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.
portos 001

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!

ca mart 1
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.

CA mart 2
The mild, pickled radish isn't worth tweeting home about, but I still ate all of it.

ca mart 3
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).

Ham hung 1
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.

Ham hung 2
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.

Yu Chun 1
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