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.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Xooro..... that's pronounced "Sure-Ohs!"

I was watching an episode of “Kid in a Candy Store” on the Foodnetwork and saw this establishment was featured. Xooro is located in Glendale, CA inside of the Glendale Galleria mall. I was really surprised that something in the mall could really be that interesting. Xooro is the name and gourmet churros is their game. They are so gourmet that they aren’t even’t churros, they are “sure-ohs.”

How can a churro, excuse me, a xooro be gourmet? Well, when you fill them up with flavored creams, coat them in different chocolates and sprinkle them with condiments they then become gourmet. You can order anything from a plain xooro to one they named as "Jordan’s Favorite" (Nutella filling, milk chocolate coating with dark drizzles). There were so many different flavors to choose from but I ordered the two that were really showcased on the show which were the tiramisu and the maple bacon, and I got the original as well.

Ordering the tiramisu xooro was a no brainer for me since tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts. From the creamy marscarpone mixture to the spongey, soaked lady fingers, its texture is as pleasing to the palette as its flavor  is to the taste buds. This xooro is filled with a tiramisu filling. From what I saw on the show, they use marscarpone cheese mixed into their custard for the filling and all of the major components that are in the classic dessert. I took a bite and the first thing I did taste was the smoothness of the chocolate with the xooro. I didn’t really taste the filling until maybe 3 bites down the road, not because they weren’t filled with enough cream, but because I don’t take really big bites. I like to test the waters before I jump into the ocean head first, or however that saying goes. But after you get that bite with the burst of cream it is like eating a little piece of tiramisu. Now you don’t get that strong coffee or rum flavor, but you do get subtle hints of it. I really like how you get that chocolate flavor with your initial bite and then taste the smoothness of the filling.

From top to bottom: Tiramisu, Maple Bacon, Original with cream filling

Next we tried the maple bacon. I’m not keen on mixing my breakfast items together. For me, I like to eat my bacon separately and don’t like it even touching anything sweet. I like my bacon salty and won’t even really eat the maple topped bacon. So why in the heck would I get this? Just to try it. It was one of their most popular ones, so I had to give it a shot. Inside was a maple cream filling. The outside was coated with white chocolate and then rolled in bacon bits. It didn’t look like real bacon. It did look and taste like the ones you buy in a jar. I took a bite and it wasn’t bad. The bacon taste wasn’t as overwhelming as I thought it’d be. The white chocolate coating mellowed it a little bit. The maple cream filling was good and not overly sweet either. It wasn’t a bad combo. I might have liked it better if it was rolled around in real crisp bacon.

Unlike the previous churros, the original was served hot. Understandably so because if you try coating a hot or even warm churro, just like a cake, the coating would slide right off. The original xooro is filled with your choice of vanilla or chocolate cream, or dulce de leche. We chose vanilla. The outside was crispy but when you bit into it it was nice and soft, airy yet dense. The vanilla cream filling tasted like pastry cream. It was smooth and together with the xooro it was a perfect combination. It was rolled in a perfect mixture of cinnamon and sugar. My only regret was that I didn’t choose the dulce de leche filling.

There is a display case with a few xooros in them but the tiramisu and maple bacon xooros are filled and coated to order and not premade. Overall the xooros were pretty good. They were not to die for but definitely worth trying.  I don’t think I’d drive to Glendale just to get one, but they were good enough that whenever I am at that mall I would try other flavors. For 3 xooros, a coke and an apple juice our total was a little under $19.  Sounds pricey but trying but that same amount of food at Disneyland.  There is also a location in Hollywood, CA, San Diego, CA and Phoenix, AZ with a few more locations coming soon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Masa. A Piece of Chicago in Eagle Rock, CA.

Ed is from Chicago. If he is not playing the "Michael Jordan is the best basketball player to have every graced the courts" record, he is playing the "Chicago style pizza is the best pizza and nothing compares to it" one.  

We finally found a place in Fullerton, CA that we both like and is good enough to satisfy his pizza craving until he is able to visit his hometown again.  Drawn by the title of a program "Pizza Paradise," he became glued to the TV watching a show that featured all these pizza places but was upset that none were located in Southern California.  Now that his search for Chicago style pizza was fueled by this show, Ed googled “Best Pizza in Southern California” and Masa was among those at the top of the list. Located in Echo Park, CA, Masa is known to serve authentic deep dish pizza.  What was just a Google search on a Thursday afternoon, soon became Friday night's dinner.  Trust me, there was no convincing him to eat anywhere else.  Masa is a small little mom and pop restaurant. Nothing fancy, no huge sign that says “look at me!” “eat here!” If you’re from around the area you have definitely heard of the place. If you are a fan of Chicago style pizza, you’ve either eaten here or have wanted to eat here.

We were served a loaf of bread with butter to tide us over while we perused the menu. The bread was served warm, soft and tasted fresh. I’m not sure what type of bread it was, but it was so good we finished it before it was time to order.

For our appetizer, we ordered the artichoke dip ($6.95). Their menu described it as “marinated artichoke hearts, spinach, roasted red pepper, onion, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses served with a Masa Cuban roll for dipping.” The Masa Cuban roll was really good. It wasn’t the same bread that was served at the beginning. It was softer, fluffier and a little sweeter. As far as it being used as a dipping tool, no can do. You can dip it and slide it through whatever is left over, but you definitely can’t just dunk it into the dip and have it stick to your bread. The reason I say this is because it’s not your, well, I should say my typical run in with an artichoke dip. The artichoke dips I have had are so cheesy that it looks like a white thick dip with specks of green because the artichokes and spinach are diced so finely. With this dip, the artichokes are in big chunks that you either have to scoop it with a utensil and place it on top of your bread, or you take a big enough piece of bread where you can pinch the two ends together to scoop up some of the filling. Is that a bad thing? Not at all! My first bite I had an unexpected burst of tangy flavor. I don’t know what the artichokes are marinated in, probably some sort of olive oil, citrus mixture. Also with this dip, if you notice in the picture, it doesn’t look like the normal artichoke dip in that it doesn’t have as much cheese. The Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses aren’t the stars of this dish.  As a matter of fact, you can hardly taste the cheeses. That was totally OK with me. This was different than any other artichoke dip I’ve had and I really liked it. I could’ve eaten the entire thing myself.

For our Chicago pizza, and I specify that we ordered Chicago pizza because there is an option to order Bistro pizza (I have no clue what this is actually), we ordered a large traditional pizza ($19.95) and added pepperoni ($3). Their traditional pizza had sweet Italian sausage and mushrooms. The pizza was definitely more than enough for the four of us, well 3 ½ of us. The sausage on the pizza wasn’t little cuts of sausage but was a thin crisp sausage pattie on top of the other toppings. I took a bite and it was good. The sausage though wasn’t sweet and I was fine by that.

The bottom crust was thin, not too crispy, but crispy enough to hold up with the toppings. The side crust however was a little to bready for me. It was thick and too much to eat for me, on its own. The flavor of the pizza was good. My only problem was that there wasn’t enough sauce. The sauce was great. It was sweet, garlicky and tangy all at the same time. When a chunk of tomato happens to fall on your plate, it is good to eat as is. I really wished there was more sauce on the pizza because with more sauce, the more falls out onto the plate. That fall out would’ve been the perfect dipping sauce for the left over crust.  Also, authentic Chicago style pizza has corn meal on the crust and this one did.

If this was my first encounter with a Chicago style pizza, I would’ve been wowed by it. It was good, but it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had.  I would come back and eat here again for their pizza, but would definitely have to add extra sauce (bummed that you have to pay $3 more for it though) and would try the gnocchi dish that the couple sitting next to us kept raving to each other about. We went on a Friday night at around 9:30 so parking was hard to find. There are two parking lots adjacent to Masa but they were completely full. We ended up parking in the residential area across the park almost 3 blocks away.  So if you are not wary to walk through the streets of Echo park, try this place out. Great service, good food.