Saturday, June 23, 2007

Original Pancake House - Anaheim

I'll begin with two words: bacon waffle. And no, there's no punctuation error here. No comma, period, or the word "and" is needed. What I had at the Original Pancake House wasn't a waffle with some bacon on the side. What I had was a waffle with bacon in it.

Crumbled, fatty bacon, to be exact, was sprinkled into the batter and then cooked until the waffle turned golden. The finished product was freckled with the brown bits. I slathered on the whipped butter and drizzled the maple syrup until each one of its dimples glistened like pools. This was the next logical step in waffle advancement since Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles, and the inventor is a genius of the highest order.

Each forkful was inevitably boosted by the salty, bacon-y bursts of the porky Pop Rocks. And the way it jived with the sweet syrup was nothing short of miraculous. Between bites, I took a sip of their freshly squeezed orange juice. The citrus tartness was required to cut through the richness and ready my palate for more.

But the waffles weren't the only miracles found here at the Original Pancake House, an outpost of the Pacific Northwest chain. The cooks, who wore those poofy chef's hats, also produced a mean plate of corned beef hash. It's served as a perfectly-formed patty, with a thin and crispy outer crust that led into a butter-soft interior so smooth (save for the occasional bit of gristle and chipped potato) it ate like pudding.

No visit would be complete without some of their namesake item: pancakes. An order of banana pancakes were fanned out on the plate like petals on a flower and was too much for a normal human being to consume. What we did manage to gobble up was ethereally fluffy, like it was blessed by the breath of angels.

Original Pancake House
(714) 535-9815
1418 E Lincoln Ave
Anaheim, CA 92805

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Freshia Market - Tustin

Behold, the Freshia Market banchan selection: acres upon acres of ready-to-eat Korean side dishes, priced by weight and pre-packed for convenience. It's faster than fast-food; healthier and tastier too.

Kimchi is, of course, a main staple, as are cubed radish steeped in scorching kochujang (Korean chili paste). But that's not all. In this cool case, you'll find a veritable smorgasbord of vegetarian-friendly eats of every color and crunch, intended to accompany some sort of protein, preferably Korean bulgogi or kalbi. But you can serve it as is, with plenty of rice, and be satisfied that you spared an animal its life.

I plucked a few beauties for a recent dinner in front of the boob tube. A tub of crisp baby bok choy ($2.07) sauteed with scallions, garlic, and peppers was refreshingly simple, and not unlike the kind I can stir fry myself. Soy-stewed eggplant and carrots ($1.78) seethed with a tangy, vinegary nuttiness bold enough to be called a pickle.

For protein I also bought some fried tofu ($2.80), cut into steaks and soaked in a spicy/sweet marinade. However, this wasn't enough for the carnivore in me, who demands some bloodlust with dinner. But today wasn't a day I wanted to grill up the pre-marinated selection of butchered meats myself. No, today, my prey would already have to be pre-cooked.

So I gravitated to the prepared hot foods corner, which pulsed with glowing red heat lamps. Here I found deep-fried chicken wings, grilled fish, and others delectables. I settled for a happy assortment of butterflied pieces of fried mackerel ($6.29) that were great crisped up in my toaster oven. I relished the way the supple white flesh and salty skin balanced each other in yin-yang fashion.

Previously, when Freshia was known as HK Market, this protein-rich counter did not exist. But now, redubbed with that oh-so-cute moniker, the owners upped the ante on its ready-made food offerings. The rest of the store remains unchanged.

Regardless, Freshia, HK Market, or by any other name, the banchan tastes just as sweet.

Freshia Market
(714) 731-6801
14551 Red Hill Ave
Tustin, CA 92780

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Philippe - Los Angeles

I used to think that L.A. is a far and distant land. A visit to this enchanted place of swanky, buzzed-about eateries, and age old landmarks required a lot of effort, particularly with the driving. First, there's the 5 freeway to contend with, especially that section around La Mirada, which always moves slower than molasses. Second is trying to find parking in L.A. without paying a fortune. And third, the gas, which now tops out $3.50 per gallon in my 'hood.

But a few Saturdays ago (May 12th, to be exact) we discovered that there's a solution. We didn't have to gas-up, drive to or park in L.A. to enjoy it! And the answer was right here under our noses all along: The Metrolink.

It has a convenient route that zips from Tustin to L.A. and back, and as an added bonus, weekend tickets are discounted by half.

Using their handy-dandy schedule, we planned our outing and lunch at one of our favorite L.A. haunts: Philippe the Original for French Dipped Sandwiches.

What follows is a detailed account of our escape from Orange County via the Metrolink.

9:00 We drive from our home in Irvine to the Tustin Metrolink Station. It takes all of five minutes.

9:20 We buy two roundtrip tickets from the automated kiosk. Total for us: $15.50.

9:41 The train arrives and glides to a stop to the smell of grinding brakes.

9:50 We take seats in a car that is virtually empty.

10:00 After making stops at Santa Ana, Old Towne Orange, the train stops in Anaheim Stadium, where I see a large wave of red-t-shirt-wearing marchers descending upon the parking lot for AIDS Walk Orange County.

10:06 We take a nap as the train leaves the Fullerton station and speeds by office parks, warehouses, walls scribbled with graffiti, en route to L.A.

10:45 The train arrives at L.A. Union Station.

We stop for a minute to marvel at the beauty of its cavernous waiting room. Then, it's a short walk to Philippe.

10:50 We arrive at Philippe and find that there's hardly a line. Since it's only two persons deep, we get our food immediately. We pat ourselves on the back for beating the rush and also, since we brought our own soda, we save a few bucks.

11:00 We take our food, which weighed heavily on the well-worn tray, to one of the many open booths. The floor, by the way, is covered in sawdust and a bit slippery, but this is just the way it has been for decades.

My lamb sandwich is just as good as I remember: thick hunks of slightly gamy meat inside a roll soaked in jus. But no Philippe French Dip is complete without a few drips of that incendiary hot mustard, which sit idle inside plastic containers and waiting on every table until you decide to empower it. This is the stuff of legend, and in other incarnations, conceivable as a chemical weapon.

We finish off the meal with a classic banana cream pie, which true to its name, consists of only banana, whipped cream, and pie crust.

11:25 Stuffed, we set out to walk off our lunch around Chinatown, which starts literally two steps from Philippe's doorstep.

Just as we walk by a shop that butchers live chickens to order, my camera battery dies. But no camera can capture the stench, which is detectable within a few hundred yards of the place. It is an unmistakable barnyard smell of feathers and chicken poop -- something that is foreign to someone like me who lives in an Orange County masterplanned community.

Once we get closer, we hear the clucking and a few stray feathers that float by, suspended in the air. I take a peek inside and see that there's a concrete floor that has a drain in the middle. There's also a marquee with prices for all kinds of poultry. I consider bringing back a freshly-killed chicken with me on the Metrolink. But ultimately, I decide against it.

11:30 We continue our stroll through Chinatown and walk into the labyrinth that is Dynasty Plaza. Quickly we realize, we're lost -- lost in a maze of fabric, garments, and other oddities. Trapped inside this firetrap are hundreds of vendors, all selling what seems to be the same items. There's skirts, suits, blouses, t-shirts, pants, jeans and Chinese dresses. It's mind-boggling how much merchandise can be crammed inside a space no larger than a single car garage.

I notice that most of the shop owners are Vietnamese since they speak with that distinctive staccato accent. But whether Vietnamese or Cantonese, all seem to pronounce "dollar" as "dah-lah," and all are masters of negotiation. We manage to haggle a skirt down from $12 to $10 (but not $9), and were ready to buy, but had to walk away when we couldn't find one that didn't already have a stain on it.

11:45 We finally manage to find ourselves an exit and get back onto the street.

12:40 After a good hour of walking, our legs crap out -- a result of years from atrophy and door-to-door commuting.

12:50 We decide to head back to catch the 1:30 train. But first, a restroom stop at Philippe. Once inside, we see that the line to get food is now all the way to the back wall. Insane! Thank goodness we got here early, we thought.

1:00 On the way to the station, we stop by Olvera Street. We are somewhat disappointed to discover that there are more white tourists than there are Mexicans. They pack the restaurant patios, sipping margaritas and munching on chips.

One thing this area has going for it is a more photogenic atmosphere. But the stuff sold in the equally cramped shops are a little more frivolous. There are maracas, ponchos, oversized sombreros and toys that I guess are all made in China. Ah the irony!

1:21 We make it back to the train station with plenty of time to spare.

1:30 I start this journal as the train leaves southbound to Orange County.
To read Kirk of Mmm-yoso's post on his trip to Philippe:
--->>> CLICK HERE <<<---

Philippe the Original
1001 N Alameda St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 628-3781