Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gelato, Gelato-Filled Macarons at Amarino (Boston, MA)

A new gelato shop has landed in Back Bay. Amorino is a chain started by two Italians - but first launched in Paris - that's making its way around the US. They use a special spatula to scoop your ice cream and promises to let you choose as many flavors as you like, no matter what size you buy. Even all 16 if you want.

The gelato itself was very good. I tried a bunch and really liked the chocolate (rich and dark, just the way I like it), salted caramel, and the mango sorbet. You can definitely taste that they use real mangoes.

They also have macarons, but not your run-off-the-mill maracons. They're filled with gelato!
Amorino Boston

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bacchus Bar and Bistro (Irvine, CA)

by guest blogger @btsunoda

I recently visited Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine. It is an upscale wine and craft beer bar. They also have a small kitchen where prepare a selection of appetizers, burgers and entrees. The exterior of Bacchus is deceiving because it sits in a shopping center but once you step inside, you are in an inviting and spacious area with a wine bar on one side and a retail space on the other.
Bacchus offers over 350 bottles from around the world and has a wine bar where they can pour up to 60 different wines by the glass.
I learned that they received the Wine Spectator award in 2014. Bacchus also offers 6 craft beers on a rotating tap along with 20 bottled craft beers. Glancing at the list of twenty, only five were from California. Belgian beers were prominently featured; there was a selection from Iceland and one from Italy.

Like their wines and craft beers, geographic diversity seems to be the desire for the focus of their cheese offerings. France topped the list with five different varieties. Holland was second with two and the US only had a single offering: Barely Buzzed from Utah. Fans of cheese from California, Oregon and Wisconsin may feel snubbed to not make the cut. Nuts, olives and various crackers and breads were also available. I was intrigued with the yuzu marmalade and the fig jam offerings as they probably go well with the crackers and breads. Some items are gluten free.

I repeated what my server said, “lobster grilled cheese” several times thinking that he had it mistaken for lobster mac & cheese. Brie and cheddar were melted with pieces of fresh lobster and served on toasted sourdough. Brie cheese added to the ‘gooey’ factor making each bite a multisensory and delicious experience.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tasting Through Umami Burger's Core Menu

Umami Burger may have a new burger each season like the vegetarian caprese burger last year, but at the heart of it are their core burger menu. To bring back the focus on this core menu, Umami Burger on Broadway in downtown recently invited bloggers for a tasting menu of the core burgers, paired with a variety of drinks (remember, the Broadway location has a full bar since it used to be Umamicatessen). Nine courses, all paired with a beverage.

To start with were the sweet potato fries and onion rings, along with the "secret menu item", cheesy tots. The tots are made with potatoes rolled in parmesan and cheddar, then covered with panko crust.

Umami Burger
The appetizers were paired real sugar Mountain Dew to balance out the salt. The cheesy tots, as you can imagine, were everyone's favorites and were gone in seconds.

Course 2: Truffle Burger (housemade truffle fondue, truffle glaze, truffle salt, truffle aioli)
Umami Burger
So much truffle needs to be paired with a big, robust beer, and Umami chose the Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout. It's been a while since I had Umami Burger and they still had that nicely cooked patty - pink in the middle - and the iconic griddled Portugese-style bun. Yep, still good.

Course 3: Manly Burger (bacon lardons, beer cheddar fondue, smoked salt onion strings, umami ketchup, mustard spread)
Manly Burger

A messy burger, but definitely worth getting your hands dirty! I love the cocktail that this was paired with as well:  Maple Bacon Old Fashioned (bacon-washed Evan Williams, maple syrup, orange bitters, garnished with house-made candied bacon). Because bacon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ten Tables (Cambridge)

I finally tried Ten Tables in Cambridge, an outpost of the original in Jamaica Plain. It's a popular place - the cozy, dimly lit restaurant was completely packed and it wasn't even a weekend night. As with most other restaurants, they serve locally sourced ingredients, but instead of a hip, modern direction, they went with the comfortable, neighborhood feel.

We went with the tasting menu instead of ordering a la carte, which is $55 for 4 courses.

We started with a tile fish rillette

Ten Tables

Followed by Oyster with kombu seaweed, apple, vanilla foam
Ten Tables
I liked this surprising dish. I don't normally associate oyster with a creamy broth and vanilla aroma, but after my initial suprise I really enjoyed how the flavors worked together.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Jetsetting with Petrossian LAX

You have to start your vacation right. We did just that before jetting off to Fiji thanks to Petrossian at the LAX Tom Bradley International terminal. If you haven't been yet, the newly renovated terminal is gorgeous with many shops and restaurants that you'd actually want to go to. You don't have to fly out of TBI, you can still get into the terminal with any valid boarding pass from the same day.

Petrossian LAX
The full lineup of Petrossian's caviar is available here for 30g servings with blinis. Of course, champagne to pair ... what better way to start your vacation? I had the Transmontanus caviar with some Moet.
Petrossian LAX

Even though the kitchen space is limited, you can still get a full meal at Petrossian, with salads and flatbreads, or a plate of cured fish.
Petrossian LAX

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What to Eat in Fiji

1. Fish in Lolo
This Fijian dish is made with fish (at the resorts it's usually mahi mahi) in a coconut milk broth with taro leaves and some sort of root vegetables (either taro or cassava). A lot of restaurants and resorts will have this.
The one I had at Blue Lagoon Resort was my favorite throughout the trip, as the firm mahi mahi was cooked properly so that it's still moist and flaky. The broth was so good I wanted to just pick up my spoon and drink it all.

2. Kokoda
Kokoda is the Fijian ceviche, but the raw fish is not only marinated in lime juice but also coconut cream, and served with diced tomatoes and onions. I had this dish at all three resorts and my favorite was the one at Uprising Beach Resort.
Fiji food

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ribelle (Boston, MA)

Trying to find all the best restaurants in Boston, I jumped at a Gilt City deal for a tasting menu at Ribelle in Brookline. Ribelle is a small restaurant by chef Tim Maslow, a Momofuku alum. By the way, if you've never bought any voucher from Gilt City, you can get 25% off your first purchase using this link.

While waiting for my friends to arrive, I spent time at the bar with the Hip Replacement (Laphroaig, lime, salt, burnt cinnamon, $13), a nice cocktail with plenty of the components I like: smoke and citrus.


Our dinner started strong with some South Bay Blonde oysters with shiso ice. I'm really digging the briny East Coast oysters and these sweet oysters from Cape Cod are no exception.

We had a wonderful salad of Macoun apples, stracciatella, mustard frill, nori.
I can't think of a time I've had apples better and sweeter than these so I had to look them up. The macoun apple is a Fall fruit (yes, I'm behind on blogging and I had this meal in the fall) and is known to be especially sweet and juicy. It really was sweet and paired so well with the creaminess of the stracciatella.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ciccheti Brunch at Bacari PDR (Playa Del Rey, CA)

Brunch at Bacari PDR in Playa Del Rey lets you try many different dishes with their chiccheti format. Each dish is a small plate that costs $7 each, or 3 for $19. On top of that, you can make it a boozy brunch. Get one hour's worth of bottomless pitchers of mimosa, bellini, or sangria for $15.

Since the chef, Lior Hillel, grew up in Israel, I wasn't surprised to find on the menu a Shakshouka (rustic tomato sauce, bell pepper, garlic, sous-vide egg, parsley)
Bacari PDR
Yes, I love my eggs in tomato sauce. The shakshouka is only slightly spicy so it's accessible to more palates. The bold flavors are great with the sliced bread.

They sometimes also have fun specials. That day's special: crab cake with poached egg, grapefruit hollandaise
Bacari PDR
This ended up being my favorite savory dish of the day, I hope they put it on the regular menu! The chef had put a generous amount of crab meat in the dish.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bacari PDR (Playa Del Rey, CA)

by guest blogger @btsunoda

I was delighted to see Bacari PDR take the place of what used to be Bistro Du Soleil in Playa del Rey. Even prior their occupancy, the location was pretty much known for its casual Sunday brunches. Bacari PDR was started by the team of Bobby Kronfli, Daniel Kronfli and executive chef Lior Hillel. The Kronfli brothers and Hillel also collaborated on Bacaro LA as well as Nature’s Brew. Both are located on Union Avenue near the University of Southern California. DSCF4775
 After occupying their Playa del Rey location, they decided to gut out the interior and add a rich dark wood look. The effective use of windows gave the interior a lot of natural light which gave the restaurant a classy casual feel. Actual wine bottles from their customers line the top of the ceiling of the restaurant.
Executive chef Lior Hillel, who also crafted the Bacaro L.A. menu, brings to Bacari PDR his takes on Mediterranean-inspired cicchetti, or small plates. After I had a chance to speak with him, I discovered that he takes feedback quite seriously and he blends his vision with the tastes of his local clientele. After seeing the small size of the kitchen, I was truly amazed to see the number of items on their menu. Our group had quite a bit to taste that evening:

The rainbow beet salad was full of color: red and yellow beets mixed with chevre goat cheese and freshly chopped tarragon with a roasted black peppercorn vinegar salad dressing. This was both tangy and sweet.
Crab crostini consisted of crab claw meat and charred poblano peppers with Chef Hillel’s dressing.
The crostini had plenty of fresh crab meat mixed in a creamy pepper dressing.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Food Preview: Food + Wine Festival Palm Desert

by: guest blogger @iam_robot

The Food + Wine Festival Palm Desert is back for its fifth year, and this year’s celebrity chef and culinary master includes Iron Chef Cat Cora, Award- winning pastry chef Gale Gand, Broke Williamson, Ari Taymor, Zack Bruell, and Brian Malarkey, among others.

Aiming to benefit The Friends of James Beard Foundation, these chefs will educate attendees with cooking demos, unique exhibits, and various industry panels on March 27 – 29 in Palm Desert’s famed El Paseo shopping district. And let’s not forget about the Grand Tasting event – sip, nosh, and party your way through the heat with more than 70 premium spirits/wines/ beers and 50 premier Palm Desert-area restaurants.

Last week I had a chance to sample of the wonderful bites and wines to be featured at this desert food festival. There were many memorable dishes but my favorite was the English muffin with burrata, caviar & licorice herbs by Ari Taymor of Alma (named “Best Restaurant in America” by Bon Appetit).

This dish is the ultimate comfort food – Initially I was over the moon with the fresh briny character of the uni but as I chewed through, I loved the flavor mesh of the burrata creaminess and subtle saltiness from the caviar. Everything gels like a perfect symphony on top of this bite-size pillow soft English muffin. I could eat a tub of these!

My other highlight was Brooke Williamson’s (of The Tripel, Hudson House, and Playa Provisions) Gougere - a baked savory choux pastry made of choux dough mixed with cheese. It was buttery goodness – I had to jot down the step by step when she was demonstrating.
Brooke Williamson demonstrating her gougere recipe

Friday, March 13, 2015

Taste of Iceland Kicks Off at Boston's Tavern Road

Iceland has really, really good food. Don't believe me? Head over to Tavern Road this weekend for Iceland Naturally's Taste of Iceland. Starting tonight (March 13) to March 16, you can try a four-course menu featuring Icelandic ingredients created by Chef Viktor Orn Andresson from Blue Lagoon's LAVA Restaurant and Chef Louis DiBiccari from Tavern Road.

At these dinners, you'll be treated to ingredients flown especially from Iceland, including one of the best (perhaps the best) arctic char you've ever tried - lemon-cured and served with roe, cauliflower, horseradish, and dill.

Taste of Iceland
You'll also try some Icelandic cod and langoustine. I fell in love with their langoustines when I was in Iceland, and tried to eat it every single day!

Even their lamb is more tender than usual. Obviously, it's free range lamb (Iceland only has 320,000 people, there's plenty of space for sheep). You'll get a roasted rack of lamb flavored with Icelandic herbs. Shown below is just the portion for the media preview, not the full size dinner portion.
Taste of Iceland

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Happy Hour at The Factory Kitchen (Downtown LA)

One of my favorite Italian restaurants, The Factory Kitchen in downtown LA, has started happy hour. The happy hour is on Monday-Thursday from 5-7pm and offers a variety of small plates, classic cocktails, and wines.

Among the food offerings was the roasted bone marrow with foraged mushrooms and herb salad for $11. There's certainly nothing to complain about when you have bone marrow for happy hour!

The cocktails are only $8 each and includes choices like a well executed Boulevardier. This cocktail, invented in 1927, combines bourbon, campari, and sweet vermouth.
The Factory Kitchen has an excellent sommelier in their Director of Wine, Francine Diamond-Ferdinandi, so don't skip over the wine offerings. Lambrusco is still a pretty rare find, but they have one (Cleto Chiarli) for $7 a glass.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Cambridge Brewing Company (Cambridge, MA)

Cambridge Brewing Company was one of the first places I explored in the Kendall/Tech Square area. It was on the way to/from work and when this Angeleno first moved to Boston and started walking to work, a mile seemed soooo far. So why not stop in the middle for a brew, right?
Cambridge brewing
They have 5-6 flagship beers, but I like browing their specialty and seasonal list, of course. The first beer I had here was the Olmstead's Folly: an herbed ale with Japanese knotsweed and cranberry.

You can get a taster pours of any of the beers, too, which was what I did the last time. Sgt Pepper is their award winning Farmhouse ale with peppercorn. I also tried a Gruit (German for "herb", this refers to an old style of beer made without hops) called Grandchester Meadows. This beer was a collaboration with Mystic Brewery and Earth Eagle Brewings. The last one was Machinery of Night, a blended and barrel-aged sour - also my favorite of this round.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Old Town Pasadena's Equator Rebrands as Edwin Mills

Old Town Pasadena's popular Equator Cafe on the little alley that is Mills Place has rebranded itself as Edwin Mills, serving gastropub-fare and affordable drinks with a slew of weekly specials.

Edwin Mills
The menu ranges from asian fusion to typical pub fare like chicken wings and shepherd's pie. The owner recommended that we try the Crabby puffs (crab baked over swai fish, $8)
Edwin Mills
The fish was back until it turned soft and melded with the creamy sauce to accompany the crab.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Winter Wurst Night at Ray's and Stark Bar

by: guest blogger @btsunoda

In the past winter season, Ray’s and Stark Bar featured “The Wurst Night of the Week” where executive chef Viet Pham exercised his creativity with the German bratwurst. Unfortunately, the program ended on March 2, but I had the chance to experience their "wurst" offerings before it ended.
The brats ranged in styles from classic Bavarian and contemporary to Moroccan and down home Southern. Top dogs include Currywurst Vadouvan with house-made ketchup and aioli or Boudin Blanc wurst with Pommes puree and tea-soaked prunes.
Spicy pork meatballs was the first sample that arrived. It was surrounded with a flavorful coconut curry sauce with ginger, garlic, fresno chiles and cilantro. The fresno chiles added a nice amount of spiciness to the sauce which made me wish that I had some bread to mop up my plate.
The first beer was a Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, a German Märzen. The smoky bacon flavor was perfect to set the stage for bratwurst. It had lots of smoke and a slight tinge of peach in flavor. This is not a beer if you are looking for hops as it was incredibly smooth.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tacolandia Presale! (Plus, Last Year's Event Recap)

LA Weekly's Tacolandia returns for its third year on Saturday, June 6! While regular ticket sales will open on March 9, you can get a head start for some presale tickets starting today when you go to this link and use the code TACOPIGS.

Now, the event is getting bigger and bigger. While last year's event boasts 45 taquerieas for $25, this year's $35 admission promises 80 vendors curated by Bill Esparza! 55 have been confirmed so far including Amor y Tacos, Taco Maria, Aqui es Texcoco, along with Tacolandia veterans. The VIP admission is $55 which includes a separate entrance, a gift bag, and a VIP area with its own bar.

Not convinced you should spend the day feasting on as many tacos as you physically can? Read below for last year's recap by @iam_robot:

Being a Los Angeles transplant the last 14 years of my life, I’d think I have bragging rights on where to find great tacos this world has to offer. But after attending Tacolandia and devouring 25 different Taco variations, I have a feeling I could be looking for the perfect taco the rest of my life – And this is what makes Taco so fascinating…the variations are infinite and in the world of Yelp & Instagram, greatest taqueros/ taqueras are investing insane amount of thought, craftsmanship and labor hours to create the world’s most interesting taco.

In the end, I have to admit Tacolandia is probably the best food event to attend in terms of fun and bang for your buck. Two thumbs up to Bill Esparza (world’s 1st tacorazzo) for carefully selecting 45 super star taqueros and chefs from Southern California/ Mexico who performed admirably, and many times, exceeding imaginations. I can’t be happier how interesting ingredients (smelt, sprinkles, tongue, etc) and weird food (dickhead, offals, grasshopper, etc) were served up to satiate adventurous eaters like me. Below are some of the tacos served that day:

Cochinita Pibil by Chef Tim Hollingsworth  (former Chef of the French Laundry) made the most visually stunning and delicious taco for the day.
Cochinita Pibil (Slow Roasted Pork) Taco is made with Oaxacan Corn Tortilla, Masa, Guacamole and crispy potato mole. Loved the interchanging flavors of heat and savory here.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Kennedy's On The Square (Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA)

Kennedy's On The Square is a popular tavern in Harvard Square. The decor sticks to the name, with JFK-related photos and memorabilia on the walls.

They've recently launched a new menu and invited a bunch of local bloggers to try it.
Between more than a dozen of us, we tried quite a bit of food. Here are some of my favorites from the menu:
Smoky meatballs with house-aged ground beef, veal, pork, sun-dried marinara, shaved parmesan ($11)

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