[Food] The Chairman Truck

On a whim, I stopped by Off the Grid, a Bay Area food truck meetup, in Berkeley. I had heard great things about The Chairman truck and it was at tonight's event. You can't miss it; it's big, bright red, and has a long line of hungry people. The line was long relative to the other trucks, but nowhere near what the lines were like when the Kogi Truck first opened up in LA. I remember waiting at least 2 hours for a few tacos, but that's beside the point.

The Chairman features baos, which are basically Chinese sandwiches on steamed or baked buns. They were out of baked buns, but that was not a problem because I love steamed buns. I was going get straight pork belly, but for the sake of journalism, I also ordered a Coca Cola braised pork bao.

I tried the Coca Cola braised pork bao first. This bao was packed with goodness - braised pork, a cabbage slaw, mustard seeds, and sauce. The pork was moist and tender. The Coca Cola they braise it in definitely lends great flavor to the pork. You get the great savory elements of Coke, but without the sweetness. Everything else in this bao complements the pork nicely and the mustard seeds really brighten everything up. It was good, but quite frankly, after eating the pork belly bao, I don't remember too much about this one.

This bao lived up to the hype. Dare I say, the pork belly was succulently sexy. Not only was it tender as the name says, it had a bit of a crunch from getting finished on the flat top. There was just enough fat left, post-rendering, to give great flavor and juice. Maybe my mind was over exaggerating the greatness of the pork from sensory overload, but this was one of the best pork bellies I've ever had. Everything was perfect from the textures to the flavors, and I was happy. The pickled daikon cut through the fattiness of the pork and acted as a breath of fresh air, not that the pork belly was bad in any way.

Everyone has to eat a pork belly bao from The Chairman. Preferably more.

The Chairman www.twitter.com/chairmantruck (415) 813-8800

[Food] Avocado Ice Cream

We had a bunch of avocados sitting at home and couldn't finish them all before they over-ripened. So, my sister and I decided to make some avocado ice cream.

We used Alton Brown's recipe, which can be found here. It's very simple and we found that it is similar to many of the other recipes for avocado ice cream that we found.

The ice cream was spectacular. It tasted like avocado (a big duh) with an ever so slight hint of sweetness to it, which was great. The texture was smooth and silky, probably thanks to all that fat in the avocado and heavy cream. To further bring out the sweetness, we finished the ice cream with some salt. It really brings the ice cream to life and makes the flavors pop. In my opinion, the salt is absolutely essential.

Here's the lighting set-up I used for the shots. I had a LumoPro LP120 camera right shooting into a reflective umbrella at 1/4 power as my key light. For my fill, I had a LumoPro LP160 camera left in a softbox at 1/64 power. I shot with a Canon 7D and a 100mm f2.8 Macro at 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 200.

[Food] Bludso's BBQ

My cousin wanted to grab lunch last week and we came up with a list of potential places to get our grub on. Bludso's was on that list and something inside of me told me to go there. Bludso's is a Texas style BBQ joint that brings the glory of Texas to SoCal. So, three Asian kids - my cousin, his friend, and I - pull into Bludso's BBQ in Compton, CA and the moment we step out, we undergo sensory overload. There are some smokers by the parking lot and the smell is simply irresistible.

So we walk in and put in our order, a Texas Sampler. Upon asking if that's enough food to feed three, the cashier gives us a reassuring "Ohh yeahhhh." We choose to eat outside on one of their picnic tables because it was such a beautiful day. After a short wait (a very short wait), our food comes out, delivered to our table.

Let me just stop here and take a moment to comment on the staff. Every single person working at Bludso's is extremely sweet and friendly. One of the ladies there came out several times to check on us and brought us a ton of wetnaps and napkins. They all introduce themselves with their first name. In fact, just as we were about to dig in, owner Kevin Bludso pulls into the parking lot right by our table and asks if he could have some of our food in a joking manner. He is one of the friendliest people I've met!

Okay, on to the food. When we opened up the Texas Sampler, all of our eyes widened...take a breath before you read this: Chicken Links, Beef Links, Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket, BBQ Chicken, Pork Ribs, Beef Ribs, 2 sides (we got cole slaw and mac and cheese), and bread for everyone. All that for less than $30. How is that even possible? I'll just cut to the chase now and say that this was more than enough food for 3 heavy eaters.

How was it? I'll start with the sides. The sides were probably the weak point in the meal, but still good. The slaw was not too creamy, which I like. It was a nice palate cleanser between all the meat. The mac and cheese was good, but not cheesy enough for my taste. It was of the dryer variety with little cheese sauce. [EDIT] I recently went back to Bludso's and the mac and cheese was spot on. Cheesy, creamy goodness. We must have gotten an old batch on my first visit. All of the meat was good, but the stand out stars for me were the pork ribs and beef brisket. The ribs had great flavor and fell right off the bone with no effort. The brisket was so tender that when we tried picking it up, it fell apart. It also had this ever so slight crust that developed from caramelization. Gah. Just thinking about it makes me drool.

The links had an interesting texture to them, not what I'm used to. I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but it felt like they had a coarser grind. Great. The pulled pork was full of flavor from the BBQ sauce that douses the whole platter. Very good on the bread with some slaw. The chicken is...well...just chicken. I was never crazy about BBQ chicken because it's not very interesting. The beef ribs were just as good as the pork ribs, but I just prefer pork ribs over beef ribs. I was a bit confused because on the menu it says that they serve beef ribs only on weekends, but these guys were way too big to be pork ribs. Maybe someone can clear that up for me.

Bludso's gets a giant stamp of approval for food and service from me. My cousin, also a great lover of food, claims that the BBQ at Bludso's is better than the BBQ he had at Salt Lick in Texas. Fail to believe him? See for yourself!

Bludso's BBQ
811 S Long Beach Blvd
Compton, CA 90221
(310) 637-1342

[Food] Late Night: Ice Cream Cravings

So what do you do when you want ice cream right before you go to bed? You just go and get it! As I was looking into the freezer, debating between Mango and Coffee, this Blueberry Crumble caught my eye. That limited edition royal purple lid whispered carelessly into my ear, "I'm what you want."

Sadly, it was gone before I thought to take photos (you looked at photos of an empty ice cream container). Meh. Let's just say it was delicious. You got the bright, fruity blueberry flavor right off the bat and finished with a slight bit of tartness and crunchy shortbread pieces. It was a flavor-texture-sensory foodgasm. It would have gone PERFECTLY with what I'm going to post about next time. Look forward to that on Monday. For now, here's a teaser photo.

Ice cream and pizza!? Edwin, what's wrong with you? Let your imaginations run wild.

[Food] Bongo Burger

I made a visit to Bongo Burger on Northside with some floor mates the other day. I heard good things about this little chain, so I looked forward to it. Looking at the menu, I was a bit confused. Burgers and Persian fusion?

I got past the odd mix of cultures and got a bacon burger and fries.

Here's a close up shot on the burger. Sexy, eh?

As I sunk my teeth into the first bite, I immediately noticed how crunchy the sesame seed bun was. The bun itself was alright, a bit too crunchy for my personal taste. I couldn't taste the flavor of the patty through all of the other flavors, but once I got a bite of the patty by itself, I was pleasantly surprised, mainly because I couldn't taste it before. The patty had a nice, charred flavor to it. I couldn't taste the bacon until I got half-way through the burger. Once I hit the bacon, it was a flavor explosion. Bacony goodness. Bacon makes everything better. Overall, the burger was just above average. I wish the flavor of the meat cut through more; it was too muted. The bacon is what saved the burger for me.

The fries aren't that great. They are of the flavorless, crinkle cut variety. I do give them this, they are crispy. The ranch really brings them to life. The ranch sauce here is reminiscent of George's back at home in Fullerton. Thin, not thick and laced with crack. Not your typical ranch. Perfect.

They proudly (and obviously) serve Niman Ranch beef.

The Persian Burger seems to be rather popular here. It's made with lamb and is served on a long, baguette style bread rather than a bun. Perhaps I will try that next time. The burger and fries (surprisingly) filled me up, but the price seemed a bit steep for what it was. The total for the burger and fries came out to be about $8, which in my opinion is a tad bit too much for a fast food style burger. But then again, my standard is a #1 at In-n-Out.

There are two other locations around the UC Berkeley campus.

Bongo Burger
1839 Euclid Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 548-3400

Hours
Mon-Fri: 8am - 10pm
Sat-Sun: 8:30am - 10pm

[Food] Bette's Oceanview Diner

Last week a few of my suite mates wanted to grab breakfast, so we headed over to Bette's Oceanview Diner. Like most places here in Berkeley, it was a small place. We waited for 45 minutes or so before we were seated. The host was a rather interesting character, I'm not going to say much more about him. The place had a very nice classic diner feel to it with counter seats and booths. Don't expect to take a big party here, unless you want to sit outside; the booths will seat 4 people. There's also a giant slice of pie hanging of the ceiling. Awesome. Onto the food. Note: I sadly didn't have my camera with me (great forward thinking, Edwin!) so these photos were taken on my friend's phone. Sorry for the image quality, hopefully this won't happen again.

Roommate #1 got the two eggs with ham, toast, and homefries.

Roommate #2 got the Philadelphia Breakfast, which was scrapple, poached eggs, grilled tomatoes, and a scone.

We were seated around 11, so got to choose from either the breakfast or lunch menu. The suite mate got a sandwich (sorry, I can't remember which one he got) with potato salad.

I was obligated to get the Mexican Scramble because of my Southern Californian roots...and it came with house made chorizo. The Mexican Scramble was scrambled eggs with cheese and salsa, chorizo, flour tortilla, and I substituted some homefries for the black beans. The eggs were nice, fluffy, and a bit runny, which is perfect. Who eats fully cooked scrambled eggs anyway? The chorizo was well seasoned, but it was not greasy enough. Chorizo has to be swimming in a pool of orange nectar; the whole plate should have been orange. But it was still very good. You health nuts would probably prefer this breed of chorizo over the pure bred Mexican variety. The flour tortilla was nothing special, definitely a good receptacle for delivering the contents of my plate to my mouth. Finally, those homefries were pretty magical. Cooked just right, soft on the inside with an ever so slight crust on the outside, then topped with cold sour cream. Wizzow! They must have been sprinkled with crack.

Bette's is a great, cute breakfast place. If you are ever in the area, you should definitely check it out. Prices are a bit high for college students, but it's worth at least one visit. Oh, and be prepared to wait for a seat. During your wait, you could walk around the area, which is very nice and is full of furniture stores if you are into that kind of thing.

Bette's Oceanview Diner
1807 4th St.
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 644-3230

Hours
Mon-Fri: 6:30am - 2:30pm
Sat-Sun: 6:30am - 4:00pm