Posts Tagged ‘california’

I’m Just Here for the Food: Saladang Song

saladang song

If looks are your thing, you're in luck.

I’ve only been here twice, and, both times, I was with a large group of people.

On my most recent visit, it was for a wedding rehearsal dinner. The bride- and groom-to-be ordered a bunch of dishes for everyone to share: pad thai, pad see ew, beef salad , yellow curry, and Thai fried rice.

I have no complaints about the food; everything was absolutely delicious. And the outside patio is beautiful — the restaurant, designed by Peter Tolkin Architecture, was a finalist for a James Beard restaurant design award.

My only big objection to the place is that it’s so ridiculously expensive. I understand that sometimes, you have to pay for ambiance, but the food just isn’t spectacular enough to merit the cost. I’d be satisfied with a crappier restaurant design and better food.

If you really want to impress someone with aesthetics, then Saladang Song is the place to go. But if you want to impress them with food, look elsewhere.

Saladang Song
383 S Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 793-5200

I’m Just Here for the Food: The Beachcomber at Crystal Cove


This is what dining in California should be like.

If you’re ever looking for a special meal, the Beachcomber offers a unique atmosphere. Located at Crystal Cove State Park, the Beachcomber is right on the beach. Some friends and I came for lunch, and their kids had fun playing on the beach and making sandcastles while we waited to be seated.

It’s not a big place, so it can take a while to get seated, but there’s also a “To-Go” window, from which you can get some Beignets to tide you over. They’re served with maple syrup and whipped cream, and they’re fried bites of heaven.

Once we were seated, we took a look at the menus. We decided to split a few things, so we ordered the Green Goddess Calimari, the Tunisian Pizza, and the Grilled Ahi Steak Sandwich.

The food was pretty good (especially the Tunisian Pizza, which was absolutely scrumptious), but I did think it was a little overpriced.

Still, for the money you pay, it’s a pretty unique lunch experience. And the view is just amazing. I’d love the opportunity to come again.

The Beachcomber
15 Crystal Cove
Newport Coast, CA 92657
(949) 376-6900

Cannonball 32: My Own Two Feet: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary

My Own Two Feet: A MemoirMy Own Two Feet: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My dear friend Minna (mother to my buddy JN, the one who always lets me borrow his books) let me borrow this book along with The Luckiest Girl. She loved it and was certain that I would, too.

Being the anal reader I am, I had to read A Girl from Yamhill first. But, after having read My Own Two Feet, I have to say that I think it can stand alone without having to read Beverly Cleary’s account of her early life.

My Own Two Feet picks up where A Girl from Yamhill left off: young Beverly Bunn is leaving Oregon for sunny Southern California. She’s never been away from home before, but has been longing for freedom and independence for just about her entire life.

This volume follows Cleary’s college education, decision to become a librarian, her courtship and marriage, and living through World War II, and Cleary writes her account in the same unassuming, lively prose with which she writes her books about Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Ralph S. Mouse.

She has really lived a remarkable life, and she writes about it in such a compelling way that I finished the book in no time. I love biographies that read like fiction. And Beverly Cleary is a master at that.

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Cannonball 25: The Luckiest Girl by Beverly Cleary

The Luckiest Girl The Luckiest Girl by Beverly Cleary

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m a big fan of realism. I love a good, gritty novel that doesn’t pull punches about the reality of life, and the harsher the lesson learned, the more invested I get.

But there must still be a little idealism in my cynical, little heart yet (probably nestled next to the part of me that loves puppies and babies and lolcats) because I absolutely loved The Luckiest Girl.

(But I digress.)

I grew up on Beverly Cleary, and I love the Ramona books. I had no idea that Cleary wrote young adult fiction as well, and I was impressed by this one.

Shelley Latham lives a great life in Portland, Oregon. She has loving parents, great friends, and a nice boyfriend. But she’s inexplicably bored with her perfect life, and when she gets the opportunity to live in California for a school year, she jumps at the chance.

She makes friends and gets along well with the family friends she’s staying with and even ends up dating the boy of her dreams: the school’s basketball star, Philip. Along the way, she learns a lot about family, friends, dreams, expectations, and herself.

It sounds terribly cliché, but, somehow, it isn’t. Cleary’s tale of a young girl’s first taste of freedom and independence is sweet and honest. Despite the fact that there’s no tragedy in the storyline, it still feels real, and that’s mostly a credit to Cleary’s depiction of Shelley. She’s a nice girl, but she has flaws, and one of them is a flaw common to many young girls: she just doesn’t know herself, yet.

And that’s why Cleary’s story rings true. Shelley’s reactions are honest. She worries about whether or not an impulsive decision was a mistake. She exults over the smallest hint that the boy she likes might like her back. She’s frustrated because she sometimes doesn’t understand her parents, and seeing another mother and daughter dynamic helps her to understand her own relationship with her mother.

It’s all very innocent, but, then again, the book is set in a much simpler time (it was originally published in 1958).

While it wasn’t the usual “high school = misery” story that I usually gravitate towards (mostly because I identify with them more), I still thoroughly enjoyed The Luckiest Girl. It’s a sweet look at a young girl’s coming of age, and it made me wistful without feeling manipulated. Beverly Cleary should get more credit than she does.

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I’m Just Here for the Food: El Antojito

You can keep your crunchy shell: if it ain't a street taco, it ain't a taco.

I love Mexican food.

Growing up in Southern California, you’d be surprised at how hard it can be to find good authentic Mexican — not because great Mexican restaurants don’t exist, but because it’s hard to spot ’em in a landscape of whitewashed wannabes.

But, as I got older, I learned how to spot the really auténtico places.


Rule #1: It should be staffed entirely by Mexican dudes. A friend of mine once got in trouble for saying that he bets that the reason those taco trucks are so good is because they “make it with their dirty hands.” We all laughed at him because it was such a racist thing to say, but you know what? I think he’s right. If they’re speaking anything but Spanish to each other, I turn around and walk right out.

Rule #2: The clientele should be mostly Hispanic. This actually holds true for all “ethnic” food. If everyone dining in a supposedly Korean joint is white, then get out. Get out while you still can. Likewise, if I walk into a Mexican place and no one can understand me because I’m speaking perfect English, then I know I’ve got the right place.

Rule #3: If you’re there after dark, you should feel a little uncomfortable. If there’s a TV in the place, it should be tuned to Telemundo or a soccer game or, best of all, a soccer game on Telemundo. People should be looking at you funny. If they don’t, then that means that they’re used to seeing non-locals hanging about. You want a place that caters to the locals, not to the visitors.

Rule #4: There shouldn’t be cheese on anything that’s not supposed to have cheese on it*. Americanized Mexican food is covered in cheese. Now, I have nothing against cheese — I think it’s delicious, and it certainly has its place, even in Mexican cuisine. But no self-respecting taco joint will send you a plate buried in melted cheese.

*I will make an exception for carne asada nachos because they are so darned tasty, even if they’re not authentic.

Rule #5: The basics should BLOW. YOUR. MIND. Whenever I try I new Mexican place, I always start with what I call “The Taste Trifecta Test”. That’s three tacos: carne asada, carnitas, and al pastor. If they can get those three right, then they’re probably legit.

So, with that said, let’s take a look at El Antojito, shall we?

Rule #1: Check. The guy had to ask me twice what I wanted because my Mexican accent is awful (that’s right, Mexican. Spanish is the language, but there is an accent specific to Mexico).

Rule #2: Check. It was raining, so there weren’t many people, but I was definitely the only Asian in the place.

Rule #3: Dark parking lot? Bad neighborhood? Nothing but beat-up old pick-up trucks, vans, and Cadillacs in the parking lot? Check, check, and CHECK.

Rule #4: Check. Not a single shred of cheese in sight.

Rule #5: OH, MY GOD, CHECK!!! I ordered my Taste Trifecta, and HOLY FRIJOLES, it was amazing. I know I’ve raved about lots of other Mexican joints, and my reviews of King Taco, El Taurino, Taco Sinaloa, and Tacos San Pedro still stand, but they must now all bow to the KING OF AL PASTOR: El Antojito. Man ALIVE, that is some quality meat!! The carne asada and carnitas tacos were also excellent, but the al pastor was what really blew my whistle.

And the clincher: tacos are only a dollar each. You just can’t beat that price.

So, if you’re up for some comida auténtica, I would highly recommend that you take a trip under the 110 overpass, head on over to the wrong side of the tracks, and hit up El Antojito.

El Antojito
Corner of 168th & Figueroa
Gardena, CA 90247

I’m Just Here for the Food: Young Dong Sullungtang

It may not look like much, but wait 'til you taste it.

I love rain.

We get it so rarely in Southern California that nobody really minds all the traffic it generates (even though everyone still complains loudly about it). And we’re currently in the middle of the biggest storm we’ve seen ’round these parts in a while, so I’m pretty happy.

The only thing I love more than rain is sullungtang. Put the two together and you’ve got the best winter experience you can get in California.

Sullungtang is a hot Korean beef soup to which you add noodles, green onions, radish kimchi, and sea salt to taste.

But that description, while accurate, really doesn’t do justice to the dish. It’s just one of those things that doesn’t sound like much until you put it in your mouth and the heavens part and the angels sing and you wonder whether your life until then was real or just a dream because, sister, this is living.

That said, the portions are generous, and there’s really nothing better on a cold winter day, especially if it’s raining.

And Young Dong in Koreatown is hands-down the best sullungtang I’ve ever had. The broth is flavorful, the kimchi is amazing, and you can pick what kind of beef they put in it for you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go daydream about the leftovers I’m eating for lunch tomorrow.

Young Dong Restaurant
3828 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 386-3729