Tag Archives: Pho

April 18, 2010 – Ice Cream Sandwiches and Noodles in Westwood

18 Apr

9:30 am

3 eggs, scrambled

2 slices of potato bread toast

1 pm

1 bowl of mul naeng myun

side of kimchee

1 bottle of water

Now that the weather’s warming up, you’re going to see this dish pop up a lot on this blog. It’s arguably my favorite summer food, though it’s somewhat of an acquired taste. Even some of my Korean friends aren’t a huge fan of this dish. It’s a giant bowl of clarified beef broth served ice cold with buckwheat noodles. The flavor’s very mild, though you an stir in vinegar to give it a tart finish. Yes, it’s the equivalent of eating cold pho or ramen, but it’s much better than it sounds. Seriously, try it out once when it gets really hot in a few months.

5 pm

Diddy Riese

ice cream sandwich (2 chocolate chip cookies with walnuts, cookies ‘n cream ice cream)

When I was an undergrad at USC, I’d willingly cross enemy lines and hang out at Westwood regularly. Why not? There are grand-scale movie theaters that hosts regular Hollywood premieres, several restaurants, college bars, and cute UCLA co-eds inhabiting said bars. Finally, there was Diddy Riese, a beloved institution among UCLA students who’s reputation rests entirely on ice cream sandwiches. Two warm, homemade cookies buttress a scoop of Dreyer’s ice cream. Inevitably, the cookies melt the ice cream onto your fingers and you’re licking your hand like a cat to clean every bit off yourself. The sandwiches are $1.50, cheap by today’s standard, but much more than the dollar I used to pay. Still, there’s always a line here, regardless of hours, and like me, I’m sure there are some USC Trojans discreetly mixed into the crowd, smug in knowing that our football team will regularly kick their team’s ass.

10 pm

Noodle Planet

1/2 bowl of pho

1 glass of water

Among the noodle shops in Westwood, there is Mr. Noodle, right next door to Diddy Riese, and Noodle Planet a couple of blocks south. They’re both about the same, more about inexpensive convenience than taste, and I really can’t pick one to be better than the other. In fact, I’ve probably enjoyed Mr. Noodle a little bit more. Yet, if given a choice, I always go to Noodle Planet. Maybe it’s because of the bigger menu. Or maybe it’s because Mr. Noodle was a regular lunch place for a girl I briefly dated years ago who still lived near UCLA after she graduated. Either way, I don’t have a real legitimate excuse for why I chose Noodle Planet. I just do, OK.

Finally, I don’t know if going to watch the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra perform Mozart’s “Jupiter” symphony over Coachella is a sign that I’m officially old. Ah well. Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 is better than anything Muse can come up with, no matter how grand and idealistic they think they are. Fuck Muse. Anyway, here’s a video of “Jupiter.”

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March 8, 2010

8 Mar

9 am

3 scrambled eggs

1 slice of wheat toast

1 glass of water

2 pm

Top Chef: Just Desserts

I’m going to state this right off the bat. Don’t expect to read about the show, contestants or specific dishes from Top Chef: Just Desserts. A confidentiality agreement prevents me from revealing any details. I’ll write about the episodes I might appear in until after it airs, and I do have a lot to say about the dishes and contestants. I just have to wait until April, when the show premieres.

Through a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, I got a chance to attend two tapings of Top Chef: Just Desserts, one on Saturday and another on Monday. This is yet another spin-off of the Top Chef franchise. If you’ve seen the show before, then you’re probably aware that desserts scare the crap out of the contestants, they act all haughty and dismissive about desserts, and then get eliminated for a horrible creme brulee that they’ve never made before but inexplicably tried for a challenge. This new spin-off is Top Chef’s way of giving pastry chefs their due. If you’re familiar with the show’s format, there are occasional challenges where the contestants have to cater a party. I got to attend two such events and will appear in back-to-back episodes. I don’t know if Top Chef producers will care if a tall Asian guy keeps appearing in the show, but that’s their problem to fix in post.

Again, I can’t comment on any particular dish or divulge any details. I will say that most of the contestants are all too aware of certain food trends. I will also say that eating that many sweets at once is grueling. I know what you’re thinking, “oh it’s a tough life to eat free desserts. You’re an asshole.” But eating 10 sweets in an hour is painful. By the end of the meal, I had involuntary shaking and an inability to stare at one spot for longer than two seconds. Another guest, who attended a taping before, told me that I should not finish any dish. I didn’t listen to her and quickly felt nauseated. By the end, I was just taking one bite and tossing the rest. I don’t know how the judges eat so much and stay relatively skinny. Eating on Top Chef is similar  to Man Vs. Food. You would think that Padma Lakshi and Gail Simmons would slowly get fat like Adam Richman did over the years. But nope, the only reason why they got fat were for babies. I don’t know how she does it, and I’m not willing to spread wild rumors thinking of possibilities. (FYI, Gail takes over Padma’s hosting duties on Just Desserts, inevitably spurring unfounded rumors that this is the eventual line of succession for Top Chef).

Top Chef is actually the second culinary show taping I went to. Hell’s Kitchen was the other one and I have to say, Top Chef is much more fun and efficient. Hell’s Kitchen is a pain in the ass. You’re in a green room for three hours before taping, and that room consists of folding chairs, a vegetable tray from Ralph’s and bottles of water. I’m pretty sure Cary Elwes was handcuffed to a pipe with only a hacksaw to free himself in Hell’s Kitchen’s green room. They warn you beforehand that service can be slow and you might not eat, and sure enough, dining drags out over a couple of hours. They do provide unlimited wine once you’re seated. Top Chef, on the other hand, provides an open bar from the get-go and the wait is only an hour. Free booze is the secret for most reality shows, whether it’s Jersey Shores, The Bachelor or Top Chef, in getting people to loosen up on camera. Top Chef treats you well in the green room with wine, beer (Stella and Newcastle) and cheap champagne. They also give you 10 different type of cheese, including smoked gouda, blue, brie, white cheddar and this goat cheese mixed with cranberry that I ate too much of. In fact, I was allowed to take a picture of my cheese plate, so this is the only picture I have from the Top Chef shoot.

If you want to know even more about my Top Chef experience, listen to my friend Ryan’s podcast, where a certain blogger is his guest. I was hoping that I could turn my blog into an audiobook narrated by Michael Clarke Duncan, but this podcast will have to do for now.

6 pm

Pho Cafe

1 bowl of pho

1 glass of water

After Saturday’s Top Chef taping, two of our newfound friends suggested pho. We were all stuffed, but our body was also screaming for salt and protein to chemically balance ourselves. We ended up at Blossom in downtown LA and even though the pho itself was just OK, it was probably the most satisfying bowl I’ve ever had for the sole fact that it wasn’t dessert. It was salty, beefy and not too substantial, so pho was the perfect curative for sugar shock. After Monday’s taping, I needed to replenish my body’s sodium level again, and dinner at Pho Cafe was mandatory. I feel nominally normal now, though my fingers still twitch involuntarily while typing this very sentence.

8 pm

3 glasses of water

9 pm

1 cup of vanilla ice cream

Well, my “I can’t eat sugar for the rest of my life” phase lasted for six hours. I’m a pig.

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Dec. 14, 2009

14 Dec

9:30 am

1 red bean paste pastry

1 cup milk

1:15 pm

Pho Cafe

1 bowl of pho

1 bottle of Coke

My lunch plan with a friend fell through and I ended up at my neighborhood pho spot in hopes of calming the last lingering cough I have. I was originally introduced to Pho Cafe by a former neighbor, of Vietnamese descent who gave the following glowing recommendation, “It’s OK. Better than Gingergrass.” And so it is. The broth is mild with barely a trace of lemongrass, but there is a discerning beef flavor. The primary draw for me to this place is that it’s in my neighborhood. Pho here might not be as good as the ones in San Gabriel Valley, but it’s also a lot easier to get to. The main features for today’s lunch crowd was that every customer (except me) was white and sported a tattoo, flannel shirt, or horned-rimmed glasses. They offer meatballs and tendons, but most of the clientele will stick to steak slices or the tofu and mushroom veggie version. The place doesn’t even have a sign or identifiable marking. You either know it’s whereabout or you don’t. In other words, Pho Cafe is very “Silver Lake.” I will say that my hair was appropriately tousled for the atmosphere.

2 pm


1 tall eggnog latte

You know the holidays are coming up when Starbucks start selling awfully sweet coffee drinks. I’m not a fan of overly-sweet stuff, yet I regularly get them, just to fit into the Christmas spirit. I usually dislike Mariah Carey, but around Christmas, her voice is as calming as a castrato angel. Although I will stab a Santa Claus impersonator if I hear “All I Want for Christmas is You” again. Anyway, egg nog is my favorite of Starbucks’ holiday offering, but I even find that one heavy and overly sweet. But this year is different. Thanks to a tip from Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, I found out that the egg nog latte is made with skim milk this year. It’s a lot lighter, less cloying and much easier to drink. And that was my best Peter King-coffeenerdness impersonation.

6:30 pm


2 cans of Diet Coke

I wish I took a picture of this dish because it can be visually striking. Oh well. I eat it fairly regularly, so I’ll write more about it next time.

Instead, I’m going to rant about the Arizona Cardinals’ awful seven-turnover performance against the San Francisco 49ers. Really? Seven-turnovers? Five sacks? I HOPE YOUR “GOD” DISOWNS YOU AND DAMNS YOU TO HELL, KURT WARNER! And that goes for everyone on Arizona’s offense. BTW, I’m actually a Bears fan. I just had a “friendly” bet on the over/under. Just because it’s a “friendly” outcome doesn’t mean that I can’t wish unpleasant, bleeding diarrhea to strike every member of the Cardinals’ offensive line tonight. I blame Peter King for convincing me that this game would be a shootout. Fuck you, coffeenerd.

9 pm

4 Oreo cookies

1 cup milk

Cookies helped me forget my troubles.

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