Thursday, October 28, 2010
. . . with Sam Adams Octoberfest beer, a refreshing and easily-quaffable lager with some roasty-toasty notes (if you want, for a few bucks extra they'll serve it in a glass stein that you take home.)
. . . swanky live music
. . . and shopping from local farms and artisanal vendors (was thrilled to see ChocoVivo and owner Patricia Tsai there, where I got a small bar of their stone-ground chocolate - with cherries, almonds and peppercorns - to eat later)
and of course, Chef Brock's taco stand (which Bloggerprom attendees are more than familiar with,) with a unique East-meets-West twist.
Since all the tacos were meaty (still crazy tempting though!) I opted for a chips platter, but even that was anything but ordinary with Chef Brock's Asian spin on the accompaniments such as wasabi guacamole, korean chili salsa roja and ginger pico de gallo. The guac alone is worth it -- so creamy-rich with a little nostril-opening kick at the end.
Thankfully, Chef Brock hinted that the tacos will live on even when the Farmers' Market go on hiatus -- but if you haven't been to this Farmers' Market, now's definitely the time to go. Whereas can you shop & eat at night (cheaply too!) at a historic landmark of a restaurant with such amazing views of LA?
And for us that night, it was the perfect prelude to a mini barhop @ Library Bar and The Varnish, with a little Downtown Artwalk in between.
More photos from our night's of fun & debauchery here.
1999 N Sycamore Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90068-3782
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
No. 183: Food Event Marathoner ~ Bacardi Tasting @ La Descarga & Fall Menu Sneak Peek @ Drago Centro
So here's the long awaited part two to my four day bender of tastings and events that started with Jonathan Gold's cocktail party & Savor the Season. Thankfully, the weekday events were intimate, shorter tastings that didn't test the limits of my stomach or liver (much.)
As for the Reserva Limitada itself, it had super-smooth and rich texture with a slight sugar-caney taste, and warm vanilla, honey and maple notes plus a tinge of pepper & clove spice. While at ~$110 a bottle it's not a rum I'd be buying anytime soon (particularly since my bar is devoid of any strictly-sipping spirits) I'm definitely open to ordering it at a bar or recommending as a "gift to impress" for friends.
Equally impressive (and far less expensive for me to emulate @ home) are the cocktails that Cordoba shook up, with the menu running the gamut from famous legacy cocktails like the Daiquiri, rum-swapped creations like the September Morn (a Clover Club with rum instead of gin) and contemporary drinks such as the San Miguel, combining their gold rum with orange blossom water, fernet branca and yerba mate tea.
My favorites of the set included the above September Morn, fruity and frothy like a smoothie (and with the pomegranate syrup I can say I'm detoxing while I'm toxing up!), and the Mayas Daiquiri, which combines their 8 year-old rum with lime juice, agave syrup and avocado. A simple spin to an ordinary cocktail setup (a spirit base, a sweetener & an acid) but Holy moly, what a delightful twist it was--the avocado added such a mesmerizing buttery note, it was like having a sweet guacamole (the ones where mangos or pineapples are switched in for the tomatoes.)
Needless to say, I left the event a little more well-learned about the Bacardi rums and how versatile it can be in mixology . . .
. . . which was a lovely lead-in to the event on Tuesday, an Autumn cocktail & bar bites preview @ Drago Centro with their PR, Esther and Lindsay. While I didn't run through the entire menu like the hardcore trio, I did enjoy two very lovely drinks: one being the Rimedio del Pazzo that combines Zaya rum with Cynar, sage, white peppercorns and citrus. I don't know about the alleged healing properties of peppercorns, sage or artichoky liqueur, but that herbacious concoction did cure my crazies of a hectic work day.
I followed that up with a Dazed & Confused, made with Casa Noble Crystal Tequila, Cherry Heering, Creole Shrubb liqueur, rosemary and Angostura orange bitters. Like the Rimedio, it's a complex, curiosity-inducing cocktail with a wonderful layering of flavors. A little fruity here, a little earthy there, an occasional kick of woodsiness from the rosemary.
And to go with our delicious drinks, tasty bar bites! I was especially impressed with the tempura-battered portabello fries ($5), which held their meaty texture & distinct earthy flavor (most mushroom fries I've had before tend to be bland & mushy since the shrooms themselves release a lot of moisture upon cooking, sogging up the fried coating & diluting its flavor.)
Likewise, the $9 cheese duo plate featured sizable hunks of a bleu and hard aged cheese (forgot to ask what kind, but it tasted like a cross between an aged cheddar and a parmigiano reggiano to me) with brighty and tangy dried apricots, glazed walnuts and grilled toast.
And with their bar menu featuring $5-6 drinks and affordable snacks all day long, you can count on me coming back for a nibble and a sip when I hit that part of downtown LA.
1159 North Western Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90038
525 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90071-2200
Friday, October 22, 2010
Ok, the winners have been drawn for my Taste of Abbot Kinney giveaway; for everyone else, thanks for participating and you still have half an hour (till 3 p.m. today) to buy tickets at discounted pre-sale prices (and pre-sales purchases also enters you into an exclusive prize drawing.)
So get to it and hope to see you out in Venice in two days!
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Deli salad sampler & original lemonade from Lemonade during last year's Taste of Abbot Kinney
Just a quick reminder that my giveaway for Taste of Abbot Kinney will be closing this Friday, with three lucky winners drawn to get a 'Delicious' package ($60 value.) And entering's a cinch with 3 easy steps: comment, (re)tweet & facebook 'like'. Easy peasy, right?
Of course, it's never too late to buy tickets too (there's a pre-sale discount until Oct. 22) -- proceeds will benefiting Inside Out Community Arts to help underserved & at-risk youth.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
As someone who like alternating nights out on the town with a day or two of resting & cooking at home, I surprised myself with four consecutive nights out of events and tastings (though to be fair, some invites came to me last minute and were just too good to pass up.) And what better way to follow up a marathon of outings than a marathoner post? Let's take off!
My favorite bites of the night included Rustic Canyon's burrata with black mission figs, roasted chestnuts, salsa and toast (so comforting & Christmasy!) still-in-transition Grace's melt-in-your-mouth squash flan with smoked sage jus and Street's Burmese melon salad with crisped coconut, peanuts and sesame-ginger dressing (cooling, refreshing and much needed as the space started heating up from the cocktails, the hot foods and the crowd.)
Of the drinks, being a gin lover I was partial to Varnish's Plymouth Fitzgerald, a simple concoction of Plymouth gin shaken with lemon juice and sugar, topped with Angostura bitters. Second in my heart was Cole's Pikesville Classic Manhattan with Pikesville Rye and Dolan Sweet Vermouth, though I was peeved my first Manhattan was prematurely bussed away (WITH MY LUXARDO CHERRY STILL IN IT) Of course, the natural solution is to get another!
After a little mingling with other bloggers and friends, chatting with the ever-gracious Jonathan Gold and his wife Laurie Ochoa, and a little dancefloor time, Matt, Esther (my Speakeasy +1 btw,) Caroline and I moved onto afterpartying @ La Descarga, where we enjoyed MORE drinks and Matt showed off his suave double cigar-puffing technique.
To cap off the night, K-town Karaoking & sharing a big heaping plate of dukkboki & ramen. Did I really sing "All the Small Things" and "Don't Stop Believing"? Of course I didn't, and there's no way (or person lucid enough) to prove it! Even if pictures suggest otherwise!
And of course, all that hiking worked up an appetite (and made me feel less guilty) about Savor the Season that evening, taking place in the Lot Studios and benefiting Break the Cycle, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering youth to prevent & end domestic violence. I attended this two years ago in Downtown LA's Vibiana (soon to house Grace Restaurant!) and I definitely loved the venue move. The evening was warm, breezy and perfect for an outdoor tasting (though a few of the organizers readily admit to leaving their hands to Lady Luck and Mother Nature for this late October date and obviously thankful it wasn't one of those crazy days with record-breaking heat and pouring thunderstorms.)
Street was there again, this time with their famous finger-friendly pani puris, and other delectable treats include Stefan Richter's show-stopping liquid nitrogen passionfruit ice cream lollies, and some aahmazing fudge samples (and a fried chocolate raviolo) from Pasadena-based [AF]2.
Equally astounding were the wines served, including Lou on Vine's Lou pouring of A Donkey and Goat Syrah from a keg. Don't laugh, it tasted way more delicous that it looked (though my allegiance still lies with their Grenache Gris Rosé, a fragrant, refreshing blush wine I look forward to sipping every summer since my discovery.) For the bubbly-inclined, Girl Meets Grape' Bonnie Graves, who's been working with Savor the Season for four years, was there to pour tres-chic Comte de Dampierre's Brut des Ambassadors champagne. Crisp, apple-y with a touch of toast... and I'd imagine going VERY well with the shucked-to-order Carlsbad Luna oysters that Christophe Hapilllon had going on one booth over.
(yes, I said imagined... it was very tempting, especially when Kat was overtly savoring them in front of me. Maybe I should follow the way of that one vegan who occasionally enjoys oysters.)
Given my other going-ons for the days ahead, I took off from Savor before its final hour, but I definitely hoped the event itself and the silent auction raised lots of much-needed funds and awareness for Break the Cycle, and that Savor the Season will be just as picture- and palate-pleasing the next time around!
And with that, I got two events (and the official weekend) down, and two more to go in the days ahead. Stay tuned for part two of this four-day bender . . .
In the meantime, enjoy more photos from my flickr of the Union Station Speakeasy (& afterwards) and Savor the Season
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
With so many tasting events squeezed into a parking lot, sterile-looking studio and borderline-pretentious loungey venues, the Taste of Abbot Kinney is literally a breath of fresh air. Instead of being cramped in a confined space with long lines, this tasting event takes advantage of the great SoCal Autumn weather and pedestrian-friendly Abbot Kinney Blvd., allowing attendees to stroll up and down the famous street while [window] shopping from chic boutiques and enjoying food and beverage samples from its numerous eateries, cafés and bars. It's great for vendors too, who don't have to worry about transporting, storing and prepping foods in an unfamiliar space.
And like last year, Taste of AK will benefiting the wonderful & worthwhile Inside Out Community Arts to help out underserved or at-risk middle school youth.
I had a fun time last year with fellow blogging and foodie friends revisitng some of my favorite eateries in the area (Jin Patisserie, 3 Square) while discovering new ones (Tasting Kitchen, the food trucks that park by the Brig.)
And once again, Taste of AK & I are doing a giveaway for this year's event on Oct. 24 from 3 to 7 p.m., where three lucky winners will get a "Delicious" package (30 tickets, worth $60) to use at Abbot Kinney's various vendors (and not just limited to food & drinks!)
1. Comment on this post with your favorite Abbot Kinney place to eat/drink OR the one you're most looking forward to try, along with twitter username and email address (if I don't already know it.)
2. Tweet " I want to win @LAOCFoodie's @TasteofAK giveaway: http://bit.ly/agODH4 " (following either of us is optional, but appreciated)
3. "Like" Taste of Abbot Kinney on their official facebook page
I'll announce the lucky winners around noon on Friday, Oct. 22 (alternates will be drawn around 2 p.m. in case any do not respond in time.) So good luck (and while you're in a giveaway-entering mood, be sure to check out the Popchips one on my Foodie Fitness blog too!)
Monday, October 11, 2010
I've always had a love-hate relationship with Korean food outings; sure, it's generally a great - and LOUD - time with lots of friends, but man, the copious amounts of heavy foods that we end up shoveling down while gulping Hite/OB beers by the gallon (and if it's a celebratory event; birthday, job promotion, being "funemployed," Tuesdays..., we may be downing pints of soju too!) Of course, this leads to no shortage of moanings and groanings the day after, whether from the hangovers, the sloshing beached whale belly and/or the still vampire-repelling garlic odor all over your clothes & breath.
Being a "Contemporary Korean" restaurant with a Californian-fusion twist, the fermented pungency, spiciness and garlickiness has been toned down a bit, but the dishes were still very flavorful and refreshingly light, such as:
Their take on the dukbokki, rice cakes stir-fried in a tangy-sweet-spicy sauce with fresh veggies. Not too greasy and not too heavy.
Bibimnoodles, also with more fresh veggies plus tempura flakes, half-boiled egg and a spicy-chili sauce, wonderfully presented before the ever-enthusiasticenthusiastic chef Kimmy Song glided by and tossed it together for us (I still get a kick remembering all the times she cheerfully reminds me "vegetarians can eat this!" as the courses came out. Between heading up Cham and being CEO of !it Jeans, I'm amazed at her bubbly attitude and endless energy.)
Some decidely less Korean, but just as delicious, courses included:
Tofu pockets, a nod to Japanese inarizushi that I always find a bit boring (just tofu skin & rice? *yawn*) Here the it's given a facelift with a variety of toppings, including blue crab and spicy tuna. Of course, I only had the Japanese seaweed & arugula-radish versions, which made for a tasty starter bite.
Watermelon salad with figs, feta cheese, arugula, mint leaves & a mint vinaigrette - I definitely love the eccentric flavor combination that's going on here, from the peppery rocket lettuce to the cooling watermelon and mint, a little sweetness from the fig and just enough salty feta to round it all out. Not only does it work, it's an interesting (hard to come by for a salad,) and I definitely look forward to recreating this salad at home (if not re-ordering it here.)
Last but not least, their drink options. Cham's still gotta represent with the Hite, but they have a pretty kickin' selection of bottled brews including Houblon Chouffe Belgian IPA, Lost Abbey's Devotion and Maredsous 8 plus an equally approachable and affordable winelist, all tasted and chosen by the Cham staff to go along with the foods served there. Imagine that, actually pairing Korean food with alcohol. Impressive!
And wrapping up the preview, a tasty Framboise float. It's not officially on the menu, but I definitely hope it'll make it (or be an off-menu item I can order) since it was a hit with everyone at the table.
I've always been one to say when done right, fusion cuisine can be a good thing - and overall, Cham fits squarely in that category, with Korean foods given a healthy, modern spin, and its influences blending seamlessly other Pan-Asian fare, plus a decent brew or glass vino to go with.
And I can attest that the morning after, instead of bloated and smelly, I woke up delighted and satisfied, plus thrilled to finally discover a place where I can enjoy delicious, meatfree Korean-inspired dishes.
More photos from my flickr set here.
What Do Others Say?
- Gastronomy thought that "Cham has managed the refine the art of tableside grilling without losing any bit of flavor"
- Eating L.A. deemed it "clean, healthy food - perfect for ushering in a vegetable-intensive 2010"
- e*star LA considered it "approachable Korean food . . . those who have been previously scared away by these flavors can appreciate the foray"
- Gourmet pigs simply declared that it's "one of the best lunch options in Pasadena"
- Mattatouille noted that Cham's "modest fusioning works better than all-out confusion . . . quite certain the bistro will have a nice following"
Cham Korean Bistro
851 Cordova Street
Pasadena, CA 91101
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
With the days getting rainy (finally, it's fall!) and work getting busy (productive, sure, but mentally taxing!) there's nothing better than coming home to fix an easy-to-prep, clean-yet-comforting one-course dish for dinner, many of them derived from my harried days as a college student, where a fulltime course load and three part-time jobs leave me little time and energy, let alone consistent grocery shopping, to cook fancy-schmancy meals (which back then translates to anything that takes over 30 minutes or requires more than 10 ingredients.)
Plus with only one wok/saucepan, bowl and fork/chopstick to wash, cleanup is a breeze too! (If I wasn't in the mood to slave over the stove/oven, why would I be in a mood to wash dishes?)
6 oz. vegetable broth (opt for low-sodium if possible, always easier to add more salt than take it away later on)
6 oz. water
~6-8 oz. fresh or frozen veggies (or by my measurements, 2-3 handfuls)
one ~8 oz. package of udon noodles
2 dashes garlic powder
2 dashes ginger powder
salt + pepper to taste
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil (optional)
1. Combine vegetable broth, water, vegetables (I used frozen summer corn, wild mixed mushrooms, and some slow cooker caramelized onions I whipped up last week,) ginger & garlic powder (or whatever spices you prefer, really) in your wok/saucepan and bring to a rolling boil.
2. Once boiling, throw in the udon noodles and stir gently with chopstick & fork until it starts breaking apart.
3. When the broth starts boiling again, bring down to a simmer and let it sit for 3-4 minutes.
4. Turn off heat, add sesame oil if you desire (my onions were caramelized in butter, so I opted out of adding) plus salt & pepper to taste
5. Serve it in a big bowl! Didn't I tell you it was a simple recipe? Enjoy.
Monday, October 04, 2010
So it was no surprise my first Pure Luck visit was around 11p, well after Scoops' final scooping. Having already had junk food earlier that day, I opted for something comparatively clean and comforting, their Baja "fish" tacos with a side of their soup of the day, mushroom-potato-leek. Both were surprisingly delicious; as you know, I'm not crazy about faux meats, but the "fish" (seitan? quorn? soy derivative?) had a familiar and pleasant seafoody flavor plus flaky fish texture, and it went well with the pico de gallo, creamy sauce & chopped cabbage. As for the soup, I was knocked off by how boldly flavored it was, unlike most pureed veggie soups which lean towards mild & mellow. I can't pintpoint the exact spices & herbs, but I can tell you it was a great contrast against the familiar, earthy "comfort soup" flavors of the three veggies and just that it's AWESOME!
And noticing that they had Nibble Bit Tabby beers on tap, I took the opportunity to try their ESB. A nice, light-to-medium bodied brew, with the bitterness balancing the sweet maple & malty aromas. Not exactly something I'd pair with fish tacos & soup next time, but great to drink on its own. And overall, the meal was pleasant, light, and moderately priced (my bill came out to be around $20.)
On a subsequent visit this past weekend, I finally tried their fried goodies, namely - the pickle fries platter($7), half cornmeal-coated fried pickle chips, half French fries, with a side of their BBQ sauce and, upon request, garlic aioli. Despite my initial skepticism, the pickle chips totally work, with the distinct briny-tang cutting into the friedness and therefore making me feel a lot less guilty that I'm eating a whole platter's worth (I can still see the green; it must be a HEALTHY VEGETABLE, right?) The fries were great too but I wasn't sure if they were flavored with rosemary as the menu indicated (though perhaps they only do that if I order the fries by themselves.)
The BBQ sauce leans on the sweet side, which works for sugar-addicted me, while the aioli is really garlicky but considerably thinner than usual (no surprise, since vegan = no eggs and thus, no mayo.) It actually reminds me of the garlicky liquid margarine dip that comes alongside Papa John's pizzas, minus all the artificial flavorings/preservatives/what-have-yous. Again, the pungent flavor isn't a problem for me.
Alongside the pickle fries, I got the Craftsman's Fireworks Saison ($6), a light, quaffable brew with a bit of cherry-citrus tartness with the slightest tinge funky-cheese smell (which is actually more pleasant than offensive when paired with my BBQ sauced pickles and ultra-garlicky fries.)
Now that I finally discovered Pure Luck, I can't wait to return on my own or with a bunch of friends (seriously, the food will please omnivores too!) for some savory veg eats and interesting brews to wash it down before my obligatory ice cream & sorbets across the street.
Which is exactly what I did after that pickle fries & beer; green tea-honey ice cream & Chimay-peach sorbet definitely hit the spot for that sunny afternoon (and so tasty I forgot to take a photo!)
What Do Others Say?
- Eating L.A. gave it a "super cute, with some good dishes" verdict
- Blogging.LA headlined its post calling it a "Vegan Utopia," enough said.
- Vegetarians in Paradise summed it up with "friendly service, tasty food, and a little brew . . . keeps savvy locals returning again and again"
- The Actor's Diet deemed it "a little foodie and beer haven for vegans, though you would never be able to tell just by looking" (Amen!)
- Of course, no shortage of love from Quarrygirl, despite a few road bumps (including a lab test that suggests its fish tacos may be just vegetarian & not vegan)
A few more photos from flickr set here
Pure Luck Restaurant
707 N. Heliotrope Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Friday, October 01, 2010
With most anniversary PR releases and pitches, my eyes pretty much glaze over as the "Happy Birthday to Us" email loads up since oftentimes it's a one-shot dinner/party that's hard to preview OR recap.
So I definitely perked up a little when I was invited to try two new cheeses exclusive to Whole Foods for their 30th Anniversary celebration, since this is something that's going to be readily available for quite a while. And of course, it helps that for their big 3-0 they've collaborated with two of my favorite artisanal California cheesemakers, Cowgirl Creamery and Cypress Grove.
With Cowgirl, a Petaluma-based cheesemaker known for their aged, washed-rind mini-wheels such as Mt. Tam, St. Pat's and Red Hawk, they teamed up to make Buckaroo, a cow's milk cheese (with the milk coming from nearby Straus Family Creamery) aged at least two months with a saline rind wash [by hand!], resulting in a semi-firm cheese that's mildly salty with a nutty cheddar fragrance and a silky-smooth mouthfeel. But what I love most about this cheese is its hard rind, which has a more prominent nutty profile with a little bit of funk, reminiscent of an aged Parmigano-Reggiano or Asiago. This cheese was great for snacking on its own (which is what I did with most of my wedge,) but given its mellow, buttery profile I'd imagine it works wonderfully with sandwiches, melted over a burger or in cheese sauces too.
Their collaboration with Cypress Grove, an Eureka-area cheesemaker known for their goat's milk creations including Purple Haze, Humboldt Fog, Truffle Tremor and (my personal fave of the line) Midnight Moon, is Lil' Ziggy, literally molded in the shape of a miniature flat-top ziggurats. A soft ripened cheese with mixed molds, the slightly-crumbly Lil Ziggy has a good dose of tang and a little tingly bite at the finish. Considerably more assertive in flavor than the Buckaroo, for me this cheese works best alongside some fruit or preserves, or smeared over crackers or warm toast, alongside a crisp, fruit-forward white wine or a hefeweizen.
Of course, Whole Foods have a lot of other products debuting for their 30th too, plus charitable partnerships with some of their longtime vendors (and just held an awesome contest for a culinary weekend at its HQ for 30 lucky winners,) so I'm definitely keeping my eyes peeled. But I'm definitely adding these two cheeses to my rotating repertoire for my next impromptu party platter, or just to snack at home.