Hamada-Ya Bakery, 665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626

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I love Japanese bakeries and the pastries in the cases of Hamada-Ya (inside Mitsuwa) looked awfully tempting. They had many kinds of baked buns, Danish, rolls, Western donuts, Japanese donuts, custard, and packaged dainty sandwiches. Along the side you’ll find loaves of sliced bread. One kind was made with Japanese butter. You can also get coffee and other beverages.

* Bun with potato croquette, mayo & brown tonkatsu (?) sauce ($1.80): the bun was soft but not as soft as other Japanese bakeries, the potato croquette didn’t have any crispiness

* Egg donut: They put a whole soy egg inside the fried round donut and coated it with crumbs, the exterior wasn’t crispy and the egg was too salty

* French pizza: The pizza had plenty of cheese but was bland

* An and Fresh Cream Danish ($2.20): The green tea on top was very bitter and unpleasant. The Danish was light like a brioche and the inside was packed with a ton of red bean paste and a tiny bit of whipped cream on top

The items I purchased looked a lot better than they tasted.

3 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Matcha Love, 665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626

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Matcha Love by ITO EN, a Japanese supplier of green tea, is a small stall inside the Mitsuwa food court. Most people get the Japanese soft serve ice cream, which comes in three flavors: green tea, black sesame and Hoji-cha (tea). The ice cream is also used in their shakes and boba tea. Apparently the only difference between the boba tea and the shakes is that the former has tapioca pearls. You can also get hot tea and tea lattes (they were sold out of these though). Plus they have cute tins of tea for sale and ITO EN drinks in the fridge.

* Black sesame and green tea soft serve ($3 for a small, $4 for a large – cup or cone): Portions are generous and both flavors are super thick, super creamy, flavorful and not that sweet. Loved both flavors – the black sesame is kinda nutty…it would be hard to pick a favorite. They were out of the Hoji-cha flavor.

Cash only.

4.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Creamistry, 3972 Barranca Pkwy #D, Irvine, CA 92606

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Lovers of ice cream and science, the future of Orange County ice cream is here…and it’s fresh ice cream made to order with liquid nitrogen. Creamistry has a “chemistry” science theme with employees in white lab coats and toppings kept in glass beakers.

The ice cream isn’t bad but the place is gimmicky and trendy. You choose a size, a base (premium, organic or a sorbet), and the flavor and toppings. Toppings (basically froyo toppings) are optional. You can also have them put you’re your ice cream in a cookie sandwich or on a brownie. They have plenty of flavors to choose from. Each batch is made to order and you can watch as clouds of liquid nitrogen form. The process takes several steps starting with whisking the base and your flavor together.

It’s expensive, $5.50 for a small but the scoops are pretty big.

* Black sesame ice cream: The premium base was firm, dense, and creamy. It’s like a cream flavored ice cream. They added some black sesame seeds so you could taste them but the black sesame flavor was mild. It tasted more like plain ice cream with black sesame than black sesame ice cream.

3 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee, 270 E 17th St., Ste. 18, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

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Super fresh all natural doughnuts are made throughout the day at Sidecar where the tagline is “World’s Freshest Doughnuts.” There’s an open kitchen so you can watch the doughnuts being made and the glaze looks like it was just applied a few minutes ago. Naturally, the shop smells sweet and delicious. The décor, reminiscent of a fancy bakery, is a big step up from your typical doughnut shop.

Check their website for the monthly flavors but have a couple in mind because flavors do sell out. During my visit they had huckleberry, butter & salt, maple bacon, cinnamon crumb, vanilla twist, green eggs & ham, chocolate malt, apricot, malasada, blueberry buckle, cherry cheesecake and lemon pistachio. They have a gluten free option daily. Doughnuts start at $2. They have cake and raised doughnuts.

* Lemon pistachio cake doughnut: When I see something that is lemon flavored, I expect bold lemon flavor. This glazed donut topped with chopped pistachios barely had lemon flavor. The texture of the cake was moist and dense with a nutty flavor and the doughnut was less sweet than usual – but where was the lemon?

* Huckleberry ($3): Oregon huckleberry cake doughnut with huckleberry glaze – the cake was dense and moist with bits of huckleberry throughout and a vibrant pink moist huckleberry glaze, more flavorful than the pistachio doughnut

There’s something different about their cake doughnuts. They are dense and moist and the flour seems nuttier (perhaps because they use almond flour). The doughnuts are fresh and not too sweet.

Sidecar serves Stumptown Coffee. There isn’t any seating inside.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Yogurtland, 310 S La Brea Ave., Unit A/B, Los Angeles, CA 90036

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Fro-yo girl here. I’m amazed by how many fro-yo machines are crammed into such a small, narrow shop. There are 16 self-serve fro-yo flavors on tap a day and toppings (popping boba, mochi, many types of fresh fruit, candy, cookies, nuts, chips, sprinkles, syrups) for 35 cents an ounce.

Fro-yo flavors of the day:

  • Dulce de leche
  • Toasted coconut
  • Juicy peach tart
  • Blood orange tart: smooth, thick, refreshing, with juicy orange flavor, nice level of tanginess
  • Strawberry lemonade sorbet
  • Mango pina colada
  • Taro (Glen G’s flavor)
  • Double cookies n’ cream: creamy, smooth, too much chocolate flavor
  • Red velvet cupcake batter
  • Fresh strawberry
  • NY cheesecake
  • Pecans & praline
  • Frosty vanilla
  • Plain tart
  • Pistachio
  • Chocolate milkshake

It looks like a typical Yogurtland but smaller, with the green and white tile wall. But the space is so narrow that it feels like you’re trapped in a greenhouse on a hot day and there is no indoor seating. Sitting outside on such a busy street (tons of traffic) isn’t too pleasant because of all the car exhaust fumes. There’s a tiny parking lot where you might be able to find a space, if you’re lucky like Sharon Stone.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Walmart Neighborhood Market, 275 W. Ventura Blvd., Camarillo, CA 93010

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I’ve always been a Target fan and a Walmart avoider but I do like Walmart’s grocery stores (better than I like their regular stores). The prices are lower than Fresh & Easy, Vons and Ralph’s and the selection is quite good – better than WinCo. Rotisserie chickens are $4.98.

You don’t see that many employees – for example, there is a bakery but I didn’t see any employees in that area. You can get fresh bread, including fresh donuts (58 cents) and $1 loaves of French bread that aren’t bad at all. They have a hot food section with slices of pizza for $1.50 and hot corn dogs for $1. Sandwiches were just $2.50

They have some good ice cream and gelato brands including Blue Bunny and Talenti Gelato. They carry Fage, Chobani and Oikos yogurt. The extreme bacon pizza caught my eye but I haven’t tried it yet.

About 1/3 of the store is non-food, including pharmacy, bath and body, cleaning supplies, etc. The aisles are wide and clean. The freezer lights up when you walk by (must be motion activated). They had some fresh flowers but those looked sad. The A/C is nice and strong.

I didn’t see cashiers, only self-checkout machines.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Foothill Food Truck Fest, Poinsettia Pavilion, 3451 Foothill Rd., Ventura, CA 93003

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The Foothill Food Truck Fest started earlier this year. Every first Tuesday of the month, an assortment of trucks from LA and Ventura meet up from 5 – 9 PM at Poinsettia Pavilion. What’s nice about this meetup is that some of the proceeds go towards funding improvement projects at the  Poinsettia Pavilion, a community meeting hall.

Food trucks are fairly new to Ventura and we spotted a decent crowd at the event but it wasn’t so crowded that you had to wait in long lines or worry about food selling out. And they attracted good food trucks like Tokyo Doggie Style and the Grilled Cheese Truck. The truck lineup changes (check their FB page for the lineup). They had a nice range of trucks, most of them sold some form of a sandwich (lobster rolls, hot dogs, grilled cheese, burgers) but they also had desserts (mostly baked goods) and juice/smoothie trucks. There’s a small Makers Market (very small) with floral arrangements and home goods.

The Pavilion has its own parking lot and they open up the meeting hall/banquet room so you can dine inside. The hilltop location provides expansive views of Ventura.

Free parking and free admission.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Scratch Food Truck, Ventura, CA, www.scratchventura.com

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Ventura’s own Scratch Food Truck offers locally sourced seasonal ingredients combined in creative ways. Tim Kiloyne, the chef behind the truck, was the executive chef at Ventura’s original farm-to-table restaurant, The Sidecar. Kiloyne’s housemade ketchup is now available at the Scratch truck for $8 a bottle, as well as Paradise Pantry and Spice-Topia (in Ventura).

Scratch was at the Foothill Food Truck Fest where they were serving good looking grass fed beef burgers ($8), grilled cheese, braised pork sandwiches, fries and street corn.

* Street corn ($4): Tamai Farms corn cut off the cob, lime butter, chipotle crema, parmesan & sea salt – basically the flavors of elote in a bowl. The corn wasn’t roasted but it was very sweet and in season. The crema and cheese add a rich creaminess – salty, sweet, cheesy, buttery – it’s delicious of course

Find the truck by checking the schedule on their website, www.scratchventura.com

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

The Grilled Cheese Truck, Los Angeles, CA, thegrilledcheesetruck.com

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There are many grilled cheese trucks but this is The Grilled Cheese Truck, the one that popularized chef driven grilled cheese sandwiches like their famous Cheesy Mac Melt (with mac and cheese). You can order a signature melt or build your own (a plain melt starts at $3 – they have many kinds of cheese to choose from) with savory additions (smoked pork, sriracha chicken, avocado, bacon), sweet additions and crusts. They also have dessert melts and sides like tater tots and tomato soup. For $3 you can add a dipping sauce, ½ order of tots and a drink to your sandwich.

* The Cheesy Mac & Rib (aka: #FullyLoaded) $7.75. The foil TGCT pouch with the picture of grilled cheese is adorable…the sandwich is on the small side (like regular sandwich bread size) with thin white bread that’s been griddled till it’s dark brown, soft big pasta noodles, gooey cheddar cheesiness, tender pork, sweet caramelized onions and a sweet BBQ sauce. The bread wasn’t buttery…the fillings were a warm gooey, cheesy, porky mess. It’s much more indulgent than your plain grilled cheese…a bit pricey but unique ingredients.

For the schedule, check out their website: http://www.thegrilledcheesetruck.com/

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

The Aloha Steakhouse, 364 S California St., Ventura, CA 93001

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I find the décor (hanging glowing swirly light fixtures, dolphins on the wall, pictures of sunsets and waves) to be tacky but Aloha Steakhouse has been voted most romantic dining by someone (the public I presume). It doesn’t remind me of Hawaii and neither does the menu. They do have teriyaki chicken and teriyaki beef but nothing else that might qualify of somewhat Hawaiian.

The Aloha Steakhouse does have a view of the Pacific Ocean but the room with the view is extremely noisy. The food is average by Ventura standards and the portions are generous.

For lunch they have sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, appetizers, desserts and $9.95 lunch deals. Happy hour with drink specials is every day from 3 - 6 PM. The dinner menu includes hand cut steaks, seafood, chicken, etc.  

* Fish & chips ($11.95): I asked for a salad to replace the chips (fries). The fried fish featured three big pieces of white roughy dipped in batter. The thin batter was hot, golden and crispy and the fish mild and tender. The fish was oily/greasy but overall fairly tasty. The Caesar side salad wasn’t good. It tasted like they had made it quite some time ago because the greens and the croutons were soggy. They added a ton of grated Parmesan cheese. The dressing was quite salty.

Drinks come with refills. Remember to get your parking validated.

3 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.