Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar in Chino Hills

After trying Wingstop, we got into the chicken wings mood yet again. I've heard about Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar and wanted to try it. When we got there on a Sunday afternoon, the place was packed, and there wasn't even a Lakers' game on.

Reading Yelp, we decide to give the Asian Zing wings a try. These were too mild for my taste, but they were alright. The Mango Habanero wings were medium hot and good, but I'm actually not a fan of the sweeter wings. Now, since I don't quite remember which of these two wings were which, I'll put these two side by side below.

The Parmesan Garlic wings were quite floury and not as crisp as those at Wingstop, but they are tastier than those at Wingstop. I liked these the most of the ones I tried today.

We also ordered BBQ chicken tenders for the kids. Again, these tasted better than those at Wingstop, but they were just alright.

How does this establishment compare to those at Wingstop? I definitely say that these are wings are meatier, but I think i will have to go back and try some of their hotter wings to be able to compare the flavors.

This branch of Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar is located at 3160 Chino Ave. in Chino Hills, CA(909) 591-9035

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wingstop in Baldwin Park

After a nice outing with the family, we stopped by Wingstop in Baldwin Park and grabbed some chicken wings.

We ended up getting the family pack which gave us up to four different flavorings. I originally wanted the atomic flavor, which is super spicy, but the person at the counter talked my cousin out of it. I should have been there to stand my ground.

My favorite of the ones we did get was the cajun flavored wings. Granted, the wings were small and measly, but the flavor was good. These were a tad salty, so stay away if you don't like salt. It had just the right amount of spice for me.

The original hot flavored one has that good tabasco flavor, but it was quite soggy.

The garlic parmesan ones were nice and crispy, but it was sorely lacking in taste.

My least favorite was the honey barbeque ones, mainly because I'm not a fan of that type of flavor. But if you are a fan of such, they tasted alright.

The family meals come with potato salad that was awful and bland and with fries that are equally as bad. It also comes with a lot of carrots and celery sticks. I wish there were more of these.

I didn't take a photo, but we also ordered some chicken strips for the kids, which were dry and bland. I don't recommend these.

All in all, Wingstop was okay, but hubby and I immediately looked into other wing places.

This branch of Wingstop is located in 3127 Baldwin Park Blvd in Baldwin Park, CA (626) 962-4400

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rau Muong Xao Toi (Stir-Fried Water Spinach with Garlic)

I have a love-hate affair with rau muong (water spinach). I can't stand it because its cousin, the field bindweed, has taken up residence all over our backyard, but I love it because as a food, water spinach is just so healthy and delicious in every way. I love it in spiral strips in our bowls of bun rieu, but mostly, I love it sauteed with nothing but garlic and a little bit of fish sauce. My kids slurp these up.

Water spinach, 1 pound
Garlic, 6 cloves minced or chopped
Fish sauce, 2-3 tablespoons
Oil for frying, 2 tablespoons

Wash the water spinach and cut off about 4-5 inches of the tougher parts of the stem, leaving the skinnier parts and the leaves behind. Let dry completely.

Heat up the oil in a wok to medium high heat and sautee the garlic to release the fragrance, about a minute.

Add in the water spinach and start stirring with a pair of tongs to evenly wilt the spinach. This will take about 3 minutes or so. Season with the fish sauce to taste and then remove, getting rid of the excess liquids left behind.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Scarlet Tea Room in Pasadena

I know it's approaching Father's Day, but I have to go back and do a post on my whereabouts on Mother's Day. This year, I was kid free for Mother's Day lunch. It was heaven. My cousins and siblings wanted to take our mothers to an afternoon tea (and for my father's birthday), and after realizing how expensive the buffet at the Huntington Library was, we settled on the Scarlet Tea Room in Old Town Pasadena. At $38 dollars a person for the Mother's Day Tea, it's far from being a bargain (and also a reason why the kids were absent), but we thought it was a nice two hours of pampering.

The room is quite small but quaint and dainty, with various pretty ceiling decor, everything a little tea room should be. In terms of the menu, I've been here once before for a bridal shower, so I knew what to expect. The five course tea ceremony is their speciality and is essentially what the Mother's Day Tea menu is. There are also other options available too if you want to just come in for tea and a quick bite, or for a nice dinner or lunch.

As soon as we were seated, our party was able to order our choices of tea. You can get a pot per person, but as suggested to keep things simple, we ordered three pots at first for the entire party and then added a fourth. We chose the Fiji green tea, the organic passion green tea, a tropical tea with a long Hawaiian name, and if I remember correctly, one of the berry infusion teas. The last three were alright, but the Fiji green tea was very aromatic and delicious. The teas were brought out in dainty pots and served in little cute cups. The servers continue to fill your cups whenever you run out, so we drank a lot that day.

The strawberry sorbet was our first course. This was light and simple and good because we were starving.

We were also served almond mimosas (non-alcoholic if requested). I couldn't really taste the almond in there.

Scones were then brought out with an assortment of sandwiches. I thought we were suppose to order a choice of four types of sandwiches per person, but I guess to make it simple, they just brought out the whole lot. This then forced our party to pick and choose and divide so we could all have a taste of the good ones. We were disappointed in this aspect. The savory sandwiches were very good, but we had a hard time finishing up the sweeter ones, like the cranberries and citrus ones. In fact, the kids got to eat these as leftovers when I reunited with them.

The scones were excellent, very light and airy. The ginger scones were good although a bit bland, but the pumpkin ones were moist and so very delicious, especially with the cream that was served with them. I didn't care much for the lemon curd or the strawberry perserve that was also brought out for the scones.

Spring petits fours (mini-cakes) were then brought out along with miniature cupcakes and berries. By this time, we were all quite full, so a lot of these desserts looked way too sweet to even attempt and ended up in the kids' tummies, but I did try both of them. Yep, the mini-cakes were too sweet, but the cupcakes were quite moist and delicious.

Then to end everything, little plates of strawberries romanoff were brought out. These were so-so, but thank goodness the plates were small.

It was then time for potty breaks and the huge bill with the 20 percent tip added and the expected complaints from our Asian parents about why this was so overpriced and not worth it and how for less than this price you could go to nice buffet in Vegas. I still think they enjoyed the experience at least. I agree, this is overpriced and we could do this at home for a fraction of the cost, but the goal was to feel pampered, and I think the Scarlet Tea Room accomplishes that. I haven't been to afternoon tea anywhere else to be able to compare, but my cousin liked her experience at the Ritz-Carlton better because you don't have to divvy up the sandwiches, but I think we had to due this do to our large group. Overall, this was to me a very enjoyable tea experience, but only for special occasions.

Scarlet Tea Room is located at 18 W Green St in Pasadena, CA (626) 577-0051

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wolfgang Puck at Sam's Club

You know, it's tough having kids in LA. Lugging around a carseat with a fat baby in it for 15 minutes while hubby tries to find parking in near 90 degrees weather is tough. And thinking you're ready to leave for a gig but having the baby barf all over your clothes at the last minute is tough. Such was my morning on the way to interview Wolfgang Puck at the El Monte Sam's Club grand reopening. Have you ever been to Sam's Club or Costco on a weekend? Try a grand reopening. Well, I'll just leave it at that.

You probably know Wolfgang Puck as the celebrity chef who caters to the stars on Oscar night or as the owner of famed restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills.I was given a grand opportunity to meet with the renowned chef while he was there promoting his cookbook, knife set, and cookware set. I was very happy I got my questions in, although the questions had nothing to do with any of the products he was promoting.

Me: Hi, I'm so and so with a locally based food blog. Can I ask you a few questions regarding your food products?

I left out the name of my blog because he'd probably look at me like I was nuts if he heard Shaved Ice Sundays.

Wolfgang: Sure.

Me: I was actually curious as to how you decided to go from Spago and catering to marketing food in a warehouse setting like Sam's.

Wolfgang then told me that he actually got the idea from those times when his patrons took food from his restaurants home.

I was thinking "really?" I thought that it would have been a bit more complex if he had had a revelation in his dreams or something from the Sam's Club gods.

Me: So Sam's didn't approach you at all with this idea?

Wolfgang told me it actually was his idea to approach Sam's Club.

Me: Can you tell me what the involved steps are when it comes to going from having this idea in your head to actually getting the finished product marketed and out to the people?

I guess Wolfgang did not want to go into a lengthy answer regarding all the nuisances that goes into creating a frozen food product, but he told me that being in the restaurant business, he has so many connections that it was an easy process to get it done.

Me: In the planning stages of creating a recipe for a frozen food product, do you have to take into special consideration the various ingredients and whether the quality would withstand the freezing process and packaging process? Do you feel like you ever have to compromise?

Again, I was thinking he'd come up with some foo foo answer, but he gave a very honest answer that surprised me, stating that he always tries to use the best quality ingredients possible in coming up with something and then hopes for the best when it goes through the process. He states that essentially you never know until you try it.

Me: I would get your book and knife set but I actually don't have a membership to Sam's.

Wolfgang asking a Sam's Club guy nearby, "Do you need a membership to purchase these?" The guy answers yes. Wolfgang says that someone can help me get a membership. I did not have time to wait in the huge line to get a membership, but I really wanted to get a signed cookbook for a giveaway drawing for my loyal readers. You know who you are. Of course, I couldn't let this chef get away without a photo with yours truly, and so I offer and he accepts kindly.

Me: Thank you so much for answering my questions!

Wolfgang: You're welcome, my dear.

I was very impressed with how this world famous celebrity chef was so down to earth and really didn't mind that I dragged him away from his commercial duties to talk to a foodblogger who mind you, is not even a year in the making. Thank you to the folks at Sam's Club for making this happen and for making Wolfgang so accessible, no matter how short a time. I'm just so glad that a little baby barf didn't stop me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

El Taquito Mexicano Truck in Pasadena

My family and I have been on a Mexican food eating binge lately. We've been wanting to try out this taco truck in Pasadena for the longest time after my cousin heard good things about. Finally, after a nice day of hiking in Altadena, we stopped by this place on the way home to grab some tacos. Food trucks are always in my mind risky business in terms of health code adherence, but that's never stopped me from eating at any establishment. This truck is located in a small parking lot, so park on the side street and walk there.

Once you get there, you'll be greeted with the nicest servers. We ordered some tacos al pastor (marinated pork tacos) and some tacos carne asada (beef). The cousins also ordered some lengua (tongue). We asked for red sauce, which is the spicy version.

These tacos are authentic and bare bones. They were on the small side, so I'd say we had to eat 3 or 4 to get full. Still, four tacos come out under 5 dollars, so this is still a good deal. Our carne asada tacos were delicious, the meat being quite tender and cut up nice and small. This made it easy for the kids to eat. I will have to say that I was expecting real salsa, and not hot sauce. Although I love fire, the hot sauce was a tad too spicy and there was too much on each taco. This overwhelmed the tacos somewhat. Next time, I will go with the milder green sauce or order the sauce on the side. And don't think I made the kids eat the hot sauce. I left it out for them.

The tacos al pastor has more flavor since they are marinated, and again, the hot sauce overpowered the meats. But the meat was nice and tender. The cousins like the lengua too. By the way, the servers asked us if we wanted radishes with the tacos, and we declined.

This taco truck opens up towards the evening hours until the wee party hours, so don't try to come here for lunch. Do come for solid quality, back to basics tacos.

El Taquito Mexican Truck is located at 510 S. Fair Oaks Ave. in Pasadena, CA (626) 577-3918

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ostioneria Colima in Hacienda Heights

Do you sometimes get food cravings that last weeks and weeks and you can't just kick them until you satisfy them? Well mine recently was for any kind of ceviche, and although I tried ceviche at Taco Nazo and thought it was good, I wanted to try another place. With Yelp to the rescue, I found out about Ostioneria Colima.

We missed the parking in front when we drove by, so we kept going and parked in the large plaza just down the street and walked over. As soon as we got inside, we felt like we were in Baja.

The menu on the large board was in Spanish except for the "Order Here" sign. The TV's on the ceilings were all in Spanish and the servers spoke Spanish to me. It was a good thing my Spanish skills are quite good. We were the only non-Hispanic folks there, so we felt like how non-Asians might feel walking into a Chinese restaurant, but at least it's a good sign because then I knew this was the real deal here. Let's play a game. Can you spot R's bald head in the photo above?

The inside seating is quite cramped, but there are seats outdoors too. Out came some chips and salsa. This was very good and spicy salsa, and the chips were excellent.

Reading the reviews, I decided I had to get the campechana, which is a seafood cocktail. Mine came in a huge glass cup with large shrimps and fresh avocado, octopus pieces and I believe abalone cubes. Believe it or not, the cup I ordered was the small. I'm wondering how big the large is. This campechana was a little on the sweet side, but nothing that a little Mexican lime juice and some Tapitio hot sauce couldn't fix. You know Tapitio makes everything taste better, and I'm not just saying that because the owners' children were C's classmates in preschool.

We also ordered a shrimp ceviche, which came out on a tostada. Again, some Mexican limes and Tapitio were called for, but it was loaded with shrimps and was excellent.

I forgot to warn hubby about the size of the tacos, so he ordered five fish tacos, and that was way too much for our small family. The fish tacos above are not the kinds I normally like. The fish itself was tough, resembling more of the Vietnamese fried fish (Ca Chien) than the lightly battered and fried kind that I like in fish tacos, and the cabbage and white sauce added a bitterness to the tacos that I didn't find enjoyable.

Same with the shrimp taco I ordered. Too chewy. I looked around and was tempted by the oysters on the half shell, and the price on that was not bad, but since we ordered too much food, I'm saving it for next time. I also heard good things about their spicy shrimps (Camarones Diablo) and am looking forward to another trip to taste those too. If you're in the mood for some good Mexican mariscos, I highly recommend Ostioneria Colima. For tacos, go elsewhere. Oh, by the way, make sure your kids don't keep pressing the little black buttons on the windows and tables, because those buttons call the servers over, and they'd be angry if they have to come over for nada.

There are some other Ostioneria Colima's sprinkled around the Southland, but this got the best reviews.

Ostioneria Colima is located at 1136 S. Hacienda Blvd in Hacienda Heights, CA (626) 333-8017

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vietnam House in San Gabriel

When my Danish cousins were about to fly away from us, we decided to take them to Vietnam House in San Gabriel so that we could tentalize them with this one last memory of a good Vietnamese meal. My family and I go to Vietnam house regularly whenever we crave some good Viet grub, and since it's roomier than Golden Deli across the street, it's a little easier to find a place to sit here for our large groups, and the food in my opinion is almost as good.

Because my parents are creatures of habit and hang on to a good thing when they find them, and since I usually go get pho' in the Alhambra area only with their company, we have yet to try Vietnam Restaurant, not to be confused with this one. As fellow blogger Wandering Chopsticks has explained in depth the relationship between all three restaurants mentioned above, Vietnam Restaurant should be quite good and I'm looking forward to going there. For now, Vietnam House is not too shabby for pho' and when we crave it, Vietnamese 7 course beef (Bo Bay Mon).

Parking is rough here. Just circle and circle until you find a space.

My cousins ordered the Com Thit Nuong (rice with grilled pork), pictured above, while my brother ordered Com Cha Thit Nuong, which is essentially the same as the above but with some Vietnamese quiche added. I've had both here before and have always loved them.

They make their Suong Sa Hot Luu, pictured on the left, the way I like it, with lots of mung beans, tapioca strips and mock pomegranate pieces, and the juice is not overly sweet. The Soda Xi Muoi (Salted plum in soda) is always perfect here.

Their Cafe (or Ca Phe) Sua Da. Have never tried it here but my husband liked it.

I ordered the Pho Tai Sach Bo Vien, which is actually not on the menu. The 4 meatballs were huge, halfway split, and a little chewy but still good, with the noodles being on the skinny side. The broth looks a little murky but was bursting with flavor as always from all the herbs. It's a very good broth. Lots of rare steak in this bowl and not too much tripe, which is how I like it.

No sawtooth herb is offered here, but you order bean sprouts cooked already like my dad does. I don't like bean sprouts either way, cooked or raw and often leave them out in my bowl of pho'.

Mom ordered the Hu Tieu Tom Kho (Vermicelli with Shrimp without soup). Actually the soup is brought out in a separate bowl. Mom gobbled it up. Their hu tieu here has never disappointed.

The service I've noticed was not on par as it has been in the past. They actually messed up my mom's order intially and brought out Hu Tieu Tom Cua instead, but they took it back. You can see from the photo above that we were very tempted to eat it anyways. I also noticed they messed up an order for another table next to us, but that other table was not as forgiving. Can't stand rude customers. Even though they messed up the orders, the food comes out lightning fast. You can't complain.

Hubby order Pho Dac Biet as always. Their special bowl of pho has a good balance when it comes to ingredients. Not too much tendons, a good amount of rare steak.

Vietnam House never fails to disappoint our appetite for things Vietnamese.

Vietnam House is located at 710 W Las Tunas Dr. in San Gabriel, CA (626) 282-3630