Mendocino Farms DOUBLE AGAIN

Ugh. Of course my favorite place in UTC is one of the most expensive ones. But, MF is more than worth it. And it’s even more appealing now that I know they have fantastic house-made lemonade!

So this’ll be just a quick one-two punch deal:

“The 8 Hour” Pulled Pork  

The word that came to mind was “righteous.” Haven’t a clue why. I don’t think I’ve ever used that word in conversation, and if I have, it would have been in the sense of “righteous indignation” or something like that. This pulled pork was basically like homemade, in terms of seasoning and fat level. Great balance between the richness of the meat and the bite/tang of the sauce. The requisite slaw imparted the requisite vinegar and vegetable flavors, and the bread was excellent.

Note:  I treated myself to extra meat ($1), but only because I really love pulled pork. I’m sure it would be just about as good without that.

Short Rib Sunday Supper Trencher 

Braised short ribs with Sunday Sauce (red wine-tomato gravy, braised kale, and mirepoix), Mendo’s krispies, and local horseradish ricotta crema on a panini-pressed soft roll.

 

Could it be?! Is it possible that the trencher is coming back?

I mean, it’s only a name here, but still. I’ve loved trenchers ever since I learned about them in high school AP Euro (and asked my mom to replicate them at home).

The Sunday Sauce was adamantly winey, perhaps augmented by the tomatoes, and combined with the horseradish crema, provided just enough of a balance against the richness of the braise overall.

And such a generous hit of short rib! This isn’t even with extra meat.

Mendocino Farms again

I forgot my lunch, which was a sandwich, at home, so I came here because I’m never in a good mood if I’m promised a sandwich and end up having to eat something else.

 

Beef BLT. The tomato is roasted! That worked really well with the earthiness of the beef.


Another winner! A nice, meaty sandwich with robust, but still balanced, bread. I added blue cheese crumbles, which are an extra ¢50, and while I could imagine this sandwich still being great without that, but why would anyone purposely deprive themselves like that? This is America, man!
Unfortunately, I ate it in the place, so UCI’s Sociology department (do I even have a sufficient readership to justify a flogged joke?) will have to wait until next time for their next set of data or whatever.

California Gogi Grill

No, not Kogi. I know, the whole voiced-unvoiced constant thing confuses me too. I’m surprised that I can keep it all straight with three languages other than English knocking about in my head.

Another long school day, another UTC lunch. My friend Andrew had the good fortune to be free in the UCI area at the same time I was, so he joined me on my now-routine lunchtime UTC walkabout. We settled on Korean fusion joint Gogi.

As if he was trying to out-white me, my friend got the KFC—KOREAN fried chicken—on french fries.

As if he was trying to out-white me, my friend got the KFC—KOREAN fried chicken—on french fries.

The bibimbap combo is a good deal! Eight bucks for a meat (pictured:  spicy chicken), rice, and 7 sides on a salad. Totally portable if necessary, and a better than expected balance of all the components, i.e., I didn’t have a bunch of salad left after eating all the sides.

Huh. Short post. Whatever. This is better suited to the modern attention span anyways.

Anthill Shtoodent Pub

Man, what a place! Beer, food, something else…

What I’m trying to say is what else does one need?

 

As you can tell from this picture, I totally had these two items together and at the same time.

 
I don’t like to say food is “better than it has to be” because there’s never really a time when food doesn’t have to be good, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of and care put into this sandwich—see my sandwich checklist. Aioli, generous bacon, lettuce, and tomato (in a color other than red!). Just a really great BALT. And bonus points for being on sourdough by default. AND special mention or more bonus points or whatever for the excellent potato chips.

This paired excellently with Pizza Port’s Chronic Amber Ale. I always like a bitter and slightly tart (or red-y, as I like to say) beer to go with a richer food.

Studio Session Dinner at El Toro

Santa Ana is one of the more metal places in OC—infinitesimally more so because my band practices and records there—so I’m always glad to have an excuse to hang around.

A Monday night studio session is an excellent occasion to make a quick detour to El Toro Carniceria for yet another lengua burrito and medium tamarindo. This is pretty much the ideal studio fuel (lasted me the whole 6 hours!). Of course, this is also pretty high on my general list of ideal things.

The post won’t count if I don’t put a picture of the food.

Sometimes, I consider skipping salsa to enjoy the wonderfully savory thing, but salsa’s really the thing to do.

After devouring the above, I took the Suburban full of drums around the corner to the studio. An hour and a half later, I was tuned and miced up:

I call her/them/zem/pronoun…”my drums.”

Here’s a rundown of my rig.

Recorded with a nice selection of industry workhorses:  SM57 on the snare, MD-421 IIs, Beta 52A, a nice AKG condenser on the hats, and my AKG D112 in the kick for attack.

Check out what we got!

Mendocino Farms

I used to be one of those people who distrusted people who were (what I considered) overly nice to me. It’s a good thing I grew out of that, because this place has stellar customer service.

Now, for those of you that don’t already know me well, sandwich assembly is one of the few things I get snobby and elitist about. But, it’s not coming from my ego. It’s because I grew up on my mom’s expertly assembled sandwiches, with even distribution to all edges and structural integrity (a favorite term of hers). And of course they are delicious. 

Kurobota Pork Belly Bành Mì

“So what are you doing for lunch today?” “I’m just brown baggin it. With this here $12 sandwich.”


This sandwich was, as you can see, well assembled. That surprised me given how fast it came out after ordering. The overall flavor profile is basically that of a Westernized bành mì, perhaps due to a lighter pickling on the vegetables, but therich and not overly hoisin-y pork belly itself was excellent. The ciabatta proved to be a worthy vehicle for the filling, as well as a neat window into an alternate Italian Indochina history.

A solid 10/10.

As good as this sandwich was, it didn’t really do anything for the curious squirrel. 

 

Yushoken Izakaya and Ramen

“Man, it’s really hot.”

“Let’s go get a bowl of boiling hot liquid.”

“OK.”

I resisted the alluring smells of Slapfish as I came of the bridge and pressed on to the far end of UTC to satiate my 3 day craving for Japanese flavors.

Extra points for presentation.

 The murky, oily broth really hit the spot on this extremely typical Socal day, oddly enough. Also, I don’t remember liking bean sprouts as much as I did in this bowl. They just worked so well with the broth, meat, and wheaty ramen.

The “special egg” (that’s what it says on the menu I’m not being cheeky this time) was only just hard boiled. That with a spoonful of broth were perhaps the best bite paired with a pull from the nice mug of Kirin.

Now I really feel ready for the Jodaiko workshop this evening.

Slapfish Irvine

College isn’t so bad. If you can compartmentalize and ignore the obscene cost and the bureaucracy and the overall flawed nature of the system it perpetuates, it’s a pretty cool place to hang out.

UCI happens to be across the street (by way of a bridge, as it happens, which is super cool) from UTC, or “University Town Center,” for the literally and/or figuratively uninitiated. Get it? Because frats? Fortunately, UCI isn’t so big on the whole Greek life thing. Presumably due to the same counterculture attitude that led to a freakin ANTEATER being the mascot.

Anyways, across that confounded bridge one finds what is basically a shopping center-sized food court. As one would expect, all the big demographics of Irvine are represented in food.

On the 4th day of classes, I FINALLY made the crossing. Even in the 3 o’clock hour many places had a goodly crowd. Slapfish, for multiple reasons, suggested itself to me.

$20 lunch eaten next to the campus Panda Express and cafeteria. Only in Irvine, right? No but seriously. I should show this post to someone in the Sociology department.

The simplicity of the food would possibly limit what I have to say about it, but the sheer quality offsets that somewhat. The juicy, briny lobster in a coating of sauce of the proper thickness is obviously the star, but the bread held up its side just fine. And special commendation to the fries for being among the best-fried I’ve had.

The only downside is that now I’ll have a hard time continuing my survey of UTC knowing how good Slapfish is.

4th Street Market 2 of 2

Man, I had a pretty Santa Ana-y day. Walking the streets of DTSA, admiring local art, 4th Street Market (again), and band practice. Maybe I should just move there.

After a leisurely stroll around, Angela, my companion for the evening, was intrigued by Inc Waffles a.k.a. Ink Waffles a.k.a. Waffles Inc. Depends on which waffle one orders, I suppose. On this occasion, we both happened to get sandwiches on regular waffles.

Angela got the Ratatouille and I the BBELT (blueberry, bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato).

Angela got the Ratatouille (with gruyere and sprouts) and I the BBELT (blueberry, bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato).

The ratatouille on a waffle concept provoked a bit of a discussion between the two of us. I thought it was “weird,” though she countered that blueberry on a BLT was at least as “weird.” Regardless, both sandwiches worked far better than expected!

The ratatouille was an excellent specimen, so, as you would expect, a very soft experience. Perhaps I can illustrate the total softness of this sandwich with this:  the most textural component was the sprouts. Does that get the point across? Anyways, my irrational weariness aside, it was an excellent dish.

The BBELT also worked well, but this wasn’t quite as surprising to me as both a fruit and BLT enthusiast. And of course no right-thinking person would ever turn down an egg on top of, well, anything, right? Thin bacon and shredded lettuce yielded an overall pleasantly crispy sandwich, and the cooked blueberries were almost more fruitily rich and savory than sweet.

Also of note were the fries, which bore a seasoning suspiciously similar to PFC’s seasoning. Not that I begrudge any (alleged) seasoning powder sharing between food hall neighbors.

The order number buckets made handy beer holders, at least until you have to return them to the cashier. The classic "i haz a bucket"-"no they stealing ma bucket" story.

The order number buckets made handy beer holders, at least until you have to return them to the cashier. The classic “i haz a bucket”-“no they stealing ma bucket” story.

4th Street Market 1 of 2

This place had been on my list since its opening, and Sam, an old friend, finally becoming available for an outing provided the ideal opportunity to visit.

After a quick walk around the logically arrayed restaurants, PFC’s large trays of fried chicken and Wagyu Chuck’s burgers jumped out at us. I got the burger, and Sam the chicken. Service was (pleasantly) surprisingly quick! We barely had time to try our beers. Or beer, rather. We both got Ritual Brewing’s Wits End.

Sam’s first reaction upon trying the burger was “Oh, that’s just not fair.” I agreed! The balance of components in the double cheeseburger is bang on. Shredded lettuce, well formed and cooked patties, and thin buns make for a soft but hearty burger experience. The patties themselves were by far the most prominently rich burger patties I’ve ever had.

IMG_1281

Even the box reminds one of a certain Socal burger chain…

While the baked potato “fries” are pretty far removed from what I’d call “fries,” they tasted great. I’ll have to try the loaded fries option on another visit.

Really, the only thing I wanted was a nice chocolate shake, but there’s beer available, and the house cola is quite enjoyable for those teetotaler types.

Photo credit goes to my friend.

Photo credit goes to my friend.

One of the main things that drew me to the fried chicken was its appearance. It seemed to be quite dark, but I could tell just by looking that it wasn’t from overcooking. It was, in fact, from an excellent seasoning mixture applied to it. And, as one can see in the picture, the color is noticeably red in the normal light of the eating area. It’s mostly cayenne/paprika/other red powder spice in the nose, but on the tongue it balances sweet and spicy. A wonderful complement to perfectly fried chicken.

Their dipping sauce is also great, but almost superfluous for me.

Honorable mention to the charred corn salad as well! Good corn, lettuce, tortilla chip pieces atop, and quite a generous portion.

And since I had band practice the next night, I went again!