Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy Hour at Melrose Umbrella Co Spans the Classic Cocktail Families

Who does't love happy hour? Cheap drinks, sometimes cheap food. But most of the time happy hour menu consists of only a handful of cocktails, which means limited options. Not so much at Melrose Umbrella Co.

Melrose Umbrella Co
I've heard a lot of Melrose Umbrella Co before, for having good cocktails, so I was excited to come in for happy hour. The decor is fun, and the name of the bar is actually related to an old photo of the great great great grandfather of one of the three bartenders who started Melrose Umbrella Co. You'll see vintage umbrellas along with vintage photos of the family around the bar.

OK, back to happy hour. At first glance the happy hour menu looks small, with a punch that serves 4 and 4 sections of cocktails. But the last section actually covers the four classic cocktail families with your choice of garnish and base spirit. Virtually unlimited choices!

First off, they served us a mini cup of the white sangria to start off the night (and "amuse booze"). This is the same sangria that comes as a 4-person punch and it is a crowd pleaser.
Melrose Umbrella Co
Let's start off with some of the happy our choices. There's the Nip Julep made with bourbon, mint, and peach, and only $5! The last section lets you choose between the four cocktail families: smash, fix, daisy, or maid. The "Fix" is your choice of base spirit with citrus, sugar, and your choice of garnish (I did bourbon and grapes). The Smash would be like a mojito with any spirit, and the Maid is made with cucumber, mint, and and citrus. Each is $9.
Melrose Umbrella Co

Friday, December 26, 2014

Most Memorable Meals in 2014

It's almost the end of 2014 and it's been a good year! There had been many great meals, and these are just some of the most memorable bites I had.

Lobster Roll at Bite Into Maine (Portland, ME)
I went up to Maine a few times this year, trying out lobster rolls all over the place. My favorite is still the one from Bite Into Maine!

Pork Knee at Krčma Šatlava in Cesky Krumlov (Czech Republic)
First off, you're dining at a medieval tavern inside a cave in Cesky Krumlov, a small town in Czech Republic. Add to that: a whole kilogram of roasted pork knee for less than $10, perfectly done.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Syrian Cuisine at Kareem's (Boston, MA)

When Wandering Chopsticks was visiting me in Boston, she heard about this Syrian restaurant that was only open on weekends that you need to have reservations to go to. The only time we could go was right after a full day of eating lobsters in Maine, so I wasn't really up for a full dinner but she really wanted to go, and I had just read about this Syrian dessert called kanafeh (or kanafa, kunafe, however you want to spell it) in a novel, The Golem and The Jinni.

The restaurant is tiny, and located in a residential neighborhood in Watertown. Other than the weekend-only dinners, it's only open for cooking classes. 

As with all Middle Eastern meals, we started with a hummus. We tried the Royal Hummus (with beets, $9)

Homemade pita

Monday, December 22, 2014

Modern Lebanese Dining at Bowery Bungalow

by: guest blogger @iam_robot

You’ve heard it time and time again that Los Angeles is a melting pot of different cultures, where we have various cultures and ethnic groups intermingling in one big community. And that’s what’s great about eating in LA; we get to eat the kind of food other people grow up with or our plate will comprise of newfound eclectic mix of culture from every corner of the world. Just for good measure, look at the dining options in Silverlake. Whether you want the most authentic Chaat from Samosa House, Taiwanese Beef Roll from Pine and Crane, or excellent Northern Thai Curry Khao Soi from Night Market – seriously whatever you want, it’s here in this trendy community and chances are, it’s affordable.
Today, I wanted to share one of the most exciting additions in Silverlake – not too far from the Sunset Junction came George Abou-Daoud’s latest enterprise called as Bowery Bungalow. Unlike his other restaurants (Bowery, Rosewood Tavern, or Mercantile), Bowery Bungalow features cuisines close to Abou-Daoud’s Lebanese upbringing rather than the typical gastropub fares. Yes, he found much success in the gastropub movement since 2005 but being born to a Lebanese mother and Egyptian father, Abou-Daoud felt a natural inclination to showcase his take on modern Lebanese cuisine as middle-eastern inspired cuisines are few and far between in this neighborhood. He thinks herbs we hardly know of (or could pronounce) like marjoram, sorrell, sumac, jute mallow, and purslane could be the next big hit in Los Angeles dining scene. 10_2014_BOWERY_BUNGALOW-25
As far as menu, Bowery Bungalow is a cut above the usual. Focusing on Middle-Eastern cuisines, the place is swank but the price is right. I thought vegetables dishes like Za’atar Bruschetta, Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes, Chickpea Falafel and Fried Cauliflower with toasted Dukkah are some of the things I could never get anywhere else even in this multi-cultural city.

Za’atar Bruschetta

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Preview: New Year's Eve Menu at Bow and Truss

For New Year's Eve, Bow and Truss in North Hollywood is offering up a 4-course menu for $50. With 2-4 choices for each course and plenty of vegan options, there's something for everyone.

Start with a choice of pastel de choclo (corn and meat pie), patatas bravas (salt-cured potatoes, that's your vegan option) or Tuna Tartare (olives, garlic, shallots, served on house made cracker)

Bow and Truss

The next course is a soup or salad. There's s lentil salad with serrano ham and chorizo, or two vegan options:
Tomatican Soup (corn and tomato soup)
Bow and Truss

Thursday, December 18, 2014

iCoffee Opus, Getting More Out of Your Single Serving Capsules

While I love my Nespresso Pixie, I haven't had a lot of good experiences with other single serving coffee offerings before. My old office at Caltech had a Keurig machine, so I tried the K-cups there before. Was. Not. Good.

Still, the idea of a convenient coffee machine is enticing to have at work. My current office had no coffee machine whatsoever, so when iCoffee asked if I wanted to try out their single serving machine, Opus, I said why not? iCoffee promises a smooth tasting coffee using what they call a SpinBrew technology. It's said to mimic what happens in a french press - so you get a french press style coffee from the machine. Basically, though, this technology sprays water 360' so the water gets distributed around the ground coffee more evenly, so you don't over extract any particular part of the capsule (which tends to lead to bitterness).

Looking dapper on top of the office fridge
The machine comes with a sampler of capsules including Tim Hortons coffee. Yep, that popular chain from Canada.
Tim Hortons

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Where to Eat and Drink Near Heavenly Ski Resort (Lake Tahoe, CA)

The Heavenly Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe is slowly opening. While only six lifts are running now, the whole terrain is bound to open soon. Might as well plan your trip and where you'll eat and drink now!
If you're hungry after skiing or snowboarding all day, I'd head down to Base Camp Pizza Co. It's a fun and lively place with a great draft beer selection. In particular, the timing right after skiing is perfect. Usually they charge $13 for a personal size pizza but during happy hour (2-6pm) you can get a personal sized pizza AND a draft beer for $12!

I had the Base Camp Pizza (pepperoni, Italian sausage, roasted peppers and onions, portobello mushroom)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hey 19: Fun Food and Cheap Drinks in Torrance

There are tons of great Japanese restaurants in Torrance, from oden and yakitori to soba to wonderful pastries, but I wouldn't know where to drink in Torrance. Until now, when Demi Stevens of Ortega 120 opened up Hey 19, a pub with affordable drinks and comfort food - serving until late at night.

Hey 19
The drinks range from $7-8.25. You can hardly get those prices even at happy hour in LA! Yay for low rent in Torrance. I tried the South Bay Storm (Cruzan rum, Campari, lemon, pineapple, Roy Rogers - that's coke and grenadine, $7) and the Classic Cup (housemade Pimm's #1, lemonade, ginger ale, cucumber, mint, orange - also $7).
Just like the popular margaritas at Ortega 120, the drinks tends to be strong and sweet, easy to drink. It turns out Demi prefers her own drinks less sweet so she made me another one that's coming on the menu soon. She said people tend to Uber down from LA in groups to drink because of her much cheaper prices!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ticket Giveaway! Slow Wine US Tour on January 27

It's almost Christmas and I know you all like wine ... so it's time for another wine event giveaway!
This time, it's for Slow Wine. Slow Wine basically embraces the Slow Food philosophy, showcasing small winemakers who use traditional techniques and respecting the environment. The Slow Wine event showcases 50 wine producers from 15 different Italian wine regions.
Early bird ticket is $45 each (until December 25) and $60 after that. You will also get a copy of the Slow Wine book ($25 value) with the ticket. The Guide has a list of over 300 wine producers. To purchase tickets and for more information, check here.

Event details:
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
6:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Location: The Taglyan Complex
1201 Vine Street, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Parking is available, with mandatory valet, at the Taglyan Complex for a fee of $8.00.

Now, to the good stuff. Enter below to win 2 tickets to this event!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Postmates, Now Delivering Anything in Your City

Postmates promises to deliver anything and everything to your home. I initially got some credit to try it out when I was living in LA, but they weren't delivering to Pasadena so I didn't get a chance to use it there. After moving to Boston and with my first real winter impending, this was starting to sound enticing. 
You access Postmates via a phone app. You can choose from the restaurants listed and select from the drop down menu, or you can also type a custom order. They'll go to the store or restaurant and place whatever you want to order. The final bill will be calculated when the order is picked up at the store or restaurant.

Postmates' crew picks up your order on their bikes and delivers it to your door. I've received my order well within 30 minutes for the most part, like for these tortas from Tenoch which was across the Charles River.

Monday, December 8, 2014

$1 Oysters, Great Cocktails, and More at Russell House Tavern (Cambridge, MA)

One of the recommendations I received before moving to Boston was to have cocktails at Russell House Tavern. They do have great drinks, but now most of the time, I come here for the $1 oyster special, which starts at 11pm til closing.

Russell House Tavern
I previously had made a list of $1 oyster places in Los Angeles, but there are even more in Boston! Still, there's a big range on quality, and Russell House Tavern is on the top end where that's concerned.
IMG_3258A lot of places don't serve the freshest oysters when they do $1 oysters, but I've had great experiences with Russell House Tavern, and I've come 3-4 times. The first time they had Island Creek oysters. I also had Moon Shoal oysters once. Not only the types, but these are also fresh and cleaned properly (unlike the $0.50 I had at Red House which were not that fresh and weren't even really cleaned well).

The cocktails I've enjoyed included the Howling Winds ($12): Ansac cognac, yellow chartreuse, cinnamon syrup, lemon, butterfly absinthe, bitters, and Battle of Trafalgar (pictured below, $10): Pimm's no 1, elderflower liqueur, Batavia arrack, honey, lime.
Russell House Tavern
There was also Burma Nights ($13): Bombay East Gin, P.F. Dry Curacao, Orange Flower & Jasmine Waters, Lemongrass, Regans No. 6.

I've tried the other dishes which tend to be good and reasonably priced like the Steamed Moosabec mussels, Spanish chorizo, fried garbanzo, white wine, grilled Fondi bread ($10)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Warm Up to Tiki Happy Hour at The Church Key (West Hollywood)

It may be winter (as if there's a real winter in LA), but you can pretend it's warm with The Church Key's new happy hour. Yep, they're going all tiki for happy hour, taking place Monday-Friday, 5:30-7PM. There's no bad season for tiki.

Tiki cocktails are $9 each and there are plenty of fun options, complete with tiki mugs and excess garnishes. We started with The Professor (Selvarey Cacao, coconut, pineapple, orgeat) and Polynesian Pearl (Bacardi Superior, Bekrovka, lime, OJ, allspice, cinnamon, vanilla)
As is always the case with proper tiki drinks, they are strong but dangerously easy to drink.

Blue Hawaii (Malibu, blue curacao, creme de coconut, pineapple)
I haven't had one of these in forever, but we let go of our cocktail snobbery for the moment because, well, frankly it tasted delicious. Interestingly, according to Wikipedia this drink should've been the Blue Hawaiian, whereas the Blue Hawaii uses a sweet and sour mix instead of creme de coconut. Either way, I know I would prefer the one with coconut.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hall of Famer Pizza at Santarpio's (East Boston, MA)

Established in 1903 (over 111 years ago!). Inducted to the Boston Hall of Fame. Voted Best of Boston at least 9 times. Who else can claim all of those but Santarpio's Pizza? While East Boston remains relatively undeveloped, this is one of the reasons people travel to Eastie.

The pizza at Santarpio's is not like other styles you've had. You can call it more "rustic" with a thicker crust and the Italian cheese baked on top of the toppings.


The housemade sausage and garlic are popular toppings, but I also like the anchovies that come with The Works. If you like spicy, though, you have to try the pickled hot cherry peppers! The peppers that come with The Works are just green peppers, so remember to ask for the HOT peppers. If you don't want those on your pizza, you can get them with the bbq'd meats also.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Calivino Wine Pub (Anaheim, CA)

by: guest blogger @btsunoda

Sporting events and concert venues don’t typically serve cutting edge food and so I’m always on the lookout for restaurants that are situated near these types of establishments. Calivino Wine Pub opened its doors in May 2014; located on Katella Ave in Anaheim, they are ideally situated between the Honda Center and Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
The interior of Calivino Wine Pub resembled a modern cafe: stylish chairs and tables, spot lights from ceiling and single seating by the bar. Colorful wine bottles adorned the wall of the bar area.

 I began with their bacon wrapped dates and a glass of Clayhouse Adobe White Blend.
The saltiness of the goat cheese combined with the natural sweetness of the dates and honey paired quite nicely. The white blend was a good beginner’s wine.
 The honey roasted brussel sprouts with pork belly had a crisp exterior and I thought that the sweetness of the honey combined with the salty and smoky nature of the pork belly was an effective way to serve an otherwise bland vegetable. I paired this with an Argentine Malbec: Elsa Bianchi. This soft wine is ideal for the person that isn’t fond of bold complex red wines and is well suited for appetizers.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

ChocoChicken (Los Angeles, CA)

I’ve been curious about ChocoChicken since it opened. Chocolate fried chicken? Yes, it sounds weird, but since it’s hard to just imagine what that would taste like I had to try it myself. They’ve taken over a pretty big space in downtown that used to be Corkbar.
The chocolate chicken was actually more … “normal” than I had expected. Yes, I could taste a bit of the rich, bitter chocolate flavor, but for the most part it was fried chicken. Fleischman wasn't going for a sweetness by adding chocolate, but more complexity with bittersweet chocolate.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Chef Jose Andres' Zaytinya (Washington, DC)

When I go to DC, naturally I have to try one of Jose Andres' restaurants that I have not been to yet. Having tried Bazaar in LA and Jaleo, I went with Zaytinya, his Mediterranean restaurant.

The restaurant was bright and lively, and the overall menu was surprisingly pretty reasonable (compared to The Bazaar, for example). The menu was pretty large, and there were so many things I wanted to try, but alas, my cousin and I could only eat so much. We'll just have to go back.

The restaurant sent out a couple of spreads with their fluffy, airy pita bread that's served warm. We got the Htipiti (marinated roasted red peppers, feta, thyme, $7.50) and Hommus ma lahm (hommus, spiced ground Jamison lamb, pine nuts, pickled wild cucumber, mint, $9)
You know how sometimes the simplest things turn out to be the best? Same with these. I was glad they sent these out since I may not have ordered them otherwise, but my cousin and I loved both spreads. My cousin was particularly addicted to the htipiti. It was so flavorful, yet luscious thanks to the feta, and the fluffy, delicate pita was so good.

Our next course is something I must order every time I see it on the menu:
Seared halloumi cheese, dates, pomegranate, orange, mint ($9.50)
I love halloumi cheese and I liked this rendition combined with the thick, sweet dates.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pumpkin Kouign Amann at B Patisserie (San Francisco, CA)

Because fall is the season for pumpkin desserts, I'm reminded of the absolutely amazing pumpkin kouign amann that I had last year at Belinda Leong's b.patisserie in San Francisco.

B Patisserie
In the first place, I love kouign amann. It's better than a sweet croissant (well, maybe). It's better than a cronut (yes, I had the real thing). It's a pastry folded with butter and sugar and baked until the sugar caramelizes.

Secondly, the kouign amann at B Patisserie is really, really good. It's better than Dominique Ansel's DKA, if I can be so bold to say so. Top all that off with the fact that sometimes you'll find seasonal fillings. Like pumpkin. Like delicious, creamy pumpkin filling.
B Patisserie

Monday, November 24, 2014

Brisket, Biscuits, and Honey Butter at Sweet Cheeks Q (Boston, MA)

In the Fenway/Kenmore neighborhood of Boston is Sweet Cheeks Q, a barbecue joint from Top Chef finalist, Tiffani Faison. It's noted to be the most expensive bbq place in Boston, but possibly also the best.

You can order meats by the pound or get a tray with 1, 2, or 3 meats (the last one is called the Fat Cheeks Tray) that comes with two sides.


Above anything else, though, you have to - absolutely must - get the biscuits with honey butter.
If you eat nothing else at this place, the biscuits need to be the one thing you do try. They are warm, buttery, flaky biscuits that are heavenly with that honey butter. Oh, that honey butter ... No one will blame you if you just come here and eat a bucket of biscuits.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fun, Modern, All Day Dining at Recess Eatery – Apparently Glendale Rocks

by guest blogger @iam_robot

Guess What? There’s a legit modern-dining in Glendale and it’s been there for 5 freakin’ years. Being a Glendale transplant for 15 years, I am deeply ashamed to never have heard Recess Eatery until two weeks ago.

Granted, it’s a stretch from tourist traps like Americana or Glendale Galleria but the food offerings are leaps and bounds better than any of the establishments there. Don’t tell me that Din Tai Fung is the greatest thing you could have in Glendale. Last time I checked, they couldn’t serve my dumplings hot and the “not supposed to be” ultra-thick skin tasted like cardboard. Don’t get me started on Cheesecake Factory. Big portions and cheap don’t always sum up to palatable. Bourbon Steak is okay. Good piece of rib-eye but under-seasoned and flavorless at times and not worth that $80.

Okay, now, down to the good stuff. Recess Eatery is the brainchild of Chef Sevan Abdessian. Following graduation from the Culinary Institute in 1999, he began his journey in Patina Restaurant’s kitchen under the rigorous training of Master Chef Joachim Splichal. After that, he worked earnestly in the world of private chef for the likes of Adam Sandler, John Travolta, and Rod Stewart. These days, other than at the restaurant, you can see him on Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, and season two of The Taste.

The ambiance at Recess Eatery feels like your favorite diner (yes, the one where everybody knows your name) – small and sparsely decorated yet intimate and cozy. Love the overall simplicity: dark booths, concrete floor, reclaimed chandeliers, white tablecloth, small flowers in the jar, and barely lit candle. There’s no big Sunflower setting in the host area or some overpriced local artwork, the gaudiest interior touches are dark wooden frames strewn along the wall. For Glendale, this is refreshing, as are the genuine feeling of welcome, warmth and friendliness from everyone I encountered. Also, don’t forget the beautiful outdoor patio. The patio features candle-bedecked tables, vine-covered roof and live Bossa nova.  Warm romantic night? Look no further!
In a way, Recess is an all-day eatery, featuring Chef Sevan’s interpretation of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired fare. The menu is customized to cater many different personalities. For Breakfast or lunch, you can find your Buttermilk Waffles, Egg Benedict, or Gourmet Burger along with Chef inspired salads like Edamame Fatoush, Caprese Vasken (tomato, burrata, prosciutto, etc.), and Salmon Soba. But dinner is the way to go! I can’t specify a genre but the lineup leans toward a Cal-Mediterranean cuisine with some French and Asian influences. Heartier fares like Lamb Racks, Maine Lobster, and Dungeness crab are served with lebni chimicurri or mizuna (Japanese mustard).  

Below are the dishes presented to me:
 Duck Brie Flatbread
We started the night with a flatbread topped with crispy duck, melted brie, gorgonzola, pears and dried figs. I love how the salty duck (presumably cooked confit) balance out with the sweetness of the pears and the tanginess of the figs. The brie was good too – creamy while providing subtle nuttiness to the pizza. My slight criticism is that I wish there were more gorgonzola – I was waiting for that strong salty pungent goodness – guess it just got masked with all the other good stuff.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Holiday Gifting: Handmade Toffees from B.Toffee

Looking for holiday gifts? Local, artisanal, and most importantly delicious products like B.Toffee would make a great gift. B.Toffee was started by Betsy Thagard and 2009 and the toffees are handmade in Newport Beach. The caramelized sugar is topped with a blend of Guittard and Callebaut chocolate, and finished off with a layer of pecans.

The texture of this toffee is perfect. It's crunchy but in between bites the chocolate melts in your mouth. The caramel is neither too hard nor too sticky. I never thought I would like a toffee this much but I'm kind of addicted to these things. Feel free to send my some for Christmas.

You can order the toffee online at or check their website for a list of stores that carry them!

Need more gifts? Check out this post for other local foodie gift ideas!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Brunch at Kirkland Tap and Trotter in Somerville (Boston, MA)

The burger at James Bear winner Tony Maws' Craigie on Main was so popular, he opened up Kirkland Tap and Trotter to make more accessible burgers. But the two burgers will remain distinct, though, keeping the Craigie burger "sacred." Instead, Kirkland Tap and Trotter will serve their own version along with other casual fares.

At any rate, I've been wanting to try KT&T for a while, and I got the chance to join Boston Brunchers for brunch one weekend.

We all started by sharing some orders of the Sticky Bun ($5)


I liked the (relatively) lighter consistency of the bun, and the amount of nuts they've put in between the folds!

I had a hard time choosing what entree to get since there are a few that sounded interesting and delicious, but since this is my first time here, I decided I should try the burger.
Grilled grass-fed cheeseburger, kimchi Russian dressing, Emmenthaler cheese ($12) with fried egg and house-cured bacon (+$2)

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