Coffeebar Byul: OC's Most OCD Coffee Shop

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Courtney Hamilton
Nice, white space with everything in its place

By Courtney Hamilton

Husband and wife Jae-Ho Synn and Jin Sun Ahn talk about coffee and tea as if they were the very nexus of art and science. Synn drops words like "manual agitation" and "calibration" when describing brew methods at Coffeebar Byul in Irvine, while Ahn refers to the shop's drinks as her art. But whether they're the results of science or art, the drinks at Diamond Jamboree's newest coffee shop are developed with fanatic attention to detail.

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We Eat It So You Don't Have To: Frozen Bar's Fronut (With Comparisons to the Milky Bun)

Categories: Taste Test

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Photo by Charles Lam
The seal is better, I'll give them that

People really need to stop filling donuts with ice cream because if they don't, I'm not going to live past 40. First came Afters' Milky Bun, which I famously enjoyed, and now Frozen Bar, a small little ice cream joint in Garden Grove, is stuffing donuts with gelato and calling them Fronuts. I feel like this should be some sort of public health crisis.

But alas, I totally ate one, and now I'm going to tell you about it.

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Taste Test: J. Zhou Oriental Cuisine

Categories: Taste Test

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Edwin Goei
If you could only hear the Beethoven.
The following represents just a few initial impressions of J. Zhou Oriental Cuisine. This is not a full review.

First, the room is palatial--tall as a school gymnasium, decorated as though it were for royalty, with at least three kinds of dangling chandeliers and light fixtures. Also, no single wall looks the same. Look around and you notice each vertical surface has its own unique pattern or textured motif or marble that isn't repeated anywhere else in the room. And the seats: Plush. The music: Classical Beethoven.

Right now, during this honeymoon period, the service is over-the-top obsequious. Water is refilled, empty tea cups poured, finished plates whisked away. At this point, while the place is only slowly being discovered, the impeccably dressed waiters have nothing to do but coddle the few customers who've come to size up the new restaurant in town.


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We Eat It So You Don't Have To: Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies (And Others!)

Categories: Taste Test

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Photo by Ryan Cady
They're, uh, kind of small actually

There's not much new you can do with cookies, but God help the good people at Nabisco -- they're trying.

Less than a month ago, Nabisco felt the stirring desire for innovation -- a hunger, if you will. They set to task what I can only assume were a crack team of foodologists with their fingers on the pulse of American dietary trends. They came up with three things, a dynamic trio of dynamic duos, which, on paper, must've been at least half as impressive as the original draft for the Ten Commandments: The Brownie-filled Chips Ahoy!, the Birthday Cake Frosting-filled Chips Ahoy!, and last, but certainly not least, the Oreo Crème-filled Chips Ahoy! (That last one must've been a total "Duh!" moment for anyone on staff who'd ever even heard rumors of marijuana's effects on dietary habits.)

Now, I endeavored to try these culinary delights, but because I'm a good journalist, I did a little research beforehand -- more specifically, I perused the Wikipedia entry for Chips Ahoy!, which was surprisingly sparse. The cookies were introduced in 1963, named after (or just, coincidentally labeled) a sailor from an obscure Charles Dickens' short story. Even though the original recipe Chips Ahoy! have maintained the same bland, crumbly, disentigrate-in-your-milk-thereby-ruining-the-entire-point-of-chocolate-chip-cookies texture and flavor since Kennedy was running the country, they've gone through some serious changes. I mean, these guys have tried everything: Chewy Chips Ahoy!, Ice Cream flavored Chips Ahoy!, and even a few Reese's Peanut Butter Cup crossbreeds.. but this was different.

This time they put the stuff INSIDE the cookie.


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We Eat It So You Don't Have To: Subway's Flatizza

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flickr user TheImpulsiveBuy
It's...beautiful?

Do you remember those little Lunchables pizzas? You know the ones--served on a hard little open-faced cracker, tomato sauce with all the zest of a jar of Gerber baby food, topped with chips of alkali-cured pepperoni and a powdery white "cheese product"? Have you ever thought about microwaving one of those?

If so, better switch careers--you've got a future at Subway.

The Flatizza (I'm still not certain if it's pronounced fluh-tease-uh or flat-eat-zuh), a miracle of modern food engineering, comes from the same people that brought you such glorious innovations as gray, slimy meat (served one thin strip per two inches of sandwich, of course), caulk-gun mayonnaise, and, of course, tuna salad that can be expelled with an ice cream scoop.

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We Eat It So You Don't Have To: Taco Bell's Breakfast Waffle Taco

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Photo by Charles Lam
Yup.

Surprise: It's mediocre.

For a month, all I've been hearing is waffle taco this and waffle taco that. It's been a little ridiculous -- especially when you realize we live in Orange County, where Bruxie has been shoving eggs, cheese, and bacon inside a folded waffle for years now.

But still, as much as I tried to ignore the buzz, I did have a kind of morbid curiosity. The waffle taco did, after all, remind me of those rushed elementary school-provided breakfasts I had in the 90s. Up in San Jose, we had about three choices: cereal and milk with a piece of fruit, a pastry and milk with some fruit, or -- on special occasions -- eggs, breakfast meat, and miniature pancakes or waffles.. with milk and a piece of fruit.

The cool kids (or the kids whose parents got them late to school) would pile their pancakes or waffles with eggs and meat before drowning the entire thing in syrup. I'm pretty sure we invented waffle tacos first, but that's besides the point.

Let's get to why the waffle taco is mediocre.

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We Eat It So You Don't Have To: Afters Ice Cream's Ice Cream-Stuffed Donut

Categories: Taste Test

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Photo by Charles Lam
This is what you guys want to see, isn't it?

Everyone knows that I hate when people smash two different foods together and call it magic. Cronuts? Meh. Ramen burgers? I don't even want to pick one up. And don't even get me started on Pizookies.

So, I had to have been belligerent when I heard about Afters Ice Cream's "Milky Bun," a warm donut filled with ice cream, right? ..right?

Okay, I admit it. I thought it was a good idea I heard about it. Ice cream sandwiches are cool, and donuts are better than cookies, so what could go wrong. I thought it was such a good idea that I braved an hour-long line to try it. How is it? Well...

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We Try 6 Different Trader Joe's Nut Butters

Categories: Taste Test

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Photo by Cleo Tobbi
Enough to cause a panic attack

I never understood why there were so many different nut butters at Trader Joe's. You can get peanut butter, almond butter, cookie butter, sunflower seed butter, so many other butters, many available in creamy, crunchy, salted, unsalted, organic or normal. Wow. Needless to say, TJ's nut butter wall is the stuff of panic attacks.

But how are the nut butters even different? How's the crunchy, salty peanut butter compare to the raw, organic almond butter? Or the crunchy, salty and organic peanut butter for that matter. Well, I did it. I braved the wall of butters to try six different nut butters. Sunflower; crunchy, salted peanut; organic, crunchy, salted peanut; raw, crunchy salted; and better'n peanut butter are all here, with a special guest of crunchy cookie butter. What's the difference? Well..


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We Eat It So You Don't Have To: Del Taco's Turkey Tacos

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Photo by Charles Lam
The abominations

I really don't like turkey, but I have a big soft spot for Del Taco, so when a box full of green and red feathers arrived at our office announcing the debut of some new ground turkey tacos, I didn't really know how to feel.

I was confused and conflicted, torn between my love for a fast food restaurant that -- by all standards -- is much better than it needs to be and my hatred for one of the worst proteins in existence.

Why would Del Taco do this to us? Is turkey meat cheap right now? Does Del Taco want to cut food costs without going the way of Jack in the Box and using soy protein? Are they really, really trying to be healthier?

All I knew that, as hesitant as I was, I'd have to try the turkey tacos, if only for you guys.

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Taste Testing Ben & Jerry's Scotchy Scotch Scotch

Categories: Taste Test

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Anne Marie Panoringan

I like ice cream. I like butterscotch. Ergo, I kinda, sorta had to pick up a pint o' limited edition B & J's ode to Will Ferrell. Since Anchorman 2 runs rampant this week, I seized the opportunity to have some dessert go down, down into my belly.

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