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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Anime Food Re-creation: Mei's Bento from My Neighbor Totoro

Some time last year, I went through a slight Miyazaki/Ghibli movie marathon and when I was going through Anna the Red's blog, I saw that she had actually recreated some of the Ghibli food from the movies! I really admire Anna the Red's bento (and non-bento) work. It is AMAZING to say the least! Definitely go check her out!
Mei's Bento from My Neighbor Totoro
This is the bento that Satsuki (Mei's older sister) makes for Mei in the anime movie My Neighbor Totoro. After seeing Anna the Red's tutorial for Mei's bento, I was inspired to recreate my own.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

McDonald's Strawberry Pie

McDonald's Strawberry Pie $0.69
Did you know McDonald's offered baked Strawberry Pie?! I sure didn't! When I stumbled across this at my local McDonald's, I knew I had to give it a try. I love strawberries!

But honestly though, I was a little wary. I really like McDonald's Apple Pie, but I never liked the Cherry Pie and my experience with the Taro Pie was less than favorable.
McDonald's Strawberry Pie
The outer crust of the Strawberry Pie was the same flaky crust found around the Apple Pie but minus the cinnamon sugar.
McDonald's Strawberry Pie Filling
 The strawberry filling really reminded me of the jelly you'd find in a donut. There were very small chunks of strawberries, but the strawberry flavor was lacking. Surprisingly, it wasn't that sweet. I was actually expecting an overly sweet strawberry jam-like filling, but instead I got a reddish, slightly sweet jelly goo. Interesting, but I wouldn't order it again. I'll be sticking to the Apple Pie I know and love.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A True Adventure Abroad the USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier

Navy Week Los Angeles 2011
Last week was Navy Week in Los Angeles. For a few days, the Navy allowed civilians to board and tour the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. Seeing as this was a very rare opportunity (and the fact that an aircraft carrier hasn't been docked in the Port of Los Angeles in 20 years!), I was really eager to go!
Cruise Terminal during Navy Week
But as you can imagine, I wasn't the only one! THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of people descended upon the harbor!
The line to see the USS Abraham Lincoln during Navy Week
It was so crazy that there was a 2.5-HOUR WAIT! Just to board the shuttle bus that takes you to the area where the carrier was docked!
The line for the security screening
Once the bus dropped us off, there was another line to go through security. Wow! I wonder if the Navy expected this big of a turnout. Fortunately, security was fairly quick - your typical airport security procedure and then finally, what I had been waiting for...
USS Abraham Lincoln
...the USS Abraham Lincoln! Isn't she breath-taking?
So formidable.
 So intimidating.
Inside the USS Abraham Lincoln
 So... big!
Rescue Equipment used on the USS Abraham Lincoln
Inside, they had various stations and displays showing some of the equipment used aboard the aircraft carrier. We got to see some of the rescue equipment and even try on the firefighting suits and helmets!
The US Flag abroad the USS Abraham Lincoln
One of the highlights was actually getting to ride the large platform elevator! You're probably thinking, "Elevator? What's so great about that?"

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Anime Food Re-creation: Fruits Basket's Onigiri

A little while ago, I posted a tutorial on how to make onigiri (Japanese riceballs). Onigiri plays an iconic role in the anime and manga Fruits Basket. In one scene, Tohru (the protagonist) makes onigiri for a game for a school festival. Each onigiri is decorated differently with mystery fillings inside - some of which have unappetizing fillings as "punishments." I'd hate to bite into that hidden leek riceball like poor Kyo! >_<
Fruits Basket Onigiri
Here is my re-creation of Tohru's platter of onigiri!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An Adventure to the Get Shaved Truck

Get Shaved Truck
Aloha, everyone! I've had my eye on the Get Shaved truck since coming back from my trip to Hawaii almost a year ago! While on the North Shore, I had some of the best Hawaiian shave ice from Matsumoto Shave Ice so I was eager to find something comparable back on the mainland.

What sets Hawaiian shave ice apart for a typical snow cone is Hawaiian shave ice's powdery snow-like texture. The addition of ice cream and azuki beans (sweetened red beans) makes it almost magical - truly one of the best ways to cool down on a hot summer day!

The other day, while running some errands, I saw the Get Shaved truck parked along the side of the road and quickly pulled over. I remembered scrolling through the menu online and thinking, "Hm... the PassioNut combo sounds pretty good," so that's what I ordered.
Medium PassioNut Shave Ice
This is the Medium size with Macadamia Nut ice cream. The PassioNut came with Lilikoi (passionfruit), Coconut, and Melona (Korean honeydew creamsicle) flavored syrups. I like sweets as much as the next person, but I found that the syrups were way too sweet for my taste. The Melona-flavored syrup also had an artificial-ness to it and didn't mimic the actual creamsicle flavor at all, which was disappointing because I really like Melonas. (They're found in many Asian, particularly Korean, supermarkets if you want to give them a try.) The Macadamia Nut ice cream was delicious though. The creaminess somehow helped mellow out the sweetness.
Li Hing Mui Powder
You have the option of adding the Li Hing Mui powder, which is this slightly sweet, sour plum powder. I got it on the side and tried a small bite with the powder in the car, but forgot to add it when I got home. I thought it was an interesting mix with the sourness helping to balance out the sweetness, but it's definitely an acquired taste.
Get Shaved Truck
Even though PassioNut wasn't my ideal mix, I wanted to try one of the Get Shaved truck's original shave ices before creating a custom mix. Next time I catch the Get Shave truck though, I'm going to try the combo of flavors I fell in love with at Matsumoto Shave Ice - Lilikoi, Guava, and Mango flavored syrups with ice cream and azuki beans. I can't wait to see if I can really get a taste of the islands closer to home!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Burger Adventure: Umami Burger

Umami Burger Entrance
Umami Burger
500 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Umami Burger is another popular LA burger spot that's based on the fifth taste - umami. For those who don't know, umami is supposed to be that meaty, msg-like flavor you taste from... well, meat. After some shopping around 3rd Street Promenade, we decided to stop here for dinner. This particular location is attached to a Fred Segal and although the address says Umami Burger is on Broadway, the entrance is actually around the corner on 5th Street.
The crowd in front of Umami Burger
The restaurant + bar is really small so we had to wait about 20 minutes for a table, but we just killed time talking and looking at the menu.
Umami Burger Menu - Front
Umami Burger Menu - Back
I ordered the signature "Umami Burger," which was made with 6 ingredients that had high umami content: "house ground beef, oven-roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, parmesan frico, sauteed shiitake mushrooms, and house made ketchup." I really wanted to fall in love with my burger, but I was kind of disappointed in it. I got my burger medium, which came out pretty juicy, but it was too juicy since my burger ended up getting soggy. The parmesan frico (basically a crisp, baked parmesan cheese chip) added a nice contrast of texture, but I prefer melted cheddar or American in my burgers. As for the Umami ketchup, I thought it overpowered my burger and made it too sweet for me. I really liked the grilled mushrooms though - they had a nice meaty flavor. Ah, umami...
Signature Umami Burger
Open Umami Burger
Our table also ordered some sides - splitting an order of Tempura Onion Rings and Sweet Potato Fries. As the name suggests, the onion rings were tempura-battered, which made them really light and crispy. The sweet potato fries were fried to perfection - with just the right amount of softness inside and crispness outside. So often, I've have sweet potato fries that were either soggy or dried out or tasted burnt, but I was not disappointed in these fries at Umami Burger. Each of our sides came with a choice of dipping sauce, but we forgot to select one when we ordered. We later found out that they came with Umami ketchup by default. Honestly, I thought the ketchup tasted like sweetened tomato sauce and it really wasn't my thing. I actually preferred eating the onion rings and sweet potato fries without the ketchup since I thought (once again) it overpowered the flavor of them.
Umami Burger - Tempura Onion Rings
Umami Burger - Sweet Potato Fries
As a note about the portions at Umami Burger, one of my friends looked on Yelp and found that people were complaining that the burgers and sides were too small - with some people even going as far as saying you should order two burgers or else you won't be full! With that in mind, I was expecting the burgers to be the size of sliders, but it actually came out as a decently-sized burger comparable to an In-n-Out burger. I almost felt that the people who said you'd need to eat 2 burgers were probably used to the super-sized "6 Dollar Burgers" from Carls, Jr. or some other massive obesity-inducing burger calorie bomb. The sides seemed a little on the small side to me, but we were paying for the quality of ingredients so we were okay with it. People in my party ranged from little Asian girl to rather hefty, well-built guys and we were all satisfied at the end.

So far, out of the few big burger places I've visited, I think I prefer Five Guys over Umami Burger. One of my friends totally disagreed with me though. He ordered the Truffle Burger and declared it was the best burger he's ever had! To put things in perspective, he said it topped the Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich, which he loved - calling it "orgasmic"! Maybe I'll give that burger a try next time... Or maybe I should give the signature Umami Burger a second chance, but with the Umami ketchup on the side... Hm...
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