y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: July 2011

L.A. Street Food Festival - Favorites

Earlier this month, I attended the 2nd Annual Summer Tasting Event, aka the L.A. Street Food Fest. 

Because this year, there were 2 shifts and it took place during 'Carmeggedon' weekend, where many L.A. residents stayed local to avoid traffic jams resulting from a major freeway closure, festival attendees were able to enjoy barely-there lines.

This year, what really drew me there were the Baja Chefs.

Javier Plascencia / Mision 19 - Grilled oyster with short rib chicharron, chili, ponzu butter, lemongrass foam and sea bean.

This elegant oyster dish tasted as wonderful as it looked - my favorite dish and the only one which I immediately asked for seconds (not caring about saving my appetite).

They grilled the oysters fresh in the tent and assembled the dish per order.

The judges voted it Best in Show and it won the People's Choice award as well. 

Manzanilla Restaurante called this dish Manzanilla Surprise. The abalone tostada really stood out, as did the two beef tostadas.

It was a pleasure to chat with Chef Javier Plascencia and let him know how much I enjoyed his dishes and asking when L.A. can have some more of his food.

Javier Plascencia / Casa Plascencia - Mini beef cheek tacos. The beef was tender and smokey. 

Some of the visitors were turning away upon hearing about beef cheeks and oysters, which left more for those who appreciate it.

Sabina Bandera / La Guerrerense won the judges award for Best Original Showmanship. She lined up these multiple bottles of fresh, hot, salsa on the table and served them according to peoples' preferences.

Sabina Bandera / La Guerrerense - Sea Urchin Tostada with Pismo Clam

The uni (sea urchin) was stewed, prepared in a way I had never tasted.

While in seafood mode, I hit Mariscos Chente for a delicious bite of Nayarit shrimp ceviche.

Streets of Thailand offered very good Thai iced tea in these smart carriers. Even after I finished my drink it seemed to stay on my wrist like a purse!

Tiara Cafe put up this eye catching sign and provided quite a show all in cowgirls and Indian outfits. Their food stood up to the show.

Tiara Cafe - Slow Smoked Short Ribs wrapped with mac and cheese and a seasoned crust, with squirt of BBQ sauce.

Naan Stop served delicious, crispy samosas from a family recipe, accompanied with apple tamarind and spicy coconut chutneys. They also introduced themselves and were very friendly. Judges awarded them 3rd place.

Taste of Tunisia had one of the longest lines. Because their food was good but also because they made each tasting fresh and on the spot. Props to them for that.

The tuna Brik contained runny egg, capers and other complementary ingredients.

They heavily decorated their tent and did their best to entertain people with reading material as they waited.

Maggie's Meat & Bread - choripan, tortilla espanola, chimichurri, carbonada

They offered several dishes, but due getting full, I tried this delicious Argentinian sandwich. More American sandwiches should feature potatoes (the tortilla espanola).

Border Grill Truck - quinoa fritters. Mary Sue Milliken 

These coin shaped fritters were so attractive, I really wanted to like them more. Unfortunately they were room temperature when I had them and had stiffened up a bit.

Glowfish's Okonomiyaki, a wheat pancake with cabbage, potato, eggs and tempura flakes sounded so good that I waited 10 minutes to try one. The sauce for me had way too much umami punch and drowned out the other light flavors.

There were a few other bites I tried but didn't photograph due to juggling beverage, plate and camera: 
  • Mariscos de Jalisco's tacos dorado de cameron (2nd place by Judges and my favorite from last year)
  • Mexicali Taco & Co's vampiro
  • King's Row Gastropub's lamb merguez corndog
  • IOTA's Korean pour over coffee
  • Ramen Jinya's shoyu tonkatsu ramen

A couple of places I wanted to try closed shop before I got there, such as the Picca tent, serving Judges' award for Best Nouveau Street Food - Ricardo Zarate - Peruvian Cau Cau . 

By that time I was ready for dessert.

Bulgarini Gelato served my favorite dessert hands down, and also the judges' Sweet Tooth award. They brought so many flavors of their gelato, it was almost as if you were in their shop.

I tasted almond, peach and plum. Their gelato tastes as if they somehow crushed the fresh ingredients into cream and froze it. The plum burst with tart and sweet plum flavor, and they happily served me a second helping of it.

Dan Moody / Relate served Banana Bread Pudding a la Pecan Pie, with a delicious bourbon sauce. A great bite.

There were several Masterchef contestants helping out former attorney Esther Kang with her Batch from Scratch cookie bakery. 

We spoke with Adrien and noticed Alejandra and Tracy working hard. It's great to see how they help each other out. I couldn't ask too much about what they are doing now, since the season is still airing.

Esther served us some lemon lavender and Scoops brown bread ice cream sandwiches. It made me wonder why there were 50+ people in line for Coolhaus next door.

Starry Kitchen's Star Wars themed staff brought a lot of energy to the event, as they always do.

Starry Kitchen served 3 dishes, including their infamous tofu balls, but since I've already tried many of their dishes and was full, it was just the pandan donut holes for me. They tied for 3rd place with the judges.

Gleeka - spanakopita, melomakarona (cookies) and baklava.

Delicious Wishes LA - Bananas Foster Cake Ball (and various flavors)

Basically the time flew by, from this 30-40 wait to get in, to me getting to the car 10 minutes after closing and finding the field almost empty!

I definitely was full and got to try several bites, only making a dent in all the offerings.

More Pacific Cheesecake Co Tasting

My last post on Pacific Cheesecake Co, which you can find at this link, extensively covered this great bakery.

Why am I doing a 2nd post? Because they are that good. And now I can focus on the savory flavors properly.

Last weekend I hosted a tasting event through Pleasure Palate in order to sample more of their flavors.

I won't repeat any background information but let's go straight to the cheesecake.

Our menu of tastings in whole form

The flavors we sampled:

  • red velvet - one of their most popular, yet not complex enough for me; still can't turn down cream cheese frosting!
  • white chocolate salted caramel - wonderful sweet + salty
  • sweet lemon basil - sublime, the group's favorite by majority
  • cinnamon coffee cake - unexpected, delicious combo
  • malted chocolate - very malty (in a good way), not too sweet
  • chocolate covered banana - their best seller, not surprisingly; delicious, garnished with salted roasted peanuts
  • orangecicle chocolate chip - divine combination; fresh orange zest adds a pop of fresh flavor
  • pumpkin - even those who don't like pumpkin pie liked this
  • Boston cream - a delicious extra treat thrown in by Karen; the custard and rich fudge makes it.

Flavors being offered at the bakery on that day

The savory tastings
And now we get to the savories.

On the left, savory feta and herb biscotti, more light and crumbly than typical biscotti since it's not meant to dip into coffee or anything. 

We ate the cakes with water crackers, but they are just as good on their own.

To the left, Pancetta Date. Creamy cheesecake, crispy pancetta, chopped dates and shallots, rolled in toasted cracker crumb. A bit sweeter than I expected, but solid flavor.

To the right, Gorgonzola Apricot. Creamy gorgonzola cheesecake, dried apricot, toasted cracker crumb and excellent spice seasoning. 

On very warm day, with partial shade, we were still very happy with these bountiful offerings. 

Thanks to our hosts for having us and helping make this event delightful.

Pacific Cheesecake Company on Urbanspoon

Pacific Cheesecake Company - Sweet and Savory

Do you like sweet cheesecake? What about savory cheesecake? What about both in flavors that excite your palate?

Grand Opening - mini cheesecakes

From a distance these look like trays of cupcakes. For me cupcakes have been done and overdone to oblivion. These light, multi-flavored mini cheesecakes are so much more fun, bringing a modern twist to the traditional comfort food.

Each attendee at Pacific Cheesecake Company's July 9, 2011 Grand Opening got their choice of one of these cakes as well as tastings of about 12 other popular flavors, including 2 savory flavors.

Grand Opening - July 9

In a short time, I've come to know Pacific Cheesecake Company well. About 1 month ago a couple of friends mentioned this new bakery to me during lunch.

On my way to do some errands after lunch, while driving through Glendale, I decided to take and exit and just quickly check out the place.

Nestled between the Hyundai dealership in Glendale, you have to look for it to find it. 

Grand Opening - serving samples

For most businesses, I expect a quick greeting, I check out the merchandise on my own. Since I'd just eaten lunch and would be out for hours, I wasn't planning to buy anything on this visit.

Upon walking in, I was greeted warmly by everyone in the bakery, offered unlimited samples. They believe in knowing the names of their customers and adding that personal touch. And they do it well.

There are three components that make me love this bakery.

1. Sweet:

Red Velvet 

Their classic flavors are executed perfectly. The Red Velvet, one of their most popular, contains vanilla cheesecake centered between red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.

Cherries & Cream

Cherries & Cream is vanilla cheesecake with a whole cherry filling and topping. None of these flavors are too sweet or too heavy and all have fresh, 'real' ingredients.

Blueberry cheesecake is similar, with whole blueberries and a graham cookie crust.

Flavors offered at Grand Opening

Did you think the Cheesecake Factory is the only place to get fun flavors? Pacific Cheesecake Company has a menu of well over 100 sweet flavors, about 10 sugar free flavors and about a dozen savory flavors.

The Coconut Mango pictured above is topped with sweet mango puree and rolled in toasted flaked coconut.

Coffee Toffee Crunch contains toffee candy pieces in and around the coffee cheesecake with a dark chocolate cookie crust.

The lemon zest and basil in Sweet Lemon Basil really pops.

The White Chocolate Salted Caramel blends white chocolate in the cake with a caramel cream and Fleur de Sel for that irresistible salty/sweet combination.

Their menu also boasts exciting specialty flavors like pumpkin pecan, eggnog, limoncello and spumoni. They also have biscotti, eclairs and other baked goodies, also made with the finest ingredients.

2. Savory:

Grand Opening - savory flavor samples

I've always favored more salty/savory than sugar. And in this regard, Pacific Cheesecake Company does not disappoint.

At the Grand Opening, they served samples of their best sellers, the Spinach Feta  and the Bleu Cheese (wrapped in toasted, chopped walnuts when they are whole).

One would think they would be more of a dip, and they are great with crackers. But they also stand alone as a cake, a very elegant hors d'oeuvre. Even the stronger cheeses (aka "stinky" cheeses) are expertly mellowed out with spices and other goodness.

Savory Cheesecakes - from Pacific Cheesecake Company website,  http://www.pacificcheesecakecompany.com

When I visited the store, they gave me generous samples of some incredible flavors.

Pictured above from the upper left are:

      Bleu cheese   *   Cheddar Sun Dried Tomato Basil   *   Gorgonzola Apricot
           Pancetta Date     *     Italian White Pesto     *     Spinach Feta    

If your mouth isn't watering yet, try Blue Cheese Honey, Cheddar Vegetable, Garden Vegetable, Greek or White Cheddar Sweet Balsamic (another sweet/salty cake).

3. Service:

I mentioned my first visit to this bakery and the hospitable, attentive reception. Well, between that day and the Grand Opening, I also ran into them at Yelp's Atlantic City Boardwalk Empire party at the LA Exchange, downtown Los Angeles. The lucky Yelpers enjoyed their cakes among many other desserts.

Owner, Karen Freeman

This is a family run business, a model which I always support. Energetic, creative, friendly owner/baker Karen Freeman (a former banker) runs the bakery with her 3 charming sons, Steven, Michael and Jake.

Steven and Michael filling orders
Grand Opening - family support

It's always inspirational to watch someone leave the corporate world to follow their passions, along with wonderful family support.

Even more inspiring that both times I visited the bakery, Karen Freeman's mother was there (on the left in the above photo) lending support. She recognized me as well.

Each day the bakery serves about 12 flavors, offering samples. 

The sweet cheesecakes come in mini for $2.50, a dozen, medium 8" $35, large 10" $45. Specialty and no sugar flavors are $5-$10 extra for the medium and large. 

Savory cakes come in small 4.5" $10, medium 8" $45 and large 10" $55.

You can contact the store at least 2 days in advance to order flavors off the menu for pickup.

Note: On Saturday July 23rd at 1:00 p.m., I will be hosting a tasting event through Pleasure Palate in order to sample some of these wonderful flavors. Please find details at this link: http://www.meetup.com/pleasurepalate/events/24556721/

Pacific Cheesecake Company on Urbanspoon