Category Archives: Sausages

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

Viva Las Vegas Day Three- Carnival Buffet at the Rio

So after a night of over-indulging of many, many, many, never-ending diuretics, we definitely needed some carbs and protein in generous variety. We failed at agreeing as to where to do Sunday Brunch Buffet so with the help of friends already waiting in line we moved on to the Carnival World Buffet at the Rio.

After waiting in line for an hour we finally made it inside and didn’t even bother to warm the seats. Here comes plate #1.

I proceeded to chew. The chow mein were hard and cold, an expected disappointment. The shu mai were also hard and cold. The turkey sausage from the breakfast line was salty and cold. The har gow was a better bite as they just came off their steamers, were still hot, and filled with plump shrimp.

Seeing as my plate looked nowhere near empty, I knew I needed more than a taste here and there. So I went for plate #2. The fried catfish was actually pretty good. The batter was light and crunchy, with a touch of Cajun seasoning as well as salt and pepper. The fish inside was still warm and flaky. I also wanted eggs with my mimosa to complete the brunch’s plated environment. This was not egg. And no, I do not consider boxed, diluted eggs ideal. The pork sausage was a little too salty even for sausage standards, but had a good snap and was surprisingly still warm on the inside. But the best part of my plate was the prime rib. With a perfectly salty crust on the outside and a tender, medium rare meat. I needed no assistance from my knife as my fork did the job just fine. I thought two slices were more than enough but I was proved wrong. But there were more to come so I had to make room for plate #3.

I was really on my way for desserts but for some reason I wanted to walk around some more. I saw a friend waiting for the roasted duck that’s still sitting on the chopping board waiting for the butcher’s knife to strike. I had to try it. Feeling the plate so empty with just one piece of duck, I had to get some more carbs with it, and pasta seemed to be the untried dish of the whole vacation. The pasta was overcooked but the bolognese was well-seasoned and packed with flavor; subtle hints of thyme, garlic, basil, with a touch of spicy-most likely cayenne. The duck was unexpectedly good. It was glistening with the good oils, crispy skin, and the fat in between melted in my mouth. The meat was cooked perfectly with a balance of salty and sweet. Delicious.

I knew I had room inside my stomach for sweets. After all, their spread looked so enticing I felt my feet flying effortless towards their display. The cheesecake was sour. And it wasn’t a lime cheesecake. The gelato had to be tried. The tiramisu was actually bland, and did not taste a tiramisu at all. It had a very indescribable after-taste. The coconut gelato was actually ahead of both, although the coconut tasted like the syrup vs the fresh one, but an artificial taste more comparable to the real one. Moving on again.

But of course, I will not leave without my own version of my bread pudding. Bread pudding, topped with vanilla ice cream this time and hot chocolate fudge drizzled all around. Their pudding is less dense as the Hilton’s but with more cinnamon and vanilla flavor. And the chocolate fudge was still warm and sweet, elevating this humble plate to a masterpiece inside my mouth. Delicious indeed. I’m sorry, I really can’t help but brag about my sugar overload.

Whew. I didn’t think I would survive outside of the buffet. The mimosas were overflowing and the food was gluttony at it’s worst. But the prime rib, duck, and bread pudding were all worth coming back and waiting in line for an hour. In fact, I would get multiple servings of each, and even with only these three I would chew without regret. Ignoring the rest of the hundreds of dishes will not be a painful undertaking.

Goodbye Vegas. Until I see you again, which will be soon. After all, over-indulgence is a magnetic pull hard to resist. And everything in Vegas is evident of excess.

 

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Filed under American Food, Beef, Breakfast, Buffet, Chinese Food, Dessert, Drinks, Duck, Dumplings, Fish, Gelato, Noodles, Pasta, Sausages, Shrimp

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

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

Daikokuya Ramen (Initial Post for the Examiner)

Comfort food is all about indulging to one’s craving and hunger pain. And there’s nothing more comforting than a big, bowl of hot soup, especially on a cold winter day. Visit Daikokuya Ramen when you feel the need to give in to your comfort.

Daikokuya Ramen in Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, serves one the most delicious bowls around. This bowl is not the typical 99-cent ramen one can get at the local supermarket. The broth alone is a product of hours of boiling pork bones and joints until the flavor becomes intense, but that’s not yet enough. It is then mixed with their special soy sauce based mix so that the flavor is completely embedded in every spoonful. The dense broth and the ramen noodles simply come together in sync. But the soup does not overpower the rest of the players inside this bowl. Each order comes with kurobuta pork belly chashu that is tender enough to melt in one’s mouth. And as if the pork is not indulgent enough, Daikokuya adds marinated boiled egg, bamboo shoots, green onion, and a touch of sesame seeds to complete the offer.

But Daikokuya is more than the bowl of comfort. They also offer a multitude of appetizers; from the crispy gyoza (their version of Chinese dumplings) to Japanese sausages filled with their famous kurobuta pork. They also serve rice bowls and bento box combination if a huge bowl of ramen is not enough for the complaining stomach. Order either a diet coke or Asahi (yes, they serve alcohol) to wash the goodness down and one is set and ready to curl up in bed for the rest of the day.

So when that craving hits, either after a night of over-indulging in the diuretic called alcohol or upon waking up on a cold, rainy day, Daikokuya is a sure fire hit to comfort that rumbling stomach and ease the salivating palate back into a calm with a certain sigh of relief. Just come hungry and ready to slurp.

Daikokuya Ramen is at 327 E 1st St Los Angeles CA 90012. T: (213)626-1680. Don’t worry about bringing cash, they accept all major credit cards.

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Filed under Dumplings, Japanese Food, Ramen, Related Article, Sausages, Soup