Blueprint for Delicious

CoolHaus Ice Cream Truck

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Sometimes inspirations to review something come from unexpected circumstances. Such was the case last night when dessert at my work’s Christmas party was provided by the brilliant architects from CoolHaus. CoolHaus follows on the heels of the trendy foodie fad of serving gourmet food from a truck, a fad I’m personally starting to love! I recently reviewed the (apparently) originator of the fad, Kogi BBQ here.

CoolHaus’ idea, as most ingenious ones are, is simple: Serve gourmet, made-to-order ice cream sandwiches out the back of an ice cream truck. Brilliant! They have several flavors of cookies and ice cream to choose from. You pick your cookie, you pick your ice cream flavor and they assemble a sandwich for you and wrap it in an edible rice paper like wrapper.

I tried the ginger cookie with cinnamon ice cream which was delicious and very holiday apropos. The cookies are just the perfect consistency for ice cream sandwich making, not too crumbly and not frozen solid as most ice cream sandwiches are since it’s prepared for you right on the spot. I wish I had room to try more than one!

Their flavors range from the traditional like vanilla ice cream and chocolate chip cookie to the more exotic like brioche cookie and green tea or apple pie ice cream. The nice man staffing their table let me try some bacon ice cream! It’s seriously good though maybe a little too decadent. Check out their menu at their website.

CoolHaus, like most of these foodie trucks, is on twitter. Your assignment is to follow them and hunt their truck down ASAP. I don’t think they’re here in Orange County too often, but next time they’re in town I certainly am!

CoolHaus Ice Cream

Various Locations

A Truck...

http://twitter.com/COOLHAUS

map

Deliciousness

Subpar 9 out of 10 Sublime

Clientele

Wonder Bread 5 out of 10 Multigrain

Atmosphere

Fancy 5 out of 10 Down Home

Cost

Credit Card 8 out of 10 Pocket Change

Adventurousness

Safe 2 out of 10 No Ingles

Overall Score

Never Again 9 out of 10 All-time Fav

Posted by in the following categories:Ice Cream, Out of Bounds

I’ve got Arepa Fever

Mil Jugos, Santa Ana

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Awesome Sauce

Today we ate lunch at Mil Jugos, a Venezuelan restaurant in downtown Santa Ana. This was our second time eating there and I have to admit, before eating there I really didn’t know much about Venezuelan food. The place itself is maybe a little difficult to find, located among the maze of one-way streets that surround the downtown civic center and courthouse. The place has character though, and the staff is friendly and welcoming.

The name, Mil Jugos, means 1000 juices for those not fluent in Spanish. They don’t serve quite that many fresh juices, but they do have a varied selection as well as some smoothies. But the main attraction here are two venezuelan dishes: Arepas and Cachapas. The cachapas are a kind of sweet corn pancake served with different fillings like cheese and meats. If that sounds like your cup of tea, definitely give them a try. But as for me, I’ve got a fever and the only prescription is Arepas!

Arepas are kind of like Venezuela’s version of a taco. They’re made with a sort of freshly cooked corn fry bread that’s crispy on the outside and wonderfully doughy on the inside. Then they’re sliced open and filled with different spiced meat fillings. My favorite are the chicken arepas, but I’ve yet to try one I didn’t like.

If you get an arepa at Mil Juguos, it would be a crime to not try the sauces which come in squirt bottles on the tables. There are two to choose from, they are similar but one is creamy and smooth and the other is chunky and has a wonderful kick to it. I’m not exactly sure what’s in them, cilantro, mint, chilies, but they are not to be missed!

Mil Jugos was a wonderful introduction to the cuisine of Venezuela, and I’m happy to continue the exploration.

Mil Jugos

318 W. 5th st.

Santa Ana, CA 92701

(714) 836-4601

map

Deliciousness

Subpar 8 out of 10 Sublime

Clientele

Wonder Bread 8 out of 10 Multigrain

Atmosphere

Fancy 9 out of 10 Down Home

Cost

Credit Card 8 out of 10 Pocket Change

Adventurousness

Safe 8 out of 10 No Ingles

Overall Score

Never Again 8 out of 10 All-time Fav

Posted by in the following categories:Santa Ana, Venezuelan

Yes it’s worth the wait!

Kogi BBQ Truck

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You may not be aware that Pink’s hotdogs, a southern California food landmark, is celebrating it’s 70th anniversary right now. I was having a conversation with someone about it and somehow the conversation turned to food places that you have to wait in long lines at. My friend was emphatic that the food never lives up to the hype. “don’t get me wrong” they said, “Pinks is a good hotdog, just not worth the long wait in line.” I had to emphatically disagree in the case of Pink’s, and maybe a few others, not only is the wait worth it but it’s part of the experience. It maybe kind of hard to understand, but you make friends with the people standing in line with you. You’re all on a food adventure together and it’s a shared experience.

Our conversation inevitably turned to the somewhat infamous Kogi BBQ truck. For those not aware, Kogi BBQ operates taco trucks. Yes, exactly like the shady ones you see parked at construction sites. But what makes them innovative is that they’re quality, gourmet food and instead of targeting construction workers they drive around trying to serve up food to hungry, hip crowds like at clubs and other strategic spots. Kogi technically is Korean BBQ, but they serve a sort of fusion cuisine that is Korean BBQ mixed with Mexican favorites like tacos, burritos, quesadillas and some other taco truck fare like hotdogs and sliders.

My friend insisted that Kogi, like Pink’s, doesn’t live up to the hype and isn’t worth the long wait times in line. Well, it just so happened that I had been tracking their truck’s Orange County locations on their website and was planning on checking it out this evening.

This evening they were parked in Orange not too far from my house, we drove over to the location and had to find parking about a block away. We saw the truck and the impressive line stretching around the parking lot. As we walked over some guy yelled over to us “That’s some line for a roach coach!” Yes it was, but then how many ‘roach coaches’ do you know of with rabid followers who bring portable picnic tables to eat at?

After about a 30min. wait we got to the front of the line and I have to be honest, there were several times I had doubts, wondering if it’s really worth it. Was it really all it was hyped up to be? The aromas coming from their truck and the throngs of people told me this had to be the real deal. We ordered and I got the chicken tacos and the blackjack quesadillas and after about 15 more minutes we got our order.

In the case of Kogi, I have to again emphatically disagree with my friend. I can tell you Kogi lives up to it’s hype, it’s absolutely amazing, mouth watering, delicious BBQ. Yes, it’s worth the wait. Granted we only waited in line for 30min., I’ve heard of lines as long as 1 hour or more. I don’t know if I’d wait in a line that long for it, but I’d seriously consider it, so what does that tell you?

Kogi is yet again another example of one of my basic life lessons: If you’re looking for a good place to eat, you cant go wrong with the place that has the longest line. OK, you CAN go wrong, but very rarely. One of these days I’ll write about one of those places. In the mean time, hunt down a Kogi BBQ truck and chow down!

Kogi BBQ

it's a truck...

location varies

www.kogibbq.com

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Deliciousness

Subpar 9 out of 10 Sublime

Clientele

Wonder Bread 9 out of 10 Multigrain

Atmosphere

Fancy 6 out of 10 Down Home

Cost

Credit Card 9 out of 10 Pocket Change

Adventurousness

Safe 8 out of 10 No Ingles

Overall Score

Never Again 9 out of 10 All-time Fav

Posted by in the following categories:Anaheim, Korean, Orange

Surprisingly Good Southwestern

Blue Agave, Yorba Linda

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Enchiladas from Blue Agave

Last week we decided to try a place friends have been telling us we just had to visit called the Blue Agave on Yorba Linda Blvd. It’s a pretty unassuming little place in the corner of a strip mall. I was thinking it really didn’t look like much from the outside when I walked in and realized it really didn’t look like much on the inside either.

The interior of the restaurant looks like a really over-stylized southwestern cliché, think pinks and turquoises, geometric patterns and airbrushed American indian paintings and you’ll get the picture. The clientele was somewhat less interesting, people wearing cheesy hawaiian shirts and the like. I felt like we had entered a tourist trap on Route 66.

After our initial impression we sat down to peruse the menu and enjoy some chips and salsa. I noted right away that their chips and salsa were pretty bland, not a good sign. I also noted that their menu was more like Southwestern Fusion than traditional Southwestern cuisine. Every dish has a creative twist to it, which is nice but sometimes you just want to get something traditional, classic or familiar, and they fail to provide anything like that on their menu. The menu is a little on the pricey side too.

In the end we decided to try several items from their menu and share. We ordered the Hacienda Fajitas Enchiladas, Apache Chicken Quemada and Citrus Swordfish Skewers. Our waitress wasn’t very friendly and up to this point I really wasn’t expecting much of the food at the Blue Agave. It may be because of my lowered expectations, but when we got our food I was pleasantly surprised, it’s was pretty good!

It wasn’t perfect though, everything we tried had good flavor but also was a little on the over-cooked side. Nothing tasted really very fresh. Overall the food at Blue Agave is really tasty but there is definitely room for improvement.

Blue Agave

18601 Yorba Linda Blvd

Yorba Linda, CA 92886

(714) 970-5095

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Deliciousness

Subpar 7 out of 10 Sublime

Clientele

Wonder Bread 4 out of 10 Multigrain

Atmosphere

Fancy 4 out of 10 Down Home

Cost

Credit Card 4 out of 10 Pocket Change

Adventurousness

Safe 6 out of 10 No Ingles

Overall Score

Never Again 6 out of 10 All-time Fav

Posted by in the following categories:Southwest, Yorba Linda

The Breakfast of Champions… and Me

Original Pancake House, Yorba Linda

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Breakfast at Pancake House

Growing up in Anaheim, I have very vivid memories of driving past the signage for the “Original” Pancake House on Lincoln Ave., with the strange laughing head and what appears to be a mushroom cloud in a frying pan. Sadly I’ve never been to the Original Pancake House on Lincoln Ave. but the location off of Yorba Linda Blvd. caught my eye one day. It caught my eye because it exhibited what I consider to be the truest way to judge a restaurant: Huge crowds of people waiting outside just to eat.

I’ve never been to an eating establishment that had that one characteristic and been disappointed! The Original Pancake house is no exception, and if you are in the area or within reasonable driving distance, the trek down to Yorba Linda is well worth it on a Sunday morning. And so is the wait, though it can be frustrating if you’re really hungry, which I usually am on Sunday mornings. I recommend you arrive early, put your name in, grab some bench and read through a complimentary newspaper.

Pancake House delivers on the failed promise of IHOP, namely a menu loaded with exotic and foreign breakfast creations. German pancakes, Swedish pancakes, Idaho potato pancakes, Belgium waffles, crepes… the list literally goes on and on! If you don’t believe me check out their website. We’ve visited Pancake House dozens of times and I’ve ordered something different every time and I haven’t made a dent in their menu. Everything there is excellent!

In particular I’m very fond of their apple creations (pancake, crepes or waffles), the potato pancakes and they have really good coffee and hot chocolate. The place is always packed and the service is brisk since they are trying to move so many people through. The prices are reasonable and you get a ton of food, you won’t walk away dissatisfied!

The Original Pancake House

18453 Yorba Linda Boulevard

Yorba Linda, California 92686

(714) 693-1390

map

Deliciousness

Subpar 9 out of 10 Sublime

Clientele

Wonder Bread 6 out of 10 Multigrain

Atmosphere

Fancy 7 out of 10 Down Home

Cost

Credit Card 5 out of 10 Pocket Change

Adventurousness

Safe 5 out of 10 No Ingles

Overall Score

Never Again 9 out of 10 All-time Fav

Posted by in the following categories:Anaheim, Breakfast, Coffee, Yorba Linda

This Thai Restaurant goes to 11

George's Thai Bistro - Santa Ana

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Chicken Pad Thai from Georges

I’ve eaten a lot of Thai food in my day. I was never really introduced to Thai food until I was in college, I had a number of friends in college that were from Thailand. And because of them I’ve eaten at a lot of places ranging from the most authentic you can possibly get state side to the most Americanized “interpretation”. And for my money, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten better Thai food than what you get at George’s Thai Bistro in Santa Ana. It’s definitely one of my all-time favs.

The restaurant itself is in a pretty unassuming shopping center located off Bristol near South Coast Plaza. They’re located near the back by Toys R Us. The interior is pretty warm and inviting, it looks like the restaurant used to be some kind of steak house or some other genre of dining that they converted almost somewhat hastily to a Thai restaurant. But overall it works.

The cover of their menus are a crack-up too, with a caricature of who I assume to be “George” smiling and offering you some yummy Thai food. But rest assured, the brevity ends on the cover of the menu. They get down to some serious Thai food business on the interior. If you’re not feeling too adventurous, I recommend the Chicken Pad Thai. But I’ve eaten here many, many times and I don’t think I or anyone I’ve ever been to George’s with has ever ordered anything that wasn’t outstanding from their menu.

One thing to be aware of though is that unlike most restaurants, there are no free refills on beverages at George’s. It’s easy to get something spicy there and end up wondering why they’re charging you for three sodas. But as long as we’re talking beverages, their Thai Iced Coffee is awesome and well worth checking out.

One of the best things about George’s Thai Bistro though is you can order every dish on the menu with a level of spiciness range 1-10. My personal taste there ranges somewhere between a 6-7. But here’s a real tip for George aficionados, if you’re into the real spicy stuff you can order your spiciness off the charts! That’s right, just like Spinal Tap, you can crank it up to 11 (or 12 or 13…).

George's Thai Bistro

3732 S Bristol St.

Santa Ana, CA 92704

(714) 979-8366

map

Deliciousness

Subpar 9 out of 10 Sublime

Clientele

Wonder Bread 7 out of 10 Multigrain

Atmosphere

Fancy 8 out of 10 Down Home

Cost

Credit Card 7 out of 10 Pocket Change

Adventurousness

Safe 6 out of 10 No Ingles

Overall Score

Never Again 9 out of 10 All-time Fav

Posted by in the following categories:Santa Ana, Thai

Death by Carny Dog

OC Fair 2008, Costa Mesa

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Fresh Roasted Corn on the Cob

Last weekend we participated in our annual ritual of visiting the Orange County fair in Costa Mesa. Now, I’m no great advocate of the gastronomic wonderland that is your average county fair with whatever they’re happening to deep fry and put on a stick these days. But there is one thing that absolutely keeps me coming back every year, something that the mere arrival of July gets my mouth watering and looking forward to the fair. The thing that makes the whole trip down to the Costa Mesa fair grounds worthwhile is fresh roasted corn on the cob.

There’s just something about corn at the fair, I don’t know what exactly it is. The recipe seems so simple: Take fresh corn, roast it… that’s pretty much it. Yet somehow theirs is beyond anything I can reproduce at home, or anyone else for that matter. They must have a secret, and someday it will be mine! But until then I’ll keep coming back year after year.

One of the best parts about getting corn at the fair is the toppings available. You can fix your corn however you want with a plethora of creative options. You have your basic pat of butter and salt, garlic salt, seasoned salt, lemon juice, chili powder, tabasco and the list goes on. My own needs are pretty basic when it comes to corn, a pat of butter and salt, maybe some seasoned salt if I’m feeling adventurous. But people at the fair get pretty crazy with the condiments. One fellow corn enthusiast swore to me that slathered in mayonnaise and lemon juice is the only way to go. More power to him.

There is a dark side to my fair story though. After we enjoyed some corn, spent several hours walking around enjoying the photography exhibits, livestock, learning about all the products you may have seen on late night TV and listening to some live music, I was hungry. Worse, I was hungry with too many choices. That’s when I broke one of my own cardinal rules: Never buy a hot dog from a carny when you’re desperate!

I’m not proud of it, but I purchased and ate what is without a doubt the worst hot dog in the history of mankind from a pimple-faced overweight woman in her mid-forties. I knew I made a mistake when she handed it to me and I thought to myself “was she wearing any gloves?” I shook my head. Surely anything served from an old RV converted into a kitchen has impeccable food preparation standards. I was being paranoid.

Both the hot dog and the bun tasted like they were left over from last year’s fair. But I have my principles, and one of those principles is when you pay $4.75 for a hot dog you eat it young man. So I did, and my body thanked me for it later.

So there you have it. The OC Fair: Go for the corn, stay for the rides. Avoid the carny dogs.

OC Fair 2008

88 Fair Drive

Costa Mesa, California 92626

(714) 708-FAIR (3247)

map

Deliciousness

Subpar 8 out of 10 Sublime

Clientele

Wonder Bread 9 out of 10 Multigrain

Atmosphere

Fancy 6 out of 10 Down Home

Cost

Credit Card 6 out of 10 Pocket Change

Adventurousness

Safe 6 out of 10 No Ingles

Overall Score

Never Again 7 out of 10 All-time Fav

Posted by in the following categories:Costa Mesa, Potpourri

Beware Diablo Sauce

Little Onion, Santa Ana

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Taco Plate

It’s hard to throw a rock in the city of Santa Ana and not hit an authentic Mexican restaurant. One that we like to frequent regularly is the Little Onion on the corner of Main and MacArthur (this corner of Main and MacArthur not to be confused with this corner of Main and MacArthur a few blocks away). It may not be the most delicious or most authentic Mexican food you can find in Santa Ana, but it’s still near the top of the list.

If you find yourself in the area and decide to check out the Little Onion be sure to get there early and beat the lunch rush otherwise you may find yourself standing around outside waiting for a table. But any place with crowds of people outside waiting to eat has got to be good though right?

We’ve tried just about everything on the menu at the Little Onion and you pretty much can’t go wrong with anything. But there are a few other reasons you should visit the Little Onion besides the food.

First, there’s the ambiance. It’s quirky and welcoming. Between the old, strange pictures on the wall, the wood shake shingle roof indoors, and various odds and ends, it kind of feels like you’ve been invited to eat at someone’s Mexican grandmother’s house. It’s definitely unique, but in a good way. Then there’s the staff, they’re always courteous and friendly. I don’t think they speak much english but that’s also part of the appeal.

But the main reason you should visit the Little Onion is their chips and kick-you-in-the-face salsa. Lots of Mexican restaurants have good chips and salsa, but the salsa at Little Onion is particularly good. And these guys don’t shy away from the hot stuff, if you like it hot you are in for a treat. I like to call it diablo sauce, because it’s addicting at first but then sneaks up to knock some sense into you.

Little Onion is the kind of place you can visit regularly and not get tired of. If you’re looking for some quirky atmosphere and good, authentic Mexican, give Little Onion a try.

Little Onion

110 W MacArthur Blvd

Santa Ana, CA 92707

(714) 979-1144‎

map

Deliciousness

Subpar 7 out of 10 Sublime

Clientele

Wonder Bread 7 out of 10 Multigrain

Atmosphere

Fancy 8 out of 10 Down Home

Cost

Credit Card 8 out of 10 Pocket Change

Adventurousness

Safe 7 out of 10 No Ingles

Overall Score

Never Again 8 out of 10 All-time Fav

Posted by in the following categories:Mexican, Santa Ana

Garlic Sauce Fix

Rosine's Mediterranean Cafe, Anaheim Hills

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Chicken, Garlic Sauce, Roasted Potatoes and Hummus

I woke up Saturday morning craving garlic, and luckily I happen to live around the corner from the best garlic fix in the OC, Rosine’s Mediterranean Cafe on Wier Canyon Road in Anaheim Hills. We headed over around lunch time, it had been a while since I’d been there for lunch, we usually go for dinner, and I had forgotten how reasonable their prices are for lunch.

I ordered the half rotisserie chicken, which is sort of what Rosine’s is famous for, and that fame is well deserved. But in my opinion the main event at Rosine’s, and the whole reason for us going, is their amazing garlic sauce! If you drop by Rosine’s the garlic sauce is not to be missed. It’s creamy, whipped, sweet roasted garlic heaven. Most of the dishes come with a choice of sides, if garlic sauce isn’t enough garlic for you there’s garlic mashed potatoes, but I recommend the red roasted potatoes. Another favorite side that I can’t resist is the hummus. I consider myself somewhat of a hummus connoisseur and the hummus at Rosine’s is not the best I’ve ever had but it’s decent.

Rosine’s is one of the local establishments that is absolutely a must, if you’ve never been there make plans to go right now. The atmosphere at Rosine’s is a little bit upscale but intimate. If you’re looking for a good date restaurant this is a good choice, of course the whole garlic factor has to be taken into account.

After some pita bread and garlic sauce and amazing rotisserie chicken I was feeling much better and ready to tackle the rest of the weekend.

Rosine's Mediterranean Cafe

721 S Weir Canyon Rd # 125

Anaheim, CA 92808

(714) 283-5141

map

Deliciousness

Subpar 9 out of 10 Sublime

Clientele

Wonder Bread 7 out of 10 Multigrain

Atmosphere

Fancy 4 out of 10 Down Home

Cost

Credit Card 5 out of 10 Pocket Change

Adventurousness

Safe 6 out of 10 No Ingles

Overall Score

Never Again 8 out of 10 All-time Fav

Posted by in the following categories:Anaheim, Mediterranean

Sunday Morning Cuban Coffee

Café Contigo, Anaheim

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Sandwich Cubano

This morning was Fathers Day, and we decided to honor my father (and mother) by getting some authentic Cuban fare at Café Contigo in downtown Anaheim. My family has always said that there aren’t enough “fast” Cuban eating places around. Most Cuban restaurants are the “sit-down” types and there’s so many great Cuban foods that lend themselves to this type of dining: Empanadas, Cuban Coffee, Cuban Pressed Sandwiches, Batidos (Cuban Smoothies), Tostones (crispy fried plantains) and the list goes on. I was happy to see the fine folks at Café Contigo get it.

Our first impression was the atmosphere. Café Contigo is first and foremost a coffee house, so it has that community/hangout feel to it, and if there’s one thing Cubans know how to do well it’s community hangouts. The decor and ambiance is great! Weathered furniture, deep tones, great natural light and outdoor eating area mixed with wonderful, authentic music. They also have really great coffee table books of life in Cuba and table games like Cuban dominoes. I already knew I was going to like this place the moment I walked in.

Their Cuban Sandwich is authentic and delicious. The foundation of a great Cuban sandwich is really good, crusty Cuban bread, and I found out from talking with the personable staff that Café Contigo gets some of their baked goods (including bread) from Porto’s Bakery in Glendale. Those in the know, know that is a very very good thing! The empanadas at Café Contigo are also delectable, perfectly spiced and cooked. I dare you to only eat one.

If I had one criticism of Café Contigo it’s that their menu is kind of on the light side. The smoothies are not very authentic and they are missing the most quintessential of Cuban Batidos: Mamey. The lack of a Batido de Mamey from the menu was a glaring disappointment. They could also consider adding other sandwiches, Tostones and fried Yucca fries to the menu.

Still, this place was a great find and I look forward to returning and sampling more of their coffee treats and enjoying more empanadas!

Café Contigo

327 South Anaheim Blvd.

Anaheim, CA 92805

714-780-0242

map

Deliciousness

Subpar 9 out of 10 Sublime

Clientele

Wonder Bread 7 out of 10 Multigrain

Atmosphere

Fancy 9 out of 10 Down Home

Cost

Credit Card 8 out of 10 Pocket Change

Adventurousness

Safe 7 out of 10 No Ingles

Overall Score

Never Again 9 out of 10 All-time Fav

Posted by in the following categories:Anaheim, Coffee, Cuban, Sandwiches