Follow the culinary adventures and misadventures of the Cooking Agents (Ray and Katie). Watch as we eat/cook our way into adulthood.
Hot dogs are probably the first hot junk foods I can ever remember liking. Long before liking burgers in high school due to my family’s limited beef consumption at home or pizza in elementary school due to my parent’s distaste for cheese, the humble hot dogs was there at BBQs, amusement parks and Asian bakeries. The Asian bakery hot dog bun is what first got the hot dog to make an appearance at the breakfast table and for that reason, I am much more open to the idea of foods having no boundaries during the day.
The Asian bakery hot dog bun is actually not that good. The bread that is wrapped around it is the real star. Growing up, Ball Park franks became the ideal because Michael Jordan (even though I wasn’t a Bulls fan) endorsed it. It wasn’t until I realized that casings mattered when I upgraded to Hebrew National and Nathan’s for the snap and texture.
On the last day in LA before Katie and I drove to San Diego, the three of us didn’t know where to go for breakfast. When Ivy asked what was left on my list, I said Pink’s was really the last thing I really wanted to cross off in LA on this trip. Thanks to Yelp, we found out that Pink’s opens at 9:30am. You know where this is going.
There Are No Clouds In The Sky When You Have A Hot Dog For Breakfast
After taking a stroll through Hollywood, we found ourselves at Pink’s along with a few other boundary-less patrons ready to dig into a breakfast hot dog. Only this hot dog is not of the Asian bakery variety. We’re talking greasy, oily, late night eats at 9:30am. To add insult to injury to our hearts, the three of us split some chili fries. Yeah, you’re impressed. I was originally going to get their signature chili dog, but with chili fries, I drew a line in the sand only to erase that line, take a leap forward and get another meat on meat abomination that is the Polish Pastrami. The Polish Pastrami was actually a Polish sausage, so I didn’t actually have a hot dog at Pink’s. Still, I left satisfied as it had the most snap of any sausage I’ve ever eaten. The meat was juicy, flavorful and the bread to pastrami and Swiss ratio was spot on. The fries were crispy and the chili’s texture was easy to balance on the fries. If I lived in LA, I’m sure that I would take out of town visitors there, but not so sure if i’d be a regular given the overkill of unhealthiness unless it was a late night out in Hollywood. Pink’s will satisfy a hot dog lover on that side of the country, but over on the East Coast, I’ll stick with some Gray’s Papaya.
Healthy (Ivy), Fat (Ray), Long Island (Katie)
Ramen. Just typing those five letters brings me back to late college nights, where fears of getting cancer or permanent brain damage from microwaving food in Styrofoam went completely out the window. I’m not proud of myself, no.
I was first introduced to this stuff by my younger cousin, Laura. I recall being at my grandparents’ house and seeing little Laura probably no more than 10, eating out of the ubiquitous styrofoam cup. I had a very limited scope of exposure to ramen before college. I knew Nissin’s Cup of Noodles from Laura and one “weird” girl from high school used to munch on uncooked ramen. I don’t know how she stored it, but it was as if her left blazer pocket was a bottomless pit of broken noodles (GAG).
I went into college having a pretty negative outlook on these seemingly innocuous noodles. Well, you know what they say about college… it’s your time to “experiment”. Hit the books, hit the bottle, hit the ramen block (the shin ramyun block to be exact). Somehow by the grace of God, I managed to evade the freshman 15 and other heinous weight gains in college. Don’t worry, I’m expecting that to catch up to me soon (starting with this trip’s terrible eating decisions). Since graduation in 2008, I’ve succumbed to the ramen monster maybe three times? Not too shabby, if you ask me!
Well, this past attack was a full fledged blow. It wasn’t the normal moment of weakness I experience. This was premeditated. Ivy, Ray, and I headed into the heart of Little Tokyo and we waited. Yes, we waited 45 WHOLE MINUTES … for ramen!
Heading into Little Tokyo Plaza
Enjoying some red bean treat while we wait // A very appropriate neon noodle sign!
Long ass line at Daikokuya Ramen
After some toying with hearts – there were three “Ray” parties on the wait list, we were finally called into the temple of noodledom. Because we had ample time to decide what we wanted, we ordered immediately. One tuna sashimi appetizer and three daikoku ramen combos – one tonkatsu, one shredded pork, and one teriyaki eel (not pictured).
Ramen packed with noodles, boiled egg, scallions, bean sprouts, and sliced pork
NOT tuna sashimi // closeup on that fatty sliced pork (Chashu
tonkatsu and shredded pork
The verdict? The tonkotsu, not to be confused with tonkatsu, soup base was so rich. TonkAtsu – pork cutlet; TonkOstu – very creamy, pork bone based broth. I know, very confusing. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Taking that quote completely out of context, the broth managed to have a profound and very rich flavor while still being subtle. After eating half of the delightfully thin, springy noodles in my bowl and a few bites of my pork cutlet and Ivy’s shredded pork, I realized that yet again my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I woefully admitted defeat and couldn’t even bring myself to eat the boiled egg, which Ray said was delicious.
Ray and I both agreed we liked the noodles best and regretted getting combos, as I would have easily given up my pork cutlet to make more room for the noodles. Ivy’s shredded pork was by far the best rice bowl. Sweet, thick sauce on pieces of pork belly really can’t be beat.
While Daikokuya may not broken my vow of less ramen, it did show me if you can’t beat the ramen monster, EAT the ramen monster (in moderation, of course).
Katie, Ivy, and Ray — three very full traveling companions, at the famous Chinese Theatre
Guess what? We’re alive and posting from California!
This trip has been a long time in the making. After finally passing my last CPA exam this past February, I was able to make the executive decision to inject more fun into my life. Why not round out my first summer of freedom with a foodie fueled west coast adventure with old college friends I haven’t seen for years. Yes, you read that correctly. YEARS.
Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect. By a stroke of luck neither Ray nor I typically experience, we were able to fly safely out of Logan Airport Saturday morning right before Irene hit Boston. We were greeted by a very friendly and familiar face, Ivy who flew into LAX from Palo Alto.
Once we got our big bear hugs out of the way, we headed out to Roscoe’s for some rib sticking chicken and waffles. Having never experienced this before, I was more than ready to fill my quota of true “soul” food.
We each ordered southern style fried chicken (dark meat obviously!) with waffles. In a total gratuitous act of fatness, we ordered a large plate of chicken chili cheese fries. Let it be known, we’ve made a lot of decisions like this one since the first day.
What arrived was a plate full of crispy fried chicken (disappointingly, a breast and a drumstick — seriously, white meat puts the BOO in boob), two golden waffles, a heaping ice cream scoop of butter and a small cup of syrup. Whether or not it was pure maple was debatable.
After I took it all in, I found myself in a conundrum. Is this finger food/knife and fork food/a mixture of both? My comrades took different approaches as Ivy started eating her drumstick with her fingers (a girl after my own heart) and Ray went in with his utensils. I did some kind of unassertive mix of both. Am I supposed to have a bite of waffle and then a separate bite of chicken? Do I put the chicken on the waffle and let some of the grease fill up the nooks and crannies? Should I sandwich the chicken between the two waffles and risk exposing my true barbaric eating habits to the regular patrons? Am I supposed to be this boggled by soul food?
Once I decided to stick to utensils and take a bite of everything all at once, the myriad of flavors exploded in my mouth. This reminded me of one of my staple favorites, bacon doused in maple syrup and not just drizzled, but poured with a very heavy hand. Savory and sweet, not battling, but dancing together in frenetic excitement.
The chicken chili cheese fries were a sad plate of not surprisingly very soggy french fries. Though the additional pieces of chicken thigh dotting the dish were fun, I have nothing further to say about these.
This was my first experience with chicken and waffles and though I’m sure this particular experience is not going to set the golden standard for me, it certainly was eye opening. I think of all of the food out there that has not crossed my path and realize the new experiences are really endless. I’m just lucky that I have food companions that are more than willing to take on the new adventures with me.
The NY Times article I read a few years back first put Portland, Maine on my radar as a dining destination, but back then, I already moved out of Boston and was adjusting to the more French and Southern inspired DC dining scene. When I moved back this winter, I made a goal to take a trip out with Katie and Krissie and as of this past weekend, I could cross it off my list. Sadly, we did not make it to any of the restaurants mentioned in the list, although Duckfat was by the same people who created Hugo’s.