Six Taste Food Tour: Taiwanese Food in Arcadia

Dry Wontons in Spicy Oil and Minced Garlic

There is a short list of reasons I will get up before 9 AM on a Saturday morning. A very short list. Of course, I wouldn’t be a food blogger without a few of those having to do with food (e.g. beating the dim sum crowd), and I’ve just added “Taiwanese food tour” to that list.

Juicy Pork Dumplings - Din Tai Fung

So if you choose the “Delicious Dumpling” Six Taste food tour, be prepared that Arcadia is where you’ll have to drive on a weekend morning – but you can rest assured that the trip is well worth it. You won’t have to get in your car again until the conclusion and when you do leave, you’ll be properly sated as you depart (unfortunately, this does not apply to vegetarians).

Arcadia is the 3rd largest Taiwanese population outside of the native island, with San Marino to the north being the 2nd (meanwhile, my own Taiwanese parents decided on Wisconsin). As always, it’s best to go to the source, or at least where a majority of ex-pats migrated to from the source.

Fried Pork Chop

Krista (Brand X), Marian (Marian the Foodie), Cathy (Gastronomy Blog) and I started out at J.J. Bakery, guided by Arcadia native Michael, our tour guide for the morning. We learned about common characteristics of Taiwanese pastries. Then, we moved on to the notorious Din Tai Fung, the definite focus of the tour. The Taiwanese dumpling chain known for their delicate skinned pouches filled with soup and pork rarely disappoints. Michael showed us tea etiquette and how to properly eat our shiao long bao, by poking or biting a hole into the dumpling and pouring out the soup onto our spoon. No soy sauce – just black vinegar and ginger – should accompany the bite-size dumpling.

Taiwanese Sausage with Garlic

Afterwards, we walked to the neighboring plaza to try out SinBala, so-named after the chantings of a Taiwanese dice game. Here, we tried Taiwanese sausages with various dressings, like traditional garlic slices, shredded basil and mango. We also tried chili wontons, an oyster pancake (a common Taiwan night market treat) and fried pork chop. Most were not too keen on the oyster pancake (in fact, I like the egg runnier than it was prepared) but the sausages and the wontons went over well.

Our last stop was a goods shop that shared a space with a Lollicup bubble tea store. Beef jerky and dried foods were stored in bins and we were free to taste anything that so pleased us. It reminded me of my last trip to Taiwan, when we visited a Hakka village with tons of dried goods. Preserved and pickled goods were made very popular when food was scarce since they were made to last longer.

Shaved Ice with Mango and Ice Cream

To close out the tour, we of course had some Taiwanese shaved ice with condensed milk, mangos and ice cream. It was definitely a treat – though it raised questions about the fluffier shaved snow. That will have to wait until our self-guided Taiwanese tour that a few bloggers and I will inevitably do another Saturday.

Though I’m Taiwanese in blood and have visited the Motherland enough times to count on both hands, I still learned a lot on the tour about Taiwanese food and community in Southern California (not being fluent or literate will stunt things in that area). Six Taste also conducts tours in so many other areas of Metro LA, with the Taiwanese tour being the east-most based tour. For the uninitiated, with visitors and residents alike, it’s a great way to get shown the ropes on the neighborhood you’re most curious about.

Six Taste Food Tours: Delicious Dumpling Tour

Select Saturdays

$55

J.J. Bakery
1130 S. Baldwin Ave.
Arcadia, CA 91007

Din Tai Fung
1108 S. Baldwin Ave.
Arcadia, CA 91007

SinBala
651 W. Duarte Rd., Ste F
Arcadia, CA 91007

The FoodGPS Beverly Blvd Walking Tour: The Recap

Creamed Corn and Fried Chicken at Eva

On Sunday, I joined Josh Lurie of Food GPS and a good showing of food bloggers, writers and fans for a Beverly Blvd walking tour. It was really nice to get a flagship bite from each of four stops as well as glean some history from a couple landmarks on the way, such as CBS Studios and Pan Pacific Park.

Mark Gold

We started off at Eva where Mark Gold was reminiscent of his posh tenure with Patina and his subsequent move to his own venture, occupying the old Hatfield’s space. Left to his own devices, he is free to thrive, free to fail – but free, nonetheless – and it certainly looks like it’s the former case for him a mere 10 months later.

Tuesday night is a popular night at Eva, when guests can enjoy his famous buttermilk, duck fat and tabasco battered fried chicken and beer to their heart’s content for just $25. The restaurant as a whole – for lunch or dinner – is a place you can rely on for good bang for the buck, as there are consistently solid dishes that emerge from Gold’s kitchen at reasonable prices. I could eat Eva’s creamed corn – infused with bay leaf and bechamel – and fried chicken for days.

Steamed Mussels in Tomato, White Wine & Chili Broth

Afterwards, we walked two doors down to BLD, which is owned by Neal Fraser (Grace). Chef Diana Stavaridis runs the kitchen, which prepared steamed, tomato and white wine mussels for the tour group. They were delicious with a surprisingly deep flavor to the light broth.

On our way to MILK, we passed the former location of Grace, which Josh divulged was relocating to the Vibiana Cathedral in Downtown Los Angeles. A location reversal of sorts will occur, as Chef John Sedlar of Rivera in downtown will be expanding and serving up more casual eats under the name R26 in Grace’s former space. It’s slated for fall of this year.

Watermelon Sorbet Ice Cream Sandwich

At MILK, we enjoyed an array of ice cream served different ways and in a large variety of flavors. I was lucky to be first in line (or shall we say, prompt?) and secured a cookie sandwich with oversized, flat green macarons encasing watermelon sorbet with chocolate chips  mixed in, which somewhat resembled watermelon seeds for that delicious and cute factor.

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The Food GPS Beverly Boulevard Walking Tour

Fried Chicken at Eva

As far as Los Angeles neighborhoods in which there’s a high concentration of great places to eat, Beverly Boulevard and its vicinity has to be one of the top destinations. Fortunately, Joshua Lurie a.k.a. Food GPS has set up an eating tour that will take his guests to four such closely-located eateries. You’ll get to visit and sample a creation from each chef at Eva, BLD, Golden State Cafe and Milk all in one afternoon for a low cost of $45, including tax and tip. Meet other food-lovers and learn a little bit about the neighborhood. Sounds like a win-win way to spend an otherwise-lazy Sunday.

Have questions? Look none further than sending an email to joshua [at] foodgps.com

So buy your ticket. I wouldn’t sit on this one. Josh’s eating tours (see: Santa Monica and Downtown L.A.) have historically sold out!

Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 3 PM

Tickets: $45

Eva Restaurant
7458 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2701
323.634.0700

Golden State Cafe
426 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.782.8331

BLD
7450 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2701
323.930.9744

Milk
7290 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2545
323.939.6455

OC Eating: South Coast Plaza Restaurant Tour

I always knew that South Coast Plaza was one of the premiere places in Southern California to shop. Until recently, I’d never the opportunity to find out that it’s also a destination to eat. I, along with a few other bloggers, were invited by the PR company representing the South Coast Plaza restaurants to go on a tour, extending overnight, of a few of them.

Our first stop was Hamamori – a Japanese restaurant headed by James Hamamori. While I wasn’t sure what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised – mostly by the sushi dishes that came out. Above is freshwater eel sushi with foie gras and a torch taken to the top layer – rich texture and taste. Also good was a yellowtail sushi prepared with lemon salt and topped with chili paste, which actually had me wishing there was a bit more chili paste on the sushi as I tend to prefer spice in each bite if given the choice. A scallop version also prepared with lemon and shiso salt but topped with caviar, instead, was also good. The appetizers were also respectable. There was a dish of chopped, seared albacore prepared with soy, vinegar and fried green onions which seemed rather typical but a creative option was an asparagus tempura but the dish – instead of being simply battered and fried – was encrusted with bits of fried japanese crackers. A heated stone option is also available if sizzing, fine slices of kobe beef dipped in sauce fits your fancy. Chili salt, apple sesame and steak sauce are paired for the dunking. The first was a sort of unremarkable dipping option (tasted simply as salt – not much chili) while the apple sesame reminded me of a Korean BBQ marinade. The steak sauce was a tad smokier yet still sweet. The experience of cooking one’s own meat on the table, in any case, makes for an interactive experience fit for family outings and dates alike.
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