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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cheap Breakfast Options in Las Vegas

With all its glitz and glamour, Las Vegas has a reputation of all things high class, but if that is not your spot of tea, there are several places to eat on a budget in the City of Sin.  I did have a previous post last year of my foodie ventures in Vegas: click here. I went recently and want to mention a couple of places that I visited.

My cousin mentioned the casino, Sunset Station in Henderson, that has a reasonably priced breakfast buffet for only $4.99 a person.  The restaurant is called Feast Buffet and includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet options.  The buffet has the typical food stations such as Asian, Italian, Mexican, and American food with a salad and dessert bar.  The breakfast food consisted of the bacon, pancakes, sausages, eggs, biscuits and even corned beef.  I tend to avoid buffets now but the food here is decent and surprisingly not as greasy as I assumed.  The price cannot be beat either.  Breakfast lasts from 8am-11am and around 10:50a.m., the kitchen brings out the lunch items.  If you want to sample both, I say to come to brunch a little later and stick around for lunch.  The buffet line can get long but moves quickly as the staff tries to accommodate guests as efficiently as possible.

Sunset Station
Feast Buffet
1301 W. Sunset Rd. 
Henderson, NV 89014

Another breakfast joint can be found at the Tuscany Suites and Casino called Marilyn's Cafe.  From 12am-5am, the cafe has $4.99 steak and eggs. Unfortunately, we did not make it to the steak and eggs special but still went to grab breakfast.  They offer a 24 hour breakfast menu that also has its own specials.  There was a $3.99 all you can eat pancakes.  Their prices are reasonable and food is delightful.  I ordered their Meat Lover's Bowl which includes: sausage, ham, bacon, eggs (any style), and cheddar cheese on a bed of hash brown served with two pancakes for only $8.29.  For me, it is basically two meals. 

The bowl is hearty and full of comfort.  The bowl had a balanced flavor and was not too salty.  The bowl was more than enough for me but I did try some of the pancakes.  The pancakes were a little fluffy but did have a little dryness to it.  Overall,  Marilyn's Cafe is a place to check out for a meal on the budget.  It is off the strip and relatively quiet compared to the rest of the places in Vegas. 

The Tuscany Suites & Casino
Marilyn's Cafe
255 E. Flamingo Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Thank you for reading! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Food Tour: Flavors of Laguna

One would think going to the beach will help with escaping this recent heat but not this time around.  I went on another food tour in Laguna Beach called Flavors of Laguna.  This tour seemed more in depth about the history and culture of Laguna Beach alongside its local flavors.  We visited about eight different local eateries and a couple of historic sites with our guide Cathy and about 12 other people.

Our journey began bright and early at 10a.m. and we were able to find adequate parking in one of the major lots.  We met up at the La Sirena Grill on Mermaid St. and were served chips, guacamole, salsa, and taquitos.  As we ate, Cathy explained how the tour was going to be and all these tidbits about Laguna Beach such as how la sirena is mermaid in Spanish.  She was very informative and full of energy.

She took us the 2nd smallest cathedral in the world: St. Francis By the Sea and explained its history and how it became a historic site.  Afterwards, we went to Tommy Bahama and sampled their coconut shrimp.

The shrimp itself was huge and we were served with a side of guacamole, tomato cheese dip, and chips.  The coconut flavor was prominent in each bite.  The texture was well balanced; crispy on the outside and succulent shrimp meat in the inside.

We passed by the White House bar/cafe where Cathy delved into the history of how it is one of the oldest bars in town where Hollywood stars of yesteryear would swing by to relax.  As we were walking, we took notice that almost every other street, someone knew our tour guide. This just gave her extra brownie points displaying that she really is a local.  We ventured into the Candy Baron for an assortment of sweets and then made our way to Sundried Tomato Cafe for tomato soup.

The tomato soup was topped with Gorgonzola cheese adding a contrast to its richness.  The soup was a little thicker and all it needed was a grilled cheese sandwich.  I would definitely try the rest of their menu. 

Our next stop was Zinc Cafe and Market where everything is  vegan/vegetarian.  Being a carnivore myself, I was a little apprehensive at first but the salad they served us changed my mind. 

The salad contained white corn, red onion, black beans, tomatoes, and cilantro.  It had a light vinegar taste to it and was quite refreshing.  We were also offered a sample of their coffee which was delicious as well. Cathy then took us to the local brewery, Ocean Avenue Brewery where we graciously sampled their own crafted beers and house made sangria along with two appetizers.  This portion of the tour was $3 extra but sure why not? 

For the beers we sampled their Red Sunshine amber ale, Ocean Pale Ale, and Laguna Honey blond lager.  I loved all three. They were fresh, crisp, and not stingy on our sample portions.  The sangria was very fruity and had a light cinnamon flavor to it, but do not let that fool you. Their bruschetta was made well and had a strong garlic flavor, which I'm not complaining about.  My favorite was their buffalo cauliflower bites. It was flashed fried cauliflower tossed in their buffalo wing sauce and came with a Gorgonzola cheese dipping sauce. It had a slight spicy kick but it paired well with our drinks.  

At this point, I thought we were done but we had two more food stops!  Our next stop was Dolce Gelato where they offered a variety of flavors.  I settled on sweet corn and their salted maple caramel flavors. The gelato was smooth and creamy.  The flavors were bold but not overpowering and a perfect treat to take to the beach (which we did).  We made our way to the boardwalk and Cathy told us more about Laguna Beach's history and then we headed over to the Pizza Lounge.  

Alas, it was our last food stop. Oh, but it was a glorious pizza slice.  We had the California Pepperoni Pizza: pepperoni, bacon, spinach, tomatoes, mozzarella; basically the works!  The pizza was freshly made and the toppings balanced each other.  The crust was crispy but once you bit into it, it had that airiness to it and I gobbled it all up.  Our very last stop of the tour was Wyland Gallery that showcased all sorts of ocean related art by the artist Wyland.  This tied well with the tour since Laguna Beach was started up as an artist community.  The tour wrapped up here and Cathy was kind enough to take photos for everyone and gave us a hug before we all departed. 

Overall, it was a great time.  All the walking and eating balanced each other out.  We did not just learn about the food places but also historic tidbits and local tips about Laguna Beach.  Our tour guide was knowledgeable, friendly, and enthusiastic. One of my favorite food tours thus far.  Check them out on their website or simply wait for a deal on LivingSocial or Groupon.  Thank you for reading!