Sunday, May 18, 2008

GO: Grand Central Market

I like to go to Grand Central Market on a weekly basis because I can buy produce for dirt cheap, and it reminds me of my beloved Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver, BC. Although GCM is a ghetto version of Granville Island, it's an endearing ghetto version. While Granville Island has charm and a semi-posh feel, GCM has character and grit. And I love both equally but for different reasons. One thing that I appreciate about GCM is that it caters to ethnic customers, particularly Latinos.

Some of my regular purchases at GCM are dried beans (garbanzo, black, and white) and dried fruit (one particular vendor has the most extensive selection I’ve seen). Also, I can’t leave without getting a smoothie from La Adelita Tortilleria, which serves the best tasting smoothies I've ever had. I'm not a smoothie person because I often find them overly sweet and thick. But La Adelita's are made with fresh fruit. Strawberry-Mango and Strawberry-Pineapple are my favorites so far. You will also find a fine selection of aguas frescas (fresh juice) and you can take your pick of jamaica, watermelon (sandia), tamarind, strawberry, mixed fruit, horchata, and others. The watermelon juice is particularly refreshing and absolutely lip-smacking.

Grand Central Market also has many food stalls and you can choose from Mexican, Salvadorean, Chinese, Hawaiian, Japanese, and Middle Eastern cuisines. I haven't tried much of the food selection but I plan to in the future.

317 S. Broadway @ 4th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Open everyday 9:00am-6:00pm

::5 stars::

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

EAT: La Estrella

After hearing many positive references to La Estrella, particularly in regards to the fish tacos, I finally had to check out this renown taco stand for myself. I ordered two fish tacos, and when I got my plate I gasped at the size of them: two giant mounds of fried battered fish doused with a gooey mess of sour cream, shredded cabbage, diced tomatoes, and cilantro resting on corn tortillas that could barely contain the contents. I scarfed them down with my two bare hands. Because they didn't have any knives, I had no choice but to eat cavewoman style. I got sauce on my hair, hands, and jacket sleeves. It was a messy affair needless to say. The fish was flaky and tender while crispy golden brown on the outside. And the toppings complemented the fish very well.

I ordered a side of rice and beans, which I instantly regretted the moment I beheld them. They looked so pathetic in the sterile-looking white Styrofoam container in which they came. They tasted heavily of chicken stock. Very disappointing, especially because I always look forward to my side of rice and beans whenever I eat at a Mexican joint.

I definitely look forward to returning to La Estrella to enjoy the fish tacos on the patio, especially in the summer months. If only I could drink a Corona along with my tacos, it would be the perfect way to enjoy them. But alas, La Estrella does not serve alcohol.

::4 stars::

502 N Fair Oaks Ave (south of Orange Grove Blvd)
Pasadena, CA 91103-3304
Phone: (626) 792-8559

Sunday, March 02, 2008

GO: Union Station

What a glorious building! Union Station is probably my favorite building in Los Angeles. And I feel extremely fortunate to be able to traverse through this architectural gem on a frequent basis, given that I take the Metro Gold Line at least once a week and pass through the station in order to connect to the Red Line.

My breath is taken away every time I walk through the waiting room. The lofty ceilings, the graceful leather chairs, and the soft, warm glow of SoCal sunshine pouring in through the soaring windows regenerate the elegance that has been there since the day it opened its doors.

People may rave about the grandeur of NYC's Grand Central Station, but when I visited the famous landmark I concluded that L.A.'s Union Station is far more distinctive because of its innovative combination of Spanish Colonial and Art Deco styles.

Union Station is definitely one of the distinguishing components of L.A.'s eclectic architectural smorgasbord. I love admiring this structural icon, and I hope that it never gets replaced by a modern station.

Union Station
800 N. Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

::5 stars::

Saturday, March 01, 2008

EAT: Scoops

More reasons to love Scoops! Last night my friends and I went to indulge in some exotic gelato goodness but we arrived just as it was closing. Tai Kim, proprietor and gelato master, just hands me a pint of free gelato. That's right, FREE strawberry kiwi gelato. He's saint.

I believe people who are in the gelato business are people who have been called to bring a bit of joy to humanity. Ice cream makes people happy. And it sure made me happy last night after being deprived of ice cream for almost two months.

712 N Heliotrope Dr (@ Melrose Ave.)
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 906-2649
Mon-Sat noon-10pm
Sun 2pm-6pm

::5 stars::

Saturday, February 23, 2008

EAT: Europane

I’m not entirely certain if “divine” sufficiently describes the awesomeness that is the lemon bar that Europane makes. Europane has, hands down, perfected the lemon bar in all its lemony goodness and the buttery shortbread crust on which it rests. It has the right amount of sweetness offset by the right amount of tartness. Taking small bites of it with sips of green tea in between is the ultimate epicurean experience for me. That’s how much I love Europane’s lemon bar, and in any ode to this pastry no hyperbole is too hyperbolic.

Europane has many other delectable delights such as sandwiches. An item that comes well recommended and which I’ve always enjoyed whenever I’ve ordered it is the egg salad sandwich. The egg is soft-boiled so it sets it apart from any other ordinary egg salad sandwich. And it’s served up on one of their in-house hearty breads that you can choose.

Given that I currently live only a few blocks from Europane, I’m quite impressed by the self-restraint I’ve demonstrated by not running over there on a daily basis to pick up a lemon bar. But after singing its praises, I think paying the bakery a little visit after writing this would be the appropriate thing to do.

950 E. Colorado Blvd. Ste 107 (1 block east of Lake Ave.)
Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 577-1828
Open Mon-Sat 7am-5:30pm and Sunday 7am-2pm

::5 stars::

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

EAT: Tonny's

Mmmmmmmmmmmm, the huevos rancheros served up at Tonny's was amazing. Huevos rancheros is my favorite Mexican dish, and if it's on the menu, I almost always order it. It's been a long time since I enjoyed huevos rancheros this yummy.

The eggs were smothered with a red sauce that did not disappoint, but tasted just right. Usually the red sauce is where most HR dishes fail. The mexican rice was cooked perfectly and seasoned just right to complement the beans. At most places I go the mexican rice is a letdown or mediocre at best. I don't like it when restaurants treat side dishes as an afterthought.

The chile verde (carnitas stir-fried in green sauce) comes well recommended. My friend ordered it and reported it was yummy.

Make sure to ask for corn tortillas rather than flour tortillas, as they are handmade. The tortillas come hot and soft and delicious. The complimentary chips and salsa, however, are nothing to write home about.

In addition to Mexican cuisine, Tonny's menu includes typical breakfast fare, sandwiches, and burgers.

843 E Orange Grove Blvd. (west of Lake Ave.)
Pasadena, CA 91104

::4.5 stars::

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

EAT: Pure Luck Restaurant and Scoops

Going to Pure Luck was my first venture into vegan cuisine, and even as a semi-vegetarian I couldn’t help but be a bit apprehensive about how the food would taste. However, my fears were quelled at first bite. I was quite impressed by how flavorful the food was, and I ended up being very satisfied with my meal. I ordered the torta, a big mess of an open-faced sandwich that comes with jackfruit “carnitas,” beans, sliced tomatoes and avocado. The “carnitas” really did resemble pork, but more importantly it had a robust flavor that did not give off a strong “fake pork” taste (which would have grossed me out). The best parts of the sandwich were the bread and the vegan mayo. They were the tastiest bread and the tastiest mayo I have ever enjoyed. For the side, I chose the sweet potato fries, which unfortunately were disappointingly bland. I think next time I’ll get the French fries instead.

My friend ordered the BBQ pulled pork sandwich, also made up of jackfruit “carnitas” topped with BBQ sauce, pickles, and vegan mayo. It looked awesome, and I’ll have to try it next time.

Other dishes I’d like to try are a couple of the appetizers: the Caesar rolls and the fried gnocchi.

Another reason to go to Pure Luck is the cheap beer. They have ten beers on tap, all microbrews, and a pint only costs $4. No wonder this joint is so popular. It’s a tiny place and fills up quickly for dinner so be ready to wait. And the service can be incredibly slow when it gets busy.

Pure Luck is a vegan restaurant that even meat lovers would like, along with semi-vegetarians like me. I was mighty impressed.

After dinner, we went across the street to Scoops, a truly innovative gelateria. The gelato is made daily in small batches with the most creative combination of flavors I ever did see, and the offerings change every day. You can even make suggestions of flavor combinations and, you never know, one of them may just be there next time you go. I chose the avocado vanilla and blueberry brandy. I wanted to try the peanut butter Oreo, but not surprisingly they were completely out. Also, for gelato it’s dirt cheap. The smallest size costs $2.50 and you get two generous scoops of any two flavors. I couldn’t even finish mine and I rarely ever throw away ice cream, especially gelato.

Can’t wait to go back to both these establishments.

Pure Luck Restaurant
707 N Heliotrope Dr. (@Melrose Ave.)
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 660-5993
Mon-Sat 11:00 a.m.-12:00 a.m.

::4.5 stars

712 N Heliotrope Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 906-2649
Mon-Sat 12:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.
Sun 2:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.

::5 stars::