Saturday, December 31, 2005

Ringing In 2006 The Daily Gluttony Way

Several years ago, when I was just a wee twenty-something, New Years Eve was all about consumption--of all things inebriating and intoxicating, that is. Now that I'm an old fart thirty-something, ringing in the New Year is still about consumption no less, but is instead about the consumption of all things edible and peaceful.

This New Years Eve, Isaac and I decided to spend a quiet evening at home away from all the glitz and glam, away from crazy drivers and sobriety checkpoints, away from $100 cover charges and hiked up drink prices. Warm & toasty, and protected from the nasty weather outside, we spent it in our pajamas with a little
Netflix, a bottle of wine and some gourmet and ghetto eats!

I had gone to Trader Joe's earlier and picked up some
La Brea Bakery bread and little cheese and charcuterie to assemble a platter of Spanish manchego cheese, French Pyrenees sheep's cheese, and Dutch goat gouda cheese, some proscuitto and some serrano ham, a little pile of arugula tossed with lemon juice and olive oil, and a few apple slices. I would have loved a nice peppery syrah to wash all the goodies down, but we forgot to take a wine inventory before we headed to the store, so we settled for a reliable '03 pinot noir that we had sitting around instead.

At the same time, no party is complete without a little...
Domino's Pizza. Paired with that wine and cheese, it was the shiznit, yo.

On Tuesday, when I go back to work, as people will be exchanging stories about parties and clubs and champagne, I'll be just as content answering the obligatory "So what did you do for New Year's" question with "I stayed home." 'Cause sure, it may not have been very glamourous, but it was the best New Year's Eve ever.

Happy New Year everyone...Daily Gluttony wishes all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2006!

Friday, December 30, 2005

A Little Havana In Tokyo: Cuba Central, Downtown L.A.

Now you know I'm a huge fan of the melting pot. My friends come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Hell, I'll even be bringing China and Puerto Rico this much closer in international relations with my upcoming marriage and future spawn. Yes, we make the world a much better place by mixing it up, but I can also sense when something's oddly out of place like for example, the Havana-chic restaurant Cuba Central located right smack-dab in Little Tokyo. Don't get me wrong...I like that it's there. I'm just wondering what made Mr./Ms.-Owner-Of-Cuba-Central say "Hey! I think I'll open a Cuban restaurant in Little Tokyo!" OK Pam, maybe you'll never know...just let it go already.

Making the place seem even more out of place is its windowless facade--a big terra cotta colored block donning a painted Cuba Central palm tree logo and murals of tropical plants and flowers. On the open sidewalk, a few hardly-ever-occupied tables shaded by patio umbrellas dressed up to look like thatched roofs.

Little Tokyo is the usual stomping ground not only for myself and Isaac 'cause we practically live down the street, but also for my girlfriend and I, who love the variety of cheap Japanese eats in the area. We've tried just about every restaurant covering the area surrounded by 1st, 2nd, Central and San Pedro Streets including the non-Japanese ones like
Weiland Brewery and Mandarin Deli (when it was still there). If you know me well enough by now, you'll also know that me & my crew get off on trying new places. But for some reason, despite the countless times we've walked right past Cuba Central, nothing has ever lured us in. That's how odd it is. No "Hey, I wanna try this place one day." No mention of it in any of our "What do you want for dinner" conversations. That is, until my girlfriend called me up the other day and asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner.

"Yeah, ya wanna just go somewhere in Little Tokyo?" I responded.

"Um, OK. But I sorta feel like having Cuban food," she replied. The rest was history.

Fortunately, she arrived just a minute before I did, because it didn't seem like there was anywhere to sit down and wait. I walked into the big terra cotta block through its single door to find my friend standing there in their dim foyer in front of what seemed like a host's counter. After the usual hugs and squeals of "Hiiii! How are you???," we were steered to our right into a small, dimly-lit dining room. The surroundings were a bit claustrophobic, considering the place has no windows, so as with the outside, the owners of this place had to also do a little "trompe l'oeil" with the inside using Cuban kitsch and mood lighting to transform what would normally have been a low-ceilinged box into a Caribbean paradise reminiscent of Cuba's golden age. The room was abuzz with an unwinding after-work crowd and had alot more energy than I could have ever imagined it to have, but how could I have ever known? The place has no windows!

I don't like mint leaves, so why the hell would I want a cocktail made with them? That's exactly why I ordered a sangria to take the day's edge off instead of the more popular mojito. It wasn't as good as homemade, but was pretty decent in that it was neither too wine-y nor too juicy. There was a kiwi and citrus fruit skewer protruding from the glass reminiscent of a
sad after work sangria I had a couple months ago and shreds of orange floating within my drink, but I wished there would have been just a tad more fruit in the glass to enjoy as an after drink treat. I quickly forgave the lack of booze soaked fruit, however, alternating sips with bites of free plantain chips--thin, crisp, and complimented by a tart and spicy side of garlic sauce--and concentrated on the fact that this was a great way to end my day. Also a decent drink, or so I heard, was my friend's mango margarita.

It's OK that you don't have more fruit, just make me happy!

Extra plantain chips were the highlight of the bistec empanizado sandwich we ordered, because the sandwich itself was just OK in my opinion. The breaded steak, though tasty, was a tad too much on the tough side, creating a bit of a slip-and-slide situation with the toasted and pressed bread, the mayo, the iceberg lettuce and the tomato slices. I ended up eating my half of the sandwich with a knife and fork.

Hey, I didn't know that Slip & Slide made sandwiches too!

Way on the other end of the delicious scale, however, was our plate of lechon asado, or Cuban roast pork. Just like carnitas, I love the way that Cuban roast pork has different kinds of goodness to it. It's got crispy, salty bits. It's got luscious fatty bits. It's got substantial, meaty bits. Any imbalance of these elements and you've got a roast pork that is sub-par. Fortunately, Cuba Central's lechon asado makes the cut. They give you alot of it too, along with fluffy white rice flavored with salt and oil, rich black beans that had a nice hint of garlic, and a few sweet and nicely caramelized plantains.

Teamwork on a plate

A rather pleasant surprise this place turned out to be! I feel like a closed-minded old fart for having judged this book by its cover and not giving it a chance in the first place. I wonder if any of Cuba Central's other entrees--picadillo criollo, mojito chicken, cuban steak, vaca frita--are as good as their lechon asado, and am definitely making it a point to go back and find out very soon, though it will be increasingly difficult with all the great restaurants to choose from in the area! They also apparently have happy hour so I'm sure you'll find me back in there in my
eternal quest to find happiness after 5pm.

Cuba Central
114 S. Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 687-3193

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Get Well, Get Well Soon, We Hope You Do Get Well

A good friend of mine--my laptop computer, to be specific--is out ill. Unfortunately, I can't give it Daikokuya and Airborne to make it feel better, so my poor friend is spending a couple of days over at the computer health clinic (a.k.a. at the house of a computer-savvy friend who's kind enough to fix it for me!)

Anyways, I apologize for the sudden lack of posts, but I should be back to enlighten you with more food adventures when he's back on his feet again!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Hey, Am I One Of "His People"?

Aside from spending time with family, eating lots of great food,
baking cookies, and giving and receiving lots of presents, one of my favorite holiday traditions is stopping by a very familiar house in Hancock Park--you know, the one that looks like someone puked up white wrought iron and David statuettes--and taking pictures of its most gaudy front yard that's been turned into an even more gaudy (but festive!) winter wonderland. Those of you that live near or have gone by 3rd Street, a little west of Rossmore, ought to know which house I'm talking about.

Now this normally wouldn't have had anything to do with food, unless of course, I somehow incorporated our lovely house into some post where I was on my way to Koreatown to eat or shop or what have you. (Actually I think I was on the way to the Korean market that day!) But this year, my annual tradition does indeed have to do with food because this year, the owners of my favorite holiday house put something new up in addition to all the other normal acoutrements! This year, on the roof of the house, are the huge white block letters "FHP" with the words "Feed His People" written on them.

Feed His People??? I don't know exactly what you mean, but right on, brother...right on.

I hope all of you have a wonderful, joy- and food- filled holiday and a healthy and prosperous new year! See you next week after I get back from stuffing my face at home

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hotcakes, And They Weren't Kidding: Koo's Grill, Koreatown

It's the Super Pancake Trailer!

On the way in or out from Koreatown's
California Market, my usual Korean grocery stop, I've got an option of one of three things: to go buy grilled corn from the corn guy, to take religious pamphlets or cassette tapes from one of the various middle-aged Korean folks that bombard me everytime I walk past, or spend a buck at a shiny trailer called "Koo's Grill."

I think I'll spend the buck.

The trailer is so colorful and shiny that it's reminiscent of something you'd find at a carnival or state fair. I knew they sold pancakes of some sort--there's a poster sized collage of different circular masses of dough that makes you think that maybe they sell different kinds of pancakes. In reality though, the poster shows the stages of making just one type of pancake that Koo's Grill specializes in: the grilled rice flour pancake.

"One please," I said to the lady as I handed her a dollar in exchange for a small, piping-hot styrofoam takeout container. Eager to try my new purchase, I opened it up in the car only to find out that the core temperature of this golden brown four inch disc was well over 400 degrees. Screw pouring hot oil down the fortress walls at your enemy, just toss one of these at them and watch their face melt off! So during the drive from Koreatown to my next destination, the La Brea Trader Joe's, I let it sit and cool down until it was manageable to take a bite out of.

It's a grilled rice flour pancake with pancake syrup inside...that's it. I mean, it was OK, just nothing special. I liked the chewiness of the rice flour dough, but for what it was worth--the dollar, the cool-down period, the extreme syrupy sweetness--I could have toasted an Eggo at home and put Aunt Jemima on it.

But at least I know what the shiny trailer's all about now. Next time, I get to choose between the corn guy and the religious pamphlets.

Koo's Grill at the California Market
450 S. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90020

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Here, Have A SARS Cookie...

I love that I spent all Sunday afternoon baking cookies, and that when I brought them to work yesterday as a nice holiday gesture, no one ate them. (OK, not NO one, but practically no one) I think people hate me.

I don't have cooties, I don't smell, and I don't have any open sores. I am a nice person and pretty easy to get along with. And I can openly say that the cookies--a trio of chocolate chip cookies, black and white cookies, and seven-layer bars--were decent. Not out of this world, but decent.

Today, I put them in a more visible place and they're almost all gone. Maybe rats ate them. Or maybe not. But at least they're being eaten and I can finally sleep again.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Shut Up, Beavis

heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Twelve Courses Of Omakase: Azami Sushi Cafe, West Hollywood

On trendy-as-hell Melrose Avenue, the last thing you'd expect to find is good food, let alone sushi. Melrose is a place for going shopping in heels, or maybe a tube top to show off your latest visit to the tanning salon, or maybe your best butt-crack jeans that reveal the tat on your lower back that you got on your birthday last year...why? Because Melrose is a place to be seen, that's why. This is where, each year, thousands of eager young ladies (and men!) from all parts of the world flock to to be hip and fashionable if for only a short period of time. They can shop at many-a designer knockoff boutique, picking out the clothes that no one in their town of B.F.E., USA has, and get the brainwashing talk by those sleazy boutique salespeople when they're forced to walk out of their mirrorless fitting room to look at themselves in the mirror: "Oh darling, that looks soooo hot on you..." Yeah right, blow me.

So yes, it surprises me to find, amongst all that sleaze and cheese, something good...something real! Last night, as a treat to me because I completed my first week at my new job, and well, just for the hell of it, my dear fiance took me out for omakase at Azami Sushi located on none other than our favorite trendoid street, Melrose Avenue! I'd heard some pretty decent things about this place and so despite the location, we thought we'd give it a try.

Azami's not located right smack dab in the middle of the trendy action--it's kind of near the end of where the stretch of hipness stops--so you won't hear deafening house music coming from the shop next door. You will, however, hear the powerful, yet feminine sounds of "Irashaimase!" welcoming you as you walk in. That's 'cause Azami is run by women--it's owned by women, the sushi chefs are women, the waitstaff are women. Forget the
Spice Girls, or the Powerpuff Girls, this is the real thing. This is girl power.

Girl power!

It was a truly enjoyable meal consisting of quality ingredients, a meal which was made even better by owner/chef Nakayama's friendly and informative guidance, not to mention mad knife skills. We were asked what we liked and didn't like; each course was described in detail as it was presented, along with her notes as to if the fish was already seasoned and whether or not to dip it in soy sauce. Each course was paced perfectly, allowing time to truly savor each bite. Oh, and not a bad deal either at about $35-$45 per person for omakase.

And so, in the spirit of the holiday season, and in honor of the wonderful omakase experience I had at Azami, I now present to you a little song I wrote. It's called "The Twelve Courses of Omakase", and it's sung just like "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Sing along, won't you?

By the first course omakase, Azami made for me some tuna avocado crispies.

(These were called "Crispies": lip smackingly good minced tuna and avocado atop crispy fried soy paper)

By the second course omakase, Azami made for me peppercorn kanpachi,
and some tuna avocado crispies.

(Delicate kanpachi slices seasoned with spicy pink peppercorns and ponzu sauce)

By the third course omakase, Azami made for me bluefin tuna sushi,
peppercorn kanpachi,
and some tuna avocado crispies.

(Ruby red, melt in your mouth bluefin tuna)

By the fourth course omakase, Azami made for me Japanese snapper,
bluefin tuna sushi,
peppercorn kanpachi,
and some tuna avocado crispies.

(Japanese snapper with lemon and sea salt proves that things from the sea are your friends)

By the fifth course omakase, Azami made for me Spanish mack-e-REL!
Japanese snapper,
bluefin tuna sushi,
peppercorn kanpachi,
and some tuna avocado crispies.

(Spanish mackerel dappered and sharpened up by some scallions and shiso leaf)

By the sixth course omakase, Azami made for me yellowtail belly,
Spanish mack-e-REL!
Japanese snapper,
bluefin tuna sushi,
peppercorn kanpachi,
and some tuna avocado crispies.

(The striated belly of the yellowtail...yum!)

By the seventh course omakase, Azami made for me sea scallop sushi,
yellowtail belly,
Spanish mack-e-REL!
Japanese snapper,
bluefin tuna sushi,
peppercorn kanpachi,
and some tuna avocado crispies.

(More lemon and sea salt used to dress up this globulous sea scallop...mmm, briny!)

By the eighth course omakase, Azami made for me seared albacore,
sea scallop sushi,
yellowtail belly,
Spanish mack-e-REL!
Japanese snapper,
bluefin tuna sushi,
peppercorn kanpachi,
and some tuna avocado crispies.

(Soft to the bite albacore dressed up with chopped scallions and a light coating of tangy ponzu sauce)

By the ninth course omakase, Azami made for me bluefin toro sushi,
seared albacore,
sea scallop sushi,
yellowtail belly,
Spanish mack-e-REL!
Japanese snapper,
bluefin tuna sushi,
peppercorn kanpachi,
and some tuna avocado crispies.

(OK, so I expected the bluefin toro to have more white fat marbling going on, but it was still tender, tender, tender!!!)

By the tenth course omakase, Azami made for me sushi made of uni,
bluefin toro sushi,
seared albacore,
sea scallop sushi,
yellowtail belly,
Spanish mack-e-REL!
Japanese snapper,
bluefin tuna sushi,
peppercorn kanpachi,
and some tuna avocado crispies.

(The brain-like texture of uni scares some people off, but not me!)

By the eleventh course omakase, Azami made for me yummy unagi,
sushi made of uni,
bluefin toro sushi,
seared albacore,
sea scallop sushi,
yellowtail belly,
Spanish mack-e-REL!
Japanese snapper,
bluefin tuna sushi,
peppercorn kanpachi,
and some tuna avocado crispies.

(I'm not usually a big fan of unagi because most places drown it in sauce, but this one was good--not too saucy and browned in just the right places)

By the twelfth course omakase, Azami made for me one blue crab hand roll,
yummy unagi,
sushi made of uni,
bluefin toro sushi,
seared albacore,
sea scallop sushi,
yellowtail belly,
Spanish mack-e-REL!
Japanese snapper,
bluefin tuna sushi,
peppercorn kanpachi,
and some tuna avocado crispies.

(Chef Nakayama gives you a choice of hand or cut roll to end the meal--I chose a hand roll made of creamy, flaky blue crab and cool avocado.)

Now wasn't that fun? Now it can be tons more fun if you just get your trendy ass down to Melrose and avoid buying designer knockoffs and talking to the cheesy salespeople over Euro-house music, and instead, spend your hard-earned cash at Azami where I guarantee, the gratification will be much, much greater.

Azami Sushi Cafe
7160 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 939-3816

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Cauliflower Power!

I guess
Emeril would actually be OK if he got rid of all the "Bam's" and stopped kicking things up a notch and took away the annoying studio audience.

'Cause I made his recipe for Roasted Cauliflower tonight and it turned out really good!

In their pure state, our cauliflower florets were pale as a ghost and needed a tan badly, but after about 15 minutes in a hot oven with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, the girls came out nice and toasty, caramelized in just the right places. Sprinkled with a bunch of parmesan cheese, they were definitely ready for a night out on the town. No sir, this ain't no wimpy
Mystic Tan stuff; these cauliflower mean business. They go for the real UV experience.

Wanna make 'em yourself? Here, it's easy...

Oven-Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Olive Oil and Lemon Juice
(adapted from Emeril Lagasse's recipe, courtesy of
The Food Network)

5 to 6 cups cauliflower florets, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter (pretty much 1 head)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sliced garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (I used more!)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Place the cauliflower florets in a large saute pan or a roasting pan. Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower, and season with the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place the saute/roasting pan in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even roasting. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the parmesan.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Is This What My Life Has Become?...

...Sandwiches and salads for lunch at my desk?

No more going out for two hour lunches. *sigh* Well at least the sammich was good...proscuitto, provolone, and arugula on a grinder roll. The romaine, red cabbage and 'shroom salad was just OK 'cause I didn't like the dressing too much. Trader Joe's Red Wine Vinaigrette's got too many celery seeds in it, which I normally don't mind, but in this case, just didn't go.

Oh and I'm saving a ton of money during the week now too, which means I can afford to add on more sushi orders during the weekend. Wheeee!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Change Sucks; Change In Plan Sucks Even More

Not knowing what the food situation is over at the new job, I had to go prepared.

Contents of my lunch bag today:
-1 turkey sandwich on a kaiser roll.
-1 baggie full of arugula to put in turkey sandwich.
-1 small tupperware container of romaine, red cabbage & mushroom salad
-1 small jar of red wine vinaigrette
-1 Fuji apple
-1 cheddar cheese stick
-1 blueberry bran muffin
-1 baggie full of Trader Joe's trek mix
-2 Quaker chewy oatmeal granola bars
-2 Nature Valley chewy trail mix bars

Yes sirree, I planned ahead didn't I??? But it didn't fucking matter because I had to go to a 3 1/2 hour meeting that lasted thru lunch in which they decided to order lunch (from El Pollo Loco--ew) which didn't arrive until after 2pm so I staaaaarved and then I ate. But not from my lunch bag. Which kind of makes me mad.

Other than that, everything went OK!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Starve A Cold??? Bullshit.

I've got a cold.

The Daily Gluttony cure? Fuck Ny-Quil. That stuff tastes like shit. Gimmee some
Daikokuya to go and some Airborne tablets, and then a shot of whatever's in the liquor cabinet before bedtime. That'll fix it.

Oh and speaking of Airborne, we bought a "Kids Airborne" by mistake and I just noticed the math on the package illustration. 4=2??? No wonder everyone's sick and that poor kid looks confused. Hmm, maybe I shouldn't be taking this stuff.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Breakin' Up Is Hard To Do: Tacos El Toro, North Hollywood

Today, I am ending a five year relationship with the San Fernando Valley. Five years of treks up and down the 101. Five years of working in a cubicle rat maze in a building with no windows. Five years of working for some of the stingiest mother fuckers I have ever known. Five years of working at half potential because my personal philosphy is to "work smarter not work harder," and then having it pay off more than once. Five years of working with some awesome people that I've made really good friends with. And last but certainly not least, five years of discovering what epicurean delights the San Fernando Valley has to offer! I will miss the experiences of the last five years dearly, well, maybe except for the stingy mother fuckers and no windows parts.

In just a couple short days, my most-unglamourous career of pulling financial figures out of my ass will take me back over the hill to the even more unglamourous city of...Commerce, CA. Like what the hell is there to do out there? I guess I could hang out with the truck drivers at the nearest Denny's. Or go shopping at the
outlet mall. Or lose money at the Commerce Casino. Man, what am I gonna do without Mazzarino's sinful garlic bread? Or the quirky-old-school-seafood-joint-that-makes-you-wanna-go-retire-in-Florida feel of The Oyster House Saloon? Or the convenience and choices of having the entire UN represented on one stretch of street otherwise known as Sherman Way? Without Robin Hood, where will I ever be able to find Fish & Chips that are as close I'll ever find to those in England?

What am I gonna do without lunchtime trips to
Porto's Bakery to pick up pastries for dinner? What am I gonna do without the delicious tortas at Tortas Mexico where all the ingredients in that sandwich literally work together as a team? Or when will I ever see waiter-guy-that-has-a-crush-on-my-friend flirt with my friend again at Bollywood Cafe? How will I be able to live without the best-I've-ever-had-service and kick-ass Lebanese food of Skaf's???? Aww man, I had to mention Skaf' that's one that breaks my heart just thinking about it.

Yes my friends, today is my last hurrah in the Valley, and to celebrate, I decided to treat myself to a special meal. (No it's not Skaf's...I went there a couple days ago!)

For five years, I've driven by Tacos El Toro, a seedy looking taco joint located across the street from the office. And for five years, I've never been in for whatever reason. Perhaps it was its's right in front of a sketchy car wash and a bunch of car repair shops. I guess it was meant to be today that I was out of my normal-breakfast-food-as-of-late of Fuji apple and sharp cheddar cheese AND that there was no way I'd eat the
nasty Friday chilaquiles at the office cafeteria AND that it was my last chance to try Tacos El Toro. And so, fate would have it that this morning before going onto the office, I made a left turn instead of my usual right turn...straight into the Tacos El Toro parking lot.

As it was morning, I thought that some desayuno would be a good idea and after gazing a few seconds at the color photo "menu" posted above the counter, ordered the huevos con chorizo plate to go. (Yes, I know I've overcome my fear of dining out alone, but I was late to work already!) I gathered up some condiments--tomatillo salsa and lime wedges--then sat and waited in one of the red formica booths that lined the small eatery's dining room, and in just a few short minutes, I gave the lady behind the counter the 4 dollars and change I owed her and in exchange, got my "prize."

The smell of freshly grilled chorizo and eggs permeated my car as I quickly drove across the street (how LA of me!), rushing to get upstairs to my soon-to-be-abandoned desk to tear into this breakfast treat. I whizzed by the row of desks I usually pass in the morning..."Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning," I said in a most staccato fashion as I headed towards my office. I finally plopped down in my chair and unpacked the contents of the plastic take out bag. I opened the styrofoam box to find that some of the contents had shifted during flight, but no matter. With a piece of warm flour tortilla in one hand, I spooned some of the chorizo and egg mixture and a small amount of refried beans and rice onto the tortilla with the other. A good chorizo and eggs, to me, is both moist AND dry, oozing with the right amount of spicy and salty chorizo oil, the eggs cooked well done so as to avoid any runniness. This one was all of that, and made even better by creamy refried beans and nicely seasoned rice. Their tortilla chips were light and crispy and still warm, perfect with a few squirts of lime juice for dipping into their zesty tomatillo salsa or scooping up refried beans. The only complaint I had was the measly shreds of lettuce, the tomato slice and the small glob of sour cream they included in the box. To me, they just didn't go with the oily dryness of the other foods and ended up being more of a nuissance than a compliment. Other than that, a perfect "last meal" if I do say so myself. If only I had discovered this place long ago...they've got everything from tacos to tortas to mole plates.

So who knows what the future will bring? If I'm guessing correctly, my lunch hours will be alot shorter from now on (no more two hour lunches until I prove myself--then I can slack off again) and you'll all be seeing alot more home cookin' in these posts I'm sure. That is, unless Commerce turns out to be some hidden food goldmine which I sincerely, sincerely doubt.

Thanks for a great five years, Valley! It's been fun, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Tacos El Toro
5950 Laurel Canyon Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91606
(818) 766-3587

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Trying To Find Happiness At Happy Hour: Rusty's Hacienda, North Hollywood

The whole shack shimmies!!!

We're leaving together
But still it's farewell
And maybe we'll come back
To earth, who can tell

I guess there is no one to blame
We're leaving ground (leaving ground)
Will things ever be the same again
It's the final countdown...
The final countdown
Ooh oh

Ah yes, nothing really captures life moments like the 80's power ballad...there's one for just about every major life event. Feeling lonely? How about
Whitesnake's Here I Go Again? Training for a major sports event? How about Survivor's Eye Of The Tiger? About to leave your job of five years where you happened to meet some of the best people you've ever met in your lifetime (as well as some of the worst) to go elsewhere? Well how about Europe's The Final Countdown?

Oh and wouldn't you know it? The next couple of days just happen to be my final countdown to the last days of a five year stint that's been quite an experience. And what better way to celebrate those final days and to give me a proper send-off than Karaoke Happy Hour at Rusty's Hacienda? There, we could get happy on $2 margaritas, $1.25 beer, and half price appetizers AND actually belt out the real "Final Countdown" or whatever power ballad your tight-jean wearing, teased hair superstar-heart desires.

$2 Liquid Courage and half price happy hour snacks

Fortunately for everyone, we never did sing that song, but don't trip, that didn't stop us from going down the path of cheese. The 11 of us showed up at 4pm ready to rock , but the guys at Rusty's were a couple hours late setting the system up, which worked out to our advantage by giving us an extra hour to down some liquid courage before showtime. Not the strongest margaritas I've had, but for two bucks, who cares? Appetizer sampler platters consisting of hot wings, chicken taquitos that resembled egg rolls, cheese quesadillas, and potato skins were nothing special but like the margaritas, were so cheap at half off that we didn't give a rat's ass. The gratis chips and salsa were redeeming--the light and crunchy tortilla chips perfect for scooping up globs of a spicy, zingy salsa.

My friends started it up with
Dolly Parton's 9 to 5, followed by yours truly crooning David Lee Roth's Just A Gigolo. We headed on down to the Love Shack, asked What's Love Got To Do With It, and were halfway there with Livin' On A Prayer. We put our best Britney moves for I'm Not That Innocent and played Scaramouch and Gallileo for Bohemian Rhapsody. Rusty's song selection is pretty good...they've got lots of songs in both English and Spanish, neatly organized in white three ring binders. Unfortunately, they didn't have the Pretenders' Brass In Pocket or I would have been special (so special!) and belted that one out too!


My solo finale?
Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Were Made For Walkin', and that's just what they did as soon as these professional-karaoke-singers-slash-American-Idol-wannabes showed up and ruined our game. Good karaoke's supposed to be pure cheese, man--for acting stupid so you can have fun with your friends and blow off some steam--not for people who are trying hard not to get booted off this week. Show offs. But whatever, we had one helluva time that I'll remember forever.

We're heading for Venus (Venus)
And still we stand tall
Cause maybe they've seen us
And welcome us all (yeah)
With so many light years to go
And things to be found (to be found)
I'm sure that we'll all miss her so
It's the final countdown...
The final countdown
The final countdown (the final countdown)
Ooh ooh oh

(Rusty's happy hour is from 3pm to 7pm Monday thru Friday; Karaoke is Monday and Tuesdays from 2pm to 2am and Wednesdays from 10pm to 2am. Go and sing yourself silly!)

Rusty's Hacienda
6439 Lankershim Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91606
(818) 761-5176

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Straight Up Drama But Some Grubbin' Food--Roscoe's House Of Chicken & Waffles, Hollywood

Mention the word "drama" and I am suddenly taken to my college days when I lived with a roommate who I think invented the word. I think she actually survived on drama, creating it wherever she went and with whomever she came in contact with. Piss her off and she'll stay mad at you for weeks. Her birthday celebration always had to last a whole week and God forbid you didn't attend every single event. Everything had to be a certain way with her and if it wasn't she'd let you know. And the gossiping...oooh, the gossiping. Every day was a new "Oooh girl, and let me tell you...he said and she said...and she said and he said..." Too much of it made me move out and never keep in touch ever again.

So yeah, drama makes my head spin and try to avoid it when at all possible. Sometimes, though, drama is just unavoidable and you just have to deal with it. This always happens, for example, when my entire group at work decides to go out to lunch together. It doesn't usually happen all that much, usually only for people's birthdays, but man, when this group of 14 decides to lunch together, watch out. The other day, it was one of the girls' birthdays and it'd be time for yet another drama-filled group outing. Sometimes, it's not so much self-inflicted drama, like the time we all had the shittiest lunch experience ever at
Louise's Trattoria, but sometimes it is, like when someone says they want all fourteen of us to go to Roscoe's House Of Chicken and Waffles for her birthday lunch.

Yeah, that Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. Not the newer, more spacious ones in Mid-City or Pasadena, but the old, tiny, always-a-line-outside-like-its-a-club, Hollywood ghetto fab one. I could smell the drama already.

Add to that the fact that we had a guy in a wheelchair with us and as this Roscoe's has no parking lot and it's street parking only (it's Hollywood, silly!) and we all had to play "human orange cone" as our physically challenged coworker parked his car and wheeled his way across Gower Street. It was like a game of
Frogger at first but fortunately people were nice enough to yield or stop.

And add to that the fact that it was Veteran's Day and that everyone and their mom was already in line at Roscoe's for brunch. We thought we were being smart by arriving "early" at 11:30, but I guess we were outsmarted. "Could be an hour, maybe more, maybe less," the man at the door told us.

"Oh my God, what do we do???"

"Isn't there anywhere else to go around here?" (followed by "Pam, you should know, right?")

"I am not waiting an hour..."

"But by the time we go anywhere else, it would have been an hour."

"I really wanted Roscoe's, though."

"I'm starving!"

As I said , I hate getting involved in drama, but I guess I had no choice. My head went into "search and scan" mode, mentally scanning the streets around Sunset and Gower for restaurants that could accomodate a party of fourteen immediately, had convenient parking (and handicapped parking!), and was in everyone's taste and price range. I'd never had that big of a brain fart in my life. Why is it that I can sit in conversation and spew off restaurant after restaurant, even ones I've never been to before, and all of a sudden when faced with a situation, I can't think of a single one? Finally I thought of
Palms Thai, the infamous singing-Thai-Elvis-but-not-at-lunch place which was right up the street on Hollywood and Bronson. "Oh you can take fourteen of us right now? Great, but let me call you back." I went around to my group to tell them that I had found an alternative. Mixed reactions: "Yeah, let's go!" "Oh maybe we can just wait a little longer." Others just stood there. OK, ya know what? This is why I hate drama. I'm getting myself out of this.

So we stood there, mulling around for twenty minutes to half an hour, hopeful excited smiles turning into pouts and frowns. The people waiting outside did not seem to move, except for some young man who was obviously some hip hop guy and his posse who'd gotten out of their phat chauffered SUV and walked right in with ease. Hmm, helps to be famous I guess.

And I guess it does, or at least to be noticed by someone famous, because we were suddenly let in--ahead of all these people that were in front of us! Now before you start thinking that it was me that got their attention (ha ha!), think again and read on. People looked like they wanted to kill us including some "
Malibu's Most Wanted" gangsta wannabe who started bitching at the host that they'd been waiting over an hour and "Hey, they just got here, how you gonna let them in???" In a most nonchalant manner, the host told Malibu that they seat by party size, end of story. Huh? Someone pinch us please? And if they really do seat by party size, then why is it that the fourteen of us were split up into three different tables? Well, rumor has it (according to some things my coworkers overheard and noticed) that the walk-in celeb , who ended up being teenage hip-hop star Chris Brown who had pulled up in the phat SUV had asked Roscoe's to let us in because of my handicapped coworker. Now we're not totally absolutely sure, but I'd rather believe it's true than not. Makes for a much more interesting story, don't you think?

Fortunately, the food experience was much less dramatic and provided some much needed down home comfort after all of that drama waiting to get a table. Yes, there are things other than chicken and waffles to order here--sandwiches, breakfast foods, etc.--but why on earth would you? There are, however, different combinations of chicken and waffles to be had, and the selection of choice at our table was of happened to be Scoe's Special, a choice of a quarter fried breast/wing or leg/thigh combination, either smothered in gravy or Southern style (basically is a fancy way of saying "plain fried.") and two waffles.

A heart attack would be extra drama

Funny enough, the first time I ever tried Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles was with my Drama Queen roommate back in college. I remember how she acted as if everyone's attention was on her, and that even when she ordered her damn food, she had to be all melodramatic about everything: "Hiiiiiiiiiiii," she'd say to the server, "Hmm, I think I, maybe this...nah, I'll go with that." (And just because the server joked and said, "You sure about that sweetie?" it didn't mean that they thought you were cute, you dumb bitch, they call everyone sweetie.) I also remember being a little hesitant about the odd combo of chicken and waffles at first--I mean, I never, ever imagined having KFC with my Eggo's. I started with a few bites of isolated flavors and textures--JUST fried chicken or JUST waffle--and didn't think it was that big of a deal. But once the syrup started running into the gravy which started running into the crispiness of the fried chicken which started running into the pillowy waffle, man it was all good. And then I think I went on a diet for a week following to make up for all that gluttony.

This most recent experience was no different; well, except for the fact that I had no Drama Queen roommate with me though there was plenty of other drama to replace her. The food was just as grubbin' as always--I loved having a little bit of crispy salted fried chicken, creamy gravy, sticky sweet syrup and fluffy waffle with each bite. Some salty yin to go with some sweet yang seemed to provide the only balance to an otherwise drama-filled afternoon.

After all that waiting, we were extra hungry and decided to order a couple of sides to go with our Scoe's Specials. The collard greens and mac & cheese were a little on the bland side, and I would normally not have liked the smothered potatoes, which were basically scalloped potatoes smothered in gravy, but they came in handy when I ran out of chicken and needed something salty to eat with the rest of my waffle.

Next time I'll just stick with the chicken & waffles

We finished our meals and it was back outside to the real world, once again dodging traffic and playing human orange cone to get our wheelchaired co-worker across the street. Safely and soundly, we all returned to work after a two hour-plus lunch break that seemed like an eternity. Me? I was ready to take a nap. All that drama and all that food makes a girl sleepy.

Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles
1514 N. Gower St.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 466-7453

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Pho So 1 Was Not So Good--Pho So 1, Van Nuys

"So tell me what your biggest accomplishment was over the past five years has been?" the interviewer asked.

"Well, I managed to convert a bunch of food hard-heads into much more gastronmically well-rounded people! Now they're eating sushi and Indian food and pho all by themselves!" I replied.

And then I woke up. Damn, it was just a dream.

But it's not unreal per se. Because if I really think about it, that probably was one of my most significant accomplishments during the last five years at my company. Significant to me, that is, because being the corporate cog-in-the-wheel that I am, who really cares about real work anyways?

Soon enough, I'll be leaving this lovely place that's been providing me with a decent paycheck over the last five years, so it's time to reflect. No, not upon my real title as Financial Data and Reporting Whore or My Boss's Bitch but as Food Finder Extraordinaire. How many hours I've spent on-line or driving around researching local Valley restaurants just to get away from the popular Company spots! (Good for gossiping!) And how much time I've spent talking others into trying something new! (C'mon, try Korean food! It's just meat and'll like it!) So don't call me Manager of Meaningless Numbers Pulled Out Of My Ass. Just call me Asian Persuasion. "Asian" because I'm Asian. (Duh) And "Persuasion" because that's what I do best--I persuade people to go out and try different foods and restaurants.

In the midst of all this reflecting, then, how perfect is it that Ms. Sarah from
The Delicious Life chose the theme of this month's Dine and Dish to be Asian Persuasion?

Only this time, my persuasion led everyone to an Asian restaurant that quite frankly, sucked. I chose Pho So 1 in Van Nuys because its only one of very few Vietnamese restaurants on this side of the Valley and because it's gotten decent reviews on

"What's for lunch, Pam?"

"Um, you guys wanna go to this place called Pho So 1 in Van Nuys? I heard it's good."

"What's it like?"

"I dunno. It's my first time, but you know, it's just pho--you've been to
Pho 999 with me before. It's just like that. Just noodles and soup."

Some, like my normal luch crew who will go anywhere, didn't even flinch and agreed to go. Others flinched slightly and agreed to go after not being able to think of anywhere else to eat. Some wouldn't budge: "Mmm, nah. Y'know, the last time I went to a pho restaurant, I saw a cockroach running around." "But it was a different restaurant." "Yeah, still." See, Asian Persuasion's work is never done!

After walking into a star-anise scented dining room located in a
99 Ranch shopping center, our request for a table for 9 was met with strange looks, and after a few minutes, we were seated. Our waiter, a thin middle aged Vietnamese gentleman who was obviously a mathematician or The Count from Sesame Street in another life, came by to take our orders.

"OK, you ready?"

My coworker on my right started it up.

"We'll have an order of fried egg rolls, and I'll have a number one."

"OK, one egg roll, one number one? Who else number one?"

"Uh, I'll have a number one," I answered.

"OK, two number one."

"But I don't want cilantro please," I said.

"Two number one no cilantro?"

"No, one no cilantro, the other with everything."

"OK, one number one no cilantro, one number one cilantro."


He then went counter-clockwise around the table taking orders. After each person's order, he'd go, "OK, number 54. Who else want 54? OK, one number 54." OK, I know you're trying to be thorough, dude, but hurry up, we're hungry!

Then the drinks.

"I'll have a Thai Iced Tea," said one of my coworkers.

"I'll have one too," said another before The Count had the opportunity to ask who else wanted one which I think made him mad. "Two Thai Iced Tea???" he asked. He got to me and I said I wanted a Vietnamese Iced Coffee with Condensed Milk. A flurry of "Oooh, I want one too" responses came from three of my coworkers.

"OK, four Iced Coffee."

"Can I change my Thai Iced Tea to Iced Coffee?" my coworker asked.

"OK, five Iced Coffee. One Thai Iced Tea."

"Can I get an iced coffee too? And an Ice Water?" asked another one of my coworkers.

"Six Iced Coffee. One Thai Iced Tea. How many people want Ice Water?" said The Count.

"Can you just bring ice water for the whole table?" I asked.

"OK, 9 ice water. Six Iced Coffee. One Thai Iced Tea. One Orange Soda. One Lemon Soda. Ten food."

"Ten food???" we asked.

"Yeah, nine order plus one egg roll. Ten."

I expected him to go "Six! Six Iced Coffees! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!" just like The Count. Or maybe I should have recruited this guy as our newest analyst. He obviously loves his analytical skills.

The Count at work

We were a little surprised that a plate of five cha gio (Five! Five fried egg rolls! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!) cost five bucks because they usually cost under three at other places. But because we were craving, we ordered a plate anyways and when it was brought to the table, we realized why they cost five bucks...they were huge! Their ground pork, mushroom and glass noodle filling was tasty, but was overkill on a food that should be delicate and crispy.

Usually "phat" is good; not so much here

For the four of us ordered pho (Four! Four Pho! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!), we were brought only two scrawny plates of veggie condiments. We decided that we were going to ask for more, but only after all the food was brought out--we didn't want any surprises in our food due to too many special requests!

You mean we're supposed to share this???

Disappointing is the best word I can use to describe my bowl of Number One No Cilantro, a.k.a. Pho Dac Biet. The broth lacked depth: not enough beefy flavor but way too much star anise and ginger. I had to add a couple of lime, several slices of green chile and a ton of Thai basil to make it more interesting, which even then, wasn't enough. A huge tangled ball of noodles sat in my bowl of soup and was unevenly cooked, over cooked in some patches and undercooked in others. The quality of meat was questionable, the gelatinous tendon and snappy tripe being the best amongst the bunch, but there were some extra-gristly pieces of brisket and some mystery connective tissue in there that were too tough to even chew. I ate half and that was all I could handle.

One! One big bowl of disappointment! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!

By the time I'd finished this half a Pho Dac Biet, my coffee had finished dripping out of the metal Vietnamese coffee press and into the ceramic cup where the condensed milk had been waiting. Very carefully, I poured the coffee-condensed milk mixture into the tall glass of ice provided and stirred it silly. The coffee only filled the glass a little over half full (either that or I'm an optimist, which in this case, I wasn't) and when I took a sip, it was strong as fuck. I had to stir it some more to make the ice melt and dilute this thick, iced concoction; after a few minutes of stirring, it was finally to my liking.

Can this thing drip any slower?

There was a variety of other pho, bun (vermicelli) and com (rice) dishes around the table, none of which I tried. It did look, however, like the concensus about Pho So 1's food was the same all around: mediocre at best. Nine! Nine Disappointing Meals! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!

Pho So 1
6450 Sepulveda Blvd. #C & D
Van Nuys, CA 91411
(818) 989-6377

Monday, December 05, 2005

Forever Grateful

I'm baaaaaack!

Daily Gluttony wants to thank all of you for your kind words regarding my Dad's illness. Your thoughts really meant the world to me. Unfortunately, my Dad was unable to go through the major surgery on his pancreas because they'd found that the cancer had spread. The good news is, though, that my Dad is stronger than ever after all the quality time our family got to spend together over the last couple of weeks and after hearing that there is still much hope to keep his illness under control using chemo, Chinese Medicine, nutrition and exercise. I think the thing he's most upset about is that his diet is now completely vegan! Despite his illness, my Dad is still the same loveable guy. In fact, my Dad is such a bad-ass that he cooked a huge dinner for all of us the night before the supposed surgery and insisted on cooking for us every day after getting out of the hospital! Nor have my parents lost their "charm" after all the recent stress...

(Upon receiving a fruit basket delivery from my Dad's friends)
Mom: WAAAH! These things are expensive!
Dad: You can check how much it was on the internet.

You gotta love them.

Thank you all again for your thoughts, and please always keep my previous post's message in mind: Live each day to its fullest, never take anything or anyone for granted, and cook and eat with lots of love.

Look for new posts very, very soon!