Thursday, March 26, 2015

Miyako - Irvine

I don't remember how much I paid for this to-go box of sushi at Irvine's Miyako, but at the time I was ordering it, I thought it was too much. It might have something to do with the fact that the cashier and I had a miscommunication on whether it included a miso soup like the other lunch specials. I thought she said yes, but she still charged me for the soup. By the time she rang me up, I was too hungry to protest.

Just give me whatever, I thought. Here. Money.

But then as I stood there waiting for my order to be made, the lady who actually assembled my sushi lunch winked at me and then started to pile on more fish than I thought I was paying for. There was an extra slice of salmon sashimi here, more tuna there, even an extra piece or two of California roll. By the time she closed the foam box and packed it up, I had what I gathered was 20% extra food than what I was entitled to.

I thanked her, took it home, and realized not only was it actually a bargain, it tasted great, too--more fresh, more flavorful, and more carefully made than an office park lunch sushi joint like this usually produces.

But then Miyako has changed in the past year or so. It used to be the kind of quick-service joint heavy on the teriyaki. Now, they've remodeled it and put more of a focus on the sushi. Next time, I think I might even try saying "Omakase!" at the sushi bar, which is kind of like telling them:

Here! Money! Just me give me whatever!

92 Corporate Park # H
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 756-8875

Pub Thirty-Two - Mission Viejo

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Original Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce Popcorn

Have you just about had it with all these Sriracha sauce-inspired products? Most of it is ridiculous. Sriracha beer? I bet it tastes like what it is: a gimmick.

Besides that, most of these products don't have much of in the flavor of the Huy Fong brand hot sauce that started it all. For the record: that Lay's potato chip flavor was let down, and even though I adore Jack In The Box, I'm avoiding their Sriracha burger at all costs. I figure it can't be better than what I do with their already heavenly two-for-99-cents tacos, which is cover it in Huy Fong's sauce when I get them home.

But then I found this at the market formerly known as Marukai. Notice that it has all the markings of an actual Huy Fong branded product. And when I looked at the ingredients, actual Huy Fong Foods Sriracha is listed after the popcorn and the sunflower oil used to pop it.

And after tasting it, let me tell you: this is only the Sriracha derivative product the world needs. It's really spicy. I mean, scorching. And it has the same zing, that garlicky tang, that secret-recipe signature flavor that only Huy Fong has and other imitators just can't copy...and man, there a lot of imitators out there!

La Pollada - Anaheim

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fatburger - Victorville

Fatburger, the burger chain I prefer over In-N-Out, is an endangered species in Orange County. A few months ago, the Aliso Viejo branch shuttered. Before that the one in Fashion Island's food court became a Five Guys. The two that were in Irvine closed a long time before, as did the one in Brea. Only one Fatburger remains in OC: Buena Park, near Knott's.

I can't tell you what happened with this once-thriving chain--why it dwindled down to nothing here. What I can tell you is that whenever I pass one, I stop in. And this is exactly what I did when we saw the sign as we drove through Victorville on our way back from Vegas.

What I discovered is that the Victorville Fatburger isn't just a Fatburger, but a Fatburger with a full bar attached to it. Added to that, it's probably one of the best-looking, cleanest, and best-managed Fatburgers I've encountered yet.

Just look at the way they arranged the homemade onion rings in a neat horizontal stack. Most important of all: The burger was just as good as it always is. I added a fried egg, of course, as I always do, but the patty had real girth, so that you could taste the beef, the charred crusty edges, and how it all stood up against the pickles, relish, onions, mustard--you know--the works.

As I ate the burger I was reminded of its now too prophetic motto: "The Last Great Hamburger Stand."

12748 Amargosa Road Ste #7
Victorville, CA 92391

Panxa Cocina - Long Beach

Monday, March 09, 2015

The Magic Castle - Los Angeles

Oh how I wish I could show you all the wonders that I saw inside the building you see above: the lavish champagne brunch buffet, Irma the Ghost playing the piano, and of course, all the dazzling magicians performing illusions that boggle the mind.

At one time, The Magic Castle was one of those experiences that was, to me, as elusive as Disneyland's Club 33: you had to know somebody. But luckily, unlike Club 33, I had an in. I knew a guy who knew a guy. Well, sort of. I knew a guy who knew another guy who had this website where you can buy a whole bunch of magic crap, and when a certain threshold is reached, the site sends you an invite good for 8 guests as a sort of thank you gift.

I wish I could tell you that that website still does it, or that it even exists anymore. Like an elephant in a David Copperfield special, that business went poof a few months ago. This means that the last invite I was able to secure would be my last.

So when we went last Saturday (my third time, but my first brunch there), I relished every minute of the experience. Until I find a new way to get another invite, this would be the last time I'd be able to roam the halls of this old house, or marvel at the miniature prototype of the Haunted Mansion's ghost ballroom (yes, Walt Disney bought the idea from a Magic Castle member). And it would be the last time I eat in that Victorian dining room.

Brunch at The Magic Castle was a fabulous spread. There was endless Hawaiian poke served with wonton chips, perfectly cooked prime rib carved hot with all the trimmings, shrimp cocktail, omelets, fresh lox and bagel, and flutes of endless mimosas.

You should've seen our table.

At the end of our meal, we built up a tall pile of spent crab legs shells. We demolished an Alaskan crab troller's worth of those spindly crustacean limbs, which were especially easy to eat as they were already split in half lengthwise as all crab legs should. I wish I could show you a picture of how much of it we ate, or the other culinary delights they took the care to prepare, or even a hint of the magic we saw. There was the floating table, the stuff in the close-up parlor, Irma the ghost pianist playing Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" and then Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" by request. I can't show any of it on this blog because no photos, not even selfies, are allowed inside.

It's just as well though. The Magic Castle is like magic itself; the more mysterious, the better.

And if anyone knows a guy who knows a guy who can get me another invite there or to Club 33 in the future, let me know!

The Magic Castle
7001 Franklin Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 851-3313

Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana - Fullerton

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Cookie Connection - Irvine

This is not a story so much about these cookies, but about who I got it from: my dental hygienist.

Yes, the medical professional whose job it is to clean my teeth and remind me to floss and brush regularly, gave me cookies--a whole box of sweet, sticky, chocolate-containing cookies from Cookie Connection.

But before you make any wise cracks about how she did it to ensure her dental office continues to get my business--you are right: they will. But not in the way that you think. Her thoughtful gesture not only guarantees my loyalty to this dental office, but warms my heart.

It also has shown me that good karma pays back with dividends, because, you see, this hygienist is also my better half's dental hygienist; and as I mentioned before in a previous post, during the holidays my better half buys boxes upon boxes of Xa's Sweet & Savory Cafe's cookies to give them away to people.

Our dental hygienist was one of those recipients and now she was returning the favor!

And because I happened to be the first out of the two of us to have a dental appointment after the holidays, she gave me the cookies to bring home...which goes back to my earlier point: good karma pays back with dividends. In this case, it was in the form of delicious chewy cookies.

There were many in the box, including a dense, powdered sugar-dusted brownie that tasted like, well, a really good brownie. But my favorite has to be the s'mores cookie wherein not only the marshmallows and chocolate chunks have been embedded into the cookie dough as though jewels on a crown, but also, a whole graham cracker. It was fused into the bottom like Quato from Total Recall.

I shared the cookies with my better half, who was also grateful for the gift. And just in case my hygienist is reading this, I promptly brushed my teeth and flossed afterward.

Cookie Connection
3720-3992 Barranca Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 554-5551

Garlic & Chives - Garden Grove