Monday, February 9, 2009

Day 5: Round Round Get Around

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is a popular coffee chain on the west coast, similar to Starbucks in New York. I had to see what all the brouhaha is about, so I ordered a small blended mocha drink, which is the equivalent of a Starbucks mocha frappuccino. My mocha was heavy on the sugar and milk and tasted more like a chocolate milkshake than actual coffee. I'm a strong coffee drinker, so I'd choose Starbucks over the Coffee Bean any day, but Boston's Espresso Royale trumps them all.

Lunchtime: Pho Hut, in Glendale.

Social networking with two writers who have an acute sense of humor. Pho Hut is a hole-in-the-wall joint (literally). V and N come here so often that the waiters know their orders right away, down to the free coke refill. N likes to order the meaty pho bowl with extra noodles. Pass that hot sauce!

Porto's is a family-owned Cuban bakery that has served the Glendale community for 30-odd years. The bakery is known for its cheese rolls. I had them for the first time and was astounded that something so small and unassuming could pack such a punch.

A close-up of the cheese rolls. See those sugar crystals?

Day 5: What do Fleas and Farmers have in common?

Answer: Markets!

Okay, I know that was cheesy. But I must reiterate my love for farmers' markets -- there's something reassuring about the colorful array of produce, fruits, spices and all manner of edibles dangling in front of your face in neatly stacked rows. Wandering in and out of stalls is a pleasure that cannot be found in generic, temperature-regulated malls. And the assortment of honey! The variety was astounding -- orange blossom, wild thistle, blueberry, and lots more!

A European grocery store with imported chocolate, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, taqueria, gumbo, french crepes, Korean and even Pinkberry: whatever your current fixation is, the farmers' market is bound to have it. This one was the Original Farmers' Market at The Grove.

The peaches were especially tasty: just the right amount of tangy crunch on the outside and sweet, pulpy inside.

The mangoes were not quite ripe yet.

Hello, my name is Bob and I'm a recovering caffeine- and sugar-addict. My daily M.O. is ordering a medium Hawaiian Kona coffee ($1.65) and a New Orleans beignet ($.99). I have never regretted my purchase.

The older gentleman in the picture looked at me warily for half a second, as if to inquire non-verbally: You're not taking a picture of me, are you? He went back to reading his two-inch book.

Day 4: Because I'm Asian

Now, some people may look down on porridge as some kind of peasants' gruel, but I happen to enjoy pay-dan sow yook jook, otherwise known as preserved duck egg and lean pork congee. This is also my mom's favorite home-style Chinese dish, and she eats it whenever she's craving some comfort food to cleanse the body. It was my aunt's day off, so we braced our stomachs for some dim sum at Empress Pavilion.

This would be mango pudding. Everyone who knows me knows I like my mango, and in any form: fresh fruit, dried, jelly, juice, pudding -- you name it. The mango pudding at Empress Pavilion, however, tasted more egg-y than mango-y...which is well and fine, just different from what I'm used to. (And yes, that is pineapple on top of the mango. Don't ask why.)

In the afternoon, we drove over to Little Tokyo, or Japantown, for some cheap home goods. I snapped this pic outside an eatery that was closed for the day. What I would give for a huge ramen bowl and fresh fruit dessert!

I know, I know. I'm late to hop on the Beard Papa bandwagon, but jump on it I did. After taking one bite of this delightful, gooey cream puff, I was convinced: Beard Papa, I bow down to you. I don't know how you do it, but you managed to make an anti-cream person not only taste your whipped lip-smackin' goodness, but relish every bite. Oh, and the green tea boba wasn't bad either (could be less sweet, though).

"Jesus Saves" - this picture was taken from my cousin's loft on the 19th floor of Downtown LA.

Day 3: My computer hates me but it's ok

Good morning, Los Angeles

Japanese three-layer bowl

Bottom bowl: udon

Tempura udon, flaky and good

Venice, wo ai ni (I love you)

Day 3: Valleys and deserts and peaks o my

My dear readers (or whoever reads this thing), my apologies for the delayed entry. I assure you that I have not been kidnapped by midgets and shipped to Siberia in a sealed drum, neither have I vanished from the blogosphere. My lil' laptop-that-could has been in the "repair shop" (AKA the able hands of my uncle) for routine maintenance. Not to fear: it is up and running again. And so are the pictures.

Los Angeles has been treating me well, even if has rained the past four days in a row (the alternately incensed and surprised reactions of native Angelenos is quite amusing, I must say). In any case, I will do my best to recap:

Since it was a sunny 82 degrees, we decided to trek out to Venice Beach. Before hitting the sand, we stopped at Yashima, a Japanese restaurant with savory udon and soba noodles. My cousin told me that she first heard of this place from her cousin years ago. Kyle had a cute kids' meal that was served in a three-layer interlocking bowl that was shaped like a baby cub. I thought it was an ingenius idea. Oh, the Japanese and their innovativeness. Most of the clientele looked like young adult co-workers on a lunch break.

I ordered una don (eel over rice) combo, which came with a choice of hot or cold soba -- I opted for the cold. Daikon, seaweed, tempura flakes, wasabi and a small green bottle of soba sauce accompanied the dish. I emptied out the tempura and used that container for my soba sauce, since I wanted to do it the 'traditional' way: Dunk a serving of soba into the sauce and slurp it up real quick. I had a grand time trying out my technique (sorry, my picture didn't come out right, but you can get an idea of how it looked here).

My cousin ordered the tempura udon, a classic choice.

Venice beach was a beautifully relaxing and peaceful time. I got to engage in one of my all-time favorite activities: people-watching. Bicyclists zipped by in massive numbers. It must be a popular pastime here. There's nothing better than laying out on a stretch of sand and letting all the distractions and cares of the day float away with the cry of the seagulls and the waves lapping on the shore. I took many pictures of the sea, beachcombers and palm trees. Everyone from wiry-yet-spry old white dudes to tattoo-sporting Latinos, college/high school students and an inordinate number of females jogging with their canine friends graced the beach.

P.S. I've attempted this entry three times and somehow my pictures refuse to integrate with the text today, so I will post the pics separately as I am running out of patience with this moody laptop. I swear, it has a mind of its own.