Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ever since the infamous show down with Bobby Flay, the Doughnut Plant has been infamous for their Tres Leches doughnut.  This location is the original located down in the Lower East Side.  It's a small shop with very little sit down room compared to the newer location in Chelsea.  A simple and great place to pick up a heavenly snack.  So many great memories from here. It's also a closer walk from the subway.
The best and most tasty doughnut is the Tres Leches, hands down! Who does not love the super moist and mind-blowing cake doughnut that is extremely addicting.  I always bring a dozen or so back home and nosh on these for many days.  If only I lived in NYC! I'd be stopping by as often as I could.  Of course I'd be diabetic by now and poor.  Every time I am in NYC or if Ms. Lin is there, I make sure that I get some delicious doughnuts.  Even if it is frozen and saved for later, I will take it! lol
It was our last day in NYC and we had planned out our sugar-filled list of treats to bring back to friends and families in So Cal.  First stop, Doughnut Plant, and then off to Bisous Ciao Macarons.  We sacrificed lunch in order to pick up all these sweet treats.  Was it worth it?  Yum! We left hungry, but on the train to Newark Ms. Lin and I began munching on them.
Even though they had the Crème Brûlée Doughnut here, I didn't pick one up.  I had it at the Chelsea location and it was not quite what I thought it would be.  The picture makes it look really tasty but for me there was just something missing to make it a real Crème Brûlée for me.  Besides, we were two gals on a mission to take back a good amount of the Tres Leches as they are TO DIE FOR!
They have less choices here than the Chelsea location, but at least they have all the best flavors here.  I love coming to NYC in October because they will have the seasonal Pumpkin doughnut available.  It's the only doughnut for me that is somewhat comparable to the Tres Leches.  Although, nothing is as tasty as their infamous doughnut.
Next, they need to think about moving to the West Coast.  I would be one of the first to line up outside the store and one of many with a few dozen doughnuts leaving! lol
Doughnut Plant
379 Grand St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 505-3700
Doughnut Plant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I have been meaning to try out Bluefin in Laguna Beach but the long drive down has always stopped me. Ms. Lin was in town and I suggested that we finally try this place to see if they really had the best lunch omakase in town.
As many people know, I love eating sushi and I am always looking for tasty omakases in Orange County.
The normal prices here are pretty steep IMHO, but for lunch their omakase is only $30 for a 6-course and $50 for an 8-course.  It's a better deal to do the $30 because for $10 more on the $50 then you can have 2 lunch omakases.  I prefer 12 courses than just having 2 more courses, especially since they wouldn't even be more sushi courses.
To start off the meal they served a duo of Ankimo (Monk Fish Liver) with Caviar and Gold Flakes on top and a Red Snapper Roll that's wrapped in Cucumber with Gobo and Daikon.  I thought the ankimo was not bad mixed with the caviar and tangy ponzu.  The gold flakes were pretty but mainly for show.  I rather have another gold bracelet than to consume it, but still it's a nice presentation.
The red snapper (Tai) was refreshing.  They put a lot of thought to the presentation of these dishes.  The cucumber was thinly sliced and wrapped around the fish delicately.  Having gobo at the center helps to enhance the savory component.  I love gobo and the crunchy texture.  This roll was very smooth and light.
Next came the Sashimi course.  I was smart and asked that they replace my tuna (maguro) as I am not a fan of it unless it is the fatty area known as toro.  They kindly replaced it with a generous helping of salmon (sake).  The yellow tail (hamachi) was very tender and melted in my mouth.  They also had mackerel (aji) on the plate.
In total there were 6 slices of sashimi that were all very fresh and tasty.  They also have their house made sauce on the bottom that really complemented the dish.  It almost felt like a light salad.  The tangy grilled onions were savory and flavorful.  Be sure to take the shiso leaf in the back and wrap it around a tasty slice to kick the flavor up a notch.
Behind the sushi bar they have a blackboard with specials.  The first thing that caught my eye was the fact that they had razor clams.  I LOVE RAZOR CLAMS! The best way to have them is a la plancha with a pinch of sea salt.  Here the board said it would be Sautéed Razor Clams for $17.
Again, the prices are a little steep here but I had to try it since I hadn't had razor clams since Spain.  This dish was a bit disappointing because it lacked any real flavor.  It was mixed with thin slices of asparagus and a tiny bit of garlic.  I really wished they added more flavor to bring out the natural taste of the razor clam.  Kind of wished we didn't order this, especially for the price.
For the hot dish they served Grilled Halibut with Truffle Oil and Pink Peppercorn.  The aromatic flavor of the truffle emanated through the air.  I thought the fish was nicely grilled and seasoned.  It's a simple yet complicated dish with the herbs and pepper.  The fish was served over a bed of rice that soaked in all the flavors.
One of my favorite things in the world is Foie Gras! To my surprise they actually had seared foie gras as an appetizer with Chilean sea bass, how can I say no to that delightful combination???  YUM! The appetizer is just called Chilean Sea Bass and Foie Gras for $25.  I thought the presentation was very nice as they layered the sea bass with grilled foie gras and a shitake mushroom.  The shiso leaf is fried and topped with a gold leaf to enhance the presentation.
This is a great combination of flavors.  The added kick is the white truffle oil that releases a heavenly fragrance throughout the vicinity.  I thought the foie gras was nicely seared and savory with a hint of sweetness.  The sea bass was nicely cooked and melted in my mouth.  I made sure to use each slice to absorb up some of the sauce.  The sauce was glazed onto the seared foie gras and shitake mushroom.  Even the special berry on the side flavor was super tasty.  I enjoyed how it was nicely soaked in syrup.  A great way to complement all the savory components.  This was definitely one of the best things and I often think about driving down for some more.  If only this place was closer, I'd be there every day for this! Well good thing Bluefin isn't or I'd be destitute soon. lol
Before the dessert was the Sushi course.  For our lunch they served 5 sushi pieces and 2 slices of a roll.  Ms. Lin got the tuna while I had the Kanpachi (amberjack), which was topped with yuzu chili peppers.  I must say, I made the smart choice to avoid tuna because the kanpachi was very tasty and paired with my favorite yuzu chili pepper.  The spicy and salty seasoning really brings out the natural sweetness of the fish.
All the sushi was very fresh and tasty.  I enjoyed the Albacore with their special sauce and green onions.  The albacore melted in my mouth and had a smooth texture. 
They also had Ebi, Shrimp, as part of the sushi platter.  Everything else was really good and this is the only regular sushi that I wish wasn't there but it's not surprising.  It's always your typical sushi to add on because it is the cheapest.  Still, everything else was great.
Another typical fish is the White Fish, which was fine.  It was fresh but I am never a big fan of white fish since it has a little chewier texture.  I prefer my fish to be tender and fatty.  =D
They also have a delicious slice of Hotate, Scallops.  I always enjoy the sweetness and tender texture of raw scallop.  If you haven't had raw scallops, you are missing out.  As long as it is fresh, it's succulent and heavenly.
The Eel California Roll was nicely prepared.  I liked how the Unagi, Eel, was crisp and warm.  This roll is simple but a good ole favorite.
Along with the sushi platter is the Soup with a house made Fish Ball.  Inside are puffed grains and thinly sliced daikon inside.  The soup was very light and piping hot.  It's a nice way to cleanse the palate, but I am not a huge fan of these kinds of clear broth.  Luckily Ms. Lin is around to help finish my soup.
For dessert they served a Pear soaked in Plum Wine with Jelly and fresh Vanilla Ice Cream.  This was not a bad dessert but I personally dislike the taste of alcohol.  Still, I know that many people would enjoy the fruit that's been soaked in plum wine.  I thought the vanilla ice cream was extremely tasty.  The flavors were incredible.  It was the best part of the dish.  I wished dessert was just a big bowl of this ice cream.  Yum!
All in all I was very satisfied with their lunch omakase.  The price was very reasonable for how much they normally charge for their dishes.  BlueFin is very fresh and tasty, but super pricey for sushi.  I recommend coming here for lunch because it is a much better deal.  They are actually pretty busy for lunch so be sure to make a reservation and if you have an Open Table account then be sure to get your points.
I actually came back the next day for dinner.  It is very posh and can be a little snooty from the staff but the food is good.  The chefs seem friendly and know what they are doing.  I took some friends there who had a toddler and they do not have any high chairs.  Even though I am not a fan of children at restaurants, I don't think that they should be so judgmental to my friends who brought their child and were very sweet about the fact that they didn't have high chairs.  Minus a point for this, but that was dinner, the lunch staff have been fine.
BlueFin Sushi
7952 E Coast Hwy
Newport Beach, CA 92651
(949) 715-7373
Bluefin on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 28, 2012

I had seen my coworkers bring back some sandwiches from Sprouts Farmers Market.  The funny part is that it was the ugliest sandwich I had ever seen with a faux bread beret on top of the sandwich.  It was the oddest sandwich, so why would I want to try their sandwiches out?  Well you can't judge a book by its cover.  Even though the bread was hideous, the sandwich was filled to the brim with tasty ingredients.  Also, for some reason my coworker has also never been charged for the avocados they spread generously into her sandwich.
Finally one weekend I decided to stop in for a sandwich because it was the easiest thing to get for dinner after a tiring days work.  This was my first time there and first time ordering.  They have slips there that you can fill out with what you would like in your sandwich and how much of it inside as well.  I liked that it has that extra option of how much you would like.  The guy behind the counter was super friendly and said that he would take care of me.  He really did take care of me and filled my sandwich to the brim with ingredients.  Normally I am not a huge sandwich fan, but man was I drooling from all the tasty ingredients he added for me.  He was also very sweet to suggest a few treats that he loves.  This gigantic sandwich was only $4.49.  Here's the list of ingredients : Cheddar, Swiss, Tomatoes, Onions, Lettuce, Bacon, Avocado, Ham, Sprouts, and Turkey on Squaw Bread.  They don't have squaw listed as a bread choice but the guy told me that it was the best way to go and he was right!

You can make this into a meal by adding a dollar.  With that you get a bag of chips, a small side, and a bottle of water.  Not a bad deal I must say! Even my picky father agreed that it was a great deal after he saw my gigantically stuffed sandwich! Now that's saying something lol.  Since I had such a great first experience, I went back within a week or so for another helping.  Word to the wise, it really makes a difference who makes your sandwich because the lady who made my second sandwich charged me for every little thing and it was probably half the size of my first sandwich.  Note to self : Only look for him to take care of me! ^_-

Sprouts Farmers Market
3775 Alton Parkway  
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 705-5435

So why am I all the way out in Rancho Cucamonga at the Aloft?  Well, Gourmet Pigs invited me to be her plus one to the PR event for Ra Pour.  I arrived early and hung out in the lobby area.  They have a circular check-in station.  When we were checking in they took a while before they figured out what rooms.  What annoyed me was that they weren't sure which room was for which key.  It made me question their staff since it was just two key cards.  They also didn't have the key cards ready for us to take, so when we leave our rooms we really don't have a way to get back in the room until they are finished preparing the key cards.  Hmmm.... what kind of hotel is this?
Even though Aloft belongs to the Starwood Group and has the W Hotel name outside, big let down.  From the outside it only looked okay and the lobby actually had a modern feel to it, but the service was definitely not up to par and the rooms... I didn't take a picture of the popcorn ceiling but later did talk to others who were staying at the hotel too that the ceiling looked very iffy.  They tried to use paint to cover up the old structure of the hotel. 
I was not too concerned about this because what really bothered me was the room's smell.  The hallway didn't smell but once you entered the room, the enclosed space really brought out the smell.  Maybe I have a heightened sense of smell, but I wouldn't like my clothing or my body to carry this smell all day. 
The beds were fine and the room was clean.  It was interesting that they have a frosted glass connecting the shower area to the bedroom.  I don't know if I would really want my companion to see that while I shower nor would I want to see her, but I guess if you were there as a couple then it would be okay?  Hmm....  I did like that they did have Bliss as their bath products like all W Hotels have, but they had them in those containers where you must pump the product out.  My hand got a little tired pushing the button to get the shampoo and shower gel.  The showers water pressure was not very strong.
All in all I wasn't too impressed with this hotel nor would I recommend it.  The good thing was that it was free and it was only for a night.  I am still glad I got to spend some time with Gourmet Pigs to catch up and for inviting me to join her.  =D

Aloft Hotel
10480 4th Street
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
(909) 484-2018

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chick-Fil-A, now what does that mean?  To me it means "Eat Mor Chikin"! I must admit that it was one of the cutest billboards that I have ever seen.  Every time I pass by one of them, I can't help chuckling.  It reminds me of Ms. Lin since she is born in the year of the cow.  The more reason I should be eating beef!! lol I haven't really listened to what the signs have been saying since I have never been to a Chick-Fil-A.  It has always been on my mind that I should try them out but I never felt the need or was just being lazy.  Finally my best bud and I were talking about it and she had a hankering for brownies.  (PS this was a secret craving) So we headed down to the closes Chick-Fil-A by her house for some dessert.
Even though I had been very full from dinner, I had to squeeze in the room for my FIRST Chick-Fil-A ever! lol We were going to go through the drive-thru to make it easier.  I brought up the fact that I had never been and she offered for us to both go in.  Nah, call me lazy but the drive-thru counts! lol So officially I have never been inside a Chick-Fil-A but I have now had their sandwich lol.  Based on recommendations, I decided to have the Spicy Chicken Sandwich with Bacon.  The flavor had a nice kick and the chicken was nicely fried.  It wasn't overly battered nor did it felt oil.  I kind of wished I had more of their original sauce to dip the sandwich in.  The sandwich was a little dry without the sauce or maybe I just like it saucy.  ^_~
All in all it was a good sandwich full of flavor.  It wasn't your normal fast food spicy chicken sandwich where they claim to be spicy and end up being dull and flavorless.  I even got to try their "special" brownies.  My best bud kept raving about how it was like a tasty chocolate cake with the layer of frosting on top.  At first it really scared me because it sounded heart-clogging and not in a good way, but once I took a bite, I understood what she meant.  It was moist and sweet without being overly oily.  Maybe it will be "our" spot now since she was the one who took me to my first Chick-Fil-A.  Now if she could get me to get up in the morning to have their delicious breakfast that so many people rave about lol. 
26792 Portola Pkwy
Foothill Ranch, CA 92610
 Chick-fil-A on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 21, 2012

On my last trip to Italy, I made it my goal to find the best gelato that Italy (Italia) has to offer.  The first trip I ever took to Italy, I couldn't find any good gelato in Venice but that was 4 years ago.  Maybe I didn't look too hard to find them but since I was going to be in Italy for some long, the goals have changed and I am a different foodie now.  Back then I never even picked up a camera and hated that Ms. Lin made me take pictures.  How times have changed, huh?  It's rare that I am ever without a camera and good food nowadays =).
I tried to do some research before I left for my trip as well as follow up research when I had free wi-fi.  Everyone highly recommended Grom and I had to stop by to see what all the fuss is about.  There's one location on the main street of Corso Buenos Aires.
We passed by on our way to the Duomo but headed straight for the church.  Instead of taking public transportation to the tourist site, we walked all the way there and it took quite a while before reaching the destination.  Stopping by at Grom was the best reward for a full day of sight-seeing.
Even though it wasn't dinner time nor should it have been a busy time, but there was a line out the door for Grom throughout the day.  No like the present, right?  We decided to line up since it looked like they were always going to be busy when we walk by.  The line moves pretty smoothly and just think that it will be worth it at the end.  Tons of people who love gelato are squeezing inside, but the treat is its own reward.
There wasn't too much of a language barrier and they were willing to help.  It's best if you know what flavors you might like as there were tons of choices. They have all the flavors listed outside the door for patrons to look over before ordering.  All their gelatos are stored individually in metal containers, which a bit different from the normal presentation.
Maybe this time I wasn't greedy enough as I only go the smaller cone.  It's the same price for having your gelato in a cup or a cone, so why not have it on a nice cone.  Ever since my first trip to Venice, years back, I was a bit shy to try new gelato places.  Looking back, I wish I got a few cones to enjoy all the seasonal flavors.
I chose the Nocciola with Tonda Gentile Hazelnuts and the Caramello al Sale, which was caramel and Himalayan pink salt.  The salted caramel was a tad too sweet for me but still a nice texture.  I thought the real winner was their special type of hazelnuts used for the nocciola.  The rich flavors came emanating through the velvety texture of the gelato.  It's definitely not your ordinary hazelnut gelato.  I know that they have locations in NYC and in So Cal now, but I wonder if it can compare to the flavors of Italy (Italia).
They had some tasty Biscotti di Battifollo in the jars by the gelato bar that looked very inviting and tasty.  They were only .30 € per piece.  I grabbed one for my cone.  The biscotti turned out to be really tasty, but I am not willing to line up again for an extra snack.  Next time I will be sure to by some extra just in case I like it and won't have to stand in line.  Instead of a biscotti, it really tasted like a shortbread cookie.
All in all, I really enjoyed the gelato at Grom.  It left a lasting impression in my mind.  I don't know if I really liked Milan (Milano), Italy (Italia) because there were a lot of ups and downs, but Grom's gelato helped a ton.  Maybe I will have to trek out to Malibu for some.  After looking at the pictures and thinking about Italy, I am getting hungry! Ciao =D
Corso Buenos Aires, 13 - 20124
Milano - Ph. +39 02.20520104

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