Patbingsu: the other shave ice

In my previous post, I craved shave ice – the Hawaiian type. But last week I had the South Korean shave ice known as patbingsu. What makes the Korean version different is that the ice isn’t as fine and it’s more like a meal. Take a look at the “Monster” that we got at Ice Kiss.

Patbungsu is all about layers. On the bottom you typically have red bean, fruit salad, and ice cream. Then you get the layer of shave ice and some fresh cut fruit like bananas and strawberries (like you see above), more ice cream on top of that, whip cream, and some chocolate sauce. It’s also common to have some bites of mochi and condensed milk on it. For our dish, we also added a dusting of taro powder. This is definitely a dessert to be shared with many friends.

Here’s a close-up photo of the dish just in case you really want to drool over your computer on this hot summer day…

Special note: When I was in Korea, I had a craving for this (even though it was at the tail end of winter) and I couldn’t find it anywhere. Apparently, it’s served in the summers over there. Thank goodness I live in the paradise called Los Angeles which has it year-round.

Ladies and gentleman, we are floating in space… with fish tacos!

I feel like I’ve become the unofficial ambassador to Los Angeles since I moved back in November. I’ve had the chance to show my out of town friends the reasons why I love this city s much. On Wednesday, I had the chance to take a friend from New Zealand and Orange County (yes, it’s just 1 hour south of LA but sometimes it’s feels like a whole new world) to  downtown LA and show them a view from above.

To start off this tour, we stopped in Little Tokyo to get some fish tacos at Senor Fish. You’re thinking that we should have gotten Japanese food but the thing is Senor Fish is a Mexican fish taco staple in the area. They are known for their fish tacos and seafood burritos. I admit, they didn’t disappoint. Take a peak…

Above, you’ll see my shrimp taco and fish taco. The portions are big and the seafood is battered and fresh. I should have only ordered these two tacos but I couldn’t help myself when I saw the sopes on the menu… I had to order one. Below, you’ll see my carne asada sopes.

I admit the sope wasn’t as impressive as the tacos. I think it needed more flavor. In retrospect, I should have ordered another fish taco! Senor Fish is also known for their fish (or any seafood type) burritos. Here’s my friend’s regular fish taco.

Next time I go back, I’ll definitely have to order one of the burritos.

After the food binging, I took my friends on a walk through downtown Los Angeles. More specifically, I showed them some key sights on where 500 Days of Summer was filmed – I’m a big sucker for that movie. Then took them on a short drive to Griffith Observatory.

The sun had just gone down and that meant a lot of stargazers were on their way to the observatory too. Full disclosure: This was my first trip to the observatory. I’ve recommended out-of-towners to go to the observatory through the years but I had never gone. Why? When I tried to go, it was closed… but not this time!

Check out some of the amazing sights I saw after 8:00pm/PST.

Do you see those tall buildings towards the center? That’s the downtown Los Angeles skyline. I felt like there were stars in the sky as well as stars down below.

One of the things that struck me from high above Los Angeles was how quiet it was. Yes, you could hear some motorcycles but for the most part, it was peaceful.

I’m looking forward to going back to the observatory to see the planetarium show. This time around, I was able to get into the big telescope (with a 12 inch Zeiss lens!) to see the moon but that meant I didn’t have the time to see the films… it’s always good to leave something for the next trip. Tip: They open the big telescope at 7pm in the summer. Line up early because they close the doors to the telescope at 9:30 and if you’re not inside… better luck next time.

I love playing tourist in my own city! What’s the tourist spot in your city that you’ve never been to?

Cookie Showdown at downtown LA’s art walk

The second Thursday of every month is the Downtown LA Art Walk. The historic buildings up their doors so artists can display their works and food trucks from around the county converge so people have something to eat while getting some culture in their brains. TIP: If you’ve been dying to try the gourmet food trucks in LA, Downtown LA Art Walk is THE one-stop shop for your stomach. Lines are much shorter than those food truck festivals that have been happening around town.

This past Thursday I was pleasantly surprised when my friend and I stumbled upon the Cookie Showdown 2010. For $5, I was able to taste cookies from 7 different Los Angeles bakeries, get free milk, and an additional ticket to get a free cookie at the end of the night. Oh yes, there was art and vintage pop up shops in the space too but the cookies were the main attraction for me.

My favorite cookie of the night was from Platine Cookies in Culver City. They were sampling their house speciality cookie – vanilla platino. It’s like a fancy oreo!

There are several flavor combinations but the vanilla one was made of two soft buttery dome cookies that sandwiched a subtle sweet cream. The best part is after your first bite of the sweet cookie and the cream, there’s a slight salty aftertaste which makes your tastebuds yearn for more. Hands down, this was my favorite of the night… however, they didn’t win the cookie-off. But my second favorite of the night did win!

The winner of the night was B Sweet located on Robertson in LA. The cookies were small but had the right amount of sweetness that wasn’t too overpowering.They served up their red devil cookie sandwich and angel chocolate chip cookie. I’m wondering if they won over their patrons because they went over and beyond by giving away two cookies.

The red devil cookie sandwich was basically a red velvet cookie sandwich that was partially dipped in chocolate with a whipped cream in between. And the angel chocolate chip cookie were chocolate chip and white chocolate chip cookie with chocolate syrup drizzled on top. I think if the cookies were bigger than this, it would have been far too sweet but because they were mini – it was just right.

Cookies and art… a great Thursday evening in Los Angeles. I wonder if next time someone will host a macaron tasting!?!

From the streets to the strip: Chego

Those who have been following the food truck scene in Los Angeles know the trendsetter Kogi. And those in the know who don’t want to stand in the long lines at the Kogi truck drive over to the Alibi Room in Culver City to get their tacos served hot by the same people who started Kogi. Now, those who want more than a Korean taco or kimchi quesadilla can check out Kogi’s new sister restaurant Chego – yes, this is a legit restaurant in a quintessential strip mall in LA.

Chego means “the best” in Korean so I was curious to see if the place lived up to the name. The Korean influenced restaurant opened in April in this unassuming strip mall off of Overland near the freeway. It’s far from downtown Culver City or the bars. When I got there on a Tuesday evening, the line was out the door. Inside, there are tables with seats that line the walls but in the center there’s a long communal table people stand and eat at. I admit I like the standing table because it saves space and you get a chance to talk to strangers — because of the casual atmosphere.

OK, let’s get down to business… the food. Don’t expect tacos or quesadillas at this joint. It’s straight up small dishes, bowls, and appetizers. The dishes are Korean inspired but not purely all eastern. I mean, just take a look at these Ooey Gooey Fries… chilli, two types of cheeses, sour cream, pickled garlic and then some… there was definitely some western influences in making this appetizer.

Believe it or not, I wanted something a little light and I had a hard time finding that on the menu. I settled for the $12 Salad (which is really $7) that has goat cheese, cranberries, mixed greens, miso, and pickles…

I also got a side of the 3PM Meatballs. These are three fried meatballs with polenta, meat, sesame, and topped with green onions. I really wanted to like this dish and it almost had it – the flavors were there but I wanted the outside to be a little but more crispier since it was fried. But, boy, it sure looks pretty.

If you go to this place, it helps to bring a group of friends because you can try each other’s food. One of my pals ordered Tiny’s Prime Rib Rice Plate. Um, there’s nothing tiny about this dish. The meat was cooked just right – juicy in the center with lots of flavor in the skin.

Someone else at our table got the Buttered Kimchi Chow which is between kimchi fried rice and bibimbap. It was really flavorful but a bit too spicy for me. I did like how they added the furikake seasoning on top though. If you’re into the spice – this dish is for you.

My verdict? The prices were decent and I’d go back again but next time I’ll skip the small dishes and go straight to the main dish – especially that prime rib plate. Yum!

I do wonder if more food trucks will go legit and open storefronts. Do you know some are following in this trend? Let me know!

Bites from Korean BBQ Cook-Off 2010

Finding good Korean BBQ in Los Angeles isn’t that hard. The reason is because if you drive through Koreatown, the smell of sesame, soy, and garlic waft through the air and lures you to a Korean meat-serving establishment. But what’s the best Korean BBQ in LA? The 2nd Annual Korean BBQ Cook-Off answered that question this past weekend.

I took some out of town friends to the cook-off in Koreatown. Close to a dozen Korean BBQ restaurants set up tents so you could eat your way to find the best Korean BBQ LA has to offer for $5 a plate. But before I continue, I want to let you know that Korean BBQ isn’t one type of meat or one recipe or marinade – it’s a variety of meats that are marinated or cook in a traditional Korean way over gas or charcoal grill.

Judges for the cook-off included Pulitzer Prize winning writer Jonathan Gold, Chef Ludo Lefebvre, actress Sandra Oh, and Consul General Jae Soo Kim.

I admit I’m a bit biased because I think my mom makes the best Korean BBQ but I did have my favorite BBQ dish of the day… pork ribs from Ham Ji Park. Take a look at these succulent ribs that are slightly carmelized on the edges and sweet and juicy when you bite into it.

Right before I ate these finger-licking good ribs, I also had the spicey pork bulgogi with a side of rice from Olympic Restaurant. It was a little too spicy for me but I sniffled through it because it was too tasty to pass up. By the way, if something is too spicy, don’t drink water… eat more rice or drink dairy. It definitely helps!

In between all the BBQ tasting, we had some non-BBQ items like these sticky rice seaweed wraps. I admit I wanted to save room in my stomach for the meat so I just took a bite of the spicy tuna.

For those with a sweet tooth, dessert food trucks like Sprinkles cupcake mobile were serving up cupcakes in individualized cupcake boxes.

Also, I can’t forget the Cool Haus truck! Check out this guy’s Thai iced tea ice cream and lychee ice cream with brioche and chocolate chip cookie dessert… and yes, that’s all in just in ONE dessert pictured below.

But you’re probably wondering – Angela, who won!!!??!? The winner the judges chose for the best BBQ went to Park’s BBQ.

I had their bulgogi which was tender and perfectly marinated – sweet enough for the flavors to sit on your lips for you to lick and want to take another bite. The meat was served next to a potato salad which was basically foreplay for the BBQ – in my opinion.

Congrats to all the winners and also all the vendors who endured the heat and crowd to bring good food to the people. Can’t wait for next year!

Finding comfort in what you eat

Sunday, my friend and I decided to have girl talk night. We haven’t had a chance to pause our lives and hang out in a long time. I can’t tell you what we talked about but I can share with you where it went down and what foods we consumed. The destination was Luna Park in Mid-Wilshire part of Los Angeles. Why? Because I thought it was a comfort food type of night.

We ordered sangria and for main course…

My friend had the oven baked mac n cheese with a side of their tasty corn on the cob.

I ordered the porkchop with arugula salad which was hearty and tasty. The pork was perfectly done – moist and flavorful.

For dessert, we chose the DIY s’mores. It was the perfect way to end the night… melted dark chocolate over candlelight and melted marshmallows on a crunchy graham cracker… total comfort.

Let me eat cake!

I know summers are usually associated with fruit pies but for the last few weeks, I’ve just been hankering for some cake – soft, moist, semi-sweet cake with a touch of frosting.

My first stop led me to an oldie but a goodie place… King’s Hawaiian.  Yes, the same people that put out those tasty sweet spongy rolls have a chain of restaurants here in California. The one I grew up with is the one located in Torrance. You step in and the first thing you see is their bakery – full of breads, donuts, and… cakes! It’s a family restaurant that reminds me of the 80’s – it’s pretty awesome.

And what did I order? The dobash cake – it’s a silky cake with a smooth frosting that’s almost like pudding. When you take a bite, the cake and frosting melt in your mouth. The cake is popular in Hawaii and I’m so glad it’s here on the mainland.

Next cake… tres leches cake. It’s probably one of my top 3 cakes.

I was in Orange County for the weekend for a friend’s wedding. I had a few hours to myself and decided to have an al fresco lunch solo at Felix Continental Cafe in Orange. The food is alright but the reason I love this place is really for the dessert. They make the cake onsite and when you get a slice, it’s not all done up like a fancy bakery – it’s simple and tasty. Why is it called tres leches? The cake is soaked in three types of milk – it’s not mushy, just moist. Take a peek…

And I end this entry with the third final cake from the east coast bakery that just opened up here in Los Angeles – Magnolia. My awesome roommate stopped by the bakery last night. She tried to get cupcakes but they were all out. But she didn’t leave empty-handed. She nabbed the last slice of red velvet cake with whipped vanilla frosting.

The flavor of the cake is exactly how I remembered it when I had it in New York – hint of cocoa embedded in pillow-like cake. However, this was the first time I had red velvet without cream cheese frosting. Because red velvet is a delicate cake, the heavy cream cheese frosting is a great compliment. I think the fuffy white vanilla frosting is something to get used to.

By the way, I didn’t mention any cupcakes here… this was an all straight-up cake entry. Perhaps cupcakes another time. I wonder what I’ll be craving next…

From Angels Flight to blueberry heaven

Brunch is one of my favorite meals. Alas, it’s a meal I haven’t partaken in for a while because of my schedule. But in June, I had a friend visit me from Minnesota – I had to be sure to take him to the best sites of Los Angeles to show him it’s not a soulless concrete jungle but in actuality a vibrant sprawling city with friendly people and lots of culture… that serves up a quality brunch. I had to show him all this in less than 24 hours!

Friday night was all about downtown LA – drinks at the Edison, sushi in Little Tokyo’s Hama, Giant Robot’s screening of Yo Gabba Gabba in the plaza. But what downtown LA experience would it be without a ride on Angels Flight? Angels Flight is the bright orange funicular that takes you up (or down) Bunker Hill built in 1901. It will only cost you 25 cents to go back in time for 30 seconds.

Here’s the view looking down.

And here’s the photo looking up…

The next day we started off with brunch at Food on Pico Blvd. It’s a place I’ve driven by a dozen times but it’s always closed when I want to go in – not this time!

It’s a casual place where I can definitely see myself reading a book or my paper as I nurse my cup of tea. It’s only a few years old and has a really friendly vibe inside. For my first trip, I trusted the server and ordered the ricotta pancakes with blueberries and sauteed peaches – she guaranteed me that I’d be back to eat again and she’s right. It was tasty and not too sweet. There was a light peachy fragrance mixed in with the subtle scent of blueberry and maple syrup. The pancakes were fluffy and had that nice griddle-like crunch on the edge that I love. Yes, I will be back for more! Take a look at my meal…

My friend had the huevos rancheros which were served with edible flowers and equally delicious as my pancakes.

The trip ended with a stop at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, shopping at Giant Robot, and snacks at Royal/T. The perfect ending to the tour were the cupcakes at Royal/T that were baked at Hotcakes (they were featured on the Food Network). I got the chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting and my friend got the cookies n cream one. All in all, not a bad ending for a 24-hour tour of Los Angeles. What can I say? I love showing my friends the best of my city.

Splendid Table’s LA correspondent is back for seconds! (ahem, that’s me!)

The lovely folks at public radio’s Splendid Table had me back to talk about some LA eats. This week, I talk about Ilan Hall‘s, Top Chef season 2 winner, restaurant The Gorbals in downtown Los Angeles. Check out the interview here.

Here’s a couple teaser photos for those who aren’t sure if they should listen. Below, you’ll see the signature bacon-wrapped matzoh balls.

Here’s my plate of sticky toffee pudding – you must make room for dessert when you go to The Gorbals. I’d like to note that the rest of this dessert was inhaled by yours truly.

I know you’re looking at the pictures and you want some more details on what this place is about and what they are serving up… you can find it all when you listen to the interview here. I hope they have me be back soon – so many good eats in LA and so little time.

Finally, we meet… its about damn time!

Sorry for the long pause between posts but June has been one busy month for me. Between prepping for multi-media training from Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley to the Marketplace “Moving by Degrees” event I worked on, I’m now rejoining the living. But don’t fret, I’ve been able to fit in some quality eats. Actually, I’ve been munching on dishes that I’ve been meaning to check out since I’ve moved back to SoCal.

Last month I finally caught up to the Buttermilk Truck in downtown LA.

As you can see from above, they are known for their red velvet buttermilk pancakes. Yours truly actually got the last ones! I took it as a sign… a sign that I should be devouring those mini fluffy cakes on the streets as other watched on. I’ve actually seen this truck often but the lines have been too long so I was pretty excited when I only saw a few people in front of it on a late evening in front of the Downtown Independent Theatre.

Right before that, I also encountered another gourmet food truck in LA that my taste-buds have been craving: Dosa Truck.

My friend and I actually decided to split the dosa because we wanted to save room for other food we might find on the streets of LA (good thing since we stumbled upon Buttermilk!). But I admit the dosa was OK – the filling was a bit dry but the outside had a nice light crunch so it made up for it.

Last month, I finally had an Umami burger! My friends at Poketo were having a Ping-Pong game on the closing day of their exhibit “Los Angeles, I’m Yours” at Space 15Twenty which happens to be next to Umami Burger! Finally, the stars were aligned for me to try my first burger at this place. So how does an Umami burger look like? Like this…

This petite burger is the signature burger – it’s narrow and small but it’s tall and just pretty. I thought my burger reminded me of Pacman. My friends say other burgers on the menu are better than this one but I was pleased with the one I got – but perhaps a taste comparison is necessary for a post for the future. The only thing I wished is that this came with fries – you see, everything at Umami is a la carte so the bill can get a bit spendy.

I can’t wait to check off some other items I’ve been wanting to try. Now I just need some foodie companions and an empty stomach… any takers?