Thursday, June 30, 2011
In my mind I pictured my hometown of Sierra Madre and its 10,000 residents being drowned under a deluge of molasses coming down from the San Gabriels, a sugary 20th century reenactment of the Johnstown Flood. I teased my brother with absurdist imagery.
Years later I learned that, although his facts were too broad, he wasn't that far off: in 1919, a giant molasses tank exploded in Boston, injuring 150 people and killing 21, some of who were crushed and drowned by the molasses. By this point my brother and I were both in our late teens and, though he realized it was not the apocalyptic scenario he always imagined, I believe he did feel some measure of vindication.
Why do I bring this up, you may ask. Because I was reminded of that childhood anecdote the other day. If a giant wall of syrup came down from the mountains and blanketed the foothills, I imagine the food at all restaurants would taste like what I ate the other day at Chinese Cafe.
I tell you what, we'll come back to that.
Fuji Japanese Restaurant at the beginning of the month, I noticed Chinese Cafe in the same parking lot - a strip mall just west of the Target on Colorado Blvd on the east side of town. The other day I had just stopped into Target to look for something and I was quite hungry. I decided to give Chinese Cafe a try.
Like hundreds of similar restaurants scattered throughout the San Gabriel Valley, there is a full menu and a lunch menu. The latter features the usual egg roll and rice. Chinese Cafe does not include soup with their lunches, but rather a soda. That was just fine by me - it was a hot day and a cold soda sounded better than a hot cup of soup.
I asked the woman what the most popular items are. She said the orange chicken and the Mongolian beef. I asked for the chicken and told her I would take it to go. (There was a baseball game on the radio and some bizarre movie on the TV in the restaurant, so I opted to sit the car.)
The total with tax was $5.40 - even cheaper than China Express. (Although you don't get nearly as much food.)
I pulled out a few of the pieces and shook them vigorously, trying to free them from the cloying solution that was ruining their taste. It didn't really work. And that's a shame, because the chicken really was quite tasty. It beats anything I've ever had at Panda Express or Pei Wei. But I just could not get past that sweet sauce. Even with mustard and chili sauce added, it was too damn sweet.
I doubt the chicken always tastes this sweet, and if the other proteins on the menu are as high quality as the chicken, there might be some very good dishes at Chinese Cafe. But it's not worth it to me to find out. In addition to the extreme sweetness, twenty minutes after eating I became as thirsty as I have been in years. I imagine there was an overload of sodium in the food, too.
So it comes down to my usual verdict with places like this: in the San Gabriel Valley, with thousands of Asian restaurants to explore, there is just no reason for me to return here ever again.
Posted by JustinM at 12:06 PM
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
But if I'm being honest, there is probably nothing I have ever enjoyed eating as much as the Buffalo shrimp at Bennigan's in Arcadia when I was a teenager. I haven't had them since I was a teenager - the restaurant closed more than a dozen years ago - and even if I were given the chance, I don't know how much I would care to go back and eat them again. But in my memory... damn they were good: plump, juicy shrimp with a crispy coating and a very spicy sauce. (They were so good that I chased their memory for years, even repeatedly trying the Buffalo shrimp at the Hooters in Old Town, despite the fact that every single time I ate them my stomach hurt.)
I got a strong craving for buffalo shrimp yesterday. Not the kind like I had at Popeyes the other night, with spicy peppers in the breading, but crispy shrimp drenched in Buffalo sauce. Seeing as how I have discovered and fallen in love with the Tabasco Buffalo sauce, I decided to make my own.
Posted by JustinM at 12:21 PM
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I headed up to Popeyes, placed my order (I added a drink to make it a $5.99 combo), was told it would be three minutes and sat down to wait. Five minutes later (close enough) I was handed a tray with my order. There was a container of cocktail sauce on it.
"May I have the firecracker sauce, too?" I asked.
"We serve the shrimp with cocktail sauce," I was told.
"But I want to try the firecracker sauce," I said, pointing at the menu that promises the sauce.
"We don't have it," she replied.
I usually get a kick out of this, when a fast food joint pastes posters in the parking lot and signs in the windows for a new promotion and then fails to have one or more elements of the promotion. But on this occasion I was just annoyed: I really wanted to try that sauce. If she had told me they didn't have it when I was ordering, I would have gone to another Popeyes. (Which, of course, is probably why I wasn't told.)
These aren't as good as the crawfish, but they are better than the red hot popcorn chicken, garlic butter shrimp, and wicked chicken.
I would absolutely try these again, but first I will ask if they have the firecracker sauce, and I recommend you do, too.
Posted by JustinM at 10:15 AM
Monday, June 27, 2011
TACOS IN THE AFTERNOON
BUNS FOR DINNER
JUST TO BE COMPREHENSIVE
1:19 IN THE
MORNING AFTERNOON GOT THE FATBURGER
After a visit to Target in the early afternoon, we turned our attention to lunch. Elizabeth suggested burgers, which is like asking me if I want to go to a bookstore or watch Wild Hogs: the answer is always yes. One of my suggestions was Fatburger and Elizabeth immediately agreed.
There was a bottle of chipotle Tabasco sauce on the table so I mixed some with ketchup - something I used to do frequently but have not done for years. (As years go by I realize that I much prefer mustards and aiolis with my fries, not ketchup.)
THE RETURN OF QUESADILLAS
Saturday afternoon, we were hanging out on our patio when Tracie sent a text asking if she and her dad could come by. They had been planning to go to The Boat but hanging out on our patio sounded better to them. I said sure. We had a few beers and decided what to do for dinner.
I used to make quesadillas a lot. Hardly a week ever went by without me making one. But I rarely do anymore. No reason why, just one of those things. A couple months ago, Tracie mentioned that she missed them, that I should make quesadillas again. So this night I said I would.
I got a marinated chicken breast at the store, along with three sausages called "French pork garlic." I grilled them and chopped them up.
PORTA VIAI've written anything about Porta Via? That can't be right, can it?
Sunday afternoon, we were driving up Fair Oaks on our way to get lunch somewhere. I don't want to say what our destination was. "It's so nice out," Elizabeth said.
"Do you want to eat on the patio at Porta Via?" I asked, although I knew what the answer was going to be.
Still, I finished the sandwich and spooned up all the onions that had fallen onto my plate. I would have no problem eating this sandwich again, although I imagine I will ask for extra mustard next time.
She also got some pasta with feta cheese and I helped her finish it. It, too, was very tasty.
Hopefully I won't let another 19 months go by before I write about Porta Via again.
THE SUNDAY SMELL OF SOMEONE FRYING CHICKEN
I've mentioned this before: sometimes the deli at Vons has some of the best fried chicken tenders you will ever eat. (I've had them fresh out of the fryer before at Vons that might have actually been the single best order of tenders I have ever had.) But not at 7PM on a Sunday night. I had been so exhausted that, although I hate naps and take one less than once per year, I'd actually slept for two hours in the afternoon.
By the time I got to Vons, there were only four pieces of chicken left. I took them, but they were not very good. They were dense and overcooked and probably the worst chicken I have ever had from Vons. It might be unreasonable of me to expect the last chicken of the day on Sunday - while they were busy closing up the deli - to be good, but still, I didn't expect them to be this tough.
I tried to improve them as best I could: I put them on a bun with Bull's Eye's Carolina sauce, a homemade cole slaw that I had made on Friday, and pickles. All things considered, it wasn't too bad. I ate it with mustard potato salad and it was a nice way to wrap up the weekend.
Posted by JustinM at 11:23 AM