Saturday, April 30, 2005

Benefit Gathering For The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Tonight, I was lucky enough to attend a benefit party hosted by one of my girlfriends to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I'll write more about it later, but here's a sampling of all the yummy food she made...

Friday, April 29, 2005

Gastronomic Time Machine: Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant

Imagine being taken back a few decades when life was simpler. None of the hustle and bustle that you feel now as a responsible (?) adult. Technology was practically nonexistent--no cell phones, no internet, no BLOGS. When all that was important to you was growing up around the people that meant something to you. And family dinners and gatherings were an important, regular event.

Well I was lucky enough to be taken on a ride on this time machine tonight. A friend of mine decided to have her birthday dinner at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant at Knott's Berry Farm. Wow. Random place to have a birthday dinner, I thought. But I was excited to take the trip down memory lane--I haven't eaten here since the late seventies/early eighties when I was just a kid.

The last time I ate at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant was when my aunt, uncle and two cousins from Hong Kong came to visit my family in the states. Wanting to show them all the usual California attractions, my dad piled all of us into my family's yellow station wagon and headed down to Southern California. Of course, we did the Disneyland thing, and my parents also decided to take us all to Knott's Berry Farm to make all the kids happy. This was back in the day when Knott's Berry Farm didn't have much going on--I don't even think they had Camp Snoopy. I remember my cousins and uncle going on the parachute ride and being so scared. I, of course, did not go, because I was too chicken shit at the time, and I thought they were sooooo brave for going on that ride. After we finished the park, we all headed to Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant to eat: eight Chinese people having fun together grubbing on fried chicken thinking that this was as American as one could get.

Knott's Country Chic

Today, the restaurant remains very much unchanged--same country decor, same yellowish-tinged walls. We all ordered *what else* the Fried Chicken Dinner (or variations of it) and yes, that's pretty much remained unchanged as well. To start, country biscuits, cream of chicken noodle soup, and a garden salad. The fried chicken came up next, served with mashed potatoes with a yellowish country gravy and a side of corn kernels. Finally, for desert, their famous boysenberry pie. All washed down with a tall glass of boysenberry juice, with enough sugar in it to keep any kid up for like 3 days. The food is still cafeteria-chic, served on tan-colored plastic serving dishes, and is not gourmet quality by any means but still tastes the same as yesteryear. Complete course meals are so retro, don't you think? So reminiscent of old shows we used to watch on TV where mom cooked bread, salad, soup, a main course, vegetables and desert every night for dinner.

Tonight, I totally felt like I was a kid again.



Shucks, the time machine dropped me back off in 2005 and I'm back to using the internet, and my cell phone and my digi-cam. But just like the good old days, the nine friends and family members that were there tonight had a great time just being together. And that's what it's all about.

Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant
Knott's Berry Farm
8039 Beach Boulevard
Buena Park, CA 90620
(714) 220-5200

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Trying To Find Happiness At Happy Hour: The Cat and Fiddle

I think that there are two reasons Los Angeles establishments call happy hour "happy hour":
First, happy hours are usually held at ridiculous times, like say 4-6. If you are actually able to get to happy hour while happy hour is still going on, it means you are one of the lucky sons-of- bitches that leaves work at a decent hour, making you, therefore, happy. Secondly, if you are not able to make it to happy hour while happy hour is going on and arrive to the restaurant/bar after happy hour ends, you will not be happy, but the owners of the restaurant/bar will be because they'll be able to make more money off of you paying full price for food and drink.

I miss those days when I worked in San Francisco at my now defunct dot-com, when I'd be able to easily meet up with my coworkers or other friends who worked in the city to seek cheap liquid satisfaction after work. We'd have our choice of 3 or 4 places within a short distance, so we'd still be able to take advantage of happy hour after leaving the office; there was no need to find parking or spend 5 bucks on the valet. When it was time to go home, we'd simply hop on the Muni or Bart to go home, no worries.

Seriously, though, I have been trying to find a decent happy hour in LA to attend for a while now. It's hard when you work in North Hollywood, leave work at 5:30-6-ish, and live in downtown LA. So today, I set out on a quest to find a decent happy hour, not only to try to unwind with some cheap eats and drinks, but also to try and make Sarah-From-The-Delicious-Life's deadline for her blogging event, Bar Fly. After brainstorming for awhile, eliminating places that held happy hour from 3-6 (???), we came up with The Cat and Fiddle Pub and Restaurant, a British joint, on Sunset in Hollywood. Would this place that held happy hour until 7pm and that was in a central location for all of us Hollywood-Downtown-Glendale-ites indeed make us happy? Read on...

We arrvived at the Cat and Fiddle around 6pm excited to still be able to take advantage of almost an hour's worth of happy hour happiness, sitting outdoors, sipping ale and enjoying good conversation. Entering through their very cool French Quarter-esque outdoor patio, we decided to approach a hostess and ask for a table outside. "Um, we're here for happy hour," we told her. Little did we know there were rules...

The Cat And Fiddle's Cool Outdoor Patio

-The Cat and Fiddle's definition of happy hour is a small buffet setup consisting of a chafing dish with bangers (sausages) and some cheese and crackers. Free with purchase of a drink.
-You are only allowed to enjoy this happy hour food in the bar area which only has like 10 seats.
-The tables outside are reserved for people who are ordering dinner. If you're only planning to have drinks and are sitting at a table outside, you might be asked to give up your table to someone who is ordering dinner. (Mind you, there is a full dining room inside which is, yes, reserved for people ordering dinner)

Awww man, this is not gonna be too happy, is it?

Nevertheless, we were determined to make our happy hour happy! We weren't gonna let any silly rules get in the way of having fun, right? So we decided to go the dinner route and grab a table on the patio. We perused the menu which consisted mainly of English pub grub plus some conventional bar & grill-type food such as burgers, sandwiches, and wings. British food it was--a couple orders of fish n'chips, some bangers n'mash (sausages and mashed potatoes), and a shephard's pie. Tasting the food, it seemed like the Cat and Fiddle needed a little brushing up on their cooking. The batter on the fish n'chips was too thick and well done. The shephard's pie looked alot better than it tasted--the filling was ground beef and some really gamey lamb. The bangers were a bit tasteless. They did, however, seem to know how to do potatoes as the chips (or fries) were crispy and the mashed potatoes were both fluffy and lumpy, just how I like 'em. Still not so happy, huh?

Fish N'Chips

Gamey Tasting Shephard's Pie

The happiness actually came from being able to wash down all that mediocre pub grub with some ice cold Newcastle on tap. Cold, dark, and smooth--reminiscent of my holiday in England a few years back. We ordered a pitcher and then some, sat back puffing on our cigarettes, and unwound. We all cracked up trying to teach our one non-smoking friend how to smoke. Hell, my friend, the Mustard Whore, who has become somewhat of a celebrity on this blog, even gave us free entertainment by attempting to drink his split pea soup with a glob of tabasco on top. So yeah, I guess we did end up finding happiness in this happy hour, although it stemmed not so much from the Cat and Fiddle with all its silly rules and mediocre food, but from our own determination.

Can't Go Wrong With Newcastle

Tonight's Free Entertainment

Then it was time to get the car from the valet and get back into traffic to go home. Happy hour gone. Crabby hour back.

The Cat and Fiddle
6530 Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 468-3800

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

What I Have To Say About $40 A Day

If you've been keeping up with my posts, you'll know that we recently went on a little excursion to Napa and Sonoma Valleys. And, if you've been keeping up with the Food Network, you'll also know that Rachel Ray recently did one of her $40 A Day shows up there. Now I have two things to say about that:

1) We did not, and I repeat, DID NOT get our ideas from Rachel. Coincidentally, a couple of the places we went to like V. Sattui Winery and Della Santina's Trattoria were featured on the show. I have known about those places for years. I had to make this clear because I didn't want you to think that I think Miss EVOO is the shit or anything. I know, that's sooo high school, but I personally think she's really annoying.

2) I've always thought the show's idea of $40 was a little whack. Now I'm convinced. Dinner for Rachel came out to a total of only $11.95. Sure, she ordered the gnocchi whose menu price is $11.95, but she neglected to factor in tax and tip. And, she brought in her own bottle of wine which she said she did to save money, but in reality, Della Santina's charges a $12 corkage fee. Um, I don't know about you, but if I were to do the same, order the gnocchi and bring in my own wine, and give them only $11.95, I'd be stuck there washing dishes. Maybe they should call the show "$40 A Day But Only If You're A Food Network Celebrity Who Calls Extra Virgin Olive Oil EVOO."

Or "$58 A Day Give Or Take A Few Dollars"

Or "$40 A Day Back In 1974"

You get the picture.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Politics of Lunching

The price you pay for moving up the corporate ladder is that lunch isn't about lunch anymore; instead, lunch is about business, and that stinks.

I used to look forward to ducking out of the rat maze to go out with my office lunch-buddies. We'd look forward to laughing it up while enjoying some really good food. Now I'm forced to hang out with a bunch of stiffs. Don't get me wrong, they're nice people but geez, talking about new corporate initiatives or the latest Santa Clarita Valley (Stepford-ville) local ordinances while trying to enjoy my burger ain't really my cup of tea.

My planned escape route? None of them ever brings their lunch from home. Well gee, guess what I'm gonna be doing from now on? That way I can hole myself in my office for lunch and surf chowhound. At least I'll be entertained.

Monday, April 25, 2005

TJ's Taste Test, Part One of Many: Tuna in Red Panang Curry Sauce

One of the funnest (is that even a word?) parts of shopping at Trader Joe's is picking out new items to try. TJ's makes such a good attempt at making you try new stuff--colorful blackboards and shelf tags with convincing sales pitches, the Fearless Flyer, the sample guy. How can you not be tempted to try their own versions of the latest food fads?

My latest find is their Tuna in Red Panang Curry Sauce. I actually got the tip on this packaged fish dish from my friend's brother. "My brother says it's soooooo good," she said, "we haaaaaave to try it." OK, sure! One more item to add to my grocery list...

To my surprise, the Tuna in Red Panang Curry Sauce wasn't in the frozen section; instead I found it in the dry foods section, right next to the canned tuna and salmon. I picked up one of the somewhat flat boxes and looked at it for a second. Contains 3 servings? The box didn't even look like enough for one--Could there really be a tuna meal in here??? For only a buck thirty-nine I guess there was no harm in finding out.

Oooooh, goody goody goody, I can't wait to get home and try this. (Gosh, I'm such a geek.)

Back at home, the box was opened to reveal a small foil pouch, re-raising my earlier doubt about the number of servings inside this thing. Inside the pouch, about 7-8 small Yellowfin tuna pieces bathed in a fragrant red panang sauce. The description on the box suggests pairing the tuna with rice noodles or rice for a cold salad or on bread for a "Thai inspired sandwich." I decided to go the rice and rice noodles route, and heated up the tuna for something a little more toasty.

Tuna in Red Panang Curry Sauce on Rice Noodles

All I have to say is that I'm hooked. The panang sauce was extremely flavorful, sweetened with coconut milk and lime, and spiced well with lemongrass and chiles for a real kick. The tuna, while packaged, was both chunky and flaky but was not bad for being packaged. And yes, TJ's proved me wrong. A little bit of this stuff goes a long way. While I don't think it's enough for three, I divided the package between a bowl of jasmine rice and a bowl of rice noodles which soaked every bit of the well-flavored sauce up beautifully.

I'm planning on trying the Tuna in Red Panang Curry Sauce in a cold noodle salad, or as they suggested, in a sandwich, next. I'll totally tell you about it. I just hope Trader Joe's doesn't decide to discontinue it before I get to it again. That would suck.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Love Me Some Bahn Mi

I hate Sundays. There's no feeling worse than the dread that builds up inside you from the fact that you have to go back to work the next day. I started my Sunday out the usual way, running errands that I have to get done before the work week starts. Bought "necessities", e.g. paper towels, cleaning stuff, at Target, went to Office Depot to get some damn office supplies that my cheap-ass company won't provide, filled up the gas tank, etc. So I was already pissed of that it's Sunday, I just spent what seems like a small fortune on a bunch of crap, and to top it all off, I was hungry. Can a girl get a break???

I needed some cheap food fast. (But not cheap fast food a la McDonalds, Taco Bell, etc.) I was in the San Gabriel Valley so the decision shouldn't have been too hard--there's so many good cheap places here. But I needed something I could take out and perhaps eat in the car since I was by myself and I don't eat in alone, remember?

Recalling a foodie conversation I had with my coworkers on Friday, I ended up pulling in to a little mini mall next to Del Taco in Alhambra. But I wasn't going to Del Taco. Instead, I walked into a little Vietnamese deli called Ba Le to order a bahn mi sandwich. A bahn mi sandwich would be delicious and would only set me back 2 bucks.

Bahn Mi sandwiches are like Vietnamese submarine sandwiches, or hoagies, whatever you prefer to call it. They come with your choice of meat which could be a combo of Vietnamese cold cuts like headcheese and pate, roast chicken, pork, or meatballs (not the Italian kind, but the Vietnamese kind like you'd find in pho) stuffed into a 10" baguette. "So????" you say, "What's so special about that???" The thing that sets the Bahn Mi apart from its Western cousins is the extra stuff: these sandwiches are also filled with pickled daikon and carrots, slivers of cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro, soy sauce, lots of mayo, and sometimes, butter. All for less than 2 bucks. Now that's a sandwich.

Bahn Mi Thit Nuong (BBQ Pork Sandwich)

Bahn Mi Ga (Chicken Sandwich)

While I waited for my bahn mi, I took the liberty of looking around Ba Le. Most people are used to your more mainstream Jewish, Italian or American delis. You've got your sandwiches plus a bunch of other goodies to look at like prepared salads, breads, and other specialties. Going to a Vietnamese deli like Ba Le is no different. The sandwiches are the stars but there's so many other treats to get along with your sandwich it can make your head spin. There's a cold case arranged neatly with colorful deserts made with ingredients like coconut milk, taro, yam, and sweet rice packed in plastic cups and containers. An adjacent cold case displays Vietnamese meat products. As one would find packages of proscuitto and serrano ham at a Western deli, you will find packaged headcheese, fried pork, fish cake, or pate here. Also for sale: crusty baguettes and rolls as well as packages of goi cuon, Vietnamese spring rolls, and rice noodle and meat combos stacked high near the register.

Ba Le's Many Goodies

Fortunately for me, Ba Le doesn't have an eating area, otherwise I'd be forced into some tough decision making like the other day at Porto's. So I grabbed my order and went to the car to eat. Today, I picked up a barbecue pork bahn mi for myself sans cilantro since the shit makes me gag, and a chicken bahn mi to take home to Isaac. The baguette was toasted and crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. The pork was sweet and a little too artificially red-colored in my opinion but still good. The "extra stuff"--daikon, carrots, cucumbers, jalapenos, mayo--was just divine. I was happy for a moment there, eating my bahn mi, staring at shrubbery and listening to the radio.

But I still hate Sundays.

Ba Le
1426 S. Atlantic Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91803
(626) 308-3003

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Not "Haw" as in "Hee Haw"

I'd like to say that I always know what I'm eating. Well, at least the general ingredients. I may not know everything that goes into a hot dog, for example, but I do know that aside from all the preservatives, sodium, etc. that a hot dog is generally made of beef, pork or turkey parts.

So I was surprised to find out that there is indeed one food item whose main ingredient I am unsure of. As I was walking down the snack aisle of a Chinese grocery store, I came across something very nostalgic to me--something my grandmother used to always have at her house to give us kids. There they were, piled in a cardboard box with a handwritten sign sticking out that read both in English and in Chinese: "Haw Flakes, 3 for $2.00" Packages of stumpy little tubes wrapped in colorful paper which, when unwrapped, reveal reddish-brown nickel-sized discs that taste sort of like fruit roll-ups but with a dry, crumbly texture. So what are they? Well, truthfully, I don't really know.

Actually, I didn't know until now. I brought a package of these home, and as I unwrapped one of the tubes and popped a few of the discs into my mouth, I stopped to ponder the ingredients of this childhood favorite. As a young'un, I never bothered to ask Grandma what they were. They were just good, is all I cared about back then. Hmm, well maybe the ingredients will clue me in to what this mystery food is made of. Ok, here we go. Ingredients: Haw, Sugar, Water, U.S.A. FD&C Red #40. No good.

I know what sugar is, and I know what water is. Heck, I even know what FD&C Red #40 is. But what the hell is "Haw"? I was determined to get an answer, so I turned to my trusty old friend the World Wide Web. Turns out that haw are the berries from the hawthorn plant, a small flowering tree with thorns.

Am I satisfied now? I'm not really sure. I was actually kinda hoping that haw was something a little more exciting and exotic like some rare fungus that you can only get in the mountains of China. But then again they wouldn't be so cheap, huh? Maybe ignorance is bliss. *Eh*, whatever, I've gotta go. I've got 9 more tubes of Haw Flakes to eat.

Friday, April 22, 2005

No Mas Mucho Mas

I think this writing thing has actually gotten to me because on the way to lunch today, I thought up my post title before having actually tried the place.

"I hope this place sucks", I said to my coworker, "because then I can call today's post 'No Mas Mucho Mas.'"

My title, though, has other connotations. I ended up at this hacienda-looking joint in Burbank to participate in one of those obligatory birthday lunches for someone at work. Fucking office politics. I walked into the dark, cavernous dining room with a fake, fixated smile on my face and held it the whole meal because I'm expected to be a team player, you know.

So yeah, I totally went in with prejudices and that's soooo wrong--a complete no-no to mislead my audience just because of my own sourness. But hey, turned out that the place ended up being just a'ight. Nothing to scream about. I don't ever need to go back, so yeah I guess I get to keep my title. Cool.

Mucho Mas is kind of like an old school version of your popular Tex-Mex chains like Acapulco's, El Torito, or Chevy's. Big (and I mean big) plates of fajitas, or enchiladas, or an enchilada and a taco, or a chile relleno and a taco, etc., etc. You get the picture. I had the #11 combination plate which included a pork tamale (or rather, tamal, if I wanna be grammatically correct) and a cheese enchilada, rice and beans on the side, and a choice of salad or soup for which I chose a bowl of albondigas (meatball) soup. The tamal was fat and stuffed with stringy pork and a couple of potato spears. (???) The enchilada was forgettable--I don't even remember how it tasted, but I do remember that it was flat and about 3 inches wide. The albondigas soup tasted like bland vegetable soup. The rice and beans, however, were good. Not great, but good. I was hungry, so I ended up eating about 2/3 of the huge burning plate of food, and I am regretting it because I'm extremely bloated now. The rest of the group had variations of the same thing. How corporate of us, huh?

My "Fat Tamal" and "Flat Enchilada" Combo

My Coworker's "Steak Chunks" Plate

The highlight of the meal, though, was that my friend The Mustard Whore whored himself out for salsa today. Drank half the dish for 5 bucks this time so his hourly rate went down.

My Friend The Salsa Whore

Finally, in line with all other cheesy places, the birthday boy got a birthday serenade. Five waiters and waitresses came out to give the guest of honor his mariachi-esque birthday serenade, sombrero, and birthday flan. Everyone laughed and clapped along. I, of course, being the team player that I am, conformed, but imagined the cartoon bubble above my head that read Someone kill me now, please.

Mucho Mas

10405 Burbank Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91601
(818) 980-0300

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Mustard Whore

Apparantly, my coworker will do anything for money. Today, at Philippe's, he whored himself out for hot mustard.

You see, my coworker has a habit of dumping a shitload of spicy condiments--hot sauce, jalapenos, pepper flakes--on anything he eats. He has no taste buds, he says.

So naturally, after watching him continuously add tiny spoonfuls of Philippe's famous (HOT) horseradish mustard onto his French dip sandwich, we all offered to each pay him a dollar if he ate a tablespoonful of the stuff. He did.

Now he is 7 bucks richer for all of, what, 3 seconds of work? That's like $8400 an hour, right? Whoring for mustard is pretty lucrative work if you ask me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Porto's Bakery & Cafe, Part Two: This is Why I Don't Live With My Parents

I called my parents today when I got home from work. In typical Asian parent style, they asked me if I had eaten dinner already. I said yes. Lie #1. They asked me what I ate. I said rice. Lie #2. They asked "Rice and what?" I said chicken. Lie #3. All lies I tell you! Because #1, I hadn't eaten yet, #2, I wasn't going to eat rice, and #3, I wasn't going to eat chicken. So what, pray tell, did I have for dinner???

I decided that tonight, I was going to eat the rest of the Porto's food that I brought home yesterday--the Potato Balls and Meat Pies that I was too full to eat, and bites of all the little deserts from their bakery. Now you tell me, would any parents be OK hearing that you ate that for dinner? I don't even know if I'm OK with it myself, but hey, I'm an adult and I can do what I want right? I might regret it one day, but...

Anyways, my 7-course meal tonight consisted of:

- 2 Potato Balls. These are simply amazing, even heated back up in the oven. No party is complete with out these yummy lumps of seasoned ground beef surrounded by fried mashed potatoes. I loooooove these.

-1 Meat Pie. Same ground beef as the potato balls but instead it's surrounded by a flaky pastry shell. I don't like these as much as the potato balls but they're still pretty damn good.

Meat Pie and Potato Balls

-1 Guava & Cheese Streudel aka Refugiado. I'm not a big guava fan, but you don't get too much "tropical fruit" taste in this pastry. It also balances nicely with the cream cheese filling. There's a good balance of flaky pastry and filling in this one.

Guava & Cheese Struedel

-A couple bites of Tiramisu. One of the reasons I like Portos so much is that their deserts aren't overly sweet. Their tiramisu is a perfect example. You've got thin layers of espresso-soaked sponge cake with marscapone mousse in between. It's topped off with a layer of cream and glaze that also dons a cool looking grid design.


-A couple bites of Mango Mousse. This was my first time trying this one and it was really good! A layer of yellow sponge cake is surrounded by a dome of light and creamy mango mousse. Kind of looks like a boob from the outside since it's a little dome shaped guy with a little raspberry "nipple" on top. I'm not a huge mango fan either, but this was delicious!

A Boob or Mango Mousse?

-A couple bites of Bocado de Principe. Yummy. Sponge cake soaked in rum, topped with custard and cinnamon. The custard is light and, well, custard-y, and the cinnamon goes perfectly with the whole thing.

Bocado De Principe

-A mini fruit tart. These guys really know how to do a fruit tart. The flaky shell is perfect all around. No patches of hardness anywhere. The vanilla custard filling is creamy and sweet, but not too sweet. And the fruit. The fruit. Always fresh; a good mixture of textures and flavors with berries, mandarin oranges, apples and grapes. The yummy glaze holds everything together in its cute little package.

A Perfect Mini Fruit Tart!

So yeah, I'll probably have a sugar high later and crash from all the starch and sugar. And I do feel a little guilty for lying. But my parents still wish I lived at home (even though I'm over 30) and I'd never be able to do stuff like this. Ever. So every once in a while, I'll eat unorthodox stuff for dinner. Because I can.

In case you didn't get it in Part One:
Porto's Bakery and Cafe
315 N. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203
(818) 956-5996

Fish & Chips For Lunch Today? Right-O!

My coworkers and I were feeling quite worldly today so we decided to hop in the car and get a little taste of England right here in Valley Village. Robin Hood, a British pub and restaurant complete with beers on tap, dart boards, and adorable tea cozies on the teapots, was the perfect escape from North Hollywood cubicle-land. Its friendly staff who are all from the motherland (or close to it) and older, local clientele almost make you feel like you were suddenly beamed up to England.

Play Darts at Robin Hood

What do I (and my coworkers) get here? It's ALL about the fish & chips. Good fish and chips are hard to find...either the fish isn't fresh or there's too much batter or it's soggy, whatever. Not here. Robin Hood's fish & chips are made with good size pieces of fresh cod, moist and flaky on the inside, with just the right amount of crispy batter. The fish is about the size of a small flip flop, or a water bottle, or a cordless phone--you get the picture--so a half order is sufficient for us hungry office drones. The chips, or fries as we Americans call it, are fat and crispy. And of course, fish and chips are never complete without malt vinegar, so naturally, each table already comes stocked with its own bottle. If you're into tartar sauce, theirs is good--not too sweet, not too sour.

Half Order of Fish & Chips

Robin Hood also has other British fare such as Bangers & Mash (which I've tried and is pretty good) and Shephard's Pie. If you're looking for even more British authenticity, they've even got HP Sauce at the table, which we learned today, is the original Brown Sauce. It tasted kinda like plum sauce to me, but apparantly, it's been around since 1899 and is great with everything from chips to jacket potatoes! Eat your heart out Heinz.

The Original Brown Sauce

All good things have to come to an end sometime, so we paid our bill and beamed ourselves back to North Hollywood.


Robin Hood British Pub
13640 Burbank Blvd
Van Nuys, CA 91401
(818) 994-6045

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Porto's Bakery & Cafe, Part One: For He...No Wait, To Go

Those of you who know me well know that I don't eat alone in public. Well, it's not that I don't; it's more like I can't. Yup, I've got issues. OK, that'll be a post for another day, but anyways...

I took the day off today so I went to the Silverlake/Glendale area to run some much needed errands: car wash, Trader Joes, etc. Craving a Cuban sandwich, I decided to go to Porto's Bakery & Cafe where I could satisfy my craving and pick up a few desserts to take home. Not nearly as packed as on the weekends, I went over to the bakery side first to pick up some pastries and desserts, and then I got into the cafe line, which was probably about 5 people deep and thought, "I can do this. It won't be that bad." I was rehearsing the lines in my head. Miss, would you like that for here or to go? And I would answer, For here. 5,4,3,2,1...then it was my turn.

And I totally flinched.

-Can I help you?
-Yes, a medianoche sandwich please.
-For here or to go?
-Um, for wait, to go.

I am totally chicken shit. I stood there a few minutes and waited, they gave me my bag and I slid out silently. Back home to LA I go to eat my sandwich.

Portos's sandwiches aren't the best Cuban sandwiches I've ever tasted. I've had better, but I was in the area and it did satisfy my Cuban sandwich craving...roast pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles, mayo and mustard pressed together in a toasted sweet roll. My punishment for not eating there by myself??? Apparantly the to-go sandwiches don't come with their Maraquitas, homemade plantain chips that I've had with the same sandwich when I've eaten there with someone else.

Medianoche Sandwich from Porto's On My OWN Plate

I have an idea now. One of these days when I get up the courage, I'll actually eat somewhere by myself and report on it in this blog. I'm open to suggestions as to
where, I just won't tell you when I'm going. I'm afraid you'll show up there just to laugh at me.

Porto's Bakery and Cafe
315 N. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203
(818) 956-5996

Monday, April 18, 2005

Road Trippin' Northern Cali Style

I'm baaaaaack!

Isaac and I packed our bags Saturday morning and headed up to my native Northern California for some much needed relaxation. What we ended up with was some good times, full stomachs, and big time headaches from all the wine and cheese we consumed. Read on...

SF Food Tour

After 5 1/2 hours in the car and several fast food pitstops (blech!), we were starving for some real food by the time we arrived in San Francisco.

Our host, my good old friend from way-back-when, knows me sooo well: knowing what we'd be craving, she took us to go see another good old friend, Ebisu, a cozy sushi bar/Japanese restaurant in SF's Sunset District. Ebisu is a local fave so we arrived early--6:15-ish--to avoid the long wait that this place is notorious for (last time we came we waited over an hour). Lucky for us that we were seated immediately 'cause in the few minutes we spent deciding what to order, their waiting area was already filling up.


First up, assorted nigiri sushi. Isaac fulfilled his usual shrimp fetish with ebi, and we all split some hamachi (yellowtail) and albacore. Fish was melt-in-your-mouth fresh but the rice was just a tad too sweet. Someone must've gone a little too crazy with the sugar back there.

Ebisu's Nigiri Sushi

I've kind of steered myself away from sushi rolls lately because of my penchance for sashimi and nigiri, but Ebisu's rolls are consistently good, so I thought what the heck. We ended up with some cute and artfully presented rolls with equally cute names: Spider (well you might have heard that one before), Tokyo Tower, and 49er. The "fried-stuff" rolls, the soft-shell crab Spider and the shrimp tempura Tokyo Tower were beautifully arranged in a round lacquered tray with an orchid in the middle. They were good too. The soft shell crab was fried to perfection, crispy, but still retained that slightly bitter crab innards taste which I happen to love. Both rolls had avocado, cucumber and tobiko (smelt egg) which balanced the fried stuff out perfectly. I don't know why they call their shrimp tempura rolls "Tokyo Tower"...maybe it's because the little shrimp stumps stick out of the roll like towers? Oh well, we'll give them an "A" for creativity.

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

I think the 49er roll might be something more of a Bay Area concoction, invented perhaps in the NFL team's glory days. Rival football fans wouldn't be caught dead ordering it down here in LA. Appropriately named, this average Joe (Montana) roll consisting of avocado and shiso leaf surrounded by (Jerry) rice suddenly becomes stronger draped in red (well more like pinkish orange in this case) & gold: sake (salmon) and a thin slice of lemon. I liked this roll too, although the shiso leaf really had a kick this time and overpowered the salmon a bit.

49er Roll

One of my major pet peeves about San Francisco is that you can never be comfortable temperature-wise. One minute you're hot, next minute you're cold. Put on the jacket, take off the jacket. Order some cold food, order some hot food. We needed to add a little yin to our yang so we also ordered some temperature balancing foods: assorted tempura and beef sukiyaki. The tempura was good & crispy with decent sized shrimp, and the beef sukiyaki wasn't the best I've had as the beef was a little overcooked but still hit the spot.

Assorted Tempura

Beef Sukiyaki

For desert, green tea ice cream just wasn't going to cut it so we decided to just pay our bill and then head up to Tartine, a bakery/cafe in the Mission district well-known for its use of seasonal and organic ingredients. Not surprisingly, there was a lack of parking nearby and Tartine was closing in about half hour, so my friend decided to drop us off and circle the block while we went inside to order take away. We walked into the small but elegant storefront and as we pressed our faces into the glass cases we were immediately overwhelmed by what to buy (even though it was almost closing time and much of their goods had sold out). Think small and sweet was the object of the game. Much of what they had left were whole cakes and savory goods (which looked delish, esp. the quiches and Croque Monsieur) so we snatched up the 2 slices of Opera Cake they had left and a Banana Cream Tart. The girls behind the counter were all Gwenyth paltrow clones dressed in black turtlenecks, were snooty and didn't smile. So I'm glad we decided to do dessert-to-go because you don't get tips for putting on airs.

The opera cake, layered with hazelnuts, espresso buttercream and chocolate ganache, was a little too powerful on the coffee flavor and lacked freshness. The banana cream tart was much better. Its banana and pastry cream filling was light and airy; you could tell they used perfect bananas, not too green nor too ripe. The chocolate shavings and cream on top were yummy and made the whole thing look divine. The only part that could've used some work was the shell which had a good amount of sweetness but was a little stale in some spots. So, Tartine's deserts were good but not great. Maybe they lacked freshness because we bought them at closing time. Or maybe their ice-cold servers sucked the life out of the food. I'd still give them another try though.

Tartine's Opera Cake

Banana Cream Tart

The next morning, my friend wanted to fit in brunch before we hit the road so we all decided to try Miss Millie's, a cute little contemporary American in Noe Valley. Miss Millie's is your typical American bistro, mahogany and brass adorned, cozy and accented with French countryside decorations--antique plates and the like. It looked a little chichi for brunch but what the hell, we're on vacation.

Miss Millie's

I ordered an Oven Dried Tomato Scramble that could have been really good if they went heavier on the goat cheese & basil and not as heavy on the eggs. It came with some pretty good roasted new potatoes, thin skinned and with a hint of rosemary. Isaac ordered something similar: Hobb's Bacon and Egg Scramble (who is Hobb???) with leeks and avocado which was so-so as the bacon wasn't crispy enough. To top it all off, both our plates came with a hunk of sourdough toast which was so hard it almost broke our teeth. My friend's dish, the Baguette French Toast was, however, amazing. As all good french toasts should be, this one was dense and moist on the inside and perfectly browned (but still moist) on the outside. Each bite was well-flavored with vanilla bean and maple syrup. And the cute little slices of banana that came with complimented the dish nicely.

Oven Dried Tomato & Egg Scramble

Hobb's Bacon and Egg Scramble

Baguette French Toast

All in all, Miss Millie's was *eh.* I think she's got some big time insecurity issues: she's more about the atmosphere and she tries a little too hard to be upscale as the food's too pricey for what it is ($4.25 for a side of sausage? $4.75 for a glass of Martinelli's Apple Cider???). She's got some good potential though. After all, she did redeem herself with her french toast. Well if at first you don't succeed...

1283 9th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94112
(415) 566-1770

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 487-2600
(415) 487-2605

Miss Millie's
4123 24th St.
San Francisco, CA 94114