The Gumbo Pot

Just part of the menu...

A few weeks ago, my artist friend, Tanya Bjork, and I paid a visit to the Farmers Market at The Grove.  We decided to have lunch at one of the many eateries there.  Since we had been talking on and off for a while now about how long overdue we were for a trip to NOLA and how much we missed The Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter, The Gumbo Pot called to us.

Located in a back corner of the Market, The Gumbo Pot boasts a menu featuring Creole and Cajun specialties like gumbo (of course), jambalaya and red beans & rice.  There’s blackened catfish, po’boys, muffelatas and even alligator!

Muffelata

Cornbread Muffin

I opted to get a muffelata and a side of the cornbread.  The Gumbo Shop’s version of this sandwich consists of a thick sesame crusted bread, ham, salami, some other meat that I forgot the name of, provolone and an olive tapenade.  The bread was a little dry and the olive tapenade was quite strong and a little salty.  The bread to filling ratio was leaning towards a little too much bread.  While the flavors were good, it wasn’t quite up to what I had when I was in the French Quarter.  The cornbread was good though – moist and speckled with bits of pepper for a little bit of kick though for my tolerance, there wasn’t much heat.

Tanya went with a blackened catfish sandwich.  It was massive.  She decided to take the filling from one half and double up the other half so she wouldn’t fill up too much on the bread.  I didn’t get a taste but she seemed to like it. Looking around at other customers, I could hear chatter about how good the gumbo and jambalaya were.  Those, along with alligator, will have to be ordered on my next visit…

Beignets

The Gumbo Shop also serves up beignets and cafe au lait.  We couldn’t resist and got an order of those yummy fried dough bits.  The beignets here were a little denser and oiler than what we got at Cafe du Monde but our memories could be a little biased since we were, um, intoxicated when we were there.  We noticed that the chicory coffee was courtesy of cans from Cafe du Monde, though!  Maybe the beignet mix was from there as well…

Over all, I wasn’t blown away by my meal.  I guess the muffaleta isn’t their specialty.  But there were many other things on the menu that I would come back for sure to try them.  I’ve never had alligator and my curiosity is piqued…

The Gumbo Pot gets 3 NOMs for the Catty Critic’s first visit.

The Gumbo Pot
6333 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90036-3190
(323) 933-0358
http://www.thegumbopotla.com
Gumbo Pot on Urbanspoon

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Kyochon Chicken

Kirk over at mmm-yoso blogged about chicken wings recently and mentioned Kyochon.  I realized I still hadn’t blogged about my experience with this place yet.

KyoChon

While exploring the new Zion Korean market off Beach Blvd (still labeled Fresia when I went)  in Garden Grove, I saw this place inside near the entrance.  Since I didn’t feel like cooking, I decided to give Kyochon a try.

All Kyochon does is chicken.  You can get chicken wings, chicken bentos, chicken chicken chicken.  I guess it’s sort of like a Korean Chik-fil-et but not sandwiches…okay, I’m stretching here with that comparison but you get the idea…

Anyways, the smell wafting from the kitchen was making my tummy grumble.  Looking at the menu, they offered up chicken with two different sauces – soy-garlic and spicy.  The option to place orders for half/half is available but you have to order at least 4 wings, if memory serves me correctly.  The prices were a little high, I thought till I saw I could get a “whole chicken” for ~$20 (tax included).  Now, I was thinking a whole chicken would be quite a lot of food and $20 wasn’t too steep for that.  I opted on half/half for the sauces since I  planned on sharing with my husband who doesn’t do spicy.

Packaging

When my number was called, I received these two boxes in a rather nice bag, the sort of bag you get when you shop at Banana Republic or Coach.  These boxes seemed a little small to each contain half a chicken, but they were crammed to the top with pieces of hacked poultry and taped shut so I guess it adds up.

I had to wait till I got home to munch on it.  While I was driving, I could smell the garlic coming from the soy-garlic sauce and let me tell you, it was pretty cruel since I was starving.

Soy-garlic chicken

Spicy chicken

Because they had been packaged hot, the steam made the skin on these a little soggy, though there was some crispness here and there.  Made me think that next time, I would have to eat some right when I got my order.  The meat was nice and moist and the flavor, intense.  The spicy really packed a punch for me.  Either the chef had it out or my tolerance is diminishing…  Looking inside, there really was quite a bit of food, enough that I had leftovers for dinner for the following two days after gorging myself on quite a bit that night (the Husband decided to forgo trying any for some insane reason).  They did reheat well, though they did start drying out.

While the chicken was really good, doing the math in my head, it was a bit pricey.  Still, I don’t think it’s enough of a deterrant for me to not eat at Kyochon.  I’d just do so only when I have a craving for them specifically. Maybe next time, I will try some of their more affordable bentos…

I give Kyochon 3 1/2 NOMs.  It would have gotten 4 if it was cheap eats!

Kyochon Chicken
12840 Beach Boulevard
Stanton, CA‎
(714) 891-2449
Kyochon Chicken on Urbanspoon

Beef at The Counter – El Segundo

Since my first visit to The Counter in Marina Del Rey, the place has really grown on me.  Over the weekend, the husband and I went to the El Segundo location for dinner.

I tried their beef burger again, opting to use an English muffin as the bun and topped it with mixed greens, tomato, grilled onions, Gruyere and peppercorn sauce.  I have to say, this time around, the burger was better and tastier.  The peppercorn sauce is a real winner.  I am also a fan of the horseradish mayo.  It has a good kick to it and is a great dip for the sweet potato fries…or regular fries!  Considering I’m not a huge mayo fan, that says a lot.  I think I’ll be using the English muffin again.  It’s just the right amount of bread and the toasted state gives a nice crunch texture-wise.

I also got a shake.  I wasn’t in the mood for apple pie so I combined peanut butter and banana.  A classic combo and oh so tasty!  The peanut butter was a little heavy and masked the banana a little; the PB hit your taste-buds first but once that went away, you could taste the banana.

I have to say, a 1/3lb burger, shake and fries is really filling.  Two burgers, an order of fries and two shakes set us back about $36 and change.  It sounds a little steep but these aren’t fast food burgers.

And as extra incentive to go visit this place, every Wednesday night, this location offers 4 slider-beer pairings for $12.  I haven’t tried this as I’m not a big beer person.  However, if they ever offer up slider-shake pairings, you can be sure I’ll be there!

Apologies for the lack of pictures but I was starving and it was either die or eat.  I chose to eat….

The Counter – El Segundo gets 4 NOMs.

The Counter
700-A Allied Way
El Segundo, CA 90245
(310) 524-9967
http://www.thecounterburger.com
The Counter on Urbanspoon

The Counter revisited

I heard The Counter had a Kung Pao shrimp burger as their Burger of the Month for September.  Being genetically pre-disposed to loving Asian foods and also being a seafood lover, this sounded nommy.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to try very hard to convince the husband to go with me for lunch one day.

The Counter - Kung Pao Shrimp Burger

The Counter - Kung Pao Shrimp Burger

The Counter - Kung Pao Shrimp Burger

The Counter - Kung Pao Shrimp Burger

I guess I’m a fan of The Counter’s non-beef burgers though I keep telling myself that I will try another beef burger again.  This shrimp burger was quite tasty – grilled jumbo shrimp topped w/ a pickled cucumber salad & fried rice noodles w/ lettuce, onions & a spicy Kung Pao sauce.

There were about 5 pieces of properly cooked large shrimp, enough to register with my taste buds in every bite.  The rice noodles gave a nice crunch to the burger and the sauce actually had a little kick to it.  It was a bit messy to eat and I had to, on occasion, use a fork.  But in my opinion, a good burger is going to leave you licking your fingers.

The Shake of the Month was a chocolate brownie coffee malt – Vanilla ice cream w/ real pieces of chocolate brownie, a hint of coffee, malt powder and topped with  whipped cream.  The husband ordered one so naturally, I drank about half of it.  OMG, this could give the apple pie shake a run for its money as my favorite.  The coffee was subtle and there was a nice balance of chocolate and vanilla.

The Counter is slowly growing on me and I’m figuring out combinations that I like.  If they made the Kung Pao Shrimp burger a regular item, I’d be happy.

This visit earned The Counter an upgrade to 3 1/2 NOMs.

Read about my earlier visits.

The Counter Marina Del Rey
4786 Admiralty Way
Marina del Rey CA 90292
(310) 827-8600
http://www.thecounterburger.com/

Counter on Urbanspoon

Sprinkles – the Shiny of cupcakes

During my recent trip to the Bay Area to visit some old friends, the subject of cupcakes came up since we were reminiscing about a friend’s wedding where they had cupcakes instead of a wedding cake. The talk quickly wandered into the territory of who had the best cupcakes in the area. Our resident friend claimed it was either Sprinkles or Kara’s Cupcakes (he was partial to Kara’s).  Naturally, the talk of this wonderful little dessert turned into a craving so we paid a visit to the Sprinkles location at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto since that was nearest to us.

When we got there, there was a short line and many people inside and out enjoying a cupcake.  At $3.25 a cupcake, I was hoping that Sprinkles’ offerings would live up to the hype and price.  Each day, Sprinkles puts out different flavors though the classics like dark chocolate and vanilla make a daily appearance.  There were some exotic choices like ginger lemon and banana and other mouth-watering pairings like chocolate marshmallow and cinnamon sugar.  I decided to go with one of their most popular flavors – red velvet with a cream cheese frosting.

Sprinkles - Red Velvet Cupcake

Sprinkles - Red Velvet Cupcake

The cupcake was on the larger end of a normal size.  There was quite a bit of frosting on there.  I’m not much of a frosting person since most of it is usually too sweet for my taste.  The cream cheese frosting didn’t prove to be an exception and I ended up leaving half of it on the plate.  It was good frosting, though, so I suspect most people with a sweet tooth will be happy with it.  And for those who are crazy about the stuff, they have a shot of frosting on the menu.

The body of the cupcake was delicious.  Moist, rich, this was one of…no make that THE best cupcake I have had in my life so far.  In the way of red velvet, this was a winner.  The color was a beautiful deep red.  The light chocolate flavor was there and wasn’t too heavy or too transparent.  This cupcake was an absolute treat to eat and I was tempted to buy a box of other flavors to take home with me.  However, I wasn’t leaving till the next day and I didn’t think the airline flight would be kind to them.  These cupcakes are meant to be enjoyed as soon as you get your hands on them.

Fortunately, there’s a location in LA.  There’s a pumpkin cupcake on the menu twice a week along with a Chai Latte flavor…. I believe they are calling my name.

5 NOMs and then some for Sprinkles!  Absolutely worth the $3.25 I dished out for this dessert.

Sprinkles
Various locations around the U.S.
www.sprinkles.com
Sprinkles Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

P.S. I don’t recommend eating the colored circles.  Those are just garnish.

The Counter – Marina Del Rey

Having heard of The Counter from Yelp, I finally had the chance to visit the Marina Del Rey location twice for lunch with the husband and some of his coworkers.

Based on the crowd inside, this was a pretty popular joint for the lunch crowd.  The first time, we managed to snag seats at the bar but on the 2nd visit, we had to wait about a 1/2 hr for tables to open up to accommodate our group of 8.

When you get seated, the waiter hands you a clipboard with a menu and a form.  The menu lists sides, drinks and some classic burgers and sandwiches.  The form is if you want to go the build-your-own-burger route.

First visit:

After looking over the menu, I noticed an apple pie milkshake.  SOLD!  This was an amazing milkshake.  Vanilla ice cream blended with real apples, cinnamon, graham crackers, it tasted like apple pie a la mode.  Rich, thick, creamy, this shake was everything a milkshake should be.  DELICIOUS!

Step 1 – Choose a burger.  You have a choice of various sizes of beef, turkey, veggie, and grilled chicken.  All beef burgers come cooked Medium unless specified otherwise.

Step 2 – Choose a cheese.  There’s a large selection of cheeses from Feta to jalapeño Jack to American.

Step 3 – Choose up to 4 toppings.  The list included the usual onions, lettuce and tomato but also had more exotic items like Roasted Corn & Black Bean Salsa and dried cranberries.  There is also a premium topping list which costs a little extra.  This includes guacamole, fried egg, bacon and chili among other things.

Step 4 – Choose a sauce.  From horseradish mayo to spicy sour cream to a sweet bbq sauce, there’s quite a large variety.

Step 5 – Choose a bun: English muffin, hamburger bun, honey wheat bun.  You an also opt to go lo-carb and have your burger served on a lettuce blend or mixed greens.

The Counter - My husband's breakfast burger

The Counter - My husband's breakfast burger

The husband did his usual – beef burger with Swiss, bacon and a fried egg on an English Muffin.  I call it his breakfast burger.  It’s actually really good but ugh, my heart always stops for a moment when I see it.  This falls very much into the “comfort food” category…not to be abused but used for those times when you need a hug via your stomach.

The Counter - my custom burger

The Counter - my custom burger

The Counter - closeup of my burger

The Counter - closeup of my burger

I opted for a 1/3 beef burger, Medium, with jalapeño Jack, lettuce, tomato and scallions, apricot sauce on a honey wheat bun.

When our burgers arrived, I had a mountain of a burger sitting in front of me.  There was no way I could pick up the entire thing and eat it so I had to cut it in half.  As you can see, the toppings all look fresh and the burger moist; however, it looks more medium-rare than medium to me.

The nice thing they do here at The Counter is serve the sauce on the side.

After my first bite, my first regret was not getting the regular bun.  The honey wheat bun was dry and the taste was akin to cardboard.  As I took more bites, pouring the apricot sauce prior, I realized that the burger itself was fairly bland.  Did they not season the patty?  When I commented on this to the husband, he agreed that his beef seemed un-seasoned to him as well.  Hrmmm…

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The Counter - Fifty-Fifty

We also split an order of the “Fifty-fifty” – sweet potato fries and regular french fries.  It also comes in an onion ring variation.  The fries and sweet potato fries were both good – crispy, not overly oily.  I ate more of the regular fries for some reason even though I’m a sweet potato fanatic.  The aoli sauce in the back was really good as a dipping sauce.

Overall, the first visit wasn’t as good as I expected.  The concept is smart but the resulting  burger just wasn’t impressive.  In-n-Out has a better tasting burger, I think.  However, I would come back here for that apple pie shake any day…

My first visit to the counter receives 3 NOMs mostly for the awesome milkshake.

Second Visit:

We returned a few weeks later.  This time, I decided to stay away from the beef and go with chicken instead.  I, of course, order the apple pie milkshake again.  I also noticed that they have monthly specials – a burger of the month, a sauce of the month and a shake of the month.  The burger of the month was a lamb burger and while looked tempting, I stuck with the chicken.

This time, I went with a southwestern flair, choosing Roasted Corn and Black Bean salsa as a topping and going with a regular hamburger bun.  I have to say, this 2nd burger was a lot better than the first.  The chicken had more flavor (is that salt and pepper I taste on it?) and was moist and the salsa was delicious.  I may give the beef burger another chance but I would probably try to pick more flavorful toppings as well.

3 NOMs still for The Counter.

The Counter Marina Del Rey

4786 Admiralty Way

Marina del Rey CA 90292

(310) 827-8600

http://www.thecounterburger.com/

Counter on Urbanspoon

Memorial Day Weekend – Full of Life Flatbread

Full of Life Flatbread stands on the edge of Los Alamos, a small town of 1000.  This was not a place we expected to find what my husband deemed as the best pizza he ever had.

When we arrived around 15 minutes after they opened, the place was already pretty crowded.  Apparently, the locals were quite enamored with the restaurant.  We opted for a quieter table to ourselves on the patio.  We were quickly seated and given menus.  The covers were crayon drawings from local school kids.  Heh.  As for the menu itself, it wasn’t very big but everything sounded delicious.  They offered 2 different salads and about 10 different pizzas.  All the ingredients were organic and locally grown.  Based on what ingredients they find at the market each week, FoLF also offered specials. They also had an extensive wine list (mostly local wineries) and a few local beers on tap.

One thing to note about this place is that all the pizzas are cooked in a 700° stone kiln oven in the restaurant.  (Sorry for the bad pictures…evil flash!)

Full of Life Flatbread - Market Fresh salad

I decided to start with the Market Fresh Green Salad ($5) – a medley of sweet leaf lettuces, mesclun, arugula, carrots and celery topped with toasted flax seed and a little bit of arame seaweed and a ginger, tamari and raspberry vinaigrette.  This was a decently portioned salad.  The ingredients were incredibly fresh; the vegetables were nice and crisp.  The flax seed added a nice crunch and texture to the salad.  I didn’t really notice the seaweed at all.  The dressing had a nice slight tang to it.

The pizzas here come in two sizes – 10″ and 15″.  According to them, the 10″ is plenty for one person and a 15″ is splittable between two.

Full of Life Flatbread - 10" Cheese & Herb w/ Pepperoni

The husband, being a strict carnivore, was lamenting the lack of a plain pepperoni pizza on the menu and was doubtful that he would be able to get something completely vegetable-free.   He ordered the 10″ cheese and herb pizza (Fine California Whole Milk Mozzarella, Three Sisters Raw Milk Serena, and Italian Grana Padano, Cheeses, Garlic Oil, and Fresh Garden Herbs) with pepperoni ($8 plus $2 for the add) added and the waitress assured him there were no chunks of tomatoes or other plant matter to “ruin” his pizza.

Full of Life Flatbread - 10" Central Coast Sausage

I opted for the $11.50 Central Coast Sausage (Naturally Raised Pork in a Housemade Nitrate-Free Maple and Fennel Sausage, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Onions, Mushrooms, Cheeses and Fresh Garden Herbs).

The crust was quite good – crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside.  A bit surprising accomplishment since it was pretty thin.  They put just the right amount of everything to make this a very flavorful pizza.  The fresh herbs really came through without overpowering the other ingredients.  There wasn’t too much crust or too much topping so you could taste everything.  A very well-balanced pizza!

They apparently don’t have a uniform way of cutting up the pizza and because of the crust thinness and the hefty toppings, you need both hands to prop the slice to eat it.

We did walk away with a few slices leftover since we were starting to get full but wanted to get dessert.

I think this was our favorite part…  The other half ordered the Los Alamos S’more while I opted for one of the specials, Apricot Ice Cream Sunny-side Up with a Bacon Donut (both $6/each).

Full of Life Flatbread - Apricot Ice Cream Sunny-side Up

Full of Life Flatbread - Los Alamos S'more

Overall, this was an incredibly delicious meal for not that expensive a price.  We were quite surprised at how wonderful everything was.  If it weren’t so far away, we would be eating here quite a bit.  FoLF is a definite must-try if you are ever in the area of Los Alamos, Solvang or Los Olivos.  Apparently, some people drive up from Santa Barbara (45mins- 1hour) sometimes to satisfy their craving.

They’re open only on Friday-Saturday for dinner.  On Sunday, they have a special fixed price dinner menu with wine.  The rest of the week, the staff prepares pizzas that are frozen, boxed and sent to various grocery stores.  I’ve been told they are good but not quite the same as getting it fresh at the restaurant.  I’m sure that stone oven has something to do with it.

I give Full of Life Flatbrad the full 5 NOMs.

Full of Life Flatbread
225 West Bell Street,
Los Alamos, California
(805) 344-4400
http://www.fulloflifefoods.com/