Thursday, December 29, 2011

Smoked Crab at Rasane (Surabaya, Indonesia)

If there is one thing I have to eat when I come back to Indonesia, it'll be CRAB. Crab in spicy sauce, crab with salted eggs, or smoked crab. Whichever it is, I want it.
This time around, I went to try a new(ish) seafood place called Rasane, which is famous for their smoked crab (kepiting asap). Rasane in Indonesian means "the flavor" or "the taste".

As with most seafood places in Indonesia, they serve live seafood kept in tanks. Customers would go up to the tanks and pick out which crab, fish, lobster, etc they want to eat that night. Or you can just tell them how much you want and have them pick it out for you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Indonesia Street Eats: Soto Ayam Tidar (Surabaya)

There are few better ways to spend your time in Surabaya than eating your heart out at a street side dive late at night. When my cousins were visiting from Singapore, we did just that. A bowl of Soto Ayam (chicken turmeric soup) on the side of the road, wooden benches, old style glass soda bottles. Tropical heat with a side of night breeze mixed in with street fumes. This is Soto Ayam & STMJ Tidar, a street stall on a street called Tidar.

(STMJ refers to "susu telur madu jahe", which translate to "milk egg honey ginger". It's a traditional health drink).

Soto ayam is a chicken soup made with turmeric, ginger, curcuma, galangal, and more. At Soto Ayam Tidar, the soup is filled with chicken (ayam kampung, aka "village chicken" which is much more flavorful than the farmed kind) and you can choose between meat, skin, or offals, rice noodles, and egg. The best one to get at this place is the soft boiled egg but they were out that night. It's also served with rice either in the soup or on the side.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Since I'm on vacation in Indonesia this holiday season, I didn't have time to compile any Christmas/New Year's listings. Sorry about that, guys! But I'm sure other blogs had done a good job on that for you.

The Pig's on vacay!
Hope everyone is having a great holiday. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Trotter's Protege Meets Chinese Bao at The Chairman Truck

Fine dining chefs jumping ship to sell casual, comfort food is not just a trend that started in the past year. Chef Hiro Nagahara, formerly chef de cuisine at Bar Charlie (Charlie Trotter) in Las Vegas worked with Mobi Munch to start The Chairman Truck in 2009, selling chinese steamed buns with unique, high end fillings like spiced duck confit in San Francisco.

(The Chairman was originally named The Chairman Bao, but then they got sued by Baohaus in NY since "chairman bao" was apparently the first item on their menu. Gotta admit, it's such a catchy name.)

Tofu Bao
Mobi Munch is actually an LA-based company, and when they outfitted The Chairman's second truck, they decided to hold a tasting for friends and media before sending it off to SF. The tasting was held at Mobi Munch headquarters in downtown LA, where I tried five of their offerings. The buns are usually $3.25 each for steamed bao ($6.75 for baked - not sure how big these are), $3.75 for duck confit and pork belly.

1st bao: Tender Pork Belly with Pickled Daikon
Pork Bun
First, let's talk about the bao itself. The bao is made using a 40 year old yeast brought from China 20 years ago by  the SF truck operator, Curtis Lam's uncle who was the executive chef of Yank Sing. The warm bao was great, neither too thick nor too doughy.

The pork belly was tender, not overly fatty, and the crunchy, tart, pickled daikon was the perfect accompaniment to cut the richness. The daikon is, of course, pickled in-house ("in-truck"?)

The 2nd bao is a spinoff of korean spicy chicken: Spicy Red Sesame Chicken with pickled cucumber and carrots
Chicken Bao

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fukuburger (Hollywood)

Fukuburger originally started as a food truck in Las Vegas and was apparently popular enough that they decided to open a brick and mortar in Hollywood. Fukuburger Hollywood now serves their burgers until 4 am!

I recently went to a tasting lunch with other media types. Instead of ordering, they were bringing out food periodically. I arrived later than a couple of other girls so I had missed out the one I wanted to try the most, the Tamago/Egg Burger. Some people said this was their favorite, too. Oh, well, I still got to try a lot of the other burgers.

The burgers are all $7, a pretty good price considering burger prices at various restaurants these days (especially in Hollywood!). I focused on trying the more interesting options, like this Kinoko/ "Mushroom" Burger - Fuku patty with grilled shiitake mushrooms, pickled red ginger, teriyaki, wasabi mayo

Fuku patty is just what they call their burger patty, which they use in all their burgers. I like the umami from the shiitake in this one, and the pickled red ginger helps refresh the palate so you can eat more.

Bacon lovers, get the Buta Burger with Fuku patty, applewood smoked bacon, cheese, pickled red onion, red ginger, Japanese BBQ sauce, wasabi mayo
This was the first burger I tried here and I definitely liked it. A fried egg would make this perfect.

For the non-beef eaters, there is the Chicken Katsu Burger with Panko encrusted chicken, cabbage, "crack sauce" and katsu sauce.
Chicken Burger
The chicken katsu was nice and crispy while keeping the meat moist.

What I enjoyed the most was actually an off-menu item, a breakfast special that the chef brought out! Fries are topped with bacon, onion rings, onions, and a runny egg!

They have fries, of course, but most people get the Jazz fries which topped with gravy and "crack sauce" (no, they wouldn't tell me what's in it)

They only have a beer and wine license, so aside from the decent beer list, you can expect things like sake or soju sangria and beer floats.
The decor is vibrant and fun with red walls and red tables and benches. A screen displays tweets about Fukuburger. You might want to avoid going to the bathroom here while drunk, though. The bathroom is lit red which was a little disconcerting to me ..

Go for: late night burgers (open til 4 am) at friendly prices.

1634 N Cahuenga Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 464-3858
Fukuburger on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: this meal was hosted

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Indonesian Street Eats: Martabak Mesir (Egyptian Omelet)

Even when I was younger and couldn't eat spicy food at all I looked forward to going to the Padang restaurant, Rumah Makan Sederhana. Why? Because in front of it, they sell Martabak Mesir, a.k.a. Egyptian Omelet!

This martabak mesir is a typical dish of the Minang people in West Sumatra. Martabak itself is an Arabic word meaning "folded" and is a typical dish of Saudi Arabia, Brunei, and of course Indonesia and Malaysia. How this particular version came to have the name Mesir or Egyptian, I have no idea either.

Despite being attached to the restaurant, you still have to order your omelet at the little stand at the front.
The guy would spin and spin the skin until it stretched thin and big enough for the "omelet"

Surabaya, Indonesia

My hometown and all the good food I miss!

Bebek Goreng Mon Mon (fried duck)
Citrus Lee Restaurant
Hana Sushi
J. Co (Donuts and Coffee Shop)
Kedai Sabindo
Kogyo BBQ (Korean-Mexican fusion, SUTOS)
Kue Leker food cart (in front of Ayam Penyet Bu Kris in Tenggilis)
Layar Seafood
Martabak Mesir (Egyptian Omelet, Rumah Sederhana)
Rasane Seafood (smoked crab)
Rawon Setan
Sari Nusantara (Padang cuisine)

Soto Ambengan
Soto Ayam Tidar

Thai Village

Ikan Bakar Cianjur

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Churchill (West Hollywood)

The former space that was Minestraio has finally come alive again, giving the Orlando Hotel guests a place to dine in a completely revamped setting and the West Hollywood crowd another late night hangout. Some have been calling The Churchill, from the people that also brought us The Hudson, a "gastropub", but the kitchen headed by Executive Chef Spencer Johnston does not serve typical "gastropub" food and beverage director John Rankin has also created a cocktail-heavy program.

The Pike ($12) is made with sweet bell pepper muddled with basil, galangal syrup and lime juice, Cazadores Reposado tequila, mescal rinse.
The Revolver ($12) is an instant favorite, made with fire roasted pepper infused Herra Dura Blanco tequila, hibiscus reduction, agave nectar, lime, cassis, xocolatl mole shaken and served on the rocks with a jalapeno slice.

Not stopping there, we also tried the pumpkin infused rum which had quite a strong pumpkin aroma. The wine list also contains some interesting selections like Torrontes, a white wine from the high altitude regions of Argentina.

The charcuterie features La Quercia prosciutto and house-cured meats including a rabbit and pork pate, housemade blood sausage, and Housemade crostini.

Misty point kumamoto oysters
Chef Johnston regularly acquires produce from the Santa Monica Farmers Market and is a big fan of Windrose Farms. I, on the other hand, was a big fan of his Grilled Local Octopus salad, market beans, frisee, chorizo, sherry dressing ($15)
Octopus Salad

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

AYCE Pizza, Beer Flights, and More at Mohawk Bend

Mondays are happy days at Mohawk Bend with their all-you-can-eat pizza nights for only $15. But wait! For the rest of the year (2010), the AYCE pizza is only $12!! Even better!
The AYCE pizza nights take place in the Ramona Room which, when it isn't packed, makes for a good date night with its fireplace and arching tree (I'm not sure how crowded Mondays are now, though).

Instead of ordering, servers with trays of thin crust pizza fresh from the oven walks around and offers you a slice. Most of the pizzas on the menu will make its way out during the night, except for the Pig Newton (since Serrano ham is expensive, yo).

We tried quite a few that night, including a vegan pizza, a Thai chicken pizza, the Private Idaho (with potatoes, bacon, caramelized onions, creme fraiche), and the Abe Froman (house-made Italian sausage, peppers, fennel, mozzarella). The vegan pizza made with Daiya cheese was not too bad, but of course I will stick with the spicy Thai chicken pizza. You can also get a green salad for $4 extra.

Mohawk Bend is all about beer, of course, so you'll need some to wash down the pies. 5-7pm are flight hours at Mohawk, featuring two beer flights at $9 each, but you can get these beer flights in the Ramona Room all night. If you're not into the flights, you can also get specially-priced cocktails.

While waiting for the rest of our party, LA OC Foodie and I got one each of the available flights: the Bitter flight and the Dark. As LA OC Foodie said, we were dark and bitter people.
Point the Way, Picket Fence Wheat IPA, Stone Cali-Belgique,  Mongo DIPA
Brekle's Brown, DDH 15th Anniv, Navigator Doppelbock, Stone IRS 2010

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Brunch at Nola's (Downtown LA)

LA needs more Cajun places and Nola's in Downtown LA moved in to fill part of the gap. I was pretty excited to try it when they invited me in, but my schedule only allowed to come for Sunday brunch.
I didn't realize that the Sunday brunch was a champagne buffet until I got there. I was planning to try their jambalaya, gumbo, and po'boy but they weren't offered at the buffet. Oh well ...
The buffet offerings included fried chicken, fried catfish, shrimp Étouffée, red bean and rice, beignets, and fruits. Oh, and of course, free flowing mimosas.

Both the fried chicken and fried catfish were great, I went back for seconds for both of these. Since the beignets were put out buffet style, they were unfortunately not that fresh and kind of hard. I liked the shrimp Étouffée too - the good thing about having the buffet style is that I could get as many shrimp as I wanted.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Foie Friday #5: Foie Gras Wars, Ethical Foie Gras in Spain

I started reading Foie Gras Wars, by Mark Caro. The first chapter talks about the beginning of the foie gras ban in Chicago. Supposedly, the controversy gained significant attention from the masses because of a comment Charlie Trotter made about another chef, Rick Tramonto. Trotter had silently removed foie gras from his menu for two years and slowly it became known that he had refused to serve foie gras because of what he had seen at foie gras farms lately disillusioned him. Fellow chefs' responses ranged from support to acceptance to disapproval. Rick Tramonto had the latter view and apparently Trotter said that they should just eat Tramonto's liver because "he [was] certainly fat enough." Since people love scandals and fights, this of course made the news and garnered the foie gras controversy a lot of traction. According to the author, even people who had not heard of foie gras before were then either going to restaurants to eat the stuff or camping out in protest.

I also wanted to share the following video from TEDTalks, which foodiebuddha had also shared with me. In it, Blue Hill's Chef, Dan Barber, talks about an ethical foie gras farm he visited in Spain. The farmer, Edouardo Sousa, allows the goose to roam around and eat whatever they want. No gavage here, and the resulting liver beat its force-fed counterparts in 2006, when it won a prize for best foie gras.

If foie gras farming can be this ethical, then we can have our cake (foie) and eat it too!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mariscos El Mazateno (Tijuana, Mexico)

My last trip to Tijuana with Street Gourmet LA took me back to Mariscos El Mazateno, a Sinaloan seafood taqueria. I came here on my first trip to TJ, but back then I was even weaker to spicy food as I am now so it was nice to revisit and enjoy it even better this time.

The must order here is the Taco Mazatena (shrimp/camarones enchilado), a taco packed full of fresh, crisp, lightly spicy shrimp. If you walk by the kitchen, you can see them cooking the spicy shrimp in a giant pot.

Taco Mazatena
Dress this with the available condiments including cabbage, crema, pico de gallo, and a bottle of house made spicy green sauce made with avocado and serrano chili. The shrimp taco to end all shrimp tacos!

The meals start with a styrofoam cup of shrimp consomme.
While waiting for our tacos, they served us a plate of seafood cocktail including shrimp, octopus, scallops, and more.

If you have room for another after the heaping shrimp taco, try the smoked marlin taco, equally stuffed to the brim.
Smoked Marlin

The pulpo/octopus was also popular among the other diners.

The tacos here cost up to 40 pesos (around $3) and considering how much seafood you get with them, it's not bad at all. Whatever the price may be, the taco mazatena is a must try!

El Mazateno
Mariscos El Mazateno
Calzada Tecnologico,No. 473-E
Tomas Aquino

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Aziza (San Francisco)

With all the new restaurant opening and young celebrity chefs, it is easy to overlook older restaurants, but Aziza in San Francisco should not be. Aziza has been open for ten years (since 2001) but chef/owner Mourad Lahlou has continued to churn out great food. In 2010 it became the first Moroccan restaurant to receive a Michelin star and it has maintained that star since.

The restaurant is rather nondescript on the outside. A neon sign marks the location in amongst Chinese and Japanese restaurants in the Richmond district. Inside, a festively decorated restaurant typical of Moroccan restaurant. The food, on the other hand, is nothing like other Moroccan foods you've had.

Mate Mojito
We decided to skip the tasting menu and ordered what we wanted.
The cocktail menu at Aziza looked interesting and promising, but I was refraining from drinking alcohol so I went for the next closest thing: a Mate Mojito made by Taylor's Tonics ($6). Not really a mojito but it wasn't too sweet and was refreshing.

We started out meal with the lentil soup, medjool dates, celery, parsley ($8)
Lentil soup
A great lentil soup that also became a mini treasure hunt as we look for that burst of sweet from the dates. This was only a small hint of what Aziza is about.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Treatsa: Hand Delivered Treats

It's that time of year again, when you're thinking of what gifts to give or send. As a food lover, I always want to send something food-related, but how do I send it to the people I won't see in person? Many bakeries/ chocolatieres offer some sort of expedited shipping, which tend to be pretty expensive and still take at least one or two days. And what if the products get ruined in transit? Treatsa tries to solve this problem by offering a service for hand delivering treats (currently only available in LA) from their partner bakery, one of the best and most well known in town.

Hand delivery costs $12 - comparable to usual shipping costs from bakeries, regardless of the order amount, so it's better if you go big. Treatsa picks up your order fresh from the bakery and delivers to your door the same day.
They offered to send me the "Premium Chef's Choice Package" ($50). They have smaller and bigger options as well. I scheduled my order for my last day in LA. The bell rang and there was the guy holding two boxes tied with red ribbons.


I think you can figure out which bakery they came from, yeah?
The Platinos
A huge box of cookies and more! And plenty of my fave, Brown Butter cookies with brown butter, chocolate chip, and sea salt.
Of course, the beauty of hand delivery is that you can get goodies that are typically not shippable, like these chocolate fleur de sel babycakes. I hope they will include the butterscotch pot de creme to at some point!
The total for this order is $62, which isn't a small amount to spend, and there were definitely A LOT of goodies. Send this to a big family, or an office. It's sure to please.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gobi: Mongolian BBQ Done Better

When I think of Mongolian BBQ, I think of my campus cafeteria and a couple of dives around UCLA and Caltech. I think of people overstuffing their bowls with meat and noodles. Well, the latter may still be true at Gobi, but here they use all natural, hormone free meats and vegetables from the farmer's market. Plus, great gelato + good beer list = beer floats!

Mongolian BBQ

For those unfamiliar with it, Mongolian BBQ is pretty much a DIY meal. Starting with an empty bowl, you grab your own meats, vegetables, noodles, and sauces - as much as you can fit in the bowl. At Gobi, the prices are $9.95 for lunch and $12.95 for dinner (extra $3 for shrimp).

Gobi uses hormone-free meats, and I stuffed my bowl full of the lamb! It's pretty unusual to find lamb at these places.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Michael Voltaggio's ink.

Top Chef Michael Voltaggio's ink: perhaps the most anticipated restaurant opening of the year, stalled a bit by the surprise opening of ink.sack, its sandwich shop counterpart. Reservations are taken online and have typically been immediately snatched up as soon as they become available, but we checked on random occasions and there are often cancellations.

We had a reservation but they were running a bit behind and we were told to wait at the bar. The bar was equally packed and there was initially no seat available, but a bar manned by Devon Espinosa definitely calls for some cocktail orders. This bar seems like the bar to be, as we ran into quite a few people we knew here. The cocktail list, as well as the food menu, are listed as a list of ingredients, with the main one in bold. Mezcal, scotch, rum, and so on.

We started with some drinks at the bar while waiting. Our two drinks were well balanced, with the mezcal being the more interesting:
mezcal, lemon, apple cider, cinnamon ($13)
scotch, lemon, ginger, clover honey, angostura bitters ($13)

The server suggested ordering 3-4 dishes per person. We ended up with ten total including dessert for three people. The dishes never failed to be interesting and different, and all in all they were done well.

charred avocado, hen of the woods, whipped fish sauce, mushroom chicharron ($11)

A new combination of familiar ingredients - a crowd pleaser.

brussels sprouts, pig ears, house-cured lardo, apple ($10)
Brussel Sprout
Photo by The Kick It Spot
I believe brussels sprout no longer qualify as a healthy vegetable dish in most restaurants. Certainly not here, covered in a sheet of lardo. The star of the show, though, was really the crispy pig ears.

spaghetti, giant squid, hazelnut-ink pesto, piment d'espelette ($14)
Squid Spaghetti
The hazelnut ink pesto sits below the chewy "spaghetti" made from squid, waiting for you to mix it and cover the spaghetti with the black ink.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

For the Holidays and the Everydays: Valerie Confections

Valerie Confections was probably most well known for their toffees and their salt and pepper truffles, but their other items (including some new offerings) are also not to be missed.

They recently held a week-long Open House where each day they gave out free samples of a different product. I went to the cookies and hot chocolate one, but they also had samples of something else.
The new Super-Choc-O-Food is a collaboration with Commune Design. Much more than a chocolate bar, this dense, addictive goodness is filled with almonds, cashews, peanuts, macadamias, golden raisins, dried pears, apricots, sunflower seeds, soy salt, and caramel. So good, and uhh healthy(ish), right?

There are three different packaging for the Super Choc-o-Food. You'll find parts of a picture inside that you can collect, completing this Adam and Eve picture.

Among their cookies, my favorites were the Durango Cookies and the Gingersnap. The Durango was the best in flavor, made with chocolate chip and smoked salt, while the Gingersnap was the chewiest.
Durango Cookies

Valerie Confections also launched a new line of tea, blended for them by the American Tea Room in Beverly Hills. I got samples of three but so far have only tried one, the Black and Blue Tea, a blend of black tea and blueberry which smelled absolutely divine.

There are other products appropriate for that gift basket you're planning on giving your favorite food lover (*cough* me) like their hot chocolate mix, truffles, and preserves. Or, you can just treat yourself to some cookies.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Foie Friday #4: Foie Gras Farm vs Chicken Farm

For this week's Foie Friday, I wanted to contrast two different videos. In the first, Anthony Bourdain visits Hudson Valley, one of the most well known foie gras producers in the US, and talks to an expert about the force feeding of ducks and why it isn't as cruel as some people make it out to be. On the other hand, the second video shows a typical chicken farm in the US, as featured in the documentary Food, Inc. (I heard this farmer has since then lost all her contracts and, as a consequence, her farm, because she decided to let her farm be filmed.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dionicess IX: A Craft Beer Cocktail Pairing for Charity

Dionicess is an annual beer-centric charity event hosted by Gev Kazanchyan and benefits Real Medicine Foundation. The ninth iteration recently took place at Steingarten and upped the bar with craft beer cocktails and food pairing. The pairing is a collaboration by bartender Matt Biancaniellio from Library Bar and Dave Watrous from Beachwood BBQ who were preparing the beer cocktails, and Randy Clemens, author of the Sriracha Cookbook, who prepared all the food (along with the staff at Steingarten LA)

We were greeted by some mint water while Matt and Dave were hard at work shaking up the first cocktail:
“The Lambic Pentameter” - white balsamic, basil, strawberries, elderflower liqueur and Drie Fontinien Spirit of Armand.

Lambic Pentameter
The name Pentameter was chosen because the drink consisted of 5 ingredients. The Armand is a rare distilled Lambic from Belgium that is not typically not available in the US. Only one website in the world sells it!
Watrous told an interesting story behind the Armand. Purportedly they were trying to make lambic but the thermostat broke during lambic fermentation so he basically had cooked the lambic. They considered throwing it out, which was going to drive them out of business, but the distiller decided to try to distill and save it. The cocktail had a tartness that all came from the spirit, as there was no added citrus. (Traditional lambic is not the sweet type like peche lambic that we are mostly familiar with here, but it's tart and acidic).

This cocktail was paired with:
“Don’t Let This Get Your Goat, Just Figure It Out” – figs and herbed Chevre.
Fig and Chevre

Second course: “The Cascading Hophead” made with gin infused with seasonal Cascade hops for 3-4 days, grapefruit, honey, lemon and Beachwood Brewing Thrill Seeker IPA. This was the first beer cocktail Matt had ever created.
This drink was very hoppy, just like a straight up beer, except that it was 40% alcohol.

Second bite: "The Hop and The Hound" - Cabot Clothbound cheddar with yuzu marmalade, pickled habanero, and micro greens.
Spicy Clothhound
The pickled habanero in  the marmalade was very spicy. I had to take most of it off but it was a good pairing with the hops.

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