A lot of restaurants are all bark and no bite. They are full of too much hype and not enough flavor. From food trucks to hole in the walls to 5 star establishments, I'm here to answer the question on everyone's mind, "Is it really that good!" I am not an Iron Chef let alone a line cook. I'm just an ordinary girl who loves to eat extraordinary food.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Susie's Cakes - "Like a fat kid loves cake!"

It’s been about 2 ½ years since I’ve eaten anything from Susie’s Cakes. From what I remember I really liked it. But since then, there have been so many other bakeries opening up much closer in the area that I haven’t had the chance to go back. What really pushed me to go back was to try a couple of their items of the month. So one night, we made a mad dash to Susie’s Cakes to pick up a few things. We got 2 red velvet cupcakes, a chocolate/chocolate cupcake, vanilla/vanilla cupcake, a chocolate mint cupcake and their flavor of the month, pineapple upside down cupcake. Another  item of the month we picked up was the white chocolate banana cream pie.

I was very excited to try the pineapple upside down cupcake since that is one of my favorite cakes. The brown sugar coating with the sweet pineapple is heavenly so I couldn’t wait to try it. This was a pineapple cake with brown sugar buttercream topped with a cherry. I loved the frosting. It may be too sweet for those who are not really dessert people or those who can only eat it in little quantities. You can really taste the brown sugar, it tasted like caramel. The pineapple cake, however, wasn’t good. It had chunks of pineapple throughout the batter but you couldn’t really taste it. It was a little heavy and almost seemed like it wasn’t cooked all the way through. It could be from the juice of the pineapples. I would’ve liked it had it been a more traditional pineapple upside down cake with maybe the pineapple not being in the cake but rather topped on the frosting.

The next cupcake I ate was the red velvet. This cupcake is the real deal. It wasn’t a chocolate cupcake disguised with red food coloring. The chocolate wasn’t overpowering. There was just a hint of it. The frosting was also good. It wasn’t too sweet. You can still taste the cream cheese but it wasn’t tart. When you take a  bite of cake with frosting, it’s everything a red velvet cupcake should be. The texture was dense yet fluffy. This is by far one of, if not the best, red velvet cupcakes I’ve eaten.

I then moved on to the vanilla cupcake. The texture of the cake was more of a pound cake, but not the pound cake you find in the frozen aisle. It was moist and dense. It wasn’t too sweet which was a good thing because the frosting is sweet, but it was good enough that you could eat it without the frosting.  I didn’t try the chocolate/chocolate or the mint chocolate cupcakes. From seeing the kids devour them, I’m sure they were to their liking.

The other item of the month was their white chocolate banana cream pie. I wouldn't have noticed that it had white chocolate in it if it wasn't for the white chocolate shavings on top and the bits i got while I chewed parts of the pie. White chocolate has such a subtle taste that it needs to be the star of the food in order to really taste and appreciate it. In this pie, you could not really taste it.  However, the crust was buttery and flaky, soft yet crumbly, almost like a shortbread cookie. If this was just sold as a banana cream pie, I would consider it a well made pie. But because they call it a white chocolate banana cream pie and the flavor of white chocolate wasn't prominent, I was a bit disappointed because white chocolate is my favorite of all chocolates. 

Although I was disappointed with their items of the month, I would really recommend Susie’s Cakes to get your staple cupcakes. Another item that I did not get this time around was a slice of their marble cake. I got this for my baby shower a couple years back and it was definitely a hit. All my guests raved about how good it was. They do have other goodies such as cookies, regular cakes, bars, etc. For 8 cupcakes and a mini pie my total was around $33. I went to the Susie’s Cakes in Newport Beach but I know they have locations in Calabasas, Manhattan Beach, Brentwood and also one in the Bay area. Susie’s Cakes is definitely one of the best bakeries out there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cook's Torta

I was told that Cook's Torta has really good sandwiches. Cook’s Torta is located in Monterey Park, CA. Although it’s located near shopping centers, it would easily be a place people would miss and just drive right on by. A torta is a Mexican sandwich that is served on a sandwich roll called a bolillo, a variation of a baguette, crunchy on the outside but soft inside. I haven’t eaten too many tortas. The ones I’ve eaten are pretty simple. I’ve only either gotten the Carne Asada torta, marinated steak inside a bolillo with avocado and mayo, or the Milanesa, breaded steak with mayo and avocado.

When we walked into Cook’s Torta, the menu was handwritten on a huge chalkboard that covered an entire wall and across from it was more menu items. There were so many different varieties to choose from. I couldn’t decide. They were all out of the one I really wanted to try which was the garlic cod. According to person who took our order,  that is always sold out if you get there during the latter part of the day. I really couldn’t decide, so I went with what was familiar to me, Milanesa, Shrimp Po’Boy, and the mojito. They all came with side orders and we got red fries (sweet potato fries,) potato salad, fruit salad.

Their tortas aren’t on traditional bolillo bread. Their bread is made fresh every day. Uncut, the bread looks similar to that of  ciabatta bread. The texture of the inside of the bread   resembled  focaccia  bread.  Since there were craters on the underside of the sliced bread  instead of sauce laying flat on the inside of the bread, whatever spread or sauce that was on the sandwich actually hid inside the little craters. Taste wise, it was a mix of sourdough and ciabatta.

Of the three sides, I really loved their red  fries. They were really crispy and were topped with a generous sprinkle of salt. The potato salad, I took a couple of bites only because I was waiting for the pictures of the sandwiches to be taken. I wasn’t eating to taste, so I’m not sure if it was good or not. The fruit salad, was just cut up melon, strawberries, grapes, nothing out of the ordinary.

My least favorite of the three was the po’boy sandwich. The sandwich had spice battered shrimp, avocado-red onion remoulade and lettuce. Although the bread was warm, the shrimp was not. The breading of the shrimp was also peeling off most of my shrimp. That was probably due to the flooding of the remoulade sauce. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of sauce, but because this was served sandwich style instead of on a traditional roll, all that sauce was on top of the shrimp making the breading of the shrimp soggy. The flavors weren’t bad at all, but the sandwich  tasted more like a shrimp salad sandwich than a po’boy because I didn’t get to bite into and  taste that crunch of the shrimp.

Next was the Milanesa. It was breaded steak, tomato, mayo and jalapeno. There wasn’t a shortage of breaded steak. I had steak in every bite and even a little extra that was hanging off both sides of the sandwich. The steak was nice and seasoned and was crunchy. It was like chicken fried steak but without so much breading. I liked the simplicity of the sandwich. There wasn’t too much going on or too many flavors that you were trying to find. The addition of jalapeno was a good touch.  Although I did have to take some of the jalapenos out, I could still taste the flavor without it being so hot.

My favorite of the three was Mojito, roasted pork, garlic mojo with slow cooked onions. The pork was shredded. It was so juicy and tender. The mojo had really good garlic flavor.  Because there were craters in the bread, I would bite into certain parts of the sandwich, and out came  little bursts of extra flavor of the garlic sauce. Because I really liked the flavor of the mojo, I just wish there was more sauce.  This was definitely a good sandwich.

At Cook’s Torta there is something for everyone, whether you are into the traditional Milanesa or want to venture and try the Portobello Melt, you will leave satisfied.  Now, I’m not sure that this is a place that I would drive out of my way to go, but if it were closer or if I was in the area, I would definitely eat here again. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Donut Man

The Donut Man is located in Glendora, CA. I’ve been there once but recently I've heard a lot of commotion surrounding their strawberry donuts and so I had to try it.  On my previous trip here they were out of strawberry donuts but had peach donuts. After trying their peach donut I was not too impressed. I did go towards the end of peach season so that may have been why it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. The peaches weren’t as ripe so it wasn’t as soft or as sweet. I would've forgotten all about The Donut Man if it wasn't for my faithful blog followers and Twitter friends. I’ve seen so many check-ins and heard of people making the drive from different counties just to try The Donut Man’s well, uh, donuts! Now I’ll have to admit I’m not a donut connoisseur. If I were to pick out a donut I go for the ordinary glazed or chocolate glazed. Since strawberries are in season, I had to check them out again. I've also been told that the other must haves were the Tigers Tail and the Bavarian cream filled donut.

I had no clue what a Tigers Tail donut was. I saw pictures but thought there was something special to it. But it’s just a twisted glazed donut with chocolate glaze in between each twist. There was nothing amazing about this donut. It was like eating a glazed twist. I could see the chocolate but couldn’t taste it. Maybe the buzz about this donut is the look and length of it because it does look pretty and it is long, but the taste was nothing to rave over.

The chocolate glazed Bavarian filled donut was next to try. Sorry that there is no picture but my daughter took it and started to maul it before I could take a photo. This was not bad but wasn’t great either. The filling tasted more like the filling you’d find in those individually wrapped $0.25 pies at the bread/donut section at the grocery store. I did like how they weren’t shy about filling the donut up to maximum capacity and how the donut just gushed when you bit into it. It would’ve been a much better donut if the Bavarian cream didn’t taste like it was made in bulk, you know that commercial taste. I wish it would’ve tasted homemade.

Now, on to their “Worlds Famous Strawberry Donut.” The claim is only fresh strawberries are used. Well, all the strawberries were pretty plump and each one was covered in the glaze. Though it was a lot of glaze, you can still taste the freshness and natural sweetness of the strawberries. These strawberries were piled high within a glazed donut, basically it’s a strawberry sandwich. You can eat it like a sandwich but I wouldn’t recommend it. They were definitely not stingy on the filling so I used the knife and fork technique to keep my hands from getting all sticky.

The taste was a little one dimensional. It needed something else, maybe a dusting of powder sugar on top, possibly some freshly whipped sweetened cream dolloped  on top of the strawberries, or perhaps a drizzle of some sort of cream cheese concoction. I can see the fascination of wanting to try their fresh fruit donuts because there isn’t really any other donut shop out there that offers that type of donut, but there was nothing mind blowing about this donut. There wasn’t that wow factor or anything unique about the flavors.
I did get a few other donuts, their crumb, chocolate glazed, original glazed and a cream cheese donut. Because I was all donut-ed out I’m not sure how those tasted but my family seemed to like them. For all the donuts the price came out to $12.85, not bad. I can’t say that The Donut Man is a place I'd rave to my out of town guests about and force them to try it nor would I be a regular over here.  So for me to come back to The Donut Man, there would have to be a new product to try or if for some reason the planets were in alignment and I just happen to be driving down Route 66 in Glendora craving a donut. Was it bad? Definitely not.  They were well made donuts but none of it was memorable. They were just okay.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Beard Papa's "World's Best Cream Puffs" - Not In This World

I’ve heard that Beard Papa’s Cream Puffs are to die for, that they are the best ones out there.  I’ve tried cream puffs from local bakeries. To be completely honest, some of the best ones I’ve tried so far are the ones that were in the bakery section at Costco. Beard Papa’s claims to be the home of the “World’s Best Cream Puffs.” WOW, talk about being confident. I knew where the closest one to me was, so after dinner one night, we decided to take a trip.

The closest Beard Papa's to me is in the City of Industry, inside the Puente Hills Mall. Not the greatest of malls, but a mall is a mall and I have yet to meet a mall that I haven’t walked out of empty handed. Ok, that’s beside the point. Let me move on because I can talk to no end about shopping too. Beard Papa's has a little store with not much to it.  A small glass case with their pastries and it appears as if only one person worked there.  Mind you, this is the ONLY one I’ve ever been to or seen, so I’m assuming that this is a little one in comparison to the one at The Americana or at the Hollywood & Highland Shopping Center.

The glass containing all of their products looked a little sad and to tell you the truth, quite unappealing. Yet, my thought of food is “don’t knock it ‘til you've tried it.” When I asked the one employee which flavors were available, he said Original Vanilla only. The only other flavor they had was green tea, which they ran out of. Ok, so their flavor choices were a little dreary but I was ok with that. If they’ve mastered the original flavor then the other flavors were going to be worth trying.

I took a bite and the “puff” part of the cream puff was a little crispier than what I recollect from other cream puffs I’ve tried. Also, when I bit into it creamy custard oozed into my mouth. After rolling it around my mouth, I couldn’t taste anything. I wasn’t expecting the puff pastry to be too sweet, but it tasted a little blander than toast. The custard, well, it tasted like thick and creamy water with a little bit of sugar substitute. Although the texture was perfect, I didn’t get that sweet creamy taste. Their website says that they use fresh vanilla bean. I didn’t see any specks of vanilla nor did it taste anything like it. I was wishing the custard tasted like crème brule. I would have even taken vanilla pudding.

From the puff pastry not being sweet to the warm custard not being sweet, it was just bland filled with bland which equaled.... you guessed it BLAND.  Obviously I was really disappointed with these “World’s Best Cream Puffs.”  I mean if these are “World’s Best” than I wouldn’t want to eat another cream puff from any other place ever again. In their defense, they do have other locations and this one might’ve been the black sheep of the bunch. I wouldn’t give this location a second thought to retry.  If someone brought me one telling me that I just had a bad experience and that they are truly “World’s Best,” I would try it. Other than that, I cannot see myself forking out the cash to buy another one, let alone waste the gas to drive out to their shop at the Puente Hills Mall.