Sunday, November 28, 2010

Porto's Bakery & Cafe- Glendale

 Porto's Bakery Glendale Exterior
Porto's Cafe Glendale Exterior

It so happened to be a random sighting when a dining companion and I were driving on Brand to go to the Glendale Galleria for some shopping that popped an idea to visit Porto's for dinner one day. I had heard about Porto's first from the blog Brand Eating, where the author talked about Porto's Cheese Rolls. That is actually a trademarked name, according to Porto's menu! Actually, I had seen Porto's during a visit to the Alex Theatre for Shakesperience, but I never visited. So, since we were able to find a parking spot after out visit to the Glendale Galleria (and for free too, since it was out of the restrictions for paid parking that day), we decided to eat there.

Inside, it was bustling. You could just call it the Cuban version of the popular Asian bakeries JJ Bakery and 85C Bakery and Cafe. There were two giant lines; one was a snaking line in the "Bakery" section of the building (entrance that says Porto's Bakery) while the cafe section had a smaller line for drinks, a bakery section, and hot food options. It did take a while for us to reach the counter to order, but that allowed us time to decide what to order.

Still though, what was best to order? I could see some trends in what customers were buying, but I was not completely sure. So, when I reached the counter I asked the employee (I think his name was Andrew, he was in training) what was special. We first started off with the hot food section, where he talked about all the various options  that were available at the time including the famous potato balls. Then, after picking some selections from the hot food section we moved onto the glass dessert counter, where there was a wide selection of appealing cookies, cakes, and other various desserts and pastries. After picking some more options (he recommended the mango mousse especially, cheese rolls, and the refugiado (aka guava and cheese strudel), and also liked the tiramisu (we asked if that was good or not), we told him our hot food orders, and then went forward to payment, where baskets of baguette and other various breads enticed us. SO, we picked out a long baguette like bread (flauta bread for $1.25 USD, at least that what it was stated on the receipt) to our additional purchases. In the end, we had an ULTRA long receipt and paid probably double what I was expecting to only pay at first, but hmmm, we don't visit Glendale all that often! Ha. Andrew was very happy with our purchases and stated that we certainly got a lot of good stuff, since everything we ordered were all pretty much his recommendations!

We then grabbed a number to sit at a table so they would know where we were sitting to give us the hot made to order items.

Potato Balls

While we were waiting we decided to munch on the other items we had purchased. First was the potato ball (0.90 USD). This was fun, with a slightly crispy exterior (it could be crispier if it was made-to-order) from frying. Inside was layer of smooth mashed potato with the center being a slightly peppery seasoned ground beef mixture that was like chili, but better and less smoky tasting. A good appetizer to start! Lots of other people I saw were also munching on potato balls while they waited for their made-to-order food items.

Chicken Empanada and Meat Pie

We then moved onto the chicken empanada (0.99 USD, spanish: empanada de pollo) and the meat pie (0.78 USD, spanish: pastel de carne). Out of the two I liked the chicken empanada most; the dough crumbled and melted in the mouth, while the filling was absolutely scrumptious with a tomatoe-y and slightly spicy shredded chicken and vegetable micture. So good! The meat pie used pastry dough and was filled with the same ground beef mixture as the potato balls. Not as special perhaps but still yummy; it was slightly cheaper though.

Refugiado (Guava & Cheese Strudel) and Cheese Roll

Next were the refugiado (0.75 USD, guava and cheese strudel) and the cheese roll (0.70 USD). If you haven't noticed already, the items at Porto's are quite well reasonably priced! You can get even deeper discounts if you buy in large amounts, like 50 of a certain item, which would decrease the cost to 0.50 USD per item; that works for all the items I have talked about so far and these two as well.Of the two, the cheese roll was the simpler one, with a danish like sweet cream cheese filling and a puff pastry exterior which had some salt and sugar sprinkled on top. The sprinkle of salt and sugar was really the kicker for the item, as the rest is usually seen in danish like items. However, the salt and sugar crusting on top provided a contrast of flavor, and the crunch provided by the crust of the puff pastry brought in a really fun textural contrast.

As for the refugiado, it was also quite like the cheese roll- puff pastry dough with the same cheese filling, but also fruity guava puree as well. It was a nice combo with the cheese and guava, but we found the cheese roll simply more appealing. But if you desire some fruitiness, then the refugiado is certainly a great choice.

Cubano (Cuban Sandwich)- with Plantain Chips

For a sandwich, Andrew recommended the Cubano (4.85 USD), a cuban sandwich which had cuban bread stuffed with slow roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, butter, mayo/mustard, and pickles. We were originally going to order the pastrami, but we went along with Andrew's suggestion. Certainly, we were not disappointed! The bread was excellent, with a crispy exterior and a soft and fluffy interior. There was plenty of tender, slow roasted pork which was not too salty, as well as the ham, which was not very sodium packed either. My dining companion liked this point especially, as most sandwiches we have that use ham are way too salty. The mustard and pickles cut down on the meatiness while perking up the flavor with piquant notes while the mayo and cheese brought some creaminess and bound the whole entire sandwich together. All in all, it was very delectable sandwich! Large portion size too. My dining companion proclaimed it as the best sandwich that they ever had.

The plantain chips were also delectable, reminding me about a trip to Cancun six years ago where people were selling sweetened fried plantain chips. These were not sweet; instead they were salty, and eating each one was like eating a thick potato chip. Yum. Eat in moderation of course. You can however get only the plantain chips as a separate item as well if you would like.

Roasted Pork Dinner Plate

The second made-to-order dish we had was the the roasted pork dinner plate (7.65 USD). You can also pick from ropa vieja (cuban-style shredded beef), steak, or chicken as well. Overall, this was tasty and delicious, but the serving size could have been a tad bigger for me and it could have been served slightly warmer. There was a scoop of white rice, a puddle of black beans,  and maduros (pan fried sweet plantains) in addition to the shredded roast pork which was sauteed with onions. It was overall a simple dish, with the roast pork being lightly seasoned with salt and spices. Still, the whole plate was quite flavorful- the beans provided a bold flavor when mixed with the fluffy rice and the pork, while the sweet plantains cut the savory flavor by providing some sweetness. I liked this plate much more than what I had at Bongo's Cuban Cafe in Miami, FL. That speaks plenty for me! The food here at Porto's was simply much more flavorful, and the fact that I paid half than what I did there is just another nice plus.

Mango Mousse and Tiramisu

We were going to leave the mango mousse (2.60 USD) and tiramisu (3.50 USD) to eat at home, but ultimately decided to eat them there. You can get these individually like we did, or you can get them as a cake for 23 USD as a 8 inch round. Usually we never order individual dessert items anyway, but these looked so fresh and special, we could not resist. And it was a good thing to that they were awfully delightful! No boring dessert here.

Mango Mousse Interior

The mango mousse was suggested by Andrew as his favorite of all the desserts in the case, and I could definitely see why. The mousse was like tasting a sweet, fresh mango, but in creamy mousse form! The inner core was like a mango flavored cream cheese mixture which also was like tasting a fresh mango, but with the slight complex flavors of the cheese. As for the bottom, it was a simple thin layer of sponge cake, nothing to scream about, but at least it was not dry, unlike most bottoms of these types of desserts.

Tiramisu

The tiramisu was a good rendition, with one special thing. Yes, there was the rich cocoa powder on top, the creamy and lightly sweet cream cheese mixture and the espresso soaked white sponge cake which already made it a fabulous dessert (way better than JJ Bakery's version!), but then there were the small pieces of chocolate you see on the top, which were actually chocolate covered rice crispies. These were also on the bottom of the cup, and provided a very fun textural contrast to the entire dessert. Yes, it's the small things that count. My dining companion went to JJ Bakery a few days later, and stated their version certainly didn't look as tasty as this version at all. Porto's is amazing at what they do.

So amazing, in fact, that we decided to buy some more food to go home, since we finished most of the food you jut saw. It was just some more chicken empanada and cheese rolls. Funny thing, after I saw the receipt I noticed they forgot to charge me for the chicken empanadas! Oops. Andrew was very happy to see me back in line, but he was not able to serve me. They did however put out some free samples of you guessed it, the chicken empanadas and cheese rolls, of which we took plenty more. Why did they put them out? They were closing for the day. So, come during closing hours if you want freebies, but you also risk the chance of not having the full menu to select from. 

Cheese Roll Detail

And with that said, I took some pictures of the food at home, since the photos earlier were way too distracting with the plastic box and other random items in the background. Here's the cheese roll.

Chicken Empanada Detail

And here is the chicken empanada. Funny thing is, one day later, another dining companion told me his friend recommended him to go to Porto's! His friend said, he drives all the way to Glendale just for Porto's- and that drive starts from Orange County. So you see, Porto's is definitely a good place to check out. Not only is it cheap, it is SO GOOD. (Yes, just like the TVB show, "So Good" if you haven't seen it already)

Oh and the flauta bread, you ask? It became yummy croutons for two simple and easy salads. :)


Porto's Bakery & Cafe
315 N. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203
Open Mon-Sat 6:30am-7pm,
Sun 7am-5:30pm
Tel: (818) 956-5996

Porto's Bakery (Glendale) on Urbanspoon

Happy Cyber Monday! :) For U.S. readers!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fresh & Easy Tart Nonfat Frozen Yogurt and Dark Chocolate Gelato

Fresh and Easy Tart Nonfat Frozen Yogurt Container

Happy Thanksgiving folks! I know I have not posted in quite a while, and I am thankful to your continuing readership. 

But getting back on topic, do you remember last year's post on Trader Joe's Plain Non-fat Frozen Yogurt? Well, recently Fresh and Easy decided to also offer their version of the Trader Joe's product, and thus I went to pick one of them up to fill the dollar amount for their 5 dollar coupon. The cost, if I remember correctly is about the same as Trader Joe's, plus or minus 50 cents.

Fresh and Easy Tart Nonfat Frozen Yogurt with Banana and Honey

The taste is also very similar to Trader Joe's version. I would assume both were made by the same factory. Both are "pleasantly tart" and sweet enough (with the use of corn syrup) so that you do not need any extra sweetener. I did find this less firm compared to Trade Joe's version and a bit creamier in taste. Otherwise, they are all the same. So, need ideas for dessert while you are waiting for your turkey to bake today? Get a quart of this Fresh and Easy frozen delight today! I for one, still have half a container in the freezer. :)

Fresh & Easy Dark Chocolate Gelato Container

But the dessert item I like most at Fresh & Easy are their ice creams and dark chocolate gelato. Dark chocolate gelato is one of their older items; one that was already featured when they opened here in California a few years ago. I bought it the second time I went to Fresh & Easy, but this time I picked it up with the frozen yogurt.

Fresh & Easy Dark Chocolate Gelato

This chocolate gelato is quite chocolate-y, more so than Fresh and Easy's regular chocolate ice cream.  It is like having a rich hot chocolate. For those who are fanatics of chocolate, they still might want more chocolate though. Unlike the chocolate ice cream though, this gelato is very smooth.

Fresh and Easy Dark Chocolate Gelato Take 2
(Do you like this photo better? Different angle + different lighting results in this effect.)

Scooping it is a breeze, and it melts so quickly it is almost difficult to make nice scoops and take a pretty picture! Thus, that's the reason why the pictures of the gelato looks like disgusting blobs. Still, the gelato is very rich, creamy, and delicious. Great idea to pair with some chocolate pie or light tasting dessert; it will provide a nice contrast.

So, overall, two safe delicious choices for dessert! You'll love it if you want to cool down some, even though it is already cold out here in southern California right now. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Universal Studios Hollywood- Universal City: Part 3

Universal Studios Hollywood Sign

Part 3 is finally here! If you haven't already read the earlier parts yet, here are the links for your reference: Universal Studios Hollywood- Universal City: Part 1 and Universal Studios Hollywood- Universal City: Part 2.

As stated earlier, Part 3 is about the long wait for the Studio Tour, the Studio Tour itself, and beef stew and wonton noodle soup at Garden Cafe- Arcadia.

Curious George Waterfall

After planning out our schedule for the rest of the trip, we decided to go for the Studio Tour, even if it would be a two hour wait. Besides, it is after all the main attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood! A sea of people were waiting in line. Well, you could basically skip the line if you had a VIP pass, but that would be an additional 100 dollars per person approximately. I'd rather spend that on a nice meal somewhere instead.

Studio Tour Logo

Even just reaching the Studio Tour sign took almost 15 minutes. Not a very good outlook for sure. At least the water misters were on full blast.

Waiting in Line 1

To make people not as bored while waiting in line, there were some posters on the side about Universal's history. It entertained us for a while, but not enough. However, the people waiting in line were much more entertaining. There was a mother and her son who were really pushing themselves to go quicker in the line, and the mom was definitely being the leader of the pack. She forced her son to move on so that they would be packed as tightly as possible among everyone else. When her son tried to say no, she replied, "We are here to move!" But, this story just got better.

View

The mom then got angry at other people for movingr in front of her who were before, in front of her. I was to her front right, and soon enough she was slightly ahead of me. As people tried to regain their position in the line after slumping back a bit, she started to get angry at them. "You are not moving in front of me! You can't cut in line!" Well, that being said she was being a hypocrite, as she was cutting in front of people, although not by much.

Waiting in Line 2

Soon she was probably ahead by about five feet of me, which was quite the distance. There was a better view to enjoy, and thus I took some photos. It was quite hot already, and taking some photos cured a bit of boredness. One friend of mine got quite ahead by this point from another friend and I as well. Different portions of the fat line moved differently, and the people who were closer to the poster side a good 50 to 100 feet ahead!

Employees with Water Guns 

There was then a break section where an escalator moved everyone down to the lower snaking line portion. When that happened, the mother and the son cut in front of people who had waited an hour and a half more compared to her. Talk about not teaching her son good values! In comparison to the dad who was teaching his sons NOT to cut in line this mom was doing the direct opposite. And she was not having an enjoyable time either.

Anyway, more entertainment came about in the bottom section with water guns. The employees didn't spray at me, but occasionally they sprayed at some people for fun.

Snake Line

By this portion in the line, we had probably waited a total of almost two hours. To get a feeling for how the line works, the people in the right came in from the escalators, and thus they had to go all the way to the back of this image where there were plenty of trees. Then, they had to snake probably about 10 times to reach the starting of the blue section, and from the blue section about another 20 times to reach the Studio Tour cars. This spot was around where the mom and son cut in line deliberately. Talk about cutting!

For entertainment in this spot, there were TV's with information talking about films from the past. The posters to each side also had information on old movies. However, everything started to get repetitive. The TV looped what it had shown for at least another three times while we were there and the posters were not well maintained and quite blurry to look at.

Panoramic-1

Panoramic-2

Eventually we did arrive at the loading dock. Can you see how long the lines were? That's how it was during the weekends, and the blue section was only one third of the wait. Some people told me later though that if you visited on the weekdays though there would be virtually no wait at all. Now you know! We also picked up 3D glasses at this point.

Solar Panels

It was nice to finally sit down on the tram and enjoy the ride. As the tram waited for everyone to sit down, I noticed this sign for solar panels. How interesting! But I didn't see the other panels during the tour.

Studio Tour

And yes! The tour started. Our tour guide talked from the front of the vehicle and her explanations were broadcast on the displays.

Back Lot Cafe
Despicable Me

We drove past quite a few interesting things before we arrived on a outdoor set. Above is the Back Lot Cafe which the tour guide did not talk about, as well as another "Despicable Me" advertising scheme. These stages you see in the pictures are used both for movie taking as well as for the Studio Tour. They are all intermixed between each other, and on the Studio Tour this time I went through three of them.



Hasbro Mr. Potato Head

We also passed by several living sections. One featured Mr. Potato Head for Hasbro.
Movie Trailers

And before we arrived onto the outdoor set we passed by some trailers. What a large set!

Studio Set

Now, does this look at all real to you? This section by the way was the section that had been burnt a few years ago, and the tour guide commented they have done their best to redo the outdoor set so it would be better than ever before. If you look carefully the door next to the tree has an actual door with real window openings, but the ones to the far right are just painted.
Studio Set- London

I believe this is a replica of London? Or is it Beverly Hills?

Studio Set- Chapel

We also passed by a chapel, which the guide said was a very  flexible building to use as it could serve for multiple purposes in a movie.

Buildings

And then there were even more replica buildings! These really looked great for a movie.

Studio Set- Chinatown

Hey! That's a replica of a Chinese butcher shop in a Chinatown somewhere. How interesting.

Picture Cars

The tram then moved on to talk about the various cars used in movies. For example there were Ferraris, but the engine had been taken out and switched for one by VW. There were also old cars.


Click on the play button to see some cars, as well as a fun Fast and the Furious section involving dancing cars!
King Kong Entrance

When we arrived at this entrance, it was quite obvious something special was going to happen- King Kong 3D! I did not take any pictures inside as water could spray out, but the effect was quite real. Screens all across the tram gave an nice effect and the tram also moved around lightly to make the simulation feel real. Overall it was quite nice, and yes we did get wet. Not bad at all compared to during the morning, so that was fine!

Studio Set- Mexico

You might have thought that there would be no more chances to get wet during the tour, but that would be a false assumption. A weather forecast was brought out on various places in Universal Studios and one said rain. Guess what? Simulated rain actually came. The buildings dripped with rain and a large wave of water came through to hit the left side of the car. I was on the far right, so I did not get wet from this.

Bird @ Studio Set- Mexico

There was also a bird standing on the roof, which distracted me from the rain before it actually started. The scene with the bird just looked very beautiful, as if the bird was either very lonely or very "strong."

New Mexico Section

 After that we passed by more replica buildings, this time with a Western theme.

Lake

This lake here could be used to shoot water scenes, but it was just only one of the few places where movie makers could choose to shoot water scenes; we saw quite a few interesting places later, like a large water tank.

Bunnies

Bunnies! Only if I could have gotten closer to them to take a close up, this was all the zoom could do from the car.

Water

We then reached another opportunity to possibly get wet, as the tram moved slightly inwards to a flow of water that streamed from the lake.

Entrance to Working Set- Subway

After looking at some supply sets for movies we reached another special stage- a working movie set! Really, that was more a lie, since other people I talked to later said they saw the same thing more than ten years ago.

Subway

Now that I am looking at the picture I took I can see why this set was old- the Minute Maid container is not even the most current one! Anyway, what happened with this scene was that it got all dark and then there were special effects of water, large noises, and random things coming from the ceiling and other places. Quite a scary place to be, if you don't like disaster scenes.

Boat-Lake

We then reached a scene with another lake that seemed to be peaceful, but then there was...


...a shark scene! And the shark ate the dummy person.

Homes

We then drove by plenty of beautiful homes also. They had plenty of new cars too, like that E Class Convertible which at the time was not widely available in dealers yet!


Then we passed by a snowy Christmas scene section. Quite large hmm?

Old Style Scene

Right after seeing the snowy scene there was a scene with a old style motel. It gave me a flashback to older movies and the bare tree coupled with the old car further enhanced that feeling.

Plane Crash Scene

And yet again, we passed by another disaster scene, this time for a plane crash with a Boeing. The plane was to the left and I was to the right, so I did not bother to take a picture.

Universal Studios Car

Time for a relaxing drive back to the loading zone for the Studio Tour. Almost!

Wood Cabin Home

We then passed by a wood cabin home. Very relaxing, but it was yet another set to be used for movie taking.

Water Set

See the back? That's the other water set I was talking about where producers could shoot water scenes. We then went through a Mummy feature section with rolling tunnels. And after that, it was...

View

Back to the original place where we started the tour! Same scene, different timing and lighting.

Panoramic-AfterTour

There was still yet a giant line, although tours were going to close soon. Here's another perspective of the line- the outdoor section before one would enter the blue section.


And the upper portion of the line can be seen through the video. Really, it's not that long, but the line moved very slowly during peak hours. Not fun at all.

Taxi

On the way back to the main entrance of Universal Studios, we passed by a old style taxi.

Universal Studios Hollywood Fountain

And then we saw the fountain at the entrance yet again! It is quite a popular people for people to sit down and rest, and kids like the mist from the fountain too.

Universal Studios Logo

I did not take that great of a picture in the morning with the globe, so I tried again after going out. And this one was more interesting, especially with the lighting.

Universal Citywalk 1

We then decided to run through Citywalk. 

Universal Citywalk 2

Ready, set, run! I took all these pictures while jogging through Citywalk. And what an interesting site it was. There were plenty of good restaurants to eat at. I noticed this was the place where Food Network shot at for one of their shows. And there was a Yogurtland too! It would have been nice for my friend to try out this frozen yogurt fad, but we were pressed for time and had to leave.

Beef Tendon and Wonton Noodle Soup @ Garden Cafe Arcadia

And back at home one friend treated us to a meal at Garden Cafe- Arcadia. The original plan was to go to Tasty Garden- Arcadia as the food there is better, but then they were filled with people. At least our meal was OK at Garden, and we also got free soup which Tasty Garden doe not offer. If you didn't notice compared to my older photos of Garden, they have revamped their plates. Gone are the pretty blue plates, in are some drab and smaller white plates with the exception of traditional American soup bowls and entree plates. And the condiment tray doesn't use bottles, instead they are jars with spoons now. Not very convenient when the bowl of beef stew + wonton noodle soup required plenty of vinegar to boost the flavor in this occasion.

Overall? A fun day nevertheless. And for those who reached this part of the post, thanks for sticking in to see over 46 pictures and 4 videos. :).

Universal Studios Hollywood
100 Universal Terrace Parkway
Universal City, CA 91608-1085
Tel: (818) 622-3801

Garden Cafe-Arcadia
850 S Baldwin Ave
Arcadia, CA 91007
Tel: (626) 446-0688