Wednesday, May 11, 2011

LaSpada's Hoagies (University Drive)


     Back when I was in high school I remember hearing about LaSpada's and how everyone loved the food there.  Now I didn't have a car back then and where I went out to eat was basically at the whim of my parents.  You can imagine that as an Asian household we didn't really go out for hoagies or the like very often/at all.   As a result, the name LaSpada's would disappear from my mind until just recently.

     As I was driving one weekend back to campus from home, I noticed a sign that read LaSpada's Hoagies.  Was this the same place that I've heard of, the famed LaSpada's?  If it was LaSpada's what did they even serve?  It sounded Italian and every time I had heard of LaSpada's from someone in high school it wasn't associated with a type of food, just that it was "so good!"  I definitely didn't associate hoagies with the name, but apparently that's what they are known for - really large hoagies with fresh cut deli meats (the fact that the sign said "LaSpada's Hoagies" should have been another tip off).

     The plaza that LaSpada's is located in is very nondescript.  I suppose the only good thing about it is that it's a stone's throw from Nova Southeastern University.  I honestly wouldn't have stopped by if it wasn't for the fact that they had awesome word of mouth back in the Boca area.  Apparently LaSpada's has opened up a few locations, 4 to be exact, throughout Florida.  The interior is extremely simple - tables, chairs, and the counter where the hoagies are made.  The walls really don't have anything on them, they're just white/no frills. The place really doesn't have much of a personality of its own, but it's not the decor which matters in the end, just the food. ^_^


     The menu is really easy to read and honestly you have one of two choices: grab a salad or a hoagie for lunch.  They have all your basic cuts of deli meats available, chicken salad, meatballs, and even crabmeat.  I knew I was going to get an 8" hoagie, but I was debating between the chicken salad and roast beef.  I'm such a sucker for anything with mayo, so I was leaning towards the chicken salad.  One of the employees beind the counter took notice of my conundrum and kindly let me try out the chicken salad, which I thought was cool, before making my decision. The chicken salad was simply dressed with just a bit of celery and tossed lightly in mayonnaise; not a ton of fancy non-related fixings here.  Though the chicken was moist and cooked well, it was slightly lacking in flavor.   Maybe if they added a tinge bit more of salt it would have been better.  In the end I opted for the roast beef on white.

     At LaSpada's all the meat is sliced fresh right in front of you.  None of this pre-sliced, pre-measured stuff.  They bring out the huge hunk of meat, slice it in front of you, weigh it, and then place it on your hoagie.  After choosing a plethora of toppings they topped the hoagie with even more roast beef!  I'm guessing it's to keep the fixings from falling out. =)  That's my best guess and I'm sticking to it!

     It was a pretty big hoagie, more so in girth than in length.  Since I had some studying to do I wrapped it back up and headed over to the dorm to devour it in peace along with microbiology notes.  I took the picture below in my dorm, so you could see the ratio of meat to fixings.  There's no way that the entire "small" hoagie was fitting in my stomach by the way, nu-uh.  I finished half for lunch and saved the other half for a midnight snack later.


     With tax it was a little under $8 for the hoagie at LaSpada's.  At Publix, its equivalent (if you got Boar's Head brand deli meat) would be around the same price, I believe it's 30 cents cheaper or so.  LaSpada's hoagie's fillings have a decreased chance of falling out when you're eating it and I like their bread better than what they have available at Publix.  Otherwise, I'd say their hoagies/subs are about equivalent.  Now I'm not dissing LaSpada's by any stretch of the imagination, I think Publix subs are quite good actually and definitely both are far better choices than Subway or Quiznos.  In the end, I'm not head over heels in love with LaSpada's or hoagies in general, but if I feel in the mood for a good sandwich, LaSpada's wouldn't be a bad choice. =)

LaSpada's Original Hoagies
2645 S. University Dr.
(954) 476-1099
LaSpada's Original Hoagies on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Boiling Point (California - West Garvey Avenue)

Boiling Point 1 - Sign

  California back post 4 of 6.  Stinky tofu, the first time I had heard of it was on Andrew Zimmerman's Bizarre Foods; though his description of it really didn't sound all that appetizing.  However, I knew my boyfriend had always wanted to try it out, so when we went to California we stopped by Boiling Point in West Garvey.  Upon spying the poster in the window facing the street I immediately gravitated to the house special hot soup.  I <3 exotic cuts of meats!

Boiling Point 2 - Special

     The restaurant itself was pretty small, but it wasn't bad finding seating as we came pretty early for lunch service.  However as we started eating, it quickly got busier as the peak of the lunch hour approached.  With all the hot pots in the room it quickly heated up the surrounding environment, so it was fairly warm inside the restaurant.  Thankfully I love the heat (<3 for Florida being warm 90% of the year), so it didn't bug me very much.  However, I can see how after a while it might start to have an effect on others who might not like the room being that warm.  Midway through service, the staff did end up opening a window over the door in order to let out some of the excess heat.

Boiling Point 10 - Inside

     It was $8.99 for each hot pot with a free beverage for the lunch special, I mean who can beat that?  The hot pots are individually sized and they're of a decent portion.  Of course I decided on the House Special Hot Soup which contained stinky tofu, pork intestines, meat balls, salty veggies, quail egg, green nira, cilantro, pork blood, enoki mushroom, kamaboko, pork slicers, nappa, and tomato.  *Whew* What a long ingredient list full of wonderful off beat proteins and I was excited to try them all!  Depending on how adventurous you felt, you could ask them to tweak the spiciness level of the soup base from mild to an authentic spice level (which I'm going to guess is incredibly hot).  I chose to be somewhere in the middle, as I wasn't in the mood to tempt the fates with the top level of spiciness. =)

     So after we made our hot pot selections we added onto our order some extras like more slices of meat, meatballs, fishballs, blood cakes, etc. on the side.  It reminded me of ordering dim sum since the menu resembled a dim sum menu, putting the numbers of orders we wanted next to the item.  While we waited for our food we grabbed some of the special dipping sauces they had available: Spicy garlic bean paste, garlic creamy soy sauce, and the house special spicy sauce.  You could either dip random cooked items in them directly or spice up your hot pot's broth, whatever you felt like!  The house special spicy sauce was my favorite, the bean paste not so much...but that's entirely preference because I'm not a fan of beans (don't let my distaste of beans deter you from trying the sauce).  I remember the garlic soy sauce didn't really wow me since it was just...garlic + soy sauce, nothing too special.

Boiling Point 3 - Sauces

     After a little bit of waiting, the parade of extras started to come out of the kitchen...

Boiling Point 4 - Bloodcakes
Boiling Point 5 - More add ons
Boiling Point 6 - Add ons

     Just a friendly bit of advice, if you order the blood cakes don't let them sit around for too long because as we would later find out they have this tendency to um...un-coagulate.  X_x  

     Our table was nearly overwhelmed with the amount of extras!  I don't think we were entirely prepared for the onslaught of food, we severely underestimated the amount of food we were going to receive.  To make matters worse (or better... ^_^ definitely better) the hot pots then came out!

Boiling Point 7 - Hot pot (top view)
Boiling Point 8 - Hot pot (side view)
Boiling Point 9 - Hot pot (top view)

     It was a steaming bowl of pure yummy goodness.  To take a quote from Grey's Anatomy, I could see "lines of deliciousness" emanating from the hot pot!  My only gripe was that because there were so many components for my hotpot that I only received a small portion of each item (my favorite part was the blood cakes).  Everything still tasted amazing though, all the flavors worked really well together, and honestly we had a bunch of random supplements to add on to what we purchased so I wasn't too upset about not having more blood cake, meatballs, fishballs, etc.

     Onto the stinky tofu, why we actually came here!  It actually didn't have as offensive of a smell that I thought it would possess.  It was actually a very mild odor, faintly smelling of gym socks (the best way I can describe it).  The taste was like one of those smelly cheeses, it wasn't that off putting, it just tasted like a mildly aged cheese but in the form of tofu.  It wasn't bad by any means, but it seems to be more of an acquired taste.

     By the way, don't worry about losing your soup base to evaporation because one of the waiters will happily come by to replenish the supply.  My boyfriend was slightly miffed when I had them refill his soup while he was off in the restroom because I diluted all the concentrated goodness that the proteins and veggies had imparted.  Whoops... ^_^()  The same applies if the fire underneath the hot pot seems to go out.  I know we ran out of sterno at a few points and the waiters were more than happy to relight the fire.

     Overall we had a fantastic time at boiling point.  The food and service were great and the price was right!  If I didn't have so many other places that I plan to visit my next trip out to California, I'd definitely stop by and eat here again.  <3  Boiling point, keep on doing what you're doing.

Boiling Point
153 West Garvey Avenue
Monterey Park, CA 91754-2801
(626) 288-9876
Boiling Point on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The return to Half & Half Teahouse (California - San Gabriel)

     Back post from California - post 3 of 6!  Perhaps what makes posting older pictures more exciting is that I'm going back to California in just a little over a month.  I'm really looking forward to returning to a few of my favorite places as well as visiting a ton of new restaurants. ^___^  Sooooo excited!

     Anyways, a group of us went to visit Half & Half Teahouse in San Gabriel since I was having massive cravings for honey boba.  I'm not sure how they infuse the boba with the honey taste, but keep on doing what you're doing Half & Half Teahouse, because they are out of this world.  Usually boba doesn't tickle my fancy as it only serves as a vehicle for texture contrast, but the honey imparts a subtle sweetness which I <3.  

     The ambiance had changed slightly from our last visit.  Last time it was a rather chill place to hang out and have snacks and boba.  I loved the fact that people were playing WoW (WoW = World of Warcraft) in the back of the teahouse last time!  However, I guess it had gotten a LOT more popular because the place was packed and didn't really seem as conducive to simply sitting down and chilling for long periods of time.  In fact I would have felt quite rude to linger about at a table sipping my boba slowly and snacking with my friends (only because I'm a slow eater) since people were lining up out the door waiting for a place to sit down.  It's good that they are busy though!

     I noticed that in my absence they had added shaved ice to the menu.  Score!  I wanted to try shaved ice for the first time and that was actually on my fooding itinerary for the California trip.  "Find shaved ice," double check!   Since I loved my boyfriend's almond milk tea so much last visit I ordered one this time around (with honey boba, of course).  My boyfriend ordered a sesame milk tea and we also ordered a shaved ice to share.  

Half & Half Almond Half & Half Sesame

     I felt that the almond milk tea had a stronger, more pronounced flavor than the sesame milk tea, but they were both very good.  And it's always a plus when the boba is cooked well, which they were.  No one likes half-way cooked boba!  A few minutes after our drinks arrived, the shaved ice was served to our table.

Half and Half Teahouse 1

     I forget what the name it had on the menu, but it had honey boba, custard, caramel, and a scoop of icecream.  I was in heaven, it was just soooo yummy!!!  Each component was flavorful on their own and when tasted all together everything blended harmoniously.  The only sad thing was that there was so much that we couldn't eat it fast enough before it started to melt!  X_x  And melted ice = not so yummy, so eat it quickly!  Well...not too fast.  Too Fast = brain freeze.

     I can't wait to go back, just hopefully it's not during peak hours this time.  XD

Half & Half Tea House
120 N. San Gabriel Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91775
(626) 309-9387
Half & Half Tea House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

RM Seafood (Las Vegas - Mandalay Bay)

     This is yet another back blog from my California trip.  Prior to visiting California we stopped in Vegas for a few days.  I went to a few restaurants in that time frame, one of them being RM Seafood.  I enjoy watching Top Chef and Top Chef Masters, so I was pretty excited to try out Rick Moonen's RM Seafood.  Prior I had visited Richard Blais's Flip Burger in Georgia (which was awesome) and later on in the trip I would visit Bazaar by Jose Andres (where Marcel Vigneron worked for a while...and also very good establishment).

     I had made reservations a month ahead for the general dining room since my friends didn't feel like trying out RM upstairs (mostly due to fears of still being hungry after the pre-fixe).  We were greeted warmly and promptly seated at a table when we arrived.  

RM Seafood - Dining Area

     I loved the overall ambiance, it was modern without feeling pretentiousness.  There was a gently rolling stream of water over head near the bar, which I thought was pretty nice and soothing.  Again, I enjoyed the fact that the kitchen was open so you could watch your food being made. =)  

RM Seafood - Open Kitchen

     So we started with an order of the Rhode Island style calamari w/ sweet and spicy cherry peppers ($15).  While it was cooked and seasoned well, I wouldn't say it was anything out of the ordinary for me.  Maybe it's because I live in Florida and always have seafood when I'm home.  My friend from Kansas said it was the best made calamari he had ever had though.  This dish was neither a hit or a miss for me, it was done well but unremarkable.  

RM Seafood - Calamari

     My boyfriend loves BBQ, so we ordered a side of the Mac N' Cheese BBQ style ($12).  We asked for it without jalapeños since my boyfriend detests the taste of them.  Sadly the first one that came out had jalapeños in them. =(  The waiter apologized profusely and then took it back to have another made sans jalapeños.  The second order came and it was cold in the center.  Usually I wouldn't care...but it was a $12 side, so again I asked them if they could rectify the problem, to which they politely obliged.  So it came out a third time, but this time Rick Moonen's son brought the dish over to our table to make sure it was made correctly and that we were satisfied, which I thought was very thoughtful of them and showed that they cared about quality and customer service.  Third time is a charm, it was hot and without any peppers.  =)

     However, despite coming out without jalapeños and freshly made, it didn't titillate our palettes. X_x  It's been almost a year, so I don't remember what about it we didn't like, but it really didn't resonate well with us as a harmonious dish.  Yes, it was mac n' cheese with BBQ in it...but it just didn't really work.  I totally give them an A for effort and customer service though on this one!  Thanks for trying guys, it just wasn't for us.  

RM Seafood - Mac n' Cheese

     We also shared the "Moon" Doggies which was shrimp corn dogs, cabbage slow, and cilantro mayo ($14).  I think I over hyped the dish after seeing it on Top Chef Masters.  I mean, what's not to love with shrimp in corn dog form?  As much as I loved the novelty, I wasn't blown away by the dish at all.  Again, it wasn't bad by any means, but it didn't blow my socks off either.  It's a corn dog, just with shrimp!  XD

RM Seafood - Shrimp Dogs

     What did blow me away at RM Seafood was the Oyster Sampler ($3.75 each).  Though I'm totally not surprised that it blew me away, since they emphasize fresh and sustainable seafood.  The oyster sampler exemplifies what RM Seafood does the best: fresh, simply cooked (or in this case raw) seafood.  Again sadly I've misplaced the descriptions of the oysters which I was served (see that little slip of paper in the picture?  I lost that ;_; ), but they all had unique flavors which stood out from your regular run of the mill oysters.    

RM Seafood - Oysters

     For an entrée I had the handmade cavatelli with morel mushrooms, blue crab, and a meyer lemon foam ($25).  Apparently this was taken off the menu at RM Seafood because I can't find the description on the site anymore.  Everything was made well, it's just the flavors were "oh-so-subtle" beyond belief.  I mean, I love subtle flavors, but this was bordering on bland.  =(  My boyfriend told me I should complain, but at this point I felt sooo bad for bugging anyone especially after the Mac N' Cheese fiasco!  Eventually I relented, voiced my opinion (I'm sure I did it very apologetically, I don't like sending food back), and they let me choose something else from the menu.

RM Seafood - Handmade Cavatelli

     I decided just to have something light, so I ordered some sushi: the RM style garlic tuna with big eye tuna, pickled spring garlic, and ponzu and also an order of the RM style red king crab with plum wine gelatin, and shiso leaf.  The fish were extremely fresh, probably one of the best pieces of sushi grade tuna I've had honestly as well as king crab.  I'm not sure the plum wine gelatin did much for me, although the flavor was interesting.  I was pretty satisfied with the sushi overall.

RM seafood - Sushi

     But with all the ups and downs of the night, the huge highlight of the evening was Rick's tasting game, 16 flavors of icecream and sorbet served blind ($18).  That was all types of fun, trying to figure out what flavors were served just by taste.  There were some eye opening flavors in our mix, specifically I remember guinness, garlic, key lime, and milk (couldn't figure out plain milk for the life of us, lol).  Honestly, it was totally a blast testing out our palettes and arguing amongst ourselves what flavors they could be.  They give you little sheets so you can write down your guesses and when you're done they give you an answer sheet. =)  

RM seafood - Ice Cream Tasting

     The service at RM seafood was great, the food was hit/miss/middling, and the ambiance was lovely.  Would I return here again to eat?  I probably would, but only for the raw bar and the icecream/sorbet tasting game.  Guinness silly. =)

RM Seafood
3930 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV, 89119
RM Seafood (Mandalay Bay) on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 22, 2011

MILK (California - Los Angeles)

     Back post from California - post 3 of 6!  On our first trip to California we drove by MILK while perusing the Beverly Hills area while waiting for our reservation time at Pizzeria Mozza.  Although it looked pretty interesting, we didn't stop by at that point.  Only after we had returned home to Florida did I look up MILK online and saw that it had some decent reviews.  I made a note of it and the next time we visited Cali we stopped by before our Mozza reservation.  

MILK - Exterior

     I was quite amused since the store is right across the street from the Insomnia cafe, which is used on the Bold and the Beautiful for a set (at least the exterior).  As a result I had a very silly moment in front of the cafe where I threw my head upon my forehead in a dramatic pose (maybe more cheesy than dramatic...) while my boyfriend took a picture.

     Anyways back on topic!  The parking is kind of rough in the area where MILK is located.  There's very limited spaces for parallel parking in the adjacent areas and behind the store.  We had to circle around a few times before we found a spot.  The inside is pretty simple, they have a freezer case with a selection of ice creams and sorbets, and a counter top full of cookies, brownies, and other goodies.  Their menu is pretty extensive as I was just expecting your basic ice cream parlor.  They had soups, salads, sandwiches, pastas, etc.  Pretty impressed to say the least.

MILK - Counter

     The freezer case was conveniently labeled with what flavors they had available for everything.  Since we were about to grab dinner, we decided to keep it light and ordered some bon bons which can be seen at the bottom of the freezer case in the picture below.  I really wish we could have ordered more; there were so many options and they all looked equally delicious!

MILK - Goodies

     We bought a mix of vanilla and berry.  The bon bons were a tad expensive; I forgot how much we actually paid for them, but in the end I didn't really complain since they were well worth the money.  These days it's a rarity to find a halfway decent bon bon!  The Dibs you find in the freezer section of the supermarket are just not well made and prone to death via freezer burn.  =(       

MILK - Bon Bons

     The last time I remember enjoying a bon bon as much as the one's in MILK were back when I was a little girl sharing them with my mom and dad at home.  I was really sad when they disappeared off the supermarket shelves and elated when they made a come back recently.  Sadly, Dibs just isn't up to snuff.  MILK's are wonderful though and I wish I lived close enough to indulge in them more than just once every year or two (+ added cost of an airplane ticket).  

MILK - Single Berry Bon Bon

     The bon bons at MILK have a light exterior with a satisfying crunch without being too thick.  The ratio of chocolate to ice cream is spot on and the quality of the freshly made ice cream really brought everything together perfectly; there were even random berry bits in the berry ice cream. ^__^  I'll definitely revisit MILK the next time I'm in California, I just don't look forward to searching for parking!

7290 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 93906455
Milk on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dixie Crossroads (Titusville)

     Whenever my boyfriend and I sojourn up to Orlando, we always stop by and visit Titusville for fresh seafood.  ...Alright, maybe just their rock shrimp!  As much as I <3 their seafood in general, it's the rock shrimp that really attracts us to Dixie Crossroads!  Oh and I am also totally aware that Titusville is north and east of Orlando by quite a bit, but believe me, it's well worth the drive.

     A friend from high school introduced me to Dixie Crossroad back in college.  She had lived in the area for a few years and knew where to find the best food. =)  And honestly out of all my friends, she's probably one of the few whom I can call a fellow "foodie".

So when a group of us went to Epcot for the weekend, I had to introduce my friends to Dixie Crossroads.  I hope they don't think I'm crazy for going so out of the way for food since it was an hour away from where we were staying. ^_^()  Anyways, at Dixie Crossroads they always start you out with their corn fritters.  They are kind of like hush puppies but with real kernels of corn in them and topped with powdered sugar.  Even though they are very simple, they are incredibly addicting.  Beware, the powered sugar ends up everywhere if you aren't careful!


     My friends got the Dixie Spectacular which is 1 Maine lobster, 1 dozen rock shrimp, 1/4 lbs. of scallops, and 1/2 lbs of crab legs for $34.99.  Everything you get can be broiled, steamed, or fried; it's whatever you prefer.  I would suggest getting your seafood broiled so the natural flavor of everything you ordered really shines through.  The subtle notes honestly disappear when you have everything fried and this is coming from a girl who really <3's her fried foods.  They can also add spices during the cooking process if you want such as Old Bay.  I've never ordered anything with the optional seasonings, so I can't comment on how they taste.  The lobster is cleaned and split for you, so there's no need to worry about wrestling with the critter. =)

Dixie Spectacular

Cape Canaveral Special
    My boyfriend and I decided to split the Cape Canaveral Special which is 1 dozen shrimp, 2 dozen rock shrimp, and 1/4 lbs of scallops.  All the seafood was cooked extremely well, nothing was over or underdone. For the snow crab in the Dixie Spectacular you can tell it's cooked right when you snap the legs and the meat just slides out, oh so easily!

     As I said, the main pull for us to frequent Dixie Crossroads is the rock shrimp.  It's a shrimp which doesn't really taste like shrimp, it has a slightly different flavor profile - something more akin to lobster.  Actually all the specialty shrimp (white, brown, pink, royal red, etc.) which are served on a seasonal basis at Dixie Crossroads are all pretty stunning with a myriad of flavor profiles from.  They all have distinctive tastes which thankfully is well described on the special's menu depending on what's in season.  However, the rock shrimp is my favorite by a landslide. =)

Dixie Crossroads
1475 Garden St
(321) 268-5000
Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Me vs. Natto

     I'm always up for new culinary adventures and experiences to expand my palette. You'll never know if you like or dislike something until you have tried it (and even then, your taste buds may change over the years)!  My boyfriend constantly tries out foods he dislikes just to ensure he still doesn't like them.  Although most of the time though, he confirms what he believed prior.

     My palette has sent me on a lot of different adventures such as my search for stinky tofu, blood cakes, foie gras, fresh uni, and anything based on molecular gastronomy. I'm still on the prowl for fugu (aka puffer fish)!  Yes, I am totally aware of the effects of TTX (that was so last semester in physiology) and I still want to try fugu (for the taste, not the numbness). 

     Anyways, I digress... As part of one of my classes I was asked to expand my "cultural horizons" and I thought what a great time to try out a traditional Japanese dish called natto!  Natto is basically fermented soy beans. Which in retrospect sounds a lot like stinky tofu, but the soy beans are kept whole. 


     I didn't really mind stinky tofu when I had it in LA at Boiling Point.  I was expecting about the same taste from the natto, maybe a little bit stronger.  The smell was definitely more overpowering than I expected.  To me it smelled like a cross between durian and cheese that had been left out a little bit longer than it should have been.  Basically, the smell wasn't that appetizing and our sense of smell is one part of the mechanism through which we taste food!  I still wasn't convinced that I wasn't going to like natto though, since there are some funky smelling things out there that taste wonderful.  What was a little disconcerting however was the presence of a distinct slimy glycocalyx.


     Usually I'd associate a slime layer with a huge "do not eat me" sign, just like those toxic frogs from the rain forest who don bright neon colors.  However, I was not going to be that easily deterred!  Ok, there was a little wavering, but after some encouragement from my colleagues, I took my first bite!  And to make an already long story short, it's just not for me.  

     I find myself at a loss for words to actually describe the flavor profile...I think the word "natto" is probably the best descriptor I can give.  Natto tastes like...well natto!  I mean no offense to those who actually like natto, more power to you, it's just not for me.  The slimy outer covering imparted an "interesting" texture, one that I won't be forgetting any time soon.  The smell and texture alone nearly did me in.  X_x  I'm glad I tried it though, maybe in a few years I'll drum up the courage to give it another go.  After all I have to make sure I really don't like it, right?   


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