King’s Hawaiian Bakery : Unwrapped!

By Tsz on August 27, 2012

Gastrophoria is a piping hot King’s Hawaiian roll straight of the the oven slathered with salted butter.

Ever since watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in third grade, I longed for a similar experience—well, minus the accidents a la blueberry gum bloating, etc. My golden ticket finally came as an invitation to visit the King’s Hawaiian bakery! Being a fan of the fluffy sweet buns since I was a kid, this was monumental, epic even.

So, I donned a pair of pants per their safety rules (I only wear pants if it’s absolutely necessary, which equates to roughly once or twice and year) and made the trek down to King’s Hawaiian bakery early in the morning.

The team welcomed me with a lei and we gathered in the communal kitchen. In there, we got to meet the founding family, the Taira’s, and learn about their beginnings before starting the grand tour.

Started more than 50 years ago in Hilo, Hawaii, Robert Taira perfected the recipe for Portuguese sweet bread. Specially, to create a bun that stayed soft and airy for 2 weeks. Through his signature sweet bread recipe and the idea of “aloha spirit,” which promotes a close-knitted family work culture, the Tairas build a prosperous operation that is still family owned and ran. The sense of community was strongly evident through their interactions with each other the the way they spoke with pride when sharing their story.

One of the family member, uncle Dino, took us behind the scenes to see how the rolls were created. The factory bakery was HUGE (multiple football fields big) and smelled intensely of sweet dough and baking bread. It was hard not to smile and salivate at the same time. Or gawk with mouths open as it’s like being in an episode of Unwrapped, watching the machinery kneading dough into perfect rolls.

As entertaining as it was to see the process of break making, the best part was tasting the end-product. A few staff member plucked trays of freshly baked rolls from the monstrous oven so we can try as part of quality control. Can you imagine tasting fresh bread as part of your job?! We spread salted butter on them and went to town.

If you thought the tour stopped there, you’re gravely mistaken. We were greeted by a gang of veteran food trucks back at the office with each using King’s Hawaiian’s bread to create their signature dish. Lobsta Truck created their Lobsta roll with toasted KH hot dog buns. Ludo Truck served their chicken favorites with KH dinner rolls—the buttermilk fried chicken was ridiculously juicy! Buttermilk Truck continued the fried trend with cinnamon toast sticks made with KH bread and Kogi used the KH rolls as the buns for their short rib sliders.

For dessert, we were treated to Courtney Taira (granddaughter of Robert Taira, head of KH consumer care and resident foodie!) famous white and dark choclate bread pudding with Grand Marnier sauce and a spread of other goodies!

Many thanks to the Taira family and King’s Hawaiian team for a wonderful day and demonstrating what ohana is!

King’s Hawaiian Bakery
19161 Harborgate Way
Torrance, CA 90501
Phone: (877) 695–4227


Baco Mercat : Taco/Sandwich Hybrid Win!

By Tsz on August 18, 2012

Gastrophoria is pigging out on bacos and pecan panna cotta at Baco Mercat.

For the uninitiated, a baco (miles away from the close sounding Jumbaco a la Jack in the Box) is a flat bread taco/sandwich hybrid—the brainchild of chef Josef Centeno (of the The Lazy Ox fame). However, all you need to know is that it’s one big delicious, albeit messy affair.

“The Original” is a tangle of crispy pork belly, beef carnitas, and a healthy dose of greens all smothered with an almond-pepper Salbitxada sauce. The fluffy flatbread that binds them all together does a good job… for about a minute. So it’s best to tackle this with a fork and knife, or bring some wet naps! Once you’ve conquer that, move on to the next level with “the Toron.” Same concept but with oxtail hash and tater tots. It is surreal.

If a messy, hot (tasty) mess isn’t your deal, you may be better suited for their cocas, a Catalan version of the pizza. My favorite is “The Salty Jowl”—guanciale, tomato, riocotta and fried egg gathering together on a crispy cracker-like crust. It’s the new breakfast.

To wash it all down, the only way to go is to get their house-made sodas. Barely sweet but rather refreshingly tart, it really cuts down on the heaviness of the meal. Not to mention, there are over 10 unique flavor combos at anytime—Strawberry basil or pineapple ginger anyone?

If you’re still hungry, there are desserts galore. J Gold loves their banana cream pie (it is like a banana cloud!). As for me, my heart belongs to their pecan panna cotta. Impossibly creamy and butter pecan-ly, this panna cotta is adorned with crispy rice crackers, whipped cream and bourbon caramel. It’s one of those desserts where you can’t help but let out a sigh of happiness upon tasting.

Josef Centeno, you’ve done it again!

Baco Mercat
408 S. Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone: (213) 687–8808


Palihouse : Strawberry Bash with California Strawberries

By Tsz on August 12, 2012

Gastrophoria is OD’ing on fresh, right-off-the-vine strawberries.

The California Strawberry Commission, a collective of 500 strawberry farmers, hosted a cocktails and canapes night, celebrating strawberries in its delicious glory. Set in the swanky Weho-based Palihouse, it was like witnessing a fashion show of colorful strawberry confections. There were the classic strawberry shortcakes and tarts, which are always timeless. But then they started to jazz it up with strawberry mojitos and a tart strawberry gazpacho. Better yet were the strawberry bruschetta, strawberry pork tenderloin and the strawberry salsa topped rock shrimp. That latter was the perfect blend of hot and cold, savory and tart—I must have downed 6 of those in the duration of the night!

The night was a food fest, albeit an educational one. David Grotto, dietitian and author, joined the night festivities by teaching us on the benefits of the tasty red gems. For example, strawberries has one of the lowest sugar content of all the fruits in a serving. It also improves blood flow, which is great for the brain in cognitive relay and ahem, for the family jewels. Hilarious and highly factual, Grotto is the best science teacher you wish you had in high school!

Many thanks to California Strawberries!

8465 Holloway Drive
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Phone: (323) 656-4100