Subway, eat fresh for breakfast

If you watch TV or follow food news, you may have heard that Subway is trying to break into the fast food breakfast scene.  Earlier this week, they offered up free English muffin melts as a promotion.  I stopped in at one that was located in a gas station before work.  I had to fill up…

Muffin melt

Egg whites, ham, cheese and tomato

Subway’s approach to breakfast is the same as lunch – Eat fresh and eat healthy.

Their muffin melts use light-wheat  English muffins which aren’t bad but like other wheat breads, a little dry and rough.  Subway offers several different meat options – ham, bacon, sausage – or you can just do a plain egg melt.   Egg whites can be substituted for no extra cost which is something I don’t think other fast food chains offers and a definite appeal to those trying to be more health conscious.

Like their subs, you can add on toppings and dressings and specify the type of cheese you want, if any.  And if you don’t feel like a muffin, you can get a 6″ or flatbread (different cost).

I added tomato to my ham, cheese and egg white melt.  I think the sandwich would have benefited from some sort of sauce to balance the dryness of the English muffin.  It didn’t fill me up but paired with fruit or yogurt, I think I would have had a decent, well-proportioned and balanced breakfast.

The muffin melts range from $2-3 and at a 160-170 cals and 3.5-4g of fat, are a heck of a lot healthier for you.

3 NOMs for Subway’s breakfast melts.

Subway
Various locations

Alice in Wonderland tea set @ Royal/T

Yes, I’m going thru my backlog of pictures…*phew*….

Back in March, I heard that Royal/T, the Japanese maid cafe in Culver City was offering an Alice in Wonderland tea set for the month.  Since Husband works down the street from the place and he worked on the movie, I insisted we go one day for lunch.

I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking..er…writing?

Outside Royal/T

Wall o' tea canisters

I know what I'm ordering...

Anime-ish Alice n' friends

Maid to order

It said "Drink me" so I did...

The complete tea set

Canapes were cut up into card suite shapes

These canapes were pretty good. The bread was a little crispy from toasting and all the toppings were flavorful. I’m always a smoked salmon fan. There was also an egg salad, tuna salad and one other thing I can’t quite recall.

I adored that little mushroom...and the macaron

The sign did say purple macaron but, as you can see, I ended up with a green one. It was vanilla flavored and really good.  There was a mini chocolate cupcake with a small “Eat me” sign, just like the big one on top.  The mushroom was a meringue, I think, and so cute.  They even painted the bottom with little stripes to make it look as mushroom-y as possible!  I was hoping for a Caterpillar to come along, sit on top of it with his hookah and ask “Whooooooooooo are yoooooooooooooouuuu?”

Why yes, I think I will...

This cupcake was vanilla flavored with a cream cheese type frosting and cinnamon. Looking at another version of the tea set someone else had ordered, they ended up with a chocolate one and a mini vanilla one. While the cupcake was moist, I found it had too much frosting.  But then again, I’m not a huge frosting person to begin with…

Husband ordered one of Royal/T’s beers and the Kobe beef burger sans the veggies.  Apparently, the burgers have gotten juicier since our first visit.  My little slider dribbled down my hand and Husband had a slightly messy time.  His coworker ended up having some juice fall in his lap.

beer

Kobe beef burger

I’ve always had a great meal at Royal/T and this time was no exception. I really enjoyed the tea set and admired the attention to detail that was paid to the decoration and execution of it.  While it did satisfy my hunger, the amount of food didn’t fill me up. $25 was a little bit pricy for what I got, I think, but for the novelty and fun I had working my way thru eating it, I was okay paying the price.

Service this time around was a little better but still, lunch here can run over an hour due to waiting around for your order to be taken or food to be served.

4 1/2 NOMs for an awesome special tea set!
Royal/T gets an upgrade from 3 NOMs to 3 1/2 NOMs.  Service here can still improve and the prices, while not unreasonable, do fall on the high end for what you get.

Royal/T
8910 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 559-6300
http://www.royal-t.org/
Royal/T Café on Urbanspoon

Hawaii – part 1

Last October, Husband and I took a trip to the Big Island (Hawaii) to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. On our 2nd day (first day was recouping from the flight after an afternoon arrival), we drove to the East side to visit Hilo. I used to live here when I was a little kid and wanted to see how much had changed (or not) since I left.

Due to a big breakfast and the fact we were going to a luau later that night, we didn’t want to fill up on a big lunch. Plus, the humidity was killing our appetites. Living in Southern California has spoiled me, apparently. I don’t remember Hilo being –that– humid but then again, it had been almost 20 years since I moved away.

Anyways, I insisted we had to eat something “local”. I had no idea of where to go, though. The only places I remembered food-wise was a cafe next to the Woolworth’s at the mall and a small mom n’ pop market that served shaved ice. We weren’t a family that ate out a lot when I was a kid.

Driving around the downtown area, Husband and I came across Cafe 100. I had seen this place featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” show; they served up loco mocos and plate lunches. Perfect…local cuisine with things Husband would eat.

Cafe 100 isn’t really a restaurant; it’s more like a stand. You walk up to a window, place your order and pick it up at another window. There are tables set up outside along the sides for people who want to eat there.

Halloweenie loco moco special

Little sausages

They were advertising a “Halloweenie” loco moco special (rice covered with gravy covered with a fried egg and topped with several pieces of small weenies). I had to do a little convincing to get Husband to agree to this as he was iffy about the combination. Gravy on rice…with egg? Trust me, it’s actually really good.

This ended up being smaller than I expected but worked out perfectly as a snack split between the two of us. I would have liked more of a crisp edge on the egg but the yolk was nicely runny. A little more gravy would have been preferable as well since there wasn’t enough for all the rice. The weenies were plump and juicy. Taking a little bit of everything for each bite resulted in salty yumminess. However, the gravy alone was a little lacking in the salt so once we ate all the weenies and egg, the rice and gravy was a little bland. Husband was quickly won over by this dish, though.

I wish we had more of an appetite because I would have loved to try their plate lunches and grab a Spam musubi. Oh well…next trip!

3 NOMs!

Cafe 100
969 Kilauea Ave
Hilo, HI 96744
(808) 935-8683
Cafe 100 on Urbanspoon

Natas Pastries – Portuguese in the valley

Natas Pastries

The same weekend we visited Portugal Imports, we also ventured into the valley to try Natas Pastries.  Tanya Bjork, artist extraordinaire, found out about this place from her mother and researched it.  The bakery was founded almost 5 years ago by Fatima Marques who was homesick for her native pastries.  Not finding a single place in Los Angeles that offered pasteis de nata (also called “natas”), she spent years studying how to reproduce these delectable desserts the authentic, old-fashioned way and went so far as to import an oven from Portugal.  Besides offering traditional favorites like queijadas (tarts filled with a mixture of cheese, sugar, cinammon), pasteis de coco and Portuguese sweet bread (similar to Hawaiian sweet bread), Natas Pastries also offers other European desserts like eclairs and Napoleans.  It is also a small restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Tanya and I decided to do Sunday brunch here and dragged our significant others.

Dining room

Dining room

Natas Pastries is a small space divided up into two areas – a dining room furnished with about 8 tables for 4 and the bakery front.  There are a few tables and chairs outside as well.  Inspired by the Portuguese style of using of blue and white glazed tiles, the dining room incorporates this aesthetic and accents it with dark wood furniture and tapestries reminiscent of Old Europe.  It was nice because it really did remind me of places I had seen when in Lisbon.

When we got there, the dining room was full as were the few tables outside.  People were going in and out of the door with boxes in hand.  Apparently, Natas Pastries is popular.  We had to wait around 15 minutes to be seated.  This gave us plenty of time to oogle the pastries on display and decide what we were going to get on our way out.

After our group was seated, we perused the menu and decided our meals.  I got the breakfast sandwich on Portuguese sweet bread with cheddar and linguica.  Tanya opted for the Sandes de Atum (Portuguese tuna salad sandwich).  Husband got the chocolate chip and Oreo cookies pancakes and Tanya’s boyfriend, Derek, got an omelette with artichokes, Cajun smoked sausage and feta.

Breakfast sandwich

I liked my breakfast sandwich.  The eggs were fluffy and not over-cooked.  There was plenty of cheese and linguica.  I wish the linguica was spicy but a bottle of hot sauce solved that issue.  The in-house Portuguese sweet bread was great – soft and thick.  The rolls do look thick but with the amount of egg and cheese, it all balanced out.  And the subtle sweetness of the bread added a little bit of contrast with the salty fillings.

Pancake Mountain

Husband’s pancakes were quite a plateful.  I’m not sure if this counts as breakfast or dessert.  Frankly, when this dish arrived, my teeth started hurting.  3 ginormous (yes, I had to resort to a made-up word) pancakes topped with powdered sugar, whipped cream, chocolate syrup and crumbled Oreo cookies sat before Husband.  Definitely not Portuguese… He had filled up on the mocha he ordered to drink so the husband barely put a dent into this.  I stole a few bites; the pancakes were thick and fluffy and definitely sweet with all the dessert-y toppings and syrup added.  Not a dish for me as I’m not a fan of over-the-top sugary stuff but for kids or people with a penchant for dessert, this is a winner.  I’d order just the pancakes, though.

Omelette

Tanya and Derek liked their food though Derek did comment that the ingredients he picked out made for a bit of an odd combination flavor-wise.

Omelettes come with house potatoes and choice of toast as well as what seems the be the house-standard fruit garnish of orange and watermelon. Our men quickly off-loaded their fruit onto our plates…

Tuna Salad Sandwich

Tanya claims that the imported canned Portuguese tuna used in the sandwich is more flavorful than the tuna we get here in the States.  I haven’t done a taste comparison so I can’t concur but she has had both quite a few times so I defer to her.

This sandwich is part of the lunch menu.  Served with a side salad and kettle chips, it was a large and filling-looking dish.

Portuguese pastries

European goodies

Selection is something Natas Pastries is not lacking.  Natas, queijadas, pasteis de coco, pasteis de feijão (bean tart), fruit tarts, chocolate covered strawberries, slices of various flavors of cakes, meringue cookies, this place is a dessert lover’s paradise.  And everything, including the sweet bread they use, is made in-house.

For those who have never tried Portuguese pastries before, the variety box is a great way to go – 9 pieces for $16.  I decided to get this since I have only tried natas.  I selected 3 natas, 3 queijadas and 3 pasteis de feijão.

The natas here were really good.  The crust was flaky and buttery while the filling was a nice custard-y texture.  It was better than the nata I had during my trip to Belém, though I did get that nata from some shop cafe and it had been sitting out for a while.  The queijadas were also tasty but the powdered sugar topping made it a little messy.  The cheese-cinammon-sugar filling was yummy without being very sweet.  Again, they make a very good pastry crust here.  The bean tart was also good but the natas were my fave followed by the queijadas.

Overall, this was a great little bakery and restaurant.  I will definitely be back for the tasty desserts.  After all, it’s a lot closer and cheaper to go to Natas Pastries than go all the way back to Lisbon.

4 NOMs for Natas Pastries!

Natas Pastries
13317 Ventura Boulevard
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423-6212
(818) 788-8050
Natas Pastries on Urbanspoon

Buttermilk Truck

Buttermilk Truck

Third try’s the charm, or so the saying goes.  I have been thisclose to Buttermilk Truck twice before but never got to try them due to long lines.  Checking out their schedule for the week, I noticed that they were going to be in Culver City tonight from 7-10pm, which was only 10 minutes north on the freeway.  I called up the Husband and let him know that we were going out to eat tonight.

Order up at the Buttermilk Truck

We got to the truck around 8pm; I was expecting there to be a crowd given how popular Buttermilk was at the Food Fest and the Relief for Haiti event at T Lofts.  Surprisingly, there was no line.  There were a few people waiting around for their orders but other than that…  I was cheering inside.  FINALLY!!

Husband and I decided to order the chicken and waffles ($7), the breakfast sandwich with bacon and hashbrowns ($4) and two orders of the pancake bites ($5/each).  Prices include tax so no need to carry odd change.  The nice thing Buttermilk Truck does is if you order multiple items, they serve each item as it is ready so you don’t have to wait for everything to finish cooking to receive it.

Chicken and waffle

First up was the chicken and waffles – 2 wings and a waffle.  The waffle had cinnamon mixed into the batter which I could smell and a pat of butter was melted into the crevices.  The flavor was nice but texture-wise, I prefer crispier waffles.  Still, this was pretty tasty.

The chicken wings were fantastic.  The skin was crispy and the batter had a little bit of spicy mixed it to it, giving the chicken some heat.  The meat was juicy.  Flavor-wise, these were on par with what I would expect from a sit-down restaurant.

Breakfast sandwich, garlic rosemary hashbrown

Eggy accident

Next up, the breakfast sandwich – an over-easy fried egg, cheese and applewood smoked bacon encased in a homemade buttermilk biscuit.  Chicken apple sausage or torino can be substituted for the bacon.

Husband went in for the first bite and while I warned him about the runny yolk, he still managed to get it all over himself.  There went my yolk…  The biscuit was great – fluffy inside and not at all crumbly.  Crispy bacon, nicely cooked egg, a classic yummy breakfast sandwich.

The garlic rosemary hashbrown, a $0.50 addition to the breakfast sandwich, was delicious.  Garlic and rosemary can be very strong flavors but in this hashbrown, they weren’t overpowering.  Texture-wise, it was like eating a giant tater tot.  Well worth the 50 cents, in my opinion.

While I was finishing up my sandwich, Buttermilk announced that they had a extra mini-Brick and asked if anyone wanted it.  No one went for it so I took it.  Hey, free food and a chance to try another yummy item off their menu?  Why not?

Mini-brick

The mini-Brick consisted of a hashbrown topped with a fried egg topped with half a biscuit and covered in homemade chorizo gravy.  This was pretty tasty but required a fork.  I really enjoyed the chorizo gravy; salty (but not overly so) and meaty, this would be awesome to use in a loco moco or serve over french fries.

Our pancake bites were served up last.  Husband wanted chocolate chip and I went with the red velvet which also had chocolate chips in it.  Served with a side of butter, these were a sweet ending to our meal.  Syrup was available near the forks and napkins.

Chocolate chip pancake bites

Red velvet pancake bites

Husband devoured most of his order before I could get a picture but I managed to stop him mid-nom on the last pancake.  He really enjoyed these, apparently.  He didn’t even offer me a taste…

The red velvet pancake bites were really good, though, with syrup, a little on the sweet side.  Easily consumed in 2 bites, these were fluffy, moist and not too thick or thin.

Now I understand why Buttermilk had such long lines the last two times I saw them.  Great food and great prices for the most part.  I thought the chicken and waffles were a little bit pricy but everything else was cheap for the quality and quantity.  I would eat every single one of these items again.

And according to their Twitter, they sold out of everything tonight…

Buttermilk Truck gets 4 NOMs from the Catty Critic

Crepevine

Many many months ago, a high school friend and I went up to the Bay Area to visit another friend.  Naturally, many of our outings involved eating.  One of our excursions involved a stop at Crepevine for brunch.

Menu board at Crepevine

Located on Church St., this restaurant is a cute little eatery that boasts a huge menu of breakfast and lunch items such as omelettes, scrambles, pasta, sandwiches and, of course, crepes of the sweet and savory varieties.

When we arrived in the late morning, there was already quite a crowd inside.  All the outdoor tables were occupied as well.  Luckily, a large party was just leaving so we snagged their tables. Ordering was a bit confusing as we were given menus by a guy who seemed to be filling in the rolls of host, waiter and bus-boy but it took him a while to come back around to take orders.  There was a guy behind a register so I’m guessing we could also just go up to him and place our orders as well.

Crepevine - New Orleans Benedict

Perusing the menu, I decided on the New Orleans Benedict – crabcakes on an English muffin with poached eggs and spicy Cajun hollandaise ($9.50).  I know, I know…I’m at a place called Crepevine and I don’t order crepes?  I just wasn’t in the mood for them and honestly, I’m a huge fan of benedicts.  The crabcrakes were calling to me!

These were de-li-cious.  The English muffin was perfectly toasted; the eggs nicely poached with a requisite runny yolk.  The crabcakes were decent.  I don’t think they were freshly made but they tasted good, especially with the Cajun hollandaise.  It had a little kick but not a lot for me.  I would have like a little more heat.  The house potatoes were nothing special to write home about…the normal diced fried potatoes you can find at places serving breakfast.

Crepevine - Spicy cornbread with jalapeno jelly

Closeup of cornbread

Listed on the menu under “Sides” was a spicy cornbread with jalapeño jelly ($3.95).  I couldn’t pass this up so I ordered it.  I was expecting a normal sized muffin, not two toasted slices the size of Texas!   This could easily be split between two people.  The cornbread was crispy on the outside, moist on the inside.  As far as cornbread goes, this was one of the better ones I’ve had.  The toasting really gave it some character.  You can see in the close up the pieces of chopped peppers they mix into the batter to give it a supposed spicyness.  Once again, I found a lack of heat.  The jalapeño jelly was nice and gave it a little bit of the extra kick I was looking for.  Unfortunately, I was stuffed from my eggs benedict so I couldn’t finish it all.

Everyone ordered different things so here are some photos…

Crepevine - La Suisse French Toast

One of Crepevine's sweet crepes

Crepevine - Huevos Rancheros scramble

Looks yummy doesn’t it?

For the amount of food and the taste and quality, the prices are decent, almost borderline bargain.  There’s really no host so seating was a little confusing.  And during peak hours, large groups will be hard-pressed to find seating together.  Also, the service was a bit spotty but this place didn’t quite seem like a full-fledged sit-down restaurant.

The Catty Critic gives Crepevine 4 NOMs.

Crepevine
216 Church St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 431-4646
http://www.crepevine.com
Crepevine on Urbanspoon

Memorial Day Weekend – Solvang

On our 2nd day of vacation in the area, the husband and I decided to venture to Solvang in the morning.  Since my other half detests vegetables, he didn’t eat his breakfast quiche at our B&B, claiming it had been “tainted” and instead, drank an entire carafe of Ghiradelli hot chocolate. (facepalm)  When we reached Solvang, he was starting to get hungry so we had an early lunch.

Solvang - view from our patio table

Solvang - Clock Tower

Solvang, being a tourist destination, does not have a shortage of places to eat.  We decided to stop in at a cafe that had patio seating.  I can’t recall the name of the place but it was near the clock and was part of a little shopping center that had an ice cream shop and a sandwich shop.

Solvang - hot dog

Solvang - hot dog

Solvang - Heineken Dark

Solvang - Heineken Dark

After perusing the menu (which contained breakfast and lunch items), the husband opted to get a hotdog with cheese and fries along with a Heineken Dark to drink.  I went with the split pea soup in a bread bowl and a mimosa.

I don’t know about the rest of you but I never put cheese on my hot dogs.  My husband is the first person I know who does this and it strikes me as odd for some reason even though, thinking about it, it makes sense.  Anyways…  This was a pretty big plump sausage, not your little wimpy store-bought Oscar Mayer wiener.  They were quite generous with the cheese as well.  The other half thoroughly enjoyed it, stating it was a good juicy hot dog.  The french fries were great – perfectly cooked to give them  a nice crispiness and not overly oily.  I can’t comment on the Heine as I’m biased against most beers.  Guinness is one of the few that I will drink.  And only from tap.

Solvang - Split Pea Soup

Solvang - Split Pea Soup

Solvang - Mimosa

Solvang - Mimosa

My split pea soup was disappointing.  I was hoping that being in a Danish town, the soup would have been excellent.  I found it a little bland and grainy.  The bread bowl seemed a little stale so I barely touched it.

The mimosa, on the other hand, was just fantastic.  It possibly could be the best mimosa I’ve had so far.  The champagne to orange juice ratio was perfect for my lightweight self.  However, what really stood out was a sweet, almost honey-like flavor in it.  I asked the waitress if they add anything to their mimosas and she said it was the standard mixture – sparkling wine and OJ.  Hrmmm…

The service at this place was okay.  We were told to sit wherever but it did take a while for our waitress to finally make her way to our table to take orders.

As for cost, the prices here are inexpensive.  I believe we spent around $30-35 for the entire meal.  Would definitely have been less if we didn’t have our drinks but hey, we’re on vacation!

Looking around at other customers’ tables, a lot of people were getting breakfast entrees.  There were quite a number of omelettes that looked tasty.  There were also a number of large sandwiches.  This place also does dinner though I don’t know what is on that menu.

I give this place (if I could only remember the name…) 2 1/2 NOMs.