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Maui, Hawaii Part 2

15 Mar

During the difficult times at work, I like to fondly think of my time in Maui. At one point during our trip, Bubby and I had a serious conversation about moving to Hawaii and opening a shrimp truck called Miso’s.  But of course Bubby the buzz kill killed my shrimp truck dreams. At least we should try to visit every year. And every year I’m going to eat this French toast at Kihei Caffe (yes, two “f”s).

Banana macadamia nut French toast

This is the best French toast I have ever had.  Thick slices of crispy sweet bread, thick banana slices, crunchy macadamia nuts, drizzled with maple syrup and the house coconut syrup.

All of the components in one bite made me preach.  “I feel good! I feel good, because I know there’s a God somewhere! There’s a God somewhere! You know there’s a God who sits on high and looks down low! Man cannot make it like this!” Name that movie.

Bubby ordered the pork fried rice loco moco.

The pork fried rice inspired me to make a kimchi pork fried rice loco moco, and everything is better with kimchi. But even without the kimchi, this dish was savory and the perfect salty pairing to my French toast.  Kihei Caffe is a caloric dream come true.  While reveling in our food fantasy, we were suddenly disturbed by a gang of birds.

And the king of the bird gang, Rufio! Ruf-i-oooooooooooooo!

We got the hell out of the crossfire of Rufio’s gang, and went to Charley Young Beach so I could rub my belly in peace.

And at this beach, Poseidon summoned me once again. And in true Hawaiian tradition, I donated my favorite Rayban sunglasses to Poseidon.  Every time I go to Hawaii, Poseidon takes what it wants.  Seven years ago, it was my Juicy Couture red jumper and Ipod.  What was my jumper and Ipod doing in the ocean? Or better yet, why the hell was I wearing Juicy Couture?!  It was seven years ago, and it was a cute ass beach jumper.  Seven years ago, Bubby and I placed our belongings in a locker.  Bubby pinned the locker key to his board shorts while we took surfing lessons.  While Poseidon tossed us around wildly, the locker key unfastened from Bubby’s shorts.  Assuming we lost the key and needed the office to open our locker, we noticed our locker was wide open and empty.  Someone had found our key and stole our possessions, including Bubby’s wallet, our towels, and book.  We walked back to our hotel soaking wet with shame, almost nude, pissed as fuck at Poseidon.  Damn you, Poseidon.  I hope you are rocking the shit outta my shades.

Because there was so much to eat and so little time, we went to Foodland –the best grocery store in the land.  While Kroger (I call every grocery store Kroger) sells rotisserie chickens, Foodland sells spam musubi, ahi poke, and my favorite, spicy raw crab!.

Look at this big ass avocado!

You can also see how the humidity in Hawaii is helping my winter’s eczema, too.

For dinner, Bubby and I went to Mama’s Fish House, a very popular restaurant in Maui.  The restaurant faces the beautiful ocean view and provided a very romantic atmosphere.

Macadamia nut crab cakes

I love crab cakes and cannot wait to go to Baltimore to eat some authentic cakes and to take The Wire tour.  These crab cakes definitely had nice chunks of crab, more crab than breading which is essential for a good CRAB cake.  The tomato relish provided a nice spicy and cool hint of flavor to the meaty cakes.

Opakapaka in lime and coconut milk served in a fresh coconut (Tahitian ceviche)

I asked for extra limes and drowned the shit out of the Hawaiian pink snapper.  I scraped the coconut flesh off the shell and mixed the gelatinous shavings with the ceviche.  This ceviche is making my mouth water as I type these damn words.

Bouillabaisse Mahimahi, lobster, shrimp, scallop and shellfish simmered in a saffron broth, with garlic rouille

Isn’t this picture the most beautiful bowl of underwater treasures?  As you can imagine, the seafood in Hawaii is fresh fo’ sho’.  The scallops were the size of silver dollars and as thick as marshmallows.  There was so much seafood in this dish that every spoonful contained several different types of seafood. My only issue with this dish was that I don’t think the pasta is made from scratch.  If Mama made fresh pasta, this dish would be the best dish of the trip especially since I rationed the garlic bread to last throughout the entire meal.

And to remind myself that I’m on vacation, I make sure the following happen.  I don’t wear makeup.  I must consume a fruity beverage with an umbrella  in it.  And I eat dessert after every meal.  Yes, every meal.  Ergo, ladies and gentlemen I introduce you to Ono Gelato.  The best fuckin’ gelato I have ever had.  Yes, I’ve never had gelato from Italy, but I don’t think I’ll have to.

Coconut is the shit.  But add some strawberry into the swirl, and I was immediately doing my happy dance while wiggling my toes.  Bubby even asked, “Are your toes dancing for gelato?”  Yes, Goddamit. Don’t judge me.  Best. gelato. ever.

Okay, I just gained five pounds writing this shit.

Kihei Caffe
1945 South Kihei Road
Kihei, HI

Mama’s Fish House
799 Poho Place
Paia, HI

Ono Gelato
1280 South Kihei Road
Kihei, HI

Ono Gelato
115 Hana Hwy # D
Paia, HI

Ono Gelato
815 Front Street
Lahaina, HI

We went to two out of the three Ono Gelato locations, and I give 5 slow mothafuckin claps.
 

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I left my heart in San Francisco

13 Mar

Since Blister’s in the Philippines for new year’s eve, we couldn’t go to our annual new year’s trip to Glen Ivy. So this year, Bubby and I went to San Francisco, the city where we fell in love. Our first date was at Palomino in Embarcadero. The food was not particularly good, but I was nervous. We were friends for so long and ate together all the time, but on this January 30th day, 7 years ago, I had butterflies in my stomach. After dinner, he held my hand as we walked along the pier. I was jumping on and off of the stoops, and he held my hand for my “safety” so I wouldn’t fall. It was more like a slicker version of the “yawn and reach” technique at the movie theater. Since that day, we just knew we were meant to be together. No DTR conversations, no “where do we stand?” inquiries, no “it’s complicated” relationship status. We just knew we were together and have never broken up since. Sure, there are times when he’s my greatest enemy and I want to punch him hard in the balls, but most days he’s my best friend.

Going back to San Francisco is always a treat. I love walking down the dirty streets of my old hood, the Tenderloin. Stepping on spit, fecal matter, and used needles never felt so good–kind of like an urban version of Dorothy and her yellow brick road. Although my brick road is stained yellow from urine– both animal and human. I also love going back to San Fran for the food. Always for the food.

Our hotel was located in Fisherman’s Wharf, a tourist trap.  The best part of this tourist trap is Trish’s Mini Donuts.  These fried rings are worth the six-hour drive from LA.  Every time I go to SF, I always try to fight the tourist trap traffic just to get my hands on these fried babies.

They are liberally showered in cinnamon sugar which eventually melts into the super hot fried dough.  I have never ordered a tub of these mini donuts, but one day I will.  Cha-longe!!!

On New Year’s day, we decided to go to Brenda’s, the only Cajun restaurant in the Tenderloin.  As a former Houstonian, I love Cajun food.  We decided to go on New Year’s day assuming the crowd would be hung over in bed.  On our walk to Brenda’s, we noticed some stragglers still partying at noon the next day.

I cannot remember the last time I partied until the sun came up. I feel old.

As we walked towards Brenda’s this is what I saw.

Oh hell no.  That line is not cute.  We had to wait for an hour and 45 minutes.  Bubby had been before, and he made me wait for my crawdads.  And dammit, he had me at crawdads.

After watching every crazy homeless person pass by, some familiar faces and some new, our table was finally ready.  The restaurant is packed with tables only two inches apart from each other.  I immediately ordered the watermelon iced tea to ease my anxiety and claustrophobia.

Sometimes sweet tea outside of the south can be way too sweet.  But this watermelon iced tea was perfectly cool and sweet. It reminded me of a hot Houston day and the smell of fresh-cut green grass.

Crawfish beignets with cayenne, scallions, and cheddar

Brenda’s serves several different kinds of beignets including plain with powdered sugar, apple, chocolate.  I ordered crawfish because I love crawfish.  The beignets are served hot, fluffy, and they collapsed with the pressure from my fork.  As I broke into the dough, the melted cheese oozed out.  Unfortunately, the ratio of crawfish to dough is off.  I expected large chunks of crawfish, but there were probably three small ones swimming in cheese in each pocket of dough.

I ordered the grillades and grits, and Bubby ordered the fried catfish eggs benedict.

The beef cutlets in the grillades and grits was tough and difficult to chew.  The grits were fluffy clouds perfectly buttered and smothered in cheddar cheese.  Nothing makes my belly smile more than buttered grits and cheese.  Bubby’s catfish eggs benedict was not as good as we imagined, but the biscuit was slap yo’ mama good.  That biscuit was it.   Would I wait two hours for it? Probably not.

Bubby and I needed to burn some serious Cajun calories, so I dragged him to Union Square for some serious shopping.  While in Union Square, Bubby and I always have to eat at King of Thai Noodle.  It’s not fancy Thai food, but serves really good roast duck.

Bubby always orders the duck fried rice with a fried egg on top, and I order the duck noodle soup.

Simple.  Duck.  Noodles.  Soup.  Peppers.  Good.
I haven’t tried the other dishes because there really is no need to.  This is the only dish I order every time.

The next day, I dragged Bubby to Hog Island Oyster Co.  I had a serious craving for oysters.  But once again, we hit another damn line.

The wait was not as bad as Brenda’s, probably 30 minutes total.  I ordered fresh lemonade to prep my taste buds.

We ordered both fresh and baked oysters.  The fresh ones included Hog Island Sweetwaters, Hog Island Atlantics, Sand Isle Kumamotos, Chelsea Gems, and Island Creeks.

These fresh oysters were thick and smooth as they slid down my throat.  The kumamotos had a slight “oceany” tang which I let Bubby enjoy.

The baked oysters were actually as tasty as the fresh ones to my surprise.

The Casino and Tarragon oysters were so flavorful.  The only bad thing about them was that there were only four.

The clam chowder

The clam chowder is not your typical clam chowder.  It’s not thick, but light and milky.  I added a splash of fresh lemon juice which really brightened the taste of the clams.  I loved dipping my grilled cheese into the chowder broth.

The crunchy sourdough bread and the stringy cheese dipped into the milkiness wonder of the clam chowder felt like a perfect hug from the inside on a cold January San Francisco day.  The pickled vegetables, cauliflower and carrots, added a nice acidic note to the entire meal.

As we walked back to our car to head home, we picked up some road trip treats in the Ferry Building.  Miette’s macarons and Blue Bottle Coffee Co.’s cappuccino.

The vanilla was way better than the chocolate.  Even Bubby, chocolate lover, agreed.

And for the last damn time, a San Franciscan line at the Blue Bottle Coffee Co.

Good strong caffeinated drinks.  Too bad it wasn’t strong enough to keep me awake during our car ride back to LA.  I always fall asleep in the car like a behbeh.

Goodbye, San Francisco.  I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for this beautiful city.  Where else could you find an Asian family all dressed in matching puffer jackets?

Trish’s Mini Donuts
Embarcadero Pier 39, Bldg B
San Francisco, CA

Brenda’s
652 Polk St
San Francisco, CA

King of Thai Noodle
184 O’Farrell St
San Francisco, CA

(duck noodle soup only)

Hog Island Oyster Co.
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA
   

Miette Patisserie
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA
   

Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA
  

Maui, Hawaii Part 1

24 Jan

I’m 31 today. I have been drinking legally for 10 years today. A full decade of buying my own liquor. No stealing Blister’s ID to sneak into clubs and memorizing that she’s an Aries and graduated from high school in 1996 just in case the bouncer asks. No paying that significantly older guy in the circle of friends to buy everyone’s liquor. Isn’t it weird that every high school crew had that one older friend who always hung out with the high school kids when he was like a hard 27? Anyway, I’m 31. To celebrate my 21st tenth year anniversary, Bubby took me to Maui. It was either Maui or theYSL bag I had my eye on for the last few months. And sinceYSL can’t give me a tan, loco moco, or four days off of work … Aloha, baby.

We are staying at the Makena Resort, south of Wailea. Here’s our view from our balcony. Golf course on the left and ocean on the right.

Since Bubby and I were working until the minute we boarded our plane, we didn’t know what to expect. We figured Maui was like Honolulu and everything was within walking distance. It’s not. You must rent a car and don’t wait until the last minute to rent one because the lady working at Enterprise will laugh in your face and let you know that all car rentals are gone for the entire island. Luckily, Budget at the Grand Wailea had 2 cars left. A convertible or the jeep. We chose this bad boy:

That’s right. Cherry red stang. Man, driving in Hawaii with the top down, sun on your shoulders, and wind in your hair makes one feel like a teenage boy full of testosterone. If Bubby was a teenage girl, I’d take her in the back seat and pop her cherry in my cherry stang. But Bubby is 30 so I turned up the Phil Collins and belt out an obligatory, older lady’s “woo hoo!”

I was itchin’ for some poke so we drove to The Fish Market in Lahaina. I requested that he make mine spicy.

The ahi is super fresh and the spicy soy sauce, onions, green onions, vinegar sauce was perfect. This is the perfect snack because it’s light, spicy, and savory. For lunch, Bubby ordered the ahi burger and I ordered a Hawaiian white fish (I can’t remember the name because I have vacay brain) with a side of mac salad.

I poured the left over poke sauce on my fish because it lacked flavor. Bubby disliked the onion bun on his burger.  The next time I come to The Fish Market, I’ll order a full pound of the spicy poke on a bed of rice. I’m a simple girl. After we stuffed our faces,we went to Kapua beach. Here’s Bubby lost at sea.


This beach looks nice but had rocks scattered all over the bottom of the ocean, making it difficult to squeeze the sand between my monkey toes. The ocean temperature is a lot colder than the ocean in Waikiki but it’s probably because the masses in Waikiki are probably pissing in the ocean and raising its overall temperature. And for that, I can handle fripples.

I’ve been to Hawaii several times but have never been to a Hawaiian lu’au. Bubby made reservations for us at Old Lahaina Lu’au and you can imagine my surprise when all of the waiters looked like this:

And this:

I immediately sent these photos to Blister and she responded with a “DAYUM! Which lu’au did you go to … chippendales Maui.” Yes, Blister. DAYUM, indeed. I couldn’t stop staring at the waiters, especially the ones with the tatted sleeves. My gawking was a level 10 that Bubby agreed to get a tattoo as long as it was original and meaningful. Happy birthday to me.

The buffet at the lu’au offered your typical Hawaiian options. They even dug out the swine from the ground.  The recurring theme for me in Hawaii was to stack my plate with so much food that it resembles a trough.

DAMN IT! My stupid Ipad just ate the rest of my blog post.  STUPID IPAD. I basically broke down every single item on this plate in a clockwise fashion and now it’s gone.  STUPID IPAD.  Speaking of Ipad, we were sitting on the beach in Maui and I told Bubby, “Oh no, there is so much sand in my Ipad … that’s annoying.”  And my smart-ass husband muttered, “White people problems.”

Anyway, I also wrote a long love letter to the guava/strawberry butter at the lu’au. I was raving on and on about how decadent this magical butter tasted to my husband, and this rude girl sitting across from us (1) overheard our conversation and (2) stuck her dirty ass finger through my precious butter. WHAT THE WHAT?!  Kids are so rude these days.  After licking her dirty ass finger she looked at me and nodded, “it is good.”  Damn Omar Little, jackin’ my shit.

In sum, the lu’au had tasty butter, chicken long rice (the noodles in the small black cup), and tattooed eye candy.

The Fish Market
3600 L. Honoapiilani Road
Lahaina, Hawaii
(the poke deserves 5 fresh claps but the other dishes deserve 2)

Old Lahaina Lu’au
1251 Front Street
Lahaina, Hawaii
(the food deserves 2 claps but the staff deserves a standing ovation and 6 claps symbolizing their 6-pack abs, Good morning!)

Happy 30th Birthday, Bubby

28 Dec

Bubby is 30 years old.  I remember when he was just a bright-eyed 23 year old law student with rice rocket bangs, braces, and Old Navy dad jeans.  Now, he’s a man with dry wax-fingered hair, Zoom-whitened teeth, and a sturdy pair of Helmut Lang jeans.  He’s the only guy I know who has successfully jumped the ladder from permanent friend zone to “he must be mine” status.  Like a slow growing mold, he managed to successfully be my friend, boyfriend, fancy  fiancé, and husband.  He’s the best.

For his 30th  birthday, I wanted to throw him the birthday party of his dreams with the food of his people, dark chocolate treats, Super Mario Brothers theme, and a beer pong tournament.  I rented out the entire patio and set up a buffet of Chinese dishes.  The space is amazing.  There was an area for food with heat lamps and an area for beer pong.

I ordered the cloud balloons online, and purchased red and gold balloons from Party City.  Imagine me driving in a two-door coupe with 35 balloons.  Not my brightest idea.

For Bubby’s dark chocolate treats, I decided to make centerpieces filled with rice krispy treats, cake pops, and dark chocolate molds.

Rice Krispy Stars

I dipped one side of the star in melted yellow chocolate and used marshmallow fluff as the “glue” to keep the stick in place.  I purchased the star cookie cutter and edible black marker from Surfas in Culver City.  I wish I knew about that place before I got married because they have EVERYTHING!  And they also have a delicious little cafe connected to the store with a lot of tasty desserts.

Mario Dark Chocolate Mustaches

These mustaches were the easiest to create.  I melted black dark chocolate and poured them into a mustache mold that I purchased from Classic Cake Decorations in Garden Grove, CA.

Yoshi Egg Cake Pops

Blister helped create these amazing Yoshi egg cake pops.  We used peanut butter as our “glue” and old fashioned  yellow cake.  Blister carefully painted white chocolate and methodically attached red and green candied dots.  We tried to stick them in a Styrofoam take-out container, but it was too heavy. It didn’t work.

Toad Cake Pops

These were the most difficult to make.  We used the My Little Cupcake mold to create these mushrooms.  Blister carefully painted the Toads with chocolate and put them in the freezer to harden.

The finished centerpiece

We individually wrapped each treat and stuck them in question marked boxes purchased at Party City.  Each box was filled with dry rice and star candies to cover the rice.  I threw in some gold coins, too.

I ordered these napkins online and have tons left over.  I’m not sure when I’ll use them again.  Anyone want them?

The Mint Ice Cream Chocolate Cake from Coldstone Creamery

The cake looks like a hot mess, and it’s Coldstone Creamery’s fault.  I specifically ordered a clean white cake without chocolate shavings on the border and no “Happy Birthday” message.  Look at this font?!  It looks like someone tried to challenge himself and pipe the icing with his non-dominant hand.  What the fuck?  I was really pissed at Coldstone for their inability to follow instructions.  Don’t go to the Coldstone in Westwood.

The beer pong tournament was a blast, and the night was a success.  And like clockwork, I ran into “Drunk Bubby” who makes an appearance once a year on December 10.  Drunk Bubby is a hot mess.  He can’t walk, he slurs, he hugs everyone way too much, tells everyone he loves the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and when I ask if he wants to eat his Del Taco tacos or sleep, he says “both.”  Facepalm.

Newport Tan Cang Seafood

16 Nov

The holiday season is near.  I love this time of year.  Thanksgiving (the holiday that started this blog), Christmas, New Years, Bubby’s birthday, El Ninja’s birthday, and my mom’s birthday.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend my firm holiday party this year because it’s Bubby’s birthday.  I guess it’s not a bad thing especially since last year’s holiday party was a disaster.  Here was the conversation:

Me: Hey!
Sweetest Assistant Ever: Hi!
Me: Is that your husband?
SAE: Noooo……….she’s my cousin.
Me: …


Me: I’m so sorry, I’m really drunk.

I really wasn’t drunk, but I felt awful.  The entire night her manly cousin shot imaginary darts at me with her eyes.  It was the worst ever.  At least I won’t have to run into her cousin this year.  My big mouth.  It’s evil yet so good when it comes to eating.

This year for El Ninja’s birthday, he wanted to go to Newport Seafood.  We usually go to Newport for my dad’s birthday, he loves the lobster.  El Ninja enjoyed the whole fried fish, and now that he’s a pescatarian, it was an obvious choice.  What wasn’t so obvious was my parents birthday invitation to a complete stranger.  She’s not a complete stranger since she’s in the same English class as my dad, but she’s a complete stranger to our family.  My parents thought it would be completely normal and sane to bring my brother a blind date to HIS birthday dinner! What the what?!  Yes, my Korean parents brought this poor little girl who barely speaks English to meet my brother on his birthday and to have the entire family present for their first blind date.  Blister and I couldn’t help but wonder how trusting this girl is to accompany random people in a strange country to a restaurant.  What if we decided to kill her as a family sacrifice? [LADIES: When traveling, please do not get into strangers’ cars and have dinners with their crazy families even if the meal is free.]   To make matters worse, the poor girl sat in between my parents volleying each parent’s conversation as her head went right to left in a Linda Blair-like fashion.  Even if my brother expressed any type of interest, he wouldn’t have been able to get a word in edgewise.  Bubby whispered, “Your father is a horrible wingman.”

Besides the awkward moments provided by my loving parents, the food was good as always.

Lobster

What makes this lobster dish so special is the roe.

It’s chewy and soft and scrumptious.  The lobster is tossed with perfect amounts of spice, garlic, scallions.  Perfection.

Fish

The house fish in garlic chili sauce is a new family staple.   You can definitely taste the Vietnamese fish sauce, ginger, hot pepper, fried basil, and garlic in the sauce.  The fish is deep fried, so everything is edible.  I particularly enjoy the fried fish cheeks.  I definitely want to recreate this sauce at home and pour it on everything.

Pea sprouts

Another staple.  I love these tasty sprouts. They aren’t overly sauteed where the greens lose their crunch.  It’s such a delicious vegetable and severely underrated.

Beef Cubes

I don’t know why we continue to order this dish, but the salt and lime dipping sauce is my favorite.  This is a typical dish you can find at any Chinese or Vietnamese restaurant.

The new additions: Fried tofu, calamari, and pan fried noodles

This is one of my favorite dishes.  The fried tofu is fresh out of the fryer and super hot that it burned the roof of my mouth.  But it’s worth the third degree burn.  The tofu is soft and fleshy on the inside and the crispy coating is perfect, not too thick.  Bubby and I had a ten minute conversation on whether we thought the tofu was fried or breaded then fried.  The discussion remains open.  Regardless, I love this dish and the perfect soy dipping sauce.

The calamari had the same salt/lime dipping sauce I enjoy with my beef cubes.  Blister advised that I not order this dish, but I did anyway.  She was right, it was uneventful.

I took one bite of this dish and said, “Niet!”  I think Bubby enjoyed this dish, he loves him some noodies.

For the lobster, the fish, the pea sprouts, and tofu, I give Newport Seafood a perfect score.  It is a family tradition and will always be the best renovated Marie Callender ever.

Newport Tan Cang Seafood
518 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA

Skirball Cultural Center

3 Nov

Ladies and gents, please welcome my very first guest blogger, MEXICUNNIE!  Mexicunnie has graciously offered to provide a post about my wedding food since I was unable to taste what cost so much dough.  Enjoy. ~ M&C

***

Hi! I’m Mexicunnie, your guest amateur blogger for the evening.

Obviously I am honored to have been elected to blog about Meat and Confer’s wedding feast, though sadly I will be able to offer my views solely on the Southern side of the buffet.  Why, you ask, did I not partake in the food from the Asian and carving stations? Many reasons, but namely I was 8 months preggo and craving some of that good ol’ home cookin’.  And, more importantly, I had already stacked my plate so precariously high with chicken ‘n thangs that I did not have a speck of room left on the plate by the time I made it to the Asian side. It was the sharks vs. the jets and I was clearly a jet.

Here is my street cred which enables me to talk with some authority about this particular fare:

I am the granddaughter of a woman named Ruby Lee (for reals that was her name). Now, Ruby Lee was born in a Mississippi briar patch and was still a young girl when the Great Depression hit.  The particular part of Mississippi from which my white half hails is still po’ as hell so you can imagine they didn’t have much of anything during those troubled economic times.  This enabled my granny to become nothing short of a culinary MacGyver, fashioning delectable eats from flour and water and bitches better look out if she ever got a hold of some hog.  I remember she had a bowl designated just for making biscuits. She kept flour in the bowl along with an old timey tin flour sifter in it. Every day she got this bowl out, sifted the flour, added milk and eggs and such to the bowl, hand mixed the biscuit dough, and then gently rolled it into little delicate clouds.  This woman was legit, ok.?  Trust.   And I share her blood line and I spent every summer and every spring break with her until the summer before medical school when she passed away.  I watched her cook.  I paid attention.  But mostly I just ate like I was on death row.   M&C and Blister always say my super power is to eat and not weigh 400 pounds.  Looking back, it IS a wonder I was not morbidly obese.  Fried chicken, cornbread, pork and rice, chicken ‘n dressin, pink eye purple hull peas (damn I shelled so many bushels of those peas but triple damn they were worth it!)…I tasted the best the deep South had to offer so that pretty much makes me the expert around here.  I also spent the school years living in Texas, the state which always seems to provide the majority entries to the “Fattest Cities in America” list every year.  That’s because TX has some seriously awesome restaurants, y’all.  Houston, you’re delicious and a friggin fatty and you know it’s true.

I, myself, have tried different restaurants around L.A. touting that they offer real Southern food, but none of them really deliver (exception might be Dr. Hoggly Woggly’s Texas BBQ in Sherman Oaks but don’t even get me started about Roscoe’s, folks).  So I find it truly bizarre that the best Southern food that I have experienced in these here parts came from the Skirball center where the wedding reception took place.  I’m sure the chefs there are used to doling out filet mignon or seabass or some shit…but fried chicken? Come on.  I am here to attest, however, that whatever sweet-tits was responsible for rendering this chicken so crispy, so fried, so moist, so brined, so succulent- that person has a true gift.  That chicken was not only scrumptious, it defied all regulations and dogma. I was taught that you shouldn’t ever fry chicken without the bone in (my husband loves cracking a joke every time I use the phrase “bone in”, so shout out to him right now). The bone provides moisture and, above all, flavor to the chicken meat.  What jackhole would ever remove the bone?  Well, apparently it CAN be done and it was done at the Skirball.  That bird was boneless and above reproach.

<Note, if I had my druthers, I would enter a youtube clip of the movie “Circle of Friends” where Alan Cummings as the creepy Sean Walsh is at dinner with Minnie Driver and her parents and says “I’ve never tasted a more succulent birrrrrd…the richness of it and the flavor…all in all indisputable.>

(Thanks for the pics, Pelota.)

Then there was a creamy nouveau riche mac & cheese and greens that had some good sabor.  I judge Mexican restaurants by the salsa and I judge Southern food by the greens.  If they fuck up the greens (Roscoe’s I am looking at you, girl), then forget it.  Immediate dismissal.  But these greens made me say umph.

The only thing I could teach the Skirball is how to make better cornbread and how to add obscene amounts of butter to both the cornbread and the sweet mashed potatoes to get it tasting right.  The cornbread was dry.  You have to make cornbread in a pone.   You can’t make it in big batches like they tried to do, or it will come out dessicated.  Unlucky for them that they had to make cornbread for a crowd.  Oh well,  that chicken was 5 clap worthy so I ain’t mad atcha.  I want to add here since I just made a brief homage to butter that Anthony Bourdain is a real asshole.   I confess that I respect him in general because he has a well-cultivated palate and is ostensibly well-traveled but to criticize a Southern cook like Paula Deen for loving herself some recipes with butter as the main ingredient is just asinine,  All Southern cooks love butter and use butter unabashedly.  It’s merely in their nature. Does he go around yelling at dogs for licking their balls? I mean, really.   Anthony Bourdain was a dick for attacking that sweet magnolia flower, Paula Deen (who talks just like my mom by the way), for being herself and loving butter.  Anthony Bourdain, I would punch your smug ass face and then I would make you take me to Southeast Asia where we would find that Balinese pig you talked so much about- you know the one roasting on a spit getting all gussied up and basted by a rag on a stick- that was a good episode.   I digress.

The last thing I want to mention is the donut lady, “The Fry Girl” or something like that (catchy right?).  Now that the wedding is over, the donut lady is no longer an international secret and other people can now hire the donut lady to make their event super luxe.   The donut lady has a small stand and a little helper elf and a genius deep frying machine which turns out little donuts the size of a dollar coin- the batter enters on one end and floats lazily down a river of fryin’ grease until it is soft on the inside and crisp on the outside.   Then you get to choose the flavor on top- powdered sugar, cinnamon, jam, etc.   Homer Simpson would literally jizz his pants.  Basically if I had extra time on my hands, I would find the donut lady at her house, stand beneath her window, and hold up a boombox that plays Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”

It’s funny how you just take home specific memories from an event. For me, the wedding jogs musings of Miso in a tux, Blister looking like a Korean soap star, M&C never looking more radiant and glam, and a couple very much in love.  Oh, and the chicken ‘n donuts.  Mmmmm…donuts.

Skirball Cultural Center
2701 North Sepulveda Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA

The Fry Girl
www.thefrygirlinc.com

Masan

6 Jul

I’ve been on this ridiculous wedding diet.  Blister was like, “You’re the only bride I know who is pigging out before her wedding.  Usually, brides want to look their best, not their fattest.”  And because of this, I’ve been going to wedding boot camp of four straight days of hell at Pure Barre.  More like Pure Hell.  It’s intense ballet, yoga, and pilates which definitely has reshaped my muscles.  But it’s so hard that the thought of eating food makes me feel horrible because it’s never worth the pain I feel in Pure Barre.  Well, some foods are worth the pain, but not all.  I have 4 weeks left of this intensive strength training, and then I’m back on the fat wagon.  Also, I want to look my best for my husband-to-be during our honeymoon in Barbados.  I told Bubby that my body will be at its ultimate peak during Barbados and after that, it’s downhill with post-pregnancy stretch marks, fat rolls, and flabby skin.  He seemed sad.

Although I’m not dining anywhere new until after our wedding, we have been to several restaurants that I need to post an update for, including Masan.  I’ve heard of Masan several times before, the restaurant where you can order san nakji (live octopus).  I’ve always wanted to try san nakji ever since I watched the movie, “Old Boy.”  While others in the movie theater squirmed with disgust, I whispered to Bubby, “That looks delicious.”

I gathered my family members, eaters of live things, and headed to Masan.  Masan is on the edge of Koreatown, closer to downtown.  It’s not the best neighborhood and the only available parking is valet.  Once you walk in, you’re greeted by fish tanks, drunk Korean men with red faces, and empty green bottles once filled with soju.  The decor is sketchy, and if you’re not Korean you might want to call your Korean friend to come with.  The front of the restaurant was moderately packed for a Friday night, and the hostess escorted us to the back of the restaurant.  The smell of questionable fish and the sight of the cluttered kitchen were not appetizing but required to endure as we made our way to the back room.  These back rooms make me suspicious … I think I’ve seen too many mafia movies but my dukes were up, ready to swing.  We were the only ones in the back room.  Now if I wasn’t Korean, I’d think this is some Rosa Parks shit.  But I genuinely feel they didn’t have an available table for 5 in the front of the restaurant.

Masan actually serves a variety of live underwater deliciousness.  Live shrimp, live uni, live sea cucumbers.  We opted for the family plan including sashimi, sea cucumbers, steamed monk fish, spicy fish stew, and more.

The sea cucumbers.

This looks more disgusting than how it tastes.  Yes, it looks like black phlegm hacked from the lungs of a chronic cigarette smoker, but it’s really good.  It has this interesting crunchy texture that you can’t really place.  Maybe like crunching on the cartilage off a chicken bone.  But it was my favorite of the night.

The live octopus.

The live octopus was anti-climactic.  It was nothing like the movie Old Boy.  Sure the tentacles moved around and stuck to your inner cheeks, but I wanted a fight.  I wanted these bad boys to fight without mercy.  I should have thrown several of these tentacles on my face just to reenact the famous scene.

Suckers with suckers.

A clam???

I’m not sure what this was, I believe it’s some kind of clam.  Blister, do you remember?  They were chewy, nothing special obviously.  I can’t even remember what it is.

Sea squirts.

First of all, the name of these things is disgusting.  Sea squirt.  Barf.  The waitress gave us these squirts as “service.”  In Korean, “service” means on the house.  So when these squirts landed on our table, squirts from Korea mind  you, my dad’s eyeballs popped out of his head as he popped these bad boys into his mouth.  Now the eyeballs were in the back of his head.  Homeboy was in heaven.  These bad boys are disgusting.  They taste like dishwater.  No.  The water from your spa pedicure after the lady grates the cheese off the bottom of your feet.  That water.

Steamed monk fish.

Masan is known for their aggu jjim, steamed monk fish, and rightfully so.  My mom makes a killer aggu jjim, but Masan’s was good, too.  The fish was soft and tender and super spicy just like it should be.  The best aggu jjim I ever had was in New York.  During college, my aunt would order it from the local Korean restaurant and magically, aggu jjim appeared at her front door.  Hot, spicy, tender, delicious.  Damn, I used to kill some good aggu jjim up in New York.  I miss it.  Masan’s aggu jjim is not even competition for New York’s, but it was good.

Fish stew.

So remember that spa pedicure water?  Throw some red pepper flakes in it, and you’ll get this fish stew.  This is the worst fish stew.  It was way too watery and the fish and spices didn’t have enough time to percolate to get that fishy aroma.  That sounds gross.  But it was elementary.  So elementary.

Fresh sashimi.

The sashimi was not fresh and not worth the price.  El Ninja’s sashimi is way better.  He buys a live flounder from the market and slices and dices that bad boy and serves it fresh.  Really good and way better than Masan’s.  It wasn’t even sliced properly. Look at those jagged edges.  No good.

Here are some of the side dishes served.

 Squid salad with red pepper/vinegar sauce

 Mung bean jelly with soy sauce and scallions

 Deep fried salmon bones — crunchy and delicious

 Roasted garlic — mm mm good.  I recently found out that microwaved garlic is really good, too.

 Egg — a Korean staple

I expected more from Masan and was seriously disappointed.  The sea cucumber and aggu jjim were the only items I would recommend.  Two sarcastic slow claps.

Masan
2851 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

Banh Mi My Tho

25 Apr

I just wrote a review and it got deleted.   I’m about to pull a Lou Ferrigno like right now.

DAMN IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Ripped shorts and shirts!!!!!!!!!!!  Green skin!!!!!!!!!!!!

Must count backwards from 10…..

Okay.  Better.
So I haven’t been able to write any reviews because work has been really busy and it’s been difficult to work and write reviews.  I’m thinking about having some of my friends write guest posts on the places they’ve been to so that there are regular posts.  It should be fun.

Bubby and I enjoy eating sammies every now and then.  We love Schlotzsky’s The Orginal, and some delicious homemade meatball subs.  Meat? Good.  Bread? Good.  Sauce? Good.  We also love going to our banh mi joint in Alhambra.  It’s not really a restaurant but kind of like a Vietnamese market the size of a closet where you can order delicious sandwiches from.  But recently, we noticed that our banh mi closet was in Los Angeles Magazine as the 17 best sandwiches in LA.

Man, we are so ahead of the curve.

But Bubby and I carefully researched the other top contenders so we can judge for ourselves, I shall call it Project Sammie.

Meatball at All About the Bread

Capastrami at Capriotti’s

Ahogada at Cook’s Tortas

Tongue at Attari’s Sandwich Shop

I’ll keep you posted on the status of Project Sammie.

I usually worry that my hole-in-the-wall joints are no longer my personal secrets when the LA Times and Magazine give them a rave review.  But on this particular day, there was no line as usual.  The only thing between me and my delicious banh mi was the $2.50 in my pocket.

That’s right, these long daddies are two-fiddy.  You can probably find that amount of chump change in your car seats.  Two-fiddy is a steal, and I’m worried my closet/restaurant-business friends will realize they can charge $5 per sandwich without losing any business.  I mean, Subway charges “five dollar … five dollar footlong” and has made so much money.

I ordered my usual Number 8: “Chabroiled” Pork.  Bubby ordered the Number 7: BBQ Meatball.

#8 with extra jalapeños

The “chabroiled” pork was nicely grilled and tender in texture.  I prefer mine to be a little crispy on the edges.  The sweet carrots, radish, and cucumbers nicely paired with the jalapeños and cilantro added the extra sweet crunch to the salty and sweet pork.  The baguette to pork ratio was off, too much bread for the amount of meat and vegetables.   The baguette should have been thinner.

Bubby’s meatball sammie was heavenly.

The meatball was tender and juicy.  The baguette was smaller than the pork one and so it was the perfect ratio with the meat and vegetables.  The mayo sauce was nicely drizzled all up on them balls of meat.  LA Magazine should have featured this meatball banh mi rather than the pork.  This sandwich was perfectly crafted.

To wash down the delicious meat on a hot LA day, cafe sua da.

The iced coffee at Lee’s Sandwiches is definitely better because the crushed ice is what makes it above and beyond your regular iced coffee.  I will always prefer Coffee Bean iced beverages above Starbucks iced beverages because of Coffee Bean’s crushed ice.  It’s key.  But this iced coffee is legit and was so strong it made little hairs sprout on my chest.  Strong like bull.

I always have and still do enjoy my banh mi sandwiches at Banh Mi My Tho.

Take a seat in front of the “B” rating …

… eat a banh mi and enjoy the view.

Banh Mi My Tho
304 W Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA

Araki’s Japon

12 Apr

Work has been so hard these days.   Sometimes work can be fun, like the best work day of my life. What’s the best work day of my life? Well, Cellmate and I went to our local snack shop and asked if they had Smirnoff Ice so we could “Ice” Nibs.  To “ice” someone, you have to secretly present a Smirnoff Ice and the recipient has to get on bended knee and chug it.  If the recipient has an Ice and blocks you with his, the original Icer has to down 2 Smirnoff Ices.  Not only did our snack shop have Smirnoff Ice, they had Mango flavored Smirnoff.  Gross.  So I hid one of the Ices in Nibs’s tissue box and another in the spine of his legal reference guides.  I walked into Nibs’s office and pretended like I had to sneeze, and instantly he grabbed his tissue box for me and … ICE!  He chuggged it in his office right then and there.  NICE!

For the second Ice, I had the file clerk go into Nibs’s office and ask for his reference guides for updating.  Nibs grabbed the reference guide and felt the unusual heaviness of it and muttered, “Fuck.”  ICE!  He chugged his second Mango Ice of the day.  Now, we were hoping for 3 Ices but the third didn’t work out as planned.  We had Nibs’s boss hand him a file with an Ice in it, but Nibs refused to accept it because he knew an Ice was in there.  I think he owes us a Mango Ice.  What a sore loser.

But that’s considered an awesome work week, and last week was not awesome so Bubby said we should have sushi for dinner because I’ve been so busy with work and billed a record of hours for the month of March.  He always uses food to reward/manipulate me.  He suggested we go to Araki’s Japon.  A small sushi restaurant in a strip mall with neon lighting located next to a Coldstone Creamery in Foothill Ranch, California.  I’m sure I was in for an authentic Japanese treat.

The restaurant was full of white people and the only seats available were at the sushi bar.  Usually in LA, when an ethnic restaurant is full of white people, my natural instinct is to leave.  But this is South OC, all restaurants are filled with white people so we walked towards the sushi bar.  The menu is like a Japanese Cheesecake Factory menu, never ending.  Right when you think you know what you’re going to order, you look up and notice more writings on the wall.  Bubby loves to analyze the menu and asked, “Honey, what’s sylup?”

What a smartass.
My expectations of this restaurant were pretty low and since I was starving, I was slightly annoyed when they “ran out” of a lot of my favorites like fatty toro, aji, scallops, hama hama oysters.  So instead of fatty toro, we ordered chutoro, a medium fatty tuna.

Chef Araki instructed us to dip the ginger in his homemade soy sauce and brush the sauce on the fish.  Wow.  This is fantastic, even better than fatty tuna because sometimes fatty tuna could be a little too fatty.  But chutoro was a perfect amount of fattiness.  Amazing.  But fatty toro is pretty hard to fuck up, right?  It doesn’t mean this restaurant is good.

Yellowtail in yuzu sauce with cilantro and jalapenos.

These slices of yellowtail are so thick, like two inches thick, fresh and tender.  With the crunch of the cilantro and fresh jalapeno bathing in a yuzu sauce, this dish is ridic.

Wagyu beef seared sashimi.

Chef Araki prepared the thin rare slices of wagyu beef with thin slices of green onion and ginger.  He poured sizzling sesame seed oil and olive oil over it to lightly sear it.  Praise Him.  This is amazing, and better than the wagyu sashimi at Matsuhisa.  In fact, Chef Araki trained with Nobu for 9 years before opening his own restaurant.  The student has become the master.

Ikura with quail egg.

One of the quail eggs busted, but it was still creamy and cold.  I love cold, fresh ikura.  Both for me, Bubby hates ikura.

Pork belly “kakuni”.

Kakuni is thick cubes of pork belly simmered in dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sake. This broth is so light like a soup.  I expected it to require rice because it seemed salty, but it’s not.  The pork belly flaked off with my fork, and Bubby devoured the layer of fat.  I would throw in spoonfuls of rice and a fried egg on top, and mix the shit out of it.  Good comfort food.

Chef Araki: What are you doing?  Why are your eyes closed?
Me: I’m praying for your hands.  May they be strong and never get carpal tunnel.

Sushi.

Left to right: Albacore, Spotted Shad, Yellowtail

These were Bubby’s fish.  He ordered a lot more, but they never came out.  I asked him to use one word to describe each.
Albacore: Solid.
Spotted Shad: Interesting.
Yellowtail: Good.

We couldn’t stop calling each other a shad.  It just sounded funny.

I was waiting for my sweet babies, my sweet shrimp.  Here are my friends swimming in their fresh tank.

Chef Araki asked me if I wanted the live shrimp sashimi style or if I wanted it “his way.”  Uh, “his way” please.

Live sweet shrimp “his way.”

“His way” means there’s a sprinkle of yuzu, cilantro, chili sauce, sprinkled with sea salt.

The yuzu slightly cooked the top of the live shrimp and when I popped this baby in my mouth, a tear fell down my cheek.  I stood up and slow clapped.  He thought I was crazy but this was it.  This is the dish that pushed this restaurant from 4 clap-territory to 5.  This was it.  And the heads were lightly fried that every bite was crunchy and delicate like tempura.  Dissolved in my mouth unlike many fried shrimp heads.

BEST LIVE SHRIMP I HAVE EVER HAD!

Salmon Kami Shabu in Miso Butter.

Chef Araki:  Dip the salmon in the miso butter for 10 seconds for the perfect medium rare.

The perfect medium rare.

Holy butter.  If you love butter like Paula Deen and I do, miso butter is like butter on Asian steroids.  It’s not too oily but still coats that perfect buttery flavor all over the salmon.  This was so fantastic that we had to share with our neighbor at the sushi bar.  She was so grateful.  Good food should always be shared and I hope one day someone else will pay it forward to me and let me eat their food.  One day.  But we weren’t done.  Chef Araki dropped sweet white rice into our miso butter.

Haaaaallelujah!  Halleluhah! Halleeelujah!  Are you fucking kidding me?!!!!!  This is the ultimate comfort food in a paper coffee filter bowl.   It’s warm, subtle, buttery, savory and rich.  Chef Araki said he was going to take it off the menu because summer is approaching and I insisted he keep it on his dinner menu.  You’re welcome, everyone.

I told Chef Araki that I was giving him a perfect rating on my blog because it was obvious I was into him.  Little does he know that like 3 people read my blog and 2 of the 3 are vegetarians, but he gave us free desserts.

Creme brûlée in three ways.

Left to right: Yuzu, green tea, ginger

The creme brûlée was ok.  Nothing special.  But the cooked pear in chocolate sauce and ice cream was amazing.

As Bubby rolled me out of this place, I couldn’t believe I found such a gem in Foothill Ranch.  Where did this man come from? Why is he in Foothill Ranch?  Is he lost? Why is his food so amazing?  Why am I in love with him?  Even days later, I kept thinking about his food, his hands, his well-being.  Is he thinking of me?  I’m obsessed with him, his hands, and his food.  Urasawa is still one of my favorite restaurants in LA, but Araki has caught me by surprise.

Araki’s Japon
26612 Town Center Dr, Suite E
Foothill Ranch, CA

Anjin

30 Mar

Japanese bbq is similar to Korean bbq without the spice and heat.  The taste is more subtle in every way.  No charcoal, no peppers, no soju.  Between the two options, I prefer Korean of course.  But meat is meat, and I ain’t gonna deny it.  Bubby and I went on a double date with Oliex (the combined names like Brangelina).  We don’t really go on double dates.  I just don’t like to go out.  The other day Bubby and I were having a conversation in the comfort of our queen bed and down comforter and he said, “You’re a social person and can have a conversation with any stranger but you don’t like to go out or hang out with people you know.”  So true.  I don’t like to hang out.  I’ll attend the obligatory birthday party, wedding, and celebration, but I don’t like to hang out for fun.  I prefer to hibernate in my room with my DVR and order take out.  If I’m feeling really exotic and dangerous, I’ll take an afternoon nap.

I can’t remember the last time we were on a double date.  I don’t think we’ve ever been on a double date so Bubby was surprised I had set one up.  The four of us decided to go to Anjin.  Well, 3 of us decided Anjin because the “ex” in Oliex is a vegetarian.  Majority rules –also there were several vegetarian options.

We ordered marbled prime rib eye, marbled prime boneless short rib, pork belly (not pictured), and tongue.

All marbled meat is pretty fantastic, but the best in show was the tongue.  Crispy edges and tender texture dipped in the yuzu sauce (bottom sauce in picture below).

The pork belly was really tasty, more so than at a Korean bbq restaurant.  Wrapped in lettuce and kimchee, it was quite fantastic.  I was too busy eating that I forgot to take pictures of it.  That’s how good it was.

A major difference in Japanese bbq restaurants and Korean ones is that they charge for side dishes like the lettuce wraps and kimchee.  You have to pay for these.  At Korean bbq restaurants, you only have to pay for the side dishes if you’re a white person.  I always tell my two white friends to make sure they take their Korean passport, me, when they’re traveling to Ktown because they will be charged for ice water.  Sorry, but it’s the truth.

I ordered the egg soup for the table and it tasted like the egg soup Blister makes from a packet. Boo.

But the bbq is legit, and I like Anjin.  I would definitely go again and try the other types of meat they offer.  They’re open until 1 am which is awesome for my lifestyle because sometimes my afternoon naps last until 9 pm which is the exact time all Rancho Santa Margarita restaurants close.  The meat was really good quality.  It’s definitely not as good as Totoraku –the small hole in the wall Japanese bbq restaurant where reservations are taken by personal invite only (Thanks to T-Face and her brudda, T-Money).  But it’s still good.  Expect a line.

Anjin
3033 Bristol St, Suite N
Costa Mesa, CA