Food photo dump from April 2024

I took an unexpected one-month break from blogging. It’s not because something bad happened or anything—I just got a bit busy with work, got pretty involved with helping one of my friends with one of her business projects, and also ended up spending more time with friends than I usually do.

The funny part, though, is the timing of my one-month blogging break. I disappeared immediately after posting my April Fool’s blog post where I did a re­view of McDonald’s in the same format of my other fine dining reviews. It was probably very obviously a joke for people who read it on the 1st of April, but people who saw it at the top of my website at the end of April and didn’t see the April 1 timestamp were probably a bit confused and thought I just really like McDonald’s.

I don’t have too many photos from April that I’m able to share publicly, but I do have a bunch of food pictures.

Here is a meat pie, chocolate cake, mango smoothie, and steak sandwich from Porto’s Bakery & Café.

Here is a cup of clam chowder being lovingly embraced by hand model Billie Rae.

On an auspicious night when I was visiting my friend Doug Wreden in Los Angeles County, he asked me whether I would be willing to join him on an adventure to get Dave’s Hot Chicken. I agreed, and we set off on our journey.

We showed up to the address listed on Google Maps and found out that apparently the restaurant was a ghost kitchen, and the entrance to the building was nowhere in sight, so we couldn’t just go up and order. We called the restaurant a few times, and each time, the phone just kept ringing, and we basically just waited on the line for several minutes for no reason. There was an option to order online, but that wasn’t really helpful for us because we literally could not find the entrance anyway to pick up the food. In frustration, we ate at a different chicken spot.

A few days later, I ordered delivery from Dave’s Hot Chicken out of the sheer curiosity of whether or not my delivery driver would be able to find the pick-up location. Apparently he did, because these two spicy chicken sandwiches arrived at my doorstep half an hour later.

The food was passable at best.

In mid-April, I joined a friend to try out Intercrew.

For her drink, she got a Pink Lemonade, which wasn’t actually pink lemonade, but rather, a mixture of Tito’s vodka, pamplemousse, pineapple, and cran­berry. I did not try any of it, but apparently the drink was extremely strong.

Our first appetizer was naan with ssamjang butter. The naan was very soft with a delicate texture, and the ssamjang butter had a great balance of but­ter­i­ness and spice.

Next was hamachi crudo with blood oranges, amaranth puff, caper, kizami wasabi, cilantro, and yuzu ponzu. The garnish was a little intense and over­whelmed the flavor of the yellowtail a bit, but it was still good.

For my main entrée, I got an uni garlic rice with sea urchin and salmon roe. This was my favorite dish of the restaurant. I am a big fan of all the in­gre­di­ents—uni is my favorite type of sushi, I like caviar and other fish eggs, and garlic is one of my favorite vegetables—so it was reasonable that I liked a dish that had all of it combined.

We also got a pasta dish which, if I remember correctly, was a special that wasn’t regularly available on the menu. It was insanely spicy for some reason; I ended up taking the rest of this with me in a to-go box, and when I went to eat the leftovers, I lightly rinsed the pasta in water before reheating it to try and get rid of the intensity.

My friend decided we need more protein for the meal, so we also got Creekstone beef tartare with singha pears, pine nuts, fresh horseradish, garlic, sesame, and sea beans, topped with raw egg and with a side of crispy rice paper. This was very typical of high-quality beef tartare, and I enjoyed it.

Near the end of the month, I joined some friends at the Jade Court Café. We had some chicken lettuce cups made with sesame soy-marinated ground chicken and with a side of water chestnuts, crispy rice noodles, shaved cabbage, butter lettuce, shredded carrots, and spiced peanuts. We also got two bowls of red bean sesame balls.

 

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Hello McDonald’s

If you’ve been following my website for a while, you know that I like going to high-end fine dining restaurants. I’m especially a fan of multi-course meals, tasting menus, omakase experiences, and other “chef’s choice” formats of eating.

Last night, I decided to go to one of the world’s most famous and recognizable restaurants for a six-course meal: McDonald’s.

As my appetizer, I got a four-piece Chicken McNuggets®.

I ordered this with a side of the new, limited-edition Savory Chili WcDonald’s Sauce, but unfortunately, I did not receive it with my order. This tends to happen to me irritatingly frequently with special sauces. I recall at least one instance each within the past few years of wanting to try the Szechuan, Mambo, and Sweet & Spicy Jam sauces—and going to McDonald’s and ordering Chicken McNuggets® for the sole purpose of trying those sauces—and not receiving the sauce.

The nuggets themselves were fine; the breading seemed a bit thicker than usual and tasted a bit too over-fried, but overall, it was still passable.

My first entrée was a Cheeseburger. I customized my Cheeseburger to also have shredded lettuce in addition to the standard ingredients.

Lately, I’ve been minimizing my consumption of red meats and other foods high saturated fat to maintain good heart health. Because of this, I decided to get a small burger, as opposed to the Quarter Pounder® with Cheese like I used to always get when I was younger.

Having not had a McDonald’s burger for a long time, having this Cheeseburger was nostalgic. It tasted about the same as I remember, and the extra let­tuce added a very small but noticeable dash of extra freshness to the flavor profile.

As my side for all three main courses, I got a medium-sized portion of World Famous Fries®. The ones I got were a bit more flaccid than they usu­ally are, but they still had the distinct, iconic McDonald’s Fries taste. As dipping sauce, I got some Honey Mustard.

For my beverage, I got a Mango Pineapple Smoothie.

I usu­ally don’t get sugary drinks and generally opt for a Diet Coke, but for this meal, I decided to get something special. I think the smoothie should’ve had a bit more blended ice because the consistency was a bit too close to juice, and it was overall too sweet for my preference, but flavor-wise, I liked it.

For my second entrée, I got a Filet-O-Fish® with shredded lettuce.

A lot of people don’t expect this, but the Filet-O-Fish® is actually my favorite sandwich at McDonald’s. I like fish in general, but for some reason, there is just something about the Filet-O-Fish® that I really like when it comes to the balance of flavors. I ordered it with shredded lettuce this time, but it usu­ally doesn’t come with any lettuce; I think it tastes great both with and without the modification.

My third and final entrée was the Deluxe Spicy McCrispy™.

I think McDonald’s chicken sandwiches are generally a hit-or-miss. I think it is very easy to overcook the chicken, and I’ve found the doneness of the chicken in McDonald’s sandwiches to be fairly inconsistent. I think this is compounded by the fact that the shape and thickness of the chicken is also fair­ly inconsistent, so it’s pretty difficult to universalize a cooking methodology across the franchise.

To make things even worse for McDonald’s, a lot of fast food restaurants have come out with some incredible, juicy chicken sandwiches with very unique flavors after the chicken sandwich wars that started in 2019. I eat a lot of chicken sandwiches, and comparatively, I find McDonald’s to be mediocre.

Before dessert, I used the provided napkins to clean my hands.

I like McDonald’s napkins for two main reasons. First, the fold makes it easy to use the inside to wipe your mouth and feel like you’re using a “cleaner” part of the napkin that hasn’t been exposed to its surroundings. Second, the brown color makes grease show up very obviously, so as you wipe down your fingers, you get the satisfaction of seeing how much progress you’re making.

For dessert, I got a McCafé® Baked Apple Pie.

I used to eat a lot of these when I was a kid. Every time my parents and I went to McDonald’s, they would always add in an apple pie as dessert. For some reason, I stopped having these as an adult, but I was looking forward to trying this again for the nostalgia.

Unfortunately, this apple pie didn’t quite meet the quality bar I was hoping for. The outside was overbaked and too crispy. The caramelized apple filling inside was dehydrated. The crust was too firm. Instead of tasting like a sweet apple pie, it just tasted sweet, with the apple being an afterthought. Overall, this was pretty disappointing, though I imagine there is a possibility that this particular pie was prepared erroneously and I just got unlucky.

And finally, for my second dessert and my sixth and last course of the meal, I got an OREO® Shamrock McFlurry®.

This tasted a little bit like unmixed mint chocolate chip ice cream, but with a distinctly more artificial flavor. It was also extremely sweet. This is prob­a­bly fine for someone who actually likes the taste of the Shamrock syrup, but personally, I recommend just getting a Vanilla Soft Serve Cone for a much cleaner and classic flavor.

4-piece Chicken McNuggets®  $  2.99
Cheeseburger  $  2.29
Filet-O-Fish®  $  4.99
Deluxe Spicy McCrispy™  $  6.29
Medium French Fries  $  3.89
Honey Mustard  $  0.00
Medium Mango Pineapple Smoothie  $  4.39
Apple Pie  $  2.19
OREO® Shamrock McFlurry®  $  4.29
Discount (20%) –$  6.26
Tax (10.25%)  $  2.57
Total  $ 27.63

The table on the right shows how much I paid.

I used a promotion on the McDonald’s mobile app to get a 20% discount on my entire order. That deal often doesn’t give the most value on smaller orders and I usually end up using a dif­fer­ent one, but considering the large size of my six-course meal this time around, it ac­tu­al­ly took a good chunk off my total.

You may find that the prices I paid at this McDonald’s are higher than what you’d find at your local McDonald’s. Keep in mind that costs are localized, and because I dined at a South­ern California location, I probably paid some of the highest prices in the United States for my meal. Even when eating at McDonald’s in my home city of Las Vegas, it ends up being sub­stan­tial­ly cheaper.

Even though my experience with this McDonald’s wasn’t the best for all the dishes, the sta­ples that I usu­ally order—the Filet-O-Fish® and World Famous Fries®—were good. I ac­tu­al­ly like McDonald’s, not only for my preferred menu items, but because of the fa­mil­iar­i­ty and feeling of “home” that seeing the Golden Arches gives, no matter how far away from your ac­tu­al home you are.

Also, happy April Fool’s Day.

 

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Photo dump from March 2024

March has been a fairly eventful month for me. I was home in Las Vegas for a portion of it, but also spent a good chunk of the month in Los Angeles and Boston.

While in Las Vegas, I met up with one of my friends who wanted to get some dinner at Winnie & Ethel’s in downtown. The online reviews for this res­tau­rant were surprisingly high, so I went in with high expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed.

This diner had a very interesting pricing model that aggressively encouraged you to order more food. For example, you can get one malted waffle for $8, but if you want to order three instead, you can get it for $12—only an additional $2 per waffle. The French toast had the same pricing structure. I ended up getting five malted pancakes for $13, which was only $5 more than had I only ordered one.

I also got a side of brûlée grapefruit. I was familiar with crème brûlée, but this was my first time ever trying brûlée grapefruit. It was a little bit difficult to scoop out the pulp and eat it, but overall, I liked it—it was sweet, it had an interesting texture, and it wasn’t at all sour like I expected.

I enjoyed having breakfast for dinner. We had a late dinner so we were the last ones out; here is a shot of the empty restaurant.

Here is professional, world-renowned, distinguished, prestigious, acclaimed, award-winning, illustrious hand model Billie Rae showing off some sesame balls.

While in Los Angeles, I joined Doug Wreden for dinner with some of his friends at Shin-Sen-Gumi. We ordered a bunch of skewers.

For my main entrée, I got a negitama beef bowl.

Payment was tricky because most of the skewers were shared. In order to decide who covers the bill, we pulled up a horse race on YouTube and everyone picked a horse. We watched the horse race, and whomever picked the horse that came last had to pay for the meal.

You’d think that’s straightforward, but this video did everything in its power to make it as difficult as possible for us. Unsurprisingly, people don’t really care which horse gets last place, so the cameras only focus in on the leading horses. There were a few opportunities for us to catch who was in last place, but once the race neared the end, the scoreboard went away and none of the trailing horses were in the shot. We even tried to look up the official results on the league’s website, but they only listed the top five horses.

Eventually, we watched and re-watched the footage over and over again until we managed to take our best guess on which horse lost.

Towards the end of March, I flew to Boston, Massachusetts.

I was in Boston to attend PAX East and watch my friends’ shows at the convention.

The convention itself was fairly underwhelming, like usual. It wasn’t much different than any other convention, and because I personally wasn’t really in­ter­est­ed in waiting in long lines to be able to try some of the games on the exhibition floor, I was basically able to see everything in about a day.

With that being said, there was one interesting thing I did. Apparently there was an exhibitor that brought a bunch of cameras and laser pointers that could take three-dimensional models of people and turn them into statues.

This was intended to be used by cosplayers who want to memorialize their cosplay as a statue, but my friends decided to troll me and book me for a scan so they could turn my normal regular self into four different six-inch-tall statues that they could each have in their homes so that I could be spread out across the United States like Horcruxes.

After the final day of PAX East, I joined my friends at the Lookout Rooftop and Bar and had dinner in little insulated pods overlooking Fort Point Chan­nel and the downtown Boston skyline.

As it got later into the night, the buildings lit up for an even nicer view.

Here is what the interior of the bar looked like.

 

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Food of Boston

Today was my final full day in Boston. I have some miscellaneous photographs from attending PAX East and exploring the city, but I have so many food pictures that I figured it would be worth doing a blog post dedicated strictly to some of what I ate while traveling.

I landed in Boston at 9:16 PM EDT, and by the time I had made it to my hotel and got unpacked and washed up after my flight, it was already really late. I didn’t want to walk in the cold, so I checked some food delivery apps and found Lucky’s Lounge open late. I ordered salmon with roasted potatoes, as­par­a­gus, and salad. The salmon was underwhelming, the salad was way too sour, and the vegetables were passable.

My friends arrived in Boston the following night, and funny enough, the restaurant they picked to meet up… was Lucky’s Lounge again. This time I went in-person.

My dine-in order was a triple smash burger. It was strange, because smash burgers are usually supposed to be wide and thin, but this one was ag­gres­sive­ly tall. The burger lacked juiciness and tenderness and was overall underwhelming. The French fries were passable.

For one of the meals I had delivered to my hotel room after one of the convention days, I ordered a sashimi bowl and a sushi roll from Tora Japanese Res­tau­rant. It was pricey, but the fish variety and quality made it worth it. This was also the best shrimp head I’ve ever had.

Prior to my friends Dan and Jay’s first panel at PAX East, we went to Gyu-Kaku. Gyu-Kaku is a chain and has been a hit-or-miss in the Southern Cali­for­nia area, but this one near Boston was great. We all got the premium all-you-can-eat option and were very satisfied.

Beef tongue is one of my favorite cuts of meat at grill-your-own BBQ restaurants. Gyu-Kaku limits the number of orders of beef tongue you can put in because they label it as an extra premium dish, but luckily for me, none of my three friends I went with were a fan of beef tongue, so I got eat everyone’s portion on my own.

I got matcha ice cream for my dessert. This was the greenest and roundest scoop of green tea ice cream I’d ever seen.

Here is a takeout order of fish and chips from Stubbys that I got as a late night snack after one of the convention days.

After Dan and Jay’s second panel at PAX East, they had a meet-and-greet; while they were occupied, my friend Aidan (who runs the Skip the Tutorial You­Tube channel) and I left to get some lunch. I didn’t notice this until after I ordered, but coincidentally, the restaurant that Aidan picked was the same one from which I had ordered sushi a few nights prior—Tora.

I got a salmon bowl with three variants of salmon—regular, belly, and minced. The quality of the fish was fantastic. Considering that salmon belly is my second favorite type of sushi, I enjoyed it a lot.

Aidan is not a big fan of fish, so he got one pork and one beef dish.

I wasn’t too hungry so I didn’t get any dessert, but Aidan got some green tea ice cream.

For another one of my late night snacks near the end of my trip, I ordered a lengua burrito bowl from Chilacates Mexican Street Food. The portion size of meat was extremely small, which detracted from the overall flavor balance of the dish.

And for my final meal of Boston, and upon recommendation of one of my foodie friends, I ordered braised beef noodle soup, signature pork soup dump­lings, crispy-bottom pork buns, and iced soy milk from Nan Xiang Express. This tasted great, and eating it gave me a warm, cozy, homey feel.

When people online found out I was going to PAX East, I got a lot of recommendations of places to try out. Unfortunately, my breadth of exposure to res­tau­rants ended up being fairly limited, not only because I did not rent a vehicle, but also because it was very cold outside and it sapped away a lot of my motivation for going out.

I heard that PAX East 2025 is going to take place during the summer, so I’m guessing I’m going to end up checking out a lot more restaurants next year.

 

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Hello, “Fight Mii” at PAX East 2024

We’re already over halfway done with PAX East, and my friends Dan and Jay completed their two panels. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may recognize one of them from PAX West 2023—”Fight Mii,” a show where audience members come up to create Miis live under a time constraint and pursuant to a prompt provided by the host.

Here are some photos I captured from the show:

These final two bonus photos are from the Mario Kart tournament on the day after “Fight Mii.”

 

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Hello, JetBlue flight 188 from Los Angeles to Boston

I just arrived in Boston, Massachusetts for PAX East.

This is my first time in Boston since before the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the last time I was in Boston was basically immediately before the pan­dem­ic—I attended PAX East 2020 as a panelist, and during the convention, news was breaking about the coronavirus having moved from China to the United States. We know a lot about COVID-19 now, but back then, the virus was new and information about it was scarce. In response, I basically didn’t do anything in Boston except for show up to speak at my panel, then immediately left the convention center to limit my exposure to other people.

Now that it’s been a couple years since a majority of the world has deemed the COVID-19 pandemic to no longer be a threat, I figured 2024 would be a good year to head back to PAX East to enjoy a convention pre-pandemic-style. A few of my friends are panelists this year, and I’m also looking forward to checking out other parts of Boston.

On my way to Boston, I flew JetBlue flight 188 from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). I decided to fly out of Los Angeles instead of my home airport in Las Vegas because flights out of LAX were cheaper, and it was easy for me to coordinate some other things to take care of in LA to fall shortly prior to my departure.

There was a wom­an seated across the aisle from me with a baby that cried for about a fifth of the duration of the flight, but otherwise, everything else went fairly smooth­ly and uneventfully.

Meal service started with a welcome pastry. I’m not sure what exactly they were, but they tasted like a combination of very nutty cookies and crackers.

My first entrée was shrimp atop broasted fennel in saffron broth and topped with potato crumble. It was mediocre, but was still my favorite dish of the meal.

Next was roasted chicken with almond romesco topped with rosemary breadcrumbs. The chicken was extremely dry and the sauce tasted a bit in­com­plete, as if it was missing an aspect of richness to it.

Finally, the last dish was lasagna with fonduta, wild mushrooms, and fontina. It was extremely cheesy, even after scraping off the excess cheese topping. It sort of tasted like I was eating a little block of cheese, and couldn’t really tell if it even had any pasta sheets inside of it.

The three small plates came with a side of bread and extra virgin olive oil.

For my beverage, I ordered a non-alcoholic Mint Condition made from seltzer, ginger, lime, cucumber, and mint. It was clean and refreshing.

For dessert, I was served vanilla gelato topped with strawberry jam and sprinkled with devil’s food cake crumble. It was an interesting combination of fla­vors, and I liked the texture better after I mixed it up to a smoother ice cream consistency.

After about five hours, we began our descent and approach to Boston.

We touched down in Boston to a nice and chilly 40°F, or just over 4°C—quite the difference from a Los Angeles departing temperature of 68°F, or 20°C.

Like usual, I like to travel with an extra buffer day so I have an opportunity to recover before heading into the convention and socializing with friends. PAX East is taking place from the 21st until the 24th, then I’ll be headed back to Los Angeles on the 26th.

 

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