Friday, August 29, 2014

Foodie at Pike Place Market

Our first-ever trip to the Pacific Northwest called out for at least one bucket-listed tourist attraction, requiring a modest tolerance of crowds and wayward walking.

Behold, the 100+ year-old Pike Place Market, just 5 or so minutes away from the University Street stop at Seattle's Light Rail.  We arrived in the traditionally early hours of lunchtime, so our first edible venture was where both my friends and bloggers have commended as we invaded the Seahawks' terrain--Pike Place Chowder.

New England Chowder & Smoked Salmon Chowder

Located in the higher incline of the Post Alley, the sizes of their luscious, warm concoction sensibly vary, depending on the level of hunger and the amount patience knocked off thanks to the gradually longer line.  In spite of the seemingly numerous, appetizing flavors of chowder available, I deliberately chose the 8-ounce Smoked Salmon, while my S.O. pounced on this combo that included the 8-oz classic, creamy deliciousness--i.e. New England--a small Dungeness Crab Roll, and a regularly sized drink, i.e. iced tea to sway from my personal distaste on soda.

For 2 persons with evidently different heights, the entire tab came barely at $20 total--tax included.

Keep Clam & Chowder On

Speaking of burning, the piping hot factor on our soups slightly singed on my very sensitive tongue--and for the record, I am the one responsible for not blowing off its steam strongly enough.  That, however, didn't stop me at all on savoring the well-balanced, creamy consistency and the sheer generosity of the wondrous, fresh-off-the-dock flavors from both the off-white version and the salmon-colored version (pun intended).

As much as I sipped joyously on my orange-y comfort food, the S.O. thought that it had a more intense tang due to the obvious smokiness of the tender salmon and the zesty capers.  So if you're looking into the likewise tasty yet more tolerable flair, opt for the traditional New England.

Meanwhile, the Dungeness Crab Roll provided just the sweet and delectable sensation we have looked forward to on fresh crustacean, with the soft bread that nevertheless was sturdy enough for this protein pile.


Literally moving on to our next "quick" eat, we eventually spotted the Original Starbucks store.  Time was seriously precious to our short-feeling itinerary, so the least we could accomplish was taking a snapshot of the storefront and The 5-Footer.

Afterwards a glance of these pearly, fresh salmon brought attention to another popular Seattle, Russian-influenced treat: Piroshky Piroshky.

They sure taste more beautifully than they appear

Before enduring another long, stuffy line, consider the straightforward ordering-online approach and you'll zip through while continuing with touristy eye candy.  We nonetheless conformed unintentionally, waiting and stepping inch-by-inch for an astounding 5 minutes--thrice as less than the wait for the chowders at opening hour.

We gradually transitioned our appetite by ordering both the savory and sweet breads, which I observed their prices at about $4.00 on average.  Hotly fresh and soft were indisputable, as we reverently bit into the charismatic Chocolate Cream Hazelnut Roll, the beloved Apple Cinnamon Cinnamon Roll--which sensibly has less sugar than the 'Murican counterpart--and the outstanding, ambrosial Smoked Salmon Pate.

The Shapes Say Them All

The Inside of the Smoked Salmon Pate

Being careful not to smudge my lipstick

We then searched for one of the least hygienic spots in the West while exploring around 7 stories of and below the main Farmer's Market.  We later realized that this local "landmark" thankfully didn't share the same wall as Pike Place Chowder...

Underneath the ceiling-influenced shadows...

...Reveals the ever-increasing Gum Wall (Find Me!)

From braving the saturated amount of oral microbes stuck in these chromatic yet sticky chewables, we gladly took the stairs back into the main Farmer's Market.  More walking, huffing, and puffing were anticipated immediately after leaving Pike Place Market, and thus our way of storing and burning more energy while indulging simultaneously, was scouring for one last eat for the late morning/early afternoon: Daily Dozen Doughnuts.

How they make these Triple D's

Gazing and passing through the famous fish-catching act, no wonder 2 good friends of mine fervently recommended me to this donut cart.  Unlike those chained counterparts where they serve their fritters in textures like cakey, airy, or crazily unctuous, these pocket-sized morsels consisted of fluffy, slightly doughy delicious.  If you've ever eaten something called a beignet, that's what the bite closely matched with--especially the ones doused with powdered sugar.

12 differently flavored minis were our pick as we concluded our market session: Sprinkled, Glazed, Powdered Sugar, and Cinnamon.  The last 2 were my personal favorites, and unfortunately Assorted somehow didn't include the tempting Maple Bacon.

12 Assorted Mini Edible, Holed Pillows for $6

Roughly 3 hours on this blazing, local treasure were worth discovering and spending--both money-wise and date-wise.  Until then, Pike Place Market; you'll most likely see me sooner than expected.

Look For the Washington State Ferry

P.S. We couldn't return home without these utterly interesting, non-liquid foodstuffs: Truffle Salt from La Buona Tavola/Truffle Cafe, and Dark Chocolate Linguine from Pappardelle's Pasta--both shamelessly sampled and also highly recommended.

Pike Place Chowder
1530 Post Alley
Seattle, WA 98101

Piroshky Piroshky
1908 Pike Pike Place
Seattle, WA 98101

Daily Dozen Doughnuts
93 Pike St
Seattle, WA 98101

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Frenzy & Dami Sushi

A new, placid restaurant called Dami Sushi & Izakaya arose within a newly developed plaza in northern Buena Park--at the intersection of Beach Boulevard and Malvern Avenue.

Perhaps it's perceived as the black sheep in this Korean-dominated vicinity--for instance a Korean BBQ and a Korean supermarket named H Mart, which is close to ending construction.  With assertion and an open zeal of raw fish and seafood at its gastronomic finest, owners Thomas Shin and Brandon Lee teamed up with skilled chefs, Executive Chef Jun Kim and Executive Sushi Chef John Yoon, will satiate your hunger while placing the other competitive Asian restaurants in the back of your mind.

Their extensive menu features a camaraderie of Japanese and Korean eats to balance off the traditional Japanese elements and the atmosphere towards the Korean-dominating community.

Aptly beginning with Starters include the enticing Jawanmmushi: a savory Japanese steamed egg custard topped off with shrimp, a gingko nut, shiitake mushroom, and half of a swirly fish cake.  Your mind might have been pre-programmed "custard" belonging to the sweet continuum, but let's adjust that culinary assumption.

Jawanmushi (sample)

Jawanmushi as how it's regularly executed

Their Salads are more enriching than how it's verbally pronounced, such as the Sashimi Salad, Tuna Tataki, and the continental, earthy-feeling Whole Grain Salad--a protein and fiber delight full of black rice, Indian millet, lentils, kidney beans, mozzarella cheese, and baby mesclun dressed with soy vinaigrette.

Whole Grain Salad

If a mix of adventure and familiarity is more comfortable and pleasurable--while simultaneously pursuing for an aphrodisiac--they have fresh Oysters either coming from the Eastern U.S. zone or Pacific zone.  Pictured is a Shooter containing the Blue Point Oyster (from NY) with quail egg, masago, & yuzu sauce.

[Blue Point] Oyster Shooter

Or, on the next picture, you can opt for double the whammy as an aphrodisiac and a fried delicacy under Dami's Deep Fried section of the menu.  However, if a milder sensation suits you, their Shrimp Tempura conveys the safer bet.

Oyster Tempura with Enoki, Grated Radish, and Ponzu Sauce

Perhaps the prominently healthier substance stubbornly adheres to your eating lifestyle.  So besides the salads Dami provides Grilled entrees, such as Teppanyaki Beef, Grilled Yellowtail Collar, and the subtly sweet and inconceivably floral Chilean Sea Bass--marinated in miso and sake.

Center is a sample of Miso Chilean Sea Bass

Also within the menu comprises of their Signature creations, such as the tender and delectable spicy pork belly with rice, and ssamjang sauce, and lettuce to wrap around the aforementioned ingredients encompassing the Ssambab.

Ssam Bab

The Lettuce Wrap

If eating within comfort zone frightens you, step your gastronomic game way up towards dishes like the Golbang Yi Muchim, roughly translated as Sea Snail salad with dried pollack and hot chili pepper sauce, alongside two small, slithery scoops of rice noodles.

Golbang Yi Muchim (Sea Snail Salad)

Or possibly dive into a more proportionally diminutive amount yet slightly intensifying Siragei, which is a rice bowl of dried radish greens slowly cooked with special soy dashi and baby anchovy, topped with masago and ginger.

Siragei (Dried Radish Greens) Rice Bowl

When deliberately tossed altogether, the sauce gradually soaks the blanched-looking rice into a more inviting, light orange hue, at closer look with the masago mixed in--i.e. the sample in the picture below.

Perhaps a smokier touch, plus that adventurous trait in you, will tingle your gustatory senses.  The Saewoojang may as well excellently tailor you--a rice bowl full of raw shrimp preserved with special soy sauce, followed by dried pollack and jujube.

Saewoojang (Preserved Shrimp) Rice Bowl

If for some reason bowls and plates are not your forte of the day, on a separate, checklist menu contains Yakitori, which are mini skewers to nibble joyously while imbibing their beer and/or sake--which by the way poses a reason of the "Izakaya" inscription in their moniker.

Two of their featured skewers boast the Enoki (Mushroom) Maki and Asparagus Maki, both wrapped in savory, slightly crunchy, and tantalizing Japanese pork belly.

Enoki Mushroom Maki

Asparagus Maki

Perhaps none of the above can betray that nitpicky pescatarian brethren of yours, and thus Sushi answers to its loyalty.  On another separated, 2-paged checklist menu spotlights these fresh delicacies as both commonplace rolls and traditional cuts--i.e. sushi and sashimi.

Easily available in the rolls are the low-to-zero carb specialties, such as the zesty Dami Special, which packs up tuna, salmon, albacore, and crab meat with avocado wrapped in cucumber.  If soy paper appeals to personal texture, you might become enraptured with the Love Roll, which hugs around salmon, tuna, yellowtail, albacore, avocado, and cucumber.

Sample of Dami Special (left) & Love Roll (right)

Otherwise go for my personal preference in ordering raw fish: assorted sushi and sashimi by means of 2-piece ordering and 5-piece ordering, respectively--e.g. 8 dishes of fresh and conscientiously cool seafood in a Dami Seafood Box for $40--for 2 customers total.

Assorted Sushi: (from counterclockwise top right) Halibut; Salmon Belly; Red Snapper; Tuna/Maguro; Yellowtail Belly; garlic, ginger, and wasabi; Tuna Seaweed Roll; Abalone

My All-Time Favorite Fish: silky, smooth, and flavorful Sake/Salmon

Ending the night--or possibly commence the evening--can be gradually sweetened with their seductive yet mellow Matcha Green Tea Creme Brulee as a way to both titillate the sugar tooth and eliminate the opposing, savory remnants.

Green Tea Creme Brulee

If you particularly can't bear the wait or the excessive portions of red meat at the Korean BBQ next door, please do not hesitate and eat your heart out at Dami Sushi & Izakaya.  As another approach to enliven that hankering heart is their everyday Happy Hour, offering $1 oysters.

Happy Hour

Dami Sushi & Izakaya
5151 Beach Blvd, Unit A
Buena Park, CA 90621
(714) 739-2537

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Foodie at Afters Ice Cream

Pertaining to the sweet category of food trends, my fragile metabolism and taste have been hyperactive for indulgences like macarons, red velvet everything, decorative waffles, pumpkin spice delectables, and the familiar hybrid of a croissant and a donut.

Another potential food fad could emerge, after getting sweetened with a combination of artisan ice cream and the old-fashioned, simplistic donut.  This is what Afters Ice Cream has been screaming out since February 15.

Off the 405 freeway in Brookhurst Street and Talbert, accessibility of parking is a breeze--assuming that you don't mind an opportunistic walk.  It is sandwiched between Pick Up Stix and the flashy Hallmark store, however mentioning this was pointless because the lengthy hour long line of sweet teeth of all ages gives the location away.  Making the establishment more attention-grabbing were the previous businesses that left their namesake scars behind the "Ice Cream" signage.

Took This Pic When We Were in Line

My friends and I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon, and we were lucky taking a parking spot very close to the ice cream store.  Still, that couldn't defeat the odds of waiting the same amount of time as the Splash Mountain ride.  At least you'll have more time to gossip uninterrupted--without those bouncing noises in sit-down restaurants--catch up on Instagram photos, or even study some terminology on your note cards from StudyBlue (or another academic app on your smartphone).

Even inches from the entrance line you'll see Afters displaying their logo attire almost as if they were literally chilling in the see-through fridge.  Then you'll notice the plastic crates deliberately stacked to take role as the velvet rope at Haunted Mansion, but instead of feeling red you'll see (and likely feel) almost randomly stocked items, indicating ingredients used in their handcrafted ice cream.

Note: Not All Ingredients Are Avail Every Day

In actuality, one of my aforementioned friends and I retrospectively drove to Fountain Valley Plaza for that undying glimpse of the number of customers anticipating for what my friend informed me that Afters "put ice cream inside the donut."  After denied access of our own consent, a few days later I phone-talked to another gal friend describing this why-hasn't-been-thought-for-so-long ingenious culinary phenomenon, and she insisted that I indulge wholeheartedly with these 2 sweet sensations packed together, suitably called (and possibly trademarked) the Milky Bun.

Hours after our phone conversation, my friends and I nabbed that lucky parking spot that Wednesday afternoon for that and the artisan ice cream--moment involving roughly 15 flavors.

How the Milky Bun is Created Before Consumed

If you do dare order the Milky Bun, you can choose to have the donut plain or glazed.

Unglazed Donuts

With the $5.00 double the trouble comes with one free topping--or sauce.  Otherwise pay up an extra half dollar.

One of my friends gladly took the classic approach by going Single Scoop plus the 50-cent topping, much more specifically the Vietnamese Iced Coffee Ice Cream with Fruity Pebbles.

If you demand a tolerable dose of caffeine, but would rather embrace on a more luscious, thicker texture, this version of Cafe Sua Da could hype you up.  This would have been my request, had I visited Afters as a solo adventure.

However, after tackling other flavors to sample, I ended up having a serious date with the Jasmine Milk Tea Miky Bun, Glazed, with Afters [Cereal] Flakes, handsomely served on parchment paper as if folded as a bulky ice cream cone.

A Friend's Milk and Cereal Milky Bun

Just like my infatuation for certain milk teas for its impacted sensation, I contained the same emotion for Afters' extravagantly flowery and gorgeous punch.  Perfume-like level could be a more candid way to interpret this, so this tone could vary widely on individuals' taste, all thanks to genetics.  For a vivacious crunch, I chose the Afters flakes, which simply reminded me of those corn flakes made by a famous brand starting with the letter K.

Yet, I put myself at palatable and dietary risk to have this periwinkle-colored creaminess into this absurdly yet undoubtedly rich, overwhelmingly saccharine glazed donut.  If you dare rip off a little piece of the fried dough alone and bit into it, it's like eating from the proverbial, local mom-and-pop shops on your way to a 9-to-5 shift.

Nonetheless I pushed myself already to my limit of consumed sweetness that I managed 90% of the Milky Bun.  So if I were to reorder it, I don't mind at all sharing this with a friend or foodie partner.

In addition, the mental and physical sugar concentration, plus a lively conversation, of this afternoon treat led me to a slight oblivion on the texture of the ice cream, resulting in a second visit (barely a week later) with one of my friends from the previous rendezvous.  Those few days curiously showed notable upgrades, such as giant refrigerator (pictured below) next to the fully stacked plain donuts, plus a new ice cream flavor, the "Churro."

Plus we arrived at an amazingly short wait, on a Monday.  So, here's my bonus, 2 cents to you, lucky reader!

You're New

No pun intended (again), but after sampling the "Churro" flavor, the essence of cinnamon was taste-wise slightly shimmery, but it could attain a heavier kick--though I can imagine many other customers falling in love with this more instantaneously.

Then I asked one of the servers if half scoops for my Single Scoop is permissible, and joyously I got to enjoy 1/2 a scoop of likewise magnificently rich, chunky, and scrumptiously intense Cookie Butter and 1/2 a scoop of that consistently divine Jasmine Milk Tea (for a total of $3.50).  Meanwhile, my friend ordered the Milky Bun, this time unglazed--thank goodness--and filled with a nostalgic-sensing Peanut Butter & Jelly Ice Cream.

Now concentrating on the meaningful frozen texture in my scoop, it was slick, thickly whipped, and indubitably smooth.  Issues of air embedded within were close to zilch, though like the typical frozen brands, such as Ben & Jerry's, our ice cream melted easily during a chill post-rainy weather.

Bottom line: if you must endure a line analogous to popular park rides, a middle-profile concert, or even the original Pink's Hot Dogs, I'd say go after the uncommon yet grand flavors, i.e. Jasmine Milk Tea, Vietnamese Iced Coffee, and Cookie Butter.  Other likable flavors of mine include Cookie Monster and Almond Cookie, and I have yet to get refreshed with Afters' sorbets.  Outdoor seating is prepared to take on the dairy spillage coming from that 4-step sweet process!

Grade: B+

Afters Ice Cream
18030 Brookhurst St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Foodie at Habana, Revisited

Last April I arrived to hidden Habana for the 1st time, curiously hungry and thirsty for their healthy fish sandwich and sinfully sounding Sangria Roja while sitting solo their relaxing, gorgeous, and eye-catching patio.

The 2nd time was a social opposite.  This was during a chilly Saturday night getting warmed up inside with a lively party of 13 to toast a friend's birthday.  Embracing the candlelit, romantic-calling ambiance, we dominated the peripheral, communal table where half of the group could easily get distracted to people-watching, while the other half could pay close attention to the gazers.

The common tie between these 2 endeavors was the look of indecision thanks to their appetizing, mealtime-appropriate menus.

Because of this slightly large gathering, all my following food encounters reflected on my side of the table.  However, I heavily apologize for not naming some of these platters verbatim and not knowing their prices, so to my best extent we commenced with...

These Seasoned-Fried Avocado Slices tasted average in my book, in spite of the evened breading and flawless creaminess.  The mildly spicy yet effervescently smoky chipotle dip enchanted some oomph that these fritters deserve.

If intense citrus with a nudging robustness of sherry wine sound truly appealing to you, order up the delectably nibbling Marinated Olives.

In a cutesy, mini cast iron pan, the beautifully breaded and peppered Stuffed Pork Croquettes are aptly amazing. Expecting to be a traditional meatball, I was however dumbfounded that, after slicing part of the ball, the inside was a sublimely succulent, phenomenally and consistently juicy shredded pulled pork (i.e. not grounded) clearly being rolled up lovingly to likewise wrap around the gooey and ambrosial manchego cheese.  Its tomato sauce upped the ante by its slight tang and sweetness, with a meaty undertone that I shamelessly scooped some for the fried avocado slices.

Oh, that cheesy goo

Whatever mealtime you've stepped in, obviously assuming you take pride in your omnivorous digestive system, these croquettes must be at the top of your personal order list at Habana.

Quarter of the dinner hour passed by right before our main courses took the center stage...

I may not had a chance to take even a bean out of these chromatically appealing & abundant Roasted Seasoned Vegetables, but please take my vegan friend into consideration.

But on the other gastronomic spectrum...

One of my friends nonchalantly allowed me to sample the Ropa Vieja--thrice.  Out of the few other dishes I've eaten, both the aggrandizing, savory, and tactfully garlicky tomato-based sauce and the hearty, equitably tender and easily falling apart pot roast made the night's dinner and my eating life into what felt like a soulfully eternal bliss.  Unless you're virtuously vegan/vegetarian, if you're coming during lunchtime and first caught glance at this menu item, trust your darting eyes; I mentioned the daytime interval because I do remember it being priced slightly more inexpensively.

Meanwhile, I was leaning towards either of the 2 chicken dishes served that night.  Go for (another) breaded chicken entree, or for the one that has one of my favorite everyday ingredients--garlic.

But while you've tried figuring out, my plate happened to be executed separately by offering me first the black beans.

Eating this alone, the level of flavor was lighter compared to stews in other Hispanic restaurants.  I decided to place this dish aside for my chicken.

Few minutes later the plate with the poultry was the evident reason for the legume segregation.  I eventually chose the one with garlic mojo sauce...

Marinated Roasted Half Chicken

Both my friends and myself were dazed at this massive showstopper that I initially thought the menu was too timid to admit that the chicken may be whole.  But in reality the meat, the sauce, and the sweet and sweaty onions covered the fluffy white rice. What's even more blatant was that the scent of that dainty, harmless-looking rosemary garnish was unexpectedly potent--as if a woman hoarding the treadmill spritzed several mists of the White Diamonds Eau de Parfum--thus, might have affected my approach to this behemoth.

Just as strikingly, the sauce proved more vinegary and pungent than I thought, like about the same level of aromatics as the Ropa Vieja.  I did manage to bite off one drumstick, yet both my taste and olfaction had been overwhelmed with the infiltrating dish that at 1st impression I told my friends, "It's tasty, but it may not be my personal favorite..."

Or, maybe I had altogether wolfed down one bread roll, one--and a half--Pork and Cheese Croquette, the vegetarian appetizers, the chicken leg, and double my guzzling of water that I had to take 2/3 of my main course in a plastic takeout container.

My Leftover Breakfast

Interestingly, the overnight fridge treatment was optimizing and mellowing the blend of the intense flavors of the garlic, onions, and vinegar--satisfying my hungry hopes.  More impressively was that all my leftover meat was therefore more reveling, attaining the same tenderness and tantalizing chicken skin to eat with the same rice and with salad (from my fridge) as the night of the birthday dinner.

But back to the restaurant.  Our section's sweet selection was Coconut Sorbet, appropriately stuffed in a soft, half football-shaped shell.

Unusually dense for how a sorbet is traditionally concocted that one hand must hold onto that shell in order to scoop it with another, I stubbornly believe that coconut milk was the binding pizazz for a more stealthy coconut taste.  This even gloated generous shreds of coconut, and the melting factor for a sorbet was curiously slothful and sturdy.

It was indeed an overall light finish for such an exemplary, heavy-feeling eating celebration.  I have came to realize that Habana is still one of the OC gems to treat yourself or a loved one to a delicious feast at any time of their opening hours.  And still, a parking spot at its LAB Antimall is a nasty game for me to snatch.

Grade: B+

2930 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 556-0176

Habana on Urbanspoon

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