Thursday, November 29, 2007

(Liquid) Recipe Time #9: Triple Citrus Drop

Inspired by Cocktail on the Fly's unique and yummy drinks made with fresh ingredients, I decided to take advantage of the delicious tangerines I've got lying about to make a triple citrus drop that's vibrant in color and flavor!

1 tangerine
1 shot citrus flavored vodka (I used Modern Spirits' Grapefruit Honey)
1/2 shot
limoncello, substitute with more citrus vodka if you do not have
1 oz. lemonade
splash of simple syrup
sugar for rimming (bar/baker's sugar preferable)
ice cubes (the larger the better to minimize dilution)

1. Ice down a cocktail glass (put in the freezer or fill with ice water)
2. Peel the tangerine and separate the segments, saving a finger-sized piece of the peel and piercing the outer skin of each segment by chopping in half or peeling one side off (easier to extract the flavors and juices later when shaking);
3. Gently scrape the outside of the saved peel with a grater or a serrated knife to help release its aromatic oils.
5. Put the tangerine segments (setting aside one or two for rimming & garnish) and scraped peel in a cocktail shaker, add the other liquids and the ice last.
6. Shake vigorously for a minute (so the ice cubes can break up the segments & peel and help release their flavors).
7. Get the cold cocktail glass (and empty it out if using iced water method); rub the saved tangerine segment on the edge of the cocktail glass and rim it with sugar.
8. Strain the cocktail into the glass and enjoy!

Customization Ideas:
1. To make the drink a little more eclectic in flavors, add a few slices of raw ginger or a few drops of vanilla extract ~ even a slice or two of pepper for a bite!
2. Blend some tangerine zest from the peel with the sugar to make a slightly colorful and very fragrant rim.
3. Also great with any other fresh citrus in season (limes, grapefruits, etc.) adjust portions accordingly.
4. It's great alongside the
tangerine-vanilla panna cotta ;)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mini Foodventure #44: Daikokuya (Downtown/Little Tokyo)

I may not be a ramen expert - but I know when I taste a good steamy bowl of noodles & soup and I (and half of Los Angeles, seemingly) had fond memories of Daikokuya's ramen a few months ago. However, the long lines were always a turn off and always to be expected. But after my dining companion that night told me that the waits are shorter as of late, I decided to brave the potential mob for another hit of noodles, hoping that the crowds had thinned out because of the restaurant's expanded hours and not because of a drop in quality . . .

There were, indeed, unusually few people waiting outside the place, we still had to loaf around for a good half-hour before being seated. But after we were, service was the usual cordial but swift.

While the restaurant's claim to fame is their ramen bowls, made with kurobuta pork chashu and a tonkotsu stock that has been simmering for a day, I opted to go a little more experimental and went for another one of my favorite Japanese homesytle dish: oyakodon!

Juicy chicken and egg simmered with onions in a slightly sweet dashi, mirin and shoyu sauce over steamy fluffy rice . . . is what I expected. What I got was dry chicken and near-rubbery eggs, possibly from overcooking and/or not enough sauce. Adding insult to injury, the rice, which was just OK, could've really used the flavoring from the sauce.

My dining companion smartly decided to stick with what she knew and ordered the bowl of ramen alongside a mini-unadon--

Fortunately, the eel donburi fared better than my chicken/egg one; my DC thought it was too sweet for her but I thought it was a great complement to the moist and rich unagi. And OK rice was much better here since there was all that leftover sweet unagi sauce to mix them in.

And the ramen? . . .

. . . still solidly good, the broth was savory, meaty and nicely accented with negi, the noodles are substantial and tender, and the wonderfuly marbled chashu almost melts onto my tongue. All in all, a decent (and generous) helping of noodles.

As yummy as the dish was, it wasn't as great as I remembered it, though I'm not sure if the quality actually went south since they accomodate more people now, if my memories were playing tricks on me, if it seemed tastier when I have to wait in line for it or if I'm just influenced by
recent reviews that aren't as optimistic. Nonetheless, it's still on my list as a place to go if I'm ever craving ramen (and not oyakodon!), though I'd easily look for another eatery if I discover the wait-list has entered the double-digits.

327 E. First Street
Los Angeles
Web site

What do others say?
Abby also enjoyed the rich, meaty broth that "takes no prisoners"
Colleen is left in awe by the "toro of pork"
DailyGluttony adds this place to her legion of (ra)menwhore ;)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday Quickies #8: Post-Thanksgiving

As noted last week, I cheated my way out of Thanksgiving dinner and settled on a Turkey Dinner from Whole Foods -- here's how everything turned out:

The bird: I got half a pre-cooked
Diestel Ranch Turkey (almost four pounds); while I liked the free range & no chemicals fed/injected aspect of the bird, taste-wise this variety has gotten some unfavorable reviews -- which I confirmed. The breast meat was OK, but the fowl was overall too gristly and gamey for my liking. I can't even put together a decent leftover sandwich with the dry and chewy meat, even after I generously slopped on the gravy.

Gravies: We actually got two kinds - the original turkey gravy and the organic vegan mushroom gravy, my fellow diners & I actually liked the latter better, it was more flavorful and aromatic and lot less salty.

Starches: Another downer, the mashed potatoes were kinda mealy and an unappealing tartness (as if sour cream were mashed into them) and the rolls tasted unremarkably 'white bread' and bordering on stale.

Stuffing/Dressing: My second favorite dish in a Thanksgiving feast, the apple-mushroom stuffing I got was quite delish. I couldn't detect any apple, but there was a good amount of earthy mushrooms and the stuffing was well-seasoned.

Veggies: Green bean casserole (yes, fried onions included) and roasted vegetable medley of squashes, pearl onions and carrots - along with my homemade sauted brussel sprouts with truffle oil. All the veggies were delicious but not particularly outstanding.

Sweet Stuff: I only had a taste of the cranberry sauce (planning to save it for a dessert topping this weekend) but I loved it immensely, not too sweet and not too tart. For Thanksgiving night, our dessert was a gianduja torte that was wonderfully rich and bursting with toasty hazelnut-chocolate flavors.

All in all - an OK Thanksgiving meal ~ I don't think I would get a whole meal from Whole Foods again, given some major misses on major courses. But at least it lets me throw out some of the stuff with a clean conscience . . .

Oh yea, since this is the day after -- here's a good article on what to do with the leftovers.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Quickies #7: Moving & Cheating Thanksgiving Again . . .

I'm Moving!: I've been moving this week so things on food front have been slow for me this week (awful, actually, with me alternating between "inventive" dishes out of the remnants in the fridge and noshing junk food), but I do have some banked images / foodventures so can't wait to share once I settle down over Thanksgiving week, and speaking of which . . .

I'm Cheating . . . Again: I opted to order a takeout holiday dinner from Whole Foods, but plan on making a few side dishes of my own (sauteed brussel sprouts with pancetta and mixed mushrooms braised in red wine are high on that list.)

Finally, the Michelin Guide: As noted on my twitter, I wasn't too excited about its debut (maybe that would change if I was selected as an inspector or invited to the launch party ;) ) --since all the starred restaurants aren't in my typical dining budget and I'd sooner trust my tastebuds to fellow Angeleno foodbloggers & chowhounders than this more-touristy guide. At least it's not a quote word salad like Zagat (but the writing still leaves much to be desired.)

Just in case I don't get to update the blog until after Turkey Day, wishing that y'all have a great one with lots to be thankful for and lots to look forward to!

P.S. Oh yea, the East L.A. Tamale Festival this past weekend was a disappointing bust. Going on a Saturday afternoon, there were about 10 food vendors (and about 5-7 tamale boothes), 3 of which are Mama's Hot Tamales. Add that to long lines, meager selections and "meh!" foods made for a not-very-fun foodventure. But at least this confirms my attending the Indio Festival again this year to redeem my palate!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Quickies #6: Whole Foods, Two Chances to Meet J Gold, Blind Tastings

Whole Foods Western U.S. flagship in Pasadena: Keeping it short and sweet since every blogger, foodie community and media alive covered it already; astrounding variety and impressive quality - just set aside two hours to explore, go check it out and gawk at all the features of this 77,000 sq. ft. two-story behemoth of a market, from the freshly roasted nuts counter to the shopping cart escalator to the wine & tapas bar and all the ready-made foods available, including a very aromatic meat smokehouse. That being said, I personally wouldn't come here on a regular basis (as I did the Wild Oats, R.I.P.) -- it's just too easy for me say sayonara to my shopping list & wallet here and spend too much time and money. I can hardly believe that an hour and a half disappeared when I barely skimmed the aisles and sections on its grand opening day (which wasn't as crowded as I anticipated, thankfully). However, I would still swing by here from time to time if I'm shopping for a special occasion or looking for a unique ingredient (or maybe just to take a swig of wine & a sampling of cheeses.) For some fantastic photos of this place's offerings, go to Clare K's blog.

Two opportunities to meet Jonathan Gold: How he looks is
no secret on the internet, but if you want to meet the Pultizer-winning LA Weekly food critic in person you'll have two chances at it: on November 17 he'll be at the Great Los Angeles Walk providing handouts of his favorite Pico Blvd. eateries, and on November 15 he's the guest of honor at the Society of Professional Journalists' Fall Mixer at the Redwood Bar & Grill (FYI, the mixers are not restrictive to journalists only and typically there's a significant crowd of other types such as *cough cough* PR folks and others "interested in journalism". However, regardless of your profession, do make the courtesy of letting them know you're going.) Both events are free to attend, except for whatever you'll be buying to drink and eat.

Going blind for wines?: Slate's wine critic Mike Steinberger wrote a nice
piece about the supposed gold standard of "blind tasting" to evaluate wines and made a few good points about why that's not always the best method of appraisal. Give it a read and share your thoughts! (Speaking of wines . . . I had my first cork-tainted bottle last night~ a 2004 Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon that I had saved for awhile (and no, the label didn't prepare me for a damp cardboard nose, ecchh!) and forgot where I bought it from, so no dice for attempting to return it, boo. I believe the bottle was around $8-10 so it wasn't too tragic a loss.)

Finally . . . I'm heading to the
East L.A. Tamale Festival tomorrow (around 11 a.m. - noon), hope you masa lovers can make it this weekend too ;)

Ok, finally for REAL this time: I've been following
The Next Iron Chef, can't wait to watch the finale this Sunday! The series started out pretty weak, but got better as contestants got eliminated, giving more air-time of the remaining contenders as they prepare and present their dishes.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Mini Foodventure #43: Wonton Time (Alhambra)

Sweater weather rolling in also mean it's an appropriate time to play homage to a Cantonese classic comfort food: the wonton noodle soup. Last week, my search for the delicious trinity of pasta, dumplings and broth took me to Wonton Time in Alhambra.
Like most other casual "everyday" Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, it's a no-nonsense operation with furniture picked for functionality and value. However, unlike other places with menus that runs above and beyond a hundred items, the selection here is pretty "keep it simple":
Basically, you choose your noodles, how it's prepared and what type/combination of toppings you want (wontons, fish cakes and/or sliced beef). For another two bucks you can get vegetables of the day in oyster sauce too. Quick and easy.

Since I wanted to catch the evening news at home and their dining area (which accomodates about 30) is pretty packed, I opted for a to go order of fish cakes & wonton hor fun soup. I paid my $4.50 + tax, waited five minutes, and I was sent my merry way with two styrofoam to-go bowls (noodles are typically packed separately to avoid becoming too soggy and to allow diner to eat them dry with the soup on the side). Thankfully, traffic was kind enough to allow me to get home to enjoy my grub still piping hot.
A little plain to look at, and overall somewhere between 'so-so' and 'kinda good': the chicken broth was flavorful and not too salty (or MSG'd); the big fish cakes were nice and pretty aromatic from the mixed-in parsley. The wontons, however, failed to impress (and shocking, given the restaurant's name)-- they were simply too large and too bland--these are supposed to be one-bite treasures packed with a savory filling, not something whose halves are nervously balanced on chopsticks while I season them myself, all the while hoping they don't slip and dive back into the bowl and splash soup everywhere. The filling was also too shrimpy for my tastes (it's basically three shrimps, whereas I would've preferred a *seasoned* pork-shrimp mixture.)

So overall, perhaps worth a try if you're large, shrimpy wontons and if you happen to be in the that area, but definitely nothing that calls for a special trip. I'd rather take my wonton business to Har Lam Kee.

Wonton Time
19 East Valley Blvd; cross: Garfield
(626) 293-3366

Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Quickies #5: Doughboys, Kettle Chips & Easy Foodblogging

Doughboys: Ok, the Third Street location may have a slight health dept. mishap; and their service may not always be consistently good (even for a casual place) -- but my experiences there are almost always positive. During my last dine-in last Sunday at the Hollywood location, my companion and I shared the morning pizza (with globs of melted cheese, caramelized onions, pancetta and fried eggs) that's plain gooey good. I also had their basil chicken salad that was an explosion of flavors with its major chunks of meat, avocado, orange wedges, walnuts and blue cheese tossed with mixed greens in a light citrus vinaigrette. Finishing it off, their famous red velvet cake -- moist, vanilla-y and with lots of cream cheese frosting to boot! Simply heavenly. But maybe I was just lucky with kitchen & front staff, so hoping they get their act together and keep up the good work.

It's Kettle Chips People Choice Time Again: I was excited last year with their worldly flavors, and I'm equally eager about the theme and contenders this year: fire & spice with five hot flavors. I've already placed my order for my sampler back & can't wait to try; for now, I'm hedging my bets for Mango Chili & Orange Ginger Wasabi 'cause I have a thing for the sweet-spicy combo.

Foodblogging's a cinch, but what the . . .: At least three other blogs had their rip on this L.A. times non-story already, but I'll throw in my two cents anyways: OMGWTFBBQ?! How is this a food story? Is the business section going to have a story about the ease of starting a personal finance blog? What about the sports page and simplicity of starting a blog meta-reporting on plays and scoreboards? Simply put, take out all food references, and it *may* be a half-decent DiY article for the tech-unsavvy; or alternatively, with a few edits, a tech manual for how to use WordPress (has it occurred for Regina to check out Typepad, Blogger, Livejournal, etc . . . perhaps a more food section worthy piece would be if she did a comparison of pros/cons of these publishing sites specifically for food blogs.) And finally, geez, to name it FoodFake?!


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