Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mini Foodventure #149: Blue Palms Brewhouse (Hollywood)

After a Monday (and a case of the Mondays to boot!), noshes that are simple and comforting are just the best . . .

Grilled Cheese, Tomato Soup + Beer
. . . that's certainly how I felt after a spending an evening with two newly-made friends and beer enthusiasts Gev and Seth at the Blue Palms Brewhouse for their Grilled Cheese Mondays that they started just this year. Some tasty, unique brews, a rich tomato-rosemary soup, and a build-your-own grilled cheese. My initial order of soup, sandwich (sourdough with pepperjack, grilled onions and avocado) and a pour of Lost Abbey's 2009 Angel's Share aged in brandy barrels came out at a very reasonable $11 ($5 for the beer, $3 for basic grilled cheese, .50 for each add-on and $2 for the soup.)

I wouldn't go out and say it's the ultimate grilled cheese and soup combo (particularly when I had to pull woody rosemary sprigs out of my mouth), but it was pretty darn good and where else can I find such a nice meld of unique, complex beers (Stone's Levitation Ale on cask, worlds better than the bottled and tap versions,) a slice of classic, cheesy Americana, and good convos with pals in a casual, friendly, neighborhood gem of a bar.

Looks like the beginning of the work week is going to get a lot better.

P.S. they have some sweet deals going on other weekdays too, including $4 pint Tuesdays and 25-cent wings on Thursdays.

Blue Palms Brewhouse

6124 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028-5304
(323) 464-2337

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Quickies #84: Dining for the Haiti Cause edition

Lost Hills Sunset
With all the headlines for the past two weeks -- it's hard not to think about Haiti everyday and especially every time I eat, as it's taken days (going onto weeks) for most of the suffering there to get any food relief. And short of actually going there, the best we can do is support the efforts of those who are.

Which brings me to this week's Friday Quickie, full of dining events around town that'll support the efforts of charities working there right now.

But before I start plugging the assorted dining-for-a-cause events, let me emphasize the best way to help is to donate to the charities directly (Huffington Post has a great list of many Haiti-helping causes with summaries of what they're doing for the situation) -- with charity-company partnerships it can be hard to decipher where the money is gonna go, which fund the money will be allocated to, and how much of one's patronage will actually benefit the charity partner (sometimes it's 100% of net profits, sometimes less than that, and sometimes the company will just donate a flat amount regardless of sales/customer figures.)

Now I'm not accusing any help Haiti event, eatery or charity for having less-than-honorable intentions, but by donating directly you have the final say of how much money is going to your charity of choice, whose relief focus may be more aligned to your giving goals (say, providing care for the newly-orphaned vs. setting up temporary shelters for the homeless vs. rebuilding workforce & infrastructure with cash-for-work programs vs. petitioning other nations to ease debt load or immigration regulations from Haiti.)

Personally, I contributed my past 2 months of blog ad revenues to Mercy Corps, an organization with an outstanding record of helping impoverished regions facing a multitude of crises and disasters, providing assistance for both immediate needs and the long road to economic recovery and eventual self-sufficiency. You can read about some of the things they're doing in Haiti here! But of course, giving whatever you're able to spare toward any Haiti relief nonprofit is much appreciated too, most of all by the earthquake-stricken ones there.

Now that I got off my lil foodbloggy soapbox, if you're going to be eating/drinking out in the near future, do consider the below tasty options that will benefit the relief efforts.

Ongoing - get a "support Haiti brown bag lunch" from The Tavern in Brentwood, $3 from each order will go towards Haiti relief efforts

Throughout January - BLT Steak will set aside $10 from every bottle of wine sold to International Medical Corps and other relief organizations

Throughout January - The newly-up-and-running Eagle Rock Brewery will set aside $1 from each pint of Revolution Ale sold at their tasting room ($5 per pint) for Haiti relief.

Until Saturday, Jan. 23 - All wine proceds at FIG Restaurant will go to Share Our Strength's efforts in Haiti

Until Saturday, Jan. 23 - The Edison will suggest a $10 donation at the door to go towards Doctors Without Borders' Haiti Relief Fund. Tonight from 5 to 7 p.m. they will also have a celebrity auction for that charity

Saturday, Jan. 23 - TLofts will be the site of food truck gathering from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and proceeds from that day's sales (amount/percentage varies by participating trucks) will benefit the American Red Cross

Sunday, Jan. 24 - Barbrix will donate 10% of gross sales from 5 p.m. to close towards Doctors Without Borders

Sunday, Jan. 24 - Osteria Mozza will donate 10% of proceeds, 5% of gratuities and take additional donations from guests for charities providing Haiti earthquake relief

Monday, Jan. 25 - Haven Gastropub in Orange will be donating all their profits from that day to Mercy Corps' efforts; and staff will be donating their time and gratuities for that day too

Sunday, Jan. 31 - Infamous IceCreamery Scoops will be holding a "Cookies without Borders" from 2 to 5 p.m. for Doctors without Borders

Sunday, Jan. 31 - 50% of all sales from Breadbar Century City from 7 to 9 p.m. will go towards American Red Cross

Saturday, Feb. 6 - Vertical Wine Bistro will be hold a Haitian Libations event from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., with bloggers Rumdood, Mattatouille and Gourmet Pigs working the bar and serving specialty drinks; 50% of all food and drink profits will go towards Artists for Peace and Justice

Of course, fellow media and blogger folks are helping get the word out too, here are some more help-Haiti-by-eating-and-drinking lists from:

LA Times Daily Dish
LA Weekly
Citysearch LA

And other free ways to give:

Cathy of gastronomyblog will be donating 100% of ad revenues from January to American Red Cross's relief efforts

To help Oxfam America's assistance to Haiti, click daily at Care2

And then there are other click-to-donate sites such as The Hunger Site and FreeRice -- while they do not claim to be donating to Haiti directly, they've been helping feed the less fortunate from all over the world for a while -- and food shortage isn't just a problem that comes with disasters.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Quickies #83: Free Bites for a Fresh Year Edition

Sweets Display

With almost everyone resolving to spend a little less and save a little more for the new year (or at least for now), I devote this Friday Quickie to a bunch of freebie events going on for the coming week.

Yesterday and today, the much-missed Doughboys (known for their huge portions and tasty comforting fare) is soft opening mode and dishing free food while they smooth out kitchen and service kinks. And who wouldn't mind being guinea pig to their breakfast pizza (with pancetta, caramelized onions and two baked eggs) or their hearty tomato chili stew in pho-sized bowl. Of course be sure to tip generously. The soft-opening hours today are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. (of course, prepare for lines.)

Tomorrow, at Surfas "underground" chef/caterer extraordinaire Amy Jurist of Amy's Culinary Adventures will be doing a cheesy cooking demo from noon to 2 p.m., highlighting dishes from her recent "cheese please" supper club, including yam & goat cheese ravioli with sage brown butter, cauliflower cheddar soup with cheddar tuille and mini port-honey-goat cheese napoleons with pistachios. The event is free and there'll likely be samples, but you can always fill up on the affordable grub at adjacent Cafe Surfas afterwards... their "ultimate grilled cheese" perhaps?

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, all locations of the Veggie Grill is doing a "Calling All Virgins" night -- where seasoned Veggie Grillers can bring in the uninitiated for a complimentary entree per virgin (and no blood sacrifices here, considering it's 100% plant-based fare!) Additional details on scoring the free dinner will be announced on their twitter and facebook on Monday, so keep your eyes peeled.

And my favorite recent reads from the week that was:

CHOW.com goes back to the roots of serious beer brewing in California with a profile feature on Sierra Nevada, and makes some interesting predictions for drinking trends in 2010

Meanwhile, FoodGPS has a nice little Q&A with Phil Leinhart, brewmaster of phenomenal Brewery Ommegang (their Three Philosophers is quite the something-something)

Kung Food Panda reflects back on the best eats of 2009 with drool-worthy photos to match

And Wandering Chopsticks beautifully dissects the simple-to-make but tricky-to-master Caesar salad

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Recipe Time #18: Humble Truffles

Humble Truffles

Sinfully decadent in more ways than one, these surprisingly easy to make humble truffles are one of my favorite go-to potluck contributions, most recently at Caroline on Crack's New Year's Eve party. The ingredient list is short, the actual prep time is brief and it can be made and stored hours or even days prior to serving. And with its silky texture, rich mouthfeel and thoroughly deep cocoa flavors, just a few nibbles will satiate even the most hardcore of chocoholic cravings. I would know.

Ingredients (for approx. 40-50 truffles)
2 cups bittersweet/semisweet chocolate*, in chips or finely chopped chunks
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsps vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder*
1/4 cup powdered sugar

*goes without saying, the higher quality the chocolate, the better the result -- I opted for Callebaut 60% bittersweet for its intense flavor and a delightfully complex aroma ripe with hints of red berries and flowers. Likewise, I used Callebaut's cocoa powder.

1. Heat heavy whipping cream in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally
2. Once the cream is simmering, turn off heat and remove saucepan from burner, add vanilla extract and chocolate chips, whisking fairly vigorously until the chocolate is fully melted
3. Pour into chocolate ganache into a bowl, using a spatula to scrape bottom & sides, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours
4. After the chocolate has chilled and is ready for rolling and shaping, sift the cocoa powder and powdered sugar together into a shallow dish
6. Using your hand, a spoon (or a melon baller if you want a perfect sphere truffle,) grab about half a tablespoon's worth of the chilled ganache and drop it into the dish of sugar and cocoa. Roll it in the powder (and shape it as needed) with your hand until it's coated all over, then place in dish/bowl/box.
Tip 1: To make things less messy a.k.a. I Love Lucy, I try to keep one hand dry during the process, using a spoon to scoop out the ganache and the other hand to shape and roll the truffles.
Tip 2: If the ganache warmed up and have a harder time holding their shape, you can always return the bowl in the fridge to re-chill and firm up for 15 minutes.
7. Serve or chill the truffles in fridge (bringing it back to room temperature when serving) - I was told you can even freeze them for weeks, though they'd never last that long with me . . .


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