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Waffle Sandwiches at Bruxie

May 4, 2012 2 comments

I love waffles.  I can go to town at a hotel’s “deluxe” continental breakfast making my own waffles (I kick up the texture and nutrition factor by mixing some instant oatmeal into the batter).  I thought I loved Belgian waffles.  After visiting Bruxie in Brea, I’ve realized that I’ve never actually had a real Belgian waffle.  Now I can truly say that I loooooove Belgian waffles.

Both kinds.

Think of the pizza controversy we have here in the good ol’ U-S-of-A.  We’ve got the thin crust perfection of New York-style and the biscuit-like buffet that is Chicago-style.  Belgium’s second greatest contribution to civilization is its two styles of waffles: Brussels and Liege (its #1 being, of course, chocolate).  The Brussels waffle is unsweetened, light and yeasty with a crispy exterior.  The Liege waffle is quite sweet, its density and richness accented by the pleasant pop of pearl sugar mixed throughout the batter.  Structurally, they’re polar opposites (much like the aforementioned pizza styles).

Bruxie boasts “Gourmet Waffle Sandwiches”.  Leaving boring old bread to “new world” restaurants, veggies and meats find a home within the “bold fold” of a Brussels waffle.  The menu includes burgers, smoked salmon and Boar’s Head pastrami.  I had to go with the L.A. classic, fried chicken!   A super-savory buttermilk marinated chicken breast is slathered with chile honey and garnished with a tangy slaw.  In my humble opinion, it’s better than Roscoe’s.  A warning to Roscoe’s die-hards, Bruxie uses quite a heavy hand with thyme in their fried chicken batter.  It’s an herbaceous smack that may be unpleasant to some.  So the protein portion is an understandable matter of taste.  But I would be shocked if anyone thought Roscoe’s waffle, while good, is better than Bruxie’s.

My wife went with a sweet sammie, which makes perfect sense since she’s a sweetie!  Hers had bananas, Nutella and sweet cream and was cuh-razy good!  As we both took our very first bites, we had one of those rare moments when a restaurant instantly became one of our faves.  Seriously, just one bite, and Bruxie found it’s way into our unwritten, but heart-felt, top three.

We also had a chocolate Liege waffle, which was stuffed with Belgian chocolate.  Yes, you read that right, Belgium’s two greatest contributions to civilization together!  Upon closer review of the menu, I’ve come to find that you can get the Liege waffle as a Sundae.  If you like Eggos, you must go to Bruxie.  You know what, if you have a pulse, you must go to Bruxie.

Fried chicken and Brussels waffle.

Chocolate filled Liege waffle.

But, wait, there’s more…

They serve Peet’s coffee!

Bruxie on Urbanspoon

Just had to share these…

March 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Hello, world, remember me?

My love for food hasn’t changed.  I suppose blogging has kinda lost its lustre.  In the year since my last post, I’ve had some of the best food EVER.  I’ve been inspired to break my cyber silence.  If you’re in SoCal, you must try these:

The #19 at Langer’s Deli (downtown Los Angeles).  Best pastrami sandwich ever!  This legendary restaurant isn’t just hype.  Their thick cut pastrami is juicy, perfectly seasoned and pleasantly smokey.

Monte Cristo Egg Rolls at North End Caffe (Manhattan Beach).  Kahlua pork with ham and swiss cheese in a cracklin’ crisp egg roll!  Wow.  Seriously!  Wow.

ANY Cupcake at My Delight Cupcakery (Ontario).  Gourmet cupcakes in “The 909”?  Folks, it really is all good in da hood!  My Delight can hang with any of the fancy-shmancy cupcake shops in West L.A., even Sprinkles.  Gotta try the “Breakfast Cupcake” (buttermilk cupcake with bacon and maple frosting)!

Pizza Bianca at 800 Degrees Pizza (Westwood).  Think Chipotle or Quizno’s, but with pizza.  You start with your dough freshly rolled out before your eyes.  Then you go right down the line and completely customize your pizza with premium ingredients (sauces, oils, cheeses, meats and veggies).  When you’re satisfied with your creation, your pizza goes right into the blazing hot (800 degrees, I’m guessing) wood-fired oven and cooks in just 60 seconds!  Yes, you read that right.  One stinkin’ minute!  We went “less is more” with the Pizza Bianca which is simply extra virgin olive oil, garlic, mozzarella cheese and sea salt.  So simple, yet so divine!

I’ll report on more of my delicious discoveries soon.  Maybe.

Categories: Restaurant Reviews

Pupusas in Grand Central Market

March 27, 2011 1 comment

Grand Central Market is a landmark in downtown L.A..  Not as widely known as the L.A. Farmers Market, it is a bustling gem of an open air market set amidst historic architecture.  Each aisle seemingly teleports you to a different region of the world.  My pioneering visit got me caught up in Central America, specifically El Salvador.

One of the busiest stalls in the market was Sarita’s Pupuseria.  The prevailing smell was that of wonderfully lard-y corn masa.  I’ve never had El Salvadorean food, so ordering was a bit of a shot in the dark.  Given the name, I knew I had to get a Pupusa.  But I also ordered a tamale as a safety net, and added a fried plantain ball to live on the edge (bungee jumping is next).

I watched as the uni-lingual cook stuffed pork and cheese into a corn masa dough ball (and it wasn’t English she was speaking, a great sign, if you ask me).  It was flattened and griddled on the flat top.  The result was a crispy exterior that yielded to a soft dough with an explosion of savory pork and cheese to complete the package.  Sarita’s Pupusas are complimented well by a side of tangy cabbage slaw.  Awesome!

The fried plantain was a nice surpise.  When plantains are deep fried, they mysteriously form a crispy exterior that resembles a batter.  They are naturally tangy and are, more often than not, served in savory applications.  The one I ordered had a creamy filling that was just sweet enough to make it a very pleasant dessert.  I would definitely order it again.  The safety net was completely unnecessary.  It was a nice tamale, with a slightly different texture than the Mexican version, but nothing special.  Next time I would skip the tamale and order an extra Pupusa.  Or two.

Pupusa hot off the grill!

Deep fried plantain goodness!

Sarita's Pupuseria on Urbanspoon

The Beverly Grillbillies!

February 18, 2011 3 comments

When you’re from “The 909”, it’s quite the undertaking to make a trek into the big city.  Making sure one’s wife-beater-tank-top is freshly pressed is just the tip of the iceberg.  The cow must be milked, the meth lab shut down, and the pick up truck taken off the cinder blocks.  So when The Fun Couple finally made it to Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills, it’s understandable that we turned a few heads.  I’m sure all those West L.A. socialites were just jealous of my sweet mullet.

Okay, despite the bad rap my area code gets (the snooty folks in Orange County call the region “the valley of the dirt people”), I’ve never personally been featured on COPS, nor do I live on a farm (and I don’t have a mullet).  And even though The 909 (a.ka. The Inland Empire) is a bit of a culinary wasteland, we can definitely appreciate fine dining.  My dream restaurant has been Fogo de Chao, the upscale Brazilian BBQ chain that actually finds its roots in Brazil!  At over $60 per person, I assumed that it would be an elusive fantasy just beyond reach.  But thanks to Dine L.A.’s “Restaurant Week“, Fogo de Chao became a reality!

A quick tip for my fellow 909-ers who dare venture into such uppity places: THERE’S NO NEED TO GET INTO YOUR FORMAL WEAR!  You won’t fool anyone into thinking that you’re a “local” (the flannel shirt under your corduroy suitcoat will be a dead giveaway).  You’ll feel more than comfortable in respectable casual wear (meaning jeans and a nice shirt not shorts and a WWF tank top).

Fogo de Chao is a buffet fit for royalty.  You are encouraged to start with their salad bar, which is so much more than a salad bar.  Get Sizzler or Hometown out of your head!  It features all manner of fresh veggies, expertly prepared salads, fine deli meats (including prosciutto and smoked salmon), imported cheeses, and high-end oils and vinegars.  The highlight for the two of us was the Balsamic vinegar.  It was amazingly rich, sweet and complex.  We put it on everything!

You are given a coaster which gives the servers (gauchos) in their M.C. Hammer pants the cue to get the meat party started.  The red side means, “We need a break!”, the green side means, “It’s on like King Kong!”  When we decided to “go green”, the most beautiful parade I had ever seen got going.  Bacon-wrapped filet mignon.  Bacon-wrapped chicken.  Ribeye.  Sausage.  Garlic beef.  Lamb chops.  Parmesan encrusted pork tenderloin.  I tried everything that came my way, at least ten different meats.  I got seconds (maybe even thirds, it’s really none of your business, though) of the garlic beef, ribeye, and — surprisingly — the bottom sirloin.  Bottom sirloin can be chewy and livery, but it was tender, juicy and unbelievably tasty!  Simply seasoned and cooked to perfection using real wood, the premium quality of their meats really shine.  Wowzers, if only human evolution had taken the route of cattle … a couple extra stomachs would’ve been nice!

As if the salad bar and meat parade aren’t enough to make one spontaneously combust from “happy, happy, joy, joy” overload, you’re brought a trio of scrumptious side dishes: mashed potatoes, fried polenta, and fried banana.  They’re all very good, though I would prefer to have my fried banana topped with vanilla ice cream.  As soon as a dish is empty, they’ll bring you more.  The servers are very attentive without being annoying.  Service all around was excellent!

Commoners, peasants, and lowly 909’ers … Dine L.A. is your chance to experience the royal treatment!

I took a bunch of pictures, but they’re really lame.  Maybe I was trembling with excitement.  But here’s a taste of Fogo de Chao:

From the salad bar ... gettin' the party started right!

Terrible picture, I know. I guess I just have to go back to get a decent one!

Fogo de Chao on Urbanspoon

Culinary Clash #3: L.A.’s Best French Dip

January 27, 2011 5 comments

The French Dip sandwich.  Maybe Los Angeles’s most famous contribution to the culinary world.  Thinly sliced meats lovingly paired with a crusty french roll and served “au jus” (with the natural juices that collect in the pan during cooking).  Usually the bread is dipped prior to serving but some prefer to dip while eating.  Pre-dip or self-dip, the French Dip is a fine example of The Fun Foodie’s mantra, “Less is More”.

There’s not much doubt that this popular sandwich was birthed in L.A..  The controversy comes with trying to figure out exactly which “hospital” gave it its first spank.  A gamut of legends have emerged.  They range from a simple accidental falling of bread into the pan, to the appeasing of a customer complaining about stale bread, to the kindness of a chef helping a patron with sore gums.

Clash #3 is between the two purported originators of the French Dip: Philippe’s and Cole’s.  Both are 100+ year old institutions with ardent defenders.  But that’s where the similarities end.  Philippe’s is bright and bustling, rather large with a casual feel.  Cole’s is dark and subdued, yet cozy with a retro charm.  Philippe’s menu is extensive, offering a wide range of classic American comfort foods.  Cole’s is straightforward, sandwiches and sides.  I take it as a kind of “in your face” brashness that says, “we’re so good at what we do we don’t need to try to be anything else.”

Philippe's pork dip with potato salad.

Philippe’s roasts huge bottom round roasts for their beef dips.  I was shocked to learn that fact on the Travel Channel.  I had already experienced Philippe’s and it was truly one of the best sandwiches I had ever eaten.  The problem is that bottom round is one of the cheapest cuts of beef you can buy.  And for good reason: it is awful.  The flavor is bland at best (livery, usually), and it is a terribly tough and dry piece of meat (a heavily worked muscle at the animal’s hind quarters with little fat).  I have no idea what Philippe’s does, but they do it right.  They somehow transform a bargain cut into something fit for gourmet consumption.  All it needs is a touch of their house-made hot mustard (be careful, it is really hot!).  As awesome as the beef dip is, we actually like the pork dip even more (they also offer ham, lamb and turkey).

Cole’s uses a much better cut of beef, the brisket.  It is the go-to slab for corned beef, pastrami and Texas BBQ.  It has big, beefy flavor and melt-in-your-mouth succulence when cooked properly (low and slow).  Most foodies would agree that this would give Cole’s the upper hand right off the bat.  I walked into their historic building expecting a clash of titan proportions.  But it wasn’t really that close.  Cole’s beef dip was good.  Very good, in fact.  The meat was tender and flavorful, the bread had that classic crusty exterior, and the “jus” was nice.  Philippe’s is just better in every facet of “French Dip-ology”.

Cole's beef dip. Good, but not quite good enough.

Philippe’s array of creamy side salads are all very good.  Plus, you can get a good cup of coffee for nine cents!  At Cole’s, we had their bacon potato salad, which was extremely good.  If this had been a potato salad clash, Cole’s would’ve scored a knock out.  But this was a battle of L.A.’s finest, the famous French Dip.  Regardless of who actually invented it…

Philippe’s is the best.  Hands down.

Philippe the Original on Urbanspoon

Cole's on Urbanspoon

Nickel Diner (Part 2)

January 13, 2011 Leave a comment
Yes, research is ongoing for The Fun Foodie.  Just wanted to share the latest findings at the downtown L.A. gem, Nickel Diner (read my original review here).  We didn’t sit down this time.  They are very gracious to pack up their sweet treats to go.  I think they do it often.

Red Velvet Donuts. A very enjoyable pastry cream, but not any legit "red velvetiness" going on (more on the Red Velvet craze in a coming cupcake clash). Still, a great donut!

The Maple Bacon and Nutella donuts were as awesome as I remembered. The Strawberry Crumble was a bit too fake tasting for me.

Their apple-filled house-made Pop Tart is many times better than what we all thought was so wonderful as kids!

Culinary Clash #2: Filipino Food Trucks

January 4, 2011 2 comments

The Los Angeles gourmet food truck craze has spawned over 2,000 mobile eateries.  They are truly unique eating experiences, sometimes over-hyped, but often times they’ll break new culinary ground.  Think about it.  With no seating and unpredictable ambience, these trucks have got to come up with creative offerings to bring in business.  From Korean BBQ tacos to burgers smothered with sausage gravy to red velvet pancakes, the menus are inspired and inspiring!  In this “culinary clash”, I’d like to highlight two of the street food scene’s newest competitors: The Manila Machine and The White Rabbit Truck.  As a Pacquiao fan Filipino, their island offerings are near and dear to my heart.  And stomach.

The Manila Machine, the brain child of two food bloggers, was the very first Filipino food truck on the scene (see my original review here).  They offer dishes that feature familiar ingredients that are presented in creative ways.  Their style is a fusion of old school and nouveau.  Excellent food from really friendly folks.

The White Rabbit Truck takes a more aggressive approach, creating a Mexican-Filipino fusion.  Traditional Filipino meats like Adobo and Tocino are paired with tortillas to create distinctive tacos and burritos.  I must admit, the thought was quite off-putting at first.  Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some Mexican food (as in King Taco not Taco Bell)!  It just seemed so very wrong to have the comfort foods of my youth served with anything other than white rice. 

This deep-seeded prejudice overwhelmed me as I approached The White Rabbit Truck while it was parked at Disney headquarters in Glendale.  I ended up ordering an old fashioned Sisig rice bowl.  No fusing cultures on my watch!  We were keeping everything separate … but equal, of course.  But as I waited for my racialy pure dish to be prepared, I had an Affirmative Action moment.  Why not give a Filipino taco a chance?  About 90 seconds after ordering my Sisig, I ordered one Tocino taco.

And it was good!

Tocino taco ... judged by the content of its character!

Really good!  Tocino is cured pork that many think of as “Filipino ham”.  It is not smoked and quite a bit sweeter.  White Rabbit serves it on two corn tortillas and tops it with a tangy and slightly spicy slaw.  The flavors work together like the colors of a rainbow.  I couldn’t believe my taste buds.  Tocino tacos … who woulda thunk it?

Sisig. Kickin' it old school.

The Sisig was also quite good.  A melody of crispy (yet succulent) bits of fried pork, sauteed with onions, garlic, and jalapenos.  It is brightened up with a splash of citrus.  I can definitely see this working fabulously as a taco, kind of a kicked up version of carnitas.  Two complaints about my first White Rabbit Truck experience: the steamed rice was a bit dry, and the tortillas were not warmed up on the griddle (they were brittle and one actually cracked).  C’mon, White Rabbit, measure out the water carefully and slap those tortillas on the griddle for a couple seconds!

Now for “The Clash”….  The Manila Machine makes their Sisig with pork cheeks, and you don’t get much more tender than those nuggets of goodness.  They add a textural counterpoint with crushed chicharrones on top.  The flavor profiles of the two trucks are very similar with this dish, but the unique mouth-feel of The Manila Machine’s rendition is truly a wonder to behold.  Score one for the bloggers!

The signature items … now, that’s a different story.  If I weren’t so full, I definitely would’ve returned to the truck to order a few more tacos.  The Manila Machine’s pandesal sliders were tremendous, especially the Beef Tapa with Achara slaw.  I’d have to call it a draw.  Obviously, more research must be done.

Both trucks are really good, and different enough to carve out their own distinct niches.  I suppose the Sisig and attention to detail (properly cooked rice and gently toasted pandesal) give The Manila Machine the slight edge.  But if they were parked on the same block, I’d definitely visit both!

Mabuhay!