Semester Wrap Up

 

One of my favorite bowls of ramen from Toro Ramen and Poke Barn.

Throughout this semester I have shared my ramen experiences with you. I found that ramen specifically the type found in restaurants is quite pricey. Eating ramen or eating out in general is not conducive to  a college student trying to save every penny.  It has been a fun semester however, and I have learned many lessons about content creation and ramen restaurants in central Texas alike.

Using a content management system like Word Press made creating a website painless. Word Press takes the headache out of designing a website by providing a vast array of templates, many that are free, which eliminated the hardships of web design and allowed me to write about ramen and ramen restaurants. I’d say my favorite tools were the media tab and the widgets tab. The media tab allowed me to add images and even a video to my website. The widgets tab allowed me to add widgets to the website, my favorite being the view counter which you can see at the very bottom of this page.

I could care less for the pages tool as once a new page was created only one post could be written on it, so if I wanted to converge many blogs into one website I would have to start another word press URL.

This experience has taught me that providing content, quality content to boot, is  a full time job. In the future having the knowledge of how to utilize a CMS such as word press may help me to streamline a customer’s or even a family member’s ideas into a low cost easy to manage website for them. The possibilities are endless as long as there is an idea.

As I said above, I really enjoy the ease at which Word Press lets me add photos to my website. In the future I plan to create a photography business in which I will make galleries of my photos. This will let potential and returning customers see my work as it progresses.

Now for the statistics

Weekly statistics from January through April.

During the week of February 5, 2018 I received the most visitors to my website with 34 views from 11 visitors . My most popular post of the semester was Cold With a Chance of Noodles with 24 views.  I have reason to believe that the tags I attached to this post helped it to be found by internet searches easier than it would have been found without the tags. The audience that my blog reached was surprising to me. Aside from America, I had visitors from Canada, India and Hong Kong. The internet and web connect people that would otherwise never communicate with each other, and that never ceases to amaze me.

Over the duration of this project I gave notification of new posts through Twitter. My twitter following and engagement in dismal at best, so I will not be sharing too many statistics from it. I did notice however that impression numbers far out numbered engagement numbers on all posts regarding this website. Some posts received hundreds of impressions, and received zero engagements or link clicks.

This website was a fun and informative jump into the world of digital media and content creation with which I plan to carry forward into the future. I think I’ve eaten enough ramen to warrant taking a ramen-hiatus though so I’ll leave the tasting up to you. さようなら (sayōnara)

Breaking the bank

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When I think of a ramen restaurant I have, at this point in time, been conditioned to to expect a bill of around 12 to 15 dollars. Prices may vary from shop to shop but for the most part and through my ramen journey this semester I have found that to be the about the average for the ramen restaurants in the Central Texas area. Today’s trip to Kenmuri Tatsu-ya taught me a lesson in expectations. I may have gone a little overboard but let me tell you that money was spent.

Upon arrival I was prompted with a wait time that neared an hour in a half, but was soon notified that I would be seated almost immediately. The staff was very attentive and even more engaged with their patrons. Kenmuri Tatsu-ya is an Izakaya style restaurant, which means they serve dishes with smaller portions meant to be shared. Think of a tapas bar.

Right away I started ordering dishes. I started with a pickle dish and the restaurants version of elote. The elote was good the pickles were sour. After a while I had finished the elote and ordered crispy onigiri and a special they had for the day called samurai caviar. The “caviar” was my favorite of the appetizers. It was more of a salsa with corn, cilantro, and crispy fried natto, a fermented bean paste.

This being a japanese restaurant with a smokehouse theme I found it imperative to order some brisket; once it arrived I found the brisket to be tender and full of taste, it did not disappoint. Last but not least my ramen arrived. On this day I decided to forgo the usual noodle in broth and went with Kenmuri’s BBQ Tsukemen. The noodles were wonderful and the dipping had a surprise around every corner with chunks of brisket and full and thick pork bone broth I was left in a daze from the richness and slight bbq sauce taste. Just for kicks we ordered a slice of pecan pie to round out our meal. The pie was good but hte crust was a little over done and tough, which is not a characteristic I think a pie should have.

Kenmuri Tatsu-ya is an awesome little spot in East Austin. If you are interesed in going I strongly recommend that you make a reservation in order to avoid an excessive wait time. I also recommend that you be prepared to spend spend spend. when all was said and done the bill between my friend and I was just north of $60. Dont let that deter you. The food was good the service was great and other than the price I left full and content.

Returning to Toro

My first ramen review this semester was at Toro Ramen and Poke Barn. Contrary to my financial situation and the last few entries I decided to go back to this restaurant. I feel that I may have praised the restaurant a little a little too much the first time around and decided to see if the restaurant could repeat or even improve from my first visit.

Immediately upon walking in I was hit with a blast from the past, a smell that took me back to my childhood. The entry smelled like my Japanese grandmother’s house when I was a kid. I let it slide, sat at the table and perused the menu. I wanted to try a different ramen dish, so ordering the same ramen as before was a task I did not want to repeat. If you recall, one of the aspects of Toro that I was, and still am, ecstatic about is the ramen combos. Wanting the most ramen combo bang for my buck I ordered the Chicken Rich Ramen with agedashi tofu as the side dish. Most of the ramens on the menu come with some sort of meat. This one as you may have guessed comes with karaage chicken, a bowl of crispy fried chicken pieces.

My tofu came first and I ate it quickly. It was as I expected it to be, lightly fried, set in its dipping sauce and topped with fish flakes. The ramen and chicken were delivered to me shortly after I finished the agedashi tofu. The noodles were excellent and the broth was delicious. Towards the bottom of the bowl the broth began to taste milky which was strange to me. The chicken on the other hand tasted fine, but resembled Tyson Any’tzers Popcorn Chicken more than it did the karaage chicken of Japan.

One item I would like to note was the lack of staff the restaurant had on hand. There seemed to be only two staff members handling everything in the entire restaurant. I waited a good while to get my food/check. This visit was less enjoyable than my first, but I’ll be back as this is by far the best ramen spot in San Marcos, Texas.

I’d also like to add that if you are interested in working for Toro Ramen and Poke Barn they are looking for wait staff and kitchen help as noted by a sign on their door on April 14, 2018.

Too hot to handle…

A deal was made

Last week I posted about eating instant ramen. This week ramen restaurants are still very much out of budget for me, so we will continue on the path of instant ramen noodles. My roommate eats instant ramen like a fish breaths water. Knowing this I asked if he wanted to trade ramen, very much like we traded Pokémon cards as kids. He obliged, and a deal was struck.

ramen package

Nongshim Shin Ramyun

Ramen was made

I noticed the quality of the packaging almost immediately. Trying to open this package proved to be difficult; I had to resort to a kitchen knife to get the job done. Feeling defeated 1) I boiled water in my ramen pot. 2) Once the water was boiling I placed the noodles, flavor packet, and vegetable packet into the pot. After a few minutes the noodles were brought back to life. 3) I added some greens to the ramen to add a little bit of nutritional value. The greens did not affect the flavor.

1)
2)
3)

Ramen Run Report

I can say with full confidence that this ramen was one of the best if not the best instant ramen soups that I’ve ever had. To start, the the noodles had a little bit of bite to them and created some resistance to my teeth. The texture and feel of the noodles informed my body and soul that this soup was one of substance, an actual meal. As you may have noticed from the picture of the package at the top of the page this particular flavor is Shin Ramyun. I severely underestimated what that meant. I’ve not eaten anything so spicy in a long time. My lips were on fire. My tongue was on fire. The flavor was unbeatable but repeatable.

If you are in the mood for ramen but don’t have the funds to goto a restaurant I can’t recommend this ramen enough. Head to your local grocer and pick up some NongShim Shin Ramyun today!

A change of plans…

Ok, so as you know I am a college student. As you also might know eating out at all of the fine ramen restaurants is costly if not down right expensive. So I’m going to have to take a break from taking all of you fine patrons on my  ラーメン runs (ramen) to try out the best ramen.

To shift gears I figured, what is the stereotypical staple of budget college diets every where? Did you say Ramen? If you didn’t there’s still time. But the answer is ramen. For the next few posts I’ll be trying out some different store bought ramens. Everyone has heard about the 25 cent pack of ramen or the cup of ramen, and most that have tried them have a favorite. So lets give instant ramen a try.

After class today I went to the grocery store to pick up my bounty. HEB has a little shrine to ramen and instant noodles. It really makes eating for less easy. There were almost too many options to choose from.

Eventually I made my choice and went with the Hot & Spicy Beef flavor from Maruchan. I did not get the iconic brick pack of ramen, but chose to go with the famous Instant Lunch variety.  These packs eliminate dishes and make clean up a breeze.

Preparing this meal could not have been easier. Simply peel back the lid half way, add boiling water up to the line, cover and wait for three minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After waiting for a short eternity I was greeted with a warm meal in a cup. One thing I always do before consuming an unfamiliar food is to get a good sense of its aroma. This particular flavor was reminiscent of Chili Cheese Fritos, not a bad smell but certainly unexpected.  As for the taste, at first there was very little just the burn of the seasoning. My tastebuds acclimated to the spice level and soon enough the broth showed its rich “beefy” flavor.

ramen with crispy tofu

As far as I’m concerned all instant noodles are terrible, but for 68 cents I was very impressed with the flavor of this Instant lunch. The preparation and preparation time were both easy and quick. If you are in a pinch either financially or temporally this may be a goto meal for you.

Post exam pick me up.

Mid terms were this week, not to mention last minute projects and bad news. By Thursday night I needed a pick me up. After a much needed nap I rounded up my buddies and headed to A-tan Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar. A-tan is located on Stagecoach Trail in San Marcos, Texas, and is the farthest I have traveled for ramen, in San Marcos, to date.

A-tan bar

Bar

When walking into A-tan we were greeted by the bartender and told we would be seated shortly. Looking around you will see the sushi bar which is well put together. the bar itself is well stocked with many different varieties of Japanese sake. Don’t forget that the word bistro is in the name of this establishment. There are garage-like doors, that will open up to fresh San Marcos air when the weather permits, and outside seating.

A-tan Sushi bar

Sushi Bar

For some reason I was not feeling ramen on this night, so I decided to switch things up. I ordered A-tan’s tempura udon. I grew up eating udon and had eaten udon many times at Japanese train stations, and let me tell you this udon did not come close. The broth was almost too light; this was something that both of my friends  said was consistent with their ramen’s broth. In addition the udon noodles had spent just a little bit too much time in the hot tub and were more soggy than noodle like. The tempura on the other hand was crispy and light. I enjoyed it. I was grateful that the waitress allowed me to substitute vegetables in place of the seafood that would have normally adorned the noodle soup.

Two ramens and an udon

I was not impressed with the dish I ate at A-tan, but their sushi spread looked pretty fantastic. My recommendation, if you want sushi this is the place to go. I can not say the same if you want ramen or udon.

Tempura Udon tempura is the fried vegetables around the bowl.

Alex French Guy Cooking

Man with chopsticks sitting behind three large bowls of ramen.

Screen Shot from Alex French Guy Cooking on YouTube

If you have not figured it out by this point ramen is a staple of my diet. If I do not find myself at a ramen restaurant I will generally try to make instant ramen. You know, the very inexpensive blocks of noodles that are sold in just about any food store you might find yourself in. Instant ramen is tasty, easy and best of all cheap, unlike the restaurants I’ve been writing about.

In my travels on YouTube I have come across a cooking channel where the process of making the perfect bowl of ramen is explored in great detail. Alex French Guy Cooking  takes the art of making a great bowl of noodle soup to a new level. Starting from the very beginning, all the way to finishing garnishes. His channel explores different broths, oils, seasonings, and even a very in depth look at how he mass produced ramen noodles for his instant and fresh ramen consumption. All of this from his very own kitchen.

Although his channel is not specifically about ramen Alex French Guy Cooking lays out a spectacular series that details what elements go into a good bowl of ramen. From watching his channel I have learned the integral parts that make one of my favorite meals; which in turn has helped me to determine what I am tasting at any of the many ramen establishments I travel to. I have even learned how to spruce up a dull bowl of instant noodles with easily attainable ingredients! If you are looking for an entertaining way to learn about ramen or food in general I highly recommend this channel to you.

 

Saturdays are for studying

I went to class today, Saturday, February 17, 2018. There is an exam coming up in one of my classes and my professor offered to the class to host a Q&A session in order to clear up any confusion we as a class might have about the material. The session was to begin at 10:00 AM and go until about noon. Around 10:15 we realized that our professor was either running late or just not going to make it, so we started without him. Our efforts were productive;  students could explain the material to other students in a way that a student could understand. Eventually I left to go and study with someone who did not make it to the session. Meanwhile, hunger was looming.

About six hours later, I realized I had not eaten since breakfast and was beginning to get hangry. Having had a large breakfast, I managed to fight off the urge to snack or eat a less worthy meal before my trip to this weeks ramen restaurant, so waiting for my friend to show up to the restaurant was quite the task.  Mochi Ramen: located due South of the UAC arch at Texas State University was the destination for tonight’s Ramen Run.

At Mochi, after being greeted by the friendly cashier, you order,  pay at the counter and then seat yourself. With eight ramen options and twelve different toppings, my choice was pretty hard, but tonight I decided to order a chicken based ramen –  number 6 if you’re wondering. I also managed to fit the pork gyoza into my budget for the week! More on those in the next paragraph.

 

Gyoza

The appetizer came first. Pork gyoza with a vinegar soy dipping sauce served in a plastic jello-shot cup. The hottest part of the dumplings were the part that touched the frying pan while they were being cooked, the rest were just warm enough to be noticeable. I have no complaints taste wise.

My ramen came out in two parts, both at the same time. The bowl with the soup and then a plate with the chicken. The noodles were almost perfect! The broth took some time to get used to. At first I did not notice any flavor but as I progressed through my very decently sized bowl it intensified into something I could drink for days on end. The chicken was fried, better than the Colonel, and served with a drizzle(?) of teriyaki sauce on the plate. I put the chicken in the bowl to condense the photo.

#5 Old Skool and #6 Chicken Shoyu

My friend ordered number five Old Skool. Upon first glance it looked like a traditional bowl of ramen complete with a naruto maki, the pink and white swirly thing. I had a taste of it, and even though it was a chicken base, the prevalent taste was nothing but fish. Not for me.

#5 Old Skool

 

 

I left Mochi with a positive impression, a satiated palate and the intent to return, as its location is very convenient. Being within walking distance and also downhill from the campus, makes Mochi Ramen a wise choice for those who want a decently priced and wide selection of Ramen deliciousness.

 

Once again my friend, Andrew, was not able to finish his bowl of treasured goodness. here’s a picture of his defeat.

Andrew looks on in a daze as he is again unable to complete his bowl of ramen.

 

 

Love Is In The Air : Grounded

Disclamer: This is not an entry about Ramen but something much cooler (if that is even possible). I had a really neat idea to title this Choppers and Chopsticks and to tie it into the ramen theme. Read on to see why that didn’t happen.

I traveled up to Dallas, Texas, over the weekend to participate in a rare opportunity. One of the prominent Instagram accounts in the DFW area was hosting an event in which attendees would get to ride in a helicopter over Dallas for free. Thats right, FREE! The event was called Love Is In The Air, and was hosted by DTX Street and Longhorn Helicopters as well as a ton of sponsors..

                       

                              Screen shots from @dtxstreet Instagram story.

Continue reading

I woke up early this morning due to the cold, and decided to get things done. The window in my room is quite large and single paned, so it lets the exterior’s temperature in, no matter what temperature the thermostat says it is operating at. The weather was damp and cold, the kind of cold that makes your nose want to run. The kind of cold that only warm soup can fix. I went to get donuts for breakfast, and to do some homework on campus. Midway through my studies I got a text.

Of course! was the (only) answer, and my plans were set.

At dinner time, I met my friend at Toro Ramen and Poke Barn in San Marcos, Texas. By this point my nose was full on stuffed and I just wanted to eat. Upon entering I was promptly seated by the extremely friendly staff and given a menu.

 This being a blog about ramen I did not bother to  look  too deeply into the poke menu.  If  a  bowl  of  raw fish  is  what  you want,   seek   the menu to the right. —>

 

At the time of my visit, Toro had four ramen selections and ten appetizers not to mention several add ins for an extra cost. I was most impressed with the Ramen combos they had listed at the bottom of the red menu. For a few extra dollars you could choose one and only one appetizer for a discounted price of a normal appetizer. I ended up ordering the Spicy Tonkotsu ramen combo with beef gyoza, something out of the ordinary, as every gyoza I’ve ever had has been pork.

Toro serves their appetizers in bowls with the dipping sauce at the bottom. This is genius, as it eliminates dishes for them and gives the appetizer you ordered some time to soak up some more flavor. In addition to the combo, I also ordered Agedashi Tofu at full menu price.

When they say spicy, they mean spicy. My stuffed nose was cleared up and almost immediately started to run. Water was in order to soothe the burn that the broth had caused. Burning spice aside the flavor of the soup was just as I expected: savory, meaty, and full bodied. The chashu – braised pork – was cut thinner than I would have liked and left me wanting more, and I have yet to find a chewy ramen noodle that reminds me of Japan. The (ramen) servings are large.

As he looked down in defeat at his unfinished bowl, my friend Andrew was quoted saying, “I haven’t eaten all day, I don’t know how I could have prepared myself more for this.”

Over all Toro Ramen and Poke Barn is a great ramen restaurant to try out if you’re in the San Marcos area. Priced fairly in comparison to the other ramen shops in the area, it provides a quality product that you will look forward to every time you visit.

 Go give Toro Ramen and Poke Barn a visit if you are in or near San Marcos, Texas, you won’t be disappointed.

Oh and my nose isn’t running or stuffed any more! Not that I’m claiming this ramen to have healing properties or anything.

 

 

Cold with a chance of noodles