Monday, March 23, 2020

Rain and Fire

With the "Shelter In Place" in California, I won't be posting a regular restaurant blog post, but you can still follow my food (and life) adventures via Instagram. I may change the format a bit to be recipes that I'm making (or inventing), or take out I'm getting, or maybe a new food related inspiration will emerge.

If you would like to help your local restaurants survive, please take a look at , buy takeout directly from the restaurants you love, buy a gift card, or simply ask them what they would like you to do to support them.

Sending love and appreciation to all my food service friends; please DM me if you need anything and I will either help or find a resource to help.

A reminder that even while it rains, warmth can be created :)

Monday, March 16, 2020

Ramen Retrospective

With all the best practices protocols put into place for many states (CA guideline here) and cities, including Los Angeles, I am doing my part by ordering take out, delivery, or cooking until we are cleared for the health and well being of all. To help keep the restaurants you love in business, buy a gift card to use later, or take advantage of the new curbside pick up many offer now.

Unfortunately it is not only the elderly with pre-existing conditions who are at risk, many of us may seem healthy without symptoms, but may be carriers to more vulnerable people. Because I am in close proximity to several people with compromised immune systems I am wearing gloves and a face mask in any interactions outside my home.

Take out pictures not as pretty as plated dine-in pictures, so for today's post I went through some comfort food photos of ramen from other posts I took when I dined out; which one do you think was my favorite? (I won't divulge names, but it was #2).

Hopefully we will all remain healthy as we ride this wave of uncertainty, and that really is the point isn't it?

Monday, March 9, 2020

Avenue Italy

When an Italian immigrant in Los Angeles says that an Italian restaurant is good, that carries more weight for me than someone who has either never been to Italy and/or someone who has never had an Italian home made meal. Having both been to Italy (different regions) several times, and had the wonderful fortune of knowing Italians who have cooked for me in their home, I am picky, so I was nicely surprised that Avenue Italy in Palos Verdes served up some delightful bites.

I judge restaurants by their bread; if it is great, it is a portend of more great flavors to come, but if it is bad, my suspicions and doubts begin to taint my opinion of food coming out afterwards. Thankfully the focaccia was a great preview of things to come, with an olive oil and herb side that was addictive.
We decided to order the Insalata di Barbabietole from the regular menu for $15 with baby spring greens, roasted beets, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, feta, and a lovely balsamic vinaigrette.
Their calamari for $18 was perfectly executed, with a light crisp exterior and tender calamari accompanied by a lightly spicy tomato sauce that was so good we could have eaten it by the spoonful!
Even though we only really ordered two appetizers, we were too full to order anything else, so we know what that means....#ReturningSoon :)

Monday, March 2, 2020

Kogi Taqueria

Ten years ago I stood in line for an hour to get a taste of the elusive Kogi truck menu because they ran out of food! It was worth the wait as you can read from my first blog post about them. As the saying goes, things have come a long way in 10 years :) 

Kogi Taqueria is a brick and mortar that not only has (nearly) unlimited food, but also parking (which is as elusive in Los Angeles as being able to drive over 50 mph on the 405 at 5pm during the week).

Their famous calamari taco is still only $4 and as delicious as it was a decade ago.

The OG Style Burrito for $7 is the king of Korean Mexican fusion at its best with enough umami and comfort food to make either culture happy and satiated.
 The kimchi quesdilla for $7 is a nice compliment to the 
blackjack quesadilla for $8 that will have you switching bites between the two trying to decide which one you prefer.
The best part of living within driving distance of the brick and mortar kitchen is that you never have to decide between one or the other because everything on the menu is (probably) available and you can eat it all (or at least as much as you want)!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Lunch at Yabu

I used to literally live around the corner, so Yabu was always one of my go to places for lunch and dinner since it was walking distance and served very good Japanese food. Now that I live driving distance away, it is still on my restaurant rotation albeit not as much of a regular stop as it used to be. I realized it's been nearly a year since I last ate dinner there, so one afternoon, I went with a friend who had never eaten there for lunch.

I chose my usual chirashi set that includes sashimi, sushi rice, and your choice of soba or udon (hot or cold) for $17. I had not eaten breakfast, so I devoured everything you see below:) The fish was fresh and the hot udon was springy in a light flavorful broth. The portion was perfect for a good balance of protein and carbohydrates with the added bites of pickle. 

I wanted more pickles, so ordered the assorted pickles side for $8 to finish my sushi rice from the chirashi. Everything on the pickle plate was perfect, and I highly recommend the side if you love pickled vegetables.
My friend wanted something lighter and ordered the Seaweed salad that includes three kinds of seaweed and mixed greens for $10. It was a big bowl of greens and any vegans or vegetarians would enjoy this green feast.
It's always heartening to find old favorites still around providing the service and quality that made them an old favorite. I may have to put this back on my revolving lunch rotation no matter the driving distance :)

Monday, February 17, 2020

Colossus Bread

I love bread and I am a fan of anyone who has the patience and skill to source quality ingredients and then allow them to ferment and proof naturally. Colossus Bread recently opened in San Pedro in a small storefront, serving only coffee, bread and pastries. My friend who live there are happy to have a quality bakery in town, and I was happy to not only taste their Whole Grain Wheat and Olive Cumin, but also a few of their viennoiseries. My favorite was their Olive Cumin, studded with olives and with the earthy spice of cumin, this was fantastic toasted and spread with a bit of cream cheese or olive oil. They also freeze very well, wrapped and double bagged in plastic, so no worries if you can't finish the gigantic fresh loaves in one sitting.

Their viennoiseries were good, but a bit too dense and too salty for my taste. Colossus is a bread bakery, and it is rare to find any bread bakery who bakes great bread and also does great pastry. 

I would absolutely get a pastry here to go with some coffee if I was in the area, but I would not go out of my way to come for the viennoiserie. I would however make the drive for the bread, so taste both for yourself and see what you think.
I am always encouraged to find artisan bakeries in places where there are not any, so kudos to Colossus for breaking new ground in San Pedro, and I hope the gathering of people in and outside the shop when I went is a portend of more customers to come in the months to come.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Morongo Breakfast and Happy Hour

 Morongo Casino Resort was a good overnight stop for both rest and food after a grueling drive to the rural high desert. After unloading a 16' truck, my only desire was for a shower :) 

Looking over what the hotel had to offer in the way of libations and food, I saw a happy hour offer at the steakhouse on the 27th floor Cielo and convinced my friends to go for a drink if not for food after our day of labor. We actually ordered our food before our drinks because we didn't realize how hungry we were! Their Happy Hour menu was so enticing we basically ordered one of everything! We started with the calamari for $12 which came with a marvelous san marzano tomato sauce, but was so good that we didn't need it! This would have been my meal if I had been there alone!

The cannellini bean hummus for $8 was the only mediocre dish of the evening, although the olives and cornichons helped perk it up a bit, the actual hummus was bland and boring.
We loved the shisito peppers so much we got two orders, and for only $6 each it was a great deal!
The hit of the evening was the prosciutto tapas for $15 with marvelous crostini, arugula and olives. Several of us had wine or beer for $6 that were very good quality for the price point, and the one who ordered the cosmo for $8 was very happy with the fresh lime juice and Absolut Citron used in the drink.
We also went to the Mozen bar for a nightcap and the beautiful craft cocktails, like the crouching tiger, by the skillful bartender Jonathan, who matched the visuals on the bar screen of Asia. I especially loved the tiny sriracha single packs he shared with me which I now keep in my purse ;)

Since I spent the night, I met a friend for breakfast before the drive back at the Good Times Cafe. I chose my own ingredients for my omelette; spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms for $13.95 with hash browns and a toast side. The vegetables were fresh, and the hash browns were tasty, but I found the omelet a bit overcooked.

My friend opted for the corned beef hash breakfast for $14.95, and offered me a taste, but one taste was enough for me to know that I had chosen wisely ;)
The coffee was decent, and the service with a smile was very professional and warm, but my favorite part of breakfast was the tiny jars of jam :)

Monday, February 3, 2020

Morongo Casino Resort

I went on a truck moving road trip to bring friends who live in the rural high desert a load of outdoor furniture and survival supplies, like firewood and a generator. After two days of packing and unpacking a 16' truck, there was no way I was going to drive back to Los Angeles the same day.

I lived in Palm Springs for 5 years but had never stopped by, much less stayed at the Morongo Casino Resort. It's recently undergone a remodel, and they are constructing an addition, so it was a good time to get a taste of the upgrades. 

Rates are very reasonable starting in the $150 range for a week-day night, which includes wifi and cell reception that was much better than what my friends have in their remote location (nonexistent). 

For nonsmokers, it was gratifying to find a great filtration system that took away the second hand smoke smell unless you were literally next to a smoker. There was also a very heavy armed uniformed security patrol throughout the casino that was a bit unsettling to me; I wondered why the heavy obvious presence was necessary...

The room was very pleasant, with nice subtle decor and practical touches, even if the electronics were a bit dated; the clock radio dock was for a 5th gen iPod, and no USB charger at the desk.

The large spacious workspace was nice, although I doubt many people come here to work ;)
The closet was nicely appointed, and there was a mini fridge, Keurig (which didn't work) and several small bottles of water (gratis) in the room.
The large bathroom and two person shower had a privacy screen on the bed side that lit up into flowers when the door was closed, and although there were no robes, the towels were fluffy and good sized.

The view from the 20th floor showed a nice contrast between all the offerings in the casino resort vs. what nature offered outside.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Flatpoint BBQ

I love great BBQ and I have found many places which have made my taste buds smile with the smoke, tenderness, and flavor of their meats. When I saw that Flatpoint Barbeque pops up in Santa Monica at Surf Liquor every Saturday, I made a mental note to try them. They set up in the parking lot at 11am and as they say, they close when they sell out. I hoped for a taste of their beef rib, but since I couldn't get to them until they were packing up to leave around 4pm, I was left with the Prime brisket, Pork spare ribs, and pulled pork 3 meat combo and the last order they had of their baked beans for $30. It was a monster platter so rather than try to tackle it in the parking lot, I ordered it to go and got a Flatpoint Special sandwich for $17 to eat in the car before driving home.

I took one container of all three sauces and made a half and half container of the regular and spicy to take home with my platter. I loved all three types, with no clear favorite since they all had a nice balance of savory, tart, and spice.
The 3 meat platter was enormous! I especially love the pickled onions and pickles which help cut through the rich meat. Of the platter, I think my favorite was the pork ribs which were nice and tender and had a nice peppery crust. The pulled pork was great heated through the next day with some of the combination sauce I had concocted. I found the brisket a bit dry, but it was great with any and all of the sauces. 
The baked beans were chock full of MEAT! So much so that it was easily a meal of pulled pork with a few beans, and would have made a great addition to nachos or tacos. I didn't like the sweetness of it, but I know many people would love that it was sweet not just savory and smoky.
The flatpoint sandwich for $17 was a hearty meal in and of itself, so that I barely touched the platter after eating it. The combination of pickles, garlic aioli, BBQ sauce and crispy shallots made this a monster brisket sandwich! The brioche bun was firm enough to hold everything, so it was a bit dense and thick, but better to have a firm hold on all that meat. And yes I ate the whole thing :) 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Dominique Ansel Bakery

I never went to the Dominique Ansel NYC location, so I was thrilled when they opened at the Grove, saving me a 5 hour plane ride :) The presentation of pastries is gorgeous, but you must get here early if you want one of the Cronuts that he made famous. 

Since I never get out early, I settled for his other famous pastry the DKA, or  Kouign Amann for $5.75, a savory sweet viennoiserie made with salted butter.
The flaky layers and caramelized crunchy crust are addictive enough to make you want another pastry or viennoiserie, but I had the willpower to resist!
 I will post again when I finally wake up early enough to get the Cronut :)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Pizzana and Roberta's

There is good pizza in Los Angeles, but there is also hyped pizza which may not necessarily be great. Fortunately, there are times when both the hype and the food deserve praise. I have never eaten at Roberta's in NYC, so when they opened in Culver City, I looked forward to finally getting a taste of NYC pizza in Los Angeles. Even though we went for pizza, we decided to try the pasta as well since they had one on special that night. Honestly I can't say it was memorable enough to write about since the flavor was more about the mountain of parmiggiano than the duck ragu. At $18 for a small plate, it was enough for a meal for a small eater, or a serving to share as a side dish.
The original pizza is $18 and again could feed one person, or if you order something else, you could split it, but it is too thin and small to really be your only order for 2 people. Nice chewy crust, but burnt and with an unexciting sauce. There were condiments on the table, but for the price there should have been no need for do it yourself seasoning. Service was professional, and the atmosphere is great on the patio, but the interior noise level was so high with the sound bouncing off all the hard surfaces, that my dinner companion and I had to shout to hear what the other person wanted to order. We ended up speaking to the server individually because even she had trouble hearing our order!
Pizzana was so booked on a week-end night that I gave up trying to go to stand and wait for 1 or 2 hours, so one week day evening while driving past, I took a chance and asked at the valet how long the wait was before handing over the car keys. It turned out that 7pm on a Tuesday night is a great time to go, with barely a 10 minute wait for a patio table. The $16 chop salad was full of flavor, Italian salami, and provolone. It was a very hearty savory salad, with chickpeas, avocado, and olives that could easily be a meal for one or is perfect to share with a pizza.
The classic margherita for $19 was worth every penny for their use of authentic quality ingredients like fio di latte and san marzano dop polpa. The crust was magnificently crisp, with nice chew, and served on a metal tray with holes to allow the hot steam to escape rather than make the crust soggy. The flavors were clean and needed no additions to perk up the pizza. It was large enough for 2 to share and if you had a monster appetite, you would be very full if you could finish it.
Nothing in Los Angeles compares to Pizzarium in Rome, but that is why we travel ;)

Monday, January 6, 2020

Finding Filipino Food In Los Angeles

Having eaten Filipino food at the homes of Filipino friends, I was wary of finding the same great flavors at any restaurant. Good thing that in Los Angeles, there are enough Filipino's who eat out to warrant several places serving when you have a craving but don't have an invitation to a friend's house;)

Sari Sari Store in the Grand Central Market not only serves food, but groceries for those who want to bring some Filipino flavors home. 
Their lechon kawali for $15 with pickled onions and a fried egg may be one of the best bowls I've eaten outside of a Filipino home. I should have ordered two, but now I have a reason to go back for more like the chicken and rice arroz caldo, or the BBQ ribs. They also offer a vegetable bowl (because this is Los Angeles and not everyone eats meat), traditional sweets and a happy hour menu, so choices abound whether you are new to Filipino cuisine or you just miss your Auntie's cooking.
If you live in the South Bay, Silog in Torrance is the place to go. It's a bit hard to find in a strip mall, but they do have a neon sign now with their name over the door. The prices are incredibly reasonable for the quality and quantity of food, so it's well worth the hunt. Lunch is around $10 and includes a nice spinach salad with fresh mango and tomato.
The tapa, or ribeye marinated in lime and garlic over garlic rice, is served with a perfectly done runny egg that you break over the top.
Add a few spoons of vinegar (they usually serve vinegar with the dish, but ask for it if they don't) and mash up the whole thing before you take a bite. It's the perfect blend of rich, tangy, garlicky, meaty goodness.
Having had two dishes at two different places that feed my cravings, time to go back and try more at the same places and seek out some new ones. Anyone have any suggestions close to Santa Monica?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Kanpai Japanese near LAX

With holiday visitors flying in and out of LAX, Kanpai has two locations on major streets that are great alternatives to taking the 405 Freeway going south towards the airport. I went to the one on Lincoln for a late night light bite after picking up an East Coast transplant. They serve everything from sushi to ramen, with choices ranging from a $30 tempura set to a $170+omakase. I am sure that your appetite and your wallet will find something to please both.

The shitake mushrooms for $8.80were beautifully presented and lightly handled with a special soy. 
Baked eggplant for $7.50 with ginger, green onion, and bonito flakes, which looked like a banana until we realized they had peeled it!
Every component of the basic chicken teriyaki dinner with steamed broccoli and potato salad for $28 was fresh, lightly cooked, and flavorful.
Miso black cod for $28 was a beautiful tender rendition, and a thick filet, so even though it was pricey for the portion, the quality of the fish was fair for the price point.
Both locations are open until 1am so whether you want something light, healthy, or just a good old fashioned Japanese place with pages of options, Kanpai is a great option on either Lincoln or Sepulveda.