07/5/15

My first Randy’s Donuts & Foodie Periscope Broadcast

I got married two weeks ago. I am so happy that myself and Chris are finally husband and wife. Not just because he is the most wonderful person that I have ever met – and he is – but also because it means that I am now no longer planning a wedding. Everything went great – yay for Etsy! – but boy did it take up nearly every spare moment of my life. Which, of course, meant just about no time to blog. I did a lot of Instagram posting though so don’t forget to follow me over there with the same Doughgasm name. I love following other foodies too so let me know your account name too.

Speaking of foodie social media, I recently discovered Periscope broadcasts. If you haven’t heard of Periscope, it is an app that is like a cross between Snapchat and Twitter but with streaming video. People smartphones to run personal streams and anybody else using the app can join and watch a slice of somebody’s life through their eyes.

People are using Periscope to share everything from city tours, makeup tutorials and news events.  It is still such a new thing that there aren’t a huge number of people using it but since Twitter is behind Periscope, it is being given a big push and  I am seeing more and more people starting Periscope broadcasts everyday.

Not shockingly, foodies are recognizing the possibilities and using Periscope to do cooking demonstrations and food reviews. I was on Periscope for about day before I was itching to do my own foodie Periscope broadcast.

Randy's Donuts

This morning, we decided head on down Randy’s Donuts to do my first food Periscope broadcast. Despite having lived in Los Angeles for nearly three years now, this was also my first visit to the Los Angeles foodie institution.

I wasn’t exactly sure how to do a Periscope broadcast that would really draw in foodies. Figuring that jumping in at the deep end was the way to go, I began my Periscope broadcast as soon as we got into the line at Randy’s.

The first step was to give the broadcast a name. That is important because otherwise, other Periscope users aren’t going to know what my Scope (what an individual broadcast is called) is about and most likely won’t watch it.

Periscope broadcast

I used hashtags because the Periscope account is attached to my Doughgasm Twitter account and has the option of sending out a tweet when I go live on a broadcast. As long as I keep those tags within the first 140 characters of the Periscope title, the tags will be active on Twitter.

Randy’s Donuts was fairly busy this morning which resulted in a pretty long wait. That turned out to be okay for the Periscope broadcast because it kept us on around long enough for people to find the scope and start chatting to me.

As I showed the viewers the menu at Randy’s Donuts they started to give me advice on which donuts I should order. Some of them based on their own experience of Randy’s and some just on what sounded good to them. Either way, it was a lot of fun to be sharing the experience.  As you can see in the image, the chat from the Periscope broadcast viewers comes up as text messages on the screen.

Periscope conversation

The broadcaster, on the other hand, is communicating through voice.

This came more into play when it was time to show off the donuts we had bought. I could  describe the texture and taste of the donuts in detail while using the camera to get up close and show the audience that detail. This glazed donut, for example has a wonderfully springy nature to the dough and I was able to let them see me squeeze into that dough while describing how it felt under my fingers.

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The chocolate old fashioned donut that I had was an entirely different donut in both texture and taste. I enjoyed being able to live review both donuts and explain the differences in both as I was trying them rather than having the delay between eating and blogging.

food Periscope

The hearts you are seeing one the right hand of the picture are a reward of appreciation from viewers. When they like something that is being done in a Periscope broadcast they tap the screen and hearts float up the side. The hearts that you collect in each Periscope broadcast go towards your overall heart count. The more hearts you have, the higher you appear on the Periscope account list and the easier you are for people to find and follow you.

Overall, the donuts at Randy’s Donuts were tasty. I’m not sure they were mind blowing but I wouldn’t say no to going there again. Especially with most of the donuts costing between 80 cents and a dollar. The actual glaze on the glazed donut managed not to be overly sweet which made working my way through the fluffy dough monster all the more enjoyable.

The chocolate old fashioned, on the other hand, had topping which was more of a fudgy frosting than a glaze. After a few bites it became much too sweet for my tastes but the actual donut itself was a tasty enough chocolate cake that I kept going (fat girl problems) until that slab of cake was finished. If I wasn’t lactose intolerance, I would have said a tall glass of milk to be it’s perfect pairing,

Without a doubt, sharing the experience on Periscope is what truly made going to Randy’s Donut’s memorable.

If you aren’t on Periscope, now is the perfect time to check it out. The community is growing at a rapid pace and, from what I have seen, it has the potential to become a huge player in the social media world.

You can find the Periscope app in the Apple App store or on Google Play for Android devices. Their is also a Periscope App website with links and a development blog.

Once you have joined, don’t forget to follow me on Periscope. You can find me there as Doughgasm.  If you tell me you found me through this post, I will be sure to follow you back!

Periscope profile

Before I go, here is the video from the portion of my Periscope broadcast where I reviewed the donuts. The saved file doesn’t show the chat text or hearts. So, you are only hearing one side of the conversation but you will get a good look at donuts we bought and hear the donut review.

12/16/14

Western Burgers and Garlic Fries at Rounds Premium Burgers

As American as apple pie. That is how the saying goes but it could probably be argued that said honor should rightfully belong to the hamburger. Wherever I have been in the world,it is the one dish which is universally associated with the United States. Fried chicken might be a distant second place.

When you stop and think about most other food we think of as quintessentially American though,most of it has its roots elsewhere. Pizza is clearly Italian. Hotdogs hint back to Germany and anywhere else that served sausage with bread. Even the hamburger’s best buddy the French fry has its roots in Belgium and France.

Hamburgers,however,are about as American as it gets.

Good then to see that we’ve started to take pride in our culinary heritage by demanding more from our fast food hamburgers than a microwaved patty of questionable origin. From Five Guys to Umami Burger and The Counter, higher quality burger experiences are now available across a spectrum of price points. Some of which aren’t too far removed from the drive through giants.

Particularly true in the Los Angeles area where you could eat at a different high end burger joint every night of the week and still not scratched them all off your foodie bucket list.

As with all things,some gourmet burger places in Los Angeles are better than others. Finding somewhere that cooks the burger just the way you like it is part of the battle .  From there, it comes down to who does the combination of burger toppings that has you coming back for more.

For the past year or so, that place for us has been Rounds Premium Burgers. Chris was seduced by a spot we saw done on them during a show on The Cooking Channel because the burger they were highlighting – The Western – was a burger without cheese.

He doesn’t eat cheese and so he has either had to avoid most featured burgers on menus or ask to have the cheese left off. Nobody has ever refused to do that but if the flavors were built with cheese as one of the ingredients then he isn’t really getting the experience the chef had intended.

We headed on over to give the Western Burger from Rounds Premium Burger a try and found it to be delicious. The beef patty was cooked to order (medium in our case),dressed with barbecue sauce,bacon and crispy onion strings.

western burger

Juicy beef and crispy bacon strips worked together to make the Western Burger a particularly succulent burger. I was a bit unsure about the onion strings because of my life long hatred of raw onions. Cooked onions are good but I straight out hate raw onions and onion rings can be raw onion roulette. If cooked properly they are great but often enough the onion is just the wrong side of raw. Rounds Premium Burgers got it just right. The onion strings were crispy on the outside and had the texture and taste of a grilled onion on the inside. All of it was brought together but a rich barbecue sauce that relies on tang rather than heat to wake the taste buds.

Since that first visit, we have been back to to Rounds Premium Burgers a bunch of times. More often than not, we end up at their West Hollywood branch but lately we’ve gone to the Pasadena one. While the Pasadena branch certainly has a better parking situation, I have to take a moment to say that what really make the WeHo location special is the service.

We have had the same two members of counter staff serve us each time that we have gone and we have never failed to be impressed with their friendliness and quality of service. On our second visit, we were truly impressed that the gent behind the counter not only remembered us but knew our past order as soon as we walked in. The owners of the WeHo branch should make efforts to hang onto their staff because they are something special.

Over our visits, Chris has remained a devotee to the Western Burger whilst I have made my way through their premium burgers menu. The most unique of which has been the PB&J which is topped with caramelized onions, bacon and peanut butter and jelly. Yup, I said peanut butter and jelly on a burger. It was super messy to eat but it worked a lot better than I would have thought. Perhaps they could use the peanut butter to develop some sort of satay sauce for a new burger. I’d be sure to try that.

Apart from their set menu, Rounds Premium Burgers also has a build your own burger option. On recent visits, I’ve been playing around with that.

rounds premium burger

My latest combination was the burger in the above photo which was made up of a beef patty, mild cheddar, sauteed mushrooms, grilled onions and a garlic aioli. Nom nom!

garlic fries

I’d feel like I was doing Rounds Premium Burgers a disservice if I didn’t mention their garlic fries. They are super good and not at all for somebody who is even the slightest bit worried about getting garlic breath. Just take a look at them and the chunks of real garlic that is piled on top. My tip is to eat them hot. They are still good when they cool down but hot and fresh out of the fryer is how they are meant to be enjoyed. You will need some strong breath mints afterwards but it is worth it for those crispy garlic fries.

 

12/9/14

Did I just find the best cupcake in Pasadena?

As of late, we have been spending a good amount of time in Pasadena. Of all the places we have been so far in the Los Angeles area,Pasadena feels the most ‘us’. Perhaps one day we will set up home there but for now we are having fun exploring. With me around, that is always going to include checking out the foodie scene.

Happily, I can report that Pasadena has a very healthy foodie scene indeed. Putting aside the plethora of independent food spots, the town has its own outposts of Dupars, Rounds Premium Burgers and Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. Factor in the inclusion an Arclight movie theater and just about everything that I have come to enjoy in LA is within a few well-manicured blocks of one another.  Oh and Old Pasadena alone has a British pub (though really it is a wannabe style place but I’ll take it) and at least three Indian places that I counted.  So, yeah,I could probably be happy in Pasadena.

By the standards of a foodie, no town can be given a proper thumbs up without the availability of decent cupcakes.  Really. I’m not sure I trust somebody that would turn their nose up to a good cupcake. To be fair though, cupcakes are a bit of a thing for me. It isn’t an accident that a cupcake ended up in the hand of the Doughgasm girlie. So, maybe others don’t give them such prominence in their foodie rating system but I do and that meant checking out the cupcakes of Pasadena.

In the Summer, I dragged Chris to a food truck event at the Rose Bowl. It is one of those events where you pay a hefty price to get in but then you are able to sample from all of the vendors once you are inside. I’m a bit of a sucker for them and this one and the LA Weekly event in the Spring are the two I make a point of attending. Each year, I discover a bunch of places that we then go visit throughout the rest of the year.  Already since this year’s LA food truck event we have become regulars at Short Order and Salt & Straw (how have I note done an entry about them yet?!?)  purely off the back of having tried their samples at the event.

Now we can add ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake to that list. At the food truck event, Chris was particularly taken with their Brown Butter Bacon cookie. I think it may have been one of only a few dishes that drew him back for a second helping. On my part, I was just happy to be trying a cupcake from a bakery that had won on Cupcake Wars.

Purely by accident, we found ourselves driving by their storefront on our first day out in Pasadena. For a moment we considered exercising restraint but then we regained our senses and headed in to check out what ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cakes had to offer.

Chocolate cake is a good benchmark of the quality of a cupcake place for me. Remarkably few get it right. Lack of a real chocolate taste or moisture are the most frequent casualties. So, on our first visit to ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake, I gave their Black + White cupcake a try.  My thumbs went up as soon as I tasted the dark chocolate cake. It was super moist and I could taste the chocolate. Which, if you are going to say something is dark chocolate is a requirement. Also pleasing was the creamy vanilla frosting. It was light and fluffy with just the right level of sweetness to contract the dark chocolate.

Chris went all out chocolate and had their Chocolate + Chocolate cupcake. It certainly looked delightful and from his reports it was every bit as tasty as my cupcake.

Cool, I thought. We found a cupcake place we like and we can go back to now and then. Now and then has turned into most weekends for the past month. At this stage it may all be bordering on an addiction. Doughgasms  have a tendency to be habit forming. Understandable when each time we’ve gone to ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake the cupcake I’ve had has been even better than the previous offering.

Much of the enjoyment for me is the creativity shown in their menu. I’ve never seen much point to having a vast cupcake menu if most of them never see the light of day. For the most part that leaves you with the same red velvet and yellow cake with chocolate frosting cupcakes that is on everybody’s menu. ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake has those too but each time there has  also been something truly different to tickle my taste buds.

Deciding to try the Nutella Supreme cupcake was a bit of a ‘duh’. The base vanilla bean cupcake was ultra moist and of overall high quality.

Nutella Supreme Cupcake

Looking at the frosting on the Nutella cupcake, I made the assumption that it would have been a hard set frosting. Most likely, that illusion was created by the liberal scattering of hazelnut chunks. I was pleasingly surprised when I bit into the cupcake to find that the chocolate-hazelnut frosting was actually a super light whipped frosting. Both the taste and the consistency created by the pairing of the frosting with sizable chopped hazelnuts resulted in a sensation reminiscent of of a Ferrero Rocher. Rarely a bad thing.

Next up on the ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake adventures was the Chocolate Bacon Caramel cupcake.  I was skeptical. The whole bacon in baked goods thing has been pretty well played out now. To the point where I’ve nearly forgotten that I rather like bacon. Kind of like when you like a song but you’ve heard it too many times that it has become more of an annoyance than entertainment.  Salted Caramel is also something that tends to make me a doubter because it is one of my favorite flavor profiles but there are so many lackluster salted caramel offerings from shops that think you just need to chuck a bit of sea salt on something for it to qualify.

My doubts were completely unjustified. The chocolate bacon caramel cupcakes were amazingly good. Letting the ingredients do the talking was the trick. The moist dark chocolate cupcake had a rich chocolate taste, the fudge frosting was dense enough to hold up to the caramel and bacon topping but light enough to not dominate.

The caramel and bacon were so buttery and yummy that I probably would have licked the excess caramel off of the paper if we hadn’t been eating it on a public street. That’s how a fat girl ends up a Vine meme!

It will take some doing for another cupcake shop to make a bacon cupcake that I enjoy more than I enjoyed the Chocolate Bacon Caramel cupcake from ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake.

As great as those cupcakes have been though, this weekend’s visit to ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake I had the best cupcake I have had in a very long time.  Even better, it was unlike any other cupcake I have had in my life. I’m talking about the Armaaan Baklava Cupcake.

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I mean look at this thing! Have you ever seen a cupcake with baklava on the top? If you have leave the name of the shop in the comments so I can try it out because if it is anything like this baklava cupcake then it is something special.

From Chris’s account, I pulled a true Doughgasm face when I bit into the baklava cupcake for the first time. I couldn’t help it. There were simply so many sensations going on in one bite.

The baklava nest on top had a satisfying crunch which pushed down onto what I thought was the frosting. It turned out that it wasn’t frosting at all but instead it was a vanilla whipped cream. Delicate in texture but beautifully flavored with specks of vanilla bean. All of that before we even get to the actual cupcake itself.

Baklava Cupcake

It was so good that I am practically drooling thinking about it again.

Rather than going for a generic vanilla cupcake, they went all out and used a honey-almond cake. As with all of the cupcakes I have had from ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake, it was incredibly moist. Honey notes certainly came through but what really made the cake outstanding was the flavor of crystallized ginger that pulled everything together and delivered a touch of heat.

Truly one of the best cupcakes I have ever had. If the trend continues and the next cupcake I have from ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake is better than the Armaaan Baklava Cupcake then I might have to start up a Doughgasm award just so that I can send  it to them!

If your need for food porn hasn’t been satisfied by the abundance of cupcake photos, check out the video I put together of our various visits to ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake in Pasadena. You might want to get a tissue ready to clean the drool off your keyboard afterwards.

 

11/26/14

Roast Beef Sandwiches at Top Round Roast Beef

Between the premium burgers, artisanal hotdogs and handcrafted sodas, Los Angeles has become the land of elevated fast food.  So, maybe I should be surprised that there aren’t more places fixing to take on Arby’s style roast beef sandwich.

I’m not quite sure what happened to Arby’s place in the American fast food market. Throughout my childhood they were mentioned alongside McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s. In my part of Pennsylvania you would have also had to add Hardee’s and Roy Rogers (do they still exist?) to the list but Arby’s was most definitely there.  Then I moved to Europe and when I returned to live in the States they had shifted to being the the butt of jokes from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

A  bit of a shame since it is difficult to argue with the fundamental concept of roast beef between bread.

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We were both craving meat on Sunday. One of those cravings where you know you want something but not exactly what that something might be. We just knew that it had to be something with meaty juiciness to satisfy carnivorous urges.

Top Round Roast Beef (1000 S. La Brea Ave.) has been on our radar for a couple months. The nostalgic burger stand vibe caught our eye.  Signs pushing their roast beef and frozen custard offerings certainly didn’t hurt. Since we couldn’t come up with any other definitive solutions to our craving we decided to take our chances with them.

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Top Round Roast Beef doesn’t have a vast menu. More like a list of variations on a few base recipes. Which, to me can work in the favor of a restaurant if they really focus and get those base recipes right. After all, what are most pizza places than a basic cheese pizza that they then mix up through different combinations of toppings.

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In the case of Top Round Roast Beef, they do have hot dogs and chicken but the majority of the majority of the menu is made up of roast beef sandwiches and fries. Each of the roast beef sandwiches starts with seasoned slow cooked roast beef and au jus on a butter toasted bun.

From there it is a matter of selecting what else you want on the sandwich. If you want something  basic there is the Beef & Cheese which is the roast beef, homemade cheese ‘wizz’ and round sauce (think Arby’s Sauce) on an onion bun. More adventurous offerings include the Bar-B-Cue which is the only sandwich where the roast beef is chopped rather than sliced. It’s then topped with fried onions, jalapeno straws, their Bar-B-Cue sauce and  Provel cheese on the onion bun.

I was tempted by that one but the jalapenos resulted in my spicy heat wimp tendencies giving it the veto. Instead,I went for the Horse & Hole sandwich.  It is made up of the sliced roast beef, Provel cheese, horseradish cream and  roasted mushrooms on a sesame bun.  I don’t know why I can’t do spicy heat but that I enjoy horseradish and mustard intensity. Go figure.

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Chris- he had the Original Roast Beef without any toppings – and I had the same reaction when we bit into our sandwiches. Which boiled down to – wow, it is actual roast beef. I’m not sure what we were expecting. Likely we were weighing it up against the thin slices that are piled onto an Arby’s sandwich. Instead, this was juicy pink roast beef sliced to a medium thickness. Just what our taste buds had been craving.

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A big thumbs up for Top Round Roast Beef’s  Horse & Hole sandwich. I loved the taste and mouth feel of the smooth melty cheese combining with the earthy flavors of the mushrooms. Any danger of blandness was blown away by the horseradish cream. Depending on the bite it delivered either a lovely taste bud tingle  or a sinus clear out.

At $7.95 it was obviously more than I would have paid at Arby’s but it isn’t outrageous for Los Angeles and it was vastly better than I have ever had from them.

Top Round Roast Beef Curly Fries

I would be slacking if I didn’t mention the curly fries that I ordered as my side. They were incredible. Which sounds a bit crazy because there wasn’t anything fancy going on.  They were just real potatoes spiraled out and lightly salted. What probably makes the difference is that they are fried in real beef fat. I ended up devouring most of the order before any of them came anywhere near ketchup. Crazy good!

We’ll certainly be back to Top Round Roast Beef. The challenge will be to save enough room so that we can try that frozen custard.

 

 

 

08/7/14

Chocolate Custard Shakes At Short Order

Never let it be said that bribery doesn’t work when it comes to putting bums on restaurant seats. We tasted dozens of delicious recipes at last month’s LA Street Food Fest but only one  participant gave us the chance to try a free signature menu item if we visited their restaurant.

Short Order’s location at the Original Farmer’s Market next to The Grove has made it hard to miss. The final push that I needed to check them out came when they gave us tokens for a free custard milkshake just for visiting their booth. Custard? Milkshake? Yeah, that was happening.

Off we went, token in hand, to have brunch at Short Order. At first, it wasn’t looking especially promising as we waited patiently for a member of staff to notice us so that we could be seated. I’d blame it on them being super busy but there were only two other customers in the restaurant.

Short Order Los Angeles

Eventually, we were seated and from there everything was on the up. Our waitress recognized the custard shake tokens and said she had been one of the people handing them out. Sometimes when I am using a coupon for a free item I feel judged. Maybe like I am trying to get away with something?  Instead she made us feel that we were doing her a favor by responding to their promotion and proving it would bring new customers to the restaurant. That it did.

Mason Jar Glass

Not that long ago, I was lamenting about the apparent lack of good milkshakes in Los Angeles. Clearly, that was before I had tried the chocolate custard milkshake at Short Order.

For some reason, I had my camera set to black and white for the first few shots that I took during our meal at Short Order but even in those tones you can admire the perfect thickness of the shake.

Custard Milkshake

Thick enough that a straw can stand straight up in the chocolatey goodness but not so impossibly thick that you can’t drink it with the straw. In this case, it needed to be a super wide straw that was needed but that’s all the better.

Soon enough,I noticed that I had the wrong camera setting and switched over to color so that I could show you the shake in its full glory. Isn;t that toasty brown color inviting? The chocolate used to make the custard milkshakes is a rich tasting and not overly sweet. I’m a dark chocolate type of gal so that was spot on for my tastebuds.

Short Order Chocolate Custard Milkshake

We both agreed that it wouldn’t the the last time we had a custard milkshake at Short Order. There is a vanilla variety on the menu and I’ll probably try to to make myself try that but it is going to be difficult to bypass the chocolate.

Chocolate Custard Milkshake

The food we had alongside our milkshakes was also good. We both had the corned beef hash. It felt appropriate to have a breakfast-ish dish at brunch. Presented nicely in individual cast iron dishes, the Short Order corned beef hash was a step above normal greasy spoon hash.

Short Order Corned Beef Hash

The meat was a high quality corned beef brisket. The sort that has a nice chew and just enough bits of delicious fat in the mix to make the corned beef even more delicious. The rest of the dish consisted of cubed potatoes, caramelized onions, tomatoes and charred romain lettuce. Of course, no corned beef hash would be complete without a fried egg on top.

Fried Egg On Corned Beef Hash

I posted a short video on Instagram of the moment I broke the yolk on that fried egg. There is something sexy about watching that golden yolk  slowly spread over the hash that borders on sexy. Don’t you think?

06/7/14

Buttermilk Pancakes at Du-par’s

I have been craving pancakes for weeks. Whenever I ask somebody (or Google) for the best pancakes in Los Angeles, Du-Par’s on Third and Fairfax is always on the list. This morning,we finally went over to the Farmer’s Market to try them out.

This was a time where the experience of a dish lived up to the hype. The Cliff Notes version of my review is – yummy!

I ordered the short stack blue plate special. Which, was three large buttermilk pancakes and two slices of crispy bacon.

Du-par's short stack

Until today, I had never seen pancakes served with a side of melted butter. What a great way to get that super indulgent fluffy pancake breakfast experience. Fluffy may be a bit of an understatement for Du-par’s buttermilk pancakes. Essentially, they were pancake pillows with dimples placed throughout so that the melted butter and maple syrup could soak all the way into the pancake.

Du-par's panckaes

They were the first pancakes I have had in a long time where I could actually taste the butter part of the buttermilk in the batter. So far, the Du-par buttermilk pancakes are without a doubt the best pancakes I have had in Los Angeles.

Maybe I should just let my finished plate be my review.

Du-par's blue plate

I’ve put together a short video of our visit to Du-par’s to show you just how fluffy those pancakes were this morning.

06/6/14

Car chaos and great brisket in the Valley

Last weekend started out so well. After weeks of research, we headed out to The Valley to buy a car. Chris had been without a car after an accident a couple months back. So, this was much needed.

We had a car in mind and headed out to Northridge to check it out. It was perfect. We even saw the kid from Modern Family in the Wendy’s across the street.

We bought the car and that was when things started to get crazy. I don’t have my license yet (hang over of many years spent in Europe) and Chris had been renting a car to visit me.  Which left us with two cars to get back to the apartment but only one driver.

The rental car was from Hertz and we had been given the name of an office close to the dealership. We headed off to it with the idea of dropping of the rental and getting a cab back to the new car. When we got there it was closed.  In desperation, we found a safe side street to park the rental and found a friend that could help us move the cars around the next day.

Before we headed out the next morning, Chris called Hertz and was given a price (and charged) for a one way rental. They also gave us the address of where to drop the car. Simple, right?

Yeah,except that when we got to that address it was an empty parking lot with no sign of any buildings at all much less a Hertz office. We called Hertz again and they apologized and gave us another address. Amazingly, when we got to that location, it didn’t exist either. Made slightly more ridiculous by there being two other Hertz’s customers there also looking for the mystery location to drop off their rental car.

Once more we called them and the person on the other end told us that our only option was to take the car to Burbank Airport. Since we had been trying to return this car for three hours, we were happy to have a promising solution.

That was until we got to Hertz at Burbank Airport where they told us we would be charged a much higher rate for returning it to them. That was on top of the amount Chris had already been charged when he called that morning. Made worse by the woman behind the counter – Bonnie – who rolled her eyes at us when we were explaining what we had just been through at the hands of her company. Long story made somewhat shorter, Chris was able to call the next day and get some of that extra refunded but it was all handled so poorly that we won’t be renting from Hertz again any time soon.

There was one bright point to the day. Of course, it was food.  We planned to go  for lunch in Northridge before we started the car gymnastics.  I did my research and decided that we should give Brent’s Deli a try.

I loved that there was an actual deli counter right inside the door.  That gave me hope that Brent’s Deli just might be the right thing.

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The dining room was packed with people but they moved folks in and out quickly.

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We only waited ten minutes to be seated despite there being at least half a dozen parties in front of us.

The menus we were given,once we were seated, were something else. Honestly,I don’t think I have ever seen a menu with a table of contents before.

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From breakfast through to dessert, there were so many items on the Brent’s Deli menu that we had munched through the complimentary plate of pickles before we had decided what to order.

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I kept coming back to the dips section of the menu and finally settled on ordering the brisket dip.  Chris ordered the pastrami and turkey dip with sauteed onions. We split things so we both could try each sandwich.

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The sandwiches were massive. Yet. no sooner had I commented that I would never be able to finish it before my half of the brisket dip vanished down my throat.

The piles of tender thinly-sliced beef brisket were sandwiched between a flaky kaiser roll. The roll was just crusty enough to take a deep dip into the au jus without falling apart.  I especially liked that the au jus wasn’t overly salty. With most other dips, I can only manage a few dunks before the sodium begins to overwhelm. Not the case here.

Just the sight the brisket dip gave me hope that it would be good but what did surprise me was the quality of the coleslaw. It tasted just like the coleslaw my Nana makes. Which,of course,is the best coleslaw on the planet. Not too creamy, not too sweet and – very importantly for me – no raw onions.

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The pastrami part of the pastrami and turkey sandwich wasn’t bad either. The turkey,whilst good, wasn’t really needed on the sandwich. It acted as a barrier to the au jus and as a result the bottom part of the sandwich was moist and the top was dry. I ended up taking out most of the turkey so that I could have more of that moist pastrami goodness.

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As much as the car chaos drove us crazy,at least it lead to the discovery of Brent’s Deli. Now we know where to go for some great deli sandwiches when life brings us to the valley.

Oh and this is the new car in question. Almost as tasty as that brisket.

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04/19/14

Food trucks and people watching at Ktown Night Market

If the folks behind this weekend’s Ktown Night Market had been wondering if they had managed to get the word out then their questions were answered by the ginormous line of people waiting for the gates to open. I arrived only an hour after the 4pm opening time and already the line was at least several hundred people deep.

Predictably, it was the promise of foodie adventures that got me to show up. That it was being held within a five minute bus ride of my apartment didn’t hurt either.

The Seoul Sausage food truck won the Great Food Truck Race within a month of when I moved to Koreatown. Yet, I have never had the chance to try their food. Their bricks and mortar shop is in a different part of Koreatown and whenever I have seen their truck in my part of town it has been closed.

Seoul Sausage truck

When I heard that they were heading up the Food Truck Alley portion of the Ktown Night Market, I figured it would be really bad foodie form to miss the chance to finally try them. The pot was sweetened when it turned out that they were bringing two other Great Food Truck Race winners,Grill ‘Em All and The Lime Truck, with them to the event.

Clearly,I was not the only Los Angeles foodie that didn’t want to miss out because, after waiting all that time just to get into the Ktown Night Market,I then joined another mega line to order from the Seoul Sausage truck.

Ktown Night Market food truck line

Positioning the headlining truck at the entrance to the food truck area did create a bit of a bottleneck. There were barely any lines for any of the other food trucks but the behemoth line for Seoul Sausage made it appear that the whole of Food Truck Alley was a cluster of intimidating lines. Yet, the foodies filed behind each other to get their fix.  It was fun playing ‘spot the other food bloggers’ game with myself while I waited.

Seoul Sausage Great Food Truck Race

Once I did finally get up the ordering window, I was a bit bummed to see that the Galbi Beef sausage was already sold out. Since it was only an hour into the Ktwon Night Market, I’m hoping that was a case of it never being on offer that day in the first place rather than having planned that poorly.

With the Galbi Beef Sausage unavailable, the only straight out sausage available was the Spicy Pork. As I frequently mention, I am a spice heat wimp but I had waited that long in the line for the chance to try something from their truck and it felt like if you were going to have one thing from the Seoul Sausage truck that it should be an actual sausage. So, I took the risk and ordered the Spicy Pork Sausage.

Seoul Sausage Spicy Pork

I would love to be showing you great food porn shots of the sausage but my camera flaked out and took weird double images of all the shots I took.  Which is a pity particularly because it would have been good to be able to show the deep red color of the inside of the sausage. It looked like it really should be mega spicy.

As it turned out, there was certainly a level of heat brought to the pork sausage from the Korean spices but it was just enough to tingle my tongue rather than blow my head off. Pairing the sausage with an apple cabbage slaw was a good choice. The sweet and slightly tangy slaw was delicious and both complimented the flavors of the sausage and tamed the heat.

I wanted to try their rice balls too but there were other food trucks to explore.

The Lime Truck

My next stop was The Lime Truck.  After waiting nearly an hour to get to the Seoul Sausage truck, it felt great to walk right up to a window and order. Though, it did make me wonder how they felt about the imbalance of the lines. I suppose they knew that the Korean fusion slanted trucks were going to have an advantage.

Lime Truck Food Truck

Foodie circles have praised The Lime Truck’s Carnitas Fries. So, I decided that would be the dish I tried from their truck.  The dish is a pile of fries topped with pulled pork, crema, guacamole,chipolte honey slaw and cotija cheese.

All of the toppings were very yummy indeed. The fries themselves were pretty nondescript but I suppose with that much going on on top of them they didn’t have to be doing too much of the work. A bit of seasoning on them would have been good but even with that said, I’d happily order them again.

Carnitas Fries Lime Truck

I feel a bit like I left my foodie side down but not trying anything from Grill ‘Em All.  Creative burgers that are named after musicians? Yeah, that kind of has me written all over it. The problem was though that they were a cash only truck and at $9 a burger that would have wiped out most of my cash. Apparently there were ATMS at the Ktown Night Market but I didn’t see any in the Food Truck Alley  area. Something which cost Grill ‘Em All a sale and me the chance to taste those great sounding burgers.

Grill 'Em All truck

Another thing that was missing from the food truck area was anywhere to sit to eat. Which would have been fine if there wasn’t a big dining tent on the other side of the fairground with the junk food stalls you see at every public event.

It did make for some interesting people watching though as folks tried to find the easiest way to eat their food truck delicacies in some sort of comfort.

Ktown Night Market

Ktown Night Market

Ktown Night Market

Ktown Night Market

Ktown Night Market

Ktown Night Market

If they keep the selection of food trucks interesting, I’ll be sure to be at the next Ktown Night Market event too. Though, I will probably try to be there as soon as it opens so that I don’t have to stand in that huge line to get in.  A line which, by the time I left, had easily grow three times the length. Yikes but job well done to the Ktown Night Market publicity team.

04/15/14

Groupon Review: Cupcake Tour of Hollywood

I may have mentioned this one or two times before but cupcakes are sort of my thing. The Doughgasm girl icon has a cupcake in her hand for a reason. When a Cupcake Tour of Hollywood showed up in my Group offerings,I was pulling out my wallet in record time.

The cupcake tour Groupon cost $47 for a tour for two. Which, is down from the Great Food Tour’s normal price of $100.  That is a bit steep but Chris has been known to enjoy the taste of a cupcake now and then too and I figured it would be a nice foodie day out.

The morning of the Cupcake Tour of Hollywood started with a bit of chaos when we misinterpreted the address the company gave for the starting point of the tour. I have a bit of a thing about being on time and had a mini stress attack before we finally figured out where we should be and powered our way there just in time for the tour to begin.

When we finally arrived at the first cupcake store of the day, Georgetown Cupcake, we were met by a tour guide that suggested we go inside and buy a bottle of water for the journey. I suppose we should have thought about bringing a drink with us but since we didn’t we took his advice.

Once the rest of the tour group had gathered, the tour guide told us that we would each be getting to try a mini cupcake from the shop.  The offering of the day was the Cherry Blossom cupcake that Georgetown Cupcakes created as a homage to their Washington DC origins.

The Cherry Blossom cupcake is a Madagascar bourbon vanilla cake with fresh cherries baked into the cupcake. It is then topped with a cherry infused cream cheese frosting with a fondant cherry blossom appropriately  being the cherry on top.

Neither myself or Chris usually care for cream cheese frosting. So, I was a bit unsure about how the cupcake would go down with us but, as it turned out, the cupcake was really good. The cherries in the batter had a lovely fresh taste and helped to keep the cake extra moist.

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A big thumbs up from both of us and left us curious to try more from the Georgetown Cupcake menu.

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When time came to move on, our cupcake tour guide informed us that our next stop wouldn’t be to a cupcake shop. A bit of a bummer since the whole point of this tour was to try as many cupcakes as possible. Instead, it would be to Tartine O Chocolat, a French style pasty cafe, where we would be given the chance to taste one of their French macaroons.

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To be fair, the pastries looked great but Chris doesn’t like macaroons. So, that was one less tasting that he would be enjoying for the price we paid. I’m not an enormous fan of macaroons either but I figured that I had paid for it, so I would try it.

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The man that ran the cafe was kind and gave us some interesting history of the shop before he allowed us to select from a choice of flavors of French macaroons. Fairly predictably, I went for the chocolate macaroon and it was pretty good but it wasn’t a cupcake. You could be the best macaroon ever and I would still think you aren’t as good as a decent cupcake.

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Next, we moved on to Joan’s on Third.  Joan’s has been on my foodie radar since I moved to Los Angeles but I hadn’t been there before the day of the Hollywood cupcake tour. Sadly, I still feel as if I haven’t been there because rather than be invited inside to experience the feeling of Joan’s on Third, the guide left us part of the way down the block and asked us to wait while he went inside to collect the cupcakes we would be trying.

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When he came back, he had boxes of full sized chocolate cupcakes with him. To say that they weren’t good would be unfair to Joan’s.  The cake itself was very rich and dense. I felt like I should be using a fork rather than biting into it. They were very good but they were more like a cake in the shape of a cupcake than a cupcake.  Still, they were good enough to make me want to go back to Joan’s on Third and actually go inside.

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Next up was another non-cupcake stop in the form of Simplethings Sandwich Pie Shop.

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Initially, it was disappointing to have another cupcake taken out of the tasting count of what is advertised as a cupcake tour. However, in this case I am going to be forgiving because both myself and Chris thought their offering was the best thing we tasted on the tour.

Amongst the pies that Simplethings offers are a series of mini pies they call Cutie Pies. On our tour stop, they gave us their salted caramel pie to try. I’m a sucker for salted caramel as a flavor profile. So, I was happy to taste the salted caramel cutie pie. I wasn’t so sure if Chris would find it appetizing but I loved that he was willing to go out of his comfort zone and give it a go.

I know he is glad that he did because it was a true doughgasm moment. When we saw the salted caramel pie we were both concerned that it would be an overly sweet dish but instead we found it to be deliciously balanced.  The graham cracker crust took on most of the work of bringing the sweet tones to the almost clean tasting salted caramel. The richness of which was cut by the unsweetened cream on top.  Winner!  As soon as my healthy eating challenge is done, I am dragging Chris back to Simplethings for more pie.

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Eventually the tour had to move on and the group headed to Sweet E’s Bake Shop. Happily, this took us back to being given cupcakes to taste on the cupcake tour.  Sweet E’s is a super cute shop. The perky colors and playfulness of the shop design brought out the kid in in a candy shop feeling in our cupcake loving adult bodies.

The cupcakes weren’t half bad either. The cupcake that they offered the tour was the mini version of what they were calling an Irish Car Bomb cupcake.

I feel that I would be untrue to myself if I didn’t address my dislike of the American insistence on using that name to refer to the popular beer,Baileys and whiskey cocktail.  Having lived in the UK during some horrific car bomb terrorist attacks associated with the Irish troubles, I find the name to be in incredibly bad taste. Not just towards the victims of such attacks but to the Irish themselves where it borders on having racist undertones.  There, now I said it.

Anyway, no matter what they were called, the cupcakes from Sweet E’s were really tasty. The whiskey and stout that were involved added an adult flavors to what looked like a very youthful cupcake.  We enjoyed them enough that after the tour was over, we went back and tried a couple more of the mini cupcake flavors available from Sweet E’s. They were all good but none of them popped as much for me as these.

Allow me a girlfriend moment and say that I really love this photo of Chris holding the cupcakes from Sweet E’s. How lucky did I get to find a guy that not only enjoys foodie stuff  but who volunteers to hold the things we try so that I can take photos for my food blog? He’s mine ladies! lol.

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The final stop on the cupcake tour of Hollywood was Magnolia Bakery’s Los Angeles location. I had been to their main New York City location a couple years ago and enjoyed what I had ordered so I was curious to see how the West Coast venue measured up. Aesthetically, they managed to keep the same quaint but modern feel to the shop which makes for a cozy and inviting atmosphere.  The big displays of full sized cakes were a nice touch and good advertising for what they do beyond the cupcake menu.

At first, I groaned a bit when I heard that what we were being offered from the Magnolia Bakery was a mini cupcake version of their red velvet cupcake. There we were again with the cream cheese frosting issue. Something which has meant that neither myself or Chris are big fans of red velvet cake.

It all comes down to that dang cream cheese frosting. My sister and myself have been insisting to people for years that the red velvet cake that we grew up with in the Philadelphia area did not have a cream cheese frosting. It wasn’t exactly a buttercream either.

Frustratingly, neither of us can remember the recipe for the family’s red velvet cake frosting despite having made it several times as kids. Sometimes on its own just so we could eat it with a spoon. Yeah, I was pretty much destine to be the fat kid.

Preparing myself for disappointment, I bit into my mini red velvet cupcake only to be met with a yummy frosting that was not cream cheese! This was the nearest I had been to that family frosting in the years since I moved back to the United States. Reading the Magnolia Bakery’s menu, they use a whipped vanilla frosting. Bingo!

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With them being a New York operation, perhaps it was a case that red velvet didn’t always have a cream cheese frosting in the North East but that the Southern recipe that included it has since become the national norm? Whatever the reason, It was great to have validation of what I had spent years insisting to be the case.

Once the tour was over, we were left wondering between us if it had been worth it.  We did have a good time but largely because of being with each other. Was it worth the money?  The truth is in the numbers themselves. After the tour, I went through the websites of the places we stopped at on the tour and did some calculations.

We could have gone to each shop and bought the items we were served for a total of $16 per person or $32 for the pair. At the full company price of $100 for two people that is a ridiculous mark up. As it was, we paid $47 for the tour through Groupon so the level of service from the tour guide could have swung things.

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Unfortunately, we were both really disappointed in the tour guide. At each stop, he would take a moment to give us some background on each of the shops. Seriously, just about every time the story boiled down to how they were originally from Europe and then came to the States and started baking and were now running successful businesses. Not much at all about the actual food was shared.

He was also pretty rubbish at keeping track of his group. The tour covered a lot of ground between shops which meant a bunch of crossing streets. Not once did the tour guide wait at the other side to make sure everybody had crossed before he marched on. Instead, there were always a few people left way back trying to keep a visual on the group so they could eventually catch up. This lack of attention to his group was made most evident when several people left half way through the tour without him noticing.

All of which was made just a bit more tacky when he ended the tour by making a plea for tips. Normally, I would tip a guide but for $16 worth of tastings, I felt like I had already tipped the company enough. Not least because two of the promised tastings on the cupcake tour weren’t even cupcakes.

Whilst I enjoyed eating cupcakes with my sweetie, the truth is that for $50 we could have put together our own self-guided tour based on Yelp reviews and been able to sample a lot more than we did on the official tour.  In fact, I might just have to put together my own Doughgasm tour of Hollywood for us to do on our own.

That way I can go back and try more from the cupcake shops that we enjoyed without feeling I am paying for more than is being delivered.

03/8/14

Glazed Donut Bistro brings donuts for adults to West Hollywood

Clear as day, I can remember my fourth grade teacher venting to the class about how much she disliked stores using purposely misspelled words in their names.  Of particular frustration for her was the way in which doughnut was becoming donut.   Some twenty five years later and I can’t remember the last time I saw a shop where it was spelled ‘doughnut’.

Spelling variations aside, I sure do love a good doughnut. Doughgasm was, after all, coined after I ate a particuarly wonderful doughnut. Since moving to Los Angeles last year, I have yet to find a really good doughnut shop. I’d wondered why LA didn’t have an answer to Portland’s Voodoo Donuts or San Jose’s Psycho Donuts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, the LA foodie press was buzzing about the opening of a new shop in West Hollywood called Glazed Donut Bistro.  Branding themselves as ‘Donuts for Grownups’ it sounded like they were making a play to fill that void (proud of myself for not going with ‘hole’) in the market. In addition to a bunch of creative versions of the traditional doughnut concept, Glazed Donut Bistro also has savory donuts such a fried chicken stuffed beignets and bbq pulled pork sliders served on doughnut-style bun.

Last Saturday, having waited for a pause in the Great Los Angeles Rainstorm of 2014, myself and Chris set off  for the West Hollywood end of Santa Monica Boulevard to give Glazed Donut Bistro a try. The block in which it is located is quickly becoming a regular foodie cravings haunt for us. With Rounds Premium Burgers (review coming in the near future) and now Glazed Donut Bistro there, all they need is a dispensary and it would be munchies mecca.

Apologizes for the less than stellar photo of the Glazed Donut Bistro storefront. The rain had started to bucket it down again and I was trying to quickly get a shot without getting my iPhone wet. There are many things I would do for a good doughnut but killing my phone isn’t one of them.

Glazed Donut Bistro

Apparently, we weren’t the only folks that decided it was a good time to go on a doughnut run. When we got to Glazed Donut Bistro, there were barely any doughnuts left. They are still in their soft launch period and, according to  Yelp reviews, frequently selling out. A quality problem for them. For us, it meant denial of the chance to try the s’mores doughnut. It was a photo of that doughnut on their website that got Chris in the car in the first place. So,boo!

Glazed Donut Bistro Doughnuts

Glazed Donut Bistro Donuts

We made the most of it and made up a collection of four doughnuts from what was left and headed home for some quality TV and doughnut time on the sofa.

Box of Glazed Bistro Donuts

We started off the box with their vanilla bean ring doughnut. It stands to reason that if a shop gets the most basic of doughnuts right then there is hope for their more complicated varieties. For me, this one was okay but nothing particularly spectacular. Difficult as it may be to dislike a vanilla bean glaze, it does have to be an especially good glaze to be noteworthy. Likely, it is much better when still warm but at room temperature it was simply satisfactory.

vanilla glazed donut

Chris added the chocolate doughnut. It is a chocolate cake doughnut that is then dipped in chocolate and topped with chocolate pearls for good measure. I only had a tiny bite of this one but it was pretty good. I tend to like yeast doughnuts better than cake. So, ‘pretty good’ is praise.

chocolate donut

I didn’t get a taste of the sprinkled doughnut that Chris ordered. Nor could I find a description on their menu board or website for a sprinkled doughnut. Chris said it was good but beyond it looking pretty, I can’t fairly judge.

sprinkles donut

Glazed Donut Bistro’s PB&J doughnut,however, I am more than happy to judge. It was so good! I’m a peanut butter nut but it can be tricky to get right with anything baked. Often, the peanut butter takes on a burnt quality that is too far removed from the peanut butter taste that I love for me to truly enjoy it.

On this doughnut though, they got it right. The PB&J doughnut is a yeast risen doughnut that is filled with house made jam, dipped in a peanut butter glaze (such a sexy phrase!) and then sprinkled with honey roasted peanuts. By going for the honey roasted, they prevented any salt overload issues which may have occurred with so much peanut on peanut action.

I do believe that my doughgasm face came out for this one.

peanut butter and jelly donut

All in all, I see promise in Glazed Donut Bistro. It will be interesting to see what changes are made between their soft launch and their proper opening.  If they listen to the feedback and get rid of the ‘meh’ varieties and work to nourish the more creative winners such as the PB&J then they should be on the right track. Hopefully, next time we get to try that S’mores doughnut!