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Flippin’ Awesome

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What’s up, everybody?  Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  Today I’m going to be talking about a well known player on the Seoul food circuit that I finally managed to hunt down and sink my choppers into:  Butterfinger Pancakes.   I went to the one close to Gangnam station.  Leave the station through exit #6. Walk straight ahead to the first street corner and turn left. It’s about 2 blocks down on the left next to Burger King.  As for the hours, they’re open until 3 a.m. if you’re craving some American breakfast items.IMG_1170

I had always heard that it pretty much was the place to go to get a taste of back home, but that it was always super busy.  The night Steph and I went there was no different.  We went on a Saturday night for dinner, and there still was a 15 minute wait which wasn’t too terrible.IMG_1169  We went up to the top floor, and surprisingly it was filled with mostly Koreans.  Walking past the packed tables, I could see huge plates overflowing with food that the patrons were quickly inhaling like they never saw food before.  Perhaps I would have a similar experience.  I knew Butterfingers meant business when I was face to face with its menu.

I think they're trying to compensate for something.

I think they’re trying to compensate for something.

It literally was larger than life just like their prices which ranged from 10,000 to 30,000 Won.  They had everything from pancakes to make your own omelet options.  I wanted to try a little bit of everything, but I eventually went for the breakfast special (17,000 W) which contained eggs (scrambled/sunny side up/hard boiled), white sausage, ham, sausage links, hash browns, and pancakes with your choice of regular butter or vanilla butter.  Steph got the French toast version of the platter.  When they came out, I was taken aback at how much food there was on our plates.

Steph's French toast plate

Steph’s French toast plate

After living in a country where they eat kimchi and rice or maybe nothing for breakfast, this was a shock to the system.  I quickly dove gob first into my meal starting with the eggs.IMG_1173  I thought I would need some salt to make them more palatable, but I was pleased with their buttery goodness.  Plus, they didn’t have that gross gelatinous texture that scrambled eggs can take on when made in restaurants like McDonalds.  Next, there were the hashbrowns.  Normally, I’m all about the crispy, triangular hashbrowns and don’t care much for the shaved-taters version.

A thing of beauty

A thing of beauty

However, I liked these better than how they’re normally prepared because they were squished into a thick potato-pancake of sorts that made them a lot easier to eat especially with a dollop of ketchup.  The white sausage was just ok.  It kind of had a hot dog flavor profile which didn’t really jive with the rest of the classic breakfast items.  It was like that guy who brings Zima to a house party.  True, it’s alcohol, but it should be at another party or perhaps another decade.  However, the breakfast sausage links and ham were delicious and were only further enhanced through the addition of maple syrup.  Nothing like a little liquid Canadian gold to make any breakfast better.  Finally, there were the pancakes.  I do have to say that Butterfinger Pancakes definitely lives up to their name with their mean flapjacks.  They were perfectly cooked to a golden brown hue and had fluffy white insides.  Taste-wise, they probably were some of the best pancakes I’ve ever had.  I think what separated them from other pancakes that I’ve downed before was that they possessed a unique buttery/vanilla aftertaste that took my palate off to Paul Bunyan’s lumberjack heaven.  Even though they were on the smaller side, they had enormous flavors.  When I finished, I was satisfied, but in retrospect, it wasn’t the best breakfast overall that I’ve had.  I think it was simply the fact that I haven’t had a normal American breakfast in so long that I really appreciated one when it came along.  The plate I ordered you could find anywhere in America, but this was a case of distance causing the stomach to grow fonder.

I'm so aegyo

I’m so aegyo

So if you are really hankering for some big breakfasts the way only the Stars and Stripes can do it, head on over the Butterfinger Pancakes in Gangnam.


Taiwan (Part 3)- Hot Pot to Trot in Taipei

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Hey everybody!  Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  While I’m still here keeping it cool and kickin’ it live in South Korea, I am slowly but surely winding down the last of my Chinese adventure posts where I try some weird and wacky foods that you just can’t find in Korea or anywhere else for that matter.  Today is a bit on the tamer side where I started off my day with a typical Taiwanese breakfast with my friend David’s family.

We went to a really small place that specialized in three key elements of a Taipei breakfast:  fantuan, youtiao, and soy milk.  First, there is the youtiao.  A lot of people back home in the States skip breakfast because they’re in a hurry or just don’t feel like whipping up a bowl of cereal (as if that takes a long time).  In Taipei, you can get the youtiao to go, and I know I would make it an occasional part of my morning routine.  The reason being is that youtiao is basically fried dough or the Taiwanese version of a doughnut.

Fried dough and milk?  I'll take it!

Fried dough and milk? I’ll take it!

You can eat it plain or dip it in some soy sauce if you’re looking for a savory side to your doughnut.  It wasn’t sugary at all like Western doughnuts, but it had a rich, buttery flavor and was not sopping in grease which was refreshing.  We even got a more modernized version of it with a  piece of youtiao and a mini egg and green onion omelet stuffed inside a sesame and poppy seed coated flatbread which is called  shāobǐng yóutiáo (燒餅油條) or youtiao flatbread.IMG_2587  I could only relate it back to a heartier and better version of the Egg McMuffin.  The flatbread was light and airy while the sesame seeds interacted well with the green onions in the eggs.  The other part of my breakfast was a fantuan which consisted of the aforementioned youtiao, pork floss, and pickled radish encapsulated in a layer of sticky rice.  While it was roughly the size of a potato, I was full after eating just one.  The cooks packed in a lot of tender, savory pork along with old, stiff youtiao that provided a spine of stability to the otherwise squishy foodstuff.  I washed all of it down with a iced cup of soymilk which was slightly sweetened but still maintained an earthiness that reminded me that I was drinking soybeans.  You can get your soymilk either iced or served warm in a bowl on the side like soup. Once we filled up on a lot of deep fried carbs, Christie and I were off again on another sight seeing adventure which would eventually bring us to the top of the Taipei 101 tower where we tried a beer float since we had two for one coupons.  It was pretty much a cup of Taiwanese beer with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it.

Classiest drink on top of the world

Classiest drink on top of the world

It wasn’t anything special, but it got better towards the end when the ice cream melted and blended with the light lager.

Christie obviously enjoyed her free drink

Christie obviously enjoyed her free drink

After the Taipei 101 Tower while we were walking and talking, I brought up how much I enjoyed taro root in my boba tea, so she took me to a dessert stand that was kind of like a make-your-own-sundae but focused mainly on taro root paste.IMG_0934  For about 200 TWD, you can get three different ingredients in your bowl.  I picked the taro root paste, tapioca balls, and pineapple.  They had other ingredients like this clear jelly, kiwi slices, and red bean paste to name a few.

Oodles of ingredients

Oodles of ingredients

They lumped all of it into a bowl along with some shaved ice so that it became more like a soup I had to scoop into my mouth.IMG_0937  Obviously, my favorite part was the tapioca balls because they were chewy and sugary, but the lumpy taro root kind of put a damper on my sugar rush since it was just a lumbering giant in a room of nimble tapioca sprites. Another sweet deal (pun intended) that they don’t charge you for is you can add as much ice and sugar syrup to your dessert.  I didn’t think mine was that sweet, so I gave it another ladle full of the syrup.  It was a bad choice.  I could only finish 3/4ths of it before I had to stop because it felt like my teeth were going to fall out, and I was about to have insta-Diabetes.  Word to the wise and Lil’ Wayne, go easy on the syrup.  I didn’t eat anything after that, and we had a brisk walk to multiple parks and temples before sitting down with the family for a late dinner in the middle of a typhoon rainstorm.

This dinner was like deja-vu for me once again because we were having hot pot.  I had had it before with the Wu family on New Year’s Eve 2012, and it had more of a spicy flair to it thanks to the Sichuan peppers they used in the pot.  However, Christie couldn’t take the really spicy stuff, so we only had a medium spice level on one side and a mild broth on the other.  However, that didn’t stop me from trying some new items on the menu like ligaments, Mitsuyaki jelly, and shrimp paste tempura.

Like bobbing for apples but more dangerous

Like bobbing for apples but more dangerous

How hot pot works is that you literally have a pot that is heated until boiling in the middle of the table, and then you throw everything in and eat it when it’s fully cooked.  Easy peasy.  I personally preferred the spicier side, per usual, and the contents of the pot did not disappoint.  For my first plate, I went all meat lovers on it.

Ligament on the left, beef up top, and two pieces of duck blood

Ligament on the left, beef up top, and two pieces of duck blood

I had duck blood which was as good as the Moon Cake dinner’s version but a bit spicier due to the broth it had been simmering in.  Then there was the pork and beef which were high quality cuts with very little fat and sliced almost paper thin to almost dissolve on the tongue.   Then there were my ligaments.  Now, they might sound like some terrible eats, but I have to disagree.   True, it may have taken a bit of chewing, but the rubbery texture gives way eventually and soaks up a lot of the flavor from the other meats bobbing in the devilish red soup.  When I was done gnashing away on the ligaments, I moved on to my second plate.IMG_0944  Here we can see the pork meatballs that were original residents in the spicy side of the bowl until I relocated their savory and seasoned selves to a new one floor house in my stomach.  Then there were the nuggets of shrimp paste that congealed and cooked in the spicy broth to create small shrimp clumps that tasted fried yet were boiled.  The lamb was on par with the beef and pork.  The final part of my plate consisted of the jelly noodles that I had never seen before.  IMG_0940They weren’t really that different from other Asian noodles in terms of taste and texture, but they looked more gelatinous and almost alien-like with their pre-cooked color compared to their more beige-hued state after stewing in the spicy broth.  Then there was my drink that was unlike anything I’ve ever had.

Darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.  Yeah, right.

Darker the berry, the sweeter the juice. Yeah, right.

To get drinks in this hot pot restaurant, you just got up and grabbed a bottle from the back freezers.  I saw normal stuff like Lipton iced tea and lemonade, but I saw a dark bottle with everything written in Chinese.  Naturally, I took the plunge.  It was an experience right off the bat.  First, to open the bottle, you had to use a sharp edge on the top of the cap to open the safety seal over the mouth of the bottle.  Then as I poured the extremely dark brown liquid into my cup, my dining companions informed me that it was plum juice, but I must drink it with ice to combat the strong taste.  I thought, ‘Really?  I thought plums were supposed to be sweet, and I love plums.  How bad could it be?’  It was unlike any plum I have ever tasted.  Instead, it tasted like I was drinking a bottle of barbecue sauce.  I don’t know if the ice mitigated any of the strong flavor, but it had all the smoky, mesquite-tinged makings of a grade A sauce to slap on a rack of ribs or some chicken breast.  That was a strange finish to an otherwise flawless dinner, and my night didn’t end there as I went out to two clubs in Taiwan while walking though a typhoon multiple times in the process.  If it wasn’t for my strong “plum” juice, I’d have withered in the face of the howling wind and rain instead of getting my groove on.

Hot pot dinner, I hardly knew ye

Hot pot dinner, I hardly knew ye

Next up, the last chapter in my Taiwan adventures where I eat the head of an animal.  A capybara?  A rabbit? A rat? You’ll just have to wait and see!

Where Everyone Should Bee

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Hey everyone!  So today I am going to be bringing you quite the intriguing post where not only did I have a sumptuous brunch, but I also hit up what might be my new favorite summer hangout.  Definitely worthy of my 90th post! First, there is the Honey Bowl.  You can get to it by going to Hapjeong station and leaving exit 4.  Head straight and take the first left by the bike shop.  The street will split, so take the left path.  Walk for about 10 minutes, and you will see it on your right hand side.  You will pass a CU and a 7-11 on your way there in that order.  Here is their Facebook site:

So when I got there to meet up with two friends, we thankfully didn’t have to wait too long in the blazing sun, but once we got inside, we saw that the small eatery was tastefully decorated like the inside of a beehive minus the gross beeswax and scary killer bees.IMG_0628  Their menu is quite comprehensive for a country that doesn’t really believe in the idea of breakfast, and it has all of your Western favorites like eggs and bacon, hash browns, sausage, and french toast.  However, I was really craving some pancakes, so I went with the chocolate fudge pancakes (7,000 W).  One of my main complaints with the restaurant was their water service.  They gave us very small cups, and it was very hot out.  Ergo, we were going to need a lot of water to stay hydrated.  In other places operated by Koreans, like in my other post about Taco Cielo, they gave the table a large pitcher of water to save themselves the trip of constantly giving out refills.  Not in the Honey Bowl.  This key error negatively impacted the flow of the restaurant since the wait staff spent so much time filling water which then made orders come in slower for the cooks which then made the wait time longer for your food.  However, I was glad I waited because these pancakes were light, fluffy flapjacks sent down from Paul Bunyan Jesus. IMG_0629 He crafted them in his divine skillet in the sky, and then baptized them in the name of deliciousness by submerging them in the holy chocolate sauce that was just the right viscosity, i.e. not too runny and not too thick like cake frosting.   The whip cream with chocolate chips on top were just gilding the rose, but at that point, I didn’t care.  They sadly weren’t gigantic pancakes for someone like me with a Paul Bunyan appetite, so I also tried the Honey Bowl’s single plate of cheese potato (6,500 W). IMG_0630 It was a very simple dish of potato wedges smothered in cheddar and mozzarella cheese along with pieces of American bacon.  Surprisingly, it was not greasy at all, and the potatoes were neither soggy nor drowned out by the suffocating richness of the salty bacon and cheese.  It also came with a side of sweet and sour sauce that had a chili pepper base that gave this mound of carbs and fat a bit of a spicy kick.  After those two small items, it was time to hit up Fell and Cole again for some funkier ice cream flavors.

Today they had the type of ice cream that I was expecting from the Cali transplant.  I got a double with a scoop of perilla or sesame leaf ( 깻잎) leaf ice cream and then a scoop of All Black which was a mix of Guinness and chocolate.

Why is mediocrity always on top of greatness?

Why is mediocrity always on top of greatness?

The perilla leaf came first, and I can definitely say I prefer them deep fried instead of in ice cream form.  If they’re eaten deep fried or in ssam bap form (raw), they have a strong, almost peppery flavor, but this dairy version made it taste like I was eating frozen sharp cheddar.  I do love my cheese, but it is a bit unexpected and almost unwanted when you’re eating it as ice cream.  Once I soldiered my way through that pastel green semi-abomination, I once again stumbled on buried treasure.  Just like in my last post, Nosh Pit, the alcohol infused ice cream was better not just because it had a bit of alcohol in it.  I love Guinness beer to begin with, so I might be biased.  Nevertheless, the bold, black coffee cloak of the Irish classic enveloped the milk chocolate which somehow made my tastebuds do a Riverdance of joy.  It was like a run-of-the mill chocolate ice cream that had a boosting agent that both complimented and intensified the cocoa element of the creation.  If they ever have the All Black flavor, get it and you will thank your Lucky Charms you tried it.  Well, that’s all for me on my end, so try Honey Bowl if you’re missing some delicious Western breakfast food.  You won’t bee sorry.

I Found My Thrill…

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Hello to everyone out there in the blogosphere to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  For those first viewing this site, I review restaurants in Chicago/the Chicagoland area/anywhere I’ve traveled.  Today will be a short but savory post.  Most people say that eating a hearty breakfast is the cornerstone to a productive day, but I’ve found that most people are too busy (or can’t schedule their time properly) in the morning to even grab a bite to eat.  However, if you do have more than five minutes to rush out the door, I would like to tell you about a great breakfast restaurant for any type of eater.  It is called Blueberry Hill located at 7340 Illinois 83 Darien, IL.

I have been to this establishment many times after hearing my mom rave about the variety of items they offer, and the high quality of said items.  I’m pleased to let you know that her claims were not some sort of culinary El Dorado or Utopia.  One of the only downsides about this restaurant is that it gets very crowded in the morning on weekends, and it stays open only until three p.m.  So bring your appetites and patience when dining here because you might have to battle the hordes for a table.  Thankfully, when I most recently ate there, it was crowded per usual, but we managed to get a table in fifteen minutes thanks to their efficient wait staff.  As I looked over the menu, I was sucked into their lunch options, but I decided to get a breakfast item since it is their signature meal.  Finally I saw something that caught my eye:  an avocado, bacon, and tomato omelet.  I also chose the complementary side of Greek toast instead of the side of pancakes.  A quick aside, for those not from Chicago/Chicagoland, Greek toast is basically thicker slices of toast that have sesame seeds on the crust.  Apparently it’s called Texas Toast in other parts of the country according to my friends.

Big portion, even bigger flavor

Big portion, even bigger flavor

When it finally came out, I was confronted with an omelet that most likely was made with an ostrich egg in terms of the overall size of it.  The first bite was nice and fluffy with tiny pieces of crunchy, but not burnt, smoked hickory bacon and large chunks of creamy avocado.  Unfortunately, the tomatoes were not as plentiful as the aforementioned two items, but they were still quite fresh when I stumbled upon them in the yellow fields of the omelet.  I kicked it up a notch with a couple soupçons of Louisiana Hot Sauce to give my meal a bit of that south-of-the-border/Mason Dixon line taste.  The Greek toast was perfectly toasted with a golden brown hue and a thick coating of sesame seeds on the crust.  There were even small slices of fresh cantaloupe and an orange slice on the side to provide some sort of healthy twist to this extremely unhealthy meal.  I ate both, but the orange slice had a prodigious amount of seeds in it.  So chomp away at your own peril.  If there was any part of the meal that really did not impress me was the steaming potatoes that were the side to the omelet.  They were essentially chopped potatoes that were steamed and therefore devoid of any real flavor.  However, most people would be stuffed after eating that gigantic omelet, so perhaps they don’t put as much effort into improving the potatoes.  Either way, I was very satisfied with the meal.

So if you want to give breakfast and your stomach the respect they deserve, roll out of bed and down to Blueberry Hill to find your gastronomic thrill!

Blueberry Hill Pancake House on Urbanspoon

Blueberry Hill Pancake House on Foodio54

A Doughnut by Any Other Name Would Taste as Sweet

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Hello to all out there in the food world coming back again for another helping of culinary wisdom from Mastication Monologues.  This month’s adventure I will be explaining the fundamental deliciousness of a breakfast place by me with an odd name serving up breakfast standards with unique twists.  The establishment in question is called Juicy-O which can be found at various places around the country, but the location I went to is at 6300 Kingery Highway , Suite 418, Willowbrook, IL.  This restaurant has been around for a couple of years now in the strip mall by my house, but the two times I have been in there have been quite interesting.

To begin, why exactly is this restaurant named, “Juicy O”?  I soon found out when I walked into the door with their walls that are covered in small picture frames containing comical pictures about the importance of  enjoying a good breakfast in a society that seems to be even more fast paced with each passing year.  It also gave off a vibe of being more along the lines of an old-fashioned diner that prides itself in its freshly squeezed O.J. (that’s orange juice= the Juicy O in question), I’m not talking about the other type that tries to run away in a white Bronco haha).  I digress, here is an example of their homely wisdom about the universality of breakfast and the integration of various cuisines:

E Pluribus Unum tasty breakfast

As we were seated quite promptly, we received our menus that were quite profuse in terms of variety and the bright colors that inflamed the senses as soon as you looked at the front of it

The Book of Deliciousness

I was immediately surprised that they served bubble teas given that the only time that I have had them was when I was in a restaurant that specialized in Asian cuisine, but I guess they were reaching out to all possible markets when designing the menu.  They got the Latino market as I naturally gravitated towards the Southwestern favorites since I always do crave something spicy/something with tortillas to eat.  However, whilst I was attempting to make my choice there was something that made me bow down to the greatness of this place.  The waitress proceeded to place a bowl of small donut holes covered in cinnamon sugar in front of us…for free!

Donuts of the Gods…complete with divine cinnamon sugar

This definitely blew the standard basket of bread out of the water at any Greek run restaurant, and my giddiness was confirmed as I took one succulent bite of these expertly and lightly fried donut spheres of excellence.  Before I could realize it we had destroyed the entire donut population like settlers decimating the buffalo on the Western plains.  We should have paced ourselves because the second bowl wasn’t free, but it focused my mind again which eventually settled on chilaquiles, which is eggs with chicken, tortilla chips, and salsa all mixed in a bowl.  Initially I was worried about my choice given the fact that earlier in my life I ordered enchiladas in a similar place which lets just say did not end muy bien.  However, the dish was surprisingly tasty since the tortilla chips were not too soggy, the eggs were not runny at all, and the spicy salsa did not cover the flavor of the other elements of the dish but rather brought them out to their full potential.

My second, more recent, visit was pretty much the same deal with the donuts, but I decided to get something a bit more traditional with a twist since I thrive on finding new foods to try or variations of universal favorites.  Thus, the Elvis French Toast caught my eye (price: $9) due to the fact that it had French toast, bananas, and peanut butter (three of my favorite foods in the world since I eat pb and banana sandwiches everyday), so I thought it would be a match made in heaven.  I also tried their famous, freshly squeezed orange juice which was tasty and tangy, but definitely not worth the $5 price tag it supposedly demanded.   Eventually the moment of truth arrived when I’d be face to face with a Rock and Roll legend in French toast form, and my mom also ordered Bananas Foster French toast due to her obsession with New Orleans cuisine.

At first glance, my Elvis french toast looked like his ’68 return special when he was rejuvenated through the use of black leather and sweet sideburns kind of like this:

The Resemblance is Uncanny to…

The King of French Toast

Sadly, this dish was as bland as his characters in his many movies, and it just left me bloated/disappointed at the end of it all (R.I.P.).  The syrup did add a hint of flavor to the peanut butter, but overall it was too many neutral flavors cavorting in one dish which never really grabbed a hold of my palate and said, “I Want You, I Need You”.  Instead I was just left with Suspicious Minds…alright, pun fest over.  My mom’s choice, the Bananas Foster French toast, was the same pattern where the presentation overshadowed the quality:

A Taste of NOLA for Breakfast

I enjoyed the bananas more than with the French toast which was bland overall, but the fruit had a nice coating of a cinnamon sugar glaze which would satisfy anyone with even tiniest of a sweet tooth.

Overall, I would recommend Juicy O to anyone who wants to try some new variations on breakfast favorites, even if they aren’t that satisfying sometimes.  On a closing note, the establishment only stays open till 3 p.m., so if you’re uncertain about going, take the everlasting advice of a soulful Mississippi boy, “It’s Now or Never”.

Juicy-O on Urbanspoon

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