Stanton is "one of the Lost Cities of Orange County, a place so theoretically unremarkable that most lovers of food couldn't name a single restaurant in it," says Das Ubergeek. But here you can find Fonda La Meche. A fonda is a very specific thing: "the Mexican equivalent of a Midwestern cafe called 'Pop's Place,' a place with cheap food, a step up from homestyle cooking," explains Das Ubergeek.
Pambazo de papa y chorizo is a small bite native to Mexico City: a soft bolillo roll dipped in red chile sauce, filled with potato and spicy sausage, then pressed and grilled. La Meche's version has a good, smoky, earthy chile sauce and surprisingly fluffy bread.
La Meche also has outstanding cecina, air-dried beef cured with salt and chiles. It satisfies some primal caveman instinct, says Das Ubergeek: "slightly salty, tough and yet tender." Another beefy delight: mole de olla, Mexican beef stew in a pot, which has tender hunks of beef chuck and big pieces of zucchini in rich, chile-flecked bouillon. "This is the soup you want on a cold, rainy night; this is the soup you'll crave when you're under the weather," says Das Ubergeek.
The true stars of this place are the tortillas. "Handmade from fresh masa, these are nearly twice as thick as supermarket tortillas, but a few shades lighter and orders of magnitude better in taste," says Das Ubergeek. "They managed to be soft—they folded perfectly despite their unusual girth—but still toothsome." You can buy a dozen for $3.50.
In short, "Fonda La Meche is exactly what it should be: a place to get just-like-Mami's cooking. It isn't fancy, it doesn't cater to people who look like me, and the cooking is honest and straightforward," says Das Ubergeek.
Fonda La Meche [Orange County]
7483 Katella Avenue, Stanton
Discuss: REVIEW: Fonda La Meche, Stanton
"In the realm of Shanghai restaurants in So Cal, with time-intensive, slow-braised items like hong shao rou (braised pork) and ti pang (pork pump), finding establishments that serve these dishes freshly made that day are becoming rarer and rarer," says exilekiss. "So when you run across a Shanghai restaurant that makes its slow-braised meat dishes fresh that morning and throws out whatever doesn't get served to ensure freshness, it deserves to be applauded." Yes, Yu Garden is a most devoted maker of Shanghai pork.
Tuh suh hsiao yuan ti—house special braised pork shank—“arrives in all its quivering, luscious glory," says exilekiss. Most of the Shanghai-style pork shanks and pork pumps around town have been so disappointing lately, says exilekiss, tending toward dull, muted flavors. But Yu Garden's version is ultratender, moist, succulent, utterly vibrant, fresh, and delicious. It has the pure taste of slow-cooked pork, says exilekiss.
Chef Hu makes only a few of these each day, and he doesn't serve leftovers; once they're out, they're out.
Zao liu yu pian—fish slices fried with wine—has a wine sauce that's enchantingly fragrant, says exilekiss. Crab with rice cakes has soft, supple rice cakes, but what really makes this dish sing is the live crab's sweetness and brightness, says exilekiss.
One of the most unexpected surprises: chuen juen, Shanghai-style egg rolls. The superlight, superthin, crispy, crackling skin gives way to a liquid, piping-hot center of pure napa cabbage. It wows, says exilekiss.
Not everything here is great. But the great items knock it out of the park. The cooking is simple, and focuses on fresh, clear flavors.
Yu Garden [San Gabriel Valley]
107 E. Valley Boulevard, San Gabriel
Franky and Johnny's Seafood Outlet is an old gas station converted into a seafood place. It's mostly for retail fishmongery, "with a large variety of items from different parts of the world...plenty of gorgeous shellfish and the price of the huge fillet of tuna made me do a doubletake," says condementia. The prices are generally on the low side.
If you're looking for ready-made fish, there's a barbecue grill outside and you can get a daily special. One day, it was "perfectly-cooked trout and orange roughy, with beautiful grill marks and a smoky flavor," says condementia. It came with tangy purple cabbage slaw and the perfect amount of mustard.
Franky & Johnny's Seafood Outlet [Silver Lake]
1633 Riverside Drive, Los Angeles
Discuss: Franky & Johnny's Seafood Outlet
Chances are, you'll never get to buy a bottle of Kate the Great, a Russian imperial stout from Portsmouth Brewery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, even though it's considered one of the best beers in the world by beer geeks. It was sold out a few hours before its official release on March 1. Fans had already reserved bottles for it the day before, so the folks who were planning on driving hours in the snow to stand in line for it were out of luck. The brewery produced 900 bottles of it, and there won't be any more until next year. But just because you can't buy it doesn't mean you can't get Kate the Great. You just need something to trade for it.
Beer trading, the practice of exchanging hard-to-find beers through the mail, is a growing phenomenon. On websites RateBeer and BeerAdvocate, enthusiasts list what beers they have and what beers they want, then email each other to arrange trades.
Three years ago, beer writer Tomm Carroll was surprised when one of the younger members of his local Culver City home-brewing club brought in a bottle of a delicious beer called Kentucky Breakfast Stout, from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The beer isn't distributed west of the Mississippi. "I asked where he'd got it, and he said he did a trade," says Carroll.
"This guy makes the only duck confit that I can say in all honesty is better than mine." - Will Owen on L'O Charcuterie
Bruce Watson, writing for AOL's DailyFinance, serves up a highly entertaining, vaguely gonzo trip into the underbelly of fast-food PR. He spins a first-person tale of passing the velvet rope at a Burger King all decked out for the media elite:
"I've never seen a Burger King with a doorman, but the restaurant near New York's Penn Station sported a formidable guard at the entrance and an honest-to-goodness velvet rope. Check-in was packed with cheerful publicists clad in slick suits and little black dresses, their intense friendliness slightly disconcerting. These were PR sharpshooters, the best hired guns that the King could afford, and I was in their world. To put the natives at ease, I tentatively tried out a smile: I was in New York, after all, where showing your teeth is a sign of weakness."
The idea of spending $270 for two disposable coffee cups is hard to accept, yet there is something about Cheeming Boey's Sharpie-pen-on-Styrofoam-cup art that's hard to stop staring at. Maybe it's the precision of the dots and lines, or the scary knowledge that you could crush your art cup in one hand? Either way, I hope that Boey considers a foray into ceramic cups soon.
I knew eggnog lattes weren't helping my waistline, but this list of the top 10 most caloric Starbucks specialty drinks on CallMeThirsty.com nearly gave me a coronary! At the top, clocking in at 730 calories, is the Peppermint White Hot Chocolate. The Eggnog Latte is 630. (Numbers represent the venti size, made using whole milk and with whipped cream options.) Compare these to the number of calories in a Big Mac: 540.
Tim Burton tells the Los Angeles Times blog Hero Complex that the White Queen in his Alice in Wonderland film was based on Nigella Lawson:
"'There's this very beautiful cooking show host in England named Nigella Lawson and I quietly had her as my image for this character,' Burton said, referring to the comely author and television personality sometimes referred to as the 'queen of food porn.'
"Burton, who previously said that the Red Queen has a bit of Leona Helmsley in her, said Lawson's domestic goddess routine has an eerie edge to it at times. 'She's really beautiful and she does all this cooking, but then there's this glint in her eye and when you see it you go, "Oh, whoa, she's like really ... nuts." I mean in a good way. Well, maybe. I don't know.'"
At one point in the movie, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) makes a magic potion with worm fat, urine, and a dab of spit in it. Burton says that was meant to be a clue as to Nigella's influence. Knowing that, doesn't it give you a thrill when Hathaway says, Nigella-like, "That should do it!"