Sunday, August 31, 2014

Top 10 Bites of LA County Fair 2014

by: guest blogger @iam_robot

The 92nd Los Angeles County Fair opened last Friday, August 29th 2014, featuring the best of greasy delights, larger-than-life Chinese lanterns, 70 carnival rides, Monster Trucks, EDM clubs, and of course, Capuchin Monkeys.
Being held in Pomona Fairplex’s 487-acre land since 1922, extreme foods (consisting of anything deep fried, wrapped in bacon, or on a stick) will always be the main attraction despite organizers’ utter resilience to display newer attractions. This year, a new nighttime exhibit, called as Luminasia, will feature larger-than-life Chinese lanterns replicating wonders of the world, LA landmarks, exotic animals, and the twelve symbols of the Chinese zodiac. Also, as an avid animal lover, I’m curious to see what Mojo’s Wild & Crazy Lagoon has to offer. This is no ordinary petting zoo - they’ll have peacocks, monkeys, kangaroos, camels, and many exotic creatures. Definitely don’t miss out Zor when you’re there, they’re fire dancers performing ancient tribal dance using flaming swords, ball n chain, and other fire manipulation tools.
Last Wednesday, August 27th 2014, I was very fortunate to attend the media tasting of foods to be featured at the Fair.  Me and my brother had a field day. We ate so much, we could barely move at the end of the night. We wanted to try as much as we could for the blog – making sure readers are making the wisest/ informed decision in picking out their foods. Just remember, greasy food should be eaten with care – don’t eat them unless it’s worth it!
With that said, here are the bee’s knees:

1.       Ramen Burger by Keizo Shimamoto
Always been a fan of the original ramen burger. I was the fad chaser who lined up for 2 hours a year ago and I still make my regular visit to their stand in Koreatown. But if you never had one, ramen burger is terrific. The ramen is a little crisp on the outside but breaks apart easily when you bite into them. The quarter pounder patty is definitely the highest quality – it’s cooked medium rare and topped with a teriyaki-like sauce (I presumed it’s a combo of mustard, mayo, onion, and soy sauce). Then the arugula and scallion bring both sweetness and peppery to the party. Anyways, give it a shot – you don’t have to be drunk to eat this – it’s 600% percent better than many of the most overhyped burger joints in LA.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Bowery: Not Your Ordinary Pub

by guest blogger Brian L. @iam_robot

To be honest, Los Angeles is the mecca of overhyped burger joints and gastropubs. Is it a conspiracy to think a group of Los Angeles restaurateurs collude every week to create another gastropub? I understand public’s desire to drink peanut butter beer from a local brewery or to devour a grass-fed bison burger without the 4 hours commitment in a jacket and slacks; But when there’s too many of them, the flux of turnovers is inevitable. I mean you might fall in love with a burger joint only to realize they had closed down before you made your second visit 6 months later. That said, it's still sad to think of some of the burger joints we recently lost: Kalbi Burger, The Parish, Haven Gastropub, Hamburger Hamlet, and the utterly delicious tamago (egg) burger at Fuku. Till this day, I regard that tamago burger the same way I regard tequila – if I ate one, all of a sudden I wouldn’t be able to stop, and suddenly I’d be broke and jobless.

Initially I had some trepidation when I got the invite to The Bowery. It’s another gastropub – years of experiences have taught me I typically got bored halfway into eating the food that I over-ordered and I’d ask myself, “Is it wrong I kinda wanna cook top ramen in my kitchen rather than eating here?”  But after entering/ observing the Bowery and talking to owner George Abou-Daoud, I knew I was in for a treat.

 Here’s my reasoning: First, George is probably the pioneer of this gourmet burger movement. He’s done it since year 2005, way before we knew the juggernauts: Umami, Father’s Office, and The Counter. The most impressive part is – he did it when the odds were stacked against his favor – Tower Records and The Palladium were closing while those ritzy apartments were probably a rolled-up blue print.
 As a fellow entrepreneur, I admire his fervor. Second, looking at the menu, The Bowery is no ordinary gastropub. Granted the menu could be a smorgasbord of all things irresistible and forbidden on any sort of diet, but they didn’t neglect people who seek balance. There are so many healthier fares I can’t wait to try on my next visit: Roasted Tomato Soup, Spicy Tuna with Saffron Risotto Crostini, Chickpea Falafel, and the Vegan Burger (with Black Bean & Roasted Beet Patty…Interesting!).  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The New Killer Shrimp at Hermosa Beach, CA

by: guest blogger @btsunoda

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been to Killer Shrimp in a long time. In fact, I visited them a couple of times in their original location on Washington Blvd in Marina Del Rey. Back then they had the following menu items:

Killer shrimp with rice
Killer shrimp with pasta
Killer shrimp with bread

I received an invitation to check out their new location on Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach, just steps from the Hermosa Beach Strand.
The longtime resident of that location was Cantina Real and the present owners retained the front patio. The inside, however, has been beautifully transformed. Large windows were installed, two skylights were cleared and the restaurant is filled with a lot of natural light. In addition, Killer Shrimp also offers unobstructed views of the Hermosa Beach Pier and the ocean.

Killer Shrimp has an interesting history. Owner Kevin Michael’s father is musician Lee Michaels. Growing up in Venice, Lee perfected the sauce which later became their “Killer Shrimp’. They served their shrimp dish to friends and neighbors who thought that they had something special. Lee’s sons were soon seen peppering the neighborhood with flyers and were delivering up to 40 meals per evening.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Eat for FREE at Cafe Rio [sponsored]

Want to eat for free like a food blogger? Well, now you can at Cafe Rio.

Cafe Rio is a fast casual chain serving a variety of Mexican food. The Southern California locations at Cafe Rio is offering a free meal and dessert for first-time diners who are willing to come in and give them honest feedback.

All you have to do is go there and fill out a survey of your dining experience (the survey can be found here, or you can also scan the QR code which will be posted at the restaurants). This campaign starts today while quantities last. The deal should be available all of this week, so be sure to hurry in!

This deal is only available at the following four SoCal locations: 

1800 Rosecrans Ave Suite G
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(424) 456-3800

1140 Irvine Blvd.
Tustin, CA 92780
(657) 622-3000

27510 W Lugonia Ave
Redlands, CA 92374
(909) 801-6900

24312 Rockfield Blvd.
Lake Forest, CA 92630
(949) 334-9292

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Chef Heralds Summer at Cafe Pinot (Downtown LA)

Downtown's Cafe Pinot has announced Joe Vasiloff as their new head chef. Chef Vasiloff has worked with the Patina Group since 2011, most recently opening the Wine Bar at the Hollywood Bowl. Before that, he's also worked at Bouchon and Animal.

I recently went to a lunch tasting, sampling some of his menu offerings.
Soup du Jour: Chilled heirloom tomato soup, bluefin crab salad, old bay and cheddar crackers


Burrata salad, mixed stone fruits, honeycomb, mint, smoked sea salt, mache, marcona almonds, candied lime
Burrata salad
There are quite a lot going on in this burrata salad! I particularly loved the addition of the honeycomb, and the almonds provided a nice texture contrast. I think I might start putting honeycomb on my salads ...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Saint Martha: An Ode to the Patron Saint in Koreatown

An unexpected wine bar has opened in the heart of Koreatown with Tart's Chef Nick Erven (formerly Messhall) and sommelier Mary Thompson (formerly Rivera). The warm gougeres is just an amuse of the surprising and delectable dishes to come.


The appetizer puts almost all that is good on one plate - and it worked with the steak and oyster tartare and champagne sabayon, served with hot bone marrow beignets ($13)
Steak Oyster Tartare
Steak and oyster tartare: the combination of these two raw delicacies  was one of those "why didn't I think of that before?" moment.

Sommelier Mary Thompson has done a wonderful job with the wine list, and the servers know their stuff, too. I told my waitress what I liked and she recommended a lovely, crisp, 2012 Wagner Stempel Weissburgunder, Rheinhessen from Germany. This is one of the best new whites I've tried lately.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Laurent Quenioux's New Menu at Vertical Wine Bistro (Pasadena)

It's the height of summer and Chef Laurent Quenioux has rolled out a new menu at Pasadena's Vertical Wine Bistro. I hadn't been in for a while but I'm always excited to try LQ's food, especially seeing fried quail on the menu.

Now, when Laurent Quenioux is in charge, you can't miss the cheese plate! For mine, I chose cheese that spanned the whole range: Brillat Savarin Frais (France, cow), Bucheron (California, goat), and Pecorino Foglie di Noce (Italy, sheep). Truffle honey is extra but a must try.

The cheese plate is typically served with berry jam, bell pepper mustard, roasted hazelnut, and baguette, but like I said my favorite condiment is the truffle honey! Especially with the creamy triple-creme Brillat Savarin.

I couldn't settle on a wine, so my server put together a flight instead. I asked for a rose and two reds and received: 2011 Schnaitmann Pinot Noir Rose from Germany, 2012 Boson Pinot Noir from Carneros, 2011 Le Pich Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa

Appropriate for summer, the menu features Watermelon gazpacho with lobster and mango ($11)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Giveaway! Tickets to California Beer Festival in San Dimas, September 6

Does drinking craft beers next to a lake (ok, a water reservoir) sound good to you? If so, check out the giveaway below for the California Beer Festival in San Dimas!

On Saturday, September 6, the annual beer festival is coming to the Frank G. Bonelli Park in San Dimas. There will be over 60 beers poured at the event next to Puddingstone Reservoir, along with live music and bocce ball.

Among the breweries that will be pouring there are Hangar 24, Deschutes Brewery, Stone Brewery, Firestone Walker, Sierra Nevada, and many other smaller breweries like Ninkasi from Oregon. There will be food vendors on-site if you need to soak up all the beers.

General admission tickets are $45 which gets you all the beer samples and a souvenir glass, or you can get the VIP ticket for $70 for all that plus specialty brews, early admission, and access to the taco bar. You can purchase tickets here.

Oh, so you want to go for free? Well, luck you. They've offered up two general admission tickets ($45 value each) which gets you a souvenir glass and all the beer samples. There will be food for purchase.

To enter, just follow the directions in the widget. Remember, this giveaway ends on Tuesday, September 26!
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jiro-style Ramen at Yume Wo Katare (Porter Square, Cambridge, MA)

As you exit the red line T stop at Porter Square, you will soon notice the line going towards Yume wo Katare, a place popular for the fatty pork ramen in the style of Jiro in Mita.

Buta Ra-man!
Yume wo Katare is supposedly one of the first (if not the first) US shop to serve Jiro ramen, which is a really fatty pork broth that is completely different from a tonkotsu, topped with a big pile of bean sprouts and some cabbage. With that, some thick chashu (more pork fat!)
Being from LA, I initially snuffed at the Boston ramen scene, but this small shop is one of the very few that looked promising and I was happy to see this particular style, which you can't even find in LA until Tsujita Annex opened just a couple of years ago.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Omakase at O Ya (Boston, MA)

When I asked for sushi recommendation, the name that kept popping up was O Ya - with the warning that it's expensive. Indeed, although you can order a la carte at O Ya, the full omakase runs about $250 and the smaller tasting menu $180. But I have to try it, right? I sat at the counter where I can see the chefs at work. My friend was late so I was getting hungry watching all the foie gras sushi being fired out ...

Finally my friend came and we opted for the smaller omakase menu. As expected, it started with a fresh Kumamoto Oyster (watermelon pearls, cucumber mignonette)
Then, we proceeded with the nigiri courses. What makes O Ya different is the sauces he puts on the nigiri sushi. They're not just soy sauce or yuzu, but you can find things like Hamachi with spicy banana pepper mousse
I loved the texture of the seared hamachi and the banana pepper mousse worked well, although it slightly overwhelmed the hamachi flavor. Maybe slightly less mousse on top?

Things like banana pepper mousse doesn't mean that O Ya veers completely from the traditional, though. Our next course is a Salmon with unfiltered wheat soy moromi
Moromi is a term you may hear in sake brewing, and I believe it basically means the unrefined or unfiltered mash of grain that is undergoing fermentation. I enjoyed the earthy flavor with the fatty salmon.

The next bite is an indulgence: Santa Barbara sea urchin and Russian Osetra caviar
An unbeatable combination, of course.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Easy Pizza and Flatbread with Stonefire's Naan

If you know me, you know I don't cook much at home, but I may start making pizzas more often now ... ?After all, adding toppings and putting it in the oven is super easy, it was always the crust that's the problem! But thanks to Stonefire flatbreads and naans, I've made a couple of tasty pizzas at home!

 There are many varieties in the Stonefire line, from the original tandoori-baked naan, garlic naan, to a thin crust pizza flatbread (that even comes with a pack of pizza sauce). I just made one with the simple things I liked: mozzarella cheese, sausages, and fresh tomatoes and basil, but if you want to be more creative, there are recipes in the back of the flatbread packages.
There are directions to heat them up in microwave or oven, but I recommend the oven especially if you're making pizza to get that crispy crust! On my first try I didn't leave it in the oven long enough, but the texture was much better the second time I made it. Evoking Sandra Lee, my semi-homemade pizza made for a great lunch ;-P

Sunday, August 10, 2014

New Menu at Next Door Lounge (Hollywood)

by: guest blogger @iam_robot

The Roaring Twenties are back– thanks to the recent popularity of The Great Gatsby, Downtown Abbey and Boardwalk Empire. The prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s and 30’s in America was intended to reduce public consumption by banning businesses that manufactured, distributed, and sold them. With bars closed, young folks (commonly known as flappers and dappers) started going to “underground saloons” in basements or attics of other disguised businesses (cafes, theatres, soda shops) to smoke, drink, and dance without having to worry about breaking the law for doing so.  Given its name due to the necessity to whisper or “speak easy”, these underground saloons were outperforming legitimate saloons at an outstanding rate – at one point, every  closed saloon were replaced by half a dozen illegal joints.
Pic 1
Situated strategically on Highland and Lexington Ave, The Next Door Lounge is reliving the forbidden excitement of the speakeasy era by serving up a mix of vintage and modern libations alongside a new menu of small bites created by private chef/ Food Network Star Nikki Martin. Cocktails are definitely the main attraction here. Vintage cocktails like Negroni, Manhattan, and Penicillin are served up with barrel aged spirits (Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Gin and Rum), fresh juices, and top shelf liquor by barman Zac Henry.
At the front door, I was greeted by a doorman dressed in a three piece suit and fedora, making sure my name was on the guest list and I was revealing the correct password “STOOL PIDGEON”.  Once I passed the reclaimed double doors and vintage curtains, I saw several intimate vignettes donned with leather couches, high back chairs, marble chess boards and antique cocktail tables. 
 The place was dimly lit and a big part of the lighting came from the west wall, where a black & white film was projected there. As my eyes were observing the regular crowd of hipsters and artsy locals, a pleasant cocktail waitress decked out in 1920’s fashion (beading, fringes, and feathers) guided me to one of the two long communal tables.  

I started the night with the Giggle Water – Matusalem Rum, Limoncello, Orange Juice, and Rose Prosecco. I inhaled this and granted I was giggling. Delicious!

Friday, August 8, 2014

August is Garlic Fair at Chaya Venice (with Garlic Cocktails!)

For the 19th year running, Chaya Venice is holding their month-long Garlic Fair with garlic-laden menu and now, even garlic cocktails. They've held several different festivals throughout the restaurant's long history, but the Garlic Fair has proved consistently most popular. As a fellow garlic lover, I can totally see why! The garlic menu is available throughout August and here are what you can expect:

Bagna cauda with grilled bread ($8)

Bagna Cauda
I mean, for true garlic lovers, what can be better? Grilled bread with warm, spreadable garlic! What more would you need?

Well, there are more! Note that some of the dishes I show below are only tasting sizes, not the full portion. There's Escargot with garlic herb lemon butter ($24)
Housemade chicken gyoza with garlic ponzu sauce, pan fried or steamed ($16 for 3 - half of one shown below)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Giveaway! Tickets to K-Pop Concert at K-CON

Any Kpop fans out there? If you are, you're in luck! I'm giving away two tickets to the K-Pop Concert during this weekend's K-CON. K-CON? Yes, it's a convention of "all things Hallyu" including K-pop, K-drama stars, Korean cooking demos, even a workshop teaching you how to play Korean drinking games! (see full program). As you might know, I watch a lot of J and K-dramas and even made a list of the food-related dramas!
This concert is going to be held on Saturday, 7-9:30 pm and features K-pop stars and bands including B1A4, IU (I know her from watching Dream High and You're the Best Lee Soon Shin), G-Dragon, Teen Top, and Vixx. The event will be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 
B1A4 in Nov 1, 2013.jpg
"B1A4 in Nov 1, 2013" by 와사비콘텐츠 - Licensed under CC-BY-2.0-kr via Wikimedia Commons.

This giveaway is sponsored by Bibigo, whose food truck will be on site serving bulgogi bibimbap, Korean fried chicken, and more!

Since the contest is this weekend, this will be a quick giveaway! Enter by midnight on Thursday and you must check your emails Friday morning since I have to provide the winner's name by Friday afternoon! To enter, follow the instructions in the widget below:
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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Awesome Affordable Sushi at Sushi Nozomi (Torrance, CA)

It's easy to spend over $100 on a sushi omakase, and while some of them are certainly worth the money, you can't do that too often. Instead, most of us frequent the mid-tier, affordable sushi joints - some of which provide really good value for the money. The best value for sushi omakase may well be Sushi Nozomi down in Torrance. The "chef's choice" or omakase is only $38 for 10 pieces of sushi plus a negi-toro roll and we're talking fresh fish, some of which are pretty hard to find in town!

Each omakase starts with a bowl of miso soup.

When I visited, the omakase included a piece of Halibut fin, topped with yuzu
Blue nose. This fish looks similar to a bass or grouper, leaner than the former but fattier than the latter.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

LA Loves Alex's Lemonade Returns + Last Year's Recap

LA Loves Alex's Lemonade is one of the favorite events of the year. This year, it will be held at a different location. They are bringing it to Wilson Plaza at UCLA on September 20 (from 12-4pm). This festival gathers some of the best chefs, restaurants, and mixologists, not only from LA but beyond - and they bring their A-game, all to fight childhood cancer.

Last year, Adam Perry Lang, author of Serious BBQ, was serving up some sort of BBQ sandwiches. I was avoiding the long line, but got there too late and they had run out of the sandwiches! It may have actually been a lucky strike, as I got this giant piece of rib as consolation.

The Hungry Cat brought fresh seafood like these clams and sea urchin.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Asian Box: Farm to Table Fast Food. Non-GMO, Non-Boring.

by: guest blogger @iam_robot

Growing up in Southeast Asia, it’s been my longtime wish to see a finer fast food joint where I can get a bowl of rice with meats that are cooked to order and vegetables fresh out of the wok.  I mean this is my very definition of fast food growing up in Asia – street stalls flooded the entire nation while American fast food joints (Mcdonalds, KFC) were few and far between. More importantly, these street stalls’ cooks take their jobs very seriously – competition is stiff and there’s no shortcut – ingredients are always freshly prepared, meats are marinated and cooked thoroughly, and cooking techniques are borderline intricate/ old school.  Imagine how much carbon monoxide you’d be inhaling in your lifetime if your job were to grill chicken satay on a charcoal grill for over 30 – 40 years? Yes, those peppery smokes that permeates the streets of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, burning your eyes and nose, is the doing of a diligent cook fanning smokes off his precious charcoal grill. 

When I got the invite for Asian Box, a Palo Alto-based quick serve dining concept, I was very intrigued. Not only organic ingredients and naturally raised meats are featured, the ingredients, flavors, and cooking techniques are very much influenced by Southeast Asian cooking. Similar to Shophouse (the Chipotle owned Asian fast food joint), you can pick what goes into your bowl – starting with rice, noodles or salad, then add protein such as lemongrass pork, six spice chicken, garlic beef, and curried tofu, finally throw in some vegetables or caramel eggs along with their homemade sauces.  Their meal comes packaged in a box similar to what you’d get in the streets of Asia – fyi, Asian Box pride themselves in using eco-friendly, compostable boxes and utensils – Love it!

Today I opted for brown rice with soy-garlic beef along with a hodgepodge of veggies (pickled veggies, bean sprout, jalapeno, peanut, lime, shallot, scallion oil) and caramel egg topped with Miss Jones’ Sriracha plus their super secretive hot sauce called as “Hot Box It”.

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