Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tijuana [Part 1]

I've come to the conclusion that, even though Bill Esparza may think I have "blogger chops" when it comes to eating, I am not so cut out for the actual blogging thing. But it doesn't feel right to bow out without first posting about Tijuana.

I started reading Bill's blog, Street Gourmet LA, early this year. It quickly became my favorite LA food blog, partly because it was about delicious, fast, cheap food, but also because Bill writes about culture as well as food. His posts on restaurants in Mexico and Latin America didn't just make me hungry, they made me want to travel.

So when Abby of Pleasure Palate gave me an opportunity to join her in Tijuana on a weekend food tour organized by Bill, I jumped on that chance like Vivian on Totoro merchandise. It turned out to be an amazing weekend, with so much good food I can hardly believe it. See for yourself!

First stop: Tacos El Franc, home of some freaking delicious pork adobada/al pastor. I'm sorry, did you want to look a little more closely at that?

Yeah. This trip was going to be awesome. I spent whole minutes just staring at the spit. And the pork tasted as good as it looks. Juicy, flavorful, with an amazing char on the outside.

I had three items here: an al pastor taco, a cabeza taco, and a mulita, which is somewhere between a quesadilla and a taco. That is to say, it's awesome.

Before dinner, we stopped at La Diferencia for tamarind margaritas. I'm not much of a mixed drinks person, but these were insanely good. Not overly sweet and perfectly tart.

For dinner, we were headed to Tacos Salceados. I'd read about it on Bill's blog. In fact, that post was likely what convinced me to sign up for the trip in the first place. Let me show you why.

Behold: the quesataco.

Yes, that is a corn tortilla with fried cheese wrapped around the filling of your choice, and topped with fresh avocado, cream, and salsa. If you are anything like me, your reaction to this is that the quesataco sounds like the best idea ever, and you are wondering how soon you will be able to try such a magnificent concoction. It is indeed glorious. I had three of these bad boys: a New York steak and scallop quesataco, a shrimp quesataco, and a sweet quesataco. I do not recommend three quesatacos for the faint-of-belly. They are massive, and also topped with fried cheese, in case you forgot. Only those with unreasonable appetites like me should attempt such a thing.

I was able to snag a seat at the counter, where I could observe both the preparation of the food and the chicas in our group flirting brazenly with the cute taquero in the black shirt. One thing that is immediately evident from watching these guys is the amount of dedication and care that goes into this preparation. That turned out to be a theme at each place we visited, and it really seems to have made a difference. Each filling was paired with two or three excellent salsas. Even the condiments were impressive. I wish every meal came with complimentary plates of grilled pickled onions and fresh cucumber topped with cream.

The escabeche in particular was superb, delicately seasoned with herbs and locally produced olive oil. It could have been an afterthought. With such great tacos, who would blame Tacos Salceados for having mediocre escabeche? But this too was prepared with great care. It's one of many simple things which captures how great the trip was.

Stay tuned for chilied shrimp tacos, aguachile, tortas, and other incredibly delicious things!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Shake Shack [[Flatiron District, NYC]]

I finally made my way to Shake Shack this past Sunday, after being thwarted twice this past month (mostly, my friends and I decided to meet somewhere else for dinner). I thought the line was long but apparently it sometimes goes around the park and outside, too. While waiting for 45 minutes, I thought about hype versus genuinely good food. The wait is the same (long, very crowded), the reviews are all favorable. So instead of doing school work, I braved the sun and the people for my chance to try this beloved New York burger.

Since the menu is on the side, if you don't already know what you want you'll have to quickly scramble over before placing your order. Luckily for you, I took a photo, complete with prices. These don't include special custards or milkshake flavors, nor does it give descriptions but it's a nice heads up:

I ordered the Shake Stack, which was a beef patty (they didn't ask me how I much I wanted the beef to cook, but thankfully it was medium), a fried portobello mushroom melted together with gruyère cheese, tomato and lettuce and American cheese. The buns were toasted, which I'm always in favor of.

Two things to note: 1. It is quite expensive since it doesn't even come with fries or anything and I will definitely not make this place a habit; 2. It is quite small. It fits in my hand. I mean, I wolfed it down as ladylike as possible (oxymoron) under 5 minutes. Weirdly, the last few bites were super salty, but I think that's because the bun has probably been soaked by the cheeses and oil.

I also ordered a black and white milkshake, which is basically half chocolate and half vanilla. The shake was pretty creamy and SUPER rich. I was actually thirsty afterward, that's how rich it was.

Overall, the patty itself is nothing too special although I did enjoy the fried portobello mushroom and gruyère cheese together. The wait is way too long if I'm hungry (i.e. impatient and cranky) and too expensive to make it any more than a treat.

If you do just want a lemonade or something, there is a "B" line so you can avoid those New Yorkers hankering for the meatier stuff. They also offer hot dogs and crinkle cut fries, but I already spent $14 on lunch and was no, I ain't made of money!

P.S. I don't know why these photos are uploaded blurry. They shouldn't be! But if you click on the photo, it will direct you to the original in all it's SLR glory.
Shake Shack in Madison Square Park
E 23rd St & Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yakitori Taisho [East Village, NY]

I decided on a lark that for dinner, I would walk on St. Marks and find a Japanese place that looked good--on menu at least. My roommate, neighbor, and I decided to enter Yakitori Taisho, a small and narrow little place brimming with people. Lots of people on a Tuesday night? That should already be a good indication, no? Luckily, we didn't have to wait.

The menu has a lot of yakitori options, but nothing will compare to Shin Shen Gumi in terms of diversity. In addition to yakitori, there were ramen and yakisoba dishes, some rice dishes, and a lot of tapas. We decided not to share any of the tapas which is probably a good call because I would have ordered EVERYTHING, running up the bill.

I did have a hankering for some ramen, but decided that I wouldn't try any ramen until I went to Ippudo. So instead, I ordered 1 skewer of: tsukune (chicken meatballs), gyutan (beef tongue), butabara (pork), yakitori (chicken), and 2 orders of tebasaki (chicken wings). They came on a bed of chopped cabbage, which was odd because I was expecting them to come on a plate with marinade. The marinade was at the bottom of the plate, but very watered down.

My favorites were the gyutan and butabara: both were flavorful and very tender. I wish I ordered more of these. The chicken was also good (thigh meat) but I was surprised it didn't come with some chopped scallions or onions. My least favorites had to be the tebasaki chicken wings and the tsukune. The tsukune was not very flavorful and it lacked the depth that I am used to at other yakitori places. The tebasaki was burnt in places, and not very meaty. Usually I see them cooked as fatty chicken wings but these were very lean and offered very little to munch on.

My neighbor, Kurtis, ordered a rice bowl that came with a few skewers and some kimchi. He agreed that the tsukune was average, although he didn't react as strongly as I did to the taste. Since I couldn't even finish the meatballs, I gave him the rest of mine.

He got the memo that this is an awkward eats blog.
My roommate Sadie was hankering for some noodles and although there were a handful of choices, she ordered a staple. Yakisoba with sliced pork and garnished with fish flakes. Judging that she finished the entire dish, I assume she was happy with it.

Overall, I am still on the lookout for a yakitori place that will blow Shin Shen Gumi out of the water. There are some gems at this place, especially ones I want to try next time like the salmon cream yakisoba. The prices are decent ($1.75-2.75/skewer, dishes range from $6-15+) although I wish the tapas were just a tad bit less expensive (a plate of 5 takoyaki for example was $6).
Yakitori Taisho
5 St Marks Pl
NYC, NY 10003
(212) 228-5086

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Simple lunch

I have a few posts brewing about NY eats but I just want to preface/post this entry first to tell you that I rarely go out to eat. It's expensive, I'm lazy and a homebody, and I can control my portions at home.

This is a meal that I make that is very versatile. You can exchange the beef for another protein (I also added tofu for heartier fare), you can add veggies, and you can make do without tomato sauce and eat it with rice (which I will also do).

I cooked three portions: one for lunch today, one for a meal some other time (also with pasta and sauce), and one without sauce to eat with rice.

(note: Since I just eyeball everything, the measurements are definitely not professional)

  • Olive oil, salt, savory spices (I used Trader Joe's 21 Spice Salute)--to your liking
  • Half an onion, diced or sliced--depending on your preference
  • Ground beef--however much you want. I added more than I would eat because I was making three meals!
  • Chopped tofu
  • Pasta of your choice (I used fusili)
  • Store-bought tomato sauce (I used Prego's Roasted garlic and Parmesan sauce to make it more flavorful and fragrant).
1. Heat up pan and drizzle olive oil. In the meantime, chop onions and boil water for pasta. When the pan is hot, cook the onions until they are slightly brown (sprinkle some salt and seasoning).
Gif Created on Make A Gif
2. While the onion is cooking, make little balls from the beef. Add these to the pan (Again, sprinkle some salt).
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3. Add sliced tofu to the pan, mix gently.
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4. When everything is cooked, you can either remove from heat and eat as is (with rice, optional) or keep it on the stove and add a little bit of tomato sauce to the pan. Stir until everything is coated.

For another meal!
5. Add cooked pasta and stir until your pasta is completely covered with sauce.

6. Add a side of salad or garlic bread if you choose.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sloopy's [Manhattan Beach]

While Andi preps her Tijuana food post, I thought I'd tide you readers over with a short review on this burger/sandwich place called Sloopy's. The name is odd, but considering you're in a beachy city like Manhattan, I suppose it's fitting.

Parking is a chore: there is metered parking but even when I went on a Tuesday (11.30-ish), it took several rounds of circling before Anam and I found a spot 2 blocks away. Don't even try to find residential parking--it's just nonexistent.

The menu is your usual (New) American fare: burgers and sandwiches, wraps, and pasta. There is a great looking breakfast menu (which is what we wanted to try originally), but breakfast ends at 11.30. I hate when people dictate when I can or can't eat breakfast. It should be ANY TIME.

The restaurant is in a half open/half closed area. Only the sides of the restaurant/kitchen is fully roofed off. The rest is only partially, letting plenty of sunshine and fresh air in. The walls are just packed with potted plants and little fountains everywhere. It does feel like you're in some natural environment: it's peaceful and just SO GREEN.

The food, taste-wise, was what you would expect. Not bad but not like I AM CRAVING THIS RIGHT NOW.

Anam ordered the Mahi Mahi burger, which came with fries. She also ordered a mint milk shake but I do know the mint comes from one of those Italian ice syrups. However, it wasn't overly sweet which is usually the problem when you use syrups. The burger came piping hot with a wedge of lemon which would enhance the flavor of the fish. Condiments are the regular burger fare: tomatoes, lettuce, onions. the bread is black poppy seeds, which is a nice twist.

I ordered the BBQ chicken wrap. Slices of chicken drenched in a sweet barbecue sauce, with lettuce, tomatoes, and sliced onions, wrapped in a spinach tortilla. I could have done without like, half of the sauce and it would be even better. It was filling, especially when served with seasoned fries cooked just the way I like it: crispy on the outside, moist on the inside. But you's nothing special.

Overall, it's a great place to just relax with friends and soak in some sun. It's really more about the ambiance and the relaxed feel of the place than the food. And you know what? Sometimes that's all I need.
3416 Highland Avenue, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266-3341
(310) 545-1373

Monday, August 2, 2010

Preview: Tijuana

Get ready. And don't read these posts hungry.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lemon tart pie

Summer is all about refreshing baked goods, I believe. Lemon-y things are no exception. For a dinner party last week, I decided to re-appropriate a lemon bar recipe and turn it into a pie. Main reason being I don't have a deep enough baking pan but really, it's easy to gobble up a dessert when it's in slice form!
Adapted from Hostess with the Mostess.
What you need...
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 ounces (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces


  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • About 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar to powder on top.
What you need to do...
to make the crust:
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. Combine the flour and confectioners’ sugar in a bowl until mixed well.
3. Add the butter and continue to mix. I mixed it by hand so that it would be an even, buttery, dough...sort of like what a butter cookie looks like pre-shaped/baked.
4. Gently press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan (or in my case, a 9" cake pan). Bake until golden brown, 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
5. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
to make the filling:
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until smooth.
2. Stir in the lemon juice and then add the flour.
3. After checking your crust is at room temperature, pour the filling on top of the crust. Bake until the lemon filling is set, about 50 minutes.
4. Let cool to room temperature. Afterward, you can either put in the refrigerator for 1 hour or keep at room temperature for 3 hours before cutting. Dust the top with confectionery sugar.

Just powdered the pie. About ready to be served!

And voila! A slice of pie!
I would recommend you make the crust just a TEENSY bit thinner than I have in this photo, though.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Susina Bakery and Cafe [[Los Angeles]]

After our big dinner at Fish Grill, we decided to have dessert to punish our stomachs even more. Susina is a little quaint cafe, brimming with lots of different cakes and pastry items (oh, and policemen for some reason). Dim lighting, French 1920s music, and brick walls...this is my sort of place.

The banana cream pie we ordered (seriously, the four of us could barely finish it!) was light, fluffy, and not too sweet. Lots of sliced bananas (apparently they use two bananas in one little pie!) to make it taste super fresh. However, the crust was crazy tough to break. I think I almost had an aneurysm trying to puncture it with my fork!

Is this photo awkward enough for you?
Susina Bakery and Cafe
7122 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 934-7900

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fish Grill [[Los Angeles]]

Fish Grill is a kosher restaurant specializing in grilled fish dishes. I recently went with Anam, Cecily, and Micah (who actually adheres to a kosher diet) to hang out and not have to worry about Micah not being able to eat anything (there was a pretty disastrous encounter at a recent cafe). Cecily was the lone wolf, ordering the grilled cod. Anam, Micah, and I ordered the fish taco dish, which is served with two large tacos (either grilled or deep fried, or one of each), a side of coleslaw or salad, and another side of baked potato, french fries, or rice.

What I liked about this super casual dining place (you order in the front and pick it up when it's ready) is that they give you A LOT of food for a good price. Our plates were brimming with fries and salad and other stuff for only $9.

The fried fish taco was pretty tasty, although I would have wanted a little more lime or cilantro taste. Although Micah's grilled fish taco looked great, mine was a little too burnt and so I barely touched it. Good thing I ate the fried fish one first because I was already stuffed! The fries were really crunchy, almost reminiscent of the In-n-Out fries in terms of freshness.

Food coma!

Fish Grill (one of four locations)
9618 W Pico Blvd # 508
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 860-1182

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Crème de la Crêpe [[Hermosa Beach]]

I've been coming to this French restaurant for a few years, but always just to have a dessert crêpe and hang out at the beach. However, after a failed attempt at trying something super healthy (the vegan/raw cafe we went into was way too hippy dippy for us!), we decided to actually have dinner at Crème.

Anam ordered the vegetable pasta, which was ratatouille mixed with seasoned flat pasta. A little cheese on the side, as well. I don't think it is too difficult to mess up a simple pasta, and Anam had no complaints.

I ordered the beef bourguignon, which was served with a side of pasta and ratatouille. The pasta wasn't seasoned with anything but a smidge of butter, but adding a little of the wine stew from the beef made it better. The beef left something to be desired though; I wish it was more tender. I also don't think the beef absorbed enough of the red wine broth, which is to say that the broth was excellent. More broth taste, please!

The crêpe, of course, was excellent. I've always just had it with various fruits and Nutella because I have a serious love affair with the chocolate-hazelnut spread. However, we decided to order something different this time. Served with vanilla ice cream and homemade whipped cream on the side, the crêpe had sliced strawberries and honey. The honey was light and complemented the tart/sweetness of the strawberries.

Next time I have a hankering for actual food though, I'll forgo the dishes that are time-intensive to cook and go for something easy, like a quiche or a savory crêpe.

And of course, a picture of me with food because this is what this blog is all about.

Crème de la Crêpe
Three locations:
424 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach - (310) 937-2822
1708 South Catalina Avenue, Redondo Beach - (310) 540-8811
6000 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City -(310) 398-8811