October 31, 2010

Club 33

Club 33 is a relief from the bustle at Disneyland, but accessible only by members (individuals or corporate) or guests of members. It's a high price to be a member, involving an initial fee ($10K+, I hear) and maintenance in the form of annual dues running into the thousands, so if you have a chance to go, take it!

An invitation to Club 33 includes a one-day park hopper ticket but requires you to dine at the restaurant that day (or the member will be charged for your ticket). The rules, given to you when you pick up your admission tickets, stipulate a minimum dining charge of a one-day one-park ticket per person ($76), but the menu states a minimum of $72. Either way, you will go well over $100 per person (with drinks) so it doesn't really make much of a difference.

It's been a long time since I've been an Annual Pass holder so I made the most of my day and spent nearly 14 hours at Disneyland/California Adventure. If you decide to do the same, you should mind the dress code and prepare accordingly. For dinner, the rules suggest collared shirts and trousers for the men, and informal dresses or pants paired with a blouse for women. While I witnessed people in suits and cocktail attire, there were also a handful in jeans and short-sleeved collared shirts. I decided to wear a simple slip dress that could go from day to night and had no problems getting in.

I did not have the chance to ring the doorbell like so many people here, probably because I had the first reservation slot of the night. The receptionist popped out and asked for all the 5:30-people and admitted them accord
ingly. The lobby on the first floor is a small room, where the receptionist takes your coat. Take the French lift to the second floor where the two dining rooms are. There's the formal dining room and a trophy room, both with their pros. The dining room has a view over New Orleans Square and a larger space. You can also access the balconies from here. The trophy room has more interesting decorations. Be sure to ask for a tour or just take the time to walk around. The overall space of the restaurant is small so be sure to avoid the busy waiters/waitresses/bussers.

Service, at all Disneyland restaurants, is pretty impeccable and it's no different at Club 33. The glasses never ran empty, the tables were cleared promptly (but you were never rushed), napkins were folded every time you got up, and the utensils were changed accordingly between courses.

For dinner, you had a choice of the Vintner tasting or some a
la carte entrees and appetizers. I did the 5-course Vintner, which changes seasonally, and at that time was "Celebrating the World of Color":

#1 Forest mushroom vol-au-vent, spiced mango cream: I think this was my favorite dish of the night. The flavors of the mushrooms were strong but not overwhelming and the puff pastry provided an excellent flaky foundation.

Mushroom vol au vent

#2 Rock lobster, tree ripened peach risotto, charred asparagus: The risotto was rich and dense with obvious peach flavors. Asparagus wasn't charred per se but it was a nice way to get in your vegetables for the day. The lobster portion was generous and solid.

Rock lobster with peach risotto

#3 Braised Chateaubriand medallions, Maui onion consomme: Sadly, my entree fell short of expectations. It was a little on the dry side and also, I was getting quite full at this point.

Chateaubriand medallions

#4 Cheese: There was a platter of three with accompanying toppings. My favorite was the brie with honey.

#5 I swapped out the lemon raspberry gateau for the chocolate trio (lava cake, hazelnut mousse, pot au creme): The chocolate was very, very rich and though dessert is my favorite course of any meal, I couldn't eat very much of it because I was bellyaching at this point. My choice of the three was definitely the chocolate hazelnut mousse, which was disguised as a bundt cake. The pot-au-creme had a strong espresso flavor and the lava cake was incredibly dense. Perfect for a chocolate lover.

I ended up staying around 2.5 hours at Club 33; I really wanted to watch Fantasmic from the balcony but the trees block most of the view. Overall, the dinner was memorable and I would love to come back and try the lunch buffet.

Club 33 (unofficial website)
1400 S Disneyland Drive
2nd Floor
Anaheim, CA 92802

September 16, 2010


Wurstküche has been on my list for the longest time and I finally made the trip out to LA's Art District this past week for a taste.

First of all, following the directions on your GPS will lead you to the back door, and the backside of the building is unmarked and blanketed in a sea of vines. Entering through the back will take you directly into the dining room, which is illuminated sparsely by scattered lighting (like most LA restaurants, I've noticed) and dominated by long tables and benches. The walls are flanked by additional, more intimate, seating arrangements and a bar.

I made my way to the front and went straight for the exotics section ($7.50 per sausage) on the menu.

With rattlesnake & rabbit and buffalo sausages, and fries with white truffle oil glaze on queue, I went back to the dining room with my glass of La Chouffe and waited about 10 minutes before dinner was served.

The rattlesnake and rabbit, topped with caramelized onions, made the night. After getting through the tight casing, you are rewarded with a deliciously juicy sausage that is perfectly spiced. I am not one to eat spicy stuff and I could handle this quite easily, so if you're looking for a lot of kick from the jalapenos, you'd be disappointed. The buns could use a makeover though. It had a strong floury taste and made the meal dry.

The truffle glazed fries were pungent and huge. When consulting the cashier about which size, klein or groot, to purchase, all he could say was, "The large feeds two." But if you're not a big eater, it can feed at least three. At least it gave the opportunity to try two sauces. I didn't really care for the Thai Peanut, but the Sundried Tomato Mayo was a superb.

800 E 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 687-4444

December 14, 2008

Father's Office

First, I apologize for the lack of pictures. I had forgotten my camera that night but I just had to relay my experience at Father's Office.

F.O. II is so, so, so much bigger than F.O. I (located in Santa Monica) and there was a parking lot! I remember when I went to F.O. I, I had to park in a little neighborhood and walk about a block to the restaurant during a chilly winter month.

It's a very laid-back atmosphere here with a linear row of tables and benches for outdoor seating. I couldn't help but notice a complementing line of heat lamps embedded into the wooden patio covering.

I got in around 10pm on a Thursday night. No lines, no wait -- not even for a table! There was plenty of seating inside and outside but it wasn't dead empty either. The feel is very contemporary and sleek with a lot of wood paneling going on. I'm not much of a beer drinker so I solicited the advice of the bartender who directed me to a very delicious Great White. As for my meal, I got the Office Burger ($12) with a side of sweet potato frites ($7).

My medium rare Office Burger was packed with meat, arugula and gooey Gruyere cheese. The arugula was notably fresh as the leaves were quite firm. I couldn't help but notice that something was a little off with the meat; it had a very apparent raw taste, which I've never experienced in all my years of ordering my meats medium rare.

The sweet potato frites are as amazing as everyone makes them out to be. I was really surprised that they weren't drenched in oil as most fries are. And they're served in a cute mini fryer -- though, I must admit that the shopping cart is cuter.

Father's Office

3229 Helms Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 736-2224

December 13, 2008

Stack Restaurant & Bar [Las Vegas]

Without reservations at 10pm, we were subjected to a 20-minute wait, which allowed us some time at the tables. Of course, we waited a little more when we returned and by that time I was starving. When they seated us, there were no complimentary bread baskets. Negative points.

My roasted tomato soup came with a side of mini grilled cheese sandwiches, which, I'm sad to report, were the best parts of my meal. The cheese was mild and the crust was taken off. I wish they used a different cheese though. The soup itself was very acidic and a much bigger portion than I had expected.

The pigs in a blanket were 11 small bites served in a bowl with ketchup and mustard on the side. They were extremely salty and I could have very easily done without this dish.

I don't mind spending two hours or more for dinner -- if it were some Michelin-star restaurant, which definitely wasn't the case at Stack. Our waitress was insufferably slow and didn't seem too concerned about our table. Take your money elsewhere.

Stack Restaurant & Bar
Mirage Resort and Casino
3400 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 792-7800

December 9, 2008

From Pudding To Cream Puffs

I had a major craving for pudding yesterday. But with the economy in decline, so was my penchant for eating out. It was then that it dawned on me to make my own pudding. This recipe on Chowhound is very simple and the ingredients can be easily obtained at any grocery.

It was unfortunate that after a few bites, all the sugar hit my brain and turned me off. Rather than waste an entire batch of perfectly good (but too sweet) pudding, I decided to turn it into something completely different: cream puffs.

A dear friend of mine had recently hosted a bake-a-thon, during which she cooked up a bunch of light, springy puffs. The recipe is as follows:
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3-4 eggs, plus 1 egg for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt, and granulated sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, immediately take the pan off the heat. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add all the flour at once and stir hard until all the flour is incorporated, 30 to 60 seconds. Return the pan to the heat and cook, stirring, 30 seconds to evaporate some of the moisture.

Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed. With the mixer running, and working 1 egg at a time, add 3 of the eggs, stopping after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If the dough is still clinging to the beaters, add the remaining egg and mix until incorporated.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe the dough onto the baking sheet, in 2-inch diameter rounds or balls. Whisk the remaining egg with 1 1/2 teaspoons water. Brush the surface of the rounds with the egg wash to knock down the points (you may not use all the egg wash). Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake until puffed up, and light golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Try not to open the oven door too often during the baking. Let cool on the baking sheet.

Notes about the recipe: The moisture in the eggs turns to steam and puffs the batter to try to release itself. You can fill them with anything.

Things I've learned from this first round:
  1. If making pudding, cut out a lot of sugar from the recipe.
  2. Spray oil on the foil or use a non-stick pan.
  3. Work on piping; the cream puffs had huge open cavities on the bottom (see last picture).
I decided to find piping techniques on YouTube and came across this excellent tutorial from Gordon Ramsay. Though he's making profiteroles, the beginning portion of the video provides wonderful coverage of the choux pastry. And he doesn't use a mixer either!

November 20, 2008

Breakfast of champions

I've been under the weather lately so I've been craving warmer and less solid foods, hence my oatmeal breakfasts.

My preparation of oatmeal has evolved over the years. Before, I would just enjoy it straight up without any additives. Then I experimented with brown sugar, bananas, berries, milk, but not all together.

Now that it's fall, I figured it'd be a great way to incorporate seasonal pomegranate into my breakfast.

Preparation is easy: oatmeal takes roughly 5 minutes on the stove, mix in some brown sugar to taste and sprinkle liberally with pomegranate.

November 19, 2008

Warning: Construction Zone

Please pardon our dust. We're currently working on revamping the website. Hopefully, the process won't take too long. Thanks for your patience and stay tuned for the new site.

April 19, 2008

The Lifesize Mousetrap

On a completely unrelated food note, I spent my Saturday afternoon riding the human ferris wheel, watching people set off the Lifesize Mousetrap, and then shoving my face with Bi-Rite ice cream and Tartine croissants. I was traveling most of March, but San Francisco gave me a warm welcome home.

Yes, I've been MIA, but the food adventures have certainly been moving full speed ahead. Some of my most memorable meals in the past few months:

  • Cuban beef stew, plantain, Cuban sandwiches @ El Palacio de Los Jugos (Cuban Grocery Store). Miami, FL
  • Cafe con leche @ Ayestaran. Miami, FL
  • XiangJiangBao at Shanghai Dumpling Shop. Sunnyvale, CA
  • BBQ and lemonade at The Salt Lick. Austin, TX
  • Flip Happy Crepes. Austin, TX
  • Sandwiches and muffins @ Cafe Soleil. Springdale, UT
  • Dutch baby pancakes @ Resto. Gramercy, NYC
  • Muffins @ Clinton Street Bakery. East Village, NYC
  • Fried rice @ IndoWok. Murray Hill, NYC
  • 13-ounce sirloin burger @ Le Tub. Hollywood, FL
  • Canneloni, cellini beans w/fried eggs, and yogurt sorbetti w/with strawberries. Brunch at SPQR. Japantown, SF

January 28, 2008

Pure Ingredients Cafe [Google MV]

I’ve always been good at finding healthy diversions from the workday and most recently, found myself garbed in a chef’s coat and toque at the Pure Ingredients Café, where I spent a morning as a culinary intern.

Each of the Google Cafes has its own rhyme and reason for existing. There’s Oasis with its dim sum, No Name with the healthy grilled meats and salads, American Table for its comfort food, and a number of other cafes to cater to your mealtime fancies. What drew me to the PIC in particular was its philosophy towards unadulterated, all natural, and all whole foods—no preservatives, no artificial ingredients, with everything from condiments to sodas are prepared in-house.

Over the course of four hours, I rolled sushi, battered and fried chicken, whipped up spicy hot chocolate cookies, gutted and butchered a number of chicken carcasses, and solicited hungry Googlers to try the yummy fish tacos. It reminded me a lot of my internship at the Hilton years ago, except that learning and having fun were the top priorities and providing manual labor, moreso an afterthought.

As an honorary Google chef, I learned that:

  • The tiny refrigerators necessitate daily deliveries of foodstuffs—ensuring freshness of the day’s bounty
  • We support local producers with corporate dollars that enable them to stay competitive against the WalMarts of the world
  • Making golf-ball sized balls of rice require me to overcompensate because in my world of proportion, everything should be smaller/shorter/lesser than what it actually is
  • Watching the mixer whip cookie batter into “ribbons” is strangely hypnotic and cathartic
  • Taking a cleaver to the drumsticks/wings is a great way to take out your aggression
  • Not to let all those smells of the kitchen make you overzealous enough to want to eat chicken straight out of the fryer. Resist the temptation!
  • To tap shoulders with a “behind,” to turn corners with an audible “corner,” and to give a “halfway” warning when fish tacos kept going like hotcakes

And most importantly, I learned that Mike tattoos on the side, Luis’’ favorite cuisine is Italian (in particular, chicken parmesan), that Jef had never been to Oliveto’s Whole Hog Dinner, and that Scott was actually one of the easier chefs to work for (for some reason I had envisioned a chaos of epic proportions a la Gordon Ramsay).

While my hands-on education in the kitchen will certainly serve me well in the year to come, I really walked away with an appreciation for the people who work behind the scenes. The smells of the kitchen snaking its way to your desk, the drumstick that was ungracefully ripped into shreds (my apologies for the defect), that involuntary mmms of approval–these and all the other unspoken currencies in my daily exchanges with the Google Cafes, finally materialized into something tangible. There is something to be said for the casseroles, ramekins, and stockpots of passion incarnate that you’ll sample on the server line, but there is nothing like seeing that passion at work.

My thanks to the kitchen staff at the PIC for being so hospitable to us fumbling interns, for being eager to share, and for reminding me to keep looking for that reason to get up in the morning (and to turn that reason into a living that'll make me a killing!).

January 2, 2008

Sushi Ran [Sausalito]

A photo montage of my most recent meal at Sushi Ran--a fabulous way to kick off 2008.

Cooked Food Selection

Nori-wrapped Ahi ($14), Grilled Calamari Tentacles ($4.5), and Shitake Mushrooms ($7.5). In general, mushroom dishes tend to be stellar at Japanese restaurants--Sushi Ran is no exception.

Raw Selection

Omakase Nigiri ($28 for seven pieces) and Omakase Sashimi ($29 for 10 pieces). Order either the Omakase Nigiri or Sashimi, but not both, since there are repeats across the selections.


Chocolate Bombe with Hazelnut Creme Anglaise and Bananas Foster. I've exhausted the dessert list at Sushi Ran and can vouch for the Trio of Custards in addition to the two shown above.

Sushi Ran
107 Caledonia Street
Sausalito, CA 94965
(415) 332-3620