Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ramen Champ is Back with New Owner and Revamped Menu

by guest blogger @iam_robot

A few weeks after closing for a much needed “vacay”, Chinatown Far East Plaza’s ramen joint Ramen Champ will reopen with new owner and new menu on October 2nd.
Yoshimasa Kasai, former director of Ramen Yokocho Festival and famed founder of Ramen Iroha, took over the shop from one of Eggslut co-owners, Alvin Cailan, and would bring his vast experience (winning 5 Tokyo Ramen Championships among others) to this already popular noodle shop.
Alvin Cailan will stay on board as consultant while Kasai will keep the outlook of the shop, which includes a Robot Ramen interior mural by New York artist Mike Houston. IMG_1603
The tiny soup noodle joint started earlier this year as a partnership between Eggslut co-owners Alvin Cailan & Johnny Lee along with Men-Oh-Tokushima Chef Nathan Asamoto. Kasai revamped the entire menu and would start with 3 different bowls of ramen. Tonkotsu Ramen will be the main star with noodles, chashu, mushrooms, green onions and sesame oil; Tonkotsu Tan Tan Men will be the Chinese fusion flavor with noodles, greens and a Sichuan peppercorn paste; and Vegan Ramen will be the healthier options with spinach noodles and broth made with kombu & dried shitake mushrooms.

Last weekend, I had the chance to taste the broth for the Tonkotsu Ramen and a full bowl of the Tan Tan Men.
Tonkotsu Ramen
I was quite speechless when I tried the Tonkotsu Ramen broth, thought it was the most savory broth. It was rich but it didn’t feel overwhelming or overly salty, just felt right with the medium soft noodles and strong toasty flavor from the sesame oil.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Trying out Tava Ghee: Butter Coffee and Cooking with Ghee

I really first heard about ghee when the trend of butter tea and butter coffee came about. Ghee is a type of clarified butter that originated from India. It's widely used not only in cooking but also ayurvedic medicine and hence, ripe for the health trends of the western world. The preparation of ghee is slightly different than clarified butter (to make ghee, the butter is simmered along with milk solids until they caramelize) and gives it a nutty aroma and taste.

Anyway, I got curious about butter coffee because a fellow blogger Eating LA had been taking it and told me she felt more energetic throughout the day and that butter coffee actually tasted pretty good. So when Tava Life Provisions offered to send me some ghee to try, I took them up on the offer so I can try butter coffee!

Tava ghee

Making butter coffee is pretty simple, here's the directions I got from Eating LA: Brew a strong cup of coffee. Add 1 tablespoon of ghee, and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Blend. Add vanilla or cinnamon if you like.
So, Tava actually has different flavors of ghee! I used their Vanilla Bean Ghee for my butter coffee so I didn't even need to add any vanilla! The butter coffee didn't taste as weird as I had expected. In fact, it was smooth and just a bit rich - drink it quick, though, it starts to get weird as the coffee gets cold and the ghee separates. But before that, the butter coffee is easy to drink for your caffeine and energy fix in the morning!
Plus, ghee is supposed to increase your metabolism - so hey, if you can reason your coffee fix as a diet drink, why not?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pinkberry Does Breakfast

I knew Pinkberry serves greek yogurt, and I've also tasted their oatmeal bowl before, but I haven't really thought about going there for breakfast until now. Did you know Pinkberry serves coffee? They brew Barrington coffee in a French press to-order. It's pretty strong and smooth.


I've tried many versions of their greek yogurt and also their oatmeal before, and they also are doing a quinoa bowl which I have not tried, but I decided to go with the acai bowl, since I'm nearing the end of the season to eat cold stuff! Oh, Boston winter is coming ...

Anyway, I got my acai bowl topped with a bunch of fruits, granola, and a dollop of honey.

Pinkberry makes their acai bowl using Sambazon acai which they blend with other things, so it takes a bit longer to prepare than the soft serve froyo, and not as firm, but I quite liked the way it tastes. Acai is supposed to be healthy for you and I got a my daily dose of fruits.

Overall it was a nice breakfast with pretty good coffee, making Pinkberry a nice option for breakfast if you have a location convenient to you! Next time, I'm going to check if they still do their PB&J oatmeal, where they mix in the peanut butter in the oatmeal, because that was delicious!

Pinkberry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ogawa Coffee Brings Japanese Perfection in A Cup

I'm not REALLY a coffee connoisseur, but I got spoiled living in LA, when there was a renaissance of great coffee shops. I may not be able to blind test different single origin coffees, but I know bad coffee from good coffee, at least. So when I came to Boston last year, I asked around where to find good coffee. "I just go to Dunkin' Donuts" was invariably the most common response.

Hm. Like I said, I was spoiled. Luckily, Ogawa Coffee came from Boston. Ogawa Coffee has been running a chain of stores and their own coffee bean roasting in Kyoto for more than 60 years. Their foray into Boston is their first international venture, and they chose Boston because it is one of Kyoto's sister cities and they see Boston's abundance of universities and focus on education as a common ground between the two cities.

Ogawa Coffee
When you walk in, you'll notice the stadium seating to the right, which faces a serving counter. They'll eventually hold demos and classes using this area.

Ogawa's signature drink ($10 but you get two drinks, really) is a glass of chilled espresso - smooth and just slightly sweetened - served with a cup of hot cappuccino.
Ogawa Coffee
If you're lucky and you're in the store when Haruna Maruyama is in, then you should ask for some special latte art. She's the champion of the 2010 World Barista Latte Art and was both the first Japanese and the first woman to win the distinction! Don't fret if she's not in because she's been training the other baristas who all have their signature art, but do know you're in for a treat when she is.

The thing about Japanese is their attention to detail. They heat up their glassware with hot water before serving the coffee so as not to change the temperature of the coffee too much!
Ogawa Coffee

Monday, September 21, 2015

LA Giveaway: Brunch at the Races at Santa Anita Park

Need a day out? How does heading out to the horse races at Santa Anita Park while brunching on dishes from some of LA's best restaurants sound? If that sounds like a great day to you, then bookmark this upcoming event: Brunch at the Races.

On Saturday, October 18, LA Weekly is throwing a brunch at the Santa Anita Park.

Among the restaurants they've lined up are Auntie Em's, BierBeisl Imbiss, Go Get Em Tiger, Cassell's Hamburger, Goldie's, McConell's Fine Ice Creams, and more. There will be beer/wine/cocktails available as well. Eat, drink, watch the horse races, or maybe place a bet on one of the horses. Either way, you're in for a good time.

Tickets are $45 and grants you access to the event as well as full day admission into Santa Anita Park. For $65 you can get a VIP ticket that will get you access to a special VIP lounge and a gift bag. Parking at the park is $4.

But wait! For one of you lucky readers, LA Weekly has partnered with Gourmet Pigs to give away a pair of general admission tickets! Enter using the form below before the marked deadline, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, September 19, 2015

From Old School New England Classics to The Present at Turner's Seafood at Lyceum Hall (Salem, MA)

I was recently invited to check out the newer location of Turner's Seafood up in Salem, MA. Turner's Seafood opened their first seafood restaurant in Melrose over 20 years ago, taking the name of a popular old fisheries that used to supply to the Westin hotel chain. They opened up the Salem location 22 months ago.

Sure, Salem is mostly about the old witch trials and stuff, but I was more excited about this: Turner's Seafood is located at the old Lyceum Hall, which was where Alexander Graham Bell first did his public demonstration of the telephone! That's history right there.

Turner's Seafood
I also love how Turner's Seafood is supporting local businesses, like the Ryan & Wood Distillery in Gloucester, MA. They use this distillery's products in many cocktails, like the Pamplemousse (Beauport vodka, St. Germain, pink grapefruit juice, lemon)
Turner's Seafood
One of the key components of Turner's is the oyster bar. Sure, oyster bars are pretty common now, but when they first launched their oyster bar at their Melrose location 15 years ago, they were one of the few. Turner's still has a leg up, though, boasting one of their staff, Ryan Kripp (middle), the two-time champion of Boston Seafood Festival's Oyster Shucking contest!
Turner's Seafood
Naturally, we started with some fresh oyster: Kumamoto, Pemaquid, and Wellfleet
Turner's Seafood
Followed with broiled Pemaquid oysters with fennel butter
Turner's Seafood

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What I Learned After My Home Was Burglarized

"It could've been worse."
"At least you're OK."
"It's only material things, they can be replaced."

Those were the things I heard most from people after my apartment was broken into. They were all true, but it's still hard to not be upset! But what can I do now? I learned that the cops are pretty much useless when these things happen. The burglary happened on Friday and on Monday they called me saying they're closing the case because there's no lead.

I did at least learn about some things that would be useful to prevent losses in the future, though, short of being more vigilant about your door deadbolts and windows. Here are some things you may want to keep in mind to protect your belongings.

1. Your "Track My iPhone" function may be useless. They had stolen my iPad, but since they turned it off, there's no way to track where it is. Useless! Instead, I found out about Tile, a small tracking device you can put in your fancy handbags, or attach it to your valuable electronics, and track with your phone.
I'm getting one of these from Amazon next time I get an expensive bag: Tile (Gen 2) - Phone Finder. Key Finder. Item Finder  - 4 Pack - Save 30%
Not to say you shouldn't use Track My iPhone. You still should, you never know. If the thieves were amateurs, that might have helped. If you use it, at least you can set your iPad to erase itself the next time it connects to a network, thereby protecting your digital data.

2. Your credit card may have a Purchase Protection plan. I found out that my Chase United visa card actually has a purchase protection against theft for items bought within 120 days, and they may reimburse up to $10,000 per claim! That would've really helped except most of the valuable stuff they stole I purchased 2 years ago or more. Still, good to know for the future. Keep in mind you normally have to file the claim within 48 hours of the theft occurring.
For me, I'll be sure to buy expensive things only with credit cards that have purchase protection from now on, and I'm liking my Chase United visa more (btw, if you sign up for the card now, you can get a bonus 30,000 miles)

3. Get renter's insurance. I didn't have one. I never thought of having one. Wish I had. My roommate has one of the cheapest plan, and although in her case she's still responsible for a $500 deductible, this may be worthwhile depending on just how much was stolen. Note that if your roommate has one, it will not cover your belongings!

4. The only other thing the cops would do is to register the serial numbers of your electronics as stolen property. Sometimes, they might pop up somewhere if it's being sold. Unlikely, but there's a chance. If you're like me, though, you wouldn't keep the box and won't have the serial numbers. As for your iPhone and iPads, if you've registered them on iCloud, Apple can help you retrieve this. In fact, you can log on to your iCloud profile and see your devices and their serial numbers.
I had purchased my iPad from Target, and they can actually retrieve the proof of purchase if you can tell them when, where, and how much your purchase was for. Luckily, I had all the information on my credit card statements. The proof of purchase had the serial number on it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pulqueria Las Duelistas in Mexico City, DF

Let's talk about pulque. Pulque is a traditional Mexican drink made by fermenting the sap of certain agave plants, namely the maguey plant. It's alcoholic (but low in alcohol) and used to be drunk during rituals, but now you can pulquerias around Mexico. A great example that you should visit is Pulqueria Las Duelistas in Mexico City near Mercado San Juan. This place has been around for more than 80 years. Oh, and they're open from 10 am and yes, they only serve pulque (and snacks to go with it), because day drinking is awesome.


No one knows when pulque was invented - it's been around for thousands of years. Pulque is viscous and a bit sour. It may be a bit of an acquired taste, but I really liked it!
Sugar and natural flavorings are typically added to the sap to slow down its fermentation, since if it's fermented too much, it's no longer drinkable. At Las Duelistas, you can get it in fruit flavors like guava, coconut, pineapple, etc.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Brunch at Toca Madera (West Hollywood, CA): Churro Waffles and Boozy Popsicles

Looking for a new brunch place around West Hollywood? Head to Toca Madera and its plush lounges for two things: churro waffles and boozy popsicles.

Toca Madera

You can get the churro waffle on its down, dusted with cinnamon sugar (which is more churro-like), or get it as a Chicken and Waffle (chipotle chicken strips, churro waffle, served with honey butter, maple syrup, tangy hot sauce, $16)
Toca Madera

On a hot day, definitely get one of the Adios Felisha (Don Julio tequila, cucumber, mint, tajin, seasonal paleta - $15 each)
Toca Madera

We had a mango and a strawberry when we went, and they made the perfect desserts. The paleta themselves were quite good, very refreshing!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Terrace at The Forum Offers More Pre-Show Eats

Heading to The Forum for a show? You can now come early and have dinner and drinks before the show at The Terrace, now open with more food vendors like Loteria Grill and Pink's Hot Dogs. I was recently invited there to check out The Terrace and watch a show with REO Speedwagon and Boston.

The Terrace wraps around The Forum and you'll find stations serving food and drinks along the way. I went around until I found Loteria Grill.
The Forum
Yes, my favorite pick of what to eat here would be Loteria Grill's tacos (they also have quesadillas).
The Forum

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Michael Serpa's Select Oyster Bar (Boston, MA)

When Michael Serpa, the chef who headed the kitchen at wildly popular Neptune Oyster, left to start a new restaurant, all seafood lovers should follow.

Select Oyster Bar
Chef Michael Serpa
Michael Serpa recently opened Select Oyster Bar in Back Bay. This restaurant is slightly bigger than Neptune, but still intimate. Less casual, yet still serving great seafood - both raw and cooked, with a nice list of cocktails, beer, and wine.
Select Oyster Bar
We started with some Dayboat scallop (from New Bedford, MA) ceviche. So fresh and I love the crunchy texture that the peppers added!
Select Oyster Bar
Of course, there are plenty of local oysters. We went with a couple each of the Island Creek, Wellfleet, and Pemaquid
Select Oyster Bar

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Hunting for the Best Shave Ice in Kauai

Summer. Hawaii. What could be better on those hot days on the island than Hawaiian shaved ice?? I was in Kauai for a total of 5 days and I tried one shave ice per day.

My first stop was the town of Kapaa on the drive up to the North Shore.

Ono Ono Shave Ice
4-1292 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa
Click to add a blog post for Ono Ono Shave Ice on Zomato

My first stop was a great stop. The portion is huuge and the texture of the shave ice is so fluffy and airy! I got the tropical flavors with a snow cap and it certainly satisfied my craving for shave ice. A shack tucked around the corner of a strip mall, this feels like the quintessential Hawaiian shave ice spot.

The Fresh Shave
3540 Koloa Road, Lawai

This vintage trailer doles out healthier and fun versions of shave ice with syrup made with all natural and fresh ingredients and no high fructose corn syrup. Other than the usual fruit syrups they also offer flavor combos like chai or a cold brew coffee with cream, or a coconut flavor topped with chia seeds. Hipster shave ice! The menu changes regularly and they want you to refer to Instagram for the latest. They're only open Wed-Sat from 11am-3pm but they do run out of popular flavors, so come early to get your pick. This is definitely worth a try, especially if you're getting tired of the usual type of shave ice.

Kauai, Hawaii

Best Cheap Eats in Kauai

Best Shaved Ice in Kauai

Friday, September 4, 2015

Fried Chicken and Donuts at Do-Rite (Chicago, IL)

Angelenos already know the name Jeff Mahin from the great burrata and pizza at Stella Barra (and DC and Maryland folks are familiar with his Summer House Santa Monica), but few have been lucky enough to try his donuts. Jeff Mahin's Do-Rite Donuts are currently only in Chicago, unfortunately for those of us who don't live there.

My favorite donut there so far: Cinnamon crunch raised donut. This donut has layers of cinnamon streusel hiding within!

The raised dough itself had a great texture that I really liked, but the key for me, a cinnamon lover, is obviously all the cinnamon streusel I keep discovering with each bite.

The Erie St location of Do-Rite also serves various fried chicken sandwiches. I had a hard time choosing what do order (Chef Mahin's favorite is the spicy fried chicken), but I finally decided on The CBR (fried chicken with bacon and cheddar on brioche)
Do-Rite Donuts
A nice, filling sandwich for only $5.99. The chicken was tender and the breading was really crispy. Even with the fried chicken and crisped bacon, the sandwich wasn't greasy and nicely held together by the buttery brioche bun. Oh, they also have fried chicken sandwiches using glazed donuts as buns, if you are so inclined!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cheebo on Sunset (Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA)

Cheebo has been around on Sunset Blvd for a while, and their free wifi and all day menu seems to draw a few people either working on their laptops or having meetings there. The decor is colorful, fun, and a bit kitschy.

For appetizer, you must get the Polenta tots with pomodoro sauce ($9)
These fluffy fried polenta were addictive, they're way better than regular tater tots!

If you don't feel like getting a big entree, Cheebo has a big selection of salads and sandwiches, like this B.L.T.A (nitrate free bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado ($12))
I took half on the plane with me, and it was perfect!

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