Posts Tagged ‘Cafe’

All over the world, food and music go together quite nicely. Different genres may pair better with certain cuisines than other pairings, but for the most part, anyone can associate food with music. Even heavy metal can have its own special pairing that works out well. However, most can agree that punk rock typically has no business dealing with food. The stereotypical punk rock fan cares little for food quality, and eats whatever food they can find, especially fast food. Very rarely does one find punk rock themes in a rather hipster food place. After all, hip food places will generally have people that listen to popular music. However, I discovered one place that embraces punk rock, yet operates a food business highly tailored towards today’s hipsters. Punk rock fans and hipsters alike refer to this place as Donut Friend.

Located smack dab in the middle of Highland Park, Donut Friend has combined two unlikely worlds to fuse something so unusual that the general populace cannot get enough of this place. As the business name suggests, this place specializes in donuts, but not like any old donut shop – nothing old about Donut Friend. The Donut Artists at Donut Friend handcraft all donuts to order. Like at a Subway, customers can fully customize what goes in and on their donuts, or they can simply order with all the stated ingredients on the menu. Because they care about the local/sustainable movement, Donut Friend utilizes local ingredients in their donuts and their homemade toppings. To avoid alienating those with dietary restrictions, everything at Donut Friend does not contain dairy or eggs, so vegans can rejoice!

So how does Donut Friend tie in with punk rock? Simple – they name all of their donuts after punk rock bands or songs. All of their donuts have some sort of donut pun on an existing name. Some examples include:

  • Jets to Basil = Jets to Brazil
  • Rites of Sprinkles = Rites of Spring
  • Cherry 3 = CH3
  • Dag Nutty = Dag Nasty
  • Cro-Magnut = Cro-Mags
  • Jimmy Eat Swirl = Jimmy Eat World
  • Minus the Bear Claw = Minus the Bear
  • Drive Like Jelly = Drive Like Jehu
  • Gorilla Biscuit = Gorilla Biscuits
  • Fudgegazi = Fugazi
  • GG Almond = GG Allin
  • Chocolate From The Crypt = Rocket From The Crypt
  • Jane Dough = Converge’s album “Jane Doe”

The list of donut puns goes on and on, especially with their seasonal items. I could think of a few names they could potentially use, such as At The Jive-In for a coffee-inspired donut (At The Drive-In), Tropical-ducer for a citrus donut (Sonic Reducer), Narcoleptic Rhub for a rhubarb donut (Narcoleptic Youth), or Minor Treat if they decide of make donut holes (Minor Threat). If they want to go into milkshakes, they can even call one a Nervous Milkshake-down (Nervous Breakdown by Black Flag)! Local punk bands: takes notes.

People always say to never judge a book by its cover. Even the scariest neighborhoods can hide diamonds in the rough. When a friend recommended to me to explore her neighborhood of Highland Park, at first I felt skeptical about visiting what I perceived as a desolate and dangerous city. Undaunted, I sought out those recommendations, and one of them landed me at Donut Friend. The discovery of Donut Friend has altered the shape of my punk life to come. If you love donuts and feel tired of the same old donuts you find at a local donut shop, trek on up to Highland Park and locate Donut Friend, and immerse yourself in the wonderful world of punk rock donuts.

For all of our lives, we have always heard about the importance of breakfast as the most important meal of the day. Whenever told about this, have we received an explanation about the origin of that? The statement exists as more than just a phrase – breakfast truly does monitor and control your mind and body for the rest of the day. What humans consume within an hour of waking up ultimately determines how a person will feel the rest of the day. A person that eats a breakfast full of vitamins and protein will take on the day with superior energy than someone who has something less nutritious for breakfast, such as pancakes with just butter and syrup. While a breakfast such as that will provide a heavy dosage of carbohydrates necessary for burning energy, a human body requires protein and vitamins in order to strengthen and grow the body. For this reason, nutritionists recommend eggs for breakfast, as eggs provide an abundant amount of protein in a small package. Many restaurants that serve breakfast will serve eggs in some fashion. For those that crave breakfast done right, seek out a local spot that specializes in quality ingredients, such as Roots Gourmet.

With a penchant for the best in local, organic, and sustainable ingredients, Roots Gourmet has quickly cemented itself as a popular choice for conscientious eaters. Co-founder Dalet Hamby believes that good things happen as a result of living a healthy lifestyle. She leads a vegan and gluten-free life, which provides her with a steady stream of energy & vibrancy, and wishes to share her brilliance through food at Roots Gourmet. Featuring a menu of items using local, organic, and sustainable ingredients, Roots Gourmet caters to eaters of all backgrounds, and not just for vegans and gluten-free people. Particularly, locals love Roots Gourmet for their breakfast selection, which not only features an omelet bar, but their famous Braised Skirt Steak & Egg Sandwich. Built atop your choice of bread (I recommend the whole wheat baguette), this breakfast sandwich carries a generous portion of tender 10-hour braised arrachera-style skirt steak, a sunny-side up egg, arugula, and hollandaise sauce. In essence, you could call this an Arrachera Benedict Sandwich, as long as you feel comfortable with a fried egg substituting a poached egg. Like all of their sandwiches, this entrée comes with a side of fruit, or another choice of sides, such as beet chips. Words cannot accurately describe the tenderness of the skirt steak. It may not carry the same marinated flavor of traditional carne asada, but the skirt steak retains its meaty beefy flavor, allowing you to savor the true nature of this grass-fed beef along with the egg which will likely ooze out the yolk all over the steak. You can score this sandwich during breakfast hours for just $9.

If you ever find yourself between Long Beach and Seal Beach in the morning, guide yourself over to Roots Gourmet and check out their breakfast menu. Their vast selection will leave you wanting to come back over and over to try everything on their menu, especially all of their fair-trade coffee and teas. Check them out on Facebook and Twitter to learn about their weekly specials as well.

Meat eaters around the world have this unexplainable fascination with bacon. This little strip of pork drives millions around the world crazy for that one special piece. If you ask random people why they like bacon, I assure you that the answers follow no sort of consistency. From portion size to the crisp texture to the salty goodness, everyone has a different reason for loving this thin strip of pork. Some producers and manufacturers have capitalized on this by selling bulk bacon with added ingredients. This results in cheap bacon circulating the markets, where the common package of bacon no longer only contains meat, but now contains other ingredients that 99% of bacon consumers cannot even pronounce. To alleviate this problem, consumers should purchase bacon not in bulk, since that comes pre-sliced and contains additives, but as a full slab of bacon. Many chefs and restaurant owners love slab bacon for the ability to control portion size, but many do not realize that pork belly also comes in this form. In America, nearly every form of bacon derives from pork belly, while in the rest of the world, people prepare pork belly as they would forms of pork, such as shredded, diced, or as one entire piece. Anyone who loves bacon should learn to also love pork belly, as you obtain more bacon goodness than just strips of it. Want to get into pork belly? Check out these five places in the Greater Los Angeles Area that serves pork belly in simple yet delicious forms.

5. Vizzi Truck‘s Pork Belly Taco

Since its inauguration in 2009, the gourmet food truck community has risen from one man’s ambition to the global empire as it stands now around the world. Thanks to numerous media outlets, especially Food Network, citizens worldwide now seek out these food trucks not only for novelty, but for the street food depicted in the media. As the hometown of gourmet food trucks, Los Angeles has provided a home to some of today’s top food trucks, and has proved a battleground for newer ones or others that simply could not keep up with the strenuous work of operating a food truck. Luckily, the bad ones fall out quick, while the good ones remain to serve. One can determine the quality of a food truck by its age – the longer a food truck has remained open, the more they know about the industry. Trust in Vizzi Truck, a gourmet food truck that opened back in 2009 as the first generation of gourmet food trucks. Their penchant for Coastal Cuisine appeals to a wide diversity of consumers by utilizing French cooking techniques and mixing different styles of cuisine. For example, take a look at their Pork Belly Taco. This taco takes a Vietnamese approach to pork belly and applies it to Mexican street food logic by grilling pork belly, inserting it in small street taco-size flour tortillas, then topping it off with cucumbers, pickled carrots & daikon, cilantro, and Gochujang sauce, a Korean sauce that tastes salty with a kick of spice. The veggies give the taco a tart taste to balance the savoriness of the pork belly, while the sauce helps to open up your palate to better absorb the pork belly’s flavor. Although it appears small, this taco can fill you up, not to mention that Vizzi Truck serves this taco on a bed of truck-made popcorn. If you track down Vizzi Truck, you can snag this taco for $4. Vizzi Truck employs a seasonal menu, so track them down quick before they remove the Pork Belly Taco!

4. Flying Pig Café‘s Pork Belly Buns

As a food truck owner, you would not want to stay in that realm for too long. For the most part, entrepreneurs and/or chefs enter the food truck industry as a means to get their feet wet, learn the ropes of the industry, invest some capital, and then apply the acquired knowledge towards opening a brick & mortar business. In some cases, the entrepreneur can continue to operate the food truck, but due to the uncertainty of profit on a food truck, at least it will operate under the safety bubble of the brick & mortar business. While a few of today’s food trucks derived from a brick & mortar business, a great number of food truck owners have made the step up into establishing a brick & mortar business. Flying Pig Café, one such business that started from a food truck and still operates that food truck, now calls Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles their home. Flying Pig Café still serves many of the items from the truck that many fans will recognize, but they now also serve plated entrées, such as fried rice or Loco Moco, and alcoholic drinks such as wine and craft beer. Luckily, the fan favorite Pork Belly Buns still remains on this menu. They braise pork belly and place it on a steamed bao bun with red onion escabeche (similar to pickled red onions), pickled sesamé cucumbers, and death sauce, their signature spicy sauce. These ingredients work well to bring out the flavor of the pork belly, as the death sauce opens up your palate, while the tart veggies provide balance to the meat to support the savoriness. If, for some reason, you still have doubts about this, check out their Happy Hour that runs from 5pm to closing Monday through Thursday, where all customers can not only receive $4 beers (including Allagash Curieux!), but also order 2-for-1 buns, meaning TWO Pork Belly Buns for just $4! Come here much? Park in the Arts District a few blocks away, where the street meters only run until either 4pm or 6pm, depending on the street.

3. Hopscotch Tavern‘s Pork Belly Rillettes

As time marches on, things cannot remain the same forever. Over time, everything has to change as part of human nature. Our way to living has provided us with the necessary means to adapt to change and fit in to new lifestyles quickly, while those who take longer to adapt tend to suffer setbacks or misfortunes in some areas. Many people may swear by old standards and traditions, but eventually these traditions will meld with the present. This explains the need for some restaurants to change their menu every so often. While some simply employ a seasonal menu based on product availability, few others may completely overhaul their menu. Hopscotch Tavern in Downtown Fullerton recently completely redesigned their menu after roughly 7-8 months in business. With a half year’s worth of experience under the table, the crew at Hopscotch decided to carefully examine the menu and revamp everything. They did away with the previous Low & Slow moniker, and now serve up gastropub faire, such as fried duck, chilaquiles, blue crab tots, pig ears, and their new Pork Belly Rillettes. The Hopscotch crew concocts the rillettes with pulled pork belly, fills a mason jar with it, and tops it off with an apple & lemon salad. On the side, you receive toasted baguette slices and a scoop of Bacon Onion Jam. If you have never had rillettes before, you eat this like a spread – spread some of the jam on a baguette slice, then lather the pork belly on the slice. Pro Tip: spread everything on every slice prior to eating – this allows you to control how much each slice receives as well as attempt to balance the jam and the rillettes. If sharing this plate, inform your party of allocating the spread if you intend to do so, so they know that each slice will have similar amounts of the jam and rillettes. Looking for a craft beer pairing? Go for an IPA to cut through the saltiness of the rillettes. Personally, I usually order whatever they have on nitro. Truthfully, you cannot go wrong with whatever you order here. Despite a completely brand new menu, Hopscotch remains a true gem nestled in a town of club-goers.

2. Red Table Restaurant‘s Grilled Pork Belly

Thinking about marketing and public relations, who honestly uses it the most? What levels of business utilize strong marketing versus free marketing? Everybody can benefit from free marketing media, such as Facebook and Twitter – those only require time for research and generating content. Who would you say utilizes paid marketing? I can tell you right now that those at the top do not pay for marketing. Entities at the top already possess the best position, and thus do not need to market. Those at the bottom do not pay for marketing, as they cannot yet afford it. Those in the middle, or the second-best, will pay for marketing, as they already have a decent position in the industry, but need that extra boost to usurp the leading individual, group, or company. When you have a product or service so great that consumers constantly crave it, your consumers turn into your free marketing material, as they will market for you via word of mouth. Red Table Restaurant has come a long way with their worldly gastropub cuisine. Since their inception in 2011, Red Table has traveled a long way to get to the status that they sit at right now. Masked by a Trader Joe’s and tucked away behind the respective shopping center, Red Table needed something to get the word out about their strange location out to the general public. Needless to say, Chef Louie Jocson’s international epicurean experience has received international media attention, using just his unbelievable food to garner a solid following with the associated word of mouth that slips around from ear to ear. Although Red Table displays daily/weekly specials, their regular menu contains plenty of unforgettable dishes, such as their Grilled Pork Belly appetizer. This $9 plate comes with four thick slices of grilled pork belly with crispy skin, drenched in soy vinegar, and topped with pickled onions & herbs. A perfect portion for parties of two to four, each bite seems to get better than the last with the soy vinegar sauce building in intensity, not to mention the tartness from the pickled onions resetting the salty flavor from the combination of the pork belly and the sauce. For a craft beer pairing, you definitely want to go with an Imperial IPA if Red Table carries it; otherwise, go for a regular IPA. Feel daring about the pork belly? Red Table offers an entrée with pork belly – the Pork & Beans, which I will cover in a future post. Until then, get over to Red Table in West Huntington Beach, located behind Trader Joe’s once you find it. With its proximity to the beach, how can you not want to go to Red Table this summer?

1. Fickle Restaurant‘s Molasses Pork Belly

Three cheers for fresh faces, who we always welcome into the industry for bringing on new challenges and new ideas. Whenever faced with a new person, such as a new kid in school or a new co-worker, we welcome them for bringing on a new face to break monotony, plus any of their ideas and intellect that they can bring to the table. Although far from the hivemind concept, pooling together knowledge generally leads to improved outcomes for the setting, from the classroom to the workplace and further than that. New people will also face challenges adapting to the new setting, and will require time to acclimate with everything going on around. Sometimes, the new people will have to pair up and work together to solve problems and make progress. Other times, a sole new person will come up with multiple ideas, and will need to somehow combine them to work out for the greater good. So when building space opened up in Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles, the genius behind Fickle Restaurant swooped in to claim the space. However, Fickle only came out as one of the many concepts for this space. In the end, travelers can now find two different businesses in the same space. By day, this place operates as The Sandwich Smith, of which I will review one of their sandwiches in a future post. At night, this space transforms into Fickle, a restaurant with a menu that can unpredictably change at any given time based on the chef’s whim. Whereas many other restaurants change their menu based on season and availability of ingredients, the folks at Fickle simply change the menu whenever they want, in addition to the available supply of ingredients. As such, customers can only truly find an accurate menu by visiting the restaurant to read a menu in person, as opposed to looking up their website, which they have not updated since late June. Luckily, Fickle does keep some of the fan favorites on the menu for a longer duration, such as their Molasses Pork Belly. They sear a giant slab of pork belly, and place it on top of charred savoy cabbage and pumpkin purée. They then sprinkle lime pepitas around the plate before drizzling a balsamic sauce around the plate. Pork belly lovers rejoice – you now can have your pork fat and eat it too! Very few places will serve a slab of pork belly this large, let alone for the reasonable price of $18. Good luck getting through this dish, as most ordinary people cannot get through half of this pork belly due to the overwhelming pork fat presence. If you can stomach it, you will taste this pork in your mouth for days, on a similar degree to foie gras. Got a hankering for craft beer? If you feel the need to tone down the intensity of this dish, order an IPA, which they usually carry on tap. If you want to intensify the pork flavor, order any Belgian beer, which Fickle currently carries in bottles. If you find yourself visiting often, note that you can likely park in the Arts District, located just a few blocks southeast from here, on the street for free, as the street parking meters stop running after 4pm or 6pm, depending on the street. Parking meters also do not go into effect on Sundays all day. Who knows when Fickle will decide to take this off their menu? Just like the definition of the word, this menu changes on a whim, so if you go in one time, do not expect to observe the same menu on your next visit.

I had been so distracted by everything else going on in the city that I had lost sight of the things I love, one of which is pork. Sometimes, one literally has to go back to basics. Other times, you have to adapt to the basics of a different culture. Such is the case of this recent discovery – the Pork Belly Bun from Flying Pig Truck and Café.

The Pork Belly Bun can be ordered for $4 from the Flying Pig Truck and Flying Pig Café in Little Tokyo of Downtown Los Angeles. This tiny item of epic taste is a braised pork belly piece with red onion escabeche, pickled sesame cucumber, and “death sauce” on a steamed bao bun. Try to envision the flavors in your mind – slightly sweet from the bun, juicy & meaty from the pork belly, tart from the red onions and cucumbers, and spicy from their special sauce. These many flavors combining to create a perfect harmony in one perfectly portioned plate can truly be described as umami. Because of its size, the Pork Belly Bun can fit in as an appetizer or meal, but with so much going on in that little bun, it would be foolish to devour it so quick and not take time to savor every aspect of it.

Oh, and if the truck sounds and/or looks familiar, perhaps this should jog your memory:

You know it is good if people are willing to wait in a line outside for half an hour in a highly urban neighborhood. You know it is good if other restaurant owners & staff say it is the best they have ever had. You know it is good if people walk up, see the line, walk away, and then a server tells them that they would not enjoy it anyways.

This is all for Griddle Cafe, a breakfast restaurant on Sunset & Fairfax in Hollywood. The folks here at Griddle Cafe take traditional breakfast foods and make them more advanced. From the Red Velvet PanCAKE to the Blueberry Pancakes to the French Toast to the Egg dishes, everything here has a unique spin to it. As I say, to make something successful, you have to do one of two things: Invent, or Reinvent. In the case of Griddle Cafe, I believe they have effectively done both. I cannot quite describe it, but perhaps these pictures will do the explaining for me.

“Peanut Bubba” Crunchy French Toast – Egg-dipped bread griddle dipped in a peanut butter crunch, topped with powdered sugar and whipped butter

“Poached y Papas” Benedict – A thick slice of tender baked ham and two poached eggs served atop seasoned potato skins, covered in Hollandaise sauce

Who would think of this? First off, the Benedict is served not over English muffins, but potato skins! This actually is quite genius because the skins perfectly catch the Hollandaise sauce and the drippings from the ham and eggs. In addition to already being seasoned, once you get to eating the potato skins, they will be loaded with the flavors of everything else, creating the guiltiest bites of the dish. Speaking of guilty, just look at that French Toast. Not only was the bread coated in an egg batter, but it gets further dipped in a peanut butter coating before frying and adding sugar and cream. I fail to see much nutritional value in it, but boy did I savor every bite. After all, I do have a weakness for peanut butter 🙂

If you plan to visit Griddle Cafe, try to come with one other person – with Griddle Cafe’s demand, waiting for a table for two is quicker than waiting for a table for more. If you do not mind walking, the neighborhoods east of Fairfax have 2-hour parking for free. Griddle Cafe has been recommended by many locals & tourists for a reason – if not for their Red Velvet PanCAKE, then… well who am I kidding, you want the Red Velvet PanCAKE. Go to Griddle Cafe and start off your day RIGHT.

Griddle Cafe
7916 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 874-0377
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