Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Quickies #25: Foodblogging Love, 5-Year-Old Gourmet Party, Ingredients Sale, Free LA Mill, Staying Fit and "Disappointing Pancake"

Eating your way to love: Maybe there's something to the adage 'the best way to someone's heart is through their stomach', that certainly was the case for the new engaged Jeni (of Oishii Eats) and Dylan (of Eat Drink and Be Merry) who have cooked, dined and shared about it all through their respective foodblogs for the past two years! Much congrats to you both, you two deserve each other, especially with such mad cooking skills and a wicked enough sense of humor to do a Hometown Buffet Valentine's dinner (with wine from a box to boot)! Here's an e-toast to many more blog entries of your collective foodventures, high-brou and low-end, in and outside of LA. *clink*

Last chance for 5 Year-Old Gourmet Party: I've already got my ticket for the event, and much thanks to Caroline on Crack for saving me $15 with her goldstar tipoff. While Goldstar's discount is already sold out, you can still get 10% off the $60 price by checking out this Thrillist deal
. Hope to see you there, messy faces and all!

Ingredients Sale
: The other place you'll find me this weekend, the Ingredients store close-out sale tomorrow from 10 a.m. to noon, with gourmet foods, cookware and other dining accessories going from 50-75% off. Thanks to Lesley of Eater LA for the heads up.

Free Coffee @ LA Mill
: I knew there's a reason I subscribe so many of those darn daily emails (yes, even after Racked LA made the courtesy of condensing all of them every day) -- RareDaily dropped the word that LA Mill is commemorating their six-month anniversary with free coffee all day long on Tuesday, June 24. Since you're getting free delicious joe, might as well tip nicely and heck, check out some of the delicious looking grub there!

How to Stay Fit & Continue Loving Food?: Let's face it, as passionate as foodies are about all things edible and potable, most of us aren't blessed with the uber-hyper metabolism of say -- Food Marathon, Teenage Glutster or a certain Top Chef judge who "ate like a rock star and looks like a super model" , yours truly included (I swear some days I can just look at a blog post of a tasting menu and instantly bloat up!) -- FM & TG, only calling you out on your furnace-fast calorie-burning fury 'cause you've admitted to it before... grrrr ;)

Of course, that spells trouble for folks who have to dine out for a living (grrr again) and Newsweek chronicled their quandary of how to get and stay in shape while "eat[ing] more calories in one sitting than most people eat in an entire day," including some things I've already done since taking up this foodblogging hobby: workout like a madperson, eat healthy when cooking "ordinary meals" at home and doing tastings instead of eating the whole sha-bang ... 'cause I definitely look forward a few additional disease-free years of trying out even more eats and drinks.

Finally, only tangentially food-related... I'm so digging Lisa Loeb's "Camp Lisa" album (and bought my first CD in 2008 @ a Barnes & Noble because of it) ... great mix of traditional camp songs, folky covers and original stuff. I only say tangentially-related because there's "The Disappointing Pancake" track on there. A few full tracks from that album, along with her ever-so-popular breakout song "Stay (I Missed You)", available for free listening here. And yea, totally disregard this CD is geared towards kids... because we're all young at heart, right? ;) Now I wanna make s'mores and sleep in a tent. P.S. too bad her Food Network show was rather short-lived.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Quickies #24: Bad-Yet-Badass Reviews and Upcoming Events

Bad experiences, good writing: Paying homage to the food journalism's variant of "If it bleeds, it leads" - just wanted to highlight two negative but well-written food reviews. One from New York Times' Frank Bruni highlighting his zero-star dining at Ago, with a killer wave of wine, a piece of breaded veal with the meat so thin "a vegan could have made peace with it" and "the special rack-of-lamb veal chop."

Closer to our part of the country, Chubbypanda recounts his horrific time at Belcan entailing two-and-a-half hour wait for food, with the owner responding to his complaint by screams of "pay for my apartment!" Yea, definitely W... T... F...

Summertime Eating & Events: Two ongoing summertime events caught my attention - Wilshire Restaurant's Neighborhood Barbecue on Sunday (mentioned by Caroline on Crack) with a more laid-back and casual BBQ menu plus summery cocktails to boot. Also, Urbandaddy LA noted the launch of blue on blue's DETOx-RetoX Sundays, where you can spend the afternoon mellowing out from your weekend festivities with spa-style drinks and eats - think mixed berry smoothie with bee pollen, spicy beef rice wraps - or keep the party going strong with bottomless customizable mimosas and bloody marys and hearty fare such as tuna sashimi & pina-soy colada. I'm looking forward to checking out both these events before autumn rolls in.

And of course, anytime's a great time for mellowing out by beach bar; Citysearch LA recently updated their swank list of places to hang out and watch the sunset. . . while having a few sips.

Finally, if you got a Ben Franklin to burn, check out Gourmet on Fire at Loews Santa Monica. It's their 2nd year and they have a decent mix of chefs representing pretty hot places (e.g.Bar Pintxo, Grace, Akasha, Rustic Canyon). As much as I would like to attend, I'm more inclined to save the money for my soon-to-come birthday blowout meal (shh... don't tell).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Recipe Time #14: Honey Cream Wonton Tarts

Simple, slightly elegant and finger-friendly; these are less frigid cousins of my wonton sundaes, both of which were inspired by Semi-Homemade Sandra Lee's Won Ton Napoleons, except mine's a lot less pre-packaged and a lot more tasty.

3 dz. wonton skins (usually near other refrigerated Asian stuff like tofu)
1/4 cup honey
6 large eggs, separated
3 cups half and half
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. almond extract
assorted berries or chocolate chips (approx. 2 cups)
cocoa powder (optional with chocolate chips)

1. Make the vanilla-almond pastry cream (preferably night before)
~ heat the half and half to simmering on medium flame
~ combine 6 egg yolks, 4 egg whites (save the other 2), flour, sugar and the extracts in a large bowl
~ after half and half simmers, slowly incorporate into the egg-sugar-mixture, stirring vigorously
~ after it's fully mixed, transfer back to saucepan and heat to boiling - about 7 minutes - continuing to stir regularly
~ after it boiled for 1-2 minutes and started to thicken, remove from heat and transfer to a large enough bowl; cover with plastic wrap (pressing the wrap against surface of the cream) and chill for several hours or overnight.

2. Making the wonton tart crisps
~ preheat oven to 450 F
~ lay wonton skins out single layer on nonstick cookie sheet (I use parchment paper, which makes for easy swapping when making a big batch)
~ brush with remaining egg whites and drizzle with honey
~ bake in oven for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown (keep a close eye, they burn easily!)
~ let cool to room temperature

3. Assembly - simply pile a tablespoon's worth of pastry cream on top of the baked wontons, and add sliced berries, chocolate chips and/or powdered cocoa. (Don't assemble until shortly before serving, as the skin will get soggy).

Monday, June 09, 2008

Mini Foodventure #63: 3 Square Café + Bakery (Venice)

Had a nice 10K run in Santa Monica (followed by another mile walk) -- so I thought it fitting to have a filling brunch to pile the pounds back on "recover my carbs" as those real athletes like to say. But this runner-in-training ain't gonna blow a meal on whole wheat toasts and egg white veggie omelets. So off to 3 Square Cafe I went with a friend, having heard good words about the place all around.

With the atmosphere a little more upscale and artsy than your average cafe (very Abbot Kinney), it caters to a mix of bohos-who-brunch, surfers who maybe a tad bit too casual for the likes of Joe's, Lilly's or Jin Patisserie nearby and other folks in their sweats look for a quick carb and protein fix after their runs, yogas or spins.

The menu is Californian with a good dose of German influence, with burgers served in pretzel rolls, bowls of muesli and schnitzel and weisswurst served alongside more familiar fare like tuna-avocado sandwiches and huevos rancheros.

Starch-starved but not feeling like two full entree dishes, we opted to split two small plates and an entree, starting with -
Avocado Fries with Fire-Roasted Salsa-- a fare I fondly remember from LA County Fair. The fries here are light and crispy, quickly giving way to what I call "avocal dente" -- the right combo of firm yet flavorful and buttery. The salsa is pretty good too, but at six fries, about half a fruit, for $7 we felt it was a bit too steep to be worth ordering again. I recall the prices being even better @ the fair!
Next up came the German pile 'o carbs, also known as their bread & pastry basket with raspberry preserve and Plugra butter, which contained an assortment of pretzel rolls, wheaty toasts and croissants -- all of them delicious and wonderful with the spreads. I am not a butter aficionado (and hardly use any at home outside of the occasional baking project), so didn't really appreciate the difference of this European-style version, but my dining companion liked the richer, creamier taste this offered. Regardless, there was hardly a crumb left by the meal's end.
Not having had German food in a long time, we went for the Weisswurst (veal/pork sausage) served with another pretzel roll, sweet Bavarian-style mustard, German-style potato fries bratkartoffeln, two eggs and what I can best interpret as pickled sweet onions. The sausage itself was plump and juicy but also kind of bland on its own, but wonderful with the mustard. The pretzel roll with its hardy crust was perfect for scooping up the liquidy over-easy yolks, and we couldn't get enough of the pickled onions.

Overall, a wonderful meal in a nice space (dog lovers will definitely like it here); a little bit splurgy by breakfast standards, but definitely well worth it should the opportunity arise. Next time I may even get a glass or proessco or their sparkling elderflower cocktail.

3 Square Café + Bakery
1121 Abbot Kinney Rd.
Venice, CA 90291


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