Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Porto Rico Importing Co.


New York, NY. Ocean waves gliding into the shore, gulls sailing through the wind, youth playing in the distance and senses catching the faint scent of a light roast. Ah...the warmth. Hoping to find the source, eyes opened and reality set in...the traffic, pigeons, and taxi hails teasing the senses, but the warm, fresh roast remaining true at Porto Rico Brewing Co. just down the street.

On a brief but food-saturated trip to New York I was introduced to this Greenwich Village shop (although there are other locations). It proudly hosted flavors and blends galore with coffee in excess to grind. Customers and staff seemed like old pals as favorites were discussed and suggestions made for that perfect personalized cup. Chocolate covered beans and nuts, loose teas, and syrups also populated the store shelves though its centerpiece stood clear: coffee and even

Beyond all of this in the rear of the store is their very own barista 'hut' with a small sign identifying prices and sizes, and a helpful rep with about 3 square feet in which to make the magic happen. The choices were inexpensive compared to larger franchise standbys and enriched with a fair quality allowing for an easy favorite. The little shop was as mellow as my simple fantasy of the cool ocean breeze, and the aroma and warmth of the coffee brought a sigh of contentment for the coming day.

Porto Rico Importing Co.
201 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10012

(212) 477-5421
Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bäco Mercat


Los Angeles, CA. I humorously entertained the idea of Meerkat? What an odd name for a restaurant, though of course in great error. Bäco Mercat is from the creative hands of Chef Josef Centeno, presently known as executive chef for Downtown Los Angeles' Lazy Ox Canteen. The bäco, featured in the restaurant's name, is noted to have been a simple snack created for staff and friends. The flatbread sandwich has since transformed from its humble beginnings to play host to the lovely variety that food and spice can offer.

On this day, the weather granted the familiar 70s, sunshine, and mid-day glow; it was another ideal moment for edibles. This nearby eatery exuded modesty: moderately sized interior and architecturally similar to downtown spots with its industrial fixtures, metals and use of matted browns. My friend and I chose an outside table for street observation. With a few moments to decide we selected and awaited the dining experience. It was a business day and customers seemed to be coming and going for their lunch before the turndown - yes, the restaurant temporarily closes between lunch and dinner, the industrial reset button if you will.

Crispy Bread with Spicy Dipping Sauce
Shortly after sitting, a runner brought out our first tasting of bäco in the form of a lightly fried appetizer with a spiced dipping sauce. Tasting like a combination of pita, naan, flatbread, and tortilla, the dish wasn't offered in a complex manner, but quite addictive. As any other subtle inclusion to the table - as pita is to hummus, tortilla chips is to salsa, and bread is to dipping oil - one quickly noticed the absence of the next piece by the time the server arrived with the food. Where did they go? We all know the answer...

Tomato and Cheese 'Coca'
Tomato and Cheese 'Coca' - was a thinly pressed, baked bäco with remnants of flour dusting its bottom. Liberally applied were the marinara-like tomato confit and mozzarella. The smoked jalapeno wasn't readily noticed and though a listed ingredient, absent in the continued bites. My thought for peppers is generally along the following: when roasting, sautéing, baking, or the like, a pepper loses its punch. Despite this, the dish was elegant in its simplicity and the perfect share among friends.  

Beef Tongue Schnitzel 'Bäco' 
Beef Tongue Schnitzel 'Bäco' - schnitzel seems to be the easy 'out' for luring consumers in to try 'gamey' items. By the time it is flattened, coated, and fried it tastes like chicken anyway. Well, it is not chicken and if that's the conclusion our mind draws, then maybe, just maybe, a new restaurant should be added to the list. At this eatery, I ate tongue and I could taste the tongue, and it was nothing familiar. It was chewy and it was crispy. It was succulent and it was moist. Nothing like previous tries of alligator and oxtail. Packaged the same way but doing it right. The tender portions were paired with a smoked aioli, a fiery sauce (harissa), pickles and arugula to balance out the combo. A juicy entree that stood alone, all wrapped in a warm bäco. Good work Chef Centeno...good work.

It was another southern Californian day and another great food find. Spending the time with a friend added to the otherwise tasty experience. I am curious to experience the climate change with a nighttime crowd. It would also be interesting to understand how popular the place has become to its city-dwellers and visitors. However, I like the idea, for the moment, of it being a shared little secret with several interesting new eats to enjoy.

Bäco Mercat
408 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 687-8808
Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chicken Quiche in a Garlic Rosemary Crust


Being a fan of the breakfast for dinner concept really makes this little creation that much less of a surprise, ha - I like my eggs, what can I say? The great thing, despite the steps, is that making a quiche such as this is simple and easy to vary. Add onions, peppers, chipotle spices or use sausage or meatballs instead of chicken? Why not? It's the choice of the chef or the eater, so enjoy the taste as much as the process! This protein-packed quiche will easily fill the stomach and satisfy the hunger.

2 Serving
Prep Time: 25 Minutes

8oz of Chicken
1 Tbsp Butter, Unsalted, Melted
1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Pepper for taste
5 Egg Whites
1 Egg, Whole
1 Slice Muenster Cheese

1/2 Cup Flour, All-Purpose
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Rosemary, Dried
1 Tsp Garlic, Crushed
1 1/2 Tbsp Butter, Unsalted, Room Temperature
1 1/2 Tbsp Water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Garlic Rosemary Crust, pan-pressed
First things first, cube and boil the chicken in a saucepan for about 15 minutes on medium-high heat. Drain and set aside when fully cooked. While the chicken is boiling, prepare the crust. Combine the flour, baking powder, garlic, rosemary and butter with a fork until crumbly. Add in water and mix until doughy. Knead with hands until smooth in texture. Press crust mid-way into two nonstick mini-loaf pans (or a comparable sized pan). Use a fork to press a few holes and bake for 10 minutes.

Quiches, pre-bake
Shred the chicken and toss with melted butter, cayenne pepper, and salt/pepper for taste and set aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk the whole egg and egg whites until foamy. Place a half of the Muenster slice at the bottom of both pans and spoon a few spoonfuls of the eggs over each. Split the chicken between the two and pour the rest of the eggs over each. Bake for approx. 40 minutes at 350 degrees until inserted knife comes out clean and quiche is a golden yellow.

Quiches, ready-to-go!
Sure, it could seem like a lot, but the combination of lightness and heaviness in both texture and flavor makes this breakfast dish quite the treat. Enjoy it while it's hot!

Chicken Quiche in a Garlic Rosemary Crust

Nutrition Info (1 Serving)
Calories: 509 Total Fat: 25.1g, Sat. Fat: 13.5g, Cholest.: 224.2mg, Sodium: 336.7mg, Carb.: 25.6g, Fiber: 1.1g, Sugars: 1g, Protein, 45.1g
Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Summer House


Corona Del Mar, CA. I was hungry...but not just 'any' kind of hungry.  I was in that familiar frame of mood; something my friends refer to as: "don't-talk-to-Andrew-until-he-eats." My friend proposed this restaurant choice to stabilize the temporary mood offset. Not a common venture...Sunshine-Something? Sum....oh THERE it is...that yellow spot. Sure he didn't successfully remember the name but he remembered the food and thats what counts...right?

We sat at a corner booth, near a wall but away from the door. The place is designed like a summer home, or something seen on a cooking show. It's comfortable and clean, with warm tones and use of older woods to enhance the dining experience. Staff were friendly, if not jovial, and seemed excited when you ordered some of their favorite dishes. My friend glanced at the menu and recommended I try one of their burgers and the hungry me politely (or perhaps excitedly) said "YES." 

Black and Blue Burger with Fries
Black and Blue Burger - It was like my grandma was in the kitchen, rolling the meat with her hands, adding in the spices, while humming a tune, grilling the meat, heating up the bun, and layering on the fixings before giving it to my waiter with a little bit of love. The burger tasted home-fresh with a heavy helping of blue cheese melted onto the burger served as requested: medium-rare. It was a home-run as far as I was concerned and was worth that little bit of a wait it took between ordering and getting.

French Fries with Crumbled Blue Cheese
And the fries? On the thinner side, however...being the hungry person that I was, I pondered the idea of expanding the blue cheese goodness beyond the burger. I asked that crumbled blue cheese be sprinkled across the fries, in the hopes that the request would be granted. To the blue cheese supporters out there: ask the server to put the dish under the hot lamp to melt just a tad. Result? A really GREAT decision.

Mac 'n Cheese
Mac 'n Cheese - was a little treat for myself...something I enjoy, don't make, but can't help myself if it's good. A very humble dish that supported the idea previously stated: grandma's been cookin' up a storm. Served quite hot and crispy on top, the creamy cheese and soft noodle was a filling addition to my afternoon of eats. As anticipated, the oils from the cream and cheese began to separate as the dish began to empty, but for my fellow eaters out there, it was not the least bit bothersome.

On a sunny day or a rainy day, alone or with a friend, Summer House is a simple take on traditional cuisine from the backyard barbecue. It's not done-up, it simply presents to you what it is, gives you what you expect, and spawns memories of that good ole American cuisine. I overheard a few tables discussing their menu favorites and some with an incredible burger focus (as I too shared that day). The locals appear to enjoy it, so there's no reason a passerby can't either!

Summer House
2744 E Coast Hwy
Corona del Mar, CA 92625
(949) 612-7700
Saturday, February 04, 2012

Rice To Riches


New York, NY. If a place can claim fame in the area of ice cream, burgers, or donuts, why not rice pudding too? A friend of mine and I were splurging on pizza or something else savory and he led me in the direction of this little store. Why not, eh?

It was easy to be overwhelmed by flavors with the display case taunting its customers, though that feeling is a bit enjoyable when it comes to my love affair with food. I saw cinnamon, coconut, caramel and cheesecake. I saw ice cream flavors and combinations that I couldn't imagine. I could do a half-and-half or I could order a mini-tub of my favorite taste or or...Oh what to do?? I took the easy route and chose one of the four pre-packaged popular flavors to-go.

Cheesecake - flavor wasn't incredibly sweet, thought it was rich, smooth and filling with a taste supporting its name. Housed in a simple enclosure and easy to walk and eat, I nearly forgot that I was shoveling rice pudding into my mouth - a strange thought when it's usually walk-friendly staples like ice cream or frozen yogurt.

The shop was clean, bright, and busy. The cleanliness was quite incredible given the creamy texture and spill-able nature of rice pudding. It had a minimalist design with its choice of oranges and darks and high-top and bar-style seating (sparse).  It was bustling with tourists and locals snapping photos of the interesting signage (see example above) spreading humor and a light feeling across the store. Despite the waits to peek and eat the variety, the cashiers were sure to set its customers up with samples to fulfill curiosities. Nice choice friend, nice choice - adding a 'unique' place to experience during a trip to New York.

Rice To Riches
37 Spring St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 274-0008

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