The Last Kind Words Saloon, Death Valley 07-2021

After witnessing the stunning landscapes of Death Valley along with 48C heat (not to despair, it was 52C the week before), there weren't really many food options in the area. Even though we stayed at Stovepipe Wells, there wasn't a food option there other than the general store (I see now on Google they now have Toll Road restaurant which has remarkable ratings (4.8)), and so after considering instant food, decided instead to head toward the Saloon.

It's part of the "town" complete with accommodation, usually some other restaurants (closed due to Covid/quietness) and some tourist shops. The Saloon itself had some nice character with a lot of wild west memorabilia and some animal heads/skulls. What was also head-busting was the prices - assumably a mark-up given there's no other options than to hunt your own desert food.

Luckily we weren't too hungry or would have shelled out USD58 for the ribs. Instead we ended up with the Borax Team Chili in a bread bowl USD16 and Kale salad (Tuscan kale, roasted brussel sprouts, goat cheese, dried cranberries, red onion, pepitas tossed in a house made maple mustard vinaigrette) USD15. Adequate, expensive and a little small for the price but they are listed as entrees I guess.

Hopefully no need to eat there again!

Phnom Penh Noodle Shack, Los Angeles 07-2021

One of the great South-East Asian breakfasts is pho in Vietnam. It isn't common to have a boiling hot bowl of noodles for breakfast in the western world, but living near a bunch of Vietnamese pho restaurants in Abbotsford means we can do it occasionally too (like for New Year's Day first meal of the year 2022).

After trying Naga Cafe Khmer Street Food noodles the day before, being able to visit PPNS for breakfast at 8am before the drive to Death Valley was very welcome. We definitely weren't the only people with this in mind and it was surprising to see the place so full for a Tuesday.

Cheap prices also with Mo's Special Noodle Soup (ground pork, sliced pork, beef balls) and Rice porridge both large servings for USD8.95. Cha quai USD1.25 and nom sa-kieu (meat bread) USD2.25 rounded out the meal. The food was all warming, hearty, flavoursome and delicious. Once again the noodle soup's pork base was prominent, in comparison to the herb/spice/beef version of pho.

Perfect before for preparing to drive into the hot desert.

Little Fatty, Los Angeles 07-2021

I've had a bit of Taiwanese food in London (mainly delicious noodles and flattened fried chicken) and in Taiwan too (although it was less memorable after lots of food in China). My cousin recommended we meet at this place for something modern, popular, ethnic and also catering well to his vegan partner.

In the warm humidity of LA in July, we sat outside with tables setup along the pavement which was pleasant as the sun slowly set.

- Egg rolls (cabbage, onions, carrots) USD6;
- Cucumbers (red chili, soy sauce, sesame oil) USD7;
- Mapo tofu (Sichuan spices, dry chili, mushrooms, tofu) USD18 - average with too weak flavour considering how strong this dish should be;
- Chinese BBQ pork (pork shank, coleslaw, bao, Chinese mustard, hoisin) USD38 - excellent caramelised pork although salad quite average;
- General Tso's Cauliflower (jalapenos, sesame seeds) USD16;
- Vegan Fatty Noodles (rolled chow fun, beansprouts, garlic chives, ginger, sesame) USD16 - thick noodles like rice cakes;
- Taro icecream (house sesame balls, coconut cream, coconut flakes, lime zest) USD14.

A nice meal with a lot of other options for next time.

Naga Cafe Khmer Street Food, Los Angeles 07-2021

I haven't had a lot of Khmer food, even during my short visit to Cambodia in 2007 I can't quite remember what I ate (other than a deepfried tarantula).

We'd had a good amount of Vietnamese food around Houston but it was good to see some lesser popular Asian cuisines to break up the food trip.

Phnom Penh Noodle House Special (slice pork, ground pork, liver, pork meat balls, chicken, crispy duck, shrimp) USD11 and Shrimp Noodle Soup USD8 garnished with fried garlic, cilantro, scallions. A clear warming delicious soup, with a simpler flavour than pho but no less delicious with it's pork base, rather than beef.

Moongate Cafe, Las Cruces 07-2021

After visiting and walking around the exquisitely white sand of the White Sands National Park (didn't toboggan though), finding a quick lunch meant rolling up along the large gravel carpark area outside Moongate.

Quite a few families had a similar idea.

Flautas (beef with guacamole, beans, rice) USD9.99 were skinny deepfried rolled tortillas with a little bit of beef chunk inside. Stuffed Sopapilla Plate (with one red and one green chile con carne, beans, rice) USD10.99 was some puffed fried bread opened and filled with pork. Both were nicely smothered with cheese and very tasty. 

Mom's Kitchen, Texas 07-2021

During the long drive from Austin (via San Antonio) to El Paso, we needed to stop for fuel and a bit of dinner. Van Horn was as random a tiny town as any, and was more indicated by when I found an adequate fuel stop.

An open gravel carparking area in front of a little house was Mom's Kitchen, run by a Mexican American older couple.

Red cheese enchiladas, rice and beans USD9.49 and a burrito were tasty and straight forward. Look at that cheese!

T-Loc's Sonora Hot Dogs, Austin 07-2021

Looking for some food trucks for lunch was actually harder than expected - probably a combo of it being 3pm and many places not yet reopened perhaps? This food truck area only really had two of the stalls open, and the most interesting was a hot dog stand. They also happened to have a special appearance by Wunderoots who explained they were doing a free promo for their vegan hot dogs, essentially a large boiled carrot cut to a hot dog shape.

It was healthy, tasty and free. A fine option if you're vegan, although I suspect the original sausage would have been more flavoursome.

Gelato Paradiso, Austin 07-2021

After the incredible lunch at Terry Black's, and a couple of drinks listening to a bit of country swing at The Continental Club along Congress Avenue, the hot weather meant for a nice gelato stop. 

There were a few options in the area and kids seemed to be queuing at a corner shop one, but Paradiso off the main road and with a better rating and a more mature looking option was for me.

Coconut and pistachio (small cone USD6) were both good and a nice way to wind down the evening.

Loro, Austin 07-2021

After failing to secure some of Franklin's famous brisket by their need to pre-order for takeaway (they weren't allowing eat-in diners) and a minimum 3lb (American) size of meat, I had to look to others. After the disappointment of missing brisket at La Barbecue, we made our way to Loro for dinner, which is Franklin's meats with an Asian spin.

There was a very long queue for a table on this Friday evening (1.5h). Instead we were allowed to order takeaway and it was ready in about 5 minutes, which was amazingly fast. There's a lot of seating outdoor where people drink and wait for tables, but you can also eat there. The staff were very friendly and helpful, giving us options for ordering and keeping me updated as to it's progress. 

Of course I had to get Smoked Beef Brisket (chili gastrique, Thai herbs) USD17.75. The Asian flavours add a nice touch to the meat, although the brisket itself had some soft parts, but a good amount was also quite dry and chewy which was disappointing. They recommended I try the Smoked Prime Bavette (shishito salsa verde, cilantro, pickled onion) USD18.75 which was cooked perfectly and had a beautiful intense smokiness to it. It was definitely better than the brisket.  

Sesame rice noodles (chili vinaigrette, black sesame, green onion) USD4.75 and oak grilled snap peas (kimchee emulsion) USD6.75 were fine sides.

I used Loro partially as a surrogate for Franklin's. Not sure how they actually directly compare. But the brisket at Terry Black's was better if this is anything to go by.