Wednesday, April 21, 2010

a little announcement...

I have some crazy, exciting news to share with all of you! In fact, you might want to sit down if you aren't already.

No, no, I'm not getting married nor am I pregnant! And yes, I really do eat all the food that I talk about.

Alright then, let me just get straight to the point.

I'm a finalist on season six of The Next Food Network Star!!!

I know!!!! It's totally out-of-control insane!!! Can you believe it?!

The show premieres on Sunday, June 6 on Food Network. Please check your local listings for show times.

You can also check out the website for more information about me and the other finalists @ http://www.foodnetwork.com/chefs/doreen-fang/index.html

Favorite Place Restaurant

Favorite Place
115 West Wilson
Glendale, CA 91203
(818) 507-7409
Hours:  Lunch only from 11:30 - 4:00 pm
please call to double check days of operation
i'm not sure if its closed on mondays and sundays
or just sundays. 
Reservations are also suggested

i have to talk about favorite place restaurant right now!  i know, i have a bajillion other posts to write, which i am deligently working on every night, but writing posts while on lunesta is not the easiest thing.  haha  anyhow, i was having lunch with my good friend chris today (well, now it's technically yesterday) and i didn't have any particular place in mind to go to and she had mentioned favorite place her husband john and her had been wanting to go to.  so i said...cool!  let's go check it out!  so off we went...and let me just say, OMG...where the hell did all this rain suddenly come from?!  i swear it must be global warming!  i feel like every week we have a few days of great weather then rain!  i mean...isn't it spring yet?!  it is april isn't it?!  yeah yeah..please don't tell me april showers bring may flowers.  anyhow...do you see what i mean about writing under the influence of lunesta?  ok...back to the post.  so went in search of the restaurant, and if you blink, you could miss it if you're driving too fast, so slow down...and keep your eyes peeled.  its right next to an alley drive way. 

by now the rain is really starting to come down, so i didn't get a chance to snap off a shot of the front of the restaurant.  perhaps next time.  all the windows are covered and we had no idea what to expect when we opened the door and it was just this brightly lit room with spring colors...greens and yellows!  the tables were all covered in white cloth, china, silverware and of course flowers at each table.  the restaurant is cozy and springy!  my first thought was, i would love to throw a tea here!  this looked like a place for women to just enjoy a nice lunch, sip some tea or their rose-water lemonade.  it just felt beautiful!  the room was almost filled to capacity, and i say room because it felt more like a lovely dining room in a friend's home versus a restaurant.  you could just tell that someone loves what they are doing...and those persons would be the owners Alissa and Sarkis aka Sam. (i hope i got the spelling right on Sarkis's name) 

i really need to pick this post up before i really get loopy!  ok...so here is chris!  who was so smart in suggesting we eat here!  (you have got to know that i'm already in love with this place!)

look at that generous bowl of french bread and a little thing of butter with a tiny flower petal on top.  everything is just so cute and pretty. 

more little snacks, some black olives, which i didn't eat because olives aren't my favorite thing.  you know, when i was a kid, i used to love them...i'd open up the can, drain the juice out then proceed to put an olive on the tip of each skinny little finger till all my fingers had an olive on it.  then i'd wiggle my fingers, showing off my black bubble olive fingers then eat them off my fingers one by one.  ahhh...those were the days.  my mom really loved eating those olives...we'd always have olives in the house.  blech!  i will have them if i must, but i won't go seek them out. 

my point about the olives though...so generous of them to give us these little snacks!  chris took them home so she could have them later.

now, as we were looking through the menu and trying to decide what to get, alissa walked by with two of these soup bowls for the ladies next to us.  and of course it smelled divine so we had to ask what it was!  and she told us it was the soup of the day.  roasted butternut squash, with roasted red bells, roasted garlic, cumin, curry and cinnamon.  you know how bell peppers upset my tummy, so i wasn't even thinking that i was going to order it.  then after we placed our order alissa asked if we wanted the soup and chris and i said, sure!  why not!  omg...am i freaking happy that alissa came back and asked us!! 

if there is anything i can say about cooking, and i'm sure you've heard it a million times from other people, but it's about cooking with love.  and it is so true!  i totally believe that!!  and this soup was pure love!  i can't tell you how much i enjoyed this soup.  you can see all the cinnamon and cumin sprinkled in the bowl...i just loving mixed it all in so it was completely incorporated into the soup.  i want to make sure that all the spices were distributed evenly.  the flavors were so well balanced, you could get the hint of roasted garlic, but not in any way overpowering...the sweetness from the red bells, but really, i could barely taste it...it was so subtle.  the tiny dash of cumin and the fragrant cinnamon and hint of curry.  (which i really couldn't taste the curry, but sarkis said it's in there so who am i to argue with sarkis?!)  whatever the case, all the flavors melded together so beautifully, it was not a thick soup, but was still so velvety and creamy on my tongue.  and lastly, it was PERFECTLY seasoned.  i was in heaven.  i will say, for the record, this was THE BEST SOUP i have had in a very long time.  i can't tell you how much i am in love with that soup!  chris and i HAD to tell alissa how much we enjoyed it and how we could seriously taste the love that went into it! 

side note:  alissa is one of the sweetest persons alive!  she has such a great energy about her and it's just so infectious!  she's a beautiful woman who truly loves what she does and it completely shows!  i can't tell you what a joy it was to eat here and she made us feel so at home.  i wish more restaurants had people like alissa to brighten up everyone's day.  i wish her and sarkis aka sam all the best!!  they are so incredibly generous...and i'll show you in a bit why i am saying this.

next, they brought us a plate of freshly sliced tomatoes, perfectly seasoned with salt and pepper and one little mint leaf that i sliced up and ate with my tomatoes.  it was simple and delicious.  we didn't even order this!  they just gave it to us!  see?!  generous!

chris ordered the oriental chicken wrap...

and no, they don't serve fries here.  as much as we all love fries, this just isn't that kind of joint. 

i ordered "my husband's favorite" which is in fact her husband, Sarkis's favorite...tuna!

i love how they already cut this up for me and made it so easy for me to eat.  there were little bits of corn kernals, which i never had in tuna before, but it tasted great.  i actually didn't sit and try and dissect the sandwich, i really just enjoyed the wonderful flavors and spices that i never had on a tuna sandwich before.  i loved it...and would go back and eat this again also!  i was so stuffed...i ate almost all of it minus the two large ends and one piece i gave to chris to try.  this fills you up!  man!  i was stuffed!

i did not think i could eat anymore...and then guess what...GENEROUSNESS!!! (is that even a word?  i don't care! i'm making it a word if it's not, and i don't feel like looking it up...its 2:08 am right now, i'm tired but am pushing myself to finish this!)  sarkis brings us a little dessert platter!

the chocolate cake and fresh fruit were just delicious...the cake was moist and had the perfect amount of chocolate.  i was too full to eat anymore...i know...you must thinking...sure...you eat like a pig...how could you be full.  alright then!  i did in fact have a few bites of the other cake too!  but the chocolate was my favorite!

oh, and this is how thoughtful sarkis was...because chris ordered some coffee, he overheard me say, oh, i'd get some tea, but i'm so full i can't drink a whole pot, so he has the other young lady who works there, bring out a cup of their house blend of black tea, orange peel and i think it was cinnamon. i can't remember.  and it was so light and delicious!  and some of you know, i put so much cream and sugar in my tea normally, but this tea was just so delightful and delicate, i drank it as is! 

i really fell in love with this little cozy place...it's bright and cheery, alissa and sarkis love what they do and it shows in everything they do.  i can see why they have been voted best of glendale many years in a row.  if you are ever in glendale, make a phone call and make your reservation and tell alissa and sarkis doreen says hi and give them a hug for me too.  they are the cutest couple and i just loved everything about this place and the two of them!!  thank you alissa and sarkis for just a lovely lunch and THE best butternut squash soup!!!  (annie don't be upset, i totally love yours too!)  but seriously, i have not had a soup that has completely moved me like this one did today...amazing!!!

cooking with love...that's what great food is all about.

ps. please excuse any and all typos and grammatical errors...i am very sleepy...but wanted very much to share this restaurant with you all! 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

club 33 @ Disneyland

Club 33 @ Disneyland

i will preface this whole post by saying, this was a fantastic experience and i went with a great group of friends, some old, some new, but nonetheless terrific group of people and i completely enjoyed the whole experience of being a part of club 33.
i've always heard about this very exclusive club 33, but since i never thought i'd ever go since you need to either have membership or know someone who had membership, and i had neither, so i never really put a lot of thought into going.  in fact, i didn't know much about it at all.  so i went with absolutely no expectations or preconceived notions.  all i knew was that i felt pretty damn lucky to be invited to check out club 33!  life presents you with something great...you gotta take it, enjoy it and be thankful! 

so there was quite a few people waiting outside to go in, so we patiently waited our turn and once we got in, the lady at the front takes our coats and tells us a bit of history about the club.  there is this old looking elevator that Walt had commissioned to have made and was a replica from a hotel in paris. he had originally asked if he could have it, but the hotel said no because it was the only way to get the luggage up and down for the guests.  the elevator is super tiny inside...it fits 2 or 3 people depending on how big you are...or perhaps even just one person. there are also stairs that guests can take upstairs to the dining room.

lucky for us, we were able to squeeze in and ride to the top...seriously, this space was tiny!

the chargers on the table ...

our amuse bouche of mushroom duxelle...

mushroom duxelle in puff pastry with a balsamic reduction.  it was light, flavorful and the sweetness from the balsamic reduction was nice compliment to the mushrooms.

this was kerri's dish, day boat scallop with artichoke fennel nage (yes, just one scallop)...

i only had a tiny bite, since it was just the one scallop, but it was nice and tender.  kerri really enjoyed this dish.

my appetizer, along with brian and debbie - pan fried shrimp cake, fresh black truffle, white asparagus soubise...

do you notice anything missing from my dish?  something black and thinly shaved perhaps?  if you guessed black truffle...you are so on the money!  i swear, debbie and i were looking underneath the shrimp cake, around it...wondering...where is the truffle?  finally i asked our waiter about the black truffle and he apologized that it was missing and said that he had noticed that they were missing on the plates the night before as well.  (sigh)  what do you think i'm going to say next? 

the fact that the piece de resistance of the dish is missing from the plate is so beyond me...and that this wasn't the first time it happened is truly disturbing.  for such an exclusive restaurant which you would think would have some impeccable standards, this was not good.  who's watching the plates as they go out?  anyone?  beuller?!  you get my drift.  anyhow, they brought out a small dish of shaved truffles, which looked more like they had been soaking in oil versus being freshly shaved.  which i actually don't mind, i buy italian black truffles and they are so fragrant and amazing.  since we all can't afford to pay hundreds for fresh truffles from italy. 

back to these truffles, it was really disappointing because truffles are one of my all time favorite things...i love its earthy, pungent smell...it seriously feels like a drug when you inhale its aroma (not that i'd know how drugs make me feel because i don't take any, and none of the pain killers like vicodin work on me).  brian had never tried truffles so i was really excited for him to try it, but these tasted nothing like any truffle i've ever had, strangely enough it tasted just like a mushroom!  (yes, i know its a fungus!!!!)  every truffle i've ever had was incredible...well, that's a lie, there were these fresh oregon truffles which i will never buy again.  they didn't have a very strong earthy taste at all which was pretty disappointing as well.  ok, my point about these truffles is that, there is a minimum of $72.00 person, and i'm thinking we are going to get top-notch everything, people rave about this place...and the food is not living up to the hype. 

don't get me wrong...i am loving the whole idea that i'm able to be here and knowing this is a once in a life time opportunity, plus the company makes the whole experience so much fun and completely memorable.  mind you, i had no expectations about the food, but when i read the menu and after our waiter talked about how much emphasis was put on quality etc...i was thinking...this is going to be awesome! 

russell and audrey both got the autumn field greens, sugared beet, local apple vinaigrette...

bobby ordered the baked pacific oyster, crisp proscuitto, bloomsdale spinach...

bobby, eating his oyster appetizer...

he grabbed a piece bread and made a little oyster sandwich...he said it was good and liked it "ghetto style"

pan seared john dory, artichoke & potato, kumquat marmalade...

prime braised boneless short rib, sweet potato gratin...

this was my dish, along with debbie and someone else i thought, i can't remember right now.  anyhow, i love short ribs and probably 9 out of 10 times, if i see it on the menu, i always get it because i'm trying to find THE best short ribs.  so, of course, it sounded great, i asked if there would be some type of reduction on it and the answer was yes...so i was completely anticipating this dish.  i think we all know where this is going already...

so our plates come out...and we dig in...it wasn't as fork tender and moist as i would have liked and debbie also agreed.  the sauce was a bit on the thick and gelatinous side versus being a rich reduction.  the vegetables were more than al dente, i think they might have hit the water for a split second then pulled out, because the were really tough to cut and the squash was kind of bitter.  the best thing i believe was the sweet potato and potato gratin, but even then, the flavors weren't memorable to me at all.  i was pretty disappointed with the whole dish. 

i definitely don't ever want to be rude and say that something wasn't great, but in this case, i didn't care for it very much and the sauce was like something you get from the market and pour out of a jar.  believe me, i'm not trying to rip on them and it breaks my heart to say this about something involving disneyland...but i much rather spend $6 on a corn dog (even if they are getting smaller) than $100 at club 33 for a very mediocre dinner. 

filet of chateaubriand, parsnip-cipollini puree...

brian ordered this, which looking back, i probably should've too.  his meat was cooked beautifully and he said he really enjoyed the dish.

i believe they called this an apple charlotte...

chocolate trio - chocolate-hazelnut tart, warm chocolate cake and milk chocolate pot de creme and some of us ordered this a la mode.  because i had to have vanilla ice cream with all this rich, decadent chocolate...

this dessert was ok...it wasn't blow your mind amazing.  i've had many a chocolate trio desserts and this was just ok.  i'm really glad i got the ice cream though. 

to sum up the evening at club 33:  food = so so and definitely not worth the price.  but the chance to go to club 33 and the company = priceless and awesome!  thank you russell and audrey for taking us to club 33 for an experience i will never forget.  i really did enjoy myself!  and to the rest of my eating crew!  i had a great evening with all of you!

thanks again to russell, audrey, kerri, debbie, bobby and brian!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

from paris with love

my dear friend alison just returned from a "10 days wasn't enough" trip to the city lights!  my eating partner...oh how i wished that i could've joined her and her mom to walk the streets, eat cheese and just take in all that paris has to offer.  she of course brought back some delectable goodies for me to eat.

she went to the supermarche and found these bonne maman treats.  yes, the same bonne maman that makes the jam that i so love to eat! (strawberry to be exact! in case you ever want to make a little gift basket for me and can't decide what kind of jam i like...now you know.)  there are butter sable cookies and mini lemon tartlets. 

butter sable cookies, they were amazing!!!!

the cookies were crisp and rich!  there is very litle i can say except that these cookies were phenomenal.  its such a simple cookie made so well.  i loved them! i wish i had boxes of these to pass out and share to each of you. 

ohhhh...lemon tartlets...

you can see the bits of lemon rind in there and even if you think, hey!  there's not much curd in comparison to the crust, this is actually perfectly balanced.  the very real bits of rind and curd are perfectly tart and are complimented with the buttery crust.  i could eat a million of these!  but honestly, just one by itself still hit the spot!

i still have lauduree macarons waiting in the fridge for me to dig into!  i can't wait!  

thank you so much alison for thinking of me and hand carrying all of these decadent desserts for me to enjoy!  i absolutely loved the butter sables and lemon tartlets!! 

cool haus - ice cream sandwich truck

location:  constantly moving...find them on tweeter...COOLHAUS
i found them at first fridays in venice by the Brig.

i have been hearing about the food truck phenomenon for quite some time.  and finally had my first experience over at the americana in glendale a couple weeks ago.  then i searched them out again and found the food trucks in venice.  first of all, it took me an hour to find parking, and i swear, if we weren't trying to meet up with some friends, i seriously was going to give up.  in fact, i did want to give up, but our friends said to wait. 

the parking situation is completely ridiculous down there and i don't know if i'd ever go down there again because i don't care to waste my time and gas driving around trying to find parking.  only to get in line to wait at least a good 20-30 minutes for food...and that's considered a short line. 

when you get there, be prepared to wait in line for any type of food you want.  i actually ate prior to going because the last time i went to the american for street feast, i waited one hour before i got to even order.  i was starving and felt embarrassed that my friends, the kids all had to wait.  so i went there actually on somewhat of a full stomach...but i thought that by the time i actually got some food, i'd be hungry.  anyhow...i really wanted to try the grilled cheese truck but that was the longest line by far...and the kogi truck was closed because they ran out of food.  so kerri and i decided...lets just get dessert, so we lined up for the cool haus truck which we also saw at street feast! 

now, many of my friends know, i am an ice cream fanatic!  i can eat ice cream every single day.  i like it rich and creamy.  i don't need to have a lot of stuff in it...its all about quality, taste and mouth feel.  though i do admit to loving thrifty ice cream...but that has to do with childhood memories and remember...i'm not a food snob.  =)  i remember when i was a kid, my mom would take us down to thrifty's to get a cone, and we'd always get double scoops and i would just gobble that ice cream cone up like there was no tomorrow.  all the while my sister susan would just be savoring her cone, lick my lick...and i'd look over at her cone...a bit envious, wishing i hadn't eaten mine so quickly...so i'd ask her for a little bite.   muahahahah of course i'd take this huge bite and she'd always get upset.  finally she stopped letting me take a bite of her ice cream.  she wised up!  haha 

anyhow...all i'm saying is...i'm a freak when it comes to ice cream...so i was totally looking forward to eating this ice cream sandwich.  i love the concept of this place, so we stand in line and wait...you have nothing better to do in line then talk to your companions or the people either in front or behind you.  we discuss the other food trucks and what they think.  people try to come up with a game plan...the more people you go with, the better.  then you can all break up into teams of two, which i think is best and then go and order as much as you can from each truck and then have a designated waiting spot and try all the food. 

ok, back to the cool haus truck...we finally inch our way to the side of the truck where you can see what's available and how to order it.  you can select the cookie of your choice, or two different cookies if you like.  (i was so torn about just the cookie choices i had to ask if i could do two different ones which they were totally cool about).

then you have your ice cream choices... 

when i got to the front where i could see all the choices i felt super excited and overwhelmed!  everything looked and sounded so tempting!!  as we got closer i was feeling anxious because i wasn't sure what i wanted to order yet and i wanted the best ice cream sandwich possible! 

another ice cream sandwich lover ahead of us got snickerdoodles with the brown butter & candied bacon ice cream... 

i think i should've gotten this one instead of what i ordered.

kerri got snicker doodle cookies with red velvet ice cream...

there were chunks of cake but it felt and looked more like vanilla ice cream with red syrup kind of mixed in.  it was ok for me.  i wasn't overwhelmed.

i got the chocolate cookie and the oatmeal cookie with the caramia lehrer ice cream...

first of all, i thought it was awesome they let me choose two different cookies because of my inability to make a decision quicky.  i was sad thoug because my oatmeal cookie had raisins. (blech)  but oh well...what can i do at that point. the wrapper was actually edible which was kind of cool, but i didn't feel like i needed the extra fiber. 

i really wanted this caramel ice cream to be the bomb!  but it makes me sad to say that it just didn't have a strong caramel flavor at all and i was disappointed about that.  in fact, i was so disappointed that i ended up throwing the last third away because it was falling apart and the ice cream just wasn't what i was hoping for.

peter got chocolate chip and chocolate cookies with the dirty mint chip ice cream...

the mint ice cream was made from fresh mint, it was ok for me, if i remember correctly, kerri and peter were not super into it either.

our new cool house ice cream truck buddy, peter!

just a quick recap...great concept, nice people working the truck, i didn't fall in love with the ice cream...and it cost $4 each!  but i will say that i will return to give them a second taste, and the next time it will be that bacon ice cream on snickerdoodles! 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

my dinner: spicy fried rice

location:  my home

growing up in a chinese household, we always had fried rice.  how much simpler can a meal get sometimes?  so easy and convenient.  you can put just about anything into fried rice...leftover meats, veggies, whatever!  but as a kid, one of my all time favorite ways my mom made it was with just eggs and green onions.  the rice was seasoned with salt and it was ready to go.  i had a serious obsession with ketchup, so of course, i always mixed ketchup in my fried rice and seasoned it with black pepper too.  hmmm...it was so good.  it still is!  don't get grossed out about the ketchup!  think about omurice!  or eggs with rice!  same idea.

like i said, you can put just about anything in your fried rice and this is just one of the versions that i like to make.  i have been on this spicy food kick so like the noodles i made a week or so ago, i made this spicy too.  lots of people use lap chong (the chinese sausage) or you can use portuguese sausage, spam...whatever you feel like.  left over chicken!  anything!  i like to use kamaboko, onions, corn and lots of green onions!  my special chinese sauce, a bit of hoisin and chili pepper and sirracha.  my mouth was on fire while i was eating this...but it was so good.  i know its not super authentic chinese style fried rice, but i always like to put my own little twist on it. 

the key to great fried rice is making sure your rice was cooked at least the day before and refridgerated over night.  you want all the grains of rice to be completed separated so that if you should put a sauce in there it coats every single piece of rice.  i hate clumpy, mushy rice...especially in fried rice. 

i went to this restaurant awhile back and alison and i ordered the curry fried rice and as the waiter was walking towards us, i could see the giant clumps of rice and i was already thinking...oh no...you aren't really going to serve that to us are you?  you could see that the curry just slightly dusted the huge globs of rice...sadly, it was as i anticipated, mushy and tasteless.  needless to say, i did talk to the manager about several dishes that had some issues, and it wasn't because i wanted to bash their food, but because it was a brand new restaurant and i wanted them to succeed. so we discussed some of the dishes that had some real issues and how it could be improved.  and of course of them being the fried rice.  i was like...dude...you're asian...every asian knows you can't use fresh rice to make fried rice...it just won't work!  its too moist and sticky.  he laughed and agreed...because he knew it was true!

he was incredibly receptive about the feedback we gave him and said he was going to work on it with their corporate kitchen in singapore.  hehehe  i had no idea he was from corporate, but he was very nice.  they have a cool concept and i want to be able to go back there to eat and enjoy the food.  i said i'd go back in a month and try those same dishes before i reviewed it on here.  i just want to see restaurants serve good food and do well.  its hard enough in these economic times to survive, and if you're new and your food is not that good, you'll be doomed!  they did have one dish in particular that was awesome, but that's one out of four.  anyhow...i just tried to give positive constructive feedback and he was super cool about it.

man, i went off on another tangent...anyhow, back to my fried rice.  i gave some to my dad to eat and he really liked it too and said it was really good!  which is always good news to me since he is a hard core chinese food lover.  this man could eat chinese food every single day of his life and never be sick of it!  i'm not the same way...at all!  i'd die.  even though i LOVE LOVE LOVE eating all my favorite chinese foods and asian foods in general, i still need a good variety to keep me happy!  i like new things...my palette would die of boredom and my tongue would probably fall off because it needed something new. 

anyhow...i just wanted to share my dinner of spicy fried rice with you guys!  and i'm still on this ice cream kick!  i had another scoop of rainbow sherbert from rite aid today...it was so hot!  my car temp read 88 and i needed something cool.  plus it was right next to the bank!  and after i ate this spicy fried rice i needed something to cool off my tongue, so i had a few bites of my haagen daz "five" milk chocolate.  i broke down the other day at the market and bought three different pints of ice cream!!!  i couldn't help it!  they were calling to me...i seriously tried to resist buying any, and i was standing in line to pay for my groceries and the ice cream isle was so close to me, so i told the check out lady i'd be right back and grabbed those precious little pints!  i'm such a pig...and i have no self control when it comes to ice cream.  i need help. 

anyhow...i'm still working on a bunch of posts...til next time!  thanks for reading and happy eating! 

empanada's place - a touch of argentina in california

Empanada's Place
3011 Harbor Blvd
2 blocks south of the 405 fwy
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

open tuesdays to saturday
11:00 am - 8:00 pm
sunday: 11:00 am - 7:00 pm
monday - CLOSED

empanada's place - a touch of argentina in california, this was what they printed on their menu...i don't want you to think i came up with that line.

so anyhow, typically wednesday nights are my league bowling nights, but because we had to pre-bowl, we ended bowling tonight.  (well, tuesday night).  anyhow...i usually leave a little early to try and avoid some of the rush hour traffic AND so that i have time to get a snack before i bowl.  i need to eat right before i bowl so that i have enough energy to last throughout the three games.  funny as it may seem, i'm always kind of excited to eat at the bowling alley...i like getting their chips and salsa and sometimes i'll have a sandwich or something.  anyhow...i was driving along, in super crappy traffic i might add, and to top it all off, i was super sleepy and all i could think about was...what am i going to eat when i get down there.  eating there is like a some weird guilty pleasure because i feel like nothing there is healthy and i'm going to be consuming loads of calories and fat. (like i don't already...but what the hell!)

so as i'm driving, thinking and talking to my friend annie, i get another call and it's eric, my team mate...and he says he's going to pick up some empanadas!  so i got really excited...he told me the different varieties and i picked a few i thought sounded good.  i'd never had empanadas from the empanada's place so i was totally looking forward to trying them.

i got to the bowling alley at the same time as my friend dave, and eric hadn't arrived yet.  i swear...i was so lethargic and tired i needed to get something to put a little pep in my step!  so i went ahead and got a coke and ordered a few things to add to our empanada feast.  i needed something fast or i'd be completely useless to my team...which is debatable since my scores really aren't that fantastic.  hahaha  but its my female presence that is required for the league.  so...you get what i mean. 

when eric walked in, he looked like he was bringing us a pizza delivery.  the white box had three pieces of tape, one each side of the box and of course one in the front.  when i finally peeled off all the tape and lifted the lid, this was the lovely sight inside...12 golden, deep fried pockets of deliciousness...just waiting for us to devour them!

we ordered the spicy beef, spicy chicken and potato and cheese...

up first for me...spicy beef (saltena)...

it has ground beef with peas, carrots, potatoes and a touch of northern argentina.  (i am copying that verbatim from their menu)  i've never been to argentina, so i have no idea what that might mean.  i suppose if i looked it up i might have some idea of what they are talking about.  but honestly, its 1:34 am as i'm writing this...and i still have more to write.  so moving on.

i want you to check out the inside.

i thought it tasted good...there wasn't any particular spice that stood out for me, but the flavors were good and it did have a nice amount of spicyness to it (so perhaps i did get a feeling of northern argentina?!).  my only complaint was that there was very little ground beef in there and i felt like it was more of a potato and veggie empanada.  i would like to try these right after they come out of the fryer...nice and hot.  i say that because these are made to order, because they had to be transported, they had to sit in a box that was shut, keeping the steam inside of it, thus making the dough a bit more on the chewy side.  so i would love to eat them right after they are made to give the dough a more fair critique.  but i still enjoyed it nonetheless.  when picking our favorites of the three...both ben and i chose the spicy beef.

next, the spicy chicken (Pollo)...

the spicy chicken has fresh california grown chicken with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and spices.  now, if i had actually seen the menu and the ingredients inside of this, i probably would have avoided getting it because of the bell peppers which normally upset my stomach.  but since i didn't and all eric said was spicy chicken...i was like...YES!  i want that! 

look at how saucey and moist everything looks...

so, i actually never read the menu and when i first broke this in two, the large pieces of shredded chicken and julienned red peppers came out...and i thought...oh crap!  there's bell peppers in here!  but it smelled and looked really good.  so i started eating it...the first bite really tasted like bell pepper because of the large piece that was stuck in the middle, but as i continued to eat, the flavor lessened and i really like it.  the sauciness kept the chicken tender and moist and it had really great flavor.  it wasn't as spicy as the beef, which i was that the beef had this much sauce too, but it was really good.  while we were eating, i picked the beef as my favorite...but thinking back...i really liked this chicken too, despite the bell peppers.  this happened to be dave's favorite.

finally, the potato and cheese (papa con queso)...

 russell brown potatoes, onions, tomatoes & cilantro with mozzarella cheese. (again, i am copying what the menu says.  i have never heard of russell potatoes and am venturing to guess they might mean russet, but i will actually look this up right now in wikipedia to make sure i'm not correcting them incorrectly!  ok...there was nothing on russell potatoes...so let's just assume they mean russet.)

large chunks of potatoes, dotted with bits of cilantro...

i thought this was good, it didn't have a lot of flavor for me, and really, when we first started eating, i thought that i should start with the potato then move on to the others because the other two empanadas were spicy and i knew the flavors in this one wouldn't be as bold.  but oh well.  anyhow...the potatoes were nicely cooked, the flavors were mellow and i think because of all the spicyness from the salsa and other empanadas, my taste buds were not fully functioning.  so i couldn't distinguish the cilantro flavor at first.  because i felt it needed some help, i put some salsa on it...and ben put some cheese sauce...so i did a combination of both..which made it pop with flavor. 
this is eric's favorite of all the empanadas.

even though eric was bringing us empanadas, i have my ritual when i'm at the bowling alley...NACHOS!!!

i've all but given up on trying to get the perfect nachos here at the bowling alley. poor mario, the cook in the kitchen, i think he thinks i'm crazy because everytime i try to order nachos from him i ask him a million questions on what else they can put on it!  i like it with beans, beef, cheese, tomatoes, green onions, onions, cheese (nacho cheese sauce to be exact...because its not all hard and stiff when it cools) and sour cream of course!  you get the basic idea...i like nachos with everything on it!  oh and jalapenos too! 

honestly, there have been times i have asked about the different types of nachos and he always tells me no they don't have it or they can't do it.  and what frustrates me is that there was one time when my friend keith ordered it, it was so good!  and then finally last week someone ordered nachos supreme or something like that so i was like...OMG!  they DO have it!!  so i ordered it, but it STILL didn't taste the same like keith's did that one time.  i was disappointed...i'm baffled on what keith ordered.  (really how silly is this?  i just want the perfect nachos!)  that last nachos supreme i ordered last week gave me upset stomach...(perhaps its the cheese sauce...haha) and yet...i still order it like a putz!  but this time i kept it simple.

i can't help it!!  today i kept it simple like i've done in the past....i keep ordering it because they have terrific chips here...freshly made, thin, hot and crispy!  i know, some of you may be disgusted by the nacho cheese sauce...but i don't care!  i still like it! i'm not a food snob! and really...i'm at a bowing alley for cryin' out loud!  its not like i'm trying to have gourmet food!  oh!  and the salsa is nice and spicy...just the way i like it.

yes, there is a basic salad back there!  hey!  you all know how much i talk about getting plenty of roughage in your diet!  boys and girls!  i don't just preach about it!  i live it!  gotta get some type of veggies in your body...and please...i already know, iceberg lettuce is 99% water...but i ate a lot of the carrots too!  (even though you can't see them in this picture...trust me...they're there.)

i love bowling with my team and eating my nachos!  i'm not the greatest bowler...but i always have fun!!!  i think i'm the loudest person in our league when it comes to screaming and cheering.  what can i say...i'm enthusiastic!

i have digressed and strayed away from the main topic of the day...empanadas.  thank you eric for picking them up for all of us!!  they were all very tasty and i would really like to check out one of their two locations next time.  the original store is in culver city off sawtelle.  i will put the address at the end of this post.

and look!  its the end of the post!

3811 Sawtelle Blvd
2 doors south of Venice Blvd
Culver City, CA 90066

i'm really hungry right now...


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

pizzeria bianco with mike and ellen

Pizzeria Bianco
623 E Adams St
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 258-8300

Hours :: Tuesday - Saturday :: 5PM – 10PM

Reservations are taken for groups of 6 – 10 only.
Takeout is not available at this time.
Private parties are not accepted at this time.

yes, i know...this is from awhile back...and i never had the chance to finish it up and post it!  i've been a hair busy but i really wanted to share this because for one, mike and ellen are awesome and they drove all the way from tucson just to meet up with annie and i to eat here. and two, my friend gordon asked me what i thought, and i said i was going to write a post...so here it is.

again, thank you mike and ellen for driving the long distance from tucson to phoenix to come join us for some pizza and the two bottles of wine!

pizzeria bianco also belongs to Chef Chris Bianco, co-owner of pane bianco, the sandwich place that i wrote about awhile back.  his pizzeria is extremely well-known in the phoenix area.  chef bianco won a james beard award for his pizza and we just had to check it out.  the restaurant opens at 5 pm and you have got to get there before it opens to try and be part of the first seating or you will wait a good hour and a half or two.  we struggled a bit with finding parking, but finally found a structure to park in.  luckily mike and ellen arrived first, but we weren't part of the first seating so we waited.  next door to pizzeria bianco is bar bianco, where you can chill, have some wine and there is a small menu of snacky things like olives. 

i love the old brick buildings that were converted into businesses...so much more character!  when i was living in vegas and looking for a place to open up a restaurant, its just strip mall after strip mall.  BORING!!  anyhow...we sat on the porch over at the bar and enjoyed the beautiful weather and company.

it really was a beautiful night, and i love how the sky was kind of pinkish/purplish.  this picture was taken from outside in the grassy courtyard between the pizzeria and bar. 

after a good long wait, we were finally inside and we were ready to eat!  (hands rubbing together in eager anticipation)

first out...some crusty bread with olive oil...

we perused the menu and finally decided on four pizzas.  Starting from the top left going clockwise:  biancoverde, rosa, marinara with anchovies, wiseguy with cremini mushrooms.

we also got a market salad to share...

it had arugula, shaved pecorino, honey almonds, apples and was tossed in a apple cider vinaigrette.  it was a nice basic salad, peppery and light.  the honey almonds were ground up which was really a shame.  the sweet almonds would've been a great contrast to help balance out the pepperiness of the salad while of course giving that crunchy texture it needed.  overall, it was alright.

pizza #1: rosa - red onion, parmigiano reggiano, rosemary, AZ pistachios...

does this seem like an odd combination of ingredients on pizza?  perhaps...but let me say, i love every ingredient individually on there except...go ahead...you know which one i don't care for...the rosemary.  but let me say...i freaking love love LOVED this pizza!  i loved it so much i don't even have to look at my notes to talk about it!  anytime something stands out in my mind and on my tongue...its like that memory of what i ate comes back to me instantly and just takes over my body.  i remember how i felt when i took i bite and how the sweet red onions had a little crunch, which was so perfectly balanced with the cheese and pistachios!  i really liked that it was crushed up and all over the entire pizza.  the crust was excellent, nice and thin, a little crusty.  i haven't even mentioned the rosemary yet...it was not overpowering at all.  in fact, i don't even remember tasting it on there because the other flavors were so prominent and well balanced. 

annie also loved this pizza and we just loved the combination of ingredients that totally made the pizza!  all i know is that i would go back just for this one pizza alone.  the onions, parm and pistachios were so damn delicious on here...i would easily wait for an hour and a half in the freezing cold just so i could get a seat in the restaurant for this pizza. 

i say freezing cold because i've been checking out the food trucks lately, waiting in the freezing cold for like an hour just to get to the front so i could order...and some food was pretty good...others, very disappointing...but nothing that made me feel so compelled to say that i want to stand in line again for an hour.  just another testament to how much i loved this pizza, i just finished a huge KBBQ dinner and i'm hungry thinking about this pizza.  i am such a pig...its not even funny! 
pizza #2:  marinara with oregano, garlic, anchovies and 2 leaves of basil...

i know...you might be thinking...wtf is that?  you call that pizza?  it looks like dough that got a little burnt, some sauce, a couple of green leafy things and some worm like things on top.  well...yes...i did in fact think the same thing when it came out.  i guess, i expected something else?  perhaps having the anchovies even laid out in six strips to designate each slice so everyone got a piece...but hey!  who am i to talk...i'm just the consumer. 

i actually like anchovies, but when i'm eating a whole sliver of one, its like someone just poured a tablespoon of salt into my mouth.  its overwhelming...i think i may have looked a bit bloated when we left the restaurant.  haha  nah...but it was a little too much for my palette.  i did wish there was a bit more fresh herbs to go around for everyone...but only two people were fortunate enough to get it.  who?  i couldn't even tell you because it was too long ago and my memory is a bit foggy now. 

ok...even though this was not my favorite pizza...mike really liked it!  he said the tomato sauce was excellent and he in fact liked the saltiness of the anchovy and felt that the garlic worked really well with it.  he also said that he got a lot of flavor from the fresh basil!  damnit!  there's our answer!  mike got ALL the basil!  if only i had some of it, my whole experience with that pizza could've been completely different!  haha  that's ok...i'm glad that he really enjoyed it.

pizza #3:  biancoverde - fresh mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, ricotta, arugula...

this pizza was very cheesy to me which is saying a lot, because i am a total cheese freak, i can't get enough cheese...ever!  but this pizza did in fact make me stand back and take pause and evaluate my love for cheese.  it was good, it was just a little too cheesy for me like i said and that was kind of a bummer.  i should explain what i mean by cheesy...the parm is so strong that i think it was almost too overwhelming on my palette and nostrils.  believe me...i am a huge lover of parmigiano reggiano...and i'm talking the real stuff that's been properly aged.  it can be extremely pungent and in this case, i felt like it was a bit too much for me.  but of course this was just my opinion.  i will say that liked the baby arugula and i did enjoy it more when i added the crushed red pepper flakes. 

this was ellen's favorite pizza of the night.  she said that it reminded her of fettucini alfredo with crushed red peppers and also of how her grandma would make mac & cheese for her when she was a kid.  this pizza brought back happy childhood memories for her...and i thought that was really cool. 

see how food affects each of us so differently?  i love that about food and what it does for each person!  food should always make us smile and feel all warm and fuzzy.  i hate bad food...i know...hate is such a strong word, but its true!  certain things just bring back bad memories...and food shouldn't be one of those things!  there are foods that make us cringe...oh man...a bad nut!  like when you're eating peanut m&m's and you bite into it and the nut is all nasty!  blech!  i hate that!  it tastes so gross and it just makes you want to spit it all out!  you know you've all experienced a bad nut at least once in your life!  unless you're allergic to nuts like my friend kimmie, then no, she wouldn't know what its like. 

wiseguy - wood roasted onion, house smoked mozzarella, fennel sausage and we added cremini mushrooms...

there were huge chunks of sausage which kind of sucks, especially if you're splitting the pizza with others.  i mean, look at that huge piece at 8 o'clock!  some lucky son of a gun is going to get it and then whoever gets the piece at 7 o'clock is S.O.L!  you know what i'm trying to say?!  that is wrong!  plus you know my whole thing about getting perfect bites.  i'd like at least a bite of sausage in at least every other bite of pizza.  And that giant piece of sausage is going in your mouth in one bite because its not glued down with cheese and its one of those things that when you bite down, you might not be able to break it off and you've got to just take the whole thing in.  *sigh* 

geez, that whole paragraph was only on the sausage!  ok...the onions were big and sweet, crunchy too...good texture.  the smoked mozzarella was a nice balance with the earthy mushrooms.  this pizza was overall ok...it definitely sounded much better than it actually tasted.  sadly, this was no ones favorite pizza of the night.

ellen and mike were awesome eating companions!!  they were down to eat anything and everything!  i would love to see them again on my next visit to arizona!  they told us about some cool little places in tucson that i would love to check out with them. 

overall, i think that pizzeria bianco won me over with the rosa pizza alone.  i thoroughly enjoyed it and definitely want to go back to eat it again.  (please God, let it taste the same the second time around!  do any of you ever think that when you go back to a place where you really liked something?  i do...i just want consistency...is that too much to ask for?)  continuing on...what i think is great about this place is that everyone found something that really appealed to them.

if you're ever in the phoenix area and you are a pizza lover like annie and me...check out pizzeria bianco.  i know its a long wait, but i feel like it was worth it to me!  (its all about the rosa!!!)  hopefully you'll feel the same way too!