Tuesday, August 31, 2010

September: Upcoming Events!

Thursday, September 2-Sunday, September 5, 2010. Taste of Beverly Hills

This Beverly Hills' weekend extravaganza kicks off with a party on Thursday followed "sessions" starting Friday night. Famous chefs from around the country will be doing demos including Art Smith, Michel Nischan, and of course all the famous local chefs you can think of. Mixology? Brunch? Wine? Choose the right session for you by studying their full schedule.
Tickets for each session is pretty expensive starting at $135 and a day pass starts from $185, but luckily you can get 50% off tickets to The Art of Brunch on Sunday via Goldstar. There is also buy-1-get-1 deal for the BBQ on the Hills on Sunday night.
Thursday, September 2, 2010. FREE Turkey Burgers
Jennie-O Turkey is hosting a Turkey Burger pop-up restaurant and is giving away free turkey burgers to remind people of this leaner alternative to beef burgers (turkey burgers have 10 g less fat and 100 fewer calories than typical beef burgers). The eastsiders get the goods this time, as this is happening in El Monte.
11am-3pm. 11655 Valley Blvd, El Monte, CA

Saturday, September 4, 2010-Sunday, October 3, 2010. LA County Fair
The LA County Fair kicks off this weekend also. For this one you should expect things like deep fried Klondike bars and chocolate-covered, bacon-wrapped Oreos, but if those things turn you off you can go for steamed artichoke. Not to leave you dry, you can also sip on the winners of this year's Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Awards. I'm looking forward to Esmeralda's Traveling Circus myself. Trapeze lessons, anyone?
Wed-Sun (hours vary). Pomona Fairplex, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona, CA 91768

Sunday, September 5, 2010. LA Times Food & Wine Fest
It's LA Times' first food festival. Not only will there be food from LA's best chefs (including Ludo Lefebvre, Suzanne Goin, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, etc) the festival will also feature live performance by She & Him and Angela McCluskey. There will be a VIP-only area with cheese and sake tasting with the Cheese Impresario and a cooking challenge with Michael Voltaggio, but alas, the VIP tickets are sold out.
Thanks to Goldstar, you can now get 50% off non-VIP tickets to this event.
12-8PM. Paramount Studios, Hollywood.

Thursday, September 9, 2010. Taste of FPAC
This is the kickoff reception for the 19th annual Festival of Philippine Arts & Culture.
The event will feature The Manila Machine, SoCal’s first Filipino food truck and more food from Chef Guerrero, owner of The Oinkster. You can read Pleasure Palate's post for the full menu. Tickets are $50 and includes all food. Beer will be available for purchase. Proceeds benefit The Association for the Advancement of Filipino American Arts and Culture, also known as FilAm ARTS. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Nerissa Silao at nerissa@filamarts.org.
6-10 PM. Oinkster. 2005 Colorado Boulevard, Eagle Rock, CA 90041

Wednesday, September 15, 2010. In the Kitchen with Neal Fraser
Los Angeles Magazine is hosting another culinary demonstration at Snyder Diamond, this time featuring chef Neal Fraser of Grace and BLD. The night will start with some appetizers from the Snyder Diamond's chef. Chef Fraser will show you how to cook two dishes:
Entrée: Sautéed Day Boat Scallop aged goat cheese risotto and peas
Dessert: Vanilla Panna Cotta, market berries, salted caramel
Everything will be paired with wine by LearnAboutWine.
Tickets are $40. Please call Estrellita Dacanay at (323) 801-0034 to purchase.
7-9PM. Snyder Diamond Showroom, 1399 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica.

Saturday, September 18, 2010. Munch LA - CANCELLED!!
It's time school fundraising graduates from the door-to-door donut sales. Fairfax Highschool is holding a one day festival featuring 30 food trucks, culinary demos, even designer shopping (shopping for Paige Denim or T Bags dresses while munching on kimchi fries?). Tickets are $7 pre-sale and $10 at the door.
11am-5pm. Fairfax High School, 7850 Melrose Ave, LA 90046

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kakawa (Santa Fe, NM): A Meso-American Chocolate House

Continuing our Taste of Santa Fe trip ...

Ever since Mattatouille pointed out the Sante Fe chocolate trail to me over breakfast, I had my mind set on visiting Kakawa, a chocolate shop featuring Meso-American style chocolates and truffles infused with chili.
There were also samples of some gluten free Aztec brownies (spiced with chile and other spices) when we entered the little adobe house. Since they were gluten free the brownies were a bit on the dry side, but the I enjoyed the heat from the spice.
I found their most interesting offerings are the Meso American chocolate "elixirs". They're much thicker and richer than hot chocolates - they're pretty much melted chocolates. They have European-style chocolate elixirs too, but this place is called Kakawa after all.

An espresso-sized cup of chocolate elixir is $3.50 which by no means is cheap, but considering how thick and rich these elixirs are, you'd understand. You're paying for the cocoa, not hot water.

After tasting quite a few, my favorite elixir was the Atole, made with blue corn atole (atole refers to a Mexican/Central American masa-based hot drink), unsweetened 99% chocolate, honey, chili, salt.
You can take most of the chocolate elixirs home in dehydrated wafer formats, and reconstitute them with a little hot water. Buying the wafers aren't much cheaper either, they're $16.95 for 3 wafers which make for 6 oz each.

Alas, the Atole isn't available in dehydrated form (apparently dehydrating it doesn't work out for this one), so I opted to take home the Mayan Full Spice instead, made with unsweetened 99% chocolate, agave nectar, chihuacle negro chili, mexican vanilla, and various herbs, flowers, nuts, and spices.

Read Food GPS' review here.

Kakawa Chocolate House
1050 E. Paseo de Peralta
Santa Fe, NM 87501
(505) 982-0388
Kakawa Chocolate House on Urbanspoon

Albuquerque/Santa Fe, NM

Albuquerque Restaurant Reviews
Kelly's Brewpub
Sophia's Place

Albuquerque Breweries
Marble Brewery

Santa Fe Restaurant Reviews
BobCat Bite
Cafe Pasqual
The Shed
The Pantry


Eastside Compound - Kokopelli Real Estate and Property Management

La Chiripada Winery (Dixon)

Taste of Santa Fe 2010 - Gala Dinner
Taste of Santa Fe 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

Seasons 52 in Costa Mesa Opens Monday. A Preview Lunch.

The fresh, seasonal, healthy dining is not a new concept in California. Interestingly enough, the Senior Culinary Director of Seasons 52 had his roots in Berkeley during the heydays of Chez Panisse, but the chain started in Orlando in 2003 and has now finally found a California home in its twelfth location in Costa Mesa.
At this 300-seat restaurant they're taking the healthy up a notch, though. Everything on the menu is under 475 calories. They don't use oil or butter and nothing is fried. Remember the scene in Food Revolution where Jamie Oliver made this family bury their deep fryer? Yeah, that.

There's a piano man behind the bar providing nightly live entertainment.
There's a Chef's Table that holds 12 (but you can reserve with a minimum of 8 people) where you can partake in a tasting menu similar to what I'm about to show you below.
The restaurant opens August 30, but I attended a media preview lunch last weekend.

The wine list, which offers 100 wines and 60 by the glass, at all the locations and all the pairings we had today are prepared by their beverage director George Miliotes, a Master Sommelier.

We started with some champagne (Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne) and some passed flatbreads on the patio (which overlooks the South Coast Plaza parking lot, but the weather's beautiful all the same).
Chipotle shrimp with roasted poblanos, grilled pineapple and feta cheese.
All the flatbreads are made with their brick oven.

Black Mission Fig with chevre, Nueke's bacon, mint, arugula.
The sweet figs and the goat cheese were great on top of the crispy crust.

Our lunch started with an amuse bouche:
Lump Crab and Haas avocado with pico de gallo
This was paired with a Lioco Indica Rose, Mendocino 2009 which had a surprisingly dark and deep color for a rose.

Wild Pacific salmon and sea scallop roasted on a cedar plank.
(Paired with Mer Soleil Chardonnay, Central Coast 2008)
The scallop was skewered with a stalk of lemongrass. Instead of oil or butter, they use vegetable glaze to get the moisture and the mouthfeel. Both the salmon and the scallop are very moist, though a couple of the other bloggers said their salmon was a little overcooked.
The chardonnay was clean and crisp with a little acidity and proved to be a good pairing with the seafood.

Earthbound Farm organic greens with Oak-grilled mushrooms and truffle dressing
(Paired with Sinskey Pinot Noir, Carneros 2007)
Chef Pleau shared his recipe for the truffle dressing:

2 oz miso, 2 oz lemon juice (from Meyer lemon), 2 oz olive oil (or garlic oil), 2 oz tamari/soy, 2 oz truffle oil.

The dressing had a great aroma and a nutty flavor due to the miso. Nonfat sour cream is drizzled around the side for more body.

This Costa Mesa location will have a list of biodynamic California wines that their other stores do not have, thanks to its proximity to the wine country (biodynamic wines don't travel as well).

Sonoma goat cheese ravioli with roasted garlic, basil, and light tomato broth.
(Paired with Retromarcia, Chianti Classico 2008)
This was another good pairing as the wine cuts the salt and richness that came from the goat cheese.

Mesquite-grilled lamb rack and Manchester Farms quail breast, mashed sweet potato, San Miguel farm bok choy.
(Paired with Markham Petite Sirah, Napa 2004 for the quail and De Toren Fusion V, Stellenbosch 2007 for the lamb)
Both the lamb and quail were tender and flavorful. The bok choy came from a small farm in the south part of Oxnard and was more tender than its grocery store counterparts. The South African Stellenbosch was full bodied, more subtle fruit, and was a good palate cleanser in between the two proteins.

The desserts, alas, aren't really "low calorie" but they are still under 475 calories. How? Well, smaller portions! You can eat your cheesecake and your pecan pies and rocky road cake, but the size of the shot glasses keeps your calorie intake in check.
For the dessert wine they served Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese, Mosel 2006. Interestingly enough, the next Monday I had a 2007 Mosel Kabinett Riesling at Melisse.

One of my favorites: Pecan "Pie"

The take-home message? Seasonal fare using local, small farms. No oil, no butter, no gas, no frying and yes, even if you don't worry about whether or not they're under 475 calories, the food tastes good. You won't miss the oil, that I promise.

Seasons 52
3333 Bristol Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 437-5252
Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Angeleno Magazine's Chef's Night Out 2010: The Recap

Angeleno Magazine celebrated their annual restaurant awards with Chef's Night Out, a tasting extravaganza. This year's event was held at The Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, hosted by their restaurant, FIG.

The night started with a VIP reception, where they presented the awards to the winning chefs for photo ops accompanied by small bites from FIG and cocktails courtesy of Oxley gin.

Here's a rundown of the winners, selected by Brad Johnson:

Chef of the Year: Michael Cimarusti (Providence)
Runner Up Chef of the Year: Ludovic Lefebvre (Ludobites).
Best New Chef: Michael Voltaggio
Restaurant of the Year: Hatfield's
Best New Restaurant: Lazy Ox Canteen
Pastry Chef of the Year: Zoe Nathan (Huckleberry)
Outstanding Wine & Spirit Awards: SAAM at The Bazaar
Outstanding Service: The Grill on The Alley
Vanguard Award: Water Grill

Compared to other food/charity events LA had seen, Chef's Night Out turned out to be a smaller yet one of the best. Quality over quantity is the name of the game.

This event brought forth big name chefs like Josiah Citrin from Melisse, who was personally on hand preparing this loup de mer.

More indulgent bites:
Cauliflower panna cotta with Transmontanous caviar from Chef Ben Bailly Petrossian.

Fried chicken and Indian spiced waffle from Nine Thirty at The W. The fried chicken failed to stand out but the waffle was not only unique and creative but also delicious.
Capesante day boat scallops with farro, summer corn, heirloom tomatoes by Chef Victor Casanova of Culina.

I made sure to try the tequila/chocolate pairing from 123 Tequila since Caroline on Crack highly recommended it.

Speaking of chocolates, Bistro LQ served up some intense (and deliciously dark) absinthe chocolates!

And even more:

For those who had valet-ed their cars, they also got a little present from FIG: a tee featuring the FIG Dog and a frisbee.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Feast of Pre-Hispanic Mexico at La Huasteca

Apparently it has been a long time dream of Chef Rocio Camacho to bring to life alta cocina, fine Pre-Hispanic Mexican cuisine to Los Angeles, and her current position at La Huasteca has allowed her to do just that.

Recently she and her team at La Huasteca invited a few people (or rather, asked The Glutster to invite a few people) to taste her new pre-hispanic menu. Keep in mind, this tasting was not just for marketing, but also for her to receive feedback about her new menu. We suggested some things she could improve on and most likely by now these dishes would be even better (I won't be going through all of them here, but most).

This was my first time at Plaza Mexico in Lynwood and I must admit I was very impressed. It felt as if I was really in an old plaza in Mexico. This old style building even had two caged parrots up on those balconies!

The interior of La Huasteca did not disappoint.

There was even a mariachi band making its round in the restaurant towards the middle of the night.

There were three aguas frescas already waiting for us on our table: nopal con pina "Xochilt" (cactus, pineapple), Agua Preciosa "Atlaquetzalli" (honey, unsweetened cacao, aciote), Jamaica con Fresa "Chabela" (hibiscus, strawberries).
The jamaica con fresa is the one most familiar to the tongue and most drinkable, but the nopal con pina was probably my favorite. It's refreshing with a bit of a grassy note, bitterness and spice from the nopal/cactus. The agua preciosa reminds me of a cross between Milo and a horchata.

We were served two different salsas with our tortilla chips:
Salsa Maya (pina, cilantro, jalapeno, serrano, tomato)
This was a good combination of flavors and a nice balance between spiciness and tartness.

Salsa Especial "Molcajete" (tomatillo, cilantro, jalapeno)
The molcajete refers to the stone mortar that it is served in. This smoky salsa had a full bodied mouthfeel.

Empanada de Flor de Calabaza (squashblossom)
Chef Camacho has a way with her masa (corn flour) and I don't know what it is but the texture of her empanada was simply amazing. It has a crispy coating yet still manages to be moist and fluffy, definitely more so than others I've had before.

Tamalito Michoacana "Corunda" (sweet corn tamal)
Sweet corn tamal filled with spicy cotija cheese. It was firm, moist (a little oily even).

Aguacate relleno de ceviche "Estilo Huasteca" (shrimp and fish ceviche, lime, jalapeno, cilantro)
A ceviche mixto with shrimp, fish, dressed simply with lime, jalapeno, and cilantro. The creaminess of the avocado really cuts the acidity of the ceviche wonderfully.

Our three appetizers were followed by three soups:
Puchero Vaquero (sweet potato, tomato, chaya - Yucatan greens, carne seca)
This was apparently a traditional Zacatecan stew.

Huatape de Camaron (shrimp, tomatillo, serrano)
The broth was thickened with masa and gave it a chowder-like consistency, though the mouthfeel reminded me more of yucca cream. The shrimp are a little overcooked but the flavors were otherwise amazing.

Caldo de Piedra (made with hot rock. Shrimp, vegetable, scallop, octopus)
Deep, complex flavor and aftertaste. Everything from octopus to carrots were cooked until very tender.

Ensalada de Nopales con Chapulines y Tuna Vinagreta (cactus salad with grasshoppers and cactus fruit vinaigrette)
The cactus has a nice pickled flavor and the grasshoppers/chapulines added a great smokiness and spiciness.

"Tikin-Xik" Pescado estilo Yucateco
"Basa" (Vietnamese fish) cooked in banana leaf. The sauce was made with habanero and achiote. A nice balance of tart, spice, sweet, and smoke. Very good.

Camarones Isla Mujeres (shrimp, mashed beets and potatoes, plantain, sesame seeds)
The shrimp in this dish was cooked perfectly. I found the shrimp better with just the plantain as the beet/potato mash tobe a little dry and worked with the sauce but not the shrimp.

Camarones al Café (sauteed shrimp served with coffee mole)
It probably would've been better on a different protein but the coffee mole is a great sauce: rich and complex with a slight bitterness but enough sweetness.

Barbacoa "Platillo del Jefe" (lamb braised in mezcal, served in an amazing gordita)
The lamb has been marinated in mezcal, cooked in its juice, and served in another of Chef Camacho's amazing, fluffy masa - this time a gordita.. Served with a side of consomme with garbanzo beans

Frida Kahlo (chicken, pumpkin seed pipian mole, peanut pipian mole)
Pipian is a type of mole which has some sort of nut/seed as its main ingredient and usually served over chicken, as is the case here. The two sauces here serve as a good representation of pipian (be warned, the green pipian has more heat).

"Poc-Chuc" Filete de Puerco estilo Yucateco (pork, bean, grilled onions)
Despite looking like a jerky, the pork was quite tender and the glaze has a great smokiness, reminiscent of chorizo.

Mole de Los Dioses (Portobello mushroom, huitlacoche mole)
This, my friends, was a huitlacoche (corn fungus) mole. I loved the deep earthy flavor of the mole, though I would've preferred it on some type of protein instead of the mushroom (it is actually served with filet mignon on the regular menu, so worry not!)

Desserts here deserve a try as well.
Beso de Angel ("Angel's kiss". Pecan, coconut, almond, cherry, vanilla)
A simple looking dessert that actually contained quite the list of ingredients. Fragrant, sweet, refreshing.

Guayabas con Rompope
I do believe this was everyone's favorite dessert and deservedly so.
These sweet, tender and juicy guavas are soaked in the rich creaminess of eggnog. Amazing.

Crepas de La Casa and Platanos al Tequila.
They had crepes in pre-hispanic Mexico? Who knew? OK, I don't really know if they did or not but either way the crepe was a nice, lighter dessert filled with fresh, sweet blueberries. I found the plantains a little dry (but perhaps only because I am used to bananas as desserts).

This was my first time both dining at La Huasteca and trying Chef Camacho's creations (other than at fundraising tasting events). I have to say I was quite impressed. This type of fine Pre-hispanic cooking is still a rare find in Los Angeles and Chef Camacho has done a great job bringing this exciting cuisine to life here. While the proteins are occasionally overcooked, there's no doubt that Chef Camacho has mastered her sauces.

Chef Rocio Camacho

La Huasteca

3150 E Imperial Hwy
Lynwood, CA 90262
(310) 537-8800
La Huasteca on Urbanspoon
La Huasteca in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

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