Category Archives: delicious

Socorro’s Restaurant: Authentic Mexican in the San Fernando Valley

family mexican restaurant los angelesWhat are the signs of an authentic Mexican restaurant? For years, I graded them exclusively on their chips and salsa. If the chips were stale or mass-produced and thus bleh, the eatery got a low grade. Similarly, if it didn’t have a decent hot sauce (and I mean “hot” not “mild hot sauce,” which is an oxymoron), then it failed the test.

best cheese enchiladas san fernando valleyBut now that I can’t eat hot hot sauce (because I got old and my stomach turns with the fire), I have to look at other factors. Socorro’s Restaurant has the other factors. They make their tortillas by hand. The cheese on the enchiladas stretches three feet. They have frescos (or refrescos) of fruit in the clear plastic buckets.

frescos de frutasOh man, this is authentic. The green one is spinach juice. Mixed with lots of sugar, it’s very delicious — and somewhat healthy.

Recently, I had a buddy from West Virginia over. In West Virginia, the waitresses in the “Mexican” restaurants don’t know what horchata is. The hot sauce is about as hot as ketchup. My friends, and their kids, were absolutely entusiasmados to savor the flavor.

mexican carne asada LAI was pretty pumped too. I had to get my favorite, cheesy cheese enchiladas. Forgive me for the redundancy, but they were redundant with cheese. If you are a cheese addict, I suggest you go no further. There was more cheese in those enchiladas than in a lasagna.

handmade tortillas mexican restaurant san fernando valleyOne of my sons ordered the carne asada, which he rated highly. My other son got flautas. Our friends got tacos, quesadillas. The rice and beans are very good. The vegetables and lettuce were fresh and crisp.

best tacos los angelesMan, those are big tortillas, patted out by hand by a lady in the back and cooked over a comal. It doesn’t get more authentic.

mexican tacos los angelesI just love the hole in the wall restaurants that serve good food under the radar from the snooty foodies.

mexican food los angelesAnd of course, the kids loved it.

By the way, you can tell the authenticity of the Mexican food by the amount of sugar in the refrescos. There’s a lot. They’re sweet. Enjoy!

socorros restaurant los angelesSocorro’s Restaurant
14853 Sherman Way
Van Nuys, CA  91405
818-785-0505
$

stocking stuffer miniThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

Frozen custard and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

what is the difference between frozen custard and ice creamFrozen custard, I learned, was slow-churned for a smoother, creamier-than-ice cream delight with no ice crystals because of the painstaking preparation. Custard, a virtually unknown quantity in L.A., was what brought me into Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers when I was visiting my daughter in Salt Lake City. The throwback eatery throttled me: Was there one in L.A.? Yes, but it is far. It is in Thousand Oaks.

It turns out that frozen custard is more than slow-churn. It has more egg white and less oxygen, which makes for a denser product that doesn’t melt as easily as ice cream (the science). In short, it is a significant step up from ice cream (the non-science). You can find it scarcely around L.A., but I’ll only vouch for the quality of Freddy’s. When I was inducted into the wonders of frozen custard with my relatives around East Rochester (who schooled me as to the advantages), I embarked on a quest to find it on the East Coast. I have found it.

freddy's steakburgersFreddy’s, as I discovered in Salt Lake, doesn’t specialize in dietary or healthy. While other burger joints have made strides to cut calories or limit trans fats, Freddy’s wallows in the goodness of the way things were cooked in the 50s. (Quantities of salt and sugar, I think, register on the Richter Scale.) So don’t make this splurge a regimen regular.

I went for the custard but discovered Freddy’s has more than just custard. Originally from Wichita, Kansas. This is part of the swath of America that likes Fry Sauce.

what is fry sauceWhat is Fry Sauce?

I asked. When I was in Idaho visiting my brother.

Fry sauce? Fry Sauce is Fry Sauce.

I’m not kidding. That’s what they told me.

I suppose those Idahoans never imagined life without Fry Sauce. Nor had they ever imagined there might be a barbarian who had never tried or even heard of it.

I’ve been a straight ketchup-and-fries man myself. So the prospect of something new and exotic is tantalizing. Could there be something better — or at least equal to — ketchup with fries? Some people swear by it.

freddy-s-frozen-custard-amp-steakburgersFry Sauce is mostly mayonnaise with a touch of ketchup, vinegar, pepper and seasoned salt. Freddy’s has a variety with jalapeño. The wheel has been reinvented. Break out of boredom and give it a try.

Freddy’s shoe-string fries, which give more surface area for salt to cling to, will force you to fire them fast into your mouth to fill up. There’s no slow-eating those shoe-string fries.

The steakburger, too, is a notable break from routine. The patty is squared and comes with charred edges. It seems to hold together more loosely, giving the perfect circle patties with uniform thickness of other restaurants the feel of rubber hockey pucks, by comparison. The pickles are sliced lengthwise (even that is different from the norm!)

freddys-front_750xx1500-844-0-77To complete the exotic experience, sprinkle on some Steakburger & Fry Seasoning, which is made of salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, turmeric, onion salt, and garlic salt.

After reveling in the diet-busting, throw all restraint to the wind and get what you came for: the frozen custard. Savor it. Admire it. Bite it. Look at the denseness of the cream. I got the chocolate, and my buddy got the vanilla. (He’s not close enough of a buddy for me to ask for a bite of his ice cream.) They have sundaes, shakes and malteds.

Initially, I thought that Freddy, a World War 2 veteran, was the founder of his throwback restaurant. It certainly adds mystique to the experience. But, as it turns out, it was his son, who named the restaurant after his dad. Pictures of dad and his farming and war hero life are featured on the walls of Freddy’s.

When I found out that the nearest Freddy’s to me (in L.A.) was Thousand Oaks, I despaired because that’s a bit far. I was told there are only three Freddy’s in California. When my buddy moved to Thousand Oaks, I began to plot my visit. I will be back with my family.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
Westlake Village, CA
(805) 497-3344
$

bamboo steamer bestThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

Flame International Steak & Kabob House

A delight for trying new restaurants is finding something new. In the case of a Persian restaurant in “Tehrangeles” called Flame, my wife and I discovered sumac salt, which zipped up an already delicious boneless chicken kabob with saffron basmati rice.

My infatuation with Middle Eastern food started when I had a serious falling out with Mexican food. You see, I turned 50 and my stomach turned — with the chili sauce. Without the picante, Mexican fell out of favor, and I needed to move on. I made some friends among the Arabs and Middle Easterners — and the rest is history.

Flame International Steak & Kabob House beckoned me for years on Santa Monica, its flames dancing on the sign. But it either appeared too expensive or traffic was too strong (it’s right next to the Santa Monica Blvd. on-ramp to the 405 freeway — as in “four or five hours to get anywhere on it”). Friday was the day. Here’s what we discovered:

The place has a lush and garish look that the Persians love, but the price wasn’t too bad. They have the absolute best humus, which I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish but demolished with the nan bread. Not sour, like Yankou’s. Slightly accented with some kind of spice. Just perfect.

My wife ordered the lamb shank with eggplant, which was very tomatoey. Tasted like an Italian entrée.

I was  delighted by the pink mayonnaise given as dressing for my salad. The colorfulness of the presentation was inviting, and I accordingly dove in. The pink color came from beet juice. The salad had beets, which I like and don’t often find.

On the walls the restaurant has a four panels showing nature images, presumably from Iran, alternatively waterfalls or thermal waters bubbling up in rivers. This, which the New Agey music, has quite the calming effect.

What really caught my fancy was the sumac. It’s bright red like paprika but provides a strong flavor. Ground into powder from the dark red drupes, the tart lemony herb adds garnish color and flavor to salads, rice, beef or chicken. Where have you been all my life?

Basmati rice with sumac

You go about your life thinking you know it all, and then wham! something totally new and delicious invades your horizon. It causes me to know that Heaven will have limitless new delights for us.

By the way, at least 300,000 residents of Persian descent reside in Los Angeles, many of whom are clustered around Westwood Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd, about a mile from where Flame is. While “Little Persia” is an official nod from the city, “Tehrangeles” is a fun and common reference even recognized by Wikipedia. Tehran is the capital of Iran.

Flame International Steak & Kabob House – $$
11330 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Los Angeles, CA 90025
310-444-0045

The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #6

best pastrami sandwich in the San Fernando ValleyHoliday Burgers

15520 Devonshire St.
North Hills
$

Supposedly all the mom and pop restaurants have disappeared off the face of the planet, victims to the tsunami of multinational food franchises. The mom and pop joints can’t compete, we are told. They can’t maintain the consistency or keep prices down compared the economies-of-scale wholesale purchasing power of McDonald’s and crew.

Thank God, there’s Holiday Burgers to prove that Mom and Dad can find a niche and beat the big boys. Specifically, this joint offers a pastrami sandwich absolutely glutted with mouth-watering pastrami that causes competitors to pale. Holiday Burgers is a needle in a haystack. You probably wouldn’t pick it just driving by. No, this restaurant runs on word of mouth. That’s how I found it.

Just forget about the recommendations of other websites purporting the “best pastrami” in LA. Go to Holiday. Read the rest Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Steaming broccoli with a bamboo steamer

steamed broccoliIt’s easy to want to eat more broccoli because it’s a superfood packed with nutrients and fiber for digestion. But broccoli is either too tough raw or wilted if boiled. This is where a bamboo steamer comes to the rescue! The steaming takes off the tough edge of the broccoli and keeps in the nutrients you crave. The bamboo basket brings a subtle authentic touch from China and keeps molecules from the metal steamer baskets from contaminating your food.

IMG_9533Here the steps to perfect steamed broccoli:

  1. Cut into bite-size florets. I like to use pre-cut florets from Costco because they save me this time-consuming step. Most people prefer not to eat the stems anyway, but if you do eat the stems, that extra roughage is a windfall for your digestion.
    You can use wax paper liners or parchment sheets, which you can use by loosely wrapping around the vegetables.
  2. Bring water in wok to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Let the steam filter through the cracks between the bamboo slats for 3 to 4 minutes. If you like the broccoli crisper, steam for less time. If you prefer tender florets, then steam for a bit longer.
    Add some pizzazz by adding bullion into your boiling water. Alternatively, cook the broccoli on the top basket with fish or chicken on the bottom. NOTE: If you cook a protein on the bottom, it will take longer, so you may want to remove the broccoli sooner and place the bamboo lid on the bottom basket.
  3. A lot of people put butter or olive oil with herbs on their steamed broccoli. But I like the Chinese oyster sauce for a rich, appetizing flavor that will make you want more of this most healthy of vegetables.

Read about other tips for bamboo cooking.