Wednesday, October 31, 2012

AMMO's New Slinger

There's a new face behind the bar at AMMO. Jonny Ericsen is a Portland transplant and Clyde Common graduate who will be taking charge of AMMO's cocktails (speaking of Portland mixologist moving to LA .. have you watched this Portlandia episode?)

A few of the cocktails remained from my last visit, but a number of new ones have popped up. The Currant Affair is a strong but sweet drink that's perfect to start the night off (Old Overholt rye, lemon juice, cassis, maraschino, Angostura bitters -$10)
I had a more aromatic beginning with the Copper Cup (Citadelle gin, Cynar, Dolin Blanc vermouth, orange bitters - $11)

Both drinks were well balanced and went down dangerously easy.
After a while, we started having Jonny play around with off-menu drinks, both classics and his own creations. The Van Cleef was a drink he made when he opened Little Bird in Portland. He calls it a "cowboy drink", made with scotch rinse, Buffalo Trace bourbon, and burnt orange oil.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Casa Botin, The Oldest Restaurant in the World (Madrid, Spain)

What's the oldest restaurant you've been to? Well, unless you've been to Restaurante Botin (also known as Casa Botin), then you still have ways to go. Casa Botin in Madrid goes back to 1725, when it was operating as an inn and restaurant, and the space is reminiscent of what it was.


Tight spaces and narrow wooden stairs took us to the upper dining area. On the walls were menus from special dinners dating to the 1800s for the royalties and visiting government officials.
A visit to Casa Botin isn't just about visiting the oldest restaurant in the world - the food is actually quite good. For the most part they still serve simple fares. Appetizers include salads, soups, and jamon iberico or a plate of ham with melon.
The rest of the menu is divided into egg dishes, vegetables, fish, and meats.
They list two specialties on the menu, so naturally we had to get those. The two specialties are the roast suckling pig and roast baby lamb, both roasted slowly in a wood-fired oven.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Completely Revamped Vitello's (Studio City)

Vitello's in Studio City was an old school Italian restaurant in Studio City famous for being a mafia hangout in the 50's and the site of the Robert Blake shooting incident. If you were to ask the current staff, even they will admit that the food back then was no bueno. All that changed recently. Major renovation of the interior, an entirely new menu under a new chef (who for once is actually Italian), and a wine and cocktail program.


Carrot Cocktails
The cocktail menu was pretty interesting. I ordered the Bad Lil' Wabbit made with whiskey, carrot juice, agave, lemon, mint, and ginger beer ($11). I was wary at first. Carrot juice? But this drink was good! The ginger beer complements it nicely.

The chef likes to put out special items and customers can pretty much request whatever they wanted, as long as they have the ingredients. My dinner ended consisting of dishes not on the regular menu (except for the dessert). Fresh salmon tartar was served with diced apples and cucumbers.
Salmon Tartar

A big mound of smooth, creamy burrata is served with sweet and crisp heirloom tomatoes. I welcomed every chance I got to eat heirloom tomatoes before the season ended.
Burrata and Tomatoes

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Get Spooked: Halloween Dessert Specials Around Town

While Halloween is not traditionally associated with dining out, some LA restaurants are getting creative with their dessert offerings. Eye ball cakes, worms, and chocolate and cocktail offerings are among the few things you can find. Here are some of the more fun ones:

At Cecconi's, diners can sip the new fall cocktails (or wine, if preferred), paired with five seasonal truffles from Compartes’ Chocolatier Jonathan Grahm. The tasting is available from 7-10 p.m. at Cecconi’s so guests can get their treats pre or post dinner. Guests can reserve their space for $25 prior, or purchase the tasting for $30 the day of. For reservations and more information call (310) 432-2000

Public Kitchen & Bar, located at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, is offering ghostly treats that replicate human body parts (a sight not for the weak!).
Executive Chef Tim Goodell has created eyeball cakes and “finger” cookies that literally look like the real thing. Pumpkin pies are topped with frozen shards of spiced foam.

I tried some of the eye ball cake pops myself and was quite impressed with how they looked!

Kerry Simon’s LA Market Restaurant at the JW
Marriott hotel, is transforming their Junk Food Platter into a sweet
and spooky version of the dessert. The creepy candy wonderland includes
orange and purple coconut snowballs, bat and mummy cake pops, pumpkin-shaped Rice Krispies treats, frosted brownies with worms, candy corn, and caramel
corn parfait.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

GIVEAWAY: Dinner With GrubWithUs

If you ever have a hard time finding people to dine out with, or want to meet new people over a meal, Grub With Us is now there for you. Dinners are organized at partner restaurants, sometimes for a specific group ("travel enthusiasts", "entrepeneurs", "young Republicans" - no, really), sometimes just a "social meal". The menu is set beforehand for the whole group and when you sign up for dinner you pay the website in advance (all inclusive of tax and tip). If no dinner strikes your fancy, you can set up your own, but it has to be with a participating restaurant.

I haven't actually tried joining one of these dinners before but I will be this coming Saturday, October 28, and Grub With Us has offered to give away a free spot to one of you too! So join me for dinner with them (the dinner will be open to regular Grub With Us users to sign up per usual)! The place? Starry Kitchen pop up at Tiara Cafe in downtown LA!

If you're not already familiar with it, the menu at this husband and wife run restaurant changes pretty regularly, but the predominantly Southeast Asian dishes are crowd-pleasers. The awesome Singaporean Chili Crab may not be on the group dinner menu, but I'm looking forward to their other stuff.

UPDATE: Change of plans! Since the dinner on Saturday was apparently not set, the giveaway is now changed to credit to any future dinner on Grub With Us. Once you've won you can sign up for an account and browse for upcoming dinners.

To enter to win, leave a comment below with your email contact and answer the following: what type of people (or person) would you want to meet at a dinner like this? 
Oh, and of course, make sure you are free for dinner on Saturday!

The giveaway ends at midnight on Thursday, October 26. Good luck and looking forward to meeting one of you on Saturday!
Because of the changes in the giveaway, I'm extending the deadline to midnight on Saturday, October 27!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mixology 101 at The Grove (Los Angeles)

The Grove and The Original Farmers Market tend to be occupied by restaurant chains and touristy spots, and Planet Dailies, which is associated with Mixology 101, probably is too. On the other hand, Mixology 101 isn't.

This large and swank bar sits on the second floor right at the border of the Farmers Market and The Grove, and the cocktails are the products of renowned mixologist Salvatore Calabrese, aka "The Maestro" and the one in charge in the day to day operations, LA's Joseph Brooke (formerly of Next Door Lounge and The Edison)
I finally came here for the first time a couple of months ago, tagging along as Shop Eat Sleep's guest.
My first cocktail was fun, refreshing, and absolutely perfect for the summer: Maestro's Special Fizz (Capri Natura Limoncello, lemon sorbet, fresh mint and prosecco - $14)
The Brisa Frances has a unique flavor, made with Mezcal Joven, fresh lime juice, agave syrup, cucumber water, Pernod Absinthe, and salt - $13

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

GIVEAWAY: A Box of King's Hawaiian Bakery Awesomeness!

In yesterday's post I talked about touring King's Hawaiian Bakery, tasting many many things made using their products, and about the box of goodies I got as a parting gift. The giant box had bread enough for months, coffee cake, coffee, cookies, apron, gift card, etc ... and we bloggers loved it so much King's Hawaiian decided they wanted to share the aloha with you guys!

So ... we will be giving away a similar box (the contents won't be exactly the same but I'm sure they will be just as generous!) to one of my readers!

Here's how to enter:
1. Leave your name and email contact in the comments below and answer the following: Have you had King's Hawaiian Bakery products before, and if so, which one is your favorite?
And then get extra entries by doing the following:
2. Share this giveaway on Facebook, and make sure you tag my page @Gourmet Pigs so I know you actually did it!
3. Tweet "Win a box of @KingsHawaiian goodies from @gourmetpigs! #KHspreadsAloha" 

You have until midnight of Tuesday, October 23rd. Good luck!

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Tour and Many Tastes of King's Hawaiian Bakery

King's Hawaiian Bakery was started by Robert Taira, the father of the current president, Mark, first as a stand alone bakery in Hawaii in Hilo in 1956. The family then moved to Honolulu and opened up the bakery on King Street. All the family worked at the bakery and tourists were buying them as souvenirs. The round bread was the number 1 fundraising item on the island. Mark's grandma then had the great idea of starting a mail order service and demand for King's Hawaiian bread kept growing into what it is now - a big factory in Torrance, California where they still produce bread with Robert's original recipe.

I was invited to tour the factory recently, and of course I'm not going to say no to such an opportunity!
Part of this tour involved some confidential information like the machines they use etc so not many pictures, sorry! But I was surprised at what a big operation this really was, from machines that cut and knead the dough to packaging it. The end of the line was a favorite, of course, with the smell of butter and fresh baked bread wafting in the air.

Of course, the best part was probably trying the rolls fresh off the line (we got the wheat rolls), just with butter! Can't beat this.
After the tour, we went out to their back lot for lunch! They've called in some of LA's best food trucks that serves or uses King's Hawaiian products, along with a whole spread of their own desserts. Mark's daughter Courtney experiments with different recipe using the bread in the factory kitchen including things like white chocolate chip bread pudding and garlic cheese bread. Some of the desserts we had are served at their restaurant, and also their newer fast casual restaurant, The Local Place. The Tres Leches cake and the bread pudding was my favorite.

I immediately went for Lobsta Truck's lobster roll, which is served on toasted King's Hawaiian sweet hot dog bun! I've always loved their lobster roll!
The Kogi Truck does their sliders using King's Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls. Both their short rib and tofu sliders were crowd favorites.
Buttermilk Truck's French Toast sticks also uses King's Hawaiian bread.
Ludo Truck serves their fried chicken with the dinner roll.
When we left, they told us they had a parting gift for us. I was expecting a bag, maybe one or two packages of their bread. But noooo. This is the Aloha spirit after all! Our parting gift was a huge box of goodies, so big that I needed help carrying it to the car! Enough bread to last me months, coffee, cookies, apron, gift card, etc ... Jealous? I bet. Want one? They're actually giving away a box to one of my readers too! The contents won't be exactly the same but you can be sure they will be as generous. Check back tomorrow for a new post for the giveaway! :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

GIVEAWAY: Tickets and Parking to Oktoberfest at the Fairplex Pomona

October can only mean .. Oktoberfests! Beer! German sausages! There are quite a few Oktoberfests around Los Angeles, including one at the Fairplex in Pomona which takes place on Fridays to Sundays this month.

At the Fairplex Oktoberfest, there will be a German food buffet with Bratwursts (of course), Weisswurst (sweet sausage), Schweinehaxe (hock ham), Schweinebraten, and Apfelstrudel. There's an "Oom-Pah" band, games, and of course tons of German beers.

They'e offered to give away two admission tickets and a free parking pass to one of my readers (food and drink not included, sorry). 
To enter to win, just leave your name and email contact in the comments below!

You can also get extra entries by tweeting: "Enter to win tickets and parking to the Fairplex Oktoberfest via @gourmetpigs!"

The giveaway will end at midnight on Wednesday, October 17 so that you will have two weekends to use your tickets!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Season Warrants New Visit to Sadie (Hollywood)

A new season means new menu and new cocktails at Sadie. Summer was the season for strawberries and cocktails like the Pink Rose (lillet rose, lemon juice, strawberry syrup, GH mumm cordon rouge - $13)


Gio Martinez' summer menu featured cocktails like the Sandy Swizzle (pineapple and sage infused chivas regal, agave, lemon juice, whipped coconut cream, Smith and Cross float, $12)
The first sip of the coconut cream on top was a weird, but as you keep drinking the flavor melds together well with the rest of the cocktail. The coconut cream brings me back to my holidays back home in Indonesia. This was my favorite and the most unique of the summer cocktails!

The chef has changed since I was here, but when I visited I had some great fried chicken. The Sadie Fried Chicken came with grilled red lady peaches, crispy confit potatoes and Bulleit rye jus for $22

There was also this gorgeous Charred Bone Marrow with peppadew peppers, leek ash, citrus chive vinaigrette, and of course, toasted bread
When there's bone marrow at a bar ... you know what might happen, bone luge!
e*starLA is a pro at this!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Vienna: An Austrian Gelato Cafe in Beverly Hills

My Vienna invokes an Austrian gelato cafe in the middle of Beverly Hills. Austrian former pro-tennis player Spin Mylnarik learnt the ropes of gelato making from a master in Austria for his wife, who loved the gelato she had in Europe.

Don't you also want a hot pro-athlete to learn how to make gelato and open up a cafe for you?

Here, you won't sit down with your gelato in paper cups. The gelato is properly served in tin cups with a glass of water. All paper cups are strictly for to-go orders only - that is, you'd have to leave the premises with it. He aspires to the cafes in Europe where people spend time sitting down and enjoying their gelato.

The gelato itself is excellent. The Nocchilone (chocolate hazelnut) is a bestseller here, and the European Cookies flavor is the staff favorite. I also like the fruit sorbets, especially the cantaloupe. In fact, I thought the gelato was so good that I had to get a whole styrofoam container to go (you can get 4 flavors to go for $14).

The coffee and teas served here are strictly Austrian.

Sacher Torte and Austrian pastries are made in-house, and gelato cakes are available with special order.

During lunch you can get salad, sandwich, and a small gelato for $10.95. There's a lot of metered parking in the back (which is free after 6pm).

My Vienna Gelato and Coffee
9461 S Santa Monica Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 246-0359

Monday, October 8, 2012

Graffiti Coffeehouse (Mid-City, Los Angeles)

The amount of time one spends at a coffee shop varies. There's the grab and go for a quick caffeine fix, there's the meeting or coffee date, and then there's the working afternoons or nights. There are three things I look for in a coffee shop to work in: good coffee, free wi-fi (and plugs), free and easy parking, and good pastries. Graffiti on La Brea has all these.

I was worried about parking when I was heading there at first, but it turns out Graffiti has its own parking lot. It's small, but cars come and go all the time, so you're likely to get a free parking spot and can stay for hours.

The inside of Graffiti is spacious and bright with its white walls, floors, and tables. It's a large, almost art gallery-like space with plenty of seatings for everyone.
Graffiti doesn't roast their own coffee or bake their own pastries, instead it curates from LA's well known names. OK, I should've tried the drip coffee or espresso, but it was so hot that day I had to go for a cold one. The signature iced mocha is made with Intelligentsia coffee and Bouchon chocolate ganache. It's not cheap (nor are the pastries) at around $5.50, but with the free parking it was well worth the 2-3 hours I spent getting my work done there.
The pastries here come from Bouchon Bakery and Cake Monkey. 

With a chocolate croissant from Bouchon, a cup of coffee, free wi-fi and parking, and plenty of plugs, I could (and did) stay here for hours!
Soon, they will have ice cream from Fonuts (affogatos!) as well along with soup and sandwiches from other LA's favorite joints.

Graffiti Coffeehouse
180 South La Brea Avenue
 Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 936-9726

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Eating Through K-Town [buzz Korea]

So buzz Korea is a website launched by the Korea Tourism Organization dedicated to promote all things Korea, including through various contests (for example, you can vote for your favorite Touch Korea Tour video and win Samsung products). Now, they're also holding a contest for a blogpost or video where you show your passion for Korea and can win a trip to Seoul! That's where I come in! My passion is of course, all about Korean food! I love Korean food. I mean, I even got my mom to start a Korean restaurant in Indonesia! Even the Korean dramas I watch tend to all be about food.

Los Angeles Koreatown is a great place to get a huge diversity of Korean food, and I've tried plenty there (but of course, I still want the real thing in Seoul!)
It's not just all about Korean BBQ and bibimbaps (although we all love those).

In LA's Ktown you can find things like black goat stew at Mirak, the gaminess masked with the fragrance of perilla leaves.

Like most students, my first exposures to Korean food was the 24-hour joints like Nak Won, filling the stomachs of hungry students and drunk party-goers alike with jap chae, kimchi bokkumbap, and more.
Then there's my favorite comfort food, soon tofu. First there was the 24-hour BCD Tofu but then I learned about the beauties of both Beverly Soon Tofu and So Kong Dong.
And then with food blogging, my world expanded!
There's the gam ja tang (pork neck stew) from Ham Ji Park, one of my first introductions to Korean stews and I fell in love with it, along with their spicy squid noodles.
Ondal 2's kkot geh tang (spicy crab soup) is another unique offering in K-town ..
... although I usually prefer their spicy rib stew! These stews ($45) are enough to feed three people, and they also make kimchi fried rice with the remaining broth!
One time I even tried the poisonous blowfish at Dae Bok, where you can order it either as steamed fish with bean sprouts or as a stew (mehwoontang)
A new 24-hour favorite is Myung Dong Kyoja, where the dumplings (manduguk) are perfect after a late night of drinking. 
Call ahead for a special order of clay baked duck at Da Rae Oak. This aromatic and tender duck is stuffed with rice, various nuts, dates, etc.
This is just a sampling of what's available in Korea town, and there are so much more from Han Bat Sullungtang to intestine stew at Dwit Gol Mok. Much more to explore for all of us, and one day I'll try even more of the real thing in Korea!

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