Monday, March 2, 2015

Seattle: Dahlia Bakery

Over Christmas, my family took a mini road trip up to Seattle to visit some friends.  Actually, the truth is that my father wanted to scout out the area as a potential dream retirement location.  Something about getting a house by a stream with a large garden away from the stress and pressures of city life.

I, on the other hand, was there for the food and the food only.

We drove up Christmas day.  Good thing we packed some food Chinese style (meaning marinated chicken wings, chicken feet, and eggs) because outside of California, not a single fast food joint was open.  Guess Christmas is sacred to everyone but Californians.  We left our house at 4:00am and got to our friend's house just a bit south of Seattle just a tad short of 4:00pm.  

My dad is a speed racer.

We had dinner that night at our family friend's house.  The next morning, we left bright and early for our Seattle food tour.  First stop, Dahlia Bakery:


















Tom Douglas is the celebrity chef genius behind over a dozen restaurants in the area.  My parents aren't big on fancy, expensive meals, so I figured Dahlia Bakery would be the perfect introduction to Tom Douglas without all the dollar signs.

The bakery is small and intimate:


















Very small and intimate.  So small and intimate that it's basically a box.  A box with a glass counter and a wall filled with all sorts of scrumptious-looking baked goods:


















There's also a menu posted with offerings that aren't visible in the display cases, such as all the sandwiches.

If you order a sandwich, you have to wait a bit because they're fresh and piping hot when you get them.  We got the bacon and egg sandwich ($6.50):


















Bacon from Bavarian Meats (a local German deli), fried egg, arugula, and cheddar...all tucked in one of the most amazing English muffins you'll ever find.

We also ordered the meat egg sandwich (we picked ham over sausage) ($6.50):


















Ham, fried egg, gruyere, and here's the clincher...dijon mustard.  The dijon makes the sandwich.  So freakin' delicious.

One of Tom Douglas' restaurants, Lola, is known for its donuts.  You can have them there or you can get them at Dahlia Bakery ($7):


















These soft pillows of dough goodness come in a bag of seven and sides of vanilla mascarpone and seasonal jam:


















We got a tangy cherry jam that day that went perfectly with the smooth mascarpone and the donuts.  Load each individual donut with the mascarpone and jam for the optimal bite.

Tom Douglas is also known for his triple coconut cream pie ($6.50 per slice):


















Definitely coconut-y.  And creamy.

While the pie was yummy and all, the real gold star of the sweets that day was the maple eclair ($4.50):


















Ohmygawdthateclairwasridiculous:


















When my sister first said she wanted one, I was a bit skeptical.  I was afraid that it would be overwhelming sweet.  In the end, it was just overwhelmingly lovely.

LOVELY, I SAY.

If I lived in Seattle, I would be at Dahlia Bakery every weekend.  There's just so many things to try.  And so many maple eclairs to consume.  I would probably be broke by the end (that stuff ain't cheap!), but it would be oh-so worth it.

If you want a English muffin sandwich or some donuts, make sure you go during breakfast hours.  Dahlia Bakery also offers lunch too, so maybe the best time to go is right at the end of breakfast and the start of lunch so that you can stick around for the best of both worlds.

Or just go whatever time of day you want and get a maple eclair.

MAPLE ECLAIR.


Dahlia Bakery
2001 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 441-4540
http://tomdouglas.com/index.php?page=dahlia-bakery

Saturday, February 28, 2015

South Bay: Bun Bo Hue An Nam

You would think having a very close Vietnamese friend would mean endless introductions to great Vietnamese restaurants, especially when you live in San Jose where Vietnamese restaurants abound.

But no.  It took 16 years for T to finally take me to Bun Bo Hue An Nam, which she claims has the best bun bo hue in the Bay:


















I didn't even know what bun bo hue was until she finally took me there.  All those years ordering just pho when I could have been trying something new and, in my opinion, even more tasty.  Thanks a lot, T.

The place was packed, which spoke to the truthfulness of T's claim.  So packed that I felt rather embarrassed to take a photo of the general dining area.

Instead, I focused on what was on the table.  The veggies that come with bun bo hue is slightly different from what you typically get with pho:


















I've certainly never seen sliced banana blossom with pho.

Even though Bun Bo Hue An Nam has a menu beyond its namesake, we didn't even bother to look beyond the first two items.  We also didn't share.  There were five of us at the table and we each got our own small bun bo hue ($8.95):


















Bun bo hue has been translated to "spicy beef noodle," but it's really much more than that.  First of all, there's much more than beef going on in that bowl.  There's also some kind of cha (think Vietnamese sausage), cubes of congealed pork's blood, and much, much more.  I've never had so much meat in a single noodle soup bowl before and it was glorious.

The soup base itself is indeed a slightly bit spicy, but not crazily so.  The actual Vietnamese people at our table added spice to their bowls, but I really enjoyed the lemon grassy flavor as it was.  T's friend also asked for a side dish of shrimp paste and sugar.  The sugar never surfaced (servers be busy, I suppose), but she let us all dab a bit of shrimp paste onto our chopstick to see how it tastes.  Our conclusion?  Super salty.

Another aspect of bun bo hue that sets it apart from pho is the noodles:


















Instead of the thin, flat noodles of pho, the rice vermicelli noodles in bun bo hue are round.  The ones at Bun Bo Hue An Nam has a satisfying chew to them.

Bun Bo Hue An Nam offers its bun bo hue two ways.  With pizzle and without.  What is pizzle, you ask?  I'm just going to come out and say it.  It's penis.  That's right, penis.

The first time I went, I was a bit hesitant to order it, so I decided to get my bun bo hue without.  But after I got home and looked up pictures of it on yelp, I saw that it resembled tendon and since I love tendon, I figured I would like pizzle too.

So in January, when CK came to visit the Bay from Chicago, my sister and I picked her up at the airport and headed straight for Bun Bo Hue An Nam, where we each ordered a small bun bo hue with pizzle ($9.25).  Here's what the pizzle looked like:


















As I imagined, the texture was just like tendon.  Which meant I enjoyed it.  Immensely.  I will never have bun bo hue without pizzle again.

The small bowl at Bun Bo Hue An Nam seems on the small side, but don't be fooled.  There's a lot packed into that one bowl.  Definitely enough for me a on a regular day.  The service isn't exactly the most attentive, but that's not what we're there for anyway, right?

And bring cash, because they don't take credit.

T did good.  For once.  She has 16 years worth of Vietnamese recs to make up for.  She better get on it.


Bun Bo Hue An Nam
740 Story Rd
San Jose, CA 95122
(408) 993-1755

Thursday, February 26, 2015

South Bay: Super Cue Cafe

One of my family's new favorite restaurants is General Pot.  We love it's dry pot with intestine.  It's become almost a tradition to walk a few doors down to Super Cue Cafe every time after we eat at General Pot:


















Super Cue serves both pearl tea and food, hence the half-restaurant-like feel:


















We've never tried the food there because we've always been about the drinks.  The hot drinks to be exact.  And that's because for a while during the winter months, Super Cue was offering buy one get one hot drink free.

So we always made sure to order our hot drinks in multiples of two:


















Out of all the pearl tea places I've tried, I think Super Cue has the best hot milk tea.  Instead of just making a regular milk tea hot, Super Cue makes milk tea lattes ($3.50):


















My favorite is the assam milk tea.  It has a good, strong tea flavor, without being bitter.

Super Cue runs on the sweet side, so if that bothers you, adjust your sweetness level.  If you want pearls, that's another $0.40.

It's a bit out of the way for me, so while it's not my go-to pearl tea place, whenever I'm in the area (eating at General Pot), Super Cue does the job.

Especially when it's cold outside.


Super Cue Cafe
43743 Boscell Rd
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 770-9478
http://supercuecafe.com/

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Orange County: Joe's Italian Ice

My sister's interview at UC Irvine Medical School started bright and early in the morning.  T and I dropped her off, then made a beeline for Brodard for spring rolls.  There's no way we could do a SoCal trip without stopping by Brodard.  Those spring rolls.  That crack sauce.  

After the two of us stuffed our faces, we realized that we hadn't made any plans beyond Brodard and getting gas at Costco.

We had quite a bit of time to kill, so we decided on the fly to swing by Joe's Italian Ice:


















Not a lot of people around that day.  We parked the car and then waltzed right up to the counter.  There were some interesting flavors on the board:
 






















You can get soft serve, you can get Italian ice, or if you can't choose between the two, you can get both in the Joe Latti:























Regular size costs $4.49, while large costs $5.49.  A Joe Latti is basically made of a layer of Italian ice of your choice followed by a layer of vanilla soft serve, then another layer of Italian ice, and so on.  We went with the strawberry.

There was some construction going on next door and when a strong gust of wind speckled our soft serve with flecks of dust, we quickly shuffled to our car to finish our treat inside.

It tasted delicious in a toxic strawberry kind of way.  Which is good, I swear.  If that's what you're looking for and you're not expecting anything close to real fruit.

After Joe's, we killed yet more time at Newport Beach until it was time to pick my sister up from her interview.  From there, we hightailed it to Porto's Bakery in Downey (yet another SoCal trip tradition) where we stocked up on potato balls and cheese rolls before hitting the road back to San Jose.

Thanks to my sister's interview, we got a great trip out of it.  Lots of fun and of course, lots of food.  Can't wait to do it again!  Until next time, SoCal!


Joe's Italian Ice
12302 Harbor Blvd
Garden Grove, CA 92840
(714) 750-1076
http://joesice.com/

Orange County: Seaside Bakery

At Pokinometry, my sister's friend's friend told us about a bakery at Newport Beach that sells green Thai tea.  We had to check it out.

The bakery itself was easy to miss:


















No giant signs, just lots and lots of donuts:


















We bought one medium Thai tea and one large green Thai tea:


















I should have taken the lid off for the pictures, but even through the lid you can see how green the green Thai tea is.  Super, super green.  It tasted like Thai tea mixed with matcha green tea.

Not quite my cup of tea.  (Heh.  See what I did there?)  Luckily, I'd insisted on a regular Thai tea, which was rich and delicious.  Definitely not watered down at all.

The large cup was $3.25 while the medium cup was $2.75.  It doesn't matter what size you get your Thai tea, it lasts forever.  Okay, so not that dramatic, but the tea is so strong that it still tastes great after most of the ice melts.

My sister's friend's friend also recommended that we order the ham, cheese, and jalapeno croissant ($2.75):


















Flaky on the outside and soft on the inside.  And the ham!:


















The croissant was still warm, so the cheese was nice and melty.  There was jalapeno inside as well.  I was afraid that it would be spicy, but it really wasn't.  Just incredibly fragrant.

We loved Seaside Bakery so much that T and I went back the next day while my sister was doing her med school interview at UC Irvine.  T got her Thai tea green and I got mine regular.  No sharing necessary.

What could be better than sitting on the beach, watching the waves, while sipping an ice cold Thai tea in November?

Ah, I love California.


Seaside Bakery
2108 W Oceanfront
Newport Beach, CA 92663
(949) 675-2533

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Orange County: Pokinometry

After exploring the Griffith Observatory (and essentially hiking up and down a mountain to get to it), we met up with my sister's friend at Pokinometry:


















Pokinometry is set up like a Chipotle:


















But infinitely better.  Because instead of building your own burrito, you're building your own poke bowl.

Saaaaaay whaaaaat?

First you decide what you want your base to be: rice (white or brown), salad, or nachos.  Next, pick out what kind of fish you want.  For a medium bowl, you get three scoops of fish.  Five scoops for a large bowl.  "Fish" options include tuna, salmon, yellow tail, albacore, shrimp, octopus, scallop, and mashed tuna.  You can mix and match your fish or you can get multiple scoops of the same fish.  There are no rules.  You can do whatever you like.  It's your bowl.

In fact, if you're so inclined, you can douse your bowl with one of the spicy or non-spicy sauces.  Then top your bowl off with masago (smelt roe), green onion, sesame seeds...whatever your heart desires.

Here's what our large poki rice bowl ($10.50) looked like:


















Since one bowl would't be nearly enough, we also got a poki salad ($8.75):


















I was responsible for holding our table.  T and my sister went and did the ordering, so I have no clue what exactly went into our bowls.  All I know is that I loved them.  Both.  Even the salad one.

Gasp.  I know.

I would pick Pokinometry over Chipotle any day, every day.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they'll expand and open a branch in the Bay sometime soon.

Omigawdomigawdpleasepleasepleaseplease.


Pokinometry
184 S Harbor Blvd
Anaheim, CA 92805
(657) 208-3488
http://www.pokinometry.com/

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Los Angeles: The Pie Hole

Since we nabbed such a great parking spot in front of Eggslut, we didn't want to lose it.  Instead, we walked 20 minutes through some pretty sketch streets to get to The Pie Hole:


















It is a well documented fact that sketch neighborhoods all across America (or at least in all major cities across America) have either been hipsterized or are undergoing hipsterization.

Hence why hipster joints like The Pie Hole can be found at the edges of some pretty janky neighborhoods:


















Look at that long communal wooden table.  Paired with those metal chairs.

And this fat cup of soy latte ($3.75):


















Both the savory pies and the sweet pies at The Pie Hole sounded amazing.  We opted for sweet since we were still stuffed from breakfast at Eggslut.

While scanning the menu, I immediately zeroed in on the earl grey pie ($6.25):


















T and my sister didn't need much persuasion to agree.

The friendly lady at the counter recommended the Mexican chocolate ($5.50):


















The earl grey was light and fluffy and fragrant.  Subtly sweet and almost...refreshing.  The Mexican chocolate on the other hand, was dense and rich and oh-so-decadent.

Love the name.  Love the pies.

I would walk through crummy neighborhoods galore to get to The Pie Hole.


The Pie Hole
714 Traction Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 537-0115
http://www.thepieholela.com/
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