Friday, April 29, 2011

Westwood Brunching at The Glendon

This space was first known to me as Moustache Cafe, which supposedly had good crepes but was closed when I heard of it, then it was a random Japanese restaurant (wasn't that good). Now it seems to have found the right occupants in The Glendon, with happy hour, late night food (open til 2 am!), and now brunch.

I was invited to try out the brunch 2 weekends ago, on the first day they were serving it.

The brunch menu covers the typical brunch fare (eggs, french toast, pancakes) plus sandwiches and a few interesting items. Oh, it also says you get free mimosa with purchase of an entree from 11am-2pm. We weren't really offered this when we were there, so you might have to ask them for it.

We started with The Ballerina Omelette (egg whites, avocado, tomato, mozzarella, roasted turkey, topped with tomato puree - $12)

For the side, we asked for sweet potato tater tots (never knew they existed!). Despite being the healthiest sounding omelette on the menu (egg whites only), it turned out to be one good omelette. The roasted turkey was moist, the avocado gave it a silky mouth feel, and the tomato puree was flavorful without being too salty. Surprisingly, I didn't miss the yolk.

Among the more interesting offerings was the Salmon Quiche Pizza (smoked salmon, baked eggs, spinach, arugula pesto, balsamic reduction - $14)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Scarpetta (Beverly Hills, CA)

Scott Conant's Scarpetta was one of the hot restaurant openings last year, and his famous spaghetti became one of the must-try items in town.

Scarpetta's Spaghetti, Tomato, Basil
Spaghetti, tomato, basil ($24)
On a nice day, sit on the patio, overlooking the courtyard and fountain of the Montage. The dining room is equally pleasant. Spacious with its high ceilings, and quiet.
Dive in early into your bread basket to find the bread wrapped around salami and cheese.
Scarpetta 005

Monday, April 25, 2011

How Girls Roll: Beer, Cupcakes, and Beauty Treatments

When The Beer Chicks throw an event with a female brewer, it was only natural to gear it towards the female bloggers out there. That was exactly what happened with Veronica Vega, the only female brewer at Deschutes Brewery (from Bend, Oregon) - and it was a blast.

Black Butte Porter
My fave Deschutes: the Black Butte Porter

Our little party took place at Benefit Cosmetics in Santa Monica, where we also got beauty treatments while sipping beers.
Benefits Cosmetics Santa Monica

OK, first thing's first: the beers!
My favorite of the Deschutes beers was the Black Butte Porter (5.2% ABV). I personally prefer this type of beer, rich and malty. This particular porter is rich in flavor and creamy, yet pretty light and smooth, which makes it a good entry point to darker beers. Christina Perozzi, one of the Beer Chicks, said that she wanted to clear up the misconception that women have that dark beers are heavy and bitter by introducing them to dark-yet-light-and-crisp like this porter.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fun Finds at Artisanal LA Spring Show

Going to Artisanal LA with their close-to-100 local vendors can be dangerous indeed. Going in you think you don't need anything, but you inevitable leave with a bag anyway, because there are just so many amazing goodies in there!

Here are some of my favorite discoveries from the last Spring Show at the Santa Monica Place:

Bacon chutney from Cast Iron Gourmet. It's spreadable bacon!!

Bacon Chutney

Shortbreads from Shortnin Bread Bakery. They had some cute shapes like these mustache ones. I ended up buying the chocolate with sea salt shortbreads.
Mustache Shortbread

The vegetarian sandwich from Daily Dose Cafe (opening soon in downtown LA). The vegetable sandwich was my favorite? Yep, I was surprised, too.
Daily Dose Sandwiches

And last but not least, a tea with my name on it from Sugarbird Sweets and Teas! (It's a blend of rooibos and raspberry)
Fiona tea

Did you guys get to go to the Spring Show? If you didn't, be sure to check out the next one. The pre-sale tickets were only $10 and included drinks from VeeV, Greenbar Collective, and some interesting demos and panels. Oh, and a portion of that $10 went to benefit St Vincent Meals On Wheels.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Favorite Japanese and Korean Food-Centric Dramas

Yes, I waste a lot of time watching Asian dramas online, and I know I'm not the only one among my food-blogging friends. What better way to combine our enjoyment of these dramas and food than watching tv series with stories centered around food and restaurants? Here are some of my favorites (and the title links to where you can watch it! You can also watch all the Korean ones on DramaFever):

Gourmet (Korean)
Synopsis (from Hulu):
Based on the graphic novel by Heo Young Man, 2008 South Korean drama "Gourmet" chronicles the happenings behind the scenes of renowned traditional Korean restaurant Woo Nam Jung. The story centers on the rivalry between brothers Lee Sung Chan and Oh Bong Joo.

My 2-cents: I really enjoyed this because it's centered pretty heavily on the food and cooking rather than cheesy love stories. It's a traditional Korean restaurant so it delves pretty deeply (and philosophically) on Korean food and cooking traditions with some great food shots! The story itself is good, as well, not your typical Korean cinderella love stories.

Buy it on Amazon: Gourmet / Sik Gaek - Korean Drama (6 DVD Digipak) All Region with English Subtitles

Osen (Japanese)
Synopsis (from
Handa Sen is the "okami" (proprietress) of a long-standing restaurant in one of the lower parts of Tokyo. Though she is normally airheaded and loves to drink, she has an impressive mastery of a wide range skills, from cooking to ceramics to calligraphy. While the drama follows various events surrounding the restaurant, one of the series' highlights is its illustration of Japanese food and culture.

My 2-cents: I like this for similar reasons as I like the previous one. Centered around a ryotei, a traditional Japanese fine dining restaurant, it talks about preserving traditional methods of Japanese cooking and food production. There's an episode about making miso, another about fresh-shaven bonito flakes, and more.

Buy it on Amazon: Osen (Japanese TV Series, English Sub, All Zone DVDs, Complete Series Episode 1-10)

Honorable mentions:
Bambino (Japanese)
Synopsis (from
Shogo Ban (Jun Matsumoto) is a cocky, arrogant and fiercely driven youngster, who aspires to become a first-class chef. After enjoying success as a junior chef back home, Ban is ready to flaunt his skills when he comes to train at the prestigious Trattoria Baccanale in Tokyo, but his pride is shattered upon finding himself completely helpless in the cutting-edge kitchen.

My 2-cents: What I like about this drama is that it shows how harsh the working conditions are in a busy restaurant, it doesn't present the culinary world in an idealistic and romantic manner.

Shinya Shokudo/Late Night Diner (Japanese)
Synopsis (from Set in a small restaurant in the corner of a shopping district. The unusual eatery is only open after midnight, and its standard menu consists of just a single choice. However, the customers still come for the amusing chatter and the proprietor's willingness to cook any dish that they request. This drama depicts the lives of the restaurant's patrons, including a yakuza, an unsuccessful actor, a group of office ladies, a newspaper delivery boy, and a stripper.

My 2-cents: Every episode is a little slice-of-life story of a customer, accompanied by a particular dish, usually some sort of simple comfort food. It made me crave ochazuke so bad one night!

Kimchi Family (Korean)
Watch on DramaFever
Synopsis: Lee Kang San and Lee Woo Joo find themselves taking over the management of their family's traditional kimchi restaurant, Heaven, Earth and Man, when their father sets off on a journey one day without their knowledge. Ki Ho Tae coincidentally arrives at the restaurant in search of the missing pieces of his past. Together with the other restaurant employees, long-time customers and a growing circle of friends, they work towards their individual goals while finding warmth and family through their sharing of food and support of each other.

My 2-cents: This one has a bit more action and "mystery" than the others, rather than just food. Every episode shows the two main female characters as little girls making a different type of kimchi with their late mother. I never knew there were so many different types of kimchi!

Buy it on Amazon: Kimchi Family / Fermentation Family (NTSC All Region, Korean TV Drama, English Sub, Complete Series 24 Episodes 6-DVD)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Public Kitchen and Bar at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

Oxtail Galette, Poached Egg
Crispy Oxtail Galette, poached egg, frisee ($9)
The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel is already the local hotspot, and it's now even more so with Chef Tim Goodell's newly opened Public Kitchen and Bar (he is also responsible for the burger joint, 25 Degrees).

They managed to keep the look continuous with the iconic hotel without the "drab". The tall windows let in plenty of light at 6pm, giving it a spacious and bright feel.
Loved the clean look of the chandelier, too.
The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel has strong cocktail programs all around, with Matt Biancanello at Library Bar and Aidan Demarest heading The Spare Room. The cocktail program at Public is not to be left behind either, the menu was actually created by Matt's mentor. I'm sure I'll end up drinking at Public more than Library Bar or Spare Room since the cocktails here are only $9!

Kentucky Brunch Cocktail
I started with the Kentucky Brunch (r1-rye whiskey, apricot marmalade, lemon, egg white), a refreshingly sweet yet potent drink. The cocktails here definitely on par with the best bars in LA.

My next drink was the Alexandra (milagro silver tequila, aperol, st. germain, lemon syrup, passionfruit, yuzu juice, mint).  It sounded like it would be sweet with the list of ingredients but it was nicely balanced.
Alexandra Cocktail

Now, onto the food.
Parker House Rolls with Vermont creamery butter ($5), which was a recipe of Chef Goodell's grandmother.
Parker House Rolls

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Dessert Tasting and Wine Pairing at Napa Valley Grille

Desserts for dinner? Why not, especially when you're having a whole tasting of them. That's what I and other bloggers ended up doing one night at Napa Valley Grille, where we sampled their new spring dessert menu created by Pastry Chef Manuel Ortega.

Six desserts, with wine paired by their beverage director, Christina Sherwood (who did a great job pairing, I might add). Yep, that's how we roll.

Here's our dessert tasting:
Pineapple Upside-Down Tart coconut sorbet, brown sugar caramel ($9)
2006 Iron Horse Cuvee, Russian River Valley

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
For a sparkling wine, the Iron Horse Cuvee actually had a thick body that can stand up to the richness of the cake. The pairing enhanced the bright flavors of the pineapple, making the otherwise heavy dessert refreshing.

Saffron Crème Brulee, pistachio nougat cookie ($8.75 - the one pictured is not the regular size but a sampler)
Creme Brulee
I was afraid the saffron would get lost, but the aroma was still strong, which the whole table loved. After all, we eat not just with our mouths, right?

Blood Orange Crème Caramel candied orange, tarragon crème fraiche ($8.50 - the one pictured is not the regular size but a sampler)
2009 Gundlach Bundschu, Gewurztraminer, Sonoma Valley

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kalimantan (Borneo) Food at Little London Cafe (Alhambra, CA)

As an Indonesian food blogger, I try to make my way to all the Indonesian restaurants in town, albeit slowly. When Wandering Chopsticks told me about the Kalimantan (the Indonesian word for Borneo) menu at Little London Cafe in Alhambra (formerly, and pretty much still is, a fish and chips place), I was pretty excited since Kalimantan food is a hard find. The LA Times beat me to the punch, but I feel that there is still some explaining I can do about the food here.

#1: Nasi Campur Kalimantan ($7.25) / Kalimantan Mixed Rice
babi merah panggang, ayam goreng bumbu, sosis babi, telur rasa, timun
(roast pork/char siu, fried marinated chicken, pork sausage, marinated egg, cucumber)

Nasi Campur Kalimantan
Do those like char siu and chinese sausage to you? Many of the people I knew who had come here said the food was just like Chinese food. Well, that's because it is. There is a big population of Chinese people in Indonesia, and Kalimantan in particular has a big Teochew population (Teochew people come from the eastern region of Guangdong).

The key here is the gravy that's soaking the rice and the amazing fried chicken. I should have gotten the half chicken,but luckily the fried chicken here is as ubiquitous as rice. In fact, it ended up being in all three dishes we ordered. No complaint, though, the chicken was juicy, the skin just the right combination of crispy and fatty.

The other dishes are more decidedly Indonesian rather than Chinese.

#3: Nasi Melayu Kal-Bar
($6.99) / West Kalimantan Malay Rice (Kal-Bar is shorthand for Kalimantan Barat, i.e. West Kalimantan)
Ayam goreng, telur gulai, ikan kacang, timun
(fried chicken, curried egg, peanuts and anchovies in sambal, cucumber - and it's not listed but there's obviously tofu, too)
I ended up enjoying the cut-up pieces of chicken in #1 better because the skin was fattier, but this was a great dish to order. More chicken, and the anchovies and peanuts in sambal is always a great accompaniment for rice. The "curried egg" was actually the same as the marinated egg in the other dish.

They ran out of the beef soup so we got the Soto Ayam Pot ($6.99) / Chicken Soup
nasi, ayam goreng bumbu, tomat, kol, daun bawang, bawang goreng, kerupuk
(rice, fried marinated chicken, cabbage, green onions, fried shallots, shrimp crackers)
Soto Ayam Pot
Soto is chicken soup made with various spices (the yellow color of the soup comes from turmeric). The fried chicken appears here again. No complaint, still, but they sure do maximize the use of their ingredients and it seems a bit silly to dump fried chicken in a soup but at least the marinade adds a nice flavor. The soto is pretty similar to what I get in my hometown in Java except for the tomatoes. They do a pretty good version here, though I miss the stronger flavors of Soto Ambengan.

Crysanthemum Tea
Tea with whole crysanthemum leaves
The menu here is pretty small, but a good Indonesian restaurant is always a welcome addition. Their rujak kalimantan (fruit and vegetable salad with peanut sauce) is supposed to be authentic and rare in this part of the world, but unfortunately they ran out when I was there, as was the beef soup, but they were getting hit by the post-LA Times crowd. I plan on coming back when the crowd settles and try the other items. Or at least have more fried chicken.

Little London Cafe
19 S Garfield Ave
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 282-4477
Little London Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Spice Table (Little Tokyo), Fire Ahead.

One mission had always been in the back of my mind, resurfacing when the opportunity arises: Find a good bowl laksa in LA. The bowl I use as standard is that of Katong Laksa in Singapore. Sadly, memories of that taste is slowly diminishing ... Even if it isn't quite Katong, I think I've finally found a worthy bowl at the newly opened The Spice Table in Little Tokyo.

The Laksa ($12) at The Spice Table is filled with shrimp, fish cakes, and mussels (to substitute for the usual cockles in S'pore, perhaps?), and thick udon-like noodles. The coconut curry broth is rich and thick, and they don't mess around with the spiciness.

Laksa at Spice Table
If it isn't spicy enough for you (it was plenty spicy for us), a side of sambal is provided.

While the laksa was the main reason for my going to The Spice Table, they have plenty more to offer in the classy space, dimly lit by lightbulbs inside birdcages.
The Spice Table
For those without reservations (or waiting for your party members to arrive), food and drinks are available at the bar, where you can watch the wood-and-charcoal-fired grill in action.

Rugbord Rye Beer The wines were expensive, but the beers on tap were reasonable. I like how they have 4oz pours of their draft beers for $1.75-2.50. I get to try more and *feel* like I'm drinking less. While waiting for e*starLA I had the Orchard White Belgian Witbier from The Bruery ($2) then proceeded to Rugbrod Dark Rye Ale, also from The Bruery (also $2).
There's only one bottled beer here and it's not surprising that it's the Singaporean Tiger Beer.

While I was expecting the peanut dipping sauce with the sinful Lamb Belly Satay ($10) to be sweet, my mouth was immediately on fire.
Lamb Belly Satay

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Extraordinary Desserts (San Diego, CA): Pretty Ordinary?

Extraordinary Desserts was one of the places I was pretty excited about trying in San Diego. Finding out that they stay open late and close to my hotel, I drove straight there from LA.

Of course I had to try their famous Dulce de Leche cake, which had appeared Food Network's show "Best Thing I Ever Ate".

Extraordinary Dessert's Dulce de Leche Cake

It was great. Moist, decadent. Big. The caramel flavor came through even among the dark chocolate. Was it the best cake I ever ate, though? I don't think so. Still, I enjoyed sitting there reading while eating the cake and drinking tea.

But I also got some pastries to go, pointing things from the display case, and this apparently wasn't the best move. The pastries seem more expensive than the cakes, considering the portion size, but that's not a big deterrent if they are truly "extraordinary".
French Strawberry Pie

I ordered a croissant garnished with almonds, expecting a flaky almond croissant, but the back half of the pastry turned out to be brownie-like. Huh?
Pineapple Cream Pastry
The danish with pineapple and cream fared better. The pastry was flaky and the sugar-coated upper crust was crunchy. My first bite with the candied pineapple and the cream was delightful, but apparently they had only put pineapples at the ends while the middle filling was all cream.
I call that false representation.

One thing I was happy to find is their extensive list of Mariage Frere's loose leaf teas.

I tried the strangely-named yet quite delicious Tahiti-iti (vanilla beans blended with premium Darjeeling).
Mariage Frere Tea at Extraordinary Desserts

I would love to just sit by the window drinking tea and reading.

I think all the hype about a particular place just brings more disappointment when it doesn't live up to it. The cake was good but didn't seem all that special to me and the pastries were both disappointing and expensive. It doesn't warrant a special trip but if I'm wandering around San Diego and have free time,  I'd still come back here and have some tea and cake.
Extraordinary Desserts

Extraordinary Desserts
2929 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 294-2132
Extraordinary Desserts on Urbanspoon

San Diego, CA

Amaya (La Jolla)
Extraordinary Desserts
Firehouse Subs (Point Loma)
Flavor Del Mar (Del Mar, CA)

Nearby Breweries
Green Flash Brewery
Lost Abbey
Stone Brewery

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pie Galore at Random Order Coffeehouse (Portland, OR)

Days before our trip to Portland, Wandering Chopsticks found an article from Travel+Leisure for the top ten pies in the US, listing Portland’s Random Order Coffeehouse for their vanilla salted caramel apple pie. We just had to go.

Vanilla Salted Caramel Apple Pie

Random Order is a small coffee shop on cute Alberta street, very much like a neighborhood joint. On our first visit after “hiking” the waterfalls, we got three slices of pie and some tea.
Of course, we had to get their award winning vanilla salted caramel apple pie. The filling is caramel apple and the crust is a vanilla sugar-salted crust.
I’m not a huge apple pie fan, but I have to say this was very good, especially the flaky crust. Random Order makes pretty much everything from scratch, including their crust, cream, and whipped cream.

The Flirty Berry was even better for me, filled with blueberries and blackberries.
Flirty Berry Pie

Portland, OR

Bunk Sandwiches
Clyde Common
Nong's Khao Man Gai
The People's Pig
Random Order Coffeehouse
Voodoo Doughnuts

Cocktail Bars
Teardrop Lounge
The Secret Society

Argyle Winery
Hawks View Cellars

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sake Pairing Dinner at Sake Institute of America and Japon Bistro (Pasadena)

After my first sake tasting and pairing with Master Sake Sommelier Yuji Matsumoto, I was sold. That's why I happily obliged to attend another pairing. That night I also heard the great news that he and his friend at Japon Bistro had started Sake Institute of America with a sake store inside Japon Bistro. Did I mention Japon Bistro is within walking distance from my apartment? Double score.
Sake Pairing Dinner at Japon Bistro

Mizbasho Sparkling SakeA toast to start the night with Mizbasho sparkling sake from Gunma, which is supposedly the only sparkling sake produced per the standards of French champagne production. It's more full-bodied than champagne. A little sweetness here, a little sourness there.

With this sake pairing dinner we had the chance to taste sake with food other than sushi, but of course, we all started with some sashimi.

Early summer assorted sashimi paired with Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjo (Yamaguchi)

The most interesting part was seeing how the different sashimi interacts with the sake. The Aji brought out the floral aromas while the hotate (scallops) made it more subtle. It works the other way as well, the restrained Dassai made the saba (mackerel) less salty, sweeter.
I've been a big Dassai proponent since the last tasting. Dassai sake is made by the Asahi Shuzo brewery in Honshu, which only makes junmai daiginjo sake.
The number 50 refers to how much the rice has been polished, in this case to 50% of its original size.

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