Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Photasia - Irvine

If you live in Irvine and eat Vietnamese food, there’s a 23% chance that you’ve been at a restaurant owned by the family that owns Pho Ba Co. Out of the thirteen Vietnamese restaurants in Irvine (yes, I counted them), three--Pho Ba Co, Ha Long and PhoTasia--belong to the same owner.

While it’s not a monopoly nor hardly a chain, when you want consistently well prepared bowls of pho or a plate of Vietnamese BBQ and rice, Pho Ba Co and PhoTasia can be depended upon like a Swiss watch. (Ha Long, known for their spaghetti basil dish, is more of a take-out joint).

They are my standbys when I get the craving and I am not interested in schlepping it out to Little Saigon. And in their bowls and plates I find comfort food, simple food, food that always hits the spot.

The pho broth never feels overloaded with salt or MSG. The combo rice plate with shredded pork skin, Vietnamese egg quiche, and grilled pork chop is the perfect sampler platter of textures, culminating in a chop that’s sweet and tender down to the bone.

And even though I know I can get the same kind of food for a lot cheaper outside the city limits, especially for cha gio that comes with lettuce and herbs to roll them in, sometimes you have to take stock of where you are as much as what you’re eating.

In Irvine, where Donald Bren has monopolized real estate and commands sky-high rents, Pho Ba Co and PhoTasia still manages to offer prices that are reasonable for the area. On top of that, their service is, by far, the best for a Vietnamese restaurant in the City.

5329 University Dr.
Irvine, CA 92612
(949) 857-0856

Olea - Newport Beach

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tater Tots Make The Best Breakfast Hash Browns

Why did it take me this long to realize that tater tots make the best breakfast hash browns? What are they if not just bite-sized versions of what McDonald's sells in those paper sleeves?

This past Sunday morning, I remembered I had some leftover tots in the freezer. I threw a few handfuls in the toaster oven, and in 20 minutes they turned beautifully golden and crunchy on the outside; moist and steamy on the inside--all without actually frying them.

I paired them with bacon I baked and omelettes I made that oozed so much melted cheese, it was almost a quesadilla.

Breakfast was served!

Alta Baja Market - Santa Ana

Sunday, February 04, 2018

TGI Friday's Potato Skins from Dollar Tree - Santa Ana

Here’s a guilty pleasure of mine: TGI Friday’s Potato Skins. No, not the dish from the actual restaurant. I’m talking about the bag of ultra-processed chips that, so far, I’ve only been able to find at Dollar Tree discount stores.

Some of you might remember them as Keebler’s Tato Skins, which were available at all the major grocery stores in the late 80s and early 90s. Then something happened and they disappeared. I had previously assumed they were spending eternity with Sizzlean and Crystal Pepsi in Discontinued Products Valhalla. But over the past couple of years, I started noticing they'd been reincarnated under the TGI Friday’s label and available at all my local Dollar Trees. I've been buying them ever since.

They’re everything I remembered them to be. Looking like miniature shoe horns--with a white side that’s supposed to be the potato side, and a dark side that’s supposed to represent the skin--they're thicker and much more substantial than Pringles, with pronounced potato flavor when you get past all the caked on seasoning. If Kate Moss were Pringles, these were Anna Nicole Smith.

I should note that TGI Friday's Potato Skins are produced with genetic engineering. It says so right on the bag, right underneath the certifications that they're gluten free and Kosher. But let's be honest, if you're shopping at Dollar Tree, the last thing you should be doing is reading nutrition labels.

Dollar Tree
3309 S Bristol St.
Santa Ana, CA 92704

The Country Club - Costa Mesa