Category Archives: Bread

Carmen’s (A deconstruction of a Torta Cubana), Los Angeles

Not even back to Ktown and I already dreamt of which places I must go to before my deadline by end of May. Having stepped inside the hold, memories flood back as I remember the many months I stayed here, including the many places I go to for my fix. I must admit, Ktown is one of my favorite places to dine in LA. It is crawling in diversity, unabashed, hole-in-the-wall locations that are just simply put: delicious. Carmen’s taco truck is one of those places.

Nestled between Kingsley and Ardmore on 8th, Carmen’s shares the usual Mexican taco truck servings, including some “acquired tastes” of meat (cabeza, lengua)

But I do not go to Carmen’s for the tacos, burritos, or quesadillas. I go for the tortas. Not all taco trucks serving tortas are made the same. Some are just rolls and whatever meats they serve their tacos or burritos with, plus some salsa on top. But here at Carmen’s you actually get more than just chopped meat and bread. Expect to stay for more than a few minutes, because made-to-order goodness comes to those who wait.

The quesillo torta. First of all, the bread. They actually use a telera or a soft round bread, commonly used in tortas in Mexico. They grill the bread to a nice crust, with treasures of burnt parts on the outside. Whilst slightly crunchy on the outside, the inside is a soft, somewhat thin layer of bread that holds well against the heavy pounding of other ingredients. Lettuce, slices of a half of an avocado, and real queso oaxaca. Oaxacan cheese is similar to string cheese but sold in balls and very much used in a lot of Mexican dishes; with a very light taste such as mozzarella and even melts into an almost same consistency. Only $4, you really can’t go wrong with this torta if you’re looking for something simple and (almost) light to the belly.

But if your need is for weight and gain, then go for gusto and get the Torta Cubana.

There are no words big enough to describe this colossal monstrosity. It is MEAT in a sandwich, VS just a sandwich with meat, plain and simple. Five layers of one meat after another plus the addition of lettuce, quesillo, and half of an avocado.

This is only half of the torta (the rest lay peacefully inside my expanding stomach). Let’s have a closer look (from  LEFT clockwise):

-Salchicha: sausages. A whole sausage cut right down the middle and placed down on the grill to get those burnt, grill marks. It excretes necessary oils onto the grill to mingle with the rest of the meats. I don’t mind that their sausage is generic, I’ve had worse.

-Jamon: HAMMMM. Yes, let’s add pork to the equation. Salty, cured pork.

-Cecina: a type of jerky but not as salty as the one’s we’re used to here, comparable to Thai beef jerky or the Filipino tapa. It’s hard on the teeth and stringy, nevertheless one slice is NOT enough Carmen’s. Please make note of.

-Tasajo: a type of preparation of beef. It’s usually marinated in achiote which gives it that reddish or orange color, then it’s seared on the grill to an almost chewy consistency. But do not be deceived, it’s not one tough cookie.

-Milanesa: a breaded steak filet (think wiener schnitzel). Now this slice was the least on my list. It was a too thin that it almost had a mushy consistency. It would probably be a good thing compared to its chewy compadres, but it was a little off-putting.

Like any doubtful Thomas, I tried them individually. They actually tasted common; sausage and ham from any local supermarket. Two slices of hard, salted, and jerked beef. A mushy piece of breaded something. Combined, these slices of protein sing a song so dear to my heart (and my arteries). One bite gets the most out of everything. And with the bread as an envelope, the cheese as a coagulant, and the avocado as a salt buffer, they all make a wonderful, simple, and inexpensive symphony of flavors.

How can you go wrong??? Tell me. I dare you to tell me. You may have had better meats, a better Torta Cubana somewhere else; but given the location, the circumstances, and the SOURCE? A taco truck in Ktown? This is indeed the pinnacle, the culmination, if I may exaggerate. This is the best taco truck torta in LA. And now that I have had a chance to almost finish it, I am off to my next mission in Ktown. Manna Bakery? Mr Pizza Factory? Korean BBQ? Beverly Soon Tofu House? Bonchon? I can go on and on and on, but I will not. I’ll let you dream with me for now.

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Filed under Beef, Bread, Cheese, Mexican Food, Pork, Sandwich, Sausages, Street-food

Absolutely Phobulous, Los Angeles

Coming from the many twists and turns of X2, Tatsu, and the Riddler (AKA Six Flags), we all decided we needed something to soothe our stomachs. And so we came to a conclusion to go ahead and eat pho. But with the proliferation of many Vietnamese places serving this staple, it might be hard for the wandering tongue to pick and choose a place. Where to? Where to pho?  Someone said Absolutely Phobulous, I thought it was joke. Only until we parked, did I realize it was not. It is called Absolutely Phobulous. So  then by all means I should take the road less traveled and be enticed by a name that says gimmick written all over it.

Small space with very confused decor strewn all over the wall, with busy wait staff that will unfortunately not wait for you. Look long and hard, decide without doubt and swiftly or you will be passed by without any regret. Fact: he passed by many times without regret.

The menu has more items than the usual Vietnamese pho places. With appetizers, salads, vermicelli and even baguettes and dessert. Fresh spring rolls, vegetarian vermicelli (rice noodles served cold), pho beef combo, baguette sandwich, and Thai iced tea for everyone. Done.

The fresh spring rolls come fat (and I do mean about 2in in diameter each). It was filled with huge shrimp and plenty of vermicelli noodles to easily become an entree vs just an appetizer. The carrots, bean sprouts, and cilantro were crisp and fresh. And instead of the peanut sauce, this time it was served with hoisin which lent it a different sweetness, much different from what you’ll get from the shrimp and vegetables.

The vegetarian vermicelli came with both crystal noodles (clear noodles) and vermicelli which for $6.75 is a big, heaping bowl of satisfaction. It comes with mushrooms, tofu, the usual vegetables, and even a vegetarian egg roll. It’s finished with peanuts on top and drizzled with their “house” sauce (which, by guess, was a mix of soy sauce, vinegar, and maybe a little hoisin). It was a delicious combination of ingredients that a lack of protein was never an issue.

The baguette sandwich was just a simpler version of banh mi. Instead of plus the pickled carrots, daikon, and a pate, this one came with spicy chicken, just the cucumbers, fresh carrots (which on the menu said marinated), slices of jalapeno, and the usual cilantro. Although the baguette was a little too hard, scraping the roof of your mouth (that kind of hard), the fillings were actually a good merry mix of fresh, spicy, and flavor. The chicken just had enough amount of spices to still taste like chicken, until that little kick comes in towards the end.

But we must not forget the purpose of this visit. Let us see if this place lives up to its name. The beef combo came with rare steak, beef meatballs, and brisket. It’s served in beef broth with vermicelli, green onions, and bean sprouts, jalapeno, and basil on the side for your mixing pleasure. The meat balls were flavorless, the brisket was hard (AKA tough), and the rare steak was huhum. The beef broth was not as resounding, meaning many of bullion in lesser time (at least that kind of taste). I was hoping for that thick flavor you get from hours and hours of boiling those lovely bones, but was disappointed. Although pho broth is not as dense as some ramen broths but at least give more love into it. A little bit of hoisin and chili sauce helped enhance the taste a little bit or a lot.

Soon we will find that perfect bowl of Vietnamese chicken noodle (not literally). For now I’ll just be satisfied at their attempt at delivering a delicious bowl; whilst failed, it was still able to provide that sigh of comfort when that warm broth started traveling from my mouth to my stomach (and the rest of the menu were not  that bad either). And that is good comfort food in my book.

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Filed under Beef, Bread, Chicken, Comfort Food, Noodles, Pho, Roll (non-bread), Uncategorized, Vegetable, Vietnamese Food

Palermo’s Italian Restaurant, Covina

I rarely go to Italian restaurants nowadays unless a very strong craving hits that only long thin noodles can satisfy. Italian dishes tend to be heavy, and almost the same taste and consistency.  If you like their marinara then it’s enough to assume you’ve tasted every single marinara dish in the house or marinara paired with a pasta; spaghetti, fettuccine, ravioli, penne, etc. And so when given an invite to change my mind, why not? But driving all the way to Covina? IDTS. For some reason I was convinced that this place will not disappoint me. It might have helped when my friends said we can bring in our own wine. So I starved for about a few hours and got ready for an assured boredom.

This place is easy to miss, if not vigilant. We passed it twice before we found the place. We waited for about 20min before we got seated. It’s a fairly small place and so I was still on the fence when I saw a packed house. Either the place is too small or the food is really that good.








 

 

 

The menu is simple and the prices are reasonable. The wait staff were very helpful, opening our wine bottle and giving us wine glasses even though this place does not serve alcohol (that’s a plus-knowing your customer’s needs and wants). We saw some more promising specials on their menu board and proceeded to salivate.

We ordered a large half cheese and half sausage pizza, the shrimp scampi special, spaghetti with meatballs, cheese ravioli with meat sauce, and an antipasti salad. And we were expecting the garlic knots to come soon, as we’ve been eying our neighbor’s table for a few minutes now. They were glistening pieces of buttery and garlicky goodness.

Tap tap tap. The sound of my fork hitting the table seconds only after we ordered. The smell inside the restaurant was a killer, it was so euphoric, so good, that my stomach started complaining loudly.

The crust was neither too think nor thin, more like confused between a Chicago and a New York pizza. It was a little oily but what can you expect from pizza? And for the same calories you can actually get this one hand-made with house-made sauce and sausages. Beat that delivery boy. Good, good, goodness.

The salad came glistening with their house vinaigrette. You would think a chemist carefully measured this today, a good combination: sweet, sour, and peppery. Best part were the rolled cold cuts of salami, ham, and turkey. How can you say no to that?

The garlic rolls came and they were oily, garlicky, crunchy outside-soft inside, balls of perfection. Calorie-laden rolls,  I am guilty as charged. We were right, these were goodness, gracious, great balls of garlic fire.

The shrimp scampi came, and we awed in the aroma of the garlic. Sauteed fresh vegetables with plump, juicy shrimp. The noodles were cooked al dente, which gives it that extra bite I look for in good pasta. This was a good promise of the next pasta dishes to come.

When I think of Italian food I immediately assume spaghetti with meatballs, just like what mom used to make. It was my favorite pseudo-Italian memory. And so I was giggly when this plate came out. Again with the perfectly cooked pasta, and a huge, fist-sized meatball. You know you’re in the midst of “bene” chefs when the pasta is infused with so much flavor from the marinara. This only happens when the pasta is sauteed in the sauce for a couple of minutes before serving VS just dumping the sauce onto cooked pasta on a plate. This plate rivals that of my mom’s, my own, or even of my favorite go-to places. Delicious.

Now this plate was just okay. We already had so much marina from the spaghetti and the pizza that we made poor choice of ordering this with meat sauce as well. Bright side is the sausage, with a good snap from the natural casing, and a well-seasoned filling of meats.

Voyaging this way just for Italian food is worth it.  It may not be often, but every now and then should do the trick of satisfying even the most over-used foodie/blogger palates. In fact, I’m already planning my next visit. If you would like to come with me, go ahead and post your comments. As I did, wipe away your doubts and lower down your raised eyebrows. You will not be disappointed.

 

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Filed under Bread, Italian Food, Noodles, Pasta, Pizza, Salad, Sausages, Shrimp

The tale of two: Rick’s VS Oinkster

Yonder the green foliage and paved gray of 2S, tucked in a corner says “Voted the Best Food in LA“. O’er the bridge and a block beyond sees the blue sign and a drive-thru that entices the curiosity of any foodie alike. Rick’s, aren’t you famous for your pastrami? Oh, doubt was not in will and in mind when it was time to voice thy need. Pastrami sandwich and a veggie burger; please, oh please. Do add some zucchini and chili fries so mine heart and belly shall rise in adornment of thy morsels.

Oh let me SHUT UP! Let’s get down to business.

I was in need of a pastrami fix but I was still in my pajamas and over-sized shirt. What’s a girl to do? Dig into my foodie memory bank and be a blogger once again. Rick’s Drive In & Out? Yes! Let’s see if it’s really the best food in LA. Well, looking at the prices, it may be the best deal in LA but I need to taste it first before I even do my happy frugal dance.

This was a very simple, no-hype sandwich. There weren’t really any add-ons, it had pickles and mustard, and the rest was all meat. Beat that! The meat was a little tougher and saltier than I’m used to. I understand that I’m eating pastrami but I still have standards and preferences regardless. The bread was one tough carb though, it held up to all the juices and sauce, which was a plus for me. I want to hold my pastrami sandwich, not fork and knife it.

The veggie burger was a little dry, and the veggies were not as fresh. Maybe they didn’t have much need for it for days now? I do not know the answer, really. Honestly, I’ve had better. Blah, on to the next.

The zucchini was deep-fried to a golden crispy. Those I loved, but weren’t mine. Ugh. The chili fries were ok. It was a bad idea to do salt with salt. Salty pastrami, salty chili, salty cheese, and salty fries. No relief at all.

I had half my sandwich wasted  and was later given to my Aunt’s dogs. I felt bad, not only are they supposed to not have human food but this salty of a sandwich?  Sad, indeed. The chili fries are still in the fridge, I think? Oh well, woe is me. But I had hopes, I hoped that dinner would go ahead and redeem itself.

Lemongrass had no parking spot anywhere near it. So as we turned back, it hit us like a light bulb. Oinkster. I still had the taste of salty pastrami and chili cheese fries, so it was definitely genius that I now have the perfect opportunity to do a VS blog.

Having read many blogs about this place, I came in without expectations. Many opposing opinion from Wandering Chopsticks, Inuyaki, Sinosoul, and Burnt Lumpia, I had no choice but eat with no preconceived notions. And so we ordered.

The Oinkster pastrami had more complex flavor and additional ingredients than Rick’s pickle and mustard. Other than the tender, house-cured meat, it had a red cabbage slaw and caramelized onions that partnered well with the pastrami. The meat itself had obvious specks of black pepper and seasoning, not as salty as Rick’s. Poor bread, it could not hold up to the onslaught of meat and juices. At the second half, I had to eat the rest of my sandwich with a knife and fork, which is the opposite of what I want in my pastrami.

The veggie burger was the perfect size. Big enough for a big appetite. The vegetables were crispy and the sauce did not overpower the patty, which was not dry at all and packed with flavor. A good substitute for its meaty counterpart.

The piggy fries reminded me of In-N-Out’s animal style fries. I apologize, but it was a poor knock-off of the original. This came with caramelized onions (vs. the grilled onions), thousand island (vs. the spread), and shredded cheese (vs. the slices of cheese). It was good enough to take another bite, and another, and another. But after a few, the taste became too heavy to the tongue and overwhelming that after a while, it became untouched on the table. It didn’t help that the fries became too soggy to enjoy.

I needed reprieve from the oil and grease, so the ube shake was the right choice post pastrami and fries. It was good, with a great taste and chunks of the purple yam. But I will not give the credit to Oinkster, they use outside ice cream for their shakes (Fosselman’s).

The clear winner was Oinkster, only between these two. Ahead in taste and portion, but not by price. Compare $16 vs $33 (with tax and tip), I would be ok with a $16 lunch/dinner just to take the hunger away. Not to say that I won’t be back to either one. I love giving people and places a second chance. But a few more miles, I would’ve been at The Hat, devouring my pastrami and gravy fries with a vengeance.


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Filed under American Food, Bread, Burger, Comfort Food, Drinks, Fries, Ice Cream, Pork, Sandwich, Shake, Uncategorized

Pampa’s Grill, Farmer’s Market

(I had to put this in my blog. One of my favorite examiner articles so far-maybe because I love me Pampa’s.)

Nothing is more enticing than the smell of grilled meat. It is the ambrosia that turns heads, tilts noses up, and puts people in a complete stand still. Experience the aroma that spells meat at Pampa’s Grill at the Farmer’s Market and leave your taste buds completely tickled fancy.

Beware of the line, it will be your first obstacle. Know your hours, dinner is the worst so come prepared. Bring your most talkative friend or fully charged phones with your Facebook app in place.


What to pick? The dilemma that is choices is the next hurdle to overcome. As you take your to-go “plate” (as it is likely to not finish, better avoid the hassle and be ready to take it home) and move along, the onslaught of picks might overwhelm you as this is paid by poundage ($8.95/lb). You wouldn’t want to go heavy on the sides as the meat weighs much more but you also wouldn’t want to miss out on the entrancing colors and tastes that lay before you. The garlic rice is a must carb pairing for the salty proteins, the collard greens are garlicky, the chicken stroganoff is unremarkable but a popular choice, the eggplant salad is a refreshing side to the savory, and the Pao de Queijo (cheese bread) is a personal favorite and is always stocked to the top of the plate.

But these are only reminiscence compared to what is the ultimate comfort food here, meat-Brazilian style. Spinning all day on a rotisserie grill, their choices rival the best tailgates and backyards anywhere. And so here comes the next predicament, the meat. You may be forced to try them all, but what with the weight limiting you then pick the ones you think you’ll enjoy the most and move on. Out of the many choices of protein the Picanha (sirloin cap) is the most popular, the Carneiro (lamb leg) is highly recommended as it is both flavorful and tender, the garlic chicken and beef are personal favorites and both salty, garlicky addicting, and the Brazilian sausage is slightly spicy, well-seasoned,and a must-try.

As you hit the end, pick either their Goya coconut water or a Guarana drink to complete the experience. But coming here comes with another warning. You may think that you haven’t put enough on your plate to compare to a sit-down restaurant. This can get pricey, even though it is super fast food. And no, it’s not the plate or the container.


With the many halts Pampa’s brings to the dining table, it is hard to give them a perfect score. The crowd that forms at the blink of an eye, the wait made by fellow confused diners, the price that better suits a restaurant, and the impasse at the line of wondrous food make one wonder if it’s worth it to try. But the many upsides make it then all the more difficult to decide to go or not. Taste over lines? Meat over prices? Comfort over choices? If the craving hits then live a little. Go meat and meatlovers unite.

Pampa’s Grill is at the Farmer’s Market at 6333 W 3rd St LA, T: (323)931-1928. They accept major credit cards.

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Filed under BBQ, Beef, Brazilian Food, Bread, Chicken, Drinks, Lamb, Pork, Related Article, Sausages