SNEAK PEEK: Inside U Jelly + Crafted Donuts

Happy New Year, guys! I know it’s a time for resolutions, but can’t we just resolve to enjoy anything we love in moderation instead of restricting ourselves? Because I love donuts, and I’m not giving them up.

Yesterday, I got the chance to head over to Fountain Valley to preview not one, but TWO new donut shops set to open this Saturday, 1/9 to the public! And yes, both media previews were on the very same day as well. What can I say… when donuts call, I must answer!

Tanayas Table U Jelly Taro Donut

This is me, answering the donut call with U Jelly’s taro donut. 😀

Thanks to Jed of @dailyfoodfeed and Andy & Scott of @tryitordiet for the opportunity for me to be here (on a sugar high) to tell you that both places have super creative concepts, unique flavors and a distinct flair of their own.

Here are some details on both places, plus video features to highlight some of the epic treats you’ll find inside each spot:

First, I checked out U Jelly. With their colorful, visually impressive donuts, I was especially drawn to the adorable green Baymax donut, since the flavor of pandan takes me back to my adventures in Malaysia a couple years ago.

After saying hi to some foodie friends and shooting tons of video (see below) plus photos for Instagram, I bit into the taro cream-filled donut to photograph the inside (I swear!)… and ended up devouring it all after shooting! I regret nothing. 😉

I also liked the coconut flan donut… because FLAN! And the warm, oozy pizza-stuffed croissant had me wanting another one, stat (more on that below). Check out the video below here.

Grand opening: 8 p.m. on Saturday, 1/9 at 16051 Brookhurst St. Fountain Valley, CA. The owners of U Jelly are Scott Afters and Andy Nguyen, a.k.a. the Afters Ice Cream guys… so you know it’ll be an awesome grand opening for a super innovative concept, as always. Heads up: The first 50 people get a special gift!

By the way, thank goodness for that pizza croissant (see video above), because it’s the only savory thing I had time to eat before driving a few miles down the road to the next new donut stop.

For providing me with savory goodness, this croissant will always hold a special place in my heart. The ooey gooey cheese and meaty pepperoni just oozed out thanks to the help of my hand model extraordinaire and U Jelly co-owner, Scott Afters. When Foodbeast featured it, they added in the PERFECT soundtrack to complete the entire experience. Here’s the shot… enjoy. 😉

Up next on my donut spree that very same day was Crafted Donuts!

Formerly known as OC Donut Bar, it recently reinvented its donuts with different shapes and flavors, such as a square Cracker Jack donut and more. Here’s how beautiful these donuts look… plus they’re pillowy soft and gigantic — almost the size of my face!

Tanayas Table Crafted Donuts box

The newly reinvented spot also kept some popular classics from the popular older location, such as the pink Homer Simpson Donut. See it in action (along with other beautiful treats) in this quick video sneak peek. And yes, that IS a cereal and milk frosted Fruity Pebbles donut!

Grand opening: Saturday, 1/9 (yes, both donut places are opening the same day but have totally different concepts!) at 8 a.m. with a free donut for every single customer, as well as a $10 gift certificate for the first 100 people.

Both donut spots are equally incredible in their own unique merits. Hope you guys get to enjoy all the grand opening excitement, now that you have the scoop. Let me know what you think!

Cheers 🙂

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VIDEO: Best New OC Fair Foods + FLASH Ticket Giveaway!

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It’s that time of year! Food festivals are in full swing, and it’s your turn to get in on the gastronomic fun. Check out the details below on how you can enter to win a pair of tickets to this year’s epic Orange County Fair!

First, if you needed a reason (or many deep-fried reasons) to go this year, it’s all right here below. I was lucky enough to get an invite to check out the most unique new foods at the OC Fair, and let me tell you… you’re in for a treat! Check it out:

One of my favorites is the deep-fried pickle stuffed with peanut butter, which works surprisingly well thanks to the tartness of the pickle, the creamy sweet-saltiness of the peanut butter, and the fluffy batter surrounding it all.

If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, try the Cubano Fusion Burger from Tasti Chips. It’s filled with savory goodness and is layered with texture and flavor.

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For dessert, I highly recommend Texas Donuts’ gigantic Fireball whisky-infused caramel donut. They’ve also got a Samoa giant donut, for you Girl Scout Cookie lovers.

Speaking of dessert, you see that caviar-topped Twinkie in the video, right? Although a $125 caviar Twinkie might sound a little crazy — or a even a lot crazy — it’s all for charity. If you have the means, the heart and the curiosity to try it, I highly encourage you to do so, because all proceeds go to CHOC – Children’s Hospital of Orange County. You can find this bite at Chicken Charlie’s.

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Other unique new items you’ll find this year include Kool-Aid brined pickles, Wasabi Bacon Bombs, Frosted Flakes chicken strips, bacon-wrapped pork belly on a stick, and even a gigantic funnel cake burger.

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As for the more classic battered and deep-fried innovations, try the the deep-fried Starbucks, deep-fried birthday cake or the Australian Battered Potatoes with their special Outback sriracha sauce.

There’s also a deep-fried SlimFast, for those who prefer a side of irony along with their fair food.

Bottom line is, there’s something for everyone. Unless you’re on a raw diet, of course. Now, how do you win?

Here are two ways to win your pair of tickets:

Instagram

  1. Follow me on Instagram (@tanayas.table) so I can direct message you to redeem your prize
  2. Comment on the image with the Krispy Kreme triple cheeseburger (yep, there’s that too!) saying why you want to win, and tag whom you want to take
  3. Entry closes at noon on Sunday, 7/26. This is a flash giveaway, so act fast and spread the word so if your friend wins, they’ll (hopefully) take you! 😉
  4. Wait for the winner (chosen at random, to keep it fair… since I want you all to win!) to be announced that same afternoon. Good luck!

Twitter

  1. Follow me on Twitter (@TanayaG) so I can direct message you to redeem your prize
  2. Retweet this tweet to enter to win, and reply to the tweet tagging whom you’d want to take with you
  3. Entry closes at noon on Sunday, 7/26. This is a flash giveaway, so act fast and spread the word so if your friend wins, they’ll (hopefully) take you! 😉
  4. Wait for the winner (chosen at random, to keep it fair… since I want you all to win!) to be announced that same afternoon. Good luck!

Also, heads up – there’s another foodie event giveaway coming up very soon!

You can get your tickets to the OC Fair here, or enter on Instagram or Twitter (see above for entry rules) to win!

On a quick side note, I’m about to go abroad and cover a month of food and travel in Hong Kong and India to share with you all. The Tanaya’s Travels section will be in full effect soon!

Check out what you can expect to come by visiting the travel section here, or from the navigation bar on the left. Also feel free to follow my travels on Twitter and Instagram to see the photos and videos while I’m on the road. I’d love to have you join me virtually!

More updates to come, as well as videos and giveaways. Cheers!

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VIDEO: Celebrity Chefs + Highlights from LA Weekly’s “The Essentials”

Tanayas Table LA Weekly The Essentials Logo Wine

Where do you go to interview top-tier LA chefs of celebrity status, all in the same room? How about the likes of Curtis Stone, Roy Choi, Michael Voltaggio and Sang Yoon?

Well, this past weekend, LA Weekly hosted The Essentials, an annual food event produced in honor of the recently unveiled 99 Essential LA Restaurants list. This is where I got to chat with all of the aforementioned immensely talented chefs!

Check it out here, along with some of the amazing bites offered by 50 of the 99 restaurants honored on the list:

Here are some of the highlights from what we tried at the event:

Roy Choi’s Kogi served its classic short rib tacos, while Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio of Ink served a bagels & lox-inspired dish featuring rye pasta with smoked trout roe, bagel crumbs and dashi brown butter.

Michael Voltaggio of Ink served up a pasta play on bagels & lox

Michael Voltaggio of Ink served up a pasta play on bagels & lox

Plan Check served their famous (and heavenly!) cruller donut holes with caramelized goat cheese, coconut sugar, almond sauce, white chocolate and candied rosemary.

Plan Check's all-star cruller donut with candied rosemary, caramelized goat cheese

Plan Check’s all-star cruller donut with candied rosemary, caramelized goat cheese

This little ball of rich complexity was definitely one of my ultimate favorite bites, as the donuts were crispy on the outside and light, airy and slightly custardy on the inside. The caramelized goat cheese was the perfect balance of sweet and savory, and the candied rosemary added the right amount of aromatic essence.

A savory favorite of mine had to be Little Sister’s banh hoi with chili braised beef shank and tendon, herbs, sprouts and fried peanuts. Great balance of hot and cold, sweet and salty, and the perfect amount of heat and acid.

Little Sister's banh hoi getting some finishing touches

Little Sister’s banh hoi getting some finishing touches

Alimento’s escolar crudo was also excellent, plated with eggplant, wild fennel and mollica. The succulent yet firm white fish absolutely melted in the mouth along with its Mediterranean-inspired components. It was a very cohesive plate indeed, with deep flavors.

One last donut that stood out was Hinoki & The Bird’s miso donut with honey caramel. It was a perfect umami and sweet combination in one fluffy bite!

Spago served an interesting “Vietnamese style banh mi” with pork belly, but somehow it didn’t taste as good as it looked for me. Still, it was pretty to look at, with all its brightly colored veggies.

Spago's take on the banh mi

Spago’s take on the banh mi

Tar & Roses’ steak tartare was delectable, as was its popcorn with bacon, brown sugar and aleppo pepper. Petit Trois also served a steak tartare, while Park’s BBQ served the flavors of Korean BBQ in one bite. There was also some great Ethiopian food, and a lot of deep-flavored moles served at the event.

Korean BBQ in one bite, by Park's BBQ

Korean BBQ in one bite, by Park’s BBQ

I only heard that chef Curtis Stone of Maude’s white asparagus pain perdu with foie gras mousse, pickled pearl onions & mustard seed was amazing, since we didn’t get to try before they ran out. Still, he talks to us about it in the video above… which kind of makes up for it!

Here’s Roy Choi cracking jokes and plugging Kogi, by the way:

Joking around with Roy Choi

Instagram video: Joking around with Roy Choi

Szechuan Impression’s spicy noodles were hot and flavorful, and had just the right bite. The variety of food, from authentic international street fare to refined European-inspired dishes was a pretty accurate reflection of so much that LA has to offer.

Spicy noodles by Szechuan Impression

Spicy noodles by Szechuan Impression

Although they didn’t exhibit at the event, I was pretty proud to learn that Surati Farsan Mart was recognized as one of the 99 Essential Restaurants!

Wine, cocktails and spirits also flowed at the event, and there was even vodka made from sweet potatoes. Oh, and how could I forget shouting out Philippe The Original and their OG French dip sandwich? There was so much food and drink to try, such little time!

The original French dip by Philippe The Original

The original French dip by Philippe The Original

I do wish some of the fine dining restaurants hadn’t run out by the time we got to them, but overall we definitely left stuffed and satiated with some of the most essential bites LA has to offer.

It was a good time talking food with some very well-respected chefs, as well.

Roy Choi & Tanaya's Table talking food

Cheers from Roy Choi & Tanaya’s Table… peace out!

Check out the full list of stellar vendors here. Until next time, cheers!

VIDEO Sneak Peek: Unique LA Returns For The Holidays

Note: If you’ve noticed my absence, it has been due to a family emergency I’ve been dealing with on an ongoing basis… but I’m back for now, or at least trying to be as much as possible.

Thanks for your understanding and patience, and I’m looking forward to sharing more good eats, events, behind the scenes videos and recipes with you all! Much love.

Featured items in my Huffington Post article on the first ever Unique LA.

Featured items from my Huffington Post article on the first-ever Unique LA back in 2012

When I covered the first ever Unique L.A. a couple years ago, I found everything from red velvet ding-dongs, bacon-banana macarons and raspberry-habañero jam, to DIY headbands, gingerbread donuts and all-natural smoked tuna cat food flakes… plus lots of locally crafted items resembling moustaches, octopi… and octopi with moustaches.

You can see what other peculiar, adorable and intriguing items were featured at the inaugural Unique L.A. in my coverage piece, published on the Huffington Post.

Although we can only time travel back to past Unique L.A. experiences by reading about them, the good news is there’s another weekend of fun coming to downtown L.A. starting tomorrow. And even better than just reading about it, this time I will share a video with highlights as well!

A couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek — or should I say, a “snack peek” — at some of the artisanal food crafters who will be selling at this weekend’s Unique L.A. thanks to my Tastemade crew.

Here’s a look at some of the treats you can expect to find… including pumpkin spice donuts from Donut Snob, Meyer lemon pie from Sugar Pie Honey Buns, chipotle dulce de leche macarons from Soft Peaks, and so much more:

Tanayas Table Unique LA Donut Snob etc Sneak Peek Tastemade Video Image

Check out this 1-minute video for a sneak preview of what unique treats you can find at this weekend’s Unique LA! (Blooper alert!)

Good times, bloopers and all! Also, here’s a bonus feature I did on Bon Puf’s all-natural, organic cotton candy in interesting flavor combinations like mango chili, salted caramel and lychee green tea. Plus, I get to try my hand at making some cotton candy as well! Join the mini adventure here:

The sweet folks at Bon Puf show me how to make my own Mango Chili cotton candy!

The sweet folks at Bon Puf show me how to make my own Mango Chili cotton candy! Check out the video right here ^

To find out more and to grab your tickets to food, entertainment and DIY workshops, check out the Unique L.A website. See you there!

VIDEO: Dunkin’ Donuts Opens In Santa Monica. Worth The Hype?

 

Copyright Tanaya Ghosh 2014

Flavors: Chocolate Frosted, Blueberry Cake, Oreo Crumb, Pumpkin Pie

Although summer is ending, it doesn’t look like food events in L.A. are slowing down one bit! As my friend and I happened to be in Santa Monica for a group taping of the Epic Meal Empire show by the guys of Epic Meal Time, we figured we’d also check out Dunkin’ Donuts.

We were curious to see how crazy the line was, as the grand opening was just a day ago. Since the line didn’t look as long as we’d expected and we had some time on our hands, we figured let’s wait in the line and see whether this long-awaited opening is worth the hype. For the sake of food journalism, of course!

In case you didn’t know (despite the frenzy here in Los Angeles), DD has opened its first location in Southern California in decades. You see, Dunkin’ Donuts was actually around until the late 90’s. However, all that’s existed in SoCal since then are a couple smaller locations such as the one in Barstow, on the way to Las Vegas. However, this is the first full-service store to open in recent times, and people are going ga-ga over it.

Once we arrived on scene with a healthy dose of skepticism in tow (so much hype!), we waited in the line that didn’t seem too crazy for Day 2, but did move quite slowly. However, shooting the video below to share with you guys did help the time go by more quickly. Forty-five minutes of our time, to be exact!

Copyright Tanaya Ghosh 2014

Was it worth it? Here are some tips and candid thoughts, along with a video review of the experience so you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth the trek and the wait:

  • If you absolutely must try a new place as soon as it opens, try to wait until at least Day 2. This will save you hours of your life versus braving the crowds, lines and general madness of opening day. The excitement will be there, minus (most of) the crazy. If you love camping out and scoring free stuff for being first in line on opening day that much though, more power to you!
  • Service was good, as they tried to be as efficient as possible by taking orders for 6 or more while customers stood in line. That way, they’re ready for you when you get to the front. However, not all options are listed on those glossy menu sheets!
  • The cake donuts are pretty solid. Moist, a bit fluffy on the inside, and not overly sweet. If you enjoy filled donuts, the Boston Cream is probably your best bet, unless you enjoy the artificial-tasting, extra sugary “cream” filling in the other donuts. Another one I really wanted to love, but at least the Boston Cream was a winner.
  • I tried Dunkin’ on the East Coast years ago. Was underwhelmed by the yeast donuts. I’m sad to say these were no different, tasting dense, a bit dry, and not very fresh. The chocolate frosting on the donut with sprinkles (see video below) was on point though. Still, Dunkin’s donuts pale in comparison to the glorious, pillowy, freshly fried rings of dough found at most mom & pop shops around town. Which basically come up every few blocks in most areas. Check them out sometime, trust me!
  • While I know many people rave hardcore about the coffee and not the donuts, I must say that I didn’t really enjoy the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Disclaimer: I’m not a regular coffee drinker, but I do enjoy an occasional ice coffee… and I know a good one when I sip one! This one even had an extra pump of pumpkin spice (cashier’s suggestion), but it still didn’t taste anything like pumpkin to me, and just tasted weirdly artificial. I wanted to like it, I really did!
  • “Pumpkin pie” donut didn’t have any taste of pumpkin nor pie, and seemed to be choc full of artificial flavoring and unnatural orange color. The texture was also not how it looks in the ads, tasting again like the sugary frosting of a storebought cupcake. However, the pumpkin pie spice cake donut was quite tasty! One out of three pumpkin flavored items nailed it, in our opinion.
  • Parking can be hard to find with all the permit-parking-only side streets, but there are lots around for $1 an hour. Not too bad on that front!
  • Sorry if I’ve offended you and your love of Dunkin’ Donuts. As a native Californian and donut lover (from small shops to gourmet eateries), I think there are a ton of specialty donut places around these days that offer far better quality, using better ingredients and innovative flavors. DD’s price is not bad at all, however.
  • If I go back, I do want to try their breakfast sandwiches. Wonder how good those are, because they look great! I just don’t want to get my hopes up ’til I try it, since you can’t trust the hype, it looks like. I still don’t understand the obsession, unless you grew up on Dunkin’. Sorry guys! I will try again sometime, though.

The overall experience was a good one, and I think they’ve done a fantastic job branding and creating a cultlike obsession over not necessarily the product itself (besides maybe the coffee, depending on whom you talk to), but the entire experience, which leaves you feeling happy you visited.

The Video:

Tanaya's Table - Dunkin Donuts Santa Monica Opening Video

Check out the one-minute video for highlights from Day 2 of the Dunkin’ Donuts opening!

Although East Coasters may have grown up on Dunkin’, I wonder how Californians will keep loving Dunkin’ in the long run, with all the other great donut and coffee places around. Perhaps Dunkin’ Donuts should be called Dunkin’ Coffee? It will also be interesting to see if local donut businesses and cafes (as we have a lot of mom & pop shops!) will take a hit as more Dunkin’ Donuts stores descend on Southern California. Personally, the DD experience was nice overall, but I’m all for the local mom & pop shops who have amazing donuts and a neighborhood feel!

Try it for the collective experience, and feel free to share your thoughts once you have been. Hope you enjoy it if you do decide to check it out. More summer food highlights to come!