Friday, August 31, 2012

GIVEAWAY: Jamaican Coconut Water

Coconut water is not new, many countries including Jamaica have had them in retail stores for years, but it has only recently taken off in the US when US companies started marketing their electrolyte-packed, hydrating qualities (and overpricing them at Whole Foods ...). Coconut water's been said to be a great hangover cure, too! How about you try one of the OG : Grace Coconut Water from Jamaica, where the company has been in business since 1922? They also have a version with pulp, for those of you who (like me) also like their OJ better with pulp.

They are giving out a six-pack consisting their three different coconut water products to one of my readers. Here's how to enter:
1. Leave a comment below with your email address so we can contact you if you win.
2. Get an extra entry by tweeting "Try Jamaican Grace coconut water with this giveaway from @gourmetpigs:"

Enter by the end of Saturday, September 8. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fun Pairings at Colonial Wine Bar (West Hollywood)

Colonial Wine Bar in West Hollywood is a new restaurant and wine bar co-owned by sommelier David Haskell, whose fun wine pairings I have always enjoyed in the past. The full experience here is not from just the individual food from chef de cuisine Ryan Otey (Patina, Tasting Kitchen) and drinks but having them paired for you.

When we came in for dinner, Haskell brought out three dishes at once with a couple of wine, beer, or sake that would pair well with the three dishes.

The first round included: Deviled eggs, pickled jalapeno, smoked paprika, crispy bacon and greens ($5)
This was my second visit to Colonial and these deviled eggs are becoming a favorite. I liked the deviled eggs paired with Hitachino White best, which is one of their beers on tap. Colonial is apparently one of about ten places in LA that has this beer on tap.

Burrata, heirloom tomatoes, sherry vinaigrette, balsamic gastrique ($12)
The burrata was very creamy and the tomatoes sweet and fresh. The first three dishes were also paired with a wine called Kabaj from Slovenia, which is a pinot grigio but with the skin left on and thus unlike other pinot grigio. With this dish, the tomatoes are meant to lighten the Hitachino while with the wine it's meant to invoke sparkling tomato juice.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Industriel Urban Farm Cuisine (Downtown LA)

This new restaurant in downtown LA has a rather confusing tagline: "urban farm cuisine"? It doesn't prevent them from being completely packed during Dine LA Restaurant Week though. The tagline is supposed to embody the fact that they're in downtown but uses local farm-fresh ingredients (though many other downtown restaurants do these days, without the tagline).

The decor is for the most part stark and minimalistic, but they have this cute installation of this "chandelier" made of honey bear jars over a bathtub!

The menu was divided into different price levels: $11, $14, and $19 (and a couple of "market price" options). The restaurant's website says they serve Provencal French cuisine, but there were only a few Provencal specialties on the menu (like bouillabaise and barigoule) and many other influences from Italian to Russian.
We started with a Crispy soft poached egg, speck, asparagus, mustard truffle dressing ($14)

The crispy poached egg was nice, though I wished the dish had an earthier, bolder flavor component. I also thought this should've been in the $11 section.

Quinoa, roasted mushrooms, pecan, kale, caramelized shallot vinaigrette ($11)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Cocktails at Next Door Lounge (Hollywood)

I liked both the beautiful space and the great drinks when I first visited Next Door Lounge and had been curious how they were doing after head bartender Joe Brooke had left, so I recently accepted an invitation to come in for the summer cocktail menu. At Next Door Lounge, there's a doorman asking for a password before you enter. Even though you need a "password" to get in, you can get the password by signing up for their newsletter or making a reservation!

We didn't know that we were supposed to preview a new summer menu when we first sat down so we had gone ahead and ordered two drinks from the then-current menu. The menu was divided into classic and modern cocktails, some of them had been there since my first visit (especially the classics).

The Scot's Pear was made with scotch, Tawny port, ginger syrup, lemon and pear juice ($14)


The Eastside with Tanqueray gin, cucumber water, mint, lime juice ($12). Both of them are a nice start to whet our palates.

After these two drinks, we started trying out the new summer menu. It seems like there's always a spicy tequila drink everywhere these days (and they always sell well!), and Next Door Lounge is no exception. The Pistolero is jmade with Silver Tequila, lemon juice, simple syrup, grand marnier, Angostura and orange bitters and cracked jalapeno.

Even if you are skeptical of vodka drinks, the Light Cavalry (Vodka, simple, green Chartreuse, fresh white grape juice) deserves a chance. Using fresh grape juice, it's not overly sweet and has a nice complexity thanks to the green chartreuse (which I always love). The Lovely Afternoon is another nice aromatic drink that isn't too strong with Genever, Chamomile syrup, pineapple juice, lemon juice, and Lillet. I loved the subtle aroma of the chamomile.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Omakase at Sushi Kimagure (Pasadena)

I used to complain that there was no stellar sushi in Pasadena, but that was before Sushi Kimagure moved in. The man behind Kimagure is Ike-san from the beloved Sushi Ike that was in Hollywood. The day he decided to shutter his Hollywood spot and open up in Pasadena was a good day for us.

Dining at the sushi bar at Kimagure is by reservation only, and considering our 7pm party did not leave until near closing time, there's probably only one seating per night.

It was my long awaited first visit so of course we had omakase. We didn't get Ike-san as our itamae that night but our meal was still excellent.

It was impressive to watch how fast these sushi chefs were working, especially considering their age!

To start, a vegetable potato salad
Most places may save toro towards the end of a meal, but here they dive directly into bluefin tuna (maguro) and toro as your first pieces.

The toro was superb
Sushi is not just about the fresh fish, but the rice as well, and here at Kimagure they are both excellent. It's not the warm rice of Nozawa (which I sometimes think is too warm and detracts from the fish) but it still melts in your mouth.
Next was another one of my favorite cuts, hamachi belly

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Looking Back at Food Noir, My Fave 2011 The Taste Event at OrpheumTheatre

The Taste events, put on by LA Times, take place over labor day weekend. Last year's was pretty spectacular with them taking over Rodeo Drive and other locations. My favorite, though, was Food Noir which took place at downtown's Orpheum Theatre and the street in front.

It was my first time visiting the beautiful Orpheum Theatre, and I fell in love:

They played short old films and cartoons. Think Tweety, Bugs Bunny, and more! We were able to just come and go at the theatre, resting from all the eating and drinking.
Not only that, Food Noir also had some of the best cocktail bars participating (even more so than The Taste's Cocktail event!)
The Varnish was carving their ice block on site, Cana Rum Bar with their Tiki-style booth, 320 Main, just to name a few.

Plenty of great food as well, like Rivera's famous corn flan with black quinoa
Flan Quinoa
Terroni (correction, according to Darin Dines this was from Drago Centro) mixing pasta in their parmesan wheel:
This year's The Taste will take place on September 1-3 with 5 events and plenty of seminars (last year I went to a pinot noir tasting and rapping session). This time all the events will be at the Paramount Picture Studios, which is fun as well.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Food Truck Festival at The Del Mar Racetrack

Today's post features guest blogger Suzie Hong who went to the Food Truck Festival at The Del Mar Racetrack! This was their 2nd annual Food Truck Festival where guests can enjoy a selection of 50 food trucks along with local craft beers (this is near San Diego, after all, so the likes of Stone, Lost Abbey, etc) while watching the horse races. Here's Suzie's experience:

When I was asked if I could go to the Del Mar Races Food Truck Festival, I was so excited! I have always wanted to go to the racetracks to see a horse race, and I am a pretty big fan of food trucks. Although it was a hot day, it was exciting and not as crowded as I thought it would be!

The boyfriend travels to Boston for work a lot, and has been talking about lobster rolls for the past few months. When I saw the Lobsta Truck with an average length line, I knew this would be my first destination. The $12 Lobster Roll was offered with mayo or butter...uhh, obviously butter please! We decided not to add extra lobster thinking the standard roll would be enough - and we weren't disappointed! The roll came out quickly, toasty and warm with tons of big chunks of lobster. I love that the roll was served on a butter-coated-toasted slice of bread rather than a standard french roll or sub because the crunch complimented the gooey butteryness so well. 

We strolled around the circular lot checking out the other trucks for a while, and found that a large selection of the food trucks were seafood-based. As San Diego residents, we immediately ruled out the Mexican food trucks as well as other seafood ones having just eaten a lobster roll. We wanted something unique, because isn't that the fun in food trucks? 

My eye caught a truck called, Slap Yo' Mama. With a name like that, I HAD to go check out the menu and found just the unique items i was looking for!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Revisiting Lexington Social House (Hollywood): New Chefs Bring New Menu(Plus Jazz Nights)

Lexington Social House has gone through a couple of executive chef changes since they opened and have also added nightly specials like Tuesday Pizza Pop Ups and Wednesday Jazz Nights. I was invited in recently to check out the new items and also the Jazz Night.

The large back patio is a nice spot for a quiet outdoor dining in Hollywood.


We started with a LITTLE GEM LETTUCE salad with smoked blue cheese vinaigrette, grapes, toasted hazelnuts ($10)
The smoked blue cheese was very aromatic!

Steak Tartare, pickled fennel, root beet caviar, french fries
Beef Tartar
The root beer caviar was a fun touch, but I'm not sure about serving the tartare with french fries. I ended up eating them separately.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fleming's Sunday Prime Rib Dinner, Now $29.95 Until Sept 2

The Sunday Prime Rib dinner at Fleming's Steakhouse is typically $37.95, but this summer they've decided to offer it for only $29.95 until September 2nd. After trying it for myself and seeing how much you get for $29.95, I can say it's a pretty darn good deal! Here's what you get for it: salad, prime rib and a side, and dessert.

First off you get a full sized portion of your choice of salad.
There's THE WEDGE with crisp iceberg lettuce, grape tomatoes, red onions and crumbled blue cheese


Or if you don't want all that creamy dressing, then get the FLEMING'S SALAD with candied walnuts, dried cranberries, tomatoes, onions and croutons

The prime rib was rubbed with dry spices and served with three different sauces
Prime Rib
Not only  was the prime rib huge, I honestly thought the prime rib was better than my last visit to Lawry's. Tender, cooked to a perfect medium rare pink, and I had enough leftover for a light lunch the next day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Discover Fun New Cocktails at City Tavern (Culver City)

City Tavern is probably mostly popular for their craft beer selections, especially on the westside, and the fact that they have beer taps on some of the tables. The last time I went to City Tavern in Culver City I had focused on the beers and food, although the one cocktail I had was promising. Now, under the direction of Jeremy Back, City Tavern is coming out with some exciting cocktails.

Jeremy Back has not only played around with the cocktails, but beers as well. Instead of a slice of orange with your Hefeweizen, they now serve it with an orange popsicle!

Beer and Popsicle
Take turns drinking the beer and eating the popsicle, dip the popsicle into your beer. Whichever way you choose, you'll agree that this is so much better than an orange slice!

Jeremy Back
There will also be one barrel aged cocktail on draft, which will change periodically.
The one on the menu when I visited was the Missouri Mule (aged 6 weeks): pure Kentucky whiskey, Applejack brandy, Campari, lemon juice, yuzu bitters ($15). We also tried the new barrel aged cocktail, which at the time had only been aged for two days. The new cocktail was made with Ruby Port, limoncello, lemon and lime.
I'm a big port fan so I look forward to tasting the fully aged version of the port cocktail. Hopefully I haven't missed it!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fun with Americana Nostalgia at Towne (Downtown LA)

It isn't often I walk into a new restaurant with no expectation and come out wowed. That happened recently to me at the new Towne in downtown LA. I didn't know much about it coming into the media tasting other than that they make their own twinkies, but left pretty impressed. Towne is a large elegant restaurant in the WaterMarke Tower in the South Park district of downtown LA. The bar to the left and the pastry case near the entrance is Bottega Louie-esque, without the high ceilings and the loudness (at least so far).


The warm pretzel bread, complimentary for the table, served with mustard butter made a great first impression.

We started with some appetizers including the Kanpachi Tacos, avocado, hijiki, aji amarillo, creme fraiche ($12)
While you can't see if at first glance, the crispy shells were filled with chunks of fresh kanpachi.

The head barman here is Jason Bran, who has designed a cocktail menu ranging from little twists of some classics to some fun, completely out-there cocktails. More on that later, as we first started on the tamer side with Eastern Mule: Russian Standard Vodka, lime, house 5-spice ginger beer ($13).

The hint of the spices were subtle but unmistakable.

Another nice refreshing classic: Genesis Collins with Beefeater 24 gin, grapefruit, honey, soda, "invisible touch" ($13) - not sure what the invisible touch was..

Chicken Liver Popcorn, yogurt, zatar ($11)
If you like chicken liver and pates, you would certainly love these deep fried goodness (one of the other bloggers at the table just could not stop eating them)!
On the other hand, if you don't like the taste of liver, avoid this. Just because they're deep fried doesn't mean they've lost that liver taste!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

New Summer Cocktails at 1886 Bar: Paleta, Fruity Tranquilizers, and Xocolate

It seems like the cocktail menu at 1886 Bar gets better and better each season. The new summer list is fun, with plenty of fruit to showcase the summer, and refreshing for the hot Pasadena weather.

I tried almost all of the cocktails listed at a recent media tasting, and here are my favorites:

Strawberry Paleta (Garrett McKechnie): liquid nitrogen, fresh California strawberries, cream and "a healthy dose of rum"

Strawberry Paleta with Rum
A boozy paleta (Mexican ice cream pop)? I mean, what can be more perfect for the summer? Cold, creamy and fruity. Oh, and that does of rum? "Healthy" indeed. I know you're going to want more than one paleta, but just be careful. Now, if only this was available during breakfast or lunch *hint* *hint*

PS. I love how the 1886 menu lists which staff member is responsible for creating which drink. Way to give props to the ones who deserve them!

Tranquilizer (Garrett McKechnie): overproof rum, Batavia arrack, coconut, and pineapple
Think pina colada, but stronger and more complex.

La Brigada (Lacey Murillo): mezcal, homemade agave liqueur, fresh pineapple, lime, served over crushed ice and frozen coconut water, with a garnish of spicy chicharron
La Brigada

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