Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wow...i'm a "lame" blogger...but NO MORE!

Man...been a REALLY long time since i've posted to this Blog. I'm so lame. It hasn't been for lack of desire though. Fact is, I have a TON of pics from various restaurants, endeavors, etc. that I just need to sit down and write about. Problem is finding the time to actually sit down and write. You see, for me writing a blog post isn't a quick, jot something down kinda thing. I like to put thought into everything that I write and for me that takes time. It takes time for me to put my thoughts down in a way that satisfies me. Unfortunately, having a very physical day job leaves me not wanting to do much after I get home but veg out and relax. But no more! Gonna get off my lazy ass and start writing again! So stay tuned fellow foodies.....for the return of Foodie Monster! =)

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Baby Cakes Baking Company - Cupcakes, Muffins and Coffee - Torrance, CA

When someone mentions cupcakes, there are usually two places that are at the forefront of peoples' minds...both of which are preceded by their reputations and the long lines associated with trying their wares. The East Coast has Magnolia Bakery in New York City, who's popularity has definitely been bolstered by appearances on shows like Sex and the City and in NYC based movies like The Devil Wears Prada. On the other side of the country, in Beverly Hills lies Sprinkles Cupcakes. With features on many TV talkshows and in popular shows like HBO's Entourage, it's no wonder that Hollywood is in an uproar for Sprinkles cupcakes. The problem with both of these places is that in order to enjoy either of their tantalizing little cakes of goodness, you have to deal with long lines and a long wait. Not liking waiting in line for anything (and I have stood in line for both Magnolia AND Sprinkles), I was sure that there just had to be another alternative...one that wouldn't require me to spend all day in line for a few minutes of culinary pleasure. Luckily (for us all), I've found it in the Baby Cakes Baking Company in Torrance, CA...

It was really just coincidence that we found Baby Cakes. My wife just happened to get a flyer/coupon for Baby Cakes and thought it looked interesting. I particularly loved the name. We happened to be running some errands in that area one day and stopped in to give it a try.

The bakery is tucked away on a little strip at the corner of Hawthorne Boulevard and PCH in Torrance. It's an unassuming looking place with a nice sign and a clean and simply decorated interior. Originally, our plan was just to stop in and pick up a cupcake or two just to give it a try but we ended up walking out of there with a half-dozen. It all looked (and smelled) so good that we just couldn't help ourselves. We really wanted to try them all but had to exercise at least SOME restraint. I mean...it is only the two of us that would be eating them after all.

When we first walked into the bakery, from across the room I spotted just what I was hoping that they would have. I spotted the tell-tale color that could only be one thing...Red Velvet cupcakes. I fell in love with Red Velvet cupcakes several years ago while visiting New York City's Buttercup Bake Shop (started by one of the original partners of Magnolia). They just always seem to be more moist and tastier than your average "vanilla" cupcake, and the ones from Baby Cakes didn't disappoint. The Red Velvet cake was perfectly moist, and the icing was the perfect sweetness. It is cupcake perfection.

The next one we tried was the Italian Orange. This cupcake is corn meal based, making for quite a different taste and consistency than your average cupcake. It definitely is not as sweet as the others so this would probably be a wise choice for someone not so keen on sweets. While it was not my favorite, it was very good and definitely worth a try.

Next up was the Rich Chocolate w/ Chocolate Mousse. This cupcake is ideal for the true chocolate lover as it features a rich, moist chocolate cake topped with a creamy chocolate mousse icing. Being a chocolate lover myself, I could eat these things for days. If you're a chocoholic like myself, this one is on the must-have list.

The last cupcake we tried was the Vanilla w/ Vanilla Bean Buttercream. As the name suggests, it's a vanilla cupcake topped with Vanilla Bean Buttercream for icing. What isn't evident from the name is that this cupcake is filled with a fresh whipped cream filling. The cupcake alone is really good...the filling is just, "the icing on the cake" so to speak. This cupcake is sweet, creamy and oh-so delectable. Definitely a must-have.

While the cupcakes we had were all very different in flavor, there is one thing that was the same through out; the quality and freshness. All of the cupcakes we had were fresh and moist and it's evident that they are made in small, labor-of-love, batches. Lucky for us, there wasn't any line to wait in either(at least not yet). It was walk-in, order, and eat. No lines, no waiting. Although, I suspect that this may eventually change as the word gets out (no thanks to me and this blog). Now that i've found the Baby Cakes Baking Company I can formally say..."Sprinkles, who?"

Baby Cakes Baking Company
24205 Hawthorne Boulevard
Torrance, CA 90505

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Three days after dropping my MacBook off to a "Mac Genius" at the local Apple store, I picked up my trusty steed fortified with a fresh new hard drive. Unfortunately, it is now a completely empty hard drive, devoid of any of the pictures or files I previously had on it. To say that that smarts a little is a bit of an understatement. Every day I remember more stuff (pics, files etc.) that were on my computer that are now lost forever and it totally bums me out. Unlike the foodie pics that I lost, some of the stuff that was on there is stuff that I can never replace, either. That sucks, but life goes on. Live and learn. I can guarantee you this; that i'll be backing up my information regularly from now on. I'll probably even upload all of my pics to some online picture hosting sites in addition to keeping copies on my drive just as an additional backup.

Anyway, now that that little snag is out of the way it's back to business as usual. Time to write some posts! And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

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Friday, March 14, 2008

A minor setback...God i'm an idiot...

They say lessons are best learned the hard way. Well, i'm in the process of learning a very hard lesson...The lesson of why you should regularly backup your information on the computer you store ALL your information on....

Recently my trusty MacBook's Hardrive decided to give up the ghost for no apparent reason. My wife was using it one minute then all of a sudden got the dreaded permanent colored pinwheel and was unable to restart, logout, or do anything on the computer. She did a forced shutdown and upon restart all that comes up is a blank grey screen. No Apple logo, no spinning icon, no nothing. Dead. Tried everything I could think of to fix the problem (First aid via Disk Utility, booting up in Safe Mode, Resetting the PRAM and Power Module, etc.) and still...nothing. Made an appointment with a "Mac Genius" and of course the prognosis was that the hard drive took a dump. The good news...my comp is still under warranty so they'll fix it for free. The bad news...I never backed up any of the information on this comp since I got it in August. Ah what fun.

The only info that is on there that I "need" are the pics that I use for this blog. I have a pretty large backlog of foodie pics that I've taken that I still need to post reviews of. So, I tried using Apple's Target Disk Mode to access the information on my MacBook from a friend's MacBook Pro, but no luck. So, today I visited a data recovery place that specializes in Macs over in Santa Monica. Unfortunately, it's rediculously expensive to recover data so i guess i'm just gonna have to count the pics as a loss and use it as an excuse to revisit the places I had pics of. Luckily, there are still pics from a few places that are still on my phone since I had been kinda busy recently (read: lazy) and hadn't gotten a chance to upload them to my MacBook. It's a blessing in disguse really because they're some places that I was looking forward to reviewing like Baby Cakes Baking Company in Torrance, CA, Patisserie Chantilly in Lomita, CA, and The Spoon House in Gardena, CA. Unfortunately, it'll be a little while before i'll be able to get my MacBook back, download the pics, and write those posts so stay tuned, and sorry for the delay. I guess now i'll have to go out and buy an external drive and back up all my stuff...

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Five Guys Burgers & Fries - Burgers & French Fries - Reisterstown, MD

It's no secret that I've been a burger lover for a long, long time. A good, juicy burger really holds a special place in my heart. So simple, yet so satisfying. Knowing that, my friends back in Baltimore have been dying to take me to a new burger joint that opened up a little after my wife and I made the move out West. We've been back to visit several times since we moved, but the trips have always been very short (usually a long weekend) and it just wasn't in the cards to make it to everywhere I wanted to eat while we were there. Luckily, during our most recent trip back for Christmas, we had some spare time (took a week off from work) to dedicate to foodie endeavors. Five Guys Burgers and Fries was a must-have stop so I could try what my friends had all been calling, "The Best Burger in Baltimore" for the past year or so.

A quick look at the Five Guys website reveals several of the reviews of the Five Guys burger. Phrases such as "Voted #1 Burger" and "Reader's choice burger" seem to be quite popular in the short list of reviews, etc. Interesting. Honestly, I don't really trust the reviews of the magazines and so-called experts so i'll be the judge of that.

The menu is pretty simple (a good thing). You have your choice from a short list of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs with various toppings. I ordered a Bacon Cheeseburger(medium rare of course!) on the recommendation of a friend. He swears they have the best bacon. I also got a side of Five Guys Fries and a drink (Barq's Rootbeer). After a short wait, my number was called and I was ready to sink my teeth into "Baltimore's Best Burger". The first bite was greeted with a nice healthy "crunch" after my teeth broke through the bun. It wasn't the crunch from some crisp lettuce, it was the crunch that can only come from some nice, thick and crispy bacon. Mmm...Bacon. The meat was pretty juicy and tender, but what really made it for me was, as my friend had predicted, the Bacon. This was the bacon of all bacon for cheeseburger joints. For some reason though, the bacon didn't show up in my crappy, taken with my phone, pics. This is just affirmation of my need for a nice Digital SLR for my foodie adventures!

So was it Baltimore's Best Burger? Well, living in SoCal, I'm a little out of the loop with burgers in Baltimore but based on my previous experience with burger joints in Baltimore (and I've eaten A LOT of burgers over the years) i'd have to agree. Was it the best burger i've ever had? Definitely not. For now, that title goes to Teddy's Bigger Burgers in Honolulu, Hawaii but unfortunately that was before I started this blog and started taking pics of all my food adventures. Oh well, I guess i'll just have to make another trip out for some surf and burgers just for the sake of writing a blog post (now THAT'S a good excuse for a trip!).
Anyway, if you happen to be near a Five Guys Burgers and Fries definitely give it a try. I'd highly recommend the Bacon Cheeseburger just for the bacon alone. Can't go wrong with thick, crispy bacon!

Five Guys Burgers & Fries
11708 Reisterstown Road
Reisterstown, MD 21136

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Joe's Pizza of Bleecker Street NYC - New York Style Pizza - Santa Monica, CA

Being a native East Coaster, I have come to notice that there are certain city specific foods that just aren't available here on the left coast. Well, it's not that they're not represented at all; it's that they're just not represented well. The first things that come to mind are Philadelphia Cheesesteaks (Pat's is KING in my book!), Buffalo Wings, and of course New York Style Pizza. In the 2 years that i've lived in SoCal i've tried several places that advertise that they make an authentic New York Style Pizza but they've all fallen short, despite having owners that were themselves Native New Yorkers. What's up with that? I had all but given up on the idea of finding an authentic slice of New York Style Pizza here in California and was starting to think that maybe there really was something in the water that just made everything taste different here. That is, until Joe's Pizza of Bleecker Street opened up shop in Santa Monica.

In my younger years, I spent many a late night out and about in New York City. While hangin out with the P.I.C. boys after a great show at Arlene's Grocery on the Lower East Side, there's nothing that satisfies that late night, drunken hunger like a good slice of New York Pizza. What really differentiates New York Pizza from other pizzas is the thin and crispy crust and the large, foldable slices. You can usually get toppings if you wish, but for me the true NY pizza experience is had with the "plain" version...just straight sauce and cheese. I've tried it with toppings added (and I usually LOVE toppings on pizza, especially the meats) but for NY Pizza plain is the way to go. There's something about the purity of just sauce and cheese that fits perfectly with the NY style crust. I think it's the fact that the crust is thin, and adding toppings has a tendency of overpowering the flavor of the crust. It's all about balance, really.

When my wife told me another NY Pizza joint had opened up shop in Santa Monica, I was a bit apprehensive. Many have tried, and so far all have failed at making an authentic NY Style Pizza here in California so what would make this place any different? One fine SoCal afternoon, I pushed the apprehension aside and my wife and I made the small trek up to Santa Monica from the South Bay to meet one of our foodie friends (who happens to be a native East Coaster as well) at Joe's Pizza. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised and the short trip was well worth it. We ordered a large pie (plain of course!) and some drinks. The smell in the place was fantastic, and the pizza definitely didn't disappoint. The hand-tossed crust was thin and perfectly crispy. The slices were nicely sized an the sauce and cheese tasted fresh and tasty. I wouldn't say it's 100% authentic to the pizza found on the streets of New York City but it's close, damn close. Probably as close as you're ever going to get being over 3000 miles away from the real deal. So, to any of you transplanted Native New Yorkers looking for a taste of home, or any one else looking for a taste of the Big Apple, check out Joe's Pizza. It's worth a try.

Now, for the negatives. Being in the touristy part of Santa Monica, parking is limited. The place is also really small and definitely fits the description of a "joint". There's only a few inside and outside tables so pray that when you go it's not busy. Or, you can order a pie and take it to go but honestly the pizza is best eaten when fresh out of the oven so you might lose a little something if you take it to go.

Joe's Pizza of Bleecker Street NYC
111 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Pictoral "ratings" added...

I had stated in one of my first posts on this blog that I wasn't going to grade restaurants on some kind of numbering scale. Well, I lied...sort of. It's not a numbering scale but I just decided to add a little pictoral representation of my thoughts on each restaurant. I thought it would be nice to have a visual representation of my opinion so that at a glance, you the reader could get a feel for the opinion expressed without necessarily having to read the whole post. Of course, you're gonna want to read the entire post for the juicy details but it gives you a bit of a primer for what to expect. Here's the key to my new pictoral grading system...

- Two thumbs up. Places that get the double thumbs are well worth the trip from any distance, both near or far. They're the places and foods that light up my taste buds; the places, in my opinion, that every person should experience at least once in their lifetime. Preferably multiple times. The more times the better.

- One thumb up. Places that get the one thumb treatment are places that definitely get my approval. They're the places that I think are worth trying and I would definitely go back to in a heartbeat.

- This is my "Ehhhh" pic. The "Ehhhh" pic means that I was uninspired by the food. It means that it left the tastebuds wanting for something more. The food didn't really do anything for me other than fill my belly. I most likely wouldn't go back to the "Ehhhh" places unless I just happened to be in the area and there wasn't really anything else to eat in the area.

- This is the "Grrrr" pic. Getting the "Grrrr" pic means that I was angry at the end of the meal. Not only angry that I wasted the time and money on unworthy food, but more importantly, angry that I wasted a meal. That meal could have been spent eating something good and tasty and I can never get that meal back. Grrrr...

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