Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Morning in the Mission (San Francisco, CA)

During my last trip to San Francisco, I stayed at an AirBnB in the Mission. We spent the first morning wandering around the Mission district, starting with breakfast at Craftsman and Wolves.


What we came here for is the famous "Rebel Within". At first glance this looks just like any other cheesy muffin. The Rebel Within is made with Asiago cheese, green onion, and Easton sausage.

But how special this muffin is is only apparent when you cut into it ... a perfectly poached egg inside with runny yolk!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Alden and Harlow (Cambridge, MA)

As a UCLA and Caltech alum, I'm jealous of the Harvard students. They have so many great restaurants right outside of their campus! One of the hottest restaurants right now is Alden & Harlow, named one of Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurants in America.

This restaurant under a movie theatre looks deceptively small from the outside and when you first walk in, but it actually has a large dining area in the back.

Menus are divided between snacks that are $8 each, including Pistachio crusted halloumi cheese, roasted cherry tomatoes, warm bread


Pickled green beans are served at every table to start
My favorite dish from that night: Oil cured tuna belly, buttermilk creamed corn, lemon, cherry tomato ($17)
Alden Harlow

Friday, September 26, 2014

Opening Alert: The Nice Guy (West Hollywood)

Taking over the former Mezze space in West Hollywood is a mafia-inspired hangout called as The Nice Guy. Taking cues from late 70’s and early 80’s interior, the H.Wood execs (the brain behind hotspots such as Bootsy Bellows, Hooray Henry’s, and Shorebar) never seemed shy about being upfront with their upbringing.

The vibe here feels like your favorite supper club with its intimate candles setting, piano play, white-marble bar tops, floral-patterned booths, large couches, and dark wood walls. Also, the reservation-only concept breaths hospitality - they want to make sure they know who you are, what you like to drink, what time of the night you’d like to eat and where you like to be seated every night. I imagine in an upscale lounge like this, they expect a sense of intimacy, familiarity, and camaraderie within the regulars. But fret not…to score a reservation, all you have to do is call the hostess and answer her questions.
Interior 2
John-Carlos Kuramoto, formerly of Michael’s in Santa Monica, has put together Italian-inspired bites, ranging from healthy to comfort fare. My favorites are the Duck Banh Mi Pizza, Chicken Parm Wings, and the 8 oz Dry Aged New York Steak.  And for the healthier items, I thought the Black Tuscan Kale Chips, Blue Crab Arancini, and Charred Baby Sprouting Broccoli were excellent. Other than those, of course, they have the classic Margherita or Prosciutto Pizza, Meatballs with tomato sauce, and the Burger with candied bacon. Even if you decided to go with the more conventional dishes, rest assured the dishes will be carefully executed and taste much better than the typical bar food.

Other than the food, The Nice Guy is also a craft cocktail destination. Helmed by master mixologist Brian Stewart (of SoHo House) in collaboration with h.wood Group's Adam Koral, this place boasts a large selection of spirits, fresh juices, and top shelf Liquor. 
I thought the Bobby Soxer (Casamigos Reposado, blackberries, fresh lemon juice, honey, Campari, and fresno chili peppers), the Chairman (Gentleman Jack, Aperol, cacao, salted cola reduction, and cider vinegar), and the Daddy’s Little Angel (Silencio Mezcal, pineapple juice, organic agave nectar, fresh lemon juice, and Angostura bitters halo) were some of the tastiest cocktails I’ve tasted. 
Cocktail I didn’t like as much - Mother’s Milk (Tito’s Vodka, house made chocolate milk, soda water)…tasted too sweet, it felt like a 50-50 mixture of Yoohoo and Vodka. Additionally, if you really want to impress your date or group of friends, you should go big – order your cocktail in a large punch bowl for $350.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Darren's in Manhattan Beach, CA

Chef/owner Darren Weiss from Darren's Restaurant in Manhattan Beach may be one of the very few hearing-impaired chefs out there, but he never let that stop him. His restaurant is an institution in Manhattan Beach, making a mark since 2007 and has recently reopened after a renovation.

The new menu is divided into snacks, salads, small plates, large plates, and sides. Under snacks you'll find finger foods and breads like these Emmenthal cheese rolls with fleur de sel Tellicherry black, pepper whipped butter ($4)

Either because Chef Weiss started his career at restaurants in Hawaii or because Darren's is in Manhattan Beach, but there are plenty of seafood dishes on the menu.
Small plates: Crab cake (jumbo lump crab, daikon sprouts, soy dry mustard sauce, sriracha, sweet soy sauce, $22)
To say this crab cake has a generous amount of lump crab meat is an understatement. This crab cake was pretty much all crab meat and I loved it.

Darren's has a small but interesting beers on draft, featuring breweries like Ninkasi (OR), Ommegang, St. Feuillien, and more.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Brazilian Stews at Muqueca (Cambridge, MA)

Boston may not have as much diversity as Los Angeles, but when it comes to Brazilian food, Boston has more. Just three blocks away from my new place is Muqueca, a Brazilian restaurants specializing in the namesake seafood stew. Muqueca is a Brazilian style seafood stew from Espirito Santo or Bahia, cooked in clay pots.

The ones at Muqueca are typically the Espirito Santo style, made with cilantro, tomato, onion and served with rice and pirao. But they will also do the Bahian style which uses coconut milk.

We tried both styles in the Moqueca Completa (fish, shrimp, mussel. $25.95)

The only other time I've had moqueca was at a similarly named restaurant in Oxnard, California: Moqueca. I still like the Oxnard one better, though that one contained lobster and was more expensive. These are still quite good, and I'm still happy to find a good rendition of this rare dish. They're pretty generous with the seafood and they're cooked properly with the fish soaking up the stew broth.

What I ended up loving at this place was actually the Dobradinha (tripe stew with white beans, bacon, sausage, $13.95)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Roy Choi's Commissary at The Line Hotel (Koreatown)

First of all, the new Commissary is beautiful. Situated in a green house complete with hanging pots of greenery next to the pool at The Line Hotel in Koreatown, diners can enjoy the LA sunshine all year long. You already kind of feel like you're on vacation when you step in.

The menu at Commissary can be a tad confusing at first. You get two pieces of paper. One is the picture menu that shows you the price and main ingredients. The little numbers lead you to the second piece, the "cheat sheet" which tells you how it's prepared ("grilled") and what sauces go on that dish ("lemon, green sauce" - for example).

Now, the setting is a green house, and there are a lot of vegetable and produce-focused items, but it's not a vegetarian restaurant. There are a number of vegetable-focused and vegetarian dishes, though.

There's grilled corn with red sauce, chili, garlic, onion
This is Roy Choi after all, so don't expect bland vegetable dishes. Just like the things he's known for, these are full of spices and flavors.

The original cocktails were created with the help of Matthew Biancaniello, although he won't be behind the bar. Served in deli cups, you'll find cocktails made with seasonal produce and unusual ingredients like pisco, white peach and anise hyssop; or mojito with zebra tomatoes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Coppa (Boston, MA)

Among the Boston restaurant that my LA friends recommended to me was Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette's Coppa. Chef Jamie Bissonnette won the James Beard award for Best Chef in the Northeast region this year. I was pretty excited to try this place and it didn't disappoint.

Coppa was smaller and more casual than I had expected; a cozy enoteca in the South End with reasonable prices.

I started with the Sea urchin panino with lonza and mustard seeds

Even though the uni flavor wasn't that strong here, I loved it nonetheless since it worked nicely with the lonza (cured pork tenderloin, also known as lomo) sandwiched between thin, crunchy bread.

This was followed up by the Beef heart pastrami crostini
It did not taste as offal-y or gamy as I had expected, but it was tender and flavorful.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Seasons and Transitions: Kaiseki Dinner at Ishikawa (Tokyo, Japan)

When I had an overnight layover in Tokyo, I asked drtomostyle to take me to have kaiseki, the traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. We headed to the 3 Michelin-starred Ishikawa in Kagurazaka, along with two of her friends.
We started with a course of pike eel. This was the last of the season of pike eel, which requires a lot of knife skills to prepare. The delicate eel was served with a pickled plum sauce (a classic pairing for pike eel), shiso, wood ear mushroom, and wasabi. 
It's a wonderful start that really increases our anticipation. 

The next dish marks the transitions of the seasons. There are deep fried ayu (river fish) which at the time of the meal was at the end of its season. It was served with an ingredient just beginning its season: ginkgo. They're all served atop of daikon radish jelly.
In other words, this was probably about the only time each year where you can have both ingredients together, and Ishikawa pairs them beautifully.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Tasting Room at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village

by: guest blogger @iam_robot

Considering how interest in all things food related has soared in recent years, many hotels have added chef-driven foods, French cooking class, wine tasting, botanical garden tour, and other culinary activities to entice younger epicureans. Surprisingly the Conejo Valley hasn’t caught on to this idea. If you’re like me, I’m sure you have noticed that Westlake Village is not exactly a hotbed for fine wines and farm to table cuisine. Having spent a chunk of my time there, I dreaded the days I can’t find good place where I can sip, nosh and disappear for a few hours. The Tasting Room Interior
A couple of weeks ago, I was very fortunate to attend the grand opening of The Tasting Room, located within the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village. Partnering with Malibu Family Wines, The Tasting Room will pour a variety of award-winning Semler and Saddlerock wines. Other notable Malibu Coast and California wineries will also be featured on a rotating basis. I thought the addition of The Tasting Room is brilliant not only because nearby hotels do not have high-end wine shops (let alone tasting space) in their lobby, but also because they have esteemed assortment and probably the best wine flight in the area, with surprisingly fair prices to boot. Wine flight ranges from $15 to $50.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Pavan Liqueur Fueled Lunch at Ming Tsai's Blue Dragon (Boston, MA)

This was the time I got to start my week with a toast of sparkling Pavan cocktails at Blue Dragon. Yep, a boozy lunch on a Monday. Ssh, don't tell. It's summer.
Pavan is a vin de liqueur made in France using muscat grapes accented with orange blossom water. It's a lovely liqueur with a relatively low sugar content, but still naturally sweet from the grapes. It's great to use in cocktails, or just to drink with soda water or sparkling wine!

Blue Dragon is one of Ming Tsai's Boston restaurants and is his more casual restaurant - an Asian gastropub, if you will. The decor is mostly one of gastropub with some Asian touches here and there.
The lunch menu is quite different from dinner. The lunch features many more sandwiches and banh mi options while dinner offers more larger entree items.

We all liked the spicy chicken dumplings ($8). The skin is thin and had a nice texture, the sauce has just enough heat.

Pavan is part of the Suntory portfolio, who also carries Lejay, a creme de cassis, and Mozart, a chocolate liqueur. I tasted these too, so read on!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Raymond's First New Menu in 35 Years (Pasadena, CA)

Chef Tim Guiltinan has been helming the kitchen at Pasadena's The Raymond for a few years now (since 2008), but it isn't until this summer - following the kitchen's renovation - that he's completed taking over the menu and making into something he's proud to launch as his. The Raymond thus announced a whole new dinner menu, a first in 35 years.

I've often been told that Pasadena diners are less adventurous, but Chef Guiltinan didn't let that stop him. On the Starters section, you'll find things like Bonito cured beef tataki, fried garlic, jalapeno salsa ($16)

Curing the beef in bonito gave it a markedly unique flavor than the usual beef carpaccio.

Wild Northwestern organic mushroom, "forest soil", salsify, "hay", smoked vinegar ($16)
An earthy dish with presentation that mimics the forest one might forage in. Seems like Chef Guiltinan is also becoming bolder with his presentation.

Octopus and bone marrow bruschetta, radish, carrot, tomato, toasted bread ($16)
We loved this one - spreading the bone marrow on toast combined with dipping it in the seafood broth. The two things bread is best for!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cavatina: A Hidden Gem Inside The Sunset Marquis Hotel

We oftentimes ignore hotel restaurants. In fact, I didn't even know the Sunset Marquis hotel had a restaurant - and it's gorgeous. The newly revamped and renamed restaurant, Cavatina, is tucked in the heart of the hotel. The outdoor area is naturally popular during the day, with lush greenery and a faux waterfall nearby.

Executive Chef Roger Eggleston (formerly of Ten Pound Bar) has teamed up with Boston's James Beard winner Michael Schlow for the revamped restaurant's menu. I recently came in for lunch to check it out.

To start: Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho over olive oil crouton, sweet pepper, basil blossoms 

Then we had a variety of addictive snacks: Marcona Almonds with Citrus and Curry,  Homemade Potato Chips with sunset secret spice mix” and green-chile onion dip, Bacon and Bourbon Salted Caramel Popcorn
Could not stop munching on all of them - the popcorn in particular!

We had a beautifully plated Maine Lobster with Stone Fruit and Caviar with cherry tomato, chardonnay vinegar, sea salt
Lobster Salad
The fresh, chilled lobster was beautifully complemented by the sweet, juicy fruits. It's a suprising combination that also works perfectly for the summer weather.

Vodka-marinated Pacific Northwest Salmon, apricot, beet jus, sea beans
Another great seafood dish, the salmon's texture was silky.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Stuff Your Own Falafel Sandwich at Amsterdam Falafelshop (Somerville, MA)

As far as cheap eats in Boston go, it's hard to beat Amsterdam Falafelshop! For a small falafel sandwich, you'd get out with under $6, or $7 for a regular size. You can get it as a bowl, too, but I think the sandwich is the way to go. First, choose between white or wheat pita, which comes toasted then stuffed generously with those crispy chickpea falafels. That's it? Not at all. Next, you can peruse the toppings and fill it with whatever you want. Whatever. You. Want.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

London, England, United Kingdom

Artesian Bar in The Langham
The Borough Market
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
St. John

Friday, September 5, 2014

Choctal: Single Origin Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream

As chocolate lovers, single origin chocolate bars are very desirable. The taste of the "terroir", so to speak, is distinctly noticeable. But why stop at chocolate bars? Can't we ice cream lovers have the same thing with our chocolate ice creams? Enter Choctal and their line of not only single origin chocolate ice creams, but also single origin vanilla ice cream!

To start, these are premium, creamy ice creams that are each wonderful on its own (Ruth Reichl called it "the perfect chocolate ice cream"), but I really appreciated the concept when I compare the different chocolates or vanillas back to back. For the moment, there are four flavors of chocolate and four vanillas available. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lobster Wednesdays at Pearl's Sunset Strip

I admit, I tend to avoid eating on Sunset Strip, so there are a lot of places there I have not yet visited. I was pretty surprised when I stepped on the second floor patio of Pearl's overlooking Sunset Blvd. Oh, hey, this is a pretty nice al fresco dining area!

So, I was there to check out their lobster night, but first ...some oysters
On Wednesdays, Pearl's serves a whole Maine lobster dinner - with fries and sides, for only $25!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Brunch and Tour Around Boston Harbor with Odyssey Cruise

Visiting the Boston Harbor is a must. If you want to do classy cruise around the harbor, consider a brunch cruise with the Odyssey.

The brunch is a champagne brunch buffet for $62.90 that departs on Sundays. I'm not sure how many dining decks there are, but each one is spacious and comfortable. The price includes one glass of champagne and all the food from the buffet.
Plenty of space between each white table-cloth settings. Passengers can start boarding at eating at noon, and the ship leaves the dock at 1pm.
They invited us bloggers because they just started a Bloody Mary and Mimosa cart for brunch that's available for an additional charge. Their Bloody Mary was quite good and a little spicy. I had mine with Ketel One but if you want more spice you can try the Absolut Pepper instead. For the garnish, the options include bacon, shrimp, clam, candied ginger, caper, celery, pickled ginger, and more.

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