More Things to Freak Out About

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U.S. Taco Co. logo
  • U.S. Taco Co. logo
Once upon a time, there were people who liked good food. Then they became "foodies." And now those people are an entire demographic that the giants of industrial food desperately want to capture. People are talking about you - a lot - in board meetings and the results are frightening. 

Enter U.S. Taco Co., a new concept from Taco Bell that aims to cater to an audience that wouldn't usually eat at Taco Bell. It's an audience willing to pay more for food, who want a better atmosphere, and who take pictures of their food. No, really - part of the idea is to serve food that specifically will look good on Instagram. The look of the place is also supposed to be photogenic - renderings of the restaurant show brightly colored tile walls and bright pink Day of the Dead-themed imagery.

The first U.S. Taco Co. is set to open in Huntington Beach, with a second location in the works for L.A. If all goes well, the concept could go national. 

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In recent days, the food-flavored interwebs have been buzzing with news of powdered alcohol, a product that seemed primed to hit the shelves of liquor stores by fall of this year. The boozy powder, made by a company called Palcohol, was approved by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Which seems totally insane given the potential snorting/smuggling/general idiocy this product seems literally made for. 

But today news broke that the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau said that they basically approved the product by mistake, and they're rescinding the approval. Which is maybe good but also kind of disturbing that they could accidentally approve something. And it seems as though the backtracking could be in part because of the blatantly stupid marketing Palcohol was toying with. But let's take a few steps back. What is this miraculous powdered alcohol and what, if it ever came to be, would it look like?

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A real logo for a restaurant that's going to be real - COURTESY CHOCOCHICKEN
  • Courtesy ChocoChicken
  • A real logo for a restaurant that's going to be real
Sorry folks, it's way too early for April Fool's posts. Adam Fleischman, known mainly as the guy behind Umami Burger and 800 Degrees (along with various partners), has decided it's a good idea to open a chocolate-flavored fried chicken restaurant. Once again: You are not reading The Onion. Unless Fleischman is playing an elaborate joke on all of us (and I wouldn't put it past him), there is really about to be a "chocolate/chicken hybrid" restaurant (actual words from the press release) in downtown Los Angeles. 

The place will be called ChocoChicken and will be located at 403 W. 12th St. downtown. Lest you think this is actually not really going to be a chicken fried in chocolate batter, maybe more of a mole situation, let us disabuse you of that notion.

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Monday, December 30, 2013


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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

garlic powder from China - E. DWASS
  • E. Dwass
  • garlic powder from China
Making a mad dash through Whole Foods Market, buying ingredients for a holiday dinner, I didn't bother to read labels. It wasn't until later, about to shake some "365" brand garlic powder into a pot, that I took a closer look at the jar and saw these words: "Product of China." My first instinct was to return the garlic powder, but then I wondered -- was I overreacting?

Consumers have been understandably alarmed in recent years after scandals in China involving dangerous chemicals in milk, frozen fish and pet food, as well as widespread pollution and farmland contaminated with heavy metals.

Bloomberg News put it bluntly: "For more than a decade, China has earned a reputation as one of the world's worst food-safety offenders."

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Chef Bryant Ng, with train - PHOTO COURTESY: BRYANT NG
  • photo courtesy: Bryant Ng
  • Chef Bryant Ng, with train
If you've been following the vicissitudes of The Spice Table, Bryant Ng's downtown restaurant, since its opening in the spring of 2011, you'll know a few important things. Here's the catalog. Bryant and Kim Ng have been serving a glorious mash-up of the cuisines of their respective home cultures, Singapore and Vietnam, which has included perhaps the best pig tail ever. For which food Ng won a 2012 Food & Wine Best New Chef award. And, thanks to the MTA, the restaurant has been under a kind of death watch pretty much since it opened, as the city planners have long decided that the gorgeous brick building should be demolished and replaced by a shiny new train station. Hence the above picture.

Ng now reports that the train whistles have finally blown, and thus the Spice Table will be serving its last supper (his words) on the final day of this year, Dec. 31, 2013. Go book a table, or a few of them, as there's no telling exactly when Ng will be cooking again. The chef has been looking for a new place to put his much-loved (by everybody, it seems, but the Metro Transportation Authority) restaurant, as he's intent on reopening it downtown. For which we are very, very grateful.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Nacho Supreme, anyone? - PHOTO: J SWANN
  • Photo: J Swann
  • Nacho Supreme, anyone?
In addition to its annual list of America's 101 best restaurants, the The Daily Meal this year decided to one-up itself and publish an alternate slideshow of the nation's 10 worst restaurants (click bait, anyone?). The list was compiled from restaurants with "the most consistently terrible reviews on the Internet," and also those that were so filthy that their citations often made local news headlines. While strip mall buffets like Nanay Gloria's Filipino Buffet in Las Vegas and Sunrise Chinese Buffet in San Diego are unsurprising choices, Los Angeles' Sun Taco landed the #2 spot for worst restaurant in America.

It's a weird choice considering Sun Taco isn't some mom-and-pop operation barely making rent in a Mid-City strip mall. It's a brightly-lit Mexican-Korean joint tucked into the food court of the Hollywood and Highland Center -- the same monstrous tourist mecca where the Academy Awards are held. We beg to differ: Shouldn't this place have been crowned the worst eatery in L.A.? To follow-up on The Daily Meal's claim, we decided to do some investigating of our own.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

The organizers behind the 626 Night Market are embarking on a brand new feat: to create the largest boba cup in the world. They've already started a Kickstarter campaign for the cause. The goal: to raise the money needed for a plexiglass cup that is expected to hold 320 gallons of tea.

The cup itself will be six feet tall and situated on a 2.5 feet high platform. The straw will extend its height an additional 3.5 feet resulting in a grand total height of 12 feet. The expected cost of the venture -- a whopping $9,000.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Coffee: For many of us it's the last great vice of our lives. After we've given up everything else -- cigarettes, drugs, binge drinking -- coffee is the one thing we hold onto, the one drug we allow ourselves as we become old and boring. But recent weeks have held some depressing news for coffee lovers.

First, the Wall Street Journal reported that withdrawal from caffeine is now classified as a mental illness. Wait, what?

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Screenshot from youtube of flying iTray - YOUTUBE.COM
  • youtube.com
  • Screenshot from youtube of flying iTray
Ever wanted your food to fly at you on a whirling automated tray? Not really? No, me either. But if you're in London, you can have this fine experience, at a restaurant called YO! Sushi. They've developed a flying waiter tray called the iTray.

There's a video of the waiter-copter (posted below), but it raises more questions than it answers. The obvious one: WHY? But also: Isn't it kind of dangerous? It's propelled by a "quadcopter" -- four spinning propellers. What happens if someone touches them? At the very best, wouldn't your food go flying? And then, what if the food hit the copters? I kind of hope that has happened, actually, it sounds awesome and hilarious.

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