Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gelato Bar: A Taste of Italy in Studio City

Saveur.com recently posted An Eater's Guide to LA. Although the list pales in comparison to Jonathon Gold's extensive "99 Things to Eat in LA Before You Die," I did appreciate the handy dandy categories into which Saveur placed its food and drinks.

Listed under Saveur's "Valley Gems" category is Gelato Bar in Studio City. After sampling and falling in love with authentic gelato in Italy a few years ago, I've tried gelato after gelato in state after state trying to find something that comes close to the rich deliciosity of the real stuff. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it and share with you all...

So, with a recommendation from Saveur, next on my gelato-sampling agenda was Gelato Bar.

Gelato Bar

Gelato Bar is owned by Joel Gutman and Gail Silverton. After visiting Italy and experiencing the camaraderie of the Italian piazza, Silverton wanted to recreate the communal atmosphere where people of all ages come together to relax, chat and eat--three very, very good things. Silverton and Gutman even imported the light-up ice cream cone that stands outside from Italy!

Gelato Bar

Gelato Bar's interior is instantly welcoming--happy, bright and colorful with a vintage flair.

Gelato Bar

In addition to dessert, the cheerful little shop also serves free trade coffee, pastries, light breakfast (I'll be back for the Acai Bowl!) and paninis.

Gelato Bar

Gelato Bar

Gelato Bar offers twenty-four choices daily including flavor staples such as stracciatella and rotating specials such as salted caramel. True to Italian style, the gelato is hand-decorated with garnishes related to the flavor.

Gelato Bar gives its samples on real spoons, which is both eco-friendly and a classy touch.

Already, I was excited.

Gelato @ Gelato Bar

When you order gelato, you order 2+ flavors, with your first flavor choice being the one you get a little more of. On the left, we have Fragola Chips (strawberry with chocolate chunks) and Bignolata (hazelnut with chocolate chunks) and, on the right, Fragola Chips and Pistachio.

Gelato @ Gelato Bar

Gelato is different than ice cream because no air is added, which makes its flavor richer and the dessert itself denser. Gelato is also supposed to be made with fresh ingredients, which makes the flavors taste more like the food or fruit they're actually supposed to taste like.

These flavors certainly fit the bill and were absolutely delicious, rich and full--the best gelato I've had outside of Italy.

I've heard complaints about Gelato Bar's prices but, at $4.50 for each of these small cups, the tab came out to be less than the two self-serve frozen yogurts that a friend and I had gotten a few nights before.

Vibe+menu+extremely legit gelato= love. I'll definitely be back soon!

Gelato Bar
4342 1/2 Tujunga Avenue
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 487-1717

Gelato Bar on Urbanspoon
Gelato Bar in Los Angeles

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dim Sum Truck

Foodie friends, there's a new truck in town. Everyone, say hello to The Dim Sum Truck. The Dim Sum Truck has yet to officially launch but got its start in the VIP Lounge of the LA Street Food Fest and has been slowly rolling out ever since with private tastings and afternoons at the T-Lofts, which is where I got a taste.

The brainchild of USC alum Alex Chu ('09), the Dim Sum Truck is the product of a BA in Entrepreneurship (and International Relations), an interest in the restaurant business, a love of dim sum and an acknowledgment of the hellish drive time required for most Angelenos to get to any delicious dim sum.

I've been dying to try their food ever since I first heard about them and was glad to get to visit before the crowds of hungry dim sum-lovers descend upon it!

Dim Sum Truck

The Dim Sum Truck has its dim sum pre-made for them and steams them fresh in the truck since, as Alex said, "I don't know how to make this!"

Dim Sum Truck

Pork and Shrimp Shu Mai ($2.50) are dim sum staples, and these were delicious. Moist and wonderfully flavorful, it was love at first bite.

The secret sauce was also a nice touch, adding a sweet and spicy kick.

Pork and Shrimp Shu Mai @ Dim Sum Truck

The har gow (shrimp dumpling, $2.50) was also great--fresh, tender and everything I hoped it would be! Again, the secret sauce's tang played nicely off the mild flavor of the dumpling.

Shrimp Har Gow @ Dim Sum Truck

The last dumpling we sampled was the shrimp and chive dumpling ($2.50). I would have liked just a little more shrimp in these, but, overall, they were wonderfully plump and had great flavor.

Chive and Shrimp Dumpling @ Dim Sum Truck

The BBQ Pork Bun ($3) was the only dish that wasn't a home run for me. The buns weren't as hot as they should have been and had a low filling to bun ratio. Also, the buns weren't as sweet as those I'm used to ordering off of rickety dim sum carts.

Baked BBQ Pork Buns @ Dim Sum Truck

Finally, we ordered the Lotus Sesame Balls ($2.50). With the crunchy sesame seeds on the outside and the delicious, sweet filling on the inside, every bite was full of wonderful flavors and texture contrasts.

Lotus Sesame Ball @ Dim Sum Truck

I'm glad to see that the Dim Sum Truck went the traditional route with most of its dishes; good dim sum doesn't need a "twist"...it just needs to be devoured.

The Dim Sum Truck will also serve specials such as a Spicy Tofu Mulita (inspired by La Taquiza, a favorite among USC Trojans) and a Peking Duck Taco.

The Dim Sum Truck serves delicious food of a great quality at a great price. I'm also glad to see a Trojan who graduated in '09 working. Let's keep it that way: visit the Dim Sum Truck.

The Dim Sum Truck

Dim Sum Truck on Urbanspoon
Dim Sum Truck in Los Angeles

Dim Sum Truck on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chano's Drive-In

Chano's Drive-In is a USC-area institution, famed for its cheap, tasty eats. Operating out of a questionable-looking stand on Figueroa, Chano's serves Mexican fare such as tacos, burritos and enchiladas as well as burgers and sandwiches. On Sundays, they also offer menudo and pozole.

Some argue that Chano's is only for the drunk or hung-over, but I'm here to tell you that it's an excellent decision any time you want some good Mexican that's bad for you.

Chano's Drive-In

Their nachos are piled high with meat (in this case, steak), pico de gallo, guacamole and cheese. The chips are thick and crunchy, the pico de gallo is flavorful, and there's a lot of meat. I always end up stuffing my face when I order these.

Nachos @ Chano's

My favorite dish from Chano's, though, is the combination plate with two tacos (here, I ordered shredded beef and hard tacos) served with rice, beans and pico de gallo. I just love the contrast of the soft meat, pico de gallo and sour cream with the satisfying crunch of the taco shell. This plate is probably one of my favorite things in the whole world.

Taco Combination Plate @ Chano's

If a shady stand with a drive-thru speaker that sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher isn't your thing, you can class it up down the street at Chano's 2, which used to be a KFC. Awww yeahhh.

I'm sure that Chano's food is absolutely terrible for you, and my workout was really hard the next day but, still, Chano's...you have my heart (and J's heart, although he was once given his nachos sans chips).

3000 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
(213) 747-3944

Chano's Drive In on Urbanspoon
Chano's Drive-In in Los Angeles

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tasty Garden and Fosselman's

Periodically, someone will tell me that the place for Chinese food is Alhambra. I then Google Map "Alhambra," see how far away it is from me and then go, "Ohhhhh, that's why I've never been there." Recently, however, I decided to make the trek (an hour in gridlocked traffic that made me want to kill myself) in search of some delicious Chinese food and to catch up with some friends at Tasty Garden.

I had heard that, despite Tasty Garden's pretty ample seating, there is usually a wait, which I took as a good sign. Arriving at 8 PM on a Friday night, we waited for around 15 minutes for a table for four, which I thought was very reasonable. Plus, we had the picture-filled menu to keep us occupied while we waited.

Tasty Garden

As a side note, if you've never ordered "family style" at a Chinese restaurant, I highly recommend it. Because Chinese dishes aren't served with sides and usually come in large portions, it's a great idea for everyone to order one thing and then share with the table. Everyone's tummy wins!

J and Anthony started with the Won Ton Soup. Expecting a tiny bowl of soup with a couple of crispy won tons thrown in, I thought that the $5.50 price tag was a little steep. Little did I know that the soup was served in a huge ramen bowl and was more than enough for two. Tasty Garden also does one better than crispy, calorie-but-not-nutrition laden wontons and adds dumplings to their soup. These were awesome! They tasted like a combination of shrimp and pork, and I had to stop myself from filling up on soup before the rest of the food came.

Won Ton Soup @ Tasty Garden

Anthony ordered spicy fried chicken wings. I'm not a huge fan of fried chicken, but these had a thin layer of delightfully crispy and flavorful skin and tender meat. They also weren't too, too spicy.

Fried Chicken Wings @ Tasty Garden

Jamie ordered the Honey Ginger Chicken Hotpot. The chicken had a great sweet flavor, and there was more than enough chicken for four people to share. My only complaint is that there were bones in every piece of chicken (which were small pieces) and, at some point, I stopped eating them because I was tired of having to nibble around the bones.

Ginger Honey Chicken Hotpot @

I ordered the Honey Walnut Shrimp, which I'd heard was awesome and was the reason I not-so-arbitrarily chose Tasty Garden out of all the other Chinese restaurants in Alhambra. This dish was exactly what I wanted. It had a nice, thick layer of crunch on the outside and a generous covering of the mayo sauce. NOM!

Honey Walnut Shrimp @ Tasty Garden

J ordered the Beef Chow Fun, which was also delicious. I was glad that the dish was liberal with the amount of beef included! You can also get the dish with gravy, but I'd advise against it. The chow fun has enough flavor already.

Beef Chow Fun @ Tasty Garden

Tasty Garden delivered exactly what I wanted--delicious Chinese food that tasted like the food I grew up with. Mission accomplished.

At some point after our meal, while the four of us were sitting around letting our food settle, we realized, "Isn't Fosselman's nearby?" Dessert time!

Fosselman's is an old-fashioned ice cream shop that makes all of its own ice cream and sorbet...alllll 40-something flavors.

Fosselman's

Fosselman's

As you can see, they have a pretty extensive (and delicious) list of ice cream flavors.

Fosselman's

I ordered chocolate-covered strawberry. YUM! The chocolate chips were teeny tiny, like those in Baskin Robbins's mint chocolate chip ice cream. The strawberry base was also awesome.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry @ Fosselman's

J ordered taro, which tastes a little coconut-y and is, basically, mind-blowing. For those of you unfamiliar with taro, it is a plant grown as a root vegetable that is used to make the Hawaiian dish poi. Fosselman's also makes ube (purple yam) ice cream, which tastes suspiciously like the taro but whatever. It's good. Order it (or, well, either one, I guess).

Taro Ice Cream @ Fosselman's

I'm not sure exactly what the prices were, but my cone and J's cup together cost $5. Not too shabby...

Anthony ate his scoop of Cookies n Cream before I could snap a pic and Jamie ordered... vanilla. Wah Wah.

If you like delicious ice cream, then I highly recommend that you visit Fosselman's and try one of their amazing, unique flavors. (Don't be like Jamie ;) ).

Tasty Garden
288 W. Valley Blvd, Suite 110
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 300-8262

Tasty Garden on Urbanspoon
Tasty Garden in Los Angeles


Fosselman's Ice Cream
1824 W. Main St.
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 282-6533

Fosselman's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon
Fosselman's Ice Cream in Los Angeles

Thursday, February 18, 2010

LAMill Coffee Boutique

One of the (very few) upsides to being sick is that you will, eventually, have to leave the house and can visit places that you've been meaning to but just haven't had the time to visit (unless, you know, cabin fever is your thing). This is how I finally got to LAMill on a bright, sunny weekday afternoon.

LAMill is beautiful, relaxing little shop in Silverlake that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and boasts an impressive coffee, espresso and tea list. They also recently obtained a liquor license and are adding not only beer, wine and sake to their menu but also specialty combination drinks such as Tea Champagne (Alcohol AND caffeine? Woohoo!).

LA Mill

I absolutely adore classic, vintage chic decor and, with LAMill's murals, chandeliers and oversized chairs, it was love at first sight.

LA Mill

I ordered a cappuccino and was instantly delighted to see that there was a heart on it. Flavor-wise, however, it wasn't one of my favorite cappuccino's I've had. It was still fairly bitter after I added some brown sugar cubes to it and was also only lukewarm. The best cappuccino I've found in LA still at The Conservatory in Culver City.

Cappucino @ LA Mill

J ordered the Cough**Wheeze**Sniffle Herbal Tea...which is what I should have also ordered. This had an incredible, sweet flavor that was also really soothing on the throat. This is a must if you're feeling under the weather.

Cough**wheeze**sniffle/Herbal Tea

He also ordered the brioche donut holes, which were beautiful to look at and a delight to eat. They were crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside (sort of like a mini-malasada covered in confectioner's sugar). Be sure to order the side of cream with these!

Brioche Donut Holes @ LA Mill

I ordered the Prosciutto Cotto French Baguette with cooked prosciutto and Tal eggi o dop Uero Ciresa cheese, which came with hand-cut potato chips, olives and a preserved cippolini onion.

Brunch spread @ LA Mill

The cooked prosciutto tasted more like sliced ham ham rather than the thin, dry-cured meat I was hoping for. It's always a little sad when you don't get what you think you're going to get but the sandwich was, never the less, good, and I really enjoyed the thick-sliced, crusty bread as well as the coarse-grain mustard and the sweet cippolini.

The potato chips were also tasty--very thick and crunchy like chips should be!

Prosciutto Cotto French Baguette @ LA Mill

The service at LAMill is average at best (indifferent at worst) but, given the atmosphere and extensive number of caffeinated offerings, isn't a dealbreaker for me.

I think one variation of a perfect day for me would involve spending all day at LAMill with my laptop, camera and a book, eating and sipping my way throughout the day. On second thought, maybe I should be sick more often.

LAMill Coffee Boutique
1636 Silverlake Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 663-4441

Lamill Coffee Boutique on Urbanspoon
Lamill Coffee Boutique in Los Angeles

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Being Sick Could Only Mean: Langer's

I don't know what I used to eat when I was sick before I knew about Jewish food. Now, thanks to J, it's my go-to at the first sign of a sore throat or the sniffles. The food is so warm, hearty and carb-a-licious that, even if I still feel like crap when I'm done with my meal, at least I'm a little happier. And so, today, it was Langer's to the rescue!

Langer's, located in Westlake, is famed for its menu's #19--the pastrami sandwich that many claim is the best pastrami sandwich in the US. I, however, have only braved the crowded, busy streets of Alvarado in the fog of a headcold or amidst a flu-induced coughing fit (which, given the pretty shady area, is maybe not the best idea but c'est la vie) and have never actually tried this famed sandwich. The fact that they close at 4 PM every day also has something to do with this...

Langer's

In the 1920s, Westlake had a primarily Jewish population and was the LA equivalent of New York's Upper East Side. Upon stepping into Langer's, you certainly get a blast from the Westlake past and completely forget that you're in the middle of a busy, urban area.

The interior definitely has the diner/deli kitsch factor going with its counters, quilted booths and more shades of brown and orange than you knew existed.

Langer's

I ordered my standard "I'm sick and in need of comfort meal": Matzoh ball soup, potato knishes and kasha varnishkes. For you goys out there like me, knishes are a snack food made of dough wrapped around a filling (in my case, potato) and kasha varnishkes is bowtie pasta cooked with buckwheat and onions.

Sicky Face Feast @ Langer's

I don't know what to say about kasha varnishkes other than that it's delicious and absolutely perfect when you're sick (or any time, really). Some places serve it with gravy, but I really like getting the flavor of the onions and buckwheat in every bite and being able to feel the difference in texture between the buckwheat and the pasta.

Kasha Varnishke @ Langer's

I hate 99.9% of soups. I just don't understand it. It's not filling, but it's not light, and I get bored of eating it. I do, however, love matzoh ball soup, and Langer's is delicious. The matzoh ball is soft but not so soft that it falls apart when you dig in with your spoon. The broth was also flavorful and was really soothing on my throat.

I've eaten more than a few knishes in my days, but I've never seen ones like this! They were practically the size of baseballs! These were really yummy, but the outer layer of dough was a little thicker than I'd have liked and, after a while, I scooped out the potato from the middle and ate that with ketchup.

Matzoh Ball Soup & Potato Knishes @ Langer's

This huge amount of food all came out to about $17--not too shabby--and I still have leftovers. In fact, I'm going to go eat some kasha varnishke right now.

Langer's
704 S. Alvarado St.
Los Angeles, CA, 90057
(213) 483-8050

Langer's on Urbanspoon
Langer's Deli in Los Angeles