Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mini Food Cart Crawl: Nong's Khao Man Gai and The People's Pig (Portland, OR)

On my second trip to Portland, a food cart visit was a must, and why not try what is perhaps the most famous of them all: Hainanese chicken and rice at Nong's Khao Man Gai ($6.75)

The order I shared with e*starLA was breast meat. It was tender, but not incredibly special. Instead, the garlicky sauce is really what it's all about! Douse the meat and rice with plenty of it (extra sauce goes for $1).
I don't normally like chicken breast that much, though, and I should've been wiser and ordered like Eat Recklessly did. She asked for dark meat and said yes to the crispy skin! Her plate was 10x better than mine was. I am definitely asking for dark meat and getting the skin next time around.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Roof on Wilshire: New Year's Day Brunch Is Never a Good Deal

One of my pet peeves is when I sit down at a bar for the first time and the bartender asks what they can get for me without giving me the menu. "Uh, the menu, please" is typically my response. This one takes it a bit further. As he handed me the menu, he says that they have specialty cocktails but they can make me whatever I wanted, like Jack n Coke ... Right. Either he thinks I'm a Jack kind of girl or that's all he knows how to make, but either way it did not seem promising.

I had chosen The Roof on Wilshire for New Year's Day brunch partly because I remembered reading good things about their hot cocktail menu. Granted, Caroline's review was from winter the year before, but I was hoping maybe they'd kept at least some of them - or the quality - for a year. I didn't see any hot drinks listed, though, so I asked the bartender. Apparently the page with the hot drinks list was missing from the menu I had, so he said he'd get me one. Ten minutes later he asked what I wanted to order. "Um, the hot drinks list?"
"Oh, yeah!"

This happened two more times. Luckily I had plenty of time waiting for my party of ten friends who are always late.

Finally, I got the "hot drinks list" which only consisted of a hot toddy and some kahlua whipped cream concoction. That was what I waited 20 minutes to read? Huh. I finally settled on a jalapeno-mezcal cocktail. Not bad, quite spicy.

Finally my table is ready and my friends arrived. The New Year's brunch deal here was a "3-course" meal for around $25 if I remember correctly.
The first course listed some bread and pastry selection, but as I tried placing an order for a croissant, they said they're just bringing a "bread basket" to the table. The "basket" turned out to be this plate. Not bad, but ... the same plate that they brought for the 10 of us they brought to tables of 4. There's also only one croissant and one bacon cheddar biscuit. Which meant I didn't get any. I asked them for more croissant about half a dozen times, which were always answered with "I'll bring them right out" but never appeared.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Suzanne Goin's SAG Awards Menu + Slow-Roasted Salmon with Green Rice Recipe

UntitledSuzanne Goin is one of the most established chefs in Los Angeles with the long-standing Lucques and AOC and the newer Tavern and The Hungry Cat, so it should come as no surprise that Lucques Catering was chosen to cater the Screen Actors Guild Awards for the 4th year in a row.

The 19th SAG Awards will take place on Sunday, January 27 at the Shrine Exposition Center. Goin will prepare three dishes on the same plate composed of: Roasted beets and blood oranges with feta and black olives, Slow-roasted salmon with green rice, labneh, capers and nasturtiums, and Beef tenderloin with fingerlings, arugula, and horseradish cream.

The vegan option has the feta removed from the beet salad and the other two dishes replaced by Cauliflower couscous with pomegranate salsa and Farro with kale, young broccoli, currants and pine nuts.

The food will be served with Champagne Taittinger and wines from Gallo.

The slow-roasted salmon was my favorite of all the dishes, with incredible texture and that amazing green rice, so I am sharing her recipe here!

Slow Roasted Salmon with Green Rice, Labneh, Capers and Nasturtium
Roasted Salmon

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sneak Preview: Loteria Grill's DineLA Menu

DineLA Restaurant Week is upon us once again, and Loteria Grill had invited the media to preview their DineLA menu so that we can tell you what's in store and what to order.

Order this one!
I went to their Studio City location. There are still the cards adorning the top of the walls, but thanks to the distinct crowd this location is not as loud as the Hollywood one and seemed brighter.

The chef/owner Jimmy Shaw was there to explain to us his inspirations behind the menu while we sip tequila infused with kiwi and a hint of Chili.

 There are three options for each of the three courses. Unfortunately, I can't show you all of the three appetizers since our whole table went with the Tostadita de Salpican do Jaiba.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Taste Through Ayara Thai Cuisine

Much like Chinese food, even though Thai food is popular and prevalent in the US, most people don't venture out of the usual order of tom yum, pad thai, etc (though LA residents are pretty good about venturing out). Granted, it's hard to do when faced with a menu of foreign words. That's why for me, having a tasting menu at a recent media dinner at Ayara Thai Cuisine was a good way to explore.

The first bite was something I haven't had before. It's called Miang Kham. The name literally means "one bite" and it's described as "6 flavors" wrapped in young Chinese broccoli leaves and eaten whole.

This is one of the royal dishes of Thailand and is rare to find here in the US. It's usually served on betel nut leaves and composed of shallots, onions, lime, peanut, chili, tamarind sauce. It's at once sweet, spicy, and bitter.
A typical Bangkok street food is Moo Ping (marinated pork skewers) & Sticky Rice. We had them with both the Tigers Cry sauce and roasted chili sauce.
The roasted chili sauce was quite spicy and the sticky rice really helped!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pasadena PinotFest Returns Feb 9

The Pasadena PinotFest Grand Tasting returns on Saturday, February 9 to the Altadena Country Club (preceded  by a kickoff tasting and kickoff dinner at Noir the weeks before). The event runs from 1-4:30PM with over 200 pinot noir wines, food, and live jazz. Tickets are $89 for general admission and $119 for VIP tasting (starts at 11AM), with portions of the proceeds benefiting Hathaway Sycamores Child & Family Services.

Last year's tasting featured a lot of wineries from nearby Santa Barbara County like Hitching Post, Brewer-Clifton, La Fenetre Winery and many more.

The Altadena Country Club is a beautiful space for the wine tasting, with wonderful views, although the tasting room can get pretty crowded as the event goes on.
Joshua Klapper from La Fenetre Winery
I found a couple of new wines (new to me) that I enjoyed, including Sojourn from Sonoma Coast, who provided a great vertical tasting. There will be quite a few vertical tastings at the grand tasting, which is really the best way to taste what a winery has to offer.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Doma (Beverly Hills)

The owner of Dan Tana has branched out of the old school Italian with Doma, a modern Mediterranean Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills. It's a casual but elegant space with a focus on seafood. The chef, Dustin Trani, grew up working in his family seafood restaurant, J. Trani's in San Pedro. He has also trained in Europe and worked in Thailand, and he brings these influences into his menu.

I got to the restaurant too early for my media dinner, so I sat at the bar and chatted with the bartender. The cocktail menu during the opening was simple, but he said that they will soon be expanding the menu to include more complex drinks including a barrel aged Negroski (Cynar, Campari, basil infused vodka).
He let me take a peek at the upcoming menu, which was definitely a lot more interesting than the opening menu. I ordered the Mexican Grill which was mezcal, Chartreuse, and peppers. Spicy and smoky!

After everyone else arrived, we sat down for an extensive tasting that started with some fresh Japanese hamachi sashimi, ginger soy, ponzu caviar, carrot, cucumber, scallion, sesame tuile ($18, the portion shown is for a tasting, probably not the full portion)
The ponzu "caviar" is a fun touch here

I won't show you everything I ate that night, but here are some of the many many highlights:

Local crispy calamari and rock shrimp, sweet and spicy Thai aioli, balsamic reduction, micro herb, $16)
This is an example of how Dustin's training in Thailand his dishes. The spicy aioli is a nice and unique departure from the usual tomato based sauce.

Baked eggplant and ricotta involtini (grilled eggplant, filled with ricotta and basil, baked over tomato sauce, $12)
A lighter counterpart of the eggplant parmigiana, this is a simple and comforting dish.

Monday, January 7, 2013

8 Flavors of Pork Belly at Palsaik BBQ in Koreatown (Los Angeles, CA)

I was recently involved with a project to review a few Korean restaurants in Los Angeles, and one of my assignment was Palsaik Samgyupsal Korean BBQ. I was pretty excited since I had never been to this restaurant which boasts eight flavors of pork belly. The set menu with the 8 pork belly and stew ("Palsaik Set Menu") was $49.95. I asked around as to how many people the set would feed and got answers ranging from "two, but when you get to the rice you won't be able to taste anything" to four, so I settled at three, which seems to have been the perfect number.

Compared to other Korean BBQ places, Palsaik is decidedly more modern looking and cleaner (though the service wasn't any better)
The presentation was also quite impressive. A long wooden board held eight plates of the pork and underneath each one the flavor was printed: Wine, Original, Ginseng, Garlic, Herb, Curry, Miso Paste, and Red Pepper Paste.

On the wall they also display the "health benefits" of each flavor, which I thought was pretty funny ... I mean, we're eating eight slices of fatty pork belly here! I don't think the "benefits" of the red wine marinade would really cancel out the effects on your blood vessels.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Playing with DRY Soda Cocktails at Sadie

DRY Soda is a Seattle based company that produces colorless sodas with less sugar and great flavors like lavender, rhubarb, blood orange, and the like. While originally they were made to be drank straight from the bottle, they soon realized that bartenders like to use them as mixers, and they jumped on the opportunity.

The DRY Soda Co. owner then traveled to Los Angeles and held a cocktail pairing dinner at Sadie in Hollywood, where the main barman Giovanni Martinez created four cocktails made with DRY Soda.

Our welcome drink was a refreshing, lower alcohol cocktail, Rue and Barb made with strawberry, lillet rose, lemon, DRY rhubarb soda

The drink was paired with watermelon, grilled romaine, blood orange vinaigrette

Our second drink was the aromatic Lavande, made with scotch, honey, lemon, Lavender DRY soda, light absinthe spray. This was my second favorite cocktail of the night. The lavender soda works well and did not become overpowered with the strong scotch and absinthe components.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Tripel Tasting and Brewing Workshop at Wurstkuche Venice (LA Beer Week)

Tripel is perhaps my favorite style of ales, so when I had my choice of beer making workshops at the Wurstkuche in Venice during LA Beer Week, the choice was easy. They don't regularly do this but they had set up their small outdoor area in the back for the events.

The workshop also consisted of tasting a few Tripels (because why would you make beer while sober, right??)

We started off with the Westmalle Tripel, which was also the recipe we based one of our own brew of.
The Westmalle originally started in the 30s, and the monks took it over in the 50s. Westmalle is a classic, the original Tripel, so to speak. The number "dubbel" or "triple" refers to the number of fermentations the ales go through.

So, back to the homebrewing course. The first step is to steep the barley.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cognac Double Decker Bus Tour (Portland Cocktail Week)

Happy New Year everyone! 'Tis time for me to try and catch up on so many old posts, including ones from Portland Cocktail Week.

My favorite part of Portland Cocktail Week was the Cognac double decker bus tour, where a bright red double decker picked us up at the hotel and took us to three bars to sip cognac cocktails and had some great bites to eat.

Our first stop was Imperial, one of Chef Vitaly Paley's new restaurant with Brandon Wise as the bar manager.
We had Vieux Carre on tap and tasted an amazing hickory infused vermouth which really showed off the bar's strength.

platters of charcuterie to accmpany our Vieux Carre
Our next stop is Central, on Southwest Ankeny Street

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