Friday, January 23, 2015

Orange County: Meet Fresh

We thought we should buy some gifts for our hosts in Irvine, so we drove to 85C Bakery for some bread.  As we were entering the plaza, I caught sight of something that made me lose my shit.


I might have gone crazy for ten seconds and scared both my sister and T.  But how can you blame me?  It's Meet Fresh!

Meet Fresh may be a dying chain in Taiwan, but I love it.  I love it so much.  I didn't know it'd made it to the States until I saw it in Irvine:

So many Chinese people in one place.  It felt just like being in Taiwan.

Whether in Taiwan or in Irvine, I always get the Meet Fresh signature:

It's all about the grass jelly shaved ice:

It's shaved so fine that it just melts in your mouth.  And once you mix in the cream, it's even better.

Even though I could probably eat the shaved ice by itself, it doesn't hurt to have taro and sweet potato rice balls.  And grass jelly.

Everything in that bowl is just SO GOOD.

$6.50 is a bit outrageous, especially given how you can get the same thing for a third of the price in Taiwan.  But that didn't deter me.  Not at all.  In fact, the very next day, while T was out on a spa day with her friend, my sister and I made our way right back at Meet Fresh.  I figured I should try something new on the menu, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Considering how there's currently only one Meet Fresh in the entire United States of America, who knows when I'll be able to have the Meet Fresh signature again?

Someone needs to open a Meet Fresh in the Bay Area pronto!  I have a feeling that it's going to happen.  Soon.  Very soon.


Meet Fresh
2710 Alton Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 955-9236

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Orange County: Popbar

In November, my sister had a med school interview in Irvine.  T and I seized the excuse to go along for the ride.  I took two comp days from work and away on a SoCal road trip we went.

Our first stop, as is now our tradition, was Jitlada for lunch.  Then on our way down to Irvine, we swung by Anaheim Packing District:

Also known as LA Packing Company to nobody except T.  T's the worst when it comes to remembering names.  My sister and I spent forever trying to Yelp the place, only to find out much later that T had sent us on a wild goose chase.  Again.

Oh, T.

Anyway, Anaheim Packing District is a hipster foodie paradise:

It's basically two stories filled with food vendors and artwork.  There's a lot going on and even more is in the works.  We saw quite a few spaces that were still under construction.

After walking around, we finally decided on Popbar:

Popbar offers a bunch of different popsicle, oops, I mean pop, flavors.  After you pick one, you can choose how you want to dip and "pop" it.  Dipping options include dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and mint dark chocolate.  Possible poppings include almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, coconut, chocolate sprinkles, caramel corn, and crushed waffle cone.  As if that isn't enough, you can choose to drizzle even more chocolate on your pop creation at the end.

We got two to split between the three of us:

From the popSorbetto selection, we decided on the mango.  Because I'm a firm believer of keeping my fruit and chocolate separate and never the twain shall meet, we kept it unadorned.  The pistachio from the popGelato collection, however, we half dipped in milk chocolate and hazelnut.

The pistachio was my favorite.  Super smooth and yummy.

Popbar is young and hip and as such, it comes with a young and hip price tag.  A basic pop costs either $3.49 or $3.99.  Choosing to dip costs you an additional $0.50 as will deciding to "pop".  So one pop could easily set you back 5 bucks.

Worth it?  Probably not.  But that certainly won't stop people from heading back for more.

440 South Anaheim Blvd
Anaheim, CA 92805
(714) 215-4679

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Berkeley: ShareTea

The real reason why we stopped in Berkeley after my work event was so that we could drop by ShareTea:

Where was this when I was a student at Berkeley?  If ShareTea had been around back in the day, I would've gained my freshman 15 within the first month of school.  No doubt about it.

There were a lot of people at ShareTea that day, but service was quick and efficient:

ShareTea is currently my favorite pearl tea spot for one reason and one reason only...this:

High mountain milk tea.  It's awesome.  ShareTea runs a bit sweet, so make sure to drop the sweetness level down to at least 80% if you want to avoid a toothache.  I also like to have mine without ice.

And here's an extra tip: high mountain milk tea tastes better the longer it sits.  T once bought a high mountain milk tea with grass jelly and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  She claims it was the best milk tea she ever had.

There are multiple ShareTea stores in the Bay Area.  Besides the Berkeley branch, there's also one in San Francisco, San Mateo, Union City, and San Jose.  I've been to all but the Union City location.  Not every location offers high mountain milk tea.  While San Francisco and Berkeley does, San Mateo does not.

The San Jose store is just walking distance from my house.  While high mountain milk tea isn't on the menu (only high mountain crema is), you can still order it.  I know because I've done it.  I had to break in multiple newbie cashiers, but after half a dozen trips, they now all know to punch in regular black milk tea and substitute out the black tea for high mountain tea.

I was super excited when the San Jose store opened.  That excitement has waned a bit since experiencing their inefficient and inconsistent service.  Sometimes the drinks are great, sometimes they're...not.  And just about all of the time, it takes a while for the drinks to be prepared.

Sigh.  Hopefully things will improve over time.

Anyway, one last thing before I stop rambling about ShareTea.  For those of you who live for reward points, ShareTea accepts FiveStars.  It takes 12 drinks to get one free.

Okay, I'm done.

Get thee to a ShareTea immediately.  High mountain milk tea is waiting for you!

2440 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
(415) 734-0525

Berkeley: I.B.'s Hoagies

Continuing down memory lane, I made my sister stop at I.B.'s Hoagies for some spuds:

I wanted to know if they were as good as I remembered.  Being the health nut that I was back in my undergraduate days, I used to get a bucket of curly fries from I.B.'s every once in a while.  Lots of curly fries, freshly fried...yea, those were the good old days.

We couldn't decide between curly fries and tater tots, so we got a mix of both:

In the 5.5 years since I graduated, the menu at I.B.'s hasn't changed and the fries still come piping hot.  One thing is different, however.  There's no longer the "bucket of fries" option.

The old "bucket" used to be a large, heaping square take-out box.  Nowadays, you get to choose between small and large.  The large comes in a dinky cup (shown above).  I was a little disappointed, but the fries were still so good that I eventually got over it.

A little sad, but life goes on, eh?

I.B.'s Hoagies
2513 Durant Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 841-1681

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Berkeley: Gypsy's Trattoria Italiana

Back in early November 2014, I dragged my sister with me to a work event in Richmond one Saturday.  On the way home, to compensate for a day of volunteering without food (it ran out before we could get any), we stopped by Berkeley for late lunch/early dinner.

We weren't in the mood for anything fancy.  Instead, we decided to take the nostalgic route and eat at Gypsy's in the Asian Ghetto:

Back in my Berkeley days, whenever my parents visited me at school, my father always wanted to eat at Gypsy's.  I tried to introduce him to other options, but he always circled back.  I gave up after a while.

Some things never change.  Gypsy's is one such thing.  Walking through its door was like walking into my past.  Besides a shinier menu posted on the wall, everything else was the same as I remembered:

For old time's sake, I ordered my old go-to, Gypsy's chicken ($8.49):

Penne comes together with chicken, garlic, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, and cream sauce in a lovely Gypsy's classic.  Ah, the taste of my childhood.  Well, college-hood.

My sister got the pollo gorgonzola ($8.49):

Tri-color tortellini, chicken, garlic, gorgonzola cheese, and pink sauce...nothing fancy, but oh-so-good.

Both came with a slice of bread with roasted garlic on top.  The garlic may look disproportional to the bread, but just spread it out.  It's soft and warm and yummy.

Though prices have gone up a bit, Gypsy's still offers solid dishes in generous portions for reasonable prices.  Super fast too.  We barely sat down after placing our order at the counter when our number was called.

Keep up the good work, Gypsy's!

Gypsy's Trattoria Italiana
2519 Durant Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 548-4860

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

South Bay: Cafe Lattea

My ahyi forgot her credit card at her office one night, so we took the chance to get a tour of Apple.  Not that we saw much.  We walked through the cafeteria, giggled at the free apples there, went up to her cubicle, retrieved her forgotten card, and then left.

On our way home, we stopped by Cafe Lattea:

My sister ran into a coworker who lives right around the corner.  While she chatted away, my ahyi and I perused the menu:

It was a hoppin' night at Cafe Lattea.  Being Halloween (yes, that's how far behind I am on my posts), many people including the staff were dressed in costumes.  So many Asians in one place.  Considering how Cafe Lattea isn't really next to anything (besides Apple), I wonder where they all came from...

Anyway, we bought our drinks to go.  My sister got a milk jasmine tea with pearls while I got mine with regular milk tea (both $2.75 plus the cost of the pearls):

Unfortunately, the tea at Cafe Lattea was bland and uninspiring.  Even the pearls weren't that great.

It's possible that their other offerings are much better (the brick toast looked crazy fancy), but if you're just looking for a simple pearl milk tea, I would skip Cafe Lattea.  There are plenty better milk tea places in the South Bay.

Cafe Lattea
19501 Stevens Creek Boulevard
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 255-2393

Friday, January 2, 2015

South Bay: Chutney

Happy New Year everyone!  I can't believe it's already 2015 when I still have so much from 2014 left to post about.  Argh.  But I guess that's not a surprise to anyone.

I've just decided.  My 2015 resolution is to get caught up on all my posts.  And since new year resolutions are all about being optimistic (though not always realistic), I'm going to add lose 20 pounds as well.


Anyway, as a good faith effort to accomplish my first resolution (and proof that I probably won't succeed at my second one), I bring you Chutney:

I first went to Chutney with my coworker during lunch when I was working out of our Fremont office one day.  I bought a wrap to go and didn't get the full Chutney experience until my family and a bunch of my colleagues went there after a Saturday work event.

We actually meant to go to Shalimar, but it was an awkward time between lunch and dinner and Shalimar unfortunately wasn't open.  Undeterred, my coworker HA led us a block down to Chutney.

I was much more impressed my second time around that my sister and I met up there after work one day for dinner a couple months later.

Don't expect to be led to a table or given a menu:

Just head straight to the counter, place your order, get your number, stake out a table, and then head right back to the counter for your table settings and complimentary chai.

While the chai is great, if you check in on Yelp, you can also get a free mango lassi:

My sister and I now have a system down at Chutney.  I order a naan ($1) for myself:

And she gets a side of rice ($2.99) with raita (yogurt) ($1):

Then we split an order of bengan bharta ($6.99):

And an order of, yes, brain masala ($9.99):

If you're an eggplant fanatic like me, you'll love bengan bharta.  It's like baba ghanoush, but infinitely better.  It's smoky and flavorful and amazing with naan.  It's now my favorite Indian dish.

The brain masala is less chunky and more creamy than the one you'll get at Shalimar.  I actually prefer Chutney's even though I'll admit it's less fun when you can't lift up pieces of wrinkly brain matter and moan "braaaaaaaains..."

And while I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Shalimar, I think you get more for your money at Chutney.

3352 Mowry Ave
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 796-6666
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