Thursday, July 29, 2010

No. 173: Bites & Sips Along Colorado Urban Hike

Colorado St. Bridge
Overlooking Arroyo Seco & Colorado Street Bridge

Even though July was relatively gloomy, on the Sunday of my 14-mile Colorado Urban Hike the sun was pretty much out in full-force, which made for a beautiful day to get outdoors plus lots of stops to cool down, hydrate and check out some of the local flavors from Glendale to Arcadia.

Porto's exterior
Starting my excursion at 8 a.m. with Tiny Nancer, we both deemed Porto's Bakery & Café the perfect first stop to get our hike started on the right foot.
Nancy photo-ing her breakfast
Nancy, never having tried their potato balls, got one of those & an oversized blueberry muffin for breakfast. I opted for their guacamole & cheese omelet croissan-wich, and we splitted a cup of their super-sweet, freshly-squeezed OJ.
Guac & cheese omelet croissantwich
My sandwich took a while to come out (during which Nancy & I pondered whether they're churning the butter for the croissant or waiting for hens to lay the eggs for the omelet) but it turned out to be worth the wait. The sesame seed-studded croissant was flaky, soft and surprisingly a tad sweet, and it was a nice combo against the rich guac and the gooey cheese omelet. A dash or two of Tapatio or Cholula hot sauce was all that's needed.

After our satisfying breakfast, we hiked and Nancy, a longtime Eagle Rock resident (who's soon moving to the Big Apple,) schooled me on some local eats worth checking out - including Carousel Restaurant ("Every Armenian I know recommends this place!" she said) to Fish King Seafood Market & Deli and... Sasoun Bakery.
Sasoun Bakery Menu
Despite still being full from Porto's, I let myself be talked into trying their hot-outta-the-oven cheese beorek (OK, not all that hard considering the smell of baked bread and the aroma of spices)
Cheese Beorek
. . . which I'm glad I did. Essentially quesadilla's Armenian cousin, I love the pita texture of the bread (crispy crust, fluffy interior) and the melty, Monterey Jack like cheese mixed with cooked onions and savory spices. And at $1.50, flavor- and value-wise it definitely beats any of the chain offerings from the Galleria or Americana (though Nancy herself is more partial to even bigger bargain of Taron Bakery.) Alas, having a belly full of breakfast, I only ate one-half of my beorek, and wound up giving the other to Nancy's boyfriend Robbyjazz.

Heading down Glendale, we spotted a few other curious eateries and meaning-to-tries, such as Rocky's Gourmet Pizza and Zankou Chicken (the latter being one I've still yet to check out -- shameful for an Angeleno, I KNOW.) Ultimately, our next eating stop was at Eagle Rock n Roll Sunday Farmer's Market, where we met up with Gourmet Pigs and her boyfriend as they were waiting for their made-to-order pupusas and tamales. Nancy and I, starting to feel dehydrated, got a watermelon agua frescas from the pupusa vendor. Oh-so-refreshing!
Stone Fruit samples
After finishing our drinks and sampling some of the market's fresh & prepared foods, Nancy took us to Eagle Rock Mall to its somewhat hidden gem, Seafood City, a Filipino market offering all sorts of cheap produce and Pacific Island specialty foods, including literally an aisle of ube. I definitely thought about buying something to bring along for the rest of the hike, but decided it wouldn't hold very well in my backpack for the rest of the day. And now that I know where it is, I can always come back.

Fiona, Nancy and I contemplated on getting a snack at local casual faves Spitz and Swork, but ultimately decided on a light meal instead at Four Café (I also thought about checking out Dave's Chillin & Grillin but unfortunately it wasn't opened yet.) Having six in our party (Caroline on Crack and Robby joined us) it seemed appropriate to take advantage of their BYOB policy to buy a little brunch bubbly from neighboring Colorado Wine Company.
Cava Barcino Brut, a dry Spanish bubbly that's a little flinty and a little tart (and appropriate for the lighter fare we're about to get) - and apparently LA Times' S. Irene picked this as an affordable New Year's Eve sparkly to pop. We didn't know it at the time, we just snagged the bottle for its decent price & because it's the last one in the fridge and figure it can't be a bad thing if if it almost sold out.
Mini lunch w cava @ Four Café
For my brunching, I considered re-doing my recent delicious order but ultimately went lighter and got their haricot verts deli salad with asparagus, shallots and a bit of truffle oil alongside their chilled heirloom tomato gazpacho with a balsamic reduction. The vegetables in the deli salad were nicely cooked, still possessing a satisfying crunch and loads of flavor with every bite and I love how multi-faceted the soup tasted, with its refreshing sweet-and-sour profile and packed with tons of real tomato flavor (nothing like the anemic-tasting slices found in sandwich & burger chains.)
Cookies from Four Café
Of course, between our collective sweet tooth we had to grab something sugary to finish off our meal (I mean, we do need carbs for the hike!) so we shared their Mexican hot chocolate and lavender brown sugar cookies. I liked the former cookie more, which was moist and had the fun spiced chocolate combo. The lavender shorbread-like cookie was good too, but proved too buttery and chalky with subsequent bites -- so I'm definitely glad I was sharing that (I will give Four props though for not overdoing the lavender, which happens way too often at other places and makes me feel like I'm eating soap or lotion.)
Little Flower Candies
After Four, Fiona and Nancy and their b/fs took off from the hike, leaving Caroline and I to hike (and eat... and drink) the rest of our way down Colorado. Our first stop was at Little Flower Candy Company, where I might've bought a bag or two of their delicious caramels except they might melt into a massive molten and sticky blob by the end of the hike. So instead, we got seed bombs from a vending machine outside for a little guerilla gardening later.
Pitch 'o white sangria
Upon arrival in Old Town Pasadena, we deliberated a little bit on our next hydration stop and finally settled upon La Grande Orange for a pitcher of their signature white sangria. For $19, we got 7-8 glasses of the thirst-quenching winey, fruity punch -- a definite bargain any time of day. Caroline, who didn't eat at Four, was starting to get a little hungry so she ordered one of my fave dishes there, their tuna burger (and I got to nibble on some of her fries.) Definitely a nice, and much-needed, respite

While at LGO, Caroline mentioned never having been to Eagle Rock Brewery before -- so I said "WHAT?" and opted to take a shortcut (namely, shaving 3-4 miles and an hour's hike) by riding the Metro Gold Line so we can make it there before they close shop at 6 p.m. The timing worked out just fine, even including a detour to Arcadia residential streets after Colorado Blvd. became sidewalkless, some stray peafowl photo-snapping and a quick stop by Phoenix Food Boutique to pick up some milk custard w ginger for Nancy while Caroline got her red bean mochi on.

With our fast-paced hiking and my semi-manic driving, we arrived at Eagle Rock Brewery right at 5:58 p.m. -- thankfully there were other late patrons and co-owners Steve and Jeremy Raub were happy to serve us (Jeremy even said he saw my tweet and meant to reply that they'll hang around a little while after 6 p.m., awww!)

At Eagle Rock, Caroline got their Solidarity, their super popular dark, mild-flavored beer with a good dose of malty notes. I opted for their recently-debuted Limbo, a saison-style beer with citra hops, which was kind of fun being a little hoppy, a little sour and a little yeasty-funky, definitely putting it in a hard-to-pinpoint limbo position of beers.
Eagle Rock Brewery photo
After downing our brews and snacking on some peanuts & pretzels that they brought out, Caroline got a growler of Solidarity (picking up some tips from Jeremy about how to store and serve in the process) and we left thoroughly hydrated and little bit buzzed. Realizing we still had our seed bombs in our pockets, we planted them on the grounds outside the brewery. Maybe in a couple of weeks, we'll see them bloom into some wicked wildflowers.

And so that's how the July Urban Hike went down -- another satisfying course where I discovered new places while checking out some favorites too. And already, I'm looking forward to the next one criss-crossing downtown LA on August 29, a relatively shorter five-mile route along Spring, Hope & Grand that starts with a Nickel Diner lunch and hopefully ends just in time for happy hour at one of the neighborhood's many popular and tasty watering holes. Here's the route I planned, hope you can join!

View Larger Map

Last but not least, here are Caroline & Nancy's posts on the hike; and the more photos on my flickr set here.

Porto's Bakery

315 North Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA 91203
(818) 956-5996

Sasoun Bakery
625 E Colorado St.
Glendale, CA 91205
(818) 502-5059

Eagle Rock n Roll Farmers Market (@ Eagle Rock Plaza parking lot near Macy's)
2700 Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90041

Colorado Wine Company
2114 Colorado Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 478-1985

Four Cafe
2122 Colorado Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 550-1988

La Grande Orange Station Cafe
260 S Raymond Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 356-4444

Phoenix Food Boutique
1108 South Baldwin Avenue
Arcadia, CA 91007
(626) 446-7668

Eagle Rock Brewery

3056 Roswell Street
Los Angeles, CA 90065
(323) 257-7866

Monday, July 26, 2010

No. 172: Simply Sublime Chocolate from Providence

Box o Chocolates from Providence
Probably best birthday gift I've received in a while. Even though I just woke up from a nap when I got it, I had a little squeal of delight when Conbon presented this box to me. Just looking at the logo on the top, I knew what it represented . . .
Chocolates from Providence
. . . Providence's chocolate collection by their pastry chef Adrian Vasquez! Being both a fan of his delectable sweets at Providence (and what he created at Lamill Coffee Boutique,) this was definitely a chocolate experience to look forward to. And as much as I'd like to wolf them all down in one sitting, I decided to be good and spread it out over four days -- giving myself an ultra-luxe three-piece chocolate break for most of the work week.

And it was sublime . . . the collection runs the gamut from familiar-with-a-twist (a milk chocolate coffee truffle spiced with Turkish Urfa chili) to other-worldly exotic (an intensely earthy and fruity bittersweet truffle with a Rooibos tea & Chambord infused ganache.) And while I enjoyed every piece, my absolute favorites were the tropical, light and refreshing white chocolate truffle with a kalamansi lime & mint ganache (like a mojito in chocolate,) a milk chocolate one with Jameson Irish Whiskey that struck a beautiful balance between the spirit & the chocolate, and the bold dark chocolate baharat, infused with a medley of fragrant Middle Eastern spices whose flavors linger long after the rich ganache melts away. Here's a description of the delicious dozen . . .
Chocolates Guide
Of course, now I can't wait for a self-indulgent moment to compel me to bring the empty box back for a refill . . . and maybe enjoy a well-crafted cocktail and a nibble at the bar as well, but I already know a full-on dessert tasting would be too much even for my sweet jaws.

Thanks Conbon, but you know "I'm not gonna write you a love song!"

5955 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA

(323) 460-4170

Thursday, July 22, 2010

No. 171: Four Café (Eagle Rock)

Four Café in Eagle Rock is one of the latest L.A. additions in the fast-casual, healthier-eating scene (which includes the likes of Forage in Silver Lake and the mini-chains of Tender Greens & M Café de Chaya, both of which opened new locations this year.) Curious about this joint and armed with a Blackboard Eats offer, Hey Hey Scenester's ConBon and I decided to check this place out following Colorado Wine's tasting (one of my favorite recurring tastings in town, by the way, their Friday ones are $15/person to taste five eccentric wines plus a help-yourself platter to a wide array of cheeses from nearby Auntie Em's.)
Menu Board
The seasonally-driven menu at Four is pretty straightforward and tight, about two dozen selections of soups, sandwiches, plated salads and deli sides/salads, plus an assortment of baked goods and desserts. Nonetheless, there were so many delicious-sounding options we both took a while to decide what we want.
Jerk Tempeh Sandwich & Miso Tofu Salad
I got the jerk tempeh sandwich paired with chopped miso tofu salad ($15); For the sandwich, overall it was a nice mix between vegetables (red onion & arugula), their cashew cheese, avocado slices and jerk marinated tempeh -- all the flavors complementing each other very well (a little umami, a little vegetal "greeness", a little creaminess) though, lover of spices that I am, I think the jerkiness could've been upped a bit without throwing off the flavor profile. Still, a very substantial and hearty sandwich. I'm glad I paired it with the miso tofu chopped salad, which was flavorful from miso vinaigrette but otherwise a very light, clean and refreshing salad with a satisfying crunch from almonds and fresh cabbage and a nice punch of oniony flavors from the crisped shallots and chives.
ConBon w Pork Bun
Whereas I went the full-veggie route, Conbon decided to release her inner-carnivore, ordering the $15 sandwich-salad combo with Southwest steak salad and Hawaiian barbecue pork bun. She found the steak on the salad just a little tough but otherwise loved the combination of crispy jicama, roasted bell peppers, corn freshly sliced off the cob and avocado, in a bright honey-jalapeno-lime dressing (yes, it sounds Bobby Flay-ish, but I snuck a meatless bite and it was tasty!) The downside of such a salad was that it left her very little room for the even more filling pork bun sandwich (I don't think she took more than 3 bites after the initial one photo'd above.) And so, she had to doggy-bag the sandwich, which she also found delicious with moist, tender pork in an oversized sweet 'n eggy Hawaiian roll, -- though that tragically got tossed since she left it in the car the day after and didn't realize until it got car-be-cued in sweltering afternoon heat. But she said it's a sandwich she would order again, if not tempted to try something new on the menu.
Allagash Fluxus 2009
Since Four is currently BYOB, we took advantage of Colorado Wine's eclectic collection of beers and got Allagash's Fluxus 2009, a limited edition farmhouse ale brewed with sweet potato and black pepper. At ~$20 for a 750mL bottle, this is definitely not an everyday beer; the taste definitely screams fun special occasion, all over the map in a festive kind of way, with citrus and spice notes, a delightful little hint of the sweet potatoes and a tinge of hoppiness (it's like having a spicy candied yams in your beer, which is surprisingly good!) And, unexpectedly quaffable for a 8.3% ABV beer.
Mixed Fruit Crisp
And of course, with pastry case how can we resist desserts? I got their mixed berry fruit crisp ($4), which was everything I expected, a slightly-sweet filling well balanced by the bright-tanginess of the fragrant berries, and I liked how its texture is a nice foil to the crunchy crisp without being too mushy or tasting too raw.
Apricot Cobbler
On the other hand, Conbon's apricot cobbler ($3) didn't fare as well -- granted, it was scooped out of an almost-empty casserole tray by the time we ordered it so it may have been sitting out a while, but it tasted a bit too sweet and the cakey topping was unappetizingly soggy. So we made a mentally note to stick to the individually-prepared dessert, or order casseroley baked goods only when it seems fresh outta the oven.

Despite the cobbler, we generally have a positive opinion of Four's dishes, it was fresh and tasty and not too damaging on the wallet. And we definitely love it's mutualistic relationship with Colorado Wine (you can either BYOB from Colorado to Four, or order take-out from Four to nosh on at Colorado!) Either way, I can already see myself returning regularly to enhance my palate with some very fun eats and wines -- and maybe super soon for the debut of their breakfast menu next month.

What Do Others Say?
- Eating L.A. thinks "every neighborhood needs a cafe like . . . Four"
- Let Me Eat Cake finds it "comforting and inviting with food that makes you want to come back again the next day"
- Banana Wonder also notes it as "relaxing and unpretentious" and "can't wait to go back"
- The Minty looks forward to a return, too, finding "the delicious lavender brown butter cookie [tasting like] Ludo's lavender butter"
- Eat L.A. calls it "an instant hit" between the fairly-priced, tasty dishes, kids' menu & BYOB

Additional photos from our Four excursion here

Four Cafe
2122 1/2 Colorado Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

Four Cafe in Los Angeles on Fooddigger
Four Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 19, 2010

No. 170: Trying "faux gras" + more at Seed Kitchen (Venice)

One would imagine that transitioning into vegetarianism, I'd be filling in the animal flesh void with a variety of fake meats. While it is true that I've upped my consumption of more traditional processed veg-proteins (such as tofu, tempeh and seitan,) I'm pretty much set against the idea of animal aspiring meat swaps, be in the forms of Chik'n tenders, Boca burgers and the infamous Tofurky for several reasons.

First, these fake meats will never truly replicate the distinct flavors and texture of actual meat; second, with the mechanical and chemical processes involved to make them similar to meat, it may be better for the body & environment just to eat the animal; finally for me, there's still a great variety of foods available to eat as a vegetarian and I'd more rather explore horizons and push boundaries with existing foods rather than worry about having to fill my plate/bun/wrap/bowl with a slab 'o something "meaty."

Interior w Faux Gras Sign
Having said all that, it may seem a bit hypocritical that this weekend I went to Seed and gave their "faux gras" a try. Heck, even I didn't expect it--I studied their menu beforehand and was set on trying their Saisai macrobiotic donburi w kabocha, sea veggies, shiitake & more over brown rice with a balsamic-miso sauce (and much loved by vegan foodblogger Quarrygirl.) Then I saw the unexpected flyer touting their "faux gras" with blackberry-port wine sauce, olive-oil soaked sourdough crouton with a side of their Seed Chop-chop salad.

And so I gave in, not because I've been craving foie gras, but more out of curiosity at what Chef Eric Lechasseur can do. And, his version was first runner-up in PETA's faux gras contest (where fellow LA caterers Two Hot Knives got disqualified for using butter in their version -- apparently the contest excludes animal products & derivatives, essentially vegan, despite the contest official rules calling for vegetarian versions. I think PETA needs a dictionary...)
Pink Lentil Soup
Since the cashier told me the faux gras ($11.95) was fairly small, I also added an order of their $4 soup of the day: Pink Lentil. It was delicious, clean and light with a little earthiness and just a hint of curry spices. I was surprised at the lack of pink in the soup, then the cashier told me the lentils were originally pink, but takes on a yellowish hue when cooked. Also, I had a bit of fun testing their table condiments - instead of the everyday salt and pepper, they got aonori, powdered shiso, and gomashio.
Seed's Chop-Chop Salad
Halfway through my soup, my "side" of salad arrived -- it was ramen bowl sized and easily contained all the vegetables I needed for the day. Like the soup, the salad was simple and fresh, with a bed of of romaine and red cabbage tossed in their house ume-ranch dressing, topped with carrots, roasted almonds, cucumbers and tomatoes. All the components tasted like they're supposed to (you won't find a limpy leaf or an anemic-tasting tomato here) and the combination was a great mix of flavors and textures, and makes me wish more eateries put a better effort in serving salads like this rather than the heavy, too salty and over-dressed Caesar or the usually-meh house salad where the veggies are just vehicles for the dressing.
"Faux Gras"
And of course, the piece de resistance - the faux gras - looking a little whiter and dryer than its poultry-derived counterpart. Having had (more than) my fair share of actual foie gras in various incarnations in my animal-consuming past, I'd say this version is an applaud-worthy effort. It lacks the slight tinge of organy taste and the sausage-casing like snappiness of an actual lobe, but the crispy sauteed skin and the creamy interior of this reproduction does evoke a feeling of eating something luxurious and decadent, delicately cooked so it doesn't fall apart, much like the actual fat-ladened liver.

The blackberry-port wine sauce and the olive-oil soaked croutons were wonderful contrasting accompaniments to the faux-foie, with the bright, tangy, slightly-sweet sauce ever so slightly cutting into the rich oiliness of the other two components.

Would it fool me for an actual piece of gavaged fowl liver? No, but I definitely give props for its close approximation and more so for this being an example of how refined and haute macrobiotic cooking can get. Though personally I might opt out of calling this "faux gras" and label as a "delicately sauteed tofu/seitan" since the dish definitely deserves to be appreciated on its own terms, rather than against such a distant and cruel benchmark. And I would still surely order it again esp. if sharing with friends, and do good on my mental plan to get that macrobiotic donburi.

More photos here (along w my affogato from Intelligentsia Venice afterwards)

Seed Kitchen
1604 Pacific Avenue
Venice, CA
Seed Cafe in Los Angeles on Fooddigger
Seed Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My new favorite grilled cheese . . .

As far as grilled cheeses go, I'm a simpleton. Generic unsalted butter, any ole' bread and some melty cheese (and yes, sometimes I do use "American") are all I need. Of course, I had my share of gussied up versions, but I always go back to the basic-classic with a side of tomato soup - especially if I'm making it at home.

Grilled Cheese
That is, until I had Andy a.k.a. Windattack's version at his recent honey-themed supper party several weeks ago. Words, and even the photo above, simply doesn't do it justice. My tastebuds were lost in heaven between the homemade honey challah, slices of avocado, a drizzle of avocado honey and the wine-bathed Drunken Goat cheese that Esi of Dishing Up Delights brought. The eggy bread was not too greasy and still had that satisfying soft crunch when I sunk my teeth in, the cheese was rich yet flavorful enough to distinguish it from ordinary and, ahem, "American" cheeses (I call it "Goat-Lite") and the contrast between the slightly savory cheese, the sweet honey, and the "greenness" of the avocado was purely paradise for my palate.
Dinner Party
The dozen or so other honey-paired dishes and tastings served that night were delightful revelations too (and I give props to Andy for throwing together a dinner bash resembling those simply-elegant soirees I keep reading in food magazine spreads . . . relaxed enough for everyone to have a casual, good time but with a definite eye to detail, best exemplified in the rustic-chic table decor - Sandra Lee, take a pointer, PLEASE! - and the lavender honey-prosecco shooter amuse - served in a shot glass made out of lavender-embedded ice!) But that grilled cheese definitely lingered and haunted my mind... not to mention inspiring me to do something beyond the basics the next time I fix one up.

And Andy and Esi, I totally see you two entering next year's Grilled Cheese Invitational!

Read more about Andy's "Sugar, Ah Honey, Honey" party on his blog, or on foodblogging friend and fellow guest Anna at her blog Banana Wonder.

Rest of my photos of this party here

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

No. 169: Yatai Ramen @ Breadbar

First I thought ramen was totally off-limits, within a month I discovered two opportunities to enjoy this hearty, comforting, carb-heavy dish as a vegetarian. First was the Shojin vegan ramen, and now I discovered Breadbar 3rd Street's current pop-up concept, Yatai Ramen. While everyone seems to oggle over the foie gras version, the vegetarian tomato ramen was the main draw for me, so off I went with Caroline on Crack.
Upon sitting, we were presented with the mini-menus about the size of two business cards -- with a fairly tight selection of ramen (4 traditional, 5 modern "twists",) a few japanese sides/appetizers and boba beverages.
Coconut boba
We started off with their coconut boba, a refreshing mix of coconut milk, orange zest and tapioca pearls. I love that it's barely sweet and the combined fragrance of coconut & citrus. The pearls, however, were a bit too firm-and-chewy for my preferences.
Kale Gyoza
For appetizers, Caroline and I shared the kale gyozas, the crisp-and-tender texture and veggie-forward flavors were superb (esp. with the tangy-spicy soy sauce to dip,) but $8 for five dumplings seems a bit high (of course, I'm used to San Gabriel Valley joints where it's more like $5 for eight dumplings.)
Tomato Ramen
As for the tomato ramen ($12,) more impressive than I expected. The broth has a definitely tomato tang, but it's well rounded with salt, sesame oil and other vegetables and herbs, yielding a profile that's somewhere between soondubu broth & V8 (and tastes better than I just made it sound.) The veggies were a fine accompaniment, with onions, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and black fungus dominating the mix, though I wished there was something more substantial in there -- cubes of firm tofu or chunks of mushrooms, maybe?

Then, as if the kitchen read my protein-craving mind, Chef Kazuo bursted out of the kitchen with . . .
Pork Belly
. . . two slabs of still-sizzling thick-sliced kurobuta pork belly, along with two kinds of hot pastes (a bright-n-zingy yuzu, and a smoke-n-fiery red chili.) For a brief moment, I contemplated finally ending my vegetarian stint (shy of 100 days), as well as declining Kazuo's kind gift... but ultimately decided to give Caroline my pork belly while I swiped some of the accompanying black fungus and bamboo shoots off her plate. And I definitely tossed the spicy pastes into my ramen -- amazing stuff!

In the end, I felt good having checked out Yatai -- it was casual and comforting, and chef does whole-heartedly attempt to produce a high-quality and unique product (even the "traditional" ramens include subtle spins such as Indonesian sea salt and corn butter for the shio broth, and brown butter for the miso broth.) And should the event have a longer run or pop up again, I'd definitely return to indulge in the tomato version -- or perhaps the wonderful smelling oxtail ramen that Caroline ordered if I'm feeling omnivorous again.

More photos of Yatai, and rest of that night, on flickr set here.

Yatai Ramen (until July 24) @ Breadbar
8718 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA
(310) 205-0124

Monday, July 12, 2010

Summer-perfect sips around town . . .

Maybe it's a case of the Mondays or maybe I'm feeling a bit thirsty right now, but I'm definitely reminiscing on some recent superb sips at some of favorite local watering holes, so I might as well share . . .

The Mole Ahumado by Joe Brooke at The Edison (though he originally toyed with calling it the Oaxacacaca) ~ made with mezcal, green chartreuse, creme de cacao and bitters. I know, creme de cacao evokes all sort of girly, super sweet, lightweight drinks (and I'm no stranger to "chocolate martinis" in my n00bier cocktail days) ~ but this is definitely what gives the drink its Oaxacan quality, between the smoky mezcal, the herbacious chartreuse and the cocoa flavors - it's literally a liquid molé, or the more chocolaty, less spicy cousin of Rivera's famous Barbacoa. This drink is not on the Edison's regular cocktail menu, which also has lots of delicious drinks (I think I've had almost all of them!) but if you happen to be at the bar on a slower night, give the bartenders some creative space and you may be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
Starr Strega Swizzle
Starr Strega Swizzle at the Roger Room - part of their new summer menu (Caroline on Crack got the full lowdown here), this refreshing combo features Starr African Rum, Strega liqueur, velvet falernum, passionfruit, lemon juice, topped with cracked cloves and mint sprig - it's sophisticated with layers of flavors and aromas (bright fruits with spices and with clean, slight rummy finish) yet incredibly easy-to-drink with its light, almost efferverscent feel. Of course, while readily quaffable, best to take your time with this one to savor its complex subtleties.
French Cowboy
French Cowboy at the Gorbals - Bulleit Bourbon, Honey, Lemon, Sparkling Wine, another great warm-weather cocktail - bright, sweet and sour with just enough depth from the bourbon, this fizzy drink is great after a summer day out, a night of Artwalking, or even as an intro to whiskey drinks.
The Bruery's Humulus Rice
Last but not least, beers at The Bruery Tasting Room in Placentia - where I've been several times and was invited for their Two-year-old party in late May, debuting their anniversary bourbon-barrel aged "Coton" Old Ale. If you like their regular yearround offerings (e.g. Orchard White, Rugbrod and Saison Rue,) you'll definitely love coming to their tasting room, where those are served alongside their seasonal & special-edition beers (such as the bready & coconutty Humulus Rice in above photo.) And they definitely have fun with their beer experimentation, from the naughty sounding Melange #5 -- dubbed "Dirty Beaver Juice Weekend" and which I actually described as tasting "yeasty and musty" -- to the sexy, tasty Melange no Sechs that's brewed with rose petals and cocoa nibs for a red hue and a flowering, chocolatey flavor. Definitely worth a stop to enjoy some unusual brews, maybe buy a few bottles and fill a growler, or show your undying devotion with some merchandise. (here's their list of their current beers on tap, along with any food trucks stopping by)

The Edison
108 West 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA‎
(213) 613-0000‎

The Roger Room
370 North La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA‎
(310) 854-1300‎

The Gorbals
501 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 488-3408

The Bruery

715 Dunn Way
Placentia, CA
(714) 996-6258

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

No. 168: not your everyday fries & beer

Fries & Beer
Even though this was over a month before I start my vegetarian stint, Fysmith's kimchi pork fries was one of my most memorable last meal with meat. Photographed here with Eagle Rock Brewery's Libertine imperial witbier (the truck was on-site for the grand opening of the brewery & tasting room in late February) it was simply amazing... fatty slices of pork belly against the crunchy fries and the pungent, tangy kimchi with just enough melted cheddar cheese to make it a finger-hostile but palate-pleasing treat. Just the perfect grub to go with, or after, a couple of round of beers. Just eat it fast before the fries get sogged up!

And the honey and spice infused Libertine is something magical too . . . a little malty, a little apple-y, a little sweet and a little hoppy, with a solid body to boot, not to mention incredibly drinkable (rare to come by for a beer with 8.6% ABV!) Definitely a must-order if I come across this on a tap in the local beer bars, as well as a great intro for those who say they're adverse to strong beers.

But yes... honey beer and kimchi fries... my most recent meaty memory -- and maybe the dish that can pull me back to being an omnivore.

Eagle Rock Brewery
3056 Roswell Street
Los Angeles, Ca 90065

Frysmith Truck
all over LA

P.S. Frysmith also has a great ongoing blog series about the food truck business (how to start one, the costs of running one) - a worthwhile read to get some inside scoop on the meals-on-wheels industry.


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