Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Giveaway! Tickets to THE TASTE Desserts After Dark

LA Times and Food and Wine's weekend-long extravaganza, The Taste, is happening this weekend!
Spanning 4 days over 3 locations and 9 events, there are plenty to choose from. Now, we know most of you can't afford to go to ALL of them, which why they've offered to give away A PAIR OF TICKETS (up to $300 value) to one of the events!

Now, since I love desserts, I'm going to give away tickets to the Desserts after Dark, taking place on Sunday evening. The event features Food Network star Duff Goldman, desserts from Craft Restaurant, Waylynn Lucas's f┼Źnuts, Compartes chocolates, Sweet Rose Creamery, and much more. Wash them down with some Qream Liqueur, Dow’s Port and a little Villa Massa Limoncello.

You can enter in two ways (or get two entries if you do both):
1. Comment below with your email address and tell us what your favorite dessert is.
2. Comment on my Facebook Page with your favorite dessert.

Easy, right?
They need the name of the winner by the end of the day tomorrow, which means this contest will end at NOON tomorrow! Then if I don't hear back from the winner by 3pm with their full names, I will draw another name - so be checking that mailbox.

PS. If you want to attend the other events, you can get tickets at 40% off from Bloomspot or OpenTable.

Meet the True Ice Cream Sandwich

Sandwich, according to Wikipedia, "is a food item, typically consisting of two or more slices of bread with one or more fillings between them". But then there's the ice cream sandwich, usually consisting of ice cream in between two cookies. Where's the bread, I asked. And Night+Market answered.

The ice cream sandwich ($4.50) at Night+Market actually involves bread, and it is a must try.

Ice Cream Sandwich
The contents are everything you'd think of in a Thai dessert, minus mangoes.
Sweet sticky rice and toasted mung beans are doused with condensed milk, sandwiched by a (toasted) sweet roll, then topped with coconut ice cream.
Sandwich

Now that's what I'd call an ice cream sandwich.

For a review of their dinner menu, go here.

Night+Market
9041 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 275-9724
thenightmarket.blogspot.com

Monday, August 29, 2011

Margarita Dinner at Border Grill

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's Border Grill may very well be the restaurant that popularized Mexican food in LA back in the day. The Santa Monica restaurant is as popular as ever, but they're trying to keep things fresh by holding special events, such as the Margarita Dinner I recently attended.

The margarita dinner is a 5-course dinner prepared by Executive Chef Alex Moreno, each paired with a cocktail (well, the last pairing is nonalcoholic). The cocktails for this dinner were all made with Greenbar Collective spirits, a Los Angeles-based company that makes all organic spirits and bitters.

Hoja Santa ShrimpWe started our meal with a Grilled Oja Santa Shrimp and farmers market tomato mint tea.
We were supposed to alternate between bites of the crispy-fried shrimp and sips. The tomato mint "tea" was a little salty, though.

The dish was served with a Cucumber Mint Gin and Tonic, made with Tru organic gin, cucumber, and mint.
Cucumber Mint Gin Tonic
The herbal notes of the Tru gin was pretty strong.

Second course: Abalone and California Avocado Ceviche, lime cured, heirloom cherry tomatoes, persian cucumbers

Abalone Ceviche
This was an unusual ceviche. Not only do I rarely encounter an abalone ceviche, this was mixed in with an avocado sauce which lends the dish a nice creaminess instead of the strongly acidic lemon juice normally associated with ceviche.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Marble Brewery (Albuquerque, NM)

Because of a mishap with my car rental, I took the bus to Sophia's Place with the desert sun beating down on me. For the same reason, I had to skip my visit to Gruet Winery (wouldn't have made it in time), so I decided some cold beers are in order. Turns out, Albuquerque is home to a number of microbreweries and some were on my route back to the hotel. I picked Marble Brewery, since their reserve beer, "From the Wood" was listed of the Top 25 beers in 2010 by Draft Magazine.

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The brewery and tap room was surprisingly big, with a big patio area as well.
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Sophia's Place (Albuquerque, NM)

Whenever I go to New Mexico, the recommendations I've received for Albuquerque had mainly been Frontier and Sadie's. Frontier's has its own charms: it's extremely cheap and open very late, perhaps even 24 hours? Sadie's ... well, Sadie's feels a bit more like Bucca di Beppo to me. It's huge, you wait for a table with a pager, the portions huge. Then comes Sophia's Place.

Sophia's Place sits a few blocks from Sadie's, a small hole in the wall that's made more famous by being on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Sophia's Place is pretty much a breakfast and lunch place, they close at 3 pm every day. I arrived at 2:45 but they were already starting to close so I sat and ate on the patio.

The regular menu has the usual tacos and enchiladas, plus breakfast items and french toast which seems to be quite popular. I eyed the daily specials and after much indecision, ordered the Calabacitas Relleno.

The Calabacitas Relleno is a chile poblano stuffed with squash, corn, zucchini, and cheese, doused in spicy tomatillo sauce and topped with shredded cheese. Despite being a hole in the wall, this dish was more refined than many places in New Mexico, more care was taken in its preparation. Yes, it was spicy and heavy, but it wasn't overly sauced, or overly stuffed with cheese as they tend to be. I'm not sure what made me order a stuffed chile, being weak to spicy foods as I am, but I was sure glad I did.

The black beans here were quite something, too. Chipotle salsa was added to boiling beans and they are stewed and pureed into something close to a paste in texture, thick and spicy.
Sophia's Place
When you spend more than a week in New Mexico, most of the restaurants' menu started to sound the same. It becomes harder to choose a restaurant. Well, Sophia's Place should be one of your choices for lunch, just as it will be on my list for my subsequent visits to Albuquerque.


Sophia's Place
6313 4th St NW
Albuquerque, NM 87107
(505) 345-3935
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sophias-Place/111669672203435?sk=info
Sophia's Place on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Collaboration Dinner: Haru Kishi and Marcel Vigneron at Chaya Brasserie

Chaya Brasserie may be a landmark in the Beverly Hills dining scene for more than 25 years, but Paris-born new Executive Chef Harutaka Kishi is bringing new experiences to its diners, new and old. One of these experiences is a series of special dinners where he collaborates with different chefs. It's not a pop-up. It's not a guest chef dinner where each chef creates their own dishes. It's entirely a collaboration where both chefs work together to create each dish.

The first of these dinners was held with Top Chef contestant Marcel Vigneron, formerly of The Bazaar and Bar210(and now star of Syfy's Marcel's Quantum Kitchen).

Haru Kishi and Marcel Vigneron
Chefs Harutaka Kishi and Marcel Vigneron
Our meal started with a beautiful Thai Lobster Roll, Avocado, Roasted Banana, Thom Kha, Pickled Red Onion
Avocado, Lobster
How beautiful is that dish? It looks like a garden. Despite the delicate look, the the flavors was pretty bold with the thom kha sauce. The richness from the coconut milk added to the creaminess of the avocado.

The dishes were prepared with cocktails made by Devon Espinosa from Tasting Kitchen (and also Marcel's bartender on Quantum Kitchen). The thai lobster roll was paired with the Thai Reviver (Plymouth Gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blonde, Fresh Lemon Juice, Thai Basil Leaves) - a great pairing if I may add.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Anniversary Afternoon Tea at The Langham Pasadena

Every year, The Langham Hotels around the world celebrate their anniversary with a ridiculously priced afternoon tea. The price is what the original Langham in London used to charge back in 1865: 1 shilling and six pence. That, dear readers, amounted to $0.15 this year. Fifteen cents!

Before this, I have not had the chance to try the Langham afternoon tea, and what better time to do it than when it was only 15 cents as opposed to the usual $39?

Afternoon Tea
The afternoon tea is held at The Lobby Lounge of the Langham. We got a nice table by the window overlooking the green expanse of the hotel.
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IMG_1484For this event, the servers also dressed up as if it was 1865. Our server had on a mustard suit and a cute blue ribbon while the female server was wearing a blue dress of that era.

The Langham offers a pretty nice selection of classic and scented teas. I ordered the Orchid Oolong, described as being "highlighted by a touch of coconut to offer the tranquility of a fragrant bouquet of fruit and floral notes in a rich, soothing infusion." Rich, indeed.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Heirloom Tomato Dinner, The Terrace at The Langham (Pasadena)

'Tis the season for heirloom tomatoes! These red pearls were the theme of The Langham Pasadena's latest Farm to Table dinner at The Terrace.

Tomato Gazpacho

Before the dinner, we had a wine reception in the lobby lounge with creative appetizers such as the "pizza chips" (airy pizza-flavored chips made from tapioca) and macaron with a guacamole center.
Pizza Chips
Avocado Macaron

Chef Erik Schuster
All the passed appetizers and the dinner courses were prepared by Erik Schuster, the Executive Chef of The Terrace, while the wine pairings were done by Eric Espuny, the GM of The Royce upstairs.

After appetizers and glasses of wine, we move downstairs for our dinner.
As soon as we sat down, we all fell in love with the tomato tapenade they served with the bread. We had to ask how they made it and while I don't remember many of the ingredients (beyond the obvious tomato and olive oil), it apparently involved anchovies.
Tomato Tapenade

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hot Brunch at Playa

The promise of a free pitcher of Julian Cox's cocktail during brunch was all I needed to try out the brunch at Playa, John Sedlar's newest restaurant (thanks, BlackboardEats!). And I was glad I did.

Now, being a Latin restaurant (they call it "urban Latin"), you can expect a lot of kick in your egg dish. Spicy sauces abound, though not everyone.

I love tamales so obviously went with the Tamal (Cracked Corn Masa, Pulled Pork, Sunnyside-Up Egg, $12)

Pork Tamal
Yes, that is Clockwork Orange on the plate (part of his changing Reflexiones series). The sauce was pretty spicy for me but the egg yolks helped with that. A hearty and satisfying breakfast plate!

Oh, and make sure you get the Blue Corn Muffins made with Anson Farms Organic Cornmeal, served with a side Almond Butter ($6)
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Not only were they cheap at $6 for 4 pieces, they are incredible. I have never had an unfilled muffin so moist with such a distinctive flavor. I'll be back for these. Over and over.
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(Look, it's really blue inside! Or more like purple?)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The ABC's of Cecconi's: Aperitivo, Bone Marrow, and Ciccheti

I hadn't been back to Cecconi's since my brunch two years ago, but after a recent visit to try out their new aperitivo and ciccheti menu (and a feast of everything else), I wondered why. Oh, right, it is on the pricey side, but the recently launched Ciccheti menu (small plates/appetizers) you can dine here for less. (On another note, on Sundays Cecconi's have quite a deal: family style dinner for $50, up to 4 people. That's less than $13 per person!)

Bacon Wrapped Scallops
Scallop, pancetta, rosemary ($15)
They recently invited a number of bloggers for some ciccheti, aperitivos, and dinner. We started the night at the bar, where Creative Bar Director Chris Ojeda made some aperitivos and cocktails for us.
Flamed Orange Peel
Since we're talking Italian aperitivos, there were naturally a lot of Aperol, which is an Italian aperitif similar to Campari (in fact, it is now produced by the Campari company). Cecconi's was never on my radar for cocktails, but the drinks Chris had made were surprisingly good.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August is Garlic Galore at Chaya Venice

Garlic lovers, did you miss Gilroy Garlic Fest this year? If you did, you can still go a little garlic crazy at Chaya Venice this August, where they're offering special garlic dishes during their month-long Garlic Fair.

They have about ten garlic dishes, most of them not overly garlicky (except for the rib eye steak with 40-clove garlic sauce, or so our server told us. Mmm 40 garlic cloves ...)

After an amuse bouche of beets with orange and arugula, we started our garlic feast with Heirloom Tomato with Garlic Ice Cream and Fourme d’Ambert cheese ($13)

Heirloom Tomato, Garlic Ice Cream
Overall good, but the heirloom tomatoes were overshadowed somewhat by the smaller, sweeter tomatoes. I liked the garlic ice cream with the tomatoes, but the possibly even stinkier blue cheese masks the garlic a bit.

Next: Grilled Shrimp, country bread ($12)
Garlic Grilled Shrimp
It's a simple dish, with crisp shrimp. After you finish the shrimp, soak the bread in the garlic butter.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Savory (Malibu, CA)

In Malibu, there are the ocean-view restaurants that tourists go to, and then there are the locals’ hangouts. Savory seems to be the latter, tucked in the corner of a strip mall. The kitchen is headed by Bastide-alum Paul Shoemaker. That was enough to put Savory on my radar, but it took receiving a gift certificate as a present to make the drive (it's pretty far down on PCH, past Malibu Seafood and Pepperdine).

We had a reservation, but even after waiting 15 minutes our table wasn't ready. On the other hand, a couple with an earlier reservation who was 30 minutes late got seated. Punctuality is not rewarded in this town. Well, anyway, we got seats a bar and decided to have our dinner there.

We started with some housemade pasta, beef tongue, marinara sauce, parmesan cheese ($12)

Beef Tongue Pasta
We loved the pasta, and the thick cuts of very tender beef tongue - as tender as I remember them being in the beef tongue stew (semur lidah) I ate as a kid in Indonesia. I would definitely order this again.

Next was the Dungeness Crab Cake, remoulade, fine herbs ($17)
Crab Cake

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Summertime Clambake at Rush Street (Culver City)

This summer, Rush Street in Culver City brings in a bit of New England with a special clambake menu, including a chowder, prime rib, a special summer-y cocktail, and of course the clambake itself.

Clambake

I joined a recent media tasting, and started off our feast with a Roasted Corn and Crab Chowder in bread bowl ($7)
Corn and Crab Chowder
Forget clam chowder, sweet corn and crab in this creamy soup is the way to go. I loved this chowder, wished I didn't have to share!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Healthy Eating at Fresheast (West Hollywood)

Being a food blogger is tough. No, really. You eat big, delicious meals day after day, sometimes multiple times a day. It gets to you - or rather, it gets to your waistline. When you're feeling particularly weighed down, an invitation to a healthy meal is very welcomed.

I admit, the first time I heard about Fresheast and what they were doing, I wasn't too enticed. They serve healthy, organic, Asian dishes and use no salt, butter, or nuts in their dishes (they still use miso, soy, and other sauces, though, so I don't think it's entirely sodium-free).

With all that said, a lot of their dishes turned out to be quite boldly flavored. One of my favorites were the Goa Shrimp ($11.95)

Tiger Shrimp
I was expecting food that are rather bland here, but the goa shrimp jumps with spices and flavors. The lamb curry as well was in fact quite spicy, again, unexpected from a healthy casual restaurant in West Hollywood. With the bold and spicy flavor profiles of Southeast Asia, perhaps you don't need extra salt after all.

Another dish I liked was the Bulgogi (Harris Ranch Natural Beef bulgogi, fresh wok’d vegetables), $10.95
Bulgogi
Well, they taste like a good, standard bulgogi but they're supposed to be healthier! The meat was pretty tender, too.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Perfect Day in Malibu: Waterfall Hike, Malibu Seafood, and Gelato

The beach isn't the only reason to brave PCH traffic and head to Malibu. On a recent weekend, I hiked a 4.2 mile trail to Escondido Falls, feasted on fresh seafood overlooking the ocean, and finished off with some of the best gelato in town.

The hike to the lower falls is fairly easy and shady, good for a family hike. Once there, you can play in the water or take the trail to the right to the upper falls. It's a short hike from there, but much steeper. At some point you will have to climb an incline using some ropes, taking turns between the people going up and down. Take your time. Also, you will most likely get a bit muddy, but it's all worth it. You'll be rewarded with a beautiful three-tiered waterfall.

After the hike, we headed over to Malibu Seafood for a quick lunch. As always, there's a line to order food, but it moves fast. Take your food to one of their benches overlooking the Pacific ocean.
Malibu Seafood
Malibu Seafood has combo meals, tuna burgers, etc, but that day we decided to order a bunch of things a la carte.

Steamed large shrimp, 1/2 lb ($10.95)
Steamed Shrimp


Friday, August 5, 2011

Dock for Lunch at Baleen, Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club (Redondo Beach, CA)

Not so long ago, Redondo Beach in my mind consisted of a crowded beach and the pier (which has Izakaya Bincho and Quality Seafood, both great). Enter Baleen Los Angeles at the Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club, a much quieter, less touristy spot away from the pier.

The Chefs Burger at Baleen
The Chef's Burger
The restaurant's layout seems a strange one when you walk in. Instead of a big dining room, there's only one row of tables, all of them provide a view of the marina and yachts.
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Baleen recently launched a new lunch menu. I wasn't able to come to their media lunch so they invited me over on another day - a beautiful Saturday afternoon, perfect for dining al fresco by the water. Judging from the customers coming in while I was there, seems like this is the spot for local residents to have their casual lunch and family reunions.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cocktailing at Next Door Lounge with Joseph Brooke (Hollywood)

Hollywood's latest bar, Next Door Lounge, isn't exactly next door to me but with The Edison's alum Joseph Brooke behind the bar, it is certainly worth a visit. Joe Brooke joined the team right before the lounge opened, so while he's added his concoctions on and revamped some of the drinks they already had on the menu.

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Next Door Lounge is owned by the same man as The Corner, but unlike the casual comfort food joint, Next Door Lounge is aiming for a sophisticated speakeasy feel. When I checked out the place with LA OC Foodie and e*starla, I got to really take in the space during the quieter early evening, and it's beautiful.
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The cocktails are mostly $12, with a couple that run $14 (one of them also happened to be one of our favorites, the Volstead and Vice made with Ilegal Mezcal Joven, Pernod Absinthe, cucumber water, agave nectar, lime juice). Yep, we love smoky drinks.

Here are some more of the cocktails I liked:
The Dame Next Door (Canadian Club 12 yr, dry vermouth, clove-infused pineapple gomme syrup, pineapple juice, pasteurized egg white, angostura bitters)
Dame Next Door
See the key-shaped bitters sprayed on the drink? That's the Next Door Lounge logo.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mohawk Bend, Echo Park's Newly Opened, Extensive Watering Hole.

If you were keeping tabs on who has the longest list of beers on tap in LA, you might want to add Mohawk Bend to the list. Opened yesterday, this bar in Echo Park carries over 70 beers on tap, all but five are dedicated to California craft beers. They have a full bar which is also all-California, and a full dining menu.

70 Beers on Tap
For owner Tony Yanow and GM Paige Reilly, this isn't their first venture in California beers. They opened Tony's Darts Away in Burbank which also has a California-only beer list, and a local brewery is in the works.

The space was a theater, more than 20 years unoccupied. As you enter, you will see the open kitchen on the left, and the bar on the right.
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