SCVFoodie’s Favorite Foods of 2019

Happy New Year! 2019 just flew by, but in reflecting upon the ups, downs and adventures of last year, many highlights centered around good food. Some dishes were fancy schmancy. Others were simple delights made special by the company or context. In no particular order, here’s what tickled our taste buds and surprised us in 2019.

Beef Soup Noodles

Beef stew soup noodles at Dai Ho in Temple City, Calif.

On assignment for another publication, SCVFoodie checked out the mom-and-pop operations of Dai Ho, a Taiwanese noodle shop in Temple City that was awarded a Michel. The beef noodle soup makes for perfect comfort food especially during the SoCal winter.

Chilaquiles and a Cinnamon Roll

The Old Town Junction in Newhall, which has already established itself as one of Santa Clarita’s go-to eateries, offers phenomenal weekend brunch items. Why spend Saturday or Sunday mornings waiting in a ridiculous Egg Plantation line when your chances are better at the Junction? We had a memorable meal with the chilaquiles (tortilla chips, slow-braised short rib, fried egg, crema, picked onion, serrano, queso cotija over black beans and topped with cilantro. And as a shared breakfast/brunch dessert item, we opted for the so-much-better-than-Cinnabon roll (for the table to share, of course.)

Strawberry Bomb

Meet the Strawberry Bomb at Cici’s Cafe in Tarzana

Did you ever have breakfast envy? Mr. SCVFoodie ordered this delightful flavor bomb at Cici’s in Tarzana, and my club sandwich order was really good, but not this good. The pancakes, powdered sugar, almond slices and whipped cream were a strawberry lover’s dream. Cici’s has an extensive menu (re: HUGE) and we can’t wait to try all the strawberry and blueberry pancake options..some day.

A Valley secret: Annie’s Sweet Oven’s breakfast croissant

We would have never have known about Annie’s Sweet Oven were it not for a friend who lives up the street from this small strip mall in Sylmar (off the 210 at Yarnell). It’s a simple bakery and cafe, and this egg, spinach and cheese breakfast croissant was amazing. The croissant was flaky, buttery as any good croissant worth its salt should be — and at $5.75, it was a bargain.

Lobster and Clam Rolls

Doug’s Seafood is a family-run market and restaurant that has grown in popularity over the years in Bonita Springs, Fla., located near the cities of Ft. Myers and Naples. The Maine transplants have brought wicked good New England style seafood to Florida, and their lobster rolls are some of the simplest and best ones we’ve tried. (We’re partial to the Connecticut style —hot and served on a buttered roll — instead of the Maine roll, which is served cold with mayo.) On a recent trip in November, we tried something different: Their clam strip roll. The battered and fried clams were tender, not chewy and immediately transported us back to the clam rolls we had growing up in New England and the Northeast. It was that good. Plus, the clam roll was way cheaper ($7.95) then the hot lobster roll ($15.95 for a small to $26.95 for a large).

Summer Vacation Eats

Ladurée’s avocado toast at ORLY airport in Paris was a religious experience. It was served on pain aux céréales with hummus and goat cheese cubes.

Eating Through Amsterdam and France

This summer, SCVFoodie was fortunate enough to go on a Rhine river cruise that started in Amsterdam and ended in Bern, Switzerland. As you can imagine, we ate pretty well throughout the two-week trip, particularly in France. Highlights include a fresh goat cheese salad in Lourdes, France, near the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains to Dutch pancakes at a street fair.

Oedipus Beer and Arancini in Amsterdam

Dutch Mini Pancakes in Amsterdam

Mini Dutch pancakes at the Albert Cuyp market.

SCVFoodie found these mini Dutch pancake puffs (poffertjes) at the Albert Cuyp street market. Served hot and topped with powdered sugar, these tasted like what would happen if a funnel cake and a popover had a baby. The video below shows how they’re made.

SCVFoodie in Amsterdam: Mini Dutch pancakes at the (street) fair.

Tarte Flambée in Strasbourg, France

Don’t call me a pizza: This is a tarte flambée.

The city of Strasbourg, France, has been governed by France or Germany, with rulers fighting for and taking over several times. Located in the area formerly known as Alsace, in northeastern France, the food in Strasbourg is reflective of both cultures. We had the opportunity to create our own thick-cut bacon and onion tarte flambée at the Brasserie Dauphin as part of a tour activity. It’s a very thin-crusted dough topped with crème fraîche, bacon, onions and seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg. It was fired in a pizza oven for a minute or two, and it was fresh, hot and as simple and tasty as you can imagine it to be.

Lourdes, France: Country Cuisine

  • goat cheese salad
  • chicken risotto
  • croque madame sandwich

Lourdes is located in the south of France in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains; it’s closer to Barcelona than Paris. The region is known for its lamb, chicken, trout and cheeses like the Pyrénées and le Barousse and Basque influences. The city is filled with tourist cafes and brasseries, but for the most part, we were pleasantly surprised with the food. The three best items were the chicken risotto from Le Geneve; a goat cheese salad and a croque madame (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich — a croque monsieur — with a fried egg) at random street cafes. While those restaurant names are forgotten, the dishes certainly aren’t.

Midnight Sandwich

Cuban sandwich in Key West, Fla.

Key West is located approximately 90 mi. from Cuba, so naturally, we wanted Cuban food and coffee while in town for two days. We stumbled upon Key West Cuban Coffee, which seats about a dozen people. The cortadito was strong and perfect, and the midnight sandwich (medianoche) with its roast pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese and sweet pickles was more so as served up on a soft, sweet egg bread. Never judge a book — or restaurant — by its covers.

Pickle Soup

Pickle soup

Pierogi Spot opened in 2019 on Golden Valley Road, offering Polish comfort food like pierogis, sausages, cabbage rolls, stews and soups. It’s a terrific family-owned restaurant. The pierogis come with a daily soup and salad, so on our visit, we tried the creamy dill pickle soup. Not being huge fans of dill pickles, we were a bit skeptical, but it was not sour or acidic. The soup was creamy and comforting and perfect for winter. 

Sluttiest Brownies in West L.A.

  • Sluttiest brownie
  • Sluttiest brownie

B Sweet Dessert Bar on Sawtelle has been around for several years, and the Sluttiest Brownie has been there from the beginning. On a recent Christmas shopping trip to West L.A., we stopped in for a treat. B Sweet’s known for its rotating bread pudding flavors each week, but this brownie is a classic. The five-layer dessert includes a brownie, chocolate chip cookie, Oreo cookie, graham cracker and marshmallow. It’s rich, decadent and delicious as it sounds.

Happy New Year to all and happy eating in 2020!


Eat This Now: Tamales Express

Pork tamale from Tamales Express. | Photo: Christine N. Ziemba

Though tamales are eaten for breakfast and dinner all-year round, there’s always a bigger demand around the holidays. And if you’re lucky enough to be part of a family assembly line making them for Christmas, then nothing beats tamales made with love. BUT, if like SCV Foodie, you have to buy your tamales, we found another go-to spot in Santa Clarita.

In addition to our personal favs like Jazmin’s Bakery in Newhall and Me Gusta at the Sunday farmer’s market at College of the Canyons, Tamales Express is a great new option.

Located near the intersection of Soledad Canyon and Sierra Hwy., the small eatery has a limited menu focusing on…tamales: beef, chicken, pork and cheese with jalapeño. Open for about three months, it took over the space of The Cajun Belle bar.

On a recent Sunday morning, we got there about 10:30 a.m., and they were already out of the beef, so we tried the chicken and pork. The masa was moist and the fillings were generous. Unlike some tamales, which need to be drowned in salsa or sauce, the Tamales Express offerings didn’t need a thing.

Both had a little spice, but if we had to pick a favorite, we’d choose the pork. Its heat complemented the flavors of the savory and tender pork.

Now here’s the best part: The tamales were $2.25 each. Compared to the $3.50 at the farmer’s market, they’re a real bargain. A dozen from Tamales Express runs $25 — perfect for pre-holiday ordering.

Tamales Express
18283 Soledad Canyon Rd.
Santa Clarita, CA 91387

Free Coffee Mondays at Bodhi Leaf Sierra Hwy

Passing along this great deal for SCV coffee drinkers: This Monday and next (Sept. 23 and 30), Bodhi Leaf on Sierra Highway is giving out free coffee while supplies last.

Customers can get a 12-oz. cold brew or drip coffee for free. Gratis. Libre. No purchase necessary (though we can personally vouch for the Bodhi Leaf blueberry cornbread coffee cake).

The deal does not apply to Bodhi’s Soledad Canyon location.

Limit one free coffee per customer. And the deal doesn’t include fancy drinks, matcha, teas, half-caf, oatmilk lattes, etc., just coffee, hot or cold.

Bodhi Leaf Sierra Highway
26910 Sierra Hwy, D-2
Santa Clarita

Cheap Eats: Taco Tuesday at the Alamo

These are the Alamo’s nachos with chicken….what’s up with the carrots? | Photo:

Despite its full name—The Alamo Rotisserie—most SCV residents just refer to the restaurant in Granary Square as “The Alamo.” The eatery has been serving up economical, no-frills Mexican food since the ’80s, and judging from the crowd on a recent summer night, it’ll hopefully be around awhile longer.

While the cramped inside of the restaurant looks like it hasn’t been remodeled since the ’80s, most customers choose to sit on the patio anyway to enjoy cheap pitchers of beer or margaritas. (They do have a full liquor license, but other than shots, a Jack and Coke or Rum and Coke, the mixed drink choices are limited. (We once asked for a 7&7 after spotting Seagram’s 7 on the shelf, but were met with confusion.) So stick to the beers on tap or margaritas.

Now, the food: It’s not the best Mexican food ever—but it’s cheap. On [Taco] Tuesdays, the soft street tacos are $1 each. The two chicken tacos we ordered recently were filled with good-sized chunks of chicken, as seen below.

On Taco Tuesdays, these are $1 each. | Photo:

If you haven’t checked out The Alamo in awhile, go back. Have a beer on the patio, people watch and try to make it on a Tuesday if you can.

The Alamo Rotisserie
25946 McBean Pkwy., Valencia

(661) 254-3131

Breadbar Comes to COC Farmers Market to Tempt Tastebuds

Carb heaven at the Sunday farmers market at College of the Canyons.

At last Sunday’s farmers market at College of the Canyons, we were pleasantly surprised—nay, ecstatic—to find a new stand: Breadbar. There really isn’t a bakery in Santa Clarita that specializes in viennoiseries (French/European pastries), so we decided to turn off our calorie counting apps and add another cheat day to the schedule to give readers our first impressions on the new addition. (You’re welcome.)

The company’s fresh artisanal breads, pastries and other menu items—a longtime staple at other SoCal markets—drew a crowd even before the guy working the stand had a chance to put up the banner. We selected a few classic items: chocolate and plain croissants and an apple turnover, as well as the raspberry kouign amann.

The croissants were our favs. They were fresh—we could hear that crunch at first bite, revealing the flaky-layered goodness. They were light and delicate to the touch, and the chocolate had just the right sweetness ratio.

Clockwise from left: Breadbar’s chocolate croissant, plain croissant, apple turnover and kouign amann.

The kouign amann was a little disappointing. It was denser and heavier than expected, and we didn’t need the raspberry filling. The OG butter and sugar flavors work for us just fine. SCVFoodie can’t report on the apple turnover because someone ate it before we could try a bite. (Rude, right?)

The pastries and breads cost more than the baked goods found elsewhere in the SCV. Our four items cost $16, but they were totally worth it.

If Breadbar becomes a regular market vendor on Sundays, it could be a game- (and waistline) changer for Awesometown.

Veg Fest Comes to SCV on May 4

Are you vegan or curious about a plant-based lifestyle? Or do you like beer? Then check out the the Santa Clarita Veg Fest on May 4 from noon to 9 p.m. in Central Park.

Tickets include unlimited pours (of beer, wine and kombucha from noon to 5 p.m.). In addition, guests can sample and buy foods from more than 50 vegan restaurants, vendors and food trucks.

We took a peek who’s coming, and the list includes: Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, Booch Craft, Wolf Creek, Evolution Burger, Cena Vegan and  Man’oushée Mediterranean Bakery & Café.

The day also includes:

  • Yoga in the park
  • Sound bowl healing
  • Vegan talks
  • Art wall
  • Kid activities
  • And a closing dance party from 7:30 – 9 p.m.

Each of these four nonprofits will get 5% of all festival proceeds: Charity Water, Kakao, Bridge to Home and Family Promise.

Tickets: $35 – $45; free entry for children 12 and younger.

Veg Fest 2019
May 4, 12-9 p.m.
Central Park
27150 Bouquet Canyon Road, Santa Clarita

Pierogi Spot Coming to Santa Clarita

The Pierogi Spot is scheduled to open on March 1.

We noticed a new sign next to The Backyard off Golden Valley Road that made us very happy: The Pierogi Spot is opening soon.

The restaurant will specialize in Polish dumplings and other dishes — and we can’t wait. It’s the first of its kind in Santa Clarita.

SCVFoodie took a peek inside and saw that the owners were nearing the finishing touches of demo and construction. The restaurant is slated to open soonish. on March 1.

Follow @pierogispot on Instagram or on Facebook for updates.

The Pierogi Spot
26511 Golden Valley Road, Santa Clarita

They’re Back: Wolf Creek’s Beer Braised Shortribs

Toward the end of last summer, longtime SCV restaurant Wolf Creek did something that SCVFoodie didn’t agree with: They took their shortribs off the menu.

We couldn’t understand why…why take off such a tasty and popular dish? Wolf Creek’s version was so tender—dry rubbed and braised with the brewery’s own Midnight India Black Ale.

Oh, and the sides were plain and simple, but complemented the spices used on the meat: roasted garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. It was the perfect comfort food meal (for those who eat meat, carbs, gluten, etc.).

Wolf Creek heard from patrons about the missing menu item, and after the short hiatus, the beer braised shortribs were added back to the menu, just in time for winter. Right where they belong.

Wolf Creek Restaurant
27746 McBean Parkway, Valencia

Braised shortribs: $23

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Grand Opening in Valencia Equals Giveaways, Specials

A new Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf opens in Valencia with giveaways this week. | Photo: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf/Facebook

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf holds a grand opening for its new drive-thru store in Valencia tomorrow (Wednesday, Nov. 14). In addition to the ribbon-cutting ceremony with local bigwigs, the real reason to go is for the chance to win special giveaways through Friday.

Specials at the new location each day are:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 14: Get a free tumbler with large specialty beverage purchase from 12-4 pm in the store while supplies last. (Mobile orders and drive-thru excluded.)
  • Thursday, Nov. 15: 50% off large specialty beverage 12-4 pm. (Mobile orders excluded.)
  • Friday, Nov. 16: Get a free gift bag with $10 purchase to first 100 guests, starting at 10 am. The 100th guest will receive a CBTL® Lieto machine. (Gift card, mobile order and drive-thru purchases excluded).

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
27634 The Old Road, Valencia
(at the corner of The Old Road and Magic Mountain Parkway)

Eat This Now: Filé Gumbo from SCV Fish Market

The gumbo from SCV Fish Market. | Photo: Christine N. Ziemba

The SCV Fish Market opened about four months ago in little strip mall behind the Chevron on Bouquet Canyon and Soledad roads.

Its name is a little misleading because it’s not a market, per se. In fact, its fish case isn’t too tantalizing; it lacks a finesse in showcasing the items for sale. But we’ll venture to guess that most customers aren’t interested in buying the fish to take home and cook it themselves. Why would they when SCV Fish Market can turn out delicious New Orleans’ seafood fare?

SCV Fish Market serves up Southern / Cajun style food.

SCVFoodie dropped by this past Saturday afternoon.  And while the place wasn’t packed, the restaurant did a steady number of walk-in and phone orders. While there’s grilled or fried fish, shrimp, oyster combos on the menu board, we opted for the full-on Big Easy fare: the Filé Gumbo.

The small order of the stew ($9.50) came with a ton of chicken sausage and crab mixed with Cajun/Creole herbs and spices. (We didn’t get shrimp, but the generous amounts of the other proteins made up for it.) The dish, which wasn’t too thick or too watery, was served with white steamed rice on the side. Mix in as much or as little rice as you prefer for an even heartier meal. The smokiness of the sausage complemented the flavor of the crab (which you have to bust open by hand).

Even though we asked for the food to dine-in, the gumbo was served in a to-go plastic container, and the rice was served in another plastic container. We were then given a third cup to mix parts of both into. It was a little awkward, but we made do.

We sampled the Red Beans & Rice at SCV Fish Market, and the flavors transported us back to New Orleans. | Photo: Christine N. Ziemba

While we heard that people are disappointed that the SCV Fish Market doesn’t serve a traditional English fish and chips with malt vinegar, we wanted our readers to be aware that this is Southern/Cajun fair. Hush puppies, collard greens and red beans and rice are on the side menu, which would nicely complement one of the Po’ Boy sandwiches we’ll get on our next visit.

SCV Fish Market
26234 Bouquet Canyon Rd., Santa Clarita
Opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday, noon on Sundays