Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Winter's Sweet Harvest

It's Christmas time and that means another harvest should be ready. Let me check, yep, we've got produce.

The big stars of the wintertime here are citrus, like that tangelo at the top of the post.  Juicy, sweet, yet tart, it provides a tasty dose of Vitamin C to help us with those wintertime bugs.

The Cara Cara navel orange is even tastier, not quite so tart.

While my summer harvest of tomatoes was a dud, winter is providing a nice batch. I made fried green tomato omelets with this one.

It looks like an apple but these are actually guavas. We've got hundreds of them.

And here's this weeks harvest...oranges, tangelos, Myer lemons, tomatoes, guavas, and a small bell pepper in with our hot chile plant.

Have a great Christmas and New Year!

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Beefy Tomatoes

Nice, ripe tomato on the vine. What to do?

Put it on some great roast beef from our local Italian deli, that's what. Delicious!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ethnic Foods of the San Gabriel Valley: Say Goodbye to Europe

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, NepaleseLebanese, Thai, BasqueArgentinian, Cuban, VietnameseEnglish, Belgian, Spanish, JewishGreek, Greek Diner, Hawaiian, SalvadoranIranian, Armenian, AfghaniIndonesian, Korean, Cambodian, American, California Cuisine, Soul FoodJapanese, Filipino, Barbecue

This week, we're going to finish the European cuisines that can be found in the San Gabriel Valley. 

While there's not a real big representation of eastern Europe here in the valley, you can find an outpost of Polish Food and Hungarian Food at the European Deli in Glendora.

There, you'll find an array of exotic sausages along with goulash, pierogis, bigos (a stew), and flaczki (a tripe soup).  

It's a regular deli, too, so you can get an array of sandwiches and everything is served quick and cheap.

French cuisine is pretty easy to find here in the SGV. What's hard to find is reasonably priced French Food.  There are good and expensive French restaurants all over Pasadena like Maison Akira, Cheval Bistro, and the highly regarded but seldom patronized Devon in Monrovia.

While in France, you can find delicious and cheap French food on every corner, here not so much but with a little digging, you can find a bit.

Crepe shops have been popping up with regularity lately. There's the very good Crepes de Paris chain in Orange County and the Inland Empire, Old Town Bistro in Monrovia with some decent food but slow service, and the forgettable Cafe LuMar in Monrovia. 

The best Creperie that we've come across is Monsiuer Crepe French Cafe in Sierra Madre, run by a nice Parisian ex-pat and his American wife, with a nice array of savory crepes, sandwiches, croissants, and desserts but the best thing is their sweet crepes like their salted caramel crepe or their crepe la rouge with raspberries and Chantilly cream. Heavenly, not too sweet, and very reasonable in price.

For a sit down, waitered French place, your options are basically three places that I know of.  Cafe Massilia in Monrovia is not too expensive and has a dedicated fan base. They're OK but I have had better. Remembering that Vietnam was a French colony in the past, it makes sense that a Vietnamese family could run an excuisite, white-linen, French restaurant with fantastic food at reasonable prices...you find that at La Vie in Rosemead.

Our go-to French restaurant for great food without breaking the budget is Cafe Bizou in Pasadena. Steak au poivre, Nicoise salad, steak frites, and bouillabaisse are some of the great dishes they have here. Bring your own wine and they only charge a $2 corkage fee.

The last European cuisine we have to cover is Italian Food.  We are well represented here in the valley with the Bitonti family's Domenico's chain, Carmine's in both South Pasadena and Arcadia, Petrillo's in San Gabriel and Glendora, and Caffe Opera and Bella Sera in Monrovia 

There are many more including some big name chains with "olive" in the name but our favorites are listed above. Carmine's and Petrillo's are great examples of family style red-sauce restaurants while you can find more refined cuisines at the two restaurants in Monrovia.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 16, 2013

The New Kid Gets its First Haircut

Now that the new grass seed has had a good four weeks to get established, I think it's time to give it its first trim so the neighbors don't think I've let my yard completely go.

With a month untouched, it seems weeds...like this dandelion...have taken over about 10 percent of the area.

I'll give the lawn a couple of good feedings, starting today and another one in a couple of weeks, with some winterizer fertilizer and see if the grass can crowd out the weeds. If not, I'll hit it with some weed and feed.

After I'm done, it's time to put the clippings in the green waste can and call it a day.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Ethnic Foods of the San Gabriel Valley...What You Can't Find.

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, NepaleseLebanese, Thai, BasqueArgentinian, Cuban, VietnameseEnglish, Belgian, Spanish, JewishGreek, Greek Diner, Hawaiian, SalvadoranIranian, Armenian, AfghaniIndonesian, Korean, Cambodian, American, California Cuisine, Soul Food, Japanese, Filipino, Barbecue

I love a good chicken Kiev. It's one of my favorite dishes. It's also a dish you're not going to find here in the San Gabriel Valley.

This week, we're taking a little break before moving over the 30 culture mark in our list to note some ethnic foods you, unfortunately, will not be able to find in the SGV.

I'd hoped to highlight Roxilana in Pasadena, which served Ukrainian food specialties like the chicken Kiev you see above. Heck, they even had a $10 lunch version but, alas, they went out of business before I could list them.

Now, the closest place you'll find it is one of the many Russian restaurants in Hollywood like Robert's Russian Cuisine on La Brea but our favorite is on the water at Redondo Beach Pier, Gambrinus, pictured above.

Want a good Weinerschnitzel or sauerbraten? You'll have to travel down to Anaheim and visit one of our favorite places for German food, the Phoenix Club. It's a private German cultural club with a restaurant open to the public.

Looking for Portugeuse food? Not here but just over the line in Claremont is a fine, Portugeuse diner...the Euro Cafe in the Von's strip mall on the corner of Mills and Baseline.

Green wine, an extensive array of desserts, pastas and paninis...my favorite is the bife a Pourtuguese, a juicy flank steak sitting on the bed of fries, with a fried egg, tomatoes, and a hearty sauce on top.

You won't find these cuisines in the San Gabriel Valley but at least you don't need to go that far.


Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Lush Lawn?

Coming back from our little hiatus to update you on the big, fall lawn project.

After a couple of months of dethatching and aerating, I overseeded a couple of weeks ago, set the sprinkler timer to water three times a day at ten minutes each time, and left for Tennessee.

Gone for eleven days, I was anxious as to how the lawn would look when we returned.

As you can see from the picture above, the seeds have sprouted. They're not quite established to the point where I feel comfortable mowing them yet, so I will let them go another week or two before trimming.

It's looking promising. Here's the before picture...

...and here's the after picture.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ethnic Foods of the San Gabriel Valley - Grills, Fish, and More

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, NepaleseLebanese, Thai, BasqueArgentinian, Cuban, VietnameseEnglish, Belgian, Spanish, JewishGreek, Greek Diner, Hawaiian, SalvadoranIranian, Armenian, Afghani, Indonesian, Korean, Cambodian, American, California Cuisine, Soul Food

Japanese Food is well represented in our valley. Every city has at least a couple of Sushi bars. Teriyaki and tempura abound, and teppanyaki party spots can be found here and there.

From the quick, on-the-go, sushi kitchens like Rolling Rice and Sushi Spot, you can get your raw fish fix quick. For a more leisurely and artistic styling, try the sushi bars in Pasadena such as Sushi Roku or Osawa.

If you want to get some more substantial fare...such as steak, tempura or chicken...head to Hana Haru in Glendora or, our favorite, Little Tokyo in San Dimas.

There is a branch of Benihana in the City of Industry at Puente Hills but most people around here prefer the teppan chefs of Shogun in Pasadena or Tokyo Wako in Arcadia.

We had a brief flare of Filipino Food in the area a few years ago but we're down to one or two places where you can get Lechon, Adobo, Calos, or Kare Kare. I've got to be honest, I've tried a few of them but never could acquire the taste for this cuisine.

The only place I know that still exists in the SGV is Pinoy Kitchen in Duarte.

I really miss one of the best examples of Barbecue I've ever had, Brenda's Rib Crib in Pasadena. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious with such spicy barbecue sauce you risked spontaneous human combustion.

Nobody will confuse our local barbecue for the likes of Kansas City or Memphis but you can find decent barbecue at Robin's in Pasadena and much more mediocre examples at Jake's in Monrovia.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 25, 2013

HIDDEN GEMS - San Gabriel River Bike Trail and Natural Area

About 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles is the San Gabriel River. From its headwaters, high in the San Gabriel Mountains above the city of Azusa, the river runs...if it was allowed to unimpeded...to the Pacific Ocean where it marks not only the boundary between Long Beach and Seal Beach, but Los Angeles County and Orange County.

Watch the Video!

A couple of miles up San Gabriel Canyon (known to locals as Azusa Canyon), the San Gabriel River Bike Trail begins. This paved lane, also accessible to walkers and wheelchairs, runs around 40 miles along the banks of the river all the way to the ocean.

This northern section is the most natural and wild section and includes great scrub and desert scenery for the first 10 miles or so, through the section behind Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale. If you've ever been to the Renaissance Fair in L.A., it's held behind the dam every spring.

In the video above, I take you along on my New Year's Eve bike ride from the top of the trail, down 5 miles to the century old Pacific Electric bridge connecting Azusa and the nearby city of Duarte. This bridge carried the famed Red Car trolleys that used to run all across the region.

Near the beginning of the ride, notice the housing development. Perhaps the most poorly placed housing development in the area, it is located not only next to a river that can flood but in an area where a huge wildfire was started a few years ago. 

There was also a gun range next door that had been there for 60 years when the new neighbors found that gunshots could be heard and demanded that it be shut down. It was.

The area traversed today is a birdwatcher's paradise with over 50 species flying overhead. Also look down to see some local roadrunners, bobcats, and coyotes.

There are parking areas at the top of the trail in the canyon, another along Foothill Blvd. in Azusa where it meets the river, and at Santa Fe Dam.  Across the river at the other end of the Pacific Electric Bridge in Duarte, parking is also available at Encanto Park. From there, you can access the trail by crossing the bridge. There is also a short nature trail on the west side of the river here.

Not well known to those who don't live here, the area around here is truly a great, natural hidden gem that will reward those who seek it out.

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ethnic Foods of the San Gabriel Valley - Coming to America

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, NepaleseLebanese, Thai, BasqueArgentinian, Cuban, VietnameseEnglish, Belgian, Spanish, JewishGreek, Greek Diner, Hawaiian, SalvadoranIranian, Armenian, Afghani, Indonesian, Korean, Cambodian

Well, what about good 'ol American Food? Yes we do have quite a sampling here in the San Gabriel Valley.

What's more American than a cheeseburger? Some say it was even invented right here, in 1924 at the Rite Spot, which was located at the Pasadena/Eagle Rock border.

I have my doubts but who knows?

What's more, some say the cheeseburger was perfected here by Harry and Esther Snyder at their tiny, little drive through in Baldwin Park at the corner of Francisquito and Garvey. 

The little drive through has been torn down, although the original sign remains, but fear not. The location's just been moved to the other side of the freeway with a modern dining room and even a gift shop.

No worries because you can get the Snyder's perfect cheeseburger at locations across the west. Dubbed the Double-Double, it's available at any of their family restaurants that you might know better as In 'n Out.

Craft burgers are all the rage now in the area and you can find them almost anywhere, especially along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, but our current favorite lies just east of the SGV at Eureka! in Claremont.

Another great example of American cuisine is the good old steak and baked potato. While many like the bacon-wrapped filet mignon, we prefer a nice, grilled-to-perfection ribeye with great marbeling. 

Three of the best in the valley are Taylor's...way up in La Canada...the Derby in Arcadia, and the Golden Spur in Glendora.

California Cuisine is our state's style of cooking, using fresh, locally sourced food and mixing up different styles of cuisines from around the world. You can think of it as a celebration of diversity cuisine.

One of the best examples is the superb Parkway Grill in Pasadena, who grows their own produce on a small farm nearby.

We used to have better examples of Soul Food but we still have our fair share. Go north on Lake Avenue in Pasadena to find great examples such as Big Mama's Rib Shack, Bonnie B's Smokin', and...of course...the justly famous Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles.

You can also find another collection in Pomona at Cassie's Kitchen, Day Day's, and J & J's Barbecue and Fish.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Last of the Lawn Job...

It rained early this morning. Luckily, it went away by mid-morning. I only had today to get this major fall chore to it's conclusion.

After months of preparation, today is the day that I lay in an overcoat of seed for my poor, very pitiful lawn.

Here is a before picture. I hope to have a good "after" picture to add later.

I've aerated and dethatched the grass repeatedly over the last couple of months, trying to loosen up the soil and break the grip that the St. Augustine grass has on it.

Last weekend, I did one last run with the aerator to loosen up even more and provide some nooks and crannies for the see to fall into.

Today, I started off by shaving the lawn. This is simply lowering the blades on the lawn mower a notch or two to cut down and break up the current grass at a level that's a little uncomfortable for it and give the new grass some more room to poke through the current sod.

I got a bag of drought-resistant seed from Jonathan Green to help combat the extreme heat and dryness of our summers. In the spreader (picture at the top), I put a generous covering on the front yard.

Spreading a little mulch over the top, I also stomped the seed in as much as possible.

Now, just to water in. I've set the sprinkler to water three times a day at 12 minutes each time.  

I must bid you adieu for now, I will leave this lawn and the garden to fend for themselves for 10 days while I work on some other projects. We'll see how well it looks when I return on Thanksgiving.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fall's Fruits

Another day, another batch of guavas. I shouldn't sound so blase...we've waited three years for this bumper-crop harvest. 

My wife made some jam out of the weekend's harvest and we've been snacking on the ripe fruit too. If you've never had it, it's kind of like a real sweet apple, mixed with a real sweet pear, with a dash of ripe banana thrown in. You just bite in, like you would for an apple.

One thing I'd forgotten in the last three years...the very pungent aroma of ripening guavas. Not to be too blunt, but think of a sweet smelling version of cat pee.  It's close to overwhelming at times so we let them ripen in the garage.

Hope I don't have to fight off the tomcats to get in...

In other fall food news, our citrus is starting to show it's color. This is our Cara Cara navel orange.

The chiles are non-stop on the production this year. I've even used some as mulch on other plants because we just cannot eat or process enough to keep up.

What should be the last dragon fruit is on it's way to ripeness.

We've go a few tomatoes on the way...

...and lastly, it looks like we'll have a crop of Thanksgiving zucchini.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ethnic Foods of The San Gabriel Valley: Representing the Far East

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, NepaleseLebanese, Thai, BasqueArgentinian, Cuban, VietnameseEnglish, Belgian, Spanish, JewishGreek, Greek Diner, Hawaiian, Salvadoran, Iranian, Armenian, Afghani

See that above? That's 20 different ethnic varieties of food. I'm guessing we just crossed over the half-way point of our survey.

Last time we were in the middle east and drifting farther east. Today, we'll be back to what the SGV is really know for...Asian.

Fried noodles, little tiny egg rolls, minty milkshakes...even durian, for Christsakes!  It's from that island archipelago and we've got it...Indonesian Food.

There is not a whole lot of Indonesian in the L.A. area but what we do have is mostly concentrated in the valley with an outlet in West Covina, two in Alhambra, and the one we sampled, Chicky BBQ and Grill in Duarte.

Just off the corner of Huntington and Buena Vista, behind the El Pollo Loco, lies a little bit of this Southeast Asian culture. In the strip mall, there is an Indonesian grocery store, beauty salon, an Indo TV studio, cultural club, and a motel...the Duarte Inn...where each Saturday, an Indonesian food fair sets up in the parking lot.

It's between the market and the TV studio that you'll find Chicky BBQ with just a few tables where large Indonesian families push together to enjoy weekend meals together.

The menu has a large range of products...glazed shrimp that look like little glazed donuts; soto ayam (a chicken stew); nasi timbel (fried chicken and tofu)...and much more...but their specialty here is satay, skewers of grilled meat (chicken, pork, or lamb) cooked over an open flame.

This little combo of chicken satay, rice, salad, and egg rolls with peanut sauce and sweet chili is not only very juicy and delicious, it's only $6.50.

Going west on Huntington, it won't be long until you get to one of the jewels of the valley, Santa Anita Racetrack. Just before you get there, however, you may notice a funny named restaurant, Young Dong Garden.

Korean Food is making a big splash in the Los Angeles area these days. You can find all you want in Koreatown, just west of downtown L.A. and centered at Wilshire and Vermont, but we have quite a representation here in the valley as well.

At Young Dong, it's Korean barbecue. You pay one price and get all you can eat.

A propane grill is built into each table and a waitress brings you plates of meat and some pork fat. You coat the grill with the fat and cook the meat as you go on your personal hot plate.

Besides the meat, there is an awesomely huge array of condiments and side dishes to choose from, all set on your table. Kimchi, onions, garlic, several sauces, chiles...

It's a different way for us to barbecue. The meats are good, the selection vast, and you get to choose how much taste you want on it.

Did you know that when you go to our local donut shops, more than likely you're enjoying Cambodian Food? That's because it has become a traditional business for Cambodian immigrants to get into. They are very good at it, too (our favorite is run by a very nice family just outside of the SGV, Miss Donuts in La Verne).

Beyond that, though, there is one traditional Cambodian restaurant that I could find in the San Gabriel Valley. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to try it but will include it here for reference. 

It's Battambang Seafood Restaurant in San Gabriel. It looks real good and we hope to try it out soon.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved