Coffee and pretzels at Coffee Tomo

I’m a fan of the good eats on Sawtelle. I’ve previously blogged about shave ice at Blockheads and Brian’s Shave Ice. Those are some cool refreshing desserts but what if you just want some warm comfort snacks? Luckily, Coffee Tomo serves up made-to-order freshly baked pretzels and slow drip coffee. They’ve been open for less than a year. Looking at the full tables, it looks like they’ve got a good following.

The space inside is pretty tight but the service is great and the unique pretzels are a perfect companion to their coffee.

I wanted to indulge and ended up ordering a mocha. I couldn’t help but watch the barista’s technique as he swiftly poured by drink. Look at it – it’s beautiful! Almost too beautiful to drink!

I asked the barista which pretzel I should order since it was my first time at Coffee Tomo. Without hesitation, he suggested the sweet potato cheese. I wasn’t sure if I heard him right and I asked, “Did you said sweet potato and cheese?” and he nodded yes and said it was the popular one and that I would love it. With an endorsement like that, I couldn’t resist.

I got my coffee first and they brought the freshly baked pretzel to me a few minutes later. I could see the steam rising from it — and the cheese oozing out of each end.

The bread was soft and chewy – the mozzarella cheese and sweet potato puree in the center had this great savory and sweet mix. My tongue first tasted the salty cheese – but the flavors rounded out to the smooth sweet potato that was sandwiched in between the pretzel dough and cheese.

Tomo Coffee
11309 Mississippi Ave.
Los Angeles

 

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Bacon + eggs + cheese + biscuits = brunch [RECIPE]

Brunch is one of my favorite meals of the day. And when you can brunch with a group of friends – it’s even better. This past weekend, my friends and I created a Facebook event and invited everyone to bring a dish. The hardest thing was to find a place large enough to accommodate us. We chose the picnic benches bear Trails Cafe in Griffith Park. This way, folks could buy a hot cup of coffee or go hiking afterwards. The event was a success! Friends from LA and OC gathered around an entire picnic table chock full of food from Porto’s Bakery, Susina’s Bakery, and homemade goodness.

I typically bake something sweet but this time around, I decided to bake something savory. I found a recipe for Bacon-Cheese-Pull-Aparts (see end of blog post). It combined all the flavors I love for brunch so I couldn’t resist. Also, it only has six ingredients:

  1. Egg
  2. Milk
  3. Cheese
  4. Bacon
  5. Pillsbury Grands dough
  6. Green onion

When you mix the contents in a bowl, do it gently so you don’t flatten the biscuit dough. TIP: Use a wooden spoon because it’s more gentle on the dough than a metal spatula. Follow the directions and put it in a glass baking dish that has been greased — I used butter and flour.

I baked my dish about 28 minutes – I closely watched it to make sure the tops were golden brown. Plus, I knew it was ready because my house smelled like brunch (bacon, eggs, and cheese).

bacon eggs cheese biscuits recipe

The dish is best served right out of the oven. My dish was warm when it got to the potluck but quickly cooled because of the commute. I would definitely make this again!

RECIPE: Bacon-Cheese-Pull-Aparts

Taco Tuesday: Sergio’s Tacos

I love tacos. It’s one of the best things you can eat in Los Angeles. The best tacos are simple – a quality tortilla, meat, and cilantro/onions with some hot sauce. My friends know I’m always on the look out for a good taco and recently my friend Ruth gave me an awesome recommendation. She said it was a little taco stand outside of LA in the city of Commerce called Sergio’s Tacos.

It’s close to the Citadel Outlets but you take a turn on Atlantic Blvd. and you see the small stand on a corner. The parking lot only fits a handful of cars and when you walk in there are just a few tables. But let me tell you, this place is definitely on my list for best tacos! Check out my order for a carne asada and a carnitas taco.

The tacos are made to order. The tortillas are perfect. Really. At first bite, it’s warm with a slight toasty edge then the savory marinated carne asada meat and carntitas were tender – not chewy and dry which can happen at some taco stands that reheat the meat. What tops it off is the hot sauce. I prefer the green (tomatillo) sauce but if you like hot, ask for the red sauce which is their house sauce. Here’s a closer look at my carne asada taco in the foreground and my carnitas taco in the background.

So if you’re headed to the outlets or traveling down the 5 freeway, take a detour off Atlantic Blvd. to Sergio’s and let me know what you think of their tacos. Also, I’m always open to your taco recommendations!

Sergio’s Tacos
2216 S Atlantic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90040

Baking gluten-free almond macaroons [RECIPE]

This is my second attempt trying to bake almond macaroons. The first time I did it, it turned out pretty bad so I didn’t even bother taking photos. I recently found a recipe that I posted on my Pinterest board for chewy almond macaroons from Saveur. I love almonds and it’s gluten-free and vegan-friendly – which is a safe dessert to bring for potlucks if people have aversions to certain ingredients.

The recipe calls for just a few ingredients:

  1. Almond paste (do not use marzipan)
  2. Superfine sugar (aka Baker’s Sugar)
  3. Salt
  4. Amaretto liqueur
  5. Powdered sugar

I’m not going to lie, almond paste is pretty expensive. I bought mine for a little under $7 for 7 oz. This recipe calls for 18 oz. Next time I may try to make my own almond paste if I have the time – or shop around for a beter deal (but I doubt I will find anything better). Here’s how it looks after the ingredients were all mixed and they were put on the parchment paper on the cookie sheet.

You’re supposed to take the macaroons out when they have turned golden however, mine took a long time to turn golden and when it did, the macaroon shape flattened to look like a cookie – it didn’t look like the one that Saveur posted.

DO NOT use regular granulated sugar. The recipe calls for “superfine sugar” which is something between the consitancy of granulated sugar and powdered sugar. I was going to buy the superfine sugar but it was almost $5 for a carton and I only needed 1/2 cup. I did some research online and apparently, you can put granulated sugar in the food processor for a couple minutes or until it gets really fine.

Granted the look of the almond macaroons didn’t look like I had expected BUT it tasted great. There was a little caramelization on top and the cookie was dense and chewy. Even though the base of the recipe is almond paste, the almond flavor didn’t overpower the cookie – it was subtle and sweet. If you have tips to make this dessert better, please share your tips with me! I’d really appreciate it.

If you’re willing to give it a try, here’s the RECIPE for chewy almond macaroons.

Slow cooked shredded beef tacos [RECIPE]

I had a gathering at my place not too long ago. I wanted to make some food – something easy for a large group. I remembered shredded beef tacos my friend Marc made years ago in a slow cooker. I emailed him and he gave me the recipe. It was SO simple I had to read it over again to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.

Best part about a slow cooker is that you throw all the ingredients in and wait about 6 to 8 hours, and your dish is ready. Take a look at my tacos:

I bought the tortillas from Huicho’s Bakery, a local bakery and tortilleria in Los Angeles. I got there right when the fresh corn tortillas had just been packed. When the cashier handed me two bags, they were both warm and I put my nose to the bag and the smell of maize seeped out – I inhaled. If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you stop by  your local tortilleria and pick up a bag of fresh tortillas – it’s not expensive and the taste is 10 times better than the prepackaged stuff you buy at the grocery store that’s been shipped from miles away. Plus, you can support your local business!

Here’s the checklist of things you need for shredded beef tacos.

  1. Tortillas
  2. Cilantro and onions – I bought some cilantro and onions from the farmers market and chipped them up and put it in a bowl as a side for the tacos.
  3. Limes – I cut up lime wedges for folks to squeeze on their tacos.
  4. Mexican cheese – I bought queso fresco and crumbled them up so people could top off their tacos.
  5. Hot sauce – Tapatio is my hot sauce of choice.
  6. Shredded beef (see below for recipe)

The shredded beef is a simple recipe. I didn’t really use measuring spoons – just seasoned to the eye and didn’t over do it. But hopefully you’ll be able to find the right combination for yourself and experiment.

  1. Meat – Buy a large chuck roast and trim the fat. Then cut the meet into 4 pieces and put into the slow cooker.
  2. Garlic – Add 5-6 cloves of garlic (I put in 8 because I’m a big fan of garlic).
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Beef bouillon – dissolve it in 1/2 cup of water and drizzle it over the meat.
  5. (optional) My friend Marc also recommends serrano peppers too if you like it spicy. I didn’t add the peppers for my taco.

Set the slow cooker to LOW and leave it in for about 6 -8 hours. Mine were done a little after 6 hours. You know it’s ready when the meat is tender and falls off each other. Do not set it to high or leave it in too long because the mean will get tough and rubbery.

If you want a shredded beef taco recipe with more direction and recipe I found this one, this one, and this one.

This was a simple recipe that everyone enjoyed and it was easy to prepare. Looking forward for my next taco night!

Fat Tuesday eats in New Orleans [VIDEO]

Today is Fat Tuesday and for those in New Orleans… I’m jealous of you. For most of us who aren’t there, here’s a post highlighting some amazing food I had when I visited NOLA last year. I was there for two days and I can’t wait to go back for a proper visit. I didn’t get my po’ boy or go to any of the fancy schmancy restaurants – I”ll save that for my next trip out there. However, I did get a taste of the food, culture, and hospitality during my short stay.

I was there during crawfish season and went to Charlie’s Seafood just outside of New Orleans in Harahan. My friend did some research and found it and I was up for the adventure.

I definitely felt like an outsider when I walked it because it felt like a local place, not for tourists – I liked that! It was loud, and everyone was peeling crawfish and drinking beer. I had a feeling I would love everything I ate. First thing we ordered were a couple pounds of crawfish to share. It was crawfish season so we were there at the right time. Normally, I don’t really eat crawfish because it’s a whole lot of work for just a little bit of food. I have to admit it was the best crawfish I ever had – the meet was sweet and good.

I also ordered the Cane River Meat Pie because our waitress said it was popular with the folks there. It was amazing! It was basically like a fried hot pocket with seasoned meat served with creole mustard and pepper jelly.

For main course, my friend and I split the UN-Fried Seafood Platter that was grilled fish, shrimp, crab, baked oysters, and cornbread. The seafood was so fresh! I loved that the flavors weren’t drowned by butter which is what a lot of seafood places do which is unfortunate. Because the seafood was fresh, the butter and seasoning only enhanced the natural flavors. I’m salivating just remembering this dish right now.

For dessert we really wanted pecan pie but they had already sold out. So instead we got the white chocolate bread pudding and creme brulée. Personally, I liked the creme brulée more because I found the bread pudding to rich and sweet for me but I could see why people would order it.

When in New Orleans, it’s a must to go to Café du Monde. I had heard so many things about Café du Monde so I was more than elated when I was walking closer and closer to it. It’s a coffee shop in the French Quarter that has a lengthy history – it’s been around since 1862! When you get there, don’t wait to be seated – grab your seat and a waiter/waitress will come by to take your order. They also have a walk-up if you are going to take it to go or get some souvenirs. Also there are some other locations if you don’t get to this location. For me, I loved the architecture and the area where it’s situation.

I really didn’t need to look at the menu. I knew what I wanted: cafe au lait and beignets. They serve French-style beignets which are fried dough that is dowsed with powdered sugar. I wonder how much powdered sugar this place goes through in a week!

Be warned that when you order a beignet, you will most likely get powdered sugar everywhere. I hear some of the servers who work there carry their cell phones in plastic bags so not to end up with a powdered sugar phone at the end of their shift – smart!

So was the experience what I hoped it would be? It was better! The cafe au lait and beignets were great but what I loved is the atmosphere. I had no idea how bustling it would be in the late evening.

Here’s also a video that I shot at the Café du Monde at the Riverwalk mall in New Orleans. There’s a window where people can look into the kitchen while they make beignets! Check it out here:

Another sweet treat I had in the French Quarter were pralines! I’ve had pralines before but not like the one I had here. When I saw a sign that said “pralines” at Southern Candymakers and saw some fresh ones being made, I had to stop in.

Pralines are a southern treat – very sweet and buttery. It’s actually not hard – it’s soft and creamy like fudge. You don’t need a lot to get a good fix because they are pretty rich. When you do get a praline, make sure to smell it – the brown sugar, pecan, and butter… it’s a scent you want to bottle up and take with you.

For my final meal highlight, I took advice from someone I trust who was born and raised in New Orleans. I asked him, to recommend a place off the beaten path that’s a good neighborhood spot he went to growing up in NOLA that he thinks I would love. He directed me to Dick & Jenny’s. This place isn’t in the French Quarter, we had to take the car to uptown.

It’s a warm and cozy place – you feel like you’re going to someone’s home for dinner when you walk in. When I opened the menu, my eyes immediately went to the shrimp and grits. I was sold.

The shrimp was sweet – not overcooked – and the savory sauce was well seasoned. This was the first time I had grits and I thought it worked really well with the goat cheese that was mixed in. At the end of the meal my eyes wanted more but my stomach was full (unfortunately!).

If this post doesn’t inspire you to visit New Orleans, I hope it’s motivated you to cook up some southern food at home!

My first malasada at Leonard’s Bakery [Hawaii]

In December, I was in Hawaii for a friend’s wedding. I decided to use the opportunity to extend my stay a few days and make it a vacation. I’ll be posting some of my Oahu highlights in the coming weeks. But right now, while I’m at home recovering from my sprained ankle I can’t help but have cravings for food I can’t have because I’m not mobile.

I blogged about Hawaiian shave ice last week and right now as I’m laid up on my sofa, I’m craving malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery. Leonard’s is a neighborhood treasure to Honolulu locals and also a place tourists flock to. They have everything from cookies to Hawaiian sweetbread. But it’s the malasada I crave.

Malasadas are actually Portuguese and are deep-friend dough and covered in granulated sugar. Sounds simple, right? Like a donut? But what’s special about this is the dough – the soft and fully dough that melts in your mouth. It actually has relation to beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.

My friend and I got to Leonard’s right after the morning rush and before the noontime crowd. When I was in line, I met someone who lives close by and she said I made a good decision to stop by for malasadas. I ordered the regular malasada and the woman taking my order recommended I also get the custard filled on – how could I not! First, I tried the regular malasada.

You can get the malasadas rolled in sugar, cinnamon, or li hing mui sugar – I went the original route and got the sugar. My malasada was fresh out of the frier. I had to weight a few minutes to cool down so I can eat it – it was the hardest few minutes! When I took my first bite, my teeth smoothly sank into the sugar fried exerior into the doughy bread. It was heaven.

Here’s a short video where I take a bite of a custard filled malasada. Sorry for the bad quality of video but it was on my old camera that was not HD. Still trying to see if video works with my blog so please be kind. 🙂

Leonard’s Bakery
933 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816

Brian’s Shave Ice + Dole Whip! [DEAL]

If you’re a regular to this blog, you know I love Hawaiian shave ice from reading my previous posts. Today in my inbox I found a deal on Living Social for Brian’s Shave Ice. This place is located around the corner from  Blockheads Shavery. I actually went to this place a few months before Blockheads had opened and I was very pleased with the shave ice – it was fine ice, not granulated, and had a good assortment of syrup flavors.

It’s a traditional Hawaiian shave ice place but the bonus is that they also serve Dole Whip. Yes, THE Dole Whip – the one that was only found at Disneyland and Hawaii.

Now you can get it on a cone or at the center of Hawaiian shave ice at Brian’s. Note: If you only want Dole Whip, there’s also a place that opened up in West Hollywood that only serves different fruity combination of the soft serve. Here’s the menu and various combinations you can get at Brian’s.

That’s Brian shaving some ice in the photo above. He’s a cool guy and brought his love of Hawaiian shave ice to West LA.

My friend and I each got a shave ice with Dole Whip. For my syrup flavors, I got pineapple, melona, and POG (passion, orange, guava). Also, I topped it off with some li-hing mui powder.

Check out that dollop of Dole Whip! It’s a nice smooth surprise at the end of the shave ice. You know when the syrup runs to the bottom, it can get a bit soup? Well, the soft serve mixes in and makes it easy for you to finish it off. This is a light dessert that won’t weight you done after a big meal – it’s just fine shavings of ice. I have to say, I’m so happy that Hawaiian style shave ice is here on the mainland – it seems so right!

If you miss the Living Social deal, no worries because they post specials on their Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Brian’s Shave Ice
11301 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Weekly food round-up – Taco Bell, Alinea, and artisan coffee! [VIDEOS]

Since I’m listening to doctor’s orders and staying in, I’ve been catching up on food stories on the internet – ranging from the unbelievable to the awesome. Here’s a round-up of some links and videos that caught my attention.

Alinea presents… edible helium ballons! You have to see it, then you’ll want to inhale it!

And for you Angelenos who live off of coffee, looks like artisan coffee is the big thing right now. I’ve added some coffeehouse brewing porn for you…

Handsome Coffee, Downtown LA Arts District

DripLA, Koreatown

Demitasse Cafe, Little Tokyo

Cheese or Cool Ranch taco shells? Taco Bell test kitchen has been testing Doritos taco shells and looks like you might be able to try one yourself! And if you want proof, humorist John Eick is tweeting about it.

Daytripping: Sights from Salton Sea

Here are some pictures I took when I went to film at the Salton Sea last year. It’s a couple hours outside of Los Angeles and a decent detour if you’re in Palm Springs.

The Salton Sea is idyllic from afar. The water is still and seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. The mountains cradle the body of water. But as you get closer and turn all your senses on, you realize that something is off.

Even though the word “sea” is in the name, it’s actually more like a lake. Salton Sea is known for their yearly fish die offs in the summer. However, I were there in March and saw some dead fish near Salton Sea City. And yes, there are residential property along parts of the lake. I do wonder how they get used to the stench of the rotting fish.

When you walk along the shore of the lake, you think you’re walking on sand but when you crouch down and look more closely, it’s actually fish bits and bones that have collected over the years. Most of the fish that you see in these photos are Tilapia. You’re probably wondering why there are so many dead fish. This is a natural lake, actually the largest lake in California, but in 1902 man disrupted the path of the Colorado. The story goes that the Salton Sea used to be known as the “California Rivera” but now with the high salinity and farm run-offs and pollution, it’s far from the Rivera.

But not all of Salton Sea looks like this. When you drive to the other side, it’s a completely different look and feel.

When we drove to Bombay Beach, it’s how I imagined a post-Apocalyptic world. There were some residents living in mobile homes and small houses and lots of open lots but when you walk closer to the water, it’s desolate. Silent.

There were more people inhabiting this area but in the 70s there it was flooded twice. This is what’s left.

Photographers love the Salton Sea – at each turn there is something to capture. I also recommend the Salton Sea to sound designers because there are thousands of birds and the sounds they make during the golden hour is pretty amazing if you have some high frequency mics – the flapping of the weeks, the bird calls, the flitting in the water – it’s an audiophile and photographers oasis.