Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fishing with Cimarusti and Citrin, plus Battle Scorpionfish by Choisauce!

I found out $100 can get me on a boat and fishing with Chefs Michael Cimarusti (Providence) and Josiah Citrin (Melisse) (thanks to Diglounge's twitter update). Did I take it up? Hell yeah!
This fishing trip is organized by the quarterly magazine Edible LA.

The weekend after my big exam I took my new fedora hat and drove down to San Pedro, rented my fishing pole and got on the Monte Carlo boat.

Since it took about 40 minutes to go out to our fishing spot, naturally lunch is in order. Potluck style lunch by the chefs and Edible LA people included lots of cheese and crackers, some Valrhona choco chip cookies made by chef Cimarusti:

These awesome jalapeno cheddar scones from La Mill (and it's lah-mill, not L.A. Mill):

Also equally awesome, cupcakes from Lark's in Silverlake:
I loved the chocolate coconut cupcake in particular. These aren't too sweet or rich and are just perfect for me ... since now I can have two! :P
And then the fishing began! The first fish was actually caught by Citrin's son, pictured below with Cimarusti (and a sand dab)
I never realized how much work fishing is until I got my first catch. I mean, throwing it and waiting for the fish to bite is easy enough. But man reeling that fish up from the bottom of the sea is hard work!!

After my 3rd/4th fish my arm was really feeling it ...

But there it was, the reward!!! There it comes ....
What the ... I had no clue what it was. And man was it ugly! Apparently it was a scorpion fish - the scales are poisonous but they clipped all the scales for us before putting the fish in the bags.

Well, ugly or not, those babies are all I caught that day. All seven of them. Other people got sand dabs, groupers, eels .... but I guess the scorpion fish like me.

On the way back we lined up to get our fishies cleaned and filleted (or not). I got mine half and half since I can't decide what to do with them yet ...

So there I was with a bunch of scorpion fish, filleted and whole, in my canvas bag. I had no clue what to do with them, besides deep frying (cos deep fried anything is like, yum). Chef Josiah Citrin suggested deep frying them whole. OK, can do. Chef Michael Cimarusti said they were great for bouillabaise.
Yeah .... I wasn't about to make bouillabaise.

I wasn't about to eat 7 deep fried scorpion fish on my own either.

So I called the chef Choisauce to prepare these fish whichever way she liked :) Well, okay, so my first message just asked if she wanted fish for dinner ... but I think she understood that she would need to cook them haha. And thus Iron Chef Choisauce: Battle Scorpionfish began.

My kitchen being a pathetic kitchen with no seasoning, Choisauce's original Korean fish soup turned into a Cajun-seasoned fish soup, but she's such a good cook that it was delicious anyway!

Just take a look at the start of our feast:
The scorpion fish is a meaty fish, and here it's nicely accented with the garlic/lime broth.

Next up was the deep fried whole fish, served with Choisauce's special impromptu sauce.
(I helped fry the fish! See I cook after all ... not :P) Can't go wrong with deep fried fish, for sure.

Lastly, the fillets that we had were baked with lemon and tomato sauce and cheese.
Turns out scorpionfish is pretty good filleted and baked.
It's hard to say which one was our favorite since everything was so good. The baked fillets were easiest to eat so we cleaned that up. We also cleaned up the fried fish and the soup leftovers made a delicious lunch for me the next day.

Thank you Choisauce for the delicious, delicious meal!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Boiling Point: Gettin' Hot and Stinky

A not-so-well-timed post as summer is just settling in the air, but trust me that it was cold and rainy when I went to Boiling Point, and that it is oh-so-good during times like that.

And that there will be a line during those times.

I've done communal hot pots such as Mon Land, but Boiling Point was my first individual hot pot experience. Boiling Point serves Taiwanese hot pot and each hot pot is $9.99 for dinner or $8.99 including a drink for lunch - not bad at all since you get quite full by the end! You can choose between beef, lamb, seafood, etc, but what they are most famous for is their House Special Hot Pot.

What's in the House Special, you ask? Why, stinky tofu of course!
And pork, intestines, meat balls, quail eggs, enoki mushroom, cabbage, fish cake, hot dogs. You can choose between vermicelli or rice but I always go for the vermicelli. I ask for my broth to be 'mild' which is still a bit spicy but totally do-able for me.
The broth is spicy enough and you get the flavors from all the meats and vegetables soaking in it, but the flavor is not quite complete yet. No, not without Boiling Point's dipping sauces!

For me personally, nothing goes from the pot to my mouth before passing through this garlic soy sauce:
Others prefer the spicy bean sauce, or mix the two of them together. Since I can't handle spicy that well, I didn't go for the bean sauce.

Now. The stinky tofu. In my opinion, this one isn't all that stinky, really, but it does linger. Triangles of stinky tofu sit at the bottom, "seasoning" the broth. I'm not that crazy about eating the stinky tofu blocks themselves, actually, I found them rather bland (although yes, definitely still has the aroma, even if it isn't that strong). Why I like getting the House Special w the stinky tofu is actually the aroma it adds to the broth. The 'odor' is pretty mild but it stays, and probably not for everyone.

The fire for the individual pot is likely to stay on throughout the meal (you can ask them to turn it off) and is bound to keep you warm all night.

Can't wait until it gets cold again.

Boiling Point
153 W Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA
(626) 288-9876

Boiling Point on Urbanspoon
Boiling Point in Los Angeles

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ado: The Ultimate Neighborhood Italian

While looking for a place to eat in Venice, I remember reading about Ado, a small new Italian eatery on Main St, the brain child of Paolo Cesaro (formerly of Via Veneto) and chef Antonio Mure (formerly of Locanda Veneta).

As I walked up to the two-story yellow building, my first thought was "How cute!!"

The first floor held the kitchen and one table (seats two). Everyone else is ushered upstairs to a dimly lit, cozy dining room.

The menu had a small but satisfying selection of antipasti, paste, and secondi. The homemade pastas caught my eye in particular.

We started out with Insalatina Tiepida di Carciofi, Granchio e Vin Cotto (Warm Baby Artichokes Hearth with Dungeness Crab Meat, Mache salad and Grape Must Reduction - $14)
A great light and clean start. The baby artichokes are sliced and mixed in with the dungeness crab meat - a great texture and flavor combination. Lightly doused with olive oil and vinaigrette, a great dish.

Tagliolini Rossi con Ragu di Quaglia in Fonduta di Taleggio (Home-made Red Beets Tagliolini pasta in a Marsala Quail Ragu served on a bed of Taleggio cheese fondue -$15)
Even the smell of it already made me so happy. Ahhh, cheese. Al dente beet pasta, savory quail ragu, and rich cheese fondue all mixed together. If this doesn't "hit the spot" I don't know what will. For me this is a must-get and a must-get-again dish.

Pappardelle al Coniglio, Porcini e Prugne (Home-made Pappardelle served with Rabbit Ragu, Porcini Mushrooms and Dried Prunes -$17)
A much more subtle dish than the previous, but again very well done. The pappardelle was again perfectly al dente, the flavor of the ragu was subtle but pervasive, and the sweetness of the dried prunes was quite a nice touch. My companion likes this dish better than the previous (if you're not a cheese-person, you will too)

Agnello domestico Ripieno al Pesto (Grilled Colorado Lamb Chop stuffed with Pesto and served with a Red Wine and Mustard Sauce - $32)
The lamb was very flavorful as it was stuffed with pesto. The meat was quite moist and tender, although the lamb did have quite a bit of fat.

There was no written dessert menu, but one of the two knowledgeable waiters will spill out what's in store for you. After much debate and tiramisu being out that night, I went with the recommended Pasteria (ricotta cheese cake) This was denser and richer than I had expected, perhaps a bit too rich with nothing to cut it. My companion said it was too rich -- my fault since I veto'ed the 3 chocolate mousse (white, milk, dark) for this one. Fine, we can get the mousse next time!

Semifreddo torrone (ice cream cake with hazelnut)
Also not what I had in mind for "ice cream cake" :P Think of it as a thick ice cream with chocolate chips and hazelnut bits. I liked this one better though, rich and sweet but not too thick.

Oh, those lucky Venice dwellers. If Ado was in my neighborhood, I'll definitely be there quite a bit. We had a great first impression (cute building, cozy space, great service, great food), so even though it isn't in my neighborhood, I'll still keep coming back.

796 Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90291
(310) 399-9010
Ado on Urbanspoon

Ado in Los Angeles

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

St Louis: Lunch Cue at Pappy's Smokehouse

When I found out I was going to St Louis for a conference, the only thing that came to mind was B.B.Q. At first I thought I'd do a BBQ marathon, but by chance I was having dinner with Chowhounder noshtp, who just happened to have grown up in St Louis. There's only one place for barbecue, he tells me, and that is Pappy's Smokehouse. So to Pappy's Smokehouse I go for my first STL lunch.

The wide streets of St Louis during the day were pretty empty and street parking aplenty. Until you get near Pappy's that is. Located next to two small universities, Pappy's back parking lot was completely full.Pappy's opens at 11 and stays open until 8 PM or when they run out. And they do run out. During lunch there is always a line.

On my first visit I got the rib combo - half rack of ribs, brisket, and 2 sides: cole slaw and fried corn.

The deep fried corn was ... interesting.
I usually love corn, especially corn on the cob. But since this one was deep fried, it ended up really sticking to your teeth and quite a hassle to eat. Plus it isn't as sweet/juicy as roasted corn ..

Three sauces are provided at each table: Sweet Baby Jane, Pappy's Original, and Holly's Hot.
It was hard to decide which sauce I liked best, depending on the mood perhaps, if you'd like something sweeter. I liked the Sweet Baby Jane with my brisket (brisket was ok - not much to say there) but decided on Pappy's Original for my ribs.

St. Louis style ribs are trimmed by removing the brisket bone and skirt meat. The ribs at Pappy's are dry-rubbed and then slow-smoked.
Because of the way it is trimmed, the St Louis ribs are thin and you're munching on the meat right by the bone (the best part!).

Pappy's ribs aren't the tender, fall-off the bone type. Having been slow-smoked, these ribs are tender but more like a tender jerky with a nice smoked flavor.
Flavorful dry rub, and don't forget the bbq sauce! A very satisfying lunch, indeed.

I came back for lunch again the next day and got the other things I didn't get a chance to the day before, like the Frito Pie!
It's not really a "pie" per se. Beans, pulled pork, cheese, sour cream, and fritos. Hearty and impossible to finish even with two people, this also gives a taste of how good their pulled pork was.

But I got my own order of pulled pork coming up.

Pappy's lunch special is quite a deal. $5.99 gets you a pulled sandwich, a side, and a drink. Naturally I went for the pulled pork sandwich!
The pulled pork is decidedly one of Pappy's best offerings, and a darn good one at that. Perhaps the best pulled pork in recent memory. It was so tender and moist/juicy! Sauce it to taste yourself with one of the three bbq sauces on the table and build your sandwich with the soft burger buns. This was a lunch I still remember to this day.

Man, that was some good pulled pork.

Pappy's Smokehouse
3106 Olive St
St Louis, MO 63103
(314) 535-4340
Pappy's Smokehouse on Urbanspoon


Pappy's Smokehouse
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard
Trattoria Marsella

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Culinary College at Snyder Diamond I: Chef Patrick Healy

Los Angeles Magazine has partnered up with Snyder Diamond to host a series of cooking classes called Culinary College. I was invited to attend their first class featuring Chef Patrick Healy from the Buffalo Club in Santa Monica.

The event is held at the Snyder Diamond store in Santa Monica.

The night starts off with a selection of wines from LearnAboutWine. Ian Blackburn was there pouring the wines himself. We started with a nice chilled 2008 Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc, Marlorough, New Zealand and a 2004 Semler Cabernet Sauvignon, Malibu Mountain Estate.

The rest of the wine during the cocktail hour was paired with three hors d'oeuvres that Chef Bridget Bueche of Sub-Zero/Wolf was cooking in the showroom kitchen.
Two of the three hors d'oeuvres focused on mushrooms:

King Trumpet Mushroom
Paired with a 2007 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon "Rose" Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Shrimp paired with a 2007 Gerhard Riesling, Kabinett, Rheingau, Germany.
The Riesling was very sweet, perfect for a dessert wine. I noted to myself to find a bottle of this since I love sweet, dessert wines.

Brown Beech Mushrooms
Paired with 2007 Domaine La Garrigue "Cuvee Romaine", Cotes du Rhone, France.

The cooking class itself was set up in a back room at Snyder Diamond, where the tables for attendants have been beautifully set.
This isn't a hands-on class but the recipes are provided as you follow chef Healy cooking at the mock kitchen.

Here's what chef Patrick Healy has to say about picking the right corn:

The first dish chef Healy made that night was this Summer Corn Pudding with Rock Shrimp Salsa w/ tomatillo sauce, paired with a 2006 Leasingham Dry Riesling "Magnus", Clare Valley.
The corn pudding was dense and creamy, and it was great with the nicely spiced (but not spicy) rock shrimp in tomatillo sauce. I do love corn, so although I was late for my dinner, I waited to taste this dish and it was worth the wait.

Vanilla pudding with caramel was coming up next, but I had to leave in order to make it to dinner.

All attendants also received a nice swag bag containing 1 bottle of 2004 Semler Cabernet Sauvignon (wine in a goody bag! That's a first for me!), Paulette macaroons (arguably one of the best in LA), the newest issue of the L.A. Mag, lip balms, etc.

The Culinary College series will resume on July 15 featuring chef Andrew Kirschner of the Wilshire Restaurant, and on August 19th featuring chef Jason Travi from Fraiche and Riva. Each class costs $50 and if the first class is any indication, is well worth the education, food, wine, and swag.

Please call Estrellita Dacanay at Los Angeles magazine 323-801-0034 to purchase.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

CUT: 100% Wagyu Beef and a $200 Meal

I was coaxed by the 100% Japanese wagyu beef! By a reservation that suddenly becomes available. At any rate I found myself at what is purported to be the best steakhouse in LA, Wolfgang Puck's CUT, with fellow bloggers Pepsi Monster, KevinEats, and tangbro1.

We started with a variety of bread including these Gougeres,
and a bottle of champagne: 2002 Jose Dhondt Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Mes Vieilles Vignes.

We pretty much dined family style, sharing everything from appetizers to steaks. We ordered a series of appetizers according to CUT veterans Kevineats and tangbro1.

Prime Sirloin "Steak Tartare", Herb Aioli, Mustard ($22)
A classic but well-done preparation of steak tartare, with high quality meat. This was delicious and rich with the addition of the quail egg.

#1 Grade Blue Fin "Toro" Tartare, Wasabi Aioli, Ginger, Togarashi Crisps, Tosa Soy ($32)
This was a good quality tuna and a well-done dish, but quite the "classic" preparation - in other words, rather boring.

Kobe Steak Sashimi, Spicy Radishes ($22)
I enjoyed this dish quite a bit and wished I could have more. The meat tasted fresh and had a nice flavor and texture.

Warm Veal Tongue, Marinated Artichokes, Cannellini Beans, "Salsa Verde" ($17)
Perhaps my favorite appetizer of the night, tender flavorful tongue and delicious tomatoes. This was the most interesting of the appetizers. The tongue was gamey which might put off others but I personally love.

Maple Glazed Pork Belly, Asian Spices, Watercress, Sesame-Orange Dressing, Rhubarb Compote ($16)

Since we couldn't decide on a red wine, I chose a 1997 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape, because I've never had a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This one was not particularly smooth - I thought it was okay.

We also shared 2 non-steak entrees:

Kobe Beef Short Ribs "Indian Spiced", Curried Sweet Pea Purée, Garam Masala, Slowly Cooked For Eight Hours ($39)
Sashimi Quality Big Eye Tuna Steak ($42)
Surprisingly, the tuna takes the win in this competition. The short ribs were quite tender but a bit too sweet. The tuna was excellent - high quality fish and seared just right. The middle rare part was delicious.

As for the steak, we decided to get each one and divided it evenly among everyone (6 people total). These are the 4 steaks, in the order of least favorite:

4. U.S.D.A. Prime, Illinois Corn Fed, Aged 21 Days; Bone In New York Sirloin 20 Oz ($56)
The cheapest, and weakest, of all the steaks. It's probably good by itself, but after having the other three, I'd stick with one of the other three no doubt.

3. American Wagyu / Angus "Kobe Style" Beef From Snake River Farms, Idaho; New York Sirloin 8 Oz ($75)
Before trying the 100% wagyu, I quite liked this. After a while though, it isn't as meaty as the dry aged, but not as amazingly-fatty as the wagyu. Feels like it's just stuck in the middle for me.

2.U.S.D.A. Prime, Nebraska Corn Fed, Dry Aged 35 Days; New York Sirloin 14 Oz ($59)
Flavorful, juicy, and meaty. If I had to eat more than 2 oz, this would be my favorite any day as the 100% wagyu would just be too fatty. An excellent piece of steak.

1.True Japanese 100% Wagyu Beef From Saga Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan; New York Sirloin 6 Oz ($120)
What we came for. Let's take a look:
In the middle is the American Wagyu while to the right is the 100% Wagyu. The difference in marbling is strikingly noticeable (pardon the flash, but I had to capture it). And aye, it's that fatty. Yes, it is delicious. If you're eating 2 oz or less. Anything more and I would have a heart attack :P (Well, I may be able to handle 3 oz).

Indulgence does not end there. It's time for some dessert!

We started our dessert courses with a Brooke Cherry Toasted Almond Crumble, Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream ($14)
They scoop the crumble onto the bowl tableside. I'm very much partial to berry cobbler/crumble and thus really enjoyed this.

Dark Chocolate Soufflé, Whipped Crème Fraîche, Gianduja Ice Cream ($14)
I've heard about the Valrhona chocolate souffle at CUT and thus have been looking forward to this dessert. A well done souffle with a rich chocolate flavor.

Warm Brioche Doughnuts, Huckleberry Compote, Butter Pecan Ice Cream ($14)
The simplest turned out to be the table's favorite. The doughnuts were warm and fluffy, they were perfect with a bite of the nutty, creamy ice cream.

To finish the meal were three types of dessert bars: lemon, caramel, and chocolate.
I liked the lemon bar the best, though I've always been against caramel because it sticks to your teeth ...

Kevin says that this was the weakest of his CUT visits thus far, which was unfortunate since it was my first. I still had a good impression overall, though, and would probably come back another time. This meal cost $184 including tax and tips. At first I was proud for spending less than $200, but then I went to pay the valet .... which cost another $16 :P
So there you go, $200 even for a grand tasting at CUT.

9500 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 276-8500
Cut (Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons) on Urbanspoon

Cut in Los Angeles

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