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)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cattle Ranch Tour with Certified Angus Beef

On my recent trip to the Sacramento area with Certified Angus Beef, we went to visit a cattle ranch. On the drive there, the dry grasslands really made us realize the drought problem in California.
We went to visit Five Star Land and Livestock, which is managed by Abbie Nelson, the current matriarch, and her son. The ranch began in the late 1800s when her great grand father bought the first Angus beef from Scotland. The grandfather bred using a bull named Earl Marshall, whose genes now present in 95% of Angus cattle today.
Her father moved to California in 1930 and thus the current ranch got its start. Now, Five Star doesn't raise cattle for meat, but they raise bulls for seed stock, which is sold to other farms for breeding.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ticket Giveaway! LA Weekly's Sips and Sweets on December 7

Think holiday shopping is stressful? Then you should go to LA Weekly's Sips and Sweets presented by Keurig, where you can shop through LA's artisanal vendors while eating sweets and cocktails prepared by LA's finest.

Oh, and you can even go for free if you win the ticket giveaway below. Lucky you.

But first, the event details. Sips and Sweets will be held on December 7th, from 2-5pm at The Majestic Downtown and The Reserve.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

B&G Oysters (Boston, MA)

There's no lack of oysters in Boston, but B and G Oysters in the South End from prolific restaurateur Barbara Lynch is one of the best places to get some.

Carrying at least a dozen different types daily from local to the other coast, paired with prosecco mignonette and a strong wine list, B&G's bar is a great place to taste through new varietals of this mollusk.
The oysters here are market price, but you can fill your stomach with the rest of their seafood-focused menu, like a tuna tartare bourride with citrus, soft yolk, chicharron crumble ($16)

But don't miss the Fried oysters with housemade tartar sauce ($15)
These are the perfect bites hiding juicy oysters inside.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lunch Prix Fixe at Mario Batali's Del Posto (New York, NY)

One of the things I love about New York is the lunch prix fixes, allowing you to try some of the city's best restaurants for a lot less money. When I went with my mom and my aunt last time, we tried Del Posto's lunch: $49 for three courses (with an option to add pasta for $10). With three of us, we got to try a lot of things!

The lunch started with some complimentary finger sandwiches and Cauliflower soup


Bread service

The menu at Del Posto is seasonal, of course, though you might still find some mainstays like this
Vitello Tonnato (olive crostone, caper shoots, lime cells, lemon basil)

Vitello tonnato is a Piedmontese dish of veal slices served in a creamy tuna sauce.

Cotechino (stewed pistachios, chopped Preboggion - that's just mixed green leafy vegetables)
Cotechino is a pork sausage, but the distinction is that this pork sausage is typically made by boiling over low heat for a few hours. It gives a softer flavor than many other charcuterie.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Kali Dining: An Underground Dinner with Chef Kevin Meehan

When I saw foie gras on Kevin Meehan's Kali Dining menu, I knew I had to go before I moved away. Kali Dining is an underground dinner party that takes place at different locations throughout the year. The menu is set (at $65 when I attended) and this time it was in a beautiful home in Marina del Rey.

We got there and mingled while watching chef Kevin Meehan and his team at work. The dinner is BYOB and there were plenty of wines to go around. The dinner party was pretty small, no more than 20. Meehan makes a great host too, chatting and joking with everyone.

We started with the long-awaited amuse bouche of foie gras truffle

It's a creamy foie gras mousse covered in black crumbs that made it resemble truffles.

Next amuse: Egg yolk poached in ash oil

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Where to Dine in Mammoth: Rafters at Sierra Nevada Resort

Now that snow season is upon us .... Where do you eat when you go to Mammoth? For many people, the answer is probably back at their condos. The thing is, there isn't much by way of dining out in Mammoth, and while I've gone out there a few times now, I haven't tried many places noteworthy. The Sierra Nevada Resorts is looking to change things.

There are three different restaurants at Sierra Nevada Resort, and we tried the one called Rafters, which serves modern American cuisine and a large wine list.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Blue C Sushi's Conveyor Belt Empire

Blue C Sushi, the conveyor belt, or kaiten, sushi restaurant from Seattle is taking over Southern California starting from Hollywood and a new location in Newport Beach. They upped the kaiten sushi game with the atmosphere and decor. It is no way a substitute for the great purist sushi places, but a fun place to go when you have friends who won't eat the traditional sushi.

As usual, the items on the conveyor belt are color coded, each color referring to a price point. You can find the more popular nigiri sushi like salmon and tuna, along with fusion rolls like the 
BLT roll with lettuce, tomato, bacon, and marmalade.  
The quality of the sushi here tends to be better than other kaiten sushi places, though the price also tends to be higher. You'll find your basic nigiri sushi and the typical rolls along with their specialty rolls like this spicy tuna served on crispy rice.
If you don't want to grab sushi from the conveyor belt or don't see the item you want, you can always order them from the sushi chefs or servers. I had quite a few of the freshly made nigiri sushi that they made directly, including Madai (seabream) with shiso and lemon, albacore, and Seared black cod with yuzu.
Madai with shiso and lemon

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Late Night Happy Hour at Fleming's Steakhouse

If you've shied away from dining at a steakhouse because of the price, head over to Fleming's Steakhouse for their "late night happy hour", which isn't all that late. Called "8 for $9 til 10", you can get 8 items for $9 each from 8-10pm. They also have a "5 for $6 til 7" which may be an even better deal, but the offerings are better for the later night menu.

The same deal is available at all Fleming's locations nationwide. Even better, at most Fleming's locations you also get happy hour prices on some drinks (8 wines and cocktails) including a flight of single malt scotches for $9! Alas, Boston doesn't allow alcohol happy hour (poor me) so I can only show you the food offerings.

First of all, even though you're only there for the cheaper food at happy hour, they still serve you the housemade bread - served with tomato basil butter and Chardonnay-infused gorgonzola sauce.


The $9 items that are offered are the same full size that you'd get from the regular menu and includes things like the Filet Mignon Flatbread (danish blue and monterey jack cheese, red onion confit).

The filet mignon was unusually tender for toppings you'd find on a flatbread. This is a steakhouse and it's filet mignon after all! This was probably my favorite of the things I tried.

For the $6 flatbread during the earlier happy hour, you get mushroom and artichoke instead of filet mignon.

 I didn't have the stomach room to try everything and had to skip the prime burger, which I am sure would make a great affordable dinner if you get off work late one day!
Instead, that evening I tried the lobster lettuce wraps (North Atlantic lobster, crumbled bacon, crisped onion strings, orange-fennel slaw, tarragon dressing)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Boston: Where to Drink in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

One thing I like better at MIT compared to Caltech is that there are more good bars I can walk to. Granted, I walk farther here than I did in Pasadena ... But anyway, here are my top three cocktail bars near MIT / Kendall Square!

Untitled West Bridge
1 Kendall Square b300
Cambridge, MA 02139

West Bridge isn't only one of the best restaurants in town, but also has a solid cocktail program. While the menu is relatively small and only a few items rotate every season, you can always find something interesting with fresh and unusual ingredients, like the Amarillo by Morning made with hay-infused bourbon, hickory, benedictine, and sarsaparilla. In most of the cocktails you'll find a touch of fresh produce, like cucumber or beet infusions. Cocktails are $11 each.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Certified Angus Beef and Wine at Bogle Winery

I was recently invited on a trip to the Sacramento area with Certified Angus Beef, learning about what the brand and organization is all about while eating plenty of beef (Certified Angus, of course). As part of the tour, we had lunch at the lovely Bogle Winery in the Sacramento Delta.
A bit about Bogle: it is a family-owned winery and vineyard. The current owners are sixth-generation farmers and 3rd-generation winemakers. The family settled 20 miles from where the vineyard is now back in 1870, at Grand Island. They were growing produce and selling them to the gold rush people. Their grandfather moved to the current area during depression and started planting Petit Syrah back in 1968, being the first to plant grapes in the area. First, he grew them for other wineries but 10 years later started bottling for themselves with Petit Syrah and Chenin Blanc. When the grandfather passed away, their father decided to convert all their acreage to wine grapes.
Not a bad setting for lunch, eh?
For lunch, we had some coulottes. This is the cap of the top sirloin, which is a highly marbled cut and acts like tri-tip. If you've gone to a Brazilian steakhouse like Fogo, you'd know this as the picanha. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Chef Jose Andres' Barmini (Washington, DC)

BarminiChef Jose Andres not only has a group of some of the best restaurants in Washington, DC, but also one of the best cocktail bars in the city. Barmini is a small, beautiful bar right next to Minibar. You have to be seated and most of it is reservation-only but they do allow walk-ins if there are seats available.

The drinks here are more expensive than usual, but everyone that comes in gets a free welcome cocktail. The night I was there, the welcome drink was a 19th Century Cocktail: bourbon, lemon, creme de cacao, lillet rouge
There are quirky details that I love here, like this suspended chair, and other things you'd see later.

The cocktail menu is vast, and I had a hard time choosing between so many promising options. The bartender was recommending classic drinks, which I'm sure are excellent here, but at Barmini I wanted to try out the more unusual things. I've done the cotton candy and olive sphere and liquid nitrogen drinks at Bazaar in LA, so I ended up going with the Veruka Salt (peanut infused rum, pineapple grog, crumbled salted peanuts - $15)

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