June 24, 2007

My New Obsession

Several months ago I started reading a site called Chow. This site is amazing for anyone interested in food, like me. After reading so much about something called xiao long bao, XLB, or soup dumplings, I began to salivate, to dream about this comfort sounding food, to wonder what the taste would be like. A steamed dumpling of pork and crab, some type of gelatinous stock so when steamed it melts into a bit of soup in the dumpling. Now I am as white as they get and my past experience with Chinese food is pretty lame, and had no idea wht to expect. But I decided to try these little gems. A few weeks ago I made the trek down to Valley Blvd. I was hooked. So hooked that I actually dreamed about the dumplings that night. So when the opportunity to take a crowd to this place came up, to order lots of variety, to taste the little bundles of joy once again came up, I jumped on it.

Today I went to Mei Long Village for the second time. There were 8 of us so we were able to order a variety of dishes to try. I loved all of them, but my favorite is still the XLB - Soup Dumpling. I can't get enough of these, by the end of the meal we had consumed 5 orders of them!

All in all we ordered hot and sour soup, pork pump, lamb with green onion, black pepper beef, orange chicken, jade shrimp and the crab and pork dumplings and some vegetable dumplings too. It was amazing. We all enjoyed the food, even the less adventurous enjoyed it so much they were willing to try things that they would not normally eat.

We celebrated my sons 19th birthday. Several of his friends were with us and at the end of the meal there was nothing left to take home. I asked the waitress if the XLB would travel and how an order to go would hold up, she said it would not be a good idea, so we had one last order! The people there were nice, some spoke english which helped, one of our group asked for a fork and the waiter giggled so hard we all had to just crack up! I am hooked on those lovely bundles of joy. My new obsession. Thank you Chowhounders for telling me about this wonderful place! A new obsession.

Another Italian Joint

Il Forno is a large open restaurant with a large bar at one side, beer and wine only. There is also a lovely patio that has a fountain. I have been here several times as I work a block away and any time some decent place to eat moves into town we are thrilled, a place for lunch that is walking distance. The owner has been in the restaurant business for years and always greets me warmly when I walk through the door.

Downtown Azusa is known for its purple light poles, and lack of any destination type place restaurant shops etc. However over the last couple years things are changing. Gone are the pawn shops and boarded up hotel, now there is Starbucks, a small Japanese restaurant (which I don't recommend), real estate offices, and Il Forno.

The food is consistent, the only complaint I ever had was the day it opened and my pasta, though good, was served cold. I think their strengths are the pasta dishes and the thin crust pizza and calzones. They have several sandwiches on the menu and other than the sausage or meatball are just sandwiches. There is a selection of salads and now during the summer months there is almost always a salad special on the board. I have had their soups also and find them good and flavorful.

The prices are right, and the owner has been through a couple iterations of the menu, this one seems to be sticking. I will continue to frequent the place, consistent close to the office and friendly. If you are in the neighborhood it is worth a try. But for really authentic Itialian go to Brigante.