June 2, 2010
I think I can see into the future. Nope, none of that important stuff like saving people’s lives or averting disaster – I can see into the FOOD future.
I first stumbled upon Frostbites on my own, during a late night web surf. I read the reviews touting its frozen custard and Italian ice, realized it was down the street from my client at the time, and made a mental note to try it out. A week later, I was listening to a coworker, who had just returned from a gig in Pittsburg, describe her culinary adventures at a particular Pittsburg institution. This institution, “Rita’s Ice”, happened to sell - *gasp!* – frozen custard layered with flavored ices.
…Did that shake up your world as much as it did mine? It’s like I’m the next Haley Joel Osmond! (“I see FOOD things.”)
Okay, even if you aren’t impressed, believe me when I say Frostbites is awesome.
(And, of course, I take a picture of the menu that DOESN’T have the prices for ice cream.)
Before I get into this delicious fruity/creamy delight, I first have to applaud the service at Frostbites for being absolutely fantastic. When we asked for flavor recommendations, the nice girl behind the counter almost threw free samples in our faces (not literally, of course) . I think I tasted three or four little sample cups in a matter of five minutes and almost had to tell her to stop handing them out. (I was getting full!)
Basically the way Frostbites works is this: They have about a dozen flavors of Italian ices in flavors ranging from strawberry and cherry to pineapple and sour apple. They also two flavors of frozen custard – chocolate and vanilla. You can get either the ice or the custard or have a combination of them both, layered within one cup. (Note: My coworker says Frostbites is better than Rita’s Ice because it alternates the layers of custard and ice, whereas Rita’s just has a layer of custard at the bottom and a layer ice on the top. Yup, it’s even better than the original!)
After tasting samples to my heart’s content, I finally settled on a combination of sour apple and watermelon with the vanilla custard, which the girl recommended because it tasted like a Jolly Rancher. (Note: The cherry and pineapple combo was a close second – it tastes just like those Big Stick Popsicles from elementary school!) The Italian ice had the texture of a firmer slurpee or a very, very fine granita. The frozen custard is both richer and creamier than normal frozen yogurt, but without the heaviness (if that makes any sense at all). Tasting both together is like having a creamsicle, but more awesome.
Note: If you get hooked on Frostbites the way I did, make sure you get a customer card! It’s based on the dollar amount you purchase rather than the number of items, and you get get double stamps on rainy days.
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.
602 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92780
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.)
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.
3950 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89119
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
February 8, 2010
Hidden in a small alley, past the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean and the Blue Bayou, is a secret little door. It’s easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for; its only visible signage is a small placard on the right with the numbers “33″. Find the hidden panel to buzz yourself in and the door will soon swing open from the inside and lead you to…
(What wonders await behind this door?)
Club 33 is a private club, hidden in the heart of New Orleans Square in Disneyland. Although finding the club is hard, getting into the club is an even more difficult feat – With a wait-list estimated at 14 years and annual membership fees starting at $10K/year, most may never have an opportunity to enter Club 33 unless invited as a guest of a pre-existing member.
This is one of the reasons why I love working for Corporate America.
I’ve had the privilege of dining at Club 33 not once, but twice – my first time being two years ago, when we were treated to a three course dinner for an audit well done and the second time more recently, when I enjoyed a lunch buffet on a lazy Wednesday. Club 33 days are always days of celebration for us. Since a meal in the club also includes a complimentary park-hopper pass for the day, Club 33 means no work and all play, with my coworkers and I running all over Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park like we were 10 again.
Not only does a trip to Club 33 mean nostalgic bliss (…strolling down Main Street…screaming on Space Mountain…spinning in a teacup…), it also means good food. Forget your typical theme park meals of burgers and fries; Club 33 is fine dining, Walt Disney style.
Lunch began with a trip to the cold buffet line, where we loaded up on sliced meats, grilled veggies and cheese and fruit platters. We dug shrimp cocktail, crab claws and lobster tails out of the ice and sipped on lentil and bacon soup. Some of us even ordered a fruity drink or two. (You know, the ones with pineapples and strawberries and god knows what else fanning the rim of the glass? Yeah, those kind of fruity drinks.)
And that was just the beginning.
After the buffet came our entrees. As explained to us by our server, some of the items on the menu have been favorites since the club opened in 1967. We were recommended the pan seared chateaubriand and the Colorado lamb chops; too lazy to choose, my manager and I ordered one each and shared a bite with the other. The lamb was just a touch overcooked, but I loved the apple coffee polenta underneath. The chateaubriand, on the other hand, was juicy and tender through and through.
We started the meal with a buffet, we ended the meal with a the buffet…a dessert buffet that is. With over a dozen sugary goods, my eyes grew bigger than my stomach and I loaded my little dessert plate full of sweets. The meyer lemon cream puff was my favorite, beating out the strawberry panna cotta, chocolate mousse, blackberry mousse and coconut macaroons.
So if you’re ever wandering through Disneyland and stumble upon that little sign and that unassuming blue door, you know now what hides behind it. Maybe, one day, you’ll also get the opportunity to peek inside too. I mean, you know they say…
“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you.”
33 Royal Street (in Disneyland)
Anaheim, CA 92802