Monday, June 29, 2009

In-N-Out, Glendale CA in-n-out is not an intangible myth, it is not mere fantasy; it is not a fairy tale from la-la-land. It is real. And perhaps you may have read or heard PLENTY of reviews, blogs, and ratings for this legendary establishment...and I’m pretty sure mine won’t make any difference to either convince, entice or change your mind but I suggest you read on, if not to salivate then to support a struggling, crazy yet bored blogger.
In-n-out is an either or type of a place. Because of the small menu, its either you like it or you don't, its either you'd come back or you won't. Burgers (hamburger, cheeseburger or double-double), fries, three different types of milk shakes, drinks, and cheap coffee. That's about it. It is a family-owned and operated chain so nothing has changed all these years except for maybe raising the prices and adding more items to their "secret menu". I say they know and stick to what they do best...serve me some mighty, delicious burgers.
Double double with grilled onions, no tomato, and well done animal fries. Simple. Perfect. I know a friend that cannot have in-n-out without a strawberry milkshake (which makes her a twice a year customer only...sad, but true). I like mine with plain, reliable diet coke. Two glorious, juicy patties with two slices of melted, salty cheese...lettuce, pickles, grilled onions, and "spread" (just like thousand island but more mayo-based). My fries are crispy and well done (as it should be) with generous "spread", gooey cheese, and pieces of grilled onions. Heaven. And the more I bite into that burger, dripping with juicy, "spready" goodness I can't help but nod each and every time (as if to show the world my much unsolicited approval). And as I dig into my crispy, salty, saucy fries I just can't help but think God is really good. And the night was so much better by adding much welcomed ambiance...under the stars and friends all around. The conversation was non-stop and the burgers were absolutely the same as any other day I’ve been to in-n-out...perfect as always.
I will be using perfect less and be down-a-notch fan as soon as I become disappointed...but it is still yet to come. I look forward to actually finding a burger that comes close to my in-n-out...I heard "the bucket" in eagle rock is a rockin' place with some really good beef but unfortunately not vegetarian-friendly and my special someone is. So til that day when someone is nice enough to pick me up and go with will continue to be on that pedestal...and that's what it is all about...

(btw the secret menu is not really that much hidden from the's very much available on the World Wide Web...check it out)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Young Dong, San Gabriel CA

I still think that soon tofu or soondubu is almost the best hangover soup...pretty close runner-up to beef/bulalo nilaga (beef and vegetable soup) and nissin instant cup ramen (yes, in 3mins and it's bye bye hangover). So after a night of over indulging in Sapporo and Nigori Sake, Young Dong was the perfect late lunch spot. We had some time for "scratchers" at the nearby store while waiting for some friends who were "supposedly" stuck in traffic. Not that i have to really mention this but what the hell. I was expecting the king of punctuality...well...if not early, at least on time, but was slightly disappointed.
We finally went in and got to sit down at around 3pm and immediately an array of Korean side dishes or "banchan" were placed on our table. Banchan are small dishes of food served along with the main course and rice in a stone pot. Kimchi (fermented vegetables with chili peppers and salt), kongnamul (cold, boiled bean sprouts with sesame oil), pajeon (thin Korean pancakes with green onions), japchae (translucent noodles with garlic sauce and vegetables), Korean-style potato salad and a green salad were all served before we even ordered our dishes.
I ordered the beef and octopus soon, joe(my "special someone") ordered the scallop sizzler and our friends ordered two combination soons, it's soup with a pairing, one with bulgogi (thinly sliced beef with garlic and green onion served on a sizzling plate) and the other with bibimbap (mixed rice bowl with vegetables, beef, and egg with a sweet and spicy sauce on the side).
The soups came in little pots, almost boiling, perfect for the uncooked eggs they serve it with. Crack it directly on the soup and it will cook itself in almost no time. The steam coming out of these pots were almost comforting...i guess it's knowing that as soon as my tongue can actually handle it, i can start stirring and feeding my stomach with much needed reprieve. My soup was absolutely perfect, next to Beverly Tofu House, Young Dong's soon tofu was also flavorful and filling. The broth was not too spicy (i got a medium), the tofu pieces were silky and just melts in your mouth, and the portion was neither too big nor too small. They actually do not skimp on beef and octopus, which were both surprisingly tender. For those that know me well, arise and rejoice in the fact that if you take me here you will actually get to smell, sip, eat, and enjoy the food...silence is indeed golden. Joe's sizzler plate however was an expected let down, with very little scallops and a mountain of fillers, AKA bean sprouts. He did say that the scallops were "fine", very definitive??? Oh well, i was enjoying my quiet indulgence, sorry beb, "can't help you right now". The bulgogi was good. No, it was not get off your seat, standing ovation amazing, nevertheless good. They actually give you a big portion, enough for 2-3people according to my "Einstein calculations", but only because i don't really care for more add-ons when you have your soup to focus on. The bibimbap was a big portion as well, very generous with their vegetables, beef, and rice. Although by the end of lunch, it was the to-go meal...not that it was not good but after the spicy banchans, the amazing soup, the tender meat, the heavy carb known as rice...i doubt that anyone can really finish anything to the last morsel.
Although this late lunch was really, really, really LATE...i would not even bat an eyelash and do it over and over again. Comfort foods are personal, although most would say its the chicken noodle soup mom makes or the southern style cooking you crave every now and then...well, this is my chicken noodle soup. Hmmm, although my mom's molo soup is very much missed right now, tofu soup will have to do. So next time i get my hangover headache and stomach upset or for no preconceived reason at all, i definitely know where to go. And it didn't really matter that it was probably 80deg outside and not exactly soup day, we traveled regardless, towards my idea (of the moment) of comfort food.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gyu Kaku, Pasadena CA

So the thought of cooking your own food instead of chefs in the kitchen sounds a little ridiculous...for some people the reason why they actually go out to eat is so they don't have to flex a single muscle except of that putting the forks or spoons full of yummy goodness inside their mouths...if you just want to relax and do nothing while waiting for your food then this is not the place for you...better yet, bring a grillmaster (as we did)...kudos to our friend Juan for sharing with me the pleasure of cooking for the rest of the table...yes i was the only ms. in the group so for some reason it was my "assignment" to cook and serve the men...hmm.
Gyu Kaku is "yakiniku" dining or Japanese bbq, almost like yakitori, although not the traditional grilled chicken in bamboo skewers, nevertheless a must try grilling event, almost the same as Korean bbq dining. Juan has been trying to get us to go for a while now...Happy Hour 9pm to close, $1 draft beers, half off appetizers, $2.95 select grill items and $5 sakes...yes, the dollar beer should have been enough to convince us to go but last night was our night.
I haven't had a decent meal since lunch the previous day so i was wasn't packed and the wait was not that long, it did help that they brought our pitcher of Sapporo at the waiting lounge...$5.41 for the pitcher, can't get any better start to the night than that.
We got our own booth, got seated, and readied ourselves for some much awaited feasting. The appetizers were half off. The Hawaiian Ahi Poke salad was spicy yet not overwhelmingly so. The calamari was salty and tender enough to be addicting. The edamame was, well, edamame. Their appetizer portions are good for tiny little kids, so more than one serving is recommended for a group. We got two more pitchers of beer, ordered our meats and shrimp and relaxed for a few more minutes before the assault began. We really didn't care for chicken but made up for it in bulk orders of Kalbi Chuck, Bistro Harami, and Garlic Shrimp (if you think you can eat, order more servings at a time because happy hour is only from 9pm til 11pm, last call for food is 10:30).
The Kalbi Chuck was meat as it should probably taste like, nothing really special...thinly sliced, so for the hungry it was the easiest and fastest to cook. The Bistro Harami was unexpected. It was aged angus bistro steak and (when i actually cook it right as medium rare) melts in your mouth, almost with a sweet finish. All meats are marinated in their special sesame soy sauce, almost like the traditional "tare" (mirin, sake, soy sauce and sugar) sauce of yakitori. And the sauce just enhances the bistro and did not in anyway mask its goodness. Either that or i was just super hungry...hmmm. The garlic shrimp needed a little bit of help. We "soaked" it in some of their spicy sauce (each table comes with a spicy as well as soy sauce) and freshly squeezed lemon and after a few minutes it was almost as delicious to convert me into my baby's pesco-veg lifestyle. Yes, the fresh off the grill shrimp with garlicky, lemony taste was good enough to repeat the night even without the Kalbi.
More than the beer, more than the meat, and more than the shrimp, the highlight of the night was really the s'mores. Simple, yes, but after a few (or a ton) of savory bites it was most definitely an awesome finish. Where else can you actually grill your meat, drink your sake bombs and dollar beers, devour addicting calamari and end the night by making your own s'mores...come on, my stove top can probably do the job but doing it by myself out of craving is not the same as doing it buzzed (or drunk for some) with friends around you.
Gyu Kaku was a much welcomed experience when shared with some good grillers and good company. The seats could have had more room but rubbing knees with friends is probably forgivable given the cheap bill, good food, and funny topics of conversation. I would definitely go back, impress my honey with some grilling skills, wow my family with finally learning to be slightly domesticated in knowing when the meat is ready to be served, and getting my much needed "stress" buzz after work with friends. I'm going again on Friday...your first beer's on me.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Let's Eat...

And so i guess it is time to begin another love for food and the 40lbs weight gain should be enough to qualify and support my upcoming, i am not a food critic nor a food blogger (not yet) but it is about my experiences when food and drinks are on the table, conversation is on-going, and friends and family are sharing their plates with me...these places may not be your cup of tea but if you would like to try them (as some are definitely a must)...then details of the place and the food are provided generously...go ahead and send me an your comments...good food, better drinks, and the best of places are meant to be shared...