November Writing Challenge Day 26: Ramen

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

Nothing beats ramen on a cold night.

My wife and I visited Japan a few years ago while our daughter was studying abroad for a year. It was an awesome 10-day trip and we’re always talking about taking another trip there.

We stayed in Tokyo the entire time and thanks to our daughter we got to explore the city like locals, since she’d already been there for six months when we showed up. The public transportation is efficient and clean, and we never needed to use our non-existent Japanese to ask for directions.

Around the neighborhood where our daughter was staying were a few local ramen shops and we ate at one in particular a few times during our stay. In fact, we ate at a different ramen shop nearly every day we were in Tokyo. I thought we would’ve gotten tired of it, but we didn’t.

Of course, the ramen is better in Japan than back home in the States. Every bowl of ramen was deeper in flavor, fresher in ingredients, and cooked better overall. We liked the efficiency of the local shops: once you entered, there were little kiosks where you entered your order and paid, then sat down and gave the server your ticket. A few minutes later and your piping hot bowl of ramen was placed in front of you.

We learned basic etiquette on the first night we were in Tokyo, like slurping is OK but rubbing your chopsticks is not. We also learned to love the library quiet of all of the shops we ate in. The locals enjoyed their meals with a minimum of chit-chat and there was no music blaring or sports yakking from any televisions.

Besides the ramen itself, it’s the whole dining culture that I miss the most. When we came back home, we noticed how LOUD American restaurants are. It took us awhile to really enjoy a nice meal out, and we’ll still mention Japan whenever we sit down at a local eatery and get bombarded by noise.

The bowl pictured above, unfortunately, is not from Japan. It’s a tonkotsu from our local ramen joint, which would shutter its doors within a week if we were in Tokyo. But we’re in the Inland Empire of Southern California so when we’re craving ramen and don’t want to make the long trek to Los Angeles, this is the best we can do. If it was better we’d probably eat it more often. But even if it was I’m not sure we would: like all of the restaurants here, it’s LOUD.

November Writing Challenge Day 12: Happy Hour

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

My wife and I recently discovered a late-night happy hour at a local ramen restaurant called Noods Bar. The ramen isn’t all that, but the appetizers and small bites are good, especially during their late happy hour from 9pm-midnight on Friday and Saturday.

We like the mini chashu bowl which is the pork belly served over a small bowl of white rice. I call it their “adobo” since the consistency and flavor reminds me of one of my favorite Filipino dishes.

We’re also big fans of their shishito peppers, which are stir-fried and served with a cream sauce. These peppers are interesting: about 1 in every 10 are spicy, while the others tend to be a little sweet. The quick stir-fry gives it a little smokiness, too. Michelle and I always laugh when one of us “gets lucky” and bites into the spicy chili.

My favorite appetizer, though, is the Elote. Inspired by the Mexican snack found at roadside vendors throughout Southern California, the Elote at Noods is deep fried corn kernels with a yuzu cream and hot Cheetos crumbs. It’s not too spicy, since the sauce acts as a cooler, but it sure is delicious.

The name Elote is a misnomer, though; elote refers to corn on the cob, while esquites is the corn removed from the cob and served in the bowl. Thankfully, I love elote and esquites equally so I don’t mind eating this tasty misnamed dish.

November Writing Challenge Day 11: Chicken Sandwich

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

I still haven’t tried the Popeye’s chicken sandwich, but it sure does look good. The few times I’ve been to Chick-Fil-A I’ve found the food to be bland and boring; it seems like Popeye’s would be more my jam.

After the local Popeye’s sold out of their initial stock of chicken sandwiches, I was looking forward to its return this month. Of course, the lines have been out the door whenever I drive by, so I’ve missed out on the madness so far.

Thankfully, there’s a terrific Korean-style fried chicken restaurant in town that decided to start offering its own version and it’s absolutely delicious. The Secret Spicy Chicken Sandwich at BB.Q Chicken in Rancho Cucamonga is slightly sweet and spicy, with a perfectly crispy and juicy chicken patty on a grilled bun.

How did I find out about this awesome sandwich? I’ve been helping host a game night at BB.Q Chicken every Monday night for the last month and a half. We’ve had some great times playing games with friends and making new friends as well. It’s fun sharing my passion for the hobby with new gamers and my regular gaming buddies have been great in supporting the event.

Management has also been supportive of the game night and give all of us gamers discounted food and drink. It’s a fantastic setting to enjoy the hobby and some good eats.

November Writing Challenge Day 10: Sushi Roll Again

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

A week ago I wrote about my newfound love of Sushi Roll, the dice version of the modern classic card game, Sushi Go! After a few more plays I’m not as enamored of it (it’s ripe for an expansion, just like the original needed Sushi Go Party! to freshen things up), but it’s still a go-to for a quick and fun dice chucker.

Today my brother and his family stopped by for a surprise visit. My niece is a big fan of Sushi Go! so I made sure to introduce her to Sushi Roll tonight. She learned quickly and throughout our game we kept talking about how it was making us hungry.

Of course, we had to have sushi for dinner.

We went to the local revolving sushi restaurant, where the sushi is on a conveyor belt and makes its way around the dining room. We enjoyed putting in our special orders, which arrived on the “express lane” conveyer belt above the regular sushi.

And when it was all done, we were stuffed beyond our gills, ready to roll home. I may have won Sushi Roll, but I was no match for my niece’s appetite for the real thing. I’m ready for a rematch, though.

November Writing Challenge Day 6: Tacos

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

It’s not Taco Tuesday, but let’s talk tacos anyways. Living in Southern California I’ve always believed we have the best tacos outside of Mexico. I know I’m not the only one who subscribes to the theory that Mexican food goes down in quality the further away you get from the border. I’ve had tacos in New York that were barely edible.

In fact, I used to be a snob about tacos. I want a tiny warm corn tortilla filled with carne asada or lengua or even cabeza, topped off with cilantro and onion, with a splash of salsa. Bringing me a hard shell, cheese, and ground beef was like spitting on a plate and serving it to me.

From hand battered and deep fried fish to freshly carved al pastor with a slice of pineapple, I love tacos of all types. Bonus points if I can get grilled green onions, a smoky jalapeno, and a fistful of radishes on the side.

I was thinking about how my taste buds have changed over the years. I used to be the guy that would drown any kind of Mexican food in salsa. The hotter the better. Now, I want to enjoy the taste without breaking into a sweat.

And maybe I’m mellowing in my old age, but those hard shell tacos with the ground beef and golden cheese? I’ll eat them, if I’m in the right mood, which means if I’m feeling nostalgic for the tacos from my youth, served at my non-Mexican friends’ homes. The tacos I’d eat after baseball practice at the snack shack. Or the rare occasion when I found myself at a Pup ‘N Taco or Naugles.

But if given a choice, gimme those tacos from a truck or, even better, from some pop-up roadside stand after a night of cocktails and shenanigans.

Inside Vs Outside Voice


My wife and I went to the Eat Play Move event in Los Angeles yesterday. It’s the second time they’ve held it and, frankly, we weren’t fans of last year’s event. Not only was it crowded, but the poorly organized entry point at the Eagle Rock Plaza and the nightmare parking exit made for a less-than-stellar first impression.

We loved the idea behind the event, since it celebrates the Filipino and Filipino-American culture, through food (our favorite, of course), play, and exercise, all wrapped up in the L.A. vibe. Although we were worried about another unorganized mess, we wanted to support Eat Play Move because we believe in its mission.

This year, they changed locations and took over a few streets near Boomtown Brewery in the Arts District. We paid $10 for early entry, which was a godsend since the early start allowed us to enjoy ourselves without having to wait hours in line for food.

We also avoided the afternoon heat, getting up early after a late night watching the Dodgers beat the Red Sox in the longest World Series game ever (18 innings).

As we munched on some terrific oysters and mussels, a local news program came up to me to chat.

Interviewer: “Tell us about Eat Play Move.”

Me (inside voice): “With our current political climate, it’s important to have events like these that celebrate the diversity of our communities. Look around you; there are people from all walks of life enjoying Filipino and Filipino-inspired food, music, and culture. There are no walls separating us here. It’s all about love and community and fellowship. We’re not worried about the divisiveness of our current administration. Here, we share food and stories with our neighbors as well as strangers.”

Me (outside voice): “GO DODGERS!!!”

Note to self: Work on ad-libbing skills.

Epilogue: The Dodgers lost a second straight World Series at home. My time on camera is not gonna age well.

Award Winner


I’m now an award-winning writer!

My wife and I recently attended a Yelp Elite Event at The Vermont in Los Angeles. One of the vendors was Tabanero Hot Sauce. Although I’m not the hot sauce junkie I was as a younger man, I still enjoy spicing up my food. Back when I could stomach it, the hotter the better. Nowadays I don’t need to be sweating through my clothes in order to appreciate a tasty hot sauce.

We tried Tabanero with deconstructed chicken tacos (basically chicken nachos) and I liked the flavor. It’s not a vinegar-based sauce and it has a little kick to it, thanks to the habanero pepper recipe. I also enjoyed the Tabanero bloody mary mix.

A few days after the event I learned that the company was sponsoring a contest; anybody who attended the event was eligible. All that was required was an “ode to Tabanero” and a lucky few would win a three-pack of Tabanero Hot Sauce.

Summoning my ode-to-hot-sauce writing skills, I came up with this haiku and as they say in the casinos, Winner winner, chicken dinner! My food will be extra spicy for months to come.

Next up: The Pulitzer.


My 2016 Yelp Goal

2016 Yelp Elite badge.

2016 Yelp Elite badge.

Last week I received my 2016 Yelp Elite badge, my fourth in a row. As I’ve written before (here and here), I wear my badge proudly and love all of the perks I’ve received. From free event/concert tickets to awesome parties, Yelp takes care of its most dedicated users. My wife and I have enjoyed some terrific date nights, compliments of Yelp.

Although I’d used the site for years without actually writing a review or posting a photo, this changed in 2013 when I took the Yelp 100 Challenge, which is an unofficial challenge to write 100 reviews in a year. That year I reached my goal and also became a part of the Yelp Elite squad.

As I became a Yelp power user, not only did I get to go to fun and complimentary events, but I also made some new friends along the way. That alone makes it worth the time and effort it takes to write 100 reviews in 365 days.

Day 362: 85 Degrees

85 Degrees Bakery Cafe

Sad that fantasy football is over? Go eat at 85 Degrees Bakery Cafe.

My fantasy football season ended tonight.

I was on a nine-game winning streak that led me to win my division and lock up the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. I squeaked by my first-round opponent with a 5-point win, then faced the guy who has become my nemesis.

Mike and I met in last year’s championship game, where he beat me. This year, as Yogi Berra would’ve said, was deja vu all over again, as I lost by 12 points to Mike’s team.

In the Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda department, I sat Todd Gurley and his 15 points for Ted Ginn Jr.’s less than 1 point. I didn’t think Gurley would do much against the Seahawks’ defense (the same defense that locked down my other RB Adrian Peterson a few weeks ago), so I went with the hot hand in Cam Newton and his favorite target over the last three weeks.

Of course, Ginn came crashing back down to earth, thus giving me no chance to win my third championship.

I’d be more upset, but I wouldn’t have been in the game anyway if my kicker Blair Walsh hadn’t exploded for 21 points. Plus, having two titles under my belt some of the sting away from the loss. Just a little.

I drowned my sorrows away with some treats from the phenomenal 85 Degrees Bakery Cafe. Pictured above: walnut multigrain bread, cinnamon twist, green onion bread, boroh danish, and calamari sticks. Not pictured: their extraordinary iced sea salt coffee. It’s all sinfully delicious and my hands-on research has proven that it does wonders for one’s mood when the fantasy football season ends.

Day 342: Snack Time

Seafood City Snack Aisle

Seafood City Snack Aisle

My wife and I enjoyed Korean spicy tofu soup tonight and we were craving dessert. She opted for Jolibee’s delicious peach mango pie (think old school McDonald’s apple pie, but better) while I spent way too much time at Seafood City’s snack aisle (shown above).

I wanted Pocky, but they didn’t have the regular ol’ flavor. Instead, there was strawberry, green tea, and some ultra-thin variety that looked like the regular, but I wasn’t in a trusting mood. I just wanted straight-up Pocky.

I went to the knockoff Pockys next, like Pejoy (no chocolate flavor available) and Jack and Jill (I didn’t like these last time). There was even something called Pretz, but when I saw they had pizza flavor, I decided to go with something else: Lucky.

Lucky wasn’t exactly Pocky, but it had a similar taste and it looked like a chocolate light saber, which is all I ask for in any Pocky rip-off: chocolate flavor and a shaky resemblance to a Star Wars weapon.