Annual Apple Picking in CA

Wednesday, 18th, 2017

Yes, you can go apple picking in southern California! We’ve been going for 3 years now. From west LA, it’s about an hour and a half to get to Yucaipa where a bunch of apple orchards are. The best time to visit is early September if the actual act of apple picking is what you’re looking to do. It depends on how the crop was for the year of course, but the closer you get to November, the less fruit there will be on the trees. The first time we went was November and it was chilly and beautiful (but no apples to pick).

We went in early October this year and it was 90 degrees and the only orchard with apples was Riley’s. We prefer Stone Pantry because we like supporting the mom and pop experience over the amusement park experience (Riley’s) but this year there were zero apples and they upped the price for making your own cider from $20 to $30 a gallon.

After apple picking we head to Snow Line Orchard for freshly made mini apple cider donuts and hard cider. We unfortunately picked a weekend where a festival was taking place, so the lines were long, but you can drink in line so it’s not so bad. The apple cider + brut mixes they had at the tasting room were nice after being in the hot sun.

So what did I do with my apples this year? We only picked about 8 of them, so I picked this easy fruit crumble recipe. I’m not a baker (I prefer to cook) but these guys came out pretty well.

Next year, we’re going to see what this mile high apple pie is about.

kato: pescatarians rejoice!

Friday, 30th, 2017

One of my first thoughts after eating at Kato was “I need to take my sister here.” My sister is a particular eater – doesn’t like red meat unless it’s well done, no overly pungent food – that type of thing. But that doesn’t mean she’s not excited to try new food. What’s amazing about Kato is you get to try food that is prepared in ways that stretch the imagination. You can be adventurous with no intestines involved! Second reason I thought of my sister is because as an artist, my sister has an appreciation for environmental aesthetics. Either Jonathan Yao or someone on his team has their tableware game on point. LA times described Kato as “living in an Instagram photo.” But not in an annoying “influencer” way IMO, but rather in a genuine, understated, beautiful way.

So the deal is, you get to choose between 2 tasting menus. They are both pescatarian. You can do a 6-course option for $55 or a 9/10-course for $80. In an effort to practice not stuffing our faces at every opportunity, the bf and I went with the 6-course option. It was one of the best tasting menu experiences I’ve ever had. (So far I have been to n/naka, Providence and Petit Crenn, which were all incredible). By best, I’m weighing in the factors that matter most to me. And this would be the level of surprise and delight I felt with each dish. Not only was each bite swooningly delicious, I also felt like there was a flow each dish was taking us on. I never really understood what the critics were talking about on Chef’s Table, but now I think I kind of do.

Let’s go through the courses.

Smelt & Sesame
kato, kato restaurant

Hamachi, cucumber & scallion
kato restaurant, kato tasting menu

Softshell crab
kato restaurant, kato tasting menu

Trout, cabbage, eggplant

Dungeness crab, conpoy, nori

Buttermilk & hibiscus

Some parting thoughts:

I don’t usually like dessert much, but this dessert is up there in the top 5 best I’ve had in my life.

I’m really proud that a fellow Taiwanese-American is doing what he loves and killing it out there.

Happy birthday sister (for when we set a date to take you here)!

matcha mochi cake that literally anyone can make

Sunday, 27th, 2016

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Although I’ve been eating way too much over the Thanksgiving holiday, there’s always have room for dessert! On this lazy Sunday I decided to try a recipe a friend shared with me for matcha mochi cake. The main ingredients I had to pick up at a Japanese market were glutinous rice flour and matcha powder. The rest are things most kitchens have at hand like vegetable oil, sugar, milk and eggs.

This is probably the easiest thing to make next to baking cookies from a tube. You add all the ingredients together and mix well, then just put into a baking dish of your choice. I decided to use a muffin tin because I don’t have enough flat pans, so mine look completely different from the Tiny Urban Kitchen’s, which is where the recipe is from. But that’s what’s fun about cooking, right? Freedom to improvise. Since I used half the required amount of sugar in these, I added some powdered sugar on top for some extra sweetness and of course, for Instagram.

The mochi is best eaten warm and with a cup of your favorite tea.

Uncle Tetsu Cheesecake: Like eating clouds!

Wednesday, 16th, 2016

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What happens when American cheesecake meets French soufflé? I imagine the baby would be something like Japanese cheesecake, specifically from Uncle Tetsu. Lucky for us living in LA, Uncle Tetsu has graced Arcadia with a store. The store is actually in Arcadia, my hometown, which isn’t technically Los Angeles but 45 minutes east of it. Even luckier for me, I am very close to it when I visit my parents.

We had to wait about 35 minutes for a cheesecake, but I hear the line can be 1 – 2 hours. The reason is because they can only make 13 cheesecakes at a time and there is always more than 13 people wanting to buy a cheesecake. They also limit one cheesecake per customer, for equality’s sake. No greedy people making out with 10 cheesecakes and causing everyone else to wait an extra hour. The question is, is it worth the wait?

No, not really. 35 minutes was already pushing it, but I definitely wouldn’t wait longer than that. Or wait 35 minutes ever again. Is it good? Yes. It’s like eating a fluffy cloud that is subtly sweet and subtly tastes like cheese. You’ll feel like you can eat half the cake in one setting, but don’t. You start to feel it sitting heavily in your stomach if you give it 20 minutes.

So, go try it when you have the day off and can go during an odd hour. Or, if you have hookups with Uncle Tetsu folks that can set the cake aside for you.


Credit: #uncletetsu

The Pho Burrito: It’s Good!

Tuesday, 15th, 2016

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Have you ever wondered what it would taste like to take all the amazing components of a bowl of pho and serve it wrapped in a tortilla? Never have I. Apparently the chefs at Komodo did, and the Phởrrito is available at their restaurant as a seasonal item until the end of the year. So you have a little over a month left to head over to either Main Street or Pico Robertson to try it, which, of course, you should.

Very surprisingly, they managed to somehow capture the warmth and comfort of a bowl of pho into a handy wrap you can eat with your two hands. The tortilla is filled with slices of angus beef that’s flavored with pho broth. There’s no broth in the burrito itself, but that’s where the taste of cardamon, cinnamon and star anise are coming from. Also stuffed in the burrito are the rest of the key ingredients: cilantro, onion, bean sprouts and rice noodles.

Here’s the story on how and why Chef Erwin Tjahyadi decided to create this dish. And of course, some eye candy of other Phởrritos posted on Instagram. Credit: #Phởrrito


my ‘treat yourself’ birthday meal at republique

Thursday, 8th, 2016

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First off, can I just comment on how pretty this restaurant is? I tend to have the funny luck of moving away from places which then become the home of some of the best places, like Republique in miracle mile/weho or Kogi in Palms. Not that I could afford to eat at Republique all the time then (or now) but it would still have been nice to be walking distance from it.

As it’s birthday month, my good friend Lin (also a September baby) and I decided we wanted to celebrate this year by treating ourselves to a nice meal. So we picked Republique. Just sitting inside the restaurant is fun, especially for us because we got seated right at the storefront where you can sit against the front windows and see everything going on in the room. The building is a Spanish inspired brick structure, but looks like you’re inside of a beautiful train station. With a glass of wine each, here is what we ordered for dinner:

Oysters – 6 total. Our waiter recommended 3 Kumamoto, 3 Black Duck Salt to get the opposite ends of the taste spectrum. Kumamoto is light and refreshing, Black Duck Salt is a bit heavier and rich.

Charcoal grilled Mediterranean octopus – SO good. This was almost my favorite thing we ate and we ordered seared foie gras. Instead of watermelon, we had cantaloupe, cabbage, pistachio, chile, and lime topped with generous cuts of tender octopus.

Seared foie gras – what can I say? It’s seared foie gras and incredibly delicious. It’s served on top of steel cut oats, which I found really interesting but added a nice contrast texture to the soft foie gras. There are also chanterelle mushrooms, baby turnips, plums and almonds.

Duck breast – the duck was cooked perfectly (pink in the middle) with thick cuts of bacon. Also to die for.

Unfortunately I was only able to snap a photo of the foie gras. But here’s some eye candy from their Instagram.


There is no shortage of fine dining in LA but Republique earns a spot in my top 5 now for sure.

Note: Brunch at Republique is self service but you get full service for dinner.

perfecting the lasagna cupcake

Thursday, 1st, 2016

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Lasagna is one of the best dishes ever invented – this is a strong and agreed upon belief at our place. The only issue is the amount of time and effort it takes to make. I think I do it once a year, and only for special occasions. That’s where lasagna cupcakes come in. You can make them on a week night in under 40 minutes. I made 36 the other night and put away 5 at a pretty impressive rate.

Because I only have one cupcake tin, I have to make one batch at a time. There are 2 benefits to this, one is the fact that you get to eat cupcakes while your next batch is baking. The other one is you can test out different portions of ingredients and methods to arrive at the perfect way to make them.

Here’s how I made my most successful batch:

1. Use wonton skins, the square ones. You can get a pack at most Asian grocery stores. I got mine from Mitsuwa.
2. Lay wonton skins into each cupcake holder and press down the bottom to be flat. I got best results layering 2 skins instead of one. That way you have a stronger base and your ingredients won’t roll off later.
3. Sprinkle the bottom with parmesan, then shredded mozarella, then ricotta.
4. Add ground beef (or a meat or veggie of your liking).
5. Top off with your favorite marinara sauce. Find one that’s chunkier versus all liquid to avoid leakage.
6. Sprinkle more parmesan on top if you like.
7. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until wonton skins are nicely brown and crispy. During this time you can finely chop up some basil.
8. Let cool for 3 – 5 minutes.
9. Top with shredded basil.

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A beautiful sight indeed. Enjoy!

tsuruhashi japanese bbq

Wednesday, 31st, 2016

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Among friends who live in orange county and east of LA, Tsuruhashi is a much talked about Japanese BBQ place. The bf and I have been meaning to check it out for a few months now, but just never find ourselves in Fountain Valley. We decided to use our lazy Sunday evening to finally make the drive, meet up with family and check it out.

It’s located in a strip mall with a very random assortment of stores – a gun shop, a reptile “experience” and a generic restaurant called Fortune Cookies. But I can say with confidence that if you have the time or happen to be in Fountain Valley then you should pay this place a visit. They don’t technically take reservations but you can call ahead of time to put your name down on the waiting list.

The meat is phenomenal. The portions aren’t huge, but that allows you to try a lot of different meats that are very high quality. Here’s what we ordered between 4 people:

Assorted Kimchi – even their kimchi is amazing. You can get nappa, daikon or cucumber. We decided to get all 3 with the assorted.

Yukke Raw Beef Sashimi – if you aren’t cool with the concept of eating raw meat, this can be pretty intimidating. However, I’ve had this dish once or twice before at places with really high quality meat, and it is amazing. The beef is paired with sweet slices of pear, sprouts and topped with an egg. Mix everything together and enjoy.

Kobe cube cut short rib – Exactly how it sounds. Heavenly cubed pieces of Kobe beef.

Rib eye roll – This was my favorite thing we ordered. It’s rib eye with a shiso leaf and some sort of plum sauce inside. The combination of the flavors is amazing where the acidity of the plum balances out the savory meat.

Outside skirt – very tender

Sausages – these are just regular sausages, but we had them last and they must have picked up all the flavors from the grill because it was such a yummy way to end the meal.

Sesame ice cream – so good. I’m not sure if they make this ice cream in-house. It definitely tastes like it, but if they buy it from a grocery store I need to find out which one quick.

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Hanjip Culver City

Friday, 19th, 2016

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One thing to keep in mind before going to Hanjip is that it isn’t your typical Korean BBQ. If you’re looking for that, then any of the tried and true establishments, Baekjeong, Hae Jong Chon or Park’s BBQ will do the trick.

Don’t come here looking to eat piles of brisket, pork belly and squid. Instead, you’ll have the best experience trying dishes you wouldn’t get at your everyday KBBQ stop. Try things like the beef poutine, curly fries topped with slides of bulgolgi, marinated onions and bonito aioli. Or go for the uni steamed egg with salmon roe. Don’t forget the bone marrow corn cheese. Enjoy these with watermelon soju – probably one of the craziest punch bowls I’ve seen. You’ll get half a large watermelon that’s been scooped out into small round pieces. The waiter pours soju into the bowl and tops it off with fruity pebbles and pop rocks. How fun is that?

Eye candy from their Instagram:

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why smorgasburg LA is worth visiting

Thursday, 18th, 2016

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If you haven’t been to Smorgasburg LA because someone told you it wasn’t that great, I definitely think it’s worth checking out yourself. I heard some naysayers before I decided to go, but I had a good time at the Smorgasburg in Brooklyn, Dumbo a couple years ago. The selection of food vendors on the west coast and east coast differ, but both were good in their own way.

In LA there are of course special donuts, a variety of drinks and teas and different varieties of tacos. Here’s what I tried:

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Goa Taco: my favorite stand hands down and the reason why I’d go back. These are tacos made from Indian paratha instead of tortillas that Goa Taco describes as “the buttery, flakey lovechild of a tortilla and a croissant.” I tried both the pork belly and tofu tacos. The pork belly is rich and decadent while the tofu is light, crisp and fresh. If you try anything at Smorgasburg, try this.

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Mama Musubi: Not bad but not amazing. These are your standard rice balls. I tried the original (can’t remember what the filling was), tuna and salmon. They photograph well, but not anything to write home about.

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PopdUp: Another one definitely worth trying, especially because it’s been so hot in LA. Standing without shade on hot concrete makes the heart crave a soda. Lucky for us, PopdUp is healthier than your average can of Coke with no preservatives added, 100% natural and vegan. Essentially they take local fruits and herbs and blend them with raw sugar to create a syrup. Soda water is added to create the fizz we all like. They come in these pretty jars and lovely flavors like grapefruit basil, orange thyme and my favorite – lychee with ginger and elderflower. Love.

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Raindrop Cake: This is one of those things that is worth trying if you’re really curious. The presentation is interesting but the taste is underwhelming. It basically tastes like rain water in a gelatin-like form. Which, to be fair, is what it’s called.

Lastly, the venue, Row LA is an awesome mix of new outdoor west coast styled spaces and classic east coast warehouse vibes. It’s worth visiting just to enjoy the continued development of DTLA.