Saturday, November 30, 2013

Top 12 Bakeries and Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants in LA has asked me to curate even more "collections" of my favorite places in LA, and I decided to create 4 more lists! Here are two of them:

I have a sweet tooth so I asked if I can create one with bakeries! Here are my 12 favorite bakeries in the Los Angeles area, from where to get cakes to baguettes to cream puffs.

I'm not a vegetarian but I do like to eat healthy sometimes, especially after a week of indulgent meals. Here are my top 12 vegetarian-friendly restaurants - some of which are vegetarian or vegan, some of which are not but simply serve amazing vegetarian dishes.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgivukkah Dog and Pumpkin Cocktail at Dog Haus

In celebration of the rare holiday overlap that is dubbed Thanksgivukkah, Dog Haus is serving a Thanksgivukkah Dog at all three of their locations until Sunday, December 1st.


The $6.99 dog is made with a "Thanksgiving Sausage" that contains as many ingredients as a Thanksgiving meal: with turkey, whiskey-soaked cranberries, brown-sugared sweet potatoes, thyme, sage and rosemary. All that was just in the sausage.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bibigo Celebrates Hwangap Tradition With Prix-Fixe Deal

Hwangap (or hwangab) is a 60th birthday celebration in Korea. Why 60? Because it apparently signifies accomplishing a "big circle" and coincides with the lunar calendar's 60 year cycle. In Korea, the 60th birthday celebration is usually thrown by the children of the one turning 60. Well, Bibigo's parent company, CJ Foods, just turned 60 so the "child", Bibigo, is throwing the celebration! I thought that was kind of cute.

Bibigo is celebrating by offering a three course prix fixe menu (the first two courses include two dishes each, though) for $45 per two people, which also includes a soju tasting. The menu will be available until Saturday, November 30th.

The first course includes two spicy pork steamed buns and a plate of brussels sprouts.
The steamed buns contain spicy pork, pickled radish and cucumber, lettuce, hoisin teriyaki on Chinese bao.

With this item I usually worry about the buns themselves being too dense or dry but the ones here were nice and fluffy.
The brussels sprouts are served with zucchini, cloves of garlic, zucchini, chili pepper and dried prunes.

Of course, the main course has to have Hot stone bibimbap (your choice of protein and type of rice)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rye-IPA Pot Pie and Infused Ice Spheres at Muddy Leek (Culver City, CA)

I was recently invited to dinner at Muddy Leek in Culver City, just a little ways away from the Helms Bakery area. 

The menu sounds promising and interesting (of course, there are a few dishes with leek in them). Many people would order and enjoy the Chicken fried bacon with tomato jam ($9), though I personally found it to be too much - too rich, especially when shared only between two people.
Chicken fried bacon

Instead, I liked the Cauliflower croquettes with house cauliflower kimchi ($8)
Cauliflower croquette
The "kimchi" isn't spicy or as pungent as your regular Korean kimchi, but a light pickled flavor.

If you haven't gone to Muddy Leek recently, you should know that they have a new bartender on the stick, who hails from Chicago, Sara Kay Godot. She's doing some exciting things including making her own infused ice spheres. I loved the H. S. Thompson ($12), made with spiced rum, Greenbar orange liqueur, lime, ginger, cardamom, and star anise.

I liked my entrees better than the appetizers, starting with the Chicken pot pie baked in rye-IPA crust with braising greens and quince puree ($20)
Pot Pie
The filling was quite flavorful and I really liked the texture of the crust.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Turkey Ice Cream? Thanksgiving Flavors from Portland's Salt and Straw,Now at Joan's on Third

Portland's Salt & Straw small batch ice creams aren't sold anywhere else outside of Portland - other than our very own Joan's On Third, that is! Joan had long been searching for the right ice cream to serve at Joan's On Third, and when they tried Salt & Straw they knew that was the one. They somehow managed to convince cousins Kim and Tyler Malek to partner up. 

Now, not only can you try this farm-to-cone goodness in town, you can also try their fun Thanksgiving flavors. Co-owner Tyler Malek has really gone all the way this year, creating a whole "Thanksgiving dinner" with ice cream.

The first, is the sweet potato and candied pecan ice cream with gooey marshmallow fluff! If you like sweet potato you will love this.

There's "apple cranberry stuffing." This was a celery ice cream with apple cranberry bread pudding.
The celery ice cream is lightly sweet, a perfect vehicle for the bread pudding inside. This was paired with Lanson Brut Champagne.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Backstage Tour and Turkey Prep for Falstaff at the LA Opera

Being a blogger has some perks, like being invited to cool experiences I normally wouldn't get. Recently I had a backstage tour of the LA Opera to talk about the food preparation for their current performance, Falstaff. Falstaff is a comedic opera by Giuseppe Verdi and is an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and some scenes from Henry IV. Gluttony is one of the major themes, hence the food preparation!

Lots of cool props from previous operas
We first made our way to the stage. On the stage, that is! It's quite something to be standing on the stage looking at all those seats.
We chatted with the director, Lee Blakeley, about the opera and the various food items he decided to include in the production (although his request for the Yorkshire Parkin cake got replace with a Trader Joe's gingerbread cake, they look close enough from the audience seats). While it's an Italian opera, since it's based on a Shakespeare play he decided to keep everything true to the Shakespeare era. The two towers that appear on stage are a nod to the Globe Theatre.

Seeing everything up close was a pretty neat experience.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Bazaar's 5 Year Anniversary Special Menu (SLS Hotel, Beverly Hills)

You may have read that The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel is celebrating their 5 year anniversary with a special $55 tasting menu until this Friday.

Well, I couldn't find what this menu actually entails online, but I went there for dinner last night and thought I should share the menu with you!
So, here it is. The $55 menu starts with pan con queso and pan con jamon, and three starters (chef's selection).
Japanese tacos (unagi in daikon) and jicama-wrapped guacamole
Then, you get to choose three dishes from the options below (click for larger view):

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Revamped Menu and Patio at Sadie Kitchen and Lounge

Sadie Kitchen and Lounge has gone through many chef changes since its opening, and most recently they also revamped their patio dining area to be more lounge-like, although dining tables for larger parties still remain. The lights adorning the walls and trees make this a romantic dining spot at night.

The current chef is Jonathan Moulton, who most recently was at Early Bird in Orange County. He brings many Southern comfort food to Sadie, like these decadent buttermilk biscuits with "red eye butter" ($3)
What is red eye butter, you ask? It has what you love most in the mornings: coffee and bacon!

While many chefs have come and go, mixologist Giovanni Martinez has always remained. Much of the drinks menu remains the same, but there are also many new and seasonal drinks - and they're all excellent. I loved the Negroni Sour (gin, vermouth, campari, nettle cordial, lemon)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cozy Comfort at Tart Restaurant

Tart Restaurant on Fairfax had been around do a while but I've always looked over it. Upon walking in for the first time I was pleasantly surprised at how cute the place is.
Both the indoor and outdoor dining areas are charming
IMG_9574Owl lampshades!

Biscuits and butter to start
From the appetizer (they're rather big appetizers) we tried the Shrimp 'n grits (beer braised white shrimp with andouille sausage, okra, cheddar grits, topped with sunny side up egg - $12)
They flavor is pretty different than the usual shrimp and grits, but mmm... cheddar grits and runny egg!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Winemakers Roundtable at Temecula Valley's 4th Annual CRUSH

I had been to Temecula once before this year, but I didn't explore the wineries much and did not realize that the Temecula Valley Wine Country does have good wines. This year I had the opportunity to go on a media trip (thanks to Temecula CVB and the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Associationand visited a lot of wineries, in addition to attending the 4th annual CRUSH gala.

View of Temecula Valley from Callaway Winery
This past September marked Temecula Valley's 4th annual wine event, CRUSH, and it started with a Winemakers Roundtable discussion and wine tasting before the main gala.The roundtable took place in the beautiful barrel room of Callaway Winery.
There were 4 winemakers/winery owners, a wine writer, and the owner of a vineyard management company on the panel. During the panel discussion they talked about their personal history and the growth of Temecula Valley. A lot of people think that Temecula Valley cannot grow good wines because it's so hot, but according to these guys the heat during the day is just fine. Temecula still gets chilly at night and the temperature difference between daytime and nighttime is large enough to allow growing good wines. (Still, they admit that the recent humid monsoonal nights have been problematic).

OK, more on the panel later. Wines first. During the discussion we tasted four wines, one from each of the wineries sitting on the discussion panel.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Singaporean Food Hits Downtown with Bugis Street Brasserie at Millennium Biltmore Hotel

Despite LA's diversity, Singaporean food is still few and far between, but the new Bugis Street Brasserie at The Millennium Biltmore Hotel is filling in a bit of the gap.

The space that was Sai Sai Noodle Bar recently turned into Bugis Street Brasserie following its success at the Biltmore in London. Serving "Singaporean Chinese" cuisine and named after a famous street in Singapore, Bugis Street is still mainly Chinese but they do serve the two famous Singaporean dishes: laksa and Hainanese chicken rice.

Start with a tempura fried salt and pepper squid with chili and green onions ($9)
A nice appetizer since it's light and not too greasy. 

What you should order here is the laksa. The $13 bowl is pretty large and can be shared with two people. This spicy coconut broth is filled with vermicelli, shrimp, tofu, egg, chicken, fish cakes, and thai basil.
I was quite happy with the flavor of the laksa. It's spicy and flavorful, and the taste pretty close to what I can get in Singapore! The only thing missing is the standard add-on of cockles and the special chili sauce Katong serves. Oh, and there's usually no chicken.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cocktails and Bitters at Coco Laurent

Rivera was one of the propellers of craft cocktails in restaurants, and now one of its bartender alum, Krishna Vutla, is striking out on his own. 
Krishna headed the bar and created the current cocktail menu at Coco Laurent in downtown LA, although he unfortunately left earlier this week. His cocktails are staying on the menu, thought, and there are quite a few exciting ones.

My favorite is the Insane Bolt, which helped Krishna win an Angostura cocktail competition. There are usually only a couple dashes of angostura bitters in cocktails but this one has 3/4 oz! It's combined with Smith and Cross rum, orgeat, and maraschino liqueur.
Sounds crazy? It was actually really good, both sweet and dry with a really nice balance. You just have to try it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sushi Omakase and More at Hamasaku

Full disclaimer: I came here on a hosted media lunch, but I had also come back twice after that on my own dime (granted one of them was using the 30% off from the awesome Blackboard Eats). Hamasaku in West LA has actually been open for many years and is a Zagat favorite, but for some reason I hadn't really heard much about it and had not been until I was invited in. I've missed out! This place was great.

The omakase listed on the menu ($75) actually includes a lot of cooked items, so here's a tip: Go on any other day but Monday and sit at the sushi bar, preferably in front of the sushi chef, Yoya, who used to work at Sashi in Manhattan Beach.

My sushi lunch omakase started with some Uni with fried Yuba (tofu skin)

Uni Yuba
Big uni pieces and so fresh, but the best part is the contrast with the crunchy yuba. What a wonderful start to my lunch!

Next, a sashimi plate of: Blue fin tuna, aji snapper, young king mackerel, octopus. Served with kabosu (a sort of citrus) paste

Agedashi tofu. I always love the delicately fried agedashi tofu and the broth

 Big eye tuna from Hawaii
This tuna is very rich and fatty, almost like a chu-toro. Loved it. For the sushi they use haiga-mai (half-milled) rice. It's half way between brown and white rice so it has more nutrients than white rice but tastes just like white rice.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Lesson in Rum And Cocktails With Shellback Rum

A Shellbacker is someone who's crossed the equator. Shellback is also the name of a rum made in Barbados, claimed to be the birth place of rum according to the oldest document found thus far documenting rum being made (from 1651). They're one of the affordable rums (about $15 a bottle) and come in both silver and spiced rum. 
They had sent me a box containing both of them and while the rum is affordable, they sure sent them in a fancy box with my name engraved on it!

The silver rum was pretty smooth and they both make good mixing rums. I didn't know what to make with them though (other than the classic rum cocktails that I usually drink), so when I was invited to a tasting and mixology workshop with Tony Abou-Ganim, the Modern Mixologist, I figured it's a great chance to get some creative recipes. 
Before making cocktails, we had to learn how to properly taste rum. Tony told us to put our nose in the glass but breathe through the mouth. Then we rinse the mouth with the rum itself. We get a saliva drip in the back of the mouth which is a good indication of acidity. As I said when I tasted it at home, the rum is pretty smooth.

Barbados style rum is unique in Caribbean because it is a blend of pot stilled and column still. The silver rum tasted of burnt sugar, honey, banana, vanilla, and caramel.
The spiced rum had seven natural spices added: Vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, cassia, ginger. It has the aroma of caramel butterscotch and is rich with a luscious mouthfeel. It's hot as it runs down your throat. There's a bit of acidity and a lingering finish but it's a clean finish.

Now, on to cocktails! He gave us three recipes.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Touring Artisanal Shops in Old Town Temecula

During a recent press trip to Temecula Valley Wine Country (thanks to Temecula CVB and the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association), we also got a little tour of Old Town Temecula's artisanal shops from an olive oil store, a lavender store, a sweets shop, and a spice and tea shop.

Our first stop was Temecula Olive Oil Company. The building used to be a saloon and brothel but before the olive oil tasting we headed upstairs for breakfast first, catered by E. A. T ("Extraordinary Artisan Table"), located 5-10 minutes outside of Old Town.

IMG_9198EAT sources ingredients from local producers and even make their own almond milk for morning coffee. We had tomatoes that were picked just the day before.


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