Monday, October 27, 2008

I'm going back here.

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As the economy turns sour but my appetite does not, I have to start looking for places to eat out where it doesn't break the bank. During my chicken kick, a friend of ours took us to Baccali Cafe & Rotisserie in Alhambra. I had no expectations going in since we were technically meeting for business.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the large and extensive Chinese Fusion menu and even more pleasantly surprised to see how cheap everything was! The sandwiches are almost all under $5, and the big-portioned dishes were basically all under $10.

Now, what's better than rotisserie chicken?



How about... rotisserie chicken drenched in curry sauce with a side of curried rice with veggies? The Malaysian Roasted Chicken ($7.50) was precisely this. My BF had the Indonesian Fried Rice ($7.95), which came with a side of satays and a fried egg on top of the rice. His rice was okay (I love Singapore's Banana Leaf at the Farmer's Market near the Grove ten times better), but the satays redeemed the dish and the portions were just huge.



Had I known how large the portions were here, I would have convinced my BF to just get one dish to share with me.

The best thing here is the rotisserie chicken. Our friends ordered the baccali chicken ($9.95 whole), which was way more than enough to share between the two of them. I had the same chicken in my Malaysian Roasted Chicken (except mine had curry sauce on it) so I can attest to the fact that the chicken here is the main highlight.

The rest of the stuff is less in quality and taste but they sure know how to make it up with quantity.

I am definitely coming back to try some of the other stuff when I'm feeling a pinch in my wallet. This place is perfect for families and for large groups (and you're paying).

Baccali Cafe & Rotisserie
Neighborhood: Alhambra
245 W Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 293-3300

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Best Deal in Town (NYC)

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If you're a New Yorker, you probably know about this already since so many bloggers and writers talk about it. But if you're visiting NYC and you have no clue where to eat but you want an awesome foodie experience, you better go to Jean-Georges for their $28 prix fixed lunch menu.

Jean-Georges is more wildly decorated than a community christmas tree. It boasts 3 Michelin stars, 5 AAA Diamond awards, 4 stars by Frank Bruni from they NY Times, 5 stars from the Mobile Travel Guide, etc. etc. (you can read more about it on their website). I've never eaten at a 3 Michelin star restaurant (LA doesn't have any) and I figured it was going to be extremely expensive. I was surprised indeed when my friend told me that the two-course lunch is only $28 and I'd be able to add more courses for only $12 more. REALLY? That's cheaper than some undecorated rip off restaurants I go to in LA! I got to pick all 4 dishes and we were to share it, along with dessert and drinks.

On to what we ordered:

The passion fruit juice with specks of chili!



The complimentary amuse bouche that included a mini tempura, a tiny tuna, and corn soup



Goat Cheese Royale, Roasted Beet Marmalade and Crushed Pistachios



Charred Corn Raviolis, Cherry Tomato Salad and Basil Fondue



Roasted Sweetbreads, Licorice, Grilled Pear and Lemon



Steamed Halibut with Honshimeji Mushrooms and Lemongrass Consomme



and for dessert, we had the Verbena Poached Peaches, Bourbon, Hazelnut, Mint Ice Cream, Plum sorbet, Dehydrated Champagne Grapes.....and...



...a birthday dessert which I think was the Jean Georges Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Warm Chocolate Gnocchi, Grapefruit, Gianduja, Basil



The best part was the free birthday dessert and the complimentary house desserts that they give: the mini macaroons and the homemade marshmallows that they cut in front of you. You don't even have to get dessert but you'll WANT to.





My favorite dish was the sweetbreads. I finally had the guts to try it and I wanted to make sure that it was at a place where they wouldn't let me down. Now, I'm craving sweetbreads like crazy and I almost don't care that it's a thymus gland or pancreas...I mean, I'm the girl who craves cow udders with salsa when I feel homesick. I also really liked the goat cheese but it was a bit on the heavier side. The corn ravioli was delicious but the halibut was a bit bland. It's a great idea to go to Jean-Georges with someone so you can taste a whole bunch of things. I highly recommend the sweetbreads and dessert.

If you live in NYC, you should do yourself a favor and go for lunch. If you're visiting and you've never had sweetbreads, try it here! You won't regret it.


Jean-Georges
1 Central Park W
New York, NY 10023
(212) 299-3900
www.jean-georges.com


Jean-Georges on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 20, 2008

Black Sesame - the food trend I love

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Black sesame ice cream, black sesame cake, black sesame creme brulee, black sesame mochi, black sesame mochi ice cream, black sesame sauce, black sesame paste, black sesame soup, black sesame dim sum, black sesame gelato....

Is it just me or is this the new trend in desserts? Especially among Asian (or Asian-inspired) restaurants, the black sesame could be the new red bean! According to Betty Hall from LA Times, not only is the black sesame taking America by storm, it's wildly popular in Europe as well.



Growing up, I've always had black sesame in my food. Many Korean dishes call for it, but never had I had it in a delicious dessert until I tried the Sesame Bean Sensation ($7.50) at Royal/T cafe, located in Culver City, CA. It was a layered cake with gray sesame cream filling. The nutty and sophisticated taste of the black sesame with the girly sweetness of the fruity cake got me hooked. Ever since then, I've been on the look out for black sesame anything.


When I went to LAND in the Upper West Side in New York, I was only slightly surprised to see that they served black sesame ice cream with their warm chocolate cake ($6). Since they are considered to be one of the hippest new restaurants in town, my obsession was validated. See, I know when things are cool.

Now I'm staking out more places in LA for black sesame desserts. I already have a list and I'm going to start at Scoops for the black sesame gelato. I hope they have the flavor when I go, though. They change their flavors so often and I can't seem to time it right to get the flavors that I want.

To get some black sesame goodness in LA, check out Royal/T cafe. Their hours are pretty limited so get out of work early to go (or go on a weekend)!

Royal/T Cafe
Neighborhood: Culver City
8910 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 559-6300
www.royal-t.org


To get your dose of black sesame in NYC, you won't have to look too hard but if you're in the Upper West Side, you should check out LAND (for their awesome peanutty vegetable dumplings as well).

LAND THAI KITCHEN
Neighborhood: Manhattan/Upper West Side
450 Amsterdam Ave
(between 81st St & 82nd St)
New York, NY 10024
(212) 501-8121
www.landthaikitchen.com

*edit*
Scoops has black sesame gelato! I'm totally getting a pint for Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Crab Rangoon

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I never cared so much about crab rangoons when I lived in Wellesley, MA. I thought it was just standard Thai or Chinese fare. Once I moved out to Los Angeles and started reminiscing about my time spent in the East coast, crab rangoon would creep back into my mind. Funny, I never got to taste its creamy goodness ever since I moved out west. I started paying closer attention to the menus at Thai and Chinese restaurants but it was a lost cause. I couldn't find crab rangoons anywhere!

I quickly gave up, thinking that it must have just been a dish Lemon Thai cooked up to put on their menu (much like "chicken in love"). I resolved that when I went back to visit Wellesley, I'd stuff my face with as much fried wontons filled with cream cheese and imitation crab meat as I could.

When my professor suggested that we go to Lemon Thai for dinner, I was so excited! I could already taste the fried gooey mess in my mouth. I loved all the paradoxes that the crab rangoon presented: the crispy outside with the creamy inside, the salty crab rangoon contrasted with the sweet chili sauce.

Finally, my long-awaited crab rangoons:



It was too heavy for me to finish like I had initially wanted but I satiated my cravings. During my east coast trip, I realized the crab rangoon was offered in many Chinese restaurants. That got me thinking and I researched the origins of it as soon as I got home. Guess what? Though the name is derived from Burmese, it was made in the U.S. (Trader Vic's is the supposed creator), much like the fortune cookie, and is highly popular in the Midwest and the East coast.

I was fooled!


I feel a bit betrayed and stupid but....


I still love it.

Lemon Thai
555 Washington St
Wellesley, MA 02482
(781) 237-6995

*edit*
I found some places in LA that serve crab rangoons, thanks to yelp. Oh, how I love yelp.com

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tasty

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Tasty
250 W Valley Blvd
Ste A
San Gabriel, CA 91778

Once in a while, when I feel like pampering myself, I drive all the way out to San Gabriel Valley to get a $15 foot massage. Since it's a bit out of the way for me, I make sure I take half a day to get a massage, eat lunch or dinner (depending on the time of day), and then a "healthy" drink from Tasty, to top it all off. The plaza where Tasty is in has all these things so when I'm really lazy, I just get a foot massage here, eat and have dessert at Tasty's, and then take sticker pictures and call it a day.

So what's so special about Tasty's? It's all in their desserts. I'm sure there are many more places like Tasty in SGV but in L.A., I have yet to find a place like this. They use fresh fruits for all their desserts, but the stand out to me is their drinks.

I've had the mango harsmar with coconut milk, sago with mango and coconut milk, mango pudding with coconut ice cream and other types of fruit, the gui ling gao jelly with mango and coconut milk, and I also tried the sweet rice balls. I have no idea, really, what harsmar is or what guiling gao jelly is but it's supposed to be healthy. I bet it neutralizes all the sugar and fat in it so I can have as many as I want!

The best part of these drinks is that they come layered (as pictured above). It's also fun to suck all the jellies and other such toppings through a boba straw.

And here's some facts to assuage your guilt for having them:
They use real mangoes.
They use real coconut milk (instead of non dairy creamer like in most boba places).
They are far enough away if you live in LA that you can only go there once in a while.

*edit*

After some researching, I found this out on wiki:

Hasma (or Harsmar) is a Chinese dessert ingredient made from the dried fallopian tubes of the Asiatic Grass Frog. Reported benefits of eating hasma include replenishing vital essence in the lungs, kidneys, and improving skin complexion. Hasma is also prescribed to treat respiratory symptoms such as coughing, hemoptysis and night sweats due to tuberculosis. Young children are however not recommended to take it, as the high contents of hormones might cause puberty to begin early.

Guiling Gao Jelly is a Chinese herbal jelly made from ground turtle shells, which is reputed to help clear up the complexion.

This is truly disturbing. I had no idea I was so adventurous!

Okay, next time, I think I'll stick to sago.

Monday, October 6, 2008

LA BBQ

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I love festivals. It's a good reason to go out and spend a crap load of money just so you can go to a huge event with lots of sponsors, wait in long lines only to pay again to get the food, check out what the other girls are wearing, and eat all day.


I decided to go to the LA Barbeque festival because 1) it was on the pier and anything near the beach is a huge draw for me 2) I was able to get cheaper tickets on goldstar.com, my go-to discounter for tickets for things going around town and 3) I was in the mood for some meat - especially for some out of town meat.

Once in, we realized that the participants came mostly from Mississippi, Missouri, Texas, and California. After tasting the ribs, chickens, sausages, corns, beans, etc., we found our favorite...
Gus's in Pasadena. Yup! Surprisingly,we all thought the best BBQ was the one right in our backyard! Don't get me wrong. The other places were really good, too, but you just get sick of eating really heavy and fatty stuff, especially in the heat. We started with some mediocre sausage and moved on to some greasy baby back ribs that were delicious (but their baked beans tasted like the ones from cans). By the time we got to eating the chicken, we realized it was the best bang for your buck (a 1/2 chicken pounded for easy eating, accompanied by baked beans and corn salsa for $10, when other places were charging $10 for a lot less food). It also tasted much healthier with a lot more ingredients and flavor, and the bacon and veggies in the baked beans stole the show and our hearts. Perhaps our Californian taste buds favored a lighter version of the southern BBQ. Whatever the case may be, we're hitting Gus's in the future when we have a craving for some flavorful Cali style BBQ.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tasting my way around

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My friends were telling me that I should post my food pictures up online somewhere, a place aside from facebook or xanga or yelp, where things are more organized and personalized to my adventures in eating.

I worried about being a "food blogger". I mean, I know nothing about food aside from how good it tastes, how much enjoyment I get out of the experience of going to eat out, and how many more times I will go back to it.

In my experience of traveling around and yelping my way through my hometown, L.A., I've realized that I've frequented quite a lot of of establishments - most of which are deemed worthy to visit by foodies on yelp.com, chowhound.com, citysearch.com, the famed food critic Jonathan Gold, my closeted foodie friends, and just word on the street.

I love reading food blogs and love that they are mostly really focused around a certain theme of food. Some bloggers concentrate on Japanese food, others concentrate on making food in their crockpots daily, some talk about gourmet food, and some talk about baking. After thinking about what I'm always most interested in, I've realized that I love to frequent the hole in the wall establishments or I like to go all out and hit up a restaurant on someone's top ten list.

I also realized that I'm really into shopping for certain types of food items, research for hard to find products, and search far and wide for the food and restaurants that remind me of home (and by home, I mean Santa Cruz, Bolivia). Hopefully, with this food blog, I can share some parts of who I am through my travels and hand-picked places that make me home-sick, and the things that surprise me about the local places around California.

So with that, I hope you enjoy this blog. I'm not that wordy but love to take pictures of food so I hope you can visually enjoy the hard work the people put into preparing and serving the food as well as the hard work I put into eating them.
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