Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A weekend of foodventures compressed into one day . . .

I've always been one to "Work hard, play hard" -- but when I get called in to work weekends that easily turns my mantra into "work hard, play hardER!" on the days I do have off. so that's exactly what I did this past Saturday, when I easily crammed 2-3 days worth of events and outings into one 24-hour period of fun, thrills and, of course, food.

Bloggers at Human Race
My day actually started the night preceding, when I went to USC-LA Coliseum area to partake in the Nike+ Human Race 10K (disclosure: the Nike folks were actually going for more online/social media outreach this year, so they reached out to a few local influentials, including my friend Caroline on Crack, so as a blogger and plus-one I got hooked up with some dandy running gear – more on that on my much-neglected “other half” blog coming up.) The run was wild and crazy with over 8,000 peeps taking on 5K/10K in Central LA. Being packed as it was, I didn’t set a record for my run, but still did better than I expected (53 minutes for 10K, so approx. 8:30 a mile). It was great meeting fellow running bloggers Sonja of Active Foodie, Josh of FoodGPS, and Andy + Lisa of LAist (DianaTakesABite was also there staffing the shoe trials booth) And just to make this paragraph relevant to this blog, I also enjoyed the barbecue-flavored PopChips that were provided to runners -- wildly flavorful and not greasy at all!
Affogato
A little snack and an abridged five-hour sleep later, I hauled my surprisingly-not-sore legs to Venice to meet up with Sonja, Caroline and her friend Mei-Mei at Gjelina. Having arrived in the Abbot Kinney area a little early, I decide to indulge in a post-run affogato at Intelligentsia. After one sip and one spoonful, I think espresso+ice cream should be a part of everyone’s well-balanced breakfast!
Empty Tables at Gjelina
After that blissful drink, Caroline, Mei-Mei and I plopped our butts down at Gjelina (Sonja ran a little late). I’m not usually one to bag on restaurants, but what’s up with the attitude? From the curt hostess who sat us down in the most dysfunctional and fugliest table on the nearly-empty patio (turquoise, rusty AND wobbly) and not letting us switch to another four-top due to reservations (Caroline and I found that questionable, since she called a few days before and was told reservations allowed only for parties of six-plus.) And then there’s our fedora-wearing hipster waiter who was impatiently hovering around us early on while we waited for Sonja, providing abrupt replies to our questions interspersed with “are you ready yet?” and practically disappeared after getting the order down (I don’t believe he even checked up on our table.) Well, sorry if we weren’t celebrities or hobbits (I spotted Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan in semi-private area of the restaurant,) but a little TLC at the table goes a long, long way.
Chickpea Stew
As for the food, it was on the OK-to-good range – nothing that I’d make a destination for. I got the chickpea and Israeli couscous stew with spiced yogurt and harissa sauces – more on the lunchy side of brunch but it satisfied my hunger and was a hearty-but-not-heavy dish. Sonja, Caroline and Mei-Mei got poached egg dishes, and the latter two’s were more liquidy than I expected (how bout giving the eggs a little wiggle and water drainage before slapping it on top of a bed of grits and mushrooms so they don’t turn into soggy-soup?) On a good note, I did enjoy my La Chouffe Belgian blonde ale – toasty aromas with flower undertones and a little spiciness on the mouth while being totally quaffable. But yeah, while I won’t totally write Gjelina off, it’s not a place I would actively recommend if my pals and I are looking for a place to eat (esp. for $30 for brunch!) … if anything, I might steer us towards Tasting Kitchen, Lemonade or 3 Square nearby.
Marked5 Menu
Unable to resist the calls of the numerous food trucks staking their spaces Abbot Kinney, our group succumbed to Marked5 (five items on menu, $5 – including tax – for everything) and tried their Torakku Beef burger. I had a bite and thought it was alright but messy with the rice patties (though my lack of interest may be because I had a belly full of chickpeas, couscous, brussel sprouts and beer.)
Three Apples event
Remembering the Royal/T Three Apples party going on that day, Caroline and I went to Culver City to check out the Hello Kitty craziness. It was a madhouse indeed… with all sorts of Hello Kitty and tokidoki merchandise (designers from both were there doing signings) and numerous collaborative/tribute art with other artists. But it was still fun look at the pieces, and Caroline bought some funky-punky items and we chilled later on with some iced teas at the café. But definitely one of the more chaotic exhibition openings I’ve been to and bummers we couldn’t get our stuff signed by Simone though.
Ahi w Beer Sampler
Still having a bit more time to kill for the day, we opted for some beers and snacks at Library Alehouse – which I’m glad to finally visit so I won’t confuse it with downtown’s Library Bar anymore. Both of us got the $7 five-beer sampler and let our bartend, Danny, pick some of the four-ounce samples for us. Good stuff, I liked the Hazelnut Brown Nectar and Hop Head Red he picked – and of course I am pleased to sip on Allagash White (already gone by the time I took photo, heh) and Racer 5 IPA. Our dishes were also nice bar bites, I had the sesame-seared ahi tuna that was the perfect bite at the moment, very light and the wasabi and ginger went nicely with the hoppier beers. Caroline got the chipotle shrimp quesadillas; solid stuff, but I was floored by the ripeness of the tomatoes in the accompanying salsa.
Beach CleanUp
Finally happy from food AND service, we headed to the beach to join up with our friend Siel a.k.a. GreenLAGirl for the Blogger Beach Clean-Up that she co-organized. It was great meeting up with fellow bloggers and put it towards something good, even if only for 20 minutes and Caroline, Yolanda and I only wound up getting two ice cream scoops’ worth of trash in that timespan. But it was nice to know that Santa Monica is actually a pretty clean beach, and that every little step counts toward making the planet a greener and healthier place to live. And of course, meeting all sorts of bloggers I already know (e.g. LAist's Zach Behren and Jennio) and a plethora of new ones.
Backdrop at GR exhibition
While there was a happy hours afterparty for the beach clean-uppers at Pourtal, I decided to head east to check out the opening of the Giant Robot exhibition going on at Japanese American National Museum (free admission that day is a definite perk!) to check out the various Pop-Asian arts, from lighthearted cute to hauntingly dark. It was also nice seeing the rest of the museum too and to be reminded of United State’s own version of concentration camps during World War II. It seems like free drinks and food were being offered at the lobby reception, but I skipped 'cause of the lines and I already had other nosh plans.
Duck Confit Pizza
Finally, supper time, and I already knew what I want to check out – the bar bites and dessert menus at Drago Centro, which has gotten good buzz lately. To start, I picked their mozzarella-speck-pepper-arugula rolls which just alright, and an amazing duck confit pizza that had a good amount of the fatty meat, not too shabby w three thin and crispy slices for just $4. I also tried one of their cocktails, the L'Erba Bleu - Buffalo Trace bourbon with fresh grapefruit sour. Sweeter and fruitier than my preference, I really can't complain since it's only $5 and I can see it being a decent gateway cocktail for someone who insist on not liking Bourbon.
Walnut Tart
The highlight of my meal definitely came with desserts, which I was very eager to try after reading LA Weekly's profile of pastry chef Jashmine Corpuz earlier this month. The la crostata di noci ($9) was heavenly -- a not-too-sweet walnut tart topped with parmesan gelato and crisp, surrounded with marsala syrup and grapes. I felt it was the perfect lovechild from the elopement of cheese and dessert courses. Pair it with the coffee-ish Old Rasputin Imperial Stout and you got one killer combo to end your meal with (and yes, I was tempted to DIY a beer float with the parmesan gelato, opted out of it--in hindsight I wished I asked the bar for a shotglass so I can do a mini version.)

And so ends my weekend-in-a-day. Despite the ups-and-downs encountered with the different events, overall it was fun and I'm glad it ended on a high note. After 13+ hours of being out and about (and I am not even counting the 2-3 hours in the Nike+ run) I'm definitely ready for a good night sleep and take my Sunday of work in stride.

Many more photos from my day here

Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea
1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA‎
(310) 399-1233‎

Gjelina
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA
(310) 450-1429

Marked5 Food Truck
Various locations

Royal/T Cafe
8910 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA
(310) 559-6300

Library Alehouse
2911 Main St
Santa Monica, CA
(310) 314-4855

Drago Centro
525 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA ‎
(213) 228-8998 ‎

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Taking a Blogging Break in November to Write a Novel

Ok, it's not as nearly as impressive as it sounds (and there sure isn't a posh advance coming my way from a publishing house) but indeed, next month I'll be taking a break from blogging to partake in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a monthlong endeavor where all participants will try to produce a "novel" of at least 50,000 words, or approximately 175 pages, in a month. Divided up into 30 days, that's a minimum of 1,667 words, or six pages, for each day of the November. I don't think I even wrote that much in an entire quarter at college, and English was one of my majors!

Why the insanity? I'm still asking myself that too, but I guess first and foremost, I definitely feel the blogging fatigue coming on and could definitely use a break without abandoning writing altogether (regular readers would notice in previous years, I usually go on an unannounced hiatus in the summer months... this year I've been surprisingly prolific for my standards with at least 10 posts a month so far), second, it'll be interesting to see what a monthlong intense session of creative writing (which was my emphasis in college anyways) will do to my blogging prose in the long run. Also, I've been inspired to participate by a close friend who's done this last year, and by Dahlia Lithwick, Slate.com's senior editor/legal correspondent whose sabbatical writing project was pretty much this. And lastly, I think it'll be fun to finally be able to make stuff up instead of having to worrying about being accurate and truthful! Then again, there's the pressure of having to make my made-up drivel believable!

Obviously, the world of eating and drinking and my stomping grounds of LA/OC will play a pretty hefty role in this piece. Asides from that, I have NO idea what direction my fiction will take me. Will it be a coming-of-age through cooking in the kitchen? Using cuisine as a catalyst for overcoming a catastrophe? A murder mystery investigating which dish of the forty-course tasting menu was poisoned? Or, heaven forbid, a no reservations rom com (bad pun fully intended!) I guess I have five full days to figure that out, well FML!

Taking a page from Dahlia, I'll be posting chapters on this blog (behind jumps to spare unsuspecting eyes) and I will be asking questions on how the novel should develop, and maybe inquiries of more technical/esoteric details. What kind of drink would the main character always order to gauge a bar? Would the epiphany take place in a nearly-abandoned seedy dive bar or in the middle of a mob in a glitzy gastropub? What's the most secret place in town that only the most in-the-know folks would get into? Can't say I will incorporate all the commenters suggestions, but I'll definitely take every feedback into consideration..

And lastly, this is fiction, and that includes the characters, the places, the actions -- if I happen to have been inspired by a person or restaurant, I'll change significant details so as to avoid absolute identification/association of such in real life (I don't need any more enemies, thank you very much.) I might plop a restaurant on a different street of the same neighborhood, or do some pretty drastic alterations to the physical traits of a character (who will more than likely be a composition of multiple folks I know.) So if you think you know who or what I'm referring to when I write about this or that; it's a coincidence and no, you don't.

P.S. I'll make an effort to keep my Friday Quickies going (though no guarantees) -- just because I'm learning and suffering through this endeavor doesn't mean you'll have to miss out on the awesome events and reads that's offered around town.

Having said that, wish me luck in November and hopefully I'll retain some form of sanity to last me through the holiday season (or maybe as a crazed lunatic I'll blend right in!) And thank you in advance for putting up with my potentially really crappy writing!

Special Foodventure #144: Preview Tasting Event at Valerie Confections' Open House (Silver Lake)

Tasting
Just when I thought I am impervious to being sugarloaded (or maybe I've just forgotten what happened when I judged the Cupcake Challenge), an event like the media/blogger preview event at Valerie Confections brings me back down to earth. Don't get me wrong, pretty much everything was delicious, but many items are very rich and luscious and, even if the assorted sweets aren't that sugary, all that sucrose added up fast! For someone who can make do with three truffles or two chocolate squares a day, going on a frenzy-feast tasting over dozens of cakes, toffees, chocolates and other treats did send me into a sugar-craze (to be followed by a sugar coma.)

Some of my favorite treats last night included:
Salt & Pepper Truffles
Salt and pepper truffles - it's hard to go wrong with a sweet-savory combo, harder when the sweet is smooth, silky bittersweet chocolate ganache with a sprinkle of fleur de sel. Meanwhile, its condiment partner in crime delivers great vegetal, mildly spicy notes with the pepper-infused ganache. If a pair of these were left on a table, don't expect them to stay there long!
Petit Fours
Ginger petit-fours - sugar and spice and everything nice. Double infused with layers of soft ginger cake and white chocolate-ginger ganache, all enrobed in bittersweet chocolate, it reminded me of eating a softer gingersnap... dunked in chocolate!
Orange and Ginger Toffees
Ginger toffees - for similar reasons as above (I'm undeniably a ginger fan -- yes, even Geri too) but I'd also like to give a kudos to their toffee line in general as someone who generally doesn't gravitate towards them due to their hardness and potential to crack teeth (I still remember losing my last baby tooth eating one of those!) The ones Valerie makes definitely provides a more satisfying crunch, not only are they on the thinner side (easier to bite & chew) but they also have wonderful butter and nutty notes. Of course, their blending that with assorted flavors (including ginger) makes it extra special too.
Thyme Shortbread with Candied Fruits and Cheese
Thyme shortbread (above with candied citrus and cheese) - almost effortlessly simple, but also simply elegant. The addition of this common and typically-savory herb definitely took this humble cookie to a whole new classy level (why making me wonder "Why didn't I think of that?" -- thyme works well with buttery dishes, so why not a buttery cookie?)

These are only the few of the over 30 items offered for sampling that night (no, I was not able to go through them all) but before you get jealous, YOU too can have an opportunity to sample Valerie's various confections since they're doing different samplings during the open house for this whole week! So swing by, sample, savor and of course, spend a little and support a L.A. business if you enjoyed.

Here's their open house schedule for this week (starting today) 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for all days except Sat. (5 p.m.)

Tues. - Blum's Coffee and Lemon Crunch Cakes (a tribute to the long-gone SF bakery, sponge cakes are layered with a whipped cream frosting with coffee and lemon toffee crunches)

Wed. - Everyday Indulgences of almond and peanut toffee treats, chocolate-dipped shortbread topped with salt and chocolate citrus bark

Thurs. - Cakes and petit fours! From rose petal/passion fruit ganache to almond and hazelnut tea cakes with homemade marzipan filling. Perfect to snack, maybe with some tea and coffee...

Fri. - It's Market Day and they'll highlight their seasonal fares including white fig and fuji apple jams, rustic handmade pies, candied fruits and chocolate truffle torte with strawberries and cream

Sat. - A gussied-up trick-or-treat as Valerie samples out their refined line of chocolates, truffles and toffees from mint mendiants to holiday nougats to almond fleur de sel toffee and yes, even the salt & pepper truffles. There's something for everyone with an inner child and an adult palate.

More photos from Flickr set here
and P.S. great meeting fellow bloggers Maya of ShopEatSleep, Diana Takes a Bite and Kat of Cork and Rind there; and of course, thanks to co-owners Stan Weightman Jr. and Valerie Gordon for letting me trick-or-treat a week early ;)

Valerie Confections
3360 W 1st Street
Los Angeles 90004
Website

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Quickies #79: Pre-Halloween October Events

The adorable Japanese maids at Royal/T Café

With all the events coming up, you'd think it's already Halloween. Though truth be told, this coming weekend is probably my least food-oriented one ever--with me partaking in the Nike+ Human Race 10K, Blogger Beach Clean-up (though that will be followed by a happy hour at Pourtal's,) and a few art exhibitions opening around town that I'd like to check out. But just because I'm missing out on end-of-October festivities doesn't mean you have to (and really? 10 more weeks till 2010? I barely got used to properly dating my checks!)


Starting today until Sun., Nov 15 - Royal/T, the japanese maid cafe known for collaborations with trendy artists, designers and tastemakers around town and abroad, will be honoring all things Hello Kitty with their "Three Apples" exhibition. In addition to the Sanrio art smorgasbord, there's also a special Hello Kitty themed menu with a variety of items from waffles to high teas that will look uncannily like the 35-year-old icon from Japan. For a rundown of going-ons during this exhibition (including a fan appreciation party tomorrow,) check out their Web site.

Sat., Oct. 24, 3 p.m. - Do you eat wonton noodle soup enough to eat it by the gallon? Well, here's your chance to show your love and maybe even win some dough (pun intended) at the Bamboodles' 2nd annual wonton noodle contest. With a $2,500 grand prize (and $300 first prize,) this isn't your everyday on the fly (possibly alcohol-assisted) dare. There is no entry fee, so download and fill out the application and send/bring it in (do call the restaurant first to make sure there are still open spots)

Sun., Oct. 25, 12:45 p.m. - FoodGPS's Josh and EatingLA's Pat are at it again with the Bike Bender; following the success of their first bike bender eating & cycling tour earlier this year, they are putting together another one. Taste your way through four stops in the East Hollywood neighborhood and congratulate yourself with two pints of cold ones at beer haven Blue Palms Brewhouse. They're keeping the stops hush-hush and under wraps, but I'm sure their stops will be tasty and enlightening. The $28pp includes all tastings, tax and tips, though you may want to bring extra cash on day of in case you want additional food.

Tues., Oct. 27 - be there as global cuisine collides with Japanese beer as Susan Feniger's STREET teams up with Hitachino Nest Brewery to put together a five-course, five-beers tasting dinner. The world-inspired menu includes: Hawaiian Ono sashimi with yuzu ponzu sauce, spicy sesame mayonnaise, pink peppercorns and micro-wasabi paired with the red rice ale, crispy Sarudon noodles with kabocha squash broth that's topped with Autumn veggies and wild mushrooms against their cedar cask pale ale and a "Peking Quail" that's been in glazed in a cardamom-star anise-cinnamon-clove-infused honey alongside the XH Oak cask ale. If you reserve and pay for the $55pp dinner by today you'll even get a commemorative Hitachino glass to take home. Additional info on event at STREET's Web site.

Tues., Oct. 27 and Wed., Oct. 28 - Mid-week is all about cassoulets at the recently-opened Mid-City Frenchy Bistro LQ, where chef Laurent Quenioux has put together a simple-yet-elegant three-course meal for $40pp. The highlight, of course, is the Toulousain-style cassoulet with duck leg and pork ribs confit, two kinds of sausage AND a five-hour-baked lamb shoulder. And if you plan on attending, I highly recommend springing the supplement for their insane cheese cart & condiments.

Thurs., Oct. 29 - it's the last Thursday of the month and you know what that means, Hatchi at Breadbar Century City (this time with Eda Vesterman)! With a four elements theme and a focus on healthy gourmet fare, the eight featured dishes (at $8 each) include "Earth" of spinach-pasta lasagna layered with wild mushroom and Boucheron goat cheese, "Air" of mini-duck burgers infused with black tea in whole wheat brioche, "Fire" of filet mignon medallions with porcini, potato squares and syrah reduction and "Water" of sous-vide scallops prepared three ways with parsnip puree-corn butter, raspberry-habanero and wasabi-spinach-basil sauces. For more info and to reserve your seats, click here.

And my memorable reads of the week:

Slate examines the eco-friendliness of tofu versus animal-derived proteins

While Foreign Policy asserts that the humble potato is the "it" vegetable that ushered in the modern world

New York Times presents the many faces of fried chicken available in the Big Apple

Chicago Tribune puts up the 10 worst dining trends of this decade (including fried onion blossom, molecular gastronomy, media whoring chefs) . . .

. . . and the SeriousEat(er)s gave their retort to the "populist bashing"

SinoSoul goes groupie and went chef-a-chasing from LA's Craft to SF's SPQR

Meanwhile, GoRamen is going ramen-mastering as he moves to Japan to apprentice at a noodle house and chasing his dreams

And even though weather isn't ripe for it yet - LA Weekly's Squid Ink has some interesting trivia and a nice recipe on the Hot Toddy

Eat Drink & Be Merry consumed seven animals at Animal;of course, with the requisite beautiful photos

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Va-va-va-voom for caramels from Vosges at Vegas

if you met me in person or even read my tweets with any regularity, you know I have no limit on my love for Vosges' assorted sweets.

Box
In case you haven't heard enough of me gaga-ing over their chocolate bars, their truffles and their ice creams, here's another item to add to the mix: the exotic caramels collection... and I usually don't even like caramels! (one major exception for the lemon and sea salt ones from Little Flower Candy Co.)

But just like other sweets in the Vosges empire, these aren't your usual caramels. First, just like almost everything else they offer, these are dipped in smooth milk and dark chocolates. Second, the caramels themselves are infused with a variety of eclectic and, yes, exotic flavors.
Caramel Box Interior 2
Running the gamut from fairly innocuous (the Crema with dulce de leche and cashews) to unusually exciting (the Leaf with anise myrtle), the entire box was a sheer delight as I looked, smelled and savored every sweet, creamy, chewy bit as it coats my tastebuds and palate in sticky lusciousness.

While all of them were wonderful, I did have a few favorites that I took an extra long time to enjoy, holding it on my tongue for as long as possible before my mouth's warmth gently melts it into an aromatic, buttery pool of thick syrup. And they are:

Rosey with rose water and pink peppercorn (and topped w a rose petal) - wonderfully fragrant with floral and vegetal notes and just a little spicy to give it that extra enchanting zing.

Maple with maple sugar, maple syrup and walnuts - being one who's always impressed when a restaurant serves up the real deal maple syrup with pancakes, French toasts or waffles, it was no surprise I took a liking to this. The maple flavor shown through and the soft crunch of the walnuts was a wonderful textural contrast. I wouldn't mind having a few of these along with some bacon and calling it breakfast!

Tart with Campari, blood orange and hibiscus powder - as the name suggests, this caramel is on the tangy side - infused with acid and the apertif plus a topping of the vermilion, slightly-puckery powder, it made for a complex, intriguing treat that I had fun with as I tried to dissect each element in my mouth.
Caramels 2
At $37 for 18 pieces (two of each flavor), these aren't your everyday take-care-of-that-sweet-fix munchies (and I exercised great restraint to limit myself to 3-4 pieces each day so I can prolong the pleasure over a work week) but they are a worthwhile special indulgence when you can set aside the time to enjoy a little something more refined and luxurious. And obviously, when I only go to their Purple House boutique on my once or twice-a-year Vegas excursion, these are definitely on my shopping list... along with a cup of spicy Aztec hot or frozen drinking chocolate that trumps Serendipity3's any day.

And in case you happen to swing by the Vegas and interested in trying yourself (now where I can find them around L.A./O.C.?)

Vosges Haut-Chocolat
in Caesar Palace's Forum Shops
3500 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 836-9866

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mini Foodventure #143: Michelle's Pancakes (San Gabriel)

While I often do my homework before checking out a place, there's just as many times when I pick a place on a whim without any prior knowledge. Such was the case with Michelle's Pancakes last week, when my mom and I got jonesing for dumplings on a rainy day and decided to meet halfway between our homes. Finding nearby Luscious Dumplings already out of several varieties, we decided to cross the parking lot to Michelle's instead, which I suggested only having remembered it as a skipped stop from the running food marathon. Only upon entering did I realize it's a LA Times' profiled restaurant -- thankfully, a few months have past since the write-up and we dine a bit late that night so the floor wasn't really packed.

Beef Pancake Roll + Pork Dumpling
We decided to split two plates of dumplings (pork/leek and shrimp/egg/leek) and the not-on-official-menu Shandong-style beef roll (spice-marinated beef wrapped with scallions, cilantro and hoisin sauce in a crispy pancake), and as a perk for ordering three dishes we got to choose a side from their fridge. We opted for a Chinese seaweed salad.
Beef Pancake Roll
The beef roll here is decidedly a bit more elegant and delicate than say, the more robustly-flavored and rustically-presented ones at 101 Noodle Express. Overall, the taste is a bit lighter and less intense, the spices in the marinated beef are more subdue, and the onions in the roll and the pancakes aren't particularly overwhelming -- and I definitely love that I don't have to unravel the roll to pick out excess cilantro leaves (which I often do with other beef rolls.) To draw a Chinese food parallel, I likened Michelle Pancake's beef rolls to Din Tai Fung's xiaolongbaos, both more refined than the typical specimen.
Pork dumpling interior
As for the dumplings we ordered, the flavors were also lighter than the norm and bordering on bland for the shrimp/egg/leek one, but the filling was juicy and the wrappers were delightfully tender for being boiled and I totally believe their "No MSG" claim upon eating these. While I don't mind eating mild-flavored dumplings, I did mind that I can't use my requisite condiments to punch it up a notch as the chili oil container was all kinds of gross, lifting the lid yielded slimey strings that reminded me of natto strands. So not acceptable! My mom was wary of trying the other condiments there too, but alas, desperate to inject some extra flavor, we went with a vinegar/soy sauce/sesame oil combo to dip our dumplings in, and my mom asked for a side of raw garlic cloves, which we nibbled on alongside our dumplings to somewhat compensate for the lack of spicy and oniony tastes.

Our three mains and a side wound up to be $22-ish, slightly higher than I expected but not too bad. Despite the price, I'd likely make a return trip from time to time for the beef rolls if only to save my fingers from smelling like the cilantro I have to pick off. And hopefully the condiments' cleaniness improves or I may have to take a cue from mama and BYO Chili Oil.

What Do Others Say?
- The SGVN (Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News) finds it "hard not to order too much" here, but noted that they make great leftovers too.
- It is highlighted as one of Asian Dumpling Tip's favorite SGV dumpling houses
- Eat:LA pits their beef rolls against 101 and Mama's Kitchen, and mentions Michelle's "has the most pleasant atmosphere and service of the three."

Michelle's Pancakes
706 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776-1161
(626) 293-8098
Michelle's Pancakes in Los Angeles

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Quickies #78: Three Restaurant Weeks in One

Allagash Black
Enjoying the Allagash Black Stout at Silver Lake Wine's annual beer tasting with Heirloom LA

Weeks weeks weeks, there's the extended DineLA restaurant week, LA (and OC) Beer Week and Newport Beach restaurant week. All of them sound promising, but having learned the lessons of my dine-out diet last month, and already spending enough as is on restaurant outings (including three DineLA meals at Campanile, BLD and La Casita Mexicana, all of them positive!) I don't feel particularly compelled to hit up any more events asides from those already planned for. It seems year round there's always going to be some event or special around the corner and there's no shortage of restaurants offering a special deal on this or a limited-time prix-fixe menu on that, so I think "big deal!" if I missed out. But on the upside, that's kind of what makes the LA/OC dining scene so great -- there's always something new and novel to check out should the mood strikes.


And going off that note, here's a few noteworthy going-ons coming up this week

Saturday, Oct. 17, noon to 4 p.m. -- Manhattan Beach's Tin Roof Bistro is holding an Oktoberfest celebration, featuring the festive brews from around and afar. For $15pp, patrons can enjoy a hamburger or a bratwurst and two pints of beer, and first 40 customers will receive a complementary full-liter steins by Paulaner. Other beers served will include Oktoberfest brews from Torrance-based Angel City Brewery, Pasadena-based Craftsman, Firestone Walker from Paso Robles and straight-from-Germany Hofbrau Oktoberfest.

Tuesday, Oct. 20, 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. -- if hard spirits is more your thing, "Whiskey Live: Southern California's Finest Whisky Experience" is coming to town at Santa Monica's Civic Auditorium. Approximately 30 distillers and producers from around the globe (Ireland, Scotland, Kentucky, even Japan) will offer tastings of their years-old whiskeys (including one over 40 years old!) There will also be seminars about production/tasting and interactive experiences (whiskey cocktails and food pairings, anyone?) There will also be a catered buffet and an outside cigar lounge to round out the night. Regular tickets are $99/$119 advanced/at-door, and VIP tickets (allows entry at 5:30 p.m. for the VIP hour w premium whiskeys available to taste) are $129/$149 -- click here for more info and to order.

Thursday, Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m. -- fried chicken and beer, it doesn't get any better unless you see what Akasha came up with: a full-on, gussied-up, belly-busting menu of this Southern classic paired with brews from Maine-based artisan beermaker Allagash. The menus includes cajun shrimp with allagash barbecue sauce, fried okra, biscuits and cornbread matched agains the barrel aged Allagash Curieux, a fried chicken dinner with all the gourmet fixins' (sour cream mashed potatoes with pan gravy, beer-braised mustard and collard greens, mac 'n cheese and homemade pickles) with Allagash White wheat beer, finished off with a chocolate-pecan pie with sweet cream ice cream and Allagash Black Belgian-Style Stout. Costs $45pp + tax/tip - reservation required.

And my fave reads for this week:

Orangette adjusts to opening a restaurant and features a fab plum crumble recipe

Meanwhile, Mattatouille cracks the code for ultimate kimchi bokeumbap (fried rice)

I'm also loving White on Rice's photography guide, which hits the perfect sweet balanced spot of technicality for me and easily adaptable for point-and-shoot cameras

CHOW.com explores the understated Italian beers (no, not the usual Peroni and Moretti)

And Freshman in the Kitchen files an LAist report from his interview and farmer's market tour with Grace's Neal Fraser.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Eat and Drink Great for Less (or Just Eat and Drink More): My Faves to Check for Deals

Seafood Trio 1
'cause steals like getting around $40 worth of delicious food for $12 at Roy's only happens so often...

In times like these, everyone's looking for a good deal whereever they can. Of course an indulgence like dining out is no exception, which is probably why the restaurant weeks of OC and dineLA became so popular that many participating restaurants decided to extend another week. But what to do for the rest of the year?

Not one with a plushy bank accounts or meals I can just expense away, I try to keep an eye out for good dining and drinking deals around town too, but it is a Sisyphean task to keep track of which restaurant's night of the week will feature free corkage, prix-fixe specials, etc. or what time and days bars have their happy hours or the limited time specials where mentioning this or that will get you a free drink, appetizer, dessert or whatever.

And almost as much as I love saving money (and be able to eat more meals) I love to keep things simple, so here's a few sites that offer great deals to the city's eats minus all that research-related stress.

Newly debuted BlackboardEats, offering "unreal deals at the best restaurants," is one of my favorite recent finds. About once or twice a week, they send their members e-mails of their specials at some of LA's eating hotspots, which members can then sign up for (and you can even have the special deal-landing code sent to your phones to save the printer ink, not to mention the "where's that coupon?" conundrum when the check arrives.) Recent specials included a free salumi & formaggi plate at Cube, 30% off the bill at Joe's Restaurant and a free appetizer with a burger order at 8 oz. Be sure to check their "Side Dish" sidebar on the site too, which highlights some recurring specials going on at neighborhood restaurants.

If you don't mind committing a credit card to a special, GrouponLA has also got some nice hookups to fun to-dines in town. A few times a week, they e-mail members about a limited-time "GroupOn" (a portmonteau of Group and Coupon, btw) that requires a certain number of members to participate to activate. This is usually offered as a gift certificate sold at a fraction of face value, such as $35 at Orris for only $20, or $70 for $35 at the Foundry on Melrose. And it's not restricted to just dining/drinking deals either, they got some pretty swank GroupOns to shops and events around town too! Of course, if the GroupOn doesn't get the requisite number of sign-ups, it's a no-go (and no charge to your card, either) though that had never been a problem with the GroupOns I get. So log on and get your GROUPON!

And of course, good ole' Goldstar - again, not strictly food-related, but they generally offer ~50% discounts to some of the hottest events around town, many of which do involve food and drinks. On top of tastings such as The Food Event, there are also the likes of murder mystery dinners and neighborhood exploration tastings. And of course, lots of concerts, live performances and shows too -- some even for free (+ a nominal service charge.) So sign up and get a gold star on your budget for all that you're gonna save.

(Disclosure: yes, I get a referral fee if you use the GrouponLA and Goldstar signup links in this post -- but both are services I use regularly and maybe even too frequently, and I was going to endorse them anyways before finding out about their referral programs; obviously, your support is much appreciated!)

And last but certainly not least, if you feel like scanning for deals that you don't necessarily want to commit to:

Eater LA's dealfeed has a great rundown of specials going on all over town

FoodGPS have an extensive Weekly Food & Drink calendar that highlights specials going on every day of the week

And LA Decostified has some super food & drink deals, including many freebies

Of course, for the above listings it's always wise to call the place and confirm first (esp. for the older postings.) If you know of other great sites and blogs for food/drink deals -- feel free to comment or e-mail to let me know!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Special Foodventure #142: Dining Around South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa)

Pasta Trio
When one thinks of good food, "mall restaurant" isn't exactly something to jumps to mind. Let alone a mall restaurant in Orange County (I know I know, I'm LA & OC foodie -- and, yes, they are plenty of good eats in Orange County, but by now I'm unphased by newly-met acquaintances' first reaction to my blog, something along the lines of "You go down to the OC to eat?! What exactly is down there?")

So, with awareness of the uphill battle that lies ahead, the PR and marketing folks behind South Coast Plaza invited a dozen or so bloggers and journalists to check out the various eateries, hope
fully elevating the shopping center and the county's food cred. And, having already had a plesant meal at Marché Modern in the past and curious about checking out Charlie Palmer and Pizzeria Ortica, I accepted their generous, and gluttonous, offer.
Since I pull a 9-to-5, I was unable to check out their first stop at Hamamori around 3 p.m. and joined everyone else at the NapaStyle shop, where we sampled some of their signature salts, olive oils alongside wines from Michael Chiarello's winery. All of them were pleasant and quite a bit of a surprise, actually. The wines, made from big red varietals like petit syrah and zinfandel (and named after his family), were shockingly smooth and silky and easy-to-drink right out of the bottle. Meanwhile, the various nuances that were coaxed out of the different salts and the oils will definitely disarm notions of what salt and olive oil should taste like (personally, I was most fond of the intense, zingy Hawaiian red salt while the majority of the others were ga-ga overed the truffle-infused one.)
Afterwards, we were taken to Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's, where we were led into their chic basement wine cellar for a few cocktails while the sommelier demonstrated CP's e-wine-menu, which slices and dices their wine selection pretty much any way you want (by region, varietal, price-point, paired cuisine, etc.) to find that perfect glass. The drinks definitely impressed, being a wonderful mix of flavors driven by quality spirits and fresh fruits and herbs. My favorite "tastings" included the Blackberry Beso (which I dubbed "Gin Thyme" before I had a chance to see the menu) and the Spicy Seduction, with Ketel One vodka, peppers, citrus with a candied jalapeno (a hot drink in more ways than one!)

And I'm definitely glad to find out about their happy hours, when all cocktails, beers and wines by the glass are half-priced from 4-7p and 10p-closing every day! I felt the cocktails were worth their $14 price tag, but $7 is a definite deal for something so fresh and handcrafted.

Marrow
Shortly after drinks came the "small plates tasting" -- though the publicist forewarned us that the kitchen's interpretation of small is usually anything but. Sure enough, exec. chef Amar Santana (whose voice bears a semblance to Wolfgang Puck's) sent out quite a few plates of food, from sliders to crispy risotto cakes to steamed mussels with saffron aioli. My personal faves were the bone marrow with sweet raisin marmalade and the burrata with arugula pesto and roasted baby tomatoes (I actually liked the tomatoes more than the cheese!)
Macarons
Lastly, desserts and coffee at Marche Moderne, and we were treated to several sweets, nothing that I'd complain about, including delicate green tea and apricot macarons and a sugar-coated beignet with orange creme anglaise. Adequately hypered up from all that sugar and caffeine, I drove back home to sleep with sweet dreams (many other bloggers actually took the PR folks' offer on a night's stay at the SCP Westin.)
Pinot Provence Breakfast Spread
Next morning I woke up early, got my workout in vain hopes of undoing some of the previous night's caloric damage, then headed back down in time a continental breakfast at the rustic-yet-refined looking Pinot Provence. The spread, which included a popular smoked salmon plate that disappeared almost instantaneously, was decent, and we had a good time listening to exec. chef Lauren (Lu Lu) De Rouen talk about her culinary career and journeys while waiting for the coffee to jolt us awake on Saturday at 9 a.m.
Zach making pasta dough
Following the eye-opening meal, we stopped by Pizzeria Ortica, David Myers' place of much acclaim, for a pasta-making session. Exec. chef/partner Steve Samson and pizza/sous chef Zach Pollack pretty much demonstrated how pastas are made from start to finish, making the process of dough-making, rolling, folding, filling, storing AND cooking look like a breeze (though I'm sure if I tried to replicate at home my own kitchen I will just wound up with a floury mess of nuclear fallout proportions.) But at least I learned that if you're going to make up a pasta name, say it confidence (and possibly a mock Italian accent!)
Pasta Trio
Obviously, the best part of all this is tasting the resulting pastas; the one I adored the most was the sweet-nutty-savory pear-pecorino raviolis with a brown butter-sage sauce (right). Very subtle and very sublime.
Margherita Pizz
And since the place IS called Pizzeria Ortica, we couldn't get away without trying a slice. So the gracious Zach lit up the wood-fired oven and popped up a couple of marvelous margherita pizzas with a lovely crust that's crispy char on outside and chewy within.
Swag Bags
Since so many of us are LA foodbloggers, the OC restaurants were well aware that this is one of few chances to leave an impression with us -- which meant more food swag than I've ever received before, ranging from beans, a half-bottle of wine and a T-shirt at Pizzeria Ortica, a canister of gray salt and a bottle of blood orange-infused olive oil at NapaStyle, macarons from Marche Moderne and a $25 gift card for a return visit at Charlie Palmer (I'm barely scratching the surface here!)

And, as an added perk to get folks to swing down and share the word, the SCP folks also extended $100 gift cert offers for frequent live-tweets and prompt post-event blogging. Being a bit erratic with both, I already knew I wouldn't be timely or regular enough to qualify (tweeted less than 10 times throughout my stops -- and WAY past overdue with the blogging), but wound up getting extended the offer anyways. So there's THAT extra long disclaimer for you.


But wrapping it up, I know OC foodies who seriously make frequent drives up to LA for fine dining and never bat an eye at some of these places, which I dare say hold their own against some of the LA restaurants of similar style, ambience and price-point (and in some cases, even better quality for the value!) And even though we were treated to every meal here, I'm definitely left with positive enough an impression to make a return trip to do a foodventure on my own dime.

And you can certainly expect me to be that person to go "Well, not exactly . . ." the next time someone decides to unilaterally bash on mall eats. Ditto for the person who gives me the "What's there to eat in the O.C.?"

P.S. Thanks to E*star for saving my butt with the NapaStyle and Charlie Palmer cocktails photos, inadvertently lost about a 100 when uploading (and forgetting to double-check before deleting from camera... *sigh*) But the rest of my photos on flickr here.

P.P.S. speaking of other bloggers, here are a few other reports on the same excursion (including that Hamamori first stop that I missed) from E*star, FoodGPS, Gourmet Pigs, Pleasure Palate and Cork&Rind

Napa Style
3333 Bear St
Costa Mesa, CA
714.825.0445

Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdales
3333 S Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714.352.2525

Marché Moderne
3333 Bristol St
Ste 3001
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714.434.7900

Pinot Provence
686 Anton Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714.444.5900

Pizzeria Ortica
650 Anton Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714.445.4900

Friday, October 09, 2009

Friday Quickies #77: Tricks... and Treats!

S'mores Set
"S'mores" with chocolate marshmallows and cocoa-infused toast at a chocolatey dinner w ChocoVivo at Breadbar Century City.

Of course, the biggest food news this week was the sudden announcement of nearly-seven-decades old Gourmet folding, so for the past few days there's been no shortage of stories, message threads and discussion with sappy obituaries, autopsying its sixtysomething-year-old corpse and trying solve the murder mystery (i.e. blame the editorial direction, blame the recession, blame the extravagant budget, blame publisher Conde Nast or sister pub Bon Appetit, even blame the bloggers!)

In any case, while it is sad to see Gourmet go -- it's a sign of the times and the changing face of food media and dialogue, and there are still plenty of traditional media outlets that help fill the hole Gourmet left behind--Saveur, Food & Wine, even BA--just to name a few. So check 'em out in print or online and give them kudos where appropriate: click on an ad, buy a copy or even subscribe.


Moving on to the coming week's going ons (in addition to the fantastic Taste of Abbot Kinney this Sunday, where I gave two batches of tickets away recently).

Saturday, Oct. 10, starts 10 a.m. - Upscale Latin-American resto Rosa Mexicano (in L.A. Live) is celebrating all things chocolate for October, and tomorrow they are doing a $35pp (including tax & tip) cooking demo and luncheon with creative chocolatey dishes such as cocoa-cured smoked duck leg salad with roasted apples, pecans and guava-chipotle dressing; steamed halibut with habanero onions, shiitake mushrooms in a spicy chocolate diablo sauce finished off with a Mexican chocolate cupcake filled with hazelnut mousse, topped with creme fraiche whipped cream alongside an espresso-chocolate-piloncillo sauce. To make the deal even sweeter, first 15 peeps to reserve for this event gets a $25 GC for future use at the restaurant. I can certainly "Ole!" to that. Advanced reservations and payment online are required, more info on that (and a five-course, $55pp Chocolate Festival dinner on Wed., Oct. 14) here.

Sunday, Oct. 11, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - It's back and it's bigger, the 3rd L.A. Luxury Chocolate Salon is coming to the Pasadena Convention Center. With every imaginable kind of chocolatiers from all over the world participating, this is *the* cocoaphile event to check out. For the sweet price of $20pp (or $25 at the door), you can taste samples, meet the makers, and even learn a thing or two with the assorted demos and seminars taking place. Here's my experience from their first annual event two years ago.

Tuesday, Oct. 13, starts 6 p.m. - Watch, listen, learn and taste as two whisk(e)y experts duke it out in the Great Whisk(e)y Debate at Rembrandt's in Placentia. With a Bourbon advocate on one corner and a Scotch malt master on the other, attendees will not only hear the two compare, contrast and debate in words, they'll also have a chance to try out a few examples of each too (Basil Hayden's, Knob Creek, Ardmore and Laphroaig will be served there) and decide for themselves which they like best. Tickets are $30pp, RSVP required by calling 714.528.6222.

Tuesday, Oct. 13, starts 7:30 p.m. - just in case you haven't been adequately chocolated out (or need another cocoa fix before withdrawal symptoms set in) - Pourtal Wine Bar will be partnering with ChocoVivo for a wine & chocolate pairing event. Taste artisanal chocolates made by creator Patricia Tsai (which I've thoroughly enjoyed at a previous tasting) alongside wines chosen by Pourtal's sommelier Rachel Bryan. The $30pp (including tax & tip) will showcase 6 pairings in all. Seating limited so RSVPs are recommended.

And my not-so-chocolatey (but nonetheless interesting) reads of the week:

LA.com interviews a husband-and-wife menu design team and provides a peek at all the work and thought processes involved

LA Weekly's Squid Ink blog highlights top 10 free samples around town, from the obvious (Costco, farmer's market) to the more obscure (SusieCakes, Koreatown Galleria Market)

LA Times' Daily Dish celebrates Vegan Month of Food by posting a delicious vegan recipe every day

Meanwhile, their Food section chooses an eclectic array of American and European whites to enjoy with your autumn meals

Finally, the serious eaters chime in on the best foods to eat when drunk; my current vote goes to Wurstkuche fries, chipotle aioli or bleu cheese-walnut-bacon dip. And maaaybe a beer, to help wash it down and start the cycle anew... (ramen, wonton noodle soup, or pho would be close runner-ups tho)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Mini Foodventure #141: Kohryu (Costa Mesa)

After a media/blogger outing this past weekend circulating through five eateries at South Coast Plaza, the last thing I'd imagine myself doing immediately afterwards is eating some more. But after all those Occidental meals and tastings in a span of 18 hours, every bone in my body was *screaming* for something Asian afterwards. Thankfully, with a little blog searching (and thanks to the extensive databases of GoRamen and Rameniac) I found that the fairly reputable Kohryu Ramen was less than 10 minutes away from South Coast Plaza; half-full belly and daily caloric intake be damned, it's noodle slurpin' time!

While I was suppose to meet up with some other compadres from the South Coast Plaza media dine-around, ultimately only e*star joined me on this excursion. We waited outside in the triangular Japanesy plaza on the corner of Baker & Bear for about 15 minutes, then decided to go in on our own.

A casual ramen joint with a semi-open kitchen that looks like it could seat about 25 people max (maybe 30 with some creative, tetris-style table and chair rearranging), it felt comforting, cozy and very neighborhoody-locals kind of place, and I'm definitely optimistic seeing it fairly packed with other mostly-Japanese patrons on a late weekend lunch.

Being a fairly warm afternoon and wanting a final grasp at summer, I tried ordering the pinned-to-wall special hiyashi chuka (cold noodle salad) only to be sadly informed that it's a dinner-only special. So, Esther and I decided to go for their regularly-offered items--taking notes of what other ramen bloggers have liked.

Kohryu Ramen w Shio Broth
I opted for their house Kohryu ramen with a shio soup base ($8); I love love love the oniony presence from the fresh and deep-fried negi, which is distinctly assertive without being aggressively overbearing. Also of note are the comparatively large thick-sliced chashu, more meaty like ham or trimmed pork chops as opposed to fatty like a pork belly but still very tender, and the shoyu-soaked egg, with a luscious tangerine-hued soft-medium-boiled yolk.

The noodles here are firm, toothsome and springy and the clear broth is clean-tasting but washes over my tastebuds with a wave of umami flavor, and totally worth going over my sodium limit and risking hypertension for.

Shacho Ramen w Miso Broth
I also had a taste of e*star's Shacho ramen (with ground pork, bean sprouts and a heartier, meatier soup) with miso base (also $8), also very enjoyable with a more-opaque, fuller-bodied, earthier soup that had a very notable raw soybean taste, which is a rare and pleasing encounter for me and misos (though I'll disclose most of my previous miso encounters are from nondescript, generic Japanese eateries that serve the soup practically as an afterthought and are almost always too bland or too salty and never flavorful enough.)

Half-hour of slurping later, E*star and I left beyond full and beyond happy; for someone who's not a particularly big fan of Santouka and always finding Daikokuya's long lines borderline bearable, I'm definitely glad to discover this noodlehouse viable for future visits when I'm ramen-ravenous in the O.C.

And of course, much thanks to GoRamen's Keizo, Rameniac's Rickmond, Ramen^3's Ed, and OCWeekly's Gustavo for their reports which prompted me to check this place out. And of course, E*star for the company!


Kohryu Ramen
891 Baker St. (x-street: Bear)
Costa Mesa, CA
714.556.9212

Kohryu in Los Angeles

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Another Giveaway to Taste of Abbot Kinney . . .


Ok, for those who missed out on winning the Taste of Abbot Kinney tickets on the last giveaway, here's your SECOND chance at them, as I'm giving out another five pairs to five lucky readers for the Oct. 11 feast. Once again, the $60/person event benefits Inside Out Community Arts, and it will feature tastings and discounts at some of the most popular eateries along the street (NOW including sweets tastings Jin Patisserie, and a 10% discount off purchases at Intelligentsia Venice as well as other additions) along with discounts at numerous AK boutiques and shops.

Tweaking the rules a little for this drawing, here goes:

1) Tweet "I want to win @LAOCFoodie's ticket giveaway to @TasteofAK on Oct. 11! http://bit.ly/ToAKTix" (Goes without saying, create a twitter account if you don't already have one -- follows to TasteofAK or my twitter account appreciated, but not necessary and won't improve odds . . .)

2) Leave a comment on this blogpost with your twitter account name AND e-mail address (during last giveaway I had to pass up on some winners because there wasn't a way to contact them.)

3) I'll draw out of the correctly-made entries end of tomorrow, Oct. 7, 11:59 p.m. PST -- winners will be e-mailed/tweeted to the morning of Oct. 8 with a deadline to reply by 10 p.m., after which I'll start drawing alternate winners if I don't receive a reply.

So good luck and enter away! And of course, spread the word to others about this fab inaugural event (which, again, I love since it's a walking tasting tour to each of the eateries and bars as opposed to some offsite venue.)

P.S. Just found out via Caroline on Crack that fab events-at-a-discount site Goldstar is offering Taste of AK tickets for a reduced price of $36/person (plus $5.50 processing fee) so in case you didn't win -- and you can still score some serious savings . . .

Friday, October 02, 2009

Friday Quickies #76: October Ahoy!

Mini-Sandwich Remix!
Mini-sandwiches filled with uni and foie gras from the Bazaar, where I went for DineLA Restaurant Week last time around.

Yay, it's October -- and so ends my dine-out dieting (though I had no shortage of good eats at home, and on invites out to assorted events in the past month). Since one'd have to live under a rock to not hear about the two biggie events of the month, namely the 27th Annual American Wine & Food Festival this weekend and the DineLA Restaurant Week promotions, I'll highlight some of the less-well-known, but no less tasty, events going around town.

But first, time for an open call to recommendations: Where's a good Sunday Brunch to be had in or around Ojai? I will be up there this Sunday for a running event and will definitely be in the mood for some feasting afterwards. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

Started yesterday - in case you missed the three lobster fests (Long Beach, San Pedro & Redondo Beach) that went on consecutive September weekends (like me!) or you just didn't feel like the long drive or the long lines in the sweltering heat, Savannah Chop House in Laguna Niguel and Chimayo on the Huntington Beach waterfront are doing Lobster Fest celebration of their own! For $29.99 you can enjoy a 1.5-pound whole Maine lobster prepared just the way you like it, whether it's steamed with drawn butter and a baked potato with all the accompaniments, roasted with garlic-herb butter and jalapeno cheddar potatoes, tempura-fried and tossed with a garlic-ginger sauce alongside coconut jasmine rice, or a lobster mac 'n cheese with a three-cheese sauce and a crispy parmesan breadcrumb topping. And best of all, you can actually sit, enjoy the views and have a nice lil cocktail with your lobster. Here are the slightly different menus for Chimayo and Savannah.

Sundays - Meanwhile, Downtown L.A.'s Water Grill is doing their Lobster Clam Bake, a $55pp feast that includes mini lobster rolls, steamed 1.25 pound lobster, bowls of shellfish baked with sausage and potatoes, finished off with a cobbler and homemade root beer float (with house made root beer); FoodGPS was recently invited to check it out, so you can read more about it here.

Monday, Oct. 5
- While Campanile's Monday family dinners have been a longtime tradition, this coming week's affair coincides with the launch of Chef Mark Peel's book "New Classic Family Dinners" so you can savor his fare and then recreate them at home! The $45pp menu includes pasta carbonara with asparagus, a seafood stew with lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels sea bass and white beans and a refreshing concord grape granita.


Thursday, Oct. 8 - Can't score a seat for Dudamel's Hollywood Bowl concert? Don't get mad, get full . . . at Pinot Grill or Kendall's Brasserie and Bar, both of which will offer a live simulcast of the much anticipated inaugural Dudamel performance and serving three-course prix-fixe meals at $30pp and $40pp, respectively. And for the lucky peeps who scored tix to the Music Center simulcast, Patina Restaurant Group will be grilling up assorted Dudamel-inspired specialties right outside, from bacon-wrapped "Street Dogs" topped with caramelized onions and grilled jalapenos for $6 to Venezuelan shredded beef with rice, beans and roasted plantains for $12. Cool it all down with some jamaica and paletas!

Thursday, Oct. 8 - for those further out West, Border Grill will be partnering with Tequila Corralejo for a festive four-course, margarita-paired dinner for $45pp (or $38pp if you're in their recently-debuted Border Grill Locals club). The tasty menu includes a duo of meatballs (kobe beef in a spicy salsa brava and shallot aioli, lamb with curried yogurt, oregano chimichurri and onion marmalade) paired with a curried margarita, seared diver scallops with creamed corn, serrano ham and blood orange reduction with a blood orange margarita, finished with a coconut tequila cheesecake and a tequila-spiked horchata. As an extra perk, participants will also get a Corralejo goody bag!

And as always, my favorite of foodie reads this week:

Slashfood interview culinary celebrities about their food-guilty pleasures

Meanwhile, Slate published a provocative piece on how the Internet democratize the world of wine criticsm

All the food pornage of LA County Fair (ends this week, btw) minus the artery-clogging act of actually eating them, brought to you by LA Weekly

And LA Times answered a reader's request for recipe to make Cole's fantastic bacon potato salad

Citysearch LA got the scoop on local high-end happy hours where you can eat cheap-chic at the likes of XIV and Drago Centro.

Finally, there's no noodling around this -- LA Times covers the debate between Asian pasta manufacturers against the health dept. and their refrigeration rule. And no, I am not related to H.C.Foods (one of the companies cited in the article)

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