Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mint Brownies

Very important announcement: I baked a dessert!

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Inspired by the Peppermint Brownies on my friend Jen's blog Fresh from the..., I tackled my fear of baking. Admittedly, I used boxed brownie mix, but baby steps are key here. I also couldn't find peppermint cookies or chocolate chips (wouldn't swirled peppermint chips have been so pretty?), so used mint generic "Oreo"ish cookies instead.

They turned out a bit fudgy, but better than dried out! With this success under my belt, I have a mind to try more desserts. Shocker of the holiday season! Hope you're all staying warm and filling up on carbs and sweets.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dduk Bok Ki

I am so excited right now. I just made dduk bok ki, the Korean rice cake dish that was a favorite of mine as a child and still is to this day. My mom makes it when I go home, but otherwise, I've had to rely on food court stalls and restaurants where the price does not reflect its humble-and very cheap-ingredients. But, no more because I have conquered my fear of making dduk bok ki!


I used this recipe from Maangchi as a guide, but instead of making anchovy stock, I used dashi from a packet. Also, the green onions in my crisper were beyond usable, so I used cabbage instead (another vegetable that's been in my fridge for a good while, but somehow retained the spring in its step). The rice cakes I bought directed me to soak them in cold water 2 hours beforehand, but I could only wait around for about an hour before I needed to eat NOW (and they turned out fine). And needless to say, no measuring spoons were used in this process.

Preparing this dish is rather magical: the rice cakes soften up and get squishy while the spicy sauce slowly, but surely, thickens into something that tastes so surprisingly good, you can't believe you made it yourself. I guess a lot of cooking is this way; you do as the recipe says and somehow, it all miraculously melds together to create something edible (and occasionally, even perfect). Today was a solo test run, but Charles loves this dish, so I'll definitely be making it for him! Give it a try, it's oh so easy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Soi 56

Does LA need another Thai restaurant? From fiercely authentic to mediocre-with-white-table cloth, this city has a lot to offer/bestow/inflict in that department, but I say yes, there's always room for more. Case in point: Soi 56, a newcomer with Thai street food as their main selling point, divided into skewers and small plates. (Disclaimer: they keep the lighting dim and we sat at the darkest table, so I apologize for the flash photography.)

We kicked things off with a few skewers:

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Flap meat and green onions: loved the beefy flavor, not the lukewarm temperature.

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Banana with honey and coconut milk: tart and more of a dessert (as the server mentioned to us). A departure from the usual fried appetizer.

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Chicken livers: expected perhaps more from these than a normal chicken liver could, err, deliver. I was hoping they'd be creamier, but maybe I'm too used to pate and other types of liver.

In addition to their more nibbly food, their menu also includes larger dishes of curries, noodles, and house specials (such as oxtail soup and spicy quail). Surprisingly, the dishes from the kitchen were better than the skewers from the grill.

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Deep fried marinated babyback ribs: this dish and I were meant for each other! Every charred bite of fat accented with a slight acidic zing (I'm guessing lime).

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Aromatic butternut pumpkin curry: Charles loves pumpkin curry and this one passed his test with flying colors. I may or may not have cleaned up the last of the curry with a rib.

Soi 56's menu has all sorts of things I want to try next time around: squid leg skewers, crispy mussel crepe, fish sauce wings, roasted game hen... a lot more to cover! On the drinks front, they've got drafts like Hefeweizen and Arrogant Bastard as well as wine and soju cocktails. Perhaps you are just as content with Thai iced teas, but it's refreshing that the restaurant has taken care with its alcoholic beverages.

Service was slow and not very organized, however, which put a bit of a damper on the meal. The servers were friendly when they were at our table, so perhaps just a lack of front of the house communication or an understaffed night. Since it's in a busy area, come prepared to pay for parking (either metered or valet) or walk a few blocks. We were able to find non-metered street parking because we ate pretty early.

Soi 56 is more than what I thought it would be (being located next to Big Wang's may have influenced my expectations, sorry). The menu reflects passion for the food as well as a sense of who their customers may be, appealing to both discerning gourmands and those who don't feel like they're missing out by passing on offal. The restaurant doesn't have things down pat yet, but I'm excited for what things may come.

Soi 56
1556 N. Cahuenga Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 962-5656

Tuesday, November 17, 2009



Dinner tonight was donkatsu, which is basically Japanese for pork cutlet crusted in panko. I picked up a package of pork specifically labeled for donkatsu at my local Korean supermarket, but usually I buy thin boneless chops. And you will know I'm Korean by the way I dress my cabbage (i.e. the high-brow combo of mayo and ketchup). The piece of pork is petite, but it was one of those "one is not enough, but two is too much" dilemmas that befall those who prepare meals for themselves. Luckily, I am fanatical about cabbage, so got carried away with a second helping and ended up barely cleaning my plate.

This dish is something I can eat at any given moment, though without the awesome sauce, it's almost not worth it. Making donkatsu at home is much more satisfying than eating it at a restaurant (unless you go to a specialty joint) because most likely the pork will be more substantial and it's straight from the pan. Lukewarm or tough fried foods are terribly depressing, no?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Broccoli (Not) Au Gratin

I've been in a vegetable mood these days. Today's star ingredient is broccoli, which I used to eat a lot as a kid. These days, I opt for its more mellow counterpart, cauliflower, but I was looking for a dish to mix things up.

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I knew I wanted to try something with breadcrumbs and this Emeril Lagasse recipe caught my eye. What I made is more of a roasted broccoli dotted with some bechamel and bread crumbs, but the recipe was helpful in confirming my instinct that I should blanch before roasting.

I forgot to drizzle the breadcrumbs with olive oil until towards the end of cooking, but as that step is crucial to getting lovely browned bits, please pay better attention than I did! Steamed broccoli seems so depressing now that I've had this version that is more mellow yet luscious.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Creamed Spinach with Bacon

I had a bunch of bacon, half a bag of spinach and some milk on its last day and wanted to make something that would use all those ingredients. After a quick search, I landed on Simply Recipes where this recipe beckoned me. I'm a frequent reader of Elise's site and though I do not cook the dishes featured much, I certainly do file them away in my head as "some day I will make this for me or someone I care about." If you are more organized and have more energy than me, do yourself a favor and check out the vast index of recipes over there. Please be aware, however, that the recipe linked above was the inspiration and I actually used fewer ingredients and made a much smaller amount.

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I consider my attempt a success because the bechamel sauce turned out okay! Although, yes I have to admit, it came out on the very thick side, but that's my amateur fault. Live and learn, though. Next time, my bechamel will shine. I'm so glad I went this route rather than a spinach salad. There's a very good chance I'll be making this dish for Christmas as it would make a rich and very pretty accompaniment for any kind of meat.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Take A Bao

I very rarely find myself over in Century City, so hadn't been able to try Take A Bao until... today! (I can't believe I'm putting this up on the same day the eating actually occurred!) Now, this place is located at the Westfield Century City mall where all the food court restaurants are priced rather high (at least in my opinion -- A&W cheese fries memories from middle school, anyone?). On to the food...

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I chose the Take A Bao combo (two bao and a salad) for $9.50.

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BBQ pork bao: I was expecting Chinese style BBQ pork because I overlooked the "braised" part of the menu description. It tasted like a Chinese-American version of BBQ pulled pork.

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Miso beef bao: while I liked the flavor of the marinade of the beef, the combination of all the ingredients didn't work very well. Maybe miso and bao dough aren't meant for each other? Also, the texture of short ribs wasn't great because it wasn't falling apart, so the beef was a little tough.

Overall, all the food was on the sweet side (and I like salty-sweet taste combos a lot). I was underwhelmed by the salad because it had napa cabbage, which in general I like a lot. But, not in raw salad form; I don't find it very flavorful. I honestly would've been happier with one of those spring mix with mandarin oranges salads.

I did enjoy the pickled vegetables, though, and the ingredients were of higher quality than most mall food. I ordered both white buns, but somehow ended up with one of each; I think I surprisingly enjoyed the wheat one more.

Take A Bao is an inventive and fun concept, which I appreciate, but I wouldn't fork over $10 on the regular for their bao. I'm glad I tried them, though! I've been in a restaurant lull these days because I've been going to the same old places.

Take A Bao
10250 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067-6501
(310) 551-1100

Saturday, October 17, 2009

La Creperie Cafe

Recently I was hit with a crepe craving, which is unusual since I eat them maybe once a year if that. So, imagine how happy I was when my friend Carrie suggested La Creperie Cafe for lunch! She had eaten here before, but it was my first time not only at the restaurant but in the cute Belmont Shore area where shops and restaurants line several blocks.

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We were crepe crazed and got an appetizer of crepes to kick off the meal. Crepe Vendome: you can't go wrong with chicken, brie, apples and caramelized onions. Well, you can, but luckily, this dish was tasty. We were perhaps over-confident in our abilities because that not-so-light starter was followed up with extremely-not-light entrees.

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Carrie ordered the Crepe Carbonara: they sure don't skimp here! That tower of bacon, cheese and cream sauce is probably life-affirming but I didn't try any because I was too busy trying to make my way through my Crepe Monsieur.

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Yowza. The Crepe Monsieur was stuffed with ham and had Emmenthal cheese melted on top. Good, but immense.

I was delighted to have crepes, but I think it's safe to say I am not going to be doing this for another year. I enjoyed the ambience and the many options on the menu. I don't know what a French national would think of La Creperie Cafe, but I had a lovely time.

La Creperie Cafe
4911 E 2nd St
Long Beach, CA 90803
(562) 434-8499

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Seven Stars Bakery

And for the last of my Rhode Island posts, we end on a sweet note. We stopped in at Seven Stars Bakery for a light breakfast on our last day in Providence (sob!).

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My sister got a gingerbread muffin: very gingery in a delightful way. Would be wonderful in the autumn with a mug of cider.

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Dad's apple (I think) danish: so rustic and lovely. I can't remember if I snuck a bite, but it looked like it was flaky and delicious.

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My raisin roll: I know raisins can be polarizing, but I love 'em. Now, it's been a few weeks so can't recall for sure, but I'm assuming I didn't find this overly sweet because I would've had trouble finishing it otherwise.

I was so tempted by all their baked good offerings, which is unusual since I am not one of those people who go crazy without regular doses of bread/pastry. I imagine if I lived in the neighborhood, I would make my way through their different breads. I really adored Providence, so perhaps one day?

Seven Stars Bakery

820 Hope St
Providence, RI 02906
(401) 521-2200

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Haruki is a bustling place that seems to draw in lots of wine-drinking, edamame-eating young people. At first glance, it doesn't seem like fantastic sushi should be coming out of the kitchen. But, believe you me, we had a dizzying and memorable meal with very fresh, shockingly reasonably priced sushi. A few items we ordered:

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Thin slices of sea bass: we wanted to try something different in the appetizer department. Tasted clean and light. Originally we ordered fluke, but they were out!

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Chirashi: more substantial than expected; we ordered 2 and had to wrap up the second one. And to think we had initially thought about ordering 3.

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Uni: yes. I just say yes.

I'm heading back to Providence in the spring and hope to be able to stop by again. We ate ourselves silly and it was yet another Providence highlight to add to the list.

172 Wayland Ave.
Providence, RI 02906
(401) 223-0332

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rhode Island Quahog Company

After seeing the shore in Newport, we stopped at Rhode Island Quahog Company for lunch (note: I believe the menu said quahog is pronounced "COE-hog"). Located near the wharf on Thames Street, this restaurant is probably not one for the locals, but I still enjoyed our meal.

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Mussels with julienned vegetables: not sure why that garnish was necessary, but these tasted pretty good. The size of the mussels were smaller than expected, though.

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Stuffed quahogs: my first time having these large clams. The meat was chopped up with the stuffing and baked into that hearty appetizer. And yes, the Family Guy town is the made-up town of Quahog, RI!

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Clams casino: not quite the preparation I was expecting because I thought breadcrumbs were a major component in this dish. Still tasty.

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Blackened salmon Caesar salad: not something I normally order but we were in the mood for a salad. Turned out surprisingly delicious, though there was a lot of dressing.

Though this place is probably not going to end up people's "must visit again" lists, it was a pleasant meal after a bit of time in the car and walking on the beach. I know some people have very strong feelings about eating in touristy parts of a town, but I didn't mind. After all, I was on vacation with my family, which is something that doesn't happen as often as I wish! And I'm pretty happy that I tried some quahog, which IS something I want to eat again on my next trip.

Rhode Island Quahog Company
250 Thames St.
Newport, RI 02840
(401) 848-2330

Friday, September 18, 2009

Brickway On Wickenden

If you're looking for a charming breakfast spot in Providence, Brickway is the place. Like nearly all the buildings in this quaint city, the restaurant is housed in a historical establishment that has witnessed many lively conversations and nursed many hangovers since probably something like the 1700s. Here's what we ate:

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My Dad's Western omelet: quite a hefty portion of a classic.

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My sister's S-Pet: poached eggs with spinach, tomato and cheese. I was surprised by the raw spinach, but my sister liked it.

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My Brickway Benedict: smoked salmon eggs benedict. Rich and more than I could handle! But, I would've regretted not ordering it. As you can see, all of us got potatoes, which were well-seasoned and hearty.

Brickway is the kind of place that would make for a lovely break from studying or a well-earned reward after a grueling week of exams. The interior was darling (lots of brick and a sunken dining area that made me wonder if it was once a sitting room in the olden days); I wish I had snapped some shots. Guess you'll just have to take my word for it!

Brickway on Wickenden
234 Wickenden St
Providence, RI 02903-4330
(401) 751-2477

Monday, September 14, 2009

Legal Sea Foods

I just got back from Rhode Island, land of picturesque sailboats and scrumptious chowder. I think my heart may be meant for New England (although I may be singing a different tune after my first winter if I ever moved there). Our first meal upon arriving was at Legal Sea Foods, a family restaurant empire with many locations along the East Coast. I've been wanting to visit one of their restaurants ever since I saw Ming Tsai visit one on his show. And let me tell you, I was not let down.

Legal Sea Foods oysters
A dozen mixed oysters that were all very fresh and briny goodness.

Legal Sea Foods clams
A dozen cherrystone clams. My first time trying raw clams and I liked them fine enough, but there was the slightest bitter afterate. I much prefer oysters!

We also had New England clam chowder (really fantastic with meaty clams, not those tiny chunks), lobster bisque and mussels, but I was too sidetracked by reverie to snap those photos. More RI meals to come!

Legal Sea Foods
2099 Post Road
Warwick, RI 02886
(401) 732-3663

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Porto's Bakery

I know I've been MIA on here, but in my (lousy) defense, I've moved, don't have internet in my new place and been quite busy with life overall. Much of what I've been eating has been unremarkable or already been covered, but I do have a new obsession that is worth sharing with you all: Porto's Bakery!

A Cuban bakery with a big space and a lot to choose from. This photo shows about 1/3 of the bakery case.
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Charles loves their eclairs and now he cannot visit without getting one.
Portos eclair

Insides! Charles appreciates the fact that they are not stingy with the custard.
Portos eclair inside

One of Porto's signature items is the cheese roll. Similar to a cheese danish, but with a flaky exterior. Get it, it's damn good.
Portos cheese roll

The chicken croquette has a creamy filling and is good. But my favorite is...
Portos chicken croquette

The potato ball! Think fried potato ball with taco meat. Not entirely accurate I know because there are specks of bell pepper in the filling, but that's how my brain has filed it away.
Portos potato ball

A respectable cherry turnover with gorgeous sugar crystals. Would be perfect with tea as an afternoon snack.
Portos cherry turnover

Inside shot shows the lovely layers and simple cherry filling.
Portos turnover inside

The best part of Porto's is their pricing. Here is my receipt:
Portos receipt

$4.22! And this is when I got extravagant for the sake of the blog. Normally, I get a potato ball and a cheese roll ($0.65) and am full. And don't worry, I didn't forget you folks drooling over the eclair; it's only $1.50! Even with a coffee or milk, breakfast usually runs us $2 something. For a quick breakfast in the greater LA area. I keep expecting someone to say "just kidding," but it is for real. When you scramble over there, though, be aware that there is a separate line for bakery items and other menu items like sandwiches, etc. Hope you'll try it!

Porto's Bakery
3614 W. Magnolia Blvd
Burbank, CA 91505-2913
(818) 846-9100

Sunday, August 16, 2009

La Grande Orange

For the latest occurrence of Coffee'n'Cobb, Mike and I went west to Santa Monica!

La Grande Orange sign
We were looking to shake things up and wanted to try somewhere new (to us). La Grande Orange was our destination and here's what we ate:

LGO gazpacho
I did the classic last-minute-panic order and got the gazpacho: strong presence of cucumber, but I wanted a more concentrated tomato flavor.

LGO evil princess salad
I also got the Evil Thai Princess Salad: yeah, the name is strange, but it was tasty enough. Lemongrass chicken, although the minced chicken's marinade made it a bit wet.

LGO turkey salad
Mike's Turkey Chopped Salad Circa 1971: got the stamp of approval from Mike and I tasted the blue cheese, which was pungent and packed a good punch.

The food was fine and good, but some small details made for a less-than-perfect brunch. Table service is only provided at dinner, so daytime diners have to get their silverware and water at a station near the kitchen/walkway into the dining area, which is awkward when more than two people are up there. Also, Mike ordered coffee, but wasn't given a cup when we ordered nor when the runner delivered our food. Not huge errors in service, but it did affect our experience.

La Grande Orange seems to be a well-intentioned eatery, but I hope it makes adjustments to their confusing set up. I didn't get to try their English muffins, so I do want to return at some point. I just hope it will be a smoother meal!

La Grande Orange
2000 Main St
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 396-9152

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Starchy Survey: Bibim Naengmyun Edition

Seeing as how it's the time of the year when I'm perpetually craving cold food, I thought I'd kick off the very first Starchy Survey with bibim naengmyun. I love these Korean spicy cold noodles something fierce and I know I'm not the only one, so I hope my findings will help others and you know, heal the world!

First up: California Market. Can one enjoy a delicious meal inside a supermarket? Why yes, one can!

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Being within arm's reach of canned goods and packaged rice cake sweets doesn't bother me one bit (okay, maybe not for a first date if we're going to be real). The sauce was a bit soupy, but I loved the balance of flavors: spicy, sweet and tangy. The trio of perfection makes this version sing.

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The mild, pickled radish isn't worth tweeting home about, but I still ate all of it.

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Some hot beef broth. That description may not dazzle you, but I think it's the same goodness that is served cold in regular naengmyun. I find the stuff irresistible and very comforting.

Up next: Ham Hung. I had high hopes for this joint that has a loyal following and a disconcerting interior; the slightly claustrophobic dining area is located behind swinging doors, which made me feel like I was visiting a front operation to play hwa-tu (a Korean card game).

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You'll notice there is a lot more protein (pork and beef)! But, it didn't taste like the kind of noodles that draw praise from the Koreatown crowd (they're tough cookies, folks). The sauce didn't have the depth of flavor I was expecting. Normally, I am easily appeased by a bowl of noodles (even if mediocre), but this batch was quite uninspired. I did enjoy the surprisingly pickled cucumbers in Ham Hung's take as bibim naengmyun is usually served with fresh unseasoned cukes.

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Their spicy pickled radish passed the mark. Their beef broth didn't get much love from me, so I guess I didn't care that much when the server took my personal kettle o' broth while I was still eating. What, I don't get my kettle for the whole duration of my meal? Pfft.

Final spot: Yu Chun. I've had their regular naengmyun and rather adored it, so wanted to see if their bibim style was on par.

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Visually very appealing! I really like the hefty dose of sesame thrown in and julienned cucumber just makes me happy. The flavor was solid, but there was something overwhelming about this bowl of boldness. Maybe I'm a purist and prefer less adorned, straightforward noodles; there were a lot of toppings in this mix.

Yu Chun 2
I did not care for their beef broth because it was cold with ice chunks! Yes, it works in naengmyun, but it is so bizarre sipping on cold icy beef broth when it is not part of your noodle entree. If that doesn't make sense to you, go try this situation and report back to me, please. Their pickled radish is fine; although when you've already got a whole mess of them already mingling with your noodles, an additional helping is not that enticing.

And the moment you've been waiting impatiently for! I have ranked them as follows:

1. California Market is the winner! After all my research, it figures I am back to my old stand-by. The beef slices aren't plentiful, but taste trumps quantity here.

2. Yu Chun. Flavor wise, it's a teensy step down, but it is an actual restaurant with windows! And the portions are bigger.

3. Ham Hung. Maybe there is a magnetic force that gets people to come back again and again, but it just wasn't for me. I don't get the appeal; maybe the classic naengmyun is a better choice (they had a 2 for 1 special when I visited).

By no means am I saying that I have done a comprehensive overview of all LA establishments offering up bibim naengmyun. But, I like the rule of threes and feel like I satisfied my curiosity about a couple places with a reputation for the dish. I've had my fill for now, but speak up if you'd like to endorse your go-to spot!

California Market
450 S. Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 368-1410
*The last food stall next to the Chinese place

Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myung
3185 W. Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 382-3815

Ham Hung
809 S. Ardmore Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 381-1520