Fast food chains generally make me queasy, but I couldn’t help feeling warm and fuzzy inside when I spotted the bright yellow sign for Bojangles‘ in the distance. I read about this storied southern chain years ago and have been curious to taste their signature Chicken ‘n Biscuits and Bo-Berry Biscuits ever since. Sometimes, my soft spot for regional specialties overpowers my disdain for everything fast food.
The Astronomer and his awesomely adventurous sister Rosalind joined me at Bojangles’ even though neither quite understood my fascination with the place.
Launched in 1977 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bojangles’ currently has over 500 outlets across ten states and Washington, D.C. There are even two international locations in Honduras. For those residing here on the west coast, the closest Bojangles’ is somewhere down in Mississippi.
We began with an order of Bojangles’ “famous” Chicken ‘n Biscuits, which was comprised of a seasoned breast filet served on a buttermilk biscuit. Pounded thin and heavily battered, the chicken tickled our tongues with its blend of Cajun spices. The biscuit, which the restaurant claimed was “made-from-scratch,” was buttery, doughy, and on par with other fast food biscuits I’ve come across.
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Shin Sen Gumi opened a branch of their popular Hakata ramen shop in Little Tokyo while I was holidaying in Vietnam. I had heard rumblings from fellow ramen-goers that the noodles here were comparable to Daikokuya without the hour-long wait, so I rushed over just as soon as the jet lag wore off to taste them for myself.
This is the Shin Sen Gumi Group’s fourth Hakata ramen outlet in Los Angeles. The other three locations are in Gardena, Rosemead, and Fountain Valley.
Shin Sen Gumi specializes in Hakata-style ramen from northwestern Kyushu. This type of ramen is characterized by a thick, pork bone-based soup (tonkotsu) paired with thin, straight noodles. The restaurant simmers Berkshire pork bones for fifteen hours to achieve a rich and luscious broth.
At Shin Sen Gumi, ramen is served in accordance to diners’ preferences. From the doneness of the noodles to the thickness and richness of the soup, my dining companions and I were able to specify exactly how we liked our bowls.
My cousin Phil and I chose “hard” noodles, “normal” oil, and a “strong” soup base, while The Astronomer went for “normal” across the board.
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There are two types of women in this world—those who squeal with delight at the site of macarons and those who simply don’t. While I started off in the former camp due to the novelty of it all, I’ve moved on to the latter after coming to the conclusion that macarons are overpriced sandwich cookies.
Still, when my friend Laurie asked if I wanted to scope out the newest branch of ‘Lette Macarons in Old Pasadena, I was totally game. Sometimes, reason doesn’t stand a chance against curiosity.
‘Lette Macarons is a joint collaboration between Paulette Koumetz, a macaron enthusiast, and Christophe Michalak, a French pastry chef. They opened their first shop in Beverly Hills in 2007 and added another outlet in Pasadena this past July.
All of ‘Lette’s macarons are hand-made daily in the Beverly Hills bakery. There are twelve classic flavors and a few seasonal specialties available everyday.
I bit the rational bullet and purchased a box of six macarons ($10.50). From the classic flavors available, I chose the salted caramel, coconut, lemon, Madagascar vanilla, and violet cassis. I selected passion fruit from the seasonal specialties.
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Years ago when I first visited Birmingham, The Astronomer treated me to lunch at Dreamland Bar-B-Que. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich, while he had a half slab of ribs. There was also a side of macaroni and cheese and a tall stack of white bread, if memory serves me right. It was one hell of an introduction to ‘Bama style ‘cue; one that inspired me to seek out something smokey and saucy on my visits thereafter.
Our barbecue explorations thus far have taken us to Miss Myra’s for its intriguing white sauce, to Full Moon for its famously tangy chow chow, to Saw’s for its vinegar-based mop sauce, and to Jim ‘N Nick’s for just about everything. Even with our consistent efforts, we’ve barely made a dent in Birmingham’s ever-growing barbecue scene.
On our most recent trip to the city, I insisted on lunch at Dreamland even though there are dozens of barbecue shacks left to try. It’s always been one of my favorites and sometimes, it’s plain nice to dine somewhere familiar.
John “Big Daddy” Bishop opened the first Dreamland in 1958 in the town of Tuscaloosa. According to barbecue lore, he was torn between setting up a mortuary or opening a restaurant to support his family. He prayed to God for a sign and received one in the form of a dream. While he was sleeping, God told Big Daddy to build a restaurant next to his home. And thus, Dreamland was born.
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If our schedules and wallets didn’t mind very much, The Astronomer and I would travel to Birmingham once a month to visit family. As it stands right now, we’re only able to head south twice a year—once during the holidays and another time during the summer months.
This summer’s visit came toward the tail end of July, when the weather in Alabama was dangerously sticky and the peaches were amazingly plump.
Although most of our meals were eaten at home, The Astronomer and I also explored a few Birmingham dining spots during this trip. We grabbed a quick bite at Green Acres Cafe late one morning after dropping off The Astronomer’s brother at work.
We had a few hours to kill before meeting up with a friend for lunch, so we walked around the Fourth Street Business District scoping out the architecture, history, and restaurants. When I saw that Green Acres was serving up freshly fried gizzards, I could not resist coming in for a taste.
The restaurant is owned by Greg Gratton, whose uncle opened the first Green Acres in 1950. There are currently eight branches around the city.
While waiting for our gizzards to be ready, The Astronomer and I perused the collection of press clips adorning the walls. According to local and national reports, the fried chicken wings at Green Acres are some of the best around. Armed with this new piece of information, I walked up to the counter and placed an additional order. It was the right thing to do.
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