Monday, November 12, 2018

Just Go to Jus' Poke

Poke places are popping up everywhere; pretty soon they will be like burger and coffee chains. Just as the small unique burger and coffee places stand out with their quality and personal service, Jus Poke stands out for their authentic, fresh, delicious choices. From classic shoyu poke, to spam musubi, and mochi ice cream, they are as close as you can get to eating Hawaiian favorites in Los Angeles without getting on a flight :)

Thankfully there is neither salmon nor pineapple anywhere on the premises, but there are outdoor tables and a small parking lot. Peak times mean a line out the door, but everyone who works or comes here is friendly (island attitude, decor, and music permeate the entire place), so the wait seems short even at noon. 

For a mainland place, you get a nice selection of choices, and you can mix two kinds of poke even for the regular sized bowl or the smallest container, giving you an out if you can't decide. I miss not having octopus as a choice, but I know most people in Los Angeles would not order it :( Prices are incredible for the quality and quantity; around $10 including tax and tip for all the servings you see below, and the regular size always feeds me for 2 meals!

This is the regular size Original poke with homemade spicy cucumbers and brown rice covered in sesame seeds and furikake. This combo is great if you don't want spicy poke, but like a side highlight of crunchy cucumbers with some zing.

If you want no spice at all, get the shoyu, with half edamame and half seaweed sides (your choice of brown or white rice).

A fellow instagrammer loves the wasabi poke, so I tried it with half shoyu poke,  and half cucumber, half seaweed. It was such a powerful sinus clearer that I needed three napkins! 
My favorite is the Hawaiian Chili Pepper, with half seaweed, half cucumber side and brown rice. The heat is mellower than the wasabi, but potent enough for me to say that only heat lovers should order this.
Everything is served in to go containers as if they know you won't be able to finish your meal :) But I intentionally got some original and Hawaiian Chili Pepper to go...I couldn't resist and ate most of the Hawaiian Chili Pepper before I got the container home! 
Mahalo to Jus' Poke for bringing some aloha to Los Angeles:)

Monday, November 5, 2018

Happy in Hermosa

Having guests come to visit makes me actually go visit the beautiful beaches in my backyard. Hermosa Beach is 5 miles from where I live and I know some active fit people who walk, bike, or skate along the paved path from Dockweiler Beach to the Pier in Hermosa and back. Decades ago, I used to bike it, but these days I drive it :)
Hermosa Beach Pier is completely pedestrian and lined with bars, restaurants, and a few shops.
 Once the sun sets, the lights go on and it begins to look like a movie set:)
Sunset signals time for Happy Hour, and Abigaile is the local brewery and gastropub that is my go to spot in Hermosa. I wrote a blog post about them back in 2012, when I stayed in Hermosa for a staycation, and I've been back since, but it was fun to introduce new people to Abigaile. Happy Hour is 5-7pm and we came for the food, but as a warning to beer lovers, they are upgrading their equipment right now, so their selection of brews is limited at the moment.
 Their menu changes often, but if you see French dip on it, order it!

 The loaded tots with sunnyside egg on top is messy and fun to share.
Mole nachos had a nice depth of flavor that made my meat loving friends think the chicken was beef!
We took a short walk back to the Pier after eating, and got a gorgeous sky send off before we drove away.

Monday, October 29, 2018

El Segundo Farmers Market

Almost every city has a local farmers market at least once a week, El Segundo's is every Thursday afternoon, from 3-7 pm and takes up the 400 block on Main Street in front of the Fire Department/Library/City Hall. There are stands that sell produce, prepared foods, and a few vendors who sell jewelry and clothes. 

The biggest reason to shop at a farmers market is you are supporting the people who produce the products directly instead of a middle person who takes a cut for distribution. You may not find everything you may want here, but there are enough options to supplement your groceries from the big chains, and the quality is far superior while the prices are usually about equal. My favorite peaches came from the seasonal Summer stand who only comes when their fruit is in season. 

Avocados are sold at several stands in varying sizes and varieties.

Mom's Products sells spicy olives, hummus, marinated artichoke hearts, and spanikopita (spinach and feta pastry), offering increasing discounts as you purchase more.
 Gaytan Family Farm not only sells wonderful orange yolk eggs, 

but their produce includes some of the best heirloom tomatoes, unrivaled by any you can buy in a chain supermarket.
I loved the harissa from the Parmigiano-Reggiano spread stand; I always keep some on hand to spice up anything that needs some zing, whether it's scrambled eggs or fish.
The Chicken Guys sell parts or whole chickens for a great family take away option (there is also a Thai takeaway, tamale stand, pupusa stand, crepes, kettle corn, and swirling potato most weeks).
If you are in the area, it's worth stopping by, especially since parking nearby is easy and free, and they even offer a shuttle so that you may leave your car at home!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Jame Enoteca El Segundo

Having good restaurants downtown makes a world of difference, especially when driving anywhere during rush hour traffic to get to dinner can be a nightmare (I actually had to change a dinner reservation twice because it took an hour to drive 5 miles)! Not wanting to subject non-Angelenos to the parking lots called freeways, the option of walking to a good meal made their visit much more pleasant.

I love living walking distance to downtown El Segundo. Even if I had to drive to get to the center of town, parking is easy and free for 2 hours on Main Street and for unlimited time on side streets. No, I don't work for the city tourism board, I'm just a resident who loves this hidden mecca by the beach as much as the blue butterflies who call this city home.

Jame Enoteca now calls Main Street El Segundo home and I am very happy to have them in the neighborhood. Two veterans of the restaurant world own and operate this small space, focusing on quality ingredients and brilliant execution of classic techniques with a modern twist. My favorite places are those where the chef/owner is sur place because there is no quality control that is better than owner quality control. 

Their specials change, but it's a pretty solid bet to choose whatever strikes your fancy from the blackboard. Seeing a 36 hour tomato sauce combined with one of my favorite pastas was a no brainer choice for me. 

It was as delicious as I imagined it would be, generously sauced, in a portion just right for my appetite, but also small enough for a bigger appetite to order a side or dessert.
Another blackboard special was the squid ink with rock shrimp, which was offered with cheese(!) which off course I declined, preferring to enjoy this perfect dish Italian style. 
I am sure there will be future visits, so there might be a future post, but the lines are already forming as the seats are beginning to fill with local regulars, so go before getting a reservation becomes as rare as a blue butterfly sighting:)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tiny Thai Cafe With Big Portions

Thai Cafe has no website, is in a strip mall in Hawthorne, and sometimes the woman who owns it is both the cook and server. I ate there with a friend and we both felt as if we were channeling Jonathan Gold as we marveled at the flavors, quality, and quantity of Thai food.

Nothing on the menu is over $20 and the quantities are copious enough for me to eat two meals (your appetite may be bigger than mine, but chances are you will be very full if you finish your serving). The best surprise of all was that the flavors are wonderful! After just one bite of the Pad Woon Sen with shrimp (glass noodles), my friend started smiling. And although he is bigger than I am, he could not finish his plate, saying, "I usually just eat the shrimp if I can't finish the noodles, but there are too many shrimp for me to do that!" At $12 for a tasty generous portion, it is truly smile worthy:)

I love rice noodles, so I ordered Pad See Ew with shrimp for $12 and asked for it to be spicy. I beamed after I took a bite and found that I did not need to add anything to perk up the flavors from the array of chilies on the table. As you can see, it was an equally generous portion, and I was so relieved to find it wasn't greasy! My only note on this otherwise perfect plate was that I found the shrimp a tad overcooked.
Because the cafe is in a strip mall that is not in a great area, I ordered some food to go, the chili ginger stir fry with beef for $10, which was mostly celery and although tasty, not a dish I would order again.
My friend's Pad Woon Sen looked so good, that I ordered it to go with tofu for $10 and was very happy to be able to choose fried tofu, adding a nice texture contrast to the noodles. I managed to eat about half of the portion for lunch, and enjoyed having leftovers for another day.
They also offer curries, soups, rice, and other sauteed dishes, and I will surely be back to try some other items. They recently repainted and refreshed the interior, so you may want to eat in, but if you do, it is still likely that you will be taking leftovers home!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Crazy Créole Café

New Orleans has always been a food lover destination. Whether you adore beignets, gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish, gulf shrimp, muffalettas, or po' boys, Nawlin's is the epicenter of good eating and drinking. I still remember my café brûlot at Galatoire's, the oysters and crawfish at Acme, and the beignets from Café Beignet (which I prefer to the famous ones at CdM). 

Finding Crazy Créole Café nearby, serving authentic créole dishes, has made me a regular in a span of only a few weeks. The first excellent sign was the selection of hot sauces on every table :) Depending on what I am eating, I chose a different hot sauce, but my usual go to is the Red Rooster. I love that some dishes require NO ADDITION of anything because the flavor and seasoning is absolutely balanced! I am always happy to find food that has layers of taste beyond a simple one-note spice. At Crazy Créole Café, they play with their food like a harmonious band of talented musicians, creating a melody of joyous notes that will make your mouth dance!
Gumbo is one of the mainstays of créole cooking, and this wonderful medley of shrimp, sausage, crab, and chicken will make you wonder if you are in New Orléans. It took me about an hour to get every delectable morsel out of the generous portion of crab, but it was worth every minute. The roux is rich and satisfying, and for those who want some heat, just choose your preference of Louisiana hot sauce.
Fresh crawfish is rare in these parts, and even rarer is a great etoufée (smothered) that combines the tender morsels with a rich creamy bath of deliciousness. 
The meals are all around $20 and come with two sides, so I chose the red beans and rice
and the boiled cabbage, both of which could have been meals in and of themselves. Neither needed any seasoning or hot sauce, but if you wanted to, you could of course add heat to the very tasty dishes.
If you follow them on Facebook or Instagram, you will see when they have Oxtails on the menu; I HIGHLY recommend you follow them because these are some of the best I have ever eaten (that I did not make myself :) They offer delivery within 6 miles for $25 minimum order, so if you don't want to drive to Long Beach (much closer than Nawlin's) you can relax at home and let les bons temps roulez chez vous :)

Monday, October 1, 2018


After last week's post on Bavette Meat & Provisions, it seems I'm on a butcher post spree :) When I want to just pick something up to cook immediately or have someone cook for me, I go to Belcampo. I live closer to their Santa Monica location now, but it's also easy to get to their Grand Central market location in DTLA is you ride the Metro. I carry my own cooler bag with ice packs (thank-you @jean_de_paradis) whenever I shop for provisions that are temperature sensitive like meat, poultry, and seafood, but if you live close enough to any of their locations to walk home, their grocery bags advertise all the attributes of their products.
Their ground beef was on sale, so I made two half pound patties of their marvelous grind. 
 Of course, I topped it off with some bacon :)
 I used the spicy Italian Sausage in some pasta.
The Porterhouse pork chop was a hearty meal and well worth the $20 price tag.
If you don't want to cook, they will do it for you; I highly recommend their lamb burger with sweet potato fries!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Bavette Meat & Provisions

I met Melissa years ago when she was the manager at Lindy & Grundy. I will never forget her running out to the parking garage to catch me before I drove off because we got so wrapped up talking about recipes that I left my entire purchase on the counter :) I think that was the start of our friendship, finding a mutual love of cooking and food that surpassed any business transaction. When I moved to France, I knew I would find great butchers, but none of them became friends like the ones I had in the USA.

Melissa's Bavette Meat & Provisions has an online store (she delivers once a week), and she sells at the Altadena and Hollywood Farmer's Markets, so bring your cooler and ice packs if you want to pick something up. 

I picked up two chickens to roast, knowing that they were truly pasture raised and humanely reared, because Melissa verifies her sources; she does not merely believe the advertising. I stuffed them with herbs and lemon and they came out beautifully.

I realized that roasting whole chickens means lots of leftovers if you are not having people over for a meal, so I also bought some chicken legs, for times when I am eating alone. They come two to an order, so the perfect size portion for a hearty eater, or in my case one to eat now, one to eat later :) 
I roasted one set with herbs de Provence, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon (left) and I marinated the other set (right) in black vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sambal, oyster sauce, and shallots overnight, before roasting. 
Choose whatever recipe you wish for yours:)

When Melissa told me she was getting a lamb, I immediately asked if I could get a neck, and she RESERVED IT FOR ME on her website! One of the perks of being friends with your butcher!

I seared then slowly braised it in san marzano tomatoes, curry, and garlic until the tender meat fell off the bone.
For times when I just want a quick and easy dinner, I love eating a pork chop, and because of my food sensitivity, I only buy pork from clean sources like Bavette because my body will not tolerate what most markets sell. I love having the extra fat to crisp up and add to other things I am making.
Sometimes quick and easy heat it and eat it is the way to go, especially at the end of a long day when the comfort of being home outweighs any desire to go out or cook. The frozen Bison Cottage pie is topped with wonderful mashed potatoes and filled with bison, carrots, and peas. It was so good that next time I am going to get extras for my "just in case" freezer stash.

The ultimate comfort food may be chicken pot pie, and when someone else does all the cooking and all you have to do is put it into the oven, that is the best of all worlds! The crust was perfect, and the filling was so good that I literally slurped up the last bits :)
Hmmm I think it's time to place another order....