Friday, October 31, 2008

Special Foodventure #84: Guest Chefs Dinner at the Athenaeum (Pasadena)

Sometimes, it's good to be in the "in" crowd, or at least know someone who can get you in. That certainly was the case this past Tuesday, when Gourmet Pigs was my ticket in for the guest chefs dinner at CalTech's club The Athenaeum, open only to members and their +1s (or in my case, +3 -- since I brought along two other friends for this fantastic-sounding foodventure). The price of $110 seems steep at first, but considering it's five wine-paired courses plus a reception with complimentary cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and tax + gratuity already included, didn't seem so bad afterall so we're definitely down for that!
The evening started off with a lovely reception in the club, where caterers were busy serving up complementary drinks and hors d'oeuvres and whisking away empty plates and cups. GP and I arrived early and managed to snagged a few sips and nibbles, including the pictured raspberry champagne cocktail and cajun shrimp in a sweet-and-sour cocktail sauce, which was interesting. During the reception, the guest chefs came out and mingled a little with the crowds, which was nice.
My +1s arrived in a few minutes and we shortly escorted into their lovely courtyard with stunning place settings, with classy chargers too! But the my eyes absolutely blown away by their centerpiece . . .
. . . made almost entirely of chocolate and garnished with assorted truffles and flower petals, a creation of guest chef Bruno Marcy from C... is for Chocolate and Sara J. Pastries & Cakes. I can already tell I'm going to have to a hard time through the meal, wondering if I can just sneak a bite between courses. Alas, I behaved and managed to keep my fingers off until the end.
After mingling with our table mates and bread service (pretty good, particularly the pretzel roll,) we were served our amuse -- prepared by Craig Strong, Chef de Cuisine of Pasadena's Langham Hotel (formerly the Ritz-Carlton) -- scallop with chicken skin crust with fig, sunchoke puree, fava beans and chicken jus. Delicious and intriguing, the exterior tasted exactly like a fried chicken crust, but quickly yielding to the firm-yet-creamy flesh of the scallop. The fresh flavors of the sunchoke and fava bean purees added a pleasant "green" dimension to this dish. The course was paired with a 2007 German Gunderloch "Jean Baptiste" Kabinett Riesling that was pleasant on its own, particularly the stone fruits and apple nose, but was a bit too sweet when matched against the scallops.
Next came Christopher Eme's (from Ortolan) lobster spaghetti, with a lobster paté wrapped in spaghetti and topped with a herbed caviar and sea urchin sauce with fall vegetables and microgreens. I love the presentation, and immediately deemed it the "Italian Sushi Roll" from the way it's presented. The sauce was rich yet subtle, not being too heavy or overpowering with the caviar and urchin flavors, allowing the natural sweetness of the lobster to come through. This course was also better wine paired with a 2006 Flowers Chardonnay from Sonoma, which had great mineral and citrus notes to cut into the fattiness of this dish.
Following that was a salad of fall beets and a confit of fennel with spiced walnut crusted chevre and vanilla bean vinaigrette prepared by Nigel Didcock from The Granite Club in Toronto. Very light and balanced and a refreshing break from the heavy courses. I love the sweetness of the red and yellow beet slices paired against the earthy fennel and the creamy and tart chevre cheese, and that fried beet chip was just icing on the cake! Equally refreshing was the well-paired 2007 Provence Rosé from Les Domaniers de Puits Mouret, with a nice copper-salmon color and a light, clean finish and fragrant ripe berry bouquet.
The main course was made by Athenaeum's Kevin Isaacson, and was an impressive pumpkin seed-crusted suckling veal rack with wild mushroom marrow stuffing, truffled cognac sauce and black truffle shavings. Feels so wrong (we're talking calves that haven't even weaned yet!) yet tastes so right... tender succulent veal racks that pretty much falls right off the bone mixed with a savory and earthy sauce, intensified even more by the shavings. The mushroom-and-marrow stuffing was almost as woodsy and rich, making it a wonderful accompaniment to the veal. The pairing here was also pretty spot-on, with a White Rock 2004 Napa "Laureate" Cabernet Sauvignon that has a full body, dark fruit tones and rounded tannins.
Finally, dessert: Chef Marcy's honey and light chocolate mousse with black pepper apricots. I didn't pick up the last flavors (unless it meant the dots and strokes of sauce on the plate) but I love the mousse combos, rich in flavor yet fluffy and almost cloud-like in texture. I savored every bite, letting the sweet chocolate-covered pillows slowly dissolve in my mouth. The pairing, Quady's 2006 "Elysium" Black Muscat, was OK -- a bit too rich for this light dessert course and its lychee and rose perfume is wonderful, but competes and distracts that of the dessert. It was a good dessert wine when enjoyed separately, though -- but probably a better pairing for a baked fruity dessert.

Of course, my table guests and I wasted no time digging into the centerpiece. The bittersweet sculpture was great (and actually was better for the wine than the mousse) and I also enjoyed a wonderful thyme truffle, which I love since it kept my tastebuds curious and engaged as I analyzed the flavors. As we're enjoying our chocolates and coffee service, the chefs came by and made their rounds to the table, and we held no words back giving our praises and grilling them with questions ("was that really chicken skin?" "how long did it take you to create the centerpieces?") But like all other good things, this came to an end and we parted ways around 11 p.m. (did we really spend almost 4 hours here? it felt more like 2!) But definitely great memories and I look forward to bugging Gourmet Pigs for another special meal here again :)

The Athenaeum at CalTech
551 S. Hill Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91106

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Special Foodventure #83: LA Magazine's The Food Event: From the Vine (Malibu)

assorted dishes offered by Chaya Brasserie at The Food Event '08

Yes, it was another one of those fantastic food and drink event filled weekends. Following my white trash wine tasting yesterday, my friends and I took a trip to Malibu for LA Magazine's 3rd Annual "The Food Event: From the Vine" at Saddlerock Ranch. (Freebie disclosure: was ready to spend the $50 for the event - especially since a good portion will be benefiting the LA Food Bank and Concern Foundation, but when I emailed their folks for any discounts I can pass on to my blog readers, they graciously extended a media pass to me as well.)

The scenery (rolling vineyard hills, plus assorted farm and exotic animals) was great and the weather was decent, so we had a pleasant time enjoying our nibbles and sips. Here are some of the highlights of the four hour event:
~ food served was generally delicious, was surprised by how many raw and near-raw meats were served given the warm afternoon weather (buffalo tartare, hamachi poke, and the ubiquitous ahi tuna with something). Particularly memorable bites included the above
truffled orecchiette from Tra di Noi -- tossed in a bowl carved out of a parmigiano-reggiano wheel -- and the below assorted sweets (mini pumpkin and chocolate-PB pies, apple tart-doughnuts, cupcakes) from Rustic Canyon with pastry chef Zoe plating and serving -- seen here with their oxtail-stuffed arancini. Other notables included a spicy coconut-lobster-mushroom chowder from Darren's in Manhattan Beach, the refreshing blueberry mint lemonade from Lemonade and Saddle Peak Lodge's pheasant mousse tartlet with cranberry.
~ wine was more a hit-and-miss here. Like the LA Winefest, people were more drawn to the chilled whites and rosés because of the warm weather and the mostly light foods. It was also a bit unfortunate that there didn't seem to be any dessert wines around to complement the various sweets that several tables were serving. But there were some good finds including: Irony Winery's Chardonnay, whose light oakiness complemented the natural character well and smelled like an apple pie with a smooth palate, Gnarly Head's Old Vine Zinfandel that had nice desserty notes and nice bite on the tongue, and Peju Winery's Red & White Provence Blend that was refreshing, easy-to-drink with great berry bouquet (and definitely well-paired against all the raw fishy foods we had there).
~ and of course, the celebrity-chef gawking. I was so excited to be able see (and taste!) so many of LA's food-famous in action, including Grace's Neal Fraser making a uni-kabocha-mascarpone risotto above, Animal's Vinny Detolo and Jon Shook whipping up a wonderfully tender BBQ rib and the final "Iron Chef v. Top Chef" battle with Sashi's Makoto Okuwa, who used to be one of Morimoto's assistant chefs, against Betty Fraser of Grub from season two of T.C. I didn't get to judge but did get to taste both their creations (Betty's butter-poached shrimp with pumpkin against Makoto's chicken-mushroom baos with truffle oil and yuzu zest). Close match, but Betty won again! Other foodies I spotted, recognized and chatted with included Nancy Silverton of the Mozzas, Denise Daclan from Saltistry, Cheese Impresario Barrie Lynn and fellow foodbloggin' friend Gourmet Pigs.

In short, a fun and tasty Sunday and I am more excited than ever about checking out some of these meaning-to-try restaurants. This was one of the better food event deals in town considering all the tastings from top-tier restaurants and opportunity to mix and mingle with the stars from the L.A. food scene. I'll definitely mark next year's event on my calendar well in advance!

The 3rd Annual Food Event at Saddlerock Ranch
31727 Mulholland Highway
Malibu, CA 90265

Special Foodventure #82: White Trash Wine Tasting (Eagle Rock)

If you think wine tastings are strictly snooty, frou-frou affairs -- chances are you haven't attended something like Colorado Wine Company's Annual White Trash Wine Tasting, where fine wines are paired with the most exquisite foods available from your corner liquor store. From its inception last year, this event caught buzz and sold out fast; thankfully my blogger friend Caroline on Crack had an extra +1 space so I joined her and blogger e*starla for this fun-sounding food- and drinkventure.
I've heard of Colorado Wine Co. before (mostly through nearby Auntie Em's, whom they partner with occasionally for wine/food pairing suggestions) but this is my first time actually going -- it's a pretty cute wine shop. Very open and their wine selection looks comparatively small but also carefully chosen. The staff not only know their wine but are very friendly as well. Definitely a great place to check out for those amateur wine enthusiasts who like to learn (and taste) a little more about their wines in a nice, casual setting.

The three of us got there early -- before the crowd -- so we wasted no time paying our $20 and getting an early start with our high/low pairings, beginning with:

Bouffées de Fromage (that's cheese puffs for you commoners, pfff...) with a Denis Pere & Fils Brut Burgundy sparkling white. It was strangely tasty pair, when combined I suddenly thought of Monday Night Football with cheesy chips and beer -- but classier! As Caroline noted, the airy puffs definitely goes well with the fizzy wine. This was so good we wound up getting a second helping of both later in the event.
Next up is Charcuterie de 7-Eleven (Slim Jims) matched with a 2007 Argentinian Malbec. Probably the most... interesting... of the pairings, and the three of us were naturally grossed out by the meat product that has a shelf-life until 2009 at room temperature. As much as we didn't care for the snappy/chewy texture of the "meat", it did kind of match the smoky/earthy profile of the Malbec and combining the two did soften the wine's tannins and make smoother and rounded (though I don't think I'll ever describe a wine as "Mmm... tastes like a Slim Jim!" anytime soon, at least not if I want others to drink it.)

Third is Frito Tarte, with the ubiquitous corn chips topped with chili and shredded cheese, with a 2007 Owen Roe Abbot's Table Red (which the tasting sheet affectionately described as the "kitchen sink blend" since it contains 10 different varietals, running the whole gamut from pinot noir to cab. franc to merlot and syrah. Again, another delightful pairing, the two plays off each other really well, I absolutely love how the spiciness of the wine kind of lingers in the background after eating the chili fritos!
Finishing up the tasting, Gâteau au Chocolate en Plastique (Ding Dongs) with Barros 10 Year Tawny Port. I loved the smell of the port immediately, it was wonderful mix of maple syrup, vanilla and pecan pie! I could swirl and sniff this all afternoon long. It complemented the cream-filled chocolate cake well, though had less of a "surprisingly good" reaction than the other pairings.

But all in all, it was a fun way to spend the afternoon with great company, and it definitely made wine (and wine pairings) a lot more approachable and casual. So don't look so shocked if you see me bringing a nice bottle of wine and a bag of Kettle Chips!

Colorado Wine Company
2114 Colorado Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 478-1985

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Quickies #35: Man Bites World on Media, High and Low End Events this Weekend

Another foodblogger in the media: Noah from Man Bites World will be on the Patt Morrison Show on KPCC-FM (89.3) around 2:30 p.m. today talking about his worldly eats around town. This was after he did a segment with KTLA-TV while feasting on a bona fide French feast down in Newport Beach. But as I said before, his foodblogging project is pretty damn unique . . . he's on Day 50 now and still finding new places and countries to explore. His recent highlights include exploring the strange cuisine of Cambodia, watching the presidential debates in a Nigerian restaurant and munching down some hard-to-ID Nicaraguan bites. (In case you're not a NPR junkie or missed the live interview, the segment can be streamed/downloaded afterwards on the Patt Morrison site.)

Careers Through Culinary Arts Fundraiser Dinner at Grace: Yes, the economy is a slump and we're all trying to pinch our pennies whereever we can, but if you are going to do a splurgy blow-out meal anytime soon, I can't think of a better one than this Nov. 3 charity dinner to help high school students pursue their culinary passions. The menu, which the program gradutes help prepared, include kona kampachi tartare with with lemon gelee and red shiso; crispy squash blossoms with burrata, olive oil and cherry tomatoes and oven roasted leg of Sonoma lamb with black olive sauce and roasted fall veggies. $125/person.

Silverlake at it again with the Sunday tastings: I've mentioned their unbelievably wonderful $20/person Sunday tasting deal with suckling pig and pumpkin lasagne (see fellow foodblogger FoodGPS's summary here) -- again, this Sunday they are whipping up something special. Less is known about the menu this time, but it's four courses again and "Hannibal the Argentinean butcher" will be grilling beef and chicken and the dishes will be paired with eccentric wines from all over (Calif. chardonnay, a Bordeaux, Australian shiraz and Argentinian malbec). Again, missing out on this fun because I'll be at the Food Event in Malibu! As always, RSVP is pretty much a must.

Other things on my weekend planner: doing the 2nd Annual White Trash Wine Tasting with Caroline on Crack (in case I ever need to pair a fine wine with slim jims, fritos and ding dongs!); Caroline also tipped me off about Gruesome Hotel Murder Mystery going on tonight and tomorrow night. Sounds like lots of fun and there's free "killer cocktails" (and only $10-15 a person!) Finally, I'll be at the Edison tonight to check out their Soup Kitchen Fridays (35-cent drinks and snacks of grilled cheese & tomato soup) as well as the Jules Verne Festival opening night event, which is screening a few Disney classics (including Fantasia 2000) along with complimentary cocktails and apps. $15/person (well, $17 after ticket fees) and you have to buy online beforehand.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mini Foodventure #81: Table 10 (Las Vegas)

Finishing up my long Vegas weekend, my friends and I did our farewell lunch at Table 10. It was a bit out-of-the-ordinary, since we usually do a blowout brunch buffet to ease us into a food coma for the four hour drive home, but we're all older now and snarfing down three-plus plates of breakfast and lunch fare *will* show. So no complaints here for sensible, and hopefuly tasty, eating at Emeril's Vegas outpost.

Like all the other celebrity chefs, Mr. BAM! Emeril Lagasse is no stranger to franchising to Sin City -- there's also
Delmonico in the Venetian and Fish House at MGM Grand. But Table 10 is closest, and open for lunch, so that's where we went. When I saw the menu, I didn't know what to make of it: peppercorn seared ahi tuna, cuban-style kurobuta pork sandwich, asian style lettuce wraps with raw hamachi.

Of course, there's some Cajun food representation with gumbo and jambalaya, but it was literally all over the map, and I am starting to wonder if the kitchen can pull it off.

The cocktail list though, looked pretty interesting, still feeling the gin love from my recent dinner at DB Brasserie, I ordered a lychee gin martini. It was great smelling but a bit too sweet and ultimately not that remarkable. I was more impressed with my friend's equivalent of a bourbon swizzle (pictured above): the fizz from the club soda really helps open up the bourbon while mellowing out some of the astringency.
Since one of my friends and I already planned on getting dessert, we decided to split an appetizer and an entreé. For starters, we had their Prince Edward Island mussels with homemade bacon and leeks in a saffron broth. Very aromatic and wonderfully smoky from the bacon. And though mussels are my least favorite of bivalves, these were delicious -- no off-flavors and a nice oceany brine taste. Of course, we took extra slices of bread to soak up that wonderful broth!

For the main, pasta jambalaya, basically all the components of a regular one with the fettucine in place of rice. The meaty components are well done; shrimp nicely cooked and wonderfully seasoned, chicken was juicy and the sausage flavorful. My bigger gripe is wtih the sauce, which was a pretty bland, albeit rich, tomato sauce. It wasn't bad, but definitely a bit disappointing for a man who built himself around spice-blasting every dish.

We also tasted our friends' dishes, which ranges from OK (the cuban pork sandwich, lobster mac 'n cheese) to pretty good (like the pictured above crabcakes with avocado mousse and chorizo). Overall, no complaints but no high praises either.
For desserts, my friend and I splitted their sampler trio, which consisted of a torte-like Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee-chocolate cake with Kahlua syrup and peanut brittle, "fruit on the bottom" lemon creme brulee with blueberry jam and shortbread cookie, and white chocolate malassadas (Portuguese doughnuts) with cinnamon sugar and creme anglaise. All three were decent, but I was particularly pleased with the creme brulee, the tart lemon custard and the blueberries really cut into the usual heaviness of that dish.

My favorite dessert of all, however, was the flourless chocolate bourbon cake that another friend ordered. Rich in flavors and not too terribly sweet, it went wonderfully with the equally well-balanced brown sugar creme fraiche and the tart cherry compote. Kind of a spiked black forest cake!

In short, it was a pleasant lunch to wrap things up in Sin City -- definitely classier than a buffet. But would I return? The only things that stood out in my mind was the starter, cocktails and desserts (actually, they had a pretty impressive coffee service too, custom-brewed and allowing you to choose which blend / origin of beans you want) so I may be back for a quick sweet bite and sip. Not-so-much for a full-on meal especially given so many yet-to-try options going on there.

And with that, let's return to regularly scheduled LA/OC programming . . .

Table 10 at the Palazzo
3327 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 607-6363

Table 10 (Palazzo) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ask LA/OC Foodie #2: Chocolate / Wine Tastings?

Black Forest Cube at Red White + Bluezz

Bringing back the occasional (ask/stump) the blogger section. Got a food/beverage question for me? Email away! (note: I always ask for permission before blogging the questions, so no worries if you want to keep it private, just let me know when you ask.)

Dear LA/OC Foodie,

So I'm really trying to put together a nice day of culinary related surprises for my friend's birthday. She's a chef and I thought it would be really cool to go to a place that held wine tasting in tandem with chocolate as well. I've seen this has gotten some buzz as of late and am having a bitch of a time trying to track a place down. Any suggestions?!??? I's really appreciate the advice! ~ Susanna L.

Hi there Susanna,

Chocolate (actually, any dessert) and wine pairings are a hard find indeed - but there are a few places worth looking into; Providence and pretty sure Spago offers a dessert tasting menu with wines to match. You can call the restaurant beforehand to see if they can accomodate a "more chocolatey" tasting request. And if you don't mind ordering several desserts a la carte (essentially put together your own tasting), you should be fine in any restaurant with a decent dessert menu and an in-house sommelier to make pairing recommendations.

The only place I am aware of that does a chocolate + wine tasting is Red White & Bluezz in Pasadena, where you can pair a chocolate flight with one of their wine flights. Haven't done that there but from my previous visits the restaurant is pretty solid.

There are also a few chocolate-wine events too (obviously more casual). The Miele Design Center in Beverly Hills will be hosting a Chocolate, Cheese and Wine Tasting event on Oct. 24 ($55) featuring Valrhona chocolates (one of my favorite brands for cooking and snacking, by the way). Interestingly, Valrhona will also be featured in Surfas Market's "After Dark Series" where it will be paired with assorted wines too (it is on Nov. 15, no price announced yet). Finally, there's an upcoming course on that very topic on Nov. 30 for $60/person in advance. I've been to a few of their classes before and it is very fun and useful.

Hope that helps!

P.S./Update: The Miele Chocolate/Wine Tasting event has been sold out since I first responded to question.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Quickies #34: Beer Events, *the* Food Event and Great Bars to Eat, Drink and Talk!

Beer Events: In case you haven't gotten enough beer at the recent Oktoberfest events around town, there's a few more going on for you to enjoy great brews alongside tasty eats. On Wed., Oct. 22 TAPS in Brea is doing a $55/person, five-course beer-paired "Taste of the Harvest" dinner with delectable dishes like a ceviche of Hokkaido diver scallops and Spanish chorizo with green olives and paprika-saffron oil and braised Brandt Farms beef short ribs with Oktoberfest beer reduction and sweet potato gnocchi. Further south in the O.C., Savannah Supper Club in Costa Mesa will be serving up a $48/person, 'Bruery' dinner; the four-course meal will have beer incorporated in the dishes and paired alongside, such as a new spin on Fish 'n Chips with beer-battered butterfish with spiced yam fries, housemade chicken-chile sausage with beer-baked beans and D'Anjou Pear roasted in beer and served with beer gelato! Finally, for something a little less prix-fixe and little more LA, Urbandaddy drop the word that Luxe Lounge in Bel-Air will is going to offer a more traditional Oktoberfest themed food and beer menu from Oct. 20-25. Expect lots 'o sausages and German brews.

And then, there's LA Magazine The Food Event: Thanks to their PR folks, I got a discount code to share with you all. Type in foodevent08 when pre-ordering tickets online and you'll get a $10 discount, so only $50/person. Given the restaurant representation, celeb-chef gawking opportunities, the wineries pouring, the Malibu scenery and that $20 of that goes to charity -- it's definitely worth going to!

Finally, LA Times have a pretty decent guide of accessible bars with good grub, convenient parking and nice vibes - from Twisted Vine down in Fullerton to downtown L.A.'s Bacaro to the newly-opened Laurel Tavern in Studio City. Looks like I have a few new spots to commiserate over investments, get into heated political discussions or just some casual catching up chit-chat.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

$1 sparklies at Cube tonight!

Wow, special deals are pouring like crazy recently. First the Phillipe's French Dip for a dime, then Silverlake Wine's 5 courses + 5 wines for a Jacksonl, then yesterday's Canter's 60-cent corned beef sandwich anniversary special. And today, to commemorate their starting wine service, Cube Marketplace and Café announced via their e-newsletter that they will be serving up $1 prosecco and lambrusco tonight! There will also be other food & drink specials (wines by the glass, obvs) going on as well. What better incentive to go and check out their amazing meats & cheese plates, or their pastas!

Reservations are recommended.

Cube Marketplace and Café
615 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles
(323) 939-1148

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mini Foodventure #80: Firefly (Las Vegas)

One of my favorite hangouts every time I take a trip to Vegas, Firefly is an off-the-strip tapas lounge and bar offering tasty bites, delicious drinks and friendly (almost Cheers-like) service in a mellow and chill environment (unlike the uber-trendy and pricey bars on the strip or the dumpy just-wanna-get-wasted dives elsewhere).

What I love most is their happy hour (M-Th 3-6 p.m., F 3-5 p.m.); it's quite limited timewise, but their already reasonbly-priced drinks are half-off (bottled wines being the exception and not discounted). Drinkwise, everything I've had here is pretty good, but I definitely recommend their refreshing three-day-marinated sangrias (available in red, white or sparkling varieties -- a steal at $3 a glass or $12 a pitcher during HH) and their housemade lychee & berry infused vodka (from $2 for a shot to $4 for a martini during HH).

To sweeten the deal even more, patrons get a little complementary sampler of their tapas.

This time around, my friends and I all got a taste of their tortilla a la espanola (basically a baked potato & tortilla frittata), bacon-wrapped and blue cheese-stuffed dates with red wine reduction and albondiga (meatball) in sherry tomato sauce, photographed above with a glass of their sparkling sangria (the first of several drinks we ordered there, along with some more tapas to share).

Definitely a great way to start a Vegas weekender on the right foot (don't stumble!); I can't wait to revisit the next time I go up to Sin City (or check out their sister restaurant, Dragonfly, right next door; with more of a Pan-Asian flair and a late night HH from 10:30pm till close at 2-3a everyday!)

3900 Paradise Rd # A
Las Vegas, NV 89169
(702) 369-3971

Firefly Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bizarre Foods & Cranberry Bog hitting LA this week!

Two tidbits to tide you over the week . . .

Not one, but two LA Foodbloggers will be featured in tomorrow's episode of
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, with Deep End Dining's Eddie Lin taking Mr. Z to the offal-friendly Ford's Filling Station, followed by Teenage Glutster's Javier doing a homemade tripe trio tasting. From what I can tell on the preview, there's also gonna be mucho bizarro bites of insects and vegan food too (ok, the latter is not so strange in la la land). Tune in (10PM Eastern on Travel Channel) or DVR it.

For a weird experience in realtime, be sure to check out Hollywood & Highland on Oct. 15 - 17, when Ocean Spray will be taking over with a "Red Carpet Bog" with over a ton of cranberries from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.! There will be cranberry farmers to explain the process of harvesting (no, it doesn't naturally come in a sweet sauce blob with the can ridges still imprinted on the jelly) and the health benefits of these crimson fruits (such as fighting urinary tract infections). The winner of the cranberry recipe contest (Roasted Cranberry Quesadillas with cream cheese and maple syrup, yum!) and LA resident, Michael Cohen, will also be there. And of course, lots of Ocean Spray product samples. Too bad it doesn't go into the weekend or after normal work hours, though.

P.S./Update: Just found out Eddie Lin is also featured in Nov. issue of Los Angeles magazine highlighting, what else, scary meats in LA! Can't seem to find that particular list on their website, but check out the hardcopy if you wanna know where in LA to get water snakes, balut and bull penises.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Excellent steal this Sunday at Silverlake Wine

Just found out about this from their e-mail newsletter. This Sunday at 3p.m., the folks at Silverlake Wine are doing five wine-paired dishes, including pumpkin lasagna and whole roasted suckling pig, for $20. Too bad I'll be another event at the very same time but just wanna share with y'all (and RSVP quick, sounds like this will fill up fast and they cap at 40 folks!)

Here's the menu:

Allimant-Laugner Cremant d'Alsace Rose Non Vintage / France
paired with: Carne Cruda on gilled bread with bacon aioli & Spicy Tuna Tartar on Fried Kettle Chips

Les Vins de Vienne "Les Laurelles" Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2006 / France
paired with: Panzanella - Heirloom tomato and Charred Bread Salad with Cucumber, Basil, Bell Peppers and Buratta

Borie La Vitarelle "Les Schiste" 2006 / France
paired with: Pumpkin Lasagna - Kabocha and Butternut Puree layered with Pasta, Parmigiano and Brown Butter Sage Glaze

Bridesmaid Red Napa Valley 2004 / California
paired with: Whole Roasted Nieman Ranch Suckling Pig stuffed with Fennel, dill, and Garlic with Farmers Market Fresh Beans and Sweet and Sour Onions Red Wine Sauce

Tintero Moscato d'Asti Sori Gramella 2007 / Italy
paired with: Caramelized Late Harvest Peach - Carmelized Yellow and White Peaches Baked into Sweet Polenta cake with Lemon Verbena Ice Cream and Tricolore Raspberries

Silverlake Wine
2395 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Foodventure #79: DB Brasserie (Las Vegas)

After a year of anticipation, I was finally able to check out DB Brasserie on my most recent trip to Vegas. Ok, it wasn't the original, but a Sin City weekend is a helluva lot easier and cheaper than a Big Apple visit. And I can still shock everyone with my proclamation of eating a burger that costs over $30.
Located in the Wynn Hotel & Casino, the restaurant features a gorgeous patio that looks out into the hotel's signature waterfall and lake surrounded by lush greenery. Being a not-too-hot afternoon, my two friends and I opted for the outdoor seating.
We started off our meal with a seasonal cheese plate, and it was definitely one of the better ones I've had in a long time. It featured a nice progression of different cheeses (starting with a luscious double-cream brie, a delectable ricotta insalata and finishing with a slightly punchy blue; my favorite, as I've noted a few times before, is the Hook's Cheddar -- extra intense here because it's aged 12 years). But what I think really made this dish were the quality of the accompaniments, from the wonderfully floral honey to the candied walnuts to raisins dried on the stems, and the assorted bread with nuts and herbs baked right in.
I was also very impressed with their cocktail list, and eventually opted for the Le Rose, made with Plymouth gin, rose nectar, pomegrante liqueur and citrus juice with a classy rose petal garnish. Great drink all around: silky texture, wonderful bouquet and balanced flavors and definitely one I want to emulate at home.
My two friends opted to get their early bird special (a three-course prix-fixe available until 8 p.m.), for first course they both got the caesar salad, with a little pizazz added in. Avocados are tossed in as well, and along with the croutons there were parmesan cheese crisps. I had a taste and I liked the distinctive touches, but loved that it's not overdressed as caesars tend to be.

Afterwards, we were served our entrees, including my decadent
DB Burger, the burger itself is slightly larger than a squished tennis ball and it's stuffed with braised short ribs, foie gras and black truffle in a brioche bun.
And probably the only burger I ever used silverware to eat, given how high it's stacked. As for taste, it was decent, good actually, but not particularly special--one of those cases where the whole isn't greater than the sum of its parts; in fact, I had more fun picking out the individual components and sharing with my friends (who haven't really tasted truffle or foie gras before.) Nothing was wrong, per se, but the combination isn't particularly mind-blowing, it just tasted like a braised-rib burger combo with a little truffle and foie gras action. In fact, I think it's a bit of a waste of the last two components. But oh well, worth a try.

For prix-fixe entrees, my pals had the roasted chicken with trumpet royale mushrooms, arugula and risotto and the 10 oz. sirloin steak frites with onion compote. I had a bite of both, solid but again, nothing out of the world (though I am a sucker for sweet onion concoctions and really enjoyed the compote.)
For desserts, my companions got the chocolate hazelnut fondant cake with coffee ice cream, and we all were served complimentary bite-sized blueberry muffins. Overall it's a nice finish, and the sweets just the right size after such a filling meal.
The biggest surprise of the night came not from the restaurant but from the hotel, because apparently a giant frog springs forth from above the waterfall throughout the night and starts crooning at the audience (patio diners included). This time, it's with a very pleasant "What a Wonderful World"; I suddenly went from weirded out to "Awwww...." Yes, it's corporate and gimmicky and downright absurd, but you know you would too.
Summing up, a wonderful evening with great friends and a nice meal. I kind of was expecting more, but I also kind of wasn't. Prix-fixe meals where the same three items are served day after day aren't going to be super thrilling since the kitchen is obviously going to pick something that has a good general appeal (a.k.a. at least somewhat boring). Burgers, likewise, aren't something that's going to terribly edgy either (or it'll wound up so edgy that it's terrible!)

And everything was pretty good overall, so next time I'll probably order a la carte (their duo of kurobuta pork and skate americaine with "lobster knuckles" (claws?) sounds promising), try out another cocktail and maybe their seasonal cheeses again. Maybe after one too many delicious drinks, I may even try kissing the Frog Prince.

Le Rose Cocktail - $16
Seasonal Cheese Plate - $26
DB Burger - $32
Prix-Fixe - $48 x 2
Pre-tax/tip Total: $170

Ambience - 4/5 (Casual yet elegant, great outdoor space)
Value - 3.5/5 (The price is not bad given the dishes and ingredients used, but not what I'd consider a steal either)
Service - 7.5/10 (Solid, but lacking that extra mile of good service; staff not particulary enthusiastic or forthcoming with replies)
Food - 17/20 (Like the service, I had no real gripe with the food and it was good-tasting, but there weren't many things remarkable about it)
Bonus/Demerits - N/A
Overall - 32/40

DB Brasserie at the Wynn Hotel
3131 S. Las vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 770-3310‎ (Daniel Boulud's official page doesn't provide the Vegas Brasserie details, and will redirect back to this flash- and sound-crazy site)

Daniel Boulud Brasserie (Wynn) on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Quickies #33: October Events Galore

Before rainy days and full swing of the season's "must see TV", here's a rundown of fun October events in and around the LA/OC area to keep your first days of Fall busy.

As mentioned before, the 2nd Annual Luxury Chocolate Salon taking place on Oct. 5 - featuring demonstrations, lectures, and, of course, lots of chocolate tastings along a few other sweets (toffees, marshmallows) and some wines too (here's my write-up last year). A sweet deal for $17.50 in advance or $20 at the door. Many of the vendors will also be selling their offerings at the salon, so bring some cash too in case you discover worthwhile nibbles.

Thanks to Caroline on Crack, found out Phillipe's is celebrating their 100th Anniversary on Oct. 6 with a price roll-back with nickel coffees and sandwiches for a dime (limit one per customer). Definitely a much appreciated bargain in these shaky times. Their doors open at 4pm on Monday, so plan appropriately.

Thanks to I Nom Things for heads-up about OC Weekly's Best Of Party on Oct. 9 at iLounge in Irvine. Hors d'oeuvres and alchy will be provided along with live performances. FYI, there's a "strictly enforced" dress code of upscale-chic for this event. Why can't LA Weekly do the same to launch its Best of Issue this week?

To the North, the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association will be hosting its annual Celebration of Harvest Festival on Oct. 11 at Santa Maria Valley's Rancho Sisquoc Winery. Lots of tastings from regional wineries (over a hundred members in that association -- you can count on most, if not all, of them to be participating!), along with samplings of local restaurant dishes and live entertainment. $65/person or $25 for designated drivers.

And to the South, also noted before, San Diego's El Bizcocho will be the site of the "Beer vs. Wine" rematch on Oct. 17. Six amazing-sounding courses (including smoked raw ahi tuna with ponzu gelee and green apple nitro "cous cous"; 36-hour pork with kimchee consomme, golden raisins and maple dust; abalone and foie gras with persimmons and sweet onion puree and a modern take on Cherries Jubilee with carbonated cherries and honey marscarpone) are each paired with selected beer from Stone Brewing Co. and wines from Trinchero Wine Estates. Taste both and vote! $125/person.

For sake lovers who'd like to learn more about this alchy from Japan, LearnAboutWine is hosting a Sake Sunday School on Oct. 19 with guest sake sommelier Yuji Matsumoto (who, coincidentally, runs a blog called Learn About Sake) teaching you all the basics of sake tasting and pairing. Eight premium sakes will be served along with Japanese appetizers for pairing and to help wash it down. $69/person advanced or $75 at-the-door.

Continuing on the autumn gaming and gathering theme, Ford's Filling Station will be doing a $55/person Harvest Dinner on Oct. 21 showcasing lots of autumn comfort eats taking to a new and intriguing level such as bacon wrapped quail with pickled jalapenos and white corn polenta with mascarpone and lemon thyme. Of course, being Ford's, meats play a heavy hand in this meal -- and there's roast goose, porchetta, Kentucky ham and turkey roulade to choose from! (Thanks to Social Domain LA for the menu scoop on this one)

The 9th Annual Japanese Food Festival will be taking place in the Kyoto Grand Hotel & Gardens (formerly the New Otani) on Oct. 25. Thrown by the Japanese Restaurant Association of Southern California, it's basically a smorgasbord of Japanese food from beef bowls to yakitori along with fun events such as watching a whole tuna being fileted (and hopefully served) to a sushi chef contest and the creation of a 40-foot-long mega sushi roll. Sake, beer, shochu and wine will also be sampled. $50/person.

On Oct. 26, Los Angeles Magazine will be hosting its third annual The Food Event: From the Vine in Malibu at the Saddlerock Ranch Vineyard, with cooking demos and tastings from top-name chefs and restaurants (including Two Food Dudes' and Animal's Vinny and Jon, Neal Fraser from Grace, CJ from Top Chef, Makuto Okuwa from Sashi Sushi and the Mozzas' Nancy Silverton) along with wine tastings from over a dozen wineries! $60 advanced or $75 at-the-door, it also comes with a year's subscription to LA Magazine and $20 of each ticket will be split for LA Regional Foodbank and the Concern Foundation.

And finally, all month long, many participating Togo's will be rolling back "1970s Flashback Wednesdays" with 6" classic sandwiches offered at $1.99. And with every almost $2 sandwich purchased, a donation wll be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Special Foodventure #78: LA County Fair (Pomona)

September, and its month full of foodie events, have finally concluded. What better way to wave sayonara than with the grand daddiest of events? No, not AWFF -- the LA County Fair, where for the price of $11 (got a discount through my job) I can have access to all the deep-fried, sugar-coated, cheese-topped, sauce-acccompanied dishes that I care to eat. I even have three dining compadres with me to share the clogged arteries and failing pancreas joy with.

This year we spent a record twelve hours at the fair, exploring pretty much the entire area and sitting down for a few shows too (Chinese acrobats who had a daring new routine this year, a hypnotist performance that was humorous and entrancing, belly dancers who know how to strut their stuff and a over three-hour long of LG Freestyle MotoCross Championship (crazy tricks, yo!) Only downer was that Dynamo, an adorable miniature donkey who looks like a real-life Eeyore with it's resigned, depressed look, isn't there (was told he's now in SeaWorld).

As for the food, there really isn't much to say -- lots of fried, lots of sugar, lots of servings.
Starting the day right to help keep the doctor away, apple fries covered in cinnamon sugar, topped with caramel syrup and whipped cream on the side. I can already hear the dentist's drill, but these were as good as I remembered, particularly the flavor/texture contrast with tart and crisp granny smiths.
The freshly-fried onion blossom with dilly-ranch sauce. As delicious as any battered, freshly-fried-with-grease-still-dripping onion things could get.
Tasti-chips, which were surprisingly not as tasty or crisp as I remembered, particulary at their blandness (I remember from previous years these had a wonderful potato-y flavor, but not this time).
The gianormous six-scoop, two-pint gelato in a 16" waffle cone! I love how they still gave us the little gelato spoons to eat it (that's like asking us to clean the bathtub with a toothbrush!) And yes, this soon became a milkshake but still delicious. But the cone was purely for show, it tasted like stale styrofoam.
Finally, a piece of turd! Ok, not really -- it's dark chocolate covered bacon which tasted like dark chocolate with a salty, chewy interior. I prefer Vosges' interpretation MUCH better, but hey -- only $2 so worth a try.

That's pretty much it for my fair report; it was a day of fun times and guilt-free gorging, but now back to lots of leafy greens and exercise before the holidays come.

Los Angeles County Fair

For another take on the Fair, here's Chubbypanda's report.


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