Stuffed plump with crab, shrimp, and pork, then deep-fried twice for maximum blistering, these rolls induced swoons from everyone at the table. Even when tightly wrapped in lettuce and herbs and dunked with abandon in chili-spiked nuoc cham, the cha gio remained unbeatably crisp, the translucent rice paper wrappers shattering with each bite.
Archive for the 'Pub Grub' Category
I’ve been thinking a lot about Pok Pok’s Vietnamese fish sauce wings since my trip to Portland last fall. The perfect marriage of crispy chicken and potent nuoc mam, these unforgettable wings left my fingers sticky, my lips lacquered, and my stomach craving more.
Since jetting off to The Beaver State whenever a hankering hits isn’t very practical, I am on a mission to find a local source for similarly delectable wings. First stop: Cafe Artist in Orange County. This spot came recommended to me by Anh, a Gastronomy reader.
Located in the same Little Saigon strip mall as Vien Dong restaurant, Cafe Artist is one of the most popular quan nhau (watering holes) in the neighborhood. The place opens at 1:30 PM and stays bumpin’ till late.
The Astronomer and I, along with my friend Anne, came in for lunch and snagged a table on the patio. I’d heard that it gets loud and smokey once the regular crowd files in, so I was quite pleased that we had the place to ourselves at this hour.
We ordered five dishes between the three of us and managed to finish them all. First up was a hefty platter of oc len xao dua ($11.99),
cockles sea snails simmered in an irresistible lemongrass, red curry, and coconut broth.
As instructed by our waitress, we sucked with all our might to release the cockles from their shells. Mmm! Bowls of steamed rice were requested to make good use of the fabulous broth.
Living in Pasadena has its perks. The weather is perpetually gorgeous, work is a short walk away, the Kung Food Panda lives around the corner, and the cocktails are masterfully crafted at 1886. What more does one need besides sunshine, a short commute, good friends, and booze? Not much in my world.
Opened last fall on a quiet stretch of Fair Oaks, 1886 has become my favorite place to drink in the neighborhood. The ambiance is moody without pretension, the bar bites are sophisticated and delicious, and the drinks are nothing short of stellar.
The Astronomer and I have visited 1886 a few times since it debuted, and we recently returned as guests of the bar to sample the new spring cocktail menu. Under the creative direction of master mixologist Marcos Tello, the team at 1886 have added 16 new seasonal and regional drinks to the menu.
The bar was staffed by Garrett McKechnie and Greg Gertmenian this evening. Both gentlemen are extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their craft. I found their spirit for spirits absolutely infectious.
While we perused the food menu, Garrett brought over a Tequila Daisy 2.0 (left) and a Swedish Crush. Both drinks were from the “seasonal” section of the new menu.
Greg created the Tequila Daisy 2.0 as a play on the classic Margarita using tequila, cointreau, lime, and my favorite element, strawberry foam. Tequila-based cocktails with a fruity twist are my favorite, so this one really resonated with me. Garrett’s Swedish Crush, which incorporated a historic ingredient from the 1700’s called “Swedish Punsch,” included cognac, rum, and pomegranate. It was refreshing to the last drop thanks to the icy mound.
My cousin Phil has been traveling from San Diego to Los Angeles quite a bit these past few weeks for work. On one such occasion, The Astronomer and I met up with him for dinner in downtown. Phil is a diehard Lakers fan and suggested that we dine in the L.A. Live area to be near Kobe and company. I was in a low-key mood and suggested that we check out Corkbar instead. Without putting up much of a fight, Phil agreed. Thanks for being so accommodating, Cuz.
Located about a quarter mile from the bright lights of the Staples Center, Corkbar is a neighborhood wine bar with an interesting menu. It came highly recommended to me by Diana Takes a Bite and WeezerMonkey. We happened to dine here during happy hour (3 to 7 PM) and took advantage of a few good deals on drinks and appetizers.
The boys got things started with a Beach House Amber from Strand Brewing Co. (all draft beers are $5 during happy hour). The Astronomer offered me a taste, but I opted to smell it instead. As anticipated, the aroma was of sudsy beer.