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By Steven Li on 2007-05-14

May 14, 2007

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GOOD FOOD IN CLAREMONT

I know I’ve complained about this Inland Empire area a bunch, but there are in fact a few things I like about going to school in Claremont. Things like…

…the Sunday Claremont Farmers Market

It’s a very small market, with about a dozen vendors, but it’s always nice to see familiar faces and buy your fruits and veggies from the same friendly people each week.

Items on my weekly shopping list range from freshly squeezed apple juice…

…To baskets of strawberries

And asparagus, (though I find it mighty hard to do much creative cooking with veggies, living in a dorm with no kitchen, hehe).

I spend most of my time with the pita man and it’s hard to decide among the variety of hummus he offers. More often than not, I end up pairing a pack of pita bread with his artichoke hummus. It makes a super awesome breakfast in my opinion: hot toasted pita with a slather of this creamy, artichoke-studded hummus.

Sometimes I add in their tabbouleh to my purchase. All item are $4 a piece, or 3 for $10. Buy more, save more…spend more? Hehe, no worries. I love buying from farmer markets, not because I’m an “organic eater” or vegetarian, but because I love interacting with people, talking with them about their products, or why they bothered to venture all the way out to Claremont when they could make so much more at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market or someplace further out west.

Right next to the market is 42nd St Bagel, and I’ll head there to get some morning work done over a bagel and cup of coffee. Most recently I had a spinach bagel with sundried tomato cream cheese. It’s certainly not the most marvelous bagel, but I like it for what it is. I used to despise this place because they microwaved their bagels (insane!). But now they have a toaster, so it’s all good.

I’ll pop in Saca’s right before my dance class every once in a while. Sometimes I just get this awful craving for falafel which need to be satisfied right then and there. Falafels here are kind of expensive, running nearly $5, but maybe that’s because I’ve been spoiled by Mamoun’s $2 glories in NYC’s west village.

Of all the places I’ve set foot in within the Claremont Village, I’ve gone to Bert & Rocky’s Cream Company the most. I go there a lot.

Like enough for me to fill two of their frequent customer cards…which makes for a total of 26 visits over this semester alone. I thought I would never tire of this place, but apparently I do have ice cream limits.

I started to grow bored of my two scoop junior size cups around the last week of school…maybe I needed some variation in my frozen dessert consumption?…something like gelatos? Or semifreddos? (but nono, none of the pinkberry, kiwiberry mess!)

I can’t recall the names of all the flavors…they’re just about as clear as a melted mocha milkshake in my mind at this moment

The dark chocolate cherry doesn’t show up often, but when it’s there, I make sure to get this mellow ice cream with sweet pitted cherry halves and thin crisp ripples of dark chocolate. Sometimes it comes without the dark chocolate (like in this picture), and then it’s just called cherry ice cream.

But I also love the really dark mocha espresso, which I wrote about in my last Bert & Rocky’s post. It’s such a muddy dark and sinful color! It almost makes you moody in this evil chocolate kind of way. An excellent flavor! So dense and buttery rich, it yields to no one.

A peach sorbet with bittersweet chocolate ice cream on the bottom. I’m not much of a sorbet person, I’ve discovered. Who would want sorbet when you can have ice cream?!

BAD FOOD IN THE INLAND EMPIRE

But far to frequently, you come across very bad food in the Inland Empire. An example of this is any dish that comes out of the Mix Bowl kitchen, the to go spot for Claremont college students. It’s open late, it’s cheap, it delivers. But it’s awful! I ordered the pad kee mow once, a grease soaked, MSG laden mess with stringy old pork. Ewwww indeed.

The Inland Empire appears to be batting a 0 when it comes to Thai food. Over at Bangkok Blue in La Verne I did takeout for an order of pad see ewe.

Ewww. So much ewww! It wasn’t nearly as greasy as Mix Bowl, but here the noodles had a funky sweet flowery taste going on, since when it pad see ewe supposed to taste like roses? It was a suspicious order of food for sure!

The Bagelry up on Foothill is where bagel making is turned into a circus. Where the dough is dyed an obscene rainbow of colors, making you wonder if it’s edible

The bagels themselves are huge, doughy beyond words and should be split for two servings unless you are desperate to gain weight. Here’s the spinach cheese bagel with plain cream cheese – it’s really not a bagel, not quite bread, but something else entirely. It does not taste good.

The oat bagel with sweetnut cream cheese is just as much of a let down, a huge round of chewy wet dough. The cream cheese itself faired better, blendig chopped dates and walnuts with cream cheese.

BETTER LATE NIGHT FOOD IN ROWLAND HEIGHTS

But back to the good food! Claremont is just a 15-minute drive to the Asian food glory land of Rowland Heights. On late weeknights, we go to Ten Ren to “study.” But we inevitably get hungry, and nothing cures late night savory cravings like an order of their spicy fried chicken. Little nuggets battered in a salt and pepper (or lots of pepper with chili peppers as we requested) mix then fried to snackable perfection.

For something more substantial, we head for the udon stir fried with cabbage, chicken and slices of fishcake. Very little studying gets done during these ventures, but we are well fed!

If we come into Rowland earlier, before all the normal restaurants close, a stop by 101 Noodles for a takeout order of beef rolls is mandatory.

EVEN BETTER FOOD IN LA PROPER

I’m also grateful that our school is right near the Metrolink which allows me to get away on weekends and do silly things I enjoy by myself. Things like wandering around the Grand Central Market

I like the pupusa people the best. I like both eating pupusas and saying the word, “pupusa!”

I also like watching pupusas being made!

Oh god, pupusas are the most delicious thing to eat in world. Here’s the spinach and cheese pupusa (you can get it stuffed with near anything you desire, but a spinach and chees combo just seemed right that day :) It’s basically a thick corn tortilla, all formed by hand and stuffed with magical ingredients, and grilled till it gets all crispy outside and the innards are hot and melty!

The same pupusa with shredded cabbage and an addictive spicy sauce. After the pupusa I wander around the market in search of something sweet. Because after every savory must come sweet.

This Mexican bakery had a pretty long line of customers…

I peeked in, took in all my options, stared, and did some more staring. There was so much to look at!

And then I settled on this! What is it? I still do not know! But I can tell you what it taste like. Okay. Think cheesecake gone square shaped with a more cakey than creamy texture. Dense. Very, very dense. Not buttery but oily. The oil soaked through the first paper bag. And then the second. So I transferred to a plastic bag. I must have looked like a homeless with all the bags I was carrying! It was just decent, but I couldn’t finish the entire thing, cause I swear I heard my arteries crying out in pain, “Stoppp!!! You’re killing me!!! Stooopp!” So I think I will stick to Asian and European pastries for now?

Before leaving the market I landed upon an iced Mexican hot chocolate, perfect for this insanely warm weather.

On my way back to the train station, I pass Japan Town, and since I’m too full for real food, I do the second best thing, stare at food making in the progress!

And then I saw these, and rekindled my love for fish in all forms.

And then proved my love with a purchase of this trio of deep fried fish balls. This batch had just come out of the fryer and were burning hot. So juicy, they were, so munchable, crisp…and okay, I’m getting tired, I should probably go to sleep cause it’s past 1am, and I try to get to bed before midnight…but trust me, they were wonderful fishballs! Kinda made me thirsty though, so it was good I still had some of that iced hot chocolate. :)



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