mmm-yoso!!!, a blog about food and the story prefacing as well as post scripting enjoyment of said food. Today's post is bookended by food and also centralized by books. Kirk and Ed(from Yuma) are doing other things while Cathy writes.
A beautiful Saturday morning, waking while the sky was illuminated by the Supermoon and driving North to Pasadena was intervened with a quick stop for breakfast at Philippe the Original, which Kirk blogged about in 2007. (A recent post from cc here and from Elmo in 2007 here and a 2008 post from MiP here )This quintessential American Cafeteria, with a fascinating history, is famous for THE French dip sandwich.
There is also a breakfast menu. Walking up to the counter, The Mister ordered, paid and waited for our food to be prepared while I enjoyed the various miniature museum of displays surrounding the communal seating areas.
Soon enough, breakfast was ready. At the top is the Breakfast Combo Special ($7.50)- French toast, over easy eggs, bacon and coffee. The French toast batter has a bit of cinnamon in it, the bread is soft, thick and cooked just right (crispy on the exterior and soft and warm/fluffy interior). The bacon is thin and crispy and has flavor. Here's a better photo of the corned beef hash plate ($8.25)served with home fried potatoes and over easy eggs (again, coffee is included). The hash is wonderful -dry, not greasy- and has a great flavor. The Home Fries are made expertly, as are the over easy eggs and the biscuits (a classic baking powder/soda mix) - great short-order chefs.
We drove up the 110 to Pasadena and the Phoenix Decorating Company barn for the second 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade float maneuverability testing in less than six minutes.
There were ten floats being tested this day and quite a few were ready for their final tests before decorating (which begins in December) by having people on board to test weight bearing on the maneuverability as well as ability to escape efficiently in case of a fire. Above, Kiwanis International, with their float now color coded for the volunteers to decorate easily. So much prettier than when it was tested in its 'cocoon' stage last month (3rd photo).Similarly, last month's rebar/chicken wire/partial cocoon stage of the Lions Club International float, "Inspiring Challenges" (to the right in the first photo in that post), did no justice to this finalized version.
The City of Alhambra is titled "Go For Broke" and will also have a military theme.
The theme of the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade is "Inspiring Stories" and a good number of floats are taking that concept literally and depicting books on their floats. Above, the Donate Life float titled "The Never Ending Story".
Back to food, since Philippe the Original is only about seven miles from Raymond Street...
The ordering cases filled with a variety of sides, ten order/serving lines (there are only five at breakfast), ordered chaos, freshly sawdusted flooring, house made HOT mustard on each table. (Philippe is right next to Chinatown, which I'm pretty certain had an influence on the mustard recipe). Lunchtime.
Double dipped (each piece of crispy fresh French bread gently run through the jus; opposed to a 'single dip' with only one piece of bread dipped) sandwiches of roast beef ($7) roast lamb ($8.50), sides of house made potato salad ($1.35) and pickle ($1.30) along with two glasses of iced tea (65 cents each).
Because we had side by side comparisons, we liked the roast lamb considerably more than the roast beef (no complaints when we tasted the beef first) (There were also some nice crusty pieces of the lamb in the sandwich, which may have been a further influence). The kosher pickle was excellent as was the freshly made potato salad.
We also served ourselves water...so reminiscent of Elementary School...
and stopped to check out the gift counter, where some old fashioned candies are sold (Sen-Sen anyone?) (this area takes credit cards; the food counter is cash only)...
while getting a roast pork sandwich, double dipped ($7) and pickled egg ($1.15) (see the gallon jar on the counter in the second photo of this post?) to go. No worse for the drive, the pork also was very good. The pickled egg has a good old fashioned pickled beet flavor.
Philippe the Original 1001 N. Alameda Street Los Angeles 90012 (213)628-1731 Website open seven days 6 a.m.-10 p.m.
Again Ed (from Yuma) is blogging about his road trip in June 2014. Who knows what Kirk and Cathy will be blogging about next.
On our trip to Paso Robles in June, 2014, Tina and I could see old friends, go wine tasting, and eat in some of the fine restaurants in Paso – but we also could stop in the San Gabriel Valley on the way up to Paso and on the way back.
On our return trip, Tina found a good deal on a room in the Hilton Hotel on W. Valley Blvd. in San Gabriel:
The hotel could not have been more convenient, smack dab in the center of the San Gabriel Valley and across street from San Gabriel Square, better known as the "Great Mall of China." The room was well furnished, the basement parking garage easily accessible, and the staff friendly and helpful. When checking in, we told the clerk, Adolfo, that we were staying there to be close to all the Chinese restaurants. "Yes," he said, "very authentic. The first time I went into one, I ordered orange chicken, and they all laughed at me."
That Thursday afternoon, we were tired from driving and needed to stretch our legs and what better way than walk around and look at restaurants and menus. It didn't take long for us to be overwhelmed by the choices and overheated by the bright sunshine. On our way back to the hotel, however, we decided to explore the little restaurants in Hilton Plaza, the small two-story stripmall just to the west of the hotel itself. Some things looked interesting, so we decided to dine close to the room that evening.
Shanghai Dumpling House:
We were early and only one other table was occupied in the small, clean restaurant:
Tina ordered honey lemon iced tea ($2.75), which she liked very much:
Having just driven in from Paso Robles where we had been feasting on wine country cuisine, we wanted basic simple foods. Cucumber in Sauce ($4.35) sounded cool and refreshing:
Amazingly simple, but simply amazing. Irregular chunks of freshly cut cucumber lightly sprinkled with salt and mixed with garlic bits and a touch of sesame oil. Not much sauce, really, but fresh and delicious, clean and refreshing – a perfect antidote for our four hour car ride.
The Beef Rolls Pie ($5.95) was next. A large and flaky green onion pancake wrapped around numerous beef slices, fresh cilantro, and a spicy/tangy hoisin sauce:
I suppose the pancake could have been a little browner and crunchier, but the flavors were excellent, and Tina and I were both impressed by the tender and flavorful beef:
Also served at the same time were the xiao long bao, Juicy Pork Dumplings ($6.95). We have had enough experience with boiling hot XLB exploding in our mouths that we ate half of the Beef Rolls Pie before we attempted even a single dumpling. But when we did, we were completely blown away.
If you look at this picture, you will see no spilled soup in the steamer; each dumpling is intact:.
One at a time, we would take our chopsticks, grab the little morsels by their topknots, carefully lift them off the paper, add a drop of black vinegar, lay them on the tongue, close the mouth, and chew. The juicy soup flooded the palate and the mildly seasoned pork ball was tender and tasty. Worthy of the mmm-yoso dance.
We were amazed by the dumpling wrappers. They were thin and elastic without being tough or chewy. When we raised the dumplings out of the steamer their bottoms sagged downward but never tore and never leaked. Just perfect Shanghai dumplings.
The last item to arrive at the table was the Stir-fried Vegetables ($5.95), in this case perfectly cooked baby bok choy:
For most of you, I'm sure this dish looks plain and pretty boring. However, the freshness of the tendercrisp young vegetables and the wok skills of the chef made this very inviting. In fact, we ate every piece of baby bok choy as well as everything else we were served at Shanghai Dumpling House – with no leftovers. That almost never happens anywhere.
Shanghai Dumpling House, 227 W Valley Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776, (626) 282-1348
Xiang Wei Lou
Thursday night's dinner had been so easy and delicious that we decided to try another place in the same stripmall – Xiang Wei Lou, a small Hunan restaurant that Kirk wrote about several years ago:
The place was small, but well lit and inviting – though now I wonder about all those specials posted along the wall (what did we miss?):
Both Tina and I had been intrigued with Kirk's description of the pork intestine at this restaurant, so we discussed chitlins choices with the very helpful young server. "You know that's the, the, the intestines of a pig," she said, rubbing her lower abdomen, as if perhaps we were such clueless Anglos that we didn't understand what intestines were. We found that sweet and amusing. Kirk had not liked the pickled vegetables he had chosen with the intestines, so with the assistance of our server, we settled on spicy pork intestines ($9.99), which she assured us came with some vegetables:
It was good to see that the restaurant has not lost its touch with intestines. These were truly excellent. As Kirk said, they were split lengthwise and well cleaned, and Tina and I especially appreciated their richness and tender chewy texture. The promised vegetables included extensive celery, scallions, garlic slices, and both red and green sliced chilies. The veggies added flavor, spice, and crunch. Being over cautious, we had ordered the dish medium spicy, which was okay because there was a lot of noticeable heat, but the dish could have been even hotter.
Again being cautious, we had ordered the house fried rice ($5.99) not spicy:
This was excellent fried rice, the Hunan smoked pork giving it a unique touch.
That same smoked pork provided the flavor for the smoked pork with string bean ($8.95):
The beans were perfectly cooked in a very hot wok and tasted fresh and green beany. The pork – though it looks like bacon – has a different smoky flavor profile. This dish was probably our least favorite, though still pretty good, like someone's least favorite child.
The last item to arrive on the table was the house special, Steamed Spicy Whole Fish ($9.99): The fish was extraordinarily tender and melted in the mouth. While it had that fresh water fish flavor, it was not muddy or fishy. The profusion of chopped dried chili pods and crushed garlics provided flavor certainly, but this dish was not excessively spicy, and the flavor of the fish came through very well. We liked it:
Xiang Wei Lou, 227 W Valley Blvd # 118A, San Gabriel, CA 91776, (626) 289-2276
Overall, we had two excellent interesting dinners, and appreciated the convenience of eating next to our hotel. I also just want to thank Kirk for making me a more adventuresome eater and helping guide Tina and I to some of the good places in San Diego and elsewhere. Thanks Kirk!
mmm-yoso!!!, a food blog with posts centering around food, sometimes sharing the process which the acqusition of said food occurred. Kirk is busy, Ed(from Yuma) is busy and Cathy is writing.
More than a month ago, friend and fellow food blogger, cc, asked (another friend and food blogger) CAB and I to accompany her on a celebratory (beginning of vacation) food crawl 'Up North'. CAB unfortunately had a change in plans and couldn't make it. I discovered on Wednesday before our scheduled crawl that the first Rose Parade float road testing was also going to be held that Saturday morning. Checking out the road testing is something The Mister and I do and share here on the blog ( I also sharedecoratingand other 'behind the scenes'posts about float consruction). I felt guilty, A) Because The Mister wouldn't be able to come with us and 2. For asking for a slight change in 'plans'. Except our plans included and lot of 'maybe here and maybe there' places to visit and eat..so I added one in. Of course it had to be the first thing we did that day, because testing begins at 7 a.m.. In Pasadena.
At the end of this epic day (I was at cc's home at 5 a.m. on the dot and got back to my home at 6:35 p.m.), I was exhausted, had driven 314 miles and had 327 photos on my camera (many were the same subject from different angles) and so this post is mostly photos. Details in future posts.
First the 2015 Rose Parade. The floats tested this day were all sponsored by service (volunteer) organizations. The theme of the Tournament of Roses parade is "Inspiring Stories". The Grand Marshal will be Louis Zamperini, WWII POW, Olympian and the subject of soon to be released movie, Unbroken. Each float is the interpretation of the theme by each participating organization.
This will be the Donate Life float. It's in the basic stage of construction and testing. Those detailed butterflies are just so beautiful. You can see the float driver in this photo.
Now, to the food portion of this post. In order: what we ate and did. One photo from each place. Yep. We did a LOT in a few hours. It was fun, educational, tasty and only slightly exhausting. The details will be revealed in future posts. Feel free to guess or ask questions. Hope you are having a good week!
Man, it's so hot today.......I started doing this post and decided that the pictures speak for themselves. During my extended roadtrip to LA in February, I decided to get the $40 lunch from Shunji.....let me just say, it's worth every penny.
Last time I was in the area, this location was Mr Cecil's California Ribs....let me just say, this is beyond a major upgrade.
Like I said....worth every penny.....
Update: So now that's it's getting cooler here's the listing:
1 - Madai
2 - Megina (Opal Eye)
3 - Wild Hamachi
4 - Miso Soup with Crab
5 - Blue Nose Snapper
6 - Marinated Salmon
7 - Maguro
8 - Inada
9 - Hirame
10 - Kanpachi
11 - Kinmedai (One of the best things I've eaten so far this year)
12 - Ikura
13 - Uni (Santa Barbara)
14 - Blue Crab Handroll
Shunji Japanese Cuisine 12244 W Pico Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90064
I've taken folks on various roadtrips before and have even explained my strategy to folks....you need to have a basic plan of eating....what needs to be consumed right away and what you can take home, something that might even taste better later. You have to approach things with a rather balanced approach....you can't be like PeterL, who tasted a beef roll for the first time and just went after it,even when I told him we'd be getting another; possibly an even better version later.....which of course, he was too full to eat, along with the Xiao Long Bao, Shenjian Bao, etc, etc.... Just because he got greedy.
A recent, really fun roadtrip is a good example of the fun we have. We did a good deal of shopping in between meals and the Missus and I had a blast....and lots of left-overs to boot. I won't delve too much into the food since these are places I've posted on at least twice before.
Song Long - Cha Ca Thang Long for breakfast:
So this is enough for the two of us.........
As I've mentioned in previous posts, this place has become a favorite of the Missus. They open early; we hit them up at just after 9am and the place was empty. For some reason the Missus really likes the Banh Trand Me here and will eat it up before the Cha Ca arrives.
We like this version of cha ca thang long.....but it really won't keep so we had this for breakfast.
The one thing being that the mam nem is the gift that keeps on giving....as in every time you burp, you'll be reminded of what you had for breakfast....until lunch of course.
Song Long Restaurant 9361 Bolsa Ave Suite 108 Westminster, CA 92683
Tasty Noodle House - for my favorite Tianjin Baozi:
So, in my mind jiaozi, xiao long bao, and to a certain extent shenjian bao will not keep. Baozi is kinda iffy; it won't be quite as good, but can be passable. For me; the version at Tasty Noodle House is my current favorite. After going about taking care of shopping and stuff we made it to this part of San Gabriel....even with all the detours and road closures by 11am. It's a tiny restaurant, so it can get filled quite quickly.
For me, the item here is the Tianjin Baozi....but the Missus felt guilty about just ordering one item for the both of us, so we started with some Fried Intestine....hey, who doesn't love fried intestine?
Somewhere between 2006 and 2009, I really developed a taste for deep fried pork rectum...to the point that the Missus says when I die, I'll be headed to the "giant chitlin in the sky". These were crisp and easy to eat; though I'm not a big fan of dipping it into hoisin sauce.
There's something wonderfully yeasty about these that just takes me back to China. The bun is light and not too sweet; there's just a bit more than a smear of meat but it is also very light.....there's a nice ginger flavor that comes through which really refreshes the palate.
Tasty Noodle House 827 W Las Tunas Dr San Gabriel, CA 91776
When we start thinking in terms of "what's next", it's items that can either: keep real well, or have really assertive flavors. On this trip it meant.....
Hunan Chilli King - almost five years later:
It's been a while since we'd been here.......this is where I first understood what the term "big spicy" really meant. I also remember getting "maced" by the leftovers that I heated in the microwave. I'd been craving spicy food recently; the Sichuan in San Diego is quite timid and doesn't cut it, so it was time to return.
We started with the basic "three steamed meats".....
See the chili seeds? This was kind of spicy and was what we called a two out of three...the smoked pork (la rou) was excellent; the chicken (how lamented that they don't seem to serve duck anymore) was good, but the fish was really hard and chewy.....it was actually better then next day.
The one dish we were wondering about is a favorite of the Missus. It was a dish simply called "steamed eggplant" on the menu, but was so good that I've made this a couple of times. It has not quite reached the heights of the dish as made at Hunan Chill King though. However, it had been quite a while since we had it and wondered if it had withstood the test of time.
Well, it has....though it wasn't quite as salty as we recalled. It was also really spicy when we had the leftovers the next day.....still a great dish though.
As a bonus; we got our fun "San Gabriel sign" fix here as well.
Hunan Chilli King 524 East Valley Boulevard San Gabriel, CA 91776
Shufeng Garden - my take-out go to joint:
We had to stop by Rowland Heights on the way back to San Diego....so it made sense to stop by a take-out favorite of mine; Shufeng Garden. For some reason, it was really quite on this day.
There are basically two dishes I get from here....and perhaps some Liang Cai (cold dishes), we really need to stop by for a sit down meal again someday, but it's always the situation of "so many places to try....so little time".
Anyway, for us it's the Tea Smoked Duck:
And the Sliced Pork with Garlic Sauce.
This makes for some really good take-out....though I think Sammy may disagree.......
I guess he doesn't have quite the same taste in spicy foods as we do!
Shufeng Garden 18459 Colima Road Rowland Heights, CA 91748
We left San Bruno at a bit after 5am the night after having a wonderful meal at Wakuriya. We decided on grabbing lunch in LA, then doing a couple of errands, then heading straight home.
We stopped at "fragrant" Harris Ranch for gas and bought some stuff for Da' Boyz. What was really funny was that the Missus had never been back to LA this way.....so when I turned off at Gilroy, She asked me "why the hell are we taking side streets!!!"
Now if you recall, this was during the first weekend of December, which was the coldest of the year. The Missus told me to take a break and She'd drive until we reached Castaic. I dozed off, but awoke when the Missus told me, "hey, check this out!" We were on the Grapevine at the Tejon Pass and my god, it was snowing........like sideways snow. Now you have to remember, I'm a kid from Hawaii, the Missus didn't learn how to drive until She moved to the US......in LA. We don't drive in snow.....
I looked ahead......I told the Missus, "you see those vehicles in front of us? Those are snowplows!" Yep, at the Northern tip of LA County......snowplows....
This was something very different for us.....and yes, the Missus was actually fascinated by the experience.
We were very lucky, they had closed the Tejon Pass about 15 minutes later. A few minutes more and we'd had been caught in a traffic jam. Here's what it looked like in Castaic.....
We made it to our lunch destination right on time; a shade after 11am. We'd been wanting to return to Yai Restaurant for a while. Alot of water had passed under the bridge since that visit in 2006; we'd been to Thailand, Laos, had our favorites in San Diego, and were wondering if our impression of Yai would be the same.
Yai resides on the outskirts of "Thai Town". It's a no frills, no pretense, simply furnished joint. I kind of believe that what Yai does best is are Chinese influenced Thai dishes.
We ordered the two dishes that really made an impression years ago and went with one I was interested in trying.
One of the dishes that we really enjoyed was the BBQ Duck with Chili and Garlic ($10.95).
This was definitely not visually appealing. It did have that wonderful sweet-garlic flavor, though it was a bit on the greasy side. The duck was also on the chewy side, but had a really nice flavor.
The Black Egg Pow ($8.95)
So good, just the way we recalled. I don't ever recall seeing this dish anywhere else. Preserved duck egg is deep fried, then combined with a wonderfully sweet and savory sauce that captures classic Thai flavors.
The fried basil leaves add a crunchiness and a mildly sweet-herbaceous flavor to the dish. The preserved eggs have a wonderful texture, the exterior crunch, yields to the firm egg, then gives way to a creamy center. There's a slight sulphuric - musty finish that I find pleasant in a strange sort of way. This is one of my "desert island dishes".
This is simply called Roast Pork with Chinese Broccoli ($8.95) on the menu and is actually crisp roast pork with gailan. But this dish is more than just a description. I'm not sure where they get that roast pork, but it is simply wonderful. It almost melts in your mouth.
This was a nice way to end our roadtrip....it's always gratifying to visit places you really enjoyed years ago and find they're still putting out good grub.
Yai Restaurant 5757 Hollywood Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90028
Today, you can read about Tina and Ed (from Yuma) touristing and eating in the LA area. Tomorrow, it’ll probably be Kirk or Cathy writing. Things change at mmm-yoso.
The Huntington in San Marino (not far from San Gabriel) contains a wonderful Library, rooms full of Art collections, and botanical Gardens:
The estate of approximately 120 acres contains huge lawns decorated with statuary:
Flowers blooming even in late December:
The major art collection in the Huntington mansion includes the largest selection of English portraits outside of London, including Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy” and Lawrence's “Pinkie:
When we were there in December, 2013, the gallery in this building below contained an extensive exhibit, called "Face to Face," that focused on how Flemish painting influenced and contributed to the great art of 15th-century Florence and presented over 30 works by Memling, van der Weyden, van Eyck, and other greats:
Of course, Tina and I were also interested in the traditional tea buffet in the Rose Garden Tea Room ($29.50). Classical chamber music played in the background perfectly accenting the understated elegance of the room itself:
Each table had basic tea condiments – lumps of brown or white sugar and a small pitcher of milk:
When seated, we were given a large basket of buttery and flaky scones, each about the diameter of an old silver dollar, all rich and flavorful:
As you can see, some had raisins and some orange peel. There was also a small tray of complements for the scones – blueberry preserves, orange marmalade (made from Seville oranges grown on the estate), fresh butter, and sweet Devonshire cream:
A large range of teas including many flower or herbal teas without caffeine were available. Since we were having tea as a Saturday brunch, we chose good, old-fashioned English breakfast, which was flavorful but not astringent or bitter:
I have to admit to being slightly disappointed in the utilitarian teapot, which was refilled when needed. For some reason, I had expected something more ornate in sterling silver.
After gorging ourselves on scones – certainly the best either of us had ever had – we filled plates with treats from the buffet in the middle of the room. Here is Tina's first plate:
My first plate:
My 2nd plate:
From a different angle emphasizing the fruit:
This was all generally good. Tina's favorite sandwich was the cucumber. I liked the chicken and tarragon, the ginger and carrot and especially the smoked salmon with dilled cream cheese. The caviar was abundant, crunchy, and not too salty or fishy. The hummus, which looked pretty ordinary, was actually extraordinarily complex and flavorful. We both thought the lightly smoked Gouda was the best of the cheeses that we tried. Some of the fruit – I remember the giant strawberry in particular – was truly excellent. Of course the salads were fresh and tasty. It took great restraint to only have 2 plates of food along with the wonderful scones. Had we scheduled The Rose Garden Tea Room in the middle of our visit to the Huntington (instead of 10:45 am), we might well have sat there for a couple of hours sipping and savoring the various treats.
If I’d spent more time, I could have even sampled the numerous brownies, cookies, and cupcakes that I forgot to photograph. But I did take some snaps of the roses outside:
In any case, we had a wonderful time at the Huntington, and we both want to thank Kirk who reminded us about the traditional English tea room on the estate.
The Rose Garden Tea Room, at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Rd San Marino, CA 91108; Tea Room hours Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 12 noon to 4:30 p.m. (last seating at 3:30 p.m.); Sat. - Sun.: 10:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (last seating at 3:30 p.m.); Closed Tuesdays; (626) 683-8131. Link to The Huntington http://www.huntington.org/
This post isn't about a Kirk Road Trip or one by Cathy. This post is about a meal Ed (from Yuma) and Tina had on a road trip exploring a little of the culture and cuisines in the LA area.
Tina and I were staying in Montebello, just south of Monterey Park. Saturday night was going to be our last dinner in the area. Of course, we would eat Chinese food, but Tina insisted “no seafood.” We were looking for something reasonable, no frills, no stress. Thanks to some postsby Kirk, we decided to try a Shanghai style dinner at Giang Nan – if we could find the small restaurant at the backend of a small anonymous strip mall at 306 N. Garfield. Luckily for us, it was all lit up for the holidays:
We were fairly early, so there were few other customers in the small restaurant when we arrived, and the place was not full even later when we left:
The restaurant seemed clean and nicely if sparingly decorated. The service was also friendly and knowledgeable – our young female waitperson was very helpful and pleasant. The menu was extensive and offered us a lot of choices, so we found some dishes we knew we wanted, but we just guessed about others.
We began with chicken in wine sauce ($4.95):
This cold chicken appetizer tasted fresh and clean with a light background flavor of the wine sauce. Very enjoyable.
The duck in supreme sauce ($5.95) was also pleasant. The thick sauce had a pronounced 5 spice flavor and complemented the chilled leg and thigh of roast duck. Sweet spice and savory flavors matching the cool rich duck flesh:
We felt we got lucky with our order of shredded pork and bamboo shoots ($5.95). Really enjoyed the textures of the pork, bamboo shoots, and green onions. The dish was lightly sauced so that each ingredient was present and accounted for. Of course, I am a huge fan of bamboo shoots since I just love their earthy woodsy flavor and unique texture, but it is hard to imagine anyone not relishing this dish:
We wanted a purely vegetable dish and braised green beans and shredded potato sounded different and interesting:
The dish arrived at our table still steaming hot. The green beans were perfectly cooked and the sauce, dark as it looked, was not too salty or overwhelming. Only the potato strips, which tasted too soft, like they came from a package of frozen french fries, were somewhat disappointing. Still they provided a bland and soft contrast to the crispier green flavored beans.
Our helpful waitperson had suggested that we have some rice with the meal, and when I asked her to recommend a particular rice dish, she eagerly pointed to the salted pork and vegetable rice ($5.95):
Her recommendation was spot on. In some ways, this was the most impressive thing we tasted all evening. The greens, the slightly salty pork belly chunks, and the hot, almost creamy rice were well balanced and the layered flavors of the dish all worked together. We thanked her a couple of different times for the recommendation.
The last item to arrive was an order of pork xiao long bao ($4.95):
These were really good. Although a couple of them had lost some soup, every one was wonderfully juicy:
The pork flavors of the dumplings were excellent, and the wrappers neither too thick nor too tough. We also appreciated their somewhat small size. Once they cooled just a little bit, they were perfect one-bite treats. It seemed odd to receive them at the end of the meal, but we had no trouble gobbling them all up. Just like a desert, I guess.
Not only was this a very reasonably priced dinner,:
but we received so much food that it was also our Sunday brunch as well, and we still felt bad throwing some leftovers away. Giang Nan is certainly not a fancy restaurant, but we will happily return for rustic Shanghai cuisine the next time we are in the area.
Giang Nan, 306 N Garfield Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91754, (626) 573-3421; Open 11 am - 3pm, and 5pm - 10 pm daily
Please pardon all the roadtrip posts. I wanted to do this one, because this place just put us in the holiday mood. We decided to head up to LA to do some shopping this past weekend, mostly food stuff. On our previous roadtrip (more posts coming up), instead of visting sites and such, we just ended up hitting various markets along the way. On this roadtrip, we hit up old favorites like the Torrance Farmer's Market, which seems to get larger everytime we visit and of course, Marukai Gardena, the motherlode with regards to Marukai's. But I had my sights set on another place that I'd only recently heard about; the Alpine Village Market, located close by in Torrance.
The Market is located in a large complex, called...duh.... Alpine Village. Along with the market, a deli, and restaurant and ummm "bierhall" (of course), there's a travel agency, driving school, clock and watch repair, along with the mother of all swap meets, which made the parking lot into an insane swarm of vehicles trying to find a parking spot. We lucked out and found a tiny spot to the left of the rather kitschy looking exterior of the market.
I was totally set on being underwhelmed, but this place exceeded my expectations. The market isn't very large but they sure pack a lot into the place.
From the bakery, with stacks of wonderful smelling bread.
And all the old school type pastries. It's a good thing I don't have a sweet tooth, otherwise I'd have gone a bit crazy here. The couple in front of me at the register bought three loaves of bread and spent almost $300 bucks on groceries. Kind of tough, since the prices seem very reasonable.
There are all sorts of candies and confections, canned and jarred products.
This is a German market, so of course a third of it would be the wine and beer section.
This was all nice, but the one section that was just packed to the gills busy was the butcher shop. The line was four to five deep. Man the place was hopping.
The collection of sausages and charcuterie was impressive......
I was told that all of this was made in house. There were sausages and cuts, I'd never heard of. There was a cold case full of various "wursts", but no one was taking stuff from there....it was all happening in front of the meat counter.
One look at the selection of head cheese and we were sold; the Missus took and number and headed into the fray.
Honestly, if this were say 99 Ranch Market and a survival of the strongest type situation, we'd truly have walked away. But this crowd, though busy and intense, also had a bit of jovial, friendly nature to it. Perhaps it was the holiday season, but as nice as the crew behind the counter were (and they were very nice), the other customers were really friendly, at least to us. I guess we kind of stood out.....
Back in the line, the Missus was having a conversation with an African-American gentleman originally from Louisiana, who seemed to know everyone....he told the Missus he came here every two weeks. He had a basket full of smoked beef bones for his dogs. The Missus decided to send me off looking for these....which is how I came across this:
Grieben Schmalz, which I had heard off but never seen in a market. When you hear the term schmalz, you tend to think of the Yiddish "schmaltz" which refers to rendered fat from fowl......grieben schmalz on the other hand is rendered pork fat....think lard, that has been flavored with onion and in many cases, though not this one, with apple. How could I resist? I grabbed five beef bones and a container of schmalz and a older woman looked at what I had in my basket, smiled, and asked me, "you like schmalz?" I tols her that I'd never tried it, but seeing it, I just couldn't resist. I was told it is fantastic on toast. I mentioned that my wife is standing in line to buy head cheese. She asked me which one we chose....I told her all of them. She laughed and said we would have a fine buffet. Apparently, her daughter brings her here every two weeks to shop; "even though I live in Orange County and there are shops there, everything is twice the price and half as good as here....."
Interesting tidbit about buying deli meats.....the counter folks ask you for quantities in "slices"......though they were ok with the Missus ordering a quarter pound....of all the head cheeses.
Thus we ended up with a basket of smoked dog bones, head cheese, some candy, flavored lard, and three containers of sauekraut, purely for comparison of course......
All our stuff came out to $35, pretty cheap I think. I'm sure we'll be back again, this time for sausages, and perhaps more Grieben Schmalz.
Alpine Village Market 833 Torrance Blvd Torrance, CA 90502 Hours: Mon - Thurs 10am - 7pm Fri - Sun 9am - 7pm
So we did end up having our "Kaltes Buffet" of sorts. So remember the variety of head cheese? Well here's sampling along with what seems to be cured pork belly stuffed with forcemeat....simply called "pork belly", along with a few cheeses.
My favorites are the top two; the "Norweigan" seemed to be made of shank and shoulder, with a nice pork flavor, no vinegar, with minimal aspic to hold it together. The second one down is the "Hungarian" version, which was full of various vegetables and some pickles, with a distinctive flavor that I found pleasant. The fourth item down, the "French" version had a good amount of paprika and reminded me of capacolla with a bit of pleasant sourness to it.
As for the schmalz....well, I started by tasting some of it straight from the container on a spoon, which tasted nice, but the Missus just wasn't able to eat it that way.
So what I did was toast some baguette, smear a bit of the schamlz on it and put back into the warm toaster oven to melt.
It is "betta' den butta'".....
While this won't make me forget about duck fat; it sure will taste good with eggs or used to make brussel sprouts...or heck, even if we do cook some coleslaw......
After lunch at Shanghailander Palace we made the short drive to Gale and the City of industry for our appointment. We had thoughts of getting our appointment done and having an early dinner and possibly a later snack. Unfortunately, what is usually an hour appointment became a 2 1/2 hour one. Kind of bushed we decided to just stay in the area. We hadn't been to the area on Gale west of Fullerton Road in ages and I had a choice of two places; Remy's or Xi'an Kitchen.
The choice became rather easy as I've been looking for good Shaanxi food since we returned from Xi'an a couple of years ago. The places we've tried just didn't measure up. We didn't set our hopes too high....I just really wanted a good Yang Rou Pao Mo, unleavened bread in mutton soup.
The place was totally different in terms of service from lunch; the young lady here just wanted to do the bare minimum. She was more interested in talking to her friends on one of the tables than serving customers. In fact, when the older couple on the back table, returned the Yang rou chuan; the lamb skewers, because they thought it was too fatty, she loudly and blatantly mocked them when taking it back to the kitchen.
I was fascinated to see Rou Jia Mo on the menu as "Chinese Hamburger". This is basically a flat bread filled with fatty pork. What's not to like. In my mind, I thought if this was half as good as what we had at Fan Ji La Zhi Rou Jia Mo (樊记腊汁肉店), I should be happy. With that as the benchmark, I guess I should be satisfied.
The filling was rich and greasy, with a good porkiness, just about right. It was however, ice cold, which made it somewhat unpleasant. The bread was over-worked and too dense , repelling the wonderful porky goodness of something like this version from Xi'an:
The Yang Rou Pao Mo tasted almost exactly like the version at Shaanxi Gourmet, so perhaps these two places are somehow related?
In places such as Tong Sheng Xiang (同盛祥) in Xi'an, the dense unleavened bread is brought to your table whereupon you break the pieces up and the hot mutton broth is poured over everything. I didn't expect that here, could you imagine the young lady having her social time interrupted for those annoying customers? Anyway, like Shaanxi Gourmet, the bread was wrong, very waxy and slippery, seemingly over-worked, developing too much gluten. Thus the bread never absorbed the flavor of the broth, which was decent, and the nice and flavorful lamb.
Of course I was wishing for something along the lines of this.
No cilantro, chili paste, or pickled garlic either...perhaps I needed to ask for those standard accompaniments? So, I recall saying that Shaanxi Gourmet didn't quite take me to Xi'an....perhaps to New Guinea; this one took me to Catalina Island........ Still, the portion size was quite large, and would fill one up quite adequately.
We ordered one other item; called "Braised Meat in Fermented Sauce", basically preserved meat.
We both loved the texture of this cold dish, though it was pretty salty. Still, this was the best dish of the evening.
The prices here are very reasonable, but you get what you pay for. I'll pass next time....should have gotten Niu Rou Mian next door at Remy's.
Xi'an Kitchen 18213 E Gale Ave City of Industry, CA 91748
After dinner, we decided to drive up Fullerton Road into La Habra, then to Imperial to check out one of the Missus's old favorite haunts; Brea Mall. For some reason, the place just looked dull and uninspiring to the Missus....ah, how times have changed. After walking off dinner we crossed over the 57 and checked out Mother's where the Missus bought some apples....which seemed to be the theme of this roadtrip; the Missus bought apples everywhere; Braeburn, Black Arkansas, Crimson Gold; we got back home with a bag full of apples....go figure!
We ended the evening at Daiso....the Missus bought some trinkets for some friends. If I recall, this used to be a dance studio, which I think has moved further down the strip mall.
In what seemed oddly humorous to me; they kept announcing how many minutes to closing from the time we entered....830 pm, every five minutes! By the demeanor of the staff you could see that they just wanted us the heck out of the store; it was easy to read between the lines here. "Attention Daiso customers, don't go away mad....just go away!!!" After escaping from Daiso, we walked over to 85C bakery, where we soon noticed all the other folks who had gotten kicked out left Daiso had gathered. Daiso refugees one and all!
What was really sad is that the Albertson's, which used to anchor this strip mall is now gone. We hated the Von's in Rowland Heights, which became SF Supermarket, so we used to shop here every so often. I'm not the biggest fan of these mega-chains, but we had nice memories of the place.
So Von's in Rowland Heights is gone, Albertson's in Hacienda Heights, along with Ralph's off of Colima Road in Hacienda Heights, and Ralph's in Diamond Bar. Wow........
We crashed early, deciding to leave for the next leg of our roadtrip early; like 530 am early. The Missus wanted to stop by Donut King in the same strip mall for a cup of coffee, for old times sake.
When we lived here, Donut King used to be open 24 hours....now they open at 3am. I'm still amazed that the place survives with Krispy Creme literally a block away and all the Asian Bakeries, but there were a couple of folks in the place at 530, so I guess they're hanging on.
It's been over a decade since we left this neighborhood.....we mulled over all the changes as we headed off into the early morning darkness......