Dining on a budget: Siamese Restaurant in La Verne

By Stacey Wang,

Growing up in the San Gabriel Valley, it comes as no surprise that I love Asian food.

One of the staples in my diet to date is Chinese curry. It’s got a simple ingredient list – chicken or beef, carrots, potatoes, onions and curry powder. Quick to make, ingredients simple to remember and it can be made in bulk. A perfect combination for someone with little to no time to cook.

So I have grown fond of curry. Plus, it’s satisfying.

In my search for a lunchtime meal, I pulled into The Commons at La Verne. The plaza was packed with cars on one side – mostly because of hungry mouths at acclaimed The Habit Burger Grill, coupled with bargain shoppers at Ross. The other side was empty, so I chose to park there out of intrigue.

That’s where I found Siamese Restaurant, a dineresque Thai restaurant with cultural ornaments scattered throughout the place.

I ordered chicken curry from the lunch specials menu for $6.25 – which included Wonton soup, a choice of fried rice or steamed rice and a small side salad. I opted for brown rice, adding an extra $1.

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The Wonton soup was forgettable, a soggy pork Wonton in a soup that had little flavor but a hint of sourness. I finished the cup quickly, set it aside and thoughts of how the curry would measure up filled my mind.

Unlike its Chinese relative, Thai curry has a thinner consistency and is slightly tart. It also has a creaminess because coconut milk is used.

To me, a good Thai curry is not too creamy, sour or spicy. The Siamese curry fulfilled each of these aspects.

My dish had thinly sliced white meat chicken, red bell peppers and jalapenos, drenched in curry sauce and topped with bamboo slices. The bamboo aged the flavor and the few jalapeno slices gave it a bite that crept on my tastebuds. I finished two glasses of water by the end of my short meal.

The portions weren’t generous but reasonable, despite my being famished, because the great thing about curry is that it’s incredibly filling.

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Siamese also offers variety of items on its $6.25 lunch menu, including Pad Thai, Karee Kai and Panang.

For an extra $1, menu items such as sweet and sour fish, chili fish and ginger shrimp are available.

To catch the lunch specials, you can visit the restaurant from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Even if you miss the specials, most of the menu is under $10.

Siamese Restaurant is at 1544 Foothill Blvd., La Verne; (909) 593-7097.

Oh, the Thanksgiving feasts are upon us

If you saw me when I was about 10 years old, you might ask the same thing my mom asked, “Where does it all go?”

I’ve always been the smallest, shorter one of the bunch, but I could still keep up with my brothers at the dinner table.

I always had a love for good food, (of which I gladly blame on my parents), so it is no surprise that when it comes to family gatherings involving food, Thanksgiving has been my absolute favorite since I was about 10.

Before then, my Mexican family didn’t make a big deal about this day in November mainly because it isn’t much acknowledged in Mexico. It was always around my older brother’s birthday so just a regular meal and birthday cake did the trick.

Although I love my mom’s cooking, she wasn’t too familiar with turkey, stuffing or any of those Thanksgiving staples.

After my parents divorced, the best thing I got from the deal were my step-aunts and their cooking. The first Thanksgiving with my step-family really opened my eyes to all the goodness (and food) of the holiday.

And being a growing child, I took it all in – literally.

Sure I loved running around the yard and playing with my siblings and cousins but before anyone was even called to the table, I knew and was the first one sitting down preparing for the feast.

I am also a slow eater, painful to many, but I love to savor every bite and morsel so I was also always the last one at the table, especially after having seconds, sometimes thirds.

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My step-aunts and family had all the essentials down - turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, potato salad, green bean casserole, beets, yams, watergate salad, pumpkin pie with cool whipped topping, and more – and they made it all look so easy for a kid like me.

Once I moved back in with my mom and didn’t have those Thanksgiving lunches with my step-family anymore, I still craved the ham, the potatoes and oh the watercress salad.

So we eventually convinced my mom to start having a Thanksgiving meal.

We invited neighbors and family friends and they brought something to the gathering. My mom made the ham. Sure, she used a canned ham, canned pineapple and canned cherries, but she made such a juicy, sweet ham, it was like she’d been doing it for years.

The brown sugar was her secret I think. It’s still my all-time favorite ham.

Every year after then, we added something more or just got more creative with the stuffing or pies, adding different ingredients or techniques.

Then once my brothers moved out, one by one, to get married and start their own family, there were more options of where to celebrate the holiday, which gave my mom some relief from being the main chef.

I still beg her to make her ham though, even if it’s not Thanksgiving. There’s always Christmas, Ma.

Since I am more of a baker, I now love to try something new to share at the Thanksgiving table. Sometimes it’s a variation of a pumpkin dessert or something for the non-pumpkin lovers, but it’s always tasty. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE HOLIDAY? FAVORITE THANKSGIVING DISH?

SHARE YOUR THANKSGIVING FEAST STORIES BELOW and…

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Mr. Baguette in Monterey Park

After hearing about Mr. Baguette for over a year, I finally got to taste one of the sandwich shop’s creations.

I thought there was only a Mr. Baguette in Rosemead and I hardly ever go through the city let alone stop somewhere there to eat.

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But by chance, I happened to be driving north on Atlantic Blvd. in Monterey Park one Saturday afternoon, spotted this location on the right side and knew I had to take a detour from my original destination.

When I first perused the displayed menu, I was surprised by the variety of cuisines offered at what I thought was a mainly French-inspired sandwich shop. There are Vietnamese inspired sandwiches and new to the shop are the beef and chicken fajitas sandwich.

The new addition looks to combine Mexican cuisine with the signature French baguette bread. The sandwiches come with beef or chicken finely chopped fajitas, in-house salsa sauce, and Monterey Jack cheese.

They even offer Jarritos, a line of fruit-flavored sodas that are a favorite in Mexico.

Though sandwiches do take over the menu, you can start off with pate chaud or pork or chicken meat pies, a ham and cheese roll, or a bowl of clam chowder or chicken curry.

Sandwich selections vary from classic French baguette sandwiches to Vietnamese-French combinations.

There is the classic brioche in a variety of meat or veggie options in a smaller-size French roll bread. There is a variety of croissant sandwiches or just get them plain.

Contemporary sandwiches come with mayonnaise spread, lettuce, tomatoes and American cheese with your choice of meats like grilled beef, roast beef or tuna.

The condiments can be substituted with the house special salad of carrots, daikon and chili peppers.

The Classic sandwiches are served with the house salad and come in varieties such as pork meat loaf, pate pork meat loaf, chicken, meatball, veggie or a combination of meats.

I craved a Vietnamese style sandwich that comes with carrots and chili peppers so I went simply with a grilled pork classic. 

My sister and adventure companion decided to try the Saigon probably more for the name. The Saigon comes with a combination of hot Vietnamese-style bacon and pork meat loaf.

She forewent adding the house salad topping which comes on the side in a small bag when ordered to go. Even though the pork in her sandwich looked different than we’re used to seeing, she said it was a tasty combination of meats and devoured it in less than 10 minutes.

I had to add the house salad to my sandwich, especially the chili peppers to give it a nice kick. I have been to some Vietnamese restaurants that serve these types of sandwiches, known there as banh mi, and most of the time the peppers are spicy.

Mr. Baguette was no exception but it was a great balance to the nicely sliced carrots and daikon, which is a type of radish. The grilled pork was nicely seasoned and grilled to a nice tenderness.

The final touch that made the sandwich deliciously scrumptious was the baguette. A nice warm toasty on the outside and soft on the inside.

What I love even more about Mr. Baguette are the prices. You can get a simple sandwich for under $3. Our sandwiches were less than $4 for a good size.

Having such a variety of beverages as sandwiches, my sister and I had to try something from that menu as well.

I went with the boba thai iced tea for $2.50 and my sister gave the mango smoothie a try for $3.85 and 35 cents extra for boba. 

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The thai tea had a nice taste and the boba balls were larger than I’ve had in other boba drinks but I didn’t find anything much special in their tastes. They just added some texture.

My sister felt the same way about the boba but enjoyed her fresh-tasting smoothie just the same.

Mr. Baguette is open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and has three locations in the San Gabriel Valley located at:

  • 400 S. Atlantic Blvd., #288 in Monterey Park, (626) 282-9966
  • 8702 E. Valley Blvd. in Rosemead, (626) 288-9166
  • 9661 E. Garvey Ave., #101 in South El Monte, (626) 575-8632

Quizno’s Double Cheese Cheesesteak

For those of you who like your cheesesteak sandwiches just as they should be – steak and cheese and steak and cheese – then Quizno’s new Double Cheese Cheesesteak is for you.

The sandwich shop’s new toasty sub is not a torpedoe or bullet so you can get it in a small, regular or large size in white or wheat bread.

It comes with hand-carved marinated prime rib steak slices, double the slices of swiss cheese, sauteed onions and mayo – that’s it.

Sure you may not get your daily recommended servings of vegetables but you can always get a side salad.

I recently tried the small size (ixnay on the mayo though) just to see if it was plenty enough with double the meat and cheese. 

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With a side of chips and a drink, the small did satisfy but at the same time, the meat marinade was so tasty and the cheese was all nice and melty that I wanted more even if it was going to make me so full I’d place myself in a food coma – staring into the glare of my computer screen at work.

It’s not the value meal you could find at some other sandwich shops – $5.29 for the small plus $1.99 to make it a combo – but it’s worth the double meat and cheese alone.

Dining on a budget: Anna’s Pizza in West Covina

By Eric Terrazas

I am a big fan of pizza, which has long been a favorite dish of mine.

Always on the lookout for a tasty pie, I decided to check out a place called Anna’s Pizza, located in West Covina.

I ordered the mini 8-inch two-topping pizza for $4.99. The two toppings I selected were pepperoni and pineapple.

My first impression of Anna’s was pretty positive. While it was not the best pizza I ever had, I still came away a satisfied customer.

For $4.99, the two-topping pizza is not a bad deal. I ate all of my pineapple and pepperoni pizza, which tasted pretty good.

I decided to give Anna’s another try the next day. This time, I selected the $6.99 lunch special, which consisted of a mini 8-inch two-topping pizza, a small salad and a medium soft drink.

The toppings I selected were sausage and mushroom. 

I thought the sausage and mushroom pizza tasted better than the pepperoni and pineapple.

The salad, which comes with several choices of dressing, wasn’t bad. I wish it included a couple more tomatoes.

Anna’s salad dressing list includes ranch, blue cheese, Italian, thousand island, vinegar and oil, and Caesar. I ordered the thousand island.

I had no problem finishing my sausage and mushroom pie.

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For $6.99, I thought Anna’s lunch special was a nice meal and deal. Other pizza sizes are also offered.

The choice of toppings also include meatballs, salami, ham, Canadian bacon, tomatoes, garlic, onions, green peppers, olives, jalapenos, anchovies and chicken.

If you happen to have a light budget, the $3.99 mini 8-inch cheese pizza sounds like a good choice.

Anna’s menu also features dishes such as spaghetti ($6.99), lasagna ($7.75) and ravioli ($7.25). All dishes are served with garlic bread.

Different varieties of sandwiches and salads are also available. A regular (8-10 inches) sized sandwich costs $5.25 while a foot-long is priced at $6.25.

Salad selections include chicken ($6.50), antipasto ($6.25), and garden ($4.75).

So if you are in the mood for Italian fare and happen to be in the West Covina area, Anna’s just might sound like a good place to eat.

Anna’s Pizza is located at 1010 West Covina Parkway in West Covina. For information, call (626) 337-7297.

Flatbreads at Jamba Juice

You knew I would try to snag a free flatbread from Jamba Juice. How could I resist free food?

Check out this article from business editor Kevin Smith explaining this special promotion.

At first, I thought of going an hour before this special promotion started, but actually got too busy in the office.

Once I had a break, it was just after 2 p.m. but thought I would still see if I had a chance to try these new low-calorie flatbreads.

I arrived at the Jamba Juice in West Covina by the mall at about 2:20 p.m. There was no long lines in sight like I remember seeing for the free chicken giveaway El Pollo Loco and Kentucky Fried Chicken had, but that was fine with me.

There wasn’t even one person in front of me when I entered the Jamba Juice in West Covina on Tuesday.

I was reminded once again of the free promotion and I said yes please! Apparently they were giving away one of the four varieties (Tomo Artichoko, Smokehouse Chicken, MediterranYum and Four Cheesy) at different times throughout the promotion. I got the Smokehouse Chicken variety.

I ordered a healthy smoothie as well – Pomegranate Pick-me-up – and happily took my little warm box of flatbread. Regular price for a flatbread is $3.75.

No matter where I read or searched for online, I could not figure out what type of food exactly Jamba Juice meant by ‘flatbread’, but it pretty much resembles a mini-size, thin-crust pizza with flatbread as the dough.

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The smokehouse had roasted corn, peppers, black beans and chicken on top of a little melted cheese and what tasted like a slightly tangy barbecue sauce. The flavors of each ingredient went well together considering it was only 330 calories.

The flatbread was warm and toasty but a bit hard on the side while it was soft on the bottom.

The flatbread was more of a snack with it’s mini-pizza size, or if you wanted to make it a full meal, you could pick up a couple or add one of the salads also offered now at some Jamba Juice locations.

Next time I’ll try one of the salads, wraps or sandwiches while picking up some fresh juicy smoothie at Jamba Juice.

DID YOU SNAG A FREE FLATBREAD? KNOW OF ANY OTHER FREE FOOD OFFERINGS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? LET US KNOW BELOW – SHARING IS CARING.

 

Dining on a budget: Wang’s in Monrovia

By Lafayette C. Hight Jr.

Entering Wang’s was, well, interesting.

There’s neither a service counter inside nor a podium of any sort, so while standing at the entrance for about many minutes I thought I’d been accidentally dipped in invisible ink.

Maybe there actually were only a handful people working that night, but the half-empty dining room - which had only about six tables occupied – didn’t seem to warrant the lack of attention.

Eventually we did manage to catch someone’s curiosity and found ourselves at a table, where we perused the menu and decided upon the Mandarin dinner, at $13.95 per person, which included a choice of soup and two entrees and some appetizers.

There were two of us, so the meal seemed a perfect fit. We opted for Hot and Sour Soup to start things off. When it arrived I was a bit worried because it came with a very strong smell of sesame oil. I was happy when I tasted it, though, to discover that it was the same soup I’m familiar with.

Shortly afterward, a plate with wontons, egg rolls and foil-wrapped chicken showed up.

It was here that I discovered that Wang’s food seemed to only have one temperature. Hot. Screaming hot. Hot enough that Dante might have seen it served in the inner ring of the seventh circle.

It’s almost as if the temperature was supposed to take your mind off the fact that the food was lacking in the flavor department.

Had my eyes been closed, it would have been difficult to tell the difference between the vegetable egg roll, the wonton and the fried wonton skins that were delivered as an appetizer  - tasting kind of like deep-fried paper. The small piece of baked chicken, however, was pretty good. The problem was that it was minuscule, about the size of my thumb.

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Then the entrees arrived. The best part of the entrees was the shrimp. Not the whole dish, but the individual crustaceans. So it became a bit of a race to see who could get the most shrimp, without being obvious that we were trying to out-shrimp each other.

I was also trying to figure out why the chow mein arrived in a pie plate. Not the tin type, but a glass pie plate, while the beef dish had a normal serving dish.

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But I couldn’t even think about that, as I was busy attempting to perform a miracle with the soy sauce (red, not green), salt and pepper that were on the table.

I figured out the right proportion after about 10 minutes – a splash of soy sauce, three shakes of pepper – to add at least a semblance of taste to the dishes.

I have to admit, that what I did like about Wang’s was that the restaurant has a full bar with some pretty decent drinks, not typically found in Chinese restaurants in the Valley.

And by the end of the night, I needed one.

Wang’s is located at 120 E. Lemon Ave. in Monrovia. For information, call (626) 303-3071.

More reasons to love Jamba Juice

As if I need another reason to love Jamba Juice and their tasty fruit creations. I have yet to try their most recent food offerings but this will sure help.

Here’s the latest from the smoothie company:

“As a part of its Fall ‘Feel Good Campaign’, Jamba Juice announced today that it will be filling customers up for free.”

Starting at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17, the first 150 customers can get a chance to try Jamba Juice’s new California Flatbreads for FREE, at participating Jamba Juice locations.

The recently launched lunch offerings “make the perfect guilt-free afternoon snack, made with high quality, better-for-you ingredients and all under 330 calories.”

“A perfect combination of delicious ingredients on top of a crispy crust, and an excellent source of protein, the new Flatbreads are available in 4 yummy flavors including: Tomo Artichoko Flatbread, Smokehouse Chicken Flatbread, MediterranYum Flatbread and Four Cheesy Flatbread.”

Dining on a budget: D.J. Bibingkahan in West Covina

I don’t know the history of Filipino food but after my first visit to D.J. Bibingkahan in West Covina, it wasn’t too far from Mexican food.

It made me wonder, who inspired who?

This little bake shop is a spacious restaurant and bakery in what is locally known as Little Manila, or the Seafood City shopping center off of Amar Road and Azusa Avenue.

On a recent lunch hour, playing on televisions throughout the dining area was a Filipino version of “Ugly Betty,” an American television show that is a version of the Mexican soap opera show “Betty La Fea.”

The cheesy over-acting and camera work immediately reminded me of Mexican “telenovelas” or soap operas.

Ordering food here required a quick lesson. First of all, I didn’t understand the menu, and not because of language barriers, but there also isn’t much clarity as to how to order food.

Luckily, I was well accompanied by two fellow foodies who were familiar with the way of the D.J. Bibingkahan.

It actually reminded me of how one may typically order food at a fast-food style Chinese restaurant. The food is spread across a long counter behind glass and you can just point to what you want.

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Easy for me since I didn’t know what items were what, let alone know how to pronounce it properly in Tagalog. 

Much of the food in front of me looked very good but so as not to be sorely disappointed with my lunch I went with a couple suggestions made by my companions instead of following my hungry eyes.

Everyone mostly orders combos which come with steamed white rice and an optional cup of soup, but you can order items a la carte.

With everything from a side spinach with coconut milk dish, beef boiled in blood stew to fish dishes, there was plenty to choose from.

I decided to go with the beef barbecue on a stick and a beef stew called beef kaldereta. I didn’t get to try the soup this time which had pork in it.

I did try the chicken adobo off of a lunch companion’s plate though. The chicken is cooked for hours in a soy sauce and vinegar mixture, making the chicken tender and juicy and the mixture a little more sweet than salty.

The beef barbecue was perfectly cooked, not too tough, and had the nice barbecue taste and not just the marks of a grill.           

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The beef stew tasted so close to a Mexican dish my mom cooks. The spices in the stew and the juicy, chunky cut of the beef are almost exactly the same as the Mexican version, though the color is a little different.

I didn’t taste them at first but the stew also has potatoes and carrots, much like the Mexican dish. My mom’s dish also has peas and squash though.

My mom serves the dish with rice as well. It’s a great way to absorb the stew and flavor the rice.

This D.J. restaurant is actually one of six chains with another in Las Vegas.

D.J. Bibingkahan in West Covina is at 1515 Amar Road, (626) 581-4682.

(NOTE: After this article ran in print and on the Highlander website, there were many commenters helping me out with a little history lesson on Filipino and Mexican food. And others commented on Spanish soap opera history. Feel free to join in on that discussion by clicking on the link above or start a new one here – Comment away! Thanks.)

Dining on a budget: Cafe Bagelry in San Dimas

By Stacey Wang

I’ve had bagels on the brains every Friday for the last two weeks due to the downtime “bagels or donuts?” discussion in the office.

As if Casual Friday didn’t already make my day, I finally decided to satisfy my craving for those complex carbs.

In San Dimas lies Cafe Bagelry, a family-owned shop that has an extensive menu to satisfy bagel eaters of all kinds.

From cream cheese bagels to bagel sandwiches, the cafe has menu items ranging from $0.85 to $5.69, before tax.

I ordered a Californian – a cafe-proclaimed favorite tuna sandwich with Swiss cheese, avocado, tomatoes and sprouts on a toasted wheat bagel.

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The generous portions of the sandwich alone were enough to fill me up, but the cafe offers a meal deal every Friday. Customers can order any bagel menu item, chips and a fountain drink for $6.

On any other day, my meal would have cost $7.79. It’s not a huge savings, but I don’t mind taking what I can get – especially if it’s as gratifying as it was.

I also ordered a cafe specialty known as a Peaches ‘N Cream bagel for $3.02 purely because it glimmered from its glass encasing with visual appeal.

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The pastry was a bagel bread with a light spread of cream cheese. It was topped with peach slices fanned out like a pinwheel and sprinkled with cinnamon, which added a light fruity sweetness to it.

I didn’t attempt to finish all of my food in one sitting – I would have cursed bagels until the new year had I tried.

The shop also offers alternatives to bagel items – including muffins, omelettes, wraps, croissants and more – while supplies last.

Some other items include an Early Bird Egg Wrap with egg, herb cream cheese and cheddar cheese at $3.13 and cookies at $0.75, which the menu proclaims is “the best” the cafe has ever tasted.

But don’t expect to eat there at night. The place is open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

Cafe Bagelry is at 969 W. Arrow Hwy., San Dimas. Call the shop at (909) 394-9592 for more information.