Chicago Trip Recap, Part 5: Honey Butter Fried Chicken

Another Chicago recap post… while writing my 2014 year-in-review, I realized that I still have several posts left from Chicago that I haven’t written.

We visited Honey Butter Fried Chicken not once, but twice during our short 5-day trip, because yes it was that good. At the time we were there, S’s sister V was working there as a line cook, so we got some extras along with our meals.

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

The restaurant is located a bit out of the way of city center (although still quite easily accessible by the metro and bus). It’s actually right down the street from the ever-famous-but-now-closed Hot Doug’s… which we didn’t get to visit because the lines were crazy long. Sob.

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

S and I have really missed good fried chicken since moving to California, so we were both ultra excited. V told us that basically everything on the menu is good, so we ordered a variety of items to try out (good thing we had four people).

4-Pc Fried Chicken [$15]

4-Piece Fried Chicken [$15]

The special thing about the fried chicken here is that it’s de-boned. Sounds blasphemous, I know, but HBFC (sort of) makes up for that by brining the chicken so that it’s still juicy as ever. The batter is perfectly crisp and has amazing flavor – we especially loved the smoky paprika. V didn’t tell us beforehand that we could ask for all dark meat, so we got a mix of white and dark here, but obviously the dark meat was better.

We also didn’t know that we were supposed to slather their house-whipped honey butter ONTO the fried chicken… Sounds like a heart attack, but trust me, you need to do this. The light sweetness of the honey complemented the smoky fried chicken really nicely, and of course, it added some extra juiciness. It was so, so good.

The Original Fried Chicken Sandwich [$8]

The Original Fried Chicken Sandwich [$8]

We also tried the fried chicken sandwich. To be honest, I’ve always been a bigger fan of straight-up fried chicken than the sandwich version, but this was also really good – the candied jalapeño mayo was super yummy.

Finally, we also shared an order of the honey buffalo wings. 

Honey Buffalo Wings [$5]

Honey Buffalo Wings [$5]

The flavors were good, and the wings were fried quite nicely. I sort of wished that we had ordered a few more pieces of fried chicken instead, though – just couldn’t get my mind off of them, hehe.

On that visit, we tried several of their sides – collard greens, creamed corn, roasted sweet potato salad, and watermelon salad. I really loved the creamed corn and watermelon salad – unfortunately, my pictures didn’t turn out so well…

Anyway, on our last full day in Chicago, S and I insisted to V that we make another trip. She was kind enough to go with us, even though I’m sure she was looking forward to having her day off from working there… Continue reading →

2014 Recap

What a year it has been! I’ve been thinking about this recap post for quite some time, and to be honest, I’m not sure how to quite capture it all in one manageable blog entry. 

S and I started 2014 in Taiwan – we were in the beautiful city of Kenting, the southern-most tip of the island. Here was the first sunset of 2014:

Sunset in Taiwan 

I wrote a series of posts about this Taiwan trip – check them out here: parts one, two, three, four, and five.

After returning to San Diego, we had one of the best meals of our year, at George’s California Modern. My favorite dish from that meal was actually a salad, with chanterelle mushrooms and a perfectly-cooked soft egg:

George's California Modern 

Earlier this year, S and I were ecstatic to discover that one of our favorite sandwich chains, Firehouse Subs, has come to the West Coast! Firehouse was basically one of our college staples, and we really love this restaurant’s dedication to high quality ingredients, as well as the Southern flair in their flavor profiles. We were so excited to meet one of the founders of the restaurant, Robin, and we’ve been regular customers at Firehouse for the past year!

Firehouse Subs 

Firehouse Subs 

Speaking of sandwiches, Supernatural Sandwiches opened up a shop on Miramar Road – it’s also quickly become one of our favorites!

Supernatural Sandwiches

Throughout the year, we’ve also made several trips up to LA/Orange County. Just a few of the yummy things that we ate there included…

…this yummy marinated beef sandwich at Four Sea Restaurant in Irvine…

Four Sea Restaurant 

…the famous Iced Milk Drink at Half & Half Tea House

Half & Half Tea House 

…and this delicious bowl featuring four types of uni from Maruhide Uni Club.

Maruhide Uni Club 

Our big trip this year was to Chicago, which quickly became one of my favorite cities (yes, I’ve only been there in the summer). I had so many amazing meals there, but the highlight was definitely Topolobampo, by Rick Bayless. S and I still reminisce about that mole negro:

Topolobampo 

You can read about my Chicago trip recaps here: part one, two, three, four. I’m still not done posting, by the way! 

Over the summer, a snow-shaved ice pop-up shop called Iceskimo opened up on Convoy St, and we became frequent customers!

Iceskimo 

They now have a brick-and-mortar shop, which I actually haven’t had a chance to visit yet (I blame it on the cold weather). Hopefully it will warm up soon enough for me to crave some ice!

One recurring theme on this blog is S and my love for Korean BBQ. This year, we decided to venture out of the all-you-can-eat realm a little bit and checked out a couple of non-AYCE KBBQ places around town.

First up, Dae Jang Keum, which actually uses a charcoal grill instead of gas. I loved that you can order an entire ribeye steak!

Dae Jang Keum 

We also paid a few visits to Buga Korean BBQ, which had the best brisket in my opinion, out of all the KBBQ places that I’ve visited so far.

Buga Korean BBQ 

We also checked out Gyu-Kaku, which is a Japanese BBQ place, for my birthday!

Gyu-Kaku  

We also had a few fancy meals in addition to our Restaurant Week outings, which included an anniversary celebration at Juniper & Ivy:

Juniper & Ivy 

And also a spur-of-the-moment, super fun date night at Table No. 10!

Table No. 10 

In addition to dining out, I also tried to expand my cooking and baking repertoire this year. Looking through my posts, I realized that lemon was featured in several recipes. My favorite was this Meyer lemon cream cheese coffee cake that I made as part of a campaign for Alex’s Lemonade Stand:

Meyer Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake 

I also finally got a mini donut pan! The first thing that I made with them were these mini cinnamon sugar donuts:

Mini Cinnamon Sugar Donuts 

I also finally acquired some high quality matcha powder and made these cute little matcha shortbread cookies

Matcha Shortbread Cookies 

In addition to baking sweets, I also shared a few simple dinner recipes, including a round-up of some of my favorite slow-cooker dinners:

Braised pork belly with takenoko 

Another simple recipe that I shared was spaghetti with meat sauce – my personal version of it.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce 

And, I’m also quite proud of the Valentine’s Day dinner that I put together for S and me!

Valentine's Day Dinner 

You know we’re carnivores… so of course I was particularly happy with the steak that I made. 

There are so, so many more moments that I wanted to include in this round-up, but I think I’ll end with one of my year’s highlights, the South Bay Food Crawl hosted by CC of Pink Candles at Ridgemont High!

South Bay Food Crawl 

South Bay Food Crawl

S and I loved getting to know a little more about this city which we now called ‘home’. The food and culture in the South Bay is often overlooked when thinking about San Diego, but we truly loved how simple yet rich and vibrant it is! We are definitely planning to do another food crawl there soon.

Imperial Beach Pier 

So with that, I will leave you with the best wishes for the new year! May your 2015 be filled with happiness, success, and of course, lots of good eats!

 

Le Parfait Paris

Reminder: Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of 5-Minute Mug Cakes, which ends on January 1st!

I was recently invited to check out Le Parfait Paris, a French dessert shop/café located in downtown San Diego. Since S isn’t a fan of desserts, I took my bestie “A” as my dining companion! We took one look at the menu and photos of the place and were immediately super excited to visit.

Le Parfait Paris 

We were quite fortunate to secure a parking spot right across the street! I usually have the worst parking luck.

Le Parfait Paris 

loved the giant bear – it stands at 92 inches tall! – and the simple yet festive Christmas decorations.

Le Parfait Paris 

Le Parfait Paris 

Le Parfait Paris 

Le Parfait Paris 

Before us were beautiful display cases of all their desserts and baked goods. We really wanted to try everything!

Champagne Cocktails [$12 each]

Champagne Cocktails [$12 each]

But first, alcohol. Hehe. I can’t remember the exact names of these, but the one on the left is infused with rosemary and raspberry, while the one on the right has hibiscus and nectar. These champagne cocktails are apparently a new addition to the menu, and they were quite good. 

Cheese Plate

Cheese Plate

The cheese plate was served on an adorable wooden board resembling a tree trunk cross-section! I really wanted one of these boards for my home after seeing this… haha. Anyway, there were five cheeses offered: Brie, Port Salut, a goat cheese, a blue cheese, and Petit Basque. I’ve actually had the Petit Basque and Port Salut before, and ended up enjoying those two the most.

Soup du Jour

Soup du Jour

A and I are mushroom-lovers, so when we saw that the soup du jour had wild mushrooms, we both wanted to try it. Sorry for the weirdly-focused picture! I actually got a new camera lately and am learning how to use it, haha. Anyway, the soup was quite creamy and had a strong mushroom flavor. We thought that the consistency was a bit too thick and was borderline “dip” territory instead of soup. 

Smoked Salmon Benedict [$5.50]

Smoked Salmon Benedict [$5.50]

The last savory item that we decided to share was a smoked salmon benedict. (There was also choice of Canadian bacon or roast beef.) What made it unique was the croissant base, instead of English muffin! A liked the croissant, but I actually still prefer the English muffin for my eggs benedict – the croissant was too crispy for my liking. The hollandaise sauce was great, though, and the egg was perfectly poached.  Continue reading →

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of 5-Minute Mug Cakes, which ends on January 1st!

Last month, I celebrated my birthday along with three of my good friends – all of us have birthdays within a week of one another, so it’s a great chance to have a big party! This year, we chose Gyu-Kaku, a Japanese BBQ (yakiniku) shop that opened semi-recently in Scripps Ranch, as our celebration spot. 

We had a large group, 12 people total, and there were 2 grills for us. My side of the table decided to order two of the “Meat Lover’s Course for 2″, priced at $55, as well as a few additional a la carte items.

The course comes with several appetizers:

Cheese Wontons

Cheese Wontons

I wish that this were a little bit more crispy, but the flavor was actually not bad. I liked the spicy mayo dipping sauce.

Garlic Fried Chicken

Garlic Fried Chicken

I guess this is Gyu-Kaku’s version of karaage. It was pretty good, although I couldn’t detect much of the garlic.

Gyu-Kaku Salad

Gyu-Kaku Salad

The salad was actually my favorite appetizer. I liked the inclusion of hard-boiled eggs, radish slices, and the thousand-island-style dressing!

Miso Soup

Miso Soup

The last appetizer for the Meat Lover’s Course is miso soup – it was nice, a tad on the salty side, but nothing too special.

Edamame

Edamame

The other half of the table ordered a different course set (the Gyu-Kaku Course for 2), and shared some of their edamame with us. So nice!

Now comes the meat! The Meat Lover’s Course comes with bistro hanger steak (with miso), filet mignon (with ponzu), NY steak (miso), premium sirloin (garlic), yaki-shabu (miso), and toro beef (tare/sweet soy sauce). In addition, we also had double orders of beef tongue, pork belly, and chicken cheese fondue. The photos are in the order that everything arrived…

Filet Mignon - Ponzu

Filet Mignon – Ponzu

The filet mignon is apparently 21-day aged – I wish that there was less of the ponzu sauce, though, and more of the actual beefy flavor that came through.

Beef Tongue

Beef Tongue [$7.95]

Beef Tongue

Beef Tongue

Chicken Cheese Fondue [$4.95]

Chicken Cheese Fondue [$4.95]

Chicken Cheese Fondue

Chicken Cheese Fondue

The idea with the chicken cheese fondue is that you let the little aluminum cups of cheese sit on the grill to melt while you’re cooking the chicken, then dip the chicken in the cheese. I actually wasn’t a huge fan of the chicken with the cheese, and ended up eating the two separately…

Toro Beef Tare

Toro Beef – Tare

By far, my – and everyone else’s – favorite of the evening. This was described as “beef bacon”, and it was nice and fatty. This also had one of the lightest marinades out of everything that we ordered, and I really liked the light sweetness of the soy sauce. Continue reading →

5-Minute Mug Cake Book Giveaway

I’ve got another giveaway for you guys – as my holiday gift to you, I guess? Haha. My blogger friend Kirbie of Kirbie’s Cravings recently published a book, 5-Minute Mug Cakes: Nearly 100 Yummy Microwave Cakes. The recipes are as easy as you can imagine, and yes, the cakes really do come together in five minutes or less, and most of them feature simple ingredients so that you can really get your cake fix any time.

5-Minute Mug Cakes 

One of my favorite recipes from this book is the 2-Ingredient Flourless Nutella Mug Cake – recipe here. Unlike the rest, this one actually is best if you follow all the instructions and let the cake sit for a couple of hours after making it, so that the flavors can meld together nicely. (However, I totally understand if you can’t resist and sneak a bite right out of the microwave… I may have done the same.)

5-Minute Mug Cakes 

Flourless Nutella Mug Cake 

This book is a great gift for yourself or a loved one for the holidays – you can pick up a copy in Barnes & Noble as well as your favorite local bookstore, and there are a number of online retailers (including a Kindle version at Amazon). And, as I’ve mentioned, I’m giving away a copy here on my blog!

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post with your favorite type of cake. For 1 bonus entry, follow me on Instagram and leave an additional comment telling me that you’ve done so, and with your Instagram handle. The giveaway will end Thursday, January 1 at 5:59PM PST. I’ll be using random.org to select a winner and contacting him/her by email. Good luck!

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou

We recently visited Yokohama Yakitori Koubou, located in the Izakaya Sakura/Original Pancake House plaza on Convoy. It’s been on our to-do list for a while, and I was excited to try it out since I love yakitori (grilled skewered items).

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The only other places in San Diego where we’ve had yakitori is Yakitori Yakyudori and its sister restaurant Hinotez. We enjoyed both places, but wanted to try something new.

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou

Chicken Breast w/ Special Sauce [$2.99 each]; Premium Beef Rib [$3.99]; Pork [$2.99]; Chicken Heart [$1.80] 

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou 

We enjoyed all the meat skewers, which were all very tender and cooked nicely. The only thing that I wished for was a more smoky flavor from the grill, and perhaps a touch more salt. All the skewers were served with two sauces – a horseradish paste and a spicy miso paste, both of which were quite good and added the saltiness that I was craving.

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou

Koubou Gurume Yaki (Chicken Breast with Special Sauce): Natto with Leeks; Wasabi; Salmon with Corn

One of their specialties here is the “Koubou Gurume Yaki” – grilled chicken breast with various special topping combinations. We chose three, and my favorite was the natto with leeks. I know that people have pretty polarized feelings about natto – I didn’t know that I enjoyed it until recently, haha. The natto they used here had a very nice flavor, and paired well with the chicken breast. Not to say that the other two flavors weren’t delicious – I enjoyed all three of them! This is definitely something that we haven’t seen at other yakitori joints, so it’s a must-try if you visit. There are other interesting toppings like California Roll and even pizza.

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou

Sumiyaki Onigiri (grilled rice ball) [$3]

Continue reading →

Brunch at Searsucker Del Mar

A friend was craving brunch recently, so we tried to go to Snooze in Del Mar. Unfortunately, the wait time was about an hour, and we were all really hungry and decided to check out Searsucker’s brunch instead – it’s in the same plaza, so we just strolled over. 

P1070210-1 

S and I have been to Searsucker for dinner but not brunch. We’ve also never been to the Del Mar location, so I was quite excited to check it out! 

Searsucker

It was a nice day, so we decided to sit outside (for once!). The patio was really nice, complete with a koi pond!

Searsucker 

Searsucker 

We had a pretty hard time deciding what to order. After some debate, S decided to go with one of the egg benedicts.

Pulled Pork Benedict

Pulled Pork Benedict

P1070217-8 

Unfortunately I forgot to take note of the exact description of this dish, but basically it was poached eggs, pulled pork, and spinach on a whole-wheat English muffin, with a spicy hollandaise sauce. The eggs were cooked perfectly, and we really liked the flavor of the hollandaise on the pork. The dish was served with a side of hash browns and a small salad, but we weren’t impressed by the hash browns – it wasn’t crispy enough, and not very flavorful. S and I have sort of given up on hash browns in San Diego, though.

Chicken and Waffles

Chicken and Waffles 

Continue reading →

Izakaya Sakura revisit

Reminder: Enter my giveaway for 2 dozen NestFresh eggs here! Four days left to enter!

Izakaya Sakura is one of our go-to Japanese restaurants – they serve a variety of bento lunch and dinners, as well as good quality sushi and sashimi. S and I like visiting for weekend lunch, since they offer reasonably-priced lunch specials. We recently visited with a couple friends, and I thought it’d be fun to do a revisit post since my previous one was during dinner.

We ordered a variety of food… S chose the Chicken Katsu Don:

Chicken Katsu Don [$9]

Chicken Katsu Don [$9]

It was basically an oyako-don (chicken with egg and onions in dashi broth), but with fried chicken cutlet. Both of us really like this dish, especially the lightly sweet dashi broth. 

Lunch Special Bento [$12]

Lunch Special Bento [$12]

Every day, there is a “Lunch Special Bento” consisting of a ton of different items – there are only about 10 of these bentos available each day, and I was lucky enough to get one that day. The bento of the day included (starting from top left): sausage and bacon braised with cabbage, potato croquette, spaghetti with mentaiko, omelette, grilled salmon, chicken croquette, and pork with ginger and onions. It was certainly a very fulfilling bento! I enjoyed all of the items, especially the pork with ginger and onions, and the spaghetti with mentaiko. Also, there was enough food for another meal for me, so it was definitely worth it!

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Continue reading →

Yogurt Deviled Eggs & NestFresh Giveaway

The holidays are upon us, which means holiday parties and lots of cooking and baking! One of my favorite appetizers is deviled eggs – growing up in the South, I pretty much had deviled eggs as appetizers for every single party and event I’ve ever attended! 

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Needless to say, there are countless variations of deviled eggs – I’ve had them with everything from anchovies to cucumbers mixed in – but my favorite version is actually *cue gasp* NOT made with mayonnaise! My piano teacher, back in the day, would make them with yogurt instead of mayo, and I really loved that extra tangy flavor the yogurt brought to the mix. (S still prefers mayo, though…)

P1070478-4

I got a little bit impatient while peeling the eggs, so some of them didn’t turn out very pretty… But I guess it’s the taste that matters. Next time, though, I’ll definitely work on my egg-peeling skills.

The eggs I used are provided by NestFresh. NestFresh eggs are organic and from cage-free hens, and the company is committed to treating their hens humanely, as well as the quality of the eggs produced. 

P1070472-1

You can check on their website for locations near you that carry NestFresh eggs; in California, you can find them at Bristol Farms, Whole Foods, Albertson’s, Walmart, and Amazon Fresh. If you’d like to try out NestFresh eggs, I’m hosting a giveaway – see bottom of the post!

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P1070479-5 Continue reading →

South Bay Food Crawl

Warning – this is a long post, with TONS of pictures! :)

A few weeks ago, CC of Pink Candles at Ridgemont High took Mary, Jake, and T (of This Tasty Life), and S and me, on a food crawl around the South Bay! I was really excited because I knew that there would be plenty of stops with Mexican food – one of our favorite cuisines. Plus, I’ve always wanted to explore some more of Chula Vista and Imperial Beach.

Birria Fernandez

Birria Fernandez

 Our first stop, bright and early at 9:30AM, was Fernandez Restaurant and Catering, located near IB – CC mentioned that there would be a line as early as 9AM, and indeed there was already a small crowd. We arrived later than everyone else – they had already sat down, ordered, and worked through the first batch of tortillas… oops.

Birria de Res [$9]

Birria de Res [$9] 

This is definitely the specialty here, a rich and hearty stew with shredded beef (res). The soup was just so flavorful, adn the meat was incredibly tender.

Birria Fernandez 

These tortillas took forever to arrive at our table, but well worth the wait – possibly some of the best tortillas I’ve ever had! As you can see, they’re dipped with the birria broth, adding extra flavor. 

Birria Fernandez 

I constructed my own taco, with the shredded beef, onions, and cilantro. The birria also came with radishes and limes – I gave my taco a good squeeze of lime juice. It was so delicious! I think all of us wished that we could have eaten more here, but we also knew that there was plenty more good food up ahead.

Fernandez Restaurant and Catering
2265 Flower St, San Diego, CA 92154
http://www.fdzcatering.com/

Mariscos Isaac

Mariscos Isaac 

Our second stop was just a short distance away, at the Mariscos Isaac seafood truck. Apparently, this is a new location for this truck – I’m geographically challenged so I’ll just link to CC’s post for you to figure out exactly where we are, hehe. 

IMG_20141109_095922545 

Seafood Consommé

Seafood Consommé

The seafood consommé is free here! A really nice little gesture to give us something to munch (slurp?) on while we wait for the food. It was served piping hot, which I didn’t really expect and almost burned my tongue off – but trust me, I’d rather have piping hot than lukewarm! It was on the salty side but very flavorful. S stayed away from this since there was shrimp.

We all decided to try different things here…

Fish Taco (Pescado) [$0.99]

Fish Taco (Pescado) [$0.99]

Marlyn [$3.25]

Marlyn [$3.25]

The fish taco wasn’t too special but yummy nevertheless. We also wanted to try the marlin because we haven’t seen it anywhere else so far – the fish was very smoky and rather salty. Still delicious, though. Also, the taco was huge.

Isaac [$3.50]

Isaac [$3.50] 

Gobernator [$3.50]

Gobernador [$3.50]

CC and Mary both opted for shrimp tacos – CC chose the “Isaac”, the truck’s namesake taco, which included grilled onions and peppers. The gobernador was a regular shrimp taco, which had pico de gallo and two generous slices of avocado! The shrimp was cooked perfectly for both tacos, and I really loved the flavors of the “Isaac” taco.

Mariscos Isaac
(Located near Bobar 2 Liquor Store)
Continue reading →