Tuesday, September 27, 2011

La Casita Mexicana - Bell, CA

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I've eaten here so many times I cannot believe I never blogged about it! I must have dozens of pictures of the same things. I've gone there many times, sometimes with my camera, other times without. I love Chef Jaime and Chef Ramiro, who are the men behind elevating Mexican food to a whole new level in Los Angeles. Dare I say it? This is my favorite Mexican restaurant! Yes, I said it. I even filmed a few films there (Foodie Nation, Bacon Wrapped Date).


Here's a compilation of my favorite dishes.


The first thing they bring you are the tortilla chips with three of their signature mole as a dressing on top. I never took a picture of it because it always disappears before I can take a good shot of it. I guess you just have to go there to see for yourself!



Most meals usually come with soup as a starter. The soup at La Casita Mexicana is no joke. It's always hearty, usually bean or rice based. If you're not careful, you CAN get full just off of this and the chips. I say save room for the bounty that is about to come!



I always get the Queso Azteca ($12.95). It's four kinds of Mexican cheeses filled with poblano chile slices, cactus, mushrooms, and mexican herbs wrapped in banana leaf, along with onions, chili, cilantro as garnish. It comes with handmade tortillas which are thick, fluffy, and flavorful. I always eat some but take the rest home for a quick lunch the next day.


I still have yet to find tortillas like this. There are orange and green tinted ones as well as the standard white ones. They are flavorful, thick, fluffy, and pretty filling. I dream about these tortillas at least twice a month.


We sometimes get the Queso Fundido with Chorizo ($9.95) if we have a huge party and I can still get the Queso Azteca. It is an amazing concoction - very oozy, like fondue. I still prefer the Queso Azteca because I prefer the texture of thicker, not as melty, cheese. Others prefer this. It's what kind of cheese you prefer, really. This Queso Fundido also has chorizo meat in it so it is much heavier and if you don't eat meat, then stick to the Queso Azteca.


We ordered the The Ceviche Verde ($13.95, comes with rice) once when we decided we weren't going to go for the Queso Azteca. It's a refreshing fish appetizer marinated in citrus salsa made with serrano peppers, cilantro and cucumbers. It's served on top of freshly made corn tostadas. This is a much lighter way to go if you are not in the mood to start off your meal in a big way, or if you know you're going to be eating a really hearty entree.


Is it my fault if I cannot help but get this beautiful Chile En Nogada ($15.95)? Look at it! It's the colors of the Mexican flag. Chef Ramiro says so.


The Chile en Nogada is Mexico's traditional school of "haute cuisine" and it is stuffed with meat, dried fruits, walnuts, candied cactus, enveloped with pecan cream sauce and drizzled with pomegranate seeds. It is on the sweeter side because of all the fruits involved but there is a nice savory balance from the chile and the meat as well. There's really nothing quite like it. Sweet, salty, nutty, fruity, meaty, it's pretty much a complete meal in one dish.


In La Casita Mexicana, the Chile en Nogada is served with white rice that also displays the colors of the Mexican flag.


One of the most delicious moles I've ever tried, is the traditional mole poblano ($14.95) over the tender chicken at La Casita Mexicana. The mole poblano is comprised of 46 different ingredients, and is a recipe handed down from their grandmothers. If you know you're getting this dish, I'd bring a big group so that the appetizers can be shared by the entire group and you can eat share some of this or take it home. 






The Enchiladas ($13.95) are filled with either cheese or chicken, depending on your mood or dietary restrictions. You can pick from the three moles, which include the mole poblano, the red pepian, and the green pepian. It comes with white rice. You can also choose just one type of mole as well. I always choose three so I don't get bored of one flavor. But, if you're thinking of taking these babies home, just choose one type of mole so you don't have a mess later on.


Have you ever had Mexican coffee ($2.75)? Me neither. That is, until I came here. The coffee tastes like there is a bit of cinnamon or some sort of interesting spice in it that reminds me more of tea. It comes with rock sugar. It's so amazing and I try to recreate it at home but there is just no way. This coffee goes well with the desserts here. 



The flan ($4.99) is thick, creamy, and honestly, one of the best flans ever. I'm a fan of the thick flan, not the watery kind. Some people don't like thick flan. They have the house flan, the kahlua flan (also amazingly rich), and the eggnog flan. 




The fried rice pudding wraps with pecan cream sauce ($5.99) is a wonton-like pastry filled with cinnammon rice pudding, topped with cream. It's definitely one of the heartier desserts. 


Not only are these churros ($4.25) so cute, delicious, and a sugar party in your mouth, it's also very easy to share. I'd recommend this if you have a big party. It's filled with Mexican caramel and goes amazingly well with the coffee


Go with the guayabas con rompompe (guavas with Mexican-style eggnog) if want something sweet but not too starchy ($5.99).

If you like sweets and carbs, you'll love the rice pudding wrap. If you love eggy stuff, you will love the flan. If you like sugary pastries, you'll love the churros. If you love fruit, you'll love the guayabas.

You're going to burst with flavors, spices, and heartiness if you attempt to eat all this goodness on your own at once. I still haven't tried everything on their menu and I've gone over six times. There are some fish items that I've had but haven't taken pictures but always look out for the special. I tried a fish with huitlacoche (corn fungus) sauce before that was out of this world.


Every time I go, I leave with boxes of leftovers. Usually it's because making the drive out to Bell is something I have to plan for, and so I end up ordering much more than I can eat, and sometimes it's just because I want my friends to try everything so we end up getting too many dishes. No matter, the leftovers usually last me a few days and what's better than waking up to a soft corn tortilla with Queso Azteca splayed in the middle of it, waiting for it to devour you?

La Casita Mexicana
4030 Gage Avenue
Bell, CA 90201-1127
(323) 773-1898


La Casita Mexicana on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 23, 2011

Saffron - Beverly Hills

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Saffron in Beverly Hills is close to my internship on Mondays. I came here a while back in 2010 for a yelp event and knew I had to come back. It's a fast casual but healthy Indian restaurant. They have bowls as well as 2 item combos.


My favorite is the chicken tikka masala so I get it in a bowl, over rice. The price is a steal at $5.95.


My partner in crime gets the 2 item combo with saag paneer and chicken tikka masala and salad instead of rice. This costs $7.95 We share a side of naan ($0.95).

Our total comes out to less than $16. Score. 

Photos from past yelp event:

Samosa $1.95. Light but crispy and filling.

Tofu Tikka Masala and Saag Paneer combo. 
You can have it with rice instead if you want.



The yelp elite spread.


Saffron
Beverly Hills
230 S. Beverly Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Downtown LA
City National Plaza
505 S. Flower ST. B Level #250
Los Angeles, CA 90071






Saffron on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chick-Fil-A

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There is so much ruckus over the new Chick-Fil-A opening in Hollywood, on Sunset and Highland to be exact. They're giving away free chicken for a year to the first 100 people (based on a confusing lottery system) but the real controversy is over their political stance on gay marriage

A lot of people, especially those living near this new location, are not too happy about Chick-Fil-A's political agenda. Before knowing all this, I ate a ton of Chick-Fil-A as soon as it opened in downtown LA on Figueroa (long before this scandal hit the news). 

I usually get the original chicken sandwich but I don't feel like fried chicken so I get the Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich. It's good...but not as good as the original. The spicy one is good too, but still not as good as the original. 




The waffle fries are perfect to dip in all the different sauces that they give out. I prefer the Chick-Fil-A sauce. Whatever your politics, Chick-Fil-A has mastered the chicken sandwich but to a lot of people, this restaurant is just one of many. Others think that businesses can do whatever they want with the money that they make and that shouldn't be an issue when it comes to what they sell. 

There are so many companies that are "anti-gay." Target donates to anti-gay movements as well as Best Buy, Urban Outfitters, A-1 Storage, and the list goes on. I say pick your battles. It's hard to boycott every single business that doesn't agree with your politics. I still boycott Abercrombie and Fitch from way back in the day and will never buy an A&F product. That's just me. Everyone has their own stance against specific businesses. 

What are your thoughts on Chick-Fil-A?

Chik-Fil-A
Multiple Locations

Chick-fil-A on Urbanspoon

Bacon Wrapped Date

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Back in 2009 I set out to make a documentary about Foodies living in Los Angeles. Through that documentary, I got inspiration to make a short film about two food bloggers who meet for the first time and fall in love as they try to one up each other in their taste in hidden gems around town. This film is called Bacon Wrapped Date and it is dedicated to all the food fanatics, foodies, people who hate being called foodies, food bloggers, chefs, and people who just love to eat. 

It is finally available to download on iPad (not yet available on other iphone platforms). I do not have an iPad but if you do, please download it, watch it, and let me know what you think. The app itself is free and Bacon Wrapped Date is only $1.99. It's our first distribution deal!

After two years of filming largely in the food scene, I can't say that I've gotten thinner! However, I can say that I know that my calling is in the film + food equation and I hope to bring informative documentaries and fictional narratives to you. I just ask that I get as much feedback while I'm still learning so that I can learn from my own productions and from readers like you. 

More info on Bacon Wrapped Date Here.
Interview with the Actress, Hong Lei, Here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

LA County Fair

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What is better than going all the way out to BFE, engage in an all-day-face-stuffing festival with fried concoctions that someone who was quite possibly stoned off his butt invented? Top that off with concerts of varying kinds of artists from the Beach Boys (and John Stamos) to Salt n Pepa, some hurl-inducing rides, bars all over the place, and you get the LA COUNTY FAIR.


I admit I used to be a huge festival/fair fanatic. I stopped having the desire to go to all of them but this year, my desire to spend a whole day dehydrating in Pomona, pounding down beers, eating fried foods that I saw on food blogs like Gourmet Pigs and Gastronomy, going on the rides, and watching some concerts came back strong, like an old passionate flame. 


After getting our first round of beers, we walk all over the fairplex to check out all the activities. Lots of animals, rides, food trucks, smoke from bbq pits, horribly ugly signage that look like the same person made it for all the vendors, and games speckle the campground. People of all ages gather to engage in funtastic eating and playing games. It's that one day in your life you get to leave all your diet worries at home and enjoy the kind of food you will never want to have outside of a fair.


Like 10 inch sausages.




Or, fried Kool-Aid.


Fried Kool-Aid


I imagined the fried kool-aid to be jello like for some reason but it's basically donut holes made with kool-aid, topped with kool-aid powder. We all liked that it's novel but we're probably not going to get these again. Now that the fried kool-aid is out of the way, we venture over to get some "real" food.


My friend gets the corn on the cob but something else catches my eye. GIANT TURKEY LEGS!



These are legit. Gigantic, impossible to eat, but so good.


I'm not even the biggest turkey freak but something about the way these are smoked makes it taste like ham, but better. After eating this turkey leg, we have to spend a few hours walking around before eating anything heavy again.


We go on a few rides and we play a few games. Some of the rides are plain scary. We, of course, choose to go on the Typhoon, a roller coaster with an immense line that lasts only a few seconds.


Then, we go on the ride that takes you all the way up and plunges you down in a free fall. I admit there is a video of me screaming my butt off but that is not going to make its way to this blog anytime soon.


All that screaming got us hungry so I get the 10 inch corn dog. I think it's going to be like the one I got at Disneyland but alas, the sausage was too skinny and the stick was too long so you have to eat around the stick, which gets annoying as hell. The outer corn bread isn't as brown as I usually like it. Perhaps a few more minutes in the fryer would have done it some good.



Update: The best corn dogs are the cowabunga corn dogs at JUICY'S. I came back a third time and had the best corn dog here, with the legit sausage (with casing and snap) battered in sweet, fried goodness. The only pic I have it this: 



After the corn dog break, we go on the ferris wheel. The sun sets and a beautiful golden hue covers the parking lot. Who would've thought the parking lot could look so cool?


Afterwards, we make our way to watch The Beach Boys perform. It's labor day weekend and the stadium is crowded. John Stamos appears and sings, plays the guitar, and drums along with them. He sings every song with them and he even sings a song from Jesse and the Rippers. For a 49 year old man, he is still smokin' especially from where we are sitting.



We end the night with deep fried twinkies, deep fried snickers, and deep fried oreos. Of these, only the deep fried oreos receive an okay from us.


It tastes like a cookies and cream flavored donut hole.


The following week, my hubz and I are back and this time, to watch Salt n Pepa. I grew up watching Salt n Pepa so I know we are going to make the trek to Pomona again. I mean besides, we didn't get to try the Maple Bacon Donut or the Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich anyway. Might as well kill two birds with one stone! The best part is that we found the free concert ticket line and got to see Salt n Pepa for FREE.


Salt N Pepa kills it. They come on after Emotion and En Vogue follows. The best part is when Salt N Pepa come back on stage to perform "Whattaman" with En Vogue. The house is on fire!


After the concert, it takes us forever to find the Maple Bacon Donut vendors. It's literally way to one end of the fairgrounds, near the Blue Gate. From there, we ask around and finally find the donut.


It's like finding the holy grail. But better.


Yes, it is covering the entire plate. To give you a comparison, here it is, close to my face. Yes, it is about the size of my face.




We have to literally cut the bacon donut with our fork and knives to eat it. It's so good with the saltiness of the bacon and the sweetness from the maple flavor. The donut itself is pillowy soft. Miraculously, we don't feel like dying. Maybe it's because we didn't really eat anything before the donut. 



We get a crazy idea - since we're already eating meat with donuts, why not try the Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich?! We trek back to Chicken Charlie's and we order the Krispy Kreme jelly filled donut which houses a fried chicken patty.



I seriously think this is gross. Many people might disagree with me but the only good thing I can say about this concoction is that the sweetness of the donuts makes the chicken taste saltier. Perhaps it would have been better without the jelly. This is the definition of overkill.


My hubz gets the Fry-B Q and this is one of those ideas where frying something doesn't make things better. I love barbeque ribs but frying it makes it dry and the glaze is too sticky... perhaps we're eating the last bits of the day's food since the park is about to close. No matter...

Because I'm going back again since I get to go for free through USC. This time I'll try the fried avocado and the Indian Fry Bread.
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