For the meats, I had to go for the prosciutto. The flavor was delicate and buttery. One of the cheeses, La Tur from Italy, was a nice “funky” cheese. It was strong, creamy, and quite delicious. A little went a long way. Eating it all with the prosciutto and fruit preserves was a delight. I also had a sample of some cheese from Vermont, and that was quite good as well. I am a sucker for cheese and cured meats. The selection at Side Door was quite impressive.

When I saw avocado mash, I immediately thought guacamole. This was very much a guacamole, but very much not. Not tainted with any lime, cilantro, or other over bearing ingredients, this one allowed the avocado to shine. To me, this was nothing special. The baked pita chips were a good match with the avocado, but nothing was screaming deliciousness. A tasty and healthy snack — I’ll give it that.

This must have been my favorite item of the night. Ironic that it’s a salad. The combination of some of the best tomatoes ever and balsamic reduction wasn’t enough, they had a nice micro green salad to go with it. To top it all off, they put it besides some of creamiest and smoothest fresh mozzarella slices ever. Everything together, yes, I mean with the tomato, balsamic reduction, cheese, and even some of that prosciutto, each bite was fresh and fantastic.

Have you had really good prime rib? I mean the stuff from Lawry’s or Summit House. Now, slice that up, and put a heaping pile inside a French roll. That is what we have here at Side Door. The prime rib was cooked so perfectly medium rare, and each bite was easy to tear off. The meat was fatty, juicy, and delicious. Dipping it in the au jus and the horseradish made it even tastier. I wasn’t expecting much from this sandwich, but the simplicity of the ingredients and the legit prime rib was all it needed. This is a must order.

I dig the concept of this place. The back door from a more expensive restaurant is all I really need. Less expensive, more casual, and probably better tasting, the Side Door restaurant has it all — a nice beer selection for those coming for drinks, a nice selection of cheap eats for those who come for food. This little corner in the upscale part of Corona del Mar is indeed a gem.

SideDoor on Urbanspoon

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La Grande Orange Cafe – Bacon Optional

by Franklin on August 1, 2013

It was a Monday night. I wasn’t in the mood for anything loud or crazy. I wanted something mellow and quiet. My old age has brought me to La Grande Orange Cafe in Pasadena — a somewhat under the radar, though not a hole in the wall restaurant, that is a bit on the boring side. The inside was interesting though. It had different rooms with different themes. Adjacent to the restaurant is the Metro Gold Line, Del Mar Station and some luxury apartments. The area certainly isn’t Old Town Pasadena. It’s quiet, a bit boring, and kind of nice.

The shredded kale and quinoa salad was refreshing and packed with nutrients. The crunch from the sunflower seeds was appreciated. Sweetness from the flame grapes and citrus from lemon was a nice combo. With a fresh shaving of parmesan, the salad was rich and flavorful, with a nice summer zest. Kale is slowing becoming my new favorite green.

Last year, brussel sprouts have been getting popular. Never having it in a salad, the Brussels sprouts salad was new and exciting to me. Manchego being one of my favorite cheese, the shaved aged manchego was the best thing for me. The sweet dried berries and smoked almonds were a great balance for this dish. The honey mustard vinaigrette was good, considering I am not a fan of sweet dressing; fortunately, it wasn’t swimming in dressing. Bacon on the salad was optional — I just laughed at that statement.

La Grande Orange Cafe is known for the deviled eggs. In hind sight, I should have just ordered it from the DineLA menu. These little bites were perfect. It had a great velvety texture with the right amount of spice and zing. A little drizzle of oil or something could have made them less dry though. Again, bacon was optional, and again, I chuckled.

It was a Monday, and my fiancé wanted a drink. Yes, we are making “its a Monday” as an excuse to drink. She ordered the white sangria, and it was refreshing — better than I expected. Though a girly drink, it was strong enough to enjoy and well, fruity enough to enjoy. The fresh peach was refreshing and cool.

I ordered the wood fire rotisserie chicken. Though kind of boring, the heirloom cannellini beans were a nice touch. The half chicken was a lot of protein to take in, especially the dry breast — dark meat was juicy and well seasoned. The fresh green beans had a nice crunch. A very “safe” dish, but still delicious.

I saw Prime Rib on the menu and had to take advantage. The prime rib was cooked nicely medium rare, though a bit on the rare side. Any less time in the oven, it would have been near raw beef. The mashed potatoes were a bit bland and boring, but the horse radish made everything lively. The green beans brought everything together.

I liked the olive oil cake. It had a very light, yet dense texture, in between a cake and a bread. The mild flavor mixed with the strawberry and vanilla sorbet was a good mix.

The red velvet cake was awesome. The multilayer of cake was nice to look at and fun to eat. Breaking off layer by layer, each cake and frosting mixture was pleasant. The vanilla ice cream was a nice touch. I mean, who doesn’t like cake and ice cream?

La Grande Orange Cafe was an interesting experience. Culinarily, it isn’t as exciting as most restaurants are. In fact, the restaurant is a bit boring. From the food, to the decor, and the wait service, nothing got me excited for anything. It was a Monday night, DineLA was going on, and we just wanted a quiet night together in Pasadena. The food was plenty and everything tasted as it should. The classic styling and menu will never go out of style.

La Grande Orange Café on Urbanspoon

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M.B. Post – David LeFevre and his Social House

by Franklin on February 26, 2013

Manhattan Beach might possibly be the best beach in all of Los Angeles. Yeah, Malibu is where it’s at if you are rich and famous, but besides nice cars and huge houses, you aren’t left witch much. I guess Manhattan Beach is unique in that it is a great beach town. With much to see from shopping and unique eateries, the beach has grown to be one of my favorite destinations. Just to make this beach even more sweet, they have M.B. Post. More of a hang out spot than a sit down restaurant, M.B. Post is hip and relaxed.

Chef and ownder David LeFevre started off cooking as a child helping his mom. After working in various restaurants, LeFevre enrolled at the notable Culinary Institute of America. From then, he worked at renowned restaurants in Las Vegas and Chicago. He then traveled to France and hone his classical skills in some of the world’s most distinguished kitchens. He traveled to different countries like Singapore, Bangkok, Stockholm, and Tokyo to diversify his spectrum. LeFevre was recruited as Executive Chef of the Water Grill in downtown Los Angeles. It was under his time there that the Water Grill received their Michelin Star. Now at Manhattan Beach Post (M.B. Post), chef David LeFevre stated his own restaurant offering a rustic menu with artisanal dishes designed to be shared — a gastropub on the beach. A Manhattan Beach resident, he brings the neighborhood a Social House where guests come for dinner but stay for the spirited and engaging atmosphere. M.B. Post was recognized as James Beard Awards finalist as the “Best New Restaurant.” — A great accomplishment nonetheless.

The wooden benches and tables with the wooden walls all are modern yet rustic. Not having designated tables, but more of a “everyone sits together” on a bench was relaxed and fun. The atmosphere was dark, and the kitchen was in full view from patrons. I had the pleasure of sitting right in front of the kitchen and was watching the chefs at work. The bar is usually packed and rowdy with drinks in everyone’s hands. What I love about this place is that the menu changes daily. I don’t know if I was seeing it right, but the menu seemed like it was written by hand. I know that seems a little crazy, but it is. M.B. Post had a gastropub like feel to it, and the small plates are meant to be shared.

We started things off with the bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits with maple butter. These biscuits were probably the most delicate biscuits I ever had. It was crisp and flakey on the outside, and the inside was warm and fluffy. Filled with salty bacon and cheddar, this savory biscuit was complimented perfectly with the subtly sweet maple butter. I am not really a fan or sweet butter, but this overly savory biscuit (not that I’m complaining) was a perfect vessel for something sweet.

The white oak grilled sword squid was perfect. A secret fan of squid, I love it all, from fried calamari, to grilled dishes like this one. The cooking process with use of white oak gave it a nice subtle smoky flavor. It wasn’t on the chewy side at all. It had a nice clean flavor that was complimented with the acidic lemon curd. Acidic flavors from lemon and lime are always welcome in seafood dishes. It kept the flavors very vibrant and light. Interestingly, the marinated gigante beans gave it more substance and meatiness. Not a true fan of beans, the combination of squid and beans was genius. The beans were just as important to the dish as the squid.

As our red meat protein, we ordered the BBQ Moroccan lamb belly. At first bite, I instantly remembered this dish. Did I have it before? Why was it so familiar? Then, it hit me! I first tasted this dish from David himself at the 2012 Los Angeles Food and Wine Grand Tasting. the funny thing is, at the grand tasting, I remembered the lamb was really salty. This time around at M.B. Post, the lamb was near perfect. It was salted just right, and the harissa, caramelized onions, and Japanese eggplant flavored the meat quite nicely. The complex flavors and the tender, near fork tender meat was a bite that was unforgettable.

M.B. Post, fits so perfectly in this beach town, Manhattan Beach. The vibe and ambiance of the restaurant all fit in perfectly. Driving down Manhattan Beach Blvd, and looking at all there is to shop and eat, M.B. Post is probably the coolest place to hang out. They have an interesting relationship with each other. M.B. Post isn’t what it is without the beach, and Manhattan Beach won’t be the same without M.B. Post. The food is amazingly delicious, and the “Social House” aspect of it all makes a destination to meet up with friends. Chef David LeFevre and his team is doing a great job. It was awesome to see him again at the restaurant walking around. After our meal, I said hi, and he seemed to remember me from LAFW. Chef David plans to open another restaurant in Manhattan Beach this spring. Called Fishing With Dynamite, the 30 seat restaurant will feature classic east coast seafood with the relaxed feel of the west coast. I can’t wait to try that when it opens.

M.B. Post on Urbanspoon

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The first Portillo’s hot dog stand known as “The Dog House” opened in 1963. The small trailer with dedication from the ownder to serving “the best food” and “the best service” available grew to such an institution today. Having a Portillo’s in the relatively close city of Buena Park, it is always a treat, Probably the coolest place in Buena Park, Portillo’s is always a spot for a fun environment and classic American fare. Everyone loves a good joint where health gets thrown out the window. Being the new year and all, I had a combination of healthy and “real” food. Overall, it was an awesome experience.

The hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches at Portillo’s don’t scream healthy healthy, so I opted to start off with a salad. I know. Something is changing insdie of me. Maybe it’s the new year that is making me make these “right” decisions. Their chopped salad was quite surprisingly good. The iceberg and romaine lettuce was chopped finely. It was tossed with cubed chicken, gorgonzola cheese, red cabbage, pasta, tomatoes, bacon, green onions and house dressing. The mixture made for a delicious salad that was somewhat healthy. The gorgonzola popped with flavor and the pasta inside gave it some substanance. The finely chopped greens made this salad easy to eat. Delicious!

At Portillo’s, they have an Italian Beef with Italaian sausage sandwich. This had both thinly sliced, succulent beef with Italian sausage on top. I got the salad just so I can eat this bad boy. Stuffed with either hot or sweet peppers (I opted for the sweet peppers), the sandwich had a lot of pronounced flavor. The Giardiniera on top finshed this sandwich off nicely. The beef with the zesty Giadiniera made this sandwich a top pick. Yeah, I didn’t get the hot dog at Portillo’s. Personally, their hot dogs aren’t that great. It is all about the Italian beef and sausage. Because of the Italian sausage, I ate this more like a hot dog than anything else. A little mustard on top to cut the fat, and I was all smiles.

I really wanted to get the cheese fries. The cheese fries was just french fries with a side of cheese sauce. What is better than french fries that a side of cheese sauce? Gravy, maybe? I settled for some onion rings. I haven’t had it in a while and I thought it would go nicely with my beef and sausage sandwich. I was right! The onions rings really hit the spot. It was crunchy and full of flavor. The cheese fries can wait for next time.

Portillo’s is a really chill spot. The food is greasy and delicious, and the price is reasonable. Inside and out, the design of it all is unique and fun. On the day that I went, there was a small group of old school cars parked outside. Car club? Just to go to this awesome eatery with a cool vibe made my experience special. Food and all, this is one of my favorite Orange County picks for good eats.

Portillo's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

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What is cooler? Cake or Pie? I mean, you got the all time favorite birthday cake, and pretty much every “pastry” (scone, donut, brownie, etc.) is all part of the cake family. Pie on the other gets no love. The only place showing them love is Mairie, and all the great diners. When I say great diners, I mean in the east coast. What do we have? What does Lost Angeles have? I guess we have House of Pies. A unique and one and only, the the restaurant is a casual style diner that has been around for nearly 40 years. I always had their pies on certain occasions and they are quite good. I never ate there personally, so I had to give it a try. The food is down to earth and is comforting on all fronts. Even the waitresses are sweet ladies. I would say though, their pies are superior to their food items, but it’s still a nice casual spot to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner with friends and family.

When I saw chicken wings and waffles on the menu, I was elated. It was exactly what I wanted and I heard their fried chicken is something to consider. The chicken was superb as it was juicy and crispy. I hate it when I bite into fried chicken and the meat is either dry or drenched in grease. Theirs was clean tasting and the crispy batter was surprisingly delicious. The waffle on the other hand just got by. It wasn’t anything special and the batter could use a little work. It wasn’t crispy or tasty — it was more for show. Hand’s down, the waffles at Roscoe’s are superior. The chicken though, they can hold their own.

I had a bite of their burger — the bacon avocado burger named the Frisco Burger. This was just a standard burger. the patty wasn’t anything special, but the bacon was nice with the creamy avocado. The sourdough was a nice switch from the boring hamburger bun. This burger wasn’t special for me though. It wasn’t overly juicy or flavorful.

I know it’s a shocker. I didn’t get pie this time! Honestly though, the food isn’t something to consider. It is your basic diner food — boring in every sense. The pies are quite decent, but then again, I am all about cakes. Birthday cakes, wedding cakes, cake donuts, I love them all. I am not a fan of most pies, meat pies, fruit pies — I’m just not a fan. I guess I am biased in a way. I mean, if this place was called House of Cakes, I would be all over it. I guess if you like diner food and love pies, this would be heaven. For me, just give me my fried chicken wings and I will be on my way.

House of Pies on Urbanspoon

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I went to Chapter One: Modern Local late one night. It was a random night where I wanted something good to eat, but not a full blown meal. I didn’t exactly want snack items you would find at a gastropub, and I didn’t want just a Double Double down the street. I guess I was bored and I wanted to try something new — I guess it was the food blogger in me that wanted to venture out and wanted to get excited by food. Looking at the exciting “world” that the Santa Ana Art District has, that was a nice place to start. Chapter One: Modern Local was my destination.

Upon ordering the potato pear, I really didn’t know what to expect. The pear shaped riced potato was stuffed with duxelles. Duxelles is a mixture of chopped mushrooms, onions, and herbs. The panko crusted exterior was crispy without being greasy. The best part was this wild mushroom, marsala cream sauce that it sat on top of. The complexity and rich mushroom flavor really made this dish stand out. It was rich and creamy and went so perfectly with the riced potatoes. This was basically a very complex and very elaborate mashed potatoes and gravy. Though definitely not an item to return for, it was a good experience.

The beef culotte was a dish less remembered. Though wrapped in bacon, it wasn’t too overpowering — the beef stood out. What was actually overpowering was the coffee and chocolate dry rub. It gave it a nice dry roasted taste and accented the beef quite nicely though. The red wine demi-glace was a nice touch, but the best part of the dish was the dijon smashed potatoes. They were seasoned perfectly and the dijon flavor really popped. Again, as the potato pear was a take on potatoes and gravy, this dish was a take on Shepherds pie. Though the ingredients are totally different, the taste and consistency of the dish really reminded me of Sheppards pie. Why the double potato and double rural dishes? I don’t know.

It was interesting that we ordered such old-school dishes at a place called Modern Local. Maybe their forte is to take rural dishes and make them “modern”. If so, they pretty much hit the mark. Chapter One Modern Local truly fits into the Santa Ana Arts District. As the name insists, the interior is full of books and almost looks like a rich man’s personal library. The food however, represents modern takes on classic cuisine. It is a nice spot for late night eats and drinks — I guess this adventure seeking food blogger got what it asked for.

Chapter One: The Modern Local on Urbanspoon

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Eat Chow – Lying My Way Through the Menu

by Franklin on October 20, 2012

On the outskirts of Newport Beach, Costa Mesa is a hip beach town more suburban than anything else. Along the downtown area though, there are a lot of cool places to eat and shop. One place that stands out is Eat Chow. The menu here is New American, and they have their own twist on American classics. Some of the items here surprised me, and some were just a disappointment. This hit and miss situation really had me struggling if I liked this place or not. Though the food taste was spotty, the service exceeded my expectations. This small cafe style restaurant was nicely furnished and had a modern, yet down to earth feel to it. I was comfortable as I was eating, and that is quite important to me.

I ordered the grilled prawns. It had a garlic aioli on the side for dipping and saw on a bed of baby arugala. For prawns, I was surprised by the low price, so that is what swayed me to order this appetizer. When we got the dish though, I was disappointed and felt a bit ripped off. First off, these on the plate were not prawns. They weren’t even large shrimp. They were just normal shrimp you would find anywhere else. The seasoning of the shrimp wasn’t impressive and the flavor just wasn’t there. This was a mistake for sure. I felt I was tricked. I ordered prawns, and all I got were small shrimp. The arugla to shrimp ratio was even off. This dish didn’t fit n the criteria of the other dishes, because all the other dishes were actually quite delicious.

I wasn’t really blown away with the truffle Parmesan fries. Again, I was tricked with their words. Though the fries were shoestring, my favorite, the truffle taste was missing. Filled with Parmasan and parsley, the fries were perfectly seasoned. It was a perfect side to the French Dip.

The French dip was interestingly tasty. The herb & sea salt rubbed prime ribeye was perfectly seasoned and thinly sliced. It allowed all the crevices to absorb the pan drip ajus. The brioche was a perfect bread choice to sop up all the juice, and was toasted to perfection. The horseradish cream was perfect. Horseradish and prime rib is a perfect combination, and this sandwich is a true testament to that. This wasn’t as good as the original from Philipe’s, but the taste was still impressive. The sandwich with the truffle Parmasan fries was perfect.

I have to say, I have tried a lot of mac and cheese. From the stuff from the blue box, to the authentic down home southern style, I tried it all. The truffle mac and cheese at Eat Chow was actually pretty good. Though the menu said truffle oil mac and cheese, I didn’t really expect anything in the vicinity of truffles. What I did get was something unexpected and delicious. The oyster mushrooms in this dish were spectacular. Caramelized in a special way, it left the mushrooms in such a sweet, yet savory state. It was sticky, chewy, and rendered down in such a fine way. It tasted even better than the bacon in the mac and cheese, and we all know how much I like bacon. The cheese sauce was creamy and delicious, and this was a memorable mac and cheese dish.

Like I said before, Eat Chow is a hit or miss. You have to know what you are going to order and know what you are going to get. Despite a few discrepancies in the wording of the menu, the experience was a positive one. The inside is sleek and modern which I liked a lot. The service is amazingly friendly and you just feel comfortable there. I kind of like that it is a small cafe instead of a full blown restaurant with a lot of seats. Do expect a wait though because seats are limited. Don’t worry though — their staff is really friendly, will offer you a drink as you wait, and strike up a conversation with you. This kind of hospitality is invaluable in the restaurant business, and I am happy to have experienced it.

Eat Chow on Urbanspoon

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Food blogging was just something I fell into. Fairly young in the food blogging world at less than 2 years, I feel like I still have a lot to see and learn. When I had the chance to sit down and dine with other like minded food bloggers, I jumped at the chance. TC from Sinosoul invited me and a couple of food bloggers to join him at The Parish. Along with food bloggers @ComiendoenLA and @onemorebiteblog, I knew the night was going to be fun – we were accompanied by good food, great conversations, and a special guest. When I got word that Master Chef Becky Reams would be joining us, my girlfriend was more excited than anybody. The Parish was a perfect spot to have this dinner. The English inspired gastropub served up small plates for the most part — perfect for our group. Excited to try their burger and fried chicken, we food bloggers ordered nearly everything. Let the eating and photographing begin!

We just ate as the items came. The fried olives and chickpeas were alright. If you are a fan of fried pickles, these will tickle your fancy. The salty, briney taste instantly works nicely with the fried exterior. The fried chickpeas were nice too — soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside. It was good first taste of what The Parish had to offer. Oddly, I don’t have a picture of it. Trust me when I say that it is a great way to start!

I normally don’t eat beets. In fact, I don’t eat beets. When someone ordered the beets, I was honestly not excited. I couldn’t be more wrong and more judging of this dish. Topped with mache herbs abd horseradish yogurt, the dish came together so well. The beets were quite fresh and meety and the sauce brought everything together so well. Beets were on my radar again.

The fish and chips was tasty — nothing too out of the ordinary. The batter on the fish was quite impressive. It had a nice light crunch. Chips consisted of a huge potato wedge — great dipped in the sauce.

The poutine fried oysters were an interesting combination. Fried oysters topped a bed of fried and was topped with gravy. The oyster taste was quite pristine. The batter honestly couldn’t have been better. Perfectly seasoned and with a nice crunch, the soft texture of the oyster meat and crunch from batter was a nice textural contrast. This was a home run.

The pork shoulder poutine was nice too. Using the same gravy and fries as the fried oyster poutine, this one was topped with slow roasted pork shoulder. The flavors worked nicely and the tofu cheese curds could have fooled me. The pork was tender — you could tell it was cooked for a long time.

Green beans, just like beats are not a go to item for me. Prepared right though, they can be quite tasty. Theirs was prepared with peaches and cheese. Though an interesting combination, the peaches were sweet and worked with the cheese. If not for the cheese though, this dish would have been boring.

Bone marrow is some of my favorite things in life. Their bone marrow was roasted and baked nicely. The richness of the fat and crostini schmeer was a bite full of flavor. The celery salad helped cut down the rich fat. This wasn’t a must order dish — not everyone loves this stuff. The bone marrow at The Parish was mediocre compared to other places. Still, its bone marrow. Mediocre bone marrow is still bone marrow.

The clams were maybe one of my favorite dishes here. A lover of clams and shellfish, this dish was a winner. The broth in itself was addicting and tasty. The sweetness of the sherry worked nicely in the broth. Leeks and saffron topped the dish to finish it off nicely. Their thick crusted toast was perfect with this dish. Dipped in that savory broth, I kept finding myself going back to this dish.

The lentils daal was a first for me. The Indian dish didn’t look pretty, but it was tasty. With hints of curry and turmeric, the dish was explicitly Indian. The lentils were cooked perfectly and had a nice bite to it. The chutney toast was nice, but the Asian in me wanted a side of rice with this. I wouldn’t necessarily order this dish again, but it was a nice and interesting dish to have tried. Only at a foodie get together like this would I ever have tried daal.

The buttermilk fried chicken was probably my favorite item of the night. The batter was quite crispy — very crispy actually. This kind of crispy was done so cleanly and pure. I didn’t get a feeling of greasiness or an oily mouth eating this chicken. The meat was juicy and everyone wasn’t too salty. It was difficult to find a fault for this dish. The cherry tomatoes and peaches were a nice touch to the chicken. Too bad I had to share with the rest of the table. I would have been find with my own plate of fried chicken.

The burger was another one of my favorites. Cooked a perfect rare to a medium rare, the meat was juicy and flavorful. With picked carrots and arugula, the burger seems like a standard burger. The best part about this burger is that it has Epoisses. Epoisses is a pungent cows milk cheese and actually makes this burger what it is. The soft cheese melted into the burger and every bite had an essence of Epoisses. $17 for a burger is a bit high, but I guess the quality ingredients make up for it.

The pork head pot pie was warm and hearty. Not something traditional, the pork head actually has some good stuff. The meat was tender and just dissolved in your mouth. The gravy was good inside. My favorite would have to have been the dough. Sitting there like a hockey puck, the dough held everything inside. Dense on the inside, I would have liked the dough to be more flaky on the outside. The picked vegetable salad helped balance out the rich gravy and gave everything a nice crunch.

Sticky toffee pudding is always a winner. Theirs had a lava cake with a pool of sticky toffee on the bottom. The cake was nice and the fruit was nice, but the toffee was so addicting. Mixed in with the cake, the toffee was a perfect balance of sweet — not too sweet. The texture was pure and gooey. I am sure our manners were the only thing keeping us from using our fingers to get every little taste. This was delicious!

the berry trifle for me was mediocre. It looked nice with layered cream and berry mixture, but the flavor did not surprise me. It just tasted like cream and berries. It probably didn’t surprise me because of the toffee I had earlier.

The Parish, being fairly new was a nice spot to hang out and eat with fellow food bloggers. The addition of Becky Reams from Master Chef joining us was an added bonus. Though she finished the competition series at 3rd place, I am pretty sure we all thought the same thing — she was the clear winner. Nonetheless, It was a great night with food, drinks, and amazing company. Highlights were the fried oyster poutine, fried chicken, and sticky toffee pudding. I guess the food was great and the company, even better. How better can you have it that eating with like minded people who love food just as much as you do?

The Parish on Urbanspoon

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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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This whole experience was surreal to me. You are reading about a guy who never wins anything. Raffle drawings, none — lotto jackpots, never. But this experience, this one was different. All of the stars lined up for this one and everything worked out perfectly. The way it goes is, you tweet any dish you want to chef Diana Stavaridis of BLD. If she chooses your dish selection, you and a friend dine for free Thursday evening and that dish will be Thursday’s plats du jour. It all started on a slow Friday afternoon at work. Me and my coworker were just chatting about technology, food, and the weekend. He was planning a date night to BLD, and noticed the “tweet-a-dish” on their website. He mentioned it to me and I, half joking and not at all trying to win just sent @BLDChefD a tweet. Knowing a bit about BLD and their menu, shrimp and grits immediately came to my head. After a week and forgetting about the whole contest, I got a tweet back from Chef Diana congratulating me! Surprised, I was more honored that they chose my dish than the fact I would be getting free dinner for two. Nonetheless, I immediately called and made reservations.

Walking into BLD, I didn’t know what to expect. Half nervous and excited, I couldn’t keep my hands still — probably why all of the pictures came out so blurry. We were seated instantly and the waiter told us what would be going on. I obviously underestimated winning this tweet-a-dish contest. I was expecting just a free entree for me and a friend, but I was wrong. I was given 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and 2 desserts. Yes, I was overwhelmed. Not only did I get to eat the dish I tweeted, I was able to see the dish on the menu as one of the specials. It was sureel to me to overhear waiters tell other people dining about the featured dish of the day. From a simple tweet, it went to a chef, and from that, it went on a menu, and into hungry patrons. To me, that was more special than a free dinner.

For the appetizer, I had the smoked Cajun mac and cheese and steamed mussels. The mac and cheese to me was interesting. It wasn’t really cheesy or heavy, but there was something to be desired. The noodles were nicely cooked and the taste was cheesy, but without the goo. My favorite part was the topping. Usually, it is a butter heavy cracker or panko batter crust, but theirs was something different. It was crispy and crunchy, almost like class, and it never got soggy — It wasn’t buttery or anything. These things served solely as a textural crunch, nothing more. It was refreshing to eat such a healthy and light mac and cheese. Most, especially mine, are butter heavy, cheese heavy, and gooey. The BLD mac and cheese was a pleasant change in taste and texture.

The steamed mussels were perfectly prepared. Sweet in flavor, the mussels were tender and not over-cooked. I was impressed at how soft and not rubbery the mussels were. They practically broke down in my mouth with little effort. In a broth of tomatoes, white wine, and chilies, the dish was hearty. The grilled baguette was perfect to sop up all of the broth — the broth was a tomato base and the white wine gave it a nice rich flavor profile. It was a solid appetizer.

The first main dish was the braised short rib. At first bite, I could tell this thing was cooking for a long long time. The meat just shredded off and the fat was rendered down, yet it was still juicy. Atop a mound of grits, and an au jus sauce, it was all a cohesive dish that was hearty. The arugula in the dish evened out the beefy flavor and rich sauce. The tomatoes gave it a nice acidic flavor which counter balanced the beef well. It was an impressive dish and I was lucky to have ordered this.

Of course, one of us had to order the tweet a dish plats du jour. Excited to see my dish come, I couldn’t wait to see Chef Diana’s take on shrimp and grits. At first bite, I immediately tasted the BLD(ness) of the dish. Hearty and delicious, it was like no other shrimp and grits I ever had. Yeah, most shrimp and grits are heavy on the butter and salt, but the one I had, my dish, was clean tasting. Without the use of much butter, the flavors of the tomatoes and other vegetables were prominent. The bite of the grits, more rice like than others, was a pleasure. No, the dish wasn’t heavy with oils and cheeses and butter, but the flavors were so clean and fresh, it was an eye opener. I didn’t expect this at all.

As I finished off my shrimp and grits, I began to realize the nature of this restaurant and the cooking Chef Diana does. I don’t think they have butter in the back of the kitchen. I don’t think they know what lard is or what bacon fat tastes like. This is a good thing! Yeah, bacon fat and butter make everything taste good, but to make dishes shine with the actual ingredients, vegetables and all, that takes true skill. I was especially honored when Chef Diana came out of the kitchen to our table to say hi. A simple thing as just saying hi made Chef Diana truly knows how to make a healthy meal taste amazing.

All this good food ended with great desserts. We ordered warm sugared popovers and banana cream pie. The popovers had blueberries baked in. Atop sat a mound of lemon buttermilk ice cream which was hand made. The lemon from the ice cream and blueberries inside the popover worked perfectly together. The bready, cakey popover mixed in well with the ice cream to make each bite delicious. The banana cream pie was amazing — the brownie crust alone had me hooked. The cream and the crust was good in itself, but the addition of bananas and rub caramel made everything perfect. This was a perfect combo of desserts with completely different flavor profiles — it was a nice way to end the meal.

After doing some research on Chef Diana, I was surprised to see that she had a few spots on TV. Her ticotta blueberry pancakes were featured on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. (Yum! Gatta try those ASAP.) She also guessed starred on The Next Food Network Star. Finding out that she is famous, I was honored to have met and spoken to her at the restaurant. It was nice of her to leave the busy kitchen and converse with her guests. All in all, I felt lucky, special, and honored. BLD is an upscale restaurant without the stuffy prices and atmosphere. Their specials and dishes alike are all affordable and the dim atmosphere makes this a perfect date spot. I am definitely coming back for brunch, as they are known for it, and definitely coming back for those blueberry rocotta pancakes. Until then, Thank you Chef Diana for your great food and hospitality. I will see you on twitter!

BLD on Urbanspoon

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Pink’s Hot Dog – The Historical Hot Dog Cart Goes Hollywod on Us

June 15, 2011

Pink’s hot dog is up with the best of Los Angeles.  When you think of LA, what comes to mind?  Hollywood, beaches, In-n-Out, palm trees.  Somewhere in that list, Pink’s should come up within the top 10. Pink’s is a Hollywood icon, and have been a Los Angeles landmark for years.  By the way, being [...]

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Blue Bayou – Pirates of the Caribbean Meets Cajun Creole (Disneyland)

May 25, 2011

I remember going to Disneyland when I was a kid.  One of my favorite rides was the Pirates of the Caribbean.  The cool robotic and realistic figures causing havoc in pirate land was so entertaining.  They just looked so real!  Drifting away deeper and deeper into the fake world of pirates, I couldn’t help but [...]

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Free Pancakes! (IHOP)

March 1, 2011

Get free pancakes! 7AM – 10PM at any participating IHOP restaurant.  They just ask for a small donation for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.  Hey, it’s for a good cause and it’s free pancakes — you can’t lose. Click here for the website for more details. Tweet

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Berkeley Dog – Casual Gourmet Hot Dogs

February 21, 2011

The hot dog is snack food.  Something about the hot dog is satisfying.  In LA, it’s all about the bacon wrapped hot dogs.  Its fast, its easy, and its somewhat filling.  The hot dog is well known as “mystery meat” — it’s street food.   In Orange County (Brea, CA), they do it a bit differently.  [...]

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Slater’s 50/50 – Two Hands, Two Meats

February 18, 2011

Imagine you have in front of you a perfect burger. What condiments are on it? Is the meat cooked rare or medium rare?  You also got to have cheese right?  Is there bacon?  At Slater’s you can have any of that.  This burger joint / bar lets you fill out a form (pencil and paper) [...]

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