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 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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Grass is Greener...

...well, hopefully this fall's big chore will help it to be.

Today, I'm running my aerator/dethatcher (picture at top of post) over the lawn one more time. 

It's a huge chore but I need to break up all the compacted soil and thatched St. Augustine runners to make room for my new grass to grow.

I've already aerated the entire lawn a bit by bit every weekend since September. Today, it's just a quick (so I thought) re-run over the lawn. Still, it was two hours of back-breaking work.

One thing left to do, shave the lawn (put the lawn mower on one setting lower and mow) then reseed. After that, it's do not touch the lawn for two weeks to let the new seed establish.

Wish me luck!

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ethnic Foods of The San Gabriel Valley: A Middle Eastern Tour

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

This week we'll concentrate on the food of the Middle East, or as more commonly called around here, Mediterranean Cuisine.

To tell you the truth, it's hard for someone like me to separate the different ethnic foods of the region. It all seems like kebabs, pita bread, and hummus a lot of the time but there can be subtle difference.

Along Washington Boulevard in North Pasadena is an Armenian Food enclave, such as Garni's. Lentils and zucchini help it stand out from the rest.  

Along some stretches of Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena or on Live Oak in Arcadia, you can find the occasionally find an Iranian Food outpost such as Famous Shish Kabob in Pasadena or Tehran Market in Arcadia. We have the Persians to thank for rice pilaf.

Afghanistan may be a war-torn area but our local purveyors of Afghan Cuisine will make you a peaceful meal. Try Azeen's in Pasadena for this cuisine which branches out from the usual Med food with more Afghani foodtuffs like mantu, which is a pasta dumpling, or Smarooq Challaw, a type of chicken stew.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 4, 2013

Guavas and Wine

Just a quick hit to show you our current harvest. 

This is what we're getting about every other day off of our guava tree. Other than that, not a whole lot of gardening going on this weekend. Maybe next weekend when I've got five days off.