My Time at the 1st 8th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational

Last year, I attended the 1st 7th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational and I had an absolute blast. There was no doubt that I would attend this year’s festivities. The last time around was also the first time our friend Arun and I really got to hang out and know each other. Arun is the so-called Mayor of Downtown and is a vegetarian that gets such joy from bread, butter, and cheese. He had secured himself as my date months ago and despite a new woman in his life, I was still kept as his official date. I arrived 15 minutes before the event started and the line was already quite long. We walked into the Los Angeles Studios and it was immediately reminiscent of the actual 1st annual LA Street Food Fest at the same location.

Once again, these nondescript streets were filled with people, food trucks, vendors, and a ton of high energy. The sea of people wasn’t quite as large and the judging area with all of the really interesting sandwiches was off to the side. I had entered as a judge several weeks ago and I was glad that my group and I were all approved as judges. The most exciting part of the GCI is the competition. You get to see some truly unusual concoctions. The first round is called the missionary and is supposed to be just standard bread and cheese. This may sound like boresville but the possibilities are endless.

There was some slight variation in this round, even though I am not quite positive that it was actually allowed. My favorite of this round was one on Russian Rye with tomatoes, relish, and onions added in the sandwich. I don’t know what it was about this dish but it just totally worked for me. It was like a meatless strange version of a reuben that made this a grilled cheese favorite for me.

After the first round we took a break and went to the common area for non-judges. There was all you can eat free Tillamook grilled cheeses, potato chips, tomato soup, and Izze sparkling juices. There was also numerous trucks including 2 Grilled Cheese Trucks, World Fare, Cool Haus, Border Grill and specialty sandwiches from some of LA’s finest chefs. I wasn’t quite ready to stand in line so I went up above to buy a beer.

If I had to make one complaint it would be that there were no drinks being sold or given out in the judging area. I got so desperate for a Diet Coke (remember I am a Diet Coke head) that I walked to the front of the Grilled Cheese truck and grabbed one and laid cash on the table. There was a ton of people in cheese costumes and other silly outfits and the atmosphere was fun the entire time. There was cheese calling contests, grilled cheese poetry, cheesy costume contests and speeches from the official Mayor of Cheese. When we returned back to the judging area it was the Kama Sutra round, which means the sandwiches got a little crazier.

The judging this year was much smoother than last year. The lines were shorter but you still got the distinct idea that you had to beg for your piece of the grilled cheese. One sandwich that I was camped out to get was being made at the end of the table with such care. It was the Duck, Duck, Goosed grilled cheese. It had duck confit, foie gras, a fruit jam for sweetness, and a cave-aged gruyere. It sounded incredible and it tasted even better! In line, I heard a girl that sounded disgusted ask, “Eww, duck feet?!?!” Apparently she only heard half of the “confit’ word. The guys that made the sandwich weren’t exactly amateurs, they were from The Oaks Gourmet Market in Hollywood. It was the last sandwich I tried and it was definitely the best! I was in love at first bite…

Josie didn’t attend last year or this year due to her Saturday catering job but she was at the first couple GCI events that took place in a loft in Downtown. Despite only seeing the last two years the upgrade in this event is remarkable. More people, more sponsors, more vendors, and way more enthusiasm. The tagline of the GCI is “Bread-Butter-Cheese-Victory” and I can, without hesitation, say that they nailed them all. The event was a complete success. I, on the other hand, disappointed myself by only making it 3.5 hours, but it IS a 6 hour food event. You were a true UG hero if you made it through all of the rounds. Anyway, that was my experience and my favorites, what do you got? I want all the cheesy details.

Brewery Art WALK, Vizzi TRUCK, & WorldFare BUStaurant

Saturday was the day that I should have been at school taking graduation pictures and picking up my cap and gown for my grad school graduation. However, that was not what I was doing. Instead I was looking forward to another school on Saturday. I was going to be attending an Italian Wine Class at Cube Marketplace. Minty and I knew we’d be attending this and set off to the Brewery Art Walk before the class. It was perfect weekend weather and it was magical to wander into and out of lofts to look at people’s collections in this art colony area.

Everything was lovely and then I stumbled into a place that I have been wanting to visit for years. I found the second Hipcooks location in the Brewery Arts District. I fell in love with their large communal tables, wood stump cutting boards, and cute aprons. I have a list of their upcoming classes and will definitely return for a class. By the way, I am so in love with their colander light fixtures.

After walking in to this cute kitchen my hunger started to grow and I was in the market for some food. Thankfully, just outside the art walk was the Vizzi truck. Minty told me that she read on Twitter that the World Fare was gonna come, however, they were nowhere in sight. Vizzi was not a second choice by any means and we ordered food. They only launched a few weeks ago and we were blown away by the fancy TV screens on the truck. I ordered the Balsamic BBQ Braised Wagyu Sliders and Minty had the Black Skillet Jidori Chicken Sliders. Both sandwiches were served atop Pimento-Spiced and Yakima salted Popcorn. Popcorn is one of my favorite food and I loved this fun side dish. I think I love that popcorn is such an uncouth thing to eat, it always feels as though it is being shoveled into your mouth and I feel like I can it unbelievable quantities. Minty and I subscribe to the school of “Sharing is Caring” so I gave her one of my beef sliders in exchange for one of her chicken ones. I liked hers better and she could sense it, so she asked me if I wanted to switch one more chicken for beef. I apologetically nodded and was happy as can be. These were good sliders  and the popcorn was a wonderful surprise. If I had one complaint it would be the buns. I am a bit of a bread snob and this tasted similar to King’s Hawaiian rolls, so I am guessing that is what they use. Not bad, but not up to par with the rest of the slider.

It seemed almost immediately after we ordered, the famed World Fare Bus arrived. They were welcomed by a line and a camera crew for promotional purposes. It took a while for them to park and set up and so we waited, plus we had to digest.  This BusTaurant is famous for Bunny Chows, “Originally a South African street worker food; a hollowed out loaf of bread with filled with chicken curry, Chef Andi has taken the concept to a new level as a portable easy-to-eat medium for serving different flavors from around the world.” It is a very cool concept and we liked the second story, even if the steps were rather scary. We were already a bit full and ordered the Bunny Chow combo to share with Chicken Curry and Short Ribs and added in the Truffle Mac n Cheese Balls. We were first given the wrong order (photographed below) but we can’t complain because it was delivered to us after we were told to take a seat upstairs. The upstairs was beautiful but unfortunately there were no seats, so we stood.

We had the order corrected and we both dug in to sample. I liked this brioche bun much better and the chicken curry was good with my favorite golden raisins, athough, the short rib was pretty watery and it soaked right through the bread. Our meal came with a perfect cookie. However, for me, the item that was the clear winner was the truffle mac n cheese balls. They were perfection and reached a level that the ones at Fred 62 just can’t match. After these two lunches at mobile eateries, I was stuffed and prepared for wine class. They are both trucks I would try again, but that mac n cheese ball is something I would drive miles and wait in line for. Anyway walk, truck, and bus on and I will tell you about the wine class in the very near future.

Gastrological Astrology: For The Week Beginning April 15th

Photo Credit Rae Threat

By: Your High Priestess, Nadia Noir aka DoubleDEntendre

As a Gemini, I am decidedly indecisive. Do I want a raucous, Motley Crue-esque Monday that started all because of an innocent Umami Burger Happy Hour and a few too many Allagash Whites? Or do I want to hermit away in my “Hatch” with some froyo while watching every season of Lost back-to-back, hallucinating that my cat is the black Smoke Monster? Sometimes I just need someone else to make the damned decision for me. So I look to a song, or a story, or a shaman i.e. a couple of pre-game shots. And sometimes even, I look to the stars, both of the silicone-enhanced and the hydrogen/helium-enhanced variety. I mean, what were the complex mythos of the ancient Greeks and Romans created for if not to tell some ravenous, mercurial, and slightly delusional girl from the future what to eat, drink, and be?

Aries (March 21-April 19)

The “fire of life” exists in the belly of an Aries. As an Aries, you are perhaps the most virile, aggressive and outrageously lascivious of the Zodiac; Aries people are said to be aromatic and musky much like a mesquite wood infused barbeque pit. This might sound disgusting but I know many foodies (UGs, perhaps) who might lick your armpit for smelling like that. This week for Aries is about embracing their ‘musk’; cultivating balance in their relationships, specifically influences of “modern man.” So take a step back and re-examine your relationship with food and others. Enjoying food is an instinctual, primal practice. One that comes naturally to every Aries. Put down your Yelp App, close the tabs with your Google Reader food blogs, leave your camera at home and just EAT. Like a starving baby suckling a great big milky breast. EAT.

Taurus (April 20-May 20)

Most people are horrible at baking. And I mean REALLY horrible. Sure, we eat their baked goods and say stuff like, “Oh, I normally hate sweets, but this is GOOD.” We are lying, but we don’t have the patience or heart to explain to them why their cookies suck. The irony is that their cookies probably sucked because they didn’t have patience or heart when they were baking. The point of all this is that: Taureans have heart and Taureans don’t lack patience. They are usually great bakers. Usually. Except this week when it is imperative to bake the biggest, moistest cake ever. This is the week to follow all recipe directions exactly and to remain in the present. Do not get sidelined by some other delicious, pre-prepared morsel. No. Patiently mix all your ingredients together and watch as your cake rises centimeter by centimeter. If anyone can do it, you can.

Gemini (May 21-June 20)

At a fancy happy hour last night, I was telling my friend two things about myself: 1) that my current dream is to get a motorcycle and ride aimlessly while breaking hearts and learning dangerous skills and 2) that my go-to drunk food is Cheetos. Seemingly, These things don’t have anything in common-but they do. Both of these things point to the typical and perpetual adolescence of the Gemini. Unfortunately, this week we have to sit at the grown-up table. This might entail putting down the caramel Frappucinos and Del Taco burritos of our youth and eating…salads. With dressing on the side. And drinking water. And taking vitamins. All while working at our desks through our lunch hour.  Just think of it as acting. Play the role of an “adult” now and in the future you will get a whole swimming pool of Cheetos to swim through, a hot tub full of Cherry Coke, and a motorcycle made out of candy corn. A girl can dream.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)

I’ve never met a crab I didn’t like. Especially one drenched in butter. You, dear Cancer, have been sitting around in a delicious little puddle of butter for a long time with no one willing to suck out your succulent little legs. You’ve been fine with this because, as a Cancer, you are willing to work hard and wait around for the right opportunity to give you a nibble (see: opposite of Gemini). The fact that Cancer rules the stomach should come as no surprise; you’ve been feeding others with your resources for a long time, but it’s been a longer time since somebody fed you. Or licentiously licked up the juices of your hard work from a plate. Pretty soon, someone is going to lick up those juices, so don’t give up. Keep marinating. They are right around the corner with claw cracker in hand.

Leo (July 23-August 22)

Oh, hi, Leo. Nice to briefly see you considering someone has lit the proverbial fire in your gas oven, turned you up to “extra hot-in fact-let’s just burn the whole effin’ kitchen down”, and run away without calling for reinforcements. For other zodiac signs this would be overwhelming. Not for you, Leo. This is what you LIVE for. Every pot is cooking; every item in your pantry is near charred; and everyone can feel the heat and the energy you are emanating. True, you are in your element. However, it is also true that you may need to step away from the heat for a second, pull out a nice cold piece of icebox humble pie and taste it. Contemplate it, enjoy it, taste it again. Because even though you are going more places and doing more things than everyone else, the fact that you are getting into these newly-opened restaurants or getting to taste some Michelin Star winning chef’s fancy dinners before everyone else does not mean you should brag about it.

Virgo (August 23-September 22)

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie/That’s amore/When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine/That’s amore.” This week I dedicate this song to you, Virgo. Lately, you’ve felt like a big blob of blobbity blob nothing but really you are pizza dough being laid out to rest, bathing in the light of the moon, getting drunk on love and life and world experiences. As a Virgo, you’ve probably had a hard time recognizing all the magical things happening around you. You’ve been more focused on the ratio of pepperoni to cheese and the pi measurement of your pie. But lemme tell ya, sweetie pie; some big strong hands are coming your way. They are going to yank you around a little bit, spin you in the air, and for once you are going to enjoy it. You’ll realize that sitting around resting doesn’t mean you are a blob of nothing. This whole time you’ve been a magical pizza of love.

Libra (September 23-October 22)

A Libra knows what is like to be arm candy; often the fairest creatures of the zodiac, Librans give off a sincerely insincere sweetness that is also likely to cause teeth rot. Well, Libra, you are tired of being someone else’s little sticky candy cane. Not only are you tired of being tasted up and down, you are tired of the unhealthy consequences you are having on people. In reality, how you have been affecting other people lately is their fault not yours. They are just Augustus Gloop-ing your sweet nature. This week it is important that you go on a literal and metaphorical cleanse. Figure out how you want to taste to other people and who you want getting the Tootsie in your Tootsie Pop. Do this now while everyone in the illogical astrological world is still a chubby child in love in a candy store and high off of your sugar. You still have time to grab pieces of you from their grimy little hands.

Scorpio (October 23-November 21)

Some days you feel like a nut, some days you don’t. This week you are going to feel like a nut. Or the nutcracker. I don’t know. Life has been great for you, Scorpio. You’ve been foraging for nuts and nesting with a mate (or two). Your dining engagements have been the way you like it: intimate, controlled, and exclusive. You have all your good energy and luck lately to thank for this. But this week, someone is going to mess with your pile of well-placed nuts. It may feel like they are ruining your whole plan of feasting throughout the summer. But guess what; they aren’t. Sometimes you need to get your nuts touched in order to realize how lucky you are to have said nuts. So watch your nuts, but don’t watch too hard, or you just might crack.

Sagittarius (November 22-December 21)

Hello, and welcome to ‘Backwards Week’. Some other signs of the zodiac always live in ‘Backwards Week’ (in fact, I am pretty sure they don’t really know what the concept of direction really is), but you Sag, shot your arrow in one direction a long time ago, and are following the righteous and honorable path. On this path, you like to be with the same people, do the same things, and eat the same things. Well. Screw that. Do it all backwards this week. Eat something different. Totally different. Weird, even.  Right now you are stuck in a rut and while you say you are perfectly content in that rut, following that same old arrow, you aren’t really.

Capricorn (December 22-January 19)

I personally don’t know very many Capricorns so if you are a Cap introduce yourself to me in the comments below. My theory is that most Capricorns are smart enough to hide themselves from troublemakers like me. But this week, Cap, you are going to be the troublemaker. Your life this week is going to be like one giant, potato-salad-slippery-floor, tapioca-pudding-up-the-nostril food fight. It’s going to be what we in Hippie-land call an “epiphany” and what we in non-Capricornville call “fun”. So dirty and so slimy and so stinky and so delicious that for once you are going to have the opportunity to forget all about those important things that Capricorns like to think about. People are still using you as that iconic figure of dinner party etiquette; they might judge you, too. But just throw some coleslaw at them at scream, “I don’t give a ****!”

Aquarius (January 20- February 18)

Every other horoscope for you this week is telling you to avoid “dumb distractions” and “indulgences”. I’m here to tell you, SIN AWAY. Aquarians are never ones for moral/ethical lines and there is good reason for that. The reason is: it doesn’t suit you. Lately, you’ve been eating all the right things, watching your weight, exercising, not spending all your pennies on happy hour beers. Well, stop it. Now. Unless, of course you want to keep doing that. This week you are going to have to make a decision about whom you really are. If you are hungry and horny little billy goat, be a goat. If you are a smoothie slurping pilates fiend, be a fiend. But stop thinking that your previous life of hedonistic indulgence is a garbage way to be. Some creatures, like goats, like to eat garbage. And it makes them the happiest little things in the world.

Pisces (February 19-March 20)

Lean in and let me tell you a little secret…you might get laid this week. I know, right?!? As a Pisces, you are a slippery little creature full of ideas but you never know which way to go. A Pisces will take a bite of something and never know whether they really like it or not, whether to spit or swallow, whether they are meant to find pleasure in it or purge it. Well, this week is all about seafood. Ahem. No, not just in a sexual way. In a metaphorical way as well. Fish can change sex in order to procreate and ensure their lineage passes on. You are equally full of both eggs and balls lately- and this sexual androgyny makes you a catch to almost everyone. It also lends you an energy of transformation. Lately, you’ve felt like you were stuck in a net, flailing around, being abused by every one-eyed fisherman that has come along. Now you have a chance to eat all his bait, poke that fisherman in his good eye with his own hook, and serve him a taste of his own poisoned puffed up worm medicine. It’s only right. And also, it’s just funny.

I Left My Heart and Footprint in San Francisco

I grew up in Santa Cruz, so whenever I mention “The City” it has always been San Francisco that I have had in mind. I spent a bit of time there during the last few years of high school but I have now lived in LA for 6 years and since then I have had limited visits. Especially because when I head up north my mom wants me all to herself. I have had small excursions and I was a guest at the Tasty Awards last winter, but I have yet to really spend some quality time in the city that I always assumed I would end up living in. This weekend was different, one of my best friends who is more of a sister, named d’Auria, had just moved there from New Orleans and the whole time felt like us going home in some weird way. I picked her up on Saturday and she told me that another friend from Santa Cruz was in the city to see Wicked and asked if I wanted to hang out with him. I knew his name right away and was pleased that he knew who I was, even though I was a grade older and only knew him because he had dated an acquaintance during my senior year of high school. He was right across from the Ferry Building, we picked him up and I asked d’Auria to get on her phone and find me a sandwich. We drove around until she found a place on her Yelp App. She navigated me and we ended up only a block away from where we started. The sandwich place she found was closed and with our princess parking we went by foot and returned to the Ferry Building. Here is my bestie, d’Auria, in front of the building that houses a ton of culinary treasures.

The place was bustling and it contained some of my favorite things. I loved the oysters because of the aphrodisiac element and the mushrooms for their richness while still containing zero calories. I took a picture of Cowgirl Creamery because I know how much Josie loves their cheeses. I, on the other hand, love my cheeses like I love my men…hard and hol(e)y. We were in the mood to be served so we just browsed and returned to the car. I said something to d’Auria about how all of the LA food bloggers go nuts over Tartine. She told me that she goes there several times a week and loves just getting a baguette and jam. d’Auria is a French girl that is a foodie in her own right and she led me straight there. It was in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. It was the exact kind of neighborhood I dream about living in. There is a park in the center with an enormous woman statue made of recycled parts and is surrounded by boutiques, candy shops, and people picnicking and serenading one another. We walked to the bakery and it was quiet and empty. I thought that surely this couldn’t be THE Tartine that gives people food boners. Correct I was, it was not. Apparently we were at Tartine Cafe Francais instead of Tartine Bakery. I didn’t mind. I was starving, this place had a French owner, and my French bestie vouched for it and the prices were so reasonable. I am always happy when I see a sandwich less than $7. I had the salami and swiss with cornichons. I told d’Auria about how when I was in Cannes I brought a jar of cornichons  back with me in my luggage and what a tragedy it would have been if  the jar were to break. d’Auria proved why I love her so much by saying, “Then you would really smell Jewish.”

My sandwich was quite good and reminded me of something I ate in France. Simple, small, and fresh ingredients. Apparently this place has been here longer than the other Tartine and it clearly doesn’t have the same clout. It is a friendly neighborhood bakery and one that I wish was in my own neighborhood. The pastries were all hand crafted and everything was yummy and inexpensive. I left with an apricot hamatashan. I liked the fruit filling but strangely enough it was d’Auria who isn’t Jewish that explained to me this significance of this little cookie. We had a nice stroll through the park and then I said I needed a drink because I was parched. I said either a Diet Coke, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, or a cider. I ended up with the latter, a pomegranate cider brewed by Two Rivers, at  the 21st Amendment Brewery. It was a perfect neighborhood brewery, there were two bars inside, the food looked delicious, and along with serving local brews they also brewed their own beers.

d’Auria and I were left by our friend and we headed to her new office to change for dinner. Her new office is this very cool warehouse space in the SOMA district. She is working with her other Jewish BFF (actually all of her besties are Jews) on a very exciting new project that I can’t wait to tell you all about. We grew up in the same town, went to the same HS, and have the same confident/bossy demeanor that can be a lot to handle. We talked about business, dating, partnerships and everything else under the sun. We ate nuts, drank Stella, and it felt like the guys (er, girls) getting back together. It was fantastic. At around 9:30, I said I was hungry for dinner and we agreed on a Thai restaurant by the office. The place was called Manora, which made us both think of Hanukkah, and it was kismet.  We ordered the fresh mint rolls, a chicken curry (after we told the duck curry we were planning on getting was very spicy), and some pad thai. The fare we ordered was standard but the food was all very good. d’Auria got full early on but I could have been grazing for hours. I was having a fantastic day in a fantastic city and I couldn’t help but notice that the packed restaurant contained 90% men. This was far better numbers than we have in LA.

I told d’Auria when we were driving into The City that I had the feeling that I sometimes get when I go on a first date, which is a repetition in my head of “Don’t fall in love. Don’t fall in love. Don’t fall in love.” However, San Francisco won me over…hard. I had the perfect day, great conversation, good food and drink, princess parking throughout the city, and good weather. I think I left a bit of my heart in San Francisco but the rest of my footprint has yet to be made. I am quite certain that the other foot will drop in the future and I’ll return to this beautiful city that has always felt like part of my destiny.

Gays & Dolls: A Magical Bar/Club Crawl through WeHo

A couple of Fridays ago was the Minty’s Gays & Dolls Crawl. It was the event I was most looking forward to all of March. Josie was out of town and I was having a fantastic ceviche filled day with the girls. I bought a large ring, which I heard would help me attract a gay boyfriend. Apparently, the bigger the accessory the higher the rate of attracting the attention of a gay male. It was getting close to the time to head out for the crawl when it suddenly dawned on me: If I have a huge ring that is the attractor, then I need to have my nails in top form. I knew what I needed to do, get my nails done. Like any good gay men, I chose beauty over promptness. I was late for the crawl because my nails were drying.

The Abbey is unquestionable the most famous gay bar in Los Angeles and it was the first stop on the crawl. It takes a lot to get me nervous. No straight man, potential lover, CEO, or celebrity has made me feel as nervous as I was when I began this crawl. I think it is because I have wanted a gay boyfriend for so long. When I was a senior in high school, I began spending my weekends in the Castro and I would come home and tell my mom, “I wish I was a gay man.” My mom would nod and smile and say that she wanted the exact same thing when she was my age. She was waitressing in the city at the time and was in awe of all the beautiful, sophisticated, and worldly gay men around her. Anyway, I arrived fashionable late and the first person I saw was the Minty’s gay boyfriend, Ed, who had been calling me to check in and make sure I was on my way and parking. I grabbed a small drink at the Abbey because I knew the crawlers wanted to progress to their next stop.

After a long talk at the bar with a guy about apple martinis, the only drink he has ever ordered, I headed back to the group. The group of crawlers was smaller than most of the Minty’s crawls and I loved it. There were 3 dolls, 5 gays, and Joe and I found it to be a perfect and intimate mix of people. I drank my drink quickly and continued on.

Mother Lode was the second stop and they made enormous drinks. I requested a small one after I saw how big everyone’s glasses of mixed drinks were. However, even that small one still had a ton of whiskey. We all made jokes that involved “mothers” and “loads” but this was definitely the first time I have been in a dive gay bar. A dive gay bar is a very interesting place. The men were more rugged and there was a group of lesbians playing pool that made me a little nervous. Minty’s gbf (gay boyfriend) kept egging me on to play with them but I was scared. These women could kick my ass and not just at pool. However, it was at this stop when I really started talking to one of the gays. His name was Paul and he lived in Pasadena and he was fantastic. He was a foodie, a yelper, a guy that spent every summer in my hometown of Santa Cruz, and everything a straight girl could hope for. At one point he even said the magic words, “deep fried artichoke hearts.” How come straight men don’t know that the key to my heart is artichoke hearts?!? I was in love but I tried to not let it show. He had my eye and I was smitten. Minty’s gbf was telling everyone that it was Minty’s bday and he made me drop in comments about his boyfriend when other men were getting too close. The night had begun and it was fantastic.

Fiesta Cantina was the third place on the crawl and as soon as we arrived, I knew I was right where I wanted to be. I was walking with Ed who happens to have a beard and a table of men outside began to yell, “Hey Beard, come here and meet your destiny.” I laughed first and then melted later, why can’t straight men talk that? If they did it would just be the cheesiest worst pick-up line ever but this was actually cute, they were cute, and I was jealous. Fiesta is famous for two things: cheap 2 for 1 drinks and a rooftop that is packed with a ton of men. Minty who has an entire gay posse was the person that knew exactly what to order here and it was delicious, vanilla vodka and orange juice. I would say it was a creamsicle in your mouth but that may be too vulgar. The rooftop was claustrophobic, hot, and the fantasy of women and gay men everywhere.

After the booze and staring at all of these hot men, I was a little hot and bothered. I needed to, in the words of Lady Gaga, “Just Dance.” We all decided we were ready for the club portion of the night so we headed to the final destination.

Micky’s was the best kind of dance club. Fun tunes, men that you aren’t worried about touching you, hot bartenders, and go-go dancers that can keep you going all night. I was warned early in the night that Mintys gbf can become very straight when he got drunk. I was very fortunate. We got some dirty dancing on and from there on out I didn’t need another drink besides a Diet Coke. I was having a blast. Here is an idea of the caliber of men I was surrounded by, don’t be too jealous.

The week of the crawl had been a supa stressful week for me and this night was exactly what I needed. I have a (straight) guy in WeHo that I sometimes see and I had texted much earlier in the night and I let one of the guys leave a vulgar message on his voicemail. As soon as I got my car from the valet, he had responded to see if I was gonna come over and my response was: “I just danced with and looked at a ton of gorgeous men. I’m good. I am going to head home now.” I also had at some point in the night wrote on my FB status that I was in search of my very own gay boyfriend. By the time I awoke in the morning, I had a friend request from my Pasadena crush and he commented, “Did I at least make it to the semi-finals?” under my status. I was giddy. Minty consistently throws the most fantastic events and I am so grateful that I am her friend and get to share her gay posse with her. Also if you are impressed by the photo quality, it wasn’t the pictures I took. Thanks Joe, for being our paparazzi for the night and buying me a few drinks. Between this crawl and our Checkers dinner, I think I have some very exciting prospects in the gay boyfriend category!

Beef Roll Crawl: A Variety of Friends and A Variety of Rolls

I have just returned from the Beef Roll Crawl and I have a lot to report back. First of all, the goal was 5 places in 4 hours. We ended up hitting the 5 places with a slight variation (see Kings Cup section) in just shy of 6 hours. The day was an absolute blast and the best part of all was that each roll was totally different. Not to mention that everyone on the crawl spent less than $20 for the entire day, average price per place was under $4.  Minty is an expert crawl leader and when us, UG girls, started to become close friends with her we asked her if she could do a special UG crawl for us and this is what she came up. The beef roll was perfect as it had the delicate couth pastry side stuffed with uncouth beef and cilantro. The whole thing is rolled up into deliciousness and while you can use your chopstick, it is the perfect thing to just grab with your hands. On this Sunday morning, I found myself crawling with more than 15 foodie friends and while we were all surprised by the variation of rolls, I received a very personal surprise (see Mandarin Noodle Deli section.)

Doe Jon Station in Arcadia was the first stop for the day. I woke up with hardly a voice, which I discovered when I made a morning phone call and then realized I could not speak. That did not stop me, I may be loud and a chatterbox, but my main goal for the day was just simply to eat. As soon as I arrived, I realized that I had been there once before with SinoSoul and FoodIsMyNish. I remembered that they have good dumplings, big buns, and a delicious oyster soup. This time around we were joined by The Minty,  Ian (our web guy), Nicola and her friend Jenny, Shemuell, and Derek Thomas (who I have only ever met at my infamous birthday dinner) and his girlfriend Catherine. We ordered the beef roll, small steamed buns, pork dumplings, and a twisted cruller.

The dumplings were still delicious but the beef roll was like something I have never had. The pastry part tasted identical to sesame bun and I liked that but the beef was dry and not fresh; and I am not sure the two went together. It also was more of a sandwich then a roll. I kept assuring the group of crawlers that rolls are way bigger and better than this. At the end of the day this was probably most people’s least favorite. However, it was Josie that insisted on the cruller after she saw everyone eat this monstrous churro looking thing with their porridge. She went nuts over this fried dough sans powered sugar and I will always like this place for dumplings, soup, and big ole buns.

101 Noodle Express was our second stop. For me and Josie it is was the first place we ever tried a beef roll, so it the measuring stick for how we judge all other beef rolls. This Arcadia location of 101 was much larger and fancier than the Alhambra one. We were spoiled by air conditioning and Mayo4You waiting for us at a large table. We ordered the combo plate of appetizers, beef noodle soup, hand cut wok fried noodles, steamed pork and celery dumpling, fried dumplings, and the beef roll.

I loved the soups and, of course, this beef roll was perfect. It was rolled tightly, the beef was moist, and there is a sweetness that I loved but Minty found to be too sweet. It was a full meal and OliveJina and Limer35 both made cameos at this stop. We ordered the most here and also dropped the most cash, a whopping $6 a person with tax and a 20% tip included. I think that this was most people’s favorite including my own.

Mandarin Noodle Deli was the third stop and we had several crawlers waiting for us including Kane, Matt, and Jessica. Later our favorite Yelpers Jenny, Allen, and Virgina joined in on the rolls. Josie has a ton of memories at MND with her ex so it holds a special place in her heart but when I have been here before to eat I haven’t been impressed. We were stuffed by this point so we just stuck to the beef roll and got three orders. It was loosely put together and this one contained green onion, a lot of green onion. It may have been a good addition if it was a small amount but it was just so much. It was definitely overpowered with onion but we all liked the hoisin sauce that accompanied it.

I was sitting at the other end of the table from Josie and at one point during beef rollin’ she said that an anonymous person she was sitting next to was roommates with the long term girlfriend of a guy I saw briefly. This guy was my grad school crush and someone that was a brief rebound after my boyfriend. At first I said, “That’s impossible” but after a few facts were confirmed like MBA student, job, and car driven I was sure that it was the same guy. I have dated a married man years ago, so I really can’t get angry but it just put a bad taste in my mouth. One of my new friends at the table is as big of a Will & Grace fanatic as me and he kept doing the Jack, “I WOULD DIE, I WOULD JUST DIE” line. In reality, I really don’t care but it was definitely one of those awkward turtle moments. I thought this was a good responsible guy, who could have that an MBA grad student could be such a sleaze bag? Anyway, on to the next stop and roll…

Michelle’s Pancake was stop number four and it was a pleasant surprise. This beef roll had no oil. The pastry tasted just like a thicker mushu pancake. They were totally light and were a favorite of mine. The cilantro was fresh and this one also had some leek thrown in, which I loved. Not only was the roll great but they also had the strongest garlic dipping sauce.

Kings Cup was a surprise in all aspects. We thought we were heading to Mama’s Kitchen, a beef roll hotspot. At the previous stop, I even made an announcement saying that Mama’s Kitchen was supposed to be a kind of disgusting place with no bathrooms and where the only food to order was the beef roll and that dish was supposed to be amazing. However, when we made our way to the last stop we didn’t find Mama but we did find Kings Cup. Different person and different thing. We were all tired and full, so we checked the menu, saw beef rolls and sat down and ordered. The menu had frog fried rice and duck feet and other interesting items but my table stuck with the beef roll while the other table ordered some dumpling and soup standards. This roll was very fried, the antithesis of the last roll. I liked the meat inside but not the roll. The whole dish just didn’t seem cohesive to me, there was just meat and cilantro thrown in. However, Josie really liked this one and said it was a favorite of hers. I could see that as the whole time it kind of reminded me of a flauta (something she also enjoys.)

It was a long day, but it was a fantastic day! I saw some old friends, met new ones, and each roll and restaurant had something totally different to offer. I want to thank all of you that joined us and, especially, The Minty for all of her planning. I hate to say it but…if you haven’t been on a Minty Crawl then you haven’t been on a crawl. She prints outs notes and maps and makes it so everything is close enough together and driving/parking is not an issue. You are free as a crawler to just enjoy the food, delve in, and explore your beautiful city. Crawl on folks and continue to Rock and Beef Roll!

Wanna Know How We Roll? Come to the Beef Roll Crawl!

Photo courtesy of Ron Diggity on Flickr

The Minty is one of our favorite foodie friends, our leader, and our Food Ballin Team Captain. We are merely her fans, followers, and crawlers. We are thrilled that this month, next week to be exact, she is organizing a Beef Roll Crawl for all of our friends.

I first had a beef roll in July at 101 Noodle Express and here were some highlights from my first time:

While I was waiting for my order an older Chinese woman who was dining alone received her order of a beef roll and was in astonishment. I was so impressed by her comment I quickly sent out a tweet that said, “At 101 Noodle Express for the beef roll and a woman just got hers and yelled ‘Oh my gosh so so big.'”

It was truly the greatest reaction ever and Tony C. (aka Sino Soul) responded to my tweet by saying, “Did you go: ‘I’ll have what she’s having’?” Luckily, I already had that big roll coming my way.

How can I describe the beef roll? Like the baby of the best of Mexico and the best of China wrapped in a cute snugly onion pancake. Ok so, backstory my best friend is from Tokyo and when she was first in the US she discovered a  love for burritos and referred to the tortilla portion as the burrito skin. It was an adorable phrase and she loved the tortilla best but that was always my least favorite part. I am a corn tortilla girl and always find flour tortillas to be sub par and low quality. So imagine my excitement to have the beef roll wrapped in a delicious puffy onion pancake with depth and amazing taste. The stuffing was simple, it was just tender beef and cilantro. However, there was something else, something sweet, soft, and delicious inside and I couldn’t figure out what it was. My first guess was caramelized onions but alas I was wrong it was the fat from the beef. Why the hell do people cut that part off? It is the best part ever, so soft and so sweet.  This roll was phenomenal and why this isn’t THE dish offered at every Chinese restaurant is beyond me.

Anyway, the UG girls are crazy about beef rolls and next Sunday, March 28th, we are hitting up 5 beef roll places in 4 hours. For a full list of the spots and times check the Minty’s schedule and RSVP on Facebook.

Sunday, March 28

Doe Jon Station 11 a.m.
46 W Las Tunas Drive

Arcadia, CA 91006
(626) 821-2088

101 Noodle Express 12 p.m.

1025 S Baldwin Ave
Arcadia, CA 91007

(626) 446-8855

Mandarin Noodle Deli 1 p.m.

9537 Las Tunas Drive
Temple City, CA 91780

(626) 309-4318

Michelle’s Pancake 2 p.m.

706 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776

(626) 293-8098

Mama’s Kitchen 3 p.m.

1718 New Ave
San Gabriel, CA 91776

(626) 289-8984

If you wanna roll like a real food baller, then you must come to the Beef Roll Crawl! Don’t be a square, be a beef roll!