Friday, December 28, 2012

Willows Inn (Lummi Island, WA): An Unforgettable Experience

My favorite meal in 2012? Easy. Willows Inn at Lummi Island is a small inn on a small island in Washington, with a restaurant helmed by Chef Blaine Wetzel, a young native of the area who had worked at Noma (you know, the world's best restaurant). When they talk about local ingredients, they really mean it. It isn't just produce from the state, but really local. Chef Wetzel forages around the island. A lot of the fish used are caught in the waters around the island, just five minutes from the restaurant.

Willows Inn is a 2-hour drive from Seattle plus a 10 minute ferry ride, and it's not only worth it but the journey adds to the experience.

There's only one seating every night which is at 6:30. The ferry only runs every hour and we didn't want to be late, so we took the 5PM ferry and ended up with time on our hands when we got to Willows Inn. Time to sit on the patio staring into the sunset while sipping cocktails. The cocktails here had quite a few interesting ingredients. I loved the Pacific Gin Fizz (gin, wild pineapple weed, egg white - $14)

What is wild pineapple weed, you ask? I didn't know it then but apparently it's wild chamomile. Whatever it was, it was my favorite out of the cocktails we tried. We also had time to peek into the kitchen as they were prepping.

Finally we got called and seated in the small dining room.
The dinner is "five courses" with a lot of "snacks", which meant way more food than five courses. Our meal started with a small wooden box.

As you open the treasure box: a whiff of smoke, and baked sunflower root

Next is a Crispy crepe with salmon roe, sandwiched between green onions. The crepe was a thin crisped salmon that held everything in a perfect bite-sized morsel.

Pickled oyster with sorrel was beautifully presented on a bowl of rocks

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The New Year's Eve List List

I'd do a list of New Year's Eve dinners but other people have done a good job of it, but if you're still looking for options, here are some nice lists that other people have put together. Well, OK, I added a few of my own ...

For dinners, LA Magazine has 37 great options for a range of budgets.

Eater LA also just came out with a "complete" (maybe not, but definitely large) list of NYE dinners. PS. I was told that Slater's 50/50 had cancelled their NYE trivia plans though, so might want to double check that one.

Don't forget Open Table's list of their participating restaurants, plus with this you can find out which is still available. I'm eyeing n/naka's Japanese celebration with lobster, white truffles and wagyu beef. Now, where did I put that $200 ...?

Or if you're totally broke from Christmas shopping, Tom Bergin's is doing their Tuesday at Tom's special on NYE! Chicken Fried Steak with dessert is just $15 plus oatmeal stout for $4.

I don't really do clubs and parties so I'll direct you to HuffPo for that list.
I hate these slideshow type "articles" though, so I'll just tell you the what caught my eye was the party at The Edison and the Spanish Masquerade at The Bazaar.

Where LA also had a very comprehensive list from parties and balls to dinners.

Sassafras is also having a party with open bar for $70.

If you're looking for a show rather than just dinner, I'm personally curious about the Intimate Illusions magic show with Ivan Amodei (the 10pm show is sold out but 7pm is still available), or this Lucent Dossier party.  El Cid is also having a flamenco dinner show for $45 ($65 late seating)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tasting Ora King New Zealand King Salmon at Nobu

There's a new salmon player in the US and it's called Ora King. They culture sustainable king salmon in New Zealand in 5 sea farms and hatcheries in Marlborough Sounds. Supposedly it's the longest and most sophisticated selective breeding program in the world (they've been breeding since 1994), with every fish individually tagged by hand and tracked (that's over 200,000 fish) so that they can control in-breeding.

Ora King's salmon goes from harvest to airplanes within 12 hours and a few of restaurants in Los Angeles have started carrying them, including Nobu and Craft. I was invited to a tasting at Nobu of appetizers and sushi made with Ora King salmon. With the eating local movement going on, the question is: is the taste of Ora King salmon worth the miles traveled from New Zealand? The answer is yes!

At Nobu, we tried different preparations of the Ora King salmon. The most representative of the texture and flavor is certainly the sushi and sashimi, and I think I had seven pieces of sushi that night ...

Salmon sushi
Ora King salmon has a rich flavor and a wonderful firm, oily texture.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Ultimate Roast Pork Sandwich at Paseo (Seattle, WA)

Before we went to Seattle, we did quite a bit of research on where to go eat, but of course there are still a few places that the locals love and we don't know about. Lucky for us, the chef at Mistral Kitchen was a Seattle native (who worked in Long Beach prior to Mistral Kitchen) told us about the place he takes every visitor to: Paseo Caribbean. So, the next afternoon, we searched for the tiny shack that is Paseo (well, they actually have a couple of locations, we went for the closest to us on Fremont).

There was no big sign, but we could just tell that the little red shack with the line outside the door was the place.

We were told to get the #2 sandwich here, which was also starred on the menu with the note "Most Popular" next to it. It's this succulent, slow roasted pork shoulder in their special "Paseo" marinade on toasted baguette with cilantro, caramelized onions, pickled jalapenos, romaine lettuce. It's this amazing, amazing sandwich.

Caribbean Roast Sandwich
The $8.50 sandwich was huge, but at the end we all regretted sharing, just a little ... even if we have another lunch stop coming at Shuckers. (As an aside, the plastic Chinese plates and bowls are pretty funny..)

We're so glad to have found out about Paseo right before we had to go back to LA. I'm definitely coming back here next time I go to Seattle! This one's a must visit.

4225 Fremont Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 545-7440
 Paseo on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hands On Tamale Making Class at Ortega 120 (Redondo Beach)

I LOVE tamales but I have a hard time to find ones that are just right for me. I want them filled with things I like, for example I'm always looking for a blue corn tamale but the ones here are usually only filled with cheese. So, when Ortega 120 offered me to attend one of their tamale making class, I thought it sounded fun. The tamale class is only held in December since tamales are apparently a holiday tradition. The chef said that his family would always say that way you will always have something to unwrap for Christmas!

The hands-on tamale class was completely full (and they were all women, which was kind of expected)
The $40 class also includes a glass of their house margarita and food 
Ortega has their own masa, made with Canola oil so it's healthier but still moist. You can buy their masa to go at the restaurant, or you can also buy traditional masa at Mexican bakeries. They had prepared the masa for us and the filling which included chicken and beef tinga, chili and cheese. They provided the recipes for these fillings, but during the class all we had to do was assemble them.
Spreading the masa on the corn husk was harder than I expected at first, since you don't want it to be too thick, though eventually I got used to it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gourmet Three Course Meals, In Your Freezer

What's for dinner at home? Caramelized pork belly with steamed kale. Think I made it from scratch? Nope. This was frozen and delivered, by Pop Up Pantry.

There are many meal delivery services in Los Angeles, but for the most part they are too health focused (and healthy tasting ..) and expensive! Pop Up Pantry is neither. These are gourmet three-course meals, pre-prepared and shipped to you frozen for as little as $17.50 per person.

You order your meals and the date you want them delivered, and it will be shipped in a box via FedEx (they note that you have to freeze them by 8pm that day). Oh, and the good thing about using FedEx? You don't have to live in LA to order these, unlike the other meal delivery services! You can live in the middle of nowhere and still get them.
Inside the insulated box will be these frozen pouches of the prepared food.
Preparing them for the most part is easy. Most of them you just boil in water, or stick them in the oven for 30 minutes (your meals will come with detailed instructions, don't worry).
I tried out the Master Chef dinner, which was the two dinners created during the last Master Chef's finals between Christine Ha and Josh Marks.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Local LA Gifts For Your Foodie Friends!

Los Angeles has so many great finds that you really shouldn't look elsewhere for that special gift for your food loving friends. Yep, there are many lists like these, but here are my picks (you know, if you were buying something for me ... )

1. Truffles from Compartes Chocolatier
Compartes is one of the best local chocolatiers and they put cute artwork on top of their truffles too. Wouldn't a box of gingerbread truffles with penguins on them just be an adorable gift? Although everyone would love to receive the Macallan whisky truffles too.

2. Purple Forest Pie from I Heart Pies
Pumpkin pies? Boring ... Try I Heart Pies' black currant and speculoos pie. It doesn't just look striking with the purple color, with its creaminess and slight tart flavor, this is going to be someone's new favorite pie.
3. Caramels from Le Bon Garcon
Still my favorite caramels ever (it's just so smooth and never sticks to my teeth), Le Bon Garcon keeps coming up with new seasonal flavors that I always love. The newest one is persimmon with some guava and lime (though I'd love to see them make one with stronger persimmon flavor). Get them while you can!
4. Boozy chocolate bars from Ococoa
Your foodie friends probably like to drink, too. Appeal to both sides with these beautiful chocolate bars from Ococoa, filled with caramel flavored with things like Irish whiskey, Tawny Port, and honey liqueur. I've seen them sold at Farmshop.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Seasons 52, Now Serving Delicious Low Calorie Food at Westfield CenturyCity

When you want something healthy but still tastes good while shopping at the Westfield Century City, head over to the newly opened Seasons 52. Everything on the menu is under 500 calories and they use no butter and no fryer. They also have one hundred wines on their list, 62 of them available by the glass.

I was recently invited to a preview tasting in one of their private dining rooms.

Our visit started on the patio with a glass of Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne, a small grower champagne, and a lemon verbena mojito.
So the verbena used in the mojito, along with a bunch of other herbs used in different dishes come from plants grown on site. There are some herbs on the side of the patios and there is a small "Chef's Garden" room near the entrance, and you can peer in through the glass door as the chefs harvest the herbs throughout the day.

There's a large patio area and it was surprisingly quiet for being next to Santa Monica Blvd.
We started with a crispy Chipotle shrimp flatbread with roasted poblano, grilled pineapple and feta cheese
Then we went into the dining room for our tasting. For an amuse bouche, we had dungeness crab and Haas avocado, pico de gallo, finger lime. This was paired with Aveleda Vinho Verde, Portugal 2011
I think this was my first time having finger lime, which was very tart, but all the components worked well together. The vinho verde is made with half a dozen native Portuguese varieties and is crisp and clean.

Next is a course I've had at the Costa Mesa Seasons 52:
Organic salmon on cedar plank, lemongrass skewered sea scallop, farmers market vegetables

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Learning to Make Okonomiyaki! (Recipe)

No, I'm not talking about going to Gaja and putting the batter on the grill, but actually making okonomiyaki from scratch! It's one of the many classes that Yoko Issasi teaches in her Japanese Foodstory class. Each of her small group class takes place in a small studio downtown, around a large wooden table that she outfitted herself.

First, you have to make the flour mix, which is:
1 cup or 4 oz of weak flour, can be substituted by cake flour
1 cup dashi stock, and ..
1/2 cup yamaimo (slimy yam)
If you've never had yamaimo .. it's a yam like you've never had. When you grate the yam, you will get a bowl of slimy stuff!
In a large bowl, put weak (or cake) flour with dashi stock. Whisk well until smooth, then add grated yamaimo and mix well.

Gourmet Pigs   © 2008. Template Recipes by Emporium Digital