Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Foodie Field Trip: Sriracha Factory Tour

As an avid fan of the Sriracha sauce (I even have the cookbook), I was elated to find that Huy Fong Foods has opened its doors for free factory tours. After finding this tidbit out, I immediately scheduled a tour this past Saturday.

After receiving our hairnets and tickets for our freebies, I stopped before entering the factory to meet the man himself, founder David Tran.

My boyfriend and I with founder, David Tran. 
  Mr. David Tran was greeting visitors and taking photo ops with them in front of the Huy Fong Foods entrance.

Employees greeted us at different stops and were quite friendly in answering our questions. We first stepped into the distribution warehouse. The distribution warehouse itself was the grand ballroom of warehouses with conveyor belts and pallets where one could get lost and end up in Narnia.  

I have never seen so many red chili peppers in my entire life.  According to the tour brochure, a 21 ton truck (about 30-40 truckloads a week) would roll the peppers into a container called a hopper to be sorted, washed, and rinsed. The peppers are sourced from a local Californian grower. 

 The peppers will be grounded and be processed into the base sauce.  We were also able to take a chili sample! I was not able to take photos in the chili processing room only because I was trying to hold back any sneezes or coughs.  The chili smell along with the extra ingredients was more overwhelming than I thought but it did make me crave the Sriracha sauce. 

After processing the chilies and magically turning them into chili base, they are  filled into gigantic blue barrels.  The blue barrels would wait to be sorted into which chili sauce they will be turned into. 

Plastic bottles are expanded in another machine and later filled with the chili sauce.  The bottles receive their caps and later on sealed.  The bottles  will finally be placed into packaging and onto pallets for customer pick-up.  After the observing the factory line, the majority of the process is automatic with employees ensuring the process goes smoothly.

After exiting the factory, the newly opened gift shop offers T-shirts, tanks, and other novelty items for visitors.  An ice cream truck awaits outside to serve chocolate and vanilla Sriracha swirl ice cream.

The ice cream itself was not too spicy but did produce that little taste bud kick.  We also received a complimentary and commemorative T-shirt celebrating the 34 years that Huy Fong Foods has been in business.  After visiting the factory, learning about the company's history, and reading/hearing about the recent controversy, I believe that Huy Fong Foods is an example of achieving the American Dream.  It has turned a family recipe into a beloved condiment staple. If you are interested in touring the factory, tour dates run every Saturday until October 25th.  Please click here to sign up.  As always, thank you for reading. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Long Over-Due: Food in Hawaii

Apologies for the lack of posts recently.  Summer and work has been quite hectic.  I would like to fondly recall the food I ate in Hawaii this past summer. We vacationed in Hawaii in mid-July and luckily were upgraded to first class by Delta Airlines.  (YASSSS!).  This was the first time I've ever been on first class and of course I have to discuss the food.

Our in-flight meal was breakfast and I was surprised at the quality of the food.  I chose a cheese omelet with roasted potatoes and sausages.  It was accompanied by a starch of your choice and a variety of fruit.  I'm usually fine with airplane meals but I think is the best one I've had thus far.  The eggs were cheesy and gooey while the potatoes were cooked properly.  The sausages were flavorful.  The fruit and bagel were decent but I cannot complain here.  The meal also comes with miniature salt and pepper shakers! 

After arriving, my first legitimate meal (and last) was at a mall food court near our hotel.  (By the way we stayed at the Equus Hotel).  I know, I should be exploring the non-tourist spots and all that but I was starving and I did not want to walk any further.  I decided on this place called Bangga Bangga because the poke bowls caught my eye.  I ordered the tuna poke and there are sauces to choose from.  I believe I chose the plain soy sauce to try it out.  It took me by surprised that the fish quality was fresh! The second time around I got the dynamite bowl that had a spicy finish in each bite.  

Bangga Bangga
Ala Moana Center - Makai Market
1450 Ala Moana Blvd

HonoluluHI 96814

Since I was in Hawaii, I just had to have musubi.  Musubi is basically taken a block of rice top it with your choice of protein, add some sauce and wrap it in seaweed.  It is an on-the go meal and very comforting.  My mission was to taste this place a couple of my friends recommended (Thanks Ray and Kristina!).  The place is called Musubi Cafe Iyasume located in an alleyway in Wakiki. It's a local spot hidden away from the tourists but is buried treasure for the foodies.

If you are on a budget,  this place is where to go to save some money.  It's quick, delicious, and makes you crave more.  I ordered the musubi that had the cheese and bacon along with the Spam. For me, you can never go wrong with cheese and bacon.  My little treasure after a trek from downtown to this place was rewarding.  The flavors marry nicely and I ate slowly to savor each bite.  Something so simple tasted so glorious.  I should have bought more to stock up...

Cafe Musubi Iyasume
2427 Kuhio Ave, Ground Fl
HonoluluHI 96815
Hours: Mon-Sun 6:30a.m.-8 p.m. 

I have yet to partake in the cronut craze but I did stumble upon the croissada.  A croissada is a cross between a croissant and a malasada (Portuguese doughnut).  The Pacific Beach Hotel was hosting a farmer's market that day and I just had to snoop around.  It wasn't a large farmer's market but the sight and smell of these lovely beauties caught my attention.  The hotel itself came up with this hybrid and I just had to try.  The one I bought had chocolate stuffed in them.  It was a crispy and flaky outside with a soft and creamy chocolate surprise inside.  It was not too sweet but it has done its job.  I wish I brought some of this home.  Do not fret, these crossiadas are sold at the hotel's cafe and not just during the farmer's market.

Pacific Beach Hotel
2490 Kalakaua Ave

HonoluluHI 96815

I would definitely want to come back to Hawaii but probably another island to sample more of the local fare.  Thank you for reading.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Healthy Eats: Hilo Volcano Grill

With the string of places that serve healthier alternatives, some spots leave you feeling somewhat healthy yet unsatisfied in terms of taste.  Hilo Volcano Grill is a nice healthy gem in the city of West Covina that serves several combination of rice bowls along at a great price.

I've come here on different occasions since my optometrist is in the same plaza and it's a convenient spot to grab a quick meal.  The first time I had a chicken bowl with rice.  There was a deal going on for purchasing two chicken bowls for only $7.99.  It was served in the typical rice bowl fashion with a generous pile of chicken on top marinated in their teriyaki sauce topped with green onions.

I'm usually skeptical at ordering chicken at certain places since I'm afraid of the dryness.  Hilo Volocano Grill proved me wrong with their moist, juicy and well marinated chicken. The green onions added a touch of texture.  Another item I ordered was their half and half combo with vegetables.  The half and half combination consisted of half beef and half chicken with steamed vegetables.

I'm not quite sure how all of this fit in my bowl but it was great to have the variety.  The steamed vegetables were decent but the meats stood out in the bowl.  The sauce they implemented has a balance of sweet and salty but was not overbearing on the protein.  Hilo Volcano also offers fish dishes and brown rice is available for an additional cost. The food is cooked to order and their ingredients are fresh. There are weekly specials and their regular menu is affordable.  Thank you for reading. 

Hilo Volcano Grill
1034 W. Covina Pkwy.
West Covina, CA 91790
Business hours: Mon-Sun: 10:30am-9pm

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sweets Spotlight: Ramekin

I think I found my new spot to visit before or after a trip to the Griffith Observatory to indulge my slight caffeine and sweets addiction called Ramekin.  Serving savory and sweet dishes, I came here for the ice cream and their baked goods.

I ordered their maple flavored ice cream and all I needed was some pancakes to go with my scoop.  The ice cream oozed of maple flavors with a velvety texture.  I would try more of their flavors.  

Despite the richness and bold flavor of the ice cream, the real star of my visit was their made to order chocolate chip cookies. Upon ordering these, it takes them about ten minutes to bake and they bring it fresh to your table.

They serve it plain without any ice cream on top to preserve the cookie's integrity.  It comes out still warm and gooey, not fully baked so you can taste the melting chocolate chips.  After the first bite, I was not sure to whether to devour the rest of it or slowly eat it to savor its taste.  The texture  is spot on with its crispy outside and gooey inside.  It was just enough chocolate and the sweetness was not overpowering.  It is probably one of the best chocolate chip cookies I've had.  

Ramekin does serve other desserts such as bread pudding, panna cotta, cobblers plus teas and coffee.  I do plan on trying their other desserts unless their chocolate chip cookies work their tempting magic on me once more.  Parking is a little difficult with street parking but if you do not mind walking a bit, there is street parking in the neighborhood behind the shop.  The service is very friendly.  The workers are there to gladly assist you on what to choose for your sweet indulgences.  It is a nice, casual spot to chat and relax while indulging on sweets and coffee.  Thank you for reading. 

1727 N. Vermont Ave. (Los Feliz area)
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Business hours:  Mon-Thurs, Sun: 11am-11pm. Fri-Sat: 11am-1am. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Milk Tea Mondays: Boba 8 Invades the San Gabriel Valley

Tucked away at the back of a Japanese restaurant (Kazoku) in a busy plaza in San Gabriel, lies Boba 8, the younger sibling of the famed Boba 7.  As soon as I found this out, I went to the soft opening weekend to feel out the new digs.

I'm glad that there is a closer location to me and I think the only downside is the full menu is not available.  Boba 8 only offers the alcoholic drinks and not the Horchata Boba nor Bobatella but that does not deter me from visiting. The menu does offer virgin cocktail drinks for those not privy to alcohol. The parking is relatively more convenient since it is in a lot and not downtown LA.

The new venue boasts Japanese food and has a section in the back to accommodate Boba 8 visitors.  The first time I went I ordered the Green Tea Heineken.

Smooth and delicious, this particular one I received had more Heineken in it than green tea but I'm not complaining.  My friend ordered the Bobagasm and she usually does not drink alcoholic but found the combination of Bailey's and Kahula suitable to her palate.  

My second visit to Boba 8 resulted in a Kami Maybe. A new drink that the owner, Elton, made for the first time. 

This experimental Kami Maybe is a mixture of strawberry soju and Spite with boba.  It's a take on a kamikaze and the song "Call Me Maybe."  Two or three glasses of this drink would cause numbers to be exchanged.  The soju is prevalent in the drink but has the strawberry flavor throughout.  I could not concoct ideas for what to go in this drink but afterwards, Triple sec on top and lychee on the bottom would blend well with this drink.

The ambiance of the new location is casual and offers Japanese fare.  Elton, the owner was very accommodating to my party.  He made sure our drinks was to our liking and even performed his magic tricks.  It did not feel as though I was at a restaurant having a drink but more so relaxing at someone's house. Boba 8 would be the place to go when I cannot decide between boba or alcoholic and Boba 8 makes the decision for me by combining both.  I will be definitely frequenting both Boba 7 and Boba 8 when I get the chance.  Thank you for reading.

Boba 8  (Inside Kazoku)
162 W. Valley Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776

Business Hours: Thurs-Sun. 5pm-11pm.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pappas Artisanal--La Verne, CA

Another search through LivingSocial lead me to purchase a deal for Pappas Artisanal, a rotisserie restaurant in downtown La Verne. I am very satisfied with my purchase. Pappas Artisanal tugs at my foodie heartstrings: a local business that advocates for seasonal ingredients and emphasis on education.

We arrived a little early for dinner and therefore snacked on their kettle chips and beers from California. Their kettle chips were crisp and seasoned just right that it paired well with our beers.  Their beers are from breweries ranging from San Francisco all the way to San Diego.

I could not settle on what to order and asked our waiter for suggestions.  He suggested the "D Street" burger aptly named after the street the restaurant is located on and a simple salad to accompany it.

The simple salad was an array of greens, carrots, celery, scallions, and croutons (made from the brioche buns) with a citrus vinaigrette.  The flavors were well balanced and the acidity of the vinaigrette tempered the bitterness of the greens.

Onto the star of my meal: The D Street burger! The D Street burger was .5oz of meat with the typical burger ingredients: lettuce, tomato, and onion but with a garlic aioli on a crispy brioche bun.

The photo above does not do justice to the symphony of flavors in my mouth.  The portion was the just right and not too heavy.  The meat was cooked to my preferred medium rare and basically just melted in my mouth.  The burger was savory with a proper dose of the garlic flavor. Usually I tend to scarf down my meals but I took my sweet time to savor this particular burger.  I think it now ranks in my top favorite burgers.

The menu is vast and ever changing with their ingredients.  From doing my research,  I see that they also serve ramen, sandwiches, and brunch items. The service is on point and friendly.  Another tidbit is that, Pappas Artisanal has internship programs for students to learn more about business and business strategies.  This makes me wish I was an undergrad student again so I can both learn about food and business. That is a definite win-win situation for me. Anyway, I will be coming back and trying more of their food and hopefully a dessert on my next visit. Thank you for reading.

Pappas Artisanal
2232 D St.
Unit 101
La Verne, CA 91750

Business hours:  Mon-Wed: 11am-9pm.  Thurs-Sat: 11am-10pm. Sun: 9am-3pm.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

AYCE Sushi: Asahi Sushi, Riverside, CA

One should prepare his or herself mentally and physically before having an all you can eat meal, especially dealing with sushi.  Luckily, I did both.  After word of mouth from my friends, I was finally able to try Asahi Sushi in Riverside.  I think I deserved the meal since I hiked earlier in the day (see blog post here).

Located in a business plaza,  I thought Asahi Sushi would have a larger venue due to its popular.  It is a little small and has a few tables outside for seating.  We arrived around the tail-end of lunch hour but it did not past 30 minutes for us to be seated.  Lunch on a weekend was only $17.95 and I thought this was incredibly reasonable.  The set-up was simple, we had three rounds to choose as many sushi and appetizer dishes as we want.  A note to consider, I do not remember all the names of the rolls I ate, although the majority of them were delicious.

One of the appetizers we ordered were their baked mussels.  They were baked well and provided a rich and creamy onslaught to my taste buds. I did not dwell too much on the rich part of the mussel since it would only increase my food coma.  

I actually remember this roll since we ordered it twice.  It was the Super Mexican roll, a crunchy shrimp roll topped with avocado and their sauce.  This was probably one of the best rolls I ate at Asahi.  When the first round of rolls came out, I noticed they were a little smaller than other places, which is a positive aspect because then customers would not be overstuffed on the first round. 

Ahh, the sushi rolls.  We ordered a plethora of them and all of them tasted fresh. My favorite part of these rolls were the rice to fish ratio.  This place had more fish that it actually covered the little clump of rice.  To me, this indicates that they are generous in their portions.  

Another roll I remembered! This was the Jenn Jenn roll.  This consists of spicy crab rolled in salmon equally utter sushi perfection.  

Despite the hustle and bustle of this place, the service was excellent.  The wait staff was attentive in catering to our needs.  There was a modest wait time between our sushi orders so we could recover from the previous rolls.  They even asked us if we wanted to split the check to avoid the headache of counting all our money or writing down card numbers.  I enjoyed my time here and would definitely come back after I recover from my food coma.  Thank you for reading!

Sushi Asahi
2955 Van Buren Blvd.
Ste. D-2
Riverside, CA 92503

Business Hours: Mon-Sun: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.