Friday, November 27, 2009

Truffles from Eclipse Chocolat

With some time off, I couldn't resist taking a quick trip down to San Diego to say hi to old co-workers, visit my favorite cheap eats, and of course stick my head into Eclipse Chocolat.

Though I did not bring a camera, I snapped a quick shot of our dessert plate with my brother's camera phone.

This lazy half-assed shot certainly does not reflect my usual work, and kinda does Will's hard work a disfavor, but I really wanted to show everyone some of the new selections available.
Starting from the rear and progressing clockwise is the masala chai banana bread, sweet potato bread pudding, fig bar, a whoopie pie behemoth, and an azteca cinnamon roll bread pudding in the middle.

As usual, I found it hard to immediately decide on a favorite and needed some time to weigh and critique each item. The moist banana bread is very impressive. Masala chai definitely spices things up and gives the banana bread a very unique character and armoa. Sweetness and flavors of other ingredients are balanced extremely well, as usual. My brother's favorite was the sweet potato bread pudding, and with good reason. It felt like the heftiest item on the plate with its rich buttery goodness and subtle sugars from the sweet potato. Furthermore, because of the addition of some sweet potato skin bits, the flavor is amplified--a very good touch by Will. Try it sometime. The meager bits of baked sweet potato or yam that sticks onto the skin packs a surprisingly sweet punch. This is my second favorite. An ideal comfort food, especially when served warm. Perfect for the cold season.

Will's grilled fig bar was very enjoyable as well, and though it is the sweetest item on the plate, rest assured that you will still taste the fruit. I loved its crispy exterior. White chocolate pieces only make it taste even better than it looks/sounds. Then we have the whoopie god this thing was huge. A rich dark chocolate cake/cookie? sandwiches a frozen cream that tastes like a mix of sweet cream, cocoa nibs, and a dash of sea salt. Good, though I enjoyed the gelatowiches a lot more. It is interesting to note that chocolate flavors do not come forward until you start chewing for a few seconds. This may be due to the fact that our tastebuds have difficulty tasting chilled items. I'm no chef, but I believe that if the whoopie pie's exterior was a bit moister and more chocolately, the delayed-tasting can possibly be alleviated, thus making a better dessert.

Finally, after much deliberation, I found the azteca cinnamon roll bread pudding to be my #1. My heart was initially set on the banana bread, but the thick richness of the cinna-roll won me over. Will strikes such a perfect balance of sugar, spice, and cream that you might see angels with your first bite. Okay that's an exaggeration, but trust's damned good.

We also picked up a box of truffles to take home. As a Thanksgiving special, two complimentary truffles are given with every ten purchased. How could I resist? Eclipse features countless flavors and I've just scratched the surface. Each truffle bursts with bright flavors ranging from the conservative double espresso to the more inventive ginger green tea. Lavender sea salted caramel is another popular crowd pleaser. In my opinion, the bold presence of flavors other than chocolate is what makes truffles from Eclipse stand out from the ones from Godiva (my usual source). A big assertive two thumbs up from me.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Xi Men Ding - Joanh's Guided Tour

Golly it's been awhile since my last post! Been awfully busy showing my visiting cousin around Southern California while concurrently carrying on business/financial/academic type things.

While I was visiting Taiwan, one of the most well known members of Taipei's food blogging community invited me to a guided food excursion. That's right, folks, I'm speaking of Miss joanh, esteemed author of The Hungry Girl's Guide to Taipei! After weighing my locale options, I settled on Xi Men Ding, an area that was once the hangout for college students. (It has since then been bumped down to #2.) Tempting choices for food, shopping, and entertainment here are pretty extensive. Oh yes, this also applies to the co-eds. <3

One English word instantly lured me in.

In the above photo, the word "Food" accompanies two Chinese characters that translate to (pardon my colloquialism) "awesome food." A bold claim! Let's put it to the test.

First stop: A Chung Noodles

Mein Xian

A fundamental street food in Taiwan. Very traditional. The taste is really hard for me to describe since we in the States don't really have something that's similar. I suppose I could say that a good bowl of mein xian tastes really meaty(pork) and a bit nutty with some white pepper, (good) soy sauce, and various spices thrown in. The consistency of the soup is thick and the noodles are vaguely like pho noodles in terms of texture. A good bowl of mein xian gives your tastebuds the sensation of eating a fat juicy steak, except in carb form. Seriously, your umami receptors get totally tweaked out.

A Chung has an American branch in San Gabriel (LA County) for those who are interested. I cannot say whether or not it measures up to standards, however, since I have not been there yet. Rest of my family says it's only "okay," though we are quite a picky bunch.

Second Stop: KFC

Portuguese Egg Custards

Yep, that's right. KFC. I lol-ed since I thought joanh was just pulling my leg, but she was dead serious. Said I gotta try these desserts at KFC. This was a mindboggling "find." Hard to imagine I was totally blown away by a KFC dessert. They appear to be the same ole egg custards you find at dim sum, but the crust is actually a helluva lot crispier and flakier. Think a really really buttery crispy croissant. Additionally, the custard filling is more than sufficient to put many restaurants to shame. G'damn, this really needs to find its way to the US franchises. Ya hear me, Colonel?

Third Stop: Almond Tofu (Forgot the name of the place, will update soon)

Almond Tofu

This is the dessert shop's #1 seller. Apparently many folks buy it to-go in bulk, but you can have it as a dine-in as well. The texture and consistency is very similar to Do Hua--smooth and silky. This is the real deal. Real almonds are used to make the tofu and milk, none of that processed fake crap. The result is a fresh clean feeling on your palate.

Almond Snow Ice

Now I was perfectly content with my almond tofu, but joanh ordered this behemoth that made my order seem so very very timid. I have no idea how they make this, but if you take a close look at the photo, you'll see that this isn't your run-of-the-mill shaved ice (aka grounded up ice). This has a silky, airy texture as evident through the bazillion layers and yet feels hefty like ice cream. Four "toppings" are found at the bottom, and the potential accompaniments are many. My favs will always be azuki, giant azuki, and peanuts.

Fourth Stop: Dumpling/Noodle House (will update with name once I find business card)

Joanh led me to a small alley in the outskirts of Xi Men Ding where a totally kickass dumpling/noodle house finds its customers via word of mouth. Many such treasures in Taiwan can be found if one is adventurous and willing to explore the ins and outs of a city.

Dumplings (pork)

The first thing I noticed was the skin. Just from appearance alone I knew we were in for a treat. Thick, Q (Chinese for "al-dente"), and house-made, a good wrapping skin is crucial for epic dumplings. Indeed, my initial observations proved to be correct. This was among one of the best dumplings I've had. My sole complaint is that the filling didn't have enough meaty oomph to it, but I'm splitting hairs here.


I love potstickers. As a kid growing up in Taiwan, I used to inhale them by the box for breakfast as I walked to school. Again, texture is a huge player. See how the chef manages to give the base a deep golden crisping while maintaining all the moistness of the rest of the potsticker? Yeah, that's fantastic technique. The combination of a crispy base coupled with the moist, chewy remainder is an absolute delight to eat. The filling is the same as the dumpling's but I guess since potstickers aren't boiled, the meatiness isn't lost.

On a side note, the house-made hot sauce is very much worth mentioning. Joanh attempted to coax the recipe out of the proprietor who was more than happy to oblige, but he (obviously) held back a few secret ingredients and techniques. Long story short, various peppers fried in peanut oil. You can learn more from Joanh's entry.

Fifth Stop: Ice Cream

Giant red bean ice cream

Sure it looked like a typical joint to grab ice cream, but upon examining the menu, a few bizarre/interesting flavors popped up everywhere. Mustard and brandy are two that instantly pop from memory. I consider myself pretty open-minded and willing to try new things, but mustard ice cream... I suppose it's not as bad as a mayonnaise milkshake one can buy in Japan, but I kinda want to enjoy myself here. We settled on the tamer flavors: lychee and giant red bean. Lychee was alright, but I loved the giant red bean. Because they generously use fresh ingredients (case in point: it is NOT recommended that you drive after eating the brandy flavor), the texture of the red bean ice cream was not as thick and silky as I expected. Seems like the "powderiness" of many giant red beans kinda interfered with the texture, but in terms of taste, this was an easy A. I would without a doubt swing by here again if I'm ever in the area.

A special thanks to Joanh for giving me a guided tour of Xi Men Ding! Be sure to hit up her blog if you ever travel to Taipei. It's only a matter of time before she maps out (nearly) all the great eats in this fascinating city.

Gawd I love Taiwan.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Home Cookin'

Home-cooked meal at my father's college pal's home in Taiwan. Let me tell ya, his wife, kids, and Indonesian housekeeper are all damned fine cooks. Additionally, I will once again showcase my inability to grasp the core concepts of Hanyu Pinyin.

Roger says, "Lu rou fan" aka braised/stewed pork + rice

"Lu rou" rice is fairly common in Taiwan and you can easily find it being sold by a restaurant, street, box-lunch, or night market vendor. There are many variations depending on the cook, but the basic ingredients are soy sauce base, sugar, star anise, black cardamom?, shallots, and other spices. The stewing/braising doesn't take long at all and folks usually throw in a couple of eggs to boil along with the pork. Really really good stuff. Sweet, savory, deep, rich, meaty, and complex. If a kid doesn't have an appetite, garnishing his/her bowl of rice with some lu rou will usually guarantee an empty rice bowl within eight minutes. Hell, the same goes for me too.

Eggplant with Thai basil and garlic

Fairly basic and common in Taiwanese cuisine. My parents used to make it all the time when I was a kid. Tangy with the bold flavor of Thai basil.

Pork broth with daikon radish and five kinds of meatballs

This is a more "upscale" version of "gong wan" soup that you see from vendors which usually only feature "gong wan" or pork meatball. In addition to having a thicker broth, this variation has five different kinds of hand-made meatballs(pork and fish). Taste and texture are miles apart from pre-packaged ones found at the market. Everything just tasted fresher and meatier. Texture was also a tad bit fluffier as well.

"Chawanmushi" with lump crab meat, shitake mushrooms, and stuff

This was their own unique creation. I think one could call it a Taiwanese influenced Chawanmushi. Loads of lump crab meat went into this dish. Friggin' awesome. Taste was vaguely similar to a good bowl of mian xian.

Some sort of white fish with a tangy glaze

Grilled orange chicken

A bazillion times better than the unholy fried abomination we see at Panda Express. I have always hated that goopy overpowering sauce and soggy-yet-crunchy texture of fast-food orange chicken. Personal preference. Besides, grilling > frying both for your waistline and tastebuds.

Fried shrimp paste and roasted nuts

Beer food for the guys. M!ne is a new line of beer from Taiwan Beer. How does it compare to a regular can of Taiwan Beer? Well it's like the difference between a Miller Light and Miller Genuine Draft. Both are shitty, but the higher tier product is less so.

Yes, I am a beer snob.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

EVA Air Fall 2009 Pacific "Mercy of the Chef" Tasting Menu

A few weeks ago I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to dine with EVA Air's cute dark-haired, doe-eyed sky-maidens who served me a phenomenal four course tasting menu. Let's have a look.

First Course:

Smoked Salmon - bamboo shoots, lettuce, sesame-chili oil

Ah would you look at that salmon! Rubbery consistency coupled with the unmistakable aroma of a B777's steamer brought tears to my eyes. Such joy. Such grace! It was as if God him/herself had smoked this transcendent piece of flesh. Sublime. The appetizer is finished with fibrous and chewy bamboo generously doused with a sesame-chili oil, thus lending it a delicate nutty flavor and slick mouthfeel. Impeccable.

Second Course:

Fried pork chops - spaghetti noodles, caramelized onions, bacon

A Kurobuta pork chop is lightly breaded and fried to a stiff sinewy block before the chef tosses it in a rich sauce of caramelized onions, bacon, and butter. Mushy noodles accompany this culinary masterpiece and surprise your mouth with occasional crunchy ends--a texture contrast clearly demonstrating the chef's innovation and boldness. But, the craziness doesn't end here! The entire dish is then steamed to lock in the beautiful bouquet that is the B777's steamer. Leave your traditional standards and expectations at home when dining with EVA Air! It is no wonder that they have become the forefront of haute cuisine.

Third Course:

Organic Apples and Oranges

The very best organically grown seasonal fruits are flown in from all over the world by EVA Air's Evergreen Group weekly. There are tasters/shoppers stationed in every EVA Air branch office who are constantly looking for fresh quality produce grown by small organic family-run farms in their region. EVA Air is deeply committed to supporting the slow food movement.

Fourth Course:

Castella - Manuka honey, sweet organic Azuki bean

Healthy living and eating is a big theme at EVA Air and thus their interpretation of Nagasaki's famed Castella sponge cakes uses Manuka honey from New Zealand, which is well known for its healing properties. This delicate creation is spotted throughout with sweet organic beans, again demonstrating EVA Air's inventive approach towards food. After extensive tastings and experience with Castellas over the years, I honestly feel that the EVA Air pastry chef has created something that will be unrivaled for years to come. Its texture is unparalleled for its ultra-fine cake body creates a perfect harmony of pillowy springiness Its taste words cannot describe, for it can only be experienced in order to comprehend. A dazzling end to a glorious meal.

Dining with EVA Air is a showcase of unrestrained luxury and decadence. Attention is paid to every minuscule detail. For example, the individual climate-controlled air is circulated through filters that remove airborne antigens including H1N1. Plush down pillows and small 1500 thread count blankets (I used mine as a napkin) are complimentary and a perfect addition to EVA's sensual reclining chairs that seemingly embrace your body. Even more impressively, your meal is served upon placing an order!

As if this wasn't enough already, lights will automatically dim when an onset of food coma sets in. EVA Air does not care whether or not a customer decides to nap after a big meal. In fact, they encourage it. Diners will often wake to a beautiful smiling young lass offering various refreshments and cookies. Of course, one is most welcome to continue napping after consuming said refreshments and cookies. Moreover, the view is unbeatable. Table 55K, among others, offers sweeping panoramic views of the ocean AND city skyline. Even the Five Diamond rated Addison Del Mar would be hard pressed to top the level of comfort and service provided by EVA Air's staff. I definitely look forward to a repeat visit, although I am quite curious as to how EVA Air's chief rival China Airlines compares.

Somewhere over the Pacific

Sunday, September 27, 2009

POM Wonderful

Recently, the generous Ms. Peters from POM sent me samples of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice to review and share. As a big health and fitness buff, I am always glad to show others a better way of living. Devotees will remember the positive POMx review I wrote last year.

POM Wonderful

POM prides itself in using the "Wonderful" pomegranate varietal which POM claims to possess "superior antioxidants, delicious taste, and deep crimson color". Since I come from a strong biological sciences background, naturally I felt compelled to verify these claims by hopping over to PubMed and download a handful of articles. I could bore you all to death with a bunch of bio-babble, but in the interest of time: darker aril (the fruit around the seeds) = better. Indeed, Wonderful does have one of the darkest arils in comparison to other common varietals.

On an interesting side note, one should also juice the peel in order to maximize antioxidant intake. The result is not as tasty as regular pomegranate aril juice, however.

Coincidentally, I grow the Wonderful varietal in my backyard. These are harvested at their peak in October, but because I am due for another long trip, I had to pick some of them early. Now for the test: POM Wonderful VS home-grown/juiced:

POM Wonderful (left) and backyard Wonderful (right)

POM Wonderful comes in a much deeper shade and appears to have been filtered, unlike my home-grown pomegranate juice which is opaque. I do not have access to a lab anymore so I can't say which has more antioxidants, but in my opinion, one would be splitting hairs when comparing the two. Both pack a real punch to boost cardiovascular and prostate health. Researchers have all concluded that pomegranates are the single best source for obtaining antioxidants, surpassing even blueberries, the much touted superfood. All it takes is 8oz. of pomegranate juice daily to greatly reduce arterial plaque, reduce plaque formation, lower your risk for prostate cancer, and even help men with their embarrassing bedroom failures.

But how do the two taste? POM Wonderful is a concentrated dose of juice that is light, crisp and explodes with pomegranate flavor. Its acidity and tartness is akin to cranberry juice but with subtle tannins in the background. Sugar levels are not over the top like many other juice brands. However, the sweetness tastes "synthetic" and "syrupy" as opposed to fresh-squeezed and natural. This syrupy "fake" taste is common in nearly all juice brands and I was hoping POM would deviate from the pack. POM Wonderful does earn major points for not using any added sugar, though. A pleasure to drink. POM's commitment to quality health products is clearly demonstrated here.

But surprisingly, my own fresh-squeeze pomegranate juice is the superior tasting juice. While not as concentrated, it is a much smoother and balanced juice to drink. Acidity is held back and the tartness and puckering feels a tad more subdued in comparison to POM. Tannins are comparable. What really makes this juice shine are the sweetness and mouthfeel. POM's juice tastes synthetic simply because its type of sweetness is so intense and overbearing to the point that it feels like it came from a syrup. My own juice is actually sweeter, and yet it feels more rounded and gentle. POM immediately hits your palate hard while my fresh-squeezed sort of allows itself to spread out and settle. The type of sweetness is completely different. Also, because my pomegranate juice is not filtered, there are more particles present, which contributes to the increased viscosity and smooth mouthfeel.

Blind tastings I conducted showed that some folks prefer POM over my fresh-squeezed juice, but the general consensus is that fresh-squeezed is better. This brings us to a very important point: convenience and consistency VS taste. POM is able to sell a very high quality consistent product year-round at attractive prices, thoroughly trouncing its competitors who needlessly corrupt their products with added sugar and filler juices. In comparison, my home-grown/squeezed juice does taste miles better, but I am limited to a small one-time harvest every year. Then there is the great inconvenience of juicing pomegranates. Believe me, it's a real chore to pick out all the individual aril, crush them, and dispose of the seeds. To make matters worse, one average sized pomegranate yields around 4oz. Sometimes less. There is more work than reward when squeezing fresh pomegranate juice. When preparing juice for my family, it took me 45 minutes to pick out all the aril, another 30 to juice them, and less than one minute for my family to finish it all--three cups.

Next time I'll just buy a bottle at Costco.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Plenty of over-rated restaurants in La Jolla. Nine-Ten isn't exactly one of them, though this is really up for debate. Here's a bargain $30 three-course lunch I was able to enjoy towards the end of July.

pre-meal simple carbohydrates

Organic green salad

Very light and subtle dressing. Faint taste of shallots and maybe champagne vinegar. Well balanced acidity and sweetness. Most leaves were fresh and crisp (as they ought to be) but I found a few wilted ones in the mix. Wasn't so pleased about that. The hearty and robust olive oil drizzled on crostinis provided a bold contrast to this starter.

Duck confit

While the duck confit is impeccable, it is my opinion that the accompanying arugula salad steals the limelight. The combination of flavors and textures was just brilliant. One should expect no less from a restaurant of Nine-Ten's caliber. Pungent goat cheese is cut by puckering pickled onions whose acidity is dampened and smoothed out by delicately sweet plums. A well thought-out harmony of flavors. Texture runs the gamut from the soft cheese to the crispy nuts. Definitely an exciting salad. And needless to say, Nine-Ten's duck confit is prepared with the same high standard in mind. Use of a knife is wholly unnecessary for the meat needs only gentle encouragement from a fork to fall cleanly off the bone. It is seasoned precisely to my liking while holding back on the salt. Compared to 1500 Ocean (too salty) and Avenue 5 (slightly too heavy on seasonings), Nine-Ten strikes a medium between the two.

Peach crisp w/ cherry ice cream

Epic is the word that comes to mind when shoveling down this behemoth. The light and airy ice cream gives your tongue a brief respite from the thick warm syrupy peaches underneath a layer of vanilla-scented granola. This is truly the epitome of comfort food. Sinfully good. I dare say it offers real stiff competition for my idol Mariah Swan's desserts. Easily makes my top five.

Nine-Ten has received much accolade over the years and it isn't hard to see why. However, I believe that the restaurant should improve upon several key issues. First, wilted greens in a salad is unacceptable. Second, service ranges from spotty to over attentive. Third, my water glass does not fill itself so any help is appreciated. Lastly, pacing needs significant work. I felt rushed when my duck confit arrived as I was finishing the last 40% of my salad. Despite these stumbles, lunch at Nine-Ten was a pleasurable and relaxing experience akin to a refreshing day at the spa. I want to give Nine-Ten the benefit of the doubt and say that it was an "off day" and that my server simply was not up to standard. Surely such great food does not get paired with questionable service! Only a second visit will tell, I suppose.

On a side note, I attempted to contact general manager Neal Wasserman for a digital copy of the menu I perused during my visit since the Nine-Ten website menu does not reflect the one I browsed. It would have been tremendously helpful in identifying ingredients and presenting additional dishes to 5-dS readers. Unfortunately, Neal completely brushed off my sincere, polite, and very flattering e-mail. What an insult. Even a simple "sorry I don't have time for amateurs like you" as a reply would have sufficed. Why on earth would management ignore a potentially loyal customer capable of generating favorable reviews to hook the general populace? Honestly, this experience makes me think twice about coming back.

Nine Ten
910 Prospect St
La Jolla, CA 92037

Friday, August 28, 2009

Eclipse Chocolat (Summer 09)

I've been singing praises to Will's dessert cafe Eclipse Chocolat for almost two years now and with good reason. Though I am a self proclaimed sugar-fiend, I don't enjoy desserts just for their sugar content. I want various harmonized flavors to accent a dessert with sugar as a compliment, not the main event.

Eclipse has adopted a new system for its famed seasonal dessert plates. In the past, items from dessert plates were unique to that season. Thus, if you particularly enjoyed something, ya got no luck in seeing it ever again. Now, however, there is a rotating selection of six items (choose four) that make up the dessert plate, guaranteeing new experiences as well as trusty old stand-bys.

On my most recent visit (July 09), I had the pleasure of enjoying Eclipse's new gelato sandwiches (gelatowiches) along with Will's phenomenal bread pudding, which friends and I just can't get enough of. We'll skip over the bread pudding and focus on gelatowiches since I've raved and rambled about them far too much in the past.

Gingerbread Ice Cream Sandwich - bourbon caramel gelato

Best of the two. Firm yet soft and yielding cookies are the star in this creation. It has been almost a month since this photo was taken, but I distinctly remember rich, fragrant flavors of brown sugar, sweet malts, caramel, and perhaps some cocoa. Dunno about ginger though...*@#$^!!! This is what happens when one puts off a blog entry for too long. Well what this means is, you guys get to go buy one and give me additional details. That way I can both taste it vicariously and provide a thorough review!

If Eclipse Chocolat had the option of shipping these babies, I'd probably order a dozen.

Sea Salt Nib Ice Cream Sandwich
cyprus sea salt, cocoa nib-flecked cookies, banana-brown sugar gelato

Excellent combination of flavors, though this particular gelatowich was a touch too salty. Creamy malt and banana flavors dominate the palate with a brown sugar backbone while cocoa nibs and sea salt accent each bite. Cookie consistency and moistness were spot-on--soft and chewy with enough structure to hold this behemoth together.

The two featured sandwiches were plated with a not-to-be-missed mixed berry and sticky toffee bread pudding, but they totally stole the show. They appear as "normal" 3-4 mouthful sandwiches, but make no mistake, each beast of a gelatowich is the size of my palm.
You could share with someone, of course....but that just leaves you with less gelatowich to enjoy.

Life's too short for sharing. Order a plate for yourself and tell your friends to get with the program.

Be sure to check out my other Eclipse Chocolat posts to see what you've missed in the past year and a half!

Eclipse Chocolat
2121 El Cajon Boulevard
San Diego, California 92104

Monday, August 17, 2009

South Bay Greek Festival

Oh lordy it's been over a month since my last entry! Anyone still even read my silly little failure blog? In my defense, it's been an awful summer for blogging. Abandoning my medical science background to pursue a completely different career was no small feat. Tremendous amounts of time and energy spent there... Then there was me researching and sinking a motherload into the stock market in June/July (superb shopping time). Poof went the summer/fall blogging fund. On the bright side, I'd make a real tidy sum even if I sell right now! ;D

Still, I found time and redistributed funds to introduce friends to good eats and drinks. Heck, I've always enjoyed and deeply appreciated it when Charlie showed or even treated me out to phenomenal gastronomic experiences so I too began to edumacate my pals about the joys of good eating. Thought I'd give friends a peek at Greek food.

Every summer, St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Redondo Beach hosts the South Bay Greek Festival. Three days of Greek food/beer/wine, live music, dancing, arts & crats, etc. Admission is $2 but you can print out a coupon on their website to get in free if ya don't like donating to church. Food isn't exactly cheap if you want to get filled up. I ran a $25+ tab without breaking a sweat. Worth it? For the most part, yes.

Lamb souvlaki $7+?

I bought this first and friends followed my example. I really wish they hadn't. These hunks of meat were so dry that with each chew, more and more fibers worked their way in between my teeth. Hella annoying since I don't have carry a man-purse stocked with dental floss. It was a shame (more of a waste), really. The herby rub they used was quite good. Too bad folks working the grill left the meat on too long. Those jerks. It's a crime to ruin good meat. Punishable the ruined meat.

Fried Calamari $6

A winner! Delightfully light crispy batter tossed with a lil bit of salt and dry herbs. Could easily give good restaurants a run for their money. Loved the texture--perfect balance of crispy n chewy.

Bit of this n that

Yes yes I know. The photo took zero amount of thought and planning. But can you blame me? I just wanted to dig in! Photoblog be damned. There are only four items here since I decided to go bananas on sweets. Of the four, I'd have to say I particularly enjoyed the mousaka (think lasagna, sans sauce), which was incredibly cheesy n creamy. Gonna try my hand at making this at home soon. Close second is that fat meatball (soutzoukakia?) cooked in a thick rich tangy tomato sauce. Loosely packed and plenty juicy. Reminded me of those awesome hamburgs (no thats not a typo) sold from Maestro in Mitsuwa, Costa Mesa. Not sure what was mixed into the ground beef, but it was damned good. Definately did not enjoy the dolmathes. Way way too much olive oil. Like em better at Christakis in Tustin. Gawd I miss that place.

Had the opportunity to try the roasted chicken, and I give it an A+. Crisped skin, succulent meat, and well flavored throughout. Can easily hold its own as an entree in a good restaurant. Extremely impressive considering that it was made in bulk.

Not pictured is the effing huge tub of rice pudding (risogalo) I bought. Milky, spiced with cinnamon, creamy texture. It was kinda like Kheer-light. So did I finish that huge tub o pudding as well as all the other stuff I bought? You betcha.

dessert pastries!

Woulda been nice if I were able to plate these individually at home, but they didn't last long enough. Ate half of each while buzzed at 2 or 3am and tore into the remainder seven hours later so forgive me if my memory is a bit fuzzy. Baklava was spot-on. Can't believe it (or any of these) was homemade... The kadaifi (hairy lookin' one) was particularly fun to eat. Loved 'em all! Made a mess of myself while eating the kourambiethes (powdered sugar on top of a pastry cookie) though. Know the sad, longing feeling when you realize a great meal is coming to an end? That's how I felt as I finished the remaining pastries. Buying two boxes next year.

Walking around, I came across this:

So then came the intense internal struggle: $5 and settle for the small? Or go balls out as I usually do and blow $10 on a monster sugar rush? Oh jeez oh no it's almost my turn to order!


Yeah I'm surprised too. I demonstrated uncommon restraint and went with the small. My god this dessert was awesome! Amazing how such a simple pleasure--syrup drizzled over donuts with a dash of powered sugar, cinnamon, and pistachios--can bring me so much happiness and get me all giddy with glee. $5 buys enough for one to enjoy and share with others. Doesn't last nearly long enough, though.

Shoulda went with the large.

Not a bad way to pass an evening. Now that I'm more familiar with what the festival has to offer, next year will be an even better experience as I pick through the goodies and turn my nose at the baddies. ...G'damn that dry kabab. C'mon!

South Bay Greek Festival @ St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Chuch
722 Knob Hill
Redondo Beach, CA 90277

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fourth of July

Fourth of July BBQ w/ the famous Clayfu. Enjoy the photos!

Copper River Salmon stuffed with stuff.

USDA Prime ribeyes

Turkey burgers! Go great w/ sauce from Chik Fil-A.

Hors d'œuvre. XYZ? with watercress and one lip-smackingly good sweet sauce.

Potatoes before roasting. I heart sweet blue ones.

Huge black tiger prawns. Photo does not do them justice.


Great company, great wine, great food. Couldn't ask for a better Fourth.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Princesita Taca Truck

Ain't stress and pressure from unrealistic expectations the greatest? Couldn't sleep so here I am back after a 3.4 mile late-night explosive sprint session to post up more of my food adventures.

Jeez all I do is bitch bitch bitch...

Tacos from the Princesita taco truck in Linda Vista.

Starting from the rear: carne asada, pastor, and cabeza

Easily the best tacos in San Diego. That's excluding Mariscos German, of course. Those guys deal with seafood so I'll keep the two separate. For $1.50/taco this is a real steal! Open salsa and condiment bar means you're free to lop on all the guac you want. If you're like most college kids who have been eating at the various shittastic "Mexican" restaurants (Roberto's, Riggoberto's, Sergio's, Los Primos, Coti's, Santana's, El Indio, etc.) the time has come to stop eating bland overcooked meat! Asada and pastor are marinated very well and the explosion of flavor hitting my umami receptors sent shivers down my spine. Yah I had a mouthgasm.

For the hardcore asada fans, try the $4 carne asada burrito. It's an epic two meal affair. Or just one if you like to stuff your face...but your ass will look big in those jeans if you keep it up.

Fish tacos can be had for only buck and it is my opinion that they are better than the ones at Mariscos German. More meat and less batter. Hey you might even find a big fried shrimp in yours if you're lucky. I'm 1:3 right now.

This is definitely a must-try if you live in San Diego. It's just a bit south of K's Sandwiches, so you can even pick up dessert on the way home! They got some fantastic filled croissants.

Oh yeah. I had a pretty big typo in my last post. When I said "filets are the tastiest of cuts" I really meant they aren't the tastiest of cuts. I don't proof-read anymore.

Now to take my sleeping aids...

Princesita Taco Truck
6882 Linda Vista Rd
San Diego, CA 92111
Weekdays dinner time 5-11pm?

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Thought I'd get settled in nicely both domestically and career-wise, but things still aren't working out....hence the lack of updates. Heck I don't even get on my computer often these days. G'damn this job market and g'damn the fierce graduate school competition.

On a happier note, here is a quick post from L.A.'s Grace. I've been dying to eat here but was waiting for a good occasion (read: excuse to spend money). so when my father came to visit, I took the family out to dinner.

Mother ordered the 3-course prix-fixe:

Maryland Blue Crab Cake - warm curry vinaigrette

One huge crispy lump of crab meat. The vinaigrette was really subtle with the curry despite it appearing like a thick heavy trail in the picture. Nice way to kick things off!

Sautéed Day Boat Scallops
spring vegetables, savoy spinach, potato confit, fennel pollen

I'm still not sure whether I like this dish or not. From the gorgeous presentation and nicely seared appearance of the (ginormous) scallops, it's easily an A+. As for the texture, that's where I can't make up my mind. It was kinda like biting into a medium-well scallop with more emphasis towards the "well" end of the spectrum. The center felt a bit like chewing on albalone. My mom really enjoyed it though. Love/not-quite-like for me.

Strawberry tart
vanilla mousse, lemon ripple ice cream

Easily the best tart I've had to date. Doesn't quite look like a tart in the traditional sense with all the purty ridges, I know. But though the crust looks more like a cracker, it does have a texture similar to tarts we're more accustomed to seeing. So what makes this tart such a winner? The perfect balancing of flavors and great mouthfeel. This mousse isn't exactly light and airy like typical was more like a really really soft and fluffy cheese thick and rich with vanilla-bean n caramel creme goodness. Pair it up with the sweetness and acidity of the strawberries and you get one explosive flavor combo. Deliciously sweet n crumbly crust makes it even better.

The rest of us ordered regular menu items:

Spinach & Arugula Salad
endive, candied walnuts, fried feta, grilled
onion red wine vinaigrette

Fried feta? Neat-o. Doesn't do an awful lot to make it tastier (unlike fried mozzarella), but it sure does make things more interesting! Great salad to start.

Sautéed LaBelle Farms Foie Gras
grilled pineapple, brown butter
brioche, black pepper ginger caramel

Wooo! Lookit that glorious slab of foie gras! Haven't had one seared this nicely in a long time! And my god, the size of this thing... Make sure to get a bit of pineapple in each bite. Having a bit of sugar and acidity with foie gras is a must! And to clear the palate, ya have slices of ginger. While the brown butter brioche soaked in fat from the foie gras looked temping enough to shovel down, in practice...not quite the case. My mouth got tired of it awfully fast so I left most of it alone. Brother spooned it all down though. What a fat fatty.

Ya fatty.

Lamb Pappardelle
braised lamb, roasted tomatoes, olives, fennel, parmesan

This oughta be an entree. Silky buttery egg noodles really soaked up the rich broth from braised lamb. Awesome. Wish I was able to taste more than 1.5 bites though. I was too busy workin' the foie gras.

Lobster Cavatelli lobster, cavatelli pasta, english peas, chanterelle mushrooms

This is the rich people version of my ghetto college student chicken broth, spam, frozen peas/carrots, and macaroni dinner. I like the rich people version better. FML.

Grilled Tenderloin of Wild Boar roasted brussels sprouts, herbed yukon gold potato spaetzle, violet mustard sauce

A lil gamey, super tender, plus a faint herby taste that probably came from the pile of greens on top. 'Course the good ol' Maillard reaction imparted a great deal of flavor here too as well. I got some pretty big slices of boar in addition to a huge portion of the spaetzel (think gnocchi). The sauce isn't exactly mustardy. It was more like a rich sauce made with big bold red and drippings from the grilled boar. Man what a winner.

Grilled Filet of Beef farro, haricots verts, morcilla, Ossau-Iraty cheese, red wine sauce

Filets aren't exactly the tastiest of cuts. There simply isn't enough fat present, so extras like the morcilla and cheese in this case have to play an important role. And holy cow they sure do a great job. Yes, a USDA prime filet is already a winner in itself, but when you throw in tasty flavoring extras, the experience just gets so much better. I don't think I need to tell ya'll about the joys of chowing down on a perfectly grilled filet :) Words just never do it justice.

Chocolate Souffle Cake Affogato vanilla malt ice cream, espresso, brandied orange slice

This is one of those rare desserts that make me rethink my current "Dessert Favs" ranking. Everything about this dessert was just perfect. All details were well thought-out. The pool of espresso at the bottom? Brilliant! Why don't more places do this?! It makes a choco souffle 3x better. The standard vanilla-bean ice cream is always a great default choice for dessert, but Pastry Chef Mariah Swan jazzed it up a bit with a rich vanilla malt. Holy **** the difference in such a tiny change is huge. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, it's worth it to just swing by for this dessert. Seriously.

Pistachio Filled Doughnuts
chocolate buttermilk marble ice cream, dried cherries

She's good. She's g'damn good. Mariah makes something as commonplace as a donut taste nothing like a donut. I mean...dude. No one makes donuts with such a thin crispy exterior and fills them up with the smooth buttery richness of pistachio. A scoop thick dark chocolate ice cream afterwards sure does hit the spot. Now if she can make donuts taste this good, I'm wondering what she does with cookies and milk (it's on the menu!).

Wow what a treat. Even if you don't have deep pockets for a $32 entree, do try to stop by the bar or something and share an appetizer or two in addition to dessert. I demand a lot of bang for my buck and fellas, Grace definitely delivers. Especially when it's time for dessert.

Now remember, fellas: Will @ Eclipse Chocolat is having another epic cupcake weekend! Swing by on the Fourth of July weekend for an awesome flavor lineup in addition to killer deals on the best cupcakes in San Diego.


7360 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036