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Gastronomy 101



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Updated: 2017-02-08T20:46:04.789-08:00

 



Seasonal Cooking: Fennel, Carrot and Apple Soup

2013-03-13T17:11:45.341-07:00




RECIPE: Corn and Cheddar Muffins

2011-08-19T10:19:23.421-07:00

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One of my favorite new things I've discovered lately is the bread baking column on Serious Eats. I love to bake more than any other kind of cooking so it's exciting to have a steady stream of things to make. Above are some corn and cheddar muffins.

I made them with fresh white sweet corn from the farmer's market and some Vermont cheddar. These are great warmed up with some butter.



RESTAURANT: Ludobites

2010-12-13T11:40:09.719-08:00

In order to understand Ludobites, you have to understand the people behind it. Ludovic Lefebvre sometimes looks like this:But more often he looks like this:His wife, Kristine, sometimes looks like this:But more often, looks like this:Ludovic Lefebvre is one of the top chefs in the world. Kristine Lefebvre was a high-powered entertainment lawyer and one-time contestant on "The Apprentice". In other words, they are both gorgeous and talented and you would think, therefore, extremely worthy of hate. But you would be wrong.All you have to do is spend one night at Ludobites, the pop-up restaurant they run together to understand that in reality these two are sweet, friendly, down-to-earth, fun and crazy in love with each other. All they want to do is hang out together, have fun, make food and extend their hospitality to anyone who cares to join in.Half Chicken, Chorizo, Poached Egg, Chanterelles, Saffron Onions SoubiseWhat is Ludobites? Ludobites is a pop-up restaurant that takes over various locations in Los Angeles for temporary amounts of time. They have served up dinner at Breadbar, Royal/T, Gram n' Papas and Max in Studio City. Ludobites is also practically a cult. People eagerly await for the next location to be announced and when reservations open, the site gets so flooded with requests that it regularly breaks down altogether and reservations usually fill up in a matter of minutes.In execution it is a bistro-style affair, with Ludo cooking the high-flown, imaginative dishes which made him a wunderkind chef, with all the ambiance of an intimate, informal French family kitchen.Ludo Torches a Dish at Gram 'n' Papa'sIt definitely feels like a family affair. Kristine is there to greet you at the door with a huge smile. Ludo is always around, making his presence felt and running the kitchen, and the servers are often the same from location to location.You feel, when you attend a Ludobites, like you are getting to know the Lefebvres, so accessible and friendly and casual are they - they treat everyone who comes in like a friend and it's easy to see why they are a winning combination, with Ludo as the wild child whose unrestrained creativity is sort of managed and directed into a successful business practice by his capable wife.Caramel Souffle, Blanco Grapefruit, Fleur de Sel Ice CreamAnd the food? The food is like nothing you've had elsewhere and nothing you will ever have. It's combination of classic French technique, a wild imagination and some molecular gastronomy thrown in there as well. As long as you are ready to let go, be open-minded and give things a try, then you will find food that ranges from classic to homey to elegant to outrageous.Ludo Takes a Short BreatherSome of my favorite dishes have included: poached egg with potato mousseline and chorizo - though this was a dainty looking dish, all done up in a petite serving dish with flowers and a smooth, gourmet appearance, the flavor was hearty and satisfying and I would have this for breakfast any weekend.Steamed duck with a crispy skin puree - I am not normally a huge fan of duck. It is difficult to cook just right and therefore it is a bit of a gamble to order it. It was the words "crispy skin puree" that enticed me though and I'm glad I risked it. The duck was cooked perfectly and it was as satisfying as a good fried chicken - tender and juicy with a contrasting crunch. The saddest thing about Ludo dishes is that even as you eat them, you know you will probably never eat them again.One thing I always look forward to is the fresh bread selection. It could be a fluffy baguette or it could be an exotic naan, but it's always well executed with some kind of exceptionally flavorful butter to make it the most memorable bread experience you might have in a restaurant.Grilled Octopus, Oregano, Grilled Hazelnut Polenta, Pineapple Aioli, Piment D'Espelette GeléeThe thing that defines Ludobites to me though, is the unexpected moments. That is where they really shine and where you know this restaurant is deserving of t[...]



hey i totally made this all by myself

2010-10-21T22:12:12.863-07:00

So I don't have any particular talents. I can do a lot of things, but I'm not really great at any one thing. Because of that I get way too proud of myself whenever I successfully do something and it's not messed up. I cannot believe it every time and it's like a miracle. (The reason for this is the many many messed up projects that will not ever appear on this blog.)So recently I have done a couple of things ALL BY MYSELF and they turned out good. I am so pleased with myself, I am showcasing it all here on this blog.Okay first, I am totally a farmer! I've been wanting a yard forever, but it's pretty clear that it's going to be a long time before I ever have one. So this year when a cool nursery opened up down the street, me and J. started a container garden. Besides the decorative plants, I decided to try to grow some vegetables. Guys, it worked! They grew! And for the most part, are still growing. It's amazing. You just put water on them every day, fertilizer once a month and murder any bad bugs that show up. Voila, foods.This is my cute mini bell pepper plant. You can see a flower, which is waiting for a bee to visit and two baby peppers.When the peppers are ready, they turn orange. They are like little teeny tiny bell peppers.They are nice in a salad and I bet they would make really cute appetizers with a stuffing. This is my big pepper plant. These are Italian roasting peppers. They are ready once they get big enough (about 60 days). If you leave them on the plant long enough they will turn red, but I have only been patient enough for that one time.Here are the first peppers that I picked. These three peppers are the first vegetables I ever grew myself, so I am very proud of them all even if some of them are handsomer than others.I roasted the peppers and put them on a chicken sandwich. Delicious but they were pretty spicy, so really a sandwich should have less peppers than this.This is my poor kale. The kale grew like gangbusters, it was nuts. In this picture it is twice as big as when I got it and it ended up getting twice as tall as that. But I could not keep the aphids away from it - they kept coming back even after I would mass murder them all. I could never actually eat it because of so many bugs, so I ended up having to let it go. :( I will probably replace it with another pepper plant because I am telling you, those are so easy.I also want to give a plug to my nursery because it is the greatest. It has all kinds of amazing things - not just plants but gifts and stuff for your house too. The people are really nice and know all about plants and you can bring your dog there and they will give it treats.Rolling Greens NurseryOkay, the other thing I made is cheese! That is mozzarella cheese that I made all myself. It is really easy, as long as you have the stuff and a recipe. For my birthday, J. got me a deluxe cheesemaking kit from Urban Cheesecraft. These people are really great. Not only did the kit and recipes make it really easy to use, but at first they accidentally forgot to put some of the recipes in my kit and when I e-mailed them, they sent them right a way, plus gave me an adorable heart shaped cheese mold as a gift.The mozzarella is made with milk, rennet, citric acid and cheese salt. You just cook the milk until it separates into curds and whey, take out the curds and then knead them until turn into cheese, basically. Mine is a little rustic - you have to stretch and knead it for a looooong time to get it so smooth like store cheese. Patience isn't really my strong point. But when you eat it, it is really like mozzarella! I have been enjoying it with apples and figs.[...]



NEWS: DineLA Restaurant Week + MUNCH LA Cancelled

2010-09-14T14:51:23.616-07:00

First off, sad news, everyone. The MUNCH LA food truck event for this weekend has been canceled. I'm unsure why, but at least it seems that it will be rescheduled, so I will be sure to look out for any new dates. Here is the official statement from the event:Due to unforeseen circumstances, MUNCH LA regretfully has to cancel its event on Saturday, September 18th, 2010. MUNCH LA deeply apologizes to our supporters for any inconveniences and we hope to reschedule our event soon. In the meantime, full refunds on tickets will be available. Please let us know if you have any questions and we will keep you posted.But now ...Good news, everyone!It's almost time for DineLA again! October 3 - 8 and Oct. 10 - 15, local restaurants will offer sweet deals to take advantage of. Lunches will be offered for $16, $22, or $28 depending on the place, and dinners for $26, $34, or $44 depending on the place. It's a great time to try places that ordinarily wouldn't be on your agenda for reasons of price or location, or whatever.My recommendations for this year:Angeli Caffe - Lunch and Dinner at the lowest price point. Menu still TBD. Honestly, Angeli Caffe is a good deal at any time of the year, but it can also be one of those staple places that you forget about because it's just always around. It's a good excuse to go back if you haven't been in a while.BLD - BLD is offering a $26 dinner. The menu offers a choice of appetizer, main course and dessert. BLD is another low key option that offers a chance for an amazing deal. If the weather isn't too cold yet, you can even bring your doggie and eat outside. If you're missing Grace, maybe BLD can comfort you a little.Comme Ca - If you have not tried Comme Ca yet, this is a great opportunity. Both lunch and dinner are offered at the highest price point, menu is still TBD. This is a great place to bring people that you want to impress with really nice food but you don't want to freak them out with a snooty atmosphere or strange menu choices. I brought my whole family here and it was a complete success. The food is all simple and familiar but prepared impeccably and the wine list and cocktails are top notch.Eva - Eva is pretty much my favorite restaurant at the moment, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Mark is an awesome guy and he is always offering good deals, but this takes away the effort of looking for them yourself. A three course dinner for $34, and the food here has never let me down. I definitely recommend the chicken and the lemon cake, but any choice is probably the right one.Jar - If you love Mad Men and you haven't been to Jar then you need to go right away. Put on your Don Draper suit or your Joan Holloway wiggle dress and go there. The atmosphere is somehow both modern and retro, both classy and perfectly comfortable all at the same time. Their DineLA menu offers three courses for $44, with choices for each course. Do not let the traditional food choices fool you, I would never recommend any place that was bleh. As long as you like meat, you are in for a real treat.Little Next Door - If you are anything like me, it doesn't take too much to get to the point where you feel like you desperately need a vacation. We can't always just pop off on our travels, but a meal at the Little Next Door is a reasonable alternative. It really feels like you've gone to another country when you eat there, and chances are the people next to you will be legit French to provide some immersion. For DineLA, they offer lunch and dinner at the lowest price points. There's no reason not to go here, unless you just absolutely hate French stuff, and then I feel sorry for you.Lucques - There's pretty much no excuse not to have gone here yet - Lucques' Sunday supper already offers a very good deal every single week. But maybe it's just not convenient for you to go at night or on the weekend. But maybe ... if you work in the area, here is your opportunity. Lucques is doing a lunch for DineLA, menu still T[...]



NEWS: MUNCH LA Food Truck Extravaganza, Sept. 18 at Fairfax High

2010-08-24T14:10:46.279-07:00

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Ooh breaking news ... on Saturday, September 18, MUNCH LA will hold its first event - a food and fashion extravaganza featuring over 30 of L.A.'s famous food trucks as well as indie fashion vendors. The event will be from 11am - 5pm at Fairfax High.

Sought after food trucks such as LudoTruck (Ludo Lefevbre's fried chicken), Let's Be Frank (gourmet hot dogs), the Dim Sum Truck and Tropical Shaved Ice will be there. The full list of trucks follows:

Ahn Joo, Baby Bad Ass Burgers, Big Swirl, Calbi BBQ, Crepe n Around, Del’s Lemonade, Dim Sum Truck, Don Chow Tacos, Dosa Truck, Dumpling Station, Eat Phamish, Fish Lips, Flying Pig, Frysmith, Greenz on Wheelz, Greasy Weiner, India Jones, Kabob N Roll, Komodo, Lake Street Creamery, Let’s Be Frank, LudoTruck, Nana Queens, Slice, South Philly, Sweet Truck, Tropical Shave Ice, Vizzi and more.

In addition, attendees can do some designer shopping, as Young Fabulous & Broke, Hudson Jeans, Wendy Glez Lingerie, T Bags, Dylan George, Paige Denim, Boheme Jewelry and others will be on hand to offer their wares.

Tickets are available in advance at munchla.com ($7) or at the door on the day of ($10)

WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 18th, 11am – 5pm
WHERE: Fairfax High School; 7850 Melrose Ave, LA 90046



THING 80: Harry's Seascape Strawberries

2010-08-23T10:40:56.166-07:00

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Strawberry farmers are always on a quest to build a bigger and better strawberry. In strawberry terms, what that means is they want the perfect everbearing strawberry - one that produces a large amount of fruit for a long amount of time.

Seascape berries were birthed at the University of Davis and they are an extremely productive variety of strawberry, and even better than that, have a very good flavor. Seascape berries are particularly suited to California, but will grow especially well in any cool region with a warm micro-climate.

Not only is the berry one of the better berries for commercial growing and selling, but this year, researchers at Purdue have discovered that it may be able to go into space with astronauts. In attempting to discover which produce might be cultivated on a space shuttle, it was determined that Seascape berries require little maintenance or energy, are not sensitive to the amount of daylight available. In fact, what they found with the Seascape was that with half the light, the plant yielded lesser amounts of berries, but each berry was bigger, such that no volume was lost overall. The plants are small, and the berries are easy to grow and consume with little waste. Total space berries.

At the Farmer's Market in Los Angeles, the place to get these berries (and others) is Harry's Berries. Harry's Berries is a family farm in Oxnard that has been growing strawberries since 1967. Harry Iwamoto was from a farming family that went back generations in Japan. He moved to the U.S. in the late 1950s and worked as a gardener until he was able to move to Oxnard and begin the farm, which grew strawberries from the start. They started with a roadside stand and a wholesale business, but various circumstances caused them to scale down their operation and now they focus on specialty varieties of both strawberries and other fruits and vegetables, which they sell at farmer's markets. Harry unfortunately passed away while they were moving to the smaller field, but his daughter and her husband still run the farm today.

Harry's sells berries at Farmer's Markets from Montecito to Torrance, and they are in at least one market and usually more every day of the week.

They sell two varieties of strawberry: Gaviotas and Seascapes from February through August, with maybe a small amount other times of the year, with spring being the peak. Gaviotas are sweeter strawberries, perfect for buying and eating straight away. Seascapes are more acidic but sturdier and are perfect for baking as well as eating.

Harry's also sells beans and tomatoes when they have them and processed foods made with their products: preserves, juice, and salsa.

Be warned that at peak season these specialty berries are much more expensive than what you would find in the store. But for a special treat they are worth it. Juicy and delicious, but not too sweet they are great for eating alone and even better for baking in a tart.

To find out when Harry's Berries will be at a market near you, visit their website at: http://www.harrysberries.com.



THING 44: Strawberry Donut from Donut Man

2010-08-03T11:41:26.450-07:00

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Without a doubt, Jonathan Gold's description of these donuts is a prime example of why he is a Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer, so it's impossible to write anything about them without providing an excerpt that shows how incredibly persuasive this man can be when enticing you to be enthusiastic about a food you might otherwise never bother to try:
It is an iceberg of a doughnut, a flattened demisphere big enough to use as a Pilates cushion, split in two and filled to order with what must be an entire basket of fresh strawberries, and only in season. The fruit is moistened with a translucent gel that lubricates even the occasional white-shouldered berry with a mantle of slippery sweetness, oozing from the sides, turning the bottom of the pasteboard box into a sugary miasma in the unlikely event that the doughnuts actually make it home.
This ... this is why he wins. Anyone who can use the word "miasma" in a description of food where the end result is that you desperately want to eat the food is a master.

The Donut Man is something that I may never have tried, but for Mr. Gold. I love donuts a lot, but the Donut Man is located in Glendora, way out in the San Gabriel valley, and although I do sometimes have occasion to go there, I usually go straight to my destination and then home, without the desire to stop at random donut shops along the way.

But it's true that the Donut Man has something no other donut shop around here has, and that is donuts that feature fresh fruit - strawberry in spring, peach in summer. A strawberry donut from Donut Man is not a withered, overfried slab of cake with pink icing strewn over the top. It is instead a fluffy, airy glazed donut-bun surrounding a mound of fresh strawberries drowned in their own sugary glaze.

How accurate is Mr. Gold's description? Entirely accurate. By the time you get the donut home, the bottom has turned into a sticky sweet mass of goo, but the top remains light and fluffy and the strawberries fresh and glowingly red. You can even save it for the next morning, but I recommend to eat it as fresh as possible so that it doesn't lose a bit of softness or warmth and the ooze:solid ratio remains in a manageable balance. The miasma can only encroach so far before the quality starts to suffer.

As Gold himself admits - Glendora is going to be at least 45 minutes away from you, and there's nothing there unless you're lucky enough to have relatives that give you an excuse to head out there every so often. But it's close enough to all of that legendary Chinese food of the San Gabriel Valley, so you could do worse than to make a day of it, abandoning whatever diet you are on and heading east for a day of gluttony.

Donut Man, 915 E. Route 66, Glendora, (626) 335-9111.



IT IS TRUE BECAUSE THE INTERNET SAID SO

2010-07-14T18:28:19.854-07:00

Just so you know ....


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I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




I'm sure this comes as a surprise to no one since these blog postings bear clear similarities to the works of David Foster Wallace. But it's best to make it official, just in case.

Also, I actually am going to post something here soon ... just a busy schedule but I have tons of pictures saved up to write things about.



THING 15: Gnocchi from Angeli Caffe

2010-06-15T22:44:55.927-07:00

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You may have ideas about gnocchi - preconceived ideas of what it is and how you feel about it. You have to forget about these preconceived notions when you eat gnocchi at Angeli. Evan Kleiman is famous for her gnocchi and part of the reason is because her gnocchi is perhaps not what you were expecting. For starters, Angeli gnocchi is not the potato gnocchi of Northern Italy that most people envision when they think of gnocchi.

Kleiman's gnocchi is the Florentine version made with ricotta (also known as gnudi). Compared to the other type of gnocchi you might as well be eating clouds of delicious. It is lighter and more delicate. They are perfectly round balls of light and fluffy goodness. The gnocchi is a special and as such, it doesn't have a uniform configuration. You have to wait for the server to tell you what type of gnocchi you can order that night. It very often has a sage and brown butter sauce with or without other accompaniments. It has been known to be made with beets, spinach, lemon, peas, or other things that happen to be good at the moment.

Mine was plain and simple with the gnocchi and the sage-brown butter sauce and that's it. Even in such a simple arrangement it was one of the better pasta experiences I have ever had. Perhaps its biggest triumph was that people at the table who originally poo-pooed the idea of gnocchi based on past experiences had to admit that it was some pretty amazing gnocchi once they tasted it.

It is also a light dish for an Italian restaurant, where most plates are piled with mountains of pasta or pizzas. You can easily put this away after an appetizer or salad and not feel like you are going to burst. I make no claims as to their actual level of healthiness, only that you won't feel like a complete glutton after eating it.

So that was the dish, but even if gnocchi doesn't float your boat, I still recommend a visit to Angeli. I can't believe anyone in L.A. hasn't eaten there, but there's a lot of people here and a lot of restaurants. Angeli has been around since the '80s and it has been the same ever since I first set foot it in it almost a decade ago. I still have many of the same servers and even the same busboy since that first visit and that says something about what type of place this is. My feelings never change about this restaurant and as proof of this, you can go and read my love letter to Angeli from Valentine's Day three years ago.

Angeli Caffe
7274 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 936-9086



THING 25: Whatever Lou Tells You to Drink

2010-06-02T22:37:21.428-07:00

Thing 25 was a fairly non-specific directive and I interpreted it rather loosely. "Lou" is Lou Amdur, the owner of restaurant/wine bar Lou, a wine connoisseur and repository of knowledge, and husband of New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis.

At any given time you go to Lou, a number of people in there will be people who know he and his wife. I don't know them, so I haven't had the pleasure of a personal wine recommendation, but I figure that everything on the menu is included in things that Lou would tell you to drink, and our waitress also clued us in to a secret wine not on the menu. But I am not going to describe the food and drink in particulars, especially since I'll admit I made a few trips to Lou, because it's kind of addictive. The best way to describe a visit to Lou is to describe in general, since both the wines and food are variable and change often.

First of all, Lou is extremely unobtrusive. Tucked into the corner spot of a mini-mall, scrunched between pollo places and laundromats, from the outside you cannot tell what it is. The large storefront window is draped in curtains from ceiling to floor. You have to boldly make the choice to find your way through them before you can see what this "Lou" place is. Inside the restaurant dark and warm, decorated in rich reds with black and white. The menu is written on a chalkboard and reflects seasonal and farmed ingredients, mostly from the Santa Monica farmer's market. On Mondays they offer a set menu concocted by chef DJ Olson.

The wine list also changes every three to four weeks. The wine list is sort of an avant-garde exercise with the wines categorized into different categories to help you decide what will go well with what you eat, and then each given a succinct description from the mind of Lou that may or may not be helpful. (Descriptions range from the very descriptive (fresh, zingy, tart) to the difficult-to-interpret (slutty? Not Funyons?). If you are lucky you will get a helpful server who can guide you through your choice, or you can read over the descriptions and categories and go with your gut, you probably won't be wrong. For one of my choices, it had been warm weather so I chose one described as apples and hayrides and it did indeed taste like summer in a glass. Success!

The food is always seasonal and fresh and everything I have tried here has been delicious. They have some interesting farmed meats, not just the usual chicken, lamb, and beef but also things like bison and antelope. I tried the antelope, and was relieved to find it was perfectly cooked, as I've never tried it before. It was like eating a nice venison. You can tell that care is taken to find the best ingredients and you can tell when there is something they are quite enthusiastic about. When we were last there, you had several opportunities to eat Tony Hook's 10-year cheddar cheese and I took more than one because it's my favorite cheese.

I highly recommend that everyone seek out Lou at least one time. It's really a hidden treasure (although they have no problem filling the seats) and it feels very much like a getaway in the middle of Hollywood. The variable menu means you will probably want to come back just to see what your choices will be next time.

LOU
724 Vine Street
323 962-6369
Monday – Saturday 6 PM – 12 AM



April

2010-05-11T22:56:49.247-07:00

Spring is my favorite. The weather is nice, but it's not hot yet and this year we had enough rain that everything was growing and blooming like crazy, including delicious produce. The farmers' markets are starting to get a bunch of good stuff. We can't stop planting new stuff around our house and we want to be outside all the time. Meaning, it's hard for me to sit down and write stuff on a blog. But here are many pictures from April.This is a cream of dandelion soup made with dandelion leaves. They are very bitter, but the cream mellows them a bit. They are also very good for you, being very high in potassium and Vitamin A. Dandelion leaves are also diuretic, so this soup is called creme de pissenlits in France, which basically means "have fun wetting the bed after you eat this." But honestly you don't need to worry about that unless you've also drank way too many glasses of wine. I adapted the recipe from A Kitchen of Her Own to make it.Strawberry-ginger jam. I got these strawberries right when they were first coming out for the season and they weren't yet as ripe and sweet and juicy as they are now that they are in full effect. But they still made a nice small batch of refrigerator jam that is delicious on a buttery piece of toast.A squash blossom quesadilla.Fresh chamomile tea. The fresh flowers make for a very bright apple-flavored tea. You could also dry them to save for later if you're not going to use them all right away.This is rapini, otherwise known as broccoli raab. It's another bitter green like the dandelion leaves that is really good for you with lots of potassium and Vitamin A. In spring it also has pretty yellow flowers but I sauteed them with garlic so no pretty flowery dishes for me.This is the end of the season for chanterelles so I made sure to get some before they are gone. They are delicious sauteed in butter and then made into scrambled eggs.There are tons of onions right now in all stages of growth from baby to kid to adolescent to adult. I used these to make a small tart based off of this recipe at Kitchen Confit. I made a miniature one and I used yogurt instead of sour cream. It was really good but not as healthy as all the greens. :( You can't eat these all the time.Here is a dog who wonders if I will give him some of my delicious food.Green onions, the baby version of onions. I made another quesadilla with these because ... well, I just love quesadillas.This is the Petrovic Blasting Company - a brass band that plays at the Farmer's Market. They are really good and this is their biggest fan watching them. He refused to leave his spot right in front for anything. It's the cutest thing ever.[...]



THING 6: Tito's Old School Tacos

2010-04-24T16:05:07.871-07:00

It's true that there are taco stands galore in Los Angeles. It is almost mystifying to think how any one of them could distinguish themselves. Taco stands are basically made to be a place you go because it's close, it's cheap, and the food is of the type that, even if it's not the best example of its kind, it's also really hard to go badly wrong with a basic taco or burrito.Tito's basically resembles most taco stands. It has the same basic dishes (taco, burrito, enchilada, tostada) and it's cheap. But there's something about these tacos that makes you want them even if you're not nearby. I have driven from Koreatown to West Los Angeles at lunchtime for these tacos and it is a miracle if you can get me to go somewhere that's out of walking distance.A modern foodie would probably be mystified. There's nothing immediately special about the food at Tito's. It's far from authentic, it's not healthy, nor is it fused with any other international cuisine. It's just Americanized Mexican at cheap prices eaten in an ugly dining room (or preferably outside if it's nice weather) after waiting in a long line to have your order taken by a weather-beaten old woman or a bored teenager. So what is the magic?My guess is that it is in the super crunchy tacos. The tacos are so crunchy and crisp and greasy that they kind of hurt your teeth when you bite into them. Your teeth recoil from the combination of crunch and fat that they know are not good for them and yet it's a deadly combination. The hard shell combined with the beef slow-cooked until it's soft and tender makes a satisfying texture combination, while the fat provides the flavor since these tacos are anything but spicy. And for me of course, it's also the cheese. Shredded cheddar cheese is mounded on the top to slowly melt from the heat that radiates through the protective layer of lettuce.There is just something unique about this place that is definitive of the best part of Los Angeles - these places littered about here and there that seem like no other place in the world in some quirky or old-fashioned or just plain bizarre way. Tito's opened in 1959 and I doubt it's changed much since then. Certainly its design aesthetic is a relic of that Mad Men-era and even the mot high tech thing in the room - the video game machines are hilariously obsolete. A round of X-Men vs. Street Fighter, anyone? I'm pretty sure I could take Wolverine with Chun Li's Lightning Kick.I should probably mention that tacos are only $1.70 without cheese and $2.20 with cheese. Depending on where you're coming from, you might pay more in gas than for your food.So, Tito's might not be a place I'd show off to a visitor from afar but even so, I would say that a great deal of its charm is that it feels so definitive of Los Angeles, and having places like this - that you know are always going to be there, and will always be the same - that's one of the things that make a place feel like home, and I think that might be the magic, right there.I can't really end this post without mentioning their amazing theme song. It's possible that THIS is the real magic, and that we're all being brainwashed in some fashion by the theme song, which commands everyone to love Tito's. In fact, I suspect this might be their terrible secret, as I can find no discernible method for turning off the theme song at the Tito's Tacos website.[...]



THING 47: Eva Solo-Brewed Coffee from LA Mill

2010-04-09T16:06:19.737-07:00

Without these "things" I may never have tried this coffee. Or not for a while anyway. I like my coffee in the morning, but not enough to drive all the way out to Silverlake to get it. Not to mention to get a morning coffee that costs about 4x as much as my regular coffee. But this is some pretty special coffee, and a special occasion (like going to see the Clientele at Spaceland) deserves a special cup (or two) of coffee.So we decided to head into LA Mill for dinner. This will be one of the fanciest coffee places you go - they appear as a nice restaurant and they do serve food, and their menu matches their decor. Slightly upscale dinner fare, but nothing too fancy. Jason had sliders and I had a Spanish-inspired panini or pork, manchego cheese and piquillo peppers. The food was good - nothing drop-dead amazing but just solidly delicious. What we were really waiting for, however, was this coffee that was so special.As soon as we began to peruse the coffee menu, we could tell it was pretty serious business. The list of coffees is extensive and they come with stories, some of them as elaborate as the most detailed fantasy. Things like "These beans were plucked from the cold, dead hand of a giant by the agile young beanstalk climbers of Ouagadougoo. The giants once traded these precious beans for cows, but as time went by, their stock began to dwindle and now the fearsome giants and the nimble beanstalk climbers war ceaselessly over these beans, which are grown and fed to the giants' special hens. The hens then lay golden eggs, which, when smashed reveal these precious and flavorful beans. When brewed they release a bright, floral aroma whose flavor contains hints of the honeysuckle flowers that grow so near their beanstalks as well as citrus overtones and a tiny trace of sunshine and cloud as is to be expected from Giantland, so high in elevation."It's basically stuff like that. And it costs about $8.00 to get it brewed using the Eva Solo device, as specified by Mr. Gold in his strict instructions as to what exactly it is you must try before passing away. I think it made about four cups though, so although it was more expensive than my local corner coffeeshop, it wasn't forbiddingly so. We tried a kind that was a special addition to the menu at the time and was described by the waitress as being very unusual. It was. It just had a somewhat different flavor to it. It was described as candy-like, but I didn't find it so. I probably wouldn't choose to drink it every day, but if you are going to try something special, you might as well go all out and get the weird thing, so I'm glad I got it, because it was good, in its own unique way. The waitress was really helpful as well. I highly recommend asking for advice here and you will end up with something that makes you happy.[...]



Picture Break

2010-04-08T13:54:15.216-07:00

I really have a real post, that I will hopefully put up tomorrow, but I want to take a break to put up some cool pictures I have accumulating.First, we had some people over to our house to watch the Oscars last month and our lovely guests brought the most amazing cupcakes from Big Sugar Bakeshop.Each cupcake had an image representing a Best Picture nominee or an Oscar on it. They came in vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet flavors and all were delicious. I really cannot talk up this bakery enough. It is in Studio City, very near my former workplace and it is one of my favorite bakeries I've been to in L.A. They are extremely creative, but the stuff they make is not overly complicated or unbalanced. For example, their cupcakes are my top cupcakes in Los Angeles. Most of the trendy cupcakes seem to load on frosting completely out of proportion to the amount of cake and it's gross. I end up lopping off most of the frosting and leave it on the plate. These cupcakes have a correct proportion of frosting to cake, with not too much of either one. Thumbs up. Plus look at the kind of artistry they create with their special themed products. That's pretty talented.Secondly, my mom sent me photographic evidence that I have always been a pretty expert baker. I may not have been so great on the sanitary practices long ago, but that was a wilder, more free time, you know - the '70s. I was also WAY ahead of the cupcake trend.Um ... I have to taste it to make sure it's okay! Yeah, that's it.Frosting is serious business.Gotta taste the frosting too. I really hope I didn't keep using that knife, gross.Ta-da, cupcake for you![...]



THING 52: Mozza Pizza

2010-03-31T17:36:16.778-07:00

Many cities have their own "signature" version of pizza, and proponents of each type of pizza are willing to argue all night that theirs is the best - whether it be from the source in Naples; or a large, thin New York slice; or perhaps a hearty deep dish from Chicago.Here in Los Angeles, we don't really have a "signature" pizza, except perhaps the use of untraditional toppings, made famous by Wolfgang Puck. But even so, you can get a "California-style" pizza at five different places and have five completely different pizzas even in the most definitive aspects, like crust thickness and cheese-to-sauce ratio.It would be a fine thing if we decided to make Nancy Silverton's style of pizza the definitive Los Angeles pizza. In my book, it can compete with any pizza anywhere. It's not just the variety of really good, really fresh ingredients in both unusual and familiar combinations. It is mostly the crust. A crust that was carefully created through many tests to be chewy enough to give it some substance, but airy enough that one can eat the pizza without feeling heavy and full afterward.I can think of nothing better than to go sit at the bar at Mozza, eat pizza, drink wine and watch pizza being made, or the bartender do his thing. Every pizza is made to order in a real wood oven. When the restaurant first opened, Nancy Silverton stood over each pizza, approving it before it was served. Now the cooks have it down to a science. Each pizza comes out of the oven light, airy, crispy and with toppings perfectly cooked.The options will satisfy anyone, from the pickiest kid to the most adventurous gourmet. If you like variety, there are always some seasonal toppings on the menu, like flash fried sage in the winter, or artichoke and lemon in the spring. One of my favorites has a spicy salame with Fresno chiles. It's hot, but satisfying - a step up from the pepperoni pizza of my childhood. Other favorites include the squash blossom and burrata, fennel sausage, and the aforementioned pizza bianca with sage.It's hard to write about one particular pizza-eating experience, as Mozza is a place we go to for a special treat fairly regularly. But one thing about this night was that we vastly miscalculated what the wait would be. It was cold and a bit rainy, and we thought we could just show up and not have to wait too long for a spot at the bar.We were wrong. I think we waited about 90 minutes to finally sit down, as the tiny square where people can wait just continued to fill with people at a steady stream, but only empty out at an extremely slow trickle. By the time we sat down, the pizza had gone from "damn good pizza" to "we've been waiting so long, this is now the best pizza ever created." It was worth the wait, though, which is a high honor coming from me, since I hate waiting. It was also worth it to get to sit at the pizza bar for the first time. 99% of the time we end up sitting at the wine bar, to the point where we started wondering if the people at the other bar were paid extras who sat there all night. But this time we learned that no, it's possible to sit there and it's fun to watch your pizza get made, and try to guess what they are making now.The wine selection is small but carefully chosen. You can't really go wrong, but the bartender will help you if Italian wines and their many alien grapes get you confused. In addition to pizza, the chopped salad is always a good option, and for dessert the butterscotch budino would probably be in my personal "things to try before you die" list.But the real reason to come is always the pizza. From now on, this will always be "Los Angeles-style pizza" to me.Pizzeria Mozza [...]



THING 87: Plain Doughnut from Bob's Coffee and Doughnuts

2010-03-13T00:50:10.205-08:00

(image) The first thing I chose out of the 99 things I must eat before I die was a no-brainer. Bob's Doughnuts is pretty much a regular destination, since my husband has a love for doughnuts like no other except perhaps Homer Simpson. But even though I've had many of Bob's delicious doughnuts, I have never yet had a plain one.

While this first choice of "thing" was in many ways the easiest, it still contained an element of challenge, which was to face up to all of those frosted, glazed and sprinkled donuts and absolutely turn my back on them in favor of a doughnut that is utterly and completely nude. I hope you won't be too harsh on me when I admit that I purchased two donuts - one plain and one one sprinkle. I hope Jonathan Gold can forgive for diluting the purity of his 87th thing.

But this blog post is not about a sprinkle doughnut, so what transpired between the sprinkle doughnut and I will forever be a mystery as far as you are concerned. I am here to talk about it's fancy-free brother, the plain doughnut.

Although I will probably stick to frosting in the future, I have to say I'm glad I took this opportunity to try a perfectly plain doughnut. Michael Pollan would advocate that everyone take to the farm or the forest to connect with exactly where their meal came from, so as not to become to disconnected from exactly what it is we're eating. Perhaps in a similar vein, we should also go for a plain doughnut every once in a while to remind ourselves that what we are eating is not cake or a mere pastry, but that what we are eating is in fact a fried product. It a pastry multiplied by more fat and it's probably best that we don't forget that.

And that is basically what eating a plain doughnut is like. It is a big reminder of what a doughnut actually is and where it comes from (the fryer). That's not to say it's gross - of course it's not! It's a fried thing, which by law must be delicious. It just allows you to reflect more clearly on the fact that a doughnut is delicious not just because of the rich flavor that the fat introduces, but also the texture - the slight crunch on the outside contrasted with the moist soft cake inside is something you will not get from any cupcake, now matter how big it is baked nor how much frosting is piled atop it.



99 THINGS

2010-08-23T10:42:00.138-07:00

So last week, Jonathan Gold published his list of 99 Things to Eat in L.A. Before You Die. When I saw this, a flash of inspiration struck me, because to be perfectly honest, I've had a hard time keeping this blog going. *checks date of last post--yep*I still enjoy it, and I love eating and cooking and drinking and taking pictures of food, but somehow something happened that I never actually thought would be--I now get paid, as my job, to write things and I spend a whole lot of my time writing things for money. That doesn't make me enjoy writing any less, especially since writing for fun is a lot more enjoyable than the stuff I normally have to write. However, when you've just spent 6-8 hours in a row writing stuff, what you want to do is plop in front of the TV or game or do some reading instead of writing. I just get kind of ... tired of it.So I've been thinking what I've been wanting is a project-something I would want to do anyway but that would give me enough incentive to continue and see it through and would give me lots of material to write about. And folks, I think this is it. Seeing as how I'm not getting any farther away from death, I should probably start eating these things now - just in case. So I'm going to make my way through this list and try to experience what Mr. Gold wishes we all could experience.Now for some rules. First off, not all of these things will be easy, desirable, or even possible for me to eat, and certainly not in order. So I am choosing my own order, and I'm starting with the things that are easiest for me to get (and that I most want to eat). I will work my way up to the challenging ones and will do by best to bravely snarf down even the wriggliest creatures. I reserve the right, however, to decide that there is a substitution that I believe is even more worthy of being eaten before death, because I do have my own opinions. And, for example, if I'm going to get pizza I've wanted to try for years, I'm not going to have eggplant on it, since I don't like eggplant. So there. Anyway, I am setting out the entire list below, which I will update with links as I have them. I'll put it on the side so you can come pore over it whenever you like.THE LIST:1. Fugu (Urasawa, 218 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills)2. Goat’s milk gelato (Bulgarini Gelato, 749 E. Altadena Drive, Altadena. (626) 791-6174)3. Romanesco cauliflower (Weiser family farms)4. San nak ji (Masan, 2851 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown. (213) 388-3314)5. Sherry Yard’s Kaiserschmarren (Spago, 176 N. Cañon Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 385-0880)6. Tito’s old school tacos (Tito's Tacos, 11222 Washington Place, Culver City. (310) 391-5780)7. Luna oysters8. Sesame cream puffs (Pâtisserie Chantilly, 2383 Lomita Blvd., No. 104, Lomita. (310) 257-9454)9. Vietnamese spring rolls (Golden Deli, 815 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel. (626) 308-0803)10. Hot pastrami (Langer's Delicatessen-Restaurant, 704 S. Alvarado St., L.A. (213) 483-8050)11. Bone marrow flan (Cut, 9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 276-8500)12. Little flower sea salt caramels13. Spicy lobster (Newport Seafood, 518 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel. (626) 289-5998)14. New style sashimi (Matsuhisa, 129 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills. ( 310) 659-9639)15. Gnocchi (Angeli Caffe, 7274 Melrose Ave., L.A. (323) 936-9086)16. Lechon (Eva’s Lechon, 4252 W. Third St., L.A. (213) 383-3179)17. Tortillas (Rivera, 1050 S. Flower St., dwntwn. (213) 749-1460)18. Apple pie and eel (Wa Sushi, 1106 N. La Cienega Blvd., No. 201, W. Hlywd. (310) 854-7285)19. Sausage and eggplant [...]