Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Quickies #12: Pie blocked & DineLA plans

Pie Blocked by Bakers Square: Boo! Hiss! As I twittered recently, I went to Bakers Square this past Wednesday for their National Pie Day celebration (with free slices of pies for those who checked their Sunday paper coupons). I arrived at 8:00pm to find the "NO MORE PIES" sign hanging out the front door . . . having already arrived there, I put myself through the ordeal of their bland coffee and their greasy foccacia sandwich with fries (none of which were as good as I remembered from back in college).

DineLA Plans: I've been saving my budget & calories for the next two weeks, which, if you didn't know already, I'm really excited about -- even though some Hounders are disappointed by the list ~ which I understand, but there's still quite a few gems so it's not bad for a debut year. Anyways, for me, the places to hit are Noe at the Omni, Ford's Filling Station, Beacon, Grace and Napa Valley Grille. Only sad note is @ Grace, where my friend and I are waitlisted on Jan. 30. But if it means eating at the bar/lounge just before the kitchen closes... so be it :\

And while Pat's right that you probably aren't getting the authentic experience of the restaurant (given how many of these places will be mass-producing the prix-fixe courses and running hectic trying to turn tables on a completely filled floor), it's still a nice (and cost-effective) way to get an impression of a place, and a good incentive to get people to try places they were previously unsure of.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Short PSA: Newport Beach Restaurant Week

Yes, I am still effing excited about DineLA Restaurant Weeks around the corner, but for my OC pals -- Newport Beach eateries are doing a Restaurant Week right now! (Actually until the 24th, so you have two and a half more days to go). Here's the list of participating restaurants and their menus, lunches for $15 and dinners for $20/$35.

last year's report on Sage when I went during NP Restaurant Week.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Recipe Time #11: Dessert Pizza

A whimsical and colorful dessert that's a delight for group gatherings; it's also incredibly simple to put make: shortbread crust, assorted toppings with cream cheese frosting and strawberry jam sauce.

Ingredients (makes a 12" pizza, serves 12-18 depending on slicing)

Crust (Shortbread)
2 (16 tbsp.) sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. (1 package) cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick (4 tbsp.) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Be creative and pick your own! (I chose kiwifruits, cherries & tangerines because they are colorful, cheap/in-season and don't turn brown & mushy) I guesstimate about 1 to 1 1/2 cup of toppings

Strawberry/Raspberry Preserves (optional)

1. Start with the shortbread crust

a. Sift the flour and salt, set aside
b. Combine the softened butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until well-blended and creamy
c. Add the flour/salt mixture, a quarter at a time, and incorporate; the dough will be pretty crumbly.
d. Roll the dough up into a ball and place on parchment paper on a baking sheet
e. Using a roller (or in my case, a wine bottle), roll out the dough in a circular motion until quarter-inch thick. To get a uniform shape, press something circular into it (skillet, 12-inch paper circle, in my case, the rim of a springform pan) then trim excess with a knife
f. Place in fridge for about 15 minutes to let it set and get firm, helping it hold its shape when baked. Preheat oven to 350 F.
g. Bake for 12-18 minutes, or until edges start to brown.
h. Take out and let it cool to room temperature (if you prefer pre-cut the crust for cleaner and more even slices, do it while it's still warm)


2. Make the cream cheese frosting; simply combine the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla extract until well-blended.

3. After the crust is cool, spread the frosting on top (I found the easiest way is to drop glops of it with a spoon, then spread out in a circular motion with a spatula or the bottom of a spoon). Loosely wrap pizza and place in fridge to allow frosting to set a while.

4. While pizza is cooling, prepare the assorted the toppings . . .
. . . which for me meant slicing the various fruits and drying them on a paper towel so they don't make the frosting runny. (Yes, there are peach segments in the photo - I also considered them, but they wound up being taking too much space and I already have an orange-colored fruit, so direct into my mouth they went.)

5. Take pizza out of the fridge and place toppings on top.

6. If you want to put some red sauce for an even more pizza-like effect, simply scoop some jam in a baggie, snip the corner and pipe away at the pizza.

7. Serve at room temperature or wrap 'n chill (up to 2-3 days) - enjoy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mini Foodventure #48: Tampopo (Rowland Heights)

This past weekend my friend and I were cravin' ramen in the San Gabriel Valley and feeling experimental, so we skipped Daikokuya, Shinsengumi, Ajisen and Foo Foo Tei (which we've tried and liked) to try one of the newer Tampopo branches in Rowland Height's Diamond Plaza (off the Fullerton exit on the 60).
The joint is at the far end of the strip mall plaza inside a food court that looked largely abandoned. We weren't sure if the lack of patronage is due to the customers being siphoned off by the other eateries, restaurants, boba tea houses and snack shops on the way to the food court (and there were plenty!) or if it, well, just sucks. Since we still wanted to try and check it off our list (i.e. too lazy to backtrack to the Foo Foo Tei in Hacienda Heights) we plop our tooshes down and ordered away. The service was typical of other ramen houses, friendly but not fussy (oh yea, and no screaming noodle cooks like Shinsengumi).

Feeling particularly porky, I got the chashu ramen . . .
. . . which I had mixed reaction about. As the picture shows, the chashu here is leaner than that of many other ramen houses; something I actually appreciate since I find most ramen chashu to be too fatty for my liking. However, it was also a tougher, dryer piece of pork and considerably over-salted. The rest of the bowl was solid but nothing to write much about: a rich, flavorful tonkatsu broth (that doesn't reek of MSG) and noodles that were just a smidgen past al dente.

My friend got the more fusion-y mapo tofu /w ground beef ramen:
It looked like what I would expect from a ramen spiced up with a helping of mapo tofu, then in went the spoon . . .
. . . and out came some unappetizing gloppiness. I had a taste and it wasn't bad (nowhere as spicy as I would've liked, though my friend said it's a slow heat that builds) but the gelatinous, goopy texture made it very weird to eat, rendering it more like a "Pho with everything plus tofu" than ramen. Overall, an ok but "once is enough" dish for me.

In conclusion, good enough to get me to go back if I'm craving ramen and in the area, but not so impressive that I'll go out of my way for it (unlike the aforementioned ramen places). The price (around $7 for the more basic bowls) is OK and the portions are decent.

A few other reviews:
from Yelp
from Go Ramen!
(who found the mapo ramen delish and the gyoza skippable)

Tampopo in the Plaza Walk in Diamond Plaza
1370 Fullerton Rd
Rowland Heights 91748

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Quickies #11: Celestino & Paletas....

Ok, so my holi*days* turned into weeks and almost a month before I remembered "Oh yea, I should be putting this in my blog". Anyways, I hoped you all had a wonderful holidays and a happy '08 with many more good eats to come.

: Celebrated a friend's birthday recently and since he was jones-ing for pasta, I decided to take him to Celestino and get a first impression of the place. In short, it reminded me of Il Fornaio, a little more unique & a little bit pricier. The starters were great - my friend and I shared their salad of the day (a simple but fresh-tasting spinach/radicchio with hearty slices of romano cheese & citrusy vinaigrette) and the warm mushroom souffle with a fontina cheese center & a hint of black truffle. Our pasta main courses, however, were underwhelming and looked better on the menu than they did on our table. His pennette with proscuitto in vodka sauce wasn't particularly flavorful and lacked noticeable slices of meat. My duck & mushroom mezzelune in blueberry/mushroom sauce was tastier, but didn't deliver the interesting fruity punch I expected. So overall, it's OK, but I doubt I'd visit again for mid-priced Italian.

La Mich Paleteria: For my east San Gabriel Valley readers who don't feel like trucking all the way to
Scoops or even Fosselman's in Alhambra for a decent scoop, there's La Mich Paleteria in Duarte (off Huntington in the Target plaza). As the name indicates, they serve plenty of paletas, Mexican ice cream pops made with fresh fruit, and their ice creams are silky-rich and mildly sweet. The flavor selection is very authentic to what's offered south-of-the-border, including rompope (rum), cactus, cajeta (Mexican caramel) and spicy mango. So far, I'm swooning over the pecan and cajeta ice creams and can't wait to discover more wonderful delights.

Future Foodie Stuff: Like every other local foodie, I too am stoked about
LA Mill's opening today and can't wait to enjoy good joe and good grub. And of course, DineLA is looming even closer ~ and I have a few more places to add to my list of must-trys.


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