Friday, April 27, 2007

The Avocado Company Party

Two words: office party. You'll either see eye-rolling, deep sighs or head-nodding. Yes, it can be dreadful. When I think of the obligatory company party or event, I immediately imagine tech nerds with short-sleeve JC Penney shirts w/ paisley pattterns, Docker's khakis (tapered only), clip-on building access cards and white running shoes. The kind of running shoes that are never sold with a box, but tied together with a plastic strap. Yeah, awesome. Girls drool at this I know. But maybe this is really a misconception of company parties and merely a coincidence that one of my favorite movies is Office Space.

My agency announced that they were hosting a luncheon for us with tacos, rice, beans, salsa and of course guacamole. But a curveball was thrown in as well... there was an Iron Chef Avocado challenge. Nobody budged when they heard that. But the second you mention that cash prizes are involved, the enthusiasm level in human beings is triggered. Not that the world is full of greed or anything.

I figured people would make guacamole, and I wanted to try integrating the avocado as a sub-ingredient and not the core. A few weeks back, my coworker RM and I headed over to a mariscos restaurant nearby. We tried out the ceviche there and loved it. So we asked the owner how she makes her ceviche.

Me: How do you make ceviche?
Maria: Es facil. Vas al mar con un barco y capturas pescados, camarónes, pulpos y conchas.
Me: That's it?
Maria: Sí. Entonces le pones sal y limón y lo guardas en el refrigerador por lo menos cuatro horas.
Me: How are your smoothies here? I saw your sign outside.
Maria: Oh si, nuestros jugos naturales están muy frescos.
Me: Mmm sounds good. Can you make me a seafood smoothie?
Maria: (kitchen sounds halt with cold stares)
Me: Nevermind.

Dialogue provided by Google Translator. Just kidding, Maria was awesome. Totally joked around with us and provided great service. Last time, I messed around with a server, I got shafted.... literally.

Ok, so basically you use lime, lemons and salt to 'cook' the selected seafood. I went for shrimp and scallops. Tossed them in a bowl with garlic, cilantro and the juice of lemons and limes. Sealed them in a bowl and let them party together for at least 4 hours in the fridge. The next morning, I took out the mix, eager to smell the flavors... wow. I just made my nosehairs very jolly.

Shrimp & Scallop Ceviche with Avocado & Lime
I've eaten ceviche from a styrofoam cup (which I love) and I've eaten it this way on a tostada chip. Both will make you happy. I smothered the chip with the ceviche mix which was later flavored with more salt, black pepper, tons more lime, jalapenos and avocados. I gave it to my mexican friend RM to guinea pig it. *drum roll*

RM: "Super-delicioso! I like it spicier and with more lime though."

Blue Crab & Avocado Mulitas
Well I thought I was making quesadillas, but RM corrected me. In fact, when you're not folding the tortilla in half, but stacking it, it becomes a mulita. Whatever, I just hope it f*cking tastes good and nobody dies. I've never tried this before and this was actually my favorite. The sweet crab, salty cheese and creamy avocado turned out to be a culinary ménage-á-trois.

RM: "Mmm. Si ménage-á-tres!"

Avocado Mousse Poke on Wonton Skins
I know I know, but I had to throw this in. This dish is played out but actually got the best response from fellow coworkers. I will never buy wonton skins from Whole Foods - they are horrible.... so floury!

RM: "Muy bueno! Mis pantalones están mojados!"

My coworkers put up some really creative dishes, making this a really fun yet competitive event. Someone made avocado cream pasted in between cookies from avocados, créme frâiche and sugar. Someone else made an avocado soup and served them in coconut cups. And overall, there was a nice spread of avocado-ish dishes. I didn't win but still had a blast. The company party could've been worse. We could've all been forced into a meeting room and forced to sing happy birthday to the boss. And may be not even get a piece of that Albertson's cake.

Thanks for reading. Read more!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Starburst's New Berries n' Créme: The Power of Viral Advertising

As an advertising art director, I have to keep up with all of the work out at the moment. And if you've seen the recent change in TV spots for Starburst and Skittles... know that this is a huge change for a tough client. So does this commercial... make you laugh or annoy the crap out of you? Videos of people impersonating this Little Blue Boy character are all over YouTube. I was first annoyed when I watched this TV spot, but the more and more I think about it, the funnier it is.

Here are some other great Starburst and Skittles spots for candy lovers out there. Happy Friday! Thanks for reading.

Starburst: Factory
Starburst: Ernie the Klepto
Starburst: Art Class
Skittles: Leak
Skittles: Rabbit
Skittles: Tropical Island Read more!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dumpling 10053, El Monte, CA - Creative Dumplings Un-creative Restaurant Name

Nostradamus left out a very important prediction in his book. Amidst all things alluding to armageddon and absolute chaos, such as earthquakes, terrorist attacks, celebrity infidelity, Paris, Lindsay and Hillary, etc.... how about things we as foodbloggers actually care about... like where's the next breeding ground for good Asian food in the SGV? Well to answer that, Nostradamus appeared in my dreams last night. But he wasn't European; he was actually an old Chinese man with ashy gray hair, with one of those very attractive moles that had 3-4 strands of 5" hair growing out of it... like vines in the Amazon. The moles that are supposed to give people good luck, when in fact it's just something you tell people so they don't feel so bad about it. With lighting and thunder floating above his head, he told me. "Ooooooohhhhhhh.... (whatever scary sound scary spirits tend to make).... I think it's not in the Alhambra/San Gabriel/Rosemead side of Valley Blvd.... it's actually moved east on Valley Blvd towards El Monte. And it's because of a quaint restaurant by the name of Dumpling 10053. And I am getting sick of the huge Banh Mi Battles on Valley Blvd.... what the hell is that about??? It's just a sandwich! And what about those Monterey Park mommies with those face visors....oh the... " Before he continued ranting on, I went back to sleep. Thanks for the tip - I'm checking it out.

My family and I headed east on Valley Blvd. which was weird for a change. We were so used to going west on Valley to the land of good food. We found Dumpling 10053 in a tiny strip mall, well, by the address of 10053 Valley Blvd.... just a few yards east of Baldwin Avenue. We parked and found ourselves dealing with a good 15 people in front of us. Yes, a very good sign. I put my name down, actually my chinese last name. 10053 is the first place to ever ask me for my last name... "Ni gway shing?" (meaning: your family name please?) How fancylicious. Where was the heavily-needed valet guy? Compact parking spots and Chinese drivers do not meld well. We were seated about 20 minutes later.

About 2 months earlier, I had sent my new foodie scout, Jéan Downs, out to Dumpling 10053 since he was in the area. Jéan Downs accompanied me for a dinner at WD-50 in New York and tried a lot of things for the first time. He has proven to many that he is an enthusiast of good food. He doesn't like to reminisce about the days when he used to eat at Chipotle, El Torito (only with coupons), Baja Fresh (because Santa Ana is too far) and fine Italian meats from Albertson's Deli. He came back to me with a two thumbs up review.

10053 Interior
The restaurant holds about 15 tables; not very big. This place is certainly big enough for people to do the 'Hurry up and f&!!ing Eat Staredown' though. For those unfamiliar with this. It originates in Asia, where restaurants are super small. And if it's cold outside, people waiting to eat will literally stand inside the restaurant next to you while you enjoy your meal. They may even STARE at you so that you hurry up and eat. Screw them, take your time. Maybe even offer them some tea. There are hungry onlookers here though.

Cold Cucumbers (Xiao Huang Gua)
This is a must in any dumpling/noodle shop. Some places will let you walk up to the counter and pick out your own side dishes; most keep their side dishes in a separate drink fridge. These cucumbers however, were bland. In need of extra flavoring, we added our own salt and dollop of chili bean paste. Much better. $2.25

Shredded Bean Curd 'Noodles' (Gan Sih)
These are my favorite and 10053 makes them delicious. I can definitely taste the addition of chicken bouillon which contains MSG and chicken broth flavoring. The sesame oil is nicely glazed on.... making this one of the best 'gan sih' I've eaten in SGV. $2.25

The Dumpling Master Sauce
Everyone has his own 'sauce' for dipping dumplings or scallion pancakes in. Here's a quick guide for the sauce I make. Just don't dip dumplings in soy sauce straight - it's like the white guy from Joy Luck Club juicing the perfectly steamed fish with soy sauce. In your little dish provided, add 1/2 a seconds worth of soy sauce, 1 second of vinegar, 1/2 or 1 teaspoon of chili bean paste depending on your threshold for spiciness and 6-7 drops of sesame oil. Mix well and enjoy. This is not the same sauce for soupy dumplings (xiao long bao)! This is $free.99.

Three-Flavored Dumplings (San Shen Sway Jiao)
People on Chowhound lit up this dish like crazy. And I must join the campaign. These are truly good. Using pork, imitation crab and sea cucumber, a juicy dumpling is made and full of flavor. You almost don't need to use the master sauce. This combination of ingredients is very unique, yet you can still taste all the different textures. You won't find this at many Chinese restaurants. 10 for $6.50.

Centerfold Portrait of the Three-Flavored Dumpling

Shrimp & Leek Dumplings (Sha Joe Tsai Sway Jiao)
These are my favorite and what everyone gets with the Three Flavor dumplings. I've already been to 10053 four times in the last 1.5 months. I can't get enough of these. These are basically like dim sum ha gow's. The shrimp is bound together by egg whites, corn starch with a few slivers of chinese leeks - and it's very juicy. Mmmm. 10 for $6.50.

Centerfold Portrait of the Three-Flavored Dumpling
All I have to say is... 36-24-36 for only 6-50.

Pork Chops with Soup Noodles (Pai Gu Mian)
This is another favorite here at 10053. I usually never get this, but after being here four times and eyeing what the waitresses bring out... it was time to try. And they are beautiful. Perfectly fried, these pork chops have a nice rice wine, white pepper and five-spice taste to them. Sh*t! My stomach just growled. $5.95 with soup noodles. $4.75 for 2 pieces... might as well order the whole set.

Noodle Soup (Part of Pai Gu Mian Combo)
This broth is cooked beautifully. It was a bit salty and cloudy from the noodle washoff. I tasted a lot of MSG in this. But overall, a nice accompaniment to the pork chops.

Beef Stew & Tendon Noodle Soup (Nu Ro Gun Mian)
I have eaten a lot of beef noodle soup in SGV, and so far, this place has moved up to my top 3 rank. The cuts of beef given are soooo nice. The broth has a nice red/brown color to it with virtually no oil and lingering tastes of chili bean paste; has a nice subtle star anise essence to it. This is one fine bowl of NRM.

The ugly-moled Nostradamus was right. In fact, I am thinking about eating there again this weekend. I am determined to try everything on the menu and I can't say that about a lot of Chinese dumpling/noodle shops. Another one of 10053's trademark dishes is the cold sesame chicken noodles. Good for about the first few bites, the sesame paste starts to get sickening. Try sharing this with your friends. I've also tried the rock cod fishball soup and it's just not what I was expecting. Although very clean and fresh, the fishballs lack the Chiu-Chow style of 'bouncey' fish meat. I'd refrain from the Salmon dumplings - cooked salmon is just too dry. Finally, as good as the potstickers look, I'd say no. The filling is 90% vegetable, 10% pork and VERY DRY. By the way, the chinese name for 10053 is 'Yuan Bao Xiao Guan', meaning Gold Ingot Restaurant. This is a Chinese gold ingot. Thanks for reading.

Dumpling 10053
10053 Valley Blvd Suite #2
El Monte, CA 91731
(626) 350-0188
Read more!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Who the Hell is Kikkoman???

Who the hell is Kikkoman?! It was only a matter of time that someone would create some sort of comic book hero based on the soy sauce brand's name. Enter: the Japanese. This is annoying at first, but now the song is EMBEDDED in my sick mind. Making me even more sick. I love how his enemies are Worcestershire Sauce and Heinz ketchup. Enjoy!

Kikkoman!!! Read more!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Cup O' C**k: The Most Unappetizing Meal - Red Lion Tavern, Silverlake

It was Friday and I was hungry after work. My coworker and I headed over to one of our favorite places to drink in Silverlake - the Red Lion Tavern. J and MM met us up and we started the weekend with our favorite German brews. A nice Spaten, a few shots of Jagermeister and one or two Irish Carbombs. I usually order the sausage platters which consists of three types of sausages along with the perfect companion of sauerkraut and mustard. Its chopped up and poked with a dozen or so toothpicks. Our server was this really fun and playful German girl by the name of V. Throughout the time we were there, we threw joke jabs at each other. Great sense of humor this V. So then I decided to order some food. I wasn't feeling anything heavy and felt like drinking soup. Mmm, this sounds good.... the Beerstein Soup... a split pea soup and wiener. I'll take one V.

What I was about to witness, was horrific. Behold....

The Cup O' C**k soup!

Me: "Wait, wait, wait... V, what the hell is this?!"
V: "Ees vut you ordered. Beerstein soup."
Me: "You're kidding me right?"
V: (with a wicked grin) "No. This is how ve serve it."
Me: "........ Vut the fuck?"

Before she could walk away, I caught her laughing. Very slick I thought haha. J, MM and my coworker were just as shocked as I was. So were the two tables next to us... who couldn't hold in their laughs. I looked at them and held my hands up in a WTF gesture. One of the guys said "Looks good." I was thinking to myself, did we do anything to V to deserve this??? I know it clearly says Beerstein Soup... but couldn't the cooks plate this in any other way. Thomas Keller and Wylie Dufresne can make this look beautiful and they certainly wouldn't go the phallic route. But this... seemed more like something Sandra Lee would do.

Sandra: "Today we're making my favorite soup... Cup O' C**k. All you have to do is buy your favorite split pea soup at the market - I like Campbell's. Buy your favorite wieners and use your handy kitchen shears to open them up. Then you heat up the soup in the microwave, pour it into your favorite beer stein and add the wiener. How easy was that. And it's so good. Nothing says German to me like Cup O' C**k. Mmm, I love c**k!!!"

I quickly took the wiener out and chopped that shit up... as to destroy any phallic thoughts brewing in people's minds. The table next to us was still getting a kick out of it. If you really wanna know, the soup sucked. It was warm and the wiener was just average. The food here is average, but definitely a fun place to drink beer with friends in the beer garden. If this was a joke, that was a good one V. You're funny.

Red Lion Tavern
2366 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, Ca 90039
(323) 662-5337 Read more!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

5 Things About Me Meme

Scott from One Food Guy had tagged me a while back. So here goes.


Up until 2003, I refrained from eating seafood. Yes, sushi, chinese seafood, lobster - everything. I suffered food poisoning around the age of 5 and avoided seafood for nearly 20 years. The second I would taste seafood, I would nearly yak. Not a pretty sight. I lost the privilege of eating delicious food and at the family dinner table, I'd hear my sister tell me what I was missing. Things changed when I started cooking, I knew it was time to overcome the phobia and leave that mental support group I was tied to. "Hi, I'm Dylan and I'm allergic to seafood.... " One of my first stops was at Kabuki at the Howard Hughes Center. Because when I think of sushi, I think of Kabuki. Just kidding. I took a bite out of a spicy tuna roll and made myself swallow it. It tasted worse than a bottle of Albertson's finest charcoal-filtered vodka in a plastic bottle. I now know that it wasn't b/c of my phobia for seafood, but really, my stomach reacting to Kabuki's sushi quality. Now, I have to eat seafood every week. I need to eat sushi at least twice a week - even if it's cheap. Zo, Gen, Karen, Komasa, Kiriko are all my fave places to go. Seared scallops? I can eat them like tater tots. It's funny how your palate changes as you mature. I used to hate green onions and cilantro - but now it's a must have. Daily Gluttony on the other hand, HATES cilantro more than anything haha.

My family used to own a restaurant in the South Bay during the 70s - one of those americanized Sze-chuan ('shee-zwan' as they would say) restaurants. To this day, it is still there and run by my uncle who is a killer cook. I've gone back there a few times to learn wok-cooking from him. I loved it so much I bought my own wok to rock. My sister and I used to piss my parents off because we would eat ALL of the red/green cherries at the bars. Come to think of it, those things were disgustingly sweet - drenched in glucose syrup. *Shudder* We also opened up the fortune cookies and put the cookies back in the wrappers haha. My mom, dad and sister are great cooks - we love to eat and live to eat.

I love Souplantation. I don't know why. And I don't like all buffets. Places like Todai are horrendous, but Souplantation.... quality. Here's my routine... grab the Chinese chicken salad, add corn, egg whites, mushrooms... then head to the soup bar to get Chicken noodle soup - no chicken, just the rubber they refer to as noodles, macaroni and cheese and then a slice of their cheese focaccia bread. Repeat 2-3 times. I just ate there a few days ago and spent about 2 hours with a coworker working and eating. Who says you can't have fun for less than $7.

I have rained on a parade. A big parade. A distant relative was having her 90th birthday at Ocean Star in Monterey Park. Anyone who has attended a Chinese banquet is well aware of the amount of hard alcohol available on the tables. Chivas Regal. XO. Hennessy. Johnny Walker. And the like. What the servers at the restaurant don't know is where the adults and kids are sitting. My sister and I found two nice bottles of hard alcohol on the lazy susan. "Let's do it." "Ok, let's do it." We poured the liquor into our tea cups... to the brim and drank. And drank. And drank. And drank. Next thing I know, I'm on the front stage of the banquet hall in front of the golden dragon mural... singing karaoke. In front of 300+ people. From what I could remember, I could see my sister laughing. My parents were happy, not knowing I was completely wasted. Then all of a sudden - darkness. I found myself lying on the floor with 3 or 4 Uncles checking on me. They carried me back to my table, with my laughing sister. I looked behind and saw both of my parents dogging me. Uh oh. Then all of the guests started to get up and leave. I was the period at the end of the sentence. Next thing I knew, I was outside throwing up... with my mom patting my back and dad holding a plastic bag. *Bowing* The End.

I have seen the River Dance...

Live. In concert.

Not by choice, but because my mom was putting me through a cultural development phase in my life. To make matters worse, she even bought the DVD. I am forever traumatized by the overwhelming amount of high heels, kilts, leather, velvet and silk.... worn by men. Come to think of it, this was too much information (TMI).

Tuna Toast
Guilty Carnivore
Foodporn LA
I Hate Mayo
Food Marathon
Wandering Chopsticks Read more!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

All New Products From the Fabulous Fool Network!

I love Bobby. You love Bobby. Everyone loves Bobby. Why not show him your love with his new dartboard? Feel free to print this out and have at it. Keep it real, Bobby.

Read about Bobby Boy here.

And by popular demand, the laziest host on the Fool Network... Sandra Lee. For 3-installments of $$14.95, you get to serve Sandra with some of your favorite recipes. Maybe a piping hot bowl of lefthook? Or maybe a bone-in roasted uppercut?

Read about Sandra Lee here.
Read more!

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