Friday, June 26, 2015

Mendocino Farms - Irvine

Mendocino Farms makes a banh mi sandwich that isn't exactly a banh mi sandwich. The bread isn't a baguette; it's ciabatta in the usual ciabatta shape: square. But because it's crisped up on a panini press, the bread crackles when you bite into it, just as the crust of a proper baguette should.

And in eating it further you realize how very banh mi-like this sandwich actually is. Nearly all the flavors you expect and had in the last real banh mi you ate is present and accounted for: pickled daikon, pickled carrots, plenty of sliced jalapenos, cilantro, cucumbers, and a good spackling of mayo.

No, there's no pate, or the umami of Maggi. And the braised and caramelized Kutobuta pork belly stuffed in there as protein is a little bit of an overkill, but that's fine too, since what you're really tasting is everything else in this "banh mi"--an item described on the menu as a "playful take on the popular Vietnamese sandwich."

All of this is to say that it's still not a banh mi, not exactly--but that's doesn't mean it isn't good.

Mendocino Farms
4175 Campus Dr. Ste B
Irvine, CA 92612
(949) 783-2900

Kaya Street Kitchen - Aliso Viejo

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Afters Ice Cream - Tustin

Though I was one of the first people to write about Afters and its ice-cream-stuffed donuts, I think I'm one of the last people on Earth to try them.

There are about a hundred reasons why I didn't try them sooner. Those hundred reasons are probably still standing there in line at the Fountain Valley store as we speak.

But after finally getting around to tasting my first "Milky Bun" (that's what Afters calls its ice-cream-stuffed donuts) last weekend at the virtually deserted and newly opened Tustin store at three in the afternoon, my question to anyone who've actually stood in that line is: Was it worth it?

Because what I tasted was a glazed donut, split in half, with ice cream in the middle. Sure, the donut is reheated using some sort of unseen contraption so that you get a warm donut around the cold ice cream.

But it's still just a glazed donut.

With ice cream in the middle.

Actually, what I noticed above all else was this: The donut was all I could taste. Due to its sweetness, the ice cream became a big cold gob of nothing.

That's what perplexes me most about these Milky Buns. Afters obviously took the time to craft some ice cream in flavors that are creative and good; but stuffing them inside that donut is akin to writing the perfect song and then having William Hung sing it.

Afters Ice Cream
13662 Newport Ave. Ste C
Tustin, CA 92780

Napa Rose's Chef Counter - Anaheim

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mochi Cream - Costa Mesa

You know what Asian palates love? Chewy and jellied textures. Think of boba. Think of the tendon in beef noodle soup. And mostly, think of mochi, which is, I think, the penultimate in Asian textural foods. It exists simply because of its chew. The sensation in your mouth is similar to gnawing on your own inner cheek for dessert. And that's appropriate because, my, what desserts mochi makes!

For sure you've had mochi ice cream at Mochilato, or any random Japanese restaurant where they might offer it at the end of a meal. You may have even had J. Sweet Bakery's strawberry mochi, which unfortunately, they stopped making.

What the new Mochi Cream in Mitsuwa's food court does is a combination of the two. Mochi Cream's mochi creams have the smooth oval shape of a mochi ice cream, but are filled with all sorts of things other than ice cream.

I tried three last week and realized the caramel custard one actually contained caramel custard. The strawberry and the chocolate had a sort of mousse tucked inside. And the mochi that surrounded them were of the right thickness and yes, pleasantly chewy. I loved them.

But you know what else they have in common with mochi ice cream? Their price tags. Each mochi cream cost about two dollars. I think they know that Asians who love chewy and jellied textures won't be able to resist. Besides, beef tendon doesn't go so well with chocolate.

Mochi Cream
Mitsuwa Marketplace
665 Paularino Ave
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Phoenix Food Boutique - Garden Grove

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Milt's Stop & Eat - Moab, UT

If you're going to see Arches National Park, you're going to have to stay in Moab. And if you're going to stay in Moab, you must eat at Milt's.

Every town has a place like Milt's. It's one of those lunch counter/greasy spoons that's been around longer than most of us have been alive. On the walls, there are faded photographs with people wearing horn-rimmed glasses before wearing them became ironic. And when I was there, I heard a cop proudly announce to the couple next to him that he'd been eating at Milt's since he was five.

If you're in Moab, it's where you should eat too. All the travel books, TripAdvisor, and Yelp will tell you the same. I concur.

Park on the unmarked gravel lot, creating your own space if you have to. Then mosey in, breathe in the beefy fumes from the patties that sizzle on the flattop griddle, and don't forget the tater tots, the onion rings, the hand spun milkshakes for dessert. There's nothing you don't know here. Everything is cut from the cloth of classic Americana. The burgers are thick, the meat loosely packed and sandwiched between a toasted bun with an excess of mustard and pickles.

Milt's is as a beloved and iconic part of the landscape as the Delicate Arch of Utah and will probably last just as long.

Milt's Stop & Eat
356 E Mill Creek Dr.
Moab, UT 84532
(435) 259-7424

Hakata Ikkousha - Costa Mesa