Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No. 161: Preview of Tonight's Radio Room at the Edison

Thanks to a media event last night, fellow bloggers, journalists and lil ole me (soon to be big ole me at the rate I'm eating & drinking vis-a-vis my recent lack of exercise) had a chance to preview the drinks served tonight's Radio Room at the Edison (along with an antipasti spread and some fab crab claws and shucked oysters by Christophe Happillon.)

Edison digi-photo frame
Once again, I'm WOW'd by the creativity and craftsmanship that the guest bartenders have brought, with each cocktail leaving a distinct one-of-a-kind impression in my head that just makes me wanna pack my bags and head to these fellas' hometown bars to see what other impressive tricks they got up their sleeves. Alas, until then, there's the actual Radio Room tonight.

And just in case you or your wallet can't stomach all six of the featured cocktails that night ($14 each), here are my favorites that are definitely worth an order:
Vieux Cerde
Vieux Cerde (pictured above) by Seattle's Zane Harris: A variation of the Vieux Carre using 12-year-old Irish whiskey, VSOP Cognac, Elisir M.P. Roux, bitters and a twist of orange; overall, it's a silkier, smoother version of the original--probably due to the ages of the two base spirits--that's still very aromatic with a complex bouquet of herbs and sweet spices. And like Vieux Carre, it's still packs a potent punch, but this one teases you a bit of sexy finesse first . . .

Good Morning, Vietnam by Simon Ford of NYC/London: A simple concoction of gin, ginger and Scottish orange marmalade, and it's really the final ingredient that makes all the difference! I occasionally use fruit jams and preserves as a cocktail sweetener myself, and it definitely gives it that special je ne sais quoi. In this drink the orange marmalade melded wonderfully with the spicy ginger and flowery gin, creating a cocktail that's wonderfully balanced and playful at the same time. Have a sniff and the floral-herbal notes of the gin come forth, and just as it touches the tip of your tongue and there's sweet-burn tingle from the ginger, and finally, the citrus-acid flavors are brought out as it runs down the sides and center of the tongue and into the throat.

Globo Rojo #2, also by Zane Harris: A great drink for both mezcal newbies and lovers, a strawberry-infused version is mixed with tawny port and finished with bitters. Again, a delightful balance, this time between the mezcal's smokiness, the port's vanilla, nutty notes and rich mouthfeel plus the sweet, juicy scent of the berries. It's the liquid equivalent of eating roasted strawberries covered in luscious milk chocolate.

The other three featured cocktails of the night have their own merits too (the ramp-infused Rite of Spring, a sweet, sour and spicy Infante and the fragrant, flowery Wild Orchid) so do bring a few buddies so you can give all the drinks a try and vote for (perhaps re-order) your favorites!

Last but not least, keep an eye out for the absinthe fairy and her cart too. Practically everyone who tasted the pineapple-absinthe shots loved it.

And here's another take of the preview event by Gourmet Pigs, e*star LA, ShopEatSleep and Thirsty in LA.

Radio Room at the Edison
108 W 2nd Street
Los Angeles

The Edison in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

No. 160: Mammoth Brewing Company (Mammoth Lakes)

Just outside the tasting room/shop
Photo courtesy of Hungry Hungry Hanh

Mammoth Brewing Co. was one of the unexpected gems I encountered on a snowboarding trip this past weekend with blogger pals. I didn't even know this town/village have their own microbrewery operation going on until I discovered a few of their beers on draft at the Village's various eateries and bars. After Hanh and I tasted their Paranoid Pale Ale (a mildly citrusy and hoppy brew with a piney, wintergreeny aroma) at Gomez's, we talked to the bartender about some of their other offerings and he happily noted that the Brewery itself is just a few blocks away. So we decided to hit the road (swollen butt and all!) with Caroline on Crack and her b/f to check out the space.
Inside tasting room
Photo courtesy of Caroline on Crack

We arrived in the tasting room shortly before they closed shop at 6 p.m., and they were still super-nice and accommodating, letting us sample all 10 of their available beers on tap for free! Their styles run from a super-light Trout Pilsner (too diluted for me, almost a "beer-flavored water") to an rich, desserty oak-aged CharleyWine Old Ale.
Taps and bottles
Photo courtesy of Hungry Hungry Hanh

My favorites of the batch, Double Nut Brown ale and the Epic IPA, both of which I brought home. I think what I liked best is that both are wonderful "intro" beers for their styles, having a more mellowed out bitterness/hoppiness profiles than other browns and IPAs out there, plus a lighter-than-usual carbonation which makes them very quaffable (a boon for hydration-seeking folks after a day of skiing and snowboarding!) And despite its more subdued character, the double nut brown still delivered some amazing roasted coffee and dark chocolate notes and the IPA is still very crisp and refreshing with a good tinge of citrus, honey and vegetal notes.

And while hitting the slopes (maybe not so literally) and partying relaxing in the cabin will still be the highlight for my future trips to Mammoth, I'll definitely try to swing by this little brewery too to see what other delightful regular and seasonal brews they'll be showcasing! Not when my friends and I are too plastered, of course...

Photo courtesy of Hungry Hungry Hanh

Mammoth Brewing Company's Shop and Tasting Room

94 Berner Street
Mammoth Lakes, CA, CA 93546
(760) 934-7141

Monday, March 22, 2010

Giveaway Time: Four course whiskey-paired dinner for two at Villa Sorriso on Wednesday, March 24

The early bird may get the worm, but a lucky last-minute meal planner can score a free four-course dinner for two (a $120 value,) with each course paired with a different Jack Daniels whiskey*, at Villa Sorriso on Wed., March 24, 6:30 p.m.

Here's the menu planned for that evening:

First Course
Roasted pear wrapped with proscuitto and sage
paired with Original Old No. 7

Second Course
Baby spring greens medley with dried cranberries, toasted pine nuts, aged balsamic vinaigrette and caramelized goat cheese
paired with Gentleman Jack

Main Course (two choices)
Grilled filet mignon topped with demi-glace alongside gratin potatoes, baby vegetables and caramelized onion-gorgonzola tart
John Dory filet w lobster sauce, herbed risotto and baby vegetables
both paired with Jack Daniel's Single-Barrel

Warm bread pudding with bananas and pecans and a Jack Daniels whiskey sauce
paired with Woodford Reserve

To enter:
1) leave a comment here with your name, twitter username and e-mail address
2) Tweet "I want to win @LAOCFoodie's four-course Jack Daniels-paired dinner for two at Villa Sorriso! http://bit.ly/bmEO68"

I'll randomly draw the winner on Tuesday evening around 6 p.m.; if the winner doesn't respond by Wednesday noon, another lucky person will be chosen.

And in case you didn't win, but still want to go -- the paired-dinner is $60/person and you can RSVP by calling 626.793.2233.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Amber Bechtel (@ambiggity) for winning this giveaway, everyone else, thanks for reading and playing and keep your eyes peeled for more giveaways in the future!

*I would link to the individual J.D. whiskeys offered, but their Website has an odd linking policy that reads like I cannot link beyond their opening page. So, if you wish to find out more about the less-common Gentleman Jack and Single-Barrel varieties, just go to their homepage, confirm your age, and go to their "Family of Blends" section.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Quickies #90: Springing Forward . . .

Tuna Burger + Asparagus
An absolutely delicious tuna burger at Pasadena's La Grande Orange

With all the fun events lined up this coming week (and beyond), that Spring forward won't be the only reason you'll be losing sleep!

Tonight, 5 to 8 p.m., Cabot Vineyard's co-owners John and Kimberly Cabot will be down at Glendale's Rosso Wine Shop to do a special tasting of three of their wines. For $15/person, you can taste their 2004 Confluence Meritage Blend, 2005 Klamath Cuvee Red and 2006 Syrah Kimberly's Vineyard. The price also include small bites of spring gazpacho, grilled merguez sausage and slaw to wash the delicious vino down.

Monday and Tuesday, March 22-23, Pasadena's La Grande Orange is celebrating their two-year anniversary with a special "neighborhood nights" discount, buy one lunch/dinner entree and get the second for only $2! To sweeten the deal for local lunchers, they are also offering free valet for March.

Tuesday, March 23 is the debut of Cart for a Cause, a gourmet food truck with $10 star chef-designed meals (think Lazy Ox Canteen's Josef Centeno, Animal's Vinny and Jon and Walter Manzke formerly of Church & State) with all sales proceeds benefiting St. Vincent's Meals on Wheels. Each chef's crafted meal will be served a month before it rotates, first in the lineup: Nobu Matsuhisa. Click here for deets, locations, etc.

Thursday, March 25, 6 to 10 p.m., Yes, Hatchi is back at Century City Breadbar and this month's theme is "Burning Sensation" with Sona's chef de cuisine Kuniko Yagi and pastry chef Ramon Perez, and as the name suggests, it will highlight the beauty of heat in char and spice. Dishes (as usual $8 each) include big eye tuna with burnt eggplant + mitsuba dashi sauce and harissa-marinated cod with celery root puree + crispy pig's feet. As with all the other Hatchi events, better get your reservation on early!

Next Sunday, March 28, Beer enthusiast Gev Kazanchyan is organizing a Men are from Malts, Women are from Vinos showdown at College of the Canyons' Institute for Culinary Education in Valencia. For $55/person or $100/couple, you can watch, listen and of course, taste, as beer and wine experts match wits and pairings with each other and the six courses served that night (three chosen by each team.) That's right, a sinful set of six dishes, six wines and six beers for your palate's pleasure. For more details on the event and ordering information, check out FoodGPS' more extensive post here.

And my fave of the Web this week:

*A trio of The Slaw Dogs reviews by Eating LA, Pleasure Palate and Gastronomy
I've only tasted Slaw Dogs to-go and it's definitely promising; I do agree with Pat on them needing bigger, hardier buns if they're going pile on so many toppings.

*And then, a duo of Worldfare early reports from Eating LA and SinoSoul
I was skeptical of the gimmicky-sounding bustaurant, but their positive thoughts have swayed me to give their bunny chows a checkout if they're near me.

*Also, a solo Deep-End Dining primer on Korean-style sushi
True to Eddie's style, it's unusual and freaky--and absolutely sounds like something I gotta try at least once (and I already have for some of his highlighted dishes)

*A two-month-old musing by The Minty on her identity, as a response to an infamous analysis and inquiry on foodbloggers' races
An enjoyable read and I agree with her viewpoints, being Asian and being a foodblogger just happened to be a part of who I am, but they hardly define my whole life.

*SeriousEats highlights the en papilotte ("in parchment [package]") technique
Totally reminded me to do this more often at home, it's a wonderfully flavorful, wholesome, healthy AND pretty effortless way to cook; throw it all together, wrap it up, bake, and break open the pouch for flavorful goodness! Speaking of which, Rants and Craves have a simple-yet-fab recipe for sake-steamed mushrooms en papillote.

*TIME ponders on disappearance of old-fashioned critics
For me, I think it's another hysterical "OMG traditional media is dying!" story; yes, the food review landscape is being more fragmented, but critics still wield considerable influence (which we all surely know by the difficulty of landing a reservation after a favorable mainstream media critic review.) And as far as ethical concerns related comp'd meals and such, I think the proof is in the pudding... those who shill here, there and everywhere will easily get outted and lose credibility, trust and audience.

*Salon notes that hipsters using food stamps to buy organic, specialty, ethnic foods
Fluffed up non-trend in my opinion, even the author of that article owns up to the fact that the overwhelming majority of food stamp recipients are the traditional populations of working poor, elderly, single parents, etc. And frankly, fresh and ethnic produce aren't that pricey if you know what's in-season and the right markets to shop. Finally, I'd rather see food stamp dollars used on fresh, organic groceries than overprocessed junk foods. Ok, so I'm a bit peeved at the thought of hipsters possibly gaming the system, but their food stamp impact pales in comparison to the other things federal and state governments are bailing out these days.

*CHOW's video series: Cooking with Grandma
Ok, sexism aside (what? Grandpas don't cook and share food culture stories? Mine sure did!) I absolutely love these video vignettes showcasing not just a recipe, but also its significance to the culture (not to mention getting me all drooly over my keyboard at Burmese prawn curry, a not-so-kosher brisket for Passover and gnocchis from scratch). And it's super adorable watching grandma and grandkid cook side-by-side, especially with all the "this is how we do it back in the day" tricks and tips.

*Also on CHOW, Revival of the Zombie feature on Tiki Drinks' Comeback
A worthwhile read for anyone who mistakenly associates Tiki cocktails as overly sweet and fruity drinks with ridiculous garnishes --the feature also contains several fun-sounding recipes for you to try at the next gathering (with all the ingredients involved, I personally wouldn't prep or mix them for everyday solo consumption--that's where a trip to Tiki-Ti, Cana or even Trader Vic's comes in.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

No. 159: The Lido Deck (Newport Beach)

Above photo courtesy of I Nom Things

Thanks to a generous invite from the Lido Deck Restaurant arranged through their PR, my friends (including blogger pals I Nom Things, Hey Hey Scenesters, Gourmet Pigs, e*starLA and Rumdood) and I had an opportunity to check out the recently-opened Newport Beach restaurant (which used to be Blanca, where I met I Nom Things, Rumdood and Gourmet Pigs and numerous other foodbloggers for the first time via Foodbuzz-arranged dinner.)

While the original plan was to have an dockside dinner experience at the Lido Marina Village, the cold and sprinkly rain shifted the meal indoors--probably to the relief of my camera-touting, and light-craving, dining companions.

But the biggest surprise of all was what Chef Don Schoenburg (formerly of Leatherby's Cafe Rouge and Tradition by Pascal) planned for us that evening, namely a nine-course tasting extravaganza--which none of us had expected on a Wednesday evening. Their PR did indicate it'll be a chef's choice dinner, but I was thinking maybe five courses and not nearly double that (and that's if you consider multi-component dishes as one "course," which you'll soon see.)

The culinary theme of this restaurant and wine bar is tricky to pinpoint but it works surprisingly well, reflected in the dishes such as a marinated calamari salad with kalamata olives and heirloom tomatoes, cinnamon-rubbed pork loin with red mole and polenta and braised rabbit roulade with chanterelles, mushrooms, asparagus tips and celery root puree. If I absolutely have to attach a cuisine label, based on ingredients and techniques used I would say primarily Cal-French with a good dose of Mediterranean and Latin-American influences.

And while all nine courses are solid in their own right, the five below are the most memorable to me, and dishes I'd love forward to ordering again . . .
Charcuterie Cheese
Paté and Cheese Platter - this isn't your ordinary charcuterie of salami, sopressata and jamons -- but their housemade duck and olive pate, pork and tarragon terrine and rabbit rillette, served alongside a variety of amazing cheeses (a crystalline 18 month-old Gouda and a complex, layered Spanish tres leches [from goat, sheep and cow milks] among them,) is absolutely rocking. Even friends squeamish about trying exotic meats can't help grabbing extra forkfuls of the rabbit rillettes. And I love combo-ing the cheeses with the different accompaniments (particularly the honeycomb and pickled onions.)
Chili-Smoked Shrimp w Brown Sugar-Chili Rub w Mango Gastrique and Mango Sorbet - A definite standout in taste and style; a perfectly cooked shrimp is rubbed with brown sugar and chipotle and ancho chili powders and served alongside a fruity sauce and sorbet. I was ooohing and aaahing with every chew as I'm hit with a sublime combination of spice, smoke, sweet and tang, further accentuated but the hot-cold contrast between the shrimp and the sorbet. When I asked Chef Schoenburg about the inspiration for this dish, so vastly different than anything else that night, he noted he created it as a upscaled bar snack that's tasty and encourages diners to drink more beer, which I can totally see happening. But regardless of whether (and how much) you drink, this is a must-try bite!
Seared Day Boat Scallop w Braised Wild Boar Bacon and Escarole, Black Truffle Jus and Dijon Mustard Foam - pure comfort in a bowl, every aspect of this dish just warms the soul and the stomach: perfectly seared scallop with an ever-so-thin layer of crackly crispiness yielding to a luscious, creamy interior and accented with just a hint of mustard, thick sliced bacon and tender escarole with flavors cranked up a serious notch from the braising liquids and the truffle jus. Definitely will defy any pre-conceived notions of the ubiquitous "bacon-wrapped scallop."
Venison Tenderloin, Cauliflower Puree, Chanterelle and Black Trumpets, Honey Glazed Cipollinis and a "Zinfandel Paint" - another not-so-common meat that some dinner guests were initially skeptical of (or, as we joked around the table, "now that we've had thumper and bambi, I hope flower's not coming next!") that turned out splendidly. The venison has the flavor and texture of an unweaned baby lamb, just a smidgen of gaminess and absolutely tender and juicy. The mushrooms were wonderfully meaty and I loved what the honey glaze did to the already-sweet onions. If there was one thing we felt bad about, it's leaving so much venison on the plate because we've already feasted on seven other courses by the time this arrived!
And of course, the sweets here, prepared by pastry chef Christi Carter, definitely deserved its own special kind of applause. This "single course" actually consisted of four desserts: a brioche French Toast with roasted bananas and pineapples, a flourless chocolate cake, a trio of gelato and sorbets (one nestled in a sugar cage) and a medjool date cake with black pepper toffee caramel. All were great, but the first and last ones were definitely the crowd favorites. Really, who can resist a breakfast sweet as dinner dessert? And the date cake is like a new-and-improved sticky toffee pudding that's less heavy and cloyingly sweet. Despite exclamations of "I'm too full to eat any more desserts" I still saw spoonfuls being snuck as Chefs Don and Christi talked to us. Personally, I didn't even vocalize the "can't have another bite" pretense and kept digging right in.
Chefs Don Schoenburg & Christi Carter
Talking to Chefs Schoenburg and Carter after the dinner, I can really tell the passion and love they're putting into this new restaurant, and trying to bring a newer kind of dining to the O.C. - where guests can have a few small bar bites to go with their wines or beers, or enjoy an elegant meal without breaking the bank (their 3-course dinner prix-fixes are $38, $55 with wine--not shabby at all!) And as the days get longer and warmer, there's that absolutely gorgeous waterfront view (and for those who actually want to be dining in the water, for $100 you can get a gondola cruise around the harbor and a multi-course picnic meal!)

And while they admitted business have been slow since Valentine's Day, I'm sure as the days get longer and sunnier a lot more folks will take advantage of their marinafront space for a refreshing al fresco meal with a gorgeous view to boot, and I plan on being one of them later this year!

The Lido Deck & Wine Bar
3420 Via Oporto, Suite 101
Newport Beach, CA
Chef Schoenburg's twitter

Monday, March 15, 2010

Special Foodventures #158: The La Brea Urban Hike and Eat

Still OK to Hike on this?
Well you know how the adage goes, when life hands you lemons . . . Such was the case in the unexpected curveball of my planned Urban Hike and Eat yesterday - where my attempts to go down the entirety of La Brea was cut short by lack of pedestrian paths as it winds through Baldwin Hills, but more on that later this week on my other blog.

But the day was far from a total loss, as I still got to check out a good number of incredible eats for reasonable prices (like last month, I gave myself the R. Ray challenge of doing it under $40.)
Daybreak at Hollywood & Highland
Starting at the North end of La Brea, I started hiking down the eerily serene and silent Hollywood. No tourists, no solicitors and hardly a moving vehicle.
Susina Bakery exterior
I had intentionally planned for a breakfast at Food Lab Café or M Café de Chaya - but arrived and passed by them before opening; and so, Plan C for breakfast was at Susina Bakery--one of my favorite spots for all things baked and sugary.
Turkey & Cheese Croissant
Only this time, I went for a savory, flakey and gooey warmed-up turkey and cheese croissant ($3.75) and a super-tall cup of nutty, woodsy organic gunpowder tea ($2.50).
El Nido Sandwich Board
Continuing down La Brea, I was tempted by the likes of Campanile and La Brea bakery, but ultimately chose El Nido for my mid-morning snack fix.
Even though the truly foodventurous would get the "Bull's Egg Soup" here, I had neither that sense of daring nor that degree of hunger, so I opted instead for their nacatamal ($5). The wait for my "appetizer" took a while (approx. half-hour!) but the result was worth it. Twice as large as the Mexican tamale and easily a meal on its own, this Nicaraguan/Honduran variation was just as delicious. The masa was moist and fluffy with a fine-grained, almost couscous-like texture, and it was stuffed with a myriad of different ingredients, including potatoes, tomatoes, pork, olives and raisins. Super-filling and worth ordering again, though I made note to call ahead if I'm planning a trip here.
CJ's Cafe
South of the 10 until Baldwin Hills, the eateries were a lot less noteworthy, basically a mish-mash of various fast-food chains. The only one that popped out was CJ's Cafe, which was packed with patrons--always a good sign. Alas, I was still too full from the nacatamal to want to indulge in their "South to South-of-the-Border" cooking.

It's too bad I couldn't actually hike across Baldwin Hills, since further South on La Brea were a number of promising eateries I really looked forward to trying: including the vegan Stuff I Eat (with an intriguing Carrot Un-Tuna salad) and the Indian/Pakistani Aladdin's Halal Tandoori (with some pretty crazy lunch specials.) Another time, and when I'm on wheels, I s'pose.
Waffles and Mint Lemonade
Turning around, I decided to make my way back to Hollywood again and finally had a chance to check out Food Lab, meeting nearby Sarah the Bear. Feeling like more carbs, I got their Belgian waffle ($8) and mint lemonade ($3.50). The lemonade was too sweet (yes, even for me) and I had to water it down, and it's a pity to see bruised/blackened mint leaves floating in there. As for the waffles, it was just OK for me--more like a pancake in a waffle shape since it lacked the caramelized crispy exterior I was hoping for. The accompanying maple syrup, orange marmalade and whipped cream were top notch though. So while this meal was lackluster, I am open to giving it another try--esp. after sneaking a bite of Sarah's press-grilled three cheese sandwich w whole-seed mustard and caramelized onions. Oh yeah, for all you Dean & Deluca lovers, they stock quite a few of their food items here too... so something to get your fix satisfied while waiting for their OC store to open.
Mashti Malone's signage
With the sun beating down my back, I decided to make one final food stop at a L.A. institution (that I've yet to visit until yesterday,) Mashti Malone's - the ice creamery famous for their Persian-inspired flavors. I have been warned some flavors may be too exotic, but c'mon -- I'm a total Scoops fan, and I bet it can't get any more exotic than gorgonozola-pecan-pear (my favorite of the "weird flavors" there.)
Ginger-Rosewater Ice Cream
I tasted the ginger-rosewater ice cream and it was love at first sight so I immediately got a scoop ($3). Fragrant, spicy, creamy and sweet -- it's like having a frozen sweet lassi (I know, Indian and not Persian, but that's what it reminded me of.)
Eagle Rock Brewery Libertine
And of course, my celebratory end-of-hike beer. Since I was already in Hollywood area, I decided to trek a few blocks beyond my expected endpoint (Hollywood & Highland metro stop) to Blue Palm's Brewhouse, which was totally chill. I had intended on getting something refreshing and light and quaffable, but changed my mind upon seeing the Eagle Rock Brewery's Libertine imperial amber wit on the menu. With a wonderful spicy-green apple aroma and slightly-hefty finish, it's the beer equivalent of sampling apple pie filling before it goes into the crust and oven. And the discounted $4 price (usually $6) made this drink that much more sweeter.
Hollywood-Western Metro Stop
If I had known I would wound up getting on the Metro at the Hollywood/Western stop, I would've done a little homework for some Thai Town cheap eats to check out, but alas, after 10 hours out and about my brain isn't exactly programmed for on-the-spot eatery research, nor do my legs want to log on unnecessary extra miles, and so homeward bound I went.

And despite the detour and missing out on Inglewood-area food, I'm pretty happy with this trip too--having the opportunity to check out a variety of different eats, look for new places (the coming soon Flavors of Belize!) and once again, truly soaking in LA the way I wouldn't have just zooming by in a car.

And I'm already excited about the next Urban Hike and Eat; pretty sure it'll be on Sunday, April 18, and this time with a little O.C. love thrown in! Keep your eyes peeled closer to date!

The Bill:

Croissant & Tea at Susina + tip: $7.25
Nacatamal at El Nido + tax/tip: $7
Waffle & Lemonade at Food Lab + tax/tip: $14
Ice Cream at Mashti Malone's: $3
Beer at Blue Palms + tip: $5
TOTAL: $36.25

More photos on my flickr set here

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Quickies #89: Marching Madness edition . . .

End of the Trail!
The thrill of the finish line at last month's Urban Hike Street Foodventures

Of course, I'm super-stoked about Urban Hike and Eat this Sunday (this time down the entire length of La Brea Avenue,) but looks like a lot of other fun going-ons are happening that day too! Ah wells . . .

Starting this Sunday, 11;30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Charlie Palmer's at Bloomingdale's South Coast Plaza is launching their Bloody Mary Brunch, where for $35/person you get a two course meal plus all-you-care-to-make-and-drink Bloody Marys, with a fantastic bar that starts with 42 Below Vodka and decked out with all sorts of gourmet fixings such as: hearts of romaine stuffed with applewood bacon // Arrogant Bastard-infused hot sauces // house cured beef jerky // blue cheese stuffed olives // freshly grated horseradish and ginger. Did I also mention two course of food too? It includes the like of Ahi tuna and green tea soba salad with soy-lime dressing // Bourbon-scented French toast with smoked cashews and caramelized bananas // Kobe-style beef sliders with truffle mayo.

This Sunday, from 4 p.m. to close, Hudson House in Redondo Beach is celebrating their one year anniversary by offering free drinks (choice of blood orange tequila cocktail or Hudson Ale,) free bar bites and free DJ-spun tunes. Let the good times roll!

This Sunday, from 5 p.m. to close, for the Eastsiders, Atwater Village's 55 Degree Wine is having their March Beer Madness, cleaning out their stock of eclectic, unusual beers by the glass. The selections include a light-yet-spicy Dupont Avril, Unibroue's strong-and-sweet Trois Pistoles, Pinkus' clove-y organic Hefeweizen and Lindeman's crisp-n-peachy Peche Lambic. Experiment away!

Wednesday, March 17 from 2 to 7 p.m., Brea's TAPS Fish House & Brewery is offering a fantastic Irish-themed buffet for anyone wearing green; for $9.95 you can help yourself to their crazy spread of hearty St. Paddy's Day fare such as build-your-own Irish nachos, Irish Whiskey barbecue wings, stout & lamb stew, Dubliner cheddar & ale soup and sheperd's pie. You might as well order their Irish red ale too to help wash all that down!

And my favorite reads this week:

- For a while people were worried that the Bazaar's Brunch and Afternoon Tea were going away; fear not, Grub Street LA got the scoop that it's merely moving to another location within the SLS Hotel (plus the menu too for you to drool over!)

- Slate looks at the current trend with preserving fruits, veggies, meats, etc. and how it went from a frugal necessity to an exercise in pride

- LA Times featured "greener" restaurants dedicated to sustainability, recycling and other practices to nourish the planet as well as our palates

- Want to hold a tapas party at home? Check out SeriousEats' simple four-ingredient tapas recipes

- And on the easy DIY note, Let Me Eat Cake posted some of her favorite dessert recipes that anyone can whip up in a jiffy

- DineLA has a pair of great features covering a wide variety of sheep dishes and notable sandwiches in L.A. (looking for an intersection of the two? Try the lamb French Dips at Cole's and Phillipe's)

- Caroline on Crack shows you how to send a bad restaurant dish back the right way

- And yours truly got into a little comment brouhaha over cheese made out of breastmilk on EaterLA

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Special Foodventure #157: Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea at Boxwood Café (West Hollywood)

3-tier afternoon tea set
It's been a while since I gone on afternoon tea with friends; of course, with the debut of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland - numerous eateries around town jumped at the chance to (re) promote their tea services. Of the ones doing an Alice themed tea, the one at the Boxwood Café looked the most appealing, so that's where ConBon, Jennio and I went for a lazy Saturday afternoon of sips, bites and chit-chat.
Boxwood Cafe interior
Located in the London West Hollywood, the restaurant's decor matched that of the hotel -- light creamy beiges for an airy, ethereal feel with glitzy gold accents and tres-chic marble tables and columns with plush overstuffed chairs and couches lined with embossed leather. As for other patrons, we had expected just hotel guests and maybe some ladies-who-lunch, but it was a wide ranging crowd, twentysomething group of friends catching up, Hollywoody executives engaging in biz gossip, mothers and daughters in teatime dress-up, and of course, camera-touting bloggers like us.
Alice in Wonderland Tea menu
Here's the menu promising the myriad of whimsical delights to come, I was mildly disappointed that the upgrade price for champagne cocktails changed from $5 a person (which is still listed on their Website menu at time of this posting!) to a $17 a person (indicated by the $45/person at bottom of above-menu.) The three of us had looked forward to checking out color-themed "Drink Me" concoctions ("Red" with Pama Liqueur and pom juice, "Orange" with Triple Sec plus citrus juices, "Purple" with Framboise liqueur, for example) but decided to just do the regular virgin tea at $28/person instead.
Conbon and Jennio must've feel particularly fruity today, as they opted for the mountain berry and tangerine infused teas. I went for a mystical-sounding "Life Through Water" described at the time by our server that it's "rockstar on crack" because it apparently left her hyper all day when she tried it. I was surprised upon serving that it's the lightest of the three brews, and sure enough, it didn't taste particularly strong. Turns out that this was a green tea blended with lemongrass, peppermint and yerba mate. Not particularly buzz-inducing for my coffee-twice-daily body, but it was pleasant to drink with nice notes of sweet grass and mint plus a clean finish. No milk needed here, and even sugar lumps are optional for this one.
3-tier afternoon tea set w coconut foam cups
Shorty after tasting each other teas, the servers (yes, plural!) brought out the tea set, three food-packed tiers plus an extra plate for starters and scone condiments!
coconut foam and poached strawberries
For an amuse, we started off with demitasse cups filled with poached strawberries and coconut foam. A lighter and more refreshing spin off the classic Strawberries Romanoff, we finished these off in no time.
Then came the mini plain and blackcurrant scones, with colored Devonshire cream and berry compote. We love that the scones are not the dense bricks 'o carbs we've had at other afternoon tea services, but fluffy like a freshly-baked biscuit. And the compote was excellent, vibrant with berry flavors and just the right balance between sweet and acidity, it made the bland cream pale in comparison, even if it was lilac-tinted.
tea sandwiches
Next up, two-bite tea sandwiches (crusts off, of course!) from left to right: roast beef with horseradish crème fraiche, salmon with sour cream and lemon, tomato-cherry jam with aged English cheddar and smoked ham with red onion marmalade. We were collectively underwhelmed by the roast beef sandwich, but found the other ones delicious and interesting. My favorite was the smoked ham, which had a great sweet-savory contrast between the meat and the sweet onions.
dessert and pastry platter
Finally, my favorite part of any afternoon teas, all the sweets and pastries! This also is where they truly let their Alice creativity shine - what with brightly colored macarons with "contrasting color fillings" (my yellow-and-green one turned out to be lemon-almond,) blackberry panna cotta and jelly shots, Queen of Hearts lemon curd tarts with berries, chocolate decadence cake with a ball of lavender ganache, and chocolate-enrobed "mushroom" cakes. I love the range it covered, something berryish, something citrusy, something chocolaty (and everything tasty) but the chocolate decadence definitely takes the cake - it tastes like a flourless chocolate batter baked (or chilled) just enough to hold together, but practically melts into rich, dark chocolate ganache goodness upon landing in my mouth. And it was delicious enough that my friends asked the server to wrap up their half-eaten chocolate decadences home.
Clinking our panna cotta shots
And even though the mildly stormy and rainy weather was less than ideal for an afternoon tea, we had a wonderful time lazily lounging about (and props to the front-of-house staff for their super-friendly service, particularly in refilling our teapots twice and never trying to hustle us out long after the food is done with!) And if Boxwood's other meals are anything like their afternoon teas, that's something I definitely look forward to returning to.

But in the meantime, you have the rest of the month to enjoy the Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea; 3 to 5 p.m. daily and I presume on April Fools it'll revert back to their regular version.

More photos on the flickr set here

Boxwood Café by Gordon Ramsay
at the London West Hollywood
1020 North San Vicente Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 358-7788
Gordon Ramsay at The London Hotel in Los Angeles

Monday, March 08, 2010

Mini Foodventure #156: Larchmont Larder (Hancock Park)

Larchmont Larder
Thanks to Groupon, I finally got a chance to check out Larchmont Larder, a Hancock Park casual eatery and specialty food marketplace that's been on my to-try list for months. When I realized the 50% discount offer I bought months ago would be expiring this past weekend, I seized the opportunity to snag a lunch for my snowboarding trip yesterday.
Snowboarding Lunch
And am I ever glad I did -- after hitting (literally! OW!) the slopes of Mt. High for three hours, their assorted gourmet foods were the perfect pick-me-up for my bruised bum. The miso-marinated salmon with miso-sesame aioli was firm, meaty and flavorful without being crazy-sweet like some of the miso salmons other places serve and side dishes of oven roasted root vegetables w shallots and sage and Asian noodle salad were great too, filling without being heavy and absolutely satisfying even when eaten chilled in the cold. And absolutely better than any of the stuff the ski lodge is serving up!

I also got some of their curious sounding lemongrass-coconut rice with cilantro and orange zest, but didn't have a chance to try over lunch since their portions were very hearty!
Post-snowboarding dinner
And so I had that, and some leftover roasted veggies, for dinner. I just popped them in the oven along with some Soyafarm Tofu Delights for a simple, light and great-tasting meal with minimal effort (much appreciated after 6+ hours and ~20 runs.) The rice was wonderfully infused with the fragrance of the other components, and even more interesting than the lemongrass-coconut rice served at Thai places with the zippy additions of citrus and cilantro.

In any case, I definitely look forward to returning to Larchmont Larder to try more of their gussied up prepared foods--maybe even have a deli dishes faceoff with the nearby M Cafe de Chaya.

What Do Others Say?
- Both FoodGPS and Eat: Los Angeles highlighted their "Humpday Dinner" special
- Eating LA likes it as an occasional luxury for "when you're too rich to cook"
- Stuffy Cheaks will also return here, finding their offerings "healthy . . . yet appetizing"

Larchmont Larder
626 N. Larchmont Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90004

Larchmont Larder in Los Angeles
The Larchmont Larder on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 05, 2010

Friday Quickies #88: A Drinkventure Filled Week . . .

Black Eyed Plum
The Black-Eyed Plum cocktail at the Hungry Cat's CrabFest last year

I'll likely be hitting the snowboarding slopes this weekend (and probably spending the rest of the week recovering from it) but there are still plenty of fun food and drink events for those of you without a bruised butt and ego.

Tonight, 6 p.m. - 1 a.m., Vinoteque on Melrose will be having the largest Provence wine tasting on the West Coast, with 12 domains bringing about 35 different labels (many of which not readily available for purchase in the LA area) for tasting, as well as opportunities to talk the winemakers and purchase bottles. Vinoteque's chef, KC Ma, will also be preparing rustic Provencal French fare to go with these fab vino. $55/person.

Tomorrow, 1 - 3 p.m., Deep End Dining extraordinaire Eddie Lin will have an Extreme Cuisine Book signing at The Annex in Santa Ana. The event is hosted by OC Weekly's Gustavo Arellano and the Sonoran hot dog & burrito truck will be on-site so you have something to nosh on while getting your autographs, not to mention your opportunity to compare most unusual grub with the extreme eater himself (I was told free samples of dried grasshoppers and balut are available for the truly daring.) More info here.

Sunday, March 7 and Monday, March 8, The Hungry Cat will be celebrating its fifth year anniversary! All day long, enjoy their specialty market-driven cocktails and draft beer at half-off (on Monday this also applies to their bottles of wine too!) as well as yet-to-be-specified food specials.

Tuesday, March 9, Pasadena's POP Champagne & Dessert Bar is launching Tapas Tuesdays and embracing that tradition in the truest sense; in lieu of their regular menu, the POP folks will be offering a complimentary bite of your choice for every alcoholic beverage purchase (or $3 a la carte.) The menu will change every week, but last week's offerings included duck taquito with citrus-avocado puree // roasted leg of lamb empanada with sweet chili apricot sauce // nutella crepe with berries and chantilly cream // lavender strawberries with creme fraiche and shortbread cookie. That's certainly something I can smack my lips and clink my glasses to!

Wednesday, March 10, 7 p.m., Fraiche Santa Monica is continuing their wine dinner tradition - this time partnering with the biodynamic Manincor winery with owner Count Michael Goëss-Enzenberg guiding through the five wine-paired courses, including: poppy seed ravioli stuffed with ricotta and red beet // sturgeon with veal jus, pearl onions and English pea tendrils // lamb chop and orzotta with wild mushrooms, golden raisins and baby turnips. $65/person + tax/tip.

And my favorite reads of the week:

A teacher is fed up with school lunch offerings for her students and embarks on an yearlong experiment to eat, and blog, about school cafeteria food. 2 months down so far. . .

Serious Eats' candid profile of Robert Caplin, a freelance photographer who's regularly on assignment for New York Times' food section.

And on the photography note, Diana Takes a Bite found gnocchi too good to miss with a camera!

SF Chronicle reports on California's ABC cracking down on house-infused spirits, surely not boding well for some of the classier and edgier bar operations in the state.

Speaking of spirits, The Wanderkind blogs an interesting two-parter confession about coming to terms with her own intolerance for alcohol.

Green LA Girl highlights some of the more unusual, green and budget-friendly diets out there. Too bad the sleep and baking diets on that post doesn't actually let me sleep and eat all the carbs to total abandon.

And lastly, Slate ran a hilarious ranty tirade of a hatepost on popcorn. Amongst the author's grievances, its "eaters sound like they're engaging in jungle combat" and it "looks like sheep shit."

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Aspall Cyder: when Martinelli's meets Champagne . . .

I remember, as a kid and a teen ye many years ago, the few formal toast-worthy functions I've attend will always have a bottle of Martinelli's on-hand for young-uns like us. Sparkly and poured out of a wine bottle, my friends and I would overlook its distinctively yellower hue and super sweetness and just pretend we're fancy schmancy hot stuff... hot stuff that are drinking fizzy juices that costs $2-3 a bottle. But at least we get to hold a flute or a coupe like the actual adults . . .

While I've since graduated onto enjoying real sparkling wines and Champagnes, a part of me have always longed for an adult version of a good hard cider. Of course, I've had the likes of Wyder's and Woodchuck and while they have their purpose (mainly a fruitier alternative for my beer hating friends and a less beer appreciative me in the past,) they really don't pass my palate test with its Jolly Rancher-ish apple flavor mixed with musky undertones and a metallic aftertaste--a weird combo that makes me almost want to call it a night by mixing the non-alchy cider with vodka.
That is, until I discovered . . .
. . . Aspall's Cuvée Chevallier Cyder at The Surly Goat. It was remarkably crisp and clean, and nicely balanced in terms of sweetness and acidity. My friend ConBon (who also snapped the above photo) likened more like a champagne than an apple cider, and indeed - I think it could pass for an extra appley prosecco. In any case, it definitely disarmed my preconceptions of hard ciders.

When I got home I did a little research, and found out the Cuvée Chevallier was a recent addition to their line (so new it's not even on their product list yet!), and the Aspall folks made this cyder specifically to resemble a sparkling wine, particularly in their selection of apples (using more acidic and less sweet varieties, similar profile to wine grapes) and using the double-fermentation process (to provide a thicker structure, more refined bubbles, higher alcohol content at 11% ABV and to better remove yeast and sediments--perhaps the reason for the muskiness I've had in other ciders.) The result, a "cyder" that's more than a few notches above others of its kind.

So now I'm definitely on the prowl for bars and stores that carry this delicious brew (it retails for $16.99 per 750mL bottle, and Surly Goat serves theirs up for $24) as well as keeping an eye out for any other breweries that make their ciders in a similar tres chic fashion!

And here's a clearer label photo for you to reference on your hunt (just let me know if you find it!)

Monday, March 01, 2010

"Recipe" Time #20: Easy Japanesy Salmon Rounds

On the various occasions that I contribute edibles and potables to potlucks, parties and other various affairs, my cardinal rule has been to keep it simple. Because really, who wants to spend the entire event slaving away in the kitchen instead of actually entertaining?

Easy Japanesy Salmon Rounds
As such, for the crazy successful and fun Stir It 28 cocktail party - I contributed my Easy Japanesy Salmon Rounds (in addition to midnight brownie bites w vanilla cream cheese frosting.) It's a canape that hits all the flavor and texture notes - from the sweet-tartness of the vinegar/sugar-soaked cucumbers, to the savory creaminess of the miso-infused cream cheese, the rich smoky notes from the salmon, with a pinch of sesame seeds' crunchy nuttiness. Essentially, a finger-friendly lox spread meet Philadelphia roll.

And with its super-easy prep work and assembly (so much that I even hesitate to call this a recipe, per post title,) it's one crowd-pleasing party snack that's definitely in my regular rotation, and hopefully yours too.

Ingredients for 50-60 rounds:

3 Japanese cucumbers (Persian or English ones work too, but I prefer the Japanese's milder flavor and softer crunch)

1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese
1 1/2 tablespoon white miso paste
2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds
1 4-6 oz. package smoked salmon (I got Trader Joe's Pacific wild-caught, tasty and inexpensive at $3.99 per package)


1. Soften cream cheese by beating it in a bowl; after softening, incorporate miso paste one teaspoon at a time -- tasting along the way to your preference (it should have a pronounced miso-umami flavor without being too salty) - this can be done the night before.

2. Slice up the Japanese cucumbers into coins, gently press them dry on both sides with a paper towel.

3. In a bowl, dilute the white wine vinegar to 1 cup of water. Stir in the brown sugar until mixed, then soak the cucumber coins in for 15-20 minutes. Then strain into colander and let it dry - again, doable night before.

4. Assemble! Top each cucumber coin with a half-teaspoonful of the miso cream cheese, a pinch of sesame seeds and a thumb-sized piece of the smoked salmon. Ready to serve immediately or keep chilled in fridge for a few hours.

Thanks to Kung Food Panda for the photo & helping me assemble the rounds at the party. And I Nom Things for the inspiration in this dish's name.


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