Monday, June 25, 2007

Pacific Whey vs Ruby's ~ So Cal chains in Crystal Court

One Camp Pendleton Mud Run and a best friend's wedding later, I'm back. Hungrier than ever. I found myself at South Coast Plaza on multiple Saturday morns recently, and decided to put two of my favorite chains (for breakfast, there aren't really many that rank) to the test. In one corner, the chic eats of Pacific Whey Cafe. In the opposite corner, (with 25 years of service under their belt) - Ruby's Diner. Let the smackdown begin!

I remember trying to find Pacific Whey for the first time. Newport Hills was not easy to locate. Then they expanded to Crystal Cove. Great location, but cramped seating. It took forEVER for SCP Crystal Court to finally open. By the time I finally checked in, it had been running for two months. Here they've got the parking, the table space, the location, and the unforgettable pastry case. What a lovely place to see and be seen. Fantastic people watching, but I digress.

I will tell you right now that I don't care for anything that isn't brekkie or pastry here.

I went for the grilled vegetable omelette. My eggcellent feast of zucchini, yellow squash, and sweet bell peppers co-mingled with a fruit medley, potatoes, and hearty multi-grain toast. Service was spot on. My table was spacious. The servers/bussers were efficient. The food, eggsactly what I expected -- fresh, flavorful, pleasing to the eye...except. Well, I felt the portion sizes were smaller than I remember. Breakfast is supposed to be affordable, right? My $8.95 just seemed sparse. My trainers agreed. I think I just paid for my locale. (sigh)

Next, I shoo-be-do-be-do down to the candystriper. With dark hair and brown eyes, what's not to admire about her? {Going COMPLETELY off topic, they have some rockin' fish tacos here. I don't expect anyone to believe me [cough, Christian Z., cough : ) ], but hey, for me - they are delish} I must've deliberated for a good half hour before placing.

I chose the skinny eggs with Eggbeaters (hey, I'm attempting healthly eating!). It was mixed with housemade salsa, and served alongside low-fat cottage cheese, wheat toast and fresh fruit. Oh yes, and I had to get some smoked bacon. Mmmmmm.....bacon. A reasonable enough comparison to my competitor. Except this time, I order to go.

Things were meticulously packaged and labeled with smiley faces. It was quite a spread, actually. Pricing was almost identical to Pacific Whey, bacon included. Sure, I sat outside NikeStore with my meal in my lap. But this was really nice. Eggs were segreated in their own covered container, and were light with a tiny kick. Bacon kept its distance in a roomy holder. Those four smoked strips were heavenly. Flavors were intact. I have no complaints. I was content... not factoring my leg falling asleep.

Sure, maybe you'll just go to Champagne French Bakery instead (saw an ad for their new breakfast crepe next to the escalator. wonder how it is...) Or you'll be elsewhere. Either way, you've got options.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Häagen-Dazs Reserve

It's National Dairy Month and the tempatures are getting naturally I'm obsessing about ice cream again! This time around I've chosen a slightly sophisticated line of ice cream to go crazy over. It is Häagen-Dazs Reserve and I 've now tried three of the five Reserve flavors, and all have ranged from good to great. The flavors are: Brazilian Acai Berry Sorbet, Amazon Valley Chocolate, Pomegranate Dark Chocolate Bar, Hawaiian Lehua Honey and Sweet Cream, and Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle.

The Hawaiian Lehua Honey and Sweet Cream ice cream is pretty good. It's very creamy and has swirls of honey inside, but is a bit too sweet for my taste. The Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle however, is my favorite flavor thus far. It's inspiration comes from Thailand, "where coconut trees line white beaches and the local markets are filled with exotic Asian spices like ginger and sesame". This flavor has a surprisingly complex taste, providing layers of texture.

Here's a little history of the The Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle:

Last year, Häagen-Dazs invited consumers to submit their ice cream flavor ideas for a chance to create their next flavor. The finalists were featured on a Food Network special about the contest. Sticky Toffee Pudding was awarded the winning flavor, even though the two runners up seemed to be more popular with the fans (Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle and Cannoli ice cream).

Clearly though, Häagen-Dazs paid attention and ended up releasing Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle as part of their new Reserve line. There is no mention of the fact that the flavor was an entry in the contest. Hopefully the woman who submitted the original flavor got some sort of recognition from the company for coming up with the idea...she is truely a genius!

If these flavors are a bit too adventurous for you're taste buds, you can always stick with Häagen-Dazs (recently improved) Dulce De Leche, which contains smooth caramel swirls complemented by a hint of cinnamon spice.

After searching a few grocery stores for Häagen-Dazs Reserve line, I ended up tracking 'em down at the Albertsons on Tustin and Katella. For more info Häagen-Dazs Reserve site.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ohana Hawaiian Island BBQ

Hey Brah!


You like go grind?

Fo sure

Every time I enter a Hawaiian restaurant, pidgin English starts running through my head. It brings me back to spending a few summers during my childhood in Hawaii visiting my relatives. Even when I go back to Hawaii now, it just takes a few minutes to pick up on the familiar sing song rhythm and inflections that is pidgin English.

Unbeknownest to me upon entering, Ohana Hawaiian Island BBQ is a small chain of restaurants, not nearly as well known as L&L BBQ or Zippy’s. Upon a little research, most of their restaurants are either in Central California or Northern California with a few locations sprinkled throughout the southland. The chain originated on the Big Island in the city of Waimea in 1973. They have slowly franchised into California using those same recipes.

The menu is fairly small but has all of the usual suspects: Kalua pork, Mahi Mahi, chicken katsu, spam musubi and kalbi ribs.

I can usually judge the quality and authenticity of a Hawaiian restaurant by their kalua pork. The main staple at any luau, it should be smoky and salty in flavor, juicy and fork tender in texture. Placed upon a bed of cabbage, it is a local plate icon. The look of the kalua pork is appealing as it looks juicy and shreds very nicely. The familiar scent of smoke was missing though. Tasting it was even worse. There was absolutely no salt and no hint of smoke anywhere to be found. Smokey the Bear would gladly pronounce this dish as a non-fire hazard. It tastes like it was just boiled or braised in water, shredded and served. The mac salad was drenched in mayo, although the rice was cooked well.

Another staple of Hawaiian cuisine is saimin. I ordered the chicken katsu saimin. I was pleasantly surprised when the dish came in two containers; one for the saimin, and another container for the chicken katsu. This separation of ingredients prevented the chicken katsu from becoming soggy from being immerged into the soup. Unfortuantely, the noodles were terribly overcooked and very soggy. What’s even worse, is that it tasted like packaged S&S Saimin that you can buy at Marukai. The soup base tasted like a combination of the seasoning packets of S&S Saimin and Top Ramen.

The chicken katsu was very cruncy on the outside, and the chicken was tender and moist on the inside. It was a little greasy, but right when I thought things had been salvaged my bubble burst. The oil that the katsu was deep fried in tasted very old and stale.

Hoping to bring back a childhood memory, Ohana Hawaiian Island BBQ was unable to do that. Instead, it felt like I had just arrived to the islands, headed straight to the beach and got hit by Jaws in Maui landing me in the hospital for the remainder of my vacation. As I was leaving, I thought to myself this isn't "Ono" it's more like "OH-NO"!

Ohana Hawaiian Island BBQ
2170 E. Lincoln Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92806
(714) 778-9889

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Saturday, June 9, 2007

Top Chef Season 3

Normally I'm not the biggest fan of reality television, but if food is at center stage then I'm all over it! So, this is just a little reminder that Season 3 of Top Chef premieres this coming week (June 13th) on Bravo. This time around the show will take place in Miami and will feature returning judge Chef Tom Colicchio and lovely host Padma Lakashmi. The panel will be rounded out with the addition of Ted Allen (of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) and Gail Simmons. If you tuned in to Bravo this past week you may have caught a special "all-star grudge match" between four Season 1 contestants (Harold Dieterle, Stephen Asprinio, Tiffani Faison, and Dave Martin) and four Season 2 contestants (Ilan Hall, Sam Talbot, Elia Aboumrad, and Marcel Vigneron ) with proceeds going to charity, in which the teams serve their meals to the new chefs of Season 3.

For clips, recipes, and more info visit the official Top Chef Site.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Professor Salt in the L.A. Times!

Indian mangoes finally reach the States, as reported by our very own Professor Salt.

Click here to read this article on, or buy a copy of the paper. It's on page 3 of the Food section.

Go Prof!

Read his mango mania posts on You Gonna Eat That?


Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Merhaba Restaurant
(714) 826-8859
2801 W Ball Rd Ste 5
Anaheim, CA 92804
Official Site
Yahoo! Local Listing

Here's some pictures from when I met up with ElmoMonster and Joy and Carter at Merhaba East African Restaurant in Anaheim about a week or so ago. If the thought of "African" food instantly turns you off (and I'm not saying it does) then just trust me that it's not as foreign as it seems like it will be. The only thing that's a little unusual is that you use strips of injera bread (almost like a pancake that's not as sweet) to pick your food up with. We all shared the #20 combo for four people which is a sampling of meat and vegetarian dishes with two kinds of beef, spicy chicken, stewed in the house hot sauce, served with hard boiled eggs, red split lentils simmered in onion and herbs, spinach, okra, carrots, bell pepper, string beans and broccoli.

Image hosting courtesy of Image Shack

Friday, June 1, 2007

Kohryu Chinese Restaurant (Ramen) - Costa Mesa, CA

Kohryu Chinese Restaurant, located in Costa Mesa, have been a favorite place of mine, way back when I was attending college. I discovered this place, from my younger brother, who was given knowledge of this little gem from a friend of his, a foreign exchange student from Japan.

The name of this little establishment is rather misleading - they are more known for their ramen than Chinese food. In all my years of dining at Kohryu (which means rising dragon in Japanese), I have only gotten their ramen and all it's compliments.

One of my favorite dishes is their Miso Ramen w/ 1/2 order of fried rice combo. I typically get extra chashu and a side order of gyoza.

(the chashu is hiding~)

The miso is quite bold and full of flavor. The bamboo shoots and sprouts, hidden beneath the milky broth compliments the dish nicely.

(peak a boo~ mmm chashu)

The chashu is tender and fairly sized. Get extra chashu, if you are a big eater.

I can't ever go to Kohryu and not get their fried rice. I swear there is magic in here. It's quite good and wished I could make it at home.

The gyoza is actually hand-made. It's crispy on the fried side and tender all around. I have a tendency to make a gyoza pyramid to let them cool off faster.

They also serve daily lunch specials, Chinese style - they look good but honestly, I am so stuck on their ramen, I haven't tried it yet. Worth note is they yakisoba dish, shumai, and beef-don.

Edit: Also worth noting is Kohryu has many Japanese patrons. On weekdays for lunch, the place is packed w/ Japanese businessmen. On nights and weekends, you will see Japanese families, people bringing their kids. That should give you an insight on how good their ramen is.

Kohryu Chinese Restaurant
891 Baker Street #B-21
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(Closed on Thursdays)