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Cream Pan (Tustin, CA) – Strawberry Croissants and Azuki Cream Pans

March 26, 2010

Sometimes I find myself, looking at food porn for hours on end. Sometimes, out of the blur of food pictures posted across the internet, one of them will catch my attention and spur me to trek across Southern California, to taste what looks like pure deliciousness.

(I hope I made that look like pure deliciousness because that’s what it tastes like.)

Cream Pan in Tustin is an Orange County staple, winning OC Weekly’s Best Bakery in 2008. In their words,

“Nothing in its triangular, hand-holdable frame can be improved upon. The croissant flakes off in crisp, buttery sheets; the custard is as cool as silk; and the sliced strawberries are perkier than a giggly, doe-eyed anime schoolgirl. And of course, it’s sprinkled with plenty of powdered sugar to make it look like you’ve just snorted some blow. Japonaise’s strawberry croissants are just as addicting.”

Yes, the strawberry croissants may be considered the #1 thing to get at Cream Pan, but I would almost argue that their azuki (i.e. red bean) cream pans are just as good, if not better.

These puffs, which look like they weight as much as a cloud, are actually chock full of cream and red bean. The lightly sugared whipped cream is airy and, upon first bite, spouts through the top like a volcano. The red bean tastes natural (i.e. without overly sweet additives) and is only enhanced by the whipped cream. The dough is soft and chewy, like freshly baked bread.

The way these goodies taste is an exact match to how I imagined them to be. I’ll add more to this Cream Pan food porn collection as I try more of their desserts – I’ll definitely be back.

Cream Pan
602 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 665-8239

Cream Pan on Urbanspoon

Daikokuya (Los Angeles, CA) – A Party of One

March 25, 2010

Most people don’t like eating alone. I’m one of them.

As much as I try to avoid it, I find myself eating alone more often than I’d like to admit. Not only do I eat alone, 90% of the time I forget to bring a book and end up sitting around watching everyone around me chow down while I sit……at a table…doing nothing…by myself. (Yeaaaaah. Sounds lame, I know. I promise you – I have friends! And social skills!)

That said, there are a very small handful of places where I will willingly eat alone as the happiness I get from that meal exceeds any discomfort of being a party of one. Of that very small handful of places, there is only one restaurant that I will willingly wait an hour – BY MYSELF – for a meal that will only take half of that time to consume.

Daikokuya.

I’ve come to realize Daikokuya doesn’t care if you’re a party of one or four – you’re going to be seated based on where your name falls on THE LIST (i.e. their wait list, which is secured on a clipboard and sits on a lone chair smack in the middle of their front entrance). See that empty space by the counter, perfect for me, myself and I? Unless you’re next on the list, it’s going to stay empty until the couple next to it leaves, when it will be then used for a party of three instead.

For me, no matter how long I find myself waiting, Daikokuya is worth the wait. The dressing on their cabbage starter salad is simply addicting. Its rich, milky tonkotsu broth washes away the troubles of the day with each warm sip. The noodles are just to my liking – not too soft, cooked just enough so it doesn’t feel like they were tossed into the bowl as an afterthought.

I can go no matter if I’m having a good day or a bad one, whether I’m with friends or by myself – it always hits the spot.

(Read my original review on Yelp.)

Daikokuya
327 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 626-1680
Website: http://www.daikoku-ten.com/
Twitter: @daikokuyaramen

Daikokuya on Urbanspoon

Aureole (Las Vegas, NV) / Charlie Palmer @ Bloomingdale’s (Costa Mesa, CA) – CPx2

March 23, 2010

That’s right, this is going to be a double dose of Charlie Palmer, pioneer of progressive American Cuisine! Charlie Palmer + Charlie Palmer! CPx2!

(…Okay, enough of that. Can you tell I can’t think of any ideas for a lead in? I’m just going to get right into this.)

Aureole

I’m going to straight with you: This is going to be a biased review.

My mistake wasn’t making a reservation at Aureole; the mistake was keeping it after a long, hard night of drinking. The morning of my Aureole reservation, I found myself lying in bed with a hangover and a craving for the cheapest steak and eggs I could find on the Strip. After pounding down a whole steak, two eggs over easy, a side of toast and god knows how many cups of coffee, my headache and nausea had subsided…but so had my hunger for food.

I may have lost my appetite that day, I’d like to think my sense of taste remained relatively intact (whether it actually was, you can decide). Thus, taste away I did.

(The stark white exterior is a foreshadowing of its the cold white interior.)

The first thing I noticed when I descended down the staircase into Aureole’s dining room was the sterility of the restaurant. I typically love modern design but the glass tower coupled with the cavernous room made the whole area seem cold and unemotional (especially after L’Atelier’s bustling open kitchen the night before). I pictured the dining space circling Aureole’s signature 42-foot glass wine tower, making it the center of attention; however, in reality, the wine tower acted more as a dividing wall than a focus piece and I sat with my back facing the tower for the entire night.

As mentioned, I wasn’t hungry when I arrived at dinner so I ordered from the 3-course theater menu and added the starter of the trio of house cured salmon. The trio had a wide range of flavor combinations, from the familiar creamy dill in the gravlax to the unique citrus tones in the pepper crusted salmon.

My first course, the Thai popcorn shrimp, was more a soup than an appetizer. The curry flavor in the spicy coconut broth was bold and had a lingering kick to it, which was completely unexpected. To drink a whole bowl was overwhelming – I picked the morsels of shrimp from the depths of the broth and moved on.

The pork scallopini was uneventful both times I tried it (I tried it twice as I had most of it boxed up to go). The cream sauce was thick and the pork was charred…I picked out the noodles instead as they were delightfully chewy.

Dessert was a banana bread pudding – that’s all I remember about that.

Considering the circumstances and taking into account my incapacitated position, Aureole still did not meet my expectations. As I previously mentioned, this is somewhat of a biased review so take from this what you want. All I can say is, even thinking back on the experience now, I still can’t say I fully enjoyed my meal at Aureole.

Aureole
3950 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89119
(702) 632-7401
Website: http://www.charliepalmer.com/

Aureole (Mandalay Bay) on Urbanspoon

Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s

(As the name implies, this is Charlie Palmer’s restaurant. It’s next to a Bloomingdale’s.)

The lounge in Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s is as hip as Aureole in Las Vegas is sterile. When I walked in, I immediately thought to myself,

“I don’t think I’m cool enough for this place.”

I don’t find myself in the heart of Orange County often, but work has sent me to this far away land and I told myself I would make the best of the situation. Thus, when I discovered the nearby Charlie Palmer had two happy hours a day (with the second one going from 10PM-midnight) and that I would be able to sneak out early sometime mid-week, I made sure to take advantage.

I expected to roll in dressed in my normal number crunching uniform, find myself a little corner spot to bunker down with my ethics textbook, grab a glass of wine and a couple appetizers and enjoy Charlie’s only California establishment. Instead I find myself feeling thoroughly under dressed, awkwardly sitting in a corner booth of a place that sounded like an LA club with matching clientele. (Again, note: This was at 10:30PM on a Wednesday night. Not quite what I had imagined.)

Although I felt sorely out of place, I wasn’t going to deny myself food and wine just because I looked like an accountant in a club. I promptly ordered myself a glass of wine, and three appetizers: the bone marrow, a seafood sausage and a truffle grilled cheese.

My favorite of the three was definitely the bone marrow, with its pickled onions and slightly sugary raisins. The sweetness was enjoyable, not overpowering, and the vinegar cut through the buttery marrow, adding a touch of tang to every bite. My only qualm with the dish was that half of my toast was burnt, which resulted in my overloading the non-burnt pieces with heaping lumps of marrow.

According to the waitress, the seafood sausage was a recent addition to the menu, only added a couple weeks prior. The sausages are made in house and are composed of a mix of shrimp, scallops, salmon and bass. Reminiscent of fish balls you may find in Asian supermarkets, the seafood sausage was actually smoother in texture and much softer, almost like the inside of a perfectly cooked scallop. However, the one I received was over seasoned and required a nibble of bread with every bite to counter the salt.

The truffle mac and cheese was probably the most underwhelming dish of the three as it was simply a grilled cheese sandwich with a hint of truffle. Nothing spectacular, almost one note – I wished I had tried something a bit more adventurous instead.

All in all, once I got my food and settling in with book in hand, it was actually quite an enjoyable experience. Not quite the quiet night I expected but hey – the wine was half-off, the food met expectations and I got some work done to boot. Next time I’ll just remember to bring a change of clothes…

Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s
3333 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 352-2525
Website: http://www.charliepalmer.com/

Charlie Palmer at South Coast Plaza on Urbanspoon

Dinner Party – Good Wine & Food, Good Friends, Good Times

March 13, 2010

I’ve come to realize the best moments in life occur when you’re sitting around a table with good friends and a bottle of wine. There really is nothing better.

Last weekend, I had one of these moments with 5 friends – a group we have since dubbed “The Potato Ball Crew” (i.e. “the PBC”). The rain may have been pouring last Saturday, but our wine may have been pouring harder. Six people, nine bottles of wine and a lot of good food…Safe to say, it was a good night.

(These wines paired well with our saliva.)

Our hostess for the night, Shelley (of Vinovents, who is now posting on CitySipper), was gracious enough to let us use her beautiful home for these festivities. Our dinner was rather hearty considering it was completely vegetarian; I might have I filled myself up on our delicious cheese platter with its chunks of brie and Stilton.

Although all the food was fantastic (minus my contribution to this classy potluck of Trader Joe’s frozen foods – I didn’t have time to cook!), my favorite dishes of the night were a unique edamame hummus (for which I think I’ll have to steal the recipe in the near future) and Shelley’s delicious farro salad. The fresh green beans and toasted hazelnuts were reminiscent of the green beans and walnuts at Petrossian, and the fried shallots were a savory addition to the dish. I enjoyed that salad so much, I’ve included the recipe below. I was told the total prep time of 45 minutes was misleading, but I personally think I was worth the effort.

To end: Thanks to my fellow Potato Ballers for a great night. I had a fantastically glorious time, and can’t wait for the next round!

Eat our balls!

———-

Farro and Green Bean Salad
From: Food & Wine Magazine, May 2006

TOTAL TIME: 45 MIN

Ingredients:

* 1 cup farro (7 ounces)
* Water
* Salt
* 6 ounces thin green beans
* 1 cup pure olive oil, for frying
* 4 large shallots—3 thinly sliced, 1 minced
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 3 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
* 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
* 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
* 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 3 tablespoons salted toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
* Freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the farro with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain the farro and return it to the pan. Add 2 more cups of water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cook the farro over high heat until al dente, about 10 minutes; drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the green beans until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes; drain. Rinse the beans under cold water and pat dry.
  3. Heat the pure olive oil in a medium saucepan. In a small bowl, toss the sliced shallots with the flour, separating them into rings. Transfer the shallots to a strainer and tap off the excess flour. Add the shallots to the hot oil and fry over high heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried shallots to paper towels to drain thoroughly; season lightly with salt.
  4. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil from the saucepan. Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat, stirring, until browned. Transfer to a plate.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the sherry and balsamic vinegars with the minced shallot, garlic and thyme. Whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the farro, green beans, hazelnuts and three-fourths of the fried shallots and toss gently. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a platter or shallow bowl. Garnish with the remaining fried shallots and serve.

Yield: 6 servings


Auditor’s Eats – Welcome Back, Audit Ass

March 13, 2010

As I predicted in my kickoff to Auditor’s Eats, the next edition was right around the corner. A little over a month after the first posting, here I am again, posting about what I eat at work.

We’re attempting to fulfill our binder quota for the year.

This client wasn’t as bad as the last one – we worked long hours, but nothing beyond the norm (although, to be fair, the norm during busy season is equivalent to a 14 hour work day). There was one main difference between this client and the last one though: At this client, we ordered twice the number of meals.

When you’re ordering take-out for lunch and dinner, there’s only so many places you can order from before you’ve done it all. This current team of coworkers was (thankfully) an adventurous group so we didn’t hit our take-out plateau until the very end. We added a couple new places to our delivery list (Q-cina in North Hollywood, for example, was considered our top newcomer of the FY09 audit) and expanded our horizon in terms of cuisine. However, at the end of the day, we ended up eating the same old stuff (e.g. sandwiches, burgers, salads, etc.), which is the #1 cause of Audit Ass.

When I first started in this profession, I was warned of an epidemic called “Audit Ass”. How do you get said Audit Ass? It goes something like this:

Your job consists of sitting in front of the computer for 14+ hours a day, reading numbers in small font on an overly-bright computer monitor and then plugging those numbers into pages and pages of memos. When you’re busy, you don’t want to eat healthy. You’re mentally and physically tired, pushing yourself to the extreme…All you really want is a burger and a side of fries. Maybe even two.

Greasy, fried food + no daily movement = Audit Ass.

As you can tell by the pictures below, I haven’t been making the best food choices this month. Thus, I welcome back my Audit Ass! (…I hope you don’t stay for very long.)

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